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Santa Claus

For today’s installment in my ongoing series, I did fan art based on the Grinch from the classic Dr. Seuss story How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

I did my drawing based on a free tutorial I found on How to Draw Step by Step Drawing Tutorials. I found the instructions very easy to follow and I was happy with the result. I did most of the drawing in ink, with the exception of his eye pupils, which I did in colored pencil.

I’ve been a fan of the Grinch ever since I used to watch the original cartoon special on TV each year and I checked the original Dr. Seuss book out of the library. I loved that story. In fact, it’s probably among my favorite Christmas stories.

One year my mother gave me a DVD copy of the original animated show and my then-husband and I used to watch it each Christmas. After he left, I started watching it on my own.

Back in 2010 National Harbor had a special exhibition featuring ice sculptures based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I remember buying tickets for that exhibition that I gave to my then-husband as a Christmas present. I took a bunch of photos of that exhibition, which you can see right here. That exhibit was amazing to see in person and that remains among my more fond Christmas memories with my husband. (It’s also poignant because just one year later he would leave me for someone else whom I thought was a friend. It happened while I was still recovering from the hip surgery I underwent just three months earlier.)

There have been a couple of other versions of that same story, both of which were made for movie theaters. One was a live action version that starred Jim Carey. I remember seeing the previews and I found them so underwhelming so my then-husband and I didn’t bother with seeing it. (I also remember that this version had pretty bad reviews.) This year there was yet another remake of the same story. This one was a CGI animation. Apparently this version had better reviews than the Jim Carey version but I haven’t seen it due mainly to tight finances. Right now it doesn’t make sense for me to go to a local movie theater and pay $10 or more to see the same story that I already own on DVD. It’s just cheaper for me to watch the DVD in the comfort of my own home while I can pop my own popcorn in the microwave oven and pour my own soda.

There are two more days and two more drawings to go until this series is over.

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I can remember a time when people used to get their panties in a bunch because someone published a children’s book about a little girl being raised by a lesbian couple called Heather Has Two Mommies. I was at the local public library recently when I saw this Christmas book written for children on the shelves.

It’s called Santa’s Husband and, as you can guess from the cover, it’s about Santa Claus and his husband, Mr. Claus. In addition, it depicts an interracial couple and Santa Claus is black. I can remember a time when any library with such a book would’ve been targeted by homophobic people and there would be calls to remove that book. And I know people older than me who can recall an era where people would’ve raised a stink about interracial couples (regardless of whether they were heterosexual or same-sex). These days no one has raised any kind of ruckus about that book.

This shows how much times have changed and how more and more Americans are accepting the idea of same-sex couples and same-sex marriage.

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Birthday Cake

Today is my birthday and I’m another year older. But I’m using this special day to write about something that I had been working on for a while. In some ways it’s a fulfillment of a fantasy I’ve had since I was a kid. I’ve always wanted to write a book. Well, I finally did it. A few days ago I uploaded an ebook version on Amazon and it is now live. Yesterday I managed to upload the files for the paperback version and I’m currently waiting for final approval before that one goes live on that site as well. Beginning next week I’m going to submit it to Smashwords so it’ll be available not only on the Smashwords site but, if all goes well, it’ll also be distributed to Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and a few other online bookstores. Finally I’ll upload it on to Google Play.

Once I get everything squared away and the books are actually sold online, I’ll provide links. Right now I only feel comfortable in saying that my first book is a work of nonfiction. I really don’t want to go any further until the book is completely available for sale everywhere.

I will say that I came up with the idea and, thanks to changing technology, it’s possible to publish your own book (in both book and ebook versions) and distribute it without shelling out a lot of money to some vanity publisher then begging some local bookstore to sell it on the shelves (like what used to be the case before the Internet as we know it today came into being and before booksellers like Amazon started online).

I took a couple of online courses through on how to publish ebooks. (My local public library subscribes to so I’m able to access its courses for free with my library card.) I saw how relatively easy it was. I had to learn certain new things (such as the difference between a fixed-layout and a reflowable layout and how each looks on a tablet) but it wasn’t too bad. The first online class I took gave a basic overview. I’m currently working my way through another class that’s more intense where you follow along with the class and create/distribute your book as you take each lesson. I had to temporarily stop that class in order to take time with putting the finishing touches on my book, register for accounts at various sites, and other related stuff. Once I’m done with all of the submissions to the various sites, I’ll resume taking that more advanced class because it has lessons on how to promote your new book online.

I’m not expecting it to become a surprise bestseller (although I would be delighted if it happened mainly because I could start paying off some debts, most of which stemmed from my divorce followed by lean years in a lean economy where I had a hard time finding a full-time day job to pay the bills). I’m hoping for some modest sales so I will at least have one revenue stream. Since finding steady work is so difficult at times (and it doesn’t help that I’m now over 30 so now I’m starting to face age discrimination) I’m taking the advice of this panel that I attended at Intervention Con back in 2013 which advised creative people to have more than one revenue stream going at the same time. The advantage of multiple revenue streams is that if one or two revenue stream is slow at the moment, the other streams will continue to produce enough cash to pay the bills. (By that way, someone had actually filmed that panel and you can now view it online.)

I’ll also have something that I can add to my resume and my professional profiles on LinkedIn and Jobcase in the hopes that I’ll stand out among the throngs of people who are also trying to find work. (Even though there’s hype about the economy now being strong, it looks like it’s not back to the norm where most people are working full-time jobs that pay a livable wage so they can fully support themselves and their families.)

That’s all I’m going to write about regarding my book at the moment. I’ll definitely provide updates about the book’s distribution and more information about the content of this book once the links all go live and things like that. I feel extremely happy that I’m finally making my old childhood dream come true after all these years.

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Not too long ago I was helping someone with her eBay sale. She had contacted me through the local time bank so I was getting time banking hours instead of cash. (But I can redeem it for any tasks that I need done at a later date.) Now that I’m finished with that task, I can write about it.

Basically the woman wanted to downsize her possessions while trying to raise funds to help her church fund this missionary who’s currently serving in another country. I took photos of her stuff, which ranged from fine china to a cervical collar that has never been used, and I did some online research on how much could she expect to sell her stuff for. The most interesting item she had was this antique book. It was titled Samantha at Saratoga. I had never heard of this book before.

What was really fascinating was the author, who was listed only as Josiah Allen’s Wife. That was really unusual. I know that there was a time when women didn’t have too many rights. I once took a semester-long pre-law class in college called “The Legal Status of Women” where I learned that in the early days of the United States, children were considered to be their father’s legal property. When a boy reached 18, he was considered to be an independent adult but a young woman was still considered to be her father’s property. Once she got married, she became her husband’s property. I was amazed at the idea that women were considered to be someone else’s property that this author would be known simply as someone’s wife than writing under her own name.

The first page inside of the book had the signature of the book’s previous owner, Dorothea M. Smith, along with the date January, 1918. I assumed that this was the date that she obtained this book (whether she bought it for herself or someone gave it to her as a present).

The copyright information was also interesting, even though the actual year looked smudged. (I guess the printing press had too much ink when it was printed.) I couldn’t tell whether the year was 1807 or 1867.

The book had some nice illustrations such as this one.

When I did a Google research on this book, I found out some really interesting information. According to the Wikipedia, Josiah Allen’s Wife was the pen name of a writer named Marietta Holley, who enjoyed a prolific writing career. She was not only a humorist and satirist but she was one of America’s first female humorists who was compared to Mark Twain. She used her writings to comment satirically on U.S. society and politics at the time. Her books were widely read both in the U.S. and Europe but, by the time of her death, she had become forgotten. Ironically, despite her pen name, Marietta Holley never married or had children.

Samantha at Saratoga was one of a series of books about the travels of Samantha and her husband. With the exception of Saratoga and Coney Island, Marietta Holley had never actually visited the places that she wrote that Samantha and her husband visited. Instead she relied on maps and guidebooks in order to accurately describe the places that Samantha and her spouse visited on their travels.

Even though Marietta Holley and her writings are relatively obscure today, there is a library in Watertown, New York who has a room named after her.

The most surprising thing is that I found out how much this woman’s copy of the book was really worth. Since it was an old book by a woman who was a bestselling author in her lifetime that has long since gone out of print, I thought it would be worth something. After doing searches on Amazon, Abe Books, and eBay, I found that copies generally went from $4.50-$20. That book is worth no more than any of the books that are currently on The New York Times Bestseller List, which is pretty surprising given how old that book is.

The Internet Archive has copies of Samantha at Saratoga and the other books in the Samantha series available for free downloads. I haven’t gotten around to downloading and reading any of them yet but I hope to find the time to do so someday. It would be interesting to see what that book is like.

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Someone has made 38 hours of playlists that trace the evolution of hip hop and you can listen to it for free.

51 illegal photos of North Korea that Kim Jong Un doesn’t want you to see.

The false promises of worker retraining.

Smile, DC Metro riders, you could be this artist’s model.

The countries that get by without a government.

Nineteen facts about the deindustrialization of America that will make you weep.

The point of Patreon isn’t how many people earn a full-time living, it’s how much of the money from art goes to artists.

Oprah Winfrey is one of the world’s best neoliberal capitalist thinkers.

How a nearly successful slave revolt was intentionally lost to history.

This flapper’s dollhouse costs more than most people’s homes.

Mexican cities secede to escape corruption and cartels, forming corporate dystopias, precarious utopian projects, and Mad Maxish militia towns.

How Christians can emulate Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the age of Donald Trump.

Real books are back. E-books sales plunge nearly 20%.

Republican lawmakers are surprised to learn that no black soldiers served under the Confederacy in South Carolina.

A look at the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike.

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Ninety years ago today a struggling young animator named Walt Disney released this groundbreaking cartoon called Steamboat Willie. The rest is history.

It can be pretty hard to fathom how groundbreaking it was and it can also be pretty hard to fathom a time when Mickey Mouse wasn’t the biggest cartoon character. While there were animated cartoon shorts before Steamboat Willie, they were silents, which meant that there were no recorded music or dialogue. They were played in movie theaters where a piano player or organist would play the soundtrack live in the theater, just like they did with live action silent films. During the silent era the biggest cartoon star was Felix the Cat.

Many people think that Steamboat Willie was both the first sound cartoon ever made and Mickey Mouse’s first cartoon. It turns out not to be the case on both counts. There were some earlier attempts at making sound cartoons, most notably Max and Dave Fleischer’s Song Car-Tunes series and Van Beuren Studio’s Dinner Time but they didn’t catch on in the way that Steamboat Willie did.

Steamboat Willie was actually the third Mickey Mouse cartoon ever made. His first two cartoons, Plane Crazy and the Gallopin’ Gaucho, were made as silent animation films but they had failed to impress audiences and Walt Disney was unable to get a distributor for those two. Walt Disney came up with the idea of making a sound Mickey Mouse cartoon after the ground-breaking live action talking movie The Jazz Singer was released and it became a huge hit.

Had the people behind Felix the Cat gotten into making sound cartoons immediately after The Jazz Singer was released, it’s highly likely that Felix would’ve permanently quashed that cartoon rodent upstart Mickey and Steamboat Willie would’ve become a footnote in the history of animation. After all, Felix was the biggest cartoon star in the world while Mickey Mouse was a relative unknown. It’s very likely that Felix’s animation domination would have carried over into the sound era and Felix the Cat would have remained the biggest cartoon star today. People would be spending the day at a Felix the Cat theme park, visiting related Felix websites online, and buying all kinds of Felix the Cat merchandise ranging from clothes to toys to high-end designer handbags.

But the people behind Felix the Cat underestimated the potential of sound cartoons and talking pictures in general. They felt they already had a winning formula with Felix so why alter it? The fact that studio head Pat Sullivan suffered from alcoholism so bad that it affected his decision making and it ultimately took his life at an early age didn’t help. By the time there was an effort to start making Felix the Cat sound cartoons, Mickey Mouse had already overtaken him in popularity and the original studio folded. While there were short-lived attempts to revive Felix the Cat in the 1930’s (as a series of color cartoons with sound) and 1950’s (as a children’s TV cartoon show), Felix the Cat had never quite regained the immense popularity he lost from that disastrous decision to delay making sound cartoons. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the first Felix the Cat cartoon so we’ll see if there are any attempts to put Felix in the public eye again.

Earlier this year I realized that this year was the 90th anniversary of Steamboat Willie when I saw these specially marked Pepperdige Farms Goldfish Crackers on sale. I purchased a couple of them and I wrote this blog post about these special crackers (which featured crackers in the shape of the usual goldfish and special ones in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head).

If it weren’t for these crackers I would have completely missed this anniversary. But this is Disney, a giant multinational corporation, and it wasn’t going to let people forget that this year is another one of those important anniversaries where the number ends in either 0 or 5. Since buying those crackers I’ve seen other Mickey stuff in the stores. At the local Giant grocery store there was this display of Little Golden Books featuring Mickey Mouse.

The same store had special Mickey Mouse Oreos for sale. I purchased one of those packs for the heck of it. Here is what the outside package looked like.

I opened the package and noticed how the chocolate part of the cookies were designed. One side of the cookie had the usual Oreo stamp on it.

The other side had one of three special designs that were especially made for this package. One design had Mickey Mouse wearing a party hat.

Another design had a megaphone surrounded by tiny Mickey Mouse heads.

A third design had the number “90” surrounded by tiny Mickey Mouse heads.

The cream in the cookies was a special flavor known as “Birthday Cake.” Basically the cream tasted like vanilla frosting and I found it to taste far sweeter than the normal Oreo cream. While I found the taste to be passible, I personally prefer the regular cream.

If that wasn’t enough, Giant also had this special issue of Life magazine on sale, which was full of photos of Mickey Mouse over the years.

The closer it got to the anniversary, the more 90th anniversary Mickey stuff came out at a rapid rate. Here’s what I found at Target.

Of course there would be a Mickey Mouse Bluray DVD featuring “Steamboat Willie” and other seminal Mickey cartoons.

There were some special Funko Pops featuring cute versions of Mickey Mouse in his famous cartoon roles. While I didn’t see a Steamboat Willie Funko Pop, I saw ones based on other cartoons like The Brave Little Taylor and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence in Fantasia.

There were some large plush stuffed animals based on the opening sequence in Steamboat Willie when Mickey was steering the steamboat.

There were smaller plush stuffed animals as well, which not only featured Mickey as he appeared in Steamboat Willie but as he appeared in other cartoons.

There were special blind boxes shaped like Mickey heads.

The list on the label shows the Mickey figurines that one could get inside of blind box. Of course you won’t know which Mickey you got until after you purchased this special box and take it home with you.

If buying blind boxes aren’t your thing, you could spend $24.99 and buy the complete set of Mickey Mouse figurines.

I saw some special Mickey Mouse fabrics from Jo-Ann’s Fabrics & Crafts, some of which feature Minnie Mouse as well. You could make yourself a special outfit with these special patterns.

There were other Mickey fabrics as well but I only wanted to highlight the ones that had the Steamboat Willie-era Mickeys.

There were 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse Christmas ornaments and housewares available for sale at CVS.

A couple of days ago I made a return trip to Tyson’s Corner Mall. I went to The Disney Store where I saw this sign featuring Mickey and Minnie announcing that its Black Friday sale was going on right now. (By the way, my various store apps on my smartphone were pushing notifications all this past week announcing “Black Friday Preview Sales” and stuff like that? Is having pre-Black Friday sales a thing now in retail? God help us!)

There was a sign announcing Mickey Mouse-inspired activities at The Disney Store all weekend long. I showed up on Friday but I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Today they have a thing where the first 90 customers to make a purchase will get a special commemorative Mickey key. I’m financially struggling too much to go for something like that. Even if I could afford to buy something, I think I can live without a special commemorative Mickey key.

The back of the store was having continuous showings of Steamboat Willie with seats small enough for young children to sit on.

There was just one small area of the store that had the commemorative 90th anniversary stuff, most of which were geared towards adults, such as paperclips and business portfolio covers.

The Disney Store wasn’t the only place that had 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse stuff. The Build-A-Bear Workshop had a couple of special 90th anniversary Mickey plushies that one could have stuffed. One is Mickey wearing his “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” outfit.

The other one was a regular Mickey Mouse wearing his usual red shorts. Like the other Mickey, this one had special soles on his shoes that were marked 90th anniversary. (The Mickey in this photo was unstuffed.)

Lolli and Pops had imported Mickey Mouse candy with the packaging written in some Asian language. (I couldn’t tell which language it was. I think it was either Japanese or Korean.)

Macy’s had these special 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse Ray-Ban sunglasses.

The only thing about these sunglasses that I didn’t like was the fact that Mickey Mouse was visible from inside of the sunglasses frames—the frames that other people wouldn’t normally see. What’s the use of paying more money for something that can’t be seen by other people? I might as well buy regular black-framed sunglasses without Mickey Mouse lining on the inside.

Sugarfina is an upscale candy store that had 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse candy on sale. I thought about buying a Mickey Mouse dark chocolate candy bar only to find out that their candy bars cost $9.50 each. And that’s the starting price of the candy in that store.

There was a store that sold 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse watches, clocks, and backpacks.

There were a lot of stuff for the 90th anniversary that one could buy. I can only imagine what it will be like 10 years from now when the 100th anniversary comes up in 2028. While we’re on the subject, here’s one fact that frequently gets overlooked: This year is also the 90th anniversary of Minnie Mouse, Mickey’s longtime girlfriend. That’s right, she appeared in the first two silent Mickey cartoons and she also appeared in Steamboat Willie. She’s been a regular in most Mickey Mouse cartoons since.

UPDATE (December 3, 2018): Over a week after I wrote this post, new 90th birthday Mickey Mouse stuff arrived at my local Target that I haven’t seen before. You can check them out right here.

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Today’s prompt word for Inktober is “gift.” I drew something a bit more serious for this prompt. Ever since my marriage abruptly collapsed in late 2011 I had to deal with financial struggle while I had a series of jobs that were either short-lived, poorly paid, or both. I read Melody Beattie’s book The Language of Letting Go where she had one suggestion of writing your deepest wish on a piece of paper or just saying it out loud. The idea is to put your message out in the universe. She said that doing this can get results. When I was doing rough drawings in pencil a few weeks ago, I decided to write down my biggest wish in the hopes that it will come true. I’m currently doing freelance work for a therapist on an upcoming webinar series that will probably end next month and I’m currently helping someone else with her eBay sales but the latter is through the local timebank so I’m only going to get time banking hours, not paid hours. For me having my wish come true would be a gift for me.

Three more days and three more drawings until this Inktober is finally finished.

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All those months of dealing with my ex-husband ending all further alimony payments, getting one job where I was promised that I would eventually get full-time hours only to not being able to even get 20 hours a week after working there for four months while the boss was job hunting himself, and only being able to get freelance piecemeal work began to take a personal toll on me. I really wanted to take a vacation for just a day or two but I couldn’t afford to do it so I was trapped. But then I got my current gig where I was helping a therapist prepare for a series of upcoming webinars that are slated to begin next month so I managed to get just enough money in that I could do something fun.

However the best I was able to afford was taking the Metro to Tyson’s Corner Center in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. It was better than nothing so I decided to go for it. It was raining heavily that day but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Besides, I was riding a Metrobus to the nearest Metro subway stop so I didn’t have to worry about driving on slippery roads. I rode the Silver Line Metro to the Mall. When I arrived at the plaza that has the entrances that are located the closest to the Metro station, I noticed that it looked pretty deserted due to the rain.

That’s in contrast to past visits where, depending on the time of the year, there is usually some kind of activities for people to participate in, whether it’s playing with a giant chess set or a giant ice skating rink.

I found out that this year is the 50th anniversary of Tyson’s Corner Center and there were signs touting this fact everywhere.

I walked past the Microsoft Store. I can count the number of times I’ve actually stepped inside of that store on one hand. I walked past the entrance but I didn’t go inside on this trip.

I’ll admit that I only went to this mall for a change in scenery. I didn’t do much shopping because money was still too tight for me at the moment. I basically shot photos of whatever appealed to me at the time.

At least I found out that Golden Girls socks are actually a thing this year.

Pez dispensers have always been a bit on the kitschy side but Pez has really outdid itself with pink flamingoes Pez dispensers.

I made a brief stop inside of the Apple Store, where I saw the latest computers with the large monitors.

I also got a look at the new iPhone XS, which has received a lot of press for its over $1,000 price tag. I have to admit that the iPhone XS has nice sharp graphics on its screen. If the phone allowed for people to do their own upgrades (such as adding more memory or replacing the hard drive) it would be one thing but, as far as I can tell, this smartphone is just like all of the others where you can’t even open your own phone and it will ultimately be disposable once it stops working completely. I’m going to stick with my Samsung Galaxy J3 phone for the time being.

I came across this kiosk that I haven’t seen on previous visits. It’s for a store called b8ta and it sells a mix of Google products and technology products that are created by smaller companies.

I made a brief stop inside of Build-A-Bear Workshop where I saw these cute Halloween plushies and a brontosaurus on display.

I eventually made my way to the American Girl Place. I haven’t been there since last December so there were plenty of new things to see. I saw that Felicity Merriman, the historical doll who’s supposed to represent the American Revolution era, has been taken out of retirement and is now available for sale once again. She’s on display with Addy Walker (who represents the American Civil War period) and Samantha Parkington (who represents the first few years of the 20th century that’s known as the Edwardian Era).

Here’s another historical doll, Nanea Mitchell (who represents Hawaii around the time of the Pearl Harbor bombing) with some new accessories available for sale.

Maryellen Larkin, who represents the 1950s, relaxes in her trailer, which is sold separately from the doll. The details of this trailer are pretty impeccable.

Kit Kittredge, who represents the Great Depression, sits behind her newly released vegetable stand.

Last year I saw Z Yang for the first time. Even though she’s a contemporary doll, this one caught my eye because she’s into photography and videography like I am. I learned that she is among the dolls who will be retired soon. I would say that I’m sorry to see her go but I’m still a bit cash-strapped at the moment so there was no way I could afford this doll and her accessories. There is also the issue of space because I really don’t have enough room to have a huge collection of large dolls.

This doll in the next photo was a bit of a surprise. Gabriela McBride was released last year as American Girl’s Girl of the Year Doll for 2017. Usually the Girl of the Year doll is on sale only from January 1-December 31 then she is retired. I was surprised to see that she was still around in 2018. I still remember last year the times I tried to take her picture but the first time I failed because the phone on my previous smartphone (Droid Ultra) began to act erratically and it wouldn’t take any photos while I was at the store yet it finally worked after I returned home. The second time I brought my older Canon DSLR with me but that effort failed because I had to be elsewhere and I shot photos at that other place before I arrived at the mall and I ran out of battery power by the time I arrived. My smartphone worked miraculously until I got to Gabriela McBride and my smartphone camera decided to stop working. The third time was finally the charm when I arrived last December with a Canon PowerShot camera that I purchased used off eBay and I took some photos of that doll and her accessories without a hitch. I thought that she would be retired at the end of 2017 just like her Girl of the Year predecessors but it wasn’t the case with her.

The country singing pair of Tenney Grant and her friend Logan Everett were also slated for retirement but I didn’t bother with taking their pictures. I had already shot them and their accessories on a previous visit and there wasn’t anything new with those two.

I managed to check out the 2018 Girl of the Year. Her name is Luciana Vega, she’s a Latina, she’s into STEM, and her big dream is to work for NASA so she could go to Mars.

American Girl went all out with the space theme. In fact, one of my Facebook friends who works for NASA was posting approvingly about this doll earlier this year. (He’s the father of two daughters—both of whom are now young adults—and I’m sure he would’ve bought this doll for them if they were still kids.)

Seeing this doll in person I have to say that she’s gorgeous and her clothes are literally out of this world. (If there were ever human adult versions of her dresses, I would definitely want to buy them.) She has gorgeous black hair with a purple streak in it. If I weren’t so cash-strapped, I would definitely feel tempted to buy this doll.

Her accessories, which are sold separately, includes things like astronaut ice cream and a replica of an Apple Watch.

There are corresponding books, one of which comes with the doll and the other two are sold separately. A few days before I came to Tyson’s Corner I was at the library where I saw a young girl checking out a pile of books, including one of the Luciana books.

Among her separately sold play sets is one that resembles a STEM makerspace. There is even a cute robot dog.

If it weren’t for the fact that this STEM maker station cost $100, I would say that it would be a cool thing to purchase for the local makerspace in my area for the kids to play with.

I thought that this robot dog came with the maker station but I found out that this robodoggie is sold separately for $35.

There is also a space telescope so Luciana could look up at the stars.

Then there is this NASA space laboratory and a NASA space suit for Luciana to wear. I can understand why my Facebook friend was gushing about Luciana online. In fact, this capsule reminds me of my ex-husband, who works for NASA. If we were still together, I definitely would’ve urged him to go to the American Girl Place with me so he could see this in person. I also would’ve told him that we could stop off at Wasabi afterwards because I was trying to get him to consider the two of us eating there before he abruptly left me just three days after Christmas and three months after my hip surgery in 2011. (I had gone to Wasabi for the first time when I was still married in October, 2011 but I went by myself that time.)

The details of this capsule are pretty astounding. My ex-husband definitely would’ve gotten a kick out of it if he had seen it for himself in person.

Yes, it’s sad that visiting the American Girl Place so we could see this NASA space laboratory together is another thing I’ll never get to do with my ex-husband but that’s the way things go.

My ex-husband was never into dolls and normally I would never have been able to get him to even step one foot inside of that door. I think I may have gotten him to make a rare exception and actually visit a doll store because he definitely would’ve been impressed with the painstaking details of this NASA space laboratory.

Luciana is totally rocking this astronaut space suit.

For families who want to purchase Luciana and her accessories but who are cash-strapped, there are Mega Construx kit versions.

Like other Girl of the Year dolls, the American Girl Place has a designated space where people can have their selfies taken with a standee of Luciana Vegan and a space capsule.

The sign said to turn the handle and look inside but the door handle was broken when I was there.

The best I was able to do was to shoot through the door window.

American Girl sold separate Washington, DC souvenir t-shirts for dolls. They also had matching shirts for their human owners as well but I only shot the doll shirts.

I didn’t spend much time in the store beyond Luciana and the BeForever historical dolls. But I saw this car that looked cool. It reminded me of that Volkswagen that American Girl came out for the 1970s historical doll Julie Albright a few years back.

I also shot these two outfits that were released just in time for the upcoming winter holiday trio of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

After my visit to the American Girl Place I ate a sushi dinner at Wasabi, which is the place that delivers food on conveyor belts and you could pick which plates you want.

After dinner I walked around the mall a bit. I found a temporary Halloween store that was selling costumes. This year they have costumes based on that mega-popular video game Fortnite. (I’ve seen kids play that game and they can’t seem to get enough of it. I haven’t tried it myself as of this writing.)

I did get a chuckle out of this obvious parody of My Little Pony‘s Rainbow Dash, even though I know nothing about Fortnite‘s Rainbow Smash.

They also had two costumes based on the late artist and TV personality Bob Ross. A couple of friends or lovers could dress up together as Bob Ross and one of his paintings, which I find hilarious.

Just a few feet away from the Halloween store is a Christmas store. This is crazy. Halloween and Thanksgiving haven’t even happened yet and there is already a Christmas store.

Just a few days after I took this shot of these Grinch ornaments I learned that someone is coming out with yet another remake of How the Grinch Stole Christmas that will be shown on the big screen. I guess that’s why there was a display of these ornaments. I personally think that doing yet another remake is so unnecessary. I have the original 1960’s TV special on DVD so I can always play that one on my TV screen instead of paying over $10 to see the remake in a movie theater.

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Last year I checked out a new shopping center that was built on top of a former farm that was once owned by descendants of the original Lord Baltimore, George Calvert (who founded what eventually became the state of Maryland). At the time the only stores that were really in business were a Whole Foods Market and a Starbucks. I shot some photos because I noticed that the developer chose to keep the one remaining structure that hints at the shopping center’s former use as a farm—a giant icehouse. In addition, there was this really cool statue of a big blue bear that was erected.

I haven’t been back until recently and that’s because there was a used book sale that was happening there and I decided to check it out. Since my last visit the place has expanded.

In front of the shopping center there is now this really interesting statue of what looks like two figures seated close in a ball position facing each other.

The details of each figure shows the fact that the figure is made up of symbols.

Like I wrote before, the only remaining structure from the shopping center’s early days as a farm is this giant brick icehouse. The developer has since added an airplane whose propellor constantly rotates.

A few new businesses have opened at Riverdale Park Station, such as this Gold’s Gym in the next photo.

The statue of the giant blue bear is still there. In fact, the area where the bear is located is now known as Bear Square.

The used book sale took place in Bear Square just a few feet away from the bear statue. I browsed through the books but I didn’t find anything that appealed to me so I ended up not buying anything.

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