Media Tip Sheet: Valentine’s Day

Tips for long-lasting floral arrangements

Red roses – and floral arrangements in general – are a traditional Valentine’s Day gesture of love and romance. However, flowers still rank No. 2 in gift sales during the holiday right behind candy, according to the Society of American Florists. But then, roses don’t ruin a New Year’s resolution diet.

With the proper care, fresh floral arrangements can last for a week or so depending on the quality of the plants, according to Steve Newman, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension greenhouse specialist. He lends the following advice:

  • When purchasing flowers, choose blooms with firm, upright petals.
  • The first and perhaps most important step after receiving a bouquet is to fill the vase with clean, cold water. If the flowers are arranged in floral foam and not loose in a vase, soak the foam. Florists often include a packet of nutrients for flowers – usually containing sugar and a preservative – that should be mixed with water according to specifications on the packet. If the packet does not include instructions, mix it with one pint of water. Do not dilute the contents of this packet more than the instructions recommend. If these nutrients are too diluted, the preservative is too weak to control bacteria that may thrive in the sugar. This often causes the necks of roses to bend.
  • Continue to monitor the level of and quality of water in the vase. Remove cloudy water and add fresh, cool water. Extra food packets may be used with new water. Cut 2 or 3 inches off flower stems with a clean, sharp knife before placing them back into fresh water.
  • Boxed or bunched flowers must be kept cool until placed in a vase. Make sure that the flowers are placed in a clean vase – one that has been washed with antibacterial soap and rinsed well. If the flowers have woody stems, such as roses, cut 2 or 3 inches off the base before placing them in water. Use a packet of floral preservative if available and follow instructions on the package.
  • During the winter, Colorado homes can be a tough environment for plants and floral arrangements. Keep fresh flowers in a cool spot at about 65 to 72 degrees and away from strong sunlight, drafts, heaters and radiators.

For more information, or to speak with Dr. Newman, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at (970) 491-6009.

Chocolate cravings have basis in science

Valentine’s Day is a good excuse for many people to indulge their desires for chocolate. It’s no wonder – chocolate is the most commonly craved food in North America, according to Pat Kendall, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension food science specialist. In fact, chocolate cravings are experienced by 40 percent of American women and 15 percent of American men.

History provides a glimpse into how seriously some people take their love of chocolate. In fact, the love affair with chocolate began centuries ago. The Aztecs considered chocolate a gift from the god of wisdom and knowledge and, in some cultures, it was considered an aphrodisiac reserved for special occasions by people with wealth and power.

Cocoa beans were even used for currency. In 1753, the fruit of the cacao tree was given the Latin name Theobroma Cacao, which means "food of the gods." The ancient diaries of an English Jesuit reveal that women in a Mexican town arranged for the murder of a bishop who forbade them to drink chocolate during Mass.

Although chocolate’s popularity is traditional, its appeal may not just be based on its rich flavor. Kendall says that there likely is a combination of sensory and chemical factors in chocolate that makes it so desirable.

  • Chocolate’s unique and complex mix of sweet and bitter, its aroma and the fat from cocoa butter, which melts at body temperature, makes it a seductive, mouthwatering taste sensation.
  • White chocolate, which has the same cocoa butter, texture and sweetness as dark chocolate, doesn’t generally satisfy a chocolate craving. Scientists believe that this is evidence of a chemical appeal to dark chocolate, citing what may be pleasure-inducing compounds found in chocolate that affect brain chemistry and induce a feeling of well-being.
  • Chemical compounds in chocolate that have a pleasant affect on the brain include tyramine and phenylethylamine, or PEA, that have anti-depressant-like properties. Chocolate also contains fatty acids that help produce a sense of euphoria and internal bliss.
  • Chocolate contains very small amounts of stimulants (methylxanthines, caffeine and theobromine). A one-ounce bar of milk chocolate contains about 6 milligrams of caffeine, the same amount found in a cup of decaffeinated coffee. By comparison, a regular cup o’ joe has 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine.
  • In moderation, chocolate does carry some nutritional value. It contains relatively beneficial amounts of magnesium and copper per serving and small amounts of phenols that help prevent some types of artery damage and clogging. However, chocolate is high in calories and saturated fat.

For more information or to talk with Pat Kendall, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at (970) 491-6009.

Happy couples have ten common strategies for successful work/family balance

A study by two Colorado State University faculty members shows dual-income couples who have healthy relationships with each other and their children have 10 strategies in common. Valentine’s Day may be a day for gifts and romance, but the findings of this study provide practical, proven ideas that couples may decide to implement for life.

Since 68 percent of all married couples with children under the age of 18 are dual-earner couples (according to the U.S. Census), the reality for most parents is that they both work. Associate Professor Toni Zimmerman and Assistant Professor Shelley Haddock, both from the Colorado State’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies, conducted extensive surveys with dual-earner, middle-class married couples with children in the Fort Collins and Denver areas who perceive themselves as successful in balancing family and work.

The researchers’ analysis of interviews and questionnaires showed 10 major strategies most couples structured their lives around: valuing family, striving for partnership, deriving meaning from work, maintaining work boundaries, focusing and producing at work, taking pride in dual earning, prioritizing family fun, living simply, making decisions proactively and valuing time.

For details on each of the ten strategies or for interviews with the researchers, contact June Greist at (970) 491-1194.