Saturday, October 5, 2013

Know What You're Getting Into

I wrote a post recently about sold.sg here and about what it cost me to win a product from this penny auction. While I've been fortunate enough to win three auctions so far - a GoPro camera, 100 Free Tokens and a Tiffany necklace - it did take a huge amount of my time and energy and whatever savings I had in total probably weren't enough to justify the effort I put into it. 

To some extent as well I feel that customers at this site are at the mercy of the company. You know those terms and conditions you're asked to sign before participating or joining events? They have one here too for this site but who actually reads these things? Well, if you're joining any auction at sold.sg, you really should.

For example, when I won the Tiffany necklace, I won it for less than a dollar, which to me meant that the company probably lost money on this transaction. The retail value of the necklace was noted to be SGD200 but even computing all the tokens spent on this auction from all participants, it wasn't enough to cover the necklace cost itself. But no matter, right, they must have forecasted they would win in some transactions and lose on some transactions? Well, what happened was this. After winning the auction and promptly paying for the item, I get an email from sold.sg asking for ID verification of my account. They send me an email on a Friday afternoon and ask for a response by Monday the following week (see below).
--------------------------------------------------------------
Hi

Good day and hope this email finds you well.


We will need your full name as in your name in your NRIC for updating your records in our systems. Please reply to this email with the information and we will amend it for you. Be assured that all users' information are treated with the strictest confidentiality - you may cover your NRIC number for added comfort.


Please send us a screenshot of the front and back of your ID for verification.


Kindly take note should we not hear from you by the  16th September 2013, we would return the item to inventory. We will then await your reply with your bank details to refund the bid price plus shipping charge to your bank account.


Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you.


Thank you for visiting us at Sold.sg and have a great day!


Regards,


Your Team @ Sold

--------------------------------------------------------------
Now there were a couple of things I found objectionable about this. I already won the auction. If they really wanted to verify account ownership, I don't have any issues with that, but they could have done this as part of a regular process. This didn't feel like part of a regular process. And since I had alarm bells ringing in my head about this whole thing I also wanted to know if the email itself was actually valid and really did come from Sold. So I called their hotline to confirm and sent an email and eventually received a response (see below). 
----------------------------------------------------------------
Hi,

Thank you for your email. We do understand your hesitancy on this matter. We do conduct regular ID verification on all our users to maintain a fair bidding platform for all. Please be assured that your details are treated with the utmost secrecy and we do not share these details with any third parties as some organizations do. We do not mean to offend anyone; however the ID verification process is an important part of our operation to ensure there is no abuse of the system. As stated in our Terms of Use:


REGISTRATION, PARTICIPATION AND DISQUALIFICATION


5. Sold.sg has the right and at its absolute discretion to verify the identity of each individual user. In the event of Sold.sg being unable to verify or authenticate user identity using reasonable endeavors, then Sold.sg may ask users to provide photo ID, proof of address and other documentation as Sold.sg requires. Should such proof not be provided or should the details not match the user information, Sold.sg has the right to suspend or permanently remove such unverified user accounts and withdraw any auctions won by such users.


Thank you for your cooperation and we await your reply to move forward.


Thank you for visiting us at Sold.sg and have a great day!


Regards,


Your Team @ Sold

---------------------------------------------------------------
Now thankfully, I gave them the ID verification they required in time but I was stunned to realize that as per the terms and conditions they could just forfeit my auction winning if I hadn't given my ID verification in time.

In any case, it put me off of bidding on the site.

Another example of how well the rules favor the company - if you go on the site now, you'll find a notice to all users to use up all their tokens by October 15 after which all tokens will be forfeited. Strange that I never received any notice of this via email and chanced upon it only on the site. Again I'm sure this is all within the rules, but imagine if you were a user and still had tokens and hadn't visited the site for some time only to come back past deadline to find all your tokens suddenly forfeited. Tokens you would likely had paid for. It's a good thing I've used up all of mine, otherwise this would really put me in a tizzy.

It just goes to show, when you're trying out new things, you really should try to be more aware of what you're getting into.

Ben & Jerry's Chunkfest 2013

Chunkfest 2013 is back! If you want a peek into what happened at last year's Chunkfest, I wrote about it here




Furniture Find from Hock Siong

It's true what they say that once you own a home, you never really stop fixing it up. My husband and I have been renters for the longest time (9 years) and only just recently moved into our own apartment. During this time we were content with buying stuff from IKEA or sourcing secondhand gems from craigslist, balking at paying huge sums of money for items we wouldn't be able to bring with us to the next place we would be renting. I liked the pieces we found for our home but never really loved any of them, never really had that little bit of heartache you have when forced to give up something that no longer served a purpose in your life.

Now that we had an apartment of our own, we could finally choose the pieces we wanted, pieces that weren't just functional but were also beautiful and said something about the kind of people we were and wanted to be. 

For example, I've always wanted a more structured yet still comfortable sofa. The tufted blue one below is a peg I've kept when I was looking for sofas for the living room. 


My husband and I eventually found this grey structured sofa. The sofa back hidden by the pillows are also tufted. I love it because it looks a bit serious but it's still comfortable and inviting. The kids climb all over the sofa and sometimes take out the cushion seats to make them into makeshift forts. They couldn't do that previously with our old one-piece sofa as the cushion seat was too big to be moved around. The seat back cushion is also removable and there's a ledge that's big enough for a child to walk on, which is sometimes what the kids do.   


We've found a couple of pieces we love like our sofa pictured above and our dining set. But I'm still looking for other pieces for the home. For example, I was, until recently been longing to find ball lamps here in Singapore. I saw them previously featured in the home of one of my favorite Filipino celebrity personalities, Daphne Osena Paez and resolved to find one for myself as well. 

Ball lamp image taken from pinterest

Lo and behold I found them being advertised on the facebook page of Hock Siong which is a popular secondhand store here in Singapore. They cost SGD150 which may be a bit expensive for a secondhand store but given that it's an item I've always wanted, I think it's worth it.

 Ball lamp image taken from Hock Siong Facebook page  

Let me tell you though that it is worth every penny. The weight alone is unbelievable. My husband could probably use them as weights on the side. The crystal balls and the metal base = HEAVY. My husband jokes about what would happen if he accidentally caused my ball lamp to fall on the floor. Um, he would probably end up in hospital and that's not even a joke, if it fell on his foot it's likely to be technically true.

Don't worry, ball lamp, I'm sure he's just kidding. But in case he isn't, well you know what to do.

Our lovely new ball lamp sitting elegantly on my bedside table

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cookie Decorating for Daddy

We recently went to a friend's son's birthday party and missed the art session and cookie decorating session laid out for the kids. It would have been so much fun, but I thought, hey it should be easy to do this at home so we bought the requisite stuff and had our own cookie decorating session at the house. 

It just so happened we discovered this really good sugar cookie mix from Betty Crocker which we found at Cold Storage weeks back. They end up soft and moist and don't harden even after a week. I stock up on these cookie mixes and on brownie mixes so we don't have to rely on store-bought desserts and just make our own. These are pretty nice and quite cheap. It costs about SGD8 for each packet and we end up with about a dozen or so cookies.  
I also bought icing tubes for us to use, these are the ones that set hard. The small box is about SGD15 and contains four icing tubes of basic colors: red, green, blue and yellow. It's a bit expensive but these are the only ones I could find.

 Sugar cookie mix and icing tubes

Icing tubes with basic colors: yellow, green, blue and red

I had to encourage the kids to try it out as they weren't quite sure what to do but once they've gotten the hang of it they've been obsessed with cookie decorating ever since.

Now every time they want to eat a cookie, they ask me 'Mommy, can we decorate a cookie?' and sometimes if they want to be particularly persuasive they ask me 'Mommy, can we decorate a cookie for Daddy?'although most times cookies decorated for Daddy end up in their tummies anyway but hey it's great fun and at some point in time Daddy will probably end up with a cookie, it just won't happen anytime soon.

Lexi hard at work decorating her cookie 'for Daddy'

Friday, August 30, 2013

My Etsy Experience

I like buying secondhand because I save on money and also get an item with a piece of history. I also don't like the idea of throwing away perfectly functional items so I support any system that recycles items, big or small. This is why I wholeheartedly support ebay and craigslist. However, I've come across etsy recently and was intrigued by its promise of handmade products made by artisans.

It took awhile before I eventually bought anything but here's what I purchased for my home:

Set of 4 playroom posters. 
Posters are sold individually or as a set. Customizable colors. And I chose colors that would match my sofa pillows (gray, blue and yellow). Different themes available. I chose 'Create', 'Read', 'Learn' and 'Play' which are key themes I want my children to learn and eventually follow. There are other themes such as: 'Dream', 'Dance', 'Sing' etc. Each themed poster contains a list of rules to live by.

For example, under 'Play', you have...
The best things in life aren't things
Play is training for life
So many toys so little time
It's not how big you are it's how big you play
Just five minutes more
Some days are simply meant for playing
Play is the beginning of knowledge
Keep calm and play games
Playing it safe always ends in disaster
Fun is good
Those who play together, stay together
Play, laugh and love

These posters shipped out of Australia in a carton tube and I received them within a week and a half. I realized the sizing was a bit off though and didn't fit any of the ready-made frames available at IKEA. I toyed with the idea of getting them custom-framed but then found these silver frames that just about fit them. There's some gap on top and below the poster but you could pass it off as a border style.


Set of 5 pillow covers
I bought these from a pillow seller in the US. I was initially planning to buy black and white pillows then thought it would be fun to add pops of color in. I spent days sifting through pictures of individual pillow covers in etsy trying to match pillows before I realized some pillow stores actually sold them in sets. And not the matchy-matchy type pillows either. These sets were artfully matched as if you weren't trying very hard and they just happened to go together. I also liked that the design looked Dwell Studio-ish but not at the same exorbitant price level.

It took forever for these to arrive. About three weeks. Though to be fair, the seller did say it would take that long. Once it arrived, I promptly went out and bought pillows from the neighborhood provision store.

The quality of the fabric was okay though the stitching/sewing wasn't perfect. Still, I paid a reasonable price for it so all good in the end.



Craigslist Treasures

Craigslist is part of my daily online routine, not because I'm actively looking for furniture for my home, but because once in a while there are some really nice pieces that I wish I could own - if only I had more space or if only my husband would let me or if only it would fit with our apartment's interior design theme.

Like these newly-upholstered cream chairs which look both comfortable and chic. Except I live in a household with two kids, one of which is currently undergoing potty training. And oh look, they have wheels so you can move them around easily which is either convenient or a death trap for toddlers who love jumping on bouncy stuff, depends on how you look at it.

Cream chairs selling for SGD2,000

Or this amazingly beautiful red Chinese coffee table which looks both old and modern at the same time. It would be too big for my living room and would only fit in the playroom. But it's a bit too precious to be a kids' table. Our current IKEA play table gets its share of paints, crayon, clay and markers and it cleans up just fine. This, I'm not so sure. 

Red console table and coffee table selling for SGD950

And then there's this beautiful Chinese painting. Looks like a reproduction, but still decorative and given the size, it looks expensive. It will look great in our dining room. But then again, our theme is more modern leaning towards Scandinavian and this art piece looks distinctly Asian.

Chinese Painting selling for SGD1,500

But from time to time, I do end up buying from craigslist and one of my recent purchases is quite an interesting piece. It's a painting from an Indian artist and it depicts one's journey through life. I thought the use of color was quite appealing and I found the symbols quite appropriate for a playroom because of the owls and the rocking horse. It's actually quite ironic that the painting was being sold to clear up space for a nursery and it actually ended up in a playroom.

Original painting from Indian artist SGD150

And this is why I keep trawling through craigslist. To find that one special piece that makes your home a little better, a little brighter. And so much more lived in.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

When Moms Get Crafty

I wish I were more creative so I could make toys for my kids instead of relying on mass market products like what this mom did when she got fed up with trying to buy limited-edition Cars toys.

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Penny Auction Experience

I've always wondered how penny auctions actually work, as in how the company makes money off you when they're selling a 1,800SGD MacBook for 50SGD and how easy or hard is it really to win in one of these auctions. Well I found out over this weekend and it was quite a wild ride.

Here's how it all went down:

Thursday - I get an email link to sold.sg though I can't remember from where. I check it out and it seems reputable. I sign up and get 10 free tokens. Each token = 1 bid and each token = 0.75SGD. The company makes money by selling you these tokens upfront in addition to the amount you eventually pay for the product once you win an auction. I look through the list of live auction items and not really interested in anything but there's a MacBook up for auction on Friday so I'm gearing up for that one. Still, I practice bid on a couple of auctions, some simple ones like free tokens and free 50SGD vouchers. Then I spy a live auction for an Ipad Mini and think I'll try my hand in that. I spend the next 3 hours bidding on the Ipad Mini. Note the general rule is to try to bid during the auction's last 20 seconds as that is when the frenzied bidding starts to happen. Each subsequent bid extends the timer for another 20 seconds and so you try to outwit other bidders and strategize how long the other bidders can hold out and how much they're willing to put in, in terms of tokens before deciding it's too much/not worth it and call it a day. I think I put in about 70 tokens and still had room to maneuver but I made what I guess is a rookie mistake of being stingy with my tokens and assuming someone could bid and extend the time instead of me bidding. Unfortunately, I didn't bid one time and no one else did and so the timer ran out and the auction closed at about 14SGD even when I still had tokens to spare. Aaarrggh. First heartache. Still not too bad. Just three hours in and just blew off a couple of tokens. I write it off as practice.

Friday - If you've ever wondered how long a knock-out drag-down bidding war really lasts (this was for a MacBook), let me tell you...in this case, it was 14 hours. Here's what happened:

2pm - Auction's last 20 seconds. No sense bidding. An item like this would generate a lot of interest and would sell at 15-20SGD or more. I check first few bids then I compute how long it would take to get to 11SGD. Each bid = 20 seconds x 100 bids to get to a dollar = 2000 seconds/60 seconds per minute = 33.33 minutes which means it would take 30 minutes for the bidding to get to a dollar if the bidders maximize the time before bidding and not wait till the last second. I vow to check again at the end of the day.

530pm - I leave work and try to get a taxi but as it's a Friday, that's an impossibility so I'm forced to take the bus. I open the auction website on my mobile and monitor the bidding. It's about an hour's trip to get home so I have time.

630pm - I get off at Orchard to try and get a taxi. My husband sends me an sms about it being date night. I decide to wait for him at Takashimaya and settle in a cafe for the next hour. I bring out the goods. Laptop. Personal hotspot on my mobile. And continue monitoring. I start to bid at about 11SGD in. I wait until the very last second, in the countdown usually when there's 4 or 3 seconds left. I do that every time and each time the timer starts counting down, my heart starts beating faster. It's like a cardio workout this whole exercise. It takes my husband an hour or so to reach me but I don't mind. I'm quite preoccupied. In fact I'm anxious about leaving the auction too early. I worry that the auction would close while I went off to dinner. Hmmm. Husband of course wins out. Whatever will happen will happen. I close the site once my husband arrives.

730pm - We moved to nearby Ion and had dinner at a favorite Yakitori place. I surreptitiously check the mobile website on my phone and feel good that bidding still ongoing. We went to Prologue to browse before making our way home.

10pm - I set up my laptop and auction still ongoing. I quickly hunker down find a comfy spot and start to bid again. I am quite efficient with my tokens, still at under a hundred with potential savings at 90%.

1130pm - Two autobidders kickstart the system into overdrive. The clock extends by 2 hours. I use the break to go to the bathroom, get a drink and check my notes on the bidders. Also to buy more tokens. Willing to invest a bit in order to win big I can maybe accept 80% savings. Also need to figure out who's likely to stay through to the bitter end.

130pm - Still doing okay. Not too impatient when bidding and not too visible to other bidders. I note there are still about 5 regular bidders and some stragglers hanging around.

2pm - Fingers starting to get tired. Eyes a bit bleary. Just want to sleep but keep thinking about the prize at the end of it all. A few minutes into it, two autobidders again kick the timer forward another hour. I am simultaneously frustrated and happy. This gives me time to nap and hopefully will discourage stragglers from finishing the auction. I set an alarm on my mobile and go to sleep.

330pm - Wake up disoriented. What was I doing? Oh, auction, right. There are still a couple minutes left on the timer and I use that to try and wake myself up. Gotta get ready for the last stretch (hopefully). And so, the countdown goes to the last few seconds and bidding starts, I see familiar names. Ugh. There's still a whole contingent of us in the auction. I wonder how long this will last. Fed up with this. I try to set up the auto-bidder so I at least buy a few precious minutes of rest for my fingers. Too late. I suddenly see the timer at 3..2... I try to hit the bid button and see the PROCESSING notice and realize I'm too late...and then the CLOSED notice. Stunned. Cannot believe the other bidders all simultaneously failed to hit the bid button. And so after almost 14 hours, the auction finally ends. I try to go through the bid history and figure out where I went wrong. No use crying over spilt milk. And to think I still had about 100 or so tokens to spare. Now I'm truly awake.

345pm - I cannot believe I spent all this time and tokens for nothing. I browse the website for other live auctions. Maybe I can still win something. There's this GoPro camera that looks interesting. I look and bidding still at about 11SGD. Good enough to start. I start bidding.

5pm - I hold on through sheer will and manage to win the GoPro camera auction at about 15SGD. Yay! I check my stats and see that I won the camera which is about 800SGD at 86% savings. I am happy and all spent out. I finally crawl into bed.

The next day my husband threatens to block the site so I can't access. I still can't decide if that's a good or a bad thing.






Monday, August 12, 2013

As Different As Night And Day

When you think of having a second child you always assume that it's going to be more of the same and you're surprised to realize how different your children can be. You bring your children to the playground and people comment on these two little girls playing together, one girl so fair she always gets mistaken for a Singaporean Chinese and the other girl so dark she too gets mistaken for a Singaporean, not Chinese though but Malay. More than the physical differences though, the temperament is so distinctive that even at this young age their personalities seem quite well-formed.

There's Lexi our first-born. Fearless. Confident. Independent. She hit her developmental milestones early because she always wanted to do everything by herself. She likes dressing up and being a girls girl but is also quite athletic - she likes to swim, climb and do back flips. She can be obstinate too and kick her heels in when she doesn't want to do something though her Dad can talk her out of her moods, quite the Daddy's girl that one. She goes from 0 to 100% the moment she wakes up and it's all high energy from then on - lots of jumping and running around and bouncing off the walls as only children can do. 

Then there's Andi, my little baby. Born premature, she spent her first few days at hospital in an incubator. I can still remember how small and fragile she looked back then. I'm reminded of how delicate she is now that she's also started to develop allergies, to chicken and eggs. But she's such a trooper and good thing she has such an enormous appetite so it makes up for her not being able to eat a number of things. She's quite resourceful too. She'd dig through her sister's backpack for leftover biscuits or climb kitchen stools to make a grab for out of reach bread. Oh but how can we resist her when she gives us her best woe is me look. Though I've come to learn this cheeky little monkey can turn on the waterworks at will. She'll scream her head off at the slightest provocation and shed tears by the bucket until you give in to what she wants. But she can be so sweet and gentle too. Right now she's learning all she can from her older sister and is into her monkey see monkey say monkey do phase. She's people-friendly as well and was probably the favorite toddler at our previous condo unit because she said hello and goodbye to everyone she met. She has such a warm aura about her that I see kids gravitating to her and wanting to play with her all the time. 

It's a wonderful journey of discovery getting to see how my kids develop and come into their own. And as a mother I just hope I have enough time to enjoy these moments.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Not Living UP Yet

So I posted previously that my husband, sister and I each bought a Jawbone UP to track our activities, sleeping patterns, meal intake and mood. I was quite excited to be an early adopter of the technology and was quite diligent at first about updating my information and syncing my data. But the constancy of the feel of the device was a bit off-putting for me. I took it off for a few days and felt freer. I told my husband I was too busy to keep tracking these things but actually it wasn't serving its purpose for me. I knew I wasn't moving enough, doing enough and it just seemed like maybe I shouldn't wear this band until I was really committed to have a more active lifestyle.

In any case, there's been a lot of interest in the Jawbone UP I've noticed since it's probably one of my top five posts in terms of reach and here I thought it was just one of those factual posts you publish very quickly.

I know there are some of you who are committed to making this work. My husband and sister for example, still wear theirs quite diligently. In fact it's so much a part of my sister's life now that she's going into withdrawal since she's not wearing her band currently (i.e. her band stopped charging properly and she had to contact Jawbone UP in the US for support so they could give her a replacement band) and she's more active than ever. She's drunk the Kool-Aid obviously and is truly disappointed that she's currently not living UP. Like me, she's also gone out and recommended it to at least 10 people.

I just really think it's one of those things that can change your life...but only when you're ready to make that change.

Kids and Movies

My kids are at that age where they're starting to appreciate full-length animation movies. It's quite fun to watch. They'd be glued to their seats and then start laughing hysterically at something or other. It all started interestingly enough with a bunch of clearance sale DVDs I bought from the closeout sale of VideoEzy Novena. I should probably have bought more, but I carefully handpicked the ones that I wanted to watch as well. I chose the Toy Story series, a whole bunch of Charlie Brown DVDs, Winnie the Pooh, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Lilo & Stitch and the odd Mickey Mouse Clubhouse DVD. 
 
Lexi and Andi started with Toy Story first and not even in sequence. Rule breakers that they were, they chose to watch Toy Story 2 first. This made me a bit crazy because of course shouldn't kids learn the Toy Story storyline in proper sequence? As it happens, they ended up watching Toy Story 2 a gazillion times before deciding they've memorized it enough and it was now time to move on to Toy Story 1. That in turn took another gazillion viewings before they were ready for Toy Story 3 and by then they just plonked in whichever one they felt like watching. I loved the Toy Story series. I think it's quite an appropriate movie for kids just starting to appreciate movies in general. 
 
After that, it was Jake and the Neverland Pirates, which then turned us onto the series and all things pirate-related. For awhile there, I got a bit carried away and seriously thought of doing pirate-themed d├ęcor for my girls' bedroom but kids being kids I'm sure they'll latch onto another favourite thing in a couple weeks' or months' time.
 
Winnie the Pooh was also a hit especially with my younger daughter Andi. Charlie Brown as well, though I realize the Charlie Brown series has themes that younger children might not easily grasp - like faith (Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch every year for the Great Pumpkin who never appears), unrequited love (Charlie Brown pining for the little redhead girl), disappointment (Charlie Brown bringing a suitcase to school to fit in all the potential valentines he was expecting to get and not getting a single one) and so on. But they seem to like it so I let them watch. Maybe they're still trying to grasp the story. In a way it also feels more realistic and relevant I suppose especially for Lexi since it's about kids going to school and about friends.
 
Lilo & Stitch was quickly forgotten while Mickey Mouse is always a favourite they'll keep coming back to since we also have other DVDs and recorded episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on our video recorder.
 
Recently, we thought maybe it's time to introduce the fairy tale classics to them as well. We started out with books but thought it might be more entertaining to watch the Disney fairy tale classics. So my husband trooped off to Mustafa on a mission to find these DVDs. He first got Snow White and eventually found Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Meanwhile, I tried the free trial at hollywoodclicks.com so I can borrow Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin among other DVDs.
 
Well, as I was watching them again with my kids I realized there were quite a few violent and possibly scary scenes in there. But they seem to take it in stride and dutifully laughed at the funny scenes.
 
In fact, Lexi is so protective of her favourite DVDs that we aren't allowed to touch them and only she can handle them so she knows exactly where they are. We had a problem before with some of the DVDs gone missing so I think this time she's decided to be systematic about it and appointed herself sole guardian and protector of the DVDs. In fact, we can't even throw out the box the DVDs came in. We tried to do that once and she looked at us accusingly as she digged them out of the garbage.
 
I'm looking forward to sharing more movie moments with both of them and still have a long list to go.   
 
Minnie: Why do we get stuck in the back? Bunny: Yeah, I can't see a thing!

Minnie: Now this is much better. Bunny: True that.

Minnie (seen sitting on corner of sofa): Hey where'd those two go? And why don't we get snacks? Bunny: At least you're still in the frame. I'm totally out of shot.

Andi: Is this what's called a captive audience? Lexi: Shhh. I'm trying to read to you....I can't quite read yet so I'll just try to make something up. 

Andi: I'm so tired from running around all day it's nice to just lie down and watch TV. Lexi: Yes especially when you can rest your head on a pillow as comfy as this.
Minnie: Oooommmpphhhfff.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Extra Virgin Pizza

My first thoughts upon hearing that Extra Virgin Pizza was opening in United Square was 'Ugh, extra virgin doesn't sound very appetizing, it's probably one of those organic, healthy eating kind of places'. And since I tend to want my pizzas, quite meaty and tasty, I wasn't that interested in trying out a place that would serve bland food. But then my sister told me the food was quite good and to go try it out. Well, I did and this is now one of my go-to places for casual lunch or dinner.  
 
I get the 'extra virgin' concept and the thrust for pure ingredients and it really shows in the food. The first time I had the meatball spaghetti, I was overwhelmed by how pure the tomato sauce tasted. And my kids loved it too. My daughter Lexi who is at that stage where she's a picky eater more than anything actually ate both the spaghetti and the pizza we ordered. Normally, she would just eat white rice and egg. But here she was eating everything in sight. At SGD20-24 for each whole pizza, it was quite reasonable. So far we've tasted the meatball, pepperoni, spotted pig (their version of a meaty pizza) and four cheese pizza. We keep coming back to the meatball pizza though and the spaghetti & meatballs. That tomato sauce is to die for. And I've never said that about any pizza or spaghetti before but this one's love. If you check their promo materials, it says that 'Extra Virgin pizzas are handmade with premium ingredients and baked to order in twin brick ovens. Extra Virgin uses Italian double-zero flour, California organic Saporito tomatoes and imported cheeses and toppings.'
 
In any case, it's still quite easy to get a table there, mainly because there's still less foot traffic where they're located but just wait until Wee Nam Kee opens and more people find out about the pizza place next door. So go now! 

The main counter
 
The menu. Not a lot of items but most of the items are quite good anyway.

 
Lexi posing while waiting for the yummy food 



 
                                          
Andi also quite cheerfully waiting for the food 

Meatball pizza! Yum! With the famous 'leopard spots' that Extra Virgin pizza is known for.

Pepperoni pizza. Good but I would still go for meatball pizza any day.
 
 


Random Shots


Things have been pretty quiet as we settle in our new apartment. We'll go out to hit the playgrounds or the mall but otherwise it's quite nice just watching DVDs or downloads at home while sipping chococinno made from our new coffeemaker. Here are some random shots of our recent trip with the kids.
 
Yes I know it's a safety violation but Lexi wouldn't take off her sunglasses while balancing on this beam. At IMM playground.
 
Lexi and Andi cooling off at IMM playground
 
Andi at the coloring table at Art Garden, Singapore Art Museum

Andi exploring at Art Garden, Singapore Art Museum

Andi loved sitting on this 'broken chair'

Lexi and Andi with Walter the (giant) bunny. Lexi didn't want to pose for any pictures inside the museum but specifically asked to see Walter and to have a picture with him.
 
I loved this room which was plastered all over (floor, ceiling and walls) with illustrations of fairy tales. It had a mirror on one area where you could project messages, a tree, a bridge and of course a coloring area.

Dada and the kids
 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Our New Home Part 2

Next up in our house tour is the kitchen. As you can see, the flooring was very simple and the cabinets quite dingy. We tore everything down and replaced it with a more modern kitchen following a classic palette of black, white and light wood.

The old kitchen with dingy cabinets

Entrance to the kitchen. We thought of putting in a door but the entrance was quite wide and it was more convenient to keep it open. It also meant the nannies could easily see our children in the living room even if they were doing something in the kitchen.
  
LG Refrigerator to the left. Dark gray tiles. Light wood laminate. Quartz countertop and and high gloss white  cabinets.

Built-in Turbo Incanto oven and right on top is our microwave oven.

The old kitchen had a simple two-burner hob with no hood. 

Black tempered glass 3-burner Turbo Incanto hob and matching hood (hood in picture below).

Deep sink to the right with a very high tap.

Closer view of the sink and tap and cutlery and dish drainer behind the cabinet with the translucent glass door.

It's a very compact kitchen which is also the laundry area. That's our washer and dryer combo over there which gets used quite a lot since it's too inconvenient to hang our clothes outside the building and no space to dry inside the house.

This is a shot of the old kitchen and that raised platform was meant for a washer.

Another view of the washer and dryer.

The old hallway with marble flooring and dilapidated doors.

The new hallway with light wood laminate and white bedroom doors from the center to the right, and white folding doors for the shower and toilet, to the left.



Monday, June 10, 2013

Our New Home Part 1

Well it's been a week and we're settling nicely in our home. I waited until all the unpacked boxes and various items had been put away and curtains are up before I started taking pictures. I've put the pictures of our new home side-by-side with how it used to look like so you can see the improvements.
 
The living room is my favorite area and the coziest part of the house, it's a rectangular layout with the play space near the window, the actual living room in the middle and the dining area near the entrance of the apartment.
 
The flooring for the living room was the old type of marble and towards where the play area is now, it was a different flooring, more linoleum. The play area used to be partitioned off by an arch and columns and was painted black. The mood of the room was a bit dark. What we've done was to take away the arch and the columns and have the same flooring all throughout the living room - a light wood laminate together with white walls so we could keep the area as light and airy as possible.
 
I took inspiration from boards I found on Pinterest which is where I got the idea for the book ledges drilled onto one wall so the kids could have a reading corner. I had another ledge drilled onto the opposite wall so we could display the kids' photos against the wall and just update them as often as we wanted without sticking the frames onto the wall (which we used to do with blu tack - quite messy though and doesn't hold strongly). Then my husband and I chose the BESTA storage system with movable partitions so we could keep the kids' toys accessible. We bought a new rug as well then brought over the pink table with chairs and the drawing board / chalk board easel from our old apartment (all from IKEA).
 

For the actual living room, the old owners painted the wall and dark pink (almost purple) which wasn't really doing anything for the room. Meanwhile, I've always wanted a brick wall in my home and I've seen one in all the home decor magazines I've flipped through. It makes me think New York loft. But putting one up was an added expense we almost decided to do without. I kept thinking I could give it up but decided I couldn't and I'm so happy we kept it in the final design. I think it gives a warmth to the room. The only change we made was to keep the original color of the brick instead of painting it white, which we've seen done as well and thought was also interesting. But this one was better.


I've also stuck very closely to the design pegs which I posted previously. I have the brick wall (red not white though), the structured couch, and parquet-looking floors. I even have the ceiling fan pictured here and I've followed through on the pictures on a ledge idea.

Meanwhile, if my dream was to have a brick wall, my husband's wish was more functional, i.e. to have a built-in TV console. We chose a simple dark brown laminate and black glass compartments which slide out and which houses our Starhub box, DVD player and Kinect console. It's so easy to use, my kids already know how to open and close the compartments so they can watch their cartoons in the morning. The console did end up being a bit thick so the designer told us he built some DVD compartments on the side as well and we mainly keep our kids' DVDs in there. Right beside the console is my husband's Father's Day gift which is a 6-layer steel compartment box for tools, gadgets and electronics. I knew I picked the right gift when the taxi driver asked me how much it was and whether there was still stock left. It was a steal since I found it in the AS-IS section at IKEA and no there were no other stocks left since I hadn't seen it anywhere and I would know since I've been to IKEA 4 times in the past 2 weeks already. Beside the tool compartment box meanwhile are two of our beloved paintings - one was a painting I bought in Guangzhou and another was a painting I made with my daughter Lexi. We have a lot of white walls and there should be room for more art but for now we're starting with these two.


Then there's the dining room. It's still very bare except for a dining set and again I found the exact chairs I wanted and we changed over our table to a light wood surface this time around. We also changed the overhead light to a pendant lamp which looking now at the picture feels a bit small against the space, but we'll see. We're also still using shoe racks but come the weekend, we might start looking at larger shoe cabinets which can serve as a long console table. I initially wanted to do a chalkboard wall but trying to figure out where to put it. It may or may not happen. We'll see. For now, the apartment already feels like home and we'll change and adapt as time passes.



More pictures in the next few posts of the other areas of the house.