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I went to the German Festival for the first time in three years. I almost missed it until I saw an ad for it on Saturday (which was the first day of the festival). I decided to go on the second and final day on the spur of the moment after I went to church that morning.

The German Festival ran the same weekend as Artscape but I was lured to the former by the fact that it was held indoors in an air conditioned building. (There was a massive heatwave that had been blanketing the area for at least two weeks.) Besides I still have less-than-fond memories of my last attendance at Artscape when I met two people from my childhood in Glen Burnie whom I did not want a reunion with.

I drove to the light rail stop in North Linthicum then took the light rail all the way to the Maryland State Fairgrounds. It started to rain the minute I got off the light rail but I brought an umbrella with me so it was no big deal. (It was another reason why I’m glad I didn’t choose to go to Artscape this year.) There were practically no lines so it was no big deal getting inside. It was basically a nice event with many of the same vendors as my last attendance in 2014. I ate sauerbraten with noodles for lunch followed by a slice of black forest cake. Before I left I purchased two freshly baked cinnamon sticks to eat later. I also took a few pictures, which you can see below.

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

German Festival

Here is where many of the clothes you throw away end up.

The Goatman—or his story—still haunts a suburban area of Washington, DC.

Meet Lilli, the high-end German call girl who became America’s iconic Barbie doll.

A critical look at the Summer of Love 50 years later.

A brief history of the color blue.

Data shows that American English is rising around the world.

The Morris Museum steampunk marvels are truly amazing.

Dear Gwyneth Paltrow, we’re not f**king with you we’re correcting you, XOXO Science.

Watch this artist repaint a Barbie doll to look like Wonder Woman.

The people who tried to take panorama shots with hilarious results.

Russian nesting dolls based on characters from Spinal Tap, The Young Ones, Rocky Horror, Heathers, and more.

Redneck Revolt brings anti-racist, anti-capitalist politics to working class whites.

The oldest color photographs show what the world looked like 100 years ago.

The unbearable wrongness of Gwyneth Paltrow. Please do not buy into her bullshit.

Amusing vintage knitting and crochet patterns for men.

How middle-class Americans were fleeced by neoliberalism.

Using these email fonts may ruin your chance at landing a job.

Nine budget recipes from the Great Depression that are still good enough to eat today.

A job ad seeking a professional wedding photographer where the person won’t be compensated except in toll money.

CTRL + X: Street artists “delete” graffiti with a painted anamorphic illusion.

It’s been two years since I last went to this annual event, which traditionally closes the weeks-long National Cherry Blossom Festival. The last time I was there, the Sakura Matsuri was held on Pennsylvania Avenue right next to the Old Post Office Building (which was then undergoing renovation into the Trump International Hotel—you can see those giant blue TRUMP signs in the background of some of the photos I took during that event).

Since that time the event has been relocated. It is now held at the Navy Yards near Nationals Park. I don’t know if Donald Trump have had a hand in that festival’s relocation or not but it doesn’t matter because I don’t have to see those Trump International Hotel signs.

Like previous Sakura Matsuri festivals, this one was a celebration of all aspects of Japanese culture including anime, J-pop, J-rock, kendo, and traditional Japanese crafts. There were also a lot of cosplayers walking around. Here are the photos I took of the Sakura Matsuri.

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

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Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

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Sakura Matsuri 2017

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Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017
Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

A few weeks ago I was going through my Flickr account when I found this album I created back in 2009 that has brought back memories for me. Here’s some background.

In late 2008 I underwent a hip replacement followed by several months of physical therapy. By early September I was starting to feel like my old self again. One day I was browsing through both the This is Blythe website and forum (both of which sadly no longer exist). I saw a notice in the Meetups section of the forum announcing a meetup of Blythe doll owners at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show that was held at a school in Waldorf. I was intrigued by the announcement so I went. I took my camera with me (this was long before I had received my first smartphone) and I also brought this doll, who was the model in this photograph that I actually exhibited in a few local art shows.

Blythe Doll in Cherry Blossom Tree

This particular Blythe is an Ashton-Drake Galleries reproduction of an early 1970’s Blythe doll that was manufactured by the now-defunct Kenner Toy Company. If she had been an actual Kenner Blythe, she would be sold on eBay for at least $900. But since that doll is a reproduction, I bought her off eBay for around $60.

The notice on the original forum didn’t specify what time everyone was going to meet nor did anyone respond with saying that they were going to be there. I decided to pack the doll while thinking that if no one showed up for the meetup, I could still peruse the doll show itself so it wouldn’t be a total loss.

Basically I met other people (I remember that it was all women there) with their Blythes so I took out my doll and introduced myself. We all took photos of each other’s dolls and someone urged us photographers to post our pictures on Flickr then post the link to our albums on the forum. I did that.

In addition I also wrote some notes about the event shortly after the doll show, which I found on my hard drive. I think I took those notes around the time when I was considering starting a new blog so it would’ve made sense for me to take notes so I would have some content for this new blog. I think I may have even considered it starting it in the fall of 2009 but I ended up not doing it. I think it was probably because I still didn’t feel ready yet and I was still getting over the last vestiges of that hip surgery. In any case I didn’t take the plunge and start this blog until January 6, 2010—four months after the Blythe meetup took place.

Thanks to the current trend of having Throwback Thursdays on the web, I can now revisit that event using the notes that I took back in 2009. Basically I went to the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show exactly 10 months after my hip replacement surgery. I carried my Blythe doll in a bag because I wasn’t sure if the meetup was really going to take place or not since no time was specified. (My notes said that the doll show itself took place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on September 12, 2009.)

I arrived at the doll show where I paid my admission fee and I was encouraged to fill out this ticket for door prizes that were being given away. A new name would be drawn every hour until all of the prizes were given away. I began to peruse the various vendor tables filled with all kinds of dolls when I saw three women who were openly toting their Blythe dolls. So I pulled out my Blythe doll and introduced myself. The other women were very nice and friendly and their Blythes were all very lovely.

I remember we all started to peruse the vendor tables together when one of the women who was working the doll show was walking around calling my name. I caught up with that woman and she said that the other women had just had the hourly raffle prize drawing and  they pulled my ticket. So I walked over to the table that was near the entrance to the doll show and I had my choice of prizes. I remember that the prizes weren’t much and that was my only memory. I ended up picking this Asian doll that was encased in a plastic box.

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

I attempted to remove her from her box but her feet just wouldn’t budge so I figured that she was meant to stay in her box forever. There was some Asian writing on the bottom of the box but I didn’t know what it said since it was in a language that I was not familiar with.

After I picked up my new doll, I caught up with the others from the Blythe meetup. (I remember that it wasn’t a very big doll show so I had no problem with finding them.) At one point we decided to temporarily leave the doll show and eat lunch. We all carpooled over to a nearby Texas-themed BBQ restaurant where we displayed our Blythe dolls (and my newly won Asian doll) at our table.

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

We returned to the doll show after lunch where we shopped among the tables. A lot of vendors asked us questions about our dolls and seemed genuinely interested in Blythe. One of the vendors was kind enough to let us put our Blythe dolls among her merchandise and take pictures of them.

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

I also took a lot of photos of dolls other than Blythe. The show itself was held in a high school and the vendors were all set up in the cafeteria. The school cafeterias I used to eat in during my public school student days generally had no windows. This high school cafeteria was different in that one wall had a series of long windows that overlooked the hallway next to that room. The show organizers used the long windows to put up this display of dolls and stuffed animals. The toys displayed in the windows were not for sale at the show and the displays were pretty imaginative. Each window had a different theme ranging from Harry Potter to Raggedy Ann to fairies to dolls from around the world to Gone With the Wind. The window displays were really lovely to behold.

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

Doll and Toy Display

I remember that I stayed at the show for most of the afternoon socializing with the other Blythe doll owners until it was close to the time when the show would close. Soon after that meetup I uploaded my photos on to Flickr and I provided a link to my album on the This is Blythe forum.

I haven’t been to another Blythe meetup since that time. I went to a few other doll meetups but they were all for Asian ball-jointed dolls and I only went to the ones that were connected with an anime convention (mainly Katsucon and Otakon). The last anime convention I went to was Otakon in 2013 and I had pretty much stopped going to anime conventions because they had become way too crowded for my taste. (It got to the point where if you wanted to go to a certain panel, you had to stand in line for at least a half an hour before it began. Even then you weren’t guaranteed entrance because there were times when a room would be full by the time I had reached the front door of a panel.)

I haven’t been to another doll meetup since Otakon 2013. Right now attending doll meetups are a very low priority in my life. If one happens to occur near when I live and I don’t have anything else that I needed to do, I might go to another one just to check it out. Doll meetups are fun in that you can see actual dolls in person without having to buy them yourself but, to date, I have never made an actual friendship or created any kind of meaningful relationships through a doll meetup. Those types of meetups are basically focused on what dolls your brought rather than who the doll owner is and what does he/she do other than collect dolls. These days I find it easier to just look at photos of dolls on the Internet than to get in my car or hop on a Metro, go to some place, and meet a whole bunch of strangers where the only thing you have in common with any of them are dolls and everyone present basically talk about nothing but dolls the whole time you’re there.

The Southern Maryland Doll Club Show continues to be an annual event (the last one was held on September 12, 2015) but I haven’t been back since. I should think about returning for the heck of it, even if there is no doll meetup of any kind.

As for that Asian doll that I won as a door prize, I displayed her on a bedroom shelf for a few years.

Blythe Doll Meet-Up at the Southern Maryland Doll Club Show

Even though I thought she was cute, she didn’t really do much for me. The fact that she was permanently stuck in that plastic box enclosure didn’t help. The weirdest part about that box enclosure is that she’s covered on all four sides and the bottom yet the top has no lid or any kind of covering. That made dusting the doll a major hassle since I couldn’t remove her from that box. I placed shrink wrap over the top in order to keep out the dust. About a year or two after my husband walked out on me in late 2011 I ended up donating her to the American Rescue Workers as part of a general decluttering of my home.

I enjoyed myself at that one Blythe meetup but my biggest regret that I didn’t take any pictures of the other women who were there that day (although I took plenty photos of their dolls). I don’t remember their names or what they looked like or anything about their personalities. (Our discussions basically centered around dolls in general and Blythe in particular.) In fact, I haven’t seen any of those women since that meetup. If my memory is correct, I think it’s because the other three women all live in Southern Maryland while I live closer to Washington, DC so there is that distance factor. I also didn’t hang around the doll forums very much after my hip surgery so it was by chance that I happened to see that notice about that meetup in the first place. It’s still too bad that This is Blythe is no longer online because it was kind of cool reading posts by other members and seeing lots of nice doll photos.

At least I still have this Flickr album to remember that Blythe meetup by.

On August 7 and 8 I had two straight days of pure <squee!>. August 7 was BronyCon and some general walking in Baltimore, which I have already written about. The following day I went to another cute event that was located closer to my home. There was a Doll and Teddy Bear Show that was held at the historic Marietta House Museum in Glenn Dale, Maryland.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

I have lived in the area for many years and I have driven past the signs pointing the way to the Marietta House Museum numerous times and I have never visited the place until recently. The Marietta House Museum is the former residence of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Gabriel Duvall that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When I first arrived, I felt like I had stepped back in time.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show Seeing the grounds reminded me of my recent visit to Sotterley Plantation in Southern Maryland. The grounds of the Marietta House are smaller in acreage than Sotterley but the entire area still looked very impressive.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Gabriel Duvall not only lived there with his family but he also maintained his law practice in one of the smaller buildings on the property.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

The grounds themselves are full of wooded areas, nice landscaping, and smaller buildings that were probably used for things like storage.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

There is a family burial plot right on the property located in the backyard.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

The main house itself is quite grand.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

A glimpse of the window from outside only provides a subtle hint of what was going on indoors.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Inside the house it looks like there is an upper level and a basement. However, for the Doll and Teddy Bear Show, only the ground floor was opened to the public. In fact, these three dolls seemed to greet visitors while blocking all access to the upstairs level.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Admission was free and some of the items were available for sale. However, there were also other items on display that weren’t for sale. There was a mix of older dolls with modern dolls. I saw plenty of Barbies. I saw a few American Girl dolls (with handmade clothes for 18-inch dolls on sale). I saw plenty of porcelain dolls. I saw art dolls, ethnic dolls, small dolls, and large dolls. I also saw plenty of teddy bears as well. Some of the bears were vintage (such as Teddy Ruxpin) while others were perennial favorites (like Winnie the Pooh). All in all there were lots of things to see in such a lovely historical setting.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

The boy doll in the next photo reminded me of a childhood photo of my father-in-law that I used to see displayed in the condo that he shared with his second wife. (I last visited that place in 2011 just six months before my husband left me for another woman. I haven’t been back since.) I found the resemblance to my own memories of that photograph to be quite eery.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

There was a nice display of art dolls that were made by a group of tweens (between the ages of 9-11) who were taking a summer workshop in doll making. The woman who runs that workshop was selling some of those dolls for prices ranging from $130-150. I was talking for a bit with that woman and I mentioned that the nearby Makerspace 125 was running a series of monthly workshops in making art dolls and, so far, two of them were held—one in May and one in June. When I started to explain how we were making our dolls (as taught in the workshop), the woman immediately said “That’s crafting. What I’m selling is fine art dolls.” I felt put off because that woman had made a snap judgement. In addition, I had left the two art dolls I created in those workshops at home so I didn’t have anything to show. Plus she raised that whole ugly “Art vs. Craft” controversy that frequently permeates both the art world and craft world and I felt it was uncalled for.

All I know is that the next time I see the woman who runs the art doll workshops at Makerspace 125, I’ll tell her what happened at that show. It’ll be interesting to get her reaction to the judgement that her art dolls are really just “crafts.”

My encounter with that woman was the only sour part of the whole show. I quickly walked away from her after she made that comment. I have to admit that the art dolls that her tween students made in her workshop are quite nice looking.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show I viewed the rest of the show without incident. I just enjoyed all of the eye candy.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

All in all I had a pretty good day viewing all kinds of cute dolls and teddy bears in such a lovely historic setting like the Marietta House Museum.

It’s been two years since I last attended the annual Sakura Matsuri street festival that’s held in downtown Washington, DC as part of the larger National Cherry Blossom Festival. I thought about going down early in the morning so I could check out the Cherry Blossom Parade that precedes the Sakura Matsuri by starting at 10 a.m. But I was too lazy to get my act together so I could arrive that early so I basically ate breakfast and lunch at home then headed out to the Sakura Matsuri in the afternoon. (I was glad I ate my meals at home because nearly all of the food vendors had very long lines.)

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

I even dug out this Japanese imported Stitch hat that I purchased at one of the Otakon anime conventions that were held in Baltimore. I know it was before my marriage broke up because I bought it with my then-husband in mind because he was such a huge fan of the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch and Stitch was his favorite Disney character. I also remember when I modeled the hat for him and he was thrilled with it. That hat had been sitting in a drawer since my husband left but I decided that I could continue to use it because I think it’s a cute hat. Besides, it enabled me to blend in a little bit with the other people who were cosplaying. I even had several people at the festival notice my hat and telling me that they loved it. When I arrived in downtown DC, the one of the first things I did was to take a rare selfie of me wearing that hat.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Like most other years, the festival was very crowded. I still enjoyed myself as I looked around at the sights and sounds of the festival. I even took a few silly pictures while I was there. I recently started to follow the official Sonic the Hedgehog accounts on Facebook and Instagram and it was through social media I learned that there is something called Travel Tuesday where people can submit photos of a Sonic doll or stuffed animal either at an event or some famous landmark (like the Eiffel Tower). I decided to pack my articulated Sonic vinyl doll so I could take his photo for Travel Tuesday. Here are the photos that I submitted but, as of this writing, none of them have been selected for Travel Tuesday.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

I also played around a little bit with the Hatsune Miku photo app on my smartphone. I thought it was appropriate since that character originated in Japan. (Although now that I look at the pictures, I realized that I should’ve varied the girl’s pose just a little bit since she had the same facial expression and pose. Oh well.)

Hatsune Miku at the Sakura Matsuri

Hatsune Miku at the Sakura Matsuri

Hatsune Miku at the Sakura Matsuri

I basically walked around shooting pictures of cosplayers and the various items I saw on sale. I noticed a lot of ram and sheep plushies on sale this year, which makes sense since 2015 is the year that’s known alternatively as the Year of the Sheep, the Year of the Ram, or the Year of the Goat.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

I only purchased one thing at this year’s festival.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Yes, it’s chocolate gelato made by Dolci Gelati and it was very delicious!

While I heard musicians perform on the various stages throughout the festival, I only managed to capture one of the acts with my smartphone because it was one of the few times that I was even able to get close to a stage because everything was so crowded. As for the act that I captured, according to the program book, she is a pop singer from Kyoto named Jonetsu Mariko. I thought I recognized the name for some reason and the program book said that she was making a return appearance to the Sakura Matsuri. After I got home, I searched through this blog and I found out that I previously saw her at the 2010 Sakura Matsuri and I had also videotaped her that time. (She appeared under the name Jonetsu Marie and Shabondama High School.) In any case I took a still photo of her.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

I even shot a short video of her performing on stage.

That video was the only one I shot at this year’s Sakura Matsuri.

I also saw that NASCAR driver Akinori Ogata was there with his race car, just like the last time I attended the Sakura Matsuri two years ago. Once again he appeared with Eneos, which makes motor oil. Eneos also had a bean bag toss game called “Cornhole.”

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

Getting on the Metro so I could go home was a bit of a hassle. The last photo shows the long line that I had to stand in just so I could enter the Federal Triangle Metro Station. I’m only lucky that I had the foresight to put enough money on my Metro SmartTrip card for a round trip so I wouldn’t have to stand in another line at the farecard machines.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, April 11, 2015

After church today I went out to lunch with a friend from the same congregation to a Mexican restaurant that’s located near the church. Like many Mexican restaurants, this one has traditional Mexican folk art decorations on the walls, including these two wooden skeleton dolls that caught my eye. They looked interesting enough for me to take a couple of pictures.

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A few days ago I decided to make the annual pilgrimage to the Christmas Store at Valley View Farms. On the way to Valley View, I decided to stop at the former location of the Sea Breeze Pet Center, which was nearby.

As some of you may recall, Sea Breeze was the place where I got my late pet hedgehog Spike a month after my husband abruptly walked out on me three days after Christmas, 2011. I did a ton of driving that day to clear my head because I learned from friends that my husband had hooked up with a woman whom I thought was one of my friends (but it turned out that I guessed wrong about her being a friend). A month before Spike’s death in September, I headed up to Sea Breeze because I happened to be in the area for a different reason and I decided to stop by the store to purchase some more food for Spike only to find that the store had closed for good. The Sea Breeze sign was still up but the store was totally empty. Yet its website was still online.

So I stopped by Sea Breeze’s former location to see whatever became of it and I found that the space has been turned into a health care clinic. The windows are now covered with venetian blinds so one can’t peek in them. (In Sea Breeze’s heyday, the windows were open so any passerby could glance inside of the animal cages and fish tanks.) So the Sea Breeze Pet Center is officially history. Yet its website is still online as of this writing and it still lists the address as the place where the health clinic is now located.

I didn’t linger long at Sea Breeze’s old location so I drove five miles down York Road until I arrived at Valley View Farms, where I was greeted by this large Nativity set.

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Valley View Farms is a garden nursery center that has long had a reputation for having this giant Christmas store featuring ornaments and decorations from all over the world. The store has so many Christmas trees and lights on display that it is totally dazzling. Since I recently got my new Droid Ultra smartphone, I decided to try the panoramic setting on the camera in an attempt to take a wide shot of the store. I took three panoramic shots in different parts of the store. Even though it gives you an idea of what it’s like, these photos still don’t fully convey how big this store really is.

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I felt tempted to buy a lot of Christmas stuff but I managed to resist because I can’t afford to buy too many things and, having gotten rid of three boxes of Christmas decorations last year and having purchased a small three-foot artificial tree, I really don’t want to begin accumulating excess Christmas decorations again. I gave in to temptation and purchased only one item—this really cool looking yellow robot nutcracker. It only cost $24 because it was made in China and not Germany. (The German-made nutcrackers started at $80 for a small 9-inch guy and the larger ones were priced as high as $400.) But it’s still a very funky nutcracker nonetheless.

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I spent the rest of my time at Valley View Farms taking pictures of the various decorations that are available for sale this year as well as the outdoor light display.

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When I was growing up outside of Baltimore, I can remember a time when many ethnic groups used to have festivals in Rash Field, located in the Inner Harbor throughout the spring, summer, and fall. That was in the days before Harborplace opened in 1980. There were German Festivals, Italian Festivals, Polish Festivals, Irish Festivals, Lithuanian Festivals, Jewish Festivals, African American Festivals, etc. I can remember when I used to go to many of these festivals with my family while I was growing up. The admission was free, there was a lot of entertainment for people of all ages, there were all kinds of food and crafts on sale.

Even after Harborplace opened, the ethnic festivals used to continue in Rash Field. Many people used to go to the festivals then head to Harborplace to cool off (especially on hot and humid days). But when an indoor complex known as Festival Hall opened in the Inner Harbor, many of those festivals shifted to that building. Festival Hall was air conditioned so it was an improvement over Rash Field. I still remember soon after I was married when my husband and I went to the Irish Festival that was held in Festival Hall and we met up with my parents there.

When the Baltimore Convention Center decided to double its original space, Festival Hall was torn down to accomodate the expansion. On top of it, the city of Baltimore began to charge fees for public events like ethnic festivals, so many of them migrated out of Baltimore. I was sad when this happened because the ethic festivals were pretty fun to attend.

Recently I was driving to Lutherville-Timonium. My plan was to go to Sea Breeze Pet Center, where I originally got my pet hedgehog, pick up some food for Spike, then drive south on I-83 to Baltimore so I could drop off my artwork that would be on display in the currently running Station North Arts District Salon Show.

I was pretty disappointed when I saw that Sea Breeze had gone out of business. At that point I decided to head on to Baltimore. I drove past the Maryland State Fairgrounds when I saw a giant banner advertising the German Festival that was being held that weekend starting the following day (Saturday). I began to kick myself for not waiting until the next day to make the trip (the art show also had hours on Saturday where people can drop off their art) where I could’ve been so disappointed about Sea Breeze’s closing that I would’ve decided to make the short drive to the German Festival, stay there for about an hour or two, then go to Baltimore.

The next day I woke up and I began to think about that German Festival banner I saw the day before. I remember my fond memories of attending the German Festival when it was held in Rash Field and it would be a rare opportunity for me to eat German food and revel in German culture. (That’s because I live in an area where Salvadoran, Peruvian, Mexican, Japanese, Korean, Italian and Chinese restaurants are more prevalent.) The downside would be that I would be making another long car commute to the Timonium area for the second day in a row. Despite that downside, I decided to go for it because it has been a long time since I ate anything at a German restaurant and it has been several years since I last attended the German Festival when it was still held in Baltimore.

Besides, I had one great-grandfather, Wilhelm Karle, who immigrated to Baltimore from what was then the German region of Alsace-Lorraine (which is now part of France).

Here’s the building on Maryland State Fairgrounds where the German Festival was held.

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

The rest of the photos show all the aspects of the German Festival. There was plenty of German beer and wine to choose from. There was prepared German food for eating at the festival or for takeout. (I even took a photo of this slice of Black Forest cake that I purchased for myself). There was packaged German food for future meals and snacks. There was German music and dancing. There were information tables about the German American Associations in Maryland. There were German crafts. There were also Polish-style ceramic cookware and Russian matryoshka dolls. There was even a Punch & Judy puppet show for children. I managed to stay around for a few hours and enjoy myself.

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

German Festival, Timonium, Maryland, July 27, 2013

One Saturday I went to two events in one day. I just wanted to have some light-hearted fun in the wake of my recent appearance in divorce court just three days earlier so I packed my Canon Digital Rebel DSLR camera and rode on the Metro. There are a few photos I posted that are definitely not safe for work but they are placed towards the end of this entry. (The rest of the photos are all-ages friendly.)

First, I attended the annual Sakura Matsuri street festival in Washington, DC. Sakura Matsuri is the event that formally closes the weeks-long National Cherry Blossom Festival. You know that you are at a Metro stop that’s closest to the festival because you’ll see people in costume like the ones in the next two photos.

Sakura Matsuri, Washington, DC, April 13, 2013
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The Sakura Matsuri is usually very crowded and 2013 was no exception. I arrived late in the afternoon (just a couple of hours before it closed) and there were still plenty of people around. The weather was a warm sunny day as people walked around the festival just a few blocks away from the U.S. Capitol.

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The next photo show the official art for this year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival, which was available for sale on posters and t-shirts.

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The cherry blossom trees in the Baltimore-Washington region were past their blooming peak on the day of the Sakura Matsuri but the street festival had plenty of cherry blossom flowers made from glass, paper, and other artificial materials.

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There were some special guests at the Sakura Matsuri, such as NASCAR driver Akinori Ogata and his racing car.

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There was plenty of live entertainment provided by performers from Japan.

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There was a variety of things to do or experience, such as live entertainment and hands-on demonstrations of video games like Dance Dance Revolution.

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The crowdest booths were the ones serving food and drink. (Naturally.) The next two photos are of the non-food booths that were the most crowded. One was devoted to providing free hair styling for men while the other was a McDonald’s booth that was giving away free tote bags.

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There were all kinds of Japanese imported products that one could purchase including candy, snacks, plushies, kitchen gadgets, dolls, action figures, and clothes. Some products were based on traditional crafts and images while others were based on characters in anime, manga, video games, and even Disney movies. In short, there was a little something for everyone.

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Like previous years, the highlight of the Sakura Matsuri are the numerous cosplayers at the event. Many of them created their own costumes from scratch. The hard work and creativity involved in making these costumes are astounding.

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When the festival began to show signs of closing down, I hopped back on the Metro to the Rosslyn Metro station. I decided to check out another special event that was being held. The Artisphere in Arlington, Virginia was the venue for a special party to celebrate Yuri’s Night. When I first learned about it, I thought about my ex-husband because he works at NASA and it was through him that I first learned about the existence of Yuri’s Night

I also had to make a difficult decision for the evening of April 13. Someone from my support group for people who are separated or divorced was throwing a party at her home complete with a bonfire and I got this notice about the Yuri’s Night event. I ultimately decided to go to the Yuri’s Night event because the e-mail I received sounded really promising. There would be a bunch of people dressed as robots. There would be a burlesque performance. There would be a couple of dances. There would be a robot-themed art exhibit. There would be a special sale of smaller science fiction-themed works of art done by local artists that one can buy that night and carry home. There would be continuous showings of cheesy science fiction movies from the 1950’s and 1960’s. I got seduced by the promised glitz and I decided to go there instead of the other party.

In retrospect I have to admit that there are times when I wished I had gone to the other party instead. That’s because I didn’t know anyone at the Yuri’s Night event while many of the other attendees went with their friends and socialized at times. While the shows and bands were pretty awesome, I felt lonely in a crowd. So my big lesson in my still relatively new foray into the single life is that it’s better to go to a less-splashy event where I knew people than to go to a splashy event like Yuri’s Night where I didn’t know anyone. From now on, if there are any scheduling conflicts between a splashy event and a less-splashy event where I know my friends would be there, I’ll pick the latter. (The only exception to that rule will be if I know in advance that my ex-husband and his girlfriend are going to the same party where I know my friends would be there.)

At least the Yuri’s Night event at the Artisphere wasn’t a total bust for me. There were plenty of interesting stuff for me to photograph, starting with the skyline of late afternoon Arlington.

Yuri's Night, The Artisphere, Arlington, Virginia, April 13, 2013

There were plenty of signs pointing to the venue of Yuri’s Night.

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There were also plenty of tulips and other spring flowers already in bloom.

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But then I came across other flower patches that surrounded tree trunks that were covered in colorful crocheted pieces.

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I began to notice that there were tree trunks covered in these crocheted pieces.

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As I walked around the area, I found crocheted pieces hung and strung everywhere.

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I walked around until I came to this giant metal sculpture that’s in the middle of a median strip where I found the culprits responsible for hanging the crocheted pieces everywhere. A group of people were busy trying to cover both the sculpture and the surrounding garden with as many crocheted pieces as possible before sunset.

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I walked around the streets of Arlington to kill some time before the start of Yuri’s Night at the Artisphere. I arrived at the event just in time for the start. The Atomic Mosquitos played a set while scenes from cheesy 1950’s era science fiction movies played in the background.

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Once the performance ended we were ushered out into a general area where we had a choice of either socializing or checking out the activities that were going on.

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There was this trivia contest that used Rock Em Sock Em Robots. Basically someone would ask prospective contests a single trivia question related to science, space, science fiction, Yuri Gagarin, or similar topics. The first two people to get the right answer would then battle each other using Rock Em Sock Em Robots. It was a delightfully silly contest that was also broadcast on a wall so people wouldn’t have to crowd around the Rock Em Sock Em Robots to see the entire action.

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In the Artisphere’s WIP Gallery there was a show featuring robot art called Voltron’s Corpse that will be on display through May 4. This particular exhibit has gotten the attention of Wired magazine.

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There were vendor tables set up that sold smaller space-themed arts and crafts that people could purchase and carry home with them.

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There was an I Dream of Jeannie-themed kissing booth.

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Even though the event was opened only to adults over 21, there was a Moon Bounce House that anyone could use. (I saw people go in and out of it.)

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There were all kinds of eye candy at the Artisphere that night, which included not only funky decorations but also people who arrived in robot costumes.

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At one point there was another live performance by the band Dance for the Dying.

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There was also a burlesque show called "The Search for Drinkbot." That show was the most packed with standing room only crowds (which was exacerbated by the fact that there weren’t any chairs in the room where the show was held). It was a challenge to take pictures over people’s shoulders at times. There was a thin science-fiction plot but one didn’t need to follow that story to enjoy the entertainment. Some of the photos I took at that show are definitely NSFW.

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There was more to Yuri’s Night including another set by Dance for the Dying, the second part of "The Search for Drinkbot" burlesque show, continuous showings of various science fiction movies, a Celestial Costume Contest, another round of the Rock Em Sock Em Trivial Tournament, and a Lunar Dance Party. I ended up leaving at the relatively early time of 10 p.m. mainly because I was tired from going to the earlier Sakura Matsuri street festival and standing on my feet for the first part of the burlesque show. I also grew frustrated at seeing people socializing with each other and I felt left out because I didn’t know anyone at that event. (Which really made me regret not going to the other party with my friends from my weekly support group for people who are separated or divorced.) At least Yuri’s Night provided lots of eye candy and I got some pretty decent photos from that event.

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