Day: January 7, 2020

Winter Driving Tips for Ex-Californians: Plan Ahead With Checklist and Watch Road Conditions

The slippery roads and icy conditions that begin to appear in November require a different mind-set. No longer can one hop in the car with shorts and flip-flops and take a trip on a whim.

Winter Driving Checklist

Here’s a simple list of what former Californians need to do stay safe in winter:

  1. Plan ahead. Consider delaying the trip until the weather improves. Use the Internet or television to check travel conditions before leaving. Don’t venture into areas that are unfamiliar, particularly roads in open fields where horizontally driven snowfall can cut visibility to zero.
  2. Carry such items as an ice scaper, snow brush, extra window-wash solution (the kind that won’t freeze in minus-40-degrees-Celcius weather), sand to add traction, a shovel, first-aid kit, blanket, dry clothes, matches, fire extinguisher and non-perishable snack foods.
  3. Keep your gas tank full at least half full. One doesn’t want to run out of fuel if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
  4. Every November, switch to snow tires. Make sure to change all four tires to those with extra traction for winter conditions, such as icy roads. Never “mix and match” winter tires with those used during warmer seasons.
  5. Switch off the California mentality of “get in and go.” Drivers should slow down and leave a two-second interval between them and the car in front of them. Watch out for bridges, where black ice is more likely to form and the chance of losing control of your car increases.
  6. Check the tires’ air pressure at least once a month. Air pressure decreases as the mercury drops.
  7. When driving, listen to the radio for weather updates. Drivers need to leave themselves extra driving time to get to their destinations.
  8. If a driver is taking a longer trip, he should let a friend or family member know where he’s going and his estimated time of arrival.
  9. Keep an eye out for vehicles with flashing lights that remove ice and snow from roads. Never pass around or in between such vehicles.
  10. Drivers need to have a mechanic check out their cars or trucks before winter sets in. Get the needed repairs done in advance.

Cell Phones and Road Conditions

Another essential thing to have in winter is a working cell phone to call for help during emergencies. A word of caution, however: Many states and Canadian provinces ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.

The main thing is don’t be impulsive. Be prepared and get into the groove of winter driving. And former California drivers should look at the positive side: They likely don’t have to worry about earthquakes knocking down freeway overpasses.

Holiday Hobby Ideas: Holiday Projects That Will Keep Little Hands Busy

It’s the time of year where spirits soar, there’s planning to be done, and little ones have so much energy that it’s hard to keep them preoccupied while other preparations are underway. Not only that, but budget concerns can definitely put a crimp in what activities are available. Here’s a few ideas on how to curb the cost and keep kids occupied for hours with a fun project that they can be proud of.

Build a Backyard Feeder for Wildlife

Wintertime can be a scarce time for mother nature’s children as well. A simple woodworking project can provide a bird or squirrel feeding platform to get them through the tough days while providing a fun activity for children of all ages. With proper supervision older children can use a hobby saw to cut out the necessary pieces, while children of any age can assemble and then paint the finished pieces.

Prefab birdhouses and feeders are also available at most hobby stores for parents wanting to bypass having to cut out patterns for the kids. There are precut wooden shapes available that are perfect for painting. Precut ornament shapes can also be found for fun painting and decorating projects. After completion hang them on the tree or over windows.

Another fun project is building toad houses. These creative little amphibian homes can be made out of just about anything and requires only glue and paint to complete. Use left over odds and ends like buttons or sea shells to add a special decorative touch and it’s ready for use. Save money on any of these projects by salvaging wood from old projects to create new ones.

Mining for Gems

Yes, it’s true, gem mining can be accomplished at the kitchen table with just a bucket of gem gravel, a bowl of water, and a small strainer. This is a treasure hunt that will have them sifting eagerly in search of hidden gems that can be used for jewelry projects. Gem dirt is available for purchase at many gem & mineral mines, and some will even offer to ship it straight to the customer. Choose from “rainbow” buckets that contain a variety of gemstones or keep it natural for a more authentic experience.


Have a lot of old seashells lying around in drawers or boxes? Round them up and put them to use in a seashell project. Build a wind chime or use them to decorate other items. Spruce up an old jewelry box or plain wooden box by gluing the shells to it in creative designs. Drill holes in them and use colorful ribbon to create unique holiday ornaments to hang on the tree.

Inspire Children to Help Others

During tough economic times, other families are feeling the punch as well. Why not design a hobby that helps others? Ask the kids to help create a “Make Someone’s Day” gift basket by having each child select a DVD, book, or toy that is still in good condition. Make plans to donate it to a local charity or give it to someone else who might also enjoy it. It’s the little things in life that can make the bright spot in someone’s day.