Stress Busters // Finding Relief From Holiday Stress

holiday-stress-reliefAccording to the National Headache Foundation, people complain of a greater incidence of tension-type headaches and migraines between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Family stress, long lines and altered sleep and eating patterns play a key role. Consider these tips to reduce stress and tension this holiday season.

  • Exercise regularly. This helps you relax and let off steam. Also watch what you eat.
  • Try relaxation and stretching exercises such as neck rolls and slow, deep breathes to reduce muscle tension and headaches.
  • If an especially unpleasant task faces you, do it early in the day and get it over with. The rest of your day will be free of anxiety.
  • Learn to delegate responsibility to others.
  • Forget about counting to 10. Count to 100 before doing or saying anything that could make matters worse.
  • Have a forgiving view of events and people. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world.
  • Get involved with other people. Do something for somebody. Do something with somebody.
  • Say “no” more often. It’s amazing how much stress can be eliminated by giving up unrewarding activities, refusing inappropriate requests and turning down invitations from people you don’t enjoy.
  • Find humor in every disaster. You can usually find something funny if you look for it. No disaster is so bad that it couldn’t be worse.
  • De-clutter your life. Get rid of clothes you never wear, objects that collect dust, furniture you hate and activities you don’t enjoy.
  • Make friends with non-worriers. Nothing can get you into the habit of worrying faster than associating with chronic worrywarts.
  • Create order out of chaos. Organize your home and workspace so that you always know exactly where things are. Have a place for everything and everything in its place.
  • Become more flexible. Some things are worth not doing perfectly, and compromise can be found on some issues. Ask yourself if it will matter in five years.
  • Eliminate destructive self-talk such as, “I’m too old…, I’m too fat…”
  • Shun the superman/superwoman urge. Be realistic. Set practical goals and simplify.
  • Take a break. A change of pace, no matter how short, can give you a new outlook on old problems.
  • When a problem is beyond your control, learn to recognize and accept it.
  • Get up 15 minutes earlier. The inevitable morning mishaps will be less stressful.
  • Don’t rely on your memory. Write down appointment times, when to pick up your prescription, when projects are due, etc.  An old Chinese proverb states, “The palest ink is better than the most retentive memory.”
  • Procrastination is stressful. Whatever you want to do tomorrow, do today; whatever you want to do today, do it now.
  • Plan ahead. Don’t let the gas tank get below one-quarter full. Keep a well-stocked shelf of home staples. Don’t wait until you’re down to your last cup of flour to buy more.
  • Don’t put up with something that doesn’t work right. If such things as your alarm clock, wallet, shoelaces or toaster are a constant aggravation, get them fixed or get new ones.
  • Be ready to wait. Reading a chapter of an e-book on your phone or keeping in touch on social media can make time spent standing in line or sitting in a waiting room almost pleasant. Everything takes a little longer than you expect, even if you already expect it to take longer.
  • Count your blessings. For every one thing that goes wrong, there are probably 10 or 50 or 100 blessings and things that go right. Count them!


By Margie Memmott, USU Extension associate professor, 435-623-3451, margie.memmott@usu.edu

10 Ways to Avoid Holiday Debt

christmas-holiday-box2Christmas is just around the corner, but there is still time to plan for gift exchanges that won’t cause credit card debt to skyrocket. Consider implementing one, two or several of the following tips.

* Reduce the number of purchased gifts. This is especially effective for children. Rather than buying gifts for family and friends, help children create service gift cards good for babysitting, watching a pet for a weekend, 1 dozen homemade cookies, etc.

* Pick up odd jobs for a few weeks. Find people who will pay to have their leaves raked, garden tilled or rain gutters cleaned. If you are handy with tools, there may be other jobs that can be done like chopping wood, building a shed, etc.

* Beware of shopping the TV networks. Professionals on commercials are trained to entice buyers. They are interested in getting you to buy; they aren’t interested in whether or not you need their product.

* Shop local. Perhaps some items on your Christmas list could be purchased for less in a larger city. However, watching sales close to home can save time and fuel costs. Consider that many who shop out of town will also spend money to eat out and are tempted to buy more when there is a larger selection available.

* Set a spending limit and stick to it. Traditions of buying expensive clothes, large tools, appliances, etc., can quickly run up the credit card tab. Also, do kids (and adults) really need the very latest tech gadget or toy?

* Spend on a gift that is an investment in your future. As a couple, consider giving each other the gift of an extra payment on your home mortgage. This could jump-start the desire to pay off your home sooner. Those who budget even $50 more each month to pay down the principal on their mortgage can take two or more years off the total due by decreasing the interest.

* Put on a “practical” hat when making your Christmas list. Socks, gloves, kitchen shears, towels, a welcome mat or a book are examples of practical gifts. Does the family you are giving to really need one more decoration for the home? Perhaps, if it has personal sentiments attached, but be thoughtful if you choose to go this direction.

* Consider size, shape and weight if you are mailing. Costs of shipping have gone up, even since last year. If you are sending gifts, perhaps a gift card is the best choice. It’s possible that the shipping costs may be more than the value of the gift. Some companies have electronic gift cards that can be emailed directly to the recipient.

* Start setting aside cash now. How many paychecks do you have coming between now and the holidays? For some it may be only two. Others could have as many as six. Could you set aside 5 percent from each paycheck? That could give you extra money to work with.

* Black Friday and Cyber Monday – are they worth the hype? Consider that the whole purpose behind these events is to jump-start consumer spending for the holidays. There may be one or two exceptional deals, but most people will be better off to simply stick to the original shopping list.

The above ideas don’t come close to covering the slew of suggestions available to help reduce buyers’ remorse and January credit card statement shock. Hopefully, however, they will assist in getting the creative juices flowing in deciding how to spend less this Christmas. For other suggestions to slash expenses throughout the year, visithttp://extension.usu.edu and click on “Publications.” Then type “Slashing Expenses” in the search bar.

By: Kathy Riggs, Utah State University Extension professor, kathleen.riggs@usu.edu, 435-586-8132

Ask a Specialist // Perfectly Cooking Your Turkey

Turkey Talk Blog

Learn how to properly cook your Thanksgiving bird!

Avoiding FOWL Play

It is estimated that each Thanksgiving, more than 46 million turkeys are prepared and eaten in the United States. Because of the number of turkeys prepared, the incidence of food-borne illness also increases during the holidays.

If not prepared properly, turkey and all poultry can carry Salmonella, a common type of bacteria that can cause food-borne illness. Consider these tips for preparing a safe and tasty turkey this year.

* The first and most important food safety step is to properly thaw the turkey. The best way to thaw it is in the refrigerator. Make sure it is still in its original wrapper, and put a tray underneath it to catch juices and prevent cross contamination. You will need 24 hours of thawing time for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey, so make sure you have enough time to properly thaw it. Once thawed, cook the turkey within 1 to 2 days.

* If you need to thaw the turkey more quickly, you can use the cold water method. Place the turkey in an airtight package or leak-proof bag. Submerge the turkey in cold water for 30 minutes per pound, and make sure to change the water every half hour so it remains cold. Cook immediately.

* If you purchased a smaller turkey, it may be possible to thaw it in the microwave. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the size of turkey that will fit in your microwave, the minutes per pound and the power level for thawing. Roast it immediately after thawing.

* It is never safe to thaw turkey or other meat on the counter. This is putting the meat in what food safety experts call the danger zone, 40 to 140 F, which is where bacteria multiply rapidly. Under ideal conditions, bacteria can double every 10 to 20 minutes. That means one cell can increase to more than 16 million cells in 8 hours. For this reason, perishable foods such as poultry should never be held at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

* To roast a turkey, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 F. It is not safe to cook a turkey for a lengthy time, such as overnight, at a very low temperature. This encourages bacterial growth. To check for doneness, use a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh. Do not rely on the pop-up thermometer alone. Meat thermometers are available at reasonable prices in most supermarkets and variety stores. To be safe, the thigh meat should reach 165 F. If the bird is stuffed, the stuffing should reach 165 F as well.

* After the meal, promptly refrigerate leftovers in shallow containers. Some families leave turkey and other perishable items out all day for people to nibble on. This is not safe. Place perishable items in the refrigerator. If people want to snack, they can get the food out of the refrigerator.

For more information on turkey preparation or storage, contact your local USU county Extension office. You can also contact USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-MPH-otline (888-674-6854).

This article was written by Darlene Christensen, USU Extension associate professor, 435-277-2406, darlene.christensen@usu.edu

Avoid Stress by Keeping a Positive Attitude

Positive Attitude

Beat stress with these simple steps!

The Power of Positive Thinking

In today’s world, it seems there are only two speeds—fast and faster. Much of the time we are rushing around doing three or four things at once. Our minds are going in several directions.
Is it any wonder that we get stressed out and on edge?

When in this state, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, depressed and negative about much of our life. We may begin to complain about the wrongs of the world, work loads, coworkers, situations, etc. Stop! Perception controls our reality. There’s a lot to be said about how you look at things.

In Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work by Richard Carlson, he says, “Light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.” I like to think of this good advice as looking on the bright side of any situation. If there are things less than ideal in your life, look for ways to make them more pleasant. Find humor in daily annoyances.

The following day’s experience might be viewed in two perspectives. The second example is from someone who lit a candle.

#1 I had a terrible day! I got stuck in traffic that made me late for work. I had meetings back to back and we were always running behind. Everyone was complaining and arguing over solutions. What a waste!

#2 My day was interesting. Traffic made me late for work but at least I got the main point of the first meeting. Later meetings were on a tight schedule but listening to everyone’s opinions gave me good insight to the problems I need to address.

Positive thinking is a choice. Look for the good things in your day instead of the negatives. You’ll begin to notice “gifts” that you previously took for granted. Your viewpoint toward certain situations will change. Solutions will begin to dominate your mind instead of problems. Ways to enhance your experiences will become evident. The frazzled mentality will disappear and you will become less stressed.

A positive attitude can’t change a negative situation into a positive one, but it can help you enjoy the ride a lot more. If you maintain a positive attitude, you will be rewarded in all aspects of life.

This article was written by Ellen Serfustini, County Director/Extension Associate Professor, Carbon County

Kid-Friendly Creations // Strawberry Ghosts

Strawberry Ghosts Post

A fun and easy kitchen creation for you and your little ones!

Spooky Strawberry Ghosts!

Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes


24 fresh strawberries (washed and dried)
1 cup white chocolate chips
½ cup chocolate chips
1 tsp. shortening
1 tsp. vanilla


1. Line a cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper.
2. Wash and dry strawberries. Make sure all of the excess water is gone or the chocolate will have trouble sticking to the strawberry.
3. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt white chocolate and shortening at 50 percent power; stir every 30 seconds until smooth. Stir in vanilla.
4. Hold strawberries by the stems and dip in melted chocolate, making sure to coat all sides. Place on cookie sheet.
5. Chill strawberries in the fridge for 10 minutes to allow chocolate to set.
6. Stick chocolate chips on each strawberry to create a face.

Chocolate Melting Tips!!

1. Make sure all utensils and bowls used to melt the chocolate are dry. Any amount of water will cause the chocolate to clump and harden.

2. To avoid scorching your chocolate in the microwave, melt it using a makeshift double boiler.

Makeshift double boiler:
1 medium to large glass bowl
1 medium saucepan.

Make sure the glass bowl is large enough that it rests on the rim of the saucepan. The bowl should be suspended a few inches from the bottom of the pan.

To use the double boiler, simply add water to the bottom of the saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Place bowl filled with chocolate on top of the pan and start stirring. In no time you will have perfectly smooth, melted chocolate.

3. If you’re planning on using your melted chocolate for an extended period of time, simply place your bowl of chocolate on a heating pad! It will be kept warm enough to use, but the risk of scorching will be avoided.


Photo Credit
Made it. Ate it. Loved it.

Closet Rescue // Creative Shoe Storage

Creative Shoes Storage

Follow these tips to help you make the most of your limited closet space!

Don’t Lose Your Shoes!

It’s easy to take your shoes off after a long day at work and simply throw them into a pile at the bottom of your closet. However, looking for a matching pair of shoes the next morning with this system is not quite so easy.

Fortunately, Teresa Hunsaker from USU Extension has thought of 7 ingenious ways to help you organize your shoe pile and maximize your shoe storage space.

Having your shoes organized will help you know where each pair of shoes is and will help keep your shoes in tip-top condition. Who knows, you may even organize so well you will have room for a new pair of shoes! 😉


10 Things You Should Do Before Saying “I Do”

I Do 2

Consider these tips to help you have a successful relationship and marriage!

Creating a Happily Ever After

Being in love is exciting and wonderful, and for some people it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of romance. Many people spend more time planning for a wedding than they spend planning for a marriage. Before deciding to tie the knot, consider these tips to help create a more happily ever after.

1. Ask: Am I ready? The happiest relationships are built on a foundation of two happy and healthy people who are ready to take on the challenges of a new life together. Those who are ready to be in a long-term relationship have dealt with their own personal challenges and issues and are not looking for someone to make them happy or to “fix” them in some way (or vice versa).

2. Take time. In order to really get to know someone, it takes talking (mutual self-disclosure) + being together (in a variety of situations) + time (at least 90 days) (Van Epp, 2007). Because we are usually on our best behavior when we first meet and it takes time for patterns of behavior to emerge, this is a process that can’t be rushed, even if you spend a lot of time together.

3. Be extra cautious in long-distance relationships. While online dating is a common way to meet people, steer clear of commitment without spending a lot of time in person in many different situations. It is easier to show only our best selves in long-distance relationships.

4. Play detective. Ask deep and meaningful questions that will help you know if you are compatible with the person you are dating. For example, check out these 10 Questions to Ask Before Saying I Do. To make sure we aren’t biased about how we are viewing the person we are dating, it may also be helpful to think about how others might view him or her, or even ask others about their opinions and listen for warning signs you may have missed.

5. Start to become part of the family. Much of who we are was learned from growing up in our family, so we can learn a lot about what someone will be like as a partner and parent from observing, asking questions and spending time with their family. If there are concerns about a partner’s family or negative traits that a partner has learned from his or her family, you may want to think twice before getting too serious. While change is possible, it takes time and effort, and it is much easier to change before getting into a serious relationship.

6. Watch for personality compatibility. While we probably won’t have everything in common with our partner, happy relationships often have many of these traits in common: emotional temperament, sense of humor, intelligence, energy levels, similar recreation interests and how affection is expressed.

7. Be aware of each other’s values. Some of the biggest arguments in relationships relate to those things we value most because we have strong feelings and opinions about them. Having similarities in how religious/spiritual you are, having common financial views and goals and having similar views about family life are all major factors in lasting relationship satisfaction.

8. Watch for daily life compatibility. While it may not be romantic, the truth is that most of the time we spend with someone in a long-term relationship will be in the everyday routine of life. Consider such things as: Who will earn and manage the money? How will household responsibilities be divided? How will free time be spent? The answers to these questions can be crucial to the happiness of relationships.

9. Learn conflict resolution skills. Because we are all different, conflict is inevitable in even the happiest of relationships. When handled in a positive manner, overcoming conflict can strengthen relationships. Having a conflict plan in place can be helpful. Begin by setting the ground rules, such as choosing when and where to deal with conflict and remember to practice good listening and communication skills.

10. Plan now to keep your relationship strong. Just like cars, relationships need regular preventative maintenance in order to run smoothly and prevent problems. Research suggests that relationship education (such as attending a class or reading a relationship book together, etc.) can help relationships stay strong. Consider what you will do as a couple to keep your relationship strong.

For more information and class schedules on relationships, visit HealthyRelationshipsUtah.org.

This article was written by Naomi Brower, USU Extension associate professor

Top 10 // Ways to Practice Money Management with Kids

Teach Kids Money

It’s never too early to start educating your kids about money!

10 Ways to Practice Money Management Skills

If you teach them, they will learn. One of the most important things that parents can do to help their children develop positive money attitudes and behaviors is to get them involved with the real life, day-to-day financial workings of the family. Additionally, children need opportunities to earn, spend, and save money.

1. Hold regular family discussions about money with specific details about the family’s income and expenses.

2. Keep a family income and spending log/diary for 30 days (individual family members can also do this for their personal income and spending).

3. Solicit ideas (and commitments), especially from older children, on how to reduce spending – allow children to keep a % of the savings resulting from any of their cost-cutting efforts.

4. Have older children participate in monthly bill paying and grocery shopping. Teach them about sales and coupons.

5. Have an older child teach a younger child an important money concept.

6. Have family members get together and make short, medium and long term savings goals. Have each family member sign the agreement, and then post it in a prominent location of the home to remind everyone of the things they are working towards.

7. Have children develop a specific family spending goal (vacation, big screen TV, etc.). Allow them to contribute some of their allowance or earnings toward the goal.

8. Have each child set personal earning and spending goals. Regularly discuss progress and setbacks. Teach them to avoid compulsive buying.

9. Given a certain amount of money, regularly have children plan a meal, purchase the ingredients, and prepare the meal.

10. Regularly have a “no -frills” entertainment night (“old fashioned” board games, $1 video rental, talent shows, sandwiches in the park, storytelling, etc.). Fun activities don’t have to be expensive.

This article was written by Margie P. Memmott, M.S., C.F.C.S., Juab County.

Get Creative! // Storage in a Small Space

Storing Food

Here are some fun and creative ways to store food and emergency supplies when space is tight!

Becoming the Master of Disguise

September is National Preparedness Month, and for many people that means stocking up at the case lot sale, storing water and updating 72-hour kits. However, not everyone has the luxury of ample storage space. For those who live in a small house, apartment or dorm, finding a place to store extra food and emergency preparedness items can be a challenge.

Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension associate professor, said it might require a little creativity to find storage space, but it can usually be done.

“Closets are great places to start since there is often unused space,” she said. “Food can be stored in the very top back shelves that you can’t use or on the floor in the back of the closet. Also consider the back of cupboards where access is difficult. For instance if you have number 10 cans, you can store them in the back of the cupboard and leave them, then place the foods you use regularly in front of the cans.”

In addition, the space under beds can be used for storing food and water, she said. Short-term storing of water in the garage is an option, but be aware of temperatures. Heat will not hurt or crack the plastic but the cold will.

“You can also get creative by filling two 5-gallon buckets or totes with food storage items and making a TV stand with a 5 foot, 2X12 piece of wood across the buckets and a tablecloth over the top,” she said. “Or make a coffee table by using three or four buckets or large totes with a cloth on top. A bedside table can be made using one bucket or tote. There are many furniture/storage possibilities if you look at your space and come up with a plan.”

Washburn said to store food in a cool, dark location when possible, and to keep it out of direct sunlight and moisture.

She said the top 10 foods to include in food storage are wheat; beans, legumes and lentils; white rice; pasta; dehydrated fruits and vegetables such as raisins, apples or tomatoes; nonfat powdered milk; sugar including honey or jam; oil and/or olive oil; salt, soda and baking powder; and nuts or peanut butter.

The top 10 foods for students to store include wheat; beans (chick peas, lentils that are easy to reconstitute); pasta; rice; canned meats including tuna, sardines and chicken; jam or honey; peanut butter; dehydrated fruits and vegetables such as raisins, apples or tomatoes; nonfat dehydrated milk; and beef jerky and cheese, which only have a 6-months shelf life, but provide good nutrition and are easy to grab.

Washburn said to be sure to have a 72-hour kit for each person and to include a solar cell phone and flashlight charger in case the power goes out.

“Besides the food and emergency kit, also be sure to store as much water as you have storage space for,” she said. “Recommendations are 1 gallon per person per day.”

When we become prepared for an emergency, we can reduce fear, anxiety and loses, Washburn said. Food storage preparedness can provide security and alleviate fear. Becoming better prepared strengthens families and communities.



This article was written by Julene Reese

What’s for Dinner? // Mashed Potatoes and Happy Families

Family Mealtime

Make the most of family mealtime!

Bonding Over Brisket

With the average husband and wife both having to work full-time, or a single mother or father juggling the children and work, sitting down to have dinner together is probably one of the most difficult but important things a family can do.

Sitting down together at the family table and talking to each other about the events of the day without interruptions from the TV or other electronic devices has proven to be very beneficial.

Families should ensure spending time together is built into their weekly schedule. And since we all have to eat, why not make it a point for family time to be spent sharing a meal together?

Here’s how family mealtime will benefit your family beyond the dinner table:

• Encourages better nutrition. According to the FDA, Americans now consume about one-third of their total calories on foods prepared outside the home. The Center for Disease Control has linked obesity to the propensity of Americans to eat in restaurants where portions are large. Home cooking allows a family to select healthy ingredients, tailor meals to suit its own particular nutritional needs and tastes, serve portions appropriate to age and activity level and monitor methods of preparation.

• Saves money. According to the National Restaurant Association, Americans spend 45 percent of their food budget dining out. A family that eats most meals cooked at home saves substantial food dollars.

• Promotes long-term health care savings. Consistently eating high-calorie, high-fat foods can lead to obesity and heart disease, among other chronic issues. Eating healthier, home-cooked meals and adopting a healthier lifestyle will leave a person less likely to develop these health conditions. This practice will save money in the future on costs related to health care and prescriptions.

• Builds life skills. Manners and etiquette help build character and self-esteem, and help build a positive environment. Eating together provides the opportunity to test drive etiquette and manners. Family mealtime is a perfect occasion for everyone in the family to learn how to set the table, prepare food and clean the dishes. Parents are able to role model healthy eating habits and table manners during family meals.

• Strengthens communication skills. The number one source of conflict in a family is lack of or mis-communication. Conversations during the meal provide opportunities for the family to bond, plan, connect, and learn from one another. In a series of focus groups conducted with low-income program participants by the Nutrition Education Network of Washington, participants said they believed that the primary benefit to eating together was strengthening relationships by providing opportunities for communication. Other studies report similar perceptions on the part of parents.

Other things happen during mealtimes as well, including: socialization of children; establishment of family unity, safety, and security for children; and increased literacy and language development.

Data suggests that eating dinner as a family can provide positive life-improving benefits. These benefits for children, especially adolescents, have been shown to cross racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines, but some glaring distinctions exist between families who share meals and those who don’t.


Campbell, C. Bond with your Family: Eat Together. http://powertochange.com/family/bonddinner/.
Jan 13, 2012
Forthun, L.F. (2008a). Family Nutrition: The Truth About Family Meals. Gainesville, FL: Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication number: FCS8871. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1061
Hand, B. The Benefits of Eating Together, The Family Who Eats Together Stays Together. Retrieved April 10, from http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=439.

This article was written by Paula Scott, Utah EFNEP State Director, Heidi LeBlanc, Food $ense State Director and Debra Christofferson, Utah Food $ense Assist. Director.