Sunday, August 31, 2008


No, I am NOT running for the US presidency...

I am a semi-finalist!!! I should say my Lumpia recipe is a semi-finalist!!!

I know, you may think I am overly-excited over a $100 gift card and a digital camera as prizes... but yes, I admit, I am very, extremely, really excited! Maybe, this is my 15 minutes of fame ... hehehe...

Here is my blog post on Lumpia recipe that was selected as one of the 11 finalists (out of 73 submissions). If friends and family testify how delicious they are (leave a comment in the Lumpia blog post), then maybe those who have not tasted it will believe!!!

The other recipes are good, too, but I assure you, my lumpia recipe is absolutely delicious. (wink, wink) Please vote for Lumpia at Saucy Eats.

Maybe I will win the $100 gift card and the digital camera! And have my 15 minutes of fame.



Friday, August 29, 2008

"My Husband Rocks" Friday - 2008.35

Al rocks because when he comes home from work, he comes straight to where I am and gives me a big bear hug!!!  Then I would request him to massage me on my shoulder - my favorite spot - and he would actually do it.  Then he would ask me how may day went...

Funny because he was the one who went out of the house to work - to kill and drag it home as Dave Ramsey calls it - and he is the one who is massaging me and asking me how my day went! 

Popular media mostly show little wifey asking "how was your day?" to the hubby. We just don't need to be overly influenced by popular media! Right?

Anyhow, that is why my husband rocks! 

How about you? Why  does your husband rock?  Join us as we focus on our husband's (or husband, or husband-to-be,  or wife-to-be) strengths and potentials.  Write about it and go link to Katy Lin's blog on the latest "My Husband Rocks" Friday post.

Have a great, long week-end!!!


Blog Carnival - My Husband Rocks!

I've been actively roaming around the blogosphere for about 2 months now. The blogs that I visit are primarily written by women. These women come in all colors and stripes and that's what makes it interesting! 

In the blogosphere, there is what is called a blog carnival*. Katy Lin at the great adventure started one last June called, you guessed it, "My Husband Rocks" Friday.

As a newly-wed, she was looking for positive reinforcement about marriage in the midst of the in-your-face negative portrayal almost everywhere. She was inspired by a company she stumbled upon and thus started  the blog carnival.

Let me tell you more about the company.  From*me tees is the name of the company and they make shirts to "celebrate your spouse in style".  In their own words:

"From*me Tees was started by a married couple who knows what it is to work through hard stuff and yet stay together and stay committed and only grow to love each other MORE through it all.  One of the great and wonderful mysteries of life is that loving each other in action--what we do and say--produces romance. 

Everything in our culture today teaches the opposite, that romance turns into love, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Love is a choice and we decide how we're going to treat each other in the good and in the not-so-good times.  What a hope-giving reality that a strong, loving, thriving relationship can be built, simply by changing how we interact with our spouse.  

Marriage was created to be a blessing and a little kindness and respect goes a long way.  Accept the fact that your spouse isn't perfect and then start taking notice of all the good things they bring to the table!  Pretty soon you can train your mind to be grateful for who they are as opposed to feeling disappointed about who they are not.  When you allow yourself to believe that your spouse rocks, you will free yourself from the downward spiral and temptation of self-pity, disappointment, and even dispair. 

The fact is, your spouse is probably a greater blessing than you allow yourself to lay down your expectations and praise your spouse for his/her attributes.  After all, the key is to change yourself!  And you'll be surprised at the positive affect it has on the one you choose to love...and you!"

One of the shirts that From*me Tees has "my husband rocks" across it.  That's where Katy Lin's blog carnival title comes from.

What about the "Friday" part? That means, we post our article on why "My Husband Rocks" on Friday.

Anyhow, my participation starts today.  I will do my best not to embarrass Al too much as he can be soooo self-effacing. If you read my post and then it suddenly disappears without a trace, then you will know that he took the post down!


*A blog carnival, in my own words, is one where a blog owner decides to write on a topic and invites (or makes it available for) others to write on the same topic as well.

The blog owner usually provides a banner to show off the blog carnival. The blog carnival participants could then grab  the code and display them also in their own blogs.

Also, the blog owner lists the blog links of the participants in her blog so that it is visible who is participating and where the post can be read.

Other examples of blog carnivals are:
Menu-Plan Monday
Works for Me Wednesdays
Mel's Show and Tell


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Do You Live Where Gas Price is High?

When we relocated to Boise, Idaho in June 2003, gasoline was $1.50 per gallon. More than 5 years later today, gas price is at about $4 per gallon (167% increase) . That is about 50 cents per year increase. (In Philippine peso, that would be about PHP20 increase per year in the gas price.)

Take a look at this gas price analysis per US county from New Jersey Gas Prices and see if you live where it is the highest:

Now in the Philippines, that is another story. I forgot how much gas price was when we left in 2003 but my brother thinks it was PHP29 then (or PHP120 per gallon or $3 per gallon). Look at how much it is now - PHP62 per liter (~100% increase). That would be PHP248 per gallon (or roughly $6 per gallon)!

Wow... although the Philippine gas price increase is less than the US (100% vs 167%), the "absolute" amount is higher ($6 vs $4) by 50%(in 2008)-100% (in 2003). I did know this until now and I feel sad because our folks back home are being hit by a double whammy - lesser disposable income and higher gas price.

With the gas price rising, the rest of the basic commodities rise in price too. In the Philippines, Ben and Sarah Horton (remember them from a previous post?) blogged last April 29 about the Cost of Necessities. When I have time, I would like to put those Philippine prices side by side the US prices. That should be interesting...

I also looked at some fastfood prices in the Philippines:
- Jolibee's Sulit Sarap RiceMeals A which consists of 5 pieces of Shanghai Rolls and 1 cup of rice costs PHP39.
- Wendy's Chili Rice - my favorite meal now costs PHP38. It increased by about 100% too since we left in 2003 (PHP20).

Everything has gone up. A LOT. Depressing to think about.

So, why don't we all have a frugal week-end and probably plan of ways we can help our relatives, friends and kababayans back home!

Meanwhile, here's EGGONOMICS that was sent through our high school batch e-group about how we can probably effect a lower gas price through our own small ways.

Any gas-saving tip you'd like to share?


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Free Song of the Week!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I might start posting free songs in this blog. My idea is to find one great song per week that I like. I will look around and screen them by listening to free music to download. Of course, they will be screened according to my tastes! :)

I'm calling it "Free Music of the Week" and will post it on the right sidebar. Let's see how long I can sustain it. :)

This week, I looked around high and low, near and far... and I found this very cute song!

Click on the right to hear it (Free Music of the Week). It's so really cute I had to find the lyrics and post it here. I could play it continuously all day long until Al gets tired of hearing it over and over!

little bird little bird fly through my window
little bird little bird fly through my window
little bird little bird fly through my window
and find molasses candy

fly through my window my sugar lump
fly through my window my sugar lump
and find molasses candy

who knows a bird?
I do, a chickadee
what does a chickadee say?

chickadee chickadee fly through my window
chickadee chickadee fly through my window
chickadee chickadee fly through my window
and find molasses candy

fly through my window my sugar lump
fly through my window my sugar lump
and find molasses candy

It's actually a reinterpretation of an American folksong by Elizabeth Mitchell with her daughter Storey.

If you liked it, you can download it free. Just click on the right (Free Music of the Week).

Anyway, talking about new things at the right sidebar...

I got another coupon code for! So I figured it would be good to put it on the right side bar too. I created a new block called "$5 Gift Card Worth $25" so that you can easily access it when you need it!

So... be on the look-out for the new free songs to download every week and new coupon codes every time I get some!


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

105 Steps to Mt Bonnell

Another scenic place to check out in Austin... Mt Bonnell is the highest accessible peak in Austin. It overlooks a part of lake.

Not sure which lake it is - Town Lake? Lake Austin? Lake Travis? Oh wait, I'll check...

Ahh, Lake Austin. They're not really separate lakes - they're all part of the Colorado river that meanders through Austin. I guess they call them lakes because they are partitioned by dams? Maybe...

Anyhow, we were there at about 7:00 pm last Thursday and the stairs were covered with the shadow of the surrounding trees, so it was comfortable - not as hot as we thought. The climb (or should I say walk) was an easy 105 steps on a decent stairs, complete with handrail.

Great views of the lake, the houses on the lake and the city.

Best to come here with a picnic basket early in the morning!


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pancit de Miki

Al and his officemates planned to have a pot luck lunch last Tuesday. He asked me (I think perfunctorily) if I could make pancit. Sure, I said, I will make the pancit bihon (rice noodles) because I have been successful with it recently.

Then he said, how about the pancit canton (yellow egg noodles)? Well... I have had no success on that so far. So, it was Mamang Luisa who "got the job".

Here's her recipe:

1/2# chicken breast or pork
1/2# shrimp
salt to taste (if needed)

1/4 cup oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup onion, diced

1/4 cup soy sauce
6 cups water or chicken broth
/4 tsp pepper powder

1# yellow egg noodles or miki (TTC brand. Made in the Philippines!)

1 cup carrot strips (matchsticks)
1 bokchoy/pechay or 1/4 head cabbage
1/4 cup red or green bell pepper

green onions

1. Boil chicken breast (remove all fats) and shrimp for 10 minutes in 6 cups of water. Add a pinch of salt.

2. Cut chicken into cubes or strips. Save the broth for later.

3. Heat the oil. Saute the onion and garlic with the chicken and shrimp.

4. Add the soy sauce, water/broth and powdered pepper. Boil for 5 minutes.

5. Add the carrots. Cook for 2 minutes.

6. Add the yellow noodles, bokchoy/pechay, or cabbage, bell pepper. Cover and boil for 3 minutes.

7. Stir. Cook for another 3 minutes without cover.

8. Garnish with green onions.

Anyhow, Al also brought biko (sweet rice).

His officemates brought a lot of food also so lunch turned out to be an international food-fest! Yummy!!!

UPDATE: I entered this recipe to the same contest I entered the Lumpia - The Saucy Eats. I hope either the Pancit or the Lumpia gets to the "finals". Hehehe.
Saucy Eats:


Monday, August 18, 2008

Happy Birthday!!!

Happy 1st birthday to my absolutely adorable second nephew, Timothy Titus, alias Tim, Timmy, Timmy-Tim, Tim-ba, Tim-tim-tim-maitim. :)

(Don't you love them at this stage? Wait until they start walking!!! Mamu, Dada and Lula will have plenty of exercise going after him!)

Happy birthday to Jeff - see you in the Labor Day weekend!

Happy birthday to Melai - Ms Magnificus, send us some news!

Blogged with the Flock Browser


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Josh's New House

"Auntie Rela, my house is bigger than your house!" That's what Josh says. Sometimes.

So finally, Josh has a new house. Or I should say Joey and Sheng has moved in to their new house!

That's right! New house! Spanking clean, new house!

They moved in more than a week ago. Here are some photos of the move:

There were 4 men, 3.5 women and 1 boy who moved the stuff from the apartment to the new house. (A big departure from the dozens during our Boise moving days!) The men were Joey, Al, Daddy and Tristan (Tristan is a new fried here.) The women were Sheng, Ann and Mamang. The 1/2 woman is me since I was not very functional actually. :(

And of course the only boy was Josh, and his helping was captured by my camera as evidence that he indeed helped, too! (The other 2 children in the photos are Tristan and Marisa's children - Jad and Jasele.)

And for the record...Budget truck rental services is not good at all. Their 1-800 number took a reservation. Then when it was time to get the truck from the assigned branch, the branch said that there was no reservation. Then the branch would not call their 1-800 number and instead had Joey call the 1-800 number. The nerve! Joey had to be the one to connect the branch to the 1-800 number. No good system and procedures. No good customer service.

And you wonder how they even can imagine to compete with U-Haul? Maybe just from a capacity standpoint. Meaning, they are just the overflow from U-Haul. When all U-Haul trucks are reserved and unavailable, then people go to Budget truck rental. Boo... Boo... Not a good business model.

Anyway back to the new homeowners...Exciting times are ahead - filling up the home, decorating, arranging, painting... Home Depot and Lowes are going to be their new favorite store soon!

Have a great week-end!


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Xoom In!!!

A few months back, Gladys, a Filipino friend here in Austin emailed me asking how I was sending money to the Philippines. I told her about the Bank of the Philippine Islands Express Remittance Corporation (BPI or BPI ERC, in short). While writing my response though, I was faced with the incomplete logic of my reasoning. That's when I decided to try Xoom - and it convinced me to change services.

First, about BPI ERC services... This is what my response to her extolling its virtues:

I use the remittance procedure. BPI here is not a bank, so they accept the money as remittances and not as deposits.

I noticed that they recently went back to $7 per remittance -maybe because the PHP has appreciated vs the USD recently. I think there are a couple of cheaper alternatives but I did not look into them further because I set up the distribution of the money in the Philippines either by transferring funds or filling an remittance card online.

What I mean is I send 1 amount for $7 into BPI Express Remittance Corp into my account in the Philippines. Then, through online banking monthly (for free :)!), I split the amount to various accounts - other BPI accounts or for those who have no BPI accounts, we set up BPI remittance cards (they call it EMO card but I forgot what the acronym stands for). This way, everything is traceable - which we need because some of the amount we send there, we declare for deductions in our US tax return.

If the person/s you are sending to do not have BPI accounts or they do not need that, I remember reading that you can do a delivery to the person as well. But you'll have to research that since I have no experience on it.

Meanwhile, here are some tips:
1. Wells Fargo or Washington Mutual have accounts that provides free money orders, cashiers checks, etc. I like that because instead of me withdrawing cash and then having to go buy money order somewhere else (2 steps), I can just directly ask them to give me a money order (1 step). Also, it's safer that way since I do not have to carry cash.

2. At first, I was sending the check and form to BPI SF through USPS Registered mail (~ $10). After a few tries of that, I just sent them first class ($0.41). What I just needed to do was as much as possible, drop them directly at the USPS drop boxes (instead of leaving them for the postman to pick up).

3. The remittance takes about 1 week. So you have to factor that in vs when you want the money available.

Also, if you need it faster, there are other alternatives - I have heard of xoom and western union but have not tried them. I have tried wiring through Washington Mutual since I don't have to pay for the outgoing wire fee ($25) and I only have to pay for the receiving wire charged by BPI ($25). I know that Wells Fargo has a new "product" similar to this but not sure if it is available here in Austin ( I got the flier in the LA Philippines Consulate Office).

Then I tried Xoom (and with just one look, my heart went boom! as in the song...) Seriously, here are my reasons why I changed over to Xoom:
Use Xoom to Send Money to the Philippines

1. Xoom's remittance fee is not significantly different from BPI ERC. BPI ERC charges $7 while Xoom charged as low as $3.50 to as high as $60.

For our purposes though, we were only paying a maximum of $7.99 which is very reasonable compared to BPI ERC's $7.

Take note that the middle row is for Value Service (where Xoom will debit from your checking account; which means the funds should be available and this is basically a cash transaction) while the right row is for Standard Service (where Xoom will debit from your credit card; which means in case you do not have available funds yet, you can use this service). I would say use only the Standard Service in extreme cases of emergency because it is very expensive and it also means you don't have sufficient funds - so should you be remitting money in the first place?

Also, in comparison to Western Union that I mentioned in my email response, it seems that Xoom was much much cheaper compared to Western Union for the cash transactions.

2. Remittance time is faster for Xoom
(within 24 hours) vs BPI ERC's 1-2 weeks due to the mailing.

The first time you send through Xoom, your source account (bank checking account) will be validated first. Xoom will tell you that the validation will take time (I think like a week). Mine took just a weekend to be validated.

The next time I sent through Xoom, it knew me/my account already, so there were no long forms need to be filled out. Once I hit the SEND button, it actually takes about 15 hours for Xoom to transfer to my recipient account!

3. Convenient processing for Xoom (online) vs BPI ERC (need to get a money order, fill out a form, mail it, etc.)

This is a no-brainer. I don't have to make a trip to town to do these - go to the bank for the money order, fill out the form, put in an envelope, put a stamp on the envelope, snail mail it - which could easily be half-day. I do the process online in less than 5 minutes!

Did you notice the additional benefits that Xoom has? Faster, Better (more convenient), Cheap(er or equally cheap). That sounds familiar? Now where did I hear that? Oh, from my other life, my Intel life....

Of course, this review is not complete without mentioning the downside. There are 2 that I see:
1. Online transactions can be risky (as snail mailing it can be risky as well). Having Norton Firewall and Internet Security up and running is helpful. This is true for all online financial services.

2. Xoom's conversion rate is typically lower by about 80 centavos to a dollar. So, if you are sending $100, that could be PHP 80 less with Xoom.

For me, the benefits of Xoom exceeds these downsides. I have now used Xoom thrice already and so far, so good!

If you are ready to try Xoom, here are the 4 Steps to send money using them and my own tips:
Step 1: Select a country and enter an amount to send

On your first send, you will only be allowed to send $1000 due to Xoom's Consumer Protection Policy and US Federal Regulations. Then there is 60-day waiting period before the limit can be increased. You can see your current sending limit on the right side of the screen once you have logged into your account.

I first sent on May 23 and my limit was $1000. Today >60 days later, my limit has been bumped up to $2500.

Step 2: Choose how your recipient will receive funds

You can choose Cash Pick-up, Home Delivery or Direct to Bank Deposit.

I actually remit to my own BPI account. Then I make the online transfers from my BPI account to the various recipients (other BPI accounts or BPI EMO cards).

Xoom also has ties with many Philippine reputable banks and establishments; for example, Metrobank, Banco De Oro, Equitable PCI, Cebuana Lhuiller, One Network Bank, etc.

Xoom can deliver to persons as well (not just bank/accounts). So this is good for those whose recipients are in the smaller towns.

Step 3: Choose a payment method and confirm your money transfer

This is where you will choose whether you will pay from your checking account (Value Service) or from your credit card/PayPal (Standard Service).

Step 4: Notify your recipient that their money is on the way

You can add the email addresses of those who need to be notified. 3 email addresses are accepted.

To know even more than what I have mentioned above, check out the Xoom website.

Once you've opened an account, come back and leave me a comment so I'll know who have tried it out. Then, I will personally give you one more useful tip!

So go ahead and give Xoom a try!

UPDATE: Tin emailed me about 2 other possibilities and I investigated it some:
PNBRemit - Has lower fees if remitted to a PNB account or Global Filipino Card (GFC, which is like BPI's EMO card I mentioned earlier). If not, the fee is $10.

Paypal Philippines- This is not very clear but here's what I got from another blogger: If your Paypal is linked to a Philippine debit/credit card, the fee is $5. There is a UnionBank Eon card that does not incur any fees.

If you have experiences on any of these - Xoom, PNBRemit and Paypal - leave a comment here, please!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Break From Home-cooked Meal

I love eating at home. But I also love exploring different restaurants. And with all the increasing prices of good and services and recent expenses, it is more prudent to stay home more. However, I can't resist sharing this great deal I saw which could give us a break from home-cooked meal and indulge a bit!

Just quickly then, is running a wow promotion from today 8/12 to Saturday 8/17. You can buy a $25 gift certificates of participating restaurants for only $5!!! Use this coupon code to make sure you get it for $5 only!


These $25 gift certificates are usually worth $10 which is already a good deal as shown below. So getting it at $5 is even a much better deal, don't you agree?

You can search for by state, city, neighborhood, zip code and cuisine type. Nothing for Boise, Idaho though. Sorry, Boise boys and girls! Also, make sure you read the fine print, as a lot of them have some form of minimum or another.

After I do this post, I'm going over there and buy me some! I now have a "secret weapon" for our date night. Hahahah!!! (Our date night's rule is to plan for no cost or low cost dates.)

Go get your secret weapon too at and enjoy the break without breaking the bank!


Monday, August 11, 2008

The Art of Lumpia

UPDATE: Wheeeeee!!!! The Lumpia recipe is a semifinalist at the Saucy Eats contest. So I brushed up this article a bit...

Vote for the Lumpia!!!

Lumpiang Shanghai (or Lumpia for short) is a crunchy Filipino dish that always delight friends who are introduced to it. Some have asked for the recipe and I thought that was funny because I'm not really a good cook :) (right, Beth?). If my mother could only see me now, she would be proud that her daughter has mastered at least one recipe.

Anyhow, I thought it would be good to post it in this blog as well so anyone interested can use it as well. Here goes:

INGREDIENTS: (Makes 150 pieces.)

Lumpia wrappers (Use TYJ Spring Roll Pastry - 2 packs of the biggest size 25 pcs each)

1 pound ground meat (I use turkey but you can use any kind of meat. If you use beef, suggest to mix it with any of the white meats because beef is hard when it is fried.)
2 fist size carrots (I use baby carrots)
1 fist size garlic
1 fist size onion (any color but red onion is strongest)
2 eggs (beaten)
3/4-1 cup soy sauce (use Silver Swan brand. Reduce according to taste.)
1-2 tsp sugar

1 tbsp flour
1/3 cup water
cooking oil (for frying)
Sweet and Sour Sauce

A. Thaw the wrapper either by leaving it outside the ref for about 30 minutes or in the microwave for a few seconds.

You can separate the wrappers individually even before you start wrapping. Just make sure that you cover it with damp cloth/napkin to keep it moist. Otherwise, you can just separate them as you go through "D" below.

B. Prepare the mixture
1. Chop the carrots, garlic and onion. (I typically use food processor.) Add the soy sauce and sugar, stir. Taste and adjust, if necessary.
2. Add ground meat and egg. Mix thoroughly.

C. Prepare the "sealant" by mixing 1 tbsp flour in 1/3 cup water.

D. Wrap the lumpia
(I picked up this faster method from Charmaine. (Thanks, Charmaine!) It was 3x faster than what I used to be doing which was the fine and fancy way. :) So, it was a no-brainer for me to adopt the faster way.)
1. place about 2 tbsp mixture parallel to any of the edges. Distribute mixture from end to end so that it is about 1cm thick.
2. roll the wrapper over the meat and continue to roll until about only 1 inch is left.
3. apply the flour/water sealant and complete the roll.

E. Taste test by wrapping 1-3 pieces first.
1. Cut the lumpia into 3 pieces.
2. Fry and taste. (You can deep fry but I usually just shallow fry.)
3. Adjust mixture, if necessary.
4. Proceed to wrap the rest of the meat mixture.

F. Fry the lumpia.

Remember, for every 1 lumpia, you can cut them into 3 pieces. Typically, if eaten with rice and the sweet and sour sauce, I can eat 10 pieces.

G. Freeze the raw lumpia.
You can then just thaw, cut and fry later.
1. Store the lumpia in separate freezer bags so that you can use just what you need at a time.
2. You can thaw the raw lumpia before frying. Or you can dunk it in straight (but be careful of oil splatters!)
3. Cut the raw lumpia into 3 or your desired size.

That's it! Have fun making the lumpia.

For me, I usually eat the lumpia with rice, cucumber and the sweet and sour sauce. Yummy!!!

I would love to know how yours went, so let me know!

And remember to...
Vote for the Lumpia!!!


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