Another non-traditional Thanksgiving

Ever since my sister and her sister-in-law moved out of the Bay Area, we've found ourselves without family to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Since Thanksgiving has never been a tradition for either Alfie or me, it hasn't been a huge loss, and we've managed to find fun, non-traditional ways to celebrate the holiday with the kids.  This year, with just the five of us, cooking a huge turkey seemed like too much of an effort, so we headed to Boston Market like we usually do when we celebrate Thanksgiving on our own (like I said, it's not a solemn occasion for us!).  Alas, the Boston Market near us had closed down (I guess we missed the closure because last year we spent Thanksgiving in Reno), so we ended up having lunch at Starbucks (the only restaurant we could find that was open on Thanksgiving that didn't require a reservation or hundreds of dollars).  And since the Starbucks was right beside a movie theater, instead of watching a football game, we watched Catching Fire.

If you're starting to feel a bit sorry for us, don't.  We had a wonderful time.  We even had our extravagant feast --we just had it the night before, on Thanksgiving Eve, at a Filipino restaurant that was hosting a benefit dinner for Typhoon Haiyan victims.  Instead of roast turkey, we had roast suckling pig (lechon).  And stuffed chicken.  And pork. And dozens of other amazing Filipino dishes.  What better way to celebrate family, togetherness, and giving than by feasting on foods from my homeland -- and knowing that the proceeds from the dinner were going to benefit the people of my homeland?

Besides, we ended up having turkey on Thanksgiving after all.  It wasn't quite the turkey that most other families were enjoying -- ours was made of ice cream and cake, and we had it for dessert.

I think we're going to make this non-traditional Thanksgiving a tradition!

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Wild nights: kissing and telling in the age of Facebook and social media

champagne tasting party

As a blogger, my life is pretty much an open book.  But there are times when my sense of discretion overrides my desire to tell a good story.   For instance, let's say that a blogger friend of mine went to a cocktail party thrown by some fellow PTA moms.  Let's suppose that it was a ladies-only cocktail party, with champagne and desserts.  Let's further suppose that there was an additional item on the dessert menu -- man candy, in the form of attractive, well-muscled bodybuilders serving drinks.

Theoretically, the aforementioned blogger would waste no time whipping out her camera and snapping photo after photo of these divinely muscled hunks, right?  And who could blame the aforementioned blogger and her friends for wanting to pose with aforementioned hunks?  With all that champagne coursing through everyone's body, one can imagine that most of the moms would be more than happy to let go of their inhibitions and enjoy a night of slightly naughty, but harmless fun.  Everyone would have a great time, and it would quickly become known as the Best Party Ever.

But what would happen the morning after?  Naturally, my blogger friend would never embarrass her friends by posting any of the photos she took that night.  In fact, she'd probably send all photos to her friends (along with a promise never to let the photos see the light of Facebook) and delete them from her own phone.  No, the issue my blogger friend would have would be what to do with her own photos.  Should she blog about them or post them on Instagram as she does with practically every event in her life?

I can totally relate with this hypothetical situation.  Alfie says that I look at every event in my life as blog fodder, every photo as an opportunity to post to social media, and I suppose there's some truth to that.  But the events I share are usually have to do with Bonggamom the mom, or Bonggamom the wife.  Rarely do I write about Bonggamom the woman -- which is ironic, since "Finding Bonggamom" is about rediscovering my identity as an individual.  But if there's one thing I've learned since starting this blog, it's that being a mom is a part of who I am, and I couldn't let it go even if I wanted to.  And as a mom, I wonder if photos of me with a shirtless hunk on Instagram (if they existed -- we're talking about a friend, remember) might embarrass my kids, make me look like some kind of cougar so desperate to recapture her youth that she just had to tweet and Facebook the moment she got within 2 feet of an amazing male chest.  No matter how amazing that chest was.

I would struggle with my decision, go back and forth with my finger hovering on the Post to Facebook button, long after the champagne giddiness and euphoria had ended.  But in the end, I would probably choose to keep the photos on my hard drive, and decline to share them with the world -- even the most innocent photos where the guy had his shirt on.  Even though I'd love to share my story of how, just for a night, I ditched my boring old PTA mom image, I'd keep the details of this slightly amusing story to myself (and Alfie, of course -- we have no secrets).  It's not the kind of thing my daughter would want floating around the internet when she becomes President of the United States or wins a Nobel Prize.

Fortunately, I don't have to face any such dilemma, because all of it happened to a friend, not to me, and it's all theoretical.  At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Disneyland Resort

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Although Halloween is my favorite time at the Disneyland Resort, the winter holidays do give it quite a run for first place! I love how Disney goes all out with the decor for every holiday; it's' sort of how I would decorate my own house if I had a million-dollar budget and lots of cast members to help me :)  Every area is festooned with holiday decor, but not just any old garland, mind you:  every piece of decor is reflects the themes and the character of the land it decorates.  Here are some of my favorite areas:

American Girl San Francisco: Opening Weekend recap

It was a big weekend for American Girl!  Their 16th store, American Girl San Francisco, held their Grand Opening Ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday, with a ribbon cutting, free gifts, crafts, entertainment, and fun perks throughout the mall.  The Pea and I were at the Stanford Shopping Center all weekend to join in the celebrations, and we had a great time!  Here's a recap of events:

How to take good holiday photos without a professional photographer

Last year I had all our holiday cards printed and ready by the end of October.  This year, the time flew by, and ten days ago I hadn't even decided on a holiday card photo.  We like to splurge on gorgeous professional family photos every few years, but we didn't have the budget for it this year.  So I decided to take the photos of the kids myself.

Now, I'm a mediocre photographer at best: even with the best equipment in the world, I could never take photos like the professionals do. I did use a DSLR, but, it's the lowest of the Canon models (an EOS Rebel T3), it's 5 years old, and I used the kit lens that the camera came with (the one that all the photography blogs say to throw away because it sucks so badly).  To make matters worse, after a month of my badgering to pose for photos for our Disneyland visit, road trip, and various other product reviews, the kids had reached the end of their posing patience.  I had mid-quality equipment, low-level talent and little to no time... but somehow I ended up with gorgeous photos!  Here are some tips I came up with to help other DIY photographers achieve the same:

Inside the American Girl Store at Stanford Shopping Center

American Girl San Francisco

The wait is finally over!  American Girl's 16th store -- American Girl San Francisco -- is now open!   I've been so excited since I first discovered the big news in March -- but the truth is, I've been waiting a lot longer than that.  I've been waiting since 2008, when I first fell in love with American Girl.  Over the years, I've visited the stores in other locations -- New York, LA, Chicago -- and always wondered why San Francisco didn't have its own store.  Columbus, Kansas City, Minneapolis... no offense to those cities, but why them and not San Francisco???  Now that the injustice has been corrected, I can rest easy :)

How Typhoon Haiyan affects us

Philippines Typhoon Haiyan Appeal
photo credit: CAFOD on Flickr

In the Philippines, typhoons are a way of life.  Every June, classes started.  Every June, the rains came.  Every June, my classmates and I would start hoping for typhoons.  We were too young to understand the implications.  Rain just meant relief from the scorching summer heat (frankly, I don't know any Filipino who doesn't love hearing the sound of raindrops falling on the roof, and every kid I know loved standing outside and taking a shower in the rain).  Rain meant the chance to skip school.  Midwestern US schoolchildren have their snow days, Manila schoolchildren have Typhoon Signal #2.  Signal #1 was always met with groans because we still had to go to school (and possibly had to face some flooding along the way).  Signal #2 was great, because we got to stay home for the day.  Signal #3 was even better because it meant school would be out for several days.  Like I said, we were just kids.

LA or bust: traveling on I-5 with the kids (and no husband)

Bonggamom and kids test drive the Kia Sorento

Last month's road trip to Disneyland was a trip of many firsts: our first time attending Mickey's Halloween party, our first time in a Kia Sorento, the first time the kids have been to Disneyland without Alfie... and the first time i've driven with the kids to LA without Alfie.  He had tickets to a motorcycle race in Laguna Seca which he didn't want to miss, but when Mickey Mouse invites me to a party, I don't say no.  I'm wasn't about to let 400 miles get between me and the Happiest Place on Earth! So I drove all by myself.

I've driven the Bay Area-LA trip the whole way before, but I did have my mom with me as a backup driver.  Much as the boys would have loved to drive the Kia Sorento, and even though The Pea is big enough to sit in the front seat and act as my navigator, I was essentially alone.  So I planned our road trip like I was planning a military campaign:  thoroughly and obsessively.

Halloween, the day after (2013)

Where did the time go?  Halloween 2013 was the busiest season ever.  Between PTA duties and conferences and parties and playdates and home remodeling and doctor visits and soccer tournaments and dance rehearsals, I could barely catch my breath, let alone blog about it.   So I've combined all my October blog posts into one giant, supersized, mega recap post!   Here's what went on in the Bongga family last month: