Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Clarifying expectations sometimes takes a great deal of courage. It seems easier to act as though differences don’t exist and to hope things will work out than it is to face the differences and work together to arrive at a mutually agreeable set of expectations."         
  ~ Stephen R. Covey

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tolo Lake Mammoth at Grangeville, Idaho

Photo credit: Idaho Tourism
Used by permission.
On our trip north, we're hoping to see the Tolo Lake Mammoth Replica at Grangeville, Idaho. We'll have a couple of grands (ages 4 and 11) with us so they should be interested and impressed. Also, it will be a nice place to stop and stretch after being cooped up in the car.

Now, this is a replica, not a real skeleton. But I doubt the kids will know the difference, right? And there have been mammoth bones found close by at Tolo Lake so that makes it sort of authentic. Hopefully we'll get a nice photo that I can add when I get back.

Update: Well, we didn't manage to get any photos of our own but the Idaho Tourism site was kind enough to let me use theirs. Thanks Idaho Tourism!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cheap and Easy Powdered Cleanser

I wrote recently about my new favorite safe, simple, effective and cheap homemade spray-on cleaner and decided to share my new favorite powdered cleanser, too. And guess what? The powdered cleanser is even easier than the spray-on beings there's nothing to mix. Before I say what exactly it is, let me share before and after photos of my Swanstone sink. The staining in the first picture is from pitting 10 gallons of pie cherries.

Sink before cleaning.

Sink after cleaning.

So what is this safe, simple, effective, cheap and easy powdered cleanser? Baking soda. Yep. Plain old baking soda. I just sprinkled it on and scrubbed a little with one of those scratchy sponges (wet, of course) and the stains disappeared.

We also use our chest freezer as extra counter space and I've been really pleased with how well plain old baking soda cleans that surface. And if I don't get it all rinsed off, so what? It certainly won't hurt us to have a little stray baking soda where we're making sandwiches. Might taste funny but won't hurt us.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Seeing Hells Canyon from Both Sides

We're taking a little family trip to Idaho next week with the daughter and a couple of grands. On the way there, we plan to look down into Hells Canyon from both the Oregon and Idaho sides. For those who don't know, Hells Canyon is home to the Snake River and separates northeastern Oregon from the middle of the western edge of Idaho. And while it may not be as well-known as the Grand Canyon, according to the Forest Service, Hells Canyon is actually the deepest river gorge in North America. (NOTE: Hubby says that Kings Canyon is deeper and he's usually always right about this kind of thing, so maybe Hells Canyon is really second.)

So where exactly are we going to view this wonder from?

Hells Canyon Overlook - Just a couple of miles off the paved Hells Canyon Scenic Byway about 30 miles from Halfway, Oregon, the Hells Canyon Overlook provides a nice view from 5,400 feet. Apparently you can't see the Snake River from here but look instead into one of the side canyons. Good enough!

Heavens Gate Lookout - Located 17 miles up a steep, single-lane gravel road just south of Riggins, Idaho, the Heavens Gate Lookout provides a stunning view of Hells Canyon from 8,100 feet. And if that's not reason enough to make the drive, you can also see four states - Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana. Of course, I don't know how you'd know where one state ends and another begins...

We'll be doing some serious gravel road driving to see these sites but how is that different from the miles and miles of dirt I travel every time I leave home? It's not. In fact, I'll probably prefer it to the highway and will definitely prefer it to the freeway. And once we're home with pictures, I'll add a few to this post.

Monday, July 16, 2012

ExploreNorth - a Great Start for Our Alaska Trip Research

I was doing a little preliminary research for our 2014 drive-the-Alcan-to-Alaska trip and found a great website and blog that may tell me just about everything I need to know. Of course, I won't stop there - being an information junkie, I'll keep finding more and more info and photos. But ExploreNorth is a good start.

An interesting tidbit I found when researching the Sign Post Forest (more on that in another post) is that Watson Lake is the third largest town in the Yukon. And as of June 2009, that meant a total population of 1,561. That's right - less than 1,600 people and it's the third largest town in the whole territory, which covers a whopping 186,272 square miles. In fact, the 2011 population of the Yukon is less than 34,000 people (see Britannica.com). That means there's close to 5.5 square miles per person! Of course, a lot of the Yukon is harsh and remote, but still...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

We’re Driving the Alcan in 2014!

We're finally going to do it! We may be about a decade late but better late than never, right? So what are we going to do? Drive the Alcan, of course! From the start in Dawson Creek, BC, to both the ends - first at Delta Junction, about 1,400 miles from Dawson Creek, and then at Fairbanks, almost another 100 miles up the road.

So how can the Alcan have two ends?

Well, because there are two monuments claiming to be the end of the Alcan. Delta Junction started out as just plain Delta back in the early 1900s, a camp for workers on the Richardson Highway, which runs through Fairbanks. The Alcan went to Delta Junction but Alaska assigned the same highway number to the section of the Richardson Highway that runs from Delta Junction to Fairbanks. Therefore, Fairbanks also claims to be the end. Whatever. We'll see them both!

And why 2014?

A couple of reasons. First, we want to go while we're still young and sprightly. We'll both be in our early-mid 50s in 2014 and don't want to wait until either of us are pushing 60. We plan to camp much of the trip and I can already tell that my hips are increasingly less inclined to rough it as time goes by (you know, sleeping on an air mattress or camping mat). So sooner will be more comfortable than waiting. The second reason is money. While we'll doubtless use our credit card to pay most expenses while on the trip, we will also pay the balance in full when the bill comes due.

Let the fun begin!

So we'll be researching, planning and saving up for the trip over the next two years. And I'll be sharing here as our plans unfold. One of the first things we need to figure out is how we'll actually get to Dawson Creek. We'll drive, of course, but there are a couple of main routes we could take and other less traveled roads that will still get us there. So I guess I'd better get out the maps and start dreaming.

Now, if anyone out there has driven the Alcan, or if you plan to, or even if you just know someone who has, I'd love to hear all about it so leave a comment, ok?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

How Couples May Maximize Social Security Benefits

If you're married and approaching the age at which you can draw social security benefits, do you know about 'file and suspend' or a 'restricted' application? If not, you need to look into whether these might be appropriate options for you or your spouse.

SmartMoney has an article that clearly explains how couples can boost their social security checks. Before you apply for social security, be sure to calculate whether you or your spouse can maximize benefits by drawing off the other's record for a few years.