Deer and snow, in Idyllwild

Male Deer // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

We usually don’t see much of the deer when it snows–they stay down in a meadow nearby. And we’ve got a lot of fresh snow right now, so I was surprised to see several of them in the back yard this morning.

This little male is about about a year-and-a-half old now, and once he was weaned he stopped coming as often as the girls in his family. So it was fun to see him, and see how his once-nubby little antlers are developing!

Mama Deer

Deer in Idyllwild

Mama Deer

Pregnant deer

Mama Deer

Pregnant Deer

Mama Deer

Yes, we have deer in Idyllwild! And Mama Deer is pregnant again. She’s not only wider across, but she’s spending a lot of time in our yard again, where she can safely rest, and not have to worry about dogs or tourists–a sure sign a baby is on the way. Soon!

Clam Chowder Bread Bowl

One of my favorite things about going “home” to Fallbrook is getting to visit some of my favorite restaurants on the planet! Can’t you just taste those yellow raisins, and the cheese, and all those little seeds? Fallbrook does salad like nowhere else I know of… And the clam chowder? I could eat it everyday, happily.

It was great to share lunch at Garden Center Cafe with one of my very favorite people, Julie Reeder. And I also got to see my old friend Camereno! We worked together at Main Street Cafe, twenty years ago!

Clam Chowder Bowl
Clam Chowder Bread Bowl, at Garden Center Cafe, Fallbrook, California


Playing tourist today in my birthplace…

Pacific Beach, near Crystal Pier

My heart belongs to Fallbrook, but San Diego is where I was born and where I got my fashion sense! Sandals, wrap-around everything, with sun-streaked and wind-swept hair. 91X on the radio, playing Nirvana, and my car’s convertible top down. Near perfection!

Pacific Beach by the Pier

One more, just because it’s pretty.

And it reminds me of when I used to shoot hot rock stars on the beach…


Fallbrook Peacock

I had just taken the road that veers off Mission, near the Valley Fort, when I had to wait for this gorgeous bird, as he crossed the road. But I’m fine with that!

It’s not often–even in Fallbrook–that you see such an elegant peacock on the loose…

Overlooking Banning, California

Two crows, Banning California

Coming home from Idyllwild, on the road to Banning, I pulled over to let a couple of cars pass. Posing nearby on an outcropping of rock were a pair of crows. I only had my iPhone with me, and frankly even if I’d had another camera, unless it was sitting on the seat ready to go, I was probably better off with the iPhone. Most wild creatures aren’t in the habit of staying in place until you get your camera out! I shot through my windshield, and they were kind enough to hang on long enough for me to get a few frames.

As they both flew off I was suddenly reminded of an old friend. Tim Jeffries Szukala hated crows! He would wince when he would hear them calling to each other, and he was convinced they were bad luck. It was almost comical watching him shake his fist at them. Tim was a big part of my life for a few years–he was in the very first band that I ever shot, Cesjacuzzi–but I hadn’t talked to him in years, and only recently heard that he passed on earlier this year. And watching those two crows fly off made me suddenly miss him. A lot. I wish I’d seen him more over the years. I wish we’d kept in better touch. I wish he was still around, and I could call him, and ask him to come over and change a lightbulb. I wish I could hear him play one last drum solo…

When Cesjacuzzi was winding down, we could all sense it, but no one knew that the last gig would actually be the very last gig forever – and I missed it. I had gone to almost every show for years, but that one show I missed, and it was the last.

I don’t like regrets, but I have a few. I regret missing the last gig my first favorite band ever played, and I regret not keeping in better touch with a friend that I really and truly loved. Tim was a great guy! And a great drummer! And as I watched those two crows fly away, I remembered just a little bit better why I loved him the way that I did.

Pastel Rainbow Jello Cake

Rainbow Jello Cake // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I kept seeing rainbow cakes pinned on Pinterest – and while they were cute, I kept thinking it would be so much prettier to do a pastel version. Sure, if you’re making a kid’s birthday cake, vibrant colors are fun. But if it’s just a no-reason cake, for a summer evening, wouldn’t a pastel version be more appealing to most adults? Certainly more appetizing!

But there was a problem! All of the recipes I found started with plain white cake – which is sweet, but boring. No way am I going to spend time making a cake that doesn’t taste good…

My favorite cake of all is Lemon Jello Cake. It’s a cake my Grandma Spelts used to make for Easter, and whenever anyone offers to make me a birthday cake, it’s what I request. The recipe requires a yellow cake mix, a small package of Lemon Jello, and slightly more oil than you usually put in a cake. Mix it all together, bake, and when the cake is still hot, poke it all over with a fork, and then pour on a glaze of fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar. It’s moist and tart and sweet and just the best cake ever!

So why couldn’t I use other flavors of Jello to make a rainbow cake? So I tired it. My first attempt wasn’t quite right. I used too much Jello, and the colors were too vibrant, and that much Jello changed the consistency of the cake. I also decided that the super moist quality the extra oil gave it while perfect for a Lemon Jello Cake, wasn’t quite as appropriate for a rainbow cake! Next I tried making cupcakes – and while I got the balance of Jello and cake batter fixed, I decided that cupcakes are too small to really get the full effect of the rainbow. I wanted a full cake to cut into, to show off all the colors.

Today I made my third attempt, and this time I got the balance of ingredients right – I divided the cake batter into six sections, and put a half-a-teaspoon of each color of Jello crystals into each one. And if the color wasn’t quite deep enough? I used a drop of food coloring to get it just right. And I skipped the Blue Jello entirely, because I’m not a big fan of that flavor. And blue food coloring worked just fine!

Rainbow Jello Cake // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

It looks totally incognito before you cut into it. Just like any other loaf cake with cream cheese frosting.

Rainbow Jello Cake // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
But once you cut into it, you get all these pretty colors, swirling around.

I chose to be a little freeform with how I glopped the batter into the pan, because I wanted interesting swirls – but if you want a neater demarkation, just plop each new color in rounded spoonfuls, directly on top of the last color, and it will spread out on it’s own, into neat little stripes.

So despite all my troubles figuring out the best way to do it, in the end it was dead simple. Just a plain white cake mix, and follow the directions on the box – then divide into sections, and mix a half-teaspoon of a different colored Jello flavor into each one – and plop into the greased pan, one color at a time. Then bake normally! The frosting is equally easy. It’s an adaption of a Martha Stewart recipe. Just take one stick of butter, and one 16 oz bucket of cream cheese, one box of powdered sugar, half-a-teaspoon of vanilla, and a splash of milk – and mix together. Takes about one minute to make the frosting and four minutes to frost the cake. Couldn’t be easier, or in my opinion, prettier!

Spelt Banana Nut Bread

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

This is an adaption of a recipe my mother still makes – but I used Spelt flour, because I wanted to try it, and because it’s much better for you than modern white flour – and I use more nuts, and add dark chocolate chips – both of which are good for you in small doses! This is a nice dense bread – and a little piece will fill you up and satisfy your sweet tooth – and it’s fairly healthy! The Spelt flour has a nice nutty honey flavor – which works well with the bananas and nuts and chocolate. And if you use Sucanet instead of sugar, then the only “not-so-good-for-you” ingredient is the third of a cup of butter, and divided over a dozen portions, even that’s not too bad!

Spelt Banana Nut Bread

Mix together thoroughly…
2/3 cup sugar or Sucanat
1/3 cup butter
2 organic free-range brown eggs
a splash of whole milk

Mix in…
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir in…
3 ripe bananas
2 cups Spelt flour

Blend in…
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Let stand for 20 minutes before baking at 350°F in a greased baking pan. Sprinkle with more of the dark chocolate chips right before baking, if you want it to look ever prettier and taste ever better! Bake for about 30 minutes in a small cake pan, or 50-60 minutes in a loaf pan.

Maroon & Orange Iris

Maroon and Orange Iris // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsYes, it’s another post about an iris. And yes, it’s another post with yet another purple-y and orange iris. But this one is different… this one is more maroon! And I think it may be the prettiest one yet.

So why am I still discovering new irises in the yard, after living here for almost two years?

Here’s my theory! Bulbs use all their stored up energy to bloom, and once the bloom fades, then they start to store up energy for the next spring. So if you chop back the leaves of a bulb too soon, it won’t have time to store up enough energy for the next year, and may never bloom again. This house sat empty for three or four months, before I moved here in the summer of 2010 – so my gut feeling is that these irises last bloomed that spring, when there was no one here to water them, and then the heat of early summer caused them to die back too soon. So they were too exhausted to bloom in the spring of 2011. But this spring? They’ve had over a year of regular watering, and they’re in good fertile ground, so they decided to go for it this year!

And here’s a little photography note for my non-photographer friends, who want to take better photos of the flowers in their own gardens… If you look at the images of Ugly Iris I blogged two weeks ago, and compare them to these images, you can see the difference a little sun makes. The Ugly Iris images were shot at the very end of the day at about 6:00PM, with some golden light coming from the west, as the sun set. Not a whole lot of sun – but some gorgeous golden glow from that side of the sky. And these images today were shot earlier – about 4:30PM – but it was cloudy and not quite raining, but it’s been kind of misting all day, on and off. I love the golden glow of the Ugly Iris images, but I also love the really saturated colors you can get on a cloudy day! Point is, you don’t have to shoot flowers when the sun is high in the sky – in fact, you will likely get more interesting images if you shoot when the light is more interesting!

So are there any other secret flowers about to bloom in my yard? I don’t know, but I hope so!

Maroon & Orange Iris // Photo: Cheryl Spelts