Blogging and the joy of looking for "ladybug moments" in my life

My good blogging friend Jen at Muddy Boot Dreams asked three blogging questions in a recent post. Her questions are:
1. The main reason I blog is _____________________________? 
2. Blogging is part of my life, how much of a part is it? _____________________. 
3. I use blogging to ______________________________ in my life?

After reading her questions, I started thinking... a lot.

"What are my answers to these questions?" I kept asking myself.

With these questions swirling around in my head, I went on throughout my day doing the things I needed to get done on my "to do" list. One of my "to do's" was to send out inspirational letters to women in my church congregation that are unable to join us regularly. I have three women that I write to on a monthly basis as part of the visiting teaching program of the women's Relief Society in our congregation. Every month I hunt for a quote that I feel will resonate with them in some way. Sometimes I write the quote in a store-bought card and sometimes I create the card from start to finish. It's always a bit of a challenge finding the right quote. I always search with a prayer in my heart.

I found the quote I wanted (above) and then decided to pair it with a photo I took 5 years ago on a short trip I made with my mom to find some fall color north of us. We were winding up a less-traveled highway through a canyon filled with brilliant colored fall leaves. At one point we pulled over so I could take some shots. That's when I found the ladybug walking on the brilliant orange leaves of an oak tree sapling. It was there as if it was waiting for me to take the shot.

As I continued working on the card I would print and send out, I reflected on Jen's questions as well as the quote and the photo. The swirling thoughts began to come together. By the end of the process, I had my answers to Jen's questions.

The main reason I blog is...
The main reason I blog is to capture those moments that have made me feel grateful and brought me true joy. The moments are fleeting and can be easily missed--just like seeing a tiny ladybug crawling across an autumn leaf. I photograph things the same way. Here on my blog I write the words that are in my head about the moment I tried to capture photographically. If I don't write it down, it can easily be lost in the bustle of life, and then it's gone. That glimmering feeling that made my heart sing with pure joy for just a second or two would be lost if I didn't write it here.

Blogging is a part of my life... how much of a part is it?
Blogging is a constant undercurrent in my life because I approach it a lot like journaling. I try to capture vignettes and "ladybug moments" that are real and special so I can share them with my Hubby who is often at work when these moments happen. He's my best friend in the whole world and most of my blog posts are for him so he can feel connected to this place we love and cherish.

I use blogging to ??? in my life
I use blogging to stay grounded in what matters most in my life. The exercise of capturing those moments of joy and then showing my appreciation by recording them here on my blog keeps a sense of childlike wonder alive inside of me. In the New Testament of the Bible in Matthew 18:3-4 it says:
"...Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
I believe that there is so much God wants to bless me with including insights into my real potential from His perspective. I am His child. He is my Heavenly Father in every sense of the title "Father". I believe that if I strive to see my life as if through the eyes of a child, He can share so much more with me than if I get bogged down in being a grownup.

Somehow trying to capture "ladybug moments" to share with Hubby keeps me from getting too bogged down in the mire of being an adult. Finding the magical moments to embrace, cherish and then share them with Hubby (and everyone else who reads my blog) in the hope that he (and you) can embrace and cherish those moments too, keeps that childlike spark alive and flickering inside me despite the winds and storms of life that try to snuff it out.

Come what may, I will continue to look for "ladybug moments" wherever I go. If I have my camera, I'll photograph the moments as best I can to capture the essence of that special blip in time. And I will continue to record them here on my blog... if for no one else than for me and Hubby.

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The rains have come... autumn has officially arrived

After much anticipation, the rains came late Sunday night. And suddenly it is autumn.

The refreshing moisture comes in big drops, 
washing away the dust of summer and leaving everything clean and shiny bright.

Roses the size of teacups become teacups themselves
as the rain collects in the curves of their petals.

Every divot, nook and cranny turns into the tiniest of reflecting pools.

The sun-loving bougainvillea finally gets a chance to feel raindrops on her 
before her leaves fall at the first sign of frost.

The tropical beauty of the canna lily leaves get the same privilege as well.

The sun peeks through as one weather system moves past us to the east--
possibly bringing snow to those much farther inland than we are. 

Then the garden waits for the next rainstorm to blow in off the Pacific.

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Swallowtails, palms and why procrastination is sometimes a good thing for an artist

"Swallowtail on lilac" by Cindy Garber Iverson
digitally painted photograph
Fine art reproductions available here 

Around here it's still too hot outside to start the big garden projects Hubby and I have lined up. Based on the weather forecast, we'll probably have to wait until the first of November to get a cool down significant enough to go out and start moving big rocks, digging post holes with an auger and breaking a sweat. No one wants to do that when it's threatening to be 90F (32C).

And lest anyone think this is due to global climate change... it isn't. This is typical for October.

"Queen palm" by Cindy Garber Iverson
digitally painted photograph
Fine art reproductions available here 

Because our days are shorter now, I don't get the lovely twilight hours I get during the summer to putter in the garden. So that means I'm mostly inside in the studio creating and keeping busy.

I've been creating some "for fun" pieces the past couple of days. It's nice when I can just hunt around in my photo archives and pull something that strikes me fancy. Then I bring it into Photoshop and start to play. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it's just nice to have my stylus in my hand making "brushstrokes" and digitally painting something. I find it therapeutic. I have lots of time to get lost in my own thoughts and ponder things. It's a form of meditation for me.

And sometimes I'll have something that I got about two-thirds of the way done years ago and then never got back to finishing for one reason or another. Like this...

Send this as a free ecard here
I don't know why I never got around to finalizing it, but I'm glad it stayed in the archives for the past few years. I've learned more about my digital tools since then and have a better idea of how I like to use them to achieve a certain style. Because I waited on this, I was able to finalize a version that I think is more representative of what I do now in that style. Had I pushed myself and finalized it back then, it would have ended up as one of those pieces that I would always look at and say, "Eeew. That's definitely a practice portfolio piece." I have too many of those already. I'm glad this didn't become another one. Trust me. It would have based on what it looked like when I reopened it earlier today.

The swallowtail butterfly photograph (above top) was a photo I took 5 years ago and didn't really do anything with. Again, because I waited, I know my tools and my own style better now then I did then. I can create something now that I wouldn't have even ventured to create back then. I didn't know how, and I couldn't have envisioned at all.

Then there's the case of a photo like the one of the palm tree (above middle). I took that only a month ago when visiting my brother and sister-in-law. They have gorgeous queen palms lining their backyard. I took the photograph, got it home and wasn't impressed with the backlit result I'd gotten. It wasn't until I had the time to just play with it yesterday that I happened upon the right post-processing techniques for that particular image. If I'd pushed it when I first took the photo (and was busy with other creative work for clients), I probably wouldn't have gotten the result I wanted.

Sometimes procrastination pays off.
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Learning something else new... edible forest gardening

The pineapple sage is in bloom right now and the hummingbirds are happy (taken 16 Oct 2012)

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about learning a new word--permaculture. The concept has had me transfixed ever since. Then a couple of days ago, someone I follow on Pinterest pinned a diagram of a garden design that had a link to a blog about permaculture. I followed it and was introduced to a new concept...

Edible forest gardening!!!
"Picture yourself in a forest where almost everything around you is food. Mature and maturing fruit and nut trees form an open canopy. If you look carefully, you can see fruits swelling on many branches—pears, apples, persimmons, pecans, and chestnuts. Shrubs fill the gaps in the canopy. They bear raspberries, blueberries, currants, hazelnuts, and other lesser-known fruits, flowers, and nuts at different times of the year. Assorted native wildflowers, wild edibles, herbs, and perennial vegetables thickly cover the ground. You use many of these plants for food or medicine. Some attract beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies. Others act as soil builders, or simply help keep out weeds. Here and there vines climb on trees, shrubs, or arbors with fruit hanging through the foliage—hardy kiwis, grapes, and passionflower fruits. In sunnier glades large stands of Jerusalem artichokes grow together with groundnut vines. These plants support one another as they store energy in their roots for later harvest and winter storage. Their bright yellow and deep violet flowers enjoy the radiant warmth from the sky. This is an edible forest garden." (
I read the above paragraph and found it wasn't hard at all to picture myself in that setting... because that's exactly what I have when I walk out my door into my own garden! I didn't even know that's what I had going on. Not a clue.  It's just so cool to think that by simply following my inner voice and the inspiration that kept coming into my mind when I needed it most, I've created an edible forest garden over the past 12 years. It seems like it was by accident but I don't believe in accidents. I think there was a divine power at work helping me with this all along.

I thought I'd share some photos from when we first bought our house in 2000 alongside some photos I took today. It was fun for me to compare how things have changed so much.

Our barren backyard when we bought the house in 2000

A Cecile Brunner rose bush grows like a tree with the lower branches
trimmed to form a natural walkthrough pergola along the side of the house.
Loquat trees grow up through the edges of the canopy of roses to reach the sun.
(photo taken 16 Oct 2012)
River rocks and flagstone hide the drainage system that drains rainwater away from
the house to prevent flooding of the crawlspace that we used to have every winter.
Warm climate lilacs and climbing roses grow along the fence line
with vinca major that was already here growing at ground level under their canopy.
The plum tree I planted in 2001 is big and mature (upper right)
(Photo taken 16 Oct 2012)
In the back corner the cherry tree that was already here forms a canopy for partial-shade loving plants.
The branches are good for hanging bird feeders. I fill them in the winter when the bugs are less active.
I've selectively allowed cherry saplings to grow to create a thicket for privacy and shade along the fence line.
In the spring, the cherry tree is covered with ladybug babies (ladybugs typically lay eggs on the forest floor).
(Photo taken 16 Oct 2012)

A pomegranate bush had been growing here when we bought the house,
but it had been cut down to the ground. I've let it grow back tall and beautiful next to
the Santa Rosa plum I planted in 2001. Together they provide shade for the pond and
a shady place to sit and watch the fish.
(Photo taken 16 Oct 2012)
This was the same view of the back of the house in July 2000 as the view
in the photo above. Such a huge difference!
The canopy opens up on this side of the garden and lets in lots of sun.
Lavender grows in pots around a water fountain to attract pollinators and ladybugs.
A bay laurel tree grows against the fence. We can use the lavender and bay leaves
in the pantry to repel bugs like weevils away from flour.
(Photo taken 16 Oct 2012)
There wasn't anything along that fence when we bought the house in 2000

In the center of the garden is the pond that is surrounded by potted subtropical plants
including aloe for medicinal uses, palms that will become habitats for barn owls when they get taller,
and a dwarf Morro blood orange tree (right) that gives us sweet fruit along with the other citrus trees.
(Photo taken 16 Oct 2012)

Strawberries grow in raised planters and pots under the protective canopy of one of the palm trees
next to the rock waterfall that flows into one end of the pond. The strawberries like the mini marine climate.
(Photo taken 16 Oct 2012)

What still amazes me is that we can have an edible forest garden on our lot that is only 50 feet wide. That's not very wide. Yet I'm still able to feel like I'm completely removed and secluded when I'm there...

...well, except for when the neighbor turns up his radio too loud. When news talk radio is blaring over the fence, I'm reminded I'm not in a secluded locale after all. Oh well. Fortunately, I have large spans of time during the day when I can pretend.
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Why I love being an artist now more than ever

The above art is available on acrylic, metal, canvas and paper by clicking here 

This week I've had the awesome opportunity of working with a client on a piece of art for their home. The process I've gone through is a perfect example of why I love being an artist now more than ever.

I did the above mixed media piece a while back and have had it available in fine art reproductions for quite some time. The piece is a digital composition made up of an original watercolor painting, scanned objects (pearl jewelry) and an authentic vintage photo taken in San Francisco that I found in a family photo album.

How did I do it? Here's the cool part (well, it's cool to me) because there's no way I could have done this back when I was in art school before Photoshop existed (yes, there was a time when that was the case).

First, I painted the woman in watercolors (above). I actually painted her in two separate paintings. Her head was painted on a large scale (12 inches tall) so I could paint all the detail I wanted in the eyes, face and hair. Then I painted her body beside the head on the same piece of paper at the same height of 12 inches. Why 12 inches? Because that's width of the watercolor paper that fits on my large scale 12x17 art scanner.

You may have noticed that the woman's head is slightly more elongated in the original than in the final piece. That's because I decided to scale her head down a bit, so she had a more heart shaped face. I did that when I was marrying everything together in Photoshop to create the final piece.

Then a couple of years later (last week), I get a great email from a potential client asking if I could possibly recreate the piece with different colors to match the client's powder room in their late 1940's San Francisco home. The colors of the powder room? Sky blue with black and white octagonal floor tile. So retro wonderful!

Because the original art piece was done in pieces, I responded that I'd give it a go and see what I could come up with.


The above art is available on acrylic, metal, canvas and paper by clicking here

There is no way I could have pulled this off without Photoshop. I was able to digitally divide the original painting even more than it had been before. After dividing out the various pieces of clothing so it looked a lot like a paper doll, I used Photoshop's powerful color manipulation tools to change the colors completely. Instead of an olive coat, I created a beautiful blue one. I manipulated the hot pink gloves, shoes, belt and skirt to be various shades of blue (I personally love the pale blue gloves). I changed the tone of the pearls so they weren't pink. I made the woman's lips more red. And I even changed her eye color.

Finally, I was able to give the client two different options to choose from--an all blue composition with a dash of coral (above) and then a multi-colored composition that has blue, coral and wheat (below). I think I prefer the all blue one best, because the woman really pops against that background.

The above art is available on acrylic, metal, canvas and paper by clicking here

I'm always surprised at how much I'm able to do now artistically thanks to the technological advances of the past 25 years. Being an artist now is better than being an artist at any other time in the world's history. And I'm sure I'll be saying that in another 25 years from now.

P.S. If you ever see something I've done that you love but want me to recreate it in different colors, email me. I'm always game for a challenge. I don't charge for the recoloring work. I can make it available for you to see what it would look like in a fine art reproduction and then you can decide if you wish to purchase it or not. 
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The upside of having summer temps in October... autumn hibiscus

It doesn't feel like it's officially autumn around here (it won't until November), but I gotta say the hot temps are worth it when I see these beauties next to my front door. Cue the Hawaiian music please...
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