Vol. 8, No. 6

Seasonal Celebrations

Whether your winter plans involve travel or coziness at home, celebrations are ways to strengthen community connections. There are so many ways to celebrate! Game nights, book clubs, and cookie swaps create ways to spend intentional time with friends and family. Performances, concerts, and visiting neighborhood light displays can all help to get us out and about during winter’s long, dark nights.

If gift-giving is part of your winter traditions, consider supporting local businesses.

Whatever is on your cozy season to-do list, try to bring as much calm and joy as you can to the season. Allow the darkness to settle on you like a comfy blanket and invite a few friends and maybe a kitty or two to join you under that blanket of rest.

Food Safety at Home

This article was written by guest author Lesley Price, RD, CD, Public Health Nutritionist for Thurston County Public Health and Social Services.

Preparing food for our families and friends is a time-honored way to connect with and nourish our communities. Keep everyone healthy by following these 4 simple steps: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill

Clean: Wash Hands, Utensils, and Surfaces Often

  • Dirty hands spread disease! Wash hands BEFORE handling food.
  • Wet hands with warm water
  • Lather with plain soap (not antibacterial soap)
  • Scrub for 20 seconds
  • Front and back of your hands
  • Between your fingers
  • Under your fingernails with a nailbrush
  • Rinse
  • Dry on a clean towel
  • Clean everything that comes into contact with food with hot, soapy water.
  • Counters
  • Dishes
  • Utensils
  • Cutting boards
  • Food thermometer
  • Storage containers
  • Refrigerator

Special note: clean items like thermometers, basters, and knives that come into contact with uncooked meat between each use. Clean turkey basters thoroughly before using, between bastings, and before putting away.

  • Wash fruits and vegetables (not meat, poultry, or eggs!) under running water, scrubbing when necessary (example: scrubbing melons and cucumbers with a clean produce brush before cutting to prevent bacteria on the surface from getting into the produce)

Separate: Don’t Cross Contaminate

  • Prevent cross-contaminating safe food with unsafe foods and surfaces.
  • Separate meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from ready-to-eat foods (like fruits and vegetables) in your grocery cart. Use plastic bags for raw meats. When you check out, place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in separate bags from other foods. 
  • Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the refrigerator. Keep packaged, raw meats in a bowl to keep juices away from other foods. Store below your fruits and vegetables, when possible. Keep eggs in their original container, not in the door. 
  • Use separate plates and utensils for cooked and raw foods.
  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce or other foods that won't be cooked before they're eaten, and another for raw meat, poultry, or seafood (or wash the cutting board thoroughly with hot, soapy water between uses). Replace cutting boards when they are worn.

Cook to Safe Temperatures

  • Cooked food is safe only after it’s been heated to a high enough temperature to kill harmful illness-causing bacteria.
  • Cook all foods to their specific, safe temperatures by using a food thermometer. These are available at most grocery and hardware stores.
  • Heat all leftovers to 165F to kill harmful bacteria.

Chill: Refrigerate and Freeze Food Properly

  • Cold temperatures (41F or lower) slow the growth of illness causing bacteria. Invest in a refrigerator thermometer to make sure your fridge stays below 41F. They are available in most grocery and hardware stores.
  • Thaw and marinate foods in the refrigerator, never on the counter! This includes your frozen turkey.
  • Refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours.
  • Place perishable groceries in refrigerator or freezer within 2 hours after purchase (grocery shopping should be your last errand on a busy day); Note: You have 1 hour to place perishable foods in the refrigerator or freezer if it is over 90F outside.
  • Place leftovers in refrigerator UNCOVERED in shallow containers within 2 hours of the food being cooked (not after the meal is finished) – you can cover them before going to bed for the night or the next day. Note: You have 1 hour to refrigerate food, if food is outside, and it is over 90F.

Food poisoning (also known as foodborne illness or foodborne disease) is an illness usually caused by microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi) in food. Proper cleaning, cooking, and storing of foods will help avoid these microorganisms that cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled, and can multiply quickly. Symptoms of food poisoning can include upset stomach, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. It may take hours or days before symptoms develop.

To learn more about food safety, check out www.foodsafety.gov


As winter rains replenish water stores and ever-green our landscapes, you may notice areas of standing water in the yard. Now is a good time to pay attention to areas that need extra help to drain properly.

Make sure to always direct water flow away from your home. Standing water against the foundation can lead to long-term problems, including indoor mold growth. Use downspout extenders to direct water away from your house if needed. Cleaning gutters and fixing leaks will prevent standing water near your home.

Rain gardens are a great way to emphasize and utilize the natural depressions in a yard to slow down, filter, and eventually absorb water that runs off of roofs and paved areas. They are dug out and engineered based on how much water you need to filter.

Moss in the yard is often caused by compacted soil and low-soil-fertility. Plan to aerate in the spring and add a layer of compost to increase drainage. Choose a shade-tolerant grass seed to overseed. 

Grass with a heavy thatch layer will prevent water from soaking into the ground below. Most lawns need to be aerated every three years or so but if there is a layer of grass roots growing together in a brownish mat, this is thatch. Thatch is caused by shallow watering, high nitrogen fertilizers, and compacted soils. De-thatching is more work than aerating and is only needed if there is a thick layer of thatch. Follow up with a layer of compost and overseed with a Pacific Northwest-adapted grass seed in spring.

Hard surfaces like sidewalks, driveways, and walkways prevent water from soaking in. Limit the amount of solid, non-draining surfaces around your yard when possible, to reduce water run-off. There are many varieties of porous pavement and pavers to choose from to create a patio, walkway, or even a driveway that allows rain to filter into the ground below. For more information, check out the Native Plant Salvage Naturescaping Resources.

Constant puddles over the septic drainfield may need extra attention if they don’t drain. Contact a professional as soon as possible!

Plant Bulbs

May each one of us enjoy fleeting moments in mild weather this winter to stay active and engaged in the garden and prepare for spring. In addition to pulling weeds, which is a year-round chore, it’s not too late to plant bulbs. As long as the soil is not frozen, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and sparaxis can be planted in December and will return your efforts this spring with beautiful flowers.

Bulbs should be planted at a depth roughly three times the size of the bulb. Prepare a planting hole a few inches deeper than the desired depth, then add a handful of compost and bone meal and mix with enough soil to create the proper planting depth. Place the bulb with the roots pointing down and fill in the planting hole with loose soil. If rain is on the horizon, no need to water in but if it’s a dry stretch, add moisture to help the bulb get started.

Then pat yourself on the back, you year ‘round gardener, you!

Q: Is non-stick cookware safe? 

A: Some non-stick cookware may contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a large group of synthetic chemicals that are widely used to make all kinds of products. There are many types of PFAS, and some types are used to make a non-stick coating for cooking and baking pans.

Research is ongoing and we’re still learning about the health impacts of PFAS. We do know that certain types of PFAS may cause harm to our health and the environment that we live in.

When purchasing new cookware, it is important to research how the cookware is made and from what kind of materials. Safer options include cookware made from cast iron, carbon steel, stainless steel, or glass or ceramic for baking. Learn how to use and care for cookware made from these safer materials to find out which options will work best for you.

If you already own non-stick cookware that might contain PFAS, here are some tips to prevent the potential release of hazardous chemicals:

  • Cook food on low or medium temperatures.
  • Avoid cooking on high heat, as this may release hazardous chemicals into food or the air.
  • Use wooden utensils instead of metal, as scratched or damaged non-stick cookware may cause the release of hazardous chemicals.
  • Avoid using abrasive cleaning products or scouring brushes when cleaning non-stick cookware. Use mild soap, warm water, and a soft cloth to clean non-stick cookware. Learn how to choose safer cleaning products

If your non-stick cookware is scratched or damaged, dispose of it as regular household garbage.

To learn more about PFAS and how to reduce your exposure, visit the Department of Ecology’s website

It is not only non-stick cookware that may cause harm to our health. Glazed ceramic dishes that are imported, old, handmade, or poorly glazed may contain lead. New findings have shown lead found in imported aluminum cookpots. Any amount of exposure to lead is considered unsafe. To learn more, check out the Washington State Department of Health’s webpage about lead

When possible, avoid the use of non-stick pans that may contain harmful PFAS.

Choose cookware made of safer materials, like cast iron.

Restaurant Inspections and Food Recalls

Safely storing and preparing food at home is essential to prevent foodborne illness, but what about the safety of food that is prepared outside of the home?

The Public Health and Social Services Food Safety team conducts routine kitchen inspections for restaurants and all other retail food service establishments in Thurston County. These inspections make sure employees follow safe food handling practices and have adequate kitchen facilities. Routine inspections focus on risk factors that are most likely to cause foodborne illness. Main risk factors include foods held at improper temperatures, inadequate cooking, contaminated equipment, food from unsafe sources, and poor personal hygiene. Routine inspections help to ensure that food establishments are safe places to eat and help prevent foodborne illness. Here are actions you can take to protect yourself from foodborne illness when you dine out.

Another way to protect yourself from foodborne illness, contaminants, and allergens is to be aware of food recalls and safety alerts. Check out Washington State Food Recalls for a list of current recalls and safety alerts, and to sign up to receive notifications. 

Connect to Farmers

Olympia Farmers Market

Holiday Season: Saturdays & Sundays, November 4-December 17, 2023

Winter Season: Saturdays,

January 6-March 30, 2024

10:00am - 3:00pm

700 Capitol Way N

Olympia, WA 98501

(360) 352-9096


Community Farm Land Trust Fresh From The Farm Guide

Community Events

Check these great local calendars for up-to-date information about what's coming up.

Thurston Conservation District

Thurston Talk

Experience Olympia Calendar of Events

Stream Team Calendar


City of Lacey Arts and Events

City of Tumwater Special Events

City of Tenino Community Recreation Page

Master Gardener Foundation of Thurston County