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Santa Claus Baby New Year

Here’s my latest drawing in my 12 Drawings of Christmas series: Baby New Year.

Baby New Year came from a free tutorial I found on How to Draw Step by Step Drawing Tutorials. I found the instructions pretty easy to follow and I was satisfied with the results.

This drawing represents both a beginning and an end—the Alpha and the Omega. This drawing is my first art of 2019 and I did it on the first day of a brand new year. This drawing is also the last one of my 12 Drawings of Christmas series. All good things must come to an end sometimes and the 12 Drawings of Christmas is one of them.

After today I’ll still do the occasional drawing in my sketchbook and upload it online but I won’t be doing it on a daily basis like I’ve been doing for the past 12 days. Anyway I hope you enjoyed my drawings and please feel free to come back to this blog for updates on any projects that I’m working on.

And on that note, Happy New Year!

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Santa Claus Baby New Year

Since today is New Year’s Day, which ushers in a brand new year, I’d thought I would write about what I recently did for myself on Christmas Day.

I haven’t opened a wrapped gift on Christmas Day since 2011. It was three months after I underwent hip surgery. For my birthday on December 15 my husband surprised me with a new iPod Touch. Ten days later on Christmas Day, I opened a wrapped gift and found that he gave me a new iPad. With a new iPod Touch and a new iPad, I felt really blessed to have two new Apple devices on top of my ability to walk slowly improving after my hip surgery.

It all came crashing down just three days later when my husband came home from work, announced that he was moving out, then ran out the door before I could even respond. My iPad stopped working altogether just three years later. My iPod Touch still works even though it has older software (I can’t install the newest version of the iOS software because the hardware is now considered old).

Over the last several years, before my marriage fell apart, my mother would send me a $200 check for my birthday and a $200 check for Christmas but that was it for gifts. (She also used to send my husband checks as birthday and Christmas presents until he left me.) At least I could treat myself to a nice meal or some nice clothes for myself. The checks stopped in 2016 when my mother’s health deteriorated (she’s currently struggling with multiple sclerosis and it’s gotten to the point where I can only talk to her on the phone for no more than 2 or 3 minutes because she gets tired).

After my marriage ended I usually went to my support group’s annual post-Christmas party where we have a white elephant gift exchange. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t even get a wrapped gift.

There were times when I miss getting a wrapped gift that i would open and I would be surprised with what I got. I finally decided to rectify that situation.

For the past few years there have been the rise in popularity of blind boxes which housed some kind of a collectible item. One can find them in comic book stores, Target, Five Below, Walmart, and other similar stores. Two years ago I purchased a cheap blind blister package that had a Hatsune Miku keychain inside. The outer pack showed photos of six possible designs that I could get and I didn’t know which one I got until after I brought it home and opened it. I only purchased one keychain because I wasn’t very comfortable with the idea of possibly getting a duplicate because I couldn’t see what I was really purchasing until after I purchased it.

I used to collect Wacky Packages as a kid and they were in blind packages. The difference was that Wacky Packages were basically flat stickers. If you ended up getting a duplicate it was no big deal. You could trade it with a friend but if you couldn’t find any friends willing to trade with you, you could always use that duplicate as a sticker. I remember plastering my notebooks and other items with my duplicate Wacky Packages stickers. When it came time to clear out my childhood home after my mother decided to sell it, I found an old 45 r.p.m. record case that had a Wacky Packages sticker on the bottom for Neveready Batteries (a parody of Eveready Batteries).

But 3D objects in blind packages were another matter. If you ended up with a duplicate 3D object, chances are that you will have a harder time with getting rid of it. Most stores will not accept returns for purchasing a duplicate. You could sell it on eBay but you may or may not get anyone willing to buy it. If you’re lucky enough to have a fellow collector willing to trade with you, you might unload your duplicate that way. Or you could wrap it and give it to someone as a birthday or Christmas present. Or even donate it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Yet I could see the allure of buying a blind package an opening it on Christmas as a substitute for opening a wrapped present. There weren’t too many blind packages that really excited me enough to consider doing this until I learned of a new line of dolls that were released by Just Play a few months ago called Hairdorables. Hairdorables are a series of small dolls with huge amounts of hair that is as big as they are. Not only did the dolls skin and hair come in a variety of colors but I found their faces to be totally cute—complete with impish smiles. Each doll and her accessories comes in a blind box where you don’t know which doll you get until after you buy it and take it home.

The dolls were released in August but, for some reason, the local Target in my area didn’t start getting them until mid-December. Meanwhile I kept on reading about these dolls online until I finally saw the boxes in real life. I purchased a Hairdorables box from Target on Christmas Eve. (The local mall was far less crowded on Christmas Eve this year than in previous years.)

I brought the package home and waited until the following day to open it. Here’s the Christmas tree along with the box still in its plastic Target bag.

Here is what the package looks like. As you can see, you literally don’t know which doll you’ve actually purchased until after you open the box.

The back of the box shows a list of 36 possible dolls that could be in that box.

Here’s a close-up of that box where you can see the Hairdorables available in a variety of hair and skin colors.

One of the side panels of the box tells the story of Hairdorables.

The story goes like this:

Hello influencers!

It’s your time to SHINE!

Meet Noah and the #Hairdorables!

Noah is a super sweet girl with a talent for styling hair. When she posted her front braid tutorial for fun, she never imagined it would go viral!

Since then, Noah has loads of inspiring friends who love to share their passions, so when she asked them to contribute to her channel, they all yelled out a resounding YAAAAAS! Check out the Hairdorables channel on YouTube!

They are dolls for the Internet age that are packaged in such a way as to make filming an unboxing doll video very easy. I chose to shoot a series of still photos instead of making an unboxing video because there are already so many unboxing Hairdorables videos out there and I wasn’t in the mood to make a new video. You open the box a certain way, starting with the yellow pull tab at the top of the box.

Once I pulled down the pull tab I found that the box reveals two compartments that you pull slightly apart.

As you pull the compartments apart you see that there’s a piece of paper in the middle being flanked by the two compartments where the doll and her accessories are held. Basically you are instructed to open the box in a certain order where you open the side containing the doll last. It’s designed to build up suspense to the ultimate surprise—which doll you received.

As for the paper in the middle, one side has a promo drawing of the Hairdorables.

The other side has a checklist of all of the Hairdorables dolls that are available in its first series (while implying that there will be a second series along with more subsequent series).

I didn’t look too closely at the checklist because I’ve read other people’s accounts about unboxing the Hairdorables and I learned that if you study the checklist too much, you will figure out which doll you received while you’re unboxing the accessories. I really wanted the whole experience to be a surprise so I only glanced at it quickly.

I also want to take the time to say that even though the Hairdorables checklist (which you can view online here) says that there are 36 dolls to collect, it doesn’t mean that there are 36 different characters. There are actually 12 different characters with each character having three different variations where each variation will wear a different outfit and have different accessories.

Getting back to the box, once I removed the checklist I found that there is actually a little backdrop where you can pose your Hairdorable doll. I like the idea of reusing the box for play since it would generate less trash than a typical doll box.

The box instructed me to open the left compartment of the box first. The compartment have four smaller sections that are in exact numbered order.

I opened the door marked with the number one and I got a small plastic bin with a top wrapper that had this pun: “Hair we go!”

I got a pink hair comb and a tiny square of tiny stickers.

So I opened the door marked with the number 2 and got a bin with this pun, “You go curl!”

I got a pair of winged sneakers (which looked really intriguing because it reminded me of the winged sandals of the god known as Hermes or Mercury in the Greco-Roman myths) and another sticker.

The stickers could be peeled then folded in half in order to create a tiny smartphone for the doll.

The idea was pretty neat in theory but it turned out to be impractical in reality after I unboxed the doll because her hands were unable to hold the tiny smartphone.

It was time to open the door that was marked with number 3. I got a bin with this message: “[heart] UR Style!”

I got a pair of white angel wings along with another sticker featuring two of the Hairdorables dolls and the hashtag #BraidsRule.

Then it was time for me to open the door with the number 4. I got the bin with this pun: “Sheer Genius.”

I got another sticker with two of the dolls and the hashtag #VacayAllDay. But it was the hairband that really thrilled me. It’s a mint green hairband with a unicorn horn! It brought back memories of when I unsuccessfully tried to market myself with my 1990s Unicorn With An Attitude animation series. I was also intrigued because I once read a series of books by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball about the adventures of Acorna, a humanoid girl born with a unicorn horn.

After opening the first four compartments it was time to unbox the doll herself.

I opened the door and I got another plastic bin.

Removing the plastic bin reveals more box graphics that suggests a clothes closet.

The bin wrapper had yet another pun: “Let’s see what’s in hair!”

Here is my new doll as she was packaged in that bin as shown from the front and back.

I removed the doll from the bin and found that there was also a small card that reveals which doll I received. One side of the card mentions that her name is Willow, her favorite color is mint green, and her motto is “Style is a state of mind!” The other side shows a cute drawing of Willow.

Once I removed the doll from her bin I put on her winged sneakers, angel wings, and unicorn hairband. Willow has an oversized head on a small, thin body. Here is my new Willow doll placed against her backdrop. I found that the doll can’t stand on her own but I could lean her against the backdrop to make it look like she’s standing. I ended up having to use the flash for the next two photos because the area was a bit too dark (even though I had turned on all the lights on the Christmas tree and opened the blinds on a nearby window to let natural light in).

After that last photo I decided to move everything outdoors. It was sunny outside but the temperatures were in the low 40s. At least I could take better photos of the doll and her background. According to the checklist I got the Willow Wings variation doll and it’s also supposed to be her signature look. (I learned that the dolls designated to be “signature looks” tend to be more common to find than the other variants.)

Willow is incredibly cute with a very impish smile. Her brown skin and pastel rainbow color scheme kind of reminds me of the Studio Mucci Instagram account. Of course her unicorn headband is to die for!

Willow is among the smaller dolls I’ve purchased. Here is how she stands against the 1/6 scale dolls. In this photo she is flanked by Clawdeen Wolf of Monster High and Barbie. As you can see, Willow looks like a toddler compared to those dolls.

Willow and the other Hairdorables are definitely 1/12 scale dolls. Here is how she stands against my other tiny dolls. From left to right: Dollcena Disney Hawaiian Harmonies, Little Pullip Alice Fanatica, Willow, and a Bobobie Sunny Asian ball-jointed doll.

Willow has a mass of long hair that reaches to her feet. I’ve dealt with doll hair over the years but I have to say that her hair is the softest doll hair I’ve ever felt. I really love her pastel highlights that make her hair resemble cotton candy.

I really loved the doll that I received even though getting a unicorn girl was definitely the luck of the draw. The most controversial part of Hairdorables is the fact that you literally don’t know which doll you’ll get while the package costs nearly $13 per box. (Most blind box packages cost anywhere from $3-8 depending on the size of the item inside.) I’ve read reviews online from parents who purchased multiple Hairdorables boxes for their children only to get duplicates.

I’ll admit that I’m still pretty ambivalent about blind boxes in general. While it was fun finding out which doll I got, I had also only purchased just one box. If I had purchased two or more boxes and I ended up getting an exact duplicate, I don’t think I would have been as enamored with the concept. I think just limiting yourself to only one box is the best way to get maximum enjoyment from opening a blind box.

While there are other blind boxes who put codes on their packages that hint at what’s inside (such as the Lego Minifigs blind packages), so far Just Play has not released any hints on how people can avoid inadvertently purchasing duplicate dolls.

I’ve read about some people saying that the best way of telling the boxes apart is to weigh them. Apparently different boxes have different accessories so it affects the weights. Then you somehow sneak a scale into the store and weigh each box to discover which doll that box may have. This method only works if you have purchased at least three or four Hairdorables boxes (while hoping and praying that you didn’t purchase any duplicates) so you can weigh them at home and write down the weight of each doll box with a certain doll inside. Then you would take your scale and list to the store, weigh each box, and compare that weight with what you have on your list. The big problem with that method is that not everyone can afford to use this method, especially since the boxes cost $13 a pop. On top of that, you would have to carry a scale into a store and weigh each box while hoping that a store employee doesn’t decide to confront you while you are doing it.

There is an alternate method is to see the imprinted lot number that’s located next to the bar code of the box.

Next peek at the back of the box to see what the background looks like. You may need to use a flashlight or use the flashlight that’s on your smartphone for this step.

The theory is that if the lot number and background matches, chances are that it’s a duplicate doll and you shouldn’t buy it. This video from the Up and Play YouTube channel demonstrates both the scale and the peeking at the background methods.

There is one major limitation with the idea that a different background means a different doll: That theory doesn’t always work. This blog post on the Toy Box Philosopher site mentions buying two Hairdorables packages with the same background but with different dolls and accessories.

I had thought about testing that idea out by buying a second Hairdorables box, which I would open on Little Christmas (January 6). I was thinking about replicating my childhood when my family used to celebrate that holiday by refilling the stocking with candy, small toys, and practical items (such as a pair of socks or underwear). Some years I would get a small package while other years I only got my stocking refilled.

But then I decided to ditch that idea when I learned that the second series of Hairdorables will be officially released later this month. I decided to just wait for the second series and bypass the dilemma of whether to buy a second Hairdorables Series 1 box and risk getting a duplicate doll. I just only hope that the Target store in my area can get the new dolls much sooner than the four months it took before that store even received its first shipment of the Series 1 Hairdorables.

The YouTube channel My Froggy Stuff managed to received advance copies of the new Series 2 dolls and made this video.

Based on the video, it looks like the biggest improvement is that this new series of dolls will each come with a doll stand. That is a great idea since my own doll can’t really stand on her own. Like the previous series, the new Series 2 doll boxes will also have backgrounds that can be used for displaying the dolls or playing with them.

Like I wrote earlier, I think it’s a good idea to have the boxes double as a display area for the dolls. The only disadvantage is that the boxes tend to take up space, especially if you own more than two dolls and you don’t have much space in your home. I found this tutorial on the American Girl Outsider blog on how to break down the backdrop so it won’t take up as much space in your home. You’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of that blog post in order to get to the tutorial.

I have to admit that it was pretty fun to once again unwrap something that I didn’t know what was inside until after I finished opening the box.

To learn more about Hairdorables you can either check out the official site or you can visit this site that was set up by a fan called the Absolute Hairdorables Wiki.

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Santa Claus Baby New Year

For my New Year’s Eve drawing I drew a nutcracker.

I drew this one using a free tutorial I found on How to Draw Step by Step Drawing Tutorials. This drawing represents my last art project of 2018.

I’ve always loved nutcrackers. I currently have three nutcrackers at home. If I had more money and more space at home, I would definitely have a larger nutcracker collection. Since I don’t have unlimited funds or space, I have to content myself with just taking smartphone photos of any nutcrackers that really interest me on the store shelves.

I have loved the music from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite ever since a music teacher introduced me to it when I was in elementary school. In addition many of the songs are frequently used in radio and television ads that are played this time of the year so it’s pretty hard to avoid hearing any songs from The Nutcracker Suite.

Earlier this year I went to the Artechhouse in Washington, DC, which had a special interactive exhibit based on The Nutcracker Suite that I really loved. I went on one of the last days of that exhibit on the first weekend of the new year in 2018. I trudged through below-freezing weather just so I could get to that building, which shows the lengths I’ll go through sometimes in order to enjoy something like The Nutcracker.

I have the DVD of The Nutcracker ballet performance that features Macauley Culkin in the title role. Personally I felt that he was the weakest link of that production (he was far better as a child star in comedies like My Girl and the Home Alone movies than as a ballet performer) but the music and the other performers (who were all professional ballet dancers) more than made up for Culkin’s weaknesses in that film. I generally play that DVD at least once during the winter holiday season.

Tomorrow is the last day of the 12 Drawings of Christmas. I hope you’ll return to see what I’ve drawn.

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Santa Claus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Santa Claus

A few days ago I drew Elsa from Frozen as part of the ongoing 12 Drawings of Christmas series. I decided to draw another character from the same movie after I came across a free drawing tutorial and I decided to try it out for myself.

Here’s my own drawing of Olaf the talking snowman.

I found a free tutorial on how to draw Olaf on the Easy Drawing Tutorials site. The instructions were easy to follow and I was happy with the result.

I have just three more days and three more drawings until this current series ends on January 1, 2019.

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Santa Claus

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Santa Claus

Here is some fan art I did of Abbey Bominable of Monster High fame. I drew her mostly in ink with the exception of her pupils, which I did in colored pencil.

Abbey Bominable is described as the teenage daughter of the Yeti (a.k.a. the Abominable Snowman) who is originally from the Himalayas. And nothing says winter like the Yeti/Abominable Snowman. Ditto for the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas (which also includes the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest). You can read more about Abbey Bominable right here. I purchased this doll for only $5 at a toy show that took place in Timonium last year. I have a few other Monster High dolls but this one is among the prettier ones that I currently own. I thought she would be perfect to draw for my 12 Drawings of Christmas series.

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Santa Claus

Last year I did a digital drawing using Santa’s Canvas, a special Christmas drawing app called Santa’s Canvas that Google has as part of its annual Santa Tracker section. This year I did a couple of more digital drawings using that same app. Enjoy!

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This year I decided to check out the opening ceremony of the Festival of Lights that was held at Roosevelt Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. As you can see from the photographs, it was a well-attended event. The weather was cold but it was pretty clear with no rain or snow. (My area has been getting tons of rain this year and it gets pretty tiresome after a while. Thanks for nothing, global warming!)

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Here is what the official Festival of Lights tree looked like before it was lit for the first time. The box that held the tree had Santa Claus decorated on all sides.

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

The local orchestra played a variety of winter holiday tunes.

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Santa Claus arrived on the back of a fire truck.

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Once Santa arrived the tree was lit up. Here is what it looked like with its lights on.

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Here’s a short video I shot of the opening ceremony.

After the opening ceremony I walked over to the nearby Greenbelt Museum, which opened its door to the public for free as part of the opening ceremony festivities.

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

I shot photos of that same museum during Labor Day weekend so I decided to focus on its special exhibit on how people celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah during the Great Depression. It included vintage decorations of the period. I found it very interesting.

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luciana is totally rocking this astronaut space suit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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