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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Gas Leak – How to Detect and What to Do

Millions of Americans use gas (natural or propane, i.e. LP) to heat their homes, heat their water, and cook their food.   Our family is one of them and in addition, a natural gas pipeline crosses our property.  While gas is safe, economical, clean-burning, and a versatile fuel when used properly, it is also highly combustible.  Thus, a gas leak can be a risk of a fire and explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning. To help ensure that you live safely with gas, everyone in the family should be aware of the signs of a gas leak, never ignore even the slightest indication of one, and know what to do should there be a leak.  Because of our proximity to a gas line, our gas company provides information periodically on what to know and what to do.  The same precautions apply to propane gas.

Smell.  Because gases are colorless and odorless, a strong odorant that smells like rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray, or a dead animal is added to alert or help consumers detect a possible leak.  If you aren’t sure of the scent, you can request a free scratch-and-sniff card from you supplier.

Sound.  A hissing or whistling sound near a gas appliance, meter or pipeline is also an indicator of a gas leak.

Air.  Another indicator would be blowing dirt or a breeze coming out of the ground.

Bubbles.  A leak in a gas pipe can sometimes cause bubbling in moist areas around the home.

Discolored or dyeing vegetation.  If you suddenly notice your grass or shrubs have changed color, looking more brown or rusty, that could be a sign of a leak. Plants near a gas leak will quickly become sickly and eventually die.

Feeling ill.   The symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are similar to flu or food poisoning.  You cannot see, taste, or smell CO.

Fire coming out of the ground.

If you suspect or discover a gas leak:

  • Stay calm.
  • Leave the area immediately and evacuate everyone as well as all pets or animals from the home or building. Inhaling high concentrations of gas can lead to asphyxia in which your body is deprived of oxygen.
  • Go to a remote location and call your gas company or supplier. If they can’t be reached, call the fire department.  Program your gas supplier’s number into your cellphone so that it is readily available in an emergency.
  • If gas is blowing, call 911.
  • Move quickly. Don’t stop to look for the leak, open windows, turn switches off, or unplug equipment.  Leave the door open as you leave.
  • Don’t use anything that might create a spark, such as a cellphone, light switch, or garage door opener. These can ignite gases or vapors.
  • Do not return to the building until the gas company or fire department has given you the all-clear or the leak is fixed.

As always, being prepared in case of an emergency is key.  First and foremost, have the number of your gas supplier programmed into your cellphone.  If you don’t have a cellphone, have the number tucked into your wallet so you can quickly dial the number from another phone.  Secondly, know how to turn off your gas should you need to or be asked to do so.  Begin by knowing where your gas meter and/or emergency control valve is located.  For natural gas users, the emergency control valve should be next to the meter.   To turn off the gas supply, simply turn the handle a quarter turn so the lever is crosswise, perpendicular, or at 90 degrees to the upright gas pipe; a wrench may be required to turn the lever. Propane users should locate the main gas supply valve on the propane tank. Close the valve by turning it to the right (clockwise).  If you are unsure about where to find these valves or what to do, contact your supplier and have them show you.  And it is always a good plan to have your gas furnace and other gas appliances checked annually and serviced as needed for proper ventilation.

During winter, keep your gas meter and valve free from snow and ice using a broom, not a shovel, to remove snow or ice.  Make sure outside appliance vents are not blocked by snow and ice. Blocked vents can cause carbon monoxide  to back up into the building or shut down your system.   If your home or business has natural or propane gas appliances, a carbon monoxide detector should be installed.  When a gas appliance malfunctions, it can produce CO, that deadly, odorless, colorless, and tasteless silent killer.  And always, always call 811 before you dig!

Everyone should know how to detect and respond to a gas leak.  Make it part of your family’s emergency response plan.

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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Olive Oil, A Healthier Baking Option

Recently an AnswerLine caller asked if olive oil could be substituted for butter in a cake recipe she wanted to prepare.  Extra virgin or extra light olive oil can be a butter or margarine substitute in most baking recipes.  However, it is not a 1:1 substitute; rather it is a 3:4 ratio (3 parts olive oil to 4 parts butter/margarine) for butter or margarine.  Butter is made from milk solids and water so an even swap would result in the baked product being too greasy and heavy.  The caller’s recipe was for 1 cup butter so she was advised to use ¾ cup of olive oil.  (For help with other butter measurements, click here.) Besides the ratio consideration, olive oil may not be a good substitute if the recipe requires creaming of butter and sugar to create a light and airy cake or product.

When recipes call for vegetable or canola oil, extra virgin or light olive oil is a perfect choice; in these recipes, the swap is a 1:1 ratio (1 cup vegetable oil = 1 cup olive oil).  Olive oil can be used to prep baked good pans as well.  When a recipe calls for buttering and flouring baking pans, brush the pan with olive oil and dust with flour for the same effect as butter.

Will one notice the flavor of olive oil in baked products and desserts?  Olive oil has long been known as a flavorful and versatile cooking oil trusted for sautéing, stir-frying, dressings, marinating, and grilling.  There are several varieties of olive oil available each offering its own distinct colors, aroma, and flavor.  Extra light or extra virgin olive oil is the  best for baking; either offers the most delicate aroma and subtle flavor that often compliments baked goods.  Olive oil contributes moistness to bake products and brings out the flavor of some ingredients.  It is especially good in recipes using spices and chocolate.  However, if one is new to olive oil and its flavor, starting with half butter/half olive oil or half vegetable oil/half olive oil is a good way to develop taste.

When olive oil is used in baking, the recipe becomes healthier because olive oil is lower in saturated fat than butter.  Additionally, it provides high levels of mono-unsaturated “good” fat and low levels of saturated “bad” fat, making it a better nutritional choice when compared to butter or margarine.  And since olive oil is a 3:4 ratio to butter/margarine, calories are saved, too.  Olive oil also adds extra antioxidants (natural chemicals that help protect cells) and vitamin E which contribute to heart health.  Vitamin E may also help to keep baked products fresher longer.

Olive oil is fragile and needs to be stored properly for the best flavor, quality, and health benefits.  Store it in a cool, dark place and not over or near the range or oven.  Heat, light, and air cause the oil to break down over time leading to off-flavor and nutrition loss.

Adding olive oil  to baked recipes is nothing new.  However, it may be new to you.  Experimenting and sampling is the only way to find out if the substitution is right for you.

Resource for  “click here”:  Olive Oil by Rosemary Rodibaugh, PhD, RD, LD, Professor (rrodibaugh@uaex.edu) and Katie Holland, MS, RD, Program Associate (kholland@uaex.edu), University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Extension and Research.

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 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 ssa.gov/myaccount 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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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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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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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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Tips for Conscientious Eating When Dining Out

 

 

If you are watching calories, have dietary restrictions or food intolerances/allergies, dining out can be a challenge.  The pros of dining out are that restaurants, casual dining (fast food) venues, and delis are convenient for fast meals and/or socialization.   The cons (calorie overload, mega portions, sky-high salt, food triggers) may make it hard to maintain a healthy, balanced, or safe diet.

Here are some ideas to help you make appropriate choices when you dine out without compromising calories or health:

  • Check the online menu before going to decide what will work. If necessary, call in advance to ask about dietary or health concerns you may have such as gluten-free options and cross contamination.
  • Don’t make assumptions if you have concerns. Politely ask the server or chef a few simple questions:  How are the vegetables prepared/seasoned? Is the fish/chicken/pork chop grilled, broiled, breaded, or fried?  What is in the sauce or dressing?  Is the soup base broth or cream?  Has the food been marinated in any sauce?  Has any food been coated or dusted with flour?  Are mashed potatoes made with real potatoes?
  • Pay attention to the nutritional information if it is provided. If it is not available but of concern, ask.  The healthiest sounding dish on the menu may not be.
  • Order water, low-fat or fat-free milk, or unsweetened tea to avoid high-calorie beverages.
  • Ask for salad dressings, sauces, sour cream, butter, etc on the side so you can control the amount.
  • Substitute fruit, vegetables, or a salad for a heavy or off-diet side dish.
  • If gluten is allowed, ask for whole-wheat bread for sandwiches.
  • Start with a veggie-packed side salad to help control hunger and feel satisfied sooner. Request no crackers, croutons, wontons, or cheese if any are of concern to your diet or health.
  • Avoid appetizers either from the menu or those presented at the table (chips, breads, etc).
  • Choose main dishes with lots of veggies, especially steamed veggies when possible.
  • Order steamed, grilled or broiled dishes. Avoid fried or sautéed foods as much as possible.
  • At a buffet, order an item from the menu instead going for the all-you-can-eat option.
  • Opt out of dessert or request fresh fruit.
  • Refrain from cleaning your plate if the portion is too much. Splitting with a companion or requesting a take-home box are always options.  Take a minute to look at the plate that is brought to you and decide before taking a bite what you intend to eat.   Another option is to ask the waiter to box half of your plate before bringing it to the table.

Dining out doesn’t mean your healthy eating plan has to stay at home.  Nor does it mean that you have to stay home if you have dietary restrictions or food issues.  Ask a few questions, make some smart choices, and your meal-out can be as healthy and safe as if you made it yourself.

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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