Nutty About Nutcrackers

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photograph by Robert Shomier via sfgate

Ever since my daughter was little, she has loved the Nutcracker Ballet. She continues to enjoy watching this seasonal ballet with delight.

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photograph via christmasspirit

My son also loves nutcrackers. His collection has grown over the years and they adorn our house during the holiday season.

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photograph via thepaleomom

Snacking on nuts, enjoying a ballet, or decorating with nutcrackers remain a part of our holiday celebration.  This year, nuts will also be enjoyed in a new way.

Recently, I started the Paleo diet. Actually, I feel so good eating this way, that I do not consider this a “diet.” It is more like a lifestyle change.

This recent dietary change came up in a conversation with a co-worker as our office prepared for their annual Thanksgiving potluck. One friend mentioned they were bringing a Paleo-friendly recipe they discovered on detoxinista.  Once I tried it, I was hooked.

Image photograph via detoxinista

Megan’s Grain-Free Pumpkin Bars via detoxinista

Ingredients
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup almond butter
⅓ cup honey
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F and grease an 8″ x 8″ pan generously with coconut oil or butter. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix well until a smooth batter forms. Transfer the batter to the greased pan, and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the center is firm. Allow to cool completely in the pan, then cut and serve! Glaze these bars with Megan’s Maple Pecan Glaze.

 

I was surprised that this recipe did not contain any flour or butter. The key ingredient was almonds! Surprise! Almond butter works as both the flour and the butter.

Image photograph via thehealthyfamilyandhome

Although you can find a great almond butter recipe on detoxinista, here is another great Paleo almond butter recipe posted on thehealthyfamilyandhome.

Karielyn’s Homemade Almond Butter via thehealthyfamilyandhome

Ingredients
3 cups organic raw almonds (soaked overnight and dehydrated)
1 tablespoon organic coconut oil

Instructions
Soak almonds overnight. In the morning, rinse and dehydrate 24 hours (or until completely dry. Put almonds and coconut oil in food processor. Process. It will go through different stages–flour, ball-shaped, smooth. Stop periodically to scrape the sides. Once the butter is creamy, store in an airtight container.

Although nuts should be eaten sparingly on the Paleo diet, I love that occasional treats are still an option.

I hope you go a little “nutty” too this holiday season!

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Dystopian Mini-Vacation

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booksdirect.tumblr

This time of year, many travel toward those they love in order to celebrate Thanksgiving together. For others staying at home, the long weekend following Thanksgiving becomes a mini-vacation before the holiday season begins. Either way, this is the perfect time to enjoy a vacation even if it is just into your imagination.

This weekend, I hope to find a little quiet time to read a good book.

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amazon

I am about halfway through Veronica Roth’s final installment of the Divergent series. I have enjoyed taking a journey into this dystopian society where people are placed into factions which reinforce noble character traits. However, the truth that our strengths are also our weaknesses is carried throughout this thought-provoking tale as narrow-minded ideologies create conflict which test individuals and their society as a whole. Although the third book has received mixed reviews, I love these characters enough to want to see it through to the end. What is the price for knowledge… love… personal choice?

One choice can transform you.

One choice can destroy you.

One choice can define you.

 The Alliance

barnesandnoble

Alliance is another tale that takes you on a  journey through a dystopian society which asks the question, “Would you give up individual choice for a perfect society?” “What would you be willing to sacrifice for the freedom of choice?”

Author, Gerald N. Lund, created a world where survivors, 18 years after a nuclear holocaust, are relocated into what appears to be a perfect society.  In the Alliance, there is no crime, hatred, or prejudice.  The cost? The new government’s implantation program designed to control the general population.  Except for a select few, a microchip is inserted into citizens to control potentially negative emotions and curtail any possible anti-social behavior.  This microchip inflicts physical pain in order to recondition and modify specific emotions or thoughts. The protagonist Eric Lloyd, quickly discovers the corrupt power structure of this new government upon his arrival to the Alliance and sets out to rescue those he loves from implantation.

hunger games

barnesandnoble

The worldwide best-selling trilogy, The Hunger Games, most likely does not need a book review at this point in time due to it’s popularity.  However, with another blockbuster movie from this franchise just released, it may be worth reading again.  Cinematic and literary works are unique to their genre and I find it pointless to judge one against another.  However, with that being said, the book provides insight into the struggle within the protagonist’s mind and additional details which richly add to the story. Reading the book prior to attending the movie offers added insight and will surely enhance the experience.

Dystopian literature often challenges the reader to think about their values, politics, and human nature.  The depth of mental conversation adds pure enjoyment when taking such a journey.

As Charlaine Harris said, “Here’s to books, the cheapest vacation you can buy!”

Blustery Hat Day

The wind is howling and the temperatures have dropped.  Winter is on it’s way!ImageTime to bundle up to to keep the chill at bay.

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Nordstroms, Brocade Intarsia Knit Beret, $34

I’m mad about hats!  There are so many great choices available in a wide range of prices.  Here are a few of my favorites.

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Etsy, Greek Fisherman’s Hat Wool, $25

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Target, Merona Knit Brim Hat, $13

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Kohls, Croft and Barrow Tweed Cloche, $16

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Hats in the Belfry, Giovannio Monique Velvet Beret, $49

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Hats in the Belfry, Grace Regan Textured Cadet, $49

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Free People, Thick Chunky Beanie via R29, $36

 Stay warm this holiday season and go mad for hats!

Layered Neutral Textures

In my new space, I find myself moving more and more to neutral interiors.  There seems to be a quiet, sophisticated elegance in designs that have layered textures using only a neutral palate.  Finding inspiration in beautifully designed interiors, I looked for tips that I might use in designing my own home.

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photograph via avalonjacksonbeach

Tip 1:  Add or highlight architectural elements that use a variety of textures like stone, wood, tile, and steel in the room’s core design.

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Tracery Interiors via theenchantedhome

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Phoebe Howard via theenchantedhome

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photograph via celebrateanddecorate

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decoholic

Tip 2:  Add contrast with a range of neutral values.

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photograph by Max Kim-Bee via Veranda

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photograph via houzz

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decoholic

Tip 3: Choose eclectic furnishings and fixtures.

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photograph by Max Kim-Bee via Veranda

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Kristen Nix, photograph by Brittany Ambridge via Domino

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restorationhardware via jjasmineinteriors

Tip 4:  Add a variety of materials (including fabrics, glass, steel, leather, and fur) in the room’s decor.

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photograph via 3dayblinds

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Alexandra Federova via moldse

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photograph via avalonjacksonbeach

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photograph via kristenellisdesign

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Nate Berkus, photograph by Brittany Ambridge via Domino

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photograph via thelennoxx

Tip 5:  Mix warm and cool neutrals.

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photograph by Tom Haga via decoholic

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Michelle Workman via theenchantedhome

Tip 6:  Choose accent pieces and decor that add visual interest.

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restorationhardware

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BHG via designsavvyofnj

Identifying specific design choices in these beautiful neutral interiors empowers me with understanding how to keep this palate interesting. With a few simple changes in my own home, I feel more confident moving in that direction.  Neutrals also offer a wonderful backdrop to fine art and lush plants which is a bonus for me too.

Holiday Advent

It’s hard to believe, but there is only one week until Thanksgiving. Typically, we begin our Christmas decorating the next day so I thought it would be fun to share a project to help count down the days of December. This charming advent calendar was created by Lucy Atkins at Craftberry Bush.

Image     craftberrybush

To begin, I’d head over to the creative team at Boxwood Clippings to learn how to create a padded frame. Sarah and Emily provide directions here.

Once the frame is prepared, the rest of this project is quite simple. To make Lucy’s clay tags, you will need the following:

Materials:

Air dry clay or Sculpey

Paper tag

Straw

Rolling pin

Sharp craft knife

Fine grit sand paper

Pins

 howtomakeclaytagstutorialcraftberrybush

craftberrybush

Directions:

1. Roll out air dry clay or Sculpey over parchment paper. Roll the clay at least 5 mm.

2. Place a paper pattern over the clay. Using the rolling pin, roll over the tag so it leaves an indented outline on the clay.

3. With a sharp craft knife, cut around the edge of the tag.

4. With a straw, poke a hole at one end.

5. Remove any unwanted clay around the edges.  Smooth any rough edges and set it aside.

6. With a pin or toothpick, draw or stamp the number.

7. Allow to dry or cure as per the package instructions.

8. Once dry, gently sand edges and/or any imperfections on the tags.

9. With a thin brush, paint inside the numbers (optional).

claytags131415closeupcraftberrybush

craftberrybush

I like the simplicity of this advent calendar.  Each tag could list an activity to be performed rather than a treat or toy.

Perhaps the tags could include:

a helpful service, to be rendered

a scripture reference, to be read

a song, to be sung

an activity, to be enjoyed together

Ken Scott

photograph by Ken Scott, via pinterest

As the beginning of the season approaches, how will you count the days until Christmas?