Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Speedy Kitchen Clean Up

The first question I asked myself when I got up this morning was “How are you going to waste your day today, Priscilla?” I didn’t like such a negative outlook at the start of the day and was determined to not let the whole day go downhill, I speedily gave the kitchen a much needed clean up. Since my trusty vacuum cleaner was used to give the kitchen floors a once over, I quickly vacuumed the rest of our little apartment as well. There was a time when I was very house proud. Nowadays I no longer clean up religiously and tend to postpone any chores for as long as possible!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bookshop: A Place to Meet a Potential ‘Soul Mate’

I once heard that a bookshop or a library is a good place to meet the opposite sex but didn’t quite believe it until I saw it happening during a recent trip to Reader’s Feast to hunt down a Japanese cook book by Harumi Kurihara. Another guy was travelling down the escalators with me to get to the store’s entrance. As always, I went straight to the pillar of ‘new release’ books first. After that, I went to check out the books on display behind the window. The guy with whom I shared the escalator ride to get to the store earlier was there also. He seemed nervous and I almost instantly thought it was due to my presence. To give him the space that I think he should be entitled to, I went over to the cooking books section, which is next to the window. A young Asian woman was already there. She sat on a step-up stool with a large cooking book spread open on her lap. She had parked herself right where the Asian cookbooks were and I debated whether to come back later or just check out other cookbooks until she left. I chose the later and lived to regret it. LOL. As I was flipping through a cookbook, the nervous guy from before turned up to my right and the young woman was seated to my left. I happened to look up at him and noticed that he was looking at her. Next, I felt him looking at me and when I looked up to meet his eyes; I noticed that he was trying to figure something out. No, it’s not the kind of looks a guy sends out when he is interested in a girl. Honestly, there must be something wrong with him if he was interested in me. LOL. Of course, I instantly wondered if I invaded his private space again. This time though I was unwilling to move on because I was there first. Moreover, I really wanted to check out the Asian cookbooks section to see if the book I was after was there. So, I stayed. After a couple of unbearable minutes, the guy spoke. He looked at me as he said, “So, this is where you hide during your break.” I was totally confused and thought, “Oh no, this is a friend of M and I didn’t recognise his face!” I was still wondering who he was when I heard the voice of a woman from my left saying, “Oh, I am just looking at these beautiful cookbooks.” That was when I realised that he was talking to her after all. Why would a guy like him speak to someone like me anyway? There was a brief moment of silence for a while and then I felt that he was giving me the looks again. When I looked up, he gave me a weak smile and only then I realised the non-verbal message on his face – “Beat it! Can’t a guy pick up a girl without someone like you hanging around?” I hastily retreated to an armchair between the business section and the children’s section. There I sat browsing a book on dinosaurs as I waited for the potential lovebirds to leave except that M turned up first and was quite amused by my choice of reading.
Elders have always taught children not to eavesdrop but did anyone try doing that when people are talking loudly nearby. Unlike the eyes, the ears can’t be shut to block the sounds of other peoples’ speech from filtering in. From where I was seated, I could hear the conversation that was going and it was going one way most of the time. I did try to not judge or laugh when he tried many times to impress her with his knowledge of the capital city of her home country even though she stated at least a couple of times that she was from another part of the country. I am just glad that M was not like that. We too are in an inter-racial relationship but I think I would have been quite horrified if M's initial approach was like that. The guy probably thought that she would be more at ease by displaying his familiarity of her country. I feel kind of uncomfortable when people openly display too much of what they know out loud. An overtly confident guy who is full of himself can be quite off putting.

All that waiting around was for nothing. After the lovebirds left the store, I went over to see if the Japanese cookbook I was after was there and it wasn’t there after all. M asked why I have to wait around like that when I am just as entitled to be at the bookshop as them. I should have stayed and politely asked her to move so I could check the range of Asian/Japanese cookbooks but something in me just doesn’t feel good about doing that. I just hate to interrupt certain people in certain places. Now, if I was shopping on my own that day, I would have left to try other bookstores but I was stuck that day because I was also waiting for M to turn up.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Getting There Slowly But Ahead of Schedule

I am still in the middle of revamping our living areas, slowly sorting the mounds of stuff into three piles: Donation, Keep and Chuck. To trim the amount of stuff for keeping, I also need to double sort that pile to see if I have changed my mind about something. While I found it hard to believe that we had accumulated so much junk, it is fun re-discovering some stuff that we have completely forgotten about. M and I laughed ourselves silly at the notes that we left for each other. Some of them dated back to when we moved in together. We also spent some time looking at products in catalogues we have collected; realising sadly that money can’t buy most of these beautiful items again. Some of these catalogues are only 8 years old! It is so sad to see how fierce global competition has forced reputable companies around the world into downgrading their quality standards.

The sorting and chucking also freed up an old plastic crate that rolls under the sound system cabinet situated within my work area. Boy was I glad that it was big enough to be the new home for my recently serviced overlocker. The poor thing used to have a home in one of the bookcases until M recently reclaimed that entire bookcase for his growing collection of ‘books’ and the overlocker was thus made homeless. With this new arrangement, the machine can now be stored out of sight when not in use and still be within easy reach. It is handy to have my machines and tools nearby.

With my fingers crossed, I think we can complete what we have set out to do by the end of the week. It looks like we are ahead of schedule. We are already enjoying the fruits of revamping the living areas. The place just feels more homely. The next thing I want to tackle is the pantry. We don’t have a walk-in pantry. Ours is a mini version designed for small apartments. Despite its size, things can go crazy because we have a tendency to stuff all sorts of things in there. I wish that the entire pantry is all organized before M takes his next lot of holidays in November.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dried Food & Chicken Parmigiana

Sleep was rough the last two nights. Last night was rather windy and that kept me waking up almost every two hours. Settling down was impossible until around 7:00 this morning! I did manage to have quite a few eventful dreams when I did manage to get some shut eye. Here is one of them.

At the start of the dream, I was cooking in the kitchen. I said to myself, “He is not in the cage. He is not there anymore.” This was referring to my Guinea Pig, whose cage/home was located down the hallway near the kitchen. Then a house guest appeared and requested to try my Chicken Parmigiana. LOL. I was making Chicken Parmigiana. I don’t think I have ever made this dish in real life before. When the house guest went back to her bedroom, I walked over to my Guinea Pig’s cage because I thought I heard a noise and when I lifted up his covers, I found him waiting for me cheerfully. He was in a jolly good mood to see me. He walked over to his bowl and then came back to me. Noticing that his bowl was almost empty, I suggested that I get him some dry food. When I did get the dry food from the pantry, I didn’t pour some into his bowl. Instead, I just sprinkled a handful near his front paws and he went for it like mad. I watched him eat and laughed at the piece of corn stuck on his nose until the house guest came out of her room asking what happened to the Chicken Parmigiana.

It was only after this dream that I was able to settle down for an undisturbed sleep. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sleep in for too long because there were things to do. Hopefully, I will have better sleep tonight. My dreams tend to be pretty eventful, taking me into situations (like cooking Chicken Parmigiana) that I normally do not carry out in real life. That’s probably one way my mind is trying to bring in some excitement in my all so boring life.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More Plastic

I am still slowly sorting through the mess in our home. The storage problem around my work area is now pretty much fixed. Worried that I might be hit by another flood, I have transferred all of my semi precious Blackline Masters into two existing plastic boxes and bought a compatible plastic craft box from Big W to store my growing sewing supplies. These three boxes stack up very nicely. The transfer freed up two black paperboard boxes and I used one to store objects that I have been collecting for Montessori purposes, whilst the other one is used to store incomplete sewing projects – these are projects I had started around the time I stopped attending sewing lessons and am now stuck on because I needed help to complete them. Other things stacked or placed neatly under my desk now include two other plastic boxes housing sewing supplies, my new laminator, my puzzle maker and my trusty sewing machine in its very daggy carry bag.

My desk is pretty big but it is usually cluttered with all kinds of stuff because being a part time crafty person, I am forever accumulating a punch here, a stencil there and had given little thought to how I should store them. At times, the clutter has been quite a put off. So I bought another one of those plastic drawers from Officeworks to store these bits and pieces. With everything hidden inside the three drawers, the desk did not only look neater instantly, I also rediscovered precious freed up space as well. We already had a similar plastic desktop organizer except that the old one has 5 drawers instead of 3. That one is used for our complicated finance system. The two organizers are now parked side by side on my desk with my loyal lamp sitting on top of one of them. Someone once informed my mum that I was becoming a spendthrift for buying that lamp. Sixteen and a half years later, this lamp is still loyally doing its job and required only one replacement of its light bulb about 4 years ago. Back to the organizers, because they are light and mobile, I really like how they can be stationed somewhere else temporarily for when I need extra space.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone is reading my ramblings. Part of the reason that I am blogging about how I/we tackle my/our mess is because I think it will encourage me to do more. I am hoping to get rid of the mess by the end of November, at the latest. Part of me is also feeling horrible for solving my storage problems by purchasing and using things made of plastic. I had really wanted to buy wooden boxes from IKEA and I especially liked the ones called SNACK. If I had chosen to do that, I would have to buy enough to replace all of the plastic boxes under my desk for a uniform look and that would have been quite pricey. We have allocated a small budget to ‘upgrade’ our living areas and so far, M has already used up his portion and I have only $20 left in my portion. So, going for natural products is out of the question this time. Plastic can’t possibly be all bad, can it? Despite the guilt, I do feel more assured knowing that some of my fragile paper possessions are now safely stored in waterproofed containers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Third Trip to IKEA

We have visited IKEA three times in just four weeks. That means that we have visited the big store at least 4 or 5 times so far this year. We went on Saturday solely to return some boxes that I bought hastily on the previous Sunday. We have never returned anything we have bought from IKEA prior to this and weren’t quite sure how the store would entertain us. The service was surprisingly good and friendly. They gave us full refund even though I had unwrapped one of the boxes from its plastic packaging.

The trip was meant to be ‘punishment’ for M for hurrying me. The devil in me was looking forward to dragging him through the store again but the devil in him was on leave and M ended up being a pleasant shopping companion on the day. We didn’t go through the whole store because we didn’t have the time. We bought a soft toy for a niece and then went downstairs to inspect their range of frying pans. I wasn’t quite sure of their quality and ended up not buying any. Now I will have to continue using our sticky frypan until Christmas time.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Paddington!

It is apparently Paddington Bear's birthday. He is 50! The first gift (excluding flowers) M gave me was a Paddington Bear in a red duffle coat, blue hat and black gumboots/Wellington boots. We had only known each other not that long when he bought the bear from a very expensive toy shop. In comparison to current price tags, Paddington used to be pricey back then. Today, the bear stands dutifully next to our bed. I better go check and see if he needs vacuuming.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Time Wasting & Living in a Mess

One of the things that I had wanted to tackle during the holidays was to reorganize the living areas to make it more homely and less like a work space. We had neglected our little home (or ‘Pigeon Hole’ to some) in recent years, turning the open plan living areas into one big work space ‘littered’ with projects in various stages of completion. When we went to Victoria Gardens to pick up some spare parts we had ordered at Howards Storage World a week before the holidays, we dropped by IKEA. M patiently explored the big store with me. I found that strange because M doesn’t like IKEA very much. We left after collecting the latest catalogue and came away with lots of ideas on how to improve our living areas.

In the days after the big flood, I was plagued with unfounded worries of a leak in the water pipe under the hallway and the kitchen. Although it sounds stupid now, I was truly convinced that something horribly wrong was happening all because one area of the hallway took longer to dry. I was so worried that our home may turn into the Apartment of Mould, just like the House of Mould that I saw on TV. Instead of using our free time productively, I argued and picked on M for not taking my worries seriously.

I do admit that I am quite a worry wart; being especially worse at night – before bedtime. Morning is the best time of the day for me. I turn into an optimistic person after a good night sleep. Mornings are especially good now that Spring had arrived too. Spring means that the sun comes up earlier and sets later. Despite losing an hour, the result of a longer day is why I didn’t mind the earlier switch to daylight savings this year.

On one such positive morning after the flood, I got out of bed nice and early to draft a couple of layouts of the living areas for M to pick. He picked the one I liked best. Inspired by what I saw at IKEA, I decided to relocate some of our existing furniture to create small but purposeful areas within our whole living area. I made sure that I included a cosy area for us to chill out and relax.

Did we plough ahead and start working? No! We were caught up with the AFL Grand Final frenzy and went out to Fed Square to soak up the atmosphere and wasted time and money in the city bingeing on fatty foods like we had only just discovered Melbourne. We both also got pretty burnt for staying out too long in the day. Neither of us were Geelong or Hawthorn supporters but we rocked up for the parade anyway. I just went along because M never gets to enjoy events like these due to his work. There was a minor consolation prize for doing all this. Both of us ended up in a photo in the paper the next day. No, it wasn’t a close up of the two of us. It was one of those pictures taken from a helicopter in the sky. Finding us in the photo reminded me of those “Where’s Wally?” books. LOL.

Two days after Hawthorn beat Geelong, we settled to start reorganizing the living areas. The effort we put in that day was not bad but did it last? Not really. We abandoned it the next day to go watch WALL.E. Tuesday is the only day that I allow for us to go to the movies because the tickets are cheaper. We were supposed to watch the movie and buy some bread before coming straight home but we ended up having lunch in the city and hanging around Borders as well. By the time I got home, all I had wanted to do was to curl up in bed with the book I am currently reading. We did a bit more on Wednesday before spending the two days after that trying to solve the growing storage problem for the ‘stuff’ M had collected in recent years. It wasn’t easy because we were sticking to a budget.

Sunday (5 Oct) was the last day of the holidays. We went back to IKEA to try to solve my storage problem. M suddenly became very anti-social while we were at the store and we had to leave sooner than I expected. I was very cross with him and still am. Because I had to hurry, I didn’t get to carefully decide my options. M is a very considerate person most of the time but he is also capable of behaving like a very spoilt devil occasionally. He was apparently trying to seek reassurance because he was worried that I would leave the apartment in its messy state. Speaking of that, I better get back to tidying up the bombsite. At the rate that I am going, the living areas will be nice and tidy ‘soon’. Blogging about the progress may speed things up a bit.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dreaming of My Guinea Pig

I must say that it was wonderful that my Guinea Pig turned up in one of my dreams overnight even though I don’t quite understand the full story. At the start of the dream, my Guinea Pig sat very still with his back facing the water bottle. I was standing next to the cage discussing burial arrangement for him with M. My Guinea Pig blinked when I looked down at him and because of where I was standing, it looked like he winked at me. LOL. So, I reached in to pat him on his forehead and left cheek. The thought of not burying him alive came over me as I patted him. Just before he ran off to his bowl, I told M about this cremation service in Geelong where pets owners are welcomed to witness the cremation process. When I turned to look at my Guinea Pig again, he was at his bowl munching on some dry food. I asked if he would like a bit of carrot and he looked at me. Instead of getting him a bit of carrot right away, I went to our pantry cupboard to get him Lucerne Pellets of all things! (He wasn’t very fond of Lucerne Pellets.) Just as in the past, my Guinea Pig heard the cupboard’s door and ran straight back to the corner near his water bottle to wait for me. He stood up eagerly to see what I got for him. I placed some of the awful but healthy Lucerne Pellets into his bowl and he went over to have a look but walked away promptly. LOL. Not really interested with what I got him, he went burrowing under all the fresh hay. It was then that I went to get him a bit of carrot and he was very happy after that. I am not sure if that was the end of the dream. I probably turned in my sleep and if I did, I usually start dreaming of something else.

It was wonderful to ‘see’ him so happy and lively but the dream wasn’t very accurate. M and I almost never discussed burial/funeral arrangements for our Guinea Pig when he was alive. Our Guinea Pig was going to be a mascot. He was going to be a star in our major project. To us or to me to be more exact, my Guinea Pig was to live very long. The subject did come up briefly when we gave him his last bath. I suggested to M that we ought to raise or set aside some funds for this purpose and M agreed wholeheartedly but we never expected for him to go so soon. As for the pets’ cremation service in Geelong, I only read bits about it online in late July or early August.

Mh spoke to a relative on the telephone about a week or so ago. This Aunt is dear to the both of us because she had always been very nice. If anyone asks me an example of the ‘Australian’ value of giving someone a fair go, I will definitely mention how accepting and welcoming this aunt has always been. She reaches out to me even when I pull away. Anyway, she had recently found out about the passing of our beloved Guinea Pig. She passed on her condolences over the phone and revealed how she likes receiving our hand-made Christmas cards starring our Guinea Pig and his friend Koala each year. She also casually asked M what we would do with this year’s Christmas cards. M pretended that he didn’t know what I had planned this time. I have indeed planned for it already but we would like to keep the idea under wraps for now. I am super chuffed to learn of another person out there enjoying the cards and looking forward to see what we have in store next. Our Guinea Pig was happy to pose for photos but little did he know of the Christmas cheers that he and his friend Koala brought to a few households around the world.

The Flood

M had a two week break from work. We (I, in particular) had grand plans for the fortnight. I even dreamt up something that we could get into next year to make some extra pocket money. So, there were heaps of things to do and we were prepared for the fact that not everything would be completed in just two weeks, especially when we also organized a couple of daytrips plus a movie day. M had divided his annual leave into two, with the other half scheduled for November. We thought we could carry out the rest of what needed to be done around the apartment then. It was with emotions of fun and excitement that we hit the bed around midnight two weeks ago; anticipating the start of his holidays the next day, but nothing prepared us for the FLOOD!

Hours into our sleep, we were blissfully unaware of something quite disastrous happening in our bathroom. At approximately half past three in the morning of 22/09, M was woken up by a weird noise and someone buzzing at our door. He got up to check what was happening. I got up only because the lights in the hallway and bathroom were annoying me and enquired what the problem was. Still half awake, M mentioned that something was leaking but sounded like he was confused. So, I dragged myself out of bed to see what was going on. The bathroom was completely flooded and the water was flowing out into the hallway. We soon realised that the water heater had gone bust. After switching off the electricity supply to the water heater and turning off the water, we started to clean up. That was our super early start to a holiday we had been looking forward to. For some stupid reasons, I kept thinking that this flood was a good sign. As I tried to soak up the water from the carpet with towels, I kept thinking that this flood was needed to wash away all the sadness to mark a new beginning. Part of me was clearly still sleeping and dreaming away. M was in charge of mopping up the bathroom. I only found out a day later that he ‘burnt’ his feet doing that because the water was very hot in some areas of the bathroom. He had altered sensations under his feet for a couple of days.

The tradesmen arrived after lunch. The first plumber reminded me of Casey Stoner and was friendly enough to include me when explaining what he was going to do. We learned that he and his crew had been replacing the ageing water heaters in other apartments in our building as well. I have seen at least three being carted away this year and thought they had broken down prematurely due to a lack of proper care. We hardly ever checked on ours. Two more plumbers came to assist the first one. I didn’t like one of these two but that is another story. Together, the three man crew knocked up a wooden stand and a metal tray for the new heater to sit on. In the event that the heater popped again, the metal tray will catch the water and guide it down the drain to minimize the possibility of another big flood. Just before the plumbers left, the electrician arrived to do his part of the job. They all left just before 5 pm and minutes after their departure, the tap at the vanity sink started to drip. The plumbers were called and they were not happy to hear from us but arranged to come back the next day. Guess what? When we got up the next day, the dripping at that tap had stopped. How bizarre was that? And despite calling them to cancel the appointment, another friendly plumber rocked up right after lunch.

Approximately 14 hours after we discovered the flood, we had a brand new water heater. By 6:30 pm that day, we were enjoying access to hot water once again. I thought that was speedy but the damp carpets took another three and a half days to dry. During that time I began to think that the problem could be more severe than just a ruptured water heater. I suspected that the water pipes supplying water to the kitchen was leaking because one particular part of the hallway was wetter than anywhere else. It didn’t help that our neighbour downstairs paid us a visit to see if everything was alright. Smokey/Doosh-Doosh Man came up to see if we had gotten the problem fixed. He was the one who was buzzing our door frantically to try to wake us up because the water was flooding his apartment as well. To have flooded his apartment is 200% embarrassing to me. I have a part time to full time subscription to the idea of being a waste of space and am forever trying my best to not impede on others right to enjoy life. So, when the stubborn wet patch of carpet took longer to dry, I freaked out thinking that water was still trickling down into the apartment below us. On the Thursday before the AFL Grand Final, I bumped onto Smokey/Doosh-Doosh Man and his chick on the way upstairs. He gave me one big smile but I looked away in total embarrassment. I took that smile as an indication that all was okay after all. Only then did I feel relief of the trouble my old water heater had caused. By then 4 days of the holidays were gone! Most of what we had planned went out the balcony door.