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.

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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.