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Family Matters: Halloween Parties

Halloween Parties Somehow my boys talked me into having a Halloween party this year.

We were in a local Halloween store, and my older son was begging me to buy a fog machine.

“We don’t need a fog machine,” I reasoned. Who sits around the living room enveloped in fog?

“We could use it for a Halloween party,” he said.

“What Halloween party?” I fired back.

Then, I got to thinking about it: My boys LOVE Halloween. We’ve never had a Halloween party, so why not?
Good, solid logic, I decided.

We didn’t buy the fog machine (my best friend has one I can borrow), but we will have ambiance at the party.

The boys are so excited.

They’ve even sat with me, and we browsed Pinterest boards to plan for the big event. They want the fog machine, of course. We’ll string spooky spider webs up around the covered porch in the backyard and replace the lightbulbs on the front porch with black lights.

We’ll hang paper lanterns from the big tree out back, which will also be festooned with scary spider webs and glow-in-the-dark spiders.

The food table will feature grilled sausages spilling out of a stuffed shirt, which will be attached to a bowl of potato salad for the “head” (grapes for eyes, pimentos for a mouth) and a pair of stuffed jeans for legs. The spooky specter’s hands will be food service gloves stuffed with popcorn and candy corn fingernails.

I wanted to put out bowls of peeled grapes and cold spaghetti for eyeballs and brains, but they declared that “so last century.”

“You probably did that when YOU were growing up, Mom,” they said.

Well, yes. Yes, I did, and I loved it.

They will love having friends over. We’ll light a fire in the chiminea on the porch and maybe bob for apples because some things that are so last century are still fun today. We’ll play some scary music, give the costumed guests glow necklaces and bracelets, and the kids will have a memory to take with them for the rest of their lives.

When they’re parents, they can tell their sons that fog machines and spider webs are SO 2016.

Family Matters: A Rabbit In Winter

A Rabbit In WinterPet rabbits love to live outside, and they can withstand moderately cold weather with their layer of soft fluffy fur and extra fat.

However, it’s still important to winterize your rabbit’s hutch if he’ll be outside as temperatures drop.

First, make sure it’s in good repair with no leaks where no water can seep in and no major cracks.  You don’t want it to get damp. Make sure it’s water-tight.

Make sure your rabbit hutch is raised off the ground. If the hutch doesn’t have legs, place a brick under each corner. That will allow air to circulate and alleviate any dampness. If you experience excessive rain or flooding, make sure to move the hutch indoors or raise it well above the level of the water.

Reduce draftiness by covering mesh doors with a plastic panel. Look for panels designed for greenhouses as they still allow the hutch to be ventilated without letting gusts come in. At night, you can cover the hutch with a tarp or blanket, making sure to let an area away from the wind be exposed to keep air flowing.

Make sure your rabbit’s bed is warm and dry. His bed will be a box inside the hutch, offering him further protection from the elements. Use newspaper or straw for insulation in the hutch and in his bedding.  He will burrow into it. A heating pad, turned to low, might also be a good option for your rabbit.

Family Matters: Must Love Dogs

Must Love DogsWhen you have to go out of town, as is inevitable for one reason or another, you have to make a decision about your pet: Do you board them, or do you find a pet sitter to come to your house?

I’ve tried both. While I’ve boarded my dog at fabulous places where he was well taken care of and well loved, he didn’t like it one single bit. He expressed his displeasure by refusing to leave the house again after he came home. He didn’t even want to go out in the backyard, lest we sneak him off into the car.

So, when I went out of town last week, I hired a pet sitter to come to the house.

Ideally, this person should be licensed and bonded, unless it’s your sister or best friend who you can hold accountable should anything go wrong.

The pet sitter should meet your pup before the assigned time of care. Ours came to the house twice a few days before I was scheduled to leave.

She met my dog and gave him a treat. We walked through his routine, and she asked me 8,943 questions about him, all the while petting him and loving on him before she was scheduled to actually take over.

I knew he’d be in good hands.

As a super duper bonus, she texted me pictures of my pup every evening when she came over.

Look for all these things in a good pet sitter. Make sure it’s someone you trust and someone who not only likes your pup, but he likes her as well. While being home alone is never great, at least a good pet sitter makes it a little more bearable and even fun.

Family Matters: Keeping the Fluff Off

Keeping the Fluff OffBirds can get overweight, just like humans can. In fact, it’s pretty easy for that to happen, as food is the most oftenly used reward, in place of things like exercise or toys.

You should establish good eating habits immediately with your newly weaned bird, so you won’t have to undo bad habits in the future.

Don’t use food as a reward. Instead, while you’re training them, use a favorite toy or outside (the cage) time as an incentive.

Pelleted foods are more carefully controlled and parceled out than seeds. They’re less messy, too. “Treats” can be melons or apples.

Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise outside his cage. Even if his wings are clipped, he can hop around in a larger space. Some birds even like to go on walks through the house.

Making sure your pet has a good diet and plenty of exercise makes for a happier, healthier bird.

Family Matters: Grooming

GroomingYes, cats groom themselves, but they could use some help from their human friends to stay in tip-top shape.

We see cats licking their fur to stay clean. They do a pretty good job of it, but you can also help them.

Cats don’t really need a bath. If they do, use room temperature water, and place an oven rack in your sink or bathtub. The cat will cling to that instead of to your arm.

Brush your cat regularly. They’ll probably love the feeling of being groomed with a medium-bristle brush. Don’t brush against the grain of their hair, though. That will probably ruffle some proverbial feathers.

Regular brushing keeps their skin healthy, prevents matting, and reduces shedding and hairballs.

You also need to trim their nails, no matter how many scratching posts (or table legs) you have available for them.

If your cat has fleas, it might be a good time to see your vet or professional groomer to take care of the issue.

Family Matters: Healthy Snacks

Healthy SnacksYour toddler is probably all about snacks! I know mine were at that age.

It’s not a bad thing for baby to have a few small snacks a day in between meals, as long as they are healthy. Goodness knows a well-timed snack has saved a harried mom from complete toddler mayhem and meltdown.

Use snacks to try to balance your toddler’s diet. If he had a whole-grain waffle for breakfast, some string cheese and fruit would be a good snack. If lunch was cheese toast and grapes, try some slices of apple and peanut butter for a snack, or slices of bell pepper and cottage cheese.

Don’t give your toddler a snack if he’s bored or cranky (unless you’re in the middle of a shopping mall and he’s about to lose it; then by all means, let him have some goldfish crackers).

Get creative with your snacks! Try carrot chips with hummus dip. Spread some tuna on whole-grain crackers. Let him dip celery in peanut butter. A small baked potato with cheese is a good snack, as are sweet potato fries baked in the oven. Slices of cucumber and bell pepper can be dipped in hummus or a small amount of ranch dressing. Top Greek yogurt with granola and fruit. Give him shelled edamame or chickpeas. Top cottage cheese with chunks of fresh fruit. Make him a smoothie with yogurt, milk and fresh fruit.

The options are endless.

Family Matters: Your Social Baby

Your Social BabyAt this age, babies can take a strong liking – or dislike – to other people. Until now, they honestly haven’t noticed much about who is around them. They know their parents and their siblings, but unless there is another caregiver in their lives day to day, they probably don’t know many other people.

Around this age, they will.

Your baby may be easy-going and completely unfazed if they are handed to a stranger, or your baby might scream like a wild man if he isn’t being held by Mom or Dad.

Introduce your baby to new people slowly. If it’s a social situation for you, don’t just hand your baby off. Let him get accustomed to the well-meaning friend who wants to hold your precious bundle before passing him off. Then, stay close by, so he sees you and knows this is a person who can be trusted. If he screams, take him back. There’s no point in forcing him into someone else’s arms if it’s not necessary.

If you’re introducing a new caregiver or occasional babysitter, introduce him before the first time that you need him cared for.

If the babysitter is coming to your home, have her come several times to meet baby, play with him and start to be included in his routine while you are still there. This will give baby a sense of security.

If you are bringing him somewhere else, bring him several times while you stay before having to leave him for the first time. You might see how he does if you leave for five minutes the first time then 10 minutes, and build up from there.

Different babies have different temperaments. Don’t be ruffled if your baby doesn’t like to be around others too much. Just introduce him slowly, like going to a playground and letting him sit on your lap. Or take him to a story hour or music class where he’s around others but doesn’t necessarily have to interact with them. Remember, your baby has his own little personality already, and it might be different from yours or from that of your other children!

Family Matters: Cough, Cold and Flu Season

Cough, Cold and Flu SeasonIt’s cold and flu season, which can be worrisome if you have an infant in the house.

The best way to treat your infant’s cold, cough or flu is to try to prevent it in the first place. That doesn’t mean you have to hibernate for the next six months, but there are a few things you can do to cut back on the spread of germs. First, wash YOUR hands frequently, since you are the one touching baby the most. Make sure other members of the household do, as well. Teach other children, and anyone who comes in contact with baby, to only touch him on the feet. Keep hands off of baby’s hands and face, where germs can be easily transferred. Keep baby away from anyone who is sick, and don’t feel badly about saying “no” if someone wants to hold him or touch him who has the sniffles or a cough themselves.

If your infant does get sick, make sure you have a bulb syringe on hand for easy nasal aspiration. It’s hard to breathe when your nose is clogged, and baby is the same way. Suck extra mucus from his nose, if necessary. A small dose of saline nasal spray can help loosen mucus as well.

Baby might need to sleep upright to help with the congestion of a cough or cold. You can purchase a firm foam wedge, which fits under their crib sheet, to help keep your baby elevated. It’s also fine to let them sleep in an infant chair (bouncy seat) a few nights, as long as they are safely strapped in. Do not let baby sleep in a nursing pillow or car seat.

If baby is extremely congested or coughing a lot, bring him into the bathroom while you run a hot shower. Let him breathe in the steam to loosen congestion and ease his lungs. Of course, don’t stay in too long or let baby get overheated. You can also use a cool mist humidifier in baby’s room, far away from where he sleeps.

If you think your baby needs medication, consult your physician.

Family Matters: Family Time Casserole

Family Time CasseroleSchool is underway, and the hustle and bustle of everyday living is crazy again, especially with two seniors this year! Let me tell you how nice it is to get home from working all day to find supper on the table and ready to eat. Below is a recipe that one of my daughters prepared after school: it was delicious. It did not take hours to prepare, and in our house, that is our kind of meal!

As days get busier and our kids get older, we still need to focus on family time each day – sitting down for supper is so important. Remember to take time to talk with your kids, hug them tight, and sit and eat together…it makes a difference. Remind them how important they are and how much you appreciate them helping at home. Count your blessings daily, and give thanks for time with your family!

Family Time Casserole

3 bags Brookshire’s Boil-in-Bag Brown Rice
1 large can Brookshire’s Cream of Chicken Soup
3 large cans Brookshire’s Chunk White Chicken
1 cup milk
1 cup fresh broccoli, chopped
1 (8 oz) pkg Brookshire’s Shredded Colby Jack Cheese
1 box Brookshire’s Garlic Toast
Morton Nature’s Seasons Seasoning Blend

Boil the bagged brown rice per instructions on the box. Put prepared rice in large bowl. Add cream of chicken soup and milk; mix together. Add in canned chicken and chopped broccoli. Mix really well so the chicken pieces break apart. Preheat oven to 350° F. Place mixture in large rectangle dish, and cook in the oven for 30 minutes (until bubbling around edges). Pull pan from oven. Add the shredded cheese over the top; return to oven to melt and crisp the cheese. Cook garlic bread in oven as directed on box. You can add a green salad for a little something extra.

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Family Matters: Football & French Dip Sandwiches

Football & French Dip SandwichesThe weather feels like it’s finally turning a little cooler, and just in time for football season. We no longer have a football player in the house, but with a college game or a professional game on almost every night of the week, my family will be tuned into football on the big screen for the next several months.

Nothing is more perfect than football season and snacking season. So, I try to bring some of that tailgating into the kitchen with chili, tortilla soup, meatballs or BBQ sliders. This year, I kicked off the season right with Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches. You can put this in the slow cooker early on a Sunday morning before church, and then return home to a yummy Noon kickoff!

This recipe scored big points with my family, and it was easy to eat while watching the game and having a little football family time.

Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Serves: 6 to 8

2 to 3 lbs chuck roast
24 oz Brookshire’s Beef Flavored Broth
1 (10.5 oz) can French onion soup
6 to 8 sandwich-length French bread loaves or rolls, sliced open
1/2 lb provolone, Swiss or mozzarella cheese, sliced

Cut roast into big chunks. Place meat, broth and onion soup in slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Once cooked, shred meat. Set oven to 400° F. Spoon meat into rolls; top with cheese. Melt cheese in hot oven for a few minutes. Serve with beef juice.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 1341, Fat: 23 g (8 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 130 mg, Sodium: 2963 mg, Carbohydrates: 197 g, Fiber: 9 g, Protein: 88 g.

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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.

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