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Family Matters: Birthday Boy


Birthday BoyI could probably write this post every year. In fact, I think I probably have, but where on earth does time go?

My older son will turn 12 on Tuesday, and it feels like he was just born yesterday or the day before.

In the blink of an eye, he went from a 7-pound bundle of joy to a smart, handsome, clever, funny, hardworking young man.

I think back to all those milestones: When he took his first step in the kitchen and I cheered so loudly he fell down and started to cry.

When I left him in the church nursery for the first time and spent the entire worship service worrying.

When he went off to school for the first time and I went home and cried and cried and cried.

When he played on his first soccer and basketball teams. When he wanted to learn Power Point (in the first grade) so he could give his class a presentation on the real meaning of Easter.

When he started middle school and went to his first dance.

It goes by so quickly.

Enjoy every day and every moment, even the tough ones, the mouthy ones, the sleepless ones and the worrisome ones. You never get those moments back.

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Family Matters: Valentine’s Tradition


Valentines

Flowers, candy and stuffed animals are what most people think about when you mention Valentine’s Day. At our house, we treat Valentine’s Day differently; we don’t do the traditional flowers and candy. My husband found after a few years of purchasing items for five women in the house that it is a lot of money spent on things that are short lived. So, he decided to make a new tradition that would not take the “sweetness” out of the occasion. 

Every year, my girls and I are treated to a home-cooked meal prepared by their dad and then a trip to a movie. We go to an early show (saves money), and since we just ate at home, no one is hungry for snacks at the movie (another money saving tip). As a family of six, we do not go to the movie but a few times a year, so this is a real treat for us to go together. The meal is always special knowing it was prepared with love and then sitting together as a family and enjoying it. 

To some, our Valentine’s tradition may not be what you consider spectacular, but to our family, it is something we look forward to each year. The money spent on flowers, candy and stuffed animals is something that no one remembers weeks later, but the time my husband spends making Valentine’s special each year, we will forever hold dear. 

Don’t go broke trying to show those you love the most that they are special. Focus on your family by personally adding a little “sweetness” to their Valentine’s. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you are given with them.  

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Family Matters: Around the Dinner Table


Family DinnerYes, I’m one of those people who enjoy making New Year’s resolutions and then not keeping them. Some of my resolutions this year are to eat healthier, continue with my exercise program and participate in more race events. However, my number one resolution is to be committed to family dinnertime.

Family dinnertime does not have to be perfect. Don’t expect your meals to always turn out delicious where everyone is raving about your cooking. Also, don’t expect your kids to always be polite and on their best behavior. Let’s be real; good food is only as good as the people you enjoy eating it with. Dinnertime is about sitting down at the table for at least 30 minutes and catching up with everyone. Let the kids tell you what went on at school, open up to one another and share life’s events with each other.

As the kids are getting older and having plans of their own, it gets harder and harder to have that regular family dinnertime that I long for. However, my New Year’s resolution is to not stress over this but instead embrace the fact that they are growing up and that I need to start planning ahead for our family meals together. This is where my slow cooker is going to take action! I can throw everything in it before we leave out the door in the mornings, and it’s ready by the time we get home in the evenings. 

I’ve already started this week off pretty good with Slow Cooker Chicken & Dumplings. It’s easy enough to put together in the morning and finish up when you get home in the evening. This recipe is a winner and allows for more quality time around the dinner table!

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours on Low

 Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
   or 1 rotisserie chicken from our deli (deboned and cut into pieces)
2 Tbsp butter
1 can Brookshire’s Cream of Chicken Soup
1 can Brookshire’s Cream of Celery Soup
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 oz onions finely diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 (10 oz) can Brookshire’s Biscuits

Directions:
EXCLUDING THE BISCUITS: Put all ingredients in the slow cooker, cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours. About an hour before serving, remove chicken and pull into pieces (if you used chicken breasts) and then return chicken pieces to the soup mixture.

Place the torn biscuit dough into the slow cooker; cook until the dough is no longer raw in the center.

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Family Matters: Pet Grooming


Pet GroomingI read an article in the newspaper recently about a pet grooming salon that takes pretty pets to the extreme.

For example, one woman had her poodle dyed red, bright red, with the word “Bama” shaved into his fur for her favorite sports team.

Another had her dog tie-dyed for attending a festival honoring the hippie band, The Grateful Dead.

Still another had her Swarovski crystals embedded in her pooch’s nails during her mani-pedi.

Pampering your pet is nothing new. Many, even most, pet owners take their dogs to be bathed, brushed, clipped, manicured and trimmed, but I was curious to see what extreme the pet owners I know took their pets’ beauty regimes.

So, I polled my friends on Facebook.

The most popular answer was that pet owners took their dogs to be bathed.

“I just can’t deal with doing it myself,” one friend said. “It makes a mess no matter where or how I do it.”

The second most popular answer was having long-haired dogs – and cats – trimmed and clipped.

“Keeps Mitzie’s fur from getting nappy under her belly,” a friend explained.

One friend does have a personal groomer for her horse to braid its mane and tail before shows.

“Hey, it’s part of the judging process,” she defended the VERY expensive treatment.

However, one answer stood out above the rest.

I have a friend who took her black cat to the groomer to have stripes shaved into its fur.

“We were trying to convince my son that Blackie had turned into a skunk overnight!”

I forgot to ask whether or not it worked. 



Family Matters: Learning


BabyBetween 7 and 12 months, your little one is learning cause and effect. If he drops something, he knows it’s gone, and he knows you’ll likely pick it up.

You can reinforce this learning and motor skills with a simple and fun game. Belly laughs are guaranteed.

Blow up a balloon but don’t tie it. Give it to your baby and show him how to let it fly. Then, watch it zoom around the room. If you are playing outside, adding a little water before you blow up the balloon makes this game even more fun. Don’t forget baby will immediately try to put it in his mouth, so supervise closely!

 TIP 7-12 months: Put an ice cube (or several) on the tray to baby’s high chair or on a baking sheet in front of him. Let him feel how cold and wet it is. Let him push it around and play with it as it melts.



Family Matters: “Why”


BabyWhy ask “why”? If you have a two year old, you know there doesn’t have to be a reason. “Why” is a normal part of the developmental repertoire for a toddler. Yes, it can be maddening, but it’s a crucial stage for your little one. 

When your toddler asks “why,” sometimes he wants an explanation, and sometimes he doesn’t know how to express himself any other way. Sometimes it’s totally random. Always answer his questions, even when it’s been asked 97 other times. You could try answering “why?” with a question of your own, turning it back to him to develop critical thinking skills. When he asks why he should put the ball away, ask him, “Why do you think you should put the ball away?”

TIP 13-36 months: Bring a stroller when you go to shopping centers, parks, malls or on trips, but let your toddler walk a little too, holding their hand of course. They enjoy the independence.



Family Matters: Vision


BabySome things really are black and white, like baby’s vision at this stage of life. Babies can start to see colors around eight weeks, but they’re very much attracted to objects with sharp color contrast. You might not want to paint your baby’s room in black and white, but certain accessories are perfect to stimulate baby’s vision and attract his attention.

Try a black and white mobile to hang above the crib, or one with reflective surfaces to draw his attention. Remember that newborns can only see blurry shapes because they are very nearsighted. At birth, a newborn’s vision is between 20/200 and 20/400. Your baby’s best vision is about 8 to 12 inches away, so don’t hang the mobile too far away but not too close that he could get tangled in it either.

A black and white blanket for tummy time, printed with different objects or shapes, is another good choice. This gets baby up close and personal with the contrast.

TIP 0-6 months: Dress baby in natural fibers like 100 percent cotton and in light colors as dark dyes may cause a skin reaction.



Family Matters: Avoid Post-Holiday Letdown


ChristmasThe day after Christmas can really stink.

While there’s lots to play with, great leftovers to eat, new clothes to wear and new movies to watch, it just seems like the lights on the Christmas tree don’t twinkle quite as brightly the day after Christmas. The past few years I’ve tried to take an active role in avoiding that post-holiday letdown.

Last year, on the advice of a friend, I set aside one of the Christmas gifts and then let the boys discover it on December 26. “Oh wow, Mom! Santa must have dropped this one under the couch by mistake!”

Yep, that’s exactly what he did. Wink. Wink.

We also do one more Christmas “cooking” project.

You know all those candy canes you get at every event during the holidays from Christmas parades to class parties to church?

We crush them up, roll pretzel sticks in melted dark chocolate and then dip them into the crushed peppermint. It prolongs the feeling of the holidays and gets rid of the candy canes no one eats plain. Win/win.

So, enjoy those days between Christmas and New Year’s, and don’t let the holiday spirit go out the chimney with Santa.

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Family Matters: Hugs…A Special Touch


Family MattersAs you can guess, living in a house with four girls is always interesting, never calm and very seldom peaceful for long periods of time. When you have so many different personalities (and hormones) within the same household, you just expect days of total chaos, but I don’t think our family is any different from many others. Among all the drama and “life is never going to be the same again” happenings, there is a sisterly love and affection that they just have to be reminded of sometimes. 

I have always been a “hugger” when it comes to family and close friends and sometimes just to those that I realize need something to lift them up. A hug has a special effect on people – no magic, it is just that sense of comfort and the warm embrace that lifts the heart. It is such a small gesture and yet can have such a positive effect on those whom you choose to share. 

When our girls just can’t seem to find a “happy medium” or find kind words to express to one another, we make them stand in the middle of the room, both arms wrapped around their bodies and hug each other for one minute and then tell each other “I love you.” It is funny how long a minute lasts when you are embracing your sister. By the time the minute is over, they are laughing and giggling (as we are watching them), and in the end they rarely remember what the argument was about in the first place. It is nice to see them smiling and laughing, and without really knowing it, they are bonding. I think the expression “bear hug” is used because a good hug can calm even the most furious of situations.

As a parent, we cradled our little ones in our arms, what a great feeling it was, but as they get older, things change. The good news is that you can always embrace your child and squeeze them tight, and even if no words are spoken, the gesture (hug) alone speaks volumes. Your kids are never too old that they don’t need or would not welcome a hug. You will find that hugging your child will have a transforming effect on your everyday life…and theirs!

We are not promised tomorrow, so we must live each day with no regrets. Hug your family daily and be reminded of how blessed you are. Such a simple gesture will change your family and be a life lesson for your children. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you have to “hug” your family.  

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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!



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