Eggless Maple and Banana Muffins

This recipe combines maple and banana with great success. The muffins are made without using an egg and produce a light fluffy texture. Originally a cake recipe, this has been adapted for muffins.

Ingredients

2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 ml) milk (at room temperature)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup (180 ml) pure maple syrup
1 ripe banana, mashed (about 90 g)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Using baking spray, generously grease one muffin tray (makes 12 muffins). In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Put aside.

In a mixing bowl or jug, combine milk and vinegar. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. When it is ready, the milk will be slightly thickened. You should be able to see small curdled pieces. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy on medium-high speed. Do this for about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if needed. Next, add maple syrup, mashed banana and vanilla. Beat until combined.

Cute kitchen moment!

On duty during the making of the muffins, is assistant chef Cleo – providing helpful and encouraging feedback via many cute poses. More Cleo and Ele

With the speed on low, add half of the flour mixture. Scrape down the mixing bowl with a spatula and turn the batter over several times to ensure all of the ingredients are well mixed. Add milk mixture – continue beating to mix. Add the remaining flour and beat until just until combined. Do not overmix.

Pour the cake mixture into the muffin tray. You may have some batter left over. Be careful not to overfill the muffin tray – this is something I (Angus) did! You can see in the photo below that I’ve overfilled the tray. Make sure each muffin mold is only filled to about 2/3 full. This is a cake recipe so the mixture will rise quite a lot. 

Bake until a skewer comes out clean when poked in the center. Baking times may vary but these muffins should take 20-25 minutes. The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow muffins to cool before serving. (Optional: serve with whipped cream, adding 2/3 tablespoons of maple to the cream!).

 

My muffins overflowed and ended up flattening out (they were still delicious though). How did your muffins turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Horizon’s LEGO Star Wars Collection: AT-AT 75313

The LEGO AT-AT 75313 is a huge set with an incredible amount of detail. There are a large number of minifigures, and the set has fully adjustable legs. I modified it further with extra minifigures, a display case, lighting, and a diorama snow scene featuring more minifigures and speeders.

The LEGO AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport), as featured in the Battle of Hoth, includes legs that are adjustable (at two positions on each leg) and a head that also rotates. The front cannons have a realistic firing action to them, and there’s even a ‘rope’ from which to attach Luke Skywalker on the underside of the AT-AT.

The AT-AT measures 24.5 inches high and 27 inches long. It features multiple removable panels in order to easily view the interior. The main body has the capacity to fit 40 LEGO minifigures and 4 speeder bikes. Within the cockpit of the head is room for three minifigures.

The set includes the following minifigures:

General Veers, Luke Skywalker, Snowtrooper Commander, 4 Snowtroopers and 2 AT-AT drivers.

This set is a huge – 6,785 pieces! The plan for this set was to order a custom display case with a printed Hoth planet background and a white surface on which the AT-AT would stand. To complete the diorama I would add the AT-ST and a collection of speeder bikes, snow troopers and rebel alliance figures to the scene. And finally, I would light the entire AT-AT by using a custom lighting kit which I would then modify further.

The Build

I worked on the build over the course of multiple weeks but not continuously, and sometimes only for short periods at a time. LEGO estimates the build time for this set to be between 18-19 hours.

The build was relatively straightforward, beginning with each of the legs. This process became a little bit repetitive. I found building the main part of the set more enjoyable. There are a lot of interesting features and clever detail in this build and it was fun to construct. It was also great to discover how the engineering allowed for the set to become freestanding. 

The legs can be adjusted in order to pose the model as if it were in motion. This requires a gadget that is part of the build and makes the process highly interactive. 

Despite knowing the size of the finished model before I started, it was still a shock to see how BIG it actually is. It’s massive. The fact it can hold up to 40 minifigures in the main body – AND four speeder bikes – is amazing.

The construction techniques used to connect the main body to the head are astonishing. It almost shouldn’t work since the head is so bulky, but somehow it does. There is not an actual interior tunnel between the head and body in which the minifigures could walk through but this doesn’t detract from the overall effect. 

The option to display the set with or without the panels is a great one. They are easy to remove and I found no issue with them remaining in place as some other reviews have highlighted.

AT-AT Lego 75313
AT-AT Lego 75313
AT-AT Lego 75313
AT-AT Lego 75313
AT-AT Lego 75313

The stickers that are used in this set look great. Sometimes stickers in LEGO sets don’t always work well, but here the stickers are used to represent the background lighting, and it gives the interior of the body a real feeling of depth.

AT-AT Lego 75313

Modifications

The first major modification to the set was a simple one. I wanted to fill the main body with as many stormtroopers as possible. This meant purchasing a number of Snowtrooper Battle Packs (75320) and filling up the empty seats. 

AT-AT Lego 75313

Lighting the AT-AT proved a little more challenging. I found a custom made set for this model but the method they used to rig the lighting was too complicated, and it resulted in lighting that was too bright. I rewired the model and placed the lights in locations that reduced some of the glare that can happen with the LED lights on these models. Pro tip: the key is to light the model but not make it difficult to look at!

The display case and diorama

The display case is from Wicked Brick who have created an amazing case for this set. With a Hoth planet background and a white acrylic base plate, the AT-AT sits comfortably in four cut-outs designed for each of the four feet.

There was plenty of room around the AT-AT to create an interesting battle scene as well as room for the AT-ST (75322). More low-lighting may be added at some point to brighten the ‘snow’ in the diorama.

Overall the AT-AT was a fun and satisfying build. Expanding the impact of the set by creating my own diorama was also worth the extra work. The lighting brings the model to life and the display case is a great way to keep the set secure and also dust-free.

Look out for future blogs on our LEGO collection. We have a number of sets waiting to be built and will feature them as they’re constructed.

 

Angus
Horizon Guest House

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Visit the Painted Church in South Kona, Hawaii

The St. Benedict’s Roman Catholic Church in South Kona is worth a visit if you’re in the area. Located not far from Two Step, the church is famous for its detailed frescos dating back to the turn of the 20th century.

History

The church itself was built in 1842 and was moved to its current site in Honaunau in 1880. It wasn’t until 1899 that Father John Velge started work on what would become an extensive collection of frescos on the inside of the church.

The frescos depict a large array of biblical scenes including the Temptation of Christ. The paintings themselves were actually used as a teaching tool. Very few Hawaiians could read during this time period and Velge was able to use the paintings as a way to explain the events in the Bible.

Velge painted the scenes directly onto the wooden surface of the church walls using house paint. He was not professionally trained.

The paintings took Velge almost five years to complete. He was recalled to Belgium soon after completing the paintings and he died in 1939.

The church and grounds

The exterior of the church is notable for its belfry and the lattice work that adorns the front entrance. There is a small museum of Hawaiiana at the rear of the Parish Hall across the parking lot. In front of the church is a cemetery, and beyond that a view of the ocean in the distance.

How to get there

Painted Church Hawaii

The church is located about 45 minutes from downtown Kona. From the intersection of Highway 11 and Highway 160 (the Honaunau Post Office is at this intersection), turn towards the ocean and follow Hwy 160 for about 1 mile. Right after the green one mile road marker, you will see a sign for the ‘Painted Church’. Turn right on to Painted Church Road and follow the winding road for slightly less than a half mile. Turn right into the church grounds.

The Painted Church is a popular local attraction in the South Kona area and is worth a visit to admire the unique frescos.

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French Apple Custard Cake

This apple custard cake is perfect for autumn. The cake itself has a smooth consistency – filled with sliced apples, spiked with brandy (or rum), and with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon. It’s the perfect breakfast treat with morning coffee because it isn’t too sweet.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges, and sliced 1/8 inch thick crosswise
1 tablespoon Calvados*
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 2 large yolks
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

*If you don’t have Calvados (French apple brandy) any brandy (or even rum) will work.

Instructions

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325F. Spray 9-inch springform and place pan on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.

Place apple slices into microwave-safe pie plate, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave until apples are pliable and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes (to make sure they are soft enough for the cake).

Toss apple slices with Calvados, lemon juice and cinnamon and let cool for 15 minutes.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk 1 cup flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a second bowl, whisk the whole egg (not the yolks), oil, milk, and vanilla together until smooth.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Transfer 1 cup batter to separate bowl and set aside.

Add egg yolks to the remaining batter and whisk to combine. Using spatula, gently fold in the apples. Transfer batter to the pan, using an offset spatula to spread batter evenly to pan edges, gently pressing on apples to create even, compact layer, and smooth surface.

Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons flour into the batter you set aside. Pour over batter in pan and spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth the surface. Sprinkle remaining tablespoon of sugar evenly over cake.

Cute kitchen moment!

On duty during the making of the apple custard cake, the faithful baking assistants – providing helpful and encouraging feedback via adoring looks. More Cleo and Ele

Bake until center of cake is set, toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and top is golden brown, about 75 minutes.

Transfer pan to wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.

Serve alone or with whipped cream!

How did your French apple custard cake turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Safe sunscreens for Hawaii: 5 zinc oxide & reef-safe sunscreens from worst to best

I tested a number of mineral zinc oxide sunscreens in order to find out what works the best, doesn’t leave a thick white residue, is easy to apply, and most importantly is good for the environment.

I tested 5 different sunscreens and rated and reviewed these from worst to best.

My skin type

I have a Scottish/New Zealand background and as a result my skin is extremely fair. I burn easily and do not tan (at least not naturally!). I was looking for a sunscreen that was going to meet the guidelines being set by the state of Hawaii in regards to the marine environment and the coral reef, and that would also work for my skin type.

Nano and non-nano oxide explained

Nano sunscreens refer to those that contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide which have been broken down into nanoparticles. This means that you get the sun protection without the residue often found in non-nano sunscreens (the bigger particles that reflect the sun’s rays more easily). There are concerns over the safely of nanoparticles if inhaled (see research by the Environmental Working Group, EWG, and also the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens).

Does this mean that nanoparticles can be absorbed into the body? Research suggests this NOT to be the case (see research by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration).

If you are still cautious you might consider using sunscreens which are non-nano. Please note, there is no agreed upon threshold for what differentiates nano from non-nano, so some claims can be misleading.

5. Kōkua Sun Care Hawaiian Natural Zinc Sunscreen SPF 50

Kōkua Sun Care Hawaiian Natural Zinc Sunscreen is SPF 50 with up to 80 minutes water resistance. It contains no fragrance, phthalates or parabens. It contains 25% zinc, as well as 7 Hawaii-grown antioxidant ingredients. These ingredients include, kukui, macadamia, noni, spirulina and plumeria.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: The lotion is a noticeably thicker than some of the other products we tested and I found it was harder to apply as a result. There was a noticeable residue on application, although it did eventually fade. There is also a faint natural scent due to the additional natural ingredients, which wasn’t overpowering but for those looking for something completely unscented they may want to reconsider using this brand. It was also difficult to rinse off my hands and left a greasy residue.

Rating: 5.5/10

Cruelty Free: Yes

Vegan: Yes

Non-nano: Yes

4. Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen SPF50

Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face sunscreen is SPF 50 (water resistant for up to 80 minutes) and contains 12% zinc oxide. It is formulated with zinc and prebiotics as well as vitamin E.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: The lotion is light and application was easy. There is some white residue but it fades quickly and there is no scent or oily texture.

Rating: 7.5/10 for performance of this product BUT downgraded to 3/10 for the reasons below.

Cruelty Free: No, Cetaphil is not a cruelty-free skincare brand. Even though they claim to not test on animals, they choose to sell in a country (China) that requires imported cosmetics to be tested on animals.

Vegan: Cetaphil is not considered to be vegan because they test their products or ingredients on animals, or allow others to do so on their behalf.

Non-nano: No

3. ThinkSport SPF 50 Sunscreen

ThinkSport sunscreen SPF 50 is a non-nano mineral zinc oxide sunscreen. It contains hyaluronic acid which attracts moisture for added hydration, and also vitamin E which helps to condition the skin.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: This lotion is quite thick but was easy to apply to the skin. There is definitely a white residue left behind but this does fade somewhat, though it will make you look noticeably paler. It was also difficult to wash off my hands and does seem to have a greasy base to it.

Rating: 7/10

Cruelty Free: Yes

Vegan: Yes

Non-nano: Yes

2. Raw Elements Certified Natural Sunscreen SPF30

This organic certified natural mineral sunscreen contains no synthetic chemicals. It contains sunflower oil, cocoa butter and vitamin E among other nourishing antioxidant ingredients. It contains 23% zinc oxide and offers SPF 30 protection.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: This product is thicker than the others we tested but I loved the way this feels. It goes on smoothly, most likely due to the sunflower oil and cocoa butter ingredients, and does not leave a white residue. Despite it feeling thick (it’s a little tougher getting it out of the tube) it doesn’t feel thick on the skin.

Rating: 8/10

Cruelty Free: Yes

Vegan: Yes

Non-nano: Yes

1. Native Mineral Face Lotion Unscented SPF30

Native specializes in creating products that are as free of chemicals as possible. Their range of sunscreen includes the Mineral Face Lotion. This product contains 20% zinc oxide, and advertises itself as absorbing quickly, with no residue as well as being lightweight and non-greasy.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: Definitely lives up to the description. The lotion is lightweight and not all greasy. It absorbed quickly and did not leave a white residue that is common with zinc oxide-based sunscreens. We also tried the body sunscreen which was slightly thicker but just as non-greasy. The face lotion contains avocado oil which gives it a lighter consistency.

Rating: 8.5/10

Cruelty Free: Yes

Vegan: Yes

Non-nano: Yes

 

The Native Mineral Face Lotion was the clear winner. It is light and non-greasy and doesn’t leave a white residue. It’s also non-nano, cruelty-free and vegan. The Raw Elements Sunscreen was the runner-up, some might find it on the thicker side however it does go on smoothly.

(*** NOTE: the opinions expressed in this review are our own and we have not been sponsored or paid in any way to promote any of the brands mentioned above ***)

Check out our blog on why reef-safe sunscreen is so important.

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Fresh Mango Cake

It’s mango season on the Big Island, and what better use of mangos than for making a cake! This recipe for fresh mango cake has been adapted from Ina Garten’s peach cake recipe. Fresh mangos make a great filling for a cake but if you can’t get hold of fresh mangos then fresh peaches (or canned peaches) will work just as well.

Ingredients

1 stick of unsalted butter (1/4 pound)

1 cup of sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 cups of fresh mango, diced

Topping

½ cup sugar

1 tsp of cinnamon

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F (325F convection). Cream together butter and 1 cup of sugar until fluffy.

Add room temperature eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each.

Add sour cream and vanilla extract, mix until blended.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add the mixture to the creamed ingredients and mix together until just blended.

Cute kitchen moment!

On duty during the making of the mango cake, the faithful baking assistants – providing helpful and encouraging feedback via adoring looks. More Cleo and Ele

Butter a 9×9 baking dish. Pour in half of the batter and smooth out.

Add half of the diced mango, distributing evenly.

Mix second measure of sugar with cinnamon in a separate bowl.

Sprinkle half of the topping mixture onto the mango.

Add the remaining batter and cover with the remaining diced mango.

Sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon mixture on top.

Bake at 350F for approximately 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Serve warm! Goes well with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

How did your fresh mango cake turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Reef-safe sunscreen in Hawaii and why it matters

Kealakekua-Bay-HI
Kealakekua Bay. Photo credit: dolphin discoveries.com

Ingredients in sunscreen having been doing damage to the coral reefs in Hawaii for years. These chemicals cause damage to the DNA of the coral, resulting in deformities, bleaching and sometimes even the death of the coral itself.

What's in the sunscreen that causes the damage?

Coral bleaching Hawaii
Kaneohe Bay – coral bleaching. Photo credit: Shreya Yadav/Madin Lab/Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

In January, 2021 SB2571 came into effect in the state of Hawaii. This bill banned the sale of any sunscreen that contained oxybenzone or octinoxate (unless prescribed by a healthcare provider). The Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources had banned the use of these sunscreens a year earlier in Kealakekua Bay. This specifically targeted the tour boats that operate in the bay every day.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate are both FDA-approved compounds and are present in approximately 80% of all sunscreens. 

Kaneohe Bay – coral bleaching. Photo credit: Shreya Yadav/Madin Lab/Hawaii Institute of Marine Biolog

Sunscreens that also contain petrolatum, also known as mineral oil, often take years to biodegrade and are also harmful to marine life.

Titanium Oxide does not easily biodegrade either – in fact it reacts to warm water by forming hydrogen peroxide which causes damage to marine life. However, reef-safe sunscreen that contain low concerntrations of the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide are considered safe.

Environmental Impacts

Coral reefs in the Hawaiian Islands are flooded with 6,000 tonnes of sunscreen every year. 

It doesn’t take much to cause harm to the coral reef. Only a very small amount of oxybenzone (the equivalent of one drop of water into an area the size of 6.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools) can cause harm. Unfortunately, testing has revealed that some Hawaiian beaches show levels 10 times that amount.

Impact from sunscreen chemicals is only one factor among many causing ongoing damage to marine environments. Ocean acidification, water pollution and rising sea temperatures are all causing systemic problems to the ecosystem.

More changes ahead

In January 2023, a new law will ban the sale of sunscreen containing the ingredients avobenzone or octocrylene.

Maui has also passed a law which will come into effect October 1st, 2022 which will ban all non-mineral sunscreens.

What can you do to help?

Photo credit: Cindy Ellen Russel / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Make a concerted effort to buy reef-safe sunscreen. Look for the label on all certified sunscreens. Alternatively, try to reduce your reliance on sunscreens:

  • Stay out of the sun between 10am – 2pm
  • Use an umbrella
  • Wear a sunhat
  • Wear UV-protected sunglasses
  • Wear sun shirts and other UV protecting clothes where possible

The following are a list of some of the available reef-safe sunscreens in Hawaii:

  • Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian
  • SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen
  • Mama Kuleana Waterproof SPF 30 Reef-safe Sunscreen
  • Little Hands Hawaii SPF 35+ All-natural and Organic Sunscreen
  • Manda Organic SPF 50 Sun Paste
  • Raw Love SPF 35 All-natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
  • All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
  • Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion
  • Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Badger SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Cream
  • Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen
  • Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock
  • Loving Naturals Clear Body SPF 30+ All-natural Sunscreen
  • Banana Boat Simply Protect SPF 50+ Sunscreen (spray, not lotion)
  • Olita Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

Check out our sunscreen review! We test and rate five different sunscreens. 

Make sure you buy reef-safe sunscreen and do your part to reducing the human impact on the fragile coral reefs and the larger Hawaiian marine ecosystem.  

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Easy to make Ginger Banana Bread

This recipe for ginger banana bread is packed full of amazing ginger flavor. By using three types of ginger, and a dash of cranberries, this banana bread makes a great snack.

Ingredients

Bananas – approximately 1-2 pounds or 6-10 ripe bananas

Dry ingredients

4 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 TB cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp mace

Wet ingredients

4 large eggs

2 cups Canola oil

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup chopped crystallized ginger (or non-crystallized)

1-2 TB chopped fresh ginger

1 cup cranberries (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 6 loaf pans or 4 bread loaf pans.

Peel bananas and place in a bowl or stand mixer.

Mix on low to thoroughly mash.

Add the remaining wet ingredients and combine.

We’ve discovered non-crystallized ginger chunks and we love them! Highly recommended. Without the added sugar but just as flavorful. 

Cute kitchen moment!

On duty during the making of the ginger banana bread, the faithful baking assistants – providing helpful and encouraging feedback via adoring looks. More Cleo and Ele

The cranberries are optional but do add a nice extra flavor.

In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients together.

Ginger Banana Bread Hawaii

Then add to the wet mixture (after you stop the mixer). Mix together, gently at first, to combine.

Pour into greased loaf pans and bake at 350F for 35 minutes (or up to 1 hour if you are using four bread loaf pans).

Cool loaves on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

How did your ginger banana bread turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Horizon’s LEGO Star Wars Collection: Ewok Village 10236

The LEGO Ewok Village is a large set with a huge number of minifigures and some unique design elements. I took the display a step further by modifying it with LED lighting, a forest backdrop, and also added a forest floor using additional LEGO pieces.

The Ewok Village is home to those cute and furry creatures that made their first appearance in Episode VI Return of the Jedi. This LEGO set has lots of great features including a tree-trunk hideout, a secret lightsaber storage space, a spider web, a net trap, a slide (located inside one of the trunks itself), catapults and a throne – where C-3PO sits and which also ‘hovers’.

There are rope walkways, interesting forest elements – like vines, and multiple rooms located on the tops of each tree trunk. The set measures 13″ (35cm) high, 21″ (55cm) wide and 13″ (35cm) deep.

The set includes the following minifigures:

Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, 2 rebel soldiers, 5 ewoks (including Wicket, Teebo, Chief Chirpa and Logray), 2 scout troopers and 2 stormtroopers.

Modifications

The first step to modifying the Ewok Village was to create a realistic forest floor using additional LEGO pieces. Most of these I sourced directly from LEGO via their Pick a Brick service, and from Bricklink. The key was to cover enough of the green base plates as possible with foliage pieces in a way that looked as natural as possible. I used the brown pieces to create the look of natural pathways through the forest.

To encase the entire display I used a set-specific case from idisplayit, a UK company that specializes in LEGO display cases. The case is made of clear acrylic and fits together using a system of clever screw fittings. The top part of the case is screwed together and can be lifted completely off the base plate.

I wanted to create a unique backdrop to the diorama that would give the feeling that the village was actually in a forest and that the pathways matched with the background image. I found some adhesive Endor backgrounds made by Diorama Decals on Ebay.

I ordered two of the Endor backgrounds and then cut them to fit the back of the display case. I aligned the LEGO paths on the forest floor so they would match up with the paths in the background image.

The final step was to create lighting that would bring the entire display to life. I used a set specific kit from Game of Bricks which included green LEDs and then used some additional flickering flame LEDs from Brick Stuff. The key was to hide the thin wiring as much as possible and also to make sure the LEDs weren’t directly visible so that they created a glow effect, rather than a spotlight effect which is too bright and difficult to look at directly.

The Build

I worked on the build over the course of 2 to 3 days, for 2 to 3 hours at a time. It was relatively straightforward, and each tree trunk was unique enough that it didn’t feel repetitive when building one after the other. There are a large amount of really interesting features and clever detail in this build and it was fun to put together.

However, some of the reddish brown LEGO pieces were quite brittle and I did manage to accidentally crack a few of these, forcing me to order replacement parts via Bricklink. This does seem like a common complaint for this set and it is something to take care with as you work on the build.

Installing the light kit was straight forward. The lighting sets from Game of Bricks are not my favorite as the wiring is incredibly thin and the lights are wired in series which means if one light doesn’t work the others next in line also won’t work. Unfortunately, this happened to me and it meant I had to get creative with the overall placement of lights.

My recommendation for lighting kits for other sets is Briksmax – they can purchased directly from them or through a third-party seller like Lighttailing. Briksmax has a better system of wires and connector boards which allow for more customization. 

Ewok Village 10236

Overall the Ewok Village was a really fun set to build. Creating my own diorama by enhancing the display with a forest floor, background and lights was also enjoyable. Using a display case is a great way to keep the set secure and also dust-free. This set is now retired and the best place to find it is on eBay.

Look out for future blogs on our LEGO collection. We have a number of sets waiting to be built and will feature them as they’re constructed. These include:

USC AT-AT 75313

Tantive IV corridor diorama (custom build)

Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder 75341

 

Look for these in the coming months!

Angus
Horizon Guest House

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The Big Island from the air: helicopter and fixed-wing tours

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Photo credit: volcanotours.com

What could be better than seeing the Big Island from the air! There are a number of options when it comes to helicopter and fixed-wing tours of the island.

Book a tour and get a better idea of the natural landscapes on the island, see the volcano from a unique perspective, or perhaps create your own custom tour of the island.

1. Paradise Helicopters

Circle Island Private Helicopter Tour in the Big Island (Paradise Helicopters)
Photo credit: paradisecopters.com

Paradise Helicopters is Hawaii’s largest locally owned and operated helicopter company and is committed to caring for the local community – you have the option of offsetting the carbon emissions from your flight via the planting of native and endemic trees. They even hold a sustainable tourism certification! 

Choose from a large number of different tour packages depending on the location of the airport (they have offices at Kona, Waimea and Hilo airports).

Selected tours include:

  • Circle Island Experience Tour – the tour starts at Kona airport and heads south over the Kona Coast coffee district, over the western slopes of Mauna Loa to the southern tip of the island, before heading for Kīlauea Volcano, Hilo and then the Kohala valleys and waterfalls. ($795 per person – 2 hours).
  • Kohala Coast Waterfalls & Remote Hike – explore the Kohala valleys and hover over huge waterfalls. At the halfway point the helicopter will land at a remote location and you’ll enjoy a short hike in the forest. ($564 per person – 1 hour plus 45-60 mins hike).
  • Experience Hawaii – explore all five volcanoes, fly over the island’s amazing beaches, valleys and coastlines. Departs from Kona, and heads south to the volcano before skirting the Kohala Coast ($725 per person – flight time varies).

For more information paradisecopters.com

EcoTourismCertified_anpwta
Hale O Keawe. Photo credit: NPS / Walsh

2. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters

Big-Island-Heli
Photo credit: bigislandhelicoptertours.com

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is known as one of the premier aerial tour operators on the island. Super quiet, eco-star helicopters and knowledgeable pilots make for a great experience. 

Blue Hawaiian offer three main tours of the island:

  • Big Island Spectacular – Get a bigger picture of the island with this island tour. You’ll see tropical rain forests, waterfalls, valleys and of course the volcano ($649 per person, 1 hour 45 minutes). There’s also an option to add a waterfall landing. Departs from Waikoloa.
  • Circle of Fire – Take in the amazing Hawaii Volcano National Park and experience Kīlauea in all its beauty ($369 per person, 50 minutes). Departs from Hilo.
  • Kohala Coast Adventure – Explore the breathtaking Kohala coast on the island’s northwest. Stunning sea cliffs, Waipi’o Valley, and the dramatic valleys of the Kohala Mountains make this an amazing experience ($359 per person, 50 minutes). Departs from Waikoloa.

Got something else in mind? Why not book a private charter! Create your own itinerary ($3200 per hour).

For more information bluehawaiian.com

bluehawaiian
Photo credit: bluehawaiian.com

3. Safari Helicopters

Photo credit: safarihelicopters.com

Top rated by Trip Advisor, Safari Helicopters has been operating since 1987. They fly tours on the Big Island and on Kauai. 

They have just one tour on the Big Island and that’s the Volcanoes National Park & Waterfalls Safari. This tour takes in the park and the amazing waterfalls nearby (As low as $264 per person, check the website for the latest rates, 55 minutes).

Book as a private tour for $1450 and get better value per seat.

For more information safarihelicopters.com 

safari-helicopters
Photo credit: bigislandguide.com

4. Big Island Air Tours

big island air
Photo credit: bigislandair.com

Big Island Air has been operating fixed-wing tours of the Big Island for over 35 years. They use a Cessna P337H Spymaster which is air conditioned and pressurized. Every seat is a window seat and the plane holds three passengers, pilot and co-pilot.

There are four tours available to choose from:

  • Premier Island Tour – this tour takes in the entire island and departs daily from Kona Airport ($598 per person, 1 hour 30 minutes).
  • Twilight Tour – Timed to take in the amazing Big Island sunset, this is a unique tour. Includes the volcano, valleys and coastline ($688 per person, 1 hour 30 minutes).
  • Summits & Waterfalls Tour – This tour takes in the Kona Coast and heads first to Mauna Loa and the Volcano, before flying over Mauna Kea and then the Kohala Coast ($599.99 per person, 1 hour flight time).
If you’re in Maui you can also try the VIP Air Adventure tour. This tour takes in Maui and the Big Island before returning to Maui.
 
For more information bigislandair.com
 

Aerial tours are a great way to explore the island and for those wanting a close-up view of volcanic activity there is nothing better than a flight over the crater! 

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