Archive for June 2010

Two years later

June 19, 2010

We moved into our house in 2008 and two years later I am proud to say we have FINALLY finished doing up the entire place. The house was in a habitable but uninspiring state when we moved in – we had all the basic necessities we needed i.e. fridge, stove, bed, bathrooms, but we had a ugly brown 15-year-old sofa, a miserable 14-inch telly and, 3 bedrooms filled with boxes or were left empty.

Money was definitely an issue when it came down to doing up the house. We had to pay for the wedding so we didn’t have extra cash to spare. But more importantly I think there was no real motivation or reason to spur us out of home improvement inertia. The only thing we did manage to afford was a grey L-shaped sofa which we paid off in several installments. Sure, bare walls and sparse rooms were boring but we didn’t feel inspired to get into action.We had jobs and bills to pay.

Then Bean happened, my mother-in-law left us and my Mum was going to spend the summer with us and WHAM! we were hit at the back of our heads to wake us from all that procrastination. The pregnancy hormones triggered the nesting instinct which led to endless nagging at my husband to DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE BLOODY HOUSE!

So we started with doing up Bean’s room in early April and then the guest bedroom a few weeks after. We took multiple trips to IKEA and spent ages assembling boxes of flat-packed furniture. I ran out of the room whenever R had to use the hammer because my mother was so superstitious that it might do harm to the baby. R of course laughed, sighed and rolled his eyes. At the end of all this DIY,  the sight or even the mention of the Allen Key made my stomach churn. Bleargh!

By the end of May, we had finished decorating and furnishing most of the rooms in the house. We converted a downstairs bedroom into a dining room. When I started my maternity leave at the beginning of June, I was able to devote 100% of my time to sprucing up our home. We accomplished so much in those 3 weeks alone.

These jobs weren’t mammoth tasks but time-consuming efforts to make a house feel like a home. Like organising where everything should be kept in the house (and getting R to follow these “rules”), getting photos printed and framed to be placed around the house, buying and planting summer plants and flowers, getting decorative items like clocks, lamps etc.

The last few days before my mother came, I went into a cleaning frenzy – scrubbing the bathroom, supervising the professionals who came to clean all my windows (inside and out), wiping down the kitchen surfaces. My right arm ached after all those days and hours of work yet I kept wanting to do more! I think I had a major nesting episode.

Having exhausted that last burst of energy (and bank account), I am now finally satisfied with the state of the house and am proud to share with you the fruits of our labour.

Mum’s room.

Living room.


Dining room. I really like the Laura Ashley wallpaper.


Front garden.

Straw for strawberry plants in the back garden.

Summer flowers!

Gilbert on Marriage #1

June 14, 2010

Marriage & Expectation

Meeting the Hmong women that day in Vietnam reminded me of an old adage: “Plant an expectation; reap a disappointment.” My friend the Hmong grandmother had never been taught to expect that her husband’s job was to make her abundantly happy. She has never been taught to expect that her task on earth was to become abundantly happy in the first place. Never having tasted such expectations to begin with, she had reaped no particular disenchantment from her marriage. Her marriage fulfilled its role, performed its necessary social task, became merely what it was, and that was fine.

By contrast, I had always been taught that the pursuit of happiness was my natural (even national) birthright. It is the emotional trademark of my culture to seek happiness. Not just any kind of happiness, either, but profound happiness, even soaring happiness. And what could possibly bring a person more soaring happiness than romantic love? I, for one, had always been taught by my culture that my marriage ought to be a fertile greenhouse in which romantic love can abundantly flourish. Inside the somewhat rickety greenhouse of my first marriage, then, I had planted row after row of grand expectations. I was a veritable Johnny Appleseed of grand expectations, and all I reaped for my trouble was a harvest of bitter fruit.

p. 43, Committed (2010)


Marriage & Infatuation

Felipe didn’t answer for a long time. Then he said, “When I used to go down to Brazil to buy gemstones, I would often buy something they call ‘a parcel’. A parcel is this random collection of gems that the miner or wholesaler or whoever is bullshitting you puts together. “I used to get in trouble because I’d get too excited about the one or two perfect aquamarines in the parcel, and I wouldn’t pay as much attention to the junk they threw in there. After I got burned enough times, I finally got wise and learned this: You have to ignore the perfect gemstones. Don’t even look at them twice because they’re blinding. Just put them away and have a careful look at the really bad stones. Look at them for a long time and then ask yourself, “Can I work with these? Can I make something out of this?”

“It’s the same with relationships, I think, People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other’s personalities. Who wouldn’t? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that’s not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner’s faults honestly and say, ‘I can work around that. I can make something out of that’? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to be pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you.”

p. 129, Committed (2010)


I am enjoying the insight from Elizabeth Gilbert’s sequel to Eat, Pray, Love. More excerpts to come.


June 8, 2010

R and I decided to explore an off-beaten track through some fields this afternoon after visiting the Garden Centre, thinking there might be a way out at the end of it so we can take a more scenic route home. But there didn’t seem to be another exit and we began to have this conversation.


C: Oh no, we are lost!

R: How can we be lost when you can see a main road across this field?

C: But we are lost. There is nobody here. The sun is beating down, we have no drinks or food, we are going to die out here!

R: Oh don’t be so melodramatic.

C: Hey this is like our very own series of Lost. But we need more characters.

R: Ok look there’s Fern, a plant, she can be a character.

C: OMG I need to pee like now.

R: Ok, go into the bushes then.

C: No, I’m not going into the bushes. People will see my bits and bum.

R: Don’t be ridiculous, there is nobody here.

C: No!!!! Ok wait, maybe I’ll use our big umbrella to shield myself.

R: Go on then.

C: No, I’m not going to expose my bum.

R: Here, look there’s a path to go into the bushes.

C: Yeah look at all the stinging nettles, I’m not going to wee there.

R: Ok, I’ll cut down all the nettles.

C: This is starting to sound like a poorly written sitcom. Let’s get out of here.