Alaska: The Hard Water State

For anyone who plans a trip or a move to Alaska, here is a suggestion. Go down to a lake near you that YOU KNOW IS SAFE. Take a small plastic jug, a really good filter, and a glass for this true “Alaska Experience.” Fill the water jug up with some of the lake water, drain it slowly a few times through the filter into the water. Now, if you have been able to filter out all of the dirt and organisms with the filter, is it possibly something a person could safely drink? Now, here’s the big question. Would you drink it?

Most people who live in Alaska have water wells. Believe me, the water is really hard, too. The minerals up here are abundent. Anyone who may have an iron deficiency in the Lower 48 might be able to lose that deficiency after drinking Alaska well water for a little while. Iron leaves an orange coloring on everything.

One of the most popular products at Home Depot and Lowes is the salt that is needed for all of the water softeners in homes. Other popular products are the cleaners needed to eliminate the iron from all of the appliances, clothing and towels, and plumbing.

Even people who are on a city water system are not necessarily free of mineral problems. Many of the city systems struggle with iron and arsenic. Arsenic is a major problem with the EPA; but, Alaska seems to have quite a bit of it in its aquifers. So, many of the cities spend plenty of money filtering it out to satisfy the federal guidelines that are not very friendly to the Last Frontier. That just means a hefty water bill.

So, for anyone planning a visit to the largest state in the country, keep something in mind. When they call it the Last Frontier, they really mean it. Alaska has water….but the bottled stuff may taste better…..look better…..and go down better. Don’t be surprised at all of the stores with all of cases of bottled water for sale.

An Active Brain is a Healthy Brain

As people age, we start to quickly realize that we can no longer do certain activities as well as we did in our younger days. We can’t run that well. We are not quite as limber. We quickly get sore from exercising too long. Plus, we tend to forget things much more quickly. Yes, this is the aging process. I don’t like thinking about it, either.

Instead, I still enjoy those days when I can slow down the process a little bit. Experts say one way to keep a mind in great shape is to continue using it on a daily basis. Gerontology is described as the study of aging and older adults. Part of the overall study includes how aging impacts a person’s mental skills, such as memory, reasoning, problem-solving, etc…. Experts in this field say the seniors who actively learn new things, such as new hobbies, languages, sports, games, etc… are more likely to be more active in their later years than those who do not participate in new activities.

Another way to keep the brain active is to use it everyday with games such as crossword puzzles, wordfinds, sudoku, cryptograms, memory games and solitaire. These help in multiple ways; just like reading, writing and math.

One musician we lost a few years ago showed everyone how he was still able to battle Alzheimers and play his guitar. Glen Campbell was one of the best at the guitar during his prime. But, even during his last days on stage, he could still pick a pretty decent guitar with his youngest daughter by his side with the banjo. That just shows how music and learning musical instruments can only be good for all of us as we age. It keeps our brains active long past retirement by allowing us to enjoy songs we have listened to and played most of our lives.

Whatever the hobby, sport, craft, game or other fun activity it is, if it works the mind, it works as a way to enjoy our later years.


Alaska Days Are Finally Getting Longer

Everyone up north is starting to feel the very first signs that a longer day is on its way. It starts at the end of February every year. That is when the sun starts staying up during everyone’s drive home from work. Instead of darkness at 5 p.m. on the road system, drivers are hit with a glaring sun just above the steering wheel and just below the sun visor. The vehicles ahead of them can hardly be seen due to the blinding sunlight in their faces. This is normally when the smart drivers get out their “shades” to protect their eyes as they drive. This not only impacts the drive home. It also impacts the morning commute as the sun is now coming up around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. across the state.

It is usually a good idea to get glasses with protection for the sides, too. The low sun also affects drivers’ vision on the left and right sides of the roads. Several roads on the system have trees spaced along the side that creates a strobe-like effect on drivers as they travel in and out of the shaded road at 55 mph. Anyone who has eye problems is definately impacted by these low sunsets and sunrises. Add other obstacles, like moose crossing the road, and cars not using their lights, and accidents are likely to happen.

Despite the difficult drying issues, these late days in February are pleasing for those who suffer from the lack of sunlight in the winter months. They are the ones with the bright lamps in their homes to grab more Vitamin D that they cannot get naturally.

At winter solstice in late December, the sun rises in south-central Alaska at about 10:15 a.m and sets at 3:45 p.m. That is only a 5 1/2 hour day. For the next six months, the state’s day just gets longer until June, the time of the “Midnight Sun”, and the summer solstice.

So, as the earth continues to move from winter to summer in the northern hemisphere and from summer to winter in the southern hemisphere, Alaskans will continue to have one of the best seats in Mother Nature’s house to watch this annual transition. It includes migrating birds, whales and fish. It involves snow melting at a rapid pace from mountains, fields and valleys, causing temporary lakes all across the state until the ground and heat of the sky can absorb all of the excess moisture. Alaskans will be preparing for what is called “break-up”, when ice roads and snow roads thaw out for the season. The ground, which has been frozen since November, will defrost. Rivers that have been frozen all winter will literally melt. If it melts too quickly, and the ice starts traveling downstream too quickly, the ice will grab everything that it can. This has included: man-made docks, trees, stairs, and anything else along the banks that can be dragged down into the water.

From this point, life starts returning to the state in numerous ways. Hibernation will start ending for the bears. Some of the migrating birds begin arriving from the south. Alaskans start putting up their winter gear. The first cruise ships start arriving in their ports. And, everyone starts to get ready for the state to double in population as visitors come to the Last Frontier for a look at life in the wild, instead of concrete.


When You Want Good Food From the Grocery Store Think About Colors

The most colorful place in the grocery store is also the best place for food. The produce section is like Mother Nature’s crayon box. I would say everything is there.

I spend more time in that section than in any other area. Sometimes, my kids have to remind me that we have to leave to go somewhere else.

I am always wanting to try something new….a new type of apple….orange…or even a different vegetable. When it comes to apples, I love the honeycrisp. But, I don’t love the price. Experts in the apple industry say that the reason honeycrisp apples are more expensive is because of the lack of trees to support the popular national demand. So, when the stores run out, or the price just gets too high, I have to look for an ambrosia, or any other type of red sweet apple. Green and yellow apples cause my face to turn different shapes because of the tartness.

I am even learning tricks about picking bananas. Our kids are the lucky ones, though. One store in our neighborhood gets rid of their day-old fruit by offering it to the kids for free. Our three kids are banana-eaters. When it comes to picking the best bananas, I don’t chance it with the unripened ones, and hoping they will ripen later in the week. I buy ones that are about to ripen, and expect bananas to be the first fruit gone during the week.

I have had better luck with timing strawberries, grapes, plums, and other fruit. Another fruit that can be hard to time is the blueberry. I like to get those frozen. They last much longer, and taste pretty good. With frozen fruit, though, check the nutrition label for anything that might be added. I only buy fruit that has no added sugars or anything else.

Now to vegetables for more color. My white-colored vegetables are cauliflower, onions and garlic. The cauliflower is a good snack between meals. The onions and garlic are always part of my flavorings. My green-colored vegetables are spinich, broccolli, celery and cucumbers. My reds are tomatoes and peppers. Carrots are my orange. Olives are my black and another green.

I have started making vegetable wraps with cheese and other toppings. One wrap is a wheat tortilla with broccolli, shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced olives. It gets microwaved for one minute. Another wrap is a vegetable tortilla with sliced tomatoes, cheese and marinara sauce that is heated in the microwave for over a minute. A third wrap is spinich and broccolli, along with cheese and olives. Once again, heat in the microwave for about a minute. Other toppings that I use for these are: sliced onions, sliced red peppers, sliced green peppers, and picante sauce.

Another vegetable item that clears out the refrigerator is a fresh vegetable soup with a chicken or beef broth. Just add your favorite vegetables to the unsalted broth and serve it up for a healthy, warm and colorful meal for everyone.

I think what I have learned about cooking with fruits and vegetables is to use them everyday to make sure they get eaten, instead of thrown away.


Alaska Photos Don’t Look Good From The Car….Pull Over Please

(Answer to question: All of the Above)

Anyone who travels on the road system in this country’s largest state gets accustomed throughout the year to small delays involving wildlife on the road. It’s what happens when people, with their cars live with moose, caribou, and the many other animals of Alaska. However, during the warmer months, when the tourists and newcomers start to arrive, traffic tends to slow down even more. That is when the animals have come out from their winter hiding places and the cameras have come out to record the animals. Many times this involves pictures being taken by people on the highway.

The easiest pictures to get are the eagles and the moose. Believe me, newcomers and visitors to Alaska, these two wonderfully photogenic creatures are everywhere. Trust me. This is just a guess. But, I bet there are more moose born each year in Alaska than humans. You will see a moose that you can photograph. You don’t have to get out of your car in the middle of the intersection at 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon in the middle of summer to take a photo of the moose that just crossed the road in front of your car. There will be another moose. Don’t worry. As for eagles, they love their fish. Just go to the beach and sit with the seagulls. An eagle will usually fly by during the day. Just keep your camera equipment covered up. Seagulls are messy creatures. Disney or another producer of animated films could make a fortune with an animated film about talking seagulls with digestive problems who want to get back at humans.

Here is another FYI for any newcomers. Black bear tend to eat berries. Brown bear tend to like fish. If you want brown bear photos, go to the river when the salmon are running in the summer. If you want black bear photos check out the state and national park sites for berry picking seasons. Just don’t go berry picking in the parks without a little bear protection that you know how to safely use. The same advice works for the rivers and lakes, too.

The state has spent millions of dollars constructing free scenic turnouts for the amatuer photographer and professional photographer. It would be nice if photographers would use them periodically, instead of slowing down on the highway to take photographs. That simply causes road rage for the drivers only wanting to drive. If you’re new to Alaska, here’s a suggestion. Get a Milepost booklet, and plan scenery trips during the summer and winter at your convenience. A person can learn more about Milepost at any City Chamber website or Visitor Center.

These are just a few quick tips to make any sightseeing and photography excursions, safe, fun, relaxing, enjoyable for everyone, and, most of all, free from any controversy. Have a good one and a safe one.

Alaska: A Way to Escape from the Lower 48

Alaska is the lone conservative state in the United States that is on the west coast. Its neighbors to the south, Washington, Oregon, and California, have become states that support government programs, assistance and regulations. This transformation in recent decades has created an increase in Alaska’s population. People wanting to migrate away from various issues in the Lower 48, have chosen Alaska as their new home.

So, what have been some of these issues? One person told me he moved his family to Alaska, because the land he wanted to buy in his home state in the Rocky Mountains had become too expensive. So, he built his family’s log cabin a little further north than planned. He avoided the taxes, building codes, zoning ordinances, etc…. of the lower 48. He built a log cabin made from his own lumber; and, it still stands today.

Another person told me his family took a job in “The Last Frontier” because of the fishing and hunting. Regulations created in his area made it difficult to enjoy these hobbies. His family hunts for moose in the fall and fishes the rivers and lakes during the salmon runs in the summer. His family enjoys salmon throughout the year, along with frozen moose meat that has virtually no fat on it. Although the regulations can be confusing in the state, with some patience the fishing and hunting can be successful.

Another person I met up here was from the Michigan area. His family was already adjusted to cold weather and snow. However, he took a job in Alaska that would get his family closer to the ocean. After a few years of living here, they began a commercial fishing operation with their family. Commercial salmon fishing on the west coast has nearly disappeared due to salmon farms.

The list gets longer and longer for all of the people who migrated from the Lower 48 to the Last Frontier to continue enjoying some of the activities they had performed in the past. A past that saw less regulations, laws and restrictions on human inter-action with wildlife.

In the lower 48, the wildlife…..more and more….are being micro-managed in parks. In Alaska, everyone shares the land with the wildlife, just like we did decades ago across the entire country.

That’s what keeps many here in the Last Frontier. People can walk outside their home, and look up in the sky as an eagle flies. Near the coast, those fortunate enough to be near the sea, get to hear migrating whales as they make another journey to the north. Then, there is the annual migration of birds of all kinds. They live here every summer and leave just before the fall.

For many visitors, Alaska seems to be the state that’s frozen in time. The Wi-Fi sometimes can be slow. There aren’t as many roads. And moose, bear and caribou get to cross the road first.

One Item Usually Found Only in Alaska

Each of the fifty states in the USA has its own identity that sets it apart from the other forty-nine. Alaska, the Last Frontier, is no different. For everyone who has lived in this state, nothing comes as a surprise. We have seen many odd things happen in the nation’s largest state. But, what is really fun to see is the newcomer being introduced to Alaska like the rest of us were many years ago, especially to the world of tires.

Studded tires to some Alaska drivers are a necessity. To those who don’t drive and get tired of seeing so many tires around this state, studded tires are a nuisance. They are only used in the winter months.

In the lower 48, people use chains on their tires, or they use snow tires, or all-season tires. What do a lot of Alaskans get for the winter monthes? They are called studded tires. Yes, tires with metal studs to better grip the hard ice on the road to improve traction. These are not cheap tires. You have to pay for those pieces of metal in those tires, and you get ticketed for keeping them on into the summer months. That’s because, just like chains, the studs damage the pavement.

So, what do drivers do at the end of winter? When studs first came out, motorists were expected to have eight tires. Four studded tires would be for the winter. The other four tires would be for the summer. But, almost all Alaskans are penny pinchers. “What…buy new tires without studs? Nope.” Alaskans started taking the studs out for the summer months. Then, when winter would come, it would be time to buy four more studded tires. You can’t put studs back in the old tires.

Years have now passed. So, all of the people in Alaska now have old tires in their backyards being used for planters in gardens, as tree swings, and stairs. Others are still trying to come up with more things to do with all of their old tires. Then, there are those who will sell almost anything for any price, including that very popular price of “$1….just come pick it up.”

So, what do people do who buy these worn out studded tires? These are the drivers with the 20-year-old cars, that have 200,000 miles on them, and worn out tires that were bought for $1 apiece. These cars can usually be found abandoned on the side of the highway in the winter after having a couple of flat tires. Welcome to wintertime in Alaska!

Healthy Snacks To Try Between Meals

Whether I am on the go, or working around the home, I am always taking a quick break to fill up with some food for a little energy. One snack that I really enjoy has always been raisins. They hit the spot when mixed in with some nuts for a quick energy boost. Other types of nuts to try for the health benefits include: unsalted peanuts, brazil nuts, walnuts and pecans. Watch the numbers, though. Some are high in calories.

Another healthy snack is any homemade trail mix that omits the sweet milk chocolate. Instead, go with dark baking chocolate that is not sweetened if a chocolate fix is needed in the mix. It isn’t as damaging. Other items to try in the mix include nuts for protein, cranberries, raisins and sunflower seeds.

Another quick energy boost is two pieces of whole wheat bread with a little bit of honey and nuts in the middle. Don’t use white bread. Make sure it is whole wheat. If you want this to be a warm snack, stick it in the microwave for a few seconds.

Fruit has always been a great snack for me. I try to get at least 4 servings a day, if not more. I usually start with breakfast. Apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, and pears all are great snacks in my book. Blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries are also good snacks. For the berries, sometimes it is best to go frozen. Make certain there has been no sugar added to the frozen fruit to help with taste. I always grab honeycrisp apples when they go on sale. Bananas usually have to be eaten pretty quick in my neck of the woods. Our selection of oranges also is not very good, either. But, it is still a good snack when you can get it.

Enjoy the rest of your week. Take a few breaks when you can. And, energize your body with some water and food from time to time. Have a good one.

It Isn’t About Dieting. It’s about Eating Healthy.

With this new year comes the usual talk about diets. It’s time to diet because it is January. Well, if you want to live the rest of your life on a diet, I guess you should listen to the people selling those fad diets, low-calorie meals, and promises.

But, the truth is anyone will lose weight after they eliminate processed food, sugar, salt, fast-food, restaurant food, sugary drinks, and grocery store desserts and candy from their diet. All this food does to the body is destroy it. Think of it this way. What does your cat eat. Does his system handle the catfood pretty well? After you eat all of the food I listed above, what might happen to your system? I think the cat has a better diet.

Go back in time…..when many people were skinny. It was because they walked more. They had to walk to the bus, the train, their wagon, to get to work. How often are people sitting down in a chair or couch in a western movie or a photo from the 1800’s. What did these people eat? It wasn’t fast-food that’s for sure. What did they drink? I would guess tea, coffee, alcohol, or water.

When I started losing weight, I first eliminated what I knew caused my weight gain. I got rid of doughnuts in the morning. Then, I got rid of my cappuccino, and went back to straight coffee. When I had to eat away from home, I chose salads. I stopped my attraction to soda pop. I started drinking more water and tea. Then, my sugar fix became fruit instead of candy and sweets.

No, it wasn’t that easy. It took several years. It took a commitment and a determination that I would return to my college-time weight. With exercise everyday, a completely different menu for the food I eat daily, and by finding ways to stay busy, the weight has stayed off, so far.

For those who struggle with this issue…here’s two words: Stay positive!

January is Definately Winter Time

Now that the holidays have passed, its time for those cold winter months of January and February. It’s time to avoid those bitter cold days of winter by staying warm by the fireplace or stove inside. This is always my reading time.

However, sitting for too long is bad for your bones. So, the physical therapists and others say to get up for a few minutes before an hour passes. Here are some tips to help achieve that exercise time.

It’s Saturday morning. You have dishes to do. The dishwasher is running with yesterday’s dishes. So, you still have some more to do. But, you don’t want to use all of the hot water. Guess what you can do. Make hot water by heating it up in a pan. Then, pour the warm to hot water in your sink. Put some of the dirty dishes in the water to soak with some dishwashing soap for about an hour. That will make the cleaning easier.

While you are up, check the laundry. Do any clothes need put away or put in the dryer. Check the hamper. If the washer is empty, do some laundry that can be washed in cold water.

Do you have pets? Check their food and water. Just like humans, animals need quite a bit of water, too.

These are just a few of the many things that could be part of a “TO DO” list that a person can make to keep those bones active from time to time. It does help.

Other ideas that help with staying active include:

1) Don’t use the living room area as the dining room area.

2) Put all magazines and books in shelves that are away from the seats.

3) Take all dishes and glasses back to the kitchen sink area.

4) Put dirty clothes hampers or bags in every bedroom, and use them.

5) Put a broom in every room; and, teach everyone how to sweep.

6) Pick up your trash.

7) In this age of home deliveries, get a container for cardboard. Break the cardboard down everyday.

8) If you have kids, work with them on “Pick Up, Clean Up.” There are plenty of resources like PBSKids, Sesame Street, etc…. to help them learn.

9) Shoe racks and shoe warmers are great for the cold states. If you get snow in the winter time, you will want them.

These are just a few ideas to help someone stay active during the cold months, and still get in some exercise.