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All those months of dealing with my ex-husband ending all further alimony payments, getting one job where I was promised that I would eventually get full-time hours only to not being able to even get 20 hours a week after working there for four months while the boss was job hunting himself, and only being able to get freelance piecemeal work began to take a personal toll on me. I really wanted to take a vacation for just a day or two but I couldn’t afford to do it so I was trapped. But then I got my current gig where I was helping a therapist prepare for a series of upcoming webinars that are slated to begin next month so I managed to get just enough money in that I could do something fun.

However the best I was able to afford was taking the Metro to Tyson’s Corner Center in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. It was better than nothing so I decided to go for it. It was raining heavily that day but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Besides, I was riding a Metrobus to the nearest Metro subway stop so I didn’t have to worry about driving on slippery roads. I rode the Silver Line Metro to the Mall. When I arrived at the plaza that has the entrances that are located the closest to the Metro station, I noticed that it looked pretty deserted due to the rain.

That’s in contrast to past visits where, depending on the time of the year, there is usually some kind of activities for people to participate in, whether it’s playing with a giant chess set or a giant ice skating rink.

I found out that this year is the 50th anniversary of Tyson’s Corner Center and there were signs touting this fact everywhere.

I walked past the Microsoft Store. I can count the number of times I’ve actually stepped inside of that store on one hand. I walked past the entrance but I didn’t go inside on this trip.

I’ll admit that I only went to this mall for a change in scenery. I didn’t do much shopping because money was still too tight for me at the moment. I basically shot photos of whatever appealed to me at the time.

At least I found out that Golden Girls socks are actually a thing this year.

Pez dispensers have always been a bit on the kitschy side but Pez has really outdid itself with pink flamingoes Pez dispensers.

I made a brief stop inside of the Apple Store, where I saw the latest computers with the large monitors.

I also got a look at the new iPhone XS, which has received a lot of press for its over $1,000 price tag. I have to admit that the iPhone XS has nice sharp graphics on its screen. If the phone allowed for people to do their own upgrades (such as adding more memory or replacing the hard drive) it would be one thing but, as far as I can tell, this smartphone is just like all of the others where you can’t even open your own phone and it will ultimately be disposable once it stops working completely. I’m going to stick with my Samsung Galaxy J3 phone for the time being.

I came across this kiosk that I haven’t seen on previous visits. It’s for a store called b8ta and it sells a mix of Google products and technology products that are created by smaller companies.

I made a brief stop inside of Build-A-Bear Workshop where I saw these cute Halloween plushies and a brontosaurus on display.

I eventually made my way to the American Girl Place. I haven’t been there since last December so there were plenty of new things to see. I saw that Felicity Merriman, the historical doll who’s supposed to represent the American Revolution era, has been taken out of retirement and is now available for sale once again. She’s on display with Addy Walker (who represents the American Civil War period) and Samantha Parkington (who represents the first few years of the 20th century that’s known as the Edwardian Era).

Here’s another historical doll, Nanea Mitchell (who represents Hawaii around the time of the Pearl Harbor bombing) with some new accessories available for sale.

Maryellen Larkin, who represents the 1950s, relaxes in her trailer, which is sold separately from the doll. The details of this trailer are pretty impeccable.

Kit Kittredge, who represents the Great Depression, sits behind her newly released vegetable stand.

Last year I saw Z Yang for the first time. Even though she’s a contemporary doll, this one caught my eye because she’s into photography and videography like I am. I learned that she is among the dolls who will be retired soon. I would say that I’m sorry to see her go but I’m still a bit cash-strapped at the moment so there was no way I could afford this doll and her accessories. There is also the issue of space because I really don’t have enough room to have a huge collection of large dolls.

This doll in the next photo was a bit of a surprise. Gabriela McBride was released last year as American Girl’s Girl of the Year Doll for 2017. Usually the Girl of the Year doll is on sale only from January 1-December 31 then she is retired. I was surprised to see that she was still around in 2018. I still remember last year the times I tried to take her picture but the first time I failed because the phone on my previous smartphone (Droid Ultra) began to act erratically and it wouldn’t take any photos while I was at the store yet it finally worked after I returned home. The second time I brought my older Canon DSLR with me but that effort failed because I had to be elsewhere and I shot photos at that other place before I arrived at the mall and I ran out of battery power by the time I arrived. My smartphone worked miraculously until I got to Gabriela McBride and my smartphone camera decided to stop working. The third time was finally the charm when I arrived last December with a Canon PowerShot camera that I purchased used off eBay and I took some photos of that doll and her accessories without a hitch. I thought that she would be retired at the end of 2017 just like her Girl of the Year predecessors but it wasn’t the case with her.

The country singing pair of Tenney Grant and her friend Logan Everett were also slated for retirement but I didn’t bother with taking their pictures. I had already shot them and their accessories on a previous visit and there wasn’t anything new with those two.

I managed to check out the 2018 Girl of the Year. Her name is Luciana Vega, she’s a Latina, she’s into STEM, and her big dream is to work for NASA so she could go to Mars.

American Girl went all out with the space theme. In fact, one of my Facebook friends who works for NASA was posting approvingly about this doll earlier this year. (He’s the father of two daughters—both of whom are now young adults—and I’m sure he would’ve bought this doll for them if they were still kids.)

Seeing this doll in person I have to say that she’s gorgeous and her clothes are literally out of this world. (If there were ever human adult versions of her dresses, I would definitely want to buy them.) She has gorgeous black hair with a purple streak in it. If I weren’t so cash-strapped, I would definitely feel tempted to buy this doll.

Her accessories, which are sold separately, includes things like astronaut ice cream and a replica of an Apple Watch.

There are corresponding books, one of which comes with the doll and the other two are sold separately. A few days before I came to Tyson’s Corner I was at the library where I saw a young girl checking out a pile of books, including one of the Luciana books.

Among her separately sold play sets is one that resembles a STEM makerspace. There is even a cute robot dog.

If it weren’t for the fact that this STEM maker station cost $100, I would say that it would be a cool thing to purchase for the local makerspace in my area for the kids to play with.

I thought that this robot dog came with the maker station but I found out that this robodoggie is sold separately for $35.

There is also a space telescope so Luciana could look up at the stars.

Then there is this NASA space laboratory and a NASA space suit for Luciana to wear. I can understand why my Facebook friend was gushing about Luciana online. In fact, this capsule reminds me of my ex-husband, who works for NASA. If we were still together, I definitely would’ve urged him to go to the American Girl Place with me so he could see this in person. I also would’ve told him that we could stop off at Wasabi afterwards because I was trying to get him to consider the two of us eating there before he abruptly left me just three days after Christmas and three months after my hip surgery in 2011. (I had gone to Wasabi for the first time when I was still married in October, 2011 but I went by myself that time.)

The details of this capsule are pretty astounding. My ex-husband definitely would’ve gotten a kick out of it if he had seen it for himself in person.

Yes, it’s sad that visiting the American Girl Place so we could see this NASA space laboratory together is another thing I’ll never get to do with my ex-husband but that’s the way things go.

My ex-husband was never into dolls and normally I would never have been able to get him to even step one foot inside of that door. I think I may have gotten him to make a rare exception and actually visit a doll store because he definitely would’ve been impressed with the painstaking details of this NASA space laboratory.

Luciana is totally rocking this astronaut space suit.

For families who want to purchase Luciana and her accessories but who are cash-strapped, there are Mega Construx kit versions.

Like other Girl of the Year dolls, the American Girl Place has a designated space where people can have their selfies taken with a standee of Luciana Vegan and a space capsule.

The sign said to turn the handle and look inside but the door handle was broken when I was there.

The best I was able to do was to shoot through the door window.

American Girl sold separate Washington, DC souvenir t-shirts for dolls. They also had matching shirts for their human owners as well but I only shot the doll shirts.


I didn’t spend much time in the store beyond Luciana and the BeForever historical dolls. But I saw this car that looked cool. It reminded me of that Volkswagen that American Girl came out for the 1970s historical doll Julie Albright a few years back.

I also shot these two outfits that were released just in time for the upcoming winter holiday trio of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

After my visit to the American Girl Place I ate a sushi dinner at Wasabi, which is the place that delivers food on conveyor belts and you could pick which plates you want.

After dinner I walked around the mall a bit. I found a temporary Halloween store that was selling costumes. This year they have costumes based on that mega-popular video game Fortnite. (I’ve seen kids play that game and they can’t seem to get enough of it. I haven’t tried it myself as of this writing.)

I did get a chuckle out of this obvious parody of My Little Pony‘s Rainbow Dash, even though I know nothing about Fortnite‘s Rainbow Smash.

They also had two costumes based on the late artist and TV personality Bob Ross. A couple of friends or lovers could dress up together as Bob Ross and one of his paintings, which I find hilarious.

Just a few feet away from the Halloween store is a Christmas store. This is crazy. Halloween and Thanksgiving haven’t even happened yet and there is already a Christmas store.

Just a few days after I took this shot of these Grinch ornaments I learned that someone is coming out with yet another remake of How the Grinch Stole Christmas that will be shown on the big screen. I guess that’s why there was a display of these ornaments. I personally think that doing yet another remake is so unnecessary. I have the original 1960’s TV special on DVD so I can always play that one on my TV screen instead of paying over $10 to see the remake in a movie theater.

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Santa Claus

My birthday is on December 15 and I usually like to do something fun. Last year I spent my birthday last slogging through Baltimore in very bitter cold temperature and frantically trying to contact someone in authority about a homeless man who was sleeping on the steps of the Baltimore Convention Center despite the fact that the Polar Vortex had come through the area plunging the temperature below 20 degrees.

I don’t know if I reached anyone and I was stymied by the fact that I don’t live in Baltimore so I didn’t know who to turn to. I spent the next couple of days doing Google searches to see if anyone had frozen to death on the steps of the Convention Center only to turn up empty. I guess the man survived that bitter cold night but I’ll never know for sure.

This year I decided to go to Tyson’s Corner Mall in Virginia because I had spent some fun birthdays there in previous years and I also wanted to avoid any more drama about homeless people in cold weather. December 15 fell on a Friday this year so I was looking forward to it.

Except it rained that day then the temperature plunged to below freezing so all that rain on the ground turned into ice. I still have memories of when I slipped on ice in Annapolis back in 2011, which resulted in my hip replacement being knocked out of position so I had to undergo hip revision surgery later that year in order to put it back into place. I just wasn’t willing to risk falling and having my hip replacement messed up.

So I decided to postpone that trip a couple of days. December 18 fell on a Monday, which is usually a relatively quiet night at that mall. Except it was just a few days before Christmas so there were more people shopping there on a Monday night than usual. But it still wasn’t bad. Here are the photos I shot that night.

I took the Metro to the mall, where I was greeted with this cool rainbow Christmas tree and some lovely twinkling lights when I arrived.

Some people were resting at one of the many fire pits that are set up outside this time of the year.

People could be found skating on a temporary ice skating rink, which is also usually set up this time of the year.

The first store I hit was American Girl Place. I was on a mission. Here’s the backstory: This year American Girl decided on an African American character for its Girl of the Year named Gabriela McBride. She was the first girl of color to be given such an honor since since 2005. She’s described as being an artist, which I find personally cool since I’m an artist myself. Earlier this year I was having camera problems so when I arrived at American Girl Place back in June, I was unable to shoot any photos while I was there. A few weeks later it was July and I decided to return to American Girl Place with my Canon DSLR in tow. I was able to shoot a few pictures until the battery ran out of juice. So I got pictures of the new contemporary doll Tenney Grant and her friend, Logan Everett, who’s known as the first boy doll that American Girl has ever released. I also got a picture of a case displaying what was the newest BeForever doll at the time—Melody Ellison, who’s supposed to represent the 1960s. But those were the only pictures I got before my camera battery died on me.

Ironically  I came close to arriving at American Girl Place without a camera this time around. I had left my Canon PowerShot camera in the car and I didn’t realize it until after I had gone on the Metro train at the Greenbelt station. I managed to dart out of the train before the doors closed and walked outside the station and back to the parking lot so I could retrieve my camera.

It was worth the effort to retrieve my camera and arrive at the mall a little bit later because, at long last, I was finally able to take pictures of the 2017 Girl of the Year, Gabriela McBride. On top of it, this doll was scheduled to retire after New Year’s Eve and be replaced by the 2018 Girl of the Year (which means that this doll will be retired by the time you read this). Here’s the standee where people can take selfies with Gabriela and a brick backdrop.

Here’s Gabriela herself. I think she’s a cute doll and I love her art accessories, especially the miniature replicas of a paint set and a sketchbook pad.

I was also able to take pictures of another doll on this trip. American Girl has been releasing a new line of contemporary characters who are growing up in today’s era. I took pictures of would-be country musician Tenney Grant and her male friend Everett Logan on the last trip. American Girl released another character who have nothing to do with Tenney or Everett and she has her own separate story. Her name is Z Yang, she is a Korean American, and she is passionate about photography and videography. Like Gabriela McBride, Z Yang also shares my interest. (To be fair, Tenney Grant shares my interest in playing the guitar except I prefer rock and folk music over country.) Z Yang’s miniature photography and video equipment are absolutely adorable (even if they are expensive).

They even have a human version of Z Yang’s meet outfit, which I personally find adorable. Sadly they are only available in children’s sizes.

Since my last visit to American Girl place back in July, American Girl have released a new BeForever historical doll. Her name is Nanea Mitchell and she has a white American father and a Hawaiian mother. She is described as growing up in the then-U.S. territory of Hawaii in 1941. Anyone who knows history will know what major event happened in Hawaii back in 1941.

I found Nanea to be gorgeous in person. I loved her meet outfit and her shell necklace.

They offer a variety of Hawaiian clothes for Nanea that are sold separately.

American Girl offers Nanea’s Family Market, which can be yours for only $250. (LOL!) I have to admit that I’m really impressed by the details on that furniture, including the tiny replicas of vintage World War II-era posters.

 

Here’s a photo of the 1960s BeForever character, Melody Ellison, wearing this gorgeous yellow outfit.

American Girl had this good sale on Melody’s Hairstyling Set, which was only priced at $5. That’s a pretty good deal compared to the high prices that this store usually charges. If I had a Melody doll, I definitely would’ve purchased it.

American Girl had a really cute new outfit for Julie Albright, who represents the 1970s. I remember people actually wore embroidered peasant blouses and blue jeans skirts back when I was a kid so her outfit definitely brought back memories for me.

Since another BeForever character, Rebecca Rubin (who represents the 1910s), is Jewish, there was a Hanukkah display featuring this doll.

The next two photos show a display of the Wellie Wishers dolls. They are pretty cute and I like their outfits.

American Girl had a display touting this one new service that they offer called Create Your Own. The idea is that if you don’t find a doll and/or an outfit that you want, you can always create a customized product. The idea of a customized doll isn’t new. The Japanese ball-jointed doll company Volks has long offered something called a Full Choice System which, from what I heard, can run into hundreds of dollars. The now-defunct Makies dolls had a similar service where you can get a 3D printed doll for far less. (I still miss that company. Sigh! If you’re curious, you can check out my posts about my one and only Makies doll, Victoria.)

So American Girl is now trying its hand at a similar customized service. There are two caveats about this new service: 1) You can only order the doll and/or outfit online since the store don’t offer any facilities to allow anyone to design something in-store and 2) Your customized doll and/or outfit will cost way more than an off-the-shelf product. According to this link, a Create Your Own doll costs $200 versus an off-the-shelf doll for $115.

I saw these American Girl Mega Construx kits featuring characters who were previous Girls of the Year, including Mia St. Clair, Kanani Akina, Isabelle Palmer, Lea Clark, and Saige Copeland.

 

Here’s a case full of the 9-inch mini doll versions of the historical 18-inch BeForever characters.

Here are a few more miscellaneous photos I took inside of American Girl place, including the  store’s Christmas tree.

I went to Build-A-Bear Workshop where I checked out these Star Wars plushes and some Christmas reindeers.

I checked out this temporary Christmas shop that will be in business until after New Year’s Day.

Strangely that store had some Day of the Dead-themed ornaments and decorations even though that holiday had long since passed.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a Beatles Christmas ornament available for sale.

I went to The Disney Store, where I saw a lot of tie-ins to the new Disney/Pixar movie Coco (which I actually saw on Christmas Day) and the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi (which I saw on the day after Christmas)

I went to the LEGO store where I saw some cool things on display.

I ate my belated birthday dinner at Wasabi, the Japanese sushi place that delivers its food on conveyor belts. I really love the food, which is why I keep on returning to that place. If my finances weren’t so tight, I would be eating there more often than once or twice a year.

I went to Lolli and Pops where I purchased some gummy bears made from champaign and took these pictures.

That store sold two teddy bears named—what else?—Lolli and Pops.

Here are a few miscellaneous photos I took during my time at that mall.

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