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May Day

In my last post I mentioned that I went to the Historic London Town and Gardens in Edgewater on April 6, 2018 mainly because that place was among the Annapolis-area museums that were offering $1 admission as part of a Maryland Holiday Weekend special. After I left the museum around closing time, I realized that I was close to Annapolis. I decided to check out the Annapolis Toys R Us store, which was (and still is as of this writing) having its going out of business sale.

I originally visited the Annapolis store back in late January after Toys R Us originally announced that it was only going to close around 200-300 of its stores. I picked the Annapolis location because I heard rumors that those store closures were only the first steps in eventually winding out Toys R Us by the end of the year and I wanted to take photos of a store that was NOT on the list of closing stores. I wanted to photograph what a typical Toys R Us store was like for posterity. A few weeks after that visit, Toys R Us decided to close all of its stores so I headed back to the Annapolis store to take pictures of the store that was in the early phases of its going out business sale.

On April 6 I was close to the Annapolis Toys R Us store so I decided to stop by briefly to see how things were going there. There were definitely changes in that store, starting with the outside. By that point a giant “Going Out Of Business” banner had been unfurled and the smaller window signs that previously had cheerful Easter-themed signs were replaced by smaller-sized “Going Out of Business” signs.

When I went inside I saw more “Going Out of Business” signs along with more empty shelves than I saw on my previous visit. Even though the signs said that everything was “up to 30% off,” I found that the vast majority of items were still 10% off. I’ve been to enough of these going out of business sales over the years (such as the closing of the local Kmart store in my area three years ago) to know that the store will keep on offering no more than 10% off for as long as it possibly can. You probably won’t see the deep discounts until the store gets closer to the day that it closes its doors forever.

I still saw some Toys R Us exclusives that I didn’t see on my previous visits. The majority of them were the Disney Princess line of dolls and related toys.

There were other types of toys that weren’t Toys R Us exclusives that were still available for sale on the shelves.

This one little boy really seemed to enjoy going for the superhero action figures. The only sad thing about the last major toy store in the U.S. closing is that children his age will no longer experience the thrill of going into a toy store and looking around wide-eyed at the myriad of toys for kids his age. Too bad, so sad.

Compared with the last time I was at Toys R Us, I saw that they had more cashiers at the registers so the lines were smaller. I also noticed that there were a lot of small 12-inch stuffed versions of the store’s Geoffrey Giraffe mascot on display at the cash register.

I made one purchase on this trip to Toys R Us. I was given this bag at the checkout that looks like Toys R Us decided to go cheap and hire some yahoo with very little formal training in graphic design or even art in general.

The bag is bright orange with the logo done in a slightly darker orange color. The only problem is that there isn’t much contrast between the logo and the background so the logo can be very hard to see because it looks like it is blending in with the background.

Here’s my purchase. Yes, I bought one of the Geoffrey Giraffes that were on display at the cash register. It was an impulse buy. This little guy brings back memories of when Toys R Us used to sell Geoffrey Giraffe wearing a shirt that had the Toys R Us logo, such as this one.

This closeup of his neck shows how Geoffrey has stars on his body instead of the usual spots that a giraffe has.

Here’s a closeup of Geoffrey’s head along with a hang tag showing the illustrated version that Toys R Us had used in recent years. Like I wrote in this blog post back in January, I prefer the earlier versions from the 1970s and 1980s because Geoffrey had a more expressive face. In some ways, the real-life plush giraffe looks less bland and lame than the illustrated version.

One nice touch I found was that one of Geoffrey’s hooves had been embroidered with the backwards letter R that was usually displayed as part of the Toys R Us logo.

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Here’s a small white tag on Geoffrey’s tush that has a black and white illustrated line drawing along with Geoffrey’s name.

Here’s the Toys R Us sales receipt. Compared with the other receipt I received from my earlier trip to Toys R Us when I checked out the going out of business sale for the first time, this one is relatively short. They got rid of the announcement asking the customer to leave feedback on how Toys R Us is doing in exchange for the chance to win a Toys R Us gift card, which makes sense since Toys R Us announced that it would no longer honor gift cards after April 21. Plus it really no longer matters if customers leave feedback—both good and bad—since Toys R Us plans on closing down for good.

Here’s a close-up of the top of the receipt showing the Toys R Us logo and the reminder that all sales are final.

Here’s the bottom of the receipt. Geoffrey Giraffe’s original price was $9.99 but, as this receipt shows, this was one of the products that Toys R Us had offered for 30% off, which meant that the giraffe only cost $6.99 (without the Maryland state sales tax).

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Since the winter holiday shopping season has officially started three days ago, I’d thought I’d post pictures of stuff I’ve seen lately on the store shelves. I took these photos mainly to show some of my friends on social media who would be especially interested in these products.

First, here are some photos I shot at Target over the past month or so. Target is selling the 3Doodler along with the DoodleBlock Kit.

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target has a LEGO aisle filled with all kinds of LEGO kits for all ages.

Target, October-November, 2017

Last year American Girl came out with a line of multiracial 14 inch dolls known as Wellie Wishers, which cost $60 each. Target is now selling a line of multiracial 14 inch dolls known as Glitter Girls for $20 each.

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target also sells a line of 3-foot tall dolls based on various Disney characters.

Target, October-November, 2017

You know Christmas is coming soon when you start seeing special gingerbread spice cereal like this.

Target, October-November, 2017

Target has been selling a line of STEM toys, kits, and games for makers of all ages. You can now make a variety of things including LEGO stop-motion animation, piñatas, video games, drones, Raspberry Pi computers, and more. Below are just a few of them.

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

This is probably the most unique and off-beat product I found at Target: A Funko Pop! vinyl toy based on the late painter and television show host Bob Ross.

Target, October-November, 2017

I also found some Hot Wheels toy cars that seemed to be made with Baby Boomers in mind. How else can you explain cars based on The Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night and Mad magazine.

What I Found at Target Today

What I Found at Target Today

What I Found at Target Today

What I Found at Target Today

Recently a new Guitar Center store opened up in Laurel, Maryland so I decided to check it out.

Coco Guitars

I saw these special edition Cordoba acoustic guitars for adults and children that are tie-in products to the Disney/Pixar movie Coco, which was recently released. (I haven’t seen it yet. All I know that it’s based on the Mexican El Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead holiday, which happened earlier this month, and which also explains the skull motif on these guitars.)

Coco Guitars

Coco Guitars

Coco Guitars

Last, but not least, are a few of the photos I took when I made my last trip to a local Five Below store.

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

I purchased a pack of mozzarella cheese sticks featuring the characters from the Disney movie Frozen because it was on sale. (I was more interested in the cheese than how the package was decorated.) I have to admit that the outside package was cute.

Look at what I found on sale at Giant today-- #Frozen mozzarella cheese sticks. #Anna #Elsa #Disney #AnnaandElsa

It was worth buying just so I can see what the design on individually wrapped cheese sticks looked like. Like all cheese stick packages the wrapper is perforated so one can separate the individual cheese sticks. But the package is cuter when it is still in one piece because you can see Olaf the snowman do some serious photobombing on each of the cheese stick (which each feature one of the main characters from that movie).

Look at what I found on sale at Giant today-- #Frozen mozzarella cheese sticks. #Anna #Elsa #Disney #AnnaandElsa

On a different note, I recently saw the band Snakehead Run perform its blues set at the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Snakehead Run

Ramadan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I saw a kiosk that was selling Emoji pillows.

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

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I took a few miscellaneous photos.

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

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Passover

I’ve taken a few miscellaneous photos recently that I’d like to share with you. These photos are a further reminder that spring is really here at last.

Flowering Tree

Azalea Bush

Tulips

Spring Flowers

Bleeding Heart Fuchsia

Spring Flowers

Lilac Bush

Despite the fact that it’s spring now, Anna and Elsa from the hit Disney movie Frozen are still going strong years after the movie was released. I recently saw those two sisters on bags of Pop Chips at a local Giant supermarket.

Frozen Pop Chips

Mardi Gras

Last week I happened to be at Wegmans when I found this.

Disney Frozen Olaf the Snowman Waffle Maker

I survived the blizzard that was hyped to be the worst since the Blizzard of 2010. All I can say is that my arms were so completely tired from shoveling all that snow that I felt like they were about to fall off at times. Right now I’m trying not to do anything that’s too strenuous for my arms in order to give them a shot at recovering.

That blizzard capped off a week full of unusual events, which started with most people being off for Martin Luther King Day last Monday (January 18). Last Tuesday (January 19) I had jury duty. By the time that day ended it was time to prepare for the upcoming blizzard.

The blizzard drama had a preview of things to come last Wednesday (January 20). That was the night when I trusted my AccuWeather’s forecast of snow flurries followed by just clouds. Boy, were they ever wrong, as you can see from these photographs.

AccuWeather Said This Was a "Snow Flurry"

AccuWeather Said This Was a "Snow Flurry"

I wrote a more extensive rant about that debacle last week so I’m not going to dwell too much on it here.

Last Thursday (January 21) was pretty crazy as well. Even though I had purchased a few groceries at Target the previous night, there were still a few items that I hadn’t purchased so I went to Aldi, where I encountered many other people who were also preparing for the blizzard as well. Most people took it in stride even though I had to wait longer in line in order to get checked out than usual due to the crowds.

By Friday (January 22) everything in the area literally came to a grinding halt. The Metro public transportation system had shut down completely. The federal government, state government, county government, schools, and many businesses were completely closed. It was like The Cure’s song “Grinding Halt” come to life.

I was ready for the storm, which was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Between 1:30-2 p.m. I decided to make a trip to the nearby shopping mall not to buy anything (which I didn’t) but to get out of the house for my own mental health since I knew I was going to be stuck at home by myself for at least two days. It had started to snow but the snow was pretty light and it wasn’t laying in the street so I figured that it would be safe to drive. I found that many of the stores there were either closed for the day or they were in the process of closing.

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

Seeing closed stores at a shopping mall on a Friday afternoon that’s not a holiday was definitely unusual.

That shopping mall has a Giant supermarket at one end. I entered it briefly just to see the number of people who were still standing in line buying groceries with the storm being forecast as beginning in less than an hour.

The Blizzard of 2016

I saw this man taking a nap in one of the coin-operated shiatsu massage chairs right in the middle of the mall less than the hour before the blizzard was scheduled to begin.

The Blizzard of 2016

When I left the mall I found that the snow started to fall heavier and the streets were starting to get covered. I was driving around the back of the mall when I saw a flock of seagulls who had flown inland and decided to hunker down for the storm.

The Blizzard of 2016

In comparison to driving to the mall, I had a more harrowing drive coming home. The streets were completely covered and driving on them were just as treacherous as they were on Wednesday night. Fortunately there weren’t as many cars as there were the other night so I as able to make the trip back home in 20 minutes (and that was when I was driving no faster than 10 m.p.h.). So I basically spent the blizzard staying home while periodically taking pictures of what was going on outside. Here is the front lawn that was taken over a two-day period (from January 22-23) when the blizzard was at its height).

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

Here is what the bottom of the front door was like.

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

 

The Blizzard of 2016

Here is a view of the blizzard from the kitchen window.

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

Throughout the two-day blizzard, I shot some time lapse footage where you can see the snow gradually accumulating to the point where nearly everything outside was buried.

Here is what everything looked like on the third day (January 24) when the blizzard ended for those of us in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area.

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

Here is the kitchen window.

The Blizzard of 2016 Unlike the Blizzard of 2010 I didn’t have anyone else living with me who could help with the shoveling. I had friends online suggest that I hire someone but the only problem is that I didn’t have enough money at the time. (I had some money that were in the process of arriving but they didn’t come in time for the storm.) So I took out my shovel and initially did it all myself. The Blizzard of 2016

At least I freed myself from being completely trapped in my home and I could step outside. I managed to get my car partially uncovered until my arms became so incredibly sore by sunset that I just couldn’t go any further.

While I was shoveling I took out a metal yardstick and found that the snow measured almost 16 inches. (Actually, if you want to get technical, the snow in the front yard reached 15 and 3/4 inches.)

The Blizzard of 2016

There was one fringe benefit of doing my own snow shoveling. There was a very lovely sunset that capped the first post-blizzard day.

The Blizzard of 2016

By Monday (January 25) I was able to get enough snow shoveling done that I could walk out into the street. It helped that the temperature went up to around 34 degrees Fahrenheit so it was just enough above freezing for the snow to start melting.

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

My car was still partially trapped under the snow. I was lucky that day because a woman who happened to be walking by with a shovel offered to help me. (She had volunteered to look for fire hydrants to shovel out but it was very hard to find them under all that snow.) Thanks to her help we managed to get my car about 75 percent freed, leaving just a tall pile of snow that blocked it from the back.

The schools and nearly everything else were still closed (the Metro system had only partially re-opened but it was mainly within the DC city borders) but people were trying their best to dig out from under the snow. I saw plenty of snow mountains that were being formed by a combination of snow plows and people’s shovels.

On Tuesday (January 26) many places were either still closed or partially running (such as Metro). I got pretty goofy when I took this photo of this Elsa doll standing in the deep snow.

The Blizzard of 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

I also I decided that I would clear that snow pile blocking the back of my car once and for all. I slowly shoveled the huge snow pile in layers (which was how my then-husband taught me how to move huge snow piles during the aftermath of the Blizzard of 2010) when a man in a pickup truck pulled over and offered to help me with his shovel. We managed to clear the last of the snow pile that was blocking my car. I was very tired after that so I simply went back indoors and rested.

Yesterday (January 27) I decided to drive my car for the first time in four days. I managed to make it to Target, which was bustling full of shoppers. I just walked around for a bit while feeling glad that the worst of the blizzard was over. The Metro subway system had gone back to being almost completely functional (the Silver line was still the only one that wasn’t working) and, once again, it was making stops outside of the DC line. I also saw the Metrobuses in my area again. The public schools were still closed.

Today everything is almost back to normal (with the exception of the public schools being closed again). The only downer that the temperature has taken a dip below freezing this morning. This USA Today article says that Washington, DC got off relatively light with 17.8 inches of snow. Just 30 miles north it was far worse. Baltimore got a whopping 29.2 inches. But the blizzard wasn’t all bad for everyone. Over at the National Zoo one of the panda bears, Tian Tian, was having a ball with all that snow.

Sure the snow can make very pretty pictures but I’ve had more than my fill of it. I’m ready for spring.

Santa Claus

Ever since my husband left me just three days after Christmas in 2011, I’ve been celebrating my birthdays by going out to all-you-can-eat Asian buffet places. While they were okay, I was ready for something a little bit different. I got a combination birthday/Christmas check from my mother so I could indulge myself a little bit. I originally planned on going to the Christmas Village that’s temporarily located in Baltimore where I would indulge in German food and do some shopping. But then I looked at operating hours and I found that the Christmas Village is closed on certain Tuesdays—including December 15.

Okay so that plan fell by the wayside. Then I decided on Plan B. I went to Tyson’s Corner Mall instead.

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Here are the first few images of the plaza area where Metro riders arrive at the mall.

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Käthe Wohlfahrt had a heated tent set up outside.

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The next shot is one of the two giant wooden soldiers that guard the entrance to the tent. There was a photography ban inside the tent but you can just go on the website to see the variety of German-made Christmas decorations that are currently for sale.

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Once again the mall has erected an ice skating rink on the plaza. It was empty mainly because I came on a Tuesday night.

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I saw that Jon Wye now has a kiosk in the mall. I can remember when Jon Wye was a regular fixture in many of the local indie craft shows (such as Crafty Bastards). One year I purchased this t-shirt for my then-husband, which he really loved. (My husband loved to cook, although in the later years of our marriage I did more of the cooking because he would come home from work totally exhausted.)

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I ended up eating my birthday dinner at Wasabi. It’s cool they deliver food on a conveyor belt plus the food is excellent.

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After dinner I walked around the mall some more. I saw these cute Christmas villages made from Legos at the Lego Store.

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A few months ago I wrote a rant on Why Kim Kardashian and Her Family Need to Just Go Away. I was exasperated over the fact that the entire family seem to have a knack at calling media attention to themselves even though most of them have no discernible talent. Even though I go through great lengths to avoid having anything remotely to do with Kim Kardashian and family, even I can’t avoid them completely. One example is this poster in a store window touting a fashion collection that’s promoted by two of Kim Kardashian’s younger half-sisters, Kendall and Kylie Jenner.

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Nintendo set up this temporary display in the middle of the mall. People had the opportunity to actually try some of the latest Nintendo games that are currently on sale for both their 3DS and Wii U systems.

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I saw these cute dolls made by the German company Götz in a Pottery Barn Kids store. Here’s a fun fact: Götz was the manufacturer of many of the early American Girl dolls, which ended when Mattel purchased American Girl and, in a cost-cutting measure, shifted all production to China. These days Götz makes its own 18-inch dolls that are sold in Pottery Barn Kids stores.

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I also saw this Star Wars display in the Pottery Barn Kids store right across from where the Götz dolls were displayed.

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In the middle of the mall was something called Those Animals, which were motorized stuffed animals that one could ride through the mall. Each animal is billed to carry a person up to 500 pounds. I thought about renting one briefly to try it out but I didn’t because I wasn’t sure if I would be considered too old to ride one. I later saw a group of teens riding those animals so maybe it would be okay for adults to ride as well. Maybe I’ll consider it again if Those Animals are still around the next time I go to Tyson’s Corner Mall.

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I went to the American Girl Place. I focused mainly on the Christmas related stuff this time around because I’ve already taken so many pictures of that store in the past. There was this store exclusive dress that was displayed on different dolls.

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There were also other types of holiday outfits for dolls available as well.

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They also brought back the horse carriage that I photographed extensively last year at the same store.

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Earlier this year I wrote extensively and posted a bunch of photos on Samantha Parkington’s gazebo. It was adorned with Christmas decorations when I saw that gazebo this time.

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Their Bistro area was all decked out in holiday ornaments. The doll on the counter is Kit Kittredge, who’s the BeForever historical doll representing America during the Great Depression.

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There were a variety of winter holiday decorations strewn throughout the store.

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I took one more token photo of the 2015 Girl of the Year, Grace Thomas, because by the time I make a return visit to the American Girl Place, she’ll be long replaced by the 2016 Girl of the Year.

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I took a few more photos of various store windows and displays throughout the mall.

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I saw the ultimately geeky Christmas ornament: Darth Vader wearing a Santa hat and one of those ugly Christmas sweaters featuring all kinds of Star Wars-related motifs. I didn’t buy it at the time because I didn’t have enough money on me (after eating at Wasabi). When I attempted to go to a Hallmark store located closer to me, I found that all of the Darth Vader ornaments had been sold out except for the display model.

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I finished with a visit to the Nestle Toll House Cafe. Instead of getting a birthday cake for myself, I opted to purchase a cookies and cream brownie. Boy, was it good!

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I purchased only one thing during my trip to the mall. I found this $9.99 miniature gumball machine that had the images of Anna and Elsa on it from the Disney movie Frozen.

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There is a coin slot but one can get the gumball just by twisting the handle. However, if you opt to pay with a coin, there is a lid at the bottom where you can retrieve your coins. (In other words, it functions as a bank as well as a candy dispenser.)

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As I went back out on the plaza in the direction of the Metro station (so I could return home), I saw an employee spraying the surface of the ice skating rink with water.

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I also saw some people sit on the outdoor couches by the tables with lit flames, such as this family in the next photo.

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During a recent visit to Target I found a few curious items, starting with this Star Wars spatula with a handle shaped like a lightsaber.

Star Wars Lightsaber Spatula

Here is a whole line of nutcrackers based on characters from Frozen and Star Wars, including even a Darth Vader nutcracker.

Frozen and Star Wars Nutcrackers

And, last but not least, here is a chance to do a special DIY project where you can customize your own ugly Christmas sweater.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Kit

I was on a trip to Target recently when I saw some interesting things for sale. When I went down the cereal aisle, I saw an entire row of cereal based on movies. Seriously!

Cereals Based on MoviesCereals Based on Movies

I saw a couple of robots on sale. One is the MiP robot, which has been out for over a year. The other is one I hadn’t seen before. It’s called a MiPosaur and it’s a robot dinosaur with a soccer ball!

RobotsLast, but not least, is this doll I’ve been hearing about on the Internet. She is known as a My Friend Cayla doll and she is the same size as an American Girl doll. Except she has something extra. She can connect to the Internet and she can carry on a conversation with a person. One can interact with her using a smartphone. She can speak either English or Spanish depending on which language app you download to your smartphone. This doll reminds me of the Japanese anime series Chobits. My Friend Cayla

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