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Tipsheet: Holiday Seasons (story ideas for journalists) (Released: 12/11/96)

by Renu Sehgal, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- The halls are decked and the malls are packed. It's time to celebrate, but it's also time to remember these important tips from University of Connecticut experts:

Food safety:

Enjoy your good cheer safely by not using raw eggs in holiday concoctions, says Kenneth Hall, professor of nutritional sciences and one of the University's top food safety experts. ''Raw eggs should not be consumed in any form because of the possible presence of the bacteria Salmonella enteritidis.'' For many recipes that require raw eggs, such as egg nog, you can find an alternative. Also when preparing holiday feasts, Hall reminds consumers not to thaw meat on the counter because uneven defrosting can result in the growth of bacteria. Thaw meat in the refrigerator, and during cooking use a meat thermometer to be sure you are fully cooking your meal. Stuff turkey and chicken immediately before cooking.

Stress:

Parents and children can enjoy each other while preparing for holiday festivities, according to Cathy Malley, Cooperative Extension System educator. Everybody can contribute to decorating, baking, shopping and entertaining. But the extra demands of the holidays could trigger negative child behavior. Avoid this by being realistic about what to expect from yourself and those around you, Malley said. Children's anticipation of the holidays is hampered by their time concept of "now," so you can help them overcome impatience by having them mark off the days on a special calendar, she said.

How to pick a fresh tree:

Consumers buying fresh trees this season should select either a blue spruce, Serbian spruce, Norway spruce, Douglas fir or concolor fir. "They make nice Christmas trees and will also look good in the landscape," said Mark Brand, a professor of ornamental horticulture. For those wishing to plant their trees after the holidays, Brand recommends buying a relatively small tree, about 4 to 5 feet tall with a 1-foot deep root ball. Bring the tree into the house for no more than one week and be sure to set the tree on plastic to protect floors and carpeting from water and soil. Following the holiday stay in the house, the tree should be stored in a cool place, out of the wind and direct sun. An unheated garage or shed works well for this. Plant the tree as soon as the ground thaws in the spring.

Gifts:

Homemade flavored oils can be a dangerous gift to give, according to Diane Wright Hirsch, a food and nutrition educator with the Cooperative Extension System. Home concoctions such as oils flavored with garlic, herbs, tomatoes, or eggplant could all become toxic and cause botulism poisoning, she said. Bacteria thrive in an oxygen-free, low-acid environment. A safer gourmet treat is flavored vinegar because it is so high in acid that bacteria cannot grow, she said.

Holiday toy shopping:

Children learn about their world, develop skills and coordination and have fun with toys. Cooperative Extension educator Cathy Malley can provide parents with a guideline for selecting the right toys for their children. Resist buying toys impulsively and remember the child's age, interests and abilities, she said. Buy toys that can be assembled and reassembled by the child, but with pieces too large to be swallowed. Long cords or strings are dangerous because they can form a loop around a child's neck.

For more information, please call the faculty listed below or Renu Sehgal at (860) 486-3530.