Tuesday 31 May 2022

tuesday reviews day — book reviews

It's been too long since my last book review so I thought it was high time I started doing them again.

In April 2021, I bought a new Kindle Oasis and I love it so much! I had the Kindle Paperwhite previously and I did love that too but I decided to upgrade when Amazon offered a special price for the Oasis only to owners of earlier Kindle versions. It was too good a deal to pass up. So you will see my Kindle Oasis in the following images. 


First up is The Scavenger's Daughters by Kay Bratt

This is the first book of the series which was inspired by a true story. Kay Bratt weaves a beautiful story which is heart-wrenching too.  Have the tissues at the ready.

As a young man, Benfu was imprisoned and tortured during China's Cultural Revolution but he managed to escape. He found love with Calla Lily and, living in extreme poverty, he worked as a scavenger — collecting trash to hopefully resell or reuse. This was during the time of China's One Child Policy and sadly, male babies were desired, female babies were not, as well as babies who had afflictions or deformities. They would end up abandoned at the local tip or near a train station. Benfu would sometimes find a baby girl among the trash and he would bring them home to his wife where, though poor, they would shower these beautiful baby girls with love and affection and raise them as their own.

Benfu and Calla Lily had a deep loss of their own when, years before, they lost their own daughter not long after birth. There is more to that story. As their 'found' daughters grow, an incident threatens to tear their close-knit family apart. 

My thoughts - Kay Bratt sure knows how to tell a story that tugs at the heartstrings. She also gives a good description of the times in China under a strict rule.  I found myself living in the book with this family. I shed many tears and also shared in their triumphs. After reading this book, I bought all the rest in the series and devoured them. Well, apart from #5 which I only just discovered so I'm yet to read it.  
A well deserved 5 stars from me!

The other books in the series -

Tangles Vines #2
Bitter Winds #3
Red Skies #4
The Palest Ink #5 (Prequel)
Next up is Silent Tears by Kay Bratt

This is a true story of Kay Bratt's personal experience when volunteering at a Chinese orphanage.
Kay lived in South Carolina but, in 2003, she relocated to rural China with her 2 daughters and husband when he took a management position with his American employer. Kay found herself feeling isolated with nothing to do so volunteered at a Chinese orphanage. She was shocked to see so many beautiful babies and children being neglected and mistreated. During her time at the orphanage, Kay made an effort to fight bureaucracy to try and improve the living conditions but it was no easy feat. She had to tread very carefully otherwise she may have been told to leave. The authorities did not take kindly to foreigners intervening in their business.
My thoughts - WOW! I was horrified reading parts of this book. How adults could see those little babies and children as worthless is beyond me. The living conditions Kay faced at the orphanage were abhorrent to say the least. Some of those babies died from starvation and neglect. You understand why when you read about the daily routines. Other volunteers couldn't cope for long and left. It weighed heavily on Kay's heart and soul too and she almost quit for her own sanity. However, Kay felt obligated to try and encourage change. It didn't always work but her efforts did make a difference to some degree.
I don't know what it is like today but, back then, girl babies were not wanted. Babies with disabilities and deformities were also abandoned. I couldn't get my head around it at times. To think, those atrocities actually happened to these innocent children. 
Kay is a true hero! 
Yes, I would definitely recommend this book but I would also warn that it is a heart-wrenching read at times, especially knowing it's fact and not fiction.  I learned a lot though and I applaud Kay Bratt for staying against the odds. She did return to her home in the States but still continues to raise awareness for the forgotten in Chinese orphanages.

Another well-deserved 5 stars from me!

And that wraps up my reviews for this week.

Friday 27 May 2022

friday face off

It's been a rough week with neck issues causing constant headaches. Unfortunately, I'm still not recovered from that fall where I accidentally slammed the side of my neck against the edge of a storage box five weeks ago. I finally got around to seeing the doctor today and he's given me an X-ray referral. It could just be soft-tissue damage which takes time to heal but, being that I have disc-degeneration in my neck, he just wants to make sure all is as it should be. 

So, I have been doing more work on my girl from last week where I only managed a rough graphite drawing (below).

As this is in a sketchbook that doesn't have very thick paper, I had a bit of a dilemma. On the backside of the paper was my giraffe drawing and I was worried about bleed-through if I were to use watercolours on the girl.  So I opted to do a very light wash of yellow/gold watercolour — no bleed-through —  and let it dry thoroughly before progressing with only ballpoint pens. I love that ballpoint pens comes in a variety of colours nowadays. 

You will notice bleed-though from the previous watercolour sketch I did which is why, with the plan to use darker colours for the girl, I didn't want to risk ruining my giraffe. I hope to disguise those bleed-through areas as I work more into the design. I'm kinda winging it as I go. 

She is still very much a work-in-progress as there is lots more to do — slowly getting there. I may have her finished for Friday Face Off next week.
To check in with other FFO participants, click HERE

I hope you have a wonderful weekend whatever you're up to. 

Love, Light and Peace

Friday 20 May 2022

friday face off

Today, I'm joining in on Nicole's Friday Face Off challenge.
Recently I signed up to Sketchbook Revival and watched a demonstration by Tamara of Willowing. I noticed that she now has the same demonstration on her YouTube channel which you can check out HERE. I had intentions to get my own version finished today with colour but my son called in for a visit and that put paid to that plan. So I'm glad work-in-progress pics are allowed because this is all I've got for now. 

Here are a few of my older faces done back in 2016

To see the work of other Friday Face Off participants for this week, check it out HERE.

Love, Light and Peace

Wednesday 18 May 2022

a bit of this and a bit of that

Firstly, you would have heard that there have been issues with Blogger embedded comments of late — some visitors being unable to leave a comment. My son and I have a mix of Apple, Microsoft, and Android devices and, we tested them all, and the issue seems to only be a problem with the Apple devices. It must be a conflict with the coding. So, as much as I love the embedded comments, I have switched to the pop-up comments for now. Even with that option, our Apple devices had to do their own thing — instead of a comment box popping up on the blog page like it's supposed to, it opens the comment box in a separate browser tab. 

No offence to Apple lovers but I'm not an Apple fan at all. I'm definitely a Microsoft/Android gal however my son is a steadfast Apple fan. I don't even like my iPad and don't use it much at all. I can get quite frustrated with it's limitations. I plan to send it packing in favour of a Samsung tablet in the near future. 

On another topic, a couple of weeks ago, I snapped a pic of this cloud formation as it was very clear to me that there was an adult bird coming down to feed a young bird while a wolf (head only) looked on. Can you see them too?
Two days ago, Brad and I were at the local shopping centre and, as we were leaving, I remembered that I had some coins to deposit in the ATM deposit which was just outside. When we went to the machine, there on the coin belt was a Welcome Swallow. Quite small at around 13 to 15cm (5" to 6") from head to tail tip. The poor little thing lay there panting very fast. Luckily, I always carry a spare fabric bag in my main bag so I gently picked her up and placed her safely in the bag. She didn't even put up a fight. 

I quickly deposited my coins and, when we got to the car, I transferred her into a cardboard pet carry box that I always keep in the car, among other animal rescue paraphernalia, for situations just like this. Such a pretty bird with gorgeous metallic colours on her wings.
I took her to the closest vet. You may remember we had to do the same for a baby dragon lizard a couple of months back. Vets here are obligated to take in injured wildlife and, if rehabilitation is required, they pass them onto the necessary wildlife carers in the area. They took the details of where I found her so that, if she recovers, they can take her back there. They thought she may have been stunned by flying into something. The vet was checking her over when I left. I sure hope she survived. 
Now onto an art aid I made a few years ago and it still serves me well today. I like to call it my handy-board and it's 56cm x 36cm (22" by 14").
I made it myself by duct-taping 3 layers of Corflute together — a corrugated plastic board often used in sign-writing.

It was getting a little grotty so I gave it a clean up and a new pretty border of duct tape — Owls.

Why did I make it? Well, I found I just didn't have enough workable space when I had all my sketch and watercolour stuff on the desk. My tables form a right angle and I saw a possibility of giving myself some extra surface space. 


And now with my handy-board in place. It fills in that corner perfectly, giving me extra surface space and because I made it with 3 layers, it's nice and sturdy too — no bending.

Sitting on top of my handy-board is my location sketch board. I got that idea from well known Urban Sketcher - Liz Steel. I will do another post soon to show you how that one works when in use. Very handy indeed.

On another note for your horror fans, just this week I signed up to receive a daily email from Dracula Daily. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is an epistolary novel made up of letters, diaries, telegrams, newspaper clippings, each of which has a date. The whole story happens between May 3 and November 10 and this guy has set it up so that we receive an email according to the timeline of the book. I signed up a little late but was able to catch up via the Archive. It's still early days. I used to love Dracula movies in my teens but I don't think I've ever read the book. It's been fun so far and I love that it's written in journal and letters etc. If you're interested in signing up for it, you can check it out HERE.
The rains have eased for now but it will be a short-lived break as they will be back on Friday according to forecasts. I'm not looking forward to that. They did forecast that we would be in for a warm and wet Autumn and they weren't kidding. 

I'll be back on Friday with some sketches so stay tuned...

Love, Light and Peace

Friday 13 May 2022

a bittersweet mother's day for me

Firstly, I hope you all had a lovely Mother's Day! 
I did a rough sketch of the Mother's Day flowers Beau bought me. Sorry the pic is blurry...bad lighting at night.
I made my own style of laksa with noodles for lunch — tofu and veggies with a Thai red curry base. It was delicious!

All in all, I had a fairly hectic Mother's Day with a few different things going on but it was nice. However, it did end on a very sad note when we found out my daughter's doggy passed away. It was devastating for Michelle and her family. Abbey was dearly loved and will be deeply missed.  
It's been a very wet week with lots of rain and, sadly, it caused flooding in areas that copped flooding less than three months ago. The farm animal sanctuary I support —  Happily Heifer After — have been flooded for the second time with 80 to 90% of their property under water again. Michelle and Hugh are an amazing couple who we met when we visited the sanctuary in November 2020. My heart goes out to them as they struggle against the odds. Luckily, they managed to get their 80-plus animals to higher ground for now, under the cover of temporary tarps, but it's dire straits and another major clean up will be needed when the waters recede.  Last time, they organised a volunteer working bee. I wish I could help but my hands cause me pain all the time. A financial donation will have to do. I pray they all stay safe.
I've been doing a lot of reading as I can't work for too long at my art desk with my neck still recovering from the fall I had. I plan on getting back to doing some book reviews starting Tuesday so stay tuned for that. As well as my Mother's Day flowers, I did a simple pencil sketch of part of my ZZ plant. I do plan on adding some colour so it's a work-in-progress for now.

And that's IF Kya will allow it. She does not like me at my workspace and, most times, will plant herself right on my desk. Naughty kitty!

On that note, I will bid you all goodnight...

Love, Light and Peace

Monday 2 May 2022

what I've been up to

More catching up to do as it's been a month since my last post...

I had another fall on the 21st. Not kidding...
Same reason as my previous fall — slipped in water dripped by Scarlett, Aaron's poodle, after she had a drink.  I swear I'm not clumsy but, unfortunately, water and tiles just don't go well together. We have a mat under the dishes but Scarlett always drips a trail of water as she walks away. My feet went out from under me but, this time, my poor neck and shoulder slammed into the storage box near the easel in the studio ('X' marks the spot in the pic below). Lucky the box is padded but my neck and left shoulder are still on the mend. Needless to say, we are trialling another position for the water dish. Wish me luck.

I hope you all had a lovely Easter. Our Easter was nice, quiet and peaceful. Beau, my son who lives away from home, came down with Covid over the Easter weekend. He was fully vaccinated so his symptoms were fairly mild — sore throat and a fever mostly. He did lose his sense of taste and smell though which he didn't like at all. Apparently, loss of taste and smell happens to about 13% of Omicron sufferers and it can stay that way for months afterwards. Thankfully, Beau's senses are back to normal now.  He isolated at home for 7 days and is already back at work. 
On a Easter sweet treat note, Brad and I can vouch for the deliciousness of the NOMO vegan chocolate eggs....so creamy! YUM! 

Another delicious vegan snack/meal we often have is nachos with vegan cheese and vegan sour cream. We like our nachos topped with Sriracha sauce and some cayenne pepper because some like it hot!
The past couple of nights, for dinner, we've had vegan Sausage and Potato Madras on brown Basmati rice made by me. We do love Indian-style curries in this house. Vindaloo is my favourite.

All ready for May in my bullet journal — both analogue and digital. 
This is my analogue Month View, then I work daily from there. 
Click on image to view it larger.

I've even managed a bit of sketching here and there since my last post. This page spread is all ready for the journaling/handwriting. LOVED The Hobbit movies! The hobbit is drawn with a BIC ballpoint pen while the plant is inked.

Today, I started this giraffe in graphite pencil. He is just roughly plotted out at this stage so definitely a work-in-progress. Not sure yet if I will end up inking him or giving him splash of watercolour. What do you think?

I'll leave you with a pic of the Queen of the Castle nestled on the back of the couch. 

I'm planning to post frequently in May so stay tuned...
P.S. - If anyone is having trouble leaving a comment on my blog would they please let me know via email. searen3 at gmail.com.

Love, Light and Peace