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This week I learned a big lesson: avoid food poisoning at all costs!! Below are a few tips from the Mayo Clinic on how to avoid food poisoning when cooking at home. What they don’t mention is the paranoia that sets in post-food poisoning as you try to figure out what the offending item was.

Here are steps you can take to prevent food poisoning at home:

  • Wash your hands, utensils and food surfaces often. Wash your hands well with warm, soapy water before and after handling or preparing food. Use hot, soapy water to wash the utensils, cutting board and other surfaces you use.
  • Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods. When shopping, preparing food or storing food, keep raw meat, poultry, fish and shellfish away from other foods. This prevents cross-contamination.
  • Cook foods to a safe temperature. The best way to tell if foods are cooked to a safe temperature is to use a food thermometer. You can kill harmful organisms in most foods by cooking them to the right temperature. Ground beef should be cooked to 160 F (71.1 C), while steaks and roasts should be cooked to at least 145 F (62.8 C). Pork needs to be cooked to at least 160 F (71.1C), and chicken and turkey need to be cooked to 165 F (73.9 C). Fish is generally well-cooked at 145 F (62.8 C).
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly. Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods within two hours of purchasing or preparing them. If the room temperature is above 90 F (32.2 C), refrigerate perishable foods within one hour.
  • Defrost food safely. Do not thaw foods at room temperature. The safest way to thaw foods is to defrost foods in the refrigerator or to microwave the food using the “defrost” or “50 percent power” setting. Running cold water over the food also safely thaws the food.
  • Throw it out when in doubt. If you aren’t sure if a food has been prepared, served or stored safely, discard it. Food left at room temperature too long may contain bacteria or toxins that can’t be destroyed by cooking. Don’t taste food that you’re unsure about — just throw it out. Even if it looks and smells fine, it may not be safe to eat.

What important life lessons did you learn?

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This week I have been working on what I am finding to be a necessary skill: knitting in the dark (aka knitting while not looking at my hands … though I have found myself actually knitting in the dark this week). My grandma and mom taught me to knit when I was young but I didn’t really start knitting in earnest until a decade or so ago. One of the things I remember about my grandma was her ability to hold a conversation and knit a baby hat while only occasionally looking down at her hands. My knitting at the time was sloppy and uneven and my stitches were always so tight on the needle that they never slid with ease, rather they grew more and more welded to the needle with each row until finally it became an effort to even get the knitting off the needles to rip it out.

I have since become much more fluid in my knitting, and I have enjoyed  knitting everything from a parrot to Christmas stockings to baby hats, of course. This week I made a concerted effort to knit by feel and it is incredibly fun to do. Sure, I occasionally knit into the wrong part of the stitch, split the yarn, or some other correctable mistake, but it is amazing how knitting by feel allows me to focus on aspects of knitting I never have before. It reminds me of a rowing drill we used to do; rowing with our eyes closed. All eight rowers rowing with eyes closed has the potential to do great things for the togetherness of the boat (or occasionally someone gets an oar handle in the back) because you are no longer focusing with just your eyes but you are forced to use all other senses to stay together.

I have been working on some simple kid-sized (they weren’t supposed to be kid sized but even when you knit a gauge swatch sometimes patterns are just like that) fingerless mittens in a bulky weight yarn with large needles. Next, maybe a hat knit in the round with worsted.

What skill have you worked on this week?

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