One hen has now become a flock (of sorts)

A while back I designed an egg carton label to put on a carton I was returning to a friend that generously gave us some eggs from her backyard hens (click here to see the post where I wrote about it).
My original hen illustration on the labels looked like this

Well, last week a very nice lady emailed me to ask if I did bulk quantities of personalized egg carton labels. She wanted to keep the cost low so she could sell the eggs from her own backyard hens for a reasonable price and not have to fold in the cost of an expensive label. Since my online printer only does a more expensive label, I told her that a great option would be for me to design and lay out the labels to print 3 on an 8.5"x11" sheet and make a ready-to-print pdf file available for her to purchase and download (at Once she purchased and downloaded the file, she could take it and have the labels printed at her local copying center onto non-scored adhesive-backed label stock and then cut the labels herself. She found out she was able to get the label stock inexpensively by ordering online and only pay for the printing. She loved the idea.

Once she sent me a photo of her hens that are a variety of colors, I wanted to make the labels even more special . My original hen looked a lot like one of her hens, but her other hens looked so beautifully different. So I went about creating two more hens using the photo as inspiration for coloring. That way each sheet of labels will have 3 labels on it, each with a different colored hen.

Here's the first color variation I did

The photo of my client's hen flock was so good I could see all the nuances of colors in their feathers. I set about trying to capture it while keeping the renderings illustrative and simple at the same time. I think I pulled it off pretty well.

The second variation I did was based on a gorgeous hen with iridescent feathers
In the end, my client loved the final product and will soon have personalized egg cartons full of eggs. It makes me happy just thinking about it.
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I've been working with a bunny...

... not a real bunny but a cute illustration of one I found on an old piece of stationery.

Originally, the bunny looked a bit angry...

Or maybe "deranged" is a better word?

Regardless, the bunny looked a bit too scary for a baby shower invitation. Don't want to send shivers down the spines of the invitees now do we?

Using Photoshop, I doctored the bunny's eyes and got rid of the shadowy furrowed brow. The original print's registration was significantly off, so I fixed up those oopsies to make it nice and clean. Then I paired it with an old Victorian pattern I found in one of my Dover books of copyright free patterns to make the invitation background. 

I like the subtle colors and the nostalgic feel to the finished design.  And I like that the bunny is more like a "Harvey" bunny and less like a "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" bunny.

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Sharing some of my latest creations

Since I spend the majority of my day in my creative studio here at Rosehaven Cottage and not out in the garden, for this post I wanted to share some of the things I've been working on. 

I LOVE vintage paper ephemera... cards, magazines, advertising... anything on paper that pre-dates the 1960's. I like to resurrect the pieces I collect and give them a new life for others to enjoy. So if the art is in the public domain (meaning it's old enough that I'm not infringing on any copyrights), I scan the original art on my hi-res art scanner; digitally restore it (remaining as true to the original as I can); and then incorporate it into a new design for this generation to enjoy.

That's what I did with the little firebears I found. The art became two different designs that are now part of my collection at available to send as free online cards and invites. 

Beginning in early summer, I've also had the pleasure of creating a couple blog designs.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've had the pleasure of redesigning the blog/website for The Lavender Spool ( creative business owned and operated by my very talented sister, Jill. She needed a website that would serve as a portfolio site for her custom creations that range from couture modest gowns to one-of-a-kind jewelry made from reclaimed pieces to adorable handmade toys. It also needed to be an online "calling card" that could be viewed on any mobile device as well as computers. And it had to fit her impeccable style. I'm really happy with the way it turned out.

During the latter part of May and early June, I worked with Kimberly at Saltwater Chick Designs ( to create her blog/website from scratch. She's launching a cottage-style furniture business and needed an online venue to share her creations. I had already created the chick logo but the chick needed a home. Now she has one that exudes all the beach cottage charm of Kimberly's creations. I also got to design her business cards, her price tags and even a cute custom iPhone cover featuring the chick.

For those interested in my designs services, click here to read more about everything I do or click here for my general design services and fees.

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Observations from studying a sunflower

Have you ever looked at the center of a sunflower... really looked? It's made up of tiny little flowers--golden stars so small you can't see them unless you look closely. It takes so many to make up the center. And each one becomes a seed someday.

Have you taken the time to stroke a sunflower petal gently between your fingers? It's soft and thin but supple and alive. It feels warm yet cool at the same time. How is that possible?

Have you stopped to realize that even though a bug has chewed a hole in some of the petals of a sunflower it's still incredibly beautiful? It doesn't matter that technically it's "flawed". It's beautiful. It epitomizes an entire season of the year. It can brighten someone's day in an instant. And it can do all this even with slight imperfections.

This particular bloom grew up into the branches of the Eureka lemon tree. With the support of the tree, the giant head of the sunflower didn't weigh down the stem. It never leaned over under the weight and held it's head up high even as the bloom began to fade.

So many lessons I can learn from the sunflower.
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It's a hot July day in the gardens of Rosehaven Cottage

Today is a the kind of day we often get in July. The temperature is hovering around 95F (35C). Even though I'm thankful the temps haven't gone up into the triple digits (above 38C), it's still hot with the sun baking everything.

The fennel's as high as an elephant's eye (to borrow a line from Oklahoma), and on days like this the pollinators are out in full force swarming around the blooms (above). If we cooked with fennel pollen like some of the chic chefs we've seen on the Food Network, we'd be set.

The air is often still without a breeze leaving the flag undisturbed--not even a flutter.

The rudbeckia that's been in bloom since January is showing some signs that it really preferred the cool weather to this heat.

When the days are hot and cloudless, the birds and bees are very thirsty. That means for frequent visitors to the bird fountains.

It also means there will be frequent fights at the bird fountains--even between the normally amiable Mr. and Mrs. Finch (and family).

There are places of respite like in the shade of the pomegranate, plum and lemon trees around the pond. Blue damselflies find places to light on the saucer-sized lily pads growing over the entire surface of the pond while naturalized mosquito fish and goldfish dart around in the water underneath.

And an unseasonal California poppy volunteer, that would usually only be growing in February or March, finds a cool shady spot to put forth the tiniest of blossoms.

As for me, once I take my stroll around the garden to check on everything, I go back inside where the air conditioning keeps out the heat. I'll wait until evening before I venture back out again.

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Small but sweet celebrations and milestones... ripe plums and a blogiversary

Among other bigger celebrations like the U.S.'s Independence Day, this week brought with it some smaller celebrations. Every year I look forward to the day that I can pick the first ripe plum off our Santa Rosa plum tree. This year it happened this week. The sun-warmed sweet-tart juiciness of the first freshly picked plum exploding in my mouth (and running down my chin a bit) was even better than the big showy fireworks on July 4th.

Another smaller celebration happened today when I marked the 5 year anniversary of this blog. I can't believe it's been 5 years. 

In many ways, it seems like that much time cannot have passed since I first ventured into the blogosphere, timidly sharing the first photos I took as I was trying to reclaim my inner creative core after years of dormancy. 

In other ways, it seems like there's been so much that I've packed into 5 years... so much growth, discovery and learning that couldn't have happened without the benefit of so many amazing creatives that share their work and passions online and the technology that makes it all possible. I feel richly blessed to be a creative soul on the earth at this time in history... so blessed.

Much like the sweet juice of the plums bursting as I take a bite, I feel like once I decided to take a bite out of life the, sweetness came pouring out in abundance. And like the time it takes for the plums to ripen as it hangs on a branch soaking up the heat of the sun, I needed time to reach the point when I was really ready to embrace being a creative professional. I needed the heat of my trials too. It's all part of making life sweeter.

 The first plum always seems the sweetest. But then when Hubby and I have the opportunity to sit and enjoy the plums together, sharing the moment, then the fruit seems sweeter still.

Blogging is the same way. It's so much sweeter because I share the experience with others. Thank you to all of you for sharing your words, lives and friendship with me for the past 5 years. I'm looking forward to another wonderful 5 years spending them with all of you.
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A slower pace of life under the white oleander bush

Whether it comes naturally to me or not, the pace of my life as of late has slowed way down. I've noticed that a lot of my day is very quiet without the sounds of music or television accompanying me--only the faint tinkling sound of a cat's bell as one of the kitties stirs between naps. A few years ago I used to fill my life with a lot of recorded music--usually very bouncy loud dance tunes with the bass turned up for optimal booming. But now... not so much.

When I first realized this shift in my habits I immediately thought, "Oh no! This is the first sign that I'm getting old!" I even asked Hubby, "What's wrong with me?!?!"

Then upon more reflection I've concluded that I've actually come around full circle to a pattern I had as a small child when we lived in a remote community of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. When the weather was cooperative and warm enough, my life had a similar pace as it does now. And my days were spent in blissful solitude as I roamed around our wooded property or basked in the clear mountain sunshine in our wildflower meadow. In silence, I would sit with the high grasses around me and watch butterflies flit from blossom to blossom. Every rustle or movement caught my attention and I would quietly look in the direction of the sound to see what it was--an elk, a jay bird or another forest creature. It was only during the cold inclimate months that I came inside and occupied my time with music from scratchy records played on my portable record player.

With my health limitations changing my current pace of life, I'm finding myself feeling the same sense of freedom I had as a child and the permission to just simply be. Daily, I venture out into the garden but now it isn't to do some major garden installation. I wander around and note the slight nuances of change as the garden goes through its seasons. I notice where some critter has visited since I last strolled through. Every rustle or movement draws my attention, and I'll look in the direction of the sound and wait until I can identify what it was.

Did you know that creatures in nature have what I call a "time out period"? When they sense human presence they scatter and become very quiet. But if the human settles in and becomes still and quiet, in about ten minutes nature's creatures come back and resume their activities as if the human isn't there. It happens with skittish fish in the water as well as the birds in the trees. Ten minutes of quiet stillness is all it takes and suddenly it's as if you're not even there.

Sitting in my chaise lounge under the wisteria, I've noticed the branches of the 50+ year old white oleander bush have grown enough this year to create a lovely canopy over my head. Periodically, a dried white blossom flutters down on me as I sit enjoying the splashing sound of the pond waterfall.

So many magical moments have happened under the white oleander.

I've had the wonderful honor of encountering the grey fox two more times since the night of the summer solstice when I first saw it. One of the encounters last week was before the sun had set and it was still "golden hour" in the garden. The fox made eye contact with me as it trotted casually through the thicket created by the oleander bush and the cherry tree. Because it was light outside and the fox wasn't in much of a hurry, I could see the beautiful nuances of its ticked fur, its long fluffy tail and the details of its exquisite face and eyes.

I'm relearning the pace I loved as a child. I'm realizing that slower and quieter pace brings with it an innocence and simplicity that fosters a calmness of one's inner core. That calmness is somehow sensed by nature. And nature rewards that calmness with incredible moments that require no soundtrack and no words. They are heavenly moments when the Creator feels closer than ever.
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