Tag Archives: cleaning

Spring Cleaning Your Home

Spring Cleaning for National Cleaning Week

It’s National Cleaning Week and the perfect time for spring cleaning your life. And we can help!

Martha Stewart’s comprehensive spring-cleaning checklist can help you make a plan.

Spring Cleaning Checklist

 

Not a deep-cleaner? This Ultimate Spring Cleaning Guide can help you clean things you’ve never considered.

Deep-Cleaning Done Right

 

The kitchen is one place that needs lots of attention. These ideas can help you tackle it.

Hate cleaning? These spring-cleaning shortcuts can help speed up the process.

Speed Spring Cleaning Up

 

If doing a little a day will keep you motivated, this 30 days of spring cleaning guide is right for you.

A Little Cleaning Each Day

 

You might not think of cleaning outside your house, but it’s the perfect time before the weather heats up.

Tidying Outdoors

 

Take the time to clean things you’ve never thought of for a sparkling house.

Spring Clean Everything

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Grilling Safety with a Crowd

Grilling Safety

July is National Grilling Month, and it’s also the peak month for grill fires. Do you know grilling safety?

In 2014 alone, 16,600 patients went to the ER from grill injuries.

Avoiding Grilling Injuries

 

These tips can help you grill safely:

 

Not cleaning the grill is the leading factor in 1/5 of structures catching fire from a grill.

Grill Maintenance

 

Leaks or breaks were a factor in 11% of grill structure fires and 23% of outdoor grill fires.

Take Care of Your Grill

 

Gas grills contribute to more home fires than other grills, so grill just as carefully with them!

Griling for a Crowd

 

Are you taking a portable grill with you? Know how to use it safely!

Grilling On-the-Go

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Organzing Against Stress

Chasing Health: Finding Out You’re Far from Perfect

Having gone through grad school while working in a Division I college athletics department, I thought I was a pro at dealing with stress.

Oh, you need game recaps, live scoring, social media coverage, and postgame interviews for four sporting events tonight? Cool, I’m on it. I’ll pencil in my critical analysis paper for my 20-page reading assignment for about 4 o’clock tomorrow morning, right after I finish my 5-page response to my other 20-page reading assignment.

That was once pretty much my life. And with a little Mountain Dew here and there (and more than a few post-midnight candy binges), I made it work and even enjoyed it from time to time. I mean, I was doing my dream job. It just happened to be at an extremely busy and stressful point in my life.

To understand how I deal with stress, you have to know a little bit about how I deal with anything. I’m not exactly laid back, and I’ve probably never done anything casually or halfway in my entire life. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. You know, go big or go home.

Growing up, I never wanted to be any teacher’s second-favorite. I was the annoying teacher’s pet, cares-way-too-much-about-everything type. Any error on any assignment bothered me way longer than it should have, and a minus sign at the end of a letter grade on a report card caused physical pain.

I participated in nearly every high school extracurricular activity, from cheerleading and dance to the ecology team and Student Council. (I stayed away from competitive sports, though. Per my all-or-nothing attitude, if I wasn’t good at something, “go big or go home” meant go home.)

I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I think too much, worry too much, and let other people’s opinions get to me. Looking back now and knowing how I still am, I realize I don’t actually deal well with stress at all. And that busy grad-school schedule I stuck to wasn’t actually impressive. It was just busy and lacked the portion of life that’s meant for sleeping.

Although perfectionism sometimes leads to positive results, like good report cards, accuracy at work, and being everyone’s favorite group project member, it’s not as pleasant as it sounds. Nobody is perfect, so no matter what, perfectionists fall short of their own impossible expectations. Believe me. It happens to me nearly every day.

I can turn something that’s supposed to be fun and innocent, like baking sugar cookies, creating a Halloween costume, or choosing a new series to watch on Netflix, into a needlessly dramatic situation.

I’m a great example of how NOT to handle stress. Here are a few tips I’ve learned (but don’t always use) along the way.

  • Don’t stay up all night for work. I was a champ at pulling all-nighters during my college years, but now, not so much. And even if you can do it, it’s not exactly good for you.
  • Don’t load up on caffeine (especially if caffeinated drinks are normally not your thing). A few nights of extreme restlessness and extra anxiety were enough for me to stop my caffeine-bingeing in its tracks.
  • Don’t skip lunch to later eat your weight in candy corn. This is always a bad idea. Don’t skip lunch for any reason (unless you’re too sick to eat or something), and never eat your weight in anything.
  • Don’t cut back on exercise. Working out is not only good for your physical health but also your mental health, especially when dealing with stress.
  • Don’t focus on the possibility of failure, which in addition to strokes and snakes, is one of my biggest fears. Thinking too much about failure only slows down your success.
  • Don’t do it all alone. Some perfectionists, including me, are pretty good at keeping up their calm appearances on the outside. Don’t try to handle all your stress alone, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. (If you’re a perfectionist, asking for help is one of the hardest things to do.)

Perfectionism isn’t healthy. On top of the bad eating, sleeping, and exercise habits, it can come with loads of anxiety, and it’s probably not good for my blood pressure or migraine-prone head, either. My late nights fueled by soda are never my most productive nights anyway (although they led to some dramatic reflection papers in college).

Here are some ways I deal with stress that actually work for me.

  • Taking outdoor walks (I recommend literally stopping to smell the roses and glancing at the beautiful fall trees. I did both this week. That’s about as close as I get to living in the moment.)
  • Going to PiYo classes (a Pilates-yoga combo)
  • Dancing in the kitchen, living room, bathroom, parking lots, anywhere really (except during important meetings and such)
  • Cleaning my apartment (It helps me feel an instant sense of accomplishment.)
  • Visiting the holiday aisles of my favorite craft stores (If thinking about the holidays stresses you out even more, I wouldn’t recommend this one. Just go to your version of a happy place.)
  • Listening to my favorite jams (For me, this consists of a lot of ‘90s boyband stuff, Broadway hits, and Taylor Swift. Don’t judge.)

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try your hardest or take pride in your work. I’m just encouraging you to try to put everything into perspective, realize you can ask for help, and know that sometimes, things won’t be perfect.

Take this blog post for instance. In some not-so-surprising twist, I’ve toyed around with it off and on for nearly a week. I’m sure I could pull it apart more, but I think there is sometimes a point when good enough is good enough. (Thank goodness I’m usually on deadline.) And in the case of this perfectionist’s blog post, I think I’m there.

Try living in the moment (responsibly) rather than stressing out about everything. I’ve never really done it, but I’ve heard good things.

Food Expiration Dates and Safety

Decoding Expiration Dates

Did you know the government doesn’t make food companies put expiration dates on most things? They choose to put those dates on their products so that you get the best quality as a customer, which is why there are so many different kinds of labels.

According to the Boston Globe, 3/4 of Americans think eating things after their printed dates is unsafe. That’s not always true.

What Do the Expiration Dates Mean?

“Sell by” Date

This tells the store how long it can sell the product. You should buy it before this day, but it doesn’t mean that it’s bad after that date. It really just means that it’s freshest before that date.

“Best if used by (or before)” Date

You should use a product before this date for the best quality and flavor, but it has nothing to do with safety.

“Guaranteed fresh” Date

This is usually used for bakery items. You can still eat them after this date, but they won’t be at their freshest.

“Use by” Date

This is the last date a product’s maker recommends you use it for the best quality, much like “best if used by or before” dates.

“Pack” Date

These are dates that are on many canned or packaged goods. They’re used by the manufacturer and do not tell you if the food is safe. They may also be in a code, usually month-day-year, like MMDDYY. So September 29, 2015, would be 092915.

Other Dates

Federal law says that all baby formula must be dated. It is usually marked with a “use by” or “expiration date,” and after that date, the nutrition of the formula begins to decline from what’s shown on the label.

Some states also make stores pull dairy items off the shelves after their expiration dates.

How Long Are Things Good For?

While these dates will help you eat things while they taste the best, you won’t need to rush to throw most things away by those dates.

You should always try to buy your food before these dates expire, but as long as it’s stored at the right temperature and hasn’t been contaminated during cleaning or prep, it can be good after the dates.

Product Dates and Expiration

And of course, it is important to smell and look at your food before you eat it if it’s past those dates (and before them, too). If something smells bad, tastes weird, has rotten spots, or is moldy, don’t eat it! It’s definitely time to throw it away.

You can see more info about dates and food safety from WebMD and the USDA.

Up Next:

Make sure you’re storing your food safely to keep it good for longer.

Are you always cooking things to a safe temperature to avoid foodborne illness? Our guide can help!

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Safe, Fresh Food Storage

Keeping Things Fresh

Storing your fresh food correctly is important. It protects you from contamination that can make you sick, and it helps you get the most out of your groceries. If you store your fruits and veggies in the wrong way, they can go bad more quickly, before you have the chance to use them. These tips can help.

Tip #1

Keep them cold. Most importantly, make sure your fridge is at the right temperature, 40°F or below, and the freezer should be 0°F or below.

Foods that need refrigerated should be put in the fridge as soon as you get home. Never allow food that should be refrigerated, including leftovers and takeout, to sit out for more than 2 hours.

As soon as you get home from the store, freeze any meats that you aren’t going to cook in the next 2 days.

Tip #2

Some things always need to be refrigerated. All produce that is pre-cut or peeled needs stored in the fridge.

Eggs, meat, chicken, and seafood need to be refrigerated.

Tip #3

Some fruits and veggies shouldn’t be refrigerated. Tomatoes get mushy and lose their flavor; bananas will turn black, and the starch in potatoes turns to sugar when kept in the fridge.

And while potatoes and onions do best in a cool, dry place, don’t keep them under the sink where leaking sinks can ruin them. And never store any food near cleaners because they can poison you.

Tip #4

Some fruits should be ripened on the counter and then refrigerated. Avocados, kiwis, and fruits with a pit, like peaches and plums, take a few days on the counter to ripen and then can be kept in the fridge.

Tip #5

The containers some produce comes in are good ways to store them. When you bring home berries, make sure you go through them and remove all spoiled ones so they don’t spread mold to the other berries. Their containers also allow for air to get to them.

Things like grapes and onions also come in bags that let air get to them.

Salad mixes also often come in good storage containers. It can be a good idea to put a paper towel between the lid and greens to prevent condensation.

Always make sure your meat is wrapped well, both for the best quality and to protect other food.

Tip #6

Some things shouldn’t be stored together. Never store anything you eat raw, like fruits and veggies, near anything that must be cooked to be safe to eat, like raw meat, chicken, or seafood.

And even though potatoes and onions both do well in cool, dry environments, you shouldn’t store them right next to each other. That goes for most foods and onions because other foods can take on the onion flavor. (But make sure to store green onions in your fridge in the crisper drawer.)

If you buy root vegetables with their tops still on, like radishes, turnips, beets, and carrots, cut the greens off and store them separately. Never used the tops before? Don’t worry, we can help!

Tip #7

Use water to keep some things fresh for longer. Asparagus and fresh herbs, like basil, cilantro, parsley, and mint, stay fresh for longer when you store them with the ends in a jar or cup of water.

Still not sure how to handle a certain food? This handy guide can help:

How to Store Your Groceries
Image via Buzzfeed

Up Next:

Wondering how long your food is actually good for? We can help make sense of all those dates!

And make sure you keep your food bacteria-free by washing your produce and practicing safe food prep.

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Cleaning Produce at Home

Cleaning Before Eating

Cleaning produce carefully before eating it is important for lots of reasons. Some people blame all foodborne illnesses on meat, but in recent years, fruits and veggies, like spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce, have played a role in many illnesses.

Your fresh fruits and veggies can get contaminated by animals or harmful substances in the soil or water during farming. And after farming, they pass through many people’s hands, raising that risk even more.

Easy Steps for Cleaning Produce

  1. Start by washing your hands with soap and warm water.
  2. Always wash and cut off bruised or damaged parts of fruits and veggies before eating or preparing them.
  3.  Always wash fruits and veggies before you peel them, so dirt and bacteria don’t go from your hands or knife onto the parts of the fruits or veggies you eat.
  4. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, like melons, squash, and cucumber.
  5. Gently rub fruits and veggies under cold, running water. You don’t need to use soap or cleaners.
  6. Dry them with a clean cloth or paper towels to help get rid of any other bacteria.

Tips for Cleaning Produce

Fruits with Stems

Fruits like apples and pears can hold bacteria around the stem, so it’s always a good idea to wash them off right before eating them. And it never hurts to cut off the core’s outer ends before eating.

Fruits with Rinds

Even though you don’t eat the peel of things like oranges and grapefruits, make sure you rinse them well before peeling them. You can always scrub bumpy foods, like avocados, to kill bacteria. If you’re going to use zest in a recipe, cleaning these kinds of fruits is really important.

Berries

Rinse berries gently. Using a colander can make it easier to drain them of extra water.

Lettuce and Cabbage

Throw out the outer leaves of all heads of leafy greens.

Broccoli and Cauliflower

These have lots of spaces for bacteria to hide. Soak these for a few minutes if rinsing them can’t get every spot.

Celery

Things that come in a bunch, like celery, should be pulled apart before washing, so you can get each piece clean.

Root Veggies

Veggies like potatoes and carrots need scrubbed well to get all of the dirt and bacteria off, even if you’re going to peel them after.

Mushrooms

Some mushrooms can absorb water, so it’s important to not let them soak. Rinse them gently or wipe them off thoroughly with a damp cloth or paper towel.

Organic Produce

Still needs washed! And while farmers markets are a great place to get local, healthy produce, you should still wash it all carefully!

Up Next:

Your fruits and veggies can also get contaminated after you’ve bought them. Learn more about storing your food to prevent this. And make sure your food prep is safe.

A Helping Heart

Vantage Point: Have a Helping Heart this Valentine’s Day

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”  – John Holmes

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate loved ones. But what about seniors in our communities that don’t have a sweetheart? Winter can bring on depression and feelings of isolation, especially if one is living on a small fixed income that, if no other catastrophe happens, barely covers basic needs.

What if during this year’s season of love, we gave the gift of time and attention to someone who has nothing to give back but gratitude? If this call speaks to you, look to the Catholic Family and Child Volunteer Chore Service Programs, run by Amber Bryant in Wenatchee and Tammy Huber in Moses Lake.

The volunteer program, funded by federal grants, the United Way and Serving Wenatchee, is based on volunteer hours. It can be direct services, such as cleaning a senior’s home, shoveling snow, delivering a hot meal, or providing transportation, or indirect services such as clerical work or, like Health Alliance staff did this winter, donating winter coats, blankets, and hand sanitizer.

If you are interested in volunteering, a coordinator will ask the amount of time you can give and ask what kind of tasks you’re comfortable with. Both Amber and Tammy have many creative ways they can utilize volunteer hours.  One successful idea is enlisting groups, such as coworkers from an office or members of a club. Many hands make light work and volunteers are more comfortable entering someone’s home in a group setting. Plus, the project helps groups work as a team.

One misconception about the program is that you have to be Catholic to volunteer. This is not true and you don’t even have to share your religion. Beyond finding people to volunteer, coordinating the program presents many challenges including serving the mentally ill, those living in extreme poverty, and those with adult children who reside in the home. I am in awe of Amber and Tammy’s passion, as they both volunteer in addition to coordinating the program.

If you are someone who has time and a helping heart, please contact Amber at 509-662-6761, abryant@ccyakima.org  or Tammy at 509-765-1875, thuber@ccyakima.org . They will find a way to match you to a client or project that can create great joy for all involved.