Sunday, 25 June 2017

One New, Two Repeats

"Ixia viridiflora -- Turquoise Ixia", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Ixia viridiflora, also known as Turquoise Ixia, is a member of the Iris family. It is native to only particular areas of the Cape Province in South Africa and it is a very rare plant. Its habitats are continuing to be destroyed by human activity so, sadly, its conservation status is now listed as “Vulnerable” in the Red Data Book, and is likely to be upgraded to “Endangered” in the near future. 

Turquoise Ixia gets its name from the really spectacular blue-green turquoise colour of the flowers. Turquoise is a rare colour for flowers. These lovely blossoms are grouped in long rows and are traditionally star-shaped. They have a black-purple centre. This flower is pollinated by specific scarab beetles known as monkey beetles. 

It is said that Linnaeus derived the name for the genus, Ixia, from an old Greek name for a plant noted for the variability of its flower colour. The species name viridiflora is from the Latin and means "green-flowered".

"Impatiens niamniamensis - Congo cockatoo", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

As posted 5 November 2009:

There is a species of Impatiens that is one of the most unusual members of the genus and that is the type pictured above. Its name is Impatiens niamniamensis, commonly known as Congo Cockatoo or Parrot Plant. This shrub, native to tropical East Africa, is of the Family, Balsaminaceae

These truly fantastic flowers are said, by some, to look like parrots. One commentator has said that they actually remind her more of candy corn! I think I agree with her as I really do like candy corn! The stems of this shrub can get so thick that after a while, the whole plant looks like a dark, tropical tree. 

The genus name of Impatiens is from the Latin and refers to the seed pod's habit of bursting open when touched. The species name of niamniamensis means of or from Niam-Niam (a 19th century name used by Europeans for central Africa -- a name which is now considered pejorative).

"Eustoma russellianum - Prairie Gentian", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

As posted 9 July 2012:

Eustoma represents a genus of 3 species belonging to the family Gentianaceae and can be found in the warm areas of Texas, Mexico, the Caribbean and northern South America. They thrive in grasslands and places of disturbed ground. 

Eustoma grandiflorum is one of the best known of the species and is valued because of the large number of cultivars that have been developed from this species. The cultivated plant is frequently listed as Lisianthus. In North America the common names include Texas Bluebell or Prairie Gentian. As well, the cultivars have been developed in colours such as white and pink. 

The meaning of Eustoma (eu = beautiful, good....stoma = mouth) is good tasting or well spoken, but in the case of this plant it may mean "beautiful mouth" referring to the extraordinary colors of the flower as you look down into its "funnel" shape. The species name of grandiflorum is from the Latin and is used as a scientific name to indicate a flower with large blooms.

Most of the above text is taken from various Internet sources.


"Suki Daydreaming"
Photo by Amra, 2017
Well, Suki continues to behave as though she is feeling quite fine. So far I haven't seen any indications of unusual lethargy or discomfort.  In fact, she seems, on occasion, to be feeling better than she has for some time. Perhaps this expensive, low-calcium diet the vet has her on is really making a difference.

At any rate, I plan to take Suki to the vet some time in the next couple of weeks so that she can take more blood from the poor kitty.  I will then pay the $300 this specialized blood test costs and wait to see if the results of this second test show any improvement over the results of the prior test.  Please join me in keeping your fingers crossed! 

As for me, I, too, continue to do reasonably well -- all things considered. My eyes are still causing me discomfort; however, until the doctor finds a medication that consistently controls the ocular pressure, I suspect things will remain a bit uncomfortable.

I have been very fortunate to have had friends visiting this past week.  In fact, I had visitors on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  It has been quite wonderful to see some of my friends again and catch up on the news.

I have also have several medical appointments over the past two weeks and have still more appointments in the weeks ahead.  I'm uncertain as to why I suddenly have a batch of doctors visits here at mid-year -- must have something to do with needing follow-up appointments every six months.


Between now and the time I post again, we will be celebrating Canada Day here in my country.  This year's celebration is a somewhat special celebration for all the immigrants (that includes me) to this country as it is 150 years since the federation of Canadian provinces was first established [the Dominion of Canada, as per the British North America Act of 1867 that unified the provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick)]. 

Of course, the indigenous peoples in this great land look with something of disapproval on these celebrations and who can blame them!  After all, this land had been their country for hundreds of thousands of years before the European invasion began in the early 1600s.

At any rate, we will be celebrating and, as you may recall, I prepared for this celebration by doing a drawing of the Canada 150 Tulip some months ago.  This is the tulip produced by the bulb that the kind folks of the Netherlands cultivated for us in honour of our celebration.  (see below)

"Canada's Tulip -- 150 Years, July, 2017", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2016

"Canada Tulip 150" blooming in
St. James' Park, downtown Toronto
Photo by Mercedes
One amusing thing regarding these tulips occurred after masses of the bulbs were planted across the country.  When they burst into bloom this spring, a surprising number of them had orange petals instead of the desired red and white! Fortunately, the majority of the bulbs bloomed in the appropriate colours as you can see in the photo above taken by a friend of mine back in the spring of this year as she passed by St. James' Park.

So, I wish you all a very happy Canada Day, a happy 4th of July (USA) and a happy International Gay and Lesbian Pride Day. Celebrate and enjoy! 


Sunday, 11 June 2017

More Floral Repeats

"Mertensia paniculata - Tall Bluebells (Lungwort)", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Here are three more repeats -- in other words, three flowers I have featured during the past 10 years and of which I have now done new "drawings".

Below, for two of the drawings, I have used the information I posted previously; however, it appears that this first item, Mertensia paniculata, was published on an occasion when I was in a big rush so all I posted was the drawing itself.  

Hope you enjoy another trip down memory lane.


Mertensia paniculata, also known as tall bluebells, bluebell lungwort or northern bluebells, is a dwarf shrub with drooping bright-blue, bell-shaped flowers. A member of the Borage Family (Boraginaceae), it is native to north-western North America as well as the Great Lakes region. Mertensia paniculata occurs naturally in the temperate zone of North America and is known to thrive within boreal forests. 

The buds of Mertenia paniculata are purplish-blue and green, turning bright blue when the flower opens. The blue flowers are bell-shaped, hanging on slender stalks. Leaves are dark green with a long tapering tip and rounded base. 

Mertensia paniculata has been used for medicinal purposes throughout the centuries. The dried leaves of the plant would be made into an herbal tea to stimulate the respiratory system. Thus, the common name of bluebell lungwort. Externally, the leaves were used as poultices on cuts and wounds. 

The genus name of Mertensia honours Franz Karl Mertens, early 18th century German botanist and professor of Botany at Bremen. The species name, paniculata, is taken from the Latin, panus, diminutive panicula, which, in this case, means a loose, branching cluster of flowers.


"Convolvulus arvensis -- Field Bindweed", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

From salliesART posting May 30, 2010: 
Field Bindweed is considered to be a pest and nuisance throughout the world -- but even such a despised plant has its own beauty. I hope I have captured some of that beauty in my drawing. 

The proper name for this plant is Convovulus arvensis, known in English as Field Bindweed. It is a native of Europe and Asia that has spread throughout the world. It is considered to be a serious weed in 14 countries and a problem in 19 others, including Canada. The first observation of Field Bindweed in North America was in 1739 in what is now the State of Virginia. 

Field Bindweed is a twining perennial vine. Characteristics distinguishing it from other vines include arrowhead-shaped leaves, thin stems, pinkish petals fused into funnel-shaped flowers. These flowers only last for one day, while a single plant in a single season may produce up to 550 seeds! Stems, which usually attach themselves to objects, always twine around those objects in a counter-clockwise direction.

The genus name of Convolvo comes from the Latin, meaning "to entwine". The species name of arvens is Latin for a "cultivated field". 


"Erythrina bidwilii - Coral Tree", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

From salliesART February 24, 2012: 
Erythrina × bidwillii is the botanical name for two different hybrids (cultivars) produced from hybridizing Erythrina species at Camden Park Estate, New South Wales, Australia, in the early 1840s. 

Although the flowers of both cultivars are similar, the form of the plants is different - one is a small tree (Camdeni), commonly known as “Coral Tree”; while the other is a shrub (Blakei), commonly known as “Shrub Coral Tree”. The tree form, when protected from frost, can obtain the height of 20 feet. 

The genus name Erythrina comes from the Greek erythros meaning "red", both the flower and seed are bright red. They are members of the Fabaceae (legume) family. There are over 100 species of Erythrina that grow in warm, frost-free regions of the world. 

The wood of the Coral Tree is strong and lightweight with the buoyancy of balsa wood. The wood has been used for canoe out-rigging, fish net floats and surfboards. 

In Africa the tree was considered a royal tree and was planted on the graves of Zulu chiefs. When the tree began to flower, farmers knew it was time to plant their crops. Medicinal use suggests that species have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects (it is rumoured to also have narcotic effects). The seed is said to be a lucky charm. 

Much of the above text was taken from various Internet sources.


"Suki sitting on place-mat",
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014
Suki had to recently deal with another visit from the "monster" that comes to my apartment every so often and frightens her into her bedroom closet hidey-hole!  This time the "monster" was a workman with a big drill which he planned to use on my balcony in order to create a larger drainage hole for rainwater.  

When the workman, along with my building's maintenance supervisor, first knocked at my door, Suki bristled-up like a big, hairy puffball and growled menacingly. However, as soon as these folks entered, Suki decided that a full retreat was a better choice than trying to fight this particular "monster" and so she made a swift exit to the bedroom.  As I spoke with the maintenance supervisor, I could hear Suki frantically pushing open the bedroom closet door.  

It was an hour after the workman had finished his noisy job and left my apartment before Suki would come out of her hidey-hole.  After sniffing around a bit, she must have decided that the "monster" had well and truly gone and, thus, she then begin pestering me, indicating that she deserved an early lunch after her harrowing ordeal. 

Since then, things have been as they usually are in our home:  quiet and calm.  Of course, I have had a number of medical appointments over these past two weeks.  Visits with members of the medical profession have become the source of most of my social interactions these days!

Most of these visits are simply follow-up appointments -- just checking to make certain that the various conditions from which I suffer are still being managed properly by the medications prescribed.  

There is only one of these that is not being managed as well as hoped and that is the glaucoma which is in both eyes now. The ophthalmologist has been trying several different drops over these past months in an effort to bring down the pressure in my eyes, but so far nothing has worked.  I am now on something even stronger in the hope that it will finally do the trick.  I have to use it for the next four weeks before the doctor checks my eyes again. So, here's hoping!

Before my next posting, we will be celebrating the summer solstice here in the northern hemisphere (it will be the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere of course).  Although we humans have strayed far from our hunter/gatherer/agrarian roots, which kept us so aware of the changing of the seasons, I think most people still sense something, however vaguely, when their side of the earth is closest to the sun. 

I have often wished that I had travelled to someplace like the Canadian far north or the Shetland islands at midsummer when it never really gets dark at all. I understand from those who live in such places that it is very difficult to sleep during these weeks of "simmer din" (summer twilight in Shetlandic when, from mid-May to mid-July, the sun only dips below the northern horizon for a few hours), but I still wish I had taken the opportunity to experience it for myself.  Ah well, thank goodness for photos and videos.

Midsummer night on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides
Photo from BBC production "TWO Midsummer Live"


Sunday, 28 May 2017

Some Floral Repeats

"Oxalis acetosella - Common Wood Sorrel", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

This week I am featuring three new drawings which incorporate elements from previous drawings. You are likely to see more of these “repeats” in the near future as I am presently going back through all my files from the past 10 years. I am doing this in order to take a look at those items I once said that I wanted to try drawing a second time. 

Now, let me tell you a bit about each of these flowers… 

Oxalis is by far the largest genus in the wood-sorrel family Oxalidaceae. The genus occurs throughout most of the world except in the polar areas. Many of the species, including Oxalis acetosella, are simply known as wood-sorrel or common wood-sorrel as they have an acidic taste reminiscent of the unrelated Sorrel proper. Some species are called yellow-sorrels or pink-sorrels after the colour of their flowers. Others are known as false shamrocks because of the shamrock shape of the leaves. 

Oxalis acetosella is native to most of Europe and parts of Asia. The plant has trifoliate compound leaflets which occur in groups of three. It flowers from spring to midsummer with small, white flowers with purple/pink streaks on each petal. During the night or when it rains the flowers close and the leaves fold.

"Oxalis -- Pink Wood Sorrel"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2010
The genus name of Oxalis is Latin and was derived from the Greek word “oxus” meaning sour -- referring, of course, to the taste of oxalic acid which is found particularly in the leaves and roots of these plants. The specific name, acetosella, is of Latin origin and was the pre-Linnaean* name for common sorrel and other plants with acidic-tasting leaves *(Carl Linnaeus is famous for his work in Taxonomy, the science of identifying, naming and classifying organisms).


"Schizanthus x wisetonesis -- Poor Man's Orchid", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Schizanthus x wisetonensis is native to Chile and is a member of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. This plant is a hybrid between Schizanthus pinnatus and S. grahamii. In Spanish speaking countries, it is known as "planta de la mariposa" (Butterfly plant) and in English speaking countries as "poor man's orchid" or "angel's wings". The flowers are a combination of white, pink yellow and dark maroon. The foliage is light green with deeply incised leaves. 

Schizanthus is a compound word taken from the Greek.  "Schiz" is a combining form meaning “split,” used in the formation of compound words. In this case, Schizanthus means  “split flower”. 

"Schizanthus x wisetonensis",
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2010
As you are probably aware, there are other plants that are referred to as "butterfly" flowers. For example, the butterfly weed (Asclepias) and the butterfly bush (Buddleja). However, Schizanthus are called Butterfly Flowers because the blossoms look similar to showy, South American butterflies. Asclepias and Buddleja have "butterfly" as part of their common name simply because they are well known for attracting butterflies.


"Camellia x 'Night Rider' ", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Camellia x 'Night Rider' is a hybrid of Camellia japonica and is a member of the family, Theaceae. It is also sometimes listed as Camellia japonica 'Night Rider'

Camellias are broad-leaved evergreens from warm temperate regions of eastern Asia. They are known for their abundant showy flowers, their handsome leathery foliage and their longevity. As for Camellia x ‘Night Rider’, the flowers and young foliage of this slow-growing camellia are deep reddish-purple with the underside of the flower petals tending towards black. 

The Night Rider Camellia originated in New Zealand from a cross between Camellia x 'Ruby Bells' and C. japonica 'Kuro-tsubaki'. The cross was made by the late Oswald Blumhardt (1931-2004) in New Zealand and the plant flowered for the first time in 1980.

"Camellia x 'Night Rider' ", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2010
Blumhardt was a plantsman, nurseryman, hybridizer, and plant explorer of the first order. Working with a variety of taxa including Magnolias, Rhododendrons, Camellias, and Orchids, he produced a quantity of hybrids, many of which are important commercial plants. 'Night Rider' is his best-known Camellia hybrid. 

The genus, Camellia, is named in honour of Georg Josef Kamel, a 17th century Jesuit missionary from Moravian-speaking region of the Czech Republic.

Much of the above text was taken from various Internet sources.


Suki demonstrating that 
she can easily out-stare me!

It has been a quiet week for both of us other than having to suffer through all the fireworks set off in our neighbourhood over the recent Victoria Day weekend.  Actually, they don't bother me that much, but Suki does not like them.  They make her very restless and, if they get too loud, Suki heads for her safe place in the back of the bedroom closet.

Otherwise, I have just been watching Suki closely in order to see if I can spot anything that would indicate that her health is somehow worsening. So far, the only change I can see in her behaviour over the past few months is her inclination to spend a lot more time under the "heat" lamp (this is a table lamp with three "healthy plant" light bulbs to help keep my house plants healthy).  Of course, this just may be an indication of her increasing age and have nothing to do with her "idiopathic" hypercalcemia.

Two good things to report:  (1) Suki has finally decided that her new food is worth eating after all.  I guess this is what hunger does to any creature -- you end up eating whatever you can get your mouth into that is even somewhat edible; and (2) Suki has lost a little more weight due to this change in diet and is now at the proper weight for a cat of her size and age.

As for me and my activities, I have quietly maintained my normal routine over these past two weeks.  There haven't been any medical appointments, but there have been visits and phone calls from friends.  In the week ahead, I have two medical appointments and the same is true in the following week. Hopefully, I will have only good news to report from all four of these appointments.

One of the emails I received from a dear friend this week included a photo she had taken of one of her newest neighbours  (see photo below).  Since these neighbours do not like noise and commotion, she and her family are going to have to go in and out of their doorway very quietly for the next month!

Mr. or Mrs. Robin doing egg sitting duty!
Photo by G. Wiercinska, 2017

I should be posting again in two weeks.  In the meantime, I wish all of you the very best.


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Upside-down Flowers

"Artabotrys hexapetalus -- Ylang-Ylang Vine", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

As you know, most flowers grow upright, facing the sun; some flowers grow sideways, facing left or right; and some even grow upside-down, facing the ground. Artabotrys hexapetalus is my most recent drawing of such an upside-down flower. 

Artabotrys hexapetalus is a shrub native to most parts of Asia and the Far East. This plant produces large, canary-yellow flowers which are greenish in the beginning and turn bright yellow as they age. The most common names for Artabotrys hexapetalus include ylang ylang vine, climbing lang-lang and ilang-ilang. When young, it appears to be a shrub but once it attains the height of about 2 meters, it turns into a strong climber. 

The ylang ylang vine is a climbing evergreen reaching a height of between 8 - 10 metres. It is a powerful, far-reaching, many-stemmed climber whose old, woody stems achieve great thickness. It supports itself on other plants by means of modified leaf stems that are shaped like hooks. It also produces bunches of large, round fruit which have long been used in the far East as a medicine for the treatment of scrofula (cervical tuberculosis). 

The plant yields an essential oil and is also used as a flavouring in tea. It is commonly cultivated as an ornamental in the tropics, especially in southern China, Indo-China, the Philippines and also in Java, valued especially for the intoxicating aroma of the flowers. Some call it the “Juicy-fruit-gum” vine as they say the flowers smell similar to that particular brand of chewing gum! 

Fruit of the
Ylang-Ylang Vine

The genus name of Artabotrys combines two Greek words: artao meaning “support” and botrys meaning “a bunch of grapes” (the fruit grows in bunches and looks like a very large bunch of grapes). The species name of hexapetalus also combines two Greek words: hexa meaning “six” and petalus meaning “petals”.

Some previous "upside-down" flowers I have posted:

"Sandersonia aurantiaca - Chinese Lantern Lily", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015
(originally posted October 25, 2015)

"Passiflora parritae -- Passion Flower Vine", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2016
(originally posted on September 11, 2016)

Much of the information given above was taken from various Internet sources.


Some recent photos of my boys:

Older brother explains to younger brother the nature of dwarf planets in our solar system!

All I can say is that I hope Mom isn't the one who has to pick up all these Lego pieces afterwards!

After the hard work of playing, what better way to relax than with a snack and a movie!




Well, thankfully, Suki continues to appear to be feeling fine -- except for her complaints about the food situation!

As you may recall from my posting a fortnight ago, I was sharing my woes and lamentations regarding Suki's diagnosis of probable idopathic hypercalceamia and the problems I was having regarding her food.

Suki can now eat only special food I have to purchase from the vet.  Supposedly, eating this special food, and only this special food, should help to bring her calcium levels back down closer to normal.  When I first began feeding her this new food, Suki would only eat the dry stuff. However, after spending lots of money and experimenting with various types of canned food, we have discovered one kind of wet food that she will eat -- grudgingly -- and only in small amounts.

So, with a small amount of wet food and a large amount of dry food plus water each day, Suki should be OK.  Hopefully, not only will her calcium levels improve, but her weight will go down as well. Loss of weight should give her some additional relief in her back leg joints where she has had ongoing problems with arthritis plus a ruptured ligament.

Of course, if you listen to what Suki has to say, you will hear a very different story. According to her, she is being abused and mistreated by me and, as a result, she is close to death. I am actually trying to starve her by giving her food that is practically inedible.  Worst of all, I abandoned her at that place called a "cat hospital" where she was tortured for hours before being returned home. I am a wicked, wicked caregiver.

Seriously, every time someone comes into my home these days, Suki runs up to them and starts meowing piteously. It is really quite embarrassing as people always ask me what is wrong with my cat. In desperation, I have started fibbing, saying something like: "Oh, it's nothing, she is just part Siamese and so she likes to talk a lot." Somehow, I have a feeling that I won't be getting a Mothers' Day card from Suki anytime today!

Apart from the "crisis" with Suki, everything else remains pretty much as usual.  The adjustments my pain management doctor made to my medication regimen about five months ago seem to still be working fine.  I will be seeing him again in June for my regular 3-month follow-up appointment.

Meanwhile, I have a few weeks here without any medical appointments at all, including none for Suki.  I feel almost as though I am on holiday!


Today is the day most North Americans pay special attention to their mothers.  My own mother died almost 40 years ago now. As well, my older sister, Betty, who was 17 when I was born and who was always like a second mother to me, died ten years ago. So, I shall remember them with much love and affection today -- forgetting any bad stuff and remembering only the many kind things they did for me and all the good times we had together.  

To all you mothers out there, may this day be an especially happy one for each and every one of you.  Peace.

"Mother and Child on Rainy Day", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, rev. 2017


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Flowering Lanterns

"Abuliton pictum -- Dark-veined Chinese Lanterns", drawing by 
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Abutilon pictum, commonly known as Dark-veined Chinese Lanterns or Indian Maple, is a species of Abutilon in the Malvaceae (Mallow) family. It is native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. It was naturalized in India, possibly as early as the 1600s, by the British where it rapidly became so widespread that it is now considered by most Indians to be a native tree. 

Abutilon pictum produces numerous solitary, bell-shaped orange flowers with distinctive thin reddish-purple veins. The blossoms droop lantern-like from the leaf axes on thin stalks. Flowers may bloom almost year around in frost-free, sub-tropical climates. 

Flower structure resembles that of other mallows in that each flower features 5 overlapping petals with stamens fused into a central hibiscus-like column. The flowers are edible, raw or cooked, with the sweet flavor increasing the longer the bloom is open. Branches are clad with three- to five-lobed, dark-green, maple-like leaves. 

The genus name, Abutilon, comes from the Arabic word for a mallow-like plant (awbūtīlūn). The specific name, pictum, comes from the Latin “pictus” meaning brightly marked, painted or variegated in probable reference to the distinctive veins on the flowers.


"Crinodendron hookerianum - Chilean Lantern Tree", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Crinodendron hookerianum, commonly known as the Chilean lantern tree, is an evergreen tree in the family Elaeocarpaceae. It is native to Chile; however, it is a surprisingly cold-tolerant and temperate species within a mostly tropical family of plants. I have heard, for example, that it can be found growing healthily as far north as Scotland.

Crinodendron hookerianum, when in full bloom, is strikingly beautiful. The lantern-shaped flowers range in colour from light pink to crimson. The elegant evergreen-type leaves are lance-shaped, leathery and alternate -- dark green above and hairy whitish green below. Interestingly, the flower buds appear on the always-green tree in the autumn and remain on the tree until spring at which time they swell into pink lanterns. 

The genus name of Crinodendron is from the Ancient Greek words κρίνον meaning "lily" and δένδρον meaning "tree". The specific name of hookerianum honours William Jackson Hooker, an English botanist who studied many Chilean plants and was the Director of Kew Gardens from 1841 to his death in 1865.

Portions of the above text were taken from various Internet sources.


Suki enjoying her chair and the afternoon sunshine
Well, I finally got the report back from the vet and, believe it or not, we still do not have a definite diagnosis.   

At present, the most likely diagnosis is idiopathic hyper-calcemia.  To interpret, this means "we are not really sure why your cat has such high levels of calcium in her blood, but if you will just pay an additional $800, then we will be able to tell you for certain that either your cat has some type of lymphoma (cancer) or just idiopathic hypercalcemia."  And, in case you didn't know, idiopathic means "relating to or denoting any disease or condition that arises spontaneously or for which the cause is unknown."

Whatever the case, I need to try to get Suki's calcium levels down quickly. So, in the next few days, I will be getting the vet clinic to deliver new "veterinary only" food for Suki to learn to eat.  I foresee a week or so of living with a cat who will not eat her food and who then proceeds to complain bitterly about being hungry. I foresee many sleepless nights!

Suki has always been a very fussy eater and so I cannot imagine that she will take kindly to changes in her food.  When she first came to live with me, it took several weeks before I discovered the exact brands of wet food and dry food she was willing to eat.  

As I have recounted in these blog postings many times, whenever I have tried to change her diet in any way, Suki has always refused to participate in my efforts.  Due to her unwillingness to eat anything other than her favourites, she simply goes without anything but water and then makes my life miserable until I finally give in and give her the food she wants.  This time I cannot afford to give in as this is becoming a life or death matter, I fear.

So, next time I post here, I will either have a story of success or a story of continuing failure to recount.  I am trying my best to be positive about it all, but I am afraid that my previous experiences with Suki are causing me to be somewhat skeptical about my chances of a successful outcome.


As for me, I continue to be about the same as usual these days.

I do have two medical appointments this week.  
One, an MRI of my spine, is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 7:15 A.M. Somehow I will have to get myself up and out of here by 7 A.M.  I've made arrangements with a friend who is always up early to give me a phone call around 5:30 just to make certain that I haven't shut off the alarm clock and gone back to sleep! 
Then, on Tuesday, I go see the ophthalmologist at the hospital for an "every six-months", follow-up appointment.

Happy May 1st everyone!



Sunday, 16 April 2017

Thorns and More Thorns

"Solanum pyracanthum -- Porcupine Tomato", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Today I am featuring two new drawings which focus on flowering, thorny plants.  Good Friday always makes me think of thorns and, thus, it seemed to be that this weekend might be the one for sharing these new artistic efforts.

The first plant featured is Solanum pyracanthum. This is the botanical name for the porcupine tomato or devil’s thorn. Solanum is the genus of the tomato, potato and deadly Nightshade family and this plant bears many discrete resemblances to these plants, particularly to tomatoes. Native to tropical Madagascar and the islands of the western Indian Ocean, it has been introduced into many countries over the years but, thankfully, has not shown itself to be invasive. This is because the plant is very slow to reproduce and birds avoid the berries, so the seeds don’t get distributed easily. 

While many people consider thorns to be a drawback in plants, the thorns on a porcupine tomato are quite striking and are, in fact, the first thing you notice about this plant. The gray-green leaves give way to red-orange thorns which grow straight up on the sides of the leaves. Along with the colorful thorns, there are also lavender/blue flowers. The flowers are shaped much like other members of the Solanum family and have yellow centers. The back of each petal has a white stripe that runs from the tip to the base. 

The leaves, flowers and fruit of the plant are poisonous. Like many members of the Solanum genus, particularly Deadly Nightshade, the porcupine tomato contains highly toxic tropane alkaloids. 

The genus name of Solanum is from the Latin and means “solace” or “quietude” (referring to the narcotic properties of some species). The specific name of pyracanthum comes from the Latin and means “fire thorn”.

"Euphorbia milii -- Crown of Thorns", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

I previously featured a drawing this particular plant (Euphorbia milii) back in 2009 [see drawing below right]. However, with all the Lenten reminders of the passion of Christ, I decided to do another drawing -- this time making the thorns more prominent.

"Euphorbia milii -- Crown of Thorns, 2009",
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer
Euphorbia milii, of the family Euphorbiaceae, is a woody, spiny, climbing succulent shrub with shoots reaching a height of six feet. While the plant appears to have sizable pink flowers, the “flowers” are actually pink leaves (bracts) while the flowers are the tiny bits growing in the centre. 

Euphorbia milii is also known as “Crown of Thorns” or the "Christ Plant" as tradition has it that this plant was used to make the crown of thorns with which the Roman soldiers are said to have crowned Christ. Although the plant originated in Madagascar, there is substantial evidence that the species had been brought to the Middle East before the time of Christ. The plants send out thorny stems which are very pliable and could easily have been intertwined into a circle. The sap of Euphorbia milii can cause severe dermatitis on the skin of those who are susceptible and it is poisonous when ingested. 

The genus name, Euphorbia, was first published by Carolus Linnaeus in the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753. However, it can be traced back as far as 79 A.D. to the Roman officer, Pliny the Elder, as it is mentioned in his book, Natural History of Pliny. The genus, Euphorbia, honours an African physician named Euphorbus who lived during the lst century A.D. The species name, milii, commemorates Baron Milius, once governor of Reunion, who in 1821 introduced the species to France.

Much of the text above was taken from various Internet sources.


Here are the boys after their Easter Egg Hunt with their Easter greeting.  

"Happy Easter Everyone!"




Suki with her favourite toy in MY chair!
Poor Suki!  I have been treating her very kindly ever since Thursday evening.  Why?  Well, let me tell you the whole, sad story...

Suki had an appointment scheduled with the vet for this past Thursday morning at 10:30.  All that was supposed to occur during this visit was a bit of "bloodletting" so that the blood tests done six weeks ago could be repeated. We arrived at the clinic about 10:20 and were quickly taken into an exam room.

After the vet assistant had removed Suki from the case and weighed her (no significant weight loss yet I am sorry to say), she asked me if Suki was fasting.  Shocked, I replied, "No. I'm sorry, but no one told me that she should be fasting."

The young woman apologized and said that whoever had made the appointment should have informed me about the need for Suki to be fasting when her blood was drawn.  So, unsure what to do, off she went to check with the vet as to whether the blood work could be done if Suki had eaten breakfast.

She returned to inform me that they would not be able to get the correct results unless Suki was fasting.  Thankfully, she then informed me that the vet had suggested a possible solution.  If I was willing to leave Suki there until the afternoon, they would take her blood once 9-10 hours had elapsed (she had her breakfast at 5:30) and then either she or the vet would drop Suki off at my place on their way home (both live in my neighbourhood).

I immediately thought that this was a really nice thing for them to offer to do and, so, I quickly agreed to their plan.  After scratching Suki's head once more and telling her that I would see her later, I left for home. Of course, I was not really settled for the rest of the day as the vet's assistant had mentioned that if they finished early, Suki could be home by mid-afternoon.

As it turned out, Suki did not get back home until just after 6 p.m. The assistant telephoned me at 5:45 to tell me that the vet, herself, would be bringing Suki home. I quickly got myself organized and then went down to the lobby to watch for them. When I saw the vet's car pull up, I went out outside and the transfer was quickly made.  I thanked her profusely while she informed me that the results of Suki's blood work should be available by Monday or Tuesday and that she will phone to inform me of the findings.

After saying goodbye, I rushed (as much as I am able to rush these days) upstairs and opened the cat carrier.  Out stalked a very indignant Miss Suki. She began to carefully inspect every inch of our living space, including the closets, meowing loudly the entire time.  Truly, I am grateful that I have never figured out how to speak or understand cat language as I fear that her comments during this inspection tour may have been the sort which would require me to put a lot of "bleeps" into this paragraph!

After eating a small amount of food, Suki then began to take short naps from which she would awaken meowing loudly.  Each time this happened, I would gently call her name a few times.  She would then stop her cries and settle down for another short nap. Eventually, she came and jumped up onto my lap and there she stayed until I got up to prepare our suppers.  By the time of her bedtime snack, she seemed to be pretty much back to normal; however, I do vaguely recall that she jumped into bed with me soon after I had fallen asleep.  She was still next to me when I awakened the next morning.

I will inform you of the results of her blood tests on April 30th which is when I plan to make my next blog posting. Hopefully, the news will all be good.

As for me, I continue to be and do the same.  I have had a couple of medical appointments over the past two weeks, but, as usual these days, they were just follow-up type appointments with nothing new to report.

Meanwhile, let me wish you all a very joyful Easter Season.

Καλο Πασχα
Срећан Ускрс
Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych
Happy Easter



Sunday, 2 April 2017

Tropaeolum tricolor

"Tropaeolum tricolour -- Chilean Nasturtium", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017 

The Chilean Nasturtium - Tropaeolum tricolor - is a stunning, rare vine with psychedelic blooms! Its vivid scarlet, yellow, and violet flowers swim like schools of tropical fish throughout winter, when most plants are colorless. It is a species of perennial plant in the family, Tropaeolaceae. 

Tropaeolum tricolor is native to Chile and Bolivia where it is called either soldadito rojo or relicario. The vine tends to grow 4 to 6 feet tall, although it can potentially get to 9 feet. It has wiry stems and dainty leaves, both of which are surprisingly durable. The leaf stems are sensitive to touch and act like tendrils, wrapping themselves around branches as the plant climbs upward. Around late winter, once the plant has all its leaves, the flowers make their appearance. They tend to face the same general direction, giving the impression that they're swimming together! 

Sephanoides sephanoides
Three-coloured Chilean Nasturtium grows in the cloud forest on the coastal mountains of northern Chile at 300 to 900 metres (980 to 2,950 ft.). Further south it grows in inland temperate forests in the central regions. Here it grows on level ground or north facing slopes in full sun or dappled shade. It can endure periods of drought of up to 10 months. The tubers are well buried and are hardy down to a temperature of about −8 °C (18 °F) and can tolerate short periods of snow cover. The flowers are pollinated by the green-backed, fire-crown hummingbird (Sephanoides sephanoides). This is the same hummingbird that pollinates Philesia magellanica (the Chilean Bellflower) which I featured back on 2 October 2016. 

The genus name of Tropaeolum is taken from the Latin word “tropaeum” meaning “trophy” which refers to the shape of the flowers. Tricolour obviously means “three colours”. Tri is taken from either the Latin "tres" or Greek "treis", both of which mean "three".

Much of the above information was taken from various Internet sources.


Suki -- Simple house cat or
master manipulator?
I have the strangest feeling that I have been conned -- once again -- by this cat! And, yet, it truly doesn't seem possible. Let me explain...

Two weeks ago, I took Suki to the vet. After weighing her, the vet explained to me, in great detail, the need for me to try to bring down Suki's weight.  As we talked, Suki sat there between us very quietly -- looking at us as we spoke -- almost as though she was listening carefully to what was being said.

After the vet had finished explaining very carefully how Suki would have less pain if I got her weight down by even one pound, I promised I would do my best to strictly adhere to her instructions. I felt quite guilty for not doing better and promised myself that in the future I would not give in to Suki's pleas for extra food or treats.

After we returned home, I began Suki's new feeding regimen. Although Suki immediately began to complain about the smaller portions she was getting, I determinedly stuck to my resolutions.

However, on the third day of this new arrangement, Suki suddenly began to exhibit symptoms of illness.  It was like she had the symptoms of a mild flu bug as she was throwing up and having a bit of diarrhea.  For about a day, Suki was not interested in food at all, but by day 2 of her "illness", she was allowing me to feed her small amounts of her favourite foods plus a few treats.  Her symptoms of illness quickly disappeared and everything seemed to return to normal.

In the process, however, Suki somehow ended up back on her regular feeding schedule and off her new diet!  Now I am afraid to put her back on a diet for fear that she might become "ill" once again.  Meanwhile, I have a sneaking suspicion that this cat has, once again, manipulated me into giving her what she wants.

I have no idea how Suki might have accomplished this, but I must say that her "illness" was rather perfectly timed. Her symptoms begin about two days into a rather strict diet and then, mysteriously, her symptoms disappeared as soon as she started receiving her full rations once again!  I know I have a highly skeptical nature, but doesn't this all seem just a bit suspicious to you as well?

As for me, other than possibly being conned once again by my kitty-cat companion, I am doing as well as conditions allow.  I continue to be able to spend a few hours each day doing art work. This activity not only fully distracts my attention from awareness of the never-ending pain, but it also gives me a great deal of pleasure.  I hope that at least some of the results of this art work provide others, such as yourselves, with a bit of pleasure as well.

I, also, continue to be able to read by using my iPad to fix the size of the font and the grayness of the background. Thankfully, reading also continues to be another way to completely distract myself from the awareness of my poor, old body.  Thank goodness, ever since I learned to read at the age of 4 I have been able to "lose" myself in books.  

As a note of interest, my older sister, Janet, taught me to read. She had already decided, at age 11, that she was going to be a teacher and was busy trying to teach me and all the neighbourhood children how to read. As I recall, her methods were rather strict and a bit unorthodox; however, she managed to get the job done and for that I will always be grateful.

Speaking of reading, I have just finished the book: "Last Chance to See" by Douglas Adams (yes, "The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy" guy, now deceased).  It was written well over 20 years ago and tells the story of Adams and a British zoologist visiting a number of endangered species throughout the world to see what efforts are being made to save them.  I wanted to read this book after coming watching a British TV mini-series following up on these same creatures 20 years later.  This time, since Adams is deceased, they asked Stephen Fry to accompany the BBC team along with the same zoologist.  The book and TV series were both delightful encounters, but left me feeling, oh, so sad as I consider what we have done and continue to do to this planet and all its myriads of plants and animals.  

Sadly, and without casting any blame since we are all guilty to some extent, it is currently estimated that dozens of species, above the natural “background” rate, are going extinct every day.  So many species which have been present for millions of years on this planet, many of which we haven't even identified yet, are now silently, hopelessly, simply disappearing from the earth. Fortunately, the DNA of many of these plants and animals has been taken and carefully stored.  So, perhaps, if there is ever a time in the future when people actually treat the planet with respect so that the earth begins to heal, many of these can live once again.

Anyway, thanks for listening!
I will be back in two weeks.  Until then, take care everyone.