Monday, February 23, 2015

$3 Fleece Kids' Pancho

 i meant to post this earlier... if i had i would have titled it "rainy day craft"... or icy day craft since we actually had a full days worth of icy rain. technically this was made a month or so ago and at that time i would've titled it "WALMART hack"... but i've been busy with a few things and never blog what i intend to, when i intend to. so call it what you want. ;)

STEP 1. purchase (or dig out of your closet) a $2.88 fleece blanket from wally world.

STEP 2. (optional) cut off the outer stitching. you can leave it on, or you could use a seam ripper if you aren't in a hurry.
STEP 2.5... get your 11 year old daughter to help since she's the one who wanted a pancho like her sister has that i made the same way ;)

STEP 3. fold the blanket lengthwise. 

STEP 4. Cut off a foot from the end.

STEP 5. Measure kiddo's head. (22")

STEP 6. Take the foot of blanket you just cut off and fold it in half. (it's already folded in half from when you cut it, so now it should be four layers thick and will form a square--see step 7 picture)

STEP 7. measure from the fold, half of the head measurement (11") and pin.

STEP 8. have your kiddo hand-stich the seam. {hand-stiching is good for the soul} 

STEP 9. trim off excess.

STEP 10. fold in half so that you form a ring with the stitched seam inside. this will be the comfy, soft and warm collar.

STEP 11. back to the big piece of blanket/fabric... find and pin the center of the fold.

STEP 12. measure and pin a few inches from the center (red)pin on both sides. (i picked 8"-- that's 4" on either side of the center pin-- but basically you want about 1/3 of the head measurement.)

STEP 13. roughly measure a half circle from the pins (so about 14"... that's what was left of the 22" after marking off the 8") and mark with a few pins or mark with chalk.

STEP 14.  cut out the half circle shape ON ONE LAYER ONLY...
 ...then cut along the fold...
 ...when you open it up you should now have a gumdrop shape in the middle of a big square.

STEP 15. now, line up the seam of the collar with the flat part of the gumdrop opening. (this will be the back)

STEP 16. start pining the edges of the collar and opening together... start at the seam in the back and work your way around to the front. if the opening stretches bigger than the collar, don't worry, simply fold/pleat the extra fabric in the center front and pin in place. hand-stitch away!

STEP 17. turn right side out, fold the collar down halfway and you're done. slip it on and take a picture! :)

If you want to blanket stitch around the pancho edge you can, but the beauty of this blanket/fabric/pancho is that you dont have to. no unraveling. super comfy and cheap and it only takes about an hour to make (depending on how fast you and your kiddo sew). :)


*for sizing reference, my daughter is 11 and wears sz 10/12 on top. this also worked for my other daughter who is 9 and wears sz 7/8.*

Friday, February 13, 2015

That Time I Pruned a Tree

2 days.

I spent TWO DAYS pruning a pomegranate tree!

I honestly don't know how long it's been since it was pruned because we've only lived here for about 9 months. and I've only had one other experience with a pomegranate tree and that was when I spent a semester in Jerusalem. There was a lovely garden on the campus where I lived and studied that included olives and figs and of course a pomegranate tree. I ate from the tree and it was good.

Fast forward to last summer when we moved into this house and noticed about 3 pomegranates growing on a severely overgrown bush. We hoped to see more but that was all we got to enjoy.

Fast forward again to this week. I watched a video about pruning trees and suddenly the process seemed a little less intimidating. The guy on the video said I wouldn't kill the tree lol... and that's really what I needed to hear because I knew the tree desperately needed to be taken care of in order to grow at least a handful of fruit, but I was scared to jump in and accidentally kill it. The process is pretty simple though, you get rid of downward growing branches because they won't be able to hold fruit; you get rid of branches that crisscross each other and that want to grow towards the center because you need to let the sun shine in to produce good fruit; and you cut the branches near the new growth in order to train it which way to grow.

By the end of the first day and throughout the second day working on our P-tree (pomegranate takes too long to type each time lol) my heart and mind were flooded with lesson after lesson. By the end I literally had to hold back tears as I kept repeating to myself, "The Lord is Good. God, You are SO Good!"So, I thought I would attempt to share some of the things I saw and learned while out there.

The Lord is Good. I want to point this out first, because if you see the rest of what I share through this "filter", it all makes so much sense!

Pruning is necessary. If my P-tree is going to bear good fruit (and more than just a handful each season), then some of it's overgrowth has GOT. TO. GO! I'm telling you folks, it was a tangled mess up in there. It would have been better if it had been pruned a little bit each year; But it hadn't and this was all kinds of crazy and required a MAJOR pruning. Sometimes our lives and our hearts are the same, so tangled, so messed up and so out of whack that we can't let the sun shine into the deepest part of our lives and we struggle to produce a handful of good things in our life. If we want to bear good fruit, then we should expect pruning to come. Even if our life isn't a complete tangled mess, we need routine care and pruning of our lives; cause if the routine pruning doesn't come, then we're almost guaranteed to have problems in the future.

Pruning hurts. If you haven't had the opportunity to interact with a P-tree, then you may not realize that these suckers are FULL. OF. THORNS. I am not even kidding, we're talking about the tiniest of thorns and cat-claw looking thorns, all the way up to perfectly straight and rigid 5 inch thorns. It is pure craziness. Not only did I suffer quite a difficult time in the process, but the tree itself was insanely tangled, so some of the branches were violently yanked about and some parts ripped off because the thorns had become so twisted and had such a great hold on the branches. this was interesting to me, because the thorns are a PART of the P-tree; they weren't an outside source trying to harm the tree. But they were so out of control that they were becoming a major part of the problem. They had created an entire canopy over the tree. Again, not allowing any sunlight to come in. I couldn't help but think about the pride of life. How we can allow certain parts of our lives, parts that really are a natural part of who we are and are even quite necessary, but too often we allow them to get out of control. We place them above other things and they become an idol. We become our own idol and it only hinders us from actually accomplishing what we were created for... to bear good fruit. But the Lord, in His goodness takes the time to remove these things from our lives. How much better though for us to keep them in their place to begin with. To recognize that yes, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but that all our pride and seeking to boast our thorns only cause great pain.

Pruning benefits others. The P-tree's thorns weren't only preventing it from bearing good fruit itself, but it had become terribly wrapped and tangled around the neighboring crepe myrtle and any other nearby bush it could reach. You should have seen me out there, I'm sure I looked quite foolish playing tug-of-war with the jungle of thorny vines. How often does our own stubbornness, or pride, or selfishness, or contempt, or lust, or personal rights preferences, and on and on...  not only prevent us from living a life full of purpose, but we also prevent others from their own growth as well. And how often do we fight back to keep a hold of the things that the Lord wants to wisely remove from our hearts and our lives. The canopy of vines included years worth of thorns that had built up.. if only they had been dealt with and cut back each year and not been allowed to take over. How much greater struggle could have been avoided? And sadly, I cut off the vines as far up as I could reach, but there were still quite a few that remained attached to the other trees and plants. Our lives WILL affect the lives of others, for good or for bad.

Pruning is for our Good. When I was almost done with the whole process, my daughter came out to me and said, "It looks like you're killing it". I had removed branch after branch after branch after branch. There is now a pile of discarded branches and thorns that is as big as what is left of the tree itself. Right now the tree looks alone and stripped bare. What can often look like a murderous onslaught of struggle after struggle, attack after attack, trial after trial... what can sometimes feel like the Lord has abandoned us to our doom... is simply the major pruning of our lives; and it's not without purpose. It's a purpose so beyond what we can see.

I know my tree doesn't feel or think, but if it did, it would probably be asking me, "WHY? Why are you hurting me so much? Why are you cutting off my beautiful branches? Why are you tearing me and allowing me to be cut and pulled in every direction? Why did you have to get rid of the tallest branch? That was my favorite! I'm glad you got scratched by my thorns! How can this possibly be what you want for me? Why am I so broken?"

...and I would reply, "Oh my tree... it is for your good, so that you can bear much good fruit in the season to come. You will be beautiful beyond compare. You will not miss that favorite branch once you see the fruit on the others. You will be strong because I have trained you which way to grow. You will be pleasing to my eyes and to the eyes of others, and you will feed and nourish others because I have greatly cared for you. My tree, I saw your need, I heard the cry of your heart to bear fruit and I answered."

Pruning is Love. Guys, If I didn't want the best for this tree, then I would just leave it alone because it was a LOT of work and energy. But I want it to bear fruit. I want it to be beautiful. I want it to fulfill it's purpose for why it was even created by the Father. And so out of love, I have taken the time to be scratched and pierced and calloused and blistered and sore and sweaty and stinky and itchy. I've put thought into which branches need to go and which ones are good to stay. I've gotten down on my hands and knees and worked the dirt and balanced on the ladder and pushed myself to the greatest limit to reach that one impossible branch. How deep the Father's love for us... that he would see fit for us to be pruned and cared for by His very own hands. He has given us everything. He has sacrificed much. He has done it out of Love.

So ya know... that time I pruned the P-tree... I couldn't help but hear the Lord say, "Oh my child. I have heard your cry to bear fruit, I have seen your need for pruning and I have answered.  Surrender your branches and thorns to Me, so that when the world looks at you, they will see My handiwork and they will glorify Me and know that I Am good."

The Lord is Good.