Kitties, a "bear paw" quilt and UFO hunters


I had to miss floral design class this week because of the "creeping crud". I've only missed my class once before--when Hubby's dad died and the graveside service was on the same day as class. Last week I finally reached the milestone of completely the last arrangement "required" for my beginner's certification. This week I was going to begin tackling solely advanced work. But the "creeping crud" had other ideas.

So I've sat in the recliner with the shade of my trusty reading lamp swung over my head and a full-spectrum light bulb turned up to the brightest setting. My favorite "bear paw" quilt and an ongoing rotation of kitties have kept me warm as I've watched mindless television that doesn't require much thought. Who knew there was an entire series devoted to hunting UFOs?

Hubby was sick all last week, so this week he is extremely empathetic to my maladies and has been an absolute saint even though I've been a lousy conversationalist that has made many "honey-do" requests so I don't have to get up and disturb whichever cat is nesting on me at the time. He is so patient with me.

I've sat and looked up at my floral arrangements on the mantel as they've slowly wilted over the course of the week. Fortunately, as they've wilted I've done the reverse. I feel like I'm entering the land of the living again... thankfully!

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Monday Mosaic: Soft


1. Lavender Blue, 2. Lantana, 3. October Hibiscus, 4. Honeycream and Roses, 5. October Buddleia, 6. Marguerite, 7. Autumn, 8. Red, 9. Different... yet the same

Every week I try to post-process and upload 2 photos a day to my Rosehaven Cottage Photography blog (notice I wrote "try"). Then I feature the past week's uploads in a "Monday Mosaic". This past week I think I was in a "soft" mood.
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Late Bloomers

October Buddleia

Yesterday, I took a stroll around the garden with my camera because the sun was just perfect for shooting. Usually at this time of year, I'm shooting autumn leaves, rose hips, and other autumnal details. On my garden tour, I was surprised to find some late blooms in little nooks and crannies. I found a lovely cluster of white Buddleia blooms ("Butterfly Bush") attracting small skipper butterflies in the front garden. And in a protected spot under the plum tree and pomegranate bush in the back garden, I found a beautiful late hibiscus bloom.

I can relate to these late bloomers, because I am also a "late bloomer". Coming up on October 31st, is the 4th anniversary of when I was given a new life at almost 40--the Halloween that changed my life. I've reflected a lot on this major milestone this past week. I've reflected on the reality of being a "late bloomer" because of the health challenges I faced for almost 25 years up until 2005.

During those almost 25 years, I found myself wondering why I couldn't "get it together" and why I wasn't accomplishing and achieving things like my peers. I felt like a failure most of the time because I had vision but couldn't follow through with what I could see. It was so hard trying to maintain a sense of self-esteem amidst so many setbacks. My misconception was that I thought I had to accomplish and achieve everything while I was in my 20's and 30's in order to lay the groundwork for the rest of my life... silly me.

It turns out that I am a "late bloomer". And I am in very good company. The fallacy that everyone achieves success early in their adulthood is so untrue. And what is even more untrue is that all one's formal learning opportunities end once one ages out of one's 20's. Yes, that is the traditional age when a lot of individuals pursue a college/university education. But there are so many of us that, for whatever reason, wait until later to pursue our educational goals and dreams. There are also many of us that don't find our true life's passion until later when we understand ourselves more.

I am grateful that I live in a time when I don't have to have crammed every pursuit of every dream into my 20's and 30's, or I will have missed the boat altogether. I am grateful that I live in a time when modern medicine is advanced enough to give me a new life after 40. I am grateful that I am a "late bloomer".

October Hibiscus
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The real reason I love floral design

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I have to admit that one of the reasons why I enjoy my floral design classes is because I love looking at flowers before they are arranged. Yes, it seems opposite of what a floral designer would say, but it's true. My whole life, I've been enamored with the big displays of bunches of flowers in florist shops, grocery stores, and sidewalk flower vendors. Seeing all the flowers grouped by type rolled up in cellophane sleeves waiting to be purchased just makes something inside me leap.

So you can imagine what I must be feeling every time I go in to floral design class and get a chance to open up the large refrigerators that are there to see them filled with flowers recently purchased at the flower mart. I'm in heaven!

Yesterday, all the floral design students had a particularly significant opportunity to go in on a non-class day and assist our instructor with a wedding job she had for this weekend. It wasn't mandatory that we be there--strictly voluntary. Many of us embraced the chance to fine tune our skills that we'd been learning in class by applying them in a real world setting of the mass assembly of corsages, boutonnieres, cake topper pieces, a flower girl basket, carry-pieces for the bride and her bridesmaids, table arrangements, and altar sprays. There's a lot of work that goes into producing so many wedding flower arrangements including the prep work in getting the flowers cleaned up and ready to be arranged. Our classroom was full of helpers as well as the wonderful aroma of flowers (the same aroma that hits you when you walk into a florist).

The classroom fridges had to be emptied of the buckets of flowers used for our classes so there was room for the wedding flowers after they were arranged. Then added to that were the bunches and masses of wedding flowers in buckets waiting to be assembled into the various wedding arrangements. I was loving life!

We all assisted with so many jobs from prepping, to arranging, to sweeping and clean-up. Fortunately, I had brought my camera with me and took a break in the middle of the afternoon to take some photographs of my finished work and also the flowers in their pre-arranged state. I have to say that my favorite photos are of the latter.

I stayed until the lights were being turned out in the evening. My eyes were bleary but my heart was singing because I had been surrounded by so much floral beauty all day long. Don't worry... I'll share my finished arrangements (I've already posted them to my Facebook album). But for now, I wanted to feature shots of the flowers before they were arranged--the sights that made me happy I'm taking these classes.

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When it rains... it pours

Japanese Maple in the rain

When we were first married, we entertained the idea of living somewhere else other than the San Francisco Bay Area. We loved British Columbia (and felt like we could easily become Canadian). We loved the Pacific Northwest with its stunning green vistas and proximity to the Puget Sound. We loved the No. California and Oregon coast with the breathtaking land along the Pacific Ocean. All these places had one thing in common... gorgeous scenery, trees, and the color GREEN.

But having SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) limited our choices as far as latitude--we couldn't go too far north or the days would be too short in the winter for my emotional health. So I had to find joy in living where I was planted in the Bay Area.

After moving to Rosehaven Cottage and having my first real garden to tend that was mine, I got into sync with the rhythms of nature fairly quickly. I became more aware of seasonal shifts. Those shifts are far more subtle in our climate than in a climate where there is winter snow (something I had my fill of as a child in Colorado and am thankful I don't have now). But there are seasonal changes nonetheless.

One seasonal shift just happened again yesterday as it always does around this time of the year--the first rainstorm of the rain-season.

Our rain-season starts sometime in October and lasts until early May, with rarely any rain falling during the summer months of late May through September. Our rainstorms are fronts that usually come in off the Pacific Ocean and then move their way west to higher elevations over the Sierra Nevada mountains where it becomes snow. In late spring, the snow that has fallen in the mountains becomes run-off into mountain lakes and reservoirs that we rely on for water during the summer months.

When the first storm of the season comes, it is always big news. And this particular storm that we had come through yesterday was even bigger news. It dumped more rain than was anticipated. Some of the mountainous areas of the Bay Area received over 11 inches of rain in 24 hours. That's A LOT!

Fortunately, with all the micro-climates in the Bay Area we didn't receive that much, but we still got a few inches in that 24 hour period. It was wonderful to watch my rain barrels fill to overflowing. I found myself wishing I had rigged up a system to catch the overflow because the rainwater seemed so precious.

Yesterday afternoon during the height of the storm, I had to go to floral design class. I had to buy my flowers before class and then make multiple trips from the parking lot to the classroom to get everything inside. I didn't have enough hands to carry an umbrella so I simply let myself get wet (fortunately my hair was pulled back in a ponytail). My flowers loved the "drink" they got as the rain fell on them and me. I couldn't grumble about being wet. I was just grateful for the rain. So in my soggy state, I happily sat and arranged flowers as I listened to the rain pour outside the classroom. And I found joy in where I was planted.

I should clarify that the months of October to May are only the season in which we can expect rainstorms to move through our area and we don't get rain constantly throughout those months. In between the usually quick-moving fronts, we have wonderful sunshine mixed with some fog in December and January. That's why I can have roses blooming on Christmas Day. If we had rain constantly from October to May, my SAD would have me in a real mess.

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Another of my life's paradoxes

"Disneyland" rose

The weather has finally cooled enough for me to venture back out into the garden in earnest and do the necessary trimming and cleanup after a long hot summer. Without a lawn to mow, I can let things go for a couple of months.

As I was pruning things, I had to shape up the rosebushes from offending branches that would compromise the form of the bushes. Some of those branches had blossoms on them but they still had to go. Since I had floral design class the next day, I just put those branches in a bucket of water and toted them to my class to use the flowers and buds in the hair wreathes we were making. It ended up that I used almost all of my foliage and flowers for that exercise and it was very rewarding.

Here's the funny thing... if I bring flowers or foliage from home I often get one or two comments from classmates about how spectacular my gardens must be. I guess they see my perfectionist tendencies as I do floral arranging and assume it must be multiplied times a gazillion in my gardens. But that couldn't be farther from the truth.

In the garden, I let things get quite shaggy before I give it a "haircut" so the critters in my "backyard wildlife habitat" have places to hide and nest. I rarely "dead-head" my roses in the summer so they are more drought-tolerant. I don't clean up fallen leaves because I like them as natural mulch. In other words, I let things be very natural. Having it that way makes me feel contented and happy.

I only wield my perfectionist control once I get into floral design class or back in my studio with a photograph or piece of artwork. I think that surprises a lot of people when they come and visit Rosehaven Cottage. But my philosophy is that nature really can't be controlled. As long as something is growing, I can't really control it. I can only be a good steward over it. So instead of trying to control, I try to have a symbiotic relationship with the things that are growing in my garden and let them fulfill the measure of their creation under my stewardship. I think that's why it makes me contented and happy.

"Disneyland" rose (with texture and PS action)
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Lucy Turns Two!

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I usually don't do two cat posts in a row, but one of my blogging friends asked how Lucy is doing. Well, Lucy Maud is turning two years old. We don't know when her birthday really is (because she's a rescue kitty) but when we took her into the vet after she was found, the vet estimated that she was about 8-10 weeks old which means she's an October baby.

Some of you may not know the story of how Lucy came to live at Rosehaven Cottage. So here's her story in brief with links to the original posts in case you want to read more.

Lucy's first day with us was on Dec. 13, 2007 after she'd been found at 6:15 a.m. by one of my early-morning seminary students (back when I was teaching). Lucy was huddled out in the middle of the street freezing to death in the 30F (-1C) December air and suffering from a severe upper respiratory infection. My student didn't know what to do, but his first thought was that I would know what to do. So he bundled her in a fluffy bath-towel and brought her to class.

With a damp paper towel, I cleaned the caked mucus that covered her head and face and blocked her tiny little nostrils. She was a mess. But she was friendly and very grateful. I took her straight to the vet that morning and waited for the vet office to open. I had the vet run all the tests for feline AIDS and leukemia first and the tests came back negative. Lucy was given antibiotics, ear drops, and eye medicine for me to administer to get her well. My intention was to foster her until she was well so a no-kill shelter could take her to find a home for her. No shelter could take her until she was healthy, so I saw that was my No. 1 goal.

I built a cage for Lucy out of storage cube panels and zip ties. I kept Lucy in isolation in my studio where it was warm and quiet. I put lots of fun things in her cage (including a small carpeted kitty condo).

Day 1
(Dec. 15, 2007)

As Lucy started to feel better, I would take her out more and more. I wanted to make sure that she was socialized properly for her future family (I was still in foster mode and we were calling her "Skate" as a temporary name). Look at that cute spotty tummy!

(Dec. 18, 2007)

Day 9
(Dec. 22, 2007)

Day 15
("Skate" becomes Lucy Maud)

By Day 15, we decided that she needed a real name so she became Lucy Maud (named after one of my favorite authors, Lucy Maud Montgomery). I was still considering her to be a foster kitty at this point, but I think by that time Hubby was smitten and Lucy wasn't a "foster" in his mind.

Even at Day 50 she could still squeeze into her little heated bed
(Feb. 22, 2008)

Lucy continued to grow but her upper respiratory infection persisted. She wasn't well enough to go to a shelter. It settled in her right inner ear and would flare up regularly causing her to be feverish and sluggish. Even at 6 months old when she showed signs of going into heat for the first time, Lucy wasn't completely well. We took her in to have her spayed despite her respiratory issues. It wasn't until she was finally seen by a different vet for a post-op "emergency" when her incision opened a bit, that she was given a mega-antibiotic (different from the one the other vet had been giving her) and the upper respiratory and ear infections finally left. But by then, Lucy was a part of our home and our family. Lucy was in love with Hubby (still is) and taking her to a shelter would have been cruel. So Rosehaven Cottage became Lucy's "forever home".

Here on the blog, I chronicled Lucy's many firsts, such as:

Lucy has been very different from the regular domestic short-hair tabbies in our home. Her energy level is much higher. She is much more dog-like (she even plays fetch). It wasn't until this summer when I was looking at one of my cat books, that I saw a cat that looked like Lucy. We realized that Lucy is an Oriental Shorthair "mutt" cat. It all made sense once we made that discovery. Her funny long toes, her super-short coat, her long nose, her petite but very muscular build, and her dog-like personality finally all made sense!

As Lucy turns two, she is rounding the bend and becoming quite the "little lady". In my experience, cats still have devilish little kitten tendencies until they are two years old. Lucy has been no exception. But we've noticed in the past month that she's mellowing and becoming quite proper in her observance of good "kitty etiquette" (the unspoken rules that all kitties follow when interacting with other kitties). We are very pleased with her progress and the loyal little companion she has become.

And finally, a recap of the little song we made up for Lucy (all our cats have at least one):

Lucy Maud Theme
(sung to modified tune of Casper the Friendly Ghost--lilting like a 50s TV commercial)

Lucy Maud...
Is the silliest cat we know...
With her curved "play tail"...
And her spotty fur...
And the longest toes that you've seen...

Lucy Maud...
Here comes Lucy Maud...


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Apparently UPS will deliver anything now!

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Good ole' Gus Gus... he's named after the fat mouse in Walt Disney's Cinderella for a reason. You know the saying, "...dumb as a box of rocks?" Well, a synonymous phrase could be, "...dumb as a box of Gus Gus." And this long lanky fluff-ball always manages to cram himself into small boxes, so the saying is fitting.

Over the 7 years that Gus Gus (a.k.a., "Gussy Bear" or "Gus") has lived here, we've collected quite an assortment of "Gus in the box" photos. Here are a few for your entertainment...

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