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.

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

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

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dia de los muertos

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My oldest son is an awesome musician and his high school puts on a Halloween show every year called Spooktacular. It has a different theme each year and this one was one of the best I’ve ever seen–Dia de los Meuertos, or Day of the Dead.

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The show ran for two days, so he had different make-up each day. I can’t take any credit for the make-up job, but it was awesome. I confess to not really knowing anything about the history of Dia de los Meuertos, but it’s kind of interesting, and I think I prefer it to Halloween, which is not my favorite holiday.IMG_7652

This boy of mine played guitar with the Jazz Band, double-bass with the orchestra and a trash can with the Trash Can Band (which may have been my favorite). He sure didn’t get his musical talent from me, but I am thrilled that he got it from somewhere, so that I can enjoy it.

 

Using a bullet journal to track habits

family service hour

sewing area before
sewing corner before
sewing area after
sewing area after
fabric storage
nicely sorted fabrics

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I’ve got that fall decluttering bug. It seems to hit me in the fall rather than the spring. I think it’s that fall seems like a new beginning to me–in a way that spring just doesn’t. We have mild winters here in southern California, so the transition to spring is subtle. But the fall! Back to school, sports, theatre–a complete routine change. (I wish there was a complete weather change too, sigh.)

I just don’t have the time and energy to tear apart the house top to bottom for a KonMari style decluttering.Not that it doesn’t need it. Weekends are full of soccer, fencing, band performances, and chores, not to mention a cute little dog that needs some attention However, I have trouble with small steps. I’m a recovering an all-or-nothing kind of girl. Intellectually I know that small steps  can add up to big change, but I’m a bit impatient with it in real life. But small steps are all I’ve got for now. So, I started with some things that were bothering me: the refrigerator, a couple of shelves by my desk, the filing drawer of my desk that I could not squeeze another paper into, and my sewing area (aka dining room).

I tackled these one at a time, over a couple of weekends, and those areas make me smile every time I walk by them. It’s given me the momentum to keep it up, a little every weekend. And it’s adding up to spaces that make me smile instead shake my head in frustration.

This inspiration to create freshly-cleaned, curated environment has led to my next Big Idea. Actually, I have to give credit to the Husband for this one. Each Sunday we are going to start Family Service Hour. A few months ago we got the entire family to pitch in to wash all the windows in the house–something that usually takes a huge amount of time for me to do. As a family, we knocked that project out in about an hour. Clean windows inside and out. It was like a little miracle. Why not apply this to other areas of the house and yard? An hour is not a lot of time to give up, but with five of us, adds up to some serious manpower. It teaches the kids some good deep cleaning skills and an attitude of service (hopefully).

So, first up, the kitchen. Clean out every shelf and cabinet, getting rid of anything we wouldn’t take with us if we were moving. We’re not moving, but it’s a little game I like to play when I declutter. Would I pack this if I had to pay to move it across the country?

I’m going to try to get Family Service Hour going next weekend. I’ll take some pictures and let you know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

Using a bullet journal to track habits

the weekend

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IMG_7515IMG_7510FullSizeRenderWhile I was away in Idaho for my dad’s surprise party, life went on full-speed ahead at home. The Girl (the one with the curly hair above) went to her senior Homecoming dance. She and her friend had a wonderful time getting ready together, and I’m glad that the Husband got some photos of them. I was able to FaceTime her before she went and all manner of cousins, aunts, and great-aunts got the opportunity to weigh in on how to do her hair and supply generous compliments. She was wonderfully good natured about it and we all had a ton of fun.

Boy 1 had a parade and marching band exhibition. He is the one playing the bass drum in the photo above. And Boy 2 had an out of town soccer game. Hubby took care of it all like a champ. I can’t even explain what a relief it was to know that it would all be taken care of while I was away. I hear it was quite the exhausting day!

Meanwhile, I was having a great time reconnecting with extended family and hoping not to give my dad a heart attack when we all yelled “surprise!”.The party came off without a hitch, though I spent a two days diving into a bedroom every time the doorbell rang at my brother’s house, trying not to be spotted by my dad, It was a shame to be in the same town as my dad for two days and not get a chance to visit, but how often do you get the opportunity to give your dad a surprise like that? People came from all over to help celebrate and though I don’t have a picture, I think he appreciated the quilt I made him.

I made it home, but my suitcase didn’t. I’m hoping it will show up soon, because until then I can’t do my hair or makeup. Not to mention there is a necklace in there that I’d really like to see again.

I’m so glad to be home, but full of wonderful memories from the weekend.

 

 

Using a bullet journal to track habits

route 66 quilt

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My dad’s Route 66 quilt is finally in the books, after its humble beginnings in a trash bag in the back of the closet. I’m happy with the red and white front and actually really pleased with the pieced back. I was able to work in the fish fabric in a more subtle way on the back. I ran a little bit short on fabric, so I to even added in one strip of the camper fabric, but it seems more fun than horrendous now. The awesome part is I used up just about every scrap of fabric I had bought for this quilt.

I think the back was almost as much work as the front, as I just pieced it as I went and kept rearranging fabrics until I was happy. I spent quite the happy morning putting it together. It almost feels like it’s a reversible quilt and I can picture it living in my dad’s trailer, keeping him warm for the many days that he is on the road.

The quilting of it was another story. I just did an all over meander but it was a struggle the entire time. First of all, I don’t have a great set up for quilting a larger quilt. My machine is on the dining room table and has an extension table on it, but it just kept getting hung up on it. And even though I did warm up quilting before starting, checking my tension on the front and back–there are tension issues on the back of the quilt. This disappoints me so much, but I keep telling myself that no one but me would ever notice. It’s all washed and crinkly now, which hides these imperfections even more. But still, I know they are there. An exercise in letting go, I guess. Still, I know that he will love it.

I’m headed out to Idaho tomorrow for his surprise birthday party and I cannot wait to spend time with some extended family members that I haven’t seen in almost 20 years. It is a crazy busy weekend back home and I am so sad that I am going to miss the Girl’s senior Homecoming dance. Of course, we didn’t know that when we scheduled this party. The silver lining to that situation is that she is going to Facetime me when she is ready and lots of aunts and cousins will be able to see her all dressed up in her Homecoming finery. I’ll have photos of that next week.

 

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mondays with the girl

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I’ve written before about how when my son started playing club soccer out of town, I thought that it was going to be a huge inconvenience, but it has actually turned out to be a blessing of Time. Two whole hours to write, read, sew–whatever I want to do. That blessing has multiplied now that the Girl has started coming with me on these practice days.

It started out in the summer, when she her schedule was a bit more clear and she tagged along to practice with the promise of a Frappacino. That coffeehouse visit proved to be very productive and she started coming along to each practice and working on her college essays and some creative writing. It is wondrous how productive it can be to get out of the house and into a new environment. Now that school has started she is tackling homework along with all the overwhelming college admission work.

We are both painfully aware that a year from now she will be off on her college adventure–so this time is precious. We don’t actually talk much during our afternoons together, rather just enjoy each other’s presence across our laptops. But we are together and that’s enough.

 

 

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all of a sudden he’s thirteen

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Well, it’s official. My baby is a teenager. We celebrated at home with an early (and I mean early) soccer game, a stop for donuts on the way home, and gifts a little later in the morning. His one request was a unicycle. It frankly was the obvious progression from Rubik’s cubes to juggling to–unicycles of course! And eventually juggling while riding the unicycle and possibility solving a Rubik’s cube simultaneously. It turns out that riding a unicycle is a hard skill to master (who knew?). Let’s just say that there was a bruised tailbone the first day, and I was very relieved that it wasn’t fractured.

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This boy of mine is all about soccer, video games (obviously–he’s 13!),and being a great student. He’s got a solid group of friends, for which I am very thankful. Personality-wise, he’s a lot like me–an ESFJ for you Myers-Briggs nerds (like me), so we get along great.

Though I’m sad that this growing up thing is going so fast (please note the name of this blog), I couldn’t be more pleased about how this guy is turning out.

Using a bullet journal to track habits

landmark year

IMG_7172This is kind of a landmark year for us. The Girl is a senior. Yep. How did this happen so fast? I know it’s such a cliche, but seriously, I cannot deal with how quickly this has all gone. But instead of lamenting and denying the fact (I’ve tried both to no avail), I’m just trying to soak it all in. This whole year. And I think she is too.

We have developed a new routine on Mondays and Wednesdays–I load up the computer and some books, drop the youngest off at soccer practice and head to a coffee house. She as been coming with me and we share a table, laptops back-to-back, and we Get Stuff Done. She was amazed the first time she came with me at how productive this atmosphere is. She is cranking out her college application essays (sigh), some creative writing, and now, homework. We don’t even have to say much, just hanging out together is enough. In addition to a extremely heavy academic load, she is loving being a part of not just one, but two musical theater classes. I am absolutely looking forward to watching those productions this year.

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Boy #1 is in tenth grade, knee-deep in the music program at school: jazz band, orchestra, and marching band. It’s absolutely awesome to watch him dig into music like this. He’s got quite an academic load too, so this transition from summer to school has been especially cruel.

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Boy #2 is still digging club soccer in addition to Jazz band and seventh grade. He has an awesome group of friends that we carpool with and I had the honor of driving them the first day of school and forcing them to pose for pictures. Actually, they had to do it twice because the I took the entire first round of First Day of School pictures with no memory card in the camera. So we had a bit of a massive redo.

I am nothing if not a creature of routine, so though the schedule is a bit intense, I thrive it in. Everyone is still finding their feet with this new school year, but I suspect it is going to be a memorable one.