holidays


January 2nd was my 31st birthday. I’m officially “in my 30′s” now…. but no matter, I haven’t celebrated my own birth in years.
But would you believe my husband and oldest daughter completely forgot? :P

happy birthday wishes on tara fly's facebook profile wall

My family forgot, but Facebook remembered my birthday!

The kids are too hung over from Christmas, Joe has typical absent-minded “Male Brain” and can’t remember which day it is, and I feel stupid making a fuss over myself.
Although I dropped a few hints yesterday about “feeling old”… comments which are always guaranteed to get an eye-roll and/or lecture from the man who is 21 years my senior.
Revenge was sweet, however, as Facebook reminded everyone to post well-wishes on my Wall. Thanks guys! Your thoughtful comments humbled my housemates. ;)

But Friday really was a significant day.

Firstly, Friday was the 31st… which is just like the 13th, except written backwards.
Does writing something backwards count as bad luck or good luck?

It shouldn’t matter to someone who lives with a half-black cat and refuses to eat her sauerkraut and black-eyed peas. I find superstitions simply curious.

Secondly, it marked the end of the year 2010. Although I didn’t pay attention to the clock, and realized it was midnight only when my Twitter feed lit up with “Happy New Year” written all over it…

Leave it to Twitter, because even this girl, who still can recall the license plate number to her high-school crush’s car, needs an occasional reminder as to which holiday we’re celebrating. ;)

happy birthday wishes continue on Tara Fly's Facebook wall

And the Birthday Wishes continue throughout the day... ((hugs))

But New Year’s = Resolution making.

Remember how grudgingly I caved to the popular practice of penning my business goals? I haven’t forgotten about it this year… I guess it’s time to take a closer look at how successful I’ve been, huh.

Lastly, and most memorably, I had bits of shredded cheese embedded between my keys which made typing gooey.

From Thursday’s shin-dig, no doubt, which I was unfortunately not invited to attend. I was told it was a rowdy affair, and the kitchen was ransacked – the contents strewn around the living-room like confetti.
I was engaged upstairs, ministering to a suicidal pile of CDs that had formed a group pact to jump from the tower, falling six feet onto the carpet.

There was one fatality – a Dave Matthews album I hadn’t listened to since high school. The funeral was closed to the public.

little girl playing in pile of CDs on floor

Mia was the sole witness to the tragedy.

After the events of this past week, I find it humorous to reflect on the goals I made for this past year.
When I sat down last January 1st and resolved “to create 4-5 new pieces each month, not including commissions”, I was being incredibly optimistic.
Unrealistic even.
But the dynamics of our household were very different then.

My 2 and 3-year-old have reached many physical and intellectual milestones this year, not least of which has been the mastery of overcoming barriers and outwitting child-proof doorknobs and cabinet locks. Their ability to cause mischief has increased tenfold, due to their “divide and conquer” method of splitting my attention between downstairs and upstairs messes. Now that we actually have an upstairs/downstairs in our home, not to mention an open floor plan.

They run positively wild here! LOL

“Let’s cause a disturbance in the kitchen that will occupy Mommy long enough for us to empty the contents of our dresser onto the floor.”

The spare bedroom which serves as my studio has been a godsend, in terms of keeping my art and supplies organized and out of danger, but doesn’t allow me to work while supervising the little devils. Unless I keep the door open and invite hell to come inside.

Needless to say, my productivity took a dip this year. In 2009, I was averaging a painting per week; in 2010, I managed to complete one per month (with a few side projects, like Cat Cameo necklaces).

Nor did I reach my ultimate sales goals for this year, although I did earn more overall in 2010 than the previous year. That my sales remained steady is a good thing, especially considering the slight increase in price needed to accurately reflect my expenses and give room for growth. :)

I’ve set my current prices so that I can work with wholesale orders and consignment shops, which is something I didn’t manage to do in 2010… but I’ve made initial contact with a couple of gallery shops, and have all the info necessary to submit my work for review in the next few weeks. I promise I will!

I’ve also done some research into three seasonal art festivals in the Washington D.C. area that I’d like to participate in this year. If I’m accepted, a hefty booth fee and inventory budget will need to be set aside.

Birthday Wishes from Tara Fly's Facebook friends

Still feeling the love from awesome peeps. And even a poopy litter cake!

I did, however, manage to update my blog each week (Or thereabouts), and I added a few functional items to my shop (namely note cards). Joe and I have lots of product ideas cooking!

2011 will be an exciting time spent experimenting with wood and cloth. Psst, he has been talking for months about purchasing a sewing machine for me – as a BIRTHDAY present, no less! – which means I’ll be cursing and stitching my fingers to assorted fabrics in an effort to create some stuffed animals for my shop. ;)

Furthermore, I began working on my cat adaptation of Pride and Prejudice… even though I must have been under the influence of some strong cold medicine when I gave myself a 4 month deadline to have an entire book written and illustrated. I deeply apologize to anyone who believed I could accomplish that.
Nevertheless, the characters are coming to life one by one. Check out Mr. Bennet Cat, Mrs. Bennet Cat, and the Gossip Girls (Kitty and Lydia).

I might not have accomplished everything I set out to do, business-wise, however I’ve been blessed in so many ways this year:
We have a lovely home, with quiet neighbors…
Our own backyard … (free from cigarette butts and empty beer bottles, hooray!)
Three bright young children who greet me each morning in Chinese … (thanks to Nickelodeon – “Ni-hao!”)
A man who supports my decision to stay home and doesn’t gripe about our lack of money (too often)…
A wonderfully supportive online community of Facebook/Twitter/blog friends…
And a passionate small group of customers who love my artwork and gush about having a framed picture of Mr Darcy Cat on their desks. :D

More Happy Birthday greetings from Facebook friends

Oh, look! More folks took a few moments to wish me well.

So to welcome the new year, and everything it may bring to me, I will set forth my goals as follows:

1. To *ahem* increase my blog posts to 2 posts weekly… and keep them fairly relevant/on-topic.

2. To list a new item in my Etsy shop each day, instead of renewing over and over.

Even if that just means a “new” size, matted option, sets, etc. Since I won’t have new artwork to reveal everyday, unfortunately.

3. To continue producing *at least* one new piece of artwork each month. Hopefully more.

4. To get my Zazzle shop up to speed.

Many purchases are made through Zazzle, even though it’s been terribly neglected. I just realized over the holidays that Christmas ornaments have been available for sale. But I didn’t add any to my shop. Ooops!

5. To create more functional stuff (like, um… Christmas ornaments!) and that wood and fabric I was hinting about earlier. ;)

6. To make my website more marketing-friendly, i.e. adding a press kit, and better navigation.

I might even make the transition to a WordPress premium theme to run my entire site, although I know absolutely nothing about WP coding and I loathe giving up all my hard work… hehe, we’ll see.

7. To finally get my work into a retail shop and/or gallery.

8. To participate in a craft fair and/or art show.

9. To become fearless in my self-promotion off-line, and get those freaking business cards created!

I have two whole boxes of free Vista Print cards featuring Fire-Breathing Dommie on them, but my branding has taken a 180-degree turn, so new materials are needed to showcase Monsieur Darcy. ;)

10. To keep in mind, and continually work towards, my ultimate goal – to grow this career into a full-time family operated business… so Joe can kiss the soul-devouring, mass-crap-producing Retail Giant good-bye. ;)

More Birthday Wishes from friends

Do you think my husband gets the message yet? LOL ... Don't forget next year.

Of course, I have a few personal goals as well that aren’t worth sharing. But mainly to become a more compassionate and patient person.
And to whine less about my lot in life. I genuinely have too much to be thankful for to waste my time (and your time) complaining about my lack of time! ;)

Although an occasional rant may still escape if I feel it’s worth sharing. hehe ;)

So grab a glass of kraut juice, and let’s toast to the New Year 2011: To Less Complaining + More Art Sharing!

girl reading book, redcoat soldier cat art by tarafly

Mia giggling over Dominic dressed in his Red Coat uniform

I began typing this blog post at 5:30PM, after taking Mia’s birthday cake from the oven. It will be decorated as a castle, with little construction paper turrets (because Joe was too frugal to buy the plastic set from the store).

She and Jacob are taking a much-needed nap, after a day spent terrorizing cats, destroying their bedroom, digging food-stuff from the fridge to drip, spill, and smear across every surface within reach… and a host of other exasperating things to drive a mother wild. They’ve had one bath already, and may need another before the evening is over.

Thing One and Thing Two. The little whirlwind monsters from The Cat in the Hat… are the best visual description I can give of my two youngest children – who at 16 months apart – are almost identical twins in both looks and personality.
Actually, when Jake decides to wear his sister’s dress, they might fool anyone.

There are some days weeks when nothing gets accomplished in my studio or my website; those are “reactive” days, when it takes all my strength just to keep the house semi-under-control and tidy, and ensure they don’t injure or kill themselves.

Notice I didn’t say, it takes all my strength not to injure or kill them… violent thoughts would never cross my mind, however there are moments when I wish that I wasn’t a mother.

When I catch a few moments to sit at my desk, scan my e-mails and twitter updates, I’m bombarded with happy productive status updates:
“I’ve got a new piece to show you guys!” …
“More purses/pillows/scarfs/whatever-the-heck-I-make to list in my shop”…
“I’m going to spend the rest of the afternoon painting” …

The majority of these super-ambitious hard-working folks do not have kids, or they are older kids than mine. Or perhaps they have great-grandma’s secret recipe that changes children into molasses syrup.

There are days when I envy those people, with a raw green jealousy which almost boils over into anger, as the giggles of my mischievous creatures echo down the hall from inside the bedroom closet. I get up from my chair and walk into the bedroom, to discover an entire dresser full of clean, folded laundry lying in a fabric-heap on the floor, with the kids merrily jumping in it. Their fingers are sticky…

Breathe….

They squeal and run from the room. I know that while I begin the task of re-folding clothes, sorting the girls’ from the boy’s, and discarding the sticky items into the hamper… they will be plotting their attack of the frozen Popsicles in the kitchen. I can hear the dining room chair scraping across the floor…

little girl with a mischievous grin

I did something naughty and Mommy doesn't know... yet

God bless them. I love them dearly, but sometimes I wish they weren’t around. Sometimes I just want the house to myself, to sit and write a blog, or paint my new Madonna Cat, or re-design my website. Even to procrastinate in my pajamas, watching BBC period dramas..
In peace.

But I am a mother. I can vividly remember each nuance of my three pregnancies, and each trip to the hospital to deliver them… the last two labors were very short, in fact Jake arrived 20 minutes after we did!
Mia’s birth on December 24th kept us hostage at City Hospital until after Christmas, because there were no scheduled office staff on the 25th to sign our release papers.
Lydia was very upset that she couldn’t take her baby sister home for Christmas.

I grow tired of whining to my family, and to my readers, about my struggles to maintain this business and a wild herd of children all by myself.
My complaints fall on deaf ears… my own. I hate excuses.
I’ve heard so many of them over the years, from associates and superiors, from husbands and friends… that I can’t seem to shake this inner-judge who wants to scold and reprimand.

“Get some focus. Learn some time-management skills. Brush up on your parenting skills, too.”

But as I look back on this past year, and take personal inventory of my successes and failures, I know that my time will always be unevenly divided… until the little darlings are in school at least.

Home-schooling?! Bwahahaha Not on your life! I’m counting the hours until that big yellow bus beckons to carry them away. ;)

little blond boy playing on swing

What mischief is Jake plotting behind those innocent eyes?

But until then, I’ve decided – after much consideration – to begin referring to myself as a “part-time working artist”.

If I’m honest with my customers, friends, and family about where my attention lies, perhaps people will be more understanding if things aren’t done quickly. Perhaps I’ll feel less guilty if I can’t keep pace with my peers. And if I do find a block of time to myself, and work feverishly to get a million things done, I can simply feel good about my accomplishments!

Instead of saying, “It’s about time! Now don’t fall off the horse.”

I hate to feed any inclination to slack-off, but I have to be realistic. A full-time worker puts in an average of 8-10 hours, 5 days a week. That isn’t possible for me, no matter how I try to slice the pie. At best, if I keep myself motivated, I can squeeze 5-6 hours out of my little bite-sized chucks.
Trying to “find more time” just causes me to resent the needs and demands of my family.

As the beasts devour a 2-layer frosted cake in 5.8 seconds, I will stand guard calmly with the wet towels and vacuum cleaner, even though I’ve cleaned this room twice already today. I’ll try not to consider my earlier attempts as time wasted. Or that I should’ve been clocking studio time rather than re-washing a sticky pair of jeans.

I need my children in my life, and they need me too.

So Merry Christmas to all of you!
And Happy 3rd Birthday, Mia!

…you’re getting a nicer Mommy this year.

Mrs Bennet Regency Cat Thank You Card by TaraFly Art

Mrs Bennet says "Thank You", from The Crazy Cat Family

One week until Christmas – and I’ll bet your tree is up AND decorated! Your gifts are probably tucked away inside the closet, attic, trunk of your car, or else they’re in route with guaranteed delivery.   (Forgive me if I chuckle a bit over those dubious postal deadlines – it’s an old inside joke shared by the secret cult of online merchants).

Most likely, you have – this very evening – returned from the grocery store to stockpile your pantry with yams and cranberry sauce. If you live in the Northeastern United States… that includes 10 gallons of milk, a case of sparkling kiwi-strawberry or peach flavored water, 12 loaves of sandwich bread, some deli meat, and enough toilet paper to keep you in comfort in case the snow buries your house up to its shingles.
And you’re forced to dig air holes in your chimney.

And naturally, I’ve done none of the above. As in years past, we’re keeping Christmas (and Mia’s birthday next Friday) relatively conservative and quiet.
No guest list, huge table spreads, or mountains of gifts. I’ll send the cats out in a sled team if we need anything.

But despite the fact that I didn’t quite reach my sales goals for this year, and wasn’t able to splurge on fancy toys and gadgets for the kids, I’m extremely satisfied and appreciative of the support we’ve received from my loyal fans and new customers. :)

Purchases made from my two shops (and Zazzle, too) are meaningful, because they directly contribute to my family’s welfare, in addition to the small percentage I’m donating to sponsor a cat from BestFriends.org… an animal sanctuary, which is akin to tithing to a church owned by cats.

You’ll hear this all the time, especially in recent years – that helping the small business owner is also helping the community … but it’s the simple truth.
Each sale is important because it puts food on our table and diapers on our children, and enables a stay-at-home mother to live above the poverty line and not seek help from government welfare.
And you know me, I’d rather cut off my hand than beg.

When I began writing this post, I was reminded of an interview I’d read, which was published back in the late 80′s. One of my favorite actors, Michael J. Fox, was talking about the importance of his fans, and he said,
“My attitude is that this one paid my rent, that one bought my car, and that one paid for the hockey tickets.”

Essentially recognizing each fan as having made a direct contribution to his quality of life, and acknowledging his gratefulness for them….
it sums up exactly how I feel right now.
Of course, most Hollywood big-shots will thank “the little people” out of obligation, but the wise ones understand the truth: We created those celebrities ourselves, and purchased the crystal palaces in which they live, by spending the money required to make their films and franchises a hit.
Or not.

Mr Darcy Cat by TaraFly Regency Cat Portrait in Frame

Mr Darcy Cat handsomely framed in the hallway

Although sales of Mr Darcy Cat aren’t paying my rent yet, I was able to help alleviate my husband’s monthly financial concerns …here and there, by paying a utility bill, keeping the car filled with gas, and making a trip to the grocery store without using our shared debit card. ;)

The last few weeks leading up to Christmas have been blessed with fresh attention and excitement over my artwork, and I have a few prospects lined up for the New Year, including venturing offline and into an actual gift shop. Shhhh… fingers and whiskers crossed.

Even more importantly, to me, is the shift in Joe’s attitude towards the time I spend online and upstairs in my studio. My recent sales were steady enough to carry us through each week.   He has been more appreciative and positive-minded, even going so far as to plan an expansion with new products.   His lofty dreams involve chopping and sanding fallen logs…. which will, of course, have cats painted on them. ;)
I’m beginning to feel that encouraging sense of team camaraderie that has long been eluding me… and I have you, dear readers and fans, to thank for it!

Without you, I would be just another mom of half-feral, young children, who sits at her computer… blogging about pipe-dreams and doing nothing to fulfill them.

But this journal is more than just my mindless ranting. It is also an account of my beginning – the cold-hearted retail cocoon that I’ve emerged from, the obstacles and inner struggles I face as a growing artist (and mom), and the career roadmap that I’ve lightly sketched onto a ketchup-stained napkin.
I don’t exactly know where I’ll be 10 years from today, but I am determined to reach my ultimate goal of a self-employed, family run business.

It will be interesting, and probably amusing, to look back and read this first-person narrative of my progress over the years. And someday, you and I will be able to reminisce and say:
“Remember when…?”

You’ll make some obscure reference, we’ll both laugh, and my future hardcore fans will shake their perplexed heads.
Because it is our little inside joke.

Should we create a secret club, with hand signals and passwords, too? ;)

I Like Purple People Eating Fridays Myself

Crowd Of Zombies

This isn’t the blog post that is scheduled to appear tomorrow… as this particular post stood a 95% chance of never coming into existence.

Black Friday madness is a disease that retail associates encounter with dread each year. Knowing what bloodthirsty monsters lurk outside my door – the rabid and frothing crowds of shoppers, with sleepless glazed eyes and desperate frenzy reacting with high levels of caffeine – makes me grateful to be alive and well in my home.

The sales are tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me (to risk life and limb).

The children and I just kissed Joe good-bye, as he departs to serve his company in preparation for “The Event”.. i.e. working overnight as the head of security for our local Walmart.

Zombies looking for bargain brains on Black Friday - photo from Belch.com

I didn’t intend to have a sale for Black Friday… just to be rebellious.
Although I do have a holiday sale going on through December 31st, both in my Etsy shop and my website… I haven’t been actively promoting it.

But as the clock winds down, marking the end of Thanksgiving (…oh, by the way, I made chicken fried rice and a pumpkin pie for Joe and the kids), the excitement builds and everyone has “Sales” on the brain.
I’ve decided to host a minor one of my own, just to say “Thanks!” to everyone who has purchased from me this year. Every dollar counts around here… unlike Walmart, who will never miss me. ;)

Everything will be marked 10% off with free shipping in my Etsy shop… and 20% off with free shipping on my website. I accept PayPal, personal checks, and money orders on TaraFlyArt.com, and (unlike Etsy) I’m under no obligation to pay any “final sales” fees… so you can see where my loyalties lie. ;)

Green Kimono Cat Fine Art Print by TaraFly

Green Kimono Cat 8x10 Print now on sale!

My Purple People Eating Friday sale will begin at midnight tonight, and will run through midnight on Monday, Nov. 29th (EST).

Other exciting news for fans of Zazzle merchandise….

Zazzle is hosting a major Black Friday sales event, which applies to all the cool products in My Zazzle Shop – posters, greeting cards, shirts, mugs…! So here is a glimpse at what is going on:

Every two hours, a different product will go on sale! Four special sales have already begun:

These four sales are going on right now, until those designated times.

Mr Bennet Cat by TaraFly printed on Zazzle T-shirt

This guy loves his navy blue Mr Bennet Cat T-shirt...

Okay, the other sales which begin tomorrow (and last 2 hours each) are as follows:

For the final 2 slots, 8-10PM and 10:00PM until midnight, Zazzle is hosting something called “Friday’s Favorite Deal Repeat” … and I’m not quite certain what that means yet. Perhaps they’ll repeat whichever deals earned the most sales earlier?
When I find out more, I will post an update on my Facebook fan page (which automatically updates my Twitter status as well).

Red Kimono Cat by TaraFly US Postage Stamps Zazzle

Red Kimono Cat on a sheet of US postage stamps

U.S. Residents: Please note that Zazzle also has a Free Ground/Economy Shipping offer in place for purchases over $50.00 (before taxes). The offers ends on November 30th.

Whew! That was a lot to absorb, wasn’t it? If you’re totally confused, I wouldn’t blame you… I subscribe to Zazzle’s newsletters (which is a good idea, really, if you like shopping with them) and I had to re-read it a couple of times to clarify things. Hehe
My brain apparently shut down from sugar overload after digesting the pumpkin pie topped with Cool Whip and a glass of freshly brewed iced tea.

But anyways… Cyber shopping on Black Friday is much safer, more convenient, and definitely the easiest way to get your sales-addiction fix without trading your pajamas for a heavy winter coat and braving the masses for hours of joy standing in line.

And best of all, you can’t catch rabies over the internet!

The snarling, foaming monsters are far, far away from you… trapped behind the glass or plasma walls of their computer monitors.
And you needn’t worry, because I don’t bite.

Unless you are that last slice of pie…
slice of pumpkin pie on a red plate

rural countryside autumn

This week, in lieu of the already-written rant regarding sleazy sales-reps that I planned to post, I will share a few images to celebrate autumn color.
Since I don’t feel like offering sleaze and sales today. :)

If it weren’t so blasted cold during this time of year, autumn would easily be my favorite season. Spring is lovely, certainly, but I prefer the rich colors of fall:
golden yellow and burgandy, umber and evergreen.

autumn fall tree red green yellow

Last weekend, the weather was unusually warm for November, and my children recklessly ripped off their jackets (claiming to be overheated from exercise) ….
I protested as a sensible mother, but I couldn’t help but snap a few pictures of their play.
These autumn days are too few, and soon the snow will encroach upon our back porch and make outdoor fun more laborious (for the adults, anyway).

TaraFly's son and oldest daughter

Tuesday required a trip to the post office, thanks to a wonderful buyer who purchased my “Queen of Cats” painting. I decided to walk into town, taking a few photographs along the way to document my journey, as we parted ways and bid her safe travel to Chicago.

wet rainy sidewalk autumn leaves

Tuesday was a typical November day – it was bitingly cold and it rained the entire afternoon. Everyone thought I was nuts to walk in that weather, even though the post office is a mere 3 blocks away. Three looong blocks.

white house autumn tree side door

I didn’t want to waste the car’s gas, which was very low, but secretly I wanted to explore Funkstown a bit.
We moved to the outskirts of Hagerstown seven months ago, currently living right on the border of the two “towns”, but I’ve only seen these streets through a car window while running my errands.

rainy day wet sidewalk autumn fall leaves

Besides, I’ve wanted to take some nice nature shots of autumn trees and so forth, and these rainy days are the best conditions for capturing true colors.

So off I went… with my little slippers on, a bulky coat given to me by a former co-worker three years ago (because I owned none), no umbrella, armed only with my camera and a very carefully packaged painting wrapped in layers of plastic grocery bags.

yellow autumn fall leaves cement steps

I began with the intent on snapping images of trees, brightly colored leaves, and maybe an odd weathered fence or two, but I wound up being distracted by the architecture of the houses I passed.

19th century 1800s stone house barn door basement

Funkstown was built in the 1760′s (originally named Jerusalem) and was the setting for one of our American Civil War battles. Of course, everyone who lives in this area knows that battles were fought everywhere!
In the three states where I’ve resided, there are monuments and signposts littered along the highways and main streets, proclaiming this or that is a historic landmark.
With Fort Frederick 30 minutes down the road, I’m sure this entire area of land was crawling with dying soldiers, and is now crawling with ghosts.

creepy old house in funkstown maryland

One house in particular looked especially creepy… and I took a detour, after stopping at the P.O., in order to get a better look at it.

I snapped a few pictures, and then realized the house is still occupied. Hehe oops….
That is, unless the resident spirits like to leave their living room lights on. Hopefully nobody saw me poking around with a camera. In the rain.
You see why my family doesn’t let me run loose in town much? ;)

Closer look at creepy spooky old house

Doubling back, I wandered down both sides of the main street – Baltimore St. – taking pictures, and admiring the molding and trim work of the older homes. I also passed a couple antique shops – and stopped inside to warm up and look around.
Browsing over the belongings of people who’ve been dead for centuries is food for the imagination… old travel trunks, rocking chairs, a baby walker from the 1800′s, a loveseat, clothing irons (made from real iron) with detachable handles, and plenty of handwritten documents under glass.

antique store in funsktown maryland

If I had a fortune, I’d furnish my entire house in antiques… except for the upholstered items, because a 200-year-old loveseat wouldn’t last 20 minutes around my cats.

Guten Tag gift shop funkstown maryland

I also discovered a quaint little gift shop, named “Guten Tag”, which is owned and operated by a fellow artist/craftsperson.
She only conducts business Thursday-Saturday (small towns are like that), so I’m summoning the courage to return and introduce myself and my artwork next week…. and hopefully I won’t make my initial impression looking like a wet mangy dog. ;)

terra cotta pots outside roostervane gardens

I know the brightness of these photos look deceiving, but I assure you that it was dark and raining most of the way.
I had the camera settings adjust the exposure to let in more light, but the sky looked more like this…

yellow streetlight in storm rain dark sky

You can see more photos from this trip here on Flickr.
Simply click on a thumbnail to browse them all.

brick steps wet rain autumn leaves

I encourage everyone to take a walk downtown in the rain. Leave your umbrella at home, and bring a camera instead.
People WILL stare at you, and you might find yourself labelled as crazy… or at least find yourself catching a cold. But there is nothing quite so exciting as setting off on an adventure in your own neighborhood, taking a few undiscovered side streets, and like every good explorer – documenting what you find.

yellow peeling paint cobalt blue door house

The best part: Coming home to a warm house, kicking off your soggy sandals, sinking into the couch with a cup of hot chocolate and a dollop of Cool Whip… and sharing the beauty of where you are with friends.

rain water droplet on autumn leaves

An autumn field and sunset in the country

Rolling country fields at sunset... taken while living in PA.

I’m juggling a few balls in the air, so expect some goodies in the coming weeks…

First, the deadline for Etsy’s Space Craft contest, partnered with NASA – is literally days away, and I’ve got an awesome entry for it! Regardless of whether my piece earns a place, this portrait inspired by the intergalactic aspirations of our forefathers is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine.

Here’s a sneak peek… but you’ll have to wait until after this weekend to see the rest!

helioscope dated to 1880s and TaraFly's digital art telescope rendering

A helioscope dating back to the 1880's, and my digitally painted version

Jane Bennet’s portrait is also coming along and I will be unveiling her next week as well.

I’m happy to report that my first cat doll has received some rough toddler handling over the last few weeks, and has passed the durability test without flying fur… eh, stuffing. I may be looking into streamlining a line of dolls once I perfect the pattern. Okay, once I actually draw a pattern… ;)

I have a new T-shirt design featuring Mr. Bennet, which I think is just adorable. He is already available in my Zazzle shop, but I would love to sell some of these shirts on my site and Etsy, although I can only produce them myself as iron-on transfers at the moment… screenprinting seems more popular, so I will check into whether my multi-colored designs can be affordably reproduced onto shirts.

My other transfers have held up really well, so far… and I’m very lazy when it comes to following laundering directions. I laugh maniacally at the symbols and throw everything together. Everything gets put into the dryer, whether it should be line-dried or not. Yeah, beat me with an environmentally friendly stick.

When I lived in the country, we had a clothesline which I attempted to use, but I never quite managed to get the hang of it. The clothes were either rigid or full
of spiders, but my ex-husband hated the electric dryer and cussed at me for using it.
(One wonders why he bothered leaving it hooked up…. was it the proverbial Tree of Knowledge?)

Nowadays, convenience and fluffy clothes win out… unless these ghastly electric bills climb any higher.

I noticed some faint crackling in the transfer after they escaped the heat, but it gives them a worn, lived-in character. The colors are still bright, and nothing is peeling.

TaraFly modeling her artwork Red Coat Soldier Cat on T-shirt

Here was the shirt I made with Red Coat Soldier Dommie.

My transfer directions also specify that shirts should be washed wrong-side-out. Hehe That never happens. I don’t separate colors and whites either… The majority of my wardrobe predates all three of my children, and none of the fabric bleeds or shrinks anymore. ;)
I do wash everything in cold water, unless it’s extremely soiled, to save money.

Speaking of saving money…. ahem. Since the holidays are around the corner and people need gifts to buy, and I need money to buy gifts…
Beginning Monday, November 1st, I will be offering Free Shipping on orders over $25.00 in my Etsy shop This applies to both domestic and international customers; the shipping costs will be refunded through Paypal.
And orders over $50.00 will receive a 10% discount and free shipping, also via Paypal refund.
Because Etsy still hasn’t given me the one thing on my Christmas list: a coupon/discount system for customers. And I’ve been good this year… :P

A similar offer will be available on my website: free shipping for orders over $25.00… however, every new or existing customer to my Art Shop (between Nov. 1st and Dec. 31st) will receive a 10% discount on any purchase, regardless of the total.
It would be awesome if I could bring some additional traffic to my website, since I sweated and slaved over it for months.

Which reminds me…. when you’re visiting my site in the coming months, you might notice some tinkering behind the scenes, as I experiment with different colors, graphics, and the site map. I’m looking for an alternative to my landing page, perhaps using site highlights (latest blog excerpts, sales info, etc).
The Neapolitan color theme is also wearing out its welcome – well, the strawberry pink color is anyway.

white tan brown color palette for website

my current and prospective color palettes

I’ve been toying with the idea to get rid of the sugary pink altogether, or at least eliminate it from my headers, and focus primarily on white… with accents of tan/sienna and chocolate brown/black. Think – calico cat! I want to invoke the feeling of calico fur, and also brown is a comforting, studious color that reminds me of archival parchments, cavernous libraries, and dusty books. :)

You can imagine how this indecisiveness makes it difficult to market myself… alas, I’m still using business cards with fire-breathing Dominic on them! LOL It’s hard to believe that he was still the focal point of my website 10 months ago… it was so hard to say good-bye.
Perhaps I’ll design something for him especially for the holidays, as a tribute. The Christmas Cat who tends the fireplace, or the Thanksgiving guest who spit-roasts the turkey…

On the horizon… after Jane B and the Mystery Piece are finished, work on patient Mr. Bingley will begin in earnest. Joe and I also discussed adding more photomanipulations to my Regency series, in addition to “Gazing On Pemberley” and “The Letter”… as they are always well received. Perhaps something with an autumn or winter flavor. (I particularly like the potential of my opening image, the field).
And I’m also planning to create another Mr. Darcy Limited Edition print for the yuletide season, same number of prints: (50) 8×10 and (20) 11×14 sizes.

As with Halloween Darcy, they will only be on the market for a limited time during the holidays. If any prints remain afterwards, their listings will be taken down until the following October. So you’ll have to wait a whole year, and hope a few remain, unless you get one soon. ;)

Phantom Masked Cat by TaraFly framed limited edition reproduction

Phantom Darcy Limited Edition (shown here framed)

Yes, I realize this post sounds terribly “spammy”… which is why I rarely write updates on my work and need lots of practice. But now that I’ve shared everything with you, and all these inspiring ideas and irritating To-Dos aren’t crashing around in my brain, I can regain focus and start checking things OFF the list.

Yeah, and don’t even get me started on the Holiday Boot Camp thing… editing my titles and tags (again!) and including metric dimensions in each shop listing.

Does anyone know where I can hire a rabid pack of zombie cheerleaders?
It is Halloween, after all… :P

Acrylic painting of saluting ARMY cat by TaraFly, dressed in US military uniform

ARMY Cat was one of my earliest and most popular paintings for sale.

A few weeks ago, one of Etsy’s coordinators/admins, DanielleXO, announced her plans to host a “Holiday Boot Camp” to assist sellers with their shop preparations.

Since I don’t spend hours lurking in the forums, I found out a few days later from the head of EFA – EtsyForAnimals, Michele (MVegan5), when she sent me a personal convo congratulating “ARMY Cat” for being nominated as “Boot Camp Mascot”. …And politely admonishing me for not being an active EFA participant, although I’d removed most of the associated links and tags, in order to feel less guilty about riding on their coattails.
So I was obligued to replace the links, tags, join the various Yahoo and Facebook groups, and make a couple forum appearances.

TaraFly featured in Etsy Success Holiday Boot Camp Treasury

Nominees for Holiday Boot Camp mascot, voted on by the Etsy community

There was a public vote in Etsy’s Treasury, and Lou the Monster won by a landslide, but I do appreciate all the folks who voted for me (including many EFA team members)… it was humbling, and more than a bit embarrassing.

A few members were brutally honest: “TaraFly who?” Bwahaha. And I appreciate them as well, for voting according to their instincts, and not being swayed by a group newsletter endorsing a prodigal member. ;)

At last, I decided to join the bandwagon and enlist in this Boot camp experiment myself. I’ll admit to needing a boatload of motivation to keep up with everyone else… as I tend to dig myself under a rock during the holiday season, and my shop sales reflect it.
This year, I vowed to myself that I would do everything possible to promote and improve my business (on Etsy and elsewhere) because we could really utilize the extra income this season.

Etsy wanted us to write a mission statement… what inspires us to “work our butts off” this year. On the surface, my statement is simple and obvious: “I don’t want to feel guilty anymore.”

I felt guilty browsing for toys at the Goodwill last year, guiltier still for writing Lydia an IOU for a big-ticket item she really wanted.
“Let’s wait until our tax return comes, Okay?”

TaraFly's daughter Mia hugging a half-finished handmade stuffed cat doll

The kids loved the stuffed cat doll even before she was finished...

I’m content to live without wealth, and to make things for our kids to wear and play with, and we’re setting an example for them, right? Don’t expect a lavish spread of expensive gifts, because god-forbid it isn’t healthy to spoil the children and make them ungrateful little materialists. Blah, blah…
I’d still like to be able to purchase at least a couple things on their modest wish lists.

Under the surface, guilt plays a hand in how I feel about myself and my contributions to this family as well. I had always measured my worthiness by a job-title, a paycheck, or my value to a company.
Now I feel guilty that Joe carries the weight of our household on his shoulders, and every time he comes home under stress from employer-fueled issues, I want to tell him to quit, get a new job, or at least take a vacation. Unfortunately, none of those options are feasible right now. I need to be able to contribute more to our bottom line without sacrificing the family-oriented lifestyle we’ve built.
(i.e. NO daycare, we’ve had enough of that drama!)

TaraFly's son and husband taking a walk at the park

Joe and Jakey take off, exploring the park...

When we met, we were both working for the same company, and bonded over shared responsibilities. Although we have many other things in common (cheesy sci-fi movies, cats, gardening, Photoshop), I’ve noticed a shift in the way we discuss our day. He doesn’t share work-related things with me anymore, and I don’t “bore” him with my domestic frustrations much either.. because we’re living in two different worlds and we both feel the other wouldn’t “get it”.
Just watch the way his eyes glaze over when I mention SEO and Google in the same sentance. :P

I reminisce back to our first lunch date, where he divulged his dream of owning a workshop, building furniture and various wooden objects… and he boldly suggested I could be the resident artist who embellished the pieces. I’d love to be able to afford all the tools he needs, and hire him to build some jewelry boxes, picture frames, lawn decorations, shadowboxes, shelves, and countless other goodies for me to add some painted Regency Cat scenes.

Optimally, I want to be successful enough, over time, to enable him to quit altogether and work for me!

I selfishly want to draw him into my corner, and teach him everything about running Zen-cart and Etsy, how to program code, list items, and upload promotional photos… I’d like to teach him about packaging and shipping safely, and let him run all my errands… my own personal assistant… so I could spend more time painting stuff.
Of course, I’d encourage his creative time in the workshop while I torture the children with a BBC mini-series.

And I occasionally need a break to practice my cheesecake recipes.

“What motivates you?” is not a simple question after all.. but I can appreciate the exercise which causes us to dig deeper and put a human face to the formidable obstacle on our calendars, and in our own minds. In my case, it has four distinct faces… keeping in mind that my family will benefit the most from a successful holiday season.

TaraFly's son Jacob sits in photoshoot of her artwork.

Jake crashes an art photoshoot with his rugged charms.

Etsy’s Bootcamp may end after December, but for me, the lessons learned will need to be revisited often in the up-coming months.
It’s time to take myself a few steps further from this shallow rock.

Black Cat Eye digital painting by TaraFly in a frame

My oldest daughter has only been in third grade for a month, and she’s been reprimanded twice for talking in class. She swears, however, that she’s improved greatly…
“They yelled at me for talking a lot more last year.”
My dear, it’s only October.

She inherits this gene from my mother, and the incessant chatter can be really irritating. Before you make any further comparisons, I must defend myself by saying that my incessant, rambling thoughts are contained in my mind… and in my writing. If you read my 3,000 word blogs and ridiculously mundane Facebook posts, you’re only receiving half the story… because offline I’m typically quiet, and downright unsociable at times.

I am pleased to note, though, that her recent aptitude test scores revealed a reading level on par with an average seventh grader.
She inherited that from me… naturally. ;)

“You probably never got in trouble for anything, did you?” It wasn’t really a question, because she assumed I would say:
“Of course not! I was a good kid.” (like my husband does) … and I almost did.

Except that I suddenly recalled that it wasn’t true. I did get into trouble occasionally for forgetting to finish my homework. I also received a couple disappointing grades on assignments that felt like a slap on my face… although admittedly, I was rushing to complete them at 1:30 in the morning… the same morning they were due. :P

Truth be told, I’ve suffered from procrastination my entire life. And my poor kids will probably never outgrow their ability to talk a deaf mule’s ears off.
The only thing one can do is harness it, somehow, and make it work for you.

Take my loathing to complete time-sensitive tasks for example… you can look at my situation two ways.
I’m either always late, or I’m incredibly early.

Last year, when my artist friends were rushing around being productive, preparing for “the season” with their calendars and Halloween-Turkey-Yuletide masterpieces…
I was painting holiday-free fare like Composer Cat (a commission, granted), Indian Sari Cat, and the veeeery summer invoking “Gazing Upon Pemberley”… the photomanipulation I decided to create in November.
Well, I did toss out “Trick Or Treat Kittens” at the eleventh hour, and sold it on eBay to a UCLA faculty member.
But two of my creepiest pieces weren’t created until December and January… long after the Halloween decorations were taken down or baked into pumpkin pies.

When the wrapping paper and ribbon goes on clearance, it’s my cue to get festive … nothing wrong with that, right? I now have four dark and scary pieces already in my Etsy shop, freshly re-photographed, and starring in Halloween treasuries.

Except that I still haven’t prepared anything for winter. I guess the dread of snowfall doesn’t inspire me.. and so I’ve been dreaming about spring flowers instead.

Pen and ink sketch drawing illustration of Regency Cat by TaraFly

Miss Jane Bennet gathering flowers in a gentle summer breeze.

This is the character profile I drew for Jane Bennet, dressed in light outerwear and shawl, carrying a picked bouquet in her basket.
She is more than a pen sketch now… I’m digitally painting a wooden texture for the picket fence behind her.
So far, I haven’t resorted to photographic textures, but I still might decide to use one for her dress.

Jane Bennet Regency Cat illustration by TaraFly

She, along with Mr. Bingley on horseback, will be appearing in my shop soon, and will patiently sit and wait for the frost to thaw and tulips to bloom.. and they will be right on time.

As often as I’ve talked about moving to Canada, I think we’d be better off heading south to Australia instead.
The flowers are blooming there now. :)

Romantic Mr. Darcy Cat art

Mr. Darcy Romances Lizzy with a Rose

Valentine’s Day is an excuse to wear red clothes that don’t flatter your complexion, indulge in chocolate candy and $40 bouquets of dying flowers, and decorate your hearth and home with construction-paper hearts symbolizing the everlasting Love you have for your spouse and family… although paper by nature is not everlasting, so perhaps we should signify our love for each other by building pyramids with limestone blocks. 

I don’t buy “themed” merchandise usually. My mother gave me Rudolph the Reindeer pajamas one Christmas, and I wear them throughout the year… because they’re comfortable and I can’t stand the idea of a decent pair of unworn PJs taking up valuable space in my lingerie drawer. (Though I’d have more room if I gave away all the unworn jewelry hiding underneath the PJs)
I’m perhaps the world’s biggest advocate of buying a generic red shirt that can earn its place in my closet. Seasonally appropriate in December, February, and July, it works equally well any time of year. 

Unfortunately, retailers are especially notorious for grabbing anything red or heart-related off the back shelves to display prominently in the aisles, and slapping huge Valentine’s Day signage all over it. Okay, I think we’re smart enough to know that red toasters and coat-hangers aren’t traditional gifts… although some hopelessly romantic soul could put a creative spin on just about any lame attempt to commercialize:
“I want to spent the rest of my life with you, waking up each morning to the aroma of your strawberry Pop-Tarts, and hanging my coat and hat in our shared closet each night.” 

And here’s a red toothbrush, because it’s sexy to watch you brush your teeth each morning…
What about this bottle of Heart-Health vitamin supplements? Because I want to share forever with you! 

My friend Lily, a.k.a TwoStrayCats on Etsy, and I were discussing her adorable stuffed gnomes the other night. If you haven’t visited her shop yet, you should take a peek at her pillows. Here is one of my favorites, featuring a silhouette of Emily Bronte:

Emily Bronte pillow cover

Emily Bronte pillow cover by TwoStrayCats

Lily gave me a link to another seller’s shop to check out their stuffed dolls, but alas, I was immediately distracted by the shop’s first listing… for a Valentine’s Day burp cloth. Because milk should be vomited onto a fashionable holiday rag.
Somehow, I can’t see myself digging for the special red floral felt at 3:00am, when Jake wakes hungrily, just to put me in the spirit of love. I’ll probably grab an old shirt from the laundry pile, a washcloth from the bathroom shelf, or just take my chances that he might spit-up on Rudolph. 

Apparently three pages worth of Etsians believe we need a special cloth for the occasion… and it made me curious to see what other necessary items I’m lacking. So I did a “Valentine’s Day” search on Etsy, and with over 2,200 page results (in the handmade category alone), there were quite a few surprises. 

The Puff-Ball dress… which can be paired with “a leather jacket, cardigan, or keep it simple with black tights.” …(I want more pictures, please! Can we see it on a real model?)

Dress created from felted pom-pom balls

Puff-Ball Dress by somedaynewyorker

This purple cowl… that reminded me of a crocheted alien centipede. OMG! It just devoured that poor woman’s head!

purple crocheted cowl by innovationdesign

crocheted purple cowl by innovationdesign

A Cell Phone Bag, photographed on the couch. Because couches and wine breed romance!

cell-phone bag by annjauquetdesigns

cell-phone bag by annjauquetdesigns

I’m so excited! Thanks to folks eager to capitalize on my apparel impaired-ness, I’ve found the perfect sexy outfit for a night out on the town! Check off: Puff dress, cowl, and bag… now I just need the right shoes to complete The Look. 

Excellent! These will coordinate beautifully!

pompom shoes by KirstyMcKenzie on Etsy

Pompom Pollini Heels by KirstyMcKenzie on Etsy

I also came across some inspiring gift ideas… this OOAK flower vase is quite a bargain at $5, reduced from $7!

decoupage vase from Karmascrafts

decoupaged vase from Karmascrafts

And this guy… is selling something “torched” for Valentine’s… can you guess which hand it’s in?

torched ring by LFJewelryDesigns

"Torched" by LFJewelryDesigns

Now these would make awesome tongue-in-cheek VD party announcements – that’s VD for Valentine’s Day, y’all – with a tag included that reads: “You’ve been invited… to Bite my A$$.”

G-string sugar cookies by Baked

G-string sugar cookies by Baked

And my personal favorite is this heart-chomping dinosaur card, because great minds think alike:

Dinosaur valentine by ObeseCatFactory

Dinosaur valentine by ObeseCatFactory

After your chocolates have been consumed, and the dead flowers and crumpled hearts have been tossed in the garbage, you might find yourself sitting at your desk with an empty feeling. I encourage you to browse the vast bowels of Etsy… uncover the oddities therein… thousands of handcrafted treasures to make next years’ Valentine’s – The Day to Remember

(psst, if you dress yourself Etsy-style, I wanna see pictures!)

Valentine's cat portrait of Darcy and Lizzy

Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennett - Walk in the Garden

Once again, I felt the heaviness of Valentine’s Day fast approaching, as I sought to create at least one piece of appropriate artwork. This year, February marks the beginning of cold and flu season in our house, and so I juggled two cranky, coughing babies in my lap while I drew and colored this portrait of Lizzy and Darcy one-handed in Photoshop. With a mouse. Months ago, my Wacom stylus disappeared courtesy of Mia… and all her usual hiding places have turned up empty. Joe looked at purchasing a replacement pen, and apparently they are expensive; so expensive that he’d rather purchase an entire tablet w/ stylus on eBay this time. The only way to keep Mia’s paws off in the future, would be to fasten a 50 lb. weight to it.

Anyway… so when most retailers (and savvy crafters) have their Valentine selection ready before Christmas, I’m squeaking under the wire again,
which is not an auspicious way to begin my New Year. Ironically, after listing my newest piece on Etsy, twittering and frittering about it, and finally uploading photos on my Facebook fanpage – I headed over to my personal profile, whilst performing imaginary self-flagellation, and came across a simple yet profound statement from Jessica Doyle, a fellow artist.
She wrote: “There is no need to *keep up* …just do your own thing. Seriously.” She is amazing, by the way, not only with colored pens and inks
but also with her insight. Everyone should follow her advice, and her blog!

It caused me to stop and question what the heck I was doing, beating myself senseless over an imaginary deadline… so Valentine’s Day is the 14th, and people jump online in the weeks preceeding to search for love/crush/affection/obsession-related merchandise that “speaks” to them, or speaks for them.
Oddly enough, I DO celebrate Valentine’s Day… one of the few holidays that I will mark with a card for whomever is Significant at the time. LOL
But if I were to be honest with myself, aside from themed greeting cards, I’d rather create artwork that people will collect and display all year… that they won’t be in such a rush to pack away at the end of the month. I don’t want my paintings to cause off-season embarrassment, like the Easter grass in the carpet that refuses to GO AWAY after vacuuming over it 150 times.

Lydia once asked why the Easter bunny didn’t visit our house, after discovering Mom’s stash of candy for last-minute basket stuffing… I informed her that Peter
Cottontail was afraid of our cats, who always attempted to eat him whenever he appeared. He quit coming to our house awhile ago, but I didn’t want to disappoint her on Easter morning, so I created my own baskets in hopes that she wouldn’t notice his absence. :P

I don’t have the urge to dress my house in themes, or the patience to undress it afterwards… like baby jumpers that only last for 2-3 months, you might as well leave the kid in diapers and forego clothes altogether until he stops growing! Well, at least until yearly hem and seam alterations will suffice. If only there were a holiday that incorporated all the major iconic elements: trees, turkeys, hearts, flags, crosses, candles, pumpkins, eggs, what am I missing?? Celebrated on the fourth of each month, it’s called Fourth of ChristvaleastHanuween-giving… and you can leave the decorations up all year!!

There is a clinical diagnosis for practically every phobia ailing mankind – from Allodoxaphobia (a fear of opinions) and Arachibutyrophobia (the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth) to Aulophobia (a fear of flutes) or Cathisophobia (the fear of sitting). People can be afraid to hear good news (Euphobia), or suffer from a hatred of poetry (Mertophobia)… and many even have the rational fear of lawsuits (Liticaphobia), hehe – however, I can’t find a reference to a general holiday phobia; I must be the only one who suffers from it!

Strangely enough, I once worked (briefly, lol) as a greeting card merchandiser. People celebrate everything! They actually buy cards for Groundhog’s Day. No feasting, though, that I can recall. With so many holidays on the calendar, I could drive myself insane and hide under the bed. I could simply work at my own pace, and quote my infamous motto with each missed deadline – “At least it’s ready for next year!” Or I could wisely take Jessica’s advice to heart: Don’t try to keep up. “Just do your own thing!”

This year, when you’re buying gifts online… try to think outside the holiday! Do you want to give a special present that receives an obligatory presentation
for two weeks and then gets wrapped in tinsel and stuffed into the attic? I think everyone would like to see their gifts being treasured and admired throughout
the year.
Happy 4th of ChristvaleastHanuweek-giving, everyone! Oh well, it was worth a shot. :P

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