How to Have the Perfect Night at BlogHer

Step 1. Have your neckline henna-tattooe'd by the most talented henna artist ever at the Social Luxe Lounge party. Put yourself entirely in her creative hands and allow her to transform your neckline into the only piece of bling you'll ever need to wear.

Step 2. Squeeze into a SlimPerfect little black dress, which squeezes and slims you in (without making you feel like you're being shoved into a whalebone corset) and generally turns you into a hot mama. (If you won the dress in a contest like I did, don't forget to disclose that you did so you don't get in trouble with the FTC).

Thanks @muffintopless for the photo!

Step 3. Paint fingernails and toenails red. Don't be embarrassed about sitting on the floor in your short, short SlimPerfect little black dress because it actually has shorts on underneath, so you won't be pulling a Brittney Spears with this dress.

Thanks @muffintopless for the photo!

Step 4. Get a makeover by Nicole Rogers of Bombshell Artistry and end up looking like a million bucks. While you are being primped and polished by Nicole and her assistant, look out the window and see President Obama's motorcade on its way to the Chicago Hyatt Regency, and feel super-cool knowing that you were at the Hyatt a couple of hours earlier and knew all about his visit.

Thanks @muffintopless for the photo!

Step 5. Warm up for the party circuit by chatting with Carol of Muffintopless, Debba of Girlfriendology, Jerri-Ann Reason of MomECentric, Courtney from AppleOfMyEye, and Krystle from SnarkyKisses. Except this is much, much better since you don't have to shout to make ourselves heard, and instead of standing around in high heels, you can sprawl all over the beds in your bare feet.

Step 6. Get an impromptu photo shoot done by official BlogHer photographer and official awesome makes-any-person-in-a-photo-look fabulous Carla Duharte-Razura.

Thanks @babyjidesign for the photo!

Step 7. Take a sip of your first apple martini, then proceed to gulp down the rest of it, turn to your roomate (who happens to be aforementioned awesome photographer) and ask her, in a very polite, conversational tone, as though we had just been introduced, what conference she was here for.

Step 8. Realize that the apple martini was the most alcohol you've consumed in months and agree to work off the alcohol by visiting Chicago's Wit bar and several others (consuming 4 kamikazes along the way) until ending up at a dance bar and dancing until 3AM.

Now THAT, my friends, is how to have a perfect night.

Chicks and Drinks and Dolls and Outfits (No, I'm not talking about BlogHer)

It's been exactly 1 week since I left for the BlogHer conference, and I still haven't gotten around to posting anything about it. BlogHer was such a whirlwind of events and people and parties and swag that, like my friend Kim, I'm having some trouble pulling my thoughts together. I figure there are enough recaps around the blogosphere to keep everyone happy anyway. For now, I'll leave you with some images from another "conference" I'm currently attending:

Isn't it weird that when girls pose for a picture together, they unconsciously crane their necks together to make sure they all fit into the frame (and it makes those necks look long and elegant and minimizes any double chins?)

Welcome to Cousin Camp '09, which is our fancy way of saying I've packed up and left Alfie to a few days of bachelorhood while the kids get to play with their cousins all day and have some sleepover fun at night.

This one also has some hot chicks and well-dressed dolls. Not as big a crowd and not as much swag, and the drinks are of the milky, not alcoholic, variety -- but we're enjoying ourselves just the same.

Ironically, the internet access at this conference is light-years better than the internet access at the Blogher conference.

It's In the Bag, Baby

Just 1 hour left before I head out to the airport, and away to Chicago for BlogHer 09! The laundry is done, the floor is vacuumed, dinner for Alfie and the kids is in the fridge, the kids' activities are planned for the next 3 days, so I think I'm ready to go.

Oh, yeah. I've got to pack.

Fortunately, I've got my handy-dandy notebook, and I've been making lists, lots of lists. So here's what I'll be throwing in my carry-on bag (a rolling case file that Office Max sent me to use for BlogHer and an upcoming Office Max event I'll be attending):

An extra bag (This is first and foremost on my list, because I'll need the extra space for all the swag!)
Paperwork (boarding pass, BlogHer pass, schedule of BlogHer activities)
Phone charger
Laptop power cord
Extra batteries
USB Cable
Ethernet Cable
iPod and earphones
My SlimPerfect little black dress
Fake boobs, I mean bra inserts
Black heels
Black pants
Black leggings
Black top (I'm going for the basic black look)
Grey top
Pink top
Pink and red skirt
Umbrella (it's supposed to be rainy in Chicago)
Pajamas and underwear

I'm packing as light as I can because I just know I'll need that extra space for all the swag! Yes, it's all about the swag :)

I guess I'd better stop blogging about packing and actually pack. See you all at BlogHer!

Hack Attack!

This morning when I checked my inbox I found an email from the parent of one of The Pea's friends, entitled "I Need Your Help". Babysitter cancel on her? Does she need me to pick up her daughter? No problem.

The body of the email read:
How are you doing ? I hope you are doing fine, I'm sorry that I didn't inform you about my traveling to England for a Seminar. I need a favor from you as soon as you receive this e-mail because I misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money,and other valuable things were kept, I will like you to assist me with a soft loan urgently. I will be needing the sum of $2,500 to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.

I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with, I will pay you back as soon as I return,I'm counting on you on this, Kindly let me know if you can be of help so I can send you my details to use when sending the money through western union.I look forward to read from you later today.

Your reply will be greatly appreciated.

It was signed with her name.

Now, I'm no fool. I wasn't about to head to the nearest Western Union. For one thing, they live in a big, beautiful house in Palo Alto, so I doubt if she'd need to turn to me for a couple of thousand bucks. For another, any friend would call instead of email. If anyone doesn't know that email is a blatant scam, I've got a nice bridge I'd like to sell you.

So I emailed her back, --typing in her email address directly into the "To" field, not replying to the scam email -- and let her know that some phisher was masking their "from" address and using hers instead.

Imagine my surprise when I received her response:
Thanks a lot for your response and concern,I really need the money and I will appreciate if you can send it today. You can send the money to my details below through western union transfer or money gram, all you have to do is go to the closest western union location or money gram with the money in cash and instruct the agent to wire it to my personal details below.

Name : My friend's first, middle and last name
Address: 327 Great Peter Street.
London. SW1P 3NQ

Please As soon as you send the Money I will like you to email me the 10 digits (Mtcn) Numbers and all the details used in sending the money to me, I am counting on you okay.
I look forward to read from you later today.

Again, it was signed with her name. The email really was sent from her email account!

So I tried to call her home and mobile number, but couldn't reach it. I called her husband's mobile and he told me that someone had indeed gotten hold of her email account (she can't access it now) and was spamming everyone on her address list. The hacker stole her credit card information as well, and charged $4000 to her card.

Ick! Ick! Ick! Needless to say, she's a bit internet-shy at the moment, and they'll be running some serious anti-virus and firewall software on their home computer before she attempts to log on again. And it's a sober reminder that these things do happen. The only things I can think of to minimize the impact would be:

1) Periodically backup your contacts and email list to your computer so that if you get hacked like this, you can always create a new email account and let your friends know that they should treat your old account like spam.

2) Don't include sensitive information like credit card numbers or passwords in your email account (like Yahoo! Notepad, etc..).

3) Make sure you have a firewall and virus protection software.

Even if you do take precautions, I think we all still have to pray that something like this doesn't happen to us. And Thank God (or big banks) for credit card fraud protection.

I've Found Bonggamom!

My SlimPerfect little black dress arrived in the mail today, and I couldn't even make it up the stairs before ripping the package open and tearing my clothes off (good thing the front shutters were closed and the mailman had long since gone). Call me Shallow Hal, but I was as excited as a little girl -- it's been so long since I've worn a little black dress anywhere, and here I find myself, little ol' me, winning the Slimperfect BlogHer model contest and getting this perky cuteness of a dress to wear to BlogHer! I quickly checked my reflection, and Thank God (ok, thank Slimperfect) , I don't look like Gwneth Paltrow in a fat suit with this dress on.

Yes, it's short, but don't worry, I won't be doing a Brittney Spears on y'all at BlogHer because, shhhhh, don't tell but the dress has built-in shorts underneath. That nice cleavage? They are not inserts, they're all mine, because I don't have small boobs, really I don't, despite my past posts to the contrary.

After a couple of shots (photo, not vodka), I handed the camera to The Pea, who started getting creative with her angles.

And I started getting creative with the dress itself, changing the neckline to something a bit more my style. Please excuse the Frida Kahlo-like eyebrows and messy hair; that will be taken care of by the makeover I'm getting treated to on Thursday night. Yes, makeover! Squee! I feel like Cinderella. If Cinderella ever wore a short, sexy dress with high heels, that is. No, not Cinderella -- I feel like Bonggamom.

3Po Rocks

This week I got creative with the Photo Hunter's theme -- rocks -- , and instead of the igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic kind, I'm featuring the cool kind, my little punk rocker 3Po with his mohawk haircut. We did it for a laugh, but he received so much attention that he didn't want to get rid of it. He says we have to visit Santa Cruz first (he thinks there are cool dudes there who will like his hair, and he wants to hang out with them before we shave the mohawk off). Oh, well. I guess every kid gets at least one bad haircut during the course of his childhood.

Living My Life... Sort Of

Next week I'm leaving Alfie and the kids to go on a business trip. Okay, it's not actually a business trip. I'll be learning and networking and partying at the BlogHer '09 conference in Chicago. But the longest I've been away from my family prior to this was just one night; this time, I'm gone from Wednesday night till Sunday morning. It's going to be just Alfie and the kids, at home together for three days and four nights. He's going to get his first chance to live my life and see what it's like being a stay-at-home parent.

We're pretty lucky that Alfie can work from home whenever he wants to. It's a lifesaver (and moneysaver) when I have to run a solo errand or have a blogging event or a doctor's appointment. But Alfie is the most honest chap I know, and he's careful not to slack off when he works from home (other than occasionally taking a long lunch with me or taking a couple of hours to watch a soccer game, but people do that in the office anyway, and he makes up for it in the evenings). So we've always told the kids to pretend he's still at the office, so he can get work done. Other than leaving the kids playing downstairs and Alfie working upstairs for an hour or so to run said errands, we carry on with our day almost as if Alfie isn't at home.

Which means next week -- working from home and taking care of the kids -- is going to be a bit of a challenge for him, as it would for anyone -- single parents who work from home, I don't know how you do it!

So I'm preparing for my departure with all the deliberation of a general planning an invasion (or in my case, withdrawal). I deliberately avoided scheduling any camps or classes for the time that I'm gone so Alfie wouldn't have to deal with the dropoffs and pickups. I've got some at-home activities and crafts lined up so the kids don't or whine for daddy to take them to the park. I'm considering offering a small bribe reward if they make it to Sunday without any major arguments that Alfie has to mediate. I'm making and freezing a couple of dinner casseroles, and writing up a lunch and dinner menu so he won't have to think about what to feed them (or himself). I'm stocking up the fridge and pantry with food so he won't have to go shopping. I'll probably stay up late on Tuesday night giving the bathroom an extra swipe, and doing laundry so I won't have a huge pile to greet me when I get back on Sunday morning.

Uh, so maybe he won't be living my life exactly. More like a stay-at-home parent who works from home with a full time job but has a great personal assistant, housekeeper and child-activities coordinator.

I'm beyond grateful to Alfie for stepping up and making it possible for me to attend the BlogHer conference -- so of course I want to streamline next week as much as I can for him. But he'd better not say "That wasn't so bad -- you've got it easy!" when I come back on Sunday!

This post was inspired by What Happened to the Girl I Married by Michael Miller, July's featured book on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog book club. Click here to read how this post inspired our other mombloggers.

I'm a SlimPerfect BlogHer Model!

Gawwwwd.. That's just not right. We can't allow her to go prancing around on Thursday night with thaaat on display. They might close BlogHer down for inappropriate display or something. Poor girl. She'll be known as the One Who Shut Down BlogHer. *Shudder*... yah, we'd better give her the dress.

That's probably what Carole, Debba and Casey were thinking when they saw my video entry to the Little Black Dress BlogHer Model search. Or maybe it was the gazillion and one Tweets I pestered them with, begging them to choose me. Or maybe it was my solemn promise to ROCK THAT DRESS and be a totally badass bongga mutha while partying in it.

Awarded SlimPerfect Model 2009 - BlogHer

Whatever the case, they did choose me to be one of their 4 Slimperfect BlogHer models, and now I'm so excited I could burst. But of course I won't burst, because I'll be wearing the Slimperfect Little Black Dress, which is going to hold all of me in. I'm so honored to be in the company of some awesome women: Lisa, Krystle, Courtney, and Jerri-Ann, who's so beloved in the blogosphere that she won a category all her own, People's Choice. Seriously, these women are so inspiring with their weight loss efforts and achievements, they make me feel as small as the Peanut Butter Cookie Bombs I recently stuffed into my mouth. I look forward to meeting you all at BlogHer and partying in our Little Black Dresses!

The joys of reading on your own

The boys are really making great strides towards reading on their own, thanks to Alfie's dedicated bedtime BOB-book reading and their love for Bakugan (all the more to bribe them with). They're not quite at the stage where they can read whole books on their own (except the very simple BOB books), but they can certainly read their Leapfrog Tag storybooks:

But what's really important is that they're realizing that if they can read by themselves, they don't need to wait for mama or daddy to read to them. No more having to agree on a single book with two other kids. And no more having to wait patiently beside the computer desk as mama feverishly types and mutters, "Yes, honey, I'm juuuust finishing up this blog post, then we'll go and read...." -- for ten minutes.


My dad still has memories of being able to swim (swim!!) in Manila's Pasig river. But even when I was growing up in the 70's, it was already so polluted that I wouldn't even want to ride a boat on that river. Sadly, things haven't changed: many residents still throw their garbage into the canals and rivers, resulting in dirty, polluted water. This is such a normal scene in Manila that I wouldn't normally take a photo of it, but Alfie was so apalled that he had to take this photo. Maybe we should all be as apalled as Alfie; then maybe we'd be more proactive in getting people to stop.

By the way, that red wall you see on one side of the river? There's a restaurant on the other side of it.

For more garbage, click here.

Me Love Cooooookie!

I can't think of a name more perfect for these babies than Peanut Butter Cookie Bombs. They are explosive, deadly to your waistline and any diet you happen to be on. The recipe is in Gina Von Esmarch's cookbook, Taste This!, which I reviewed a while ago, but keep coming back to because the recipes are so great.
Gina is like this evil culinary genius -- how else can you explain how she got the idea of planting a Reese's peanut butter cup in the middle of a peanut butter cookie? And the recipe is waaaay too easy. If it had 50 ingredients and required sifting, food processing and all the nitpicky preparation I hate, I could at least say, Nah, it's too difficult to make. Really, there's nothing standing in the way of me and these cookies except my willpower. Much to Alfie's dismay, this is one love affair I can't seem to end.

The evolution of a BlogHer card

One thing that veteran BlogHers like to tell BlogHer newbies is, Pass Out Business Cards. So when I attended my first BlogHer last year, I followed their advice.. This is what they looked like:

Cute, huh? See the beautiful black-and-white photos of my gorgeous kids, artistically laid out on the chic, lime-and-brown background? Unfortunately, once I received it, I realized it's the sort of card you'd hand out to your mommy friends, not to fellow bloggers. This is a card that says "If you want to schedule a playdate with child A, B or C, then contact me at the email address below" rather than "Remember me? Come visit my blog!". Not surprising, considering I had it made at

So even before BlogHer '08 began, I realized I needed to ditch the kids' photos and add the other sites that I blog for. But there wasn't time to order more online. Unfortunately, instead of doing a rush order at Kinko's, I cheaped out and modified some generic name cards that I already had:

I know, I know, it's awful. Not only do the colors CLASH, I didn't even put the sticker on straight. At least the first one had cute photos to look at. In retrospect, this was just a waste of time. I can imagine what the people at BlogHer '08 thought when I handed it to them: Gawd. How lame. Twenty bazillion bloggers are handing me their cards and she expects me to keep that? Visit her blog? Hah. I shall surreptitiously drop this card into the trash once she turns around. Actually, I won't even bother with the surreptitious part.

Fellow BlogHers, I humbly apologize for insulting your visual senses and for using up precious resources and adding to the landfills with that card.

This year, I took the whole name card thing much more seriously. I don't have money to splurge on a graphic designer, but I wanted a card that said something about me, a card that gave people a way to connect the card to the person who handed them the card. I won a gift certificate to from my blogging friend Kim in February, and it took me all the way until June to think of a design I liked. (I probably would have spent a couple more months agonizing about it if the certificate hadn't been set to expire in June). And here's the result:

The other side of the card has my photo on it and a list of the five sites I blog at. Much better, I think (I hope). It gives something unique for people to associate with me, gives a little taste of what my writing style is like, and gives a way for people to connect with me online. I don't think I'll be cringing with shame when I pass these out at BlogHer '09.

Independence Day

First of all, my apologies for putting this post up a day late. You know how it is with all the 4th of July celebrations; by the end of the fireworks display, it's so late that all you want to do is get everyone, including yourself, to bed. Yup, we did all the typical Independence Day activities: the barbecue, the flag decorations, the red-white-and-blue outfits, the fireworks.

But early in the morning we got to have a small, special celebration of our own, one that I thought exemplified the spirit of the holiday more than any other thing we did that day. On the 4th of July we let loose the painted lady butterflies that we had been raising from caterpillars.

At first, the kids were quite resistant to the idea; after all, they had only emerged from their chrysallids a couple of days earlier, and they wanted to keep them a bit longer. The kids had named all five of them (Flo, Jo, Mo, Ho and Po) and had gotten quite attached to them, so there were lots of tears and protests involved ("But they like being with us!" "Who's going to take care of them?").

But Alfie pointed out (and this is why I love the man) that painted lady butterflies can travel thousands of miles in their 2-week lifespan -- and they had already been in our butterfly habitat for several days, so they had a lot of catching up to do. We asked the kids, how would you feel if we kept you in your room forever and all you wanted to do was run around the grass and play?

More crying ensued, but with the tears came understanding: if we love them, we have to let them go. So on July 4th, we gave these amazing creatures back their independence.

Two of the butterflies left as soon as we unzipped the door. Three stayed a bit longer. They were still there about fifteen minutes later, when we left for all the 4th of July celebrations. By the time we returned home after the fireworks, the habitat was empty. But this morning, we discovered that one of the butterflies had returned to the habitat! Now the kids think that the butterflies like to go off during the day to play and find food, then return to the habitat at night. Whether that's true or not, now we're all happy that the butterflies are free at last.

A Boy and His Tati -- an Update

For this week's Photo Hunt -- pink -- I couldn't resist recycling a photo I featured a couple of years ago, which accompanied an essay about a 3-year old boy and his blankie (named "Tati"). In it, I made a prediction:

Someday, the boy will enter kindergarten, and on his first day, Tati will be with him. As he enters the door to his classroom, he will see his mama behind him, with her lower lip quivering and tears in her eyes. He will run back to her, give her a hug and hand her the Tati, saying, "Here mama, you need Tati more than I do."

And now that the boy is about to enter kindergarten, what of Tati? Well, two years later Tati is a bit shabbier and more threadbare. But it's still pink. And still loved. Tati no longer follows the boy everywhere, but he still keeps Tati on his bed. For when the boy needs it. Like when he got stung by bees, or ran a fever, or split his forehead open.

It doesn't look like the boy is going to need Tati with him on his first day of school. He's going to climb mountains and run races and build bridges all by himself. But when the day is done, he'll crawl into bed and have his Tati beside him, the last thing he cuddles before he falls asleep and the first thing he reaches for when he wakes up. Still giving him courage, reassurance, love and strength.

For more pink things, click here.