Friday, October 23, 2009

Pumpkin Fest and the Irvine Nature Center

I LOVE people who can take lemons and make lemonade! And the people who work and volunteer at the Irvine Nature Center in Ownings Mills, MD, are just those kind of people.

Last weekend was the Pumpkin Fest at the center, an event with fun crafts for the kids, educational hands on displays about animals, pony rides and pumpkins galore. This particular weekend also included pouring rain and a surprise snow shower!

However, the center's devoted little elves pulled off the weekend. They moved outdoor activities inside, shoveled snow and kept on going. I loved the stable, secure party tent the crafts were set up in, and the heater we had. It rained outside, but we were mostly dry and mostly warm!

Saturday, it rained pretty much all day. Furry Friends came out to say hi despite the bad weather.

Sunday started with a shock when I got to the center. There was snow on the ground. Not a little bit of snow, either, but a pile here, a pile there...

This was the entrance to the main arts and crafts tent for the kids. They left the snow there, and re-routed folks through our tent instead.

Very sadly, the food vendors had left their tents up overnight and came back to find a tangled mess. Wind, snow and thin metal bits don't mix.

The tents were so mangled that they couldn't take away the carcasses of the tent frames. They had to leave them right in the parking lot. I asked one of the organizers if I could take the tent tops, which were ripped, to recycle into shopping tote shops. She agreed and I carted them away. The center took the rest of the tents, to be able to strip salvageable parts for their own use.

Inside, snow have collected on some of the tent roof and they had been working to get it off.

They were scrambling to get everything water tight, ready for the kids to come and have fun. They had moved the pumpkin patch inside.

This was right next to a very Martha Stewart-like display of all different ways you could use pumpkins to decorate. From using small baby pumpkins as candelabra decor to pumpkin topiary, the ideas were fresh and inventive. I liked the pumpkin as flower holder.

There was a build your own scarecrow area. Lots of the fun combos to be had. I'm not sure who liked this best, the kids or the adults.

At the end of the day, I stopped by the nature center's store. This was a great place! Unlike a lot of nature stores I've been to, this was stocked with fun and fresh products for your garden, your life and even your bathroom. Organic body lotions and soaps, beautiful jewelry. Coloring books and bug identification cards for kids. I got a few Christmas gifts for the gardeners on my list, a truly unique item I'm sure they won't have, but will love. I can't say what it is, I don't want to spoil the surprise.

The grounds around the center looked great, even without bright sunshine. I could see a tepee from where I was. Looked fun to explore...

By the end of the weekend, the clouds finally broke away and that elusive heat ball, the sun, made an appearance. The sky was clear and the changing leaves were glorious.

It made me realize that I had not been able to really get a chance to explore the trails and the center. I'm looking forward to a time very soon from now when I can get back to check it all out.

Irvine Nature Center is open seven days a week, 9am-5pm. According to the Fall program, 'the trails, gardens, exhibits and nature store are open to the public free of charge.' However, they have a full program of events, some free and some with a small fee. Check out their website at

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pumpkin Fest

It is that time of year again! Cooler weather, (alright, *cold* weather), yummy apples and cider, pumpkin picking and Halloween! I love the fall- the smells, the warm fuzzy clothing, the festivals!

Come join us for a Pumpkin Fest like no other!

From the Eco Puppets to the Zero waste education stations, to the earth friendly crafts, this event is for kids, little and big, but nature lovers all the same!

What: Pumpkin Fest

Where: Irvine Nature Center, 11201 Garrison Forest Road, Owings Mills, MD 21117

Where II: Artist Alley Tent

When: Saturday, October 17, 11am-4pm

Sunday, October 18, noon-4pm


Hope you can make and bring home a little nature to brighten up your fall season! Also, never too early to start thinking about holiday gifts~Jen

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Duh! I forgot!

I forgot to tell you more about where and when to find the October Artist of the Month, MICHELE BANKS. If you clicked on the title of my last post, you would have gone to her website. However, that wasn't clear at all. Sorry, folks, way too much work and not enough, chocolate?..

Michele's 411:

Next market: Bethesda Artist Market,



While Michele is in Bethesda, I'll be in Ballston.


Ballston Arts + Crafts Market, Arlington, VA
Saturday, October 10, 10am-4pm
Welburn Square, Stuart Street, Ballston

This is the last market of this series this season, so come by, if you haven't yet. I'm looking forward to it and remain optimistic about NO rain!


Other very chill goings on this weekend, The Shakespeare Theatre is having a Costume Shop Sale this coming Sunday, just in time for Halloween. I was there this evening to drop off an order of little bags and bought a great doublet jacket for an absolute steal!

You should definately check it out. You might even buy a piece of clothing I made!

The Sale is Sunday, October 11, 1pm to 6pm. More details at

Hope you have a great weekend, no matter what you do!~Jen

Green Tip~ Be A Clean Greenie

With the new and great habits people are creating by utilizing re-usable totes, there is also a new and not so great spread of germs. In using these bags more often, they are getting dirtier, picking up and retaining bacteria. Be sure to bag your meats before placing in your totes, then recycling that plastic wrap. Wash your carry bags often to deter contamination.

Pretty much, use common sense. If you ate off a plate and it was dirty, wouldn't you clean it? So, if you are carrying around food, between dirty cans from the grocery store to farm fresh produce from market, these bags could be less than pristine. Throw them in the wash at least one a week, using warm to hot water.

For more information on this issue, check out

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Artist of the Month~ Michele Banks

OK, I'll admit it: I'm not usually drawn to watercolors. Rather, perhaps, it is the typical watercolor subject I am not drawn to. Subtle landscapes and still lives with fruit and flowers.

It is my personal obsession with circles and interlocking rings that makes Michele Banks' work speak to me greatly. Airy bubbles flow over an aurora borealis background. Interconnected circles of bright color and flair pop out. Mirror images of repeating coffee cups march across the canvas, somewhat like a more modern Warhol. The shapes are simple, clean and organic. They sometimes look plainly geometric. Other times, they might vaguely resemble a womb, a dream or a scientific illustration. From the more serious Capitol Building to the whimsical 'smiley faces', you can see her work shifts as the mood hits.

If you take a look at the title of the work, you maybe able to decrypt the inspiration. Or, you may not. For instance, the Bubbles series, from which I have a very small piece, was not taken from the carbonated fizz of soda pop, but rather was "inspired by the bursting of the stock market bubble".

Look at a another piece that is laid out on a grid. In each block, a flash of color interacts with a different hue. In looking at the title, Cell Division, you can now see where Michele gained her inspiration.

This work is colorful, engaging and accessible. From large scale original pieces to smaller paintings, mini collages and notecards, she has a motif and item to fit your wall and wallet.

For more, in her own words:

Michele Banks is a self-taught artist working in watercolor and collage. Her instantly recognizable art, featuring strong colors, geometric shapes and repeated images, can be seen in many festivals and art shows in the DC metro area. This month, Michele will be showing at Art on the Avenue in Alexandria (Oct. 3) and the Bethesda Artist Market (October 10). Her paintings are also currently on display at Children's National Medical Center in DC. You can see more at her website,

Q~ How did you get started?

A~ I actually started doing the collages by decorating the walls of my cubicle at Price Waterhouse with cut-outs. I would just photocopy things that I thought were cool, make a whole bunch, cut them out and pin them to the walls of my cubicle.

Q~ Why do you continue?

A~ I enjoy making art, I keep getting better at it, I keep thinking of new stuff I want to do and people keep buying it.

Q~ What is your greatest success story?

A~ Getting two of my paintings into the Wilson Building Art Collection in DC was a biggie. That’s like DC’s city hall, where the Mayor and the city council have their offices, and the DC Arts Commission installed two of my pieces in the permanent collection.

Q~ What is one of your greatest failures?

A~ I put a lot of time and effort into creating a whole new look for my Artomatic wall in 2009, and I didn’t sell a single piece. That was after selling eight pieces from Artomatic in 2008.

Q~ Where do you get your inspiration?

A~ I love beautiful textiles, so I find that I get inspiration from beautiful scarves and fabrics. But also just all sorts of random things that I see, hear or read about. My bubble series this year was based on all the talk about the various economic bubbles and these huge sums of money just vanishing, which I depicted as zeroes floating away.

A~ I’m also inspired by the paint itself. I love seeing what watercolor will do.

Q~ Why do you make/create what you do?

A~ I use watercolors in virtually all my work because I love the clarity of the color. I’m also pretty decisive and impatient, so watercolor works for me because it’s fast and you’re very limited in your ability to go back and mess with it afterward.

I said before that I love beautiful textiles, and I did try working with fabric for a while, but I discovered that sewing makes my back hurt and makes me very cranky. So I’ll leave that to others, like Jen!

Q~ Where is your favorite place to sell? Or Favorite show?

A~ Adams Morgan Day was the first outdoor show I ever did and it’s always been a great show for me. I love Art on the Avenue, too – it has a great vibe and the neighborhood really comes out and supports the artists. SoWeBo in Baltimore is a crazy show with all these tattooed, dreadlocked people and bizarre bands, so that’s fun for a change from my usual middle-aged Mom lifestyle.

Q~ What is one thing you love about your business?

A~ I get to make all the decisions myself.

Q~ What is one thing you loathe?

A~ Rejection. Rainy festivals. OK, that’s two.

Q~ What is your dream about your art?

A~ About the art itself, I want to just make art that I love and that I’m proud of. On the practical side, I would love to find a dealer or a gallery owner who really gets my work and would help me sell it.

Q~ What is your mission?

A~ I seek the grail.

Q~ Where are you based?

A~ Washington, DC

Q~ Where would you live if you could live anywhere?

A~ I’ve lived a lot of places, and Washington is really my home and my favorite, but I have an abiding fantasy about a little summer house in Norway or Finland where I could go for July and August. I don’t like the 90-degree stuff.

Q~ What would you be doing if not this?

A~ No idea!

Q~ What is your favorite question to ask people?

A~ Do you have any chocolate?

Q~ What is your answer to that question?

A~ Generally yes!

Jen speaking again~ Michele is much too modest about her skills at the sewing machine. She was the creator of The Giant Peep at Artomatic! I didn't know it at the time of this snuggle picture. However, it was a wonderful addition to show and I'm so glad that Michele made it!

For more information, pictures of her latest works and markets, please visit Michele's website at


This weekend!! Two great shows, again! Weather is looking better and better....

What: Art on the Aveune

Where: Mt Vernon Ave, Del Ray, Alexandria, MD

When: Saturday, October 3, 10-6pm


What: Takoma Park Street Festival,

Where: Carroll Ave, Takoma Park, MD

When: Sunday, October 4, 10am -5pm

Website: www.takomafestiva

See you there!~Jen