Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical Watercolour

Fascinating facts

The flower of life

Fascinating facts, My art journeyphoenixarttally
flower of life arttally

I love this pattern - Julie Gibbons showed me this. Circles are so clever. I now have sacred geometry on my list of Things I Would Like to Know More About. Yes. It's a long list.

The pattern in the centre of the mandala is known as the flower of life. It is found in ancient artworks and is present in nature. It is the continuation of  what is known as the seed of life or the Genesis pattern, which is the centre of this mandala from yesterday. If you keep making interlocking circles you end up with this, the flower of life.

I left out the black ink lines today. Went for a more muted effect using a bit of graphite here and there instead of ink. Not sure which is best. Black ink or no black ink? What do you think?

By the way, if you are now curious about sacred geometry and the flower of life check out this short video introduction to the topic. It is fascinating stuff.  If you prefer an even shorter, and word free version, try this.

3 quick tips to improve the vase life of those willful irises

Fascinating facts, My art journeyphoenixarttally

quick tips to improve the vase life of irises I love blue flowers. There really don't seem to be all that many of them. Irises are some of my favourites. I love how wild they seem. They don't last well in vases which is a shame, but somehow I can't help but admire that sort of willful obstinacy in refusing to be tamed.

If you do want to try and improve the vase life of your irises here are three quick tips:



Physiognomy... or do your eyebrow shapes have meaning?

Fascinating factsphoenixarttally

eyebrow shapes arttally All of last week I have been observing that our faces communicate so much. By our expressions, of course, but do they also express some of our character traits - regardless of expression?

Some would say yes. It even has a name - physiognomy - the judgment or interpretation of a person's character by examining the face. Physiognomy has been an enduring study despite its lack of scientific validity.

Leonardo da Vinci was not a fan of the idea that the shape of your face dictated your personality. He did however acknowledge that lines or wrinkles that formed on the face over time as a result of particular repeated facial expressions did tell you about the person. Well, yes indeed. That has to be so.

Crow's feet around the eyes in later life can only mean you laughed a lot (well done). On the other hand sparse eyebrows may or may not mean that you doubt yourself and have low self esteem (wish someone had mentioned that in the nineties before I got out the tweezers….)

Apparently eyebrow shapes reveal a fair bit about us. Another interpretation of the sparse brow is that while often a sign of a benevolent nature it also indicates someone who cannot forget a wrong. (So if you are that guy who cut me off in the traffic this morning… I’d like to forgive you, but my eyebrows are just too thin.)

If someone has arched brows it could indicate that they are less approachable and more reserved. My right eyebrow is more arched than my left. Well, clearly this must mean you should always attempt to approach me from my left hand side for the warmest reception. Just saying.

Are you looking for a life coach? If so, you might need to enquire after their brows. Those with low eyebrows are reliable, easy going approachable types who are likely to stay with you. Although, if it is unemotional, logical thinking you are after, then best to go for someone with straight, unarched brows.

Rounded arches indicate kindness and peaked brows signify fun loving, fast thinkers. Bushy brows belong to active, confident sorts. Those with longer eyebrows handle stress better than those with shorter brows.  Are you finding eyebrow shapes as fascinating as me? You might want to head over here for the full scoop and a celebrity brow or two.

Physiognomy is regarded as a pseudoscience, albeit an enduring one. Aristotle was rather taken with the idea, for example. There is a history of Greek philosophers pondering the face and what it might mean. Chaucer even mentioned it in The Tale of Beryn. Admittedly he wrote it as ‘fisnamy’ or ‘visnomy’, but we knew what he meant.

Making character assessments by studying facial characteristics was considered a solid scientific approach in the Middle Ages. It was even taught at universities, until Henry VIII declared it to be unlawful along with palm reading.

Physiognomy might not be scientific, but it sure is fun. It wasn’t just the ancient Greeks or ye olde England who found it interesting. Oh no, there is plenty more to learn from China too. If you have a five minutes to spare why not check out this short fun video about what Chinese face reading would make of your own features?

Who invented high tea?

Fascinating factsKerrie Woodhouse

Have you ever wondered who invented high tea? Or is that afternoon tea? I think it depends where you are from. And either way, thank heavens they did!

High tea is a rather glorious tradition. Dainty sandwiches and delicate baked morsels accompanied by carefully brewed tea from a pot and drunk out of a proper tea cup and saucer. This to me is the modern version of high tea. A decadent outing to a swanky hotel for a smorgasbord of old fashioned high sugar, labour intensive, “unhealthy” and therefore luxurious treats. And frankly about the only time that most people would drink tea from a cup and saucer as opposed to a mug.

Who invented high tea arttally tea time series

It is Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford who is widely credited with transforming afternoon tea into a meal while visiting Belvoir Castle in the mid 1840s. However there is some debate about this as food historians document evidence of tea being recognised as a meal while Anna was still young, not yet a Duchess and not yet as influential as she was to become.

At around this time, the evening meal was being served later and later. In the early 19th century dinner has been documented as being served at between 7pm and 8:30pm. Luncheon, served around midday was very light. As a result, by 4 or 5 pm everyone was a little peckish. A few baked morsels alongside a fortifying cup of tea was a perfect solution.

In some parts of England, Ireland and Scotland, high tea describes the evening meal for the lower working classes. ‘High’, in this case meaning well advanced, ie later in the day than afternoon tea. It is sometimes called tea time or meat tea. It would usually consist of a hot dish, or perhaps some cold meats, followed by cakes, bread, butter and jam.

Outside of this group, what is called high tea nowadays, harks back to the decadent social occasion that was the Duchess of Bedford's afternoon tea.

The Duchess of Bedford was a friend of Queen Victoria, and a social celebrity. Afternoon tea was a ritual of the Victorian Age. An opportunity to socialise and network. To tell stories and enjoy conversation. Of course, a ritual with rules and etiquette, demanding politeness and decorum. A place for political agendas, scandal, gossip and rumour too, no doubt.

The upper and then middle classes mirrored the behaviour of the celebrities of their time, like Anna Russell and Queen Victoria, as and when tea became more affordable for them. So whether or not Anna 'invented' high tea she certainly played a part in its evolution.

Afternoon tea to me, means a cup of tea and a bicky or two. Perhaps a slice of cake. And most certainly, a good chat. High tea is a decadent special occasion at a fancy hotel.  Most probably including champagne. All tea rituals are rather charming I think.  I can't be the only one as they have been around for centuries. Good rituals endure.

Explore more of the Tea Time post series here

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Earl Grey Tea - love it or hate it?

Fascinating factsphoenixarttally

Today’s teapot in my teatime series turned out to be rather elegant, I think. Stylish. So what else could I write about today, but Earl Grey tea? It is an elegant, stylish tea. It has stood the test of time and seems to evoke strong reactions. What is your reaction - love it or hate it?

Earl Grey Tea love it or hate it

Unsurprisingly, the history of Earl Grey tea starts in Britain. Charles Grey was an English aristocrat and Prime Minster from 1830 to 1834. He also had 6 daughters and 10 sons. (… so what exactly is in Earl Grey Tea again….??)

The characteristic flavour of Earl Grey tea comes from the addition of bergamot. Bergamot is a mediterranean citrus. Some stories say that bergamot and tea were shipped together once and the flavours of the fruit mingled happily with the tea. Others say a Chinese friend of the Earl blended the tea with the citrus to counteract the mineral taste of the water in his home - Howick Hall in Northumberland, England. Yet another story suggests that Earl Charles Grey was given the recipe for the tea when he saved the son of a tea blender in China from drowning.

In reality, no one knows exactly how or why Earl Grey became associated with the tea. But it has certainly stuck. It is possible that more people know Earl Grey for his namesake tea than for abolishing slavery during his time in office!

Like all teas, Earl Grey is loved for its many health benefits, mostly from its natural antioxidants. Bergamot is also thought to be beneficial. So choosing Earl Grey today might just help guard against heart disease. Bergamot contains contains enzymes known as HMGF (hydroxy methyl glutaryl flavonones) which can attack proteins in the body known to cause heart disease.

Earl Grey has lovers, of course… like Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code, Captain Picard in Star Trek, and Q in Skyfall. But then there are the haters. Not me, to be sure. I can’t say I agree with the sentiment but, if you have 1 minute and 47 seconds to spare check out Kenny Enda’s song for a bit of a giggle!

Explore more of the Tea Time post series here

You won't believe the size of the world's largest teapot collection

Fascinating factsKerrie Woodhouse

I love a quirky teapot. I'm not the only one apparently. In fact, you wont believe the size of the largest teapot collection in the world...

For a while I was in danger of becoming something of a teapot collector. Collectors fascinate me - but I am not sure I am one of them. Combining obsession and shopping seemed a slippery slope for me.  And then there is the dusting, of course. At last... the triumph of practicality over whimsy.

largest teapot collection

But teapot collecting seems to actually be a Thing. Who knew? Not me... bet my husband is somewhat relieved that I didnt know this... There are even instructions about how to begin a teapot collection.

In Kent, there is a lady called Sue Blayze who clearly has no need of such a set of instructions. Sue Blayze turned her 7000 strong teapot collection into a tea museum.  It is aptly named Teapot Island, and even received a royal visit from Charles and Camilla.

7000 teapots? That impressed me. It was enough to earn a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2004.  In 2011 however, the record was taken apparently controversially by someone in China with a collection of 30 000 teapots.

Part of the fascination with teapots is that they sit at the intersection of art, craft and social history. They offer insight into world culture and the history of ceramics.

As far as  basic design goes, the teapot has hardly changed in 300 years.  Some might have feet, (like my own favourite  - the one I painted earlier this month) some might be shaped as frogs, but they all still tend to feature a pot, a spout, a lid, and a handle.

The original design is thought to be based on wine ewers from China or Islamic coffee pots.  The first ceramic teapots were heavy and broke easily.  Chinese porcelain pots were brought in by the East India company until 1791.  William Cookworthy established a ceramic works in Plymouth and the industrial revolution brought continued improvement in the quality of the ceramics. Tough, durable bone China was created in the 19th century and was perfect for tea pots and cups.

An avid historical teapot collector would know that the size of tea pots has increased over time - particularly once William Pitt's government cut the tax on tea. Until then, the most popular drink in the UK was ale, but between reduced tax on tea and weak grain harvests the general population started to consume more tea than ale.

So get out your teapot - whether it is shaped like Buckingham palace, or looks like it belongs in a Chinese restaurant. Whatever its shape or size... tea definitely tastes better from a teapot.

Explore more of the Tea Time Post series here

See the kitchen inspired artwork available in the shop today

Is the national drink of Britain actually Portuguese?

Fascinating factsKerrie Woodhouse

Tea is such a British institution.

But is the national drink of Britain actually Portuguese? I think, perhaps it just might be.

The very first account of tea was recorded by Samuel Pepys. Pepys was a naval administrator and Member of Parliament whose diary has become a most important source of British history. In 1660, Pepys notes that he sent for a cup of tea - a new drink from China. Tea probably entered England by ship, from Amsterdam, thanks to the Dutch East India Company.

In spite of the timeline, it is usually not Samuel Pepys who is thought of as introducing tea to England. That title goes to the wife of King Charles II. Catherine of Braganza was born into the most senior noble house of Portugal and was the Queen of England Scotland and Ireland from 1662 to 1685.

is the national drink of Britain actually Portuguese

Tea reached Portugal in the 16th century, being first introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China. Catherine of Braganza was an established tea drinker when she married King Charles II. Her dowry included a chest of tea!

It was Catherine’s tea drinking habits that strongly influenced the aristocracy. In place of wine, ale and spirits, tea gradually became the court drink. Before long, drinking tea became universal among the English upper class. Tea was soon being sold in markets, and became a part of the regular trade of the English East India Company.

She was an interesting woman, Catherine. A devout, but private Catholic. She did not bear any heirs and had several miscarriages. She spent her life separated from her family and had to contend with her husband’s many mistresses. Her inability to produce an heir brought Charles under pressure to divorce Catherine - but he did not. He is said to have sided with her against his mistresses and insisted that she be treated with respect. (Do as I say and not as I do, perhaps….?)

It doesn’t sound too terrific for poor old Catherine, does it? But, as they always say…

You can’t buy happiness but you can buy tea and that’s kind of the same thing

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16 reasons why tea is good for you

Fascinating factsKerrie Woodhouse

I don't need any encouraging to drink tea. But if I did, there are at least 16 reasons why tea is good for you:

  1. Anti ageing. Thanks to the polyphenols in tea your daily cuppa provides anti oxidants to protect the body from the ravaging effects of time
  2. Healthy teeth. Tea contains fluoride and tannins which fight plaque
  3. Anti stress. Cortisol is the stress hormone that contributes to belly fat and makes your skin age quicker. One recent study suggested four cups of tea per day may make your cortisol levels spike less.
  4. Lower cholesterol. Green tea has been found to reduce the level of total serum cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol. Tea is thought to work by inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol from the large intestine.
  5. Better memory, focus and concentration. According to extensive research the combination of caffeine and L-Theanine, a naturally-occurring amino acid found in tea, improves reaction time and memory, while simulataneously increasing focus and concentration. So tea drinking (especially white tea) is easier than meditating but gives similar results. Hurrah.
  6. Increased Metabolism. Apparently you can burn 70 to 80 additional calories by drinking five cups of green tea per day.
  7. Anti allergen. Quercetin, which is a flavonol naturally-occurring in tea is known to mitigate histamine response. Tea also contains the polyphenol, EGCG, which may be helpful for reducing pollen allergies.
  8. Boosts endurance. Green tea contains antioxidants called catechins which have been found to improve the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel. This greater efficiency means improved muscle endurance.
  9. Calorie free. So few pleasures in life are actually calorie free, but tea is (unless you start adding sugar and milk!
  10. Strong Bones. Green tea has been found to improve bone mineral density and strength. It is thought that this may be the work of tea's many beneficial phytochemicals.
  11. Eyesight. Studies have shown that drinking tea can help to prevent the blindness caused by cataracts (the clouding of the lens inside the eye). Anti oxidants, which we know can be provided by tea have been found in eye tissue.
  12. Parkinson's Disease. Studies have shown that drinking tea is associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in both men and women
  13. Hydration. There was a school of thought that suggested that tea should not be considered as part of our daily fluid intake. Luckily, this is no longer thought to be the case. Our tea does hydrate us.
  14. Radiation. Tea has been found to help the body recover from radiation. It has been shown to protect against cellular degeneration upon exposure to radiation, as well as helping the skin bounce back after exposure to radiation.
  15. Anti Cancer. Research on this is mixed, but some studies show that the anti oxidants in tea might be helpful in fighting a whole raft of cancers.
  16. Alzheimer’s Disease. We already know that tea has a positive effect on memory and concentration thanks to those polyphenols. As we age, drinking tea helps to lower the risk of dementia by acting through multiple pathways, including those of nerve synapses and blood sugar regulation.
16 reasons why tea is good for you

Convinced yet? Time to get the kettle on!

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Discover the different types of tea - true tea, that is...

Fascinating factsKerrie Woodhouse

There are so very many different types of tea available these days. However, purists say there are only 4 true teas. A true tea is made from the leaves of the tea bush or Camellia sinensis. Herbal teas are infusions of the leaves, roots or buds of other plants like peppermint, chamomile, ginger and rosehip. Stay tuned for more on those next week…

different types of tea arttally

The four true teas are:

1.White Tea

White tea, comes from the buds and youngest leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The beverage itself is not white or colourless but pale yellow and light in taste. It derives its name from the fine silvery-white hairs on the unopened buds of the tea plant, which gives the plant a whitish appearance.

White tea is the most subtle, delicate and complex of the teas because it is the least processed. The tea leaves are simply steamed and then dried. White tea has very little caffeine, 1-2% as much caffeine content as one cup of coffee.

2.Green Tea

To make green tea, the Camellia sinensis leaves are picked, dried, and heat-treated to prevent fermentation of the loose leaves. After moisture is removed through the heat treatment, the tea leaves are typically rolled and dried again before they are ready for use.

The heat treatment of green tea varies. For Chinese green tea the leaves are roasted in a hot roasting pan. This gives Chinese green tea a toasted taste and a yellow-green colour. In Japan, green tea is made by steaming the leaves. Japanese green tea has a grassy taste and is dark green in colour.

3.Black Tea

Black tea is a fully fermented variety of tea from the Camellia sinensis plant. To make black tea, the leaves are withered and rolled. They then undergo a long period of fermentation. Once fermented,the black tea leaves are fired. This natural oxidation process gives the the black tea its characteristic complex flavour and colour.

4.Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is similar to green tea. However, after the tea leaves are picked, they are intentionally bruised by shaking. While the leaves are drying, the edges of the bruised leaves turn reddish in color and the surface becomes light yellow due to fermentation and oxidation. After some fermentation period the tea leaves are pan fired to create a semi-fermented tea.

The fermentation period can vary producing slightly different results. Chinese oolong tea is fermented only long enough to achieve 12-20% fermentation and results in a lighter oolong. Taiwanese oolong teas are fermented for longer, resulting in 60-70% fermentation. This gives Taiwanese oolong tea a stronger flavour.

There is a lot of choice when it comes to tea. Wherever your preferences lie, it seems that tea is a beverage we can happily enjoy, as each of the different types of tea offers some health benefit. But that is a subject for another day….

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Who made the first cup of tea?

Fascinating factsKerrie Woodhouse

Did you ever wonder who made the first cup of tea?

Tea (and indeed tea time) is very close to my heart. In fact, so much so that it is the subject of my series for the month of July - Tea time!

The first thing I have learned, in my research of this delightful topic is that tea might just have been a happy accident.

Legend has it, that the Chinese emperor Shennong, was the first person to may a cup of tea - way back in 2737 BC.  Apparently, the emperor was sitting beneath a Camellia sinensis tree while his servant boiled drinking water. Some leaves from the tree blew into the water. Shennong, who was a renowned herbalist, decided to try the infusion that his servant had accidentally created. The resulting drink was what we now call tea.


Shennong is also known as the Emperor of the Five Grains. He was a legendary ruler of China and a cultural hero. Shennong is thought to have taught the ancient Chinese not only their practices of agriculture, but also the use of herbal drugs. Some say that the emperor tested the medical properties of various herbs on himself. Legend has it that the god of agriculture would chew the leaves, stems, and roots of various plants to discover medicinal herbs. If he consumed a poisonous plant, he would chew tea leaves to counteract the poison.

So tea might well have been a happy accident. But thanks to that accident we continue to enjoy tea all over the world thousands and thousands of years later.

Artists know all about happy accidents. Sometimes I think the happy accident is really our stock in trade. It is a willingness to experiment. An allowing. Being open to what is. Making the most of what you have. So many reasons art is just practice for life.

So why not make a cup of tea, get out some art supplies and see what happy accidents you come up with?

Explore the rest of the Tea Time posts here


or see the available kitchen related art prints and originals in the shop.

Did you know these intriguing koala facts?

Fascinating factsphoenixarttally

intriguing koala facts arttally Koalas are adorable, cuddly looking creatures.  While gathering fascinating koala facts, I noticed that koalas have some fairly human qualities like opposable thumbs and fingerprints. But being marsupials they have other rather intriguing characteristics too...

Did you know...?

  • Koalas have two opposable thumbs on their front paws
  • Koalas have similar fingerprints to humans
  • Koalas are excellent swimmers, and may cross rivers in order to escape from heavy flooding in one area.
  • Koalas don't live in one single tree - their ‘home' is made up of several trees called Home Trees in an area described as the Home Range. They visit these same trees regularly.
  • A mature male koala marks his territory by rubbing the dark, sticky substance from the scent gland in the centre of his white chest on his trees.
  • The size of each home range depends upon a range of factors including the quality of the habitat and the sex, age and social position in the population of the Koala.
  • Koalas are rather anti social...Unless breeding, they don’t normally visit another Koalas home trees and only spend 15 minutes a day in social activity.
  • A baby koala (joey) is born only 33-35 days after being conceived - (don't tell Mrs Whale... that poor love gets to be pregnant for two years!).
  • When the Joey is born, it’s only about 2 centimetres long, is blind and furless and its ears are not yet developed.
  • The joey makes an amazing journey to the pouch, relying on its strong forelimbs and claws, its well-developed senses of smell and touch, and an inborn sense of direction.
  • Once in the pouch, it attaches itself to one of the two teats which swells in its mouth, preventing it from being dislodged from its source of food.
  • The Joey stays in its mother’s pouch for about 6 or 7 months, drinking only milk.
  • Gum leaves are toxic to most.. even to baby koalas! Don't even ask how the joey is weaned from milk to gum leaves....

Want to see some more of these beautiful, but vulnerable creatures? Why not head over to Healesville Sanctuary, either in person or a cyber visit! Healesville Sanctuary is quite my favourite place to go visiting koalas.

A very good reason my kids are glad not to be a baby koala

Fascinating factsphoenixarttally

baby koala arttally Who doesn’t love a koala? My children adore them. In fact for a while they thought it would be great to actually be a baby koala.

We went to a birthday party recently with the ‘zoo that comes to you’. Rather impressive all told. In their friend’s living room the children got to see and touch and learn about a whole lot of Australian animals… not least of which was a koala.

They learned all sorts of things about all the animals. They even got to cuddle a koala. And they learnt one very good reason to be really glad that they are not koalas, after all.

I totally see the appeal of the baby koala and why they thought being one might be a good idea. Koalas are cute and cuddly… just like a teddy bear. That is why some people call them koala ‘bears’. It’s a misnomer - they are not bears at all, but marsupials.

And the life of a baby koala seems pretty OK…. Koalas sleep for 18-20 hours every day and spend the rest of the time eating. They live in trees - they even sleep in trees (this holds enormous appeal to those under 8!) When they are hungry the trees they live in provide all the food they want, ready to hand. They don’t usually need to drink much either as the leaves they consume provide significant moisture for them.

A baby koala is carried by the mother, tucked in her cosy pouch for about 6 months. They also ride on mummy koala’s back or abdomen. The baby koala stays with mum for 1-3 years. The easy life. All rather sweet.

But… and for my children it is a rather big ‘but’…

Gumleaves are toxic to most animals, including a baby koala. When they begin weaning off their mother’s milk, their digestive systems are not yet mature enough to tolerate the gum leaves. So instead they get to eat their mothers poop…

Yes, I’m afraid so. It is called ‘pap’ and it is a special form of predigested gumleaves made just for the little joey.

This does not comfort my children.

The pap is a specialised form of the mother’s droppings that is soft and runny. It allows the mother to pass on to the baby koala (joey) special micro-organisms from her intestine which are necessary for it to be able to digest the gumleaves. The joey  will feed on this for a few weeks, just before it comes out of the pouch at about 6 or 7 months of age.

So maybe my children don't get to sit about in trees all day sleeping and eating like koalas do. But they haven't complained quite so much about my dinner menu recently either…

Thanks, Zoo that comes to you…. I’m calling that a parenting win.

Do you know these surprising facts about whales?

Fascinating factsphoenixarttally
surprising facts about whales arttally

surprising facts about whales arttally

In honour of the fourth and final whale in my series of animal panels I have put together a collection of surprising facts about whales. They are truly amazing creatures. Did you know....

  • Only one half of the whale’s brain sleeps at a time. This is because whales are mammals and cannot breathe under water. At all times they need enough brain function to keep breathing by swimming to the surface.

  • Sperm whales dive down to the ocean floor and then catch a nap standing up. Their naps last about 12 minutes during which time they rise slowly to the surface in their upright position, head first.

  • Whales are believed to have descended from land animals that returned to the water roughly 50 million years ago after living millions of years on land.

  • The beluga whale is actually capable of facial expressions. Some times the beluga appears to be smiling or frowning as its lips and the crescent of fat that forms the forehead are both highly mobile

  • Some amazing adaptations of the sperm whale include the ability to limit blood circulation to the brain and other organs, slow the heart to 10 beats per minute to conserve oxygen, and collapse the lungs and rib cage. These unique physiological adaptations are necessary to withstand the intense cold and crushing pressure of the sperm whale's two mile dives.

  • Toothed whales hunt their prey using echolocation. The reliance on sound as the whale's most critical sense explains the small size of their eyes relative to their bodies

  • Blue whales are the loudest creature on earth. Like all baleen whales they use sonar communication at very low frequencies. The blue whale's cry measures 188 decibels - louder than a jet which is 140 decibels.

  • The enormous weight of the whale is supported by the water rather than large heavy bones which it would require if it were on land. A blue whale would be crushed by its own weight on land given its bone structure

  • Whales do not actually drink any seawater - they extract water from their food by metabolizing the fat

  • Some whales don't have teeth - they have plates called baleen which filter fish from the water which are then swallowed whole. Baleen is made of keratin like hair and nails. Sometimes baleen whales are referred to as ‘mustached’ whales

  • Whales move through the water by moving their tails up and down vertically - this is different from fish who move their tails horizontally to swim

  • The heart of the blue whale weighs about 1000 pounds and is about the size of a VW Beetle. A human child would be able to crawl through the aorta to the heart.

  • Killer whales and pilot whales are actually classed as dolphins not whales, despite their name

If you want to know more about these awe-inspiring creatures you might want to start here.

Have a whale of a day!

Want to know about Girl Power?... Ask these whales

Fascinating factsphoenixarttally

Girl power to the whale Ok I know I am going out on a limb here as whales are probably not the totem that springs to mind when we think of girl power. But maybe it should be.... did you know....

Whales have BFFs

Yes, they do!

The Mingan Island Cetacean Study group have discovered that female humpback whales not only make friends with one another but reunite each year.  Whales are not as unsociable as was once thought. They remember their friends and even find them across the ocean and among other whales.

As any BFF knows, friendship is good for you. Even if you are a whale. Female  humpbacks who form friendships are healthier and give birth to more calves each year. When they meet up with each other they simply float along together, eating and enjoying each other’s company. Some of these friendships are known to have lasted up to 6 years.

Interestingly, friendships between females and males (or even male-male friendship) are mostly unheard of. No one quite knows why, but only the girls have BFFs.

Whales have midwives

When a calf is born, the mother whale is usually surrounded by midwives. While the mother recovers the these midwives help the newborn stay at the surface so that it can breathe.

And mother whale deserves the support, if you ask me - blue whales are pregnant for nearly two years! A blue whale calf is 7.5m long at birth. The baby blue whale gains 3.7kg an hour until it is about 8 months old. By this time it weights about 22.5 tonnes. That's a lot of nursing....

The baby blue whale drinks enough milk to fill a bathtub every day.  The milk from the blue whale has the consistency of cottage cheese and is about half fat. No wonder someone wrote a poem about milking a whale...

Whales value motherhood

Some female beluga whales have been seen carrying small objects, floats or buoys and even complete caribou skeletons on their heads or backs. The whales treat these objects like calves. Scientists surmise that for the whales, these objects are surrogate babies. Aww.

A group of sperm whales adopted a bottlenosed dolphin with a deformed spine. It is thought that the misshapen dolphin would have been rejected by his own kind, or simply not been able to keep up with them. However, the dolphin was taken in by the gentle whales.

Go on... spread the love...Why not share this post with your BFF today?


Fun facts about the giraffe

Fascinating factsphoenixarttally

fun facts about the giraffe arttally Whenever I pick a subject to draw and paint in a series like this, one of my favourite things to do is to investigate the subject a little further. Totally nerd up the whole process.

With the giraffe, that research process has been well worth while. Check out these fun facts about the giraffe:

  • giraffes only need 5-30 minutes sleep per day. They often take little naps that last only a minute or two, and can rest standing up
  • the lungs of the giraffe hold 55 litres of air
  • a giraffe's heart is 0.6m long and weighs 11 kg. It is the largest of  any land mammal.
  • NASA did research on the valves in the blood vessels of the giraffe to aid in the design of space suits. In order to protect the giraffe’s brain from sudden changes in blood pressure when it lowers its head to drink, it has valves to stop the back-flow of blood and elastic-walled vessels that dilate and constrict to manage flow
  • the giraffe has a blue-purple tongue that is 53cm (21 inches) long. It is thought that this dark colour on the tip is to protect the tongue from sunburn as it is mostly out gathering leaves.
  • the giraffe’s tongue has thickened papillae, which helps to protect it from the vicious thorns of the Acacia tree that it favours. In addition, thick saliva is also believed to help to protect the giraffe’s tongue and mouth against the defensive mechanisms of their favourite food.
  • giraffes eat most of the time, chewing the cud like cows do and eat about 34kg of leaves per day
  • despite its significant length, the giraffe's neck is not long enough to reach the ground so in order to drink so it has to kneel or spread its front legs
  • although some people think that the giraffe does not make a noise, it can moo, grunt, hiss and snort - it just usually chooses not to.  Studies also suggest that giraffe can communicate with sounds that are below the level of human hearing.
  • the beautiful patterns on the giraffe are designed to camouflage them in the African plains. Like fingerprints, no two giraffe have identical markings.
  • the giraffe species name is  Giraffa camelopardalis because it has a small hump between its neck and its back and can go for many days without drinking like a camel, and because its markings are similar to the leopards 'spots'.

If you have still not had enough of giraffes, you might want to head over to the National Geographic website to check out a range of photos and facts about the awesome giraffe. You might also enjoy the comprehensive information from the San Diego Zoo over here.

It's a rough start if you are a baby giraffe!

Fascinating factsphoenixarttally

baby giraffe no 2 Arttally It amazes me how graceful a giraffe is with that long neck and spindly legs that seem to go on forever. It seems to me that having these attributes could actually be a bit awkward.

It certainly makes it interesting when a baby giraffe is born. The mother giraffe gives birth standing up. When you consider that a mother giraffe can be as tall as up to about 6 metres (20 feet), those baby giraffes get a pretty rough start to life!

After a 15 month gestation period, the baby giraffe (calf) commences life with a fall to the ground of almost 2 metres. No matter... within the hour the baby giraffe is usually up and about. A giraffe calf can run 10 hours after birth. Rather impressive.

A giraffe calf weighs around 100 kilograms and is about 2 metres tall at birth. This height will be doubled in the first year. Calves stay with their mothers until they are 15-18 months old.

Just recently, on the 7th of June 2015 a baby giraffe was born in Chester Zoo in the UK. He is a Rothschild Giraffe, one of the most endangered subspecies of giraffe. Also one of the tallest subspecies. His name is Sanyu and he is awfully cute... look..

The adorable calf, who is nuzzled by another member of the herd, gets plenty of attention from the group


Amazing facts about the owl

Fascinating facts, My art journeyphoenixarttally

Owls 2 Mixed media on Wood arttally Whenever I choose something to draw, one of the things I love most is how studying its form in order to capture a likeness makes your curiosity about the subject grow.  It is one of the things I love most about art. It can take you away from your everyday worries for a little to ponder something completely different.  To contemplate and appreciate the world around us.

I chose owls for this first set in the June series because I think there is something a little bit special about them. Quiet, graceful, knowing.  They are really not like any other bird.

We probably think of them as birds of prey, grouping them in our minds with hawks and eagles. But there is a school of thought in the taxonomy of these birds that their closest relatives are in fact hummingbirds and kingfishers. Hawks and eagles are diurnal hunters and therefore considered a little more primitive, akin to the cranes, herons, and other prehistoric-looking birds.  Owls are nocturnal hunters, cleverly avoiding competition by hunting in opposite hours to the birds of prey.

One of the owl's most distinguishing features is its eyes. Those large round eyes are in fact completely immobile. They are not 'balls' as such but are shaped more like tubes.  Unlike other birds, owl eyes are on the front of the head rather than the side, giving them the more human quality of binocular vision.

Of course, having totally immobile eyes, no matter how captivating they may be, is something of a limitation. The owl compensates by being able to rotate its head 270 degrees - not full circle as we may have liked to believe.

Being able to rotate your head in an almost complete circle does mean that you will be asking rather a lot of your neck.  The owl neck has fourteen vertebrae, twice the number found in other birds. These vertebrae facilitate the impressive range of motion. Such a range of motion however, creates its own set of problems.

Twisting at the neck so dramatically impacts the blood circulation to the brain.  The owl has some rather amazing  systems to deal with this issue. For example it has developed alternative blood vessel routing and air-cushioned vessel casings to prevent rupture and stroke during violent head motion. And when neck movement cuts off circulation, the owl has special blood-pooling systems that collect blood to power their brains and eyes.

What a remarkable creature the owl is.

If you would like to know more about the amazing owl here are some good places to start: