Mary Jo DiLonardo
It’s time to celebrate the season. But how smart are you when it comes to saving your home — and your guests — from holiday hazards?
Quiz: Are you safe in your backyard?
Lightning is frightening; protect yourself and your home
Where there’s smoke, there should be smoke alarms
How to prepare for severe winter weather
Guide to Power Strips and Surge Protectors
Ask UL: Cooking Safety
Ask the Expert: LED and CFL Light Bulbs
Which of these plants is dangerous to your pet?
Despite common belief, poinsettias aren’t particularly dangerous to our four-legged friends. But mistletoe is. Eating the leaves or berries can make your dog or cat feel sicker than an over-indulger the morning after New Year’s Eve. Wrap mistletoe in a piece of netting before hanging it to keep pieces from hitting the ground — and making their way into your pet’s stomach.
What should you do about a strand of lights with frayed wires?
Unless you happen to be extremely knowledgeable about repairing wires, it’s best to replace damaged ones. Before you hang your lights, check for frayed, damaged or loose wires and any broken bulbs or sockets. When in doubt, throw it out.
How should you rinse your turkey before cooking?
Trick question! You shouldn’t wash your bird. Rinsing raw poultry ups the risk of bacteria being splashed all over your sink and counters — especially when you’re trying to maneuver 15 or more pounds of slipperiness under your faucet! Cooking to a safe temp — 165 degrees — will take care of any germs.
A tree should look green and smell fresh. What else?
Charlie Brown didn't know this, but a fresh tree won’t dry out as fast and won’t be as much of a fire risk as one that’s already dry. Another test: Try bending a needle. It should bounce back instead of snapping in two.
How many strands of lights can you safely link together?
Unless the package tells you otherwise, never string together more than three sets of lights. Also, look for the UL label when buying lights. And if your lights are new or you haven’t plugged them in since last year, plug them in first, before you spend hours stringing them up, to make sure all the bulbs light up.
Everyone’s arriving earlier than expected. That’s OK. You can cook your turkey in the microwave.
First, how big is your microwave exactly? If you’re in a rush, you can thaw the bird in the microwave, if it fits. Just be sure to cook it immediately after you thaw it. But never zap a whole turkey. It will cook the big bird unevenly, which could lead to undercooked portions.
Which of these is safe to toss in your wood-burning fireplace?
Although burning evergreens might smell good and all holiday-like, they can flare up fast and throw sparks into your house. The coated material on gift wrap can create dangerous fumes — plus, it can also burn quickly and send out sparks.
Which of these can help keep your tree from toppling over?
Both fishing line and an air freshener can help. Find a spot near a wall that already has a hook for a picture or hanging plant. Tie fishing line around the tree, near the top, and secure it to the hook. If you have a cat that likes to climb, try hanging a lemon-scented car air freshener in the branches. Most cats will say ick and stay away.
Baby aspirin will make your tree stay fresher longer.
Aspirin, sugar and store-bought mixes won’t keep your tree from drying out. What your tree really needs is water. It should drink about a quart of water a day the first week. To make watering easy, attach 2-3 feet of vinyl tubing (available at hardware stores) to a funnel. Fasten the funnel with a twist-tie to an out-of-sight but easy-to-reach branch, with the tubing reaching into the tree stand.
You should wait for hot food to cool off before putting leftovers in the fridge.
Some people wait for hot leftovers to cool so their fridges don’t have to work so hard. But letting food sit out gives bacteria a chance to multiply. To cool food faster and avoid condensation, divide it into small, shallow containers and place in the fridge. Skip the lids for a few minutes until things cool off.
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