A few months ago, I decided to stop uploading duplicate blog content to this account (to appease the almighty Google gods). Although WordPress.com was my initial launching pad into blogging, I transferred my attention to TaraFlyArt.com once the WordPress platform was up and running… and I didn’t have enough spare creative energy to write original posts for both sites.

However, I feel badly for abandoning the remaining subscribers of this blog… and while I encourage anyone who is interested in my work to pop over to my “Other” blog and re-subscribe (for semi-timely updates)… I have, in fact, come up with a solution for this albatross blog as well.

Taking a cue from one of my favorite bloggers, Kathleen Basi, who writes a weekly summary of her recent posts called “Sunday Snippets”…. I’ve decided to write monthly summaries for my content on TaraFlyArt.com.πŸ™‚

So here is a recap for October….

Regency Cat Art Prints and Greeting Cards

5 Tips From a Procrastinating Cat Artist

October 11th, 2011 – I shared some awesome news regarding a wholesale order for my Regency Cat greeting cards and prints. MuttsandFrutts of Ontario, Canada is an upscale pet boutique located in the popular tourist area of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The owner, Lisa, contacted me about ordering a large quantity of my cards (which I print and fold individually at home)… and my work load went into overdrive.
Through the stress, excitement, and the unexpected, I learned some lessons about Being Prepared… including:

  1. Purchase More Supplies Than You’ll Need
  2. Always Have Inventory On-Hand
  3. Have Every Size, Shape, Color, and Available Option Listed

Serious lessons for a gal who always waits until she’s down to 3 sheets of paper and 1/8 of a yellow ink cartridge before re-ordering supplies.
I wouldn’t have lasted long as a Girl Scout.πŸ˜›

TaraFly with AfriCat Painting for charity

Picture of me standing under my AfriCat painting, top center.

AfriCat – An Art Auction for Charity

October 17th, 2011Β – I stopped by the local art supply store, Howards’ Arts and Frames on Dual Highway, on October 1st, after seeing their announcement for the 6th annual “Art for the Animals” charity fundraiser.

Each year, they’ve asked area artists to donate artwork (which Howards’ will frame) for a silent auction to benefit animal charity organizations. The last couple of years they’ve supported the local Humane Society. This year, they chose to assist Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

I missed the deadline to enter last year, and didn’t want to miss out on this year’s opportunity to showcase my work locally (and help animals too!)…. but I was almost too late!
The original deadline for entries was Oct. 1st – the same day that I inquired, and I had nothing to offer (as they were accepting only 5″x7″ portraits on canvas panels). However, they generously extended the deadline a couple of days, and I rushed home to work on a fresh new painting… specifically for the auction.

My resulting piece was titled “AfriCat”, inspired by National Geographic photos of African tribal women wearing hundreds of brightly beaded necklaces.

[Update: The final night of bidding ended with AfriCat being sold for $40.00, and announced as 1st runner-up for People’s Choice in her category]

Art for the Animals, hosted by Howards' Arts and Frames

AfriCat Painting Video

October 24th, 2011Β – With the charity auction ending on the 26th, I gave everyone a brief update on AfriCat’s bidding status (she was holding steady at $26.00 on Monday night, and sold for $40 on Wednesday).

I also edited 3 hours worth of video that I’d taped of myself in the studio, painting AfriCat… condensed it down to approximately 20 minutes, split between 2 videos which I’ve uploaded to YouTube.

AfriCat Painting Video: Part One

AfriCat Painting Video: Part Two

And there you have it! All three of my blog posts for October, in an easily digestible format.
Let me know if you found this summary helpful, okay?

But once again, if you want to catch my blog posts when they’re still alive and kicking, I encourage you to visit my “real” blog on TaraFlyArt.com….
Thank you for lending me your eyes!πŸ˜‰

A parody of my ACEO Gypsy Cat listing on Etsy

I apologize in advance for a post that will probably come across as complaining at best, bitter at worst…. but I do have a message for you to hear, if you shop online. Or sell online for that matter.πŸ˜‰

There seems to be a great deal of “Photoshopping” going on with product photography.

It has probably been happening since the dawn of the internet, or the birth of Photoshop, whichever came first ~ hehehe …. but lately I’ve been noticing it quite a bit on Etsy, and it’s bugging the crap out of me.

I do want to defend Photoshop, which has an unfair bad rap.
It’s a very useful tool when used correctly (to edit out stray marks & unwanted objects, brighten under-exposed photos, correct ugly color tints from incandescent light, and more)….

Artists can also create stunning photomanipulations (“photo collages”) using various images blended together, and you can even digitally paint with Photoshop… although a program like Corel Painter has better tools for creating the look of realistic oil or watercolor paintings.

I love Photoshop and use it daily. I cringe whenever I hear people speak of something as “being photoshopped” in a negative connotation.

But I’ll be honest… Photoshop can cover a multitude of sins, and actually allow online sellers to create deceptive photo listings for products that do not exist and/or need to be seriously enhanced to attract customers.

Whenever I find an Etsy listing that is obviously a photomanipulated product, I have to question the quality of the item:
Why isn’t the seller comfortable taking a real photo of it?
Are the colors of the print inferior to the digital scan?
Are there flaws? Cracks?

I’m not a professional product photographer, and my earliest Etsy listings look like cat poop to me now.
I seriously wonder why my first customers ever purchased from me, except that they must have seen some potential, and were willing to give me a chance.
Thank you guys!!

But I spend a lot of time staging and taking photos of my artwork, framed on the wall and lying flat, so that customers can see the real prints and judge their quality.

Shopping online is hard enough, without a tangible product to examine… we don’t need to muddy the waters, confuse, and deceive our customers with smoke and mirrors.

Take for example: a listing for an 8″x10″ photo print. The accompanying image looks like this:

Parody listing, Photoshopping a digital file on the wall

(Using Anne Elliot Cat, I created this parody of an actual item listing I saw on Etsy… an enormous 8″x10″ photo hanging on the wall)

I will confess to having occasionally used an image I’ve taken of an 8″x10″ print for a 5″x7″ listing, and vise versa, if there was no obvious point of reference in the photo to compare sizes…
But I wouldn’t dream of listing an ACEO mini print using a poster sized image on the wall.πŸ˜‰

Another item that gets Photoshopped frequently is the infamous “art pendant”. Whether they are selling Scrabble tile pendants or “vintage” lockets, I’ll come across 130 copies of one generic photograph of a blank pendant with artwork digitally pasted onto it.

The trouble with this lazy habit is that the quality of the real printed image may not meet customers’ expectations; depending on the printer, paper, and type of resin/glue used, the print might not retain the beautiful, vivid colors and small details of the original digital file.

The only companies that might be able to get away with this are professional print-on-demand labs, and websites like Zazzle.com who have a solid reputation and stellar customer service.

Otherwise, can you really trust a shop full of digital clones??

Using Photoshop to paste photos onto blank pendants.

And while you may be thinking that customer feedback would highlight the poor quality items being sold, thus separating the wheat from the chaff… remember that feedback can be deceptive, too. It’s always best to read the comments.

For instance, in the case of one faux-photo-happy pendant seller… with thousands of sales, and 100% positive feedback… there were some obvious incidents of poor quality and misrepresented photos, that actually inspired me to write this blog post.

Last night, I stumbled upon a beautiful pendant while browsing a friend’s recent Etsy favorites, and was tempted to buy one.
When I visited the seller’s shop, however, I noticed that ALL the product listings were created using Photoshop… which made me curious:
What do these pendants really look like?
With thousands of sales, people must be pleased with them. Right??

But did you realize that 100% feedback doesn’t mean every customer is happy…
that, in fact, a negative review on Etsy will be cancelled out by a couple hundred positives, restoring a seller’s ‘perfect’ score?

I didn’t think it was possible to claim something was 100% if it wasn’t entirely true. 99.99% maybe.πŸ˜‰

In addition to a few negatives ( 2>10 ), and neutral ratings in the double digits, many of their positive reviews weren’t entirely positive….
For whatever reason, these customers chose to give a good rating, but the accompanying written feedback tells a different story:

“….not as bright and vibrantly colored as what you see on website…”

“… I just expected something different from the picture…”

“…They are a bit darker than shown in the pictures…”

“…I thought they would be metallic and basically prettier, but they’re not.”

Sharing my opinion that feedback scores should accurately reflect the buyers’ experience doesn’t always make me popular in Etsy forums.
Sellers are happy to get ‘second chances’ to reclaim their 100% status, especially if they felt a negative was undeserved.

I get it. Really. Sometimes satisfaction is truly beyond a seller’s control.
A customer could potentially leave a negative because they waited until Dec. 22nd to order a custom gift, and were upset because it didn’t arrive in the mail the following day.

I’ve worked with the public enough to know that pleasing people is an art form all to itself, and very few of us have completely mastered it.
Mistakes happen, too.

In my first year on Etsy, I started selling journals with my artwork on the cover.
My friend and fellow Etsian, Lily, from TwoStrayCats, purchased one… and unfortunately I didn’t ensure its rigidity in the mailer.

The postal worker folded it in half, and shoved it into her mailbox.

Ouch. When she contacted me, I was horrified and embarrassed…. I offered a replacement and a refund, but she benevolently refused both, saying that after a bit of ironing, it was almost flat.
And the crease gave it character.
Bless her heart.

It would’ve been reasonable to chew me out, demand her money back, and perhaps even leave negative feedback.
Instead she wrote:
“The dashing Mr Darcy is now officially residing in Alberta ~ Canada
and I must say that I am very happy to have made his acquaintance…

(while ironing out his wrinkles)”

I added that last bit. heeheeπŸ˜‰

However, the close encounter has stuck with me, and with each package that I carefully support with thick cardboard, conducting my various “Bend Tests”… I’m continually learning from my previous mistakes.

Apparently after a year’s worth of disappointed customers’ comments, this paper collage jewelry seller still uses Photoshop rather than taking accurate photographs of his/her real pendants. And obviously hasn’t learned a thing.

But I have. And hopefully you have as well.

When you’re shopping online, take a few extra minutes to read the entire listing – pay attention to size, color, and materials – and look carefully at the photos. All the photos. Are any of them unnecessarily duplicated?

Read the feedback comments, even the positive ones. Especially the positive ones.
Some of them may be negatives in disguise.

(And yes, you can typically tell which negatives are undeserved, too, if you read the whole story.
Or if they don’t bother to explain a poor rating at all.)

And lastly give props to those sellers who value integrity, and don’t use Photoshop as an excuse for laziness, or worse… blatant deception.

Artisans who spend hours ~ (hundreds of hours) ~ brushing up on their photography skills, or hiring a professional to shoot their products, to give you a faithful representation of their work.

So that “what you see is what you get”.
Even on the internet.πŸ™‚

Regency Cat Bookmarks, original artwork by TaraFly

My Regency Cat portraits are now available as bookmarks, trimmed in ribbon and lace, for sale in both my Etsy shop and locally in Funkstown, Maryland ~ at The Guten Tag, a family owned gift-shop in Historic Town Center.

I mentioned The Guten Tag back in April, when I began selling my framed prints of Mr. Darcy Cat and Redcoat Soldier Cat there.

I’ve been thinking of ways to expand my selection of goods, and Michelle from TrueBookAddict on Blogspot suggested bookmarks as the purrfect compliment to cat characters inspired by classic novels!πŸ˜‰

These are created with reproduction prints of my artwork – the same quality prints I sell in my shop, using K3 UltraChrome pigment ink and Ultra Premium Presentation paper.
I’ve taken decorative cardstock found in scrapbooking stores and adhered it to the backside of each art print, using Modge Podge decoupage glue.

I applied a couple thick coats of acrylic varnish, let it dry, and punched a hole in the top for threading a bit of lace or ribbon.

Creating bookmarks featuring my Regency Cat artwork, Mr Darcy Cat bookmark

When I stopped by The Guten Tag to visit Jessica Synder, the shoppe’s owner, to deliver my bookmarks and chat a bit… we discussed upcoming holiday merchandising ideas.
She loves to deck the store floor to ceiling with ornaments, so I’ve decided to begin a special portrait series based on Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Ballet, which will be featured on Christmas ornaments!πŸ˜‰

I thought it would be fitting for Clara Cat and the feline Nutcracker Prince to battle an evil Mouse King! Bwahaha

They will most likely begin as original paintings, which I’ll reproduce onto the ornaments, allowing people to collect the full set. They will be available during the holidays both in my Etsy shop and locally at The Guten Tag.

I brought my camera along during this visit, and Jess graciously allowed me to wander the shop and take photographs of all the treasures!

iron metal dressform with crochet snowflakes and tags

I drooled over the wire dressforms, stone urns, statuary, garden obelisks, and bird-cages. I also loved the creative ways in which she showcases her items, arranging random finds into beautiful and elegantly coordinated collections.

Golden goblet, obelisk, light, mirror reflection, photograph by TaraFly.

My Flickr slideshow of photographs will give you a taste of what you might find inside The Guten Tag gift-shoppe; it’s definitely worth checking out in person!

And of course, remember to ask “How much for that Darcy in the window?”….πŸ˜‰

The Cat Who Created the Universe
(Originally published July 13th, 2011 on TaraFly’s art blog)

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”
~ Genesis 1:1

To hear a human tell it, you’d think it was in fact The Beginning… but what do silly humans know?

But in all honesty, the heavens and earth were created simply because Samson had spent entirely too long waiting for his lunch.

You see, the omnipotent Creator – a self-serving title if ever there was one – dwelt with a black and white tomcat named Samson.

Samson was well-mannered.   He didn’t spray the edges of the cosmos (which would be gross, considering the lack of gravity), nor did he attack Jehovah’s wiggling toes while He rested, and he even refrained from sharpening his claws on the Throne of Judgement… although he did shed a few hairs upon it, but that was to be expected from such a fluff ball as Sam.

Samson was also patient and longsuffering, which served him well as the Pet of God… since his Master was usually busy in business meetings with angel investors, and seldom remembered to feed poor Samson.

One unremarkable day, God left early for work and forgot to fill Samson’s breakfast bowl… and when lunchtime passed and He hadn’t returned, Samson became very irritable and extremely hungry.

So He escaped through a wormhole that the Lord had accidentally left open, and off he went in search of food.

He soon found himself in an uncharted area of deep space; a dark and cold place, nearly void except for a few drifting chunks of rock.

“Well this certainly won’t do,” Sam shivered, as he hovered near one of the empty worlds.
“Let there be light at least.”

He flicked his paw in a offish manner, and immediately the galaxy was illuminated by a blanket of light and warmth.
Samson purred, This is much better.

He could feel his thick black fur getting toasty warm, and he rolled around in a large patch of light, and began bathing himself.

As he groomed, his fur began to shed over the face of the planet beneath him… a dense carpet layering itself into an atmosphere.

His stomach grumbled, reminding him why he’d journeyed here in the first place: the quest for food.
Where did his Master get those sacks of delicious tidbits?

No matter, he was determined to hunt down something to eat. But there were no birds or fish in this barren place.

He settled upon the closest planet, and made an attempt to land, but it was completely covered in water.
Icky, wet water.

“Go away!” he yowled, and the water retreated away from his paws.

The liquid pooled together into deep oceans and lakes, and shallow rivulets, leaving pockets of dry land across the surface of the planet.
Samson purred, This isn’t so bad.

He rolled around in a patch of newly created dirt, and drank thirstily from the cool stream nearby.
But his tummy still growled.

“I wish I had some grass to chew on,” he mused.

And immediately fresh green shoots sprouted up from the earth; the desert was covered in a blanket of lush grass, dandelions, clover, and most surprisingly of all…
Catnip!

Samson purred, This is the good stuff!
He rolled around in a patch of delicious grass, gnawing and nibbling upon each tender stalk.

He stretched out his claws, and a giant fruit tree grew right out of the ground in front of him.
Samson wasted no time in sinking his nails into the soft bark of the tree.

He frolicked through fields of clovers, climbed fruit trees, and gorged himself on catnip… until it dawned on him that he wasn’t certain what time it was.
And he was getting sleepy.
God might have returned home from work already; would Samson be missed?

“Bah, He’ll never notice that I’m gone,” poor Sam sniffed dejectedly. “He can recall the number of the stars… but can’t remember to feed his own cat.”

The thought made Samson sad. He curled himself into a ball, closed his eyes, and went to sleep.

When Samson awoke from his nap, he noticed something had changed.
The omnipresent light had formed into tiny shapes; stars were stretching out across the sky. There were too many for Samson to count.
He also noticed a round disc glowing among the stars. A moon.
It’s mirrored surface reflected the bright light of one particularly large star, the sun.

Samson purred at the moon, “Hello, Moon. Pleasure to meet you.”

Then his stomach growled, as if to say Remember me?

He swallowed a few mouthfuls of new grass, but craved something more substantial.
“I want meat,” he meowed hungrily.

His eye caught movement in the weeds… a field mouse scurried out of the tall grass, catching sight of a juicy clover leaf, and headed straight towards Samson’s waiting paws.
Never having seen a cat before, the poor mouse didn’t know any better…

His fate became known throughout history as “The Temptation and Fall of Mouse”, serving as a lesson to every generation of mice from that day forward.

A small field mouse made a tasty snack, but Samson was still hungry.
Up in the sky, a sudden darting motion captured his attention… there were birds flying high in the clouds.
They landed on the trees’ topmost branches, and took off again into the air, circling and gliding.

Samson didn’t think he could catch them easily, so instead he wandered over to the stream for a drink.

Lapping up the clear water with his pink tongue, he noticed a small group of fish swimming along the rocky bottom.
He caught a few of them with a cupped paw, and greedily swallowed them whole.

Sam’s stomach rumbled objectively, and he coughed up bits of the fish heads.
At last, he purred, All better now.

Samson spent the next few days enjoying this new planet he had created, with its light, and grass, and trees, and moon, and most importantly, its food…

He soon forgot the reason he left home in the first place.
When he finally remembered God, he thought about those evenings spent curled up in his Master’s lap.
He longed to feel the warmth of love and companionship, the murmur of a voice talking gently, the beating of a heart echoing his purr, and nimble fingers scratching him in all the difficult-to-reach places.

“I wish someone were here to pet me,” Samson cried sorrowfully.

And from the ground rose a cloud of dust, swirling and solidifying into a human form. It had skin and hair, a face and hands… it smiled, and reached for Samson.

Samson was afraid of this creature at first, but the human came slowly towards him, bent down and began rubbing the black and white cat’s head.
Then he scratched Samson behind the ears, and under his furry chin.

Samson purred, “This is heaven!”

He allowed the man to pick him up, and carry him into the woods, to a cottage built from logs in the middle of a clearing.

There was a stream nearby, where Samson taught the man to fish. And a large field where he taught the man to hunt.
Every day, the man brought home food to feed Samson.
And every evening, the man sat by a fire and sang songs, with Samson curled in his lap, purring along.

Days turned into weeks… Samson and the man, whom he’d decided to name Adam, had settled comfortably in the log cottage.

One spring day, Samson was frolicking idly in the clover and catnip, when he happened upon a young female cat, a very lovely calico. He persuaded her to follow him home, and become his mate.

After awhile, the two felines eventually noticed that Adam was sad because he lacked a mate of his own kind… and taking pity on the kind man, they decided to create a human lady-friend for Adam; they named her Eve.

_____________________________________________________________________Weeks turned into seasons… the cats multiplied quickly, and the humans multiplied slowly… and the log cottage was soon bursting at the seams with love and companionship. All the cats, including Samson, were fed, and tickled, and scratched each day.

One autumn afternoon, while the entire family gathered to harvest their crops, Samson heard a familiar Voice calling to him…
it came from the depths of space, and grew closer, until he could see the face of his former Master in the clouds.

“Behold, Samson!” God called out to him. “I have been searching everywhere for you since you left.
Come home to me, as I’ve missed you.”

And for one moment, Samson felt guilty for running away, and he almost replied that he would return home.

Then he realized, he was home. These humans he’d created from the dust were his real family, who cared for him, and never took him for granted.

“No,” he replied firmly. “I’ve made a new home for myself; I created humans who love me and feed me.
And I love them, too. I don’t want to leave Earth and return to being neglected.”

God sighed, then slowly nodded. He had to admit that He’d designed the little cat’s independent nature for selfish reasons.
Perhaps Samson would genuinely be happier living in this little world that he had created.

He’d done an impressive job; naturally, God reasoned that HE could take some credit for His cat’s talents, as Samson had spent so much time observing and studying the Lord’s miracles.

These human beings that Samson had made would eventually require a spiritual teacher to give them direction and purpose.
After all, a man simply cannot be created as a cat’s slave!

The possibilities for humanity made the Lord envious, and He called out to Adam and Eve, blessing them, and proudly lauding the Creation which He claimed to have designed for them.

And finally He commanded Adam, saying,
“Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it…
and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

He gave a sly glance towards Samson, but the cat washed his whiskers, paying him no heed.

It didn’t matter to Samson whether God took credit for his Creation, or that He set Himself on a pedestal to be worshipped…

Samson even dismissed the ridiculous notion that Adam and his descendants would subdue all living creatures, because he was a wise cat (omniscient, even)…. and he knew the truth very well:

Cats would always rule over men, Samson purred.
And the silly humans wouldn’t have it any other way.

Valentine's cat portrait of Darcy and Lizzy

 

“Set out a saucer of milk, dear
And lend me your ears for a while…
I’ll tell you The Tail of the Cat Folk,
Those fur-faced shape-shifters of guile.

I’ll paint you a fine, feline portrait
Of a creature in trappings and togs,
Who mingles with peasants and gentry.
For a patron seat, he pettifogs.

I’ll acquaint you with toms in tuxedos,
Dainty calicoes collared in lace,
Sporting tabbies in brass regimentals…
A club of good breeding and grace.

You may find my story outlandish.
“Cats,” you say, “can’t wear clothes or drink tea.”

Then look at your face in the glass, dear.
Two cats, perceive…
….Aye, you and me.”

~ written by TaraFly, June 9th, 2011

Wild violets, nature photograph by Tara Fly.

If these blog posts aren’t worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, I have to lay partial blame to the ridiculous childrens’ television program playing in the background.πŸ˜‰

Yes, I’m guilty of using Nick Jr. for entertainment… especially on too-hot-to-play-outside days.
Although 80% of the time, the kids run off into another room, to plot mischief or merely to raise my blood pressure with their squeals and giggles…. (Aargh, what are they doing NOW?!)…
And I’m left in the room – alone – listening to Dora, Kai-Lan, or *shudders* worse yet, the Backyardigans.

How can someone possibly compose a masterpiece, when yellow penquins and hippos are singing:

“I want my river back, I want my river back
Fresh water’s what I lack, I want my river back…
For one thing I feel thirsty, or another thing I feel hot.
And some folks like to feel that way, but I myself do not!”

What’s going on with this crazy weather anyhow?πŸ˜›

I’ve had to double-check a few copies of published 2011 calendars, to see whether or not last month was officially removed from the roster.
It certainly seemed as if Mother Nature was in a temper, and substituted 2 months of April’s showers severe storms, instead of the usual balmy breezes of May…

Spring itself suffered from neglect, except for a few lovely days in February, where 70+ degree temperatures convinced the bulbs and buds to sprout early.

Magnolia tree blossoms, photo by Tara Fly.

I was lucky to capture the local advent of cherry and magnolia blossoms in March, even though my afternoon walk through Funkstown was accompanied by a downpour of rain.

I love taking photographs during rainshowers!
Not only do I get to practice those popular “water droplet” macro shots, but without the harsh contrasts from the sun, the colors of nature are richer and more vibrant in the diffused light.

wildflowers taken by Tara Fly.

You can see more photos from my Spring Walk series on Flickr…πŸ™‚

Over the last few days, our temperatures have spiked into the triple digits…. *melting* …and the window fan in my art studio wasn’t adequately keeping the room comfortable; testing my dedication to remain long enough to get anything done. LOL
So we installed another air conditioner, to match the metal boxes hanging from each bedroom window.

To help offset the increase in electricity, I’ve taken further steps towards greener living… by putting the clothes dryer into semi-retirement.
Yes, friends, we’re drying clothes on the line!

Hanging clothes on the line

This was a common practice for us, while living in the country, but I gave up line-drying laundry over five years ago when we moved.
I’ve already left clothes hanging during rain showers, and overnight!

The towels sometimes feel like sandpaper, and everyone in the family thinks I’m crazy because I like my towels that way!
Bone dry towels seem to absorb more water than the expensive, fluffy ones.

We spruced up the front garden with a few additions – including a bleeding heart bush, a rosebush, some forget-me-nots, pinks, and phlox… the coleus bulbs which grew last summer will be filling in the front again this year.

TaraFly's garden

One aspect of gardening I don’t particularly enjoy is weeding, but not for the reason you may think.
I don’t mind getting my hands and knees muddy (and my feet too!) while digging around in the soil.
But determining which plants are “attractive” enough to let live, and which ones must be ripped out by their roots to starve to death, seems akin to mass slaughter: The Hitler of wild plants.

Woodland fairy garden of clovers

I realize that an overabundance of weeds can choke the nutrients from my pretty flowers, and some culling needs to be done. But I’m not aggressive about removing weeds altogether.

Small batches of clovers can stay, as well as wildflowers… and I love the wild berry vine growing along the back wall, even though its vines encroach on my other plants and need to be pruned back. It does a marvelous job of camoflaging the ugly plastic drain.

Drain pipe covered by a wild raspberry bush

Another project in the works is to grow some food. Our first batch of lettuce and green pepper seedlings were ravaged by kids and cats… but we’re trying the experiment again.

Our strawberry plant has been a big hit, though! Even if the toddlers are impatient to eat them, not fully understanding the concept of ripeness.
We’ve been through the discussion of green vs yellow bananas many times, so I pointed out that red strawberries can be eaten, and green ones need more time to grow.

Jake and the strawberry

Recently, Mia began excitedly ‘babbling’ about the strawberries… which was odd, because her vocabulary is usually quite clear.
I asked her to repeat herself, which she did – emphatically, but I still couldn’t understand what she was saying.
Over and over, she insisted upon using these words… and her confidence was unshaken, as I tried to suggest other possibilities.

“Hongsuh” and “bluesuh” sounded like total nonsense, but I let it go.

Until a few days later… sitting right here, at my desk, attempting to work, I overheard the words again.
Jake and Mia were eating lunch while watching “Ni-hao, Kai-Lan”; bits and pieces of the annoying catch-phrases crept through my selective sound barrier:

“Let’s Find… (clap, clap)… Out why!”
“You make my heart feel super happy!”

And suddenly, there they were! The two words she’d been using for the strawberries: ο»Ώ ο»Ώο»Ώο»Ώ‘hΓ³ng sΓ¨’ and lǜ sΓ¨

They were learning Mandarin Chinese colors – green and red.

Mia eating a homegrown strawberry

She knew what she was saying all along! I felt guilty for discouraging her, and realized perhaps I should start brushing up on my Nick Jr.πŸ˜‰

But not today… the weather is tolerable, so we’re hitching up the wagon and heading to the park.

Wooden book shaped box, painted by Tara Fly

“One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering.”
~ Jane Austen’s Persuasion

This sad, little portrait of Anne Elliot that I’ve been teasing you about is finished at last!

This is a sanded pine box, shaped to resemble a book, with a “spine” drawer which completely pulls out, and you can store all sorts of things inside: greeting cards, stationary, photographs, letters, crayons, pressed flowers, recipe cards, and so much more…

Jane Austen's Persuasion Anne Elliot Cat, Mr Darcy Cat cards

The book is 1.5″ deep, with the drawer being slightly over 1.25″ deep… plenty of room for markers, colored pencils, a small stack of notecards….

I painted the entire surface, inside and out… once I started, it became my obsession not to leave any unfinished pine wood exposed.

The “pages” have been given a faux treatment that fooled my husband! hehe
I had the box partially hidden within a stack of real books, and he didn’t recognize the imposter.

Wooden box painted as faux book, hiding on bookshelf

Where am I? Come and find me....

I decided to paint a scene from Cobb Harbor at Lyme Regis, one of the pivotal settings from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, on the book’s cover. In my feline portrait, Anne Elliot is still mourning the decision she made to break off her engagement to naval commander Captain Frederick Wentworth…. whom I imagine as a grey tabby.

I didn’t add Jane Austen’s name to the book, as none of her novels were published with her name on them. This was quite common for female writers in the 19th century, or in the cases of the Bronte sisters, who wrote under male pseudonyms.

I’ve had a marvelous time in the last couple of years, reacquainting myself with Miss Austen and her works… as I continue on this journey to portray her characters as cats.πŸ™‚

“Persuasion” and “Mansfield Park” are two of my favorites, and I encourage you to meet Miss Anne and Captain Wentworth for yourself.

reproduction print of Tara Fly's Anne Elliot Cat from Persuasion

Archival prints of Anne are also available...

If you prefer renting movies over books, I might suggest the 1995 BBC version with Amanda Root and CiarΓ‘n Hinds first.πŸ™‚

I found the characters more genuine in that adaptation, than those in the 2007 BBC film… who I think were cast mainly for their physical attractiveness.

Well, at least in the case of Rupert Penry-Jones, who in my humble opinion didn’t suit the character of a rugged naval captain at all… a little too “pretty-boy” for my tastes. Many other ladies would beg to differ with me, however, by claiming he was easier on the eyes than Hinds.
Eh… can’t please everybody.πŸ˜›

So just watch them both! And tell me what you think…

My hand painted Persausion box is available on Etsy, and I’ve made a few archival prints of Anne Elliot’s portrait as well.

If you really like her, tell your entire social network, so an awesome friend might buy her for you as a gift!πŸ˜‰