Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lentil and Corn Salad

The end of summer is upon us my friends. Well, technically, if you are in a non-education profession, you still have a full month + a week until the autumn equinox. But for the rest of us who operate on a school calendar, not a regular one, school is starting soon, if it hasn't already! Goodbye days in the pool, bike rides at the park, sunbathing at the beach, reading all morning, watching Netflix for hours, and endless house projects. Our lives are about to get way busy.  The days of detailed meal planning, prepping meals a week at a time, and nightly made from scratch dishes...well those will all likely fall by the wayside here in about a month. And then I'll throw a big batch of something in the roaster on Sunday, and that's what we'll eat for the week. And I'm only somewhat joking. Although I love cooking, the whole process gets really difficult once we get into the swing of our full blown fall schedule.

Fortunately for me, this recipe is an easy one and one I plan to keep on a pretty consistent rotation. I have recently discovered how much I love lentils.  They are a great source of protein which is great for us because we do meatless meals at least a couple days a week around here. They are also good for heart and digestive health, and can increase energy and weight loss. Why wouldn't you want these in your diet? And the part I like is that unlike other legumes, lentils cook really quickly and really easily. Oh, and they taste good.

Here's what you need to throw this quick one together.

4 ears of cooked corn on the cob
1 cup cooked brown or green lentils, rinsed
1 cup diced red pepper
1 green onion, minced

4 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp lime zest
3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

Step one. Combine Salad ingredients.

Typically, I would do the corn on the grill for a recipe like this one, but this time, I just roasted the corn, brushed with butter and wrapped with foil, in a 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes.

And then sliced it off the cob. Mmmm, crispy corn off the cob.

Step 2: Mix up all the dressing ingredients.

Step 3: Pour the dressing over the salad and mix it all together.

And that is it, my friends. It's totally that easy. And I have to say, the salad is even better the next day and day after, once it's had some time to marinate in the dressing for a while. So make a big batch and eat it all week!

Bon Appetit, and Happy Summering!
Recipe adapted slightly from Cookspiration.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Seven Reasons You Should Visit the Missouri State Capitol

Last week the boys and I looked around at the State Capitol building for about the 6th time this year. It is one of the boys' favorite places to visit around here and it is so easy and fun to navigate (and, I should mention, FREE). The boys are pros now at getting around and I just kind of tag along while they explore. We've talked to people who have lived here all their life and have not taken advantage of this great local attraction, so I'm here to tell you why you should take a morning (or afternoon, or even a Saturday - they're open!) and go visit.


The first reason you should visit the Capitol is because it's incredibly easy to do so. It's easy to get there, easy to park there, and easy to find the visitor's entrance. Basically, if you're anywhere in the vicinity of Jefferson City, just follow the roads to the big white big building that stands taller than all the others. There's a dome on top, so it's hard to miss. Okay, so I'm kidding. But in all seriousness, it really is about that easy. There is free visitor parking all around the building and we have found spots there on every single visit. On the off chance that those spots are full, there is a full street of meter parking right next to the building. And those spots are always open too. There are signs to the visitor's entrance all around the building. Just look for this tunnel (also known as the carriage entrance). It's right under the main stairs where everyone likes to get photos. You have to go through a metal detector to get in, but there's never a line.

The Building Itself

Even if you ignore the rest of this post and don't care about any other reasons to see the Capitol, you should at least go to see the building.

 Every time we go, we walk around the building. They are making some renovations but the construction gates are easy to see past.

There is a walkway all the way around so you can take your time checking out the statues and views. 

The inside is also incredible.

Everywhere you look, there is some stunning piece of architectural design. 

Our favorite spot is standing on the first floor and looking up to the dome. 

 Even the drinking fountains are ornate.

This old elevator looks haunted, but the boys absolutely love riding on it.

And also, if you go to the third or fourth floors and find a window in the corner, the views are amazing. You can see forever.

The Museum

If you've looked all around the building and still want to do something more, the museum on the first floor is worth looking around. 

Down one corridor are artifacts and interactive centers all about Missouri's role in various wars and other history facts. Below is a picture of the boys listening to songs made famous during war. There are a number of other interactive displays as well as loads of other artifacts.

At the end of this hallway is a Veterans Gallery with a model of the U.S.S. Missouri. The boys were more interested in looking at this since we just recently toured the Battleship North Carolina.

Down the other hallway on the main floor is more of the museum, but this area is dedicated to Missouri's resources. There's an interactive display here where you can learn about Missouri's energy sources.

And then other really cool displays about the state's natural resources which is especially interesting to us since we spend so much time in the outdoors.

I will say that the museum requires a lot of reading so young kids might not be interested for long, but my boys at ages 6 and 8 really like most parts of it. They ask lots of questions and seem to be find something new to peak their interest every time we go.

The Gardens

The Capitol is landscaped with beautiful fountains and gardens. Just across the road, you can also visit the gardens at the Governor's mansion. We haven't done that yet because we always have plenty to do at the Capitol Grounds, but during our next visit, I definitely plan to do that. 

 The gardens border the Missouri River too so you can get a great view of that while you're there too.

The Education

Yes, there is cool stuff to see everywhere you turn, but the fact of the matter is, the Capitol is where state laws get made, and that is also very cool. We talk about this on every single trip. If you're there on the right day, you can see all the lawmakers going about their lawmaking business. You can look right into the House and Senate floors (you can't walk in, but you can see in). If you go when they are in session, then you can watch from the viewing galleries. Because we constantly are talking to our boys about civic duties (voting is a family outing for us), this part of the Capitol tour is one of our favorites because we get to add some depth of knowledge about how laws in our state are made. 

Private Tours

Last spring when we visited the Capitol with my brother and his family, we looked up into the dome and kept trying to figure out how to get to the top floor (which we later learned was called the "Whispering Gallery.") We explored all over the place, and couldn't find it, so we ended up asking one of the security guards who told us that if we called our Senator or Representative's office that they could arrange a private tour... AND... they would even take us to the very top of the dome, as in outside, standing on top of the dome. So of course I called and a tour was easily arranged for later that same day. We were so excited! 

Here is my brother's family in the Whispering Gallery. It gets that name because someone can whisper and you can hear them clear as day anywhere else in the gallery.  

It's also cool because you can look down through all the other floors to the main level. Okay, well you can call it cool, or really, really scary, depending on your feelings or fears of heights. I personally try not to look down. 

Here was our tour guide, who was really sweet and great with the kids and all their questions. 

A completely different view of the Capitol. 

And the caged winding staircase that led to the very top. 

And finally, we were there, on what was unfortunately a very cloudy day. Even so, the view was amazing, if not a tiny bit eerie. 

The Missouri River blanketed in a hazy mist.

The People

We have met the kindest people on each visit here. The people who work at the museum desk are incredibly helpful for starters. When I called to schedule the private tour, the lady at our Senator's office called around to find an intern who was available since there was none available in their office. She even got us in the same day. On another trip, we didn't call ahead and just popped into the first open office we found. The lady who worked there happily agreed to take us to the Whispering Gallery and gave us lots of information along the way. She asked where we were from and seemed to really enjoy what she was doing. On one of our more recent trips, a lady saw me holding up Eli to see into the House of Representatives chambers and stopped to introduce herself. She was a representative from another district and invited us back later that day for a tour of the chambers. We couldn't go, but now that I know that's an option too, I might be asking our representative for a tour on our next visit. The point, however, is that people who work in the Capitol are proud of the Capitol and are proud to show it off. That makes the trip well worth it. 

Seriously, if you're within driving distance of Jefferson City, or even just passing through, this is an outing well worth your time. Happy touring! 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Karst Trail, Rockbridge State Park

Finally, I am back to writing about what I love to write about most - the outdoors! It seems like so long since we have been out hiking. We went out once in June to a new trail in Mark Twain forest, but were incredibly disappointed when we found the trail to be too overgrown to hike. But this weekend, Missouri had weather that you just don't pass up for hiking. Ahead of rain and storms, we were treated with some upper 60 and lower 70 degree weather and oh. my. goodness. We have not had our air conditioner on for days and instead are enjoying the breeze that our attic fan pulls through the house.

Knowing that cooler weather was heading our way, we started discussing where to hike earlier in the week and scouted out this spot close to Rock Bridge State Park. As it turns out, this is actually one of the last trailheads in the Rockbridge trail system that we have yet to hike. That's right. We are officially running out of new trails to hike in this area.

So on a very mild Saturday morning, dressed in shorts and t shirts that almost seemed like they may be too cool (but ended up being fine), we headed out to Karst Trail.

The trail sign says 1.75 miles, the official internet site says 2.01 miles, but the hiking app said 1.99 miles by the time we were done. We finished in under an hour (looming storms helped us keep a pretty steady pace and since there were no creek beds to explore, we didn't have any resting periods).

The beginning of the trail reminded me a lot of the Grassland trails just up the road from this one. I wrote about it here several years ago. It was actually one of the first hikes that I blogged about and it's worth taking a look at just to see how much the boys have grown since we first starting hiking as a family.

Blaze markers were clear throughout (as always in the Rock Bridge Trail system).

The trail started out like this - a wide mowed grassy area that overlooked grassland type fields. It was easy terrain throughout the trail although the elevation did change slightly at times.

The name Karst Trail actually derives from the term karst topography. I had to look it up to find out that karst topography (in the case of this trail) is indicative of sinkholes in the area. That's good for wildlife because sinkholes can hold water.

I love this picture of my three boys and the incoming clouds from the west!

Included along the grassland section of the trail is also a 3 acre prairie.

We saw several patches of these late summer wild flowers.

Another view of the landscape.

And another. I don't know if it was the incoming rain or just our luck for the day, but we saw tons of bunnies on this hike. They weren't interested in posing for pictures though.

There were several spots where you could opt to veer off the main path to another loop, but we stayed on the main one.

The grassy trail was perfect for footraces!

And then we came across this tree that formed an arch over the trail that I immediately thought would be a beautiful place for a wedding. Except, I don't know anyone getting married anytime soon...

The grassy path kept winding around for probably about a mile or a little more. But it was beautiful the entire way. This is a perfect cloudy day hiking trail since there's not much shade on this part.

A little watering hole for animals.

And another race for the front of the pack. I probably have a couple hundred pictures of these 2 doing this exact thing on various trails we have hiked over the years.

And another field of flowers.

And finally the trail led us into the woods that had been on the periphery of our view during the grassland portion of the hike.

And again, the trail was beautifully maintained and easy to traverse. And the woods around it weren't that dense so the views were still really pretty.

From here, the path led in and out of the woods for another mile (or just under).

 In the woods...

 Out of the woods...

Grassy path...

Dirt path...

Until we came to the grassy clearing where we started. The picture below is actually looking back into the woods from where we had just come. You can also enter this way at the beginning if you take the loop in reverse.

And with an easy hike behind us, we headed back to the car.

Some hiking info: 

We hiked on a Saturday morning and ran into 3-4 other hikers. The trail sign says that dogs should be on leashes, but we did come across some that weren't. Just something to keep in mind if you're hiking with dogs.

You can get more info on this trail here:
Missouri State Parks - Trails
or here:

You can also see some of our other hikes as well as info on Missouri Department of Conservation on my blog here. 

Stats from the hike via Geo Tracker

And that's a wrap. Happy Hiking.