Black cats wearing Regency gowns, whispering gossip by TaraFly Art

Kitty and Lydia Spreading Gossip - my digital painting.

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”
– Mr Bennet

When I published my Question of Ethics last Thursday, I wasn’t prepared for the reception that it received… both here and on my website (TaraFlyArt).

After it was shared, forwarded, and even infamously reposted…
*cue the crickets*

… I began to receive comments, both positively commending my insight and critically questioning my motives for getting involved in the vow-to-never-mention-again emotionally fueled blogging war.

Once my words were published, my post left the safety of its nest, like a baby bird finally figuring out the purpose of its feathered appendages.
I can no longer control where it goes, and where it lands, and whether its delicate opinions will be looked after in this alien environment.

It’s ironic (and yes, even hypocritical) that I caution everyone to be careful when handling sensitive information online… and in the same breath, or rather the next paragraph, I invoke the very drama which I tried to prevent by liberally referencing certain individuals’ personal battles.

As I sheepishly acknowledged on Facebook earlier… I must love the taste of feet! They always seem to be in my mouth.

So if any of you are visiting for the first (or second) time on account of “That Post”… I apologize for my obvious lapse of judgement; those who know me well can assure you that brain lapses happen frequently here, although serious discussions rarely do.
I so seldom have occasion to be serious, that I lack practice.

As the “Crazy Cat Artist”, my mission in life is to spark that wicked gleam in your eye, or make you laugh out loud at an inopportune time… such as during a teleconference, when you surreptitiously browse the internet on your iPhone, and stumble across my fire-breathing cat monster.

When a rare moment of insightfulness strikes, causing me to wrestle with a heavy subject, rest assured it will be quickly buried under picture posts of my messy house and rants about shoe shopping.

I do write about my artwork, and cats, a great deal… and a quick glance at my site statistics will reveal people arrive here after searching for “cat paintings” and “regency art”.
Proof that I can stay relevant to the topic of my work, once in a while.

However, I’m continuously amazed by the seemingly off-the-wall searches that lead folks to my door…


I gave everyone a sneak preview back in January when I posted, Naughty Google Sitting in the Corner.
Who actually looks online for “crowds of demonic people” or “vacuum cleaning nude”?
Seriously? Who are you people?

So what strange sort of folks do I normally attract with my blog, courtesy of Google’s omniscient wisdom?

Today I will take you on a pilgrimage to the mountaintop, and let you gaze out over the Promised Land.
a.k.a. My WordPress Dashboard…

(Just don’t attempt to read this during office hours… a friendly forewarning.)

My Top 20 List of Crazy Web Searches…


20. “Disgusting people” ….

This was actually part of the title for my post: “Disgusting People With a Little Help From Regretsy”


19. “Monkey gym to bay” ….

I might need some help with this, as I don’t recall having ever blogged about monkeys. Or the Monkees.


18. “women power suit bare feet” ….

I blogged about buying my first business suit. And my preference for going barefoot.
But I’d never considered both …together…. hmmmmm…..


17. “men who paint their toenails” ….

Yup! I’ve encouraged men to paint their toes!
This was one of my earliest posts.


16. “male men feet bare feet nude” …

Nude or otherwise… feet are a reoccurring theme here on my blog.


15. “women big feet bare soles toes” ….

Okay! I confess!! I have an obsession with bare feet and toes. Gosh, what more can I say… they’re tasty! And I would know.
Although I’ve never judged anyone by the size of their feet, cause that’s just plain cruel.


14. “feet punish” …..

Um… nor do I condone foot abuse or participate in ritualistic foot torture.


13. “stubborn @$$hole kraut” ….

Say what?! I did blog about sauerkraut along with my resolutions for 2010.


12. “peanut butter stuck to butt”

Actually it was an acrylic finger nail “stuck to butt”… and packing peanuts that were found stuck to a cheesecake.
But you can read all about this story, and many more frightening tales of Glitter (and other Things That Refuse To GO AWAY) here in this hilarious Etsy forum post.


11. “gypsy vaginal temperature” ….

I was curious about this peculiar search: Do gypsies have a noticeable difference in their temperature?
So I Googled it myself – yes, indeed, I did – and found references to virgin gypsy wedding rituals, and also an interesting
advice column for Persian cat breeders, written by the “Gypsy Guru”.


10. “Can I wash my hair with ajax?” ….

Are you asking me for permission? Sure, go right ahead.


9. “peanut butter scented soap” ….

Um… why not just use peanut butter? I’d suggest looking on, the handmade marketplace… they also sell popcorn soap, fried chicken soap, and canned spam soap… if you can eat it, you can shower with it too!


8. “How long should I leave vinegar in my hair?”….

How long would you leave in your conditioner? Vinegar is a viable substitute, especially when using handmade shampoo bars.


7. “girl wearing always ultra” ….

Now this search disturbs me. Was someone searching for an image of her? How can anyone tell which brand of pad a girl is wearing?
My single reference to feminine products came from this spotlight on IvyLaneDesign’s Recycled Box Journals.


6. “dried beans are beside rice at the grocery store” ….

And Cool Whip is next to the frozen pie crusts, but do we really need Google to help us locate it?
Perhaps if the confused grocery associate leads you on a wild goose chase… *wink*


5. “what is the most likely time for a retail store to be robbed?” ….

Should I really answer this? Um… whenever somebody is desperate for cash, and doesn’t mind going to jail?


4. “redneck diaper stinks” ….

Have you ever found a used diaper lying on a grocery store shelf?
And yes, it stinks.


3. “sugar cookie decorated thong” ….

You KNEW I’d have an answer for this! Thanks again to an awesome Etsy seller, whom I featured in my anti-Valentine’s Day post:
“Puff the Magic Dress”


2. “pee paypal” ….

Finally! Someone else shares my sentiments! I experienced quite a nightmare with PayPal last year.


Honestly, I had a really tough time choosing my #1 favorite ridiculous search phrase… these babies are all winners in my book!
However, one question stood out in terms of “You have to be kidding me, right? Seriously?”

And more importantly, what was Google’s reasoning for leading this agonizing soul straight to me?

A Praying Golden Goddess digital art by TaraFly

This is me... looking divine and holy on my mountaintop.

Sitting barefoot and naked upon my mountaintop, gazing into the future AND the past, and communing with the Other Side via a deep meditative trance… a vessel of the gods, speaking their infinite wisdom in a thousand tongues…

I am the Google priestess. The Keeper of arcane secrets.

Guarded by wild monkeys, and sustained only by a diet of raw sauerkraut and vinegar…. I have taken the gypsy’s vow of chastity, and will only speak to a chosen group of disgusting people each year, hand-selected by Ajax the Great.

They come in reverence, wearing their decorated thongs, and bringing offerings of peanut butter and sugar cookies so that I may be prevailed upon to answer their most urgent questions.

Their deepest desires and worst fears are laid at my feet, as they pray and plead for a divine response.
The fate of kings and conquerors, peasants and princes, all hang in the balance as they await my judgement.

Speak now.
What brings you forth to seek my wisdom?

And the trembling laborer falls to his knees in terror of my majesty, and cries out:

“Why are some of my crops glittering in Farmville?!”


That’s it, I QUIT!    Now get me down from this rock.

angry artist attacking printer with hammer and saw

Threatening To Torture My Printer Unless It Surrenders...

This year, my luck has officially run out, folks.

I’m beginning to feel like the old cat trying to learn new tricks…
Okay, more like trying to jump through a hoop of fire, with my legs tied together and a blanket over my face.

It began with the transition of my website to the WordPress program, which was originally limited to a sub-folder for running my blog.

The move itself went swimmingly.

However some of the hard work I’d done, incorporating my Zazzle store merchandise into my website via the Store Builder, was rendered redundant because WordPress doesn’t recognize the program.

The Zazzle Store Builder integrated on my website

Remember these pages? They're gone.

There was a work-around, via a plug-in designed specifically for WP, which seemed easy enough to install and use.
Except it didn’t work for me…

And after reading 50+ pages of users’ questions and the standard troubleshooting responses,
and double-no-triple-checking to ensure I followed all the advice given,
I figured it was just me.

I’ve also been forced to re-write all the image links on my blog posts, because they were uploaded to my “blog/wp-content/images” sub-folder…
which no longer exists …as WP is now running the entire site and not just a single folder. :/

Half of my images are still broken… because I get caught up editing the posts, reworking the SEO keywords, and various other distractions.

Disgusted by all the additional work my website now requires, I jumped into a fresh sewing project:

Artist angrily attacking printer with saw and hammer

You Talking To Me?! Go Ahead.... Make My Day.

I want to create some tote bags featuring my artwork.
The original tote bag prototype will be my personal messenger bag for carrying packages to the post office.

So I purchased these nifty sew-able cotton fabric sheets created for ink-jet printers, as an alternative to iron-on transfers.

Unfortunately, my printer doesn’t like these nifty fabric sheets.
It refuses to print anything on them.

Whenever I try to feed the sheet, my printer kicks it out…
and then has the gall to demand REAL paper, by blinking its “paper out” light accusingly at me.

I’ve even tried tricking the printer:

I’ve loaded a few sheets of fine-art paper, slyly slipping in a sheet of fabric paper, and set it up to print multiple copies.

All the velvet art paper and premium presentation paper fed through and printed beautifully, but it spit that cotton fabric sheet out with distaste.

Googling for answers resulted in nada.

Plenty of folks on the planet are experiencing paper feeding issues with Epson printers… however mine isn’t acting in a similar fashion –
mauling the page to shreds or refusing to feed it entirely.

Rather mine feeds directly through, without stopping to print a dot of ink. 😛

Eventually my curiosity will overcome my deep well of frustration, and I’ll discover the secret to getting my printer to eat its vegetables.

But for now, iron-on transfers will have to suffice. via mobile smart phone

TaraFlyArt - On The Go via my mobile browser

Last week, Joe and I decided to reinvest in cell phones.

We’ve gone without these modern necessities for over two years, after my last contract expired.
I’ve never missed being shackled to mine.

The beauty of a cellphone is also its biggest drawback:
you can be reached anywhere, and are expected to be “on call” and willing to answer.

And as you know, among other things I have a fear of phones. 😛

Joe was required to get one for work, but what made me jump back on the bandwagon?

I was seduced by these “smart” phones that are essentially portable internet browsers.

Since my master plan involves getting out into public, and being prepared to promote myself, I wanted a nice way to show people my website and

I was also tempted by those folks who can Tweet “on the go”, instead of hours later when the news is less relevant.
Folks who can perform google searches or get questions answered in real-time while out shopping.

I’ve recently become addicted to Pandora, the internet radio station that tailors its song selection to your individual taste… and I wanted to bring it along for the ride.

Oh, and not to mention the convenience of accessing Paypal… and perhaps some on-the-spot selling. 😉

TaraFlyPhotos on Etsy via mobile smart phone browser

My Etsy Shop in a tiny screen, filled with tiny clickable links

For these reasons and more, I succumbed to the awesome sale on my Motorola Defy. Although after paying less than $20 for a phone retailed at $450, I felt insanely angry at the state of our economy.

It says volumes when a company has to practically pay customers to TAKE the product away…
Joe tells me to quit obsessing, and just be happy that I got a super great deal.

But this type of mentality bodes ill for everybody.
Who wants to pay for things anymore?

*sidestepping the tangent*

So after setting up my online profiles, downloading a couple apps, as well as adding music and images from my computer…
I tried to send a simple text message to Joe, reminding him to pick up a vacuum belt.

Q: How easy it is to send text messages?

A. Not very.

Q: How long does it take to find your own flipping phone number?

A: A very long time.

(*hint, it wasn’t under the account settings or phone status, where it should have been)

I can pop off a tweet or update my Facebook status with two clicks, but I spent half an hour trying to text my husband.
I was once the queen of text messaging… in another lifetime.

Accessing Facebook profile via browser on Motorola Defy

Interacting with Facebook pals is easy enough.

Don’t get me started on the convoluted contact list, which very nicely uploaded every single Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail acquaintance I have.
Try finding a real-life contact in all that mess?!

Oh, and this lovely feature called Touch Screen?
It’s highly sensitive.

That is an understatement.

A stray cat hair, that landed onto the screen from a drive-by shedding, actually turned on the Google Voice Search.

That was an exaggeration.
But just slightly.

I liked the phone when I realized I could access my Etsy shop and website,
with full color images and teensy-tiny links that you need razor-sharp nails to click on.

I fell in love with the phone when I plugged it into my car’s stereo, and played my favorite music on shuffle while driving to Joann Fabrics.

I married the phone when I could update all my social networks all at one time,
from anywhere.

But the honeymoon is over now, when I feel like a deceived fool trying to use this blasted phone…


But then again, this is 2011 – The Year of the Cat (or Rabbit), depending on your beliefs.

It is definitely not MY 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… 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

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, 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

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… 😛

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… 😛

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. 😛

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.

Woman shopping empty grocery store bare shelves

"Everything I want is always on the top shelf!"

So the cupboards and fridge were looking pretty empty over the weekend, and I decided to host a Labor Day Sale in my Etsy shop AND auction one of my paintings on eBay.
Usually, I don’t celebrate holidays with special sales, but I referred to this as my “Peanut Butter and Jelly Sale”.
I had a couple of customers *waves at Lily and Carolyn* but although it wasn’t as successful as I’d anticipated, don’t worry! We won’t starve. 🙂

Everywhere you turn, these days, you can’t help but listen to the horrible tales of people hit hard by this recession. People have been laid off from their jobs, lost their homes and cars, and suffered from medical emergencies… clutching our wallets tightly to our chests, we feel for them but secretly pray that we won’t “be next”.

Businesses, too, are tightening their purses and in unfortunate cases … are beginning to charge outrageous fees to their established customer base to keep themselves afloat.

A few years ago, when I opened my “free” bank account, they asked whether I wanted one with a zero minimum balance.
“Of course!” I replied.
Every penny I earn has a name and number, like “Car insurance #7,142” … the seven-thousandth penny towards my insurance payment.

I wouldn’t consider us “poor folk”, but every cent counts. We don’t have hundreds of dollars just lying around to carpet our bank accounts. So imagine my surprise when I began taking a closer look at my monthly statements and found “service fees” springing up like weeds.
These aren’t like occasional overdraft fees, which are also expensive (but I regard them as punishment for spending more than I have)… the “service fees” are usually deducted from bank accounts after the customer dips below their Minimum Balance limit (i.e. $100).
I politely inquired about it, and was told that my account had been “upgraded” when our smallish bank merged with a larger branch, and that notifications had been sent in the mail.

Hmmm… yeah, those sorts of notifications tend to vanish (along with my Zazzle royalty check from May) when we move from one address to another. The Post Office had instructions to forward all our mail, but only the junk seemed to arrive on time.

The bank employees insisted that these charges were legal, necessary, and justified… I wouldn’t be able to recover those fees because it was my fault for allowing my balance to dwindle into the double digits.
Since when should we feel like criminals for spending our own money? What is wrong with having $26.00 in the bank?

If I could get away with not having a bank account, I would stuff my money into a cookie tin like our grandparents did. Unfortunately, we need the bank… and worst of all, the bank knows it. They have us by the toenails, because at the very least, I need to get various checks cashed.

Our biggest box of fee surprise came after moving to the outskirts of town, where the City of Hagerstown no longer supplies our electricity needs. There was only one electrical service provider available for this neighborhood, and their fees are almost surreal.
When we were customers of the City, our electric bill averaged anywhere from $80-$180 per month… the higher bills naturally occurred during those 15-degree winter months and the 105-degree summers. We were happy with our service.

Since moving here, our new provider has doubled our bill… wait, no, tripled our bill.
Our usage hasn’t changed; we purchased an energy-efficient washer/dryer set, use the squiggly CFL bulbs in every room, have a closet full of blankets for wintertime (instead of cranking the heat) and ceiling fans running in the summer to reduce the need for A/C. (We do vacuum our carpets 3-4 times per day…but…)
I am not exaggerating when I tell you – over 50% of the recent amount due consisted of service fees and surcharges. (Not late-payment fees, mind you, as we paid on time last month).

A sample of these fees/charges include:

  • the Transmission Charge – associated with the movement of high-voltage electricity from a generation facility to the distribution lines of an electric distribution company.
  • the Customer Distribution Charge – for delivering electricity from a customer’s chosen supplier to their residence or business.
  • an Electrical Universal Service fee
  • KHW Distribution Charge (which is separate from our actual KHW usage charge)
  • an Energy Cost Adjustment
  • a Cogeneration PURPA surcharge – the costs associated with the purchasing of power from the AES/Warrior Run power station.
  • a Franchise Tax
  • an EmPower Maryland surcharge (to fund energy conservation programs… they give small rebates to folks purchasing fancy appliances)
  • and a Maryland Environmental surcharge – the Costs associated with the funding of the state Power Plant Research Program.

The combined cost of these extra little charges were well over $100. Although we will manage somehow, I cannot understand how poorer families are able to afford this nonsense. 😛

I went to sleep with fees on my mind, and woke up feeling my usual sense of irony. This used to be nation obsessed with lawsuits: people sued because the coffee was too hot, the haunted house was too scary, the reality TV show was too disgusting, and because husbands and wives were withholding emotional support from each other.

Now, it seems we are the Fee Nation. Some companies earn their entire profit from charging fees.

So what do the little people do? Well, we can start charging fees too! LOL

Did you have to stand in a check-out line? ….Charge a fee for your time.
Did a late meeting force you to miss the bus/train? …..Charge your boss a fee!
Was the newspaper missing from your porch this morning?
Did the grocery store forget to order your brand of milk?
Did your mother keep you on the phone for two hours?
Did the cashier ask to see your ID?
Was the traffic light too red?

Nothing is more valuable than our time, energy, and emotional well-being, right?
Everyone should pay us for the inconveniences we endure! 😉

So when my husband writes that check to Allegheny Power this month, I’m going to slip an invoice into our return envelope… with a list of fees that our electric company owes us.
C’mon folks, let’s get creative!

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