A Happy Home - The Dining Room

Posted by ~Summer~ on 23.2.17
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One of my biggest wishes in moving to the new house is to be able to make more homecooked meals for the family. It's hard, really hard, on some days because the three kids already drain me of my energy and time. Still, you'll be surprised at where determination takes you and so far we've been doing better than I expected (I've tried out 5-6 new recipes and the kids love them, woohoo!) in this first month after shifting in. The dishes might be simple but they were cooked with love and the most important thing is we try to let our mealtimes be filled with joy and laughter.

So, continuing with our tour, I'm going to show you our Dining Room today! Okay, strictly speaking, it's just a dining area because it shares the same space as the living room. What we did was to place a dining table behind the sofa and also install a customised storage cupboard which I will show you later on.

To be frank, this arrangement makes the sofa a little too close to the TV, so what I usually do is shift the bench under the dining table and push the sofa as far back as possible, in the hope that this will do less harm to the kids' eyesight. Yes yes, I'm hoping they can be like me and don't need to wear spectacles but I know it's going to be a tough challenge in this high tech age we live in today.

The hubby initially suggested that we should do away with the dining table but I objected because that, to me, meant less motivation to cook and less opportunity to eat with the family. So, a dining table was a must and thanks to My Nest, we now have Scandinavian styled dining table, chairs and bench. This did not come as a set and in fact, it was a mix and match and every piece of furniture was picked by ourselves. I loved all the wood and earnestly thought that the colours and the combination of different styles worked together quite well in the end, do you think so too? Will be sharing more in our review!





So far, we've already hosted a few rounds of gatherings with friends and family in our house and the dining table has served us well.It makes for a nice corner to sit around, catch up and bond while we tuck into food at the same time. So yes, having a cosy dining area is really essential to us for now.



Moving on to the highlight of our dining room, it will be the personalised LOVE cupboard that many of you have been asking me about and the unique Travertino wall done by the Nippon Momento team. Here's showing the draft of the design that I drew.

Basically, we needed huge storage cupboard space because there is no storeroom in the house, we wanted a glass display for all the booze, and I wanted to have a brick wall as a photo backdrop - these three factors led to this peculiar design which you've probably not seen anywhere else. Yup, that's how special it is. Haha.

See how it eventually turned out? It definitely exceeded all our expectations and I am loving all the earthy tones and wooden feel.

The LOVE display cabinet idea came about when we saw this photo frame we bought in Sweden. You can see it in my foyer tour here. The hubby, who can be more creative than me at times, was the one who tried to draw a mockup design and said that it would be nice to have a cabinet with the letters cut-out on the doors and LED spotlights to light up the displays.

So, we thought about it for some time and also had a discussion with the carpenter. He was intrigued with our concept and said that he had never done anything like this before, which explained why it took him weeks to cut out the doors despite the fact that the cupboards were completed much earlier. But see? He did a really awesome job eventually, right? We are so in LOVE!

Yup, so this is the reason why we are calling our new abode the House of Love (see our cabinet cut out in the shape of a house in the living room display here). A tad cheesy, I know, but we still like it. Nowadays, whenever guests come over to our place, the girls will write welcome messages on the whiteboard and it always says "Welcome to the House of Love" along with drawings of our whole family. How cute, right?

Here's a look at the door from the inside. As you can see, the display glass shelves are just the usual shelves and what makes it special is the cut-out of the door in the corresponding letter. This means you can basically spell anything you want, right?

For the displays, I've put up some photos, souvenirs, medals, trophies, memorable keepsakes (such as two pebbles from Iceland, a walnut cracker from Sweden), two disco lights and so on. I love the LEGOLAND photo souvenirs where they printed our photos onto real LEGO which can even be dismantled.

Now, a quick look inside the storage cupboard. Since we don't have a storeroom, we had to devise ways to store bulky items like the vacuum cleaner, the hubby's golf set, our Christmas tree etc. I actually came up with a list of bulky items before we even did the furniture design so that we can have a rough idea of what is to be stored where and then allocate the space for the items. Yes, a lot of planning prior to this!

The storage cupboard is also where the hubby keeps his fishing gear and where I keep all my art and craft materials (which is quite a lot of stuff!). I have a box dedicated to storing the kids' past artwork and even though I've tried to be selective, it's already almost full and I'm wondering what I should do in future.


On the other side of the cupboard, we have these display shelves with sliding glass doors that keep all our booze as well as shot glasses, champagne glasses, alcohol related souvenirs (such as this Heineken clock from Amsterdam) etc.. Yup, you can say this is our mini bar and I'm still looking forward to the day when I can have a glass of Baileys or cup of sake without feeling the guilt. But for now, I shall cherish all the breastfeeding days I have left!


Lastly, this is one of my favourite parts of the house - the gold-coloured brick wall. Right, it's not really made of bricks, not even craftstone, but is in fact done using special effect paint. I was amazed by firstly, how the wall fitted perfectly with the cupboard and didn't even leave a gap. Yippie, this meant that our measurements were spot on. Secondly, I was blown away by how the gold colour of the wall matched the wooden laminates of the cupboard perfectly and this was purely by a stroke of luck.

The more I look at the wall, the more in love I am with it. Some of our friends who came over have also asked us about it and many commented that it looked very nice! I'll share more on this in a separate post soon but you bet you'll be seeing this wall pretty often in my posts.



I initially wanted this area to be a photo taking backdrop cum stroller parking area. However, plans changed and it became more practical to put the kids' Ikea play kitchen (I fixed everything up myself for this, woohoo!), the baby's high chair and the whiteboard easel stand. This is good for me in the sense that since it is right next to the kitchen, I get to whip up our meals while the kids also whip up theirs in their kitchen or do some drawing and writing too.

So, this concludes our tour of the Dining Room and in my next tour of A Happy Home, I'll be showing you the bedrooms so stay tuned!

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This post is part of the "A Happy Home" series where I share all about our new Scandinavian-themed house, the renovation process and some tips and thoughts. Moving is never easy but it comes with an indescribable sense of joy in building up the house of your dreams. Remember, home is where the heart is and nothing is more important than being able to build memories with the people you love.

Creativity 521 #107 - The tranquil Tree of Knowledge

Posted by ~Summer~ on 21.2.17
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When we were designing the study area for the kids, I drew up cupboards that formed a T-shape and the hubby was the one who then suggested "Why not let's make it into a tree?", which sounded like an excellent suggestion. Yet, it was easier said than done. We came up with ways to make a tree-like structure, we searched for furniture pieces that resembled a tree before we decided that the best way would be to paint a backdrop of a tree and then do a customised cupboard with shelves to represent the tree trunk and branches.

We asked if our painters could help us to paint an outline of a tree but alas they couldn't. We thought of painting it ourselves but couldn't imagine if it would turn out the way we wanted it to be. So after a few weeks of feeling at a loss yet determined to press on with the idea, you bet I was very much relieved when the kind teachers at heART Studio said that they could do us the favour and pop by our new house to paint with the girls.

So, you have already seen the wall mural of the beautiful Singapore skyline that Angel painted together with Teacher Elma. Today, I'm sharing about the tree that Ariel painted with Teacher Syafiq which I call the Tree of Knowledge because it will be our library corner and house all our books in future.

To start off, Teacher Syafiq mixed a few different shades of brown/yellowish colours for the tree trunk and the painting began. We had a huge wall of 3m long by 2.4m tall to cover and you can imagine the time and effort that went into it.

The little girl couldn't wait to get started! She's been taking art classes for a year now and to be honest, I was initially worried if she would like and enjoy it as much as the sister does since I know jolly well that their interests might be diverse. It turned out that she's been looking forward to Teacher Syafiq's lessons and even though she doesn't speak up much in class, she comes home telling me "I love painting!" which is really heartening to hear.

There she goes! This four-year-old was as enthusiastic as could be as she began to add colour to the trunk. She had to hop the paintbrush and keep changing colours, which I must say was quite tiring and furthermore, the trunk was huge and wide!

I love this picture of the teacher-student pair working side by side and I know how precious it will be when we look back next time. I mean, when do you get such a golden opportunity to paint on the walls of your new nest with your very own teacher, right?

Despite the fact that Ariel probably only covered less than 10% of the entire tree, the fact was she knew she did her utmost to be involved and she did play a role in painting this gigantic tree. That was what mattered to me.

See how the different shades blend together eventually and make the tree trunk appear more layered and realistic looking? Quite amazing, right? Oh, the reason why I needed a very wide trunk was because this will be the kids' library and I wanted it to contain as many books as possible. I'll be showing you how it looks after the customised furniture is up in our study area tour, so do keep a lookout for that!

Once the tree trunk was done, Teacher Syafiq moved on to paint the canopy. Likewise, we needed a huge, wide canopy so as to be able to accommodate more shelves for our books and so he worked within the dimensions we provided.

Another way he tried to involve the kids was by asking them for the colours of the leaves they wanted and how they want the leaves to be placed. Angel chose to have falling leaves which I thought made it very scenic! We left the middle portion of the tree more bare because it would be covered by the shelves and books anyway, but for the border, Teacher Syafiq made it really beautiful with the leaves and he even added in a family of birds and some butterflies too!

There was going to be a total of five birds, one to represent each of us, and we got to choose our own colour. The hubby chose yellow, I went for turquoise, Angel wanted pink, Ariel had red and we chose a blue for the baby boy.

The birds looked so lovely after Teacher Syafiq added in the details and if you look closely, the wings had patterns on them and the female birds even had eyelashes! How meticulous, right? I love how the black butterflies contrasted the multi-coloured hues of the birds and leaves too.

So, after one whole afternoon and evening of hard work, we were all done with the murals and here's our completed tree! I know I know, the trunk is a little wide and the canopy is oblong, but wait till we put up the cupboard and shelves and you'll see! Stay tuned!

**This is not a sponsored post and the art teachers did this for us purely out of goodwill and friendship. If your kids are keen to pick up art as well, do check out http://heartstudiosg.com/ and get to know more about the awesome teachers there. It's definitely a great place for the little ones to learn about art, be creative and enjoy at the same time.

******

This post is part of the "A Happy Home" series where I share all about our new Scandinavian-themed house, the renovation process and some tips and thoughts. Moving is never easy but it comes with an indescribable sense of joy in building up the house of your dreams. Remember, home is where the heart is and nothing is more important than being able to build memories with the people you love.

A time to work and a time to play {Review of The Ant and The Grasshopper}

Posted by ~Summer~ on 20.2.17
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I've been trying hard to teach the girls that there is a time for everything. A time to sleep, a time to eat, a time to read, a time to study, a time to do art and craft, a time to watch TV, a time to accompany their baby brother, a time to play and so on. I wanted them to learn to focus on the task at hand, to be less distracted, to make a bit of time for everything, to seek to find a balance in their lives.

When we work, we work hard; when we play, we play hard too. Since their childhood years are fleeting, we try our best to add fun to the years while not forgetting that they need to learn new knowledge and pick up life skills along the way.

We were very excited to watch The Ant and The Grasshopper, which is based on the classic Aesop's fable, at SOTA Drama Theatre yesterday. The girls have grown to be fond of watching theatrical productions so that is something really heartening for me. While it is still a challenge, and sometimes struggle, to manage the baby when we do so, seeing how the sisters enjoy and benefit from the play gives me the motivation to go on.



Synopsis

There lived a hardworking Ant who was always very busy and never seemed to have time for play or relaxation. In the same field lived a Grasshopper, who loved art and music and that was all he spent his time on. The Ant was worried about the arrival of winter and all day long, she would work hard collecting grains and storing them in her larder. She tried to warn Grasshopper who laughed and said "Why worry about the future and waste the sunshine in labour and toil?" Alas, the hot days of summer did not last long and soon, the leaves began to fall and sunshine gave way to snow. What will happen to Grasshopper then and what will Ant do as his friend?

The setting was kept simple and to the point - the tree trunk served as Ant's home, the grass and rocks were where Grasshopper lived, and to illustrate the changing of seasons, you can see huge pop ups of green grass and blooming flowers followed by fallen leaves and icy snow.



The show began with two unexpected characters - the buzzing Bees - who captivated the hearts of everyone with their chirpy tones, abundant energy and funny antics. My girls were tickled when they kept chanting "Welcome to the Bee show" and insisted that it was their show, not the ant's or grasshopper's. I love how they made the play very light-hearted while still focusing on the key themes and making it a fun-filled session for the audience.

As for the Ant and Grasshopper, they portrayed their roles very well and it was contrasting to see one being so hardworking while the other chooses to idle away all day long. I thought the actors had great chemistry and one of the kids' favourite parts of the show was when Grasshopper got everyone to stand up and follow his dance moves. That was really fun for all of us, even the baby, who alas decided that he wanted more action and started to make noise so the hubby had to bring him out of the theatre. Phew, thankful for his presence and that I got to enjoy the show with the girls in peace!


There were also a couple of characters who took us by surprise and they are Lady Coco the ladybird who loved to dance and Nessa the caterpillar who was afraid of change but eventually transformed into a butterfly (these roles were also played by the multi-talented buzzing Bees). They brought about so much laughter every time they came on stage and we ended up enjoying the show more than we expected.


While readers of the book might be inclined to condemn the procrastinative behaviour of the Grasshopper or deem that he got his just desserts in the end, the play adds in its unique twists and turns and it makes you wonder. Is it really wrong to slow down the pace of life and be able to appreciate arts and music? Is life just about working hard and planning for the future, leaving no room for spontaneity? Will hard work truly pay off and does it lead to a life of no regrets or a life of missed opportunities?

I had a talk with the girls after the show, like we always do, and the lessons we learn from The Ant and The Grasshopper are:

1) Learn to find a balance
There is a time for work and a time for play. Life is not just about one or the other; instead it's about balancing both and carving out time to work hard and also to relax and enjoy. Also, take time to appreciate the arts, make music and dance like no one's watching.

2) Don't procrastinate (too much)
While it's okay to procrastinate a little from time to time, don't wait to the last minute before you scramble, panic, regret or worse, get yourself in serious trouble. It's better to plan for the future and be prepared; yet we should not lose our ability to be spontaneous in the process.

3) Change can be good
The only constant in life is change and sometimes, it is really inevitable. Instead of being fearful of changes around us, we need to learn to embrace them and make the most we can. We talked about the example of us moving to our new place and Ariel having to adapt to a new school, and I was glad to hear her saying that she loves her new school and is settling down well.



So, this play was truly a delight to watch and I love how it explores key themes and seeks to instill values in our children at the same time. Thanks to I Theatre and the lovely cast for the awesome performance!

The Ant and The Grasshopper Show Details

Date/Time
Sat, 18 Feb - Sun, 19 Mar 2017
18 Feb - 10 Mar 2017,  Thu - Fri: 10.30am
14 Mar - 17 Mar 2017, Tue - Fri: 10.30am & 2.00pm
Sat & Sun: 11am & 2.30pm

Venue
Sota Drama Theatre

Duration
55 minutes with no interval

Ticket Pricing
Standard: S$32 per ticket
Family Package of 4 - S$121.60
Family Package of 5 - S$140.80

Recommended age
For kids 3 and above and families
*Note that while children below 3 years old are allowed, all patrons (including babies-in-arms) will require a valid ticket to enter the theatre.

How to book
Visit any SISTIC outlet, call the ticketing hotline 6348 5555, or book online here.

I Theatre is proud to be one of the region's premiere children's and family orientated theatre companies, creating at least four amazing and entertain theatre productions each year; including new never seen before productions and well-loved classics with a new twist. For more details on The Ant and The Grasshopper, visit I Theatre's website here

Disclosure: We received a media invite from I Theatre to review The Ant and The Grasshopper. All production images are provided and all opinions are our own.


A Happy Home - The Living Room

Posted by ~Summer~ on 16.2.17
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So, the tour continues from the foyer and today, I'm sharing about one of the most important rooms of our home - the living room. This is where we spend the majority of our time and where we relax, play, watch shows, chat and bond as a family. It is also the place where we hang out with our family and friends when they come to visit. Thus, while we designed it to a Scandinavian theme, we also wanted it to be a space that feels homely, welcoming and cosy.

The living area in our new nest is combined with the dining area (I'll share more about this in the next tour) and together, they make up a squarish, sizeable room. Since there is no storeroom or maid's yard in this house, we had to come up with ways to store our stuff and so we did storage cupboards and also included cabinets in our TV feature wall, which I'll talk more about later on.

Now, I wanted to show you the lights for the living area because this was what I had been dreaming about for a long time and it finally came true - track lights! Yes, you'll be seeing a few of these in the new house and I'm just very glad that we managed to solve some hiccups during the installation process and everything turned out well. Take for instance this living room, there were only two electrical points on the ceiling initially and I almost thought that I had to give up my track lights because the ceiling fan and dining pendant lights seemed to have more reason to stay. Due to the rush to move in, which was done in less than a month after we got the keys, we didn't want to do a false ceiling either.
 
We considered doing a external trunking so as to add an electrical point that joined to the switch but the switch was located too far away and it would turn out hideous. Eventually, the electrician helped us to drill through the ceiling so as to create one more electrical point for the fan and that day, we fought a war in the house as the loud drilling took place while the kids were camping in the master bedroom and the whole living area, balcony and even kitchen were covered in white powder. Nonetheless, I was just very relieved that we managed to install and fix everything in place at that point in time. Our track lights are kindly sponsored by Lights & Co while our ceiling fans by KDK, and I'll be sharing our reviews of them very soon too.

Our sofa set is from My Nest, an online furniture retailer that is rooted in the Scandinavian design which has an emphasis on simplicity, functionality and elegance. Just perfect for our "nest" right? I'm so, so thankful that we got to know and collaborate with so many brands which have all helped to make our dream house come true. Anyway, our sofa set is the Ceni 3-seater sofa coupled with the Ceni Ottoman, which were all chosen by me, and I'll be sharing more about our thoughts on it soon!



Now, if you take a closer look, you will realise that our cushions are Scandinavian themed too! Yup, those reindeer designs just give you the feel, don't they? Three of the cushions have dual functions and can either be used as cushions or they can also open up to become comforters too, how awesome right? The kids and I now have what we call Friday Movie Night and this is the place where we will just lay down, snuggle against each other, cover ourselves with the comforter and just bond over a show and some snacks. Love it, love it, love it. Oh, in case you wanna know, all these pillows were bought from Taobao and they are really not expensive (Exc. shipping fees, S$4 each for the normal cushions, S$14 each for the cushion-cum-comforter). I was actually pleasantly surprised by the quality and very pleased with our buys!


Moving onto the highlight of the living room, it will be the customised TV feature wall that we designed ourselves. I still receive queries from some of you asking about which interior designer we engaged but no, we don't have one and we didn't use a contractor too. Here's the first draft that I drew out when I first briefed the carpenter about the feature wall.

We eventually made changes to the choice of laminates because those we picked were not in production already. We also changed the shape of the display door to resemble a house instead of an inverted U. This was a suggestion by my father-in-law who said that the latter was a tad old-fashioned and asked if I wanted to modify it to something more modern, and so I did. Other than that, everything turned out the way we wanted and even better. Take a look below.

Just look at how cute the 'glass house' looks! We added an electrical point so that we could place an LED spotlight at the top of the house and light it up when we want to. It adds a homely feel and warm ambience to the living room, don't you think so?



Now, let's take a peek inside the cabinets. For the bottom right cabinet below, I put in some baby toys so that it is easier to grab a couple for the baby to play whenever we are in the living room or when I task the sisters to look after him. 

As for the bottom left, this is where I keep our stationery and also some drawing supplies for the girls. They really like to write, doodle or colour when they are free so this makes it easy for them to reach for the materials without my help.



In the middle, we have two sliding glass doors which house our cable TV box, DVD player, game consoles and more. The reason for using glass is to ensure that the remote controls can work without the need to have to open up any door.



Talking about remote controls, I got this wooden remote control holder from Taobao which I thought was a perfect fit for our Scandinavian theme. I can't even describe to you how the baby loves to press all the buttons on any remote control he sees so I prefer to keep them all together and out of his reach for now.


As for the overhead cabinets, instead of the normal swing doors, I wanted them to have flip doors instead. These flip up and make use of hydraulic hinges to assist with the movement and stay in place. I thought they make a good contrast with the swing doors at the bottom and using flip ones also meant we had less doors to deal with on top. This is the storage cabinet for all our photo albums, mementos, keepsakes and anything that has a sentimental value.



In line with the Scandinavian theme which focus on simplicity, I've kept our ornaments and decorations to a minimum this time round. We used to have a messy TV wall cabinet in our old house, I do mean really messy. There were books, paper, toys, coins, stationery and craft materials scattered all over and so, I've become resolute about being neater and more presentable this time round.

One of the key displays in the living room is our family of Dalecarlian horses which were brought over all the way from Sweden! I initially only wanted one but the hubby surprised me by getting five in total, one to represent each of us. I really find them meaningful and looking at them makes me reminisce the good old days we had living in Sweden, how it brought me into the motherhood journey and changed my life forever.

On the other side of the wall cabinet, you can see an Eiffel Tower metal statue, an Eiffel Tower vintage alarm clock (you all know that it holds a special meaning for us because it was where we got engaged, right?) and a Christmas tree tealight holder. There, very simple, very minimal. Let's just hope I can keep it this way. To read more about our day and night curtains done by Meridian Curtains & Furnishings, go here.


The highlight of the wall is, of course, the television itself. Since we don't intend to have any TV in the bedrooms, we wanted a nice, big one for the living area. Yes, so here's our new 55" LG Oled TV (yes, it's considered big to me already because our previous TV which lasted us many years was a 40" one) and a sleek curved sound bar.

I always believe that things happen for a reason. We initially wanted to hang our TV onto the feature wall using a bracket, which was given to us in the package, but alas we were told by the Courts people that the bracket was out of stock - and it still hasn't arrived up to this day. So after some discussion, the hubby and I decided that we will leave it on a TV stand instead and see, I think it looks really clean and neat and we will likely keep it the way it is.

Our woofer is placed on the floor at where the curtain is and I must say we are very lucky because the woofer fits perfectly into the small space. See? We bought the TV and sound system only after we had sent in our order to the carpenter, so it was totally a coincidence that the woofer fitted so well. Any bigger and we would have been unable to find a nice spot for it. Phew.


One thing about our new nest that I wanted to do was to get rid of.... messy wires! I'll show you how the wires looked like in our old house in another post next time and you'll be shocked at the difference then and now. Thanks to Eubiq, we now have power tracks in the house and one of the main ones is this 80cm track on the feature wall. I'll do a review on it soon but you bet I'm very glad to finally be able to conceal all, or at least most, of the wires in the living room. Woohoo!

Without a contractor or ID, it was quite a challenge for me to coordinate this with the carpenter (who needed to help us cut a hole in the wall to embed the power track), the electrician (who had to help us do the trunking and pull the wires to the track) and Eubiq installation guys (who came to fix the track when the wall and power point were done). Yup, in my drawing above, you can see that I even had to include the dimensions of the hole to be cut in the wall. BUT, it was all totally worth it!

I guess you have already read about this but if you have not, here is how Angel and her art teacher helped to paint a silhouette of the Singapore skyline for our wall mural in the living room. Yes, I can look at this all day long and not get tired of it. Plus, it makes for a great photo backdrop which you can already see from my social media posts nowadays, right?

Lastly, just to make the living area more baby and kid-friendly now that our kids are still young, we decided to add a bumper playmat and two kid-sized bean bags. The Parklon playmat was bought at a baby fair in Expo while the kawaii bean bags with the rabbit ears are from Taobao. This makes it much easier for us to play with the baby and also save him from a few knocks if he falls over too. Yup, this is definitely the most colourful part of the living room!

So, that's all for our living room for now. Do you like it as much as I do? I still have so much more of the house to share with you, so stay tuned next week!

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This post is part of the "A Happy Home" series where I share all about our new Scandinavian-themed house, the renovation process and some tips and thoughts. Moving is never easy but it comes with an indescribable sense of joy in building up the house of your dreams. Remember, home is where the heart is and nothing is more important than being able to build memories with the people you love.

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