Happenings: Baltimore, Maryland

Pete and I ventured to Baltimore, Maryland this weekend for a trip to the National Aquarium and American Visionary Art Museum. The aquarium had a special exhibit on jellies, which definitely made the trip well worth it. I stole a screenshot of this photo from the aquarium website because they made everyone smile for a photo as we entered. We look like major noodles, but I had to share.

This guy was gooood.

We visited the American Visionary Art Museum for the last day of the exhibit, “What Makes us Smile,” which was curated by Simpsons creator Matt Groening. The fabric paintings by Chris Roberts-Antieau were my favorite, along with the huge painting by James Franklin Snodgrass.

The American Visionary Art Museum doesn’t allow photography indoors, but I was able to snap a few gems outside, including this photo of Pete sarcastically grimacing (this was his reaction when I told him to “SMILEEE!”).

Good times. What were you all up to this weekend?

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Happy Birthday, Big Brother!

Dearest big brother,

I have learned a lot from you since I was yanked out of mom’s womb roughly 27 years ago. Thanks for warming it up in there for me, by the way. It seems as though I was following in your footsteps ever since my fetus days, as I decided to be a c-section baby because you had done the same 9 years before me. To celebrate your birthday, I’m highlighting just a few of the many reasons why no one else has a brother quite like you.

Even before I came around, you had a keen fashion sense and creative eye for headwear. I’d like to think that rubbed off on me a little bit, but let’s be honest, the stylish gene definitely skipped a generation.

Sigh.

From a young age, you made me realize that bunnies were totally fabulous in every way possible. We’ll come back to this point later.

Even when I was a wee little thing, we still managed to exchange snarky glances when mocking dad’s latest facial hair trends.

Or mom’s glorious 80s perm.

I forgave you when you went to school and left me alone with these crazy people we call our parents…especially when dad wore his old lady mask and dressed in a bathrobe with his hairy legs revealed for all to see. (This is a screenshot from a home video, I couldn’t make this stuff up.)

You taught me to only wear short shorts when you mean serious business.

Thanks to you, I learned the importance of money and how to earn a living (becoming an artist…that pays well, right?).

I told you we weren’t done discussing bunnies. My artistic skills were advancing at a rapid pace, thanks to having these inspirational pieces of yours to motivate me. This bunny you painted has always been a favorite and definitely inspired me to draw some bunnies of my own.

You taught me how to sketch my favorite Disney characters and whenever you drew Abu or Ariel it made my day.

Thanks to you, I began to quickly realize that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. Even though I only scored an 80 on the art test above, I kept drawing turtleneck-wearing turtles and didn’t give up.

You taught me that smoking was bad, except for when you are faking it by putting a pen cap in your mouth while shooting artist black and white photos with your big brother.

I also learned not to care what people thought of me when you dressed me up in Johnny Cash-esque outfits and had me pose in the Catholic school playground, with the confused students watching us.

You taught me how to balance life when I was in college and had no desire to drink in a town where there was nothing to do but get wasted every weekend. The result was me taking a lot of nerdy self-portraits and developing a habit for collecting too many pets.

You made me realize that you can never be too overdressed for the beach, as I have been spotted wearing corduroys and closed shoes on numerous occasions while at the shore.

Your inability to do anything sporty (apart from play a mean wiffleball) has also been inherited by yours truly. Although, thanks to this photo taken by your lovely wife, I can say with great certainty that I could beat you in an uphill race.

But you could kick my arse in wiffleball any day.

And probably ballet, too.

No matter how old we are, when Christmastime rolls around, it’s inevitable that someone always has to play Santa Claus. Thanks to you, I have a sordid appreciation for all things festive when it comes to stuffing your pants with a fake pillow and wearing a beard from the early 80s. As part of your birthday gift, I have spared my readers of the especially vulgar family photos, as these were the only G-rated shots from our adventures as Santa.

Fairly recently, a new Collins family Christmas tradition arose, during which we would embark in a Nerf battle in the basement. In the dark. At first, our main goal was to shoot each other…sometimes in the eye (sorry about that, by the way) and sometimes in other unfortunate places, but overall we looked forward to an all-night shootout as our means of spreading Christmas cheer.

However, our goals soon changed when we realized it was funnier to corner dad with a Nerf gun than it was to attack each other.

That being said, I still get a little scared when I see that crazed look in your eye, whether it’s during our Nerf battles or because I posted an embarrassing photo of you on my blog without your permission.

Regardless, I hope you’ll allow me to keep this post up for more than 24 hours, despite the compromising photos. I made it a point not to include any pictures from your mullet/Prince/mustache/epic goatee/samurai hair days. Despite making fun of your past appearances, I can say with great certainty that my unfortunate hair phases (and eyebrow phases) were much, much more blackmail-worthy.

Anyway, I hope you have a fabulous birthday week. I’ve been eating banana cream pie and drinking lemon-flavored Gold Peak Tea to celebrate in my neck of the woods (any excuse for pie or tea is a good one)!

Love,

Your little sister

Family Fun: The Please Touch Museum

Yesterday I went to the Please Touch Museum with my friend Valerie, her awesome sister Monica and Monica’s adorable kiddo, Maya. It was a much-needed day of relaxation after cleaning up the flooded basement all weekend. Who knew being surrounded by screaming children could be such a breath of fresh air? Seriously though, Maya is the cutest kid and I couldn’t have lucked out with better company.

The museum is absolutely breathtaking and located in Fairmount Park, a brief walk from The Mann Center, my favorite outdoor music venue in the city.

The Woodside Park Carousel was extremely cool—with goats, pigs and cat eating fish as some of my favorite animals in the menagerie. The carousel was crafted in 1908 and finally brought back to life with 1,296 lights after being in storage for over 40 years.

The museum was filled with hands-on exhibit zones, including a grocery store where kids could go shopping and ring up their food at the end of the trip. Maya decided strawberry syrup and fish were a winning combination…at least the girl is inventive!

The Alice in Wonderland section was my favorite, with a hall of doors and mirrors and tea party within a winding green, circular maze.

I would definitely recommend the Please Touch Museum, no matter how old you are, it doesn’t hurt to surround yourself with childhood nostalgia and be a kid for the day.

Say Hello to Skillshare

Skillshare, a community where anyone can be a teacher (even yours truly…scary), has recently expanded to Philadelphia. The NYC-based startup launched its service in April, providing a platform for users to offer classes to any kind of interested students. On average, people pay $15 to $25 per class, 15% of which goes to Skillshare. While the company doesn’t review the classes, they highlight the most interesting ones on their site. Local offerings include anything from Ed Tettemer’s “The Emotional Guide: Brands & Communications People Love” to “Cheap Dating for the Debonair.”

I’m looking forward to the launch so we can see the linked categories on the left, or recently added/most popular options, as well as a handy-dandy search bar. I’m anxious to review more of the classes once they start popping up after the official launch. I’d like to make a request for a “Tax Tips for Artists” class for gals like me who love freelancing, but hate trying to figure out how to declare that shite once tax season rolls around. I’d sign up for that in a hot second.

Anyway, above is a glimpse at the thrifting class I will be offering once I have enough “watchers” to select a date and time. I’d like to wait until I have at least 20 watchers before I make the class official, so be sure to sign up if you’re local and interested.

Also, next Tuesday, August 16th, Skillshare will be hosting their official Show & Tell Launch Party at the Field House in Philadelphia from 7 to 9pm. Pete and I plan to be in attendance, so we look forward to schmoozing with the locals about the exciting community marketplace.

Has Skillshare launched near you? What types of classes would you be interested in teaching/attending?

Weekend Happenings!

This weekend, Pete’s friends from his Penn State days came over to join us for a barbecue. Luckily the weather cooperated and we were able to sit outside (speaking of outside–does anyone have a bug spray they would recommend that actually works!?). Pumpkin the dog joined us, but Betty White didn’t take a liking to her unfortunately. I think it made her miss Admiral Ackbar a little bit.

Our guests were very generous with cute housewarming gifts which made me squeal (I love me some owls).

Betty White doesn’t look amused by being held by the ginger…

Pete’s new favorite thing is making Betty White play drums with her front paws. This doesn’t amuse her either.

OH MAH GAH, PUMPKIN PHOTO!

Other happenings this weekend included being treated to an amazing feast at The Melting Pot with Melanie for my belated birthday celebration, an engagement shoot with a lovely couple at Terrain, finally painting our hallway and revamping the rocking chair I found at a thrift store. In other news, I have an exciting freelance illustration project I’ll be working on this week, so my posts might be a little less rambly and more photo-happy for a while.

How was your weekend?

Show & Tell: Thrifting Finds

Yesterday you joined me on an average afternoon spent thrift store shopping in the Bucks and Montgomery County areas of Pennsylvania. Today I’ll be sharing my purchases with you and how I plan on incorporating them into our new home.

This vintage radio stood out to me when I saw it on a shelf at the Bryn Athyn Thift Shop listed for $6. It is in need of repair, but even if Pete and I aren’t able to doctor it back to health, I think it works well as a home decor piece for our living room.

I ended up finding a comfortable rocking chair in good condition at ReStore for only $25. I am going to sand and paint it to give the chair a new look (color suggestions are always welcome!). The pink, spaghetti glass jar on the right was $3.50 and goes perfectly in our bright blue kitchen, so I was excited to fill it with elbow macaroni to give the countertop a bit of flavor.

When I saw this owl lamp, I flailed because a few of the illustrations are exactly the same images as the owl wall art we own (which we still need to hang). I love that each side has a different owl illustration, with the formal name of the owl at the bottom. It was too cute not to snag for only $3–it just needs a lamp harp and shade and it will be looking better in no time.

Overall I spent $37.50 and scored a retro radio, rocking chair, owl lamp base and spaghetti jar. If you local readers ever want to join me one day, we should plan a meetup and go as a group!

One Man’s Trash…

About once a month, I devote a lazy afternoon to visiting my favorite thrift stores in the area in an attempt to find items for our home. Sometimes I find things that just need a good cleaning and the price tag scraped off, but I usually have to revamp the thrifted items I purchase to make them a bit more “us.”

Usually my first stop is at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore shop, where my brain always has a lot of trouble keeping up with my eyes. Whenever I go thrift shopping, I usually skip the clothing and go straight to the furniture or housewares. Luckily for me, this place is made up entirely of those two things. This store is perfect for roaming and incredibly spacious, so you never feel like you’re in anyone’s personal bubble. Plus, all of the proceeds go to a great cause, so I feel a lot less guilty than I would at the mall.

I thought the rustic chair on the left was really cute and for $5 it seemed like a steal…but once I tried to sit on it I was a little nervous by how wibble-wobbly it was. I set out trying to find a rocking chair to makeover for our sunroom, so when I saw this cross-stitched number, I kind of swooned a little…but not $60 worth of swooning.

These chairs have been here for the past few times I’ve visited, and at $35 a piece they are kind of irresistible. I know, I have bad taste, but at least I know it…

This dresser is absolutely lovely and definitely something I could see being sold for thousands of dollars at Anthropologie, but here it’s under $50. Most of the ginormous furniture pieces at ReStore are in the $50-80 range, which is kind of a steal.

Rod Stewart agrees.

I thought this watermelon painted picnic basket was kind of cute in a cheesy way and would be fun to use as a prop for engagement shoots. The piece on the right is drool-worthy, but I didn’t want to spend over $40 total and I had three more stores to visit, so I kept on trucking.

These floral cushions are fabulously tacky…if they matched our sunroom I would’ve snagged a few for our patio set.

My next stop was Impact, where there is always a 25% sale, so I usually visit the website beforehand to find out which savings are going on that week.

These bad boys were picked up by a hipster-looking gal only seconds after I took this photo.

I was looking for a cupcake stand and wished this had been able to do the trick, but luckily I was distracted by the wooden bunny art that vaguely resembled my illustrations.

From statement furniture pieces to sad owl drawings, Impact never ceases to amaze me at every turn of the corner.

I’m drawn to tacky bunny/watermelon-related knick knacks like a moth to a flame.

I thought this was pretty and reminded me of intricate Thai furniture I’ve seen sold at Terrain.

The furniture selection is pretty big at Impact, but I mostly go there to browse the housewares and linens. I love me some vintage calendar tea towels with kitties on them.

As soon as my friends start popping out babies, I am going to make impulse buys like the nursery scale above. I seriously have discussions in my head about whose imaginary babies these things would be perfect for, and then talk myself out of buying anything (thank goodness).

Next up was the Bryn Athyn Thrift Shop, which is housed in a beautiful red barn nearby the Bryn Athyn College campus. This has become my favorite stop of them all, and today I finally made my first purchase there. I love how the place is set up, with rare collectables hanging from the ceiling on the top floor. This is where I find the most unique items because it seems to be sort of hidden away and not as popular with the younger crowd.

Who wouldn’t want a possessed teddy bear on a rocking chair or a figurine of a pig screaming his last words? Re-mark-able. The woman next to me pointed to the pig ceramic and said, “Oh honey, that is so photo-worthy,” and I agreed with a quick click of the camera.

I think silhouette art can be really lovely, but screaming birds, not so much…

This is the staircase which leads to the upstairs, full of furniture and clothing treasures as far as the eye can see. Out of all of the stores, the prices here always seem incredibly fair and affordable and I’m never left wondering if the employees messed up and meant to move a decimal point over one.

I’ve never purchased anything at Holy Redeemer Thrift Store, but it’s on my way home, so I usually stop there. Even though I exit empty-handed, I always leave with a smile on my face because the people there are out. STAN. ding. Today an elderly woman was talking to the dolls for sale in the knick knack section and pinching their porcelain cheeks for what seemed like ten minutes. (I lingered pretending to be interested in a vast collection of Christmas decorations.) I can’t wait to be so old that I don’t care when strangers are staring at me having conversations with inanimate objects. I mean, I already do that now, but I can’t wait for the not caring part to hit me more.

This sassy dog cup is kind of necessary. Pete: If you’re reading, Christmas gift, GO! I’m always impressed by the fabric selection at this location, as well as the abundance of doll heads available for the pickin’.

For you engaged gals out there, thrift stores are a great place for finding Mason jars, which are incredibly pretty as centerpieces or hanging lanterns. I am not ashamed to admit, I was half tempted to buy this clumsy, cross-stitched rabbit situation.

Wondering what purchases I did make (mom, this question is directed at you)? I’m going to share them with you guys tomorrow for a show and tell. This is where you pretend to be left in suspense and comment with guesses as to what you think I may or may not have spent $37.50 on.