Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tour of Missouri: Ha Ha Tonka State Park

It took forever but I believe that spring has finally sprung in my part of the world.
Warmer weather means we finally get to crawl out of our cocoons and start exploring once again.

My family and I have set out to explore parts of our great state that we never have visited before. We are turning to our own state parks and other natural resources for entertainment. It is our summer goal to earn a Missouri Camper Award, bike The Katy Trail, and complete the 100 Missouri Miles campaign.

To be eligible for the Missouri Camper Award you have to camp at five different state parks in one year. We currently have four of the five trips lined up. The Katy Trail is a 237.7 mile path from Clinton, Missouri to St. Charles, Missouri. It is a former railroad trail that has since been converted to biking/hiking path. From what I gather, it has amazing views that are only visible from the path. Finally, the 100 Missouri Miles campaign just started it's second year.  Missouri was the winner of the 2013 Best Trails State Award by American Trails. To celebrate the Governor challenged us all to log 100 Missouri Miles. I blogged about it here.

Our first stop on our tour of Missouri was Ha Ha Tonka State Park located in Camdenton, Missouri. There is no camping at Ha Ha Tonka but it is a wonderful place to hike and explore. Nineteen caves have been recorded so far in Ha Ha Tonka State Park. We also experienced sinkholes, caves, underground streams, large springs, and natural bridges. There is also the remains of an abandoned castle in the state park.

We hiked about 5 miles this day. I had to carry The Short Chic on my back for a large portion of those. Why must children learn the hard way? She insisted on wearing new high top shoes with low profile socks. The end results: blisters. {But, you already knew that,didn't you?}

The girls are standing in a sink hole. The sink hole formed a natural bridge, which you can walk under and over.

Robert Snyder began building a massive home in the Ozarks in the early 1900. Before he could complete his home, he died in one of Missouri's first automobile fatalities. His sons finished the home but it was destroyed by fire in 1946.

This building was the water house. It pumped water from the natural spring below to the mansion. It burned in 1976 by vandals. It's roof has been replaced but it now barred off from entry hopefully deterring any future vandalism to the property.

Snyder's former property sits high above the Lake of the Ozarks on a bluff. It is truly a beautiful site during any Missouri seasons.

The Short Chic and her BFF explore the stone skeleton remains of Synder's castle. The Short Chic and I spied our first sign of spring on our hike to the castle. We found crocus flowers in bloom. After a long persistent winter, we were most excited to see the little bright flowers!

After viewing the remains and a picnic lunch we took off to explore the island.  We found a large number of turtles in the lake as we crossed over to the island.   We hiked around the island and found a cave and the balanced rock. I have visited Ha Ha Tonka several times via boat and lake in the summer and with the dense green leaves, I have never seen either the castle remains or the island with balanced rock.

Below is one entrance to one of the caves at Ha Ha Tonka State Park. The entrance is sealed off from human visitors. However, bats still use the cave on a regular basis. I am thankful we were visiting in broad daylight and not at dusk. I do not want to face any of the thousand of bats that call this cave home!

 From prior visits to Ha Ha Tonka via boat, I know the water around this area is very cold. It feels rather refreshing on a hot summer day. The cold water is supplied by a natural underground spring. This is the very spring that the Snyder's used the water tower to pump water up to the mansion.

The water travels from the spring down a waterfall and ends up joining the Lake of the Ozarks. I let The Short Chic climb down to the water's edge to see how cold the water was. And guess what, she nearly fell in! {You knew that too, huh!}

The good news, by the time we reached the car-van after this portion of our hike, my Fitbit was vibrating as I had reached my 10,000 steps for the day!

Impression: This was a wonderful park to visit. The staff at the visitor center were super nice and we enjoyed visiting with them. The trails were mostly well worn foot paths or boardwalks. The trails on the island were not so level and were a bit tricky for a couple of six year olds. There are a lot of steps at this state park. You could have a very intense workout if you wanted to. However, if you were not up for all the step climbing, don't worry, you can also drive your car around to the next parking lot and skip most of the steps! Everything was pretty accessible with a short walk.

Number of Missouri Miles Completed: 5

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter and "Not Quite From Scratch" Carrot Cake

 Happy Easter Friends!

We ran around completely crazy yesterday: Church Easter Egg Hunt followed by Family Easter Dinner, followed by a sleepover for The Short Chic. With the Short Chic away, we enjoyed a rare night out at a fancy restaurant south of the river, and then ended our night with a near midnight trip to the store to avoid shopping on Easter. 

 My hope for Easter day was a low key day at home. My mother and a brother joined us. My Father-in-Law stopped by. I had envisioned a leisurely day at home with the windows open, the spring breeze blowing in, and lounging in my outdoor living space.  

The Husband fired up the old smoker for the first time this year. He smoked ribs, chicken, and brat's.
I made deviled eggs out of our Easter Eggs and my momma brought up some cheesy potatoes. I also felt  a carrot cake was the most perfect dessert for this Easter. 

I have come to realize something about myself. I am a semi-homemade kinda mom. I love to create yummy dishes for my family and friends but I also don't find myself wanting to reinvent the entire process.  A few of you who know me the best will refute this and remind me that I do occasionally go the whole nine yards. But, those are exceptions to the norm and not the norm. Sometimes a girl just needs to remind herself that she can do anything she wants to do!

Here is my "Not Quite From Scratch" Carrot Cake! I have to tell ya, it was amazing. The frosting was perfect. Just a touch of sweet to accent the spice in the cake. I did add walnuts, they can be omitted if you have a thing against them!

"Not Quite From Scratch" Carrot Cake

1 package yellow cake mix 
2 cups grated carrots 
1 cup Crushed Pineapple with juice
1/2 cup water 
3 eggs 
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts optional 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour cake pan. I used two rounds. You can use whatever you would like.

Combine cake mix, carrots, pineapple with juice, water, eggs, oil, pecans and cinnamon in large mixing bowl. Beat at low speed with electric mixer until moistened. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. 

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan.

I made a simple cream cheese frosting:

2 packages of cream cheese
6 T butter
1 1/2 t vanilla
5 cups of Powdered Sugar

The frosting was pretty soft and in hindsight I should have put it in the fridge for a while before I frosted the cake. 

I have very fond memories of Easter Sunday as a child.  I loved Easter Egg hunts. I loved getting up in the dark and attending sunrise church service. That is the feeling I strive to bring to my children every year on this special day. It is a day to rejoice. And today was a perfect Easter Day in a really perfect Easter Weekend. I hope you had a perfect day and enjoyed this Easter! 

A Kansas City Geography Lesson

My home town has been in the news lately:

  • Yes, someone is driving around our city shooting at cars. The good news, the police made an arrest before anyone was seriously injured. 
  • Who knew Lorde loved George Brett? 
  • And of course, Miley Cryus was hospitalized here in Kansas City since she cancelled her show on April 15.
Miley tweeted this message the night she got sick:

As soon as I saw it, I heard the nails dragging down the chalkboard. Really? Once again, a celebrity shows their complete and utter lack of knowledge about Midwestern geography. 

I recognize that it is not just celebrities. Almost every visiting sports team references how they are going to "beat Kansas!" I attended a football game in Denver many years ago. The Denver Bronco's were playing The Kansas City Chiefs. A fan stood up and hollered out, "Go back to Kansas!"  

Even my beloved Miss Medical Student asked, "What is there to do in Kansas?" when she was about to visit us for the first time.

Okay, so here is the deal. Yes, there is a Kansas City, Kansas. But, there is also a Kansas City, Missouri. Trust me, everything you might know about Kansas City is mostly in Missouri. Not Kansas.
Kansas City Map, Kansas and Missouri, United States 1920

Let me just break it down: Rock group Puddle of Mud and Rapper Tech N9ne started here. Thomas Hart Benton. Even Walt Disney lived in Kansas City, Missouri as a young child. Kansas City host the American Royal Barbecue and Livestock show every year.  You can visit the Negro League Hall of Fame or the Liberty Memorial - The National War World I Museum. The Kansas City Chiefs as well as the Kansas City Royal. They are all Kansas City, Missouri. Not Kansas. 

Besides our sports venue and our event center, Kansas City, Missouri has other famous residents.  H&R Block, Hallmark Cards, Cerner Cooperation, AMC Movie Theater, Applebee's Restaurant, Russell Stover Candies, and even Boulevard Brewery Company all call Kansas City, Missouri home. 

There is a significant size difference between Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas. KCMO, the largest city in Missouri, reports a population just over 467,000. It is the 37th largest city in the USA by population and 23rd by area. Kansas City, Kansas on the other-hand reports a population of under 146,000 residents. 

I guess part of the misconception is that other states who have a city named after their state are actually located in their state. The way New York City is in New York. Or Oklahoma City. It must be unfathomable that the Kansas City everyone reference is in Missouri not Kansas.

I don't want you to think I am hating on Kansas City, Kansas. I am really not. I should note that if you ever visit our area to watch the Major League Soccer's 2013 Winners of the MLS Cup, Sporting Kansas City, they do in fact play in Kansas City, Kansas. NASCAR's Kansas Speedway is also in Kansas City, Kansas.

There is an outdoor amphitheater in Kansas. When I was a young person I attended a lot of concerts there. It would be more than appropriate to address the crowd with a "Hello, Kansas!"  But the same greeting given at the Sprint Center in the heart of The Power and Light District would not be appropriate. 

When Miley tweets out an apology to Kansas when she was scheduled to play in Missouri, it is most likely offending her fans.I do have to wonder do fact checkers and public relations managers still exist?  I get that Miley is a performer and waking up in a different city each night is hard but is it too much to think that a personal assistant would educate her on where she is at and how to greet her fans? 

Is it?