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Soon our lives will return to Normal (I hope)

We have had a lot of time for reflection in the last year. Hopefully, with the vaccinations in place, our lives may return to a "new normal". Many that I have met in the last year will continue to wear a mask, even after being vaccinated. They liked not getting colds and flus as in previous years. Me, I can't wait to get rid of the mask-I want people to see my beautiful smile or my scowl or just my happy face.

We will all make our own choices as the end of the Pandemic nears. 16 states as of this writing have a "No Mask Mandate" in effect, leaving it up to business owners to do what they need to do. So far, Walgreens, CVS, Target, Kroger's (which owns Smiths here in Las Vegas), Starbucks & Albertsons will still require a mask to shop in their stores.

My hope is that I will soon return to my frequent travels. I really didn't want the vaccine, but in order to travel, it will now be a requirement, so today, I will be receiving the one-shot vaccine by Johnson & Johnson. My next trip planned will be Disneyworld with my family in May and Peru in July and the list goes on through the end of the year. Hopefully no more cancellations.


Women used to dominate the beer industry – until the witch accusations started pouring in

Up until the 1500s, brewing was primarily women’s work – that is, until a smear campaign accused women brewers of being witches. Much of the iconography we associate with witches today, from the pointy hat to the broom, may have emerged from their connection to female brewers.

A routine household task

Humans have been drinking beer for almost 7,000 years, and the original brewers were women. From the Vikings to the Egyptians, women brewed beer both for religious ceremonies and to make a practical, calorie-rich beverage for the home.

In fact, the nun Hildegard von Bingen, who lived in modern-day Germany, famously wrote about hops in the 12th century and added the ingredient to her beer recipe.

From the Stone Age to the 1700s, ale – and, later, beer – was a household staple for most families in England and other parts of Europe. The drink was an inexpensive way to consume and preserve grains. For the working class, beer provided an important source of nutrients, full of carbohydrates and proteins. Because the beverage was such a common part of the average person’s diet, fermenting was, for many women, one of their normal household tasks.

Some enterprising women took this household skill to the marketplace and began selling beer. Widows or unmarried women used their fermentation prowess to earn some extra money, while married women partnered with their husbands to run their beer business.

Exiling women from the industry

So if you traveled back in time to the Middle Ages or the Renaissance and went to a market in England, you’d probably see an oddly familiar sight: women wearing tall, pointy hats. In many instances, they’d be standing in front of big cauldrons.

But these women were no witches; they were brewers.

They wore the tall, pointy hats so that their customers could see them in the crowded marketplace. They transported their brew in cauldrons. And those who sold their beer out of stores had cats not as demon familiars, but to keep mice away from the grain. Some argue that iconography we associate with witches, from the pointy hat to the cauldron, originated from women working as master brewers.

Just as women were establishing their foothold in the beer markets of England, Ireland and the rest of Europe, the Inquisition began. The fundamentalist religious movement, which originated in the early 16th century, preached stricter gender norms and condemned witchcraft.

Male brewers saw an opportunity. To reduce their competition in the beer trade, these men accused female brewers of being witches and using their cauldrons to brew up magic potions instead of booze.

Over time, it became more dangerous for women to practice brewing and sell beer because they could be misidentified as witches. At the time, being accused of witchcraft wasn’t just a social faux pas; it could result in prosecution or a death sentence. Women accused of witchcraft were often ostracized in their communities, imprisoned or even killed.

Some men didn’t really believe that the women brewers were witches. However, many did believe that women shouldn’t be spending their time making beer. The process took time and dedication: hours to prepare the ale, sweep the floors clean and lift heavy bundles of rye and grain. If women couldn’t brew ale, they would have significantly more time at home to raise their children. In the 1500s some towns, such as Chester, England, actually made it illegal for most women to sell beer, worried that young alewives would grow up into old spinsters.



Week 1: Living Areas

Day 1: Prep cleaning supplies.

Brushes, brooms, vacuum cleaners, buckets, and mops all need an annual cleanup. Wash broom bristles in a tub or sink filled halfway with warm soapy water and soak cleaning brushes in a solution of soap and water or water and bleach. Hose out buckets and air-dry in the sun. Empty the vacuum cleaner and wipe down all parts with a dry cloth or disinfectant wipe. Wash all microfiber cloths in warm water using 1 teaspoon of gentle laundry detergent, then dry on low heat. Soak sponges in 3/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon of warm water for 5 minutes, then rinse and let air-dry.

Day 2: Dust light fixtures.

A gloomy living room might be a sign that your light fixtures have collected too much dust. Brighten your space by giving them a once-over. Before cleaning, turn the fixture off and wait until it's cool. Then take it down, if needed, and use a dryer sheet or microfiber cloth ($13, Target) to remove dust or cobwebs. Dip a cloth into soapy water, wring it out, then wash away any grime or dirt and let dry. Take a minute to wipe off lightbulbs with a feather duster or a soft, lint-free dry cloth.

Day 3: Clean bookshelves.

Books, pictures, and treasured objects displayed on bookshelves can become dust magnets. To rid yourself of these pesky particles, take everything off the shelves and use a feather duster or microfiber cloth to remove debris. Pull out the crevice tool on a vacuum to reach into tight spots. Wipe the spines of leather-bound books with a clean, soft cloth.

Day 4: Polish picture frames.

To refresh framed pictures and prints, lay them flat on a table or counter. Lightly spray an ammonia-free glass cleaner ($2, Target) on a microfiber cloth or one that's made for cleaning glass ($4, The Home Depot). Never spray cleaner directly onto the glass; it could leak in and damage the photo or artwork. Gently wipe the glass in a circular motion, making sure to get into the corners. Dust the frame with a microfiber cloth. Rehang once the glass is clean and dry.

Day 5: Refresh sofas.

Like all upholstered furniture, sofas need occasional freshening to look their best. Start by getting out the vacuum. Apply the upholstery attachment left to right in short, overlapping strokes, starting at the top of the piece and working toward the bottom. Use the same motion on the cushions (all sides if removable). For delicate fabrics, like linen or silk, set the suction on low. Swap in the crevice nozzle to vacuum under and around all seams.

Use a flat electrostatic mop ($12, The Home Depot) to clean the piece's underside (or a microfiber cloth for smaller pieces). Spray a bottle of compressed air around tufting or buttons to blow out dirt. Spot-clean any stains following the care label.

Day 6: Wipe down walls.

Unless your kids draw on them or you leave a mark in passing, wiping down walls likely falls low on the priority list. But giving them a quick refresh will make a big difference in how bright a living space feels. Use a dry dust mop or a damp sponge to wipe off any dust accumulated on your walls. Then dust the trim with a feather duster or microfiber cloth.

Day 7: Vacuum under furniture.

Getting rid of dust mites and pet hair under furniture will help reduce the number of allergens in your home. Grab another person to help move large pieces of furniture to another part of the room. Pick up any items that were hiding underneath and return them to their rightful place. Toss any trash or unwanted items. Then vacuum up dirt, dander, and other remaining debris. If the piece was against a wall, use the vacuum crevice tool to clean both the top and bottom of the baseboard. Wipe the area with a microfiber cloth to repel dust. For hardwood floors, use the floor-brush attachment to vacuum, then mop with a wood-floor cleaner ($4, Target) following the manufacturer's directions. Let dry and move furniture back into place.

Week 2: Kitchen

Day 8: Clean dishwasher filter.

Often overlooked, a clean dishwasher filter ensures spotless dishes while decreasing the chances of a breakdown. Machines with manual filters, as opposed to self-cleaning filters or hard food disposers, can be cleaned by hand. Typically positioned under the bottom dish rack, the filter will twist out in the direction indicated on the machine. Take it to your sink, then use a soft scrub brush ($7, The Home Depot) and warm water to scour it clean. A toothbrush can help remove any caked-on gunk. If your model has two filters stacked on top of each other, make sure to clean both. Shake off excess water and dry off, then twist to lock back into place.

Day 9: Deep-clean microwave.

Take a few minutes to wipe out any crumbs, spills, or splatters from your microwave. Fill a microwave-safe bowl with warm water and a squirt of dishwasher soap and place it in the microwave. Run the bowl on high for 5 minutes, then let stand for 5 minutes to let the steam loosen any gunk. Wipe off the microwave walls, door, and turntable with a wet sponge. Dry with a paper towel.

Day 10: Degrease vent hood filter.

A yucky vent hood filter can lead to fumes filling your kitchen or even a fire. To clean this filter, gently pull it down and carefully submerge it in a sink filled with hot water and a cup of baking soda. Let sit until the water cools. Then rinse the filter, dry, and replace.

Day 11: Get a spotless stove top.

A stove top is one of the most visible, hardworking surfaces in your kitchen. To create a clean cooking space, it's important to remove any food residue or stains. For gas burners, remove grates and burner caps, and soak them in the sink in warm, soapy water. Spray the stove top with an all-purpose cleaner (avoiding burners), let sit for 5 minutes, then wipe. Before replacing grates and burner caps, scrub with scouring pads. For an electric/smooth-top surface, wet a dish towel in hot water and spread it over the range top. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then use the towel to wipe the surface clean. Apply a nonabrasive cleaner, such as Bar Keepers Friend Cooktop Cleaner ($15, Amazon), to remove any water stains.

Day 12: Deodorize garbage disposal.

Ensure your garbage disposal stays fresh with a quick deodorizing treatment. Put on a glove and use a cloth soaked in disinfectant to clean out the underside of the disposal’s splash guard and the black rubber ring. If odors still linger, fill the disposal with ice cubes, a dash of coarse salt, and a few lemon wedges. Turn on the disposal with cold water running until the ice has cleared.

Day 13: Wipe down cabinets.

Wipe down kitchen cabinets—including the insides, doors, and tops—to restore their gleam. Dip a cloth in warm water and dish soap to wipe away fingerprints, food splatters, and other marks. Disinfect the hardware with a sanitizing wipe. If the tops of the cabinets are exposed, use a hand vacuum to suck up any debris and follow with a damp microfiber cloth to wipe off any residual dust.

Have some time for a deeper clean? Empty one cabinet at a time of its contents. Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe down shelves and the inside of the door. Use a clean toothbrush to treat the corners and other small crevices. Let dry completely before restocking. Clean as many as you can in a single session and schedule times to take on the rest until they're all done.

Day 14: Scrub countertops.

Remove small appliances, stacks of papers, and anything else resting on your kitchen countertops for an overall scrubbing. To clean granite or marble countertops, use a cleaner designed for your surface or make your own cleaner by combining 3 tablespoons rubbing alcohol, 1-1/2 cups water, and 1 teaspoon dish soap in a spray bottle. (Avoid vinegar, which could etch the surface.) Spray and wipe the counter and backsplash with a microfiber cloth. Dip a cotton swab into the mixture to use to get into the crevice between the counter and the backsplash.

Week 3: Bathrooms

Day 15: Remove grime from showerhead.

De-gunk your showerhead by submerging it in a plastic bag filled with a solution of 1/3 cup baking soda and 1 cup white vinegar. Place the bag around the showerhead and use a rubber band or twist tie to hold it in place. Let sit overnight to get rid of buildup. Remove the bag and turn on the water to flush. If your showerhead is rusty and needs to be replaced, swap it out for a more efficient model with a new look (and maybe gain a few new pampering features like massage spray options).

Day 16: Sanitize shower curtain and liner.

Wash away stains and buildup on shower curtains and liners by throwing them into the washer on a gentle cycle (just check instructions on their care tag first). Toss the cloth curtain in the dryer, remove while still damp, and rehang for a clean, wrinkle-free look. Air-dry plastic or rubber liners.

Day 17: Clean shower walls and door.

Bring out your shower's sparkle by removing grime on the doors. Spray and wipe down shower doors with glass cleaner, then polish them with lemon oil ($8, Target) to repel future soap buildup. Clean the edges of shower doors with a toothbrush. Scrub the metal frame with a larger brush if needed. For stuck-on grime, use a paint scraper ($2, The Home Depot) at a 45-degree angle where the metal meets the shower or door. Station a squeegee ($10, Bed Bath & Beyond) in the shower to wipe away water, which could lead to hard-water deposits, after each use.

Day 18: Dust baseboards.

To clean painted baseboards, use a whisk broom ($8, Amazon) or your vacuum's brush attachment to remove dirt and dust. Follow up with the vacuum's crevice tool to clean between the baseboard and the floor. Combine 1 part vinegar with 1 part dish soap in a bucket of warm water. Dunk a melamine sponge ($3, Target) or soft cloth into the bucket, wring it out, and use it to scrub scuffs and stains. Dampen a clean toothbrush or cotton swab to clean out grooves in the trim and the top. Once dry, rub the baseboards with a dryer sheet to deter dust. For stained baseboards, dust as above, then wipe down with a wood cleaner mixed according to manufacturer's instructions.

Day 19: Disinfect toilets.

Spray the toilet's exterior, including the top and handle, with a general-purpose bathroom cleaning product or a vinegar-and-water solution. Wipe with a paper towel or microfiber cloth until clean. Sanitize the toilet bowl with an antibacterial toilet cleaner ($4, Target) or a mixture of 1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon water. Use a toilet wand to scrub every nook and cranny. Let the cleaner sit in the bowl for several minutes, then flush away the suds.

Day 20: Deep-clean floors.

Use the cleaning method best suited for your type of bathroom flooring. To clean ceramic tile floors, use a mix of warm water and mild detergent or liquid dish soap. Use a rag or chamois-type mop ($35, Amazon) so water doesn't get pushed into the grout lines. Dry glazed tile with a clean, lint-free cloth immediately after washing. For the grout, slowly add water to baking soda until it forms a paste. Apply the paste to a soft bristle brush to scrub the grout lines. Rinse to remove the baking soda and dry with a microfiber towel.

For wood-look and other laminate floorings, lightly mop with a gentle cleanser. (To make your own laminate floor cleaner, mix a small amount of vinegar with water.) The mop should be damp but not too wet to prevent water from seeping behind baseboards. Dry with a microfiber cloth so you don't get a cloudy finish. Never use wax, acrylic products, or bleach because they can damage the floor's finish.

Resilient floors, such as linoleum, cork, or vinyl, will need a mopping with the help of a nonabrasive all-purpose cleaning product or a mild vinegar and water solution.

Day 21: Wipe down washing machine.

It's important to give your washing machine monthly attention to prevent bacteria buildup and stinky odors that can transfer to your clothes. For both front- and top-loading machines, run the self-clean setting following the manufacturer's directions or run a cycle with 2 cups white vinegar instead of detergent. Use a damp cloth dipped in warm water and gentle laundry detergent or vinegar to wipe down the inside of the machine. Rinse the cloth, wring out excess water, then wipe down the front, sides, and top of the machine.

Week 4: Bedrooms

Day 22: Dust ceiling fans.

Keep ceiling fan blades spotless by spraying the interior of a pillowcase with a multisurface cleaner. Slip the pillowcase onto one of the fan's blades and wipe, trapping the grime in the case. Repeat with the other blades. This simple technique stops dust from falling onto the floor or furniture as you clean.

Day 23: Refresh curtains.

Check sewn-in care labels first for recommended curtain-cleaning instructions. Unlined curtains can usually be machine-washed; lined drapes typically need to be dry-cleaned if they contain stains or odors. For washable curtains, avoid high heat and remove from the dryer while slightly damp then iron or steam out wrinkles. Dusty lined drapes can be tossed into the dryer on an air-only/fluff cycle for a quick refresh. Dust curtain rods and other hardware before rehanging curtains.

Day 24: Polish wood furniture.

Help your wood furnishings shine by wiping down with a damp microfiber cloth. Remove excess moisture with a dry terry towel ($10, The Home Depot), then dust with a dry soft cloth or feather duster. To renew grimy wood, mix equal parts olive oil, denatured alcohol, gum turpentine, and strained lemon juice. Apply the mixture to the surface with a soft cloth, then buff with a clean cloth.

Day 25: Clean air vents.

Breathe easier by dusting your air vents. Start with the covers: While they're screwed in place, wipe down with a microfiber cloth or use the vacuum's crevice tool to remove any debris that could fall when you unscrew the covers. Once removed, scrub the covers with soap and warm water in a utility sink or bathtub and let soak. As they soak, use the hose attachment on your vacuum cleaner to remove dust from inside the vents to keep it from blowing out into the room. Dry off the covers and reinstall.

Day 26: Wash pillows.

Clean your bed pillows to keep them fluffy and free of allergens. First read care labels to make sure they don't require special attention, such as dry-cleaning only. Most down and synthetic pillows can be machine-washed at 140°F or higher to kill dust mites. Run an extra spin cycle if needed to squeeze out excess water. Toss in the dryer and put on low heat. Make sure they're completely dry before placing them back on your bed.

Day 27: Deep-clean under beds.

Clean out dust, dirt, and debris lurking under beds. Start by pulling everything out from underneath; grab a yardstick or broomstick to push out anything out of reach. Set aside anything that needs to be cleaned, stored elsewhere, or donated, and toss any trash. Vacuum out any dust with an extension wand and dusting brush or upholstery cleaner attachment, making sure to reach under the mattress and between the supports and baseboards (a crevice tool works great for those areas). If you have hardwood floors, run a flathead mop over the surface. Use a microfiber cloth to dust off boxes or other items that need to be stored under beds before putting them back in place.

Day 28: Vacuum area rugs.

Keep area rugs looking their best (and remove the dirt and grime that creep up underneath them) with a good cleaning. Because rugs are made of different materials that can require specific care, always read the care label before cleaning. For many rugs, you can start by vacuuming them thoroughly; reversible rugs should be vacuumed on both sides. Use a stiff brush to remove the hair, brushing in the direction of the nap of the rug. To clean underneath, roll up the rug and move it out of the way. Vacuum the rug pad and roll it up too. Then vacuum the floor to clear away pet hair, dirt, and other debris. Mop wood floors with a wood-floor cleaner to get any remaining dust and let dry. Then roll everything back into place.

Day 29: Remove grime from window tracks.

Use a stiff-bristle utility brush ($3, Target) to loosen dirt and cobwebs that have collected around your windows. Vacuum up the debris and wipe the tracks and frames down with warm, soapy water to remove any stubborn dirt.

Day 30: Test batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

Check all your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors at least twice a year to keep your family and home safe. Set a semiannual reminder in your phone so you don't forget. If you test your detector and it's no longer working even with fresh batteries, replace it immediately.





With its yellow or green hue, balance of fruity and savory flavors, and versatility in nearly everything we cook, olive oil is a prized ingredient. Whether you're holding onto a large jug or are using a bottle of good-quality olive oil purchased at a boutique food store, it's important to properly store your olive oil to preserve its quality. "Olive oil's three natural enemies are light, heat, and air," says Aishwarya Iyer, founder and CEO of Brightland, a California-based olive oil company. That means storing it in a cool, dark place such as a pantry or kitchen cabinet and keeping it sealed with a cap or cork. But how can you tell if your olive oil is still good? Ahead, we're sharing a few easy ways to understand your oil.

What to Do When You First Open Olive Oil

Before pouring it into a skillet or rubbing it onto vegetables for roasting, the first thing you should always do with a bottle of olive oil is to taste it to make sure that it's still good. "Take a second to taste and think about what you're tasting. Fresh olive oil should taste herbaceous and grassy. Even if it has a fruity profile, it will still have this sense of tasting fresh versus something that tastes greasy," says Iyer.

A lively, sharp taste generally indicates that the olives were harvested early, which results in a very green, grassy tasting oil. "When you taste great olive oil, you'll feel a super peppery sensation at the back of your throat, which are two signs of quality and freshness. If olive oil has gone bad, it won't have those properties at all," Iyer explains.

The Importance of the Harvest Date

The harvest date is paramount, says Iyer. This tells consumers exactly when the olives were harvested; generally, olive oil has an 18-month shelf life from the time of harvest, so it's important to make note of that date. Olives are harvested once a year in the fall generally between the months of October through December. "The new harvest oil will be introduced in the winter so a bottle that was harvested in November 2020 would expire by May 2022," explains Iyer. If a bottle of olive oil lists the harvest date, choose the most recent date available to ensure that it will be good for many months to come. However, you should try to consume olive oil within three to four months of purchasing so that it's in its freshest state.

Signs That Olive Oil Has Gone Bad

Color and aroma are not reliable indicators that olive oil has expired; the best way to tell if olive oil has expired is by tasting it. If it doesn't taste strong and sharp or completely rancid, it's most likely past its peak. Though you will most likely not get sick from consuming expired olive oil and its health benefits are the same, rancid olive oil will not offer the same rich, fruity flavor that fresh olive oil does.


I'm back to work now and glad to be back after a 6-month leave. Until next time.


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