Oh no!

Child cleaning crayon stain
Child cleaning up crayon stain

Just a glimpse into the life of an AnswerLine staff member. I got a phone call from my grandson last night. Not one of those good ones that says “Grammy, I lost my first tooth” or “Grammy, I got an A on my spelling test”. No, it was a call from a grandson required to call me to find out how to clean up a crayon stain from the families’ new sofa. He didn’t want to speak up at first, because he knew he had to admit he had done something wrong and now he was responsible for fixing the mess he had made.

I knew we had stain removal information on my work computer but I didn’t have access to it at that time of night. So, I got on my computer and searched. Often, the best way to find out stain removal information is to go to the source. The Crayola company has over 75 pages of information on how to remove stains from their products on just about any surface imaginable. It only took a few minutes of searching to find the solution. After I shared the information, I enjoyed hearing my grandson say “It works”.

Just in case you are interested, the method to remove the stain is to use regular dish washing detergent (not dishwasher detergent, rather the soap used on a sink-full of dishes) and rub gently in a circular motion.

This is a valuable thing to remember; when you have a stain late at night or over the weekend, search for the website of the company that made the product. Often they have stain removal tips in the FAQ section of the web-page. Remember, AnswerLine you can always call, email, or ask questions on our blog. We love to help.

Reference to any commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporate name is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or certification of any kind. Persons using such products assume responsibility for their use and should make their own assessment of the information and whether it is suitable for their intended use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Frostbite!

Frostbite

This winter started out so mild that it didn’t seem that we would need to even think about frostbite or take precautions to prevent it. Now that the weather has turned much colder, frostbite is something that everyone should consider. My daughter was outside for a long time shoveling snow in the driveway and noticed that her face was red and painful when she went inside the house.

Frostbite can damage both the surface of your skin and the structure underneath. If the frostbite is severe enough, it can even damage muscle and bones. This damage can be permanent. Exposed skin is the most vulnerable but even skin covered by clothing can be frostbitten.

A milder form of frostbite is called frostnip. I think that this might be what my daughter experienced. This form does not cause permanent damage. Actual frostbite does require medical treatment to prevent complications such as infection and possible nerve damage.

If you spend much time outside in the cold, pay attention if you feel a prickling sensation on your skin. This is the first sign of frostbite. After the prickling sensation, your skin can become numb. It can also change color; it may turn red, white or blue-gray. It can feel hard or look waxy. You may notice that your are moving slow or feeling clumsy. After the skin warms again, you may notice blisters if you have a severe case of frostbite. Seek medical attention. The most common places on the body for frostbite are your ears, fingers, toes, or face.

Take precautions to avoid frostbite when you are spending prolonged time outside this winter. Go inside and warm up if you begin to feel uncomfortable in the cold.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Preparing your home

House in a snowstorm in Landenberg,Chester County, Pennsylvania with visible snowflakes

Now that the holidays are past, we see people leaving our cold Iowa and Minnesota winter weather for a warmer location. Depending on the length of time you plan to be gone, there are some steps you should take to prepare your home.

There are some things that we do every time we leave home for a vacation. Stopping the mail and newspaper delivery is common. Putting one or two lights in you home on a timer to give the appearance that someone is home. Asking your neighbor to park a car in your drive occasionally while you are gone. These efforts are pretty common. If you plan to be gone for an extended time, there are other things you might want to consider.

Lowering the thermostat can save you money; it isn’t necessary to keep an empty home toasty warm. Just be sure that the temperature inside your home is high enough to prevent frozen pipes during an extended period of really cold weather. Unplugging small appliances, think toaster or computer, can help conserve electricity and prevent fire. Shutting off the water, or draining the water heater can prevent problems if pipes do freeze.

There are a few steps you may not consider but are worth doing. Often credit card companies try to protect us if there are a number of charges not typical for your account. Notify your credit card company before you leave town. Check your smoke detectors; it could help stop a fire from getting out of control in your absence. Of course, you will want to leave contact information and a key with a trusted neighbor. You may want to arrange snow removal in your absence; some towns have fines if the sidewalks are not cleared within 24 hours of a snowstorm. Cleaning out the refrigerator and discarding food that will spoil in your absence will make life easier when you return. Remember to take out the trash. Cleaning out the garbage disposal with some lemon can also eliminate odor while you are gone.

Enjoy your travels, knowing that you have taken steps to ensure your home will be safe while you are gone.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Cupboard cleaning and expiration dates

Old, bulging can. Throw this away!

Our first prolonged winter weather has many callers cleaning and organizing their cupboards. We are always happy to answer caller’s questions about food safety.

The most common call we have about food expiration dates is the shelf life of eggs. We tell callers that the date marked on an egg carton is a sell by date not a use by date. We remind them they have an additional month to use the eggs.

Callers often want to know if a can of food they found at the back of the cupboard is still safe to eat. The quality of the food will decline over time, but the contents remain safe. The best if used by date on a can of food refers to the manufacturers estimation of the time frame that their food will be at peak quality if the food is eaten on or before the date marked on the can. If the can is dated within the past 3 years, the food inside should be safe to eat. However, if the can is dented, bulging, or rusty, the food should be discarded

Our new copy of the Joy of Cooking has a great chapter on Keeping and Storing Food. The book provides guidelines on storing pantry items, canned food, spices, cereals, oils, pasta, and other things you might have on hand. We also use a research based website for information on the safety of food.

We often get questions from callers about food that has been frozen for several years.Callers often ask about a date on the package that says use or freeze by a particular date. If the freezer has been continuously running below zero degrees, then the food inside the freezer will remain safe to eat. The quality of the food will decline over time, but the food will not make you sick from bacterial contamination. We often advise callers to have a back up plan for a meal they make from older frozen food, just in case it is not unpalatable.

Remember that we are just a phone call away if you have questions about food you find when you are cleaning. In Iowa, 1-800-262-3804 or Minnesota, 1-800-854-1678. If you have a phone that has neither Iowa or Minnesota area codes on it, call 515-296-5883. We look forward to hearing from you.

Reference to any commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporate name is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or certification of any kind. Persons using such products assume responsibility for their use and should make their own assessment of the information and whether it is suitable for their intended use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Foods for Iowa 4-H Fairs – Quick Reference Guide

It may seem a bit early to be thinking about County Fairs, but the updated Foods for Iowa 4-H Fairs – Quick Reference Guide is now available in the Extension Store. Each year, for the past few years, we have updated this guide to assist 4-H members, their parents, 4-H leaders, and fair judges in preparing and evaluating exhibits. At times, the rules may seem confusing, arbitrary, or even unfair to some people. The rules are actually designed to ensure the safety of fair judges as they evaluate foods at the fair and the safety of the general public as they view exhibits and gain knowledge from the exhibits.

We get a lot of questions about what foods can be exhibited at both county fair and the Iowa State Fair at AnswerLine. We consult the publication and advise callers to the best of our knowledge. Often callers want to know why we did not list everything in the guide. It really would be impossible for us to list everything that a 4-H member might want to exhibit. We have tried to use broad categories to describe different food products. Listing the foods in the chart style allows for a quicker reference than reading through several pages listed in paragraph form.

The only two real changes for this year are the discontinuation of using the Ball brand books as safe tested resources for food preservation exhibits. At this time, Iowa is one of several states in the midwest disappointed at the direction the Ball brand has taken with research and development of their recipes. This year only, 2020, we will allow exhibits using the Ball branded information at the fair. The reasoning for this is that 4-H members may have already processed their exhibits for the 2020 fair in the fall of 2019 and it would be unfair to disqualify those exhibits. Next year, we will strictly follow the change in the rules that only allows USDA, National Center for Home Food Preservation, and Extension information as trusted resources.

The other change is in frosting allowed on exhibits. We are waiting on some research being done by Kansas State University on butter cream frostings to ensure that frostings on baked goods will be safe when sampled at the fair. Many of the frostings that members choose have too much moisture in them and could potentially harbor bacterial growth.

Please call or email AnswerLine if you need some clarification on what foods are considered safe to exhibit at the fair this summer.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Happy Galentine Day!

I have to admit – this was a new one to me. My sister was planning a Galentine outing for friends and I had no idea what she was talking about! Apparently this is a widely celebrated fake holiday invented by Amy Pohler’s character on the show “Parks and Recreation”. 

Galentine Day is recognized on February 13th and celebrates platonic friendships, usually among women. It’s a day for showing some of the most important people in your life how much you care about them.

Some Galentine Day celebrations center around brunch or a wine and cheese happy hour. Others celebrate by making a reservation at a fancy restaurant or going as a group to get manicures and pedicures. Whatever you choose to do, it’s a nice way to celebrate friendship.

Happy Galentine Day!

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Kitchen Mixer Scraping Tip

Last year I acquired my mother’s Kitchen Aid® Food Preparer (Mixer).  I didn’t really need it as I’ve had a perfectly good mixer of another brand for many years.  My mixer did all the chores I asked of it and I was completely comfortable with its operation.  However, I just couldn’t bring myself to sell or donate my mother’s prized possession.  She purchased it in 1978 for a sum of money that she worked diligently to pay for by decorating cakes.  She loved it and over the many years that she owned it, it was well used to prepare foods of many kinds.

Wanting to love this piece of equipment as my mother had (and so many friends do), I boxed up my mixer, put it in storage, and set my mother’s mixer in its place.  I had never used a Kitchen Aid® before so I was a novice; fortunately, there was an instruction manual to go with it which guided me on which attachment for what and what speeds to use, etc.  I continue to learn as I try new things with it.  While it can do many operations quite nicely, I was befuddled and frustrated with scraping down the sides of the bowl while creaming butter and sugar or any other operation requiring scraping.  With my previous mixer, I was able to scrape along the inside of the bowl with a rubber/silicon scrapper anytime needed.  Not so with my new friend; every time the bowl needed scraping, I had to stop the machine, lift the head, scrape, and restart the operation.  

As if in answer to my frustration, I spotted an online Food and Wine article sharing information about a new Kitchen Aid® attachment, the Flex Edge Beater, designed specifically to take care of my problem.  The Flex Edge Beater is the classic beating attachment with a sturdy rubber/silicon outer blade wrapped completely or half-way around the blade for the purpose of continuously scraping the sides of the bowl and bring ingredients into the batter.

The article gave some good reasons for using the new attachment with the first being my No 1 problem: no more stopping and lifting to scrape the bowl!  It also mentioned thoroughly combined ingredients (no more flour or other ingredient left at the bottom of the bowl), reduced strain on the motor, and using the beater in place of a spatula to wipe out the bowl.  Sold!

I was not able to find the beater in any of my local stores so I ordered one online.  I am pleased to say that the new flex beater lives up to its promotion and I am indeed beginning to love the new (old) machine.

Reference to any commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporate name is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or certification of any kind. Persons using such products assume responsibility for their use and should make their own assessment of the information and whether it is suitable for their intended use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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New 2020 Form W-4

On December 5, 2019, the IRS issued a redesigned Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Certificate).  Form W-4 is used by employers to correctly withhold federal income tax from employee paychecks as determined by the employee.  Prior to the 2020 form, the amount withheld was based on allowances. The biggest change to the long-used 1987 form is that the new form no longer uses allowances to determine withholding. 

While all employees must fill out Form W-4 at the time of their employment for federal income tax withholding, the IRS is not requiring all employees to fill out a new 2020 Form W-4.  The new form was designed to work with prior year versions of the form.  Therefore, current employees need not fill out a new form unless they need to revise or update their federal withholding due to changes in their personal or tax situation.   However, all new hires will use 2020 Form W-4.

The 2020 form was designed to make it easier than previously to fill out.  The 2020 form no longer asks about allowances so gone are the days of wondering whether one should claim ‘0’, ‘1’, or something else.  Elimination of allowances aligns with the changes of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  The 2020 W-4 Form, available from the IRS, is four pages long and can be downloaded and printed for filling out or filled out online and printed.  Page 1 is the form itself and is the only page due to the employer.  Page 2-4 are informational and include worksheets and tables.

Here are some tips to help with filling out the form (Page 1):

Step 1.  Enter Personal Information.  Be sure to check the correct filing status.

Step 2.  Multiple Jobs or Spouse Works.  Skip this section if nothing applies.  If one or more jobs are held by the employee OR if the employee has a spouse working and files ‘married and filing jointly’ consideration needs to be made based upon a, b, or c.
(a) Use the IRS’s tax withholding estimator.  See Page 2 for when to use the estimator.  To use the estimator, you will need to gather some documents (given on the website) in order to provide the most accurate information.  (The estimator is only as good as the information provided.)
(b) Use the Multiple Jobs Worksheet on Page 3. Enter results in Step 4(c).
(c) If there are only two jobs with similar pay, check the box. Do the same for other job Form W-4.

Step 3.  Claim Dependents.  Include qualifying dependent children (under age 17) and other dependents (qualifying older children or elderly parents/relatives).  Be sure to read Step 3 instructions on Page 2 to meet qualification requirements.

Step 4.  Other Adjustments.  This section only applies if one desires
(a) withholding tax for non-job income:
(b) do not expect to claim the standard income tax deduction (vast majority of people claim the standard deduction);
(c) withholding additional tax for each pay period for amounts from Multiple Jobs Worksheet, line 4, or for any other reason. Entering an amount here will reduce paycheck amounts and will either increase tax refunds or reduce income tax due (Form 1040).

Step 5.  Sign Here.  Sign, date, and submit to employer.  Employees may want to keep a copy for themselves.  This is a legal tax document.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom

A real perk of working for AnswerLine is that we are housed in the same building (MacKay) as the Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom!

If you are not familiar with the Tearoom, it is run by students who take the semester long class. They plan, prepare and serve each meal. Once the semester gets going they are open for lunch Tuesdays through Fridays. Reservations are required to eat lunch at the tearoom but if you happen to be on campus and did not make a reservation they also have a grab and go option available as supplies last.

Getting to the Tearoom is easy. Free parking is available at the ISU Commuter Hub just south of CY Stephens Auditorium. From there you can get on the CyRide Free Circulator bus and it will drop you off right in front of MacKay!

It is a wonderful experience for the students and they take great pride in their work. If you are in the Ames area or are planning to be before the end of the school year I hope you will consider enjoying and supporting the Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom!

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Vitamin D

We have recently been getting some calls about ways to boost Vitamin D in diets. It is especially hard during the Winter months to incorporate enough vitamin D in our diets without the help of the sun. 

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin essential for bone health and helping the body absorb and use calcium in bones and teeth. It also helps build the immune system and regulate cell growth. It is naturally present in very few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. 

Foods that are good sources of Vitamin D include egg yolks, milk, cheese, fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, sardines and beef liver. Vitamin D fortified products include some cereals, bread, orange juice, yogurt and soy milk.

Vitamin D is often considered the “sunshine” vitamin. This is because a vitamin D precursor is produced in the skin upon exposure to the ultraviolet B rays of the sun. This precursor travels through the bloodstream to the liver and kidneys where it is turned into the active form of Vitamin D. Typically 5 to 15 minutes three times a week with exposure to the sun on bare skin is more than enough to get the benefits. Of course that effectiveness is affected by several things: geographic location, sunscreen use, and age being at the top of the list.

If you are not getting your daily dose of Vitamin D from foods and/or sunlight, you might want to consider taking a supplement. The current RDA for Vitamin D is 400 IU for infants up to 1 year of age; 600 IU for ages 1 to 70; and 800 IU for ages 71 and above. Because Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, it is best to take the supplement with food. Always consult with your medical professional before starting a Vitamin D or any supplement.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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