Mug suet feeder

by cathym on November 3, 2020

by Cathy Monrad

1½ cups cornmeal
¼ cup flour
2 cups bird food mix
½ cup lard 
½ cup chunky peanut butter
2-3 mugs
2-3 sturdy sticks 8 inches long
Twine (optional)

Large bowl 
Wooden spoon
Nonstick saucepan


  1. In large bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, and birdseed together. 
  2. Melt lard and peanut butter in saucepan.
  3. Pour melted lard and peanut butter over birdseed mixture. Stir until mixed thoroughly. 
  4. Spoon suet mixture into mugs and press down to remove air pockets. 
  5. Push sticks into suet mixture all the way to bottom of mug. Press mixture around sticks.
  6. Refrigerate overnight until hardened.
  7. Hang mug from tree branch or shepard’s hook, or use a piece of twine to tie handle to branch. 

Project Notes
–  Great way to reuse chipped mugs—just make sure there are no cracks.
–  Refrigerate until ready to use and place feeder out of direct sunlight to avoid spoilage; homemade suet is recommended for use when oudoor temperature is below 40 degrees F. 

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


Bleached botanical stencils

by cathym on September 15, 2020

by Cathy Monrad

Create a one-of-a-kind fashion statement using some bleach, water, and plant material. A new shirt, old dress, or thrift store find can be transformed within a few minutes. A few notes before beginning:

  • Good ventilation is key; making this project outside is best.
  • Choose a day with no wind to avoid bleach splatter and prevent foliage from moving.
  • Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes, and old clothes in case a breeze pops up.
  • If children want to help, they can safely lay plant material onto clothing, but I recommend adults perform the bleach spraying step.

Materials & Tools
– Clean shirt or other garment; if new, wash before starting project
– 3–4 pieces of cardboard; 1–2 to place inside garment and 2 for flattening foliage
– Clean, empty spray bottle with adjustable nozzle
– Bleach
– Water
– Foliage of your choice (I used rose of Sharon cuttings; foliage with large leaves work best)
– A few small rocks to use as weights
– Safety glasses 

  1. Arrange foliage on one piece of cardboard with leaves and/or flowers. Place second piece of cardboard over foliage. Lay heavy items such as books or bricks on top to flatten plant material for a couple of hours.
  2. Mix a 50/50 ratio of bleach and water in spray bottle.
  3. Place remaining cardboard inside garment.
  4. Place flattened foliage in desired collage pattern on garment. Weight any leaves or flowers down with small rocks as needed.
  5. From about 3-4 feet above your project, slowly and lightly spray bleach mixture onto garment—oversaturating the fabric will cause bleach mixture to seep under the foliage. The bleach mixture will begin to change the fabric color within 30 seconds. Wait a full 5 minutes to determine if you need to respray an area. 
  6. Once you’ve achieved the desired look, carefully remove the rocks and foliage from the garment. 
  7. Let fabric dry completely. Remove cardboard from the inside and rinse garment thoroughly with cold water before washing per manufacturer’s instructions.
Foliage laid out on shirt
Rocks placed stategically to hold down leaves; bleach mixture sprayed lightly over shirt is just beginning to change fabric color
Rocks and foliage removed after desired look achieved

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


Flower Press

by cathym on July 29, 2019

by Cathy Monrad

Edibles are not the only “fruits of our labor” we can preserve. Four thousand years ago, dried flowers, each chosen for a specific symbolic meaning, were presented in Egyptian funeral ceremonies. Oshibana, the art of using pressed flowers to create a picture, dates back to 16th century Japan. Modern preservation techniques include the use of silica gel, freeze drying, and molecular sieve, a material that absorbs water to dehydrate the plant.

According to, displaying dried flowers is popular again. Arrangements and wreaths, as well as framed or shadow-box art created with dried and pressed flora are hot décor items. As a fresh spin on this trend, clear cell phone cases that can display pressed flowers are popular among Millennials.

2 equal size pieces of wood
4 each: 1/4 inch carriage bolts at least 2 inches long, washers, wing nuts Cardboard
Watercolor paper (or white paper)
Paint or stain (optional)
Flowers and leaves

Saw (optional)
Ruler or t-square
Clamps or painter’s tape
Drill with 1/4 and 5/16 inch bits
X-acto knife

Step 2
Step 3
Step 9
Step 10 – First paper layer with plant material
Step 10 – Second paper layer
Step 10 – Cardboard layer
Step 11


  1. Cut wood to desired size (your local hardware store may offer this service) or use pre-cut pieces—I found pre-sanded 8×10 inch plywood boards in a local craft store.
  2. Stack both pieces of wood, then clamp or tape together. With pencil, make a mark on top board in each corner, 1 inch from each edge.
  3. With 1/4 inch bit, drill a hole through both boards in each corner where marked.
  4. Remove clamps or tape, then set bottom board aside. On top board only, use drill with 5/16 inch bit to enlarge the 1/4 inch holes.
  5. Use sandpaper to smooth off any rough edges on top and bottom boards.
  6. If you wish to paint or stain your project, do so at this time. Let dry according to material instruction.
  7. Use an X-acto knife to cut multiple cardboard pieces about ¼ inch shorter in length and width than your boards. Repeat with watercolor paper. Each layer consists of two pieces of paper, then a piece of cardboard is placed between the layers. For example, six layers requires 12 pieces of paper and five pieces of cardboard.
  8. Use x-acto knife to notch all corners of each piece of paper and cardboard to fit inside bolts.
  9. Use screwdriver to afix bolts to bottom board until heads are snug. 
  10. Lay a piece of paper on bottom board, then add plant material. Lay a second piece of paper on top of plant material followed by a piece of cardboard. Repeat the paper, plants, paper, cardboard pattern. The final paper layer will not need a piece of cardboard on top. 
  11. Slide the top board onto the bolts, then add a washer to each bolt. Thread a wing nut onto each bolt and tighten evenly to create uniform pressure. 
  12. Leave press undisturbed for at least 30 days before removing and using pressed material.

– Collect plant material on dry days after mid-morning when dew has evaporated, and place in press before they begin to wilt. 
– When placing plant material, keep items from overlapping, otherwise when they dry they will be stuck together permanently.

I decided to spruce up my press and display it when not serving its true purpose. Some stain and a piece of botanical scrapbook paper transformed this tool into a pretty addition to my living room décor.

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