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

Don’t Let Aging Get You Down // Healthy Connections


This is the last installment in our aging series. Read part one on mobility and part two on healthy eating. Whether you are aging yourself, or caring for an aging loved-one, this series offers some great tips to help you.

Attitude is the one thing that can change any situation for better or worse.  As you age, you may find the things that came easily before are now difficult.  You may have habits that can be hard to quit, though you want to change.  Aging can bring discouragement and great joy just like every other stage of life, but whatever happens, we control our outlook.

Much of success and positive health is how you choose to view your circumstances.  Ask yourself, “How will I react the next time I receive bad news?”  Making the best out of what you are given can be the difference between joy and depression.

Sometimes it doesn’t work to just tell yourself to think positive. What else can you do to improve your attitude toward life?  Consider being more grateful, serving others, and being social.

  1. Be grateful: Look for the good in your life. You may be surprised there is more than you realized when you actually start paying attention. As you recognize the good in your life your attitude will naturally improve.  The Utah State University Extension website has some great advice on how to increase personal gratitude.  You can check it out here.
  2. Serve others: You can serve your own family or serve members in your community.  try cooking for a neighbor in need, make blankets for humanitarian kits, or help someone with yard work.  You can also volunteer at your local extension office, more information can be found here. There are many opportunities to serve and they all help keep your mind off your own troubles as you share joy with those you serve.
  3. Find a hobby: If you already live an active lifestyle you may be doing regular activities like tennis, jogging, swimming, fishing etc.; but for some it may hard to transition from taking care of children to being an empty-nester.  If possible, continue personal hobbies through all stages of life.  If you are just getting back into the groove of things, try looking up local classes and events you can attend.  For example, community education classes, lectures, college courses, certifications, concerts, theatrical productions, sports events.  Local senior centers may have social dancing, crafts, line dancing, ceramics, golf, and more.  Learning something new and meeting new people is a great way to improve your attitude.

Moving into your 50’s and 60’s opens up the opportunity to participate in your local Senior Center Activities.  Most activities provided are free; all you need to do is show up.  If you don’t have transportation, find someone willing to drive you.

My grandmother is taking care of my grandfather and has much weighing on her shoulders, but she has continued a positive attitude through her struggles by keeping fun hobbies and habits.  She goes out to get her nails and hair done which also allows her to socialize with her stylist.  She has weekly bridge games she attends with other community friends.  She is a perfect example of how socializing and keeping a good attitude helps you have great quality of life as you age.



This article was written by Kirsten Lamplugh, Intern at the Salt Lake County USU Extension office, BS in Family and Consumer Sciences 


USU Extension – http://extension.usu.edu/htm/news-multimedia/articleID=4002

Live Well Utah Blog – https://livewellutah.org/2015/02/14/spread-the-love-by-volunteering/

Family Mealtime // Crispy Granola 3 Ways


Family mealtime can be anytime- why not at breakfast? Mix up some delicious granola on the weekend for a fast and easy weekday family breakfast option. Use your family’s favorite mix-ins, or try one of our suggested variations.

Crispy Granola

Adapted from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 3 cups uncooked rolled oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (optional
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins, or other dried fruit (option)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Put egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Stir in honey, cinnamon, and salt. Add oats and all other ingredients (except dried fruit). Stir until ingredients are coated with egg mixture. Spread mixture on baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from pan, add dried fruit if using, and cool completely. Granola will continue to crisp as it cools. Store in an airtight container.


Pumpkin Spice: substitue pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, pure maple syrup for the honey, use pumpkin seeds for nuts, and add 1 tablespoon chia seeds.

Tropical Crunch: use macadamia nuts, yogurt covered raisins and/or chopped dried pineapple.

Cherry Garcia: use sliced almonds, dried cherries, and add semisweet chocolate chips when granola is cool.


September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 

Family Mealtime // Conversation Starters


Break the silence at the dinner table with these fun conversation starters! 

10 Questions to Get Your Family Talking

Struggling to find something to talk about? Read through these conversation starters at each meal to get the chatter rolling. Create some crazy questions of your own when these run out.

  • If you were in the circus, what circus act would you perform?
  • If you could do anything all day, everyday, what would it be?
  • If you could fly in a hot air balloon over any place in the world, where would you go?
  • If you had to wear a hat everyday, what type of hat would you choose?
  • Share your favorite tradition for each of the four seasons.
  • If you could choose one super power to have, what would you choose?
  • What is a new food you would like to try?
  • Name three famous people you would like to have dinner with.
  • What is your favorite vegetable?
  • What is your favorite outside activity?


Did you know?

Children who participate in consistent family mealtimes perform better academically and develop larger vocabularies.

September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 

Become a Better Partner by Using Assertive Statements 

Become a better partner

Happy Family Friday! This week learn how to approach conflict in a relationship or marriage.

It can be hard to approach your partner when there is conflict in a relationship or marriage. Oftentimes, humans err in three ways when there is something difficult to discuss: 1) We become too aggressive, saying things in a harsh tone that we will later regret; 2) We are not assertive enough, shutting down quickly when trying to explain our point of view; or 3) We avoid confrontation entirely because we don’t like conflict or feel it won’t help. Fall within one of these three categories? Try using assertive statements the next time an issue arises.

Assertive Statements

Assertive statements are loving ways to express a thought, feeling or desire that could create tension or conflict within a relationship; each statement is finished with something you’d like to see changed, such as:

  1. What I would like from you in our relationship is…
  2. What I could do for you that would help our relationship is…
  3. What I would like for you to do more in our relationship is…
  4. What I would like for us to do differently is…

If you’d like to create your own assertive statements, make sure they identify what you are feeling in the situation and are not accusatory to your partner. Using “I” based assertive statements rather than accusatory “you” statements allows you to acknowledge your feelings in a non-threatening and inoffensive way. This act of less accusation will lead to a more conducive environment for problem solving, which is vital in building happy, healthy relationships.

Learn more

Want to learn more tips for your relationships? Healthy Relationships Utah offers FREE Couple LINKS courses that teach concepts like assertive statements and many others. This research-based course is great for couples who want to build happy relationships or repair distressed ones. To learn more, visit healthyrelationshipsutah.org.

This article was written by Megan Hargraves, Media Specialist with Healthy Relationships Utah, megan.hargraves@usu.edu.

Ask an Expert: 6 Tips to Create Successful Family Mealtimes

Successful Family Mealtime Graphic

Success in school could be as easy as having family dinner each night. Find out why, and get six tips on how to make that family mealtime happen.


With back to school right around the corner, parents and children are hopeful for a successful school year. Parents would go to any length to help their children achieve in all aspects of life; socially, emotionally and academically. But what if all it took to help children succeed was an hour or even less on most days of the week? Taking just one hour of your day to share a meal with your family has benefits that reach well beyond the dining room table.

Research suggests that children who regularly participate in family mealtimes perform better academically, develop larger vocabularies and have better communication skills than children who do not eat as a family (Utter et al., 2013, Quarmby, T. & Dagkas, S., 2013). These same children are also more likely to have overall healthier diets, consume more fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy body weight and struggle with disordered eating less frequently (Gillman, 2000). They are also less likely to engage in risky behavior such as tobacco, drug and alcohol use (Utter et al., 2013).  Families experience stronger family bonds and have more positive interactions when they enjoy meals together (Utter et al., 2013). Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Despite all of these documented benefits, tight schedules and budgets often keep families from having meals together as often as they would like. Follow the tips below to create enjoyable and successful family mealtimes in your home.

  1. Plan meals ahead of time. If you already know what you are going to make, you will be more likely to actually do it. Planning also helps ensure you have all the ingredients you need.
  1. Schedule a set time for meals. Knowing that dinner is at 6 p.m. will allow family members to schedule other activities around dinnertime. But, remember family mealtime isn’t just for dinner. If everyone is more available on weekend mornings, make breakfast your family meal.
  1. Involve family members in the meal planning, preparation and clean-up. This lightens the load for everyone. Having family members involved in the planning will also ensure that everyone has at least some meals they like during the week.
  1. Unplug for dinner. No television, phones or other devices allowed. Family mealtimes are beneficial because it is a time for your family to share about the day and reconnect with each other through conversation.
  1. Keep conversation at family meals positive. Try to keep family mealtimes an enjoyable experience. They are not the best place for disciplining children or arguing with spouses. Try using a conversation jar with fun topics to keep the chatter light and enjoyable.
  1. Keep it simple. Family mealtimes do not have to be gourmet; they just have to be together. Find ideas and recipes for simple, healthy meals on the Food $ense website, extension.usu.edu/foodsense.


This article was written by Casey Coombs, RD, CD; Policy, Systems, and Environments Coordinator, Utah State University Food $ense, casey.coombs@usu.edu.


Gillman, M. (2000). Family dinner and diet quality among older children and adolescents. Archives of Family Medicine, 9(3), 235-240.

Quarmby, T., & Dagkas, S. (2013). Informal mealtime pedagogies: Exploring the influence of family structure on young people’s healthy eating dispositions. Sport, Education and Society, 20(3), 323-339.

Utter, J., Denny, S., Robinson, E., Fleming, T., Ameratunga, S., & Grant, S. (2013). Family meals and the well-being of adolescents. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 49(11), 906-911.


Smart Dating: 12 Questions to Answer About Your Partner’s Conscience

Smart Dating- Concience Graphic

These 12 questions will help you determine your partner’s conscience.

Much of how a person acts in a relationship is related to the maturity and functioning of his/her conscience. A partner with a poor conscience is one who leaves you feeling forgotten, unappreciated and unloved over and over again. Your conscience has two functions: to monitor your actions and attitudes and to transport you into another’s perspective that prompts understanding and compassion.

You don’t want to find yourself dating a person with a poor conscience, or worse, married to one.  How do you determine if a potential partner has a poor conscience? We’ve compiled a list of 12 questions you can answer about a person to help you find out!

  1. How consistent are they with attitudes and behaviors they say and believe?
  2. What do they feel strongly about? Right and wrong?
  3. How do they handle it when they are wrong?
  4. How defensive are they?
  5. What type of things make them feel guilty?
  6. Do they understand and validate your perspective?
  7. How do they respond to your explanation of your view and feelings?
  8. How do they react to authority figures?
  9. How controlling are they?
  10. What special things do they do for you?
  11. What are their moods like? How stable or unstable are they?
  12. How much attention do they give to your needs — both spoken and unspoken?


Note: It takes about three months for deep-seeded patterns to show in a relationship. For this reason, it may be hard to determine if a person has a poor conscience if you have not known him or her for very long.

Want to learn more concepts like these? Register for a FREE “How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk (or Jerkette)” course offered by Healthy Relationships Utah. This course is a research-based, smart dating course for singles who want to form healthy relationships.  Courses are available throughout all of Utah. To learn more or register, visit healthyrelationshipsutah.org.

This article was written by Megan Hargraves, Media Specialist with Healthy Relationships Utah, megan.hargraves@usu.edu.

Dads:  4 Tips on Raising Responsible and Confident Children

4 Tips for Dads Graphic

This week’s Family Friday is especially for Dad. These 4 tips will help you raise responsible kids and enjoy fatherhood.

1.  Model Mistakes & Good Problem Solving

As a dad, it is okay for your children to witness small mistakes. This shows them that you are human and also gives you the chance to model good problem-solving skills. For example, on a short hike, you may purposefully leave your own snack at home and say to your kids, “Oops! I forgot to bring my granola bar. I’m hungry. I definitely won’t forget next time!”


2.  Give Your Children the Chance to Make “Affordable” Mistakes

Consequences of mistakes grow costlier the older children get, which is why it is important to allow your children to make plenty of small, or “affordable”, mistakes while they are still young. For example, you may say to your kids, “We are leaving in 30 minutes for a short hike. You get to be in charge of putting together the snacks you would like to take.”


3.  If a Mistake is Made, Show Empathy While Holding Your Child Accountable

The most loved and respected dads are the ones who deliver firm consequences with a strong dose of empathy. If a child forgets to bring his/her own snack on a short hike, saying something like “This is so sad. You forgot your snack, and now you’re hungry. We can’t drive all the way home to get them. Hang in there, I love you.” Using an empathetic delivery allows children to stay accountable for their mistakes, but know that you still love them.


4.  Give your Children the Same Task Again

Later that week, you may say, “We are leaving in 30 minutes for a short hike. You again get to be in charge of putting together the snacks you would like.” When you give your children responsibility for the same task again, without nagging or reminding them of their previous mistakes, this sends a very powerful message: “You are smart enough to learn from your mistakes.”

Learn More

Want to learn more concepts like these? Register for a free Fathering with Love and Logic™ course offered by Healthy Relationships Utah. Fathering with Love and Logic™ is a research-based parenting course geared specifically towards fathers and father figures. Courses are available throughout all of Utah. To learn more or register, visit healthyrelationshipsutah.org.

This article was written by Megan Hargraves, Media Specialist with Healthy Relationships Utah, megan.hargraves@usu.edu.

Love and Logic™ is a registered trademark of the Love and Logic Institute, Inc.

Taking a Minute to Win Your Relationship


With these relationship tips, you and your partner will both come out winners!

Win-Win Situation

Experiences in my life have led me to appreciate the moments I have with those I love. I’m especially grateful for my husband who I had to search long and hard for. I can’t say that I don’t EVER take him for granted, but I know how hard it was for me to find him; and I want to make sure that he’s around for a long time. So, besides encouraging him to replace fast food with veggies and to exercise with me, I also try to keep the love alive by doing little things that are easy and don’t take much time but that let him know how much he means to me. I thought I’d share a few of the ideas I’ve tried (or plan on trying) to help keep the relationship spark.
• Take silly pictures of each other and laugh together.
• When he/she is sharing something with you, give him/her your undivided attention (I admit I need to work on this!).
• Give a silly gift at an unexpected time.
• Flirt with each other.
• Leave a sticky note or note card somewhere that tells about how much you love and appreciate your partner.
• Share one thing you are thankful for about each other before going to bed each night.
• On a trip somewhere in the car, kiss at every red light or stop sign.
• Stop whatever you are doing to enjoy the sunset together.
• Send a text or email just to say hi.
• Surprise him/her with a favorite treat.
What are the small things you do to keep the spark in your relationship? What new idea are you willing to try this week?
Check out some other ideas on how to make every moment you have together count at http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/Marriage&Relationships_2013-01pr.pdf.

This article was written by Naomi Brower, Weber County Director/Extension Associate, Weber County

Upcoming Event: Marriage Survival Course!


Can Your Marriage Survive?

It’s a Jungle Out There!

Married, engaged, and seriously dating couples are invited to participate in a five-week course that will help couples enrich their relationship and build a healthier marriage.

Topics that will be covered in the classes include:
increasing commitment, communication skills, financial harmony, strengthening your relationship, and protecting your marriage.

Come join us for a fun evening while learning about healthy relationships. A light dinner will be served. Class size is limited.

Register here!

Tuesdays, March 1-29
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Wetland Discovery Point, Kaysville
$20 Per Couple for series, includes light Dinner