A+ Chewy Granola Bars

Ever since I’ve been changing the way I eat and workout, I’ve been trying to take advantage of less processed foods and more whole foods. It’s definitly hard to make the transition, I won’t lie. But finding a few recipes that work for me is what has been really helpful!

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About a week ago I came across this recipe for homemade granola bars. I had everything in the hosue, except for dates, so I just ran to Trader Joe’s grabbed a box of dates and headed home to try it out. I would say it took me about…hmm… 10-15 minutes to make these? Not bad.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 cup packed dates, pitted (deglet nour or medjool; I used the medjool dates, nice and squishy)
  • 1/4 cup honey (or sub maple syrup or agave for vegan option)
  • 1/4 cup creamy unsalted natural peanut butter or almond butter (recipe org. calls for salted peanut butter I only had unsalted, still delicious anddd less sodium)
  • 1 cup roasted or raw unsalted almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (toasting your oats is also an option, but not necessary)

- Start by processing your dates in a food processor. I actually don’t have one but I do have one of these. A blender would work too!   Once the dates form a mooshy paste/dough, mix the dates with your almonds and oats in a bowl.

- Warm your honey and peanut butter in a saucepan on low. Once mixed all the way through, pour over your nut/oats mixture and combine all the ingredients, breaking up the dates along the way.

- Transfer the mixture into a 8×8 pan lined with saran wrap. Slide them into the freezer for about 20 minutes. Then take them out and slice them up. Transfer them to a sealed container and store in the fridge.

The recipe makes about 10-12 granola bars. You can also add other items to your bars. Next time I plan to add some mini dark chocolate chips and possibly some cranberries or dried cherries.

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They are crazy simple and taste great. I bring them almost every day to work and have one as my late afternoon snack when I normally would be craving chocolate or fried food. So it’s a win-win. David even really liked them and every now and then I found him eating  them straight from the tupperware. Another plus? It’s cheaper than buying a box of 5.99 granola bars that only come with 6 bars. The dates I bought alone cost 4.99 but that’s allll I had to get. Plus you can make 2-3 batches of these with one box of dates. So 24+ granola bars for 4.99?!?  Now that’s just unheard of.

That Time I went to Ireland

What better day to reminisce about travels than good ‘ole St. Patrick’s Day? And by reminisce I specifically mean my trip to Ireland.

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I feel very blessed in terms of travel. I’ve been to 14 countries and 3 different continents by the time I was 22.There were things I loved about every country. I could look back and find a great anecdote or memory from every single trip (a few crummy ones including traveling while deathly ill in Prague).

But none, and I mean NONE, compare to the beautiful land of my ancestors. While traveling through Europe, you find a lot of similarities about the people, the land, and even the cultures. Each country has something very unique to offer, but Ireland was like a whole different world.

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When I went to Ireland, I was 20 years old and studying abroad for a semester in Austria. We were given a 10 day break where we could travel anywhere we wanted. There was one place I had to go, even if none of my friends were going. Can you guess where? By the time I went to Ireland, I was very accustomed to Europe, a little homesick and in need of some peace and quiet from the usual college life. I don’t even think I was really ready for the time I would have in Ireland. I stepped off the Air Lingus plane and, I kid you not, could already feel the difference.

For one, they spoke English here so I felt immediatly at home. Second, in terms of countries who have good relations/ positive views of America, the Irish people are high on that list. So it’s safe to say I felt immediatly welcomed. I was traveling with three other close friends. People I knew I wouldn’t get sick of and who had the same sense of adventure as I. We bussed from Dublin four hours across the country to Doolin, a small city outside the Cliffs of Moher where we stayed in a hippy-like hostel. When I say hippy, I’m not exagerating. They were playing hacky-sack barefoot and strumming acoustic guitars when we walked up. There was even a couple on their honeymoon who were back packing through Ireland with no specific time frame in mind (they didn’t have jobs they felt they needed to get back to).

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In just the time we spent bussing from Dublin and hiking in to our hostel, it was clear to see this country was different. Everything was serene, peaceful, and absolutely jaw dropping BEAUTIFUL. Less of the big cities and more of God’s countries. And that’s exactly what this was, God’s country. Green rolling hills, rock walls, horses grazing in the open. I felt blessed to be here because it was the first time in my life where I truly appreciated God’s nature around me. I couldn’t take it in enough. Biking the Aran Islands (something I highly recomend) I was able to take it all in.

Of course Ireland isn’t all about quiet time. The Irish, (as I’ve known from my crazy, Irish family) know how to have a good time. Pubs with live music, watching Gaelic football with strangers, dancing in bars with strangers after a few Guiness, hanging your feet off the Cliffs of Moher… There really is never a dull moment in this country.

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We even got to stay with an Irish family who knew one of my friends in my group. It is such an incredible thing to experience someone’s culture by actually staying in their home. The family cooked us a home cooked Irish meal, showed us/taught us all about the Gaelic sport of hurling (look it up. so cool), and we even got to sit and pray with them as the dad read from the Bible in his thick Irish accent and we sat around discussing afterwards.

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^^ Happily hanging over the Cliffs of Moher.

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This country knows how to party, they know how to relax, they definitely know how to drink, they know how to work hard, they know how to appreciate God’s creation. And I hope to go back one day, to enjoy all these things again.

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Pray for the Irish people, especially the Catholic Church in Ireland as it faces a lot of turmoil right now; For Northern and Southern Ireland who are still at “war” with one another.

An Irish Prayer:

May God give you…
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

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Day 1: I am NOT a Quitter

Yesterday was quite a day. As I mentioned here, I started my new workout regimen: Jaime Eason’s Live Fit 12 Week Trainer.

The excitement to do this specific work started a while back when I was introduced to Jaime’s workout by a blogger friend, Alesha, at Made with Love. Watching her transformation was literally inspiring and being a fan of a few different work out programs (mostly ones with Shawn T aka Insanity and T25) gave me the courage to try something new.

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But let me tell you. I sure had plenty of reasons excuses to give up before I even started.

I had spent so much time preparing for Day 1. I had read everything I could about what I’d be doing, I prepped myself so I knew what equipment I’d need once I got to the gym, and I spent a lot of time on Sunday afternoon prepping my meals (basically just lunches) for the week.

So once Monday (yesterday) came around, you’d think I’d be ready enough to start strong. Guess again. Monday was one of those days that’s a little crummy and things just seem to pile one on top of the other. Not bad, just not the best. Work was crazy with several time-sensitive projects happening at once, I had to wait extra-long for David to get out of work (we drive together some days to save on gas), and by the time I walked over to my apartment complex’s gym, I had realized I had forgot my keys which get me IN to the actual gym. So I made the hike back to my apartment, grabbed my keys and was on my way. Of course when I GOT to the gym, my phone quit on me and I couldn’t access my work out videos that Jaime offers for a good 20 minutes.

All signs  were pointing to “Quit and start over tomorrow”.     I thought about it.     Tossed the idea around some more.     And thought against it.

I know myself well enough to know if I quit on day 1, I would be more likely to quit on day 12 when I’m a little tired or day 36 when I’m feeling guilty for having that piece of chocolate cake.

I do not want to be a quitter.

I’ve learned a lot about physical health in the last few years and have come to realize that I need to make this a priority for myself. I know it’s not always easy and I will most definitely have bad days with it, but I need to do this for myself. I need to do this for my future babies so they have a healthy resting place while in incubation. I need to do this because my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and God gave me this body to love and take care of.

I’m going to try to stay motivated. I’m going to try to eat healthy every day. I’m going to try to look for help when I’m feeling like giving up because I know God gave me friends and family to encourage me.

This personal battle of Quite vs. Don’t Quit was all flying through my head at the gym; meanwhile I have three people behind me running on treadmills partially watching The Bacheolor on TV and partially wondering why I’m just standing there staring aimlessly at the dumbells.

Needless to say I did not quit. And I won’t today either. I’m gonna eat my grilled chicken and black bean lunch and do my best to stay on track. And all the while I’m gonna smile about it. Cause I’m not a quitter.

Dear America, you’re too smart to listen to Beyonce

This Northern Belle:

I came across this article and couldn’t have put it better myself. I so often find myself jamming out to the radio to some crazy-catchy song and later find out the lyrics are not only degrading and offensive, but, as Matt so eloquently put it, stupid. Give this article a read. Whether or not you agree it’s still interesting to say the least!

Originally posted on The Matt Walsh Blog:

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Dear America,

Lately, we’ve become very health conscious. We don’t want to put bad things into our bodies. We stay away from trans-fat and regular fat and gluten and sugar and red meat and ranch dressing. We don’t smoke. We even embrace laws that ban other people from smoking anywhere within 3 million square miles of us.

We’re getting into organic foods. We don’t want to ingest any chemicals (even though “chemicals” are a pretty broad category, but I know what we mean). We drink soy milk. We’re cutting out the carbs. We take our vitamins.

I’m not trying to talk us out of these habits. I think we take it a little too far, and I think we have a largely unhealthy fear of our own mortality, but at least it sometimes drives us to pass up the processed foods and go for a jog.

Fantastic. I’m proud of us.

Now, why don’t we take it a step further? We are, after all, human…

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The Search For Hope in Lent

I’m not too sure where the first part of 2014 has gone, but it’s unbelievable that Lent starts on Wednesday.

When I was younger, Lent was definitely NOT one of my favorite times of the year. It meant giving up Scooby Doo (I’m not joking about that. I was an avid watcher) and spending every Friday night at our parish Fish Fry.

But I think the big reason why I had such an “issue” with Lent is because I didn’t really get it. I mean I knew what happened, I’d done the Stations of the Cross enough times to memorize the entire booklet. But I never felt a real connection with the celebration that was happening. In my mind it was: talk about sad things for 40 days; pray the Sorrowful mysteries and reflect on sad things, and celebrate on Easter when Jesus rises.

So basically Lent was this depressing-ish time to reflect upon? No wonder I didn’t really understand what was going on.

It wasn’t until I was in college did I really gain any perspective, let alone some appreciation for this incredible season. Yes, Lent is a time to reflect and meditate on the suffering and death of Jesus, but there is SO much hope in that suffering and death.

St. Augustine said it perfectly:

The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has most faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves.

Mind. Blown. St. Augustine never ceases to amaze me.

I heard a priest once say in a homily, that we are called to take up our cross as Jesus has. I’ve heard people say this before, but the priest added that by taking up our crosses in UNION with Jesus, we are saying that we allow hope in our hearts for the coming when this cross will pass. There is glory, not fear or shame, in the cross because Jesus went on the cross for us, to save us, so we could in turn be with Him in heaven.

I HIGHLY suggest giving St. Augustine’s full sermon a read HERE.

So when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, I’m just starting to prepare my head and my heart for Lent this time around. My head, by deciding what I’ll be fasting from and/or what I’ll do for my prayer life and my heart, by figuring out why I’m Praying, Fasting, and Almsgiving aka The Swiss Army Knife of the Spirit (I read that online and have officially adopted this phrase) and reflecting on…well… basically all of the above.

What I’d like to do for Lent is spend some time journeying with Mary as she follows Jesus during his last days of life, the joys of having him around and the suffering of watching him suffer (in turn suffering herself). I have found a few resources here and there, but if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

If you’re still looking for some unique things to give up/do for Lent, here are a few links to check out. There are some great ideas!

 Weird Lent Ideas

66 Things to Give up for Lent

101 Practical Fasting Ideas for Lent

10 Tips for a Fruitful, non-lame Lent

7 Quick Takes: Books, Babies, and Beer.

I woke up today feeling completely rested (something I haven’t felt in at least two weeks), the sun was shining crazy bright, and David and I had time to stop and grab some Panera before we left for work. It’s safe to say today is going to be a wonderful day.

This is how I feel right now after a cafe mocha and some good ‘ole vitamin D from the sun:

So what do you do when you’re having a good morning? Quick Takes with Jen, duh. Here we go.

1. David and I recently have been trying to explore the towns near us. So last weekend, we stumbled into downtown Northville, MI (only a 5 minute drive) and found a little bookstore/bistro. It’s called The Next Chapter and was perfectly charming. So we then proceeded to sit and read for 4 hours. Oh and the food was great too! David had a turkey panini and I tried the crepes. I always think of our honeymoon when I eat crepes because we ate them almost everytime we stopped to eat.

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2. This weekend I am so excited to spend some time with family at my new baby cousin’s baptism. We don’t have a lot of babies in the family so I always get excited when there is a newbie. My uncle and his family are coming up from Kentucky and baby Mickey (short for Michael) will be baptised at mom’s childhood parish. After we’ll have a little party at my mom and dad’s house. Baptisms are just so exciting; another little Catholic being welcomed into God’s kingdom? What could be better?

3. Sunday is the Oscars :) I’ll be watching from beginning to end, including the red carpet stuff. And I’ll be rooting for J.Law, Gravity, Captain Philips, and Frozen.

4. Speaking of Frozen, I have not seen the movie yet, but have you SEEN this video?! This little girl is 11 years old and has one of the most beautiful voices. What was I doing at 11? Definitely not this! (I’m currently jamming out to this song as I type this post).

5. Next week is also an exciting week because on Thursday my family is all going to the Flogging Molly concert in downtown Detroit. I’ve always been a big fan and my sister and brother-in-law got tickets for the whole family for Christmas. So this Irish-lovin’ family will be kickin’ up our skirts and downin’ a few pints o’ Guinness!

6. Raise your hand if you can’t believe Lent starts next week.

Me too Hermoine, me too. So I’m trying to prep myself, figure out what I’ll be doing. Cause God only knows I usually wait till Fat Tuesday to decide….oooo Fat Tuesday :) Paczki time.

7. In a few weeks I’m going to be starting a new work out routine. Because I’m ADD when it comes to working out and I need to switch things up. Plus I’m finishing up my current work out and needed somethin new. It’s the Jamie Eason Live Fit 12 Week Trainer. It’s using weight training, healthy eating, and supplements. I’ve been saying I wanted to start up with weights for a while so it’s about time I started. I was actually inspired by a fellow blogger. Alesha over at Made with Love has lost a lot of weight and she has given me some tips and starting points as well as answering some of my questions. Just look how good she looks! P.S. Prayers for her and her hubby who are expecting! Anyways, I’m nervous and excited to start, so I’ll let you know how it goes!

Jamie

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The Big Purse Dump

I see everyone has been a big fan of Kendra’s big purse dump so I thought I’d come along for the ride. If anything, this has just convinced me how often I need to clean out my purse.

People are always saying that what a woman’s purse contains says a lot about her… Curious to see what all this “junk” says about me..

The purse itself was a Christmas gift from D (I hinted that I liked it and walked away ;) and I’ve been using it since. I’m a huge fan of the little straps/big straps option. Also a plus? It’s very decieving because it looks small-ish but holds a LOT of stuff. Win-win.

As for the contents? Let’s dump and see!

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Wallet/Clutch- This was also a gift from David from one of my favorite places on earth, Mackinac Island. If I need a little pop of color or don’t feel like toting a larger purse, this is my go-to.

Lip Stuff galore- I never used to wear lipstick. Just stuck with your basic chapstick. Now I have about 3-4 colors I switch between including my EOS chapstick (cantelope is the best). Lipsticks of choice?  Well I’m more of a pink girl instead of red so Revlon Colorburst in Honey Douce and M.A.C. Cremesheen in Lickable (who comes up with these names?) are my current favorites.

Gloves- Because it’s winter. In Michigan.

Planner- Basically my to-do list for work and life. Nothing special, just snagged the first one I found once 2014 hit.

Plethora of Bobby Pins- Because they’re everywhere. And once you think you found them all, you find 10 more all over your apartment/car/office/pockets/hair.

InStyle Magazine- Once I moved into my apartment, I started randomly recieving InStyle. And might I add I’m not paying for it? It just started coming to my place, addressed to me. Not sure who who allowed this wonderful little mail-miracle happen, but I would just like to say to that person: thank you.

Sunglasses- Warby Parker.

Applesauce?- Leftovers from lunch :)   I should probably eat this before it squishes. But it tastes like candy. And I LOVE candy. So it’s safe to say it’s my go-to snack.

USB’s- These are filled with projects I’m working on, graphics I’ve made, anddd a historical fiction book I’ve been writing for a few years ;) No I won’t give you details or show you. It’s nothing I’ll probably ever publish but it’s fun to do in my spare time.

Rosary- To be honest I forget where this rosary is from. I’m pretty sure David got it when he was in Fatima, but it could be from when I went to Medjigore…

Total Surrender by Mother Teresa- I read this when I went to Ecuador a few years ago and have been going back through highlighting and underlining pretty much everything. So many golden nuggets in this book.

Pens- Cause mom always taught me to always carry a pen.

This was pleasantly relaxing cleaning out my purse. I may have to do this more often…

Pinterest Yays and Nays

I’m sure we’ve all had them. That moment we are on Pinterest and think, “That is the most perfect (fill in the blank) and I must make it now and it will look perfect just like this picture and I will be named the Pinterest Queen!”

Then you make said-project. And it resembles a pile of trash more than the item you pinned. Oh I’m sorry, that hasn’t happened to you? Just me? Well aren’t you just Martha Stewart, now.

Anywho, the other evening I tried to make these:

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From this recipe.

But the first batch turned out looking like this.

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Not. Pretty.

The second batch was much prettier and thankfully, they tasted a lot better then they looked. Which I guess, in the end, is the whole point. They were super easy to make. Instead of using the seasonings it calls for in the recipe, I actually used rosemary, some salt and pepper, and garlic. Nice. And. Crispy.

As for my Pinterest “Yays”, it isn’t complete yet, but I’ve been in the process of filling the floating shelf in my living room. I’m just waiting to get a printed wedding photo on canvas and it’ll be almost complete.

Here are a few of my inspirations:

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And here is the start of what I have so far (when it was decorated for Valentine’s Day):

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It’s a project still in the works as you can see, but notice the Austria print out I mentioned here?!

So don’t leave me hangin’. What are some of your Pinterest hiccups/successes? I’m hoping I’m not the only one…