In the home: Time to step up

By Carrie T. Brazeal

If you decided to be more active this year, good for you! Being physically active is an important aspect of getting and stay healthy.
You know the benefits of exercise: a healthier heart; increased endurance; healthy muscles, bones and joints; improved burning of calories; more energy; reduces stress; and improved ability to fall asleep and sleep well. These should motivate us to incorporate physical activity into our daily lives.
It doesn’t matter what type of physical activity you decide to do.
Just make sure that you are active at a moderate intensity to gain health benefits from aerobic activity. But what does it mean to be moderately intense? It means you need to get your heart rate up to a certain level called your target heart rate. There is a formula for determining your target heart rate but you have to stop your activity to take your heart rate. There are some other easier ways to help you decide if you are working at moderate intensity level.
Take the talk test. If you can easily talk while performing the activity, you are working at a light to moderate level. You may want to increase the rate of exercise slightly to make it more moderately intense. If you become out of breath quickly and find it very difficult to talk while performing the activity, you are probably working more vigorously. Slow it down slightly to be at moderate level of intensity. Remember, exercise does not have to be strenuous to be beneficial. The idea of “no pain, no gain” is not true. It may not be easy at first, but exercise should not be painful.
Take the sweat test. Regular, repetitive physical activity for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity level will probably induce sweating. Everyone is different. Some people sweat more and others less, but if you begin to work up a sweat, you are probably working at least at a moderate level intensity.
Consider a brisk walk. Walk at the level you would consider to be a “brisk walk.” Moderate activity is anything that makes you breathe as hard as you do during a brisk walk. A brisk walk at 4 miles per hour is considered a moderate intensity activity. For an extensive list of moderate-level activities, see
If you are just beginning to exercise, it is important to start slowly and pace yourself. People are all different shapes and sizes. They are also at many different fitness levels. It is important to work at a pace/intensity level where you are comfortable.
A recent study found that activity was considered more laborious and less pleasant among overweight adults when its intensity was prescribed at a level just 10 percent higher than what the individuals self-selected. Don’t impose an intensity level on your activity that makes the activity unenjoyable.
Select a pace that works for you; otherwise, you may find your enjoyment, motivation and adherence to exercise diminishing over time.

Good luck with your exercise program!

Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer
Sciences with Texas AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at or 972.548.4233 or metro 972.424.1460, Ext. 4233.

What’s your advice on holidays, decorations?

By Carrie T. Brazeal, CFCS


QUESTION: I will soon be taking down my holiday decorations. How is
the best way to store them?

ANSWER: Many of our seasonal decorations represent a great investment
in time, money and fond memories. They deserve proper care and storage
and should be cleaned and organized each year in a way that will best
preserve them.

According to Linda Adler, Extension Specialists for Home Furnishings,
look decorations over as they are taken down from display. Some
washable decorations, such as tablecloths, should be laundered before
storing. Dusty ornaments or other decorations should be wiped clean.
Tree lights should also be wiped clean but be sure to disconnect any
electrical items before doing so. This is also a good time to check for
and replace burned-out bulbs.

Since many holiday decorations are fragile, be sure they are well
packed and stored properly. Use large, sturdy cardboard boxes for
storing bulbs, ornaments and lights. Select boxes that are fairly
shallow but large enough so that two or three boxes hold all tree

Wrap fragile bulbs and ornaments in tissue paper. Stack the remaining
ornaments (from heavy to light) on layers of tissue paper. Angel hair
and tinsel can be stored between ornaments for added protection. Remove
hooks and hangers from each ornament and store them separately in a
small box or envelope. Gather strings of tree lights carefully to avoid
tangles. Wrap loosely around a large, flat piece of cardboard. Store
the tree stand in its original box.

After the boxes are packed, clearly label the contents on the outside
of each box and then fill the box with the same items from year to year.
You will consider the time used in carefully packing the boxes as well
spent when you get the ornaments out for the next holiday season.

Designate an area in a closet, attic or garage as holiday storage and
use the same space each year. Clean the storage area thoroughly each
year before returning the decorations to it. Keep boxes off the floor to
keep moisture out. If stored in an attic or outside garage, be sure
that extreme temperature and humidity changes will not harm any of the
items in the boxes. Your holiday candles will not survive a summer in
the attic – trust me!

QUESTION: Why do Southerners eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day?

ANSWER: Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s has been a Southern
tradition for over a century. There are countless tales explaining the
reason for eating this cream-colored pea (actually a bean) with a
black-eye in the center. One theme runs throughout all the folklore:
the pea is supposed to bring good luck. The early stories center around
post-Civil War days when a band of Sherman’s Northern invaders left
most of the South’s countryside bleak and bare. Many a Southern
family considered themselves lucky to have black-eyed peas, cornbread
and a bit of hog jowl. Folklore also promises that a person will earn a
dollar for every pea that he eats on New Year’s Day. At this rate,
even if you ate a dozen tablespoonfuls, you would only earn $1000 per
year. When this tale started, many a Southern planter would have been
glad to have this type of annual income.

Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer
Sciences for Texas AgriLife Extension Service-Collin County. She may be
reached at or 972.548.4233 or metro 972.424.1460,
Ext. 4233.

In the Home: Toys, toys, toys …

By Carrie T. Brazeal, CFCS

Do the living spaces in your house look like one giant toy box?
Are toys your biggest organizational challenge? Do your children have more toys than time to play with them?
For most of us, we can truthfully answer “yes” to these questions. So the bottom line is: do your children have too many toys?
With the season of toy giving just days away, and because toys are the most popular gifts given to children, imagine the chaos you might be facing when the holidays are over. You can avoid the stress and “crowded feeling” that too many toys create by taking a few minutes now to evaluate the play items your children have already accumulated.
Pam Hix and Louise Kurzeka, owners of Everything in its Place, Inc., have these suggestions for assessing those items that they have outgrown and no longer play with:
*Take time to help your children pick out these toys and together give them to a local charity, pack them away for a younger sibling or other family member, or put them aside for a garage sale. Remember, out of sight is out of mind!
*Are there certain games or puzzles that are always bypassed because they are broken or have pieces missing? Box these items up and let them go or separate them into a “spare parts” box as you wait for the missing pieces to surface.
Now is a good time to begin setting realistic holiday gift expectations with your children. Explain that not every toy in the catalog, every video on TV commercials or every game in the store will magically appear with their name on it. Delivering these messages early and often will help both you and your children enjoy your holidays more by avoiding disappointments.
Discuss with grandparents and other family members the types of toys you would like your children to receive. Encourage those gracious gift givers to substitute an organizing gift for a second toy. For example, a storage bin, box or basket would help organize the blocks that are also given. This way your child will associate the bin or basket as part of the gift and will know that this is where their blocks should be stored.
If your home is short on storage space, resolve to begin an “In and Out” rule. For every toy that comes in, an old one goes out. But if you apply this rule, it probably needs to be applied across the board to include those “kids” of all ages.
As you think about the type of toys your children enjoy, remember that toys are the tools children use in play. Rather than relying on the ads found in newspapers and on TV commercials, expand your purchases to include those toys that your children may not see advertised. Toys can be divided into several groups, depending on the part of the child it helps to develop:
*Toys for physical or muscle development such as wagons, bikes, boxes, puzzles and blocks.
*Toys for sensory (touch, sight, sound, taste, smell) development such as musical instruments, bubbles, play dough, sand toys.
*Toys for make-believe and social development such as dolls, dress-up clothes, cars, trucks, games and books.
*Toys for creative and intellectual development such as crayons, clay, paints, books, paper and scissors.
Children need a balance of toys from each of these groups to ensure their whole development.
Enjoy making your toy purchases, but think about where they will be stored. You will be glad that you did after the holidays are over.

Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer
Sciences with Texas AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at or 972.548.4233 or metro 972.424.1460, Ext. 4233.

In the home: Children staying home alone?

In the home: Children staying home alone?
By Carrie T. Brazeal, CFCS
School will be out in a few weeks. My daughter is ready for summer. I
know that teachers are ready. But are you ready for children to be home
alone during the summer months?

Self-care can be a rewarding experience for children who are ready for
it. It can help them develop independence and responsibility and can
give them confidence in their own abilities. However, if a child is not
ready, self-care can be a frightening and dangerous situation.

How do you determine if your child is ready for self-care? There is no
magic age which children develop the maturity and good sense needed to
stay alone. Ron Pitzer, Family Sociologist with the
University of Minnesota Extension Service, said there are some signs that
show your child may be ready.

First, your child should indicate a desire and willingness to stay
alone. Children who are easily frightened or who don’t want to stay
alone are probably not ready to do so.

Your child should also be showing signs that he or she can be
responsible, is aware of the needs of others and can think about
opinions and make decisions independently. Children who are able to
solve problems on their own, complete homework and household chores with
a minimum of supervision and remember to tell you where they are going
and when they will be back have some of the skills they need to care for
themselves. For many children, these abilities begin to appear between
the ages of ten and twelve.

Finally, your child should be able to talk easily with you about
interests and concerns. Good parent-child communication is needed so
you and your child can discuss and deal with any fears or problems that
arise because of staying alone.

If your child shows these signs, you may want to consider self-care.
However, you must also think about several other factors. These include
the neighborhood in which you live, the availability of adults nearby
and how long your child will be alone. If your neighborhood is unsafe,
if there are no adults nearby to call in case of emergency or if your
child must remain alone for a very long period of time, it is best to
continue to use some form of child care even if your child seems ready
to stay home alone.

If you and your child decide that both of you are ready for self-care,
the next step is giving your child some guidelines, knowledge and
training. Involve your child in discussions that affect them. If your
child understands the reasons for the rules and participate in
developing the rules, they are more likely to follow them.

Children who stay alone need to know how to react in situations such as
being locked out; being afraid, lonely or bored; and arguments with
siblings. They also need to know about house rules. What rules do you
have about checking in with a responsible adult, leaving the house or
yard, having friends over, and cooking? Do your children know about
snacks and meals; talking on the phone; care for siblings; and use of
TV, computer, and so on? What specific responsibilities and activities do
you expect from your child?

When teaching your children, give information gradually rather than all
at once. Too much information at one time is difficult to remember.
Don’t assume that your children understand just because you have told
them what to do. Through role playing and discussing different
situations, you will see what your child thought was important.You will
also have the opportunity to ask questions or reinforce main points.
Think through with your child what things could go wrong and brainstorm

All parents must determine when their child is ready for self-care.
With a little time and preparation, both you and your child will feel
better when faced with this decision.

Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer
Sciences for Texas AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at or by phone at 972-538-4233 or metro 972-424-1460,
Ext. 4233.

%d bloggers like this: