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Does the month of December have you in a rush or panic to achieve the perfect holiday? Can you adjust your ideal holiday to be more realistic, so you don’t set yourself up for stress, disappointment or exhaustion?

Set Priorities

Set priorities before the whirlwind begins. Separate tasks you truly enjoy from those you do merely out of habit or obligation. What can you trim from your schedule to leave more time for the traditions that are most meaningful to you?

Let Go

Let go, of expectations, perfection, guilt, and traditions that no longer have meaning. Perhaps those expectations you feel pressure to live up to are created by you… let them go. Stop trying to create the “ideal” holiday, just enjoy your family and friends.

Be Transparent

Keep this in mind… those posts you see on social media or those family cards of the perfectly decorated home and perfectly dressed family… those are just illusions. My favorite Christmas letters are those that are a real description of the family’s holidays… Like when the cookies burned, the kids are squabbling, and the cat knocked over the tree…

Keep Perspective

Remember that this is just a season. If something does not live up to your expectations, it’s not the end of the world. Focus on the things that ARE going right in your life and acknowledge that this stressful situation will pass.

Picture of gingerbread cookies ready to be baked

Trim Your Schedule

Decide ahead of time how many social events you’ll attend. Don’t feel as though you must accept every invitation and stick to gatherings that you’ll enjoy the most.

Simplify

Cut your holiday card list in half, cut back on the number of gifts. Be selective – the gifts will mean more. Most people won’t notice the difference and will appreciate being able to simplify the holidays for themselves.

To help yourself set realistic expectations this year, ask yourself these questions…

  • When you reflect on past celebrations, what is most meaningful to you and your family?
  • How can you design your holidays to focus on what is meaningful, while letting go of those traditions that no longer have the same significance?
  • Clarify where your expectations are coming from… are these your expectations or someone else’s?
  • What is something you’d be willing to do differently this year to decrease your stress?
  • What is one thing you’d really like to do for yourself this holiday season?

The American Psychological Association has an entire webpage dedicated to this season. It’s called the Holiday Stress Resource Center and provides some great ideas on how to keep your expectations and stress in check.


Writer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Reviewers: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Sources:

“Managing Expectations.” American Psychological Association. Retrieved 10/17/2019 from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/holiday-stress-managing-expectations

Wickam, J. (2014). “Coping with holiday stress — Keeping our expectations realistic.” Mayo Clinic Health System. Retrieved 10/17/2019 from https://mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/coping-with-holiday-stress-keeping-our-expectations-realistic

Family enjoying a meal together

Family Mealtime

December 3rd is Family and Consumer Sciences Day.   The theme for the 2019 “Dine In” for Healthy Families is, “Neighbors as Family”. This December, I encourage you to host a “Dine In” meal with your neighbors of choice. This might be neighbors in an apartment, college dorm or friends from across town. Your “neighbors” might be people you see regularly from work, the gym or other community settings. Your meal can be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Interested? Look at the meal prep tips and recipes listed below.

Why should you say “YES” to Family Mealtime?

A “family meal” is when the people you live with or consider “neighbors” come together to eat and talk. Why should you add this to your routine?

  • Eating together can be an opportunity to have conversations with family and friends.
  • Regular family meals create a routine that may help children feel more secure.
  • Eating together can provide the opportunity to teach and learn basic food preparation skills.
  • Make it a positive place for conversation – place your devices (phone, tablets, etc.) away from the table. Focus on positive interactions with those at your table. Not sure what to talk about? Iowa State Extension shares Mealtime Conversation Starters to help you get started.

Would you like some ideas to help you get started on the Meal Prep side of things?
Here are a few tips for prep day:

  • On your meal prep day, focus first on foods that take the longest to cook: proteins like chicken and fish; whole grains like brown rice, quinoa; dried beans and legumes; and, roasted vegetables.
  • Also consider preparing staple foods that everyone in the family enjoys and which you can easily add to a weekday meal or grab for a snack: washed greens for a salad, hard-boiled eggs, a bowl of chopped fruit, cooked beans.
  • If you prefer not to precook proteins, consider marinating poultry, fish, or even tofu (in the refrigerator) on your prep day so that you can quickly pop them into the oven or stir-fry later in the week.
  • Multi-task! While foods are baking or bubbling on the stove-top, chop vegetables and fresh fruit, or wash and dry salad greens for later in the week.
  • As you find favorite ‘prep-able’ meals, watch for sales and coupons to stock up on frequently used shelf-stable ingredients like pasta, rice, and other whole grains, lentils, beans (canned or dried), jarred sauces, healthy oils, and spices.
    Need more Inspiration? Check out these easy-to-make recipes. 

Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Six Can Chicken Tortilla Soup

 Skillet Lasagna

 Veggie Crockpot Lasagna

 Southwest Shredded Chicken

 Egg Roll in a Bowl

Remember to enjoy time with family and friends. Enjoy conversations over mealtimes. Have fun making the meal. Remember to relax, talk and enjoy the time spent with your “family” – whether it is your family, friends, co-workers or neighbors.

Sources:

“Dine In” With Us! Family & Consumer Sciences Day. https://www.aafcs.org/fcsday/home

Mealtime Conversation Cards. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/Mealtime-Conversation-Cards

Writer: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewers: Patrice Powers-Barker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Lucas County, powers-barker.1@osu.edu

Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County, jones.5640@osu.edu

Holiday baking is in full force, and it wouldn’t be the same without the occasional licking of the spoon from the raw cookie dough that so many of us do without thinking! I remember as a child waiting anxiously for my grandma to give me the beater off her kitchen mixer so I could taste her amazing chocolate chip cookie dough. Although many share fond baking memories, there are serious warnings from the CDC and FDA to not eat any kind of raw dough, and for good reasons!

Most people know that the raw eggs used in doughs can contaminate foods with salmonella, but it may come as a surprise that consuming raw flour is associated with E. coli, a serious foodborne illness that can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, and fever. 

Why flour?

Flour is a raw, agricultural product that has not been treated to kill bacteria, germs or other contaminates. According to Leslie Smoot, a senior FDA advisor, “if an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour.” 

If raw dough is not baked to kill off bacteria or germs, then… bingo…we may consume contaminated food and can get sick. The CDC and FDA have issued many warnings against eating items with raw flour because raw ingredients are meant to be cooked before eating.

It is also important to remember that any dough, not just cookie dough, made with raw flour has the potential to be harmful. Other raw doughs may include breads, pizza, tortillas and even play dough and papier-mâché or ornaments made with flour. 

The risk is real, especially for children under the age of five. Their immune systems may be more sensitive or not yet fully developed, putting them at higher risk for illness. To keep kids safe, the CDC instructs parents to always bake cookies according to directions and keep flour out of kids’ crafts.

During this holiday season remember that there is a reason for cooking raw dough beside the obvious baking that takes place.  If you are one that likes to nibble on raw cookie dough and don’t think you’ll be able to resist, you can heat-treat your flour before baking and try a recipe for edible cookie dough.

Happy baking…and enjoy!

Author: Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Say No to Raw Dough! https://www.cdc.gov/features/no-raw-dough/index.html

Tane, S. (2016). How you can safely eat raw cookie dough despite recent recalls. Cooking Light. https://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/smart-choices/safe-to-eat-cookie-dough

Turner, T. (2017). Chow Line: Don’t Eat Uncooked Flour. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-don%E2%80%99t-eat-uncooked-flour

Turner, T. (2018). Chow Line: With Holiday Baking Season in Full Swing, a Reminder from the CDC to Just Say No to Eating Raw Dough. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-with-holiday-baking-season-in-full-swing-reminder-from-cdc-just-say-no

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2017). Raw Dough’s a Raw Deal and Could Make You Sick. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/raw-doughs-raw-deal-and-could-make-you-sick

Got (Winter) Squash?

One of my favorite cold weather foods is squash. Winter squash is different from summer squash in both form and function. It’s got harder rinds, more varieties, and greater nutritional value. The most common types–acorn, butternut, Hubbard, spaghetti, and crookneck–are super foods. They provide antioxidants such as alpha and beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Winter squash is also high in vitamin C and manganese.

The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in winter squash clue us that this food has great potential in the area of cancer prevention and cancer treatment. Winter squash also helps regulate blood sugar, an important factor in the control or prevention of Type 2 diabetes.

Gourds come in many different colors, shapes and sizes. They should be harvested before frost. A sign of maturity is that the stems turn brown and become dry. Don’t use the “thumbnail” test on gourds because it can cause a dent on the shell of the unripe gourd and lower its quality.

Winter squash has the potential to decay quickly, so inspect each variety carefully. Choose gourds that are firm and heavy for their size. The rind should be dull (not glossy) and hard. Soft rinds are an indication that the squash is watery. Don’t choose a squash if it shows any signs of decay, as those spots may be moldy.

Winter squash can be stored much longer than summer squash. Depending upon the variety, it may keep anywhere from one week to six months. Winter squash should be kept out of direct light, and not subjected to extreme heat or cold.

The ideal temperature for storing winter squash is between 50-60°F. In your home, this might be a cool, dark shelf, cabinet, or drawer in the kitchen, pantry, or closet. Squash will also store well in the basement if climate conditions are similar to the above.

Squash deteriorate rapidly if stored at temperatures below 50°F. Keep the surface of the gourd dry to prevent growth of fungi and bacteria. Air circulation will help prevent moisture from forming on the surfaces of the gourds; don’t store one on top of another. Also, do not store squash near apples, pears, or other ripening fruit. Those fruits release ethylene gas, which in turn may cause the squash to over-ripen and spoil.

It is especially nice to include squash with foods such as meat loaf and baked potatoes; an oven meal saves time and energy. But once a squash is cut open you need to cover it and store in the refrigerator. If you prefer to freeze excess squash, there are two preservation options. One is to cut the raw gourd into small chunks and freeze in containers or zippered bags. Or, you can cook the squash, mash it, and then freeze.

Written by: Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Sources:

Winter Squash

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/enjoy_the_taste_and_health_benefits_of_winter_squash

Who is tracking you?

Picture of a cell phone.
Cell phone

Is your cell phone at risk of someone accessing it? Our phones have contacts, pictures, videos, directions, social media links, banking, and all kinds of other information. I recently went to The Ohio State University’s Cyber security day. I learned it is not hard for hackers to get information off our phones, but the following steps will make your phone less of a target:

  • Be sure your phone camera is not Geo Tagging your pictures with the location and date, especially if you post to social media. 
  • Use fingerprint reader on phone.
  • Use two factor authentications (Google Authenticator).
  • Use a program that makes up passwords for you as it best to have a crazy random password.
  • Don’t reuse passwords.
  • Enable a passcode or PIN to access your phone (at least six digits).
  • Enable auto lock (when you are not actively using your phone it will lock in 5 minutes or whatever you set the time for it to lock).
  • Enable auto-wipe.
  • Enable the “Find your phone” or “Find your device” feature.
  • Delete apps you don’t use.
  • Delete accounts you don’t need.
  • Verify apps before downloading. Use App Store or Google Play to get apps.  

Be careful if you access public WIFI. This can put you at risk if it is not a secure WIFI, leaving you to vulnerable to hackers monitoring your activities. It is best to put a “vpn” app on your phone to use in those circumstances. However, be careful about free “vpn” apps. 

The Ohio Attorney General has some additional tips: 

  • Shut off Bluetooth and WIFI when not in use or you are out in public. Other electronic devices can connect wirelessly with your phone through Bluetooth. If you have your Bluetooth or WIFI turned on some stores and other places have tracked people’s movements when people are in range. 
  • Be sure to update your phone and apps when updates are available.
  • Use an antivirus app.
  • If you are not sure about a text message, a call or email don’t answer or click. 

To be secure anywhere putting your phone on “Airplane mode” is the safest according to some cybersecurity people. “Big Brother” may be listening and/or watching. Protect your privacy.

Author: Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

References:

Dave Yost, Ohio Attorney General, (2019). Protect Your Apps:  How to Make Your Smartphone More Secure, available at https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Files/Publications-Files/Publications-for-Consumers/CHIPP-Stay-Safe-in-Cyberspace

Federal Commerce Commission, (2015).  Ten Steps to Smartphone Security, Available at https://www.fcc.gov/sites/default/files/smartphone_master_document.pdf

Neighbors As Family

Have you been celebrating the 50 years of Mr. Rogers? If you follow the stories, you know there are many ways to watch, learn and celebrate. For example, check out the Won’t You Be My Neighbor? film, the new movie (coming soon) A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and a United States Postal Service Forever Stamp.  To celebrate World Kindness Day last week, not only did adults wear their cardigans but the newborn babies at Pittsburgh’s West Penn Hospital were also dressed in miniature red cardigans to recognize the kindness messages of Mr. Rogers.

residential-2729103_1920

The highlights and celebrations remind us of the intentional work and messages by Fred Rogers that encourage all of us, young and old, to:

  • feel good about ourselves
  • understand our feelings
  • build relationships with others
  • wonder and learn
  • be ready for new experiences
  • learn how to talk about difficult subjects

The work of Mr. Rogers is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. How do you define your neighbors? Another organization that is using the theme of neighbors is the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS). Since 2014, nearly half a million people have committed to “Dining In” on December 3rd, Family & Consumer Sciences (FCS) Day. Each year AAFCS promotes a theme, shares information and tallies the number of people who commit to eating a meal together. With the 2019 theme, Neighbors as Family, AAFCS notes that neighbors come in many different forms. We can be neighbors with others from where we live (urban, suburban, city, rural/farms) to types of housing (Single dwelling homes, Homeowners group, Subdivision, Condo/high rise, Apartment building) to types of communities (Retirement community, College dorm, College sorority/fraternity house, Campus neighbors) and to places where we spend time with others (Office building, Office staff, Office neighbors, Gym). In addition to their list, other definitions of neighbors as family can be sports teams, those we worship with, cultural clubs, 4-H clubs, extended family, and friends as family.

achievement-3953952__480Pixabay

I have a child in elementary school, so some of our neighbors as family include families in scouts and dance club. This year our scout meeting happens to land during the week of December 3rd so we’re meeting, learning and eating together as neighbors and family that evening at school. Are you interested in being part of an online neighbors as family this year? Please join me and others in signing up at the AAFCS webpage, hosting a simple meal, and posting your photos for Dine In Day 2019. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a formal, elaborate meal! The important thing is to take some time, sit down together, enjoy some food and camaraderie.

FCS_Day_Sign-Up_Graphic_

I not sure that the AAFCS 2019 theme for Dine In Day, December 3rd was planned to coincide with celebrations of Mr. Roger’s 50 years but I’d like to think that Mr. Rogers would approve of the theme Neighbors as Family.

Sources:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, movie trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VLEPhfEN2M

Cheers to 50 Years, PBS https://www.pbs.org/parents/rogers

Dine In With Us, FCS Day, American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences,  https://www.aafcs.org/fcsday/home

For World Kindness Day, a hospital dressed newborns in red cardigans like Mister Rogers, Joshua Bote, USA Today

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/parenting/2019/11/13/world-kindness-day-newborns-red-cardigans-honor-mister-rogers/4181101002/

Mister Rogers Forever Stamp, USPS https://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2018/pr18_022.htm

Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, https://www.misterrogers.org/the-messages/

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? PBS http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/wont-you-be-my-neighbor/

Author: Patrice Powers-Barker, CFLE, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Lucas County

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Franklin County.

Couple talking to doctor about diabetes

November is American Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a serious and costly chronic disease that affects about 10% of all US adults. What’s often lost in this statistic though, is that they have loved ones who often share the burden of managing diabetes. When a person is diagnosed with diabetes they often have multiple behaviors that they are asked to adopt, including changing eating and physical activity patterns, monitoring blood sugar and taking medication. Loved ones can either help or hurt someone manage diabetes depending on how they communicate and interact.  Poor relationships between family members can lead to poor diabetes self-care, high blood sugars, stress, and many other negative health outcomes.

Family members and loved ones can help a loved one by adopting these strategies:

  • Be aware that behavior change is difficult and can take months to develop a habit. People go through different stages and can even relapse.
  • Nagging doesn’t help people change. They have to be motivated to change themselves. Others in the family can help the person with diabetes discover their own internal motivations. Asking questions that start with “what, why, how” can get loved ones thinking about what they are looking forward to in life and why it might be important to manage diabetes.
    • “What are you looking forward to within the next six months?”
    • “How will diabetes affect your plans?”
  • When it comes to discussing the potential consequences of inaction, use “I” statements and observations versus “you” statements, which can come across as shaming or nagging. For example:
    • “I care about you and I’m worried about the complications that diabetes can cause if we don’t make some changes.”
  • Listen to your loved one’s frustrations, concerns, emotions. Repeat what they say so they know you are listening.
  • Change your own habits and behaviors to support your spouse or family member. If you don’t eat healthy, it won’t be easy for your loved one!
  • Family members need to be on the same page in terms of understanding diabetes management. Visit the doctor together and ask questions or take classes together. Consider taking Dining with Diabetes: Beyond the Kitchen together. The course focuses on carbohydrates, fats, sodium, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This easy to follow three-module course includes interactive presentations, videos, activities, and access to trusted resources and apps.
  • Encourage your family member to set their own goals, and to find someone to hold them accountable.

Sources

American Diabetes Month. American Diabetes Association. (2019). Accessed at http://www.diabetes.org

Dellifield, J., Remley, D., Baker, S., Bates, J. Communication Strategies to Support a Family Member with Diabetes. (2018). Ohioline. Accessed at https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5322

Treber, M. Set a Wellness Goal for the New Year. Live Healthy Live Well Blog. (2019). Accessed at https://livehealthyosu.com/2013/01/07/set-a-wellness-goal-for-2013-4/

Author: Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, Wellness. OSU Extension.

Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Ross County.