Tag Archives: gardening

Resolutions for the New Year

There are a few times each year when I feel like I can have a real fresh start — those “magical” dates for reordering life and restructuring how I do everything. One is my birthday, because I’m embarking on another year; one is the first day of the school year, which fortunately comes just weeks after my birthday, in case I didn’t get off to such a good start; and the third is New Year’s Day, especially if the fall months didn’t go quite as planned.

So each new year, I make resolutions, write out lists, develop more detailed schedules. But by mid-January, I’m usually ready for a new “fresh start.”

This year, I’m going to try something new, an idea I read in the book Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist. In one of the chapters, the author describes her tendency to pressure herself into not only doing everything, but doing everything BETTER. It was then she decided to write down a list of things she wouldn’t do — activities that, while productive and good to do, weren’t necessarily the ones SHE should be doing.  By following this list, not only did she excuse herself from activity overload, but she allowed herself time for the things that mattered most to her.

So, for this New Year, here’s my list of things I’m not going to do:

(Please note: These are all great things to do, and for that reason I usually pressure myself into doing them, or I feel guilty if I don’t. And they may be just what you are good at or what you want to do this year. Likewise, your “Do Not Do” list may have things that I enjoy doing.)

  • I’m not going to plant a garden. Okay, I have yet to plant a full garden anyway. But we live in the country and have the room, so every spring I feel like we should be planting rows and rows of vegetables. This year, instead, I’m going to concentrate on growing some cherry tomatoes in pots.
  • I’m not going to try to can my own jellies or vegetables. I have tried this one, and though many people around me like to can, I just don’t. But I don’t mind supporting the little shop down the street that sells local jelly.
  • I’m not going to landscape. I love looking at homes with beautiful yards, and I wish our yard looked like that. We even have an area beside our house that would be perfect for a flowerbed. So this year, I think we’ll throw our some wildflower seeds and just see what grows.
  • I’m not going to hang laundry on the line. Though it would save on the power bill, clothes I put on the line usually end up being left there for a day or two… or three. Then I have to wash them all over again.
  • I’m not going to clip a lot of coupons. I’ve tried couponing this year, and while I saved a lot of money, it was very time consuming for me. So this year, I’m only clipping out coupons for laundry detergent, cereal, yogurt, and pet food. Otherwise, I’ll just shop the sales.
  • I’m not going to make hot lunches. Cooking is not my forte, so I’ll save the hot meal for suppertime. After all, a good sandwich can be very tasty.
  • I’m not going to mail birthday cards to extended family and friends. While I did this one year and it was a lot of fun, the family has grown since then to 40+ people. I’ll call or email them instead.

Instead of doing these things, I’m going to enjoy more time with my children doing crafts, putting puzzles together, and playing games. What’s on your “Do Not Do” list?

Cathy’s Animal Garden: Enter at Your Own Risk

In 2008, I received my first contracts for illustrating picture books. The largest (in length of time and actual painting size) was one for Alma Little Publishing. And just a couple of weeks ago, I received my copy of the book in the mail: Cathy’s Animal Garden: Enter at Your Own Risk.

Cathy’s Animal Garden follows two boys, Henry and Andy, as they wander through Cathy’s garden in search of Henry’s homerun ball. Signs throughout the garden warn of the animals there: tigers, elephants, dragons, spiders, monkeys, leopards, foxes, and more. The boys are frightened but continue on — until they meet Cathy. She explains to them that they are in her animal garden, a garden made of plants and flowers with animal names.

This was such a fun book to illustrate. I love painting animals, and this garden is full of them, even if they’re in the boys’ imaginations. Because children will sometimes study the paintings in a picture book, I also added lots of other animals for them to find — ones they actually might find in a garden. They can spot a turtle, a chipmunk, a worm, a caterpillar, a ladybug, a lizard — so many creatures call a garden home! To add a little more fun, I also included a dragonfly in every illustration.

The author of Cathy’s Animal Garden, Stacy Tornio, is the editor of Birds and Blooms , a magazine featuring information and photographs of songbirds and flowers. Stacy is also a master gardener, and her passion for gardening shines through. The end pages of the book contain references about the different types of “animal” plants, as well as a planting zone map for the United States.

Of course, I’d have to recommend this book, but for more than the obvious reason. It’s a great starting point for any child interested in gardening and could be easily incorporated into a unit study. Actually, one of the best recommendations I’ve heard has been from my daughter, Lillie. After reading through the story together, she asked, “When can we plant an animal garden?”