Holiday Tips, Advice From U of G Faculty, Staff

December 17, 2007 - News Release

No Need to Throw Away Your Holiday Tree, Says Horticulturist.

Displaying trees indoors during the holiday season is a long-standing tradition, but growing concern about the environment has caused a new trend to emerge, says Arboretum horticulturist Sean Fox.

"Something that’s been gaining popularity over the past several years is the use of living Christmas trees as opposed to pre-cut ones," says Fox. "This usually involves purchasing a tree that has been balled and burlapped or grown in a pot."

Once the holidays are over, the tree can easily be replanted on your property, rather than thrown away, he says.

"It's one small thing we can do for the environment, and it can also be a nice yearly tradition to plant the tree after Christmas."

Concolor fir, Serbian spruce, Swiss stone pine, white pine, white spruce, balsam fir and hemlock are good choices for living Christmas trees, says Fox.

“For something with a different texture, you could even try eastern red cedar, which is more durable than the others while indoors and very tough in its permanent home outdoors.”

Before bringing a living tree indoors, it should be kept in a shed or garage for a couple of weeks to help it acclimatize to the warmer temperatures, says Fox. The tree should not be indoors for more than two weeks.

Fox is hosting a workshop on Christmas trees and other conifers Jan. 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Arboretum. The workshop will discuss the evolution, identification, characteristics and uses of conifers from both Ontario and around the world. There will also be an outdoor tour of the conifer collection and the dwarf conifer collection. Registration is $50, and the deadline is Jan. 2.

Pets Don't Make Good Gifts, Says OVC Dean

Avoid giving your child a pet as a holiday gift unless you’re willing to assume responsibility for the pet yourself, advises Elizabeth Stone, dean of the Ontario Veterinary College.

“If someone wants to give a child a pet, it’s better to give a stuffed animal and then talk with the child about getting a pet and what it means,” says Stone, adding that many parents believe having a pet teaches a child to be responsible. “I tell parents not to get a pet unless they fully accept that they may have to do the majority of the care and training or work with the child to make sure it gets done.”

Stone says giving a pet to a friend or family member, even with the best of intentions, should be done only with their permission. “It’s very important that the person receiving the pet knows about it and really wants to take on the additional work a pet will bring. The person also needs to be in a financial position where he or she can pay for food and medical care.”

She adds that because the holidays are often a stressful period, people may not have the time and patience to train a puppy or kitten. Cold and blustery weather can make going outside several times a day to housebreak a puppy an unpleasant experience.

People should also consider the following points. A house can be filled with a variety of things over the holidays that can be dangerous to pets. Ingesting tinsel and other small decorations can result in intestinal obstruction. Poinsettias are poisonous when eaten, and chocolate is known to be toxic to dogs. Chewing on an electrical cord can burn a pet’s mouth and may cause electrocution.

Celebrate Diversity This Holiday Season

Although this has traditionally been the season of “Christmas,” it's important to recognize there’s a growing diversity of faith expressions within our communities, says James Vanderberg, a Christian Reformed campus minister and member of U of G’s Multi-Faith Resource Team.

During this season, people celebrate Luut’aa, Masá’il, Sharaf, Christmas, Maunajiyaras, Hanukkah, Tohji-taisai, Yule, the death of Zarathustra and Kwanzaa.

Some consider it unnecessarily politically correct to use the greeting “Happy Holidays,” but seasonal sensitivity is a matter of respect, says Vanderberg.

“It’s important to recognize the faith-filled celebrations of other communities and grow in our understanding.”

Here are a few ways to be both inviting and sensitive, he says.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask: “What are you celebrating this time of the year?” For those celebrating religious holidays, an opportunity is given to express their faith-filled joy. For many others, it’s an open door to share the happiness they find in their work, with their families or in any other aspect of life. It’s a question that will probably bring a smile to someone’s face.

2. Don’t be afraid to invite others over for dinner or to a specifically religious celebration. If a friend invites you over to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah, for example, consider it an expression of the person’s seasonal joy and love for you, not necessarily an attempt to convert you.

3. Recognize that Christmas is a celebration unique to a specific faith community. Not everyone is celebrating Christmas, and those who are may not want it tied to the marketing strategies of North American toy companies.

Set Goals Instead of New Year's Resolutions, Says U of G Fitness Expert

Resolved to get into shape this year? Forget resolutions and think goals, says Cyndy McLean, director of the University of Guelph’s Health and Performance Centre.

“The whole idea of resolutions sets people up for failure,” says McLean. “They're not specific enough and typically they tend to be short-term. We endorse a more long-term approach to health.”

Here are 10 steps toward a fitness and nutrition program:

1. Change resolutions into goals. Instead of saying: “I'm going to get fit," say: "I will begin a walking program.”

2. Set specific and measurable goals: “I am going to walk three times a week for 20 minutes.”

3. Be optimistic and realistic: “I will lose 10 per cent of my initial body weight in one year, not 15 pounds in one month.”

4. Set both long- and short-term goals: “I am going to begin by walking once a week for 10 minutes and add one minute per session for the first month. Within three months, I will reach my goal of three sessions per week.”

5. Identify obstacles and solutions. If your obstacle is lack of time, you might, for example, prepare meals in advance.

6. Develop an action plan, including the specific steps you must take to reach your goal.

7. Seek guidance. Think about meeting with a dietitian and fitness professional.

8. Seek support. Why not exercise with a buddy?

9. Identify indicators of success, such as completing 80 per cent of your scheduled workouts.

10. Re-evaluate and update goals.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982,

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