Sad departures

On the morning of Sunday, October 12th, we had to say goodbye to the beloved kitty matriarch of our family, Dee Dee, and help her "graduate" from this life to the next. She had battled valiantly with thyroid disease and advanced arthritis for years. But it was a nasty virus that had afflicted all the cats in the house that attacked her compromised body and brought us to the hard decision was had to make. Although she was under the watchful care of the vet as soon as she showed signs of being sick, in less than a week Dee Dee turned from being our smart and affectionate little ginger into a shell of her former self. She couldn't fight anymore. It was time to say goodbye. Her best friend, Thomasina, and her twin brother, Dexter, got an opportunity to say goodbye before Hubby took Dee Dee to the emergency vet while I stayed home with the other sick kitties.

We thought that trip to the vet would be the only one that day, and we went about the business of trying to get the other kitties well.

But, only 13 hours after we said goodbye to Dee Dee...

... we had to say goodbye to her noble twin brother, Dexter, and help him "graduate" from this life to the next too.

Dexter was the first to get the same nasty virus that Dee Dee got. He had shown symptoms of some strange illness on the evening of Sunday, October 5th, and Hubby had him in to the vet first thing Monday morning. Dexter spent that day at the vet in in-patient care, and went in again on Wednesday for a full day of in-patient care (Dee Dee got the same all-day in-patient care too on Tuesday and Friday). We were told they had the equivalent of the "kitty flu", and because they were both having cortisone injections for arthritis, their immune systems were compromised so the virus was hitting them harder than it was our younger cats that don't get injections. We were told that the most important thing was to keep everyone hydrated until the symptoms went away. By Friday evening, we were hydrating Dee Dee with water-filled or pedialyte-filled syringes. Dexter was getting water and pedialyte from a bowl because he could lap water unassisted.

By Saturday, Dexter had moved through the virus and was beginning to get well from the symptoms. He was eating tuna heartily and drinking water. But he appeared wobbly on his feet. We assumed it was just from being weak from the virus.

But by Sunday evening, Dexter was staggering around so badly he couldn't walk to get water or food. Hubby rushed him to the emergency vet while I stayed home with the other sick kitties. Tests at the emergency vet revealed that Dexter's kidneys were failing. The virus had pushed Dexter's kidneys to their limit. His is sodium levels to toxic quantities causing his neurological system to shut down.  We didn't know his kidneys were compromised. He had lost a significant amount of weight in the last two months, but we hadn't discovered what was causing the weight loss before he got sick. Like Dee Dee, Dexter had turned into a shell of his former self in only a week. I could barely recognize my sweet, benevolent prince of a cat. It was time to help him "graduate" with the dignity he deserved.

In Memory of "The Originals"

Dexter was my loyal, noble and ever-present companion for 14 wonderful years. He supervised everything I did from laundry to vacuuming to home improvement projects (he wasn't afraid of power tools). He was gentle and kind with new visitors, children, infants and even my mom's little chihuahua that was smaller than he was. He sweetly accepted the other kitties that we took into our home and put up with all of their nonsense with grace (even when they were mean to him). I always would whisper into his ear, "Dexter, I loved you first... and I love you best" and he would purr.

Dee Dee was the quintessential queen of our little cat colony. She ruled with grace, love and matriarchal dignity. She adored Hubby with a passion and wanted nothing more than to be picked up and carried around on his arm while she licked him after running to greet him at the door when he came home from work or when he first awoke and arose from the bed in the morning. She particularly enjoyed playing hostess to visitors and would greet everyone that came through the front door with curiosity and kind affection. Her fascination and adoration of children and babies was so precious to watch. An extremely intelligent ginger tabby, Dee Dee always had a lot to say about everything and would negotiate with me constantly to get her way (just like a 2 year old toddler).

We were privileged to meet them when Dexter and Dee Dee were only 10 days old. We've known them ever since.

The two kitties were miracles to us. Before getting them 14 years ago, Hubby was highly allergic to cats and couldn't be in the same room with a cat without getting asthmatic. But with faith and prayer, that changed (now he's allergic to dogs... go figure). They came into our lives when we were rebuilding our home... and I was rebuilding myself. Two little furry kitties did so much in healing us both. We've never known life living here at Rosehaven Cottage without them. Our home feels hollow and empty without them here.

Interestingly, Dexter and Dee Dee have never had to know any existence without each other... even now.

We know without a shadow of a doubt that Dexter and Dee Dee are now running and playing like they did when they were young (before the arthritis). They were greeted on the other side by our beloved kitties that had passed on before them—Lydia (2002-2012), Tom Tom (who left us a few months ago in May), Suzette (who left us at the end of this summer) and the garden kitty, Oreo (who left us in September). We are certain all of them are having wonderful times together frolicking about, watching "kitty-vision" and exploring lush patches of grass to nibble on.

I miss Dexter and Dee Dee terribly. My chest aches every day with an ache that is so profound I can't describe it. I weep every day wishing I could see their beautiful furry little faces. But I know I will see them both again someday... and we will all play together like we always did.

Dexter and Dee Dee, you are mine forever and ever.

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The future has arrived... today

July 6th will mark the official 7 year anniversary of when I started this blog. This week marks the 7 year anniversary of when Hubby and I formally filed and formed our corporation, Rosehaven Cottage Inc. with me as the CEO and him as the VP-of-everything-else. We had the foresight to know that we needed to incorporate and created a corporate "umbrella" for my creative pursuits that would follow... but that's about all we could foresee.  

Seven whole years is the longest I've ever "worked" at one job. I started this creative journey fueled by the creative spark digital photography had re-lit within me after I'd been on a creative hiatus for a while. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do along the way or what I wanted to grow into becoming. I simply knew that I wanted to create beautiful things to be appreciated and consumed visually by others.

I am a classic introvert by nature (as many bloggers are) so I spent years trying to hide behind the moniker "Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage". It was easy to write blog posts about my garden so a large portion of my posts were focused on the outdoor life. Writing about our house, Rosehaven Cottage, was easy too, so I shared some of our DIY adventures here too. The title "Rosehaven Cottage" became synonymous with gardening and home improvement and "Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage" was seen as a "garden blogger". The audience that this blog attracted ended up being more interested in my green thumb and sledgehammer-wielding skills and less about the creative career I was building and very passionate about. 

Like many things in the digital realm, blogging has gone through evolutions and I've seen it go through a few in the seven years I've had this blog. The current trend in blogging is leaning toward catching and retaining readers with slick Pinterest-ready posts full of helpful tips or with attention-getting titles that lure a reader to read the blogger's personal insights, philosophies and musings. Several big-time blogs have had to revamp their way of doing business in order to remain financially viable now that content is often generated on mobile devices that don't accommodate sidebar advertising. They've had to resort to embedded advertising within blog posts to keep generating revenue. And none of that is what I'm really focused on in my "real life".

What is my "real life"? Some of you may already know the answer to that question but some of you may not. Here's the answer...

I am a professional photographer, artist and graphic designer. I am a business owner (technically a "CEO"). My business is about creating visual images that:
  • have been licensed to appear on stationery you might have seen when you were shopping for just the right card for a special occasion. 
  • are sold as canvases, fine art prints, cards and cell phone cases
  • are sold as digital files to other creative professionals that incorporate my work into their own work like websites/blogs, advertising, publications, crafts and derivative art 

For the past several months, I've been at a professional crossroads regarding this blog. I am at an exciting point in my creative career where I am seeing my dreams becoming realities. This is wonderful but it has created a conundrum I've had to face. As a creative professional whose work is of a visual medium, my online presence (some call it "brand") needs to remain professional. My online posts can't just be an open garden journal. They can't be filled with personal musings that I then wish I hadn't published a week after I have. And I also cannot hide behind the moniker "Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage" and be taken seriously by my creative peers and mentors.

This is why I've spent the past couple of months creating and fine-tuning a new online presence at It is a cohesive and responsive format so anyone can enjoy it on a smartphone, a tablet or a desktop computer. And I have integrated a blog into the design that I will be posting to regularly as I release new work. Coupled with social media like Instagram (where I'll still share some photographic snippets of what's happening in the garden), I am embarking on a new blogging journey that will be all about my creative pursuits and passions. If you follow me on Pinterest, you can be a fly on the wall as I gather inspiration for new projects and you can watch the early stages of my creative process "real-time" (so if you start to see me pinning lots of photos of vintage sinks you can bet that it has something to do with what I'm working on at the moment).

I'm finally doing it. I'm finally being what I always wanted to be when I grew up. As one of my favorite songs by The All-American Rejects (on the Meet The Robinsons soundtrack) says... the future has arrived!

The future's arrived
Nobody can doubt
The future is what everything's about
It's better for you
It's better for me
It's better than what everybody thought it would be

It's time to create
Time to grow
If you're feeling right
The world
Yeah she's changing
And life's rearranging
Don't it make you feel alive?
The future has arrived

See you over at

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Last Saturday was a lovely day for shooting photographs at Stinson Beach along the Northern California coast

My cousin and aunt were in town over last weekend, so we took them to the beach to our west to beat the inland heat. It was a gorgeous day—not too hot and not too cold. And the light was spectacular for shooting photographs with my "big gun". 

As I've written before, my favorite shots are those when "photographic serendipity" happens. The beach was full of just those kinds of moments. I was loving every minute of it.

Of course, once I get back to my studio the rest of the work happens in the post-processing phase when I tweak the photos to make them look exactly how my eyes were seeing the light and the colors of the seashore in person. The camera doesn't always capture things exactly the way the human eye sees them. So it's always a fun challenge to recreate what I remember seeing when I was there.

The photos above are now available at CreativeMarket. com to use for:
websites • blogs • advertising • publications • crafts • home
(click on each one to go directly to it or click here to go to my shop)

The photos above are also available at Fine Art America as:
art prints • canvases • cards • cell phone cases • framed art
(click here)

If you'd like to see more of my photographs,
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While exploring Golden Gate Park, I came upon a heavenly sea of nasturtiums edged by Mexican primrose (why I love San Francisco)

P.S. I've turned comments off because I want you to simply enjoy the photo. No words required.

If you'd like to see more of my photographs,
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Monarch butterflies have been visiting the garden and finding the 'butterfly bush' to be an irresistible treat

If you'd like to see more of my photographs,
please visit

*GARDENING DISCLAIMER: Although I do not condone cultivating invasive plants, bushes and shrubs, buddleia (aka 'butterfly bush') is not considered an invasive pest in our area of the world (San Francisco Bay Area of California, USA) where summers are rainless. It does not propagate here. That's the only reason I have one.
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Spotted a Gulf Fritillary butterfly in my garden for the first time... completely by accident

I saw a couple of monarch butterflies fluttering around the buddleia (aka 'Butterfly Bush')* that's in full bloom in the garden, so I took my camera out to try and catch some shots. Imagine my surprise when I saw another butterfly I didn't recognize, got some shots of it sipping nectar and came inside to find it is a variety I've never seen before (let alone photographed). I'm pretty stoked!

*GARDENING DISCLAIMER: Although I do not condone cultivating invasive plants, bushes and shrubs, buddleia is not considered an invasive pest in our area of the world (San Francisco Bay Area of California) where summer's are rainless. It does not propagate here. That's the only reason I have one.

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The best aphid protection my roses have ever had

Mr. Hooded Oriole (above) and his wife keep my roses aphid-free along with help from some other birds. I simply provided all the birds with a burbling water fountain set in the middle of the rose garden, and the birds reward me by gleaning all the bugs off by rosebushes.

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A blooming 'Bird of Paradise' never ceases to stop me in my tracks

photograph taken in my brother's beautiful tropical paradise of a garden

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven...

More than anything else, the process of creating and maintaining my garden as a backyard wildlife habitat has taught me the true meaning of the wisdom found in the Old Testament of the Bible in Ecclesiastes chapter 3:
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak..."
For almost seven years, I've blogged about the journey that my garden and home have taken me on. It was a season when I needed to write of these things—"a time to speak". Now I am entering a new season of sharing my view of the world through the photographic image without using words—"a time to keep silence".

I want my photographs to not be a reflection of my own experience. I want each of my photographs to tell a different personal story depending on the person looking at the image. My words would simply get in the way. This is also why I am turning off comments. Comments won't be necessary. I want you to simply enjoy the images I share.

Here's to the beginning of a new season!  

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Don't you think some flowers are practically singing their own theme song?

I think in the case of my red gerbera (which is bursting with blooms right now), if it could sing it would be singing the song that's been going through my head today—Pharrell Williams' song "Happy".

If you aren't familiar with the song you can watch the official video by clicking here
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I always know it is truly spring when the California poppies bloom

The California poppy is a wildflower that is also the California state flower. I remember first becoming aware of its significance when I was six years old. When I first discovered them, I wanted to pick the flowers so badly. But my mom warned me that it was a special flower that shouldn't be picked if it's within a certain distance from the roadside, because it is the symbol of the state of California. She also wisely explained to me that after I picked one, the flower wouldn't last long and it was better to leave it growing where it was. It was one of the first of many flowers I learned how to enjoy without picking it and taking it home with me.

Now, with my digital camera (or camera-phone) I can "pick" flowers in a different way. I can take the image of a flower home with me and leave the lovely flower behind growing where I found it. This is particularly important when it comes to delicate wildflowers like the California poppy.

Ashley at reached out to me and
gave me a heads-up that there's a new post on their blog
giving great tips on how to photograph flowers with your mobile phone 

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The signs of Spring are bursting forth everywhere and I'm loving every bit of it... except the pollen

An ornamental plum tree and cherry tree grow intertwined at the end of our street. Their spring blossom show is always so spectacular (above and below).

The old cherry tree (below) in the back thicket of our garden bursts with blossoms that never become cherries because we don't have another pollinator tree to make that happen. If I knew the variety I probably would plant a companion for it. Because I LOVE fresh cherries.

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I guess my real name should be Captain Mary Amy Belle Emma Tinkerbell Grantham

Maybe you've seen the results of those online quizzes... or maybe you haven't and I'm the only one looking at people's Facebook feeds... 

Anyway... there are a slew of quizzes at places like one named in the image above so you can find out things like "Which Celeb Should Be Your Roomate". You can also finally answer the question "Which Character From The Princess Bride Are You?"

I'm usually not one to click through on stuff like that because I know the risk involved. But every once in a while I'm tempted enough to go over to one of the legit sites and take one of the quizzes (okay, I've taken more than one). What's pretty funny is that they are often quite accurate in describing my personality. It's amusing to say the least. 

After I get done taking one of the quizzes, I'll laugh out loud and Hubby will ask, "What's so funny?" and then I'll tell him I took a quiz and he'll never guess what my result was. So every time I've taken a quiz, Hubby has ended up privy to the result. 

Last week, we were texting back and forth during the day and I sent him a link to an iPhone cover I had fallen in love with. He sweetly ordered it for me before replying and then texted me that he had. I admitted that I couldn't make myself order it on my own (it felt too self-indulgent even though it was just an iPhone case to replace my broken one). His response was, "I know... you freak-a-zoid" followed by "I love you".

My response?

Referencing all the quiz results I've had in the past few weeks I texted, "Anyone who is Tinkerbell AND Mary from Sherlock AND Amy Farrah Fowler AND Belle AND Lord Grantham is definitely a freak-a-zoid."*

He texted back that I made him laugh out loud (really). And the visual of all those characters mashed into one, makes me chuckle right now as I'm typing this.

And for the record... I forgot to include in that text a few other results. I'm most like the Avenger Captain America. And if I were a character from Once Upon a Time I'd be Emma.

* For those not familiar with the characters listed they are as follows:
  • Tinkerbell from the Disney movie Peter Pan
  • Mary Morstan from BBC's Sherlock
  • Amy Farrah Fowler from CBS's Big Bang Theory
  • Belle from the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast
  • Lord Grantham from Downton Abbey
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Bucket lists and visualization techniques–is there a place in my life for them?

Today, I heard an interview with the celebrity Brooke Burke where this 40-something mother of four candidly said that she felt the reason why she's been realizing her dreams in the past few years is because she wrote about her wants and desires publicly on her blog and such. She felt like this visualizing exercise of openly sharing her "bucket list" made it all happen.

You know how most of the time when you listen to interviews and it's entertaining but most of it just passes on through? Then every so often... just once in a while... something that is said doesn't pass on through but sticks around in your head and rattles around? That was me today.

I pondered Brooke's concept of visualization and whether I felt it had validity in my own life. I also found myself pondering the value of having a "bucket list" (a concept I've never embraced or considered embracing).

I thought about it. What would I write on my blog if I were to follow Brooke's example? If (and that's a big IF) I were to compile a "bucket list" what would be on it? Would I publish it publicly? Does it even matter in the whole eternal scheme of things?

I have to say, I honestly don't know. The things that I cherish and the things that matter most to me don't need a visualization exercise in order to bring them into fruition. And they are usually so personal I wouldn't want to share them publicly. They are too precious.

I found myself asking the question, "Is this why the world's definition of 'success' eludes me? Because I don't do what Brooke Burke has done?" Then I asked myself, "Does society's vision of 'success' really matter all that much to me? Do I even care?"

My mind wandered to a photo I took on Saturday at my niece's 1 year birthday celebration (the photo above). All the children at the party had dumped the toys out of the toy bucket and were gleefully playing–the evidence of their play activity strewn about the floor.

It seemed like an apt symbol for why I haven't really engaged in either bucket list formation practices or visualization techniques (unless compiling Pinterest boards counts as "visualization"... then I have).

I know the term "bucket list" comes from the idea that it is a list of all the things one wants to accomplish before "kicking the bucket" (dying). I get that. But that way of looking at life and death isn't my style.

I think of life as a gathering exercise–a time to glean as much information, education, experience, knowledge as possible as well as gathering meaningful connections and relationships. I feel like I'm walking around with a big tub (like the one in the photo above). I hold that tub under one arm and it rests on one hip. I go around collecting "items" to put into my bucket much like a beachcomber gathering seashells along a shoreline. The bucket never gets full. It's bottomless (like Mary Poppins' carpet bag). It can hold infinite amounts of intangible treasures. Carrying this bucket isn't just about gathering, but also about sharing. Sharing makes the bucket fuller instead of depleting it. Sharing adds more than it takes away.

I suppose this is why I've never made a "bucket list" because my bucket isn't going to get "kicked" when I die. It's going to come with me. It's the only thing I can take with me. And if I'm gathering with that end-goal in mind, it seems that visualization exercises don't fit into the picture either.

Or do they? What do you think?

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Thank you Downton Abbey for reminding me of my blessed heritage with your beautiful season finale

Last night, Hubby and I watched the season 4 finale of Downton Abbey. Toward the end of the episode the staff has a day off at the seaside. The scenes were composed and shot simply yet beautifully—directing and cinematography done very well produce such stellar results (as seen below).

During these scenes at the beach, two characters (Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson) go wading in the chilly surf. The almost dialogue-free exchange was charming and heartwarming.

I know when I'm watching great television when I have the experience of being emotionally and/or mentally transported to something very personal. And this particular scene did just that. I found myself recalling old family photographs from albums over 100 years old of my great-great grandmother, Jessie Rae Munce, wading in the California surf with her granddaughters and daughter in the summer of 1910.

Jessie was 68 years old in the above photograph. And like the water that the characters on Downton Abbey were wading in, I'm certain that the Pacific waters were quite chilly on Jessie's feet (water temperatures along the northern coast of California are never really warm).

When I found this photograph of Jessie, I fell in love with its candidness and frivolity—a "pull up your skirts girls because no one cares" sort of attitude. It represents an interesting time in history when things were changing. I am certain that my transplanted Scottish grandmother, her daughters, and her granddaughters were right there leading the way here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their faces in the above photo tell me that. They're modern leanings are also evident in the fact that even though they weren't wealthy, they still had a camera with them at what seems like every family outing and then paid the money to have the film processed and printed.

Today, thanks to that wonderfully produced episode of Downton Abbey, my heart is full of gratitude for so much of what I owe to my incredible forebears.

Jessie and her husband, John, made difficult sacrifices to come to the U.S. from Glasgow, Scotland in the 1870s. John came first, leaving Jessie behind with 4 children. Jessie came later wrangling those 4 children on her own. John's job as a metalworker with a railroad company allowed them to work their way across the United States from the east coast to the west coast having 2 children along the way in New York and Indiana (how hard must that have been for Jessie?). Their last 4 children were born in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their youngest was my great grandfather, William Munce, who ended up marrying Elsie Pump (pictured above) and their oldest was my grandmother (aka Grammy) Elsie Munce (the kid playing in the sand not looking at the camera in the above photo).

It is because of Jessie and John that I can happily say I am a 4th generation Bay Area native. I was privileged to be born a U.S. citizen because of them. I was blessed to love the sea, the beach and the coast because of them. I am certain that I even owe my love of photography to them because of their love of it over 100 years ago.

Yes, I know I've witnessed great television when all this emotion and gratitude can be inspired by it.

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My major accomplishment in the past week... making throw pillows for the living room

In the last couple of years as we've made some minor changes to our interior environment, Hubby and I have fallen in love with the colors of the sea--light aquas and turquoises paired with pale creams and beige like the colors of sand on a pristine tropical beach.

Believe it or not, we make design decisions as a couple. We go together when we shop for anything related to home decor. In case you're wondering, Hubby does not go on these shopping adventures under duress. I am more likely to hate going shopping than he, so when I ask something like, "Honey, do you want to maybe go to the fabric store to look for fabric to make throw pillows?" if he isn't completely exhausted by some other task he's had to tackle that day, his answer is always a sincere and cheerful, "Sure!"

At the end of last week, the above scenario played out as I got a wave of energy to feel up to finally tackling the task I'd been threatening to take on for way too long--updating our throw pillows. I know how to sew (I've been sewing since I was around 10 years old). I have a sewing machine (although at the time it was tucked into a never-accessed corner of my current studio covered with cat hair, dust and looking really disgusting). More and more those waves of energy come less and less, if you know what I mean. So when it does happen, I know I need to jump on the opportunity.

It turned out that my fit of creative spark happened to coincide with a 50% off sale I didn't know about (pillow forms were on sale too). So the home decor fabrics that I would have loved but dared not buy at regular price, were miraculously attainable. It was great. I pushed the cart up and down the aisles as Hubby and I mulled over all the possibilities. We ended up coming home with some nice choices.

The following evening I had to do the thing I was dreading most... dig out my sewing machine and clean it off. It spiffed up quite nicely and was ready far faster than I had mentally projected it would be.

In one evening I got two pillows done while we watched episodes of Once Upon A Time on Netflix. Since I had to hand-stitch the pillows closed once the forms were in, it was nice having something whimsical and fun on the TV while I pushed and pulled the needle back and forth.

I sat in the recliner in the living room while I sewed--the recliner we bought a couple years ago when we first started making the transition to the sea colors in our decor. It was fun making the pillows in the same chair that they match so perfectly.

The pillows also coordinate with our dark brown leather couch that always has a pale cream quilt thrown over it. We wanted the pillows to be interchangeable wherever they are needed (or wherever a cat isn't snoozing). And we accomplished that with our fabric choices.

It still is somewhat of a surprise at how much something so simple as adding new throw pillows can do to a space. Suddenly the sea colors we love are becoming prominent just because of these simple additions.

And the area rug that we thought would have to be the first thing to be replaced, doesn't look quite so bad now. Isn't it funny how that happens? We'll still change out the rug, but I don't feel this sense of urgency like I have to get it out of here as soon as possible like I did before. I don't like making design decisions in that state of mind. It's better for me to be calm and methodical making a choice that has to last for quite some time in order to be economically responsible. It's amazing that new 16"x16" throw pillows achieved all that.

Last night (again while watching episodes of Once Upon A Time), I finished recovering two old throw pillows we already had with fresh and new fabric. I couldn't just throw them away. The old saying, "Waste not, want not" is too ingrained in my psyche. Now I'm happy I didn't.

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If I always expect the unexpected, then nothing is truly "unexpected", right?

My "super wise" epiphany for today... if I always expect the unexpected, then nothing is truly "unexpected".

It came to me in the shower (as many "super wise" epiphanies do). I don't know... maybe I've been absorbing something while watching Sherlock, but it seems logical when I think about it. It is particularly applicable to home construction.

So when Hubby finished pulling down all the ancient sheet rock left on the framing in the garage that will be my studio some day, it was not unexpected that more wood rot was uncovered... because I've come to expect stuff like that. Luckily, it is wood rot that's just as ancient as the sheet rock. It's leftover from when the garage had its original flat roof (pre-1960s) probably when it was still an open-sided carport. There must have been a leak in the roofing that caused rain to wick down along the framing just enough to create some wood rot. It isn't much and is isolated to a couple of studs, so the fix is relatively straightforward. Hubby just needs to sister in some new studs alongside the compromised ones.

When we determined that we would be plunging into this latest home renovation adventure, we both expected things to go any way but straightforward, simple and swiftly. Again... expecting the unexpected. So that is why I am not posting photo after photo of progress with this project.

Over 13 years ago after optimistically thinking we could renovate/rehabilitate our entire home in 2-3 weeks, we learned that nothing goes quickly when it comes to this house.

Why, you ask? Just in case any of you have the idea that you'd like to tackle a similar adventure (and prove us wrong), keep these things in mind as you plan your renovation/rehabilitation timeline:

  • Expect any vintage home that was custom-built by the owner (particularly if the owner wasn't a contractor) to have weird quirks because everything is "unique" (we've sometimes used other choice words to describe some non-contractor-owner-builder choices we've uncovered)
  • Expect any vintage home that has had annexes built onto the original footprint to have multiple eras of construction materials represented as well as odd connection points or hidden damage from before the annex was constructed
  • Expect any vintage home built prior to 1960 to have construction that is sub-standard according to current building codes
  • Expect any vintage home that has gone through a period of dilapidation or neglect to have even more weird quirks than one that has been lovingly maintained over the years since it was built

So... from those of you that have been through this adventure already...  are there any other bullet points I should have included above?

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The sound of raindrops have never sounded so wonderful

Despite clear blue sunny skies and warm temps all day Saturday, we awoke to the sound of wonderful big juicy raindrops coming down outside on Sunday morning. We were blessed with an entire half inch of rainfall throughout Sunday morning.

And the mountains got snow!!!!

We're continuing to pray for more to come--particularly snow because the snowpack is what gives us water throughout the rest of the year.

Thank you to everyone who joined your prayers with ours that we would have rain. Those prayers were answered! In a very real way.

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The good, the bad and the ugly of living in a Mediterranean climate

The Good
While much of the United States (even parts of California only a couple hours drive away) are knee deep is frigid, snowy drifts, the unique Mediterranean climate of the San Francisco Bay Area has been beautifully (and unseasonably) lovely and warm this January. Ours is not like the most famous California climate found in Los Angeles--home of Hollywood and Disneyland. That climate is a good 7 hour drive away to our south. So we aren't used to balmy January weather quite like we've been having. For example, two days ago it was 77F/25C outside in the afternoon without a cloud in the bright blue sky. That's weird--even for those of us who have lived here all our lives.

I've always counted myself very lucky to live in one of the few "Mediterranean climates" in the world. Here's a world map showing the rarity of these conditions that I am fortunate enough to consider my own.

Believe me... I do not for one minute take this privilege for granted. When we have a beautiful January as we have been having, I soak it up with the full and grateful heart of one who has lived in extreme winter conditions in the past. I know I am blessed when I am able to go out into my garden and expect to see the first jonquils blooming some time in January. I am honored whenever I spot the first almond tree in bloom in late January. I feel a thrill every time I discover the first camellia blooms in January or February because I see them as the miracle they truly are.

The Bad
Living in these unique circumstances makes it challenging to be a home produce gardener. I can't follow the same gardening practices seen in general gardening magazines and websites (the only magazine I can turn to is Sunset magazine because it's written for the western United States). It has taken me quite a while to shift my thinking away from the traditional way of approaching growing food.

For one thing, I have to plan for summers without rain. I know that I shouldn't expect rain from around May until October at the height of growing summer veggies and fruits. Although I have the luxury of having a year-round garden, I know that there are certain things that will not grow in my summer garden such as lettuce, onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, peas and kale. I have to plant them to grow during the winter. Freshly picked salad greens are not something I can enjoy during the summer.

The other challenge is that when we are having a gorgeous rainless January as we are currently having I can't grow any of those above mentioned veggies during the winter either. Normally, the winter rains provide the necessary moist and cool conditions those veggies need. But I haven't been able to get my nitrogen-producing "cover  crop" of clover and alfalfa to sprout around the base of my citrus trees, let alone successfully maintain a bed of moisture-loving lettuce.

The Ugly
These warm and rainless January days happen every few years. It's a part of life here. And it's never fun in the midst of it because the local weather forecasters love to latch on to the possibility of a drought. Every night we are told how many inches of rainfall we are below normal. During a year when we have plentiful rain, we're given the stats from the angle of how far above normal we are and how it could all possibly change on a dime.

I am quick to remind myself that this has very little to do with "global climate change". A few months ago, I was transcribing a handwritten letter from mid-January 1948 (66 years ago). The letter was written by a husband newly located to this area from Minnesota. He was writing to his young wife who was still back home while he scouted out prospects for employment here. He wrote his letter while sitting on a Bay Area hillside. He said:
"The weather is so nice--not too hot & lots of sunshine. They are all worried here because of the lack of rain. It hasn't rained once after the day we arrived--no clouds just sunshine & warm."
Apparently, even 66 years ago the locals were having the same discussions during a rainless January that we are now. And I don't think "global climate change" was a factor in the discussion back then. To the newly transplanted Minnesotan the weather was marvelous. But to the locals... not so much.

Like I said, this happens every few years. It's just a part of life here. The constant possibility that our reservoirs and groundwater (as well as the snow pack in the Sierras a few hours drive north and east of us) won't get replenished enough during the winter to last through our rainless summer is a specter that Bay Area residents have looming in their minds each and every year as we head out of summer into October and November. And when we see week after week of no rain in the weather forecast during December and January, we start to get very concerned. We know that there needs to be enough water for each of our own gardens as well as the 80,500 farms and ranches up and down California that provides more than half of our nation's fruit, nuts and vegetables (click here to read the breakdown by crop). Here in the Bay Area, we also know that the northern part of our state will have to provide the water for all the arid regions of the southern part of state. We take water very seriously around here.

What do we do when faced with dismal weather forecasts and thirsty soil in January? The only thing we can do...

with childlike faith...
with conviction...
for a miracle. 

(We in California would be most appreciative for prayers from anywhere right now.)
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A lot is happening and changing around here... with much more to come

This past week has been jam-packed with exciting things going on around here... so much so that I'll just have to do one of those smorgasbord posts I always like reading on other blogs.

Website and blog domain changes
I finally took the plunge and retired the clickable "business card" style website at and made this blog be the permanent home of I realized that for most people the name "Rosehaven Cottage" is associated with my home and gardens anyway and not my art and design.

I added a "Where to get my art" page to this blog (those of you reading this on email will need to click through to see it) with a pretty graphic directory that helps you find my art more easily.

Then I took the domain out of mothballs (I've owned it for a while), using a simple yet elegantly responsive template I found at for $10, I created a new placeholder site for that domain. [By the way, when a site is "responsive" it means that it resizes and reshapes for optimal viewing on a myriad of mobile devices as well as standard laptop and desktop computers.]

I've decided that I will be exploring some exciting new hands-on art forms once I get my studio done. I will be producing original artwork and it seemed like the right time to embrace my full name for my art website. It will probably morph over time but this is a good start.

Finally, will serve as my official artist blog. So if you want to read updates on what I'm doing creatively you'll need to follow me there as well as here.

I'll let this blog be the home of all my garden, wildlife and home posts and photos as it has always been.

Designing for a soon-to-debut author
I was thrilled when my wonderfully talented cousin informed everyone that her first book has been accepted by a publisher and is due for release around September 2014. I was even more thrilled when she reached out to me and asked if I could help her with designing her website and online presence graphics. My answer was, "Of course!"

I got her all set up with a new domain at with custom-designed website and pretty graphics for all her social media sites that she'll be using as a published author.

I feel that I was getting inspiration poured into my head as I created for Sarah. It was such an amazing experience. First, I designed a monogram for her as the foundation for her branding (below).

The monogram became her little favicon on the tab of any web browser when someone is looking at her site.

I spring-boarded off the monogram to create a header for her website that also became her Facebook cover photo (below).

Once I had those nailed down, I had the basis for the colors of her website as well as the other graphic accents she needed like her bio pic (below)

Finally, I created her social media buttons to be uniquely hers (below).

 photo email-medallion-75px_zpsb9b21886.png  photo fb-medallion-75px_zps308a2120.png  photo pinterest-medallion-75px_zps25e88ea4.png photo twitter-medallion-75px_zps03005069.png photo instagram-medallion-75px_zps093e99b3.png

Make sure and go check out her site and follow her on your social media of choice. You'll definitely want to be one of the first to know when her book is coming out and where you can buy it.

And if all that isn't enough...
Hubby and I have been given an incredible opportunity! We were invited to serve as technology specialists on the public affairs committee for a conglomeration of our Church's congregations (a.k.a "wards") known as "a stake". These positions are unpaid as are all positions in our Church (even clergy), so this will be a "labor of love". Our committee's job (and our job) is to assist our congregations in connecting with the towns, cities and communities in which they live, so they can be engaged in service opportunities both large and small.

One of the first jobs I was tasked with was setting up an online presence and social media accounts for the public affairs committee. I got a chance to use one of my own older photos of our local shoreline in the design.

I also got to design the posters and flyers for an upcoming community service event that ended up being the first thing we published on the new public affairs site. Here's the poster:

And here's the flyer in black and white so it could be easily and inexpensively photocopied:

I told you there was a lot happening around here. I wasn't kidding!

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