Dear Diary…

Before the world of technology gave us blogs, many of us used to keep a diary. Some of us record special events, pen down thoughts and musings, or even sketch in it. In many ways, a diary became a personal collection of your life – and you know no other diary would be the same as yours, for the life you live is unique.

The contents of my past diaries continuously evolve – entries full of ramblings and generic angst against the world were the mainstays of my adolescent years. Then in my twenties, it was filled with sweet nothings and ridiculously funny poems about the one(s) that got away. Nowadays, I use them to write short stories about my own life, how I viewed the world and occasionally, songs and lyrics when I was inspired.

What’s your story?

2015-08-24 ilovebook20164745

The 2016 Basic Diary from Marjolein Delhaas.
(Image via Marjolein Delhaas)

Introducing the diary from Marjolein Delhaas. It’s time to go old school for 2016.

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Of Cats & Dogs

In 2003, my parents brought a Shetland Sheepdog home and promptly proceeded to name him Alpha (as he was the first dog we had). He instantly became the family favourite and everyone’s attention was on him. I never thought much about it then, as it was my parents decision to have a dog. Over the years, I viewed Alpha as a furry brother rather than a pet.

Born with a tri-coloured, thick fur coat and wolf-like upright ears, he was quite the magnet, and all loved him.

Alpha, the Shetland Sheepdog.

Alpha, the Shetland Sheepdog.

Alpha 2

A dog can sense your energy level and respond. I remember I was feeling lousy one day, and he just walked over and laid next to me. I did nothing except to give him a nice tummy rub for a good 5 minutes and proceeded to give him a big hug which prompted him to slobber all over my face. Those were the truly the times I felt I had a connection with Alpha. Once, we were out for dinner, and Alpha would sneak into the toilet in defiance and mess around with our laundry or trash bin. When we came home, we found him with his head stuck in the cover of the bin which would have made #1 for Animal Fails. It was such a hilarious scene that I totally forgot to take a picture.

However, he belonged to my parents, as they cared for his every need and want – while I stepped in as temporary caretaker if they were out of town. Therefore he wasn’t really mine, so to speak, as his loyalty laid with my parents. I can’t tell whether it’s a 50-50 thing though – my mum does the feeding while my dad does the training.

Nevertheless, I always thought of myself as a dog person. I wasn’t afraid of cats, but they always looked thoroughly reserved and in their own world, that I hesitated to interact with them much. I got scratched a few times before by a friend’s cat too. I know it’s going to be hard for me to have my own dog as they need quite a bit of attention. I never would have thought in a million years that I would have a cat. There’s always a lot of hearsay about cats being serial destroyers of furniture, jumping off through unsecured windows, getting stuck on trees, and walking all over your keyboard when you’re working.

My wife and I went to Mutts and Mittens, a community that offers boarding and shelter for rescued animals to take a look and understand the notion of adoption vs buying pets. I decided that if we wanted a pet it has to fulfill these criteria:

  1. It has to suit our schedule. It’s just evil getting a dog and find out you have no time for them.
  2. It has to suit our energy level. A puppy or kitten would require a lot more energy in taking care and playing with them.
  3. It has to be through adoption. There are so many of them poor things out there, the least I could do is to provide a good home and care, and save a life.

I realised that through this criteria, I set myself up nicely to become a cat owner. Suddenly, out of the corner, we saw Harry, a two-year old domestic shorthair who was rescued from euthanasia. I don’t know how to describe it, but I felt an instant connection with Harry when I carried him in my arms. He had very big, attractive round eyes and was not afraid of strangers. My wife also had the same exact feeling, and we planned to adopt Harry.

You're a wiz-- cat, Harry.

You’re a wiz– cat, Harry.

It only took a day before Harry found his way around the house, and made it his own. And more cuteness was to follow.

Harry sleep

Cuteness level is over 9000.

Of course, we take the good, and also the bad.

Harry work

Not the keyboard, Harry…

But I guess that’s the exact thing about having pets. You love them no matter what. Dog person, cat person; it’s very much a perceived choice one made at certain points of their life, through interaction with that certain animal. If you think you are a dog person, it may be that you haven’t had any opportunities to spend good quality time, observe and experience having a feline around. If you think you are a cat person, you really haven’t felt how much joy a mutt can bring, and how it will never forsake you.

Let us know what pet you have, and how it makes you feel as an owner. Leave your comments below, and adopt, don’t shop.

Cheers, J

Top Ten Songs For Chores

I’m not really sure what is the percentage of people who do their own chores nowadays – laundry, ironing and general cleaning of their homes. I guess Barney Stinson would say about 83% of the population have maids or part-time cleaners, but I’m sure he has no interest whatsoever in that topic.

I, for one, do everything on my own, and I admit – it is a tough and thankless job (thanks Mom, for the many years of sacrifice). My mother would do her chores while watching TV, while I unwillingly proved, time and again, that males cannot multi-task. However, I absolutely cannot get past 5 minutes without accompaniment of some background noise of some sort, and I turned to music. This is painfully true when it comes to ironing/steaming clothes. Even after I purchased a clothes steamer, it is still very mundane (that’s why they are called chores), and I need good music to make life easier.

Here are my top ten songs while doing chores (in no particular order):

1. Beautiful Ones – Suede

(Image via

(Image via

There’s something about Brett Anderson’s near androgynous voice and that upbeat rhythm of this mid 90’s classic that makes ironing your clothes almost a fun thing to do.

2. Money For Nothing – Dire Straits

(Image via Youtube)

(Image via Youtube)

It’s hard to believe that this song was released in 1985 when I was just only 2 years old. I first heard the legendary guitar riff and that signature Sting’s falsetto from my father when he was still young enough to rock out. Money For Nothing became known for its breakthrough music video in an era when not everyone could afford a TV. It is one of the songs that keeps my energy and mood up, just enough for me to do my chores for nothing and get my chick wife for free.

3. Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

(Image via

(Image via

Oh Freddie… Mr. Fahrenheit himself wouldn’t stop himself if he could. As the lyrics go, this song helps me finish my chores at the speed of light. No, not really. Still, a high tempo song by Queen won’t go wrong.

4. Hey Boy Hey Girl – Chemical Brothers

“Hey boy… Hey girl… Superstar DJs… Here we go!” No one told me not to pay attention to the lyrics when it comes to electronica/EDM/techno/whatever. I remember laughing my buttocks off when I first heard the song. Then it hit. That beat got me into a trance and before I knew it, I had finished ironing 5 pieces of clothes.

5. Birch Tree – Foals

(Image via

(Image via

I have been listening to Foals a great deal thanks to Gene, our ex-intern who has since left us to pursue her studies in South Korea. She always had awesome taste in music, and it is a SUPER rare trait to be found in the young ones these days. Birch Tree is one of my favourite with that catchy chorus and guitar picking.

6. Friday I’m In Love – The Cure

(Image via

(Image via

Granted that this song won’t make you fall in love with your chores, but it does help to make a little bit more bearable, with it’s teenybopper lyrics delivered by a rock band.

7. Kashmir – Led Zeppelin

(Image via flickr)

(Image via flickr)

Maybe it’s that repeating ascending musical scale that is so hypnotic that I lose track of my fatigue and just keep on going until I finish what I’m doing. After you’re done with it, finish off with Stairway To Heaven – I believe after a hard day’s work you’re already halfway there.

8. Fire – Kasabian

(Image via

(Image via

There was once I was singing along to the chorus which goes: “I’m on fiiiiiiiirrrrrrreeeeeeeeeee…………………..” and then ironically proceeding to burn myself with the clothes steamer. Also, those of you who watch English Football will find this song familiar.

9. You Are A Tourist – Death Cab For Cutie

(Image via

(Image via

Apart from the guitar riff which I find rather lovely, don’t we all feel like a tourist in our own country every now and then? The band’s frontman, Ben Gibbard sings “When there is a burning in your heart” quite a few times in the song which makes me think about my plans for the future. Yes – while I’m doing my chores.

10. Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode

It only take you less than 30 seconds into the song before you’ll be singing along “I just can’t get enough, I just can’t get enough…”. When the song ends you’ll realise that you’ll try to talk yourself into not getting enough housework. Snap out of it, it’s a BIG, FAT, LIE!!!

BONUS SONG : Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

6 minutes of lyrical medicine for your wretched soul, tarnished by all that house chores that you’ve completed. Give yourself a pat on the back and have a beer, mate.

You can follow my playlist “Joel Essentials” on Spotify, or “76 Haji Lane” if you want to enjoy the songs we play at Mondays Off.

What other songs do you listen to when you’re doing something mundane (yet important)? Share it in the comments!

Love, J

Where’s Your Favourite Corner?

It’s that one place at home that you derive positive energy – a place of tranquility and peace. Everyone has their favourite corner of their own home. A private space that they feel most comfortable in, and impervious to the troubles of the world. Where’s yours?

The view is a big plus for me when I retreat into my shell.

The view is a big plus for me when I retreat into my shell.

The balcony is where I spend a lot of time at. I’ll sit and grab a good book, have my morning coffee while listening to the rhythmic rustlings of the potted plants. Mixed with the consistent sound of water from the pool downstairs, I enter a state of concentration and focus. By the time I finish my coffee, I would have done up my to-do list, have rough ideas for future projects and energised myself for the day (part of it is due to the coffee, I admit).

By night, this special corner transforms itself into a social space – one that caters to my extroverted side. I would sit with my wife and have my customary beer or a glass of whiskey and talk about everything – the past, the present and the future, while appreciating the night breeze. If we have visitors or friends over, we would be chilling around the round mini-coffee table and share our ridiculously funny stories and escapades.

Caring for my 3 potted plants on the balcony is also kind of a soothing experience. I don’t go so far as to talk and sing to my plants, but the idea of not killing keeping them well, trimming them and seeing new leaves sprout seemed very satisfying.

Tell us which part of your home is your favourite in the comments section.

Cheers, J

There’s Something About… IKEA (Part 2)

Last week I shared why IKEA is the numero uno go-to store for your home needs. They have smartly combined classic Scandinavian design, brilliant concepts and solutions, affordable pricing and clever marketing ads – very well rounded indeed. You can read about my reasons why I love IKEA in this post.

There are a gazillion products and series they offer, that it is almost incredible how I managed to pick out 10 of my most favourite items and must-buys. With much contemplation, here it is.

J’s Top Ten Must-Buys From IKEA

1. BILLY Bookcase From $59-$887

The BILLY series is a flexible storage system that you can customise to your requirements and storage needs. IKEA Hacks shows many remarkable variations of BILLY’s usage. I use them to store my wife’s countless heels and other footwear.

2. HILVER Table $199

This bamboo table is not the cheapest study table option in IKEA, but I absolutely love the modern minimalist appeal of bamboo. Not to mention that bamboo is an exceptionally durable and tough material that makes it worth your every dollar.

(Image via Pinterest.)

(Image via Pinterest.)

3. SAMLA Boxes From $3-$21

Organising your stuff can be a painful process, and SAMLA boxes really make life easier as they are transparent and this means you can find your things way much easier. I use the small boxes for keeping stationery, unused wires/cables and small tools, and the mediums sized ones for clothes. The large option is also useful for storing all your kid’s toys.

4. MARIUS Stools $6.50

It’s always nice to have some spare sitting options when you have visitors. The MARIUS stools are an affordable choice for the dining and balcony areas, or just casual seating.

5. SILLERUP Rug $199

Rugs are a good way to add some colour and character to your living or bedroom. If you have kids or pets, or you just don’t want to overspend on an expensive Middle Eastern oriental rug, the SILLERUP rug is an excellent buy. Oh, remember to add in the LYNAS doormats (from $5.90) too for good measure.

(Image via Pinterest.)

(Image via Pinterest.)

6. LJUDA Placemats $3.90

Having placemats on your kitchen counter top or dining table is a splendid way of protecting them from heat, scratches and spills that will stain or damage the surface. I picked the LJUDA placemats because of the price… and it’s monochrome.

7. KNIPPE Clothes Stand $29.90

Having a clothes stand will ensure your clothes are hung nicely in the corner and not on your bed. The KNIPPE clothes stand is sturdy, no-frills and does the job while its metallic design will go well with almost any bedroom.

(Image via Pinterest.)

(Image via Pinterest.)

8. BEKVAM Step Stool $24.90 / BOLMEN $7.90

Unless you are a titan, you’ll need step stool to access those hard to reach cupboards. The wooden BEKVAM step stool is hardy, while BOLMEN gives you more flexibility in use (I use the BOLMEN for sitting down in the balcony to trim my plants, or when I don’t feel like sitting on my sofa).

9. SKUBB Laundry Bag $14.90 / SPRUTT Basket $5.90 for 2

I use SKUBB to store my clean laundry, and SPRUTT for dirty clothes. SPRUTT does not have any metal frames and is sturdy enough, so you won’t have to worry about rust staining your clothes or the basket toppling over when it’s overloaded.

(Image via Pinterest.)

(Image via Pinterest.)

10. SVALKA Wine Glasses $1.90 Each

Wine connoisseurs will probably give me some stick for this – but I’ll drink wine from a whiskey glass if I have to. Thankfully, SVALKA glasses are so affordable that I don’t have to burn my pocket just to enjoy a glass of wine at home.

BONUS ITEM – FRAKTA Carrier Bag $0.90 Each

The toughest and most useful recyclable bags you will ever find and need. They are useful for visits to the supermarket or if you need to transport other stuff. And it’s only 90 cents. Reduce, reuse and recycle, people.


FRAKTA bag for gardening and plants. Why not?
(Image via

Let me know which other items from IKEA that you think is a must-buy, and leave your comments!

Love, J

All information and price taken from, accurate as of 19/10/2015.

There’s Something About… IKEA. (Part 1)

(Image from

(Image from

We all heard the usual “everything falls apart within 2 years” gripe from everyone who has had a piece of IKEA furniture before. Yet it is always the go-to place for first time home owners, and those who want a quick replacement/addition to their home fixtures. What is it exactly, that makes people go back time and again? What makes them special that they remain at the top of our minds for furniture? I seek to find the reasons behind this love-hate (most of the time, it’s love) relationship with the Swedish brand.

1. Affordable
Let’s face it – we all go to IKEA because it doesn’t tear a hole in our pockets to acquire furniture of reasonable quality and style. Affordable doesn’t mean cheap. They have kept their stuff competitively priced yet within reach for the everyday man.

2) Creative Ads
Who can ever forget THAT advert? In 2014, IKEA famously trolled Apple with this humourous advert that left us all in awe and stitches.


(From Youtube – IKEA Singapore)

3) Cool Sounding Product Names You Can Never Pronounce
Apart from their BILLY bookcase storage, I pretty much can’t pronounce their product names, which is cool. A guy took this one step further though, and created endless puns to irritate his girl. AI-KAY-AH or EE-KAY-AH? Think toh-may-to vs toh-mah-to. Heck, IKEA isn’t even a proper Scandinavian word. It is an acryonym that consists of the initials of Ingvar Kamprad (the founder), Elmtaryd (the farm where he grew up), and Agunnaryd (his hometown).
(Sources from Wikipedia)

(From Youtube – Simon Gilmore)

4) Hackable
This one is for those of you who have their creative juices running overtime. IKEA Hackers shows you how to use the plain vanilla pieces from IKEA to create your own DIY solution for your home. It contains a whole smorgasbord of hacks that you never thought possible.

5) Showroom Styling
Don’t you just adore that kitchen (refer to the first image on this page), and everything else that comes along with it? It’s a smart move on their visual merchandising efforts that brings singular items together to form a collective style and feel to attract shoppers, and we get hooked all the time.

6) Just Follow The Arrows
Never get lost in the store again. The store navigation system is subtle yet effective – it makes sure you go through what IKEA has to offer once you step in, without the feeling of being forced. Most of the time, we’ll end up with a purchase.

7) It’s Scandinavian
What is there not to like about Scandinavian stuff? Keeping it simple with focus on functionality never ever fails. It makes your space look exquisite without you feeling destitute.

8) Meatballs (& Chicken Wings)
Many years ago, IKEA was just a place to get affordable furniture. And that’s about it. Today they have a cafe that serves delicious meatballs and chicken wings so you can take a break, fill up your stomach and shop for more. I’m having the cravings just thinking of it.

9) The Play Area
As a child, I was stoked to know that my parents were going to visit IKEA. That’s because I know they will dump put me at the children’s play area while they shop. When I recently passed by the play area while shopping, it brought back many awesome memories for me.

10) Everything You Possibly Need For Your Home Is There
IKEA has accomplished and established itself as one stop shop for your home needs. Their collection of products is immense, and it’ll take someone quite brilliant to point out something they don’t have.

So there we have it. My take on why IKEA has always held a space in our hearts and our homes. Feel free to share your reasons why IKEA is awesome in the comments. In our next post, we will share the top ten stuff from IKEA that you should definitely get.


Starter Kit For A New Home

Filling up the empty spaces is the fun part. But first, you got to have the essentials. Image via Pinterest.

Filling up the empty spaces is the fun part. But first, you gotta have the essentials. (Photo via Pinterest.)

The last few months have been filled with much activity – one of them being moving into my brand new home. A place I can finally call my own. As a first time home owner, I realised that there were so many things to do upon collecting the keys, and there is a slight sense of panic mixed with sweet excitement.

Before you go into checking for defects, making decisions on your interior designs or buying your furniture, you have gotta have these few essential items when all that stands between ceiling and floor is you and your echo.

This is my starter kit for new homes:

  1. Insectide
    Trust me – there will always be some creepy crawlies inhabiting the dark spaces, and you will want to be prepared.
  2. Rags & Trash Bags
    Get some old rags for your clean up. You can throw them away after all major clean ups are done and use new cleaning cloths for daily cleaning and maintenance.
  3. Toilet Paper / Tissues
    When you gotta go, you gotta go.
  4. Bottles of Drinking Water
    You probably don’t have your utilities activated during your first week, and it’s good to stay hydrated.
  5. Battery Operated Lamp or Torch
    If your cleaning goes into OT, or you just wanna hang around to appreciate the night view from your home for the first time, it’ll be good to have a light source.
  6. Dry/Wet Mop, Broom and Pail
    Read Housekeeping 101 – The Bread & Butter of Housekeeping.
  7. Basic Toolbox & Measuring Tape
    You’ll probably won’t need any tools yet, but according to Jeremy Clarkson, you really don’t know when you’ll need that hammer.
  8. Multi Surface Cleaner
    New doesn’t mean no stains. Cif Cream became my best friend for about a month or so.
  9. First Aid Kit
    The moment I felt this was useless, I cut myself.
  10. Step Ladder
    You’ll need this, unless you’re 7’2.
    Bonus Item: Stool
    It’s good to have a stool to sit on while you’re taking a break from cleaning.

I hope my starter kit is useful for those of you young couples that are moving into your new home, and that you won’t be as lost as I was when I moved into mine. With these items, you’ll be better prepared and will save your forehead some smacking when you realised you forgot something.