Flower Power: Best Thing to Do this Earth Day

octopus garden

It’s April! It’s Earth Day! It’s my Birthday!

If you can’t tell, April is my favorite month of the entire year. The weather warms, the O’s are back at The Yard, I happily become a year older and the flowers come out in force. It’s the season of renewal and restarts and there’s no better way to celebrate than with a trip to the Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens of Baltimore. And there is no better time to stop and smell their flowers than this weekend, for the following two reasons:

  1. It’s Earth Day on April 22, 2017.
  2. It’s the last weekend of their Annual Spring Flower Display.

tree jelly

If you’re a loyal follower of just B more blog, then you’ll remember my past visit to the Spring Show which took you to outer space. This year, they’re keeping it closer to home and traveling under the sea to discover An Octopus’s Garden, with help from the National Aquarium and the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Trust me when I say that this is where you want to take family and friends on your Earth Day adventures.

eel and tulips

That’s because there’s more than just flowers to gaze upon at this show. Follow the paths and you’ll find an eel peeking between some petals, jellyfish hanging from trees and an octopus chilling with the succulents. Just be sure to take a close look at the animals – you’ll find that most of them are made of trash – reminding you to think green this Earth Day and every day. There’s a scavenger hunt for children of all ages, or if you’re less actively inclined you can curl up under the tentacles of a jelly and read a good book. Either way, you’ll get happily lost for an hour or two checking out this amazing show.

Reading

Love it so much you can’t bear to part ways?  Take some greenery with you – there are lots of plants and succulents for purchase that would love a new home. (I couldn’t help but bring this little guy with me!)

 

Succulent

Can’t wait until Saturday for your dose of flower power? The Conservatory is open late tomorrow, April 20, allowing you to tip-toe through the tulips until 7 p.m. If the weekends are more your style, then stop by between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for your last chance to see this special display. The Octopus will be leaving on April 23, 2017.

What could ‘B’ more green?

Rawlings Conservatory

 

4 Goals to Bmore in 2017

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Now that the year that was 2016 is blissfully behind us, we can get onto the business that is 2017. And I don’t know about you, but 2016 was a bit rough for me personally. It’s quite hard to write about all the fantastic things you can do in Baltimore when your driving foot, ankle and leg are casted, thus grounding your car as if its got a permanent boot attached. While friends and family were TOTALLY helpful in getting me to work, food and a holiday party or two, it just wasn’t an inspiring time to write about our great city. (Unless you wanted a run down on the lack of handicapped amenities – which still isn’t out of the question.) So it’s with much relief and a healing body that I look toward 2017 and what it may bring.

When 2016 started, I gave you a great list of things to do for each month of the new year. Trust me when I say that the suggestions on the list will be just as great for 2017 if you missed it. But a new year means a new direction, so this year I’m giving you some tips I plan to use to help hit some New Year’s Goals. (Because no one keeps resolutions anyway.)

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Travel (around town)

Some years the round the world trip is just out of reach. That doesn’t mean that travel has to go out the window. Make this the year you check out a different part of the city, county or state. That new neighborhood bar you keep meaning to get to? Make that an after work happy hour spot one night. Never seen Western Maryland and unsure if it really exists? Take a weekend to explore the western unknown.

The best part about Maryland? It’ll deliver photogenic getaways for any season. Hit some slopes in winter. Check out cherry blossoms in spring. Beach bum it out in the summer. Admire the foliage in the fall. Just remember that travel isn’t something that only counts if you change time zones. Have an adventure a little closer to home. Still need inspiration? Check out vistmaryland.org for more great ideas.

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Support Local Businesses

There are so many great things about the region and one of the best is that if you need it, want it or don’t know about it yet, there’s a good chance you can find it locally. I doubt I need to remind you that our food and drink scene is ever-growing and on point. Stepping out of the city won’t lead to your hunger pangs growing, as there are places to eat in every hill and valley of this great state. With restaurant weeks around the corner, there are plenty of opportunities and deals to help you eat local.

But what about the other things in life – home decor, clothes, books and the rest? Don’t worry, you’re covered. Pick up all of these and more at the next Charm City Craft Mafia craft fair. Or wait until Artscape and snag some local wares there. There is so much talent in and around Baltimore that you just might get the urge to up your hobby game. And that brings me to my next 2017 goal.

art

Add a Skill

So many local businesses offer classes that 2017 is definitely the year to add to your skill set. Learn to decorate cakes like a pro with Lotz of Sweets or make pasta with Baltimore Chef Shop. Become an expert at climbing mountains with a class at Earth Treks or become an equestrian at one of the many horse farms. Create your own museum after you’ve mastered how to blow glass and create ceramic sculptures.  Or give an Oscar worthy Shakespearean monologue for your friends.

If you simply search “classes in Baltimore” you will be given multiple options, price points and locations to just about anything you could think of and more. (Hey, I didn’t even know Baltimore had glass blowing classes until I searched two seconds ago!) And if you’re more of a learn on your own type, my final goal for 2017 will help you out.

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Hit the Books

Got stacks of books catching more dust than dog-eared pages? Magazines so old you still don’t know what was fashionable to wear for summer of 2016? Or am I the only one that owns 70 unread titles, courtesy of The Book Thing?

Well, even if you don’t have my bibliophile tendencies and still want to up your read-word count, here are two easy tips to help you reach the “Well Read in 2017” badge.

First, find 12 books for the year. That’s one book a month. Any title, any page length, any anything. Now gather them up, make a stack and place them somewhere you’ll see them. Now you have a visual reminder to whittle down that pile, and the bonus of seeing it shrink over the year. Got an e-reader? Purchase or borrow the one you want to read for the day and add it to your library. Or make a list on GoodReads to help get you in the reading habit. *Bonus* Post a picture to social media to let everyone know about your year-long library.

 

*None of these are paid advertisements. As always, these are things I know of that I want to share with you!

I’m sensing a pattern here: A sit down with MICA graduate Steph Stilwell

pattern play

I took one look at the Charm City pillow on thebaltimorecreatives Instagram feed and thought: I. Must. Have. That. The picture of bright blue and purple row homes in a throw pillow perfect square was meant to be on my couch. Sale at Caravanserai on the Avenue in Hampden when I wasn’t in town – unacceptable. So, being resourceful, I joined others who were clamoring to find out how else to get these delightful pillows of perfection.

Enter MICA artist, Steph Stilwell. She happily directed me to a solution to my conundrum and pictures of her entire line of pillows. Scratch the Charm City row homes, I had to have the Baltimore crab and the Maryland postcard. I mean, it has a diamondback terrapin on it, what’s not to love? She also excitedly accepted an invite to be featured on my humble blog. So on a Saturday afternoon in the unassuming, but ever hip Red Emma’s, we meet for hummus, iced coffee and a chat about MICA, Delaware, and art.

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Artist Steph Stilwell

The first thing you should know about Steph is that as a graduate fresh out of MICA, she has honed a unique voice and style all her own. Her doodles and sketches are simply delightful. She creates characters and illustrations that dance around the page. In a style that she describes as “50% food, 50% animals” she uses patterns to solve problems – like how to make a cactus footstool.

Steph hails from Middletown, Delaware where she started drawing at an early age. Her father was an artist by hobby and her mom likes to say she sacrificed her own artistic ability so Steph could inherit all of it. Fed on a steady stream of art supplies at Christmas and plenty of doodle time, Steph spent the weekends redrawing cartoons and comics instead of actually watching them. This naturally progressed to doodling during high school classes, cumulating in an independent high school project and landing her at MICA. 

MICA was my dream school. For art school, it’s a very collaborative, tight knit community…it makes you want to be as good as the people you admire.” Plus she wanted to live in a city, and Bmore was the place for her. “I wanted somewhere I could assimilate. Baltimore isn’t NYC, I like the environment. I  think there’s a lot of great things happening here.”

cactus footstool

For her it was really all about the patterns.

“It kinda just fell into place. I went into MICA and I didn’t really know what ‘Illustrator’ meant. But I think I was drawn to it because I was redrawing illustrations.

I took the patterns course… I was trying so hard to be what graphic design is, but I took that patterns course and I kept using patterns in other assignments. It’s funny, looking back, that I use patterns so much in my assignments, it was sorta foreshadowing what was happening later.”

If she had her way she would stay here in Baltimore, but there’s not a lot of work for illustrators and designers like her in the area. While her own gallery and studio would be nice one day, right now she’s focusing on expanding her portfolio and style. While I may argue that her style needs no tweaking, she’s got her eyes on bigger things. Her main goal right now is to work for a company where she can collaborate with other artists. While you might think of illustrators as people hunched over a desk drawing away by the light of a lamp, she’s quick to dispel that stereotype. The back and forth creativity that fed her passion and education at MICA is not something she’s ready to part with just yet.

piggies

Currently she’s shopping Hallmark, Greetings and Readings, and even Target. While she doesn’t have any bites yet, she’s hopeful that the right company will come along. I offered my two cents that Mod Cloth and her would be the perfect fit. (I’m also the first to admit, what do I know?)

But I do know that at this point you are thinking: “I love her stuff! I can’t wait for Target to wake up! Where can I get my own cactus footstool?

While she was mum on current projects (“There’s one in particular I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk about yet.”), she is currently freelancing while working the typical post-college desk job to help make ends meet. (Oh, the life of the starving artist.) You can find samples of her work on her website stephstilwell.com and request your own custom work. Or you can stop at Caravanserai and grab one of her pillows – before they’re all gone.

Bmore crab and postcard

When the Lights go on in the City

20160328_222647If you’re looking for a bright way to spend a spring evening head to Baltimore and check out Light City. Starting last night and continuing until Sunday, April 3 the festival showcases both local talent and the city skyline. This all ages event takes nothing from your wallet and adds inspiration to your imagination.

Each night promises bright and fun light installations, ranging in animatronic peacocks, 70’s inspired patterns, and projected short films. Run through a playground of light, take selfies with Vegas style signs or play with glowing shipping containers that react to your movements.
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While you may have missed last night’s parade (and the axolotl) there are are still plenty of events to surprise and delight you. You could catch a “ballet” of bubble balls by Single Carrot Theatre, paint the air with Illumnia! or catch a Planet Awkward performance.20160328_201107

The free Light City app,which is available for both Android and Apple, will help you plan your evening’s events. I found it extremely easy to use and as you star events you want to catch it puts them in a handy schedule for you. The maps let you know where everything is happening and where the street food is.
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Being in the heart of the Inner Harbor and spreading to Fells Point, there is no shortage of food options provide by all the excellent restaurants. However, if you’d rather chow down by the lights there are food vendors serving up drinks and delicious treats. I totally recommend The Nickel Taphouse Badass Burger sliders. They are amazing!20160328_193316.jpg

I spent all night at the festival with a friend and have every intention of heading back this weekend. Any pictures you see of the event don’t do it justice – it’s a must do this week. So gather your friends, family, dogs and head down to spend the night with the lights. You won’t be disappointed.

What could be more bright?

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(And after you check it out comment below and tell me what you thought!)

Going, Going… Gone? A Trip to National Geographic Museum

 

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Photo Ark at the National Geographic Museum

One of the best things about Bmore is that in a matter of moments (albeit very long ones) you can be in a different and interesting place. Today’s place of choice: National Geographic Museum in DC.

Interesting because I didn’t even know such a place existed, but it does indeed, just a short 3-minute walk from the Farragut North metro stop and right across from the Defenders of Wildlife building, which seems only fitting.

The building itself is unremarkable in its architecture, although there are nifty side walls that are topped with small metal mountains that were holding water from the day’s rain to create the scene of them overlooking a riverbed. On the first floor of this many-storied building are changing exhibits highlighting the nature, science, history and wonder that is both the natural and human world. Think of it like a really extravagant lobby – one with paths and treasures hidden in plain sight. The cost to enter is nominal ($15 for nonmembers) and, true to National Geographic form, the exhibits are spectacular.

My reason for venturing on the DC Metro to spend the day in a building I didn’t know existed was the special exhibit, “Photo Ark.” Photographer Joel Sartore is on a mission to take pictures of every creature currently living in zoos, aquariums and sanctuaries from around the world. To date, he has taken portraits of over 5,000 animals, from the tiniest frogs to enormous rhinos.

The exhibit is a must see for any animal enthusiast, photographer or parent who wants to show their children just what this planet has to offer and what we humans have to lose.

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Red Wolf as photographed by Joel Sartore

To say the photography is stunning is like saying the Grand Canyon is large. These are moments in time of the animal’s life. They demand your attention in a startling, intimate way.

The subjects sneak up on you –, as you walk through the draped passageways, you feel a quiet, calm insistence to acknowledge them. Animals from the smallest to the largest, familiar to unbelievable, glance, stare and peek back at you. Some are sadly already gone from this earth, memorialized in these portraits. Sartore said he wanted you to look into their eyes, to consider them and their existence. If you take just a few seconds to observe them, you find you do just that. Their eyes are emotive, alive, and haunting.

The exhibit runs through April 2016.

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Budgett’s Frog as photographed by Joel Sartore (frog from National Aquarium)

 

Resolve to Bmore in 2016

2016

Welcome to 2016 Baltimore!

As you wake up from your New Years partying and debate whether or not to make resolutions, allow me to offer one suggestion:

Make this the year you get out and really enjoy the charm of Charm City.

With all that Baltimore has going on throughout the year, it will be the easiest resolution you ever keep. And to get you started here are some recommendations of things to do in and around Baltimore in 2016.

What could ‘B’ more easy?

January: Start off the year right by trying a new restaurant during Baltimore’s Restaurant Week. From January 22-31, enjoy fantastic meals from the area’s best dining establishments. Sure, you could go to an old favorite – but stretch your tastebuds this month!

February: Get your craft on at the 2016 American Craft Council Show. Need a purse made out of old blazers? Giant balloon dog statues? Hand crafted wallets? All that and more is here for your perusal. Trust me, it’s entertainment for the eyes – and there’s beer and wine to whet your whistle (and loosen your wallet).

March: Tap into your Irish roots (whether real or adopted for the day) and enjoy the Baltimore St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Looking for something a little more adult? Swing by one of the many Irish bars for authentic food, music, and instant friends. My picks? Ryan’s Daughter, The Poitin Still, or James Joyce.

April: April showers gives a great excuse to stay indoors I know. But instead of setting up camp on the couch with the Netflix, make a date to spend indoors in a different place. Find your muse at The Walters Art Museum. Surround yourself with water and finned friends at The National Aquarium. And if you must spend the gray days with a movie, head over to The Charles  and try a flick of a different genre.

May: Memorial Day weekend means the official opening of beach season. Before heading down the ocean, detour to The Book Thing to grab yourself a trunk load of free beach reads.

July: Fireworks, Bar-b-Q’s, and steamed crabs. Add a night under and with the stars at Bengies drive-in theatre. Get there early to grab a front row “seat” and watch up to three flicks for the price of one!

August:  See what it means to cowboy up at J Bar W Ranch. With bull riding, barrel racing, and surprise audience participation events like “Cowboy Poker,” you’ll feel like you took a trip to the wild west.

September: Couldn’t make it to the ranch? Well, country living will come to you at the 35th Annual Maryland State Fair. Where else can you watch a sheep show, ride a ferris wheel, and chow down on cakes of the crab and funnel varieties all in one night?

October:  The month of goodies for all ages: candy for the kids and beer the older trick-or-treaters. Celebrate Octoberfest at The Baltimore Craft Beer Festival. Or bring your pints and grab a turkey leg at the Maryland Rennfest.

November:  With the year winding down it may be time to enjoy some live music. See bands before they make their big break at Ottobar, take in a show at The Lyric, or hit up a local bar like The Horse You Came In On.

December: You say you’re going to do it every year, so make this the year you walk the lighted path that is The Miracle on 34th Street. There’s no better way to end the year!

An Afternoon in Space?

HPRC

Photo by Melinda Campbell

Before this spring I had not been in the H.P. Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens. Like many things in this area, I had driven by the interesting shaped building, wondered about its contents and promptly forgot about it as it became a speck in my rearview mirror.

This time, however, was different; this time I was going into the Conservatory to stop and smell the roses. Or the hyacinths, in this case.

If you haven’t been to the Rawlings Conservatory, you should take the time to stop on by. The entire building could be looked at in a mad 20-minute dash, or absorbed through hours of observation and reflection. The choice is yours (as is the donation upon entry).

The Conservatory building itself is grand in a toy-like sort of way – you get the impression that it would look splendid miniaturized in a child’s playroom, all dainty and full of secrets. The architecture is simple but stunning, and can conjure up images of carousels, tea parties and secret gardens. And of course, it is the latter that proves to be correct.

An immersion of the senses is the best way to describe a trip through the rooms of concrete and glass, made living by the greenery. And it’s hard to determine which makes the grandest first impression – the surround-sound fragrance or the tactile coloring – as both jockey for your undivided attention when you enter. The chorus of perfume and the sensation of color clash in a war where the winner gets top bidding in your mind and memory. In the end they join forces, enticing you to get to know them better through consideration and time.

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Bottlebrush plant (Callisternon citrinus)

Now, I know you’re probably not supposed to touch the vegetation that grows from floor to ceiling and cascades down windows in a still-life waterfall of leaves, petals and vines. But the soft pillowy flowers of the bottlebrush plant (or Callistemon citrinus, for the science-minded out there) beg for you to stroke it as if it were a kitten, and the prickly cactus challenges you to prove your bravery. Sometimes you just can’t help yourself and you fall victim to the cajoling and taunts. Ah, those tricky flowers!

When I went on my journey through the Conservatory, there were works of art and photos taken from space along the walls. I would learn I had stumbled into a display titled The Garden Galaxy. The final room was designed in a meteoric arch of color and commotion and flowers shot across the sky, in something more pageant than Star Trek. Peeking out from among the blossoms were mosaics of layered glass, created by Yulia Hanansen. Here, among the seemingly fragile petals, the glass art lent an air of delicate strength, reminding the viewer that both glass and flowers are beautiful and strong, but also can be broken. Depicted in these works were stars and galaxies, swirling in frozen movement; a moment set in glass. In another room it was difficult to tell where art and nature diverged, as plants were spray painted and arranged in a way that made a careful observer do a double take: Is that natural? Is that art? Can I cross the boundary to find out?

Mosaic by Yulia Hanansen

Mosaic by Yulia Hanansen

With the benches and the quiet stillness, I could easily have sat there for hours, but life does not stand still, even if some of our fellow inhabitants do. However, it’s nice to have a place where you can step into space and stop to smell the hyacinths, if only for an afternoon. What could ‘B’ more beautiful?

Lilly

Lilly