quilting practice piece

a little story about throw pillows

Can throw pillows change a room? Maybe.

I have never felt great about my decorating skills. Over time I think that I have created a home that is fairly cozy–but I have never decorated a room and thought, “Done!” It is always a piecemeal affair with grand plans for some future date when I will be more grown-up and confident in my decorating skills. Because of this, I always take advantage of the free interior designer service when we buy furniture. In the past, this has worked fairly well, but I never really completed whatever plans they set out–which usually involves buying $10,000 worth of furniture.

As I pieced together our family room over several years–one year replacing the sofa and a chair, another year another chair–I began realizing that this room was not coming together. We have a neutral sofa, and a dark brown leather chair. This was the first problem–I felt the sofa was too light and the chair was too dark. So we bought a “medium” chair to fill out the room and to help bridge the contrast gap. Well–that chair sort of read “gray” when the sofa was reading “tan”. Ahhh! This room was not coming together–even with the help of an Ethan Allan designer and a bunch of expensive furniture.

I can’t afford to start over–so I invited my friend Terri over for tea one day. She has a model-home perfect house and just has a knack for this type of stuff. I don’t know why I didn’t get her involved earlier. The first thing she noticed was that the throw pillows on the sofa were contributing to the problem–they highlighted the tan in the sofa instead of the gray than is actually in there.

netural sofa with colorful throw pillows
Though I love these pillows–this arrangement was just so–blah!

Next stop–Pottery Barn to look for throw pillows to solve my problem. (Full disclosure: this “next stop” actually happened about a year later.) This was actually a hilarious scene, as we found a neutral sofa in PB (not hard) and Terri started grabbing pillows from all over the store, trying them in different combinations. Several sales people approached us to help, but backed away once they realized that Terri seemed to know what she was doing. I fully expected that I would get some pillows that added some color to the sofa (isn’t that what throw pillows are for?!)–but ended up with more neutral pillows that actually bridge the gap between the tan and gray.

Pottery Barn throw pillows

Pottery Barn throw pillows

I was skeptical. I kept telling her, “There is no way  my husband is going to go for all these pillows! He hates throw pillows! The kids will just throw them on the floor! (Is that why they are called throw pillows?)

Pottery Barn throw pillows with neutral sofa

Terri assured me that these were feather pillows and made the sofa more comfortable (she was right! Our old pillows are as hard as rocks compared to these). Also, we realized that we have enough color going on in that room with the oriental carpet, brink fireplace, and paintings, that keeping the sofa a bit more neutral actually helped to calm things down a bit.

Pottery Barn throw pillows with neutral sofa
I really do think these pillows help the sofa and chair make friends.

My next neurotic fear was that now that we have five (!) pillows on this sofa that are all scrunchy, comfy–I was going to spend the rest of my life fluffing them. Because this is what it looks like when everyone leaves in the morning.

what happens to feather throw pillows

And I think it may be true about the constantly straightening (sigh). But they really are so comfortable and I now feel like I’m living in a PB catalog. And I was already folding all those quilts that everyone leaves on the floor each morning anyway–so what’s a few (5!) pillows.

I mentioned over on Facebook the other day that Terri also took down all my decor items in the family room and living room and put back half of them. And it all looks so much better now. Everyone should have a Terri.

Now that I have solved the Throw Pillow Problem, I guess I can move on to other life and death matters like why I can find a rug the right size for the living room. First world problems 🙂 Oh, and I found the perfect place for those pillows I love–in the living room aka my office. And Teddy loves them too.

netural sofa with colorful throw pillows

quilting practice piece

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

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.

quilting practice piece

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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What’s your color story?

I confessed a little secret of mine over on Instagram the other day. And that is that I am a bit (okay, maybe a lot) insecure when it comes to color. As a quilter, this is an area that I would like to work on and overcome. So when I got the opportunity to get an advance copy of Change Your Home Change Your Life With Color by Moll Anderson–I jumped at it.

Here’s my second confession–I’ve barely started it, but I wanted to share something that came as a bit of an epiphany yesterday when I sat down do dig into it. I sat down with the book, my bullet journal, pencil, and a cup of tea. I had a feeling that I was going to want to jot down some notes as I read.

It turns out that not only does that book have stunning photos and a lot of great information–but it’s a bit of a workbook as well. One of the questions she asks you to examine is what is your favorite color and why. And what is your least favorite color and why. She contends that a lot of our color choices are shaped by our life experiences and it is worth a few minutes to dig a little deeper into those memories.

Picking a favorite color for me is extremely hard. But I just went with my gut on it and wrote down “blue”. Why? I’m not sure–but the word “calm” came to me. I do, in fact, love many, many shades of blue from navy to beachy blues, to the palest of pale blues. The beach house (below) from the show Grace and Frankie is perfectly decorated with many shades of blue (with some pops of orange–blue’s complementary color).

Photo from houzz.com
Photo from houzz.com

In fact, the only think I don’t like about that set is the green dishes–which leads me to my next revelation.

Photo from Hooked on Houses
Photo from Hooked on Houses

For my least favorite color I immediately said “green”. There are many shades of mediumish green that I find repulsive. Then I thought about why and didn’t really know. Then I realized that my house is dripping in green. I have a green sofa, a green chair, I have sage green walls in my bedroom! The bridesmaids dresses at my wedding were forest green! (Very on-trend in 1996, BTW.) Do I really hate green? Obviously not. At least not always. I have come to the realization that I am sick of green.  That’s the real problem here.

The fact that I think I don’t like green and am surrounded by it then lead to the further self-revelation that for all my professed love of blue there is none in my house. Zero. Not a thing. Hmmmm.

Luckily, I have an opportunity to remedy both of these situations very soon. The green sofa I spoke of is leaving soon to be replaced by a new, neutral sofa. I would love to take this opportunity to lighten up what is a quite dark room in my home with not only a lighter sofa, but maybe even a lighter rug and ottoman–what I currently have in that room is very green/burgundy (also very on-trend circa 1996). Here is my opportunity switch things up with some blue throw pillows and… I’m not even sure yet–but my mind has been opened.

I still have quite a bit of the book to explore, but–I can’t wait to find out the next chapter in my color story.

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join me for hibernate :: an online retreat

hibernate

I love Christmastime as much as the next girl, but I will admit to indulging in a big sigh of relief when it’s all over. The holidays can be a lot. A lot of a good–even wonderful–things, but still, a lot.

Which is why treating yourself to an online winter retreat in January is just genius. And exactly what we all need. As it so happens, Heather, over at Beauty that Moves is hosting her self-paced winter retreat called Hibernate in January. I have participated in just about every type of online workshop that Heather has put together (I’m admittedly a bit of a fan girl)–and Hibernate is one of my faves. Here is how she describes it:

Hibernate is a self-paced, four week, online retreat – a place to celebrate the pause that wintertime brings. A place to linger through the dark and quiet, to welcome stillness, and allow time to enjoy home and hearth.

{Sigh} Doesn’t that sound lovely? It does to me too. And you know what else? Heather has asked me to contribute a sewing project to Hibernate! So, if your pot of tea is forever going cold on you–pop on over to sign up because I will show you how to make a tea cozy that fits your teapot perfectly.

There is so much going on during Hibernate–be sure click on over to read all about it. And if you are quick about it–you can invite a friend for free and then each enjoy it for half price! But you need to do that by December 19.

I am looking forward to participating in Hibernate as well (I’ve always wanted to learn how to make soap!) and I hope to “see” you there!

 

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scrappy table runner tutorial

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Scrappy Christmas Table Runner

Size: 12” x 42”

Block size: 6″

Materials

  • 1 ½” strips assorted prints (I used a honeybun of Holly’s Tree Farm from Moda)
  • Background fabric, neutral (I used Kona Snow), cut into 6 7/8″ strips
  • Cotton quilt batting, such as Warm and White
  • 3/4 yd. backing fabric
  • 120″ of 2 1/4″ strips for binding
  • Triangle in a square Bloc Loc ruler, 6″ (optional, but helpful)

Here is an alternate method of making Triangle in a Square blocks, though not at 6″.

Note: All seams are 1/4″

Block Assembly

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  1. Sew together 7 strips and press the seam allowances all the same direction. Using the triangle template, cut out the first triangle. Continue using the template to cut 14 triangles. Here is a video that shows how to use the Bloc Loc ruler.

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2. Using the second template, cut the background fabric as shown. You should have 14 sets of 2.

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3. Lay out the triangle and background pieces as shown.

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4. Position the background fabric on the left side of the triangle as shown and stitch. Press open.

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5. Position the remaining background fabric on the right side of the triangle as shown and stitch. Press open.

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6. Repeat for remaining 13 blocks. You can get some good chaining piecing going by doing Step 4 on all the blocks, pressing, and then Step 5 on all the blocks.trim-2-1024x654

7. Using the Bloc Loc ruler, trim to perfection! The assembly part of this project will go so much smoother when the blocks are are perfectly uniform.

Table Runner Assembly

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8. Layout blocks as shown and sew them together. Instead of sewing them in rows, I do them as 4-patches and then sew the 4-patches together. I find that I get more accurate nesting seams than if I try to stitch full rows together.

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9. Baste and quilt as desired. I did some straight line quilting with a walking foot in the background areas only, using Aurifil 2311.  Bind.

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This pattern has so many possible variations! You can use a single print for each triangle, instead of going scrappy. Or you can make the triangle space a neutral fabric and use the prints for the side pieces, for a totally different look. I’m looking forward to playing around with this a bit more and hopefully ending up with a stack of new table runners! And then I will move on to full-size quilts!

Let me know if you make a Scrappy Table Runner! I’d love to see it! Please tag me on Instagram: @kristin_esser.

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::finding joy {2}

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Tea with a dear friend to just catch up on life. Candles burning, Christmas music playing, tree lights blazing. A chance to bring out and enjoy the Christmas tea set. Bliss.

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::finding joy

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The holidays can be so overwhelming–so much to pack into already full days and nights. So, I am going to look for little things this month that make me happy. I want to let the busyness go and enjoy Chrismastime. The month leading up to Christmas is really the best part, in my opinion.

I’ve been so inspired by being part of the sewing/quilting community on Instagram. I have enjoyed looking at all the wonderful creativity is out there. I am usually a pattern follower, but I see people whipping up simple, little designs on their own, so I decided to play around a bit in the sewing room the other night.

I was inspired by a mug rug I saw posted, but beyond the applique Christmas tree, the rest of this (very) simple design is mine. I did a bit of hand stitching, and tried out the wavy line stitch on my sewing machine for the quilting. It was fun and quick and I think I might make a few more variations on it. And maybe some Christmas tree coasters. Who knows–no pressure.

Where are you finding joy?

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meal plan monday

17 stirfry

When I sat down with the calendar on Sunday to create a meal plan for the week, I realized that this is a very busy week: soccer, music, play rehearsals and performances. Still, we need to get dinner on the table every night, busy or not. Here is what I came up with for the week, which is built around a single theme: EASY

Monday: Rotisserie chicken (Costco), roasted vegetables (peppers, onions, mushrooms, sweet potatoes), Harvest Grain Blend (Trader Joe’s)

Tuesday: Crockpot chicken tacos, rice, beans, corn

Wednesday: Tri tip, baked potatoes, green beans

Thursday: Chicken Tortilla Soup (from the leftover taco chicken) , quesadillas

Friday: Stirfry (flank steak, veggies, and rice)

I love that crockpot chicken taco recipe–mostly because it makes absolutely delicious chicken tortilla soup later in the week. Total win in my book. I also bought the rotisserie chicken on Sunday and will just reheat it on Monday.

I also spent a bit of time in the kitchen on Sunday and made up a batch of chai concentrate, hard boiled eggs, and chocolate chip cookies. That should give us a good headstart on the week. I’d like to experiment with a big Meal Prep Sunday, but so far I’m a bit intimidated. I just discovered a YouTube channel called Mind Over Munch, and she does a big meal prep. I need to do a little more research.

What are you cooking this week?

Linking up with I’m an Organizing Junkie.