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.

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live…

If I found out I only had fifteen minutes to live? Right now?

I’d get up from the computer and run outside and lift my face up and soak up the sun. I’d listen to the birds singing, and arguing and gossiping. I’d smell the grass, and the dirt, and the honeysuckle blossoms that are hanging on, just a little past their prime. Then I’d open my eyes and LOVE the bright blue sky and everything around me – the shaky fence, the rambling roses, the rock chimney on the back of the house.

And then I would tell God thank you. Thank you for everything I’ve experienced in this life. The triumphs, and the near triumphs, and the trips and falls. I’d say thank you for my art, and for making me not just a girl with potential, but a full blown artist. An artist who may have wanted to achieve more, but who achieved enough to feel fully expressed. That’s rare and wonderful, and I’ve been lucky, and I know it.

I’d say thank you for everyone I’ve loved, and everyone I should have loved, but didn’t quite – because they all made a difference in my life. A big difference. A profound difference.

And I would say thank you for giving me these final fifteen minutes, so that I could soak up the sun one last time, and feel grateful one last time, and go out of this world exactly like I came in – happy!


I just found out about an interesting project, starting today.

#Trust30 is an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your now, and to create direction for your future. 30 prompts from inspiring thought-leaders will guide you on your writing journey. http://RalphWaldoEmerson.me

And the first prompt was so interesting, I signed up…

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.


I don’t know that I’ll go beyond this first day, but the first prompt made me want to write, so here I am, fifteen minutes later… What would you do if you only had fifteen minutes to live?

I think I need to go outside and enjoy the sun a little. I may have more than fifteen minutes left, but that’s no reason to waste anymore time inside!


Spring Flowers, April Showers

One of the best parts about moving into a new house is seeing what happens in the yard over the course of the first year. Sometimes the tree you sort of, kind of don’t really like all that much, breaks out in blossoms, and you’re in love. Sometimes a neglected corner starts to fill in with new growth, and then explodes in riotous blooms. I’ve heard it said that you should live in a house for a year, before tearing out any plants, because you never know what those existing plants may do – and if you tear them out too soon, you may miss some great potential.

I moved last summer, so this is my first spring in this house, and evidently the previous owners were big on flowers – because the yard is full of blooming plants. It’s very cool!

We’ve been told that some of the trees are black walnut, and when I Google them, the leaves do look right – but I didn’t find any images of the blooms that were as magnificent as the ones here. We have pink blooms on one tree, and white blooms on two other trees. They look just like wisteria blossoms – and the leaves look similar to wisteria as well, but the rest of the tree, and the nuts that form later are definitely not wisteria!

ETA: Ooops! I’ve been told that the trees are actually Black Locust, and Googling proves that to be true!

Black Locust // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsBlack Locust // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Black Locust // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsBlack Locust // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Black Locust // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Black Locust with White Blooms

There are lot of different kinds of bulbs and some primroses…

TulipsPurple Flowers


There are probably too many iris in the yard – if that’s possible.

Purple Iris

Purple Iris

During the Victorian Era, they were big lovers of fruit and flowers together – and it’s one of my favorite looks. There’s only one fruit tree in the yard – a lemon tree – but hopefully someday there will also be oranges and tangerines and apricots – all things that grow well in Hemet!

Lemon TreeBlack Tulip

And I’ll end with a black tulip. Have you ever seen a flower that elegant? It’s definitely a statement blossom!

On a technical note, all of these were shot between 4:09 and 4:30PM this afternoon – so a few hours before sunset – and the wind was blowing hard for most of those twenty minutes. I used a 70-200mm lens, at f/4.0, ISO 320, and as high of a shutter setting as was possible. Part of the challenge was in shooting flowers that were blowing and moving – and still trying to get a perfect image, that looks like the world was perfectly still when it was taken. The 70-200mm is my least favorite and least used lens, but sometimes it’s fun to shake things up and force yourself to do things in a slightly different way than you may be used to.

Shaking up your art – especially when you’re doing something as trite as shooting flowers? It’s a good thing! So grab an unfamiliar lens, shoot in a windstorm, whatever! Just shake it up and see what magic happens…

And as I sign off, raindrops are starting to hit the roof again… Hopefully the very last storm this season!

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

Marty Casey in Pacific Beach

Marty Casey at the Crystal Pier // Photo: Cheryl Spelts
Think wet and sandy and sexy. Pretty compelling, isn’t it?

That was my assignment last month when I shot Marty Casey for his Silver Elements Collection. There are sessions that go so perfectly you feel like the stars are aligned and the day is charmed – this was one of those sessions. Every set up blew me away.

Honestly, I get to see my vision turn into beautiful reality all the time – that’s not new – that’s my job! But rarely is it quite so beautiful…

Marty Casey under the Crystal Pier // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Most of the images debuted on silverelementscollection.com two weeks ago, but not everything we shot was about the jewelry. Sometimes when you’re in a beautiful setting, with a beautiful subject, and it’s a charmed day, you get other kinds of images. And I’ve been really eager to show them off, so here they are! Some of the best of the best of the jewelry shots and some other stuff – call it the director’s cut! My picks for best images of the day…

Marty Casey in Pacific Beach // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

I heard the word “sandgasm” recently used to describe a series of portraits of guys covered in sand. Well I gotta say that Marty Casey wet and sandy blows just about anyone else off the beach, so I’m co-opting the word – ’cause it’s perfect!

Stars Down in Los Angeles

I posted a little tease last week, but here’s more from my session with Lukas Rossi and Stars Down for RBL. We shot it in late June on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles – so if you know the area, you may recognize some of the locations…

The full slide show is at http://www.rockbandlounge.com/news/2008-07-stars-down/ – and it’s definitely worth viewing there! It’s big and bold and beautiful! And if you have any comments or questions, there’s a discussion thread on RBL at http://rockbandlounge.com/forum/topic.asp?topic_id=7184

Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Jon Jamieson of Stars Down / Photo: Cheryl Spelt

Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Lukas Rossi of Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Stars Down // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Fallbrook Film Festival, Tattered Angel

Flo Villane
Outside the theater, Flo Villane is interviewed by Fallbrook Film Factory about Fallbrook High’s new film program.

Jack Ragland
Fallbrook artist, Jack Ragland.

Fallbrook Film Festival

Fallbrook Film Festival

Tattered Angel is on the surface a story about the disappearance of an eleven-year-old girl – but ironically the last person to see her before she vanished, is a man racked by grief and guilt over the abduction and murder of his eleven-year-old sister, when he was a small boy. Adding to his troubles is a steady stream of alcohol, and between his grief over his sister’s death and his mother’s more recent death, he starts to hallucinate and the lines between the two disappearances blur – and soon he’s not sure what he saw – which of course puts him in a difficult situation with the police. But even more pressing than the threat of being blamed for the disappearance, is his need to separate reality from memory – and he ignores the directive from a police officer to stay out of it, and launches himself into the mystery full force.

Duffy Hudson wrote, produced and stars in the film, and Linda Carter of Wonder Woman fame has a supporting role as the missing girl’s mother.

Duffy Hudson

Duffy Hudson at a Q&A session after the screening, sharing how he took his initial story idea and first fashioned it into a theater workshop production in New York City, which featured Brooke Shields, and then let the material evolve into a feature film.

Fallbrook Film Festival

Fallbrook Film Festival, Opening Night

Fallbrook Film Festival

Fallbrook Film Festival

Gregory Mannino
Production Designer and Art Director, Gregory Mannino is here in support of his film Paper Dolls, showing on Saturday night.

James Kerwin and Chase Masterson
Director James Kerwin and Producer and Lead Actress Chase Masterson of Yesterday Was a Lie, at the Opening Night Party.

Linda Mandrayer, Ronald Shattuck, and Brigitte Schlemmer
Linda Mandrayer, Ronald Shattuck, and Film Festival Director Brigitte Schlemmer.

Fallbrook Film Festival

Adam Pitman
Producer, Writer, and Lead Actor Adam Pitman talks up his film, Paper Dolls.

Fallbrook Film Festival

Christiana Minga and Peter Hulst
Actress Christiana Minga and Peter Hulst, the Director of Photography for Misunderstood.

Fallbrook Film Festival
Jingles and Colleen Aichle.

Fallbrook Film Festival

Fallbrook Film Festival

Fallbrook Film Festival

Fallbrook Film Festival

Fallbrook Film Festival

Fallbrook Film Festival

Fallbrook Film Festival

After the opening party, it was time to officially begin the festival with a few films! The Flyboys was at the Mission Theater – the largest venue – it’s stars Stephen Baldwin and Tom Sizemore and was released in March. JJ Purty’s showed The Matter with Clark.

And at the Art Center, Yesterday Was a Lie was shown. Described as a groundbreaking new noir film, combining the thrills of a classic detective mystery with the imagination of science fantasy, Yesterday Was a Lie was directed by a Fallbrook resident – and one of the lead actresses was there. So for me, it was the obvious choice.

I remember when I took cinema classes in college, having to let go and trust that my professor had chosen wisely – because ground-breaking, genre-warping films can be mind-numbingly awesome, or mind-numbingly awful. You have to go with it, and trust that it’ll be awesome – you can’t approach it half-heartedly – you have to let it take you for the full ride. And if it’s awesome, it’s great! And if it’s awful, all you can do is vow to read more reviews next time…

But isn’t a film festival the time to take a risk and see a film that challenges you?

The director, James Kerwin was introduced before the film started and he made a comment about not worrying if you don’t get it – that it takes most people multiple viewings to really get all the layers. So fair warning!

The look of the film is gorgeous – it’s what I call glowy black and white. Mr. Kerwin explained the process at a Q&A after the viewing, and it’s similar to how I’d achieve the same look digitally in a still image – duplicate the image, blur one version, and layer them. It mimics the look of film – and the way light can bounce around when hitting the film.

The film features two beautiful blondes, and you never really know for sure if they’re two different people, two sides of the same person, or if one is a figment of the other’s imagination. That sounds complicated – but it’s not. When you’re along for the ride, it all makes sense – even the fact that you’re not sure, makes sense. That’s the whole thing – the fun of it all – being unsure and wondering.

But unlike a lot of films that leave you hanging, and leave you unsatisfied – this one has an ending that fulfills. Things aren’t wrapped up with a bow – it could never be that simple! And I may interpret the ending one way, and you another, and I think that’s a beautiful thing!

In other words, it was awesome!

Chase Masterson and James Kerwin
Producer and Lead Actress Chase Masterson, and the Director, Fallbrook resident James Kerwin at the Q&A after the film.

Chase Masterson and James Kerwin
Chase Masterson talks about the challenges and the joys of producing her first film.