Clean Eats | Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Coconut Bites

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I think the most common kind of question we get since we decided to eat a less processed, more whole food diet is about having sweets. I think when people hear whole/clean food they think we’re only eating twigs and berries. And yes, we do eat a lot of produce but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for sweets. We’re just more selective over what sweets we eat. After eating better quality, made from scratch goodies, eating say a “insert favorite candy bar here” seriously tastes like plastic. The store bought candy has no flavor in comparison. These chocolate bites are the most amazing thing ever. I crave them like no ones business. They’re so delicious and rich that one or two totally satisfies a craving. Super simple to make and the ingredients can’t be beat.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup good quality dark chocolate chips (we like to use this kind)
1/2 cup organic peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1/3 cup grade B maple syrup
3 tbsp. of cocoa powder (we like this kind)
1 tsp. vanilla
A pinch of sea salt if your peanut butter is not salted
1 1/4 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut (plus more for rolling in at the end)

Directions:
1. In medium pot, over medium low, melt chocolate, pb, syrup, cocoa, vanilla and sea salt. As it melts together and heats up it will become think and hard to stir. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut.
2. The mixture will be thick. Let it cool down. Then, using your hands form small balls. You can roll each ball in shredded coconut to give them a finished, festive look. They are good with or without this final step. Up to you.
3. Refrigerate for at least 20 mins before serving.

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Recipe adapted from here.

Spreading the Cheer!

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Do you give gifts with your significant other? Kev and I have never really done gifts. We always choose doing something together over gift giving. I always want to buy him lots (I LOOOVE giving gifts!!) but together we chose the no gift route and I usually stick with it. However, when T.J.Maxx reached out to me and asked if I wanted to partner with them to help spread the gifting cheer and pay it forward by giving a gift to someone I wouldn’t normally give to… I knew I wanted to spoil Kev.! Kev is such a hard worker, never asking for praise or anything in return. He never buys anything for himself and would seriously wear the same old shirt year after year. I know he loves new clothes but would always, always put the money towards someone else first before himself. He loves, serves and provides so much for this family and I couldn’t think of a more deserving person to receive a few extra gifts this Christmas season. After 10+ years together he still makes my heart flutter, he has gotten even more handsome with age (not that he looks a day over 25 to me) and continues to be the one and only person I ever want to spend all my time with. *swooon. Ok, ok, ok… mushy part over now.

I shopped at T.J.Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods and was able to get him all kinds of great things. I really LOVE buying him clothes. Just like I love dressing the girls, I love dressing him as well. He is really easy going too, he trusts my opinion and usually wears everything I get him. I love all the options for guys at T.J.Maxx and Marshalls. The have great designer sweaters and these awesome flannel shirts right now. I also found him this super cool, super minimal and modern iHome speaker at HomeGoods. He is going to love it- totally his style. Rowan picked out an old school connect 4 game and then we made a few little ornaments for him as well using Rowan and Finley’s handprints. I couldn’t be more excited to wrap this stuff up and give him a gift he wasn’t expecting (totally told him he wasn’t allowed to look at my blog till after Christmas).

Who would you want to shower with a few extra gifts this Christmas?

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^^ Goodness we love him!

*This post was sponsored by T.J.Maxx but all opinions are my own. If you want to share your own T.J.Maxx, Marshalls and Homewood Holiday finds on social media use #bestgiftever Thanks guys!

Crafts With Kids | A Photo Diary

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Did you know that Kev and I fell head over heels for each other in book making class in art school? So nerdy, right? Needless to say, I’m kind of obsessed with making handmade books. There is something so fun about making a book and binding it together. When I was first pregnant with Rowan I couldn’t wait until the day we could make cute little books together filled with her drawings and stories. For Rowan’s birthday this year we got her a camera. It’s waterproof and shock proof making it perfect for a 4 year old. She was showing so much interest in taking pictures with our phones, we wanted to help foster that creative spirit. She takes her little camera everywhere! One particular day a few weeks ago, we were walking around one of our favorite cities around us and I told Rowan she should document our time out and about. Then we came up with the idea that we could make her very first photo diary book… “The Photo Book of Troy, NY” captured by Rowan Winter Richardson.

She was in!

We teamed up with Canon USA to create this super cute photo book. A lot of the actual book making was done by me, obviously, but the photos, drawings and words are all her own. You could make so many variety of books with photos you print out. The possibilities are endless!!!

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Materials:
Matboard
Xacto knife
glue
roll of kraft paper
markers
cardstock
patterned paper
ruler
thread
drill
needle

Directions:
1. Collect photos of whatever you’d like. I chose all the photos Rowan took on our outing and laid them out in photoshop. I designed each an 8.5″ x 11″ page so 2 photos would fit and print together. We haven’t had a printer in our house since we were first married. I will admit that I can’t imagine not having one now. Our PIXMA MG7520 printer is so simple to use and it’s been so fun to just come up with projects on a whim that use photos without having to go to Staples to get things printed out. I love the connivence and great quality!

2. Print all your photos. I planned to fold each page in half and trim all the white space around the photos. About 3/4″ of the left see of your page will be covered by the binding. Make sure you plan accordingly so something important isn’t being covered up.

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3. Once all your pictures are trimmed, measure the length and height of the page. This will give you the dimensions of what your covers should be.

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4. Say your pages are 4″ x 3″. You will cut 2 covers (front and back) from the mat board that will be 4″ x 3″. To make it so the covers can open easily I made what is called a stab binding. On each of your covers you will cut off the last 3/4″. This will create the binding. You will now have 2 pieces for each the front and back covers measuring 3/4″ x 3″ and 3.25″ x 3″. Trim those last pieces to be 3″ x 3″. This will allow for the .25″ gap to allow the book cover to open while still being the same measurements of the pages. See picture below.

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5. Have your little one color whatever they would like on some kraft paper. Patterns, scribbles, pictures, whatever their little hearts desire. You will use this to cover the matboard making the front and back covers. Trim down the paper so there is about an 1.5″ extra around the matboard.

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6. Glue down the matboard to kraft paper (you could really use any paper you wanted to make the covers). Align the binding piece creating .25″ gap between the 2 pieces. Glue corners first by folding them in, then glue the sides.

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7. Cut some end paper to cover the inside of the matboard. Trim them to be just a tad smaller than the size of the covers. Glue them in place.

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8. Measure across the binding every half inch and make a mark. Clamp your whole book together. Drill holes through each of the marks all the way through the book. Keep the book clamped the entire time.

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9. Through the holes sew your binding together. Tie the ends together and your book it done! You can now take off the clamp.

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10. I had Rowan come up with captions for each of her photos and she wrote them on the opposite page of the picture. What a special little keepsake for them. Make sure you date the book so years from now you know when exactly they made it!

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We plan on continuing making tons of “Rowan’s Photo Books” as she takes more pictures with her camera. She is so proud of them! She made sure she brought it with us this week to show all her Grandparents. She has little stories about each picture. So cute!!!

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For more detailed steps on how to make a Japanese stab binding check out these sites: Design Sponge and How Did You Make This?

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Super Sale!

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Hey Friends! I am having a super sale over in my etsy shop my all my hand painted necklaces! They make the perfect gift! The last day to order for Christmas is this Thursday. Grab one while you can, I will be closing down my shop and probably won’t be opening it back up any time soon. Going to be taking a break for awhile.

There are tons of new one-of-a-kind necklaces in there!

Thanks!!

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p.s US sales only.

My Everyday Style | 12.08.14

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Adding this black poncho/shawl/sweater(??) to my closet was about the best decision ever. I love what it adds to each outfit I pair it with. o;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; < that was Finley
How are you guys doing today? I don’t have much to say about this outfit in particular other than I wore it, I liked it and it was especially warm the day I took these photos.

So far this morning I’ve already found Finley with markers coloring on her belly, the couch, the dining room table, our glass side table and Rowan’s foot. It’s only 10am. I feel another “Up’s and Down’s of Parenting” blog post coming on. Where does she keep finding the markers?

Do you feel like the Christmas season is already flying by? I am trying my best to slow down and enjoy it but it’s hard. I feel like we barely have time to get to our Advent activity each day.

… and now another day has flown by. It’s 9:32pm as I sit back down to finish this post. Instead of catching up on emails I am going to sit with my devotions and the Word and reflect on the season. Time to quiet my soul. If only for a few minutes.

Have a great night everyone!

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OUTFIT DETAILS:

Ruffle Hem Crochet tank: Urban Outfitters
Black Shawl Sweater: Similar + Similar
Ripped Jeans: Urban Outfitters
Loafers: Bass
Hat: Loft

10 Tips For Cold Weather Running

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Brrrrr! Winter is here. The temperatures are low and the snow has made it’s debut. For most people (including me until a few years ago) that meant putting away the running shoes till the spring months. I used to assume no one ran in the winter. Or should I say, I assumed I couldn’t run in the winter. Last year in an attempt to convince Kev we needed to go to Hawaii on vacation, I told him we could run the Honolulu marathon together while we were there. It worked and we registered for the race. It was nearing the end of the fall so that meant lots and lots of training in freezing weather. I pictured it being brutal and yes, some of it was but all in all I sort of fell in love with running in the Winter. Something about it just refreshes my soul like no other run in the summer has ever done. The cold air in your lungs and the quiet silence the winter brings is so dang peaceful. I can’t get enough. It does take some effort and a bit of planning, but here are some tips that have helped me along the way…

snow^^pictures from my run the other morning.

1. Layers

When you are use to running in warmer weather it can be quite an adjustment being covered up so much. Remember to wear light layers to stay warm. It’s a fine balance between wearing too much and wearing not enough. You have to find the sweet spot in the middle. Wearing too much can make you sweat more than you’d like, which in the end will just leave you extra cold and damp. Wearing not enough obviously just doesn’t keep you warm enough either. I usually wear one base layer, a light running jacket to break the wind and lined running leggings. The rule of thumb is to dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer than it really is outside.

2. Appropriate gear

This is so huge! It will make or break your winter running. It can be a bit of an invest up front but the items will last you forever. You could definitely make do with whatever you have and over time add a piece here and there too.

Base Layer: Like I mentioned above I always run with a stretchy, tight fitting base layer. Something like this, this or this.

Jacket: I wear a similar jacket to this. It cuts the wind and adds the warmth. It’s super important to get moisture wicking fabric on all your gear. It will totally help keep your body temperature warm! Love this Nike jacket!

Leggings: I’ve tried a lot of winter running leggings. They are usually lined with a light fleece type material. I never really found a pair I liked all that much. They always felt stiff and heavy. I just got this pair at Target a little while ago and OMGOSH! They are by far the most comfy pair of leggings ever. I totally wear them around the house even when I am not running. They are so soft, light weight, stay in place and super warm! These ones look pretty great as well!

Shoes: If i’ve been running a lot of miles, I try to time out my new shoes for end of fall and end of spring. That way when fall ends I can get a trail running shoe for the winter. They are usually more durable, waterproof and a bit thicker of a shoe. Which makes it perfect for winter running with snow, ice and cold temperature. These are my top trail picks Saucony, Merrell, Helly Hansen.

3. Pay attention to temperatures and wind chill

I will admit my “I really hate every minute of this” point is around 23 degrees or less. If the sun is out and there is no wind then I am still good at that temp, but oh man! That wind chill is deadly. Be aware of what it “actually” feels like outside and not just what the thermometer is saying. It makes a big, big difference.

4. Get warm first

Before you head outside to run, do some light stretching and warm up in the house. Try not to get sweaty yet but enough to feel warm and loose. It will make heading out in the cold not so bad.

5. Train your body

Running in the Winter isn’t something that just naturally feels good. I feel like you have to train your body. Every year when the falls ends and the winter begins, I have to go through a few weeks of transition as my body adjusts to the cold weather. It takes practice. Your lungs burn a bit at first, your legs can feel weak. It just takes time to figure it all out. Stick with it!

6. Forget about PR’s

Winter running isn’t for running super fast training runs. At least not for me. It will be hard to hit your fastest time. Just soak up the beauty, the silence, the fact that you are actually out of the house and just run!

7. Hydrate

I totally forget to drink water when I run in the winter. It’s weird. You are just as out of breathe but because it’s not 80 degrees it doesn’t come to mind as quick as it does in the summer. DON’T FORGET!!!

8. Cover all body parts (hat, gloves, ankles, face shield):

Appropriate gear goes so much farther than just jackets and pants in the winter. You should make sure almost all of your skin is covered. I am partial to gloves that have half fingers but also the mitten that flaps over. Sometimes when I am feeling just a bit too hot, I will undo that flap and let my fingers hit the air. Just that alone is enough to make me feel cooler. I love a hat over a handband but both work great. I wear tall socks that also wick moisture and I pull them up over my leggings (it’s not real fashionable but hey…) I also wear a neck warmer. Kev loves a face shield. For me though, as long as the neck warmer has a drawstring that I can tighten up over my chin, I’m happy! Also good to pick up a pair of these!

9. Be visible

Remember it gets dark super fast and early. You don’t want to be caught out in the dark on the side of the road. Make sure to plan your run before the sun goes down or wear a reflective vest. Safety first!

10. Have fun

Above all else… don’t take it or yourself too seriously. Have fun with it. Don’t let the gear hold you back. You can make do. Don’t wait till January first to start some kind of exercise routine either. Ask for some of items for Christmas and get out there!! I promise you CAN learn to love it. And if you’re a crazy person like me, you might even like running in the winter better than any other time of year.

p.s. for those wondering about your kiddos. I totally still take them out in the stroller with me. If it’s real cold, we keep it short and sweet for everyone but they still come with. I bundle them up with coats, hats and gloves. Then Finley gets in her little bundler and Rowan (she out grew hers) gets a warm blanket. I also use the weather shield to cover the stroller and block the wind. Creates a cozy cocoon in there for them.

Simple and Fun Advent Calendar

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I will admit that every year I have high hopes for a great Advent calendar. Last year I never got around to making one and the year before that I was hugely pregnant and motivation was loooow. My sweet, sweet friend sent one in the mail to Rowan that she made (there were lots of tears when I opened that package- she is the best!) The year before that I made one but honestly didn’t finish sewing all 25 houses. I had them all cut out but not all made it on the branch. This year I was determined to make something…Anything! I decided against gifts, wanting to be focused more on family activities and service projects. I came up with a list of 24 things and also added a Bible reading for each day as well. I wanted to make sure we focused on why we personally celebrate Christmas and not just focused on gifts and being “good” for presents.

I printed out each day’s Bible reading and activity and cut them down to size. I also ran some kraft paper through the printer to print out the daily numbers. I made all the squares 4.25″ x 4.25″ and then sewed the edges together with that day’s activities inside. I strung all the numbers on some branches I had found on a walk in the woods last week and hung them up on the wall. Rowan couldn’t wait to open the first one today. Our first activity is making Christmas cards for our friends near and far. She loves sending mail!!

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Here is the list of our Advent activities…
Dec. 1st: Make Christmas cards for friends. Read 1 John 1:1-5
Dec. 2nd: Pancakes for dinner with whipped cream and berries. Read Isaiah 9:2-7
Dec. 3rd: Make salt dough ornaments. Read Isaiah 11:1-10
Dec. 4th: Call local food pantry and see what in particular they are in need of. Go shopping and donate. Read Jeremiah 33:14-16
Dec. 5th: Paint with special shaving cream sparkle paint. Create painted snowmen. Read Luke 1:5-10
Dec. 6th Make Gingerbread houses. Read Luke 1:11-17
Dec. 7th: Mommy and Rowan date to go Christmas shopping for Daddy and Finley. Read Luke 1:18-25
Dec. 8th: Work on doing special chores from now till Christmas to earn money to donate on Christmas Eve at church for local charity. Read Luke 1:26-38
Dec. 9th: After dinner let’s get our jammies on and head to Albany to drive through the lights at the park. Hot Chocolate is a must! Read Matthew 1:18-21
Dec. 10th: Make a special holiday card for the mailmen and leave it in the mailbox for him. Read Matthew 1:22-26
Dec. 11th: Make Borax snowflakes. Read Luke 1: 39-45
Dec. 12th: Christmas crafts with popsicle sticks! Read Luke 1:46-56
Dec. 13th: Make desserts for Ronald McDonald house. Bring over some new markers and coloring books as well. Read Luke 2:1-5
Dec. 14th Sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Read Luke 2: 6-7
Dec. 15th Stay up late watching Christmas movies. Read Luke 2:8-12
Dec. 16th Go through our closets and find clothes we can donate to local shelter. Read Luke 2:13-14
Dec. 17th: Bake and decorate gingerbread men. Read Luke 2:15-18
Dec. 18th: Make stitched ornaments for the tree. Read Luke 2:19-20
Dec. 19th: Sleepover in the living room by the Christmas tree. Read Micah 5:2-5
Dec. 20th: Ice Skating in Empire Plaza. Read Matthew 2:1-2
Dec. 21st: DISNEY PRINCESSES ON ICE!!! (shhhhh its a secret!- good thing Rowan can’t read) Read Matthew 2:3-6
Dec. 22nd: Picnic dinner on blankets by Christmas tree. Read Matthew 2:7-8
Dec. 23rd: Paint pinecones. Read Matthew 2:9-12
Dec. 24th: Make homemade marshmallows. Hot cocoa party at Meme’s house. Read John 1:14

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p.s. just because I think this is hilarious… Finley is totally buck naked from the waist down in these pictures. Oh the joys of potty training!!

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Hi, I'm Jen!

Welcome to my personal lifestyle blog. It features topics such as motherhood, family life, fashion, cooking, and all sorts of adventures. I hope you enjoy what you find!

Jen Loves Kev
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