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Donation Drive with Dial Soap and Champions For Kids

Simple Service Project

Today was our bi-annual trip to donate items to Child Haven.  This time, instead of donating just our routine clothes, toys and books, we collected soap and other essentials as part of a Simple Service Project with Dial Soap and Champions For Kids.

Earlier this month I wrote about turning any event or party into an opportunity to support the children in your community by holding a simple donation drive during the event- see Champions For Kids Donation Drive.

My girls enjoyed participating in the donation drive by first shopping with me to purchase soap items, and then later by collecting donations from guests as they arrived like soap, shampoo and toothpaste.  The guest who brought the most items to donate to support the children in need in our community won a prize of a custom framed art piece to take home.  For more photos from our shopping trip and preparation for the party and donation drive, visit my Google+ photo album here.


Peggy’s Attic

Today we loaded up the SUV and drove to Peggy’s Attic at Child Haven.  I chose this charity because my donation is directly helping children who are removed from their homes or placed into protective custody with few few- if any- personal belongings.

Peggys Attic Child Haven

Peggy’s Attic at Child Haven


Located on the campus of the Child Welfare Department, Peggy’s Attic resides separately on the far side of the parking lot and is decorated to look like a small boutique.  Caretakers of these children can enter Peggy’s Attic and shop for these children with dignity.  Unlike other larger charities that take donated items and resell them, all items at Peggy’s Attic are free of charge.

Donation Drive


It was participating in the Champions For Kids campaign that brought to my attention the need for essentials like soap, shampoo and toothpaste for these most vulnerable children.  Hand washing is a necessity and by donating these needed supplies, I’m helping these children and families.

Child Haven Donations


In addition to boxes and boxes of clothes, toys and books, we were also able to donate bags and bags of toiletry items like soap, shampoo and toothpaste thanks to the many friends who supported our donation drive.


Hand Washing To Help Prevent Disease

After reading this article, Hand Washing To Help Prevent Disease, I will plan again for future events to have this same type of donation drive for the children in our community

Helping 20 Million Children By 2020

For ideas about how you can hold a simple donation drive for the children in your community, visit the Champions For Kids website for inspiration and information on how you can participate in the Dial Into Giving SIMPLE Service Project in your own community.  When you have your donation drive, you can report it directly to Champions For Kids website.


For more information about the Dial Into Giving SIMPLE Service Project, follow Champions For Kids on Twitter and Facebook.  Also, follow Dial on Twitter and Facebook.

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Champions for Kids, however the views and opinions expressed here are very much my own. #DialCFK #CBias

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The Most Powerful Force In American Schools Today

In August I briefly mentioned and described the “most powerful force to enact change in American schools today”.  Do you know what that force is?  It’s you, “Mom”.

Help me Obi Wan Kanobi you’re my only hope….

Now, I want to elaborate and take this idea a few steps further.  Not only are moms the most able to create change in today’s school system, but I believe are the only force that can lead to change.

Let me back up.  Did you know that out of 30 developed countries, America ranks 25th in math and 21st in science?   Relax, though because Americans do rank #1 in something- confidence…. blissful ignorant confidence.  What this means is that in ten years, American businesses will not have enough skilled labor to fill jobs in the U.S. and will need to look to bring in educated workers from other countries.

If you are among the millions of Americans who have yet to watch the Paramount Motion Pictures movie “Waiting For Superman”, watch the trailer here for a glimpse of how much you may not know.


I’ve Got Mine

I’m blessed and fortunate as a mom to have my children in one of the top schools in our state with some of the best teachers I’ve met yet.  This doesn’t mean, however, that I can sit back and and do nothing about the millions of moms who are watching their children fail in their local schools.

This year’s good fortune doesn’t mean that I haven’t had a taste of the fear and unpleasantness that can come when dealing with the school district as I wrote about last year in, “First Day of School in Sin City”.

I’m not lying when I say that I cried during the scene in Waiting For Superman when children are waiting for their number to be picked so they can attend a descent school.  And, the movie “Won’t Back Down” with my favorite stars Maggie Gyllenhall and Viola Davis, had me in tears throughout the entire film.

But what can I do?  To be honest, I’m still not exactly sure.  I don’t have the answers yet, but I do know that waiting for our education system to turn around on its own is not the solution.

Are You Waiting For Superman?

So while most Americans are sitting back and waiting for “someone” to do “something” about our failing schools, the reality is bleak. Teachers unions have tied the hands of each and every public school to prevent them from ensuring that teachers are doing the job they are paid to do.  And if you think that any President will create change, think again because The National Education Association is the largest union in the U.S. and one of the most powerful political forces in the nation.  I’m sure most people are familiar with “No Child Left Behind”, a victorious attempt at appeasing parents and teachers while maintaining the support of unions.

According to, former top officers at the National Education Association’s Kansas and Nebraska state chapters summarized their union’s stance on reform in a 1994 issue of Educational Freedom: “The NEA has been the single biggest obstacle to education reform in this country. We know because we worked for the NEA.”

Won’t Back Down

While in New York City this summer I got to attend the movie premier of “Won’t Back Down” with my friends from  This movie is an inspirational story of what happens when that inner passion to create the best for our child is combined with the fury for a failing school.

Won't Back Down Movie Premier

Won’t Back Down Movie Premier


Maggie Gyllenhall who plays a tenacious mom says at one point in the movie, “Have you heard about those mothers that lift one ton trucks off their babies?  They’re nothing compared to me.”

Whether or not Won’t Back Down is based on a true story (I hear both), I think it’s an accurate depiction of the change that can occur when just one or two people believe that it’s possible.

Won’t Back Down was released in movie theaters September 23rd of this year, and if you’re a mom, you won’t want to miss it.

Be The Change…..



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Unfriending Over Politics

My Facebook friends and family page is typically bustling with photos, random humorous thoughts and inspirational quotes.  Occasionally I’ll see the angry rant about some frivolous problem, like a flat tire, or sometimes not so frivolous problem, like a request for prayers.

I personally love social media for giving me the effortless ability to stay in touch with friends and relatives from across the globe.  It would be a full-time job to keep aunts, uncles, cousins and friends updated on what’s going on with me and kids, and conversely stay informed about their lives.  For example, without Facebook, my sister-in-law would never see photos from the girls’ dance concert or Connor’s beeper baseball game, or Cassidy’s monologue videos, because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to share this information with everyone.

Within a matter of minutes I’m able to wish happy birthdays, see photos of my high school best friend’s kids and get a quick laugh or dose of inspiration from posted jokes or quotes.  One time, when I forgot my mother-in-law’s birthday, I salvaged the oversight by filming the girls singing happy birthday and posting it on her Facebook page.

Recently, however, the tone of Facebook has changed with the upcoming presidential election creating online riffs and hard feelings between friends and family.  Anti-Obama wars are resulting in pages upon pages of argument that have led to death threats or even worse- “unfriending”.

I have stayed, for the most part, completely neutral and silent online about my political views because I honestly do not see the point otherwise.  Do I really believe that I’m going to change someone’s political convictions by writing slurs about the candidate they support?  Of course not.  And I wonder if these political warriors ever worry that posting negative rants will alienate cyber friends who have opposing political views.  Regardless, I resolved early on to remain quiet and not comment on anything political, positive or negative.

It hasn’t been easy.  Yesterday, I came across a paragraph posted by a girlfriend that starts off relatively eloquent in describing how she appreciates the fact that she lives in a country where she has the right to voice her political views, and the power to help determine who will be our country’s next leader.  Unfortunately, this well-begun post took a turn for the nasty when she summed it up with unkind words like a%* and “idiot”.  I had the fleeting thought to “unfriend” her for her crude remarks before remembering the pact I made with myself to simply ignore the political rant.

And then the issue hit home.  My uncle began targeting my brother with anti-Obama propaganda, even writing, “Bryon, this is for you”, with a link to some FOX News article.  The ironic thing here is that my brother is truly neutral in this presidential election and supports neither at this point.  This began a series of back-and-forth rhetoric that went on for days.  Due to the fact these arguments were posted on the public walls of each party’s Facebook pages, anyone commenting on these posts then opened that conversation up to their friends who would then comment, and it went on and on from there.  What I learned by watching this dialogue is that there are either no Obama supporters on Facebook, or they choose to not initiate this type of nasty and time-wasting exchange of political views.

In either case, the public argument resulted in numerous death threats to my brother from people he doesn’t even know.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems hypocritical, in my opinion, to threaten someone’s life for publicly voicing their support of a presidential candidate when the entire purpose is to elect a leader of our free nation to uphold and defend this basic constitutional right.

Furthermore, I wonder if the people engaging in this type of online bullying truly believe that threatening someone’s life will actually help their candidate win the election.  If one truly that much conviction in their presidential candidate, perhaps doing something positive like holding a rally or fundraiser in their home is a more productive approach to winning.

In any case, my mother at this point decided to step in and personally ask my uncle to please discontinue any public political conversations with his nephew and continue them privately either through email or direct-messaging (DM) on Facebook so that others could neither see nor participate in the dialogue.

The conversation turned ugly and my uncle ended up calling his sister names so awful that I won’t repeat them here.  He then went on to threaten her that he was going to have her “kicked out of the family” and would work to “turn everyone against her”.  Among many things one can accurately call my uncle, delusional is obviously among the first.  He is, after all, one of the conspiracy theorists who believes Barack Obama is a secret Muslim plotting to take over the U.S.  And I won’t even begin to talk about his views on a woman’s place in this world- that’s another story, but supports his fantasy that he has authority or persuasion as a family patriarch to banish his sister.

Anyhow, I’m not sure how he went from supporting to Romney to venomous name-calling, but I do know that it has guided me to make that delicate decision that I’m sure many social media fans have had to make at some point.  See, everyone has that line in the sand, either large or small, that brings them to make tough choices.  I’ve always loved my uncle and always will, but calling my mother vulgar names is probably my big fat line in the sand.

So today, with great remorse, and without the option of an “unfamily” button, I moved my mouse to the big “unfriend” button on my uncle’s Facebook page while thinking about how unfortunate it is that opposing political views are the origin of such an uncomfortable conclusion.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to November 7th when Facebook will once again inspire and humor me with postings of important things like that first lost tooth, school awards, family vacations, funny comics and photos of my cousin’s garden in bloom.

Signs of happier days on Facebook:

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No Kid Hungry

As a mom, it saddens me deeply to think of the children here in America who go hungry every day.  I was shocked to learn that 1 in 5 children are hungry in America… yes, America.

This is why I’m happy to partner with Romano’s Macaroni Grill and the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign to do something about this tragic epidemic.

By sharing my favorite Italian meal and story with you, we’re connecting at least 500 children with meals from this program.  You can also visit Macaroni Grill and donate $2 to the No Kid Hungry Campaign, and you’ll receive $5 off your next meal there.

When I tried to decide on which Italian meal to share from my recipe box, I quickly remembered the story of my friend, Kelli who taught me how to make her traditional Italian Sunday Gravy.  I’m also sharing my story of Kelli and I and our diverse east coast-west coast heritage.

So, here’s my recipe for Italian Sunday Gravy, based on the teachings of my dear friend, Kelli:

Italian Sunday Gravy

Italian Sunday Gravy


  • ground beef or sirloin- 1 lb
  • boneless pork loin chops- 1 lb
  • italian mild sausage- 1 lb
  • onion- 1, minced
  • parmesan cheese- 16 oz.
  • breadcrumbs- 1 cup
  • egg- 1
  • milk- 1/2 cup
  • garlic- 3-4 cloves, minced
  • olive oil
  • crushed tomatoes- 56 oz. (2 28oz. cans)
  • fresh basil and/or Italian parsley- a handful, chopped
  • pasta- 1-2 lbs


  1. in mixing bowl, combine ground beef, half of minced onion, half of parmesan (grated), breadcrumbs, egg and milk; mix well
  2. hand-roll meat into 2-inch balls
  3. heat olive oil and garlic in large non-stick skillet
  4. cook meatball in oil until brown (no need to cook thoroughly), while turning gently with a spoon to make sure all sides are browned
  5. remove cooked meatballs to plate
  6. brown pork chops and remove to plate (again, no need to cook thoroughly)
  7. brown Italian sausage and remove to plate
  8. transfer juices from skillet to large Dutch oven or pot along with tomatoes and browned meat
  9. add chopped basil and/or parsley
  10. simmer 2-3 hours over low heat
  11. served with pasta boiled in salted water until tender and then drained; to prevent pasta from drying before serving, reserve a cup of the cooking water to add back to pasta


Italian Sunday Dinner

Italian Sunday Dinner

And here is our story:

Italian Family Traditions

My neighbor, Kelli, and I grew up worlds apart- both geographically and culturally. I grew up in Southern California while eating dinners made from modern conveniences such as Minute Rice and Betty Crocker with my new-age Mom. While at the same time, Kelli was peeling and canning tomatoes for pasta sauce in the kitchens of Italian aunts and nonnas in New York. Despite being exactly one-quarter Italian myself, my Sicilian-born grandmother died decades before I was born.

Sadly, after 10 years of being a neighbor and dear friend, Kelli moved back to New York. But she did leave something behind (besides her husband)- her family recipe for Italian Sunday Gravy.

Now, for me the word “gravy” is something you pour over turkey and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. But, if you’re from the “old country”, gravy is a traditional Sunday dish that women could put in a pot early Sunday morning and let it simmer while attending Mass. Italian Sunday gravy is a rich, heavy meal of meats that simmer in tomato sauce so long, it’s hard to tell where the meat ends and the sauce begins.

italian red sauce recipe

Italian Sunday Gravy Recipe

Making Sunday Gravy isn’t as difficult as I thought; and, if your kids love to cook as much as mine do, rolling meatballs is the perfect task for little hands. After selecting a variety of meats like pork chops, Italian sausage links, veal cutlets and/or ground sirloin for meatballs, the meat is browned in olive oil and garlic then added to crushed tomatoes in a large Dutch oven. After simmering in the tomatoes for hours, the meat is then removed to a platter and served separately from the sauce alongside pasta, bread and salad.

Italian Sunday dinner recipe

To further illuminate the differences in our culinary traditions, I typically eat salad first with bread then an entrée… and all within the time span of about 20 minutes. While the tradition of eating Italian Sunday Gravy is an all-afternoon event lasting about 2-3 hours, from pasta aglio e olio (pasta with garlic, olive oil and crushed peppers) and red table wine, the salad is actually eaten after the pasta. The big finale, or course, is cannoli and coffee.

Imagine that… hours of uninterrupted time just relaxing and enjoying food and family- a la familia!

Italian Sunday dinner

And, while I’m used to meat being in the pasta sauce, Sunday gravy is served with the meat removed from the sauce onto a separate platter. It’s also typically eaten early enough in the day to allow for proper digestion of its heavy ingredients, thus making it the perfect Sunday after-church meal.

Combining my favorite herbs such as basil and parsley, check out my version of this traditional Italian dinner recipe.


So while this West Coast girl and her family sat down to enjoy Italian Gravy this Sunday, I could swear I heard the theme song from The Godfather playing in the background.

still some “west coast” going on this photo, with that “after swimming pool” hair!

No Kid Hungry Campaign on Facebook– How You Can Help!

If you’re a Facebook friend, visit the Macaroni Grill gallery on Facebook and find a campaign photo to share on your Facebook page (simply click on the photo and select the word “share” underneath the photo), and Macaroni Grill will connect a meal to a kid in need for each “share”.

Select an image from this gallery and “share” on your timeline for an additional $1 donation.



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