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Many adults of a certain age will recall seeing a particular print ad in a magazine or comic book or even on the inside cover of a matchbook. It tends to depict the head of a cartoon turtle wearing a cap and a turtle-neck sweater (LOL!) with the ad line: “Draw Me!” Here’s a typical vintage print ad where Tippy was one of three characters one could draw (along with Tiny the Mouse and a pirate who’s simply known as Pirate).

Many of those ads were dressed up as contests where people could win money but they also served as a way of enticing people to take correspondence art courses through the mail from the Minneapolis-based Art Instruction Schools. This school was founded in 1914 as a way of training illustrators for the growing print industry. The most famous alumni was Charles M. Schultz, who managed to finish his studies during the Great Depression even though his parents had to literally struggle in order to afford the classes. Schultz would later become an instructor at the Art Instruction Schools, where he used his fellow instructors Charlie Brown, Linus Maurer, and Frida Rich as inspirations for characters in a new comic strip that he was working on called Peanuts and the rest is history.

For some reason I never tried my hand at drawing Tippy the Turtle or any of his other cohorts (like Tiny the Mouse, Spunky the Donkey, and Cubby the Bear). I think the main reason why I never tried was because I feared rejection (it was around the same time that I endured years of kids calling me “mentally retarded”). But I knew a girl who I’ll call “Rita” (not her real name) who actually tried drawing Tippy the Turtle and she sent her submission in. Rita was a girl who attended my high school but I knew her more from the local chapter of the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) that we were both members of because we didn’t share too many high school classes together. Rita was someone who was into drugs and I still remember the time when the CYO went on a trip to Kings Dominion and she mentioned that she dropped acid before we boarded the bus for Virginia. I saw her during our time at that theme park and she looked totally stoned complete with glassy eyes. I never quite understood why she felt the need to drop acid because Kings Dominion provided tons of visual and mental stimulation between the thrill rides and the numerous music and dancing shows that were performed throughout the day.

Rita used to tell me that her big ambition was to become either a writer or an artist. One day Rita told me that she drew Tippy the Turtle and mailed her submission in. A couple of weeks later a salesman arrived at her family’s house and he proceeded to show a slideshow to Rita and her parents about the Art Instruction Schools and why Rita would be a natural for that school. He told them that Rita could schedule her correspondence art lessons around her high school classes. Her parents gave their permission and the Art Instruction Schools sent its first correspondence lessons. Rita told me that she enjoyed the classes but she never spoke any further about her lessons.

I lost contact with Rita when she dropped out of high school and stopped attending the CYO meetings. I don’t know if Rita ever finished her Art Instruction Schools classes.

I wanted to study art in college but I was persuaded not to do so. I ended up getting my Bachelor’s in Journalism with a minor in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland and I had long regretted not studying art. I made an attempt to take part-time classes at a now-defunct art school that didn’t work too well for me for reasons that I went into when I wrote a blog post about a sculpture I did during my time at that school. (I have two other surviving art pieces that I also did during my time there—You’re Fired! and Thanksgiving Revenge.) A few years later I considered taking classes with the Art Institute when it was opening its campus in Arlington until I checked out its open house and there was something about that school that didn’t sit right with me so I decided against going. (It turned out to be the right decision on my part.) I ended up taking a few classes at a local community college that I initially enjoyed until I began to burn out from constantly taking three-hour classes twice a week. The last straw was when I took a Commercial Illustration class with an instructor who really glommed on to me and my work in a way that really made me feel uncomfortable and which I described in full detail in this post (which also includes an illustration that’s NSFW).

In the years since my last stab at art school I took a couple of arts and crafts-related short classes and workshops but they were more for fun rather than working towards getting an art degree. I began to remember those “Draw Tippy the Turtle” ads from my youth and I began to think that maybe doing a correspondence art school would be the thing for me. After doing a few Google searches I found that the Art Instructor Schools had a website but I also learned that doing the entire curriculum would cost me around $3,000. Granted it’s cheaper than what the Art Institute was charging but it was still more than what I could afford. I’ve always felt that one day I would give Art Instructor Schools a try once I straighten out my precarious finances.

Today I decided to do some web surfing and, once again, I did a Google search on the Art Instructor Schools. I looked on the Wikipedia page and found this sad fact:

In 2016, the school announced it would not be enrolling new students.

Oh no! I went to the school’s website and it still looked like it was in business. I clicked on the Program link and was taken to this page, which said:

While Art Instruction Schools has helped many students develop their artistic talents, the School has determined that it is no longer feasible to continue offering the Fundamentals of Art program and serving its student population after December 31, 2018. Art Instruction Schools remains committed to enabling students who are currently enrolled to complete the program. Effective immediately the School will no longer accept new enrollments.

Currently, enrolled students who desire to complete the Fundamentals of Art program prior to December 31, 2018 are encouraged to call Art Instruction Schools to speak with a representative about your progress in the program. While Art Instruction Schools is prepared to provide students with academic guidance, it is the students’ responsibility to complete all program requirements by December 31, 2018.

Going to the FAQ page is pretty interesting. Here are a few choice excerpts:

Is Art Instruction Schools closing?

Art Instruction Schools will remain open. We are no longer offering the Fundamentals of Art program for new enrollment.

Do you have any other programs or courses available?

At this time we do not.

What will you be offering after the Fundamentals of Art program has ended?

We are only focusing on teaching-out current students at this time.

It looks like the Art Instruction Schools is only open to focus on getting the current students to finish their lessons by the end of the year and that’s it. After 104 years in business, the Art Instruction Schools will no longer offer classes to anyone who draws Tippy the Turtle and mails it to them. That’s too bad. It figures this had to happen just as when I was about seriously considering sending in my own Tippy the Turtle drawing so I could try my hand at their correspondence art classes.

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Santa Claus

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

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

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

On the Saturday during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, I decided to check out this toy show that was being held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds.

It was such a feast for the eyes as the toys and various other vintage items were displayed at various vendor tables. The whole show took on the air of a flea market with an emphasis on vintage stuff dating anywhere from the 1900s to the 1990s.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Someone had a jukebox for sale, which reminded me of my childhood when many of the local restaurants had them and people could choose songs to play for about a quarter each.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

The jukebox played music during the entire event. (Which proved that it definitely still worked.) I couldn’t help taking pictures of the songs that were available on the jukebox. The majority of them were hits when I was a kid.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

And speaking of music players, here’s a vintage 8-track player with an Elvis Presley 8-track tape. I once had a stereo system that included an 8-track player but I never owned one like that. But I could’ve sworn that one of my friends or maybe one of my cousins had a player just like that but I don’t know for sure. (Memory is one of those funny things where you remember something but you don’t remember when, where, or how you remember it.)

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Late last year I did a series of blog posts with accompanying photos known as A Tabletop Christmas (so-named because I limit my Christmas decorating to just a single tabletop in my living room). Among the items I showed off was a small plastic Santa Claus puppet that I’ve had since I was a child. I didn’t know anything about the origins of this puppet. It wasn’t until I went to the toy show when I saw a tiny plastic Santa puppet on sale that’s identical to mine.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

The only difference between the two is that this Santa still had its label at the base while mine doesn’t have any labels at all. (I suspect that whatever label it had must’ve fallen off a long time ago.) My Santa puppet is currently stored in a box with the other Christmas decorations in the attic but here’s a picture of my Santa puppet that I took last December.

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At first I thought the animal in the next picture was a stuffed animal until I saw the dog move his eyes around. He laid there the entire time I was at that show.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

This show also had examples of how the mighty had fallen. I found this book by disgraced former Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly on sale for only $1 at one of the tables. (LOL!)

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

There was one token of something new that I found. Someone was selling glow-in-the-dark versions of the hottest toy of 2017: Fidget Spinners.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

By the way, you can check out a video I shot recently where I unboxed and played with one of those Fidget Spinners for the first time (and, no, the one I bought didn’t glow in the dark).

Everywhere there were visual treats, many of which harkened back to my own youth.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

As I was walking back to the light rail stop I shot this photo of The Cow Palace building because it had a nice small garden.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

I didn’t buy a lot of stuff at that toy show due mainly to tight finances. But I managed to snag a couple of things at bargain rates. I found the second season of The Simpsons DVD set for only $6.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

I bought a Monster High doll for only $5. I was attracted to her pretty winter-themed clothes. At first I thought I may have purchased a relative of The Snow Queen until I did an online search and I was able to make a definite identification. Based on this web page, her name is Abbey Bominable and she’s described as the 16-year-old daughter of the Yeti.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Here’s a closeup of her hair, which looks like it has glittery plastic pellets weaved throughout the strands. It gives a really cool ice/snow effect, especially when the light reflects off of her hair.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

A few days ago I decided to make the annual pilgrimage to the Christmas Store at Valley View Farms. On the way to Valley View, I decided to stop at the former location of the Sea Breeze Pet Center, which was nearby.

As some of you may recall, Sea Breeze was the place where I got my late pet hedgehog Spike a month after my husband abruptly walked out on me three days after Christmas, 2011. I did a ton of driving that day to clear my head because I learned from friends that my husband had hooked up with a woman whom I thought was one of my friends (but it turned out that I guessed wrong about her being a friend). A month before Spike’s death in September, I headed up to Sea Breeze because I happened to be in the area for a different reason and I decided to stop by the store to purchase some more food for Spike only to find that the store had closed for good. The Sea Breeze sign was still up but the store was totally empty. Yet its website was still online.

So I stopped by Sea Breeze’s former location to see whatever became of it and I found that the space has been turned into a health care clinic. The windows are now covered with venetian blinds so one can’t peek in them. (In Sea Breeze’s heyday, the windows were open so any passerby could glance inside of the animal cages and fish tanks.) So the Sea Breeze Pet Center is officially history. Yet its website is still online as of this writing and it still lists the address as the place where the health clinic is now located.

I didn’t linger long at Sea Breeze’s old location so I drove five miles down York Road until I arrived at Valley View Farms, where I was greeted by this large Nativity set.

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Valley View Farms is a garden nursery center that has long had a reputation for having this giant Christmas store featuring ornaments and decorations from all over the world. The store has so many Christmas trees and lights on display that it is totally dazzling. Since I recently got my new Droid Ultra smartphone, I decided to try the panoramic setting on the camera in an attempt to take a wide shot of the store. I took three panoramic shots in different parts of the store. Even though it gives you an idea of what it’s like, these photos still don’t fully convey how big this store really is.

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I felt tempted to buy a lot of Christmas stuff but I managed to resist because I can’t afford to buy too many things and, having gotten rid of three boxes of Christmas decorations last year and having purchased a small three-foot artificial tree, I really don’t want to begin accumulating excess Christmas decorations again. I gave in to temptation and purchased only one item—this really cool looking yellow robot nutcracker. It only cost $24 because it was made in China and not Germany. (The German-made nutcrackers started at $80 for a small 9-inch guy and the larger ones were priced as high as $400.) But it’s still a very funky nutcracker nonetheless.

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I spent the rest of my time at Valley View Farms taking pictures of the various decorations that are available for sale this year as well as the outdoor light display.

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While nearly evey year I make at least one visit to Homestead Gardens (which I did a few weeks ago), there’s another nursery that has a Christmas shop that’s just as grand as Homestead Gardens. It’s called Valley View Farms and I still have memories of the time that my parents made a family visit to that place when I was a child. As an adult I don’t go to Valley View Farms as often mainly because Homestead Gardens is closer to my home. A few weeks ago I decided to attend another session of the Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at the Wind-Up Space in the northern part of Baltimore and I also wanted to make a trip to the nearby pet store to stock up on more supplies for Spike. I figured that while I was going to be in the area, I might as well visit Valley View Farms so I did so.

At the front door I was greeted by this giant nativity scene that’s available for sale.

Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012

According to Valley View Farms’ Christmas page, this store displays over 125 decorated Christmas trees decorated with a selection of over 6,000 ornaments under a canopy of 50,000 twinkling lights. The result is a very bright and festive shop that provides tons of eye candy.

Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012
Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012

Each decorated tree has a different theme. The ornaments used in each themed tree are sold under each tree.

Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012

There was even a tree with a theme based on the rock band Kiss. I never knew there were so many different Kiss ornaments to choose from.

Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012

You know that the video game Angry Birds have become extremely popular when you can purchase Christmas ornaments based on the characters in that game.

Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012

If there were any ornaments most destined for the bargain bins next year, my vote would go for these ornaments based on Snooki and The Situation from The Jersey Shore, which MTV has recently announced that it will cancel after this season ends.

Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012

I’ve always loved looking at Department 56 buildings. I’ve never purchased one for myself partly because they are a bit on the pricey side and partly because I don’t have the space in my home to do a really awesome miniature village layout. But I like looking at them on display in the stores.

Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012
Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012

This year Valley View Farms had two unique Department 56 nativity sets on sale in two different sizes. They feature Peanuts characters doing a live nativity scene and both are based on a scene in the annual TV Peanuts Christmas special where the Peanuts gang put on a Christmas pageant.

Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012
Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012

I purchased a nativity scene for myself because it looked more traditional while, at the same time, it was very uniquely made. It’s a wooden piece and I just love the look of contentment on the faces of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. It’s small enough for my home and it’s a one-piece nativity set so I don’t have to worry about keeping track of small parts. Like many other things sold in America these days, this one was made in China but I think it was very well-made.

My new nativity scene I purchased from Valley View Farms

I also found some hedgehog ornaments at Valley View Farms, which was cool since I now own a pet hedgehog. Despite the fact that I had recently gone through great effort to downsize my Christmas ornament collection, I couldn’t resist buying two of the hedgehog ornaments to celebrate the fact that I brought Spike home to live with me nearly 11 months earlier. I bought two hedgehogs because I couldn’t decide which one I liked better. The left hedgehog in the picture below was made in the Phillippines by a company called Brushkins and it’s made out of bristle brush. The right hedgehog looks like it’s made from resin or some similar material and it was made in China and distributed by Kurt S. Adler. Both of them are very cute.

My new hedgehog ornaments I purchased from Valley View Farms

There was a third hedgehog ornament I saw that I could’ve purchased but I didn’t because this one was more expensive than the other two hedgehog ornaments combined. This type of ornament was made out of glass and it looked lovely enough that I took a photo of the glass hedgehogs available for sale.

Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012

The last few photos are ones of the parking lot light displays at sunset, which were pretty lovely.

Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012
Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012
Valley View Farms, December 3, 2012

So after visiting Valley View Farms, I made the short trip to the pet store where I originally purchased Spike back in January in order to stock up on his Ultra Bites fruit and vegetable treats and his cage litter so I won’t have to make any more shopping trips on Spike’s behalf before Christmas. (I wanted to avoid the increased traffic congestion that usually occurs closer to the holiday.) I ate a quick dinner at the pizza place next door then drove to The Wind-Up Space in the northern part of Baltimore where I attended another session of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School.

Snoopy Store Window Jewelry

It’s a necklace. It’s a pin. It’s BOTH!!! The photos are based on the ones that I actually took myself using my digital camera. I edited each photo in Photoshop, printed it out on Shrinky Dinks that are especially made for ink jet printers, cutted out the image, punched a hole on top of the image, baked the item for 3 minutes (when it shrinked to 1/3 of its original size), sealed the printed item in an acrylic varnish, placed a necklace loop on top, then glued a pin backing on the back. Regardless of whether you decide to wear it as a necklace or as a pin, it’s the ultimate in wearable art!

This particular photo is of a store window display full of Snoopy plushies in Washington, DC that was taken on December 24, 2006.

Approximate size is about 2 inches x 2 inches (5 cm x 5 cm). There is a necklace loop at the top so you can add your favorite chain and a pin backing in case you want to wear it as a brooch. I currently have it on sale right here in my Etsy shop but, if you’re looking for last-minute holiday gift ideas, I’ll warn you that I can’t guarantee that it will arrive on time. (If necessary, I will head to the post office for the final time before Christmas tomorrow morning but I still can’t guarantee that it will arrive promptly.)

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