As the holiday season gets underway, shopping for gifts may be on the top of your To Do list. While there is usually no shortage of suggestions for the kids on your list, you may be stumped about what to give to your neighbor, co-worker, best friend, or favorite aunt.
Fresh fruit makes a healthy, colorful gift.
UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Fruit basket: Give the gift of health with a basket of fresh fruit – apples, oranges, and grapefruit are seasonal favorites loaded with vitamin C and make convenient snacks or a tasty, colorful complement to any meal. If the recipient has experienced some financial challenges this year, consider tucking in a grocery store gift card to help stretch their food budget.
Gifts of Service: If your gift-giving budget is smaller this year, give of yourself! Give gift certificates for a free housecleaning to an elderly neighbor or relative, a free car wash, pet sitting for a weekend, mowing the lawn, walking the dog, a plate of your famous brownies, or an evening of child care, to name a few. These also make great gifts for children and teens to give. Download gift certificate templates online or design and decorate your own.
Magazines: A magazine subscription is a gift the recipient can enjoy throughout the year. Check renewal offers that come with your favorites – many publishers offer free or greatly reduced gift subscriptions when you renew your own.
Donations: We all have that one hard-to-shop-for person on our list – they have everything or aren’t involved in any hobbies. Or perhaps they have downsized to a smaller home and have limited space for “things.” Consider donating in their honor to one of their favorite charities or causes. There are several humanitarian organizations that provide needed supplies to persons in Third-World countries and even here in the U.S. Your donation can purchase a “share” of a farm animal that can provide income for a family, or you can select school supplies, clothing, sports equipment, or other items to benefit persons in need. Gifts of this kind always fit, take up no space in the recipient’s home, and help others in the spirit of the season. To check how well a charity uses donations for their intended purpose, visit the IRS Searchable Database of Charities, Charity Navigator, or Guidestar.org.
Gift giving doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little creativity, you can celebrate the season with fun, meaningful, budget-friendly gifts! Happy Holidays!
Dining out with family was the thing to do when we were so busy doing so much outside the home. Now that we’re spending more time at home together, dining in is in again. You can start or continue the “in” thing by taking the pledge to dine-in healthy with your family this December 3rd. Why take this kind of pledge? Keep reading.
FCS Dine In Day
Making and keeping a promise has an upside
Keeping the commitment you made to eat healthy with your family means you get to reap the rewards of actually providing a healthy meal for your family. Additionally, keeping this promise can boost your self-confidence and self-esteem because you know you’re making strides to take care of yourself and your family.
Since dining in is in again, eating healthy with your family December 3rd makes you the admired one to your family and friends. As you dine in together, share praises and compliments as well as healthy foods, and reinforce the feeling of belonging. After providing these trendy experiences often enough, you can begin to enjoy the adoration and respect of others around you. You can be popular.
It’s cherished time
Schedule it. Block off time for it. Show up for it. You and your family are worth it. Start with the pledge on December 3rd. For best success for a healthy lifestyle change, make it a S.M.A.R.T. goal. That’s one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-framed. Here’s an example: Every Tuesday at 6pm, our family will eat a healthy meal together that includes at least two vegetables and a whole grain.
You can keep it safe
- If ventilation indoors is a bit stifling, eat outdoors when you can. Backyards, patios, and porches are great venues for your dining experiences.
- Clean your hands often as you prepare and eat your meal. If you can’t wash for 20 seconds with soap and running water, hand sanitizer is a good backup. Make sure your hands are completely dry after washing or sanitizing.
- Cook foods to the proper temperature. See the Safe Internal Temperature Chart.
- Put leftovers away as quickly as possible.
Tried and true or something new
- Have fun. Try decorating to make your mealtime together special. Let all family members participate.
- Make comfort food. But also try making something you’ve never had before, or try food prepared in a new way.
- Look through the cabinets or in the garage for kitchen equipment you haven’t used in a long time or have forgotten you had. Then use it.
For better health and wellness, make the pledge to Dine In with your family this December 3rd. Now is the time – especially since dining in is in again.
Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list hearing loss as the third most common chronic health condition in the U.S.? Many people do not recognize they have hearing loss, either because they do not realize it themselves or they won’t admit they have a problem. Statistics have shown that approximately 1 in 4 adults in the US between the ages of 20 and 69 who report having excellent hearing actually have measurable hearing damage.
Lower the volume on personal listening devices to protect your hearing. Photo source: Terri Keith
Most of us have heard that loud noises can damage our hearing, but do you know what is considered loud? Noises are measured in decibels (dB). Here are the measurements of some common sounds:
- 40 dB – Refrigerator hum
- 60 dB – Normal conversation
- 70 dB – Washing machine
- 80 dB – Traffic noise inside a car
- 80-85 dB – Gas-powered lawnmower
- 95 dB – Motorcycle
- 100 dB – Sporting event
- 105-110 dB – Maximum volume for personal listening devices
- 120 dB – Siren
- 140-150 dB – Firecrackers
Noises can start causing hearing damage at about 85 dB when experienced over an extended period of time. The higher the decibels, the less time it can take for hearing damage to occur. It may take about 2 hours for damage to occur at 90 dB but at 100 dB, it may only take 14 minutes. At 110 dB, hearing loss is possible in less than 2 minutes.
What can you do to protect your hearing? First, avoid noisy places when you can and keep the volume down when you’re watching TV or listening to music. If you can’t control the noise, try using ear plugs, protective earmuffs or noise canceling headphones. This is especially important if you’re going to be exposed to the noise over a period of time. If you’re not sure whether you should be worried about the noise level where you are, grab this smartphone app and check the decibels for yourself!
Remember that hearing loss from loud noises can be prevented. Once the damage occurs though, it’s permanent so take care of your hearing!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Signs: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/hearingloss/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Loud Noise Can Cause Hearing Loss: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/what_noises_cause_hearing_loss.html
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, It’s a Noisy Planet: https://www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/hearing-loss-science
It has often felt like time has dragged on in 2020, but despite all the challenges, time has continued to march on, and that means the holiday season is right around the corner. Thanksgiving is fast approaching; November 26th will be here before we know it. And while this year has been tough in many ways, we also have a lot for which to be thankful.
One of the ways we celebrate that gratitude is through a nice meal with friends and family. However, many of us have experienced financial difficulties over the last several months, which may put a damper on our traditional celebrations.
With that in mind, here are a few tips for saving money this Thanksgiving:
Keeping the sides simple and having guests contribute items to the meal are two ways to reduce the overall cost of a Thanksgiving meal. (Photo source: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS)
Shop with a list. This is good advice for everyday shopping, too, but especially at the holidays, when there are just so many delicious seasonal goodies available and we might feel like splurging. Don’t get carried away, though! Stick to traditional favorites everyone enjoys and only get enough to feed the number of guests, not an army. And remember, if it’s not on the list, don’t buy it.
Shop early. Supermarkets often begin putting holiday food items on sale weeks before the main event. Planning ahead and purchasing ingredients early can save money in the long run. Also, think about purchasing canned and dry goods for next year’s festivities right after this Thanksgiving, as ingredient prices are reduced in order to sell them more quickly and make room for other items. Just remember to check the expiration/sell-by dates to make sure they do not expire before next year.
Choose one type of meat. Turkey is the traditional centerpiece to most American Thanksgiving meals, but it doesn’t have to be. Other popular meats include ham, lamb, roast, and prime rib. The key to saving money on the meat, however, is to choose just one. Meat is one of the most expensive items on a Thanksgiving menu, and, odds are, if there is an abundance of side dishes, there won’t be a need for as much meat.
Frozen over fresh. As for the turkey, go with a frozen store brand turkey. The savings could be significant over a name brand or fresh turkey. Just remember, frozen turkeys take time to thaw safely in the refrigerator. Plan for 24 hours of thawing time per five pounds of turkey. For example, a 15-pound turkey will take at least three days to thaw in the refrigerator. Remember to place the turkey in a pan to prevent juices from dripping onto other food in the refrigerator.
Make it a potluck. Ask guests to bring a dish to share with everyone else. This way, the expense is spread out over several people and everyone saves money. There are some really great free websites that allow people to sign up to bring certain items. Customizing the sign-up helps ensure that everything is accounted for and that there isn’t a pile of pumpkin pies but no side dishes.
For more information about holiday savings tips, contact Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences agent, at (850) 926-3931, or reach out to your local Extension office.
Five Steps to Seasonal Savings (UF/IFAS Extension)
Food Safety Tips for the Holiday Season (UF/IFAS Extension)
UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution.
Although not well-known outside of the South, okra is a staple in Louisiana’s famed Creole cooking. The green pods have a rigid skin and a tapered, oblong shape. When cooked, okra gives off a sticky juice that will thicken any liquid to which it is added.
Use & Preparation
Wash just before cooking only. If pods are very fuzzy, rub them in a kitchen towel.
UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones
To cook whole okra, trim just the barest slice from the stem end without puncturing the pods. This way, the juices won’t be released, and the okra won’t get gummy.
Boil or microwave whole until just tender. Dress with lemon juice & ground black pepper.
If okra is used in a soup, stew, or casserole that requires longer cooking, it should be cut up and the juice allowed out.
Choose pods 2 to 3 inches long, deep green, firm, and blemish free. Pods should snap easily and puncture with slight pressure.
Refrigerate in a plastic bag up to 3 days.
Okra & Tomatoes
2 pounds okra, cleaned and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can whole tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Sauté onion & green pepper in oil over medium heat until tender. Add tomatoes, vinegar, salt, and pepper; stir well. Cover and cook over low heat 5 minutes. Add okra; cover and simmer 1 hour.
Okra, Tomatoes, & Corn
1 pound okra, in 1/2-inch slices
2 large fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup corn kernels
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 small green pepper, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt margarine in a pan; add onion and green pepper; cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add okra and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, corn, and oregano. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
Fat and cholesterol free
Very low in sodium
Low in calories
Good source of vitamin A, folate, thiamine, & magnesium
High in vitamin C
June – October
Ahhh…Fall! I love this time of year – changing leaves, cooler temperatures, and lower humidity make it a joy to be outside. It’s also the perfect time to give your house some TLC after the summer heat and before the cold winter winds blow. Regular maintenance keeps your home healthy, can lower your power bill, and saves you money on costly repair jobs as you catch them early on.
Clear roofline “valleys” of debris to reduce the risk of leaks. Photo source: Judy Corbus
Here are eight things to check inside and outside your home this fall:
Check weather-stripping and caulking around windows and doors. Check for signs of leaks, then repair or replace as needed. This keeps your heated or cooled air in and pests out.
Paint exposed wood. Check eaves, doors and frames, and other wood surfaces for chipped or flaking paint and touch up with a fresh coat to protect against rotting.
Check windows and doors for smooth operation. Install or patch screens, lubricate window tracks and door hinges, and repair as needed.
Clean gutters and downspouts. Use gloved hands or a trowel to scoop out debris from gutters. Flush downspouts with water or use a drain “snake” to clear blockages. Make sure they discharge water 2-3 feet away from the house to protect the foundation; a downspout extender can funnel water further away from the house. Clear gutters and downspouts allow water to drain properly from your roof to reduce the risk of leaks.
Clean roofline “valleys.” The V-shaped area where two roof slopes meet is the perfect catch-all for leaves, pine straw, and other debris. If allowed to accumulate, this debris can trap moisture, leading to a breakdown of the roofing material and eventual leaks. Use a leaf blower to clear the valleys to keep your roof dry and water flowing freely off it.
Clean the chimney. If you plan to use your fireplace, have it inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney cleaning service before you light the first fire of the season. This will remove creosote, an oily by-product of burned wood that builds up inside the chimney and increases the risk of chimney fires.
Change the batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This ensures the batteries are fresh, whether your detectors are hardwired, with a battery backup, or completely battery-operated. Test detectors regularly to ensure they are operating properly.
Have your heating and cooling system serviced. Your service professional will make necessary tune-ups, so your system operates efficiently for a comfortable environment and lower utility bills.
For a complete home maintenance checklist, click here.
Adapted from: https://www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/healthy-housing#mantained