Water wise

With recent talks of stage 4 water restrictions being introduced by May 1 if the rains still don’t come, everyone is being encouraged to save water as much as they can. Australia, being a dry country in the grip of a drought, has a need for some good drenching (preferably soon).

We’ve been trying our best to do our bit by conserving water at home and had stopped watering the lawns way before the stage 3 restrictions (all lawns cannot be watered during stage 3 restrictions). What used to be green lawn in our backyard is now nothing more than brown, parched soil with patches of green, very resilient weeds. Most of our plants only get watered during the assigned days (Wednesdays and Sundays for us) and mostly with just greywater saved from the shower/bath. I also tried to harvest the waste water from the washing machine last weekend so that our plants would have more water to drink but that didn’t go well. How was I supposed to know that the hose had to be a certain height for it to empty the water from the machine?! Oh well, better luck next time then.

We’ve also tried taking shorter showers, with hubby having more success in this area than I do although I’ve also improved a bit. We also haven’t had our car washed in ages – hubby calls the current state of (un)cleanliness of our car a “badge of honour”. Aside from having the windscreen cleaned whenever we’re at the petrol station, we don’t really mind the dirt anyway. We’ve also long figured out that sweeping paved areas with a dry brush is both good exercise and quite effective.

We got our water bill last week and was pleasantly surprised that our household water use has continued to fall and way below the average water usage for a couple. Apart from lower water rates, it’s good to know that we’re doing our bit in conserving our precious water in whatever little way we can.

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Published in: on March 16, 2007 at 12:58 pm  Comments (4)  

What’s Cooking, Doc?

I promise that I’ll be writing about our trip home to the Philippines soon. Meanwhile, Raquel and I decided to try something different. That is, instead of her doing the cooking and me doing the cleanup after meals, I’ll take a stab at doing the cooking chores. And I admit that I’m actually liking this new arrangement. I always wanted to do something constructive and creative which I sort of get when I cooked.

Being a complete beginner, I made mistakes, I found it difficult to estimate the amount of seasoning needed in the dish I’m preparing and I prepare the food real slowly (to Raquel’s consternation). However, I’m very confident that, in time, my proficiency at cooking would improve.

As the new resident cook, I took the opprotunity to cook dishes that I love. To date, I’ve done the following dishes: Picadillo (with additional shredded cabbage), Beef Stroganoff, Chicken and Sundried Tomato Pasta Bake (with the help of a prepackaged pasta sauce), Chicken Longganisa and a batch of fudge cookies (see photo).

Up next this week is Bistek Pilipino (Filipino-style Beef Steak) followed by another variant of the pasta bake. I’ll try something with more vegetables next week though. I didn’t realise that most of the dishes I’ve done (and will do) don’t have much in terms of veggies.

Published in: on January 28, 2007 at 11:17 pm  Comments (3)  

Cheaper by twos

Shops sometimes runs promotions where they give additional discounts to customers if they buy more. Usually, the product would have a different price when you by it individually than if you buy it by pairs, for example. Although both stores promote buying by pairs, there’s a difference in how they price their products.

The one on the left lists a lower price if you buy two of the same brand of chocolate milk (2 for $4) but does not seem to give a discount for buying just one ($2.78). On the other hand, the one on the right lists a savings of 48c for each bottle of juice a customer buys but just as prominently prints the price for buying two of the same product (2 for $5). Although both ads are encouraging the customer to buy two at once, the one on the left gives you a discount only if you buy by pairs while the one on the right gives a discount anyway regardless of the customer buying one or two. Which begs the question, why would the one on the right even put in a price for buying two when there’s no real benefit to the customer anyway? Pffttt, these marketing ploys could be so tiresome sometimes.

Can you guess by the colours used in the ad which store is which? Click on the photos above to find out if you guessed correctly.

Published in: on September 26, 2006 at 7:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Specials?

Spot the difference between the price labels in these three pictures. I’ve snapped these photos at a local grocery last week. Notice that the label in the first one marks this product as being on specials and lists the promotional price, the regular price and the amount of savings you get if you buy this product now. That’s all well and good but right next to it on the shelf is the product on the second photo, which if you don’t look closely, you’d think is on specials too. Not so, as this is the regular price for the product, hence the wording “Everyday low price”. What it does is grab your attention, make you think that it’s on specials and perhaps get you to buy half a dozen of it.

If you have bought this product before and liked it, then chances are you’d consume it soon and perhaps fall for the same marketing strategy again next time you’re in the grocery. On the other hand, if you haven’t tried the product before and just grabbed some to try thinking erroneously that it’s on specials anyway, chances are it’ll sit in your pantry for weeks on end until it’s past its best before date. Trust me, I know. I recently cleaned out our pantry and found oats, rice meals and cereals that were bought with the intention of trying them out, having them pushed to the back of the pantry and forgetting all about them. Such a waste of food and money.

Going back to those supermarket labels, I was after some food containers to help me organise the aforementioned black hole of a pantry when I came upon the label on the last photo. I don’t know what to make of it – it’s marked as special but there is no indication of the regular, discounted and the difference between the two prices is. I suspect it’s another sneaky marketing ploy. I seriously considered buying the containers at a different store just to spite the grocery marketers. In the end though, it didn’t matter as I’ve already gone to the other stores and could only find the sizes I want in the grocery so I bought them anyway.

Published in: on September 18, 2006 at 12:23 pm  Comments (2)  

Count us in

We found a yellow card in our letterbox last night, informing us that a census officer has come and gone. A TV commercial featuring Ernie Dingo about the upcoming census has been running for a couple of weeks now so we weren’t really surprised to know that the forms are now being distributed. The card informed us that our census pack is under the mat and that it would be collected after the 9th. The pack consisted of the form itself with the form number filled in, a guide on how to correctly fill out the form and an envelope that contains a unique eCensus Number (something like a PIN), which we could use if we opt to fill out the form online.

I love the idea that we could complete the census form online, get a receipt number when we’re done and the collection officer assigned to us would be informed that he/she won’t have to come back to our house to collect our finished form. The only other time I had been a participant in a census was when I was still in the Philippines. The collection officer knocked on the door on a Saturday morning and asked some questions (which, if I remember correctly, weren’t nearly as detailed as the question on the form we got last night). Anyway, that collection officer in the past had a clipboard where she read questions then write down my answers with a ballpoint pen. Not particularly the height of technology. I don’t know how the National Statistics Office in the Philippines conduct the census now but I suspect the process hasn’t changed much.

Anyway, it’s the first time we’d be participating in a census here in Australia and it’s also convenient to be counted in. How cool is that?

Published in: on August 5, 2006 at 6:39 pm  Comments (3)  

Out of Action

I haven’t been posting for a while now. Reason? Well, let me count the ways.

Been Sick
Yes. I was sick, for real. I took a sick leave two Fridays ago because I had a bad case of hayfever or something I thought was hayfever. Because a week later, I still had a blocked-up nose and couldn’t stop from sneezing. It was terrible. My nasal passages were making odd creaking noises whenever I took breath. I was pretty sure my officemates noticed it during one of our meetings.

Watching Movies
We watched the Pixar/Disney CG movie, Cars, last weekend with our friend Irar. I liked the movie and i thought it was hilarious (almost as hilarious as Dreamworks’ Over the Hedge, in my opinion). I think I would’ve enjoyed the movie better though it my head throbbing and my eyes watering (because of my illness mentioned above). We were planning to eat out with Irar after the movie but because of my not-feeling-well, I had to cut our outing a little short.

Bought Magic Sing
Magic Sing is basically a microphone with a video karaoke machine built-in. I think it is quite popular in Manila and Pinoy expats. I found out about it from our friend and neighbor, Milkshake. He has one and we’ve used it a couple of times. It made me want to have one, too. Unfortunately, that meant waiting till we fly home to the Philippines to buy one.

But, as fortune would have it, we just discovered that Magic Sing was actually available locally in Australia. We saw one on eBay and bought one including a chip that plugs in to the mic that contains about 900+ songs in Tagalog. The Magic Sing mic itself has about 2000 English songs already. I’d say that is a better deal than having to buy the Singstar mics and song games for the Playstation2.

So, we ended up “testing” it after I received it in the post. And we’ve been “testing” it ever since.

Caught Up to Star Trek Enterprise Season 4
Yes, Enterprise ended a long time ago in the US. Here in good old Australia, Enterprise Season 4 has just begun showing every Tuesday midnight (Wednesday, actually) on Channel 9. Then, for several weeks, Enterprise disappeared from Channel 9 without notice because of the Wimbledon tournament telecast.

In the end, we sought another way of finally catching up to the last season of the Enterprise series. So, when we weren’t testing the Magic Sing mic, we were watching episodes from Enterprise season 4. Too bad it had to be cancelled just when it finally lived up to its story premise and setting. I have to say that I liked most of the episodes but I hated the last episode of the series. They should’ve just ended it with the episode before last.

Watching our Favourite TV Shows
Our current faves on TV are 24 (good on Channel 7 for doing double-episodes twice a week), House, Prison Break (season finale last week and I felt short changed), Stargate: SG-1 (season 10 at last! About bloody time, Channel 7), NCIS, Numb3rs, Desperate Housewives, CSI, Ghost Whisperer (a reluctant fave), Beyond Tomorrow, Catalyst, What’s Good For You, Lonely Planet Six Degrees, Lost (actually, we’ve seen it all through to the last episode of the current season but eh), Honey We’re Killing the Kids, Border Security, Medical Emergency, and Mythbusters. Yeah, we’re such a couple of couch potatoes.

Working Out
Since we are such couch potatoes, we figured we need to work out. Watching shows like What’s Good For You and Honey We’re Killing the Kids actually motivates me to work out and eat healthier as well. Anyway, we have The Biggest Loser – The Workout DVD and we’re following the workout plan outlined in the DVD.

We had to workout for around 45 minutes six times a week for six weeks to see results. We’re currently in week number three and we haven’t exactly done the recommended six days in one week. Still, better some exercise than none. I can already feel the workouts becoming easier and less painful. At the very least, my joints don’t make as much noises as when I started out.

Drawing my Webcomic
And when I’m not testing the mic, watching TV, movies or DVD and working out, I’m drawing pages for my Lovarian Adventures webcomic. I had to draw a page that has horses in it and set in a forest. So, I had to do research on trees and horses. In the end, I faked most of it. Here is the end result.

And now, I finally had some time to write something up for the blog.

Published in: on July 16, 2006 at 11:04 am  Comments (1)  

Hello? Anybody home?

For a while now, we’ve been getting messages on our answering machine with nothing in it. Just a few minutes of silence and some intermittent white noise. We were puzzled by this for some time now but we didn’t think much of it. We thought the callers were probably just telemarketers deciding to leave empty messages to annoy us.

This weekend though, we bought a cordless phone for our VOIP phone line. To test the new phone, we decided to use it to call our land-line phone. Raquel answered the land-line phone and, to my surprise, I couldn’t hear her over the VOIP phone. As it turned out, she couldn’t hear me on the land-line phone either.

It then finally dawned on me that the empty messages we had on our answering machine weren’t just from telemarketers trying to be annoying. There could have been legitimate callers trying to reach us and we just didn’t know about it. At first, we thought that the fault may be with the telephone lines which we had an electrician rewire recently.

Still, I tried different phones on the different line connections we have in the house before I finally realised the real problem: I forgot to use an ADSL Filter/Splitter on the land line phone! We used to have only one phone jack in the house where we had the land-line phone and the ADSL broadband modem connected via the ADSL Filter/Splitter.

But when we had two more phone jack extensions installed in the house, I moved the broadband modem into one of the rooms along with the filter and left the phone where it was without the filter. Apparently, it is the phone that requires the filter more than the broadband modem.

I removed the filter from the modem connection and placed it on the phone connection and viola! Our land line phone is working again and able to receive in-coming calls. I just hope that all of those who had left us messages in the past were just telemarketers and nobody important.

Published in: on July 2, 2006 at 11:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Anniversary

We’re celebrating our wedding anniversary today. Nothing spectacular planned except for dinner and a movie, maybe. It would have been great to travel somewhere and spend the day alone together but we got lazy (or distracted by numerous games, perhaps?) that we didn’t plan anything. Maybe a belated few days off work and a get-away soonish would be in order. Don’t know yet. Anyway, to my loving and extremely patient hubby, happy anniversary!

Published in: on June 20, 2006 at 5:25 pm  Comments (10)  

For your own safety

Scissors in our house seem to have a mysterious habit of disappearing. From memory, we were suppose to have at least 3 pairs but I could only find one last weekend. That last pair of scissors has been relegated to the garage, where we have to cut weed mats and other gardening stuff from their packaging. The other two pairs of scissors seem to have simply vanished as I couldn’t find a trace of them after much searching around the house.

Which led me to buy a new pair from Big W last Saturday, hoping that this pair won’t go MIA on us when we need it most. It wasn’t until we got home that I noticed that my new purchase is safely ensconced in a plastic laminate pack. Without any other scissors in sight, I wondered how I’m going to get my new scissors out. Mildly amused, I told hubby that maybe I ought to drop a piano on it or beat it with a stick (ala cartoon character Sylvester with a can of food he can’t eat because he doesn’t have a can opener).

I can’t imagine why a pair of scissors need to be wrapped completely in a plastic laminate pack, except perhaps to make sure nobody gets injured if it’s dropped or something. What’s the deal with all this excessive packaging?

Meanwhile, I’ve been too lazy to get the old pair of scissors from the garage to free the new scissors from its packaging. It (new pair of scissors) is still in its plastic cage, where it remains unused and of no use to me.

Published in: on May 24, 2006 at 1:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Money is in the details

Our car insurance was up for renewal last month and the insurer has sent us a renewal notice a few weeks prior. It listed all the details of our car as well how much we owe to renew the said insurance for another year. The bill lists different options to pay and I immediately scheduled an payment through our bank account to automatically pay it a few days before it is due.

A couple of days before the insurance was due, I got an email receipt from the bank confirming that the payment has been forwarded to the insurer. A week passed and I thought that we would have received a receipt from the insurer but our postbox remained empty. Fearing that the receipt was waylaid (wouldn’t be the first time), I asked hubby to call the insurance company to confirm if they have gotten the payment and if they’ve sent the receipt yet.

I previously noticed that the bill the insurance company sent us have our address correct (hey, we got the bill, didn’t we?). Yet, on the upper right hand side of bill it states that the postcode of the insured address is 3183 – the postcode of our old apartment. I didn’t think it was important enough to have it corrected as the mailing address includes our correct postcode anyway. But as hubby was put in a holding queue, I asked him to have it corrected.

Good thing too, as we got a $152 refund because of it! As it turned out, the insurance amount we paid was based on that old postcode. When we had it corrected, the insurance we were supposed to pay was reduced accordingly, perhaps because this postcode is less risky.

Note to self: Never underestimate the power of one seemingly irrelevant detail in your future bills. You never know how much that mistake may cause you.

Published in: on May 8, 2006 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment