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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Christmas Tree Safety

Last year I purchased an artificial Christmas tree, something I swore I would never do.  Two things led to this purchase: 1. A couple years ago, our tree fell while Matt was out of town and left me with a big mess and 2. The more blogs I write about fire safety, the more I worry about a home fire.  Did you know that according to a 2015 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report, U. S. Fire Departments responded to more than 200 home fires annually between 2009 and 2013 where Christmas trees were the first item to catch on fire?

But it seems that my purchase may not have saved me from my second worry because the majority of Christmas tree fires are related to electrical malfunctions, and if your artificial tree isn’t flame-resistant, then it’s really no better than having a real tree.  Last year, A Cleaner World Fire Restoration shared some important tips on selecting and caring for your live Christmas tree.  This year, we’d like to follow up with these reminders:
  • Thirty percent of Christmas tree fires were due to electrical failures or malfunctions.  Check your lights before stringing them on the tree.  Make sure they have the label of an independent testing lab, they are for indoor use, replace worn or broken cords or loose bulbs, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the number of strands to connect.
  • This may be an obvious one, but don’t use candles to decorate or light your tree.  Apparently this is how they did it before 1917.
  • Always turn off the tree lights before leaving or going to sleep.
  • Choose your tree’s location carefully.  According to the report I read, nearly 25% of fires occurred because the tree was too close to a heat source.
  • Don’t leave your tree up too long.  According to NFPA, trees, even if they are well-watered, should be taken down within four weeks of being put up in your home. 
The holiday season is such a joyous time – spending time celebrating with family and friends.  While we know that stuff can be replaced, Christmas tree-related fires have a higher rate of fatalities than other house fires.  Stay safe this holiday season, and feel free to call us at 336-992-0700 if you have a fire safety-related question.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cleaning Your Dishwasher

I have this thought process that if you put dirty stuff into an appliance, add a cleaning agent, turn it on, let it do its thing, and clean items come out, then the appliance itself should be getting clean in the process too.  Apparently, I’m wrong because that big box you put your dirty dishes in, may be filled with nasty gunk, and it may not be getting your dishes as clean as you might think.  When’s the last time you cleaned your dishwasher?  If you’re like me, you probably don’t remember, and sadly, several articles I read said you should do it once a month!

Let’s get started:
  1. Take the bottom rack and thoroughly clean any accumulated debris or gunk built up in or around the drain area.
  2. Fill a dishwasher-safe dish with one cup of white vinegar and place it on the upper rack of your empty machine, close the door, and run a hot-water cycle.  This should wash away the majority of the gunk, grease, and grime.  There could still be some stuff left around the outer seal.  If so, simply take an old rag and wipe it off.
  3. To deodorize your dishwasher, sprinkle a cupful of baking soda across the bottom of the machine and run it on a short hot-water cycle.
That’s it.  Now your dishwasher should sparkle and smell fresh.  One side note here – if your dishwasher has a mold invasion, pour a cup of bleach in the bottom of the basin and run a full cycle only if the interior is NOT stainless steel.  Caution: using bleach on a stainless steel dishwasher interior will likely cause the metal to erode.  But no worries, I just used vinegar and baking soda on my stainless steel dishwasher, and it turned out nicely.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Respect for the American Flag

It is out of character for me to weigh in on anything controversial.  While I have my opinions, and they are strong ones too; I don’t like to offend others.  The older I’ve gotten, the more I realize that everyone has their own opinions, and they are completely entitled to them.  Moreover, we don’t have to agree on everything to be friends; in fact, many of my friends have different views than I.  The bottom line with me is, I don’t share my opinions because I’d much rather find common ground and be friends than not.

But…..and you knew there was a but coming…..it does bother me when the American Flag is disrespected and athletes choose to kneel during the National Anthem.  To me, the American Flag and the National Anthem represent the courage and sacrifice of the men and women that defend our country and freedom and equality for all.  Apparently I’m not alone because I found a couple coaches out there that weighed in on the recent debate:

http://www.breitbart.com/video/2016/03/08/watch-virginia-tech-basketball-coach-teaches-players-to-respect-the-national-anthem/

http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-cowboys/cowboys/2016/09/13/jerry-jones-disappointing-nfl-players-protesting-national-anthem

While I was working on this post, I found an article that shared other ways to disrespect the American Flag.  Even though I knew that it should never be used as clothing, bedding, or drapery, I didn’t know it should never be used for advertising purposes.  Below is a link to article that you might find interesting:

http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2011/06/seven_ways_to_disrespect_the_a/

Here’s another interesting piece of information, A Cleaner World cleans American Flags for free – every day.  Remember, one of the ways to honor the American Flag and our country is to keep our country’s colors looking solid and strong.  Regularly cleaning your outdoor American Flag will cause it to both last longer and maintain its vivid colors longer than those that are not properly cared for.  If your flag needs some special attention, drop it by one of our locations, and we will consider it an honor to clean it for you – free of charge.    

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Deciphering Dress Codes

I firmly believe that choosing what to wear back in the 1950’s was much easier than what it is today.  Just think about it – women wore dresses and pearls everywhere, even while cleaning house, and men always wore suits.  No one ever got caught looking unkempt because no one ever left the house looking less than their best.  These days, I find myself running errands in yoga pants and flip flops with my hair in a ponytail; Mrs. Clever would have never done that.  Further there’s the whole party invitation thing that sometimes includes a dress code and sometimes doesn’t.  All this rambling leads me to this question – just what does smart casual, business casual, cocktail, and black tie really mean?
  • Smart Casual – a term I’ve only recently started hearing, and one that I think is incredibly vague.  After all, the interpretation is bound to differ person to person, so I’ll be honest and confess that I “googled” it.  It said, “Neat, conventional, yet relatively informal in style, especially as worn to conform to a particular dress code.  Think of a smart casual outfit as one that you'd wear for a movie or dinner date."
  • Business Casual – something that I’ve written about several times, noting my disappointment with the fact that we’re taking this term way too far.  Business casual used to mean khakis and a polo shirt on Fridays.  Today, depending on what company you work for, it can mean jeans, a t-shirt, and flip flops, but if someone indicates business causal, it is likely that they mean less formal than a traditional business suit, but still intending to give a professional impression.  I think khakis and a dress shirt fits the bill here.
  • Cocktail – by far the easiest thing to dress for, in my opinion.  Men can wear a nice, dark suit, and women have a plethora of options here from a traditional LBD to a lovely, elegant (but short) cocktail-type dress.  Be sure not to overdress and pick a floor length gown, and remember it is a bunch of people standing around drinking cocktails and enjoying canapes so a dress for clubbing is not appropriate here either.
  • Black tie – for men, this one is exceptionally easy; they simply wear a tux.  For women, on the other hand, it’s a little more difficult.  Tradition says to choose a full length gown, but as fashions change, I’m seeing lots more sources suggest formal separates, statement skirts, and dressy combos, as long as they go past the knee.  
But as Karl Lagerfeld said, “No one is over-dressed or underdressed in a Little Black Dress.”  I have 4 different but rather classic versions of the LBD, and whenever I am in doubt, I always go with one of them.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Handling Grease Fires

Last month was Fire Prevention Month, and we shared tips on how to reduce the chance of a home fire throughout the month as well as through a blog post on a cooking-related fire.  While this is another post on a cooking-related fire, I felt it was important to share.  Read on and you’ll figure out why.

A customer was cooking something on the stove, using oil, and turned her back for just a moment, as we’ve all done.  When she turned back around it was on fire, so she called to her husband to help.  His instinct was to take the pan and get it out of the house.  As he grabbed the handle, his wife accidentally got in his way.  As a result, he stumbled and hot grease flew out of the pan, hitting them both, and causing the couple to both have third degree burns.

“Trying to move a fire outside is a common mistake and can cause serious injury and possibly lead the fire to spread,” explained Phyllis Taylor, A Cleaner World Roanoke’s Fire Restoration expert.  Phyllis went on to say that while cooking oils are not flammable, once they reach a certain temperature, they can ignite and burn rather intensely.  She has a particular set of cooking rules she absolutely lives by, and she shared them with me:
  • Keep a fire extinguisher, in working order, in your kitchen at all times.
  • When cooking, always have the lid that goes with the pan sitting nearby so you can use it to smother out a fire.
  • If you don’t have a fire extinguisher or a lid, you could try to use baking soda to put out the fire.
  • Never, ever take your eyes off, turn your back, or leave the room when cooking something.
  • Never pick up or move a pan that is on fire.
  • Don’t try to be a hero.  Fires can get out of control quickly.  If you feel a moment’s hesitation on what you should do – then just get out safely and call 911.
And as one final follow up, Mike Taylor, Phyllis's husband and Managing Partner of A Cleaner World Roanoke, added these words of wisdom: “A watched pot never burns.”
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