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Holiday Food Safety

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With the holidays upon us, we know cheerful celebrations with food and drink are a given. Just remember to take food safety precautions during the hustle and bustle of the season.

Happy and safe holidays to you and yours!



Food Preparation:

  1. Before cooking or preparing anything - wash your hands! In between working with different dishes - wash your hands!
  2. Wash all fruits and vegetables. Even those with tough outer skins that you do not eat. When slicing these, the knife may pick up bacteria from the outer skin.
  3. Thaw meats in the refrigerator overnight. Never leave them on the counter to defrost. If defrosting in the microwave, make sure the meat is cooked soon after.
  4. If preparing a turkey, make sure it is completely thawed before cooking. Cooking a frozen turkey can lead to uneven cooking with the inside not being up to temperature. According to the FDA, a "20-pound turkey needs two to three days to thaw completely when thawed in the refrigerator at a temperature of no more than 40 degrees F. A stuffed turkey needs 4 ¼ to 5 ¾ hours to cook completely."
  5. If marinating food then do so in the refrigerator - not on the counter! If you want to have extra marinade to use as a sauce later, make sure to separate a portion ahead of time. Never reuse marinating sauces!
  6. Do not reuse any batter or breading that has touched raw meat.
  7. Use one plate for raw meats and another clean plate to take cooked items to the serving area. Never use the same plate. The raw juices can contaminate your cooked meats and side dishes.
  8. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on kitchen projects. If you are faced with a grease fire, remember, put a lid on it, and turn the heat source off!
  9. That evil mayo - did you know according to the Department of Health, it is not really the mayo that is making those deviled eggs a dangerous game of chance. Instead, it is the fact that when making cold salads usually the ingredients are mixed together when still warm creating a breeding ground for bacteria. Instead, chill all your ingredients separately before mixing them together.
  10. Use ciders labeled as pasteurized, or bring unpasteurized cider to a boil before serving. This is especially important when serving cider to people with weakened immune systems.

Setting the Table:

  1. If you set out a brunch style breakfast or buffet, and guests will arrive sporadically, pay close attention when leaving items such as milk or cooked meat on the table:
    - These foods are safe to leave out: Dry foods such as nuts, crackers, baked goods, breads, hard cheeses and candy don't support bacterial growth. Fruits, pickles, jams and jellies are too acidic for most bacteria.
    - Anything else should be discarded after sitting out for 2 hours.
    - To save milk or soy, make certain they are kept in the refrigerator instead of on the table.
    - An alternative is to keep cold items on ice. However, the ice will still need replacing every two hours or so.
  2. Supply plenty of clean plates and utensils. Encourage guests to get a new plate if theirs has been sitting out as they waited between helpings.
  3. Do not add new food to a serving dish that has been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours.

Cleanup:

  1. Refrigerate any left over food within 2 hours of its initial serving. If the temperatures are higher, refrigerate 1 hour or sooner. Meat should be kept hot for serving (140°F) and unused meat should be refrigerated immediately as it cools. If you have too much left over meat, make sure to freeze whatever you won't eat within the next two days.
  2. Use left over turkey meat, bones, stuffing, gravy and other cooked dishes within two to three days.
  3. Cut up any leftovers before refrigerating so they may be spread out on a tray. For meats like roast beef, this helps to make sure the meat cools at the same rate.
  4. Date leftovers - you'll appreciate it a week later when you've forgotten what food is from which feast.

Additional Precautions:

Turkey Fryers:

  1. Always use outdoors away from anything flammable. 
  2. Use on cement or stone surfaces - not on a wooden deck!
  3. Do not leave unattended. It is a very good idea to not have children and pets in the vicinity, better if they are inside. If they must be outside, make certain they are watched very carefully! Do not allow children and pets near the fryer as it cools after use either.
  4. Make certain the turkey is thawed before cooking - water and oil don't mix!
  5. Check the oil temperature frequently and immediately shut off if the oil begins to smoke. 

Gifts of Food via USPS, FED EX, UPS, etc.:

  1. If sending food as a gift via mail or delivery service, let the recipient know so they may look for the package.
  2. If you receive any gifts of food in the mail or from a delivery service, make certain to check that items that should have been kept cool were packaged properly.

Candle Decorations:

  1. Do not use candles on evergreen or natural trimmings.
  2. Use nonflammable holders and make sure they are placed where they cannot be knocked over easily.
  3. Do not keep candles lit in rooms that are not occupied by a responsible attendant.
  4. Check your candles as they burn. Some will burn unevenly and may finish sooner than you expected.
  5. Do not leave children unattended around candles and matches or lighters.

 

Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels

 

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Who Is Viewing Your Home For Sale Online? Find Out With Houselist.Com.

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Houselist.com, the free listing site, is adding a new feature for the 4th quarter of 2021. The latest embellishment will allow home sellers to track the day and time their home is viewed by potential buyers, and more.

With the dramatic changes that have taken place in the real estate market over the last year and a half, it appears that the wild sellers’ market is starting to balance out.  Next year is shaping up to be a much more stabilized sellers’ market with more buyers reevaluating and holding off on urgent purchases.  However, sellers will still be able to take advantage of being in the driver’s seat by setting a price higher than in a normal market.  The only ingredient missing in the seller’s recipe for naming their own price and getting it is how to identify when potential buyers are looking, where they are coming from, and what kind of traffic the seller may be getting in specific areas of the state.

Houselist.com provides the solution to the problem with its’ new, invaluable feature, which allows users who post homes for sell to view the traffic from a specific area of the state and country without violating a user’s privacy.  How this tracking service works is a breeze, automatically activating as soon as a registered user posts a home for sale or an apartment to rent.  This product is a game changer for the industry with several applications making it helpful in improving the sale of a home.  First, it informs the seller at which times of day their property is being viewed; next, it identifies the days of week the property is being viewed; then, it indicates which specific region of a city, state, or country is most often viewing the property; and, finally, it provides the data in a nice and concise user-friendly format that can be downloaded and converted into a spreadsheet for comparison with other properties.


To start accessing this insightful tracking information, the first step is to create a Houselist.com login account to your specific property, and then post the home for sale or place to rent.  The posting will be reviewed and when this is completed, the feature will be immediately activated.  It’s that simple.
 

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Famous Haunted Properties

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Perhaps it wasn't the wind that slammed the door shut, and there isn’t a flesh and blood body connected to the footsteps down the hall? Or maybe it’s just a great marketing ploy for bed & breakfasts and historical societies because people enjoy the idea of a good haunting? Not everyone believes in ghosts, but the stories and histories behind many haunted homes can be just as enticing as their "spiritual" residents. Below is a short list compiled of famous haunted homes and buildings in America. Dim the lights, sit back, and enjoy some Halloween-flavored reading while learning a little history along the way!*

*Many haunted houses seem to get their start from murder or untimely death. Although we have not gone into graphic details here, please note that if you search the names of the haunted homes in this article, some sites go into much more, sometimes gruesome, detail.


ALCATRAZ ISLAND - San Francisco Bay, CA

The History: Not a house per se, but people "lived" there. Alcatraz started as a military fort in 1850. It was used as a military prison and then a federal prison after 1934. In 1963, the prison was closed due to the cost of operations. As a prison, Alcatraz had a reputation of being a hard place to live, where prisoners were "shut away" rather than rehabilitated. Punishments could be harsh, such as restricted diet, solitary confinement, and hard labor. There were the now infamous solitary cells like the "strip cell" and the "hole" that even made the most hardened prisoners think twice about breaking any rules.

The Haunting: This place was generating ghost stories even before being shut down. Guards retell odd tales of ghosts attacking inmates or making noises. Today, there are still many haunting "hot spots" on the island. There is the utility corridor where three escapees were gunned down; this doorway is now welded shut but many say there is the sound of clanging against the door; perhaps something, or someone, wants out? There are also reports of running in the corridors, voices in the cells and medical ward, and screams from the dungeons and isolation units.

How to see it: Tours are available of the island and complex. Depending on the time of year, you may have to use a different ferry system to get to the island. 


DRISKILL HOTEL - Austin, TX

The History: Jesse Lincoln Driskill opened this hotel in 1886. The hotel was grand and luxurious, funded by his success as a cattle baron. In 1888, the family lost its fortune due to drought and a cold winter that killed most of the cattle. The hotel then changed from owner to owner with the most recent change of hands in 1995.

The Haunting: Driskill is claimed to still wander the hotel, puffing cigar smoke and turning lights on and off. There is also the ghost of a small girl, the daughter of a Senator who was left unattended and fell to her death while playing with her ball; she can still be heard bouncing the ball today.

How to see it: The hotel is open to guests today and offers all kinds of luxury and pampering.


FRANKLIN CASTLE – Cleveland, OH

The History: Hannes Tiedemann, and his wife, built the house in 1865. Unfortunately, they lost four children in a short amount of time leading to some speculation of unnatural deaths. The house architecture aids in the mystery of the house as there are secret passageways and hidden rooms throughout. There are also rumors of Tiedemann having affairs that led to jealousy and, ultimately, murder. One of the most tragic tales is that of Tiedemann hanging his niece to put her out of her misery from insanity or to punish her for her promiscuity.

The Haunting: Past residents have heard a small child crying and heard footsteps in the corridor. There is also claim of a "woman in black" who can be heard choking in the tower room. Lights can be seen swinging around, and some objects have been moved or thrown.

How to see itToday the mansion houses a private club restricted to members and their guests. It was rumored, at one time, that they would eventually start giving tours of the building.


HECETA HOUSE - Yachats, OR

The History: Built in 1894, the house accompanies a lighthouse on the Oregon coast. Many families, over time, occupied the house, which included a post office, school, and the light house. But it is only the keeper's house that has tales of hauntings.

The Haunting: The ghost who haunts the house is named Rue, a woman from the turn of the century.  Many believe she is the mother of a child who fell off the cliffs, and she is said to be an extra caretaker of the house.  She makes it known if she is displeased with any activity in the house. One of the more humorous accounts was of her screaming in the middle of a card game.  She didn't want people playing cards in her house!

How to see it: This house is now a bed and breakfast. It also has guided tours from its’ interpretive center. Although the current owners don't play up and advertise the presumed presence of a ghost, they have said that guests have told them of strange encounters. 


HICKORY HILL HOUSE - Equality, IL

The History: This house was built in 1842 by an evil man named John Crenshaw. Although it was illegal to own slaves in the state of Illinois, it was legal to lease slaves from slave states to work in salt mines. John Crenshaw took advantage of this fact and leased slaves from nearby states to work in his salt mines. Most horrific of all, it is said that he would kidnap free African Americans and force them to work in his mines and eventually sell them into slavery. All the slaves were kept in the upstairs attic in horse stall-like cells that opened to one large corridor. John Crenshaw had a particularly nasty reputation for cruelty and abuse.

The Haunting: The house opened as a tourist attraction in 1930, and many claimed to hear the desperate rattling of chains and muffled cries from the attic. The house had the sinister reputation that no one could spend a full night in the dwelling without leaving in fear. In 1978, a reporter named David Rogers was the first to spend a whole night in the house.

How to see it: Currently, the house is protected by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and is closed to the public.


LEMP MANSION - St. Louis, MO

The History: This house was purchased by William Lemp around 1864 to use as a residence and office for the family brewery. William's father had used a family recipe/method to create a lager beer. This beer quickly became popular and William's father abandoned his grocery store to become a full-time brewer. The beer continued to be made by the family until 1922, when family mishap and prohibition forced them to shut down and sell for good. The mansion itself has a sorrowful history with one brother dying under mysterious circumstances, and three other men of the family committing suicide inside.

The Haunting: With three suicides and a questionable death, one can easily guess where the idea of ghosts haunting the mansion could have arisen, but the family’s tragic history of tales doesn’t end there.  A rumor existed that William Lemp had an illegitimate son who suffered from Down Syndrome and was kept hidden in the attic his whole life. He is now said to be seen haunting the mansion. Tales of haunting first started after 1949 when the mansion was sold and turned into a boarding house. Strange knocking and footsteps throughout the mansion scared the tenants away, so the house started to run into disrepair. In 1975, the mansion was saved and renovated and turned into a restaurant and inn. All types of sights and sounds have continued and are still reported today.

How to see it: Spend the night, or take a tour if you're too scared.  The mansion is a bed and breakfast that offers tours and a restaurant for those who don't want to spend the night. They also host a Halloween Party and Murder Mystery Dinner Theater. 


LIZZY BORDEN HOUSE - Fall River, MA

The History: As with so many haunted homes, this story begins with a murder. On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered by ax in their home. Their eldest daughter, Lizzy, was tried and later acquitted of the murders. However, she was ostracized from the community for the rest of her life. Some consider that she had a split personality.  Even those close to her recall erratic and violent behavior.  And, of course, there was the creation of the rhyme: “Lizzie Borden took an ax; Gave her mother forty whacks; When she saw what she had done; Gave her father forty-one!”

The Haunting: There is a strange woman who tucks guests into bed, and a woman, perhaps the same one, can be heard weeping in the night. Objects move on their own and electrical equipment, such as lights and cameras, experience some interference. Many claim the most active room is Lizzy's old bedroom - which you can stay in, if you dare.

How to see it: The home is now a bed and breakfast. You may spend the night, take a tour, or even spend a weekend at Ghost Hunter University!


MYRTLES PLANTATION - St. Francisville, LA

The History: This home was built by David Bradford in 1794, but stories of hauntings didn’t start until the 1950's. The house had a long history with many different owners. There is only one recorded murder, that of William Winter in 1871. However, there are many tales that are told about the home to justify the hauntings. Most seem to be fabricated tales, but many say that’s because the house is so haunted, some kind of explanation needed to be made.

The Haunting: Among the haunting activity is the ghost of a young woman in a green turban, who some believe to be the ghost of a slave killed for poisoning the head mistress and her two daughters. Others claim the woman is not a young slave but an older, unknown woman. There is also a little girl who has appeared, as well as a frustrated piano player who continuously practices the same cord over and over on the old piano.

How to see it: You can dine in the restaurant, take a tour or spend the night.


VILLISCA AX MURDER HOUSE - Villisca, IA

The History: On June 10, 1912, the Moore family and two overnight guests were brutally murdered. The ax murder of two adults and six children horrified the community and its story still horrifies people today. Regardless of the unprecedented effort of police, detectives, and neighboring departments at the time, the case remains unsolved to this day.

The Haunting: The most common account seems to be of children's voices in the house. Things will also move unexpectedly, and lamps won't stay lit regardless of there being no breeze in the home.

How to see it: Tours of the home are available through the Olson Linn Museum. They also offer night tours, but these must be arranged in advance.


WAVERLY HILLS SANITARIUM - Louisville, KY

The History: Although this is not a house, it has such a grand reputation for being haunted, we thought to include it. Waverly Hills opened as a hospital for tuberculosis patients in 1926. Tuberculosis was a dreaded killer of the time, and most of the patients who entered the hospital would die. It is estimated that at the height of the epidemic, a patient died every hour. This large complex had a long tunnel nicknamed the "body chute" where the bodies were transferred to a train at the bottom of the hill. It was covered so patients would not be disheartened by seeing the number of dead being removed from the hospital. Because Tuberculosis was not well understood, there were many experiments that occurred.  Some of the experiments were beneficial, but others were brutal and led to tales of mistreatment. In 1982, the hospital was shut down under allegations of abuse.

The Haunting: The tales of hauntings started after the hospital was shut down and fell into disrepair. Transients, vandals, and kids would break into the facility. Stories began to spread of small children playing in the halls, lights going on when there was no power, doors being slammed, voices crying out, and various other ghoulish goings-on. One specific spot of activity, room 502, is on the floor where the mentally ill tuberculosis patients were housed. This room was the nurses’ station where two nurses committed suicide on separate occasions for reasons unknown.

How to see it: There are tours run by the Waverly Hills Historical Society. Tours must be arranged as this is a private site and trespassers will be prosecuted. Overnight tours can also be arranged in advance.


WHALEY HOUSE - San Diego, CA

The History: This house was a home, granary, court house, theater, ballroom, billiard, school, and polling center.  Before the house was built, criminals were hanged on the site. Once built, the house had the tragic history of one of the Whaley girls committing suicide inside.

The HauntingThere are many ghosts in the Whaley House. There is "Yankee Jim" who was one of the criminals hanged at the site. He now stomps around the house with a heavy step and even the first family, the Whaley's, reported hearing him in the house. Thomas Whaley, the first owner of the house, has been seen lingering around the upper landing. Thomas' wife, Anna, also wanders the downstairs and the garden. There are a few other apparitions, and even a little fox terrier ghost dog that is seen on occasion!

How to see it: This house is now a museum and is open for tours on most days.


The WHITE HOUSE - Washington D.C.

The History: The White House became the home of our presidents in 1800, with President John Adams being the first resident. There have been many presidents and first ladies in the home, and some have decided not to leave.

The Haunting: President Abraham Lincoln is the most popular ghost with the most sightings. The first to see him was First Lady, Grace Coolidge. He has also been spotted by guards and guests. Other presidents who like to make an appearance are President Benjamin Harrison, President Andrew Johnson, President John Tyler, and President Andrew Jackson. First Ladies who have made appearances include Abigail Adams and Dorothea Madison. There is also the apparition of a black cat, which has been said to be seen before national tragedies, such as the stock market crash of 1929 and before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

How to see it: You can still visit the White House today for a tour.  


WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE - San Jose, CA

The History: Sarah Winchester, daughter-in-law of Oliver Winchester, manufacturer of the Winchester rifle, began the construction of this house in 1884 and kept the project going until her death 38 years later. The legend says she constructed the house continuously to confuse the bad spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle. In the end, it had 160 rooms, 47 fireplaces, and various oddities, such as doors leading to a sudden outside drop or staircases leading to the ceiling.

The Haunting: Some of the ghosts are said to have been invited by Sarah Winchester, as she is said to have held a séance with them every night to determine the construction for the next day. Reports of footsteps, doors closing and opening, cold spots, and other paranormal behavior have been reported. Some skeptics in the ghost hunting world, however, believe the mansion is more of an oddity than a true haunting ground.

How to see it: The mansion is open to tours. You can select a standard tour and see 110 rooms and their various oddities and details, or you can go on a behind-the-scenes tour and see how the house functioned. 

 

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

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