I've loved you back to life...

When we came to live at Rosehaven Cottage (before it became Rosehaven Cottage) things were pretty barren around the non-existent gardens. There were a few rosebushes around the property that had been hacked off (some to the ground) along with a pomegranate that had also received the same treatment.

One rose that grows along our fence line was chopped to the ground. I didn't even know it was there until it started sending its canes forth as if to say it still wanted to live. Now, gardening wisdom always tells us gardeners that roses which grow from root stock won't be very spectacular in looks or aroma. Something inside told me to ignore that old gardeners' wisdom. I let this one grow from the canes it was sending up.

I'm glad I did.

This lovely pink rose (of unknown variety) rewards me every year with unseasonal blooms. So when the rest of the garden is bleak looking, there will be these amazing, large, pink, blooms beckoning to me from the back of the garden. The bloom pictured above was offered to me on Christmas Day 2007. Talk about a wonderful Christmas gift from the garden!

This rose is an old rose. At its base, I unearthed a dedicatory plaque that the former owners had put in to celebrate the construction of a covered lanai that we've since had to take down. The plaque reads 1961. I imagine that the rose was planted with the plaque and is over 40 years old now. It's seen a lot, I'm sure.

Our neighbor (that has been here since 1961) told us that the back of our garden used to have a Hawaiian theme with a small rock waterfall and the lanai. That must have been what the pink rose was planted into. But all the Hawaiian beauty was in ruins when we arrived and completely unrecognizable. However, now that part of the garden has become MY "Hawaii garden". The pink rose must find this very interesting that things have come round full circle.

As I was creating the above image I thought it deserved a vintage look.
A big thank you for the old paper texture from playingwithbrushes.
A second texture is from PhotoshopRoadmap.
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Time... a serendipitous still life

Click on image to view larger

The above photographic art image (that I created this week) has an interesting story behind it that I thought I'd share along with the image...

I happened to be in the neighborhood of my husband's office on Tuesday (his office is about a 35-40 minute drive from our home). He hadn't expected me to be out and about, but was so excited that I was in the vicinity, he wanted me to drop by his office so he could see me (can you tell we're best friends?). He told me he only had just a "little bit more work to do", and then he was going to leave the office for the day.

Well, "a little bit" turned into "a lot bit" as I sat there in an extra chair feeling like a bored 5 year old. I had my camera with me, so I started looking around his office at what I could possibly use to do some experimental shots to pass the time. He has a cool little battery-powered desk clock that was a great candidate. Then I found little tidy cluster of artificial May Day flowers pinned on his bulletin board.

Hubby has a large shiny black metal office cabinet in the corner of his office (the only other piece of furniture besides his work surface). He doesn't have anything on the top shelf so that was just screaming to be used as my "studio".

I set up my still life on the empty shelf turned "studio" and with the fluorescent overhead office lighting as my only light source, I starting shooting. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the image in preview mode (I shoot with a Sony a100 DSLR), and the shots looked like they'd been shot in a studio!

I just love when "photographic serendipity" happens! This is how it looked...

Click on image to view larger

Well, I liked one shot so much that I wanted to turn it into a still life "painting". After I got home, I used the technology of Photoshop to add layers of textures. I also used my digital drawing tablet to add the painterly touches of light and shadow.

I'm learning that although there is some amazing technology out there, like Photoshop, it doesn't make a piece of art unless it is used in an artistic way akin to the same things I learned in art school before we had computers. With the digital tablet (a 12" Wacom Cintiq that feels like a sketchpad in my hands), I'm able to use the technology in the same way I do a brush, pen or pencil. The stylus feels so natural in my hand after all the years of producing art the traditional ways. It responds to my hand pressure and my hand stroke. I can finesse the painting out of a photograph that way. It wouldn't work with a mouse. And there's no "quick fix" to make it happen. I am still using the same techniques as I learned in art school. I'm just using new tools! So cool!

As my sister pointed out this week, I've discovered a new art form for myself. And, boy, am I having some fun!

Two of the three textures are from playingwithbrushes--
Old Hanky Box and Vintage Background for Portraits.
The third texture is from PhotoshopRoadmap.

This image is copyrighted.
Copying and/or distribution is strictly prohibited without express written permission.
If you want to use, ask me... I may just say yes. :-)

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An Open Letter to the U.S. Auto Industry

I just got done reading and commenting over at Lynda Lehmann's blog Peripheral Vision--Inner Sights about the proposed bailout for the U.S. auto industry. I usually, if ever, discuss things of this nature here at the Rosehaven Cottage blog, but because I try to focus my life on the idea of stewardship over what we are given I have chosen to post this open letter here with the hope that someone else will be able to see things as plainly as I see them.

Dear U.S. Auto Industry,

I know that you represent a large, may I say massive, number of jobs in this country for so many Americans that rely on you for their livelihood. I am proud of the heritage that your industry has in our great nation. I am grateful to the years of innovation and creativity that have contributed to the growth of our nation.

With that same innovation and creativity from which you were born, you must face the 21st century with a new perspective or you will wither away leaving many struggling because of your demise. You have been as a brilliantly colored caterpillar for the last 100+ years, and now it is time that you undergo a significant metamorphosis and become a brilliantly colored butterfly.

The metamorphosis of which I speak should, in my opinion, involve the following three steps:
  1. Flip your business model so that the majority of your vehicles run on CNG (compressed natural gas) and a minority of your vehicles run on fossil fuels.
  2. Be a leader in making changes happen in the fuel consumer marketplace.
  3. Embrace your glorious past and tap into the retro-loving consumer market.

Flipping the Business Model

I've heard all the reasons why this is impossible or financially inviable, but let's face it--you're in deep trouble right now if the prospect of receiving government bailouts is on the table for discussion. You have to change or you will die. So do the hard thing and make the change.

Make CNG fueled vehicles your new focus. It is a technology that has already been tried and found successful. There are some markets where people are clamoring to buy and ship used CNG/gasoline hybrid vehicles to states where CNG fueling stations are more prevalent (i.e., Utah). Tap into that market! And not only tap into the existing market, but create a new one nationwide!

Be A Leader in the Fuel Consumer Marketplace

If you flipped your business model as suggested above, you could facilitate change across the country as to what is available to the normal fuel consumer. For example, California currently has a derth of CNG pumps at regular fueling stations.

Unlike states like Utah, California's marketplace doesn't provide an alternative to those of us that would gladly make an investment in a brand-new U.S.-made CNG vehicle if we had a place to fill the CNG fuel tank! As consumers, our hands are tied. We see groundbreaking strides being made with experimental vehicles such as a multi-fuel Toyota Tacoma. We want to stop using fossil fuels and have another alternative. But we literally cannot. If the U.S. auto industry came to our aid and not only provided vehicles for us to purchase, but also served as a catalyst to persuade the fuel industry to provide us with CNG pumps as they do in other states, you would be seen as a hero. And think about how many automobile drivers are in the state of California. Think about it.

This in turn, could revolutionize the fueling industry further by spawning a home-fueling market for homeowners to have CNG fueling nipples installed on the natural gas lines in their homes so that the U.S.-made CNG vehicle could be fueled in the comfort of the home garage before a commute and also fueled at the other end of the commute at a CNG-providing fueling station (which the U.S. auto industry would assist in making available).

And YOU, U.S. auto industry, could be the catalyst and hero in this scenario. Think about what that would do to your marketshare.

Embrace Your Glorious Past--Tap Into the Retro-Loving Market

For the past 100+ years, the U.S. auto industry has produced many gorgeous automobiles that are still loved and cherished today. Right now, if a consumer wishes to drive an alternative fuel vehicle they are required to drive something looking like a "cheese wedge" or some other monstrosity that has no connection to the design elements that are loved and cherished from the past 100+ years.

Here's a multi-million dollar idea for you, U.S. auto industry, so pay attention...

It's simple... remake cars from the past in modernized versions that run on CNG.

Don't change their dimensions and scale them down as has been done with the PT Cruiser or the like. Give us "life-sized" versions of the gorgeous cars from the first half of the 20th century. Put all the new technology in them disguised with retro design. And make them CNG vehicles.

Think about it...

Think about how popular a remade Woody station wagon running on CNG would be.

Or think about the amount of sales a cool old Chevy truck with the round fenders running on CNG could generate.

And think about the luxury market that would embrace a beautiful Buick from the 1940's running on CNG.

Go to any of the highly attended hot rod shows around this fair country of ours, and you'll get your design model. Don't tweak it for the sake of being innovative. Go back to what you did well, and then give it to the U.S. marketplace with a new fueling option--CNG. Put all the cool electronics in a dash that looks like it came from the past. We'll love it!

Don't give us U.S. versions of what Toyota, Honda, Kia and Hyundai are giving us. If we want that, we'll buy it from them. Give us the gorgeous designs of the American past! Again, you'll be a catalyst and a hero. And you'll be tapping into a multi-billion dollar marketplace that is clamoring for all things retro and vintage. Take a look at BMW's Mini. Need I say more?


The American consumer doesn't want to hate you. We want to support you, and in turn, support the 1,000's of fellow Americans that you employ. But give us new options. Give us pride in our automobile heritage. Come flying at us as a newly transformed butterfly instead of the same old caterpillar we know all too well. Be the innovative leader that you were when you stormed onto the scene over 100 years ago. Do it again, only this time do it brandishing a CNG flag. We'll gladly fall in step behind you, and shout your praises as we parade the streets of America in our gorgeous retro-inspired environmentally-friendly machines of American make.

Cindy Iverson, an American consumer

P.S. And make the vehicles affordable! Set your price-point at under $25,000 and you've got a huge slice of the market share.
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The Garden Puts On Its Autumn Frock

As the days get shorter and the nights get chillier here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the garden is putting on its unique autumn attire. Our autumn color may come later than in other climates, but it still comes nonetheless. And I love it when it does. It all happens in time for Thanksgiving and that makes it even more special.

In the spring this hydrangea is a pure white. But with the onset of autumn the petals of the blooms as well as the leaves don a wonderful deep pink.

It's as if nature is burnishing them with the deep russet tones of autumn as decor for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Alone and less fantastic than its summer siblings, an autumn "Abraham Darby" bloom still puts on a show in front of the reddened hydrangea.

[In case you're wondering, that's an "Abraham Darby" in my blog header. It's my favorite rose in the garden.]

My puzzling "Princess Di" bower vine (that's only "supposed" to bloom from May to June), still has many white blooms on it that look enchanting in the November light. I was taking shots of this blossom when suddenly this bee zips in to grab a snack. I clicked the shutter just in time before the bee took off again.

Click on the image to see the bee and its silhouette larger.

And remember my unseasonable October apple blossoms? [If you don't click here.]

Well, I decided to leave them on the tree and now I've got a nice crop of what I'm calling "encore apples"! They aren't very big yet. But I figure that most apple trees like cooler weather and these apples may get big enough so that by the time we have our first frost some time in December, they'll be ready for harvesting. Hubby and I were actually able to harvest one apple off this tree from the first batch of the year. It was the first time we've ever been able to eat anything from the tree. It was a very nice and delicious little Pippin.
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Why I Love American Thanksgiving

Here in the United States, we get to have what I think of as "a triple" as far as autumn holidays go. Here in our home it ends up being "a quad" of autumn holidays starting with my birthday on September 29th. With the passage of my birthday, I enter my favorite time of year because there's a holiday for each of the next 3 months. October has Halloween. November has the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Then December has Christmas.

As long as I can remember, I've enjoyed milking each month's holiday for all it's worth. I don't like to look forward to Christmas until Thanksgiving is over because it's been more fun for me to focus on Thanksgiving as a wonderful holiday in it's own right. I think I was in kindergarten when I was introduced to colored popcorn, cornucopias spilling out fruit, gorgeous ears of dried Indian corn, and pilgrim hats made of construction paper. The russet tones of autumn were a treat for my eyes then as they are now. So many rich colors to enjoy.

As the world of retail has continually pushed aside Thanksgiving in order to fill the store shelves with Christmas merchandise, they've also taken to playing Christmas music earlier and earlier. I try my best to ignore it and turn my attention to the annual store displays full of roasting pans, jars of marshmallow cream, cans of cranberries, and canisters of wonderful spices that mean its autumn. I've always been a huge fan of the whole aspect of baking for the Thanksgiving holiday. Mind you, I rarely do it myself, but the idea of it makes me all giddy inside. It brings back memories of how my mother would start baking around on the Monday of Thanksgiving week (Thanksgiving is always the last Thursday of November). I knew when I came home from school that there would be wonderful aromas meeting me as I opened the front door. It was so exciting to think about.

In this spirit, I set up a Thanksgiving still life and photographed it and then brought it into Photoshop to transform it into the "painting" I was seeing in my head. American Thanksgiving is November 27th this year--only a week and half away. I created this as a desktop image for myself so I could decorate my computer, and I'm sharing it (for free) with anyone who wishes to download it from my Flickr photostream. Click here to go directly to it.
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Creation of my "Rose Nostalgia Collection"

Since the majority of my roses in the garden were developed or introduced long after the era of the vintage botanical print, I thought it might be a fun idea to take some of the photographs I've shot of my roses in bloom into Photoshop and see if I could create images that looked like vintage botanical prints.

I started out with the "America Rose". It's the one I did all my experimenting with to find the right process for making this idea happen. Thankfully, a Flickr friend of mine (playingwithbrushes) has a wonderful set of free textures on Flickr that she's photographed and scanned from around her farm and home. Included are some old book pages that she's scanned. They're perfect for what I wanted!

After I completed the "America" rose, I really wanted to try my hand at some others. So the next one was the "Blue Ribbon" rose:

And then the "Janice Kellogg" rose:

The latest one I've completed is the "Montezuma" rose:

I'm calling these images my "Rose Nostalgia Collection" and I'm planning on doing one for every rose variety in my garden (except the mystery roses that I can't identify). It's a real treat to transform these photographs and watch them turn into vintage illustrations with the use of the modern technology of Photoshop and my Wacom Cintiq 12" digital tablet.

Because of the state of the world economy,
I have chosen to scale back my emphasis on selling my work
and, instead, to emphasize sharing it for free via the digital image online.
Click here to visit my Flickr page for more images for you to enjoy for free.

Signed fine art reproductions can be made available upon individual request
for the price of shipping to your location anywhere in the world.
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Autumn Medley

Click on any of the links above to see the full image.
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November Ladybugs

Ladybug Leapfrog

I passed the bougainvillea today and a wink of reddish-orange caught my eye. In the November sun, ladybugs had gathered to drink in its warmth... and play a little "leapfrog".

November Ladybug

Another ladybug was catching all the sun it could get atop a fennel blossom. For being late on a November afternoon, it was wonderfully warm. I ended up going out in the back garden and following this ladybug's example... except I chose the chaise lounge instead of the fennel to soak up the rays.
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If the fire is burning, the cat will be there

If the fire is burning, the cat will be there

As soon as I build a fire, Suzette plants herself in front of it. This is a regular ritual. When I have to throw another log on the fire and tend to it, I often have to maneuver around her because she won't give up her post. The ironic thing is that she's our cat with the thickest fur.
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Who walked life's journey in them?

Click image to view larger

When visiting the town of Clovis in California's Central Valley, we always like to pop in to the antique stores in the old town center. There are always some wonderful treasures to enjoy even if we don't buy them.

During a visit last year, I had my camera in hand and photographed some of the well-done displays. One had two pair of beautiful antique shoes. I've enjoyed the photograph privately ever since but didn't share it with anyone else because I wasn't quite happy with the photograph.

Then today, I decided to play around with my digital art skills. As I perused some of my "second string" photographs for good candidates I came across my shot of the antique shoes. I knew that I wanted to play with it and see if I could make the composition into a piece of art that captured the thoughts I had when I saw the shoes.

Every time I have looked at this photograph over the past year, I've found myself reflecting on who must have worn those shoes over the years. What roads have those shoes traveled? Did they carry their wearer through tragedy or triumph? Or both? And now they sit in an antique shoe with price tags hanging on them reflecting prices that can never match the value of a life lived. How can what those shoes have "seen" be summed up in a price tag of $145.00?

If you would like to use this photograph on your blog or have a copy for your desktop,
please ask me and I will be happy to send you a free digital copy.
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And Let Your Cry Be No Surrender...

If you will indulge me, please let me introduce you to my Irish-Scottish third great-grandfather, James Munce--a published poet in his homeland of Donaghadee in County Down, Ireland and later Glasgow in Scotland. I have recently become acquainted with one of his poems that has a repeating phrase in it which has become my personal mantra as I move forward in the face of the challenges of life. For me, the title of the poem should be "Let Your Cry Be No Surrender" but he chose the title "To A Melancholy Companion" probably because that was the original reason for the poem.

I shared this poem with my Auntie this week, and today I felt like I needed to share this poem here on the blog.

To A Melancholy Companion
by James Munce
copyright 1881

It’s cowardice to fear the world,
To dread its frown or court its favour;
Still act an honest manly part,
And shame it with your good behavior.
Keep in the path o’rectitude,
No matter how you may offend her,
With truth and honour on your side,
And let your cry be no surrender.

Let factions fight and bigots rail,
They’ll only have their day o’ power;
The empty titles here obtained
The teeth o’ time will soon devour;
Let all actions have a grace,
Approv’d of by your great Commander,
A harmless walk, a holy aim,
And let your cry be no surrender.

Tho’ care may sometimes cloud your brow,
Be not cast down or seem dejected;
The hand which holds the reins of State,
By it ye’ll always be protected.
With fearless spirit face the foe,
And bear the lash when Heaven sends her,
And from an honest noble deed
Still let your cry be no surrender.

Why should you murmur at your lot--
You cannot mend it by repining;
Although the cloud appeareth dark
It always has a silver lining.
In envy, malice, fraud, or filth
Let no such guests in you engender;
Forget, forgive, and onwards steer,
And let your cry be no surrender.

You may not aye hae cash tae spare
To help a friend who seeks to borrow,
But you can always sympathise
With friend or stranger when in sorrow.
Still act an open, manly part,
And scorn the name of false pretender;
Should faith or friendship seem to fail,
Then raise the cry of no surrender.

Let fortune frown and use her lash,
Try with a cheerful smile to mock it,
Still persevere ‘gainst wind and tide,
Altho’ you have empty pocket.
Still let your heart enjoy that peace,
The gift which Heaven alone can send her;
Should pride or passion interfere,
Then let your cry be no surrender.

And never try to rouse yourself
By pointing out another’s failing.
The weak, the weary, and oppress’d,
Give them what aid you’r fit to render;
Be generous even to a fault,
But let your cry be no surrender.

I fondly hope from this ye’ll see
The path you tread is one of folly,
At state or station to repine,
And wear a look of melancholy;
Forsake the path that hides your bliss,
Stand forward as your faith’s defender,
Maintain your ground and face the foe,
And let your cry be no surrender.

My dear blog friends... whatever your foe may be today, may you maintain your ground and let your cry be, "No Surrender!".
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The Miracle of the Kalanchoe--A Metaphor For Life

As I was walking the gardens today, I realized that it was three years ago today that I returned home from the hospital after undergoing the surgery that changed my life (if you don't know about my story, you can take a brief detour by clicking here to read it).

After making that realization, I went to the sheltered edge of the pond under the pomegranate bush and found the kalanchoe that lives there in a pot ever since I brought it home with me from the hospital 3 years ago today. It was brought to me as a gift by the president of the women's organization in our church congregation--the Relief Society. She brought it to me shortly after I came out of surgery. The kalanchoe's bright red blossoms formed a round orb of color that had brightened my hospital room for those days of initial recovery.

The kalanchoe now has a permanent home in the garden. Even though it's supposed to be a houseplant grown in the nonfluctuating climate of the home or a greenhouse, I chose to keep it outside so our plant-munching cat Dee Dee wouldn't destroy it. The kalanchoe spent its first winter in the open-sided shed (that is now long gone). After the frosts of that winter I moved it out to a partially sunny location next to the pond-water's edge where the shade of the plum tree and pomegranate would protect it from the summer's intense sun.

When the next winter came, I didn't move the pot. It stayed there through the frosty coldness of December, January, and early February. The insulation of some overgrown grasses around it had protected it. It has survived all frosts since then.

I still don't know how a sensitive plant like that makes it through the cold winter months but it always does. And it always blooms when the warmth comes--even if it hasn't ever been quite as showy as the first day I saw it.

The kalanchoe, and its ability to weather the cold and the storms despite all evidence that this plant variety shouldn't be able to withstand them, is a miracle to me. It is a reminder to me that miracles, large and small, happen in our lives everyday. We are only privileged to witness those miracles if we open our eyes and hearts to see them.

The kalanchoe is like many women I know. They survive amazingly difficult and insurmountable trials in their lives despite all evidence that they should not. And those women continue to bloom again and again, often very privately. Even though the trials are bound to continue to come, they survive. And even though their blooms may be less glorious than in years past, they are blooming nonetheless. And that is the miracle.
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Rain, Glorious Rain!

After many months of no precipitation, we have finally welcomed our first significant rainmaker storms of the season! We usually don't have rain from about May through September. But this year is stretched out a bit longer. Our soil desperately needed the rain, and it got it. We've received about an inch and a half since Halloween, and it's wonderful! Other neighboring micro-climates in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area received more--up to 5 inches in the Santa Cruz mountains where the big redwoods grow.

I snuck out between downbursts and shot some photos of raindrops on roses (one of my favorite things--just like Maria Von Trapp). I am always struck by how beautiful raindrops on flower petals look.

And today my Auntie came to visit me for the day. As we toured the garden, we got caught in a downburst. It felt great! We managed to pick three nice pomegranates off what's left of this year's pomegranate crop for my Auntie to take with her. Picking pomegranates in the rain with my Auntie... I can't think of a better thing to do on a November afternoon.

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