Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mr. Clean becomes Mr. Proper

Somehow Mr. Clean is called Mr. Proper here.  Not sure if the "Mr. Proper" name is used only in Czech Republic or across EU, but Mr. Proper certainly looks like the same guy as Mr. Clean to me - well, except one thing.  As you know, Mr. Clean has an earring on one ear and has his arms crossed in front of his chest like Genie. Mr. Proper has the earring and does the same with his arms, but he seems to have a tiny little pierce on the other ear... hmmm.

Anyway, I did a bit of research on Mr. Clean, as I was always interested in the concept of having a middle aged macho man on the household cleaner product. 

It seems that he has been around since 1958! And, he even got a first name "Veritably" in 1962!  Well, I have to say it is an odd name, but...

He always smiled, but at one point in 1960s, he was a "Mean Mr. Clean" who hates dirt.  Here is the commercial of "Mean Mr. Clean."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Dream

We are planning a trip to Vienna this coming weekend, which is a long weekend due to the Easter holidays. And, one of the things that I have been wanting to do is to see an opera or something at Vienna State. I started to look for a way to buy tickets online, and found out I can do that at Culturall.  You select a venue you are interested in, the month you are interested in, and you get a list of plays that you can choose from. The great thing about the site is that you can reserve the tickets by specifying the desirable seats on the seating map.

We got two tickets for the ballet show "Ein Sommernachtstraum"  - the famous comedy by Shakespeare "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Parkett level.  I can hardly wait!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Eco Pet

I found these interesting looking milk bottles.  It says "Farmer's Milk - fresh directly from the farm."  Yummy!! Anyway, the bottle also says it is an "Eco Pet" presumably meaning an eco-friendly pet bottle.  The small picture on the bottle seems to indicate that you can squash the bottle and make it into a small garbage. 

I thought the bottle looked pretty interesting, but I am not sure about the eco-friendly part.  Why not just use the paper container instead?  Maybe there is a reason, which I have not yet explored.  If you have any information on that, please let me know.

Eco friendly pet bottle is also big in Japan.  Here is the CM from Coca Cola Japan:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

US Mails

I just received a box full of letters from US through the service that we are subscribing called Earth Class Mail.  As we are renting our house, we needed to have a PO Box to forward all our US letters.  Earth Class Mail provides you with a PO Box number, and we can check whatever the letters/packages sent to the PO Box address online.  Once you receive a letter or package, you get an email saying a new item has been arrived.  You go online and check the envelop and if you wish, you can request a scan (either in b&w or in color).  They can also send you the physical letters to wherever you are.  And, that's how I got my letters today! 

This service is a great one to have, especially if you have to be outside of the US for a long time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Japanese style potato and meat croquette

Okay, this one takes some time to make, but it is worth spending time - IF you have time :).
1) Boil 4 potatoes, then peal the skin (while they are still hot).  Put them in a bowl and mash them with a folk (not too much but just enough).  Put a wrap over the bowl and let it cool.
2) Sauté minced onions (half a onion is enough) and approx 100g of ground meat (chicken, turkey, pork, or beef) thoroughly (but don't burn them).  Let it cool.
3) Once 1 and 2 are cooled down, mix them together with 3-4 table spoons of milk. Don't mash them too much.
4) Make balls or any forms you wish to make with the mix.  I sometimes put cheese or quail eggs inside.
5) Make batter by mixing 1 egg, flour (5 table spoons), olive oil (1 table spoon), and some milk (until the batter gets smooth but with good consistency).
6) Dip your balls into the batter, and then to Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs).  Let them sit for a while.
7) Heat up your oil to 170C, and fry the balls (croquette) until they are brown outside.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Virtual Yoga Class

Recently I signed up for the online Yoga class that my former Yoga teacher introduced me to.  It has been great. The only problem was that I was running the lessons on my PC which was on my desk, and it was really difficult to see when you sat on the floor.  I also tried running it on my Sony netbook, but it was just too small.

So I asked my hubby to see if he could help me connect the netbook to our 40-inch flat screen TV.  He bought two cables (VGA and audio cables), and boom!  It worked!!  It really made a big difference.  Now I feel like I am sitting in a Yoga class.  Love it!

The Three Musketeers

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Some of you may know that I burned out the power supply of my PC that was delivered via air all the way from LA to Brno back in January.  It was a frightening experience.  And the other day, the electricity in our house went out the minute my hubby plugged the US power strip with the EU converter into the jack.  It was bad, as we didn't know where the main electricity panel was.  It took like 30 mins to find it in the dark.  Since then I have this phobia for plugging in any kind of US devices into the EU jacks.  When we got our elliptical machine delivered recently, we needed to find a transformer.  Finding anything here in Czech is tough for us because of two reasons; 1) language, and 2) Internet capability.  I suppose if you can speak Czech, you go to the top search engine here in Czech called Seznam, and you probably won't even encounter 2) issue.  Instead, we have to rely on Google (forget Yahoo), and the result is not always that great. 

Anyway, we ended up getting more great help from Jana.  We got the "correct" transformer, and my hubby just plugged our elliptical machine into it and it to the wall jack, and it worked!!   This morning, I managed to do 30 mins of elliptical machine the first time in 3 months!  It was so great.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Finally got my Czech mobile

When I moved to Czech Republic,  I had my AT&T service still running on my iPhone.  It was such a bad idea, as they charged me for the roaming service (yes, my jaw dropped when I saw my bill - yikes!) .  I cancelled it immediately, and ever since then I had no phone at all except the Skype phone as we don't have a land line connected to this apartment, either. Skype phone was good except that it depends on the Internet connectivity, and this apartment which has a proprietary Internet connection had some issues at the beginning of this month. 

So, I decided to get a mobile phone.  The first thing we tried was, of course, to get a new sim card for iPhone.  But we failed to do so, as the iPhone was "locked."   In order to use the different carrier, you need to "unlock" your iPhone... :-(  

I undestand it is not an official approach, but I loved my iPhone and decided to give a try for "unlocking."  So, I went to a store here in Brno to see if they could unlock it.  They said (yes!  they spoke English, too!) they should be done with "unlocking" within an hour.  I went back, and they told me to come back in 2 hrs.  So, I did, and they said they had been having hard time unlocking it but that they will continue trying some more.  I went back the next day, and the clerk told me that they couldn't unlock it unfortunately.  Rats!

I decided to hold off on the idea of using iPhone, and decide to explore other options.  I found a T-mobile store around Nám Svobody (Liberty Square - the biggest one in the heart of Brno), went in, and managed to talk with someone who can speak English a little bit (she was using Google Translate to communicate with me ^^).  I found out that I will need a passport and visa in order to sign up for a monthly service.  And, as a foreigner, you have to pay a deposit of 5,000 CZK (approx. $250) in advance but it will be returned after 6 months.  On top of that, you are rquired to pay a regular deposit which will be returned after 3 months, and the amount differs depending on the service you purchase.  For instance, if you want the service up to 250 CZK credit, the deposit will be 1,000 CZK (approx. $50), but if you want the service up to 1,200 CZK credit, the deposit will be 2,500 CZK (approx. $125).   And depending on the service you purchase, the price of the phone you want changes, too.  So, for instance, if I want to get an iPhone 3GS with the most basic 250 CZK credit, the phone will cost me 17,999 CZK (approx. $900!!!!).   Okay, so forget about iPhone, but even with the most basic phone such as Nokia 6303 which allows you to do both emails and Internt with minimum credit of 250 CZK, it will end up costing me 5,000 (for foreigner deposit) + 1,000 (for the regular deposit) + 250 (for the first month service) + 2,999 (for the phone with 250 CZK option) = 9,249 CZK (approx. $463).  That's a lot to pay just to get a phone with basic service.  Anyway, it took me like 20 mins to understand the entire scheme of all these, and after all I decided to go with he pre-paid card for now.

I asked the clerk to show me the cheapest phone that I can buy with the pre-paid service, and it was the Samsumg E1120 which cost me 750 CZK with the sim of 300 credit for 89 CZK, and 10 CZK for some sort of communcation service.  The total bill was 840 CZK (approx. $42)!   They had some sort of promotion plan with this card, so I get 300 free SMS messages.  I will be charged 7 points for each min, so I should have about 40 mins.  Also you can register up to 5 numbers and for these numbers only you will only be charged 3.5 points/min.

Boy... it was complicated but I managed to get a phone!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fried chicken and green beans

Fried chicken
In Japanese, this type of fried chicken is called "Kara-age" - meaning Chinese style frying.
Cut the chicken thighs into pieces.
Prepare a mixture of sake and soy sauce (1:1) and plus ginger (small amount if you have any), and marinate the chicken pieces for about 20 mins.
Put "Katakuriko" (or corn starch) in a plastic bag and put pieces of chicken in it.  Mix well.
Then fry them (make sure the oil is not too hot).

Fried green beans
Actually this is one of my favorites.  It is so fast and easy to cook. 
After you wash, dry them thoroughly, and take the stems off from the green beans, you just dump them into the mid-temperature oil and fry them for about 1 min or so.  Don't leave the beans in oil for too long.  You want to leave the crispiness.
Sprinkle sea salt and Katsuobushi while beans are still hot.

Not too healthy, but both of these are so good!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Online Yoga Class

I just managed to get connected with my Yoga teacher in LA via email!  It was such a pleasure as I couldn't make it to her classes right before we moved to Czech Republic (there were way too many unexpected tasks wrt the move) and couldn't even thank her in person for the Yoga lessons that she taught me throughout last year. 

Yoga was certainly one of the best things that I experienced last year, and I was so determined that I would continue the practice even by myself.  And, I had been practicing on my own, but gradually I felt that I was missing something.  Then, my teacher introduced me to this online Yoga courses provided by Yogaglo.  For only $18/month, you get unlimitted access to their content (lessons, lectures, etc).  There are a huge variety of Yoga lessons that you can choose from in different styles and durations. Now every morning, I would just look at different courses and pick one that I want to try.  It makes a HUGE difference to have a teacher in front of you, and I am so glad that signed up for it. 

And, amazingly it did attract gG quite a bit.  He is a unique cat to begin with, but I have never seen him drawn into what's on my monitor.  He was definitely getting into it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Meal vouchers

My hubby's company offers each employee a set of meal vouchers every month.  Since my hubby is too busy to eat lunch most of the time (too bad!), I was benefitted to use them for him :-)   Well, I don't usually go out for lunch unless I am meeting somebody, but the good thing is that these meal vouchers can be used in the grocery stores such as Albert as well. 

Btw, 70 Kč is about $3.50 (or maybe worth more now as CZK is doing well against USD).  And, as I wrote in my previous post, you can typically eat good lunch for 70 Kč. 

Also, groceries are not that expensive here, either.  The other day, I bought a bottle of red wine, 1.5 litter bottle of Jemně Perlivá (gently sparkling water), 1 litter of milk, 2 bottle of Czech beers, 1 carton full of mushrooms, 1 bag of salad leaves, 1 Yorgurt drink, and 1 container of tomato sauce. The total bill was only 160 Kč!!   (btw, we didn't drink all that in one day - just so that you know ^^)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring almost here?

Finally got a Czech cash card

Finally I got myself a cash card at the bank called CSOB, which stands for "Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka."   It is one of the largest banks in Czech Republic.   What's great about this bank is that it has a very sophisticated online banking capabilities.  For instance, unlike Wellsfargo with which we used to have our main bank accounts, you can transfer money to almost any foreign bank accounts directly using the web interface.  You don't have to go to the bank and fill out a sheet of paper specifying all kinds of detailed information about the transaction every time you want to send money to the foreign account.  This is very beneficial for us, as we need to trasfer money to our US bank accounts occasionally. 

One interesting thing that I noticed about the bank employees in CSOB is that they wear VERY casual.   One of the ladies who helped us wore a tight top that almost showed her belly, short jean skirt with black tights underneath, and a pair of cowboy-looking boots.  And... she wasn't that young, either.  She looked like she was about late 30's to early 40's.  She also wore a very blue eyeshadow above and below her big eyes. I would say not a typical attire as a bank lady in the US.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stuff arrived! - March 3-5, 2010

Finally after two full months, 70 boxes that we shipped from LA have arrived to our new apartment!!  I knew that we sent quite a bit of dishes and glasses, so we went to ASKO at the beginning of Feb to buy a piece of furniture hoping that it will be here by the time our stuff gets here.  But, I am not sure whether it was due to my hubby giving a wrong phone number to the store or whether it was just a Czech way of dealing with deliveries, we didn't get the furniture on time. 

So, on March 3rd, the movers came and unpacked everything and left the dishes and glasses all over the place in the kitchen and living room area.  They put most of the clothes that fit into the closets - well, randomly of course as they had no way of gussing my thinking of how I wanted to organize our closets.  I don't have an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, but I do like to organize things rather than letting things scattered around the house. 
The movers were very efficient and loaded all 70 boxes, unpacked everything, and took out the empty boxes out within 2.5 hrs.  Superb!  Plus, our most wanted also arrived.  The elliptical machine!!   I know it was an overkill to send it across the ocean, but we figured we would need it especially during the snow season.  

Anyway, after the movers finally left, I sat in the middle of piles with gG contemplating where to start. 

I decided to tackle our clothes first.  Unlike our house in LA, we don't have walk-ins in this apartment.  Consequently, I already knew we will be short in hanging space as there are more shelves than hanging areas, so I folded most of my pants and T-shirts and placed them on the shelves and decided to use the hanger for dresses and linen shirts only.  Also a piece of IKEA drawers, which we never really utilized too much before, helped quite a bit.  The challenge was on my hubby's side, as his clothes are much bigger than mine by nature and take more space. I decided to hang suits, jackets, pants, and some shirts and decided to fold some shirts, T-shirts, pants, vest, and sweaters.  It seemed like the folding task took me forever, but I managed to get eveything done in 2 hrs.  Then I organized the office area.  We had to wait to clean the kitchen area until we got the furniture delivered, which was scheduled for March 5th.

On March 5th, the long awaited furniture arrived!  We missed it the first time they delivered.  This apartment is highly secured and very overpriced for Czech standard, but it doesn't even have a receptionist downstairs.  It has a button right next to the door which should call our apartment so that I can ring people in, but it never worked.  So, ASKO guys called my hubby, but the phone connection was very bad and they couldn't communicate (well, communication would be difficult to begin with because of the languae barrier, but...anyway).  
So, they just left.  I was semi-desperate to get the furniture before the weekend, so we ended up asking Bob's analyst (super lady Jana!) to call them to redeliver it on the same day.  Jana has been more than a great help for us ever since we got here.  Without her, I don't think we could have accomplished anything.  Most of the store clerks or delivery people do not speak English, so it has been a challenge for us.  Anyway, ASKO came back with our furniture right away, and I got a plan for the full afternoon to build the furniture again.

This piece of furniture was a challenge. It took me almost 4 hours to build it. And, I made a slight mistake, too (not sure if you can tell by the picture, but it is rather obvious) :-)   But we got the furniture we can now put our dishes and glasses in.  By 18:00, everything was in place!