Overlooking Banning, California

Two crows, Banning California

Coming home from Idyllwild, on the road to Banning, I pulled over to let a couple of cars pass. Posing nearby on an outcropping of rock were a pair of crows. I only had my iPhone with me, and frankly even if I’d had another camera, unless it was sitting on the seat ready to go, I was probably better off with the iPhone. Most wild creatures aren’t in the habit of staying in place until you get your camera out! I shot through my windshield, and they were kind enough to hang on long enough for me to get a few frames.

As they both flew off I was suddenly reminded of an old friend. Tim Jeffries Szukala hated crows! He would wince when he would hear them calling to each other, and he was convinced they were bad luck. It was almost comical watching him shake his fist at them. Tim was a big part of my life for a few years–he was in the very first band that I ever shot, Cesjacuzi–but I hadn’t talked to him in years, and only recently heard that he passed on earlier this year. And watching those two crows fly off made me suddenly miss him. A lot. I wish I’d seen him more over the years. I wish we’d kept in better touch. I wish he was still around, and I could call him, and ask him to come over and change a lightbulb. I wish I could hear him play one last drum solo…

When Cesjacuzzi was winding down, we could all sense it, but no one knew that the last gig would actually be the very last gig forever – and I missed it. I had gone to almost every show for years, but that one show I missed, and it was the last.

I don’t like regrets, but I have a few. I regret missing the last gig my first favorite band ever played, and I regret not keeping in better touch with a friend that I really and truly loved. Tim was a great guy! And a great drummer! And as I watched those two crows fly away, I remembered just a little bit better why I loved him the way that I did.

My Mom

Sharon Rose // cherylspelts.comMy mother is leaving at the end of this week to go spend some time in Portland, Oregon. I’m not sure when she’ll be back, and yesterday was my last chance to spend some time with her before she leaves, so we shot a couple portraits in her nearly empty living room. And of course we had to get a shot with Samantha!

Then we headed out to Highland Springs Resort to have dinner at the Grand Oak Steakhouse. But before dinner, we had to explore just a little bit… And of course that meant we ended up in the lavender fields shooting more images!

And the Grand Oak Restaurant? It’s my new favorite place! All the food is locally grown, in season, and organic – so every single thing they served us tasted amazing. We had mango margaritas that must have been made with the most perfectly ripe mango ever – they were fabulous! Then I had a watermelon and heirloom tomato salad with freshly made mozzarella. Heirloom tomatoes just taste like a tomato should taste… And paired with watermelon? So good! And then we both had their steakhouse burger – which was probably the best tasting burger I’ve ever had. They cut and grind locally-raised fresh beef there, on the premises, so how could it not be good?

I’ll miss my Mom! But I’m glad we got to have one last afternoon and evening together, in such a beautiful spot, enjoying the Old-California atmosphere, with fabulous food and a fabulous drink, and some good conversation!

Sharon Rose

Sharon RoseSharon Rose

Sharon Rose

Sharon Rose

Cheryl Spelts

Cheryl Spelts

And me on the original dirt driveway into the resort, under a canopy of hundred-years-old olive trees.

Lavender Festival at Highland Springs Resort

The Tenth Annual Lavender Festival was held the last two weekends at Highland Springs Resort in Cherry Valley, and I’d never been before, but I love lavender, so I decided to drop by on Sunday. I had no idea no idea what to expect, and it was much grander than I could have imagined!

Set on a 2400 acre ranch of mostly pristine California land, the property contains a working organic farm and the Grand Oak Restaurant and Bar. And the “grand oak” referenced in the restaurant’s name? It’s on the property as well, and is at least 1100 years old. A massive old oak, it’s trunk is burned on one side, evidence of a fire or two in the past. But it’s still strong and healthy, despite the damage. Just like the state of California!

Lavender Festival / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I loved this butterfly so much, I cropped the image on the left below, to get the larger version above. But if I was ever to print it, I would print the full frame below really big, so the butterfly would really stand out!

Lavender Lavender at Highland Springs Resort

Tourists at the Lavender Festival / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Festival-goers posing for photos in the middle of the lavender fields.

Highland Springs Resort / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Lavender FestivalOlive Trees

Olive Tree LeavesLavender Festival

Grand Oak / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Highland Springs Resortoak tree branches

burned oak treeThousand-year-old oak tree

Cherry Valley / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Sage brush and beeSheep at Highland Springs Resort

Lavender Farm / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Lavender Festival / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I concentrated mostly on the ranch itself – it’s so beautiful! But they also had booths with all the products they make from the lavender, lots of food, live music, and a lovely place to sit under a canopy of trees and just soak up the atmosphere!

And when I got home? I got a call that I had won a $25 gift certificate to their Grand Oak Restaurant and Bar!

Sasha

Last fall, when I first brought two of the little wild kittens inside that had been living in my side yard, I intended to find homes for them. I had Roxie, and one cat was enough for me at that point! And these little kittens were adorable, and only a few months old, so I figured once they were tamed it would be easy to find them homes. But it took me longer than I expected to tame them, and so I had two wild babies hiding in my house! 

Taming Wild Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Sasha with one of his brothers, at about six weeks old.

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Sasha and Maisie on the left, with two of their siblings, at about seven weeks old.

Sasha / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Sasha at about eight weeks old.

Sasha / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Sasha at about three months old.

Finally the little yellow one discovered that it was nice to be touched, and even better to be held. And I started to fall in love…

And then this little yellow kitten – who was about four months old at the time – suddenly grew a little bulge. He was a boy! I love male cats, but a male cat might change the dynamic of the whole house, and how would Roxie adapt to not being the top cat, once he matured? But I couldn’t give him up. So I just had to hope that he would stay as sweet as he was at four-months-old…

Sasha is now a year-old, and a big beautiful male cat. He’s gentle and easy to get along with. Thankfully!

Sasha / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Sasha / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Sasha and Vanessa / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Sasha with Vanessa, who is almost four months old.

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Sasha with Calista and Raphael

Sasha lived his first few months outside, with no owner, no love, no food dish of his own, and no mother after she disappeared when he was two months old. All he wanted was to get inside! He used to cry under my bedroom window, and try to climb the screen, convinced he could get in, if he just tried hard enough. And now that he’s in? He has zero desire to ever go outside again. He’s a happy house cat!

Samantha’s last day with her siblings…

Kittens doing yoga / Photo: Cheryl SpeltsSammie came to visit for a week, while my Mom was on vacation, and after a little bit of growling and hissing, worked her way back into the family fold. But Mom came home on Tuesday, so these images are the last with Sammie and her cat family. She won’t be back for a long while – and by then the other kittens will have new homes.

They’re three-and-a-half-months old now. Growing up fast!

So what did Sammie do on her last day? Well she started with some yoga with her calico sister, Calista.

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Then grabbed the favorite sleeping spot before Raphael could get to it.

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Oh well, Raphael will just sleep beside it. He’s adaptable like that! Isn’t Sammie’s sleeping position, with one foot out of the bowl, hysterical?

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Can you believe those whiskers? So beautiful!

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Raphael has whiskers too!

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Vanessa wishes it were here turn in the bowl…

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

That’s okay, Vanessa will just knock all the magazines stacked on a chair, onto the floor, and sleep there.

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Roxie in bed.

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Sammie is still queen of the bowl…

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Vanessa gets ready to pounce.

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Ah! Calista gets a chance in the bowl!

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

But it’s not as fun if no one else wants it. Where is everybody?

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

And the very last time all four will nurse. Maisie’s babies are growing up!

Kittens / Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Goodbye Samantha! We’ll miss you!

The places kittens sleep…

Maisie

Maisie, in December, when she was just seven months old. Her favorite spot in the whole house was on this table, in a decorative bowl.

Vanessa and Rafael

And now her babies love the same spot. It’s a different bowl, but the same location, and yes they really do squish in two or three at a time to sleep! Here Vanessa and Rafael are trying to share the bowl, but at times three of them crowd in all at once.

Samantha

Samantha is here while my Mom is on vacation – so she’s getting her turn in the bowl!

Vanessa

It cracks me up that the kittens like to sleep in the cat carrier! Up until the moment when the zipper closes–and they’re locked in–then they don’t like it so much!

But Vanessa? Isn’t that the most precious face ever? She’s such a tough little thing. I love her!

Gratitude and an Instagram-Perfect Life

A couple of days ago I was walking across the lawn in my front yard, and noticing the pretty purple Jacaranda blossoms that litter the sidewalk this time of year. My feet were bare, the grass was soft and damp, the sky was brilliant blue, and the sun was warm. And I was filled with such gratitude.

My life may not be perfect, but I have so much of what I always wanted! I may not own the little old house I live in, but hey it’s a Victorian from 1910, and that’s been my dream home since I was a little girl, so I’m happy. I have a convertible again – a cute one! I am healing and feeling better, and I got through my first year of law school. It’s true that I have a less-than-stellar grade point average–C+ Baby!–but I’m not in danger of getting kicked out, and I’ve now proven I can handle it, so I’m happy with that as well. Things are good! Life is good!

Instagram-Perfect LifeInstagram-Perfect Life

So when I left the house a short time later, I pulled out my iPhone and shot a couple of photos of the house and the jacaranda tree, and posted them on Instagram, which then fed them through to Facebook. I was feeling grateful, and so I shot some happy shiny pretty images and uploaded them, and went on my way. Both images generated a few comments and the photo of the house got over 40 Likes on Facebook. And I had to admit that it looked pretty good on my iPhone! But later it hit me that I hadn’t mentioned that I was only renting half the house – the left half – the half without the great front porch. And then today, looking at the image again, I realized that it actually looked a little better than reality. And that bothered me.

I shoot beautiful things all the time, and I’m always attracted toward the beauty in everything. Obviously I’m going to shoot from the best angle possible, and try to make whatever it is look as attractive as possible – even if it’s just a cell phone photo, meant to show where I live.

But this felt different. If felt like I had accidentally deceived everyone who clicked Like. Would they have still clicked Like and left such nice comments if they saw the house in person? Or if I had thought to mention that it was divided into two apartments in the 1950s, and I’m only renting the left half?

Instagram-Perfect Life

So I decided to shoot the house again today. Instead of an iPhone, I used my new little Canon that I bought to shoot video – just because I wanted to play with it. I tried to shoot the house, as it really is, and not disguise the not-so-great parts. Where the Instagram version sort of hid the satellite dish in the tree branches, this time I didn’t try to disguise it. Where the Instagram version deemphasized the junk on the front porch and the multiple mailboxes, this time all that clutter is more visible. Where on Instagram the yard looked large, with a big lawn, today’s version shows just how small the front yard is – which is typical for downtown Riverside, and nothing to be ashamed of, but it is different than the impression the other image gave… The biggest change is that the Instagram version was shot in the middle of the day, so the sky is bright blue and everything looks lush and verdant – and the image today was shot at sunset, so it’s got a much softer feel.

Oh, and the neighborhood cats decided to pose for me today, so that was an added bonus!

I don’t think either image makes the house look unattractive. And I like them both. And the Instagram version is not a lie – that’s how the house actually looked at that moment in time, in that light. But even so, it gave the impression that the house was just a bit grander than it really is, and by association, that my life was maybe a little grander than it actually is. But guess what? My life is grand to me! The house I live in may not belong to me, I may only be renting half, and it may be a little less than Instagram-perfect – but it’s my favorite kind of house, and I love it. I may not have the great front porch, but I have ten-foot tall ceilings and vintage woodwork – I’m happy!

Jacaranda blossomsfriendly neighborhood cat

big orange male catVW Convertible

I also love my cute little convertible with one missing hubcap, and and the scruffy neighborhood cats that follow me around the yard, and beg for love and affection.

My life may not be Instagram-perfect, but I am very grateful for everything that I have!

On Twitter | May 2014

Abstract in Acrylic, #2

It’s the strangest thing, the most popular post on my whole blog, thanks to Pinterest, is a violet and orange abstract painting I did in 2004. Not a photograph, a painting. So when I found another painting in storage, that’s similar in style, I figured it would be fun to post it as well, and see what happens.

Violet, Purple, and Orange Abstract in Acrylic

Click to View Full Size

Is the violet and orange painting popular because of the colors? Is it just a fluke? Or will the blue and yellow painting find a few fans as well?

The blue and yellow abstract is actually much larger than the violet and orange painting - maybe four times larger. And when I put it aside in 2004, it felt “unfinished” to me, but I wasn’t sure what to do next with it. If you mess too long with a painting, you can completely spoil it, so I set it aside, and hoped that if I left it for a few days, I’d figure out what to do next. But I never did figure it out, and eventually I stuck it in storage, and now, ten years later when I look at it, I think maybe it was finished all along. I’m still not sure what else I would do to it, but more importantly, I think I like it the way it is. The violet and orange was my first painting, and I still like it best, and maybe that’s why I felt dissatisfied with this one? Because it was so different, and in my eyes, not as good. But now? Now I like it!

So what do you think? Finished or unfinished? Better or worse than the other? Is it worth hanging?

Eleven weeks old and adorable!

kittens

Rafael and Sasha! Sasha just turned one year old, so he’s barely out of kittenhood himself, but he’s completely affectionate and loving with the babies. Even when they bite his tail and try to climb him like a tree… He’s a patient cat!

kittenskittens

Little Miss Calista, (with Rafael photobombing!) and her very tired mother, Maisie. Raising these babies is making Maisie more than a little tired. She’ll be glad when they find forever homes, and she can get back to napping at will again!

kittens

Samantha has the greenest eyes of all the kittens – not as green as her mother, but very pretty!

kittenskittens

Sasha gives good baths! And my favorite cat of all, Roxie Pablo, is ready to take a real bath! Roxie is two-years-old now, and still my favorite. She was first, but it’s more than that; she’s just a very special cat.

kittens

Calista gives good face. That little orange nose? Just perfection.

kittenskittens

Two shots of Vanessa! She’s actually my favorite of the kittens; probably because she loves me the most. It’s hard not to love a baby that looks at you adoringly, and follows you around, and only wants to be near you!

kittens

And finally, one more of Calista, because she’s just so darn cute! She wins for best-looking!

In search of the seriously beautiful…