Christmas is NOT an Emergency: 4 Tips to Tackle Christmas Without Using Your Emergency Funds

christmas-is-not-an-emergencyIt’s an emergency! My house is on fire… there’s been an earthquake… my furnace is broken! These are emergencies— Christmas is not. Check out this video from our finance pro Amanda Christensen and follow her tips to plan ahead for Christmas and save your emergency fund for a real emergency.


 

Highlights:

  1. Christmas is not an emergency!
  2. Set reasonable expectations.
  3. Shop early and after.
  4. Plan to give to those in need.

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: @utahmoney moms, Facebook: Utah Money Moms, Instagram: @utahmoneymoms.




20 Holiday Tradition Ideas to Bring Families Together

holiday-traditions-graphicYear to year your kids may forget what gifts they have given and received, but they will always remember the traditions you do together as a family.Try adding one of these activities to your annual holiday traditions.


Family traditions are beliefs and customs that are passed down to our children to be carried on by future generations. Traditions foster closeness between family members, provide family stability and create feelings of belonging. Our values and beliefs are often reinforced through family traditions. Family traditions do not have to be elaborate or expensive. The significance of a tradition is for families to have time to relate and communicate with one another. Spending quality time together helps affirm values, faith and life experiences while celebrating the season.

  1. Watch Christmas shows together with hot chocolate and popcorn.
  2. Make your own Christmas cards to send to family and friends.
  3. Donate clothes or toys to a local shelter.
  4. Make decorating the Christmas tree a family event.
  5. Bake and decorate cookies to take to a neighbor.
  6. Go caroling.
  7. Take a special drive at night to enjoy Christmas lights.
  8. Collect pine cones and use them to make ornaments.
  9. Read one Christmas story each night before bed, or have your children write and act out a Christmas play.
  10. Go sledding, and then enjoy hot cider or hot chocolate at home.
  11. Have a campout night using sleeping bags under your lighted Christmas tree.
  12. Make paper snowflakes to decorate your windows.
  13. Light up your walkway or driveway with handmade luminaries.
  14. Learn how different cultures celebrate Christmas.
  15. Create a calendar so your children can count down the days until Christmas.
  16. Have a Christmas past, present and future evening. Look through old photo albums/scrapbooks to celebrate Christmas past. Discuss what makes Christmas special for each family member to celebrate Christmas present and talk about hopes and dreams for the coming years to celebrate Christmas future.
  17. Make gingerbread people out of brown grocery sacks. These make great gift tags for presents. Glue on googly eyes and candy canes to add dimension to your gingerbread people.  
  18. Make snow globes with old food jars.
  19. Have your children help you prepare a special family recipe that has been passed down through generations.
  20. Have a gift wrapping party.

Family traditions will create lasting memories, so whatever your traditions may be, remember to have fun and enjoy the time you are spending with family.  


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




Quick and Easy Holiday Recipes

quick-and-easy-holiday-recipesDon’t let holiday party planning stress you out: try these quick and easy make-ahead recipes for your next holiday gathering, and enjoy this wonderful time of the year.


As the holidays become a fast approaching reality, the feeling of panic can quickly take over the sparkle…Will I be able to get everything done in time? Will it be just the way I want it? Can I make entertaining extra special without spending too much time or money on the details? Are there things we can do to entertain and prepare for the holidays without making ourselves crazy in the process?  

I cater on the weekends and in my spare time, I have come across some simple ways to make the holidays extra special. What can I do to have homemade rolls, a lovely platter of savory bites that can be taken to the next party or maybe a simple dessert that will appeal to even the pickiest foodie? Just by having a few simple ingredients on hand you can make the holidays sparkle.  Try out some of these tips and recipes to make your holidays merry and bright.

Chris’s Make Ahead Refrigerator Dinner Rolls

Homemade dinner rolls make any holiday meal extra special. With just a few inexpensive key ingredients, your house will smell like you have been baking all day and your guests will feel extra special when you are pulling these rolls out of your oven right before the event. Try these easy, foolproof dinner rolls for your next gathering.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for pan and brushing
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for shaping dough

Directions

  1. Pour warm water into a large bowl or stand mixer bowl; sprinkle with yeast, and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add sugar, butter, eggs, and salt; whisk to combine. Change out whisk attachment to a dough hook. Add flour; mix until incorporated and a sticky dough forms. Move dough to a buttered bowl.  Brush top of dough with butter; cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface. With floured hands, roll dough into a thick log. Cut into 18 equal pieces (halve log, cut each half in thirds, then cut each piece into thirds again).
  4. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter. One at a time, flatten each piece of dough, then fold edges toward the center, pressing to secure, until a smooth ball forms. Place dough balls in prepared baking pan, smooth side up (you should have 3 rows of 6). Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate (at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.), OR you can cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove plastic wrap; brush rolls with butter. Bake until golden and rolls sound hollow when tapped on bottom, 35 to 40 minutes (tent with aluminum foil if browning too quickly). Pull rolls apart, and serve warm.

Green Onion Cheese Ball

For that special get together, sometimes it is fun to have an easy-to-make alternative to the traditional holiday sweet treat. Here is a simple recipe that, for next to nothing, can be whipped up in a matter of minutes and will look like you spent hours preparing it. Even if you do not like onion, you will be amazed at the flavor. This cheese ball is mild enough that you get just a hint of onion along with the other seasonings. This could be the next neighborhood favorite.

Ingredients

  • 3 – 8 oz pkgs. cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 pkg. dry onion soup mix (I prefer Lipton)
  • 6 green onions finely diced (Whole onion – white and green parts)
  • Chopped nuts

Directions

Mix first three ingredients thoroughly, shape into a ball, and roll in chopped nuts.

If desired, use this recipe to make two or three small cheese balls out of one batch for a great addition to a cheese and cracker platter for a smaller group. As another option, shape the cream cheese mixture into a teardrop so it looks like a festive Christmas pine cone when sliced or whole almonds are added in a layered pattern, starting at the point and working back. Then place sprigs of green onions, rosemary, or parsley at the round end.

Easy Sugar Cookies

These quick and easy recipes will give your holiday the sparkle and shine that shows you care, with a minimum of effort allowing you to enjoy the holidays with your friends and family.

Ingredients

  • White cake mix (dry)
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine (melted)
  • 2 eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour all ingredients into mixing bowl. Mix with a hand mixer until everything is incorporated and looks like moist crumbles. Press into the shape of a disk. Roll out and cut shapes with cookie cutter or scoop dough into balls. Place on cookie sheet, and bake for about 7-10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Place cookies on cooling rack, let cookies cool. Ice cookies according to preference.


This article was written by Chris Jensen, Piute County Extension Educator.