I have been meaning for some time to highlight and review a delightful company I discovered before Ramadan called Asanea Gifts! As you may know if you happen to follow me on Facebook, this year I decided to make a Ramadan calendar for my son to count down the days, so each day contained a small gift. Now, one of my favorite childhood toys which I’ve passed on to my son and we play with together is my assortment of Playmobil toys. He loves to play at cooking on the Playmobil stove and to serve me various things (I have a number of dishes, pots, etc). So, I thought it would be fun to get some miniature food (which I don’t have much in the way of in terms of Playmobil-sized stuff).
I had thought about getting some of the larger play foods which are closer to real size, but, a) we have a small apartment and the percentage of toy space is already high, b) the small ones would be compatible with the playmobil set, if I could find some the right size, so double-duty, c) they would be small tokens that would work well with the calendar, since I didn’t really want to add excessively to the toy sprawl and only small, light items would work with the calendar I envisioned, and d) I LOVE miniature things.
I have always loved miniature things. The smaller the better in fact. When I go into a cooking store, I zero in on those Creuset pans that only fit an individual biscuit, or those colanders that could drain maybe a single strawberry. I can’t usually justify buying them (most of the time! :P) but they look adorable. If you go even smaller, I love it even more! Especially if it’s very detailed and realistic. The details are really it for me as you may have guessed from other reviews, this is not a bad thing in the life of a Quality Assurance person though :P. I often collected odds and ends in small sizes with a thought towards what miniature household goods they could be turned into with modifications. I’m sure I was in no small part inspired my beloved book series of “The Borrowers” about some miniature folks who created all their supplies this way out of salvaged or “borrowed” (aka stolen) knickknacks of the human world, albeit on a slightly larger scale than Playmobil. I love to model miniature things out of Sculpy, however, it’s actually fairly brittle (and I’m fairly clumsy) so it’s not really a good medium for finely detailed breakable stuff that’s going to be played with, unfortunately. Food, though is a special area of interest. Even full-sized fake food is pretty neat especially if it is lifelike (I remember one time I was in a restaurant as a kid and they brought out the “dessert tray” which consisted of exact rubber replicas of each of the desserts. I found this vastly better than a menu, because you could actually see what each dessert looked like. They were so lifelike that we at first weren’t sure if they were real and my mother cautioned me not to touch them in case they were real, but then I noticed a tiny amount of dust inside the whipped cream curls on top of one of the slices of cake, which solved that question). When I was a kid, I made a number of miniature foods, on about Playmobil scale. I made some little pies using bottlecaps for pie pans, red glass beads for a cherry filling, and plasticine for a beautiful lattice crust. I made some little carrots out of colored wax (the orange part) and pipe cleaners (the trimmed stems), tied with a twist-tie. I made some tiny chocolate-chip cookies out of cut up scraps of something and glue, and a tiny layer cake out of foam and paint (mixed with something to make it thicker). I spent hours working on microscopic crafts of one kind or another (still would if real work hadn’t interfered as an adult :P). These creations delighted me (in fact I still have most of them), however, being of a rather delicate nature they also aren’t up to being played with by an enthusiastic 3-year old. I needed something durable, and furthermore it was nearly Ramadan and I needed to start assembling calendar materials if I was ever going to get this off the ground this year.
After cruising a few stores looking for anything remotely workable, and time ticking down, I went online, and stumbled across a complete gem. Asanea Gifts is like the one-stop shop of the miniature world: “Dolls house miniatures accessories & dollhouse miniature food. Exquisite, super REAL looking, handmade clay miniature food. Fill up your dolls house with bread, fruit, hot dog, cake, cupcakes, clay candy, clay pastry. Kawaii cute miniature food plates with pancakes & waffles. Huge variety of dollhouse miniature ceramic plate, dish, cup, mug selections.”
They weren’t kidding. As I began to explore the site I was floored by the selection, from miniature croissants, to miniature individually wrapped toilet paper rolls smaller than a penny (I had often found bathrooms to be a rather overlooked area of the dollhouse), to a miniature set of Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy! There are tiny bottles and dishes made of real glass and ceramic, with minuscule printed labels, minute woven baskets, and small wooden shop displays with racks and rows of different types of pastries and doughnuts, tiny metal tongs also available. I was in a wonderland. The detail on the site was amazing, I was sold on that level. It was extremely difficult to narrow down my choices, but I forced myself to do so because I wanted to get an ample selection that would be good for several days of the calendar, but also to try out the merchant since I’d never purchased from them before, and make sure the miniatures were really quite the right size and solidity to fit into the active Playmobil world. It was difficult to gauge how hardy the creations were (the foods appeared to be made out of some kind of clay, I had less concern about the ceramic, glass, or wood accessories of course).
Although you could literally populate your entire miniature world with practically all their needs on this site, I decided to focus on food as that had been my original goal, and to choose items that would allow the toy people to have their own sort of Eid feast, for my initial order. To that end, I initially selected a cake with individual slices (each a different flavor!), cupcakes, and a bowl of ice cream (I don’t make all of this for Eid of course, but I do make a cake which my son had been anticipating for months, and I liked that the cake slices and cupcakes could be served out to different individual toy people because that is what my son likes to do. I also selected a biscuit set of breads, and a plate of individual pretzels. Searching for miniature pretzels was actually what had led me to this particular site in the first place, because I also like to make big soft pretzels (and had made them on several Eids, as well as other times), and my son quite likes these as well. I also got a fruit set with some fruits he likes to round things out since it was beginning to be a bit decadent :P. And the fruits were adorable.
Shipping prices were not listed, which alarmed me slightly, but there was a disclaimer saying to add items to the cart to see shipping and it wasn’t printed because it was very low. It turned out to be true (under $5 for my entire order). The site was a bit busy with a few broken links here and there, which I tend to notice with my background and which does factor into my estimation of the “reliability” of a merchant; however, I take this with a grain of salt in actual practice. I have bought many products from companies on websites where I wish I could take a few minutes to fix broken links, image shifts and grammar or spelling, which turned out to be quite delightful and just leave me hoping that this doesn’t dissuade others from purchasing.
The same day I placed my order, within an hour or two in fact, I received a friendly, chipper, and smiley confirmation from customer service, who also let me know that 2 items weren’t available exactly as pictured but they could be substituted for other items. About one time, she said “The toppings on the cake slices are assorted and we are currently out of the exact ones in the photo but have other similar cake slices, would that be fine?” I was, as my mother would say, tickled pink, because this isn’t something the layperson would probably even think to mention, but I was quite happy she did (and of course quite happy to substitute other cake toppings). On the other item she confirmed for me that a biscuit set substitute did not have separate movable pieces (again, replying to my email right away) so I ended up taking that out of the order due to my plan for the particular pieces. All of the back and forth was accomplished within a couple hours and with a very friendly and helpful approach. My order shipped the next day via USPS and I received an email confirmation with tracking number; I got the package itself in less than a week!
I was very excited to open the package but of course I had to wait until my son went to bed because these were going to be part of the surprise presents in his calendar. So after he was asleep, I examined it at leisure:
Within the package the items were packed in a lovely decorative blue and gold gauze bag:
Each miniature set was also further carefully contained in individual tiny ziploc bags:
There were also two different business cards for Asanea Gifts Included:
The set was exactly as described, and even better in person. They were precisely the right size (very slightly oversized if you were to imagine Playmobils as real people, but that was expected and is true of most of their accessories).
The amount of detail was amazing and impressive, very colorful, with beautiful attention to detail. The cakes had small bubbles in their texture as if part of the crumb. Miniature strawberries on top shone with glaze. The pretzels were browned on top and dusted with miniscule “salt.” The two dishes (one was part of the cake set, the other came with the pretzels) were glazed decorated ceramic worthy of being full-sized. The fruit was packaged in a sturdy box.
The ice cream sundae was also in a ceramic bowl (not detachable, naturally, but I was not expecting this due to the nature of an ice cream sundae). There was one small sign of damage from shipping which was that one stick of candy in the ice cream bowl had broken the end slightly. Since it was a striped candy stick, it looked exactly the same only shorter, so it didn’t really affect it in any way.
None of the other items had broken or broke subsequently when being played with. In fact, I am very intrigued by whatever type of clay is used to make them. They have the feel of a slightly flexible plastic, however, it doesn’t look like they were made in clay and then cast in plastic, because the different colored pieces are obviously made separately and then stuck together (you can tell for instance, that the grapes and orange are different pieces from the grape vines and orange leaves which they are attached to, they are not painted, but they are slightly flexible so they don’t break apart). I would love to make stuff like this myself out of this kind of material, if I knew what it was, so it could survive action or being dropped. The detail is really more than you can even tell on the site. For instance, the oranges have a tiny, subtle pebbly texture on their skin. It was hard not to squeal and wake up my son :P.
This site is definitely a repeat purchase. Customer service, product, delivery, and price are all top notch, and there is such an amazing selection! If you have any passing interest at all in such things or know anybody who does, or have any occasions coming up don’t hesitate to buy (the site helpfully lists all upcoming holidays, I was happy to see Eid al Fitr on the list :). But these truly could go for pretty much any occasion whatsoever). In fact even if you can’t imagine what you would do with such things, I encourage you to browse the site, because you’ll surely start getting some ideas or invent some need they can fill :). They also have a few other products on the site such as jewelry, origami star strips, and some paper cutout designs (all very pretty and decorative) but for me it’s all about those miniatures!