Saturday, June 26, 2010

TM and Landscaping

Yesterday we went to TM which is Malaysia’s phone line company which also offers Broadband service. We went through the application for a phone line and internet for the rental condo last October. At first they told us that foreigners have to pay an extra 1,000myr deposit. But we convinced them that we are with the Malaysia My Second Home Programme and are not staying here temporarily. Our visit yesterday was to transfer our phone line and broadband accounts to the House. Awhile back they told us that it would take between 1-2 weeks to make the transfer (very inconvenient for us as we are on the internet all the time). But yesterday the representative told us it will take only three working days to complete. We are happy but skeptical because she said that within 24 hours our services would be turned off at the condo (it’s over 24 hours and we still have service) and secondly because there has never been a phone or broadband account for the house. We see phone line jacks inside the house, but have no idea if they will be able to use them or if new lines need to be run.

Well, we might we offline for awhile.

PS I snapped a shot of these bushes or trees??? which are quite popular here in Malaysia on the way to TM. I am thinking about planting one at the front of the house between the front door and the covered patio. Think it might make a nice base for the front landscaping which I am currently wondering about.... should it be fuller with more green or more minimal with those pellet rocks that I always see with minimalist/contemporary homes... more rocks and less plants near the foundation of the house.

Dulux Sealer Problems

After spending a huge amount of time spackling the imperfect (by our standards) plaster walls and sanding the Master Bedroom walls down, we attempted to apply a coat of Dulux ICI Wall Sealer on the wall in preparation for adding the Dulux brown paint. It was a DISASTER; even after we added water as the product and hardware store suggested it was still too thick and caked on the wall in a chunky mess before we could even re-roll over a stripe. We finished after adding more water, left the house and can only hope when we return tomorrow morning it will have miraculously flattened out to what we were expecting from the expensive product. We haven’t been at all convinced about the Dulux products so far. Our experience with Nippon in the Laundry Room and Kitchen was pretty good.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Move in Date Set

We recently decided that we wouldn’t extend another month at the rental condo and gave our landlord notice. We now have to move out by the end of the month, so the plan is that we will be living in the house starting on JUNE 30th!!! It doesn’t give us much time to get it habitable and we already know that the Kitchen won’t be finished when we move in, but we think it is best to get into the house because trips back and forth from the rental to the house are becoming tedious and we can better monitor the work at the house when we are on site.

Today there was a rush of activity mainly because of yesterday's heavy rain when no roof work could be done and the wood kitchen cabinets could not be transported to the house.

This morning R and I were at blind/curtain stores picking the blinds for our Master Bedroom as we need to try and have them installed before we move in. I’m not sure they will be ready in time. A few days ago we decided that we wanted to paint our bedroom (and the walk in closet if possible) before we move in. So we spent some time picking the color for both rooms. R wanted a dark color so together we finally picked Artisan Brown RM 71YR 08/119 from Dulux (ICI). We painted a test sample of the color in Dulux Supreme in the bedroom because it is so dark to try and get an idea if it would be too dark for both rooms. We like the dark color, but the paint on the wall does not match the paint sample swatch from the hardware store... the color on the wall is not as rich as the swatch and more of a run of the mill 'chocolate brown', the hardware store had Dulux come out to the house yesterday to check it. The color specialist said that hardware store was not using the most current base and that we should do another test with a new sample mix. So late this morning R and I were working on getting the bedroom prepared for painting while the roof repair was underway and B brought the cabinets on site. The blind company came out to measure the windows late in the day. And now we are resting for the night. Tomorrow will be another big day on site.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kitchen Paint

Saturday the painters came to paint the Kitchen ceiling and walls in expectation that the cabinet bodies will be moved to the house this coming Wednesday.

We chose Nippon Spot-Less Paint in “White 145”.

Cabinet Factory Visit

Last Wednesday we made a trip to our Kitchen contractor B’s ‘Factory’ to see the progress on the kitchen cabinets. Here are some shots of the factory and the cabinet bodies in unstained wood veneer and laminate interiors. The cabinets will be stained and solid wood doors added later.

Kitchen sink cabinet

Old rocking chair above sink cabinet

Pantries and left shelf for long wall

Three cabinets under counter /open shelves for the long wall

The Air Conditioners

Last week we had three of the seven air conditioners installed. We had planned on doing Inverters throughout the house to save on energy. We were told that the only inverter ACs that work with the existing piping (which was installed when the house was built a few years ago) are Daikin.

AC wiring above Dining Room windows

Just as we were about to purchase all of them, the salesperson told us for inverters to really be effective in saving on your electricity bill, they need to be running more than 3 hours at a time. We only plan to use the bedroom ACs and the Home Office ACs for that long at a time, so we checked with some more AC installers and they confirmed it. Two Daikin representatives from Selangor offered to drive to Seremban and explain their product to us, but when they arrived they along with the other installers where unable to tell us after what amount of usage time the inverters become cost effective... some said after three hours, some 5, 6 or 8. So R and I decided that we would buy the Daikin Single Split Inverters for our Master Bedroom and main Guest Bedroom and our office. We can save some money by buying regular York ACs for the other rooms. So the Installers arrived and after hours of work, the Daikin Inverter units were installed and giving more cool. York ACs are on their way.

Large outside unit for the office 2.0 Daikin inverter hanging at the back/side of the house

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bunga Kantan Flower

I was at the Seremban Wet Market (some photos and info: ) a couple months ago and one of the vendors had these beautiful pink bud flowers for sale. I asked the vendor if they were for decoration and he told me the pink part was used for cooking. I got enough out of him to understand that I could add it to the wok while making stir-fry something. So I bought a bud.

R was totally skeptical, but he allowed me to add a small amount of chopped up flower bud to a chicken and veg stir-fry we were making. And let me tell you, it was great. The bud gave the whole dish a great snappy taste. Zingy we thought. And compared the taste to ginger, but it wasn’t like the ginger we know. We loved it. I searched it online without knowing the name and finally found this Tropical Bloom website: talking about the Bunga Kantan Flower (Torch Ginger Flower) plant. And I was finding exciting Mango and Bunga Kantan Flower recipes like the one on for Kerabu Mangga Bunga Kantan

Prior to buying the house, I was too busy to go to the wet market, but I couldn’t wait to get hold of some more of this flower after we moved into the house and the kitchen was ready to actually cook in. But guess what? When were were going on the final inspection for the house, we noticed that the plant at the front of the house behind the carpark was getting really tall and had big pink flowers in bloom. R noticed one thin bud and mentioned that he thought it looked like the bunga kantan plant we had cooked. I agreed but wasn’t sure at the time. The plant has been continually in bloom with large pink flowers since we moved in! And today I went over to take a few photos for this site. I cross checked what I saw on Tropical Bloom and am happy to say we have a Bunga Kantan plant on our property!!!!!!!!!!!! Now all we need is the kitchen.

For more information check wikipedia under the plant's Binomial name Etlingera Elatior.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hot Water

We finally have hot water in the house! The house has never been occupied before, but is a few years old. When we were initially looking at the house we were told there were hot and cold pipes already in the walls (so we didn’t have to use portable electric heaters on each shower which look like this and are attached to the tiles in bathrooms. Most older homes in Malaysia do not have hot water pipes in the walls. I was told that only in the last few years in KL and larger cities has it become common to install in new homes). After buying the house, it was confirmed that there was already a water pump installed above the second floor in the space below the tile roof as well as a water tank. However, the plumbers and electricians who ventured up the small hole located in one of the bathrooms told us that there was no hot water heater in this ‘attic’ space. They did reconfirm that there appeared to be hot water pipes for 3 of the bathrooms (but not for the maid’s room’s bathroom) and for the dry kitchen.

So R and I had to decide if we wanted to get an electric storage water heater tank to put up in the attic or a solar heating panel that would be installed on the exterior of the tile roof. I really like the idea of solar heat and it is quite popular in Malaysia because homes usually get a steady source of sun every day making solar panels viable. There are a number of solar panel companies to choose from (see the following list I pulled from a forum):

But Solar Panels are running 4,000-5,000myr where as electric storage water heater tanks cost less. So we finally opted for the electric heating tank because we are on a budget. We went with Joven and chose the JH68 68 Litres (15.0 Imp. Gals) model .

I would have gone for the largest 91 litre unit, but they couldn’t fit it up in the attic. The price of the tank itself was 700myr. But there were extra costs of 1,500myr to adjust pipes to the tank, create a water source outside the attic for excess water, a shut off valve and other sorts of modifications. Oh and the pump already in the house needed an electrical switch and the automatic-off switch needed to be repaired as the pump just continued to run when it was on. During the installation, they weren’t sure if the pipes in the wall might burst as they tested it. Fortunately, the pipes were ok, but the installers forgot to turn off (or on?) a value on the Joven unit so it was leaking. They didn’t know why so a technician from Joven had to come two days later from Melaka to fix it. He adjusted the valve and confirmed that all of the pipes were connected and the unit was ready to use. Did we make the right choice picking an electric water heater over a solar panel... only time will tell.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ceiling Fans

The House is extremely hot so we wanted to get the fans in as soon as possible and had them installed a few days ago. Metal hooks were already installed in the ceiling in 10 places throughout the house, but we chose not to put fans everywhere as we will be adding the ACs in a number of rooms this week. We determined we needed 5 fans. One in the Living Room, one in the outside covered Patio, in the upstairs Family Room, Home Office and one in our master suite Closet. Come to find out that the ceilings on the second floor of the house are only about 8.5 feet high which is low for adding a ceiling fan. So we had to start looking for low-ceiling fans- forums online and stores told us that the two most reliable fans in Malaysia are KDK and Panasonic. KDK is a Japan brand, but the fans sold here are made in Malaysia. We heard about the KDK Baby Fan which needs only 26.1 cm from the ceiling to the bottom of the fan. The model seemed good for our Closet and Family Room but looked to small for our Home Office. Later we found out that the Baby fan can not attach to the metal hooks on our ceiling and needs to be installed into cement ceilings while our upstairs ceiling appears to be heavy sheetrock. So we couldn’t go with the Baby Fan. The next best option and what we chose is the Panasonic Nami F-M14E8 which needs 30.6 cm from ceiling to bottom of the fan. While maybe silver might have been better, the Panasonic white model blends in with the ceiling making the ceilings look less low. So we went with this model in our Home Office, Closet and Family Room.

Panasonic Nami F-M14E8 in our Home Office

Panasonic Nami F-M14E8 in the Family Room

Unfortunately, the Family Room hook was bigger than the other hooks so when the fan was installed, it hangs lower and there is a gap between the ceiling and the fan top. This causes the fan to make more noise and movement. Not great, for using above where our family room couch will be. But for now, we will leave it and maybe try to have the hook or fan adjusted later when before the room is filled with furniture.

Since we went with Panasonic for the upstairs and since we heard that KDK is actually manufactured by the Panasonic people here in Malaysia (now makes sense why certain models were similar) and since the price of Panasonic was less than KDK, we opted for Panasonic for the main floor fans as well. We went with a five blade white model Panasonic F-M149 WT for the Living Room (with a 46.8 cm drop from the ceiling because the main floor ceilings are higher) and the Panasonic Bayu F-M148C8 WT fan for the outside Patio.

Panasonic Bayu F-M148C8 WT in the Covered Patio

Panasonic F-M149 WT in the Living Room

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bamboo Grass

I’m too tired to write about the fan installations and the ongoing hotwater heater installation issue, so I will post R’s work for today. He has been working on the back brick wall and clearing the landscaping getting ready for the landscapers to lay the grass and rocks once the house exterior is painted. Today he tackled the large patch of Bamboo in the front yard. Being in New York Zone 6a in the past, my garden could never have taken Bamboo, hence, no idea what to do with it. But we were driving to Seremban 2 Jusco a couple weeks ago and there were some men trimming the bamboo along the road. Later, we saw that they had cut away the bottom part of the ‘grass’ leaving the bamboo exposed at the bottom. So today R got his saw and clippers out and started to work on the large bamboo patch in the front.

Along the way, he encountered two snails that lived in the center. Contrary to what we thought we knew about snails, these two moved fast and got back into the center of the bamboo immediately after I had a chance to snap a photo of them. We have also noticed a lot of empty shells in the yard as we were cleaning up.

According to Wikipedia, “Bamboos are also the fastest growing woody plants in the world. They are capable of growing up to 60 cm (24 in.) or more per day due to a unique rhizome-dependent system. However, this astounding growth rate is highly dependent on local soil and climatic conditions.” Let’s see how fast this one grows!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Getha Mattress

After looking at a number of different mattresses like Simmons, Dunlopillo, King Koil and Goodnite we decided on a Malaysian made eco-friendly brand called Getha. We talked to a few people who love their Getha mattresses and the MY mattress forums say good things about the product. Getha is made from natural latex foam and does not have MC Methylene and is chloride free (many mattresses produced in Asia supposedly have these harmful chemicals). The high-end Getha models were over our budget, but the Spring Power mattress from the Transforme Series was soft and extremely comfortable (comes with both natural latex and spring coils and a soft padding on top) and somehow affordable. The Getha website states, “The company manufactures its product with the Dunlop technology process and its latest European automatic foaming machine and automated line. All products are proudly manufactured using 100% pure natural, high quality latex from only Malaysia which is renowned for its world class quality.” At nearly 3,000myr it was a splurge for us, but yet it doesn’t cost as much as many of the other brands, especially the imported mattresses. So we thought we would try this locally made product.

The only furniture that was already in the house when we bought it was a new bedroom set including a king bedframe/headboard, two side tables, a large closet wardrobe and a vanity with mirror. The set is ugly!!! See photo above when the set was still in the master bedroom.

Speaking of the Master Bedroom- the room is large at 21.5 feet x 17.7 feet not including the bay window space. The house has 5 bedrooms (if you count the maid's room as one).The upstairs has 3 bedrooms: the big master bedroom (with large bathroom including jacuzzi), a medium size bedroom and a slightly smaller one. The two smaller rooms are jointed by a shared bathroom. Since it is just the two of us, we decided to we will use the master bedroom for our home office where I can do my art and R can have his computers. And we will use the other two bedrooms and bathroom as our “master suite” since they are all near each other on the other side of the house. Using the larger of the two bedrooms for our sleeping room and the smaller one for a big walk around closet (someday we will get custom closet cabinets to fill the whole space). Using a smaller bedroom means we will run a smaller size air conditioner at night as well. So we moved the ugly bedframe and two side tables into our new bedroom until we find a bedroom set we like and will move the wardrobe and mirrored vanity in our “closet” until we make that custom closet.

Bed in our new smaller bedroom

The Getha mattress arrived in its own plastic/cotton bag sealed with a green Getha lock and a CD of music for helping you fall asleep (we’ll have to try that later when we get a cd player). The mattress seems great and quite thick. We can’t wait to start sleeping on it!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Chandeliers Had to Go

We had the electrician take down two heavy gold/brass chandeliers with frosted glass hanging in odd spots in the living room. I don't love gold but also they were hanging too low and made the ceiling look too low, when the room is actually a decent size and a nice ceiling height. These chandeliers just detracted from the room. The house has a much more modern feel, so I think we will get some simple white track lights to hang where these were (the rest of the lights in the room are downlights) to highlight future art on the walls; it will look much more clean and modern.

Kitchen Work Has Commenced

The Hood

Yesterday our contractor B began work on the Kitchen. First up, hacking the wall open to make an electric socket for the Hood (a new model Zen TSC HD 636 D from the Tuscani ‘Zen Collection’).

It seems hacking the thick plaster walls is common here especially to install new air conditioners. Part of the reason we bought this house was because all of the 9 air conditioner units' wires were already in place so all we thought we needed to do was get the air conditioners (although now we find out if we are going to use the energy saving inverter air conditioners, we’ll need to re-work the wiring or use one specific brand. We plan to use only 7 of the 9 AC connections but that is still a lot of ACs so more on how the AC installation goes later).

But, we have already had to hack a wall upstairs to make a switch for the water pump which is in the attic/roof space (more on residential water systems in Malaysia later including hot/cold water, pumps, electric water heaters verses solar water heating panels, main house water filters and drinking water water filters... our house is lacking some of these necessities so there is a lot to cover here). But for now, the Kitchen work has commenced. The wall has been hacked and offsite the cabinets are being made in B’s factory.