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Family Matters: Family


FamilyIn the blink of an eye, I was transported back to childhood: my teenage years, to be exact.

I walked into the bedroom I was sharing with my sister on our annual beach trip, when 22 of us crowd into one house with a handful of bathrooms and have fun for a week. Her stuff was all over my side of the dresser, and my clothes were flung across the (small) space between the two beds crowded into the room.

Déjà vu.

While we never actually shared a room growing up, my first instinct was to screech, “MOOOOOMMMMMM, Beth’s stuff is all over my side of the room.”

Then, I realized that it was NOT. A. BIG. DEAL.

We see each other ONCE a year.

She lives in Virginia. My parents live in Virginia. My two brothers and their families live in Virginia. My other sister and her family live in California. We hardly ever see each other.

The week at the beach is probably the closest thing to heaven on earth I can imagine. We’re all together, in one house, at our favorite place in the universe with the people we love most.

Yes, someone is always in the bathroom when you need to use it. There is always someone using the one square foot of available kitchen counter space. You couldn’t sleep late if you tried, and the amount of stuff we haul to the beach each day would make Mayflower proud.

However, we sure do laugh a lot. Loudly. There’s always someone to go jump waves with you or to dig a sandcastle. There’s always someone who will pour you a drink or grab the water bottle you forgot when they go back up to the beach house. There’s always an extra pair of eyes on your children playing in the surf and an extra set of ears to listen to the stories your friends back home are tired of hearing. There’s a lot of extra love in that house.

So many of my friends’ families have lost touch with each other. They’ve fought. They’ve moved away. They’ve let the stuff on their side of the dresser get in the way.

So, I am thankful.

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Family Matters: I LOVE cooking!


Texas CaviarI love cooking for my family. Although, I can only use the word LOVE when I truly have the time to cook. Otherwise, if I do not have time to cook, like the five days a week I am working, I cannot use the word LOVE. I don’t even know if I can use the word LIKE! I do know, however, that having a sit down meal every night is very important to my family’s lifestyle, and I try to meet this goal the best I can. It’s not always pretty, but we make it happen.

Over the Fourth of July holiday, I had my parents over for lunch. This was a time that I LOVED cooking because I had the extra time to prepare. I started the night before preparing the side dishes to go along with a traditional smoked brisket. I decided on making Texas caviar. I had never made this, but I recently had it at a friend’s and really liked it. The best part about this dish is that the longer you let it sit, the better it gets. So, making it the night before gives it time to marinate, making it oh so yummy!

This recipe is easily adjustable to your own tastes and very forgiving, which makes me LOVE it!

Texas Caviar
Serves: 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus marinating

Ingredients:
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15.8 oz) can black-eyed peas, drained
1 (15.25) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
2 fresh jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
5 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup red onions, diced
1 cup cilantro, stems removed and chopped
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
1 Tbs lime juice
salt, to taste
tortilla chips

Directions:
Combine all vegetables. Pour dressing and lime juice over mixture; mix together.

Season with salt. Cover and marinate at least 2 hours in refrigerator before serving.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Calories Per Serving: 186, Fat: 6 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 10 mg, Sodium: 310 mg, Carbohydrates: 30 g, Fiber: 6 g, Protein: 7 g

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Family Matters: Thomas Moore Small Animal Food


Thomas Moore Small Animal FoodWhen my sister was in middle school, she begged my parents for a pet rabbit.

They refused.

She wheedled.

Cajoled.

Needled.

Pouted.

Stomped around.

Poured on the sweetness.

Begged.

And begged some more.

I forget what finally tipped the scales because my parents aren’t the type to give in to a whiny kid, but my sister got her bunny. It was a fuzzy brown thing that she kept in a large bunny hutch on a stand my father built in the backyard. She’d bring the bunny inside to play, to hop around her bedroom and to cuddle. I think even my parents had to admit that the bunny was pretty cute.

Small animals need a special diet. Pets like rabbits, gerbils, guinea pigs and hamsters can benefit from carefully-formulated food designed for their unique needs.

Thomas Moore offers a line of small-animal foods that are available at Brookshire’s and perfect for your cuddly pet.

Thomas Moore Feed’s Bunny Cuisine Premium Feed is a source of omega-3 fatty acids that support rabbit’s heart, brain and visual functions.

The Guinea Pig Premium Feed is a timothy hay-based pellet that is rich in fiber to promote gastrointestinal health of your guinea pig.

Thomas Moore Feed’s Hamster & Gerbil Premium Feed has wholesome, palatable ingredients that help maintain proper weight, growth and dental health.

Thomas Moore’s foods will keep your pet in tip-top shape, so you can enjoy him for a long and healthy life.

 



Family Matters: Changing the Focus


Changing the FocusWe recently got a miniature puppy as a surprise for my mother. Even though she did not ask for a pet or know she was getting one, it was the best gift ever. My mom lost her youngest son a few months ago, and every day is a struggle and filled with tears. I know the pain from being his sister, but I can’t begin to imagine if it were my own child. I know the hurt will last a lifetime, but I wanted to find something that would make her smile and for just a moment take her mind off of her loss. She lives alone so there is a lot of alone time after work each day.

I can’t begin to tell you the joy this small puppy has given her these past few weeks. I get multiple calls a day to share what cute things it is doing and hear how sweet it is. She falls asleep with the puppy on her chest each night, and it follows her around the house, nipping at her heels. It has given her something new to focus on and keeps her from continually missing her son.

It is hard to believe that an animal that weighs 2 1/2 pounds can bring so much healing to a grown-up. What a blessing this tiny puppy has been to my mother and to our family! It warms my heart to see her smile and laugh again, and even though she still has tears, they seem a little lighter. As I listened to my voicemail one day this week, my mom said, “Thank you for giving me this sweet puppy. I did not know how much I needed something to love.”…that says it all for me.

Not only did this tiny puppy find a home, it has also found a place in my mom’s heart that so badly needed to be filled. Sit down and pet a puppy, and see how it affects you…I think you will be pleasantly surprised. It brings out a calming feeling and gives us something to focus on other than our everyday struggles. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you share with your family!



Family Matters: Summertime Grilling


Summertime GrillingNothing says summer like backyard grilling with family and a big pitcher of sweet iced tea. As an ambassador for families eating together as much as possible, summer is the perfect time to take dinner outdoors to enjoy the warmer weather and sunshine. From meats and vegetables to breads and desserts, I love putting my whole meal on the grill. It’s fun to try different foods and recipes on the grill, and totally get out of the kitchen and take it all outside.

With so many summer vegetables to choose from like squash, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes, it’s hard to decide which ones to grill. That’s why I like grilling them all! Below is the perfect marinade for grilling your summer vegetables.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to the grill. You can make wonderful memories with your family by being outdoors and by creating something new and exciting on the grill!

Grilled Vegetable Marinade
Serves 10

Ingredients:
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs canola oil
1 Tbs basil
2 Tbs oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt

Directions:
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Place vegetables and marinade in a food-safe plastic bag inside another container. Marinate 1 to 2 hours.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 89, Fat: 0 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 1 mg, Carbohydrates: 23 g, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 1 g

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Family Matters: PupSicle


PupSicleMy dog Astro is a digger of epic proportions.

I wouldn’t trade his big, goofy face and soulful eyes for all the tea in China, but seriously, he has to stop digging. I’ve tried almost everything. Everything that won’t hurt him, that is.

Yet, he digs. I’m pretty sure I could have a pool installed in my backyard before too long, given all his digging lately.

We made sure he can’t dig against the foundation of the house and the sprinkler system was a goner years ago, so I don’t worry about that, but sheesh! Why can’t he dig (if he HAS to dig) in the defunct garden area? What’s so hard about that?

Point being, I’ve read that dogs dig because they are bored. I have to give them that. I don’t have a doggie trampoline or swing set in the backyard for Astro. Sleeping and rearranging my wood pile all day has got to get monotonous.

So, I saw something on Pinterest I had to try.

It’s perfect for doggie distraction and for cooling them down on a hot summer day.

I think it occupied Astro for an hour, which is a near record.

Basically, you fill a large bowl with doggie snacks, toys and treats. Fill it with water and then freeze it. I filled mine with half chicken broth, half water.

When it was frozen and I let it loose in the backyard, Astro went crazy. He licked at that giant PupSicle until he had unearthed the toys and treats, staying hydrated and cool in the process.

Cost: Free with whatever you have on hand.

Payoff: Priceless. 17,000 fewer holes in your backyard.



Family Matters: Diaper Changing Made Easy, Anywhere


Diaper Changing Made Easy, AnywhereIt’s a little known fact that you spend 99 percent of your child’s first year changing diapers.

Okay, it’s not that much, but it sure can feel like it.

That’s why it’s important to make the job quick and easy, anywhere in your house.

You probably have a diaper-changing station set up in your baby’s nursery. I started out using a waterproof, wipeable plastic pad that I set on my son’s toy box. That proved kind of awkward, so I bought a Jenny Lind changing table that I kept in his room for easy diaper changes.

However, his room isn’t the only place I needed to change a diaper quickly, especially when my second son came along and I didn’t want to leave him alone in one spot while leaving to change the older one’s diaper (or vice versa, especially with a toddler who can move!). I set up another diaper-changing station in my living room. I bought a cute basket and stocked it with diapers, wipes, an extra set of clothes, a mat or pad I could easily wipe down, plastic bags for disposing of dirty diapers and a few toys to distract baby during diaper changes.

I created a similar portable changing station in my bedroom with a box I could slide under the bed.

A basket, decorative box or even a fabric bag can make cute, portable changing stations all throughout your house so a quick diaper change is only a grab away.



Family Matters: Self-Feeding Snacks


Self-Feeding SnacksBy now, your baby has acquired some mad fine motor skills and wants to put them to use at all times, especially when they’re eating.

My son used to slap my hand away when he saw the long-handled silver baby spoon coming his way. He’d much rather painstakingly pick up morsels from the tray of his high chair than have me feed it to him.

There are plenty of snacks your baby can enjoy and exert some independence by feeding himself. Gerber Graduates Yogurt Melts are one of those.

Yogurt Melts are little bite-sized yogurt nuggets, freeze-dried and easy for snacking at home or on the go. They are a good source of vitamins A, C and E, and they are made with real fruit and yogurt. They are easy to chew with no mess! Yogurt Melts are made with live and active cultures, and contain no preservatives, artificial sweeteners or flavors.

Whole-grain cereals, like Cheerios, are another tried and true favorite. Baby can pick them up, enjoy their whole-grain taste, and either chew or gum them, all by themselves.

Small bits of banana, slightly smashed peas, avocado, toast and cheese are also great snacks for baby to pick up and eat by himself.



Family Matters: Diapers and Pull-Ups


Diapers and Pull-UpsSometime in the next months, your baby will transition from diapers to pull-ups. Big kid diapers, as we used to call them.

I loved when we finally hit the stage where they could take their own diapers off and on (carefully, with some help, of course). They felt pretty empowered, too, and it spurred them on to potty training!

Pull-ups are diapers that function more like regular underwear. Still absorbent and ready to catch whatever your little one eliminates, pull-ups can be pulled up or down, or opened at the sides, if necessary.

They are not as bulky as regular diapers and, at least in the case of my boys, made them more interested in using the potty and wearing “big boy” underpants.

 



Family Matters: Family Vacation


Family VacationIt’s that magical time of year again, the time when we get to travel to see my family on the East Coast.

I love this family vacation more than words can express.

My two brothers, two sisters, two sisters-in-law, one brother-in-law, six nephews and two nieces, and my parents, all converge in one beach house for seven glorious days. This year, there will be two significant others added to the mix, too.

I say it’s glorious. It is, but we have our moments. The coffee pot is emptied pretty much as soon as it’s filled. Packing beach lunches for 10 kids is an exercise in precise logistics. Sharing a bathroom with anyone isn’t fun, but sharing with your brother, his wife, their son and your two boys can be dicey first thing in the morning.

However, we do it and we do it with happy hearts because the biggest blessing of all is to be together.

I never take the annual visit for granted, especially because I really only see my family once a year, but I’m extra thankful for the relationships we have with each other. I’ve seen so many of my friends’ families deteriorate this year. One lost a father and all her siblings went to war over his estate. Another is estranged from her sister and brother. Yet another is struggling, by herself, with the care of their elderly mother while the rest of her family stands by without helping.

It’s not easy being family. You don’t get to choose who you are born to and raised with. I’m just thankful and appreciative that we still enjoy this week at the beach, together, every year.

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