Saturday, February 14, 2015

Laying Out The Garden...Rejoice in the Lord always!

For the past few weeks, I have been avoiding writing this post (laying out my garden).  I thought perhaps the weather had me bummed.  While I am certainly sick of the bitter cold, blowing wind and constant snow, I know planning my garden is a reminder that this winter weather will subside.  Soon enough we will be outside in shorts and tank tops, running through sprinklers and hanging clothes on the clothesline.  I can almost smell the fresh cut grass and sunscreen now--almost!

Over these past few weeks, I've thought about how I started my gardening journey.  I started off so excited, so pumped to give my family a year's supply of food.  I had charts and numbers;  it was all broken down.  So what am I dawdling about?  I played around with how to lay out my garden over and over, all 690 square feet of it.  Every time I decided on how to fit everything I decided it just wasn't right?

Psalm 127: 1-2

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Such a huge undertaking has me overwhelmed, it is causing worry, a feeling of burden and anxiety.  This garden was to be a blessing to my family and I.  Yet, here I am, avoiding it.  The Lord does not want us to have anxiety and worry.  So, I stepped back and thought, what good is going to come of something that causes me worry, anxiety and dare I  say it...sinfulness?

Nothing--no good is going to come from it.  The Lord is not blessing, nor will he bless something that causes sin.  I don't want that if one of my sweet little kiddos accidentally tramples a tomato plant, me to enter into a state of panic and anger.

So, in stepping back, I'm looking at what goals I have, and how I can make this garden be a blessed garden.

Firstly, I want to make this something that I can do with my kids that we all enjoy and have fond memories off.  As a child I have three of my favorite "garden memories." 

1) Eating green beans fresh off my neighbor (Mrs. K's) green bean vines
2) Playing with my cousin, Paula's, sunflower house (which was simply sunflowers that were planted in a square)
3) Snitching raspberries off of my grandpa's raspberry bushes

Simply put, if I can have green beans, a sunflower house and a few raspberry bushes I know that my garden will achieve my top goal.  My kids will love it, I'll find joy in it and it will not cause me anxiety!

Secondly, I want a reason to step outside daily and just enjoy God's creation!

Genesis 1:11-12
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 

I want to please God with my attitude and patience.  I want God to look down at me happily working in my garden and say, "It is good!"  I don't want him seeing me exhaustively canning my 100th jar of pickles and say "She sure missed the point!"  So, I shall scale it back to a level that will allow me time to look up from weeding and see the beauty that is God's creation! 

Finally, I want to provide food for my family.  I decided what I really want in the end is tomato sauce, garlic and carrots.  Anything above that will be in moderation.

So it is settled, green bean, sunflower house, raspberry bushes, tomatoes, garlic and carrots are a must, the rest is a bonus!  That I can find calm in.  I know with that I can relax a bit!

So much is difficult in life.  There are lunches to pack,bills to pay, clothes to fix, taxes to prepare, mail to open, sheets to wash, the list goes on and on.  In all of this, we have to remember that God has lifted the biggest burden we have and he wants us to focus on this joy!  And for me, what a better way to see the beauty and joy that our Lord has given us, than a walk through my attempt at a humbled down version of Eden. 

Philippians 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Tea Party in a Bag (Sewing Instructions)

Valentine's Day is a big deal at my house.  Because it falls right at the end of what always is a long, cold winter, we are happy to have anything to celebrate. We cut out hearts and decorate the house the way only a 1.5, 3.5 and 6.5 year old can.  It is a day full of joy and love!  Daddy always comes home to streamers, balloons, food (all red, heart-shaped or deemed someone's favorite).

Every year we like to get each of our kiddos a something they will love!  It usually ends up being a toy of some sort.  This year, I decided to do things differently and make them each something.  I did get a puzzle for my youngest and a set of edging scissors for my older two, but I would have ended up getting those anyways.  So, I'm still declaring this a home made Valentine's Day!

I saw an item online that was like a giant floor mat that turned into a sack that carried the toys.  It was $60, but looked easy enough to make.  I bought some fabric and made one for my son to carry around whatever set he was building at the time, Lego, K'nex, Erector..etc.

Then I had a great idea for my 3.5 year old girl.  She is always having these elaborate "picnic tea parties," so why not jazz it up the mat to look like a garden; my little sweetie could carry her tea party wherever she went.  Here is the finished product.  I think she is going to love it!

What is great about this, is you can make it any size you want.  this one is about 1 yard (3 feet) wide.

To start you will need to note the diameter of your project:
I bought the following:

1/2 yard red checked material (for the "picnic blanket")
1 1/4 yard flower cotton material
1 1/2 yard duck cloth (shown in pink--note, this is 54 inches wide, rather than the usual 45 inches)
Matching Thread
Ribbon or paracord (3 times your diameter in feet + 2 feet)

This will be broken into the following steps:
1. Cut out circle from duck cloth and flower fabric.
2. Stitch circles together
3. Make bias tape for edges
4. Make button holes on backside of bias tape
5. Attach bias tape to circle
6. Pull ribbon through edging.

Below, each step is broken down with pictures:

Step 1:
Lay out your duck cloth and make a small clip at your diameter (I did 36 inches)
Fold the clipped section so it makes a triangle (if you are looking at the tape measure above it will be where is says 35.5 inches to the end of the clipped section).

Now continue that fold all the way up.  You can see on the picture below you will make a big triangle with the long fold being your diameter.
Cut along the short sides of the triangle (which will result in a square of fabric folded in half).

Take your triangle and fold it in half from left to right meaning direction, not the 90 degree angle.
Now fold again, from top angle to right directional angle.
Repeat this process of folding in half until you end up with your fabric looking like the following two pictures:

Flip over your fabric if necessary so it looks like the bottom picture and cut off the top part:

Okay, now get rid of that top section and  cut the bottom so it has a slight curve, unfolding and adjusting your cut until you have a nice circle (it can be slightly bumpy, you are going to cover the edge)
 Unfold and behold your circle!

Next you want to lay your inner fabric (I used the flower print) down under your circle and cut out the same size circle.

Step 2:
You will now need to clip your circles together (I ended up adding some pins the center as well). 

Sew a design or whatever you like (kind of like quilting) so both pieces of fabric stay together.  
Follow with a simple seam right along the edge.

Don't forget to remove all your clips and pins!

Step 3:
You now want to make a really wide bias tape.  This can get a bit tricky and you absolutely must use an iron.  I hate ironing, so if even I'm pulling out mine, you'll want to follow suit.

To start you want to take note of your fabric (we'll be using the duck cloth for this).  If you pull it with the grain (or stitch) there isn't much give.  Same with pulling it side to side.  Now, if you pull from corner to corner you get a bit of a stretch.  This is the bias. 

If you made bias tape before, you may have chosen not to cut on the bias.  For 1/2 inch bias tape, that give may not have mattered.  Here it absolutely does!

To start take a big rectangle or square of your material and fold it like a triangle (or a triangle with another rectangle on the side, if you are using a rectangle).
Continue folding as shown below
 You'll end up with a nice triangle.

Fold it again and place on a cutting board as shown above. and cut from top to bottom 6 inch strips.
Unfold the strips.  If some look like below, cut on the diagonal line.
 Now line up each piece as below:
 Note: remember right side (right side up), left side (wrong side up)
 Now draw a line from where each piece meets from one side to the other.
Sew along the line and unfold.

Continue with this process until you have at least your diameter times 3.2 inches length strip.
Cut all of the seams close to your stitchin
Press this tape flat and then bring up one edge about 1/2 inch and press the entire length of the strip.
 For the other length you want to measure 4.5 inches from your folded edge and press this entire length (constantly keeping the edges 4.5 inches apart).
Fold from edge to almost edge, leaving the bottom side slightly higher than the top side. Press the entire length.
Step 4:
You are now going to make 2 holes for the ribbon to go through so you can tie up the circle.  Pick a spot on the backside of bias tape and make a straight line.
MAKE SURE YOU UNFOLD your bias tape and make the button holes through only 1 layer.  Using your button hole setting on your machine, make two button holes

Step 5:
From the center of your bias tape, with the wider side down, measure 1.5 inches and pin just the underside for the first 2 pins

After the first 2 pins, continue to measure and pin both the top and bottom of the bias tape 1.5 inches from the edge of the circle. Until you get to your last 6 inches.(Note: the outside edge will stand up, just make sure your center circle is flat).
  Now, your bias tape should meet up and you should have a little extra.  Clip off the extra

Now unfold the bias tape completely on the edges.
Fold both sides of the tape so the inside edges just touch.
 Mark that spot, make a line and sew it RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER.
 Trim off the extras.
Fold the tape back up and repin either side of the stitch so both layers of tape are pinned on ALL pins.

With the inside up sew all the way around the tape using a strong stitch.

Now, you can see the whole thing pops up, but since of bias tape was cut on the bias, we have a bit of give and can iron it nice and....

Step 6:
For the last step you are going to need something that is solid that you can tie your ribbon to.  I used a mechanical pencil.

Tie the ribbon on, and pull from one button hole, around the edging all the way to the other one.

You are done!
(You can make a picnic blanket like I did.  It is just a pillow with no stuffing.)
When you are done playing, just pull the ribbon and it all cinches up for the next tea party!

Monday, February 2, 2015

How to Organize a Winter Closet

Very few have plunged into the depths that is my front entry closet.  It is small and becomes the catch all for my families endless supply of outerwear, borrowed items and an eclectic array of...well...crap! When people come  I embarrassingly take their coats, hang them in the closet, and push everything back as I close the doors, which promptly snap back open in a reciprocating spasm.  Lately, I've given up this charade, simply pretending coats don't exist until overheated guests take matters into their own hands, tossing them on chairs, couches or whatever other means they have.

However, today as I brought my son home from school I looked at this (cue horror movie
Yes, those are Christmas February, but see that little basket under them, that is for things to return/bring to someone else's house.   Duffel bags, Epipen bags, shoes, boots, scarves, baseball hats;  it all migrated to my entry way.  There is no more closing closet doors and denying.  This winter clothing catastrophe has migrated and is putting me within seconds of a panic attack!

I did have a plan for everything, but then when the morning chaos and afternoon chaos of getting kids to and from school took over, I couldn't keep up.  Outerwear had to be laid out to dry, backpacks hung and five sets of hats, gloves, boots, shoes, coats and snowpants take up a lot of space.  Like how I'm justifying this?  I digress!

Now, I will give you a peak into the closet.  Shield your children's eyes, make sure you are seated and behold my closet:

I would like to again justify and point out my valiant, albiet failed attempt:


Notice the labeling...oooo...labeling.  Yeah, that worked last year.  My kids all decided to grow into bigger everything and those cute little gloves and mittens and scarves turned into big bulky balls of "thinsulate" that prevent the drawers from opening.  

This also was a great concept, put those little thin gloves and mitten together like socks and then you'll know where they all are.  Problem is, these are no good after October in Wisconsin, yet they are taking up prime space.  See, best of intentions, poor results!

So, I broke this into steps.  The first was pull everything out!
Never before have I prayed for my husband to get caught up at work so he didn't have to come home to the above, but he was nice and early.  Bless him, he decided to take over dinner so we could utilize our front door come morning.

Okay, so now that everything was out I had a nice place to start:

Before I delve to far in, note: I was not going for Martha Stewart here.  I went for functional.  There will be not painting, nor coordinating wicker baskets, nor the purchasing of anything following the bohemian theme (that's a decorating term, right)?  I was determined to get this done with what I have and make it work for a family of five.  Everything that comes and goes out on a daily basis or anything that is worn outside must be stored in this closet and entryway without offending visitors or making me go crazy.

First I decided to move the shelf to the right since we are all right handed and it will make it easier on the kids to have it to the right.  I then decided everything that went in the closet had to have a "zone."

1-Basket/Bin for "Rain Gear"
2-Basket/Bin for extra gloves, mittens, hats and scarves
3-Basket/Bin for extra boots, snowpants and winter coats
4-Basket/Bin for Spring/Fall outerwear

Wire Rack
1 compartment for each person's Backpack, lunchbox, boots, gloves, hat, scarves, dry snowpants, etc.
1 compartment for blankets (used to bundle our youngest in the stroller)

Top of Wire Rack
1 bin for each member an extra scarf, hat, gloves and hat (since we often have to change out while others are drying and don't want to dig through the "extras" basket each time).
1 jar for clothes pins (to clip gloves and hats for drying)
1 bin for "items to return/bring somewhere else"

Then putting everything in its place became easy.  I pulled out some old bins, moved some baskets that were already in there and ended up with this  (Yes, the bins up top are organized, just umbrellas and hats were a bit big for the bins):

I did keep up my hanger in the entry way so the kids can reach their coats.  I also let them put up their "library" bags so they can get to their books easily.  The three baskets above are designated one for my husband's scarf, hat and gloves, one for mine and one for walkie talkies and eventually my "weed wacking" safetly glasses and ear protection for lawn mowing.  I also am picking my battles and my husbands work backpack can sit here (mostly because it covers an ugly outlet).

I see these pictures and I'm pleased that I have extra snowpants for the kids.  We have not just enough hats, but extra hats and boots, and gloves; we have more than enough!  God has blessed us greatly.  But still, if you look at my "pins" you see that I had big plans for this closet.  Big expensive plans, plans that in this time in my life are not going to happen.

Exodus 20:17
“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.”

That is difficult to hear but crucial in our lives.  So many times we want to the point that it affects our relationship with our Savior!  Our focus becomes what we can obtain rather than what we have already been given through Christ!  God did not give us this rule to prevent us from ever having what we desire.  He gave us this rule to show us that desires of things must not occupy a space that he so lovingly desires to fill with his presence and word!

Our longing needs to be focused on him, not worldly goods.   Being content with what we have and honored when we receive what we desire, should be our goal.  We must praise God for our current possessions and pray he bless whatever else he gives us the ability and means to obtain. 

When I open my closet door, my goal is to think of this command from God and thank him that my family is bundled for winter and that in Him there is all the beauty I need.  If he someday blesses me with the means to paint this closet the perfect shade of yellow with coordinating wicker baskets and bohemian coat hangers (??) I will gladly accept.  Until then I'll keep my paintbrush happily tucked away in my husband's workshop and my eyes focused on my God, who perfectly coordinates my life's needs, even when my baskets and coat hangers aren't.

Blessings and contentment!