Using a bullet journal to track habits

how about a 30-day challenge?

Using a bullet journal to track habits

I’ve been thinking about goals lately. I know it’s getting to be late March and normal people think about these things in January–but this is about the time that most people have abandoned their goals. And I am not making progress on a few of the things that I mentally made a list of back in the dewy-eyed days of the New Year.

One of those goals is to lose some weight (original, I know). But as I passed a rather significant birthday milestone last year (I won’t say which one, but it rhymes with “nifty”), I have begun to think more about the health aspects of losing weight than the “I want to look good in skinny jeans” reasons. Honestly, my blood sugar has edged a bit into the pre-diabetic range and since my dad had Type 2 diabetes–this is a reality that I can’t ignore any longer. Clothes are tight, and my joints are getting achy and I don’t want to just accept this as inevitable.

I’ve had success losing weight, with Weight Watchers twice in the past. But obviously not keeping it off. I swore both times that I had learned my lesson and this would be the last time that I had lose weight. And both times I was wrong. This time there will be no grand gestures and overly restrictive plans. This time I want to build some solid habits–one by one. And the first one–as much as it pains me to say it–is tracking my food.

I hate to track my food (see Weight Watchers above). However, I do actually know that it works when I do it. It makes me stop and think before I eat something. Sometimes knowing that I have to stop and track it makes me realize that it’s not even worth it. I almost ate a half a piece of pizza at 10:30 am this morning–but because it was going to be hard to track, I just grabbed an apple instead. A much better choice.

So, I am committing to tracking my food for 30 days. I hope to keep it up even longer, but for right now I am only looking at 30 days. I’m using My Fitness Pal–which you can access both on your computer and as an app on your phone. I use it both ways. The app is nice because you can scan the UPC code of an item and it pops right into the food diary. I am on Day 2 and so far so good. I am not going to beat myself up if my calories are high–that is not the point yet. The point is just to track. Even if that means taking some wild guess on restaurant meals. Again–the point is just to record it. Here is what it looks like:

My Fitness Pal to track food

My intent here is to habit stack. Focus on one good habit a month and continue to build on them.  I already have a little checklist in my bullet journal (pictured at the top of this post) to help me remember to do things each day: devotions, exercise, vitamins, water, and now track. This works well for me because I love to check things off of lists and writing them down each day helps to renew my commitment to do them.

I will be sure to give you a progress report and hopefully this accountability will help me to actually do what I say I am going to do.

Anyone care to join me? Is there a 30-day challenge that you would get you on the right track for a goal that you want to achieve? Let me know!

Using a bullet journal to track habits

these actually are your grandmother’s quilts

handmade antique quilts

The phrase, “Not your grandmother’s quilt” is so prevalent in articles about quilts these days–as if our grandmother’s quilts are somehow “less than” what we are creating today. I could not disagree more.

So today, I’d like to introduce you to three quilts made by my husband’s grandmother, Lettie Maude. As is the way it goes, his mother did not inherit the sewing gene and sadly had little information about them. But he remembers them on the beds in the house all throughout  his childhood. And then he brought them with him when we got married. Even though they were threadbare even then, we continued to use them for many years. I just noticed them in the linen cabinet recently and pulled them out to appreciate them with new eyes.

We don’t really know when they were made, but I’m guessing the 1930s and 40s. I’m no expert, but the fabrics seem consistent with that and it makes sense with her age as well. They are all utilitarian scrap quilts and my husband says that he actually remembers some of the fabrics coming from his grandmother’s dresses. Though the are meant for use and using up bits of old clothes and bits of fabric–each quilt has a unique design that prevents it from being to chaotic.

This little gem was on my daughter’s bed until she left for college last fall. And while it is clearly scrappy–I love how the light and dark purples really give it pattern and structure.

antique quilt

It is worn through in many places, but this didn’t actually stop us from using it until recently.

All three quilts are all machine quilted, but the stitch length on the piecing leads me to believe that these were all hand pieced. The quilter definitely wasn’t worried about points either!

This totally cracks me up. Three of the four corners are curved, but that fourth one is totally squared off as if to say, “I’m done with this already!” This one is machine bound with a crazy zig-zag stitch–another sign that this quilt was meant to be used.

This next one is a very simple scrappy Nine Patch. The design is calmed down by a couple of factors. One is the white snowball block that alternates with the nine patches. But the other I found really interesting. Every nine patch has either green or yellow patches in the corners and center square. This provides a unifying color scheme. Now, our quilter did not arrange these green and yellow blocks in any order–they are totally random–which I find totally charming, but not at all anything I could ever do. And, do you see that hole?

This one is also machine quilted and the design is so uniform that for a moment I wondered if it was computer generated–but obviously not! I guess the quilter just had made these designs so many times that they are amazingly uniform.  And I know I said that every block was either green or yellow–but can you spot that rogue yellow square in what was supposed to be a green block? A humility block, perhaps? Or ore likely, she just ran out of green fabric.

It’s fun to look at the quilting pattern–I remember asking my mother-in-law how they were done. I was not a quilter yet and had no idea about free motion quilting. Achieving this shape on a domestic sewing machine seemed impossible to me. All she said was, “She sent them away to be quilted.” So, I have no idea if they were done on a longarm or a domestic machine–but the designs seem to be in long columns, so I’m thinking a longarm–which was called a “quilting machine” in those days.

Here is the last one. While also a scrap quilt, the design really unifies the scrappiness..

I actually love the way that fabric on this one is just literally wearing away in a swiss cheese fashion.

And there is that same quilting pattern!

antique quilt pattern

All three of these quilts have been retired from active use and are now happily folded on a bench in our family room to appreciate in a new way. I would like to think that Lettie Maude would be happy to know that these labors of love have been in use for the last 80 or so years. And we continue to appreciate them to this day.

I am actually thinking about remaking one of them in contemporary fabrics–but I haven’t decided which one yet. Which one would you choose?

Using a bullet journal to track habits

how to stay on top of your busy life :: reminders

how to use the reminder app to remember stuff

I was doing something that I do every month (or so) the other day–throwing out my old contact lens and opening a new pair. Believe it or not, this action kicks off a conundrum every time I do it. I am supposed to change out my contacts once a month, but I can never figure out a way to keep track of it. By the time I go downstairs to write it on the calendar–it has long ago flown from my head. I’ve tried to put a post-it note in the medicine cabinet, but if falls off and I can never find a pencil to write with anyway. I try to do it on the first of the month–but then a contact rips and I need to start over in the middle of the month… you get the picture.

So, the other day, when this issue reared its ugly head once a gain (and I’m pretty sure it had been well over a month since I changed my contacts, because they felt like sandpaper). I had a brainwave. I reached for my iPhone, held down the home key and said, “Remind me to change my contacts in one month.” Boom! How Star Trek is that?

using the reminder app for productivity

I have come to love and rely on the Reminders app on my phone to get things out of my head and into a format that helps me accomplish what I want to each day. I set a reminder to:

  • Take my vitamins (daily at 7am)
  • Drink water (a reminder twice a day–morning and afternoon)
  • Meditate (daily at 3:30)
  • Give the pets their flea treatment (once a month)
  • Get dog food when I leave home
  • Pull meat out of the freezer when I get home
  • A million other things

Isn’t that cool? You can set reminders that are location dependent! My kids set them to help them remember to get a signature from a teacher or turn in a form when they get to school. Or a reminder to ask me something when they get home.

I don’t know about you, but there are so many little things to keep track of in a day–and though I am a pen and paper girl (I love my bullet journal)m there are some things that digital calendars and reminder apps just do better–those pesky one-off activities (like thaw the meat for dinner tonight) and those recurring activities that are a pain to write a million times on your calendar (like take vitamins). And ever since I discovered voice-to-text, I barely ever type on my phone anymore (how do the kids do it so fast?!).

So unless your memory is a lot better than mine (which wouldn’t be hard) you might want to give it a try,

If you are on Android, here are a few choices for you.

Also, these Trader Joe’s daffodils are making me so happy right now.

Trader Joes' daffodils make me happy

Using a bullet journal to track habits

fifteen minutes of creativity a day

What can you accomplish in fifteen minutes a day?

In the spirit of “little things add up to big things”, a piece of wisdom imparted by my best friend in college, I’ve been participating in something called Marchalong this month. All this means is that you to commit to setting aside fifteen minutes a day for creativity. That’s it. Fifteen minutes. But if you do it–how many hours of creativity does that add up to by the end of the month? Actually, I’m terrible at math, but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot.

I’ve tried this “fifteen minutes a day” idea before with cleaning and decluttering–and honestly, it has never stuck for the whole month. But doing something fun and creative? I think I can make that happen for fifteen minutes a day.

So, how have I been spending my few minutes of creativity so far? First, I finished up my February hand sewing project that I am doing along with the Fat Quarter Shop. I am really loving hand piecing these blocks–I’m almost sorry when I’ve finished the six for the month. But the March blocks will be coming out soon, so I don’t have long to wait. I’ve been stitching away on these in the evenings while we watch Grace and Frankie and This is Us. I’m all caught up now with This is Us and it is agony to wait a week between episodes. I clearly need to find a new British drama to become obsessed with–any suggestions?

patchwork quiltalong, fat quarter shop, hand pieced quilt blocks

In the meantime, I cast on some shorty socks. I got a little obsessed with knitting socks over the summer, but have not cast on a pair in months.  It was clearly time to do so. I cast these on while listening to The Off-Kilter Quilt podcast–which is my favorite quilty podcast. Frances is charming and chatty and just plain entertaining. It’s a great way to spend your fifteen minutes.

knitting, knit picks, knitting project bags, podcasts, tea

Don’t you love this knitting project bag? My friend Minki made it for my birthday last year and I smile every time I reach for it.  People went a little nuts over it on Instagram the other day, but I can’t take any credit for it, except for the little pink knitted patch on the front.

I’m also working on a new quilt design–and honestly the jury is still out on how I feel about this one. I am in absolute love with the fabric line, Sundrops by Cory Yoder. That fact is not in doubt. However, I have rearranged the blocks in a million different ways and I hope I landed on the best one. Stay tuned.

sundrops, moda fabrics, quilting, alphabitties

I like having a few different projects at hand–because sometimes I just don’t feel like sitting down in front of the sewing machine. Or the only way that I’m going to get my fifteen minutes in is in the waiting room at the doctor’s office–so I’m glad that I can pack a sock to knit. But one thing is sure, I’m always amazed at how quickly a project progresses when you actually work on it! Even for just fifteen minutes a day.

What’s for dinner?

Because thinking about what’s for dinner is never far from any woman’s mind, I thought I would share that we are having Jonah’s favorite: Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss. You should try it 🙂 What are you having?

Using a bullet journal to track habits

Interview on String & Story

quilt blogs

 The delightful HollyAnne of String and Story sent me a few questions to answer for her FriYAY Friends post. Pop on over to learn a bit more about my creative journey and where I find inspiration. You can read it here.

cowboy grub

the humblest of meals

 

My dad dropped in unexpectedly this week. And what I mean by that is that he lives in Idaho, and I live in Southern California–and he called me at 1 pm to say that he would be there by dinner. That’s the way my dad rolls. I was so happy he was coming–I don’t see him as much as I’d like. My first thought went to what we were having for dinner. A quick check of my menu plan confirmed one of my deepest fears about hospitality: that what we were having for dinner wasn’t “company worthy”.

I cook nearly every weeknight (I have cleverly worked it out that my husband and kids cook on the weekend). I am not a bad cook–I know what I’m doing in the kitchen, even if I’m not as creative as I wish I was. But I often don’t think that what we eat day in and day out at home is anything special. In fact, I have several friends who basically don’t cook anything more complicated than boiling pasta and heating up a jar of sauce, but they each have these fabulous, signature dishes that they regularly pull out when they need to entertain or bring a dish to a potluck. I have no such dishes. I just cook decent, humble food on a daily basis.

This particular day, when my dad was on his way, revealed my deepest insecurity. This was an especially busy week, with some activity or another–mostly music performances almost every evening. So the meal plan was fleshed out with the quick and easiest of meals. A quick look at the calendar revealed that on tonight’s menu was Cowboy Grub (worst name ever). I never would have even tried this recipe if I hadn’t seen so many rave reviews online about it. In fact, I’m feeling bad because I was going to share the recipe with you, but I just realized that it s from the Trim Healthy Mama cookbook (again, with the terrible names!) and I can’t share it here. But it basically ground beef, brown rice, pinto beans, corn, diced tomatoes with chili powder, and cumin. It’s chili with rice and corn added in. The simplest of ingredients, thrown together and simmered for a few minutes–it is fast, easy, nutritious, and actually quite tasty. I was skeptical the first time I made it, but we all commented during dinner that it didn’t look like much, but it was tasty!

I asked my husband, who was home for lunch, if he thought I should make something else for dinner. He wanted to know why. “It’s just not really company food, is it?” Now this is my dad–I don’t need to impress him or anything, but still. He looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about, so I made Cowboy Grub (cringe–please can someone come up with a better name than that?!) for dinner.

And you know what? It was tasty and my dad was appreciative, especially after several days of eating in restaurants. The dinner was fine, the conversation was good and I need to learn to let my perfectionism go.

In fact, it made me think of visiting my dad years ago. I was there in Idaho with the kids and we were heading home in a couple of days. We decided over morning coffee to invite all the local relatives to come over for a barbecue that night–totally last minute. If it had been my house, I would have been freaking out–madly cleaning and rifling through cookbooks to make something “special”. But not dad. He got up and went to the grocery store and came home with a package of frozen hamburgers, a couple of tubs of pasta salad and potato salad from the deli, and a few bags of chips. He didn’t clean the house. He didn’t make anything from scratch. And you know what? That get together was my best memory of that trip–friends and family and food. There is a lesson that I need to remember.

offkilterstory-300x209

Free Quilt Story: The Off-Kilter Quilt

 

One of my favorite websites, Quiltfiction.com, has released a serialized story to be told in five parts. How fun is that?! It’s called the Off -Kilter Quilt and you might have guessed, is the brainchild of Frances Dowell of the Off-Kilter Quilt podcast. Frances is an award-winning author and avid quilter–so she has really knows how to weave reading and quilting together in such an enjoyable way. I’ve had the opportunity to read the entire story and it is as fun and charming as Frances herself. So–do yourself a favor and pop over to read Part One.

Let me know what you think!

 

Using a bullet journal to track habits

Your precious handmades. Do you use them?

tea, tea pot, handmade coaster

It all started with this coaster. I was having coffee with my friend Minki the other day and as always, we talking about sewing and the things we love to make. Then she said the nicest thing to me.

“I learned from you to actually use the things I make. Not just take a picture of them and then put them on the shelf.” Aww. To think that I have had an influence on a talent like Minki’s was a nice moment for me. But then I had to confess.

“I’m kind of having trouble with that now. You know that hand embroidered coaster you gave me a couple of years ago? I do use it. And it’s a bit of a stained mess now and I feel bad about it.” I didn’t tell her that sometimes I actually tuck it away in a drawer when she is coming over, so that she won’t see what has become of her hard work.

Then she told me, “I actually think that stained linen is beautiful.”

hand made coaster, Minki Kim

And you know what, she’s right. (This coaster actually looks worse in real life, for some reason.)

That got me thinking about all the handmade, everyday use items I have around that house. Knitted dishcloths are my absolute favorite, but I am always a little sad when one starts to come unraveled. I actually usually merely move it to the rag drawer until it is nothing but a pile of string.

grandma's dishcloth

These are the coasters we use every, single day. They are about eight years old and I hope that I have learned to sew a gap together better than I did in those days. But this illustrates my point exactly. When you use things–you use them up. And sometimes that’s fine, but sometimes its hard–like not saving your fancy china for that dinner party you’ll never actually have.

quilted coasters

I’ve spent countless hours embroidering these tea towels, and they are stained and faded and have holes in them. I will never be able to bring myself to throw them away–so I’m already starting to think about what I can do with them when their useful lives as tea towels is over. Any ideas? What I need to do is start planning for that day now and simply make some more. That’s what we makers do, right? It’s just an excuse to make some more.

dish towels, handmade dish towels

My favorite table runner has definitely seen better days

quilting, linen, patchwork

And so has my favorite tea cozy. Okay, maybe a trip through the wash might help this one.

high tea fabrics, lecien

And even my first quilt, only eight years old, is already looking like this. But this is the most loved quilt in the house. It is exactly the right weight for our warm southern California weather and is the first thing that every family member grabs from the quilt basket each morning. It gets washed because I pick it up from the floor a dozen times a day and it comforts the child with the flu. And over Christmas it cradled my dying cat. So, I’m looking at those frayed edges a little differently now.

French General quilt

So, what to do? I think the only thing to do here is to embrace the beauty of the well-loved and worn. There is a story behind every handmade item. A story about the person who made it and what was happening in their life as they sewed each stitch. There are the stories of the everyday life of the people who are blessed to use it daily. To wash the dishes after a regular, weeknight dinner. To wrap the child reading a book. To set the morning coffee cup on, before dawn everyday.

And if they are not as perfect and pristine as they once were–it’s because they bear the marks of an everyday life well-lived. And I can live with that.

Using a bullet journal to track habits

Filigree Free Quilt Pattern

Welcome to my stop on the Filigree Blog Tour hosted by the Fat Quarter Shop!

First let me say how much I love this pattern–the strong criss-cross elements, the secondary patterns that emerge, and the interplay of the fabrics.

filigree quilt

The Fabrics

Let’s start with the fabrics. I used the Playground line by Amy Sinibaldi for Art Gallery Fabrics–plus some AFG denim and Pure Elements solid in Linen. Have you ever felt fabric from AFG? It has a lovely silky smooth, delicate feel and a beautiful drape. It feels quite different from standard quilting cotton–in a very good way.

filigree quilt

And when I say denim, I don’t mean heavy denim like jeans. It has the awesome look of denim, but with the same wonderful lightweight feel as the other AGF fabrics. And the denim fabric has the wonderful quality that it goes with everything! Just like your favorite jeans, you can dress it up or dress it down. I am in love with the way it works with the Playground fabrics, especially the pinks and golds. This quilt has a light-weight, silky feel that I know is going make it favorite to grab and curl up with  on the sofa in our house.

filigree quilt

The Filigree Pattern

Whenever I start a new quilt pattern I first like to make a couple of blocks to make sure that the pattern is working as expected before I cut all the fabric. I would rather experience my learning curve on a couple of blocks than finding out I made a cutting mistake after I cut out all the fabric (don’t ask me how I came to this realization) . In this case it paid off in that I realized I I wanted to spend a little extra time fussy cutting one of the fabrics to get the most out of the print.

I was also reminded that I don’t like to use steam when pressing triangles–they get stretched out so easily. And speaking of pressing–this pattern includes pressing instructions, and if you pay attention to them it really pays off in the final construction. All your seams nest like a dream, which really helps keep your points sharp and the quilt top to lay nice and flat.

Stitch basting

Obviously this is a quilt where you want your points to match. At least I do. It was the first time I have put together a quilt where the nested seam allowances were coming in on a diagonal.  Pinning wasn’t really working for me to keep things in place. So I started stitch basting.

filigree quilt

I haven’t done much of this in past–but now I know I will do it all the time in the future. Let me explain: after I nested my seams, instead of pinning them to keep them in place, I would slip it under the machine and just sew a 1/2″ seam right over that area with a 3.0 stitch length. Then I would slide the block to the next seam intersection, nest the seams and baste that intersection in place, and so on.  At first I thought that this was going to be very time consuming.  But in short order I got my rhythm going and I think it may actually be faster than pinning. And the results are amazing! Every intersection is so firmly held in place with perfect points and no slipping, which I find happens sometimes with pinning. I am glad to have that l technique up my sleeve for future quilts.

The construction of the quilt was pure fun–lots of chain piecing and simple block construction. FQS created a wonderful video tutorial if you want to check it out for some helpful tips. It went together beautifully. I quilted it  using my favorite Warm and Natural batting and some simple, straight line quilting with a sweet pale pink thread (Auriful 2410). I love the pale pink against the denim and it is perfect for the Playground fabrics as well.  I was tempted to quilt it a little more densely, but I really love how soft and snuggly it is being rather lightly quilting.

filigree quilt

The blocks are oversized and then trimmed down to perfection–which is my favorite way to make a quilt. Trimming blocks before sewing them together really improves the accuracy and makes it so easy to do things like match up seams. I used the Creative Grids 7.5″ square ruler to trim up the blocks.  I tried to use a ruler that I already had to do this, and it is probably possible–but the correct ruler made the task so much more enjoyable that I was glad that I made the investment. I’ve never used a Creative Grids ruler before, but I have to say that I am a convert! They have these little spots on the bottom that prevent them from slipping and lines are nice and narrow, which really helps with accurate cutting.

You can get the Filigree quilt pattern for free from The Fat Quarter Shop. They also have a gorgeous kit for it that includes the denim that I also used along with the AGF line Wonderful Things.

beach quilt
(I had to add this one because it was crazy windy that day!)
Using a bullet journal to track habits

I’ve changed my name to Simple. Handmade. Everyday.

 

hand sewing and drinking tea
{photo credit: Minki Kim}

I just wanted to pop in to say that I’ve changed this blog’s name from They Grow Up Too Fast to Simple. Handmade. Everyday. to reflect the types of things that I want to write about. I started this as a Mommy blog about six years ago to document my children growing up. As sewing and crafting became a bigger and bigger part of my life, and as my children became more and more reluctant to having their lives shared in this space–the blog evolved. Which is totally fine–but the name just didn’t work anymore.

My desire now is to share my love for living an intentional life. Filling your home with handmade goodness that you actually use every day, living simply, cooking from scratch to feed a family of teens, parenting those teens, and all the other tidbits that make up a simple, intentional life are all things that I am looking forward to sharing here. I hope that you will join me on the journey.

xo. Kristin