Another Good Reason We’ll Give Out Pretzels This Year

We don’t get many trick-or-treaters, but I’d already decided to give out snack bags of pretzels this year. I bought them on clearance last month for less than 10 cents per bag, so they are a frugal and a healthier choice. I just didn’t realize how much healthier.

I’ve gotten several e-mails today warning me that Pirate’s Gold candy is dangerous and has been recalled. Like any e-mail, I take it with a grain of salt until I check out it’s veracity via snopes.com or another such truth-checking entity. Every now and again one of these forwarded e-mails is true, and this is one of those times.

There is a new warning put out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that Sherwood brand Pirate’s Gold Milk Chocolate coins are being recalled due to the fact that they contain Melamine, the ingredient in milk product that has caused many infant deaths and illnesses in China.

Yikes!

These candies have been sold at Costco, as well as many bulk and dollar stores. There seems to be little real risk, but most of us will choose to be safe rather than sorry. A trend that has changed Halloween so very much from the Halloween of my youth, when candy apples and homemade cookies were greeted with Pavlovian spittle and not accusations of food-tampering. But I digress.

So, we will be tossing out all of the coin-shaped candy this year, I’m sure much to the chagrin of Son and any other company that happens to make coin-shaped candy that does NOT include melamine. Collateral damage, my friends.

And I’m relatively sure that the pretzels we’ll be giving out do not contain melamine.

Faux Fortune Fosters Frugal Feelings

I like to play poker. I used to play with some friends of mine, back when I was single and working. I was usually the only girl. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost, but I always had a great time.

Now that I’m married and trying to make life work on one income I can’t throw money at poker. I haven’t missed it, but I was still happy to find an online poker application on Facebook. I can play as long as I like with pretend money. I love gambling when there’s no real risk!

The funniest thing is that I’m even frugal while playing with fake money. I get $700 a day just for showing up to play, and I make sure never to lose more than that in a day, and more days than not I win. In little more than a month I’ve amassed a faux fortune of over $50,000.

Now really. What would it hurt for me to play the 100/200 tables instead of the 1/2 tables? Or go all in on a pair of twos? Nothing! But being frugal is so ingrained in me I need to even be careful with money that DOES NOT EXIST!

No wonder my friends get me Dollar Store gift cards for my birthday…

I’ve noticed that frugality is chic these days, which is a great thing.  First time I was ever ahead of a trend!  And now that we’re in a depression recession, being frugal is going to become a necessity for many people who thought it a dirty word just a few months ago.

I hope people will stay out of the real casinos, risking what little money they do have on the slots or blackjack or craps.  Come join me at the virtual tables, which are a very frugal escape from the realities in our 401ks.

Deal of the Day August 15, 2008

Totally forgotto do one yesterday.  Sorry!

Here’s a great freebie that could save you lots of money and anguish:

Keep your home safe with this free Dryer Vent Tool Kit from Dryer Vent Wizard. The kit measures the temperature in your dryer to help determine if it’s at risk for fire. Included are helpful hints on how to avoid dryer fires. Available while supplies last.

Check back tomorrow for another great deal!

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Prevent Drowning – Water Safety Tips for Parents

There’s a large publicity campaign going on right now in my county, and it’s one they do every year. It’s aim is to save lives, particularly of young children. As summer approaches more people all over the counrty will be hitting the swimming pools, lakes and beaches for family fun, so let’s talk safety.

Here in South Florida our pools are open all year, and the risk of accidental drowning is obviously much higher than in places where the pools are closed and covered for 8 months every year. In fact drowning is the #1 cause of death for children ages 1-4 in my home county. That makes me shudder, as does every news story that documents the tragedy.

Here are some things you can do to make sure your children remain safe around the water:

1. Never leave children unattended near any body of water – even for a moment. Children can drown in as little as two inches of water in less than a minute. Be mindful of leaving a child with an older sibling – kids’ attention strays.

2. Install a self-closing gate around the pool. These are mandatory with all new construction here, unless the pool area is fully screened with doors that lock.

3. Alarm every door leading to water to alert you if a child has gone outside. One of my friends has this and believe me, no one will miss the ear-shattering siren that alerts to open doors!

4. Teach children water and swimming skills. The youngest children can be taught to reach for the wall if they fall in, increasing their chances of survival. Check in your area for lessons, or look online to teach them yourself!

5. Designate an adult to watch children during pool parties and family beach gatherings.

6. Remove any toys that may attract children to the pool area. Stow balls, rafts and other items for safety and neatness.

7. Install a safety net pool cover to secure the water area.

8. Install a cordless phone, poolside. No one wants to have to run inside looking for a phone if there’s an emergency in the pool area.

9. Lifesaving equipment – a pole, life preserver and rope – should be kept in the pool area.

10. Clip back or cap long hair. Children with long hair should never leave it loose in the pool.

11. Avoid keeping water in buckets or other large containers when toddlers are home. For people who live in hurricane prone areas make sure you secure rooms if you fill up the tub or buckets during a hurricane warning. Better yet, stock up on bottled water. Better safe…

12. Don’t rely on flotation devices to protect your children in the water. They need to be watched just as closely with floaties as without.

13. Take a CRP class. The Red cross and many other organizations offer these classes for a nominal fee.

This last one isn’t in the materials I read, but since I’ve found out about it I want to pass it along.

14. Know the warning signs for Dry Drowning. People can actually die hours after swallowing water. I’d never heard of this until a friend sent me a link to this article. It is extremely scary to me that this happens. I know I’ve been in the pool with son when he’s swallowed water, and as long as he seemed okay I never, ever would have suspected a problem. And really, would a hospital even know to look for this if you were to bring in your child because he’s tired? Still, please keep an eye out for these warning signs, which are so very easy to overlook:

  • difficulty breathing
  • extreme tiredness
  • changes in behavior

Please, pass this information along.

I Was Lucky. This Time.

Dear Petroliance,

I am alive, and I am thankful.

On Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 9:34 am I was driving westbound on C_____ Rd in P________, Florida. As I was approaching the Railroad tracks at D______ the lights started flashing to indicate an approaching train. I came to a complete stop as the gate arms started descending, and was dismayed to see an eastbound motorist trying to slip through at the last moment.

It was a tanker truck, and it was so late slipping through that I saw the gate arm hit the top of the truck. Right on the tank. The tank that holds whatever highly flammable chemicals you transport.

Yes, it was one of your trucks. I could clearly read “Petroliance” and the phone number (800-226-7011) painted on the back of the tank. Unfortunately I could not make out a truck number.

I am appalled. I sat there as your truck was crossing the tracks, and I flashed back, remembering the accident that happened fifteen years ago just a few miles to the south. That day a train hit a tanker that was sitting on the tracks, and the ensuing fireball fried five people doing nothing more than sitting in their cars waiting for the train to go by. You know, the people who had obeyed the signals and stopped. Of course the tanker driver died that day, too.

Here I was in that very vulnerable spot, first in line nearest the tracks, watching the signal gate hit your tanker.

Did your driver think the five minutes saved was worth the risk? I’ll bet he did. I’ll bet that driver fifteen years ago did, too. But I know that six families and one company (that was likely sued into oblivion) don’t think so.

And neither do I.

Perhaps it’s time to have a refresher course in railroad safety for your drivers, particulary the one that crossed the railroad tracks on eastbound C____ Rd at 9:34 am this past Thursday.

5 Ways to Protect Your Personal Information on Public Computers

My internet security company (done as a link so only those that really want to know will see it) sent out a very informative newsletter that got my creative juices flowing. Some of this article is lifted directly from that newsletter, and some I added. I think the final result is better than theirs, and less self-serving. I think their security program is da bomb, but know I’m not endorsing any products nor getting paid to mention them. Just so you know.

Our personal information is at risk from hackers every time we get on a computer. At home we can use the best virus and software protection and be diligent about running scans, keeping our information pretty secure.

When we’re a way from home we can’t be sure of anything, except that we can’t be sure of anything. Using a public computer probably isn’t anyone’s first choice (well, except perhaps for people with criminal intent), but sometimes you don’t have a choice.

If you’re away from your desk or laptop and you have to use a computer in a library, hotel, Internet cafe, or other public location security should be on your mind. It can present some real challenges to your privacy, because the host may not have all the security software you have installed on your own computer. You can still take some precautions to make your private information more secure.

1. Be aware of your surroundings. If possible sit with your back to the wall or in an area where no one is sitting next to or behind you. Especially when entering account numbers or passwords.

2. Keep a flash drive on hand. These convenient little buggers are dropping in price almost as fast as our gas prices are going up, and some attach right to your keychain. If you have to download anything (such as e-mail attachments) you can save it to your personal drive rather than the desktop, and you won’t have to worry about deleting items from the desktop when you log off.

3. Pay attention to prompts in the Web browser asking if it should remember passwords. A surprising number of times even public computers are set to default to remembering passwords. Make sure those boxes are not checked before you log into your email or other password-protected accounts.

4. Cover your tracks. Clear your passwords, cache, browsing history, and temporary files before logging off. Double check before you walk away.

5. Avoid sensitive financial transactions. Do not bank online, pay your credit cards or do other sensitive transactions from a public computer. It just isn’t worth the risk. Wait until you get home if at all possible.

No one can give us foolproof privacy protection. Hopefully these tips will keep your information a little bit safer.

Important Safety Alert: Rethink Plastic!

The post scheduled for today, Self Storage Part 3 – How to Be a Smart Self Storer, will now be posted tomorrow. In my opinion this post was too important to delay. Please check back tomorrow to read the final installment in the Self Storage series.

The Today Show did a story this week focusing on the safety of the plastic containers we use to hold our water, leftover foods and even our babies’ juice and formula.

These concerns have been around for a number of years. I recall the concern about chemicals leaching into our food when we use plastic containers in the microwave. My concern was eased by the last media blitz on the subject, which debunked those allegations. “Perfectly safe,” they said.

The Today Show report brought those concerns crashing back, and then some. Their report focused on a number system on the bottom of plastic bottles and containers. The primary chemical (or group of chemicals) to make the plastic is assigned a number, and that number is stamped on the bottom of many (but not all, and that’s another big problem) bottles and containers. I believe they were originally assigned to assist with recycling efforts, but now those numbers are being associated with the safety of the plastic itself.

So, which are safe to use? That’s a matter of debate. Some scientists say a “1” on the bottle (what you find on most of your bottled water) means it’s safe, at least for one use. According to Dr. Leo Trasande of the Mount Sinai Center for Children’s Health and the Environment (part of their School of Medicine) those bottles are difficult to wash and should never be re-used.

A “3”, “6”, or “7” would mean it’s potentially unsafe. According to Dr. Trasande , “The bottles with the numbers 3, 6 and 7 are not safe for use across the board.”

Some bottles with the number 7 indicate that the bottle contains bisphenol A, a chemical linked to reproductive and fertility problems. Many baby bottles are sevens. And some sippy-cups. Dandy.

This story is well worth watching.

The story caused such a stir they did a follow-up the next day.

I have cupboards full of plastic plates and cups that don’t even have numbers on the bottom. They are going into the trash.

Many of Son’s sippy cups, which are mostly Munchkin brand straw cups similar to the ones pictured above, are also not numbered. I’ve sent off an e-mail to the company inquiring as to what chemicals are used in making their plastics. Son will be using glass, at least for now.  He’s old enough and his motor skills are deft enough that I don’t have a huge safety concern about glass.   At least until he reaches adolescence.

I can’t just assume these plastics are safe any longer, assume that the companies will be forthcoming, assume that the government has the issue in hand. I’d much err on the side of safety.

What’s next?  The danger of Brussel sprouts?  Well, I can hope.

Weathering Storms

It’s interesting being under a tornado watch.

We don’t normally have tornadoes here. The occasional waterspout, sure. And very occasionally hurricanes throw off a tornado or two, but being under a tornado watch is very, very rare.

After 24 years in Florida I’m used to hurricanes. With hurricanes we have days to prepare. We can buy supplies, protect our homes with shutters or boards or tape. We can get out of town if we choose, or at the very least head inland.

But with tornadoes there’s almost no warning. They go where they want to go, no rhyme nor reason. The meteorologists can tell us that conditions are ripe for tornadoes, but they can’t tell us with much advance notice whether one is actually coming – let alone who’s in the path.

So there’s really no way to prepare, other than to keep the television on, and to know where inside our home to head if things look ominous. I’ve watched The Wizard of Oz. Just head to the root cellar or basement, right?

But this ain’t Kansas. There is no basement. There’s certainly no root cellar. We’re built on the Everglades, for goodness sake.

So, we’d head to the bathroom under the stairs. The stair structure and plumbing make it the safest place in the house. But that doesn’t do us a whole lot of good if the tornado takes the entire house, does it?

Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.

So, my son is sleeping upstairs in his bed, and I sit here, keeping vigil. And thinking.

Thinking about how much life is affected by the weather. And how much life is like the weather. Thinking about how we think we have control of everything in our lives, but we really do not. Thinking about how sometimes we have lots of time to prepare to weather the storms life throws at us, and sometimes we do not. And thinking about the weathermen in our lives – the doctors, financial planners, lawyers and teachers – who try to steer us away from danger and help us along the way.

But the bottom line is that we’re all responsible for our own safety. I can’t control everything, but if I know a hurricane is coming and I leave my home unprotected and go stand out in the middle of the street, well, I shouldn’t be surprised when the storm knocks me on my ass.

And if I see a tornado coming, I’ll get us to the safest place and duck.

Then, after the storm is over, I’ll hopefully get up and brush off the debris. Then I’ll survey the damage and rebuild. Or move on.

Sounds like an emergency plan to me.

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