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Family Matters: The Butcher Shop


The Butcher ShopMy son came to work with me today.

He had a school holiday, and while he’s capable of staying home alone, he didn’t want to be by himself for so many hours. I don’t blame him.

So, this morning, he packed up his laptop, his headphones and his charging cord, and he prepared to hunker down in my office for the better part of 10 hours.

We dropped his brother off at school (amidst wails of “It’s not fair.”), and we headed to work.

Luke didn’t make a peep for four hours until I said I was getting hungry. His agreement was instantaneous.

I think he was expecting to hit up a fast food joint, but I upped the ante on him. We went to The Butcher Shop, a local favorite that specializes in burgers, homemade desserts and grinding their own beef. We’d been a few other times when Luke’s soccer team played in town for tournaments.

He was beyond thrilled.

Over burgers and a shared order of fries, I realized that I almost never get time alone with my boys one-on-one. The other boy is always around. Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t trade the company for the world, but it’s nice to have alone time, too.

We talked about all kinds of things, topics we may not have touched on had his older brother been with us.

I left lunch feeling very satisfied and not just from the burger and fries. My heart was full, and I realized that I need to schedule time alone with each son on a regular basis.

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Family Matters: New Year’s Resolution


New Year’s ResolutionsAs we begin moving forward in a new year, many individuals and families are making resolutions of different types. Whether it be healthier eating, weight loss, charity work or starting to go to church, some resolutions, as we know, don’t last long. This year, how about setting a reasonable goal that will not only benefit you but will touch the lives of others?

Have you ever thought about how your “hand-me downs” could make a difference to someone else? How just the giving of something you no longer want or need will change someone’s life? We all outgrow some of our clothes throughout the year, and a lot of times we just trash them or leave them in the closet or drawer for later when they will fit again…we all do this. The truth of the matter is that most of the time we don’t get back into these clothes, and they are not benefiting anyone.

Our family takes our “hand-me downs” to a local clothes closet that benefits families who are less fortunate. We can take clothes, shoes, toys or anything that is still in good shape, and donate it to be used for the good of others. We have a saying at our house “your hand-me downs can raise someone else up.” This means that something we can no longer use or wear can be given to someone who has a true need, and it will bring them comfort and a sense of joy. What is more rewarding than knowing you are helping others by just giving, something that cost you nothing?

Don’t throw good, used clothing away for there is always someone who can benefit from these items. If you can’t find a local charity that takes used clothing, I promise there is some friend with kids that would love to have them; just ask. Rule of thumb: don’t donate items that have holes in them or stains – things that you would not wear. When you want to raise someone else up, make your hand-me downs something they will be proud to wear. Set a goal to clean out the items that your family can no longer wear or use every three months. My kids grow out of things or they decide to change their style (a girl thing) often. Clothes and shoes are expensive, so donating them is a great way to teach your family to give to others.

Count your blessings daily, and give thanks to the Lord for the time you have to share with your family and the opportunities you have to raise others up!

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FAMILY MATTERS: PET ORAL HEALTH


Pet Oral HealthMy big, red dog, Astro, is kind of funny about some things.

He won’t touch a sausage link left on the kitchen counter, but he will sneak a slice of eggplant.

He likes the front yard better than the backyard, and he does NOT like to be outside if any of his people are inside.

He also doesn’t mind getting his nails clipped or his teeth brushed, which is practically unheard of in a dog of mine!

The first time I tried to brush his teeth, I was the one who was nervous. I mean, he was 85 pounds when I got him and has put on some weight since his adoption. He has a big mouth and big teeth! It’s just as important to take care of your pet’s oral health as it is your own. Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs even though it’s completely preventable. Many pets show signs of gum disease by the time they’re four years old because they aren’t provided with proper mouth care, and bad breath is often the first sign of a problem.

PetMD offers these tips for good oral health for your pets.

1. The Breath Test

Sniff your pet’s breath. Not a field of lilies? That’s okay-normal; pet breath isn’t particularly fresh-smelling. However, if his breath is especially offensive and is accompanied by a loss of appetite, vomiting, or excessive drinking or urinating, it’s a good idea to take your pet to the vet.

2. Lip Service

Once a week with your pet facing you, lift his lips and examine his gums and teeth. The gums should be pink, not white or red, and they should show no signs of swelling. His teeth should be clean without any brownish tartar.

3. Signs of Oral Disease

The following are signs that your pet may have a problem in his mouth or gastrointestinal system, and your pet should be checked by a veterinarian:

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Inflamed gums
  • Tumors in the gums
  • Cysts under the tongue
  • Loose teeth

4. The Lowdown on Tooth Decay

Bacteria and plaque-forming foods can cause build-up on your pet’s teeth. This can harden into tartar, possibly causing gingivitis, receding gums and tooth loss. One solution? Regular teeth cleanings, of course.

5. Teeth-Brushing Kit

Get a toothbrush made especially for your pet or a clean piece of soft gauze to wrap around your finger. Ask your vet for toothpaste made especially for your pet or make a paste out of baking soda and water. Please do not use human toothpaste, which can irritate their stomach. Special mouthwash for dogs and cats is also available – ask your vet.



Family Matters: Taming the Teeth Tantrums


Taming the Teeth TantrumsEven before your baby has teeth, you need to be thinking about their oral health.

When they still have their gummy grins, begin rubbing a soft cloth, or a brush made especially for babies, gently over their gums to get them accustomed to the sensation of having their “teeth brushed.” You don’t have to use toothpaste; just gently rub their gums.

When they do have teeth, use a small toothbrush with soft bristles, or a special brush you wear on your finger, to get your toddler’s teeth clean. Don’t use adult toothpaste, though. Find a brand specially made for babies and toddlers.

When we hit the toddler years, it was so hard to get my children to stand still long enough to brush their teeth. Plus, they hated when I did it and wanted to do it THEMSELVES (insert foot stomping and general churlishness here). To combat the teeth brushing tantrums, each boy had their own toothbrush they could hold while I was brushing their teeth. Then, when I was done, it was their turn. They also loved the little sand timers that help you know how long to brush. They were so mesmerized by the sand that they’d forget to focus on how long it was taking me to brush their teeth. Spin brushes were another lifesaver. While they weren’t the primary toothbrush, they were fun enough to distract the boys while I brushed their teeth thoroughly.

Good luck!

TIP: When your baby is a toddler, he likely wants to feed himself. Pick out the appropriate utensils to make this task easier. Utensils with handles with a special texture or shape or those with chunky handles with rubber grips make it simpler for little hands to pick up and grip.



Family Matters: Going All-natural


Hyland’s Baby Teething Tablets I’m always very aware and very cautious about what I’m putting into my kids’ bodies, and this was especially true when they were babies.

I was first introduced to Hyland’s products when my first son started teething, and he needed relief. Let’s be honest: I needed relief, too.

I turned to an experienced mom whose parenting philosophies were pretty much in line with my own for advice, and she recommended Hyland’s Baby Teething Tablets.

Hyland’s makes homeopathic remedies for babies and kids. Homeopathic is really just a fancy word for “natural.”

According to the Hyland’s website, the product line was started by pharmacist George Hyland in 1903, driven by the notion that the body can call upon its own natural defenses to heal and restore balance.

Homeopathic medicine has been around for a long time, and it’s great to put to use for children and babies because there are no harmful side effects or drawbacks to trying these methods.

Hyland’s teething tablets reduced the pain of cutting teeth for my son and the stress of his discomfort for me. I loved that I could rest assured that what I was putting into his body was natural.

TIP: In addition to using a homeopathic remedy for teething, try dampening a very soft washcloth and putting it in the freezer for a little while. It will be cold enough to help soothe baby but not frozen so solid that it would irritate baby’s gums.



Family Matters: Going Green


Going GreenI was one of those moms who was determined that my child would only eat the healthiest of organic foods.

That went pretty well until he went on a hunger strike. That aside, for many months he did only eat the healthiest foods, and his introduction to solid foods started with avocado.

Avocado is a great first food. I started my older son at four months but then backed off until six months, as he still had a bit of a gag reflex and couldn’t handle solids very well. Four months is the earliest pediatricians recommend introducing solids, and six months is about average for American babies.

At six months after whetting his appetite with rice cereal, I mashed an avocado and let him try it. He loved it. His baby bird mouth opened time and time again, and I had to mash the second half of the fruit as he devoured the first portion quickly.

Avocado is mild. It’s easily mashed or cut into small pieces, and it’s easy for baby to eat.

Plus, it’s chock full of nutrients.

Avocados provide baby with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are the heart-healthy fats. Avocados also contribute almost 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds to baby’s diet. Baby can eat it plain, mashed or mixed in with cereal, bananas or other first foods.

TIP: Not all babies can tolerate baby wipes; they give some children a rash. It’s perfectly fine to use a damp washcloth or a wet paper towel as well!



Family Matters: Being Different Makes You Unique


FamilyRaising four girls is a challenge, but we have been blessed with extremely good children. Though they are not perfect, we are proud to call them ours. As the girls have grown, we have tried to instill in them that they are each unique in their own way. Some days I wonder how they were all born from the same mother…you know what I am talking about! They have unique personalities, different ways of handling situations, different thinking, different styles, etc.

In today’s culture, kids seem to “follow” others so they can “fit in” or “stand out” from the crowd. We have always taught our girls that being different is not a bad thing. It makes you unique from others, and you normally stand out because of it. Of course, if you stand out, you need to make sure you are setting a good example for those watching. Your daily actions can ultimately change someone’s life.

For our girls, that different and unique person they work daily to portray to others is Christ-centered, compassionate, humble, responsible, kind, grateful, bold in their beliefs, and full of patience and hope. We teach them to have a servant’s heart, find the good in every situation, persevere in all they do and that through it all they will reflect their passion for the Lord.

Lesson for us all: be content with your life and give thanks daily for every situation because it is those things that make us who we are. Pray daily (multiple times if you have kids), and live a life full of faithfulness – always trust you are in His hands. We are each different and unique. He planned it just that way. Strive daily to portray what you believe. Live your life so that others look at you and want whatever it is that makes you the special and unique person they see.

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Family Matters: Giant Christmas Tree Cookie


Giant Christmas Tree CookieAre your kiddos crushing on cookies this Christmas? Make a giant treat for your little ones to decorate, a sweet and easy, memory-making activity to share with loved ones during the holidays.

Giant Christmas Tree Cookie

Ingredients:
1 egg
1 pouch Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix
1/3 cup Brookshire’s Butter, softened
green gel food coloring
1 (12 oz) Betty Crocker Whipped Fluffy White Frosting
1 (12 oz) Betty Crocker Whipped Chocolate Frosting
decorations or candy, as desired for decorating

Directions:
Heat oven to 375º F. In a medium bowl, stir cookie mix, butter and egg until soft dough forms.

Line a 15 x 10 x 1-inch pan with foil. With moistened fingers, press dough in bottom of pan. Bake 10 to 14 minutes or until light golden-brown; cool completely, about 30 minutes.

With the help of mom or dad, cut tree shape from baked cookie. If you need help, create a tree template. Place the template on the baked cookie and cut around it using a sharp knife.

Stir food coloring into frosting as desired. Decorate cookie tree with frosting and candies.

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



Family Matters: Holiday Hazards for Pets


Holiday PetsOne of the best gifts you can give your pet this howliday season is time, attention and love, but because you love them, you also want to keep them safe!

There are a lot of hazards during the howlidays, and you don’t want your beloved friend injured. Here are some tips from pet expert Steve Dale about keeping your pet safe, healthy and happy this time of year.

  1. LIMIT TABLE SCRAPS. When you have a dozen dinner guests and everyone from Aunt Ethel and Uncle Fred are all offering table scraps, it may be too much for a small dog or cat to handle. Even big pets are too often treated for everything from minor upset tummy to pancreatitis on Christmas Day.
  2. WATCH WHAT YOU LEAVE OUT FOR SANTA. When leaving Christmas chocolate cookies out for Santa, remember chocolate can make pets sick (and Santa doesn’t need the calories). Avocado is hazardous to birds (no guacamole for Polly). Pets can choke on chicken or turkey bones, which may also cause a gastrointestinal obstruction.
  3. CANDLES IN THE WIND. Candles may look nice, but they can easily be knocked over by playful kittens or curious cats. Aromatic candles may smell good to us and seem benign, but they may be very dangerous to pet birds (who have very sensitive respiratory systems).
  4. AVOID PRICKLY CHRISTMAS TREES. When choosing a tree, consider one with pet friendly needles such as white pine or Douglas fir. They’re not as likely to stick to pet’s paws.
  5. TIDY TREE NEEDLES. Puppies and kittens can munch on errant needles, and that may cause choking or upset stomach. Pet parrots (given the chance) may naturally perch on a branch of your Christmas tree, no harm done – great photo opp. However, if Polly begins chewing on real needles or those from an artificial tree, it may be life-threatening.
  6. NO CHEMICALS UNDER THE TREE. Don’t add chemical preservatives to prolong the life of your tree if pets have access to that solution. While the solutions to prolong tree life don’t seem to cause severe reactions, pets can get an upset tummy.
  7. HOUSE GUESTS. Some pets are social butterflies; others not so much. For some pets, the commotion caused by little children is simply not the peace and quiet they’re accustomed to. Those pets might be happier secluded in a room, door shut with Christmas carols playing in the background. Also, with that front door frequently opening and closing, some dogs get out and so do indoor cats. Be sure all pets are microchipped for identification (and registered with the microchip provider) and that they have a collar and an I.D. tag.
  8. HOLIDAY PLANTS MAY NOT BE SO FESTIVE. In truth, poinsettias are generally not the poisonous killer they’re made out to be, although too much may potentially cause upset stomach. Fresh holly and mistletoe are toxic, particularly the berries. Also, cats may be attracted to amaryllis lilies and red azaleas – all potentially dangerous.
  9. TINSEL AND RIBBON IN THE TUMMY. Cats and puppies love to play with tinsel and ribbons. If they ingest enough of this glittery stuff, it can create serious gastrointestinal obstruction and may be life-threatening.
  10. WHAT ARE TREES FOR? Ask any cat – Christmas trees are all about trying to climb them. Secure the tree so that if a cat takes a flying leap, the tree won’t topple over.
  11. ORNAMENTS AREN’T MADE FOR CATS. If you have cats, glass ornaments should be kept off the tree. Find a cat-proof place, such as behind a glass cabinet where they can be shown off. Cats tend to believe that shiny glass ornaments are, of course, meant to be batted at. Broken ornaments are a hazard to people and pets, and some may have lots of sentimental value. Also, tinsel hanging from a tree is an equivalent to an invitation for any cat to jump and grab.

PETS DESERVE PRESENTS, TOO. As the family gathers for opening presents, include all members of the family, even those with paws. This doesn’t mean you need to spend big bucks; simply take a dog’s toy away a few days before Christmas and open on the big day. Your dog won’t mind the “regifting” as long as you make a fuss. Cat toys can be as simple as a plastic bottle top, wine cork or used tissue box with catnip inside of it. Of course, the best thing you can do for your cat is to wrap the present in catnip-scented wrapping paper. The wrapping will be far more exciting than the gift.



Family Matters: Enfagrow is Great for Toddlers


Enfagrow is great for toddlersI could write blog post after blog post about how my kids were awful eaters as toddlers. In fact, I think I have. I did everything from making homemade baby and toddler food to sneaking pureed carrots and broccoli into pancakes.

Something that would have given me peace of mind is Enfagrow.

Enfagrow Toddler Next Step Powder is specifically formulated for toddlers 1-3 years old to help ensure they get good nutrition when they won’t eat anything but applesauce and cheese toast (true story).

Enfagrow Toddler Next Step Powder includes DHA and iron, building blocks of brain development. It also is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, zinc and 19 other nutrients to help support growth and development. In addition, the Natural Defense® Dual Prebiotics® Blend is designed to help support digestive health.

Enfagrow Toddler Next Step is available in natural milk or vanilla flavors to drink plain or mix into a smoothie with broccoli and carrots…just kidding…with fruits and veggies your toddler might love.

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