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I may have used "shocking" instead.


Here are some tips to keep your home safe while away on vacation.

house hands home security
Murphy's Law for travelers: If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong while you're on vacation -- which is arguably the worst time a household calamity can strike.  Returning from a memorable journey and learning something has gone seriously wrong at home can be downright devastating.

A house or apartment left empty while owners are traveling is a tempting target for criminals.  It's imperative that every traveler take certain key steps to keep his or her home safe and sound while seeing the world.  Basic preventative measures (which take only minutes to complete) can work wonders to help you avoid power surges, broken pipes, home invasions and more.

1. Ask a Friend to Help
A simple, albeit crucial, way to gain peace of mind while traveling is to ask a friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your house while you're away.  First, bribe your friend with some freshly baked cookies or cupcakes.  Next, ask him or her to drive by your home once every day or so and check on the place.  Give this person a key so that he or she can bring your mail in, feed your cat, water your plants, rake your leaves, etc.  You may also want to give this person a key to your car -- you never know when your vehicle may need to be moved.  He or she should also have your contact information and a copy of your itinerary in case of emergencies.

2. Don't Tip Off Criminals on the Web
The anonymity of the Internet can encourage us to share personal information without fully realizing that there may be hundreds of complete strangers receiving our daily musings.  Would you announce to a crowd that you will be leaving your house unattended for two weeks this December?  If not, then you should think twice about posting your detailed vacation plans on Twitter or Facebook -- especially if that information is visible to Internet users other than your friends and family (and it probably is).  Be careful what you say on your answering machine or voice mail too.  Callers don't need to know that you're not home -- they just need to know that you can't come to the phone right now.

3. Do Tip Off the Police
Always notify the police if you're going on vacation.  No need to let the cops know about a weekend getaway, but do call them if you're leaving town for longer than a week.  It's possible the police may go out of their way to drive by your house while on patrol, especially if you live in a small town.  If you have a security alarm, leave a house key and the code with someone you trust, and provide the police and alarm company with their name and phone number.  You may also want to contact your local neighborhood watch program if there's one in your area.

4. Curtains Closed -- or Open?
Before you leave for vacation, you may decide to close your curtains to prevent people from peering inside your home to see whether you're there.  However, closed curtains also stop those who aim to help -- the police, your neighbors or friends -- from seeing inside your house.  So what's your best bet?  Leave your curtains exactly as you usually keep them when you're home, since noticeable changes could hint that you're not around anymore -- especially if your curtains are uncharacteristically left closed for two weeks.  Move expensive items, like jewelry or cash, out of plain sight if they're visible from the window.

5. The Lights Are on But No One's Home
Don't leave your lights on at home throughout your entire vacation in an effort to make it look like someone is in the house.  Your electric bill will end up more costly than your mortgage, and, of course, leaving the lights on is not exactly "green" behavior.  Plus, house lights blazing throughout the night might look a bit odd, no?  Instead, purchase a light switch timer that can turn your lights on and off automatically according to a programmed schedule. 

6. Stop Your Mail
Either place a "stop" order on mail and newspapers, or arrange to have a friend or neighbor pick up your mail while you're away.  Otherwise, a week's worth of letters piled on your front step could signal to criminals that this particular homeowner is out of town.

7. Put That in Your Pipe
If you're going to have a leaking supply line, it's going to happen while you're away.  A major leak could be catastrophic if there's nobody around to deal with it.  For example, some hot-water tanks are placed in attics to avoid taking up floor space in living areas. If that water tank leaks, you'd better catch it quick.  If you do spring a leak inside, the line will be under some initial pressure, but it will not continue to spray water.  There is no downside whatsoever to turning off the water.  It takes a little bit of time, and it can save thousands of dollars in potential damage.

8. Pull the Plug
Unplug your television, computer, toaster oven and other appliances to protect them from power surges.  Do this to save power as well.  According to the Consumer Energy Center, many appliances use power even when they're turned off.

9. Remove Your Spare Key
That plastic rock isn't fooling anyone.  If a criminal figures out you're away on vacation, it's likely that he or she will check your porch for a spare key.  So reach under the mat, into the mailbox, above the door frame or into the flower pot and remove your spare key before you leave



We usually have to make about 3 of these pies for every holiday dinner.

Ritz Cracker Pie

from Top Gear Home Inspections

  • 3 egg whites
  • 21 ritz crackers
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of pecans
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla
  • 1 tsp. of baking powder
  • 1 tub of cool whip
  • 1 chocolate bar


  • Beat egg whites until stiff and stand in peaks.
  • Mix in sugar, vanilla, and baking powder.
  • Fold in crushed crackers and nuts.
  • Grease and flour pan
  • Bake at 325 degrees for approx. 30 mins. until dry and crusty on top.
  • Let cool then cover with cool whip
  • Then shave chocolate over top.


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