You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Florida’ tag.

Hillary Clinton is not your white savior.

Genius hacks that will greatly improve your photography skills in less than three minutes.

Guatemalan artisans are going after 64,000+ Etsy products for copyright infringement.

Someone made an “inspirational” Instagram account for people who hate inspirational quotes and it’s hilarious.

Why is finding a job so hard and frustrating these days?

Mary and the Witch Flower was made with free OpenToonz animation software.

How artists are bypassing dealers and selling directly to collectors.

These tiny Drawbots put unique doodles on coasters.

Say goodbye to The Pizza Time Players: Chuck E. Cheese retires its animatronic band.

How Young Adult novel fans uncovered a huge scam on The New York Times bestseller list.

Meet Lillith, a chill demon who was cast out of Eden.

Morph your fridge into a massive Game Boy with these awesome magnets.

Five pieces of good news about the recent surge of Nazis.

Why the media should carry some of the blame for the rise of Trump.

Why med schools are requiring art classes.

Photos of abandoned Olympics venues from around the world.

Inside Celebration, Florida: The depressing crime-ridden city built by the Walt Disney Company.

Hear what Shakespeare sounded like in the original pronunciation.

Trump is shedding supporters like no other president in modern history.

Meet Pepper, Japan’s robot priest that can now conduct funerals.


UPDATE (September 10, 2017): Since Hurricane Irma has struck Florida and the Caribbean soon after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas and Louisiana, I decided to alter the title of this post. I will update this list with any Hurricane Irma-specific relief efforts if I get any new information.

I’ve been getting links on social media to various places where you can donate money and other goods to the victims of last weekend’s catastrophic Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas. Here’s a list, which I will update as I become more aware of more organizations that are helping out with this effort.

By the way I would urge everyone to read this post BEFORE sending any non-monetary goods. So far many of the organizations have received things that the hurricane victims don’t need (such as sexy lingerie, prom dresses, and winter coats). If you are going to send gift cards, make sure that the store also have locations in the Houston-Galveston area first. (That same post mentions that relief workers have received WaWa gift cards that they can’t use because there are no WaWa stores in that area.)

Airbnb is waiving service fees for those affected by the disaster and checking in until September 25. Click here if you need accommodations or you wish to offer a hurricane victim a place to stay.

Austin Disaster Relief: Donate online at

Austin Pets Alive!: Donate online and/or volunteer to foster an animal displaced by the hurricane at

Bayou Action Street Health (BASH): Donate money online at Donate vital resources (such as rain ponchos and first aid supplies) right here.

Best Friends: Donate online here.

Black Women’s Defense League/World on My Shoulders: Donate online here.

Catholic Charities of USA: To make a financial donation, visit CCUSA’s disaster-specific website or text 71777 to make a donation.

Direct Relief USA: Donate online through their donation page.

Driscoll Children’s Hospital: Donate online at

EMERGE Harvey Relief Fund: Donate online here.

Feeding America: Donate online here.

Feeding South Florida: Donate online at

Feeding Texas: Donate online at

Florida Disaster Fund: Donate online here.

Florida Keys Children’s Shelter: Donate online at

Global Giving: Donate online for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

GoFundMe: Donate online at

Google Hurricane Harvey Response: Google will double any contributions you make through its site. Donate online here.

Google Hurricane Irma Response: Google will double any contributions you make through its site. Donate online here.

Help Harvey Victims on Dialysis: Donate online here.

Houston Coalition for the Homeless: Donate online here.

The Humane Society of the United States Disaster Relief Fund: Donate online here.

Hurricane Harvey Grassroots Response Louisiana: Donate online here.

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund that will accept tax deductible donations. The fund is administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity. To make a financial donation, visit the GHCF website.

ICNA (Muslims for Humanity) Relief: Donate online at

International Relief Teams: Donate online at

Miami Diaper Bank: Donate online at

NECHAMA’s Response to Hurricane Harvey: Donate online at

PayPal/eBay’s Hurricane Harvey Relief: Donate online here.

PetSmart Charities: You can either donate in person at any PetSmart store or donate online at

Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies: Donate online through their PayPal account.

Salvation Army USA: Donate online at or by calling 1-800 SAL-ARMY. Or send a check marked “disaster relief” by mail to The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 1959, Atlanta, GA 30301.

Samaritan’s Purse: Donate online and find information about volunteering to help in the flooded areas at Or send a check by mail to Samaritan’s Purse, P.O. Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607.

SPCA Disaster Relief Fund: Donate online here.

SPCA of Texas: Donate online at

St. John Community Foundation: Donate online at

St. John Rescue: Donate online through their main website or their GoFundMe campaign.

Tejas Houston: Donate online here.

The Texas Diaper Bank: Donate online at

Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund: Donate online at

Texas Organizing Project’s Hurricane Harvey Community Relief Fund: Donate online at

Transadvocate Harvey Relief: Donate online here.

UNICEF USA: Donate for Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey.

Unitarian Universalist Association’s Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund: Donate online here.

United Global Outreach: Donate online at

United Peace Relief: Donate online at

United Way of Miami-Dade: Donate online at

Santa Claus Baby New Year

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

I’ve purchased a few ornaments on my travels. Here are the ones I currently own.

I purchased this ornament when I went to Walt Disney World with my then-husband in 1992. This one commemorated the 10th anniversary of the opening of Epcot Center.


I’ve purchased this faceted crystal Hershey Kiss-shaped ornament during one of my numerous trips to Hershey, Pennsylvania over the years. It really shines very brightly when the lights are on.


Here is a dripping clock ornament, which is obviously inspired by Salvador Dali’s famous painting The Persistence of Memory, that I bought when I made my first (and, so far, only trip) to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida with my then-husband.


I purchased this ornament when I took my then-husband to Fort McHenry in Baltimore. (I had been to that place several times growing up but it was the first time I took my husband during our marriage.) The outer circle says “Seasons Greetings” and “Fort Mc Henry.” There are two smaller gold banners above and below the image of Fort McHenry and they are embossed with this sentence: “Birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner.” (It’s a reference to the fact that Francis Scott Key wrote a poem that later became the lyrics to the national anthem while he saw Fort McHenry under siege during the War of 1812.)


The last three pictures feature Moravian stars, which are type of stars that originated with the Moravian Church. I first became acquainted with these stars when my sister-in-law moved to the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, which includes two towns that were founded by members of the Moravian Church—Bethlehem and Nazareth. The smallest of the stars is one that I purchased at the Moravian Book Shop, which is located in Bethlehem and it’s definitely worth visiting if you’re ever in town.


The second photograph features a paper Moravian star, which was given to me by one of my sister-in-law’s friends. She lived in Nazareth at the time and she told me that the locals in both Nazareth and Bethlehem frequently just place the paper stars on the branches of the Christmas tree.


The last one is the largest of the three. It’s made from stained glass and I think it may be one that I purchased at the annual Christkindlemarkt that’s held for several weekends in Bethlehem each year prior to Christmas but I don’t remember for sure. All I know that it looks really pretty in my tree, especially when the lights are turned on.


Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12

American Flag

I can’t believe that it’s been 15 years since I saw those deadly attacks live on TV. I’m at the point where I no longer constantly think about the Twin Towers coming down on a daily basis but I’ll never completely forget what I saw that day. Right now I’m more obsessed with trying to survive a tough unforgiving economy where more people are either out of work or underemployed and fewer places are hiring. These days I’m not worried about Al Qaeda or ISIL/ISIS attacking the U.S. because I feel that the next American downfall will be self-inflicted by the likes of Wall Street, Big Oil, and Big Pharma. Right now, as I’m typing this, there’s a standoff in North Dakota because the Native American tribes object to a pipeline being built through their graveyards and possibly poisoning the water supply as a byproduct. The mainstream media has mostly ignored this so I’m learning about all of the details on Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile some crass capitalist assholes are using what should be a solemn occasion of remembrance to sell all kinds of crap. First there was this Walmart in Florida, who decided to use the Twin Towers as a display to sell Coke products.

Then there was this craptacular ad selling mattresses, which unleashed a firestorm of criticism that was heard all around the world. Hell, I first learned about this ad on the BBC News site.

This kind of stuff pisses me off for a few reasons: 1) I live about 20 miles from the Pentagon, which was also hit on 9/11, and I was scared shitless when I saw national news coverage of the New York attacks get preempted by local news when they announced the Pentagon being hit, 2) my Unitarian Universalist congregation was used to stage a funeral for an entire family (which included a husband, wife, and their two daughters who were ages 8 and 3) who were on that plane which hit the Pentagon and there were fellow members of my congregation who knew that family well, 3) my ex-husband’s father and stepmother live in Manhattan and they were on that island when the Twin Towers fell (fortunately they didn’t decide to go to lower Manhattan that day or else they would’ve been caught up in this), and 4) my late mother-in-law’s closest friend who lived in lower Manhattan saw the Twin Towers fell from outside the window of her apartment. Soon after that event that friend, who had diabetes, stopped taking care of herself and she died from diabetes complications about a couple of years after 9/11.

It’s stuff like this that makes me ashamed of my fellow Americans. Here’s a palette cleanser courtesy of the U.S. Air Force featuring the U.S. Air Force Celtic Aire performing “There are No Words,” which was written an performed especially for this 15th anniversary.

I need to find a different title than “daily sketches” because I have completely thrown by the wayside my New Year’s resolution that I would create one new sketch each day. I quickly learned that working on daily sketches each day takes time from other arts and crafts projects that I’m working on as well as other things that I should be doing (such as cleaning the house). My “daily sketchbook” effort really became pathetic when I made only one new sketch in the entire month of June—and that one was in response to the horrible shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.


This past month I managed to churn out three sketches, starting with this one. I was inspired to create this sketch after hearing the news about a bullfighter matador in Spain named Victor Barrio who was recently gored to death by his bull opponent in the ring. His death was shown live on Spanish television and he is known to have been the first matador killed during a bullfight in over 30 years.


I feel bad for the bullfighter’s family because I know that dealing with a loved one’s sudden and unexpected death is such a shock. But I have zero sympathy for the late bullfighter himself because he was participating in a so-called “sport” whose advocates call it “sheer beauty and artistry” when all it really entails is some man slowly torturing a bull to death with spears while waving a red cape and shouting “¡Olé!” I’ve never understood what was so great about bullfighting, especially when I took Spanish in college and one of the chapters in the class textbook dealt with words and phrases related to bullfighting. I remember the instructor in that class admitted that she personally didn’t like bullfighting either. (She originally came from Cuba, a nation with no bullfighting tradition.) That bullfighter would still be alive had he picked a different occupation that’s less dangerous and deadly. Bullfighting is one so-called “tradition” that needs to go away along with other so-called “traditions” like female genital mutilation and slavery.

Later in the month I did this drawing full of gears of many colors. I had gone to an event at this makerspace located in Crystal City, Virginia known as TechShop and its logo has the letter “o” shaped like a gear. I just took that gear idea and elaborated it further with a bunch of interconnected gears. It was something I did really quick and it shows. (If I was doing a professional drawing, I would’ve done it using a 2H pencil first while erasing and refining it until I got it just right. Then I would’ve traced over it with ink.)


For the last drawing I did in the month of June, I went back to Rory’s Story Cubes. I mixed the Prehistoria and Enchanted sets together and this drawing was the result.



I know I wrote a few days ago that I wasn’t going to do any kind of online memorials to that awful shooting in Orlando that happened at a gay nightclub known as Pulse because I’ve seen it all before in previous mass shootings. I’ve softened my stance somewhat after I’ve seen flags everywhere being lowered to half-staff after President Obama ordered this in order to honor the victims of that shooting. I even made this drawing in my sketchbook about the tragedy that I’d like to share with you.


I could write more about what happened in Orlando and how horrible it was in this post. But instead of writing maudlin sentences over how horrible this tragedy was, I’m going to show the Orlando I personally know.

I made my first trip to Florida on my honeymoon. Prior to the wedding my fiance and I were originally planning on a weekend honeymoon at a local place like Williamsburg or Ocean City until my cousin, who was dying to have more family members come visit her and her then-husband at their home in Cocoa, offered my husband and I free room in their home. So after the wedding we spent the week with her and her now-ex-husband and their two dogs (one was a standard poodle while the other was a tiny toy poodle). The four of us spent the first day at Wet and Wild but, after that, my husband and I were on our own regarding exploring the greater Orlando area mainly because they had to work and they didn’t have much vacation time. I remember my husband and I spent the majority of time visiting Walt Disney World, which only had two theme parks at the time: the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. (Walt Disney World has since expanded to include more theme parks and attractions along with a lot of hotels.)

We loved that area so much that we ended up making several return trips to Orlando over the years. I have a lot of photos from those trips but most of them need to be digitally scanned because I shot a lot of them back in the day when film photography coupled with printing paper photographs was the dominant method of photography. I have a few digital photos from my last two trips to Orlando that I’ve previously posted in this blog. I’ll repost just a few of them along with links to those entries if you want to see more.

Here is a photo of a bald eagle that I took at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on August 14, 2010.


Here’s a photo of Cinderella’s Castle that I took at the Magic Kingdom on August 15, 2010.


These two jumping dolphins were taken at Sea World on August 17, 2010.


I shot these two alligators making a snuggle sandwich with a turtle in the middle at Gatorland on August 19, 2010.


Here’s a recreation of the R.M.S. Titanic’s grand staircase that I shot at Titanic: The Experience on August 19, 2010.


Here is a view of Epcot that I shot on February 15, 2011.


This African man was working on a wood carving at Epcot on February 15, 2011.


Here are a couple of photos of Downtown Disney that I shot on February 18, 2011.

Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney

Here’s a photo of a row of cupcakes that I shot at a bakery in Downtown Disney but posted shortly after my 2011 trip to Florida ended on February 20, 2011. If you look close enough you can see sprinkles shaped like Mickey Mouse.

Downtown Disney

I have to admit that most of the photos were of the tourist attractions. The only photos I took of the Orlando area that even show how the locals live their everyday lives are the ones I took in Longwood, which is located just outside of the Orlando city limits. I was enchanted by the Victorian architecture such as the building in this photo that I shot on February 18, 2011.

Longwood, Florida

During one of my many trips to Orlando I purchased this cell kit from Walt Disney World where I painted animation cells of Mickey and Minnie Mouse then placed them over the provided backgrounds then put them in these cheap cardboard frames that also came with the kit. I later donated the completed cell paintings to a yard sale that was put on by my support group for people who are separated or divorced. (I originally wrote a post about these two on September 25, 2014.)



And last, but not least, here is a drawing I did of Minnie Mouse when I took a 30-minute workshop on how to draw her on one of the provided computers at DisneyQuest, which is located in Downtown Disney, during my last trip to Florida in 2011. I still have the drawing buried somewhere in my home.

Minnie Mouse

The only reason why I haven’t been back to Florida since 2011 is tight finances, which became a problem for me after my divorce. I would like to go back one day and I would definitely go right now if I had the chance despite that Pulse nightclub shooting.

Getting back to that Pulse shooting, I know that it’s horrible that 50 people died. (Most people are saying that 49 have died in order to not count the 50th person—the shooter himself.) But for people to say that the Pulse shooting is the worst terrorist attack or worst mass murder ever perpetrated on American soil is a bit much because there have been other violent events in U.S. history where the body count is either equal to or way higher than the Pulse nightclub shooting. In order to get some perspective, here are some links to these other events that all happened on U.S. soil.

Wounded Knee massacre in 1890

East St. Louis in 1917

Elaine, Arkansas in 1919

Tulsa race riot in 1921

Rosewood massacre in 1923

Oklahoma City bombing in 1995

September 11, 2001

Previous in This Series

Part 1

This year is the fifth anniversary of this blog. For the first year I was unsure about how many photos I could actually upload because of the free blogging account has a space limit. So I kept photo uploads limited to just my arts and crafts along with any photographs that I actually exhibited in a show. Over time I learned such things as graphic optimization so I was able to upload more photos that way than I thought I could. So for the rest of the year I’m going to devote Throwback Thursday to photos from previous blog entries (along with links to the original posts) that I should’ve uploaded five years earlier but I didn’t.

Last week I wrote about the first few days of my ten-day trip to Florida. Now here is what I did after my then-husband and I returned from a side trip to Walt Disney World. The day after we returned, I basically took it easy where I made an ill-fated attempt at spending some time at the beach in nearby Indialantic, which I wrote all about on August 16, 2010.

The following day I made a trip on my own to Sea World in Orlando. It was sort of momentous because I went there just a few months after a trainer was killed during one of the Shamu shows in that very same theme park. I wrote a lengthy post about that trip the following day on August 18, 2010. Here are just a portion of the many photos I took at Sea World that day.















































































The following day I took it easy by going to the beach. For some reason I didn’t write a blog post about it (probably because I didn’t do much). I went to Cocoa Beach. Unfortunately Florida is literally a hellhole in August with very hot and humid weather that’s even worse than the Washington, DC area. If one happens to be at Ocean City, Maryland on a hot and humid day, one can find relief by swimming in the ocean while feeling the cool breeze coming from the water. It was different in Florida. What happens is that there’s not much of a breeze to cool one’s face off. Going in the water was initially refreshing for the first five minutes until your body gets used to it and the water feels like taking a warm bath in a room with the thermostat set at 95 degrees. Sitting outside reading a book on the beach was impossible because there was so little breeze and it was hot and humid. All in all I spent a half an hour total at the beach that day.





The seagulls in Florida are way more aggressive than the ones in Maryland. This seagull was very close to me when I shot that photo.


Despite the very hot weather, I saw a few people setting up a wedding canopy. I assumed that a beach wedding took place after I shot these photos.



After feeling overheated at the beach, I cooled off by getting my first look at the massive Ron Jon’s Surf Shop.


That’s it for Part 2 of my trip to Florida. The third and final part will be posted next Throwback Thursday.

Next in This Series

Part 3

This year is the fifth anniversary of this blog. For the first year I was unsure about how many photos I could actually upload because of the free blogging account has a space limit. So I kept photo uploads limited to just my arts and crafts along with any photographs that I actually exhibited in a show. Over time I learned such things as graphic optimization so I was able to upload more photos that way than I thought I could. So for the rest of the year I’m going to devote Throwback Thursday to photos from previous blog entries (along with links to the original posts) that I should’ve uploaded five years earlier but I didn’t.

August, 2010 was a momentous occasion in my marriage. My husband’s employer, NASA, had awarded this contract on a satellite project that he was involved with to this contractor, Harris, which was based in Melbourne, Florida. As part of the contract, various NASA employees in my husband’s branch took turns spending a month in Melbourne while helping to oversee the work being done there. My husband’s turn was scheduled for August. Even though my husband had taken business trips before, the bulk of them lasted anywhere from two days to a week. This trip would be the longest that we would be separated.

My husband had this idea to make the pain of a month-long separation easier. Midway through the month, I would spend ten days with him. I would do some sightseeing things while he was working while we also did some things together during his time off.

While I wrote posts about that trip, this is the first time I’ve uploaded the pictures I took. The trip was so long and I took so many pictures that I decided to break this up into three separate posts. Here is part 1.

I arrived in Melbourne on August 11, which I wrote about but I didn’t take any pictures that day.

I wrote another post on August 13, 2010 about my first full day in Florida. This started with a visit to the historic downtown area of Melbourne and the Liberty Bell Memorial Museum.






On August 14-15 my husband and I decided to take a side trip to Orlando where we rented a hotel at Walt Disney World for the weekend. On August 14 I wrote this post where we visited The Animal Kingdom, which was the newest of the Disney theme parks at the time.
















That evening we checked out Downtown Disney, including these Lego sculptures.





The following day we checked out Downtown Disney and the Magic Kingdom while we were trying to figure out the Disney public transportation system, which made for this interesting post that I wrote on August 16, 2010.







That’s it for Part One. Come back next Throwback Thursday for more photos from my trip to Florida. 🙂

Next in This Series

Part 2
Part 3

Last Wednesday I posted a couple of photos I took while I was in Bethesda. I was there for business reasons and I had to arrive there at the crack of dawn. I was a bit frazzled when everything was over by 11 a.m. for the day. (I can’t really go into details here about the reason why I was frazzled or how I got so frazzled in the first place.) Once everything was over I realized that the area of Bethesda I was at was near the borders with both Washington, DC and Northern Virginia. I remembered that, for a while, I had been wanting to make a return trip to the American Girl Place in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia in order to check out that new historical 1950’s BeForever doll, Maryellen, in person. I was within close driving distance of that mall plus it was a Tuesday afternoon, which meant that the kids would be in school so I could just look at dolls in peace without encountering hordes of running, screaming kids (like on the weekends).

So I drove to the mall (which was about a 15-20 minute commute from where I was). When I arrived the first thing I did was to eat lunch at Wasabi. (That’s the sushi place where everything is delivered on a conveyor belt. The food is very excellent so the delivery gimmick is icing on the cake.) Then I did a leisurely walking around the mall. I went to the outside area of the mall where I would’ve entered had I opted to use the Metro instead of the car to get there. I saw that there were a few nice touches that weren’t there the last time I was there back in April. There was the table tennis table where I saw a couple of guys play a furious game of ping pong.


They also had giant checkerboards where one can play giant sized versions of either checkers or chess.


One of those large chess pieces is almost as big as my foot.


I was browsing some of the stores inside the mall. It seemed like this trip became a nostalgia trip for me because of what I saw that evoked past memories for me. I found this stuffed Gizmo from the 1980’s movie Gremlins. I can remember when I saw that movie when it was first released in the theaters a long time ago. I was surprised to see a new toy based on that movie.


Here’s an overhead shot of an olive oil and vinegar bar where one can purchase olive oil and vinegar in a variety of different flavors. They also tend to be more expensive than the olive oil and vinegar that one finds in a regular supermarket. I’ve seen these types of stores in various upscale shopping areas around the Washington, DC area so I wasn’t really that surprised to see one at Tyson’s Corner. To be honest, I’m happy with buying vinegar and olive oil from the supermarket instead of one of these specialty stores.


Everywhere I walked around the mall, I saw all kinds of Star Wars stuff on sale ranging from kids toys to sexy bustiers for adults. It’s like the stores are gearing for that new Star Wars movie that’s coming out by the end of this year. (It’s going to be the first Star Wars movie since Disney bought the rights to it from George Lucas a few years ago.) The next few photos show just a few of the many Star Wars stuff I saw on sale at that mall.









I eventually made it to the American Girl Place. Sure enough, the signs all over the store remind shoppers that, yes, there is a historical 1950’s BeForever doll named Maryellen and, yes, she now exists in real life.



And here she is, Maryellen Larkin, in her default 1950’s style outfit.



And here is the smaller mini doll version of Maryellen, which costs $25 (versus $115 for the 18-inch version).


Even though I previously wrote about my trepidations regarding American Girl coming out with a 1950’s doll (mainly because I was inundated with all kinds of 1950’s nostalgia when I was growing up in the 1970’s), I have to admit that I like her strawberry blonde hair and her default outfit is cute as well. The color scheme reminds me of’s Coral, Mint, Black, and White contest that I entered in earlier this year. Overall I think she’s pretty cute and she definitely looks striking in person.

Maryellen represents the 1950’s era that both my mother and my late father grew up in. In fact, before I made this recent trek to the American Girl Place, I received the latest American Girl catalogue in the mail that features Maryellen prominently. I’m currently saving it for the next time I visit my mother in person because I think she’d get a kick out of seeing all of the 1950’s clothes and other items from her era rendered in doll form. I’m not sure if she would want the doll herself but I think she’d still get a kick out of seeing the catalogue nonetheless.

There are also other 1950’s outfits available for Maryellen and they are all adorable (even if the cheapest outfit I found costs $32).





There are also outfits for young girls that are modern takes on Maryellen’s wardrobe (so as to avoid the historical costume look that’s more appropriate for Halloween or cosplaying at a geek convention). The next photo is based on Maryellen’s default outfit and I think it’s a very cute and chic update on Maryellen’s 1950’s aesthetic.


This black outfit with the pink poodle appliqué (based on Maryellen’s poodle skirt ensemble that’s sold separately) is less successful in my mind. It looks more like a costume than something that a modern girl would wear to school or to a friend’s house on the weekend. In fact, it reminds me more of the kinderwhore look that the 1990’s riot grrls used to wear onstage, such as Babes in Toyland and Courtney Love (back when she was the lead singer of Hole before her personal problems overwhelmed her performing career).


In recent years it seems like American Girl has gotten into launching big ticket items for certain dolls that cost a lot of money. There was Samantha’s Ice Cream Parlor and Gazebo. There was the current 2015 Girl of the Year Grace’s French Bakery, which costs a whopping $500. Now there’s Maryellen’s Seaside Diner.


The store had one of the Seaside Diners out in the middle of the floor where one can look at it in detail. The diner is slightly smaller than Grace’s French Bakery (although it would still take up a tremendous amount of space in a small home) and, at a retail price of $275, it’s cheaper than that bakery as well. (Although frugal parents would have a very hard time justifying paying $275 for a child’s doll no matter how cute and realistic looking it is.) I have to admit that American Girl did a pretty credible job with designing a realistic circa-1950’s diner with the impeccable attention to detail (such as the formica countertop). I’ve heard that Maryellen’s story takes place in Florida (I haven’t read any of her books as of this writing), which would make sense given the name of the diner. In addition, I went to a couple of cafes and restaurants when I last went to Melbourne (located in Florida’s Space Coast region) back in 2011 and Maryellen’s diner looked way similar to my memories of eating in those real-life places. (Many of them even played 1950’s oldies music. It was probably because many of the retirees now living in Florida came of age in the 1950’s and these businesses were catering to them by playing the music from their youth.)












Even though the jukebox was shown with the Seaside Diner, it’s really sold separately. It costs $90 and it can not only play a selection of six tunes that evoke the 1950’s but one can also use it as an external speaker for a computer laptop, tablet, iPod, or any other kind of modern electronic mobile device. I grew up with these types of jukeboxes in the 1970’s (many of the local cheap restaurants, cafes, and diners had them) and I still encounter them from time to time (although there aren’t as many of them as when I was growing up). I have to admit that the American Girl jukebox looks pretty realistic.




There’s even an apron for Maryellen to wear whenever she decides to work behind the counter. (Although, in reality, she would not have been legally allowed to even get a job at her age since the child labor laws were passed decades earlier.)


There was also a living room set for Maryellen with furniture that is supposed to evoke the 1950’s era that she grew up in.


Her sofa is actually a sofa bed which opens into a place where Maryellen and one other 18-inch doll can sleep. It’s pretty cute even if it costs $150.


Then there’s Maryellen’s $85 television console. American Girl did a pretty decent job with that one because I still saw similar setups like this in various people’s homes way into the 1970’s. (I grew up in a more working class area where people held on to their stuff a while longer than people with more disposable incomes. The attitude among most of the adults in my neighborhood was that it didn’t matter if something came from the 1950’s as long as it was still working.)



Seeing that tiny set of encyclopedias also brought back memories for me even though I wasn’t around in the 1950’s. Basically many families in the 1950’s and 1960’s thought that buying a set of encyclopedias for their children would help them succeed in school. My parents felt that way also because they bought a set soon after I was born. The only problem was that by the time I reached middle school, much of the information in them was out of date so that set became pretty useless for doing research with. For my schoolwork I ended up using the encyclopedias in the school library and the local public library because they were more current and up-to-date. My parents ultimately got rid of the encyclopedias while I was still in high school since I rarely touched them.


While this next shot shows a still screen featuring Maryellen in black and white (since color television wasn’t available to the masses back in the 1950’s), there is an area in the back of the console where one can place an iPad. The idea is to download an app that’s related to this console online and the person can use that app to create TV shows with. Then the person would slide the app behind the console and the screen would look like the TV is playing that TV show that was created with an app. This option is only available for iPads. (Have an iPod, an iPhone, or a Droid tablet or smartphone? Too bad for you!)


Then there’s the $58 living room set, which features this funky table and lamp. Even though I grew up in the 1970’s, I visited a lot of homes that still had tables and lamps similar to this set. (Like I wrote earlier, I grew up in a mostly working class area where people were slower to upgrade to the latest and greatest furniture and other types of home decor.)


This set includes a miniature TV Guide, which brings back a lot of memories for me. My mother used to bring home the latest issue of TV Guide along with the weekly groceries. There were a few articles in the front and back (focusing mainly on the stars of the shows currently on the air) but the middle section was a bunch of TV listings that were organized by day and time so one would know when a particular favorite program was going to air on what day and at what time. In addition, there would be short descriptions of what a certain show is about and what actors or actresses would be involved. That helped a person decide on whether to watch a certain show or pass on it. That miniature TV Guide is an accurate replica of what I would’ve read from the 1970’s until about 10 or 15 years ago when that publication underwent a serious format change. TV Guide started having problems with keeping up with TV listings because of an increase in the number of cable channels while keeping to its small publication size. So it decided to increase the size of its publication, which wasn’t so bad. But, along with that larger publication format, it decided to add more feature articles about current TV stars and devote fewer pages to TV listings, which resulted in a confusing grid listing all the shows for the week that was printed on one or two pages and the rest were feature articles. TV Guide went downhill for me after that. Until I quite my newspaper subscription last year, I used its TV listings instead of buying TV Guide. These days I rely on the Internet for TV listings. Yet I still see TV Guide still on sale at the supermarket checkout line so someone must like that format enough to buy it.



That ad for Uncle Walt also brought back memories because one of the local TV stations in Baltimore had a similar weekday kid-friendly host who would introduce the cartoons and other kid-friendly programming. Except the name of the host in my area was known as Captain Chesapeake.


When I first learned about Maryellen representing the 1950’s, I read the synopsis of the books and I immediately thought of Leave It To Beaver if Beaver had been a girl. But I later learned that Maryellen’s life isn’t some perfect utopia. From what I’ve read online (I haven’t read the books yet), she supposedly had polio when she was much younger, which resulted in one of her legs being weaker than the other. I never had to deal with polio, measles, or certain other childhood illnesses because I was vaccinated on a regular basis as a child. In recent years there have been these anti-vaxxers who are currently going around the country urging people not to vaccinate their children because vaccines cause autism. Even though there have been numerous scientific studies refuting that claim, people are still not vaccinating their kids so there have been a return of diseases in recent years that were previously rare, such as whooping cough.

That living room set also includes a tiny newspaper that includes headlines that would make the anti-vaxxers have a screaming fit if they ever saw them.



I have to commend American Girl for standing up to the anti-vaxxers in a very subtle way like this. Especially since, about a year or two ago, I read an article somewhere that made me cringe. Basically there were some parents who, instead of vaccinating their children, decided to group together and have “pox parties” where they would expose their children to someone who currently had chicken pox so they would get the chicken pox at an early age. Yes, I admit that it’s true that children who get the chicken pox at an earlier age tend to have fewer health consequences than getting it as a teen or adult. Yes, it’s true that once you have the chicken pox, you have a lifetime immunity from ever getting again. But, as someone who survived chicken pox in the second grade, I would urge parents to get their kids vaccinated instead. The only reason why I wasn’t vaccinated against chicken pox was because that vaccine wasn’t around when I was young. If such a vaccine had been invented, the pediatrician would’ve given it to me with my parents’ blessing. I still have memories of the chicken pox covering my entire body. I remembered that it went into every single fold of my body plus there was the constant insane itching everywhere. I remember smearing calming lotion everywhere several times a day and I still itched. I would wake up in the middle of the night scratching myself. It was a week of pure hell. Parents, take it from a chicken pox survivor: For the love of God, get that damned chicken pox vaccine and skip the pox parties!!!


Well, anyway, back to my visit to the American Girl Place. There’s also Maryellen’s Classroom Set along with a very cute school outfit, which are both sold separately.

There is a cursive writing poster that’s way similar to what I saw in school. I’ll admit that I never enjoyed cursive writing and I used to get bad marks for my handwriting. I was forced to write in cursive as late as high school. It wasn’t just English classes who required cursive writing. Even classes like social studies required papers to be turned in written in cursive. When I got to college and I found that the professors there weren’t quite as fanatical about cursive writing, I switched to print instead. These days I only do cursive writing when I have to sign something. I have one of my Facebook friends who lately has made it her mission to advocate that schools emphasize cursive writing more. (Apparently cursive writing isn’t taught quite as intensively since computers have made their way into the curriculums.) She talks about how wonderful it is to learn cursive. Personally I disagree with her because I struggled with it in school. I think just enough cursive writing should be taught so the kid will learn how to sign his or her name when he/she reaches adulthood.


This Classroom Set includes flashcards, which I definitely remember (even though I wasn’t born in the 1950’s). While the teachers sometimes used them in school, I tended to use them at home in the evenings and weekends to practice things like certain words or multiplication tables. I’m currently involved with my church’s program to teach English to recent immigrants and we use a curriculum that includes flashcards.


The Classroom Set also includes a map of the United States, which is fascinating to look at because this particular map shows Alaska and Hawaii as U.S. territories. That’s because Maryellen’s story starts in 1954 and Alaska and Hawaii wouldn’t become states for another five years. My parents were both taught in school that the U.S. had 48 states. By the time I started school, I was taught that the U.S. currently has 50 states. So it’s a bit of a generation gap. (LOL!)



The Bottom Line: I think Maryellen is cute and some of her accessories remind me of my own childhood because they were still around in the 1970’s. Plus there were my own memories of watching 1950’s nostalgia TV shows like Happy Days and that variety series featuring the band Sha Na Na. Maryellen represents the era that my parents grew up in. But I’m still not going to rush out and buy her because she costs $115 and her accessories are pricey as well. I also have to keep in mind the limited space in my home so I’m not going to buy a larger doll unless I fall head over heels in love with it. Julie still speaks more to me than Maryellen does because she represents my own era of the 1970’s. If my mother falls head over heels in love with the doll after I show her the catalogue, I may buy it for her as a surprise Christmas present. (Or I may just buy the cheaper mini doll version for her instead.) Otherwise, I’ll pass on ever buying that doll.

So the store’s main emphasis was on Maryellen because she’s new. The current Girl of the Year, Grace, had mostly been shunted off to the side—including her $500 bakery. She only has a few more months to go before her reign as Girl of the Year ends and she is permanently retired along with that $500 bakery.


There are a few new items that were released as part of Grace’s line. There were travel accessories for kids and even a travel-themed stationery set, which all have the Eiffel Tower motif. I thought they were cute.



There’s also Grace’s Charm Bracelet and Jewelry Keeper for humans, the latter of which looks like the Eiffel Tower. The bracelet is cute but I wouldn’t pay the $60 retail price for it since I can find similar charm bracelets at Target or Claire’s for way less. (Especially since that bracelet—like everything else that American Girl sells—is made in China very cheaply and the prices are just overinflated because it has that coveted American Girl name attached to it.)


I came close to buying a special rubber spatula for humans that’s part of Grace’s line (and released as a joint project of American Girl and Williams-Sonoma) because part of the proceeds from the sales were going to the anti-poverty group No Kid Hungry. But then I saw the $12 price tag per spatula and I balked because I can buy two or three rubber spatulas at Target for the price of one. I ended up just taking pictures of the spatula instead.




I focused the bulk of my attention on Maryellen on this trip because she is new. There were furniture and other accessories released as part of the other BeForever doll lines but the only one I took photos of was this vanity set for Julie. I used to see similar funky colorful furniture in other people’s homes when I was growing up.


This vanity set comes with this funky owl clock. While I never had an owl clock as a child, I had a round funky yellow clock that was a wind-up and it was made in West Germany. (Yes, that was back when the Cold War still raged on and Germany was divided into two countries.)


I generally tend to ignore the modern girl line (which originally started as My American Girl, then the name was changed to Just Like You, and it has now been just relaunched again under a new name: Truly Me) because each doll costs $115 and the modern accessories and clothes are expensive as well. My attitude is that if I was going to buy a modern 18-inch doll with clothes and accessories, I would rather buy them from Target, Walmart, or Michaels Arts & Crafts for a fraction of what American Girl charges. (Besides all of these companies manufacture these dolls in China.) But I have to admit that the Halloween costumes are pretty cute even if they cost about as much as a Halloween costume for a real child.


There is a modern living room set that’s similar to what’s in the 1950’s Maryellen line except this set evokes the latest technology that would’ve been unheard of in Maryellen’s era.


This modern doll and her dog are all settled in on the pink couch as they are about to watch a 3D movie. (Note the 3D glasses.)


The entertainment console set includes a pretend flatscreen TV set, a pretend DVD player, a few pretend DVDs, and a pretend remote control. The closeup shows the kind of movies that a doll can watch on this entertainment console set.


Even though the popcorn machine was displayed with the entertainment console, that one is really sold separately. It is cute looking and the popcorn looks realistic. But that popcorn machine looks pretty big for an average home and it looks like it would be more appropriate for a pretend movie theater than a pretend living room.


I eventually left the mall around 2:30 p.m. because I wasn’t in the mood to endure the Capital Beltway’s notoriously horrendous evening rush hour traffic. I purchased a couple of items from the American Girl Place.  One was call Doll Photo Shoot and it included two books (one on still photography and the other on making videos). It also included two large backdrops that are folded up neatly (so they can be stored easily) that one can use in photography. Those backdrops are worth the purchase alone because I can always use them in future photography projects (and they don’t have to involve dolls either).



I also got this book, which is a mystery featuring the former Civil War-era slave Addy as she solves a strange riddle that evokes her slave past. I’ve since read it and I found it much better than any of the Julie mysteries (which I reviewed as part of a series of reviews I did regarding the 1970’s Julie character last summer). Unlike most of the Julie mysteries, where I figured out what the real deal was just two or three chapters into the book, I was kept in suspense all the way until the very end. And the ending evoked the less-than-savory aspects of America’s slave past and lingering racism that still remains unresolved to this very day.


This year is this blog’s fifth anniversary, which is a major milestone for me. (This blog is the longest I’ve ever spent time working on and I’m still not close to even contemplating quitting it or anything like that.) But I haven’t done much about it since January. (I know I can be lame at times LOL!) It was on the actual January 6 anniversary itself when I wrote two posts—one was a mega-long post all about the ups and downs that had happened to me since I started this blog and the other was how I tried to make a special celebration of this occasion despite the fact that a snowstorm along with sub-freezing temperatures had blanketed the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

As a way of making up for the lack of bragging about the fact that this blog is now five years old, I hit upon an idea that I could do until the end of this year.

The first year I started this blog I was very picky as to what images I would allow on this blog. That’s because I was new to and I didn’t know how many pictures would fill the allotted storage space that’s on the blog’s free account. I decided to limit images only to photos of my own arts and crafts. Whenever I went on any trips I would just provide a written journal of what I did. Even though I took photos during these trips, I didn’t post them in this blog because I was worried about using up too much photo storage space.

By the second year I realized that if I optimized my photographs, I could include my vacation photos. This definitely intensified when I got my first smartphone with the included camera because I could now take snapshots of something that caught my eye without worrying about carting my older, heavier DSLR Cannon Digital Rebel camera.

The addition of more photos have resulted in more followers to this blog. For me it’s generally easier to just put in pictures than to write a paragraph or two or three on what I’ve just saw. (Like the old saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words.”)

So I’m going to spend the next few Throwback Thursdays posting those photos from 2010 that I didn’t post the first time around along with the link to the original blog post from 2010 in order to provide some context.

The big hassle is that some of the photos I took in 2010 were lost when my previous MacBook laptop went through a major hard disk crash. I stupidly didn’t backup a lot of them so I’m afraid that some of them may be lost for good. 😦

Among those that were lost were the photos I took when my then-husband and I went on our first vacation just a few weeks after I started this blog.

In late January 2010 we went to Florida’s west coast in order to fulfill an auction item we had won from a couple who used to be active in our Unitarian Universalist congregation until they decided to move to a retirement community in the Tampa-Sarasota area. Their way of keeping in contact with our congregation was to offer an annual auction item where they would serve as hosts for any member of our congregation for one week in their home.

In 2007 this item was up for bidding in the live portion of the auction and my husband decided to make his bid without even consulting me prior to the auction. We had a standing agreement that if we needed to spend more than $200 for whatever reason, we had to discuss it with the other spouse before making that purchase. The few times I violated that agreement turned into a horrible argument with my husband and he would be furious with me. Yet he found no problem with bidding on this auction—which went way over $200—without even telling me that he was interested in this. When I tried to call him out on it, he said “But it’s visiting Ed and Al!” and he continued bidding until we won.

The trip was originally for 2008 but that was the year when my left hip began to deteriorate so badly that I had to walk with a cane and the orthopedic surgeon said that I needed a hip replacement. I had the surgery in late 2008 and I spent most of 2009 recuperating from that surgery.

It wasn’t until early 2010 when we finally went on the trip. Ed Kobee and his partner, Al Usack, were very active LGBT activists in our congregation (they even wrote a chapter about their relationship in this book Coming Out in Faith: Voices of LGBTQ Unitarian Universalists) until they decided to retire to a new retirement community, the Palms of Mannasota, near Tampa. This community sought to be one that was exclusively for retirees who were gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender. In fact, Ed and Al told us that, in order not to violate any housing code against discrimination, the community would tell potential heterosexual residents up front that it was one that was very open towards same-sex couples and if they can’t handle living next to such people, then they should go somewhere else. Ed and Al told us that there were a few heterosexual couples who lived there.

Ed and Al were among the first residents who moved into that new community. The developers had managed to finish building the first few sections and they had just put out the building materials along some empty lot for the homes that would soon be built. There was also a plan to eventually build a community center for all the residents that would include a swimming pool, an exercise gym, meeting rooms, and much more. That community center would be built after some more of the homes were erected.

Then the major 2008 economic collapse happened. Soon afterwards the original company responsible for the Palms of Mannasota filed for bankruptcy. All that building came to a grinding halt.

I remembered when I took a walk around the neighborhood and I saw building materials that were still at a few empty lots that were waiting for someone to put them together so a new structure can be created. They were literally just sitting there while the empty lots began to grow tall weeds. There were some lots where a cement foundation had been laid but nothing else was done since. It was a pretty surreal scene—like something from out of one of those post-apocalypse science fiction movies where very few people were left after a major calamity (such as a plague) killed a bunch of people but left the buildings and other structures intact. This New York Times article about the bankruptcy filing by the company responsible for the Palms of Manasota has a photo showing one of the unbuilt lots with building materials and a cement foundation waiting for someone to complete it.

Ed and Al ended up having to join a nearby gym a few miles away so they can use a swimming pool since the developers behind the Palms of Mannasota didn’t build one before the company filed for bankruptcy.

During that trip my husband and I did a lot of exploring of the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. Ed and Al accompanied us on some of the trips while my husband and I went alone on some of the others.

Of all the photos I took, I’ve only found a few that survived. I had better luck with the video footage because I uploaded on to YouTube soon after we returned to Maryland.

Here are the surviving photos and videos I took on that trip along with links to the original entries I wrote about my time in Florida.

January 24, 2010—The original entry announcing my upcoming trip.

January 26, 2010—The entry where I discussed the first night in Florida along with showing a photo of this Moon Chalice ornament that I had finished a while ago.

January 28, 2010—My husband and I visited the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, Florida. Here’s footage from that visit.

January 29, 2010—My husband and I went with Ed and Al to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens then to Manatee Beach, where I saw the Gulf of Mexico in person for the first time. Here are photos of this glorious sunset I shot at Manatee Beach.

Manatee Beach 1

Manatee Beach 2

Manatee Beach 3

January 29, 2010—We visited The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art. None of the photos from that trip survived. At one point I managed to shoot video of this oddity that our hosts owned. It was an animatronic Abbott & Costello figurine. When you pressed the button, the figures moved while you hear their most famous comedy routine, Who’s on First?

January 30, 2010—We visited Sarasota. During some downtime back at the house where we stayed at, I was looking through the back glass door when I saw this blue heron that was close to the house. I took a few photos of it before it flew away.




January 31, 2010—We visited the South Florida Museum, home of Snooty the Manatee (the oldest manatee currently living in captivity). Here’s a video I shot during that visit, which focuses on Snooty.

February 1, 2010—On the way to the airport, my husband and I stopped at The Dali Museum for a few hours. Then we went to the airport and flew back home.

That would be my first and only trip to that area. I would love to go back someday and visit but I really need to raise a lot of money first since finances have been tight since my husband left me.

Recently I heard from a few friends at church that Ed and Al no longer live at the Palms of Mannasota. They have since moved to a different retirement community—one that’s similar to ones that have sprouted up all over the country. (There’s even one such community that’s located near my Unitarian Universalist congregation called Riderwood. We’ve gotten a lot of new members from there in recent years.) This retirement community have small apartments (instead of small cottages and townhouses at the Palms of Mannasota) for the seniors who are more agile and are in relatively good health. As these seniors age and their health declines, they will eventually be moved to assisted living facilities right in the community, where they will get more and more supervised care as time goes on until the day they die. This community has even more amenities than what their former community had—including a gym, a clubhouse, a swimming pool, and all kinds of classes ranging from water aerobics to painting. From what I’ve been told, their new residence isn’t touted as being made especially for LGBT persons but apparently it’s very tolerant towards same-sex couples. My friends report that they seem to be very happy there even though they can no longer offer to host anyone as part of our annual church auction due to their apartment’s small size.

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