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Why entertainment public relations can be unprofitable despite having clients who hit the big time.

Art galleries are exhibiting the work of Grenfell Tower fire victim Khadija Saye.

A computer designed Stanley Black & Decker’s new tool, marking a big shift from relying on humans to do the job.

Permanent Japanese residency to be possible for foreigners with anime-related jobs after one year.

USA Today did an investigative report about how many truck drivers are forced into debt and frequently worked past exhaustion.

Someone purchased the first Apple computer that was released in 1976, the Apple-1, for $355,500 at an auction.

XOD: A new and open source visual programming language for Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc.

How to choose standout fonts for your embroidery projects.

98-year-old Russ Gremel donated $2 million in stock to create a 395-acre wildlife refuge.

Why the last thing open source needs is more corporate oversight.

This Ethereum-backed art could be the future of collectibles.

These crochet baby flip-flops are too adorable.

Open source documentation is bad, but proprietary software is worse.

How these crochet octopuses are helping premature babies.

Home robot Kuri can now recognize pets, see and stream in HD.

Artificial intelligence dolls and robots are this year’s Christmas must-have toys.

German breeders develop open source plant seeds.

A free tutorial on how to make fake succulents from pine cones.

Download more than 2,500 images of vibrant Japanese woodblock prints and drawings from the Library of Congress for free.

Download 36 vintage Dadaist magazines (plus other avant-garde books, leaflets, and ephemera) for free.

30 years, 30 great anime titles.

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For the past few years I’ve been attending a party at a friend’s place on Halloween. This year was the first year that I actually shot photos.

My friend had installed red light bulbs in the lamps, which gave off this really spooky vibe. I shot a bunch of photos with the flash turned off, which led to some really creepy effects.

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I took this next photo using a flash. That was the only time I used a flash that night.

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There was also a bonfire in the backyard where I took these last three photos.

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A couple of years ago I went to a party at the home of a person whom I met through my support group for people who are separated or divorced. She announced that she was having a bonfire and she invited people to bring anything they would like to burn. A couple of years ago I brought my wedding cake topper to burn, which I wrote about in this blog and I shot this short video.

Recently the same person was having another party with a bonfire at her home and she invited people to bring something to burn. I found something that had been hanging on the wall of my home that I thought would be proper to burn. It was a wedding present from my parents and it featured this embroidery piece that was handmade by my mother the placed in this lovely frame. It had hung in the living room of my home for many years and it still remained there after my husband literally ran away from home and subsequently divorced me.

I no longer wanted the embroidery piece as is. I couldn’t sell it on eBay because it was personalized with my name and my ex-husband’s name along with the date of our wedding. I thought of ways that I could somehow alter it and maybe use it in some kind of potential future arts and crafts project only to find that it really can’t be altered without ruining or destroying the piece.

I called my mother to see if she would want it back since she worked hard on it but she said she didn’t want it either (especially since it has my ex-husband’s name on it).

So I did what I felt I had to do. I removed the piece from the frame (which I kept because it’s really too lovely to destroy and I can definitely recycle it), brought it with me to the party, and burned it. I also made a video of its destruction.

The party hostess also provided sparklers for the guests to light (especially since it was the night before the Fourth of July holiday) and here’s a photo of one of the sparklers I lit using the bonfire.

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I did some volunteer work for the Bernie Sanders campaign in Greenbelt, Maryland and here are some scenic photos I took on the side.

One of my friends had graciously opened her home for people to come and do phone banking. The back of her home faces Greenbelt Lake, which is really lovely to see at sunset.

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One of the volunteers had posted this script that we were supposed to use while phone banking.

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After the second night of phone banking the hostess graciously started a fire in the backyard. I really loved the side design of the fire pit that she used.

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A couple of days later I did door to door canvassing around the neighborhood with a group of other people. While I was walking I saw this giant life sized garden gnome that caught my eye. Notice the size of that gnome next to the size of the gate.

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I think my New Year’s resolution of churning out one sketch a day was a bit too ambitious for me. I’ve decided to modify that resolution by only doing a new drawing in my sketchbook if I’m not working on anything else that’s creative on a certain day. So far this modified approach is working better for me than having to force myself to churn out one new sketch every single day.

First is this two-page spread dedicated to the recent death of David Bowie. The drawing of Bowie is based on this photo that I found posted on this site. As for the lyrics on the side, they came from the song “Station to Station”, which you can see a video featuring a live performance of that song right here.

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I usually don’t two page spreads in my sketchbook but I not only felt that David Bowie was an important enough person to warrant such a tribute but the design helped solved a problem that I encountered when I did the Ptolemy Stone sketch that I wrote about last week. What I didn’t mention in that prior entry that something unexpected happened when I did the Ptolemy Stone using markers instead of ball-point pens (like I used in the previous drawings). Basically the ink from the markers bled through to the other side. Fortunately I didn’t have a sketch already drawn on the other side. It was kind of a bummer because I’ve been putting drawings on both sides of a page in my sketchbook so I had a page with one side being unusable unless I thought of a design that could cover up the ink bleeds. Doing that two-page spread solved that problem. I drew Bowie as facing the light that’s not unlike the numerous testimonies of many near-death experiences that have been documented in books like Life After Life.

For the other drawings I did this week I turned to Rory’s Story Cubes for inspiration. I used the original set where I saw two cubes that had pictures of a person in a parachute and fire. So I did this twisted drawing.

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For this drawing I decided to try using the Enchanted Mix-In instead of the main set, which inspired me to do this fantasy drawing.

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I went to my first art show in 2016. It was the formal opening of the Winter Gallery Show at ReCreative Spaces in Mount Rainier, Maryland, which featured the art of Arthur Kwon Lee. Here are the photos I took at last Friday’s event.

Zip Cars was a major sponsor of that event and they gave away free pens.

ReCreative Spaces, January 8 2015 Cupcakes were provided by Bake Sweet Love. I had the salted caramel one and it tasted really good. One can order their cupcakes online through its website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or blog. ReCreative Spaces, January 8 2015

The big hands-on art activity they had at that event was coloring pages from one of those adult coloring books that have become a big rage these days. (I can’t seem to walk into any store without seeing at least one adult coloring book on sale.) The next photo shows a work in progress.

Winter Gallery Opening Event at ReCreative Spaces, Mount Rainier, Maryland, January 8 2015

I colored both sides of the page that I selected to color. Here are the results.

ReCreative Spaces, January 8 2015

ReCreative Spaces, January 8 2015

Here are the rest of the photos which included a guitar player who provided live music, some people socializing, and some of Arthur Kwon Lee’s art that is currently on display at ReCreative Spaces through March 31.

ReCreative Spaces, January 8 2015

ReCreative Spaces, January 8 2015

ReCreative Spaces, January 8 2015

ReCreative Spaces, January 8 2015

ReCreative Spaces, January 8 2015

ReCreative Spaces, January 8 2015

ReCreative Spaces, January 8 2015

I’m finally getting around to writing posts of other things I’ve done while Artomatic went on. Now that Artomatic is history, I’m no longer being distracted by that event plus Christmas is coming soon so everything is slowing down at the moment. I now have time to write about some of the other things I’ve been doing lately.

On December 5 the Otis Street Arts Project was having a chain saw carving demonstration outside of its studios in Mount Rainier, Maryland. I thought it sounded interesting so I checked it out. It turned out that an artist named Glenn Richardson was displaying some of his work, which he created while using his chain saw, and December 5 was the last day of this special exhibition that he and two other artists were showing at the Otis Street Arts Project. There was a reception with snack food and drinks while Glenn Richardson was outside carving a statue.

One week later, when Artomatic was holding its last day, I saw that a chain saw demonstration was also announced as well. I went to that demonstration only to discovered that the chain saw carver was none other than Glenn Richardson, who did the chain saw carving at the Otis Street event that previous Saturday. The setup was similar with the wooden demon head dangling from a crane and Glenn’s dog, Gus, barking whenever Glenn was working on his latest chain saw creation. The only difference between the Otis Street and Artomatic events is that the former also included a statue being set on fire, which was absent from the Artomatic demonstration.

Here is the setup outside of the Otis Street Arts Project Studio.

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Glenn Richardson is hard at work as he puts a few finishing touches on his latest work of art.

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Once he finished with his carving, he set it on fire. He explained that he had soaked the wood in water before the demonstration so the flames wouldn’t burn the statue all the way through.

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Once the fire burned out, the statue took on a darker color as a result of it being charred by the flames.

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

Glenn Richardson had his other works on display as well, such as this dragon bench.

Chain Saw Carving Demonstration

In addition to the above photos, I also shot this short video of the chain saw carving demonstration in action. You’ll not only hear the whirl of the chainsaw but you’ll periodically hear Glenn’s dog Gus barking. (The dog was chained next to Glenn’s truck so he wouldn’t accidentally get in the way of the chain saw.)

Back in April I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Baltimore for a session of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School that was held at The Wind-Up Space. The model for that evening was a sideshow performer named Reggie Bügmüncher who’s known in certain circles for her ability to eat live worms on stage, walk on glass, and lie on a bed of nails (among her oeuvre of tricks).

Thanks to Facebook I now know that Reggie’s name is currently in the news in connection with that British Airways plane that literally caught on fire at a Las Vegas airport. She wasn’t on that flight. She just happened to be at that same airport waiting for her own flight when she looked out the window and saw the plane on fire. She immediately took a photo of that burning plane and posted it on Instagram. Within minutes she was inundated with requests for information on that story as it became breaking news and she began to talk with reporters about what she saw. They noted her name and, well, she is now part of that news story. Just doing a Google search on her name results in all kinds of articles about her and that plane on fire.

Here are just a few of the drawings I did of Reggie Bügmüncher that night at Dr. Sketchy’s back in April.

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You can view more of my drawings of Reggie Bügmüncher right here. (WARNING!: Some of the drawings depict her eating live worms so they are sort of NSFW.)

I’ve written about my divorce before but I’m writing about it again not because I’m a drama queen but because I’m hoping that this post would get mentioned by the Delightfully Tacky blog. Especially with that blog’s The Brave Ones section where other writers write about their own experiences with overcoming trauma.

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I don’t know if anything will come of it but I want to do things in the hope that my life will be improved enough so I can move on from the drama of the last three-and-a-half years. My therapist, divorce recovery support group, and even a few books have suggested that everyday I do at least one thing that could possibly help me move on from this major trauma that I went through and I’m still struggling with.

I married my college sweetheart. Compared to other boyfriends I’ve had, this man was very mature, level-headed, and very responsible. He never developed any addictions nor was he ever violent towards me in any way. We had a lot in common. When I introduced him to my parents, he managed to charm them. When I announced our engagement, my parents were totally thrilled because they liked him. We got married 10 months after I finished college and I felt like I had died and gone to heaven because I considered him to be my best friend as well as my husband. At times he even served as a model and muse for some of my art projects.

Man Lying in Bed, Watching Television (B&W)

Man Lying in Bed, Watching Television (Color)

We had weathered a lot together, including the sudden death of his mother in 2010 and my hip surgery in 2011. I thought that we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together. This blog post, which described this baseball card collage I made as a present for my husband in early 2011 based on his own suggestion, is typical of the married life I had with him.

Baseball Cards Collage

My husband did a lot for me both before and after my hip surgery. He made all the preparations for my surgery, he took time off from his job so he could take care of me while I recuperated, and he even lined up friends to drive me to and from physical therapy sessions when he had to return to his job. On Christmas Day, 2011, we had a lovely time together, which I recounted in this post. I was happy in the marriage and my husband acted happy as well. He didn’t indicate that he felt there were problems in our marriage or anything like that.

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It all came to a sudden screeching halt just three days after that lovely Christmas Day and three months after my hip surgery. He came home from work, announced “I’m moving out…I found a room,” threw some pieces of paper my way, then ran out the door before I could even respond. I looked at the papers. One was a check for $2,000 that was designated as my first alimony payment. One was a separation schedule that he drummed up that would lead to our divorce. The other was a note where he blamed the fact that the day before I had the hip surgery, I went on a little shopping trip to a mall where I purchased an American Girl doll who was supposed to represent the 1970’s. she had long blonde hair (like I did before I hit my teens), and she wore an outfit that was nearly identical to one that I wore as a child in the same era.

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Basically that doll was the reason why he said he had to leave home.

I was totally shocked by all this. At the time I thought he had simply snapped due to all the stress over my health problems and some stresses at his job and this volunteer job he took on as treasurer for our church. The night he left I wrote a short entry hoping that he would soon return home and the separation would be a short-lived one.

Michael in Red and Green

A couple of days later my husband was still missing so I did a few Google searches under “My husband ran away from home” and I was led to this book by Vikki Stark called Runaway Husbands where she went through a similar situation as I did. I ordered it through Amazon.com and for the next several months I read and re-read that book over and over again.

Despite Vikki Stark’s contention that, based on her own experiences and her research of other women who went through the same thing, my marriage was destined for divorce, I still held out hope that my husband would reconsider. I had even contemplated selling that doll that he blamed for the walkout on eBay in the hopes that he would realize that I was serious about saving our marriage and return to me.

When I read Stark’s book, especially the section about how there’s usually another woman involved, I initially thought that there was either no one else or, if there was another woman, she would’ve been a co-worker at my husband’s job at NASA. My assumptions were totally shattered a month later when a few of my friends finally came forward with the truth. They had seen him in the company of a friend of ours whom we both met through this cafe that we frequented. (She worked as a barmaid two nights a week while being open about struggling with severe depression that has impacted much of her adult life. She even mentioned that she had an experimental pacemaker implanted into her brain because her depression had grown that bad. About 10 months before my husband ran away from home she had to check into a hospital for a few days in order to adjust her meds because her body had adjusted to her current course of treatment.) He took her on dates to the same cafe where she worked as a barmaid (and the same one where my husband and I were regulars) within a week after he left me so my friends figured it out before I did.

I thought that the barmaid was my friend and I even felt sorry for her because of her struggles with mental illness. She was among my friends whom I approached when I was trying to look for my husband and she denied knowing where he was. When I told her how he ran away from home, she seemed shocked at the time. But now I realize that she was just a fake friend who had no qualms about stabbing me in the back while I was still recovering from hip surgery and was still willing to stay with him even after I told her he ran away from home.

For the next year I didn’t hear from my husband other than receiving e-mails and texts demanding that we separate our finances and we sign this separation agreement as soon as possible. In his messages he basically barked orders at me like I was his employee instead of his wife. Whenever I protested he would threaten to sue me in court. Basically my husband went from being my best friend to my own worst enemy.

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To make manners worse, on Christmas Eve, 2012, he sent a divorce petition in a .pdf format that was attached to an e-mail. Then he demanded that I sign it and mail it to his lawyer as soon as possible. I consulted a lawyer who told me that it wasn’t real because there was no case number assigned to it. My husband had his lawyer file for divorce for real and I ended up in divorce court in April, 2013.  Our divorce was declared final by June. In August, just two months after the divorce being final, I got word via Facebook that my ex-husband and my ex-friend suddenly got married.

In the aftermath of my husband’s dramatic about face, I began to see a therapist and I also started attending weekly meetings of a divorce recovery support group. Through them I began to gain a new perspective on my marriage. I realize now that there were some issues in the marriage that I had swept under the carpet and was willing to overlook because I thought my husband was such a swell guy. For example, my husband grew up in a family that was basically dysfunctional and full of drama and it had an effect on him that I should not have ignored. These days I tell people that before they get married, see how that person interacts with his/her own family. If there’s something troubling about your fiancee’s family dynamic, get out now. Ditto for any other red flag that your fiancee may display. It’s easier and cheaper to break an engagement than it is to get a divorce.

I kept on reading other books after I went through Vikki Stark’s book several times and they were all a tremendous help to me. I also have to credit my family and friends for sticking by me and helping me through this sudden out-of-the-blue divorce. If it weren’t for them, I would be in a worse place now both mentally and financially.

I’ve always considered myself to be an artist but I’m having a hard time trying to make ends meet with only selling through art shows and craft fairs. I’m currently looking into temping and freelance work so I can support myself once my husband’s court-mandated five-year alimony runs out. I’m trying to move on. My therapist tells me that I’m making great progress but there are times when I doubt it myself.

I’ve also tried finding creative ways of dealing with what happened. When a member of my divorce recovery group threw a party at her home, she invited people to bring things in order to thrown into a bonfire that she was having in her backyard. I donated my old wedding cake topper for the occasion.

And then there is the time on Halloween when I did this wiccan/pagan ritual where I burned a lock of my ex-husband’s baby hair (which was saved by his late mother when he was nearly a year old and it came with a bunch of items from his mother’s estate—ultimately he left it behind with me).

I have no other choice but to keep on trying new avenues and make major life decisions by myself and hope everything works out for me because right now I’m currently in limbo. I don’t know where I’ll end up. I’m hoping for the best while trying everything possible to avoid the worst.

http://www.nablopomo.com

Groundhog Day
Back on New Year’s Day I went to Tyson’s Corner Mall because I wanted to see what it was like to be at the American Girl Place on the day that it formally unveiled its new Girl of the Year doll. All I learned was that not only was that store totally crowded but the rest of the mall was also so full that it was difficult to find a place to sit anywhere in the mall. (Not everyone was there for the new 2015 Girl of the Year rollout at American Girl Place. I think there are a lot of people in the DC area who just love to go to the local shopping mall on New Year’s Day.)

While I was at American Girl Place on that day, I saw crowds surrounding one of the new accessories that were made for Grace Thomas. It’s a bakery fit for an 18-inch doll complete with miniature food (which isn’t really edible), miniature kitchen utensils, a miniature refrigerator, a miniature oven, and other miniature things. I made a mental note to return to that store at a later date so I could get a closer look at that bakery because of 1) the amazing details and 2) the fact that this item, which is supposedly made for a target audience of girls between 8-12, costs a whopping $500!

After waiting a few weeks, I decided to give American Girl Place a try again in order to check out that bakery in more detail. I went on a weeknight mainly because I learned a long time ago that the best time to go to that store is Monday-Thursday both day and night. That’s because the kids are in school during the weekday, they tend to spend the late afternoon involved in sports or other extracurricular activities, and they spend the evening doing their homework and preparing for the next day at school. That store tends to be nearly empty on those days so one can more leisurely peruse the inventory without having to deal with hordes of kids running around, grabbing things, and having meltdowns because their parents wouldn’t buy them something that they really wanted.

Once again I took the Silver Line Metro to the Tyson’s Corner station then took the pedestrian bridge to the mall. When I arrived I saw that the Christmas tree that was there the last time I visited has been dismantled but the ice skating rink is still there.

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I briefly sat in one of the outside couches that are surrounded by these special glass tables that put out flames that heat the area. I was fascinated by the flames that heated the area.

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Here is a shot of one of the life-sized bird sculptures that decorate the plaza area outside the mall entrance.

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Like I wrote earlier, I returned to the mall because I wanted to get a closer look at that bakery because a floor model was so crowded with kids that this next photo was the best shot of inside the bakery that I could get on New Year’s Day.

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I’ll admit that I originally wanted to get a closer look at that bakery because I intended to write a post comparing a real-life bakery with that $500 miniature reproduction. A few days before my trip to Tyson’s Corner, I took photos of a local family-owned bakery in my area that has been in business for decades. It’s called Raulin’s Bakery and it’s located in Beltsville, Maryland in a shopping center.

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The next two shots show the inside of the bakery. Raulin’s has some incredibly tasting desserts of all kinds. If you’re ever in the Washington, DC area, you find yourself in the Maryland suburbs and you’re dying to satisfy your sweet tooth,  check out Raulin’s. (And, no, I’m not being paid to write this either. I’m just a total fan of their sweets.)

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So I was all ready to take some close-up shots of this bakery so I could write a post about the $500 bakery. When I arrived at the American Girl Place, I found that—believe it or not—the $500 bakery was sold out! The only thing remaining at the place where I saw that bakery on New Year’s Day was this pad of tiny slips advertising the bakery along with the hefty price tag.

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I was kind of surprised that it was sold out because, to be honest, I just didn’t think there would be too many parents willing to pay that much money for a doll accessory and I thought that the bakery would still be in the store when I made a return visit. When I looked online at the American Girl site, I saw that the bakery was on backorder until February 13. I wonder if there was a situation where each American Girl store was initially allotted only one or two bakeries while its online store was similarly limited to no more than 10 bakeries and all of them were sold out because so few of them were available to begin with. It sounds plausible to me because I just don’t see too many parents willing to buy something that expensive as a toy for their child to play with. When I mentioned that bakery and the $500 price tag in a Facebook post, some of my friends who are parents of children who are in American Girl’s target demographic totally balked at the price.

Even though the bakery was out of stock, there were smaller bakery items available that I could still photograph and write about. There’s Grace’s Pastry Cart, which costs $150, and occupied the same space that once held the $500 bakery.

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Compared to the bakery, the pastry cart is pretty small and would take up less space in any home. I have to admit that the details on this cart were really amazing to behold in person.

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I was impressed with the realism of the miniature pastry boxes that held miniature pastries of various kinds.

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The display for the cupcakes and other smaller pastries had a removable cover. One could also remove the tiny cupcakes and pastries as well.

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I was especially impressed with the tiny bread basket holding tiny loaves of French bread, each in their own tiny bag.

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The realistic details on the French bread were amazing.

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I also got a closer look at the 2015 Girl of the Year. Her name is Grace Thomas, she enjoys baking very much, and she would like to own her own bakery when she grows up. I have to admit that, in terms of looks, she is definitely an improvement over the previous Girl of the Year, Isabelle Palmer. Grace looks very striking with her blue eyes, freckles, and brown hair.

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Her hair is very long in the back and it’s quite lovely. It felt very soft to the touch. If it weren’t for the fact that this doll has a retail price of $120, I probably would’ve bought her on impulse. Instead, I decided to save my money and just take pictures of the doll.

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The next photo shows Grace and her French bulldog, Bonbon, flanking Grace’s Bistro Set. Compared to the $500 bakery and $150 Grace’s Pastry Cart, this bistro set is a relative bargain at only $85. There aren’t as many tiny food and drink items as the ones in the bakery and pastry cart sets but Grace’s Bistro Set still looks pretty cute.

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The next few photos show the attention to detail regarding the food, drink, plates, eating utensils, and even the Eiffel Tower-style menu holder. I lifted the chair briefly and it feels like it’s made out of metal and it has some hefty weight to it.

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I’ll admit that I was disappointed at not being able to get a closer look at that $500 bakery. As a consolation to myself, I decided to browse the store’s BeForever line (which consists of the historical dolls that originally gave American Girl its start) until I came across this item that belongs to Samantha Parkington, who’s supposed to represent the early 1900’s, which was at the height of the Progressive Era in the United States. The next photo shows Samantha inside of her ice cream parlor. Ice cream parlors hold as much sweet allure for me as bakeries, especially during the hot summer months. (Since it’s still the dead of winter as of this writing, I currently don’t feel very tempted to order myself an ice cream cone or hot fudge sundae.)

Like the $500 Grace’s French Bakery, Samantha’s Ice Cream Parlor would take up a significant amount of space in any home, looks very realistic, and is full of incredible details. With a retail price of $300, the ice cream parlor is also very expensive yet just $200 cheaper than the bakery.

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I was impressed by the realistic cracks in the ice cream scoops and the tiny roses painted on the bowl.

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The candy jar lid in the next photo didn’t open at all (probably because having those miniature gumballs spill out would’ve provided choking hazards to very young children) but the details still looked very realistic.

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The cash register looked like it was made from metal.

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The pink “marble” on the soda fountain looked realistic and there was also a very charming Tiffany lamp on top.

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The menu in the next photo looked interesting—especially the listed prices. You definitely know that this ice cream parlor represents the early 20th century, especially since nickels and dimes don’t really buy much of anything these days. (LOL!)

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I also saw this area dedicated to horses and stables for dolls. The Stable and Supplies in the next few photos cost $110. But that’s just for the stable and related supplies itself. The horses cost extra.

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The Chestnut Horse that the doll is riding on costs $75 The Paint Filly standing in the stable costs $48. The Apricot Poodle Puppy costs $28. Of course the doll and her riding outfit are also sold separately.

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The next photo shows this doll-sized piano that was really interesting because it looked very realistic.

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I even saw volume control and an input/output button. I didn’t see anything listed about this piano on the American Girl site. I don’t know if it’s a new piano or one that has been discontinued. (If it’s the latter, then why was it displayed in the store like it’s currently available?) The closest I’ve found to an online description is this entry on the unofficial American Girl Wiki.

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Since the next big consumer holiday is Valentine’s Day, there were plenty of Valentine items that one could buy. One cute idea was this doll t-shirt, which came with its own envelope in case someone wanted to mail it to a doll owner in place of a regular card.

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There were the American Girl pets who were waiting to be someone’s Valentine.

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I usually don’t pay any attention to Bitty Babies but I really loved this cute Valentine’s outfit.

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The next couple of photos show American Girl’s Bitty Baby line, baby dolls that are priced cheaper than the other dolls (yet they are still more expensive than what one would find in a big box retailer) and are meant for children who are too young for the American Girl doll. They are designed to withstand more abuse from a toddler. I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of baby dolls (even as a child I always preferred older looking dolls like Barbie to baby dolls) but I thought that the store display looked nice.

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I also got a closer look at the area dedicated to Grace where shoppers are invited to take their own selfies next to a standee of Grace and Bonbon and upload them online.

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I was impressed by the realism of this area, especially since it occupies just a small corner of the store.

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I also took some photos of this display of the BeForever doll known as Kit Kittredge. I never used to care that much about the doll until last year when American Girl retooled the entire historical doll line as BeForever and all of the historical dolls received new outfits that, in most cases, were definitely an improvement over what they used to wear. Kit is supposed to represent the Great Depression and she is said to have a great interest in journalism and photography.

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I was really impressed by the miniature newspaper, photographs, camera, and film.

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Notice that tiny roll of Kodak film in the next photo.

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I ended my visit to the American Girl Place by checking out the place in the back of the store where people can buy something to eat. The sit-down American Girl Bistro was closed early for the evening (which is the only major disadvantage of coming to the American Girl Place on a weeknight). But the takeout area where one can buy drinks, candy, cake slices, and cookies was still open. I noticed that Grace Thomas flanked this area, which is appropriate since she’s supposed to be a baker.

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The cookies served in the takeout section comes in two sizes—one for a human and one that’s sized for a doll.

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I order two chocolate chip cookies to go. The store clerk put them in this really tiny American Girl shopping bag that I thought was so cute that I took photos of that bag when I got home.

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The cookies were wrapped pretty well. They basically tasted like the typical Nestle’s Toll House cookies that are pretty common (due to the fact that they are relatively easy to bake).

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I took a photo of my Julie Albright doll with the tiny shopping bag. If I cut the handles a bit shorter, this bag would be a perfect doll accessory. What a cute idea!

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I did other things at Tyson’s Corner Mall besides hanging around the American Girl Place. I came across these shiatzu massage chairs. I’ve seen them at other malls and I’ve even sat in them and paid the money so I could get a quick massage a few times. What made these chairs at the Tyson’s Corner Mall different is that they also provided USB ports so one could get his/her mobile device recharged while undergoing a massage. I was thrilled with the idea until I found that I needed my own cord in order to get my cell phone recharged. Nevertheless I paid $1 to get a 3-minute massage. (One can get longer massages for higher prices but, for me, three minutes having some machine rub and squeeze me is about as much as I can take.)

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I stopped by the Disney Store where I found these interesting looking small plush animals. Basically they are Disney characters re-shaped as these cute logs or something like that and they are sold under the label Tsum Tsum. I later learned that Tsum Tsum was something that started in Japan as a video game and when Disney released real-life plushes based on the game they were a huge hit. So now Disney is trying to spark a similar craze in the U.S.

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I had a good laugh out of seeing Olaf the Snowman from the Frozen movie as one of those Hawaiian hula dancers that people would put on the car dashboard.

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I walked past the Montblanc pen store where it displayed a special limited-edition John F. Kennedy pen.

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I stopped by the LEGO Store where I saw a few interesting kits on sale (including one based on the Disney Frozen movie).

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I walked past this Steinway & Sons store, which sells—what else?—Steinway pianos. I paid more attention to it than I usually would mainly because I went to this mall just a few days after I visited this piano store in College Park with an interesting building façade that is currently in the process of going out of business.

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I basically looked in the windows because I’m not in the market for a piano. (One of those Steinways would overwhelm the living room of my townhouse.)

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Besides, if I really want a Steinway piano, there’s an app for that.

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I usually don’t blog about public restroom toilets in shopping malls but I noticed that the toilets in the Tyson’s Corner Mall have two different flush buttons depending on how much body waste you eliminated. (Basically the green button is for urine only while the other one is for when you eliminated so much that you need more water to get rid of it.) On top of it, if you’re slow in deciding which flush button to use, the toilet will automatically flush using the right amount of water based on the amount of waste detected. This would be especially of interest to my Unitarian Universalist congregation because, for the past few years, the denomination (especially the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee) has been emphasizing The Human Right to Water, especially as it relates to the scarcity of water in Third World countries and the water pollution resulting from oil spills and fracking here in the United States. I still remember when the minister at my congregation gave a sermon on how important water conservation is and what we can all do to conserve as much water as possible.

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The next photo shows an aerial shot of Wasabi, this sushi restaurant where the food is delivered on a long conveyor belt and all you have to do is select the plate of any food item that interests you. The food is incredibly fresh and I really love eating there even if it’s a bit on the pricey side.

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Here’s a panoramic shot of the same place, which shows how long Wasabi is.

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By the time I decided to leave the mall it had grown cold and dark. Because I was there on a weeknight, the only people who used the ice skating rink were the mall employees.

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I also took the last couple of photos of the outdoor couches surrounding the warming table with flames inside. The darkness of the night really makes the flames stand out more.

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