Parenting Tips to Help Keep the Holidays Happy

parenting tips holidays ask an expert

Keep your holidays happy with these six tips from USU Extension family life specialist David Schramm.


 

The holidays can be a magical time of year with great food, movies, traditions and decorations. But they are also a busy time that can cause stress. And when the kids are out of school, they can become tired, argumentative and overexcited, which in turn can cause frustration for parents. It’s important for parents to keep things in perspective so the holidays stay happy.

 

Consider these tips for dealing with holiday stress:

 

  • Set realistic expectations. Not everything will go as planned around the holidays. The food may not turn out as planned and things can get spilled or broken. Be positive, flexible and open to changes and messes. Try not to overschedule activities to the point that it becomes more stressful than enjoyable.

 

  • Pay attention to bids for connection. Children thrive when their parents give them attention, affection and connection – especially during the excitement of the holidays. Plan to give them your dedicated time at least once per day, offering full attention for whatever they want to do (board games, playing in the snow, reading books, etc.).

 

  • Hold up the emotional mirror. Many parents will see a range of emotions from children around the holidays. Mirror their excitement, show understanding when they are sad, and express empathy when they are upset.

 

  • Grant in fantasy what you can’t grant in reality. Instead of squashing your children’s holiday dreams or their gift list, let them know you hear them and understand. Phrases such as, “Wow, that would be fun!” or “I wish we could do that too!” can give them the next best thing to what they want, and that is knowing you understand what they want.

 

  • Don’t use unrealistic threats such as “Christmas will be cancelled if…” or “Santa won’t bring you toys if…” Strive to be positive, but still follow through with rules and unacceptable behavior.

 

  • Take care of yourself or your happy holiday may turn into a Noel nightmare. When parents are stressed out, it often spills over and children feel it. Take time for yourself. Exercise, get adequate sleep, take some deep breaths and try to see the bigger picture. Make positive memories and enjoy the moments, because they don’t last long.

 

This article was written by David Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist. See more from Dr. Dave on Facebook.




How to Care for Holiday Plants

How to Care for Holiday Plants PoinsettiasGardening experts Sheriden Hansen and Michael Caron share the origins of some common holiday plants, plus give some tips on caring for them in today’s post.


 

When cold weather settles into Utah, we tend to put our gardens to bed and turn our focus to our warm, comfortable homes.  But who says that gardening can’t continue through the cold winter months?  There are many options for bringing gardening inside during the holidays.  Most of the plants that we use during the holidays have specific symbolism or meaningful stories, and some can last for months or even years in our homes with some special care.

Living Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree is one of the most recognizable symbols of the holidays.  It originated as a Christmas tradition in Germany about 400 years ago, but was not common in the USA until the 1890’s.  One of the most recognizable Christmas trees, the Rockefeller Center tree, was first placed by construction workers in 1931.  The following year, the tree was placed again, but this time it was adorned with lights.  The tree has been tradition since that first humble year in the Depression Era, but is much larger and now boasts over 25,000 lights.  When bringing home your own tree, make sure the needles are flexible and remain on the tree when lightly tugged on.  The tree should have a fresh smell and the base should be re-cut before you take it home.  Healthy, active, fresh-cut trees can drink up to a gallon of water a day, especially during the first week, so use a sturdy stand with a large water reservoir. Place the tree in a cool location and keep it well-watered to ensure the needles last through Christmas. Fresh trees that are allowed to dry out will begin to shed needles quickly and become a fire hazard.  Fresh, cool water is all that is needed – It is NOT recommended to add sugar, bleach, or any other additive to the water reservoir, or spray any preservatives on the tree itself.

Poinsettia

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and are the most popular potted plant in the world. With several colors and forms available, they add a festive feel to any room.  Joel Roberts Poinsett, U.S. Minister to Mexico from 1825 to 1829, introduced the plant to the United States.  Poinsett was a botanist and was one of the first to argue for the creation of the Smithsonian Institution. Poinsettias dislike wet soil and should be watered when the soil becomes lightweight and is dry to the touch.  Pot-covers should be removed, and the soil allowed to completely drain.  Placing plants in the sink or tub can be an easy way to accommodate watering.  Poinsettia require a rather specific daylength in order to produce flowers and can be difficult to get to rebloom.  If you decide to keep the plants for reblooming, prune them in April by cutting the stems to about half their length. Fertilize every two weeks with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer, and place in a location that gets no artificial sunlight after sunset in September. The idea is to provide 12 or more hours of uninterrupted darkness in September and October. If conditions are right, you can move your plant to a living area in your home in November, and the bracts will color for the holidays.

Christmas Cactus

These hardy succulents can last for years and will rebloom every year, if cared for properly.  Christmas cactus like bright, sunny east or south facing windows.  Although these plants are succulents, they come from the tropics and need moist soils that are allowed to dry slightly between watering.  Flowers that fail to open are the result of lack of water and warm soil temperatures.  To get plants to rebloom, place in a cool location (40 to 50⁰F) in the early fall, reduce watering, and move the plant to a location where it receives about 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness each day.  Plants should be fertilized with a houseplant fertilizer monthly from April to October to promote growth and bloom.

Amaryllis

The word Amaryllis literally means “to sparkle”, which makes this showy bulb a perfect fit for the holiday season.  The Portuguese name for this plant translates to “St. Joseph’s staff” referencing the legend that the staff of St. Joseph burst into bloom as a sign that he was selected as the spouse of the Virgin Mary.  This bulb produces long-lived, beautiful flowers in red, white, pink, and variegated colors and are usually forced indoors beginning in October.  If you didn’t pick up bulbs in the fall, there is no need to worry, plants already forced and actively growing can usually be found in local nurseries and grocery stores.  To care for one of these magnificent plants, place in a bright sunny location, watering periodically to keep soil moist but not wet.  As the stem elongates, rotate the plant a half turn each day to prevent it bending toward the light source.  Staking stems with large flowers may also be required.  Once flowers are spent, cut the stalk but keep the leaves and continue to water the plant as needed.  Allow the plant to go dormant in the late summer by halting watering.  Remove yellow leaves and store the plant in a cool, dark, and dry location until October, when you can repot, begin watering, and start the blooming process again.

Paperwhites

Paperwhites, like Amaryllis, are a bulb that will need to be forced to bloom in time for the holidays.  Paperwhites are a type of Narcissus and are related to daffodils, but have smaller, less showy blooms and a distinct floral fragrance.  Their white blooms are used during the holidays to signify rebirth and renewal, as they are often one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring landscape.  Look for bulbs that are firm, without blemishes or soft spots.  Bulbs should be set in a well-drained container with clean potting soil and watered in.  Place the container in a dark location with temperatures between 50-60⁰F for two weeks and then move to a sunny, warm location.  As stems lengthen, they often need to be staked with a small piece of bamboo.  Unlike Amaryllis, paperwhites are usually a one-time use bulb, and can be difficult to rebloom, even with the best care.

Mistletoe

You may have seen mommy kissing Santa under the mistletoe, but did you know the use of mistletoe dates back to the Druids nearly 2,000 years ago?  Mistletoe was hung in houses to bring good luck, ward off evil spirits, and used as a symbol of fertility.  It was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology, which is where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe originated.   Mistletoe is a parasitic plant with sticky seeds usually spread by birds.  Mistletoe plants grow roots into the stems or leaves of their hosts where it removes water and nutrients for its own growth.  Something to think about next time you get the chance to kiss under the mistletoe!


This article was written by Sheriden Hansen and Michael Caron.




What’s in Season? Winter Fruits and Vegetables

Seasonal EatingKeep your menu plan fresh with seasonal fruits and vegetables — even in wintertime! We’ve got a recipe roundup for you, plus two new recipes at the end; one for pineapple pear crisp and the other for balsamic and bacon Brussels sprouts. Tune in to Studio 5 on Monday to see Live Well Utah Editor Marta Nielsen demonstrate these new recipes with Brooke Walker.


Eating in season is something we think about in the summertime when our gardens are bursting with raspberries, tomatoes, peaches and zucchini, but you can eat in season all year long! Stores may carry out-of-season foods in the winter, but you’ll usually find lower prices and higher quality produce when you shop in season.

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It’s easy to keep winter-season fruits like apples, bananas, grapefruit, oranges and pears on your counter for healthy snacking. Pineapple and pomegranate are also in season, and can be purchased already prepped and ready to eat, or you you can save on costs and do your own prep-work and keep the ready-to-eat fruit in the fridge. If you have healthy food options visible and accessible, you’re more likely to make healthy choices!

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There are also many vegetables that are in season in the winter, such as avocados, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, kale, leeks, onions, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash. These veggies work perfectly for those warm-me-up foods we love to eat in the winter like soup, or oven-roasted veggies.

Try these recipes that use winter fruits and vegetables:

Snacks and Treats:

Salads and Sides:

Main Dishes:

Pineapple Pear Crisp

This gingery crisp is a little bit tropical, but still a warm-the-belly kind of dessert that is perfect for colder months. This recipe maximizes the sweetness and flavor of the fruit with minimal added sugar and oil, and uses hearty whole grains in the topping. Serve it topped with frozen yogurt for added decadence. Serves 6 people.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe pears*
  • 2 c ripe pineapple (about ½ a pineapple)
  • ¼ t cinnamon
  • 2 T brown sugar (or honey)
  • 1 t freshly grated ginger (or ¼ t ground ginger)

For the topping:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 t fresh grated ginger (or ¼ t ground ginger)
  • ¼ t nutmeg
  • 3 T melted butter (or coconut oil for added tropical flavor)

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Chop pineapple into ½-inch pieces and set aside in a medium-sized mixing bowl (be sure to get all the pineapple juice left from cutting and chopping into the bowl). Peel, core and chop pears into ½-inch pieces, and mix with pineapple. Add cinnamon, brown sugar (or honey) and fresh ginger to the fruit, and stir so that it is coated evenly. Transfer fruit to a 9×9 baking dish.

To prepare topping, mix dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl until well combined. Add melted butter, and stir until mix loosely holds together. Spoon crumble mix evenly over fruit, and bake for 30 minutes. Cover crumble with foil, to prevent over-browning, and bake an additional 5 minutes (or until pears are tender).

*Be sure to use ripe pears. Unripe pears will not soften sufficiently when baked. Bosc and D’anjou pears work nicely in this recipe.

Bacon and Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

This out-of-this-world Brussels sprouts recipe will convert even the most skeptical taste testers.The Brussels sprouts are are roasted, tossed with a zesty balsamic vinaigrette, and topped with bacon crumbles and pomegranate arils—what’s not to love? Recipe serves 4 generously.

Ingredients:

  • 4 pieces thick-cut bacon
  • 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup pomegranate arils (approximately 1 small pomegranate)

Balsamic Dressing:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • ½ t maple syrup
  • ½ t prepared mustard (Dijon or whole grain)
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place bacon on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes, or until crispy. When bacon is cooked to your liking, remove from baking sheet and set aside. Brush around rendered bacon fat to evenly coat lined baking sheet, and drain off any excess (this will enhance the flavor of the Brussels sprouts as they roast).

Meanwhile, prepare Brussels Sprouts by trimming the ends and cutting in half. Toss Brussels sprouts with oil, salt and pepper. Next, evenly arrange Brussels sprouts, cut side down, on the lined baking sheet used to cook the bacon. Roast for 20 minutes, or until sprouts are easily pierced with a fork. For smaller Brussels sprouts, 20 minutes will yield sprouts cooked soft all the way through. If you prefer a little crunch left in your vegetables, check doneness at 15 minutes.

While Brussels sprouts roast, crumble the cooked bacon and prepare the dressing. Whisk together all ingredients in a liquid measuring cup for easy pouring. If you are seeding your own pomegranate, versus buying the arils alone, you can also do this while the Brussels sprouts roast.

Transfer roasted Brussels sprouts to a serving dish, and top with balsamic dressing. Stir until evenly distributed, and top with crumbled bacon and pomegranate arils.


marta-nielsen-web2Marta Nielsen is the editor of Live Well Utah. She did not attend Utah State University (she graduated from another university whose colors are red and white), but loves working for USU Extension. Marta loves to cook and eat, garden, craft, travel, and read. She makes specialty cakes for family and friends as a hobby, and has been talked into making a few wedding cakes in the past. She and her husband have two small children, and live in Salt Lake County.

See more contributor bios here.

 




A New Year, a New You: Strategies to Simplify Your Life in the Kitchen

simplify your kitchen.jpgHave you made the goal to simplify your life in the new year? Try these strategies to simplify your life in the kitchen.


Organize

Keep shelf-stable items and utensils that you frequently use visible in the kitchen. Move spices you use often to the front of the cabinet and invest in a tiered tower or spice rack so everything is visible at once. Store dry goods such as flour, sugar, grains, and beans in airtight glass jars or plastic containers on the counter or on a visible row of the pantry. Store cooking utensils in a holder on the counter or in a drawer next to the stove (Bittman, 2014).

Stock Up

Having basic pantry, refrigerator, and freezer staples on hand can make it much easier to throw together a quick dinner. If the thought of purchasing all of the items at once seems overwhelming, add a few items to your list each week and in a couple of months, you will be set. Here is a basic list to get you started (Bittman, 2014):

  • Extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, and/or vegetable oil
  • Vinegars – balsamic, red wine or sherry, and/or white wine
  • Dried herbs and spices – salt, black pepper, chili powder, curry powder, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, sage, rosemary, tarragon, dill, basil, and thyme
  • Dried grains – brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, dried whole-wheat pasta
  • Dried and/or canned beans – garbanzo, black, kidney, navy, and/or cannellini
  • Canned tomato products – tomato paste, canned tomatoes (diced, crushed, whole)
  • Nut butters*
  • Brown sugar, honey, maple syrup
  • Flours – whole-wheat white flour, white flour, cornmeal
  • Baking soda, baking powder
  • Nuts and seeds* (walnuts, almonds, etc.)
  • Chicken and/or vegetable stock or bullion

*refrigerate to preserve quality

In addition, stock up on frozen vegetables – corn, mixed vegetables, peas, spinach, edamame – and fruit when items are on sale.

Plan Ahead

Planning several days or a week of meals at once may seem like an overwhelming task, but once you get into the routine, you will likely find it saves a great deal of time. There will be less trips to the grocery store and less time spent thinking about what’s for dinner.

Tips to get started:

  • Ask your family for favorite meal ideas.
  • Start small. Select one or two recipes you know how to make and add one or two new recipes per week.
  • Need help choosing recipes? Think about your weekly schedule. Are there going to be late nights at work or sports games to attend? If so, you may want to plan a slow cooker meal or a meal you can remake from leftovers for this busy night. Look at what is on sale at your local grocery store and consider what produce is in season, which means it will likely be less expensive.
  • Gather your recipes for the week and create a grocery list. First, check to see which items you already have at home. Include the other ingredients on a list. Organize your list according to the sections of the grocery store: produce, dairy, meat/seafood, dry goods/spices, and the freezer section.
  • Make notes about which recipes your family likes and dislikes. After a month or so, you’ll have a substantial list you can use to create a rotating meal schedule and you can add in new recipes if you choose to.
  • Visit Choosemyplate.gov for more grocery shopping and meal planning tips.

Cook Once, Eat Twice

  • Grains: Double a batch of grains, such a rice. Immediately separate, cool, and refrigerate the extra portion. Use the leftovers the next night in a stir-fry or casserole.
  • Meat/Protein: Roast extra chicken, pork, or beef. Use it the next night in a soup, tacos, or green salad.
  • Beans: Cook extra beans and use the leftovers for bean burritos or taco bowls.
  • Roasted vegetables: Roast extra vegetables and use the leftovers for a pureed soup or hearty vegetable stew. Or try roasted vegetable tacos or a roasted vegetable grain bowl topped with nuts, seeds, or crumbled cheese.

Remember to follow food safety rules for leftovers. 

  • Cool and refrigerate food in shallow containers promptly (within 2 hours of cooking).
  • Cold food should be stored at 40 F or lower.
  • Discard refrigerated leftovers after 3-4 days.
  • Remember to label and date frozen items. Store frozen items in containers such as gallon freezer bags or freezer grade plastic or glass containers and ensure that your freezer remains at 0 F or less.
  • Thaw frozen items in the refrigerator or microwave. Never thaw food on the kitchen counter or at room temperature.
  • Remember to reheat all leftovers to 165 F throughout.
  • Visit Foodsafety.gov for recommended freezer and refrigerator storage times or the National Center for Home Preservation’s Guide to Freezing Prepared Foods for more information on freezing leftovers. Additional information from the USDA on food safety and leftovers can be found here.

This article was written by Brittany Bingeman, Extension Assistant Professor FCS, Washington County

References:

  1. Bittman, M. (2014). How to cook everything fast. New York: Double B Publishing, Inc.
  2. Kitchen Timesavers. (2017). In Choosemyplate.gov. Retrieved from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/budget-time-savers.
  3. Leftovers and Food Safety. (2013). In United States Department of Agriculture

Food Safety and Inspection Service. Retrieved from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/leftovers-and-food-safety/ct_index.

 




A New Look at Health and Wellness Goals for the New Year

health and wellness.jpgIt isn’t too late to set goals for the new year. Try these tips to help you have more success with your goals this year.


Each January, many of us sit down with the best intentions of making changes in the New Year. Many of us want to create habits to improve our health and wellness. However, as January ends, often so does our motivation despite our best efforts. I, like many of you, am left wondering why.

How can we set goals that are more attainable? According to a review by Mann and Ridder (2013), goal setting is a process that includes setting an appropriate goal and determining a process to work toward the goal. Here is a summary of their findings on what makes goal setting more successful.

Why set goals?

Goal setting is the process of determining what we want to accomplish and how we will know when we have accomplished it. Having a vision or overall picture of what we want to accomplish provides motivation for achieving something that we find important.

 

How do I set an attainable goal?

  1. Simplify health goals. Nutrition advice seems to be ever changing. Believe me, this can frustrate even nutrition professionals. However, setting goals to improve our health and wellness does not have to mean a complete overhaul of our eating or conforming to a certain eating plan. Most of us have a general sense of what types of foods are nutritious for us and that moving our body is healthy. Small, simple changes over time can really add up. Adding a fruit or vegetable to a meal, choosing a fruit instead of another type of dessert, taking the stairs to our office on the third floor, or taking a walk on our lunch break can make a difference in the long run. Or, setting a goal to listen to our body’s hunger and fullness signals to determine what and how much it needs may lead to naturally eating less.
  2. Make it positive! Focus on adding something rather than taking it away. Eating is a way to nourish our body to provide it with the fuel and the nutrients it needs to keep our body healthy and functioning at its best. It may feel more nourishing and supportive of wellness to think about adding a fruit to lunch or a fresh, green salad to dinner, rather than thinking about cutting out foods we enjoy.
  3. Determine the difficulty level that works for you. Recommendations for goal setting often include making them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely (S.M.A.R.T.) goals. One of the key elements is setting realistic goals that you believe you will actually be able to achieve based on resources, time constraints, etc. However, others suggest going all out when goal setting, creating a goal that is more of an ideal vision of your life, no matter how unrealistic it may seem. Then, the goal can be broken down into smaller, manageable steps that are more realistic and attainable.
  4. Focus on the process, not the result. Focusing solely on the end result can leave us disappointed if we encounter a setback or fall short of what we hope to accomplish. For example, if our goal is to cook dinner five nights per week and we eat out four times in one week, we can see ourselves as failing to meet our goal and get discouraged. However, if we focus on the process of meal planning and expanding our cooking skills, we would instead recognize the skills we’ve learned, identify the barriers that got in the way of cooking, and plan to address those barriers. Focusing on the process allows us to use challenges as a way to gather information to learn from, rather than seeing ourselves as failing.
  5. Get more bang for your buck. Researchers note that people were more successful accomplishing goals that addressed more than one area of importance in their lives. For example, if your goal is to be more physically active, but you also value spending time with your husband or wife, you could plan an evening walk with your spouse that addresses both priorities.

 

What’s the process to work toward my goals?

  1. Create a plan and commit ahead of time. Once your goal has been created, it can be helpful to make a plan to implement each component of it and to handle any unexpected hang-ups or stressors. It takes effort and mental energy to implement a new routine. It’s natural to want to take the familiar route – go straight home after work and skip the gym or to pick up fast food on the way home rather than cooking. The stressors of life can use up the mental energy we need to make the more difficult choice of sticking with a change rather than going with the automatic, familiar choice that uses less energy. Therefore, the more we can plan ahead of time – pack our gym bag the night before or grocery shop and pre-chop vegetables over the weekend – the less brain power is needed to make the decision in the moment after a long day of work when our energy is low.
  2. Automate it.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we set a goal and all of sudden we just do it without thinking about it? Well, as nice as that sounds, actually, as we engage in new behaviors repeatedly, we begin to associate certain cues with the behavior, which can help us accomplish our goals. For example, we might start to associate our morning car ride with drinking water. As we get into our car, we think about grabbing a bottle of water. As we do this more often, we become more efficient at working toward our goal and we don’t have to put as much thought into it.

This article was written by Brittany Bingeman, Extension Assistant Professor FCS, Washington County

Reference:

Mann, T., de Ridder, D., Fujita, K. (2013). Self-regulation of health behavior: Social approaches to goal setting and goal striving. Health Psychology, 32(5), 487-498. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0028533

 




Safety First During the Holidays

Holiday Safety Graphic.jpgThe holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s important to keep safety in mind so you can avoid accidents and injuries. Consider these tips. 


Toy Safety

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 260,000 children were treated in emergency rooms in the United States for toy-related injuries in 2016 and 2015. Tips for selecting toys:

  1. Consider the age recommendations on the toy, combined with the child’s skill set and interests.
  2. Check out all safety labels to see if the item is flame retardant, flame resistant, washable, non-toxic, etc.
  3. Be sure to check warning labels for choking hazards and other concerns. The toilet paper roll test is a good one to use. If the item fits through a toilet paper roll tube, it is probably a choking hazard.
  4. Inspect all toys for sharp points, edges, materials used (glass, metal, brittle plastics) and any removable parts that may pose a hazard if lost or removed. Before giving toys with these hazards, carefully consider the child’s age, as well as the ages of younger siblings. This can be a particular problem with game pieces and parts that are safe for older family members, but could be dangerous if left around for babies and toddlers to find.
  5. Provide proper safety equipment such as helmets and knee pads for bikes, scooters, skateboards, etc.
  6. Are there strings, cords or ribbons that have the potential to cause strangulation? Long cords on pull toys could be a problem, as well as hanging mobiles in cribs and playpens.
  7. If paints, crayons or art markers are on your list, look on the packaging for “ASTM D-4236.” This means the product has been properly reviewed for potentially toxic contents.
  8. Inspect toys for damage and make repairs if needed. Keeping toys, play equipment and protective gear in good repair will also help protect children from injury.
  9. To receive notices of recalls, visit www.recalls.gov. If you think you may have a toy in your home that has been recalled, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website at www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls.

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, go to www.SaferProducts.gov or call the CPSC’s Hotline at (800) 638-2772. You can also obtain news releases and recall information on Twitter @OnSafety or by subscribing to the CPSCs free email newsletters.

 

Electrical Safety

This time of year, there are far too many house fires associated with electrical mishaps. When buying and using decorations with electricity, consider these reminders:

  1. Only buy electrical equipment that displays a label showing a nationally recognized safety testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL), or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
  2. Be sure to buy decorations and extension cords according to your intended use, whether outdoors or indoors.
  3. Do not overload extension cords and multi-plug power strips, and do not chain them together.
  4. Check for cords that are worn out, frayed or split.
  5. Make sure that cords are not pinched in doors, windows or under heavy furniture, which could damage the cord’s insulation.
  6. Do not remove the ground pin, use a converter to make a three-prong plug fit a two-prong outlet.
  7. Keep outdoor extension cords clear of snow and standing water.
  8. Send warranty and product registration forms to manufacturers in order to be notified promptly in the event of a product recall.
  9. Keep decorations and cards away from fires and other heat sources such as light fittings.
  10. If you have old Christmas lights, consider buying new ones. Newer options will meet much higher safety standards.
  11. Don’t let children play with lights, as they could swallow the bulbs, and remember to switch off the lights when going out of the house or to bed.
  12. Consider LED lights. They generate less heat — which translates into greater energy-efficiency, but they are also less of a fire risk. LEDs are made with epoxy lenses rather than glass and are much more durable.
  13. If you have an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant.
  14. Be wise and cautious when using space heaters, and make sure smoke alarms are working.

 

Food Safety

While our food supply is one of the safest in the world, some 76 million people a year get sick from food-borne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Consider these food safety tips:

  1. Clean – hands, cutting boards, tools, etc.
  2. Separate – keep raw meats away from other foods, and use separate cutting boards for raw food.
  3. Cook properly – cook foods to the right temperatures, and use a thermometer. Reheat leftovers to 165 F.
  4. Chill – chill food promptly and properly. Illness-causing bacteria can grow in perishable foods within two hours unless they are refrigerated. Quickly cool down large batches of soups, stews, etc., and store them in shallow pans. Thaw meats in the refrigerator.
  5. Be especially careful of higher risk foods, such as raw eggs. Eating cookie dough is probably not a wise idea, and neither is drinking homemade eggnog if the eggs used have not been pasteurized (find more tips on safe eggnog).

For further information, visit www.foodsafety.gov.


This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences educator, 801-399-8200




Avoid Charity Scams this Holiday Season

Tis the season for increased awareness of and opportunity for charitable giving. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of the holiday season to tug at our heartstrings and try to get to our wallets. I stopped by Studio 5 to chat with Brooke about how a little research will help you avoid a scam and ensure that your gift goes to a reputable charity that will use the money as you intend.

Head over to famfinpro.com to read Amanda Christensen’s list of things to consider before giving this holiday season.




When Is Enough, Enough? Planning for the Holidays

When is enough.jpg

Take a moment this holiday season to check in as a family and eliminate excess in your life.


We all know it is easy to get a little carried away with “decking our halls,” and the concepts of excess, over indulgence and over scheduling come to mind during the holiday season more than ever. In general, however, there is a trend toward excess in our lives.  

What messages are we sending to our children?  When is enough, enough for them, and for us?

Here is a checklist of questions to ask ourselves:

  • Are we spending a disproportionate amount of family income on any one category…i.e., clothing, entertainment, child enrichment (lessons, sports, etc.)?
  • Are we spending a disproportionate amount of time and energy in any one or two activities? Sports, screen time, cell phones, social media? William Doherty, in his book, The Intentional Family, warns that many families are over scheduled outside the family and under scheduled inside the family.
  • As a parent, are you keeping your child from learning age-appropriate developmental tasks by doing things for them, or taking care of things for them that they should be learning to do themselves? Examples include: picking up their own toys, doing their own laundry, paying for some things with their own money, learning to cook, etc.)

A few signs of over indulgence include: trouble learning to delay gratification; trouble giving up being the center of attention; trouble being competent in everyday life skills, including self-care and relationship skills; trouble taking personal responsibility – feeling like it’s always someone else’s fault; and trouble knowing what is normal.

As a result of over indulgence, kids have come to regard overload as normal, and anything less is boring. In contrast to this is a term coming to the forefront called “creative deprivation.” Parents are coming to understand that kids can have too much of a good thing, so they place limitations on it.

An example from an article in “The Tightwad Gazette” outlines this concept nicely. On a recent trip to the mall, children ordered junior ice cream cones and consumed them in complete silence, savoring every bite. Many parents, seeing their children appreciate junior cones, would start buying them cones on every trip to the mall. Then, seeing their kids’ enthusiasm waning, would assume they must “wow” them with banana splits. When those no longer produced the desired effect, they would move up to the jumbo deluxe sundaes, and on and on, until the kids become impossible to please.

When there is diminished appreciation, it is a sign that children have had too much of something. Instead of moving up to the banana splits, we need to, instead, decrease the frequency of the junior cone. We have habituated a certain level of expectation without appreciation. Another example of this is how frequently we go out to eat. It is no longer a treat, but a norm.

Here are four rules of creative deprivation to consider as we move into the holiday season:

  1. Limit things your kids don’t need, but do not limit the things they do need, such as good nutrition and parental attention.
  2. Provide them with creative alternatives to substitute for passive entertainment and “no brainer” play.
  3. Limit screen time, including cell phones, TV/video time and gaming. This will decrease the stimulation overload in their lives.
  4. Set boundaries, and provide rules and limits in all aspects of your child’s life.

Maybe it is time for all of us to take a step back and evaluate our own lives. Are we needing increasingly more expensive gadgets, clothing, vacations, foods or other stimulating events to keep us happy?

Creative deprivation may be just the ticket. Not only will it save money, but the simplification will also reduce stress levels and increase quality of life.

 


This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences educator, 801-399-8200, Teresa.hunsaker@usu.edu

Sources:

Clarke, J.I.; Dawson, C.; Bredehoft, D. How Much is Enough?  Marlow and Company.  2004.

Tightwad Gazette article by Amy Dacyczyn

 




Nine Tips for Fostering Gratitude – During the Holidays and Beyond

Fostering GratitudeThanksgiving may be over, but we can still foster gratitude within our families through the rest of the holiday season and beyond. Try these tips to get started.


What did you get for Christmas? This question is common for young and old alike. While it may be a way of showing genuine interest and sharing in the holiday excitement, it’s important to make sure gratitude for gifts and kindness is part of Christmas day and beyond.

Gratitude is a character trait based on a genuine sense of caring. It usually goes beyond a simple thank you, although that can be a good place to start. Genuine thankfulness requires thought and action in order to be mutually beneficial to the giver and receiver.

Gail Innis from Michigan State University Extension, states that real gratitude or a sense of thankfulness begins when we are able to recognize and point out small things that make us thankful. Adults can model the behavior through daily words and actions, starting early with young children. For example: “Dad works so hard for our family. Why don’t we make him a special meal to show him how much we appreciate him?”

Innis provides additional ways to develop an attitude of gratitude by citing references from The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website: (https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas ).

  1. Discuss a gift your child received during the holidays. Ask what the child liked about it. Talk about the gift giver and how nice it is to be remembered and appreciated by someone.
  2. Have your child draw a picture or write a note of thanks. Share how good it feels to get a note or letter in the mail. Assist your child, depending on age and developmental stage, in addressing and mailing the note. Putting feelings on paper can make them more real for a child.
  3. Make a thank you phone or video call to the gift giver. Encourage your child to talk about the gift and share how he or she will use it.
  4. Involve your children in local charitable events. Stay informed about community endeavors that help those less fortunate. Discuss upcoming events and brainstorm ways your family could assist. Include your children in a discussion about the charity you’d like to support and why. Even a very young child can assist in choosing a toy for a holiday toy drive.
  5. Read stories about generous people and characters. The book, “The Giving Tree,by Shel Silverstein, might be a way to open a conversation about the attitude of gratitude. In “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” author Carol McCloud tells of an easy way to teach children the power of affirming words and actions.
  6. Take advantage of winter days by helping your children clean out old toys, books and clothing they no longer use. Talk about how much other children will appreciate these items. Some local thrift stores, pantries or organizations will even deliver donations. Be certain to check ahead for rules on what the group will take for distribution.
  7. Have a Saturday family baking day and prepare packages of homemade items. These can be shared with elderly neighbors or a service provider such as the mail carrier, a bus driver or teacher.
  8. Pay attention to people who display generosity and kindness. Point them out to your child. For example, “Wasn’t it nice of daddy to help grandma on with her heavy winter coat?” Or, “Did you see that man pick up the litter someone dropped in the park?” Say thank you out loud when someone opens a door for you, lets you cut in front of them in the check-out line or does any other kind act.
  9. Take time each day at dinner or bedtime to mention one thing you are thankful for. (See:http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/teaching_an_attitude_of_gratitude_to_young_children )

Creating a feeling of gratitude that lasts beyond the holidays takes effort but is well worth it. Repetition and guidance from parents and loving adults are important keys to instilling gratitude in children.


This article was written by Kathleen Riggs, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor, Kathleen.riggs@usu.edu, 435-586-8132




6 Tips for Holiday Spending Plus GIVEAWAY

Holiday Spending TIps

Do you have a Christmas budget or spending plan? Here are some tips to help you keep your holiday spending in check. Don’t forget to check out the giveaway link at the end of the post!


Consumers spent $658.3 billion dollars on the holidays last year. Determining how much to spend on Christmas can be a tricky decision. Financial planners advise us to spend no more than 1.5 percent of our income on holiday expenses. So if you made $50K, you’d want to stay under $750 for total holiday spending. If you love the holiday, as I do, but do not want to be paying for it in May, here are a few things to consider now:

 

  1. Stick to it: Focusing on your gift-giving budget is one of the easiest ways to control holiday spending on your terms. Set a total spending limit on gifts. You will want to thoroughly think through the gifts you buy. If it helps you stay within your spending budget, suggest a gift exchange with family members, coworkers, neighbors, etc. Draw names instead of buying gifts for each person.

 

  1. Divvy it up: Once you’ve determined how much to spend on Christmas based on the recommended 1.5 percent, divide up the total among the people you need to buy gifts for, the holiday food extras you need, etc. Finish the spending plan before you start shopping, and keep track of the spending as you go along. There are plenty of Christmas gift budgeting apps on iOS and Android to help. Pick one with high customer ratings and use it to keep your spending plan updated as you go.

 

  1. Set it aside: If you are spending $8 to $10 each day for lunch, pack your lunch and save that money in a separate account for Christmas expenses. Over the next four weeks, that could add up to $200.

 

  1. Shop it smart: We are all familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday (the Monday following Black Friday, is referred to as Cyber Monday, when online retailers offer great deals often including free shipping). These major shopping events are designed to make you spend more! Take advantage of the sales but be ready to go with your gift list and buy only what you know you need. Stick to the list so you do not overspend.

 

  1. Power Shop it: Find someone to watch the kids during the day (to avoid the nighttime shopping crowd) and plan a power shopping day where you tackle your entire gift shopping list in one day. Make sure you do not shop on an empty stomach! Take your list and stick to it! Then enjoy time with your family making holiday memories while everyone else is stressing about last-minute gifts.

 

  1. Get Creative: You do not have to sacrifice that personal touch because you are spending cautiously. There are many ways to reduce expenditures and still give appreciated gifts. Non-monetary gifts are a fabulous way to keep costs down. Homemade gifts are often more meaningful. Coupons or certificates for service or quality time are a great way to share talents and make memories.

 

Stick to these 6 tips and you’ll be a lot less flustered as you check off your holiday gift-buying list. Between now and December 8th I’m giving away three Amazon Echo 2nd Generation Smart devices to help you check off your gift list! If you’d like a chance to win one, click the link below for the details.

ENTER GIVEAWAY


This article was written by Amanda Christensen, Extension Assistant Professor for Utah State University. Follow her on Twitter: @FamFinPro, Facebook: Fam Fin Pro, Instagram: @FamFinPro.