12 Tips for the Holidays

12 Tips for the Holidays

Red and green Christmas tree ornaments in a clear bowl

Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District

The holiday season is here and, with it, many colorful decorations, delicious treats, and fun events.  There also are hidden dangers that can mar this special time of year if we aren’t careful.  Follow these twelve tips for a safe holiday celebration:

  1. To reduce fire risk, do not connect more than three strings of incandescent lights.  Follow label guidelines for stringing together LED lights.  Check lights for frayed or exposed wires, loose connections, and broken sockets and replace as needed.
  2. Place candles on stable surfaces away from trees, curtains, and other flammable items and out of reach of children.  Never leave burning candles unattended or sleep in a room with a lit candle.  Consider using battery-operated candles.
  3. Use caution when decorating with “angel hair” and artificial snow.  Angel hair is made from spun glass and can irritate eyes and skin; always wear gloves when handling or use non-flammable cotton instead.  Artificial snow can irritate your lungs if inhaled; follow package directions carefully.
  4. Keep kids and pets in mind when decorating the tree.  Place breakable ornaments or ones with metal hooks near the top out of reach of little hands, playful paws, and wagging tails.
  5. Use a sturdy step ladder, not chairs or other furniture, to reach high places.  Get someone to “spot” you and assist with handing or taking items.
  6. If you use a fireplace, have your chimney checked and cleaned at least once a year by a certified chimney sweep.  Cleaning removes soot and other by-products that can lead to chimney fires and carbon monoxide intrusion into your living space.
  7. Use special care when giving toys that use coin lithium batteries to children.  Older children’s devices with these batteries can be enticing to young children.  Ingestion of button batteries can cause serious injury or death.  Lock away spare batteries and closely supervise young children around products with button batteries.  In case of ingestion, contact the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline, (800) 498-8666.
  8. If you want to fry a turkey, consider using an oil-less turkey fryer or purchase a fried turkey from a professional establishment.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that since 2002, there have been 168 turkey-related fires, burns, explosions, or carbon monoxide poisoning incidents, 672 injuries, and $8 million in property damage.  Don’t add to the statistic count!
  9. Use a food thermometer to ensure meat reaches a safe internal temperature.  Click here for a convenient temperature chart.
  10. Refrigerate food within two hours. Cut leftover meat in small pieces and store foods in shallow containers so they will chill quickly.  Use leftovers within four days or freeze or discard.
  11. Reheat sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil before serving.
  12. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water to reduce your risk of illness.

Have a happy, healthy holiday season!

Sources:
National Safety Council
Chimney Safety Institute of America
Electrical Safety Foundation International

Stress Less for the Holidays

Stress Less for the Holidays

Holiday Stress

Holiday Stress
Photo source: Dorothy Lee

Tis the Season Merry and Bright:

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve there are greater incidences of stress and tension related headaches and migraines. Family stresses, long shopping lines, and unrealistic expectations are enough to trigger tension headaches even in people who are not headache prone. To avoid these aches and pains a strategic plan may be necessary. 

Planning is crucial not only at the holidays but throughout the year.  Having a plan and being organized makes everything easier and more manageable.  The key is to start early and don’t wait until December. This is where Christmas in July becomes useful thinking. 

The following are some tips to help avoid stress during the holiday season.  Make a schedule that includes all tasks you have to complete, how long you think each task will take, and when each task needs to be completed.  This is why Santa makes a list and checks it twice.

  •             Start shopping early to reduce time wasted in long lines with early-bird hour sales
  •             To avoid long period of times wrapping, shop in stores where gift wrap is free
  •             Shop on-line while drinking your coffee in your pajamas
  •             Track your purchases in a notebook or in note section of your cell phone
  •             Prioritize your social events and don’t spread yourself too thin
  •             Use your computer for online postal mailing to avoid lines at the post office
  •             Instead of mailing gifts, order gifts on-line, and have gifts directly sent to gift recipient
  •             Practice relaxation and stretching to reduce stress
  •             Establish a spending limit and stick to it

Be realistic about how much you can do as nobody likes a cranky Santa.  By following these tips, you will be as jolly as old Saint Nick.

Enjoy the holiday season with family and friends as it is the greatest gift you can give yourself.  And remember, laugher is the best medicine for stress! 

Happy Holidays!

 

       

 

           

      

 

De-Stress Your Holidays with These Smart Spending Tips

De-Stress Your Holidays with These Smart Spending Tips

picture of money

Creating a holiday spending plan and sticking to it can help decrease stress and reduce debt in the new year. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)

The holidays are once again upon us.  For many people, it can be a time of stress, frustration, and financial uncertainty as they drive themselves past their limits to try to make everyone happy and everything perfect.

One of the biggest seasonal stressors is spending too much on gifts, food, and home décor.  While it may seem worth it at the time, buyer’s remorse may quickly set in after the New Year when the bills start rolling in.

The most important thing that can be done to help curb holiday spending is to set a budget.

Maybe going all out for Christmas is a family tradition.  Great!  If it is, however, the best thing to do is to make a plan to save the money over the preceding months so it will be available to spend when the time comes.  Spending money that is not in the budget or overusing credit are surefire ways to increase debt and cause strife later.

The holidays should be about family, friends, and the joy of giving.  It should not be a competition to see who can have the biggest, brightest, most fabulous home, gifts, etc.

Retailers and the media work hard to send the message to consumers that the latest this or the greatest that are needed to get the full holiday experience.  However, it is important to resist their messaging and stick to the determined budget.

Including children in any discussions about holiday spending is important.  Let them know that there is only a certain amount of money available to spend on gifts and help them understand the importance of sticking to the budget.  While parents may feel pressured to get everything on their child’s wish list, focusing on a few special items will help families stay on financial track.

Cash and debit cards are the best ways to pay.  If the money is coming directly out of pocket, consumers are more likely to be more cautious before spending.  Use credit cards wisely.  Choosing to purchase with credit in order to receive airline miles or rewards points is fine, but keep close track of all purchases and only charge as much as can comfortably be paid off in its entirety when the bill comes due.  Avoid the pitfall of still paying off this year’s holiday spending next Christmas.

Some of the most meaningful and treasured gifts are those that come from the heart.  Custom, handmade gifts really show a person they are valued.

One large gift for an entire family that everyone can enjoy can also save money over buying something for each individual.  Many people also appreciate a donation in their name to a charity or cause that is near and dear to their hearts.

The holidays do not need to be stressful or break the bank.  By adopting a few smart spending practices, you can enjoy the holidays without the added worry.

For more information on holiday spending and strategies for creating a smart holiday spending plan, please call Samantha Kennedy at (850) 926-3931.

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Dine In:  More Favorite Family Meals

Dine In: More Favorite Family Meals

FCS Ine In Day December 3 Banner

FCS Dine In Day December 3

Is your busy, busy life making it difficult to spend time eating a meal at home with your family?  Research tells us families are healthier in so many ways when they eat at home together.  Maybe these favorite family meals from some of our readers will give you some inspiration.

Italian Night

My mother’s chicken cacciatore. She’s Italian and a great cook. She makes it with boneless chicken breasts, rice, sliced peppers, onions, tomatoes, and of course, garlic. It is so good and probably healthy. But maybe not, since I eat way too much of it. Friends and family come together on “Italian Night” to enjoy this and other Italian specialties. Molto delicioso.   Rick W.

My favorite meal was always when my mom made homemade spaghetti sauce for pasta. Wow, that’s good stuff. When I brought my girlfriend home, it became one of her favorite meals too. Thanks mom!   Alex H.

Father and son set the dinner table

Father and son set the dinner table. Photo Source: Wendy Meredith

Home Away from Home Meal

My favorite family meal was pork chops, broccoli, mashed potatoes, rolls and sweet tea, because my son, (my first born), cooked his first meal in his first home away from home at the age of 21 and invited our family to dinner. He was always the one out of five children who liked to have everyone in the family sit at the dining room table together and enjoy a meal as often as possible. Our lives consisted of football, cheerleading, church events, ballet, gymnastics, soccer, school events, jobs, etc. Our family of seven was a very busy family and always running here and there, but somehow due to the persistency of our son, we managed to have one or two meals a week together as a family. I was a very happy and proud mom when I received the invite to have dinner that night. The food was delicious, but the fellowship during “My Favorite Family Meal” was something I will remember and cherish forever.   Wendy M.

Let Them Eat Cake or Bread

Celebrations were very special in my family. Every year on my birthday, my grandmother would always cook my favorite food and bake my favorite cake (Red Velvet – Yum). When I was young I always thought it was about the food. But it was about so much more; we learned about manners and etiquette, and family coming together to share old traditions and make new ones. Whenever I see a red velvet cake or smell one baking, it brings back happy memories. I’m transformed back to when I was a 10 year old girl.   Dorothy L.

Growing up on a farm in Michigan, I’ve got a lot of good memories involving food! From making butter in a churn, to picking blackberries in the woods for Mom to make pie, to getting ripe tomatoes from the garden for a tasty bacon and tomato sandwich and many more.  I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up knowing exactly where our food comes from!

A favorite and happy memory is Mom making bread on cold days, letting the loaves rise by the heat registers, then baking it in the oven. The whole house smelled like delicious bread. Once it was done, Mom would cut it while it was still warm and give us thick slices with warm, melting butter on it!   Cheryl V.

December 3rd is Dine In Day.  It’s a chance to make a commitment to have a meal at home with family. So, make the decision to eat with your family at home this December 3rd.

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FCS Dine In Day

 

 

 

Dine In:  Thanksgiving Favorites

Dine In: Thanksgiving Favorites

FCS Ine In Day December 3 Banner

FCS Dine In Day December 3

What’s your favorite family meal? Is it an event like a picnic or Super Bowl Party? Is it reoccurring like Wednesday night church dinner? Maybe it’s an annual meal like Thanksgiving. Check out some of these special Thanksgiving meals, then think about a favorite meal for your family to share on Dine In Day.

What about Sweet Potatoes?

I think my favorite holiday meal story is from about 10 years ago when our oldest daughter was away at college.  She asked me what we were going to have for Thanksgiving Dinner and as I went through the list she said, “what about sweet potatoes?” to which I answered “but you don’t like sweet potatoes”.  Then she said, “No, I don’t, but I they’re supposed to be on the table at Thanksgiving”!

It’s such a tiny thing, but it touched my heart because it meant she had fond memories and that our family holiday dinners meant something to her!  PS – now she loves sweet potatoes and serves them to her family all the time!   Susan H.

My “Found” Family

Favorite Fall Things: pumpkins, scarecrow, leaves, flowers, and multi-colored corn

Favorite Fall Things
Photo Source:: Angela Hinkle

My favorite family meal of the year is on Thanksgiving, with my “found” family in Bradenton. Especially now that I live in Tallahassee, taking the trip down there to spend a few days with my best friend and her crazy family is definitely a highlight. It’s even more special now since I don’t get to see her every day anymore.  Plus? Turkey and deviled eggs! Yummy.   Sam K.

Memory We Will Always Cherish

My favorite meal happened 6 years ago during Thanksgiving. It was the first year that I hosted my own Thanksgiving dinner and my husband and I invited everyone we knew- family, friends, coworkers. We had 30 people share their holiday with us and we had so much fun. It was a lot of work and a lot of cooking, but it was so special to us. That day we were able to honor the ones we loved by hosting them and sharing that experience. One day, we will do that again. But for now, it’s a great memory that we will always cherish.   Christina W.

Imagining Warm and Cozy

One of my most memorable meals was Thanksgiving when I was in the 11th grade. My family decided to go camping in our pop-up camper for the weekend at a nice campground in central Florida. In keeping with the season, a cold front passed through that weekend, dropping the temperature significantly. Our little camper did not have a heater, so we shivered in our bunks and scurried to the central bathhouse, passing motor homes and travel trailers with condensation on the windows, imagining how warm and cozy their occupants must be. Despite the frigid temperatures, we enjoyed a campground-wide Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings in the community room. We made fond memories of the weekend, which we still laugh about, and are thankful for a warm house and the comforts and conveniences of home to enjoy the holiday and everyday meals with family and friends.   Judy C.

 

FCS Dine In Day circle logo

FCS Dine In Day

December 3rd is Dine In Day.  It’s a chance to make a commitment to have a meal at home with family. Research tells us families are healthier in so many ways when they eat at home together. So, make the decision to eat with your family at home this December 3rd.  Maybe you can tell us about your favorite family meal or be inspired to make new ones – for Thanksgiving or any time of year.

 

Cleaning Your Refrigerator After a Power Outage

Cleaning Your Refrigerator After a Power Outage

Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District

After an extended power outage, your refrigerator and freezer may develop unpleasant odors from spoiled food. To get rid of these odors, remove all food items and clean the inside, including drawers and bins, with a mild cleaning solution of dish soap and water.  You also can use a solution of 2 tablespoons baking soda and 4 cups warm water.  Strong cleansers may affect the taste of food or ice cubes or damage the interior finish. Rinse with a bleach solution of one tablespoon unscented chlorine bleach per gallon of water to sanitize. Lemon juice and water solutions are not strong enough to sanitize effectively. Leave the unit unplugged with the door open for 1-2 days to air out.  Spray disinfectant around hinges, locks, and into any openings.

If odors persist, try one of these methods:

  • Spread activated charcoal, clean cat litter, or baking soda on trays and place on refrigerator or freezer shelves.  Activated charcoal is extra dry and absorbs odors more quickly than cooking-type charcoal.  It is available at drug or pet supply stores.  Run the appliance empty for 2-3 days.  If the odor remains, replace with new charcoal and repeat.
  • Place trays of freshly ground coffee on appliance shelves and close the door.  Run the appliance empty for 2-3 days.  If a slight coffee aroma remains, wash and rinse shelves and the aroma should dissipate.
  • Pack each shelf with crumpled newspaper. Set a cup of water on the top shelf or sprinkle the newspaper with water.  Allow appliance to run for approximately 5-6 days.  While this method is time-consuming, it is effective in removing strong odors.
  • Use a commercial product designed for refrigerator and freezer odor removal.  These products are available at hardware, grocery, discount, and variety stores.

Once the odor is gone, rinse and dry the appliance.  Don’t forget to clean gaskets with a mild cleaning solution and warm water; rinse and dry.  Dirt and spills can prevent the gasket from sealing well, resulting in a loss of cold air and higher utility bills.  Also, clean the coils and front grill with a brush or vacuum cleaner to remove dirt that can hinder air flow to the condenser.

Use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer.  The refrigerator should be between 33˚F and 40˚F and the freezer at 0 degrees or below.

If there is still an odor after trying these steps, it is possible meat or fish drippings have seeped into the insulation.  An appliance service technician may need to remove the liner and replace the insulation or the appliance may need to be replaced.

Sources:
My Florida Home Book – University of Florida/IFAS Extension
Solving Odor Problems in Your Refrigerator or Freezer – University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cooperative Extension
When the Power Goes Off – Clemson Cooperative Extension
Cleaning the Fridge – North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension