NDSU Extension - Sargent County


Seize the Day Blog

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FEELING FRUSTRATED, STRESSED, UNHAPPY, or Etc. 2/15/19Emotional wellness dictates a person’s outlook on life and reflects overall satisfaction and happiness. Hectic or tight schedules can lead to negative thoughts and feelings.

Emotional wellness is also interconnected with our physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual wellness.  When our emotional well-being suffers, the other areas can suffer, too.  On the flip side, when we boost up our emotional well-being, or any other single component of wellness, the positive effects can ripple into all the other areas.

By making our emotional wellness a priority, we become more content and that’s good for everyone around us at home and at work.  Here are some ways to tend to your emotional wellness.

Talk About Your Feelings   Don’t ignore them. Talking about feelings puts them out in the open and prevents rumination. If you can’t talk to someone, then write in a journal.  Schedule an appointment with a professional licensed counselor to work through situations and emotions that are troublesome.

Take Short Breaks  Taking breaks allows you to focus better after “stepping away” for a bit, and helps improve efficiency.  Although deadlines exist, that doesn’t mean all work has to be completed at once.  If you are at a desk job, go for short walks, especially outdoors, to take in fresh air and connect with people.    Drink plenty of water. If you have a meeting with one other person, walk and talk rather than meeting over a table or email.   If you do physical labor, take rest breaks and stay hydrated to remain alert throughout the day.  Helping others also can improve your emotional health.

Change the Scenery   Get out of a “rut” and try something new by mixing up the same old routine.  Instead of eating at your desk or in front of the TV, eat outside or in a different lunchroom to learn more about your co- workers.  Walk the kids to school.  Vary your route to work.  See something new; it adds much-needed variety to life.

Make Time for Yourself  In an overscheduled life, making time for yourself may be difficult. But it is a “must” when seeking emotional balance. Take at least a few minutes each day to do something you love. Make your hobbies part of your daily routine.

Say No  Recognize that saying “no” to others gives you the chance to say “yes” to family time and helps you recharge. Know your own limits and reduce stress levels by prioritizing and declining requests to take on more in your already overscheduled life.

Find the Bright Side  When you hear or think a negative thought, consider how you might turn it to the positive side. Practice with your family by having one person state a negative comment or thought. Next, take turns offering that person a positive perspective on each situation. Challenge yourselves to identify as many positive perspectives as possible.

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/stressed-woman-woman-stress-family-3403423/  (downloaded 2/19/19)

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Staying Mentally Sharp

jigsaw puzzle pieces


Once upon a time, when I was on track to become a registered nurse, one of my textbooks provided a definition of health, referring to it as a state of complete well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. That is also how the World Health Organization defines health.

The components or dimensions of “health” and “wellness” are most often identified as physical wellness, intellectual wellness, emotional wellness, social wellness, and spiritual wellness. Sometimes occupational wellness and financial wellness make the list, too.

Wellness is commonly presented as a graphic, and especially as a “wheel,” to illustrate the interconnectedness and interdependence of the various components or dimensions of wellness.

Today’s column will focus on INTELLECTUAL WELLNESS.

Exercising the brain and challenging the mind are keys to achieving intellectual wellness and achieving our intellectual potential. The tips below can help improve intellectual wellness:

Hit the Pillow Getting enough sleep is key to intellectual wellness, but it can be tough to achieve in an overscheduled life. Sleep deficits result in fatigue and drain reserves in the brain, resulting in slower brain function and crabbier moods. Make sure to recharge by getting enough sleep each night. For adults that means eight hours; for children, even more.

Get TV and electronics out of the bedroom to avoid sleeping distractions. Park cellphones and tablets at a central power docking station away from sleeping areas. If you find yourself not getting the sleep you need at night, take a short nap during the day. Taking time to get adequate rest will make your awake time much more efficient.

Love to Learn Being a lifelong learner challenges the brain and facilitates cognitive growth. Read for fun when waiting anywhere. Play a board or card game with family or friends. Stretch your brain by doing jigsaw, crossword or Sodoku puzzles.

The brain needs to be exercised the same as any other muscle. Turn off all digital media for 30 to 60 minutes each night for family members to complete homework, read for enjoyment or do other mind-enhancing activities.

Let Creativity Shine Encourage the creativity of your kids as well as your own. Try new ideas; do common tasks in a different way. Figure out how to make a game of “Go Fish” out of matching the family’s socks. Let imagination rule in your family’s life. In addition to stimulating brain growth, you are bound to have some fun.

Family Conversation Starters

* List some chapter books we could read together as a family.

* What is your favorite board or card game?

* What car game do you enjoy most?

* How could we make sure electronics are not being used at least 30 minutes before bedtime?

Photo Source:  https://www.pexels.com/photo/2-hands-holding-1-jigsaw-puzzle-piece-each-164531/  (downloaded 2-11-19)

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Are You Keeping In Touch? Or not?

Are you doing a good job of keeping in touch with family and friends? Or not? Are you having good quality time with your significant other and your children? Or not? Social connectedness matters; tend to your social wellness.


Are you so caught up in your busy life that you’ve lost contact with friends and family? Have you found yourself missing good-quality time with your significant other or your children? If you answered yes to either of those questions, your social well-being may be at risk.

Social wellness is interconnected with our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual wellness. So if our social well-being is suffering, the other areas can suffer, too. The good news is that when we boost up one area, the positive effects can ripple into the other areas.

If you’re too busy to stay in touch with friends and family, or you find yourself missing out on good quality time with people whom you love and care about, take steps to make supportive social relationships a priority in your life. Things you can do to re-establish supportive social relationships in your life include:

Do Not Rely on Social Media

While social media has many benefits, it also has some downfalls. Many users only share what they want others to see. Remember that not every family goes on two-week-long cruises or vacations. Young children love camping in their own backyard or even the living room! It’s called a “stay-cation.” Be there to make the most of it and enjoy the experience. Make sure to schedule breaks for your family and yourself. We all need time to rejuvenate.

Pass Out Sincere, Genuine Compliments

Be generous with genuine compliments. They have the power to brighten another’s day and are easy to give. Highlighting the positive brings out the best in everyone. Compliments can be given to family, friends or strangers alike. One short, genuine sentence can strengthen a relationship for a lifetime.

Eat Together

For so many reason, eating with family is worth the effort. Even though eating every meal around the dinner table with the entire family may not be possible, strive to have a least one meal together every day. Doing so promotes communication among family members and deepens connections. Involve the whole family in meal planning and preparation. Set aside at least 20 minutes a day to eat together as a family. It is an easy way to share with and listen to loved ones.


Stay connected with others by keeping dialogue open. If you THINK a warm or kind thought, SHARE it! Show you care by sending a quick text with that warm or kind thought. Have a conversation with a friend over coffee or have a family discussion in the car. Ask questions and spend more time listening than talking. Doing so will strengthen connections and result in greater understanding.

Plan Dates

Make dates with a significant other, family or friends. Find a time and place that works for both parties and mark it on your calendar. Writing dates down helps make them happen.

Photo Source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/128733321@N05/17223748539 (Downloaded 2-6-19)

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Food and Family – Beef Stew

Food and Family – Beef Stew  1/25/19My family traveled to Marshall, Minnesota to spend the weekend with my parents a week ago.  They moved to their new home there in November and have settled in very nicely, I am pleased to say.

Mom prepared homemade beef stew for supper and it was a big hit with everyone.  Flavorful and savory, it warmed us up from the inside.  Soups and stews are two of my all-time favorite comfort foods, and certainly a good choice on these cold January days!

Along with the stew, our time together at the table was also a joy.  The benefits of family meals are well documented, and prove they are worth the effort it takes to make them happen. 

Find out more about why and how to make family meals happen at your house, plus get lots of practical tips, ideas, recipes, and more by visiting the NDSU Extension Family Table website (https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/familytable) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ndfamilytable/). 

While you are at it, make up some Secret Recipe Beef Stew for you and your family or friends and neighbors to enjoy!  The recipe can also be found online at  https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/recipes/meats/secret_recipe_beef_stew

Secret Recipe Beef Stew – 8 servings

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 (28-oz.) can Italian-style stewed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can beef broth
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 c. baby carrots or 2 c. sliced carrots, 1-inch thick

Toss the beef with flour in a medium bowl. Heat oil in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook for five minutes, until browned, turning occasionally. Add tomatoes, broth, onion, pepper, and thyme; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes or until the beef is just tender. Add the potatoes and carrots; return to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes or until the beef and vegetables are tender.

Makes 8 servings.  Per Serving: about 280 calories, 9 grams (g) of fat, 28 g carbohydrate, 23 g protein, 3 g fiber and 510 mg sodium (to reduce the sodium, choose reduced-sodium broth and tomatoes).

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/osso-buco-meat-calf-veal-beef-2535556/  (downloaded 1/29/19)

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Sargent County’s NDSU Extension Office Has Moved, and Spring is Coming!

Sargent County’s NDSU Extension Office Has Moved, and Spring is Coming!NDSU Extension in Sargent County has moved!  Our new office is located inside the Wild Rice SCD building at 8991 Highway 32 in Forman.  The building also houses the USDA FSA and NRCS offices. Our telephone number remains the same as always:  701-724-3355.  We look forward to continuing to serve you from our new location!

“Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows, lies the seed that with the sun's love, in the spring, becomes the rose.”  These are lyrics from a song titled, “The Rose,” sung by Bette Middler.

With that tune and thought in mind, I am pleased to announce the upcoming 2019 series of NDSU Extension Field to Fork webinars.  Webinars air live at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday afternoons, starting February 6.  If that time doesn’t work for you, don’t despair!  The webinars are recorded and archived!  You can watch them at your convenience in the comfort of your own home!

To participate in any of the free webinars, register in advance at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/fieldtofork/webinars.

Various specialists, researchers, and educators will present the webinars.  The dates and topics/titles in this year’s series include:

Feb. 6: Successful Seed Starting at Home 

Feb. 13: Hops in North Dakota: What You Need to Know Before You Get Started

Feb. 20: Growing Apples in North Dakota

Feb. 27: Trendy and Healthy Houseplants

March 6: Cool Fruits for Cold Climates: Selections from the Northern-Hardy Fruit Project

March 13: Let’s Not Waste Food: Exploring Food Preservation and Composting

March 20: One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four: Best Management Practices to Produce More

March 27: How to Identify, Manage and Prevent Common Diseases in Your Garden

April 3: Pollinator Gardens

April 10: Getting Started with Herb Gardening

April 17: Best Practices on Health and Hygiene when Handling Foods for the Public

Field to Fork webinars are designed to educate growers on food safety in growing, transporting, processing and preserving fruits and vegetables.

For more information, stop out at our new location, or contact the Extension office by phone, email, or via our website at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/sargentcountyextension

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/trolley-boxes-moving-png-delivery-2582492/  (downloaded 1/22/19)

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How and Why to Calibrate Your Food Thermometer

How and Why to Calibrate Your Food Thermometer  1/11/19Once upon a time, I cooked everything to well done, “just to be safe.”  Then I started using a food thermometer.

I discovered that the recommended minimum internal food temperatures that are considered safe for helping to prevent foodborne illness from cooked foods are lower than the temperatures I had been cooking to.  Low and behold, once I stopped cooking to “overdone,” food was juicier and more flavorful!    

Accurately measuring the internal temperatures of foods we cook, bake, grill, roast, etc. depends on using a food thermometer that has been accurately calibrated and is positioned correctly in the food. 

To calibrate a dial gauge food thermometer, you must first determine if it has a calibration nut that can be adjusted.  It would be located just under the temperature dial at the top of the thermometer stem.  If it does, use the ice point method of calibrating the thermometer.  It might sound like you are back in a science lab, but rest assured:  it is actually pretty easy, and you need NOT put on a science lab coat to do it!  Simply follow these steps:  

  1. Fill a large glass with crushed ice.
  2. Add water to the top of the ice and stir well.
  3. Place the stem (probe) of the food thermometer at least 2 inches into the ice water without touching the sides or the bottom of the glass.
  4. Wait at least 30 seconds until the temperature stabilizes.
  5. The temperature should read 32 degrees F.
  6. If the temperature does not read 32 degrees F., keep the stem in the ice water and hold the adjusting nut under the dial gauge head of the thermometer while turning the head until the arrow reads 32 degrees F.  Repeat steps 4-6.

A quick video of how to calibrate a food thermometer is available online from the Ohio State University Extension at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdW5gbSa_dQ.

Properly using a calibrated food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure the food is safe to eat and to determine desired "doneness" of meat, poultry, and egg products.

Additional information about food thermometers, how to properly position and use them, and the recommended safe minimum internal temperatures for meats, poultry, fish, eggs, casseroles and leftovers is available from the Extension office, or online from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service at https://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/PDF/Kitchen_Thermometers.pdf?redirecthttp=true.

Photo Source: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/17710  (downloaded 1/14/19)

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5 Steps for Boosting “Bounce Back” Capacity

5 Steps for Boosting “Bounce Back” Capacity



Resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back from a disaster or other adversity and adapt well to changes in our lives.  We become resilient by establishing habits of thinking and behaving that help us cope with and adapt to challenging situations successfully.

Five steps that help us become more resilient can be made into the acronym “F.A.C.T.S.”

  • F - Foster hope.  Focus on the positive.  Have confidence in yourself.  Trust your ability to cope successfully.  Put your situation into perspective.  Give yourself the benefit of the doubt.  Notice small improvements in yourself and your situation as time passes.
  • A - Act with purpose.  Take an objective problem-solving approach.  Focus on small achievable steps toward your goal.  Journal for yourself.
  • C - Connect with others.  Keep in touch with others socially.  Take time to be involved in civic or faith-based groups that serve others.  Ask for help or support, and accept help and support that is offered. 
  • T - Take care of yourself.  Eat nutritious meals and snacks, be physically active, get enough sleep, nurture your spirit.  Remember your whole self and strive for whole person wellness:  physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.
  • S - Search for meaning.  Appreciate the simple things.  Take nothing for granted.  Notice your progress.  Remember past incidences when you have dealt with challenges successfully.

NDSU Extension offers a variety of resources for emotional and mental health for people of all ages.  Online, it is available at  https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/cff/resources-for-emotional-and-mental-health

F.A.C.T.S. is a joint effort of University of Minnesota and Red River Resilience. Additional information can be found at https://sites.google.com/umn.edu/red-river-resilience

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/growth-cycle-human-person-3003138/




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DIY or Get Help – part 2

DIY or Get Help – part 2   12/28/18

Social isolation, loneliness, and depression are three distinctly different things.  Last week’s Seize the Day news column provided definitions of each because it is important to understand the differences, and address each one appropriately.

This week’s column offers DIY (Do It Yourself) action steps for dealing with social isolation and loneliness.  Keep in mind:  a do-it-yourself approach is not appropriate for depression because it is a diagnosed medical/mental health condition.  Typically, dealing with depression requires a variety of approaches to treatment, including professional/therapeutic support, social support, exercise, diet, rest and medication prescribed by a health care professional.

To deal with social isolation and loneliness, and decrease the risk for developing depression, we need to do things that promote mental health and wellness.  Action steps include:

Physical activity.  Do movements that are intense enough to improve blood circulation.  Gardening, cleaning house, hiking, walking, or walking the dog are a few ideas.  Adding music can make it even more enjoyable.  Perhaps it can include a social component, such as when you go dancing or are part of an exercise group.

  • Crafting.   The big benefits here are having an opportunity to relate to the outside world, achieving the satisfaction of creating, and getting a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Have fun.  That will look like different things to different people:  laughing with friends, playing with grandkids, watching a funny movie, playing games, etc.  Games are great for keeping our brain engaged and stimulated.  And games provide an excellent opportunity for socialization. (Unless you are playing solitaire or other one-person games.)
  • Communication and socialization.  Connect with friends or family.  In person (face-to-face) is best, but via technology works, too. While together, share some laughs, and maybe some hugs, too!  Laughter and touches such as hugging can release oxytocin in the brain.  Oxytocin is a chemical that is involved in happiness.
  • Focus on others.  Be perceptive of what they might want or need.  Ask them about their day, their family, their plans, or their hobbies.  Then listen with your eyes and your ears.
  • Volunteer.  Find, offer, or create an opportunity that works well for you.  Have it align with your personal goals and core values. Focus on what you can give, and you’ll be surprised what you get in terms of feeling like you’ve made a difference.  A proven way to help ourselves feel better is by doing acts of kindness or generosity.
  • Practice gratitude.  Appreciate the little things, and write them down on a daily basis in a little notebook or on slips of paper that you put into a gratitude jar to read later.  Choose contentment.
  • Be curious.  Take a class or two or three, learn new things, and develop new skills.  Being a lifelong learner expands your growth experiences, builds neuroplasticity in your brain, and creates another opportunity to meet new people.  When we associate with people who care about the same things we do, we’re that much more likely to align ourselves with positivity and people who will encourage us to make and reach our goals and live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Spirituality –  Practicing spiritual beliefs has been found to improve mental health.

Adapted from:  Idaho State University, “Preventing Anxiety and Depression in the Elderly.  (https://blog.cetrain.isu.edu/blog/preventing-anxiety-and-depression-in-the-elderly)

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/elderly-chess-belgrade-672143/

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DIY? Or Get Help?


Sometimes a home improvement project is a DIY (do-it-yourself) project.  Other times, it is one that requires getting professional help. The same goes for self-improvement projects.  Sometimes we can help ourselves; and some times we need help from others, including professionals.

Social isolation, loneliness, and depression are three distinctly different things.  It is important to understand the differences, and address each one appropriately.

Social isolation is objective, meaning it is measurable.  It refers to a state of having minimal contact with other people.  Seventeen to twenty percent of Americans over the age of 65 years are socially isolated. 

Loneliness, on the other hand, is subjective, meaning it is feelings-based.  It refers to a dissatisfaction with the quantity and quality of one’s social relationships.  The incidence of loneliness among Americans age 45 years old and older ranges from 35% - 43%. 

Lastly, depression is a complex medical and mental health condition that includes several sub-types.  It is characterized by a variety of symptoms such as inability to concentrate; insomnia; loss of appetite; tiredness or fatigue; extremely negative or sad feelings and thoughts.  When these types of symptoms occur together during a period of more than two weeks, a medical professional may diagnose it as depression. 

About 4% of people over age 55 residing independently in the community suffer from major depression in any given year.  Dealing with depression typically requires a variety of approaches to treatment, including therapeutic support, social support from others, exercise, diet, rest and medication.

Feelings of isolation can impact mental health and cognitive abilities, and depression later in life has been associated with cognitive impairment and dementia.

Loneliness is a significant predictor of poor health.  In fact, the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day or drinking six alcoholic beverages a day.  It is twice as dangerous as obesity.

To deal with social isolation and loneliness, and decrease the risk for developing depression, do things that promote mental health and wellness.  Stay tuned!  Next week’s column will provide a list of action steps.

Photo Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Old_man_alone.jpg (Downloaded 12-24-18)

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Thankful and Content

 https://pixnio.com/wallpapers/branch-foliage-frost-frosty-fruit-hawthorn-snow-tree-weather-winter  (Downloaded 12-18-18)

Whenever I think of the story about the woman who liked to write letters to her son, I smile.

He’d say to her, “But you know, Ma, I’m a slow reader.”

And she would reply, “That’s OK, son, I’m a slow writer.” 

Along that line, I am thinking you perhaps don’t have much time to read a lengthy “Seize the Day” news column today, and I don’t have much time to write one like that, either.  So short and sweet is the way it will be.

Teaching our kids to be thankful and content is not easy, especially in a consumer culture that bombards its people with messages that hinge on self-centeredness and materialism, and where the pursuit is often for “more.”  This time of year can be super challenging for those very reasons. 

A new resource from Boys Town offers practical ideas to help nurture a thankfulness mindset.  The free, digital e-book, “How to Teach Gratitude During the Holidays,” offers practical guidelines and touches on these topics:

                -  avoiding the emphasis on possessions

                -  engaging in activities and service

                -  spending more face-to-face time together

The free e-book is available from Boys Town at:   https://resources.boystown.org/parenting/gratitude/.

Photo Credit:   https://pixnio.com/wallpapers/branch-foliage-frost-frosty-fruit-hawthorn-snow-tree-weather-winter (downloaded 12-18-18)

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