An Award!

Today I was surprised and honored to be given the "Arte y Pico" award by Miss Peach at Miss Peach's Meowz.

"The 'Arte y Pico' award was created and to be given to bloggers who inspire others with their creative energy and their talents, whether it be writing, artwork in all media. When you receive this award it is considered a 'special honor'. Once you have received this award, you are to pass it on to at least 5 others."

I feel very honored to receive this award and am so thrilled to be able to pass it on to the following blogs that inspire me with their creative energy and talents:

Joanie at Joanie's Balonie because her digital scrapbook layouts are truly ART! She is a Photoshop genius (in my humble opinion). You've GOT to check out her work. I want to someday accomplish what she does in Photoshop.

Catherine Holman at Pigment of Your Imagination just because work makes me "drool" creatively and everytime I visit her blog I want to get into my studio, push up my sleeves, and paint something!

Gretel at Middle of Nowhere because her creative journey has inspired me in so many ways I can't even recount them here. Her work is magical and whimsical, and if you haven't taken the time to visit her blog, you must. I will warn you... you'll fall in love with her work and want it for yourself.

Thea Burger at Shades of Life for her amazing paintings that have hints of Mary Cassatt in them with their impressionistic interpretation of beautiful objects. Then with the addition of great framing, her art is simply gorgeous.

Helen Read at Brushstrokes Etc. because her paintings always make me think beyond my own current style and inspire me to explore. Her current work on sunflowers is just phenomenal! She is such a prolific creator that it astounds me.

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Sunflower Sunday

Today, just outside the little red door of Rosehaven Cottage blooms the first sunflower of this summer. The pale lemon-yellow sunflower is a "volunteer" from last year's sunflowers.

We keep our sunflowers up on their dried stalks long after they've wilted so the birds can use them as natural birdfeeders and pick every last seed out of them. But no matter how ravenous those birds are, there's always a few seeds that fall to the ground and reseed for the next year.

This is the first of those to bloom in the Rosehaven Cottage gardens this year--yet another happy delight of summer.

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Glads and Cannas

Summer, despite the heat, has its treats. Two such treats are the gladiolus and the canna lilies that bloom profusely around the garden here at Rosehaven Cottage. Both are very carefree in our conditions (which makes me a very happy gardener).

Glads like the dense soil we have here and don't mind the dryness of our late spring and summer seasons. As long as the winter and early spring rains happen to get the glads started, then they're happy with just the little misting they get from the drip-mist irrigation system I water our garden with. Like many of the bearded iris, glads also have a neat pearlescent sheen to them that make them sparkle in the summer light. If you click on the purple glads above to enlarge the photo you might be able to see the little sparkles.

Canna lilies are very happy in our climate as long as they get lots of sun and have wet feet. There aren't many plants that like those conditions so I was happy to find that cannas like the boggy full sun area around the pond in the back garden. Even though they die back in December and look like they'll never come back, they always do.

I discovered this year that I can plant canna lilies in terra cotta pots that sit on bricks IN the pond. The yellow spotted canna pictured above is my latest acquisition that is growing in a pot in the pond. The bricks raise up the pot so only the bottom stays wet while the top is out of the water with blue mexican beach rocks on the top to keep the soil safe from critters. I am so pleased with the results that I'm contemplating starting a canna collection in my pond. Right now I only have three varieties of cannas around the garden with only one in the pond so I have a way to go before I can call it a "collection". Now the only issue is deciding which variety I want next.

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Lucy Models the New iMac

In a comment on the last post, Kylee over at Our Little Acre requested a picture of the new iMac. Well, I never want to disappoint Kylee... so here it is!

Lucy is helping to model it. That's a 20-inch display in case you're wondering how big Lucy is in comparison to the iMac. Yeah, she's still a petite little thing. And so is the new Apple keyboard at less than 17 inches long.

It's all pretty snazzy and exciting. I've been reading a book I got by David Pogue about switching from a PC to Apple's operating system called Leopard or OS X (that "X" is the Roman numeral for "10"). Here's a cool little tidbit I read yesterday... the Leopard operating system is Unix-based and that's why it's so stable as well as resistant to viruses and spyware. In fact, it is based on the NeXT computers that Steve Jobs worked on during the years he was away from Apple.

I'm running Fusion's VMware (in fact I'm typing this in Windows Explorer right now on the iMac) so I can flip back and forth between Windows XP and Leopard (Mac OS X). Pretty nifty! I'm still learning the in's and out's of file-sharing between the two operating systems, but considering I was able to figure out how to move the above photo from Windows XP to Mac OS X and then back again without opening a manual says something for the user interface and how intuitive it is.

All in all, I'm extremely happy! I did a test-run of the HP Scanjet G4010 that we got this spring for scanning my illustrations and paintings so I can create multimedia art pieces. I was so happy with the result I jumped up and grabbed Hubby around the neck and continued jumping up and down. The scan was so beautiful and perfect. I wish I could show it, but I can't share that yet because I'm still in the creative stage of that piece and don't want to spoil the fun.

I feel like I've discovered the best kept secret in the computer world. All those PC users that think they'll lose flexibility and control or think they're "dumbing down" by acquiring an Apple just don't know what they're missing.

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Fresh As A Daisy

Little wild daisies are one of my favorite wildflowers, so the photos I shot of them recently seemed a fitting companion to my announcement that I finally have my computer problems solved! Hooray!!!!!

Back in April, Windows pushed out an automatic overnight security update to my computer that caused everything to grind to a crawl. My PC went from being a beloved creative tool to a bane to my existence. The keyboard and mouse would freeze up inexplicably. Applications would run in the background and make the PC into a slug. No matter what my in-house techie Hubby or our out-of-house professional PC docs did, the poor thing just couldn't be brought back to what it had been before the April update.

Hubby has been saying the same thing for a few years now, "You're not going to be happy until you finally are back on a Mac."

In my former B.H. life ("Before Hubby"), I worked as a Mac computer trainer, help desk support person, and all-around Mac guru for a company that was totally Mac faithful. In fact, Macs were something that were part of my entire adulthood. I had been introduced to the very first little Mac "classic" (before it was even called that) when I was 18 years old. I had grown with Macs as they grew--adopting new software and technology as it was released. With a fresh Commercial Art degree back in the 80's, I was even on the cutting-edge of desktop publishing with the early version of Adobe PageMaker. I spent all of my 20's in a Mac-centric career of desktop publishing and admin support.

So I knew deep down Hubby was right.

But in the years A.H. ("After Hubby"), I had entrenched myself in the PC world with a lot of software that was only available on PC's. I kept telling him that I could make do. I'd made the switch. It wasn't necessary to make the expensive decision to go back to Mac. But as I have progressively re-embraced my creative roots over the past year and a half, it had become more and more clear that Hubby was right.

I really wasn't going to be happy until I was on a Mac again.

A quick trip to the Apple store in downtown Walnut Creek with my photography loaded on a flash drive in-hand, was the clincher. The staff at the store happily let me plug-in the flash drive to any of the Apple's on display. I was floored. My photos came alive on the gorgeous Apple Cinema displays. My work looked like it was supposed to look.

We left and talked it over for a few days. I researched and Hubby researched. Using a software like VMware would make the PC software issue a moot point. There wasn't anything left I could argue with.

Then when we went back to the Apple store to make the purchase, they were throwing in an all-in-one HP printer with each Mac purchase for $99. The printer came with a $100 mail-in rebate. A "free" printer! It must have been meant to be.

And the white printer is so cute too (if a printer can be "cute"). Everything in my studio went from the glossy blacks and gun-metal greys of PCs to the fresh whites and silvers of the Apple iMac and its new companion HP printer. It's so easy on the eyes!

I'm back. I'm on a Mac. And I'm feeling fresh as a daisy!

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Still Wondering?

Are you still wondering what (and where) is Donner Pass
from the last post "Wildflowers of Donner Pass" ?

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Wildflowers of Donner Pass

What and where is Donner Pass? Come back for the next post to find out!

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Our Drive Around Indian Valley, Part 1

One morning when we were in Indian Valley visiting Greenville last week, we took a drive around the valley up to what is called the North Arm. It had started raining, and we couldn't very well do our work of transcribing cemetery markers in the rain. So it was a great opportunity for a drive.

Along the way, we watched the tranquil scenery of a drizzling June morning pass by. The cold of winter had finally stepped aside for the green of summer to make its appearance. The valley floor was lush with grasses against the backdrop of the evergreen studded hills.

About halfway through our drive as we rounded a bend in the road, we were pleasantly surprised to see a herd of deer close to the roadside in an open corral area probably intended for the cattle that are grazed throughout the valley during summer.

We turned the car around and went back so I could photograph them. It was just us and the deer for a few minutes. For those brief few minutes, the buck and his does were serene and peaceful--undisturbed by the presence of me with the cyclops eye of my camera. Even the presence of a big fluffy cat trotting past them with a big dead mouse in its mouth didn't bother the deer. The cat trotted past the deer and ducked under the door of the barn next to the corral before I could get a photograph of him. The deer didn't care.

As I inched closer to the fence to get better shots of the buck, the deer walked slowly away to keep a good buffer between me and them. They weren't afraid of me but still weren't going to let me get really close. At any given time, one of them always had their eye on me while the others continued to graze. Sometimes it was the buck watching me and sometimes it was one of the does. I moved slowly with my head down and to the side the way any flight animal prefers to be approached. It worked.

But the tranquil mood didn't last long. A logging truck rumbled by on the two lane road behind me and startled the deer into an attentive and frightened state, which then inspired little Chica to go bonkers back in the car. The deer trotted off into the valley away from the road. Some turned to stop and look back at me in curiosity.

I got back in the car, and we continued on our way.

Not too far up the road we encountered another group of deer alongside the road. This time the grouping was significantly different. They were all bachelor males without any females among them. Were they hanging out biding their time until one of them would be strong and brave enough to challenge the buck we had met earlier? Or were they a rough-and-tumble bunch that was newly out of fawnhood more like a group of 16 year old boys than mature bucks willing and able to watch over females of their own? They seemed less concerned about me than the first group. Ah, boys! So sure of themselves and so full of bravado. You gotta love 'em!

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On Monday morning my mom, Hubby, Chica, and I piled into my mom's Jeep to make the 3 1/2 hour trek north into the northern forests of California. There in a small tranquil valley named Indian Valley is the small town of Greenville. It's the town where my mom and her sisters grew up (the youngest was born there). It's the town where they all graduated from high school. It's the town where my Grammy served as a postal carrier for Indian Valley. And it's the town where my Grammy and Grampy's mortal coils are buried in Greenville Cemetery.

Why were we making this weekday trek to Greenville?

Both my mother and I are avid family history researchers, and in my mother's latest online research at USGenWeb she discovered that no one had transcribed the headstones and monuments of Greenville Cemetery although a lot of the other cemeteries in Plumas County have transcriptions available online. After contacting the USGenWeb coordinator for the county, my mother volunteered to take on the task. Hubby and I were her recruits to assist her in the task of writing down all the vital information on every headstone and grave in the cemetery. The three of us systematically spread out over the cemetery, and after a day and a half, we had completed the job.

The work of transcription in this cemetery was quiet work filled with the beauties of nature. The cemetery is spread across a hill under the sheltering limbs of beautiful evergreens and large decidous trees. The sun filters through the branches onto the cool green grass that surrounds the dignified headstones and monuments while summer bugs flit about on the cool mountain breezes. Robins, jays, juncos and other birds summering over in the mountains hunt for insects in the grass after it has been watered. Grey squirrels chase each other up and down the massive trunks that stand as pillars over the hill. One would not expect to find such beauty in a cemetery.

During our time there, I took the time to shoot some photographs to capture the essence of the tranquility and natural beauty that exist there. It is a very fitting setting for so many loved ones that are now at rest--many loved ones whom we knew and loved personally.

The older stone edifaces had such wonderful texture. The craftsmanship that went into decorating each monument was evident. Many over a hundred years old, were aged with moss. I couldn't help but see the beauty.

Fresh flowers, many probably cut from the town gardens in the valley below, graced numerous graves. Most of the cut lilac blooms had long since wilted, but the stalwart bearded iris blossoms continued to show their beauty. So many fresh flowers baskets and vases were throughout the cemetery, even on the oldest graves. Someone remembers them. And hopefully, after our transcriptions are added to the USGenWeb databases, many more will remember them again.

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Bees and Lavender Blossoms

I only have one surviving lavender bush (at one time I had three). I almost lost this one too due to a very rude fennel that was its neighbor (fennel isn't good at maintaining "personal boundaries"). I cut out the fennel and then trimmed the pathetic sun-starved lavender back severely with the hope that it would come back.

Well, it loved the haircut it got and has thanked me with a profusion of lovely blue blossoms. This round little orb of a bush has been a favorite of the bees since it started to bloom a couple of weeks ago.

I went out a couple of days ago to look at it and all the buzzing activity going on. In less than five minutes, I saw two different kinds of bumblebees and also honeybees climbing around on the blue blossoms! It seemed so magical and serene, I ran inside and got my camera to try and capture the moment.

As I took these photographs, I couldn't help but think of Penny over at Lavender Hill Studio. If you go take a peek at her blog (and website), I think you'll see why. So these photos of this year's lavender bloom are dedicated to Penny.

Too bad no one has invented smell-a-vision for the internet, huh?

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