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It seems like for the last week my mind has been overloaded with everything that has gone down in Charlottesville. I went to the second memorial event for Charlottesville in my event in a week. Here are my photos.

This event took place at the Greenbelt Community Church, which is a United Church of Christ congregation in Greenbelt, Maryland. It was organized by the Greenbelt Interfaith Leaders Association and it included participation by clergy from the various Christian and Jewish denominations.

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

This sign showed the schedule of events that took place during this service.

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

People were invited to take a flower from this makeshift altar and place it in the nearby memorial garden as a symbol of being in solidarity for peace.

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

The next few photos shows the wall in the memorial garden where people left the flowers along with a couple of poster boards and markers where people can write their feelings.

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

Various clergy gave speeches while people sang songs. The service ended with people lighting candles in a symbol of solidarity with the people in Charlottesville.

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

The interfaith service for the #terrorist victims at #Charlottesville

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There were a few local vigils throughout the Washington, DC area in response to what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. I attended one of them, which was called LOTUS Action: A Creative Response to Hate in Charlottesville on August 14, 2017. I also shot a few photos as well.

Here’s the shot of the venue where the event took place, Art Works Now, which is located in Hyattsville, Maryland.

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

Here’s another shot of the Art Works Now building, which is located next door to Pizzeria Paradiso.

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

The event started with people saying a few words about Charlottesville and Heather Heyer’s death while saying that we can’t let hate divide us as a people and as a nation.

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

Maryland State Senator Paul Pinsky spoke at this event.

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

There was also someone from the clergy present. The Rev. Anthony Farmer spoke about coming together against hatred and bigotry.

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

The event was well-attended. In fact the small room was so crowded that some people ended up standing through the event.

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

The event ended with music as everyone sang Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

There was a reception with pizza, which was provided by Art Works Now’s next-door neighbor Pizzeria Paradiso.

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

I’ll end this post with a shot of the ceiling in the lobby of the Art Works Now building.

LOTUS Action at Art Works Now, August 14, 2017

Given President Trump’s very slow reaction to what happened last Saturday in Charlottesville and this bizarre rant he made today where he blamed both sides for what happened, I am now convinced that he is secretly on the white nationalists’ side and he is secretly proud of what they did. I wouldn’t be surprised if he blames Heather Heyer for her own death, to be blunt.

Which makes this animation I made back in the 1990’s sadly relevant once again. I originally created this animation in the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. When I remastered it and uploaded it back in 2014, I honestly wanted to believe that it was a relic of a time when things were horrifying but this nation had managed to put it behind although, in reality, there has been a bunch of far-right wing extremists that has risen in the wake of Barack Obama’s 2008 election as the first African American president and 2012 re-election. (These are the kind of people who were aghast that a black man was actually elected not once—but twice—to the White House and they probably still believe that he was really born in Kenya instead of Hawaii.) Now I believe this animation is even more relevant now. At least my old 1990’s animation does a far superior job of denouncing white supremacy/Nazism/fascism than anything that has come out of President Trump’s mouth so far.

So, without further ado, here is The Unicorn With An Attitude #3: Speaking Right.

I wish I can say that I created this meme but I really got it off of Facebook. This is so totally awesome that it really needs to be seen by more Americans.

I’m starting to think that the Germans had it right when they banned the swastika flag and all kinds of pro-Nazi propaganda following World War II. While things aren’t 100% perfect in Germany, you don’t see a German film equivalent of Gone With the Wind that openly pines for the days of the lost Nazi regime in a postwar society, you don’t see Germans argue that the swastika flag is a part of “German Heritage” and the Jews must tolerate its display in public places, you don’t see monuments erected to honor Nazi generals like Kurt Daluege, you don’t see Adolf Hitler statues erected anywhere in that nation. Because the Germans were so thorough in their de-Nazification efforts, you don’t see Germans openly proclaiming how much they want to see the return of a mythic “Third Reich” where everything was perfect for the Aryan Race.

Unless the United States of America undergoes a similar campaign to get rid of all vestiges of its Confederate past, crap like what happened yesterday in Charlottesville will happen over and over again. And that includes HBO’s attempt to do this alternate history where the Confederate States of America won the Civil War. That’s because, as this tweet so succinctly puts it:

Until the U.S. begins an earnest drive to get rid of every last vestige of the Confederate States of America and everything that it stands for, it’s up to various individuals to shed a light on those pro-Confederate, pro-Nazi assholes. So far a Twitter user known as YesYoureRacist has been busy exposing the identities of those white men who were photographed in Charlottesville and that effort has gotten results (so far one man has lost his job and I’m sure that there will be more firings to come.)

Meanwhile, here’s a perspective on yesterday’s fuckery in Charlottesville from across the pond.

Last night a bunch of white supremacist jackasses marched on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Today in Charlottesville these same assholes took their vehicles and plowed through those counter-protesters who were peacefully protesting because they simply want these neo-Nazi and KKK pussies to just go away. Right now I’m seeing tweets like these and there are literally no words to describe this.

It was only last month when I happened to be back in my hometown of Glen Burnie, Maryland when I came upon a parking lot with this yellow pickup truck that had this bumper sticker.

I can imagine the owner of that pickup truck cheering whoever plowed into a group of protesters in Charlottesville today. If he has an orgasm over this, I wouldn’t be in the least bit shocked.

This is the latest in a string of incidents that has led to the rise of the white supremacist movement, which began with the election of Barack Obama (because the American people dared to elect a black man to the White House) and it has accelerated since Donald Trump was elected.

I live just a two-hour drive away from Charlottesville so, in a way, it’s like this happened in my own backyard just like the police murder of Freddie Grey in Baltimore.

All I know is this. If you whine about terrorism from ISIL or Al Qaeda yet support the Ku Klux Klan, you are inconsistent because the KKK is a terrorist organization that is just as deadly as the other terrorist groups. If you support neo-Nazis then you are spitting on the graves of those people in the U.S. military who literally gave up their lives fighting the Nazis during World War II. There are no shades of grey when it comes to supporting white supremacists.

I spent the morning attending a networking event that was held at McLean Bible Church that ended at noon. Afterwards I decided to drive to Tyson’s Corner Mall mainly because I was just a few miles away and I don’t get to that mall too often so I decided stop there since I was in the area anyway.

I was last at that mall just a couple of weeks ago but I wasn’t able to take too many pictures because of the current problem with my smartphone camera.

For this latest trip to Tyson’s Corner, I decided to pack my older and heavier Canon Digital Rebel DSLR camera. I made every effort to charge my battery the night before. So I arrived at McLean Bible Church and took the first couple of photos with my smartphone camera only to have it stop taking pictures while getting one of those dreaded “Camera Error” messages. So I switched to the Canon Digital Rebel and took photos of the church because it was the first time I had even entered a megachurch (you can read more about this in my last post) until the battery in that camera ran out.

So I drove to Tyson’s Corner Mall and left my Canon camera in the car. I decided to just take a chance with my erratic smartphone camera since it was at least fully charged.

Miraculously the smartphone camera started to work again. I was able to take a few pictures during my time at the mall, starting with this photo of some interesting looking cologne bottles.

What’s really cool is that Art Whino has a store in Tyson’s Corner. I still remember going to their original store at National Harbor. It’s pretty cool that they have expanded to a second location.

I was able to make a return trip to the American Girl Place, where I was able to take the photos that I wasn’t able to take a few weeks earlier. The next photo shows the newest historical BeForever doll. Her name is Melody Ellison and she’s supposed to represent the 1960s. The way she wears her hair reminds me very much of the hairstyle that Marlo Thomas wore in the 1960’s TV series That Girl. My grandmother used to watch re-runs of that sitcom during the daytime while she babysat me (both of my parents worked outside the home during the day) so I have vague recollections of that series. (I haven’t watched it as an adult so I have no idea how funny or even good that series is. I haven’t heard that sitcom airing anywhere in years.) The doll was released last year but I haven’t been able to make it back to the American Girl Place to see her in person until recently.

Here’s Maryellen Larkin, who’s supposed to represent the 1950s, next to a pink refrigerator. I’ve seen real-life vintage photos of pink refrigerators and other pink appliances. (I read on one website that there was this popularity surge in pink items because it was First Lady Mamie Eisenhower’s favorite color.) I showed an American Girl catalogue featuring the pink refrigerator to my mother last year and she remembered when pink refrigerators were actually popular.

American Girl has decided to unveil a new line of modern dolls that aren’t the Girl of the Year, which means that the dolls in this line will be on sale for more than one year. The first doll released in that line is Tenney Grant, who’s an aspiring country singer and musician. (Think of a pre-teen Taylor Swift.)

This new line has also led to the official release of the first male American Girl doll. His name is Logan Everett, he’s Tenney’s closest friend, and he plays the drums.

The release of Logan Everett has been controversial. One pastor says that the Logan doll is American Girl’s attempt to emasculate boys. Some Native Americans are peeved because Logan uses a face mold that was originally designed especially for another American Girl doll—Kaya, one of the historical BeForever dolls who is also the only Native American character that has been released. The face mold with the closed mouth smile was designed especially for Kaya because her tribe discourages showing teeth when smiling. Using the same face mold for a white boy not only removes the cultural impact but it also implies that Native American girls like Kaya are more “masculine” than girls of other races and ethnicities.

Having seen Logan in person, I have to admit that I’m underwhelmed by him. He wears clothes that are reminiscent of the 1990’s grunge era but, otherwise, I’m not much impressed by him. He’s okay but he doesn’t strike me enough to consider saving $115 to buy him.

Tenney is cute but she doesn’t impress me enough to consider shelling out $115 for her. Although I do love her turquoise guitar with the cool white floral design motif. If American Girl wasn’t charging $34 for that toy guitar, I would seriously consider buying it for one of my other dolls.

There were other new dolls that I wanted to photograph but my smartphone camera started giving out that “Camera Error” message again. I tried rebooting the camera app and the entire smartphone itself but I still kept on getting that same message. At least I was lucky that I was able to take pictures of the various dolls before my smartphone camera app started to act erratic again.

Not too long ago I attended a Saturday morning networking event that was held at McLean Bible Church, which is located in Northern Virginia. I was hoping to find contacts who could help me land a new day job in order to pay the bills as well as getting any possible new tips on how to refine my search. Plus it gave me the opportunity to actually step foot inside one of those non-denominational Christian megachurches that have been springing up all over the U.S. since the late 1980s.

Before I go any further I want to explain my own religious background so you’ll understand why this post has a “stranger in a strange land” feel. I was raised in the Roman Catholic church. The parish where I attended mass from the time I was a child until I was in college had anywhere from 1,000-2,000 members. The church held mass four times a week (one on early Saturday evening around 6 or 7 p.m. and the other three on Sunday at 9 a.m., 10:15 a.m., and noon). While some people knew who I was growing up, there were times when I felt like I was just a face in the crowd of Catholics. I don’t recall too many efforts to have social events for the parishioners so they could get to know each other. Basically people attended mass then headed out the door the moment the last hymn ended.

I left the Catholic church when I was in college and I spent my college years identifying myself as a “secular Christian” (or a gentile equivalent of a secular Jew). When I was in my senior year of college I saw an ad in the Sunday Washington Post for Unitarian Universalism which read “Instead of having to fit in with a church, I found a church that fit me.” There was something about that ad that resonated with me in a positive way and it was a contrast to all those fundamentalist Christian groups on campus (such as the Campus Crusades for Christ) who were constantly trying to recruit converts among the student body so often that I began to loathe them because they became such a nuisance. I showed the ad to my boyfriend and he was impressed by it as well. I found out that there were no campus UU groups at the time, the nearest UU church was at least three miles away and I had no car plus the Metrobuses tend to run erratic hours on Sundays. So I forgot about the ad and still considered myself to be a secular Christian who was happily unchurched.

My boyfriend and I were engaged soon after I graduated from college and we began to plan our wedding. My fiancee began to express a preference for a religious wedding out of the blue. (I was always surprised by his preference. He told me that his family was basically nonreligious when he was growing up, with the exception of a few years when his family attended a Quaker congregation only to leave it when that congregation went through a nasty congregational split that disgusted his parents so much that they quit.) He remembered that Washington Post ad I showed him and suggested that we try attending a Unitarian Universalist Sunday service. So we went to our first service and we were really impressed by the format of the Sunday service. We were further impressed when they actually served coffee after the Sunday service ended and we found the congregation to be very friendly and upbeat (which was a welcome contrast to my memories of dealing with the members of my old Catholic parish). We learned that the minister who spoke at that service was only a visiting minister and the regular minister would be speaking the following Sunday. So we attended the following Sunday and we were impressed with that minister and the other members were very friendly towards us during the coffee hour.

Basically we kept on attending because we liked the church and its members and we eventually joined that congregation. A few months later, we were married by the UU minister and we remained active members for many years. I continued to attend Sunday services at that UU church after my marriage fell apart. (It helps that my ex-husband only sporadically attends these days.) Compared to my 1,000-2,000 Roman Catholic parish I attended as a child, the UU church I attend has a room where Sunday services are held that can seat a maximum of 500 people. Despite that, we rarely had to deal with the room overflowing on Sunday mornings. Right now my congregation has around 150 members. I know that it’s small but, as an adult, I find that I prefer a smaller congregation. I find it easier to make new friends among the congregation and it’s really a good feeling to go to Sunday services at a place where most people know your name.

I know that there are downsides to having a small congregation, mainly when it comes to what programs we can actually offer to fellow members and the wider community. We don’t have enough people to offer services that larger churches offer, such as a soup kitchen for the homeless or computer lessons to underprivileged persons. But the feeling I get that I’m not being lost in the shuffle (which is how I felt at times in my old Roman Catholic parish) makes up for it.

For years I had heard of people joining megachurches but it seemed like my then-husband and I bucked the trend by joining a small church instead. There were times when I wondered what a megachurch is like but I wasn’t that curious enough to consider visiting a megachurch on a Sunday morning because I really didn’t want to deal with people pressuring me to convert to their church. When I found out about this networking event at McLean Bible Church, I found the perfect opportunity to see what this megachurch is like without feeling pressured into converting. I brought a camera with me so I could take pictures.

According to the Wikipedia, McLean Bible Church is spread out over five separate campuses, which draws a total attendance of 13,000 people each week. I went to the church’s main campus in Vienna. I parked my car in the church’s two-story parking garage (which is definitely the largest parking lot I’ve ever seen for a house of worship). Seeing that building from the outside for the first time was an eye-opener.

I entered the church on the lower level and I felt like I was in the corridor of a very large hotel or a convention center.


The next photo shows the sanctuary where Sunday services are held. Unfortunately the doors were locked when I was there so I was only able to get a quick shot of the doorway windows giving you a glimpse as to how big this church is.

The networking event was held in a lower-level conference room which is about as big as the room in my UU congregation’s Meetinghouse where our Sunday services are held.

Around the corner from that conference room is a full-service coffee bar called Journeys, which was closed when I was there. I got a look at the menu, which offers as many varieties of different coffees as Starbucks. I noticed that Journeys prices its beverages around the same as Starbucks does. This is a far cry from what my congregation serves each Sunday. (We basically offer regular coffee, decaf coffee, and hot water for those who want tea or hot chocolate. It is entirely self-service and we only ask a small donation if you can afford it. It is all wheeled out on a cart after Sunday service ends. I don’t see my congregation ever installing its own full-service coffee bar like McLean Bible Church has.)

The women’s restroom was also an eye-opener as well. When you enter the restroom, you encounter a rack full of brochures that people can take.

Each stall had a Bible quote hanging on the inside door so you get to read something inspirational while you’re doing your personal business.

But that’s not all. The women’s bathroom has a large room off to the side. It is a lounge that has comfortable seats and a large-screen TV. I’ve seen the restrooms in some of the really fancy hotels have something like this but this was the first time I ever seen something like this in a church.

After the morning networking event ended, I stuck around a bit longer because I was really curious about this church. I went up to the second floor where I found this giant lobby area.

There are long desks outside the entrance doors to the second floor of the sanctuary where Sunday services are held. (Those doors were locked just like the lower entrances.) To me the area looks more like a hotel or convention center than a church.

The next photo shows a display table publicizing the church’s latest project: sending cards to members of the U.S. military who are stationed overseas.

The next two photos show one of two or three tables full of American flags encouraging people to send cards to the U.S. troops.

One of the side lobby had literature promoting the various smaller affinity groups that McLean Bible Church has, such as men-only and women-only spirituality groups and an affinity group that is devoted to people who have recently moved to the area.

The last picture I took was a view from a second story window.

Unfortunately the battery on my camera died after I took that last shot. I found a mall-style fast food eatery where people can order meals and eat them at one of the many provided tables. (That fast food place was closed when I was there. I have a feeling that this place, like the coffee bar, is open only on Sundays.) I’ve been to a few larger churches that have kitchens with dining areas but these churches only use them for special occasions (such as this one in a Catholic church, which I went to when that church had an Oktoberfest event that was opened to the general public a few years ago). McLean Bible Church’s facility definitely had the look of a fast food place that’s opened on a regular basis because I saw trays stacked in one area where people grab before getting in line. I saw a full-service menu with prices that were on par with what a typical fast food place charges.

I saw a sign touting a gift shop but I didn’t make much of an effort to search for it because of the dead camera battery and the feeling that the gift shop is probably closed on Saturdays as well.

I have to admit that the church is impressive in terms of the amenities it provides but I still prefer my small 150-member church. It means a lot to me to have a place where people recognize me and know my name and it would be harder for me to adjust to a megachurch. So what if my church doesn’t offer espressos or other types of fancy coffees like the McLean Bible’s coffee stand does. There is a Starbucks located just a short drive away for anyone at my church who feels the urge for a Coconutmilk Moca Macciato.  If you’re looking for something to eat, there are a couple of shopping centers located close by where you can have your choice of various restaurants ranging from fast food to a regular full-service restaurant.

I don’t mean to offend anyone reading this who has long attended a megachurch. I understand that you may find my preference for smaller churches to be off-putting. Just understand that I was not raised in a megachurch (even my childhood Roman Catholic parish would be considered small compared to McLean Bible Church) and I’ve grown used to attending a small church as an adult. If you like your megachurch, I’m not going to tell you to switch to a smaller church. I just personally prefer a smaller church for myself. That’s all.

One evening I decided to attend a networking event on the emerging Creative Class that was held at the large makerspace known as TechShop in the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia. While I was riding the Metro to the Crystal City stop, I noticed these dramatic clouds forming over the Potomac River so I took this next shot. The window was dirty, which I couldn’t do anything about, but this next photo shows the 14th Street Bridge along with the Washington Monument located at the far right. The dome structure next to the Washington Monument is the Jefferson Memorial.

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There was a reason for al those storm clouds: It started to rain after sunset. Between being on the Metro and being in Crystal City, I was underground through most of it so I didn’t have to use my umbrella until after I arrived in the parking lot of the Greenbelt Metro station as I was returning home.

I got off at the Crystal City Metro station and I immediately went inside the adjacent shopping mall known as the Crystal City Underground, which is named because of its subterranean location. The Crystal City area was once envisioned as a place where one could live, work, and shop without ever having to go above ground. The theory was that anyone living in one of the nearby apartments could just take the elevator to one of the underground tunnels and walk to one of the other buildings to work then walk to the underground to eat at a restaurant or shop either after work or on the weekends. I haven’t been in this area since the 2012 Artomatic, which was held in one of the nearby buildings. There are a few nice stores but most of the merchandise is pretty expensive, which is why I normally don’t shop there. The underground architecture is pretty interesting.

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The next photo shows one of the many mall entrances that leads to a set of steps for the visitor to walk down.

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I focused mostly on this chocolate shop I don’t recall seeing before known as Schakolad Chocolate Factory. This stores sells all kinds of handcrafted chocolates in a variety of shapes.

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I purchased this chocolate five dollar bill there. It was made from dark chocolate and it tasted very good. I ate it along with a light dinner I purchased from one of the fast food places. (The event I went to served food so I didn’t eat a large dinner that night.)

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The one other place I found interesting was this bar and restaurant known as King Street Blues, which seems to have a New Orleans-themed decor. I didn’t have much time to take too many pictures because of the event I was going to plus the place was crowded with people who stopped by after work. If I’m ever in the area again I’m definitely going to make this place one of my destinations.

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I finally arrived at TechShop. I had heard about this place from people who’ve been there for the last few years and I have to admit that it’s very impressive and very big with some nice decorative touches.

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The event itself was held in a side room. There were a series of three panel discussions plus there were networking opportunities between the panel discussions. The next photo shows one of them.

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There were also opportunities to tour the facility between panels, which I took advantage of. TechShop is a makerspace that’s filled with the latest equipment for anyone who wants to make anything as long as he/she pays a monthly fee to use the facilities. There are all kinds of machines for all kinds of making ranging from welding to fashion design to woodworking to making musical instruments.

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Someone is currently working on his own personal airplane to fly in and the body of the plane (sans wings) was on display as a work in progress.

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If I ever have an idea for something that needs to be mass-produced, I definitely will go to TechShop to work on the prototype for my idea after I use Kickstarter or IndieGoGo to raise the needed funds for both the monthly fee and any needed supplies.

I need to find a different title than “daily sketches” because I have completely thrown by the wayside my New Year’s resolution that I would create one new sketch each day. I quickly learned that working on daily sketches each day takes time from other arts and crafts projects that I’m working on as well as other things that I should be doing (such as cleaning the house). My “daily sketchbook” effort really became pathetic when I made only one new sketch in the entire month of June—and that one was in response to the horrible shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

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This past month I managed to churn out three sketches, starting with this one. I was inspired to create this sketch after hearing the news about a bullfighter matador in Spain named Victor Barrio who was recently gored to death by his bull opponent in the ring. His death was shown live on Spanish television and he is known to have been the first matador killed during a bullfight in over 30 years.

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I feel bad for the bullfighter’s family because I know that dealing with a loved one’s sudden and unexpected death is such a shock. But I have zero sympathy for the late bullfighter himself because he was participating in a so-called “sport” whose advocates call it “sheer beauty and artistry” when all it really entails is some man slowly torturing a bull to death with spears while waving a red cape and shouting “¡Olé!” I’ve never understood what was so great about bullfighting, especially when I took Spanish in college and one of the chapters in the class textbook dealt with words and phrases related to bullfighting. I remember the instructor in that class admitted that she personally didn’t like bullfighting either. (She originally came from Cuba, a nation with no bullfighting tradition.) That bullfighter would still be alive had he picked a different occupation that’s less dangerous and deadly. Bullfighting is one so-called “tradition” that needs to go away along with other so-called “traditions” like female genital mutilation and slavery.

Later in the month I did this drawing full of gears of many colors. I had gone to an event at this makerspace located in Crystal City, Virginia known as TechShop and its logo has the letter “o” shaped like a gear. I just took that gear idea and elaborated it further with a bunch of interconnected gears. It was something I did really quick and it shows. (If I was doing a professional drawing, I would’ve done it using a 2H pencil first while erasing and refining it until I got it just right. Then I would’ve traced over it with ink.)

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For the last drawing I did in the month of June, I went back to Rory’s Story Cubes. I mixed the Prehistoria and Enchanted sets together and this drawing was the result.

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Ramadan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I saw a kiosk that was selling Emoji pillows.

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

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I took a few miscellaneous photos.

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

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