Beef empanadas

The English call it a meat pasty (note to self: it's pronounced "past", not "paste"). We Filipinos call it an empanada. Anyone of any culture would call it yummy. After my empanadas won third prize at Alfie's office potluck contest, I made a lame attempt at writing down a recipe -- you know, my usual "throw some ground beef and onion together in a frying pan" kind of thing. This time I'm trying to be more specific:

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 small white onion, minced
1/2 small orange or red pepper, minced
1 small roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup raisins
3 Tablespoons ketchup
salt, pepper and paprika

1 package (15 oz) refrigerated pie crusts (box of 2)

1 egg + 1 Tablespoon of milk

1) Take the pie crusts out of the fridge and leave to soften. Preheat oven to 350F.

2) Brown the ground beef, onion pepper and tomatoes in a pan. Add the ketchup and raisins, and simmer till the liquid is gone. Season to taste with salt, pepper and paprika.

3) Roll out each pie crust until the dough is approx. 4 inches wider than the original circle. Cut out 6-inch diameter circles (you should be able to make around 7 or 8 rounds total).

4) Spoon the meat mixture into each circle. Fold the dough over and crimp the edges. Prick some holes onto the top with a fork.

5) Place the empanadas on a sheet lined with parchment paper. Beat the egg and milk together in a small bowl; brush the tops with the egg-milk mixture.

6) Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is golden.

This version differs slightly from the original so-called recipe -- I omitted the potatoes and used fresh tomatoes instead of tomato soup, and these ones are meal-sized rather than bite-sized -- but it's all good. Maybe next time I'll try it with a chicken filling.

Our furry friends

My kids are crazy about stuffed animals. We have a whole furry menagerie hanging from a net in our playroom, and more hiding in a box under The Pea's bed. Their current favorites are their Webkinz animals, but apparently each of these creatures holds a special place in their heart, and every time I bring up the subject of donating them to charity, I'm met with howls of protest. So I'm tolerating it for now, but one of these year's I'm going to snap and go on a fur hunt. Furry friends, beware!

For more furry things, click here.

My BlogHer 09 sob story, or Why I Want to Go

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BlogHer 09 is coming up in Chicago, and if it’s anything like last year’s BlogHer, I can’t wait!

Actually, I might have to wait. A full BlogHer 09 conference pass costs $300 and a room at the Chicago Sheraton will run $199 per night. So even if I use flight miles for the plane ticket and share a hotel room and eat peanut butter sandwiches round the clock for 3 days, BlogHer 09 is going to run me at least $600. That’s a lot of money for someone who thinks $60 for a family-of-five dinner is extravagant. So I might have to wait another year. Or two. Or three.

Reality sucks, but the Reality is that I Really. Want. To. Go. Last year I had a taste of what BlogHer was like (I attended a couple of BlogHer parties and the second day of BlogHer 08 -- since it was in San Francisco, I didn’t need to book a hotel room, I just hitched a ride up with a friend both days); this year I want more. It was more than just a social event, it was a networking event, a learning event. So much good came out of last year’s BlogHer. I listened to advice from the best in the business. I started relationships with companies that make great products for kids and moms. I figured out what to do with that pesky built-in flash on my camera. I met bloggers that I knew and admired from afar; I made friends with ones I didn’t even know existed. And oh, I did something for myself, for my interests, and for my future.

There, I said it, blogging is my future. I don’t know how big a role it’s going to play – I’m not an important or influential or well-connected blogger by any means, and my expected annual income from blogging remains firmly in the 3-digit figures – it’s definitely going from less to more, and going to BlogHer puts me on the right track. To this, let’s put it incorrectly, stay-at-home housewife, blogging has been a blessing. It has given me an emotional outlet, a way to stay connected with other adults, a renewed sense of purpose and self-worth. I’m enjoying the feeling of making a tiny bit of money from doing this thing that I love. I love it when my kids and husband tell other people proudly, “My mommy is a blogger”.

All is not lost. I’m applying for a BlogHership. I’m joining each and every Win a trip to BlogHer contest I can find on the internet (if you know of any, let me know!). But if I don’t get to go this year, I’ll survive. Maybe I’ll go next year. Or the next. I’ll still be blogging then anyway, so I can wait.

Thanks to Label Daddy and MomDot for giving bloggers like me the chance to attend BlogHer09 !

Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Bread

This month we're all about oatmeal, so I've decided to feature some of the yummy things you can make from oatmeal. I found a recipe on the Quaker Oats Facebook page for Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Bread, courtesy of We Are Not Martha, and decided to try it.
I did make a few changes. I substituted whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour, and instead of 3/4 cup sugar I used a mixture of sugar and Splenda (1/2 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup Splenda). Maybe next time I'll try a bigger proportion of Splenda and applesauce instead of butter. I'll tell you how it goes.
You can click here to get the recipe. As Sues and Chels say, the recipe is really simple. 3Po and Jammy made it practically all by themselves. But they're wrong when they say it provides breakfast for an entire week. We polished off this loaf in 2 days.
Please, visit Quaker's Facebook page to help fight hunger. Enter your Quaker UPC codes and Quaker will donate a bowl of oatmeal to the hungry. Don't forget to post your photo with the Quaker man and leave a comment here before February 28!

Help End Hunger with Quaker Oats

3Po and Jammy were understandably bewildered when I handed them the Quaker Man's head on a stick.

3Po: Mama, who's this man?

Me: That's the Quaker man. You know, the one on the box of oatmeal that we eat. I want you to put his picture in front of your face like a mask, and I'll take your picture.

3Po: Why?

Me: Because Quaker Oats has enlisted my support in their Start With Substance campaign. They're teaming up with Share Our Strength to help end childhood hunger in the US. For every Quaker product UPC barcode you enter on their Quaker Facebook page, they will donate a bowl of oatmeal for a hungry child.

What's more, if I can enlist my blog readers to post their own photos with the Quaker Man and post them up on Quaker Oats' Facebook page, I might have a chance to win $5,000 to donate to the hunger charity of my choice!

And finally, if I take your picture wearing these Quaker Man masks, the Quaker Oats people will donate a whole case of oatmeal to the Urban Ministry Food Closet; you know, that place where homeless people go for food, the one we went to and gave lots of sandwiches and oranges to last Thanksgiving. So it's a win-win situation: the food closet gets a case of oatmeal, you get some funny masks to play with, and I get to show your cute faces off to everyone who visits the Quaker Oats Facebook page.

OK, I didn't really say all of that. I said something more like: Because you're so cute. Now sit still and let me take your picture.

So how about it? Go to Quaker's Facebook page, download a photo of the Quaker Man, print it out, then have your photo taken with it -- only wholesome photos, please, as wholesome as Quaker Oatmeal. Like don't go drawing mustaches on the Quaker Man or use his head to cover your bare breasts or anything, these photos still need to pass Facebook's standards. Then come back to this page and leave a comment with the link to your photo. If I get the most links out of all the participating bloggers, I'll win $5,000 to donate to the hunger charity of my choice!

I'll even sweeten the deal:

* Quaker Oats has given me two coupons, each good for $1.00 off any 2 Quaker Oats products. I'll award these to the first two people who take their photo with the Quaker Man, post their photo on the Quaker Facebook page, and leave a link to it here.

* I'm giving away a box of everyone's favorite Girl Scout cookie, the DoSiDo, over on Bonggamom Finds -- and you'll get FIVE extra entries if you post your photo with the Quaker Man on the Quaker Facebook page and leave a link to it here. Visit the contest post on Bonggamom Finds for more details.

Even if I don't win, some worthy cause will still get the money, but it would be so cool to be the one to choose, so please help me out.

Monday Mornings: morning hair

It's time to start acting on my 2009 blogging resolutions. So this I'm committing to put up a photo every Monday morning -- today I'm showcasing 3Po's glorious morning hair. For 2009 anyway. Or maybe the first half of 2009. Or until I forget. Because Monday mornings are always the craziest times at our house. Or maybe because I'm just a lazy ass.

How is your morning going? If you leave a link to your Monday Morning post in the comments section, I'll go visit and leave a comment.

Resolution reality check

On New Year's Day I posted an ambitious list of Resolutions for 2009. As any good project manager knows, it's good to refer to the master project list from time to time and compare one's actual progress to the original plan. Let's see how I'm doing on some of the resolutions, shall we?

Resolutions related to kids and family
I will be more tolerant of the kids' messes and more cheerful when asking them to clean up -- Hmmm... can I plead the Fifth on this one?
I will play a board game with them at least once a week -- Jammy is really into board games these days so he's keeping me on my toes.
I will make sure they drink more water throughout the day - If Sprite counts as water, then yes, done.
I will organize and downsize their toy collection -- I've sold quite a few of their old toys. And bought some new ones. I'll try again in Feb.
We will try a new kind of cuisine at least once a month -- we've done Korean for January so we're right on track.

Resolutions related to laundry
I will do laundry at least once a week -- Wonder of wonders, I'm actually sticking to this so far.
I will take the shirts out of the dryer and fold them before they wrinkle -- this one, not so much.
I will hand wash items that say hand wash -- can we restate this as "I will never buy any items that need to be hand washed?"

I will water the Venus flytrap regularly. -- Uh. Oh. Does anyone know where I can get a new Venus flytrap?
I will file our papers, statements and receipts as soon as I receive them.

Resolutions related to Alfie
I will feign show more interest in motorcycle racing -- The season doesn't start for several months yet, so I have a reprieve on this one.
I will open the shower door inwards, not outwards, so water doesn't drip all over the floor -- I'm trying, I'm really trying!
We will spend more time talking and less time watching TV -- Uh, not so good. Why? See the resolution below. At least we're watching TV together.
We will go to bed by 11:00PM every night -- we recently upgraded to HD satellite service, with free HBO channels for 3 months, so I'm not doing too well on this one. I'm staying up till the wee hours of the morning watching old movies that I don't even like.
I will stop hogging all the space in bed -- You'll have to ask Alfie for the answer to this one.

Resolutions for myself
I will get a good haircut -- Done!
I will enroll in a dance class -- Let's get back to this after our free HBO movie promo expires.
I will bike more and drive less. -- Not during this weather, baby. I'm from the tropics, remember?
I will keep looking for new opportunities to blog -- I'm going to commit to posting a photo every Monday for 2009.
I will lose 10 pounds (I had to put that one in) -- I've stopped stuffing my face with holiday treats, so it's a start.

How are your New Year's Resolutions going?

Have you chipped in?

I know what you're thinking: What in the blazes does oatmeal have to do with this week's Photo Hunters theme, chipped? We don't eat oatmeal with chocolate chips. Jammy's in the background, but I'm not even showing a photo of the tooth he chipped when he was 2.

I know I'm stretching things a bit, but I wanted to highlight a great cause sponsored by Quaker Oats and Share Our Strength to combat childhood hunger in America. It's so easy for anyone and everyone to CHIP in (there, see, I did get the theme in):

1) Go to the Quaker Oats Facebook page.
2) Enter the UPC (barcode) from your favorite Quaker hot cereal.
3) For each barcode you enter, Quaker will donate a bowl of oatmeal to the hungry.

Actually, you don't even need to buy Quaker oats to chip in. Or like oatmeal. Or even know what oatmeal is. No, you don't need to make up a bogus UPC and see if they accept it. You can enter 030000013809 as a valid UPC (that's 5 zeros between the 3 and the 1, in case you don't want to count). How easy is that?

While you're there, you also get to see all the wacky Quaker Man photos people have posted. Make sure you look for the ones I posted of 3Po and Jammy because they're the best ones, of course.

For more chipped photos, click here.

Yes we did... and I was there

Okay, I wasn't exactly there, but I wanted to snap a photo of myself while Barack Obama was being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. My nose is swollen and red from all the weeping. I couldn't help it. I was moved. In a way, it reminded me of Manila in 1986 when the people took to the streets because they had had enough and were ready for change. The people of the US are ready for change.

A tongue of laughs

3Po: Mama, what are tongues for?

Me: Well, tongues are for tasting things -- tongues are what help you taste sour, sweet, salty and bitter. They're also for speaking. You wouldn't be able to speak without a tongue.

3Po: Is that all?

Me: I think so. I can't think of anything else.

3Po: I know one other thing tongues are for.

Me: What?

3Po: They're for licking lollipops.

Quitting American Idol

I missed the premiere of American Idol. After 7 straight years of devoted watching, I think I'm going to try and give it a rest. Here are some reasons why:

* I've already got several shows I like to watch -- House, Grey's Anatomy, Little Britain USA -- and I don't need another TV time-sucker.

* The show has gotten progressively more boring each year. I'm tired of Paula's rah-rah platitudes, Randy's "Dawg" lines, Simon's tight shirts and the audience consistently booing Simon's honest critiques. It's so predictable.

* Even though they're supposedly minimizing the "Bad Auditions" segments this year, they're just not funny anymore, because they're not deluded, just attention seeking. Why should I waste my time watching people who obviously are not serious about auditioning, and just want a few seconds of fame?

* Nigel Lythgoe has left the show as producer. He may be as mean as Simon and have the worst set of false teeth ever, but I love him on So You Think You Can Dance. I have a sneaking suspicion that the show will go downhill now that he's gone.

* I'm tired of no-talent, delusional skanks like Katrina Darrell getting picked over real talent (which the TV audience probably even never got to see).

Just about the only fascinating thing left to watch was Paula's strange behavior. But now that new judge Kara DioGuardi has arrived, Paula might be motivated to shape up. So there goes that. So just like the Idol Gives Back episode, I think I might take a little break. I think. AI is a bit like junk food -- you know it's bad, but it's hard to stop bingeing on it.

I've found my dream job

Job title: Island Caretaker

Compensation: six-month contract for AUD 150,000 (£70,000), including free return flights, transfers, expenses and transport around the island

Job responsibilities:
* Live on Hamilton Island, on Australia's Great Barrier Reef
* Clean the swimming pool in your 3-bedroom home(it has an automatic filter)
* Feed the reef's fish (they seem to be doing fine on their own)
* Blog about your island life

Job qualifications:
* Be over 18
* Speak English
* Possess good swimming skills, a love of snorkeling, scuba diving and other water sports

You can go and apply over at -- but don't be surprised if you have to wait a bit for the page to load, because applicants have already crashed the job website.

I suppose asking the kids to get themselves to school by themselves for 6 months is a bit unreasonable. Oh, well.

Math (and biology) facts for 5 year olds

Last night The Pea was grilling 3Po on the math facts she considered essential to any entering kindergartener. 3Po answered 1+1, 2+2, 3+3, 4+4 and 5+5 with ease......

Pea: What's 6 plus 6?

3Po (thinking hard)....... twelve!

Pea: What's 7 plus 7?

3Po (thinking hard): Um........

Pea: Use your fingers to count, 3Po!

3Po (looking annoyed): Well, I don't have fourteen fingers!

Holiday aftermath

This is what happens after a Christmas with 3 kids and a birthday party for 2 kids -- toy chaos. To add to the clutter fun, a friend gave us two huge Playmobil playsets: a dollhouse and knight's castle. Someone else had given it to her boys, who weren't interested, so she kindly passed it along to us. They arrived in two huge bins without instructions, so it was a fun challenge to piece everything together.

For more visions of the aftermath, click here.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

I swear, this will be my last bad hair-pun blog title. I really will cut it out... er, cut it off..... wait, I've already done that.

And now, for the answers to yesterday's quiz:

1) Which is my original hairstyle? I (that was a bonus question)

2) Which one would I never, ever in a million years, choose? H. Seriously, people, me in H? I'm not El Debarge...

3) Which one is my homage to Katie Holms? F

4) Which one would Alfie never, ever in a million years, choose for me? F. And I was right.

5) Which one should I choose? Most people seemed to go with C or G. I guess my peeps really do know me. Good guessing!

6) Which one will I choose? B, D, E and F were really out of the question because my hair is not straight. I was torn between C and G. (Actually, I was going for Joanna Page's haircut on Gavin and Stacey -- it's short and chic, and doesn't seem like it needs a lot of maintenance). The stylist's opinion was that G would actually require more upkeep because my hair is so thick. It would take a lot of cutting to thin it out to look like G, and I'd need a maintenance trim every 4-6 weeks. Eek! So we went with C.......

We were able to cut off an 11-inch ponytail (minimum to donate to Locks of Love is 10 in.), and the hair left over wasn't too short after all. My hair was longer than I thought!

Obviously, with my wavy hair, the result looks somewhat different from the straight hair in photo C -- but I'm quite happy with the result.

The stylist made maintenance look so easy -- just scrunch some gel and anti-frizz stuff, blowdrying optional. We'll see. The real test will be tomorrow morning, when I jump out of bed at 7:15AM and get ready to take The Pea to school by 8AM.....

Some hair-raising questions

So now that I've decided to cut my hair, the next question is, which hairstyle? And because I am the Princess of Procrastination and the Sultana of Surfing, I played around with my hairstyle at to see what I would look like with short hair. Take a look at the photos above and see if you can answer the following questions:

1) Which is my original hairstyle?
2) Which one would I never, ever in a million years, choose?
3) Which one is my homage to Katie Holms?
4) Which one is would Alfie never, ever in a million years, choose for me?
5) Which one should I choose?
6) Which one will I choose?

(Click on the photo to enlarge it if you have trouble viewing).

I'll post the answers, along with a photo of my new haircut, once I get it done. I'll have to think of some kind of prize to give to the first person to get ALL the answers right (note: even I don't know the answers to some of these questions yet!)!

Happy New Hair

My latest post on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog is up! I'm getting ready for a major lifestyle change.....

Like most years, I'm starting 2009 with my standard "lose-10-pounds" type of resolution (No, really. This time I mean it. I really do need to lose those 10 pounds). This year I'm adding something new: Get a Haircut.

(Click here to read more...)

Quotes on hope

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.
Emily Dickinson

True hope is swift, and flies with swallow's wings.
Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.
William Shakespeare

Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.
John F. Kennedy

For more images of hope, click here. Oh, and I can't resist a little plug: I hope you'll visit my review blog, Bonggamom Finds, and join my 12 Days of Christmas giveaways!

Happy New Resolutions

Like most people, I start the year with the standard "I will lose ten pounds" resolution. This year I'm expanding my scope to include goals for all aspects of my life. I can think of lots of great goals for 2009:

Resolutions related to kids and family
I will be more tolerant of the kids' messes and more cheerful when asking them to clean up.
I will play a board game with them at least once a week.
I will make sure they drink more water throughout the day.
I will organize and downsize their toy collection.
We will try a new kind of cuisine at least once a month.

Resolutions related to laundry
I will do laundry at least once a week.
I will take the shirts out of the dryer and fold them before they wrinkle.
I will hand wash items that say hand wash.
I will water the Venus flytrap regularly.
I will file our papers, statements and receipts as soon as I receive them.

Resolutions related to Alfie
I will feign show more interest in motorcycle racing
I will open the shower door inwards, not outwards, so water doesn't drip all over the floor.
We will spend more time talking and less time watching TV.
We will go to bed by 11:00PM every night.
I will stop hogging all the space in bed.

Resolutions for myself
I will get a good haircut.
I will enroll in a dance class.
I will bike more and drive less.
I will keep looking for new opportunities to blog.
I will lose 10 pounds (I had to put that one in).

It's a long list, I know. Anyway, it's nice to write it down and pretend I can get it all done. What are your New Year's Resolutions?