College Bound

The end of July always signals a new beginning for another school year to me. It is an exciting time for students, teachers, and parents.

Many families are preparing to send a student off to college for the first time. That whole experience can be an emotional roller coaster for both the students and parents. With a plan in place it is easier to ease college-bound students, and their parents, into the next phase of their lives.

An important part of that plan is keeping the lines of communication open between parent and student about the realities of college life as a college freshmen. There may be more or different pressures as new social situations are encountered. Many college freshmen feel pressured into deciding what they want to do, picking a career path and planning for their futures. Students and parents both feel pulled between the past, present and future. It is important for parents to remember the foundation they have worked to build and provided their child with for the last 18 years will stay with their child. Provide wings they need to develop but also trust they have strong roots.

As students head off to college, parenting styles will change. Teenagers still need love and support but both sides are working on building an adult relationship with each other. Parents especially, but students too, need to accept there will be a void. The joy everyone is feeling may also be mixed with longing. Parents and college students may both feel left out at times. Parents will be less privy to all aspects of their child’s life but again it is vital to keep the lines of communication open. It is a good idea to make a plan about how and how often you are going to stay in touch. It is a time in your student’s life when they are wanting to assert their independence but also feel connected to family. As parents make changes at home after the student moves out, it is helpful to keep the student informed. This gives them a sense of security and belonging.

College life for both students and parents is not harder or easier than high school – it is just different.

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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Summertime Tips

In just a short time, school will be out for the summer. Educators say that children lose some of the skills they learned over the summer. If you want to help your child retain more of their skills, we have a few simple suggestions for summer activities.

If your family is planning a vacation, your child can do some age appropriate research on the sites you may visit. I remember my children reporting on Mt Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park. They were mid-way through elementary school at the time, so the reports were not terribly detailed but they each had a chance to see photos of our destination and learn a few interesting facts. We made a trip to the library and they looked for references, took notes, and then made a one-page report for the family that they read to us in the car as we headed out on vacation.

Children can also help with grocery shopping. Even young children that have not mastered spelling can write down the grocery list. As long as they have mastered the alphabet, you can spell out the items on the list. Have them look through the kitchen to decide what foods need to add to the list. Help them understand fractions like half, thirds, and quarters. Visualization helps make fractions real.

Once you are shopping for groceries, provide a calculator to older elementary students to track total spending or explain how to figure unit pricing to know which size cereal box is more economical.

Sometimes we do not realize all the reading, writing, and arithmetic skills we use in everyday life. Help our child maintain their skills and have fun, too.


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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Edible Landscaping – Landscaping with Taste

Creative landscape made with assorted organic vegetables.

The modern trend is to no longer banish the vegetable garden to the far corner of the back yard.  Rather, homeowners are now putting vegetables and fruit trees or bushes on display as part of an elegant, edible, landscape design.  So while this is a modern trend, an edible landscape is really an ancient practice dating back to medieval monks and ancient Persians growing a rich array of vegetables, flowers, fruits, and herbs for edible, medicinal, and ornamental virtues.  It was also a long practice of English gardens which was reinstated in 2009 by Queen Elizabeth when she had an organic edible landscape installed within the Buckingham Palace Garden which includes heirloom species of beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and other edibles.

While an edible landscape doesn’t need to be as elaborate as the Queen’s, an edible landscape does use attractive, food-producing plants in a well-designed garden plan around the home and/or living area in the same way that ornamental plants are used.  It may also incorporate ornamental plants. As a result, the edible landscape offers fresh, affordable food, a variety of foliage and colors, and sustenance for bees, butterflies, and birds.  As this trend grows, there are a growing number of professional landscape companies getting into the business of helping homeowners plan their landscape to include edibles, courses for certification as agriscaping educators and professionals, and any number of books and online articles providing information.  Interestingly enough, some subdivision developers now offer buyers a choice of either traditional landscaping or agriscaping for their new home.

Design is what separates edible landscaping from traditional vegetable gardening.  Whether ornamental or edible, design should be pleasing to the eye and draw one into the garden to experience it.  Instead of rows of vegetables which lead one away like a highway, the same space can be made very attractive (and edible) by incorporating basic landscaping principles  starting with a center of interest and then curving other plants around it—the same way one would plan an ornamental garden.  Add a few flowers, a trellis for beans/peas or cucumbers, an arbor for grapes, a bench, a bird bath, a fruit or nut tree, garden ornaments and voila!  It’s an ornamental edible landscape!

Planning an edible landscape incorporates the same design values of traditional landscapes. Carol Venolia writing for Mother Earth Living, says start small, choose plants appropriate for your climate zone, and offers the following design tips:

  • Create primary and secondary focal points.
  • Use plantings and hardscaping (such as paths and patios) to define spaces for various uses and experiences.
  • Work consciously with color, texture and seasons of blooming and fruiting when choosing your garden’s palette.
  • Pay attention to how you lead the eye from one part of the garden to another.
  • Except for featured specimen plants, create groupings of plants to avoid a busy, random appearance.
  • Explore the aesthetic potential of plants: Grow vines on arbors; create edible landscape walls with vines and shrubs; espalier fruit trees; use containers as accents; grow decorative borders of edibles.
  • Make plants do double duty by shading your house in summer and admitting sunshine in winter, reducing your home’s energy use.

For inspiration, one need not look far.  Following recent trends, many public gardens have incorporated edible gardens into their landscapes.  One of the best can be found at the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden at the Chicago Botanical Garden.

So whether to save money, provide better-quality food for the family, know what you eat, reduce carbon footprint, involve family, or simply to try something different, edible landscaping is a trend that provides environmental benefits and returns a bit of sanity and security to chaotic times.  However you do it, Happy Gardening!

A few resources for further reading or to help get you started:

Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally by Robert Kourik

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg et al.

Edible Landscaping: Now You Can Have Your Gorgeous Garden and Eat it Too by Rosalind Creasy

Edible Landscapes (The Seed) by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension et al.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway

The Incredible Edible Landscape by Carrie Wolfe, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Landscaping with Fruit: Strawberry ground covers, blueberry hedges, grape arbors, and 39 other luscious fruits to make your yard an edible paradise by Lee Reich

Landscaping with Fruits and Vegetables by Fred Hagy


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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Prepare Now for Safe Summer Boating

Summer will be here soon and with it will come many outdoor recreational opportunities.  If boating is something you or you and your family will do, then it’s time to think or rethink boat safety.  ​According to the National Safety Council, about 74 million Americans engage in recreational boating each year.  Most boat outings are fun times, but the good times can quickly turn otherwise if boaters are not vigilant about safety at all times.  The most common boat tragedies occur when someone falls overboard or a boat capsizes or collides with another boat.  The US Coast Guard statistics show that 7 out of 10 boating accidents resulting in death occurred due to operator error or lack of boating safety instruction.

The good news, though, is that saving lives and reducing injuries can be as easy as taking a boater safety course. That way, you familiarize yourself with operation basics and etiquette, as well as state and federal waterway rules. And, by taking the course, you may even be able to lower your insurance premium.  Some states actually require completion of a boat safety course in order to operate a vessel on lake and streams within the state.  Since this blog is written largely for audiences in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota, I will make reference to requirements for these three states only.  (Additional information can be accessed at Boat Ed®.)  For these three states, the requirements are as follows:

Iowa – Education is required for those 12 to 17 years old who will be operating a motorized vessel over 10 hp or a personal watercraft (PWC) in Iowa.  Cost of the course is $29.50 with an additional $5 state fee.  Permits are issued by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  The course may be taken by anyone 12 years of age or olders, non-residents included.  Anyone under the age of 12 years may operate a vessel powered by a motor of more than 10 horsepower, including a PWC, only if he or she is accompanied by a person 18 years or older who is experienced in operating a vessel. Anyone older than 18 years of age may operate a motorized vessel or PWC without any restrictions.

Minnesota – Education is required for those 12 to 17 years old who are unsupervised and will be operating a boat over 25 hp in Minnesota. Education is also required for those 14 to 17 years old who are unsupervised and will be operating any personal water craft (PWC).  Anyone under the age of 13 years may not legally operate a personal watercraft (PWC) in Minnesota.  Those 18 years of age or older may operate a motorized vessel or PWC without any restrictions. Cost of the online course is $22.50 and may be taken by anyone 12 years of age or older, non-residents included.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will issue the permit to those who complete the course.

South Dakota – South Dakota does not require boating education.  The course may be taken to save on insurance or to operate a boat in states that require a card. Cost of the course is $19.50 with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks issuing the permit. There is no minimum age or resident requirement to take the online course. Anyone under the age of 12 years may operate a vessel powered by a motor of more than 6 horsepower only if accompanied by a person 18 years or older. Anyone under the age of 14 years may operate a PWC only if accompanied by a person 18 years or older.

Boat Ed® offers courses and tests recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard, approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and meet individual state’s certification standards.

Besides completing safety courses and being familiar with federal, state and local laws, life jackets should be worn rather than just stored onboard.  While most states have a mandatory life jacket law for youth, the Just Wear It Campaign advocates that everyone in a vessel should be wearing a life jacket at all times.  Life jacket requirements for the three states are as follows:

Iowa – Iowa law states “a person shall not operate a vessel in Iowa unless every person on board the vessel who is age 12 and under is wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.” A life jacket must be worn when the vessel is underway, which means when a vessel is not at anchor, tied to a dock or the bank/shore or aground. A child age 12 and under in an enclosed cabin, below deck, or aboard a commercial vessel with a capacity of 25 persons or more is exempt.  The law became effective in 2008.

Minnesota – As of May 2005, Minnesota law requires a life jacket to be worn by children less than 10 years of age when aboard watercraft in Minnesota when the craft is under way (not tied up at a dock or permanent mooring).

South Dakota – Every person on board a PWC must wear a certified personal flotation device (PDF) at all times.  Children under seven years old must wear a PDF while on any vessel operating at greater than “slow, no wake speed” unless below deck or in an enclosed cabin.  Requirements do not apply to boats 12 feet or less in length without a motor of any kind.

There are many styles and kinds of life jackets available.  For more information on how to choose an approved life jacket appropriate for you, check out How to Choose the Right Life Jacket from the US Coast Guard.

To further reduce risk, the Coast Guard offers these tips:

  • Don’t drink: Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination
  • Get an annual vessel safety check
  • Know about carbon monoxide; this odorless, colorless poisonous gas is emitted by all combustion engines and onboard motor generators

The extra effort that goes into taking these kinds of precautions will help create fun-filled adventures for you and your family on the water.


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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4-H Exhibit Ideas

If you have a 4-H member at your house, you may want to take advantage of the long Iowa winter and begin working on exhibits for the County Fair. When I judge at fairs, I talk to so many 4-H members that have really only baked their exhibit once or maybe twice. It is hard to see how much learning could occur when finding a recipe and baking a product for the first time the night before the fair. During this time of year, we often have snow days at school, or weather that makes it difficult to do much outdoors. What a great time to begin thinking of an exhibit the member wants to take to the fair.

The 4-H member can look for recipes and make the product a few times to ensure that the product is suitable for display at the fair. If the member makes a mistake, needs to alter the recipe, or even change to a different recipe there is still plenty of time. Remember that all this learning will make a great addition to the write-up. Regular practice of the recipe or technique will ensure the member can make the final product for the fair with confidence. Taking notes or making a rough draft of the write-up will also be helpful.

If the 4-H member wants to exhibit some sort of home preserved food, they have time to can some jars of the food and compose a write up or notes for the judge. Having this completed early takes some stress off the member at County Fair time. In addition, working on the fair exhibit this far ahead of the fair allows the member to look at the Inappropriate Foods for Exhibit at 4-H fairs publication or the time to call or email us at AnswerLine to determine the safety of the exhibit. If it is determined that the product is not safe, the member still has time to find a safe, tested recipe and preserve more of the food or correct any other errors that make the exhibit unsafe.

Members considering preserving food can go on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website and take an on-line course in home food preservation. They also have time to look at various recipes on the site and read up on techniques and different canners. There is also a section on the website with FAQs about canning problems. Even research about canning techniques and recipes could make an interesting exhibit for the fair.

We are always happy at AnswerLine to discuss County Fair exhibits especially when a member is working this far in advance of the fair. Call or email us, we would love to help.


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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Battling the Slump with Energy Boosting Snacks

You know that mid-morning or mid-afternoon slump—your mind is wandering and your productivity just isn’t happening.  An energy burst is needed so you grab a cup of coffee, a soft drink, or a sweet treat for a quick solution.  News alert!!!!  A quick fix of sugar or caffeine isn’t a fix at all.  While you may beg to differ, they actually drain your energy rather than give you more.  Foods with a high glycemic index flood the body with insulin causing a brief boost of energy, but it is quickly followed by feelings of drowsiness and hunger.

Having healthy snacks on hand is key to staying fueled and focused when you need it most.  They will keep your energy up and your blood sugar stable when a slump looms.  When looking to grab a snack to battle the slump, consider these foods:

Bananas or Apples.  Loaded with good carbs, vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber, fruit is portable, doesn’t require refrigeration, and provides quick energy.  Dried fruit is a great alternative to fresh.

Almonds or Walnuts.  These morsels are a wonderful, portable snack. They’re packed with good fats, which help you stay full, along with fiber, selenium, vitamin E, and omega-3s. Because it’s easy to overeat on nuts, portion an ounce serving to a small container or snack bag.

Carrots.  Just like sugary snacks, carrots increase blood sugar quickly.  But unlike sweets, these treats provide vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium and fiber.  Keep a bag of baby carrots on hand for your next snack attack.  If carrots aren’t your thing, consider red peppers, celery, zucchini, mushrooms, sugar or snap peas, or raw asparagus for a boost.

Hummus or Peanut Butter.  Add a source of protein like hummus or peanut or nut butter to fruits and vegetables for a satisfying snack. Just a tablespoon or two will be enough to keep you feeling full for hours.

Popcorn.  Popcorn is a great snack because you get a lot of volume and fiber making you feel full.  And, because it’s a whole grain, it’s healthier than a snack like pretzels. However, watch the calories and salt. Consider preparing low-fat microwave popcorn to curb butter calories and salt.

String cheese.   While a good source of protein and calcium, cheese also packs calories and saturated fat so you have to be careful.  The nice thing about individual packaging is that you know exactly how many calories you are going to inhale; and fortunately, there are several good options to choose from.

Water.  Water fights off food cravings, increases metabolism, and also provides energy without any calories, salt, fat, or sugar.

These foods are also great after-school snacks for children, too.

Did I miss an easy-to-grab, healthy, energy-boosting snack that you like to eat? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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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Is My Well Water Safe? FALL Into a Pattern of Routine Testing

Sometimes we need reminders to do routine chores and sometimes it helps to designate those chores to a certain time of the year to make sure we get them done.  For me, one of those chores is getting our well water tested and I have found FALL is a great time to make sure our well is in good shape and providing safe drinking water.

Even if you believe that your well water is safe to drink, it’s important to periodically sample and test your water to assess any health related concerns the water may create. The information you receive from the test will help you make informed decisions on well maintenance and water treatment. It will also help you determine if you need to call a certified well contractor or seek an alternative source of drinking water.

At a minimum, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources recommends bacteria and nitrate testing be performed at least once per year.  Nitrates pose a threat to infants and pregnant or nursing mothers, while the presence of bacteria indicates a pathway to disease-causing bacteria to enter the well.  You may also want to have your well water tested if you notice any changes in color, taste, odor, hardness, corrosion, sediment, etc.  Water can also be tested for naturally occurring contaminants like arsenic, fluoride, and radium.

To assist families with well water testing, nearly all of Iowa’s counties participate in the Grants-to-Counties Well Program. The Grants-to-Counties program can provide free or cost-sharing for water sampling and analysis to qualifying private drinking water systems. To find out if your county participates in the Grants-to-County Well Program or to arrange sampling of your water system, please refer to the pdf list of County Environmental Health Sanitarians on the DNR page and contact the Sanitarian’s office in the county where the well is located.

The grant program also assists with the cost of filling abandoned wells.  Old wells pose a safety hazard as well as a hazard to ground water contamination.  State law requires old abandoned wells to be properly filled to eliminate any hazards.

Minnesota residents can find more information on how to sample and test well water at the Minnesota Department of Health’s pages, Owners Guide to Wells – Well Management Program and Water Quality/Well Testing/Well Disinfection – Well Management Program.

The South Dakota Water Resources Institute (SD WRI) no longer provides interpretation of water analysis and recommendations for the suitability of water. However, their website offers a variety of analysis options and analysis packages which include analysis for the most commonly occurring water quality issues.

So if you have well water and haven’t set a time aside for routine testing, perhaps you, too, would like to schedule it for FALL to establish a routine.


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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Dealing with Head Lice

With kids back in school, it’s probably only a matter of time until you hear about head lice.  Anyone who comes in close contact with someone who already has head lice is at risk for acquiring head lice as they are easily transmitted from head to head.  Preschool and elementary-school children and their families are most often infected.  While head lice infestation is very common and has been around for centuries, they are contagious, an annoyance and disruption to family life, and sometimes tough to get rid of—been there, done that!

The head louse is a tiny, wingless parasitic insect that lives among human hairs and feeds on tiny amounts of blood drawn from the scalp.  While they are frustrating to deal with, they aren’t dangerous as they don’t spread disease.  However, their bites make a child’s head itchy and scratching can lead to infection.  It is best to treat head lice quickly once they are found as they spread easily from person to person.

Head scratching is usually the first sign that your child has head lice.  However, when scratching is noticed, the child already has an active case.  Therefore, it is best to check your child’s scalp weekly for nits (lice eggs) by parting the child’s hair into small sections and looking particularly near the scalp, around and behind the ears, and near the neckline at the back of the head. Even though small, nits can be seen by the naked eye.  Adult lice lay eggs on the hair shafts close to the scalp; nits look like dandruff, but can’t be removed by brushing or shaking them off.  The eggs hatch within 1 to 2 weeks after they have been laid.  After hatching, the egg casing remains firmly attached to the hair shaft and the newly immerged nymphs, smaller than a sesame seed with six tiny legs, are on the move seeking blood to survive.  Nymphs become adults within 1 to 2 weeks and are gray-white in color and about the size of a sesame seed. Nymphs and adults are often harder to spot as they move fast.  See the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for pictures of the various lice stages and for the best information on how to treat lice.

Lice cannot jump or survive long without a human host.  They cannot spread to pets as they can only survive on human blood. They are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person.  Cleaning is a necessary part of ridding the home of head lice.  Here are some simple, but time consuming, ways to get rid of lice and prevent re-infestation:

  • Wash all bed linens and clothing that’s been recently worn by the infested person in very hot water; dry with the hot cycle of the dryer for at least 20 minutes.
  • Put stuffed animals and non-washable items in airtight bags for at least 3 days. Place the bags in the garage or someplace away from constant human contact.
  • Vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture (car seats, too); dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag in an airtight bag away from the home.
  • Clean hair-care items like combs, barrettes, hair ties or bands, headbands, and brushes by soaking in rubbing alcohol or medicated shampoo for an hour. If tolerated, these items can also be washed in the dishwasher.

Finally, know that having head lice is NOT a sign of poor hygiene or a dirty home.  They are a problem for all mankind.  Remind your kids to avoid head-to-head contact with other children and avoid sharing brushes and hair/head attire.  Most importantly, help them understand that while having lice can be embarrassing, they have not done anything wrong and they are not dirty.

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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Do College Students Need Insurance?

Whew!  You just got your college student settled into their college dorm or apartment after likely making a number of purchases for towels, sheets, waste baskets, storage boxes, and the list goes on.  Hopefully they have everything they need. But, did you think about insurance?

It’s a good idea for parents with college students away from home to check their homeowners, health, and auto insurance policies to see which situations are covered and which aren’t and if you might need to buy more protection for peace of mind.

Homeowners or Renters Insurance. Most kids leave home with electronic gear, clothes, bicycles, and lots of other stuff.  In many cases, a dependent child’s personal belongs will be covered up to a certain percentage of their parent’s protection plan so long as the student lives in an organized living unit such as a dormitory, sorority or fraternity.  However, there may be a 10 percent limit on possessions coverage because the items are not in the home.  If that is the case, additional coverage for PCs, tablets, and other pricey items may be an option to consider with higher limits and coverage for loss or damage.

Students who study abroad or choose to live in an apartment, rented house, or mobile home may not have coverage under a parents’ homeowners policy.  In that case, a separate basic renter’s policy would be warranted to protect personal belongings.  These plans usually protect students against theft, fire, accidental damage by electricity or water, flood, earthquake, vandalism, and other personal loss that may occur while at school or studying abroad. Personal property items usually covered include computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, books, clothes, bicycles, and much more.

Health Insurance. Students under 26-years of age and attending school in the same state as their parents generally can stay on their parents’ insurance policy. However, it is important to check to see whether the plan network extends to doctors and hospitals in the area where the student will be.  Many policies provide little or no coverage for out-of-network care, except for emergencies. Students who go out-of-state, are 26-years or older, or are not claimed as a dependent will need to explore health insurance alternatives such as purchasing an individual policy through the local health insurance exchange or directly from an agent or through their college if a health insurance plan is offered.  Student health plans generally offer basic coverage for the campus clinic and a nearby hospital.  These plans may also be a good supplement for those students who find themselves in an out-of-network situation with their family plan.  For any plan option, the student should have an insurance card with them at school in the event that they need medical treatment.

Auto Insurance. Let your insurer know if your child will be taking a car to school; there may be a price adjustment based on the school’s location. Make sure that the student has a current proof of insurance card in their vehicle along with the 24-hr claim number. If a student will be more than 100 miles from home without a vehicle, some companies offer a price break; in this case, you will want to keep the student on your policy so that they can drive at home on breaks. Car or no car, remember the good-student discount; students who maintain a B average or better qualify for a 5% to 15% discount.

College is an exciting time in a child’s life. As you say the last goodbye in the parking lot, you realize more than ever that you can’t protect your student from every risk.  But you can provide an “umbrella” from the unpredictable incidents by making sure that they have the proper insurance coverage and making them aware of the coverage they have.

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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