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Complete Set of Almanac Booklets Now Available!

The Coons family spent good time creating these all last year, enjoying the curating of everything creative we put in there.

The 12 booklets are full of provision and navigation for your season. They read like a “Life Almanac” and include recipes, playlists, songs, paintings, Instagram games, suggested adventures, free downloads and more. Pick up a set for yourself here and enjoy a deeper sense of the seasons with friends and family!

We only have 6 collections left, so invest quickly!

 

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Almanac Adventure: Winter Jars

Are you in Greeley, CO? Take the street southwest past Glenmere Park and there’s a sign for a wildlife sanctuary. It is the coolest little forest walk in the middle of our city- a hidden gem. If you take the path into those woods you’ll find our hanging jars there.

This has been one of our favorite January traditions. As a family we hike out to a wooded area and leave 5 hanging jars.

The jars are “writing-prompts” with the words Hopes, Dreams, Fears, Secrets, and Prayers written on them. We leave them in the woods about a week then pick them back up. It’s an honor to read the journalistic writings- seeing glimpses into peoples dreams and struggles.

The hope is that we’d make an adventure out of introspection in this season of resolution! It’s our way of taking on January and the new year.

 

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This adventure is completely re-creatable for your community. Here’s the directions:

Items Needed-
5 mason jars

5 tags
golf pencils
scrap paper
twine

You are invited into a polar expedition. This adventure is, as always, to be tailored to your story and we are merely providing suggestions and framework for goodness to happen. Make changes as needed and be creative.

Sometime this month find a wooded area that is traversed by people, even in winter. It should be hidden enough to be an enjoyable destination, yet frequented enough to be quite public.

Create your jars: Write the following words on the 5 tags- Hopes, Dreams, Fears, Secrets, Prayers. Then put the tags in the jars so they’re easily seen. And leave scrap paper and golf pencils in each jar. Lastly, leave quotes and your own thoughts in the jars as well, as a catalyst.

Bundle up and head out into the cold. Bring a friend. Or family. Enjoy the sense of purpose that comes with loving people by providing them anonymous reflection space.

Hang your jars together in a place that can be seen from a path- not too hidden but not too obvious. It should feel as if they’ve stumbled onto something special. And they have.

Leave the jars there. Invite your friends and connections on Facebook and other media channels. Everyone loves and deserves an adventure.

Collect your jars after 5-7 days. If you leave the brittle glass out too long they’re subject to breaking.

Take some time and treasure the connections and thoughts left there. Whether poetic musings, crude vandalism or plain honesty, it all speaks to our humanity.

Keep the jars somewhere they can catch the light this month. Be reminded of hopes, dreams, fears and everything that comes with great beginnings.

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“Mountain” January Projects Round Up

I don’t know about you, but we have been loving having a theme this month for our Abacus project. All sorts of “mountain” projects have been created around here. To see the whole list of projects we came up with (and resources!) check out our original post, here. Below is a summary of what we have been up to so far this January.

We have done quite a few mountain painting projects. I suppose that’s what you get when you have an artist for a mom 🙂

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This second set we used torn paper edges as a stencil which was a fun variation. (The idea came from the book “Make your Mark” by Margaret Poet)

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We have been listening to lots of these two albums – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty soundtrack (we haven’t actually watched the movie yet) and the Mountain Goats “The Sunset Tree” album (I especially love “This Year”)
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Tim came up with an awesome treasure map activity where he hid a box with trinkets in it and Lucy had to learn how to read a compass to find where it was located. (Isn’t this the coolest compass you have ever seen?!)IMG_1528

 

It took about a week to finish it, but we all watched and LOVED the Sound of Music (Lucy says her favorite part was the puppet show)

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Had a whole week where “In the Hall of the Mountain King” was stuck in all of our heads because we watched several videos of it, Tim told the girls the story of it, and we marked it out on the piano so Lucy could learn how to play the melody.

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We have been loving our “Adventure Logs” (We bought some basic sketchbooks that we decorated to use throughout the course of this whole Abacus year).
We wrote mountain shaped poems in them one peaceful morning.

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I have been enjoying a guilty pleasure of my own as well: a jigsaw puzzle. Miraculously, I have had it set up in our dining room and my kids have not decimated it! They seem to have forgotten about it. I have no idea how that happened, but I’m holding my breath that I “might” actually finish this one!

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One of the COOLEST Christmas presents we got this year was from my ever science-minded father. He got us a dissecting scope! It is seriously awesome. We looked at salt, sugar, glitter, snow, leaves, and rocks. Pretty cool. Can’t wait to look at some pond scum in the spring.

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We sewed mountain shaped pillows.

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We erupted an awesome plaster volcano we made from a kit and watched a video of a seriously cool lava expedition.
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I have almost made my way through “Born to Run” (Ironic since I preach about how much I hate running). But, even I will have to admit it’s a fascinating read and it does have me itching to get out and give running a fresh start.dsc_0138

I found some geodes at Hobby Lobby. Which were a short but sweet discovery change-up after a long afternoon.

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Phew, that seems like a lot when I list it all out like this! In reality, I have been loving these quiet days with this sweet family of mine. Still have 10 days in January for a few more. Hoping to head to the library today for some books, on the 29th we have a family climbing night scheduled at “The Rock” which we are all super excited about, a couple films still (Heidi, Unsinkable Molly Brown), and I’m still hoping to take a drive up to the actual mountains – since we do live so close to such a beautiful wonder. Happy Mountaineering to you and yours – Betony

If you want more info about this whole Abacus project, start here.

To jump in and connect with other families and share what you are working on, join our Abacus facebook group.

Or, to connect see our whole list of mountain project suggestions and resources list, head over here.

 

Update 2/17/15 – Here are our egg geodes – We used this tutorial

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And here are some pics from our awesome family climbing night at “The Rock” – We did the pizza and family climbing night here.

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The Story Behind the Song and Painting: “We Are Strong”

LYRICS:

We’ll be strong and carry-on

We’ll be strong, carry-on

I need you to believe in me, like I believe in you

all things aspiring the way young lovers do

I bought you an orchestra with a brand new tune

But the sound was wrong and just wasn’t you

Ooooh…

I need to believe in you, like you believe in me with eyes to see you through untiring

You bought me a 3 piece suit and painted every seam But the fit was wrong and unflattering

Ooooh…

Believe in me, I’ll believe in you

Believe in me, I know you do

(gifts of the magi story)

There’s a famous story that’s told at Christmas time. I always thought it was bizarre. I was young and I didn’t get it.

It’s called the Gift of the Magi and it tells the story of a young, poor couple. They want to give the other something truly wonderful for Christmas, but they have no money for it. 

So the young man sells his family pocket-watch to buy his wife a comb and clips for her hair. Her hair is very beautiful and special to him. 

She, unknowingly, sells all the locks of her hair to buy a chain- for his family heirloom, the pocket-watch.

At the end of the story they are holding each other and they’ve given everything they have to each other, and there’s this sense of deep sadness. The story ends with some line like, “and they gave the greatest gifts of all to the other”. 

I thought it was a terrible story! They totally missed each other and ended up with nothing! 

As I’ve grown older I understand more and more the power of sacrifice, and how that is truly the greatest gift. They didn’t end up with nothing. They ended up with each spouse fully poured out for the other. 

Here’s a song I wrote about this story. I was going to title the song, “The Gift of the Magi” but a friend said, “Everyone will think it’s a Christmas song, dude…” So now it’ s called “We’ll Be Strong”. 

Here’s the last paragraph of O. Henry’s story:

“The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

You can purchase prints of Betony’s art print of this painting here –

https://www.etsy.com/listing/189335397/whale-well-be-strong-11×11-art-print
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Poem for December: “Mend”

Welcome to the December Almanac. Our theme this month is MEND. All our posts will center around that theme in some way. Below is a poem written by Giants & Pilgrims own Tim Coons, all about this month.

“Mend”

by Tim Coons

December is an old quilt

a warm blanket near the hearth-
the home’s foundational fire

We tuck in after feasts and toasts
and carols around the table 

We cozy in as the snow blankets
all corners of our city

Amidst the joy of the tree and holly,
sweet nativities,

and lights
inside and out

a Great New birth stirs in our hearts
And we are put together, mended

in this shelter
and home

 

Printable Placemat

 

Someone actually gave us some artfully done paper-placemats that we’ve used on occasion (with the way our kids can destroy a table, a paper-placemat isn’t a bad idea once in a great while…)

So Betony Coons designed a printable placemat for this season’s holiday meals.  Enjoy this “one-last-thing” to worry about!

 

Click here to view as an 11X17 printable pdf –>
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Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme Roast Chicken

I took my wife to see Alton Brown, a Food
Network personality, last Christmas

(yes, we are foodies… obviously).

He asked the audience,
“What’s the most important item for cooking you have in your home?”

People shouted out “Oven!” “Sink!” “Hot pads!” “Fridge!” “Chocolate!”
While he replied, “No… Nope… No…”

Then he stopped and said, “It’s the table”. He talked about how too often we are taking Instagram pics of what we’re eating, glorifying the food in a sense, rather than who we are eating with. Family, friends, breaking bread together… that’s what the glories of food and cooking are all about.

So here’s a wonderful recipe you can share around the table. It’s been one of Betony and my favorites this year. Sing the Simon & Garfunkel song together as you make it… and don’t forget the gravy.


INGREDIENTS:

1- 4-1/2 lb whole chicken

2 tsp dried rosemary

1-1/2 tsp ground or dried sage

1-1/2 tsp dried thyme

2 bay leaves

5 tbsp olive oil, divided

4 small russet potatoes, quartered lengthwise and sliced into wedges

8 large shallots, peeled

1-3/4 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

6 tbsp butter

minced parsley

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Rub chicken inside and out with salt; mix rosemary, sage, thyme and a generous amount of black pepper and rub some of herb mixture inside chicken. Place 1 bay leaf inside cavity and tie up chicken. Brush chicken with olive oil, then sprinkle with remaining herb mixture. Place chicken in a heavy roasting pan and arrange potatoes and shallots around chicken. Sprinkle veggies with remaining oil and remaining herb mixture. Add remaining bay leaf and toss to coat.

3. Roast chicken 1 hour 15 mins. Transfer chicken and vegetables to a platter and tent with foil.

4. Pour pan juices into a measuring cup and spoon off fat. Add enough stock to make 2 cups. Add vinegar to roasting pan and set over burners to bring to a boil; deglaze pan and reduce to a glaze. Add stock and reduce to 1/2 cup. Lower heat and whisk in butter one tablespoon at a time; season to taste and stir in parsley.

Recipe from “The Bon Appetit Cookbook” by Barbara Fairchild

Almanac Adventure: Dinner Club

Items needed:

  • A favorite cookbook with a good diversity of recipes
  • A group of adventurous friends you like to hang out with
  • Time one evening a month

I’ve had the privilege to be a part of lots of groups in my life: book clubs, Bible studies, prayer groups, singing teams, etc. But none have given me quite as much joy as our dinner club.

Last year (yes, we’ve done this a full year) Betony and a friend asked a bunch of folks to do this: Buy a specific cookbook (we’ve used The Bon Appetit Cookbook edited Barbara Fairchild). Then every month each couple or person is in charge of making one recipe “full-on” from that cookbook. No substitutions or skimping out. If it calls for a crazy exotic ingredient, buy it! The rule is you have to follow the directions as close a possible.

Before divvying up the recipes a “theme” is chosen by the group.
We’ve done summer picnic as a theme (Asian ginger fried chicken, best-ever egg-salad sandwiches, an avocado salad, peanut butter chocolate brownies…) or back to school this last September
(meatloaf, gourmet mac & cheese, homemade applesauce, white chocolate moose oreo pie…) You get the idea. It’s seasonal but open for lots of creativity as menus are chosen.

Then everyone brings their salads, main entrees, sides, cocktails, and desserts together for an epic evening. We usually take turns hosting (and highly involved to easier recipes are rotated as well.)

What a time around the table this has been with people. It’s such a treat for “foodies” and people looking for great company. I hope it continues another year.
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Table Altar for Thanks: The Tree of Life

Artist and “space creator” Gregg Nordin was commissioned for our Almanac this month to provide directions on making a “Thanksgiving altar”!

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Thankfulness is a tricky one. Often we wait for moments of joy in order to have something to be thankful for. When things work in our favor, or when we get something we have been longing for. Some promotion, some purchase. We experience a momentary spike in joy and we are grateful. But all to soon the feeling can fade.

The truth is, gratitude and the practice of thanksgiving is what produces joy. Not the other way around. Thankfulness acts like new glasses that allow us to see the joy that is currently in our lives. Especially gratitude in the small things, the details; “Golden light of the morning sun,” “The feel of new socks.” “Warm Cookies”, “Harmony of birdsong outside my window.’

Thanksgiving slows us down and enables us to see. And when we can see… we no longer try to hustle for what we already have.

Purpose

The purpose of this interactive centerpiece is to provide a single gathering place for all the amazing things that bring our life to life. This exercise will not only remind us of the best parts of our existence but also allow us to share them with those around us.

Items needed

  • Colored Paper (preferably heavier weight like card stock)
  • Sticks / Branches 
  • Markers
  • Box or vase for base (fill with rocks or gravel for stability)
  • Small paper clips or clothes pins   

(You may want to assemble this interactive centerpiece early on in the month so you can daily add to it in preparation for Thanksgiving.)

The first part of assembly will require a short walk amongst some trees. Search for some fell branches that will work well with your table size and bring them home. Next you will need a base for the branches to rest in. Fill with rocks or sand to provide stability. Next take the your colored paper and with scissors cut out pieces shaped like leaves. Cut enough that everyone participating can use at least 2-3 per day. 

Every day take a moment or two to pause and think of the things you are grateful for. Everything from the big things like family and health. To the small things like the pools of melted butter on hot pancakes. Take those things and write them on a leaf. Give the leaf a small fold down the middle and then attach it to the tree. 

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Watch over the coming days as the centerpiece of dead branches comes to life. You may just notice a similar change in yourself as you become aware of all the things that fill you with joy.  Gratitude brings things to life.

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Gregg Nordin

Life_Spaces@icloud.com

November Theme: Table

November is a set table

Harvest is here
and the fruits of our labor,
the results of our efforts,
the long months of digging in the dirt,
all produces great fruit

worth celebrating

Friends, families, and neighbors
gather around with smiles
while words like thankfulness and gratitude
are kept present on our tongues

We break bread and pour the cup
We taste, we eat

And our bodies and hearts together
are full