Saturday, 31 July 2010

Lilies and Roses -- Not

Victoria cruziana Santa Cruz Water Lily

The plants, commonly called "water lilies," belong to a Family by the name of Nymphaeaceae.  These plants live in fresh water in temperate and tropical climates around the world.  The Family contains eight genera -- the one shown above is of the genus Victoria. The genus Victoria contains two species of giant water lilies and can be found in South America.  Water lilies are rooted in soil in bodies of water, with leaves and flowers floating on the water's surface.

 Viburnum opulus Guelder Rose

Viburnum opulus is a species of Viburnum native to Europe and Asia.  The common name "Guelder Rose" appears to have originated because a popular sub-species supposedly first originated in the Dutch Province of Gelderland.  

It  is naturalized in North America where it has been misleadingly re-named as "European Cranberry Bush" (it is not a cranberry).  It does have small, edible, red fruit with a very acidic taste; however, it is mildly toxic.   The dried bark is used as a tincture known as "Cramp Bark", to alleviate painful menstrual cramps.  It has been used in the treatment of various other female problems and is also a muscle relaxant and antispasmodic.

Viburnum opulus is the national symbol of the Ukraine.  The bush can be traced throughout Ukrainian folklore and is found in songs, paintings and Ukrainian embroidery.

My friend, Hylott, sent me a beautiful pps which contained these three animal photographs with the saying attached.

This first one, actually a painting, has a quote from Leonardo Da Vinci which leaves little doubt as to his feelings about human brutality.

This second one is a photograph and a beautiful one at that.  Once again there is a quote which puts mankind in a pretty bad light when compared with the rest of God's creatures.

This third one I just had to include both because of the adorable puppy as well as the wonderful statement accompanying the photo.  Dogs, for the most part, can teach us a great deal about unconditional love.  
My big news today, however, is that I have finally sent my latest book to the publishers.  This is the book I have been talking about completing for over a year now -- and I have finally completed it!  The titled is NOVENA ICONS and it contains the icon, information page and prayer for about 28 saints.  There are 33 entries, but there is one for the Sacred Heart and at least 4 for Our Lady.

Anyway, it is now available for purchase -- although you may want to wait a couple of weeks to see if I make any changes after I get my hands on the first printed copy!  You can go ahead and take a look at the preview by going to then going to book store and putting my name in the search box.  I would really love to have some feedback.

Now I shall continue to enjoy my evening, free of any pressure to go and work on  the book!  It is finally finished.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Icon from a Painting

I am calling this drawing "Icon from a Non-Icon".  I admit this isn't a very exciting name for a drawing, but at least it conveys exactly what it is.

Even though it has elements of an icon, i.e. the Greek letters for Theotokos and Jesus Christ, it has many more elements that are non-iconic.  For example, in "true" icons, Jesus is almost never shown as a baby except in the drawings of the Nativity when He is shown lying in a bit of straw placed in a manger.  I do not think I have ever seen an icon of Mother and Child where Jesus is portrayed as an infant.  He is always either a young boy or, occasionally, a small adult.  As well, our Lady is almost always dressed in symbolic colours of red and blue (or variations thereof).  Her hair is never shown but is always covered by a head covering.

So, when I came across a beautiful drawing of the Mother and Child and wanted to try to convert it to an iconic style, I took a lot of liberties.  I ended up with something I am pleased with and I guess in the end that is all that matters.  

There have been a number of news items recently about an ice cream truck in England that caters exclusively to dogs.  I mean everyone knows that dogs eating ice cream is nothing new -- they love it (except for chocolate which can make them sick).  What is different about this ice cream, however, is that there are flavours exclusively for dogs.  I mean having bacon flavoured ice cream, while not appealing to humans, must be delicious for the doggies.  And each cone comes with a dog biscuit on top!  

The news clips were showing dogs gobbling up their ice cream cones in two big bites or less!  One person, buying his dog a cone, had just saying "well, now maybe he will leave my cone alone". As he said this, his dog finished his cone and immediately started trying to eat his "master's".  Some things never change.

I love this photo of a child and a dog playing together.  I am not certain if the dog is yapping or singing.  The little girl looks as though she is singing some sort of counting song.  Whatever is going on, you can bet that we are looking at one very happy little dog.

This is also a very sweet photo of a young girl with her dog (and a beautiful dog it is).  I can just imagine how getting licked in your ear by a dog will tickle as I have had it done to me on numerous occasions.  As well, I now have a cat who is also an "ear licker".  Of course, with a cat you have the added delight of that sandpaper tongue.  I don't think my ears have ever been cleaner than they are now -- the fact that they look red and scraped is just the price I have to pay.  At least a dog's tongue is soft!

This is not a very involved posting plus it is a day or two late.  I apologize but I am involved in a marathon push to finish my book by the end of July -- that's right, I said the end of July.  Seeing that July 31 is only 4 days from today, I have really been working.  I think I just might make it.  I will try to post again on the 31st to let you know what happened.  Say a prayer for my stamina.

May peace be with you all.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Parrot's Beak (Pico de Paloma)

Lotus maculatus

Lotus maculatus, also known as Parrot's Beak in English or Pico de Paloma in Spanish, is a beautiful wildflower of Tenerife. It gets its common name from the flower petals that are curved upward and resemble a parrot's beak. Lotus maculatus is almost extinct in the wild but surviving in gardens and parks. It is a member of the Family Fabaceae.

These lovely flowers have great difficulty producing seed pods. It has been suggested that the problem of pollenation stems from the extinction of a local bird species that was responsible for helping the plants propagate. Eventually these plants may be entirely dependent on humans for their survival.

Maria in the Ukraine

Above is a recent drawing is of one of my "girls". I have been sponsoring Maria since she was about 3 years old. She is now ready to enter grade 2. She is a lovely young girl and her favourite subjects are reading and painting! Truly a child after my own heart.

Next, I want to show you some cute animal photos.

Lambs Loving

They look so sweet, but I have had personal experience with lambs. They are always losing their mothers (even if the mother sheep is standing a short distance away!). When they decide that they have lost their mother, they begin this loud bleating sound which causes the mother to begin a loud baa-ing noise. Even if they are only a few feet apart, this noise will continue for a long time until finally each lamb is able to find its mother's teat and start nursing. What a production -- especially early in the morning when you might be trying to sleep!

"But I have already had a bath, honest"

I love this photo of a big dog gently washing such a tiny kitten. There is no fear here on the part of the kitten of this large dog. The dog is a known quantity in its life so it feels safe in spite of the massive difference in size. Fear, it seems to me, is present when we face the unknown -- whether we are talking about the fears that people experience or those of dogs and cats. Once something is known and has proven that it is not our enemy, then the fear leaves us and we can even be at peace with what was once something we feared. I always think of John Paul II when I talk about fear as I recall how often he said: "Be not afraid..."

Don't even think about it, kitty cat!

I had a good laugh when I first saw this photo. This is a case where the cat should have fear and doesn't. Who knowns, he may be able to make friends with the eagle, but somehow I don't think the eagle is in a very friendly mood!
My advice would be for the cat to turn around and slowly walk the other way.

Well, I guess that is enough foolishness for one posting. I am spending a lot of time these days trying to finish my book. The publishing company has a special on that provides a big discount if you turn in your book for publishing before midnight on July 31st. I think this is giving me the incentive that I need to finish it. By the way, this is still the Novena Icons book that I have had underway since late last winter! I guess I had better get back to it.

Peace be with you all -- remember, be not afraid.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Beware -- Poison

Zigadenus elegans

Zigadenus elegans of the Family, Liliaceae is commonly known as "Death Camas" and "Mountain Death Camas".  Zigadenus is derived from Greek zugon meaning "yoke" and aden which means "gland" while elegans is Latin for "elegant".

All parts of this plant contain the poisonous alkaloid zygadenine, which some claim to be more potent than strychnine.  Two bulbs, raw or cooked, can be fatal.  Poisoning results from confusing these bulbs with those of edible species such as wild onion bulbs.  Unfortunately, sometimes cattle accidently eat the plant when it is mixed in with native grasses.

As  you would expect, Native Americans were well aware of the poisonous traits of this plant.  They would, however, very carefully mash the bulbs into a pulp and use this as a wet dressing for sprains.  I would think that in this case both the "doctor" and the patient would have to be very, very careful not to actually touch the mash or let it touch the skin directly.  I, personally, think I would rather just have a sprained ankle!

Icon of St. John Resting on the Heart of Jesus

Here is another drawing of my version of the Sacred Heart.  Lately, I have found the idea of St. John resting his head on the shoulder of Jesus, as he is said to have done at the "Last Supper", very appealing.  Just the thought that he was in a position to actually hear the heart of Jesus beating as Our Lord talked about His upcoming crucifixion and death and distributed the blessed bread and wine, saying: "take and eat, this is My body, this is My blood".  Did His heartbeat speed up as He talked about the suffering and death that He knew awaited Him?  What did St. John actually hear? What did he think?  Did he say anything to Our Lord that is not recorded?  I ponder this image and these questions and I am deeply moved.

As for the drawing itself, just like the similar one I posted last week, I feel that it is awkwardly done.  As you know, I usually work from an image I have found online or in a book and am able to trace most of the major parts of the drawing so that I have everything in right relationship on the small space I have to work on -- a box inside a box on my computer screen.  But with these, I found no icon-type drawings of just Our Lord and St. John.  They are usually part of the large drawing known as the "Last Supper".  So, with this image as with the other one, I have had to do a lot of improvisation and I am not very good at that! 

Oh, well, I think these drawings were done more for my own reflection than for anything else.

"I am sorry that I woke you up"

Isn't this just an adorable photo of a kitten?  I thought of all kinds of captions I could use for the picture, but decided to stick with a simple one.  I mean, if you know anything at all about cats, you know that they are never sorry to have awakened you since that means that there is the possibility of food, play or just some attention.

With a sweet face like this little guy has, I imagine that he can get away with almost anything.

"I WOOF You"

I don't think I have shown you this photo before.  If I have, just try to enjoy it again.  I like the picture and I think it would make a cute valentine for a guy who loves dogs.

When I look at this photo, I can't help but wonder if the fence was made that way or if someone went to all the trouble to cut out this section just so they could take this picture! 

Here is another one of those politically incorrect advertisements.  Looking at the hairstyle, makeup and the top of her dress, I would guess that the ad was made some time back in the 1950's.  Back then, if I had seen this ad, I would have just thought that it was cute, maybe laughed a little laugh and gone on my way.

Today, however, such an ad could only be used as a spoof.  In just over 50 years, such an ad would never be taken seriously by anyone.  If you tried to update this ad, using the same caption, nobody would think you were doing anything other than trying to make a joke.   

Well, I am writing this post on a hot Saturday afternoon.  I heard on the news last night that this past year has been the hottest year, worldwide, on record and next year is expected to be even worse.  This is not good, folks.  We have to wonder how much longer our power grids are going to hold out.

Well, keep trying to conserve and encourage others to do the same.  Meanwhile, we can just be extremely grateful that at this moment we do have air conditioning!

Peace be with you all.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Beautiful Images

Our Lady of the Greek Capitals

I do not know the proper name of this icon.  The only title I could find was written in Greek.  I tried to figure out what it said, but it requires more than just knowing the Greek alphabet.  So, since the name was written in Greek capitals, I am calling the icon "Our Lady of the Greek Capitals".

Christ is shown as a boy in this drawing rather than a baby with an adult face.  He is also holding an open scroll with writing on it instead of the usual closed scroll, tied with red strings.  I wish I could find out more about this icon, but, so far, I have been unable to.  If any of you should come across more information, please pass it along to me.

This rather unusual looking plant is called Rhodochiton astrosanguineus of the Family, Plantaginaceae.  It is a native of Mexico woodlands.

Rhodochiton astrosanguineus is also known as Rhodochiton volubilis meaning "purple bells".  It can grow to a height of 3 metres and spread to a width of three metres.  Though it grows wild in Mexico, it has been cultivated in various other parts of the world.  It is actually a tender plant and very sensitive to cooler temperatures or frost.  The dark green, heart-shaped leaves make it a very attractive climber when cultivated.

Now, let me introduce you to the art of Robert Duncan.  He is an American artist who grew up in Utah and Wyoming and his art depicts scenes of farm or small town life from this part of the world.  I think I was introduced to his work by my friend, Hylott.  He knows I am interested in everybody's art and so sends me any pps documents that contain art work.

The scenes presented in these two painting (above and below) remind me very much of the kind of countryside I grew up in.  Even though rural Utah and rural Alabama are a long way from each other, the farm and small town life in the U.S. looks pretty much the same wherever you go.

Have you ever tried to ride a cow?  The hard part is finding a way to get on!

I love this painting because both the mother and the child are barefoot.  I remember in grade school that some of the really poor children would start coming to school barefoot when the warm weather arrived -- they were trying to save their shoes.  Even I went barefoot as often as I was allowed to in the summer.  Sometimes the rough ground required sandals, however.  But, oh, the ground often felt so good beneath your feet.

As for Robert Duncan, he is quoted as saying:  "I decided years ago to paint the things that I cared most about.  That decision has brought me a lot of joy and satisfaction and I'm especially grateful that my family has been such an important part of all this."

He and his wife, their six children and a lively assortment of farm animals live in a small town in northern Utah.

The number of days between each posting are starting to vary more and more -- sometimes 3 days -- 4 days -- five days...  Maybe it is this hot summer weather -- perhaps it has infected me with a attitude of manana!

Anyway, I hope whoever reads this posting will enjoy reading it and when they finish, will feel themselves at peace.

God bless you.

Friday, 9 July 2010

St. Elijah Returns

I have always enjoy the story of Elijah having to go and hide in the wilderness after God had him tell the evil king that because of his evil doings, there would be no rain in the land for three years.  The drought would only end if Elijah told it to end! 

Obviously, then, Elijah needed to get out of town fast.  The Lord God directed him to the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan River.  There he would have water to drink, a cave for his home and, promised God, ravens would come each day to bring him bread and meat (they don't seem to have been too big on veggies at that time).  So, this is exactly what happened.  I won't tell you how the story ends -- if you are interested, you can go and read it for yourselves in I Kings 17 : 1 and following.

Elijah remains one of my favourite Old Testament prophets so when I came across a picture of an ancient icon of Elijah being fed by ravens, I knew right away that I wanted to try depicting the same thing myself.  The result is above.  As always, I welcome any opinions.

Next I want to show you a recent drawing of another Passion flower.  There are so many varieties of these flowers and they are all so unique.

As you may recall from my post on September 2nd, 2009, I said, when speaking about another variety of Passion Flower:  The drawing shows the magenta "petals" and the "crown of thorns" in the centre. The symbolism of Christ's Passion found in the flower gave rise to the name. Supposedly, this connection was made by a Jesuit priest in the 1600's in South America. 

The Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) was used historically in South America and later in Europe as a "calming" herb for anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and hysteria. It is still used today to treat anxiety and insomnia. "Although scientists aren't sure, it is believed that the passion flower works by increasing levels of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA lowers the activity of some brain cells, resulting in relaxation.

Native to southeastern parts of the Western Hemisphere, passion flowers are now grown throughout Europe. It is a perennial climbing vine with herbaceous shoots and a sturdy woody stem that grows to a length of nearly 10 meters (about 32 feet). Each flower has 5 petals and 5 sepals that vary in colour from magenta to blue. According to folklore, the passion flower was given its name because its corona resembles the crown of thorns worn by Jesus during the crucifixion.

Here is a drawing I did recently of one of my little girls. 

Xandra Ann is 10 years old, almost 11, and she lives in the Philippines, south of Manila.  Her biggest issue at the moment is studying -- she would much rather play with her friends.  Recently we talked about what she wants to do when she grows up and I was able to use this conversation to show her that if she wants a career, then she must get some good grades -- C's and D's just will not do! 

Finally, tonight, I want to show you one of the most outrageous advertisements I have ever seen.  This was an actual advertisement from the early part of the 1900's. 

If you look carefully, you will see that the advertiser is selling "sanitized tape worms" for feminine weight loss.  The ad promises "no danger" and "no ill effects".  Evidently, all you do is swallow the recommended number of sanitized tape worms and just sit back and watch the pounds melt away!

No mention is made of what is supposed to be done when you have reached your desired weight!  What if you can't get rid of the blasted tape worms and you just keep getting thinner and thinner?  Yikes.  Can you believe that this ad was actually allowed to be printed and posted in magazines, billboards, etc.  We seem to have a bit more control today over what can be advertised, but there are still some commercials out there for weight loss that are just little less of a scam than "sanitized tape worms"!

May peace be with you all.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Love those Pomegranates!

Today's first drawing is of Pomegranate flowers. 

When I think of Pomegranates, I always think of the delicious fruit or juice; however, I decided to take a closer look at the plant and realized that it has beautiful flowers.

Actually, I asked my friend, Hylott, to take some photos of the flowers [I think he has a plant on his property].  Anyway, he kindly did so and this set me on the path of doing a drawing.  As you may know, orangey/red is one of my favourite colours to work with -- so I thoroughly enjoyed doing this drawing.  The proper name of the Pomegranate is Punica granatum L.  The Family is PunicaceaePunica granatum L. is almost in a class of its own.  There is only one other species which is found only on the Island of Socotra. 

Since the Pomegrante plants have been with us as far back as time itself, this means that the plant has a fascinating history.  It is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and has been cultivated since ancient times throughout the Mediterranean region of Asia, Africa and Europe.  The fruit was used in many ways as it is today and was praised in the Old Testament of the Bible and in the Babylonian Talmud.  It was carried by desert caravans for the sake of its thirst-quenching juice.  The plants "travelled" to central and southern India from Iran in about the first century A.D.

The fruit is familiar to all of us as is the juice -- taken plain or mixed with other fruit juice or alcohol -- it is also made into wine.  From simply eating the fruit with juice dripping down your chin to having Pomegranate jelly on the breakfast table, almost everyone enjoys the sweet taste of the Pomegranate.

This next drawing is of a plant that, unlike the Pomegranate, has a very limited range.  Its proper name is Erythronium japonicum of the Family, Liliaceae.  Its common name is Katakuri.  It is a native plant of Japan, Korea and northeastern China. 

In this part of Asia, the bulb is used as a source of starch for thickening food sauces.  In Japan, it is called katakuri-ko.  It is used in dumplings, confectionary and as a thickening agent for soups.  It is preferred over other starches for use in sauces which must thicken but not gel upon cooling.  It may also be used to make tempura.

I decided to draw the flowers, however, simply because I think they are quite lovely, especially the line pattern at the base of the petals.

Here is the first of two new photos of THE cat, Suki. 

In this photo, she is in the first stage of attack mode.  She has noticed that I am moving in the direction of "her" chair which means she has to prepare herself for her famous ambush.

As I walk past the chair to straighten the throw rug she has disarranged (does she do this as a strategy?), she prepares to jump into the chair when my back is turned.  Once in the chair, she will hunker down and wait.

Here is the second stage of her attack. 

She is now in the chair waiting for me to turn and walk past (all the while I am supposed to pretend that I do not see her).  Just as I begin to walk past the chair, she springs into action.  Leaping from the seat to the top of the chair back, she tries to grab my sleeve.  I, of course, have seen all of this while pretending not to and am able to move my arm away just in time. 

Failing in her first effort, she now will jump again -- flying over the arm of the chair and trying to catch my leg.  When she fails at this, she now tracks me very closely so that I can barely move.  At this point, if I don't watch her constantly, she will grab my leg.  Thus, by staring at her, I am able to keep her at bay even though she follows my every step.

Occasionally, I forget she is in the chair and she actually catches my sleeve.  You cannot imagine how impressed she is with herself when this happens!

Hope you are all managing to keep cool.

Peace be with you.