Sunday, 24 December 2017


"Euphorbia pulcherrima - Poinsettia", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Back on Sunday, December 23, 2012, I published another drawing of poinsettias and this is what I posted with it: 

These plants, which were found by the Europeans growing wild in Mexico after their invasion in the 1500s, were called "the Christmas Flower" as they bloomed in December. Some years later, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico had some of the large plants shipped to his home in the Carolinas after finishing his assignment there. The plants survived and begin to be distributed throughout the southern U.S. From this time on they were called Poinsettia after the name of the ambassador, Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779 - 1851). 

Now, let me provide you with fuller information about this well-known Christmas plant. 

The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a species of the diverse family, Euphorbiaceae. Where it is found growing wild in its native Mexico and Guatemala, it is actually a straggly shrub or small tree, typically reaching a height of 2–13 ft. with dark green leaves that measure 3 to 6 in. in length. 

The colored bracts—which are most often flaming red but can be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white, or marbled—are often mistaken for flower petals because of their groupings and colours, but are actually leaves. The colours of the bracts are created through something called photoperiodism. This means that they require periods of darkness (12 hours at a time for at least five days in a row) to change colour. At the same time, the plants require abundant light during the day to achieve the brightest colours. 

The actual flowers of the poinsettia are those unassuming little blossoms grouped within the small yellowish-green structures found in the center of each leaf bunch, and are called cyathia

The poinsettia plants we find in our stores during the holiday season are very different from those first plants that were brought into the U.S. by Ambassador Poinsett back in 1824. It took an immigrant who arrived in the U.S. at the beginning of the 20th Century to make the difference. 

The immigrant’s name was Albert Ecke. He emigrated from Germany to Los Angeles in 1900, opening a dairy and orchard in the Eagle Rock area. He became intrigued by the poinsettia plant and began selling them from street stands. His son, Paul Ecke, developed a grafting technique that made their plants much more attractive. This technique produced a fuller, more compact plant by grafting two varieties of poinsettia together. A poinsettia left to grow on its own will have a somewhat weedy look. The Eckes' technique made it possible to get every seedling to branch, resulting in a bushier plant. 

The genus name, Euphorbia, honours Euphorbus, a Greek physician to King Juba II of Mauretania – the king was a close friend of Julius Caesar. Euphorbus wrote about the medical uses of a latex producing plant similar to those found in this genus. The species name, pulcherrima, is Latin and means “beautiful”.

And just one final note... For years I believed the stories that I heard that said Poinsettias were very poisonous for cats and other creatures.  While preparing this section on these plants, I did some careful research and found out that they are not.  It seems that Poinsettias may make you a bit ill if you insist on chewing the leaves and stems or might cause you a reaction if you are allergic to latex; otherwise, they are reasonably safe for all animals, including humans!

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


As you can see from the photos posted below, the boys have paid a visit to Santa and are now waiting to see if they get everything they asked for.  Chance would be a fine thing!

Brothers -- all bundled up and ready to brave the cold in order to see Santa!

Finally, it is their turn to speak to Santa and tell him all they are wishing for.

Now that the important business has been taken care of, it is time to enjoy
the free candy canes!

Back home again (still working on those candy canes), they settle in to wait for Christmas Eve when they expect those BIG stockings of theirs to be filled by Santa!

Photos courtesy of their mom.


"Suki watches as dawn breaks on Christmas morning", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

I have promised Suki that on Christmas morning I will give her a couple of those treats she loves so much -- even though they are strictly forbidden on her diet sheet from the vet.  I figure that a couple of small cat treats on one day out of 365 shouldn't do her any real damage and doing this will make her so happy -- for about a minute.  Oh, well, I say a little treat is better than no treat at all.

By the way, the drawing above was actually done for a Christmas card without any sign of Suki in it.  However, I decided it would be fun to take that drawing and add an image of my favourite black cat to use in my last posting prior to Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, Suki is prepared to have a very merry Christmas.  Her stocking, which still smells of catnip from last year, has been hung in its usual place waiting for Christmas Eve.  Suki has shown a lot of interest in it -- most likely due to the smell of catnip -- and seems to expect that it will eventually be filled!

As for me, I will not be putting up a stocking this year as there is really absolutely nothing that I need.  I received a lovely gift from the boys and their parents when I visited them on the 10th and there is truly nothing else that I want.  

Since the 10th, I have had enjoyable visits with a number of friends wanting to wish me a happy birthday and a merry Christmas.  Today, Christmas Eve, I am glad to be quietly on my own with just Suki for companionship.  On Christmas Day, I am looking forward to another quiet day with phone calls from family and friends and perhaps a brief visit with a dear friend who lives in my building.

My health remains about the same although I do seem to be having more discomfort in my lower back these days.  I do hope that this is just a passing thing as I would hate to have to increase my pain meds again after working so hard to decrease them as much as possible.  

Meanwhile, as Hanukkah ends and Christmas begins, let me wish you all the joys of the season.  

Peace be with you.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Sanguinaria canadensis - Bloodroot

"Sanguinaria canadensis - Bloodroot", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Well, today I am going to present to you another of the poisonous plants native to North American woodlands. 

Sanguinaria canadensis, commonly known as Bloodroot, is native to eastern North America from Nova Scotia westward across Canada to Manitoba, down to the south-central U.S along the Mississippi River across to Florida. It is the only species in the genus, Sanguinaria, and is a member of the family, Papaveraceae (Poppy family).  Sanguinaria canadensis is also known as Bloodwort (wort is Old English for a plant with medicinal properties). 

Bloodroot blooms in early spring in rich woods and along streams. Typically, these plants grow to be 6-10" tall and spread, over time in the wild, to form large colonies on the forest floor. Each flower stalk typically emerges in spring wrapped by one deeply-scalloped, dark-green, basal leaf. As the flower blooms, the leaf unfurls. Each flower stalk produces a solitary, 2" wide white flower of 8 – 10 petals, with numerous yellow center stamens. Flowers open up in sun but close at night, and are very short-lived (only 1-2 days). Leaves continue to grow in size after the bloom dies -- sometimes to as much as 9" across. In the fall, the plant goes dormant. 

Although deer will feed on these plants in early spring, this plant is not eaten by most herbivores because of its toxicity. The juice found in all parts of this plant, especially in its “roots”, is orangey-red in colour and poisonous.  Sanguinaria canadensis produces benzylisoquinoline alkaloids, primarily the toxin, sanguinarine. 

Bloodroot was used historically by Indigenous North Americans for curative properties as an emetic, respiratory aid, and other treatments. Bloodroot extracts have also been promoted by some supplement companies as a treatment or cure for skin cancer; however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has listed these Sanguinaria products among its "187 Fake Cancer 'Cures' Consumers Should Avoid"

Bloodroot was also a popular red natural dye used by Indigenous artists especially among southeastern, river-cane basket makers. 

The genus name, Sanguinaria, comes from the Latin word sanguis meaning “blood” referring, of course, to the fact that all parts of this plant exude a bright red sap. The species epithet, canadensis, means “of Canada”.

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


"Do I hear the sound of a can being opened?"
Week before last was a very quiet one for Suki; however, this past week brought dramatic changes -- changes which had poor Suki spending a lot of time in her basket at the back of the bedroom closet.

It all started this past Monday when Bell employees arrived in the building to install an access point in all the units for Bell fibre-optic cable.  Even though I have no interest in changing my cable provider to Bell, I had to let them install their connection plug in my living room wall anyway.

Of course, once they started drilling into the wall, Suki headed for the bedroom and the back of the closet.  She stayed there for several hours after the guy left just to be on the safe side, I suppose.

The following day, the inspectors were in the building testing all the fire alarms and smoke alarms in the hallways and in the units.  Of course, once Suki heard the first alarm going off on my floor, she headed straight for her bolt hole.

Wednesday was much easier for Suki.  I did have a dear friend come and visit for several hours, but this friend is very quiet and gentle. Thus, Suki remained resting on her chair as she usually does in the afternoon.

Thursday there were more workmen banging on my door.  These folks turned out to be plumbers.  Evidently, there was some problem with the "trap" in an apartment a few floors above me so they wanted to check and see if I was having any problems.   At first Suki just growled at them, but as they started banging tools around under my kitchen sink, she headed once more for the back of the closet.

Hopefully, next week will be easier for her!

My own experiences over the past two weeks have mirrored Suki's in some way -- although I haven't been hiding in the back of any closet.

Week before last was very quiet week for me.  This past week, however, started off with visitors on the Sunday.  This was followed by Joycelyn on Monday, Fire Inspectors on Tuesday, a  visit from my friend, Joyce, on Wednesday, Joycelyn on Thursday morning followed by a medical appointment in the afternoon, a visit to a friend on Friday and a quiet Saturday.

Today, at the beginning of another week, I am getting ready to leave to visit those special little boys whose photos you see occasionally in this blog.  A friend is very kindly driving me to their home where the boys, their parents and I will celebrate my birthday and an early Christmas.  Since it is at least a 45 minute drive to their home from my downtown Toronto location, my friend is arriving to pick me up around 8 a.m. (I want to be there in time for breakfast with the family).  This explains, in case you noticed,  why this particular posting of my blog is being released so early in the morning.

As always, when I visit the boys, I hope that their mother will take some photos of me with the children which I can then share with you in my next posting which will be on Christmas Eve.  Until then, I hope that all of you will be able to avoid the holiday rush so that you have time to really enjoy your family and friends during this holiday season.



Sunday, 26 November 2017

Nightshade Revisited

"Atropa belladonna - Deadly Nightshade", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Atropa belladonna, commonly known as deadly nightshade or belladonna, is one of the most toxic plants native to the Eastern Hemisphere. It is a branched, thick-rooted, herbaceous perennial of the nightshade family, Solanaceae (e.g., tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, tobacco, chili peppers, and jimsonweed) that grows to 3-4’ tall. 

Deadly nightshade is native from England through central and southern Europe to Iran. It is typically found in woods and thickets, but is also often found in disturbed areas, waste places, and roadsides where it typically spreads rapidly in a weed-like manner. It is naturalized in certain parts of Canada and the U.S. 

The foliage, fruits and roots of this plant are extremely toxic, containing tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine. In humans, small doses of material from this plant will produce delirium and hallucinations, but larger doses will kill. Some of these components, in particular l-atropine which was purified from belladonna in the 1830s, have accepted medical uses. 

The risk to children who do not understand the poisonous characteristics of all parts of this plant are huge. Leaves, fruits and roots are highly toxic and can kill humans through ingestion or by contact with open wounds, cuts or abrasions. Consumption of as few as two berries can kill a child. Consumption of 10 berries is often lethal to an adult. Dogs and cats are susceptible to the poison, but many other animals and birds can eat the fruits with no ill effects. 

Dark green leaves of unequal size range from 3-10” long. Lower leaves are solitary and upper leaves are in pairs of unequal size. Mildly scented, bell-shaped flowers are dull purple with green tinges. Flowers bloom in the leaf axils from June to early September. Berries, which ripen to shiny black from late August to October, are sweet to the taste. 

The genus name, Atropa, comes from the Greek word, Atropos. She was one of the three Fates in Greek mythology who cut the thread of life after her sisters had spun and measured it. Thus, a plant called ‘Atropa’ can end life. The species name, belladonna, is derived from Italian and means "beautiful woman" because the herb was used in eye-drops by women to dilate the pupils of the eyes in the hope of making themselves appear more sexually alluring!

"Solanum dulcamara - Bittersweet Nightshade", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017 rev.

From my blog posting of Sunday, 12 December 2010 (with revisions): 

I don't often do drawings of nuisance plants, but today is an exception. I have done a drawing of Solanum dulcamara of the family, Solanaceae. The various common names include: bittersweet nightshade, blue bindweed and snake berry. 

I grew up calling the plant Deadly Nightshade which I feel is much more exciting sounding than something like blue bindweed or even bittersweet nightshade! However, there is another plant that is actually named deadly nightshade and is much more toxic so I guess I really should call it something like bittersweet nightshade to distinguish it from the other plant. 

Solanum dulcamara is native to Europe and Asia, but some foolish person brought it to North America where it has become an invasive species in the Great Lakes region especially. However it managed to get here, the first reports of it were given in 1843 -- so you can see that it is well-established. 

Bittersweet nightshade is actually a vine with flowers. If it has something to attach itself to, it will climb, but it is usually found growing along the ground. The fruit consists of berries which, when ripe, are red in colour and are much liked by birds. This, of course, means that the seeds get widely distributed. 

The generic name, Solanum, is possibly derived from the Latin word, solan, meaning 'solacing' or 'comforting', testifying to the narcotic power of this group of plants. The species name, dulcamara, is derived from two Latin words: dulce meaning ‘sweet’ and amarus meaning ‘bitter’, possibly in reference to the fact that the root and stem, if chewed, taste first bitter and then sweet. What people are doing chewing this plant in the first place is beyond me, but mankind will try almost anything if it has some sort of narcotic effect. 

Solanum dulcamara is used as a herbal remedy for conditions such as herpes, allergies, skin disorders and problems of the mucous membranes around the joints. Personally, I don't trust this plant as it can make you very ill and there have been reports that it has even killed children. 

The poison it contains is called solanine, an alkaloid glycoside. It increases bodily secretions and leads to vomiting and convulsions. You can see why I prefer the name deadly nightshade even though it is not as deadly as the plant it is often confused with, Atropa belladonna, the truly deadly nightshade!

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


Suki settles down for another nap!

Suki had me a bit worried at the beginning of this past week ... she seemed a bit uncomfortable, almost irritable and was off her food.  So, I phoned the veterinary clinic and left a message for my vet to please telephone when she had a free moment. Well, her free moment did not arrive, evidently, until Wednesday afternoon by which point Suki had recovered!

The vet was very understanding and said to please let her know if Suki had any more unusual symptoms.  She then reminded me that Suki will have to have another blood test at the end of December to check her calcium level.  When I got off the phone, I felt similar to the way I feel whenever I make an appointment with my family doctor but, a week later, when I arrive for my appointment, my worrisome symptoms have all disappeared.

Actually, I have read books by various doctors who claim that "placebos" really do have healing power.  So often people's physical difficulties seem to clear up once they are assured that they are going to receive professional help.  This would explain what might be going on with humans, but what about cats?  Do they feel some kind of similar assurance once they know the vet has been called?  Interesting idea to consider...

Anyway, Suki seems to be fine once again and up to her usual tricks.  This morning at 5:30, for example, she began to play a "symphony" of her own creation on the Venetian blinds which cover my balcony door.  She would actually speed up and slow down so that it almost created a rhythm of sorts.  It certainly awakened me and got me moving -- which is what Suki wanted in the first place. 


As for me, I continue to do reasonably well.  In other words, the pain and discomfort are mostly under control at the moment.  I do have a doctor's appointment this coming week, but it is just one of those "follow-up" type of appointments. 

The most traumatic event which I experienced during the past two weeks was my trip to the local Ontario Ministry of Health public office near my home.  I had to have my health card renewed as it has been 10 years since I had gotten a new card.  

So, this past Friday morning, I took a taxi to their location.  Once there, the driver got me and my walker out of the car directly in front of the Ministry building. As the taxi drove away, I turned and looked at the entrance only to realize that I was confronted by 5 steps with no sign of a ramp anywhere in sight!  

Thankfully, there was a nice, young man standing outside, smoking.  I asked him if he could help me find a handicapped entrance somewhere and he very kindly did just that.  The Law Society building next door, he informed me, shares a common side entrance with the Ministry of Health.  He pointed out a ramp and an automatic door.  So, thinking I was fine, I thanked him and he went on his way.  

However, once I was inside the building, I was confronted by more steps.  There appeared to be some sort of open elevator-type platform to one side and above it was a buzzer to push.  I pushed the buzzer and waited to see what would happen next.  Suddenly a very pleasant young woman appeared from the Ministry offices, very competently released the sides of this platform and then invited me and my walker to climb aboard.  With only a bit of trepidation, I did so and found myself being gently lifted up to the main floor level.  

Once I had stepped off of the platform, she closed the device and took me into the Ministry office where dozens of people were lined up.  She directed me to the line for handicapped folks where there was only one person ahead of me.  As I had all my documents ready, the card renewal process did not take too long.  When I was ready to leave, the same young woman helped me to exit the building.  I quickly found a taxi and arrived back home about an hour after leaving.  Once inside, I quickly pulled off my coat and boots, said "hello" to Suki, collapsed into my recliner and rested until lunch time.  What a day that was.


By the time I post again, we will be in month of December -- the month which contains World Aids Day, my birthday, Hanukkah, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year's Eve.

As the year winds down, I hope that the days ahead will be filled with peace and joy for you all.


Sunday, 12 November 2017

Enkianthus, Magnolia and One Revision

"Enkianthus campanulatus - Redvein Enkianthus", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Enkianthus campanulatus, commonly called Redvein Enkianthus, is an upright, deciduous shrub which typically grows 6-8’ tall. It is native to open woodlands in Japan. 

Small, bell-shaped, nodding, creamy-yellow to whitish-pink flowers with pink striping and edging appear in pendulous clusters in late spring. Individual flowers resemble those of the genus, Pieris, another plant native to Asia. 

Medium-green leaves are crowded near the branch ends. Fall color is variable, but, at its best, features striking red foliage with tones of orange, yellow and purple. The genus name, Enkianthus, comes from the Greek words enkyos meaning pregnant and anthos meaning flower in reference to the rounded base of each flower. The species name, campanulatus, comes from a Latin word meaning bell-shaped. 

There are a number of cultivars of Enkianthus campanulatus. ‘Red Bells’ is probably the best known of these.

"Magnolia macrophylla -- Big-leaf Magnolia", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Magnolia macrophylla, commonly called Big-leaf Magnolia, is noted for its huge leaves (up to 30 inches long) which are the largest simple leaves of any tree indigenous to North America. Leaves are green above and silvery-gray below. It is a member of the family Magnoliaceae

In the southeastern United States, especially Alabama and surrounding areas, Magnolia macrophylla is sometimes called the "cowcumber magnolia," in contrast with the much smaller-leaved, cucumber-tree magnolia, Magnolia acuminata

This unusual tree is rarely found in the wild, being limited mainly to a few rich, wooded areas in river valleys and ravines in the southeastern United States. It is a pyramidal tree that develops a spreading rounded crown with age, typically growing 30-40’ tall. 

Fragrant, large, cup-shaped flowers, 8-10” wide, bloom in May/June. Flowers are white with a hint of rose-purple at the petal bases. Although quite large, the flowers are often located so far off the ground that they are not always easy to see close up. Flowers give way to spherical cone-like fruits which are red in colour at maturity. 

The genus name, Magnolia, honors Pierre Magnol, French botanist (1638-1715). The specific name, macrophylla, is from the Greek words macro meaning "large" and phyllon meaning "very large leaf".

"Lotus maculatus -- Parrot's Beak", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, rev. 2017

Blog posting of 21 July 2010 (revised): 

Lotus maculatus, known as Parrot's Beak in English or Pico de Paloma in Spanish, is a beautiful wildflower native to 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 is still surviving in gardens and parks. 

The genus name of Lotus is taken from the Latin, lôtus (from the Greek λωτός) and means “bathed” or “washed”. The specific name of maculatus comes from the Latin and means “spotted” or “stained”. 

These lovely flowers have great difficulty producing seed pods. “It has been suggested in Wikipedia that the endangered species of Parrot's Beak were pollinated by bird species that have themselves died out, although other sources say this is not true because there are birds such as the Chiff Chaff, which can pollinate the flowers.” Whatever the case may be, eventually, these plants may be entirely dependent on humans for their survival!

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


Suki watches to make certain that I am awake
and just about to get out of bed
You have no idea how much I dislike this time change business.  

I know it may benefit certain people (I am not sure who they are); however, it certainly makes life difficult for me.  Why?  Because of Suki, of course!

Suki does not understand "Spring forward and Fall back".  So, now, when the clock reads 4:30 a.m., Suki is still convinced that it is really 5:30 a.m.  This means it is time to start awakening me to ensure that she gets her food, promptly, at 5 a.m which Suki believes is really 6 a.m.  

Sadly, it will take a while (probably another week) before I will be able to get her retrained.  Meanwhile, I am now, too often, ending up being fully awake at 5 a.m. thanks to my "cat alarm clock"! 

However, other than losing about an hour's sleep each night, I am doing reasonably well.  While I am certainly not getting any better, I am, at least for the moment, stable.  In other words, for now, at least, I am not getting any worse.

As you no doubt are aware, yesterday was Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the USA).  However, today, along with lots of other folks, I am still "remembering" from yesterday.  I salute all our veterans, living and deceased, with gratitude for their many sacrifices.

Thoughts about Remembrance Day reminded me of a drawing I did back in 2007 or 2008 -- back when our soldiers were still fighting in Afghanistan (see below).  I was inspired to make the drawing by a news photo -- a photo that showed that even in the violence of war, we humans can, often, exhibit kindness and gentleness.  

"A Moment of Kindness in the Midst of War", drawing by 
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2007, rev. 2017

By the time I post again, my American family and friends will have celebrated their Thanksgiving Day (23rd of November) and we will all be very much closer to the beginning of December -- a month full of special events (including my birthday!).

Until my next posting, I wish all of you much happiness and joy.



Sunday, 29 October 2017

"Lilies" -- 2 Repeats and 1 New

"Stypandra glauca - Nodding Blue Lily", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017 rev.

[Many plants are called "lilies" even though they are not true lilies at all.  Usually, these plants have flowers which have that familiar lily shape and, so, folks just started called them lilies -- and it stuck.  The following 3 plants are perfect examples.]

Blog posting of 10 Feb 2013 (revised): 

Stypandra glauca (Nodding Blue Lily) is a member of the family Phormiaceae. It is native to Australia where its distribution is widespread from southeast Queensland through to the western part of the continent. The plant produces numerous lily-like flowers which are bright blue with yellow stamens. 

The genus name of Stypandra comes from the Greek words “stype” meaning flax-like fibres and “aner” man. This combination is in reference to the staminal filament hairs which are beard-like in appearance. The species name, glauca, comes from the Greek word “glaukos” referring to the sea-green colour of some of the foliage.

The Nodding Blue Lily is found on sandy or poor stony soils in woodland or open forest. This is one of those wild plants that appear in great quantity after a fire, preventing soil erosion and giving cover to the small creatures of the woodlands. It may be toxic to livestock if eaten when flowering.

"Zephyranthes sylvestris - Zephyr Lily", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017 rev.

Blog posting of 17 Jan 2010 (revised) 

Zephyranthes sylvestris is a species of Rain Lily and is native to the Brazilian Nordestes* where it is popularly known as “Calango Onion”.  Zephyranthes sylvestris belongs to the family Amaryllidaceae – the same family to which all the well-known Amaryllis plants belong. I could only find a small amount of information on this attractive little flower -- possibly because it appears to be found in such a small geographic area. 

Z. sylvestris is a tiny plant. So, when you are looking at the drawing above, please try to be aware that these flowers are much smaller than I have drawn them. At its mature height, the plant is only 10 inches (25 cm). The diameter of the flower is only about 2 inches (5 cm). It likes warm temperatures and a semi-arid climate -- which it evidently has at its location in Brazil. 

The genus name, Zephyranthes, is derived from “Zephyrus”, the Greek god of the west wind, and “anthos”, meaning flower, because the flower is native to the Western hemisphere. The specific name, sylvestris is taken from the Latin “sylvestri” meaning ‘of the woods, wild’.

"Zephyranthes candida - Fairy Lily", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Zephyranthes candida, commonly known as Fairy Lily, is a species of rain lily native to South America including Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil. Its family is Amaryllidaceae. The species is widely cultivated as an ornamental and, apparently, is now naturalized in many parts of the world. In the wild, plants often burst into bloom immediately following periods of significant rain, hence its most common name of Rain Lily. 

The flowers, which bud late in August (in the Northern Hemisphere) at first resemble a new leaf, but emerge from their papery sheaves to a stunning whiteness. Leaves are a deep glossy green. They grow best in full sun to part shade and require a medium-wet soil. 

Zephyranthes candida was first described by John Lindley in 1823 as Amaryllis candida. It was transferred to its current genus in 1826 by William Herbert. The genus name, Zephyranthes, comes from the Greek words “Zephyrus”, the Greek god of the west wind, and “anthos”, meaning flower, because the plant is native to the Western hemisphere. The specific name, candida, is taken from the Latin and means purest white.

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


I had a wonderful visit with the boys and their parents two weeks ago.  Their maternal grandmother was also visiting and it was delightful to see her again as well.

Things were so busy while I was there that everyone forgot about taking pictures.  The boys' mother and grandmother served a delicious brunch.  Then, since it was an unseasonably warm day, we spent a lot of time sitting outside watching the boys playing together,  The time passed all too quickly.  Hopefully, I will be able to visit again in December.

Happy Halloween everyone!

I think the boys might be just a bit frustrated that they actually have to wait until Halloween
to get all those treats they've been hearing about!

Braden in his Halloween outfit.
(I find him just a bit frightening with that "Star Wars Storm Trooper" 
mask covering his face!).

Ro is also ready for Halloween (and a lot less frightening
than his older brother!).


Happy Birthday!

The brothers are ready to celebrate an October birthday



"Suki and Ornithogalum dubium", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

I think Suki is ready for Halloween although I am not certain about what she thinks is involved in the big day.  Lately, she has been opening the door to the broom closet and then making her way through the various mops until she comes to the only broom in the closet.  At which point, she sits down in front of the broom, looks at me and then meows expectantly a few times.  
Suki's Fantasy

I am wondering if maybe Suki has been watching too many children's cartoons about witches and broomsticks. If so, then she is in for a big surprise -- although I may be a bit of a "witch" at times, I definitely don't know how to ride a broomstick!

Actually, the truth of the matter is that Suki has discovered that there is an unopened bag of her formerly favourite crunchies in the back of that closet and the broom is sitting just in front of the bag.  So, the meows are nothing magical. They are, in fact, just another plea from Suki asking me to stop this current healthy diet she is on and get back to the "good stuff" -- all that yummy stuff she was allowed to eat before she developed her current illness.  Dream on, little kitty, dream on!

Otherwise, Suki still seems to be doing reasonably well and her current diet, underappreciated as it may be by her, appears to be continuing to be effectively keeping the hypercalcemia in check.

As for me, I have had good news from Joycelyn -- thus far all her test results have come back negative.  There is still one remaining result she is waiting for so let's hope that it will be negative as well. 

My own issues still appear to be manageable although I now find it more difficult to perform any tasks that require me to stand for more than a few minutes.  Interestingly, I can walk for longer than I can stand.  Thankfully, having the walker with me at all times means that I can sit down whenever the pain of standing becomes unbearable.

I had a very quiet time this past week with my only visitors being Joycelyn and Sharon.  I do have a doctor's appointment this coming week, but it should be just a quick visit. I only need to get a flu shot and to follow up on a few things with the doctor. Hopefully, these next two weeks should be reasonably quiet for Suki and me.

By the time I post again, we will be well into the month of November. Three important events will have occurred: Halloween; All Saints Day; and Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the USA). I'm uncertain which of these events are part of the lives of those who will read this blog posting; however, I wish all of you much happiness and joy whatever you may be celebrating.

Peace be with you.   


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Purple/Pink Repeats

"Mirabilis nyctaginea - Four O'Clocks (Wild)", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017 rev.

Blog posting of 20 July 2009 (revised):

These wildflowers are one variety of Four O'Clocks -- so called because that is the time of day when they usually start to bloom. Sort of the opposite of morning glories -- a flower I will be discussing later in this posting! 

The proper name for this plant is Mirabilis nyctaginea. Mirabilis means "wonderful" in Latin; while nyctaginea is derived from the Greek and means "night-blooming”. The plant blooms each evening (night) and has a wonderful fragrance. 

While Four O'Clocks are lovely to look at and have a fragrant odour, they also have little black seeds that look like peppercorns and are extremely poisonous.  So, if you find this plant growing in the wild, treat it gently!

One of the more interesting things about this drawing for me is that the photograph, which I used as my "model", was taken just outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico -- a place very dear to my heart. If you know that area of the States at all, you know how unexpected it would be to come upon such lovely, sweet-smelling flowers as wild Four O'Clocks.

"Dodecatheon meadia -- Shooting Stars", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017 rev.

Blog posting 17 February 2013 (revised):

Dodecatheon meadia is a species of flowering plant in the family Primulaceae. It is native to an area of mid-North America stretching from the Province of Manitoba down through the American mid-west and south. It grows in woods and prairies and tolerates partial shade. 

Dodecatheon meadia is generally known as the Common Shooting Star, though this name may also be used to refer to other species. This Shooting Star, as well as other varieties, was used medicinally by the Indigenous peoples living in this area of North America. An infusion of the roots was used as a wash for sore eyes. A cooled infusion of leaves was used for eye drops. An infusion of leaves was gargled, especially by children, for cankers. 

The genus name Dodecatheon is derived from the Greek dodeka meaning "twelve" and theoi meaning "gods" -- the twelve gods. The specific name of meadia is in honour of Dr. Richard Mead, 18th century English physician. 

This is one of the most beautiful spring wildflowers on the prairies -- much more beautiful than my drawing would indicate. One of the nature writers has said: "A colony of these plants in bloom is a sight not to be missed." I would like to try drawing these flowers again to see if I can capture a bit more of the elegance! 

Any of you who have more than a nodding acquaintance with wildflowers may notice that the flowers of Dodecatheon meadia resemble, in form, those of the Nightshade family. A commentator says: "This is an example of convergent evolution between plants of different families because of the similarities in the method of pollination."

"Ipomoea purpurea - Morning Glory", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017 rev.

I was unable to find the previous blog posting for this image.  The original drawing of Ipomoea purpurea was done back in 2007 or 2008, I believe, and some of those early columns were accidentally deleted.  So, here is the information on this particular Morning Glory from my files.

Ipomoea purpurea is commonly known as the Purple Morning-glory or Common Morning-glory. Ipomoea is the largest genus in the flowering plant family, Convolvulaceae, with over 500 species. It is a large and diverse group with common names including morning-glory, water convolvulus, sweet potato, bindweed, moonflower, etc. 

Like all morning glories the plant entwines itself around structures, growing to a height of 2–3 metres. The leaves are medium-to-dark green and somewhat heart-shaped. The flowers are trumpet-shaped, predominantly purple or white. 

Ipomoea purpurea is native to Mexico and Central America, but it is naturalized throughout the temperate and subtropical regions of the world. Although it is often considered a noxious weed, Ipomoea purpurea is also grown for its beautiful purple or white flowers and has many cultivars. 

The genus name of Ipomoea comes from modern Latin and is derived from the Greek (ips ‘worm’ + homoios ‘like) meaning worm-like, referring to the coiled flower bud. The specific name of purpurea is Latin for the colour purple.

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


"Suki Staring"
(pencil sketch made from photo
taken by J. Gordon, 2017)
Well, this may be a very short column today as neither Suki nor Sallie have very much to report -- not even after two weeks of silence.

Thankfully, Suki continues to appear reasonably healthy and seems content to continue her diet therapy for the hypercalcemia. She will have to have further blood tests in December in order to determine how well this regimen is working so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, Suki continues to behave reasonably well (for a kitty cat, that is!).  I am very grateful that this is the case as I have been too unwell to clean up any extra messes or search for new foods to tempt her finicky appetite. In fact, she seems to know that I am in a lot of pain most of the time as she no longer jumps up onto my lap.  Instead, every so often, she comes up to the side of the recliner so that I am able to easily scratch her head and ears until my fingers begin to hurt too much and I have to stop.

I have seen the various doctors involved in my treatment and, while they are all very sympathetic, they really don't have much to offer me.  At this time, their suggestions include back surgery (something I do not intend to do), gentle physio (I'm waiting to see if I will be approved for physio in my home) or higher doses of my various pain medications.  

As for the various options that I referred to in my posting of 1 October 2017, I am still considering some of those choices for my future living arrangements.  However, there are several "pieces of the puzzle" which are still missing at this time, such as the state of Joycelyn's health.  She is having to have a number of medical investigations at the moment and until she gets the results, I really am uncertain as to how much longer she will be able to care for me.  Hopefully, she will be fine and her companionship and caregiving skills can continue for the foreseeable future.  If not...

Presently, my evenings and nights are now sometimes so pain filled that I think the only solution is to get my doctors to put me into a medically-induced coma (if only they would!).  Then the morning comes again and, for a few hours, the pain is bearable and I feel that just maybe I can continue living on my own with Suki for company and Joycelyn for companionship and caregiving.  We will just have to wait and see how things unfold.

In spite of the pain, I do have plans to visit my favourite young lads today (this explains why I am posting this so early).  A dear friend has offered to drive me to their home and back. This will be far less costly than a taxi and much more comfortable with my various pillows for support and the freedom to adjust the seat however it best suits my back and legs. 

Hopefully, when I post again two weeks from now, I will have some new photos of the boys (and me) to show you.  It really depends on just how rambunctious Braden and Ro are feeling while I am visiting.  If they need more supervision than usual because they are trying to outdo each other in showing off for me, then the parents might not have time to think about taking photos!

During the two weeks between now and my next posting, I hope that your lives will be filled with all those things that bring you true happiness and joy.  And, as always, I wish you peace.


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Wildflower Repeats

"Anemone nemorosa - Wood anemone", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017 rev.

From my blog posting dated 10 June 2010 (seriously revised): 

The proper name of this plant is Anemone nemorosa of the Family, Ranunculaceae. It flowers early in the spring and, while it can be found in many gardens throughout North America, it is actually native to Europe. There is a similar plant, Anemone quinquefolia, which is native to North American, but it normally has only 5 “petals” instead of six. 

As with all Anemones, A. nemorosa has no true petals. What appear to be petals are really sepals which have assumed the colouring and characteristics of petals. These sepals are normally white in colour although, occasionally, the colouring is pale pink or blue. The dark, green leaves are divided into three segments and the flowers, produced on short stems, are held above the foliage with one flower per stem. Sadly, this gentle-looking plant is bitter to the taste as well as being poisonous.

In sunshine, the flower expands fully, but at the approach of night, it closes and droops its head so that dew may not settle on it and injure it. The same thing occurs when it rains. Country folk in the past used to say that the fairies were what actually caused the plant to close at night and in the rain as it gave the wee sprites a "tent" to keep them warm and dry. 

The genus name, Anemone, is taken from the Greek and means “wind”. The specific name, nemorosa, is derived from the Latin and means “of the woods” or “woodland”.

"Gomphocarpus physocarpus (Asclepias physocarpa) - Balloon Plant"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017 rev.

From my blog posting dated 6 March 2013 (revised): 

Gomphocarpus physocarpus is a species of milkweed. This plant, commonly known as the Balloon Plant, is native to southeast Africa. In 2001 its name was changed from Asclepias physocarpa to Gomphocarpus physocarpus to reflect that it is in the family of African milkweeds and not the North American variety. The name "balloon plant" is an allusion to the swelling, bladder-like seed pods. 

Gomphocarpus physocarpus is a perennial herb, that can grow to over six feet. The plant blooms in warm months. It grows on roadside banks, at elevations of 2800 to 5000 feet above sea level. The flowers are small, with white hoods and about 1 cm across. The leaves are light green, shaped like a lance and 3 to 4 inches long. 

Gomphocarpus physocarpus is widely used in traditional medicine in South Africa. The roots are used to treat stomach ache. Leaves are dried and ground into a powder that is taken as snuff for headaches. The milky latex is used to treat warts. Seeds are blown away from the pods as a charm to placate the ancestors. The stems are used for fibre. These treatments seem a bit risky, however, as this plant is poisonous if ingested. 

The genus name of Gomphocarpus is derived from the Greek gomphos meaning “a club” and karpos meaning “fruit”. The species epithet of physocarpus is derived from the Greek physa meaning “bladder” and karpos meaning “fruit”, referring to the inflated, bladder-like fruits.

"Mertensia virginica - Virginia Bluebells", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017 rev.

From my blog posting dated 21 August 2009: 

The drawing above is of "Virginia Bluebells" a member of the Forget-Me-Not family.

The above text is all I had to say about this plant back in a 2009 posting.  However, I would now like to add a bit more information...

Mertensia virginica, commonly called Virginia bluebells, is a native North American wildflower. It occurs throughout the southern U.S. and much of southern Canada in moist, rich woods and river floodplains. 

M. virginia is an erect, clump-forming perennial which grows to between 1 - 2' in height and features loose, terminal clusters of pendulous, trumpet-shaped, sky-blue flowers which bloom in early spring. The flower-buds are pink and flowers emerge with a pinkish cast before turning blue. The leaves are smooth, oval and medium-green in colour. Foliage dies to the ground by mid-summer as the plant goes dormant. 

The genus name, mertensia, honours Franz Carl Mertens (1764-1831), professor of botany at Bremen University. The specific epithet, virginica, means “of Virginia”.

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


"Now what could Suki be thinking about?"
(photo by Jaleh G., 2017)

Suki and I have had several visitors during the past two weeks and one of them, my friend, Jaleh, took a lovely shot of Suki perched on the arm of the sofa.  It really looks as though she is contemplating something rather serious.  

Personally, I don't believe she was thinking about food as Suki had only had her lunch about an hour before the photo was taken.  As well, she had been getting lots of attention from both Jaleh and myself so she was unlikely to be thinking that she was neglected.  

No, Suki seems to be contemplating something much more serious -- like how to manage to catch one of those pigeons she sees from the window, always tormenting her by sitting out on the balcony railing just out of reach!

Anyway, Suki has once again been reasonably well-behaved during the 14 days since my last posting.  She continues to awaken me too early for my liking (6 a.m.) although, for some unknown reason, yesterday morning (Saturday) she let me sleep until 7.

Of course, her sleep, as well as mine, has been very disturbed over the past five days.  Let me explain...

About 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning, I was awakened by severe pain in my lower back on the left side and all down my left leg.  When I attempted to get up and see if that would ease the pain, I found, to my dismay, that my left leg was not only painful but was also weaker than normal.  Meanwhile, I continued to have these burning pains shooting down my leg from my back.  As a consequence, I have had to increase all my pain medications including those for neuropathic pain.  

During these past days, it has been impossible to get a full night's sleep.  While I find that I eventually fall asleep from sheer exhaustion, after a few hours, I am awakened by the pain which never seems to go away.  Even now, as I write this, I am having to try to ignore the pain which persists no matter whether I am sitting, standing or lying down.

As well, I now have to use my walker for every activity.  Prior to Monday, I could usually manage at home by holding onto various pieces of furniture and could even go short distances without holding onto anything.  Now, however, I find that I can barely walk even with the walker as the least little movement in the wrong direction causes such awful pain as well as leg weakness.  I fear this means a return to using a wheelchair and I do find that idea to be rather depressing.

I did see a couple of my doctors during the past week (these were appointments that had been scheduled some time previously) and, although they both checked on my back and leg, they could offer nothing in the way of a "quick fix".  Each doctor said that this latest difficulty is most likely just the continuing progression of the disease I have in my spinal cord.  I have always been told that the prognosis for this disease is gradual worsening, with or without treatment, and this certainly seems to be the case.

So, as you can imagine, I am not at all certain what the future holds in store for me.  It is so difficult now to perform even the simplest tasks which leaves me wondering how much longer I can manage with Joycelyn just coming in three days a week.  In fact, I am uncertain as to whether I will be able to continue my computer drawing or even this blog for very much longer as even sitting in my special computer chair is painful.  I am also having to seriously think about whether it is time for me to consider the possibility of moving into some sort of full-care facility or, perhaps, taking some other action.

Meanwhile, I hope to be able to post again in two week's time.  If , for any reason, that is not going to happen, then I will certain post a note here to that effect.  Whatever the decision, I will not leave without saying goodbye.

On a happier note, we are celebrating Thanksgiving Day here in Canada on Monday, October 9th.  So "Happy Thanksgiving" to all my fellow Canadians.  

To all those who read this blog posting, I wish loads of happiness and joy for you and your dear ones in the days ahead.

Peace be with you all.

"Autumn's End", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017 rev.