Quick Workouts Around the House

Not everyone has enough time to take advantage of a gym to get a few workouts in during each week. I am one of those people. So, over the years, I have created all kinds of exercise routines to try to stay at the same weight. It isn’t easy, though. I have to remind myself to exercise, just like reminding myself to drink more water.

So, what are some interesting ways to burn calories at home, and try to tone up a little bit of the body. After prepping and stretching out your body properly, put some hot water and dishwashing soap in the sink to wash and dry some dishes by hand, instead of the dishwasher. If it takes a while, grab a chair, and sit down for breaks for a few minutes to rest your back. By the time you’re done, you will have given your arms, shoulders and upper back a good workout. Just don’t overdo it too quickly.

If you have stairs, use them all of the time.  Find all kinds of ways to incorporate them into your weekdays and your weekends.  If you do, your legs and lower body may last longer as long as you don’t go full blast everytime.

Workplaces are telling everyone that they want to move away from sitting at desks too long.  The same is true at home.  I stand quite a bit when I eat in the kitchen.  It seems more comfortable.  I like counter space over table space, when I do any cooking, too.

Other quick tips to keep moving in the house:  play with your animals, keep up with your laundry, put away remotes for awhile, take walks outside, and go visit neighbors.

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Why Cats Hate Alaska

If you plan to move to Alaska for a change, and your family has always enjoyed a good bonding relationship with housecats, that might change up here. If you have ever tried to give one of your felines a bath, then you are aware of a typical cat’s reaction to moisture.

Well, between, ice, snow, rain, and muddy roads and wet grass, a cat in Alaska generally gets wet when it goes outside at anytime of the year. If it goes outside too long in the winter and gets wet, then the cat gets a cold. There’s nothing better in the dead of winter than a cranky cat with a cold that reminds you his nose is running; and, he can’t stop sneezing. Their crankiness also makes them very pushy when they are inside. They want the warmest place they can find, even if its next to you. If your cat could speak English to you at this point……..well………the words probably would include: cold, take me home, why Alaska, cats can’t wear boots and snowgear, and when is summer.

In order for your cat to keep his claws sharp, go to pet store, first thing. Cats can’t sharpen their claws very well on trees that stand in frozen soil. So, they will use anything to sharpen their primary weapon in a cat fight. Inside the house, sheetrock, wall trim, baseboard, furniture, pillows, mattresses, doors, carpet and even clothing gets used by these claw-sharpening animals. Another item for your home for the winter to protect its value is a kennel area for your cat in the daytime and in the evening. Make it a large area with food, water, play area, cat litter, sharpening area, etc… Believe me, if you don’t, the cat will have plenty of time to make his own area that nobody but the cat will like.

Here is another piece of advice. With your cat having to stay inside most of the time, that means cat hair everywhere. Go to the store. Buy about half a dozen dryer balls, several gallons of vinegar, several bags of baking soda, and about two or three dozen rolls of industrial strength sticky tape for all of the cat hair that will be getting all over your clothes, dishes, walls, ceiling, ceiling fan, curtains, windows, furniture, etc…. This will be your major cleaning project for as long as you have cats. My suggestion is to find cats that don’t shed that much hair; and, your workload is reduced significantly.

These are just a few tips to help you. Animals are great companions; but, you have to know, especially in a cold state like Alaska, how a pet can impact a household. Have a good one.

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Alaska’s Turnagain Arm

One of the most traveled areas in the state is the Seward Highway and Chugach National Forest, located south of Anchorage in the Cook Inlet Region. It is where people in Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula go to explore the great outdoors.

There are areas to watch beluga whales return to the region. Many people stop at the campgrounds to enjoy scenery for a few weeks and try the trails. Others spend time at the streams and local lakes during fishing season.

The Cook Inlet begins at the Gulf of Alaska with the Kenai Peninsula to the east and a line of active volcanoes to the west. Just south of Anchorage is the Turnagain Arm as it turns away from the Cook Inlet. The Arm then goes south into the Portage area. On each side, throughout this journey, are mountains near the water. Another unique feature to Turnagain Arm is the fine silt on the banks. People are warned to stay away from it at low tide, because people have become stuck while the tide was low. Rescue crews have had to pull the more adventurous people out of the sand and silt before the incoming tide returned. If a person remains stuck, there is the risk of drowning if someone has gone to far out in the water. The second threat is hypothermia, due to the temperature of the rapidly approaching water from the ocean. Anyone who goes into the Cook Inlet water has to wear rubber suits to withstand the quick chill that is experienced by anyone brave enough to go in for a quick dip.

Turnagain Arm is one of the few locations in the world where visitors can experience a bore tide. This happens when rushing water of high tide overtakes the land left over from low tide. After each low tide near the Portage area there is no water left, only silt and sand. It is waiting to be covered up by the incoming high tide again. When the moon is further away from the earth, our satellite’s pull on the ocean water is not as strong. So. that means high and low tides are not as extreme. When a bore tide occurs during these periods, the waves of the bore tide are small. The larger bore tides occur when the moon is closer to the earth. That is when the gravitational pull of the moon is at its peak, causing larger waves in the Turnagain Arm bore tides. Experts who study tides, say the best viewing times would be during the Spring and Fall Equinox. Don’t be surprised to see surfers in wet suits catching the big tidal wave as it rolls through the Turnagain Arm.

Seward, Alaska is a major port for cruise ships. It’s at the start of the Seward Highway that travels to Anchorage. The highway is considered to be one of the most scenic roads in the country. Alongside the road while it winds through the Turnagain Arm is the Alaska Railroad. It transports visitors from Seward to Anchorage to Denali and Fairbanks.

Other areas of the Turnagain Arm to check out while traveling to Anchorage or to the Kenai Peninsula include: goldmining sites, glaciers, and Alyeska Ski Resort.

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.



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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.

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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.