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 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 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.