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Holiday Tip Sheet - Story Ideas for Journalists
(Released: 12/10/01)

By Allison Thompson, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- With the holidays upon us, it's time to celebrate. The University of Connecticut has numerous experts who can comment on a variety of holiday-related topics. Some story ideas and contact information include:

Who's Tending the Manger?
Scores of UConn agriculture students will forgo time off this Yuletide in order to tend the animals in UConn's College of Agriculture's dairy, beef, sheep, swine and horse barns. With more than 450 animals, UConn depends on agriculture student labor to help care for its livestock - care that requires someone on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year. The students get free board and critical hands-on experience; sometimes this involves tracking down calves born on Christmas Eve! These students represent Connecticut's future farmers and agriculture is big business in this state, accounting for nearly $1 billion in income last year according to the Statistical Reporting Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To learn more and meet some of the students, contact David Bauman at (860) 486-5627.

Deck the Halls
Poinsettias are always red, right? Not if you get them from UConn's Floriculture Greenhouse. The building, open to the public, has more than 300 poinsettias in dozens of varieties and colors ranging from the traditional red and white to orange, burgundy and speckled. Members of the public can visit the greenhouse to buy poinsettias and other flowers from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday or 12:30 to 3 p.m. Friday. For more information, call Nick Petit at (860) 486-2042.

Staying Healthy During the Holidays
Decorations may make a home festive, but they can also be dangerous to young children. To make holiday homes safe, Mary McCormick, administrative director at the Connecticut Poison Control Center at the UConn Health Center, reminds adults not to leave alcoholic drinks or toiletries like shaving lotion and perfume which contain alcohol, in the reach of children. Lamp oil, holly, mistletoe, balsam, juniper, cedar, pines and fir can also be harmful if ingested. McCormick also notes that potentially hazardous sprays such as artificial snow, evergreen scent sprays and glitter should never be used without proper ventilation. Anyone with questions, can call the Poison Control Center's 24-hour hotline at (800) 222-1222.

Battling the Holiday Blues
Recent events could make this holiday season hold even more significance to families and friends than perhaps in years past, says Dr. Julian Ford, clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the UConn Health Center. Everyone has been affected by the terrorist attack on our country and as the holidays approach, we look forward to the security and comfort of family and friends. It's important, however, to look at holiday expectations in a realistic manner. Otherwise we simply set ourselves up for disappointment, says Dr. Ford. For those who don't get in the holiday mood, he notes that holiday blues are normal and temporary. Dr. Ford reminds people who do get caught up in the hectic pace that can accompany the holidays not to let it get the best of them. For more information, contact Dr. Julian Ford at (860) 679-2730.

Christmas Tree Maintenance
The recent dry weather may have left Christmas trees with lower moisture levels than usual. Steve Broderick, extension forester with UConn's Cooperative Extension System, suggests that consumers cut their own or buy locally grown fresh cut trees and get them home and in a stand filled with water as quickly as possible. People interested in already cut trees should run their hands along the branches and gently bang the tree on the ground. If a large number of needles falls off, the tree is dry and the consumer should select another one, Broderick says. Make a new cut on the bottom of pre-cut trees before placing them in the stand. All trees should be put in a stand that holds a minimum of a gallon of water and the water level should be checked frequently. For more information, call Steve Broderick at (860) 774-9600.

Controlling Holiday Spending
Everyone wants to make the holiday season memorable, but by exercising good common sense, people can avoid going into debt to do it. Lynne Grant, a consumer educator with UConn's Cooperative Extension System, reminds consumers to focus on the meaning of the holiday not the cost of the gifts they purchase for their loved ones. Shoppers should decide how much they want to spend before heading to the malls; keep track of all their purchases - especially those made with credit cards; factor in associated expenses such as mailing packages and cards, entertaining and decorating; and consider giving homemade gifts. For more information, contact Lynne Grant at (203) 207-3263.

Yule Tidings?
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, the conventional wisdom is that retail sales are likely to suffer this holiday season. Yet according to a new survey by UConn's Center for Economic Analysis, 61 percent of Connecticut's consumers anticipate spending about the same as they did last year on Christmas shopping. Another 13 percent of them plan to spend more while 25 percent plan to spend less. For more information about Nutmeggers' holiday spending plans and consumer confidence in the state this season, contact David Bauman at (860) 486-5627.

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