Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Still Pretty Messy!

Our little pigeon hole is still pretty messy today. M is becoming more impatient by the minute. He just can't wait to get everything done all at once. I just want to sort and store things systemetically so we can track down any item easily in the future. The top photo shows some of the books waiting to be sorted last week. The second and third photos, taken today, show some empty boxes waiting to be filled and boxes that are ready to be taken to our storage unit. The 'Cave' is still a bombsite. There are heaps to do around here but to add fuel to fire, M had also been called in to perform an extra duty that is likely to take up even more of our precious time.
Grrrr...It is so annoying when the photos are not loading up properly. This post is currently missing a photo. There is good news though. It was absolutely pouring a few minutes ago. I hope the much needed rain had washed away the bird poos on my balcony. The funny thing is that, as I type this post, I can hear the caretaker doing his last round of clearing the paths inside the building with his all so annoying blower. Am I the only one who think that was a pointless chore when the paths are wet? On another note, I just learned from the news that I am temporarily sharing my postcode with a famous Hollywood family. They have just flown in today and moved in nearby while one of them is working on a film in the next few weeks at Docklands!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Day I Saw MJ & My ‘First’ King of Pop’s Cassette Tape

Weeks before Christmas 1996, I got wind that Michael Jackson was to appear at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. I remember dragging myself there and got a seat in the second row. Seated next to me were a bunch of Aussie girls who must have been a few years younger than me. They were very excited. I remember thinking that they were more excited to see the boy band supporting Jacko’s appearance because they sang to their songs with gusto. Their enthusiasm attracted the TV cameras and I found myself on Australian TV that evening. LOL. I think the boy band was Human Nature and I thought they were like an Aussie version of New Kids on the Block at the time. LOL.

When the man finally appeared on stage, I was quite surprised to see such a shy person. His stature was also quite small, not quite what I had expected. I can’t remember much of what he had said when he was on stage. I guess I was totally taken in by his presence. His songs were my introduction to the pop music world and I never dreamed that he would be standing only a few metres away from me. It was very surreal.

One year in the 80’s, my brother, who is a decade older than me, played the Michael Jackson Thriller album when he came home (not Australia) for his Summer holidays. That coincided with the time when my English was starting to take off and I fell in love with that album, but I was not allowed to operate our family’s or my brother’s record player. I remember having to wait till my brother came home from all his so-called social commitments before I could beg him to put the music on. Then one afternoon when nosey me went to annoy the people working for us, I found a crappy looking cassette with Lionel Ritchie on its cover. I didn’t know who he was then but I could tell from the cover design that it must have featured music similar to Michael Jackson’s. So I asked someone where they bought the tape and they told me that they got it from the Pasar Malam (night market). I planned to talk someone into taking me to the market but I knew no one would have dared to because I was pretty small then. Then one day my mum took me to see the GP because I was running a fever. As we were returning to the car, I walked past a man selling a few items on top of a box. My mum was busy talking to a parking officer and I went over to see what the man was selling. He was selling cassette tapes and one of them featured a picture of Michael Jackson. Wow! I wanted that. My mum didn’t listen to my pleading at first but when I suggested that I would use the record player after my brother had returned to Canada, she gave me the money. She even dropped me off in front of the man, double parking in front of the parking officer that she was talking to earlier. I was so happy on the way home because I thought that I finally had my own Michael Jackson album. Up till then I had only been listening to Disney cassette tapes my father had ordered from overseas. I felt really grown up. LOL. When I got home, I dashed in to try my new tape in my own tape player. I was totally disgusted to learn that even though the tape featured the King of Pop’s songs, he sang on none of them! When I was older, I suspected that the songs were sung by ‘artists’ from a neighbouring country. So, there you see, fakes existed even back then! I did learn from that experience. I became a snobby little consumer instantly. It was also an embarrassing moment that I tried to hide from my family because I didn’t want them to ridicule me. Eventually my brother did teach me how to handle the record player before he left for another school year abroad and I had access to his huge collection that I could dance and sing to ‘til I dropped. LOL. It didn’t matter that I got most of the words wrong when I sang and didn’t even understand most of the lyrics.

Ice Skating & Some Kind of Light Show

A synthetic ice rink is being set up at QV square for people to try a bit of ice skating. It wasn’t ready when we were there this afternoon. According to the glossy flyer we were handed, the event starts tomorrow and each half hour session costs $7.50 per adult. I am not very keen to give it a go. Ice skating was one of the first things I was introduced to when I went to boarding school and I have to admit that I wasn’t good at it at all. When I wasn’t falling all over the place and worried that I was going to get my fingers sliced off by someone else’s blades, I was daydreaming about this prefect that I really liked. How could a girl concentrate with him around? LOL. This rink at QV seems pretty small. I guess it would be ideal for introducing the sport to little children. In the picture, the lady with the red pants looked like she was sharpening the blades.

What are these people doing? I wanted to find out but M just wanted to get home. The display is called Volume and it is at Fed Square. People get on stage to get up close and personal with the LED columns. I saw a guy touching the lights. I also saw a woman pressing her ear against a column. It seemed to me that the colours of the columns were changing to the beat of loud music. This is not the only display at the square. There are at least another two and one of them featured the different shapes of human eyes from around the world. We will have to go back on another day to properly investigate this event.

We were also given these mini lollybags when we were leaving Fed Square. It is always nice to receive Freebies.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bitter Sweet Purchase

There is absolutely nothing wrong with our old Canon printer but the old computer it is hooked up to has ceased to work since a couple of weeks ago. This means that we can no longer use the old printer. It is not Vista compatible and it is therefore not possible for it to be hooked up to this computer. Bummer!

After careful consideration, I gave in to the idea of buying a new printer. We looked at the printers on sale at Officeworks. This is a good time to buy such things. M pretty much let me make the decision on which model to buy because he wasn’t fussy as long as it is a multi-function one that can be hooked up to this computer. I think he was secretly very happy that I have come to the decision of buying one. So we marched into the Officeworks at QV last Wednesday (17th June) and bought our new printer. We initially planned to go to the store on Kings Way but since we were already going to the city, we opted for the store inside QV. This time we didn’t really stick to what was recommended by computer magazines. We just stick to the same brand and our pre-agreed budget. Since we have some gift cards, we ended up saving an extra $40 on top of the already reduced sale price!

There are people out there who are not very fond of IKEA but I am not shy to let people know that I love IKEA. It doesn’t bother me one bit that my neighbour or someone in another country probably has a piece of furniture that is identical to mine because we have bought the item from an IKEA store. One of the most versatile items I have bought from IKEA is not actually a piece of furniture. It is a large blue bag that shoppers can pick up near their check-out counters. We bought one and it is used to lug a lot of things. We brought it with us when we went to buy the new printer and the bag was large enough for M to carry the printer home comfortably.

We are very happy with the printer but I must admit that I feel a little sad also. I find it really hard to have to replace something that is not broken. M promised to have the old computer repaired soon. If it can be repaired the old printer will be up and running again. The old computer is still useful to us because that’s where we type anything in Chinese.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

All Messed Up Again

Less than two weeks after we tidied up the living areas within the pigeon hole because a tradesman was coming to install the new blinds, our little home is all messed up again. This time I won’t be able to tidy up in time for another team of tradesmen popping in to install new intercom handsets today! It is going to be an utterly embarrassing moment when I have to let them in!

We are trying to clear up the clutter collecting thick dust in the spare room (aka “The Cave”). Once upon a time, about 6 years ago, we turned the cave into a home office/spare bedroom. A couple of years later, I suddenly desired a more minimalist look in the living areas and ordered that all the bookcases be sent hiding in “The Cave”. From then on, the room ceased to be a spare bedroom and turned into a space for gaming, books, clothes and junk. It was quite a nice place for M to relax in there at first but all sorts of junk had taken over the space in recent years. The situation is so bad that we can no longer open the door to the little balcony and I found it increasingly difficult to access my own clothes in the wardrobe and tallboy. I am really tempted to shame ourselves by taking a photo of the Cave’s current state but I think it will scare readers away! LOL!

It is decided that the bookcases be returned to the living areas. The minimalist look is out the balcony door until we can afford to live in a purpose built house where I can actually hide my books in a personal library. We are trying to do things systematically by sorting things into different groups. Some things that we want to keep will be boxed for storage while others will be kept here. There are also things that we would like to get rid of by selling them on Ebay and things that we will give away. This is why almost the entire pigeon hole is in such a pitiful state. I think it will remain quite unsightly until the end of Winter. After years of neglect, we have so much to tackle. As things improve, I will start taking photos for when I blog about the progress. It’s just too embarrassing to show the current state now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Praised Too Soon

We have changed most of the light bulbs in the pigeon hole to those energy saving ones in the last 12 months. I think I even blogged twice about it and I think I also praised them on both occasions. At this stage, only two lights in the dining area and the light at the main balcony still need to be changed but we will have to be quick in finding energy saving light bulbs that can fit the dining area lights because traditional light bulbs will be phased out soon.

12 months on, I must say that I am not completely satisfied with the change over to energy saving light bulbs. The light in the living area takes three candle shaped light bulbs and without checking out what are available at Bunnings Warehouse, the only energy saving option we have at the moment is Philips Brand Ambiance light bulbs. They are good in that they never emitted any annoying noise but we have only ever seen the warm white ones and overtime, we noticed that they are becoming less and less bright. When we replaced the ones in the bedrooms and the loo, we also ended up buying warm white ones because the cool daylight ones are super rare. So when the electrician came to fix the hall way light before Christmas 08, and installed this cool daylight one that I scored by pure luck, I was overjoyed. It was so nice to be able to see what I am looking for in the pantry and the hallway cupboard but the fun didn’t last long. Everyone kept saying that Energy saving light bulbs last longer than traditional light bulbs but not this one pictured here. It died a couple of weeks ago. The hallway light is only turned on when someone is trying to access the pantry or cupboard. So, it has never been turned on for hours on end. It is not the light’s fault. The electrician didn’t do a dodgy job because after we replaced the blown light bulb with a new one, the light works as normal. It is so annoying to have to buy another new light bulb after just less than 6 months. On top of that, we are now unsure of how to dispose the used light bulb safely. I read somewhere that these energy saving light bulbs have to be disposed off properly. Apparently you can’t just place it in the bin along with the other household rubbish. I think I will have to Google it.

We will be going to Bunnings soon because I wish to give the bedrooms a fresh lick of paint. We will definitely check out the light bulbs they sell when we are there to see if we have more options. Because I sew/craft (even on some evenings) and because my work area is part of the living area, I really need brighter light bulbs because I don’t want to further harm my eyesight. Right now the living area is looking more and more like it is lit with a few real candles.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Buying A Few Things

Here's a post on what I bought in the last 12 days or so. I know that I only just blogged about the need to stick to a budget that also allows a bit of fun. That’s what we did when we went shopping recently. We left the ‘Fun Police’ at home to make decision making easier and the trips guilt free. I specifically held onto the gift cards and money I had received for my Birthday in May for use during the June Sale. Quite a few items are things for the kitchen because since I changed the menu recently, I realised that I need a few extra things.

Here is what I bought so far:
  • A pair of tongs because the other ones are broken.

  • A set of scone and cookie cutters because I want to make sure that my homemade hamburgers are relatively the same size (M thinks that this is pathetic.) but I can also use them to make scones one day.

  • A plastic butter box. We used to use butter portions but are unable to find them these days. So this box is a hygienic way to store the block of butter we now have to buy.

  • A pack of three tea-towels because we need more to replace the retired ones.

  • A pack of 5 dishcloths.

  • A small fry pan because I want to make blueberry pancakes that are relatively uniform in size. (Moosh thinks that this is pathetic also.)

  • A pair of wool blend socks from Target and believe it or not, they are made in Australia?

  • One pie plate because the menu now includes a vegetable pie once a fortnight.

  • One long sleeve Spencer – I love Holeproof Thermalite and the whole range is now made in New Zealand.

  • One photo snowglobe because I just want another ornament housing a photo of my Guinea Pig.

The small fry pan is a really cheap one ($4.50) from IKEA. The truth is that I am a little unsure about it. After I got home from IKEA the other day, I suddenly felt a little unsure about using it and still am. If anyone is reading this post, have you used cheap non-stick fry pans before? What do you think? Apart from the snowglobe, all the other things I bought were for practical use. I just hate to be seen as a Gold Digger if I bought only pretty things for myself.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Blinds

A tradesman came last Thursday to install two made to order roller blinds to replace our broken vertical blinds. M is totally in love with the blinds. Unlike the vertical blinds, these totally block out the sun when they are down. Unfortunately there is a little gap between the two panels but we can live with it. At this stage, I am still not sure what I think about them. I just hope that they don’t start bouncing off their brackets and knocking me out.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Time for Some Changes: Releasing the Fun Police’s Tight Grip

I am back! It’s not like I left town. I just didn’t blog much in the last few days because of chores. Here’s a post I prepared earlier.

I first noticed the price of groceries going up and up in the Winter of 2007. Around that time, I also began to hear stories of foreclosures in the US. Being a super worry wart, I began to think that something disastrous was heading our way. Way back in 1997, Australia was not affected by the Asian Financial Crisis but this time, I was sure that the Global Financial Crisis would hit the Land of Oz and it did. There is a photo in a Children’s Encyclopaedia that has spooked me since I first saw it. It was a photo of an American standing outside his shack taken during the Great Depression (1930’s). The shack was made of pieces of cardboard recycled from boxes and pieces of recycled wood. I just find it hard to believe that the English speaking world has been through such a terrible phase in the 20th century. With the way people (including us) have been spending in recent years, I thought that it would have been a very scary situation if an incredibly large number of Aussies suddenly lost their jobs. How would Centrelink support everyone? Would there be riots? Would people start to judge who deserves more handouts? I can’t stand those handouts. They just complicate things in the long run.

I freaked out and became our own in-house Fun Police. The first thing I did was to draw up a brand new budget to strictly control our spending. Things like going to the movies, eating out at fancier establishments, magazines and even most of our clothes and hobby allowance went out the window or drastically reduced. I thought we were set to live with only the bare necessities. The budget was like a Starvation Diet. It worked at first but by April this year, we were breaking some if not most of the rules. M was spending money behind my back and whenever he bought something openly, I was quick to want to out-do him ASAP.

We did stick to the super strict budget for a little over a year. Although we had begun to break the rules, we did gain from it as well. We certainly realised how little we needed to live quite comfortably. So, it’s not entirely a bad budget/experience. What we need now is a budget that also lets a little bit more fun back in. It’s good that Winter is here. We tend to stay home more and thus spending less. I also tend to be happier with my cooking duties on cold days and as a result of that we tend to also eat out less. Of course I wish, like a lot of people, to be able to live without any money worries but with so many uncertainties around and ahead of us, it is definitely not a task for us to strike a balance easily. Because I am not sure if M will play ball, I will have to think up some ideas to get the ball rolling.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Blogging Less Again

A tradesman is coming on Thursday and I have heaps of cleaning and tidying up to do before his arrival. My skin is just not thick enough for me to allow anyone other than us into this pigeon hole in its current state. So, I won’t be blogging much in the next few days. I have heaps to tell the world though. For instance, we went to IKEA again today. Aussies have been told that they have narrowly avoided a recession last week. If you were there at IKEA today, you would be asking, “What Global Financial Crisis?” People were buying like IKEA won’t be here tomorrow. LOL. I confess that I bought a bit too but one item was a pressie for someone else. No, the pressie wasn’t a $1.50 vase.

I Guess I am Really Moving On

Today is the 7th of June. In the past year, I have always written a post that has something to do with my Guinea Pig on the 7th of each month. It was like a mourning process. Today, I didn’t even think about the date until just now! I guess that I am ready to move on but that doesn’t mean that I will simply forget about our little friend who played an important part of my/our life/lives for nearly 5 years. We still speak of him every day.

I watched half an episode of Martha last Monday and in it I saw a little sea otter by the name of Gracie getting fed by her keeper. Gracie was floating around on her back and was using her chest as a little table top. When she was handed a bit of crab, she went over to the side of the rock pool and proceeded to bash the crab’s claw against the rocks to crack it open to retrieve the meat inside. Who says little animals are not inventive? That sea otter was using a tool. We humans are not the only ones using tools in our daily lives. If I had a lot to type on the computer, my Guinea Pig used to join me in making a similar tapping sound by playing with the marble stopper inside his water bottle. He would do it and then turn to look at me. LOL. We humans have a tendency to not just underestimate little humans but animals all the time.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Goodbye McGill’s and Hello Mag Nation

I heard on the news that McGill’s, my favourite magazine shop is closing its doors. Apparently it was bought by Campion but they found it too much of a struggle to keep it operating. This reminds me of a well known toy brand A from Europe. It was taken over by toy brand B, also from Europe. After the take over, all of the toys from toy brand A were renamed toy brand B. It was like that for a while until they decided to move the manufacturing offshore – to where else but China of course. When I saw the new batch in toy shops again, I was totally shocked. The quality was beyond dodgy. This is not turning into a China Bashing post as I have seen products from China that are of high standards and good workmanship. After a year or two, we stopped seeing the toys in the shops. Some people are totally against plastic toys but I really adore some of the classical pieces that were made by toy brand A. Unfortunately, they can only be bought occasionally on Ebay now. I am also a fan of toy brand B as they too used to make great quality wooden as well as plastic toys. It’s a pity that when they went offshore, their standards lowered beyond belief.

Oops! This post is meant to be about my favourite newsagent. Before Borders’ arrival, most Melbournians’ access to magazines from abroad was via McGill’s. At one point, they even stocked a magazine from my country of origin! They also stocked some lesser known Aussie magazines like Grassroots. The store had always been busy. So it was quite a shock to learn that it will not be around anymore. Also situated along Elizabeth Street is another big magazine shop called Mag Nation. We had been in there a few times but we have always been loyal to McGill’s. It looks like we will have to buy from them now. Mag Nation is actually quite a friendly place. There are comfy seats on every floor for customers to browse before making a purchase. When we were there on Wednesday, after checking out McGill’s one last time, I noticed that Mag Nation stocks some of the magazines that I like to buy from time to time. M also said the same about his selection of magazines.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Show & Tell: Two ‘Extra Large’ Yo-yos

I finally sat down to test-drive the Clover brand “Quick” Yo-Yo Maker the other day. The gadget is indeed a quick and easy way to make nicely shaped yo-yos. I am pretty happy with the results of my first two attempts. There is an example of what the finished product would look like on the packaging and the two that I made are roughly the same size as that. When I stood there at the shop deciding which one to buy, I selected the Extra Large one because it seemed easier to manage at the time. From experience, sewing smaller things tend to be fiddly and I didn’t wish to be frustrated when attempting something new. In the end, I didn’t think that size really mattered because the Yo-Yo Maker makes the whole process so easy. I am however surprised that the finished product really did turn out to be as small as pictured on the packaging. And when I first unfolded the printed instructions, my first impression was, “Gee, I am not going to like this. There are just way too many steps.” It was after closer scrutiny that I realised that I only need to read a quarter of the instructions sheet because the rest are in other European languages. PHEW! The instructions are indeed very detailed. In my opinion, I think that maybe they can summarize it a little to make it less ‘repetitive’. Now that I know how to make yo-yos with this gadget, I am not sure how I could use them in my projects. That’s something to think about.

On another note, the spectators are loud tonight. I not only hear fireworks but I can also hear the cheers of a large crowd from either Etihad Stadium or MCG. I am just too lazy to step outside to find out. May be Richmond is finally defeating whoever they are playing against tonight. LOL.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cute Magic Pudding Statues

When we were out walking on the Tan Track last Friday, we snuck into the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden @ the RBG to take photos of these beautiful statues of the characters from a popular children’s book called “The Magic Pudding”. We didn’t really sneak in. Two gardeners were near the front gate when we marched in. They saw us and one of them even smiled. So, it is obvious to them that we entered without any little humans and it didn’t seem to be a problem or they would have asked us to leave. That was the first time I entered the Children’s Garden and we stayed only long enough to take a few snaps of the statues. How I wish to hang around to see if the award winning garden is an ideal place for me to take photos of plants for my pretty empty Montessori Botany box. I am aware that there is the rest of RBG for me and other adults to enjoy but I really do wish to learn more about the design of the Children’s Garden. I often wonder how they select the plants and whether they relied on any child development principles. Maybe one day a book about it will be released.

Note: Before and after we entered the Children’s Garden, M read the information erected near the gate. We are pretty sure that there was no mention that adults not accompanied with children were not allowed. In the website, there is a little note reminding adults that they are solely responsible for actively supervising children and keeping them safe while in the garden.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Japanese Bikkies with Strawberry Filling

We bought this as a treat when we were at the Asian grocery store the other day. We used to love tasting junk food from abroad even though they were often over-priced. This pack is a first in at least a year or so and it is aud$2.99. These bikkies are quite like the Koala ones that we used to eat, except that they have a strawberry filling. Each bikkie is printed with the headshot of a different Disney character. Another thing I like about Japanese junk food is the packaging.