Building a Strong Character

Can you build a strong character without adversity? I don’t know. Do you need good role models while you’re growing up? Probably. How about a good mentor: important or not important? I think ….. yes, important. I’ve found some of my most important role models and mentors in the least likely places.
My current work refers to character building, illustrating qualities I see and portraying them visually. At the moment, we are still living in the constraints of the pandemic, so I am doing more self portraits and family members because I’m mostly at home, and not seeing many other people.

Self Portrait. “Being Resilient and Golden”. I feel privileged to live on a farm during the pandemic, with the freedom and space to walk around without wearing a mask. My favourite time for walking is in the late afternoon when the sun is getting low, and everything is golden. I have become more circumspect over the past year and a half, since lockdowns and quarantines began. We went straight from drought and bushfires into a pandemic, and many people are suffering. I wonder how long it will be before we say “what pandemic was that?” And yet, despite the adversity in the world, there are also many more people who are becoming creative in new ways, and making different connections because of the enforced social isolation. People are resilient, and that is good to see.
“Anika, warrior. Strength and grace.” This is my daughter, and these are some of her qualities. She also has compassion, patience, kindness, but anyone crossing her will come off second best.


So busy! In the last post, I was enjoying a bit of pre-hectic-harvest-time bliss, but that was short lived. Now it’s all business. Well, nearly. It’s important to appreciate what you’ve got because it’s all over so quickly and everything in life moves to either a memory or photograph. My artistic outlet at the moment, is to take photographs of my surroundings and the custard apples. There is some wonderful and precious time for date night, lighting fires and walking through the orchard at sunset. These are a few of my favourite things!

All you need for a romantic winter date night dessert, is a custard apple and two spoons. Plus your love, of course.
We have a driveway across the front of the farm, and it is a thing of joy to watch the sun go down.

A few days ago, we watched Venus set. That was pretty special. Just as it reached the horizon, it did a little dance and popped up and down a couple of times before finally dropping down, out of view.

Custard apple served with sunshine.

I think it’s always good to celebrate life, by appreciating what you have around you. There is so much beauty everywhere. Sometimes you collect it, harvest it or make it yourself, but sometimes it’s in your surroundings. Already there, just waiting for you to notice.

Lazy May Days

May is often busy, with the custard apple harvest in full swing. But today, a-may-zingly, I am all caught up. My husband was out picking fruit all day long, but I just frittered away my time, which is one of my favourite things to do. Time well spent is to simply enjoy the luxury of time! Do I feel guilty? Well, I hadn’t felt any twinges of remorse until I asked myself that question. No, I have decided I’m not going to waste time by feeling guilty about that. I had a great day. I even collected some flowers to garnish my custard apple snack, and by garnish I mean Garnish with a capital G!

How do you like your custard apples? I like to celebrate mine, and with Mother’s Day tomorrow, it seems like the right thing to do
Some harvest love. What a beautiful time of year.

Painting With Gemstones

Do gemstones and crystals have healing powers or do they just sit there looking pretty? I don’t know, so I bought some watercolour paints made from real gemstones to try to find out. They weren’t cheap, but you know – crushed gemstones! I spent a very nice day painting with my new gemmy/ chrystally paints. I’ve gotta say Amethyst- oh, oh, oh. Love, love, love! It shimmers, it sparkles, and amazingly, it actually sits on the paper without falling off. I’m probably not going to use it for botanical works or portraits. But for abstracts, it’s the bees knees. I’m very impressed with the sodalite too. It is very similar to Payne’s grey and it granulates beautifully.

I tried a variety of watercolour papers, and some were better than others at supporting the paint and preserving that beautiful translucent quality that most of us want from watercolours.

The other paints I chose were: lapis lazuli, green apatite, rhodonite, green diopside, tiger’s eye, sodalite and kingman green turquoise. These are all from the Daniel Smith Primatek range. The colours all work together, and have a vintage look.

This one has rhodonite (pink), green apatite and green diopside, sodalite (grey black) and a thick swirl of amethyst (so dark purple that it nearly looks black).
Sodalite, amethyst and tiger eye are the three friends which are collaborating here. I think this one is my favourite.
All eight gemstones are working busily together here. At first, I wasn’t all that thrilled with it, but it keeps me coming back for another look and another. The overall feeling is busy, but there are parts of it that I love. And sometimes an energetic painting is just what we need.

I chose the gemstones for their colour, without knowing about their symbolism. At the time of choosing the paints, I wrote down that I would like something with healing properties, something to help me get along with some people who were being difficult, and something to lift my mood. I have to say that after a day painting with all these beauties, I felt happier and more calm. I do actually feel healthier than I did then. And I found a way to navigate the situation with the difficult people.

Was it the gemstones? Indirectly, maybe-probably. I spent a whole day being mindful (concentrating on my paintings) and relaxed. That’s gotta help, doesn’t it!

So now…. time to look up the symbolism. What do they represent? Let’s ask Google……

Amethyst – relieves stress, balances mood, dispels fear, anger, rage and anxiety. Promotes dreams, sobriety, wisdom, sincerity, wisdom. Nice!

Lapis Lazuli – royal prescence, truth and integrity, powerful and mysterious, boosts the immune system, alleviates insomnia and vertigo. Promotes honesty, dignity, friendship and sociability.

Sodalite – promotes order and calmness, rational thought, emotional balance, self esteem, truth and intuition. Calms panic attacks. Oh, good – I almost had one recently. Not a fun thing at all. Yes, sodalite looks like a good choice for the times.

Turquoise – promotes calm, also calms panic attacks. Interesting. Alleviates symptoms of rheumatism, gout, stomach problems and viral infections. Hmmm, I’ll have to find out what rheumatism actually is. Later. Oh – here’s a good thing…. invites you to figure out what is working for you and what isn’t! Gentle and comforting. Good for dissolving feelings of self pity and martyrdom. Yep, don’t want to waste time in self pity – that doesn’t help anything or anybody.

Apatite – energises, nourishes, promotes physical healing, new beginnings, can assist in attracting money. Enhances creativity and intellect. Another good choice.

Diopside – promotes love and forgiveness, creative vision and awareness, good for feminine health and kidneys.

Rhodonite – promotes compassion, nurtures love, wound healing, well-being.

Tiger’s Eye – promotes mental clarity, problem solving, dispelling fear and anxiety, courage and bravery, protection.

All in all, I think they were generally good choices for where I’m at in my life. I wonder if the ones I didn’t buy were equally as fabulous. I’m going to call the results “inconclusive”, and do some more paintings.

Weaving Into Autumn

Autumn. It’s a beautiful time of year here in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, but it makes me feel a bit restless. I have to learn new creative skills or start a new projects to help balance that uncomfortable feeling. Recently, I went to a weaving workshop with my friend Claire, who is also my neighbour. We spent the day learning how to use natural fibres and grasses.

Basketly Beginnings. Raffia seems to be the easiest fibre to use for the binding. Blanket stitch and whip stitch are the the two types of construction methods here.
The small blue and green basket in front is made entirely from raffia. The larger green basket is made from iris leaves stitched with raffia. And the creamy coloured basket has Bangalow Palm for the sides.
I thought they would make good baskets for my custard apples now that it’s harvest time. I can see that I’ll have to make bigger baskets if I want to hold more than one or two pieces of fruit.

It’s very restful and meditative to weave a basket this way. I think many problems could be solved by taking up basket weaving.

Ornithographica – Magpies

Magpies keep coming up in my imagery lately. I think it’s because I’ve finally realized that I’m an ordinary, generic human in much the same way that magpies are ordinary, generic birds.

They are all distinct individuals who blend and blur into their species, with an occasional reason for being noticed. Like, maybe they sing beautifully, swoop a news reporter, cohabit with another species or have some other reason for being noticed, loved or feared. I saw a bird yesterday that looks like a magpie but with the markings of a currawong. I hope I see it again.

Lately I’ve been leaving some clear space with the main figure off to the side, as a metaphor for “giving myself some space”.

Ornothographica. Self Portrait With Magpies.


Sometimes I go to bed wondering what stories my dreams will tell me. Sometimes I enjoy the entertainment and other times I learn what the dream is telling me. In one dream, I was a magpie and I flew up, up, up then turned on the momentum, then swooped down as fast as I could. It was so much fun. The dream itself was great, and it’s left me wondering what it all means. While I’m thinking about that, I painted a watercolour and added the magpies digitally. They were from an earlier drawing/painting which I had scanned.

Magpie Dream.

Every Girl Needs a Dragon

My mother recently gave me a little coffee set that her grandfather bought in an antique shop. I don’t know how old it is, where it was made, or where the antique shop was. But it inspired my imagination, art and dreams and I drew a lot of dragons when I was in high school because of this coffee set.

My own dragon came to me in a dream. It had iridescent goldish, silverish, rainbowish scales and was slightly wet because it had been resting in the river nearby. It told me it’s name, and that it would always be there if I needed – just think or call and it would be there in a flash. There was advice and warning attached – that the tasks I gave it would directly affect it’s nature and personality as it grew in size and strength. I felt such profound love for my dragon in the dream. There was an instant bond, and I woke up knowing that my dragon was a trusted friend. My logical mind interpreted the dragon as inner strength and instincts. We can stay with that explanation.

It’s been a long time since dragons featured in my art, but when I was drawing this portrait (which is for a gift), I realized that all girls need a dragon to keep them safe and strong. They also need another companion to symbolize character. The girl in this picture has integrity, courage, diligence and kindness so I’ve given her a bee.

Anyhow, I finished this one early this morning. It’s about being on the cusp of adulthood at the end of 2020. It’s called Jade With Her Bee and Dragon.

Jade With Her Bee and Dragon.

Blue Super Smoothie

Raw Food, Vegan, Gluten Free. Serves 2.

Summer has arrived, and one thing that means is Smoothie-making time. I froze some custard apples during the harvest season to use for this very purpose. A bonus was finding some Davidson’s Plums in the garden that were ready to pick.


To make a smoothie like this one, you will need: A small tray of ice cubes, 1/2 teaspoon of blue peaflower powder, 1/2 cup of almond milk, 1/4 cup of thick coconut yoghurt, 1 cup frozen custard apple (I just cut mine into slices straight off the chunk of frozen custard apple). Whip all the ingredients up in the blender and place in bowls. Top with grapes, Davidson’s Plums, and a sprig of mint. That’s it. Couldn’t be easier.

I discovered some Davidson’s Plums growing in my garden a couple of years ago. They are quite sour, and it takes a few to acquire a taste, but with a sprinkle of salt the flavour is reminiscent of Umeboshi – also known as Japanese salty plums.

Tarts For The Soul

The weather this winter has been gorgeous! It’s getting close to the end of August, so not long until Spring. Our prayers have been answered and we’ve had enough rain for the countryside to look beautiful and green. We’ve been harvesting custard apples on our farm since April, and the oranges and lemons this year have been like little amazeballs. Super tasty. We have plenty of eggs from our hens too, so it’s a logical choice to experiment with everything, because more is more.

Oranges and lemons, custard apples and blueberries are in season. My blueberry bushes died in the drought last summer, but there are plenty in the shops right now. So, with the confidence that an abundance of fruit and eggs gave me I was able to try out a few different experiments.

Butter, almond meal and Medjool dates for the tart shells. Perfect. I had everything I needed. I had been thinking about this for a couple of weeks, and was a little bit nervous about this upcoming culinary experiment because I had spoken about the idea before any action on my part. So the pressure was on. What came out of the experiment, was a tart that gently beckons with it’s scent, then invites a taste with it’s sunny golden goodness, caresses the mouth at first bite, and then bursts into flavour.

Fresh and juicy seasonal fruits are a great way to celebrate the coming Spring.


Tarts for The Soul

Make the lemon butter and tart shells first, then the filling.

Lemon Butter: juice of two lemons and zest of one, 200g sugar, 50g butter, 2 eggs whisked well. Gently heat all the ingredients in a saucepan, and stir until it thickens. It should take about ten minutes or a smidgen longer. A double boiler would be great, but I don’t have one and a normal small saucepan worked out just fine.

Tart shells: 2 cups of almond meal, 6 Medjool dates, 50g of melted butter. Place almond meal and dates in the food processor and mix through. Add melted butter. Press the mixture into mini tart trays, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius. Set aside to cool. These can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.

Filling: 1 cup of firm custard apple, cut into segments and seeds taken out, juice of two oranges, 3 eggs well beaten, zest of one lemon, 50g butter, 1/4 cup of lemon butter (see recipe below if you don’t have any). Place orange juice, lemon zest, beaten eggs and butter into a saucepan and stir on low heat until mixture thickens. Add segments of custard apple and fold through. Add filling to tart shells when it has cooled. Note: the filling does not need added sugar.

Just before serving, add the filling to the tart shells, place a couple of teaspoons of lemon butter on top of the filling and top with blueberries. Sprinkle some edible flowers on top and dust with icing sugar. This step isn’t necessary, just pretty.

Serves 8-10