Happy Birthday 3Po!

Family and friends enjoyed looking at the photos on the blog post I did for The Pea's birthday back in April, so I thought I'd do a similar thing for them. And since having to share a birthday with your brother sucks as it is, I'm doing separate posts, photos and greetings.

Here's 3Po on his fourth birthday....

... his third....

... second...

... and first.

And here he is, five years ago.

He hasn't changed much, has he? Big eyes, dark hair, quirky grin.... that's my 3Po.

Happy Birthday, Jammy!

No, I didn't accidentally duplicate the last post. Jammy may look like 3Po and they may share a lot of personality traits and interests, but he is one who goes his own way.






Well, their arrival certainly had the effects of an explosion; it did shake us up quite a bit. But life couldn't be sweeter and we're certainly lucky to have them. Jammy, Jams, JamJo, CleanBoy, FatFeet, whatever you call him....Happy Birthday!

I'm squeaking!

I couldn't resist. I've been up all night uploading photos to make our 2009 Disney photo calendar, so my mind is filled with thoughts of Minnie, Mickey, Chip, Dale, and other squeaky characters.

Bonggamom's Christmas blog button 08

And speaking of squeaky, as the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. So consider this a squeak for my 12 Days of Christmas giveaways on my review blog, Bonggamom Finds. Visit the site every day for giveaways until January 6! To enter, just leave a comment on the giveaway post. So far I've started a Leapfrog and a Didj giveaway, and there's more to come.

For more squeaks, click here.

The chocolate mousse of my childhood (well, almost)

To end this year's Christmas dinner, I really really wanted a chocolate mousse cake from Red Ribbon bakery. It's one of their oldest and most popular products and I've loved it since I was a child. But the Red Ribbon bakery in South San Francisco is almost an hour's drive away, so I decided to try and make my own.

I searched the internet for an easy chocolate mousse recipe and layered it with chocolate cake and whipped cream. Turns out it would have been quicker (and easier) to drive to Red Ribbon and back -- even though I cheated and used boxed cake mix, it still took over 4 hours to prepare and assemble the whole thing. Okay, it would have taken less time had I used an electric mixer instead of beating the egg whites and cream by hand (my wrist and forearm still hurt; now I know what I want for my birthday). But the result is worth it.

1) Prepare a box of devil's food cake mix according to instructions. Pour into two 9-inch round cake pans. Once the cake is done, cool and remove from the pans. You can save 1 of the rounds for something else (or eat it all by yourself, no one will know). Cut the rounded top off the second cake round and place in a 9-inch springform pan (line the sides with parchment paper).

2) While the cake is baking, melt 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips and 4 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over low heat.

3) Separate 3 eggs (keep the whites for later). Beat the egg yolks slightly and add them to the melted chocolate. Remove from heat and refrigerate till cool.

4) Beat the 3 egg whites till they form stiff peaks. Beat in 3/4 cup heavy cream. Fold into the chocolate mixture.

5) Pour the chocolate mousse mixture over the devil's food cake. Chill in the freezer for at least 1 hr.

6) When the chocolate mousse layer is firm, beat 1 egg white (or 1 Tbsp meringue powder and 1 Tbsp water) and 1/2 pint whipping cream in a chilled bowl till soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar to taste. Pour the sweetened whipped cream mixture on top of the chocolate mousse layer and return to the freezer until ready to serve.

7) Remove from the freezer about 5-10 minutes before serving. Release and remove the sides of the springform pan. Peel off the parchment paper. If you have any sweetened whipped cream left, use it to decorate your cake. Not that it needs any decoration; the taste speaks for itself.

Christmas greetings

Hello everyone!

2008 was our family's Year of the Suitcase. We started off by partying in Las Vegas for Alfie's 50th birthday. We communed with nature during a springtime visit to Yosemite Park and camped overnight for the first time at Palo Alto's Foothills Park. In the summer we travelled to England to spend time with Alfie's parents and Bonggamom's brother, and took a little side trip to Dublin, Ireland. In early December, Bonggamom's dream was finally realized as we took our first-ever family trip to Disneyland.

Bonggamom continues to immerse herself in the blogging world. In March she started Bonggamom Finds, a review blog focused on children's toys and books. In October, she joined the editorial team at The Savvy Source, a nationwide online preschool resource. Writing for five blogs means she's glued to the computer more than ever, but the kids put up with it because it means they get to test the cool toys that companies send her.

After the big shebang in Vegas, Alfie continued celebrating his first half-century throughout the year with even more firsts: first time to see the England soccer team play, first visit to London's famous Wembley stadium and first tour of the Chelsea stadium grounds. He’s establishing his own online presence with the publication of several articles in well-known technical journals.

The Pea has plunged headfirst into the second grade, with all the homework and test preparation that entails. Her dance card is definitely full this year as she has taken on both jazz and ballet in addition to her skating. We all cheered her on as she made her debut performance as an angel in The Nutcracker.

In his final year of preschool, Jammy has begun cutting the umbilical cord in earnest, entering the classroom with nary a backward glance and eagerly going on drop-off play dates. He has become quite the little chef, always the first (and usually the only one) to assist his mama in the kitchen.

3Po remains his sweet self, never letting his mama leave his sight without first bestowing a hug and a kiss. (Unfortunately for Alfie, his preferred method of showing affection toward his daddy is slightly different, usually taking the form of a well-placed karate kick). Both boys’ interest in books and reading has blossomed, and we never tire of seeing them snuggled up with a book, silently sounding the words out.

We look forward to hearing all your 2008 stories and wish you well in 2009. Merry Christmas!

A Letter to Santa

Dear Santa

How's it going? Listen, I know you're busy and all tonight, so I won't take up much of your time. I stumbled upon a letter for you, written by my daughter and left under the Christmas tree. Now, I know you're a right techie old elf, and you know that snail mail is sooo last century. This proud mama thinks her daughter's letter is the best thing since Clement C. Moore's The Night Before Christmas, and I figured you'd find it faster if I posted it on the internet. So here it is (transcribed verbatim by me).


PS: Target is probably still open in Hawaii; it's not too late to get me that yellow KitchenAid mixer.

Dear Santa Claus,

I know it is unbeleveible but I only want one thig for Christmas! That thing is a ipod, but my Mommy and Daddy it is not fair for my brothers. I think you might be a little surprised, because most kids have a Christmas list this

(arrow points to drawing of a long list) <------------------------- long (ex: my brothers).

(Well okey maybe not that long. anyways, KIND OF want Coconut. but I only want Coconut if Tita Risa dosn't give me Coconut. buuuuuuut I do not want you to open the present from tita Risa it's just that I herd in a book that you are magic *

Oh and when you deliver presents to Saint Mary's lane in Redwood City make sure you look at the lights and decorashons.

I really hope you read that part

Oh and I just wantid to ask a few q's

What's your favrite coler?
How old are you?
When is your birthday?
Do you know who my cousins are? There names are Katya, Nicolas and Isabell.
Are you bald?

OK that's all I have tell you!

The Pea (her real name, proudly and painstakingly signed in cursive)

Get ready for 12 Days of Giveaways!

Bonggamom's Christmas blog button 08

Christmas is almost here! My kids are so excited, they're almost peeing in their pants. There's a gingerbread house in the kitchen, stocking above the fireplace and presents under the tree. Yes, presents! And to celebrate with you all, my review blog -- Bonggamom Finds -- will be giving away one present for each of the 12 Days of Christmas, including:

* Products from Leapfrog
* A CurlyQ haircare kit
* Disney Photopass products
* A Global Wonders DVD
* books, cd's and more

Two of the giveaways will be hosted on Being Savvy: Silicon Valley, my latest blogging gig (it's a great resource for preschools and activities in Silicon Valley; if you don't live in Silicon Valley, never fear, there are over 40 other city guides!). To enter, simply visit my Savvy posts on December 25 and January 1 and leave a comment there.

The other ten giveaways will be hosted right here. To enter, visit Bonggamom Finds and leave a comment on the day's giveaway post. For more chances to win, you can also do the following:

* Blog about the giveaways on your own blog..

* Twitter about the giveaways (I'm @bonggamom on Twitter).

* Put my "12 Days of Christmas" button on your sidebar (see below for the code).

Each of the giveaways on this blog will last for 12 days, and I'll pick winners at random using http://www.random.org/. Visit Bonggamom Finds each and every day of Christmas!

Bonggamom's 12 Days of Christmas button:
Bonggamom's Christmas blog button 08

Ok, it's not the greatest button, but I'm no graphic artist and hey, it gets you an extra entry to my giveaways. So to display this image copy and paste the following code onto your site:

<a href="http://bonggafinds.blogspot.com/search/label/giveaways?max-results=100"><img width="125" src="http://i489.photobucket.com/albums/rr260/bonggamom/blog%20buttons/bonggachristmas.gif" alt="Bonggamom's 12 Days of Christmas 2008"/></a>

The many uses of fruitcake

I hate fruitcake. Dense, alcoholic bread studded with candied fruit in garish, no-way-this-can-be-real colors....yuck. I think it deserves all the jokes that it gets. In fact, I'm going to contribute some of my own. Here are some uses for fruitcake I like much better than stomach lining:

1) Use it as a doorstop (okay, this isn't really my own idea, but any fruitcake list needs to include this classic usage).

2) Use it as a paperweight.

3) Use it as hand weights for your next workout.

4) Use it as a pieshell weight (i.e. it can weigh down the dough and keep it from bubbling up when you bake it)

5) Have you noticed a pattern going here? Basically, substitute "fruitcake" for anything that requires a weight.

6) Slice it up (you may need a table saw) and use the slabs as walls for a holiday fruitcake house. It'll look much cuter than a gingerbread house because it has all those shiny fruits.

7) Round up all the fruitcakes in the neighborhood, slap some mortar on them and build yourself a chimney or a garden path.

8) If you're feeling really crafty, turn it into a centerpiece:

Disneyland Decorating Tips from Heather Hust on Vimeo.

What would you do with a fruitcake?

I need to get a life (or my own gingerbread house)

A classic case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.... or in this case, decorators overcrowding the gingerbread house. It looks like the candyman threw up all over the gingerbread. Naturally, the kids are delighted with it; me, I'm still dreaming about the fantasy mansions featured on the Food Network. Still, I'm pretty happy I convinced them to plan it all out before sticking gumdrops wily-nily. Oh, all right, they did a great job.

Was Hugh Hefner like this at 5?

We were reading stories from greek mythology the other day, and the boys were mystified by the behavior of Hera, wife of Zeus and goddess of marriage:

3Po: I don't get it, mama, why was Hera so angry with all those women? Why did she want to punish them?

Me: She was angry at them because she caught them kissing her husband, Zeus. She didn't like him cheating on her, and she took out her anger on the women.

3Po: What's cheating?

Me: [3-second pause] It's when married men kiss other women who aren't their wives. Hera was married to Zeus, and Zeus liked to kiss other women.

3Po: So what? Why can't he kiss other women?

Me: [3-second pause, while chewing on lower lip and trying not to smile] Well, honey, wives don't like it when their husbands kiss other women. When you marry someone, you're making a promise not to kiss anyone else.

Jammy: Well, then, when I get married, I'm going to marry the beautifullest girl in the world.

Our wide-mouthed tree frog

You can imagine the volume.... no explanation necessary. At least he's making happy sounds, not screaming his head off.

For more wide things, click here.

Yet another Disney post

I know I've been posting a lot about Disneyland these days, but I'm still on cloud nine after the wonderful Disney trip and fun Disney mom blogging event we attended the previous weekend. Mom bloggers and their families were treated to a special night at Disney's Grand (and boy, it really is grand) California hotel with lots of food, festivities and fun.

Do nursing moms make you uncomfortable?

Today on SV Moms I'm sounding off on Facebook's prudish decision to take down photos of breastfeeding moms. I'm irritated, but not surprised -- it reflects on the public's general discomfort with breasts and sexuality (it's one of Alfie's pet peeves that it seems to be ok to show bare breasts on TV as long as the nipples are fuzzed over, giving them the appearance of Barbie doll boobs). Seeing a bare breast, even on something as natural and nonsexual as a nursing mother, is enough to freak people out, in public and even online.

Breastfeeding was an easy decision for me -- nutritional and developmental benefits aside, I was lucky enough to have a generous supply of milk (enough to breastfeed twins), I like to save money and I'm too lazy to wash and sterilize all those bottles. Plus none of my kids really liked bottles. So I breastfed anywhere and everywhere my babies got hungry. At first I skulked around, suffocating my kids underneath blankets and hiding behind every potted plant I found , but towards the end I pretty much settled in a corner, yanked up whatever shirt I was wearing and hoped people would be too disinterested to oggle.

I wish people would stop classifying nursing mothers as some kind of streaking hussies. I mean, moms aren't exactly flashing the general public in an attempt to get hired for Girls Gone Wild. They're just trying to feed their babies. Trust me, they'd rather do it in the privacy of their home, but if they're out and about and there isn't a room or lounge, what choice do they have? And don't say go into a public restroom!

Click here to read my SV Moms post on Facebook and nursing.

The Ten Dirtiest Foods

Today an article on the Ten Dirtiest Foods You're Eating caught my eye. Alfie is the vigilant one when it comes to food safety at home; the autoimmune disease he suffers from was triggered by a case of food poisoning, so it's not surprising that he doesn't touch leftovers after a day or two. As for me, I like to think I have a cast-iron stomach, so I'm a bit more lax. But I've had enough bouts of food poisoning to know that it's no joke. And there's nothing worse than sitting up with your kid as he throws up everything in his stomach, including water, for half the night. Then spending the other half of the night cleaning the mess up (We still haven't recovered from 3Po's food poisoning on our last night at Disneyland. We think it was the Kids' Meatball Sandwich from Paradise Pier's PCH Grill. Disneyland travelers, take note!!). So now I pay a lot more attention to food safety.

I was expecting to see eggs on the top of the list of dirtiest foods, and I wasn't disappointed. And pretty much everyone knows that raw meat harbors all kinds of bacteria:

#1 Eggs
#6 Chicken
#7 Ground beef
#8 Ground turkey
#9 Raw oysters

When you think of how quickly a dead human decomposes, it's not surprising that all kinds of bacteria grow quickly on dead animals. Face it, eating dead flesh really is gross. I'd be a vegetarian in an instant if I didn't love the taste of meat so much.

But I was definitely unprepared for the other foods on the list:

#2 Peaches. Peaches!! And second on the list! I knew there had to be a reason that the organic peaches at our local farmers' market taste so much better than any other peach on the planet.
#3 Lettuce. Sure, everyone knows you have to wash your salad greens, but who would have thought that pre-washed, prepackaged salad contained all kinds of icky stuff as well? "Triple-washed", they say? Deceivers, all of them!
#4 Melon. Geez, we don't even eat the rind, and it turns out we need to wash and scrub it because of all the bacteria that can hang on to those little bumps and grooves.

#5 Scallions. This is one of the mysteries of life. Why scallions, and not onions? Or chives? Aren't they all bulb-like vegetables that grow in the ground?

#10 Cold cuts. Great. There goes 4 out of 5 lunches that I prepare for Alfie and the kids. Butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, please, clean your meat slicers regularly! It's a good thing my kids like mustard, because apparently mustard might help kill off any pathogens found in the cold cuts.

There seems to be death lurking in every kind of fresh food. Maybe we'd better switch to cheez whiz on white bread. No germ would survive in all the chemicals that go into those foods.

Teacher gift cards: together or to heck with the other parents?

The Silicon Valley Moms Blog recently blogged about this crappy economy, and how it's affecting people's holiday spending. I wrote about trying to cut down on Christmas card expenses, -- but since I failed miserably at that, I'm still looking for ways to simplify, simplify, simplify. No more eating out. Smaller presents for the kids. None for the grownups.

I feel miserable about it, but I'm wondering whether one other place to cut back should be presents for my kids' teachers, our housekeepers and our gardener. The gift cards I buy for them have been growing smaller every year as the economy worsens and our fortunes dwindle. I know every little bit helps, but I can't shake the feeling that there must be a threshold, and any amount below that would be insulting?

To make matters worse, there's this "Keeping up with the Joneses" thing that crops up alongside teacher presents. I totally agree with presenting teachers with pooled gift cards, because who in their right mind would want twenty loaves of teabread or mugs of cocoa mix or paperweights shaped like apples? My sister recently told me that the parents in her daughter's class have decided on a communal present for the teacher -- a small holiday tree. Cute, huh? But get this -- they want parents to hang individual gift cards for the teacher on the tree. Oh great. The person who thought of this must surely belong to the White Trash Mom's nemesis, the Muffia. What a thoughtful way to quantify in monetary terms show the teacher your appreciation. As someone who cannot afford to give $100 gift cards to my kids' teachers, I really appreciate it when class parents pool money from everyone and simply acknowledge the contributors' names without disclosing amounts. There's no easy way out of this one. Maybe I'd better go back to baking teabread....

The three little vultures

Funny conversation of the day: On the way to my sister's house, The Pea asked me what happens to people's things when they die. So I began telling them all about wills and inheritance and disinheritance. To my amusement they proceeded to pick over their parents' material possessions like they were heirs to a fortune:

Pea: Mama, when you die I want you to leave me the house. I like our house. It's really nice.
3Po: No, I want the house.
Pea: I said it first.
3Po: Well, I want the car.
Jammy: No, I want the car!
3Po: Well, Jammy, you could turn out to be the baddest person that ever lived, and Mama won't want to give you anything.

Our favorite Disneyland ride

Out of all the rides at the Disneyland Resort, which one did our family like best? That's a tough one. When we finally get the time to sit down together for longer than 20 minutes, The Pea wants to get out a list of all the rides we did, have everyone rate them and tally up the totals (she's definitely the child of 2 engineers). Until then, I can definitely tell you which ones didn't make the cut:

Anything that went round in a circle rates an immediate zero for me. These swings at Disney's California Adventure really left me queasy.

It's the economy, stupid

Here's something kewwwwl: My Savvy post about skinflint budget gift-giving was posted on The Mom Speak, a Luvs-sponsored site featuring tips by popular mom bloggers like Kristen Chase, Mom 101 and Amalah. Oh, and little ol' me (cleverly anonymized, along with other Savvy Source editors, as "Savvy Mom"). Check it out!

And speaking of the budgets, the Silicon Valley Moms Blog is hosting an Economy Topic Day, with the holidays as the focus. Head on over to read my take on spending for Christmas cards.

Disneyland at 7 and 37

I first visited Disneyland when I was 7, so I think it's kind of neat that The Pea's first visit happened at age 7 as well, nearly 30 years later. A lot has changed between now and then:

Getting to Know You, Christmas edition

I received this Christmas meme from my friend Monica, and I thought I'd post it to get everyone into the holiday spirit:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I love gift bags, but my budget dictates that I use wrapping paper.

2. Real tree or artificial? Fake. They're cheaper, they don't shed needles, and there's less danger that the house will burn down.

3. When do you put up the tree? Whenever the decorations go up -- anywhere from the 1st to the 15th of December.

4. When do you take the tree down? After 3 Kings Day (Jan. 6).

5. Do you like eggnog? Yuck.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Anything my godmother gave me.

7. Hardest person to buy for? My parents.

8. Easiest person to buy for? My kids.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, we have several.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I can't remember.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? A Charlie Brown Christmas.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I shop for presents year-round.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes -- I consider it earth-friendly. Why keep something I don't want or need?

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Peppermint bark.

16. Lights on the tree? Of course.

17. Favorite Christmas song? "Do you see what I see" and "What Child is this". Either can move me to tears.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Since "travel" involves a flight to either the Philippines or England, it depends on scheduling and finances.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Yes -- I used to be able to recite "Twas the Night Before Christmas" from memory. My memory is not what it used to be, but I can't ever forget the "On Dasher, On Dancer..." part.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? We don't have a tree topper -- I can't decide which one to get.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? All the traffic and crowds at shopping malls.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? I love lots and lots of greenery and twinkling white lights.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? My grandmother's cook's fettucine and turkey. She makes it every year for the Christmas midnight feast, and it's amazing.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? A healthcare plan that will cover the cost of Alfie's drugs.

Want to join in the fun? Consider yourself tagged! If you do the meme, let me know via a comment on this blog, and I'll head on over to your blog and leave a comment. Ho, Ho, Ho!

You call that breakfast?

Fried tomatoes, eggs, beans, chips and sausages -- all part of this complete, nutritious breakfast. I mean, English breakfast. Actually, it isn't quite complete -- the fried mushrooms are missing. Does all this cholesterol make your stomach growl or turn? If you don't like traditional English breakfasts, just substitute garlic fried rice for the chips, and Spam for the sausages, and you have a Filipino breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. At any time of the day, it all makes my mouth water.
For more breakfasts, click here. As for my own breakfast, by the time you read this I'll be chomping on pancakes with Mickey Mouse at the Disneyland Resort!

For the love of Play-Doh!

I'm kinda bummed that my Play-Doh Magic Swirl playset giveaway over on Bonggamom Finds isn't getting much love. Don't anyone like Play-Doh no more? Hey, I can't stand the stuff myself -- it's so messy and difficult to clean up -- but my kids adore it, and it's so great for the imagination, fine motor skills, blahblahblah. Long story short, we've 2 huge bins of Play-Doh at home (I'm just the mom around here).

The giveaway ends December 12, so you can still head over to the giveaway post and join (all you need to do is comment, and you don't even need to tell me your most embarrassing story or anything). Even if all you like about PlayDoh is the taste (hey, my sister once stored some pretend PlayDoh balls in the fridge once and my dad ate them, thinking they were sampaloc, a Filipino salty-sweet tamarind delicacy), go and join!