Knitting again

I learned to knit in Australia where I spent 4 years studying a double degree in Finance and Economics in Canberra. I remember cold winter nights knitting around a fireplace or even a heater either at home, in a cafe or at a friend’s house and finding it the most soothing thing in the world. I was self taught but had plenty of encouragement from a friend who got into it before me.

Canberra, really Australia in general, had a lively artsy scene. Whatever you may be into whether it’s crafting, poetry, fine/modern arts, there’s a place for it and people to do it with. This was quite novel at the time compared to Malaysia, or at least for a relatively sheltered girl from suburbia KL who was living abroad alone for the first time in her life. I remember wandering through weekend markets and picking up the odd skein of handmade yarn to try out and admiring the wonderful works of art that people created. I developed a sense of pure appreciation for workmanship and talent.

Sadly, when I came home I lost touch with this side of me because I was keen to get on the corporate ladder and work hard to earn a living. It’s also never cold enough for knitting and having no one who understood the joy of it alongside me really meant that my interest faded very quickly. So I packed up all the yarn, needles and books that I had amassed during my time in Australia and gave everything away to a delighted relative of a dear friend.

IMG_6604About a year and a half ago I discovered that Daiso sold knitting supplies. I was shopping for costume ideas for Sofia to wear to an upcoming Harry Potter themed birthday party and suddenly was overcome with the thought of knitting her a Gryffindor scarf. Turns out, my muscle memory was intact despite the passing of 6 years without ever picking up a single needle! I got down to the business of making the scarf very quickly (my daughter made a very cute Gryffindor), and much more recently I finished two tea cosy projects – one each for my mother and mother-in-law for the coming Mother’s day.

 

Once again I am hooked (pun intended). But this time, I am determined to do it proper and deliberately increase my skills by taking on more complex projects. Eventually also I plan to learn to crochet which is sort of inevitable (granny squares here i come!). But mostly, I’ve forgotten how therapeutic knitting can be – I can sit anywhere in the house and indulge in a luxurious tactile experience with all kinds of wools and cottons.

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Ok not a knitting project but look at what fun these pom poms are!

I shan’t promise to post up more knitting projects but I will try my best 🙂 All I can say for now is that i have a baby due in about a month and seeing as how i’m now too heavy to do much standing and walking about (I am one unfit pregnant lady) I’ll definitely keep myself occupied by knitting up a storm. I’ve already got a few projects lined up, especially to coincide with our year end family holiday! Can’t wait!

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It doesn’t have to break the bank: 20 great finds in Daiso (Malaysia)

Daiso has given me all kinds of solutions to life’s mysteries for a bargain deal of RM5.90 a pop that I have become a genuine fan over the years. So I thought I’d share the love by listing out 20 items that I couldn’t have done without – and those that I never even knew I needed!

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Junkyard jewels at Hong Tat Enterprise

Our study room has been a work-in-progress ever since we moved into this house in 2015. In the meantime, it has become a holding room for clutter to accumulate instead of being the functional exciting space for our creativity to shine — me with my sewing and crafting and hubby with his computing. But since I just spent quite a bit on my new dining set, I needed to find the cheapest possible way best value for my money to pull this off.

After a trip to Ikea to refresh our work stations with new Linmon table tops (our old ones were looking rough after two house moves) and a couple of cheap Ekby Laiva wall shelves, I decided to look elsewhere for the other stuff I needed, which was a drawer unit for hubby and a sideboard or bookcase to keep our important documents and files.  I’d done some online research and decided that pre-loved office furniture was the way to go – there’s lots of them from offices upgrading or simply shutting down. One of the biggest dealers in town is Kedai Kaki Lelong and the closest branch to us is the one in Ara Damansara.

This place is literally miles and miles of used furniture at seriously affordable prices. However, conditions vary and the lovelier items are usually one offs or come in limited quantities – like these gorgeous trio of dining chairs going for RM80 each. If they had a full set of 8 I would have bought them in a heartbeat!

I thought these string stools were pretty neat priced at RM35 each but I didn’t have a particular use for them. I imagine they’d do great in a kindy classroom or kids play room.

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They had plenty of office drawer units but sadly, they were in pretty rough shape. The photos below were of the nicest ones I could find as many were missing handles and were scratched pretty bad.

So the journey to Kedai Kaki Lelong was not very fruitful for me. I’d still recommend it for people looking to set up their first home on a budget or to furnish a vacation rental though. Lots of bargains to be had here!

I still had one more place I wanted to check out – Hong Tat Enterprise, which as it happens, is just a stone’s throw away from our house.

IMG_7391This place has been around for ages but even though I’ve lived in Taman Tun all my life, I’d never set foot inside! To my pleasant surprise, it was my last stop – it had both the drawer unit and sideboard I was looking for. Truth be told, the prices are far from rock bottom but the quality is far better despite being second hand stuff.

We scored this beech coloured lockable drawer unit on castors for RM150. The owner cleaned it herself and changed the locks for us too with a smoother working one. I was most happy with the sideboard, which looked like it might have once belonged in an old government office like the ones my parents used to work in. Measuring 6ft long x 16 inches deep and made of solid nyatoh wood, I felt it was worth the RM580 price tag. Check out a similar set up but without doors from Ikea made up of MDF (I am so over the Billy bookcase but that’s a story for another time).

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And here it is in our study room! I’m so pleased!

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I’ll do a fuller post once the study room is fully set up but for now, I have so many ideas that need to be thought through! For instance, I might want to change out the handles of this sideboard to update it a bit, maybe also hang some artwork above it. Watch this space!

 

In search of the perfect (Part 2)

So now I have a fabulous marble top kopitiam table – yay! But nothing to sit on – boo! As I said, I had my heart set on a quad of old school kopitiam chairs, not the square uncomfortable ones, but the round seat bent wood ones like so:

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As it turns out this kind of chair is rarer nowadays than I thought, or maybe not so rare if you’re willing to fork out some serious cash. The sales lady at W-Furnishing said she hadn’t seen these in her shop in a few years but if I was interested in buying in bulk (say, if I were opening a restaurant) she knew a couple of Johorean companies that could supply them. Uhm… no thanks, I just needed four.

My mum had gotten pieces made from Syarikat Chin Li in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, a carpenter who can make really gorgeous wood furniture for a commission. I did pay the owner a visit but he wasn’t very warm to my enquiries – maybe it was the Honda I drove or the less than luxury bag I carried that prompted him to tell me repeatedly how expensive he was. He wasn’t lying at least, he said a chair like that would set me back RM500 a piece!

I then moved on to Recro Furniture also in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, where I had previously bought a gorgeous refurbished sideboard/cabinet number that has become one of the best investment pieces I own. I knew they were expensive but I thought I should satisfy my curiosity and check anyway. They had the exact chair in their stock loft in a gorgeous nut brown hue. But at RM550 a piece I just couldn’t picture myself parting ways with that much money.

At the back of my mind I thought of my sweet teak furniture lady whom I had been buying from for years. She usually has pretty old school designs selling for reasonable prices and a quick whatsapp to her proved me right. She had the exact model in a dark wenge colour that could match my table perfectly but at RM320 a pop I still wasn’t moved. I thought I could give it a few more days of searching before settling.

As it happened my family took a weekend trip down to Melaka for a break and I took that opportunity to scout the vintage shops near Jonker St area. There are two pretty well known ones: Ancient Curio Store and Abdul Antiques. I’m not quite sure what I was hoping – the owner at Ancient Curio Store was nice enough in helping me out but upon seeing his chairs I realised that while I was keen on the vintage look, I wasn’t prepared to actually buy antiques. Especially when the price didn’t really justify a permanent sojourn into the 1940s Peranakan parlour of a random Malaccan family.

So back to KL and straight to my teak lady I went!

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Such gorgeousness!

And while I waited for her to wrap up the chairs and fix rubber feet on them so they don’t scratch floors, I took a look around…

The beautiful haphazardness of her store has always been something I appreciated. It is like weaving through a maze of teak and finding little treasures, like this miniature kopitiam table with actual marble top that you could use as a side table.

In case anyone’s interested, her company is called Leading Teak Furniture (Lot L2-11A & 11B, Level 2, The Weld, Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur, 50200 Kuala Lumpur).

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Happily installed in my kitchen 🙂

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In search of the perfect (part 1)

I’ve always loved the nostalgic look of the humble kopitiam dining set. My mum still has the 4ft round version in her kitchen and although the family has definitely grown by one son-in-law and one granddaughter, she still insists on eating our family dinners on it.

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Nostalgic about kopitiam dining (Image from Google)

I’ve grown to appreciate it much more recently whenever I disdainfully consider the clumsy Ikea extendable I have in my own kitchen. The veneer surface means I need to cover it with laminate so I don’t damage it when cooking or dining, and I’m telling you nothing screams cheap louder than a piece of clear plastic table cloth!

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This one just wouldn’t do.

So I decided that it was time for an upgrade. I turned to Google to see where I might find one and I gotta say, researching about the Malaysian furniture scene online isn’t great. Unless you’re happy to stick to Ikea or one of a handful of up and coming online retailers who are either selling modern (as with the current trend, either scandi inspired or mid-century leaning) and (lets face it) pretty homogenous stuff, or uber expensive but seriously beautiful pieces of art, then you’re out of luck.

So I had to do it the old school way, a.k.a. drive around to see some of the furniture shops I knew around the area. I guess it’s fitting in with the old school look I was trying to achieve.

After striking out at Fella Design (they still don’t have an online catalogue!), and a few large retailers in Bandar Utama and Kota Damansara, I finally struck gold at W-Furnishing which is near the Damansara exit of the NKVE. I’d always passed by the place but never went in, constantly finding humour in the huge sign outside that says “We are cheaper than nearby!!”.

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The shop is in the far right of the pic. (Pic from Google)

They had the round kopitiam tables on display but none of the oval variety I had wanted.  So the sales lady whips out a catalogue and assures me that she can get any of the ones in there within the next day or two as all the factories were close and stocks were abundant with CNY being around the corner.

Now, this is my first time ordering furniture from a printed catalogue so I had some reservations that the real thing might not look as great (do people airbrush furniture photos?). I had seen my own mother do it when I was very young for sure but I guess when I really think about it, how different is it really ordering something online? It’s still photos and trust and leap taking…

IMG_7034As with a great number of furniture produced in Malaysia, these are made of rubber wood and therefore quite affordable. Not particularly high grade or beautifully grained as some other wood types but as I hear it, withstands wear pretty well as it is a kind of hardwood. I fell immediately for this 3’x5′ oval with white Langkawi marble top. Inclusive of the extra RM200 to upgrade to a Grade A marble, the total price came to RM1,280.

The chairs were another matter entirely. I had my heart set on having a set of 4 kopitiam chairs but she had none of those to offer. She did have rather modern looking ones which were by the way extremely heavy even without marble inlays! So I opted to just get the table and worry about the chairs later.

I would most definitely come back to W-Furnishing in future – I’ve got my eyes set on some nice bookcases I spied when I was there which might do for the upcoming study room redecorating. For now I’m a happy camper, especially when I solve the chairs situation! See what happens in my next post!

A new kind of makeover

I tend to undersell my new year resolutions. It’s a kind of self defense mechanism because I know that by February I would have totally lost steam and my resolutions would be completely up in smoke.

This year though it kind of feels different. I didn’t seek out a set of formal resolutions but rather, the resolutions sort of found me. In fact, the process was so organic that even as I am typing this, I still have not formed a complete sentence as to what my resolution really is!

Over the course of a few days at the beginning of the year, I found myself in a fusty mood. The house felt tired. My wardrobe felt tired. Everywhere I looked I saw clutter, to-dos, and work in progresses. I felt positively… uncomfortable. In my OWN HOUSE.

Then something happened. I got hold of a plastic supermarket bag and started decluttering. Nothing major, just my vanity desk and probably because I couldn’t actually find what I was looking for. The result was amazing! I was so happy and  felt liberated by just being able to see the surface of the desk!

That’s when I decided that I shouldn’t stop there. I should make this a thing… although still yet undefined but a legit thing! As addictive as it was though, I don’t think I could go on throughout the whole day (being 6 months pregnant saps your energy like nothing else) so I decided I should pace myself; declutter/organize/clean one area a week to give myself a happy boost and hopefully be able to sustain myself throughout the year or until the entire house is sorted.

THE JOURNEY SO FAR I’ve managed to work through a few areas already; my wardrobe (lots of things went to either charity or recycling if they were unsalvageable), my accessories and handbag collection (the good stuff went to my aunt’s vintage clothing business), my makeup and skincare collection, my cat’s corner, and parts of the kitchen. By the way, I make it a point not to do too much damage to the environment whenever I can by recycling or transferring items to new owners. Check out the before and after photos below (unfortunately not everything was photographed, sorry!):

BOOKS As it happened, during a trip to one of my favourite bookshops, Bookxcess, I stumbled on the Joy of Less by Francine Jay and I’ve been using it as a companion as I continue to declutter and organize. It’s a delightfully light read and provides me with manageable doses of affirmation for what I’m doing. I also own Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up but I still haven’t gotten around to this yet.

INSPIRATION I did some looking around and before long found many bloggers and instagrammers who are also on this bandwagon and who are propagating #Lessismore #ufyh and #declutter2018. People like Bridget from Unclutterit, Emily Ley who created SimplifiedPlanner, and of course Toni Hammersley from A Bowl Full of Lemons, have provided me with endless inspiration. Imagine my joy when some even commented on my instagram photos of before and after decluttering sessions! Such encouragement! It makes such a big difference when I know that I am not alone haha!

So watch this space. My journey is so very far from being complete and hopefully I will share with you in future posts that this is as much a material as it is an emotional, mental and even spiritual journey for me. It’s a completely new kind of makeover 🙂

Where have I been?

As I was saying, work took up the majority of my time in the past year and a half. But it was also pretty boring so I will spare you the gory details of what I do for a living. My non-work life however has been pretty interesting…

About this time last year, the husband and I went through one of the most difficult times in our life together. Very shortly after finding out that we were expecting a baby, I came home very late from work one night to find that I had been bleeding profusely without even realising it. This happened one day before we were due to have our very first check up with an OBGYN so we kept the appointment. After a very nervous overnight wait, the doctor told us that we had lost the baby 8 weeks after conceiving.

The immediate heartbreak I felt rushed over me like a tidal wave. The pain and sadness from the loss was so breathtaking that until now, it still surprises us whenever we think about it. I was in a state of confusion in the days and weeks that followed. I was grieving over a child I never knew, whether it was a girl or a boy, how its voice sounded or how its face looked like. It was all very strange but it gave us the confirmation so many previous casual conversations between us never could: how much we wanted a child.

We were blessed enough to be pregnant again a few months later. Alhamdulillah! My doctor told us that the last experience was just my body’s way of making sure that a happy and healthy baby is made the next time around. I don’t know how true that is but it certainly calmed my nerves — especially during the early few weeks. I had a pretty normal pregnancy and after 40 weeks and 2 days our daughter Sofia was born.

Baby Sofia, 2 days old

Being a first time mother has been wonderful. I look at my little miracle everyday and wonder at the gift that God has bestowed us. She makes us want to be better, do better, so that the world would be a better place for her 🙂

In the middle of my pregnancy, we moved house (again) to be closer to our parents and work places. You’d think that by now I would be a total pro at this (after 3 moves in Malaysia alone!) but now, 6 months after staying at our new home I’m still seeing boxes in practically every room of the house. Every weekend I try to chip away at the mountain of stuff, but seriously, when did I acquire so much crap?? I’ve made significant progress in the common areas of the house (the places guests get to see) but I’m stuck when it comes to our TV room, study room, and store room (yeesh!). On the bright side, I’ve given myself creative license to turn these rooms into my decorating/organizing/diy-ing projects. Look out for updates on those!

And that’s it. A selection of the major things that happened over the past year or so. All of which completely life altering and each a very good reason for setting aside talking or writing about it. So now I will try again to open up and feel not so alone anymore 🙂

To happier times ahead.