REAL ID – Are you ready?

Driver's license with Real ID Star in upper right hand corner
Iowa Driver’s License with Real ID Star. Photo Source: Iowa Department of Transporation (DOT) with permission.

The Real ID Act was enacted by Congress in 2005 for domestic travel and admission to federal facilities requiring an ID. Original US citizens had until May 11, 2008 to acquire the required Real ID for travel through their respective driver’s license bureaus. That date has been extended to May 7, 2025.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and various other issues, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has changed the date several times giving states and citizens additional time to obtain a REAL-ID compliant license. For more information on Real ID, check out the Real ID/Homeland Security website. The most recent update was announced by the DHS on December 22, 2022 moving the REAL ID full enforcement date to May 7, 2025. 

Bottom line remains the same, if you plan to travel by air or enter a federal facility requiring ID, you will need a Real ID unless you have other proper identification; for travel, that would be a passport.  If you do not anticipate either scenario, a Real ID is not needed.

Blog updated 4/2024, mg.

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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Passports, Global Entry, and TSA Pre-Check

There are several people in our building planning to do some international travel in the near future. As we were all discussing the various trips we are planning we began forming a list of questions about what needed to be completed before leaving on those trips. For some of us we needed to apply for our first passport. When applying for your first passport you need to appear in person. You will need to go somewhere that takes passport photos as well to attach to your application. Be sure to allow plenty of turn-around time to receive your passport well before you plan to travel. We discovered you can go to the Recorder’s Office at many of your local County Courthouses to appear in person to apply for your first passport AND they are also able to take your photos. Some Post Offices also do that saving you time from going to more than one place.

Some countries require that your passport be valid for six months beyond the completion of your trip. You will want to check the requirements of the countries you are planning to visit and you may need to renew your passport before you leave. You will still need new photos but you can renew by mail and not have to appear in person. Again, make sure to allow for plenty of turn-around time.

Once you have your passport you may want to consider enrolling in a Global Entry program which expedites your entry back into the United States. If you are planning to do quite a bit of international travel it may be worth looking into. You would start by enrolling in the Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) through U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

There is also TSA Pre-Check  to consider. It allows you to enter a separate security line and you do not have to remove your shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts, or light jackets. There is an option to add that to Global Entry.

I wish you all safe travels ahead whether you are traveling internationally or domestically!

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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Exploring Iowa via Adult Learning Vacations

Recently I learned about a learning adventure/vacation opportunity for adults offered by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach designed to experience and explore Iowa in unique ways through a travel course.  Little did I know that this opportunity existed.  The courses are arranged by Diane Van Wyngarden, tourism specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach, and are part of the Road Scholar Program.  Each learning adventure has a theme of study.  For a week, a limited number of participants travel together following the theme and learning insights and history from experts about the various communities involved in the study.  Transportation is by motorcoach or boat.

This year, the adventure is one that really intrigues me–the Mississippi River, the Great River Road, and other fascinating points of interest along the way.  If this also intrigues you, check out Iowa Road Scholar or contact Diane Van Wyngarden at for more information about this adventure and other Iowa learning adventures.

Road Scholar programs are open to adults of all ages with most participants 50+ years of age who enjoy learning experiences rather than touring.  For more information about Road Scholars see





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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The Pioneer Woman

I love to travel and was fortunate to recently go on a trip with a wonderful friend to Pawhuska, Oklahoma to see the Pioneer Woman sites. After watching her show on the Food Network it was a real treat to get to see the Mercantile and the Pawhuska area. We stayed at a hotel in downtown Pawhuska within walking distance of the Mercantile. We were happy we did that as it allowed us to easily walk to the Mercantile at off hours that were not so crowded. Several thousand people visit the Mercantile every day and it is not uncommon to have to wait in line a very long time (up to two hours) to be able to eat in the restaurant. We made sure we were there for breakfast by 7am and ate a very early dinner to avoid the lines.

There are two stories at the Mercantile. On the main level are the deli/restaurant and the retail shop. You can have a sit down meal or go through a line to pick up prepared foods to take with you. There is also a coffee shop on the main level where you can buy coffees and specialty drinks. I did not try the Cowboy Coffee or the Spicy Cowgirl coffee but they were popular choices with the patrons who were there at the same time I was. My two favorite menu items were the Olive Cheese Bread (which I will try to recreate at home!) and the Prune Cake. My friend and I were leery of trying the cake but our very friendly and knowledgeable server highly recommended it. We were not disappointed!

Upstairs at the Mercantile are a coffee bar, bakery, and a nice relaxation area to enjoy the treats you purchased. They also sell several types of candy. The picures on the wall were all taken by Ree and were a joy to look at. There were very nice restrooms on each level – they have thought of everything!

The Mercantile was actually a mercantile originally known as the Osage Mercantile back in the 1800s. The Drummond family has done an amazing job restoring and refurbishing it. It is well worth the visit. It is a fun and family-friendly destination. Check the website ahead of time and also check with the deli when you arrive as tours of the Lodge where the Pioneer Woman shows are often filmed are available on certain dates. The tours are free and directions are given to you if you are lucky enough to be there on a day tours are available. Tour tickets are not available in advance.

The Mercantile is closed on Sundays and Pawhuska is a small town but it has a lot going for it and many interesting things to do in the area. Pawhuska is known as the gateway to the Tallgrass Prairie. It is definitely worth a drive through the prairie if you have time. Pawhuska is also the home of America’s first Boy Scout Troop. It is a fascinating area of the country to visit. If you are a follower of the Pioneer Woman and watch her shows on TV I highly recommend you add this to your vacation destination list.

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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Rental Car Insurance: Do You Need It?

With family members spread across the US, I find myself flying to their destination and then renting a car so that I have my independence during my visit.  Even though I reserve a car in advance and have already checked the box declining rental car insurance, I get the standard question at the car rental counter:  “Do you need/want rental car insurance?”  Put on the spot, you might not know and therefore, feel compelled to purchase. And that’s  exactly what rental companies are counting on and the commissions for selling you the coverage.  For me the answer is usually “no,” but that may not be true for everyone. When it comes to securing transportation independence, exploring alternative options like used car deals becomes a viable solution. By partnering with reputable car sales stockpot, travelers can access a diverse range of vehicles known for their combination of cost-effectiveness and dependability, eliminating the need to navigate the complexities of rental car insurance.

Among the array of options awaiting discovery in the realm of used car deals lies the enticing prospect of the used volkswagen california for sale. Nestled amidst the inventory of reputable dealerships, this iconic vehicle represents a fusion of style, functionality, and durability. As enthusiasts scour through the offerings, Volkswagen California car deals stand out as a beacon of reliability, beckoning travelers to embark on journeys defined by spontaneity and exploration. With its versatile design and renowned Volkswagen engineering, this vehicle promises to be more than just a mode of transportation; it becomes a trusted companion on the road to unforgettable experiences.

For those aiming to achieve transportation independence, exploring the possibility of Sell Car Online presents a pragmatic route to transitioning towards different modes of mobility. Utilizing specialized online platforms for car selling enables individuals to smoothly manage the process of separating from their current vehicles, relieving themselves of the obligations and costs linked to ownership. This deliberate action not only empowers individuals to investigate alternative transportation choices such as used car deals but also grants them the adaptability to accommodate changing mobility requirements.

As individuals embark on the journey towards transportation independence, the attention to detail extends beyond merely selling the vehicle; it encompasses the transformation of its interior with premium seat covers. Companies like seat covers unlimited offer a diverse array of options, allowing sellers to enhance the appeal and value of their cars before listing them for sale online. As individuals navigate the transition towards different transportation choices, the inclusion of high-quality seat covers becomes a subtle yet impactful way to distinguish their listings and facilitate a smoother selling process, ultimately paving the way for newfound transportation independence. Here are some guidelines on how to find out if you need rental car insurance and help you make an informed decision when you’re at the rental counter.

Talk to your insurance agent.  Coverage from your own auto policy usually applies when you are using a rental car for personal, nonbusiness purposes. By accepting counter coverage, you may be paying extra for something you already have.  According to State Farm Insurance, you should ask your agent these key questions:

  • Does my auto policy liability, comprehensive and collision coverage and any deductibles extend to rental car agreements? Make sure that coverage also includes theft or damage to a rental car.  If you have collision and comprehensive coverage on your own policy from, it generally will extend to a rental car. However, you will still be on the hook for your deductible. Your own liability insurance should cover if you do damage to others, but make sure you have adequate liability coverage ($1 million is recommended).
  • Does my auto policy cover administrative or towing fees for rental cars?
  • Does my homeowners or renters insurance extend to personal items in a rental car (off-premises coverage)? In most cases, homeowners or renters insurance will cover your possessions if they are stolen, even away from home. To make a theft claim, you’ll need to file a police report.  Check with your agent about the limits of your coverage; off-premises items are usually only covered up to a certain percentage of your personal property coverage. The deductible on your homeowners or renters insurance will apply.
  • Does my auto policy offer loss of income coverage to the rental company?
  • Does my auto policy offer personal injury protection or a MedPay?  If you have health insurance, medical payments coverage or personal injury protection on your car insurance policy, you may already have coverage comparable to what the rental company offers.

Talk to your credit card company or review the company’s policy on rental cars.  If you pay for a rental car with a major credit card, there’s a good chance that the issuing company offers secondary insurance at no charge.  Secondary insurance typically covers additional expenses and deductibles beyond an existing auto policy.

Be familiar with the coverage options provided by your employer.  Coverage extensions of your auto policy or credit card may not apply if you rent a car for business.  Likewise, if you rent for pleasure, your company coverage may not be apply.

Having done your research, you will know whether you need coverage from a rental company or not. Further, there are companies that sell standalone policies for rental cars if you don’t want to buy insurance at the counter. You will need to decline the rental company’s coverage to use a standalone policy.

If coverage is warranted, never sign anything or agree to coverage without reading the policy thoroughly and understanding what coverage is included or limited. Should something unfortunate happen, you don’t want any surprises. Most rental companies have their policies available for review online so you can read them in advance of renting.   If you have no auto policy or your existing policies do not cover rental cars or you have limited auto coverage, the following should be considered at the counter or from a standalone policy:

Liability or supplemental liability.  This protection will pay for damage you do to others’ vehicles or property. A typical limit is $1 million. Liability coverage is a must.

Collision/loss damage waiver. In place of collision or comprehensive coverage, counter policies offer LDW OR CDW which helps cover damage or repair costs, administrative fees, and towing.  Technically it is not insurance but rather a waiver and the waiver typically excludes coverage for damage caused by speeding or driving on unpaved roads.

Personal accident insurance.  This insurance covers medical costs (ambulance, medical care, and death benefits) for you and your passengers if you’re involved in an accident.

Personal effects coverage.   If your personal belongings are stolen from the rental car, this coverage pays for loss up to a set dollar amount.

The rental company’s extra coverage might make sense in a few cases. For that reason, it’s important to understand your existing coverage and what the rental agency is offering.

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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Visit an Iowa Farm

Photo courtesy of and permission by Bloomsbury Farm, Atkins, Ia

Would your family enjoy visiting an operating farm?  A farm visit can be a tremendous learning experience and also great family fun.  Seeing how a farm operates and the effort that goes into growing crops or raising livestock provides appreciation for the food we consume daily or becomes an eye-opening experience on seeing non-traditional crops being grown.  Further its a great opportunity to try new products, foods and beverages produced from those crops.

If this sounds like something you’d like to do, check out Visit Iowa Farms at where you will find a listing of farms across the state willing to host visitors.  The Visit Iowa Farms program is administered by the Value Added Agriculture Program of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Users of the site can find a farm by adventure type, county, or distance from a specific location.  Agritourism has continued to grow in Iowa and according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there were 275 farms in the state open to the public.  Agritourism in Iowa has been growing steadily.

The site is also useful to farmers wanting to list their operation on the Visit Iowa Farms website.  Besides registering, there are also resources for business planning, marketing, and legal and regulation considerations as they set up and publicize their agritourism operation.

For more on what to do and see in rural Iowa, download the Iowa Tour Guide (2015) which gives many ideas and even planned tours through the state to see agriculture in many different forms.  Agritourism is all about connecting travelers or curiosity seekers to life down on the farm.  Check out the opportunities!  You’ll be amazed!

Photo courtesy of Jean Marie Martin and provided with permission by Loess Hills Lavender Farm, Missouri Valley, IA

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 winterizing your car.

BlizzardIt may seem really early to be thinking about winterizing your car or your home, but snow in November is not really that rare. These nice late autumn days are perfect for checking and stocking your car with the necessary supplies.

If you cannot check the radiator yourself, have someone else check the level of antifreeze. If the level of antifreeze is low, add some. This is also the time to change the windshield-wiper fluid to a fluid designed for winter. Be sure that the wiper fluid tank is full. Check your tires to be sure there is adequate tread left and that they are inflated to the correct level. If the tread is a bit too thin, you may want to replace the tires to be sure you have good traction in the snow and ice.

Even though it may be a nice day, check to be sure the heater is working well. You can easily test your emergency flashers by yourself, but you may need to have help checking the oil level, brake fluid and exhaust system. Protect yourself by being prepared.

You may also want to prepare a Winter Survival kit for your car. Keeping an extra jacket, gloves, or boots in the car is also a good idea. Remember that you should always be aware of the weather; especially if there is a storm in the forecast. Keeping the gas tank full in the winter is a good habit.  If you are stranded you should have enough gas to keep the car warm by running the heater. Stay off of the roads in bad weather if at all possible.

Take a bit of time now to make sure you are safe this winter

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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Transporting Food Safely

 “Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go!”

My siblings and I used to sing that song on the way to my grandma and grandpa’s house, riding along in our side-paneled station wagon. Chances are, this holiday season, you may be attending a gathering where you’re bringing food.  There are steps you can take to ensure your prepared food arrives at your destination safely. to avoid the risk of food poisoning.  Getting sick does not usually result in great memories.

Remember the two hour rule: Avoid leaving perishable foods at room temperature (or car temperature in this case) for more than two hours.

Important note: Just because it is cold outside, don’t rely on trunk temperatures to be low enough for food storage.  Sunlight could warm your trunk to unsafe temperatures, resulting in unsafe food temperatures.  The same goes for garages.  Don’t use these places for refrigeration!

When transporting food, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold at safe temperatures.

*Hot food must be kept at or above 140⁰F and should be wrapped well and placed in an insulated container, such as a cooler (Yes coolers work to keep foods not only cold, but hot as well).  I also like to wrap my hot dishes in towels for added insulation before placing them into a cooler.   IMG_0262

IMG_0265*Place cold foods in a cooler with ice or freezer packs or an insulated container with an ice pack so they remain at 40°F or lower, especially if traveling longer than 30 minutes.


When you arrive at your destination, place hot foods in an oven hot enough to keep the food at an internal temperature of 140°F or above. Place cold foods in a refrigerator. Use a food thermometer to assure that the food stays at a safe internal temperature. Try to serve foods soon after your arrival.


Another option would be to transport your ingredients in a cooler, then make your dish on location.

People traveling a long distance might bring non-perishables such as breads and cookies. Those traveling about a half an hour or less can more safely bring perishables items such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products or foods containing these items. Close guests are also good candidates to provide salads, relishes and vegetables.

Keep these simple tips in mind to have a safe, happy holiday season with your family and friends!

contributed by Jill Jensen, former AnswerLine Specialist


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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Summer Picnic Safety

Summer and warm weather have arrived and it is time to start enjoying the outdoors!  What a better way than to go on a picnic!  Remember summer warmth provides the perfect environment for bacterial growth in foods if they are not handled safely!  Here are some tips to keep your picnic safe and enjoyable!

  • If your cooler is stored in a hot garage or attic be sure and bring it into the house to cool down before you use it. Your food will heat up quickly if it is put in a hot cooler!
  • Clean out your cooler. Wash the inside well with soap and water before using even if it was clean when you put it away last season.
  • Freeze ice in containers (like empty water bottles or sour cream containers) to use to keep your foods cold. A larger block of ice will take more time to melt than a bag of ice cubes. The goal is to keep your cooler as cold as if the food was being stored in your refrigerator.
  • Bring antibacterial disposable cloths and paper towels to use in case there isn’t a sink to wash hands before cooking and eating.
  • If you can, bring two coolers. Keep one for raw meats, poultry, and fish and a separate one for ready to eat foods. If you only have room for one cooler make sure that your meats are wrapped securely or put in zip lock bags to keep meat juices from contaminating foods that won’t be cooked.
  • Bring drinks in a separate cooler. Coolers that house drinks are opened more often and can make your foods warm up more quickly if stored together.
  • Bring along a meat thermometer. When cooking on a grill the outside of your meat may look done but the only safe way to tell is not by color, but by making sure it is cooked to the correct temperature.
  • Put your coolers in a shady spot when you arrive at your destination. If there isn’t going to be a shady spot bring a large umbrella to provide relief from the hot sun or wrap the cooler in blankets to keep them from warming up to quickly. If you are at a beach bury the cooler in the sand to provide natural insulation.

Follow these tips and enjoy the outdoors knowing that the food that you are eating on your picnic will be safe to consume!

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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Safe Ice Melting this Winter

slippery sidewalksWinter snow and ice can be harmful to people trying to walk or drive but they can also be harmful to the environment.  Deicing agents can improve sidewalk, driveway and road conditions but they can also damage cement, cars and plants.  Using the correct deicer in the correct amount is important for the life of your sidewalks, driveways, lawns and plants.

Deicing agents work by lowering the freezing point of water below 32 degrees F.  These materials are salts and include sodium chloride (NaCl), calcium chloride (CaCl₂), potassium chloride (KCl), and magnesium chloride (MgCl₂).  Each of these products works at different temperatures and with different speeds.  Read the package directions to make sure the product is safe for where you want to use it.  Sodium and calcium chloride can damage newly poured concrete and should also not be used on brick or stone surfaces.  Abrasive materials like sand do not melt ice or snow but do provide traction when walking or driving on snow and ice.

Here are some tips for using ice removers correctly:

  • Remove as much snow or ice as you can before applying a melting product. The products should not be used instead of a shovel for large amounts of snow.
  • If applied before ice accumulates it is most effective. It is much easier to prevent ice from forming than to try and melt a thick layer. This is why you often see the roads coated before a storm is expected.
  • Avoid piling snow and ice that has been treated around trees and shrubs. When the ground starts to thaw in early spring, heavily water the areas where salt may accumulate over the winter. This should help flush the salt from the root zones of the plants.
  • Deicers can be used with sand. This will provide melting and provide for better traction when walking on the surface.
  • Be sure and buy deicers early in the season so you have it when you need it.
  • If an ice storm is predicted, try covering small areas with heavy plastic or other waterproof materials. This will give you an area where the ice is not allowed to form.

Use caution when dealing with ice and snow this winter.  Follow these tips to avoid nasty falls or damage to your plants next spring from using deicing agents.

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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