Monday, 31 March 2014

Super Novels and Super Heroes

Characters are sometimes really hard to imagine. You know what colour hair they have, how old they are, what colour eyes they have and how tall they are. You know every last detail down to what they had for breakfast yesterday but you still can’t picture what they look like. They remain annoyingly faceless.


Well I’ve set out to change that for Imogen. She is an amazing writer. She’s written multiple first draft novels and has actually been editing some of them. Recently she started planning a new story about superheroes. So I offered to help her by drawing her characters for her so that she can imagine them properly while writing.


Imogen doesn’t really give me much information about the characters as I already know them pretty well. What I am given is a reference picture or two and permission to go nuts. I get to draw pretty much whatever I want as Imogen trusts me draw her characters without supervision. Possibly that is dangerous.


I’m drawing her cast on the computer using Gimp and a graphics pad. My pictures don’t take very long to do, a couple of days at most, three if I’ve had unexpected setbacks, such as losing the entire picture. (That did actually happen once. I sulked for ages after that incident.) And as art is considered part of my education, this is my favourite part of the day, where I get to draw a world filled with superheroes and villains.  


The cast of her novel is rather large, with around ten important characters. It would have to be large as she is planning multiple books. I’ve completed seven out of ten pictures and am currently working on the eighth. I’m really enjoying the challenge of drawing and colouring ten different people with different abilities and different appearances. 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Let's Stroll Around Our Church Garden!

It's time for another nature walk with Elisa of Elisa Loves. Where are we going this week? We're off to visit our church's garden. And we won't need sunscreen. It's another grey day!

We have two churches in our (combined) parish, one in each of the two closest towns to our home. Both churches are very different. One is old and traditional, while the other is more modern. Today we're visiting the younger church. 

St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church stands close to the centre of town. But can you see the bush (native forest) in the background? Even in town the bush is never far away.

The church was built in 1986 and was dedicated on November 9th of that year. November 9th is also our son Thomas' birthday, and St Thomas Aquinas is Thomas' baptismal saint. I often ponder this connection. It seems to me that nothing ever happens by accident. For some reason this is 'our' church.

Generally, I'm not a fan of modern churches. In many of them the tabernacle has been pushed to one side, or even right out of the church and into a side chapel. Chairs have replaced pews. There are no stained glass windows or statues... But that's not the case in our church. It's very well designed, and in its own modern way, very beautiful. I also think we see beauty where there is love and friendship. The people themselves, together with God, give beauty to a building. Beauty does not always depend on the bricks and tiles.

On the roof is a dome that sits over the centre of the church. Sunshine spills through it onto the pews below. I often wonder who cleans the dome. It would be a very difficult job reaching up so high. Or perhaps there's 28 years' worth of dirt clinging to the glass. 

The outside stained glass windows are simple but there are others inside, depicting the stations of the cross. There's also a huge window above the altar. Another day I'll take you inside!

Today we're going to stroll around the garden...

... which surrounds the church on all sides. This is the front garden.

Could this be a maple tree? What do you think? It will soon be changing colour. There are a number of pretty flowers growing near it.

I can see raindrops on the petals of this flower. We've had a lot of rain recently, which is good for the land but bad for the washing.

I'm not sure what this tree is called.

Here's its leaves...

This one might be a Japanese maple. I used to know the names of lots of trees because I completed the better part of a horticulture course. But that was years ago and I have forgotten so much...

I know this plant. It's a camellia. A camellia hedge borders the church on two sides. It's magnificent. 

Nancy, is this another liquidamber or gum tree?

Berries for the birds...

Those might be rhododendron bushes by the church. I don't actually like this plant, but that might be because I spent a lot of time and effort digging rhododendrons out of the Welsh countryside as a conservation project, while I was at uni. 

 More raindrop petals.

And this might be lambs' ears. 

I take a few photos of leaves. I love the different shapes and textures and shades of green.

I spot this beautiful flower just as I decide I have enough photos.

Perhaps another day you can come with me to our other church. It's close to the lake we visited last week. It's one of the oldest buildings in town. And it has a garden!

Please join Elisa for her nature walk: A Rainy Nature Walk & Garden Notes It's now raining where Elisa lives, not snowing!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Shane, The Chuditch

"So, you'll have to clean up the chuditch scat, give them fresh water, take out any uneaten food and keep records on them... oh, and you'll have to sight them, to make sure they're ok," said my supervisor. 

I was learning the ropes on a very new job - I was now a housekeeper for my native animal rescue and rehabilitation centre's new Chuditch Hotel! I opened the cage of the hotel's first resident, Shane, and stepped carefully in. As I cleaned his cage, I mentally checked off my duties. Finally, I needed to find Shane. I checked in his nest. No Shane. Inside his hollow log perhaps? Nope, no Shane. Behind the brushwood? Again, no Shane. There was only one other place I could think of, and so I looked inside the hessian sack lying by a log. Inside lolled Shane, perfectly relaxed and seemingly unconcerned by this big clumsy human stomping around his pen! He'd eaten all his food, and seemed totally content in his environment.

That was good. Shane had settled down into his pen really well. We didn't know when we got him if he would or not. Because, you see, chuditches aren't very common creatures. And Shane wasn't some chuditch who'd been kept in captivity for a long time. No, he was fresh from the wilds of Western Australia's Southwest, where he had roamed free. Why was he here? What reason would anyone have to capture a rare animal?

Well, it wasn't just people being cruel to poor Shane. No, there was a team of highly trained people looking after him and 25 other chuditches. These chuditches were residing at the hotel for many reasons, but primarily so they could be prepared. They were preparing to become migrants...

A chuditch is a very special animal. It's one of Australia's few carnivorous mursupial mammals. In the wild, they eat insects, small mammals, birds, lizards, frogs and carrion. They are the size of small cat, with beautiful spotted fur. Chuditches live mostly in the bush, with each chuditch taking a large territory that includes lots of hollow logs for them to live in. They are secretive, night living animals.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there were chuditches living pretty anywhere there was bushland in Australia. They were in every State and Territory. There was nothing trying to hurt them, and so they flourished. Then Europeans arrived, and brought cats and foxes with them. The poor chuditch went from being a predator to being prey. Like so many other Australian animals, the chuditch couldn't cope with the ravenous cats and foxes. They died out in many places... including the whole of NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

It was a terrible destruction of a unique species. The chuditch went from secretive to nearly non-existant, hanging on only in a few places in South Australia and the bottom corner of Western Australia...

When I became a housekeeper at the Chuditch Hotel, I didn't know any of this. I began to talk to the people who captured the chuditches and were studying them. I found out that these chuditches in the hotel were very special creatures. They were all young, healthy animals. They were being recorded every night, and checked on every day. Their diet was extra special. Even their scat (poop) was being studied! They were being fitted with special collars that would allow them to be tracked.

This wasn't just for any old reason. You see, despite so much bad luck, chuditches began to make a comeback in Western Australia a few years ago. The zoo bred and released them, and they did so well, the Government changed their status from "endangered" to "vulnerable" in Western Australia. One day, they may even become a normal part of the environment again.

But it isn't like that in the only other State that has chuditches. In South Australia, chuditches are endangered. The chuditches in the hotel were going to to be transported to South Australia, and released in the Flinder's Ranges there. There, they would bolster the SA population, and hopefully begin having babies.

This hasn't happened yet. I'm still looking after 26 little spotty carnivores. Every week I look after them, it seems they are having another study being done on them to make sure they are healthy! But I am so excited that, even in a little way, I get to help out with this project. Because I've grown to love Shane and his kind, and hope that they will do well have lots of babies, no matter where they end up.

I am glad that I can do something to help the poor native animals of Australia. Some of them are finding it so hard to cope with humans, imported animals and our civilisations, they are dying out. It's nice to see a species do well for a change!

This is only a short account of what I've learnt about chuditches through caring for them. If anyone wants to know more, you can always ask by commenting, and I'll try to give an answer. I'm not an expert! However, I do my best. I hope you liked hearing Shane's story. Maybe next time I can talk about bobtail lizards, and how they catch the flu!

My Brilliant Day

A few days ago Imogen created herself a new blog. It is going to be about writing. We all sat down in the family room and started to discuss names she could call it. Some really silly names got shouted out. Imogen wanted the name of the blog to be about dragons.

"How about Gossiping With Dragons?" I joked.

Imogen, to my surprise, said, "I rather like that. Gossiping With Dragons has a nice ring to it."

"I was only joking," I said, not wanting her blog to have a crazy title.

"I think I will call my blog Imogen Elvis: Gossiping With Dragons," Imogen said.

 I smiled. No one had ever called their blog something I suggested before.

"You could ask Charlotte to draw you a dragon for the header," Sophie said to Imogen.

"Oh no, I wouldn't do that. Charlotte has already got three billion characters to draw for me," Imogen protested.

Charlotte has been drawing Imogen her characters from the story Imogen is going to write for Camp NaNoWriMo.

"I will draw you a dragon," I said, even though I thought that no one would want my art on their blog.

"Thank you. I am sure you will do a lovely job," Imogen said.

My eyes widened, Imogen actually wanted me to draw her a header.

A few days later (which was yesterday), I decided to try drawing a dragon. I sat down with a few pieces of plain white paper, a pencil and a rubber. I drew a full body picture of a dragon, a face of a dragon and a dragon in profile. I then took my drawings to Imogen to see what she thought of them.

Imogen had said that she wanted me to make the dragons look gossipy, so I gave lots of them long eyelashes. I really hoped they looked enough like girls.

"Oh these look good," Imogen said, looking at my pieces of paper.

"Do you like them with eyelashes? And the long necks, do you like those?" I asked.

One billion questions and answers later, I skipped out of the room to try drawing some more dragons.

I came back into Imogen's bedroom a few minutes later. "How do you like these?" I asked. Every dragon on the page had a long neck, short eyelashes and curly horns. They looked very girly. After I had made sure Imogen had praised them enough, I decided I was ready to try drawing the real header.

I got a fresh piece of paper and got to work drawing again. Imogen wanted two dragons on the header so that is what I drew. When I was done I smiled. Just the inking to go then Imogen would scan them onto the computer and I would colour them in using this program called GIMP.

"Hey, Gemma-Rose," Sophie said, rushing over to me.

"What is it?" I asked.

"You know the Rainbow Loom bracelets you put into the challenge on DIY," Sophie said.

"Yes," I said, eager to get back to inking the picture.

"They got accepted and featured," Sophie said.

"Really?" I asked, running towards Sophie's computer.

If your project gets featured on DIY it means that when people go to DIY, the first thing they see is the featured projects.

My jaw hit the ground as I stared at the picture of my Rainbow Loom bracelets. Sure enough they had been featured. Sophie gave me a high five before we went running to the big girls' bedroom.

"Imogen, Charlotte, my Rainbow Loom bracelets got featured," I shouted.

"Well done," Imogen said.

After lunch we decided we were going to film a video. Sophie and I had been planning to make this video for some time. Sophie was going to do the filming and I was going to teach all my 'adoring fans' on my blog how to make oaties.

I talked as clearly as possible and tried to look like a professional.

Finally the video was done and Sophie and I went to edit it. We needed to do lots of cutting and we sped the boring bits up. When it was done, Mum started to upload it onto Youtube and Sophie uploaded it to DIY for a badge.

In the evening Sophie made me a really awesome Rainbow Loom bracelet. It is pink and has beads in it. We watched Doctor Who before going to bed.

I had had the best day ever. It was so much fun

PS: If you'd like to watch my video, please visit my blog, Gebbles Writes and read my post Master Chef.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Bedtime Reading

It's bedtime. Gemma-Rose and I have a few minutes of reading time before Mum comes in to turn the light off.

"Gemma-Rose, I have a book I think you would like," I say.

Gemma-Rose looks up and comes to have a look. I tell her a little bit about the book. It is one of my favourites.

"Would you like me to read it to you?" I ask her.

"Yes please," Gemma-Rose agrees and climbs under her blankets.

I sit down on my bed and pick up my Kindle. I start to read. I am very careful to read slowly and pronounce the words right. It has been ages since I last read out loud.

Gemma-Rose is enthralled by the story. Every so often she cuts in to ask what something is. I always explain as best I can.

Mum comes in. "Were you reading aloud?" she asks me, surprised.

"It's one of my favourite books," I tell her.

"It's really exciting," Gemma-Rose says. Mum smiles.

The next evening when we are all tucked up in bed I bring out the book again and continue reading. I am a bit more confident and I don't stumble over the words so much. I am having a great time.

We are very reluctant to turn off the light. Gemma-Rose wants to find out what happens next in the story. "You can turn out your own light when you finish reading," says Mum, but Gemma-Rose shakes her head. She is tired. But she can't wait for me to read more tomorrow.

I can't wait for tomorrow either. Even though I have read the book again and again, it is still very exciting.

Do you like reading aloud?

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Do You Know What A Chuditch Is?

Hello everyone! Did you know I am a volunteer with an organisation that rescues and rehabilitates native Australian animals? Every Monday morning, I drive to a little patch of bushland adjoining an industrial area, and I work to save sick, injured, lost and hurt animals. I love doing it. Sometimes I can't help telling everyone I know how awesome a job it can be!

So I'd like to share a bit about my experiences. I have quite a few stories, some knowledge, and a whole lot of love to spill out. Would anyone like to listen and share with me?

And sisters... yes, more personally, I was wondering if you wanted to learn with me. Would any of you like to learn about our native wildlife, and perhaps start to share in my own special interest? We could learn... to care for an orphaned joey...

...why it can be a real challenge to rehabilitate eagles and other raptors...

..what a chuditch is, and why there's a project at my workplace right now trying to re-introduce them to South Australia... to feed orphaned baby birds...

...why the woylie is critically endangered...

...or even why bobtails catch the flu!

If no one is interested, that is fine. I will find another way of sharing my stories. But I hope people will be interested in finding out a bit more about Australian fauna - because it is truly a fascinating subject.

So please, please let me know - do you want to find out about bush animals with me?

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Clouds Above The Dunes

So Mum has been going to many beautiful nature walks around her house. She takes gorgeous photos, and truly captures the beauty of the bushland and gardens, lakes and paths of the Southern Highlands. Well, she suggested to me that I could take some photos of where I live. And even though I'm no photographer, even though my camera is old, and even though it was unusually overcast for sunny Perth, I went on my own nature walk today. 

I don't live near bushland. Instead, I live right on the coast of Mullaloo, Western Australia. I am literally 5 minutes walk from the beach. And even though it is technically autumn, it is still sunny and hot here. So if you would like to escape to a pristine white beach, come with me! It's around 4:30 in the afternoon, there are clouds coming in over the sea, and a light sea breeze is blowing...

I take Graham, my husband, with me. We leave our house behind us, and start strolling along the quiet road.

It isn't long before I find some vivid colour - some bougainvillea flowing over a neighbour's fence.

We walk past the 12 or so houses along the street, cross the road separating housing from sand dunes, and get our first glimpse of the water. We can hear it, and even smell it.

Poor Graham had to walk really slowly, because I kept stopping to look at things. These seed pods caught my eye - all olive greens and burnt reds against grey rocks.

We walk into soft, white sand. It's incredibly fine, and walking isn't easy, but it is beautiful. I start snapping photos of the dunes, rippled by the sea breezes.

As we walked, we noticed the clouds rolling in over the sea. I had hoped to get some sunset photos of the sun setting over the sea, but no luck. I was too early, and the cloud cover too strong. Another day perhaps.

The sea here tends to be a bit seaweedy, and there have been quite a few reports of sharks cruising along Mullaloo's shores over the past few years, so if I ever go in the water, it is never above my waist. That doesn't stop it looking beautiful though.

The clouds clear a little as we begin the trek back to the path. I get this brighter view of the sky. Normally Perth skies are clear and bright. They are a brilliant blue, free of pollution... but also of much rain. We have just gone through a period of over 100 days without rain.

It seems hard to believe a plant could survive so long without water in dry sand, but here this one is! Again, I love the muted colours.

We walk back along a path in the middle of the dunes. You can't tell, but only a few metres on the right of this path is the beach. Only a few metres to the left is the road. But right in this spot it seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere.

Graham took this picture. Can you tell why? That tiny, tiny little dot is a raptor. It could be a goshawk, a kite or even a tiny little hobby. It's too far away to tell. We could see it hovering high over the dunes, balancing on the sea breeze as it searched for prey.

As we leave the dune path, I turn and take one last photo of the dunes. It's been a lovely walk. We've truly enjoyed ourselves. I hope you also enjoyed coming along with us for a little taste of Western Australia!