Here's The Pea hanging from the bowsprit of the play pirate ship at Children's Fairyland. Kids love to hang from anything, don't they? Below is another photo of The Pea, taken a couple of years ago, hanging from the monkey bars.

For more hanging things, click here.

I heart the Shutter Sisters Photowalk

I joined the Shutter Sisters on their first-ever BlogHer Photo Walk last Saturday. I joined the lovely and talented Karen Walrond as she led her group through the streets of San Francisco's Chinatown. I had my mind full of tips from Me Ra Koh's excellent photo session, and I was trying to play with her aperture and time setting suggestions and keep up with the group at the same time. So I wasn't really looking for any Love Thursday photos and I certainly didn't expect to see any hearts around Chinatown. But we turned a corner there it was, amidst all the Chinese Character signs, a lone iron door, all red and curly. How could I not snap it?

Strawberry fields forever

I'm so glad that my Silicon Valley-stripmall-sidewalk-SUV-strangerphobic-suburban kids have grandparents that live in the countryside. The English countryside, no less. Where you have winding lanes and open fields. Where tractors share the road with Toyotas. Where the back gate opens up into a forest. Where people really do need to walk around in wellingtons. Where everyone in town knows everyone else. Coming here is literally a breath of fresh air.

One of the joys of country life: berry picking (I do have to stick up for Silicon Valley on this one: Palo Alto's Webb Ranch, with their small but succulent patch of u-pick berry fields, is just 10 minutes away from our home) . Note the lush English countryside, with its rolling hills and dales, in the background.

Can you think of a caption for this photo?


Berry good!

Can I pop this into my mouth without getting caught?

Can you believe it, this city girl has never seen strawberries growing out of the ground. They pack straw all around the berries -- Duh, so that's how it gets its name?

There's nothing like having a bowl of luscious, ripe berries, bursting with flavor, that were growing in the ground just minutes before you pop them into your much-deprived mouth.

Pwoblems with the accent

We were driving along the M4 today, playing the I Spy game to pass the time.

3Po: I spy, with my little eye, something that begins with W.

Everyone guesses -- wheels? water bottle? white line? woman? -- none of our guesses are correct.

Everyone: We give up! What is it?

3Po: Wace-car!

At least he knows his "w" sound......

A Taste of BlogHer

BlogHer 2008 was certainly a feast for the eye and the palate as well as the mind. The food served during the sessions was actually standard conference fare (think pastries and fruit for breakfast, boxed sandwich lunches, veggies and chips and candybars for snacks). For the good stuff, you had to look outside the box.

At Guy Kawasaki's Kirtsy/Alltop party, I spied what I thought were ice cream sundaes, but upon closer inspection turned out to be dessert dishes layered with polenta, pulled pork or chicken, and cream sauce.

They also served a humongous dish of paella. Fortunately for me, the paella did not have shrimp in it so I was able to enjoy it to my heart's content (well, almost; it took a lot of willpower to go easy on the saffron rice).

Back at the St. Francis, the Sesame Street Suite was decked out like an old-fashioned penny candy store, with barrels brimming with candy, stacks of nuts and caramel popcorn, and these cute little cupcakes decorated like Sesame Street characters. Way too much icing, of course, but the kids loved the cupcakes I snuck home to them (and now I need to go and clean out the icing from my handbag).

On the Shutter Sisters Photowalk through Chinatown, we passed stalls and stalls of brightly colored candies and fruit.

At the closing cocktail at Macy's Union Square, we were served some really interesting, nicely plated nibbles. These appetizers

Starbucks unveiled their latest drink, the Vivianno chocolate-banana smoothie.

The desserts were small and sweet -- meringue sandwiches with cream centers.

The meringues came in all kinds of catchy, eye-popping colors. Each one had its own ever-so-subtle hint of flavor; I still can't quite describe what they were. What a sweet way to end the conference!

Partying with the SV Moms

It's great being a Silicon Valley Mom! I don't mean being a mom who lives in Silicon Valley (which is great in itself), but more specifically a mom who writes for the Silicon Valley Moms Blog. Not only do you get to meet cool people, not only to you get great free stuff, you also get invited to the coolest parties. Witness the ones they sponsored for their writers this past BlogHer week.

SV Moms opened the BlogHer festivities with a party at the Slide lounge, where we quenched our thirst on cocktails and chichi water. I much preferred this party to the official BlogHer parties, since this one was cozy and intimate versus huge and noisy.

I couldn't resist going down the famous slide. The ones at Chuck E Cheese are twistier and longer, but on the plus side, this one was a lot faster -- probably because it wasn't sticky with soda and kids' grime and God knows what else. If you are thinking of visiting Slide and trying it out, be forewarned: you will not be allowed to go down the slide if you are wearing a skirt. And no, they still won't let you go if you take off your skirt and slide down in your undies.

The next day we all trooped over to Saks Fifth Avenue on Union Square and for some makeovers. I got my makeup done by Armani, just the way I like it: subtle and shimmery, still looking like me... but a more Bongga me.

After our makeovers, we were shepherded to a mini-studio where we got headshots taken by a professional photographer. One might conclude that this activity was gentle hint that the photos in the SV Moms About Me section are, shall we say, a tad crappy. Or maybe they're just super-nice and want to thank their writers in a special way. I don't care what the reason -- I thoroughly enjoyed the makeover and I enjoyed flirting with the camera. We got to take our photos home on USB drives and I'm quite happy with 1 or 2 shots.

The final party was a Sunday brunch, co-hosted with the Momocrats. I have no doubt that everyone had a lovely time and left with their tummies full of delicious brunchy food and their minds full of intellectually stimulating political conversation, but I chose not to go. With all this partying, I had to spend the whole day Sunday feverishly packing for our England trip the next day. Oh, well. The parties were totally worth it.

So where are all my BlogHer posts?

Whoever heard of attending a blogging conference and not blogging about it? I do have an excuse, sort of: we're leaving for England tomorrow and I'm going nuts with the last-minute packing. I've managed to sneak in some posts about the wonderful time I had at BlogHer, but I don't want to post them all at once and deprive everyone of my posts for the next week (since I doubt I will have the opportunity to blog regularly and frequently in rural Wiltshire). So I've scheduled them to publish over the next few days. That means all of my BlogHer posts will be later than everyone else's -- but I suppose I can put it down to being a late adopter and being Filipino.

What IS that??

Alfie couldn't believe his eyes when we passed by this vehicle on the streets of Manila last December. He made my brother slow down and keep pace so that he could grab his camera and get the shot. I'll admit it's a pretty crazy thing to do, but if you're going to find a shrinkwrapped sofa perched on the roof of a moving jeep with no visible fastenings, Manila is the place to find it.

For more incredible things, click here.

Swag, Glorious Swag

Swag .... according to my fellow blogger Heather, the word is an acronym that stands for Sealed With A Gift. According to Promosapien, it stands for Stuff We All Get. Also known as schwag (which apparently is also a term for low-grade marijuana), promotional items or tchotchkes, it's basically free stuff that company marketing departments send to people to increase awareness of their product or service.

In my case, Swag stands for "Seriously Wicked, Amazing Gifts". And "SVMoms, With (undying) Adoration and Gratitude".

Because I have the Silicon Valley Moms Blog (and PR genius MJ in particular) to thank for all the wonderful swag I received to celebrate BlogHer '08. I love freebies of any sort, so these swag bags are making me pee in my panties. These are high-quality items that hardly deserve the label tchotchke. You won't find me tossing this stuff into the trash. And there is so much stuff that I can actually classify it.

Click here for a closer look at the SV Moms Swag Bag.

Livestrong by the numbers

Placing, overall: 109 (out of 636 runners)
Placing, women's division: 32 (out of 391)
Time: 27:30.255
Pace: 8:52.3
Satisfaction: infinite

The Livestrong Challenge in Photos

When I first heard about the LiveStrong Challenge, I was interested because it was a fitness event. I saw it as something concrete to train for. But somewhere along the way, the cause became bigger than the run.

Even when I picked up my race number at the Livestrong Village on the day before the race, it was clear where the focus lay. Volunteers had set up a memorial wall where people pinned their tributes to family and friends who have/had cancer.

I painted my own mini-memorial wall on the back of my Livestrong tshirt. Actually, "mini" is a relative term; 24 names, and I still have more to paint. The cancer gene runs strong in my extended family: my dad, his sister, his father, his mother, all 3 of his mother's sisters, two of his father's siblings, many of their children, and so on. That's way too many, and that's why the Livestrong Foundation's work is so important.

Race day was fun, impressive and moving all at the same time (and you can get more gory details here). The fun part was getting little freebies, getting my mock magazine cover photo taken, meeting up with my teammates, running through an outdoor shower right after crossing the finish line.

The impressive part was getting to see Lance Armstrong in action. I'm not a stalker or anything, but I'm a huge admirer. I've always thought that he must be some kind of super-human being, a freak outlier of the normal curve of humanity. I got to see him take off at the starting line (that's him in the yellow jersey in the lead, thanks Linsey for the photo)....

.... saw him streak across the finish line after his 65-mile ride....

.. and even caught a glimpse of his very athletic behind as he did a cooldown lap, yellow survivor's rose in hand.

The moving part, of course, were the people and the stories. I was surprised at the waves of emotion that hit me while I was gasping for breath on the course. If you saw me, I wasn't wiping sweat from my face. I was wiping tears. I was moved to see so many who came to show support for their loved ones as well as survivors who came to celebrate life. Survivors like my teammates Linsey and Courtney (click here and here to read their incredible stories). Like the group of women I met, who had flown in from all over the country to support their sister/sister-in-law/friend, who had beaten not 1 but 2 cancers.

People like Judy Ann Regan, who is still recovering from brain aneurism surgery that occurred a year ago, who did the 100-mile bike ride on a stationary cycle because her doctors said she was not fit enough to do the actual bike ride (she actually beat Lance Armstrong; she reached 65 miles about 5 or 10 minutes before Lance crossed the finish line!). Now that is what I call leaving cancer behind in the dust.


This Sunday, I'm showing my support for the people I know who have or have had cancer. Please join me -- even just wearing this wristband lets people know you're aware. For a chance to get your own Livestrong wristband for free, click here.

For more kinds of support, click here.

Nothing comes between me and my teddy

Isn't this sweet? Teddy was given to Alfie on the day he was born. X years later, he's still alive and kicking and very well loved, albeit a bit threadbare and worn in some spots. However, the shirt and trousers that Alfie's granny knitted for Teddy have not done so well, so the kids have dressed Teddy in one of Pansy and Jane's outfits. So Alfie can still cuddle up with Teddy anytime he wants.

For more images of love, click here. Incidentally, I can't wait to meet the Shutter Sisters next week!

Getting ready

The Livestrong Challenge is coming up this Saturday, and I think I'm ready. I haven't been running much, but I'm counting on all those Bootcamp classes to give me the heart and legs of an ox (ok, maybe not legs that look like an ox's, but are strong like an ox's .... oh, you know what I mean). The more important, unresolved matter is what should I wear? Since I'm running with my fellow Silicon Valley Moms, hould I wear my new SV Moms shirt? Will the race shirt be so awesome that I won't be able to resist ditching the SV Moms shirt? One thing I know I'll be wearing is the yellow Livestrong wristband.

Would you like to wear a Livestrong wristband too? Would you like to donate to a great cause? Or just win some stuff? Click here for my Livestrong fundraiser and giveaway -- and you don't even need to be running to join!

Who needs Bootcamp when you're packing swag bags?

Especially when you're packing super-sized BlogHer swag bags for the Silicon Valley Moms Blog. It took eleven bloggers (and four children) three whole hours to unbox, sort, stack and pack it all. It was exhausting work, but everyone was inspired by the thought of all the fabulous stuff we were putting into those bags. What's inside the bags has to remain a seeeeeecret, but I couldn't resist showing everyone all the bags scattered throughout Jill's living room (with telltale marks graffiti'd out, of course). I can't wait to start unpacking my swag bag!