Monday, January 26, 2015

From Scratch: Granola Bars

Before I totally lose myself in play season again I have been drowning myself in activities I know I won't get around to again for a while.  Mostly that means cooking. I made home made tortillas and cookies and a yummy soup that took hours to prep, zucchini bars to freeze for sometime when everyone needed a treat and I don't have time to do it, and yesterday I made some delicious homemade granola bars.

I have been messing around with several different recipes on and off for the last year and this one, I think, is the best I've come across. The kids and Dave agree and have already made some suggestions for other variations of it that they would like. Here's the recipe for when I emerge from the pit of the costume shop in June and have time to cook again. (or for my kids to look up and make for themselves while I'm figuratively gone)

Almond Craisin Granola Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter an 11x13 jelly roll pan. On pan combine:
6 cups oats
2 cups chopped almonds
2 cups coconut
1 cup ground flaxseed

Spread out on pan and toast oat mixture for 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally.
In the meantime combine in a large pot and heat over medium heat until dissolved:
1 1/2 cups honey
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 T vanilla (yes tablespoons)
1 t salt

Pour toasted oat mixture into honey mixture. Add:
3 cups craisins

Stir all to combine thoroughly. Spray or butter jelly roll pan again and pour hot mixture onto pan. Press mixture firmly into pan (I use another jelly roll pan on top to push it down). Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool completely. Cut into desired bar shapes and store wrapped individually or in plastic containers. Good for one week at room temp or longer if refrig or frozen.
Yield about 36 bars.

Variations: Dave suggested white chocolate chips with this mixture would be good.  Spencer said peanuts (instead of almonds) and chocolate chips (instead of craisins) would be good. Afton suggested adding some Rice Krispies to the mixture would be tasty. Cora and Kirkham were too busy eating them to say anything. I think I'd also like to try a version with macadamia nuts and dried papaya and pineapple.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mission Shopping Spree

With a total of 8 weeks from Mission call to Missionary Training Center report date we didn't have much time to properly shop for a climate appropriate wardrobe. If we had been in a cold weather climate that would have been totally different but from Hawaii, where it's difficult to find a decent sweater, it was near impossible.

We had many friends suggest shopping online but I wasn't too keen on that. First of all I hate online shopping. I want to feel the fabric. I want to compare it side by side. I want to see the colors up close. Online outlets do their best to give good descriptions and high quality photos but it's not the same. Shipping costs and shipping times were also an issue. What if things got held up at the docks in a shipping strike? What if they didn't fit and we had to return them? I just didn't want to deal with that and so I was willing to pay a little more--OK a LOT more--to take the prospective missionary on a shopping spree in shivery cold Utah. Dave didn't want to miss out on the fun so he came along too.

One week before Heath was due to report to the MTC we left Hawaii. In his bag Heath had only a white shirt, a pair of dress shoes, a couple ties and a couple pairs of socks that would continue on into the mission field. Everything else was purchased when we hit the ground in Utah.

With just 4 shopping days we had devised a general plan ahead of time. It looked something like this:
Friday--1)purchase suits 2)check out the local thrift stores for a cheap short-term winter coat (he has to be a climate appropriate coat when he arrives in Nova Scotia). 3) start hitting the discount stores looking for sweaters, accessories, slacks, luggage, etc. Discount stores include Costco, Sams Club, Ross, TJ Maxx, Burlington Coat Factory
Saturday-- Continue discount stores, concentrating on getting all his slacks. If we bought them at Costco or Sam's we would have to purchase, try on at home, return if sizing wasn't correct, and repeat until the sizing was correct.
Monday-- Make a final decision on luggage, begin shopping for the odds and ends like toiletries and shoe shine kit.
Tuesday--Pick up the suits from being tailored, frantically find anything that has evaded us to this point.

We also had some other plans for the week. First we wanted to attend a different temple each day, We attended the Mt. Timpanogos temple, the Draper temple, the Provo temple and the Salt Lake City temple.

Next we wanted to touch bases with a few friends and business associates. We visited with some co-workers and former students on the BYU campus. We stayed with our friends the Ramirez'. We had lunch with my college room mate Tracy, and her husband. We watched a football game with Dave's college room mate Derek and his family. We spent a few hours with my favorite childhood cousin, Teresa.

Our last goal for the trip was to eat at a few restaurants that we don't have in Hawaii. We enjoyed eating at In and Out, JCW Burger Boys, Cafe Rio, The Lion House, Chick-fil-a, Krispy Kreme,  and Happy Sushi. Every day we were so full. We ate way too much while we were there (and are paying the price for it here. Gotta run a few extra miles for the next few weeks).

Ultimately the trip was successful and surprisingly fun. We enjoyed spending a week with the boy. We were able to find everything we needed without much trouble thanks to the overabundance of stores in Utah. And Heath entered the MTC on Wednesday, on time.

Here's the list of what was required for his mission:
  • 2 Two pant suits
  • 10 White shirts
  • 3 Sweaters
  • 6  Ties
  • 5 Slacks
  • 2 pairs Shoes
  • 12 sets Garments
  • 12 sets Socks
  • 2 belts
  • Baptism and Temple clothes including white slacks, white tie, white socks
  • Coat (He will have to buy a heavier one in the field when he gets there)
  • Boots (He will have to buy these in the field)
  • Cold weather accessories like gloves, hats, scarves
  • 3 sets Thermal Underwear (we bought one set of UnderArmor and 2 sets of regular, cheaper thermals)
  • Exercise clothes
  • Athletic Shoes
  • 1 Jeans
  • 2 T-shirts
  • 1 Sweatshirt
  • 2 Pajamas
  • Scriptures
  • Books: True To The Faith: A Gospel Reference , Jesus the Christ, Our Heritage, A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints , and Our Search for Happiness.
  • A journal
  • Pens, pencils and other study aids
  • Conservative waterproof Shoulder bag
  • Clothes hangers
  • Umbrella
  • Bath towel, hand towel, wash cloths
  • Sheets
  • Pillowcases
  • Passport holder
  • Toiletries: shaving supplies, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, shampoo, deodorant, lotion, combs, etc.
  • Shoe polish kit
  • First Aid kit
  • Sunscreen, lip balm
  • Moleskin
  • Sewing kit
  • Wind up or battery alarm clock
  • Laundry bag
  • Small Flashlight
  • Inexpensive watch
  • Small inexpensive camera
In addition to all these things we had to buy he also spent money on the following items before leaving:
  • Immunizations
  • Passport
  • International Drivers Permit
All in all we spent $2000 on all of this.  We perhaps could have spent less on a few items we opted to spend more on. We were sure to buy suits that were heavier weight material and that had some spandex in the material to accommodate Heath's broad shoulders better. We bought him thicker white shirts. His sweaters were all wool or cashmere (the cashmere one we got a great deal on, $15!). And his socks were also weather rated and warm. We bought him one set of Under Armor Thermals and those were super pricey, but we had been told over and over that they were the best on the market and that he would need them.  We'll save up for another pair.

We also saved some money in a few places. We were able to find an awesome watch at Kohls. The cashier at Bed Bath and Beyond gave him a $5 discount on his flannel sheet set when she found out he was going to Canada, Halifax--her brother was going to the same place and entering on the same day! We found his shoulder bag at Burlington for $15. Everywhere else similar bags were $50 or more. His suits, shirts, ties, shoes and coat we got a package deal on from Steve at Mr. Mac. He really treated us well and he even threw in some extra socks at the end.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Big Island: Volcanos and Caves and Lava Flows, Oh My!

Our cabin in Volcanos was a cute little place tucked into the woods.

The naturalized yard included Azaleas! I didn't know they would grow in Hawaii. My mom always had lots of Azaleas and Rhodedendrons in our yard growing up.

Volcano National Park

Volcanos National Park Steam Vents.

Cora up close to one of the Steam Vents. This one is so big they built a fence around it. We couldn't see the bottom of it.

Up at the Visitor Center we learned a lot about volcanos and had some great views of crater.

We headed out on the trail around the crater and got a few peeks at the bleak landscape below.

That small teeny line below is people hiking across the bottom of the crater. We weren't planning to do it until we saw this view and knew we had to do it.

On the way over to the Crater trail we stopped at the Thurston Lava Tube.

And went for a little stroll through it. It was well lit and large and kinda short. The tube itself is a lot longer but the park doesn't allow access to the rest of the tube.

The trail down into the crater had a lot of trees and then suddenly opened into this. The difference was shocking.

We felt like we were walking on the moon.

Like I said before, originally we weren't planning on hiking across the crater. Then we decided just to hike down to the bottom and then hike back up.  But once we got down and saw how awesome the landscape was we had to keep going.
We were really glad it was an overcast and drizzly day. All the black and rock and steam would have been so hot otherwise. It just kept going and going. I really enjoyed seeing the Ohia trees doing their best to grow back through the lava fields.

Pahoa Lava Flow

From the source of the lava to the end of the flow. We drove out to the Pahoa Transfer station which is the location of the current lava flow view station. Earlier this summer the lava came through here. It is all drying and cooling now.

And there is still steam coming up from it.  Some of this is not steam however. It was drizzling and cloudy but the effect was pretty cool.

Oh no! The lava is going to get us! (The girls really enjoyed taking this picture).

I thought this was interesting. It is an experiment that University of Hawaii, Hilo is working on.  They are trying to devise a way to protect utility lines from the lava flows. It insulates the pole and keeps it from falling immediately.  One pole that has been treated like this has been surrounded by lava. Though it is sinking it was not immediately enveloped as would happen previously. This gives them time to reroute power.

This was an awesome day.  The weather was pretty wet and we got stuck in a few major downpours but all that was perfect for all the hiking we did.  After dinner we went back up to the Visitor Center with Grandma and Grandpa in hopes to see the glowing lava flow.  It was too foggy and we could hardly see a couple feet in front of us. As we were driving back to the cabin, passing the steam vent area, the fog let up and we could see the red glow of the lava in the distance.  We parked and made our way through the dark wet night to the edge of the ridge. It was so dark that we got a little disoriented on the way back to the car and were lost for a bit. Ultimately we got back safely and had fun along the way.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Big Island: Heading South

I woke up Monday morning feeling antsy so I set out through the streets of Kona like any aspiring triathlete. I went looking for the official starting place of the Ironman triathlon. I found it right outside my hotel! I ran past it and up the hill and head south. I didn't make it far. It was hot! A couple miles into my run I turned around to retrace my steps. It was a great run and was ready to be with the family again.

While I cleaned up they finished applying the address labels and stamps to our Christmas cards that we still hadn't sent out. Three more days until Christmas! Once that was complete we checked out of our hotel and set out looking for a post office and the Costco.  We found Costco first and stocked up on some supplies before heading south towards Volcano National Park.

Again we followed the directions offered by Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook.  The guidebook was a lot of fun to read along the way. I felt like a tour bus guide as I read it aloud.  It suggested great sights, had funny stories and bits of history and was very interesting to read.  At one point I was worried that I was boring the kids and I put it away.  They very quickly asked for me to start it up again.  They really liked the read-along adventure.

Along the drive we were hoping to find some good snorkeling but the waves were big and conditions bad so we ended up just beach hopping. First stop was Pebble Beach.

The waves here were violent to say the least

So we couldn't get anywhere close to the water. Instead we went for a little explore.

But that didn't last long either. The black rock and sand was just too hot. We hit the road again and soon happened upon a few surprise roadside inhabitants:

Our next stop was South Point State Park, the most southern point of the United States! It was a great drive out into the end of nowhere. The final destination was a rough parking lot where every car bottomed out and risked damaging their undercarriage. Dave was able to avoid the trouble due to his "superior driving skills". Here Heath, Kirkham and Dave worked up their courage and jumped off the end of the world. See video below.
The sky was clear, the water was such a beautiful blue and the cliffs were steep and formidable. The boys had to time their jumps between sets of waves which threatened to lick them off the slippery steps of the ramshackle old metal ladder they had to climb back to the safety of cliff edge. We met a few characters while there including some very nice women who were selling olivine jewelry. Cora keenly noticed that Olivine looks very similar to her birthstone Peridot. She asked the peddlers and they confirmed her suspicions. It was one and the same. They said peridot or olivine comes from the lava fields and makes up the green sand beaches. Cora was sold and both she and Afton purchased jewelry and set out to find some loose stones along the beach paths.

Heath, Dave and Kirkham heading back to the car. The hills of Mauna Loa in the distance.
Back in the car and heading towards our awaiting Cabin (and grandparents) in Volcano, we are still on the lookout for a good snorkeling beach. We had just about given up hope--actually everyone but Cora had given up hope--when we came across Punalu'u Beach park. A beautiful and lightly used black sand beach. Cora and Afton dawned their suits and snorkel gear while the rest of us set out to do a little exploring around the fishpond and surrounding jungle.

Fishpond to the left and black sand beach to the right. Very cool! No, really I mean it--the water was cold!

Cora the happy swimmer.

The boys observe the wildlife. No really, they are watching the ducks.

And the wildlife is watching them back. Hoping for a handout perhaps.

I think this one's hoping for a handout too.

It is getting late. Our tummy's are hungry and our girls are cold. Time to show them what real cold is. Let's get going to Volcano!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Big Island: A Sunny Sunday

Saturday night we stayed at the Marriot in Kona. The kids had fun playing in the pool and we got a good night's rest. First thing in the morning we woke up and headed out to an early church service. It just happened to be Elder Auna's home ward and he was there that day attending with his family.  He is a friend of my dad's so it was nice to see him and he got a kick out of taking a picture with us and sending it to my dad.  

The kids enjoyed making some new friends in Sunday School and Young Womens/Young Mens. Some of the kids they met even knew some of their friends. They thought that was pretty cool and they also thought it was great that they were presented with Lei's (see Cora's brightly colored yarn lei below). Even more cool were the friends they made after church. On the other side of the fence from the church were some beautiful horses. They stood there with their noses across the fence like they had been waiting for the girls all day.

Afton and Cora and their new friend.

My sweet Afton had fun playing with the little kids who followed them over to the horses. One of them is in the background running back to her mother.
After visiting with our new equine friends we walked across the parking lot to the Kona Temple. We would have liked to go into the temple while on the island but it was closed for the holidays and cleaning while we were there. So disappointing but we'll just have to go back again sometime!

After church we headed home (to the hotel), changed clothes, made some PBJ's and set out for some Sabbath Day sightseeing. We drove down the coast to the City of Refuge. We took the scenic route as described in Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook. It took us through some beautiful jungle, past beautiful homes and an awesome surf break.

The City of Refuge was gorgeous and peaceful. It was also very hot so if you go be sure to bring some sunscreen and water. We did a lot of exploring. 

We took pictures with the residents. Way to be excited boys.

Followed a few feathered friends.

And spotted a few turtles too.
The tidepools were our favorite place to explore. It was fun jumping across the rocks and over the pools. We took a LOT of pictures but most of them look like this:

and like this

On the way home we stopped at Kahalu'u Beach park to get our feet wet. We enjoyed watching the surfers and kinda wished we had our surfboards but it was getting late and our tummy's were beginning to rumble. We made our way back to Kona town, parked at the hotel and walked down to Bubba Gumps.  Now usually we wouldn't go out to eat on a Sunday but our room did not have a microwave and only had a teeny tiny refrigerator and, well, we decided this once we would need to eat out. After a nice dinner we casually strolled back to the hotel weaving in and out of art galleries window shopping and people watching.

Kirkham and Dani sitting on the beach at Kahalu'u. This is his happy face.

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