Resolutions for the New Year

Let these tips spark some ideas for New Year’s resolutions.

New Year, New You

Have you made your resolutions for the new year? Here are some tips and ideas to help you succeed in your 2-17 resolutions.

1. Make sure your goals are SMART:

If you plan to set goals, make sure they are SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and have a time frame. Add as many intermediate action steps to your goal plan as possible. A written goal with these elements puts your brain to work faster than if you merely have the thoughts in your mind. A few minutes each day taking action on your goals can put you farther ahead in attaining them as opposed to spending hours periodically. There are many goal setting resources on the internet to help you with the goal setting, planning and completion process.

2. Make your goals visual:

Create a vision board with pictures and words of your goals. Put a frame around, which can be as simple as painter’s tape, to give your brain parameters on which to focus. Spending a few minutes a day concentrating intently on the images and words, 2-3 minutes in the morning and at night can be very effective. As you attain your goals, put your completed goals in a binder with the date you accomplished them. This will give you momentum to complete your goals faster. Again, there are many resources on the internet on vision boards, but one I like is

3. Check your credit report:

Even more important than knowing your credit score, which is often provided for free by credit card companies, is knowing that your credit history is secure and accurate. Incorrect information and fraudulent activity can affect your credit standing greatly. is the official site to get your free annual credit report for the three credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. If you stagger pulling your report throughout the year it will help keep a monitor on your credit. Consider getting your report in January, one at tax time and one in the fall.

4. Make some positive health changes:

You can find useful tips and tools for healthy activity and food choices on Consider shopping more on the perimeter of the grocery store where you can find healthier choices such as fruit and vegetable produce and dairy and meats. Choose lean dairy and meats. Choose more whole grain products. Making your changes gradually is more effective than trying to do too much and giving up.

5. Monitor your activity level:

Get a good device to track your activity level. If you are tracking steps, 7,500 – 10,000 is considered active, with 10,000 being the better goal of the range. Start where you are and add steps gradually till you reach your goal. Smart phones often have activity tracking options and there are many apps to help with tracking your activity and food intake. Be sure to check with a doctor before beginning an exercise program.

6. Strengthen your family relationships:

Eating dinner together is a great way to increase family togetherness. The benefits of eating together are better communication, better nutrition and better well-being. Eating dinner around the table has greater benefits than watching TV while eating.

7. Make a plan:

If you have a business or plan to start a business, make sure you have a plan and the know how to run a successful business. Be sure you have thought everything through before starting a business. Many small businesses end within the first two years after owners have put extensive amounts of time and resources into them. There are many business planning tools available through and Watch for the Garfield County Business Conference in March, which is open to everyone to attend.

8. Use your USU Extension office as a resource:

Check with your Utah State University Extension county office for classes, resources and information on these and other topics. Or check the state USU Extension website for additional information, fact sheets and articles.

This article was written by SuzAnne Jorgensen, Extension Agent, Garfield County

Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions

Sustainable Resolutions.jpg

Have you started thinking about resolutions for the new year? Consider working these sustainable resolutions onto your list, and go green for the new year.

Challenge yourself to try simple lifestyle changes each month of the new year. Each aspect of sustainable living presented is not only good for the environment, but good for your health and wallet as well. Whether you dust off your bike, explore vermicomposting or simply update your light bulbs, each small change you make can have lasting impacts.

January: Lose paper weight this year. Go paperless with your bills and unsubscribe from junk mail through Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service at

February: Be a cool Valentine. Save on your heating bill and turn your thermostat down while your house is empty during the day. See if you can sleep better with the thermostat down a few degrees at night as well.

March: Start your (natural) spring cleaning. Make your own cleaning products to minimize toxin exposure, save money and be healthy. For tips and recipes, visit

April: Let rain showers water your flowers. Build garden swales instead of mounds to capture natural water flow. Find pictures, explanations and books on how to do it at

May: Be bright with LED and natural light. Switch the light bulbs in your home to more efficient LED lights and use natural light to brighten your home/office.

June: Avoid June bugs with natural pest control. Create your own garlic and dish detergent mixture for aphids, or experiment with other natural pest control recipes to improve your landscape and your family’s health. Visit for tips on natural pest control.

July: Beat the heat with a native or drought tolerant garden. Plant drought and heat tolerant native edibles and ornamentals this year to add natural Utah beauty to your landscape.

August: Be thrift chic. Prepare your “new” work or school wardrobe with a visit to your local thrift store. While there, drop off clothes you no longer wear to keep the cycle going. Learn more about how to give clothes a second chance.

September: Head back to school/work with alternative transportation. Opt to bike, walk or ride the bus for your daily commute.

October: Happy Halloworms! Start your own household vermicompost system with red wigglers, a container, bedding, dirt, moisture and your daily food scraps. See Extension’s vermicomposting fact sheet.

November: Give thanks through local giving. Sign up for a community-supported agriculture program, and buy your Thanksgiving meal from local sources to reduce your family’s food print (the carbon footprint associated with how your food was produced and the miles your food has traveled between production and consumption).

December: Give more while consuming less. Reuse newspaper and other paper scraps to make homemade upcycled (converting used materials into new items) gifts for your friends and family. Opt to draw names with family and friends to reduce the quantity and increase the quality of gifts. Host creative craft nights with friends and catch up while repurposing products that are typically thrown away. See Extension’s “Reuse” fact sheet.

For general information on sustainability, visit

This article was written by Roslynn Brain, USU Extension sustainable communities specialist, republished from 2014.


Save the Date: Wasatch Front 4-H Cooking Contest


Do you have a kid who loves to cook? Have them compete in our upcoming 4-H cooking contest for a chance to prove their skills.

Utah State University Extension 4-H will sponsor cooking contests on Saturday, Jan. 28, for youth from Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties. Held at the Legacy Events Center in Davis County, the contests will provide youth the opportunity to showcase cooking, food safety and nutrition knowledge and skills as they represent their counties and cities.

According to Zuri Garcia, USU Extension assistant professor and event chair, the contests will also prepare youth to compete in the 4-H State Contests held at USU each summer.

“It is important for youth to develop and feel confident in their nutrition knowledge and cooking abilities,” she said. “These contests will help youth as young as 8 become assured enough in their skills that they can compete at the state level when they are older. Through this event and others like it, we hope to help youth develop important life skills.”

The contests include two categories: favorite foods and healthy cuisine. The favorite foods category is for third through 12th graders, and contestants will be judged on the selection, knowledge and presentation of their favorite food. Healthy cuisine is for fifth through 12th graders who will use their talents in planning and preparing a quick, nutritious meal in 1 hour, including preparation and cleanup. Contestants can register for this category as an individual or team.

Registration deadline is January 14. Contest registration fee is $20 for one or both categories. Previous 4-H membership is not required, but participants must register for 4-H at the time of the contests for an additional fee of $15. This covers a 1-year 4-H membership.

Friends, family and the public are invited to watch the contests and attend a nutrition and health fair that includes workshops and booths. Admission is free. An awards celebration will be held at the end of the day.

To register, contact Susan Adams at or 801-451-3423. For further information, visit

Vanilla and Its Uses During the Holidays


Enhance the flavor of your favorite recipes with aromatic vanilla beans.

Vanilla flavoring is a desirable sweet flavor that is used in many recipes from cookies and candies to drinks. Vanilla comes as an extract, powder and paste. These forms of vanilla come from beans that are grown on an orchid plant. Growers pollinate the long pods and ferment them for about 6 months before harvesting. This laborious process results in the flavoring becoming one of the most expensive. To cook with vanilla beans, you simply split open the pod and scrape out the pulpy seeds inside.  Each pod will have tiny seeds that have a strong vanilla aroma.

An imitation vanilla extract is made from synthetic flavorings with alcohol and may not be quite as desirable as an authentic vanilla flavor.

Vanilla beans take on the flavor and aroma from where they are grown. The most common types of beans are grown primarily in Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti. The Madagascar bean (also known as a bourbon bean) is very thin and very rich in sweetness. The thick skin covers many small seeds that provide a strong vanilla aroma. This accounts for about 80 percent of most vanilla extract. The Mexican bean is not as thin or sweet as the Madagascar bean. This bean has an earthy aroma and is more mellow in flavor. The Tahiti bean is plumper in size, darker in color and the least sweet of the beans. The perfect vanilla bean is 5 to 7 inches long and should feel moist and supple (not dry and brittle) when rolled between your fingers.

Fresh vanilla beans can be used in cooking as well as in making vanilla extract. One 2-inch piece of vanilla bean = 1 tsp. extract. Vanilla beans are made into an extract which is aged from 2 to 6 months and contains a minimum of 35 percent alcohol.

Vanilla beans will dry out and become brittle if left out in the air, so wrap them in foil, seal them in a zip-top bag and store them in a cool, dark area. They’ll last this way for at least several months.

Enjoy the flavor and aroma of the fresh vanilla bean!

Vanilla Bean Custard
2 cups milk
2 vanilla bean pods
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch

Bring milk to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the vanilla beans from the bean pod (split the pod and scrape them out with the tip of a knife).

In a bowl whisk together the sugar, eggs, yolks and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly add about half of the milk to the egg mixture and then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan containing the rest of the milk. Don’t heat the eggs too quickly or you will  have scrambled eggs in your custard.

Place the pan over medium heat and whisk well, making sure you get in the corners of the pan, until it comes to a boil and thickens. Cool, cover and store in the fridge.

This article was written by Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension professor, 435-534-2692,

Ask an Expert // Are Extended Warranties Worth It?

extended-warrantiesAre extended warranties worth the extra cost? Watch this video from Family Finance Pro Amanda Christensen to find out.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • As yourself: Does the item come with a manufacturer’s warranty? How long does it last and what does it cover?
  • Read the fine print.
  • Keep the receipt or proof of purchase.
  • Do the follow up, or the warranty is for naught.

Be sure to watch the video for the details on each tip.

Amanda Christensen is an Extension Assistant Professor for Utah State University. Follow her on Twitter: @FamFinPro, Facebook: Fam Fin Pro, Instagram: @FamFinPro.

Ask an Expert // Five Tips for Safe Holiday Eggnog

safe-eggnogHolidays are a fun but hectic time. By amending your eggnog recipes for safety, you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

Since the early 1800s, eggnog has been considered a social Christmas drink that adds to the festivities of the season. To many, it brings back fond memories of Christmases by the firelight, real Christmas trees and the grandest of holiday meals.

Although your traditional eggnog recipe may be a family favorite, if the recipe includes raw eggs, it is recommended that you alter it. Eating raw eggs can not only be dangerous, but deadly, since they may contain the bacterium salmonella, which can cause food-borne illness. Anyone can fall victim to food-borne illnesses, but some people are at a higher risk, including infants, young children, pregnant women, older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems who suffer from chronic illnesses, such as HIV, liver disease, diabetes or cancer.

Be aware that refrigerated eggs with clean shells that don’t have cracks can still be contaminated with salmonella bacteria. To safely make holiday eggnog, use one of the following substitutions:

1.) In place of raw eggs, use an equivalent amount of pasteurized (frozen or refrigerated) egg product that has never been opened. Because of the risk of bacterial contamination after opening, any leftover egg product should be used only in cooked products.

2.) Use cooked eggs in your eggnog recipe. Combine raw eggs with half of the milk and sugar in a 4-quart double boiler. Cook and stir over medium heat, approximately 10-15 minutes, until the mixture coats a metal spoon and the temperature reaches 160 F. Continue preparing your recipe as directed.

3.) If a recipe calls for folding raw, beaten egg whites into the eggnog, use pasteurized eggs. It has not been proven that raw egg whites are free of salmonella bacteria.

4.) Use commercially prepared eggnog, which contains pasteurized eggs and does not need to be cooked.

5.) Try the safe recipe below:

Holiday Eggnog Recipe

5 cups skim milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup pasteurized, refrigerated egg product
or 1 cup pasteurized frozen egg product (thawed in the refrigerator)
or 4 eggs

12-ounce can evaporated skim milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon rum extract (optional)

1 pint low-fat frozen vanilla yogurt, softened

Ground nutmeg to taste

  1. In a 4-quart double boiler, combine milk, sugar and egg product (or eggs).
    2.  Cook and stir over medium heat, approximately 10-15 minutes, until the mixture coats a metal spoon and the temperature reaches 160 F. Remove from heat.
    3.  Stir in the evaporated skim milk, vanilla extract and rum extract (if desired). Cover and chill 4-24 hours in the refrigerator.
  2. To serve, place softened frozen yogurt in a punch bowl. Gradually whisk in chilled eggnog mixture until smooth. Sprinkle with nutmeg to taste.

NOTE: If using eggs, follow recipe steps 1, 2, 3 and 4. If using pasteurized egg product, follow steps 1, 3 and 4 only.

Adding alcohol will inhibit bacterial growth, but it cannot be relied upon to kill bacteria. Once alcohol is diluted, it no longer effectively kills bacteria. You will still need to use pasteurized eggs. Keep in mind that simmering eggnog over heat will remove the alcohol.

This article was written by Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension professor, 435-534-2692,

Decorating with Fresh Greenery


Join Live Well Utah editor Marta Nielsen as she talks with Studio 5’s Brook Walker about how to keep your fresh wreath or garland looking beautiful through Christmas, and learn how to put together your own holiday wreath using fresh greenery.


Fresh holiday wreaths can be found just about everywhere—even at your local grocery store. Whether you’ve purchased a fresh wreath or made one yourself, there are a few things you can do to extend the life of your decorations and keep them looking beautiful.

Display fresh wreaths and garlands outside. Once you’ve cut the plant off from its water source, it begins to dry out. As it dries it may begin to drop leaves or needles and lose its vivid color. The warm environment in your home speeds up the drying process. Indoors, a wreath will last about a week, while decorations kept outdoors should last a month.

Use an anti-transpirant. Products such as Wilt Pruf help fresh greenery retain its moisture and can prolong the life of your decorations. You can find products like this at most nurseries.

Choose the right materials. If you’re making a wreath, choose materials that will retain their color as they dry. Good options are eucalyptus, olive, magnolia, bay leaf, and boxwood greenery. All of these can be ordered or purchased from a florist. Eucalyptus can often be found in a well-stocked grocery store floral department. Boxwood is common in residential landscaping, and dries to a lighter green that is beautiful for display in the springtime. If you want to make your own evergreen wreath, most Christmas tree lots will sell you a bag of boughs for just a few dollars. Adding in some other natural materials like pine cones, pepper or juniper berries, and a festive bow complete the look for a welcoming front door display.

This article was written by Marta Nielsen, Live Well Utah Blog Editor.

Tips to De-Stress Your Holiday Season

De Stress Your Holiday.jpgThe finish line is in sight— Christmas is almost here. Don’t let the stress of the holidays get you down. Try these tips to manage your stress, and better enjoy the holiday season.

Perhaps it’s the first time you hear “Jingle Bells” on the radio or see Christmas lights go up on a neighbor’s house.  Whatever the moment may be, you have the realization that the holiday season is in full swing.  You may experience childlike feelings of excitement that accompany the season, but at the same time, a very adult feeling may sneak up on you — stress.

Counting down the days left to shop, making travel plans and organizing family get togethers can leave you feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, rather than full of holiday cheer.  The holiday season brings many responsibilities, and even the fun activities can leave you feeling tired and stressed.  According to the American Psychological Association, the main sources of holiday stress are related to relationships, finances, and physical demands.  By following a few practical tips, you can reduce and manage the stress that accompanies the holiday season.

Relationships can create stress at any time, but tensions and conflicts are often intensified during the holiday season when increased demands are placed on family members.  On the other hand, facing the holidays without a loved one can create feelings of sadness and loneliness.

  • Take time for yourself.  Spend 15 minutes alone to refresh and clear your mind.
  • Have realistic expectations.  Families change and grow, so traditions and rituals may change as well.  Hold on to the most special traditions, and be open to creating new ones.
  • Reach out to others.  Community agencies and social events offer support and companionship for those who may feel lonely and isolated during the holiday season.  Volunteering and helping others can lift your spirits and put your family life into perspective.
  • Make time for fun.  

Financial issues often arise during the holiday season, leading to undesirable stress.  Gifts, travel, food and entertainment expenses add up quickly and can lead to unexpected debt.

  • Stick to a budget. Consider how much you want to spend in total for the season, and set a spending limit.  Keep track of how much you spend on the holidays, including decorations, travel, holiday entertainment and meals, and cards and postage.
  • Plan ahead. Before shopping, look through newspaper ads and store circulars to find which stores are running specials and where the prices are lowest.  Comparison shop on the Internet to find out which stores carry the items you want at the best price.
  • Make homemade gifts or give gift certificates for your time and talents.

Physical demands of the holiday season can initiate or increase stress.  Shopping for gifts, attending social gatherings, and preparing holiday meals can be exhausting.

  • Know your limits.  Give yourself permission to say no to extra holiday activities.
  • Don’t abandon healthy habits.  Continue to get plenty of sleep and stay physically active.  Avoid overindulging at holiday meals by preparing a healthy snack ahead of time.

The holiday season can be stressful and overwhelming, but taking small steps to combat the stress can help you to relax and enjoy the season.  


This article was written by Shannon Cromwell, M.A., Extension Assistant Professor, Family & Consumer Sciences, Utah State University Extension, Sanpete County, 435-283-3472,


The American Psychological Association.

A Fruitcake for Christmas

fruitcakeHave you ever received fruitcake as a gift? When a research firm polled some 1,000 adults about what they did with fruitcake, 38 percent said they gave it away, 28 percent actually ate it, 13 percent used it as a doorstop, 9 percent scattered it for the birds, 4 percent threw it out, and 8 percent couldn’t remember.*  Which category will you fall into this season?

Sun-ripened raisins, plump, juicy cherries, delicious pineapple, home-grown pecans, walnuts and almonds, a little tang of lemon and orange peel added, blended into a rich pound-cake batter and baked to a golden brown. This could be your traditional Christmas fruitcake. This moist Christmas cake is a festive favorite full of tasty bits of fruits and nuts, the ratio of which is fairly high, with just enough cake batter to hold it all together. This naturally results in a very dense, moist cake, no doubt giving rise to the “heavy” jokes. Fruitcakes range from light to dark, are made with and without alcohol and are delicately spiced.

Fruitcake dates back to the early Roman years, and you may hear jokes about them being 125 years old. I’ve been asked what the shelf life of fruitcake is. No one has come up with an exact amount of time, and each recipe is different. These cakes contain high amounts of sugar, which means that water activity will be low, keeping mold from growing and making the cake last a long time. The spices and fruit in the cake also contain antioxidants, which will help extend the shelf life of the fruitcake. The alcohol content in the cake may have only a small effect on the shelf life, as most of the alcohol is lost during the baking time, and the rest is lost over a long storage time. The recommended shelf life is usually a few months, with additional life added by storing it in the freezer. You may also want to keep it in the refrigerator for easier slicing.

Fruitcake is also an excellent choice to send in the mail. It does not spoil and is solid enough to maintain its shape and form. Now you know why your distant relatives choose to send you one each Christmas.

Most of your traditional Christmas fruitcakes are started in October allowing for the softening of dried fruits and the blending of flavors. These cakes are usually prepared with a syrup mixture, then the fruits and alcohol are added. However, many fruitcakes are non-alcoholic and much simpler to make.

Several old legends of the fruitcake have been passed on for centuries. From England it was told that a single woman could put a slice of fruitcake under her pillow to dream of the man she would marry. Crusaders carried fruitcake on their journeys because of its ability to withstand long trips and months of storage. In Egypt, the fruitcake was considered an essential food for a mummy to take into the afterlife, always being placed inside the tomb.

So, if you were lucky enough to receive a fancy fruitcake confection this holiday season, get ready to open up the tin, box or wrapper and enjoy. The fruit and fiber make it a more nutritious food than some holiday treats. 

Holiday Fruitcake

From McCall’s Cooking School

2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, quartered
2 cups light or dark raisins
1/2 cup brandy
3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups butter or regular margarine, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
7 eggs
1/2 cup brandy

In large bowl combine walnuts, cherries and raisins with 1/2 cup brandy. Allow to stand overnight at room temperature. Sift flour with baking powder and nutmeg. In a large electric mixer bowl, beat butter/margarine, sugar and vanilla at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat at medium speed for 4 minutes, occasionally scraping sides of bowl. Batter will become thick and fluffy and lighter in color. At low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture until smooth. Add cherry/raisin/nut mixture to batter and mix well with wooden spoon.

Heat oven to 350 F and grease pan of your choice and flour well. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes in bundt pan or 1 hour 10 minutes in tube pan. As an alternative, use 5-inch diameter by 2-inch- high souffle dishes and bake for about 45 minutes. Cake is done when long skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Cool pan on wire rack for 20 minutes. Use small spatula to loosen cake around inside. Invert on wire rack and cool.  Soak cheesecloth in 1/2 cup brandy, stretch on large piece of heavy-duty foil, place cake in center and wrap with cheesecloth. Wrap foil tightly around cake. Store in refrigerator several days to several weeks. To serve, slice thinly and let warm to room temperature.

This article was written by Carolyn Washburn, retired Utah State University Extension professor,

*Russell Baker, The New York Times

Ask an Expert // Are Holiday Layaways Worth It?

layawayWhat’s the deal with  layaway programs? Learn how to assess if layaway is a good option for you and how to set up your own layaway savings plan from USU Extension finance pro Amanda Christensen.

Layaway Highlights:

  1. Read the fine print
  2. Look at the cancelation policy
  3. Will the payments fit into your budget?
  4. Is there a sale price credit?
  5. Will you be tempted to overspend?

Set Up Your Own Layaway Savings Plan:

  1. Set a goal and stick to it
  2. Make a plan
  3.  Set up an automatic transfer
  4. Watch sale prices
  5. Stick to your list


Be sure to watch the video for the details on each tip.

Amanda Christensen is an Extension Assistant Professor for Utah State University. Follow her on Twitter: @FamFinPro, Facebook: Fam Fin Pro, Instagram: @FamFinPro.