Key Limes

My sister and I recently spent some time together in Florida and of course enjoyed some Key Lime Pie. We were curious to learn more about key limes and what other uses there might be for them besides the delicious pie.

Key Limes are also known as Mexican or West Indies limes. They are smaller and sweeter than Persian limes (the kind you typically find in the grocery store) and have more seeds. They have a high juice content and thin, leathery skin. When purchasing key limes, choose those that are heavy for their size, firm, shiny, and have no blemishes or bruises.

Today most key limes come from Mexico and are available year round. The green color indicates they are immature but the juice from green key limes is known for it’s tart flavor. As key limes ripen they become more of a yellow color and their flesh is less acidic leading to a sweeter flavor.

Key limes can be stored in the pantry for up to one week. For longer storage you can keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks. You can also freeze key limes whole. For best quality use frozen key limes within 3 to 4 months. You can defrost them in the microwave for a few seconds or in water for @15 minutes. They will be mushy when thawed but will be great for the juice.

Besides the pie, key limes can be used in cookies, cupcakes, cocktails, marinades and dressings. We have been inspired to experiment using key limes and reminicising about our fun times in Florida!

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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Prepare for New Medicare Cards Coming in 2018

If you haven’t already heard or read, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be issuing new cards to beneficiaries beginning in April.  The cards will automatically be mailed to all 58-60 million current beneficiaries. Beneficiaries don’t need to do anything to receive one beyond watching their mailbox. However, if there has been an address change, beneficiaries should contact the Social Security Administration (SSA), which will be preparing and mailing the cards, at or by calling 800-772-1213.  

Image used with permission from CMS.

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015, required the removal of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards by April 2019.  The new cards will feature a randomly assigned Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) made up of 11 letters and numbers rather than the beneficiary’s social security number that is currently used to help prevent identity theft.  The MBI will replace the SSN for Medicare transactions like billing, eligibility, and claims.

Recently the CMS released information as to when beneficiaries can expect to receive their new card.  The mailing schedule is as follows:

  • Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia: April-June 2018 

  • Alaska, American Samoa, California, Guam, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon: April-June 2018 

  • Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin: After June 2018 

  • Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont: After June 2018 

  • Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina: After June 2018 

  • Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming: After June 2018 

  • Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Virgin Islands: After June 2018 

Beneficiary benefits won’t change under the new MBI and there is NO charge for the card.  Sadly, scammers are already at work.  Beneficiaries should  beware of anyone who contacts them about their replacement Medicare cards.  CMS officials will never ask a beneficiary for personal or private information or for any money as a condition of getting a new Medicare number and card. 

This would be a good time to prepare elderly parents, relatives, or friends for the change and warn them of any possible phone or internet scams regarding the new card as well as check addresses with the SSA.  Since most Midwest beneficiaries won’t begin receiving the new cards until June 2018 or later, there is time to act.  Just don’t forget to do so!

For additional information, check the CMS new card info site.

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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Gardening for Food Pantries

Food insecurity exists to some extent in nearly every community.  People who are food insecure not only experience food shortage, but they usually are unable to include fresh fruits and vegetables for a healthy diet because they are out of reach.  Either produce costs too much or is not available.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  By sharing our garden or orchard surplus or planting a dedicated giving garden, home, community, and school gardeners can help food banks, pantries, and community food distribution programs provide fresh produce to ease this problem.

A giving garden can be a whole garden, a row or two as championed by the Garden Writers Association’s Plant a Row for the Hungry, or even one container dedicated to growing healthy (organic if possible) vegetables or fruits for those in need. Or it can be a planned effort such as a Master Gardener garden program done alone or in conjunction with another organization. Every donation, no matter how big or small, makes a difference to someone in need.  Besides helping to fill food banks, pantries, and programs, raising vegetables and/or fruits to donate is rewarding for everyone involved, including children, so it can be a family affair.

Before planting, you will want to do a little research.  Contact local food banks, pantries, or distribution programs to find out if they will accept local produce, what fruits and vegetables they prefer, and when and where to drop off donations.  Once you know the details of donating, purchase seeds or plants for the preferred produce, plant, and tend your garden.  Often the most sought after produce is some of the easiest to grow.

Harvest your produce at its prime as you would for yourself and practice safe-handling.  Many who are served by food banks and pantries are at a higher risk for foodborne illness as they include children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.   Here are a few tips from Michigan State University Extension to minimize food safety risks when donating produce:

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water before handling produce.
  • If pesticides were used on the product, be absolutely certain that you have followed the instructions on the pesticide label for application and safe harvest times. If you are unsure, discard the produce in the garbage—do not compost, eat or donate it.
  • Inspect each item of produce carefully. Discard any items that have signs of insects, bruising, mold, or spoilage. If you wouldn’t buy it, toss it!
  • Brush off as much mud and soil as possible from the produce.
  • Only use clean, food-grade containers or bags to store and transport produce.
  • Keep different types of produce separate.

If you have to wait a day or two to deliver your produce, refrigerate the produce so that it will stay as fresh as possible.

Some food banks offer donation receipts that you can use at tax time so remember to ask for a receipt if that is something you want. Gardeners who donate produce from their gardens or orchards to nonprofit organizations for distribution to people in need are protected from criminal and civil liability by the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Under terms of the act, donors are protected from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient.

For additional help on donating and handling produce, download these free fact sheets from Michigan State University: Donating Produce  and Safe Handling of Fruits and Vegetables. If you are interested in a Master Gardener program, contact your county extension office.

Mother Teresa said it best, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  Donating garden surplus or harvesting from a giving garden can do just that.

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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Tips for Cleaning Electric Pressure Cookers

Recently a friend emailed me asking how to clean an electric programmable pressure cooker (EPPC) so that it didn’t retain the smells of previous cooked foods.  This friend is certainly not the only one asking this question.  In fact, after I got my own EPPC, I had the same concern.  In my search for advice, I encountered lots of stories and advice from other EPPC owners with one owner even claiming to have found maggots growing in the condensation collector!  True or not, there are at least eight parts of any EPPC that should be cleaned after every use and it only takes minutes to do:  the inner pot, base, trivet, lid, silicone ring, pressure valve, condensation collector, and the anti-block shield.  With the exception of the base, all of these parts are dishwasher safe with most manufacturers.  The cooker base must be kept dry but can be wiped with a damp cloth.

It is always best to consult the manual that came with the EPPC for the best way to clean the appliance, but we know how manuals get misplaced or sometimes really don’t provide much information.  Another source is to look online for the EPPC manufacturer and hopefully find care information; however, this may not be possible with some generic EPPC brands.   One EPPC manufacturer, InstantPot, provides great care and cleaning tips.  While the tips may be specific to InstantPot, they would be useful for other EPPCs as well if information cannot be found from a specific manufacturer.

If after all of these areas have been cleaned properly and a lingering odor is still detected, it is likely coming from the silicon sealing ring as it does hold food odors.  I have found three ways to help defuse those odors: soaking the ring in vinegar, turning the lid upside down between uses or leaving the ring exposed to air, and placing a small box of baking soda in the unit between uses.   Other suggestions I’ve read include putting the ring in the sun, wiping the ring with a stainless steel soap disc, soaking or steaming in lemon water and baking soda, or purchasing two rings, one for savory and one for sweet.  If one does opt for a second sealing ring or needs to replace a ring, be sure to get genuine manufactured parts to ensure the EPPC will work correctly and safely.

Another concern EPPC users have is with the gradual discoloration of the stainless steel inner pot.  If it is turning a blue-yellow, white vinegar will bring it back to it’s original luster.  The procedure is to let white vinegar stand in the pot for at least 5 minutes and then rinse with water.  If the bottom of the pot is dulled perhaps due to sautéing or hard water, I have found that a small amount of baking soda or a non-abrasive scouring cleanser like Bar Keepers Friend Liquid Cleanser on a damp cloth or sponge does an excellent job of bringing back the original shine after rinsing and drying. Don’t use anything metallic for scouring because it will damage the finish!

These are the suggestions that I gave my friend as they seem to work well for me.  If you are an EPPC user and have additional suggestions, I’d love to hear your tips!


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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Eat Like the Animals: Go for the Nuts!

An american red squirrel holding a nut in it’s paws.

Humans could take a tip from nut-loving animals like squirrels, chipmunks, and black bears! Somehow these animals know that nuts are good for them. Nuts are good for humans, too. They are a great source of plant protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, and important vitamins and minerals, thereby providing significant health benefits to both humans and animals. Besides, they taste good and make a great snack or addition to meals.

Here’s a quick look at the most common nuts available to us and their contributions to our health:

Almonds have more calcium than any other nut, plus an abundance of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, protein and fiber. A number of studies have shown that almonds may reduce LDL as well as risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

Brazil nuts are high in protein, fiber, thiamine, copper, and magnesium and an incredibly rich source of selenium. Selenium is a mineral that acts as an antioxidant. Only a small amount of selenium is needed in the diet so one needs to watch quantities as high levels of selenium can be toxic. A one-ounce serving of Brazil nuts will provide more than 100% of the RDI for selenium. They may also help reduce cholesterol levels, oxidative stress, and inflammation.

Cashews are packed with iron, zinc, magnesium, copper, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While they low in fiber, they are a source of oleic acid and provide good monounsaturated fat and some polyunsaturated fat. Like other nuts, they contribute to good heart health, muscles, and nerves and reduce the risk of diabetes.

Macadamia nuts contain a wide range of nutrients and are a great source of monounsaturated fat; in fact, per serving, they contain the most heart-healthy monounsaturated fats of all nuts. This may explain their ability to reduce risk factors for heart disease. Macadamia nuts are the most caloric of all nuts averaging 240 calories per quarter-cup.

Pecans are nutrient dense containing more than 19 vitamins and minerals. They are also a good source of fiber, contain antioxidants, and may help lower LDL cholesterol.

Pistachios are especially high in vitamin B6, thiamine, and copper and offer high levels of other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Eaten in high quantities (more than 28 grams per day), pistachios appear to reduce risk factors for heart disease.

Walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fats, particularly an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid. They also contain a relatively high percentage of a healthy omega-3 fat called alpha-linolenic acid which is important for skin health. Studies have found that eating walnuts significantly reduced total cholesterol and LDL while increasing HDL. They also contain the most antioxidants compared with other nuts. Overall, walnuts are a winner among nuts.

While nuts are one of the healthiest of snacks, they are also high in calories so limiting consumption to one ounce/, quarter-cup portions/, or a small handful/per day is recommended. To reduce the calorie load from nuts, choose raw or dry-roasted instead of oil-roasted nuts. Further, nut choices should be minimally processed and have no added ingredients; in addition to oil, many snack-packaged nuts are high in salt or added flavors. Nutritionists suggest eating different kinds of nuts on different days to maximize nutrition available from the various kinds.

Nuts make an exceptional addition to meals or dishes, too. Some ideas include adding them to trail mix, sprinkling on salads, cereal, oatmeal or yogurt or using them crushed as a coating for fish, chicken, or other meats. Roasting nuts brings out their special flavors. To do so, preheat oven to 300F. Place shelled nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 7-10 minutes. They add nutrition and crunch to desserts and make great ravioli fillings and pesto.

Yes, the animals know—nuts are a very healthy food and pack a big bang for the bite in terms of their nutrients. Eat like the animals.

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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Using Creativity In The Kitchen

This is a big month for our family. In addition to expecting a new grand baby, we are also celebrating a birthday for the baby’s older brother! Since both events are happening within a few weeks, the grandma’s have gotten involved to help plan a birthday party. One of our favorite books to read to our grandson is The Little Blue Truck series of books. Therefore, what could be better than to plan a Little Blue Truck birthday party!

After looking for party ideas on Pinterest, Grandma Nyla and I have come up with a menu. We will be making pigs in a blanket, Rice Krispy treat hay bales, wheel shaped macaroni and cheese, Chex mix (chicken feed), deviled eggs (farm fresh eggs), carrot and celery stick with dip (farm fresh produce) and pulled pork sandwiches. Quite a combination of foods, but all contributing to the theme of the party!

My undertaking was to try to make little blue truck cookies. After checking at numerous kitchen stores in multiple cities, I finally decided that if I wanted the truck shape I would make my own pattern. After drawing the truck in the size that I wanted, I printed two copies on card stock. I used double stick tape to connect the two pieces together to make it a little sturdier. Using a sharp knife to cut around the edges of my rolled out cookie dough and I had my truck cookies. Since the pattern was thicker due to the two layers and the heavier card stock, I had no problems cutting around them with the knife.

I have frozen the cookies and they are ready to decorate as the party approaches! I did decorate one cookie so I could see how it would look and I am pleased to say that when my grandson came for a visit last week he picked up the cookie and started driving it on the counter! I would say that is a true sign of success!

Making my own cookie cutter was actually a fun challenge! Do not hesitate to let your creative juices flow and design your own. I have even more ideas for next Christmas!

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet

While spring isn’t quite here, it’s not too early to set some time aside to clean your medicine cabinet, drawer, or shelf.  To some extent, most people welcome spring with a little extra attention to mopping, dusting, or vacuuming away winter’s dust and dirt.  While the windows may shine and the house and yard look fresh, the medicine cabinet remains untouched with a variety of forgotten old prescription bottles and OTC medications that “might come in handy someday” still on the shelf.  Likely some of these medications have expired and may cause more harm than good.

I’m guilty of keeping them too long myself.  Largely I forget about them and as long as I don’t need anything from the medicine cabinet, they are out of sight and out of mind.  Since it is a common problem, different groups have initiated “Take Back” or cleaning times to call attention to the issue.  Twice each year we have “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day” when consumers are encouraged to return unused or old medicine to their pharmacies, hospitals, or drop-off sites.  The first one in 2018 will be April 28; there will be a second in the fall, usually in October.  We also have National Spring Cleaning Week the last week in March when medicine cabinet cleaning is encouraged as part of the spring cleaning routine.

What should consumers do the rest of the year to safely dispose of medicines if they are unable to utilize the designated drop-off times?  The FDA offers instructions on how to safely dispose of medicines by flushing unwanted drugs down the toilet and for placing them in the garbage.  The downside of these alternatives are that drugs that are flushed can taint our rivers, lakes, and water supplies.  Drugs in the trash are a potential hazard to the environment and may be found accidently by children or pets, or scavenging teens or adults looking for a high.  In 2014 the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) authorized pharmacies and hospitals to take back drugs designated as controlled substances any time from a consumer wishing to surrender them; prior to that time, controlled substances had to be surrendered to law enforcement.  Controlled substances include opioid painkillers like Oxycontin, stimulants like Adderall, and depressants like Ativan.  Drop-off is completely free and anonymous.

Now there’s a new alternative.  Since 2016, the drugstore chain, Walgreens, has been installing safe medication disposal kiosks across the nation.  Not every store has one so to find a kiosk in your area, visit Store Locator.  The kiosks provide a safe and convenient way to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescriptions, including controlled substances, and over-the-counter medications, ointments and creams, liquids, lotions, pet medications, prescription patches, and vitamins and supplements at no cost.

Certain medications or items are not accepted at the kiosks including needles, inhalers, aerosol cans, hydrogen peroxide, thermometers, and illicit drugs. As part of Walgreens drug take-back program, the kiosks make the disposal of medications easier and are available year-round during pharmacy hours to help reduce the misuse of medications and the rise in overdose deaths.

Here are some tips to get you started on extending your spring cleaning to your medicine cabinet:

Check the dates. Examine everything in the medicine cabinet, including ointments, supplements and vitamins. Discard any item that is beyond the expiration date and any prescription medications that are more than a year old. It is important to note that the expiration date really refers to that product unopened.  Once a medication has been opened and used, the clock starts ticking on its shelf life as contamination has been introduced. Medications and vitamins may lose their effectiveness or potency after the expiration date. Some may even become toxic.  Therefore, write the date you opened it on the container and after one year, get rid of all things opened or partially used.

Discard any items that have changed color or smell funny.  Regardless of the expiration or use by date, these items should be disposed.  This includes any colors that have faded, because they may have been exposed to too much light

Discard unmarked containers. If something is no longer in its original container or cannot be identified, get rid of it. Medications should always be kept in their original containers so that they are easily recognized. This includes ointments, since these can easily be mistaken for creams.

Dispose of medication and medical supplies properly and carefully. Because of the potential harm to the environment or to humans or pets, it is not recommended to simply throw out medication or flush them down the toilet. If you must do so, follow the FDA  recommendations.  Consider the disposal options aforementioned and utilize whichever works best for you.

Most collection sites won’t accept asthma inhalers, needles, insulin syringes or any other syringes, marijuana, mercury thermometers, and medications containing iodine. For disposal information and drop-off locations for syringes, needles, and other injectables—for example,for example, expired EpiPens—go to Safe Needle Disposal or call 800-643-1643.  When in doubt about how to safely dispose of a medication or medical device, check with your pharmacist.

Remove any personal identifying information on the prescription label.  Prior to disposal or container recycling either remove the label or black out any personal information including the RX number.  Also be sure the container is clean before recycling.

Inspect adhesive bandages.  Bandages and tapes have a limited lifespan, too, and should be replaced before their adhesive breaks down.

Lastly, consider relocating your medicine cabinet.  The bathroom is not the best place to store medication. The temperature and humidity changes that come with the shower running can lower the potency of some medicines. Medications should be kept in a cool dry place, away from children, pets, and scavengers. Consider a locked drawer or a locked box on a shelf.

It’s smart to undertake a medicine-cabinet cleaning every spring.  An annual review of prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and medical products can help keep us safe and healthy. Using an old product won’t necessary land you in the ER, but it could or it may not work effectively thereby wasting you money, affecting your health, or possibly delaying your recovery. Further, if the medicine isn’t on the shelf, it can’t be accidently used, incorrectly used, or abused.

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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Over a recent lunch break a co-worker shared she had had a revelation with her spouse over the previous weekend. She does not enjoy grocery shopping and has made a conscious effort over the last several months to limit her grocery shopping trips to once a week. As they were working together on their monthly budget they looked more closely at the food category. Since she began planning her menus a week at a time and only did grocery shopping weekly, their grocery bill was lowered by nearly $200 a month. That is substantial! It is saving her money AND time!

Setting aside a chunk of time to plan for the week will pay big dividends throughout the month. There is far less last minute eating out, less impulse buying and in general much more healthy choices made. If you are interested in pursuing a more budget friendly household, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers some great programs that can help you with not only eating healthy on a budget but on budgeting in general. Check out

Spend Smart, Eat Smart, and Money Talks. We at Answerline have also blogged about easy steps to planning menus.

If one of your New Years Resolutions was to find ways to save more money this would be a great place to start!


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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Help! Our car smells like a locker room!

While I enjoyed many holiday conversations with family and friends, the one that sticks out the most in my mind was a conversation about car odors.  Oh, the stories and oh, the laughs!  I’m not sure how we got to the conversation, but it certainly flickered an idea for a blog when someone asked, “So how do you get rid of those smells?”

Anyone who has lived with children—newborn to teenagers—and animals, and have carted them around from one event to the next in the mom-mobile, knows those  smells—spit up/vomit, diapers/urine, milk, French fries, mustard, ketchup, apple juice, dirty or wet clothes and shoes, coffee, peanut butter, dog breath, wet dog, cigarette smoke, etc.

The smell of a new car is intoxicating but quickly disappears with human use.  If you’d like to regain a bit of that new-car smell, here’s some tips.  I make no promise that these tips will return you vehicle to a showroom quality smell but do promise a clean, fresh, and better smelling car to enjoy.


  • Pick a sunny day to clean, if possible. Throw away all the trash, dirt, and refuse.  Remove the floor mats, child seats, and child seat mats.
  • Thoroughly vacuum the carpet and seats. The headliner may also be vacuumed.  If the odors are particular strong, sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and cloth seats and let sit for several hours before vacuuming.
  • Use vehicle cleaning wipes or a wet cloth to wipe down the dash board, the inside of the doors, door rests, steering wheel, seat belts, seats, seat backs, and other surfaces. Be sure to get between the seats and seat backs where spills can reside and go unnoticed.  If there are food spills on seats or carpet, use a wet cloth to gently rub and wash the spill away as much as possible.  A 50/50 white vinegar and water solution in a clean spray bottle is good for cleaning as well as eliminating odors.  Use a lint-free or microfiber cloth for wiping.  There will be no residual vinegar smell once it has dried.  Vinegar water is quite effective even on cigarette smoke.
  • Clean the floor mats. Use warm water and a few drops of dish soap water.  Place the mats on a flat surface (maybe the driveway) and scrub the mats with a soft scrubbing brush and the solution.  Rinse the mats and hang them to dry before placing back in your car.
  • Use a leather cleaner to clean leather seats following the manufactures directions.
  • Shine the inside window glass, mirrors, screens, and light covers using the vinegar/water solution or your favorite window cleaner and a lint-free cloth to wipe.
  • Launder the infant/child seat covers and thoroughly clean the plastic liner, base, and lock- down belts with the vinegar/water solution.
  • If you are a fan of commercial odor neutralizers, hanging car fresheners, or essential oils, use them sparingly in your freshly cleaned car. Some of them can undo the cleaning, scrubbing and elbow grease you just put into your vehicle. Most of these products simply mask the odor rather than solve them; further, they may give off irritating odors for those who are sensitive to them.

Once you have a clean smelling car, try to keep it that way.  Place a container or containers of some sort in the vehicle for collecting refuse or containing equipment.  Take a couple of minutes after every event or trip to make sure all equipment, dirty clothes, food wrappers, etc., are removed from the vehicle.  Clean up spills right away or as soon as possible.  Seal sweaty clothes/shoes or dirty diapers in garbage or zip bags.  Do a weekly cleaning as often as possible and a thorough cleaning three or four times annually.

And if these DIY tips don’t bring the relief that you seek, replace the cabin air filter in your vehicle.  You may also want to consider a professional cleaning job.  Additional sources of help are air filtration products that can be purchased.  Two favorites are an air purifier (Frieg, $20) that can be plugged into the power outlet and a compact filtration system (Philips Go-Pure, $144) that attaches to the back of a seat.  Both of these products are designed to improve air quality by eliminating smoke, pollen, dust, and other irritants.

Here’s to a healthier, happier, smell-free ride!

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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Supermarket Safety

As I write this there are many concerns about the flu epidemic plus we have received several calls about the Consumer Reports article concerning tainted romaine lettuce. The grocery store can be a place where you can be exposed to both of these things. In order to try and prevent both of these there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself.  A good place to start is to remember to always use the disinfecting wipes provided at the store to wipe down your cart before use.

Probably the two biggest areas of concern are the produce and meat departments. In the produce department you may see consumers lick their fingers in order to try and open the produce bags that are available and then use those same fingers to touch and select the produce they want. If you are someone that opens the produce bags using that method, use your other hand to touch the produce. And always wash produce at home before consuming. If you see nicks and bruises on the produce you are looking at, the protective skins could definitely be damaged which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the flesh. If possible, hand select your own produce rather than choosing a prepackaged bulk bag where you may not notice the nicks and bruises until you get home.

In the meat department look for thermometers in the refrigerated and frozen cases. Refrigerated cases should be at 40 degrees or below and freezer cases should be at 0 degrees or below. Raw and ready-to-eat foods should be separated. Raw meat and sushi should not be together in the same case unless there is a divider between them. Many meat departments now offer plastic bags for sanitation. To use them, pick up the meat with the bag then pull the bag through. That helps protect your hands and helps prevent cross contamination. Fish should be refrigerated or displayed not only on ice but in ice. Seafood is highly perishable allowing bacteria to grow rapidly on it.

Grocery stores in general go out of their way to make the shopping experience as safe for you as possible. It is always a good idea to take a few precautionary measures for yourself however. None of us are interested in getting the flu or food poisoning.


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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