County Extension

  • Safe eggnog ideas

     Eggnog is one of the many special flavors of the holidays. While many people purchase commercially prepared eggnog, making homemade eggnog is a tradition for others. Hopefully, you’ve heard over the past few years the importance of updating your eggnog recipe to avoid potential foodborne illness. But there are still lots of recipes out there that may be putting your family at risk.

  • Deck the halls with boughs of holly — and more

    By Al Hight

    My selective recall kicks into high gear this time of year as I think of holiday seasons past. Memories of family, friends, tacky decorations, pick-up football games in the back yard and sweet potato pie all come flooding in.

    It doesn’t matter that the holidays were usually more like Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family” than the holiday special of “The Waltons.” We at least kept the fistfights and wrestling (actually, rasslin’) matches in the backyard out of the watchful eye of my mother.

  • Safe holiday food gifts

     People love to make (and get) homemade food gifts. It shows your creativity and that you care enough to spend time making something special. Holiday cookie exchanges are also fun and popular and a great way to get a variety of goodies without having to make them all yourself.

    However, the food safety alarms in my head are going off! First off (I’ve said this before), just because a recipe is on the Internet, Pinterest or television does not make it safe! Choose only safe, tested recipes from research-based resources when creating homemade gifts.

  • Are you guilty of food dumping?

     For the last couple weeks, I’ve been getting daily emails from the Holiday Challenge. These messages offer tips, suggestions and reminders on healthful living. The whole concept of the Holiday Challenge is to help people not gain weight during this festive season filled with eating. The Holiday Challenge is part of the Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina program.

  • Celebrate ‘Dine-in for Healthy Families Day’ on Dec. 3

     What are you doing for dinner today? I hope you’re planning a nice meal at home with your family in celebration of “Dine-in Day.” Thursday, Dec. 3, marks the second annual Family and Consumer Sciences “Dine-in for Healthy Families Day.” In observance of this day, the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) and the National Extension Association for Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) are asking families to plan, prepare and eat a healthy meal together.

  • Stolen kisses on the rise as mistletoe makes appearance

      By Sam Marshall


    As leaves begin to fall in earnest this time of year, you notice lingering bunches of green in your trees. This plant, which is largely blamed for an increase in the number of stolen kisses this time of year, is often considered an unsightly and unwanted addition in the winter landscape. Of course, we also know this plant as mistletoe. However, before attempting to have it (or your entire tree) removed, first consider the benefits of mistletoe in the landscape (aside from those kisses).


  • Last-minute thoughts on Thanksgiving

     Each year as I write this pre-Thanksgiving column, I wonder what else can be said about holiday foods. I know the column will be published the day before, but with all the pre-holiday prep and houseguests arriving, I’m guessing that some of you are reading this after Thanksgiving.

    So here are a couple last-minute thoughts and recommendations on that holiday meal. If you’re reading this later in the weekend, I hope you’ll keep these in mind for another year.



  • A gardener’s gratitude


    Most of us spend our time racing from one thing to the next in an attempt to keep up with all of life’s demands. But our uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving is this week affording most of us the opportunity to eat too much and then fall asleep on the couch watching the Tony Romo-less Cowboys lose another game. More importantly, this is a time to reflect on the good times and people that make our lives richer. With that thought in mind and as a guy who likes to play in the dirt (OK, soil), I wondered, “What am I thankful for as a gardener?”

  • Vegetarian Thanksgiving

     What does a vegetarian eat on Thanksgiving? As this big eating holiday approaches, we are inundated with recipes for how to thaw, dress and season a turkey, the main dish and delicious centerpiece for our holiday tables. But what if you have a vegetarian coming to dinner?

  • Ornamental grasses in the home landscape

     By Sam Marshall, Horticulture Agent

    You have likely seen the vibrant pink plumes of muhly grass this fall, now a much-used and vibrant addition to home landscapes. Ornamental grasses are quickly establishing themselves as a common addition to landscape beds and along roadsides. And with good reason. Grasses afford interesting texture and graceful, arching foliage that adds movement to an otherwise stagnant landscape.