How Do You Like Them Apples?

When I told the kids I wanted to make caramel apples, they were indifferent. Disappointed, even.

"But mama, caramel apples aren't Halloween-y! I thought we're only doing Halloween-y things this October!?"

True, you can (and we do) enjoy caramel apples any time of the year. But there's something special about making them in the fall, with crisp apples so juicy they squirt you in the eye if you take too huge a bite. Quite a few people must agree with me, because this is the only time of the year the supermarkets stock up with huge bags of Kraft caramels, all printed with the recipe for caramel apples, popsicle sticks conveniently included in the bags.

Besides, all you have to do to make caramel apples Halloween-y is roll them in orange and green sprinkles. or drizzle them with lines of chocolate so they look like a pumpkin. And as long as there's an apple in the middle, you can fool yourself into believing it's a healthy treat!

31 Days of Pink: Still Hanging On....

Where did the time go? October has just flown by, and I find myself with just 8 days left in the month and only 2 Pink Posts on this blog! Not that I've given up; I'm proud to report that I've been wearing something pink each and every day, and you can see each item on my 31 Days of Pink photo album on Picasa. Okay, I have to admit, I forgot to take my photo on 4 of those days, but I pinkie swear, I wore pink on those days. Here's a sample of the photos I did take:

Day 9: Just a simple pink awareness ribbon, perfectly set off by the white shirt and denim jacket.

Day 16: I got these pink toe socks at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. It was on Day 1, at camp in the Presidio area of San Francisco. It was windy, foggy and chilly -- and I had to buy these or have my toes freeze off. They worked like a charm, so what else would I turn to when I took The Pea and her Girl Scout troop camping last weekend?

Day 22: This was the closest I came to completely forgetting to wear pink. I had intended to wear some pink accessory yesterday but I woke up late, rushed out to school... and you know what happened next. It slipped my mind. I forgot all about it until nighttime, when it was time to upload my Pink Photo for the day and I realized I didn't have one. Fortunately, one of my favorite pj pants has pink and red lips on them. Hey, evening wear counts!

I've got 8 more days to paint my world pink. It has been more difficult that I thought, being able to wear something pink every day without resorting to washing my pink shirts in the laundry every night (not that I'd seriously consider doing it anyway, since I hate doing laundry). But the good news is that people have noticed. Parents at school comment on my hot pink running shoes or the pink bling in my hair, and I tell them all about my 31 Days of Pink challenge. When I Google the phrase "31 Days of Pink", my Week 1 Update post comes up #14 out of 49,500,000. Okay, it's on the second page of results, which renders it almost non-existent, but I still got a kick out knowing that Google put me there. I even inspired a friend to blog about it. I know that wearing pink every day isn’t going to cure anyone, but if anyone out there reads any of these Pink Posts, either on this blog or on Bonggamom Finds, and remembers to schedule a mammogram, I'll be blushing pink with pleasure and pride.

Halloween Treats

One of the things I love best about Halloween is creating themed dishes for my Halloween parties and the kids' class parties. Even something as simple as a marshmallow ghost stuck on top of a pumpkin muffin can make a party seem more festive and special -- as long as it's also nestled in Halloween-themed cupcake liner, of course! Over the years I've made all kinds of Halloween-themed treats, from cupcakes to cookies to sandwiches to brie wheels. Here's a sample of them (hopefully you can get some inspiration for your own Halloween parties!):

Eyeball Cupcakes

A game To Die For

This afternoon after soccer practice we were talking about game injuries when the boys' thoughts turned morbid:

3Po: What would happen if someone died while he was out on the field?

Me: I don't know if that has ever happened, but if it did, I'd imagine they'd stop the game.

Jammy: Nah, they'd just sub him.

Maybe not that morbid after all.

Halloween is finally here!

For the past several years, I've had our house all ready for Halloween by the beginning of the month. Even Alfie's complaints about my Halloween obsession don't deter me from decorating the house, inside and out, with the silly and spooky decor I've amassed over the years. I do try to go easy on the spooky stuff for the first half of the month, using pumpkins and ears of corn instead of skeletons and spiders. Those come out of my Halloween closet around 2 weeks before Halloween night. I try to add a little bit of decor each day, so the kids can come home after school and have fun looking for all the new things on display, and by the time Halloween night rolls around, the house is in its glory.

Maybe I had too much time on my hands.

Because this year, I've been swamped with the kids' school schedules and afterclass schedules and my volunteering schedules and my workout schedule and my blogging schedule and my work schedule and our social schedule.... and my Halloween House has suffered. Horrors!

Enough is enough -- thirteen days into October, I've finally remedied that oversight. The Bongga Household is once again the House of Horrors, thanks to a few strategically placed tombstones, spiders and pumpkins. I'm still not up to my usual standards, and I probably won't be going all out this year. But I'm pretty happy with the way our new Haunted Graveyard turned out:

The kids are definitely happy about it; all year they brag to their friends about our decorations, and as far as they're concerned, it's about time. They've had their costumes picked out for ages and are ready to get into the Halloween spirit.

Speaking of costumes and Halloween spirits, pay close attention to the zombie skeleton peeking out from behind the second tombstone. That's not a decoration -- that's actually 3Po posing for our first Halloween photo.

If it weren't for the red shirt and blue shorts, you wouldn't even realize he isn't part of the decor! Just looking at this photo makes me feel tingly all over -- with anticipation, not horror. My favorite holiday has finally arrived!

31 Days of Pink: Week 1 Update

We're done with the first week of October, and I have to say that wearing something pink every day has been a piece of cake. Pink-frosted cake.

Blogging about it each and every day is another matter altogether. I've posting my daily photo to my 31 Days of Pink photo album, but I've been so busy that I've my daily Pink Post slide. To ease my guilt, I'm giving myself permission to bunch up several of my Pink Photos in one post:

Random Thoughts on my First Week at Work

It has been 7 years since I've been employed. Being a stay-at-home mom has been my job for so long I thought it might always be that way. Not that there's anything wrong with that, otherwise I would never have quit my job in the first place.

But there's no denying that choosing to stay at home to raise your kids, no matter how sensible and noble that decision is, no matter how well you multitask and manage schedules and carpools and find all sorts of fun crafts to do or places to go or classes to take -- it can still end up playing havoc with your self-esteem. Especially when you find yourself underneath the breakfast table, wiping up your husband's and kids' messes while they hurry up proceed with matters of importance. Especially when you think of your two graduate degrees from not-so-insignificant institutions, diplomas rotting somewhere in your attic (or did my parents take them and display them?). When people who know you have them make jokes about how your degrees are going to waste and you counter with all the anecdotes of how difficult being a mom is, and they agree with you (I don't know how you do it!) and you laugh with them, haha, but it kind of rankles. When you think of your daughter looking to you as a role model. When you want to tell her that you are an intelligent individual who is so much more than carpools and laundry.

So I blogged out my frustrations. Blogging about my thoughts and feelings and experiences might seem narcissistic, but it's darn therapeutic, and it made me feel good. Coming up with things to say was easy, but making them interesting to read was challenging. I was exercising my brain. I met a whole community of bloggers, and began connecting with adults who had something in common with me. I was doing something. A few people were even listening and enjoying what I had to say. I was happy.

Then, by some miracle, people started compensating me to blog; only a fraction of my blogging, and not for much. Just enough to buy a nice meal at a restaurant for the family now and them, or pay for a babysitter, or help cover the cost of my kids' afterschool classes. It hasn't been what I'd call a job (I've been telling people I do a bit of freelance work, or that I have a "wobby", i.e. work + hobby). But that little bit of extra money was great. Even better was the thought that I could contribute financially, even a little, and the self-confidence boost to remember Yes, I'm so much more than carpools and laundry. Best of all was the feeling of Oh My God, people are giving me money to do something I'd do for free!

And now one of those gigs has turned into a regular, part-time job. One with a salary and a set number of hours per week. I've had to fill in direct deposit forms, employer agreements and W-9 forms. I'm actually going to receive a W-2 at the end of the year. And even though my income is a fraction of Alfie's, the dollar figure beside my name is actually going to be higher than the cost of The Pea's dance lessons.

Today I filled in a survey, and for the first time ever, I felt comfortable skipping the "Stay at home parent" option and selection "Work part-time". But being a mom will always be part of my job description, so when someone asks me "What do you do?", I will say:

I'm a mom who works part-time.

How do I feel about it?

I'm happy, excited and fulfilled. A bit overwhelmed, but eager to keep going. And very, very grateful to Alfie for insisting I never do myself the disservice of settling for a job that I wouldn't love, just for the money.

But that's all the time I'm going to take for deep reflections, because I'm too busy.

31 Days of Pink

This weekend I walked 60 miles in 3 Days at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. Energizer invited me to be their Keep Going Blogger for the San Francisco event, and I agreed because I thought it would be a great opportunity to raise awareness through my blog. I walked to honor my aunt, who is a breast cancer survivor. I walked to honor my grandmother, who survived breast cancer before she passed away. I walked to honor my grandmother's sisters and their daughters, who have all had breast cancer. I walked in memory of a high school friend, who passed away from breast cancer when she was only in her twenties. And I walked in the hope that my daughter, The Pea, will never have to worry about getting breast cancer, ever.

After walking 60 miles, I walked away thinking it wasn't enough. I can donate money to the cause, and I have -- but I'm not rich, I can't donate thousands of dollars. My friends and family aren't rich either, so I can only ask them to donate so much. But I have time, I have a voice, and I have a blog, and I can use all of those to raise awareness of this killer disease. Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, now is a good time to start.

I'm not sharing my bra color, but I've added a pink ribbon to remind my Facebook friends that it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I've done the same to my Twitter profile.

Think all this virtual pinkification is nothing but show? Think again -- for each person who updates their pink ribbon status on Shine, Yahoo! will donate $1 (up to $50,000) to National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) to provide free mammograms to uninsured women.

And while we're on the subject, I know that not everyone loves all this pink. Some say it's just a way for people to jump on the cause bandwagon. Some say it's too commercialized. I think the response of Susan G. Komen founder, Nancy Brinker, says it all:

When people say there is too much pink, I say there is not nearly enough pink. Without the red AIDS ribbon, we wouldn't have anti-retroviral treatments. We wouldn't have a cure for polio without the March of Dimes.

Please don't tell me we have too much pink, when every 69 seconds a woman is dying of breast cancer in the world. Pink doesn't just mean having a celebration; it shows the power of a grass-roots organization.

We have 2.5 million breast cancer survivors alive today. There isn't nearly enough pink. Get ready for a whole lot more.

In that spirit, I've decided to wear something pink each and every day of Breast Cancer Awareness month. I've asked The Pea to do it with me, and she's eager to participate (since half of her shirts are pink, she'll have an easy time).

Pink for Day 1, 2 and 3 of October was easy, since I was walking the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. I wore a pink shirt, socks, and shoes each day, but I was far from the pinkest person there. In fact, anyone who didn't wear pink was the odd man out!

I didn't take a photo of my pink (under)garment for Day 4, but it's probably not something you're interested in seeing anyway.

Here's my slice of Pink for Day 5. Okay, maybe I am sharing my bra color.

I may not get around to posting my Pink Photo every day on this blog, but I'll be uploading each day's photo to my 31 Days of Pink Photo Album on Picasa. I've since found out that some high-profile bloggers such as Mom Generations, Mommies with Style, Classy Mommy , Just Precious, and Lady and the Blog are also wearing something pink throughout October (great minds think alike, and all that), so stop by their blogs and give them some pink love. If you're doing anything on your blog to help raise awareness for breast cancer this month, leave a comment; I'd love to stop by your blog and leave a comment to cheer on your efforts.

Blogosphere, get ready to see the world through rose-colored glasses!

Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, Day 3 -- The End. Or is it The Beginning?

My leg muscles ache, even the ones I didn't know I had. My right knee is swollen. My toenails feel like they're all going to fall off. My feet feel like they've grown 2 sizes and my right heel is in shreds. But I'm still on an emotional high from finishing the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, and walking every single one of those 60 miles. It's going to take some time for me to process all of my photos and experiences and feelings from the weekend, so I'll probably have to do a few more 3-Day posts.

For now, let me close my weekend of live blogging (well, semi-live; since we weren't allowed to use phones on the course, the best I could do was sneak a Tweet or Facebook posting at pit stops, or on street corners when the event staff weren't looking) with a few thoughts on my experiences over the 3 days:

Desires I had to suppress and control:
Day 1: The urge to break out into a run.
Day 2: The urge to hitch a ride on one of the sweep vans.
Day 3: The urge to lie down on the sidewalk and never get back up.

My porta-potty protocol:
Day 1: Expertly squatted over the toilet seat.
Day 2: Lined the toilet seat with paper and sat on the seat.
Day 3: Plopped my bottom on the unlined seat and leaned back, too tired to care.

The best pick-me-up food
Day 1: Frozen peanut-butter-and-graham-cracker sandwiches and chocolate eclairs
Day 2: The eggs and sausages we had for breakfast... and chocolate eclairs
Day 3: You guessed it... chocolate eclairs! (Safeway, you sneaky people, you knew that by feeding me chocolate eclairs during the walk you would turn me into a hopeless addict)

The best views
Day 1: The Pacific Ocean:
Day 2: The Golden Gate Bridge

Feelings I experienced:
Day 1: excitement, nervousness
Day 2: exhaustion
Day 3: Pride upon finishing, gratitude towards the 3-Day Crew, humility at the extreme courage of breast cancer survivors everywhere.... and determination to Keep Going, long after the walk has ended.

And before I collapse on my bed, I have a few last things to say:

To my fellow walkers: Congratulations, we did it!
To the San Francisco 3-Day crew: I couldn't have done it without you!
To the people who cheered: Ditto!
To the people who sent me words of encouragement and support via twitter, Facebook and this blog: Double ditto!
To walkers for the remaining 3-Day events in 2010: Good luck!
To would-be-walkers who are nervous or unsure about signing up: You can do it!
To Energizer: Thanks for your sponsorship!
To the Susan G. Komen Foundation: Keep Going and please find a cure!
To myself: I give you permission to drive, not walk, the kids to school tomorrow.

Check out my Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure Flickr Photo Set for more photos of Day 1, 2 and 3.

Energizer sponsored my participation fee and fundraising requirement for this event, but I would love to be able to raise more for breast cancer. Please help me reach my goal of $1000! Any amount helps and is greatly appreciated. You can click on the widget below to donate to the Susan G. Komen foundation.

Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen San Francisco Bay      Area 3-Day for the Cure!

Great Mammaries from Day 2 of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure

End of Day 2

Don't let the smile on my face fool you. I won't lie to you, Day 2 of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in San Francisco was, um, how shall I put it?


The day started out cold and foggy, which is NOT what you want when you're walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. Still, looking down into the San Francisco Bay and seeing a dolphin weave its way in and out of the water kind of made up for it. So did walking through the charming town of Sausalito. I felt fine until mile 15, when my legs really started aching, and despite a great massage at the Energizer tent, they still haven't recovered from today's walk.

I'm still optimistic that a good night's rest (and more ibuprofen) will get me through Day 3, but I'm going to take it Very. Very. Slow. I will make sure I stretch and hydrate at each and every stop, and rest as long as I need to. I may even hitch a ride on one of the sweeper vans (not because I need to, oh no, only because I'm blogging the event and I have a journalistic interest in how the sweeper vans pick up walkers who can't go on, which doesn't include me.... does it??). Anyway, who cares if I'm the very last person to finish? I'm the Energizer Keep Going Blogger, and I need to keep going.

Instead of focusing on my aching calves and quads and hamstrings, I'd rather focus on the people who made the day more enjoyable -- the cheering squads and crew members along the route. It's amazing what an energy boost one gets from seeing so many people out there to support you!

This trio showed up at various locations throughout the day, no less than SIX times. By the end of it I felt like we were fast friends.

2010-10-02 08.50.02
These hotties had the funniest slogans on their posters. I know they were probably there to support their girlfriends but when you're delirious with exhaustion and pain it's easy to convince yourself that they're there for you.

Coast Guard
The Coast Guard showed up all dressed up in pink, just for me and my friend Robin (delirium can be a fun thing, you know).

Hookers for Hooters
The Hookers for Hooters are an absolute hoot! Their madam is a 2-time breast cancer survivor, and every year this group comes out on each of the 3 days to cheer people on.

See, I knew this event would be challenging. I knew it would be meaningful. I knew it would be fulfilling. But I had no idea it would be this HILARIOUS, or so much FUN! Just the thought of running (okay, walking) into people like these is enough to make me get up tomorrow and Keep Going for Day 3!

Check out my Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure Flickr Photo Set for more photos of Day 1 and 2! You can keep track of my progress tomorrow via Twitter and Facebook, and I'll be posting my Day 3 thoughts at the end of the day. Wish me a good night's rest, pain-free knees and a great Day 3, and I'll see you at the Finish Line!

Energizer is sponsoring my participation fee and fundraising requirement for this event, but I would love to be able to raise more for breast cancer. Please help me reach my goal of $1000! Any amount helps and is greatly appreciated. You can click on the widget below to donate to the Susan G. Komen foundation.

Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen San Francisco Bay      Area 3-Day for the Cure!

The Breast Day Ever -- Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, Day 1

The3Day1 (81)

Day 1 of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in San Francisco is over, and I'm feeling tired, achy, and more than a little proud of myself. I actually walked 20 miles today! I don't know if it was my training, or the adrenaline, or the music blaring from the boomboxes strapped on the bikes of the policemen who were patrolling the route, or the wonderful volunteers and crew members and families who were cheering us on, or the stories of the walkers I talked to, or the beautiful San Francisco scenery, but somehow I found the energy to keep going. Maybe it was a little of everything.

Physically, I'm still amazed I didn't have to flag a sweep van and ask them to drive me to camp. I certainly felt like doing it at one point, but fortunately I got my second (or was it third? or fourth?) wind when I saw the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. I was actually pleasantly surprised that I had no problem whatsoever on San Francisco's notorious hills; whereas others were huffing and puffing, I tackled those babies easily. It's a good thing the town where Alfie's parents live in (and where we stayed for 4 weeks in the summer) is so hilly!

Walking for Udders
Mentally, I felt even stronger. Since I'm not walking with a group, I thought I would be spending the whole day wrapped in my own thoughts, but there's something about this event that turns perfect strangers into best -- I mean breast -- friends. I'm not the most social person in the world, but I had no trouble at all approaching my fellow walkers and saying hello. I met and spoke with so many great people along the way, each with his or her own story. Here are some of them:

* A team walking in honor of a husband and wife who both lost a battle with breast cancer;
* A crew member who is helping out at 4 of the 15 Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure events in 2010 (he's on his 22nd over a period of 10 years);
* A man who is walking each and every one of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure events in 2010;
* Two two-time breast cancer survivors;
* A woman who dyed her hair pink when she raised all her money;
* A man who lost his wife to breast cancer last November;

I even met several people who do not personally know anyone who is fighting or has fought breast cancer, and are walking simply because they are passionate about the cause! The Keep Going Spirit was strong throughout the walk; you could see it in the bunny ears the people were wearing, the boomboxes that people hung on their necks to give everyone some music, the fun outfits and accessories that people were wearing, the hilarious themed sweep vans that patrolled the walk, even the cars we passed that honked and tooted in support.

The3Day1 (14)

Now that I've done Day 1, I feel a lot better about myself -- although I have no idea how I'll feel when I wake up tomorrow and do my second 20-mile leg. Let's hope I've soaked in enough of that Keep Going spirit to keep going!

Check out my Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure Flickr Photo Set for more photos of Day 1! You can keep track of my progress tomorrow via Twitter and Facebook, and I'll be posting my Day 2 thoughts at the end of the day. Wish me a good night's rest, pain-free knees and a great Day 2, and I'll see you at the Finish Line!

Energizer is sponsoring my participation fee and fundraising requirement for this event, but I would love to be able to raise more for breast cancer. Please help me reach my goal of $1000! Any amount helps and is greatly appreciated. You can click on the widget below to donate to the Susan G. Komen foundation.

Help me reach my goal for the Susan G. Komen San Francisco Bay      Area 3-Day for the Cure!

Weekend Mornings

Right now I'm camping out somewhere in San Francisco with the other participants of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. It started this morning, and we've already walked 20 miles. Which sounds like a huge accomplishment, and it is, but we still have 40 miles to go, spread out over 2 days. My body is bone tired and I'm really looking forward to going to bed! I'm hoping we get a good breakfast tomorrow morning so I can find the energy to keep walking. I'm dreaming of yummy breakfast food....

.... sliced fresh strawberries swirled into vanilla yogurt, sprinkled with cinnamon and granola.....

..... banana oatmeal bread, smeared with butter and jam.......


Click here to see what else we like to eat on weekend mornings -- and enter to win a $100 Visa gift card!