it all started with the barbies


School was out for the summer and we had a hundred years of warm ahead of us to play and be and pretend. As the little sister, I typically followed her lead in things. But on those bright, Indiana summer mornings, she and I had completely different ideas of what it meant to play Barbies.

The set up was always the same: Barbie furniture on one side, dolls on the other, and piles of pink and white sparkly clothes and shoes in the middle. With sun-kissed shoulders and skinned up knees, we would sit cross-legged and eager with all of our loot spread out before us. It was time to pick.

For me, picking the dolls was the most important part. Deciding which dolls would be related, dating, or married was half the fun. Then, you got to choose their ages and names and determine which ones were gonna be nice and which ones weren’t based on really objective things like hair color and eyebrow shape. That was the serious business of Barbie playing.

But not for my sister. To her, picking was all about the furniture. She would always choose the best stuff. The pink couch, the plastic china cabinet and the bed with the lacy canopy. She wasn’t limited to the ‘real’ Barbie furniture. She would shop the house for unlikely things to use to make the Barbie houses better, like the artificial flowers from mom’s dresser that would become a gigantic potted plant in the corner. That kind of thing.

While I was busy making up pretend scenarios for our Barbies to live out, she was busy creating a beautiful, pretend house for them to live in. And she is still doing it. Only now, her furniture isn’t pink or made of plastic.


She writes about imperfect, inexpensive ways to make your home beautiful on her blog, Nesting Place. Most of you already know that. What you may not know is that she has compiled her philosophy of nesting in an e-book entitled It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect To Be Beautiful. It’s free and full of pretty photos and practical tips to help you create an environment in your home that is beautiful to you.

So while I may have been disappointed as a kid that my sister wouldn’t play Barbies for real, I now reap the benefits of her nesting ways and simple, creative ideas. And you can, too!


  1. says

    I was always into Barbie’s shoes! She had to have good shoes on or I didn’t want to play.

    Your sister is amazing with her glue gun, and I love her new book! Everyone needs to read it!

    I can’t wait to meet you at She Speaks!


  2. says

    I love hearing about you and your sister playing. Your mom and I saw you but never knew the story in your head which is always the best part.

  3. says

    *sniff sniff* Makes me wish all over again that I had a sister and not yucky brothers who do nothing now but play video games, drink beer/wine (depending on who’s doing the drinking), and blame other people for the way their lives have turned out thus far. Of course, maybe it wouldn’t be all that different with a sister but I guess I shouldn’t complain. Because of them, I look like an angel! ; )

  4. says

    Yay Nester! I always made Barbie make out with Ken, so the most important part of playing Barbies for me was finding the right man. I shudder to think what that reveals about me.

  5. says

    Fun to see where it all started with you and your sister. I didn’t have a sister growing up, but now I get to watch my two little girls interact … and much of it is precious!

  6. says

    How telling that this post brought TEARS to my eyes!

    Those were the good old days with “a hundred years of warm ahead of us”

    I love to read what and how you write. specially when it’s about us.

    Love you sister, and you did luck out because you always got Derrick and Jackie and the pink t shirt.

    I wanted the pretend turkey and wine glasses.

  7. says

    Oh, how I loved this post! My sister and I could have written this! Neither of us were totally into the furniture, but we were way into the clothes and the storylines. I’m the older sister, and I used to require that each doll had a background. What are her goals? Is she going to become popular? really important stuff like that!

    My little sister went back to school because she wants to write novels. She jokes that it was the Barbie storylines that started her off…

  8. says

    Wow. It must have been fun to have a sister close enough in age to play. Mine are 11 and 13 years older than me. I’m printing her book out as we speak. :) Yea!!!!

  9. says

    Awesome post. I was all about the hair, accessories, and outfits. And I am only now getting over my obsession with fashion. I guess how we play determines a lot about how we live. Interesting.

    As for the e-book, I am on it.

    Oh and just this morning, I found my Tuesdays unwrapped moment. Will share tomorrow.

  10. says

    What a beautiful story! I absolutely love reading your writing, what an inspiration you are Emily. (For the record I was always the one wanting to find Ken, rename him and have lots of little Barbie babies, hehe!)

  11. says

    Personally, I couldn’t wait to get a Ken doll! Poor doll, Barbie just wouldn’t leave the man alone. Not that he really minded or anything.

    For me, it was all about relationships and drama, sort of like soap operas lived out. Being an only child, my Barbies also had lots of sisters (Francie, Skipper, PJ, Dawn, Angie,…). They did a lot of talking about girl stuff.

    My Barbies also liked fashion pretty well and they were always traveling on their Barbie airplane, rarely at home. That’s probably because they had really uncomfortable chairs at home. I used those L’eggs pantyhose containers that were shaped like eggs. Take it apart and you have two really mod looking, totally uncomfortable chairs. See why I need the Nester!

    My dad got me a camping set once and they went a couple of times and quickly realized that they were city girls so they headed back to the jet where they were much more at home.

    Ahh…if life were only that simple now!

  12. says

    I love any story of sisters and this was no exception. My sisters and I did unspeakable things to our Babrbies’ hair. Not on purpose, but because we thought it was oh, so fashionalble. Now we do unspeakable things to our own hair!

    I got my ebook this morning and am ready to start Nester-ing!

  13. says

    I can see why this brought tears to Nester’s eyes. Very sweet. And I had no idea about the e-book. And believe you me, I’m in serious need of Nester’s help.

  14. says

    Wow, her own e-book! Woo hoo! Go Nester!

    I have the BEST memories of playing Barbies with my cousins. But we had to make up ALL the furniture on our own. I had the extras like the horse, the dog, and a generic version of the car, but none of the furniture. So, a conch shell became a couch, a shoebox became a bed. We had so much fun. The best memory was that of my cousin Scotty, who found an unattached Barbie head and started calling it Benevolence, thinking he had totally made up that word. The next day in church they started talking about putting money in the Benevolence Fund, and all three of me, my cousin Scotty, and my cousin Ruth about peed our pants laughing about it.

    By the way, I’m hosting a giveaway! You can enter here. And I have your sister’s blessing. : )

  15. says

    I had to come back and read all about me, i mean us again.

    now I’m totally laughing {LOLing if you are all about that} at Heathalee and Benevolence. Oh my gosh that is so funny!

  16. says

    Bonita – My Barbies were city girls, too. They loved to shop. And wear earrings. We liked to poke holes in the sides of their soft plastic heads and put moms earrings on them.

    Heathalee – I’m DYING. about Benevolence. That is my favorite thing I’ve heard all day. Maybe even all week!

  17. says

    Well that explains why she is such a good friend to me. I had my own barbie dream house. NO, not the fancy one. No no no no no. A cardboard box that I wallpapered the walls with samples or leftover wrapping paper and I cut out photos from the Ethan Allen or JCPenney catalog for artwork on the walls.

    My little sister wouldn’t play barbies with me because I spent too much time fixing up their nest and not enough time on the PLAYING part.

    Such a sweet post.

  18. mom says


    I remember you and your sister playing for hours with those barbies. I will admit that I would put my ear to the door to listen to barbies (sisters) chit chat.

  19. says

    LOL – that sounds SO like my sister and me, only she was killing the Barbies and I was making them fall in love… 😉 What a sweet way of sharing your sister around!

  20. says

    Oh my goodness…For years, I’ve already been mourning the fact that I didn’t have a sister and now you post this…see all that I missed.
    Oh well, now I get to vicariously live through my girlies, although they are not nearly into Barbies as much as they should be, given this post. :)

  21. says

    Now that’s a relate-able story! We all had our Barbies. My sister and her girlfriend decided to cut my favorite ones hair and it was the end. of. my. world. I love that your sister’s passion for decorating was always present!

  22. says

    I’m 6 years younger than my closest sister and I was not allowed to touch her Barbies. The good part is that I got a bunch of her stuff when she grew out of them.

    I still have a box full of my Barbies including the salon sink. My 4 year old wants to know when she can play with them. Not yet…

  23. says

    NOt only is your post sweet, but your parents both commented. How Blessed you are! I’m sure as parents they love the relationship they’ve watched you have with your sister. If you have any tips on how to get that relationship to grow between a 7 year old perfectionist and a messy little 4 year old, I’d love to see it!

  24. says

    I came by way of Bonita’s newsletter. I loved your blogging advice in her interview. I had no idea Nester was your sister, how cool!

    For me Barbie was all about being a flight attendant, (loved that Barbie airplane), an Olympic swimmer, (she swam in our gold fish pond in our front yard in summer or our fish tank in winter, my mom was great about that), and a girl who loved camping in her Barbie van, riding her bike through fields of clover.

    Thanks for the memories!

  25. says

    “a hundred years of warm ahead of us” – oooh I love that! I remember so well what a hundred years of warm was like. I’m struck how those two little girls’ personalities/skills were already set as children. You- the writer and her designer! It takes some pressure off as a mom… we really aren’t orchestrating it all. Whew.

  26. says

    Ahhh…. the days of Barbies. I havn’t thought about that in years, but of course it was a huge part of my play time too. I always spent the whole time setting up the house and never got around to the story line. My mom would make Barbie couches out of egg cartons, chairs out of tuna cans and fabric. I realize that she taught me to be creative and frugle at a young age, which is such a great gift!

  27. says

    i didn’t get a chance to comment here yesterday (real life and stuff) and i so wanted to. oh the days of Barbies! i played with my cousin and my sister and i was the oldest with the most stuff. i was also very selfish. we would spend hours putting our houses together and changing the barbies’ clothes and choosing barbies, giving them names and deciding how many kids we had. oh it was great fun!

    sometimes we had to share a husband though. we had very few men barbies.

  28. says

    What a beautiful story! I loved reading it. I grew up with three brothers, so I have more memories of matchbox cars and being held down while the dog licked milk off my cheek than I do of Barbies. : (
    The relationship you have with Nester is wonderful and your family is so blessed!

  29. vicki says

    What a sweet story. I do not have a sister but I can say I always wanted one. Reading your story made me cry…all for good reasons!
    God is good!
    ~Vicki <

  30. says

    I always wanted a sister to play barbies with. Maybe next time I’m down there, I’ll swing by and play with you.

    I had a miniature dachshund that loved to chew on anything plastic. He eventually chewed the soft plastic feet off of most of my dolls. I pretented that they were handicapped.

  31. says

    Wishing you a happy Mother’s day to all of us with kids, grandkids or even dogs and cats that bear our last names…Here’s to you!

  32. says

    I LOVE this post! I’m an only child, so no sisters to play with and no brothers to bother me.

    I was like the Nester, shopping the house for furniture. My mom sold Avon, so I had all kinds of pretty, decorated boxes to play with. The ones with cologne in them made perfect sofas.

    I also used to break off the ends of those little pink picks that held my mom’s brush rollers in place. A perfect pink bar of Barbie soap!

    When I visited my aunt, she had this tree in her front yard that had hard little orange berries on it. Now Barbie had oranges for the kitchen table!

    Thanks for the post and the memories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *