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Three Family-Friendly Activities to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Hurricane Michael was the first ever Category 5 hurricane on record to impact the Florida Panhandle.

Are you ready?  The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season began June 1. The official hurricane weather season continues until November 30, 2019. For Florida residents, it is never too early and not too late to prepare for this year’s hurricane season.  NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released a forecast prediction reporting a 40% chance of a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season and a 30% chance “above normal” indicating a range of 4-8 hurricanes, including 2-4 hurricanes of category 3 or higher.  With this information provided as a means to increase disaster preparedness awareness, it is imperative that our families take action now to minimize the anxiety, stress, and hardships that occur when a disaster strikes. The following information details three family-friendly disaster preparedness activities to complete during the month of June to be hurricane ready for the 2019 season followed by useful informational links.

 

Build a Disaster Preparedness Bucket

complete disaster bucket

The contents of a disaster bucket assembled by Wakulla County Emergency Management Director Jennifer Nagy.

One annual activity that families can do together is “build a disaster preparedness bucket.”  Families may prepare large plastic storage containers with lids for hurricane snacks and other necessary items. In a storm situation where conditions may require you to move to safety, preparing a 5 gallon bucket with a lid full of recommended essential items will provide a portable, easy-to-store alternative that the whole family can use. Buckets may be purchased at local hardware or home improvement stores. In your area, organizations like your local city or county emergency management department or the Red Cross may offer a bucket giveaway program with pre-stocked disaster preparedness kits.


Talk About Your Communications Plan

As a family, decide who will be the point of contact for all members to contact in case of emergency.  This activity is an excellent way to engage your child in critical thinking and problem solving. The person or people should be located outside the impacted area – a grandparent or other relative or family friend in another state would be one possibility. Provide each family member with a laminated contact list – with emails, phone numbers, and addresses – that can be kept in disaster preparedness kits, saved in phones, or stored in wallets and backpacks.  Local business supply stores, mail or copy centers in your area may offer laminating services to make waterproof contact lists for safe storage and easy reference.


Have a “Meals To Ready” Taste Test Dinner

After a disaster, your family may be without power for several days or longer. To enjoy safe, hot meals, one option is “meals ready to eat” also known as MREs.  MREs are a complete, filling & nutritious way to feed your family. MREs can be purchased online or in the camping section of stores like Bass Pro or Wal-Mart. These meals have a long shelf life and can be stored for months until needed. Some MREs include built-in heaters while others require boiling water to prepare. Camping MREs tend to be an entrée only. Military style MREs will have most, if not all, of the following components: entrée, side dish, bread, spread, dessert, cold drink mix, instant coffee, spoon, condiments, napkin, moist towelette, and a flameless ration heater.

Completing an MRE taste test as a family planning activity will help you determine which products your children will eat when the time comes to use the MREs. The taste test can be fun for the whole family – have everyone taste and then rate each meal or meal component on a scale of 1 to 5 – with 5 being the best possible in flavor and food quality. When you get ready to purchase a supply of MREs, you will know whether your family is going to prefer lasagna to white chicken chili and can shop with confidence!

For more information about hurricane season preparation or 4-H programs in your county, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.


Resources 

Grilling for Success: The Florida 4-H Tailgating Contest

Grilling for Success: The Florida 4-H Tailgating Contest

Youth grilling

A 2018 NW District 4-H Tailgating Contest participant prepares to grill

Imagine the smell of a charcoal grill on a breezy summer day. A neighbor is grilling in their backyard, and you wish you were invited over for dinner.  Would it be even better if it was your child or grandchild doing the grilling for you?

Fire up Your Grill!

4-H members have been firing up their charcoal grills  and participating in the Florida 4-H Tailgating Contest since 2016. Designed to promote the use of animal protein in the diet, youth learn the art and science of safely preparing beef, pork, poultry, and seafood in an outdoor setting providing opportunities for 4-H youth to develop life skills, including decision making and healthy lifestyle choices.

In the Florida 4-H Tailgating Contest, youth grill two, 6-8 ounce portions of one of the following proteins:

  • beef
  • pork
  • poultry – turkey breast or half chicken
  • shrimp – fresh, headless and de-veined

While youth are grilling, judges observe food and fire safety actions and ask questions about the recipe and safety knowledge. A team of judges evaluates the cooked product by taste testing and scoring each entry.

4-H Tailgating District Contest

After youth compete at county contests or participate in day camps, they can register for the district contest. There are four district contests hosted throughout the state including our Northwest District contest held at the Washington County Ag Center on July 20, 2019.  Cash prizes at the district level are awarded in each protein category – 1st place $400, 2nd place $250, 3rd place $100 and 4th place $50.

Winn Dixie, National Beef and Sonny's logos

Scholarships and prizes are awarded thanks to these sponsors.

4-H Tailgating State Contest

The top two winners from each protein are then eligible to compete in the state contest held at the University of Florida on September 28, 2019. For the state contest, the 1st place winner in each protein area receives a $1,500 college scholarship and the 2nd place winner receives a $1,000 college scholarship.

Since the Florida 4-H Tailgating contest began in 2016, over $63,000 in scholarship money has been awarded to Florida 4-H members made possible by sponsorships from Winn-Dixie, National Beef, and Sonny’s.

Learn More at a Tailgating Day Camp

Last summer, over 100 youth attended day camps to learn about identifying cuts of meat, preventing food cross contamination and food-borne illnesses, grilling techniques, food safety and fire safety.  Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office to find a grilling day camp near you so you can participate in the 2019 Northwest District 4-H Tailgating Contest!  Follow us on Facebook to see event details!

Resources

Out of Gas: Helpful Tips for Busy People

Woman with her face down on a desk

Are you physically or mentally running on E?

Are you racing “90 to nothing” in your daily life?   until something forces us to hit the brakes or the emergency brake is applied. Instead of clearing our plates, we add sideboards onto them so that we can accept more.

We wear many hats outside of work such as a family member, caregiver, volunteer, student, etc. Some days we find ourselves in foul moods where we lack comprehension, patience, and focus. Is it because we are hangry (hungry + angry) or just plain ole tired?  You’ve heard the saying; “you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip”… or is that a beet?…LoL, you get the point. How do we avoid the breakdown that can and will happen if we keep pushing ourselves without intentional refueling?

Here are several tips to help you stay fueled and refreshed:

  • Block scheduling: I shared a photo of a tool that I use, but you use what works for you. The key thing is for you to understand where you can capture time for yourself to refuel.
  • Rest: Sleep on a regular schedule and take breaks during the day.
  • Eat well: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
  • Have some fun: You are encouraged to have fun. Adulting is tough.
  • Take lunch: Go visit a local library, museum, or sit in your car at a local park.
  • Vacation: Plan for it, and take it. But leave some recovery time, so you are not rushing back to work the next day. Another option is weekend trips or a day-cations while kid(s) are at school.
  • Nurture your hobbies: When was the last time you ____________?
  • Guard your time: Once you’ve blocked it out, it’s yours.  Don’t let others guilt you into giving it back.

Slowly implement some of these tips into your life, and remember an empty tank is just that. Empty. You will be more productive by taking care of you, and you’ll be better able to wear all those hats.

Introducing the 4-H Food Challenge!

Introducing the 4-H Food Challenge!

basket covered with a cloth

4-H Food Challenge Mystery Basket 

Being creative in the kitchen…using a surprise set of ingredients…making a tasty dish…frequent watcher of The Food Network?  Then the 4-H Food Challenge camp is the summer day camp for you!

Take a Sneak Peek 
Here’s a sample list of possible ingredients in the Fruit & Vegetable category:

  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup of celery, sliced
  • 1 ½ cups green bell pepper strips
  • 1/3 cup onions, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tomato, cut into wedges
  • 3 tablespoons of canola oil, divided
  • ½ cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of cornstarch

Any idea what you’d prepare? What would you name your dish?

Participants in the 4-H Food Challenge camp will work in teams with 3 to 4 members. Teams will be presented with:

  • a food category
  • a set of mystery ingredients
  • 40 minutes to create a dish, prepare a presentation about their dish, and clean their work area

When time is up, teams will present their creation to a panel of judges describing their collaboration in creating the dish, food safety practices used by the team, how they worked together, and finally, a description of the dish including some nutrition information.

We all eat, so food safety and preparation are skills that we all need. 4-H Food Challenge campers will learn those skills along with nutrition knowledge, teamwork and presentation skills.  Look for this day camp opportunity in your local UF/IFAS Extension 4-H program this summer, and join us in putting our skills to the test!

*The 4-H Food Challenge is loosely based on The Food Network show “Chopped” and adapted from the Texas 4-H Food Challenge Contest.

Make Mindfulness Part of Your Daily Routine in 2019

Be mindful and enjoy the moment.

Now that the busy holiday season is over, it’s a time to reflect on the past but prepare and refocus for the new year ahead. As we focus on the new year, it is always refreshing to have a clean slate.  As the year begins to unfold, there are tips to help you manage your day-to-day stress levels.  It begins with mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”   Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (1991)

Mindfulness is best thought of as a way of being rather than an activity Almost any activity can be carried out with mindful awareness.

Three Key Features of Mindful Awareness:  

  1. Purpose –  intentionally and purposefully directing your attention rather than letting it wander.
  2. Presence – being fully engaged with and attentive to the present moment. Thoughts about the past and future that arise are recognized simply as thoughts occurring in the present.
  3. Acceptance – being non-judgmental toward whatever arises in the moment. This means that sensations, thoughts, and emotions are not judged as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant; they are simply noticed as “happening” and observed until they eventually pass (Naik, Harris and Forthun 2016).

Mindfulness is a mind-body practice that has been found to benefit both psychological and physical health. The primary psychological change that occurs during mindfulness practice is an increased awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present moment. Over time, mindfulness practice can help you to become aware of the space between noticing experiences and reacting to them by letting you slow down and observe the processes of your mind (Black 2010).

The ultimate goal of mindfulness practice is for you to take advantage of this space so you can make more intentional decisions – to wake up from living life on autopilot, based on unproductive habits of mind
(Black 2010; Walach et al. 2007).

According to the American Psychological Association, some empirically supported benefits of mindfulness include the following (Davis & Hayes 2011):

Psychological Benefits

  • Increased awareness of one’s mind
  • Significantly reduced stress, anxiety, and negative emotions
  • Increased control over ruminative thinking (a major cause and symptom of depression and anxiety)
  • Increased mental flexibility and focus
  • More working memory
  • Decreased distracting thoughts
  • Decreased emotional reactivity
  • Increased capacity for intentional, responsive behaviors
  • Increased empathy, compassion and conscientiousness of other’s emotions

Physiological Benefits

  • Enhanced immune system functioning
  • Increased brain density and neural integration in areas responsible for positive emotions, self-regulation, and long-term planning
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lowered levels of blood cortisol (a major stress hormone)
  • Greater resistance to stress-related illnesses such as heart disease

Spiritual Benefits

  • Increased self-insight and self-acceptance
  • Increased acceptance of others
  • Increased compassion and empathy
  • Increased sense of morality, intuition, and courage to change
  • Increased control over automatic behaviors
  • Increased self-discipline

The question is, how many of us would like to benefit from mindfulness if it provides these positive benefits?  All of us should strive to lower our stress level and enjoy our daily lives with a more positive attitude and more attentiveness. So, how can we  incorporate this into our lives?  The majority of this practice is about familiarizing yourself with what it feels like to be mindful, and getting better at “remembering” to maintain mindful awareness.

Experiment with creating your own mindfulness practices throughout your day. Being mindful of the sensation on the soles of your feet as you walk to your car or the taste and texture of your morning coffee can transform routine moments into deeply satisfying practices. However, having a ritualized and structured practice can be beneficial. To find out more about practicing mindfulness and how to incorporate a more structured practice in your life visit read Mindfulness: An Introduction.  

Sources:  Mindfulness: An Introduction. 2013, 2016.  Retrieved from the UF/IFAS Extension Electronic Data Information System:  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1381.  Publication #FCS2335

 

Handling the Holiday Blues

Christmas tree

Aim to find JOY in this holiday season.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, many people are filled with extra holiday cheer and enthusiasm.  Some are jolly but still overwhelmed with all of the activities, decorating, and shopping that needs to be completed.  Then, there are those that find the holiday season as a reminder of things such as the death of a loved one, family feuds, divorce…the list goes on. If you are feeling this way, here are a few tips to make getting through the season a little bit easier.

  1. Feel your emotions – Many people want to suppress their sadness or anxiety, but this only makes it worse. We are all allowed to grieve, cry and feel mad at times.  If you feel this way, let yourself feel your feelings.  You will feel better once you have accepted and worked through the emotions. You also do not have to force yourself to feel happy just because it is the holiday season.
  2. Reach out to others – Instead of secluding yourself, spend time with others whether it’s at church, a community group or with family and friends. Spending time with others and socializing is good for the spirit.
  3. Volunteer – There are tons of volunteer opportunities during the holidays.  Try something new and volunteer your time to a worthy cause.  You’ll feel great about helping others and contributing to a cause.A national survey commissioned by UnitedHealth Group talked to 3,351 adults and found the majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience.
    The research showed:
    *  96% reported volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
    *  94% of people said volunteering improved their mood
    *  80% of them feel like they have control over their health
    *  78% of them said volunteering lowered their stress levels
    *  76% of people said volunteering has made them feel  healthier
    *  About a quarter reported their volunteer work helped them manage a chronic illness by keeping them
    active and taking their minds off of their own problems
    *  Volunteering improved their mood and self-esteem
  4. Be realistic – Realize that times and traditions change as families grow and age. Do not focus on things having to be the same every year.  Be willing to accept changes, such as adult children may not be able to attend the family gathering, so utilize technology and talk through video conferencing, share pictures on email and/or Facebook.  Find a way to make it work.
  5. Set aside differences for everyone’s sake. Aim to accept family and friends the way they are, even if they do not meet your expectations. Leave grievances at the door for the day and enjoy your family and friends. Share those grievances and talk at a more appropriate and private time. Also, remember they could be feeling the stress of the holiday too. So, be patient if someone is grouchy or sad as you celebrate.  You may both be feeling the same way.
  6. Learn to say no – Be realistic in the number of activities you and your family can participate. Do not feel guilty because you cannot attend every party and event you are invited too.  Graciously decline an invite and share that your schedule is booked, but thank them for thinking of you. A host does not expect that everyone will attend their parties.
  7. Take a breather as needed – If you start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety, anger or sadness take a few minutes to be alone. Take 15 minutes to spend in the quiet to reduce the stress and clear your mind. For example: listen to soothing music, do a few mindful breathing exercises to slow yourself down or read a book to temporarily escape the stress.
  8. Seek professional help as needed – there are times when the emotions are just too overwhelming to sort through on our own. If you continue to feel sad, anxious, angry, etc. there is absolutely no shame in seeking the help of a doctor or mental health professional. It will only help you work through your feelings with a non-bias person. Helping yourself feel better will improve your quality of life and those around you.

Learn to take care of yourself first. Learn your limitations and accept them.  Don’t t let other’s expectations overwhelm you.  Just remember when you start feeling extreme levels of emotions and/or stress, take a few deep breathes and remind yourself to relax and feel the moment.  Be mindful of your surroundings and remind yourself of your many blessings even when going through difficult times.  Make it your personal goal to feel your feelings and enjoy what you can about the holiday season whether it is the twinkling lights, time with friends and family, the food or any of the many special holiday traditions.

Striving for and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an achievable goal and a National 4-H Council mission mandate for all of our 4-H members, families and volunteers.  To learn more about healthy lifestyles and 4-H, find your local UF/IFAS Extension office.

Sources: