Are you smarter than a raccoon?

Even though we don't have pets, I like to think that we're animal friendly.  We've planted all kinds of butterfly and hummingbird-friendly plants in the back yard, and the kids love it when neighborhood cats wander inside.  We even welcome nocturnal visitors; we've had raccoons humping in our back yard (I even have the photos somewhere, but out of respect to the raccoons, I'm not posting them. Hey, they're raccoons, not Paris Hilton), and Alfie swears he saw a wild pig in our back yard one night.

What's in your iPad?

I don't consider myself a material girl, and I didn't get into blogging for the free stuff, but I must admit, I was pretty excited to receive an iPad to test the upcoming Monsterology app (thanks, Nukotoys!).  Coincidentally, it arrived on my birthday, so it made a nice birthday present, and we are now the proud owners of an iPad (yes, two years after it first came out, but better late than never).  The kids wanted download a ton of apps, but I told them I wasn't flooding this iPad with all kinds of junk, so we've been very discriminating about what we download.  We've had the iPad for over a week now, and I just downloaded our 25th app last night!  Here's what we have so far:

Whatever happened to my Forty before Forty List

One year ago, I realized that I'd be turning forty, so made up a list of 40 things I wanted to do before I reached that all-important milestone. Here's an update of how I've done:

Drunken College Students, cavewomen and 40 other things I saw at Bay to Breakers

It seems like people who turn forty always want to prove that they're no older or more decrepit than they were at 39 -- in fact they want to prove to the world that they're fitter, hotter, wilder, than they were the year before.  I guess I'm no exception, because I signed up for the 2012 Bay to Breakers determined to improve on last year's finish time.  But as always, I slacked off on training in the months leading up to the race and decided to walk the race instead -- and as always, ended up running it anyway.  The good news is that I managed to shave off a couple of minutes from my finish time  (1:18:51, down from 1:21:31 last year), even though I literally stopped dead in my tracks for 2 or 3 minutes to primp and groom myself before the race photographers started taking photos (I needed proof that that I was fitter and hotter than last year).

So this is what forty looks like

Way back in the old, old days, turning forty was literally the end of your world; if you hadn't succumbed to disease or childbirth or wars or starvation or complete and utter exhaustion yet, you would soon.  In our grandparents and parents day, turning forty was the end of your world, for a different reason.  At forty, you crossed into old age and became a washed working woman, a faded out housewife or a dried up old maid. Whatever your situation, you were definitely headed towards high-necked blouses and sensible heels, gentle walks or swim aerobics.  Not that any of those aren't enjoyable; the hard part was automatically being slotted into a bracket and expected to "act your age". 

To Run or Not to Run: Bay to Breakers 2007

Bonggamom's note:  This is an old post I wrote for Silicon Valley Moms in 2007.  I'm reposting it here to celebrate Bay to Breaker's 101st race.

I survived Sunday's Bay to Breakers race. Even more amazing, I ran and survived it. Despite various medical setbacks and general laziness, I managed to get my body back into shape for the 7.46 mile run. But was it worth it? Today my body is aching, my toenails are falling off..... why did I bother to push myself? There's something to be said for hanging out near the back of the pack and walking it like I did last year. For anyone thinking of doing it next year, here's my post-race analysis of the pros and cons of walking versus running:

Partying in the Streets of San Francisco: Bay to Breakers 2006

Bonggamom's note: this is an old post I wrote for the Silicon Valley Moms in 2006.  I'm reposting it here to celebrate the 101st Bay to Breakers race, held yesterday in San Francisco.

Yesterday was the 2006 Bay to Breakers race. B2B is the longest consecutively running footrace in the world, a San Francisco tradition. Every year, about 80,000 people walk/run/party the 12k (7.46 mile) course. Many are in costume and many wear nothing whatsoever. This is my 4th B2B; the last time I ran was in 2002. 2003 passed by (too busy), then 2004 (too exhausted) and 2005 (too disorganized). By 2006 I had run out of excuses, so I recruited my friend and avid racewalker, the Divine Ms. B. Since we walked most of the course instead of running it like I had in previous years, I had plenty of time to relax, observe, and really enjoy what was going on around me:

Seven Days of Dinner, May 14-20

Last week I participated in a virtual potluck hosted by my friend Gina, author of the Taste This! series of cookbooks.  All the participating bloggers chose a recipe from Gina's second book, Taste This! The Delicious Sequel, and shared it on their blogs.  I choose two appetizer dishes -- a black olive tapenade and a gorgonzola cheese ball -- that were so delicious, we paired it with roasted red tomatoes and hot, crusty french bread and made a meal out of it.  Two meals, actually!

All about mothers, according to 8 year-olds

No one knows mothers like their children, and no one can articulate just what makes moms great, quite like an eight year-old can.  For Mother's Day, Jammy's teacher asked everyone in class a set of questions about their moms, and compiled the best answers.  Their responses are some of the most candid, witty and touching I've ever had the privilege of reading, and I had to share them with everyone.  Don't be surprised if you see yourself in their answers below -- yes, you are allowed to smile!

A taste of summer: berry cocktails

I've never been a big alcohol drinker.  I like to say it makes me the perfect date and perfect party companion, because I don't like expensive drinks and you can always count on me as the designated driver.  It's not that I think alcohol is the devil's work or anything, I'm just not overly fond of the taste of alcohol. I find beer too sour, wine too strong and spirits too bitter, but I occasionally enjoy white wine or dessert wine, and I'll happily down sangria and most fruity cocktail drinks.  This berry cocktail, served at the McDonald's Taste of Summer event I attended last week, was tailor-made for me.

Summer Reading Programs 2012

Summer vacation begins in just over four weeks, and with all the craziness in school right now, it can't come soon enough for me.  I can already visualize that first week of summer vacation -- I'm going to let myself the kids sleep in for as long as I they want, and stay in pajamas the whole morning. Hair brushing will be optional!  Everyone gets unlimited screen time (TV/videogames/computer), and I won't nag anyone to practice piano or flute.

Like I said, just one week of this is allowed, then it's time to act like intelligent human beings again and stick to some kind of routine. The hair has to be brushed, the beds have to get made, their screen time goes back to 1 hour per day (okay, maybe 2 in the summer), and they have to earn it by reading books.

Fortunately, my kids don't need to be forced to read, but every summer the kids like joining the summer reading program at our local children's library.  They offer free books and a free personal Round Table Pizza when a child turns in his completed summer reading list.  If your local library doesn't offer one, don't despair.  Here's a list of stores and websites that offer free summer reading programs to keep your child reading all through the summer (and beyond!):

Arguments against legal same-sex marriage (and why they're nonsense)

Finally, President Obama has taken a stand and voiced his support for gay marriage.  No, not gay marriage, just marriage -- marriage for everyone, regardless of race, religion, economic status, or sexual orientation.

I've long been an advocate for marriage for all, despite my Catholic upbringing. And no matter what your religious beliefs are, I'm hoping you'll agree that the law should allow any two consenting adults to wed.  If you keep in mind that we're talking about marriage as a legal contract, I don't see any arguments against it!  Here are all the usual reasons people oppose same-sex marriage -- and why I don't think they matter:

Taste This! Sunday Potluck

Who doesn't love a potluck party?  You get to try a smorgasbord of awesomely yummy food without the hassle of preparing all of it.  So when my friend Gina suggested getting together with a group of friends for a supper potluck based on her latest cookbook, Taste This: The Delicious Sequel, I told her, count me in.  There was just one tiny detail -- we all live in different states.  So we did the next-best thing:  hosted a virtual potluck, with each person cooking and sharing her dish online.

Dress your berry best

Summer is here, and along with it comes all kinds of yummy summer fruit like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries.  Is it any wonder that berry shades are so in vogue for summer?  Last week I met Today fashion stylist Bobbie Thomas at a blog event, where she was giving tips to attendees on how to make the most of this season's hottest colors that work from season to season, and look great on women of all shapes and sizes.  Here are 3 pieces of advice I loved:

A taste of summer: Currant, Cilantro & Almond Barley

I love going to blog events, but I can't help but spare a guilty thought for the family I leave behind.  I get to fly somewhere nice, eat great food, meet great people and learn interesting things, while Alfie has to be a single parent, juggling work and afterschool schedules, and the kids have to eat the so-so-school lunch and get farmed off to playdates whether they like it or not.  Having just arrived from a great two days of food at fun at the McDonald's Taste of Summer Event, the least I could do was cook a kickass-awesome meal for them.

A taste of summer: berry salad

Earlier this week I was invited to the launch of McDonald's latest dishes, the Cherry Berry Chiller and Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal.  Since they're both berry inspired, McDonald's celebrated with a berry-themed dinner party at The Culinary Loft in downtown Manhattan.  Chef Dave Martin (of Top Chef fame) and his team created a wonderful menu featuring berries in each and every dish.  I loved his Summer Watermelon Salad so much that I couldn't even wait a day after arriving back home to recreate this dish and serve it to Alfie and the kids.  After all, I got two days of food and fun in Manhattan while they had soccer practice and pasta -- it was the least I could do.

Listen to your mother!

I have always been fascinated by Vanessa Williams. I first heard of her existence when she was crowned the first black Miss America, and was subsequently stripped of her title after the Penthouse photos came out. I was eleven at the time, and I took the view that any sheltered, self-righteous Catholic schoolgirl would -- serves her right, what a hussy! I was amazed that she rose out of the ashes of that scandal and forged a successful singing and acting career.

 As I grew up and as my own views of the world changed, so did my opinion of Vanessa Williams. If the Penthouse scandal were happening to her today, I would throw my full support behind her. These days, people can't wait to bare it all, make sex tapes, even dress their four year olds in prostitute clothing for the sake of a beauty title! I think Vanessa Williams is an amazing woman (and the only person I can imaging playing Willie Slater) who got a bad rap when she was younger, and I admire her for putting it all behind her and moving on.

Giving Old Shoes a New Life

I don't think I ever ruined a piece of clothing throughout my childhood. Sure, I ripped a hem or two, and stained a few shirts with permanent markers or paint.  But for the most part, I outgrew my clothes before I wore them out.   I never, ever subjected them to the kind of abuse that 3Po and Jammy rain on their trousers and shoes every single day.   Maybe I had a bigger pool of clothes to draw from and alternate.  Maybe clothes and shoes were sturdier back then.  I guess I wasn't as active as they are.  And I'm sure I didn't go around sliding on my knees and elbows in the mud and grass and concrete. So I never ended up with shoes that are literally peeling from their soles.  It took 3Po just one month to get his shoes in that state, people.  ONE MONTH.