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On the Friday before the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend I had to go shopping for food and underwear (which wasn’t totally exciting) so I went to a local shopping mall. Between shopping for what I really needed I went to Five Below where I noticed that the store started to sell Fingerlings products.

These Fingerlings are the stuffed clip-on versions that have no electronics inside of them. Their eyes do open and close depending on whether you are holding them horizontally or vertically.

I happened to have my own electronic Fingerling in my bag (I’ve been showing it off to various friends since I purchased it at Toys R Us last month and I left it in that bag) so I pulled it out for comparison with these clip-on Fingerlings. As you can see, my electronic Fingerling is larger than the clip-on versions.

These clip-ons may not be able to move or make sounds but they cost only $5 each (versus $15 for the electronic versions).

While I was shopping in Target I noticed that, at long last, that store finally got a shipment of the electronic Fingerlings. None of the local stores in my area had these in stock until recently. (Which was why I ended up buying my Fingerlings at the Toys R Us store in Annapolis.)

I noticed that these Fingerlings monkeys have glitter on them (while my own Fingerling is glitter-free).

Target also happened to have baby sloths available. If it weren’t for the fact that I had to purchase more important items, I might have bought a sloth to see what it was like.

Nearby I noticed that there were new dolls in the ever-popular Monster High line. I really liked the butterfly-style wings on this Draculaura doll.

There were also new dolls in the DC Super Hero Girls line as well. Here’s a shot of Harley Quinn.


Recently I decided to take extensive photographs of a typical Toys R Us store mainly because late last year, just before Christmas, Toys R Us had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This month Toys R Us is closing a large number of its stores throughout the United States. Nearly three years ago I did an extensive post covering the two-month period that the Kmart in Greenbelt, Maryland conducted its going out of business sale. This time I decided to take a photo of a Toys R Us store that is NOT among the stores that are slated for closure because I wanted to provide sort of a time capsule as to what it was like to visit a Toys R Us store on a typical day when it was in normal operations.

The biggest irony about the upcoming store closings is that this year is Toys R Us’ 70th anniversary. When I looked up Toys R Us’ Wikipedia page I learned one interesting fact—that chain started its first store in the Adams-Morgan section of Washington, DC. That store, which was then-called Children’s Supermart, was operating in a space that is now occupied by the iconic nightclub Madam’s Organ Blues Bar. A few years later the first store with the Toys R Us name was opened in Rockville, Maryland. Toys R Us went from being a local business to a national (then international) store chain when it was sold to Interstate Department Stores, Inc. in 1966.

In a way it’s kind of sad that this is happening to Toys R Us because I grew up watching those commercials on television that featured someone dressed in a Geoffrey Giraffe costume while the ad jingle went “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid/There’s a million of toys at Toys R Us that I can play with.”

There was only one Toys R Us store in the town that I grew up in (Glen Burnie, Maryland). Sometimes my mother would buy toys from that store but she also purchased toys from Montgomery Wards and Sears as well. I still have memories of when I used to go to the one in the Glen Burnie Mall and it had a sign that said that children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Sometimes I would get permission from my mom to go to either the Record Bar (which sold vinyl records, 8-track tapes, and cassette tapes) or the video arcade (both of which have long since gone out of business) while she and my grandmother went inside of some clothing store. I was somewhere between 12-15 when I did this. (I know that for a fact because I pretty much lost interest in doing this once I reached 16.) I always made an effort to go past the Toys R Us entrance in the mall where I would enter that store without being accompanied by an adult just so I would flout that rule. None of the store employees ever did anything to kick me out for being an unaccompanied minor under 16 but it still filled my juvenile ego to know that I flouted a store rule. I never stayed too long inside Toys R Us because most of the toys were geared towards younger kids and I had pretty much outgrown any interest I had in things like Barbie dolls or Play-Doh. I only went inside because a sign said I couldn’t do it and it was an easy way to rebel against authority without getting into any kind of serious trouble. (LOL!)

Ironically that Glen Burnie Toys R Us is still going strong and it’s among the stores that is being saved from closure for now. The same can’t be said for the rest of the mall and, in fact, that mall had finally closed down for good last year.

When I moved closer to the Washington, DC area as an adult, I was lucky enough to be in an area where there were three different Toys R Us stores all located just a short drive away from my home—in New Carrollton, Laurel, and Langley Park. I used to periodically shop at Toys R Us mainly to purchase presents for my then-husband’s nieces and nephews or to buy baby shower gifts for various friends, relatives, and coworkers. There was a time when my church had a Toys for Tots-like program around the winter holiday season where we purchased toys for the children at this non-profit community center in Washington, DC that strived to provide programs for inner city kids from low-income families that would be an alternative to gangs and I used to shop at Toys R Us for that reason as well.

But then Toys R Us encountered its first problem when the dotcom boom happened and it was very slow in getting an online presence.  Amazon, which sold only books at the time, wanted to start selling toys so Toys R Us entered into a ten-year contract with Amazon to allow that online site to be its exclusive online supplier. It might have sounded like a good idea at the time but, in retrospect, that deal was like having Coca-Cola decide to let Pepsi-Cola handle all of its marketing and distribution of Coke products. Amazon soon allowed other third-party retailers to sell toys on its site, which resulted in a lawsuit.

One-by-one, over the next few years, the Toys R Us stores that were located closer to my home started to close. The one in New Carrollton was located in a building with a flat roof. A major blizzard hit the area where two feet of snow accumulated. The flat roof of the New Carrollton Toys R Us had accumulated so much snow that it literally caved in. I still remember seeing local news reports about that roof collapse along with pictures of stuffed animals floating on top of huge puddles that were created by melting snow. The chain decided to permanently close that store rather than rebuild. The building was razed then rebuilt and a CVS Pharmacy now sits in that location.

As for the one in Laurel I remember that the chain decided to do a remodel of that store while remaining open for business during the remodeling. Once that job was done that store looked really nice with a fresh coat of paint and bright lights. A year or two later the chain decided to close the Laurel store, which had me rolling my eyes since that chain had spent time and money remodeling that store only close it soon afterwards.

At that point the one in Langley Park was the closest Toys R Us store to my home. Compared to the Laurel store or even the New Carrollton store, that Langley Park store was a major hot mess. The floors had scruff marks everywhere and the shelves were totally messy and disorganized. It was almost like no one cared about having that store looked its best so it would encourage customers to return. I don’t know if the clientele had anything to do with the store deciding not to do much to keep up appearances or not. (Many immigrants, mainly from Central America and the Caribbean, started to settle in Langley Park starting in the 1980’s.)

Early one morning the bodies of two men were found in the parking lot of the Langley Park Toys R Us. Each of the men have had their their throats slashed. A third man was also knifed and survived. Naturally this story of three immigrant men being attacked in a Toys R Us parking lot was extensively covered by the local news media. Police found out that these slayings were the result of a drug deal gone bad and a suspect was arrested. That Toys R Us store closed soon after that incident.

As a result of those closures, these days if I want to shop at a Toys R Us, I have to drive at least a half-an-hour in any direction in order to get to a store. As a result, my shopping at Toys R Us has become very rare. These days if I need to buy a toy for whatever reason, I’m more likely to go to the Target store that’s located only three miles from my home and it has a pretty decent toy selection.

At this point there are only two Toys R Us left in my county and they require at least (depending on the traffic) a half-an-hour commute. One is a regular Toys R Us store in Clinton and the other is a Toys R Us outlet store at National Harbor. The Clinton store is the one that is among the stores that Toys R Us plan to close soon. Once that happens, my county will only have the outlet store left and no more regular Toys R Us stores.

At one point Toys R Us had opened a giant flagship store at Times Square in New York City. I went there many times whenever my then-husband and I visited his father and step-mother. I used to be awed by the four floors that not only included toys but I remembered there was a giant life-sized version of Barbie’s dreamhouse that you could walk through while browsing the selection of Barbie dolls that were displayed on shelves inside of that house, an animatronic t-rex robot, a giant candy section, and large 3D displays that were built from LEGOs.  In addition there was this giant indoor ferris wheel that was as tall as the store itself so one could see all four floors of the store while going on that ride. I never went on that ride myself because I still have memories the one and only time I went on a ferris wheel when I was seven years old and it literally made me feeling so dizzy that I never cared to repeat that experience. On top of it, the lines to that ferris wheel were usually long and I wasn’t in the mood to wait in a long line to get on a ride. I last went to New York City in 2011 (just a few months before my hip surgery and my husband’s subsequent sudden walkout) and I walked past that store while seeing the ferris wheel through the glass windows from the outside. I’ve heard that this store is now closed, which is too bad. Here’s a video tour of the Times Square store I found on YouTube that was shot shortly before it closed.

As for the chain itself, it has been going through more troubles in recent years. This article said that Toys R Us has an e-commerce site that’s very clunky to use compared to Amazon while also mentioning that kids these days are more likely to play with computers, smartphones, and tablets than traditional toys like Barbie dolls and Lego. Another article said that Toys R Us’ prices are higher than what Walmart, Amazon, and Target charge for the same toy. There is another factor in Toys R Us’ decline and it has less to do with kids’ playtime, their parents’ shopping habits, or the cost of toys and more with the fact that in 2005 the management decided to sell the company in a leveraged buyout to the real estate investment trust Vornado Realty Trust and the private equity firms KKR and Bain Capital. This trio of companies have focused more on doing a complex financial deal that would leave them richer while drowning Toys R Us in debt. It’s the usual Wall Street financial shenanigans that focus more on extracting huge short-term profits for the very wealthy 1%  class and less on operating a viable profitable store chain in the long run.

In a way one could say that karma had finally struck Toys R Us. When that chain first started opening stores throughout the United States in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, a lot of the smaller toy stores that were locally owned were driven out of business because many of them couldn’t compete with the wide selection of toys or the low prices that Toys R Us provided. Now it’s Toys R Us’ turn to eventually get driven out of business through a combination of increased competition (from the likes of Amazon, Walmart, and Target) and being literally milked heavily for profits by a bunch of Wall Streeters.

Of course it’s the employees who are suffering the most due to increased workplace stress and losing their jobs.

Which led me to my recent visit to a Toys R Us store in Annapolis, Maryland. I wanted to pick a store that isn’t among the stores being closed and I ended up picking the one in Annapolis because I decided to attend the weekly Thursday night meeting of my support group for people who are separated or divorced. The meetings are held in Crofton and Annapolis is just a few miles away on Route 50 so it made sense for me to go to the Annapolis store then head back to Crofton for the meeting.

The next photo shows the outside of the store. Some of the stores in this chain are Toys R Us only while other stores are its Babies R Us subsidiary. (The latter store focuses on items for babies and toddlers such as furniture, formula, and diapers.) This location is a larger store that has both Toys R Us and Babies R Us under the same roof.

Here’s what I first saw when I entered the store.

The next photo shows the Fingerlings, robot toys which were THE Hot Toy of 2017. These critters were sold out everywhere just before Christmas and these toys were sold on eBay for several times the original $15 retail price. As of late January I saw a few of these toys on the store shelves at the original retail price.

There was a section devoted to toys that were based on recent movies, such as Coco and Batman vs. Superman.

The store was nearly empty when I visited it. I know that the fact that I visited it on a Thursday in late January was a major factor. But this particular Toys R Us is located across the street from Annapolis Mall and I noticed that the mall was filling up with cars when I was leaving the area yet Toys R Us was mostly empty.

The store had a few Toys R Us exclusive toys, such as this Funko Pop! vinyl set featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

They had some retro video games based on Space Invaders and the old Sega Genesis console system on the shelves yet they kept the games for the newer console systems kept behind locked cases.

Curiously Toys R Us had a bunch of Sharper Image products that it was selling on its store shelves. (The Sharper Image is a separate store chain that specializes in upscale electronic products.) This store sold mainly robot dinosaurs.

Toys R Us had an entire display devoted to last year’s hot trend, Fidget Spinners. (Remember them? I certainly do.)

Toys R Us carried a few American Girl dolls but they were all of the 14-inch Wellie Wishers.

This next item was among some of the more unusual toys I found on sale. This one is a Bear Surprise, where each bear is a pregnant female who could carry anywhere between 3-5 cubs. (The person wouldn’t know for sure until after he/she purchases a Bear Surprise and take her home.)

The one thing I most remember about Toys R Us is its mascot, Geoffrey Giraffe. I remember when that store used to sell Geoffrey Giraffe stuffed animals where the giraffe wore a sweater with the Toys R Us logo. I didn’t see any stuffed Geoffrey Giraffes on sale. In fact, I didn’t see much of Geoffrey Giraffe anywhere in this store except for this graphic. It’s obvious that they’ve redesigned him but he looks incredibly lame compared with the Geoffrey Giraffe I knew when I was growing up. It was like someone decided to make Geoffrey into this bland forgettable character that would blend in with a corporate environment. I can’t imagine any child being enthusiastic about this Geoffrey Giraffe.

The Journey Girls are 18-inch dolls that are Toys R Us’ answer to the ever-popular American Girl doll. They cost around $40, which is cheaper than American Girl’s $110 dolls.

Curiously Toys R Us had a section devoted to jewelry from Claire’s (which is a separate retail chain that sells jewelry and other accessories).

Here’s another Toys R Us exclusive I found, a Zoomer robot unicorn.

Naturally Toys R Us had a line of Star Wars toys.

They had a whole shelf full of Sharper Image drones.

Here are some more toys I found at Toys R Us, which includes Wonder Woman, Gremlins, and even a stuffed Godzilla plush.

I remember when Teddy Ruxpin first came out back in the 1980s and I saw news stories about this teddy bear. I was amazed by the animatronic technology back then even though this product was aimed at young children and I didn’t have any young children of my own. Teddy Ruxpin has been re-released and he’s compatible with a smartphone app and Bluetooth.

Toys R Us had a section devoted to bikes, small cars that children could ride in, and rollerblades.

Here’s another shot of an empty store aisle.

Toys R Us had an arts and crafts section including a shelf dedicated to nothing but Crayola products.

A quarter of the store was devoted to Babies R Us, which had cribs, blankets, and other products geared towards infants and toddlers.

Here’s a shot of the hall in the Babies R Us section that has the restrooms.

Toys R Us had a couple of STEM-focused high tech toys that are designed to encourage making and coding but they were pretty small compared to what Target and Best Buy offer.

They had a bunch of shelves devoted to board games. Some were the games I knew from my childhood, such as Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots, while others were definitely ones I hadn’t heard of before.

There was an aisle devoted entirely to LEGO products.

This one was another interesting item where you create your own version of a Kinder Surprise Egg.

Toys R Us had toy vacuum cleaners and toy irons for those budding young housewives.

I remember when Zhu Zhu Pets were the big Hot Toy way back in 2009. Like Fingerlings, Zhu Zhu Pets were sold out in stores everywhere just before the holiday season but then they became plentiful once Christmas passed. I haven’t seen Zhu Zhu Pets on sale anywhere in my area in a few years so I was surprised when I found them at Toys R Us.

Toys R Us also had Barbie dolls on sale along with newer dolls, such as the DC Super Hero Girls dolls.

I saw one discount bin full of polar bear Christmas ornaments.

I found a few dolls and plush based on Disney’s Moana movie and Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. video game series.

I decided to make one purchase. The woman at the cash register offered me a free frequent rewards card. I accepted it even though I rarely shop at Toys R Us these days and I don’t know when I’ll make another trip to any Toys R Us store in my area. (Like I wrote earlier, most of those stores are located at least a 30-minute trip from my home.) I have to admit that the card is pretty colorful.

Here’s the one purchase I made. I bought a $15 Fingerlings monkey for the heck of it. I shot a video of the first time I played with this baby monkey, which I’ll write about in my next post.

UPDATE (March 8, 2018): Toys R Us is now seriously considering liquidating all of its stores in the U.S. That chain had recently started doing the same in the U.K. I’m glad I managed to take these photos of the Annapolis store when I did because I now have a time capsule of what a typical Toys R Us store was like when it was in business.

UPDATE (March 14, 2018): It’s official! After 70 years in business, Toys R Us will close its remaining 800 stores, including the one in Annapolis where I took the photos in this post.

Santa Claus

I wanted to enjoy myself this Christmas Eve. That morning I checked out the Christmas pageant at my church, which included a living nativity scene. After church I decided to go to downtown Washington, DC. I wanted to check out an exhibit at the Renwick Gallery that was on its final weeks.

It was a special exhibit called the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, which uses dollhouse-sized dolls and furniture to create dioramas of real-life crime scenes. I first heard about this when I attended the Utopia Film Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland in 2012. One of the films shown, Of Dolls & Murder, was narrated by film director John Waters about this very topic and I found that documentary to be totally fascinating. When I heard that the Renwick Gallery was having a rare public exhibition of these dioramas, I knew that I had to check them out. I ended up going on Christmas Eve when I found that this exhibition was going to close in January. A lot of other people had that same idea, as you can see in the next photograph.

These dioramas were done by Frances Glessner Lee. The attention to detail she provided in these dioramas were astounding to see in that documentary I saw a few years ago and they are even more astounding to see in person. I heard many people debate about who could’ve been responsible for many of the crimes depicted. As for me, I was just content to marvel at the realistic scenes.

The rest of the museum was far less crowded than the Nutshell exhibition. Next to the dollhouses was this exhibition by Rick Araluce, who’s an artist and scenic designer.

The next photo shows the back of the structure that makes up that exhibit.

The back of that structure also have a couple of peepholes where, if you look in them, you can see a miniature scene of a subway stop.

But when you walk around to the front of the exhibit, you’ll see a life-sized reproduction of a subway stop that looks incredibly realistic down to the train tracks.

Another high point of being in the Renwick Gallery was seeing a digitized 3D printed version of Hiram Powers’ sculpture The Greek Slave.

At first glance you would never realize that this is actually a replica that was done on a 3D printer.

If you look really close in the next photograph, you could see a few of the lines that are common in 3D printed items.

I hung around the Renwick Gallery checking out the other exhibits until it was close to closing time.

Once I walked outside I decided to walk along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

I was walking next to Lafayette Park when I was at the White House. There is an antiwar protest that has been ongoing since 1981 (when Ronald Reagan was in office). The last of the original founders of that protest, Concepcion Picciotto, passed away in 2016 and I was curious to see if that protest would still go on without any of the original founders still alive. I found that it’s still up as a presence against U.S. foreign military policy.

I didn’t stay too long in Lafayette Park because it was very cold that night. I walked along the area while taking a few pictures.

I eventually reached the historic Willard InterContinental Hotel, which was well-decorated for the holidays.

I needed to use the bathroom so I stepped inside. After I finished with the restroom I marveled at the lovely tasteful holiday decorations in the hotel lobby.

The coolest Christmas decoration was this gingerbread reproduction of Mount Vernon, which featured tiny figures of George and Martha Washington done in fondant. The details on this structure were amazing to see.

I was getting hungry (I hadn’t eaten dinner yet) so I decided to head for home. I took this photo of one of the doors to the Trump International Hotel when I was on my way to the Federal Triangle Metro station. I’ve only been inside of that hotel once and it was on the day before Donald Trump won the elections. I haven’t felt the desire to step inside of that hotel since.

Santa Claus

My birthday is on December 15 and I usually like to do something fun. Last year I spent my birthday last slogging through Baltimore in very bitter cold temperature and frantically trying to contact someone in authority about a homeless man who was sleeping on the steps of the Baltimore Convention Center despite the fact that the Polar Vortex had come through the area plunging the temperature below 20 degrees.

I don’t know if I reached anyone and I was stymied by the fact that I don’t live in Baltimore so I didn’t know who to turn to. I spent the next couple of days doing Google searches to see if anyone had frozen to death on the steps of the Convention Center only to turn up empty. I guess the man survived that bitter cold night but I’ll never know for sure.

This year I decided to go to Tyson’s Corner Mall in Virginia because I had spent some fun birthdays there in previous years and I also wanted to avoid any more drama about homeless people in cold weather. December 15 fell on a Friday this year so I was looking forward to it.

Except it rained that day then the temperature plunged to below freezing so all that rain on the ground turned into ice. I still have memories of when I slipped on ice in Annapolis back in 2011, which resulted in my hip replacement being knocked out of position so I had to undergo hip revision surgery later that year in order to put it back into place. I just wasn’t willing to risk falling and having my hip replacement messed up.

So I decided to postpone that trip a couple of days. December 18 fell on a Monday, which is usually a relatively quiet night at that mall. Except it was just a few days before Christmas so there were more people shopping there on a Monday night than usual. But it still wasn’t bad. Here are the photos I shot that night.

I took the Metro to the mall, where I was greeted with this cool rainbow Christmas tree and some lovely twinkling lights when I arrived.

Some people were resting at one of the many fire pits that are set up outside this time of the year.

People could be found skating on a temporary ice skating rink, which is also usually set up this time of the year.

The first store I hit was American Girl Place. I was on a mission. Here’s the backstory: This year American Girl decided on an African American character for its Girl of the Year named Gabriela McBride. She was the first girl of color to be given such an honor since since 2005. She’s described as being an artist, which I find personally cool since I’m an artist myself. Earlier this year I was having camera problems so when I arrived at American Girl Place back in June, I was unable to shoot any photos while I was there. A few weeks later it was July and I decided to return to American Girl Place with my Canon DSLR in tow. I was able to shoot a few pictures until the battery ran out of juice. So I got pictures of the new contemporary doll Tenney Grant and her friend, Logan Everett, who’s known as the first boy doll that American Girl has ever released. I also got a picture of a case displaying what was the newest BeForever doll at the time—Melody Ellison, who’s supposed to represent the 1960s. But those were the only pictures I got before my camera battery died on me.

Ironically  I came close to arriving at American Girl Place without a camera this time around. I had left my Canon PowerShot camera in the car and I didn’t realize it until after I had gone on the Metro train at the Greenbelt station. I managed to dart out of the train before the doors closed and walked outside the station and back to the parking lot so I could retrieve my camera.

It was worth the effort to retrieve my camera and arrive at the mall a little bit later because, at long last, I was finally able to take pictures of the 2017 Girl of the Year, Gabriela McBride. On top of it, this doll was scheduled to retire after New Year’s Eve and be replaced by the 2018 Girl of the Year (which means that this doll will be retired by the time you read this). Here’s the standee where people can take selfies with Gabriela and a brick backdrop.

Here’s Gabriela herself. I think she’s a cute doll and I love her art accessories, especially the miniature replicas of a paint set and a sketchbook pad.

I was also able to take pictures of another doll on this trip. American Girl has been releasing a new line of contemporary characters who are growing up in today’s era. I took pictures of would-be country musician Tenney Grant and her male friend Everett Logan on the last trip. American Girl released another character who have nothing to do with Tenney or Everett and she has her own separate story. Her name is Z Yang, she is a Korean American, and she is passionate about photography and videography. Like Gabriela McBride, Z Yang also shares my interest. (To be fair, Tenney Grant shares my interest in playing the guitar except I prefer rock and folk music over country.) Z Yang’s miniature photography and video equipment are absolutely adorable (even if they are expensive).

They even have a human version of Z Yang’s meet outfit, which I personally find adorable. Sadly they are only available in children’s sizes.

Since my last visit to American Girl place back in July, American Girl have released a new BeForever historical doll. Her name is Nanea Mitchell and she has a white American father and a Hawaiian mother. She is described as growing up in the then-U.S. territory of Hawaii in 1941. Anyone who knows history will know what major event happened in Hawaii back in 1941.

I found Nanea to be gorgeous in person. I loved her meet outfit and her shell necklace.

They offer a variety of Hawaiian clothes for Nanea that are sold separately.

American Girl offers Nanea’s Family Market, which can be yours for only $250. (LOL!) I have to admit that I’m really impressed by the details on that furniture, including the tiny replicas of vintage World War II-era posters.


Here’s a photo of the 1960s BeForever character, Melody Ellison, wearing this gorgeous yellow outfit.

American Girl had this good sale on Melody’s Hairstyling Set, which was only priced at $5. That’s a pretty good deal compared to the high prices that this store usually charges. If I had a Melody doll, I definitely would’ve purchased it.

American Girl had a really cute new outfit for Julie Albright, who represents the 1970s. I remember people actually wore embroidered peasant blouses and blue jeans skirts back when I was a kid so her outfit definitely brought back memories for me.

Since another BeForever character, Rebecca Rubin (who represents the 1910s), is Jewish, there was a Hanukkah display featuring this doll.

The next two photos show a display of the Wellie Wishers dolls. They are pretty cute and I like their outfits.

American Girl had a display touting this one new service that they offer called Create Your Own. The idea is that if you don’t find a doll and/or an outfit that you want, you can always create a customized product. The idea of a customized doll isn’t new. The Japanese ball-jointed doll company Volks has long offered something called a Full Choice System which, from what I heard, can run into hundreds of dollars. The now-defunct Makies dolls had a similar service where you can get a 3D printed doll for far less. (I still miss that company. Sigh! If you’re curious, you can check out my posts about my one and only Makies doll, Victoria.)

So American Girl is now trying its hand at a similar customized service. There are two caveats about this new service: 1) You can only order the doll and/or outfit online since the store don’t offer any facilities to allow anyone to design something in-store and 2) Your customized doll and/or outfit will cost way more than an off-the-shelf product. According to this link, a Create Your Own doll costs $200 versus an off-the-shelf doll for $115.

I saw these American Girl Mega Construx kits featuring characters who were previous Girls of the Year, including Mia St. Clair, Kanani Akina, Isabelle Palmer, Lea Clark, and Saige Copeland.


Here’s a case full of the 9-inch mini doll versions of the historical 18-inch BeForever characters.

Here are a few more miscellaneous photos I took inside of American Girl place, including the  store’s Christmas tree.

I went to Build-A-Bear Workshop where I checked out these Star Wars plushes and some Christmas reindeers.

I checked out this temporary Christmas shop that will be in business until after New Year’s Day.

Strangely that store had some Day of the Dead-themed ornaments and decorations even though that holiday had long since passed.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a Beatles Christmas ornament available for sale.

I went to The Disney Store, where I saw a lot of tie-ins to the new Disney/Pixar movie Coco (which I actually saw on Christmas Day) and the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi (which I saw on the day after Christmas)

I went to the LEGO store where I saw some cool things on display.

I ate my belated birthday dinner at Wasabi, the Japanese sushi place that delivers its food on conveyor belts. I really love the food, which is why I keep on returning to that place. If my finances weren’t so tight, I would be eating there more often than once or twice a year.

I went to Lolli and Pops where I purchased some gummy bears made from champaign and took these pictures.

That store sold two teddy bears named—what else?—Lolli and Pops.

Here are a few miscellaneous photos I took during my time at that mall.

Santa Claus Baby New Year

The day after I observed yet another birthday I decided to check out the Riverdale Park Festival of Lights and Holiday Market. I ran into a few friends of mine and just basically hung out. Here are my photos from that event.

Near the Christmas tree stand was this toy train layout, which had a toy train that was going around and around.

The two young boys in the next photo were constantly following the toy train. As it rode around and around in a circle, the boys walked around and around in a circle as well.

The bulk of the event was held inside of a building. There were all kinds of arts and crafts available for sale ranging from paintings to freshly baked cupcakes to dolls to handmade soap to fused glass jewelry. There was live entertainment as well.

Santa Claus

I had a busy day on December 2. First I went to The Doll and Teddy Bear Show in Gaithersburg. I took so many pictures at that one event that I decided to make a separate post about the other things I did on that day after I left the show.

When I went to The Doll and Teddy Bear Show, I noticed that there was a flea market being held, which I don’t recall ever seeing before during visits to previous Doll and Teddy Bear Shows. (I hadn’t gone to that show since 2011 and I never went to those fairgrounds for any other event.) So after I went to that show, I went to the flea market that was located on the other side of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.

The flea market had a variety of dolls and action figures on sale as well, except they were all of the more recent variety than the predominantly pre-1960 vintage/antique dolls that were on display at The Doll and Teddy Bear Show. I found a vintage Barbie doll-sized Michael Jackson doll from the 1980’s on sale. (This doll even had the sequined glove on one hand, which was Jackson’s trademark look at the time.) The doll that’s next to the Michael Jackson doll reminded me of Diana Ross. (I have no idea if it was actually a Diana Ross doll or not.)

Like The Doll and Teddy Bear Show, the flea market had a variety of Christmas decorations available for sale, including Santa Claus.

The flea market was a total vintage treasure trove.

The flea market had stuff other than vintage items on sale as well, such as packaged food, hair dye, and even tires.

There were some good prices on a few computer laptops.

Cash-strapped parents of school-aged children can buy school supplies at the flea market.

I’ve long heard conservative Republican politicians complain about poor people and immigrants who still have consumer goods and they use that argument to favor such things as cutting programs that would help them. When I was at this flea market I heard a lot of shoppers speaking Spanish to each other and many of the vendors are bilingual. I realized that this is how many of these immigrants are able to afford consumer goods on very tight budgets. This particular flea market operates every Saturday and Sunday so cash-strapped shoppers have an affordable place to go when they need to buy something. Heck, if I lived closer to Gaithersburg, I would be shopping at this flea market on a regular basis. (Depending on the traffic, Gaithersburg is about a 30-45 minute drive from my house so it’s really not feasible for me to make regular trips to this flea market unless I happened to be in the area for a different reason on the weekend and I decided to make a brief stop while I was there.)

I saw one table that had toothpaste on sale. I bought this tube of Colgate toothpaste for only $2. The package was a little bit bent in one corner but, otherwise, the toothpaste was still usable. In fact, I’m currently brushing my teeth with this toothpaste and it works just as well as the toothpaste I’ve purchased in the regular supermarkets and pharmacies.

On the way back home I went to the annual Festival of Lights Craft Show that was held at the Greenbelt Community Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. I really wanted to go to that show since I missed the opening ceremony of the Festival of Lights the night before mainly because I had opted to go to the Holiday Warm-Up Party that was held at my church instead. One of my friends was selling her fused glass jewelry and plates. On top of it I ran into several of my other friends who happened to be there at the time. Here are a few of the handcrafted items that were available for sale.

I’ve gone to previous Festival of Lights Craft Shows but this was the first year I’ve ever seen a vendor table with a 3D printer. This vendor made items that could be used in spinning yarn.

The Festival of Lights Craft Show was held in the Greenbelt Community Center, which also had this display explaining how some of the earliest Greenbelt residents had celebrated Christmas during the height of the Great Depression.

The Greenbelt Community Center also had a special red mailbox where people can deposit their letters to Santa Claus.

When I was on my way back to my car after visiting the festival, I noticed this hilarious car sticker.

I only purchased soap at the Festival of Lights Craft Festival. I purchased two bars of Lilac Wood soap—one is for me and the other I planned to give to my mother for Christmas.

I bought one additional soap that I also plan to give to my mother. The cupcake in the next photo is actually soap. That’s right, it’s soap that looks like a cupcake. I think it’s cute.

Santa Claus

Since today is Christmas Day, I figured that it would be very appropriate to blog about The Doll and Teddy Bear Show that took place at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg, Maryland earlier this month.

I used to go to that show frequently. While the show, which is held about two or three times a year, has always had a huge emphasis on vintage dolls prior to 1960, I remember that the show had tables that were devoted to more recent dolls from my own childhood (such as Beautiful Crissy, Barbie, and Dawn) as well as newer dolls from recent years. I even remember seeing a table or two selling Asian ball jointed dolls.

I have lots of memories of going to those shows, starting with the couple of times I attended doll meet-ups at the Gaithersburg show that were organized through the Den of Angels forum where we all carried our Asian ball-jointed dolls around the show as we browsed the various vendor tables.

It was at one of these shows in September, 2005 where I found a vintage Velvet doll that was partially clad and had eye mold. I purchased her for only $10 then went to another table that sold vintage doll clothes and purchased Velvet’s original dress with a pair of shoes in her size for another $10. I managed to get rid of the eye mold and restored Velvet to her original glory. I took photos of what I did at the time. I later wrote a post about what I did back in 2010 and that post still remains among my more popular posts of all time.

At another show I found two vintage circa-1940s dolls that were totally disheveled and they were on sale for only $3 each. I purchased both of them and I turned one of them into a Little Red Riding Hood doll that I later sold on Etsy. (I’ve since misplaced the other doll but I’m hoping that she’ll eventually turn up once I get really serious of decluttering my home once and for all.) It was at that same show where I had unfortunate encounters with vendors whose hearts weren’t clearly into their profession of selling dolls.

The last time I went to a show was in 2011, when I purchased a couple of adorable outfits that were perfect for this doll that I had recently purchased. But then my hip problem became so acute that I had to have surgery followed by my husband leaving me abruptly just three months after my surgery. Then I spent the next few years dealing with the fallout from the hip surgery and divorce while adjusting to my new reality. (And that’s not to mention the crappy economy and the crazy politics that have gone on since an African American was elected to the White House for the first time followed by unlikely election of Donald Trump. But that’s a whole different series of blog posts that have nothing to do with the topic of this post.)

So it was 2017 and I found out online that another doll and teddy bear show was being held in Gaithersburg in early December. I hadn’t gone in six years so I was ready to visit again. I remember that the December show was usually the biggest one. The show’s organizers would rent more space than usual and it would be filled with lots of vendors and lots of dolls and teddy bears. I was looking forward to seeing some eye candy. My attitude was that I would purchase a new doll and/or doll clothes only if such items fit in with my tight budget but, otherwise, I was only there for window shopping with no anticipation of buying anything new for myself. I wasn’t disappointed because there were tons of eye candy and I took tons of photographs to prove it.

There were plenty of Christmas-related dolls and teddy bears for sale but I found one vendor table that had a Hanukkah menorah on display.

The most memorable booth was the one that sold Lenci dolls. The most notable thing about these dolls is that Dare Wright used her own Lenci doll in The Lonely Doll book series. I found them to be very lovely to see in person.

I really loved the expressive look on their faces.

Lenci even made a Madonna and Child doll.

Many of the outfits on these dolls are very exquisite.

The only thing about Lenci dolls is that the original company went out of business in 2002. As a result many of these dolls are collector items and they are definitely not cheap. Many of the ones I saw on sale cost thousands of dollars. The cheapest Lenci doll I found was a tiny doll that was less than one inch tall and that was on sale for a whopping $75.

The show had plenty of miniatures on sale that were made for dollhouses.

I even saw hand-painted clothespin dolls at that show.

I saw American Girl dolls on sale that were even cheaper than buying a new doll at the American Girl Place store.

I found two Barbie dolls that were made to resemble Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance from the famous “Job Switching” episode of the TV sitcom I Love Lucy. (That’s the one where Lucy and Ethel get jobs working in a chocolate factory only to have their stint be short-lived.)

One table had a variety of doll parts in a variety of sizes available for sale. It would be great for anyone who was looking for a part for an old doll.

Since the show was known as The Doll and Teddy Bear Show, it was natural that there were plenty of bears there, as well as other types of stuffed animals (such as rabbits, and dogs).

There were plenty of Santa Claus dolls available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Some vendors had those reborn baby dolls which look very lifelike.

I found some odd things on sale at that show, such as this vintage children’s book called Beloved Belindy. It was written by Johnny Gruelle, who was the original creator of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. With the Aunt Jemima/Mammy-style illustration on the front cover, I can see why Beloved Belindy is more obscure today than Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy.

I saw a couple of Native American kachina dolls on sale at one table.

I vaguely remembered when I was a very young child, there was a TV show called Julia, which starred Diahann Carroll. That show is remembered today as the first TV show to depict an African American woman in a non-stereotypical role. (The main character worked as a nurse.) I remember some kids in my elementary school had Julia lunch boxes but I never realized that a Barbie-sized doll was also released until I went to that show.

I saw a couple of other dolls based on the main characters in the TV shows The Flying Nun and I Dream of Jeannie.

I saw this one vintage Mickey Mouse doll.

There were plenty of vintage Barbie dolls but the ones that still had their original boxes were expensive.

I saw some vintage dolls that were based on Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

I saw a set of vintage Dionne Quintuplets baby dolls. I have to admit that they are adorable to behold as long as you’re willing to overlook the sad real-life story of what happened to those girls behind the dolls.

I found these bottles of dollhouse-sized perfume and cologne to be totally cute.

I found this sign announcing that a family-owned business will close down in a few months after being in business for 72 years.

Most of the dolls and stuffed animals on sale were very expensive. I found one vendor table that sold something called Bling Dolls, which measure around six inches tall.

They cost $6 each but if you bought two or more, they would cost only $5 each. I might have considered buying two if it weren’t for the fact that all of the dolls had the same hairstyle, hair color, eye color, and skin color. That one doll type was cute but I wasn’t into buying the same doll with different outfits.

I basically bought only one Bling Doll. It was an impulse buy but she costs $6 and I found her to be quite cute.

There’s a keychain attached to her head, which means that she can either be attached to a few keys or clipped to a backpack.

Here’s a closeup of her face.

I took those last three pictures while I was eating lunch that I had purchased from the food stand at the show. A woman sat down near me and we started talking. Like me she had also attended previous doll shows and she mentioned that she felt it was smaller than she remembered.

As I was walking around the show I noticed that too. I remember the Christmas doll shows used to fill at least six large rooms. It would literally take me at least two or three hours to visit them all and I would be exhausted from visiting every single vendor table. This time I basically finished the entire show in less than 90 minutes. On top of it, I saw no Asian ball jointed dolls or even recent modern dolls from the 1970’s onwards. The vast majority of dolls on sale were made before 1960. The older dolls looked nice but they were very expensive. (It was common to see such dolls being on sale for over $100.) I still remember the day when I bought a wrecked Velvet doll for under $20 and I rehabilitated her. Or the times when I found some cool fabric that would be perfect for a doll outfit or a really neat doll clothes pattern that I wanted to try or a really interesting doll book that I decided that I wanted to read.

I don’t know for sure why it had changed so much. Maybe it’s the rise of sites like eBay and Etsy where people prefer to sell online than to actually transport their wares to a doll and teddy bear show. Maybe it’s the rotten economy where too many people have finances so tight that purchasing an expensive doll would be considered a frivolous luxury that they literally can’t afford. Whatever the reason, this show didn’t really have the little surprises that used to amaze me so much and were so relatively affordable that I ended up making impulse buys. The only surprise that really came close was that $6 Bling Doll I purchased. She’s a cute find but I still remember the show’s better days in the past.

The only fringe benefit of going to a smaller show is that I still had time in the afternoon to check out a flea market that was also held on the grounds of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds but it was located on the other side from where The Doll and Teddy Bear Show was held. I ended the day by checking out a show that was held closer to my home and it was also where I ran into a lot of my friends. I’ll write about those two events in a separate post.

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A few months ago I wrote a post about how I got into knitting hats using a circular loom that I purchased from Jo-Ann’s Fabrics & Crafts after I learned that my church has a yarn stash that has filled at least 10 bins. (Much of that yarn came from donations either from church members who moved out of the area or relatives of recently deceased church members who were trying to declutter their loved one’s home.) Here are a couple of adult-sized hats I finished after I wrote my previous post back in May using different yarn color combinations that I haven’t used before.

I also bought a smaller circular loom with the idea of making smaller-sized hats that would fit infants and very young children. I basically used the same yarn colored combinations as on the larger hats. I didn’t have a styrofoam head small enough to display those hats. (I only have that one styrofoam head and I use that to hold this one multicolored wig that I own when I’m not using it to model my adult hats for pictures.)

So I decided to use some of my dolls to display these hats while I shot these pictures. Yes, I know that these hats are too large and out of scale for these dolls. Keep in mind that I didn’t knit these hats for dolls. (Heck, I don’t even know if there’s even a market for doll-sized loom-knitted hats.) Taking these photos have given me the chance to take a look at these dolls again and enjoy them. I had been less and less enthusiastic about dolls, especially in the early days when my husband abruptly left home (with zero advanced warning) for a friend of ours with severe mental health issues. Yeah, I was depressed for a long time. Especially since he left three months after I underwent hip surgery. There were times when I lost enthusiasm for a lot of things. I’m still trying to get back into doing things that I used to love to do but it can be hard at times with all of these distractions stemming from tight finances and the currently ugly political situation going on just a few miles away from where I live (a.k.a. Washington, DC).

So, without further ado, here are my smaller knitted hats for infants and very young children.

Since I mentioned my husband running away from home back in 2011, I’d thought I’d begin with the doll that he essentially blamed in that letter he left behind for leaving home. (He said that this doll contributed to the clutter in our home. But then I had friends tell me that he was spotted in public with the other woman less than a week after he left me and he married her two months after our divorce was final.) It was an American Girl Julie Albright doll who is supposed to represent the 1970s that I purchased the day before my hip surgery. So here she is wearing a knitted loom hat.

The doll in the next photo is also a historical 1970s American Girl doll. Her name is Ivy Ling and she’s described in the books as being Julie’s best friend. This doll was retired a few years ago when American Girl decided to get rid of its Best Friends of Historical Dolls line.

Here’s the third and last American Girl doll in this group of doll models. Her name is Addy Walker, she represents the Civil War era, and she’s wearing a hat that matches her pretty blue dress.

Now it’s time to move on to other dolls. This one is My Friend Cayla, the 18-inch interactive doll that has been banned in Germany because the authorities were concerned that the doll would spy on children. has a fully detailed article about the controversies surrounding that doll that has arisen not only in Germany but in other countries as well. Here she is modeling a knitted hat.

The doll in the next photo is a vintage 1970s doll from the now-defunct Ideal Toy Company known as Beautiful Crissy, who is 18 inches tall. This doll’s hair can be grown from short hair to long hair and back to short hair. (You can see a demonstration of this feature in this vintage commercial.) I had that doll as a child then my parents gave it away when I grew older. But I never forgot Beautiful Crissy. I picked this doll up on eBay a few years ago. Here she is wearing a hat.

The doll in the next photo is smaller than the others. She is 15 inches tall, her name is Velvet, and she was another Ideal doll that was released as a cousin of Beautiful Crissy. Like her cousin, Velvet also has hair that can change from long to short then back to long. I found this doll at a doll show years ago that was on sale for a very cheap price because she was partially nude and had this funky white mold in her eyes. I once wrote his blog post detailing how I managed to get rid of the mold and restored this doll to her original condition. So, without further ado, here is Velvet wearing a hat.

Here is a doll I haven’t touched in a long time. Her name is Kianna and she came from Mattel’s short-lived Teen Trends doll line. She is 17 inches tall and she has internal elastic stringing that’s similar to an Asian ball-jointed doll. Here she is modeling a hat.

And last, but not least, here is Blythe, who is the smallest of the dolls featured in this post because she stands at around 11 inches tall. She’s the same height as a Barbie doll but, due to her large, out-of-scale head size, she can wear the same hat size as a lot of the larger dolls.

Finally, here’s one last shot of the entire gang modeling those knitted loom hats.

I knitted the hats throughout the spring and summer. I did some knitting in the fall until I took part in Inktober and I found that it took up a lot of time that I could’ve spent knitting more hats. When the month ended and the annual church auction was happening soon, I spent some crunch time finishing the one last hat that was still on the circular loom before I got diverted by Inktober.

The hats were put on sale along with other wearable knitted items that were made by other church members at the church’s annual auction a few weeks ago. Last Saturday I received a phone call from a member of my church’s handcraft circle informing me that a member of our church had decided to buy the entire inventory of hats and mittens. He then donated that inventory back to the handcraft circle with the instructions that they are to be donated to local homeless shelters and other nonprofit groups that help the poor and needy this time of the year. My knitted loom hats were among the inventory that was purchased. I am very grateful to that church member for his generosity. 🙂

Since the winter holiday shopping season has officially started three days ago, I’d thought I’d post pictures of stuff I’ve seen lately on the store shelves. I took these photos mainly to show some of my friends on social media who would be especially interested in these products.

First, here are some photos I shot at Target over the past month or so. Target is selling the 3Doodler along with the DoodleBlock Kit.

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target has a LEGO aisle filled with all kinds of LEGO kits for all ages.

Target, October-November, 2017

Last year American Girl came out with a line of multiracial 14 inch dolls known as Wellie Wishers, which cost $60 each. Target is now selling a line of multiracial 14 inch dolls known as Glitter Girls for $20 each.

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target also sells a line of 3-foot tall dolls based on various Disney characters.

Target, October-November, 2017

You know Christmas is coming soon when you start seeing special gingerbread spice cereal like this.

Target, October-November, 2017

Target has been selling a line of STEM toys, kits, and games for makers of all ages. You can now make a variety of things including LEGO stop-motion animation, piñatas, video games, drones, Raspberry Pi computers, and more. Below are just a few of them.

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

This is probably the most unique and off-beat product I found at Target: A Funko Pop! vinyl toy based on the late painter and television show host Bob Ross.

Target, October-November, 2017

I also found some Hot Wheels toy cars that seemed to be made with Baby Boomers in mind. How else can you explain cars based on The Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night and Mad magazine.

What I Found at Target Today

What I Found at Target Today

What I Found at Target Today

What I Found at Target Today

Recently a new Guitar Center store opened up in Laurel, Maryland so I decided to check it out.

Coco Guitars

I saw these special edition Cordoba acoustic guitars for adults and children that are tie-in products to the Disney/Pixar movie Coco, which was recently released. (I haven’t seen it yet. All I know that it’s based on the Mexican El Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead holiday, which happened earlier this month, and which also explains the skull motif on these guitars.)

Coco Guitars

Coco Guitars

Coco Guitars

Last, but not least, are a few of the photos I took when I made my last trip to a local Five Below store.

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

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