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An attempt at a world record for the most Frida Kahlo lookalikes in one place.

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Ramadan

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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

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 WordPress.com 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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

At long last here’s a post that I’ve been working on for two months, which documents the closing of a local Kmart.

I’m not surprised that the Kmart that was located in Greenbelt, Maryland at the Cipriano Square shopping center (across the street from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) has just closed its doors for good recently—one of hundreds of stores that were doomed to go out of business throughout the United States. Both Kmart and its parent company Sears have been suffering financially for a number of years. The main problem is that both companies are presided over by a CEO named Eddie Lampert who has been applying principles he derived from reading Ayn Rand novels to running his business enterprise with disastrous results. Here’s a quote from this article.

Plagued by the realities threatening many retail stores, Sears also faces a unique problem: Lampert. Many of its troubles can be traced to an organizational model the chairman implemented five years ago, an idea he has said will save the company. Lampert runs Sears like a hedge fund portfolio, with dozens of autonomous businesses competing for his attention and money. An outspoken advocate of free-market economics and fan of the novelist Ayn Rand, he created the model because he expected the invisible hand of the market to drive better results. If the company’s leaders were told to act selfishly, he argued, they would run their divisions in a rational manner, boosting overall performance.

Instead, the divisions turned against each other—and Sears and Kmart, the overarching brands, suffered. Interviews with more than 40 former executives, many of whom sat at the highest levels of the company, paint a picture of a business that’s ravaged by infighting as its divisions battle over fewer resources. (Many declined to go on the record for a variety of reasons, including fear of angering Lampert.) Shaunak Dave, a former executive who left in 2012 and is now at sports marketing agency Revolution, says the model created a “warring tribes” culture. “If you were in a different business unit, we were in two competing companies,” he says. “Cooperation and collaboration aren’t there.”

All of which proves that Ayn Rand is a poor role model when it comes to applying her principles that she espoused in her novels to real life. This worship of Ayn Rand is a reason why Eddie Lampert has shown up on a number of “Worst CEOs” lists like this one.

It sucks that things are going bad for both Sears and Kmart since both stores have been around since my childhood. I still have memories of the times my mother took me to Sears to buy clothes for me. I remember my father had a few Craftsman tools that he would use for things like yard work.

And then there’s the other store that began with the letter K. When I was growing up, there was a Kresge’s at the local Harundale Mall in Glen Burnie, Maryland (which is notable in the Wikipedia for being the enclosed shopping mall to open on the East Coast). Kresge’s was an independently-owned five and dime store and it was located just a few feet away from another five and dime—Murphy’s. I can remember the times I purchased cheap toys with my allowance money from both stores and the years when my mother would buy me one of those cheap plastic Ben Cooper Halloween costumes that were sold in both stores instead of sewing me one with her sewing machine.

Murphy’s eventually went out of business while Kresge’s started to open larger stores and, in the process, changed its name to Kmart. When I first moved to the area where I live now, there was a Bradlees that was the main anchor of Cipriano Square. Bradlees was a big box discount store that had nice things for pretty decent prices and I used to shop for clothes there a lot. A few years later Bradlees closed down and it was replaced by Jamesway, another large discount store that also had nice things at pretty decent prices. Jamesway closed down after a couple of years and Kmart moved in its place, where it had stayed until recently.

I bought a lot of things from Kmart over the years. I’ll admit that the checkout lines were always crowded mainly because the store always put too few employees at the cash registers (mainly to save money) so I always had to wait in line for at least 15 minutes. No matter what time of the day, there were always more buyers than cashiers. Yet Kmart had some nice things (especially in women’s clothes—I bought a lot of professional looking clothes for the office jobs I worked at) so I still shopped there despite the crappy service. I learned early on that Kmart was not the store to shop in if you had limited time and you needed to be somewhere else by a certain exact time. Basically if I needed to buy something, I went to Kmart on days when I had nothing else that I had to do so I could endure the very slow checkout lines.

Even Kmart’s purchase by Sears didn’t improve the checkout lines very much although it was convenient that I could get Kenmore and Craftsman products at a store that was located closer to my home than the nearest Sears.

Basically shopping at Kmart was something that was endured but the hassle turned out to be worthwhile in the long run because I obtained useful stuff, some of which I still use (such as a Martha Stewart laundry basket that I bought years ago and it’s still in very good shape).

When I learned via one of the Facebook groups that I belonged to about Kmart’s imminent demise in my area, I knew that I needed to take advantage of the going out of business sale because there were a few items that I needed to buy and it was an opportunity to get them at even lower prices than before. I also decided to take pictures to document the store’s decline. I made a few trips to that store before it finally closed for good this month. Here is what I saw during those trips.

February 13, 2015

It was very fitting that I made my first trip to Kmart after I heard the news on a Friday the 13th. The outside of the store didn’t give any indication that it was closing down soon.

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But once I entered I saw the signs announcing a massive sale where everything in the store was between 10-30% off the regular price. The signs said “Huge Inventory Blowout!,” which would lead one to believe that Kmart was just having the usual end-of-season clearance sale in order to make way for new inventory for the spring and summer months. If I hadn’t seen that Facebook message that someone in one of my groups posted online, I would’ve made a similar conclusion as well.

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Since Valentine’s Day was the next day, it was natural to see a rack full of Valentine cards near the store entrance.

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There were all kinds of merchandise that had the discount prices on them.

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Even though the going out of business sale was in its early days, some of the shelves were already starting to become empty.

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And the Refreshments area near the cash registers had already closed down for good.

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There were some merchandise that were haphazardly thrown into bins. Some of the stuff looked like leftover Halloween costumes while others looked like leftover Christmas decorations. I wasn’t about to go through those bins to get a closer look because they looked so messy that they seemed intimidating to me.

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I found a My Little Pony Equestria Girls Rainbow Rocks doll set that’s a Kmart exclusive.

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Among the normal items on sale, there were a bunch of things that I thought were pretty odd. There is this toy shaped like a Kenmore vacuum cleaner that’s supposed to teach little girls the joys of doing vacuuming while subtly instilling brand loyalty to Kenmore products at an early age. (If my parents had given me a toy like that when I was a kid, I would’ve thrown a fit. I was into dolls, stuffed animals, and craft kits. Anything that resembled household appliances were considered boring to me.) It’s pretty ironic since Kenmore was originally created as a Sears store brand and I’ve read that Sears is among the list of companies most likely to go out of business permanently in 2015. Unless Sears sells its Kenmore line to someone else, any little girl getting a My First Kenmore Vacuum Cleaner would consider this one as My Last Kenmore Vacuum Cleaner.

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This kid’s t-shirt had me going WTF?!? at seeing Ariel from The Little Mermaid wearing glasses. I hate to say it but glasses are totally not practical for mermaids or any other creature who spends the majority of time underwater.

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Then there is this really bizarre game that’s being marketed for girls called Freaky Becky. Judging from the box, it looks like each girl player has to do something with the enclosed zombie doll known as Freaky Becky and that zombie parts will frequently fly all over the place as part of the fun. I can imagine parents getting exasperated over having zombie doll parts fly everywhere and maybe even get lost in between the sofa cushions or on a rug where someone steps on it later.

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There are similar games made by the same company for boys as well: Johnny the Skull and Zed the Zombie.

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There were a few strange items for adults as well. Remember the Snuggie? Well Kmart was selling sleeved blankets where one can choose from Minnie Mouse or Elvis Presley.

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I needed to buy a few new items but it wasn’t until after I arrived in the store that I realized that I didn’t have as much money on me as I thought so I bought fewer items than I wanted. Since the sales only ranged between 10-30%, I decided to focus on buying only those items that I really needed to buy (as opposed to items I’d like to buy but I really don’t need). I bought one Playtex bra to replace at least one of the old bras that I’ve owned for years that have been getting increasingly ratty and stretched out. I also saw this exercise DVD that was originally marked at $10 but the price was lowered to $8 called Lesley Samsone Walk Away the Pounds. Lately I’ve been making an effort to walk a minimum of one mile a day, six days a week and I’ve been wearing a pedometer to make sure that I make at least the minimum goal. Some nights I’m short of my minimum goal so I’ve been taking short night walks around my neighborhood in order to push my pedometer beyond the 1 mile mark. The DVD comes in handy for those nights when I can’t go outside because it’s raining or snowing.

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February 14, 2015

I’ll admit that I was annoyed with myself for coming to Kmart’s going out of business sale with not enough cash the day before. There were some items that I absolutely needed to replace (because they were literally falling apart) and I figured that it was a  rare opportunity to replace these items at a discount.

I’ve been to enough of these going out of business sales over the years to know that they tend to be multiple phase plans. During the early phase, the discounts tend to go no lower than 30% with many items only being offered for 10% off the retail price. But it’s also during that phase when you’re more likely to get the items that you want. By the time steeper discounts are offered, chances are that many items you want will have already been sold and much of the merchandise left are literally the dregs.

So I decided to take an organized approach to Kmart’s going out of business sale. During the initial 10-30% off phase, I decided to focus only on the items I really needed to buy while putting off other items that I would like to have but I really don’t need immediately for later in the going out of business sale process.

Since I stupidly didn’t bring enough money the day before, I decided to go back on the following day, even though it was Valentine’s Day. I didn’t mind shopping on Valentine’s Day because it’s not like I have a significant other to spend the day with or anything like that. I got a chance to take photos of a few more items that are a bit on the kitsch side, such as these pillows based on Star Wars and Frozen.

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I browsed a bit around the beauty aisles where I found this cologne that’s marked with the 007 logo from the James Bond movies.

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It’s been a long time since I last bought myself a bottle of perfume or cologne. There seems to be an excess in perfume/cologne with a celebrity’s name attached to it, such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry. I just don’t remember ever seeing such products named after celebrities like that. I just remember names like Chanel No. 5 and Jean Naté, which weren’t named after celebrities who are currently fixtures in the tabloid media.

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Paris Hilton has a whole section dedicated to different brands of her perfume/cologne. Talk about a total inventory glut!

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Here are some bath-related products for 20% off.

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There was a large cardboard bin that had just books that were 80% off the retail price. I looked in the bin but I didn’t find a book that interested me enough to buy one. It’s too bad because it was about the only place that had the steepest discount.

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There was a large pile of Easy Bake Ovens that were placed right in the middle of an aisle.

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There was a section of brightly decorated bras from Joe Boxer. While I loved the designs on the bras, I felt that they were impractical because the designs would ultimately be covered with a shirt. If the shirt was on the sheer side, there’s a chance that the bra’s designs would show through, which would be okay if a woman was at a party or something like that but would be embarrassing if she was working in an office.

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Between the fact that it was Valentine’s Day (with people doing their last minute holiday shopping) and it was a going out of business sale, there were plenty of people in the checkout lane. I saw people literally fill their shopping carts with merchandise. It took me a while to actually check out with my items.

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Here’s what I bought that day. I purchased another bra to replace one of my older bras that have gotten ratty and is literally falling apart. My new bra is a pretty light pink color, which I like.

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I purchased a can opener mainly because the last can opener I owned had a blade that was getting increasingly dull and I had a harder time opening metal cans. This new can opener works really well and I can open cans much faster than before.

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Here’s the back of the package, which has the name of Kmart’s store brand (Essential Home). The can opener was really easy to remove from the package.

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Here’s a close up of the back package, which features the Kmart logo.

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I purchased two bath mats mainly because one of my current bath mats was really falling to pieces (I ended up throwing that one away after buying my new mats) and the other one is just starting to fall apart. These new bath mats have worked out really well for me.

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This last item was an impulse buy. It’s a liquid soap dispenser that’s shaped like the Eiffel Tower. I thought it looked really nice and it was on sale for only $12. I got rid of a soap dispenser last year after it broke apart and I bought a new one at Target soon afterwards. With this new soap dispenser, I now have a total of three dispensers. This Eiffel Tower looks really nice in my bathroom.

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February 17, 2015

Three days after my Valentine’s Day shopping trip, I made yet another shopping trip to Kmart. By that time the store had finally decided to put up an outside banner along with several signs in the windows and in the entrance foyer admitting that, yes, it really is going out of business.

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There were all kinds of items with discount signs.

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They were even selling this necklace and earring set with one of the stones missing from the necklace.

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Then there was a whole row of Grumpy Cats.

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There was the same large stack of Easy Bake Ovens that I saw just a few days ago, except the pile had gotten smaller.

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There were sales everywhere.

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The checkout lines were very busy with shoppers taking advantage of the sale.

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The photo below shows my haul from that trip.

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I bought another Playtex bra, this one in a tan color. I also bought a pack of Hanes underwear because I recently had to throw away a couple of panties because they had developed large holes (I had them for a few years). It’s always useful to buy underwear in bulk even if you can’t currently use all of the new panties at once because you never know when you’ll need to throw away a pair of old panties that developed holes big enough to shove three fingers through them.

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The next photo shows my biggest ticket item I’ve purchased from Kmart to date. It’s a Blue Line stereo that has built-in speakers, AM/FM radio, a CD player, an alarm clock, and an outlet to plug in a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or MP3 player so one can listen to digital music in stereo. The price was originally listed at $69.99 but I got it for $50. I had wanted to purchase a smaller stereo that I could fit on a tabletop ever since I got rid of that huge stereo that was taking up a massive amount of space in my living room but I wasn’t able to do so until recently because money was very tight. So far it works really well and it has a great sound.

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My cash receipt included this notice expressing regret that they had to close the Kmart in my area but I could call or go online to Kmart.com to find other Kmart stores. It also included this incredibly dumb-sounding slogan: “We’re Open. You’re Saving!” Whatever.

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March 18, 2015

I grew tired of going back to Kmart for the last three shopping trips so I decided to take some time off from going there, figuring that the prices would eventually go even lower the closer the actual going out of business date arrives. I ended up waiting a whole month before I went back. By the time I made my return trip, I noticed that there were more empty areas inside of the store.

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By that point the discounts had increased to as much as 40% off. I was intrigued by these MiP robots when I first started seeing them in other stores last year but I didn’t go for one because of the $99 price tag for a small robot. These MiP robots were now 40% off but I decided to wait a bit longer to see if they go any lower.

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There was a shelf full of piñatas, which is great for parents of more than two kids because they could stock up on them for future birthday parties.

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With more items being sold out, it seems like there are a greater number of merchandise that I would consider odd, strange, or off-beat like these weird fish-like stuffed animals.

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Then there is the sleeved blanket for kids featuring Olaf the Snowman from the Disney movie Frozen.

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For the adult collector who is really into clocks, there were various anniversary clocks on sale featuring I Love Lucy, Elvis Presley, The Wizard of Oz, and Marilyn Monroe.

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For your next party or family get-together, how about playing a game where you do nothing but guess which logo belongs to which corporation. Sounds fun, no?

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Then there are these creepy looking Lalaloopey Babies, which look like they could’ve been the offsprings of the Other Mother and the Other Father from the movie Coraline.

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Then there is this Ketchup Kritter where you replace the cap of your ketchup bottle with this demon head and you get to see him vomit ketchup over your hamburger or french fries.

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As to the weirdest item I found at Kmart during that time, I have to say that it’s a tossup between the Ketchup Kritter and this resin deer statue that functions as a toilet paper holder. That deer is a great example of how sometimes the jokes just write themselves.

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I didn’t buy anything on this trip because I had already purchased everything that I needed to buy and I want to see the prices to go down just a little bit lower before I buy anything else.

March 26, 2015

A few days earlier I woke up with a scratchy throat that quickly segued into all of my sinuses being stuffed up and feeling tired all of the time. Yes, I came down with a cold. After staying completely indoors the previous day, I still felt so tired that I took an afternoon nap. After dinner I decided to skip my weekly support group meeting for people who are separated or divorced and just do a short outing. I ended up going back to Kmart to see the progress on its going out of business sale.

The first thing I noticed was the section near the front door. In better days Kmart used to display outdoor items for sale depending on the season (such as artificial Christmas trees or gardening supplies). That area always used to be well stocked with items that people could pick up before even entering the store. On this day the only things I saw on sale were bags of potting soil.

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I managed to show up to the store after dinner. I discovered that these days this Kmart tends to close by 8 p.m., which is way earlier than normal. (In contrast, the Kmart in Hyattsville, which is not currently slated for going out of business, closes at 11 p.m. every night.) By this point more items were priced at least 30% off with many of them starting to be marked with the 50% off sale.

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I also saw quite a few odd items. First there are these oversized neon-colored alarm clocks that were a bit on the gaudy side.

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Until I made this trip to Kmart, I never knew that one could have the option of buying a hybrid lava lamp/table lamp.

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I also never associated Kmart with beer making kits.

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There were shelves full of Valentine’s Day cards for anyone who wanted to get a head start on preparing for Valentine’s Day, 2016.

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There was this women’s shirt that was a midriff-baring tank top that had a scientific drawing of a T-Rex. Okay, whatever.

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There was a clothing line with Selena Gomez’s name on it, although I’m more familiar with her name through the various celebrity gossip sites than with her clothing line.

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There’s one of those giant musical step-on keyboards (such as the one that was featured in the Tom Hanks movie Big) that has the logo of Rolling Stone magazine on it.

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Then there were a display of these giant action figures based on Star Wars and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that were at least 2 feet tall.

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There were sections of the store that had rows upon rows of empty shelves. There were some areas where the shelves had already been dismantled.

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I only bought two items during this Kmart trip. One was a box of acid reducer over-the-counter medicine. With the Easter holiday coming up and with the stress over filing my income taxes, I really want to prevent any kind of acid reflux as a result of eating foods that I normally don’t eat or stress. I got 50% off the listed price, which was nice.

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And then I purchased this doll for 50% off. She is an Ever After High doll, a line of Mattel dolls that are similar to the Monster High dolls except that all of the students who attend Ever After High are children of famous fairy tale characters. I purchased Madeline Hatter, who’s the daughter of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.

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She carries a teapot-shaped purse.

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She wears a teacup-shaped hat, which is incredibly cute.

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The front of her hat has some gold designs that one would find on a fancy teacup. She wears earrings shaped like spoons and she has long curly hair that’s primarily purple with light blue streaks.

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Even the heels of her shoes suggest a teapot handle.

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All in all it’s an incredibly cute doll and I’m fortunate that I got her for around $11.

March 27, 2015

I came back to Kmart the next day because I made the same mistake as a month earlier: I didn’t arrive with enough money so I had to curtail what I wanted to buy. This day I made sure I had more than enough money before I arrived in the store. I still took more pictures because it looked like the store was rapidly clearing out with each passing day.

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Many of the items were now sporting 50% off discounts, such as this line of 18-inch What a Doll!, which looked like it was Kmart’s answer to the ever popular American Girl line.

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I saw these cloth Mooshka dolls on sale, which I thought were incredibly cute looking.

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For those who missed out on last year’s Holiday Barbie doll, there was a second chance to buy that doll and one could buy it at a steep discount.

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Going back even further, anyone who missed out on a chance to buy a special 30th anniversary Cabbage Patch Kids doll a few years ago also got a second chance to buy one at a major discount.

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There were still plenty of cometics to go around, such as this perfume endorsed by Britney Spears.

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I admit that there are two reasons why I had ever heard of One Direction in the first place: 1) I’ve seen various products bearing the band’s name such as the One Direction eye shadow in the next two photos and 2) I have a One Direction song on one of my Just Dance video games. (To be honest, I literally can’t recall the name of the song or what it sounded like. I could do a Google search but I’m too lazy to do so.) One Direction recently made major news when one of the members of that group, Zayn Malik, announced that he was leaving the band and it caused a lot of their teenaged fans to go into total hysterics.

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The idea behind the One Direction eye shadow is to choose the package based on your favorite One Direction member. I looked closely at the photos of the enclosed makeup and it looks like all of the eye shadows are identical. The only difference is which photo of the One Direction band member is featured on the box.

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There was perfume endorsed by the rock band KISS.

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First there were the Monster High dolls, now there’s Monster High cosmetics. This is strange when you consider that Monster High was originally aimed at elementary school aged girls and the Monster High makeup I saw is definitely inappropriate for young girls. My parents wouldn’t let me wear makeup of any kind until I was in middle school.

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A few weeks ago I found Ketchup Kritter, a device where you put a red devil head on a bottle of ketchup and watch him vomit ketchup on your food. On this trip I found his buddy, Mustard Monster, where you get to put him on a bottle of mustard and watch him vomit mustard on your food.

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Then there is this device where you can mold bacon strips into an edible bowl. It might work with some foods but I can’t imagine trying it with ice cream or cereal.

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There weren’t many books left on the shelves.

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Here’s a sample of the books that one can choose from.

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There’s nothing wrong with a dollhouse that one could assemble for a doll lover. It’s just that this dollhouse is designed to fit an 18-inch doll (instead of the usual 1/12 scale dolls that measures between 3-6 inches), which means that this dollhouse would take up a huge amount of space in anyone’s home.

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No, the next photo isn’t upside down. That was how I found these Homer Simpson slippers hanging on the racks. These slippers are totally bizarre for this reason: you generally put your foot inside of Homer’s mouth so it would look like Homer is either eating (or choking to death) on your foot.

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There were watches based on a band one of whose members has recently quit and a one-time teen idol who is now more famous for his frequent brushes with the law than for his music.

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I was glad that I purchased my underwear pack when I did because the lingerie department was full of slim pickings. There is no way in hell I would ever wear THIS on my crotch.

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And then there is this children’s loft bed with a sliding board. That poor kid would have a hard time deciding on whether it’s playtime or nap time.

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A flameless candle?!?

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Over in the school supplies section, there were Duck Dynasty folders available for students. Maybe I could see teenagers using this but I can’t imagine parents being willing to buy a folder for younger kids based on a TV show featuring a person who has gotten into controversy for making outrageous statements like this one featuring a hypothetical situation about an atheist family, rape, and decapitation.

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You can have your lips smell and taste like soda pop.

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I get the idea of something for a cold night like a matching mug and blanket set. But do you know how hard it would be to balance a mug full of hot liquid while keeping a warm blanket wrapped around you and hoping that you don’t spill the mug or the blanket falling off of you?

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There were cheap shelves for items that ranged from $1-3. But the merchandise in them were pretty messy and disorganized.

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And then there is this thing. It’s a hooded jacket but it has no sleeves. Or maybe it’s a vest but it has a hood and it looks awfully thick for a vest.

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That camouflage hooded sleeveless coat or vest looked tasteful compared to this shocking pink variation.

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I found this in the Plus Size Women’s department. This shirt was in at least a size 20 and it had thin horizontal stripes, which would make a 300 pound woman look like she is wider than normal and weighs at least 500 pounds.

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And then there is this line of Selena Gomez flannel checkered shirts. On the surface there’s nothing wrong with them until you look closer at the shoulders.

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Yes, those are studs at the shoulders.

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There were the same shirts in other colors and they all had the same pattern with shoulder studs.

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Okay, I’m not a fashion designer but I’ve done enough sewing to know that you don’t embellish anything that already has a pattern because the embellishments will either disappear among the pattern or make the pattern so busy that the outfit is ugly. If you’ve ever seen a gown or a cowboy shirt embellished with bling, you’d see that the designer typically uses a plain solid fabric as the base to embellish, not something that already has a busy pattern.

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That fox welcome sign is pretty cute. It’s too bad that you can see the large area of chipped paint one of the fox’s ears on the left side.

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I had considered buying myself a bag of socks until I found that all of the sock bags had been opened. Many of the bags also looked like one or more pairs of socks had been removed from each bag.

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I even saw a loose individual sock that was just hanging on a rack. Even though the bags of socks were at 50% off, there was no way I was going to buy an opened bag like that because I have a feeling that I wouldn’t get all of the socks that the bag label said I would get.

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On this trip I purchased two items. First is this box of Life cereal. Yeah, I know it sounds lame but I was running low on cereal and I saw a shelf full of Life cereal that was on sale for 30% off so I went for it.

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Then there is this other item that I had my eye on for quite some time. The MiP robot was originally priced at $99.99. This robot’s discount had finally sunk to 50% off and there weren’t a lot of MiP robots left on the shelves so I decided to buy it. The price was $50 and I got an extra $2 off because I was using my Kmart Shop Your Way Reward Card and I had received enough points to get that discount. Sweet!

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I chose the black robot. It looks pretty nice and very attractive and it definitely warrants its own entry that I may get around to writing at a later date. The box of Life cereal and the MiP robot turned out to be the last items I’ve ever purchased at Kmart’s Greenbelt, Maryland location.

April 1, 2015

Yes, I made a trip to Kmart on April Fool’s Day but the going out of business sale was no laughing matter.

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The bags of soil that were the only outdoor items that I saw for sale on a previous trip were sold out. Only the two soda machines remained.

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I checked both machines to see if I could purchase a soda like I used to do sometimes before entering Kmart in better days. I took a closer look and found that the LED lights weren’t working. I tried inserting a dollar in the bill slot in one of the machines and that machine just wasn’t working at all. It looked like someone had disconnected those two machines for good.

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Inside the store I saw a new sign saying that the going out of business sale was now in its final two weeks.

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There were even steeper discounts than before.

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However there were more empty areas than before as well. There were floor marks indicating where stock shelves used to be located.

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There were also areas of the store that were roped off with yellow police tape where collapsed shelves, signs, and various fixtures were stored.

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Plus there were rows upon rows of empty shelves.

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One part of the store looked like a portion of the drywall was stripped away. There were instructions spray-painted in this neon red paint color. There were other instructions that were written in ink. I have no idea if these instructions were written recently or if they were originally written when remodeling was originally done on the space when the former Bradlees turned into Jamesway then, again, the former Jamesway turned into Kmart.

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Despite the increase in empty areas, there were still plenty of items that were available for sale at steeper discounts than ever before. The items ranged from pretty nice (sadly the clothes that I personally liked didn’t fit me because they were in sizes that were either too big or too small for me) to totally bizarre.

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Even though Easter was just a few days away, there weren’t a lot of holiday items aside from these greeting cards.

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In fact, there were far more Christmas items than items for any other holiday (including Easter). At least it provided an opportunity for anyone wanting to get a head start on this coming Christmas in just over eight months while paying far less than they would’ve just four months ago.

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I didn’t buy anything on this trip. Like I wrote earlier, the clothes that I was interested in were either several sizes too big or too small for me. I began to have a feeling that the window of opportunity for me to buy the choice items at a discount has closed for me and I’m just seeing the dregs now.

April 5, 2015

Easter Sunday fell on April 5 this year and it was also Passover as well. After attending church, I decided to go to Kmart because I was curious about whether it would close on this holiday like many other area stores did. When I arrived, I got my answer as I saw plenty of cars parked outside. At first I thought it was a shame that employees were made to work on Easter/Passover until I realized that once Kmart closes for good, they were going to have all the time off they could financially withstand so they might as well work through a holiday.

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When I first entered I noticed a new sign that was literally the final countdown of the number of days left until Kmart closes its doors forever.

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There were plenty of shoppers on that Easter Sunday as they were looking for bargains that were starting to hit rock bottom prices.

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There were more and more empty and partially empty shelves on that day.

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The back of the store was mostly blocked off with yellow police tape. I noticed that the ceilings had these pulleys with yellow rope dangling that weren’t there before. I saw that more and more dismantled signs and shelves were behind that roped off area.

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The one area in the back that weren’t roped off was the aisle leading to the Layaway section and the public restrooms. I decided to go down that aisle to check it out.

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When I first approached the Layaway desk, I noticed that no one was working there and the lights were off. When I stepped closer to the desk to investigate, the lights automatically turned on. It was a pretty surreal experience to say the least.

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The public restrooms were across from the Layaway desk. I decided to check out the women’s bathroom.

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One toilet still had the seat cover on it but, otherwise, the women’s bathroom was just as clean as I found it on previous trips before Kmart’s going out of business sale.

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Down the hallway from the restrooms was this opened door that looks like it leads to the warehouse where inventory was kept before being put on store shelves.

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Also near the restrooms was another opened door that looks like it leads to an Employee’s Lounge. (I didn’t investigate either doors because I think those areas were for employees only.)

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The leftover inventory was getting slimmer and slimmer. Most of the items left were ones that I photographed on previous trips. There were a few new items I took pictures of for posterity.

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I couldn’t help but notice a One Direction board game, especially since the Internet went in a total uproar a few weeks earlier when one of its members decided to quit the band. I guess this board game is a collector’s item now (assuming that anyone will even care about buying One Direction collector’s items 10-20 years from now).

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I found one oddity on this trip. It’s a CD called Music for Vampires. I have to admit that the title sounded intriguing and it was on sale for $6.

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Until I turned the CD on the other side and I found that it was basically a compilation of mostly New Wave and Modern Rock songs from the 1980’s and 1990’s that only used the word “Vampires” in the title in an attempt to get Twilight fans to buy this. I would’ve bought it myself but I didn’t because I already have most of the songs either on other CD’s or as MP3 files.

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April 9, 2015

With Kmart closing soon, I decided to make another trip to see how things were going. The countdown sign located by the front door was updated to reflect the fact that shoppers had only four more days until the final closure.

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The discounts have gone very steep with some items reaching the 85% off mark.

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There were plenty of shoppers when I was there who were searching for something—anything—they could buy very cheaply.

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There were more bare shelves and more empty areas when I was there. If I had to guess, I’d say that about 25% of inventory was left.

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The stuff I found on the shelves were literally the dregs, such as this candy that was supposed to look and feel like boogers. The Elf on the Shelf was back on the store shelves along with various leftover Christmas items. There was literally nothing that tempted me. Nothing.

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I found this Ashlee Simpson CD that was a Kmart exclusive. It was originally $5.99 but it was now on sale for $2.99.

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April 17, 2015

I intended to go to Kmart on the final day of its existence. It would’ve been interesting to see what was left on the shelves. It also would’ve been interesting to observe both employees and customers to see if anyone would get misty-eyed over Kmart closing for good. Or if the employees would just stop giving a damn about anything since they were going to be unemployed the next day.

But then a few things happened that distracted me. First there were the taxes. Yeah, that sucked but the alternative to not bother filing would’ve been worse so I gritted my teeth and made every effort to get them done by the April 15 deadline.

Then there were the cherry blossom trees, which bloomed later than usual this year. On top of it, after a long cold winter, the weather had gotten warmer at last and the snow was becoming a distant memory of me. I fell into temptation from both the weather and the cherry blossoms and basically enjoyed the beautiful scenery instead of going to a dying big box retailer like Kmart.

By the time I returned to Kmart the store had already closed for good. But I noticed a few interesting things that I photographed.

The giant Kmart letters that once graced the outside of the building were gone. There were faint outlines that showed where the letters used to be placed.

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Curiously the soda machines were still located near the entrance. Not that it really mattered since they weren’t even working.

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The front door had a few signs posted.

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One of the signs announced that Kmart was officially closed while the other sign announced that a fixture sale was going on and the store was opened from 12-5. Unfortunately I got there after the store had closed for the day. However, I noticed the dates and tomorrow was going to be the last day of the fixture sale. So I had another chance to go inside that store and take a few last photos of an empty store. The only problem was that the Greenbelt Mini-Maker Faire was also happening that same day and I was selling my wares there. Since the event was ending at 4 p.m., I had a chance to show up for the last hour of that fixture sale so I made a mental note to return the next day.

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I looked through the door and saw that the store was empty of inventory. Basically it was an opportunity to purchase shelves or maybe a shopping cart.

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I walked around to the side where Kmart once had its Garden Center. Instead of plants, potting soil, and other seasonal items, the entire area was mostly bare. Although I saw that the Kmart letters were there on one side of the empty space so I found out where the giant Kmart letters went.

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The parking lot outside Kmart was empty except for a few shopping carts that were left behind. It was kind of eery seeing these shopping carts in an empty parking lot waiting for someone—anyone—to use them once again.

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April 18, 2015

Thanks to the fixtures sale, I thought I had another opportunity to take more pictures of an empty Kmart. However April 18 was the last day of that sale and it would only be held from 12-5 p.m. On top of it, I had to work the Greenbelt Mini-Maker Faire, which was going on at the same time. Since that event ended at 4 p.m. I thought I would have some time left to check out the tail end of that fixtures sale. Once the 4 p.m. end time came, I quickly packed up my tables, chair, and inventory so I could go to Kmart for one last visit.

I arrived in the parking lot around 4:40, which would give me 20 minutes until the official end of that fixtures sale. Except when I came to the door I found that it was locked.

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I also saw some glue or tape residue where the green since the sign announcing the hours for the fixtures sale was once placed.

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It looked like the store closed before the official 5 p.m. closing time. I guess things like remaining open during the official posted time doesn’t really matter since the store is officially gone for good. It’s not like keeping customers satisfied really matters anymore. I looked through the locked doors one more time and I noticed that there were still fixtures in that store. I guess they’ll eventually be put in storage somewhere or get shipped to the remaining Kmarts that are still in business as of this writing.

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The only thing different I noticed from the day before is that the abandoned shopping carts in the parking lot were gone. I don’t know if someone connected with Kmart took them or if someone simply stole them. All I know is that the parking lot near Kmart is now completely empty. The only odd thing that remained were the two soda machines near the front doors that aren’t even working.

Even though I hated the crappy customer service (due mainly to understaffing the cashier area so the checkout lines were always long no matter what time of day or even what time of year), I’ll still miss the nice things I used to purchase for reasonable prices. There is another Kmart in Hyattsville that I could go to. There’s also one in Crofton that I could go to on my way to my weekly support group meeting for people who are separated or divorced. But how much longer the surviving Kmarts will last is up in the air since both Kmart and its parent company Sears are predicted to completely go out of business. Right now it looks like Sears is more focused on dismantling itself and Kmart by closing a lot of stores across the United States than on doing anything radical to save both stores. Sears and Kmart are currently in a downward spiral where they close some stores, which results in lost revenue, which leads to closing even more stores, resulting in even more lost revenue, and so on.  In a way it’s sad since I’ve known both stores since I was a child. Oh well.

Santa Claus

I decided to visit Valley View Farms on the day before Christmas Eve. (I guess you could call it Christmas Eve Eve. LOL!) The previous day, when I visited Homestead Gardens, it had been raining with patches of fog. When I went up to Cockeysville, it was alternating between light rain and mist and it was still wet outside. And the traffic was pretty atrocious between both the rain and the fact that Christmas was just two days away. But when I finally arrived and stepped inside, I began to forget about that horrendous commute and just marvel at the total Christmas fantasyland.

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There were lots of decorated Christmas trees with each one representing a theme. Some had a theme according to color (such as all white or all gold) while others had a theme according to type of ornaments (such as all snowmen or all toys). It’s such a visual treat seeing each unique tree with a theme of its own.

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Of course there were a lot of ornaments available that one can buy.

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There were other types of decorations on display as well.

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There was also a whole section dedicated to the Department 56 cottages.

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I liked the message on this cloth dishtowel. (Or I think it’s a dishtowel.) As an artist, I’m pretty amused by that cloth. Unfortunately I have no idea if it is a dishtowel or if it’s one of those cloth banners that you hang on the wall. In any case I didn’t buy it because I have no need for another dishtowel and I don’t have space on my walls to hang anything else.

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There were a few non-Christmas items on display as well, such as this banner highlighting the years when the Baltimore Orioles were World Series champions. I’ll admit that it’s frustrating that 1983 was the last time the Orioles won the World Series. The team is definitely overdue for another victory. There are times when I dream of an I-95 World Series between the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals. (I would face a dilemma on which team to root for if that ever happened. I grew up outside of Baltimore where people loved the Orioles including my family so I was raised as an Orioles fan. Yet I’m currently living closer to Washington, DC where people are definitely into the Nationals. I’m not going to think about it until it actually happens in real life. LOL!)

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Before I decided to drive back home, I decided to brave the misting rain and take a photo of the sign in the back.

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Despite the numerous pretty ornaments, I managed to stick with buying just one ornament, which can be seen in the last photograph below. It was one that I found for $6. It resembles the Delftware that originated in the Netherlands and it even looks Dutch. However, I saw a “Made in China” sticker, which was why I was able to buy something like this at a very low price. What I really like about this ornament is the flat base so I could place it under the Christmas tree if I end up with having more ornaments than tree space in the future.

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While I was busy decluttering my home for an upcoming yard sale that my support group for separated and divorced persons is holding this coming Saturday, I came across these two animated cell paintings that I did myself years ago.

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I purchased a cell painting kit during a trip to Walt Disney World years ago. I remember buying this kit when my husband and I spent a day at Disney-MGM Studios (which has since been renamed Disney’s Hollywood Studios). During that visit, we saw The Magic of Disney Animation where we saw a short film featuring legendary CBS anchor Walter Cronkite and Robin Williams (the memories of which are especially poignant since Williams committed suicide earlier this year) followed by a walking tour where we saw the animators hard at work through a glass partition. That section was our most favorite part of that park and my husband and I were really disappointed a few years later when Disney decided to shut down the East Coast animation department and that section became little more than a static exhibit on how Disney animation is made.

After I returned home, I opened that animation cell kit. Basically outlines of Mickey and Minnie were already printed on a piece of plastic. I had to use the included paints to paint the characters according to the enclosed instructions. When I finished the painting process, I had to place the cell over a background that was included in the package followed by a cardboard frame.

I thought about hanging the cells but I was less than impressed with the cheap cardboard frame and I never got around to buying a better frame. Overtime I simply forgot about these two small pictures until I was going through stuff in my home looking for something I can donate to the yard sale.

Right now I have no interest in keeping these cells. While I enjoyed the painting process, I’m pretty ready to let go of Mickey and Minnie and I would rather not go through the hassle of selling them through eBay or Etsy (especially since Disney is notorious for cracking down on any unauthorized sales of their copyrighted products). At least with the yard sale, they will be priced cheap enough that I’m hoping that they will make a little bit of money for my support group and some parent can buy something to hang on a child’s wall for a very cheap price.

If you’re dying to get your hands on these two pieces, come by the Changing Focus Yard Sale this Saturday in Crofton, Maryland.

Yesterday I attended the funeral for my one-time college housemate, Ann Elsen, who passed away from ALS at a too young age. The event was held at the Elkridge Furnace Inn, I had a relatively long commute to get there, and both I-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway tend to get very clogged with cars during the evening rush hour on Fridays. So I decided to leave early in the afternoon so I could get to Elkridge on time. It’s a good thing I did because I kept on running into traffic jam after traffic jam on I-95.

It turned out that I reached Elkridge about three hours early so I decided to go to nearby Ellicott City and kill some time by walking around the historic district. I’ve been to that area before and I always like walking there and doing some shopping. (It’s especially pretty in the fall where the entire area is surrounded by leaves that are in the shades of red, yellow, and orange.) I was a bit on the broke side so I didn’t purchase anything but I still had fun with taking pictures of the area.

Historic Ellicott City

Stone Building

Dentist Office Window

Main Street

La Palapa Mexican Restaurant

Blue Star Memorial By-Way

Window of Antiques Shop

Main Street

Figurines in a Gift Shop

Ty Beanie Ballz Plushies in a Gift Shop

Main Street Mural

Jewelry Shop Window

Poster in Shop Window

Metanoia Church Sign

Southwest Shop Window

Doorway

Main Street

Grumpy Cat Stuffed Animal in Store Window

Dolls in Store Window

The Rumor Mill Bar and Restaurant

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Lego Train Garden Sign

Female Easter Bunny Store Window Display

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Below is the outside of my personal favorite, The Forget-Me-Not Factory.

Outside of The Forget-Me-Not Factory

That store is literally stocked full of stuff ranging from fairies to unicorns to Betty Boop to Christmas ornaments to Halloween displays to steampunk goggles. Even the outside is full of displays.

The Forget-Me-Not Factory's Store Window Display

Store Window Display at The Forget-Me-Not Factory

Wind Sock Displays Outside The Forget-Me-Not Factory

The inside is crammed with lovely items on all three floors. Here are a few small samples.

The Forget-Me-Not Factory

The Forget-Me-Not Factory

The Forget-Me-Not Factory

If that’s not enough, the third floor of the store has a player piano that one can operate by inserting a quarter. I shot this video at the store five years ago. When I was there yesterday, I found that the player piano is still there and it still works when you insert a quarter in the slot.

After my visit to The Forget-Me-Not Factory, I saw on my watch that it was getting late so I headed back to my car while taking a few last photos of the historic section of Ellicott City.

Main Street

Main Street

Easter Banner

Store Window

Steps

Covered Steps, Patio, and Rock Garden

Landscape

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I made the short drive from Ellicott City to Elkridge and I arrived at the Elkridge Furnace Inn just in time. The memorial service was very lovely and the reception was full of very delicious food that I managed to gorge myself on. I also ran into some old college friends and socialized a lot with them. (There was one noticeable no-show: my college sweetheart who later became my ex-husband. It was no major loss on my part. I was better off not seeing him or his new second wife who used to be one of my friends.) It was a sad yet enjoyable evening. I think Ann would’ve loved it.

Seven months ago I devoted a blog post full of miscellaneous photos I downloaded from my smartphone in order to clear out the disk space. Recently I did a similar purge of more photos from my smartphone.

Back in late March one of the stores I visited sold a line of Disney-inspired makeup complete with totally cute versions of Mickey Mouse and his friends.

Disney Make-Up

This next photo reminded me of a running joke I used to have with my husband. A few years ago we learned through a friend of an existence of a line of alcoholic beverage called Arrogant Bastard Ale. My husband used to present himself as a total smartass to me and to many of our friends and I used to joke that with his smartass attitude, I should buy him a bottle of Arrogant Bastard Ale as a gift. However, I checked in many liquor stores and none of the ones in my area carried that brand. Fast forward a few years and my husband ended up divorcing me. I happened to walk in a store on my own earlier this year and I finally found a bottle of Arrogant Bastard Ale on sale. It figures that I can now find Arrogant Bastard Ale after my divorce from my husband became final. <Sigh!>

Arrogant Bastard Ale

Many of the grocery stores in my area have a bakery that includes fresh baked goods. Of all the supermarkets, I have to say that Giant is the one that has the best looking cookies. I tried some of these cookies and, while they are tasty, there are other less-decorated cookies whose taste I prefer. But these cookies do look pretty and cute.

Decorated Cookies
Decorated Cookies

The front window of one of the local clothing stores in my area dressed up one of its mannequins in the most butt-ugly patriotic outfit I’ve ever seen.

Patriotic Outfit

The Food Network used to run this reality show called The Ace of Cakes which was one of the few reality shows I watched on a regular basis. The show profiled a Baltimore-based bakery called Charm City Cakes, which specializes in making unique one-of-a-kind cakes that are truly works of art. I was really sad when the show was cancelled. A few months ago I was shopping at Safeway when I saw that the owner of Charm City Cakes, Duff Goldman, has come out with a line of Chef Duff boxed cakes where anyone can attempt to make a cool looking cake in the comfort of his/her own kitchen.

Chef Duff's Cake Mixes

One day I decided to go to downtown Washington, DC so I parked my car in a Metro station parking lot near this Hello Kitty car.

Hello Kitty Car

The local nursery, Behnke’s, has this really cool looking landscaping project on its grounds that’s designed to show off one of the creative things you can do with purchasing tall grasses from them.

Cool Landscape
Cool Landscape
Cool Landscape

Earlier this spring I saw this really pretty butterfly on one of the concrete steps outside of my home.

Butterfly

Around the same time as I took that butterly photo, I was working on starting a garden when I decided to go to one of the local nurseries, Homestead Gardens. This particular nursery is located in Davidsonville, which is full of family-owned farms. Homestead Gardens had some chicks on sale for anyone interested in raising chickens.

Chicks at Homestead Gardens
Chicks at Homestead Gardens
Chicks at Homestead Gardens
Chicks at Homestead Gardens
Chicks at Homestead Gardens
Chicks at Homestead Gardens

A few months ago a new non-profit STEM technology center called Club 125 opened in my area. The unofficial mascot is Sam, who definitely feels at home there.

Sam the Dog
Sam the Dog
Sam the Dog

Somtimes another dog named Geisha visits at Club 125 and it results in Sam and Geisha playing with each other.

Two Playing Dogs

Occasionally the dogs go too far in their playing so they have to be sent to a time-out area that’s blocked off with a child gate.

Sam and Geisha

Eventually the dogs are allowed to leave the time-out area and they settle down together looking like they are going to be calm and laid-back friends.

Sam and Geisha

Then, again, maybe not.

Sam and Geisha
Sam and Geisha
Sam and Geisha

But there’s more to Club 125 than just dogs and science geek-oriented activities. I happened to drop by one Sunday afternoon while a Japanese language class was in progress.

Japanese Language Class

One summer morning I saw three ducks relaxing in the grass.

Ducks
Ducks

I was on a Metro train a few months ago when I saw this ad for a new establishment that was in the process of opening in Bethesda called Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. As you can guess from the name, this place specializes in chocolate.

Washington DC Metro Subway Ad

Here’s an ad I saw on the side of a shopping mall directory for the website ThatsNotCool.com.

Shopping Mall Directory Ad

The Annapolis comic book shop Third Eye Comics decided to put up this giant tent in the back parking lot in conjunction with the huge San Diego Comic Con that was taking place across the country that same weekend. The Third Eye Comics tent had a clearance sale on older comic books and action figures.

Third Eye Comics, Annapolis, Maryland
Third Eye Comics, Annapolis, Maryland

One day in a parking lot I found this really amusing bumper sticker.

Bumper Sticker

Did you know that, in addition to chocolate candy, Hershey’s also makes cereal? I didn’t either until one day when I made this trip to the local Safeway.

Hershey's Cookies & Cream Cereal

I saw this birthday tribute to Jack Daniels on display at Old Line Fine Wine, Spirits & Bistro.

Birthday Tribute to Jack Daniels

Here is the beginning of a sunset featuring a blue sky, the moon, and a bunch of clouds with just a tiny hint of pink in them.

The Beginning of a Sunset

I saw this live turkey on display at the Greenbelt Farmers Market in Greenbelt, Maryland last month.

Turkey

I visited one of those Spirit of Halloween stores that usually sets up temporary space in an empty store space in many local malls and shopping centers throughout the United States. The one I visited is currently located at the Free State Mall in Bowie, Maryland but, since tomorrow is Halloween, this store will pack up and leave soon. In addition to selling costumes, masks, and makeup, The Spirit of Halloween also sells these state of the art animatronics that were really awesome to see in person but I didn’t buy one because 1) I’m currently living on a tight budget and 2) those animatronics are a bit too much for a divorced woman living in a small townhouse with no children.

Spirit of Halloween
Halloween Decoration
Halloween Decoration
Halloween Decoration

Here’s a nice sunset shot that I took in Crofton, Maryland before I headed over to my weekly support group meeting for people who are separated or divorced.

Sunset

One day I found this spider weaving its web outside my home.

Spider
Spider
Spider

I found this faded poster of actor George Takei (best known as Sulu on the original 1960’s Star Trek series) hanging in the window of the local Social Security office.

George Takei Poster

The next few photos are of the fused glass arts and crafts of Tina Van Pelt of Profusions of Glass. She had me take a few reference photos of her booth at the Fall Harvest Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland for reference since I was going to sell some of her items at the Acorns A Go-Go Groovy Vegan Fest (which was to be held a couple of weeks later) since she was going to be out of town that same weekend. The glass items really photographed well with the smartphone camera.

Fused Glass
Fused Glass
Fused Glass
Fused Glass
Fused Glass
Fused Glass
Fused Glass

Did you know that this month is “Ministry Appreciation Month”? I didn’t either until I saw these cards in the Hallmark aisle at a local CVS.

Hallmark Card Display

Here’s an ad I saw recently in a Metro station in downtown Washington, DC.

DC Metro Ad

The next few photos are the ones I took the day I went to the weekly Riverdale Park Farmers Market. I walked around the downtown area of Riverdale Park, Maryland and I even took a photo of the band that performed during the Farmers Market.

Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Riverdale Park, Maryland

The next couple of photos are ones that I took during a recent visit to All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, DC.

All Souls Unitarian Church
All Souls Unitarian Church

One day, when I was returning from an appointment with my therapist, I happened to see a herd of deer grazing along the side of the road in the late afternoon sun.

Deer
Deer
Deer
Deer

I found some interesting art decorating a tattoo parlor in Annapolis.

Tattoo Parlor
Tattoo Parlor
Tattoo Parlor

Now that I’ve cleared space on my smartphone by deleting photos, I’m going to end this entry with my first attempt at a selfie photo. I took it last Friday in the women’s bathroom at a dance that was put on by my support group for people who are separated or divorced. Since tomorrow is Halloween and I am disguised as a My Little Pony character named Rainbow Dash, I’m going to post it here. I’m wearing a Rainbow Dash hoodie (complete with ears, a multicolored mane, and even wings on the back) that I purchased at Amazon.com, a Rainbow Dash mask that I purchased and downloaded from the Etsy shop Hungry Panda Supplies, and a skull cameo necklace that I purchased at a craft show from Lithia’s Creations.

Rainbow Dash
Rainbow Dash

I recently cleared out some space in my smartphone by downloading these pictures on my computer. These photos feature a wide variety of subjects that I photographed on impulse over the past five months at various places that are all located within a 30 mile radius of my home.

Just a few weeks before Halloween last fall, I found these unique pumpkins (some of which have a light pink tint while others have a deep orange color that looks almost red) on sale at the Home Depot in Laurel, Maryland.

Pumpkins
Pumpkins

This mariachi band gives free afternoon performances at Beltway Plaza in Greenbelt, Maryland two Sundays a month.

Mariachi Band

A sign that’s posted on the door at the Laurel Factory in Laurel, Maryland.

This is Art

Last November I celebrated my first Thanksgiving since my husband abruptly walked out on me three days after Christmas, 2011. For the dinner I ate a boxed Marie Callendar’s frozen turkey meal. For dessert, I purchased a 10" pumpkin pie from Giant along with a can of Reddi Whip whipped cream. I cut a slice of pie then totally drowned it in whipped cream.

Pumpkin Pie

Last fall, before the start of the Christmas holiday shopping season, the Target in Greenbelt, Maryland got a shipment of these special Barbie products that were designed by Tim Gunn of Project Runway fame. During one store visit I saw a Tim Gunn Barbie outfit on sale while during another visit I saw a Barbie doll dressed in Tim Gunn’s outfit. Both of these products were quickly sold and I haven’t seen any more Tim Gunn Barbie products since.

Barbie by Tim Gunn
Barbie by Tim Gunn

On January 6, while I was observing Little Christmas/Feast of the Epiphany/Twelth Night and the third anniversary of the start of this blog, I stepped outside my home where I saw these bare trees against the sky that looked like an ink and watercolor painting. These photos prove that nature is the best artist.

Bare Trees in January
Bare Trees in January

On January 25 there was a light snow that only covered the ground but not the streets. (I think it accumulated no more than a half-an-inch.) Here’s a shot of Roosevelt Center with the Mother and Child statue in Greenbelt, Maryland after the snow.

Roosevelt Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

On February 8 I was attending an afternoon seminar on health care for artists that will be available in Maryland thanks to the passage of Obamacare that was put on by Health Care for All. (With my husband hellbent on divorcing me, my ability to remain under his health insurance is currently endangered.) The seminar was held at the Maryland Historical Soicety in Baltimore, which is a really nice building. There is a nice museum that has various Maryland artifacts like Baltimore Orioles memorabilia and items associated with film director John Waters. I wasn’t able to entirely view the museum due to time and money constraints but I’m definitely going to try to return there to visit in the future.

Maryland Historical Society
Maryland Historical Society
Maryland Historical Society
Maryland Historical Society
Maryland Historical Society
Maryland Historical Society
Maryland Historical Society

The area where the Maryland Historical Society building is located is a pretty interesting area to walk around. Here’s this cool looking sign that’s shaped like a circular saw. The company responsible for that sign, Skarie, has since changed its name to MultiCam East but the sign still remains on North Howard Street.

Skarie sign

The building with the coolest looking windows located near the Maryland Historical Society belongs to A.T. Jones & Sons, which is a costume shop that specializes in theatrical costumes and stage makeup. The clowns in the windows look creepy but they add to the charm of the area.

A.T. Jones & Sons
A.T. Jones & Sons
A.T. Jones & Sons
A.T. Jones & Sons
A.T. Jones & Sons

Right next to A.T. Jones & Sons is this building that has this really cool op-art inspired black and white mural.

Mural

On Valentine’s Day last month I was in Parkville (which is located north of Baltimore) because I was going to an independently owned comic book and video game store that was willing to pay cash for some old video games that I wanted to unload in order to reduce clutter in my home. Located just a few doors away from that store is a wine shop—appropriately named Sipping Pretty—that is notable for these two Blues Brothers statues standing next to the door.

Blues Brothers Statues at Sipping Pretty

Here is the store where I sold my old video games when it was still in its old location. It’s called Collectors Corner and, as of this writing, the owners are in the process of moving to a larger store located just down the street.

Collectors Corner Store

As a child I used to get Peeps in my Easter basket each year. At the time they only had the yellow chicks and they only came out once a year around Easter. As time went by, Just Born (the manufacturer of Peeps) added bunnies. Then they added bunnies and chicks in other pastel colors besides yellow. Then Just Born decided to have candy available for other holidays besides Easter and to make them in different shapes other than bunnies and chicks so now one can buy ghosts and pumpkins for Halloween, snowmen and reindeer for Christmas, and hearts and teddy bears for Valentine’s Day. I recently got a hold of this special pack of vanilla-flavored chicks sold in Target to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Peeps. (The vanilla Peeps were quite good and tasty.)

Peeps

I found these special Matchbox cars at Wegman’s that have artwork on them based on the classic arcade video games of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Video Game Matchbox Cars

On March 8 I attended a quarter auction that was a fundraiser for my support group for people who are separated or divorced. The quarter auction is a cross between an auction and a lottery. Basically you throw in a quarter for an item that’s up for auction that you want. Afterwards you raise your numbered paddles high. If the auctioneer selects a ping pong ball that has the same number as what’s written on your paddle, you get the item. Theoretically you could get something that has a market value of $75 for only 25 cents. This is the second time I attended such an auction. At the previous fundraising quarter auction I attended just a few months earlier, I didn’t win anything. For the March 8 auction I hit paydirt twice. I got two small bags full of these treats from a company called Tastefully Simple. Both bags had the same products so I only empited one of the bags for this picture of the items next to my winning paddle number.

Auction Prize

At that same quarter auction I won this really cool looking pen that writes really nice. This one has to be one of the best pens I’ve ever gotten as an adult. (For far too many years I made do with the cheap pens that my husband would pilfer from his NASA job. These pens didn’t last long and sometimes they even leaked.) Here’s the pen with my winning paddle number 54.

Auction Prize

Here are the most recent photos from my smartphone that I took last Saturday (March 16). I was driving to Today’s Pet in Columbia, Maryland in an effort to restock some hedgehog food for Spike when I found some interesting looking pets for sale in that store. The white rabbit on the right in the photo below had an interesting hair style that made me think of President Martin Van Buren (who was the subject of this recent Google ad).

White Rabbit With Wild Hair

The rabbit in the next photo is one of the largest rabbits I’ve seen since the time I was taking an early morning walk in Phoenix on the morning before my late mother-in-law’s wedding to her second husband in the early 1990’s (I was suffering from time zone changes) and I saw jackrabbits hopping around. This particular rabbit’s ears aren’t as long as the jackrabbits I saw but the rabbit is about the size of a cat or a small dog. It’s more apparent if you see this rabbit in real life than what this photo shows.

Giant Rabbit

Today’s Pet also sells large turtles such as the one in the photo below.

Turtle

I’ll finish this entry with these two photos I took at the Greenbelt Metro station yesterday as I was on my home from attending the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Washington, DC. An abandoned Minnie Mouse plush toy sits on top of a trash can as if she’s waiting for her owner to come and claim her.

Abandoned Minnie Mouse Plush Toy
Abandoned Minnie Mouse Plush Toy

Presidents' Day
Minnie Mouse

I did this drawing during a visit to DisneyQuest in Florida a few days ago. The place offered a chance to learn how to draw a Disney character in a 30-minute session (with each session devoted to drawing a different character). When I took this session, the instructor was teaching how to draw Minnie Mouse. The desks in the workshop were shaped like the bottom half of Mickey’s torso with a flat desktop that featured a built-in computer monitor. Using a special digital pen, we drew directly on the monitor while the instructor talked us through the instructions on how to draw Minnie. The monitor used a special software that I was not familiar with but was very easy to learn due to its very simple interface. (The most memorable part of the interface was that there was a "Trash" button that one could push if the artist didn’t like the way that his/her art was progressing. A large Mickey-like glove emerged, grabbed the drawing, crumpled it up, and yanked it to the bottom of the screen. It was a cute effect but one had to resist using "Trash" unless absolutely necessary because that command meant a permament deletion of that file and there was no way one could recover it or undo it.)

Once the lesson ended and we finished the drawing, we were encouraged to sign our names then press the "Done" button. The student artists had the option of purchasing a printed version of the art for $5. (There was also a $12 deluxe option where one got a special Disney pin with the drawing. I decided against the deluxe package because I already have plenty of pins and buttons at home and I really didn’t need another one.) I opted to purchase a printed version because I wanted to show my husband and other people what I did. I have to admit that I did pretty well for my first time of ever drawing Minnie Mouse.

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