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Monday, March 25, 2019

Keeping Your Home Safe When You Are Away

If you're leaving your house for vacation, these tips for Keeping Your Home Safe When You Are Away will help!

This is a sponsored post.

My sister just experienced a terrible accident in her home and she is not able to go back to her house, at the moment, because of it.  Thankfully she was in her home when it happened.  (Read more about it below.)   Because of this incident, we thought it would be important to make a list of things to check before we leave our home in North Carolina, and our snowbird home in Florida, for vacations and especially when we are leaving the homes for the season.

Turn off water.  We heard one too many stories from friends and family about how they have come back to a flood in their home from either their washing machine hose breaking or one of their water pipes bursting from water freezing inside it.  The water shut off valve in Florida is easy to get to and we always shut it off before we leave for the season.  The one in our North Carolina home is harder to get to so it's tempting not to shut it off, but then we think about what could happen if we didn't.

If you're leaving your house for vacation, these tips for Keeping Your Home Safe When You Are Away will help!
Source: American Electric

Unplug televisions, computers and other electronics.   We keep our central air on in Florida when we leave our snowbird home to prevent the house from becoming too humid.  A humid home is what Florida bugs and other critters love and we don't want to come back to our house and see the little squatters all over the place.  So we leave the electric on but unplug things we don't want to lose, in case of an electrical storm which happens quite often during the summer months in Florida.  We are not confident that our small surge protectors will protect our costly televisions and computer during a bad storm.

We have just learned, though, about a whole house surge protector that we are considering.  This would give us piece of mind when we are leaving our Florida place for the season or even for a short vacation.  American Electric of Jacksonville (which is located in Jacksonville, Florida) knows all about the headaches the weather in Florida can cause.  Master electrician, Mike Murphy, is the person to call for a free quote on getting a surge protector installed.

If you're leaving your house for vacation, these tips for Keeping Your Home Safe When You Are Away will help!

Make sure to check that small and large appliances are off.  The picture above is of my sister's dryer.  She is now displaced and living in a hotel room for an indefinite amount of time.  Luckily she and her husband were at home when this happened.  Her husband smelled something burning and ran to get the fire extinguishers.  They called 911 when they realized the fire was electrical and would need more than small extinguishers to put it out.  We can only imagine what the result would have been had they left their home with the dryer on.

We had an experience once that could have had a disastrous ending.  I always worried, as we pulled out of driveway, that I may have left something on and I did.  I had a very strong feeling, as we were leaving for vacation, that I might have left the iron on and made my husband turn the car around and go back to the house.  I was right!  Now it is part of our routine, before we leave the house, to double check that all appliances are off, and some we will even unplug.

Put a quarter in your freezer.  How is that going to keep my house safe you ask?  It might not keep your house safe but it will keep you safe.

We returned to our home in North Carolina, from a vacation, three days after Hurricane Florence hit our area hard.  (Our harrowing journey to get back is a blog post I will have to write one day!)  We saw signs that there might have been a power outage but didn't know for sure as the power was on when we returned home.  Putting a quarter on top of a frozen cup of water will answer your questions of whether there was an outage or not and for how long.  If you find the quarter at the bottom of the cup, you'll know that the power was out long enough for the ice in the cup to melt completely and your food to be, most likely, unsafe to eat.  If it is in the middle of cup then, yes, the power did go out but probably not long enough for your food to spoil.

Check to see if your windows are shut and locked.   We always made sure our doors were shut and locked when we left the house, but not always the windows.  Unfortunately, we had an incident, many years ago, when we left our window open.  Someone, I'm pretty sure we know who, only had to cut small openings in the window screen to be able to get to the latches, open the screen and get into our home and take the cash out of an envelope I had in a kitchen drawer.  Why give someone easy access into your home like we did?

Stop your mail and newspapers from coming to your home.  Having an overstuffed mailbox and newspapers scattered all over your driveway are signs that tell everyone you are not home.

If you're leaving your house for vacation, these tips for Keeping Your Home Safe When You Are Away will help!
Source:  American Electric

Leave lights on.   Does anyone sit in their home in complete darkness every night?  We leave a light on inside the house to make it look like we might be home.  We keep talking about getting a timer for our lights so they don't have to constantly be on but it is one of those things that we think about, forget, then remember as we are walking out the door.

We also have solar lights outside to help deter someone from approaching and entering our home.  On our list of things to do, we have getting electric lights installed outside that will be controlled with a timer.  American Electric knows all about lighting for safety and for enhancing landscaping.

Let someone you trust know that you will not be home.  It is a good idea to let your trusted neighbor know when you are leaving for vacation.  If we know our neighbor is not home we will throw his newspaper closer to his front door if he forgot to put his newspaper subscription on hold.
Fortunately for us, we have our daughter, who lives two doors away from us on our cul-de-sac, watching our North Carolina home when we are in Florida and our cousin, our aunt and our neighbor George, watching our home in Florida when we are on vacation or back in NC.  We are so grateful to all of them for their watchful eyes.

Do you have any things on your checklist for keeping your home safe when you are away that we have missed?  Please leave us a comment and we will gladly add your idea to our list.  Thanks!

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Pureed Carrots And Parsnips

One of the things that make our vacations so much fun, especially when we are in a foreign country, is trying the local cuisine.  We definitely had a great time sampling delicious Irish meals on our recent trip to Ireland.  We ate our first and last meals at Gus O'Connor's Pub in Doolin, the town we stayed in for the week.  Both meals, plus breakfast a second time there, were authentic Irish cuisine, and absolutely wonderful.  It was when we ate there for dinner that we were served something I couldn't stop thinking about when I got home and had to try to replicate.

All I knew from the menu, when I ordered my dinner, was that I would be getting a vegetable.  My side dish of vegetables actually was in it's own little side dish.  I recognized the green beans but didn't know what was beside them.  I knew they tasted amazing though.  I asked the waitress what I was eating and she said it was carrot and parsnips seasoned with salt, pepper and honey.

I have to say, my first attempt at copying this recipe was surprisingly very good!  So, I would love to share it with you so you can enjoy it as much as I did!


Pureed Carrots And Parsnips
(serves 4)


1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
1 lb. parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Steam peeled and sliced carrots and parsnips for 8 minutes.

Put steamed vegetables in a food processor or blender.  Add 1/2 cup of water and blend to desired consistency.  (Add more water if you want a smoother texture or less for a chunkier one.)

Transfer pureed vegetables into a medium saucepan and stir in honey, salt and pepper.  Cook on medium heat until warm.


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Monday, March 4, 2019

Florence, Italy With A Side Trip To Pisa

We loved Spain and France, the first two countries we visited on our Mediterranean cruise vacation.  Now it was time for our ship to take us to Italy.  This was the country we were going to spend the most time in and our first port in Italy was Livorno.  As was the case for most of the cruise, our ship docked in a smaller city leaving us to research our options for getting to where we wanted to go from there.  For this leg of the trip, we booked an excursion through the cruise line because we wanted to see both Florence and Pisa and it was just easier to get to both with a tour.

What we really didn't want to miss out on seeing, while we were in this area, was Michaelangelo's David at the Accademia.  We were happy to know that we would be able to obtain our tickets in advance, online, and, thereby, would not have to wait in a 2 hour line.  We only had 4 hours  in Florence so we didn't have 2 hours to spare.

When you order tickets online, you have to reserve the date and time that you would like to visit the Accademia.  According to the itinerary of the excursion we booked, it said we would have 4 hours in Florence and have one hour in Pisa.  We were being picked up at our cruise ship at 8:00 am so we ordered our tickets for 10:00 am giving us time to travel to Florence and then find our way to the museum.

We couldn't believe it when the tour guide announced that we would be going to Pisa first then to Florence!  I assumed that we would go to Florence first since it was listed first and we found out that that is usually the case, but not today.  Well, it was only 8:00 am and we would only be spending 1 hour in Pisa.  We had some hope that we would make it to Florence in time to see David.

So off we went to Pisa where we had to take the very cheesy, but must-do, picture of us holding up the tower.  This is not an easy picture to take we found out.  I took several of Soko and he took a bunch of me.  It was really hard to find a place to stand near the tower, first of all, because there are so many people trying to do the same thing, and then we could not find the right angle.  The picture below is the only picture that came kind of close (but not really) to what we were hoping for.  I am now very impressed when I see a great picture of someone holding up the tower!

I would have loved to round up our tour group, after taking our picture, to get them into the bus and on to Florence, but that wasn't happening so we checked out the two other buildings in this small area which is called the Field of Miracles square.

The Pisa Cathedral was gorgeous but the main attraction on this building was the amazing bronze doors that tell the story of the life of Jesus.

The Baptistery here is the biggest in Italy and was another beautifully detailed building.

It was finally time to meet our group to get back on the bus and off to Florence.  It was not quite 10:00 am yet.  We had no idea how long it would take us to get to Florence but there was still a chance that we would not be there too much after 10:00.  But, no, one of our tour passengers did not show up at our meeting place.  We were waiting so long for the latecomer that another one of our fellow passengers got so tired of waiting that he decided to head back to the bus and offered to lead the way for anyone who wanted to join him.  Everyone decided to follow him back.  You could hear our tour guide calling out "Is no one going to wait with me?"  She eventually left the Field of Miracles without our fellow cruiser and he had to find his own way back to the ship.

As soon as we got off the bus in Florence, me and Soko started running toward the Accademia .  It was on the opposite side of the town.  By the time we got to the building we were almost 2 hours late.  Out of breath and totally stressed, we ran to a gentlemen who was directing the many people who were waiting on a mile long line to get in to see David.  I showed him our tickets and explained what happened.  He was so kind and told us not to worry.  He told us to go across the street to a small storefront to exchange our receipt for a ticket then come back to the shorter line and we would be in in 10 minutes.  The person at the storefront was not so kind at all and was very annoyed that we were so late.  She told us she would issue our tickets, which had 10:00 as our entrance time, but really didn't think we would get in.   We ran back to the fast pass ticket line but the nice gentlemen was gone!  We got on line anyway and got past someone who barely looked at our tickets as we entered the building.  Just when we thought we were home free, we noticed a ticket taker at a booth.  We were thinking, this is where we finally will be told our tickets were no good and we would have to wait on the 2 hour line.  But then, we couldn't believe it, we recognized the person at the ticket booth.  It was the kind gentleman that we met outside.  He recognized us and gave us a huge knowing smile and told us to enjoy our time.

So the moral of this story is, buy your ticket in advance, if you are pressed for time, even if you don't know exactly what time to order them for.

Not too far from the Accademia was a food court, Mercato Centrale, that we wanted to have lunch at.  We read about the tremendous food market on the lower floor with restaurants on the upper.  We had really good pizza here and the best, (freshly made), cannoli I have ever tasted in my entire life!

After lunch, we had a very small amount of time to see the rest of the sights on our list before we had to get back to where our bus dropped us off.  We pretty much had to run to each sight, take a quick picture, then run to the next one.  The first place we ran to was the Plaza di San Giovanni, where we saw the magnificent Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiori, and the adjacent Campanile and Baptistery.

From here, we skipped a few sights we had planned to check out because we were running out of time and I didn't want to miss seeing the Piazza della Signoria where a replica of David stands in place of the original that once stood there.  If you look closely, you can see it next to the doorway of the building on the left.

Also in this plaza is an open-air sculpture gallery, Loggia de Lanzi.  We read that there were many statues here and we especially wanted to see the one of Perseus holding Medusa's decapitated head.  Hey, it's not everyday you see something like that!

We spent a good amount of time at the plaza but it was time to start heading back.  I didn't want us to get left behind like the person who got left in Pisa so we skipped a couple of more sights and rushed back to our meeting place, the Piazza di Santa Croce where the beautiful Church of Santa Croce stands.

We got back with time to spare and were even able to enjoy a gelato as we waited for our tour guide to come pick us up to bring us back to the ship.  We took one last picture of the beautiful city of Florence as we drove away on our tour bus.

There were a few sights we had planned to see that we didn't even get close to and many buildings we wanted to go inside but didn't get a chance to.  I guess we have just have to plan another vacation to Florence, Italy!

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