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Family Matters: Back to School

Back to SchoolGet your kids ready for back-to-school by engaging them in the process of making their own lunches.

School-age children can definitely pitch in when it comes to school lunches. Older kids, in high school perhaps, can be completely responsible for their school lunch. Younger kids can help with all the prep work, and they can have an investment in a healthy diet by helping to choose some options.

Take your kids grocery shopping with you on the weekends, and let them pick out some proteins, some fruits, veggies and maybe a snack or two for a treat.

When you get home, go ahead and package a lot of those items into individual serving sizes. For example, lunch meat can be rolled into rollups and saved in small, zipper-lock bags. Carrot sticks and celery can be cleaned, cut and packaged into bags as well.

Your kids can create trail mix with nuts, popcorn, pretzels and chocolate chips, and store in baggies, too.

Then, on school mornings, all you need to do is have them grab a protein, a fruit (whole, cleaned fruits like bananas, apples, peaches, pears, plums and grapes are great) and a veggie. Drop it in a bag with a bottle of water and a napkin, and voila! Lunch is served.

The Importance of Playtime

The Importance of PlaytimeWhen I was in elementary school, the clock would tick the seconds by toward one of my favorite times of the day – recess. I would immediately run outside and scope the scene: four square, tetherball, basketball, jungle gym, field games, swing set, rocking horses and more – so many fun possibilities.

We moved around a lot while I was growing up, so I was fortunate enough to experience different cultures and different playgrounds. Some were massive with tons of activities; others were very simple. One was next to a graveyard.

In seeing these various playgrounds, I sometimes felt badly for the kids who didn’t get to experience the large playgrounds with the oodles of games to play. Now that I’m older, I notice that kids the same age as I was then would prefer to sit on the bench or not even leave the building and play on their phones instead. Where I was learning Cat’s Cradle with string, they’re on social media posting how-to videos about things above their years.

Children will continue to find ways to better themselves through technology, and I admire that. However, they also need to look up and experience real life! Put the phone down, grab a ball and get some Vitamin D!

Though I have no children of my own, my nieces and nephew are extremely important to me. Playtime is essential for them, and there is always an opportunity to learn (yes, even while playing). I love teaching them neat things like how to build a Rube Goldberg machine or give a “Did you know?” like how tortoises can live longer than humans. Children are more alert when they play, so they’re more prone to remember things later on.

Playtime develops things like social skills and hand/eye coordination, and it helps them to stay fit. It promotes confidence, creativity, optimism, stress relief and many other forms of cognitive development needed for a happy and healthy kid. This helps a lot with schoolwork!

Next time you see your child on their phone or in front of the television, give them an activity to do outside. Then, join them! You need this, too!

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Posted in: Kids

Healthy Living: Pokemon Go

Pokemon GoYes, yes, I know people have fallen down cliffs, tripped on snakes and stepped out into traffic, but we have common sense and know how to take advantage of a gaming app that gets you out and moving.

Pokemon Go, if somehow you haven’t heard of it, is an app for your phone where you chase Pokemon figures to different locations and “catch” them, earning points, fighting battles, gaining strength and moving ahead to win the game.

Emphasis on moving.

No matter the downsides to the game (because some people can make anything good bad), this is a great way to get out and active with your kids.

I went out with my kids the other evening (supervision is key because no one wants their kids wandering around alone). We ended up walking five miles that night, just chasing little animated critters. While we were out (our local park and running trail seemed to have a lot of things to catch!), we saw lots of other families out chasing Pokemon. Not only were they out walking, but they were talking, laughing, joking and having fun. Yes, we also saw people with their faces buried in their electronic devices, but they were still out walking.

We found several landmarks in our town that we didn’t know existed, including a beautiful fountain that we pegged as a great location for a future picnic.

It was fun. We laughed a lot, and we walked a lot. We got moving as a family and had a good time. That was a win in my book.

Family Matters: Beating Summertime Boredom

Beating Summertime BoredomI don’t know about what’s happening in your house, but summer has been a bit rocky in my home.

My kids are at an awkward age. They’re too old for traditional day camps and too young to be gainfully employed. The result is a lot of boredom. While I’m not usually the type to abide boredom, I get it in this case.

They can’t roam the neighborhood like I did when I was a kid because I’ve watched too many episodes of “Forensic Files.” There’s no neighborhood swimming pool where they can ride their bikes and wear themselves out every afternoon, like I did as a kid. Not to mention, the summer activities that are available for their age are expensive, and they need braces and to go to college.

They spend too much time in front of a screen. Go ahead, call CPS now.

So, this summer I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with things they can do to stay occupied while not spending a fortune.

One thing I did was buy a mega jigsaw puzzle. I set up a card table in a spare corner and just kind of left it there. They proclaimed it “lame.” Guess what? It’s about half-finished, and I haven’t touched a single piece. Maybe it was the dog. I don’t know.

Occasionally, I’ll leave them a recipe to try for lunch, with clear instructions on where to find the ingredients and how not to burn the house down when they prepare it. It also ensures I won’t spend the entirety of the middle of the day answering texts about where to find the burrito-sized tortillas. (In the pantry, on the same shelf I’ve stored them the entire 8 years we’ve lived in this house.)

Then, there’s exercise. They do go running and biking (with strict instructions to text me both when they leave and as they return.) Sometimes, I leave them challenges for the day: Do 40 sit-ups and 22 push-ups. Record it on video. Text it to me, because accountability, you know.

They’ve also enjoyed pet-sitting for neighbors. You want your dog played with for two hours while you’re lounging on the beach in Cabo? Call my kids. Our dog never gets played with for two hours, but yours surely will.

Chores, or as I call them, “Jobs You Do Because You Live Here.” They each get one a day. Vacuum house. Clean your bathroom. Laundry as needed. I love ‘vacuum house’ days.

So, if you have any more tips on keeping teens and tweens occupied for the summer, please let me know!

Product Talk: Richmond Farms Mozzarella Sticks

Richmond Farms Mozzarella SticksMy kids are mozzarella sticks monsters. Seriously, if we go out to eat, they BEG, CRY, PLEAD and CAJOLE for mozzarella sticks.

Then, once that plate hits the table, they divide the sticks with lightning speed, setting the dipping ramekin of marinara sauce down in between them, and they inhale them. The mozzarella sticks are gone before they even cool down enough to eat.

Richmond Farms makes mozzarella sticks that the boys can inhale at home. Made with 100 percent real mozzarella cheese, these appetizers, snacks or even a small meal are breaded and then frozen. They are good sources of calcium and protein, and they come in two sizes: 10 ounces for normal kids and 52 ounces for my kids.

You can heat them in the oven, toaster oven, microwave or a home deep-fryer. We usually use the toaster oven. My boyfriend deep-fries them.

Any way you heat them, mozzarella sticks are a fun snack that kids – and adults – can enjoy.

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Posted in: Kids, Product Talk

Shop the Sale: Strawberry Crumble Muffins

Strawberry Crumble MuffinsStrawberries are available today at Brookshire’s, but I may have overdone it just a bit.

I’m not sure how we’re humanly going to eat all of these strawberries, so I polled my kids, asking “What’s your favorite way to eat strawberries?” and thinking I’d get creative in the kitchen.



That was their answers.

My younger son’s BFF, who happened to be sitting at my kitchen table when I asked, chimed in with “Chocolate-covered!”

Well, that wasn’t helpful.

My favorite way to eat strawberries is with sour cream and brown sugar. Yes, I said SOUR cream, not whipped cream. Just try it, I promise you.

Back to what I was going to do with pounds and pounds of strawberries…

My mom makes a blueberry crumble that I adore, so I went in search of a similar recipe using strawberries. I found a strawberry crumble muffin recipe instead, and it’s sufficient to say that a good portion of our strawberry haul was happily devoured in this form!

Strawberry Crumble Muffins

1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, diced

1/4 cup butter, cold
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line muffin tins with paper liners, or coat thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray. (The liners are more effective.)

Cream butter and sugar together in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and the egg.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in half the strawberries.

Fill muffin liners with about 2 heaping tablespoons batter. Top with remaining strawberries.

To make the crumble, combine all topping ingredients until mixed. Spoon over each muffin. Reduce oven temperature to 350° F and immediately put muffins in the oven. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 12

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 215, Calories from Fat: 75, Fat: 8 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 34 mg, Sodium: 169 mg, Carbohydrates: 34 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 21 g, Protein: 3 g.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.

Product Talk: Brookshire’s Ice Cream Color Cups

Brookshire’s Ice Cream Color CupsOne of my favorite things as a child was when we’d have ice cream cones for our cold, tasty treats. I don’t know why I thought ice cream tasted so much better in a cone, but it just does. It tastes even better in a cone that’s a fun color, like Brookshire’s Ice Cream Color Cups.

Now, I know there’s a debate over whether an ice cream “cup” is supposed to be called a cone, but if you can hold it in your hand and eat it, I call it a cone, even if it’s not pointed at one end.

These ice cream cups are just FUN. I saw them in the freezer at Brookshire’s packed in with the ice cream not too long ago, and my son, who was with me, practically demanded we buy them. Fine with me!

Now, he claims that he can taste flavors among the green, pink and brown cones. I’m not so sure about that, but they do make a festive presentation for your ice cream.

These cups add fun and flair to family gatherings, cookouts, parties, pool time or just dessert after dinner on a hot summer night.

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Posted in: Kids, Product Talk

Dine In: Ice Cream in a Bag

Ice Cream in a BagOne of my sons’ favorite things to do in school, mainly in the lower grades, was to make ice cream in a bag.

I know they did it in preschool, again in kindergarten and probably even in first grade since they both had the same wonderful, bubbly, creative teacher.

Ice cream in a bag sounds weird, but it’s super fun for kids (adults too!), and it is a tradition we repeat every summer on the back porch.

We’re going to do it again on Friday night after dinner.

Seriously, there’s nothing better than a good sit on the back patio with the dog chasing crickets around in the yard, the solar lights flickering and everyone I love gathered in one place.

You can add extra goodies to this recipe. Just be aware that it might alter the way it freezes a tiny bit. Each bag makes an individual serving.

Ice Cream in a Bag

1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs sugar
4 cups crushed ice
4 Tbs salt
2 quart-sized zipper-lock plastic bags
1 gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic freezer bag

Mix the milk, vanilla and sugar together in one of the quart-sized bags.

Seal the bag tightly, pressing out excess air. If you leave too much air in the bag, you might have a mess on your hands during the shaking process.

Place the quart-sized bag inside another of the same size to help prevent ice or salt from leaking into your mixture. Place the double-bagged mixture into the gallon-sized bag and fill with ice. Then, sprinkle salt on top.

Press out excess air and seal the bag. Wrap the bag in a towel; shake the bag vigorously for 5 to 8 minutes or until the “ice cream” has formed.

Pour into a chilled bowl and eat immediately.

Serves 1

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 112, Calories from Fat: 23, Fat: 3 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 10 mg, Sodium: 58 mg, Carbohydrates: 18 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 17 g, Protein: 4 g.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In, Kids

Family Matters: A Movie and More

A Movie and MoreAfter a very long day at work, I went home ready to plop on the couch and do nothing, but I was approached by my teenage twin daughters to take them to the movie. Wow, that was the furthest thing from my mind, and I expressed this to my kids. I could tell they were disappointed, and after a long discussion back and forth (wearing me down), I agreed. After all, they chose a “chick flick” as we call them, something with love and romance…couldn’t get any better, right?

We saw one of the best movies I have seen in years. I cried through almost the last hour with both girls laughing hysterically at me (telling me to blow my nose) and vowing to never sit with me again! After the movie, we proceeded outside where the laughter continued once they saw my red swollen face and absolutely no makeup left. The crying to my surprise was such a stress relief that I had not expect after my long day at work…it was refreshing and something I totally needed.

We continued to talk in the car and at home. Now, weeks later, we are still talking about the movie and what we got out of it. There were some good life lessons in the movie and topics for family discussion, which added up to even more than what I anticipated out of the night. As I reflect back on the instant they asked me to take them to the movies and my immediate response, I am so thankful that I changed my mind. I did not get just another movie; I got so much more out of the time I spent with my daughters.

Every day, there are moments we can’t get back. Don’t deny yourself and your kids just simple times of hanging out and visiting…you will never be so glad you did something in your life. You, your kids and your family as a whole will benefit from the laughter, tears and great conversations that come out of your quality time together. The next time you’re exhausted and want to say “no” to your kids, just reconsider for a moment what you might be missing. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for your time with family!

Family Matters: Summer Snacks

Summer SnacksSchool’s out for summer, and it’s time for the kids to be a little self-sufficient during the day.

I’m at work the vast majority of days in the summer, but that doesn’t mean my kids can’t eat a healthy meal and snacks while I’m at work.

One of their favorite things is apple slices with assorted toppings.

I slice the apples into rounds because, let’s face it, the knife is really sharp, and it makes me nervous if they use it if I’m not in the house. They do the rest. They love to slather an apple round with peanut butter. Then, they top it with raisins, almond slivers, coconut shreds, chocolate chips and dried cherries.

They also love celery sticks filled with cream cheese and topped with taco meat or buffalo chicken.

They also love to snack on fresh strawberries mixed with blueberries, Greek yogurt topped with granola and bagel thins spread with peanut butter.

If I can’t be at home, then I’m happy to know they’re eating healthy snacks that will sustain their energy throughout the day.

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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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