Letter to my fairy godmother

Dear Fairy Godmother,

Yes, you. I know you exist. You must exist; otherwise, how else could I explain this incredible opportunity that has fallen our way? I've seen you grant wishes to other, way more deserving people. Last February you gave us a little taste of your magic.

And now, somehow you've arranged it so that oh, man, we're going to Disneyland. Yes, the Disneyland I've wanted to take my kids to since they were, oh, about 6 weeks old. I'd break into a joyful Disney song, except the neighbors might have me committed before we get a chance to go.

If I won the lottery, I don't think I would survive. Just the thought of this trip has turned me into a bundle of adrenaline-charged nerves. Now I'm yelling at the kids to walk down the stairs and take those slippery socks off because I don't want them to sprain an ankle or break a bone before we leave.

OK, I gotta go. I have to rent Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan from the library because my kids have never seen or read the Disney versions of these classics. I can't have them riding the catterpillar and flying pirate ship in Fantasyland wondering who the heck these characters are. I can't wait to don my Mickey ears and raise my Mickey-shaped ice cream bar and toast to your generosity. In the words of Cinderella, Thank you fairy godmother. Thank you.


PS: Since you are a fairy after all, maybe you could do something about this nasty CA Proposition 8 and send it back to The Underworld, where it belongs. Yes? Thanks.

Divine Desserts

Filipinos call these Food for the Gods. The English call them Sticky Toffee Date Bars. Anyone would call them delicious. With so much butter in them, how could they not be?

½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
1 cup butter, softened

1 cup sifted flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda

2 eggs
1½ cup chopped dates
2 handfulls chopped walnuts

* Mix together Batch A and Batch B in separate bowls.

* Combine Batch A and Batch B.

* Add ingredients in Batch C to the mixture, one at a time.

* Pour into an ungreased pan (13x9 in.). Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

Photo Hunt: Metal

This is a beaded bracelet I made for The Pea a couple of years back. She loved the metal butterfly charms.

For more metals, click here.

Love Thursday, Thanksgiving edition

How wonderful and appropriate that Love Thursday and Thanksgiving both fall on, well, a Thursday.

Here's wishing everyone love, thankfulness and togetherness this Thanksgiving!

And one last thing: if you're still online, reading my blog.... you shouldn't be! Go spend some time with your loved ones and get off the internet. (Don't worry, I'm practicing what I'm preaching. I'm offline right now. Like all my piecrusts, this post was premade).

For more images of love, click here.

The bald truth

Overheard in the playroom while The Pea and her friend are having a playdate:

Friend: Are you the only one in your family with blond hair?

Pea: Uh-huh.

Friend: How about your dad? What color is his hair? (she has already seen me and the boys)

Pea: Um, I'm not sure, but it doesn't matter because he has so little left.

Free Shipping? Count me in!

As you know, I've stopped my ranting about American Girl products. It feels kind of nice to surrender to the strong riptide and float out to sea with the other American Girl lovers. Never mind that the economy is in the pits and we can't afford to buy her another one. I'm giving up any more hangups about the AG stuff that the Pea already has. And if I won a million bucks, I'm not going to harbor any feelings of guilt or conflict when I go out and buy The Pea five American Girl dolls and their bedroom sets to boot.

Their standard Free Shipping Code (GIFTSHIP) ends today. However, since I'm all important and well-connected and stuff, I've got another Free Shipping Code that is valid until November 29th. Just enter Key Code # PA82024.

Go take advantage! There's no minimum for either code, so even if The Pea doesn't get any American Girl dolls or clothes or accessories, maybe there's room for a book or two in that Christmas stocking....

Say what?

It has been almost 2 years since 3Po and Jammy finished with their speech therapy. Their pronounciation has improved to the point where strangers understand almost everything they say. Of course, there are still some occasions when Alfie or I will ask them to repeat the same word or phrase over and over because they sound like they're talking in twin-language again. But those times are coming fewer and farther between.

In fact, I'm a bit teary-eyed over the prospect of them entering kindergarten and losing their part-English, part-Filipino, all-Bostonian accent ("pah-ty", "cah"). And I'm not looking forward to the day when they can pronounce these words perfectly:


Who can guess what these words are?

Now playing in the kitchen, Nov. 16 episode

It's hard to believe that this is the last week in November. I was reeeelly starting to enjoy this meal-planning post. Maybe I'll make it a regular feature from now on (I said regular, not weekly; I hate "having" to do things!).

This week I think my theme will be "oven-baked". Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and we're doing the turkey thing with my sister's family and her husband's sister's family up in San Ramon. My oven will be busy all week anyway, what with the pies and casseroles I'll be whipping up, so it might as well do double-duty.

* Eggplant lasagna

* Tuna casserole/pot pie

* Cornmeal-crust pizza with red pepper strips and goat cheese

* Baked chicken parmigiana with spaghetti noodles and tomato sauce

I'm actually considering doing away with one of those dishes because the leftovers from Thursday will probably be enough to tide us through three Leftover nights. But which one? Hmmmm....

The Grass is NOT greener

People often say things like, Twins! And both boys! Double trouble! I don't know how you do it. I usually smile and say Yeah, it's tough, but you deal with it. And it's a lot easier now.

Sometimes, of course, it's still not all sweetness and light. Like when they're rolling on the floor punching each other. Or when they're "talking" to me, trying to out-shout each other at the top of their lungs. Like I said, it's tough, but I deal with it. Anyway, there are so many families who have it waaaay tougher than I do. I really don't know how these people do it:

Families with twins less than 1 year old
Been there, done that, don't wanna do it again. I don't know how I did it either. The nursing, sleepless nights, diapers, need for attention -- times two. I always say the first year of the twins' life is a bit hazy for me because I've buried all the bad memories.

Families with multiples of higher order
No explanation necessary. From giving birth to feeding to cuddling to transporting everyone around, it just gets exponentially more difficult with the number of multiples.

Families with multiple multiples
Again, no explanation necessary. Jon and Kate (twins and sextuplets)? The Duggars (17 kids, including 2 sets of twins)? The Hayes's (twins, twins and sextuplets)? OMFG. And what about all the other multiple multiple families who don't have their own TV show? Hats off to you guys.

Baby bunching families
Yes, it's tough having twins. But at least the tough part ends for both kids at the same time. When you have 2 kids less than 2 years apart -- or OMG, "Irish twins" or siblings 11 months apart -- the agony at each stage is prolonged. Plus you don't get "awwww, are they twins?" pseudo celebrity treatment.

Single parent families
Alfie and I may not have close family around for support, but at least we have each other. When it's 6:30PM on a difficult day and I'm at the end of my rope, he's my lifeline -- I have the greatest respect and admiration for parents who do it all on their own.

But then again, I suspect these families wouldn't trade places with me for the world, anyway. They encounter challenges and they deal with it, for the love of their kids.

Photo Hunt: Reflection

For this week's Photo Hunters post, I decided to use an old photo because it's one of my absolute favorite photos of 3Po and Jammy. Can you guess which one(s) is(are) real and which one(s) is(are) a reflection?

For more reflections, click here.

What's your PC's name?

In honor of today's random holiday, Name your PC Day, I'd like to introduce our home computers. Actually, the only reason we've named our computers is to distinguish them within our home network. Hence the oh-so-interesting names: We have Alfie's laptop (named "Alfie's laptop") and 2 desktops, named "Casita" (Spanish for small house, so named because it's our main home computer) and "Homeexp" (English for homeexp, and I have no idea why we named it that).

Ho-hum..... maybe I'll name our next PC Gertrude. And why not? People name boats and motorcycles and cars. They name guitars and foosball tables and other objects that they're passionate about. I'm sure a lot of people out there are obsessed about their Powerbooks and iPods and other gadgets, so I'll bet there are a lot of original PC names out there. Do you have a name for your computer (besides "worthless piece of shite")?

Hearts in the sand

The Pea loves drawing in the dirt. It won't be long before her artwork is scuffed away by hundreds of sneakers, sandals and clogs, so I thought I'd capture it for posterity.

For more images of love, click here.

Drinking the American Girl Kool-Aid

Look, for the record: I still think that, wholesome as they are, American Girl dolls might actually be Material Girl dolls. I still think $90 for a doll, $28 for her outfits and $75 for her horse is ridiculous. Then why did I capitulate? Why does The Pea have 2 American Girl dolls -- and why do I find myself looking longingly at the soon-to-be-archived Nellie doll and wishing that 3 American Girl dolls for one little girl weren't way too extravagant (no, really it is -- I swear, she's not getting another one)?

Damn you, American Girl! I'm hooked! Your dolls and all their stuff are just so cute and so well made.... your storybooks are so wholesome and enjoyable (I sobbed my way through the whole Addy series).... That first free-shipping coupon was like starter crack to me. It looks like I'm not just eating a slice of humble pie, I'm scarfing down the whole thing.

Case in point: The Pea and I went to our second American Girl Fashion show this weekend. The event wasn't quite the lavish affair that we attended in April, but it was still a sold-out event.

The venue was simpler, but just as festive. How could it not be with all those excited little girls and their dolls, all dressed up?

I'll admit the food was a disappointment. Dry carrots and dry sandwiches? I gave up a juicy In-N-Out burger for this? Bleh. I did like their goody bag, though -- they had little bracelets and hairclips for dolls and a scrapbook for the girls.

The format of the show was identical -- little girls parading around in historical and contemporary American Girl fashions. The only difference was the fashions being modeled (the focus this time was on winter and holiday clothing). I was happy to see a bit more diversity in the models this time, including one little girl in a wheelchair.

This was one of my favorite outfits, featuring Kirsten's beautiful holiday sweater.

Outside the main hall, they had a variety of American Girl products for sale -- way better than the April show -- including souvenir shirts for dolls and girls, American Girl posters (a great deal at $2! I bought the last Samantha poster right off the wall) and an assortment of American Girl books.

Yeah, yeah, it benefits the Lucille Packard Children's Hospital and all... but --dare I say it? -- what brought the glow to my heart was really the fun mother-daughter girly time we had. No amount of crack could give me the high that I get when I see The Pea enjoying herself. And that look of happiness on her face is more addicting than any hard substance in the world. So pass me a glass of that $30 American Girl lemonade, please -- I'll enjoy it while we have the money and while The Pea is young enough to enjoy it with me.

Join my latest giveaway!

Hey, moms! Would you like a chance to win this cute Playskool toy for your little one? I'm hosting a giveaway over at my review site, Bonggamom Finds -- the winner receives a Playskool Busy Ball-tivity Center!

As they say in all the magazine contests, No purchase necessary to win..... all you have to do is comment on the giveaway post.

Now playing in the kitchen, Nov. 16 episode

I'm buying loads of green beans tomorrow because it's appearing at least twice on this week's menu. Actually, my kids could probably eat it every day. They love crunching on the crisp, green stalks, lightly steamed with just a hint of salt. They dip it in mayonnaise, ranch dressing, hummus, ketchup or enjoy it au naturel.

* Chicken adobo with green beans and rice
A traditional Filipino dish where chicken is simmered in soy sauce, white vinegar, black peppercorns and a bay leaf. It totally stinks up the house but it's totally worth it. The sauce goes so well with white rice that if the chicken runs out, you can still enjoy just the sauce and rice for leftover night.

* Mac-n-cheese (homemade, not out of the box!)

* Broccoli and ham quiche

* Spareribs, green beans and cornbread

The signs of our times

Home-made signs ruled at today's No on 8 rally at San Jose City Hall. Sure, there lots of the familiar, glossy "Vote No on Prop 8" signs. But the home-made ones were way better. Some were funny. Some were angry. Some were touching. All reflected the diversity of the people who attended the rally, and the real passion behind the cause.

My top three favorites:

(BTW, the "parents" in this little boy's sign happen to be two men. They were absolutely doting on him, just like any other parents, anywhere. With two loving parents, I'd say that little boy is going to do just fine).

What's for dinner, Alfie?

One of the few household chores that Alfie does not offer to help me with is cooking dinner. I don't mind; I like cooking and he doesn't. Besides, he usually gets home too late to cook. But there are times when I do ask for help with dinner, and he steps up to the plate magnificently. There are only 3 things that Alfie cooks.......

Grilled food: Hamburgers, hotdogs, sausages or grilled chicken. For some reason, any time we decide to get the grill out and have a barbie, Alfie takes charge. He says it's a Man Thing. I don't mind. I let him do it because he does such a great job of cleaning the grill afterwards.

Heinz baked beans with fried eggs and toast. He never lets me fry eggs for him because I can't get the hang of flipping the egg with a runny yolk. (I refuse to cook eggs sunny-side up because all can see when I look at it are the millions of salmonella partying in that runny yolk).

Pasta with tomatoes, onions, garlic and canned tunas sauteed in olive oil. He insists on the fresh garlic and tomatoes, so the final result is simple but deeeeevine.

..... and I must admit, he does all 3 so well that I don't even offer to help.

Photo Hunt: Ruin(ed)

We tried out our new Creativity for Kids Pottery Studio yesterday; here is Jammy's work of art. It was supposed to be a teacup, but somewhere along the way the edges grew lopsided and the sides fell flat. Ruined? Not according to him. He set to work embellishing it and turned it into a plate. I guess it will look better once it's painted. But to him -- and to me -- it looks pretty good just the way it is.

For more ruins, click here.

And one more thing: Come and stop by my review blog, Bonggamom Finds! I'm giving away fun toys all month long, including a Russ Seapals stuffed toy, I-Dog Clip toy, and more!

Second looks, second chances

From afar, it's just an ugly old wall of ivy. You have to get up close to see the hearts. See? Sometimes you can't rely on your first impression; you have to give things a chance.

For more images of love, click here.

Am I a White Trash Mom?

Recently I read the White Trash Mom Handbook, a witty, feel-good, perspective on motherhood written along the lines of Erma Bombeck. Even before I finished chapter one, I could see that the book rails against the unrealistic standards of perfection for moms.

But.... but.....I'm a Type A personality. I like to set the bar high. In fact, that's why I named my blog Finding Bonggamom -- because I'm looking for that bit of Bette Midler, Nicole Kidman and Martha Stewart that exists in all moms. Does that mean I'm striving to be..... gasp! -- a Muffia? A mean, snobby sanctimommy who looks down at people who don't meet some unrealistic standard of perfection?

No, no, no! I had to take the White Trash Mom Quiz in chapter 2. As I suspected, like so many other moms who follow the author's blog, I can totally relate to being a White Trash Mom. For example:

* My kids do think Velveeta is cheese -- along with Cheez Whiz and cheese in a can.
* My kids read People magainze more than oce a year.
* I feign ignorance when my husband points out rips in my jeans (even though I first noticed them two years ago). Ditto on stains.
* I sent the Pea to school without lunch twice in a single week.
* I've forgotten to pick up my kid from school several times (and I'm frequently the last mom there)

And to my delight, on page 21 I found: "WT Moms still hold on to a flicker of that light they had before they had kids. They can still laugh about some of the same things, still remember who they were before they were mothers........ you can't let the kids take over your life and personality".

That is exactly what being a Bongga Mom is about! It's not about being the perfect Martha Stewart, it's about having her creativity and her fighting spirit. It's about being a mom, but keeping that glam, fab, spark -- the outrageousness of Bette Midler, the elegance of Nicole Kidman -- in you.

Yes, I want to be a Bongga Mom, but I'm happy and proud to be a White Trash Mom. Yes, I do wish my house looked like a Real Simple magazine feature spread. And every day you'll find me on my hands and knees picking up crud from the kitchen floor (before my son eats it first), trying to get it that way. But I know it never will, because I have 3 lovable kids who mess up the floor as fast as I can clean it, and I'm not going to beat myself up about it.

So.... are you a White Trash Mom too?

Written by a fellow SV Mom, Michelle Lamar, The White Trash Mom Handbook reminds us all that perfection is a myth and moms everywhere should go a bit easier on themselves. For more info on the White Trash Mom, head on over to the SV Moms Book Club discussion, or read my review over at Bonggamom Finds.

I want to get off the Straight Talk Express when it stops at the Sex Ed station

The other night, Jammy turned to me, pointed to his testicles (I was giving him a shower) and said, "Mama, I don't understand what this part of my winky is for. What does it do and what's inside it?"

Oooooookaaaaay....... let's run through all the possible things I could have said:

1) Well, that's called a scrotum. It holds your testicles.
If I say this, I'll need to answer all the inevitable follow-up questions ("What are testicles? What is sperm? etc.. etc...). I wasn't quite ready to follow the Straight Talk Express to its (pardon the pun) sticky conclusion, especially to a 4-year-old boy.

2) Ask your daddy, he's a boy like you so he knows.
If I say this, I'll look stupid and he'll think mama doesn't know anything. No thank you.

3) You don't worry about that, you'll find out when you're old enough.
It's a bit like Sarah Palin hiding from the press, isn't it? How easy it would be to just refuse to take questions -- but I'm not Sarah Palin and I couldn't do it. We've always been pretty open about our bodies and I'm happy that my kids are comfortable enough to ask me any kind of question. No, it's too much of a copout -- I have to give some kind of answer.

4) I don't really know, let's get on the internet and find out.
It's also tempting to say this, because I figure but it makes it less easier for me if I read someone else's words to the kids. Of course, it's still a cop-out (or a delaying tactic, at best).

In the end, I blurted out a combination of #1 and #4: "Those are your testicles, honey, and you know how your veins hold blood? Well, your testicles hold some kind of liquid that makes boys boys. Hmmm, I'm not really doing a good job of explaining it, am I? So let's go borrow a book about the body from the library and we'll look this up."

Boy, am I a loooooser. An incomprehensible answer and a delaying tactic (because of course, after the shower, Jammy forgot all about it). I need to get better at answering these kinds of questions because they're coming at me faster and faster. I don't have any experience in parent-child sex talk (as a parent and as a child) but I do know that I want to answer their questions honestly, in an age-appropriate manner. I'm bookmarking this post because I love the way Sarah E. answered her sons' questions -- direct, brief, humorous, in a way they could understand. Sarah, I might have to quote you directly the next time my kids ask me about this stuff.

Celebrating Bella

Bella was one of 3Po and Jammy's very first friends. They first met when they were about 15 months old, at childcare, when 3Po bit Bella's arm. Fortunately, Bella's mom, the Divine Miss B, is the wisest of women. Instead of huffily carting her child away from my son's sharp teeth, she laughed it off and figured that either 3Po would grow out of it or Bella would learn to defend herself. She was right. The biting stopped, and a friendship -- between kids and moms -- started.

Even though Miss B moved to Texas a couple of years ago, she is still a kindred spirit and I still count her as a good friend. She never ceases to amaze me. She's a lawyer, wife, volunteer, long-distance walker and homeschooling mother to three girls under six. Now she's adding author to her long list of accomplishments. Scheduled for publication sometime in 2009, Celebrating Bella , is intended to be a resource for parents struggling to understand and help a child with autism spectrum disorders. That is so like Miss B; in chronicling her own experiences with Bella, she has come up with a way to help other parents avoid having to go through what she did. You go, girl.

Miss B is currently in the midst of research for the book and would love to hear from people with personal experiences with autism spectrum disorders: as a parent, teacher or young adult dealing with these issues. If you are interested in sharing your experiences, please head over to her website, Celebrating Bella, and fill out a brief questionnaire.

Now playing in the kitchen, Nov. 9 episode

This week for dinner, I'm featuring two well-loved English dishes, fish and chips and sausages and beans. Let me regroup those: (fish and chips) and (sausages and beans). Actually, you could eat all those things together but I prefer to spread the cholesterol and great taste over two days instead of one.

* Fish and chips
We are big fans of fish and chips. Alfie and I have searched all over London for good fish and chips, but other than one divine place at St. Katharine's Docks (which we can't remember the name of), we've concluded that the art of fish-and-chipping is slowly dying (Although the Harry Ramsden's takeaway is pretty decent). The best fish and chips in the world is actually right here in California, at Barbara's Fish Trap in Princeton-by-the-Sea. The stuff I make at home is nothing like genuine F&C (we don't have a deep fryer, so there is no way I'm going to get anything close to Barbara's), but we like to pretend we're eating the real thing.

* French bread pizza with caramelized onions, mushrooms and goat cheese

* Sausages and beans

* Beef with broccoli and rice

How 7-year olds make money

The Pea and her classmates have been brainstorming on ways to raise funds to buy food and supplies for a class party, and their teacher is incorporating the process into their Social Studies unit on markets, producers, consumers and services. The goal is for each child to raise at least $5.00 by providing some sort of service to their parents. Here is what The Pea came up with:

1) Clean up after my brothers (Cost: $2 per mess).
2) Read to my brothers (Cost: $0.50 per book).
3) Brush my hair with the bad brush (Cost: $0.80)
4) Make really cool crafts for you (Cost: $1.00 per craft).
5) Make things for the poor (Cost: $0.10 per 10 crafts).

Yup, that's my little Warren Buffet.

Photo Hunt: Together

I like it when we bike to the park together. I like it when the kids splash through puddles. I even like it when Alfie finds a gigantic puddle and decides to lead the kids in a round of "bike through the puddle and see who makes the biggest splash". But at that point, the togetherness ends. I'm quite happy to watch -- and quite happy that I didn't have to bike home with my clothes absolutely soaked.

By the way, I think the honor of "biggest splash" might have to go to Jammy. Or maybe 3Po. Both fell off their bikes straight into the water.

For more togetherness, click here.

Alien love

I couldn't resist posting this little Halloween flashback for Love Thursday. When Jammy and 3Po trick-or-treated around Santana Row , they got a bick kick out of holding each other's tentacles (probably the only time they've willingly held hands). And don't you think those big yellow symbols on their chests look sort of like hearts?

For more images of love, click here.

Mashed Potatoes, Mimosas and More: a Leapfrog party

Silicon Valley Moms Blog parties are usually a lot of fun, and the latest one, sponsored by LeapFrog, was no exception. Our sister site, the Chicago Moms Blog, held a family-themed LeapFrog event recently, but I'm kind of happy that ours was held at a very small, child-unfriendly conference room at the Four Seasons. After all, I rarely get a chance to spend some child-free time with my blogging peeps.

We knew we were going to have a good time when we were offered mimosas and red wine even before entering the party room. We feasted on ahi tuna rolls, prosciutto and melon, and the big hit of the night, a mashed potato bar. If you don't know what that is (and I didn't until that night), you choose from 3 different kinds of mashed potatoes -- including a purple kind! -- and a yummy toppings like roasted garlic, sour cream, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, (I'd better stop. Alfie and the kids had pasta and tomato sauce that night so he might feel bad if he realizes exactly how much better my dinner was than theirs. I still need him to babysit for future bloggy events), and more.

The other big hit of the night (what? bigger than a potato bar??) was the spirited discussion on the importance of early literacy skills, led by Dr. Anne Cunningham of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education. The SV Moms are passionate about their children and education in general, so it's no surprise that practically everyone in the audience chimed in on topics ranging from bedtime reading, improving opportunities for low-income students, challenging gifted children, and working within the bounds of No Child Left Behind. It was a fascinating discussion. My main take-away? That it's ok for 3Po and Jammy to doodle on paper or spin the wheels on their Matchbox cars while I read to them; they're still soaking it all up.

I really appreciated the fact that no attempt was made to plug Leapfrog products during the main discussion; it was just an engaging exchange of ideas about literacy in young children and in our public schools. Not that Leapfrog needs such a hard sell in this technology-loving community. In fact, I found out that almost all of my blogging sistahs already own several Leapfrog products. Still the Leapfrog people let us try some of their products and even gave us a few (ok, more than a few) to take home to our kids. Thanks, Leapfrog, for sponsoring such a great night!

For more Leapfrog products (and a coupon), visit my review site, Bonggamom Finds.

Here's my vote, where's yours?

I'm really bummed that my US citizenship application did not push through in time for me to vote in today's elections (blame an interview appointment that conflicted with a trip abroad, a rescheduling notice lost in the mail, and the frustrating, inexplicable delays). But if I were allowed to go into a polling booth today, here's how I would vote:

Elected Officials:
President/VP: Barack Obama/Joe Biden
US Representative, District 14: Anna Eshoo
State Senator, District 11: Joe Simitian
State Assemblymember, District 21: Ira Ruskin
Judge, Office No. 8:
Santa Clara County Board of Education Trustee, Area 1: Grace Mah

Hmmmmm..... who should we vote for president in the most important election of our time? Let's see...... the war in Iraq needs to end .... we need a healthcare system that doesn't bankrupt people.... it's been proven that the financial markets actually DO need a bit of government intervention..... rich people need to help out the people who made them so stinking rich in the first place...... we need a leader who can restore the US's reputation around the world ..... the country needs a change from George Bush..... was there any doubt that I'd vote for Obama/Biden?

As for the rest.... I'd vote to keep the incumbents because haven't heard anything negative about their performance so far. And I'd vote for Grace Mah because I've seen her in action, campaigning for Mandarin immersion in Palo Alto schools, and I know this girl gets things done.

Below are the measures I support (I have left out a number of measures because I haven't done enough research on the issue to have an intelligent opinion one way or the other)

California State Measures:
Prop 1A: No
High speed trains sound great, but the need for local public transportation is much greater.

Prop 2: Yes
Yes, we're prepared to pay higher prices in exchange for better animal treatment standards. Besides, have you seen the state of chicken farms in China? Remember where the avian flu came from? Do you want to risk all sorts of diseases coming from crowded conditions like that?

Prop 4: No
This was a Really Tough One, I think the toughest of all. I'm Catholic and I'm pro-choice, but I'm against abortion (Wha-ha-hat? For explanation, I refer you to Joe Biden's brilliant, rational and compassionate defense of his pro-choice position, which is exactly how I feel). If my teenage daughter got pregnant I'd want to know about it so I could do everything I could to discourage her from getting an abortion. But notification is not consent. If The Pea really wanted to go through with it, there would be no way I could stop her anyway. Teens who will not or cannot tell their parents they are having an abortion will simply ignore this law and find a way to go through with it anyway. So they need to have access to safe and legal procedures. Yes, the measure does have an "out" that allows minors to bypass the requirement, but it requires spilling all your secrets to a judicial court, or telling Social Services that your legal guardian has molested you. Like any girl is going to opt for that!

Prop 8: No.
Let people live their lives the way they want to, they're not harming you! Whatever your religious views on same-sex marriage, this is a legal issue. Your church can say marriage is between a man and a woman and condemn all homosexuals to hell, it's their business. But that's church and this is state, and all couples should be treated equally under law. Otherwise, it's like having different water fountains, oh yes, they're both water fountains so why should you complain if you have to use your own water fountain and not mine? Even though my water fountain gives me cold, filtered water and yours gives you warm tap water, they're still the same......

Santa Clara County measures:
Measure A: Yes
Do I want to be in a hospital during a minor earthquake and have the ceiling collapse on me? Heck, no. I hated paying an arm and a leg for the seismic safety upgrade of our 1920's house -- but we did it anyway. When safety is at stake, it's an easy decision. And besides, we'd spend a whole lot more to rebuild the house.

Measure B: Yes
The Valley needs more public transportation, and the systems that already exist need to be connected. How else are we going to ease the congestion on our roads and pollution in the air?

Palo Alto city measures
Measure N: No
Sorry, I love the libraries, but it's just too much money in a time when there's not enough money to go around. I said yes on Measures A and B, and there's just not enough in our budget for Measure N. Sacrifices are being made all around, and this is a luxury we'll have to forego. Better yet, get rid of the branch libraries and concentrate resources on a single library (and yes, I'd be happy to drive from North Palo Alto to a single, new and improved Mitchell Park library).

For all you US citizens -- you don't know how lucky you are. You are in a privileged position to make a real difference in how your money is used, in how your state is run, in what direction your country takes. Heck, the US is such a powerful nation that your vote can even affect the way the world turns. So USE that vote! If you don't want, it, I'll gladly have it!

The sweet rewards of doing your civic duty

As if you needed an extra reason to vote..... go to participating Ben & Jerry's shops on voting day -- that's tomorrow, November 4 -- tell them you voted and they'll give you a free ice cream cone.

Now playing in the kitchen

For this month, at least, I've decided to shamelessly copy a great idea from a couple of my favorite foodie blogs, CityMama and This Week for Dinner. For the next 4 weeks I'll be posting my meal plan for the week. I'll list down the dishes I plan to cook from scratch, and maybe write a little bit about a couple of them.

I've actually been doing this for a couple of weeks (planning, not posting) and I've found that I really like it. It really lessens the stress of figuring out what to eat five minutes before I cook it, and it has cut down on impromptu visits to the grocery store.

I know, I know, I'm acting like I've discovered a new planet (when I bragged about it to my sister, she told me she's been doing it since she got married 10 years ago). But I'm the kind of cook who doesn't like recipes, with all the reading and the measuring. I like to just throw things together. But I've realized that I can still do that; all I'm doing with the meal planning is deciding in advance which things I'm going to throw together.

So here goes... my menu for the week of November 3:

* Sausage, cauliflower and white bean stew
I think there's some fancy French name for this but that's what I call it. This is one of my favorite dishes. My grandmother's cook makes this all the time in the Philippines and would give me the recipe if I asked her, but as I said, I don't do recipes. I just kind of figured out what sorts of things go in it. My version probably has a lot less olive oil, garlic and spanish chorizo so it doesn't taste as fabulous -- but it's healthier, and still pretty darn good.

* Teriyaki chicken and rice

* Torta Espanola (potato omelet)

* Roast pork loin and potatoes

So why only 4 dishes? Because we usually have enough leftovers from these 4 meals for at least 1 Leftover Night, and I like to leave the other 2 nights open. Because there will be at least 1 night that I don't feel like cooking. Because that's what canned soup or Trader Joe's noodles or takeout is for. Because I still like to be spontaneous and throw together something at the last minute. Get out the chopping board and turn on the stove, supper's a-comin'!

Adios, Daylight Savings

Ahhhh...... thanks to the end of Daylight Savings Time, I got an extra hour of sleep today. The mornings have gotten colder and darker and the temptation to sleep in has gotten greater and greater. Of course, it also means that Alfie and I will stay up an hour later because we aren't sleepy yet, so it all evens out. But for now, I'm going to enjoy that extra time I can snuggle up in bed.

Since I can't celebrate Halloween anymore, I'm going to blog

I always suffer from a mild case of Halloween withdrawal symptom; after a whole month of candy, parties and cheesy decorations, November seems flat and uneventful. The prospect of taking down all the decorations I've painstakingly put up is like being faced with a basketful of wrinkled clothes to iron.

So this year, like the year before, I'm joining National Blog Posting Month and attempting to post to this blog every day in November. NaBloPoMo has grown to a yearly phenomenon -- you can pick any month to attempt your daily posting challenge, and bloggers are given a different theme for every month to guide and inspire them. But there's a special place in most bloggers' hearts for the original November NaBloPoMo, and I suspect the ranks of daily bloggers will swell this month.

Last year I blogged for all 30 days. This year I have more posts to write, more blogs to maintain. Will I make it? I don't know. But I'm sure gonna have fun trying.