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Family Matters: Safe and Fun Feline Treats for the Holidays


Safe and Fun Feline Treats for the HolidaysWhile cats don’t always eat table scraps, they are kind of sneaky about going into the kitchen and munching on your holiday feast while you’re eating in the dining room.

However, holiday indulgences that we love aren’t always good for your feline friend.

Turkey is one of them.

Turkey isn’t bad for your kitty (well, the bones are), but the richness of a roasted bird might not agree with his digestive system. You know what that means for you.

Do not give your cat anything with bulb vegetables like onions, garlic or leeks. They cause anemia in cats.

Absolutely no gravy, which typically contains garlic, onions or mushrooms.

Speaking of mushrooms, they are toxic to cats. Keep your kitty away from them.

Don’t give your cat bread: yeast also causes digestive issues.

Liver, while it sounds like a good idea, can cause organ toxicity in cats. Just avoid it.

Of course, avoid chocolate, candy or any other sweets.

Your vet probably has an emergency number for holidays. Post it on your fridge. Also, have the number for the Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA). Their number is 888-ANI-HELP, or 888-426-4435. 



Family Matters: What Treats NOT to Feed Your Dog During the Holidays


What Treats NOT to Feed Your Dog During the HolidaysWith the holidays upon us, it’s tempting to feed our canine best friend some treats from the table. After all, we’re indulging, so why shouldn’t he?

There are a list of good reasons why!

I want to feed my dog, Astro, all the same treats that I’m enjoying, but not everything that’s good for me is good for him.

First of all, please don’t feed your four-legged friend bones from your holiday turkey, ham or even crown roast. No bones, period, unless they come from the pet food aisle at Brookshire’s and are engineered specifically for dogs. Real animal bones can fracture and cause serious, even fatal, damage in your dog’s digestive system.

Secondly, beware of holiday plants. Poinsettias and mistletoe are both poisonous. You also don’t want your pup ingesting needles from your Christmas tree! Keep these plants out of reach of your dog, and keep him away from your tree.

Chocolate is also poisonous to your dog in certain quantities. Don’t leave out dishes of chocolate, and closely monitor any chocolate treats in the house during the holiday season.

Alcohol can also be fatal to your pooch. While he might not WANT to attack your glass of glog, keep anything with alcohol in it far away from your pet.

Onions or any other bulb vegetable (like garlic, leeks and chives) are also bad for your dog. Don’t feed him table scraps with any of those ingredients.

Raisins and grapes are also super bad for your dog, so if he gets into the fruitcake or cinnamon bread, call your vet immediately.

Most vets offer emergency service (or a backup) on holidays. Make sure you have that number handy in case your four-legged friend DOES indeed get into something he shouldn’t eat.

In the meantime, provide his favorite (dog-approved) treats and his regular foods, and give him lots of love and attention to keep him from focusing on table scraps.



Family Matters: Potty Training Tips


Potty training may start during this time period in your child’s life, but let me just stress to you that if it doesn’t, don’t fret and don’t push it.

While some little girls may potty train right around age 2, some little boys might not be ready until they’re well over age 3. They will do it when they’re ready. From my experience, there’s only so much you can do until they are ready!

In the meantime, let them pick out some fun underpants! For my younger son, potty training amounted to a basic request, “Don’t pee pee on Thomas the Train, okay?” He didn’t. My older son didn’t care who was on his underwear, however.

Get a potty chair that your child likes. For some, this is a small, freestanding chair. Others might prefer a stool with a potty insert for the “big” potty, like they see mommy, daddy or an older sibling using.

Plan to stay home in the early days of potty learning, and bring them to the potty often. Read books about the potty. Sing songs about the potty. Watch videos about the potty. Camp out on the potty, if necessary. Some children’s first success on the potty is by accident! They just go, realize that’s what all the fuss is about, and that helps them learn.

Some parents choose a reward system. My mom kept a jar of M&M’s® in the bathroom (eww, maybe in the kitchen instead). My brother got one every time he went, after he washed his hands of course. For him, this was major motivation. For your child, it might be a sticker or a success chart.

Praise him when he goes and expect some accidents along the way. Again, just wait until he’s ready!



Family Matters: Teething Pain


Right around this time, if not already, your baby will be sprouting teeth!

For some, this is a painless process, and they seem to wake up one morning with a pearly white popping through their gums. That’s how it was with my first baby; I didn’t even know he was cutting a tooth until he bit me!

My second son didn’t have it so easy. He drooled so constantly that we had to change clothes frequently. His gums were swollen and irritated. He was irritable and didn’t sleep.

There are many ways to help relieve teething pain.

You can give your baby something to gnaw on, like a teething biscuit or a toy designed for teething that’s made of hard plastic that has textures that feel soothing to baby’s gums. My son liked a soft, rubbery teething toy that we kept in the freezer, and I let him gnaw on it when he needed relief. He also liked a cold drink in his sippy cup to help relieve some pain.

A small dose of Tylenol® or ibuprofen is probably fine to help relieve pain, too. Just check with your pediatrician on the correct dosage for your little one.

Some doctors recommend a topical pain reliever, like Orajel™, applied directly to the gums.

Sometimes, you’ll need to try all of the above, but know that this too shall pass!



Family Matters: Sucking to Soothe


Studies (and tons of moms and dads) have shown that most all babies use sucking as a soothing mechanism.

Whether it’s the breast, a bottle, a finger (yours or his own), pacifier or other object, sucking is reflexively soothing to your infant.

You can help facilitate baby learning to self-soothe by leaving his hands free (no mittens or hand coverings) so he can find his fingers, or by providing a pacifier for the times he’s not eating.

Besides sucking to soothe, some babies like motion, white noise or skin-to-skin contact. You might have to try all of these, sometimes in combination, to help meet your baby’s needs. He’ll eventually learn to seek out what he needs and provide it for himself.



Family Matters: Thanksgiving Fun for the Kids


Thanksgiving Fun for the KidsGrowing up, Thanksgiving with my mom’s side of the family was a big, raucous affair.

We’d load into the three-seat station wagon (you know, the kind with the rear seat facing backward) early that Thursday morning and head north to my aunt and uncle’s home about two hours away, depending on traffic.

When we got there, we’d tumble out of the two-toned station wagon: ourselves, the bountiful side dishes we’d provided and usually a few boxes of hand-me downs for assorted cousins or gear promised to various relatives. “Do you want Amy’s box of old Nancy Drew books for Megan?” “Sure, just bring them at Thanksgiving.”

Then, the food preparation would ensue, and the kids would be left to their own devices, which usually involved messing with Uncle Jerry’s big-screen TV (the very first of its kind) in the basement, or knocking cans of soda off the soundproof wall onto the Beltway below. Neither were sanctioned activities.

The adults finally caught on to the fact that they needed to keep us busy in order to direct our energies into a productive manner, so they put us to work making fun foods for the holiday meal.

One year, we made Thanksgiving cornucopias.

We took ice cream sugar cones, dipped the openings in melted chocolate, let them dry, and then filled them with candy corns and candy pumpkins. We set them on top of each plate for decoration. They were a sweet treat and lovely table décor for that year’s feast.

One year, we made turkey cookies. You could use Brookshire’s bakery sugar cookies. Then, you simply need white piped icing from the bakery aisle to pipe on a half-moon, outlining the top of the cookie. Line about a dozen candy corns over the icing (the icing adheres the candy corn to the cookie) to make the turkey “feathers.” Pipe on an icing face and use as a fun dessert! You can also use M&M’s® chocolate candies for the eyes instead.

One of our favorites was the “acorns” that we made for dessert one year. We took doughnut holes from the bakery, dipped them in melted chocolate bark found on the baking aisle, and then rolled them in crushed pecans (or the nut of your choice). They were delicious!

You can also make a turkey appetizer platter using pepperoni, salami and assorted cheeses to make a “turkey” on a platter or cheese board. Start by cutting a round head from a slice of cheddar, and then cut an oval body from a slice of Colby-Jack. Under that, fan an arrangement of pepperoni to represent the first layer of feathers. Under that, lay squares of cheese in a fan arrangement for the next layer of feathers. Alternate cheese and meats until you have a full plate and a festive turkey. You might have to visualize this from the outer layer to the inner layer, though, to make it easier to execute.

There are so many fun ways to include your kids in the holidays, and we have so many options to make it easy at Brookshire’s.



Family Matters: Choosing Your Dog’s Food


Choosing Your Dog's FoodWhen Astro first bounded out of his foster mom’s car onto my driveway, I had two immediate thoughts.

The first was, “Oh my gosh, he’s huge.” The second was, “Oh my gosh, he’s so cute.”

I picked Astro off the SPCA Facebook page. My boys and I were ready to get another dog, and we (I) fell in love with Astro’s soulful eyes and his hound face. We adopted him sight unseen.

We found out later that the SPCA was overjoyed because dogs his size are difficult to adopt out. People tend to be frightened of them, but little do they know that our gentle giant is the kindest, most docile, most loving, most friendly dog in the history of dogs.

Back to the issue at hand though… When we got Astro, he was still a puppy, and he needed puppy food.

You wouldn’t feed your baby a steak, right? So, you don’t want to feed your puppy any food that’s formulated for an adult or senior dog.

Now, I’ll be honest. It probably won’t hurt a dog like a steak would hurt a baby. However, take care of your puppy like you would your baby, and you and your four-legged family member will have lots of good years together.

Puppy formulations are designed to give your dog the best nutrients for growth; to develop the building blocks he needs for a long, healthy life; and to sustain his playful energy.

Brookshire’s Paws Happy Life™ foods have Puppy Formula that will do exactly this for your growing pup.

As your dog grows, he needs more protein, more balance or other formulations to serve him well through his life. Paws Happy Life™ helps with that, offering Butcher’s Choice, Kibbles, Complete, Lamb Meal & Rice, and Nutritionally Complete formulas. Paws Happy Life™ also offers formulations in cans and pouches that your dog will love, including beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, filet mignon and more.

Now that Astro is a 4-year-old, 100 lb. adult, we give him a variety designed to meet his large-breed, adult needs. I can personally attest that he is healthy, happy, and loves his morning and evening meals.



Family Matters: Choosing Your Cat’s Litter


Choosing Your Cat's LitterDuring the years that my boys begged to get a cat and I denied them time and time again, the reason was always that I did not want to mess with a litter box.

Clearly, cat litter technology has changed since the last time I had a cat.

With Brookshire’s Paws Happy Life™ Cat Litter, it’s almost like not even having a cat litter box in the house. Now granted, we have one that is hooded, vented and sealed from almost every angle, but I also use Paws Happy Life™ Lightweight Clumping, Fragrance-Free Cat Litter. I also have a great textured mat by the exit of the box that catches any stray spills.

This cat litter traps all the odors of a cat box and holds them together, making it easy to scoop on a regular basis and keep the cat box clean for Carl, our cat, and also for me (not sure who is more important here).

It’s not messy for either of us. It’s easy to scoop, and it’s virtually odor-free. Lightweight technology means it doesn’t make a mess either in or out of the cat box. Whether you have one cat or more than one, Paws Happy Life™ offers a kind of cat litter that will work best in your home.



Terrible Twos


Last weekend, I watched my friend’s toddler have a meltdown at a birthday party.

No. No. No. He did NOT want to play the game. He did NOT want the green cupcake; he wanted the BLUE cupcake. He did NOT want to sing the appropriate song to the birthday boy.

It was terribly frustrating, and I’d dare say embarrassing for his parents, yet, at the same time, entirely developmentally appropriate. They certainly weren’t the only ones in that same position. (Sophie had to be taken to the car when there weren’t any PINK cupcakes.)

About the time your little wonder wall hits age 2, they begin to develop defiance, and that’s okay. He’s learning to test his limits, and he’s learning what he likes and does not like. He’s also learning how it’s appropriate to vocalize those likes and dislikes, and it’s up to you to teach him how to set those boundaries.

When your toddler screams with rage when it’s time to leave the playground because he doesn’t want to, it’s not your place to give in. It’s time to leave the playground. You might want to manage his expectations by giving him a countdown. “Joshua, we’re going to leave in 2 minutes.” (Toddlers don’t have a great concept of time, but a countdown can help prepare them). “Joshua, we’re going to leave in 1 minute.” Then, you leave. Don’t backtrack on what you say you’re going to do; be consistent.

If there’s not a pink cupcake, give Sophie options. “You can have the green cupcake, or you don’t get a cupcake. What do you choose?” Chances are, Sophie will pick the green cupcake. Remind Sophie that it’s Bryce’s special day, not hers. When it’s HER special day, SHE can pick the pink cupcake.

Also, keep in mind that your toddler needs to go into situations well-rested and well-fed. Keep him on his schedule. If you’re going to a birthday party, make sure he’s had his nap first and eaten his lunch. If you’re going to an unfamiliar house, pack his favorite foods just in case he needs a backup. (See Gerber’s Lil Entrees, below.)

TIP: Gerber’s Lil Entrees are great meals for your toddler to not only feed himself but also get great nutrition. Gerber’s recipes, with entrees like Chicken and Brown Rice with Peas and Corn, are designed specifically for toddlers, with a taste your little one will love, an easy-to-eat texture and the perfect size for easy self-feeding. If your little one doesn’t like his food touching, like my older son didn’t, Gerber made these entrees with two compartments that keep food separate.



The pincer grasp


The pincer grasp is a big deal for your baby to develop during the latter half of their first year.

The pincer grasp, or using their thumb and pointer finger to pick up objects, is a handy movement used for feeding and grabbing objects when playing.

To encourage use of the pincer grasp, give baby small bites of food, like Cheerios if your baby is ready for that kind of food or soft bits of fruits or veggies otherwise, and let him pick them up off of his high chair tray or plate and eat them. Food is always a good incentive!

Board books with peekaboo flaps are also good for using the pincer grasp as baby has to open the flaps to see what’s inside. Activity boards with slider windows, buttons or other knobs also help develop this skill.

TIP: Organics Happy Baby Clearly Crafted Stage 2 pouches are perfect foods for your little one to enjoy. Thick and smooth, these are specially formulated for the child aged 6 months and up exploring the world of solid foods. These foods are all certified USDA organic, non-GMO project verified, gluten-free and kosher without artificial flavors. They do have delicious flavors like Bananas, Sweet Potato and Papaya; Pears, Squash and Blackberries; Apples, Kale and Avocados; Apples, Guava and Beets; Pears, Pumpkin and Passion Fruit; and Pears, Zucchini and Peas.



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