Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Pack up your troubles....

in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile" go the lyrics of a popular World War 1 marching song.
It is that time of year for making resolutions and deciding on our course in the coming year.
Rather than make decisions to eat better, exercise better, work better, all of the things we have meant to do and failed to do so many times, I have decided to try to live in the moment. "Seize the day", or  the moment, because that is when happiness happens, in little snatches, often unrecognized as we long for unattainable things or goals, keeping our eyes on the prize and missing the little bits of life that can add up to satisfaction.
In my six plus decades I have made mistakes and failed to meet many goals but it is only now with the realization that one's life no longer stretches "To infinity (and beyond"), in the words of Buzz Lightyear, each moment becomes precious, so this year I  declare that I mean to leave behind as many negative traits and thoughts as I can find within myself (and any pointed out to me by my  helpful family :D).
I shall keep this etegami before me to remind me of my goal.

May your resolutions stay with you for the whole year, if not, remember failure is just another experience we can take on board.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

So that was Christmas,

And what have I done? to misquote John Lennon...well, cooked a massive Christmas dinner for 10, opened my gifts and promptly sank into a torpor, rising only to sling leftovers to the assembled hordes for supper and dish up the numerous desserts made by various relatives, friends and onlookers who were perhaps hoping to be treated to the spectacle of exploding people in the style of Monsieur Creosote of Monty Python fame, he who succumbed to the temptation of 'just a wafer thin" mint.) please do not look at the clip on YouTube if you are at all sensitive,
Leftovers are perhaps the chief joy of the profane side of Christmas or indeed any gathering where many are fed, the cook has days of the luxury of being able to say "just look in the refrigerator, there are leftovers there", thus freeing them from the responsibility of menu planning and preparation. One cannot be  held responsible if people choose to have pavlova washed down with cola for their meal.
Further to the saga of the  near and dear one on the Cave Man diet, I am impressed at how well he stuck to his guns and eschewed the many tasty starches thrust under his quivering nostrils, WILLPOWER! you don't see much of that these days. As an added bonus no blood was shed during the entire day and the whole family behaved themselves impeccably.
Enough of that, like the Japanese expression "Chlistmasu Caku" (used to describe a no longer nubile 26 year old woman, yes sexist I know), talking about Christmas after December 26 is really not very interesting so, on to...

                                        NEW YEAR!!!!!!

Which brings me to my new year etegami and the bold experiment of copying the original onto thin washi sheets and pasting them to postcards.

This is the original (sans the gold glitter I added after copying),

and this is the copy, the glitter did not scan well and the colour changed a little bit but altogether not a bad way to go. It allows me to send a card I am happy with to more people and that is A GOOD THING. ( I am suddenly in love with capitals it seems, not shouting, just excited! oh, and exclamation marks).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A whisper of wings...

Just a little homily from Keats to remind everyone that this is the season of good cheer (as well as good beer) and may all the strangers you meet in this life be angelic.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Scrooge McPig

Not everybody is looking forward to Christmas, and as we contemplate our festive boards groaning with ham and pork, spare a thought for the pig. As Homer Simpson once famously remarked,"Bacon, ham,sausages, a talented animal is the pig!" (or words to that effect).

May your festive boards groan with goodies but just take care that it is not you who are groaning from overindulgence!
One of our party who shall remain nameless is currently following the "Paleolithic" diet (no carbohydrates, i.e. bread, potatoes, pasta ) so meat will feature very heavily on our table this holiday season. Whether he intends to catch and club his own I cannot tell but what is true is that by following this high protein diet he has reduced from about 95 kilos to 73 kilos in just a few months. I wonder if Christmas cake, trifle and potato salad will seduce him away from the diet?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

One cicada does not a summer make...

We are having an unusually cool damp start to summer here and that is a "good thing" as Martha would say. The Prof may yet get his baked meats for Christmas dinner.
The weather may be unreliable, blame 'La Nina', for the weather pattern we are experiencing, but the cicadas have drilled their way to the light on cue and  are droning on in the background.  To mark this wondrous annual event I have revisited my very first etegami HERE and tried a different approach, a bit overworked maybe but I can't help trying to see how far I can push the lovely velvety surface of the washi cards. The image is a bit fuzzy and the colour is off, I think it is time for a new scanner.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Don't come the raw prawn!"

Yep, in the Aussie vernacular, 'to come the raw prawn' is to behave despicably, the etymology of the expression escapes me, why a raw prawn? why a prawn at all? Aaah, language is a beautiful thing.
Never mind, the prawn (shrimp, ebi) in my Christmas etegami is well and truly cooked and honours our tradition of a casual summertime approach to Christmas dinner which is likely to be a barbeque featuring seafood. There are a few die-hards like the Prof who want the full disaster, the baked ham, pork, chicken and vegetables followed by some kind of stodgy dessert...dream on I say! It is hard to get excited about slaving away in the kitchen when the mercury is above 30 degrees Celsius.
All of this is merely a preamble to explain my Christmas etegami. This year I am trying a bold experiment, printing the original onto thin washi, pasting it onto cards and sending them off (my printer jams if I try to print onto cards).
I hope no one is offended that they receive a copy but I just didn't have the time or energy to do individual ones and as 'they' say "it's the thought that counts". Maybe I have 'come the raw prawn'?

Anyway, to my friends who read or follow this blog, a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas season wherever you are and whatever the weather.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What do you have for breakfast?

That was the question posed by Deborah Davidson for a mailart call on her blog HERE  and this was my response........

Unfortunately it is the awful truth that I eat more pills than food sometimes!   By a strange coincidence (aren't they by nature strange?) one of the other contributors shared the same Alma Mater, the Canberra School of Art, with me albeit 10 years later. Given that the number of graduates is pretty small compared to other places in the world and Debbie's blog originates in Japan, it is probably low odds that this would happen. It's a small blogosphere! 


Monday, November 28, 2011

Oh frabjous joy!

A room of one's own! Well more of a cupboard actually, but a place where I can happily paint, sew, paste and ponder while looking out at the changing scene before me. Previously I have shared a room with the Prof who is not the neatest person and having two 'not the neatest persons' sharing one room equals chaos. Files would appear in the middle of my stuff, stacks of reference materials grew like mushrooms over every available surface, there would be paint spills and tears...oh dear.
Just coincidentally the little front room in our house which was previously a porch and usually called a 'sunroom' was in need of repair, so, in went new windows, a clear out of junk, a paint job and voila, my new room.

It is so nice to be able to see out to the park across the street, it is a very lively, well used park, weddings, picnics, barbeques, tennis courts, bowling club, Gay and Lesbian Festivals, Christmas Carols, African drummers and even a bagpipe band that practises every wednesday afternoon. A few weeks ago we were privileged to see and join in the celebrations for the King of Thailand's birthday, as I said a great park.
Another bonus is the frangipani tree right outside the window, I am looking forward to some heavenly perfume in the summer months.
Now all I have to do is produce some work to justify all of this.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Still no nijimi.....

I am trying to get a feel for these new cards (I have lots), so I am ploughing on. I suspect that they require a more spontaneous approach (something like Shungo san's work) than my constipated style. I live in hope that something good will come out of the experiment.
To cheer myself up I have written on the gardenia card that good things are worth waiting for. I do wait all year for the gardenias to bloom and I fill the house with their heady perfume and imagine myself in different places like a seraglio or a salon or a boudoir, okay, I'll stop now!
As for the art well, still waiting,....waiting,...waiting.

I love the look of the great tousled heads of the hydrangeas and I imagine them in dialogues with each other as they droop in the heat of a warm spring day, sadly in this climate they don't last long when the real heat comes, one 40 degree day and pouff, they are burned and sad. I do love it when they survive to develop the lovely tints as the bracts toughen up in autumn.

To anyone who was wondering how the Prof's trip to the USA went, he returned unscathed on Friday night and the only delay was here in Australia, at Brisbane airport when the little Dash 8 he was to travel on was declared medically unfit and he had to wait for 4 hours after hauling himself all the way from Iowa. The cold weather in Des Moines was a bit of the shock to his system but he did Ok for an old guy :D.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I was fortunate a couple of weeks ago in that some friends of mine attended a conference in Kyoto and made it their mission to bring me back some etegami cards. I now have an assortment of different cards to try and the ones I tried first are quite easy to draw on but have no real absorbency (or nijimi) so the images are more clear cut. It is fun to try with my homemade  bamboo pen which usually blobs away on the paper and is very hard to control. On these cards it behaves impeccably!

This Jacaranda card has a distinct 1930's vibe going on..what do you think dear reader?
Oh, and another attempt at Haiku.

Ah, what can I say, I have read Karl Marx (the Classic Comic edition LOL) and am persuaded that every man is worth his hire and that extends to bees too! Also, another excuse to use the bee stamp I carved.
I never fail to ponder on the labour of those little critters every time I spoon some honey on my breakfast crumpet and give thanks for their sacrifice however unwillingly made.
Speaking of thanksgiving, the Prof has gotten himself into the unenviable position of having to fly across the USA on the eve of Thanksgiving...visions of the Steve Martin, John Candy classic movie "Trains Planes and Automobiles" have been plaguing his dreams for the last week.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Aaah Beauty, so hard to capture.

Have been having an enforced break from painting and having a little trouble getting back into the groove.This one is for a lovely friend Marcia who brings me goodies in hospital and who turned up the other day after I got home, with some gorgeous epiphyte flowers. They only last a day but were very lovely.

I thought the quote was appropriate because for most of the year the plant is a bunch of succulent, bare stems and no one could imagine such a large, soft, fragile and beautiful flower springing from it, frustratingly difficult to paint though.

Monday, November 7, 2011

People who know me...

People who know me would be unaccustomed to my silence for over a week but, you guessed it, I am back in the 'slammer' again! A slight problem associated with too much prednisone, wonderful drug but it comes at a cost.
I hope to be home and etegamying soon, nil desperandum is my motto (easy to say)!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mon préféré le Français M. Pierre de Ronsard

Ah oui! My favourite Frenchman Monsieur Pierre de Ronsard.
The view from my back door.

This rose reminds me of a candy we have here called cocoanut ice, always homemade and sickly sweet but redolent of warm kitchens and motherly love. Before we became so clever  and aware, mothers would make this to be sold on 'sweet stalls' to raise money for their child's school along with the toffee that has pulled many a six year old tooth from it's roots! Now I prefer to have my sweets as 'eye candy' so I fill the garden with shamelessly romantic plants. Not for me the rigid lines and clumps of decorative grasses beloved of garden designers nowadays, our garden is high maintenance all the way and I love it.

This huge Hippeastrum is currently taking pride of place on our verandah where I can admire it as I eat 'al fresco'.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On the merry-go-round

Wake up, use the machine to  'cough assist', two nebulizers, two puffers, two nasal sprays ,change the intravenous bottle, check emails, laugh hysterically, ponder the meaning of life, decide it is perhaps worthwhile, start all over again.
In between treatments I am trying to do something productive but the garden seduces me and I find myself wasting hours just staring at the new greenery and peering into the flowers, kind of floral navel gazing!

The etegami community is busy working on New Years cards featuring the Year of the dragon.
Not being horoscopically minded but floriferously minded, I harked back to when as children we pinched the flowers of "Snapdragons" to open their mouths to make them roar.

I really love seeing what everyone else is trying out and I want to have a few more tries before the end of the year.

 This one features the Louisiana Iris that are growing in my pond. They come out in a huge flush of flowers lasting just a couple of weeks so I had the Prof bring me in some to the hospital to draw. I have always been intrigued by Iris who was a Greek goddess represented by the rainbow. Surely if there is a connection between heaven and earth it would be via a rainbow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig!

I'm a happy little pig being back home in the bosom of my family (himself, the insecure dog and the geriatric dog) and enjoying the splendiferous verandancy of my garden.
I did not escape completely unscathed,  still on IV antibiotics for a further week to completely route the bugs and get me back to what passes for normal 'round here.
Only a couple of etegami done while I was away shall post tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fast forward......a flock of cranes.

Just a note of record, my last post was about being home from hospital, well, that didn't last long, I am back in as of last Saturday.
Seems I picked up another hospital acquired infection in my ratty lungs while I was here before. Not something that bothers the general population but boy it is bothering me!
Consequently, not much happening on the creative front though I do continue on with my origami crane project. For the last several hundred hospital admissions I have been using my dinner menu printouts to make cranes. These are now numbering in their  hundreds and are destined to accompany me to Valhalla on my final journey.  (I gave up on the 'thousand cranes will cure you' thing a long time ago).
It is almost becoming like OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and any bit of white paper that comes under my hands becomes a crane. A friend explained that it is only OCD if you dread bad consequences if you don't do something. DUH! I figure that while I am making the cranes I am still here.....death does seem like a bad consequence to me.
I over dramatize, my doctor is upbeat as usual, that man laughs at death (his day will come), just longing to get back to my green oasis at home and enjoy what is left of the Spring weather. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Okay, so I didn't have a fish in my room.....

However, I did rework some drawings I had done of the dear departed Finney (remember Finney?)and her friends and I am rather pleased with the result. A bit too fussy for a 'real etegami' but hey, I enjoyed doing it.

The quote is from a poem by Thomas Gray, better known for his Elegy On (in?) a Country Churchyard.
Given that this poem is about a cat who drowns while trying to catch goldfish (sorry Debbie, I know you are a cat lover) and taking into account his entire oeuvre I think poor old Thomas could have done with a dose of Prozac. Life was pretty grim in those times so I suppose looking on the dark side was normal.
PS it is 'glisters' not 'glitters',

Seems as if I'm now obsessed with bees!

After waffling on about smells and how I had a love-hate relationship with wisteria, I almost missed the flowering.
While I was in hospital a mighty wind arose and carried off all of the blossoms in one afternoon. Luckily himself was able to save me one to draw which I did before flinging it in the rubbish  bin. Even the scent of one blossom was too much for a small room.
I did a version with a poem by Basho obliquely referring to wisteria but I like this wordless one better, the bees are definitely buzzing so that will do.

Mary Poppins had the right idea.

The words on this etegami are a paraphrase of the song from Mary Poppins..".A little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down, in the most delightful way". If you have ever tried to eat an unsweetened cumquat (calamondin?) you will see the reason for the sugar.
I like to stew them in sugar until they are kind of glaced and put them in the refrigerator, it is then a simple matter to pop one in your mouth every time the door opens and the little light goes on!
Mary Poppins came to mind because the stage production is being revived here at the moment, just in time for the school holidays.

Brace yourselves!

Yes, some new etegami done while I was a lady of leisure. Subject matter was in rather short supply but the Prof came good with a few flowers from my garden to save the day.
I don't know if it is a universal expression but to be a 'wallflower' means that nobody wants to dance with you and you are stuck sitting near the wall partnerless. Not a good thing. However, the simple 'Wallflower'  I have painted is definitely not going to sit out this dance if the bees have anything to say about it. The stamps I carved from a new rubbery material and it carves like butter.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Art in unlikely places.

Regular readers of this blog (you know who you are) will perhaps remember that I tend to spend some time in hospital. This is such a time and I am languishing here in a nice room with nothing but time on my hands. Now the usual kinks are being ironed out, there is an opportunity to do a little work.

Unfortunately I don't have access to a scanner so visual proof of that will have to wait until I get home.
I am, however so happy to have my new wireless hotspot, so much easier to use than the dreaded 'dongle' and just as fast as the internet at home. Moreover I can connect up to 5 devices at one time! Pity I can't blog, play on the Ipad and read on the Kindle at the same time, having only the one brain cell.

I'm pleased to report that I am to have an exhibition of my etegami  in the hospital in the new year. I may have to ask my friends to contribute something to show some 'real' etegami alongside my own in order to explain the idea. A mail art call on New Year dragons might be nice.

 The other amazing bit of news is that the lady who organizes the 'Art in the Hospital' program is the wife of a friend I went to art school with many moons ago and whom I met last year not knowing who she was until today! Happy discovery as I was able to catch up with his life as even though I have followed him professionally, I had lost touch.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Honeyeater's heaven

The natural world is so surprising, not only is the flower of this Grevillea species quite odd looking, it is green. Grevillias make up a large part of the native flora of Australia and were among the first plants described by the botanist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks in the 18th century.  Grevillia Banksii being the most common form. Much work has been done on hybridizing these plants and there are now many varieties suitable for the home garden. Dry information I guess, but their chief delight for me is to see them covered in bees and honeyeating birds who come for the copious amounts of nectar.

In common with many of these nectar bearing plants, the indigenous people steeped the flowers of grevillia  in water to make a sweet drink and the flowers also provided the raw materials for the honey they gathered.
Heigh-ho, off to do the dishes! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nice things do happen to good people.

Congratulations to my blog buddy Gay McKinnon of Silvergum Studio in Tasmania who has just won a  competition for children's book illustrators. I hope this will lead on to greater things for her and the chance to have more exposure to publishers. Her delightful drawing are deceptively simple and rely on wit and whimsy rather  than technology to produce a feeling of liveliness and fun. Gay is an established glass artist but is courageously following her dream to break into another field, you can see her work on her blog HERE.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A fishy tale

A sad day here at 'Casa Chaos', one of my very nicest goldfish has died, harried to death by the males in the pond trying to mate her. She was possibly egg bound and exhausted, life in the wild ain't pretty sometimes.
I did this etegami  to memorialize her. She will be missed but unfortunately because of similar shenanigans in the pond there are too many more to take her place, time to find new homes for about 100 of them I guess.

Finney, born 2007, length 20cm, bicolour, mother to many, she will be missed.

'Himself', the consummate critic says that I have anthropomorphized her, but what can I say, I really loved that fish.
In other doings I went on a tour of the artist's studios at our local community art centre today for their 'open day'.  Heavily subsidized, the studios are very sought after and the waiting list would probably get to me in the next millennium so I will just have to continue to be a 'pretend' artist without a studio.
In the main the work I saw was rather predictable,  people still doing stuff we did at art school all those years ago, I was dismayed by the number of wannabe Mark Rothkos!
Speaking of Mark Rothko, it was akin to a religious experience sitting in the room full of his paintings in the Tate Gallery in London, definitely so much more potent when seen as a suite of works in the right setting.
On a personal note, the thing I had removed from my back (was it a monkey?) turned out to be a harmless thingy, seems I am just flaking away, I could have told the doctor that!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nothing to paint but radishes...

Apologies to Basho but at the moment there is a profusion of things to paint in my garden and these radishes stood out. Fresh, succulent and tasty, they reminded me of the tale of Peter Rabbit. Peter gorges on vegetables from Mr MacGregor's garden and winds up feeling a little ill. Happily I suffered no ill effects after I ate my models, I 'canna' resist a wee radish.
Pardon the lapse into Scottish brogue, but the book I am listening to as I paint is a mammoth 'bodice ripper', "Outlander" by Diane Gabaldon, descriptive, racey and with enough Scottish history thrown in to make it a not too guilty pleasure. I have never read this genre before but I can see the appeal, pure escapism and it amazes me that I have half fallen in love with a non-existent Scot voiced by a woman! Figure that one out!
Back to real life and radishes.......

Peter Rabbit to 'Bodice Rippers' how did we get from there to here?                                                  

Monday, September 5, 2011

And another thing....

Have you noticed how smells, odours,  perfumes can evoke powerful memories?  A case in point for me is the smell of wisteria which holds associations with the death of my great grandfather, a good whiff can make me nauseous. Thankfully I am able to tolerate it now that I have identified the reason, my conscious brain has taken over.
The perfume of flowers is a delight in spring  and a powerful stimulant to memory (see previous post) and the fragrance of the sweetpea is among the most delightful and evocative for me.
My friend Jan remember Jan?  (she bakes and plants her sweetpeas every St Patrick's Day). Not only does she grow a lovely simple form of the sweetpea, she cuts dozens of bunches to give away every year. Balancing on a ladder to get the topmost blooms, her dedication is awesome. The flowers are descendants of those grown by her father. I have been the lucky recipient of several bunches this year and I made this etegami to thank her.

PS any resemblance to a Georgia O'Keefe painting ( I wish) is purely accidental though they do look a little organic shall we say?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Scratch and sniff

No, not hay fever, just a wish that you could 'scratch and sniff' this etegami.
Freezia perfume is perhaps my favourite smell in the world, possibly ranking just behind the smell of a freshly washed newborn baby.
As I have mentioned before on this blog, the smell of a bunch of freezias  immediately transports me back to my 17th birthday and the rather gorgeous boyfriend who gave them to me. Alas, the boyfriend departed and he came to no good, he ended up being a lawyer (both my sons who are lawyers will appreciate this but they are exceptional!).  The scent is still my favourite. I have yet to find a perfume that lives up to it.

Speaking of perfume I have found a rather nice subtle one called 'Green Tea' by Elizabeth Arden. I haven't worn perfume for years but I really love this one and I am walking around in a cloud of it at the moment.
The small operation I had on Tuesday went well, awaiting the biopsy. The Dr. cut out a fair swathe of skin and tissue from my back, he seemed to be sewing me up for ages but I shan't know how many stitches until the bandages are changed tomorrow. The irritating thing is not to be able to shower but being restricted to 'bird baths'...perhaps the perfume is a good idea after all.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A devil of a time.

Having a devil of a time would aptly describe my life at the moment so I thought this chap could help me sum it up.
The Tassie Devil beloved of cartoonists is under threat in the wild. A very nasty viral tumour which is spread by their feeding behaviour (biting, snatching, snarling...sounds like my house lol) attacks their faces causing  a painful death. If you are  sensitive don't Google images of the Devil as the pictures are really gross.
A few organizations are trying to isolate healthy populations and do captive breeding in the hopes that a cure will be found and healthy devils can be released back into the environment. I did this etegami using an image from this site. I hope they do not mind as perhaps they will benefit from donations to the cause.

(Source; Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park)
Oh, and me? I am going this afternoon to have a tumour cut out of my back...not a result I might add of scratching, snarling or biting but rather sun exposure. Not happy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Canis lupus 'dingo'

Arguments continue about the status of the wild dog of Australia, is it a native? (it has been here as an immigrant from Asia for at least 5,000 years. Can it be domesticated? ( Aboriginal people have managed to do so).  Is it sneaky and untrustworthy? (it has that reputation and to be called a 'Dingo" is an insult implying just that). That it has formidable jaws, cunning, and a penchant for eating sheep is undisputed and this last more than anything has led to our ambivalent feelings towards this animal. In some states of Australia it is declared a pest and anyone trying to keep a dingo or even failing to kill one given the opportunity will be fined. In other states it is listed as a vulnerable species.
So desperate were farmers to keep sheep safe from the Dingo or 'Warrigul' that an enormous series of fences was erected across the country to keep them confined to non grazing areas, alas to little effect. An interesting fact is that purebred dingoes (and there are fewer than ever given that they hybridize with domestic dogs) have such low genetic variability that they may have descended from as few as two immigrants.

I have used this etegami to pose the question  about whether these animals are truly 'wild' or can  be tamed as companions for people.
On another subject, I have spent the morning tidying up my fishpond  and enjoying the winter sun, a highlight of the garden is this potted cyclamen, blooming on  a diet of worm poo, it is the best one I have ever had.

Thursday night saw a major medical drama here, the 18 year old Silkie dog  managed to almost choke on a piece of chicken cartiledge, he panicked and could not breathe, luckily we are two minutes from the vet and so we rushed him there, by which time he seemed to have cleared his airway. It was extremely frightening and trying to do the Heimlich manoeuver on a panicked dog only resulted in dislodging something less savoury from the other end!  Cut to the scene, me, carrying said dog, covered in a malodorous mess hurrying into the vet . As I later remarked to them, "This is not  my usual perfume!"
I asked the vet to give him a sedative and then it was home for a VERY hot shower and out to a dinner engagement leaving him with the sitter...yes you read that correctly he has to be babysat!  Luckily I have a very obliging animal loving neighbour and friend, Betty, who is happy to sit and knit and provide company for my insecure dog who would otherwise bark incessantly the whole time we are out.  My fellow diners were transfixed by the tale, at least they stopped eating! LOL.
You will be pleased to know that TJ is back to his usual annoying demanding self. (I think my next dog may be a Di...noooooooo!)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ta Daaaa!

Well this little guy deserves a drumroll at least as he is arguably the most famous Australian export of all.
I speak of course of the 'Budgie' or more properly the budgerigar. This pint sized cutie has captured the hearts of old ladies everywhere and it cheers you up to hear one say "Who's a pretty boy then?" I have heard it use more colourful language but then that reflects on the owner not the budgie.

While I can argue that a caged bird is a depressing sight, budgies have brought joy and companionship to so many people and I can't begrudge them that. In the wild, I have seen flocks of many hundreds whirring across the sky, usually this green colour with some blues. Domestication and breeding have produced a bird at least twice as large as the wild type and in many shades of the original colours.
There is a story that when asked the Aboriginal name of the bird the tribesmen replied 'Budgerigar' and this supposedly meant "good to eat". This may be apocryphal but I don't know.  The writing is from the song 'Don't fence me in' by Cole Porter and really expresses how I feel about the idea of keeping caged birds (wait a sec until I get my soapbox).
The budgie has lent it's name to a diminutive pop singer from Australia Kylie Minogue who has been dubbed "The Singing Budgie" and to a particular brand of very skimpy mens swimming trunks known as "Budgie smugglers" I leave that one to your imagination!

Looks like an Angel....

I post this with 'no comment' I just refer you to the previous post!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Beautiful isn't it? I hadn't meant to get up to see this lovely sight but see it I did.

I have blogged before about the 18 year old dog I have who is so very demanding and quite unable to do anything for himself as he is both blind and deaf, well this morning he was almost dead too.
 Oh, he's still healthy enough but I was sorely tempted to strangle him! Usually the early morning shenanigans are left for the Prof to deal with but himself has gone off on a work related trip and come 5 am the dog started to miss him. His sense of smell is very keen (the dog's not the husband's) and he knows when his best mate is not around to do his bidding. Sometimes I am not considered a worthy substitute. Well it has been four hours of barking and scruffling around in the bed, being taken out for a wee, eating his breakfast, taking his medications etc, etc,....sorry, I'm going back to bed! Enjoy the sunrise!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

There are fairies at the bottom of my harbour.

Yes. Sydney Harbour has fairies, well not at the bottom exactly but on the shore.

The delightful Fairy penguin, a tiny but obviously hardy creature lives in a small colony almost in the middle of Sydney, capital of New South Wales Australia! These enchanting critters who normally live farther south have braved the perils of suburbia to live cheek by jowl with humans. Unfortunately they are at the mercy of domestic pets, boats and pollution but seem to survive in this busy port.
These little fairies have sometimes to be rescued and treated at the nearby Taronga zoo when mishaps occur and it is a newsworthy occasion when they are released back into the 'wild'. Volunteers guard the penguins at night to protect them from predation by dogs, cats and foxes. On one Island off Victoria Maremma sheep dogs have been used successfully to keep foxes away from the colony
They almost serve a 'canary in the mine' role and indicate the health of the harbour and it's surrounds, something which is at last getting the attention it deserves after 200 odd years of treating it like a drain for the city's pollution.

Anyone wanting to see the Fairy penguins en mass would be advised to go to Phillip Island off Victoria where tourists can watch the nightly march to the sea. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Feeling prickly?

You know those mornings when you wake up, your eyes are stuck together, your throat is scratchy and you are in no mood to suffer fools? Don't you wish you could just curl up in a ball and keep the world away. This little guy has the solution though it has taken a few million years of evolution to get there.

The Echidna or spiny anteater (it's favourite food is termites) has a very nice strategy for avoiding confrontations. It digs a little hole and settles in leaving only it's spines protruding. If a predator should flip it over it merely curls into an impenetrable ball.
Like it's cousin the platypus it is a very curious creature indeed. It is a Monotreme, a mammal that lays eggs which are then deposited in a pouch. the young are suckled from a gland on the abdomen as the echidna has no nipples.They occur in Australia and New Guinea and are hunted for food but are protected fauna in Australia. While superficially resembling hedgehogs they are not related, the young are called Puggles.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I 'heart'ichokes!

A little discussion on the Etegami Fun Club Facebook page  HERE about artichokes and the strange western custom of eating what are essentially thistles inspired this etegami.

While I love artichokes, it is not a disinterested kind of relationship and after admiring it's shapely beauty and drawing it the model died a noble death, soused in far too much butter to be good for it.
Proof indeed that butter is bad for you!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rainy days and etegami.

The Prof is away ( comment). pursuing his new found rather plebeian hobby (don't worry, he never reads this blog) of lawn bowls at a three day clinic.  What to do with all of the free time I have when I am no longer picking up socks and wet towels and switching off lights and computers in empty rooms?  Why make, etegami of course!
In keeping with the damp atmosphere, I have drawn an improbable little creature who lives in water, digs a burrow, lays eggs and suckles it's young; the platypus.
So strange is the (sometimes called "duckbilled") platypus (from the greek words 'platus pous' meaning flat foot) that scientists in the old world reacted with disbelief when shown a stuffed specimen. It has fur, a tail like a small beaver, webbed feet, a rubbery bill used for finding worms and small crustaceans under water and interestingly a poisoned spur on the hind foot. This spur is capable of inflicting a nasty wound on an adult. It is rare to see a platypus in the wild as they are very secretive and rather scarce so if you get injured, well, don't go messing with a platypus is all I can say.

On another subject entirely, the Prof and I have decided that the way to good health is to drink healthy smoothies made of fruit and vegetables and to this end we have purchased a Vitamix blender.
This monster is the size and price of a small European nation (given the Greek situation). Optimism never dims however and despite advanced years and a lifetime of scepticism, we think this may be the fountain of youth. The machine came with TWO DVDs. THREE BOOKS and the recommendation of thousands of fanatical vegetarians, vegans and crystal gazers on the internet.....I can't wait to try it!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Grubs on!

Insects have been a food source for man forever and here in Australia we have the Big Daddy of yummy insects, the Witchetty grub.
Witchetty grubs are the large larvae of several types of moth found here in arid regions. The indigenous people prized them and still do in remote areas, for their high protein and delicious almond like flavour, though this may be an acquired taste! I can honestly say I have eaten one as a child and the only thing I remember was that it definitely did not taste like chicken!
So following on from a series of animals and birds that are likely to give you a nasty nip, I have made this card to put the bite back on the wildlife.

P.S. You may wonder why I ate a grub...long story but my grandfather was a bit of an eccentric for those days and believed that we could learn a lot from the aboriginal people about how to survive if we were lost in the bush, consequently I have eaten snake and kangaroo and many different types of greens picked from the bush (none of which compared in my youthful eyes to a nice home cooked meal but I bravely tried them to please my grandfather). Of course nowadays "Bush Tucker" as wild foods are called, are served in the best restaurants and are awfully trendy.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ban the bunny.

You may not know that in Australia the rabbit is a declared noxious pest. For much of the last century rabbits have been in plague proportions in many country areas. Lacking a natural predator, they multiplied like, well, rabbits. During the Great Depression in the 1930's many people survived on rabbit meat which was cheap and easy to obtain. City streets reverberated to the cries of "Rabbito" and housewives ran out with their sixpences to buy. The irony here is that rabbits were introduced to give the ordinary man the opportunity to hunt them and eat the meat, a luxury enjoyed only by the landed gentry in England.  In fact many original settlers in Australia were convicts transported for the crime of poaching.
 It was only with the introduction of a disease called myxomatosis that any kind of control was possible, as rabbits became immune to this virus, another one called the Callici virus was introduced and we wait to see if this is the answer to the rabbit problem.

(photo; National Archives of Australia)

This is an image taken during the worst time, the rabbits having totally denuded the land.
It is quite odd then that bunnies feature so much in our Easter celebrations. A number of determined people would really like to use an indigenous animal in place of the rabbit and they have nominated the Bilby. The Bilby is  shy nocturnal creature  with a pouch in which it carries it's young, obviously designed for carrying Easter eggs as well! Interestingly the pouch faces backwards so that it does not fill up with dirt when the animal digs for food.
All of this information is to introduce this etegami, one of my series on Australian animals.

Don't you just love those big ears?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bad press.

One of the most dangerous animals in the bush or even the city is the fruit bat or flying fox. Don't get me wrong, he won't come after you with guns blazing, though he can scratch and bite. The danger is less obvious. Flying foxes have been in the news these last few days because  they are carriers of a deadly virus which attacks and kills horses who then pass it on to humans. Veterinarians who have attended the sick animals have died and through no fault of their own, the foxes get the blame.
Mind you, they don't enjoy a good reputation, mainly for their habit of denuding orchards, taking up residence in urban areas in large smelly, noisy communities and generally pooping where they feel like it.
Much to our dismay we have learned that FF pooh can strip  paint off a car overnight and leave a nasty tacky residue wherever it falls.
All of that said, I do enjoy the sight of them wheeling into the park across the road for their nighttime feast of fig fruits and we are occasionally able to rescue some fruit from their nightly raids on our grapevine and fruit trees. They make an awful racket in our grape trellis as they squabble over the fruit, rather like the mating shenanigans of cats, very loud. The bats sleep hanging upside down so that is why this etegami looks a little strange.

I couldn't resist posting this photo of these orphan baby flying foxes which I found on the internet. Sorry I could not find who took the photo, maybe someone will enlighten me so I can credit it?

And, as a total non sequiter.. a photo of the dinner I made last night, kind of Chinese, Japanese fusion mixed with a good deal of ineptitude (it tasted fine though).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The last laugh.

Following on from that other dangerous bird the emu, I give you the Laughing Jackass or Kookaburra. This bird is a first class hunter and his favourite foods are bugs, lizards and wait for it...snakes (we will come to those later)!
It is a sight to gladden the heart of the average herp-ophobe (is there such a word?) to see one of these guys dispatching a snake with a deft flick of that murderous looking beak. Apart from their diet they are known for their raucous laughing call which can go on for quite a long time mostly at sunset or sun-up. They famously live in families with many uncles and aunts helping to raise the voracious young so their dawn and dusk chorus can be the combined voices of several individuals. I love the sound of their laughter, it always makes you smile no matter how down in the dumps you are. Lucky for us, a family of Kookaburras  have made the park across the road from us their headquarters this winter.

The Kookaburra is actually a type of kingfisher and sports the characteristic flash of iridescent peacock blue feathers on the wing.

A favourite nursey rhyme and 'round' sung by  Australian children is "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, mighty king of the bush is he, laugh kookaburra, laugh kookaburra, etc," (copyright held in the US by Larrikin music) was the subject of a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement by the band Men at Work in their 1981 song "Down Under". The song was the theme song for our (successful) bid for the America's  Cup yacht race. Larrikin was subsequently awarded damages as the judge deemed that the flute riff in the song was plagiarized perhaps unwittingly, we like to think , by the composer Colin Hay.
So, the kookaburra did get the last laugh!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Curiouser and curiouser....

The Australian Emu, that great flightless bird, has the reputation of being very curious. My Grandma would say that to attract an emu you should lie on the ground nearby and wave a dishtowel, then they would be sure to come over to see what it  is.
I never did test this hypothesis but a small mob of emus lived on her farm and often came to the fence of the house yard just to check out what was going on.
Emus are the scourge of picknickers in wildlife parks and will steal food from your hand (or mouth!). They are particularly partial to barbequed meat.

Like the big kangaroos, emus have very sharp claws and they can do a lot of damage when cornered.
The quote is from the poem called 'The Emu Hunt' by  A.B. 'Banjo' Patterson one of the early Australian poets who romanticised the bush, creating a nation of people who refuse to accept that we are one of the most urbanised countries in the developed world and the 'outback' is not our spiritual home.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Etegami Aussie animals.

I thought I would attempt a series of etegami depicting the true nature of Australian animals. It is easy to be beguiled  by the appearance of strange looking creatures, imagining them to be cute cuddly Disneyesque critters but beware of the bush!
The Big Red kangaroo or Old Man kangaroo as the males are called can stand over 6 feet tall and deliver a blow with his hind legs that can disembowel you. Another trick they have is to lure a pursuing dog or  dingo into a waterhole and drown it by using their stubby arms to hold them under.
There are some mild mannered kangaroos and wallabies who will tolerate human interaction but usually on reaching maturity they are very unpredictable and many a pet 'joey' has been released back into the bush when it turns nasty.
So here he is the biggest, meanest bloke of all 'Big Red'.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pie in the sky?

No, lettuce in a windowbox. Can you claim to be connected to the earth if you grow your veggies in a suspended pot?
Yes! there is that same visceral satisfaction fellow gardeners will know that comes from growing, harvesting and eating your own produce no matter the scale or method.
My  mediterranean mix of lettuce is loving the cool damp winter we are having and I am loving eating it!

Sometimes I feel like 'The Little Red Hen' in the children's story. She grew things all by herself so she ended up eating it if I could just figure out how to grow chocolate!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Magpie madness.

One of the harmless pastimes led by elderly folk is to feed the birds in their backyard. So it is with us, the Prof and I enjoy watching the family of four beady eyed carnivores squabble over the left over dog food on our back verandah while we enjoy our 'petit dejourner' . Occasionally things go awry when one of the bolder or more adventurous birds decides to explore our house in search of the mother lode of dog food.
I awoke this morning to a great ruckus, himself had left the back door open for the convenience of our remaining ambulatory dog (the other having been confined to his bed for the last four years where he is waited on hand and paw). The inevitable happened we were hosting a frightened magpie and you know what magpies do when they are frightened! I spent the next wee while scraping magpie poo off walls, floors and various surfaces around our family room and kitchen!
Thankfully he finally made his way out, lured by more dog food, without further damage to himself or the house.
Not having the time or presence of mind to take photos I am posting a detail from a painting I did many years ago of a magpie taking a drink in our drought ravaged garden when we lived out west and that will have to do.

Another detail to put it in context although this shows only part of the 6  by 4 feet painting.