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Santa Claus

On Christmas Day I drove to Lanham to see if a certain house was still continuing its overdecorated tradition despite the fact that that the family member who was responsible for the lights had passed away. I found out that not only were the family not carrying on that tradition but the house has been put up for sale.

But there are a few houses who have willingly picked up the mantel of trying to be the most decorated Christmas house. The house in Glen Burnie that I wrote about for TopBuzz.com has pretty much surpassed what the house in Lanham did.

But there’s another house located on Lastner Lane in Greenbelt that has the potential to one day be as decorated as the house in Lanham was (although it still has a ways to go before it could even begin to match that house in Glen Burnie). Each year the owners seem to add more Christmas lights. You can compare the photos I took in 2012, 2014, and 2016 with these recent photos I took in December, 2017.

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Santa Claus

I wasn’t able to get to Behnke’s Nurseries before Christmas so I decided to spend the day after checking out the post-holiday sales. There were still plenty of Christmas and Hanukkah decorations that were available for sale at discounted prices.

I made only one purchase. It was a cute Ginger Cottage that I purchased for 25% off.

Here are a few reasons why I prefer Ginger Cottages over Department 56: 1) They are smaller, which means they take up less space in my modest house. 2) They are more affordable for my budget than Department 56. 3) They are actually made in the USA while Department 56 cottages are made overseas in countries like China.

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.

Santa Claus

One early Thursday evening I decided to make a stop at Homestead Gardens on the way to attending my weekly support group meeting for people who are separated or divorced. They had their Christmas shop open and they decorated the grounds with all kinds of gorgeous lights. That store sold a variety of Christmas decorations along with plants like poinsettias. Here are the pictures I took.

Once again Homestead Gardens had its giant train layout where one can see toy trains travel past the various Department 56 ceramic buildings.

After I went to Homestead Gardens I went to Wegman’s where I purchased dinner to eat before I headed to my meeting. I also took some photos of interesting Christmas display, which I’ll write about in my next post.

Like I wrote in my previous post, I decided to go to Baltimore on November 25 because I wanted to check out the Christkindlesmarkt at the Zion Lutheran Church. But I got stuck in horrible northbound traffic then I waited a long time for both the light rail and the Metro subway. By the time I arrived at the church I only had 45 minutes left until the event ended for the day. (They would continue it on the next day but that day was Sunday and I wasn’t able to make it at all due to commitments I had with my own church that took up most of the day.) I eventually made it to the church, where I saw this statue outside of the church that’s dedicated to all of the Baltimore City firefighters both past and future.

Outside of the church were these trees that produced wonderful red colored autumn leaves.

Despite finally making it to the event so late in day before closing, there were still plenty of things to see and do.

There were a lot of stuff I would’ve loved to buy but I couldn’t due to tight finances. I purchased two German-imported Santa Claus chocolates that were more patterned after the original bishop, Saint Nicholas, than after the fat jolly man who hangs around with elves and reindeer. I kept one for myself and I plan on giving the other one to my mother for Christmas.

I also purchased a pack of Haribo gummy candies that were all cherry flavored and they were even shaped like cherries.

I was bummed that I arrived at the Christkindlesmarkt event so late in the day. It was still daylight outside so I decided to just take the Charm City Circulator bus to the Inner Harbor where I checked out the Christmas Village in Baltimore and the Inner Harbor itself.

After enduring the massive Blizzard of 2016 last year, I was relieved that the area where I live was mostly spared from snow this winter, with one exception. An unusually late snowstorm was coming to our area and the weather forecasters were predicting that it would dump at least six inches and maybe higher. Since there was a 50% chance that I may be snowed in for at least a day and maybe even two days, I decided to go somewhere just so I can get out of the house for a few hours before the snow arrived.

I decided to go to the Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda because I hadn’t been there in years. I basically walked around the mall just a few hours before the snow fell. Apparently a lot of people got the same idea because I found the mall to have plenty of people, which was unusual for a weekday afternoon. I took a few photos during my time there.

I stopped by Lolli & Pops and checked out the candy. I was amused by the line of Japanese imported Hello Kitty candy.

There were special chocolate Pokémon Easter eggs on sale.

Lolli & Pops had a line of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey cakes and candy.

There were three flavors of champaign-flavored gummi bears on sale. I purchased the sparkling light gummy bears and I found them to be quite tasty. I wanted to try the other two flavors but I didn’t have enough money on me.

Lolli & Pops have a variety of loose candy on sale and one could buy special jars and tins to put them in. In addition, one can bring back those same jars and tins for refills.

I also briefly checked out Build-A-Bear Workshop. Those bunnies in the windows indicated that Easter was coming soon despite the snow forecast that day.

There were actually teddy bears based on Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of its originally 1990’s animated Beauty & the Beast.

I loved the floral pattern on this teddy bear.

As I was heading out of the mall I took a photo of this tea and spice place known as Rumi. That’s because my Unitarian Universalist congregation has read poems from the Sufi mystic and one hymn our congregation frequently sings “Come, Come Wherever You Are” is based on one of Rumi’s poems. It’s kind of weird seeing his name being used as a tea and spice shop.

As for the snowstorm it dropped around four inches, which was enough to cancel schools and have many people stay home from work for one day. So I was stranded for only one day before I managed to dig my car out the day after the snowstorm went away. It was super-cold for the next few days as temperatures dipped into the low 20’s. Luckily that freezing weather was short-lived that it left our area. Right now spring is here, which means that the weather is getting increasingly warm each day.

Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

Ever since I did some serious downsizing in the wake of my husband’s sudden walkout on me five years ago, I’ve been making do with limiting most of my Christmas decorations to a coffee table in my living room. I basically celebrate something I call a Tabletop Christmas. Here’s a picture of my setup that I took in 2012 but it’s still the same this year so I have no problem with reposting it.

Christmas tree in 2012

I’ve written previous blog posts about some of my decorations that I’ve put up, which you can read about at these links below:

Angel Christmas Tree Topper

Christmas angel treetopper

Hippie Merman Ornament

Ginger Cottages Incense Burner

Behnke's Nurseries, December 14, 2012

A Small One-Piece Peruvian Nativity Set

Nativity made in Peru

A Small One-Piece Wooden Nativity Set

My new nativity scene I purchased from Valley View Farms

Two Hedgehog Ornaments That I Originally Purchased When I Owned Spike, My Late Pet Hedgehog

My new hedgehog ornaments I purchased from Valley View Farms

Befana the Witch Glass Ornament

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Ornament Resembling a Stuffed Teddy Bear in a Traditional German Outfit

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A Snowman Bell

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A Robot Nutcracker

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A Fused Glass Gingerbread Man That I Made in a Workshop

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A Fused Glass Tree-Shaped Ornament That I Made in a Workshop

Fused Glass Christmas Ornament

A Vintage Elf That I’ve Owned Long Before the Elf on the Shelf Became This Annual Big Marketing Juggernaut

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Animatronic Mickey’s Clock Shop

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Tangled Reindeer Which I Customized Myself

Rudolf the Red-Nosed Tangled Reindeer

Steampunk Snowman Which I Customized Myself

Steampunk Snowman

Macy’s Christmas Ornament Featuring a Mickey Mouse Balloon and the World Trade Center

2000 Macy's Christmas Ornament

Lace Moose Ornament

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Owl Made From a Tiny Gourd

Owl Gourd Christmas Ornament

A Delftware Style Ornament

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There’s only one other place where I also make a token observation to Christmas besides my living room coffee table. I have a wooden Santa Mickey Mouse puppet that hangs outside throughout the holiday season. That’s my only outdoor decoration I have and it’s one that I previously wrote about back in 2014.

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And now, for the first time in this blog, here’s a selfie of me wearing a Santa Mickey hat and a red Christmas sweater posting next to my Santa Mickey puppet.

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For added measure, here’s another selfie.

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This morning I went to church (Christmas fell on a Sunday this year) then I went to a local Chinese restaurant where I ate lunch at its usual special-priced weekend buffet. Here is what I got in my fortune cookie: A message that said “You will pass a difficult test that will make you happier.”

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Hmmmm. I’ll see about that. It would be cool if that fortune came true because I can use some happy times right about now.

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I decided to check out this job fair that was being held at the Beltsville Library because I’m always on the hunt for a day job to pay the bills. It turned out to be a small job fair (I saw maybe three or four tables that were staffed.) I only found one place that I decided to apply to but, as of this writing, I haven’t heard anything further from that place so I don’t know if anything will come of it.

But I liked the design of the library itself so I took a few pictures. I saw that it had a cafe, which was basically a small room that had a few tables and vending machines.

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The main focal point of this library is this very colorful fantasy-themed mural featuring a bunch of animals reading books. I found it to be quite charming.

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The wall mural ended with this stone castle facade that looked pretty cool.

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There was also this charming alligator book holder.

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The library had this large computer area.

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The library was very spacious.

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The Beltsville Library is located right next to a station of the Prince George’s County Police Department. There’s a police memorial for fallen police officers killed in the line of duty that’s outside the station’s doors.

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Santa Claus

This holiday season I didn’t do as much walking around observing the various Christmas shops before Christmas mainly because I was distracted by the six-week Artomatic event that was held near the New Carrollton Metro station in Hyattsville, Maryland. By the time that show ended it was close to the Christmas season. So I wasn’t able to make it to the Christmas Shop in Behnke’s Nurseries until December 26 (a.k.a. Boxing Day). I basically checked out the post-Christmas Day sales and see if there was anything I was interested in buying at a lower clearance price. I also took a few pictures as well.

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I didn’t take quite as many pictures as other years mainly because the battery died in my smartphone and I forgot to bring a recharger. I took more extensive photos of Behnke’s Christmas Shop in 2012, 2013, and 2014 so if you’re curious to see what it’s like, I suggest that you click on the links (which will each open in a new window).

On August 7 and 8 I had two straight days of pure <squee!>. August 7 was BronyCon and some general walking in Baltimore, which I have already written about. The following day I went to another cute event that was located closer to my home. There was a Doll and Teddy Bear Show that was held at the historic Marietta House Museum in Glenn Dale, Maryland.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

I have lived in the area for many years and I have driven past the signs pointing the way to the Marietta House Museum numerous times and I have never visited the place until recently. The Marietta House Museum is the former residence of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Gabriel Duvall that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When I first arrived, I felt like I had stepped back in time.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show Seeing the grounds reminded me of my recent visit to Sotterley Plantation in Southern Maryland. The grounds of the Marietta House are smaller in acreage than Sotterley but the entire area still looked very impressive.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Gabriel Duvall not only lived there with his family but he also maintained his law practice in one of the smaller buildings on the property.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

The grounds themselves are full of wooded areas, nice landscaping, and smaller buildings that were probably used for things like storage.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

There is a family burial plot right on the property located in the backyard.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

The main house itself is quite grand.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

A glimpse of the window from outside only provides a subtle hint of what was going on indoors.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Inside the house it looks like there is an upper level and a basement. However, for the Doll and Teddy Bear Show, only the ground floor was opened to the public. In fact, these three dolls seemed to greet visitors while blocking all access to the upstairs level.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Admission was free and some of the items were available for sale. However, there were also other items on display that weren’t for sale. There was a mix of older dolls with modern dolls. I saw plenty of Barbies. I saw a few American Girl dolls (with handmade clothes for 18-inch dolls on sale). I saw plenty of porcelain dolls. I saw art dolls, ethnic dolls, small dolls, and large dolls. I also saw plenty of teddy bears as well. Some of the bears were vintage (such as Teddy Ruxpin) while others were perennial favorites (like Winnie the Pooh). All in all there were lots of things to see in such a lovely historical setting.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

The boy doll in the next photo reminded me of a childhood photo of my father-in-law that I used to see displayed in the condo that he shared with his second wife. (I last visited that place in 2011 just six months before my husband left me for another woman. I haven’t been back since.) I found the resemblance to my own memories of that photograph to be quite eery.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

There was a nice display of art dolls that were made by a group of tweens (between the ages of 9-11) who were taking a summer workshop in doll making. The woman who runs that workshop was selling some of those dolls for prices ranging from $130-150. I was talking for a bit with that woman and I mentioned that the nearby Makerspace 125 was running a series of monthly workshops in making art dolls and, so far, two of them were held—one in May and one in June. When I started to explain how we were making our dolls (as taught in the workshop), the woman immediately said “That’s crafting. What I’m selling is fine art dolls.” I felt put off because that woman had made a snap judgement. In addition, I had left the two art dolls I created in those workshops at home so I didn’t have anything to show. Plus she raised that whole ugly “Art vs. Craft” controversy that frequently permeates both the art world and craft world and I felt it was uncalled for.

All I know is that the next time I see the woman who runs the art doll workshops at Makerspace 125, I’ll tell her what happened at that show. It’ll be interesting to get her reaction to the judgement that her art dolls are really just “crafts.”

My encounter with that woman was the only sour part of the whole show. I quickly walked away from her after she made that comment. I have to admit that the art dolls that her tween students made in her workshop are quite nice looking.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show I viewed the rest of the show without incident. I just enjoyed all of the eye candy.

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

Doll and Teddy Bear Show

All in all I had a pretty good day viewing all kinds of cute dolls and teddy bears in such a lovely historic setting like the Marietta House Museum.

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