Fridays Feast #173

Appetizer: Name 2 things you would like to accomplish in 2008.
Attend my cousin's wedding in England this May, and win the lottery. I fear I'm not likely to accomplish either one.

Soup: With which cartoon character do you share personality traits?
I'm a flirt, just like Betty Boop.

Salad: What time of day (or night) were you born?
I was born at around 5AM.

Main Course: Tell us something special about your hometown.
My hometown, Metro Manila, has some of the worst traffic jams in the world. It can take 2 hrs. to travel just 12km -- I can run that distance in less time!

Dessert: If you could receive a letter from anyone in the world, who would you want to get one from?
Santa Claus.

For more feasts, click here.

Photo Hunters: Light

This week I wanted to feature some of our vacation photos for this week's Photo Hunt:

We were taking a walk through the forest greens of Tagaytay last week when I took this photo. I love how the light shines on everything and makes it look so green and fresh.

We had a great time swimming with the dolphins at Ocean Adventure. The dolphin we met, Sito, carried us through the water as though we were as light as a feather!

For more light things, click here.

Why I haven't blogged in such a long time....

Apologies to the blogosphere! This is the longest stretch of time that I have gone without posting anything on this blog (at least in recent memory). We've been busy....

...hiking through forests....

...looking at ostriches...

...feeding dolphins...

...and playing with them!

More photos (and stories) to come at some point in time!

Fridays Feast #171

Appetizer: What was the last game you purchased?
An electronic Whack-A-Mole game for my son's Christmas present (he said he wants the "guacamole game", so hopefully I didn't misunderstand him!).

Soup: Name something in which you don’t believe.
I don't believe in fairies.

Salad: If you could choose a celebrity to be your boss, who would you pick?
Off the top of my head, I would say Martha Stewart. Yes, I hear she's a bee-yatch, but I respect her work ethic, her perfectionism and her style. I think I could learn a lot from her -- but I don't know how long I would last.

Main Course: What was a lesson you had to learn the hard way?
What goes past the lips ends up on your hips -- I'm still learning this the hard way.

Dessert: Describe your idea of the perfect relaxation room.
A spa.

T-Day has arrived

The passports have been found and the tickets have been printed. The camera has been packed and the luggage has been locked. The kids have their roll-on suitcases stuffed with toys and books (I have been surreptitiously removing one or two items every hour or so, and they have been refilling the suitcases with other toys just as quickly).

My roll-on handcarry is stuffed with extra clothes (what if they need to go potty when the "Fasten Seatbelts" sign is on?), the portable DVD (what if the inflight movie is too scary?) and Benadryl (just in case I decide to sedate the kids -- or myself). I've squeezed in one last visit to the gym and done all the laundry.

It's almost time to travel, and we are ready. And just in case my access to the internet in Manila turns out to be more sporadic than I thought, I'm sending early greetings to all the blogosphere -- HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Stress Test

Two more days till our big trip, and I'm starting to panic. I always know when I'm too stressed; all the signs are there:

10) I can't find my keys anywhere

9) I can't find my shoes anywhere

8) I stay awake at night reciting a mental list of things I need to do so that I can put it all down on paper the next day, only to forget the whole list when I wake up

7) The pile of clothing in the laundry rooms grows until I can no longer remember which piles are clean and which are dirty

6) My kids and husband avoid me

5) I painstakingly decorate our front porch with wreaths and garlands so it looks like someone is home while we're away, only to scream out loud to our neighbor when and where we're vacationing, so the whole neighborhood can hear.

4) I put the cereal box in the fridge and the milk in the cereal cabinet

3) I find myself obsessing about low-priority tasks such as looking up old friends on Facebook or taking my kids to a Christmas crafting event, anything to avoid the high-priority items like packing and cleaning the house before we leave.

2) I find myself going to Target every evening for something that I've forgotten, but must get immediately.

And the number-one sign that I am losing it....

1) I insist to my husband that we are prepared -- so prepared, in fact, that we have time to take my kids to ice-skating lessons three hours before our plane leaves the country

If you ever find yourself doing any of these things, take the advice of someone so stressed that she wishes she could use sedatives for the 14-hour plane ride -- on her, not her kids (surely a 4-year-old will not wander around the plane if you let him watch movies the whole time??) -- and Get Help!

NaBloPoMo -- the end

And so it ends -- one whole month of posting every day. Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo and I'm proud to say, I didn't miss a single day.

Win a Makeover!

Hey, all! Who couldn't use some pampering and ME time? The Silicon Valley Moms Blog is sponsoring a makeover contest -- head on over for details and how to join!

Fridays Feast #170

Appetizer: What is your favorite carnival/amusement park ride?
I love any kind of free fall ride, the kind that zooms you up into the air and just drops you. I love that feeling of terror when I see how high we are, and of course the feeling in the pit of your stomach as you drop.

Soup: How do you react in uncomfortable social situations?
I just clam up and look around.

Salad: On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how much do you enjoy discussing deep, philosophical topics?
It depends who I am talking to and what the situation is. If the person I am talking to is in complete agreement with my views, then I would say 9; if the person disagrees with me but is respectful and engaging in intelligent discourse, then I would say 9; if the person disagrees with me and is a ranting, judgmental bore, then I would say 0.

Main Course: Did you get a flu shot this year? If not, do you plan to?
I don't think I will get one this year.

Dessert: Approximately how many hours per week do you spend watching television?
1 hr. of House + 1 hr. of Greys Anatomy + 2 or 3 hours of something else (random shows, movies, etc..) should only equal 4 or 5 hours per week, but somehow I always seem to watch a lot more.

For more feasts, click here.


Several weeks ago I put up a Love Thursday post about my grandmother, and in it I mentioned that I was putting together a little slide show for her birthday party. I've been procrastinating on this for months, but I've finally put together a first draft.

Now, blogging buddies, I need some feedback -- what do you think? Too shmaltzy? Too long? Too short? Do you think it will bring out the hankies? Or will everyone notice the profanity in the middle of the uncensored version of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful"? Should I switch to the censored version?

This present has no strings attached

Alfie and I spent the better part of last night setting up the new wide-screen tv, so the kids were only able to see the setup in its full glory this morning. The Pea and CleanBoy were suitably impressed, but it seems our 3Po has higher standards.

Me: So, do you like our new tv?

3Po: Yes, but not really.

Me: Why?

3Po: Because it doesn't have any strings. I thought there would be strings hanging from the top of it.

Me: What do you mean?

3Po: You said we were getting a wide-string tv.

Look what Santa brought!

I guess Alfie has been a good boy this year, because Santa has finally given him something that has been on his wishlist for two years.

On Fishing and Happiness

“Give someone a fish and you feed him for a day; Teach someone to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Meet Helina, a 6-year-old girl who lives in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia, the newest member of our family. No, she's not related to us by blood or marriage or adoption or friendship. But she is going to hold a special place in our hearts from now on, because we are going to help her get a good education. Through the Children of Ethiopia Education Fund, we will be paying for Helina's school tuition through the 12th grade.

3Po, CleanBoy and The Pea are excited to have a new friend halfway around the world whom they can write letters to and send photos and little presents to. The Pea is especially excited because Helina is the same age that she is; she loves imagining that Helina must like the same things that she does -- dolls, dresses -- and must be learning many of the same things at school.

For our part, Alfie and I are encouraged by the enthusiasm our children are showing, and happy that Helina and her family value education as we do, and excited that we can make a difference in one girl's life. As parents, it gives us pleasure to imagine the happiness that Helina's parents must feel -- it would be like someone offering to pay our kids' tuition to Harvard! And we are all looking forward to the day when we can travel to Ethiopia, meet Helina and her parents and take them all out for ice-cream.

Helina has already made our family happier, and we haven't even met her yet. Victor Hugo was right when he said, "As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled".

The Twenty-Four Days of Christmas

We leave for Manila in just 9 days, so I'm trying to compress a lot of our usual Christmas preparations in a short period of time -- shopping for Christmas presents, writing out Christmas cards, baking Christmas cookies, and so on. The nice part is, I get all of it over and done with early, so I can enjoy our vacation to the fullest.

But when I look at the list of things to do in Manila, it certainly doesn't look like it's going to be the kind of vacation where we just lie around and do nothing. So far, we have the following events scheduled within a 24-day timeframe:

Dress fitting for my brother's wedding (for me and The Pea)
Shopping for formalwear (for Alfie and the boys)
2-day trip to Tagaytay
3-day trip to Subic Bay
3-day trip to Punta Fuego beach
Food tour of Binondo (Manila's Chinatown)
Tour of San Agustin Church
Bridal shower
Bachelor party
Wedding rehearsal dinner
Birthday party for my grandmother
Birthday party for 3Po and CleanBoy
Birthday party for my niece
Christmas Eve dinner
Christmas Day lunch

And that isn't counting date nights with Alfie (since we'll have unlimited babysitting while we're there), shopping sprees, invitations to lunch, playdates for the kids, etc.. etc...

And here I thought that vacations were supposed to relax you.

Photo Hunters: hot

We are going someplace HOT, very soon -- only 10 more days!

For more hot things, click here.

Go forth and buy, buy, buy

(Nov. 23, Black Friday, 5AM, in stores all over the US): Rrrrrreaaadyyyy...... Seeeet....... Gooooooo!!

(Nov. 23, Black Friday, 5AM, in the Bongga household): Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...........

The Friday After Thanksgiving -- the beginning of the Holiday Shopping Season, aka Holiday Buying Frenzy -- is the one day when you can be sure that I am not out shopping. I tried it once, long ago. Even at 11AM, it was still madness. The crowds were unbearable; going with kids would be unthinkable for me.

Now, I'm the biggest cheapskate in the world, and I love a good bargain, but even I don't think it's worth the hassle. Why fight the crowds? Is it really worth lining up at 3AM in order to snag the Early Bird Deals? Are the bargains really that much better anyway? And are there really items so popular that you need to punch and kick everyone else away in order to get one?

I am forced to conclude that this must be a tradition, a ritual that some families enjoy, like going on a jolly good scavenger hunt and having some hot chocolate afterwards. And if you absolutely must go out on Black Friday, here are 10 tips for surviving the day with all your fingers and toes intact. Happy Shopping!

Giving Thanks

The Pea brought home a little booklet that she had made, of things that she is thankful for. Here is her list:

I am thankful for many things - sand, water and dolphins.

I am thankful for the macaroni and cheese that I eat.
I am thankful for my brown shoes that I wear.
I am thankful for the city that I live in.
I am thankful for the Littlest Pet Shop toy that I play with.
I am thankful for the (American Girl) catalog that I love.
I am thankful for the autumn trees that I see outside.
I am thankful for my teacher and friends.

She inspired me to write my own list:
I'm thankful that I will get to see my grandmother very, very soon.
I'm thankful that my kids are happy and healthy.
I'm thankful that my husband has been virtually pain-free for almost a year.
I'm thankful that my father has been cancer-free for over a year
I'm thankful that my sister will soon be coming to live in the Bay Area.
I'm thankful that my brother has found the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with.
I'm thankful that my cousin will soon give birth to a beautiful baby girl.
I'm thankful that my friend will soon be traveling to India to bring their beautiful baby girl home to her new family.
I'm thankful that this list could go on and on; that I have so many things to be thankful for.

Life is good, so I give thanks!

A Love Story

Once upon a time, Eugene met Cristina at a party. He thought she was pretty, she thought he was funny. They danced and had a good time. A couple of days later, she left the city and went back to the the province. He followed. Good thing he did -- 38 years, 5 children, 6 grandchildren, 3 houses, 10 cars, 2 Christmas trees, and lots of love later, here we all are. Happy Anniversary!

My Blog Turns 1

What's a birthday without some ice-cream?

Today is my first Blogaversary! Exactly one year ago today, I wrote my very first post on this blog. Since then....

I've changed the look of my blog 3 times;
My Technorati Rank is 194,358;
My Technorati Authority is 41;
1452 people have viewed my profile;
I write for 2 other blogs;
I've made about $17 since I started accepting BlogHer ads a couple of months ago;
I've received 0 spam comments;
I've had over 12,000 visits (since I started counting, at the beginning of this year);
I've written 280 posts (this is the 281st)......

... and I'm not tired of it yet!

All About Filipino Food

I've been tagged for a meme by Just Jen! Here are the rules:

* Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
* Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
* Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
* Let each person know that they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I've done similar memes in the past, so today I'm doing one with a theme: Filipino foods. Here, then, are My 7 Things:

1) My absolute favorite fruit in the whole wide world is golden Philippine mangoes. The perfect mango can be hard to find, even in Manila but more so in the US, because there are so many under-ripe, sour mangoes out there, but a sweet, succulent mango is just perfect.

2) I once spent almost an entire summer eating nothing but mangoes, cantaloupe melon, water and breadsticks. I know, I know, I was insane...... but I was a teenager determined to slim down so I could look good onstage and so my dance partners wouldn't find it so hard to lift me.

3) I cannot stand coconut, buko juice, sapin-sapin, or anything with coconut in it (except macaroons). A bit unusual for someone who comes from a country who is the second largest exporter of coconut products in the world, but I am what I am.

4) I love lechon (whole suckling roast pig), but I can't stand the accompanying liver sauce.

5) I love halo-halo (a dessert made with sweetened fruits, shaved ice, milk and sometimes ice cream) but I never eat it with milk. I always get strange looks from waitresses when I order halo-halo without milk

6) When I made chicken adobo, I fry the chicken first, then simmer it the traditional adobo sauce (soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves and peppercorns), whereas my mother does the opposite (simmers first, then fries it). Her adobo tastes better than mine but I'm too stubborn to change.

7) While at college, I developed a taste for pancakes with maple syrup and grated cheese on top. It was a snack served regularly at the dive-y eateries scattered around campus. I had forgotten all about this but was reminded of it last week when I watched Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods . One of the "bizarre foods" he featured from the Philippines was cheese-flavored ice cream. Filipinos call this flavor queso (Spanish for ice-cream) and believe me, it's not weird at all. My palate is pretty conservative and I love queso ice-cream.

Now my tummy is rumbling, and I am tagging:

Teacher Julie
Fridays Child

... you can do the regular "7 Things About Me" or play along with your favorite foods or favorite FIlipino foods. Also, if anyone who I haven't tagged would like to do it, consider yourself tagged and leave me a comment so that I can read you answers.

Tugging at my purse strings and heart strings

With a pair of decent skates costing over $100 new and skating skirts starting at $30 (compared with $8 for a pair of ballet shoes and $10 for a leotard), buying and selling used skating clothes and equipment makes so much economic sense. The Pea and her brothers have only been taking lessons for 3 months, and even though she swears that she will never give skating up, I'm taking it with a grain of salt. That's why we went to a used skating clothes and equipment sale this weekend to check out what they had to offer. The Pea oohed and ahhed over some of the fancy costumes on sale, but was quite happy with the little blue velvet skating skirt we found at the sale for only $10.

Then we saw the skates. They were labelled "almost new", and looked pretty good. Even better, they were a great bargain -- new, these skates would have cost $140 and they were priced at $30. Best of all, The Pea did a few swizzles on the ice with them and said they felt really good.

Enter the Voice of Reason. $30 by itself is not too bad, but am I going down a slippery slope? She'll outgrow these and ask for another pair, the boys will want their own as well.. etc...etc...$$$$$. I had previously told her, no skates of her own until she had advanced a bit further in her lessons. I could have stuck to my guns. But I couldn't resist. I got them for her. She is over the moon with delight, so happy to have a pair of white skates that she doesn't care in the least that they are secondhand.

It was definitely an impulse buy, and I'm still not sure I should have done that. But she is so happy! Seeing her so happy makes me happy too, so truthfully, I bought them a little bit for me as well. And she looks so cute in her white skates and little velvet skirt.

I guess I wont' be buying those cute evening sandals I was eyeing, after all.

Carrying our children

I was meandering through the blog world today, and I came across this sad story from Siani's blog. Apparently a little girl who is suffering from leukemia has started a blog, and of all things, is getting death threats on it!

The story does not go into detail about the nature of the threats or the commenter's name or possible motives, but I honestly can't understand it. Could it be automated spam? Does someone have a grudge against their parents? Why would someone do such a thing to a little girl?

As if this little girl and her family don't have enough burdens on their shoulders already. Even without the death threats, having a disease like leukemia is such a huge load for a little girl to carry. I cannot imagine what Sophie's parents must be going through. I'm sure they must want so badly to to take away her worry and pain, to transfer it all into their own bodies if they could.

Our children all begin their lives in the arms of their parents. We carry them everywhere, in every way. As their little bodies grow too big to be carried, we try to carry them in other ways - financially, emotionally. But for parents like Sophies, there are just some things they cannot carry for their children, no matter how much they want to. And my heart aches for them.

For more thoughts on carrying, click here.

I love The Nutcracker

This week's Photo Hunt theme is I love ______. There is so much for me to love about tonight's Nutcracker Pajama Party:

I love my kids;
I love The Nutcracker;
I love parties;
I love the idea of a Nutcracker PJ Party to introduce/prepare kids for their holiday Nutcracker shows;
I love the fact that we attended the later, less crowded party so the kids had more time with the characters;
I love sparkly costumes;
I love the color pink;
I love The Pea's gingerbread pajamas.

For more things to love, click here.

Fridays Feast #169

Appetizer: What was your first “real” job?
While at college, I danced for a contemporary / jazz dance group led by one of the top dancers/choreographers in the Philippines, Douglas Nierras. Geez -- rehearsals and dance classes till the wee hours of the morning, appearing on tv and stage shows, meeting local celebrities -- it's like looking back on a different person's life. I do miss it, but I also like the fact that my life picture has completely changed, not once, but several times. It certainly makes life more interesting!

Soup: Where would you go if you wanted to spark your creativity?

Salad: Complete this sentence: I am embarrassed when…
I am embarrassed when I have to walk around with a monstrous zit on my face.

Main Course: What values did your parents instill in you?
I think the 3 Big Ones they taught were the importance of faith in God, the importance of family, and the importance of a good education.

Dessert: Name 3 fads from your teenage years.
Bubble skirts
Skintight jeans

Hey, those sound like fashions that Old Navy would carry! Are the 80's back, or what?

For more feasts, click here.

A spoonful of sugar

It's a funny thing: I will scour the internet for hours on end to find a discount coupon worth $10 but if you were to offer to hire me for $5 an hour to do research, I would be insulted. The thrill of the chase and the scrooge-y satisfaction of getting something at a discount make it all worthwhile, I guess.

Which is why, after hours of searching, I'm thrilled to have finally found a free shipping offer for The Pea's Christmas present. It's certainly making that humble pie taste a lot ($10.95, to be more precise) better:

* Free shipping on purchases of $100 or more at American Girl: use promotional code 158117, valid until 11/20/07

And since the holiday season is fast approaching, here are some more discounts I found that will help take some of the sting out of your holiday budgets:

* Go to to save $23.99 on gift sets for latest American Girl doll, Julie Albright

* $5 off purchases of $35 or more at the Lego Store: use coupon code SP117, valid until 12/31/07

* 15% off purchases at the Disney Store: use coupon code 3199, valid until 12/24/07

* 15% off purchases at The Childrens Place: use webcode H2EMJ736IJB7, valid until 12/09/07

* Free shipping at LLBean, no minimum purchase, no code needed, valid until 12/21/07

Happy swallowing, I mean shopping!

Giving in

I'm not what you would call an American Girl Doll fan. I think they're overmarketed, overpriced and overmaterialistic. But here I am, about to get one for The Pea, after all the negative things I've said about them. How the mighty have fallen. Mattel must be laughing all the way to the bank.

I do remember saying that I wasn't closing the door on buying her one of these dolls. But I didn't expect to cave in so soon. The Pea seems to have called my bluff. I told her she has to read the books and get to know the characters, and she has. I told her no extra clothes, those and they're coming from Target, and she's fine with that. She's even willing to pay for part of the doll with her life savings of $40 (I don't have the heart to make her do that, though). She says there is nothing else she wants. With that kind of dedication, how could I resist? Now here I am, swallowing my reservations and giving in.

So if anyone out there has an American Girl coupon code for $10 off or free shipping or whatever, please leave a comment and share it with me. It'll help wash down this piece of humble pie that I am eating, and make it a little bit easier to swallow.

I swear they don't watch violent TV!!

3Po and CleanBoy are playing with their Bionicle figurines, making them fly in the air, roll on the ground, fight the bad guys, etc.. etc... There is lots of swooping and diving going on, with accompanying zooming and exploding sounds (from the boys), as well as crashing and knocking sounds (toys bashing our poor, abused walls and floor). It's only a matter of time before a new sound joins the din: one of CleanBoy wailing at the top of his lungs. I rush in to find CleanBoy holding the top of his head. It looks like 3Po has bashed CleanBoy on the head with one of the Bionicles.

Me: What happened?

CleanBoy: 3Po hit me on the heaaaaaaaaaad!

3Po: (mutters softly, looking defiant) No I didn't...... (points to the Bionicle).... heeeeee did it!

A Soiree at the Four Seasons? Sweeeeet

I tell you, being a writer for the Silicon Valley Moms Blog has some nice little perks. Today they had a chic little soiree at the poolside deck of the Four Seasons, complete with elegant nibbles, mid-afternoon champagne, pampering hand massages and fluffy white spa slippers in a take-home goody bag. It was sponsored by Graco, who were launching a new baby product, the Graco Sweet Peace bouncer/swing/whatever (or "soothing center" as they call it).

Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera with me, so I'll have to post photos of the event later on. In the meantime, here is a photo of the SweetPeace.

I'm not going to need this anymore since the baby factory has closed shop at our place, but I would have loved it when 3Po & CleanBoy were babies. In fact, if they had had a "twin version" of this (see my product concept photo below), I would have bought it right away.

Take the Twirly Challenge!

I've just taken a test to see whether I'm right-brained or left-brained. Here are the results:

You Are 65% Left Brained, 35% Right Brained

The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.
Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.
If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.
Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.

The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.
Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.
If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.
Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.

I'm thinking, yeah, that sounds about right. I studied engineering , I live by my Yahoo! Calendar, so I definitely have left-brain characteristics, but I also like to daydream and blog and do facepainting, jewelry-making and arts & crafts. Yeah, I'm a bit of each.

But then, my logical left side is saying, "Classic after-the-fact analysis! You are subconsciously molding your perception of yourself to match the results of this test, much like people selectively remember details of their personalities and lives that fit their horoscope or fortune-telling reading."

Okay, how about another test? Alfie forwarded me a link to this TwirlyGirl test. If you see the girl twirling counterclockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain, and vice versa. Like most people, I could only see the counterclockwise twirl. Yup, I'm a left-brainer, all right.

So now, the challenge is to see whether you can make the girl twirl in the other direction. At first, I just could not do it. Then Alfie let me in on a little secret -- if you focus on the girl's shadow at the bottom -- do NOT look at the girl herself -- you can concentrate hard enough and visualize it turning in the other direction. Once you do that, bring your gaze back to the whole girl. I tried it, and it works! I can now see the girl twirling both clockwise and counterclockwise.

For more thoughts on left and right, click here.


With toes that yummy, who wouldn't bend over backwards (or forwards) to eat them? And don't you wish that you as a grownup could still do this?

For more flexible things, click here.

Fridays Feast #168

Which snack do you like to get when you go to the movies?
Buttered popcorn or ice-cream.

What year did you start using the internet?
1994. I remember when I first started using Yahoo! on the Stanford campus network and falling in love with it. I should have invested in it way back then!

What is your first name in Pig Latin?

Main Course
Name something you are picky about.
I'm pretty easy to please, but once you own a BMW car, it's difficult to drive anything else.

Fill in the blanks: I ____ ____ yesterday and I ____ ____ today.
I blogged yesterday and I also blogged today.

For more feasts, click here.

Photos of my grandmother

I can't believe it's November already. Only two weeks till Thanksgiving, and before I know it, we'll be boarding a plane bound for Manila. We celebrate my grandmother's 87th? 88th? 89th? birthday on December 15.

I'm putting together a slide show set to the music of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful". I love looking at old photos of my grandmother. Here's one when she's just a young girl in Spain, autographed like she was a movie star (the dedication reads, "To my dear sister Lily -- Cristina"). Photos nowadays are a dime a dozen but I guess they were real keepsakes way back then.

Here she is as a young married woman. The little girl in the center with the humungous hair ribbon is my mother.

Photos don't have to be in black-and-white to have that vintage feel. This one was taken during my aunt's wedding. I'm the little baby with the droopy underwear, standing beside one of the bridesmaids (my aunt). All the grownups look so young and happy and alive, especially my grandmother. It's one of my all-time favorite baby pictures. There was a lot of love floating around during my childhood, and this photo is the perfect example.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. If you can, go give your grandmothers a kiss. I certainly will when I see mine.

A Lesson in Self-Defense

Warning: The following blog post contains strong sexual language and violence (but only if you're a bad stranger)

(This morning I overheard The Pea explaining to 3Po what he should do if ever a stranger tries to grab him)

Pea: ..... and Daddy said you have to KICK him in the winkie!

3Po: But what if the stranger is a girl?

(The Pea is stumped. After a few seconds of deep thought, 3Po answers his own question)

3Po: If it's a girl stranger, you have to kick their pee-pee.

Pea: Yeah, and that hurts even more than kicking winkies, because your winkie is soft and can swing around, but pee-pees are hard and they stay in one place. I hit my pee-pee once when I fell off my bike and it reaaaaaally hurt.

3Po: Yeah, so you have to kick girl strangers' pee-pees.

Pea: But strangers can be anyone you don't know! So you should only do that if the stranger is baaaad, and trying to hurt you, otherwise you'd be going around and kicking every girl strangers' pee-pee.

A Holiday Party

Ho, ho, ho! I'm glad I'm not the only one preparing for the holidays in November. MJ, Amy and Dawn have teamed up to organize a blog contest with hundreds of prizes! Like gift certificates and jewelry and gift baskets and toys and nursing covers and baby slings. Not that I need a baby sling anymore, but I have girlfriends that would love it. And I certainly wouldn't mind getting that Epson printer or Emergency Survival kit for my car or Aromatherapy basket for some pampering time. So get on over to Momviews and join the contest!

It's raining men!

Want a man? Move to Silicon Valley! Yes, it must be true because Oprah herself has decreed it! The Oprah Winfrey Show and Men's Health magazine have teamed up to come up with a list of top 20 cities for meeting single men over 35 -- and Silicon Valley's two flanking cities, San Francisco and San Jose, have made the top five.

Oprah has confirmed what any female engineering student has known all along. Just as any university's College of Engineering has mostly geeky male students, Silicon Valley, being the heart of the high-tech industry, is filled with geeky male engineers -- as well as some not-so-geeky male engineers. As an added bonus, lots of these men work in places like Google or Cisco and have lots of money. So all you single gals, come on over and take your pick of the litter. I ought to know -- I landed myself the best one, and we just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary yesterday!

Money, money everywhere

Last night Alfie and I attended an auction fundraiser for The Pea's elementary school, and we were reminded again of the incredible amount of wealth that is floating around in this area. Not that we ever really forget. Palo Alto's proximity to Stanford University and Silicon Valley attracts a highly educated, professional, -- and therefore affluent -- community.

But the big money around here, i.e. the Google/Yahoo!/internet millionaires, tend to live relatively low-key. You wouldn't guess that the dad in sweatpants biking with his daughter to her public elementary school actually owns two vacation homes and a sailboat. And sometimes it's hard to believe that the cottages we pass on our way to school are actually worth $2 million, and the 3,000 square-foot mansions, which might cost half a million in other parts of the US, are actually worth $10 million here.

Not only that, they send their kids to the local public school, which relies heavily on parental involvement to supplement the pitiful allowance that California gives its public schools. And the way our school does it is with our silent and live auction fundraiser. Last year's auction raised over $70,000. The PTA ended up with too much money (apparently there are all kinds of restrictions on how PTA funds can be spent), so this year they decided to scale it down and set a goal of just $50k. Just??

How do 150 auction items end up making that kind of money? Some auction items do end up selling for reasonable amounts; last year, we were actually able to snag some great buys: opera tickets at half-price, a summer camp session with Camp Galileo at $35 off the regular price, and a $50 gift certificate to the Fish Market for $55. But some items, especially those that are auctioned live, end up selling for waaaaay over the minimum bid, indeed, way over their face value. When we left the auction last night, a package of 4 Cirque du Soleil VIP tickets (face value $300) had reached a bid of $800 (and the bidding wasn't over yet). An apple pie baked by the school principal sold for $2000. What chance does an ordinary middle-class guy have bidding against budgets like those?

Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against rich people; in fact, I wish I was one of them. If I had lots of money to spend, I'd bid $400 for a Nighttime Star-gazing Party too. I know it's all in the spirit of raising money for the school; just writing a check for $4000 is boring, it's much more fun to engage in a bidding war with your fellow-millionaire friend on something worth $800. I am grateful for their donations; their money is supporting my daughter's school and giving her the quality public education that is a major factor in making Palo Alto such a desirable place to live. And in the end, even though we don't have the kind of money it takes to pay $700 for a football autographed by Steve Young, I am grateful for what money we do have.

So what did we bid on last night? Well, to put it in the the style of a certain popular Mastercard ad:

5 hours of babysitting by the director of the onsite afterschool care program: $700
Dinner party for 6 at Bistro Elan: $2500
Weekend at a 3-br cottage in Carmel: $4000
Tickets to a Father-Daughter dance (the only auction item we bid on this year, 1st 75 bidders at $10 or more win): $10
Alfie ooking forward to the pleasure of an evening with his Princess Pea: PRICELESS

For more thoughts on money, click here.

A Classic

I used a box of this classic cake mix last night to make some mini dessert cakes for my sons' preschool auction. I love using cake mixes and doctoring them up to look and taste better. They make it so much easier to whip up something yummy, like this Apple Crisp (recipe from cdkitchen):

Apple Crisp

5 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 box white cake mix
4 tablespoons butter

Peel and slice the apples and place in a baking dish. Mix cinnamon, sugar and cake mix; sprinkle over the apples. Slice butter and cover mixture evenly with the butter. Bake in 375F oven until bubbly and apples are tender,about 1/2 hour.

For more classics, click here.

Fridays Feast #167

Appetizer: How much money do you plan to spend this upcoming holiday season? I don't even want to think about it. We'll probably have the same budget for Christmas cards and teacher presents, but there are some big items on Santa's list this year. We're probably going to splurge on a relatively expensive ($90) present for The Pea, Alfie wants a wide-screen TV ($1800) and of course the TV cabinet to go with it ($2500) -- gulp!

Soup: What was the last television show you watched, and was it good?
I watched Grey's Anatomy last night. I'm still holding off judgment on the new season, but I'm pretty pissed that George and Izzy are still together (iiiiick!!). At least I enjoy the eye candy (work it, McSteeeeeammy!).

Salad: If you had to paint the walls of your living room tomorrow, what color would you choose?
I would choose exactly the same color that I chose two years ago, a powdery blue.

Main Course: Name something clever or practical you have thought of that should be invented, but hasn’t yet.
I won't tell you because you might beat me to the patent and the lifetime royalty payments.

Dessert: List 3 things you would like to receive as gifts this upcoming holiday season.
A digital SLR camera
A gift certificate for a spa treatment
A new MP3 player or iPod

Halloween 2007 By the Numbers

# of family members in costume: 5
# of days it took to decorate the house: 7
# of days it took to dismantle decorations: 2
# of plastic spiders used to decorate the house: 65
# of plastic skulls: 25
# of parties attended: 6
# of times we went trick-or-treating: 3
# of pumpkin patch visits: 1
# of pumpkins carved: 4
# of photos for Halloween 2007: 110
# of candies collected: I stopped counting when I reached 222, or 74 per child (now that's scary!!)

How was your Halloween?

View my other post-Halloween-post at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

Happy Halloween!

Spooky Salutations from our three little punkins and the monster daddy (the mummy is taking the photo)!

Enter if you dare ....(oh, go on, it's just a haunted house)

I realize I haven't made good on my intention to include Halloween-themed photos in my October posts. To make amends, I'm dedicating a whole post to showcasing the Halloween decor around our house.

The front porch. Amazingly, out of all the pumpkins on the front steps, only the large pumpkin and three small pumpkins were purchased. The rest found their way home as take-home treats from the kids's schools and the various parties and events we have attended.

A closeup of the Halloween pumpkin tree on our front porch. These are actually fake styrofoam pumpkins, since real ones would be much too heavy for the "tree", which is actually a branch that fell from one of our birch trees.

This is a new addition to my decor repertoire. It came about almost accidentally; I didn't want the kids or any of their friends playing in Alfie's unfinished patio area, so I decided to paint some "Keep Out" signs and rope it off with Halloween-themed construction tape. The skeleton rising out of the ground is wearing Alfie's skeleton shirt and gloves. Guess what's keeping him upright? -- a Diaper Genie!

The top of our TV console is Skeleton City. The centerpiece is the remote-control sailboat that Alfie got for Fathers' Day; that's actually its permanent display area.

For the fireplace mantel, I decided to remove all photos except for the one of me in an old-fashioned Philippine "Maria Clara" gown with baby Pea sitting on my lap. People have always said the photo looks a bit eerie, like Pea is some sort of lifelike Victorian "Chuckee"-type doll, so it fits in with the cobwebs and candelabra.

OK, just kidding, this isn't part of our home decor. This is the Left Bank at the Santana Row shoping center, where 3Po and CleanBoy went trick-or-treating this morning. I wish we had something like that, though, it's so cool!

Sunday Scribblings: Hospital Memories

People associate hospitals with a lot of emotions -- helplessness, fear, hope (or hopelessness) -- or sensations -- pain, -- or senses -- bright lights, strong smells. But since I practically grew up in hospitals -- my dad is a doctor -- they actually bring back a lot of happy memories.

I don't remember my own birth, of course, but with twenty-plus cousins we were always at the delivery ward (5th floor) visiting an aunt and a new cousin. We loved running over to the nursery and looking at the cute little babies (although I remember feeling sad and squeamish as we past the little ones in incubators who obviously were starting out in life with a bit of a struggle). I do remember several visits to old relatives with serious illnesses (9th floor), but being so young I never really dwelt on what it really meant. As far as I was concerned, I was happy because I got to eat the pastries that other family members had brought in to offer to visitors.

We loved visiting my dad's office (2nd floor). His secretary always had a kind word and a pencil and paper for me to draw with, and if he was visiting a patient in the hospital we'd get to play in his office with his stethoscope and plastic models of kidneys and hearts. Sometimes -- o treat of treats -- he would give us some money and send us down to the cafeteria for some snacks (we'd always take the back stairs and feel like we were important "insiders" because we knew the back routes). But as we grew older, those office visits often grew long and boring, especially when they fell on weekend afternoons, on the way home from our grandmother's house. Hearing my dad say he had to "Go on Rounds" would always bring out groans from me and my siblings, because it meant we had to sit in the car or play in the parking lot for what seemed like hours.

My personal hospital experiences have involved some pain (or "minor discomfort" as hospital personnel like to say), of course, but all have had positive outcomes. My first hospital stay involved dental surgery, two impacted molars, in my late teens. I had outpatient surgery in my twenties to remove two large moles (I remember being fascinated with the sizzle and smell of my burning flesh as they cauterized my skin -- perhaps the pain meds got me all loopy). And I've been in the maternity ward twice. I suffered through an insanely long and painful labor with The Pea versus a short and painless labor with the twins, but both labors resulted in healthy vaginal births. And my post-labor hospital memories all involve little sleep and lots of love.

The most difficult times I've had at hospitals have been visiting loved ones and watching them suffer. Almost two decades ago, my father had triple bypass surgery; I can still remember watching him in agony after a simple cough strained his stitches and hammered the ribs they had to break in order to get to his heart. A week or so after my twins were born, they had to be readmitted to the hospital due to high bilirubin levels. Even though I knew the newborn jaundice would go away after a short stay under those incubator lights, I was an emotional wreck having to leave them there. And last year, I had to take 3Po to the emergency room after CleanBoy slammed a door on his pinkie finger and broke it. He was a very sleepy, sad and scared little boy and even though the injury wasn't serious, it was still difficult to watch him and not be able to do much to help him.

As far as hospital memories are concerned, I've been very lucky. And I hope it stays that way.

For more on hospitals, click here.

A New Challenge

Visit NaBloPoMo

Now that I've run a half-marathon, what's next? Why not try a "run" in the blogging world? I'm not up to NaNoWriMo marathon, so I'm going to attempt the half-marathon of blogging, namely NaBloPoMo. The starting gun goes off on November 1; hopefully I'll cross the finish line on November 30 without too many boring "Today I did this"-type posts.

The sweetest pink there is

I own several pink shirts, but this one is one that I'm extra-proud to be wearing. Money alone couldn't buy it -- I had to run 13.1 miles to get it.

And speaking of pink, the image below is quite possibly the most significant and important pink there is -- this symbol of courage, hope, life and love. I saw many runners wearing the pink ribbon in last week's race. My grandmother and aunt have fought -- and beat -- breast cancer, so it has a place in my heart, too. Now go and get that mammogram, ladies!

For more shades of pink, click here.

Macho Batman

3Po and CleanBoy are dressed up as Batman and Superman and playing in the hall closet. Presently, 3Po comes running up to his dad, wailing; CleanBoy has accidentally opened the door and hit 3Po's foot.

3Po: Daddy, CleanBoy opened the door on my toe and it huuuuuuurts!

CleanBoy (muttering, half-defiant, half-ashamed): Well, Batman doesn't cry.

Fridays Feast

This was last Friday's Feast at our house -- Halloween party snacks!

Name a great website you would recommend to others.
How about for some great deals on children's clothing and toys!

On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 as highest), how often do you dream at night?

Probably a 5; I don't remember my dreams, so I can't be sure.

Did you have a pet as a child? If so, what kind and what was its name?
A German Shepherd named Schultzie. He loved spaghetti and meatballs!

Main Course
If you had the chance to star in a commercial, what would you choose to advertise?
Victoria's Secret Lingerie.

What is your favorite kind of hard candy?
I don't really like hard candy, but if I had to choose, I would say Fox's Glacier Mints.

For more feasts, click here.

13.1 reasons I enjoyed the Nike Half-Marathon

1 - Hey, it's the Nike Women's Marathon and Half-Marathon! Just getting in was an accomplishment -- it sold out so quickly, none of my other girlfriends managed to get a spot.

2 - I've never run at sunrise before.

3 - It was the perfect day for a run -- cool, sunny, not a trace of fog.

4 - It was most scenic run I've ever been on. I ran past the Bay Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Cliff House, the Pacific Ocean. The clear sunny skies made sure we had spectacular views of everything.

5 - I survived all the killer hills. My original plan had always been to run the flats and downhills and walk the hills, but I felt so strong yesterday that I decided to run the hills. Okay, I did slow down to a shuffle-walk combo halfway up, but that's still better than I've ever done.

6 - I've fallen in love with my running shoes. They are soft and cushiony and oh-so-stable. My feet feel fine today, not a sore toenail or blister . I think these may be the most comfortable pair of running shoes I've ever had.

7 - I've never seen so many people running for a cause. Half the runners must have been affiliated with Team in Training. Many of them had names, ribbons or photos on their shirts, of people who inspired them, people they were running for. Maybe people fighting leukemia or people who died fighting it. I saw a shirt that read, "You think running 26.2 miles is hard, try chemotherapy". It was truly inspiring.

8 - I got to carbo-load the night before on pancakes and ice cream without too much guilt.

9 - I got to spend a lovely weekend with my family in San Francisco. We met up with some childhood friends of Alfie's who were on vacation from England, and took them around the city and Sausalito. The kids had a great time and enjoyed sleeping in a hotel on Saturday night.

10 - The perks and freebies were amazing. Free iPod engraving, free massages and manicures and pedicures and makeovers pre and post-race, an oxygen bar after the first Big Hill (I wanted to try all of these but decided not to because the lines were just too long). Energy stations along the way offered water, Gatorade, bananas, oranges and bagels and Luna Bars. After the race, there was more fruit and water, Bear Naked Granola, bagels and Jamba Juice smoothies. The race shirt we got was a cute pink Nike DriFit shirt, not an ordinary white screenprint tshirt that gets relegated to Alfie's nightshirt drawer. The much awaited Ghirardelli Chocolate Mile was something of a disappointment -- I expected a bit more fanfare, and all I saw was a table of chocolate squares -- but hey, chocolate is still chocolate, and I managed to stuff a bunch of dark chocolate squares into my rack pack, to be savored in the days to come.

11 - And then there's the finisher's medal, which is so special it deserves it's own little section. Instead of a clunky piece of metal on a ribbon, finishers receive a sterling silver Tiffany's necklace. Yup, with the blue Tiffany's box and all. Presented to us on a silver platter by a bunch of hunks dressed in tuxedoes. I've never owned anything from Tiffany's, and this is something that no millionaire can buy.

12 - I've run my first half-marathon. I was expecting to run between 4 and 6 miles and walk the rest of the way, but other than my slow shuffles up the hills and some minute-long powerwalks, I ran. Being able to say, "I ran it" is the best perk of all.

13 - My time -- 2:22:25 -- is icing on the cake. Given how much I've been running, I did not honestly expect to finish below 3 hours.

0.1 - Did I mention that Tiffany necklace?

For a mile-by-mile account of the race, check out my post on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

Pretty Practical

This dish scrubber and dish towel are pretty and practical at the same time. They allow me to do the dishes while celebrating the fun of Halloween. Gotta love Target -- where else can you get this at 99 cents?!

For more practical things, click here.

NOW I'm ready for Halloween!

It had to happen sooner or later. My house looks like the Halloween fairy threw up all over the place, but my blog was still the same ho-hum-homepage. For weeks I've been enviously checking out blogs that are all decked out for Halloween, such as Hootin Anni's and Bridget's and wishing I could do the same. I knew I wanted to include Halloween-themed photos with each post I put up in October, but Halloween-lover that I am, I wanted to do more. And now, I have!

I don't have the time, knowledge or inclination to mess with my blog template, but fortunately the lovely and talented Gattina has made it easy for me to spook up my homepage --thanks, Gattina, for the great header!

Fridays Feast #165

Appetizer : If you were a dog, what breed would you be, and why?
I don't know anything about dogs, so I don't know. I do know that I don't want to be one of those small lap dogs that yip and yap instead of bark, because then my husband wouldn't like me.

Soup : What does the color purple make you think of?
Right now, spiders, because I'm in the midst of getting the house all decorated for Halloween.

Our dining table centerpiece is all purple and black spiders....

(It looks a lot spookier when the lights are dimmed low)

Salad : Approximately how long does it take you to get ready each morning?
Five minutes -- I get dressed, brush my teeth and wash my face. Mornings are all about everybody else but me -- getting the kids up and dressed, giving them breakfast, making the kids' and Alfie's lunch, getting The Pea to school. My breakfast and shower have to wait till the rush dies down.

Main Course : How many cousins do you have, and are you close to them?
Let me see...... I have 26 first cousins (children of my parents' brothers and sisters), and I've already lost track of how many second cousins I have (children of my parents' first cousins). We have big families in the Philippines! With that many cousins, how can you be close to all of them?

Dessert : Take your initials (first, middle, last) and come up with something else those letters could stand for. (Example: SFO = Sweet Funny Otter)
ALP: A lovely person

For more feasts, click here.

Crafting Mama wins the Candy Corn Costume Challenge

Success!! I've completed Pea's dreaded Candy-Corn Fairy Costume Challenge, just in time for our Halloween party. I did not want to pay $80 for the brand-new ensemble; I bid on a used one off Ebay but it ended up selling for $45, still out of my league. So we put together our own version, copied from the original but with little changes here and there. I think the result looks pretty good, don't you? Fortunately, The Pea thinks so; in fact, she says it's better than the original!

Here's a summary of how I did it (note: summary does not convey the effort/angst/mistakes I went through to get it "just right"):

Wings: Bend wire into desired wing shape. Cover wings with a pair of white pantyhose (you'll need stitch or hot-glue the ends shut). Color wings with fabric paint, diluted with water to get that "sheer" color. Decorate with glitter glue and sew on elastic straps at the back.

Bag: Take a square bag and turn inside out. Stitch a diagonal line from each top corner to the bottom of the bag, right in the middle, so it makes a triangle shape. Turn inside out. Use yellow. orange and white fabric paint to color the bag like a piece of candy corn.

Headband: Wrap antenna pipecleaners around headband to anchor (I twisted 2 pipecleaners together so that the antennae would be stiffer). Make candy corn shapes out of foam and hot-glue to the pipecleaners.

Dress and bootcovers: Buy used costume from Craigslist or Ebay (my sewing and crafting skills do not stretch that far).

Total cost: $7 for dress & bootcovers plus $2 for pantyhose plus $5 for glitter glue; the rest were materials we already had at home. Again, I say, Not Bad!

The costumes are here!

That is pure joy on their faces. They have been waiting so patiently all week, asking me every day, twice a day, if today was the day that their costumes would arrive in the mail. And today was the day.

The best surprise was that even The Pea's costume arrived today. I wasn't even sure if the woman who sold it to me off Craigslist had even received my check. Truthfully, I wasn't even 100% sure if it was arriving at all -- see Craigslist's rule #1 for avoiding scams . But the woman seemed really nice on her email and even gave me her phone number. And I really, really wanted to get that Candy Corn costume. Fortunately, the woman was alright. I'm glad my fears were just fears. So to the woman who sold me the costume, I'm sorry for doubting you, and thanks for being a good person -- you've made my girl very happy!

Smelly or Sweet?

Witches fingers and toes sure are smelly, aren't they?

Today was an unbelievably rainy day, so to beat the "Mama, what can I do noooooooow?" syndrome, we practiced making these cute snacks for our upcoming Halloween party. It's super-simple: dip pretzel rods into green melted Wilton's Candymelts, then stick a sliced almond at the tip for a fingernail. I added swirls to look like knuckles, and voila!

The kids had a blast making these. The only problem was, 3Po kept absentmindedly sucking on his pretzel rod while waiting for his turn to dip. It was difficult to convince him that his pretzel would be considered more of a smelly old trick than a sweet treat if he were to dip it and offer it up as a party snack.

For more smelly things, click here.

Fridays Feast #164

Appetizer: When was the last time you were surprised?
My daughter's Halloween costume arrived in the mail today; I was pleasantly surprised because I wasn't expecting it until sometime next week.

Soup: Fill in the blanks: My eyes are ______, but I wish they were ____.
My eyes are nearsighted but I wish they were blessed with 20/20 vision.

Salad: If you were a Beanie Baby, what would you look like and what would your name be?
I'm not really into stuffed animals but if I had to choose, I'd probably be Mama the Mouse because my kids would love me and cuddle me anytime.

Main Course: Name two things you consistently do that you consider to be healthy habits.
I eat a good breakfast every morning and walk my daughter to school every day.

Dessert: What brand of toothpaste are you using these days? Do you like it? Why or why not?
I use Crest. As long as the flavor is minty, I don't really care which brand I use.

For more feasts, click here.

A Virtual Halloween Treat

I've received my first Halloween candy of the year -- over the blogosphere! Hootin' Annie sent me this yummy candy apple in this virtual version of You've Been Boo'd. I like the "Pay it Forward" nature of the game, so I'm going to play along. Hootin' Annie urges us to move out of our blogging comfort zone: "DON'T just choose your friends making this cliquish and 'just groupies'...Make NEW friends by choosing random visitors!!!" So I am distributing my treats around the world:

Rachel @ Celtic Sister (US)
Lutchi @ Gwapasila (not sure?)
Bibik Nyonya @ Bibik Nyonya (Malaysia)
Soy @ English Karadjaw (in the UK)
Shabem @ Shabem (US)

Hope you play along!

You want to be whaaat for Halloween?

I should have known it was too easy. I asked the kids three weeks ago what they wanted to be for Halloween, and the answers were quick and firm: spider (Pea), ghost (CleanBoy), Buzz Lightyear (3Po). No problem. The Pea already has a long black unitard; all I had to do was stuff some black socks with tissue or stockings and sew them on the unitard for legs. We have a white cloth with a hole in the middle that we use when cutting the boys' hair -- perfect for a ghost. And my sister sent us her son's old Buzz Lightyear costume. I thought we'd be all set.

That was before they started changing their minds. First 3Po wanted to be a Ninja Turtle. Then he and CleanBoy started fighting over the lone Buzz costume. I told them they need to decide and stick with it because we need time to find costumes. So now they want to be Power Rangers, green (3Po) and blue (CleanBoy). That wouldn't be too bad except the blue Power Ranger costume currently being sold at the Disney Store is for girls. I've tried bidding on old blue boy Power Ranger costumes twice on eBay, only to be outbid both times. I'm currently trying to convince CleanBoy that Red Power Ranger is just as cool as Blue.

At least Pea's costume is easy, I consoled myself. No such thing. She has decided that a spider is too boyish, and she's afraid her friends might think her spider costume would look weird. She decided she wants to be a guinea pig (like in the Fluffy Easy Reader series). Whaaat???? I don't even know what a guinea pig looks like! Google "guinea pig costume", and the only hits you get are costumes for guinea pigs. She said she would wear orange pajamas, glue a white circle on her front, and paint a white stripe down the middle of her face. She's creative, I'll give her that.

Alfie, wise as ever, suggested she take a deep breath and thumb through some of the Halloween catalogs that seem to make their way to our house this time of year. Now she wants to be a candy corn fairy. Costume Express is the only place I can find it, and it costs $80 for the whole ensemble. I found just one used costume on eBay; again I was outbid. Maybe I'll give her more time to change her mind.


Alfie loves motorcycles. Although I'm not a fan, I've begun to appreciate the beauty in their shining chrome and graceful curves.

Alfie loves watching motorcycle races. Here are some sharp curves on the Laguna Seca racetrack.

Here are some other types of curves you can see on the racetrack (Alfie doesn't mind watching these, either).

For more curves, click here.