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Tired of the same old cheap paperclip? For $185 you can buy this special Prada paperclip to help make your life organized.

26 stylish seniors who refuse to wear old people’s clothes.

Why old women have replaced young men as the art world’s darlings.

America newest grocery store chain has an advantage that should terrify Walmart.

Philanthropist Agnes Gund urges collectors to sell their art to fight for justice.

Forgotten art deco marvels of a lost 1920’s Copacabana.

Girl Scouts will soon offer badges in cybersecurity.

Millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries.

A woman with a very colorful apartment that could make unicorns envious.

Unseen photos of 1980 Mount St. Helens volcano eruption found in a camera purchased at a local Goodwill.

An opinion piece by Douglas Rushkoff explaining why it’s time to break up Amazon.

Samsung’s classy new TV moonlights as a work of art.

25 ways to market your business for little or no money.

Download and read up to 6,000 vintage children’s book for free.

Jeff Koons radically downsizes his studio, laying off half his painting staff.

Artist Lucy Sparrow opens an entire convenience store full of handmade felt products in Manhattan.

Photographer spent six months traveling to Siberia to take pictures of indigenous people.

Ramadan

A new shopping center has just been opened a few months ago in Riverdale Park, Maryland but I decided to wait a few months until the crowds drawn by the novelty of a new place have died down. In addition, I decided to go on a weeknight because I’ve seen the parking lot filled with cars on the weekend. Here are the photographs I took.

The new shopping center’s main draw is a Whole Foods Market.

In the middle of the new shopping center is this really interesting statue of a blue bear.

If you look up close at that statue you’d see the statue is composed of little blue butterfly-shaped pieces.

Behind the bear statue is this low-level fountain where the water seems to spout from the ground. I can imagine kids splashing around in that fountain once the summer heatwave begins in earnest.

The new shopping center is located on what was once a farm. Here is some background. Riverdale Park was originally a big plantation known as Riversdale Park (note the additional “s”), which was founded by descendants of the original Lord Baltimore, George Calvert (who founded what eventually became the state of Maryland). One of his descendants, Charles Baltimore Calvert, inherited a portion of the original Riversdale Park plantation and he named it MacAlpine Farm after his wife’s family home in Scotland. While Riversdale Park grew tobacco using slave labor, MacAlpine Farm was more of a general farm that grew a variety of crops and raised livestock while using paid labor.

Eventually much of the land surrounding both Riversdale Park and MacAlpine Farm were sold to developers. The original Riversdale mansion still stands with just a small portion of the original grounds remaining. (Last summer I took extensive photos of the place while I was attending a drawing event there.) Much of MacAlpine Farm was razed with the exception of this building in the next two photographs.

This building is the remains of a 19th century icehouse that once served MacAlpine Farm. The sign in the next photo provides information about this icehouse. Basically icehouses were once common prior to electricity being widely adopted. Ice would be harvested further north from either freshwater rivers and lakes or ice manufactured by electrically powered factories. The ice would be stored in an icehouse, whose foundation ran several feet below the earth. Icehouses like this one became obsolete when government-supported rural electrification programs started in the 1930’s. This icehouse can be found on the perimeter of the shopping center parking lot.

So far there are only two places opened at this new shopping center. One is Whole Foods Market and the other is a Starbucks that’s located directly around the corner from Whole Foods.

A few people decide to socialize and eat al fresco outside one of the Whole Foods side entrances. (It was pretty balmy weather that evening.)

This Whole Foods have a few nice touches, such as this place where bicyclists can inflate their tires and maker other minor repairs.

Not only does this store promotes composting and recycling but it even provides a special water fountain for pets.

There are designated parking spots for electric cars along with a recharging pump.

This Whole Foods Market has only been opened for a few months so everything is still brand-new.

I walked around it and I basically limited my purchase to a couple of cookies because the store is a bit on the pricey side. (There’s a reason why many detractors refer to this store as “Whole Paycheck.”) There was an area where people can order artisanal hearth baked pizza for either consuming on the premises (there were tables provided nearby) or to take home. I really liked that large blue-tiled oven in the background that had “RIVERDALE” in written in white tile.

Next to the area where you can order pizza there is a baking area that’s behind transparent plexiglass so shoppers can see various baked goods made on the premises.

This new shopping center is still a work in progress (so far Whole Foods and Starbucks are the only places currently opened). The last two photos show addition store space currently under construction. I have no idea when the construction will be finished or what stores are scheduled to move in there.

UPDATE (June 16, 2017): Who could’ve predicted that just a few months after this particular Whole Foods opened and a mere two days after this post went live that Amazon.com would buy the entire Whole Foods chain? Not me, that’s for sure. That announcement came from out of the blue since I hadn’t previously heard of Amazon even publicly expressing any kind of interest in Whole Foods. It’ll be interesting to see whether this merger will have an effect on prices at Whole Foods since that chain has long had a reputation for prices so high that it’s been dubbed “Whole Paycheck” while Amazon has long been into keeping prices as cheap as possible.

I stopped by Annapolis Mall for the first time in a few years. I remember when I made my weekly visit to that mall on the way to visiting Arundel Medical Center. That was in the wake of my hip revision surgery in 2011 when, during physical therapy, the physical therapist noticed that my wound wasn’t healing so she urged me to see the surgeon who then referred me to that hospital’s Wound Center. Each week I had to visit that Wound Center while the doctor there dug out sutures that had pushed its way through my wound. (My body had a reaction to the internal sutures so it chose to keep my wound open to push the fragmented sutures through. The Wound Center doctor told me that it’s similar to how the body pushes up a splinter.)

I usually went to the Annapolis Mall on the way to the Wound Center where I hung around this cafe that had free wi-fi. I would surf the web while drinking hot chocolate and eating a snack of some kind until it was appointment time. That cafe has since been replaced by an ice cream stand known as Menchie’s. It has pretty cool mosaic tile art. It looks like one of those build-your-own sundae places. (I didn’t eat there. I would like to try it sometime in the future.)

Another store I don’t recall seeing before is Lolli and Pops, which is a candy store with a really cool looking interior.

Lolli and Pops has every kind of candy imaginable from all over the world.

I’ve seen Pocky Sticks on sale before in various stores but Lolli and Pops had flavors on sale that I had never known existed.

The highlight was the gummy bears section, which has all kinds of gummy flavors, including champaign.

I’m old enough to remember when depicting a same-sex kiss was considered to be outrageous and controversial. Nowadays one can see same-sex romantic images such as this sign in The Body Shop window.

Amazon has a kiosk in the middle of the mall, which sells mainly electronic devices like the Kindle.

Another new thing I don’t recall seeing before is this aquarium that’s in the middle of the mall. It definitely attracts the kids.

The last few pictures in this post I took inside the Build-A-Bear Workshop.

One can buy other plushies besides teddy bears, such as this dinosaur.

I saw this really cool, funky, and colorful rainbow lion on sale.

Ramadan

Early that morning I went to the Loudon Lyme 5K/10K/1K Fun Run in Ashburn, Virginia. The event ended by 11 a.m. and I was facing an hour-long commute back to my home in Maryland. I remembered that Tyson’s Corner Mall is located at the halfway point between Ashburn and my home so I decided to stop there for a few hours, look around, then drive the rest of the way home.

So I drove along the toll roads while enduring wind gusts (which prompted me to drive slower than usual because I didn’t want a wind gust to push my car into the lane next to me and risk having an accident) until I reached the mall. The first thing I did was to check out the American Girl Place. The new 2016 Girl of the Year, Lea Clark, was released back in January. I saw the 6-inch mini doll version on sale at the Target that’s located near my home about a month ago or so but I didn’t see the 18-inch version in person for the first time until I arrived to the mall that day. I had meant to check out that doll in person sooner but I was diverted by other things currently going on in my life. Better late than never, I suppose. (At least I’m not keeping a doll news blog like Living a Doll’s Life so I don’t feel compelled to come up with late breaking American Girl doll news as soon as I hear about it.)

Lea Clark isn’t quite as striking as last year’s Girl of the Year, Grace Thomas, but that’s because Grace had two-toned dark brown hair with light skin and very pretty blue eyes. But Lea is still pretty cute with her caramel brown hair, tan skin, and green eyes. Her default meet outfit is very colorful and bright.

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The next few photos show the outfits that one can purchase separately for Lea. I really liked the outfits, especially the white dress with the pretty green floral embroidery but, with prices starting at $30, there was no way I was even going to consider buying one for one of the other 18-inch dolls who currently live with me.

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They have Lea on display at that bistro’s bakery counter along with Lea-themed sweets that one can buy.

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Last year the 6-inch mini doll version of Grace Thomas wasn’t sold through American Girl at all. Instead one had to go to other stores like Target or Barnes & Noble in order to purchase the Girl of the Year’s miniature doppelgänger. Since I saw the 6-inch version of Lea Clark at Target before I went to the American Girl Place, I assumed that it would be the same situation. Except that American Girl Place is now selling the 6-inch version for a few dollars more than getting that same doll at Target. The only difference is that the Target version comes with a miniature abridged version of Lea’s book while the American Girl Place version comes with this very fancy doll stand. Also the American Girl Place version comes with a different outfit from the ones that are sold at other stores. As for me, I’d rather go to Target for the mini doll while going to Michael’s or A.C. Moore for a cheap doll stand and saving a few dollars.

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There are also a few animals that one can buy for Lea. I only saw the sea turtle and a Margay cat when I was there. Each animal, which is about the size of a Beanie Baby, costs $18 each. One dollar from each sale will go to support the World Wildlife Federation, although it would be easier for me to donate directly to the WWF while getting a receipt that I can claim as a tax write-off.

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There are a series of three tie-in books about Lea’s life.

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There are some accessories currently available for Lea. The good news is that none of them are as expensive as Grace’s French Bakery from last year. The bad news is that they are still expensive as hell. The most expensive Lea item is Lea’s Rainforest House, which costs $395. (So it’s $105 cheaper than Grace’s French Bakery.)

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The next expensive item is Lea’s Fruit Stand, which costs $150.

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Then there’s Lea’s Kayak, which is a relative steal at $85.

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The cheapest Lea accessory is the $34 Lea’s Beach Picnic Set.

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For human children there are clothes and jewelry that are all based on Lea’s clothes and accessories.

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There’s also a place where one can take selfies with Lea.

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As for the modern dolls, there was nothing that really appealed to me enough to even bother with taking a picture. I’ve already taken plenty of the historical BeForever dolls on previous trips so I’m just going to focus on the few new things that arrived in this line, starting with Kaya wearing her new $42 Pow Wow Dress of Today while standing next to her $48 foal, Sparks Flying.

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This year happens to be American Girl’s 30th anniversary so, to celebrate in a profitable way, American Girl has released these special edition mini doll versions of the BeForever dolls. Usually the mini dolls are dressed in the same default meet outfit as their 18-inch counterparts. For this anniversary, nearly all of them are dressed in special party dresses, which are sold separately for their 18-inch counterparts. (The only exception is Kaya, who’s still in her original meet outfit, which is strange because I’ve seen other outfits available for sale in the 18-inch Kaya line.)

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Recently American Girl has announced a new doll that will be joining the BeForever lineup. Her name is Melody Ellison and she’s supposed to represent the 1960’s. The doll won’t be released until later this year but one can buy and read her books in the meantime. I have to admit that her hairstyle reminds me of when I used to watch reruns of That Girl when I was growing up and Marlo Thomas wore a similar hairstyle.

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After spending some time at American Girl Place, I moved on to the Disney Store. Lately it seems like half the store has been given over to Marvel and Star Wars, which is appropriate since Disney owns both now.

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They had this gorgeous Elsa doll that has articulated joints. (I definitely saw elbow joints.) She looks like she’s about the size of a Mini Super Dollfie. She costs $50 and I would’ve bought her if I didn’t have to be so tight about money these days. So I had to settle for a picture instead. Sigh!

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I made a brief stop at the Lego Store where I took some more pictures.

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For a change of pace I went to Spencer’s Gifts where I saw plenty of items related to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections.

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I also saw Hillary Clinton items as well. I have to say this, compared to the items for the male candidates (Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump), the ones for Hillary Clinton play off the fact that she’s a woman by using all kinds of sexual metaphors that just aren’t there for the men. It’s downright sexist and disgusting. Check out this t-shirt.

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And even that one is tasteful compared to this next photo, which shows a Hillary Clinton inflatable sex doll. Seriously! What’s worse is that this doll is called “Horny Hillary.” Yuck!

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I think those Hillary items are tasteless and disgusting. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary in Maryland recently and I think those Hillary sex items are gross. I can only imagine the reactions of Hillary Clinton’s most ardent supporters when they see stuff like that.

I took a look at the plaza where I would’ve entered the mall had I travelled by Metro instead of by car (like I did that day). Normally there would be things like a giant chessboard and beanbag toss corn holes that would be out for anyone to use. But, like I wrote earlier, it was a very windy day when I was there so I could imagine why the plaza was relatively bare.

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I saw a kiosk that was selling Emoji pillows.

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I saw this covered area that was advertising various Amazon.com products. I don’t know what’s going on there but the barriers were covering something.

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I took a few miscellaneous photos.

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I took one last photo as I was crossing the cross bridge to the parking garage where my car was parked.

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Free Tutorials

Here’s a video tutorial on the worst mistake acrylic painters make.

Got any scrap fabric and threads that you hate to throw away but can’t think of what to do with them? Try making fabric beads, which you can then use to make jewelry.

Here’s a tutorial on how to draw distorted pictures that reveal themselves in a curved mirror.

Browse other free tutorials previously mentioned in this blog (along with pictures) right here.

Miscellaneous Links

If you live in the Washington, DC area or plan to visit soon, there is a new attraction that will open in the city on May 1. It’s a museum that’s unlike all of the other museums that are currently located in the District of Columbia: the Vector Gallery, a museum devoted to Satan and Satanic worship. It should provide a nice contrast to the Museum of the Bible, a self-explanatory museum that’s currently under construction and is founded by the same person who founded the Hobby Lobby craft store chain.

The U.S. has a history of legalized slavery with many slaves coming from Africa. But did you know that there were also Irish slaves as well? This link provides a fascinating detail on this lesser know aspect of slavery in America that you can use in social conversation, especially if you are planning to go to any upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parties.

Read the fascinating story about how Adolf Hitler’s nephew ended up fighting in the U.S. Navy against his famous uncle during World War II.

And speaking of Adolf Hitler, here’s a 1922 New York Times article that documented Hitler’s rise and there are some eerie similarities with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Here’s a bizarre diorama that was created by artist Mark Ryden. If you insert a penny into the coin slot, the diorama will come to life where you get to see things like twin Abraham Lincolns riding on a bicycle built for two and skeletons all over the place. All of it is set against a pastel pink Gay 90’s background. You have to see it to believe it.

Here’s a fascinating BBC News story about how artists have structurally different brains.

Don’t believe the hype: Being a bestselling author on Amazon.com isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Would you like to have some vintage posters that were made from the 1890’s to the late 1930’s hanging on your wall? You can now download them and print them out for free, courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Or does your personal taste lie more towards Jan Vermeer? The good news is that you can now download and print all 36 of Vermeer’s paintings (including his most famous piece, Girl With a Pearl Earring) for free right here.

When I did my previous video in the My Friend Cayla series, I thought that I would take at least a month off before I make any more videos. But then I decided to do a Google search and started to see people selling the doll on eBay and Amazon.com’s Marketplace for well over $100. That markup is way over the $60 retail price that the big box retailers like Target and Walmart are charging for.

Worse, there are people overseas who are taking advantage of the fact that the company that originally came out with My Friend Cayla is based in the United Kingdom. The doll was released in both the U.K. and Europe last November but the doll wasn’t released in North America until last month. As a result, any new products in that line will hit the U.K. and Europe months before the rest of the world. Right now a special Princess edition of My Friend Cayla has been released in the U.K. so people over there are selling that particular doll on eBay and Amazon Marketplace in the U.S. for well over $100. This video addresses cheaper ways that people in North America can pursue if they want to see a Cayla doll in a princess outfit. (Namely either wait a few months until the Princess edition of the doll is released in North America or just buy My Friend Cayla in a big box retailer for $60 then buy a princess dress for other 18-inch dolls that are currently available under names like Springfield and My Life As for around $10-20 and have the doll wear that dress.)

I’ve seen such toy scalping shenanigans before with Cabbage Patch Kids, Tickle Me Elmo, Beanie Babies, Furby, and Zhu Zhu Pets. People, do your wallet a favor and don’t fall for these jerks! You’ll only kick yourself months later when plenty of a certain toy arrives in a store for far lower than what you pay some toy scalper.

So, without further ado, here’s the video. Enjoy!

And, in case you’ve missed the other videos in this series, you can view this playlist starting with the first video I made.

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