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Posts Tagged ‘family time’

When did you last take a vacation day?

I’m not asking when you last took a vacation; instead, when did you take a day off for yourself?

Sadly, over half of Americans end the year with unused vacation days, collectively sacrificing 662 million days off. The Project Time Off report found that compared to employees who use all of their vacation time, employees who end the year with unused vacation time are lower performers: they are less likely to have been promoted within the last year and less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years. Furthermore, those who fail to use their vacation time report feeling more stressed than those who use all of their vacation time.

While I don’t always take vacations, about once a month I take a vacation day to spend time with my nephew. I call these days my mental health days. They provide me with a mental break from my work and allow me to spend time in a low stress environment. My nephew and I almost always spend time together outside, and we sometimes do activities together like coloring or reading story books. I find great joy in watching this little man explore the world around him!

A young boy playing outside in a play house

Playing “house” with my nephew

For me, these days are pre-planned. I believe that it’s important to take time for yourself to do activities that you enjoy to help prevent and cope with stress, and I try to practice that in my personal life. If this is a new concept to you, identify a few stress coping strategies you might use to take time for yourself when you need it, such as:

  • Spending time in nature
  • Working on a project in your home or yard
  • Doing yoga, tai chi or another physical activity
  • Pursuing a craft or hobby
  • Practicing mindfulness, gratitude or meditation

Additionally, you might find that you have days when it makes sense to use a sick day as a mental health day. Just as there are days when you find it better to call in sick to work than attempt to power through the day because you feel lousy physically, we all have days when anxiety and stress are too distracting to perform our best. When this is the case, go ahead and call off – and don’t feel guilty about doing so! If you had the flu, no one would blame you for calling off sick. Learn to prioritize your mental health as much as your physical health, and do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

 

Sources:

Heer, C. & Rini, J. (2016). Stress Coping Methods. Ohioline. https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5242

Morin, A. (2017). How to know when to take a mental health day. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201707/how-know-when-take-mental-health-day

Zillman, C. (2017) Americans are still terrible at taking vacations. Fortune. http://fortune.com/2017/05/23/vacation-time-americans-unused/

 

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

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

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When talking about grilling safety, I usually think about food safety – cooking foods to safe temperatures to prevent food borne illness, proper handling before and after cooking, etc.  However, two weeks ago, I stepped out onto my patio when I noticed a large cloud of smoke in the sky. As I looked around, I watched as a home in my neighborhood went up in flames. The quickness and intensity of the fire was overwhelming.  

Luckily, no one was hurt, but the brand new home that the family had only lived in two months, was a total loss.

The cause of this fire?  Grilling in the garage!  I’ve seen people pull their grill into the garage to avoid rain drops but I don’t think anyone in our neighborhood will ever do that again. This gave a new meaning to me for the term grilling safety.

How can you protect your family from this type of loss?

The National Fire Prevention Association provides a great fact sheet with safety tips when grilling. 

Tips from them and others include: 

·         All BBQ grills should be used only outdoors.

·         The grill should not be placed near any part of the home, deck railings. Place it at least 10 feet from any structure.

·         Never grill inside a garage or carport.

·         Keep it clear of eaves and overhanging branches from nearby trees.

·         Keep the grill clean – remove grease buildup from the grills and trays below the grills.

·         Never leave your grill unattended.

·         Do not attempt to move a hot grill.  

There are also safety tips specific to the type of grill you are using. 

·         For a gas grill, check the gas tank for leaks before using it for the first time each year.

·         Always make sure the lid is open before lighting it.

·         For charcoal grills, use care when starting the coals. If using starter fluid, use only one made specifically for lighting charcoal.

·         Keep the lighter fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.

·         When you finish grilling, cool the coals completely before safely disposing of them in a metal container. 

In addition to these tips, it is a good idea to keep a spray bottle of water close and also a fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it! A fire can grow quickly and you won’t have time to read instructions if that happens.  

I really enjoy grilling out  in the summer with family and friends. I know that I will not forget these safety tips and hope that you keep them in mind the next time you fire up your grill. 

Sources: 

Grilling Safety, National Fire Prevention Association. (2016) https://www.nfpa.org//-/media/Files/Public-Education/Resources/Safety-tip-sheets/Grilling_safety_Tips.ashx 

AgriLife Extension experts offer tips on grilling, food safety (July 2016), https://today.agrilife.org/2016/07/25/agrilife-extension-experts-offer-tips-on-grilling-food-safety/ 

Tips for summer grilling safety, (2015) http://www.dasnr.okstate.edu/news/2015/tips-for-summer-grilling-safety 

Author:  Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, rabe.9@osu.edu 

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

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In my family of four, it is often my thirteen-year-old daughter who requests a family game night. This is the same thirteen-year-old who truly does not want (or need) a cell phone because she doesn’t want to become addicted to a phone. I think she’s on to something here… She craves the interaction and time with family, and time away from electronics, work and other distractions. And while some family game nights end up with someone frustrated over losing…most of the time we have fun and enjoy taking time to play together. There are a lot of benefits for families who play good ole-fashioned board games and card games.

board game

Games build character

While playing games, family members must learn how to take turns and be a good sport. Parents can model good character and sportsmanship by encouraging one another and showing how to win and lose graciously. This can be difficult for children (and some adults) to learn handle the disappointment of losing, but all the more reason to persevere with family game night.

Games develop motor skills

Rolling dice, shuffling cards, manipulating small pieces… all these tasks help young children build fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Games train your brain

Some games help kids learn math, counting, strategy, problem-solving and how to count money. Games can also help teach spelling, vocabulary and general knowledge. Playing games also requires learning and following rules. Research from Carnegie Mellon University indicates that playing a simple, board game can lead to better academic results later in school.

Games teach flexibility

Sometimes it’s difficult to get the family to agree on which game to play and when to stop. The more members in the family, the more flexibility is required. Also keep in mind to be flexible about having a regular game night… sometimes the family may be too busy or just too tired.

Games help us turn off electronics.

It’s hard to play a game (well) and have electronics on, even in the background. Try some screen-free time and put on some background music instead during game night.

Games bring families together for fun

Numerous studies show positive outcomes for kids who spend quality time interacting with their parents. When families have fun together, lasting memories are created. Be intentional about spending time together and make family game night a regular part of the schedule.

If your family schedule won’t allow for a weekly family game night, try once a month. It’s well worth the investment of time and energy.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

Reviewed by: Alisha Barton, Program Coordinator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Miami and Champaign Counties

Sources:

Ankowski, A. & Ankowski, A. “Bringing Back Family Game Night.”  Public Broadcasting System. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/parents/expert-tips-advice/2015/07/bringing-back-family-game-night/

Laski, E. V., & Siegler, R. S. (2014). Learning from number board games: You learn what you encode. Developmental Psychology, 50(3), 853-864. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0034321

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Are you part of the over 90 million people who are hitting the roads in their cars to travel over the upcoming holiday? A little planning can help you to make this trip safe and even enjoyable for your family.

Before you go:Photo of car on snowy road.

  • Have your car maintained – check or change oil, tires, wipers, and fluids.
  • Carry a disaster supply kit – flash light, extra medications, bottled water or juices, cereal bars, blankets, first aid kit, and a fully charged portable cell charger are must haves!
  • Check the weather on your route and let other people know the travel route you plan to travel.
  • Pack healthier for you snacks to avoid drive-thru stops. Try cheese sticks, pretzels, nuts, fresh or dried fruit, veggie sticks, whole grain crackers, squeezable applesauce pouches, yogurt tubes that are pre-frozen, and bottled water or ice tea (not the southern-style variety).

As you roll out:

  • Make sure everyone is properly buckled in car seats or seat belts.
  • Don’t drive distracted, put cell phones away. If you are using it as a navigator – have a helper or pull over if you need to make changes or check routes.
  • Keep fuel tanks at least 25 to 30% full – you never know when weather will turn bad or you will get stuck in a traffic jam. (I admit to having a day when I thought I would fill up on my way back from Columbus instead of before I left, and then I got stuck in traffic. I watched the “Miles left sensor” tick down to less than 10 miles and then I quickly exited as soon as I could! Never again will I do that, it caused me great stress.)
  • Take breaks to change drivers and to keep everyone alert.
  • When you make stops, park in well-lit areas and try to keep valuables out of sight if possible.

Now that you are safely on your travel way – think about how you spend that time in the car. (The average long distance traveler goes 275 miles at Christmas.) I know there are many electronics available to keep everyone entertained – but why not use part of that travel time maintaining your family relationships by talking, singing, or playing travel games. Here are a few ideas that are free:

  • Play the license plate game, “I Spy with My Little Eye”, or the popular “I’m going on a trip and taking (then list items adding them in alphabetical order – apples, boots, change, doll – each person adds a new item and everyone must remember the whole list).
  • As your family ages – change the games to see who can name the most states and capitals, songs by a certain artist, books by an author, soccer/baseball/Olympic athletes on a team or in the Hall of Fame. My family of three includes a college-aged daughter, we often challenge each other to come up with the most songs by an artist, movies with a certain performer in them, or knowing what sports teams our favorite players used to be with.

While admitting that I love to use part of my travel time to read my latest book, spending a portion of trip talking with my family keeps the lines of communication open and strengthens our ties. I realize that electronic devices can keep families from fighting about what they are going to listen to, but those families also miss out on all those fun times we have enjoyed and that captive audience time to just talk about what is going on in your community/school/or with friends. I can’t wait to hear what your favorite travel game is – be creative and comment below!

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

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

 

Sources:

American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/highway-safety#Prepare-for-Driving

University of Delaware Extension: http://extension.udel.edu/factsheets/building-strong-family-relationships/

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dinnerTomorrow is Thanksgiving and many of us will be preparing traditional celebrations which usually include generous amounts of food.  I think that besides the time spent with family and friends, my favorite part of the Thanksgiving feast are the leftovers that can be enjoyed for the next day or two.

This is a good time to think about the potential leftovers you will have and how to handle them safely to prevent food borne illness.

The first step to ensuring safe leftovers is to make sure that you are handling the food safely from the time you purchase it until you have prepared it.  Keep the four basic food safety guidelines in mind:

  1. Clean. Begin by washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling food. Be sure that counter-tops are clean by washing with hot soapy water after preparing food, and keep cutting boards and utensils bacteria free by washing with hot soapy water or running through the dishwasher. Rinse fruits and vegetables that are not being cooked under cool running water.
  2. Separate. Help prevent cross contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry and seafood away from ready to eat foods in your shopping cart and your refrigerator. Use one cutting board for these raw foods and another for salads and ready to eat food.
  3. Cook. Use a food thermometer to tell if food is cooked to a safe temperature – just going by color is not sufficient. Always bring sauces, soups, etc. to a rolling boil when re-heating. If using a microwave oven, cover, stir and rotate the food to ensure even cooking.
  4. Chill. Remember the “danger zone” where bacteria can grow rapidly, 40° – 140°F. Keep the refrigerator below 40°, use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature. Chill leftover foods within 2 hours and put food into shallow containers to allow for quick cooling. Thaw meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

When you have prepared your dinner and are ready to serve, keep the time and temperature in mind for keeping the food safe for everyone. If an item that should be refrigerated inadvertently gets left out over two hours, throw it out!  No one likes to waste food but it is better than getting ill or even worse, making someone else ill.

Another thing to consider is how long you can safely keep leftovers.  Our colleagues at Illinois State University Extension have put together a list of safe times for keeping many holiday leftovers safely.

You might also be interested in trying some new recipes using your leftovers. The Illinois site lists several including this one for Turkey Posole (stew) that sounds great!

So, enjoy your Thanksgiving meal with your family and use good food safety practices to keep everyone healthy and happy!turkey-966496__480

Writer: Marilyn Rabe, OSU Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Franklin County, Heart of Ohio EERA, rabe.9@osu.edu

Reviewer: Michelle Treber, OSU Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, Treber.1@osu.edu

Resources:

University of Illinois Extension. Turkey for the Holidays. Turkey Leftovers. http://extension.illinois.edu/turkey/leftovers.cfm

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service . Leftovers and food safety. (Rev. ed.). Washington, DC: Author. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/leftovers-and-food-safety/ct_index

Michigan State University Extension. There are Limits to Leftovers http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/there_are_limits_to_leftovers

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Check Your Steps: Food Safe Families   https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/teach-others/fsis-educational-campaigns/check-your-steps/check-your-steps

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During the upcoming holiday season, I encourage you to make time to enjoy an extra family meal together. Family meals can nourish your mind, body and soul. They provide a great opportunity to enjoy better conversations and strengthen your family ties by spending quality, focused mealtimes together.

You can also use family mealtime to encourage good manners and conversations. Not sure how to start a conversation with your children? Download these conversation starter cards provided from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. You will find a  variety of topics which are available for teens, families, and children.


Did you know that regular family meals create a routine that helps children feel more secure? According to Ruth Litchfield, Ph.D., R.D., Extension Nutritionist, Iowa State University, children who often eat dinner with their families do better in school and have lower levels of stress.

Still sound too hard to do? Check out these simple tips to make it easier to have a family mealtime available from USDA’s MyPlate MyWins.

Have you tried fixing a crock-pot or skillet meal? Using a crock-pot can help you have that meal ready when you get home. If you do not have a crock-pot, you can try one of these easy and tasty skillet recipes. Add a small salad, fresh fruit and low-fat milk for a quick meal that your family can enjoy together.

What tips can you share to make family mealtimes work? Send those tips via the comment section on this blog.

As we enter this special week of Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take time to plan and enjoy an extra family meal with your family.

 

Sources:

Litchfield, R. (2015). Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Say “YES” to family meals. Retrieved from https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/5414

Mealtime Conversation cards. Retrieved from https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ProductList?Keyword=conversation

MyPlate MyWins: Tips Making family meals. Retrieved from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate-mywins-tips-making-family-meals

USDA What’s Cooking? Retrieved from https://whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/

 

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

Reviewer: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, rabe.9@osu.edu.

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all-is-wellWhat comes to mind when you hear the terms well or wellness? For most people, these words bring thoughts of physical health. Some of you will think about mental health. Most people, when given time, realize that there is more to being well than just physical and mental health. Some may even be able to name several areas of wellness. Many people may not realize that there are actually eight dimensions of wellness, though.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the eight dimensions of wellness are:

  1. Emotional—Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships
  2. Environmental—Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being
  3. Financial—Satisfaction with current and future financial situations
  4. Intellectual—Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills
  5. Occupational—Personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work
  6. Physical—Recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep
  7. Social—Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system
  8. Spiritual—Expanding a sense of purpose and meaning in life

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For about a month, I have been participating in a program offered through my employer/health insurance to help increase my emotional well-being. There are up to five areas that anyone who participates can choose to complete. Each area has suggestions for things you can do. For example, one challenge is to find. Some things listed include: going to the library to check out a book or DVD, attending a live event or stopping by a new coffee shop. It is fun trying to complete each challenge. It also helps remind me that even on those hectic days, I need to take some time to take care of myself.

There are small and simple things you can do to help become more well in each area. Here are some examples:

  • Emotional—unplug from phone, social media and your computer for 10 minutes each day, light your favorite candle and make time for friends and family
  • Environmental—keep your office and home clean and organized, find a favorite place or spot to visit and get involved in cleaning up your community or neighborhood
  • Financial—shop at thrift stores, limit unnecessary spending and develop a budget
  • Intellectual—read for pleasure, choose creative hobbies and participate in local/community events
  • Occupational—attend conferences to stay current in your profession and explore opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Physical—participate in regular exercise/physical activity that you enjoy, eat balanced, nutritious meals and snacks and get adequate sleep
  • Social—be genuine with others, join a club or organization and use good communication skills
  • Spiritual—volunteer, pray, meditate or find a quiet place for self-reflection

You may be wondering how well you really are. Take this assessment to get a better idea. After completing it, you can figure out which areas you need to work on and in which ones you are already strong. Click here for additional information and resources on how to strengthen your dimensions of wellness.

Author:  Misty Harmon, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Perry County

Reviewer:  Michelle Treber, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences, Pickaway County

References:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2016). The Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Available at https://www.samhsa.gov/wellness-initiative/eight-dimensions-wellness

http://umatter.princeton.edu/sites/umatter/files/media/wellness-self-assessment.pdf

Roddick, M. (2016). The 8 Dimensions of Wellness:  Where Do You Fit In? Available at https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/8-dimensions-of-wellness-where-do-you-fit-in-0527164

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