Choosing safe toys for children starts with you

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In the United States, emergency rooms treated 251,800 toy-related injuries, according to the report issued last year from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). And, 44 percent of the injuries were to the head and face area, the area of the body with the most injuries. An estimated 84,400 of all toy-related injuries, or 34 percent, happened to children younger than 5 years of age.

In addition, a new study published in JAMA Ophthalmology, “Epidemiology of Sports-Related Eye Injuries in the United States,” found that basketball, baseball, and air guns were the most common causes of injury, accounting for almost half of all primary sports-related eye injuries.

“When giving the gift of sports equipment, Prevent Blindness strongly urges also providing sports eye protection,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness. “An eye care professional can provide guidance for the best protection for each sport and athlete.”

Prevent Blindness has declared December as Safe Toys and Gifts Awareness month and offers additional tips including:

  • Avoid toys that shoot or include parts that fly off.
  • Ask yourself or the parent if the toy is right for the child’s ability and age. Consider whether other smaller children may be in the home that may have access to the toy.
  • Avoid purchasing toys with sharp or rigid points, spikes, rods, or dangerous edges.
  • Buy toys that will withstand impact and not break into dangerous shards.
  • Look for the letters “ASTM.” This designation means the product meets the national safety standards set by ASTM International.
  • Don’t give toys with small parts to young children. Young kids tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking. If any part of a toy can fit in a toilet paper roll, the toy is not appropriate for children under the age of 3.
  • Do not purchase toys with long strings or cords, especially for infants and very young children as these can become wrapped around a child’s neck.
  • Dispose of uninflated or broken balloons immediately.
  • Magnets, like those found in magnetic building sets and other toys, can be extremely harmful if swallowed. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect a child may have swallowed a magnet.
  • KidsHealth.org recommends that bicycles, scooters, skateboards, and inline skates should never be used without helmets that meet current safety standards and other recommended safety gear, like hand, wrist and shin guards.
  • Read all warnings and instructions on the box.
  • Always supervise children and demonstrate to them how to use their toys safely.

 

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Avoiding a deep-fried turkey disaster this Thanksgiving

Did you know Benjamin Franklin — who thought the bald eagle was of “bad moral character” — proposed that a wild turkey be the official bird mascot of the United States? Although he was outvoted, the noble turkey remains a mainstay of American culture and kitchens. According to the National Turkey Federation, nearly 88 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, usually with a generous helping of buttery mashed potatoes and Grandma’s green bean casserole. Deep-fried turkey has recently become wildly popular, and for good reason. It’s crispy, juicy, and faster to prepare than its roasted counterpart, but all of that deliciousness can come at a steep price.

Fire in the hole!

As delicious as a plate of crispy turkey may be, the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) actually discourages the use of any outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers, no matter how safely you operate one. So if Uncle Bob still insists on frying the bird, offer the option of an outdoor turkey cooking appliance that doesn’t use oil, or suggest purchasing a fried turkey from a specialty grocery store. If he won’t go for any of those options, at least put these safety tips into action. That way, there’s food and frivolity — not fireworks.

  1. Location, location, location.Always place your turkey fryer outdoors and at a distance from your home, outbuildings, fences, and trees. Never use in, on, or under a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, or any structure that can catch fire, and make sure the fryer is in full view while the burner is on. And keep the kids and pets indoors while the cooking is underway.
  2. Pay attention to proper prep.The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends thawing your turkey completely (24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds) and to pat it dry thoroughly before cooking. Partially frozen or wet turkeys can make the hot oil splatter when it’s immersed, which can lead to burns and injuries. And watch the weather — rain or snow can cause dangerous steam and spitting oil.
  3. Watch the temperature.The USDA warns that a deep fryer’s temperature can surge well beyond 350 degrees and the bubbling cooking oil is highly combustible. Vapors can ignite quickly, so to ensure Uncle Bob keeps those expressive eyebrows of his, monitor the Fahrenheit and use extreme caution when submerging and removing the turkey. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns that if there’s smoke, your oil is overheating, so turn the burner off immediately if you see any evidence.
  4. Be prepared.Cooking can be dangerous no matter how or where you’re operating, so always be sure to have a multipurpose, dry-powder fire extinguisher ready to go should your project go rogue. The USDA warns against extinguishing grease fires with water — call 911 immediately. And the less your skin is exposed, the better. Be wise and wear protective clothing.
  5. Select a safe size.Most fryers can accommodate a 12-16 pound turkey. If the bird is any bigger, it may not fit into the appliance and it’ll take exponentially more time to cook. As always, it’s really important to read the manufacturer’s instructions that come with your fryer, and take special heed of the recommended water and oil levels and submerge the bird slowly.
  6. Keep the stuffing separate.As delicious as cornbread stuffing is, don’t pack your bird to the brim with it. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) it’s best to bake the stuffing separately no matter how you’re cooking your turkey to avoid food-borne illness. Remember, good old Tom (and the stuffing) should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

The information included in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice or other advice, but should be confirmed with alternative sources.

Stash it: Storage and preserving food safety

There’s nothing like Mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup, but she always makes enough for an army. No matter how much we love it, it would take weeks to finish it all. And what about the garden riches so many folks are amassing this time of year? Fresh tomatoes, sweet corn, green beans, and zucchini are piling up in households everywhere. Now’s the time to learn how to store and can foods safely, so when winter rolls around, you can enjoy summer all over again.

Play by the rules

No matter where you’re storing your food — the freezer, the refrigerator, or the pantry — the most important thing to remember is safety. Food-borne illnesses like salmonella, E. coli, and botulism can wreak havoc in the blink of an eye, so check out the following guidelines to help keep you and your family healthy and happy.

  • Don’t hesitate. Get thee to a refrigerator! Stick to the“two-hour rule” for letting foods sit at room temperature. The sooner perishable items are in the refrigerator or freezer, the better. And always make sure your fridge and freezer are kept at the right temperature. The refrigerator unit should be kept at or below 40 F, and a freezer should be at 0 F.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Checking the storage direction on labels is always a good idea. If you’re wondering if you’ve properly stored a perishable item, it’s best to throw it away rather than risk illness. And be aware that items your grandmother may have thought were shelf-stable — condiments, some vegetables, even eggs — may not be, so use this handy guide to determine what’s shelf-stable and what’s not.
  • Keep it cold.Any existing bacteria can multiply rapidly if food is stored in the “danger zone” (between 40 F and 140 F).
  • Watch for “interlopers.”Keep root vegetables and any fresh fruit in a cool, dry place, but never under the sink or near chemicals. Water from pipes and hazardous materials can compromise fresh produce.
  • Damage control.Make sure to check canned goods for swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive rusting, or crushing or denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking. If any of these markers are present, the food inside could be spoiled. Throw it out.

Storage 101

So, how exactly do you package items so food-borne illness risk is kept at a minimum and quality remains intact? Check out these storage tips to ensure your tasty tidbits stay out of the danger zone.

  • Take cover.Not only does covering food with an airtight lid  or even plastic wrap or foil — help retain quality, it wards off cross-contamination from other foods.
  • Can correctly.Botulism, a rare but serious illness, is a very real threat to consider when you’re home canning. Although high acid foods like fruits and tomatoes can be processed in boiling water, low-acid items — specifically meat — must be processed in a pressure canner, which heats food to at least 240 F. The right size of pressure canner matters, too, because a bad fit can lead to under cooking.
  • Consider your placement.Whether you’re storing food in the refrigerator or freezer, make sure you place newer food packages near the bottom or back of the freezer, color code or label packages for easy identification, and always separate raw meats, poultry, and seafood from produce.
  • Wrap it up right.When you know food will be in the freezer for a considerable length of time, wrap it snugly in heavy duty plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper, or plastic bags designed for freezing. Not only will using tougher material reduce potential leakage or punctures, it keeps helps keep out freezer burn.
  • Clean it up.Mop up spills immediately and get rid of expired and spoiled items regularly.

The information included in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice or other advice, but should be confirmed with alternative sources.

Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake

So it’s true that Oct. 28 is National Chocolate Day. But really, only one day?!

At Grinnell Mutual we believe that every day is Chocolate Day. To celebrate chocolate (however often you feel it necessary) it seems pretty obvious that making something chocolate is a good answer. Because then, of course, you’ll need to eat it.

Good old Texas Sheet Cake is a pretty good place to start

Ingredients

3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups butter
4½ tablespoons cocoa
1½ cups water
3 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
1½ teaspoon soda
1½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Mix sugar, flour, and salt and set aside.

Melt the butter, then add cocoa and water. Bring to a rapid boil and pour over the sugar mixture. Mix well.

Add eggs, buttermilk, soda, and vanilla. Mix and pour into greased jellyroll pan.

Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes and frost while still warm. Cool completely before serving.

Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients

1 cup butter
4 tbs. cocoa
½ cup milk
7 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions

Combine margarine, cocoa, and milk. Heat to boiling while stirring.

Mix in powdered sugar and vanilla until frosting is smooth. Pour warm frosting over warm cake.

On the Hunt for Safety

Hunting requires focus, skill, and patience. Whether you’re new to the sport or learned as a kid, you should pay the same amount of attention to the safety measures necessary for hunting game.

Have gun, will travel

The premier rule of hunting is firearm safety. Even if you’re a skilled marks-person, brushing up on firearm awareness before you head into the wilderness is important.

  • Treat every firearm or bow as if it’s loaded.Even if you know you cleaned your gun last night and removed the shells, handle it as if it was full of ammunition. And never allow someone else to handle your firearm, even if they’re trained.
  • Control is key.Be hyper-aware of where your muzzle is trained, and never, ever point it — even jokingly — at another human being or yourself. And keep your finger off the trigger at all times until you’re ready to shoot the firearm.
  • Take a good look.When you spot your target, make sure you can see what’s in front of it and what’s beyond it. If you can’t see beyond the target, don’t take the shot. A life could depend on it.
  • Leave the beer at home.Alcohol impairs reaction time and judgment. Make sure you’re sober when handling a firearm or bow.

Beyond gun safety

Hunting safety doesn’t just stop at loaded firearms. Here are a handful of tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear hunter orange.Although the regulations vary by jurisdiction, most big game hunters wear hunter (blaze) orange clothing. Why? It saves lives. The bright color prevents other hunters from mistaking a person for an animal.
  • Protect man’s best friend.Many hunters enjoy hunting with their dogs, so safety precautions need to be considered for them, too. To protect Fido from barbed wire fences or thorny brush, keep your dog in a blaze orange chest protector vest. Make sure he or she has identification tags, is micro chipped, and is up to date on vaccinations and shots. And make time for frequent water and snack breaks so that your pup doesn’t end up suffering from heat stroke or hypoglycemia.
  • Get educated.Enroll in a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hunter education program. In some states, it’s required in order to get a valid hunter’s license. These programs teach everything from safety to ethics to first aid and are open to the public.

The trouble with tree stands

Although tree stands — a scaffold-type construction that allows hunters to get an elevated point of view — can be advantageous, they can also be hazardous. The small surface area a tree stand provides for sitting, standing, and kneeling can result in loss of balance, leading to a fall which can result in serious injury or death.

  • Don’t get too lofty.It’s not necessary to climb more than 15 or 20 feet to get a good view of the landscape. The higher you go, the more risk you take.
  • Choose wisely.Always use a sturdy, portable stand. Terrain can be unpredictable in the wilderness, so it’s a good idea to opt for construction that will not only support your weight, but also stay stationary.
  • Invest in good gear.A full-body harness will keep you attached to the stand if you lose your balance. And use a haul line to raise and lower your unloaded firearm. You should never climb up and down a tree stand with a loaded gun or bow.
  • Educate yourself.Consider taking an online safety course on tree stand safety. It’s free, and it could save your life.

For more information

For more outdoor safety tips, check out Grinnell Mutual’s Front Porch Blog.

The information included in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice or other advice, but should be confirmed with alternative sources.

October Pork Month is right around the corner!

Autumn has a lot to love. Although it means putting away your favorite summer toys before they acquire a thick layer of ice and snow, you’re also rewarded with gorgeous foliage, football games on crisp days, and home-cooked meals — and that makes October Pork Month very timely indeed.

So why is Pork Month in October? Traditionally, the 10th month marks the time of year hogs were marketed.  Today it simply serves as a celebration of hog farmers and the bounty they bring to the table. Because piping hot chili is the “comeback kid” when the mercury dips, try this Low & Slow Boilermaker Chili — whether you’re tailgating with friends or just enjoying a night in, this will make the promise of winter weather a little easier to swallow.

Low & Slow Boilermaker Pork Chili

8 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

3 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 2-inch cubes

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (optional)

3 fresh jalapeños, seeded and diced (optional — this really jacks up the spice quotient!)

3 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with juice

½ cup honey

½ cup prepared black coffee

½ cup bourbon or 1 can beer (lager or pale ale, optional)

½ cup jalapeño juice from jar (optional)

1 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained

2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained

1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

For garnish:

Sour cream

Cheddar cheese

Pickled jalapeños

Crushed tortilla chips

Directions

Pour 4 tablespoons of the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot and place over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Season the pork generously with salt and pepper and brown it in batches, 3 to 5 minutes per batch. Set the browned pork aside.

Pour the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil into the pot and add the diced onion, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeños. Add the brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Stir over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the browned pork back into the pot along with the diced tomatoes, honey, coffee, and bourbon or beer. Add the beans and corn and stir well. Bring the entire mixture to a simmer, making sure to keep the burner on its lowest setting.

Let the chili simmer for 2 to 3 hours, until the pork is falling apart. Serve with sour cream, cheddar cheese, pickled jalapeños, and crushed tortilla chips — or if you’re feeling especially ambitious, a pan of homemade cornbread.

More recipes just for you

You can read more about October Pork Month here, and if you’d like more tasty recipe ideas for any season, visit our Front Porch blog on grinnellmutual.com.

What to do in a car accident

It’s early in the morning, you’re on your way to work and the unexpected happens. The car in front of you stops abruptly, causing you to slam into their bumper. Now what? The steps you take following a car accident are particularly important – for you and the others involved. It’s important to be educated on what to do after an accident, especially if it’s your first.

Drive your vehicle off to the side of the road. Make sure to pull over and turn on your hazard lights. If you can’t move your vehicle, turn on the hazard lights and make sure everyone in the car has their seat belt on.

Check your surroundings. Do not immediately get out of your vehicle, especially if the accident occurred on a busy street or highway. Once the road is clear, check the safety of you and others involved in the crash. If someone is seriously injured, do not attempt to move them. Call 911 immediately.

Call the authorities. Regardless of the severity of the accident, you should always call the authorities – either 911 or the local police station.

Stay calm and state the facts. First, take a few deep breaths. As hard as it may be, remove any emotion when you are talking with the authorities. Instead, calmly explain exactly what happened. Do not take blame or shift the blame.

Be sure to stick only to the facts and do not make any excuses or apologize. Some people tend to apologize naturally, even if they are not responsible for the damages. By saying sorry or accepting the blame, you’re potentially giving evidence that can be used against you.

Assess the accident and take diligent notes. Pull out your smartphone to take pictures of your car, other cars involved and the area where the accident happened. This will only help your insurance company even more when evaluating the accident. Make sure to jot down the details of what happened and when. These will come in handy later. If weather (icy roads, torrential rainfall or poor conditions) was a factor, be sure to note that.

Don’t post about your accident on social media. Almost anyone can access it – an opposing attorney or the at-fault party’s insurance company could use these posts as justification to lower or even completely withdraw a potential settlement offer.

Make sure to get all the information from other parties involved. Double check to make sure you have the names, addresses, phone numbers, license plate number, driver’s license number, insurance provider and policy number. It’s also a good idea to keep record of responding officers such as names and titles in case you need to contact them at a later date.

Contact your independent insurance agent. After you’ve gathered the information needed, taken pictures and reviewed your policy, reach out to your agent. They’ll be able to help you with the next steps. They’ll likely recommend that you file a claim. Don’t wait on filing this – the sooner you file a claim, the quicker the insurance company can start processing it.

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