How to Stay Cozy: Warm Chili Dinner

Every Halloween, my mom cooked chili. Steaming hot chili with oyster crackers floating on top. It was served in red, orange, ochre and brown ceramic bowls. Even the colors of the dishes were warm. We would eat the chili to warm up before dressing in our costumes to go trick or treating in the crisp autumn air. Now, for me, chili is forever linked with cool fall evenings. I crave this chili when the nights get cold and the leaves start turning color.

Today I’ll share the chili recipe, plus tips to make an autumn dinner feel warm and comfortable, in partnership with the “Keep It Cozy” campaign.

Autumn Chili Recipe


  • 1 pound ground beef (as a vegetarian household, we substitute with MorningStar Grillers Crumbles or Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles for vegetarian chili)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup (sometimes we use fire roasted diced tomatoes)
  • 2 16 oz. cans of red kidney beans
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

In a bit of oil in a deep skillet or big saucepan, brown the beef and cook the onion, garlic and chili powder until the onion is tender.

Add remaining ingredients. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Makes 4 servings.


Chili Ingredients

We like to add fire roasted corn to the recipe. And serve it with sharp aged cheddar cheese grated on the top. I also love chili powder from Penzey’s or a flavorful chipotle chili. It has rich savory flavor without tongue-burning heat. But mostly, I try to keep the chili close to mom’s original recipe. There are a bazillion chili recipes out there, but there’s nothing like the original favorite food that you enjoyed as a child.

Cozy Color

Color can go a long way to creating a cozy feeling. Darker warm colors like red, terra cotta and paprika, olive green, even navy, all work together to make meals feel like comfort food on chilly days.

Autumn-hued bowls look great with the chili, such as these from Wayfair:

Autumn Color Dinnerware

Top to bottom:  Fiesta Soup Bowl in Paprika | Brimson 4-Piece Pasta Bowl SetFiesta Pasta Bowl in Sage | Fiesta Chili Bowl in Cobalt

Bowls that are labeled for cereal, pasta and soup can work just as well for chili.

Copper Flatware

Copper, a warm color metal, is a great accent for cozy fall tablescapes. Use copper color in flatware, cups and chargers:

Copper Tableware

Top to bottom: David Shaw Silverware, Antique Flatware Set | Vintage Solid Copper Cocktail Mug | Copper Charger Plates

Autumn Color Table Runner

I love to decorate my dining table with unexpected, different things like a table runner made from kimono fabric. I find kimono fabrics on eBay. They’re about 14″ wide — perfect for table runners! Here’s a silk kimono fabric with autumn leaves and colors that I shared in a blog post several years ago:

Wouldn’t the bowls and copper pieces shown above look great with this fabric as a table runner? Add candles, pumpkins and acorns, and you have a cozy autumn table.

Hot Cocoa

Is there anything cozier than a big mug of hot cocoa? Okay a fireplace is pretty cozy. But a mug of hot cocoa, you can cuddle it in your hands. My favorite hot cocoa powder is from Droste and I love marshmallows from Williams-Sonoma. The hand-crafted marshmallows are expensive so they are a rare indulgence, but soooooooo good.

Be a little greedy and make cocoa in an oversized mug! There’s more space for more marshmallows, and more warm mug to cuddle with in your hands!

Hot Cocoa Combo

Top to bottom: Droste Cocoa PowderWilliams-Sonoma Handmade Marshmallows | Mint Pantry Drexel 20 oz. Mug

The Droste Cocoa Powder is a rich powder. You add sugar to the powder in a mug. Then, pour in just enough hot milk, a few tablespoons, to melt the powder and stir it into the consistency of paint. Then, pour in the remainder of the milk and stir. Add a few marshmallows if you’d like and sprinkle some cinnamon.

Dimmable Lighting

Dimmable lighting is perfect for the dining room. You can blast the light real bright when you need it, like when kids are doing homework or you’re doing a crafty DIY project on the dining table. When you want moody ambiance with lower light, you can have that just by dimming the light.

I really like the style of this dimmable chandelier at Wayfair. The quatrefoil design is flexible — it can go with my global nomadic style (quatrefoil pattern is common in Morocco and India), it can go well with modern farmhouse style, or even rustic mountain or “up north” cabin style.

Dimmable Chandelier at Wayfair

Bennington Candle-Style Chandelier 

Candle Wall Sconce

I like to light candles for ambiance and fragrance. With curious cats in the house, I have to be careful with candles. One of our cats will go and sniff the flame and then his whiskers start smoking! We don’t want things to get that cozy!

If you have pets and kids, you can still have candles. Put them high up, like on the wall as candle sconces, or on fireplace mantels. I really like this candle wall sconce for safety reasons because you can place the candle high up, and there’s also a glass hurricane:

Three Posts Glass Wall Sconce

It’s big enough to hold a substantial, tall 3″ diameter pillar candle, and should cast a nice cozy glow on the wall.

You can find candle wall sconces in many different styles. Here are a few more options:

Brayden Studio Metal Candle Sconce at Wayfair

Iron and Wood Candle Wall Sconce at Wayfair

Top to bottom: Brayden Studio Metal Sconce | Lark Manor Iron and Wood Candle Sconce

My cats don’t go on the dining table (at least not while I’m looking!) but you never know if they’ll get curious when they see a candle. So I feel better hanging candle wall sconces. Let’s keep fire where it belongs — in the fireplace and on candles only!

It All Adds Up To A Cozy Dining Room

My own dining room has many of these elements. I have a dimmable chandelier, candle wall sconces in a Moroccan style, and the walls are painted a warm cozy paprika color. We have some deep orange plates and olive green touches for the table. I can tell you, sitting in there feels like a warm embrace, perfect on colder fall and winter days!

One Room Challenge Week 4: Moving Upstairs to the Guest Room

Moving Time

This has been a tough week.

  1. Temps in the low 30s are coming to Chicago very soon. So I’ve been busting my butt to finish the final things with our exterior painting job before it gets too cold.
  2. It rained again. Our basement flooded again. And again, the flooding lasted for days. (See the result of flooding during Week 3.)

A few bits of good news:

  • My husband got back from an overseas work trip, so I wasn’t dealing alone
  • We set up a pump over the drain pipe that’s pushing water into the basement; that cut the flow of water into the basement and water is now pumped down a hill through a garden hose instead
  • We found a floor crack on the opposite side of the basement where more water is coming in; we were really confused about the source of that water before finding the crack
  • We found a water remediation company that will take care of everything we need — walls, wood trim, everything in the basement will be torn out and intensive cleaning needed

The not-so-great news:

  • We still await a visit from our preferred basement waterproofing contractor; it might be a few more weeks and more rain is forecast
  • We suspect catastrophic failure of drain tiles around the foundation and/or a collapsed pipe somewhere underground but we have no idea where it is
  • Gonna cost some dollars to fix all this stuff

I shared pictures in Week 1 and Week 2 of the basement room I originally planned to turn into a creative studio. Well here it is now:

Basement Wallpaper Removed

I’ve said that I like the look of old mottled walls, but not when the look is made of wallpaper glue and mold!

All the wallpaper came off the walls like frosting sliding off a cake on a really hot day. It was SO humid in the basement. That wallpaper had been extremely bonded to the wallboard, but I practically pulled it off with my pinky finger. It’s like the humidity steamed the wallpaper off. Which is a good thing, because it was thick vinyl and the walls cannot breathe. We had to expose the walls to see what was happening to them. I’m using Simple Green d Pro 5 Disinfectant (affiliate link) for mold treatment until the water/flood remediation folks come. That product was recommended by the water remediation company and I found it on Amazon. They recommended that I not put bleach all over the basement.

Moving to the Guest Room

Meanwhile, I mentioned on Insta stories that I would re-paint our guest room to lighten it up and use it as a temporary studio. The room needs to be painted anyway. This will be a “very mini makeover” if I can pull it off. I had big intentions this week, but didn’t get much done. One night I got only 90 minutes of sleep due to getting water out of the basement, and I’m really tired.

Here’s a longer video about the guest room with explanation:

And a short video just showing a quick 360 of the room without talking:

Nice shot of the switchplate as a focal point there, huh?

So far, I got paint samples on a wall, spackled holes in the walls, taped off trim and ceiling, covered things with dropcloths, and dusted/cleaned. Unfortunately that was it.

I will try to repeat the same painting technique that I used 13 years ago when I painted the guest room walls the deep terra cotta color. It’s a mottled effect with rivers of dusty gray running through.

Terra Cotta Guest Room Walls

I love the terra cotta walls and am conflicted about painting over them. But the room is too dark. It’s time for a change. As a compromise, I decided to to keep this wall terra cotta:

Terra Cotta Wall

And I don’t have to move that Ikea Expedit shelf much! Bonus!

This room also has my Moroccan-Indian nook in a former closet:

Indian-Moroccan Nook

This nook is staying mostly as is! A few things to do:

  • Hang up a Moroccan pierced metal lantern found in Marrakech
  • Install a silk saree found on eBay as a partial curtain for the nook
  • Cover the aluminum closet door track

I was not planning to makeover this room, so the decor makeover will be minimal:

  • I’ll put things that inspire me creatively on the Ikea Expedit shelf
  • I’ll likely sew pillows with teal and terra cotta fabrics for the futon, to tie the colors of the room together
  • Fix the saree that hangs from the ceiling and drapes down the wall

I’ll bring in a few pieces from my original plan to make the creative studio:

  • Updates to vintage folding chairs and folding tables with paint and fabric
  • Stencil the rug that I wanted to use in the basement, but it might now stay in the guest room so the color plan is changing

I cannot guarantee this will get done. Sorry this sounds so non-committal. We’ve had waves of water thrown at us, literally, and I don’t know what’s coming next. All I know is more rain is forecast this coming week. But I’m trying to keep a sunny outlook!

It sounds like there were disruptions and drama for other ORC featured designers and guest participants too. Linda from Calling It Home hosts the ORC for us, and she made the unprecedented call to extend the ORC by another week, due to extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires and floods that are affecting a lot of bloggers and their supply chains to receive things for their rooms. So, we now have three more weeks instead of two! See what the ORC featured designers and guest participants had to say this week!

One Room Challenge Week 3: Rained On, But Not Rained Out

This week, I wondered if I’m doing the One Room Challenge or if I’m doing Survivor!

Remember last week when I used words from this song: “I can see clearly now, the rain has gone …”

Well how ironic.

This week, the rains came.

And the ORC got rained on at my house. But as you’ll see at the end, the game is not rained out here yet.

Blissful shopping Saturday

I spent Saturday afternoon running errands, getting painting supplies and decorations for the soon-to-be creative studio. It was so fun! You know how it is! You get ideas, you envision what they’ll look like in the room. It’s a blast!! While shopping, I was imagining the final reveal pictures. I chose a few things to add texture and pattern. I found containers to artfully arrange paint brushes. I was excited to make vignettes like this:

Paint Brush Vignette

The Vision

Yeah it was raining all day. But no big deal. I didn’t even carry an umbrella.

I was blissfully unaware of what was happening back at home, in the basement.

The week’s tasks were carefully planned:

Week 3 Schedule

And ta-da!!! Today I would have given you a tutorial showing how to make an old crusty, rustic faux brick wall. There are tutorials online, but mine was gonna be crustier and more rustic with heavy texture build-up.

You can guess now that this post isn’t about that tutorial.

CRANK UP The Horror Show

Before going to the basement to paint on Saturday evening, I feed the cats, make a pizza and drink cider. I’m listening to the patter of rain on the roof, enjoying the apple cider, and thinking simple thoughts: I love October. I love cider.



Oh @%$*&!!!! The water alarm in the basement!!!

I run down there.

There’s water all over the floor! Here’s when I first saw it:

Here’s the thing. I put only plastic containers on the floor. NEVER cardboard boxes. But I was painting these cardboard boxes and they were on the floor for a day. That’s it!! Only 1 day! What’s the chance of a flood the next day? It rains all the time and the basement hasn’t flooded in 2 years. Why now?

Thankfully the painter’s drop cloth protected the boxes and all the fabrics in them. Not a single box got a single drop of water, despite a river of water running underneath the drop cloths! Crazy.

Long sTory Short …

The cardboard boxes stayed dry, but lots of other things got wet. Water was everywhere. The night was crazy.

I wound up dropping a shop vac drain cap down into a basement pipe. And made a mad dash to Menards, squeaking in through the doors just before they closed for a new shop vac. I was soaking wet and had mascara running down my face. Which I didn’t realize until later! I wondered why the nice employees at Menards were helpful but they were … cautious.

Anyway, long story short, water came into our basement all day Sunday, all day Monday, all day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, and on and on.

This is what my calendar looked like in reality:

What I Really Did This Week

I’m calling contractors to come look at the situation, but everyone is super busy because many houses flooded.

I make a long video, capturing all the visible damage.

Knocked Down …

I would love to bounce back and power through the next three weeks and turn this mess into a gorgeous room. I know these three posts have left an ugly impression of my house. I don’t want to leave that impression of my house. And I wanted to deliver on the DIY tutorials so you can see and do the cool ideas I had in mind.

But that would be the wrong thing to do.

I don’t believe in putting lipstick on a pig. I believe in doing things right.

It’s Tuesday as I write this and wait for a basement drainage contractor to show. Water is still running underneath the walls, like a skinny slithery river. It’s following the downward slope in the floor toward a drain. I know the water is doing its damage to the walls. I can already smell mold, my nose is stuffy and my lungs feel stuffy.

We need to do many things that won’t be done within three weeks, before the ORC ends:

  • Talk with our insurer
  • Mold remediation
  • Identify the problem with the exterior drain and fix it
  • Rip everything out of the basement (walls, framing, wood built-ins, etc.)
  • Re-build the walls, etc.

… But Not Knocked Out?

I wrote a “dropping out” ending for today. But maybe not. I’m definitely dropping studio plans for the basement, until we fix the basement.

But I can’t keep painting and doing blog DIYs in the living room and dining room. We do have a guest room that isn’t used much. It’s smaller, about 10′ x 10′. The walls would need to be lightened. I can work with it. It would be a much smaller plan, a “really mini makeover,” because there’s only 3 weeks to do it. I might do it. I’m still uncertain because I still must remove 100% of everything out of our basement, so basement waterproofing experts can identify what’s happening. AND the exterior painting of our house isn’t 100% finished yet — I’m still finishing that too.

Come back next week to find out!

Many other rooms are being renovated and decorated during the One Room Challenge. Some of the 20 featured designers are creating textured, neutral spaces like I was planning to do, and I can’t wait to see what they do! The nearly 200 guest participants share many useful ideas, renovation tips and innovative designs. Check them out!

Yeah, cheesy free clip art! This was a rare moment of kitschy fun this week.