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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

4 reno projects - say what?

Somehow, we've gone from doing one home reno project - the grass, to 4. I'm not really sure how that happened. But, as best as I can figure it, it all started with the car. We have 5 photovoltaic panels on our roof that we did last year. We knew at the time that was about 1/3 of what we would need to zero out our electric bill. But, we figured, we had time to install the rest. Since we got the car, we then decided, maybe it was better to go ahead and get some more panels put up. Then, I talked to my accountant, and he recommended maxing out the photovoltaic panels, because he wasn't sure if the federal and state rebates would remain the same for 2012 because of the budget/deficit, etc. So, then, the whole thing snowballed into something like this...

And, throw in there the grass and closing off this weird double door thing we have off the guest room in preparation for my parents' arrival (more on that later) and I'm not sure how many more projects we have!
And, we're usually a very slow decision making couple. Hence the pictures on the floor of our house, waiting to be hung, 6 months later. Boxes full of Jeff's childhood things we haven't gone through for 3 years. We don't usually rush into things. But, everything somehow got linked together and now we're getting quotes for all sorts of things and aren't even sure which projects to prioritize first, and which ones are really important to us.
In the interim, here are some pics of the grass. It's sad that it actually looks so much better with black topsoil over everything than the dead weeds we had before. I'll post more pics as the work progresses.

Look who wants to play in the dirt.
And here are some more in progress pics of the tables/chairs from the playroom. After 1 coat of primer and 3 coats of chalkboard paint, the legs are still looking streaky, so I need another coat. And the chairs have only one coat, so they need an extra coat, plus 2 coats of polyurathane. So, still more work to be done. But, when Nikhil saw the tables and chairs, I told him Mommy was making them for him and he turned to me and said "Thank you Mommy", so sweetly and totally unprompted. Of course, I'd be willing to do this 100 more times just for that!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Linen's my way of nesting

So, Jeff has remarked I've been very DIY lately. I think it's the nesting phase of pregnancy. I never had time when I was pregnant with Nikhil because we had just moved into our new house 6 weeks earlier. We were so overwhelmed with getting furniture for the house, since we didn't bring anything with us from Boston, we had to start from scratch. This time almost 2.5 years later, we have furniture, so now I can concentrate on the little things that drive me nuts in our space to organize it better for baby #2.

So, we had our beach time this morning, where I was able to have a nice swim, an activity which gives me a temporary reprieve from feeling so heavy and pregnant!

And, for the first time in a while, we had no obligations, so the rest of the Sunday was ours. Which meant, nap time for Nikhil and mommy and afterwards, I decided to tackle our home office.

Our home office is a mess. Which if you've seen our office at work, actually kind of parallels it. But, for some reason, it drives me more crazy here at home than at work. I guess because home is my sanctuary and for some reason, I feel like the chaos is inevitable at work.

Anyway, for a while we've had a corkboard just resting on the ground of our home office and a magnetic board resting on the top of my desk. Nikhil is always pulling stuff off the magnet board since he loves magnets, so I'm always losing important gift cards, invitations, etc. I've been meaning to hang everything for a while but I didn't like the corkboard. I was looking at pottery barn and found this nice linen pinboard, but for $149 + shipping to Hawaii = $188.10, that is way too expensive.

So, I found this blog, which detailed how to make one yourself. And, it really was that easy. Took about 30 minutes and I made it for $30!

Before- A $15 bulletin board from City Mill

After: My linen bulletin board, costing less than 1/5 of the PB version.

Now, we just have to hang it, which may take another month to do. For some reason, I have a lot of things I keep meaning to hang, but just never get around to doing. I think I'm scared of putting it in the wrong place and being stuck with unsightly nail holes. Or perhaps it's the years of living in rental apartments in New York and Boston, which has scarred me from ever nailing into walls. Whatever the reason, I'm giving myself a deadline - by the next weekend, this and the magnet board should be hung!

And, here's a preview of another project I started working on this weekend- the playroom tables and chairs, though it's taking a lot more coats of chalkboard paint than I had expected, so I'm still not done.

Yes, I'm wearing a sun hat and a respirator mask - that chalkboard paint is a bit fumey and it's not low VOC, so I wasn't taking any chances. But, not exactly my best look.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Never Ending List, Part 1

I know everyone has one, it's just a product of not having enough time and too much to do. I think about my list all the time, especially when falling asleep and I've even dreamed about it. I have separate lists - work, house, Nikhil. Jeff says he has never dreamed about a To Do list, nor has it ever kept him up at night, but that's probably the difference between us!

With baby #2 only 12 weeks away, I have a lot to do in the next couple months. Add to that a full time job, this book I'm writing with people from Boston (not a fun, fiction book, just a book on surgery), and spending time with Nikhil, then it literally leaves 2 hours a week to get everything done. That's every working mom's problem, I guess!

Since my parents have generously volunteered to come stay with us in Hawaii for 3 months when the baby is born, there is also lots to do to prepare for their upcoming stay as well. So, the list has 3 parts - Part 1, the playroom conversion into Nikhil's room, Part 2 - changing the nursery, Part 3 - updating the guest room for my parents.

Since Nikhil will soon be moving into his big boy room to give up his nursery for his new little brother, I have to get everything organized in his new room. Currently, that room is his playroom, so at least the groundwork is there.

If you're interested, here are pics of the play room when the previous owners lived in our house. Different, huh? Somehow, it seems so much smaller because of the peach color paint and lack of a rug.
Before Before

And, here are pics of the playroom now.

Here's what I need to do in this room.

1. Add a bed - this has been ordered but shipping being what it is in Hawaii, it'll arrive maybe with one week to spare (fingers crossed).

2. Refinish/paint the little table and chairs with chalkboard paint
- These were generously gifted to me by my sis-in-law, but I've been dying to try out the new chalkboard paint and wanted to refinish them.

3. Refinish/paint blue dresser

- This was an awesome Craig's list find. I love the vintage style to it, but it has like 16 coats of paint, which are peeling, so it needs to be stripped and then primed and repainted. I also want to change out the knobs on it.
-I'm hoping my dad will help me with this, since it'll require an oil based primer, which does not come in low VOC and I don't want to use that when I'm pregnant (hint, hint, Dad if you're reading, for your first task when you come out here!)

4. Reorganize closet
-I briefly contemplated us doing it ourselves and buying stuff from Home Depot. But, once I started measuring, I realized this closet has lots of funn
y angles and lips, that make it difficult to install something pre-fab. So, this will be outsourced and we'll have a closet company come do it

5. Install art project.
-I was perusing my favorite mag, Coastal Living, when I came across this pic. I love the molding with the clipboard clips. I thought it would be a neat way to add some architectural detail to the room, while allowing me to rotate Nik's artwork. I bought 2 pieces of pre-painted 8 foot white molding from Lowe's and ordered the clipboard clips online. I had to ship the clips to my parent's house in NC b/c of course for some reason, amazon wouldn't ship the clips to Hawaii. So, I'm just waiting for the clips to arrive in the mail and I can get started on this one.
6. Install blinds for light control
-Currently, I just have some West Elm linen curtains hanging (on sale!). They're nice, but don't provide any of the shade necessary for an afternoon nap. We just bought the faux white wood blinds from Home Depot for $30 which they custom cut for you, so all we have to do is mount those and hopefully, we're done!

Source List:
On the off chance that someone other than my fam and friends is reading this and really wants to know where I got stuff in the playroom, here's a list.

-White storage cabinet/toy box - I know, it looks like Pottery Barn Kids, but I couldn't pay $1000 + the mandatory $350 flat rate shipping to Hawaii, so I actually bought all this from JC Penny. Here's the link. And, it was like 1/3 of the price, thought it took me forever to put together b/c we had left the power drill at the office to I hand screwed it, approx 100 scress.
-Navy poufs - specialty Indian boutique store, Chai Honolulu
-Blue dresser - craigs list
-Train table - Target, on sale for $50! And, it reverses to a blank white side for when the boys have outgrown trains, it can serve as a craft table
-Rug - Thomas Paul robin rug in blue, from 100% wool and free shipping to Hawaii (which is HUGE!)
-Nature artwork -
-Framed pics of baby and family - PBK, photos all courtesy of my friend, David Lau
-Baskets - on sale at JCPenny ( no longer available),
-Chalkboard labels - 4 for $2 at Ben Franklin's (beats the Pottery barn kids price of $8 each!)
-Green kid chair - gift for Nikhil's 1st birthday, PBK
-Animal growth chart, by aluckyhorse. It's a decal, but it literally took Jeff and I 2 hours to get it up because of all the little lines and we were super anal about it being exactly right. I write the date and height on the little birdies to the left for Nikhil. I have butterflies to record baby #2's height.

Hmmm...I'd like to give myself a deadline to get this stuff done and then move on to Parts 2 and 3 of the list, but that usually doesn't happen. So, we'll just see.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blue like Thomas

So, we are now the proud owners of a Nissan Leaf! What, you may ask? Last you heard we couldn't even get on the exclusive 'reserve a car' list, which is the precursor to actually ordering a car, which then takes anywhere from 3 months to a year to get.

Well, I have to credit Jeff. He stalked the Leaf like a tween stalks Justin Bieber. He read every blog, every website, every youtube video about the Leaf. And, he found that you could track the VIN numbers of the cars delivered to dealerships. So, he noticed that the 3 dealerships on Oahu had received a new shipment on Sunday. He was hoping a couple of the cars would be "orphaned" which means someone ordered it but decided they didn't want it once it came. Then, it actually can be sold to anyone or goes down the list to the next person. As soon as the dealerships were open on Sunday, Jeff started making phone calls. And, he found that a dealership had actually gotten a couple extra Leafs that weren't reserved for anyone. So, we jumped in the car and headed over there. It's 30 minutes away. And, for mainland friends and family, they are probably laughing because 30 minutes is not far. But, once you live in Hawaii long enough, you begin to consider anything more than a 20 minute drive as super far. And, though I thought I wouldn't fall into that trap, I have to admit I was a little reluctant to drive ALL THE WAY TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLAND on the off chance that this dealership had the Leaf. But, Jeff was so excited, so off we went.

Once we got there, we were told that the guy who is certified to sell the Leaf was not in on Sundays, so we couldn't test drive the car. WHAT??? That was certainly not what were told on the phone. Well, thankfully, the sales manager, overheard us and came to our rescue. He actually gave us the keys to president of the dealership's car to test drive (so, thanks!). We loved it. Nikhil loved it. After Jeff and I both drove it, Nikhil asked, "My turn to drive, please?" So, we let him "drive". Then, sales manager actually called the Leaf salesman at home and made him come in on his day off because we were so desperate to get this car.

OK, so we violated rule # 1 of negotiations - clearly, you should never let the other party know how much you want something. The second mistake is that we had our 2 year old with us. It's good to bring your kids to make sure the car seats fit and there's enough room for strollers, etc. But, you cannot negotiate while also trying to watch a 2 year old run around touching everything. It's just not possible to have your game face on. Well, we went through some paperwork and they told us there was an additional $3000 upcharge fee since we hadn't reserved the car. We weren't too happy with that, but like I said, my attention was distracted by Nikhil and the fact that I was now late for a bridal shower, so I didn't press the issue. And, they convinced us that because the state rebate of $4500 was going to run out soon, it was best to get the car now, blah, blah blah.

On our way home, the upcharge fee began to bother us - $3000 is a lot of money! That's 10% the price of the car. We started to have buyer's remorse, but luckily we hadn't signed any contracts. So, the next day, we call around to the other dealerships who don't upcharge and then I was able to call the sales manager back and explain that I was having difficulty stomaching the fee. I was trying to play on the "Indian" angle. The sales manager is of Indian ethnicity, from Fiji and though I'm Indian, from North Carolina, well, there are so few Indians out here in Hawaii, I really thought that common bond would help us out. Well, it worked! He waived the fee and we were happy again!

So, now we are going green. The money we save is enormous. Right now we get 18 mpg in our Toyota Highlander (2008). And, here is the cheapest Oahu's gas price for 89 unleaded which is what we use, even though I think we were supposed to be using the more expensive gas for the 20 year old Lexus.


This guy worked it out that with the Leaf, you get 12 miles per $1 fuel (electricity). That's factoring in the cost of electricity in Hawaii, which is 28 cents/kilowatt hour, which is way more than on the mainland (i know, the paradise tax). The average price in the rest of the country is a mere 13 cents/Kwh. With our Highlander, we were getting 4.25 miles per $1 fuel (so one-third less). And, since we have photovoltaic cells, we actually probably get more miles per $1 fuel since our electricity is cheaper.

So, totally, a no-brainer for living in Hawaii. The fact that we never need to drive more than 100 miles at a time and the high gas prices make the Leaf a super logical choice.

And, it's "blue like Thomas the train" just like Nikhil wanted.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pizza and Running

Last night, our friends, Deborah and Andy invited us to their house for dinner. They have the most adorable 15 month old twins. Here's Reese, their daughter who had a little smoothie accident which is why she isn't wearing clothes! That's Nikhil in the background.
She looks more Caucasian and her twin, Maddox, pulls a little more Korean. Here he is with remnant of smoothie on his face. Can you tell the kiddies had a good time enjoying the labor of Deborah's Vita Mixing?

We enjoyed an awesome meal of home made gourmet pizzas - with fresh mozarella, Canadian bacon and organic tomatoes and basil grown from Andy's rooftop garden. Yum! He actually cooked it out on the grill and it turned out great. And, Deborah whipped up a delicious brownie a la mode for dessert. So, we all over ate. I didn't remember to take a pic until we had demolished most of it! Thanks Andy & Deborah!!

So, we woke up this morning, feeling like we had indulged too much. Our alarm clock (Nikhil) gets up at 6 am on the dot every day, even on Sundays, so I was feeling motivated and thought it would be nice if we all got some exercise.

So, we got changed and headed up to Diamond Head for a little jog. I know, everyone keeps asking me "Are you having twins?". I always look big, but that' s not my fault that I'm only 5'2'' and Jeff is 6'1'' and weighed over 10 pounds when he was born. Nik was 2.5 weeks early weighed 8 lbs 1 oz, so we'll see how big bay #2 is. So, perhaps that's why I was so motivated to get some exercise.

Before getting pregnant this second time, I used to run and Zumba (can Zumba be used as a verb?) all the time, but I've been more scared this time around since I'm older and don't want anything to happen to the baby. So, I haven't been as active - occasionally swimming when we get a chance to hit the beach and of course running around at work, but I'm not sure if that counts. But, I figured a fast walk/light jog cannot be too harmful as long as I stay hydrated.
One thing I love about running in Hawaii is that there are literally hundreds of other people also up at the crack of dawn, biking, running, walking and surfing. Here are some bikers we passed.
And, here we finally made it to Cliffs. If you look really closely, you can see some surfers in the water, though the waves weren't great. This is where Jeff likes to surf.
I know this is probably what our friends and family think our life in Hawaii is like every day and I wish I could say it were true. It should be true. No reason we can't do this every day, even if we have to put work on the back burner for just a bit!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Granola in the Bathtub?

This has nothing to do with anything, but I had to share. N. and Jeff went for haircuts today and Jeff was giving him a bath. This is what I saw when I walked into the bathroom. He's eating granola cereal in the bath. Apparently, it was the only way my hubby could get him in there, since he was a bit fussy from the haircut experience.

Grass, grass and more grass

So, when we purchased our house, we did a lot of things to update it. Pics to come soon. There was a reason the house sat on the market for over a year and w
e were able to get it for such a good price, but none of it was really structural. But, the one area which we did not improve upon was the grass.
Here is our house with its beautiful grass just a month before we moved in. Almost looks like carpet doesn't it?

And, sad to say, here it is now. It actually looks way worse in person than it does in this picture. I think the fact that we haven't mowed it in over 8 week is actually hiding all the areas of dead grass.

Who knew about thatching and dethatching? We didn't! We thought if we mowed the lawn every 2 weeks, and watered it, that would be enough. Rookie first time home owners mistake. Grass in Hawaii requires a level of maintenance that we were didn't realize. It's actually now getting kind of embarassing. I think our neighbor trimmed our bushes out front for us out of sympathy (and maybe he was tired of looking at our overrun yard). I'm too mortified to post pics of our front yard, because it's WAY worse. We have been paralyzed by inaction. We're not sure what to do, so we've done nothing.

But, now I think it's time to do something. We live in Hawaii where we can be outside year round and having a nice backyard is like expanding your square footage, so I'm willing to invest the dough. Though it hurts to do so! We decided to get new grass put in. Because no matter what we do for our grass - water, mow, sing to it, nothing seems to be working and it remains dry and brown. The front is actually just patches of weeds, but since it's green, at least it doesn't look terrible.

So, as we delve into the world of grass, we have learned plenty! I guess there are 2 main options of grass for lawns out here. El Toro and Seashore paspalum. El Toro..the bull, kind of an odd name for grass, is what I think, but it is apparently the "Lexus of grass" according to a lawn guy who had some kind of degree in lawn and turf management. I personally, think it's hard to judge the type of grass you want for you whole lawn by looking at a small square of it at Home Depot. So, when we are taking walks in our neighborhood and we spot a grass that is El Toro or seashore, we have actually taken our shoes off and walk a little bit on our neighbor's yard. You really got to feel the grass, you know? It's important! I don't want to get grass that's too rough or prickly for my son! Thankfully, none of our neighbors have witnessed us doing this, though in Hawaii I think this is not as weird as it would be if I were doing this in Raleigh, NC!