Gilman Springs Road

Gilman Springs Road
Just a little plug for one of my other sites! is where I blog about my new hometown, and I love this image so much, I wanted to share it here too. It was shot on Gilman Springs Road, just outside of San Jacinto, on the way to Riverside. To see more, go to

(Note: As of August 2013, I’ve moved to Riverside, California, and is no more. But I still love the images from this day, so I’ve added two more below. Enjoy!)

Gilman Springs RoadGilman Springs Road

Images in the Desert Valley Star

Desert Valley StarThe Desert Valley Star, in the Coachella Valley, published several of my images in their current issue, on newsstands now!

The Idyllwild Monument is set to debut in it’s permanent location, in the center of town, on November 8th. My images of both the monument and David Roy, the artist, are used in companion to a story that begins on page 3, and continues on page 21.

It’s a really good looking weekly publication – and it’s fairly new – it debuted in 2008. So pick up a copy in print, if you can! They also have the full issue available online at

related posts

>> Idyllwild Town Monument by David Roy

Idyllwild Monument in the Desert Valley Star

Desert Valley Star

I have a palm tree!

My Palm Tree // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsI haven’t written much about my new home here – I’m still in the middle of painting and building shelves and removing wallpaper – which is NOT fun. Well painting is fun, but removing wallpaper is definitely not! But today I wanted to share one of my favorite things about my new home. I have a palm tree!

I would probably never plant a palm tree – I don’t really care for the short ones, I like the super-tall Hollywood palm trees that line main streets all over Southern California. The kind of palm trees that are disappearing in some areas. The kind of palm tree that’s expensive, and takes many years to reach it’s full height. The kind that doesn’t add much value to the landscaping of an individual home, since they’re so tall, you don’t even see them unless you look up.

But this house came with exactly the kind of palm tree that I like best.

It’s as tall as they come, just as tall as the palm trees in Hollywood. It’s in a corner of the yard and it’s so tall, you don’t even see it – unless of course you look up… Which is exactly what I did today!

An added bonus? I can see where my house is from at least a mile away – I just have to look for that sky-high palm.

Nathan in the summer of 2010

One of the best parts about my new home in Hemet is that it comes with a garage that faces the North. That may not mean much to most people, but as an artist the words “Northern Light” make me all feel all tingly inside.

What’s so special about Northern Light? Well picture the globe, spinning on it’s axis… No, that’s way too complicated.

Okay, picture yourself at home, and note the position of the sun at different times of the day. In the morning the sun is obviously in the east and at sunset it’s in the west. Easy. But there’s more to it! Depending on where you are in the world, the sun is also a little to the south or a little north of you – just a little – all day long – but it’s an important distinction.

Since I’m in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is usually a little south – so the plants on the southern side of my house get more sun and the plants on the northern side get more shade. Fairly basic stuff, right? But, that’s not the fun part – the fun begins if you have a window on the northern side of your house – I call it make everybody beautiful light! No direct light at all – just lots of soft light bouncing around outside and illuminating the subject. Beautiful!

And if you have a garage facing north, and you raise the garage door? That’s like a big huge natural softbox, only better.

The only thing I like better is a garage facing west… You can get the golden glow of late afternoon, but because you’re under a big roof, there’s no direct sun, and so no squinting – it’s really really beautiful. But, the drawback with western light is that it’s not quite as flattering as northern light.

My nephew Nathan spent a little time in California on his summer vacation, and he volunteered to help me test in my studio/garage space.

Nathan // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Can you believe that light?! Beautiful! And Nathan is beautiful as well. When I saw this image, I felt like it’s a glimpse of the man he will become. He looks soooo mature here!

We also shot a little out in Winchester Valley, just for fun – and I’ll post those here as well. It was a fun day!

Nathan // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsNathan // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Nathan in Winchester, California. // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

What I dream of…

Old houses in Riverside, CaliforniaDreams. You hear the word and some of you immediately think of goals and plans and making your dreams come true. And others will hear the word and immediately think of sleeping, and fantasy and the part of your life that happens subconsciously, deep in the night. The two definitions are so different, but sometimes I think, intimately entwined.

I dream about houses – in all senses of the word. I definitely dream and plan and have a goal to buy a house – absolutely! And I also dream about houses while sleeping. I think the overlap happens because it’s one of my deepest and purest desires – a little old house of my very own…

When I was a little girl I remember being attracted to old houses – if there was a Victorian house on a street, my eyes would immediately be glued to it, and I’d turn around in the back seat of the car, to look as long as I possibly could. It was a huge attraction. And I could tell the difference between truly old houses, and new houses that had been built to look old – and had big disdain for the latter. My parents built three different brand-new custom houses while I was growing up – houses in the best neighborhoods – with tile roofs and huge yards – but there I was lusting after the little old Victorian cottages we only saw when we went to Downtown San Diego. Even so, I’m definitely my father’s daughter – he may have liked brand new construction and perfect newness and I liked worn wood and wavy vintage glass windows – but deep down, our passion for houses was very similar – just different in the details.

My first apartment was the bottom story of an old house in San Diego, and since then I’ve lived in lots of rented old houses – but I’ve never owned one.

About a year-and-a-half ago I had a dream – I woke up thinking about this little old yellow house with a dusty yard. It was run down and needed work, but in the dream it was mine – my house – my home. And I was going to get to paint and repair and restore it, and make it look like it did in it’s heyday. It was such a vivid dream! And when I woke up I couldn’t shake it. At the time I was still thinking I wanted to live in LA – for business reasons – and this house just did not fit with the plan. But the dream and this dream house kept pulling at me…

I’ve always heard that when you dream about a house, the house represents you – and the different rooms represent different aspects of your personality. So if you find new rooms in your house while dreaming, you’re discovering new parts of your personality or new things you’d like to try. So I wasn’t quite sure what it meant when I was dreaming about a run down little old house in another city, when I thought I wanted to be in LA? How could I reconcile that?

But there was something about the dream that stuck with me. The house just felt like home. It felt like me. Even if I wasn’t sure I liked that.

This week, on a whim I did a search on and the house in my dream popped up – and I was instantly drawn to it. Built in 1893, a Victorian cottage with a front porch on a dusty, weed-filled lot. Then I saw the photo of the kitchen – two-tone 1930’s tile work and 1930’s cabinets. Yes, it’s definitely the personification of the house in my dream.

And while I’m not ready to buy right now, Riverside has lots of similar homes, and when I am ready, there will be one for me. I know that. I dreamed it!

The image on top is the house as I saw it in my dream – sort of blurry and happy and soft. And the image below is how the rest of the world sees such a house – run down, and needing work. I’m honestly in love with both views. I’m easy when it comes to my dream house…

Victorian cottage in Riverside, California

More from Idyllwild

Just a few more images from Idyllwild last weekend….

Idyllwild RedwoodIdyllwild Wildflowers

I love this old redwood tree – it may not be as large as some of the giants up in Northern California, but it’s still massive – and beautiful. I also love the moss growing up the side. If viewed from the right angle, the redwood resembles a person with arms reaching up. It reminds me of the trees in fairy tales – not the scary trees that reach out and grab you – but the friendly good trees who are wise and kind, and shelter you from the elements.

And of course I have to include a few images of wildflowers! In idyllwild the wildflowers get a late start, since the elevation is so high, so they’re still going strong in the beginning of July.

Idyllwild WildflowersRedwood Tree in Idyllwild

Idyllwild Flowers

Lily Rock, Idyllwild, California

And finally, the obligatory shot of Lily Rock. When most people think of Idyllwild, they think of Lily Rock – or Taquitz as it’s sometimes called – depends on who you’re talking to! I’ve personally never made an image of it that really excites me. Maybe it’s because everyone who comes to Idyllwild feels compelled to photograph it? Maybe it’s because I’ve seen some really excellent images of it? Maybe because landscape photography is not really my forte, and a shot like this is best left to the professionals? I’m not sure why I’ve never quite hit it – but I can pretty much guarantee that I’m not done trying. Someday I’ll get it!

Estudillo Mansion in San Jacinto | 2010

In February of 2006, in one of my very first blog posts, I blogged about the Estudillo Mansion. An old family friend was deeply involved with helping to save it, and gave me and a few of my family members a private tour – it was incredibly cool! I got to see it in the middle of the restoration – and shoot it…

Since then a lot has changed at the mansion! I was there this weekend on Sunday, so I wasn’t able to go inside this time, but I was able to roam the grounds freely, and they’re beautiful. Hopefully soon I’ll get there on a Saturday – the only day it’s open – so that I can see the inside again. I’m excited to see what they’ve done to the interior.

Estudillo Mansion

If you know me, you know how I feel about fruit trees used in landscaping – I love it! It’s very Victorian – fruit and flowers – all mixed together. Just lush… And oranges? Just so Southern Californian!

Estudillo Mansion

The mansion was built in 1885 by Fransisco Estudillo, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, and dedicated in 2004. The plaque above is located on a stand in front of the house and reads… “May all who visit this distinguished edifice enjoy it’s beauty and remarkable history.”

Estudillo Mansion100-year-old Pepper Tree // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

The pepper tree on the right is huge, and old, and I’m definitely not an expert but I do know that pepper trees this large can be 100-years-old, so I like to imagine that this tree was planted right around the turn of the last century, and has been there almost as long as the house. Known as the California Pepper Tree, they were actually brought here from Peru by the Franciscan Friars – they were planted at the California missions – so they’re definitely historically correct! The whole inside of this particular tree is hollow, so I’m not sure how much longer it will survive, but it’s lovely to see still standing – so many people are so quick to chop down trees that are not “perfect looking” but this tree is still beautiful in it’s own way – and all the huge old trees make the back yard at least ten degrees cooler than the front yard – it was 95° F in San Jacinto on Sunday, but in the shade of all those trees in the back yard? It was wonderful!

Old Bricks // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

If you look closely you can see all the different shades of mortar that have been used to repair this wall over the years.

Garden at the Estudillo MansionGarden at the Estudillo Mansion

These guys are located out in the side garden – if I remember correctly this garden was originally the “kitchen garden” – meaning it was where they grew spices and vegetables – and when it was time to start a meal, the cook would wander out in the garden and pick whatever was ripe and ready, and then go cook it in the kitchen – which was not attached to the house – too much of a fire danger. The attached kitchen was added to the house much later.

Estudillo Mansion

Sorry, We're Closed // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Yeah, only open on Saturday afternoons… Oh well!

Green BranchEstudillo Mansion // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Brick wall at the Estudillo Mansion

I was surprised by the number of donors with the last name of Estudillo. This wall is located in the garden, it’s not part of the house – as you can see it’s made of modern bricks – not the more narrow vintage bricks of the main house.

Cactus FlowersLilly Pads

Garden at the Estudillo MansionVIP Parking

Above is a garden, where every plant has a little plaque. It could be worth exploring all on it’s own – on another day…

And isn’t the sign on the right cute? I don’t know who it refers to? But it’s definitely fun!

For more on the Estudillo Mansion, there was an article in the Press Enterprise in 2008, that describes the 15-year-old mission to save it, and mentions my grandparents’ old friends, Dick and Del Kroker.

Idyllwild Town Monument by David Roy

I’ve been watching the progress on the Idyllwild Town Monument for a couple of years now as I drove by in my car, and yesterday I decided to get a closer look. The artist, David Roy, was busy working, but he took a minute to pose for me.

David RoyIdyllwild Town Monument

Idyllwild Town MonumentSign about the Monument

Gargoyles in Idyllwild

The entrance to the artist’s workspace is pictured above – notice the stone lamp posts and the Gargoyles atop each one – they’re wonderful! And funnily enough, they don’t seem out of place in Idyllwild…

David Roybear-statue

David Roy at work, and one of the many other pieces of his work, on the property.

Idyllwild Town Monumentdetail of wood carving

I wasn’t the only one stopping to look – the monument is a big tourist attraction. Note the guy with a camera up to his eye – I wasn’t the only one shooting photographs either! And in fact, the artist encourages it! For more on David Roy, see


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

Wildflowers in Menifee

Purple Wildflowers in Menifee // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsYellow Wildflowers in Menifee // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I’ve heard the wildflowers in the desert are really magnificent this year – we got a lot of rain in January and February! But even if you don’t get out into the true desert, you can find patches of really pretty wildflowers just off the freeway, all over Riverside County. These images were taken this afternoon, eleven minutes apart on McCall Road in Menifee, on the corner of Encanto for the first image, and on the corner of Sherman Road for the second – in other words, less than a block from the freeway.