June 2011


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. ;)

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? :P

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:)

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:  ‘hóng sè’ and lǜ sè

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. ;)

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. :)

“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 Ciarán Hinds first. :)

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. :P

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! ;)

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