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The Odd and Random BEST of 2015 List!

We posted a list at the end of the year in 2014 with some of our favorite foods, experiences, stories, etc. from the year. Here’s our new, curated list for 2015. It is odd and random, but it is our “best of’s” for sure!

BEST METAPHORS of 2015:

(from Betony)

Are found in this tremendous book!
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Sometimes I miss the most obvious metaphorical scenes in books and movies. Tim will mention something about how a director was brilliantly foreshadowing or developing a character and I just go “huh?.”  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer was so rich with metaphors and intertwining stories that even I was able to catch the beauty of the connecting threads. The poetic writing in this book is just stunning.

Here is the quick Good Reads description of the book:

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

BEST BREWERY of 2015:

(from Tim)

What an audacious claim! How can I choose just one? Runner up would have to be WeldWerks. Betony and I have loved heading over to that local brewery in Greeley and their beers have been fantastic.

But number one goes to NEW GLARUS, found in Wisconsin. And the great, heart-breaking problem is… they don’t sell outside of Wisconsin!

Anything that comes out of New Glarus Brewing company is pretty amazing. Their flagship is called “Spotted Cow”. It is creamy and rich and tastes like I’ve dreamed of what the best wheat beer in the world should taste like, then I get to drink my dreams.

If it is testament to how good they are, Betony recently had a friend smuggle 2 six packs out of Wisconsin in their suitcase all the way back to Colorado. All for my Christmas present! It’s so good we ask our friends to break the law so we might partake.

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BEST FOODS WE FOUND ONLINE of 2015:

(from Betony)

This is absolutely perfect German mustard – Lowensenf -(we love both the sweet and the spicy. Don’t discriminate).
I ordered it for our Oktoberfest themed cooking club and we can’t get enough of it. I don’t even like mustard usually.
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These little perfect buttery crackers – Effies Oatcakes – I told Tim I thought they were what Elven Lembas bread probably tasted like.
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BEST LOCAL-PRIDE MOMENTS of 2015 (STATE and CITY)!

(from Betony)

Tim had the chance to open for Nathaniel Rateliff a couple of years ago at the MOXI theater. We became kind of smitten with him. The rawness in his performance and songwriting pulls at your gut. He reminds me of a bluesy, rougher Johnny Cash.

Then this local hero out of Denver formed a new band and had a BIG break. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats were asks to perform on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. They crushed it and Tim commented on how good this will be for Colorado and its music scene! Way to go Colorado!

The performance can be seen here. They get a standing ovation!

That was best local pride moment for the STATE of Colorado.

For best local pride moment for our CITY we have the breaking of a Guinness world record!

Greeley isn’t always known for being the coolest, most happening town. A lot of the press Greeley gets is negative – “smelly”, “oil-driven”, etc. But, the people of Greeley are pretty wonderful, so when the community can come together and do something like this – it makes my heart all warm and fuzzy. Real proud of you Greeley. Way to be unexpectedly awesome.
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BEST NEW LIQUOR Cabinet Addition of 2015:

(from Betony)

I went searching for this liqueur so that I could make a fun recipe I came across. I was at our favorite liquer store in town and the lady helped me search for it for quite some time. (Apparently most Greeley-ites don’t use it). When we finally got it, I kind of balked at the price ($50) but felt a bit obligated to buy it after she had spent so long helping me locate it. I am so glad I did! First off, the story of how it is made is pretty incredible –

Chartreuse  is a French liqueur made by the Carthusian Monks since 1737 according to the instructions set out in a manuscript given to them by François Annibal d’Estrées in 1605. It is composed of distilled alcohol aged with 130 herbs, plants and flowers. The liqueur is named after the Monks’ Grande Chartreuse monastery, located in the Chartreuse Mountains in the general region of Grenoble in France.
(wikipedia)

And, it tastes like its origins – very complex with floral and herbal flavors.
Our current favorite use of it is in The Last Word – a great classic cocktail.

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BEST NEW RECIPE of 2015

(from Tim)

Goes to a pie! a pie that will be made from here on out for my birthdays, Christmas’s, Thanksgivings, bar mitz fas, and whatever special occasion I can convince Betony to make it. (It’s being made tonight for New Year’s Eve. Of course.) It’s called Banoffee Pie.

(She posted the recipe here a few months ago) – She happened upon this one kind of by mistake and when she didn’t have the kind of cookie the original recipe called for in the crust, she improvised using Biscoff cookies (you know, those European airplane cookies?). Everything about it is pretty perfect if I do say so myself.

BEST INSPIRING MAGAZINE of 2015

(from Betony)

Truly I could not give this Canadian magazine, UPPERCASE, a more glowing review. It is immaculately designed, thoughtfully curated, and fascinating to explore. I read each issue cover to cover. Janine Vangool (the editer and mastermind behind it) is pretty incredible at what she does. Her tagline “for the Creative and Curious” is perfect as each issue digs into a theme in all sorts of interesting ways. The second to last issue was called “Perfection” and was a beautifully done exploration of stamps, lace, and other “perforated” artworks. If creativity is “the art of making connections”, UPPERCASE is a great example of that. The connections she makes and the circular way she ties all the pieces together is wonderful.

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BEST OUTDOOR GEAR Addition of 2015

(from Tim)

This was the summer of the bicycle for us. Lucy learned how to ride with out training wheels and I said goodbye to my 1994 electric blue Trek 820 (as I got a new bike)!

We picked up this WeeRide attachment from Craigslist so Harriet could ride with us (exhibiting great bravery for a 4 year old). And we are so pumped about it. With Lucy finally being able to ride her own bike, the addition of a baby bike seat to Betony’s cruiser, and this brilliant contraption that attaches to the back of my sweet new ride, we can FINALLY ride bikes as a family. We have declared 2016 the “Year of the Bicycle” for the Coons family and love how solidly made this little tandem attachment is.

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BEST AMUSEMENT RIDE of 2015

(from Tim)

We had a whole post about this from the spring but we went on our first family vacation this year. We went to Glenwood Springs by train, stayed at a great family friendly hotel and went up to Glenwood Canyon Adventure Park on the last day. I’ve done alpine slides before, but I’ve never really experienced an ALPINE ROLLER COASTER like what they had there. It was incredible.

You strap into this little car that’s a bit like a go-cart (and your kid is allowed to seat in front of you) then head down the rail at a great speed. Since you’re surrounded by mountain pines on all sides it feels like you could be in the speeder-bike scene from Return of the Jedi. When you’re done a snag-line takes you back up the mountain and you have a great view to enjoy of the forrest. It was better than any roller coaster, ferris wheel, or loopty-loop I’ve ever ridden!

 

BEST EMOTIONALLY WRECKING ALBUM of 2015

(from Tim)

The Collection is a band out of North Carolina and they created an incredible album here. The songs are rich in arrangement, powerful in melody, and lyrically striking (the spiritual honesty gives me chills at least once listening through the album every time).

Ars Moriendi | the Collection
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BEST NEW RESTAURANTS of 2015

(from Betony)

This award goes to a new Greeley restaurant and a new find in Glenwood Springs.

Hands down our new favorite MEAL in greeley is Right Coast Pizza‘s “Sunny Side” pizza – delightful thin crust, with house charred peppers, red sauce, bacon and a fried egg. Sounds a bit weird, I know, but it is A-Maze-ing!!
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Polanka could also win the “best restaurant with the worst atmosphere” award. It’s found in a dingy shopping mall with florescent lighting and ugly tile floors in Glenwood Springs.

But this is the kind of food I would want on my death bed. This place is like “last meal of your life” good. Partly because you can FEEL the love and history put into it. You might cry it is so good. Drop everything and drive there right now. Order everything on the menu. Ignore the fact that it looks like you are eating in a weird florescent lit packing store in a strip mall. Ignore the styrofoam plates. Just close your eyes and stuff your face.
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By the way, honorable mention in Glenwood Springs goes to Slope & Hatch tacos too. Great creativity AND execution.

 

Hope you enjoyed our favorites of the year. With moments and foods and discoveries like this it makes us look forward to 2016!

Blessings and much love,

Giants & Pilgrims
Betony & Tim Coons

 

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“Ghosts for Tinder” Painting Story and Process Photos

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A photo of a wildfire that was about a quarter of a mile from my parents’ house.IMG_5177IMG_5175

My parents’ farm in the Kansas Sandhills is surrounded by hundreds of acres of native prairie. Farmers there are constantly fighting the growth of cedar trees and other invasive species to try to retain the health and beauty of the prairie. One of the reasons why the prairie can be difficult to maintain is because fire is necessary to its life and health. Wildfires burn away dead plants; prevent certain other plants from encroaching; and release nutrients into the ground to encourage new growth. But in our world, we fight against fire.

Where I grew up, prairie fires are a very real concern. My childhood home was destroyed in a prairie fire (thankfully after we had already moved out). I remember many nights where my dad would leave all the sprinklers on in the yard “just in case”  because a nearby wildfire might jump the road and head our way.

Understandably, we don’t have room in our lives for fire. It can be dangerous and destructive. We have belongings and homes that are cherished. But, in our needs for safety and to protect the things we love, we can miss out on some of the restorative benefits. Especially in the sense of fire as a larger metaphor.

So the prairie here is a metaphor. Sometimes the best healing for new growth is a clearing out. This painting is my reminder to myself; that sometimes we need to start anew. Sometimes we need to let pain in and let go and begin again.

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Interesting little side note, this is the one piece in this series that was not started on a new blank canvas. The canvas had a painting on it that I was never happy with, so I painted over it to create this new piece – an act that mirrors the symbolism of the piece. The gray bird in the sky flying towards the past is the one element I kept from the original painting.

The butterflies here represent (as always in my pieces) hope and forward momentum.
The fire has sparkles of the universe within it.
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A 2013 photo of burning cedars in the prairie

 

GHOSTS FOR THE TINDER lyrics by Tim Coons

Come and keep by my lovely fire

I’ve got pieces I’m scheming from the liars with in me

You’ve replayed in my darker mind

You’re re-lived in the days I have assigned without you

Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Burn it down here

burn it down

it will come again

come up, on up from this ground

Up and around

So burn it down

I’ve got ghosts for the tinder glow

I’ve got pages to wash clean as snow to warm me

I’ve got memories for matches now

I will lighten the load so sad and loud for
When I see you

Heaven knows it will light

Heaven knows it will light

 

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December Ideas and Activities around the Theme “Advent”

For this entire year (I can’t believe it is the last month of the year already!) I’ve been doing an at home curriculum with the family (Lucy 6, Hattie 4, Beatrice 1). Tim and I call the project “Abacus” and we’re sharing it each month for the fun, challenge, and community of it. Each month we choose a theme and then come up with a bunch of activities around that theme. Read all about how to use this list and our heart behind this project here.
Explore past months themes here.

Our theme this month is “Advent.” To me December is a month of anticipation. Our family is OBSESSED with advent calendars. We literally have 5 that we will do every day this month. For me it is a way of slowing down and fully enjoying these favorite of days. I am going to share some of my favorite advent traditions here, as well as our own little “activity” advent of 25 perfect December activities – one for each day until Christmas.

DECEMBER Dates to Take Note of:

December 6-12 – Hanukkah
December 13th – The Feast of Santa Lucia – we are hoping to take a trip up to Georgetown to partake in their annual European Christmas Market –
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December 22nd – Winter Solstice – I love the tradition of making a small bonfire outside on this day.
December 24th – Christmas Eve (Also my grandmother’s Birthday!) (for us, it is Christmas eve services, followed by takeout, leaving cookies for Santa, and opening a package that is always pajamas)
December 25th – Christmas Day – (for us it looks like – photos on the stairs before coming down, sausage souffle and cinnamon rolls, opening stockings and presents as slowly as possible, playing all day, a family walk in the cold, and grilling outside)
December 26th – Boxing Day

Local: Greeley, CO events:

December 5th – Teddy Bear Bash at the Festival of Trees – 9-11am
December 5th – Handmade for the Holidays 10-3 at the Kress Cinema
December 11-13th – The Nutcracker at UCCC
December 11-13th – Twas the Night before Christmas performed by the Stampede Theater Troupe

Let me know if you have other fun Greeley events I should add to this calendar!

 

The Coon’s Family 2015 ADVENT CALENDARS:

You might laugh at this one. But our family LOVES Jacquie Lawson’s advent calendar she releases each year. It shows up as a Snow Globe on your desktop and each day another little animated short or activity is released. It borders on overly “thomas-kinkade” sappy, but at the same time it is SO great. We all unabashedly love it. This year the theme is Victorian Christmas.
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If you haven’t yet discovered Sparkle Stories, I am so happy to get to be the one to introduce you.  The stories are very simple but sweet original audio stories for kids. They have a specific Advent calendar as part of their Martin & Sylvia Series. Each day showcases a very simple holiday activity. They released the advent calendar in 2014, but it is still great. We listened to it last year and are excited to relive it again this year.
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Partly thanks to having a brother who manages a Lego store, we can’t miss out on the Lego Advent calendars. This year we opted for their Star Wars edition (in anticipation of the new movie). Each day you get a tiny set of legos to build.
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Tim loves playing the Angry Birds seasons (which unlocks one new level each day)
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We are participateing in our church community Atlas’s Random Acts of Christmas Kindness list12314495_10153078112937470_3401969149545698084_o

25 ADVENT Activities:

These don’t have to be done in any particular order, but this is our list of 25 “Christmasy” activities that don’t require much extra money or time, but are what this month is all about for us.

  1. Make Gingerbread Cookies/houses (my sister just recommended this recipe)
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  2. Cut Paper Snowflakessnowflakes 4
  3. Visit a Christmas Tree Farm to pick our tree

  4. Take our time decorating the Christmas tree and tell stories and memories
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  5. String popcorn and cranberries
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  6. Bake Christmas cookies for the neighbors – Here are some recipes to get you started.
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  7. Drive around and look at Christmas lights (especially the Greeley Grizwalds)
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  8. Go caroling
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  9. Eat dinner by candlelight

  10. Go Ice Skating (The Greeley Ice Haus or the Ice skating rink at Centerra are good choices if you are local)
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  11. Go on an icy walk and then have hot chocolate with marshmallows
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  12. Make snow angels
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  13. In Hutchinson, where Tim and I grew up, they have an INCREDIBLE night of illuminaries in the Hyde Park neighborhood the Saturday before Christmas. Blocks and blocks are illuminated. They don’t allow traffic through and instead have hay rides of carolers and horse drawn carriages. I would love to have our own tiny version one night.
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  14. Write and send Christmas cards (just wait until you see the adorable family photo I have…)
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  15. Go sledding – just need a little more snow first!!
  16. Get matching pajamas for our whole family. Shhh… don’t tell Tim…and have a family game nightmatching-family-pajamas
  17. Eat a candy cane – I have heard that the Hammond Candy factory tour in Denver is pretty cool
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  18. Make a wreath (isn’t this gold feather and leaf one pretty?)
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  19. Read all the Christmas stories out loud – We love: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Max’s Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Polar Express, and so many more…
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  20. Go to the Nutcracker (or at least listen to it)
  21. Write letters to Santa and deliver to the Currier Inn Reindeer Route mailbox.
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  22. Lucy really wants to have a Christmas scavenger hunt. I am not sure what that means, but I’m working on it.
  23. Keep the bird feeders filled and chart the visitors
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  24. Have a Christmas movie watching and present wrapping party
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  25. Watch Charlie Brown Christmas and Ice Skating – the two shows we would always watch on Christmas day at my grandparent’s house.
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December Calendar Free Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

December’s palette is gray and white. Outside all the world has faded to these shades. Snow has come. The color is in the subtlety. I believe that it’s inside the house, the hearth, that embodies December. Inside we gather together around warmth and goodness. We bake cookies, sing, and wait with eager anticipation for Christmas holidays and the new year.
To dig into December, read this simple poem, make these perfect cookies,  and listen to this angelic playlist.

Enjoy this vintage silhouette inspired wallpaper for your month.

For the desktop, click on the small thumbnail below to view the large size image.
For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the iphone images. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen.


High Resolution Desktop Wallpaper:
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iPhone Wallpaper:
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