Sunday, 18 February 2018

Blue Flax and Blue Flag

"Linum lewisii -- Blue Flax", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2018

Linum lewisii, commonly known as blue flax or prairie flax, is a perennial plant in the family Linaceae. It is native to western North America from Alaska south through western Canada and on down to Baja California. It is also found growing as far east as the prairies of Manitoba and the western shore of the Mississippi River. It is a hardy plant which can be found on ridges and dry slopes from sea level up to 11,000 ft. 

Blue flax grows up to 18-20 inches in height. It rarely stands straight up, but rather leans at an angle. Flowers are pale blue, with 5 petals veined in darker blue. The yellow center has 5 styles that are about as long as the 5 stamens. Each stem produces several flowers, blooming from the bottom upward. The seeds are produced on the lower flowers while those above continue to bloom. Flowers open in early morning and usually close by noon. The stem is leafy when the plant is young, gradually losing most of its leaves as it matures. The medium-green leaves are spirally arranged and somewhat narrow. 

The genus name, Linum, is taken from the Latin and means “flax” or “linen”. The specific name of lewisii is used in honour of Meriwether Lewis, the European explorer who first documented this plant for Europeans.

"Iris versicolour -- Blue Flag", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2018 rev.

"Posted to Blog on 2 March 2009 (revised): 

It is interesting to me how often I feel attracted to the idea of drawing or sketching something and only later, as I am working on it, do I recall the memories that it brings to mind -- my hand recalls the memories before my mind does. This first sketch of Blue Flags is a good example. 

I recently saw a picture of some Blue Flags on a wildflower web page and said "yes" I need to draw that. As I worked on the sketch, I begin to recall all the times I had seen these flowers growing wild and how much the sight of them always pleased me. 

When I was growing up, I called these Wild Iris and it wasn't until I started using a field guide to wildflowers that I learned they were properly called Blue Flags. When I was still in my twenties, I even did a watercolour of these flowers which I named "Wild Iris" (see image below)."

"Blue Flag Watercolour 1968", by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer

As noted above, Iris versicolour is commonly known as blue flag.  It is a species of Iris native to North America and is found growing wild in Eastern Canada and the Eastern United States. It is usually found in sedge meadows, marshes and along stream banks. The specific epithet, versicolour, means "variously coloured". 

One of Iris versicolour’s more unusual names is “Poison Iris”. This is because the species has been implicated in several poisoning cases of humans and animals who consumed the “blubs” which have been found to contain the glycoside, iridin.

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


Undercover Agent Exposed!
Poor Suki has been having a very difficult time.  Not only has she had to deal with our extreme cold weather alerts (which seem to be over for the time being), but she has also been dealing with increased pain.

As is common with cats, along with many other animals, Suki has kept her increasing pain hidden from me.  It wasn't until this past Thursday when I reached out to brush something off her fur near her hips that I finally discovered just how bad it had gotten.  As I put just the lightest of touches on her fur, Suki attacked my hand!

Suki has always been one of those cats who never showed any signs of unpredictability or a liking to seriously attack my hands or feet.  So, when this attack happened, I knew immediately that she must be suffering from really serious pain.

I immediately put in a call to the vet who, after listening to my story, prescribed pain medication.  I had it delivered to me by taxi and began using it at Suki's very next feeding time (it has to be taken with food).  I know it will take a few days before there is a therapeutic level in her system; however, it does seem to be helping already.  For example, I noticed yesterday that she is no longer hesitating so long prior to jumping up into her favourite chair.  

Poor kitty.  I had no idea she was suffering so very much.  I will have to be much more attentive in the future in order to try to determine if the pain is continuing to worsen even with the use of this medication.   

As for me, I am doing quite a bit better than Suki as my pain is currently more or less under control.  While I continue to have episodic bouts of painful discomfort (especially in the evenings and during the night), I am actually managing just a bit better.  The current regimen of medication and diet seems to be working.  Let's just hope that this continues to be the case for some time to come. 

I have had visits from a couple of dear friends over the past two weeks along with my regular encounters with Joycelyn and my dear neighbour, Sharon.  I have a couple of medical appointments scheduled during the next two weeks; however, the are, as usual, simply follow-up appointments.  So things are looking fairly quiet for me which means I will have even more time for reading books!

Speaking of reading books, I recall, as a teenager, frequently visiting one of my many great-aunts.  I simply called her Aunt Tal.  She lived with her unmarried daughter -- a lovely, intelligent woman who gave up her career to take care of her mother.  Every time we arrived at their home, the daughter, my cousin, would be reading another book.  Even though their home was filled with bookshelves, the chair in which my cousin was sitting would be surrounded by stacks of books waiting to be read.  I recall being envious of the fact that she had the time and opportunity to do nothing but read and now I have that opportunity myself -- so long as my poor, old, glaucoma-affected eyes don't give out on me!

I sincerely hope all of you are able to enjoy activities that bring you pleasure as well.  

I want to wish all of my readers, who actively participate in any form of Christianity that observes Lent, a holy and blessed Lenten season.  As well, I want to wish all my readers from the Far East prosperity and good fortune at the beginning of the Year of the Dog.  

Above all, I want to wish each and every one of you the gift of compassion in this time of so much local and global violence and hate.

May peace be with you.


Sunday, 4 February 2018

Geranium sylvaticum

"Geranium sylvaticum -- Wood Cranesbill", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Still in my blue period, but now I am veering towards purple for the next few postings as I begin a gentle lead-in to my pink and red  flower selections.

Geranium sylvaticum, commonly known as Wood Cranesbill or Woodland Geranium, is a species of hardy flowering plant in the Geraniaceae family, native to Europe, including Britain, from the Arctic to Spain east to the Caucasus and Siberia. 

This plant grows to a height of about 24 inches. It is a mound-forming, herbaceous perennial with deeply cut and toothed 7-lobed basal leaves. In summer, flowers are borne on stalks with ruffs of leaves. The flower colour ranges from mauve to sky blue, depending on soil conditions. It has 10 stamens and glandular-hairy fruits. Wood Cranesbill mutates easily so that the colour and size of the flowers varies almost more than any other forest plant. 

The flowers of G. sylvaticum yield a blue-gray dye that was used in ancient Europe to dye war cloaks, believing it would protect warriors in battle. For this reason, it was called Odin's Grace. Geranium sylvaticum may even be the source of the blue dye, rather than Isatis tinctorial (Woad), with which Celtic warriors supposedly painted themselves blue prior to battle. 

The genus name, Geranium, comes from the Greek word “geranos” meaning crane, referring to the beak-like fruit produced by most plants in this genus. The specific epithet, sylvaticum, comes from the Latin (by way of Greek) and means "of the woodland", referring to the plant's natural habitat.



While we continue to have Extreme Cold
Weather Alerts, Suki has has her own
ways of keeping very warm!
Thankfully, there have been no more visits from Suki's "noise-making-monsters" that I was telling you about in my last posting.  This means that she has only had to worry about keeping warm.

We are presently in the midst of another Extreme Cold Weather Alert -- about the 4th for this winter so far -- so Suki's biggest concern has been finding ways to stay pleasantly toasty.  

Thus, she is either sleeping under one of my throws when I am busy on the computer or in the kitchen or snuggling under the throw I keep over my feet and legs while I am reading in my recliner.  Of course, she is only keeping warm by these means when I am not in bed.

At bedtime, Suki waits until I have just fallen asleep and then she proceeds to curl herself around the top of my head!  I only know about this behaviour because she complains mightily when I move in my sleep or when I wake up because I start dreaming that my hair is on fire!

Cats are so clever in knowing that so much of the human body's heat escapes from through the top of the head; however, this knowledge means that when they choose to wrap themselves around a person's head, the poor person can awaken feeling as though they have gone to bed wearing a heavy, woolen toque!  

I do hope this extremely cold weather disappears before long as I am getting very weary of being awakened by this "hot-cat-on-the-head" business.  Each time I wake up because of Suki and remove her, she simply waits until I fall asleep again and then returns to what she seems to consider to be her proper place on my pillow.

On Feb. 2nd, one Canadian groundhog predicted that we will be having six more weeks of winter.  Then two other groundhogs predicted that we would be having an early spring.  The forecasters decided to go with the majority.  I do hope that the majority is right for once!

As for me, I continue to be reasonably well for someone of my age and various medical issues.

I did have to go out for a doctor's appointment this past Tuesday (Jan. 30th).  It just happened to be the day after a big snowstorm and the poor doctor chose not to drive his car to the hospital, thinking the subway was a better choice.  Sadly, the subway broke down during morning rush hour and I ended up waiting (along with a roomful of other patients) for an hour and a half before the doctor finally arrived.  Because of the snow, many people had difficulty getting to the hospital and this meant we all had our stories to tell and so all of the pleasant folks in the waiting room begin to socialize and the time passed quickly.  It is interesting how storms and such seem to enable strangers, suddenly thrown together, to become more friendly than normal.

Otherwise, things have been fairly quiet for both Suki and me. With so little happening, I have been able to read one book after another which, of course, gives me great pleasure.  Joycelyn visited me on her usual days.  I had a couple of visits with close friends as well as phone calls from others.  So I basically have no complaints other than wishing my breathing would improve so that I could be more active.  Oh, well, at my age one can't expect to still have it all.

I hope all of you have been doing well and staying healthy.  I wish each of you all the best during the next fortnight until I will, hopefully, be posting again.



Sunday, 21 January 2018

Blue Marguerite Plus One Repeat

"Felicia amelloides - Blue Marguerite", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Continuing with the presentation of my recent drawing of blue flowers...

Blue Marguerite

Felicia amelloides, commonly known as Blue Marguerite or Blue Daisy, is a species of flowering plant of the family Asteraceae. It is native to South Africa. 

Felicia amelloides has a rather confusing history when it comes to plant taxonomy or plant classification. It is synonymous with, and formerly known as, Felicia aethiopica, Aster amelloides, Aster capensis and Aster coelestis.  Thankfully, the Blue Marguerite continues to produce its beautiful blue flowers without any thought for the confusion of botanists!

Felicia amelloides is an evergreen “shrublet” which usually grows to about 50 cm in height. It is densely branched with dark stems, and rough, green leaves. It produces striking blue composite flowers with prominent yellow centres, about 30 mm in diameter which are borne on long, naked stalks. 

The genus name, Felicia, is taken from the surname of Herr Felix, a 19th century German official of Regensburg. As well, Felicia, derived from the Latin word “felix”, means “happy” or “good fortune”. The species name, amelloides means “like Amellus”. Amellus was the Latin word for the purple aster (Aster amellus).

Woodland Forget-Me-Not

"Myosotis sylvatica -- Forget-me-not", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

From the blog posting of 2 June 2010 (revised and expanded):  

The proper name for this lovely, little plant is Myosotis sylvatica – commonly called Woodland Forget-Me-Not. It is a member of the Family Boraginaceae. Although native to Britain and Europe, these fragile flowers are now widely distributed throughout the temperate regions of the world. 

There are a number of legends and superstitions regarding these flowers: 

According to a Greek legend, when the Creator thought he had finished giving all the flowers their colours, he heard one whisper "Forget me not!" Sadly, there were no colours left except a very small amount of bright blue which the flowers of the Forget-Me-Not received gratefully and were ever-after delighted to wear. 

In medieval times, Forget-Me-Not flowers were often worn by ladies as a sign of faithfulness and enduring love. 

In 15th-century Germany, it was supposed that the wearers of these flowers would not be forgotten by their lovers. 

The common English name "Forget-Me-Not" was taken from the German name for this plant, Vergissmeinnicht. It was first used in English when King Henry IV adopted the flower as his symbol during time spent in Prussia in 1398 and he retained this symbol upon his return to England the following year. 

The genus name, Myosotis, comes from a classical Greek name meaning “mouse ear” applied to plants with short pointed leaves. The specific epithet, sylvatica, is from the Latin (by way of the Greek) meaning “woodland- or forest-loving”.

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


Suki in hypervigilant mode after a
very, very difficult week.
Miss Suki enjoyed almost 10 days of normalcy and peace after my last posting; however, on the 10th day following that January 7th posting, pandemonium ensued!

Suddenly, without any prior warning, my apartment was invaded by our maintenance manager and two plumbers. Evidently, there was a leak in my neighbour's unit which shares a wall with my bathroom.  After a bit of investigation, it was determined that my walk-in/roll-in shower unit was to blame as a crack had developed in one side of the stone flooring which was allowing water to seep through into the next unit and even into the wall below me in my building's back lobby.  

After a bit more investigation, it was also discovered that the water had seeped into the back of my bedroom closet.  At the time the plumbers went to investigate, they discovered poor Suki in the back of the closet and had to ask me to please come and remove her as she was growling and hissing at them.  After I had removed her, gently transferring her to the hallway closet, the plumbers proceeded to cut out a section of the wall in the back of the closet in order to confirm the extent of the leak.  Thankfully, they carefully taped the wall section back in place after finishing or else I might have lost poor Suki between the walls!

The following day, the maintenance manager arrived with the general contractor she uses who, I was informed, would be repairing both the shower and the closet wall.  He quickly went ahead and repaired the cracks in the shower base; however, when he was ready to start the repairs on the bedroom closet wall, there was a problem.  You guessed it -- a belligerent Suki was, once again, hiding out in the back of the closet.  As I had done the previous day, I gently removed her from her beloved hiding spot and placed her in the hall closet where she hid out for the duration.

The repairman went away only to return later to inspect his work in order to make certain that things were drying properly.  A short while after that, the maintenance manager returned to inspect the repairman's work.  After she left, it took about an hour for Suki to make her way out of the hall closet.  She cautiously checked out each room of my unit, spending a lot of time sniffing at the repair made in "her closet".  I felt so sorry for her that I didn't have the heart to mention that the maintenance manager planned to return the next day in order to replace a part of my shower unit that she had noticed was also not functioning properly.

Finally, on Thursday afternoon, peace and quiet returned to my home.  All things have been repaired.  

Now, three days later, Suki has finally begun to relax although she still remains just a bit nervous whenever there are any noises from the hallway outside the apartment.  What she doesn't know, of course, is that some time in the next few weeks, a workman will be coming in to repaint the back wall of my bedroom closet where the plastering repair has been made to the hole cut into the wall.  Poor Suki -- in this case, ignorance is truly bliss!

As for me, things continue to be as usual although I did have one bit of good news.  When I went to see the respirologist this past week, he informed me that he felt that my asthma was stable enough for me to go one year before coming back to see him.  So, he sent me on my way with a prescription for a year's repeats of my puffers and an appointment scheduled for January, 2019.

I am expecting a dear friend to visit later this week while, next week, I have several medical appointments.  I can only hope that the results of these follow-up medical appointments will be as positive as the outcome of my visit to the respirologist. Joycelyn continues to assist me so very ably.  As well, I never miss my Friday visit with my friend, Sharon or my weekly phone conversation with my very special friend, Grażyna. 

Even though my legs and feet continue to cause me almost constant discomfort, at least the worst of the associated pain seems to be more or less under control for the time being.  One of the best results of this current pain management is that I am now able to sleep for at least six hours each night with being awakened by pain.  For this I am very grateful.

Meanwhile, I wish all of you a happy (and pain free) two weeks until I post again.



Sunday, 7 January 2018

Chicory - Blue

"Cichorium intybus - Common Chicory", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Be warned, I am entering into a blue period for a while.  Don't be alarmed -- I'm not talking about a time of sadness, only blue flowers!

Over the holidays, a friend mentioned how much she liked drawings of blue flowers.  As I thought about our conversation, I came up with the idea of choosing to draw flowers of a particular colour for a limited period of time.  So, today's featured drawing of the Chicory plant initiates the beginning of my blue period.

Cichorium intybus    

Cichorium intybus, or Common Chicory, is a somewhat woody plant of the family Asteraceae. It is usually seen with bright blue flowers although it can occur in rarer form of white or pink. 

There are a number of varieties of this plant including those cultivated for salad leaves, chicons (blanched buds) and roots, which are baked, ground and used as a coffee substitute or additive. Common Chicory grows wild on roadsides in its native Europe and is now common to roadsides in North America, China and Australia, where it has become widely naturalized and in some places is now considered an invasive pest. 

The chicory plant is one of the earliest plants cited in recorded literature. Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea, me malvae" ("As for me, olives, endives, and mallows provide sustenance"). 

The cultivated chicory plant has a history reaching back to ancient Egyptian time. Medieval monks raised the plants and when coffee was introduced to Europe, the Dutch thought that chicory made a lively addition to the bean drink. As well, chicory root has long been used as a substitute for coffee in North American and other areas where it became naturalized. 

The genus name, Cichorium, comes from the Greek “kichore” the common Greek name for chicory or endive. The specific name, intybus, is the Latin name for endive or chicory.

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



Brothers sharing a lollipop 

Brothers sharing a tricycle

Brothers sharing a sled

Brothers sharing a backyard full of snow!



Suki and I want to wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2018

Back on the 28th of December, Suki had an appointment with the vet.  Since it had been over three months since her last blood test, the vet recommended that I bring Suki in for another one -- evidently, we need to keep a careful eye on her calcium levels. So, with Joycelyn's able assistance, we took a cab to the veterinary clinic on a very, very cold, but sunny, morning.  

As usual, Suki was very well behaved while she was being examined, poked and prodded by the vet.  Suki didn't even complain when the vet quickly clipped her nails (you should hear how she complains when I do it).  No, the most unpleasant part of the entire experience was having to listen to Suki complain between the time she realized she wasn't getting any breakfast (the blood test required her to be fasting) and her 9:30 a.m. arrival at the veterinary clinic.  What a fuss over one missed meal!

The vet telephoned me this past Friday with the good news that Suki's calcium levels remain well within the normal range.  This means that the diet regimen, with which Suki is currently being treated, is continuing to work well.  The vet warned me once again that diet will only control the condition for a limited period of time. However, she did say that considering the current blood test results, Suki will not have to have to have more blood work done until June.  This is good news for both of us.

Otherwise, Suki had a very quiet Christmas and New Year's Eve/Day.  In fact, she spent at lot of her time sleeping under the blanket I keep over my feet and legs whenever I am in my recliner. Although this has provided extra warmth for me during our extremely cold weather, it resulted in an unexpected problem as well. Have you any idea of how difficult it can be to dislodge a warm and sleepy cat whenever you need to get up for any reason?  Interestingly, when I do have to get up, Suki simply waits near the recliner for me to return from the kitchen or wherever.  Then, once I am all settled again back in the recliner, up she jumps and under the blanket she goes.

The above paragraph about Suki should give you a good idea of just how I spent my Christmas and New Year's as well.  I stayed indoors and kept warm.  Thanks to Joycelyn, I had lots of food in the freezer and fridge so there was no need for me to go out.  However, I did visit with a few friends in the building on Christmas Day.

As today is Christmas for all the Orthodox and Coptic Christians throughout the world, I want to wish them a very joyful celebration.  My good wishes go out, especially, to my many Orthodox and Coptic friends.  Сретан Божић and عيد ميلاد سعيد

This coming week will see the beginning of a series of medical appointments for me over the next three months.  These appointments, however, are nothing to be alarmed about as they are all 3-month or 6-month follow-up appointments with specialists who treat my various chronic conditions.  

Although I will dutifully make the rounds of these very nice and capable doctors, I expect to be given the same information as I was given when I last saw them:  "Yes, your problem is gradually getting worse and, no, there are no new treatments or medications available to try." 

Otherwise, I expect that Suki, Joycelyn and I will carry on as usual as this new year gets underway.  Thank goodness for both of them and for all my dear friends and family (both online and here in Ontario) who stay in regular contact and who visit whenever they can.  

Thank goodness, also, for all of you who still show an interest in this blog, in my artistic efforts and in my stories about Suki.  I am grateful for you all and I wish you the very best in 2018.


Sunday, 24 December 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Photos courtesy of their mom.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace be with you.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Sanguinaria canadensis - Bloodroot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully, next week will be easier for her!

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

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

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

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



Sunday, 26 November 2017

Nightshade Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Suki settles down for another nap!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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