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Family Matters: Fun and Exercise For Your Pet


Fun and Exercise For Your PetToys aren’t just for kids; your small pet loves them, too!

Small animals like hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs or mice love a good toy. Not only are they fun, a lot of these toys are great exercise for animals cooped up in a small area.

Try plastic running balls. These rigid, plastic domes have a little door (and plenty of ventilation) for your hamster, gerbil or mouse. Place the animal inside and put the ball on a flat surface, like the floor (not on a table or countertop where he could roll off and injure himself), and let him run wild. Placing the ball inside a clean, DRY bathtub works, too, and lessens the chance of the ball getting stuck under furniture, where you have a hard time getting it out.

Tunnels are also great toys for small animals. Either attached to their cage or freestanding, tunnels can give them other options of places to run and explore. Try placing a treat in one corner and see how quickly your small pet finds it.

Small rubber balls are fun, as are ball pits! Miniature versions of this childhood favorite provide your pet with great exercise (and a fun place to burrow in and sleep).

Fiddlesticks and chew toys are also good options.



Family Matters: Good Pets For Your Family


Good Pets For Your FamilyLast weekend, I went to the zoo with a little friend. She loved the birds so much she squawked and flapped and imitated them for hours after we got home.

After we got home, her mom started looking into what kind of bird would be best to get her for a pet to have at their house.

Bird Talk Magazine ranks Cockatiels as the best bird to have for a pet. According to the magazine, these birds are affectionate and talkative, and not very expensive to maintain. They are very social birds and can be taught to perch on a shoulder, to nuzzle or to give “kisses.”

The African Grey Parrot was the No. 2 choice. Owners reported liking the size of the bird, its intelligence and, after the initial investment, says they are not too expensive to keep.

Cockatoos, Conures, Macaws and other varieties of parrots also made the list.

The Bird Channel also recommends Budgies, Canaries and Finches as good pets for kids.

All experts recommend making sure the child is mature, can control impulses, and won’t harm the delicate bird if you consider it as a pet.



Family Matters: Grooming Your Cat


Grooming Your CatNot only does your dog need to be groomed, especially if he’s an outdoor sort, but your cat should get some pampering, too.
Cats are somewhat self-cleaning. Their tongue is designed to help keep them clean and neat, but if your cat gets smelly, you might need to step in.

Bathing a cat can be about as fun as wrestling an alligator, but here are some tips to make it an easier process.
Choose a time when your cat is most mellow, maybe after an afternoon nap in the sunshine. Don’t attempt this right after they eat, however, as it can upset their stomachs if they get stressed out during the process.
Trim their nails before you attempt a bath, for your safety.

Place a fluffy towel or rubber mat in the bottom of a sink or the tub, whichever you use. This will help with traction.
Place an oven rack or cookie cooling rack in the tub or sink. This gives kitty something to cling to, besides your arm, during the bath process.

Make sure water is warm but not too hot or too cold. Don’t suds their faces; they usually hate that. Using the water wand, gently and thoroughly wet the cat, and massage some specially formulated shampoo (made for cats, not for humans and definitely not dish soap) into his coat. Rinse thoroughly.

Immediately scoop your cat up with a towel wrapped snugly around him and dry thoroughly.



Shop the Sale: Smoked Rosemary-Garlic Pork Loin Roast


Smoked Rosemary-Garlic Pork Loin RoastI’m slightly obsessed with the smoker. It has a place of honor on my back porch, and I tend to smoke something every weekend and sometimes on weekdays to boot. The smoker is almost like my slow cooker. I can fill it up when I run home at lunch or before I leave in the morning, and it’s ready to go at dinner time.

The other benefit of the smoker is that it smells so wonderful when you’ve got something cooking in it. Seriously, I prefer the smell of smoking meat to any scented wax cube they can invent. I’ll leave the windows cracked so the smell can waft into the house.

A boneless pork loin roast is one of my favorite things to smoke. It stays so moist and full of flavor. I love this recipe not only because it has two of my favorite spices, rosemary and garlic, but also because their value as aromatics is astronomical. This smells so good while smoking!

Of course, you can make this recipe in a traditional smoker, an electric smoker or on your grill over indirect heat.

With boneless pork loin roast on sale this week at Brookshire’s, there’s no reason not to run out and get this smoking!

Smoked Rosemary-Garlic Pork Loin Roast

Ingredients:
4 cups apple or hickory wood chips
1 (2 1/2 lb) boneless pork top-loin roast (single loin)
2 Tbs fresh rosemary
1 Tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 lemon or lime
aluminum foil

Directions:
Soak the wood chips in water overnight. Drain chips after soaking (you can use the discarded liquid in the drip pan on the smoker for extra oomph.)

To make the rub, combine rosemary, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Massage into the pork loin.

Prepare your smoker. Place the boneless loin roast on the rack and spread rosemary sprigs over the wood chips. Cover and smoke about 2-3 hours or until the roast reaches 155 degrees.

Remove pork from the smoker; squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice over the meat. Tent with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 269, Calories from Fat: 98, Fat: 11 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 112 mg, Sodium: 141 mg, Potassium: 536 mg, Carbohydrates: 2 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 0 g, Protein: 39 g.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.



Healthy Living: Baking Soda Cleaner


Baking Soda CleanerAs I sit here thinking about a “healthy living” blog post, I started thinking of not only the things we put into our bodies to be healthier but also the things we use around the house to be healthier as well.

Harsh chemical cleaners are not something I want in my environment.

It’s a good thing that there are natural products you can use for cleaning that not only work well but also don’t infuse the air you breathe with man-made chemicals with names you can’t pronounce.

Baking soda is one of those products.

I used it a couple weekends ago to clean my oven, after the Great Valentine’s Day Pizza Disaster of Ought Sixteen.

Previously, I’ve used oven cleaners and the “Self Cleaning” setting on my oven, which, if you’ve ever tried it, you know how scary this can be between the heat of the oven and the stench of the oven cleaners. You pretty much need to air out the house for two years after you go through that process.

However, baking soda and some elbow grease got my oven sparkly clean without any chemicals.

First, I made a thick paste of baking soda and water, and rubbed it all over the oven. I let it sit overnight. The next morning, I boiled some water with half a lemon placed the pot with the boiling water and lemon into the oven, and closed the door, letting it steam inside for about an hour.

When I opened the door, I removed the pot of water, reserving it, and sprayed the oven with white vinegar. You’ll see the vinegar reacting with the baking soda, and it will foam a little. Then, using the lemon water and a strong cloth (which you’ll probably have to throw away after use if your oven is as dirty as mine was), scrub that baking soda paste off, bringing built-up gunk with it. Scrub until the oven is clean, and then wipe out with clean water and a different cloth. Super easy and no crazy chemicals!



Product Talk: Kraft Oven Fry


Kraft Oven FrySome of my favorite words in the English language are when Paul says, “I’ll cook tonight.”

Not that I don’t love cooking, I do, but I also would climb the highest mountain, swim the longest sea or, you know, walk across the kitchen for one of Paul’s meals.

Not only is Paul a great cook, but it’s SO NICE when someone else plans, shops for and executes dinner. This weekend was extraordinarily busy, so dinner Saturday night had the definite potential to be saltine crackers with the scrapings of the crunchy peanut butter left in my pantry. It feels SO GOOD to hear, “Don’t worry, I’ll handle it.”

Handle it, he did! He always manages to surprise me with what he cooks, using products I’ve never tried before. Kraft’s Oven Fry is one of those products.

Basically, it’s a great way to get a deep-fried taste in your oven without the mess, the fat or the eternal stench of oil that permeates your house with deep-fried foods.

There are many varieties of Oven Fry. We used it for pork, and Paul coated white-meat boneless chops in one beaten egg, then dredged them in Oven Fry. After about 20 minutes in the oven, they were done and came out so crispy that I was in awe. Found near the breadcrumbs, Oven Fry is definitely something I’ll be trying again, maybe on chicken next time for that fried chicken feel.



Dine In: Cheesy Olive Potatoes


Cheesy Olive PotatoesPaul made dinner last weekend, and it was amazing, as always. The weather was cold and drizzly, and it was the perfect opportunity to cuddle up on the couch and binge watch some of our favorite shows on Netflix, the ones like “The Killing” that we can only watch if the boys aren’t home.

I think I’ve already told you about the crunchy, oven-baked pork chops he made, but then he made a potato dish I’d never tasted before.

At first, I thought olives were a strange pairing with potatoes. I love green olives, so I went with it.

These potatoes were so delicious. Use a firm russet potato for this dish. We used a softer, Yukon gold, so we ended up with more of a mashed potato consistency (either way was outstanding). Now, Paul loathes mayonnaise. He can hardly stand to even look at it. He substituted butter, softened to room temperature, for the mayo. You do need something to bind the dish together and add a creamy consistency. We used green olives, but you could also use black ones.

These potatoes were the perfect side dish to the crisp pork and delicious the next morning, reheated and served under scrambled eggs.

Cheesy Olive Potatoes

Ingredients:
3 lbs potatoes (about 6 medium), peeled and cubed
1/2 cup white onion, diced
1 lb processed cheese (Velveeta), cubed
1 cup mayonnaise or butter
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup ripe green or black olives, sliced

Directions:
Fill a large pot with cold water and add potatoes, making sure there is enough water to cover. Bring potatoes to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until tender. Drain the potatoes and let cool slightly.

Mix onions, cheese, bacon, olives and mayonnaise or butter. Toss with potatoes, mixing well to incorporate. Preheat oven to 350° F. Place potato mixture into an ungreased baking dish. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.

Serves 10

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 466, Fat: 34 g (11 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 43 mg, Sodium: 870 mg, Carbohydrates: 28 g, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 13 g.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.

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Family Matters: A New Sibling


A New SiblingIt seems that the time between 24 and 36 months is a prime time to introduce your toddler to a new sibling.

I know I agonized over this when my older son was 19 months old. I cried. I cried a lot. How would he feel? Would I love my younger son as much as my firstborn? (resoundingly yes!) How would the older son react?

Introducing a toddler, especially an older one, to a new baby isn’t always easy. At 19 months, my older son hardly noticed the new guy in town, but I watched some of my friends struggle with this.

Introduce the concept while Mommy is pregnant, not when you bring the baby home from the hospital. Talk to your toddler about pregnancy in terms he can understand. You don’t necessarily have to assign a time value to the experience; he likely won’t understand what “four more months” means. If you know the gender of your baby and have a name picked out, start using that with your toddler. Let him help pick out toys or clothes for the new baby.

Make a big deal about getting your toddler a new bed or a new room if he’s moving out of his nursery. Start this process well before the baby is born, so your toddler has time to settle in.

Have your toddler buy your little one a present for when he’s born. You might want to get your toddler something special that the baby can “give” him at the hospital.

Finally, when it’s time for delivery, make sure your toddler has someone loved and trusted to spend time with when you’re delivering his sibling. Bring him up to the hospital or birthing center as soon as possible after the baby is born to meet his new sibling.

After you bring the baby home, remember your older child might want extra cuddles and reassurance and might act out a little. Don’t scold him too harshly. You know what an adjustment this is for you; imagine what he feels like, too!



Family Matters: Baby Loves Buttons


Baby Loves ButtonsButtons, buttons and more buttons! Not the kind on your clothing (although your baby will probably love those, too) but the kind you push on toys, elevators or electronics. Your child ages 7 to 12 months will love buttons.

As baby’s fine motor skills develop, they become more adept at skills like pushing buttons, and they will want to push every button they see.

Choose toys for your baby that have buttons that will show them cause and effect. Push the yellow button, and a cute animal pops out of a window! Push the blue button, and a honking noise sounds from the toy. Baby will learn his actions have a result, and it’s a hugely rewarding feeling for your little one.

It also helps his fine motor skills as he learns to use one finger to produce a result.

Let your baby push buttons in an elevator, and watch the button as it lights up. As they get older, this helps with number recognition, too.



Family Matters: Never Shake a Baby


Never Shake a BabyPaul and I have a standing joke. “Don’t drop the baby,” he says, claiming this is the extent of his knowledge of newborns.

It’s pretty good advice.

Don’t shake the baby, either.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is another name for abusive head trauma, shaken impact syndrome, inflicted head injury or whiplash shake syndrome. It’s a serious brain injury caused by forcefully shaking an infant or toddler. It can result in death or serious developmental injuries.

Basically, the injury deprives a baby’s brain of vital oxygen. The injury doesn’t usually happen by accident; an adult inflicts it upon a child. If a child survives the injury, it will cause serious brain damage.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is 100 percent preventable. If you find yourself losing patience with 3am feedings, colicky crying or the day-to-day rigors of taking care of an infant, please seek help. Your doctor, therapist or other health professional can get you help. Just don’t shake the baby.



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The products mentioned in “Share, the Brookshire’s Blog” are sold by Brookshire Grocery Company, DBA Brookshire’s . Some products may be mentioned as part of a relationship between its manufacturer and Brookshire’s.

Product Talk

Each Monday we feature a new or interesting product.

Healthy Living

Tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, every Tuesday.

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