Gratitude and an Instagram-Perfect Life

A couple of days ago I was walking across the lawn in my front yard, and noticing the pretty purple Jacaranda blossoms that litter the sidewalk this time of year. My feet were bare, the grass was soft and damp, the sky was brilliant blue, and the sun was warm. And I was filled with such gratitude.

My life may not be perfect, but I have so much of what I always wanted! I may not own the little old house I live in, but hey it’s a Victorian from 1910, and that’s been my dream home since I was a little girl, so I’m happy. I have a convertible again – a cute one! I am healing and feeling better, and I got through my first year of law school. It’s true that I have a less-than-stellar grade point average–C+ Baby!–but I’m not in danger of getting kicked out, and I’ve now proven I can handle it, so I’m happy with that as well. Things are good! Life is good!

Instagram-Perfect LifeInstagram-Perfect Life

So when I left the house a short time later, I pulled out my iPhone and shot a couple of photos of the house and the jacaranda tree, and posted them on Instagram, which then fed them through to Facebook. I was feeling grateful, and so I shot some happy shiny pretty images and uploaded them, and went on my way. Both images generated a few comments and the photo of the house got over 40 Likes on Facebook. And I had to admit that it looked pretty good on my iPhone! But later it hit me that I hadn’t mentioned that I was only renting half the house – the left half – the half without the great front porch. And then today, looking at the image again, I realized that it actually looked a little better than reality. And that bothered me.

I shoot beautiful things all the time, and I’m always attracted toward the beauty in everything. Obviously I’m going to shoot from the best angle possible, and try to make whatever it is look as attractive as possible – even if it’s just a cell phone photo, meant to show where I live.

But this felt different. If felt like I had accidentally deceived everyone who clicked Like. Would they have still clicked Like and left such nice comments if they saw the house in person? Or if I had thought to mention that it was divided into two apartments in the 1950s, and I’m only renting the left half?

Instagram-Perfect Life

So I decided to shoot the house again today. Instead of an iPhone, I used my new little Canon that I bought to shoot video – just because I wanted to play with it. I tried to shoot the house, as it really is, and not disguise the not-so-great parts. Where the Instagram version sort of hid the satellite dish in the tree branches, this time I didn’t try to disguise it. Where the Instagram version deemphasized the junk on the front porch and the multiple mailboxes, this time all that clutter is more visible. Where on Instagram the yard looked large, with a big lawn, today’s version shows just how small the front yard is – which is typical for downtown Riverside, and nothing to be ashamed of, but it is different than the impression the other image gave… The biggest change is that the Instagram version was shot in the middle of the day, so the sky is bright blue and everything looks lush and verdant – and the image today was shot at sunset, so it’s got a much softer feel.

Oh, and the neighborhood cats decided to pose for me today, so that was an added bonus!

I don’t think either image makes the house look unattractive. And I like them both. And the Instagram version is not a lie – that’s how the house actually looked at that moment in time, in that light. But even so, it gave the impression that the house was just a bit grander than it really is, and by association, that my life was maybe a little grander than it actually is. But guess what? My life is grand to me! The house I live in may not belong to me, I may only be renting half, and it may be a little less than Instagram-perfect – but it’s my favorite kind of house, and I love it. I may not have the great front porch, but I have ten-foot tall ceilings and vintage woodwork – I’m happy!

Jacaranda blossomsfriendly neighborhood cat

big orange male catVW Convertible

I also love my cute little convertible with one missing hubcap, and and the scruffy neighborhood cats that follow me around the yard, and beg for love and affection.

My life may not be Instagram-perfect, but I am very grateful for everything that I have!

Heritage House | A Victorian Christmas

Heritage House | A Victorian Christmas

Every year Heritage House in Riverside hosts a Victorian Christmas Party, and this year I finally got to go!

Heritage House | A Victorian Christmas

Palm trees in the background, oranges in winter, and a pretty girl – all the elements of a vintage ad meant to entice people to move to beautiful sunny Riverside, circa 1895!

Heritage House | A Victorian ChristmasHeritage House | A Victorian Christmas
Me and my Mom in front of the Christmas deer. Notice the orange trees in the background. I love the California Christmas look! And one of the strolling musicians.

Heritage House | A Victorian Christmas

The Steam Punk Contingent! I don’t think these three were officially connected with the event–they were guests–but they were so cool as they serenely strutted around the circular pathways. True Victorian spirit on display. One of the real highlights of the event, in my opinion!

Heritage House | A Victorian ChristmasHeritage House | A Victorian Christmas

Hollyhocks! In December? How cool is that?

Heritage House | A Victorian ChristmasHeritage House | A Victorian Christmas

There were women demonstrating traditional domestic arts in the carriage house – these two were spinning and knitting.

Heritage House | A Victorian ChristmasHeritage House | A Victorian Christmas

My Mom and Grandma enjoying the garden area. That interesting piece of citrus fruit smelled fabulous. I’m a big fan of all citrus smells, and this one was really good!

Heritage House | A Victorian ChristmasHeritage House | A Victorian Christmas

Caroling and handing out programs.

Heritage House | A Victorian Christmas

We heard a rumor that each of the thirty docents was responsible for baking twelve dozen cookies each, and that they would still run out by the end of the afternoon. That’s over 4000 home baked cookies! It may not look it in these images, but there were a lot of people there – very popular event!

Heritage House | A Victorian ChristmasHeritage House | A Victorian Christmas

A couple of shots from inside the house. I couldn’t resist shooting the toilet – it was just so pretty!

Heritage House | A Victorian Christmas
And finally, the fountain in the front yard.

Riverside Car Show

Every year the community of car enthusiasts in Riverside host a big car show called “Show and Go” in the downtown area. They block off the main intersections downtown for the weekend, and the cars are driven in a loop, so if you’re there to view it, you can arrive whenever you like, and park on any side street, and there will be cool vintage cars cruising by, as well as other cars parked along the main streets, with their hoods open – inviting you to look and discuss. The owners are usually hovering nearby, and love to answer questions!

I showed up on the first morning, and only stayed an hour – for the main parade – but there was a LOT I didn’t see. You could definitely spend the whole day just looking at cars!

Bumblebee from Transformers
This 1977 Chevy Camaro named Bumblebee has a Hollywood pedigree! It appeared in the 2007 movie, Transformers.

Hood OrnamentHot Cars and Palm Trees

Mayor Ron Loveridge
The mayor of Riverside, Ron Loveridge.

Car enthusiasts in Riverside host a big car show called “Show and Go” in the downtown area.Woody with Surfboards
Convertibles and a Woody with surfboards on top! How cool, and how Californian is that?

Vintage Police Car
Notice the dog in the backseat window of this vintage police car.

Turquoise Chevy with Fuzzy DiceRiverside Car Show
A turquoise Chevy with the requisite fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror…

Silver Convertible at the Riverside Car Show
I don’t know what this car is, but it sure is cute!

Motorcycle at Riverside Car Show

Mount Rubidoux

It was too hot to go all the way to the top of Mount Rubidoux yesterday. I got a little more than halfway up, and then stopped caring about actually reaching the top. It was over 90° by midmorning, and there were lots of things I could think of to do, way more compelling than a walk in the sun, uphill!

So I got up earlier today, and it was cooler, and I went the rest of the way up – and I was rewarded with a beautiful bright blue sky, and some pretty clouds – it was well worth it!

World Peace Bridge on Mount Rubidoux // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Mount Rubidoux // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsMount Rubidoux Bridge // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I love the plaque on the tower/bridge – even if there was no date on it, you would know it was circa 1925, just by the art deco stylized lettering. It’s an absolutely perfect example of high art deco, and reads, “Peace with Justice for All Men. Anno Domini 1925. This bridge was built by neighbors and friends of Frank Agustus Miller, in recognition of this constant labor in the promotion of civic beauty, community righteousness, and world peace.”

Frank Miller was the second owner of Mount Rubidoux, along with Henry Huntington. The first owner, in the mid-1800s was Louis Robidoux – note Robidoux, not Rubidoux, as it’s spelled today. Miller, of the Mission Inn, and Huntington, a railroad magnate, bought the hill in the early 1900’s, in order to develop the land around it – as a housing development. There’s a spot dedicated to Huntington as well, but it’s not as interesting as Miller’s dedication.

Mount Rubidoux // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsRunning on The Mount // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I was fascinated by the number of people pushing strollers up and down the hill, with one or two children in them, while running. It’s a three mile loop, if you do the whole thing, and at least half of that is uphill, so pushing a stroller would really make it a workout – and lots of people do it. The other popular thing to do is to bring a dog or two, on a leash, while carrying a couple of the blue plastic “doggie” bags that are provided at the start of the trail.

Cross on Mount Rubidoux // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

The cross at the very tip-top of the mountain. The first cross was erected on the spot soon after Miller and Huntington bought the property, and one has stood there ever since. It’s dedicated to Father Junipero Serra, one of the founders of several of the California missions.

The first Easter sunrise service was held here in 1909 – and they still happen today – and in fact, the Mount Rubidoux Easter Service is generally considered the longest-running outdoor Easter service in the United States. I blogged about it in May of 2008.

The tiny dark dot at the base of the cross is actually a guy sitting with his back to the cross. Up on top of the world, it’s a good place to think.

Looking west, toward Jurupa and Rubidoux, and the Santa Ana River // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

The view, looking west, toward Jurupa and Rubidoux, and the Santa Ana River. The top of the mount is exactly 500 feet above the banks of the Santa Ana River below.

View of Downtown Riverside // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

And the view to the east – Downtown Riverside, including the historical cemetery on the bottom left.

Blue Flowers / Photo: Cheryl Spelta

And finally I’ll end with something floral – I just can’t resist the lure of blue flowers, first thing in the morning!

A Lazy Summer Day

White Bougenvia // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

This is how today feels… bright, sunny, summery, beautiful, and hot.

Shot on the path up Mount Rubidoux, in Riverside, California.

Jury Duty in Riverside, California

Riverside Courthouse // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I’ve never served on a jury before. It’s not exactly something I wanted to do, but it’s definitely a civic duty and I believe in our judicial system, and since Riverside County seems to summon citizens exactly once a year without fail, it was really only a matter of time before I was selected.

Honestly I enjoyed the trial itself – it was a quick one, only a few days – and the process was fascinating. But once the trial was over, and jury deliberations started, that’s when it got ugly. I was sort of stunned by how easily some of my fellow jurors threw the judge’s instructions out the window – and how some were more interested in following their gut reactions, rather than just rely on the evidence. To say it was an eye-opening experience is to put it mildly. I still believe in our system, but I’m even more grateful that it’s 12 jurors, and not 6 or 8!

Riverside Courthouse // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I took these images on the first day, with my iPhone at lunch. The courthouse was built in 1904, and was modeled after the Grand and Petit Palais in Paris – so it’s absolutely beautiful! And it has orange trees growing in front, reminiscent of Riverside’s heydey – and they were in full bloom. Orange blossoms may be my all-time favorite scent – just pure heaven. And the area around the courthouse is equally as beautiful – it’s right in the middle of downtown, just blocks from where I used to live.

Riverside Courthouse // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Overall the experience was stressful and not fun, but I’m glad I was able to do it. It felt good to see the system working, and it felt good to be a part of it. But if that was my one and only time behind those closed juror doors, that would be fine with me!

Oh, and the newspaper headline in the image above is NOT from the trial I was on. That was the headline on the local paper the first day I served, and it just jumped out at me, so I shot the image in front of the courthouse. I am extremely thankful I wasn’t a part of a trial with an ending like that!

Mount Rubidoux in Riverside, California

When I lived in downtown Riverside in 1999, one of my neighbors mentioned that if you walked up our street – Ninth Street – you could walk all the way up Mount Rubidoux. And she told me they held Easter Services there. But I never actually walked the two blocks up to the entrance – I drove by it – but never made the walk.

Mount Rubidoux

The plaque in the gate at the entrance to the park. Frank Miller was the owner of the Mission Inn during it’s heydey – he took the Inn from a local boarding house, to a world-class hotel with eclectic architecture that hosted all the U.S. Presidents of the day. Mount Rubidoux was another one of his projects – he bought it with investors, planted vegetation, erected the cross, and then sold the plots at it’s base for houses. In other words, it was a housing development!

I didn’t climb all the way to the top today – I only went about half-way up – but I found some beautiful things to shoot!

Pale Pink Bogenvia

Just some bogenvia – but it’s one of my favorite versions – it’s pale cream or almost white with pale pink edges. It’s the most delicate looking of all the varieties of bogenvia.

Pale Pink Bogenvia

More pale pink bogenvia.

Bright Orange Bogenvia

This image just blows me away. I knew it was special as I shot it, but I like it even better now. The circle, the way the leaves glow, the soft light, the natural vignetting, the extremely shallow depth of field. It’s just beautiful.

Orange that turns to Pale Pink Bogenvia

This is my other favorite variety of bogenvia – pale orange that turns to pale pink on the edges. The image is fairly basic, but the flowers are magnificent!

Wonderful purples and greens

And this image was the second time that magic struck today. Look at the wonderful purples and greens in the blurred background. It’s amazing. I took half-a-dozen shots of this branch, and all the shots had that wonderful magical mess happening in the background.

white tree with no leaves, gorgeous rust stained rocks, and wildflowers

This was the image that I came to Mount Rubidoux to make. I was in love with the wonderful blue sky – thanks to the Northeast wind and 100° temperature today. And the white tree with no leaves, and the gorgeous rust stained rocks, and the wildflowers – it’s exactly what I envisioned and the best representational image for the day. Hot, bright blue, and beautiful!

Grape vines or ivy vines

Grape vines, or ivy vines – I’m not sure – but whatever it was, it was interesting. And with the sun directly behind, I liked it even better.

Wind Whipped Weeds

And then my very favorite image of the day, of the week, and maybe of the whole month. So simple and so flippin’ beautiful. The wind was blowing hard, and these weeds were whipping around, in a dance. The whole series is beautiful, but this one frame is the ONE. My favorite…

And I’ll finish this post with a couple of vintage postcards showing Mount Rubidoux.

This postcard was made sometime before 1920 – notice the cars parked below. The park was created right after the turn of the century, and the first Easter services were held in 1909, with 100 people attending. Generally acknowledged as the oldest large outdoor Easter service in the United States, the idea spread to other areas, and soon sunrise Easter services were happening all across the nation. In 1926, 20,000 people attended the Mount Rubidoux Easter Sunrise Service.

What amazes me about the photo above is not just the large number of people, but also the small number of cars – most of those people walked up, in their Easter Sunday clothes.

Historical postcard of Mount Rubidoux, 1947

And this is Mount Rubidoux in 1947 – still not much development in the valley below.

Edited to add: I went back to Mount Dubidoux in July of 2009 and made some gorgeous images of the bridge, the cross, and the valley below. They really are beautiful images, so you’re interested in Mount Rubidoux here’s the link!

Old Houses in Riverside

Craftsmen Houses in Riverside, California

I’ve had a thing for downtown Riverside for years. I’ve always loved little old houses, and streets with lots of old houses are just heaven for me. But I’d never seen so many old houses, in such good condition until I found Riverside.

In 1885, Riverside California had the highest per capita income of any city in the United States because of the orange groves. And a lot of the houses built in that era still exist – huge Victorians on tiny city lots, with no backyards, but big trees in front. The economy stayed strong into the next century, and the houses built reflected that – the Craftsmen Homes pictured above were probably built between 1900 and 1905. And a decade or so later, art deco bungalows started to appear. Nearly every house in the downtown area is charming and full of authentic period details – and the styles represented range from Victorians in the 1880’s through 1940’s modern.

But a funny thing happened after 1950. Riverside’s economy started to suffer, and the wealthier people started to move out of the downtown area. In downtown San Diego and Los Angeles lots of old houses were torn down in the 1950’s and 60’s – they were just old houses, and out of fashion, and the land was valuable, so the houses had to go. But in Riverside, the land was not in demand – so the houses stayed. And in many cases there was very little effort made to renovate or redecorate. The houses may have been old fashioned, and not as desirable, but they still made good homes for less wealthy families.

When I first discovered downtown Riverside, it was in 1995 at the very bottom of the market. Cute little Victorians that were completely authentic and totally untouched by misguided renovators were selling for very very little. I went to an auction and saw several go for less than $10,000 each – and they were livable homes.

That was the bottom. But the real estate boom of the early part of this decade changed everything. I spent six months living in the top story of a hundred-year-old house in 1998 and paid $450 a month in rent – it was great! And I looked at cute little bungalows selling for $90,000 and wondered where the $10,000 houses I’d seen three years before had gone? Then in 2005 I saw those same houses going for $350,000 and up. It was madness. But compared to Northern San Diego County, where the same house would go for $750,000, they were still a bargain.

The worst part for me though, is that all that money meant that almost all of those houses have had significant “improvements” made in the last ten years. Most people that like old houses, don’t reallllly like old houses – they want it to look old, but still have a modern kitchen and bathroom. Not me! I loved the original ceramic tile I had in one house, and the little drop leaf table. I love old plumbing fixtures, and doors that creak, and windows that let a draft in, around the edges. It makes me really sad to think about all those improvements.

The fact that Riverside suffered economically in the middle of the last century protected all those great old houses – and the fact that Riverside prospered more recently means that a lot of them have been gutted and renovated recently. It’s sad.

Even sadder is the fact that more old houses have been lost in the last two or three years, than in two or three decades before. There are way too many empty lots where old houses used to stand. They claim it’s progress, but it’s not even close to progress in my opinion – it’s short-sighted greed. And I remember those houses – they may be gone – but I remember.

I love Fallbrook, and it’s my home, but I also love downtown Riverside and the tree-lined streets and so many beautiful little houses. Streets like the one above call out to me…

Moving to Riverside

Big news! I’m getting ready to move to Riverside and I’m really excited about it.

I’ve lived in San Diego for almost my entire life – I was born here! But I did spend six months once in a cute little apartment on the top floor of an old Victorian in downtown Riverside. I’m a huge fan of 100-year-old houses so Riverside is nirvana for me. In 1885 the area had the highest per-capita income in the United States, because of the orange groves, and the residents put their money into their houses – and thankfully a lot of those Victorians and Craftsmen homes still exist. Plus there are smaller cottages from the twenties and thirties on the same streets. My favorite area is directly west of the Mission Inn. The realtors tend to prefer the Wood Streets area, which is just a few blocks south, and it’s a very nice area – and it does have old houses – but that neighborhood feels a little “newer” to me, and with me, the older the better!

So with the move looming, I’ve been doing a lot of commuting. The last two weeks I’ve split my time between my current home, and hotels, and my mother’s house, since she lives closer to Riverside than I currently do. Just a few more weeks to go, and then I’ll be settled in Riverside and ready to get to work. I’m looking forward to it!