Sunlight’s Health Benefits

I think we all realize that too much exposure to the sun can damage our skin which could lead to skin cancer although a moderate amount of sunlight has health benefits. Here are some of those benefits.

  • 30 minutes of sun while wearing a bathing suit causes our skin to produce a significant amount of vitamin D, which is important for healthy bones and a healthy immune system. If you’re not into sunbathing, 15 minutes of sun on your hands, arms and face two or three days per week provides some vitamin D benefits.
  • Sunlight also gives a boost to our levels of serotonin, a mood- and energy- enhancing hormone produced in our brain.
  • Exposure to sunlight supports your body’s production of nitric oxide, a substance that helps lower blood pressure as well as chronic inflammation, which may have a role in the development of heart disease and certain forms of cancer.
  • Remember, ‘moderation’ is the word when it comes to sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are at their peak. If you are out in the sun for 15 minutes or longer, wear a sunscreen with a (SPF) sun protection factor, of at least 15.

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Minor Burn Treatment At Home

I’d be willing to bet that there aren’t many people out there who haven’t had a minor burn of some kind and treated it themselves or had a loved one treat it. For a minor (second degree) burn to heal by itself, all you generally have to do is the following:

  • Cool the burned area as soon as possible. Run cold tap water over the burned area for 10 to 20 minutes. If the burned area is on the face or body, gently apply cool compresses on the area.
  • Don’t do as my mother always suggested. Do not apply butter, ice or ice water to the burn as these items can cause further tissue damage.
  • If there is a chance of swelling, remove jewelry or clothing from the affected area. It’s a good idea to remove these items even if swelling isn’t a possibility.
  • Wash your hands before treating the affected area and do not touch the burned skin directly to avoid infecting the burned area.
  • If needed, clean the area by gently washing the area with cool water and patting dry. Do not rub.
  • If blisters form, DO NOT break them open.
  • If a blister does not break open, no bandage is needed. If a blister does break open, place a loose bandage over the area and change the dressing if it becomes soiled.
  • Heaven forbid that a bandage becomes stuck to the burned area. If it does, soak the bandage in lukewarm water to help loosen it.
  • See your doctor if you have any concerns or questions about the severity of the burn or if it becomes infected.

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Basic Vehicle Emergency Kit

According to AAA, 4 out of 10 American drivers would be unprepared if a breakdown should occur. They also state that two-thirds of drivers have never had their battery tested, 1 in 5 do not know how to change a tire and 4 in 10 do not carry an emergency kit. With the heat we’re having this summer and families getting ready to take their annual summer vacation, here are a few things to consider.

Remember that more batteries fail due to extreme heat than to cold. If you haven’t had your battery tested lately or if it has some age to it, now is the time to have your battery checked by a professional. Tires are the same. If you haven’t noticed, you see more pieces of tire rubber laying alongside, if not on, the road during the summer than the winter. I’ve never seen anyone throw pieces of tire out their car window like they do cigarette butts or garbage. Have your tires checked. To avoid the engine overheating, have the engine coolant checked when you have the battery tested and tires checked.

If you do not have a basic emergency kit in your vehicle, here is what it should include as a minimum:

Mobile phone and charger
Warning devices such as flares/reflective triangles
First-aid kit
Jumper cables
Raincoat/poncho
Tarp/trash bag
Gloves
Basic toolkit
Pencil and paper
Duct tape and plastic wire/cable ties
Rags/towels/pre-moistened wipes
Windshield washer solution
Nonperishable food/treats
Drinking water
Toilet paper/napkins

I’m sure there are other items as well. If you can think of other needed items, add them to your kit. For your piece of mind and safety if a breakdown/emergency should occur, having the basics on hand is a necessity.

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Home Water Storage

I’m in the process of revamping my water storage system for our garden. In the past, I’ve relied on the well or have had to take a pump down to the river and pump the water directly to the garden whenever I watered. This year I’ve put in a 300 gallon storage tank that holds enough water for quite a few waterings. I use river water as the well water contains sediment that makes the soil look and act like concrete. But, garden water storage is not what this post is about, although it has gotten me to thinking about ‘household use’ water that is available in case of some type of emergency.

Three places around the house that already store potable water are the water heater, water pipes and ice-cube trays. Depending on what you have, water that isn’t safe to drink but can be used for other purposes include the toilet tank, water-bed and swimming pool.

FEMA recommends storing 1 gallon of water per person per day for two weeks. To save you doing the math, that’s 14 gallons for each person in your family or possibly others that will ‘crash your party’ in an emergency. Here are 8 water storage options for your home that will add to the previously listed storage sites.

  • Store-bought gallons of water
  • Single serve water bottles
  • Reused two-liter PETE bottles
  • Plastic, cube-shaped 3-1/2 gallon Waterbricks
  • Five-gallon hard plastic jugs
  • Bathtub water bladder
  • Plastic 30 to 55 gallon-drums
  • 160 to 320 gallon water storage tanks

I’m sure I’ve missed other storage options, but hopefully I’ve gotten you to thinking about this necessary emergency need.

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Sunscreen Reminders

After spending 3 hours out in the hot sun mowing the lawn, I decided that I need a reminder on the proper use of sunscreen. Then I thought, “What the heck, maybe others need the same reminder.” Here are 7 thoughts on sunscreen.

  • Apply sunscreen regularly – Recommendations are that you apply sunscreen 30 minutes before being exposed to the sun. Reapply every two hours, every hour and a half if you are swimming or sweating.
  • Be generous – Use at least 1 ounce (a palm or shot glass full) to cover your arms, legs, neck and face.
  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen – Look for the words “Broad Spectrum” on the label. A broad spectrum sunscreen will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrates deep into skin and causes wrinkles and aging. UVB rays plays a big role in skin cancer development.
  • Use a minimum of SPF 30 – SPF 30 will block out 97% of UV rays.
  • Use a water-resistant sunscreen – if you are swimming, playing sports or working hard.
  • Remember – to apply to your ears, hands, feet and underarms.
  • Look at the expiration date – As sunscreen expires, make sure it has not expired before you use it.

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Cold-Smoking

Both hot and cold smoking traditionally has been limited to proteins. Recently, innovative chefs, bartenders and regular Joes have been experimenting with smoking techniques in various ways. A bartender in Portland  hot-smokes ice, then re-freezes it to use in his cocktails. A chef cold-smokes yogurt to use with a salad to give it a smoky taste. The possibilities are endless. Here are some random, rambling thoughts on cold-smoking, with some hot-smoking thoughts thrown in.

  • Cold-smoking ingredients impact a smoky flavor to food that doesn’t need to be cooked (e.g. butter, cheeses, salt, nuts) or that you plan on cooking later.
  • Hot-smoking ingredients imparts a smoky flavor to foods while cooking them (e.g. meats,fish).
  • The four things you need for cold-smoking include: A way of producing smoke; A method of cooling the smoke before it gets to the smoke chamber; A smoke chamber to hold the food/ingredient being smoked; Methods to regulate the amount of heat and smoke.
  • The internal temperature of the smoke chamber for cold-smoking should be below 85 degrees.
  • For hot-smoking, the internal temperature of the smoke chamber should be between 120 to 180 degrees depending on what’s being smoked.
  • If the internal temperature of the smoke chamber is greater than 180 degrees, you are cooking rather than smoking.
  • The conditions for cold-smoking are also ideal for bacterial growth. Therefore, cold-smoking is usually done in the colder months or in colder regions of the world.
  • Since cold-smoking does not fully preserve the food being smoked, the finished product should be kept in the refrigerator until it is used.
  • In addition to cold and hot smoking, meats can also be cured through brining, salting, wind drying or combinations of these methods.
  • Since cold-smoking doesn’t cure meats, salting or brining before cold-smoking is suggested.
  • Various types of equipment is available for purchase, or you can make your own. Being fancy is NOT necessary!

Here are a couple of pictures of my cold-smoker.

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Expiration Dates

Ever wonder what the grocery stocker was doing taking cans or boxes of food off the shelf, replacing them with like food out of a cardboard shipping carton and then putting the original cans/boxes back on the shelf? Have you ever wondered how the grocery store can sell bins of some items at such low prices? Have you cleaned out the pantry, looked at the dates on the items and wondered if the contents were safe to eat? Check the Best By or Sell By dates on grocery items and you may get an answer to these questions.

These ‘Expiration Dates’ are not magical dates that the food suddenly goes bad. These ‘buy by’ or ‘sell by’ dates are simply guideline dates for peak freshness of the food items. Canned/boxed food has been shown to stay good far past these expiration dates. But remember, most food will eventually  go bad. Here are some things that will tell you it may not be safe to consume food items.

  • If the can or lid is bulging, the contents are probably not safe to eat.
  • If you open the can and excess pressure is released, do not consume the contents.
  • If the seal is broken, the contents may have been compromised. Do not use.
  • If the can shows any sign of corrosion, discard the can and contents.
  • If the contents are leaking from the can or its seal, do not use remaining contents.
  • If the contents looks bad, cloudy, moldy or if you have any reservations about the contents, discard it.
  • If you open the can and the smell is ‘off’ or could gag a maggot, do not use the contents.
  • If you find any insects, insect parts or excrement, webbing, larva, etc. in dry foods, discard it.

If you hate to see the food go to waste, consider adding it to your compost pile or feed it to livestock if you feel it’s safe for that.

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