Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
Wishing a very happy and safe Christmas to you all.
Mabel, Maude, Molly and I hope that every single one of you discovers a new favourite thing this Christmas . . .
I have recently been informed that I am probably ‘wasting my time’ with my blog (how rude!) and would make it much easier for friends to follow me if I posted directly to instagram instead. Instagram. Really?
Well I knew what the gist of instagram was of course because . . . well, you’d probably have to be living under a rock not to . . . but I had never felt the need to look into any further. I honestly thought it was just another form of social media with lots of celebrities sending out their favourite makeup tips for the day etc etc . . . but after a little bit of research (and a couple of hilarious ‘how to’ lessons from Megan in the office) I have discovered it is actually so much more. There are so many fabulous artists I can follow (and steal ideas from) . . . and amazing photographers I can follow (and steal ideas from) . . . and seriously mad doggie-people (because who doesn’t want to follow the antics of seriously mad doggie-people . . . )
How did I not know about this before?
But seriously—although I now realise why people like instragram so much, I wasn’t so enthralled about the process of setting it all up. ‘Download the app here’ sounds easy enough but in reality I had all sorts of frustrating fun and games trying to link my new account from my mobile to my tablet and then to my Facebook account. I tried putting some older sketches up to get me started and sometimes they appeared on my phone . . . and sometimes they didn’t. And sometimes they appeared on my tablet and sometimes they didn’t. And sometimes they turned up on my Facebook page . . . and sometimes they didn’t. Sigh. Just about did my head in. However . . . (although not saying this too loudly in case I jinx it) it does all seem to be working properly now. So folks—the long and the sort of it is . . . drum roll . . .
sallyinthehaven is now on Instagram. Ta Da!!
(Well—that probably doesn’t really warrant a ‘Ta Da’ to you but it certainly does to me!)
Anyway, from today I am on holiday and away from the college for three weeks (woo hoo!) and I have been promising (as I often do) to get some serious sketching done during that time. The wifi and internet access where I live is sporadic at the best of times and made even more so by the huge influx of holiday-makers we get at this time of year so I am hoping that posting to instagram might be a way forward.
Wish me luck—and hope to see some of you there!
It’s that time of year again folks (can you believe it?) and I assume many of us are now knee (neck??) deep into their preparations for the fast-approaching ‘silly season’.
We’re making our lists (and checking them twice) . . . and then we’re re-writing those lists (at least four times) because the dog ate the first one and the second went astray somewhere . . . and then we had to make absolutely-positively-and-for-sure nothing whatsoever was left off . . . and then we had to do it all over again to make sure it was colour-coded in order of priority . . . We even delegated some of the jobs to friends and family (why shouldn’t they get to join in the fun?)—before waking up in a cold sweat at 2.00am the next morning to the perfect certainty that none of those jobs were ever going to get done unless we did them all ourselves . . .
And the party lights and sparkly decorations and (slightly worn and wonky) Christmas tree need to go up, like, right now! (preferably out of reach of next door’s cat . . . ) but we’re not quite sure where they are. We know we packed them all away safely last year but they’re not quite where we remembered they’d be. Maybe they got moved into the garage?
And the food! Oh good grief—the food! All the food needs to be organised and prepared—and taste tested (can’t possibly be anything other than fabulous for the visitors. OMG the visitors! Did we all add ‘scour the house’ to our lists??)
Okay—I’m teasing. Well, sort of. I admit I don’t spend a lot of time or energy in preparation for Christmas. I make one list and then it’s done. I haven’t put up a Christmas tree in years (although I do have a rather cool tin Santa which sits on my dining room table) and decorating the house itself and then leaving the dogs alone in it seems to be just asking for trouble. Nor do I cook—but if you have been following my blog at all over the last few years you already knew that!
But I do like to shop and I do love to buy presents for friends and family so there’s every reason to celebrate right there. And I know Christmas is supposed to be all about giving rather than receiving and I’m all for that . . . but, you know, I reckon if I am out and about looking for that one last perfect gift to finally cross everything off my list and I just happen to come across a pair of shoes that would go perfectly with my new blue dress . . . or some spunky new cushions for my living room . . . or those new paints I saw on-line . . . well . . . I can’t see that it wouldn’t be so very bad to treat myself to a little something too.
I think I may have mentioned in the past how much I have always loved cats. I know I only (Only!! Dear God please don’t tell my girls I said that!) have dogs these days but I was owned by cats long before I was owned by dogs.
My last lovely old cat, Cleo, passed away many years ago now. She was 18. She and her brother Jesse (who had passed away the year before) had been with me since they were tiny kittens. Although I missed them both deeply, at that stage I also had two dogs, one of whom, Harry, came out of the womb hating cats. Although he eventually learned to tolerate (under severe sufferance I might add) ‘his’ cats, he nevertheless continued to consider every other cat on the planet to be ‘fair game’ and nothing I ever said or did over his long, long life could disabuse him of this view. Once Cleo passed I really felt that bringing another cat into the house might be pushing his patience a paw too far . . .
And even after Harry himself had wandered off over the Rainbow Bridge it was not very long before puppy Mabel made an appearance, followed closely by Maudie . . . and then Molly and . . . well . . . suddenly there were lots of little doggie feet coming and going and I found I had more than enough to keep me busy (and amused) without contemplating adding a cat to the mix.
But then a couple of months ago a new kitty-cat moved in next door and suddenly all those wonderful things I had loved and missed about my own dear cats came flooding back to me. Their sparkly eyes and deafening purrs. Their air of disdain and complete belief in their own superiority. Their lovely squishy kitty-cat feet . . .
Our new neighbour, Sable, is around 8 months old, soft and glossy and sleek and black . . . and very, very cheeky (and we all know how I like critters with ‘attitude’.) He’s very young yet and still getting his bearings but it won’t be long I think until he has the whole neighbourhood under his sway. But, for now at least, he seems happily content to spend most of his days reclining regally on my garage roof, gazing benevolently down upon his new kingdom and all his adoring subjects.
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
I blame Megan. Seriously. I hadn’t thought about licorice in years. I don’t remember the last time I even ate a piece of licorice. But just after Halloween, while we were discussing the perils and pitfalls of buying the right ‘type’ of Halloween sweeties for children, Megan (our newest staff member at the college) related a story about how some kiddies had come to her home trick-or-treating and all she had to left to offer them was licorice. The children were less than impressed ( . . . ran screaming from the building . . . ) That was it. Just a short funny little story about licorice. But the weird thing is, since then it’s all I’ve been able to think about. I have developed a real craving for licorice . . .
I know licorice is not for everyone. There seems to be no grey area—people either love it, or they hate it. I love it. All sorts (see what I did there?) but sadly, these days, when it comes to confectionery at least, it has become harder and harder to find real licorice that hasn’t been drastically tampered with. Although I still love the idea of licorice straps, licorice jelly beans, chocolate covered licorice, and coloured licorice, many of these products don’t actually contain much (if any) real licorice. Instead, they contain anise oil which has the smell and taste of black licorice but it’s not actually the real deal.
Mmmmm—black licorice. Makes my mouth water to think of it. And, of course, once I had the notion in my head (definitely your fault, Megan!) I had to have some (and I had to have it NOW!) so I went in search of my very favourite licorice—the Pontefract cake.
Now if you are not a fan of licorice you may never have heard of Pontefract cakes (also called Pomfret cakes). They are small roughly circular black sweets made of licorice, and were originally manufactured in England in the Yorkshire town of Pontefract (hence the name) although I am guessing they were not then in the same form they are now. It has apparently only been since the 19th century that licorice was used extensively for confectionery, before that it was used for medicinal tonics for both humans and horses . . .
Well one man’s medicine is another girl’s candy. I have very fond memories of receiving a little pack of Pontefract cakes tucked into the toe of my Christmas stocking every year ( . . . and as neither of my sisters liked them I didn’t have to share . . . ) and that is the licorice I was craving now. Soft and chewy. Not too salty and not too sweet. So I went searching . . . and searching . . . and searching. Could I find any of my most favourite licorice in the local area? Of course not. That would have been far too easy. (When I asked at a couple of local stores and supermarkets if they carried Pontefract cakes, I was met with blank stares or sent to the the bakery section. Sigh. )
Never mind. If that is my biggest disappointment this week I have little to complain about. I found I can still buy my favourite licorice on-line but until that arrives I did manage to find myself a very tasty alternative to subdue the immediate cravings and ‘tide me over’ and, as an added bonus, the pretty black and gold packet it came in also gave me something fun to sketch.
So—a win-win all around really . . .
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
‘It never rains but it pours’—isn’t that how the saying goes? We’ve had no decent rain for months and months and this week we have been deluged. I’ve literally been paddling around the back garden.
That’s not a complaint though—we’ve desperately needed the rain . . . and at least I’ve had the right ‘shoes’ for the job . . .
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
I have never met this wee dog but I loved him as soon as I saw him. I guess my soul is good to go . . .
Original photo by Australian photographer Alex Cearns
(I love her photo books of animal portraits and they’re also great as photo references for me to practise new techniques and try out new art materials.
Although, having said that, here I am back to using my trusty old blue biro . . . )
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
I like emus. I just thought I’d put that out there right up front. Remember what I’ve said in the past about critters with attitude? Well, cue the emu. They are cool dudes. And although I thought I knew quite a bit about them in general, while searching for a quote to go with my sketch this week (quotes about emus are extremely hard to come by I might add) I was surprised to learn a whole lot more about these wonderful quirky creatures . . .
Things I already knew:
Emus are big. The emu is the second largest bird in the world (the largest being the ostrich). Emus can stand from 150 to 190 cm (59 to 75 in) in height and weigh between 18-60 kgs (40-132 lbs).
Emus are flightless. They have very small, almost useless wings.
Emus are fast. They have very long, very strong legs. When at a full run their stride can be almost 9 feet long and they can sprint up to around 48 km (30mph).
Emus are long-lived. Emus can live 10-20 years in the wild and up to 35 years in captivity.
Emus are curious. Anyone who has ever been to a wildlife sanctuary will know they have a tendency to sneak up behind you and look over your shoulder to see what you are doing (and to see if you are eating something you might be encouraged to share . . . )
Emus make weird noises. Emus have a pouch in their throat which, when inflated, allows them to make deep booming or drumming sounds which can be heard up to 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) away. (Apparently they can also issue a rather blood-curdling hiss . . . )
Things I didn’t know:
Emus have 2 sets of eyelids—one set for blinking and the other to keep out dust.
Emus can jump. Apparently their strong legs also allow the birds to jump up to 2.1 metres (7 feet) straight up. (How freaky is that!)
They are good swimmers and like to play in water (and mud). (I have to say that until now it never occurred to me to even think of an emu having a fun day at the beach.)
Emus have no teeth so they swallow small stones and pebbles into the gizzard which help to grind up and digest their food. (Tasty!)
Australia once declared war on emus. (Say what?)
I’ll say that again. Australia once went to war with the emus. Seriously. It became known as ‘The Great Emu War of 1932’ . . .
Stay with me. At the end of the First World War returning Australian soldiers and a number of British veterans, were given land by the Australian government to take up farming in Western Australia. With the onset of the great depression the government encouraged these farmers to increase their wheat crops, promising assistance in the form of subsidies. However, wheat prices continued to fall, the government failed to deliver on the promised subsidies, and things became increasingly tense as the farmers prepared to harvest, while also threatening to refuse to deliver the wheat.
The farmers’ woes were exacerbated by the arrival of up to 20,000 emus who descended on the area as part of their breeding season and (yahoo!) found the abundance of food and water now available to them beyond their wildest dreams. They proceeded to rampage enthusiastically around the district damaging crops and fences, eating everything they could get their birdy beaks around and causing general mayhem.
The besieged farmers relayed their concerns to the government (quite forcefully I imagine) and the government obligingly sent the army in to sort the problem out. It was soon discovered that taking single pot shots at the offending emus was having little effect (apparently the emus realised quite early on that if they stayed just far enough away the guns weren’t accurate enough to hit them) and so, on further pressing, the Australian Minister of Defense then gave the soldiers access to . . . wait for it . . . machine guns . . . (I swear I am not making this up . . . )
Long story short—several military assaults were then launched upon the errant emus, with less than spectacular results. The maurauding critters proved far trickier than anyone anticipated (seems they tend to scatter and flee in all directions when threatened, instead of patiently standing in a crowd waiting to be mown down) and after a very short space of time (and some seriously scathing reports in the media) the government decided it was all a bit too embarrassing and withdrew their troops.
So there you go. The emus had won the war. This might go a long way towards explaining why many of us today have never even heard about this bizarre little slice of Aussie history . . . and why all emus still seem to possess that same smug mess-with-me-if-you-dare stare . . .
Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
There is no earthly reason for this post this week other than a funny quote and an excuse for me to sketch a cute duckling. Well, that and the fact that the last couple of weeks has finally brought us some long awaited and much needed rain.
That old expression ‘Fine weather for ducks!’ seems wholly appropriate . . .