Good Stuff!

So this morning I treated myself to a facial with my amazing friend Rebecca and she told me about Good Stuff Cacao which is crafted in Metamora, Michigan. I just love when I find specialty items made locally! We went to the website and checked out all the flavors, coconut? Nib Crunch? Almond Pumpkin Seed? Yes please! Good Stuff uses 100% raw organic cacao and is hand mixed with raw Michigan honey so this Paleo mama was thrilled to find this treat. We found a location to get our fix and wouldn’t you know it, the health food store on my way home carried it! Oh happy day!

Off I went with my messed up hair, dewy faced self to track this Good Stuff down. When I walked into Health Foods Of Rochester it wasn’t hard to spot with it’s kraft paper packaging cuteness. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in. I had a tough time choosing which flavor to try first so I went with Nib Crunch. I broke open the package in the car because I couldn’t wait to get home. The texture was smooth and the sweetness was just right. I’m not really a milk chocolate fan to begin with so the sweet dark chocolate and honey mixed with the bitterness of the cacao nibs really hit the spot. I also really enjoy the crunch of the nibs on top. I almost turned around to get all the flavors it was so good!
Inside the packaging is all kinds of info about raw foods and the benefits of raw cacao. Like it reduces anxiety, detoxes the liver, is high in antioxidants and reduces blood pressure. It says, “ENJOY. It’s good for you.” and “Don’t even think about the fat or calories, you’re NOT cheating. You’re eating nutrient dense food that is essential to good health and a great brain.” Well, alrighty then! Enjoy I did and worry I did not!
Good Stuff Cocao bark comes in 7 flavors, Original, Peppermint, Cranberry, Coconut, Nib Crunch, Almond Pumpkin Seed, and Hit the Trail Mix (which is a combo of Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Cranberries and Himalayan Sea Salt). The Trail Mix will be the next one I try for sure! This stuff is soooo yummy. All Good Stuff Cacao products are made with raw organic cacao, raw Michigan honey, are gluten free, have no GMOs, practice fair trade, and are made in a facility that may handle tree nuts.

Now I just need to decide which flavor to try next… It’s a toss up between Hit the Trail Mix and Coconut. I’ll have to get both I suppose. You can get yours with free shipping for Mother’s Day with 5 boxes or more before May 1st. Go Go Go! http://www.goodstuffcacao.com

* I was not compensated for my review and all my opinions are my own.

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Meet Fernando!

Meet the newest member of our family, Fernando (means brave traveler)! He’s our new (to us) travel trailer that we have had for exactly a month and finally got to take him out on his maiden voyage this weekend (more on that adventure this week)! We love camping as a family and have been in a 1996 pop-up trailer since 2010 and were beyond ready for an upgrade now that the kids are older. Fernando was a MUCH bigger upgrade than we ever could have dreamed of!

We have a crossover vehicle with a tow capacity of 5200lbs (including the camper, our bodies and belongings) so we were very limited to what we could pull to begin with and we had other specific needs. OK, some of those in the “need” list were most likely “wants” (this was a very valuable lesson my father taught me at a young age). We have 3 kids so we needed 3 beds for the kids that didn’t have to be setup every night (like a couch, or the dinette) for sure, air conditioning (let’s be honest, this mama does NOT do camping without it!), decent storage and we needed a large dinette that could hold all 5 of us. On the want list was a slide out for more interior space, an outdoor kitchen and more privacy for the adults. All while being under our weight restrictions.

We shopped for new and used campers day and night online, on craigslist and at local RV dealers (including General RV, which was a complete joke. We don’t recommend them at all. EVER). We found a few that would have worked, but weren’t the most ideal. Lots of double bunks that were so narrow that we knew that the kids would grow out of them in a few years and we’d be back to square one all over again. We needed a layout that would last for years to come.

We were at an RV show in Mason, Michigan and were checking out the used units before heading home when we spotted Fernando, a 2012 Forest River Surveyor Eco Lite SP260 (it’s certified green!). I saw the 3 stacked windows in the back and knew it had triple bunks, which are extremely rare to come by for some reason, so you can imagine my excitement. I ran in and jumped for joy!

It also has a nice big bathroom, something that our pop-up didn’t have at all. Walking to the campground bathroom late at night or in the early chilly mornings were not a favorite task. Especially when the bathroom is not close or you have a potty training toddler in tow that just can’t hold it. The shower is kind of pointless because it’s so small, but the camper also only has a 6 gallon water heater, so you’d really have to make it a quick one!

The slideout kitchen gives an RV a lot more room inside such a simple concept! This unit also has a ton of storage,something our old pop-up seriously lacked. I had to construct shelves out of shower curtain rods and wire shelving that acted as our pantry (and frequently fell down) to get storage overhead. It has a nice pantry, full fridge and a freezer!

The HUGE dinette fits us perfectly (no more eating on our bed!), and the storage is so nice!

It also has a bonus entertainment center that acts as a wall between our bed and the rest of the camper for privacy (and a tv that flips around to face the bed!), wardrobes on either side of the bed so we don’t have to live out of suitcases, and AC (so mama can chill!).

The other bonus was the power awning which doesn’t sound like much, but the awning on our pop-up was always a source of frustration for both of us. We nearly divorced over it several times. Seriously. So when I saw this awning was so magically easy to use on top of everything else, I had to have it. We had to forgo the outdoor kitchen because of the bunks but overall it had everything we needed and so much more!

Kitsmiller RV was so amazing to work with during our whole purchasing process and continue to be helpful with our questions. We just called them Saturday to ask why water was shooting out everywhere when we tried connecting the water and they walked us through it all. We highly recommend them if you’re in the market for an RV!

We really look forward to making family memories with Fernando, just like we did in our old pop-up (which we hope another family will enjoy as much as we did!). With one weekend already under our belt we hope to have hundreds more with our family! Wanna camp with us? We’d love to get a group of families to camp together. Email me at jillannclark@gmail.com and we can chat about it!

Run Forest Run!

get asked often how I started running. Very carefully and very slowly. My intention was to go for one this morning but when I stepped outside it was snowing. It’s almost May. Ugh!
One of my biggest struggles is getting the motivation to get out and DO IT. The best shot I have at getting it done is being dressed and ready to head out right from the kids’ bus stop. I refuse to step foot back into the house for anything. We all know what happens when we do that. The couch starts calling you. The bed hollers from upstairs, “Jill! I’m waiting for you and I’m nice and cozy!” So I grab my headphones, water and cell on my way out the door with the kids. The bus stop has also been a great meeting place for another mama that lives on our street. We go together as often as we can. It really takes the boredom out of doing it alone!
I was walking several times a week and then one day something told me to run. Not because I had that creepy feeling that a weirdo was behind me and I should run for my life… it was my body’s way of telling me it was time to step it up!
There are apps out there that can help to get you started like Couch to 5K that trains you with intervals of walking and running. You can also make a game of it with an app called Zombies, Run! where you are on a mission to escape from zombies. If that isn’t enough to get you going I don’t know what is!
I don’t run for my entire workout. I usually walk and run in spurts because I’m still not the best of shape, my legs get tired and I get winded. I am not as regimented as the Couch to 5K app though, if I’m in my neighborhood I look ahead and give myself a mailbox or car ahead to run to then walk for a bit. If I’m at the track at the middle school behind my house then I run the straights and walk the curves. Then, I’ll switch that up a bit and run the curves and walk the straights. Soon enough I’ll be running an entire mile without taking a break! Then 2 miles, then 3…  Hubby is still after me to run a half marathon at Disney. We’ll see about that…
My entire point here is just start somewhere. Anywhere. Start with just a minute if that’s all you can do. Add 3 seconds to it the next day, or double it. Whatever your body can handle, it’ll tell you when it’s too much. Challenge yourself to run to one more mailbox further. Just DO IT.

Paleo Chocolate Chili, it’s orgasmic!

Since starting Whole30 at the beginning of the year we have found many new favorites that are compliant (dairy, sugar, legume, grain, soy and alcohol free). One of the first to go into the Whole30 hall of fame in our household is Melissa Joulwan’s Chocolate Chili recipe. I couldn’t imagine reinventing the wheel with this one so I’m sharing hers. Her cookbooks Well Fed and Well Fed 2 are some of our favorite cookbooks for both Whole30 and Paleo diets. I haven’t made a recipe in them that we haven’t completely went nuts over. The sunshine sauce and grilled chicken thighs are heavenly!
Now, back to the chili. When Melissa describes this dish as rich, mellow and deep she is not overexagerating one bit. It really does remind me of mole. I haven’t missed a bean yet with this chili! This was made with turkey but you can switch it and mix it up with any kind of ground meet you choose or have on hand. The spice factor isn’t too hot (unless you use the wrong kind of chili powder like my poor hubby did one time! oops) I would consider it a mild+ on the scale of mild to hot+. Our kids eat it with no issues.
We frequently make double batches so we can have it for a meal then eat off of it for the week. You can also freeze one batch or in single servings for ease. I also like to make the seasoning mix ahead of time in bags to make it even easier!
Chocolate Chili

Prep 20 min | Cook 2-3 hours | Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 medium onions, diced (about 2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
2 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 can (14.5 ounces) fire-roasted, chopped tomatoes
1 can (14.5 ounces) beef broth
1 cup water

Directions:

1. Heat a large, deep pot over medium-high heat, then add the coconut oil. When the oil is melted, add onions, stir with a wooden spoon and cook until they’re translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and as soon as it’s fragrant, about 30 seconds, crumble the ground meat into the pan with your hands, mixing with the wooden spoon to combine. Continue to cook the meat, stirring often, until it’s no longer pink.

2. In a small bowl, crush the oregano between your palms to release its flavor, then add the chili powder, cumin, cocoa, allspice, and salt. Combine with a fork, then add to the pot, stirring like you mean it. Add tomato paste and stir until combined, about 2 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes with their juice, beef broth, and water to the pot. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the chili enjoys a gentle simmer. Simmer uncovered for at least two hours. Do not skimp on the simmer! Serve in deep bowls with big spoons.

Variations:
Try a meat combo by mixing ground beef with ground turkey, pork, or bison.
Make a double batch and freeze half so you have chili-on-demand.
Top with sliced olives, diced onions, and/or avocado slices.

A Love Story… Awwwww!

My husband Darren and I met in 2004 just like many people meet these days, online. According to USA Today a third of marriages begin on the world wide web! I was actively on a few dating sites when I received a message from a member of one that said this life changing sentence, “It’s too bad you’re so far away because you’re my dream girl.” Now, how could I resist a man who says that?!? I had to at least acknowledge the guy right? Right!

I had always been open to relocating for love but never in my wildest dreams did I think it’d be to Michigan. EVER. I mean, I had to Google where Michigan was to really get a perspective on how far that really was from the only place I had known my whole life. Beautiful sunny California.

Our whirlwind of a romance began that day. Hours of phone calls, emails, snail mail, you name it. We didn’t have Skype back then so we used any method we could to video chat (boy was that challenging!) to really get an idea of who we truly were.

When Darren flew to California for our first meeting, man was I nervous. Like, beyond nervous. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to just pretend it wasn’t happening and nearly drove right past the airport. I called my best friend and told her I couldn’t do it, but she reminded me that I couldn’t just leave him hanging at the airport. So there we were, locking eyes for the first time at the Sacramento airport minutes later.

After a year of flying back and forth and nightly phone calls we got engaged and a few months later I moved from the sunshine and land of my favorite vegetable (the artichoke) to dreary Michigan, land of grey skies and frozen tundra. Who moves from California to Michigan. This girl. Only for love.

That was 10 years ago.

Photo credits: Miss B Photo http://www.missbfoto.com

A Love Story… Awwww!

UntitledMy husband Darren and I met in 2004 just like many people meet these days, online. According to USA Today a third of marriages begin on the world wide web! I was actively on a few dating sites when I received a message from a member of one that said this life changing sentence, “It’s too bad you’re so far away because you’re my dream girl.” Now, how could I resist a man who says that?!? I had to at least acknowledge the guy right? Right!

I had always been open to relocating for love but never in my wildest dreams did I think it’d be to Michigan. EVER. I mean, I had to Google where Michigan was to really get a perspective on how far that really was from the only place I had known my whole life. Beautiful sunny California.

Our whirlwind of a romance began that day. Hours of phone calls, emails, snail mail, you name it. We didn’t have Skype back then so we used any method we could to video chat (boy was that challenging!) to really get an idea of who we truly were.

When Darren flew to California for our first meeting, man was I nervous. Like, beyond nervous. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to just pretend it wasn’t happening and nearly drove right past the airport. I called my best friend and told her I couldn’t do it, but she reminded me that I couldn’t just leave him hanging at the airport. So there we were, locking eyes for the first time at the Sacramento airport minutes later.

After a year of flying back and forth and nightly phone calls we got engaged and a few months later I moved from the sunshine and land of my favorite vegetable (the artichoke) to dreary Michigan, land of grey skies and frozen tundra. Who moves from California to Michigan. This girl. Only for love.

That was 10 years ago.

Photo credits: Miss B Photo http://www.missbfoto.com

Holy Oranges!

So I work full time as a nail artist in a full service salon and on Mondays we seem to get a lot of solicitors walking through the door (even though most salons are closed on Mondays). Well yesterday was no exception.
I was waiting for my guest who was running 15 minutes late and reeling on the fact that I had just started this blog. I was brainstorming about topics I could write about when I hear the chime of the front door opening. I walk towards the front and greet a strange man, about 70ish who is NOT my beautiful guest I had been waiting for. I ask how I can help him and he tells me he’s the man with the oranges. I look at him strangely. Oranges?! He proceeds to tell me that he has a truck full of California certified organic oranges and will bring me a sample. Alrighty then.
Meanwhile my guest arrives and I fill her in on what’s going on and if I die from eating this orange to tell my family I love them and have this man arrested. Orange Man returns with the most luscious oranges and I sample both. Equally delicious and juicy! He shares the price per bushel (I’ve never bought a bushel of ANYTHING so I had ZERO clue about how many oranges this would amount to) and I agree to buy one.
Orange Man sure does deliver a mean bushel. This is what he came back with! 56 beautiful oranges he says will last about 3 months and swears were picked 5 days ago, are organic and coated with natural beeswax, aren’t dyed and are not gassed with ethylene. I can appreciate all these things! (Did you know that most oranges aren’t really orange and they weren’t named after their color? I didn’t either! Read more here.)

So when random people walk into my life or odd things happen I really try to look at the why and what can I learn from this experience?  It got me thinking about one of my favorite essential oils, Orange of course!

Did you know that Orange Essential Oil contains 85-95% limonene? It has the highest level of d-limonene next to grapefruit oil! D-limonene is a powerful antioxidant that aids in maintaining normal cellular regeneration. Orange uses were first discovered by the Chinese centuries ago and since have remained as a vital part of Chinese medicine. They used orange to relieve spasm and stimulate digestion, and bring good luck!  One of my favorite ways to use orange essential oil is to a glass of water. It can also be diffused for an emotional lift!

This experience with Orange Man (his real name is David Davis and he said he’s also a furniture maker) has really enlightened me and I really see his arrival into my salon yesterday as a sign that this blog was truly meant to be. I would have never known so much about oranges if he hadn’t walked through our door and you wouldn’t have been entertained by this story for the last few minutes. Orange you glad I shared it?! I know, I’m sorry. That HAD to be done.

I’ve gotta run, I have 55 more oranges to eat…
Do you want more information about essential oils? Visit http://www.jillsoils.com to get started!