Sunday, 23 February 2014

Hollyhocks - Alcea

"Hollyhocks - Alcea", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Alcea, commonly known as hollyhocks, is a genus of about 60 species of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae. They are native to Asia and Europe. Hollyhocks are popular garden ornamental plants. They are easily grown from seed. Those with red/pink flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Cultivars range in colour from raspberry to maroon (which looks black). The stems of hollyhocks can be used as firewood, and the roots have been used medicinally.  I thoroughly enjoyed doing this drawing as these lovely blossoms always remind me of one of the few really happy creative memories of my childhood.

I remember being taught to make my first hollyhock doll when I was about 5 years old.  The place was a small town in Tennessee where our neighbours happened to have a number of hollyhock bushes in their back yard.  One of the older girls in the group of neighbourhood children with whom I spent my days playing at that time not only had the skills to make hollyhock dolls but the ability to teach others as well -- and so she taught me.  

Looking back now, I am not really sure that we had permission to use the hollyhock blossoms from the neighbour's yard; however, we were not too concerned about such matters at the time.  The thrill of having made my own beautiful hollyhock lady was so exciting that all matters of right and wrong were forgotten.  I do recall keeping my hollyhock doll hidden in my bedroom until the petals were so dry they crumbled at the slightest touch.

Hollyhock Dolls -- photo from Internet
Making hollyhock dolls is an old-fashioned craft that's been enjoyed by children for generations. In fact, the dolls have been popular for centuries. References to hollyhock dolls have been found in many cultures. Single hollyhocks are the flower of choice for flower doll materials because they grow everywhere -- earning them the nickname of alley orchids. So, in case you ever feel inclined to make your own doll or teach a child how to make one, here is all the information that you will need.

1. Select a fully opened hollyhock blossoms and turn it upside down to form the skirt. 
2. Pinch out the pistil and stamens as needed. 
3. Thread a toothpick through the flower with the blunt edge at the bottom. Thread on as many blossoms as you wish. 
4. Choose another blossoms or flower bud for the doll's body. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top of the toothpick to secure the doll's head. 
5. Once you've chosen a bud or seedpod to use for the doll's head, experiment with different coloured flowers to create a fashionable hat.
Information on making a hollyhock doll taken from




My friend, Eugene, sent me a photo recently of his furry companion, Desi, having a chat with an acquaintance by the name of Shrek.  I haven't seen Desi, in "person", for several years now and didn't really recognize her at first as she has matured quite a bit since that time.  She remains a beautiful cat, however, and I thought you might enjoy seeing her photo as well.

Evidently, this photo was taken on one of those very cold days we have had over these past weeks.  I can imagine that Desi might have been telling Shrek just how grateful he should be that they were both on the inside of the window and not outside!

Desi with her friend, Shrek!  Desi is the furry companion of my friend, Eugene.  
Desi and Suki are about the same age.



Recently, an Internet buddy sent me a collection of photos of abandoned buildings, train stations, churches and so forth.  The photographs came from locations across the globe.  What most amazed me about the images was the beauty that had been captured in these scenes of derelict and decaying buildings as well as how quickly nature had re-claimed anything outdoors.  The following photo is a clear example of the beauty that I am talking about.  If you are interested in seeing more examples, go to:

Abandoned Church, Detroit, Michigan, USA
What beautiful stained glass art!



My Valentine`s Day card from Suki!
Some sneaky friend of mine helped Suki make a Valentine for me!  Of course, I didn't receive it until well after the 14th; however, as they say, it is the thought that counts.  I have my suspicions about who assisted Suki in this activity, but until I have actual proof, I will be keeping my suspicions to myself. I did question Suki about this matter; however, she did not give up her accomplice.  To every question I asked, she simply replied "meow".  She would make a good spy!

Otherwise, Suki has been leading a very quiet life -- except for this past Thursday night...

Thursday, as you may recall, was the day I was scheduled to have the upper endoscopy at the hospital so that the doctor could try to see what has been going on with my stomach these past months. Well, the procedure took place as planned (more about that later) and I returned home none the worse for wear except that I was very, very sleepy.

I was sedated during the procedure, of course, and even though I slept for about an hour in recovery, I was still quite sleepy when my friend, Sharon, got me back home about 3 p.m.  Even though I tried to stay awake during the remainder of the day, I kept falling asleep. Finally, I reached a point where I decided it was foolish to keep fighting sleep while waiting for bedtime and, so, even though it was still fairly early in the evening, I just went to bed.

Up to this point, Suki really had not been affected by all of this.  I had fed her when I first arrived back home and fed her again when I fixed my own supper around 7 p.m.  However, when I went to bed a couple of hours later, I forgot to put out any food for Suki to munch on during those nighttime hours.  

Usually, this wouldn't be a problem as Suki would have reminded me by awakening me from sleep long enough for me to get up and put some food down for her. That evening was different in that I was sleeping so deeply that even Suki, with all her clever tricks, couldn't get me to wake up long enough to get out of bed.

Even worse, I have a number of vague recollections of Suki trying to awaken me which caused me, in turn, to groggily pick Suki up off the bed and drop her very roughly onto the floor.  I think I even remember Suki growling at me at one point when I grabbed her while her claws were still embedded in the mattress -- and Suki never growls at me -- just at pigeons, other cats and some humans! Not only could she not awaken me, she also could not prevent me from sleeping rather late into the next morning.  

By the time I finally "came to", I was confronted by a very upset and very hungry cat!  As I fed her, I did apologize and try to explain why I had behaved in such an unkind way, but I am not sure Suki really believed me!  At that point, it is a good bet that she would have taken her Valentine back if she could have gotten her little paws on it! 

As for me and my ongoing health issues, I did find out why my stomach has been giving me such problems these past months -- evidently, I have five gastric ulcers needing treatment!  The doctor told me about the ulcers and said that he had also done a biopsy to make certain that there was nothing else going on.  I should have the biopsy results by about the 6th of March.

I understand that the two usual causes of these types of ulcers are (1) the use of large amounts of aspirin-type drugs, including NSAIDs, which are prescribed for severe and chronic arthritic pain; (2) the Helicobactor pylori bacteria which can be ingested by consuming water and/or food in which the bacterium is present.  

Ulcers are not caused by stress, as was the general belief for so many years, although anything that causes a higher acid concentration in the stomach, which may include stress, could contribute to the formation of ulcers, I guess. I do know that smoking and too much alcohol can quickly make ulcers worse. Fortunately, I quit smoking many years ago and due to all the medications I take, I am, sadly, no longer able to have a glass of wine occasionally. 

So, although I have some answers now that help to explain why I have been feeling so unwell these past 4 months, I still do not have all the answers -- especially regarding the fatigue and weakness preventing me from being able to return to the gym.  The good news is that if the ulcers turn out to be the major problem, they are relatively easy to treat.  

If it turns out that the ulcers are caused by the arthritis medication I take, then the new problem may be how to treat all the arthritis pain without aspirin-type drugs (I have a bad reaction to Tylenol -- especially when I take it more than once a week).  The one time, a few years ago, when I tried to decrease the aspirin-type medication I use for arthritis pain, I ended up barely being able to get up from or sit down in a chair; to stand once I was out of the chair; or, walk from the chair to another location!  It was all just too painful.

Anyway, enough of such stuff.  Things could be a lot worse and there do remain any number of good things in my life such as family and friends, Suki, my ability to continue doing art work, my blog, the wonderful people who help to take care of me -- especially Joycelyn and the list goes on and on.  

Speaking of art work, I was playfully attempting to draw some Brazilian cherries which caused me to discover that I needed to develop some sort of new technique for giving the impression of roundness with highlights when using a really dark colour such as a dark, cherry red.  I am posting the results of this drawing thus far so that you can get a better idea of what I am talking about. How I wish I had followed the advice of so many of you who were reading this blog years ago.  You told me that I should definitely take the time to learn one of the more sophisticated art software programs which would enable me to do special effects without having to re-invent the wheel, so to speak!  Ah, well... here is the drawing.  Take a look and let me know what your suggestions are.  Thanks.

"Brazilian Cherries -- Fruit and Flower", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014
May the peace of God be with us all.  Amen

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