Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Spinach Pear Salad (Only 5 Ingredients!)

We have had nearly 6 days of being snowed in under 15 inches of perfect snow. We have done all the snow things.
*Build a snowman. Check.
*Build an igloo. Check (work in progress).
*Snow angels. Check.
*Sledding. Check.
*Snow ice cream. Check.
*Board games and Mario Bros. Check.
*Slow roasted soup. Check.
*Hot cocoa. Check.

The list goes on and on. If you're anything like us, getting snowed in means warm and cozy comfort food. Rich stews, saucy pastas, and grilled cheese on the side of just about everything. But I was really craving a salad, and went on the search for something new. I found several complicated salads with pears that all looked really yummy. Yeah for the pears, not so yeah for the complicated. So I put together the common ingredients into something much simpler, and then hid this from the family and ate almost the entire thing myself (I saved a little for Jeremy, but the boys will have to wait for the next one).

5 Ingredients.

1/2 cup walnuts
5 oz. spinach
1 pear, diced (I used Bosc, and left the peeling on)
1 small container of feta cheese
Dressing of your choice (balsamic vinegar for me)

Mix it all up, drizzle with dressing and enjoy! It's got the crunchy (walnuts), the creamy (feta), and the fruity (pears). It's perfect.

Can it get any easier?

Bon Appetit!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Winter Hike at Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Our first hike of the New Year is in the books! Every year on New Year's Day, I think about what the year will bring in the way of hiking adventures. I love looking at Missouri State Park maps and making hiking goals.

The boys have been wanting to get back to Ha Ha Tonka State Park ever since we hiked there last fall (read about that hike here). We loved the views, the trail options, and the geological features. We couldn't wait to get back here to check out some more trails. Hello 60 degree weather in early January! Hiking trails, here we come.

One of the things we love about Ha Ha Tonka is that there are tons of options of trails. You can do short loops, medium loops, long loops... You can do combination of loops without overlapping trails, and every trail is easily accessible from one of a handful of parking lots. On only our second visit, we felt like we had a pretty good layout of the entire park and could easily navigate the trail loops.

So for starters, we hit the Acorn Trail.

Notice the light jackets. The weather was perfect!

 Blazed in green. All the trails at Ha Ha Tonka are clearly blazed, and maps are available at every trail head.

The reason we love winter hikes... You can see so much further than you can on summer hikes.

Even though everything is brown and gray, the landscape is still beautiful.

After 2 weeks out of school, all cooped up in the house, these boys were ready to move!

The Acorn Trail is part meadow, part woods.

 There's a view of the Watch Tower from the trail. We hiked there after the Acorn trail.

Blazed in green.

 Eli loves being in front of the pack. He always has been. He sets a good pace, and he's great at spotting wildlife and trail blaze markings.

Winter in the woods. There's just something about it.

Jeremy spotted this tree first. At first we thought it had fallen over, but then realized that it was growing at an angle.

Perfect for climbing!

Jeremy had to help the boys up. The angle was a little steep for them.

Proving you're never too old to climb a tree!

The Acorn Trail is easy terrain, mild elevations, and away from the more populated part of the park (by the castle). We only saw one other person on this loop!

Eli wondered if this trail was named "Acorn Trail" because squirrels throw acorns at you if you walk on it. We didn't see any squirrels, but we did find acorns, and lots of beautiful rocks!

When you come out of the woods on this loop, the landscape view is amazing and the reason we love this park!

 Lex is a quiet hiker. Just like his dad, he would be happy to walk the entire trail without saying a word.

First loop of the day - easy breezy. Only .9 miles, but we found a tree to climb, some acorns, and beautiful views. The perfect start to this hiking day.

Next on the trail map - the Colosseum Trail.

Here's the thing about hiking. A mile walking is not the same as a mile hiking. Well sometimes it might be (the Acorn Trail was pretty easy), but sometimes, a very short hike can kick your butt. Like this one.

I think if we had done the trail in reverse, it would not have been so bad, but the way we entered had us exiting up a long, steep, rocky slope. A great workout? Yes. A walk in the park? No.

The descent is always easy.

Blazed in yellow.

 The Natural Bridge was first up. It was so chilly down here!

 The boys and me.

As always, we explore!

On the other side...

For the record, this little loop is closer to the center of the park, so much more populated. It wasn't crazy busy this day, but we did have to share the trail.

Always interacting with the trail.

And then on we went. It was flat for a bit, and so pretty surrounded by rock walls.

 This rock wall had water spilling over the side.

After spending the day looking at gray and brown landscapes, we were all excited to come across this view on the floor of the woods.

The pop of green moss covering the trees and rocks was everywhere. It seriously looked like a photoshopped picture where you make only the green color pop out.

The only green we saw all day. And it was everywhere in this little spot.

And then upward we trekked.

One last mossy photo.

From this mossy rock, it was a steep climb to the top of the trail. For our first hike of the year, we managed to do pretty well, but we were definitely tired after that one.

At this point, we were in the middle of the park, where lots of trails connect.

We followed this sign because we were so close and figured we might as well.

The walk to the castle is boardwalk, and lots of stairs.

It overlooks the spring (we did the Spring Trail last time, so we knew to avoid the billion stairs it takes to get down there. Maybe next time).

Here's a closer view of the Watch Tower.

This part of the park is what most people come to see. Which means that there are a lot of people, even in early January. There were cars with license plates from all over the Midwest.

 On the way to the castle, you get the great view of the Lake of the Ozarks.

And then the castle ruins. The castle is roped off now, and you can't get very close. The first time we came several years ago, we were able to get much closer, but now it's a little more protected.

My goal was to do the Quarry Trail as well, but as it turned out, we were just about done hiking for the day. So we wrapped it up with 2.3 miles and called it a day. Not too shabby for hike #1 of the New Year!

Happy hiking!