(This is a mirror site of my webpage karenjcarlisle.com)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Skulls and All Hallows Eve.

It is Hallow’een. My daughter loves the dressing up. We stay at home and watch videos, eat inordinate amounts of lollies and have fun. We do have a cauldron full of sealed sweeties for anyone who does ‘trick or treating’ though that rarely happens in our area. It is only in the past few years that we have decided to tip our hat at All Hallows Eve.

I had resisted the urge to follow yet another Americanism that is not really part of our culture over here. My clever daughter suggested we take a leaf out of the European book, as that is part of our culture (and she loves any excuse for costuming and food I think). Her interest was first sparked when we visited Euro Disney in 2008. She marveled at the myriad of decorations and Hallow’een  hijinks.


On returning home, my daughter pointed out that we had quite a collection of skulls and gargoyles (she had seen them around Paris and at Notre Dame) around our house (possibly due to our tabletop roleplaying, historical re-enactment ). My earliest kull was made ofconcrete and found in the garden section. This travelled with me from Queensland and is used as a doorstop. We have a gargoyle (technically a grotesque, as it does not spout water) in the front hall facing the world as it enters. Traditionally this was to keep the evil spirits out. Ours is a candle holder.  My favourite is a plastic skull used as a plant pot with a succulent (colloquially) known as a brain plant.

Bella button doneFor one of the Harry Potter movie premiers, I made a Hermoine (dressed as Bellatrix La Strange), mainly because of the cool skull buttons. I sculpted them and my Dear Heart (hubby) helped with the casting.

This Hallow’een I decided to finally do a costume I have wanted to do for some time, based on Day of the Dead celebrations. It is a time of praying for and remembering friends and family members who have died, co-inciding with All Saints Day and All Souls Day. 

DSC_0055We should not fear death. It is a part of life. When I see skulls, I do not think of the frightening horror movies, nor blood and gore (possibly influenced by all the anatomy I did at university); I see the skeletal remains of a person who had a soul, a personality and lived life – a life that was precious and should be celebrated. That is why we now observe All Hallows Eve.

All Hallows Eve 2013 b


Lots of my photos in the above post!

Costume Bit: another outfit I adore’

Snow-White-and-the-Huntsman Image-credit-Universal-Pictures From Snow White and the Huntsman (Charlize Theron) Image credit:Universal Studios( 2012).

Writing/Reading: Books Bit: I am reading now.

longbourne jobaker2013

Baker, Jo. Longbourn. Doubleday. London, 2013. ISBN: 9780857522023

Skulls and All Hallows Eve.

Testing new technology

Apparently I can send posts via my mobile phone. Just a test to see how it goes… And a photo


Testing new technology

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In my Back Yard - More Photos

apple grannysmithI have been out in the garden again and did a second photo shoot, this time in the back garden. So far I have counted well over a dozen apples on both our Pink Lady and Granny Smith dwarf apple trees that are trained over a metal archway.

Our garlic has grown better this year. It seems they do better in pots than our clay soil. They are just about ready to pull, next month

tomatoesNot a lot of luck with tomato seeds, this year. The seedlings took forever to show themselves and are still under 5cm tall. We did buy a cherry tomato seedling which has shot off and already producing tomatoes. On the weekend one of our ‘garden fairygodfathers’ popped in and delivered another five seedlings, two of which were immediately planted in the tomato bed. The other three need another week or so for their roots to improve and they will be in the garden and in pots.

I love the garden. It reminds me of my art and writing. A small germ of an idea, growing (sometimes steadily, sometimes miraculously) until it bears fruit for everyone to enjoy. It is another way of creating something beautiful and also practical. Even those that sometimes seem beyond help can resurrect themselves and bloom, despite my worse efforts!

Even my roses are useful. They are edible (we don’t spray to kill the bugs), attract beneficial insects and are beautiful to the senses (ours have the most glorious smell!).
rose rugosa pink

In my Back Yard - More Photos

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Better than Winning!

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio” (Shakespeare, Hamlet). There are also many things more satisfying than winning a competition.

Gawler Short Story Comp announcement 131026This Saturday the whole family went on a mini-road trip to Gawler for the Competition’s Award Ceremony which was held at the Gawler Library Reading Room (complete with glass-fronted bookshelves filled with old hard cover books, gilded ceiling rose and large gilt framed portraits. I was in heaven!) The judges reported that they had a hard time deciding on a winner as there  was a very ‘high calibre of the entries.’

I did some schmoozing at the Library, meeting a most pleasant writer (who ended up winning a prize). My daughter was much more interested in the proceedings when she ran into a friend from school (now moved to a new school) and now had someone to converse with.

In August, I entered the Gawler Library Short Story Competition with my steampunk-genre short story - The Guest Upstairs.  I had fun writing this story. It all began with a picture of a mechanical eyeball… (Many of my stories start with an idea sparked from a picture, a comment/phrase or a title.) I have more adventures planned for the main characters, both the hero/ine and the villian/s.

Since entering the competition, I presented this story to my local speculative fiction writers’ group. I received very valuable critique and editing help. I am now currently rewriting the story so I was not surprised when I did not place in the competition. But all was not lost.

The most exciting feedback, from my writers’ group, was the overall reaction to the story and characters. There was a strong desire expressed to see me expand the short story into a novel. (squee) At the Gawler Library, I chatted with one of the younger writers. I introduced her to the steampunk genre (something of which she was previously unaware) and we exchanged story plots. Her eyes lit up; she would love to read the story. (more squee!)

Though I did not place in the competition, I gained something even better – positive feedback and enthusiasm for the story and its characters. I was excited that fellow writers would recommend I consider going further with the story and that a younger reader was enthusiastic about the story and was keen to hear more (even in the smaller genre of steampunk).

This promise of hope pushes me to continue writing on the bad days. If sales are the equivalent to ‘bums on seats’, then at least there are some people who are interested in reading it. I got face-to-face acceptance of and enthusiasm for my story – something a writer loves to hear. I think that is much better than winning!

Better than Winning!

Friday, October 25, 2013

and the Fallout

Most of the time life throws spit balls or cricket balls. Occasionally it lobs a whopping big medicine ball at my face, just to see if I am still paying attention. This year I feel that I have been bombarded with balls, from one of those automatic tennis ball throwing machines. This one takes bigger balls.

As you may remember Dear Reader, 2013 has been a very difficult innings for me. There have been issues with my day job , stress leave and anxiety. My Dear Heart was retrenched. There have been trips to hospital with follow up investigations (all clear – phew). Two of my friends have died from liver cancer (what is it about liver cancer?!) and another diagnosed with cancer. 2013 sucks!

I have been determined to hit back. This year I have decided to face my fears and heed some advice:
  • don’t listen to ‘what ifs
  • find something that makes me happy (I prefer to use the word content. The modern world places too much emphasis on being ‘happy’. We need many different emotions to make us human…. I digress…)
  • slow down
I have merged the first two and gone back to my long time passion of writing. Over the years, I have written articles for various magazines – even won a poetry prize in grade four. When I was a child, dreaming of my future, I always saw myself as an eccentric old writer with long grey plaits, my grandchildren picking veges in the front yard.  I lost that dream when entering university. ‘No money in writing; should chose a solid and stable career.’ I listened to my elders. Security won.

This year I have faced some daemons and fought with the what ifs. What if I am no good. What if I get laughed at. What if I can’t think of a story. What if I can’t make money from writing. What if… It is endless and always will be.

While on stress leave, the money was not the issue. I had the time. I decided to use it. I soon realised was that I was much, much  more content when writing. I was cheerier (to my husband’s relief). I had rediscovered my itch for writing. When I didn’t write, I was grumpier (to my husband’s dismay).

Then came the eureka moment; the epiphany I had when I was younger and had lost under all the sensible, scientific learning – I had to write. It was in my DNA. It was me. Even as I complained during a third rewrite and edit, I felt complete. There was the inevitable  apprehension as deadlines for short stories loomed ahead but, at the same time, there was the excitement of completion, of knowing I did that! 

I had faced the fear of rejection and realised the old adage of ‘the only fear is fear itself’. I had some more very good advice: Rejections mean that I am a writer. Then I got shortlisted for one of my short stories. Bang went my other fear of being laughed at for being a crap writer.  Someone liked my writing! (other than my dear friends). You Dear Reader, have given me confidence in my writing by reading my blog regularly. Thank you.

Now having hit that ball back for six, I am working on the final piece of advice: Slow down. I have to admit I cannot do six impossible things before breakfast. (Hitch Hickers’ Guide to the Galaxy has some profound insights. I also like their method of learning to fly though gravity gets in the way.)

This year, I have been blogging daily. It was originally supposed to be for daily writing practice and part of my strategy for improving my writing skills. It became a way of collecting my thoughts and has been, and will continue to be, good therapy for me. Hopefully it has been either entertaining, educational or thought provoking for you too.

This week I have been struck down with my old nemeses of allergy, vertigo and ear infection (I think my sinuses are threatening me too). I have been too unwell to do any significant amount of writing. Very frustrating! I have had some time to think (when my head has cleared).

During this time characters have been surfacing, snippets of story have been teasing me and pictures have been forming. I have reached that point where I have to return to my novel and write. NaNoWrMo is next month. While I am not officially attempting it (I really don’t need another major stressor in my life right now), I am using it as another prompt to get writing. 

I cannot give up this blog however. It has been great for me to share with others, while sorting myself out. (Hopefully I don’t spout too much drivel.) So, after much soul searching (as they say), I will only be posting every two or three days. This will give me time to do the writing that I ache to do and still let you all know what I am doing and what I am thinking. I hope you will continue to visit. I still have lots of things to say.

Be excellent to one another and party on, dude.

You can still follow my blog posts with email alerts or google  – just fill in the blanks to the right.

and the Fallout

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Change of Plans

Dear Reader,

I apologise as this will be a short post today. I am laid up with a virus. My words are just as fuzzy as my head. I am sure you really don’t want to hear the gorey, snotty details.

In the meantime:

Art – here is a Steampunk Bit: some of my original photography
mining help

A Costume Bit: Something I would love to make: From My Fair Lady, Paramount (1964)

my fair lady ascot

Writing/ Reading – and a Book Bit: What I am reading right now:Butcher, Jim. Grave Peril. Orbit Books, London. 2005. ISBN: 978-1-84149-400-5

Change of Plans

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What Doesn't Kill Me...

What a blah start to the week. My plans were simple; attend my day job, return home, do some writing. Ah, how easy it is for things to go awry. I woke feeling nauseated. My inner ear felt swollen and my throat was dry. Allergies pretty much suck. I dragged myself out of bed and got driven to work (with the vertigo that had ensued, it was probably not entirely safe to drive) and smiled weakly as I entered.

I wasn’t fooling anyone. The more I moved, the greater the nausea and vertigo became. I lasted until lunch time when my Dear Heart (hubby) collected me – a shoulder to lean on as I tried to remain upright on the way to the car.

Maybe I could still manage to write something? I spent the day fighting a cracking headache, either sitting or lying as still as possible. I watched some Big Bang Theory to cheer myself up. After several aborted attempts, I have finally managed to write something, as I did not want to disappoint you, Dear Reader.

I will survive. (yes, I have had it checked out with physicians.) As there is nothing to be done but have patience and Stematil, I try to look on these episodes as an opportunity. These bouts of vertigo remind me to slow down and think of how blessed I really am. I am alive. I have talents. I have a wonderful family…

and I have another experienced to draw on when penning my prose.

What Doesn't Kill Me...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Organising - Editing My Writing Space

With the recent garden clean up, I was in a culling/editing mood. I have been putting off attacking this project. My writing desk has been coverd in ’stuff’ which was precariously piled to over 40cm, across the entire desk.

desktidy 2131020
After my husband removed the accumulated dust (dust allergies – I still had to get an antihistamine and my eyes and ears are excruciatingly itchy now and my voice is raspy), I set to reorganising my desk. (Sorry, I forgot to take a before photo – it was piled at least 40cm high!).

Gone are small empty boxes, old (empty) diaries and even some old catalogue pages! I found bulldog clips, paperclips and a box of my business cards that I knew I had somewhere.

I can find things on my writing desk now. (Now I just have to organise below the desk…) I need a home for my story boxes (they have handwritten notes and ideas for each major story) and several notebooks in which I do most of my first drafts.  That will be left for another day, as I have had quite enough dust for one day, thank you.

This is MY corner. The bookshelves are full of my  historical/costume research books (costuming, historical re-enactment and writing) that I have collected over the last 25 (plus) years. I am quite proud of my collection, many of which are not available in Australia. (When we travel overseas, our souvenirs are books.) Some are now out of print and were hard to track down.

The ring binder and badge maker are on the right bench (actually a knitting machine). The purple set of drawers is on rollers and holds art supplies and writing notebooks. It is a second hand beside table that I painted in some of my favourite colours.

desktidy corner 131020

This was a dreaded task but one well worth it. Now I can actually work on my desk. I can find things (and found some items that I had misplaced). I always feel more calm and organised (in my head, not just the room) when I do a de-clutter. It seems that I remove some mental baggage at the same time that I dump accumulated rubbish in the bin (recycling or to Freecycle or the opshops).  I am itching to get started on more writing now that I have a dedicated space again!

Organising - Editing My Writing Space

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Blitzing with Friends

What would we do without friends. Well, for a start, I would not have a full wheelie bin of green waste nor a full trailer load of weeds, grass and ivy. With my issues this year, I have just managed to keep up with the front garden. It is (mostly) weeded and the vegetables and fruit trees have been sorted, eventually. Sort of.

The back yard is another story. My gardening tasks are many. That is alright, as this is my choice. I am the gardener. My husband is not. His jobs are to handle the grass and lift heavy things (my back is not the best.) He lifts or sack-trucks the heavy pots and bags to a spot where I can access them. He mows, whipper-snippers and supposedly removes the grass from the garden beds.

We have kykuyu grass. I am sure it is an alien or at least an alien weapon to keep humans so busy that we will not see the mothership arrive and attack. Let us just say that the back yard has been overrun by aliens.  Some before shots:
before1 before2 before3

The last photo, of the paved area out back (beyond the pergola in the first photo) is not really a true picture of how back the grass had overgrown (I had forgotten to take a before photo). If you look at the second photo (with the spade) , the area looked more like this!

We decided that this was all too much to handle for just me (with my back – and other – issues) and for my poor hubby, so we decided to invite our friends to a Garden Blitz. We chose this weekend, as council green waste collection is next week; we can empty our trailer at the free monthly green waste ‘drop off’ at the council dump and not pay for a skip. Unfortunately it the same weekend as a large interstate convention (which many of our friends were attending). Bad timing!

We did end up with six of us, toiling away in the 30 deg C heat. Fortified with cool drinks and a beautiful breeze to cool us, we managed to get two thirds of the preferred culling done!

IMG_4326 IMG_4327

We eventually sat down to a delicious dinner (chicken and eggplant) with entertaining conversation. I am so blessed to have friends that will help out. Even more so, that I have friends.

The sore muscles will resolve in a few days but the memories of the day and the friendships will last much, much longer.

Obligatory ‘after’ photo:


Blitzing with Friends

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Here be (More) Dragons.

I have been looking forward to the Writers’ group Spec Fic Chic meeting (every 3rd Friday of the month). There were three of us today.  (I am currently resisting the urge to quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail on what the number should be to count – “Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. ”).

Okay, so I couldn’t resist. Ahem.

Though we were few, there was an enormous range of topics discussed, from copyright, writing work, our website and (best of all) lots feedback on each others’ work. The theme was dragons. I put forward my latest short story: ‘Here be Kitchen Dragons‘. Now I see a rewrite in the near future.  Some points were made on characters’ motivations, sparking some ‘eureka’ moments which lead to ideas on how to resolve some plot issues I have for my novel. I could not have asked for more!

Writing may be a solitary vocation but there is great benefit in seeking the input of other writers, taking advantage of their experience and having a fresh eye (and mind) to provide differing perspective and help me learn the craft. I have just spent the last three hours tapping away on my keyboard, enthused and enlightened. Over 1000 words done.  I just wish writers’ group was more than once a month. Sigh.

Here be Dragons.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Bane of my Life

Editing. It is the bane of my life.

I have to edit my clothes each season, to remove those that are damaged, no longer fit or I have not worn all season. The wearable rejects go to the Salvos or Goodwill. Summer is coming and I have done a recent inventory of my summer clothes. After last years editing, I actually need to acquire (or more likely make) some summer skirts.

I have recently editing my Facebook account. I am usually selective with my friends list and do not accept all requests. I don’t FB ‘friend’ work colleagues. I friend only those I have personally met or know via other avenues and have similar pass times. I have actually met some wonderful people via social media. However individuals can creep into my friend list that need eventual editing. They are negative, trollish or bullies. Thankfully I don’t have many of these but it is still an unpleasant editing task.

Then there is the more onerous task of editing my writing. This can be a wretched task; at other times it is very satisfying.  I am currently in the midst of editing two short stories for competitions; this is my task for the next few days. Today (Friday) is my writing group. I am hoping to get some constructive feedback to finalise the editing.

My first edit is usually done when typing up my handwritten draft. This is usually quite easy. Sometimes I wonder ‘what on earth was I thinking’ when I read over the first stream of words that are regurgitated onto the pages of my notebook. At other times, it is just a matter of changing a few words or sentences. On occasion, I even find a phrase that I absolutely adore. Next is the sorting out of loose ends, culling of duplicated words and extraneous commas. (I am inordinately fond of commas.)

Then I draw my breath and hand the story over to one of my (couple of trusted) proof readers who mark out  any obvious mistakes that I have missed, point out any clues/plot threads that I have I have missed or not tied up and finally tell me if the story is absolute crap or not. At this stage I either get grumpy and start again, or steele myself for further rewrites and further editing rounds.  Finally there is the spelling and grammar check (and sometimes there is the culling of  more commas.)

No matter how many times that I ask myself ‘Why am I doing this?’, I stick to the task as, when each editing task is complete, there is the sense of fulfillment, of a job well done and the knowing smugness that I did that! 

The Bane of my Life

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Spring Jobs.

Spring is well on the way. There have been some very hot days; it does not bode well for summer which is looking like it will be excruciatingly hot. I am not a big fan of the heat. I mope and wilt in the corner, like a pathetic wall flower that has someone has forgotten to water. It is not a pretty sight.

1310 lemon after Elemon windbreakThere are some garden tasks that have to be done before the heat sets in, some of which should have been completed by now. I have been a little lax this year, with real life and health issues being a real pain in the butt… literally (well, the hip at least.) As you will know, dear Reader, I did manage to get the lemon tree in this year (Garden Therapy).  It is now in the front yard. So far, the lemon tree is surviving the buffeting from the winds that decided to pick up after we had planted the new lemon tree. I did create a windbreak, to give it the best chance of survival.
carrots more

It is amazing just how quickly we can get through the carrots we have been growing. There is still half a bed of good sized ones which will last some time. However, I should have sown some more seeds a month or so ago; they do take a few months to reach a decent size.  Wednesday I braved those winds and managed to get some carrot and parsley seeds sown.

sorted seeds

The final task was to sort through my seed ‘library’. I have an expanding file in which I have seeds sorted into pockets according to the sowing times: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter etc. I removed the out-of-date seeds (which are to be given away on Freecycle), re-ordered the remaining seeds (they always get out of order) and am now ready for this season’s round of vegetable planting.

If only my writing could be so ordered and easy to finish up!

Spring Jobs.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Our Gremlin Strikes Again

We must have gremlins in the house… or kleptomaniac leprechauns.

Last night I used my lip gloss/moisturiser and put it on the bedside table in its usual position. When doing a tidy up for the cleaner (that sounds so ironic doesn’t it?) it was nowhere to be seen. (I love our cleaner. He sweeps and removes all the collected dust that I am allergic to. I am sneezing my head off right now. When he leaves, I shall be able to breathe again! Mwah to him.)

I know it is not the itchy little fingers of the loin spawn. She does not tend to be a kleptomaniac. She is however, a hoarder. We have to do a fortnightly clean out of all the crafty things she has made from cardboard boxes and bits of scrap. (At least she is into upcycling.) She keeps everything as an important reminder.

book gremlinShe is also a Compulive Piler of Books. (Or maybe it is the gremlins again?) For some reason, the books can never find their way back onto the shelf until the cleaner is due. The night before, there  is a flurry of book migration, from floor to shelves.  She loves her books; she is always reading. A good week involves the reward of visiting the local library… and more books to stack in piles.

Later this morning, the gremlin struck again. My hairbrush was not in its customary place in the bathroom drawer. I searched. And searched. No one had seen it since last night. The cat just looked at me and blinked. (Sometimes I think she is having fun at my expense and may be in league with the gremlin.) Yes, it was eventually found. Someone had left it on the kitchen table.

I just wish I could find the gremlin and train it to do the washing up, or to fold the clothes washing. Maybe I could promote  it to Head Librarian in Charge of Putting Away Books Left in Piles?

Our Gremlin Strikes Again

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Here be Dragons

I have always had a thing for dragons. Ever since I read the Hobbit (as a child) I had a fascination for them. Then came the doodles. My school books were full of cute little, smokey dragons surrounded by dwarven runes. I even taught my friend the runes so we could write notes in class (and not have anyone else be able to read them). But there was a problem. I tried to draw nasty, blood-thirsty dragons fit to give me nightmares but they  but  they always ended up looking cute. I tried. I failed.

When I Dungeon Mastered my D&D world in the 80s, I had a whole clandestine world of dragons. Occasionally one would take human form and wreck havoc on the world (more along the lines of practical jokes, embarrassing the lesser species and manipulating governments.

A friend was the first to give me a ‘pinch pot’ dragon  - ‘to start my collection’. It grew from there.  Then there was a small, pewter dragon to start my D&D miniature collection…
dragon 9 dragon 13

dragon 6
dragon 2

dragon 4

One of the first items I bought when I moved out of home was  a little dragonette statue. I reminded me of Smaug (and he was christened as such). He has moved with me through three flats and to our house; you can see his ‘scars’ from the interstate move. I even found a garden statue dragon cast from the same mould 25 years laterI hope it was not a recaster doing something a little naughty with copyright.

dragon 5
Over the years the collection grew. My daughter even finds stuffed toy dragons in opshops for me.

I even scored a remote control dragon for one of my birthday presents.

For those of you, dear Readers, who also love dragons, I have a Ancient Dragon design in my Roleplayer series on Red Bubble.


My most recent score was a set of dragons in my favourite colours – a birthday present from some friends. The collection just keeps growing; there are many other dragons secreted about the house (and garden).

dragon K

So beware, he who enters. Here be dragons.

Here be Dragons

Monday, October 14, 2013

Commissioned Art

When I am feeling up against it, there are a few things that I find consoling – my writing, my garden, my photography and my drawing.  This week  I have returned to my garden to pot some succulents, plant a lemon tree and to take photographs. Sunday was drawing day. Less exhausting and still very satisfying. By creating something, my heart feels lighter, there is the feeling of completeness and  my soul is satiated.

For regulars, you may remember a previous post Book Artwork COmmission , last month. Today was the perfect day to complete the work. It was a pleasant spring day but the occasional showers restricted any gardening hopes that I had. I had inked the last two images yesterday. They had dried for over 24 hours, so I cleaned them up with an eraser.  

The cover was to be coloured. I used pencils to give shading similar to that found in the medieval artwork of the manuscript. In all, there are four black and white nib-inked chapter drawings and a page of incidental artwork, plus the inked and hand-coloured cover.

all done

I am hoping these will be to the taste of the author. All going well, this will be available to buy

in the very near future – I33: Fencing in he Style of the Walpurgis Manuscript (a discussion and rapier exercises based on early period text)

Attention all Fencers – watch this space!

Commissioned Art

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Need to Smell the Roses

1310 bees flying
I has been some time since I have just taken photographs for the sake of art. There been many happy snaps and quick pictorial documentation of events attended but I have not really enjoyed the visual delight and interplay of colours of the world around me. It was time to just take the time to revel in the nature around me.

This week I have managed to get back into the garden and get some chores done (there are still many to go). Spring is well on the way; the flowers are blooming, the fruit is starting to appear on the trees and the bees are swarming.  This week the broccoli has all flowered and I came home to see almost fifty native bees flying around (there were about three Europan bees as well). They were fast little critters; I took several photos to try to get as many as possible in shot (and hopefully one in flight). This worked best with a darker background (I moved to get shadow behind) and  larger aparture (to blur the background).

The calendula flowers almost glowed in the sun, so I used the same technique (dark, blurred background) to bring out the colour. This was one of my favourite photos.                            calendula

schwartzI know I should vary my style a little but I love getting in close. The Aeonium Schwarzkopf is almost taking over, under one of my native trees. I love the dark purplish colours that contrast with the green of the new leaves.

It is very easy to propagate – just cut a piece off, wait for the end to seal (a few days) and push it into the ground. It will eventually produce roots and grow. These were grown this way.

A few years ago, I planted three rose bushes along the front path. They were straggly survivors from pots. They sat there, not dying and not really prospering. Finally they are really start to produce a lot of flowers and the leaves. I should get out to smell the roses more.


The Need to Smell the Roses

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Colour Grey.

I was just skimming through some emails and posts on Facebook and came across one that I found interesting (and heartening). A friend had discovered her first strands of grey hair. Proudly, she owned them and was determined not to immediately run to  a hairdresser in search of a cover up.

I was in my mid-twenties when I first noticed the odd grey hair creeping into my otherwise dark brown hair. I wasn’t too worried. My mum had ‘salt and pepper’ hair and she wasn’t that old. My grandmother had grey hair; she was an independent, go-for-it kinda woman who rode motorcycles and wore trousers during WWII. She was cool. I wanted to be just like her. For me, grey did not equate to old, it equated to wisdom, no-nonsense and not caring what others thought of someone.

hair 3hair4As I got older, the grey mulitplied but not at any great speed. There was only a slight amount of salt in the pepper.  My husband, on the other hand, has greyed much quicker and now has a sort of silverness to his coiffure. It didn’t really bother him until he found the odd grey in his beard. I didn’t mind as now he has the whole Gandalf-the-yummy thing happening. He is still him. He is still my love. The colour of his hair did not change anything at all.

hair july 2013In the past couple of years I have noticed a very satisfying thing. Most of my grey hair is concentrated around the face and, in particular, a streak at the front. It is a most pleasant white colour. I had always hoped I would get a grey streak – a Rogue-ish type mark. I bided my time until it was long enough to let loose on the world.

I like my long  hair. Even as a child, I envisioned myself as an old granny (well more of a nonna possibly) with long grey plaits. None of this recent trend of ‘cutting the locks short when you reach 40 as it is more mature‘- shit for me. Oh no! I wear my long hair with pride.

When I get bored, I get my hair coloured instead of cut. I have red (that look more purplish some say) streaks. For some time, I have made the hairdresser leave the grey streak in  - ’cause I can!  I recolour when I feel like it, not everytime an errant grey pops up or when the roots are showing. Why should I conform to the Youth Cult that Society seems to want to force me to follow. I am happy in my skin (ah plastic surgery – a whole other blog post!).

I am proud to have lived life; I have survived many trials and situations that I hope others will never find themselves in. I have learnt a lot. My grandmother used to say things like ‘It is good for your soul’ and ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. 

My advice to my friend was to wear her grey hair as a badge of honour! It is a sign that we have been through stuff! We should wear it proudly! It is not we that should conform to Society’s narrow restrictions, it is the rest of society that can’t handle it!

But she knew that already.

The Colour Grey.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Garden Therapy

It has been a tough week emotionally. I needed to get out of the house, into the open air and out of the constriction of the walls that surrounded me. Wednesday was too hot to dig in the garden but I did manage to pot up some succulent cuttings and fill some of my teapot collection. My hubby feels we have enough teapots inside the house, so now I collect interesting ones to use as pots in the garden. It was not too onerous a task for 30 deg celcius.

Yesterday it rained, rejuvenating the entire garden that had suffered from the heat the day before. I actually love the rain but it did confine me indoors once again. The walls were still closing in. I needed to escape. I dragged my family to a (relatively) local nursery and purchased an advanced lemon tree and a camelia sinensis (the type you can make your own tea from).

lemon camelia tea 2We have big plans for our garden. Well, at least I do. Last year I had planned to do some landscaping, removing much of the overgrown grass, replacing it with white stones al la Tuscan style, complete with humungous terracotta pots with dwarf fruit trees. Due to the health, stress and monetary issues this year, these plans have not eventuated and the heat is starting to roll in.

But there has been a light at the end of the tunnel. The landscaping is still not achieved but I have discovered a garden fairy godmother. She has funded a small garden spree because ‘I have inspired her to grow an edible garden on her balcony’.  After my tears of joy that there is such a generous soul out there, the greenie in me jumped for joy that I have actually inspired someone to garden! (everyone should grow some of their own food  - oh don’t let me get on my soapbox!) I still have goosebumps.


Now I just have to wait for the rain to stop (I can’t believe I said that) so the ground can dry and I can get digging.

Garden Therapy