Art Feed

It's Time to Honor the Pets Who've Kept Us COVID Company

Chaco_portrait

By Lisa Brunette

It's been a long, hard year with this COVID situation, and let's face it: We couldn't have done it without our pets. 

While our coworkers went from the living, breathing human beings we interacted with on a daily basis to talking heads on a Zoom screen, Rover and Boots became ever-present reminders of the value of physical touch. They rested their heads in our laps, distracted us with their antics, kept our feet warm, offered a reassuring purr and cuddle. Especially for people living alone, this source of daily joy and unconditional love has been nothing short of a lifesaver.

So it's time to honor them, and what better way than with a cool modern portrait?

Chaco's been with us for about five years now, and I'm surprised to admit that we had zero framed photos of him in our house. Of course we take plenty - my recent treatise on ol' kittypants is just a small, representative sampling - but I just hadn't gotten around to framing any. And maybe it's the utilitarian Midwesterner in me - what do you need a picture of your pet for when he's right here in front of you everyday? But as it turns out, a spankin' chi-chi portrait of Chaco was exactly the thing I didn't know I needed in my life until I had one.

Chaco_portrait2

I mean, have you seen anything better? This picture makes me laugh every time I look at it. We hung it in our dining room, where I'm amused by it several times a day.

I know you're green with envy, but I'm about to cure your jealousy: You can get one of these portraits of your pet, too!

In honor of our wonderful animal companions, Cat in the Flock is happy to offer our readers 15% off these stylish, custom pet portraits. Just use the code PAWFRIENDS15 at checkout.

Here's a sample from the makers, West & Willow, this time with a dog as subject, and a white background. They have several background choices as well as different options for the frame.

White-bk

To get your portrait with the 15% discount, all you need to do is use this link to head over to West & Willow, and then use the promo code PAWFRIENDS15 at checkout. A few notes:

  • Yes, you can get a portrait for any kind of pet, whether bird, iguana, guinea pig, etc.
  • If you have two or three pets and want a group portrait of them, no problem.
  • West & Willow will work with you to create a pet memorial, if that's what you need.
  • No, you can't get human-subject portraits, even if you keep a human as a pet, ha, ha, ha.
  • Make sure you have a good quality digital photo of your pet before you begin the process. The portrait is crafted with it. We used this one for Chaco.

Chaco

Here's the link again:

West & Willow Pet Portrait - 15% Off!

And don't forget to use the code PAWFRIENDS15 at checkout.

I hope you enjoy your pet portrait as much as we enjoy ours.

Cat in the Flock might receive a commission if you purchase from West & Willow.

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The Winners of Our 'Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener' Book Giveaway

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Winner Lynne Griffin, of Aurora, Colorado, USA.

We're pleased to announce the winners of our book giveaway. Two lucky subscribers each received a signed paperback copy of Tammi Hartung's book, The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener. Winners Lynne Griffin and Lila McClellan are avid gardeners and nature lovers, and they also both live in Colorado, a landscape that can be a challenge as much as it is a joy for gardeners. We're excited to share their stories and images with you.

Lynne Griffin of Aurora, CO

Griffin Garden1
In Lynne Griffin's garden, a monarch on purple coneflower.
 
Our first winner talks about what it's like to garden in Colorado. As it's also where Tammi Hartung herself runs Desert Canyon Farm, Lynne is in good company. Lynne explains:
Since we have a fairly short growing season in Colorado, we normally start the seeds indoors in March and plant during the Memorial Day weekend, after the ground has warmed. We put in the usual vegetables; multiple varieties of tomatoes, multiple types of squash, cucumbers, cabbage, beets, etc. We also grow several herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage, etc. 
 
Our flower gardens are literally for the birds and the bees. Our yard has lots of native species of flowers to help keep everyone happy. We have several seed feeders as well as multiple bird baths. Since we're birders, we just love watching all of them visit.

Living close enough to visit Desert Canyon Farm, Lynne was already a fan of Tammi Hartung but had never read this book. She's now a regular reader of Cat in the Flock, too, and we're really glad to have her. "Many thanks for mailing Tammi Hartung's wonderful gardening book," says Lynne. "I've started reading it and am greatly enjoying all of her advice and wisdom." 
 
More pictures of her garden.
 
Griffin Garden2
Lynne makes birds welcome with a bird bath and feeders, in addition to native plants.
Griffin Garden3
We love the solution to the backend slope, with a grouping of native trees and plants set off by a rock wall.

Lila McClellan of Coaldale, CO

Lila and book_1
 
Lila McClellan is an accomplished painter and photographer in addition to gardener; you can see her breathtaking work over at Wolf's Head Art. Before COVID-19, she took a whole season of classes offered at Desert Canyon Farm, drawn to Tammi Hartung's focus on living in harmony with nature. "I am looking forward to reading this latest book and using her techniques for helping the wildlife and pollinators," says Lila. "Thanks so much."
 
Lila already does quite a bit to make her garden wildlife-friendly, whether that's placing perching spots - in this case, crystals - in her bird baths to enable small insects to sip there in addition to the birds, or putting in bluebird houses. But she's excited to find new ideas in Tammi's book.
 

While Lynne's garden has more of a suburban feel, Lila's is a bit more rugged. Her struggles with the harsh Colorado environment are sometimes profound:
Living at the foothills of 12,000-foot mountains has its challenges. I mostly plant natives that are adapted to this climate of harsh winds, extreme temperatures, and the multitude of animal life and insect populations. I know gardening starts with the soil, so, I've been paying closer attention to this and began making my own compost with worms and an insulated compost bin. We also have 11 ducks that help by adding lots of fertilizer and eating the bugs (especially those voracious grasshoppers). We also mulch the outdoor beds with their 'used' straw when we clean out the duck pen in the spring and fall.
 
Ducks and wall
The bird bath gets some visitors in Lila McClellan's garden, at the foot of the mountains.
 
Lila's biggest foe isn't the lack of water or the shorter growing season, though. It's the weather itself:
The number one problem I have is the WIND! It can be discouraging to amend the soil and watch it blow away on windy days. I also wonder how the plants survive when they go sideways instead of up. My husband built a seven-foot wall on the south side of our yard to block some of the wind, which helps a lot. This summer, I will be putting up paver stones to make two-foot walls on some of the beds. I installed a soaker hose watering system a few years ago, which is a tremendous help since it saves water and time. Some wells near my house can go dry when there is a severe drought situation, but we haven't had that problem.
 
Spirea_001
Spirea, growing in Lila's garden.
We decided to use the wind to our advantage; this summer, my husband will be installing a wind turbine to power the electric in our geodome greenhouse that we finished last fall. To keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter, we have a swamp cooler and a heater, which will greatly extend our growing season for herbs and produce. Living in/with nature is an ongoing process as the seasons change. I enjoy the challenges and rewards and am thankful and in awe of the plants that survive. 
Geo-dome
Lila's domed greenhouse, soon to be powered by the wind.
 
Beets and chickweed_1
Beets and chickweed.
 
Congratulations to Lynne and Lila on their wins, and we hope they both enjoy Tammi's book as much as we did.

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Will We Ever Get to Travel Again?

Plane at Sunset _ Image Credit Oli Lynch via Flickr
Plane at sunset. Image credit Oli Lynch via Flickr.

By Ernest White II

Will we ever get to travel again?

The short answer: yes. People need to connect with people, and the hankering for adventure, for intrigue, for romance has only been exacerbated by mandatory lockdowns. And, despite warnings to the contrary, some people never stopped traveling in 2020. In 2021 and beyond, however, travel will be much different than what we were used to before the pandemic.

The days of weekend getaways, last-minute jaunts, and general get-up-and-go are long gone. Destinations, airline and cruise companies, restaurants, tour companies, independent tour guides, shops, hotels, and every sector you can think of in the travel industry are still reeling from the pandemic, and most won’t recover quickly, if ever. In fact, the United Nations World Tourism Organization estimated a loss of up to $1.2 trillion in international visitor spending in 2020, with some 120 million tourism jobs at risk. And with countries like Canada and the United Kingdom instituting new travel bans in the face of stronger variants of the virus, the travel landscape will remain a foreign one for most of us well into the next few years. 

But fear not: as vaccines are distributed throughout the world, and with enhanced testing and expanded safety protocols, travel will again be accessible and even enjoyable.

Proceeding with Caution

Many destinations have taken the lead in establishing “COVID-conscious zones” with strict protocols and procedures that allow tourism to continue, especially in places where international visitors account for much of the revenue and employment in a given area. 

Cabo San Lucas _ Image Credit Juan Garcia via Flickr
Cabo San Lucas. Image credit Juan Garcia via Flickr.

In Mexico, for instance, the Los Cabos Tourism Board worked in conjunction with the Baja California Sur state health department to ensure all service providers were clear on health and safety regulations, and that there was uniformity in enforcement to ensure that hotels, restaurants, and attractions in the beachside destination could remain open for business. Hotel and restaurant capacity has been capped at up to 50%, while COVID-19 testing facilities have been expanded and an English-language hotline has been established for travelers needing assistance, or to take the test required for re-entry into the United States and Canada. The area’s hotels and tour operators have also been generous with change policies and fee waivers, taking a customer-focused approach to the heightened uncertainties of travel during a pandemic.

Angkor Wat _ Cambodia _ Image Credit Anne and David via Flickr
Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Image credit Anne and David via Flickr.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Southeast Asian country of Cambodia is open to tourists from the U.S. but requires a $2,000 deposit upon arrival, which pays for a mandatory COVID-19 test and potential treatment should the test result be positive. In addition to a negative test taken no more than 72 hours prior to landing at the country’s main airport, visitors must pay for another test upon arrival, then quarantine for 14 days at a hotel officially designated by the Cambodian government. However strict these requirements may be, the country is still open for tourism, unlike two-thirds of the world’s nations.

The upside is that restrictions like Cambodia's tend to inspire more intentional, slower-paced travel than what many people were accustomed to prior to the pandemic, in addition to keeping the local population safe and the tourism economy afloat.

Go Before You Go

For those waiting for the green light to travel without tests, masks, and gallons of hand sanitizer, the options for armchair traveling have never been more diverse, particularly as immersive technologies have improved and expanded in the wake of the pandemic. The old standbys of international cuisines, foreign films, jaunty TV shows, and world music are still easily accessible ways of getting into a traveling mood, but new virtual experiences can bring would-be travelers into the action via their personal devices.

Shinjuku _ Tokyo _ Japan _ Image Credit sayo ts via Flickr
Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. Image credit sayo ts via Flickr.

Museums around the world—including the Louvre in Paris, the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, and the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City—have developed virtual tours of their galleries, offering views of permanent collections as well as temporary exhibitions. For virtual outdoor adventures, safari companies such as Tswalu and &Beyond Connections provide interactive and real-time safari experiences from the savannas of Southern and Central Africa. And if the thrill of the big city calls, tour companies such as Arigato Japan can pair viewers with local guides who offer multimedia tours of their happening ‘hoods in the heart of Tokyo.

While the way we travel won’t ever be the same, the human desire to connect with each other and explore our home planet remains.

Editor's note: Ernest is too modest to mention it, but another way you can get your travel on from the safety of your couch is by watching his travel docu-series, which airs on both PBS and Create TV.

Ernest White II is a storyteller, explorer, executive producer, and host of television travel docu-series FLY BROTHER with Ernest White II, currently airing in the United States on Public Television Stations and Create TV nationwide. He is also founder and CEO of Presidio Pictures, a new film, television, and digital media studio centering BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and senior/elder narratives. Ernest’s writing includes fiction, literary essay, and travel narrative, having been featured in Time Out London, USA Today, Getaway, Ebony, The Manifest-Station, Sinking City, Lakeview Journal, Matador Network, National Geographic Traveler’s Brazil and Bradt’s Tajikistan guidebooks, and at TravelChannel.com. He is also senior editor at Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel, former assistant editor at Time Out São Paulo, and founding editor of digital men’s magazine Abernathy.

ErnestWhiteII_headshot-590x590

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Get 50-100% Off The Dreamslippers Series for Ebook Week

REBM21_Facebook_banner

by Lisa Brunette

Kicking off today and running through March 13 is Ebook Week at online publisher Smashwords, an awesome alternative to Amazon. We're offering deep discounts on The Dreamslippers Series ebooks - prices not seen since the series first launched in 2014! That includes all three novels in the series, as well as the boxed set collection of books plus the bonus novella.

For the uninitiated, The Dreamslippers is a 'yogi detective' series with a slight psychic bent. The Dreamslippers are a family with the ability to 'slip' into other's dreams - but that isn't easy. Grandmother/granddaughter duo Grace and Cat practice yoga and meditation to hone and focus their ability, using it to solve crimes.  

Here's the full series with discounts noted, as well as links to each book's Smashwords page. You don't need a coupon code - just purchase the book, and the discount will be applied.

Book 1 - Cat in the Flock - 100% Off - FREE!

CITF

The first book in the series is a cozy, sexy coming-of-age story about young dreamslipper Cat McCormick, who's learning to control her ability for the first time, by apprenticing with her successful PI grandmother. But when Cat goes undercover in an evangelical church, will she avoid temptations in her quest for the truth? 

  • #1 Amazon bestseller in both the paranormal and private investigators ebook categories
  • Winner of an indieBRAG medallion
  • Praised by Kirkus Reviews, Midwest Book Reviews, and dozens of other independent blogs and reviewers
  • Amazon Rating: 4.3/5 on 78 reviews

Book 2 - Framed and Burning - 50% Off

F&B

Set in spicy Miami, Framed and Burning is probably my personal favorite in the series. It follows Grace and Cat as they unravel the mystery of a strange and fiery death. Cat's uncle has channeled his dreamslipping ability into a career as a successful painter - but just how far is he willing to go for his art?

  • Winner of an indieBRAG
  • Nominated for a Nancy Pearl Book Award and a RONE Award
  • Praised by Mystery Sequels, On My Kindle, BestThrillers, and many others
  • Amazon Rating: 4.4/5 on 47 reviews

Book 3 - Bound to the Truth - 50% Off

BTTT

Writing this one took me on some interesting research trips.... Back in Seattle and fully ensconced in Grace's detective agency, Cat must solve the bizarre murder of a famed local architect - who was murdered in one of the hotels she designed. Is this a case of professional rivalry gone horribly wrong, or does this murder's sexual fetish overtones point to something darker?

  • Winner of an indieBRAG
  • Winner of a Curtie Curt Award
  • Praised by Book Fidelity, J Bronder Reviews, The Book Adventures of Emily, and others
  • Amazon Rating: 4.9/5 on 10 reviews

The Boxed Set - 75% Off

Boxedset

The best deal of the week, the boxed set contains all three books above, plus a bonus novella set in the 1960s. "Work of Light" is a prequel that tells Grace's origin story. It was a lot of fun to imagine "Granny" Grace in her twenties, living on an ashram and dealing with the vicissitudes of a guru and his flock.

It's my pleasure to offer these discounts - and tell your friends, too! The sale ends March 13.

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The 'COVID Cabana' Might Just Save Us All

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We outfitted our 'COVID Cabana' space with old lawn furniture, a tiki bar from a friend, and an area rug. All photos by Sue Frause.

By Sue Frause

When the COVID-19 pandemic made its way to the United States in January of 2020, my husband and I were mildly concerned. But even more so when the first confirmed case in the U.S. was diagnosed in our home state of Washington. That patient was being treated at Providence Medical Center in Everett, less than an hour away from our home on Whidbey Island. It was a little too close for comfort. In March 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee initiated a Stay Home, Stay Healthy order in our state to fight the virus. And since then we’ve been adhering to the basic guidelines of wearing masks, washing hands, and staying six feet apart. Plus a whole lot more. 

Bar 1
Kids to the rescue again, donating a BAR sign they didn't have room for. Farmer Bob outfitted it with lights.

Summer was easy, as we spent a lot of time outdoors, occasionally gathering with family and friends at our home or theirs. But when the cool, wet weather of autumn arrived, all that changed. It was the season to hunker on down indoors. Which for us, meant not having friends or family over for in-house gatherings, and not going to theirs. It was going to be a long winter.  

Gas Fire
Our son and his wife gave us their never-been-used gas fire pit to cozy up the space. S'mores, anyone?

 Here on Whidbey Island and beyond, along with the proliferation of alfresco dining options, people were creating outdoor spaces where gatherings would be much safer than in their homes. That’s when I realized we had the perfect space to put together a venue where we could invite folks over to share a glass of wine or two. Our Covid Cabana was born! 

Barn
Farmer Bob's barn was built in 2005 with the help of friends and relatives. Our Covid Cabana may be seen in the forefront before it was transformed.

Its location was ideal - a 7 x 14 ft. covered area off the side of our barn. When we built the barn in 2005, the original plan was for the space to house our chickens. But my husband, aka Farmer Bob, soon realized it wouldn’t be such a great spot for a flock of egg-laying hens. So over the years, it has morphed from a carport to a storage area for picnic tables, lawn furniture, and our tiki bar. A loft above it housed even more outdoor goods. 

Wine Room
Farmer Bob created this temperature-controlled wine room located inside the barn, just steps away from our Covid Cabana.

 But in November, all that changed when we transformed the catch-all space into a cozy Covid Cabana. The best part of the process was being able to use everything we had - we spent zero dollars in creating a comfortable space for up to six people. Here’s what we recycled:

  • Two teak benches that seat four, with a matching coffee table
  • Two outdoor chairs
  • Area rug
  • Tiki bar with two stools 
  • Bar sign
  • Strings of lights on a dimmer
  • Gas fire pit 
  • Grapevine wreath

When summer arrives in June of this year, Farmer Bob plans to build and install six barn doors on the two open sides -- making it an all-season, indoor/outdoor space. And I’m hopeful that sooner than later, we can change its name from Covid Cabana to … Cozy Cabana!

H-l-about

Sue Frause is a prolific, long-time journalist and photographer whose work has appeared in print and online in the U.S. and abroad. For 15 years, she wrote an award-winning column for The South Whidbey Record. She currently writes not one, not two, but three blogs: Eat|Play|Sleep, Closet Canuck, and married to martha. She is also a regular on Around the World Radio. In her many travels, she's visited all seven continents, but her favorite place in the world is right there on Whidbey Island.

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