Today’s Extra for January 11: Are Indoor Fireplaces Safe for Your Health?

Are Indoor Fireplaces Safe for Your Health?

Cozying up to a glowing fireplace is a cold-weather tradition. But don’t get too comfortable. In certain situations, that crackling fire can be very unsafe. Here are five hazardous health effects of fireplaces, as well as how to practice indoor fireplace safety to mitigate those risks.


There are four main types of fireplaces that people typically have in their homes: wood-burning, gas, electric and ethanol. And it’s usually the wood-burning fires that release the most dangerous toxins into the air (though the other types pose risks, as well).

When wood burns, it releases a mixture of potentially harmful gases and fine particles. “Wood smoke contains several toxic harmful air pollutants including: benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This pollutes indoor air (as well as outdoor air) and can trigger several health problems, such as respiratory issues and lung cancer. And you’re not in the clear if you burn synthetic logs, as they’ve been associated with some serious health issues, including breast cancer.


Wood and gas fireplaces have the ability to release dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide in a home. “Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels are burned such as gasoline, natural gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal,” according to the American Lung Association. And because carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless, it can easily accumulate to toxic levels if the fireplace isn’t venting properly.

Carbon monoxide prevents the body from getting the oxygen it needs. Breathing in small amounts can result in headaches, nausea, dizziness and confusion, according to the American Lung Association. And inhaling larger levels can have much more serious consequences, including loss of consciousness and death. So it’s critical to consistently maintain your fireplace, check the venting often and use a carbon monoxide detector.


Besides carbon monoxide poisoning, the mixture of gases and particles that certain fireplaces (mainly wood-burning) emit can trigger many other health problems, including respiratory conditions. “That’s because smoke from these fires contains small particles that can get into your eyes and respiratory system,” according to Cleveland Clinic. “The result can be burning eyes, a runny nose and illnesses such as bronchitis.”

The tiny particles can find their way deep into your lungs and bloodstream — exacerbating preexisting conditions, such as asthma. And even healthy people might feel temporarily ill. “Fine particles can also trigger heart attacks, stroke, irregular heart rhythms, and heart failure, especially in people who are already at risk for these conditions,” according to the EPA. Children, older adults and people with heart and lung issues are the most vulnerable.


Using your fireplace correctly isn’t without risks. But burning inappropriate items can make the situation much more dangerous. “These materials can release toxic or harmful chemicals when burned, and may damage your appliance,” according to the EPA. Items you never should burn include:

  • Household trash — including plastic, cardboard, foam, rubber and anything with colored ink
  • Painted or treated wood
  • Driftwood, plywood, particle board or any other wood with glue
  • Wet, rotten or diseased wood
  • Manure and animal remains

Plus, consider what’s around your fireplace that might be receiving some of its warmth. For instance, if your fires continuously heat a nearby decoration with toxic paint or the plastic of a faux Christmas tree, that might release unhealthy chemicals into the air. So it’s best to be overly cautious about what that warm glow can touch.


Speaking of what’s within the flames’ reach, another risk of indoor fireplaces is injury or property destruction from the fire itself. Fireplaces, chimneys and chimney connectors accounted for 31 percent of house fires in the United States between 2011 and 2015, according to the National Fire Protection Association. (Space heaters were the No. 1 culprit.) And the leading factor contributing to those house fires was failure to clean the equipment — especially chimneys.

Plus, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, young children receive the most injuries from fireplaces. Many injuries stem from a person being too close to the flames, though some occur from improper fireplace use or damaged equipment. Regardless, it’s critical to make indoor fireplace safety a priority if you intend to build a fire.


A properly functioning fireplace should pose the fewest health and safety risks. So here are some indoor fireplace safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to protect you and your family.

  • Have adequate ventilation. Keep a window cracked as your fire is burning, and make sure the damper or flue is open until the embers are completely out. Look for animal nests and other blockages in the chimney.
  • Use dry, aged wood. This produces less smoke and soot in wood-burning fireplaces. Plus, using smaller pieces of wood also results in less smoke.
  • Clean ashes from previous fires. A thicker layer of ash makes a fire smoke more.
  • Have a professional inspect your fireplace and chimney annually. And look for red flags every time you use it.
  • Keep the area around your fireplace clear. Install safety screens if you have kids or pets, and keep fireplace tools out of their reach.
  • Never leave a fire unattended. Make sure it is completely out before going to bed or leaving for an extended period.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Plus, install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Verify regularly that they’re all functional.

So should you ditch your dreams of curling up next to a cozy fire on a cold night? Not necessarily. As long as you know the health and safety risks, you can weigh the pros and cons for your individual situation and decide which type of fireplace is right for you.




Today’s Extra for January 10th: 4 Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Are Overrated (& What to Do Instead)

4 Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Are Overrated (& What to Do Instead)

New year’s resolutions don’t work. If you want to achieve your goals in the 2019 you need to learn how to create habits that stick. It’s easier than you think.

Research has shown that New Year’s resolutions have an 80 percent failure rate, yet year on year we keep coming back for more. I know I certainly have.

From running a marathon and blogging consistently to earning more money and quitting coffee, my goals over the years have been nothing if not lofty. (I mean, quit coffee? Seriously?)

Let’s unpack why New Year’s resolutions don’t work, and then we’ll look at what we can do instead to get the results we want.


Humans are all about results, they’re what drive us to aim higher and go further. When you finish your first 5k you immediately set your sights on running ten.

But if you’ve never run a mile in your life, resolving to run a marathon in 2019 is a big ask. As Seth Godin points out, “If you set your bar at ‘amazing,’ it’s awfully difficult to start.”

The reason it’s difficult to start is that your eyes are on the prize, which in this case is 26 miles and a whole lot of training in the future. You’re focusing on the outcome instead of paying attention to the process.


When you don’t achieve your goal you immediately beat yourself up. You berate yourself for being a failure or a quitter. You wonder what’s wrong with you.

You don’t take the time to consider why you never achieved your goal, you just bemoan the fact that you didn’t. Now, on top of not fulfilling your dream of running a marathon, you’re also disappointed in yourself.


When you repeatedly fail to do the things you set out to do, your self-esteem is going to suffer. We thrive on our successes. Each win, however small, builds our self-confidence. The opposite is also true. When you fail repeatedly, you’ll eventually start to believe you’re not good enough.


When you make New Year’s resolutions there’s an unspoken assumption that you have 365 days to make good on them. On January first the end of the year can seem like a lifetime away.

This apparent lack of urgency inspires you to breeze through the first few weeks of the year. You reason that you’ll ease into things slowly. Before you know it, it’s March and you haven’t even laced up your new shoes, much less gone for a run.


Instead of setting big goals, aim to get one percent better everyday. It sounds pathetic, I know. What’s one percent in the greater scheme of things?

Humans love the big wins. They’re inspiring, and, if we’re honest, they’re a little bit sexy, too. But as James Clear—author of the New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits— points out, it’s the small daily habits and choices that transform us.

He ran the math on what that looks like. If you get one percent better every day for a year, you’ll end up 37 times better. Get one percent worse, and you’ll find yourself at zero.

Clear also reminds us that consistency is more important than perfection. You’re going to fall short occasionally, so be ready to accept it. Just dust yourself off and get back in the game. Don’t use the misstep as an excuse to go crazy. You know what I mean. You figure you blew your diet anyway, so why not make a meal of it?

Create an Implementation Plan

Have you ever thought the reason for not achieving your goals was a lack of motivation? Me, too, but it turns out motivation isn’t what we need to get where we want to be. What we need, and science has proven this, is an implementation plan.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you want to get in shape. Saying “I’m going to exercise more,” isn’t going to cut it. At best, it’s an intention, something you aspire to.

However, if you map out your new workout regime for the next week, you’ve created a plan to implement your goal to exercise more. Clear says the simple way to apply this strategy to your habits is to fill out this sentence:

I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].

He offers examples for how this looks in action:

  • I will meditate for one minute at 7 a.m. in my kitchen.
  • I will study Spanish for twenty minutes at 6 p.m. in my bedroom.
  • I will exercise for one hour at 5 p.m. in my local gym.
  • I will make my partner a cup of tea at 8 a.m. in the kitchen.  [Source:]

Get Gritty

Even with this new way of looking at the year ahead and everything you hope to achieve, there will still be days (many of them, probably) when life happens, and all you want to do is collapse on the couch and zone out on Netflix and M&Ms.

That’s when you need to dig deep and go to the gym anyway. You can’t imagine it in the moment, but doing what you said you would do is going to make you feel way better than the alternative. Even if it’s not the best workout, showing up is what matters.

Remember: it’s the small choices that transform you into the superhero you aspire to be.

Today’s Extra for Jan. 9: 10 Simple 14-Day Challenges to Try This New Year

10 Simple 14-Day Challenges to Try This New Year

Making a list of New Year’s resolutions come January 1st is a tradition that feels as old as time. Unfortunately, many of us (half to be exact) fall off the wagon within a matter of weeks as motivation wains and old habits reappear.

One of the reasons New Year’s goals are so easy to break is that, even with the best intentions, committing to a year-long endeavor is pretty monumental. We also have a tendency to make our intentions far too vague (for example: “lose weight” or “drink more water”), which only bites us in the you-know-what later on.

Sick of committing to wishy washy New Year’s resolutions? Why not go against the grain and take on something a little more manageable: a 14-day challenge! Each of these ideas below are meaningful but lighthearted, and will help spur the positive habits you’ve been trying to cultivate since…2003. Enjoy!

1. Keep your phone out of the bedroom for 14 days.

Keeping your bedroom a phone-free zone is actually really beneficial for both your physical and mental health. Also, social media is a major time suck…now might be a good time to throw off the chains for a bit.

2. Make a to-do list every morning for 14 days.

This one’s easy. Cut the overwhelm by writing out your goals every morning for two weeks. Getting into the habit will help you keep your head on straight and actually achieve your goals.

3. Eat a serving of vegetables with every meal for 14 days.

Whether you’re slimming down or just trying to stay healthy, veggies are your friends. Plus, they’re delish. Need to get those wheels turning? Check our recipes section for some inspiration!

4. Call your representative or sign a petition every day for 14 days.

Telephoning your legislator’s office is a great way to communicate your opinions on everything from climate change to protection of local lands. Just follow this step-by-step guide from the Union of Concerned Scientists if you’ve never called your representatives before.

5. Pay someone a compliment every day for 14 days.

Some days there’s nothing better than hearing “You’re doing a great job” or “I love your taste in music.” Share a compliment or two and spread the love!

6. Cook breakfast for yourself every morning for 14 days.

Breakfast may not necessarily be the most important meal of the day, but it sure can start your morning off on the right foot! Commit to making breakfast for yourself every day, even if it’s just a bowl of oatmeal or a quick smoothie you can eat on your way out the door.

7. Add more citrus to your grocery cart every time you shop for 14 days.

When you wander by the citrus display in your grocery store, indulge! Grab up those clementines, grapefruits and pomelos and enjoy how they brighten up your fruit bowl and your belly.

8. Spend time with your hobby each day for 14 days.

Are you a painter? Do you crochet? Enjoy recording music? Whether it’s five minutes or an hour, spend a little time with your hobby every single day for 14 days.

9. Don’t buy a single piece of plastic for 14 days.

Plastic is killing our planet, contaminating our water and overwhelming our lives. Skip it for a while. See how it feels. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover that going plastic free isn’t so bad after all.

10. Find something to let go of every day for 14 days.

This can be either a physical item (old books or clothing that doesn’t fit) or something internal (guilt or an addiction to busyness). Whatever it is, let something go day by day for 14 days. You’ll feel lighter by the end of it!

Today’s Extra: 15 Foods That Make Excellent Cleaning Products

15 Foods That Make Excellent Cleaning Products

Your kitchen is full of exciting meal-making possibilities. And your fridge and pantry probably hold several methods to clean your home that you might not even realize. Here are 15 foods that make excellent cleaning products.


Rice is a wonderfully versatile ingredient in recipes, and it even has a place in your cleaning arsenal. Good Housekeeping recommends using uncooked rice to gently, but effectively clean hard-to-reach spots in vases and other glassware. Simply fill the vessel with water, dish soap and rice, and swish the mixture so the rice scrubs the inside. Then, drain and rinse the glassware.

Additionally, you can use rice to remove built-up oils from a coffee or spice grinder, according to The Kitchen. Pulverize roughly a quarter cup of rice in your grinder, and then wipe it out with a damp towel. The oils will cling to the rice, leaving the grinder fresh for its next use.


Besides acting as fries’ sidekick, ketchup can be a powerful cleaning product. According to Good Housekeeping, you can use ketchup to remove tarnish from copper-bottomed cookware just by massaging the surface with the acidic condiment. Some people even use this method to shine away tarnished spots on their cars. And if the ketchup isn’t enough to dissolve stubborn tarnish, you can try adding a pinch of salt for a bit of scrubbing action. (Or add potatoes, and have yourself a nice snack.)


Don’t dump those grounds after you enjoy your morning coffee. They have many uses around the house. Healthline suggests using coffee grounds to fertilize your garden — or to create more nutrient-rich compost. Plus, you can use them to repel pests, including mosquitoes, fruit flies and beetles. Furthermore, a bowl of coffee grounds in your fridge can help to neutralize odors. And you can use them as a natural cleaning scrub on nonporous surfaces — as well as to exfoliate your own skin.

4. TEA

Not a coffee drinker? No worries. Tea has many cleaning uses, as well. “The astringency of tea actually cuts through grease and dust,” according to The Spruce. “Plus it also adds a shine to hardwood floors and furniture.” As a hardwood floor cleaner, simply brew a pot of tea with five or six tea bags. Then, pour the tea into your mop bucket, and add cool water if needed. Just be sure to test it on an inconspicuous area before mopping your whole floor.


Potatoes: They’re great mashed, baked, fried … and as a rust cleaner. If your favorite cast iron skillet or other cooking utensils have gotten a little rusty, just grab a raw potato, according to The Kitchen. Slice it in half, “dip the cut end in dish soap or baking soda and firmly rub it over the rusted area.” Repeat until you’ve removed all the rust, slicing off a new cut end if necessary.


Sliced bread was a pretty great invention, especially when you consider its more offbeat uses. That spongy piece of dough is excellent at cleaning up messes, according to Good Housekeeping. Use a slice to clean marks off walls or gently dust artwork. It even is effective at picking up glass shards. Simply press a slice over the broken glass, and even tiny shards should safely stick into the bread.


After getting your potassium fix, hang on to that banana’s handy peel for a little bit of cleaning. SFGate recommends using banana peels to dust houseplants, especially the ones you can’t spray with water. Simply wipe the leaves with the inner wall of the peel to remove dust and dirt and leave behind a healthy, banana-scented glow. And that’s not the only household item banana peels can make shine. According to Apartment Therapy, you also can use them to naturally polish silver. Blend up the peels to make a paste, and then work that paste onto your silver item with a cloth. Finally, dip the item in water to remove any remaining paste.


With its plethora of uses around the house, baking soda is as much a cleaning product as it is a cooking ingredient. Mix it with a little water to make a surface scrub, use it with dish soap to help cut grease and grime on cookware or even add it to mop water to clean marks off floors. A water-baking soda combo is excellent at cleaning the inside of your oven or microwave, it can polish silver and remove coffee and tea stains from pots and mugs. Plus, baking soda can deodorize most areas of your home, including the refrigerator, trash cans and even drains. Those little boxes certainly pack a major punch.


Baking soda might get a lot of cleaning glory, but lemon is right there with it. One of the easiest ways to clean your microwave is to chop up a lemon, add it to a bowl of water and heat it until your microwave window is steamy, according to Good Housekeeping. Wait at least 15 minutes for it to cool, and then wipe down the inside.

You also can clean wooden cutting boards by sprinkling them with a little salt, rubbing a cut lemon over it and then rinsing. Plus, lemon juice mixed with salt makes an effective brass cleaner. And don’t forget to add a little lemon rind to your natural all-purpose cleaner for a scent boost and some added cleaning power.


Olive oil isn’t just to make salads taste delicious. Add a bit of oil to a cloth, and buff stainless steel appliances to remove grime and make them shine, The Kitchen recommends. You also can use olive oil mixed with lemon juice to clean and condition wood (but test a small area first). Plus, an olive oil-coarse salt scrub can remove stuck-on food from cast iron skillets.


White vinegar might rival baking soda for its cleaning versatility. You can use it to “freshen laundry, lift stains from carpet, brighten windows, and so much more,” according to Good Housekeeping. Plus, it makes a powerful all-purpose cleaner when mixed with water and baking soda (and essential oils if you wish). Soaking glassware in vinegar is an easy way to remove hard water stains. And a bowl of vinegar is an effective room deodorizer.

12. SALT

We might find salt in a lot of our favorite snacks, but it’s also an important ingredient in many effective cleaners. Salt adds a gentle abrasive factor to cleaning concoctions, making it useful to scrub away stains, food particles and even rust and tarnish, according to The Kitchen. Plus, it’s absorbent, which is why it’s a key factor in keeping wooden cutting boards sanitary. It soaks up all the liquid in the grooves, giving bacteria a less friendly environment to reproduce. And you even can sprinkle salt over liquid spills to help prevent stains.


If you have wood furniture or floors, it’s almost inevitable that they’ll get some dings and scratches. And that’s where walnuts come in. The natural oils in walnuts — Brazil nuts work well, too — darken the wood and hide scratches, according to Good Housekeeping. Simply rub the damaged area with the nut until it blends better with the surrounding wood. It might not be a forever fix, but it does last for a while depending on the mark. And it’s cheap, easy and natural.


Cleaning red wine stains with club soda has been a longstanding method. Some people swear by it while others claim there’s no scientific reason for it to work (though the secret might be in the bubbles). Still, this carbonated beverage has other cleaning applications. Use it to gently clean surfaces, including porcelain, stainless steel and even your car windshield. Its fizz plus slightly acidic nature helps to wash away marks and particles.


If you have laundry that smells a little off, try spritzing it with a little vodka. No, really. According to Good Housekeeping, the vodka will kill odor-causing bacteria and dry completely scent-free. Just be sure to do a spot test first. Plus, a cloth moistened with a little vodka can work to shine chrome, glass and porcelain fixtures. And as an added bonus, it should clean away any mold on the surface, too. Cheers to that!

Today’s Extra: 6 Amazing Benefits of Slow Living

6 Amazing Benefits of Slow Living

What is slow living, and how can you incorporate this philosophy into your life? Get some tricks and ideas and learn the amazing benefits of slow living.

In the middle of 2008, daunted by the prospect of yet another move, I persuaded my partner that we’d be better off selling everything and moving into a furnished apartment. She was skeptical only until I reminded her of my exceptionally poor packing skills.

We felt the benefits of our unencumbered lifestyle almost immediately. However, it was only once we sold our car a year later that we really noticed a significant improvement. Commuting on foot, by bicycle or with public transport, forced us to slow down.

Sure, life is easier when you have a car. But you’re also isolated from the world around you. There’s no opportunity to share the time of day with a stranger or greet the dog out for a walk with its human.


There’s more to slow living than not driving, though. It’s about taking your foot off the gas, metaphorically speaking, as well. We’re always rushing, always looking for a way to speed things up, when what we should be doing is figuring out how to slow them down.

Slow living is about finding joy in the moment. It’s ditching the mod cons that make life easier. It’s walking instead of driving. It’s baking from scratch instead of from a box. It’s writing a letter instead of an email. It’s about calling instead of sending a text message. It’s cooking dinner instead of dining out.

People who live in the world’s Blue Zones have slow living down to a fine art. For them, moving naturally, downshifting, spending time with loved ones and enjoying a sense of belonging, is a way of life.


The Danes have something similar. They call it hygge (pronounced hue-guh). They use the word to describe a feeling or moment as cosy, charming or special. What’s great about it is that there aren’t really any hygge rules.

You can experience hygge at home or when you’re out. You can enjoy it alone and in the company of others. It’s the feeling or moment that matters, not who you’re with, where you are or how extraordinary it was (or wasn’t).

Hygge is about celebrating the moments. Life requires that we check the tasks off our to-do list, but while this provides a sense of accomplishment, it rarely give us something to remember. We need the moments to make the memories.


With your spouse, your children and your high-powered job all vying for your attention, how on earth are you supposed to find the time to slow down? At first glance, it can seem like an impossible feat.

It boils down to priorities. You need to decide what’s most important and then figure out a way to do more of that and less of the other stuff. Nobody reaches the end of their life wishing they’d worked more.

By downsizing your life you reduce your monthly expenses, which in turn creates the possibility for working fewer hours or finding a less demanding job. Because life is about more than soaring up the corporate ladder.

You also need to have solid time boundaries in place to safeguard your energy. Learn to say no to the things that don’t serve you and yes to the ones that do. The people that matter to you (including you) will appreciate it.

In the wise words of Bernard M. Baruch, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”




There are so many benefits to just slowing down for a while. We humans are more stressed and overworked than we’ve ever been, and it’s not doing us any good. Life in the slow lane brings with it numerous benefits.

1. You’ll Be Healthier

By walking more, driving less and preparing your own food from scratch, you can’t help but improve your health. If our Blue Zones centenarians are anything to go by, you’ll live longer, too.

2. You’ll Get More Exercise

Leaving the car at home and walking or cycling to work, the store or even around the block means you’ll be getting more exercise than you did before. The fitter you get, the more you’ll want to move.

3. Your Relationships Will Improve

Slowing down gives you the opportunity to be fully present with the people around you. You’re able to properly engage with your partner and kids or simply enjoy a meaningful conversation with a close friend.

4. You’ll Be Less Stressed

Rushing from one thing to the next just makes you anxious, it doesn’t necessarily help you get more done. The more you slow down, the less stressed you become.

5. You’ll Have More Time

The more you slow down, the more you’ll want to slow down. You’ll come to realize that the things you thought were urgent actually aren’t. With that realization comes a bounty of leisure time.

6. You’ll Be Happier

You’ll find that you’re healthier, fitter, less stressed, your relationships have improved and you have more time. Of course you’ll be happier!

Remember, it’s not about coming to a completely standstill. Slow living is about pumping the brakes long enough to notice and appreciate the world around you.


Today’s Extra: 5 Cozy Ideas for Winter Self Care

5 Cozy Ideas for Winter Self Care

Winter is such a love-it-or-hate-it time of year. For some of us, winter is snowflakes, hot chocolate and cable-knit sweaters. For others, it’s dry skin, cold feet and getting up early to scrape the windshield.

Whether you’re looking forward to autumn leaves turning to frost-adorned branches or counting down the days till spring, it’s impossible to argue that winter doesn’t come with its own set of challenges. Dark winters can take their toll, physically, mentally and emotionally. Fortunately, we have some whole-body self care ideas that will help see you through.


Winter might be the hardest time of year to get moving, but it’s as vital as ever. If your body starts to feel heavy and tired from a lack of exercise, try engaging in a stretching or yoga practice on a daily basis.


Winter is a wonderful opportunity to retreat inward and enter “rest and reflect” mode. If the sun going down at 5 p.m. makes you want to bundle up in pajamas and enjoy a bowl of soup on the couch, you’re not the only one. Winter was made for cozy moments like this!


Cold temperatures and dry winter air have the tendency to suck the moisture right out of our skin. Dry brushing can help remedy this by boosting circulation, stimulating the lymphatic system and removing dead skin. Follow with a coconut oil massage. It’ll feel delicious!


Whether or not you enjoy the holidays, there is something truly special about celebrating the changing seasons. Start by making your home smell more festive ━ light a beeswax candle, warm cinnamon sticks on the stove ━ or turning on a seasonal playlist.


Feel chilled to your bones? Indulge in a nourishing hot drink. We especially love this Hormone-Balancing Hot Chocolate and this Turmeric Chai Latte. Bonus points if you make one for a friend and go for a long walk outside.

Today’s Extra: How to Avoid a Holiday Accident

How to Avoid a Holiday Accident

The holidays can be a great time to rejoice with family and close friends, however, you choose to celebrate it. Unfortunately, this time of year can also bring about an unexpected holiday accident. Whether it be decoration-related, undercooked holiday foods that make you ill, or personal injuries that only seem to happen around this festive time of year – here are 6 tips that will help you avoid them altogether


Invest in a Meat Thermometer

The days of leaving a fully-cooked turkey up to chance is a thing of the past. With modern technology, there really isn’t an excuse for meat being undercooked in a social gathering. If you’re notorious for undercooking the turkey at Thanksgiving or leaving the ham a little… chilly, pick up a handy meat thermometer while you’re at the store. Trust me, it’ll help ease the several hours of stress worrying whether your guests will be going home with more than a full stomach. You can find helpful tips on how to properly test the temperature of meats in this article here.


Monitor your Holiday Lighting- Watch out for Fire Hazards

What many don’t realize is Christmas trees are highly flammable. Any type of spark or flame can quickly leave your tree engulfed in flames. Fires and burn injuries are common throughout this time of year because of this. Many people have old Christmas lights they leave on all night unattended. This is very dangerous.

Invest in a “Smart Plug”

If you’re the type of person who likes having the lights on until a certain time of night, which may also be past your bedtime, invest in a scheduling monitor for your lights. “Smart Plugs” can be used to schedule times to turn your lights on and off, while also saving you money on your electricity bill by turning off power to unused appliances. You can do this for both your indoor and outdoor lights. You can find tons of different options on Amazon and the Google store.


Last year, more than 14,000 people went to the emergency room for injuries caused by Christmas decorations.  Lacerations, strains, sprains and contusions were the most commonly reported injuries.  If you are hanging glass bulb ornaments on the tree, make sure they are hung high enough so that children and pets cannot reach them.  Use caution when pulling boxes of decorations out or putting them away as these activities are a leading cause of related E.R. visits.


Pay Attention When Driving

Winter can be a very dangerous time for roadway drivers. Things like black ice, flooding, harsh weather conditions, and distracted or drunk drivers are all elements that can increase the likelihood of a dangerous accident.

Drive Slow

Be extra careful when driving throughout the holidays – monitoring speed, increasing following distance to 8-10 seconds, and always watching the road around you.

Watch out for drunk drivers

Drunk drivers are also more likely to hit the roads around this time of year so watch out for swerving cars, reckless driving, and report drunk drivers to your local law enforcement when you can.


Ladder Tips

Many people visit the urgent care around this time of year as a result of a slip & fall accident, many of which are attributed to ladder falls. Common mistakes on handling and properly standing a ladder can lead to mishaps and, unfortunately, serious injuries.

Here are a few common ladder-handling tips that can help make sure your back and decorations are in tip-top shape:

  • Place ladder up on a flat and stable ground, away from power lines and doors
  • Have someone to act as a spotter to hold the ladder still for you or to call for help need be
  • Wear close-toed shoes with a gripping sole
  • NEVER stand on the top rung
  • Only have one person on the rungs of the ladder at a time

Save the accidents for another time of year and use these tips mentioned to ensure the safety of you and your loved ones during this festive time of year.

Today’s Extra: 9 Gifts for the Dog Lovers in Your Life

9 Gifts for the Dog Lovers in Your Life

Dogs are easy to shop for. Toys, treats, a comfy bed — and they’re happy. But what about dog lovers? If you’re searching for the perfect gift for a dog lover, check out these nine options.


As a dog parent, you might eye those collars, leashes, toys, beds, etc. that you can personalize with your dog’s name. But you just can’t justify the cost when you already have perfectly fine gear at home. That’s where gifting comes in. Treat the dog lover in your life with personalized canine gear. This company, PrideBites, even puts your pup’s image on its products. Dog lovers already swoon over their furry friends, so they’re bound to love something personalized just for their animal.


For the crafty dog lover, consider a clay paw print impression kit, so they can create a cherished keepsake. The kits — such as this one that forms an ornament — typically include nontoxic clay, which you roll out and press your dog’s paw into. Then, you either bake or air-dry the clay, depending on the product. And you can paint your creation to truly customize it. Plus, if you don’t want to gift a ready-made kit, you can easily create your own for a more personal touch.


Your dog-loving friend probably thinks their animal is the most adorable pooch ever to walk the Earth. So why not spoil them with custom artwork of their fur kid? There are many business options out there that can turn a dog’s photo into a lifelike piece of art. And though you aren’t the one who created it, handmade gifts like this are always appreciated.


If the dog lover in your life happens to have a mixed-breed pup, consider gifting them a canine DNA test kit. It’s a fun way for them to learn a little more about their animal, and it might actually be a gift in disguise for the dog, too. “Once predominant breeds are established, owners can take their results to their veterinarian to discuss potential health issues associated with specific breeds,” according to WebMD. For instance, you might find out your dog’s dominant breed is prone to arthritis, so you can take steps to protect its joints. Regardless, the kit makes a fun gift and conversation piece for dog lovers.


If you share your home with a dog, odds are you’ve uttered something along the lines of: “I could make a sweater with all the fur you lose!” Well, you actually can. There are companies that will spin your dog’s fur into yarn, which you then can turn into any sort of knitted garment. According to the American Kennel Club, dog-fur yarn — or chiengora — is soft like angora wool and even warmer than sheep’s wool. (And don’t worry — you won’t smell like a dog once it’s cleaned and spun.) You need about a grocery bag of fur to create small items, such as mittens. So as a gift, you can do the legwork (i.e., brushing) and gather that fur if you’re able. But if you can’t, you still can offer to fund the process for a truly original present.


If wearable dog fur isn’t quite what you’re looking for, how about a custom item with the image of your gift recipient’s animal? Just like with the custom artwork, there are many businesses that specialize in turning a pet’s image into apparel for humans. For instance, this company will put your dog’s face onto a vibrant pair of socks, so you can always feel like you’re taking your dog for a walk. And this business features a necklace to which you can add charms stamped with your dog’s name — perfect for people with multiple animals. There’s definitely something out there for any dog lover’s taste.


Another product many dog parents eye but haven’t tried is a monthly subscription box of dog gear. For you, it’s an easy gift option that’s sure to please the recipient — and more importantly, their dog. Yes, this is really a gift for the canine companion, but a true dog lover will find joy in it, as well. And many of the subscription companies have gift options that essentially are just trials of the service. For instance, BarkBox allows you to give a subscription for one, three, six or 12 months. For the gift recipient, it’s a great way to try a service that’s probably already piqued their interest.


For the dog lovers who love to cook, consider gifting them some dog-themed bakeware. There are many kitchen items with paws prints and funny sayings about dogs. (And odds are the dog lover you’re shopping for has some of them.) Check out these silicone baking molds with both paws and bones. They’re fine for making human food. But they’re even better if you bake homemade dog treats for your pup. Plus, you can use them to mold frozen treats, as well.


Regardless of whether the dog lover in your life has a pup of their own, they still clearly care about dogs. Honor their passion by donating in their name to an organization that helps dogs. Try to learn whether your gift recipient has a favorite animal charity, as many dog lovers do. Or do your research, and choose a worthy cause. Some groups even allow you to sponsor a specific dog, which can add some fun to your gift. Or you can gift a membership to an animal organization, which usually comes with several perks for the recipient. No matter what, you’re showing your dog lover friend that you love dogs, too.

Today’s Extra: Do Pets Really Make People Healthier?

Do Pets Really Make People Healthier?


Who exactly are the people sharing their homes with animals? And how does it affect their lives? One large study aimed to explore just that. It’s been widely reported that pets can improve our health — both mentally and physically. But it might not be that simple. Here’s what researchers have learned about the differences between pet owners and non-owners.


Researchers from the RAND Corporation and UCLA analyzed data from a California health survey of more than 42,000 adults with diverse backgrounds. They aimed to learn how pet owners and non-owners differed “across a variety of socio-demographic and health measures.”

The study broke down pet ownership into four groups: non-pet owners, dog owners, cat owners and people who had both dogs and cats. (Other types of pets were not included in the data.) Here’s what it found.

  • About 26.2 percent of the respondents had a dog, 21.5 percent had a cat and 8.5 percent had both.
  • Women were more likely than men to be either a cat or dog owner (or have both).
  • White people were much more likely to have dogs or cats compared to other races and ethnicities.
  • Pet owners were more likely to be homeowners and married.
  • Pet owners also were more likely to have full-time jobs and make more money than non-owners.

The upshot? “Overall, pet owners are more likely to be: single females or married, younger, White, live in more rural areas, live in homes, and belong to households where everyone is employed full time,” according to the study. So what about the differences in health?


The respondents were asked to rank their general health. They also reported their body mass index and whether they had asthma. Here’s what the data showed.

  • Dog and cat owners ranked their general health as slightly better than non-owners. But once the study controlled for other factors that influence health — such as income and marital status — the differences between the groups disappeared.
  • Pet owners were more likely to have asthma than non-owners, though this survey couldn’t say whether the pets caused the asthma, the people already had it or there was another factor at play.
  • Dog owners were slightly more likely to have a higher BMI.

Besides that, the study found no other remarkable differences in health between pet and non-pet owners after it controlled for socio-demographic factors. “Some of the health differences observed between pet owners and non owners could be over- or underestimated due to differences in socio-demographic variables such as age, race, gender, employment, income, and housing, and not necessarily (or solely) differences in pet ownership patterns,” the study says. For instance, because pet owners tend to have higher incomes — a factor that’s associated with better health — it might appear as though pets have a greater influence on health for those people than they actually do.

Thus, the study points out how difficult it is to determine a causal relationship between pets and health. And it suggests research that doesn’t adjust for other variables could draw erroneous conclusions.


This isn’t to say you won’t see any health benefits from having an animal in your life. As the study says, it’s hard to determine how much each variable contributes to health. So for one person, having a dog might increase their activity level and help them to lose weight. But another dog owner might keep living a sedentary lifestyle and not boost their health.

Still, research has found some promising signs of human-animal interactions, though the results are mixed. “Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure,” according to the National Institutes of Health. “Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.”

Plus, therapy animals work wonders for people with certain health conditions — though there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to this either. For instance, the National Institute of Health cites a study in which one group of teens with diabetes was given a fish to care for, and another group was not. All of the teens also had to keep track of their blood glucose levels. The researchers found the teens with fish were better about monitoring their blood glucose, which suggested that pet ownership helped them to become more disciplined. But there could have been many other factors at play, as well.

The bottom line is having a pet is what you make of it. And our bonds with our animals are highly subjective — the strength and benefits of which likely can’t be truly measured in any study. So if you feel your life is more fulfilling with an animal, there are plenty out there who need homes.