Diane Prather: Tips for a safe Christmas

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Diane Prather

It’s common to overhear statements like the following these days: “It’s Dec. 1 already, and we don’t have our outdoor decorations up yet,” or “I need to bake so that I can send Aunt Ruth her favorite cookies by Christmas.”

Thoughts concerned with getting everything done by Christmas can be overwhelming, indeed. And yet, we need to take care that the holiday is safe for our family and friends, pets and even livestock.

For example, consider the placement of outdoor lights, garlands and wreaths. On a ranch they need to be put up out of the reach of cattle and sheep.

Cattle, in particular, can ruin the ribbon hanging down from a wreath in a short time. Ranch animals enjoy chewing on extension cords, too, which can result in more tragic results that eating a ribbon.

There’s no prettier sight than a large wreath and big red bow that’s been hung on a barn or above a gate, but putting it up can present a challenge.

Did you ever try standing on top of an extra tall ladder and manipulating a wreath at the same time?

Add the possibility that a curious cow might decide to rub on the ladder, and the job becomes even more precarious. So, for safety’s sake, this wreath-putting-up job is best done with two people — one up on the ladder and another below to steady the ladder, hand up the wreath and shoo away the cows.

(Using the tractor and a loader is perhaps the safest way to accomplish this job.)

Lights, both indoor and outdoor, and extension cords need to be carefully checked for breaks. And, when the lights are hung up, always check to make sure that children can’t get tangled up in the cords or that they can get to the outlets.

Children learn by using their senses — touching, feeling, and tasting.

All of the colorful, sparkly Christmas decorations are irresistible for them. Talk about the “danger of small parts” warnings — just think about all of the ornamental berries, candies, ribbons, buttons and flowers that can come loose from wreaths and garland.

Floors need to be vacuumed frequently and children closely supervised.

The above warning applies to pets, too. Make sure that they do not eat tinsel and other small objects.

Safety applies to holiday foods, as well.

If you plan on giving canned foods, such as jellies and jams, make sure that they have been properly processed and that the jars are sealed. And, as always, make sure that you wash your hands before cooking. Clean cutting boards and utensils. Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator and always clean cutting boards after using them with raw meats.

Karen Massey, a family and consumer science extension agent from Routt County, has suggestions for sending holiday foods so they arrive in good condition and are safe to eat.

“To make sure the food you send arrives fresh and safe, select baked goods that are moist and firm,” she said. “Bar cookies are good choices, and so are fruit cakes, pound cakes, and other dense baked goods.

“Stay away from fragile, decorated cookies that will self-destruct during shipping.”

And, if you plan to take holiday goodies with you on a plane, Massey suggests checking with the Transportation Security Administration before putting home-preserved jams and jellies into your luggage.

“Cakes and pies may be allowed through airport security checkpoints, but they may be swabbed for explosives,” Massey said. She suggests another option. Take the recipe with you and make it at your destination.

Massey suggests using a catalog or online source for sending food gifts.

However, Massey said you should notify the recipient that a food gift is on the way. If the gift is sent to an office, make sure it will arrive when the office is open and there’s a place to refrigerate it.

Massey cautions that if you receive a “Keep Refrigerated” gift, open it immediately and check the temperature with a food thermometer. If perishable food arrives warm — above 40 degrees, notify the company that sent it. Do not consume or even taste the food.

Have a safe Christmas.

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