Monday, July 29, 2013

Renovation diaries: Here we go...

We're about a third of the way through our six-week renovation journey and while I have a fairly concrete picture of how we want our apartment to look like at the end of that journey, all I can see right now is dirt and debris. How our vision is going to materialize is something that's still hard for me to fathom, what with gaping holes, dangling wires, and unfinished walls. But I'm looking on the bright side-- we still have a little over a month to go and there has been much progress since the first wall was hacked two weeks ago. The workers are also working over weekends to get things like tiling and plastering done (they're not allowed to do any work that involves excessive noise during non-work hours) so things are thankfully moving along fairly quickly.

I wouldn't say we're doing extensive work on the flat, but the changes aren't modest either, I suppose. It's not a big apartment and there were some oddly shaped corners. Which meant that our designer had to come up with some nifty ways to maximize storage and open the layout our a little. Here's the original floor plan:

Original floor plan for flat

As you can see, the master bedroom has that ridiculously angled back wall and the kitchen is kind of small. There also wasn't a designated dining area. And here, is the redesigned layout:

Redesigned floor plan

We're going to carve our a store room from that odd angle of the master bedroom and also sacrificing part of Sophie's room for a more open kitchen/dining area. A part of the wall to the study room has been hacked to let more light through the apartment in order to create the illusion of space. Most of the hacking has already been done-- especially in the kitchen and bathrooms which we're overhauling completely. The next week will be dedicated to tiling and reconstructing walls. So yes, progress...

Now that we're moving full steam ahead, all we can do is keep one eye on the work to make sure they don't cut corners, and the other on costs to make sure we stay within budget. We've heard horror stories of people renovation costs escalating exponentially through the renovation process and we're going to make sure that doesn't happen to us. We just have to make sure we're very disciplined and steadfast in our decisions. Crossing our fingers (and toes)...

See our progress here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Morning has broken

There are too many battles that could be fought with the 4-year-old early in the morning before school: getting up at all, brushing her teeth (and then which flavor toothpaste), tying up her hair or not, what to wear, what she wants to eat for breakfast, whether she gets a book with breakfast, which shoe to wear, gummy vitamins or not, etc. We basically have 40 minutes between her waking up and us having to leave the house (yes, I've got it down to the second) and so any delay, debate, or deliberation is just going to throw our schedule off (although I sometimes question why I even bother to try keep to a schedule with a 4-year-old...) And so I've learned to pick and choose my battles and have come to accept the ones I don't care about losing: brushing her teeth- non negotiable; what she chooses to wear to school- whatever.

And so this morning, our daughter walks out of the house with clean teeth and looking like Cyndi Lauper, circa 1985 (except without the crazy hair).

When Sophie dresses herself

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A very short engagement; a very long honeymoon

Last week, Jude and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. We didn’t make a big deal out of it-- he picked Sophie up early from school, we went furniture shopping, and then we had dinner at a coffeeshop in Tiong Bahru. The Sydney trip was partly meant as a celebration in itself and our 13-course tasting menu at Momofuku seiōbo (for another post), had been our treat to ourselves. To be honest, I appreciated the ordinariness of how we spent our actual anniversary-- with Sophie, looking for things for the first home we own together, and filling our bellies with delicious food like we always enjoy doing, i.e. some of the many things I love about our life together.

We didn’t have a big wedding, in fact, it was modest by Singapore standards (then, and even more so now.) We got engaged in May 2003 over sushi-- at a restaurant that no longer exists in its original location-- and we would go on to set a record for shortest engagement and longest honeymoon among our friends, I believe. My grandfather wanted to make sure we got married on an auspicious date and between the approaching Ghost Month in July and the fact that we were leaving for grad school in August, that actually narrowed our wedding date to just one-- 27 June, a Friday. We were worried that we wouldn’t be able to pull off a wedding in two months and even more worried that people wouldn’t attend a weekday wedding. But that-- together with many other anxieties-- became greatly unfounded, thanks in no small part to our family and friends.

From Day One, our wedding was a labor of love-- the wedding reception and dinner, our rings, all the flowers for the ceremony, my sisters’ bridesmaids dresses, my hair and make-up, the wedding invitations, and the wedding photography- almost every aspect of the wedding-- both tangible or not-- was taken on by someone we love and who loves us. And in many cases, our friends and family members volunteered their help and refused payment in any way, sometimes not even for raw material. We were awash with gratitude.

And on the day itself, everyone who mattered to us turned up. It didn’t matter that it was a Friday morning-- people took time off work and even travelled as far as Australia and Finland to help us celebrate our wedding. It was not a stressful affair at all-- I was marrying the man I love, surrounded by people whom we love and love us. There was a lot of smiling, some happy crying, and a lot of laughing. That day-- together with the day Sophie was born-- will always be one of the happiest days of my life.

People say a wedding doesn’t make a marriage but I think the spirit of our wedding did set the tone for our marriage-- there is always lots of laughter and love. Lots of love. Good music and great food. Family and friends are important. Always. And I think pulling off a wedding under budget and in eight weeks (plus seven years of being a grad student) also taught us that a good life can be had at low cost. We like “things” just as much as the next person-- as shopping for our new home attests-- but these things don’t have to be new. In fact, some of the best things you can own are pre-love-- inherited from family, gifted by friends.

Seven weeks after we got married, Jude and I set off for Ann Arbor for what would be a 9-year honeymoon. The rest, as they say, is history.

Our second favorite photo
Our hands