Chick Magnet or Tick Magnet?

Pickle Queen would not agree with me ever having been a  “Chick Magnet” but would totally agree with me being a “Tick Magnet”. So far this season I’ve only attracted one tick, but there will be many more as the season progresses with the weather warming up. People need to take the necessary precautions to prevent tick bites which can carry diseases such as lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial disease transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected deer tick. Symptoms include a flu-like illness, headache and muscle pain. A bull’s-eye shaped rash is often also seen at the site of the bite as well. If detected at an early stage, lyme disease can be successfully treated with appropriate antibiotic therapy.

Here are some tips on how to reduce your chances of being bitten by a deer tick.

  • Tuck your pant cuffs into your boots or socks and tuck your shirt into your pants.
  • Apply insect repellent.
  • Shower/bathe immediately after returning from the outdoors to remove unattached ticks.
  • Remove ticks promptly by grasping with tweezers, as close to the skin as possible, and pulling it straight out without twisting or jerking it.
  • Inspect yourself and your pets for ticks every day.
  • Keep grass and weeds mowed short.
  • Walk in the center of trails and paths to avoid brushing up against ticks whenever possible.
  • Reduce mouse populations by habitat reduction and exclusion from and to buildings.

Keep your fork

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The 5 Second Rule

While picking a broken piece of cookie off the carpet while watching TV the other night, (of course I was going to eat it) I heard and seen the Pickle Queen spill the container of chocolate covered almonds on the kitchen floor. I couldn’t help but notice her gather up the wayward almonds and put the ones that survived her eating them back into the container.

I grew up with the 5 second rule, but realize there are other time limit variations (3 second, 10 second, etc.) out there. What ever rule you follow, the general premise is that bacteria won’t contaminate the food in that short period of time. If the right ‘food’ was dropped while I was growing up,  I had to be fast in order to beat my brother and sisters from getting to it first.  So, I didn’t think twice about the cookie or almonds.

One of the most harmful bacteria present in our homes is Salmonella typhimurium which is found in the digestive tract and scat (feces) of animals and can end up in our food. There are other strains that are also dangerous, but Salmonella is the most common one we hear about.

By eating raw or undercooked food, the Salmonella bacteria, when present in large enough numbers in the food, may cause sickness. True, the acid in our stomachs may kill many bacteria, but the ones that survive will move to and survive in the small intestine, causing inflammation leading to cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

You may not ingest raw/undercooked food directly, but remember, the Salmonella bacteria can live up to 4 weeks on a dry surface in our homes. Other bacterial strains have similar survival rates. We may get ‘sick to our small intestine” sometime later after the bacteria was introduced into our living space.

Tests using the 5 second rule showed that a piece of bologna dropped onto tile, carpet and wood that were contaminated with the Salmonella typhimurium bacteria gave the following results:

Tile – nearly 99% of the bacteria transferred
Carpet – 0-5% of the bacteria transferred
Wood – 5-68% of the bacteria transferred

A second study shows that wet food, such as pastrami, picked up much more of the bacteria as compared to a dry food, like a saltine cracker. Similar results were obtained using both the 2 and 6 second rule. This shows that it’s not the amount of exposure time but how wet the food was.

Another test dropped apple slices and Skittles on an  ‘everyday environment’ to see how long it took for them to become contaminated. Results showed that regardless of time exposed, (5, 10 or 30 seconds) no Salmonella were transferred. Yet another test using many strains of bacteria, has shown contamination after only 2 seconds of contact.

I guess what time length you use isn’t that important. Which bacteria is present, the wetness of the food dropped and the type of surface on which the food was dropped are the important factors.

I feel safer having eaten that cookie piece than I do when I consume those wayward almonds that were put back into the canister.

Keep your fork

Water Damaged Vehicles

I’ve seen many ‘portable parking lots’ full of used vehicles heading north lately. I’ve also been by an auto auction lot that contained row after row of vehicles that are to be auctioned off, many of which will end up on used car lots around the country. I’m not saying that all these vehicles have flood damage or have been submerged, but the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) says as many as one million flood-damaged vehicles could potentially be passed on to unsuspecting buyers. Here are some basic tips from the AAA on what to check before buying a used vehicle.

  • Start with a reputable dealer (seller). A dealership that has been in your community for many years might be less likely to risk its reputation by selling damaged vehicles.
  • Check for telltale signs of flood water damage such as dried mud under the spare tire, behind the wiring harness and under the dashboard.
  • A damaged vehicle may have a damp or musty odor. The vehicles may not have a new car smell but an off odor is often a sign of trouble.
  • New carpeting, headliner, upholstery in an older vehicle may be hiding serious problems. Look under the rug for signs of moisture.
  • Check for water stains on the entire length of the seatbelts, so buckle up.
  • Take the vehicle on an extended test drive, checking all the lights, electronics and sound system. Remember that speakers and water do not mix well.
  • Take the vehicle to your mechanic. It is wise to have a professional look over any used vehicle before purchasing it.
  • When a vehicle has been ‘totaled’ by an insurance company because of flood damage,a salvage title should be issued by the DMV branding the vehicle title with the term “salvage” or “flood”. This sometimes fails to happen for some unseen reason, so it’s important to remember the above basic tips.

Keep your fork

Cooking and Baking Safety

With the holidays approaching and much cooking/baking to be done, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind.

  • Be alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don’t use the stove or stovetop.
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from your stove top.
  • Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or hot drink is prepared or carried.

If You Have A Cooking Fire:

  • Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
  • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

Keep your fork (and keep safe)

After The Fire

This is the time of the year when many house fires happen. Here is a quick reference and guide for you to follow after a fire strikes. Hopefully no one has to use these, but if you do, hopefully it’s helpful.

  • Contact your local disaster relief organization, such as The Red Cross, if you need temporary housing, food and/or medicine.
  • If you are insured, contact your insurance agency for detailed instructions on protecting the property, conducting inventory and contacting the fire damage restoration companies. If you are not insured, try contacting private organizations for aid and assistance.
  • Check with the fire department to make sure your residence is safe to enter.Be watchful of any structural damage caused by the fire.
  • The fire department should see that utilities are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site. DO NOT attempt to reconnect utilities yourself.
  • Conduct an inventory of damaged property and items. Do not throw away any damaged goods until after the inventory is completed.
  • Try to locate valuable documents and records.
  • If you leave your home, contact the local police department to let them know that the site will be unoccupied.
  • Begin saving receipts for any money you spend related to fire loss. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company and for verifying losses claimed on income tax.
  • Notify your mortgage company of the fire.
  • Check with an accountant or the IRS about special benefits for people recovering from fire loss.

Keep your fork

Safety Tips for Woodstoves, Fireplaces and Chimneys

Sitting here beside the woodstove, enjoying the fire on a cold evening, reminds me that a woodstove, fireplace or chimney could be a source of danger if not properly maintained. More than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, woodstoves and other fuel-fired appliances as their primary heat source for their homes. It is estimated that less than 20 percent of American homeowners realize the importance of regular chimney and heating appliance maintenance. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Before starting a fire in any fireplace or woodstove, be sure you have the draft wide open. Proper ventilation is necessary for your fire.
  • Never use your fireplace for burning garbage, Christmas trees, piles of paper or building scraps.
  • Make sure there is a spark shield/arrestor or wire basket installed on top of your chimney. The chimney should be at least 2 feet higher than the roof peak or any tall, nearby objects. If your roof is flat or nearly flat, add another foot to the hight of the chimney.
  • Check your flue regularly for any obstruction such as squirrel or bird nests, debris, etc.
  • Use a thermometer on your woodstove stovepipe to insure proper burning temperature.
  • Don’t pile on the wood and smother the fire as this causes creosote to build up in your stove and chimney. Remember, high flames burning hot will burn cleanly.
  • Woodstoves should be at least 36 inches from unprotected combustible materials.
  • Always use a fireplace screen or glass doors. Never keep your wood burning stove door open unless you have a screen or glass door as a backup.
  • Keep the area around the hearth clear of debris, decorations, and flammable materials.
  • Keep your fireplace and chimney in good condition. Check your chimney for cracks and loose mortar and bricks. If there is a problem, have it fixed before using your fireplace or stove.
  • Never leave a fire in your fireplace unattended. Make sure the fire is extinguished before retiring for the night.
  • Chimneys should be inspected and cleaned yearly by a certified chimney specialist.
  • Gasoline or other flammable liquids should never be used top start a wood fire. An explosion or flare up is a real possibility.
  • Pressure treated wood should never be burned in stoves or fireplaces as it contains toxic chemicals that can make you sick.
  • Artificial logs made of wax and sawdust should never be used in woodstoves and should be used one at a time in fireplaces.
  • Learn about seasoned fire woods and what type of woods are best to burn. Only hardwoods should be used as fuel as softwoods have a high content of creosote and resin. Remember, hardwood trees have leaves and softwood trees have needles.
  • Have a special chimney fire extinguisher handy for every fireplace or stove. Also, keep a standard ABC extinguisher nearby for use if needed.
  • If you are in doubt about fighting a fire, get out and call the fire department.

Keep your fork

Household Hints – Part 2

Here are more household hints to add to those that I started on 15 October.

  • For a crisp crust  on chicken, rub with mayonnaise before baking.
  • Use a cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol to remove water spots from stainless steel.
  • Club soda will shine up stainless steel in a jiffy.
  • Add sliced green pepper to fried potatoes to give them a fine flavor.
  • To freshen left over mashed potatoes, put milk in a skillet, add the potatoes and heat; then whip them well and they will taste like fresh ones.
  • Boiled potatoes will stay white if a teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar is added to the water.
  • To extinguish a grease fire on the stove, quickly sprinkle a lot of baking soda on the flames.
  • To make marshmallow creme, dissolve 10 oz. of marshmallows in 1/2 cup of milk. Makes 1 cup.
  • Use your potato peeler to shave chocolate. It makes long curled shavings, perfect for use in decorating tops of cakes, pies and puddings.
  • When baking drop cookies, try having a cup of very hot water handy to dip the spoon into. The batter will cut off easily and drop from the spoon without sticking.
  • When baking cream puffs, do not remove them from oven as soon as they are done, but let them stand in the closed oven until they are cool. This prevents them from falling.
  • Baking soda removes fish odor from hands and cooking utensils.
  • Thaw fish in milk for a fresh caught flavor.
  • To prevent edges of pies from browning too much, brush them with water before baking.
  • Household cleaner: put 1 pint rubbing alcohol, 2 tablespoons household ammonia and 2 tablespoons of liquid detergent into a gallon of water. A few drops of bluer coloring may be added to let you know that it is not water.
  • Try using honey instead of sugar in your fresh cucumber salads the next time you make them. It gives them a pleasant but different flavor.
  • Use a can of asparagus soup to cream your asparagus.
  • Homemade cake flour: Use 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon of regular flour. Add 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and sift together.
  • To make brown sugar: Blend 1/2 cup white sugar and 2 tablespoons of molasses. This equals 1/2 cup of brown sugar.
  • To double whipped cream: Add 8 marshmallows to 1/2 pint of whipping cream the night before. Refrigerate. Next day, whip until stiff. No sugar or flavoring is needed.
  • To make bananas stay fresh looking in jello, add a teaspoon of vinegar to the jello.
  • Pour pineapple juice over fresh fruits, such as apples and bananas, to keep them from darkening.

Keep your fork