Monday, June 30, 2008

Flora That Feels Like the Philippines

As part of our 5th anniversary road trip/celebration, San Antonio Botanical Garden made it into our itinerary for 2 reasons:
1) for the photo opportunity (although I "only" got my reliable point-and-shoot camera and no charger!)
2) for admission being free (due to reciprocal admissions program from LBJ Wildflower Center)

Am glad we went... the place has plenty of theme gardens from Japanese, Herbs, Palms, Ferns, etc. It was almost like the Philippines (with San Francisco, Banana, Papaya, Coconut and Palm galore and even camote!) except maybe for the cactus. Enough talking and I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

Now, if I can only find the secret of how to raise these plants in the hill country...


Sunday, June 29, 2008

What - No Blog Posts for a Week?

Yes, that's right... a week has passed with no blog post from us... For someone staying at home like myself, seems like I have plenty of time to blog away. Right?

Yes, in a way... But the opposite is true though these days. You see, I have started a couple of other websites and have been engaged heavily on developing them. There's plenty of learn - and that's fun! I have always loved learning new things!

The downside is that I have not been here to post for a week. In order to "redeem" myself, I have the next week's posts lined up already:

Flora That Feels Like the Philippines
A Cultural Celebration at the McNay
Our First Bed and Breakfast Experience
So Where is your Economic Stimulus Check Now?
Typhoon Frank

Actually, I've got plenty more of pent-up topics that I have not been able to prioritize, so will go through them one by one. (You might be the one who'll give up first after you see the coming posts!)

So, I hope you're looking forward to hear from me more this week! :)


Friday, June 20, 2008

The Cheapest mp3 Downloads!

I recently received an iPod and it contained some free contents. Other than that, I needed to download contents in order to use it. So off I went and did some research.

My main criteria was the cheapest mp3 download service provider available. I'm no maestro nor a sound quality purist. I just want my music (or book or podcast) with me when I want to listen to them.

I looked at 3 largest providers to find out which had the cheapest mp3 downloads.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

I'm dedicating these songs to the dear fathers in my life. I hope you can identify with at least one of them:

For my Dad - Song for my Father:

This is dedicated to my Dad who was into big bands and dance music. My Dad would play this kind of music whenever, but mostly during long drives with the speakers blaring!

My favorite time though is during random evenings when they would turn on the salsa music and my Dad and Mang would start dancing. Dad would have this funny facial expression (with closed eyes sometimes!) savoring the dance music while dancing, while Mang would be daintily dancing across him. Before we knew it, we, the kids, would be dancing with them! Great memories!!!

For Al's Daddy - Just A Closer Walk:

This is Daddy Eli's favorite song. It is one of mine, too. It is a beautiful, sonorous song which has been recorded over 500 times by various artists like Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Louie Armstrong and even the Veggie Tales! This version is from Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline.

Perhaps the large attraction aside from the catchy, folksy tune is the raw honest desire and plea to walk daily with Jesus. Whoever the singer is, it is a song with an enduring truth - I am weak and Thou art strong!

For Al, father of 2 babies in heaven - The Warrior is a Child:

This is for my dear husband - strong and brave, yet tender and gentle! Indeed, just like what this song sings - "even soldiers need a quiet place to rest". Where else? In God.

For my Almighty Father and for all fathers! - I Want To Be Just Like You:

This song is a prayer of a father whose little boy wants to be like him (when he grows up). What son or child, at least for one time or another, does not think his father is not a hero?

Fatherhood is, therefore, a great responsibility. In your own human wisdom and strength, you try to be the best father. Be encouraged though because there is an ultimate Father who shows you His wisdom and strength so you can learn "from the best Father of them all". Do you know Him?

God, of course. He is our Abba, Father, our "LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness".

Happy Father's Day once again!

I'd love to hear
- what songs you'd like to dedicate to your father or
- how you chose to honor your father today or
- what memories of your father you'd like to share or
- anything about your father!


Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Philippines is 110 years old

What does that mean? Well, it means that it has been 110 years since the Philippines declared independence from the 300-plus years under Spanish colonization.

Emilio Aguinaldo and his group did just that in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898. It was short-lived though since the US decided to stay for about half a century more for the "benevolent assimilation".

I'm not a history buff but this occasion was a good time for me to look up a bit of Philippine History. I intended it to be just a short summary but I found lots of interesting things so I will just focus on those right now. Maybe next time, I will come back on the Philippine history topic again.

One of the information I stumbled upon is about literacy even before the Spaniards came. I am revealing a lot of my ignorance here but it was my first time to hear about a "Laguna Copperplate Inscription" or LCI - a "written" (actually hammered into a copper sheet) artifact discovered just about 2 decades ago. Work by 2 Dutch experts on ancient writings and a Fil-Am history buff later revealed that it was as early as 900 AD and that the "document" is a record of debt pardon. The writing was similar to the Indonesian script of kavi.

Just before the Spanish colonization in the 1500's though, it is reported that the style of writing was different from the LCI. This form of writing is what is now called the baybayin. Remember this?

I do remember seeing something like this either in elementary Pilipino or Social Studies subjects but we called it alibata. Supposedly, the latter term is a modern invention with no valid basis. Anyhow, this is my name in baybayin...

These information were culled from Ang Baybayin. It is a website created by Paul Morrow, a Canadian living in Winnipeg, Manitoba who has an interest in Filipino culture and who is a self-taught Tagalog speaker.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!


Monday, June 9, 2008

5th Anniversary

Has it been a year since I first blogged? Has it really been 5 years of marriage already??? Wow... time really flies when you are having fun!!!

Daisypath Anniversary Years Ticker

One of the reason I love special occassions is that it gives me a reason to buy nice greeting cards. (Although I admit, I buy them even without an occasion.)

I love Dayspring cards because they take the words from my mouth. Read them for yourselves!

From Al:

From Rela:

Walmart does carry a few of the Dayspring cards. Family Christian Bookstore carries a more extensive collection of Dayspring cards, though.
Search Cards At

Meanwhile, I didn't expect much for an anniversary gift. Really. Any token would be good - sub-$10 or sub-$20 stuff works for me like the things I have in my wish list. But no token is not good (but that is another story!).

Well, I got more than what I expected!

I gave Al a gift certificate for an Introduction to Kayaking and a flotation vest to go with it. I thought he needed some form of exercise while enjoying what Austin had to offer, so that was what I came up with.

As for Al, he furnished the master's bedroom patio - complete with 2 outdoors chairs with 2 ottomans and 1 small middle table, an outdoors rug, 1 beautiful Esperanza plant (with yellow flowers) and 3 Gardenia plants (or what we call Rosal in the Philippines)!

That area has become another oasis for me early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The warm breeze, comfy chairs and privacy are perfect! Our Esperanza has gotten it's first hummingbird visit already!

This is now my new favorite anniversary gift!!! So how about you? What is your favorite anniversary gift?


Friday, June 6, 2008

For the Eco-Conscious: Water-Saving Toilet?

Costco just sent out their June 2008 magazine and this short write-up on "The water-saving toilet" in page 53 (under Tips for everyday living) caught my eye. It states:

"Older toilets use about 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf). New toilets use 1.6 gpf - which could save 12,000 gallons over a course of a year."

Hmmmm, not sure what assumptions they used for calculating the volume savings of the water-saving toilet but let's scrutinize this closer... 12,000 gallons is
- 7500 flushes/year
- 20.5 flushes/day
- for a 2-member household, that is ~10 flushes/day/individual. This is probably too high unless both individuals stay at home 24/7.
- for a 4-member household, that is ~5 flushes/day/individual. Sounds just about right.

For the high Texas water rates (0.6 cents per gallon), 12000 gallons of water saved translates to about $72. For other places where the water rates are lower, the savings will be lower as well.

So what does it take to get these water-saving toilet? A quick check of shows that you can get a water-saving toilet for as low as $119. (And by the way, has some with 1.28 gpf specs.)

Assuming the plumber charges $100 for the installation, then changing out to a new water-saving toilet would be at least $219. This cost would be compensated by the savings within about 3 years. For places with lower water rates, the "return on investment" will be more than that.

One of the disadvantages of the water-saving toilet is its inconsistent ability to always flush away what needs to be flushed. (You know what I mean!)

Despite the length of time to recoup the capital expense to upgrade to a water-saving toilet and the consistent cleaning efficiency challenges, it is worthwhile to look into this. In the long run, your water bills will be lower. You would also be then putting in your contribution to the global movement of water conservation.

Meanwhile, the Costco write-up continues:
" Even more savings are offered by dual-flush toilets. They feature two buttons: one for liquid waste, which uses a partial flush (0.8 gpf); the other for solid waste, using a full flush (1.6 gpf)."

uhhhh....interesting. So in the future, we got to teach Junior to press the left button for "number 1" and the right button for "number 2". Gives me an idea..Perhaps those buttons should be labeled "1" and "2" also - and we have just created another teachable opportunity. :)

Lastly, while checking out earlier, I discovered a "waterless" solution which costs at least $1399. It is of the "composting" type...I can't (or perhaps refuse to?) imagine it right now... but just thinking what the creative minds would be inventing next...

Would you like to try the composting toilet? :)


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Vamos a Hablar Espanol

You never know when a second language comes handy! In my case, it is in the search of someone who will help us in the garden.

We bought trees and shrubs already only to "realize" that lots of muscles are needed to work the the limestone bedrock underneath. We could dig up to 4 inches only and beyond that, a pick axe is needed. So we needed someone else to do this in order to save our time for "higher-value and higher-leverage" :) activities.

So I dug into my rolodex and got this:

So I called "Juan dela Cruz"...
Me: Is this Juan dela Cruz?
JDC: Yes.
Me: I'd like to know your daily rates.
JDC: (Silence)
Me: If I want to have some plants planted, how much would you charge?
JDC: (Speaks to someone else in the background.) I need to see your yard.
Me: Oh, there is nothing there. I just want some plants planted.
JDC: (Speaks to someone else in the background again.) I need to see your yard.
Me: (Silent. Thinking...)
JDC: (I think this is what he said...) Can you wait for 3 minutes?
Me: Yes, sure.
Then the phone was silent.

Phone rings after a few minutes.
JDC: This is JDC.
Me: Oh hi.
JDC: I need to see your yard.
Me: Ok. (gives address)
JDC: I will be there at 4pm.

So meanwhile, I looked up the English-to-Spanish translation of the things I wanted to ask and say...
How much do you charge per day?
¿Cuánto cuesta por día?

How much do you charge to mow the lawn?
¿Cuánto cuestan a cortar el césped?

How much do you charge to plant trees?
¿Cuánto cuestan a plantar árboles?

How much do you charge to plant shrubs?
¿Cuánto cuestan los arbustos a plantar?

How much do you charge to pull the weeds?
¿Cuánto cuestan a tirar la maleza?

How much do you charge to paint the fence?
¿Cuánto cuestan a pintar la valla?

Will you take x dollars?
¿Va a tomar x dólares?

How do I pay you?
¿Cómo puedo pagar?

Do you take cheques?

When can you do this?
¿Cuándo puede usted hacer esto?

What day can you do this?
¿Qué día se puede hacer esto?

Can you do it today?
¿Puede hacerlo hoy?

Can you do it tomorrow?
¿Puede hacerlo mañana?

Can you do it on Thursday?
¿Puede hacerlo el jueves?

Do you take the soil and sod with you?
¿Toma el tierra y césped con usted?

At 4:30 pm, phone rings.
JDC: I did not get the number of your house.
Me: Ok. (gives house number)

For all the preparation and research I did and for all the 12 units of Spanish in college, I could just utter one phrase (¿Cuánto cuestan?) which made JDC smile. (Or is that a smirk? Maybe he thought I was "trying hard".) I think we could actually understand each other in English with a little help from his companion.

Bottomline, here are the really, really inexpensive rates:
1. Planting 8 plants (5-10 gallons) - $60
(compared to another person I asked earlier at $25/tree)
2. Painting the fence - $100
(compared to $1000 quoted by another)
3. Pull weeds - $20
4. Mow lawn - $40 (pretty standard)

Viva, Mexico!


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dunk, Dip or Plunge!

Last Sunday, the Gateway Hill Country Church reached a new milestone - the first baptism! Two men publicly declared their belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The church was there to witness ...

This got me into looking up "baptism" and learning more about it.

It is said that "baptism" comes from the Greek word "baptizo" which meant to dunk, dip, plunge, submerge or immerse. It seems that there are many discussions about the following topics:
- manner or method of baptism
- recipients of baptism
- meaning and effects of baptism

Despite all these discussions, I think it all boils down to the Great Commission, where Jesus told his disciples to
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

What does "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" mean? Literally, it means being "dunked, dipped, plunged, submerged or immersed" in the name of the triune God. Why would someone consciously chose to be dipped into water?

Now that is an interesting question ... see the precedent phrase " make disciples". You must be a disciple then when you get baptized. So what is a disciple?

A "disciple" is defined by Mr Webster to be "one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: as
- one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ's followers according to the Gospel accounts (Thomas, Matthew, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, etc.)
- a convinced adherent of a school or individual (e.g. Theophrastus was a disciple of Aristotle, Simmias was adisciple of Socrates, etc)

Simplistically, then, you must be a follower of God in order to be baptized in His name. You must surrender your life to God, allow Him to take over your life, become immersed or submerged in His will.

To be truly baptized then means that:
- you know and acknowledge the Jesus is your Savior and Lord
- you publicly declare this to everyone by being dunked, dipped, plunged, submerged or immersed in water.

When you get baptized, the priest or the pastor or anyone else could be pronouncing that you are now baptized. However, it is actually you, yourself by your actions, who is announcing that you are now baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

There is no magic that happens because you have been baptized. It is a symbolic act of those who believe in Christ that they are dead in their sins and needing burial (submersion) and becoming a new man (emergence). It is an outward expression of an inward work. It is a demonstration of obedience to the Great Commission.

Learn more about baptism and see if it is your turn to make your conscious declaration! Don't tarry!

Meanwhile, see me and my dear friends "model" Immersion, Submersion and Emergence.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Knock, Knock... Business-to-Consumer

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Business-to-Consumer who?

Glad you asked.

This weekend, the doorbell was rung by a friendly-looking father and son (about 7 years old maybe) team. The father was holding a basket full of "goodies". He explained that they were distributing "welcome baskets" to new residents in the area.

The father proceeded to say that they only accept reputable businesses - those they themselves were using - to be included in their welcome baskets. He gave examples of what is included like complimentary golf for 2, discount coupons, etc. At that point, I was so ready to grab the basket even if it is not the most attractive "welcome basket" I have seen, but he was not yet ready to give it to me.

I needed to fill out a small form to "show the businesses that I indeed received the welcome basket", which I happily completed with even my email and phone number! The funny thing is that if this was an offer done in the streets or even the internet, I may not have exchanged those information for the freebies. That, I think is the power of face-to-face transactions!

Other stuff contained in the ugly welcome basket that I "bought" with my email and phone number are:

For the house/garden:
- Geo Growers flyswatter (yes, we need this!)
- Culligan water purification discount
- Impact Solutionz Door memo pad
- Appearance Plus window tinting post-it
- Efficient Barrier Solutions discount
- Harmony Construction light catcher window decor

Legal/Financial services:
- Prepaid Legal velcro strap
- Wells Fargo travel mug
- CPA fan (yes, we need this too!)
- Edward Jones coaster
- Farmers Insurance foam can holder

For the body:
- Studio 1826 spa discount and bath salts (ummm...delicious!)
- Family First Chiropractor pens and foam can holders

For the car:
- Lawson free oil change
- Camper Clinic RV sales, rentals

For other luxuries :)
- Dogadillo discount and dog bisquit
- Grey Rock complimentary golf
- Martial Arts lesson discount

The "business-minded" antenna within me that I am training had an "aha" moment also when I saw the business card that was tied to the basket. It states "Business to Consumer Bridge for a Stronger Community". What a great idea!

Perhaps this was their full-time business. Or perhaps they are doing this on week-ends only. The latter makes sense since most of the homeowner would be out working during the weekdays while they are more probably at home during the weekends! Again, looks like a sound business model!

Maybe that gives an idea to some of you looking for a business or working from home?

Anyway, sorry for the lame Knock, knock earlier. If you can think of a last line on that, let me know. Meanwhile, for this house in Austin, it is actually "ding, dong"!


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