Friday, December 14, 2012

Chains of Love ~ 12 Days Until Christmas

Todays Chain of Love was inspired by this article about SENIOR'S SANTA in our local paper and a neighbor who helps out with it.

Check out the article here!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chains of Love ~ 13 Days Until Christmas

Yesterday was an extremely busy day for both Big Mama and the Little Mouths. Big Mama had to make a holiday lunch for 60 staff at school, the girly Little Mouth had a Christmas Choir tour around the city and the dude Little Mouth had Cub Scouts.

Luckily, Santa Claus was looking out for us, because today's Chain of Love was something we could do BEFORE school.  YAY!

Mr. Quick is one of our school Custodian who also serves as the crossing guard in front of the school on during the busy drop off time each morning. We printed out our trusty card on the fly and ran through the drive-thru at Starbucks. Here's a copy of the flyer. You can just click on it and print it out if you'd like.

Thank you flyer!


This Little Mouths jumped out of the car and ran up to Mr. Quick. But since Mr. Quick's job is to stop traffic, he did his job and the Little Mouths didn't know what to do.  Big Mama helped them out and explained the situation and Mr. Quick came back to fetch his treat.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chains of Love ~ 14 Days Until Christmas

Today's mission was one close to both Big Mama and the Little Mouths hearts. Santa included with ths chain, a list of our local ASPCA's needs. These things WERE quite extravagant...toilet paper, paper towels, batteries and cleaning supplies. They were also hoping for a bulletin board and some non-clumping kitty little for Christmas.
The Little Mouths took off with their list and scoured the house for what they could find to take. They did pretty well, and loaded the back of the car for the trip into the city.

After a stop at the dollar store for a boat load of kitty litter, we arrived at our destination and began to unload. 

The folks at the ASPCA were estatic and the Little Mouths remembered that it's not only people we need to remember with kindness this year!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chains of Love ~ 15 Days Until Christmas

The first link on our chain of love? Take a donation and treat to a bell ringer.
This was the perfect activity for day one. Both because it was one of the first bitterly cold nights we've had and because the Little Mouths had a school sponsored roller skating party and we were a little pressed for time.  That Santa!  He sure is a master scheduler!
While I made dinner, I printed out these flyers in black and white set the Little Mouths loose to personalize them.


Next we stopped off at McDonalds and grabbed three of these...

Then went off to find some bell ringers. We went first to the Kroger Marketplace and hit pay dirt. Two doors, two bell ringers! This would seem like it would be enough, but we had an extra Little Mouth last night and we couldn't leave her out of the fun!

At first they were tentative. They went together in a pack of Little Mouths. One had the flyer, one had the Hot Chocolate and one took the coins for the donation. They approached the bell ringer and gave them their goodies and ran back to the car, a look of shock on their faces like they were being chased by the Grinch who stole Christmas! They were afraid to do it, but more afraid to NOT do it and risk their names being scribed on the naught list for ever more.

They yelled Merry Christmas over their shoulders and ran back to the Big Mama's mini-van faster than if they were being pulled by eight flying reindeer.


At the next door, after they caught their breath, they once again piled out, calmer now and made their way to the bell ringer. They handed him their flyer and his cocoa. He was already sipping a beverage and instead of immediately accepting, he gestured towards his counterpart down the way and asked them to take the treat to him. The kids responded they'd taken one to him already. By that time, this nice man had read the flyer and a rewarded the Little Mouths with a huge grin and a booming Merry Christmas!

The ran back to the van and pile in, still breathless, but instead of fear in their eyes, excitement started to bloom.

We still had one flyer and one cup of cocoa left. We headed out in search of another bell ringer. Time was getting short and the skating party was starting soon. We drove to Walgreens. No bell ringer. Fresh Market. Office Depot. CVS. All of the Salvation Army stands were empty! Apparently, not enough person power to ring bells on a cold Monday night.

We finally found this gentleman at a Walgreens down he road from our house...

He was hunched over in the cold, his hooded sweatshirt tied tightly round his face with only a tiny hole for his eyes, nose and mouth to peek through. He was hopping from foot to foot and blowing on his cold hands when the Little Mouths dashed from the van. They handed out their loot and before they could even turn to run back o the van, he was sipping his treat and calling out his thanks!

This time when they ran back to the van their faces were alive! They were getting it! The REAL spirit of Christmas shone from their little dear faces and my loving, giving children once again replaced the terrors the frantic holiday season had morphed them into for the past few weeks.

They wanted to continue and find more bell ringers, but they were already late for their party and I wanted to make sure they were still excited for tomorrow's link in the chain, so we thanked the bell ringer for his service and drove to the roller rink.

One thing I did notice on our search for Bell Ringers, was the lack of bell ringers. As we drove past empty stand, after empty stand I made a mental note to come home and do some research.

I did, found out that some bell ringers are paid and some are volunteers. Here is a link to our the Salvation Army website where you can find out if there are opportunities to serve in your local area. I know we will be taking a turn at his next year!

 National Salvation Army Volunteer Website

Use the zip code box at the upper right hand corner to find your local chapter. You never know, maybe some Little Mouths will bring you a cocoa and cup full of holiday cheer!

Anyone been a recipient of a RAK (Random Act of Kindness) lately?  Tell us about it!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Are you on the naughty or nice list?

The Little Mouths found out today when they came home and found this package on our doorstep!

Inside the package was this "CHAIN OF LOVE"

and a note from Santa that certain Little Mouths had better mind their P's and Q's or risk not making the Nice List this year. In particular, Mr. Claus asked them to work on their relationship to with one another.

Here's an excerpt from their letter:

While going over my list of boys and girls, I noticed that this year has been a more difficult year for both of you. It can be very hard to always remember to be very kind to your brother or sister. 

Your poor, sainted mother is beside herself. It is very upsetting to her when you fight and don't get along. She always wanted a brother or sister and it makes her SO sad when you fight and act unkindly towards one another.

In fact, the other night she said a prayer that thew of you would find it in your hearts to treat one another better. She said it's all she really wants for Christmas. Now, let me tell you, the way you two carry on sometimes, I think it will take a Christmas Miracle for you two learn to get along. But then Christmas Miracles are what I specialize in.  

In this bag is a Chain of Love. Each day, I want you to read that days piece of the chain and work together to do what it says. Because you see, when there is love in our hearts, we can do anything. Good deeds make the love that's already in our hearts grow and grow. The more nice things we do for each other, our families, our friends and even complete strangers, the more love we have to share...even with our brothers and sisters.

I will soon be checking my good list and I hope to see your names. Mrs. Claus and I know you are capable of doing much better. You can do this and you'll make all of those who love you, including me, very proud of you. We Believe in YOU!


Now, Big Mama is an only child and I'm not used to such frightening things as sibling rivalry and brother/sister squabbles. Apparently, Santa thinks this kind of behavior is frighting too. Because he's put my Little Mouths on notice! It's time to shape up and he's given them a plan in which to do it.

Big Mama thinks this is a great idea. You see, I was trying to thing of something to do myself. Elf on a Shelf was out, the Little Mouths think he's creepy. But I really, really wanted to do something because I'm not sure why, but this year in particular, the commercialization of the Christmas holidays is getting on my last nerve. The Little Mouths want more and more and I want them to be content with less and less.  This is not a tug of war I'm likely to win, but I try.

My Christmas shopping is complete and Big Mama solemnly swears I will NOT purchase anything else.  I am not a good early shopper.  Finishing early doesn't really help me to spend less, it just gives me more time to add to the pile of gifts under the tree. 

But this year, I wanted to try something new. Something that would get the Little Mouths excited about Christmas but not add to the clutter in our house and or be too expensive.

I loved this idea I saw Pinterest

But the jar part really doesn't work for us.  There is something on our calendar every day between now and Christmas, so I need to be able to orchestrate what happens on what day, but still make it a fun activity for the kids.

This blog is also really cool!  So many wonderful ideas for RAK's! (Random Acts of Kindness)

I'm so lucky that Santa listens to the wishes of Big Mama's and not just little mouths...because he did all the work for me!   This year we will wing our way to Christmas with Chains of Love!!

Because shouldn't we be all bound to each other by love? Wouldn't the world be at better place if we remembered we are all linked together? Each person, each family in our our world is irrevocably dependent on one another?

Santa even sent this book to Big Mama's iPad. It's a great story about how Saint Nicholas learned to love giving at Christmas.

It was a great book and I think it inspired the first mission on our Chain of Love.  I'll post about it tomorrow.  I can't wait to see what the Chain of Love has in store for us!  Stay tuned as I blog about our adventures each day!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Presidential Election -- A month later

As I sat down to write a blog post, I was thinking about the election, just a four weeks ago today.   Most people in my neck of the woods were devastated by the outcome. It is not a secret, that I like and respect our current president--that I was grateful he won the day. There is a quiet dignity about him that I wish I could cultivate in myself.

You see, I'm somewhat missplaced in the middle of the mid-west. Big Mama is a straight, Christian, liberal, pro-choice, home and hearth loving, work-at-home, single, adoptive mother of two. It just goes to show that in America, even in Indiana, there is room for us all. :)

This year, during the time leading up to the election, I tried to emulate my President. When I heard and read the horrible, disrespectful things bantered about by people I considered friends...well, I was shocked and also surprised. I barely recognized these gentle folks, who I love and respect, as neighbors and friends.

But the BEAUTY of this country is that we can disagree, fundamentally, with our neighbors and friends and still be neighbors and friends. In the country in which the Little Mouths were born, Russia, this was not always the case.

It is not a secret that I love my country and hold closest to my heart, our right to protest what we don't love not only our mouths and but also our feet. I have marched in Washington for civil rights, women's rights and GLBT rights and once, inaccidentally,holding hands with Jessie Jackson, for DC statehood rights.

I went to these marches because I was young and it was an adventure and I wanted to believe I could help change the world. I don't know if it changed anything...except me, maybe.

I learned from my politically active twenties, that one person CAN made a difference. One person can take action and do something that matters. I might have not changed the world by putting one foot in front of the other on the streets of Washington, but I changed myself into someone who wasn't afraid to think outside the box and redefine her life in way that not only changed her world, but the world of two Little Mouths, as well. 

My largest act of civil disobedience may not have been quite what I had planned when I was younger...but they sure are cute!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Big Mama's Bestest Banana Muffins

Today I got home from running errands and found four overly ripe bananas in my fruit bowl. I had intended on slicing them and freezing them for smoothies...but these were even too far gone for that.
YUCK!  They were completely mushy and pretty gross, but it still pained me to toss them in the trash. Then I thought of Banana Bread, then decided on muffins.  The Bigger Little Mouth was the Reserve Grand Champion Muffin Maker at our county fair this year, so I figured, if she could do it, then so could I.
Here's the recipe I cobbled together from her 4-H materials with a few of my own touches.
Big Mama's Bestest Banana Muffins
3-4 smashed bananas
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon or orange zest (optional, I used orange)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
Smash bananas with a fork, add egg, sugar, melted butter and salt. Mix with the fork until combined.  Now here, a good baker would tell you to sift together the rest of the dry ingredients, then add in three parts, folding it in gently to combine. And that's a good practice, for sure, but I just dumped everything else in the bowl and stirred it up. But DO be careful not to over mix. Stop while the batter still looks "lumpy". If you don't your muffins will have big tunnels in them and will come to a point, like Mount Vesuvius.
Either grease the muffin tin, or add paper or silicone liners. We're a liner kind of family. The Little Mouths don't like the "Skin" they call it if you don't use them. Thanks to the goddess of all things "Perfect", the Barefoot Contessa, I use a ice cream scoop to divide the batter into the muffin cups.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until done, but not over done. Serve warm for maximum effect. Big thumbs up from Little Mouths, Big Mama and even Grandpa!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween...Trick or Treat Chicken Noodle Soup

Besides Christmas, is there any "holiday" more looked forward to that Halloween? My children were nearly beside themselves as they packed up their costumes to take to school today.

Dinner will be a rushed affair and they'll be standing by the door, in full regalia, counting down to the bewitching  hour. Not mid-night--but six o'clock. The start of Trick-or-Treat in our neighborhood.

Although my Biggest, Little Mouth, would like to be able to run around the neighborhood with her friends, I will, alas be accompanying them again this year. We have a long standing rule that any candy received and not properly thanked, goes to the Big Mama.  This could be why big mama isn't a smaller mama, but it does tend to make sure both Little Mouths remember to say thank you at each house.

The remnants of hurricane Sandy are keeping it windy and wet in our neck of the woods. I'm not sure how long we'll be out and about tonight, but there will be this big pot of goodness awaiting our return. What a treat!

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup
1 Large Sweet Onion
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1 cup baby carrots, sliced or whole
1 Lemon, Zest and Juice
1 Cup White Wine (Optional)

2 Chicken Breasts or Thighs
(Whatever you have on hand)
2 cloves of Garlic
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon chopped parsley 
(fresh is best, but dried is fine)
1 Box of Chicken Broth
1 bag of egg noodles
(I prefer Reamers in the freezer section
or make your own-it's easy!)

Heat a large pot or dutch oven on the stove top, add olive oil and chopped onion. Slice carrots and add them to to onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the veggies begin to soften.  De-glaze the pan with the wine or juice of one lemon.   Add the chicken broth, lemon zest, thyme, garlic, bay leaf and chicken. Allow to simmer for 45-60 minutes. 

Remove chicken, bay leaf and any large pieces of garlic. When chicken has cooled, shred and add back to the broth.  If broth has condensed, add water until you have enough liquid to cook the noodles.  Add noodles to the pot and bring to a boil.  

Lower flame to a simmer until the noodles reach the desired tenderness.  Add a tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread.

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