"A room without books is like a body without a soul" ~ Cicero

Today is a rainy day... a pouring-down-buckets-of-rain kind of day.

Many years ago, I fondly remember another day just like today when a dear friend said it was the perfect weather for Jane Austen and introduced me to Pride and Prejudice.

This image is dedicated to her and the wonderful literary-themed experiences we've had. I cannot think of Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, opera, or the above quote without thinking of her.

This is for you, Holly.
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The permanence of a handful of tiny white shells

When I see the small white canister covered in scrollwork on my shelf I know what's inside--tiny little seashells as big as my pinky fingernail. All of them are a pearly white except one.

This little canister has been around for as long as I can remember. And I've always known what it contained. It has always been so.

I remember it being one of the precious treasures found in one of my mom's dresser drawers--the jewelry and scarf drawer. This treasure, along with a solid cedar jewelry box full of sparkly baubles priceless only to a child, fascinated me. I never got in trouble going into the drawer and poking about. I usually left things the way I found them once I was done. I loved the woody-musky aroma of cedar that permeated everything in the drawer--especially the soft chiffon scarves I would wrap around my head or neck or hold up to my nose to breathe the scent in deeply. Often, I would pick up the canister and lightly shake it to hear the faint rattle of the shells inside. Very rarely, I opened it to see them. I was mostly satisfied just knowing they were there.

I don't know where the shells came from. I don't know how old they are. I just know they've always been there.

Now the canister is mine. It sits on a shelf in my studio above my head as I type this. It is a silly treasure only precious and priceless to me.

I rarely open it. I sometimes shake it lightly to hear the shells inside. I'm satisfied knowing they are still there.

Yesterday, I opened them and gently let them spill out onto my worktable so I could photograph them. One fell on the floor, and I couldn't see it right away. I searched for it frantically as if a 2 karat diamond had fallen from my grasp. I found it camouflaged in the pattern of my area rug. Whew! I placed it with the others. I took the photographs and then carefully put them all back in and screwed the top on tight.

Now I can look at the shells any time I want by looking at the photograph. Or I can reach up and gently shake the canister on the shelf above me. Either way, I'll be content knowing they are there.

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Culinarily speaking... there are my dreams and then there's my reality

I am always discovering new recipes in vintage cookbooks, pamphlets, magazines, books and, now, on Pinterest. The thought of making culinary delights thrills something deep inside me and makes my heart skip a beat. I just got a new copy of Frances Mayes latest book The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen and it seems that every page I read makes that flutter inside my chest happen.  It all sounds so wonderful... the process of making something with my own hands and then giving it to loved ones to enjoy and savor as we chat, laugh, and create memories while sitting around a big table laden with the dishes that once held my culinary creations.

There's just one problem... I don't cook.

I've resorted to creating a board on Pinterest called "Want to Try It (Food)" (which is really code for "Honey, can you make this?").

Hubby is a culinary genius in the kitchen. Early in life he aspired to being a chef and has the skills to be one of the best of the best. But he also dreamed of having a wife and family and made a conscious decision that being a chef would require hours away from that dreamed-of wife and family that he wanted more than he wanted the dream of being a chef. So he became a technology guru instead, and I (the wife that finally came along) now get to enjoy all his chef-i-ness for myself.

I'm spoiled. I'll admit it. I rarely have to cook dinner. And most of the time Hubby even plates my dinner like I've ordered it at a restaurant. His talent for creating a beautiful plate of food is amazing. I always want to photograph his plate after we've gone through the line at our favorite salad bar restaurant, because it's so beautifully arranged and colorful.

I guess we have a sort of partnership (at least I like to think we do). Like a bloodhound, I go out and find the recipes to inspire him, and then Hubby makes the recipe come to life in a mouth-watering way I cannot begin to achieve.

I've tried. I really have. I love Olive Garden's chicken fettucini alfredo. I found the official recipe for their alfredo sauce online through Pinterest. I decided I was going to make it. Hubby was skeptical (cream sauces are daunting). I charged ahead with a full head of steam and all the ingredients laid out on the countertop. How hard could it be? As long as I have the recipe, I'm golden, right?


The resulting dish didn't taste like Olive Garden's creamy divinity that I love. It tasted like eggs.

I gave up after that.

This last week, Hubby kindly made a bacon and cheese quiche recipe I had pinned on my Pinterest board. Well, actually he used the Pinterest recipe as the base for a recipe that he made up on the fly that would be more healthy for me to eat. In the end, it was beyond fantastic! I had never tasted anything better... until a couple of days later when he remade it with a couple more tweaks (the addition of swiss cheese and green onions). Holy cow, it was even better than the first one!

Oh yeah... I am SO spoiled!

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Sometimes it's hard to believe some things are possible

I've long been a fan of digital collage artists and designers such as Wendy Paula at Mulberry Muse (I've admired Wendy's French-inspired work for years), but I never had the courage to try my hand at it... until today.

Possessing the technical knowledge (and tools) necessary to build a collage piece hasn't really been my issue. The process of finding just the right vintage illustrations to combine together just always seemed daunting. I just didn't believe I could actually do it. I finally decided last night I should just try it--determining that if I failed, I could fail privately and no one would know the difference.

I really wanted to do something Christmas-y. I found a lovely antique fashion plate of a woman in gown trimmed in red. That was a good start.

Then I had to put in her a setting. I wanted something a bit on the whimsical and fanciful side. I thought it would be neat to have her walking through a snowy forest. I went over the Graphics Fairy blog to hunt around and see if she had anything I could use. She did! What I found was a bonus, because I had also envisioned incorporating a reindeer or moose image too.

As I set to work on the long process of digitally restoring, enhancing, and altering the antique images, a story began to form in my mind. Here's the story that unfolded as the digital collage came to fruition...
On Christmas Eve, the annual festive holiday ball was being held at the estate of one of the wealthiest families in the county. Close to midnight, the belle of the Christmas ball walked out onto the veranda for some air. 
Just off the veranda was a pretty-ish sort of wilderness. The newly fallen snow reflected the light of the full moon and glistened back at the twinkling lights of the ballroom.  
As the belle stood alone at the edge of the veranda, she thought she heard the soft jingle of sleigh bells coming from within the forest. Her ears must be deceiving her, she thought. The horses and sleighs that had carried all the guests to the ball were housed in the stables far away on the other side of the estate. 
The belle was flushed from dancing and the glowing fire in the hearth of the ballroom. She didn't feel the chilly nip in the air on her bare arms as she stepped off the veranda into the edge of the woods to investigate.  
Only a few steps into the snow-covered thicket, she was greeted by a timid yet curious reindeer. She should have been frightened, but she was not. Why she wasn't, she didn't know--she just knew she was enveloped by a calm serenity. The reindeer lowered its head and gently nuzzled the belle's outstretched gloved hand. 
Just then the belle heard a rustle and the faint jingle of sleigh bells again. From behind a tree not far away, she thought she heard a soft and jolly baritone chuckle. 
"Could he really be real?" she asked herself, "Can I really believe?" 

Free ecards or invites

Personalized Christmas cards
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The phenomenon of autumn and winter roses


Each rosebush in the garden is a little different in its tastes and preferences as far as sun and water go. Each one blooms at its preferred time during the year as well. When I first embarked on planting roses, I had no idea that there would be so much diversity in blooming times--nor did I anticipate the majority of the roses would be giving me an "encore bloom" as the outside temperatures cooled toward the end of the year.

Consistently every year, as the dryness and heat of summer slips into the toasty days of September and early October the roses begin to look a bit peaked and tired. My brain is okay with that because it is turning autumn after all.

But then the first autumn rains come and something miraculous happens to the roses... they bloom as if it's May again.

Mystery rose (was mislabeled as "Sterling" when I bought it)

After 12 years of watching this phenomenon happen, I'm beginning to expect it instead of being surprised by it. It still seems like a miracle to me though and never ceases to delight me.

The temperatures continue to get cooler and cooler throughout the month of November (our overnight temps are now dipping into the 40-45F (4-7C) range. But the roses seem to get happier and continue to bloom and will continue to do so until Christmas Day when I've learned I can always count on roses in bloom for the holiday.

"Janice Kellogg"

There are subtle differences between the autumn and Christmas blooms and the earlier blooms of spring and early summer. The autumn buds are smaller and tighter--often darker in color. The buds take longer to open and when they do the petals are often more crepe-like with variegation and patterns that weren't there in the spring.

"Sheer Magic"

I have one rosebush (a mystery rose that was here before we were) that refuses to bloom all summer. It loses all its leaves as if it was winter. Then when autumn rolls around, it begins to get foliage again and by December and January it is putting out its lovely pale pink teacup-sized blossoms for me to enjoy in the midst of a fairly dormant winter garden. It is really delightful to have that special gift every year at a time that is hard for me because the days are short and the sun often hides behind a low marine layer of clouds.

This is what I still have to look forward to as Christmas Day draws nearer...

The winter-blooming pink mystery rose on Christmas Day 2007

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We know winter is not far away

When a pointy-nosed energetic kitty
Takes time to stop her playing and cavorting
To hunker down on a warm lap
Under a fuzzy blanket...
We know winter is not far away.
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Being a stationery designer means I have to think about a holiday long before everyone else does

I've said it before... I love designing stationery. There's only one downside to it. I have to be thinking about a holiday LONG before everyone else. I have to be in a "Christmas-y mood" months before I necessarily feel like it.

I try to release at least one new design for every major holiday every year. This year I've had a design in mind for my 2012 Christmas release for quite some time now. The problem was the more I mulled it around in my head, the more elaborate it got. After I discovered the fantastic paper art of Kevin Kidney, the design in my head got even more elaborate (click here to check out his great blog post on making a Christmas poster). It reached a point where I intended on handcutting every element of the design out of paper, mounting it just right, lighting it just right and then photographing it.

Then visions of trying to do all of this with the "help" of my feline studio companions, combined with their stray hairs and the inevitable creative meltdown that would ensue started to pervade my thoughts.

I was at a creative standstill (it happens to me often). So the design wasn't getting done and the time to release something in time for people to use it for the 2012 holiday season loomed closer.

Yesterday, I finally decided to break down and just do it. I figured I could create a similar look digitally (it wouldn't be near as cool as Kevin Kidney's, but OH WELL!).

I ended up visualizing the pieces the same as if I was going to cut them out of paper, except I created them as digital vector shapes instead. I did all the letters in Illustrator (a major feat for me) and then brought them into PS3 and did the Santa shapes with the rudimentary vector tools in PS3 and was just as happy with the result (if not happier).

Once I had finalized the art. I started incorporating it into various layout versions for different stationery styles.

First, a simple no-message layout for sending as a free ecard at pingg.com (for an added fee you can have it delivered in a cute digital envelope like the one below):

Then I did a layout to send as a free photo ecard at pingg.com so people can add their own photo to personalize it:
I did another version of the layout so someone could include a personalized message on the free ecard at pingg.com:

Pingg.com also does a cool printing and mailing service called "postal pinggs" (click here to learn more about "postal pinggs"). So for people who want to send out printed Christmas cards, all my above pingg layouts can be sent that way by pingg.com.

And, finally, I did a layout for a printed photo card for my zazzle shop, Rosehaven Cottage Stationers:

If anyone is interested in a DIY personalized printable file, I will make that available too.

Now my 2012 Christmas design is finally out of my head and available for other people to enjoy. You can't imagine what a huge relief this is for me. Now I can sit back and look forward to Thanksgiving instead of being haunted by visions of paper Santas being pawed at and chewed by naughty kitties... just a tad different from the sublime visions of sugar plums dancing in one's head.
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© 2007-2015 All rights reserved by Cindy Garber Iverson.
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(unless otherwise noted)
belong to Cindy Garber Iverson.
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