A Big New Decade

I’m still not sure how we’re supposed to talk about this new decade – are we saying twenty-ten or two-thousand-ten? My friends seem evenly split on the issue – I polled them in person, on Facebook, and on Twitter… so clearly, I want to know!  The best suggestion I got was just to say it in French… “Deux mille dix” See, instant sexiness, bound to make the year better!

But going into a new decade demands more than just knowing how to talk about it – it also demands a new plan – right? Do you really want to go into a brand new decade doing the same old things, thoughtlessly? Isn’t it sort of important to reflect and evaluate and evolve? I think so.

The thing is, I’m a little scared.

Don’t get me wrong, I think you have to push sometimes to make things happen – and that can be scary – so I’m used to embracing a little bit of fear. And honestly, when I break it down, nothing I’ve got hovering on the horizon is all that scary – but add it all together and it becomes a great big intimidating plan that honestly feels just a tiny bit overwhelming.

I remember where I was at the turn of the last decade (and last century!), and I really only had one goal. I wanted desperately to go from feeling like a girl with potential, to feeling like a full-blown artist, who could make things happen. And guess what? Somewhere in the last decade that happened – beautifully – and effortlessly. Like it was meant to be. But really, how could it not be meant to be? It was my heart’s most honest desire at the time…

My heart’s desire going into this decade though is a little more complex. I want more. As in more, more, more! Not just a little bit, but a lot.

Artistically, I want to build my body of work, with new images that really challenge who and what I am. I don’t just want more of the same, I want evolution as an artist.

Financially, I want success. At least some success in the financial arena. It’s not something I was much interested in previously, but after the last couple of years watching so much financial turmoil in the world, I’m suddenly wanting more success and more money.

And lifestyle-wise, I want a home. Something permanent and forever. I’ve flitted and floated and had lots of wonderful adventures over the years, but I’m feeling a desire to settle in one spot now and grow some roots.

See, none of that is all that scary, and I am talking about a whole decade – not just a year – right? Well yes and no! I’ve got plans to move forward in all three of those areas really soon. Lots of plans. Big plans. And yeah, it’s just a little bit scary. But scary can be good – it’s a sign that something big is about to happen – and in my opinion, that’s a very good thing!

So what have you got planned for this big new decade? Whatever it is, I wish you lots and lots of good luck! Especially, if it’s just a little bit scary…

Some of my favorite things in 2009

I thought it might be fun to wrap up 2009 with a couple of lists of my favorite things! So here goes…

My 5 favorite songs of 2009
Based on number of plays in iTunes….

  • Brand New Day, Ryan Star
  • New Day, Tamar Kaprelian
  • Right Now, Ryan Star
  • Honest I’ll Wait, Lovehammers
  • Neverfall, Lovehammers

My favorite blog posts by other people in 2009
A very long list….

And finally, my 5 favorite photos of 2009
Based on how I feel today, it could and probably will change tomorrow…

Snow in Idyllwild // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Wiltern Theatre // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsWiltern Theatre // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Mount Rubidoux // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Nathan // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Some of my favorite things…

Floto Casiana Mini // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsFavorite Fun Read: Cranky Actress Blog
If you ever were an actor, or thought about acting, or want to act, then you gotta read Cranky’s Blog! She may be telling the complete truth or she may be making it all up – but either way, she makes me laugh! Honestly, my usual impulse is to steer clear of cranky people. Who has time for all that complaining? But I’ll make an exception for Cranky Actress, because she’s so much fun!

Favorite Bag: Floto Imports
I love these bags! I have the Casiana Tote and the Casiana Mini, both in black and they’re so cool they make me want to travel more – as if I needed any impetus in that direction! Beautiful leather, Italian style, and enough room to carry everything easily. I’m just in love… And I’ve had them for two years already, and use them often, and they still look great. I fully expect to still be in love years from now! Maybe someday I’ll add another Mini in orange to my collection? That might cause a love overdose!

Favorite Twitter-related Service: BackTweets
Twitter shortens long URLs, which is great, but if you want to do a search for all the times your website was mentioned on Twitter, those shortened URLs made it impossible – before now. BackTweets changes that! I only found a handful of mentions of my site by using it, but they were all really fun finds – so it’s my new favorite toy!

Favorite Site Design: DreamerLines
I just love the way this site works! There are no pages, you hit tabs and fly to your destination. Deceptively simple and incredibly cool…

My Absolute Favorite Thing This Week: The Water Necklace
It’s brand new and beautiful, and shimmery silver – what’s not to love? It’s from the MXC Silver Elements Collection, and while I didn’t shoot the campaign for this season, I love this piece! And it looks really good on me!

Silver Elements Water Necklace // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Josh and Nathan

My brother and his family moved out of state last week – so before they left California, I shot a few quick portraits of my nephews. Their new home is far away from Southern California, and who knows when I’ll see them again, so it was a good time!

My first goal was to get a beautiful headshot of each of them – something that Grandma could hang on the wall. I definitely feel we achieved that goal!

Nathan // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Josh in Fallbrook // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Nathan // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsJosh // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Josh // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsNathan // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Nathan // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsJosh // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

The second goal was to do a portrait that they got to set up themselves – Josh wanted a shot with his guitar, rock star-style, and Nathan wanted a shot in his bedroom, comfy and relaxed, with bare feet. Very different choices, but I love both images we ended up with!

Josh with his Guitar // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsNathan with his Bass // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

America’s Forgotten Sweetheart

America's Forgotten SweetheartI received an email yesterday from one of the authors of a new book on Ruth Etting, coming out this fall. Ruth Etting: America’s Forgotten Sweetheart, by Kenneth Irwin and Charles O. Lloyd will be published by Scarecrow Press and is the first full-length biography of her life.

As excited as I am about the book, I’m maybe even more excited about the photo on the cover! It’s an image I’ve never seen before, and it features the pearls-around-her-upper-arm-look that I love – and in fact, the dress has strings of pearls hanging down her back, and off one hip. Ruth Etting wore pearls like no one else! Check out these images for further proof! 1, 2, and 3

More on the book…

“In Ruth Etting: America’s Forgotten Sweetheart, authors Kenneth Irwin and Charles Lloyd provide the first full-length biography of this ground-breaking artist. This book recounts Etting’s early hears as a pioneering radio performer who quickly attained national celebrity, her recording career as “Sweetheart of Columbia Records,” and her innovative work in early short subjects. The authors detail Etting’s unhappy marriage to her husband-manager, Martin (Moe “The Gimp”) Snyder, her second marriage to pianist arranger Myrl Alderman, and her Colorado Springs retirement. They also examine Etting’s place in the history of American entertainment, specifically her trend-setting vocal style and her innovative work in phonograph recordings and radio performance–as well as her enormous popularity throughout the 1930s and beyond.”

For more on the book and more on the authors, check out their website!
And for more on Ruth Etting, check out RuthEtting.com!

Memorial Day Weekend

I am so proud of my Mom! She’s always appreciated my talent and the images I produce, but she never really got into photography herself – until today.

My Aunt and Grandma and Mom were all in the same place at the same time – it is Memorial Day Weekend, and Idyllwild is perfect this time of year, so of course I was going to do some spontaneous portraits! And then it happened, she asked if I wanted her to shoot a couple of me. Now my Mom has always been one who rations shots – whether it was film or digital. Growing up she’d shoot exactly one frame of each event – maybe two frames if you got lucky. And she’s always astonished at the number of images I take. And when I said yes, and handed her my camera, she was a little surprised at how heavy it was, and how hard it was to hold up and press the shutter at the same time. I had an 85mm 1.2 lens on it, so she wasn’t wrong, it was heavy, so I expected her to shoot maybe four or five frames, just to be nice, and then be done. But I was wrong! She ended up shooting 40 frames! She started a little slow, but before long she was telling me to tilt my chin, look up, and smile like I had a secret. I was laughing so hard, and loving it so much, I had a hard time following her directions. But she was patient with me, and kept at it, determined to get the perfect shot – and she did! She actually got a shot of me that I really love. And to be honest, most of what she got is good. I really do like the majority of the stuff she shot.

So my Mom is now a photographer! Amazing things happen every day…

Vicki // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsSharon // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
My Aunt Vicki and my Mom, the new photographer!

Cheryl SpeltsGinny // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Me and and my beautiful Grandma

Memorial Day Weekend // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

And the three of them in front of the cabin. Doesn’t the yard look magnificent? It’s amazing when you think about how all that was under three feet of snow not that long ago.

Naturally Thin

In December of 2007 I gave up Diet Coke – not completely, I still have one occasionally, socially. But I gave it up as a daily drink.

I blogged about it in December, then on New Years Day, and then again later in January when I had finally kicked the habit. In other words, it was a big deal to me. Twenty years of loving it and drinking it daily and being addicted to it – not an easy thing to break free from!

I decided to give it up because I knew it was bad for me, and I knew it was an appetite stimulant, and I knew it was the next step I needed to take, if I wanted to get healthier, thinner, and more beautiful – but I never guessed such a simple act would have such a big impact. It’s not like I hadn’t given up Diet Coke before – I had – sometimes for months at a time – but I always went back. Maybe I never stuck with it long enough to really notice the changes that occurred when I wasn’t drinking it daily? You’d think that a couple of months would be enough time to notice some changes – but those changes never seemed like they were all that big – and the siren song of that cool silver can was so strong that I always gave in, eventually.

So what was different this time? I guess I just decided that even though the improvements might be slight, they were still improvements, so I was going to stick with it – for good. But surprisingly the changes this time were not quite as slight as I thought – and overall, they added up to something pretty impressive.

Yes, I knew that Diet Coke is an appetite stimulant, but I never went without it long enough to see what happened to my eating habits when that stimulant was removed. After a month or so I started to notice that I wanted less – the portions on my plate for each meal shrunk – without any conscious thought on my part.

And yes I knew that eating, or in this case drinking, one extreme food, causes your body to crave other extreme foods – in this case junk food. But I never left Diet Coke alone long enough to really feel the cravings for junky foods lessen, so it was a real surprise to me to find that I was eating less fast food and less junk food, without any concentrated effort on my part – but that’s exactly what happened.

And yes I knew that caffeine can interrupt your sleep patterns, and that lack of sleep is one of the leading causes of weight gain, but I really didn’t think it would have that big of an impact on my body. I mean, I slept fine – right? But once I gave up Diet Coke, my sleep patterns did change, and I did find I was sleeping longer.

So fewer bad chemicals were going into my body, my appetite was less overall, healthier food started to replace the junk, I was sleeping better and longer – those are major changes when you add them up – and they all stemmed from giving up Diet Coke. I did nothing else. Just gave up my daily Diet Coke.

By the end of last year, on my one-year anniversary of giving up Diet Coke, I had lost 25% of the weight I would like to lose – and with very little conscious effort on my part. It was as simple as give up Diet Coke and then watch my body change. Totally easy! I’ve now lost almost 33% of the weight I would like to lose – so I’m almost a third of the way to my ideal weight, and that feels great!

So why did it take me sooooo long to discover this? I’ve weighed more than I’ve wanted to for years, and I’ve felt like dieting was nearly impossible, and that I was lacking in will power. And the only real problem was a little drug I put in my body daily that messed up my whole system? A little drug called Diet Coke? That sounds impossible and improbable and there must be more to it – right? But there isn’t. The only real change I made was giving up Diet Coke, everything else stemmed from that one little decision and occurred naturally without much effort from me.

I also know that the rate of loss may slow down, and that’s fine – truly! I feel confident now that when it does start to slow, I will be able to look at my portion sizes and scale down a little. Adjust! That confidence comes from over a year of seeing progress – slow progress – but still progress, and rethinking how much is the right amount to eat. It sounds overly simple, and why couldn’t I do it before, if that’s all there is to it? But I have to say, the edge that Diet Coke gave me, as wonderful as it felt at the time, also make me want to overeat and clearly I wasn’t able to win that battle. It wasn’t a fierce battle – I never fought that hard. Diet Coke for me, caused a perception that I needed slightly more food that I really did – and even just a tiny bit extra over time can add up to lots of extra pounds. I’ve read about people who binge or who eat massive amounts of food – that was never me. I never ate to squash down my feelings either. I just let that Diet Coke edge cause me to consume slightly too many calories every single day, for years on end. So yeah, now that I’ve removed that edge, I do feel confident that my body is on it’s way to reverting back to it’s natural pre-Diet Coke state. And what is that state? I’m hoping naturally thin!

I really do believe that our bodies want to be healthy and balanced, and that if we treat our bodies right, and give them what they need they will balance out on their own naturally. It’s not natural to be overweight – it’s an imbalance – but for years I didn’t know why I was so imbalanced – and now I do.

At the rate I’m going it could take me years to get down to a naturally healthy weight – but that’s fine, I’m in no hurry. I have absolutely no desire to diet – in fact I plan to never diet again – and that feels so good to say! I do plan to continue to make adjustments in my eating habits – I expect my portion sizes to continue to evolve as my body gets thinner. But I don’t want to be the girl who won’t eat cake because she’s on a diet – I want to be the girl who is happy with a few bits of cake, and loves it, and never feels deprived. In other words I want to be normal, and thin, naturally.

And I will never cut out a food entirely – not even Diet Coke! There will always be a place for it in my life – in moderation – like maybe once a month? That seems to be working for me now – and I like the way things are going at this point!

Biggest Dreams & Worst Nightmares

I think it’s interesting how often love and fear collide. And I guess it makes sense, since if nothing is at stake, then what would there be to fear? And truly, what is the absence of love? It’s fear. And if love and fear are connected, then obviously so are our biggest dreams and worst nightmares. Unfortunately dreams and nightmares go hand in hand, far too often.

When I was younger my biggest dream was to be on the silver screen – in a movie. I also wanted to do TV, but movies were the pinnacle for me – the biggest dream I had! But then I discovered photography, and my passions turned toward art, and my dreams evolved – and it happened long before I even got close to seeing myself on a movie screen. I got on TV in a couple of VERY minor ways – once as an extra in a crowd scene in 1989 on Simon and Simon, a cop show on CBS set in San Diego. And then in 1992 I was on the local San Diego NBC News on election day – dressed in royal blue, making phone calls for my candidate of choice, I got the full treatment with the microphone cord under my shirt, and I was instructed when to start and what to do – it was more “making” news than anything else, but I thought it was great!

But I never made it to the big screen, until this year. It started with an interview for a local cable program called Life in California. I had shot a photo documentary of the Fallbrook Film Festival, and this TV show was doing a segment on the festival, and somehow it ended up that they wanted to interview me. Cool! So I show up for the interview dressed in my most flattering best, with my hair as fabulous as is possible, and I tried hard to forget how I looked, and focus on what I had to say. I mean who cares what I look like? It’s my images that count – right? Not my looks. But for anyone who has ever been an actress, that’s hard. It’s hard for anyone, but for an actress, even harder. And just because I’m now an ex-actress, doesn’t mean that the old fears don’t still exist. And when I saw where they wanted to do the interview, I cringed inside, but didn’t let it show. What could I do? They planned to have the camera placed below me and the interviewer, pointing up, which is the best way to make me look fatter. Oh, and I was to be in profile, which is the second best way to make me look fatter. And to top it off, we were to be seated – which is of course, the third quickest way to make me look fatter. It was my nightmare scenario. Truly! But I had two things going for me. One, deep inside of me, the actress part of me who had the big dreams still exists, and two, I have great passion for the subject matter – my art – so I just plunged right in and did it. And it was fun!

The interview ended up lasting close to thirty minutes – it was really in-depth, and it’s fun to talk about art, especially your own art. I did panic a little the next day, and called the producer to make sure I’d done okay – that I wasn’t too gushy, or too dorky, or too over-the-top enthusiastic. He told me I’d been “great” but that didn’t reassure me much, since I’m sure they tell every trainwreck/hot mess/loser who appears on every reality show just how “great” they were – good TV doesn’t always mean yes, you came across as classy, talented and hot. Sometimes it means you were a total mess, but hey, it was entertaining!

But even with all the worry about how I looked and how I sounded and how I came across, I was still actually looking forward to seeing it on TV someday. On TV.

Then I found out they were going to have a premiere of that particular episode at the local movie theater. And that’s when the fear really stuck me down. Appearing on a little TV screen was one thing, on the big silver screen was just another thing all together. The idea of me, looking ugly and fat, on a HUGE screen? It terrified me. At that point I didn’t even care what I said. I could have been spouting off pure nonsense and I would not have cared. All I could focus on was ugly, fat, and thirty feet high on a movie screen.

I came so close to not going. I wouldn’t let my family go, and none of them could understand why? Who could understand? But it was my worst nightmare – I just knew it!

But…. somewhere deep inside, I was still aware that it was also one of my biggest dreams about to come true. And if I missed it, I might be missing the only time I would ever see myself on a movie screen. Did I really want to miss that? Yeah, it might be awful, but still, it was a dream come true…

So on the big day I went with my mother, who would not be dissuaded, and the theater was much bigger and much fuller than I would have liked. We took seats near the front – I figured that if this was IT for me, the big dream come true, then I wanted to be really close and get the full experience. Even if it killed me! But surprisingly it didn’t kill me. They showed lots of my images from the Film Festival, I sounded fairly smart and what I said made sense, and while I did look fat, it was okay. I started to breathe again, and to actually enjoy it. The segment on me went on much longer than I expected, and my mom kept squeezing my arm, she was so happy. Experiencing that with my mother was very very cool, and it made me sad that I’d denied the rest of my family. What was I thinking? It was a fun and cool thing, and they only wanted to share that with me. I kept the little ticket stub from that day as a memento, and I came away feeling really glad that I’d made myself go, and made myself face that huge horrible nightmare, because honestly it wasn’t so bad, and seeing myself on a movie screen, talking about art? That really was a dream come true!

My mom called me last night – she’d been flipping through the channels on TV and came across the episode with my interview, except that it was different than the version we’d seen in the movie theater. This version featured some of my images of rock stars and musicians and models, instead of just images from the film festival. And she said they showed different parts of the interview, and matched what I said up to particular images. We saw the premiere back in October, so I’m surprised her memory of it was that detailed – for me it went by in a big blur of stress and love and fear and happiness – I don’t remember the specifics of what I said! But she’s my mom, and she did!

It’s blows me away to think about how close I came to giving up something that had been one of my biggest dreams, just because it collided with what could be my worst nightmare. And I certainly haven’t kicked that particular nightmare – I’m still fearful of looking ugly and fat and all the rest. I fear that on a daily basis! But I don’t want that fear, or any other fear to stand in between me and my dreams – even an old dream that I’d nearly forgotten. It may have been an old dream, but seeing it come true was pretty sweet…

My current favorite iPhone Apps

I finally found an iPhone To-Do List App that I may like for more than five minutes…

It’s called Done, and it’s very very simple, which is exactly what I wanted. Just a simple little To-Do List that’s easy to check off, and has categories of tasks. I didn’t want to assign contexts, or due dates, or anything else complicated – and I really didn’t want to have to pay a monthly fee to use it. And this is important, I wanted it to be elegant in how it worked, and look like a native iPhone App – so many of the new Apps look like the interface was designed in the dark, by a first-grader. No thanks! I wanted a simple elegant interface that fits in with everything else on my iPhone. And I think I found it! It would have been nice if it was able to sync with my MAC, and the developers claim that’s a future feature, but in the meantime it’s not a deal breaker for me.

Oh, and it’s only $.99 in the iTunes App Store. You really can’t beat that!

And while we’re talking Apps, my current favorite is Shazam. If you hear a song and want to know who the artist is, just launch Shazam, hit the Tag Now button, and and Shazam will “listen” and then deliver up not only the name of the song and artist, but also links to purchase it on iTunes, and maybe even a link to the video on YouTube. Very, very cool and you can download it for free!

My other favorite App is only of interest to photographers. It’s called PhotoCalc and I love it for the Sunrise and Sunset times! But it also has a really handy Depth of Field calculator. I can input f/1.2 with a 50mm lens, with the subject 3 feet away, and find out that my total depth of field is exactly 0.1 feet – in other words, just a little over one inch. My focus better be spot on, if I’m shooting under those conditions, and knowing exactly how narrow the depth of field, instead of just guessing, can be really helpful. I’ll admit it, most of the time I just go on instinct – I mean I know 1.2 is extremely shallow, and that in a close up portrait if the eyes are in focus, the nose will be out of focus – that’s a given. And I know that if I want the nose and lips in focus, I should back away from the subject just a little, or else go to 1.8 or 2.0. I know all that. But sometimes it’s cool to know exactly how many inches, or feet, you have. There’s also a Flash Exposure calculator and a reference section with info on the Zone System, the Sunny 16 Rule, and film types – very old school, and I like that! PhotoCalc is $2.99 and totally worth it for the Sunrise and Sunset times alone – if knowing when the light is best is as big a deal to you, as it is to me…

Grandma Rose and Great-Grandma Rie

Grandma Rose and Great Grandma Rie // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I shot my Great-Grandma Rie’s Christmas card today! Her name is Marie McBurney and she’s 91. She lives in a resort retirement home called Camelot, in Hemet, so we shot her portrait on her little patio – and my favorite shot of the day, was this one, when my Grandma, Virgina Rose joined her.