I don’t know when it started - my love for nature. Was it when I was little, holding my grandpa’s hand as we walked through the park together, and he told me all about the trees around us? He knew so much about nature, my grandpa. He worked for the Nature & Wildlife Department in Holland so this was kind of his thing.
This love for nature apparently also rubbed off on my dad. When he was a little boy (and super agile!), he’d help his dad with field work. One of my memories growing up is of my dad excitedly spotting a bird of prey while driving and my mom cautioning him to just keep his eyes on the road….
I’m also a bit of a nerd in that I’ve always loved school and learning. Well, this past weekend, I got the chance to sit in a college classroom again. You should’ve seen my smile! I told my husband I was so happy and excited to be there that morning. He responded with “you didn’t have to tell me that!” Okay, besides my smile, I guess I was a bit bouncy in my seat too…
My fascination with nature became stronger after experiencing lots of pain and healing from a spinal surgery. It wasn’t that I didn’t like nature before but having to seriously slow down, I just noticed more. As part of my physical therapy rehab, I needed to walk every day. Being outside didn’t just make my body feel better, but my mind as well.
Anyways, my husband and I took a Naturalist class to learn more about the beautiful nature around us. We signed up for the class because when I’m on a hike, I notice all these beautiful wildflowers or critters or mushrooms and then I want to know what I’m looking at! My husband loves nature too so we thought it’d be even better taking the class together. The class was super helpful in learning about different resources and we got to spend time in nature practicing our identification skills as well.
What I wanted to share with you most of all, was that one central idea of the class was that everyone can be a citizen naturalist! Yes, you too! You might ask what the heck even is that?
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It basically means someone who loves nature and wants to help make a positive impact on the environment. Depending on your interests, you can choose to help in different ways. You can help scientists with reporting data about wildlife or plants in your area. You can volunteer with a local organization to help clean up an area by removing invasive plants or litter. You can share your love for nature with the community.
This work is increasingly important as people spend more and more time indoors and we’re more removed from nature than ever before.
What are you passionate about? Is it wildflowers? Do you think frogs are cute? Are you fascinated by mushrooms like me? I want to encourage you to continue to explore these areas you feel curious about, learn more and maybe even get involved in what gives you joy while at the same time helping your community.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on the concept of “citizen naturalists” and what area you feel most passionate about. Also, if you enjoyed this blog post, please consider sharing it via social media. I appreciate it!
Have a wonderful weekend! I hope you get to spend some of it outside!
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Most weekends, our family enjoys exploring the beauty of the Pacific Northwest nature. Recently, we had the chance though, to head up to Seattle for some exploring in the city. Our son had a special performance at MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture) and since our family loves to travel, we grabbed the opportunity to make a family fun weekend trip out of it!
MoPOP was so fun! After the performance, we ended up roaming the exhibits and playing the musical instruments the rest of the day! Besides visiting MoPOP, we didn’t really have a lot of plans set in stone. This unstructured time allowed us to find a place we would have otherwise never known about, as it opened very recently. However, we were all blown away by the experience.
As we were walking the streets through the South Lake Union neighborhood on our way to play tourists at Pike Place Market, we noticed an eye catching building at the end of the block. We couldn’t help but move closer and asked a person who looked like someone who would know, standing near the door, what this building was all about.
We found out this building was named “The Spheres” and that these peculiar buildings were amazon’s new offices. He invited us to come in. Really?! Inside, the atmosphere was transformational as huge close-up images of beautiful plants greeted us. The room’s exhibits explained the unique architecture of “The Spheres” and the philosophy behind it.
While we couldn’t access the upper floors of the buildings, videos and photographs gave a pretty clear picture of what these spaces looked like. The middle of the building had a huge tree in it and thousands of plants from all over the world were brought in to create a green, natural environment.
The conference rooms were built like a bird’s nest and a tree house connected by wooden walkways that reminded us of suspended bridges in the forest. Amazon encourages their employees to have meetings in these inspirational places.
Based on scientific research that shows people think best when walking, employees can move on the wooden walkways to gain new insights or figure out the creative solution to a problem.
My husband and I have been reading the book “The Nature Fix” by Florence Williams. This book discusses the scientific evidence behind nature making us happier, healthier and more creative. We have been very intrigued by this book and have certainly found that spending time in nature has added much happiness and joy in our own lives.
Here are 3 ways:
1. Go out into nature as often as you can
Find outdoor activities you enjoy to stay fit and have fun with your family. Maybe instead of going to that matinee at the movie theater, go for a hike?
2. Bring nature in
Indoor plants benefit the air quality and beautify our home.
3. Walking meetings
Can you do some of your work while walking? Meet a friend for a walk instead of sedentary coffee or lunch?
What is your favorite way to incorporate these concepts in your life? Which one of these ideas most speaks to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Would love to hear from you!
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If you have been following my journey (or instagram) for awhile, you know I love nature and spending time in the outdoors. As I continually reflect on how I can make a positive impact on our environment, I’d like to share these 3 no-brainer ways to help our Earth as they are easy to incorporate in a busy family lifestyle:
1. Walk or Bike
Consider walking or biking next time you have to run some errands. When your errands are close to home, it really doesn’t take that much more time than jumping in the car, sitting at a red light and having to find a parking spot. Not only is walking or biking better for the environment, it makes you feel so much better too!
One of the ways I literally got back onto my feet after dealing with agonizing back pain was by starting to go for daily walks as part of my physical therapy routine. I love my daily walks now! They provide for so much inspiration for my art! Walking helps me to clear my head and often gives me a new perspective.
I realize not all cities are as well set up as Portland is to bike all over the city, but most places have sidewalks for walking. Take the kids along and use the time to chat with them as you get your errands done the fun way. Some of my favorite walking errands? Picking up a few groceries. Going to the local library. Going to the bank.
Could you do some of your errands by foot or by bike instead of by car?
2. Reuse more
Instead of purchasing everything new and having to go shopping for more stuff, we try to reuse items whenever we can. Especially if you are into crafts and enjoy being creative, you can have fun with this one! Some of the items we regularly reuse are yogurt tubs or small plastic containers for leftovers, gift bags that still look nice and large coffee containers to store art supplies.
Did you know that the lid of a yogurt container makes for a wonderful paint palette? Another idea: we cut off the bottom of an ice cream bucket, poked a couple of holes in the side and wove some string through the holes to hold our dry erase markers. This reuse method has made for an easy way to hang them near the dry erase board. New ipad or tablet? The sturdy tray in which they are packaged can be used as a handy organizer for tights, nylons or other accessories in your closet.
What are your favorite items to reuse? In what handy way are reused items serving your family?
3. Eat vegetarian food more often
My husband gave me a vegetarian cookbook for Christmas. I have wanted to eat more vegetarian food for quite some time and he figured I could use some inspiration! It’s been really fun to try some new recipes. The cookbook is called How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, the Revised Edition.
I like how the recipes are explained with clear instructions and expectations on the time needed to prepare them. There are plenty of easy recipes in the book that help you to maximize flavor without adding stress to your busy week.
While we are not 100% vegetarian, I have felt good about making this change to our lifestyle both for health as well as environmental reasons. It’s really not been that difficult either. If you’re interested in reading more about how our food impacts the Earth, here are a couple of interesting articles on the topic:
Has your family tried to include more vegetarian meals? What are your favorite veggie dishes? Would love to hear from you in the comments!
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... you can make a difference for a sweet 7 year old girl in my family. You see, just a few months ago, Maddison’s days were filled with gymnastics, attending 2nd grade and playing with her sister and dogs. Then, on November 18th, Maddison was diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme Cancer. Glioblastoma is a very rare and difficult to treat cancer. While battling cancer is so extremely challenging already, the family has had to battle with the health insurance company to get coverage for the chemotherapy drugs Maddison’s oncologist has recommended.
Hearing her story really touched my heart. I wanted to help but live too far away to help in a direct way. Because I express my feelings through art, I created a drawing inspired by Maddison and her love for animals and the zoo.
I’m offering this drawing to you as a free printable that you can use as a coloring page for your kids or a decorative print to hang on the wall of your child’s bedroom or baby’s nursery. You can download the pdf file simply by clicking on the image below and print from your home computer or at local print shop.
However, if you choose to download the printable, I ask that you please consider making a donation to Maddison’s gofundme campaign. Maddison is so strong and brave but she could really use a miracle right now. The gofundme campaign will help pay for the overwhelming medical expenses. Any donation will be appreciated! Your donation will bring hope and make a difference.
Thank you so much!
What’s going on this week? Well, a whole lot of learning. Our son left for a week long overnight field trip last Sunday. He just started attending a new school and even though he has been making friends, he has only known them for a few weeks. This is the longest he has been away from home and I miss him!
I’m sure he is having a wonderful time and I’m thankful for my friends who reassured me that their kids who already had the opportunity to go on this trip, had a great time and came back with lots of fun stories. So, while he is learning about nature and science and being away from home making new friends, I’m learning to trust that he will be just fine and learning to let go.
This morning, I volunteered with our daughter’s classroom. Every month, their class gets to visit an elderly home to read to the residents who receive care for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The kids walk from school to the care home with books tucked under their arms. While the kids bring joyful energy and the excitement of having a visitor to these residents, the kids learn so much more than just reading skills.
They learn how to be respectful to others, about the challenges of having a disease like Alzheimer’s and that they can provide joy just by showing up and reading. They also learn that even though a resident may fall asleep during the middle of their story or act like they don’t care about being read to, it doesn’t have anything to do with how well they read their story or the level of their reading skills. They still have a gift to give and can share it by reading.
This morning, one of the residents had fallen asleep while a boy was reading to her. He didn’t get deterred by this at all and just continued reading his book. I walked over and told him that his reading must have relaxed her so much that it helped her to fall asleep. He gave me the biggest smile and continued on. A gift to her and a gift to him.
Watching these kids connect with the elderly at this care home, reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” Life can be such a struggle but sometimes the smallest acts of kindness and love can make the biggest difference.
P.S. In the spirit of giving, I recently designed gift tags that you can use to add a cute little something to presents for your friends, family and kids. They feature my new daisy flower and popular smiling snowman illustrations so they are perfect all year around - for both gifts in the summer as well as winter. I strive to help you find or make meaningful gifts for your loved ones so I hope you like this gift tag printable!
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Last night was very special. After working on this large mosaic for a small eternity, my sweet hubby helped me on the final stage: hanging it up! I can't tell you how gratifying it was to see my artwork hanging up on our front porch... complete! After months of painting the frame, cutting glass (and perhaps my fingers at times...ouch!), arranging each individual piece, attempting to glue the pieces without getting glue in my hair and even getting my dad involved in the muddy process of grouting during their visit... it is complete! A visual sign that baby steps will eventually get us there!
I took this photo as the sun was almost going down and there was barely any sunlight to shine through the colored stained glass but it didn't matter! Because it's about celebrating the moment! And we live in Oregon. We don't really have any light for a good part of the year so there. :0)
While there are plenty of flaws in the artwork for the critical eye, this is my hope: that people who see my mosaic will simply be reminded of the beauty of nature and be inspired to cherish the simple joys in life. May all who walk past our home, be lifted up like a hummingbird in flight. I know that all sounds a bit sentimental (which I try to avoid most days because you know, I'm Dutch) but that's my hope.
We just got back from vacation in Costa Rica. What an amazing adventure it was! We planned this trip a year ago, before all my health issues started so I was especially grateful to be up and able to travel. We had traveled to Costa Rica about 12 years ago and were very excited to share the experience with the kids this time. If you love nature and wildlife, Costa Rica is the place to be! We spent our days observing wildlife, enjoying family time, creating art and practicing our Spanish with the local Costa Ricans we met. We have found them to be some of the friendliest people on earth.
One day, I wore a t-shirt with my sloth design on it and the two local naturalists we were hiking with started discussing whether the simple line drawing of the sloth I drew was a two or a three toed sloth. They eventually both agreed it must be a two toed sloth because of the color. It was pretty funny!
A popular expression you will hear in Costa Rica is "pura vida"! It is used as a greeting as well as an expression of a sentiment that says "I wish you a good life!", "Enjoy life" or "Life is great!" It encourages us to slow down and really appreciate all the joys and beauty life gives us. Witnessing the life style of the Costa Rican people and hearing them use this powerful expression daily, you can't help but be touched by it. So, while we have been unpacking our bags and preparing for the busy holiday season, I have been mindful of keeping "pura vida" close to heart and realizing that this can be a gift that lasts beyond the vacation!
I love new beginnings. New Year's Day. A new school year for the kids. My birthday. These days mark the start of a new phase, a sort of blank canvas waiting to be filled with exciting color. A chance to reflect on the year past as well as the hopes and wishes for the year ahead. A "reset" button to delete the stuff you don't like and put more energy into the positive.
As I'm celebrating my birthday this week, I'm eager to say goodbye to a year filled with health challenges and welcome a year focused on better health and more art making. Receiving so many wonderful birthday wishes from friends and family, I'm so thankful for all the love and support. I'm also thankful for my sweet hubbie who surprised me, not only with a gift certificate for massage to help heal my back but also with a set of Copic art markers (they are the best!). A great match to my two goals for this year: better health and more art making! Want to join me on this journey?!
Just a quick post to say I'm recovering nicely from my surgery and now focusing on healing and getting stronger. I can't wait to feel good enough to create art but I'm finding I'm behind on so many things! I was really forced to slow down during all these health issues so while the work has been piling up, I learned to just breathe and tackle one thing at a time. It's okay to not multi-task and focus on what's most important.
Sometimes that means listening to the kids while they tell me about their day at school... without also getting the dishes done at the same time. Or helping with a tricky homework problem and not cooking but making a super easy meal. Yes, tonight's dinner was ham sandwiches and frozen peas for the kids and some leftovers for me and my hubby. But homework is now in the backpacks and I read an exciting story aloud to the kids before bed that made us all laugh. And yes, there are still two loads of laundry to fold but that mountain seems to never go away...
So instead of folding, I'm sitting here at my computer writing to you and uploading some fun seasonal gifts you may like. Why? Because art and writing makes me happy. Life is short so it makes a whole lot of sense to balance being productive with being happy. So for now, let's ignore those piles of laundry and dishes and do what makes you happy.
Visit the pumpkin patch with the kids and eat those sticky caramel apples. Go for a walk and collect acorns. Listen to music and spend time with your family and friends. Kick the ball and cheer for your little soccer player out on that muddy field. Create art and write stories. Celebrate the season and take it all in. And please.... remind me of this when my body is healed and I'm moving quicker again!
So I’m headed into yet another surgery. I turned 40 this year and apparently it was the year for my body to throw a fit. The good news is that 41 is supposed to be awesome!
While I’m certainly not qualified to give professional advice and this may not work for everyone, I have found a couple of ways to keep my head up during my year of medical appointments and immobility.
Smile and give compliments
You’ll be amazed how good it feels to give a neighbor a compliment on their beautiful garden or cute dress. They will smile to you in response to your compliment and you’ll find yourself smiling back. So look for opportunities to say something nice to someone else. It will make the day better for both of you!
Put things in perspective
Everyone is carrying a burden of some sort. Some may be apparent, some are not. While it is perfectly okay to acknowledge whatever misery you’re in, sometimes it helps to put things in perspective. Instead of looking at others whose lives seemingly are without any problems, try to think of those people who are facing more difficult struggles than you and send them positive thoughts.
Buy yourself a pumpkin spice latte
Silly maybe. But sometimes it’s the little things that can make all the difference.
I recommend chocolate therapy too. In moderation of course….
Look forward to what’s ahead after your surgery or other difficulty you are facing
Are there any special activities you enjoy doing? Any upcoming events on the calendar? Focus on the positive things in your future and spend time imagining how much fun you’ll have.
What do you do when faced with a hardship or difficult time? How do you lift your spirits? Please share by leaving a comment!
Illustrations and nature inspired, handmade art that celebrates simple joys.