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Family Matters: Pets


FishThis is one of those “out of the mouths of babes” stories.

I bought a small submersible heater four our 5-gallon aquarium yesterday, an aquarium which houses ONE Beta fish. (Yeah, you know the kind that are supposed to be able to live in a small bowl without any problem whatsoever.)

Luke, my younger son, helped me install it, and by “install,” I mean suction-cup it to the inside wall of the aquarium and plug it in.

“Mom,” he said earnestly “why does the fish get a heater and we freeze all night?”

Once again, reality-checked by my 10-year-old.

He’s not wrong; I love sleeping when it’s cold, really cold. I’d write what temperature the house was yesterday morning when we woke up, but I run the risk of someone calling Child Protective Services. Now, the boys have blankets, warm pajamas and the whole nine yards. They’re in no danger of freezing, trust me.

The fish, on the other hand, was an entirely different story.

Scramble has been with us for about a year. There used to be TWO Beta fish in the aforementioned aquarium, divided by a big, black piece of plastic because male Betas are born to fight each other. However, we lost Boomba (the other Beta) about two months ago, so Scramble reigns supreme in the 5-gallon tank.

However, there has been more than one instance of late that I’ve come into the kitchen in the morning, or after work, and have been pretty sure he’s dead, floating lethargically at the surface. Then, I started doing some reading. Beta fish need water temperatures between 76 and 82 degrees. Again, without divulging the temperature of my house, let’s just say it’s not close to 76 degrees. So, if the air temperature is colder, it stands to reason the water temperature was colder, much colder.

So, the fish got a heater which keeps his tank at a balmy 78 degrees. (Hey, that’s practically bathwater in my house.)

He’s more responsive, he swims around far more frequently and I haven’t had that panicked moment of thinking we’ve lost Scramble, too.

Point being, pets aren’t people. Pay attention to their needs this winter and adjust accordingly!



Family Matters: The Elf Returns


Family MattersYep, I’m one of THOSE moms.

You know the kind: the ones who stay up way too late on the nights preceding Christmas to create mischief with an elf named Saxon who comes to visit from the North Pole on December 1 every year.

My boys anticipate Saxon’s arrival with almost as much enthusiasm as they do the Big Guy in Red.

I anticipate their joy when they find Saxon hanging out somewhere on the morning of December 1. After all, Christmas magic is especially strong in the young.

This year, Saxon arrived tied with a big red bow onto the antenna of our car.

Then, last night he levitated in from the living room ceiling, “Mission Impossible” style.

Another night, he hid under the Christmas tree skirt, and yet another time he was stowed away in the cargo pocket of my son’s school uniform pants.

Saxon is a very silly elf, and the boys get a huge kick out of him.

However, this year, Saxon has come with a little extra something.

It was my sister’s idea. She’s really smart that way. It probably helps that she’s a counselor for adolescents and teenagers.

Her idea was for Saxon to bring a positive message or missive every day, along with making some mischief during the night.

So, every morning, Saxon has a note for the boys.

“Pay someone a compliment today.”

“Do a random act of kindness for someone at school.”

“Smile at a stranger.”

“Hold the door open for a friend.”

“Say a prayer for someone who needs it.”

And etc…

I love the silly Christmas magic Saxon brings to our house, and this year I really love the Christmas spirit he’s encouraging. 

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Family Matters: Christmas Gift Ideas


FamilyMatters_Baby13-36Months_228x173What are the best gifts for toddlers? We all know it’s the boxes and wrapping paper that the gifts come in!

Besides those, which can keep your toddler occupied for hours, toddlers love anything that promotes running, grabbing, touching, exploring, hopping, smelling, problem-solving, talking, pedaling, tasting, thinking, climbing and listening, for starters.

Try a set of wooden stacking blocks or a shape sorter. They love play tents and tunnels, tricycles, push toys and percussion sets (sorry, Mom and Dad). Little ones love anything that lights up or plays music.

Puzzles and stuffed toys are always a big hit, too! Did we mention books? Books, books and more books! Board books are a parent’s – and a toddler’s – best friend. Some varieties have different textures and windows that your little one can use fine motor skills to open up.

Tip 13-36 months: If you do want to make your wrapping useful, wrap toddler’s gift in a soft fleece blanket they can use to cuddle with later!



Family Matters: Keep Your Baby Moisturized


FamilyMatters_Baby7-12Months_228x173With the cold weather here, it’s easy for baby’s skin to get dried out.

From about six months on, it’s generally safe to use most moisturizing products on baby’s skin (stick to lotions specifically made for babies, though).

To keep his skin baby soft, remember to keep him hydrated. After six or seven months, it’s safe to introduce small amounts of water into his diet. Make sure he drinks up.

Use sunscreen developed for babies if you’re spending a lot of time out in harsh light.

Don’t overdo baths in the winter months as warm water and soap dry out a baby’s skin. Don’t let him soak too long in the tub. Pat, don’t rub him dry, when you take him out of the bath and use a mild baby lotion after bath to help seal in moisture.

Tip 7-13 months: If baby’s skin is really dry, try a cool mist humidifier in his room at night.



Family Matters: It’s Getting Cold Outside


FamilyMatters_Baby0-6Months_228x173

The colder months are upon us now, but that doesn’t mean your infant can’t – or shouldn’t – go outside. It’s really OK for babies to be exposed to the cold as long as you use some common sense. After all, you catch cold from a virus, not the temperature outside.

Be sure to keep a hat on baby, especially if it’s a newborn or small infant. Most of the body’s heat is lost through the head.

Dress your baby as you’d dress; don’t feel the need to pile on layers upon layers. If you’re cold, he’s probably cold. If he’s flushed, he’s probably too warm.

Resist the urge to put baby to sleep with blankets; that can increase the risk of SIDS. Instead, use a fitted flannel sheet on his bed and dress him in a fleece bunting sleep sack or a sleeper with built-in feet.

Tip 0-6 months: Warm baby’s crib with a hot water bottle or heating pad before you put baby to sleep, but be sure to remove it before you snuggle him in!



FAMILY MATTERS: BLACK FRIDAY


Family MattersI never participated in Black Friday.

You know, that day every year that used to be the day after Thanksgiving, that became midnight on Thanksgiving and that is not the DAY OF THANKSGIVING, thank you very much.

Ok, well that’s not true, entirely.

I’m a stickler for shopping LOCAL, to buy to support local business owners.

However, I have been known to shop ONLINE on Black Friday.

I regret it! Fine! Yes, I do.

I want to shop local.

All.

The.

Time.

I can’t always, though.

If you’re out shopping the weekend after Thanksgiving, between Thursday and Monday, you’re going to need a battle plan while you’re SHOPPING LOCAL AND PUMPING MONEY INTO YOUR LOCAL ECONOMY. (Yes, I’m passionate about that.)

My best friend is a dogged Black Friday shopper. She plans out her route on Thanksgiving Day and has a battle plan ready to execute.

Coffee?

Coupons?

Cellphone?

Check!

When you’ve spent the entire day after an exhausting holiday shopping, it’s good to have dinner waiting on you when you return. Try this meal in your slow cooker!

SLOW COOKER BEEF AND BROCCOLI

Ingredients:
1 lb boneless beef chuck roast, sliced into thin strips
1 cup beef consommé
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar or honey
1 Tbsp sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cooled sauce from the slow cooker after being cooked
fresh broccoli florets (as many as desired)
hot, cooked rice (brown rice or riced cauliflower)

Directions:
Place beef in a slow cooker.

In a small bowl, combine consommé, soy sauce, brown sugar/honey, oil and garlic. Pour over beef. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.

In a cup, stir cornstarch and sauce from the slow cooker together until smooth. Add to slow cooker. Stir well to combine. (If your sauce is not thickening, try bringing your sauce to a boil on the stovetop with the cornstarch mixture. Boil until the desired consistency is reached.)Add broccoli to the slow cooker. Stir to combine.

Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes on high heat. (The sauce has to boil for it to thicken.)
Serve over hot, cooked rice.

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FAMILY MATTERS: SPENDING THE HOLIDAYS WITH ‘FAMILY’


Family MattersAs families gather around holiday tables, I’ll be enjoying a different kind of family.

You see, my parents live in Richmond, Va., along with one brother and his family. My other brother lives in northwestern Virginia. One sister lives in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., and my other sister lives near San Diego, Calif. We’re quite spread out.

Not a single one of them live near my headquarters in East Texas, and that makes me sad.

What makes me happy is that I also have a “family” that doesn’t consist of any blood relatives but people I love and who love me. It’s my best friend Connie, her daughter and her mother; my best friend Kim and her little girl; and my best friend Nicholas and the assorted firefighters he adopts at the holidays, too.

It’s fun spending holidays with non-family “family members” because you’re not stuck with the same traditions your family has had in place for the past 52 years and counting. We might have grilled turkey this year for Thanksgiving, and Christmas might bring a silly Christmas Eve pajama-clad gift swap. You just never know.

So, don’t fret if your family is far away; make a new one where your heart is!

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FAMILY MATTERS: PET BLUES


Pet BluesAre your pets singing the blues now that the days are shorter and it’s dark much earlier?

Are you wondering what I’m talking about?

Studies show that pets can suffer from seasonal blues just like humans can. No one likes when the days are shorter and the darkness prevails.

For dogs and cats, which are more sensitive to light than humans, make sure to ramp up the light in your home by keeping drapes open and turning on indoor lighting. For reptiles, keep heat lamps and lights on more often and for longer hours.

For dogs and cats, rev up the playtime. Both species like tug of war and constant human engagement. Take advantage of it during winter months!

Reduce food intake for your pets. Dogs and cats aren’t usually as active in colder months. Therefore, they don’t need to eat as much and feel sluggish.

Exercise, exercise, exercise. Just as humans benefit from exposure to the outdoors, so do pets. Take them with you every time you go outside. 



FAMILY MATTERS: RISE N’ SHINE…IT’S BREAKFAST TIME


Pigs in BlanketStarting out each morning trying to figure out what to feed kids for breakfast is frustrating some days.  Don’t get me wrong, my kids will eat cereal, cinnamon rolls or packaged muffins and be perfectly happy, but I like to cook them breakfast at least 3 days a week.  There is just something about a hot breakfast that starts your day off right.  There is one easy recipe that they love so I thought I would share it. 

Pigs n’ Blanket

  • Texas Style Butter Biscuits (Food Club or Brookshire’s) – 10 ct
  • Eckrich Smok-y Breakfast Sausage Links – 10 ct
    •  Original or w/cheese – Fully-Cooked  

Place the pre-cooked sausage on a plate and microwave for 2 minutes.  Take a biscuit, place a sausage in the center and then pull the dough from both sides and pinch them together.  Place them on a cookie sheet and cook at 400 degrees for approximately 9 minutes (less time than the given directions).  You thin out the dough when you stretch it, so it does take as long to cook.  Brown the biscuits to your liking and remove from stove.

Serve plain, with jelly, syrup or preserves.  I serve these by themselves or add them to a plate of eggs and hash browns as a finishing touch.  They are soft, buttery and delicious!  Also, if your kids are running late you can throw them in a sandwich bag and send them off to school, with no mess.  

Try this recipe and see how easy it is and how much your kids with love them.  Make “rise n’ shine” at your house a breakfast time they will look forward to.  That little personal touch of home cooked food is just another way to show you care.  Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you share with your family!    

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FAMILY MATTERS: HOLIDAY COOKING WITH YOUR KIDS


Cooking KidsChances are that you’re spending a lot of extra time in the kitchen during the holidays preparing for countless festive meals. What a great opportunity this is to get your kids in the kitchen side-by-side with you baking up some wonderful holiday treats. Your hours spent in the kitchen will also be great bonding time with you and your kiddos.

My daughter, Grace, loves apples and wanted to bake something using apples since we are in the heart of apple season! You can take advantage of the abundance of the tasty little treats by preparing this scrumptious baked apple dish. It is a deliciously simple recipe that your kids can make with just a little supervision from you.

May you all have a wonderful holiday season baking and making memories with your kids!

Baked Stuffed Apples

Ingredients:
4 medium baking apples
1/3 cup snipped dried figs or raisins
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 tsp apple pie spice or ground cinnamon
3/4 cup apple juice
1 Tbsp butter, cut into four pieces

Directions:

Clean & core apples:
With a parent’s help, clean and core apples with a knife or apple corer. Make hole 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide
and within a 1/2 inch of the bottom of the apple, making sure to remove any seeds. 

Cut strip off top:
With a paring knife, cut a strip of peel from the top of each apple. Place apples top sides up in a baking pan. Preheat oven to 375° F. 

Mix & stuff ingredients:
In a small bowl, combine figs, brown sugar and apple pie spice. Spoon mixture into centers of apples. Pat mixture in with a knife or spoon. Pour apple juice around apples in pan.

Butter & cook apples:
Top each apple with a piece of butter. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until tender but not mushy. Using a large spoon, transfer apples to dessert dishes, then spoon pan juices over apples. Serve warm with Goldenbrook Farms Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream on the side.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 260, Fat: 8 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 8 mg, Sodium: 28 mg, Carbohydrates: 50 g, Fiber: 6 g, Protein: 1 g

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