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Over the years I’ve written posts in this blog about Takoma Park, which is located directly on the Maryland-Washington, DC line. I’ve taken photos of all kinds of interesting landmarks on both sides of the border.

My latest day job is located on the Maryland side of Takoma Park so I have more opportunities to walk around this incredibly artsy funky town. Just when I thought I had photographed everything about that area, I always find something new to take a picture of. Here are some recent photos I took of some interesting eye candy.

Many of the houses in Takoma Park are historic and the vast majority of them were built from the time of its founding in 1893 through to around the 1950s. This house in the next two photos stood out to me to me because the left side looks like the typical historic house while the right side looks like a modern geometric building. Yet the two distinct sides seem to harmoniously co-exist side by side.

Sometimes I’ll see something that’s pretty odd and unusual in Takoma Park, such as this Buddha head that someone had placed next to a tree near the back entrance to the Takoma Metro station.

Some houses have original sculptures on the front lawns so pedestrians can enjoy them.

One of the houses had decorated one of the bare trees in the front yard with tiny Christmas balls. I thought it was a cute touch even though I took this photo in early February and Christmas has long since passed.

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Back in 2010 I was in New York City with my then-husband visiting his father and step-mother, who lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. During that trip I decided to walk down Fifth Avenue until I found out that this particular weekend was also the annual Puerto Rican Parade. I pulled out the videocamera I owned at the time, shot this short video, uploaded it on to YouTube, and even wrote a short post about the video and my overall trip to New York.

Recently I was going through my old videos because I’m working on a special compilation video for the tenth anniversary of this blog (which will happen next year). I took a look at the Puerto Rican Parade footage and my jaw dropped when, starting at around the 16-second mark, I saw the Trump Tower’s gold letters. I realized that this parade was winding its way past Trump Tower. Even though this video is nine years old it now looks like it was shot in an entirely different era, back when Donald Trump was known as a celebrity businessman and reality TV host with a penchant for putting his name on all the buildings that his company erected throughout Manhattan.

It’s also obvious that the parade took place long before there were such things as Trump talking openly about Mexican drug dealers and rapists, Trump’s refusal to provide aid to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Latino children being caged in interment camps, and Trump currently refusing to open the federal government unless he gets his border wall in an attempted effort to keep those brown-skinned Latinos in Mexico. If I had even thought about raising the possibility of Donald Trump becoming President of the United States to the people who were there, I probably would’ve been laughed at because that possibility seemed so ridiculous.

Granted, he ran for president on the Reform Party ticket back in 2000 but it ultimately went nowhere. (To be fair, the Reform Party was then on its last legs as a viable political party.) Other than that ill-fated run, he was mostly just a celebrity until he flirted with the idea of running for president as a Republican in 2011 by catering to that awful birther nonsense where people (mostly racist whites) were claiming that President Obama was not born in Hawaii but he was really born in Kenya so he really wasn’t qualified to hold office. He dropped that idea when NBC told him that he couldn’t remain in his TV gig if he was running for president. But then he decided to run for real in 2015, he got elected president in 2016, and he’s now overseeing the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history (which is still going on as of this writing).

Seeing that Trump Tower building in my video brought back all kinds of memories of the times I actually went inside of that building where I saw that indoor waterfall cascading down a wall of pink marble along with the gaudy chandeliers and gold fixtures. I remember once seeing in person George Ross, who was one of Trump’s managers who became famous for being one of the onscreen observers of the contestants on the The Apprentice. He briefly posed for photos with a few fans who recognized him until he had to excuse himself because he said he was on his way to a meeting. He seemed to be very polite in person. (I left my digital camera at my in-laws’ place on that day so I have no photos of him. I’m still kicking myself for that mistake. LOL!) I remember when Tower Records had a store in Trump Tower until its eventual demise. (I still miss that store chain but that’s another story.)

And speaking of Tower Records’ Trump Tower location, here are a few tweets from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes about how Trump unsuccessfully tried to shakedown Tower Records for more money beyond what the store was already paying Trump in rent. Basically Trump wanted a cut of the $100 fee that Tower Records was charging each indie band to be featured in its listening stations (where customers could preview a certain CD before buying it).

I haven’t been back to New York City since 2011, which was a few months before my marriage suddenly imploded. I’ve seen recent photos of Trump Tower online and there are now barricades with more cops outside than when I used to visit that place. Even if I somehow managed to make a return trip to New York City, I would not be inclined to even set foot in Trump Tower or any of the other buildings with his name on them because Trump has become someone whom I loathe. Ever since he decided to run for president he has shown his true colors and they are ugly to the bone. I’m sorry I had ever been a regular viewer of The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice until 2011 (when I could no longer stand to watch Trump on TV after he tried to cater with the racist birthers and smear President Obama). I was even sorry that I had ever purchased that interactive Donald Trump doll as a gag gift for my then-husband. At least I sold that doll on eBay during the winter holiday season a few months after the 2016 elections.

When I watch that video of the Puerto Rican Parade winding its way past Trump Tower, I find myself wishing that Trump had never run for president and simply stayed a celebrity businessman and reality TV show host. Had he done so, the federal government would be open today and thousands of federal employees around the country would be reporting for work as usual and doing their jobs while contractors would also be working. At least the U.S. economy would not be on the verge of a total collapse like it is now.

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This post is kind of special in a way. Not only is it the last of the purely winter holiday 2018 posts but it also marks Washington, DC when it was in the early days of the latest federal government shutdown.

When Donald Trump decided to refuse to sign any budget bills unless he gets his border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border (a demand that most experts say is a waste of money that won’t keep out illegal immigrants), the federal government underwent a shutdown. The Smithsonian and many of the other tourist buildings were able to remain open by tapping into some extra funds but they only had enough money to keep the buildings open until January 1. I decided to spend a day doing something fun downtown since it was still the winter holiday season and it would be my last chance to check out any of the government-funded buildings for a long time. (The federal government remains shut as of this writing.)

To make things even more fun, I decided to pack my latest doll, a Hairdorables Willow that I unboxed just a few days earlier on Christmas Day.

I headed to the Greenbelt Metro station where I saw that one of the periodical boxes has been refurbished as a Little Free Library. This particular one has mainly paperback books and magazines, which are perfect for commuters.

Here’s Willow standing near a giant panda bear statue advertising the annual Zoolights event at the National Zoo (which was among the places that remained opened until January 1). I’ve been to Zoolights other years (in 2012 and 2016) but I wasn’t able to squeeze in a trip this time due to tight finances. (Even though admission to the zoo is free, it still costs money to take the Metro to the zoo.)

I arrived at the U.S. Botanic Garden, which looked very festive for the holidays.

There was an outdoor toy train that rode around. There was an indoor toy train layout inside of the U.S. Botanic Conservatory building but there was such a long line that I decided to skip it and focus on the other exhibitions instead.

The cool thing about the U.S. Botanic Garden is that it has a special holiday display of replicas of various Washington, DC area landmarks that were all made from natural materials. These replicas were scattered throughout the building among the various flora and fauna. The next photo shows the newest of the Smithsonian buildings, the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Here’s the U.S. Capitol Building.

There were poinsettias in a variety of colors placed throughout the building.

The next few photos show a replica of the U.S. Supreme Court building.

Two topiary bears flanked a replica of Union Station.

There were a few Christmas trees placed throughout the Conservatory.

This photo shows the replica of the Library of Congress.

This photo shows the replica of the U.S. Botanic Conservatory building right inside of the real thing.

The next two photos show the replica of the White House.

Here’s a replica of the Washington Monument.

Willow the Hairdorables doll poses next to the Washington Monument replica.

A soon-to-be-furloughed Botanic Garden employee shows a few cocoa bean pods to visitors. (The building was crowded the day I went there.)

I also took photos of the various flora and fauna inside of the Conservatory.

A replica of two ships could be found among the flora and fauna.

The next few photos show a replica of the historic train station in Ellicott City, Maryland.

I shot a closeup of a wall that consisted only of pink poinsettias.

The outside of the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory building was festively decorated with two green wreaths.

Across from the Conservatory is another part of the U.S. Botanic Garden known as Bartholdi Park. The focal point of this park is a fountain that was sculpted by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who also designed the Statue of Liberty.

The water was shut off for the winter but the fountain still looked impressive, especially paired with some nice cloud formations that were there when I shot these photos.

The last photo shows some winter cabbage that were planted near the fountain.

After my time at the U.S. Botanic Garden, I walked over to the nearby U.S. Capitol Building.

Here’s a photo of my Hairdorables Willow doll with the U.S. Capitol Building in the background.

Standing near the U.S. Capitol was the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. It’s not quite as elaborately decorated as the National Christmas Tree that’s located near the White House (which I last visited in 2016 when Barack Obama still occupied the White House) but it’s charming in its own way.

I took another shot of my Hairdorables Willow doll next to both the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and the U.S. Capitol Building.

As I was walking away from the U.S. Capitol, I took a nice photo of the National Mall at twilight along with some nice cloud formation.

Here’s another shot of my Hairdorables Willow doll.

I walked a few blocks to Union Station. The next photo shows that Union Station is located along a path that’s part of the East Coast Greenway.

The next photos show the outside of Union Station all decked out for the winter holiday season.

Here’s a shot of one of the giant wreaths as taken from inside of the archway leading to Union Station.

Each year the Norwegian Embassy puts up a large Christmas tree in Union Station that’s usually decked out with U.S. and Norwegian flags and various Norwegian-made ornaments.

Here’s the last photo I took of my Hairdorables Willow doll on this trip where she’s next to the Christmas tree.

The Norwegian embassy also puts up this elaborate toy train layout that’s based on the terrain of Norway and one can see toy trains running throughout this layout.

The one new thing I noticed about Union Station is that it now has a special virtual reality video game arcade.

This arcade sports a giant video game that bills itself as “The World’s Largest Pac-Man Game.” For only $1 per game, one can choose to play either Pac-Man or Galaga. I didn’t play on this gaming machine but I saw the tail end of one Pac-Man game while someone else took over the machine and chose to play Galaga instead.

The virtual reality area offered the chance to play vr versions of video games like Argyle Shift, Mario Kart, and Ski Rodeo. I didn’t try any of the games because, as you can see in the next photo, the prices were pretty expensive.

I ended my trip by buying sushi from the only Walgreens location that I know of that actually sells sushi. The sushi I had tasted pretty good.

Since I took those photos, the U.S. Botanic Garden is now closed due to the federal government shutdown. Yesterday I learned that unless Donald Trump relents and signs the federal bill, tomorrow will break the record for the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. Sigh!

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Like I wrote in my last post, I had gone to Crofton to attend a vendor event that was being held by my support group for people who are separated or divorced mainly because a recruiter was supposed to be there as well. I decided to go just to give that recruiter my resume and talk to him. I had no intention of staying long. But then the recruiter wasn’t there but he texted the organizers that he would be there soon. So I killed some time by checking out the vendor event then walk next door to the Festival on the Green where I took some photos.

I arrived back to the church where the vendor event was being held only to discover that the recruiter ended up being a no-show. So I decided to drive back home since it had started to rain. The rain grew so bad that I decided to drive along the back roads because I just didn’t want to deal with the crazy assholes who speed in any weather on the interstate highways. When I hit Bowie I became more nervous because of the weather so I ended up stopping at the Bowie Library.

I have driven past that library building numerous times. I had even taken a photo of the building when I was stopped in traffic and I wrote a post about it four years ago. But I had never stepped foot inside that building until recently.

I knew the library looked big from the outside and it looked just as impressive on the inside as well.

The children’s area had the theme of Main Street. There were all kinds of decorations to make it reflect Main Street, such as these signs.

There were all kinds of decorations that represented pretend versions of a post office, an Internet cafe (where there were computers but no food or drinks were served), and a fire engine.

My personal favorite was the area that was set up to represent a pizza place.

No pizza or any other kind of food was served because, despite the decorations, it’s still a library. But I thought the pretend pizza oven was cute.

The table tops resembled a large pizza that would be shared with three or more people.

The menu was pretty cute as well. It listed, in menu form, what foods are healthy and nutritious to eat.

Compared to the children’s area, the adult and teen areas were relatively plain. But there were plenty of books to read so I had no problem with being stranded in a library.

There was a mural which reflected the history of Bowie, Maryland.

I basically stuck around for a couple of hours. By the time I left, the worst of the rain had ended and there was a fine mist that made everything damp. At least it was better than driving in heavy rain.

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When I made my previous trip to Tyson’s Corner Mall last month, I had a few reasons for making that trip. One was to get away from my ongoing personal problems for a few hours. Another was to check out the 2018 Girl of the Year doll at American Girl Place. The third reason was because I wanted to see what kind of 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse items were on sale at The Disney Store. Well, I managed to achieve the first two goals but The Disney Store announced that the 90th anniversary stuff would not go on sale until the following month.

As it was getting closer to the 90th anniversary of Steamboat Willie I saw more and more Mickey stuff on sale at stores closer to my home. A few weeks ago I decided to make a follow-up trip to Tyson’s Corner where I hit pay dirt. Not only did The Disney Store had 90th anniversary Mickey stuff on sale but I saw that other stores sold Mickey stuff as well. I already documented the Mickey stuff I saw at Tyson’s Corner Mall in this recent blog post about the 90th anniversary. This post is dedicated to other things I shot while I was at Tyson’s Corner Mall they had nothing to do with Mickey Mouse or Disney.

On my last trip it was raining like crazy outside. This trip was sunny but it was very cold outside. (The temperature was just above the mid-30’s.) The weather was making a comeback from this nor’easter that hit the entire area the day before. (I ended up being stranded indoors at home so I did some drawing that day of a dinosaur for my recently finished animation The Gift of the Dinosaur.) The Metro Plaza outside of the mall entrance has these life-sized bird statues placed all over the area. The majority were of small birds like cardinals and mourning doves. I saw this large bird on the ground that I thought was real until I approached it and it didn’t move at all. (A real bird would’ve flown away.) I don’t recall seeing this particular statue before so it’s either a new statue or I just didn’t notice until this last trip.

The area was already looking pretty festive with an already decorated Christmas tree. (I visited this mall just a few days before Thanksgiving.)

I decided to check out American Girl Place. Since I took a boatload of photos the month before, I thought I wouldn’t feel the need to shoot any pictures. This store had some new displays and Christmas-related stuff so I basically focused on them.

Here are a couple of the modern Truly Me American Girl dolls and their dog showing off some winter outfits.

American Girl Place has its own Christmas tree, which looked pretty nice.

I personally prefer the historic BeForever dolls over their other dolls because I love the attention to detail regarding the doll sized miniature versions of items that were actually used in the years that the historical doll represents. Here’s the 1950s historical doll Maryellen Larkin in her cute Christmas outfit.

Some of the tiny ornaments and punch bowl reminded me of what I used to see in the homes of my family, neighbors, and relatives when I was growing up. (Even though I grew up in the 1970s, there were still plenty of 1950s and 1960s stuff that families still used in their homes. The attitude was that you used something until it breaks or wears out.)

I still have the red plastic cookie cutters that my mom used to bake Christmas sugar cookies when I was growing up. I haven’t baked any sugar cookies in a few years. Maybe I should think about making them again.

Melody Ellison, who represents the 1960s, looks adorable in her winter coat with matching hat and mittens.

Julie Albright, who represents the 1970s looks cute in her New Year’s Eve outfit.

Rebecca Rubin, who represents the 1910s, also looks adorable in her winter outfit.

Josefina Montoya, who represents the 1820s, looks pretty regal in her Christmas outfit.

Kit Kittredge, who represents the 1930s, also looks cute with her plaid dress, Christmas stocking, and sock monkey.

The last picture show more modern Truly Me dolls in their Christmas outfits.

I took a couple of photos of Build-A-Bear Workshop. I saw this sign announcing that Build-A-Bear now has its own online radio station that one can stream for free.

I saw this gorgeous reindeer that I fell in love with. If I had more disposable income, I probably would’ve made an impulse buy. Instead I had to settle with just taking a picture of this gorgeous reindeer.

I ate dinner at a Mongolian grill place called Asian Bistro. I found the food to be tasty. After I was done with walking the mall I decided to take the Metro back home. Since it gets darker these days, it was nighttime by the time I left so I saw everything lit up.

Barrel & Bushel had these flaming torches on its patio. In warmer weather there would be tables set out and people would be eating and drinking al fresco. I found these torches to be gorgeous. Unfortunately, these photos don’t do them justice. They looked far prettier in real life.

Like I wrote earlier, this giant nor’easter went through out area the day before dropping rain, ice, and snow. By the next day most of the ice and snow were melted, except for this one small pile of snow that was near the Christmas tree.

The Christmas tree looked gorgeous at night. It was lit up with a variety of rainbow colors.

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I attended my first-ever meetup of a group known as District Creatives. I’m trying to expand my network of people that I know so I can take advantage of whatever opportunity comes my way. I ended up leaving for DC a few hours early mainly because I wanted to avoid paying the higher rush-hour Metro fares commuting to and from the event. (I managed to do that, which made me happy.)

I decided to take the Metrobus to the Metro station instead of driving because a roundtrip Metrobus fare is only $4 while parking in the Metro station parking lot costs $5.20. Since I was attending a meet-up for a group that is interested in using technology in a creative manner, I decided to bring my Makies doll, Victoria, since she was printed on a 3D printer to my specifications and I customized her. It’s only too bad that Makies as a company no longer exists. In any case, here she is at the bus stop.

Here she is riding the Metro subway. I only brought her along as a potential conversation starter. I ended up not using her at all during the meet-up.

I arrived at the Eastern Market Metro station. I had a few hours to kill so I decided to walk around the area while taking pictures.

The next photo shows the historic Eastern Market. It’s a pretty popular food market area, especially on the weekend when there are local artisans who sell their wares outside of the building.

Here are a few shots inside of Eastern Market. They sell all kinds of fresh foods but the prices are a big high compared to the grocery stores in the suburbs.

I walked around Capitol Hill while I saw that some of the houses were decorated for Halloween.

The homes in Capitol Hill are known for their gardens. Even though these photos were taken in mid-October, there were still plenty of flowers in bloom.

When I came upon this street sign noting Tip’s Way, I thought it was in honor of the late former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. A quick Internet search revealed that Tip’s Way was really named after a Capitol Hill lobbyist named E. Linwood “Tip” Tipton.

The next photo shows that Tip’s Way is basically an alley.

The house located next to Tip’s Way was all decked out for Halloween.

The one thing I noticed about Capitol Hill is that there are some subtle forms of resistance against Donald Trump and his administration in the form of the residents posting signs in their yards. The majority of them contained quotes on social justice from Martin Luther King, Jr.

I also saw some anti-Trump graffiti in the area as well.

One front yard had a Little Free Library box that was flanked by two signs featuring Martin Luther King quotes.

I took a rest inside of the Southeast Neighborhood Library, which was a nice and cozy place.

I took one final photo of Victoria reading a book. Like I wrote earlier, I brought her along as a potential conversation starter (since she was printed on a 3D printer) but I ended up not using the doll at all.

This library posted a notice on how to spot fake news and the characteristics of fake news vs. the real thing.

The meet-up was held inside of a digital design firm known as Taoti Creative. That firm had a giant spider outside that was put up just in time for Halloween.

They had a Minion serve as the receptionist. (LOL!)

Taoti Creative is located inside of a historic building. It’s a really cool mix of technology with history.

They had a bulletin board with the question “What makes me creative?” where people could write their answers on Post-It Notes then post it on the board.

Here’s my answer, where I wrote “The ability to create something from out of nothing.”

The next two photos show other people’s answers to that question.

The bathrooms also had showers, which may indicate that this building was once a private home.

The conference rooms are all named after Metro station stops.

The basement of the building included a Nintendo Wii with a Guitar Hero game and controllers and an air hockey table.

The bulk of the festivities took place on the rooftop of the building where, in good weather, one can see spectacular sunsets.

The tall thin structure on the left in the next photograph is the Washington Monument.

I was also able to check out the restaurant located next to Taoti Creative, including a giant mural and some of the TV screens on the upper level.

The white dome on the right is the U.S. Capitol Building.

Here’s another shot of the Washington Monument (located on the left) at sunset.

There were also a bunch of cranes among the skyline. I know that the entire city of Washington, DC has been going through many building projects in recent years.

There was a computerized beer keg complete with a computer screen.

There was a serious game of Jenga that was also going on where people played with a giant version of the game.

I shot a short video of one of the Jenga rounds that took place that night.

I managed to socialize with a few people even though meeting new people at a party doesn’t come naturally to me. But I made an effort to be sociable. Eventually I grew tired plus I was using public transportation to go from my home to the event and back again so I couldn’t stay too late. (I know that the party ended at 10 p.m. but some people were planning on checking out some of the trendy bars in Capitol Hill. Even if I wasn’t relying on public transportation, money is still too tight for me to do much bar crawling.) Here’s a shot of the Taoti Creative building that I took when I was on my way back to the Eastern Market Metro station.

Here’s a shot of the rooftop where most of the action took place.

The last two photos show the giant spider that lurked outside of Taoti Creative.

So that’s it for my attending the District Creatives meetup at Taoti Creative.

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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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I happened to be visiting a friend at his job in Takoma Park when I saw a recently finished painting project. Someone had painted the steps that are located outside of the Takoma Park Community Center in a variety of rainbow colors. In addition, it had a bunch of sayings in a variety of foreign languages that all had to do with rise, rising, rise up, or rising up. (Takoma Park is home to a huge number of immigrants who hail from countries in Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.)

I wrote a previous blog post about those steps. More recently I was visiting the same friend at his workplace when I saw that the painting project was finished. I decided to climb up those steps while taking these pictures.

I saw that the top of the steps led to an elementary school, which is currently closed for summer vacation.

Here’s a view of Takoma Park itself from the top of the steps.

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I had a pretty busy Sunday on July 15, 2018. I went carpooling with one friend to church where there was a Tye-Dye Sunday scheduled. By the time I got home from church I turned around and went carpooling with a different friend to this meetup that took place in Rockville.

CoderDojo is basically a global network that provides free computer programming clubs to young people. My friend thought it would be good for me to check this out, especially since I worked as an assistant facilitator with the Takoma Park chapter of Girls Who Code over the past year.

The Washington, DC chapter of CoderDojo meets at the Rockville Public Library in Rockville, Maryland. I had never stepped foot inside this building before but I have to admit that it’s very impressive.

There was an art show going on featuring art done by local youths. It brought back memories of the first time my elementary school art teacher had selected one of my art projects to be shown at the Anne Arundel County Art Show that was displayed at the since-demolished Harundale Mall.

The CoderDojo met in a room on the second floor of the library, which is a designated STEM center. That room had an array of all kinds of stuff that one would normally find in a makerspace (such as computers and robots) but there was some pretty cool STEM-themed art as well.

The meeting started off with a presentation about what computing was like back in the 1990s (when the Computer Internet revolution was just beginning). I enjoyed it because I remember those days like they happened yesterday. There was a mention of using modems attached to telephone wires in order to access the Internet at a blistering 9600 bps.

I enjoyed the presentation very much. Once that ended, the kids started to work on their own projects while parents and other adult volunteers went around helping the kids with their latest projects.

By the time that meetup ended it was closing time for the library. My friend and I were heading back towards the parking garage by cutting through Rockville Town Square when I shot this photo of some kids playing in the fountain.

I also discovered that there was an It’s Sugar store located in Rockville. I had previously visited It’s Sugar in Baltimore and Chinatown in Washington, DC and I managed to convince my friend to stop in the Rockville store for a brief visit, where I shot these photos.

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Once again I was in downtown Washington, DC during DC Pride Weekend, which was held as part of the month-long Pride Month. I was there to attend the latest DC chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School (which I’ll get into in a future post). I decided to travel downtown just a few hours early because I heard that one of the leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign, Rev. Dr. William Barber was speaking at a Sunday service.

While I was walking on my way to church, I saw this trompe l’oeil wall mural.

I made my way to Thomas Circle where the National City Christian Church is located. This church is affiliated with the Disciples of Christ and it is definitely very welcoming to LGBTQ people.

I loved the interior of this church. You could tell that this is a historic church who has been in the same location for generations.

Each pew had an embroidered cushion at each end representing one of the 50 states. I shot this photo of the state that I currently live in (Maryland) but I ended up sitting in a pew that had a California cushion (but I ended up not taking a photo of that one).

The next photo shows the order of service and a flyer promoting the Poor People’s Campaign upcoming rally that was held later that month (on June 23).

The high point was hearing William Barber speak. He gave a very moving sermon on how he overcame his own homophobia to embrace LGBTQ rights while also promoting the goals of the Poor People’s Campaign in general.

I don’t regret making the effort to attend this Sunday service. A two-part video of this service has been archived on the Poor People’s Campaign’s Facebook page: Part 1 and Part 2.

After the service ended, we were invited to join the congregation for coffee and conversation in what looks like a newer, modern part of the church building. I didn’t see too many people at the coffee hour and I think it’s because there was the DC Pride Festival that was held on the Mall and many church members didn’t stay long because they wanted to go to that festival. I didn’t get a chance to meet Rev. Dr. Barber after the service because he went straight from delivering that sermon to a Spanish-language service that was meeting in a different room of the building in order to meet with the Latinos then he had to go on to a couple of other events that were scheduled that day. (I heard that he spoke at River Road Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda later on that same day.) The next photo shows the modern part of the church building.

I thought about making a brief appearance at the DC Pride Festival on the Mall but I didn’t get out of church until it was nearly 1 p.m. and it would’ve been cutting it close with Dr. Sketchy’s (where the doors opened at 2:30 p.m. and the event began at 3 p.m.). Instead I walked along P Street, NW from Thomas Circle to Dupont Circle while I took a variety of rainbow-themed decorations.

There were the occasional sign in Dupont Circle reminding people about a few facts about LGBTQ-related issues, such as remembering the late drag queen Marsha P. Johnson, who was one of the leaders of the Stonewall riot.

I took the occasional non-rainbow shot, such as this wheat pasted poster promoting the upcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom movie.

I saw a tent with a bicycle set up in the front yard of someone’s townhouse.

I saw some colorful graffiti in an alleyway.

I also saw some anti-Trump graffiti spray painted in various places throughout Dupont Circle.

There was a protest rally in Dupont Circle by an organization that called itself the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. All I can say is that I have never heard of this group before and they shouldn’t be confused with the Poor People’s Campaign (despite the similarities in the names). It drew a small crowd with some curious passer-bys briefly stopping by before moving on elsewhere.

I made a brief stop at Fantom Comics., which was decked out with both a rainbow flag and a Black Lives Matter flag.

Fantom Comics had a special display dedicated to Queer Comics, which featured comic books with LGBTQ characters.

They had a mannequin with a transgender flag and a pennant celebrating the Washington Capitals’ recent win of the Stanley Cup for the first time ever in the history of the team.

I didn’t buy anything in the store due to tight finances and the fact that I had planned on going to the DC Dr. Sketchy’s event at the nearby Bier Baron, which I’ll write about in a future post.

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