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Family Friendly Ideas to Ring in the New Year

Enjoy a high-energy game of exercise bingo as you race other teams to see who can win! This game is available at your local extension office.

Enjoy a high-energy game of exercise bingo as you race other teams to see who can win! This game is available at your local extension office.

The New Year is upon us, and it is so fun to celebrate its coming with our families.  Do you have a favorite New Year’s Tradition? If not, there is still time to plan one for this year!  Here are a few fun and easy ideas to inspire you:

  • New Year’s Eve Bonfire– roast hotdogs and marshmallows and enjoy hot chocolate by the fire.  More family friendly campfire recipes
  • Game Tournament– set up a tournament of games. You can play Minute to Win-It Style games, board games, or even electronic/video games.   Each hour until midnight, let a family member choose their favorite game to play.
  • Balloon Countdown– You will need a balloon for each hour of the countdown, depending on when you start. I recommend starting at 6PM, so you would need six balloons. Place a slip of paper with a craft, game or activity written on it. Place a slip in each balloon, then blow up the balloons and label each one with a number, representing each hour in the countdown until midnight. For example, at 6PM, have a family member pop the balloon with the number six on it, and then the family would do the activity listed on the slip of paper. Continue to pop balloons until midnight! Some of the activities you might include are: make paper hats, write down New Year’s Resolutions, make noisemakers, enjoy fireworks, etc.
  • Progressive Hors d ’Oeuvres– this sounds fancy, but is really simple. Just prepare your family’s favorite snacks. Each hour, enjoy a different snack until midnight.
  • Family Movie Night is another inexpensive favorite.  Make homemade pizza or pop popcorn and enjoy a night in with your family.
  • Fireworks can also be a fun activity, but be sure to read our tips on firework safety beforehand.
  • Balloon Drop– a nice alternative to fireworks. Use masking tape to tape together 2 lengths of netting.  Extend the tape to make a “rip cord.”  Fill with balloons and confetti and tape to the ceiling (use painter’s tape so you do not damage the paint).  At the stroke of midnight, pull on the rip cord and enjoy a cascade of celebratory balloons and confetti!
  • And finally, you can go all in and recreate your favorite game shows.  Imagine win-lose-or draw, family feud, the price is right…the possibilities are endless.

Do you have a favorite family New Year’s Eve tradition? If so, share in the comments!  We want to thank you for another great year in 4-H! If you are not currently a 4-H member or volunteer, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office for more information, or visit for more information.

4-H Meets Community Needs through Service


Clear evidence of mastering a skill is being able to employ it in one’s everyday life. Knowledge is only as good as how we are able to use it. 4-H dedicates itself to educating youth with research based curriculum not only for their own benefit but also so they can share that knowledge with others. When we “pledge our hands to larger service”, this can take on many forms. It may look like teaching youth in a community center about robotics or gardening, making meals for the military and first responders, or cleaning up trash in local parks. In all our service, it is important that regardless of what this looks like that we focus on meeting a need in our community. Identifying these needs is sometimes difficult if they are not part of what we see around us regularly. Talking to people who do not have the same life experiences we do is a good way to start seeing the world in a different way and thinking about ways you can help others who haven’t had the same opportunities. In Escambia County, around 30% of our youth population lives in poverty (US Census). Outcomes of living in poverty are hunger, poor housing, poor health, and lower educational scores, just to name a few. Our 4-Hers are learning to use the skills they have gained in 4-H in creative ways to help address some of these issues. One club has received a grant to raise a hog that a youth will show and have processed so the meat can be included in food boxes for local families. Another club raised funds to help support the Council on Aging to provide air conditioning units to the elderly, who are more likely to be impoverished, during the hot summer months.


Escambia County 4-Hers assemble food boxes for local families at this year’s Farm to City event.

Whether poverty, pollution, safety, education, healthcare, or another issue is one that effects your community, the skills youth learn through 4-H can help address it. Not only does this help those around us live healthier and more productive lives, but it helps those who serve connect to their community and learn to give back. As with all 4-H projects, our goal is to help youth become more engaged and knowledgeable citizens that contribute to their world in positive ways. We encourage our youth to embody the spirit of generosity all year long, but during this season, be sure to explore the needs in your community you can help to change, even in the smallest way. If you need help thinking of how to best give back, contact your local 4-H Agent, local non-profits, or look up your county’s information in a database such as the US Census’ QuickFacts ( and think about what kinds of problems might arise from the information you find there.

4-H also offers many Leadership and Citizenship projects that can help youth navigate assessing the needs of their community and putting their skills to use. You can find a few such project guides at the following links:

If you are interested in helping guide the next generation to be compassionate, active citizens for tomorrow, consider becoming a 4-H Volunteer.  4-H offers a wide variety of roles to fit your interests and schedule.  Visit or contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.

US Census. 2015. American Community Survey 2009-2013 five-year estimates, Children Characteristics: Escambia County, FL. Accessed November 18, 2015.

Tips for Healthier Holiday Cooking

Tips for Healthier Holiday Cooking

Holiday MyPlateThe holidays are often filled with time-honored traditions that include some of our favorite meals and foods. As you celebrate, think of little changes you can make this holiday season to create healthier meals and active days. An added bonus, these small changes may help you to avoid those extra holiday pounds we all fear each year. Happy Cooking!

In the Kitchen:
• For gravies or sauces — if you are making pan gravy, first skim the fat off pan drippings. For cream or white sauces, use fat-free (skim) milk and soft tub or liquid margarine.
• For dressings or stuffing — add low-sodium broth or pan drippings with the fat skimmed off instead of lard or butter. Use herbs and spices and a whole grain bread for added flavor.
• For biscuits — use vegetable oil instead of lard or butter and fat-free (skim) milk or 1 percent buttermilk instead of regular milk.
• For greens — use skin-free smoked turkey, liquid smoke, fat-free bacon bits, or low-fat bacon instead of fatty meats.
• For sweet potato pie — mash sweet potato with orange juice concentrate, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, and only one egg. Leave out the butter.
• For cakes, cookies, quick breads, and pancakes — use egg whites or egg substitute instead of whole eggs. Two egg whites can be substituted in many recipes for one whole egg.
• Use unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas instead of butter.
• Try cutting the amount of sugar listed in recipes in half.
• Use spices to add flavor such as cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg instead of salt.
• Try baked apples with cinnamon and a sprinkle of sugar instead of apple pie.
• Invite your guests to make their own parfait with colorful sliced fruit and low-fat yogurt.

For meats and poultry (chicken and turkey):
• Trim away all of the visible fat from meats and poultry before cooking.
• Take off poultry skin before eating.
• Broil, grill, roast, poach, or boil meat, poultry, or fish instead of frying.
• Drain off any fat that appears during cooking.
• Chill meat and poultry broth until fat becomes solid. Skim off fat before using the broth.
• Skip or limit the breading on meat, poultry, or fish. Breading adds fat and calories. It will also cause the food to soak up more fat during frying.
• Choose and prepare foods without high fat sauces or gravies.

When Shopping:
• Start with a lean choice.
• The leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts (round eye, top round, bottom round, round tip), top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts.
• The leanest pork choices include pork loin, tenderloin, center loin, and ham.
• Boneless skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets are the leanest poultry choice.

Use the food label to help you choose
• Choose extra lean ground beef. The label should say at least “90% lean.” You may be able to find ground beef that is 93% or 95% lean.
• Processed meats such as hams, sausages, frankfurters, and luncheon or deli meats have added sodium. Check the ingredient and Nutrition Facts label to help limit sodium intake.
• Fresh chicken, turkey, and pork that have been enhanced with a salt-containing solution also have added sodium. Check the product label for statements such as “self-basting” or “contains up to __% of __.”
• Lower fat versions of many processed meats are available. Look on the Nutrition Facts label to choose products with less fat and saturated fat.

• Use a nonstick pan with vegetable cooking oil spray or a small amount of liquid vegetable oil instead of lard, butter, shortening, or other fats that are solid at room temperature.

Enjoy the Food, Fun, Friends and Family!
Cheers to Good Health
• Quench your thirst with low-calorie options. Drink water with lemon or lime slices. Offer seltzer water with a splash of 100% fruit juice.

Be the Life of the Party
• Laugh, mingle, dance, and play games. Focus on fun and enjoy the company of others.

Give to Others
• Spend time providing foods or preparing meals for those who may need a little help. Give food to a local food bank or volunteer to serve meals at a shelter during the holiday season. Giving back is a great mood booster.

Make Exercise a Part of the Fun
• Make being active part of your holiday tradition. Have fun walking and talking with family and friends after a holiday meal. Give gifts that encourage others to practice healthy habits such as workout DVDs, running shoes, and reusable water bottles.

Enjoy the Leftovers
• Create delicious new meals with your leftovers. Add turkey to soups or salads. Use extra veggies in omelets, sandwiches, or stews. The possibilities are endless!

Be sure your family and friends enjoy the food and fun, but focus on the time together. Remember this season is all about the memories, not just the food. You will feel better and enjoy your holiday time with less worry if you focus on staying healthy this season.

Source: USDA United States Department of Agriculture –

Making the Holidays Affordable

Save money and make fun memories this year by making your own gifts!

Save money and make fun memories this year by making your own gifts!

This Christmas, save money and enjoy the season by hand-making gifts for your children’s teachers, friends, and your co-workers. We have all received the “awesome” gift of a plaid tie or vanilla candle which is appreciated, but lacks a personal touch. Why not use this opportunity to make a little mess in the kitchen as well as some holiday memories with your kids? You could even do this as an activity for your 4-H Club’s Holiday Party.  In years past, our family has made many gifts for those who we would like to receive a little something. In our family alone, we have six teachers and between my husband and I there are 27 co-workers to purchase for, we can’t afford to go out and buy everyone a $10-$15 gift. Which would mean spending nearly $500 for those small gifts!

The question is, what can you make? Fresh-baked goods are a wonderful option, but can’t be baked too far in advance without freezing. There are many other options, such as candy, jams, and even pickled garlic! Cookies, brownies, or soup in-a-jar gifts are also fun options (especially for single parents or working moms). One year, our family made hot chocolate mix for everyone. Jelly jars filled with powdered milk, cocoa, and marshmallows were a great, well-received gift and only cost $1.75 each! This was much more economical ($58 compared to $495). We decorated our jars with a little bit of material and tied a nice bow. You could even combine your ingredients in a zipper bag and place in a mug for the gift or use a funnel to pour it into a plain glass or plastic tree ornament. Your imagination is the limit, and your relationships with your children will benefit just as much as your pocketbook!

4-H teaches youth to shop responsibly with our Consumer Decision curriculum and Consumer Choices events. Youth can also use 4-H’s My Financial Future Curriculum, youth will learn budgeting, how to balance a bank account, how to deal with emergency expenses and how to make educated shopping choices.  If you have a passion or crafting or money management, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer! WE offer a wide range of volunteer opportunities to fit your interests, skills, and schedule. For more information about 4-H, or to sign up for My Financial Future, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit