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My chili.  A crowd pleaser, or at least that’s what the folks at the church cook-off seemed to say.  There was a popular vote and a judges vote, and while big money did sway the votes (bribing was encouraged… it was an awesome fundraiser for our youth mission trip), with minimal shenanigans on my part (or on my behalf)… my chili took second place in both votes! Only minimal bragging, but I *think* I would’ve had a good chance at first in both if money wasn’t a significant deciding factor.  But it was, and I’m encouraged by how many people were willing to donate big for these teens off to do some amazing work this summer!

This recipe isn’t for the faint of heart.  In all it was a three day process for me, from marinating the pork, to smoking the pork, and making the chili. And I did my best to write down the recipe, but I adjust based on flavor as I go so I encourage you to adapt to your preferences.  Creating recipes is kind of an art form for me, and it’s so personal since it is based on my favorite flavor profiles, with a few considerations for not overdoing those things so most people would enjoy it too! And even though I think this turned out fantastic, I’ll include my notes on what I might switch up a little in my next go at this chili… because there will definitely be a next go!

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In its creation, this recipe hinged on the sweet and smoky flavor combination paired with pork.  Smoked pork shoulder, thick cut smoked bacon, and sausage.  Hence: Triple Pig.  I created my own spice blend and my own sauce as the base flavor profile.  The spice blend was added to my sauce, as another layer on the pork shoulder before it smoked, straight into the chili itself, and as a coating on some tortilla chips I served as a garnish for a very complimenting crunch. 

One of my favorite little parts of the sauce came from some homemade applesauce I canned a couple years ago.  The sweet of the apple, that compliments pork so nicely, seemed like a natural way to start.  I definitely used a fair amount of apple cider vinegar too, that tang highlights so many things!

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I marinated my pork for about 12 hours in my sauce, and then added a thick layer of my spice blend before the smoke.  I didn’t pat off any sauce, so together it was kind of like a paste that coated my pork.  I used country style pork shoulder ribs, honestly because I thought they’d smoke faster.  They didn’t.  Enter staying up until 3am to take them off the smoker.  I’m still on the fence about whether I’d go this route or a big pork shoulder to smoke for the next round.  There were more burnt end type pieces from this which I like, but they didn’t all cook evenly and there was more fat that didn’t render into the meat than I’m used to with just a big pork shoulder.

For the record, the only thing Aaron helped me with was getting the smoker started and opening doors for me when I carried it out to put on.  He was making his own chili for the church cook-off, so it was stiff competition at our house. ;)

Oh, and I used a pan with some chopped onion and apple cider vinegar for some extra moisture and flavor while they smoked.  Don’t do it.  It’s honestly just not worth the mess and clean up.  I’m not writing that into the recipe below.  If I did anything for extra moisture I would just spritz the pork with some apple cider vinegar occasionally throughout the smoke. 

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Thick cut smoked peppered bacon, deglazing the bacon pot to cook the onions in, peppers and garlic and chiles in adobo, peppers and good beer, a mix of beans, and that beautiful smoke-ringed pork! Yum. I’m hungry for this now, and it’s early in the morning as I’m writing this!

samsam

Made the day before the chili cook-off and reheated and adjusted the day of… we all know chili is better the second day!

Sam's Sweet and Smoky Triple Pig Chili
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For Sam's Sweet&Smoky Spice Blend
  1. 1/2 cup sugar
  2. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  3. 1/2 cup salt
  4. 1/4 cup smoked paprika
  5. 2 tbsp garlic powder
  6. 2 tbsp chili powder
  7. 1.5 tbsp onion powder
  8. 1.5 tbsp mustard powder
  9. 1.5 tbsp cumin
  10. 1 tbsp black pepper
  11. 1 tbsp chipped onion flakes
  12. 1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
For Sam's Sweet&Smoky Sauce
  1. 2 pints applesauce (used homemade honeycrisp, 1 cinnamon, 1 regular)
  2. 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  3. 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
  4. 1 cup S&S Spice Blend
For Sam's Sweet&Smoky Triple Pig Chili
  1. 6-8 pounds pork shoulder (I used pork shoulder country ribs, can use big pork shoulder)
  2. 18oz hickory smoked peppered bacon, chopped
  3. 3/4 lb. sausage (used jimmy dean all natural, and added some of my S&S seasoning blend)
  4. 2 onions, chopped fairly small (I don't like big chunks in my chili!)
  5. 1/2-1 cup chicken stock
  6. 1 jalapeno, diced
  7. 1/2-1 anaheim, diced
  8. 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  9. 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  10. 3-4 pureed chiles in adobo, plus 1-2 tbsp adobo sauce (adjust per spice preference)
  11. 2 cans, drained but not rinsed seasoned black beans
  12. 1 can great northern beans
  13. 1 can red beans
  14. 1 can grapefruit IPA (I might go for something less hoppy next time, personal preference)
  15. 3 cans crushed tomatoes
  16. 1 cup S&S sauce
  17. 1 can diced tomatoes
  18. 1 can tomato paste
  19. 1/2-1 cup S&S seasoning blend
  20. 1/2-1 cup brown sugar
  21. 1 bunch chopped cilantro (1 cup after fine chop?)
  22. garnish as you prefer
Instructions
  1. Mix seasoning blend. I think I doubled this recipe, but I had a lot left over so I *think* you could get away with making one batch. Or make two, and put the leftover in an empty seasoning bottle to use in the future!
  2. Mix sauce, reserve at least 1 cup for the chili.
  3. Marinate pork shoulder in sauce at least 12 hours. Right before smoking, take out of marinade, shake off excess and coat in S&S seasoning blend. It forms a sort of paste on the exterior of the pork. Smoke at 225 according to the weight of pork and your smoker's directions. You can spritz with some apple cider vinegar if needed. Let the pork rest, and pull or cut when it is convenient for you. (I smoked the day before I needed the pork, so I just cut it up cold right before it went into the chili)
  4. For the actual chili. Start with the chopped bacon and sausage (plus a little S&S seasoning) in a big pot, brown well and remove. I dumped mine in the reserved sauce to hold until it was time to add it back in. Deglaze pan with some chicken stock and add chopped onions. When onions start to soften add jalapeno, anaheim, green bell pepper, garlic, and pureed chiles in adobo+adobo sauce. Saute until fragrant and bell pepper just starts to soften. Add everything but last three ingredients to the pot. (beans, tomatoes in all forms, beer, reserved S&S sauce, pork in all forms). Simmer. I simmered until it was the consistency I was aiming for, a little on the liquid side since I knew I was reheating the next day. Probably 1-2 hours. If serving day of, can simmer longer to achieve thicker consistency. Adjust seasoning here as needed. I added 1/2-1 cup S&S seasoning blend, about a cup of brown sugar (it had ended up spicier than intended so I was hoping the sugar would mellow a bit of that), and the very last step is adding 1 finely chopped bunch of cilantro. I like it in the chili as well as the garnish, but it does not need to be cooked long.
  5. Serve alongside any garnishes you enjoy! I served mine at the cook-off with homemade guac (with S&S seasoning blend in it), cheese, cilantro, and hearty store bought chips I re-seasoned with S&S seasoning blend! Enjoy!
2Create in Color http://www.2createincolor.com/
sam

Serve with your favorite garnishes and enjoy! My kids definitely enjoyed a few bites as I photographed it, and we enjoyed the leftovers for a few days after too! I LOVE leftover chili!

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And you can’t forget that it went over pretty darn well at the church cook-off too! And if you get to the end of this post and are like: “Sam, this is way too much work!” I get it… just make the seasoning blend and use it on… EVERYTHING! :)
Sam

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Calendar Coloring Feb Mar-2

Two things I need to remember when doing coloring pages. Reading glasses, and the fact that my dual-tip markers have a fine point end. 

And maybe better lighting.

Calendar Coloring Feb Mar-1

From an ordinary distance — even with glasses on! — these two month’s calendar pages look fine. Better in person than above, even. Imagine my surprise when I pulled these photos into Lightroom to start processing them and saw all the uncolored spots everywhere :-O 

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Oh well! Lesson learned. Let’s see how April turns out when I color it in a few weeks. 

Calendar Coloring Feb Mar-7

What a gloriously color-fun time I had on February’s lovebirds and garden wreath. I was “Happy-Me” every time I worked on it, smiling in my head if not with my mouth. 

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March, though, was all about my favorite color, green. I was frustrated by having only 8 green markers to use. That is definitely not enough green markers for this lady.

Calendar Coloring Feb Mar-3

I love that band of wagon-wheel flowers that peeks through here and there! 

Calendar Coloring Feb Mar-4

… and the end of the month bonus: 

Calendar Coloring Feb Mar-6

Having worked March’s calendar page before taking photos of February’s little bonus drawing made me a little sad. They’re back to back on the same sheet of paper. There’s a distracting bit of show-through. (below)

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Ideally, to prevent this, it would mean I need to color each month’s drawing on the eve of the first day. 

That is SO not going to happen. Except maybe by coincidence. I just do not live that precisely scheduled a life these days :) 

Calendar Coloring Feb Mar-8

If you are thinking of getting a new adult coloring book, or maybe your first, may I suggest any of the books drawn by the talented Johanna Basford. I’ve seen these in person uncolored, colored beautifully on the internet, and even embroidered (with permission) by Mary Corbett of Needle n’ Thread.  

One of those is next on my list. I just can’t decide which one…

Have a colorful spring!

Gail

  • Diane Johnston - Gail, those are so pretty. I don’t know if I will like coloring as I haven’t tried it yet, but I sure like looking at yours! We are selling our house and moving to Colorado in May so I won’t be coloring for some time. I am prepared though…I have books and colors. lol We do like being prepared. Hugs, Diane03.17.2017 – 11:41pmReplyCancel

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Adventure Awaits 1

A quick project and a quick post.  I’m just plum out of words today guys.  But I’ve wanted to share this project since I made it a few weeks ago!  It was for a gift exchange with a whole bunch of Aaron’s mountain biking friends, and I happened to draw this super cool lady who I knew would appreciate this!  I got the idea the day before the gift exchange so it had to be a quick turnaround.  Aaron nailed the wood I chose together for me, and in between errands and work I painted this!  I even finished the white highlighting in the car on the way to the party where we exchanged gifts!  But it turned out just how I imagined and was well received alongside a cute little planted succulent.  :)

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Sorry for the cell phone photos… but in the rush to get it done that’s all I could manage!

Adventure ALWAYS Awaits… go find some today! 

Sam

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temp blanket 004

Is it going to confuse you right off the bat if I tell you that 365 days is going to add up to one week?  And one really REALLY GIANT blanket? 

Inspired by a couple of friends, my embracing 30 project, and mom’s and my decision to do a yarn post early on this year I decided to dive into a temperature blanket.  Have you seen those?  They end up pretty cool.  People do them different ways, but the gist of it is you crochet one row per day with the color used dependent on the temperature.  

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Here are my twists:

  • I divided up my colors into pretty small 5 degree increment ranges, starting at 20&below and ending at 91&above.  I realize in doing so there may be a couple colors, especially at the lower end that don’t ever get used, but that is OK.  I wanted the option for a lot of variety.
  • My blanket is spanning my 30th year, so not 2017, but one year starting on my 30th birthday, Nov 19th 2016.  
  • My colors are dependent on the day’s High Temperature.  Also, most of my days will be marked from my home location (including the random trips down to Oly because the weather isn’t that different.) But it is marking MY 30th year and some of that is trips we take and I want my blanket to reflect that.  So for example on our day trip up to the freezing cold Hamma Hamma, I’m going to use that high temp (yay for one in the 20s!).  And in my recent trip to Austin I’ll use their high temps which will be a fun lime/coral/purple strip amidst a sea of blue greens.
  • My biggest twist is that I also wanted to mark the rain.  So on days that accumulated any rain I’m not only crocheting the color of the temp but a second strand along with it of a dark charcoal color.  

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I’m really digging the second strand, which is good since most of my rows so far contain it… it was a rainy November.  I knew I would love the weight of the second strand though because one of my favorite blankets is a thick afghan made with double strands of yarn that my Dad made for me a few years ago.  I’ll be curious to see what it starts to look like when I get into some of the stretches that haven’t rained and see the comparison.  I think it’ll be a fun visual texture.  

So far (there’s only 10-15 rows done) there’s been only three temps and I have to remind myself that there are many more months for the variety to enter the picture.  But I planned that my favorite blues and greens are those middle temps because I knew a vast majority of my blanket would end up in those color blocks.

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Did I mention how big this blanket is?  I’ll tie it all back together for you… I picked a wider stitch, so I made my blanket longer in order to make it more square in the end.  That being said, I didn’t really do the math. (oops) This blanket is going to be HUGE.  Bigger than king size blanket huge.  Aaron just laughed and made a comment about how we’ll all be able to snuggle under it.  It takes me a half hour to crochet just one row. ONE ROW=HALF AN HOUR?! That’s 180+ hours!! Which is where the week comes in… because if you do the math it’s going to take me over a week’s worth of solid hours to crochet this blanket!  HA.  Good thing I can crochet and watch tv.  ;)  

And let’s not talk about how many skeins of yarn I’m going to go through… especially the grey. <insert wide eyed emoji here>

And with that, I’m off to eat dinner with my fam and go crochet… I’ve got some catching up to do!  Excited to share more in the future with you of how this is going!

Sam

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Carmen Chameleon - 2createincolor.com_0001

If you have a certain 80’s song stuck in your head now, you’re welcome! It’s been in mine off and on while working on this oversize amigurumi chameleon.

The song actually says karma chameleon, I know ;) but I couldn’t resist naming her Carmen just to be “punny!” 

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I thought it was long past time to add another “Abbi-gurumi” to the toy basket here at Grandma’s house. A colorful one, obviously! Abbi and Ella are definitely the right ages for playing pretend with as many creatures as there are available. Won’t they be surprised to find this colorful lady waiting for them the next time they come down?

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When I went looking for crochet amigurumi patterns a few weeks ago, I didn’t limit myself to only free ones as usual. Frugal-me stepped aside. This time, I wanted one that reached out and said, “Me! Me!” regardless.

Naturally, this very bright crazy-colored creature caught my eye. Lime green — win! More fun colors — win! Complicated enough to stay interesting — definitely! And so unique.

I just had no idea she was going to be so BIG! Which means, I had no idea it would take so long for me to do!

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I found this pattern for Camelia Chameleon (renamed Carmen) through amigurumipatterns.net. This is a great site to shop for many designers’ patterns both free and premium. I’ll be looking for Janine Holmes’s patterns (Moji-Moji Design) again. I highly recommend them (no affiliation, yadda yadda …) I found this one to be extremely well written, well designed, and with great photos of all the steps along the way; it made hooking up all these pieces and parts very easy.

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My only frustration was my own problem counting stitches after not crocheting in the round in so long! At least I didn’t have to be frustrated losing stitch markers — since I began using the starting tail as my row marker, I have no worries. See how it works… 

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Once you reach the point where you would insert the crochet hook into the same spot as the yarn tail is in, you are ready to begin a new round. But before you make that first stitch of the new round, just reach inside, pull the yarn tail out of its spot, and lay it beside the stitch you just finished. Crochet right over the top of that yarn tail, enclosing it between stitches where it will stay secure until you make it all the way around again. You can see another in the photo below, where I am a few stitches into the new round.

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That head looks like a curtain rod finial before head crest, eyes, and mouth get attached! Doesn’t it? And, it’s always a surprise how much stuffing these creatures take.

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I was also slowed down a bit by the three days being substitute mom (#designatedbabysitter) to the grandgirls smack in the middle of having a cold. This required lots of naps and far less crochet time than expected! But a lot more fun :)

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What do you do when a three-year old wants really badly to help you crochet? Eventually I figured out Abbi could pull yarn out of the skein for me. I offered to teach her to crochet after she turns six. She wants “a pink one of those crochet things, grandma.” Pink crochet hook: check. 

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I did manage to get the little pieces and parts made while there. Two layers each for the head crest and spine spikes (both head crest pieces, but only one back spikes piece shown above.) The double layering gives them good dimensionality which keeps them upright on the critter.

There was a bit of sunshine to enjoy during one naptime, so I went outside on Sam’s front porch to take these photos! (Meanwhile, Sam was in Texas with friends at IF:Gathering and Magnolia Market!) 

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I made a couple minor changes to the pattern, but not because I was unhappy with it.

  • Instead of buying all seven different colors of yarn for stripes (where DID all my acrylic yarn go?) I bought three skeins total: green, purple, and a variegated for the body. I love the way they coordinate so well!
  • I skipped the white yarn called for in the eyeball, sticking with purple.
  • I always use the Magic Ring method of starting crochet rounds, especially for amigurmi, instead of the traditional method. Here is Sam’s and my favorite Magic Ring how-to.  You can really see how tight that first round is if you look back to the head/body in-progress photos.
  • Last, I added an extra round on the eyelid layer: a final round of ‘slip stitches into back loops only’ gave a smoother transition from the top layer green eyelid to the under layer purple eyeball. 

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Even though all three yarns I bought were labeled “4” bulkiness, the variegated yarn was much skinnier than the other two. I ended up with skimpier crochet fabric over the body area than I prefer. I hope the stuffing doesn’t start migrating out too badly. Lesson learned — swatch up the yarns if they are different from each other so there are no surprises like this. You can see it in all the pictures of the finished critter.

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I almost skipped the black plastic safety eyes, but after double checking photos of actual chameleons I felt they were necessary. So I had to go to the store … the next day … bringing you this post a whole extra day later. That’s how much I care that this amigurumi had the best possible eyes. Just for you … and just maybe for Abbi and Ella, too.

Also, if you looked at that link, did you have any idea there were that many different kinds of chameleons!? I may have spent some extra minutes looking at those photos being wowed.

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Also-also, have you ever noticed a chameleon’s feet before? Looking at those photos, I became so tickled by their mitten-like feet with the thumb section inward and finger section outward. Although frontward and backward pointing toes might be cuter on a toy, and not cause comment from the uninformed, those sweet little mitten-y feet won me over. Carmen Chameleon has feet that are anatomically correct.

Having pipe cleaners, aka chenille stems, inside the legs lets Carmen be a poseable chameleon. It is still necessary to use some hidden stitches to hold the knees into a bent position, though.

Trivia: Chameleons actually do have a total of five fingers on the two halves of each foot, 2 on one side and 3 on the other, but they are very short and hard to notice. Here’s a fun video where you can see the eyes, spine spikes, mitten feet and toes of someone’s pet chameleon “washing hands.” 

There are a lot of hidden stitches to hold that tail in place, too!

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When I sneak-peeked this on Instagram and Facebook a couple of weeks ago, there were guesses of chameleon and hippocampo: sea-horse! Compliments to Becca who guessed correctly. Now I am kind of itching to crochet an amigurumi sea-horse. 

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Find us on Facebook and Instagram! Extra stuff always shows up there, including a lot of food.

Keeping it colorful!

Gail

 

  • Kat - She’s darling! And I love her!02.10.2017 – 3:42pmReplyCancel

  • Diane Johnston - Gail…You do such beautiful work. This little guy…or should I say guyette as my hubby likes to say…is so adorable. I love the colors. I did get caught up watching the videos. I had no idea there were so many different chameleons.

    I, too, like to find needlework that is complicated enough to be interesting. I haven’t done crocheting for probably 40+ year. I also used to do crewel embroidery. Now, my love is counted cross-stitch. Especially the Mill Hill Buttons & Beads kits. You can see the ones I’ve done on my FB page.

    Hugs, Diane02.15.2017 – 11:19pmReplyCancel

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2017-01-21 phone

Today, I choose to focus on what’s wonderful in my world. Just like all of us with homes and clothes and food to eat and family and friends, I feel blessed with abundance. Over and above that, there are those little things in everyday life you seem to take for granted, and suddenly one day you realize how fabulous they are? Maybe only in a tiny way, but it all adds up. Here’s my list of things that were fabulous from this week. 

#1  My markers! Restarting my creativity is moving along, part in thanks to this Color Your Year calendar I picked up at our local Barnes and Noble. Half-off after Christmas, of course because that’s how we do it. Hubby and I both use digital calendars, he Outlook and me Google Calendar, but we like having a paper calendar hanging in the bathroom. Sounds weird, but it is helpful. (Also in the bathroom, a wall clock, sticky notes, and a pen. Essentials.) Meanwhile, back at the calendar, I’m using my art markers, and I found both my Tombow Dual Brush pens (markers) and my Memento Dual Markers make the job extra fun because they are brush markers that actually act as a brush. Both are water soluble, but the Memento dries water resistant almost instantly, and they mean resistant; I’d call it water-proof. Both are widely available; remember to support your local businesses before you click that Amazon add-to-cart button, just sayin’ :) 

#2  This gardener! She’s cheery, she’s smart, she’s cute, and she can talk as fast as I can. And as for creative… well, you have to watch a few of her videos to see the amazing things she does with plants big and small. Laura of Garden Answer is not hesitant to heft the biggest shrubs or finesse the tiniest baby succulent into stunning planting beds, containers, and other less obvious choices! I especially like some of the fairy garden creations. Plus, she does stuff like this… 

 

A photo posted by Garden Answer (@gardenanswer) on

#3  All the new stuff announced around the end and beginning of the years! Tuesday is the Housewares Design Awards, and this video of the nominated products shows some cool stuff. There is a Roomba-style automated mopper that definitely caught my attention. The awards are announced during the Las Vegas home furnishings market. You really do want to scroll to the bottom of that page and click on that “First Look” pdf. Wow!

#4  The Kitchn in my Facebook feed! I have clicked through to more articles of The Kitchn’s than any other page I follow and that’s saying something because I’ve been unfollowing things right and left for irrelevant postings. The Kitchn is on trend without being extreme, offers great ideas without being impractical, and the writers are like … real relatable people! Look — there’s a Weekend Prep for Whole30 Meals article. The Kitchn is part of the Apartment Therapy group, only it’s all kitchen

photo Gina Eykemans, What I Prep on Sunday for Whole30 Meals

#5  GREEN! Specifically, Pantone’s 2017 Color of the Year, Greenery! I imagine that almost anyone would guess that I approved of this year’s choice. I mentioned my love of green in my blog bio (which needs some updating, but not the parts mentioning green, haha!) “Green is nature’s neutral” is what they state, and I totally agree. Although their color pairings don’t make a lot of sense to me, I can tell you that almost anything looks terrific with it — it’s almost the same shade as my family room. Aaah, how I love the room being this color :) Remember this? It’s a bit more lived in, with curtains and wall decor now though.

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#6  This graphic gem! If you are thinking about painting any rooms in your house, here is a special blog post from a UK store, Farthing, that I would love to visit. Until I can, I’ll content myself with looking at (dreaming about … ) their tempting vintage home decor finds … Hmm? Oh, yes, the graphic! Heaped with color psychology and guidance for matching paint color with a room’s function, it will prepare you for that trip to pick up paint chips. How about an orange exercise room? Hey, look! My green family room is right on point!

#7  Snow!!! Did you know I’m crazy for snowfall? Although I have had quite a few snow events in my area as compared to the average year, only one of them might have required snow boots. But it was rain-washed away before I needed to 1) errand, or 2) snowman. I really wanted to snowman this winter. I’m looking at these snow boots in case we have more fluffy white precipitation instead of the eternal liquid falling from the skies. Kinda spendy, but since I made my last pair last almost 20 years, I’m due. The boots come in green, but no thank you this time *shock!* I know, I know. My parka is purple, lavender, and white, and I’d likely be wearing jeans or crazy LuLaRoe leggings. White seems wisest. 

 

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#8  My breakfast! After searching for my favorite Cream of Wheat — the 10-minute cook kind ONLY please — with little success, I decided to look into whole-grain options. This is way more my vibe these days anyway. I am in love with whole grain Kamut hot cereal from Bob’s Red Mill. It is ground like the steel-cut oats you might be familiar with, so the cooked cereal is less smooth than I was looking for, but it tastes delicious. No raw whole wheat taste (yuck!) and I was able to pick it up at my local grocery store. Kamut is an ancient wheat (read about it here) and many people who have non-Celiac gluten issues can tolerate it. This morning I had it with fresh ground almond butter and Ironbark honey from Australia. Delish! 

I hope your days are full of ordinary items, sights, and activities that give you joy and make you smile. If you get to feeling stressed, remember that time spent outside amongst the plants and birds — nature — makes everything better. Well, maybe not everything, but it helps a lot — check it out!

Spread the happy! 

Gail

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