Since I went back to work in September I’ve felt like there aren’t enough hours in the day. I think most moms (and dads too, for that matter) can relate. I get up, cook breakfast and rush out the door for work. I am one of a thousand ants marching east on I-64, snaking toward Kanawha City each morning. My days at the office are hectic, trying to make up for a year of missed work. As soon as I walk through the door at night, everyone is hungry and I often can’t tell who is crying louder for food- my son, husband or dog. After dinner I have dishes, housework and bath time to get through. I find myself falling asleep every night as I put Henry to bed.
Needless to say, I haven’t had much time to myself lately, especially for things as time consuming as reading for pleasure. In my world it is important to differentiate between the monotony of reading for professional or relaxation purposes. I do plenty of reading at work- daily news briefs about the latest fad diet and the most recent journal articles about Vitamin D, for example. But making time to read something for fun- forget about it.
When I start a book, I’m like an addict. I can’t stop. I find myself staying up late and making excuses to sneak off alone to get my next fix- another chapter. I daydream about the characters and I think about what happens after the story ends. So, who could blame me for not taking the time to start a new book lately? My days are just too jam packed with life! But in reality, I need something to help lull me into blissful dreamland at night. Therefore, I’ve been spending a few minutes before bead reading magazines instead. They’re quick and simple and require very little commitment. My current favorite is Good Housekeeping.
I think Good Housekeeping is perfect for a working mom. The articles are relatively short and written about things to which I can really relate- crock pot meals, etiquette advice and the perfect under eye cream. Although I wouldn’t call it mindless reading, it’s pretty darn close. Just perfect for a quick 15 minutes before bed- or so I thought until the October issue.
Last month featured an article about why the food supply in America isn’t safe. Don’t get me wrong- I’m no food safety novice. I studied microbiology as an undergraduate and have taught food safety and food borne illness at the college level for years. But this particular piece was very disturbing. Just what somebody like me, who is already hypervigilant about preventing the spread of deadly microbes, needed to be extra paranoid. If you haven’t already, I’d suggest buying stock in Clorox wipes. The Gannons are doing our part to make sure everyone who buys some shares can retire early.
Seriously, this article summed up the gaps in our food safety system and outlined the crazy bureaucratic nightmare of which government agency is in charge of making sure our foods are safe. It reminded me of all the unusual food suspects that have made people sick in recent years- everything from peanut butter to sprouts and spinach. The worst part of all was seeing the pictures of the victims, innocent people who died because the food they ate was tainted. Children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to food poisoning. Their small and weakened bodies just can’t handle the virulent bacteria, which can cause everything from vomiting and diarrhea to kidney failure.
Few people are aware of the most common culprits. According to the CDC, the number one food which makes people sick is poultry. This is followed by leafy greens, beef, dairy, fruit and nuts. And, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, it is worthwhile to make sure you are keeping your food safe on the biggest poultry day of the year. Here are five easy steps to follow to help keep your family healthy:
First, make sure you properly thaw your bird. Never, ever thaw poultry, or any other frozen meat on the countertop. This allows bacteria, present in all meat, to rapidly multiply at rates that can easily make you sick. Second, don’t wash your turkey before baking it. You might think you’re washing off the bacteria, but in reality you’re just spreading germs. Third, use a food thermometer. Cook your bird using a method that allows it to reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit (F) in less than 4 hours. In addition, make sure a thermometer inserted into a thick part of the muscle (such as the thigh) reaches 180 degrees F. Fourth, don’t stuff the bird. I know the thought of moist delicious stuffing basted with roasted turkey juice is irresistible. However, stuffing the turkey’s cavity makes it difficult for hot air to circulate and reach a temperature hot enough to kill the bacteria. If you do choose to stuff the cavity, make sure you do so loosely, and again, use a food thermometer. The stuffing should reach a minimum of 165 degrees F. Fifth, play it safe and don’t cross contaminate. This sounds like common sense, but in the rush of trying to get everything prepared, it is easy to accidentally use the same cutting board for raw meat and veggies. Finally, remember to wash all surfaces which have come in contact with raw poultry in hot soapy water and air dry. In my world, a little bleach goes a long way to keeping countertops salmonella free.
Although these rules aren’t the only ones you need to know to keep your family free of food poisoning on this beautiful holiday, they’ll help you ensure you’re healthy and happy and ready to wake up at 3 A.M. the next day for some black Friday shopping.