Cathy Monrad

Toad house

by cathym on July 4, 2020

by Cathy Monrad

A toad can eat massive amounts of insects in a single summer—up to 10,000, according to Toads help naturally keep garden pest population under control; this voracious amphibian’s diet includes beetles, snails, slugs, spiders, flies, grubs, crickets, etc.

A source of water and shelter will attract toads. A toad house can be as simple as a placing a flowerpot upside down over a semi-circle of rocks, or by partially burying a pot horizontally in the dirt.

This “abode” made from items found around the house will make a cute addition to a shady spot in your garden—prime real estate any toad would love to call home.

Large empty yogurt container or plastic flower pot
River rocks in various sizes
Tongue depressor or large popsicle stick (optional)
Spray paint for use on plastic in desired color (optional)
Pre-mixed tile grout (optional)
Twigs or bark (optional)

Thin marker
Utility knife
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Sponge and water (optional)

1. With marker, draw a “door” on the plastic container as in Figure 1.

Figure 1

2. Use utility knife to cut out door shape. Optional: If you do not wish to use grout to fill in spaces between the rocks, paint the container at this time. Let dry completely.

3. Using hot glue, attach rocks around door as seen in Figure 2. Leave a bit of space between the rocks.

Figure 2

4. Cover entire container with rocks. Note: you can choose to glue rocks on top of container, or create a roof with sticks or bark in Step 6.

5. Optional: To grout the gaps, use your finger to press pre-mixed grout between stones as shown in Figure 3. After all gaps are filled, use damp sponge to wipe excess grout off rocks. You will need to rinse sponge multiple times until rocks are clean.

Figure 3

6. Optional: To create a thatch-style roof, affix a larger rock in the center of the top with hot glue. Break twigs or bark to span from center rock to just past edge of container as shown in Figure 4. Glue roof pieces in a circular pattern until roof is covered.

Figure 4

7. Optional: Create a sign to hang above the door. Write message on popsicle stick with marker. Cut sign to desired length with utility knife. Attach above door with hot glue.

Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer and garden crafter for Upstate Gardeners’ Journal.


Grilled peaches three ways

by cathym on July 3, 2020

by Cathy Monrad

Summer is here and along with it, the height of grilling season. Grilled peaches can be used as an ingredient in any course from appetizer to dessert.

Perfectly grill a peach

  1. 1. Set grill to medium-high heat, 350°F–450°F.
  2. Oil grate thoroughly.
  3. Place peach halves or wedges on grill. Close lid. 
  4. Allow peaches to sear for about 3 minutes. Flip peaches over to sear remaining side. 
  5. Remove from grill and enjoy.

Toast baguette slices.
Smear slices with mascarpone, then drizzle with honey. 
Add grilled peach wedge on top and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.


Add grilled peaches, blueberries, and feta or goat cheese to mixed greens. Add grilled chicken for a main course. Top with your favorite dressing.


Top grilled peach halves with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg on top.

Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer for Upstate Gardeners’ Journal.


Garden tool belt

by cathym on May 11, 2020

by Cathy Monrad

Before you throw out that old pair of holey jeans, check this clever tool apron inspired by Jessi at This project can be made with minimal sewing, or you can choose to enhance it by adding ribbon or bias tape border.

Heavy duty thread in desired color
Bias tape with matching color thread (optional)

Seam ripper or embroidery scissors
Straight pins
Sewing machine with heavy duty needle (optional)

1. Cut the legs off jeans as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

2. Remove the belt loops from waist band with seam ripper or embroidery scissors.

3. Cut off the front of the jeans along the side seams and waistband as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

4. Position belt loops horizontally on apron in desired locations as shown in Figure 3. Pin loops in place.

Figure 3

5. Sew loop ends onto apron by hand or with sewing machine.

6. Don your apron, attach tools, and get gardening!

Optional: To add some flair, pin bias tape around raw edges and sew in place. Check out this dolled up version!

Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer and garden crafter for Upstate Gardeners’ Journal.