Happy (Minimalist) Easter!

All day I've been enjoying cute Easter photos of my kids' friends on Facebook -- cuties dressed in adorable pastel outfits, showing off their Easter baskets, hunting for eggs, posing with the Easter Bunny (Doesn't anyone make a CUTE Easter Bunny costume?  They all look kind of freaky!).  Unfortunately, I don't have any cute Easter photos of my own to share.  The last time attended an Easter brunch or egg hunt was 2 or 3 years ago, and it has been even longer than that since we've seen the Easter bunny.

This year even Easter eggs have fallen by the wayside. The kids received just one Cadbury's Creme Egg apiece (two if you count the eggs I bought a couple of days ago).  After Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day, I didn't really want to celebrate with more sugar.  In past years I've filled their Easter baskets with little toys like Lego or Playmobil, but the thought of introducing more toys, stuffed animals and plastic junk to the household made me want to hop away.  So I took what I would have spent on candy and toys, bought iTunes and Google Play Store gift cards, and put those in the plastic eggs.  It's not that I'm trying to be a better parent by doing away with the candy and toys; after all, it just encourages them to buy their noses in apps and videogames.  It's just that Easter is evolving as the kids grow up.

But in  case you're nostalgic for a more traditional Easter, here are a few Easter memories as sweet as a basketful of chocolate bunnies:

3Po aces our Fire Drill

A couple of months ago I bought two fire extinguishers for the house: the first, to replace the 10 year-old extinguisher for the first floor, and the second, for the second floor, which has never had a fire extinguisher until now.  Alfie showed everyone where he installed both fire extinguishers, but when he quizzed us about it a month later, our fire safety savvy was sadly lacking.  None of us could remember where they were!  3Po, however, showed us that whatever his lack of fire safety savvy, he had other kinds of savvy:

Spinach Smoothie

Spinach is one of my favorite vegetables.  I use it in salads, scrambles, soups, sandwiches and a few more dishes that I can't remember at this moment (probably because they don't begin with "s").  But I never really thought about using it in a drink (spinach to sip!) until the advent of Pinterest.  The prospect doesn't disgust me (Naked Juice's Green Machine, which has spinach, broccoli, wheatgrass and other good stuff, is one of my favorite storebought smoothies ), I've just never thought of making it for myself.

Painting the town RED for Marriage Equality

Today was one of those rare IRL -- In Real Life -- days.  I spent the entire morning on a field trip, chaperoning The Pea's 6th grade class around Chinatown.  I spent lunchtime watching old episodes of Modern Family (after months of being on the library's waiting list for the Season 3 DVD, my turn had finally come up!).  I drove the boys to soccer practice, and while they were at the field I took The Pea to Home Depot to choose paint colors for her room.   I checked my email, Twitter and Instagram feeds throughout the day, but for some reason didn't get around to checking Facebook until almost 6PM.  So I was totally unprepared for the sea of red that covered Facebook today.

What's for lunch? And how much is too much?

 California rolls, dried pineapple, Girl Scout Thin Mints

A reader left a comment on one of my "What's for Lunch" posts that left me thinking.  She had the opinion that I wasn't packing enough lunch to fill my kids up.  She was nice enough to say that she meant no offense, and none was taken, but it's an interesting topic of conversation.

Packing the right amount for lunch is like reliving the story of Goldilocks.  Pack too much, and you've wasted good food (unlike dinner leftovers, these have been out all day so I can't save them for another day.  Pack too little, and the kids come home hungry and cranky.  Pack just the right amount, and everyone is happy!

So how do I figure out how much to pack?

Oxbow Public Market, Napa

When people make plans to visit Napa Valley, they add cities like St. Helena, Oakville, Rutherford, Yountville, and Calistoga to the list.  That's where the big name restaurants (think French Laundry or Auberge du Soleil or Mustard Grill) and popular joints (think Bouchon Bakery or Oakville Grocery or even the V. Sattui deli) are located, with all the wineries sprinkled in between.

The one city that doesn't seem to get mentioned as often is the region's namesake, Napa.  A quick drive through downtown Napa might give you a clue: it's shabby, forlorn and half-empty, in need of a makeover.  Sure, there are good eateries and pretty galleries, but it lacks the vibrance that makes drivers-by want to stop and hang around.  

Don't make the mistake of overlooking Napa, though.  The revival might already be happening, just not in downtown Napa.  For good food and a good atmosphere, look to the Napa River Promenade, and just beyond it, my favorite place in Napa: the Oxbow Public Market.  

Do you sneak veggies into your kids' food?

Who doesn't love macaroni and cheese?  You can make it less junky by adding pureed cauliflower and using whole-wheat pasta or pasta with veggies already in it.

My kids are good about eating vegetables.  I serve vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, all kinds of lettuce, cauliflower, bell peppers, carrots, chickpeas, butternut squash, green beans, celery, mushrooms, onions, avocados, olives and more every day, and they will happily eat them.  But it wasn't always so easy.  When they were younger and in their picky phases, it took a lot of patience and cunning to get those veggies in!  Here are some of the strategies I used to get them to try vegetables:

What's for lunch?

Veggie pizza, cherry tomatoes, Samoas

If you missed out on buying Girl Scout cookies, you're out of luck:  cookie selling season is over, and you won't see any Thin Mints, Samoas, Trefoils, Do Si Dos or Tagalongs until 2014.  The good news is, you can make the cookies you've already bought last longer by storing them in the freezer.  Assuming you have any left over to freeze, that is.  I've been trying to pace our consumption of Girl Scout cookies, but it's not easy, given that any one of us could probably gobble down a whole box.  Each.  We each have our favorite flavors, and fortunately they're all different:  3Po and I like Samoas, Jammy likes Thin Mints, The Pea likes Tagalongs, and Alfie likes Trefoils.

What's your favorite Girl Scout Cookie flavor?  Are they too precious to pack in your kids' lunchboxes or are you free and generous with your Girl Scout Cookies?

What's for Lunch? St. Paddy's edition

Green fruit salad (kiwi, grapes, apples), green-tinted vanilla yogurt, Lucky Charms cereal

Each holiday in the year has a different focus.  The 4th of July is all about the fireworks. Christmas is all about presents.  Mother's Day is all about ME.  Valentine's, Easter and Halloween are all about candy (with the addition of costumes for Halloween).  Thanksgiving and St. Patrick's Day are all about the food.

Every St. Paddy's Day I like to make a corned beef and cabbage dinner, with scones for dessert.  This year I extended the celebrations to the kids' school lunches; I tried to add something green in their lunchboxes every day of the week.  I've been making liberal use of our bottle of green food coloring to dye our milk and yogurt and lemon bars green.  I bought mint chocolate chip ice cream for grasshopper shakes.  I even broke my sugary cereals rule and bought a box of Lucky Charms!

What are you doing to celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

Celery salad, green grapes, spinach and cheese quesadilla

A Pope for the 21st Century: What should he do?

The cardinals have gathered. The doors of the Sistine Chapel have closed.  All eyes have swung to the roof and the chimney.  The process of electing the next pope has begun.

It's a big decision.  The new pope will be St. Peter's successor, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the voice of God on earth, the spiritual leader of over 1 billion Catholics around the world.  He'll face an aging flock, a modernizing world and an organization rocked by scandals.  Catholics everywhere are praying that God guides those cardinals towards electing a pope that He intended.  The rest of the world is praying (or, if they don't pray, crossing their fingers) for a pope who will be able to reinvigorate and reform the church.

Grasshopper Shake for St. Patrick's Day

After five years of hawking Girl Scout Cookies, The Pea decided to take a break -- or rather, give us a break.  I just couldn't face another year of hitting up friends and family to buy more boxes of cookies (and then feel obligated to buy whatever kind of wrapping paper or cookie dough their kids were selling), and Alfie didn't want to have to escort The Pea all over his office to hawk her wares.  She decided to leave the selling to younger, cuter Girl Scouts this year, so we only committed to the minimum cookie order, and bought the whole lot.  

A new look for Finding Bonggamom

Spring is near, and change is in the air!  You may have noticed that Finding Bonggamom has a new look.  I've been meaning to revamp my blog design for quite a while now (in fact, it was on my Forty before Forty to-do list), but I never got around to doing it.  It's time for a blog makeover!

I'm still not decided on the final look for this blog, but there are a few things I definitely want to do.  First, I want a less crowded, less cluttered look.  Second, I want to be able to display larger sized photos.  Eliminating one of my sidebars will accomplish both.  Third, I'm done with the dark background.  Fourth, I want a few less frills -- but fifth, I don't want the new version to be unrecognizeable, so I'm in the process of figuring out what I want to keep and what I want to drop.  This is a work in progress, so pardon the dust, and wish me luck in finding a look that works!

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Leprechaun Brownies

St. Patrick's Day is coming up, and Pinterest is full of Pinteresting crafts and recipes for St. Patrick's Day.  I fully intend to make a rainbow fruit plate, Lucky Charms cereal with green milk, spinach smoothies and other green goodies before the month is over, but the pin that caught my eye wasn't even green.  It was a pin for Lemony Lemon Brownies.  Our dwarf lemon tree bears fruit every other year, and 2013 is a Lemon Year, so I've finally got some lemons to use up!  Fortunately,  green and yellow are in the same color family, so all it takes to turn these lemon brownies into Leprechaun Lemon Brownies is a touch of green food color.  For some reason the lemon rind refused to turn green, but I think it just makes this treat look even nicer.

Under Stone, Over Sea: Crossing the English Channel

Whoever it was who said it's the journey that counts, not the destination, must have said it while crossing the English Channel in a car with his family.

When you're driving from England to France, there are two ways to cross the English Channel: sail over it on a boat, or drive under it, by boarding a train. We've had the chance to do both with our kids, and they were far and away the best parts of the journey: not once during either drive were we subjected to the dreaded "Are We There Yet?".

Lunch Fails

Chinese chicken salad (with orange chicken bits on the side), Apple Newtons, mandarin orange

My kids are, for the most part, good eaters.  They have all been blessed with a healthy appetite, and Alfie and I have exposed them to a variety of foods and cuisines.  Even more important, we raised them with an open-minded perspective on new experiences, a willingness to try most new foods, and the hope that they would not pre-judge a new food based on its looks.  As a result, I never have to cook a separate meal for any of them, and their lunch boxes usually come back clean as a whistle.