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Last year I went to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore because it has free admission on Martin Luther King Day. (The regular admission price is $15.95 for adults under 60 and $13.95 for people age 60 and up.) I had a blast even though I arrived too late in the day to get a free slice of birthday cake that the museum usually serves for that occasion. This year I decided to do it again except I made every effort to wake up early and get out of the door so I could arrive by noon (when the birthday cake would be served).

So I managed to arrive earlier than last year while braving the cold weather (the temperature was in the low 20’s that day). I took the light rail into the city then transferred to the Charm City Circulator bus. I managed to arrive shortly before noon. The main disadvantage is that the museum was way more crowded than I remembered last year when I arrived later in the afternoon. But I still tried to make the best of my visit since it was free admission day.

One of the buildings had a new exhibition which featured this giant dragon sculpture that was made entirely from balloons.

There were a few wall hangings that were literally displayed on the ceiling of that building.

I managed to arrive on the third floor of the building where the birthday cake was being served along with a few other activities as well. There was an opportunity to create buttons, which I didn’t get to do because the museum had run out of button making supplies by the time I arrived. But I managed to get a photo of a couple who were able to make buttons.

The entertainment featured a children’s gospel choir known as the Cardinal Shehan School Choir, who came from one of the local Catholic schools in Baltimore. This group has been featured on Good Morning America after one of their videos went viral. After hearing them, I understood why because this choir was so phenomenal, especially since the singers were all children.

In fact, I shot this video of them doing their final number called “Rise Up” that I think you will definitely enjoy.

While the choir was performing I got a chance to look at the birthday cakes that were served to the general public on a first-come, first-served basis. The cakes were available in a variety of flavors.

The museum also gave out a variety of hot beverages (including hot chocolate and a few different flavors of tea). The next photo shows my cup of hot chocolate and the slice of cake that I chose.

This next photo should give you an idea as to how crowded this room got with people making buttons and consuming cake and hot drinks.

I stepped out of the balcony on that third floor where I got a great view of both the museum’s main building and Federal Hill.

Once I finished eating my cake and the choir finished performing its set, I left that large and crowded room and explored the rest of the museum where I took these pictures.

The museum had this special exhibit called The Great Mystery Show, which featured art related to science and mysticism. This NASA astronaut sculpture in the next photo had me thinking about how my ex-husband would’ve loved this since he works for NASA and he told me that he once wanted to become an astronaut only to find out that his eyesight would’ve been considered too poor for such a position. (He managed to study computer programming so he found another way of working for NASA even if he never became an astronaut.)

The statue in the next two photos intrigued me because it was made mostly from sea shells.

The most memorable part of the museum was seeing this sculpture of Edgar Allan Poe that was made entirely from marshmallow Peeps.

The base of the Poe sculpture was flanked by a black cat and a raven, who were both also made from marshmallow Peeps. (Those two were references to two of Poe’s famous works—The Black Cat and The Raven.)

Near the Poe sculpture was this heart that was made from glass, which was a reference to another famous Poe piece known as The Tell-Tale Heart.

The most surreal part of the museum was seeing a TV monitor that had non-stop showings of Martin Luther King giving his famous “I Have a Dream” speech while the monitor was flanked by flowers, tarot cards, two gold masks, and an Ouija board.

I was amazed by this life-sized sculpture of what looked like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz.

I found this interesting recipe posted on the museum wall that I would like to try at some point in the future.


I really liked this colorful and funky cat illustration.

This dress looked like it was made from glass with all of the glass beads.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this inspirational quote from Leonardo da Vinci regarding science and art.

I really liked this next photo, which is a painting of Albert Einstein.

I was also amazed by what this one artist did with small tins (such as a sardine tin and a tin box that was about the size of a pack of Altoids). This person created scenes with paper cutouts. The tiny details were astounding.

I made only one purchase at that museum. I found this crochet pattern book for $5 that was about creating tiny equipment, furniture, and buildings that were small enough for LEGO Minifigs, tiny dolls, and other types of tiny toys. It looked really interesting.

Even though I had that slice of cake, it was no substitute for lunch and I was starting to feel hungry as I was touring the museum. I thought about eating in the museum’s cafe until I saw that it was very crowded. I began to become tired of the throngs of people who were crowding in the museum because they were also taking advantage of the free admission. I decided to leave the museum and walk along the Inner Harbor while taking some photos. This next photo shows a building in the middle that’s under construction complete with a construction crane.

The weather had been mostly non-stop freezing since Christmas with an exception of a couple of days when the temperature reached the low 50’s just a couple of days before MLK Day. Unfortunately that respite was short-lived and the area was plunged into yet another deep freeze. The next few pictures clearly show the effects of the below-freezing temperatures had on the water itself where you can clearly see ice that had been forming.

Some of the litter thrown into the Inner Harbor had been encased in ice.

A pair of ducks were swimming in the non-icy portions of the water.

These stone installations resembled three Adirondack chairs.

The next photo shows the statue of William Donald Schaefer, who served as the mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland.

I walked by Harborplace where I visited It’s Sugar.

 

I bought a few things in that store, including a special pack of Skittles that  was known as “Sweet Heat” because spices were added to the candy. I tried them and I found the spicy taste to be interesting but, to be honest, I prefer regular Skittles.

I bought a small box of this treat called Marshmallow Madness. The idea is based on the Lucky Charms cereal except that the cereal part has been excluded so all you get is just small colored marshmallows in a variety of shapes. I’ve seen Marshmallow Madness be available in cereal-sized boxes. On this trip I saw that there were smaller box versions of Marshmallow Madness so I decided to buy it to see what it tasted like.

My verdict is that while the marshmallows are tasty, I found myself missing the cereal part. (I used to frequently eat Lucky Charms cereal as a child. Even though I rarely eat presweetened cereal these days, I still found myself lamenting the lack of cereal in Marshmallow Madness. I guess old habits die hard. LOL!)

I purchased a pack of orange-flavored Donald Trump-themed gummy candy known as Make America Sweet Again mainly because the package design was such a hoot. I took a bunch of detailed photographs of this product so you’ll get the idea.

I haven’t opened that candy as of this writing. I have an idea of doing something creative with this candy so I don’t want to just eat it right now, especially since there are only two It’s Sugar locations in the entire Baltimore-Washington, DC area (one at Harborplace and the other in the Chinatown area of DC) and I don’t really live close to either location so I can’t shop there too often.

I took a couple of photos of Harborplace, which showed it becoming more and more of a dead mall. This was shot on Martin Luther King Day when a lot of people are off from school and work. I remember Harborplace in better days when it used to draw a huge crowd of shoppers. I remember the days when I made special trips to this place so I could spend the day there. Despite the presence of It’s Sugar, H&M, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, this pavilion is still pretty much empty. I didn’t even bother with visiting the other pavilion because I know it’s the same situation from previous visits. Too bad, so sad.

The sign announcing a “New Tradition” at Harborplace that “Begins Fall 2016” had me laughing. Or maybe having a mostly empty mall is Harborplace’s idea of a “new tradition.” LOL!

The only area of Harborplace where I saw quite a few people was at the temporary ice skating rink that was set outside of one of the pavilions.

There weren’t really a lot of affordable place to eat lunch at. (I still remember the old days when that pavilion I had just visited used to have an entire floor dedicated to a food court that had all kinds of foods ranging from pizza to sushi to Chinese to Subway subs.) I decided to go to the Così that’s located across the street from the Baltimore Convention Center for a late lunch. Except when I arrived just 15 minutes before 3 p.m. I saw a notice on the door saying that Così would be closing early at 3 p.m. for MLK Day. I basically got my lunch to go and walked around the area looking for an appropriate place to eat lunch. Unfortunately it was way too cold to eat anywhere outside. I ultimately walked to the Hilton Baltimore where I sat down in one of the cushions in the lobby and quietly consumed my TBM (tomato, basil, and mozzarella) sandwich with a bag of potato chips and a Diet Coke. That hotel was very empty that day where the staffers outnumbered everyone else.

After I finished lunch, I decided that it was time to head back to the light rail station and get out of the city. I walked past Orioles Park at Camden Yards and took this one last photo. The place definitely looked pretty sad and deserted in the off-season. Baseball season will begin in a few months so this area will have a lot of Baltimore Oriole fans entering through those gates. (It also reminded me of the fact that the last time I attended a game there was back in 2007. It was the year before my hip replacement and it was also when I was still married because I used to accompany my husband to those games. I don’t know when I’ll ever attend another game there in person.)

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Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

Like I wrote in a prior entry, that particular Sunday was a busy day for me. I started off with going to Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School (link is definitely NSFW) and I ate an early dinner while I was at the Bier Baron. After the event ended and I finished eating, I decided to get back on the Metro and head to the White House so I could check out the National Christmas Tree.

Even though I’ve lived my entire life in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area, I’ve only been to the National Christmas Tree two other times. One of them was when I walked past it one spring or summer day but that was in the off-season when it just looked like a typical pine tree. The other was when I went during the winter holiday season and that was when Bill Clinton occupied the White House.

Yeah, I know it’s kind of pathetic that I live in the area and I haven’t made more of an effort to actually visit the National Christmas Tree. This year I decided to actually schedule a visit since next year a new Trump Administration will take control of the White House and Trump seems to have gone out of his way to continue with pissing off people on Twitter. I just want to photograph the Washington, DC area as it is now before Trump takes over because I have a feeling that the DC area will never be quite the same as it is right now.

Like I wrote earlier I last went to the National Christmas Tree when Bill Clinton was in office. While the White House has always had a fence around it, there was a time when you could walk close to the fence then cut through this fenced alleyway over to the Ellipse where the National Christmas Tree is located. Thanks to 9/11 the entire downtown area has become more fortified, including the White House. Basically one now has to walk one block away from the White House, turn a corner, then walk another block back towards the Ellipse side of the White House. This new path definitely increases walking time to get to the National Christmas Tree.

It didn’t help that on the night I went there were even more cutoffs because of a scheduled motorcade of limousines carrying certain VIPs to and from the White House. Living in the DC area you get used to having streets and sidewalks get periodically blocked off to make way for these special motorcades. Here is what it was like at the intersection of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest.

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I eventually made my way back towards the White House on the Ellipse side. My feet were sore but all that walking was worth it once I reached the National Christmas Tree.

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Surrounding the National Christmas Tree were a variety of toy train layouts resembling small villages and towns with a toy train running through each.

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There was a display of smaller trees with each one representing a U.S. state or territory.

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The next photo shows the tree that represented my home state of Maryland.

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The one other time I went to the National Christmas Tree during the winter holiday season I remember that there was a giant lit Yule log and I could warm myself by the fire. I didn’t see any Yule logs or bonfires this time around but I encountered something that I didn’t expect. There was a tent sponsored by Google enticing people to do some computer coding in order to get a free cup of hot chocolate.

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This exhibit was somehow tied in with the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service. (Although, for the life of me, I didn’t see how doing some computer coding was in any way related to visiting National Parks Service places like the Lincoln Memorial or Mount Rushmore or Yosemite.)

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Basically you had to queue up outside and wait until someone opened the tent door and let you inside. Since I went on a Sunday night I didn’t have a long wait outside. Once I was inside the tent I had to wait some more until a station with a Chromebook (you can definitely tell that Google sponsored this) opened up.

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Once I reached the next available Chromebook I found that it was opened to the Made With Code site. I definitely recognized that webpage because I had previously visited it on World Emoji Day back in July and I created my first personalized Emoji. Using the Blockly programming language (another indication that Google sponsored this) I created this Christmas-themed Emoji.

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The next step was to wirelessly send my newly created Emoji to the nearest hot chocolate dispenser.

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A screen at the top showed a selection of recently created Emojis. I found the one I created and chose that one.

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Here’s where the cool part came in. The hot chocolate dispenser poured out the drink while creating special foam at the top that resembled my newly created Emoji.

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There were some specially provided tables where you can center the hot chocolate and take a picture of it.

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Given that cool looking foam featuring an Emoji that I personally coded myself, it was almost a shame to drink the hot chocolate. I was just glad I had my smartphone with me so I could photograph it for posterity and drink my free hot chocolate without regret. (As for the hot chocolate itself, it was okay but I’ve tasted better hot chocolate at Starbucks. I can’t complain too much about it since I got it for free.)

There was a stall that sold the official 2017 White House ornament. It was nice looking but I didn’t buy it since I have a small artificial tree these days and it can’t hold too many ornaments.

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The last picture I took that night was of a life-sized nativity scene that was placed near the National Christmas Tree.

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Way back in January I wrote a blog post about how last year the opening ceremony for the annual Festival of Lights in Greenbelt, Maryland was moved from the back of City Hall to nearby Roosevelt Center, which resulted in higher attendance since the movie theater, restaurants, and convenience store were all located there. I was there for the opening ceremony in its new location but I didn’t bother with taking pictures, which I regretted later. I took pictures of the lights in Roosevelt Center on the last day of the festival, which was on a Sunday night (when most of the businesses tended to close early on Sundays). The entire area was pretty yet deserted when I took those photos.

The opening ceremony was such a huge hit in its new location that the City of Greenbelt decided to do it again this year in Roosevelt Center. This time I took pictures of the festivities.

The festival gave out free hot chocolate. The festival organizers encouraged people to bring their own coffee cups or hot thermoses from home instead of using the free paper cups that were also available in order to get as close to having the festival produce zero waste as possible. I brought this coffee mug that had Stitch from the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch. (It was one a gift I gave to my then-husband but it was among the many items he left behind when he walked out on me back in 2011.) It turned out that that coffee mug was a conversation starter because I had so many kids who literally focused their attention on this mug.

I brought my mug from home for the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

I brought my mug from home for the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

As you can see, this event drew a lot of people of all ages.

A crowd gathers for the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

There were lights strung everywhere.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

A local band played Christmas and Hanukkah music.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights. The band performs Christmas music.

The Christmas tree remained darkened until Santa Claus arrived.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights. The tree is waiting to be lit.

Santa Claus arrived on the back of a fire truck.

Santa arrived at the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Santa arrived at the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

The lights on the tree were lit after Santa arrived.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

The nearby Greenbelt Theater was having a free showing of the original made-for-TV cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas just like it did last year. I saw it on the big screen last year and it was such a different experience from simply watching it at home on the TV. I thought about seeing it again but the line at the movie theater was really long this year. (I later heard that every single seat in the theater was filled.) I decided to skip it. It was no big deal since I saw it on the big screen last year plus I have that show on DVD so I can watch it at home anytime I want.

Makerspace 125 decided to schedule an Open House to coincide with the Festival of Lights opening ceremony. Someone decided to decorate a ladder with lights and ornaments instead of a tree.

Here's how @Makerspace125 does a Christmas tree at the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Here's how @Makerspace125 does a Christmas tree at the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Here's how @Makerspace125 does a Christmas tree at the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Makerspace 125 had this one free hands-on activity where people could make fancy paper ornaments.

A lot of making went on @Makerspace125 at the Open House held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the @Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

One person brought her dog, Honey, who totally enjoyed herself at the open house.

At the Makerspace 125 Open House held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the @Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the @Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the @Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Most of the festival attendees basically cleared out after the Greenbelt Theater finished with showing the Grinch. Here are a few more photographs of the lights that are currently up in Roosevelt Center.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

The lights will remain up until after New Year.

UPDATE (December 25, 2016): After I attended a special Christmas Day Sunday service at my church I decided to head to the Beijing Restaurant in Roosevelt Center (where I took advantage of its special Sunday buffet). After I left the restaurant I noticed that the Christmas tree from the Festival of Lights looked very glittery. Of course it helped that it was a very bright sunny day. Here are a couple of extra daytime photos.

Festival of Lights in the Daytime

Festival of Lights in the Daytime

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