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Purdue holiday experts

NOTE TO JOURNALSTS: A variety of Purdue University experts can talk about holiday-related topics for magazines that are working on their seasonal editions.


Giving can be a part of every child's holiday

Whether it's trying to please children by buying every toy on their Christmas wish list or explaining the role of Santa Claus, a Purdue University child development expert says it's important to keep the spirit of giving a priority this holiday season.

"Start with the giving, not the getting," says Judith Myers-Walls. "I think kids need to be prepared to accept surprises, and parents should not feel obligated to provide everything or only the items the kids have said they want."

Often the thoughts of getting presents originate with Santa Claus, but Myers-Walls says there are ways to include Santa in the holiday season without focusing on what gifts he leaves under the Christmas tree.

"Talk about the real St. Nicholas and focus on his generosity. This also will provide a good opportunity to talk about the history of the holidays with your children," Myers-Walls says. "But don't use Santa as a threat to make children behave."

She also can talk about meeting the demands of children who have wish lists that exceed family budgets. Myers-Walls, co-author of "Young Peacemakers Project Book" and "Peace Works," can talk about how toys can promote aggression and competitiveness that can be hard to control.

CONTACT: Myers-Walls, (765) 494-2959,


Look past holiday ideals to find joy of season

Instead of focusing on the "ideal" holiday, set realistic expectations – both with time and money – to reduce the amount of stress during your holiday season, says a Purdue University family development specialist.

"When you're feeling stressed, don't shift to automatic," says Dee Love, an Extension specialist in the School of Consumer and Family Sciences. "Stop and think about why you are doing what you are doing. You may need to ask yourself, 'What am I really feeling right now?' 'What's most important to me and my family?'"

Whether the ideal holiday season is defined by television, your childhood or imagination, think about what really affects your family, Love says.

"Create your own traditions, and select activities that reflect your holiday values," she says.

You shouldn't expect everything to come off as planned because unexpected things – such as children getting sick or the stove not working – can, and do, happen, she says.

"Be adaptable and flexible and look for the humor in challenging situations," Love says. "Remember, you can create a wonderful family experience based on how you all handled a difficult situation together."

CONTACT: Love, (765) 494-2933,


Think about holiday eating before more than the turkey is stuffed

More is not always better at the holiday dinner table, says a Purdue University foods and nutrition expert.

"Plan for elegance rather than quantity," says Olivia Bennett Wood. "Rather than a buffet, plan for one elegant menu in a relaxed and beautiful atmosphere."

Wood says it's not necessary to have several entrees, multiple starches or desserts for guests. Go for one main dish, two side dishes, or skip a side dish if appetizers are served. Keep the desserts simple, or consider something light, such as fresh pineapple with pomegranate seeds served in a crystal bowl.

"Don't push food at your party," Wood says. "Understand guests will know when they have hit their calorie limit. Don't equate food amount eaten with the success of your recipes and party."

Planning the perfect meal also includes focusing on the atmosphere, which can add a richness to the meal without adding calories. Wood suggests setting the table with beautiful china, crystal or a matched set of quality seasonal paper items. Serve a special wine, and decorate with candles and fresh flowers.

"A simple, elegant menu is easier on the cook, cleanup and calorie intake," Wood says. "After dinner, plan a walk-through of a decorated neighborhood to burn calories and enjoy the season's decorations."

CONTACT: Bennett Wood, (765) 494-8238,


Keep the holiday season safe for your pets

There is more to making sure feline and canine friends are happy this season than just wrapping a bone or catnip to leave under the Christmas tree.

"Whether you are leaving your pet at home or traveling with them during the holidays, planning is necessary to ensure they are safe," says Steve Thompson, veterinarian and director of the Wellness Clinic at Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine.

Animals that travel by airplane are required to receive a health certificate from their veterinarian within 10 days of the flight. The health certificate confirms that the pet has current vaccinations and is free of infectious diseases. A health certificate also is required if the animal is entering Mexico or Canada by car.

Pet owners also should pack a summary of their pet's veterinary records and a copy of its immunization schedule for any trip. This makes the information accessible if the pet is turned away from a hotel or needs to be placed in a kennel during an emergency.

CONTACT: Thompson, (765) 494-1107,