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Homemade Granola Bars

23 Feb

I am trying.

I am trying to make healthy things for my family.

I am trying to make healthy things for my family to eat but it is so hard!

We go through days using all organic, non-GMO, no sugar, super healthy food, but then we fall off the band wagon and go through McDonalds. What is wrong with us?  Ugh, I hate it.  Yes, yes, don’t be hard on yourself… it is hard when you have kids and are traveling and don’t have time blah blah blah.  But seriously.  I want my family to consistently and constantly eat healthy food.  Of course we would all sweeten our birthday cakes and everything else with maple syrup instead of sugar but we aren’t all made of money, right?

Look at the ingredients of this Nature Valley granola bar, it makes me mad sometimes-


So in an attempt to take one more step away from packaged food I decided to homemake granola bars.  Woohoo.  This is better and more handy than simply making granola because it is portable and awesome.

I found this stellar recipe that involves ONLY 5 INGREDIENTS!!!  Isn’t that amazing?  No corn syrup, no granulated sugar and my favorite- no ingredients that I cannot pronounce!

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  • 1 cup packed dates, pitted (deglet nour or medjool)*
  • 1/4 cup honey (or sub maple syrup or agave for vegan option)
  • 1/4 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, loosely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (gluten free for GF eaters)

Head over here at Minimalist Baker for the complete instructions.

Just one small step in the right direction.

Snowpant Straps

11 Feb

We love winter.  We spend a whole lot of time outside in the white fluffy stuff and cannot have our gear holding us back from the fun.  Hudson’s cousin, Lincoln, gave him a great snowsuit when LIncoln moved to California from Wisconsin (they are currently wearing shorts out there and playing in the sand).  The one problem with this snowsuit is that the legs ride up when he sits down or rolls around on the ground throwing a fit.  So after messing around in the snow for a few minutes the pants were always riding up and his cold little calf skin would poke out =(

So I took some fleece and used the stretchy side to make a little stirrup.  It took approximately 2 minutes to sew these straps onto the bottom of his snowsuit and will make a world of difference for the rest of winter.


We can warmly go for sled rides and even make snow tunnels without our little calves getting chilly

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and eat lots of snow because it is so delicious.

Children’s Museum Fun

9 Jan

l grew up in Northern Wisconsin and around the time I was in my lower teens the NorthWoods Children’s Museum opened.  It was really fun to be involved with a few other families in making our own exhibit.  And now it is a wonderful place to take my kids to when we are visiting my mom and dad.  Here are the kids playing around an igloo made out of milk jugs!  The exhibit is also filled with little strips of white paper, which of course is the snow. unnamed-6 The kids gathered up the snow and then asked me to head up the forest tower and dump it on them. unnamed-7 unnamed-5 After dumping it on them once I knew I had to do it again with my camera, the look of pure joy on their faces is amazing! unnamed unnamed-3 unnamed-2 unnamed-1 unnamed-4

All finished off with some snow angels!

I wish Cook had a Children’s Museum, especially for these times when it is below zero for multiple weeks in a row, oh well- we will just have to visit grandma and grandpa some more.

2014 in Review

2 Jan

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Merry Christmas

25 Dec


As I write, our yard is being re-coated with snow after a week of warm fog, cold drizzle, and sloshy puddles. Our tree sparkles in the living room while Christmas music plays and the woods become white once again. All is well. However, a recent episode of The Middle convicted both Caitlyn and I about the silliness that often befalls Christmas letters. I mean, are our lives really that simple, sweet, and straightforward? Of course not! And if all we want are the highlights, can’t we just wait for those year-in-review videos Facebook puts together for us in a few weeks?

So let’s get a few things straight: Life is complex, peculiar, and challenging. Sometimes it doesn’t go so well, and sometimes it goes wonderfully. But Christmastime isn’t just for celebrating how dandy our lives our, it’s for celebrating that fact that The True Light that gives Light to everyone has come into the world, and we need it always. Life is full of highlights and lowlights, and Christ came for it all.

Now, about our lives (and yes, we’re only giving the highlights. If you want the lowlights, call). Life in Cook continues to be exciting and fulfilling. Last winter was what the kids would call, Epic. The snow reached 40 inches in February, and we were jumping off our roofs, sending the girls into piles of fluffy powder. Winter this far north certainly lingers, often with fervor, but we find ways to enjoy it! A wonderful reprieve came in March when we visited Jared’s folks in Colorado. We spent warm days sunning ourselves in the green grass, but also went to the mountains for what the kids call shredding. The girls skied the bunny hill with Nana and Papa while Jared and Caitlyn snowboarded at 13,000 feet. We also encountered two moose on a hike near Estes Park. Northern Minnesotans have to go to Colorado to see moose – go figure.

Summer was just as adventurous and enjoyable as we’ve come to expect. June was busy with our church’s VBS program, followed by a trip to Eagle River for a farewell weekend for Courtney (Cait’s sister) and Daryl Ellis as they left for their new pastorate in Southern California. In July we enjoyed a Bangs Family Reunion in Fergus Falls, celebrating Jared’s grandma’s 80th birthday while connecting with relatives from all over the country.

When we finally settled back in Cook for July, we were anxious to enjoy our own neck of the woods. We take every possible opportunity to swim at area beaches and enjoy our beautiful lakes. Aleah and Sophia graduated out of life jackets as they confidently jumped, paddled, and swam like the perch they share the water with. Hudson cruised the beach, learning to throw rocks and disturb his sisters’ sand creations. We also ventured into the wilderness for several family camping trips. We dove for clams in Voyageurs National Park, roasted Marshmallows with friends at Pfeiffer Lake, and ate fresh Pike along the edge of the Boundary Waters as the Maples, Oaks, and Aspens filled the shoreline with fall colors. We love making the most out of this wild and exciting place we call home.

We continue to enjoy our annual trip to Muskegon, MI for the Belcherama family reunion in early August. The time with family is a cherished tradition, and late night Mafia with the cousins never disappoints. As August came to a close, Aleah (and two nervous parents) prepared for all-day kindergarten. She has thrived in school all fall, and we love seeing her progression into a little girl who reads and writes! Sophia attends school two days a week, and spends her other mornings at home with Caitlyn, doing puzzles, dancing in the living room, building forts, and generally being quirky. Hudson is constantly putting on shoes and boots (often not his own) while trying to escape from the house so he can explore the woods on his own. He’s pretty determined.

Our new adventure this winter is girls hockey! Aleah and Sophia both play on an 8-U team for Hibbing, and while the early practices were a struggle, they are learning fast. Caitlyn helps coach the team, and has been deeply rewarded as our daughters follow in their momma’s skate marks – playing a sport she loves. Looks like Hudson and I will be spending some time behind the glass this winter. Have a Merry Christmas and a great New Year! Love, The Bangs


Blueberry Cottage

8 Dec


Every kid needs a fort.

Yes, those blanket forts inside your house are absolutely wonderful for a few hours but kids need a real fort.  A place where they can escape and play imaginary games and end up somewhere amazing and magical.DSC_0043 DSC_0045 Throughout the summer Jared and the little ladies built such a place. It took all summer to gather up the free wood and find pockets of time here and there to continue its progress. DSC_0050 DSC_0048 Construction came to a halt when a mommy robin decided that the new fort was a perfect place to begin her little robin family. DSC_0106 Eventually the walls were all up and the girls got to paint.  We agreed upon a color as close to blueberry as we could find and so named the little house, “Blueberry Cottage.” DSC_0456 So there she sits in our frozen tundra, smothered in snow and offering a perfect escape from the cold winter wind. I wonder what fun adventures our family will have in there this winter? unnamed-2 unnamed-3

Hockey Debut

23 Nov

It has begun.

The girls had their first hockey game today.

It was a day of learning, of patience, of other girls being faster than my girls- but it was a first-hockey-game kind of day and I could not be happier with my ladies.

Hockey this past month has been difficult to say the least. They have proclaimed that they simply are not going when we told them to get in the car for practice. They have told me the bottom of their foot itches so bad that their eyes well up with tears (after of course I have laced up both skates and they are already late). They have told me that they are never ever going to go back to that ice arena.  They didn’t know why we were driving so far to do this dang thing, whatever it is.

It happens after activities when the girls are already pretty tuckered out. It happens when they might be otherwise taking a nap. It happens when they would perhaps rather be watching tv or fighting with one another in our living room. So, why- if it is so hard- are we playing hockey?

I don’t know if this season will lead us into other seasons or if this season will be their last.  I don’t know if the girls will fall in love with the game or just despise it more and more. I don’t know if they will ever score a goal just be content sitting on the bench.  What I do know right now is they are learning to work at something. They are learning that it is okay to not be very good at something, but to do it anyway. They are learning that if they work hard at something, they will get better.

The first practice Aleah and Sophie stepped onto the ice they pretty much fell over, laid down and did ice angels. But now Sophie can stand up and shuffle all around (yes that is the progress we have accumulated thus far this year) and Aleah can pass the puck and skate pretty darn good. I love watching Aleah start to figure this game out. You can see her brain know where her body needs to go but her legs just aren’t quite up to par with the others. I have seen that competitive look in Aleah’s eye, the look that she wants that puck and gosh darn it she is going to get it.

Here they are for a pre-game pep talk:

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This is my first real coaching gig and I would be lying if I told you it wasn’t weird. It is weird to see my girls out on the ice. It is weird not being the one playing the game. I try and have 50% of the things coming out of my mouth to be things I saw the players do well and 50% aspects of they could work on, ie please, please don’t ever EVER pass the puck to our goalie again. Thank you. Good job out there.


Sophie is in the background with the white jersey

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Hudson made his debut as rink rat/proud baby brother:


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Love my girls, love my team, love that we are doing this together.


They all got a “golden medal” and the girls are pretty stoked about it.