It is slowly beginning to sink in that we are in fact, really participants in this whirlwind competition. Week one came and went so quickly that we barely had time to react or adjust to the bright lights in our eyes…
Now slowly the lenses adjust, the pressure thickens and I feel myself becoming more invested in the competition and more hungry for another win. Phil on the other hand just wants to make it through to the next challenge. Good team balance.
Last week’s reward was a lovely opportunity to invite our fellow competitors for a very fitting wine and cheese soirée. Phil and I were excited for the chance to finally get to know everyone a little more, away from the supply room and the stress of all those tools. Having worked so hard all week, however, I found myself doing little of the talking and more chewing and listening as we all stuffed ourselves with brie, grapes and crackers!
Unfortunately these brief pleasantries have little place in such a competition and the work commenced once more in full force.
We found ourselves again in front of Jamie who announced this week’s challenge: the kitchen and dining room. I would like to think most women could sympathize with my fear to face such a daunting space in only the second week of the competition. While Phil remained unfazed, I began to panic as the complications of the space reeled in my head.
I felt a quick release of relief as Jamie announced the theme for this week; “special occasion” and I imagined a beautifully dressed table, ready to welcome friends and family, with Phil and I at either end.
The clock began and Phil and I wasted no time in deciding our theme. We were sure that we wanted to stay away from more exploited occasions such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s and we quickly came up with the idea of doing an Easter themed tea party. Easter is an important holiday in Germany, France and also Argentina, where it marks the beginning of spring with happy family reunions. In some parts of Argentina, people are given as much as a week off work and school – resulting in ten glorious days of gatherings full of food, chocolate and loved ones.
Shopping was still as chaotic an experience as ever, though I was ecstatic to finally have the budget to buy all the kitchen appliances of my dreams. I had a huge smile on my face as Phil handed over the thousands of dollars necessary to purchase my beautiful Kitchen-Aid mixer and accompanying accessories!
As we arrived back at our Dali home, my smile soon faded as unloading revealed we had forgotten almost a fourth of the items at the store. Not a good start to the challenge. Anyone who knows me would know that at that moment all I wanted to do was scream, cry a little and return to the store to recover all my precious things… (Read: Kitchen-Aid) But luckily I had Phil pull me back to the reality of our completely empty kitchen, and the ever-ticking clock.
We worked like a well-oiled machine, trusting each other’s decisions though not always agreeing. Phil to this day will never forgive my choice of china while I will always remember seeing him returning from the garden, tree branch in hand… Phil had told me about his childhood memories of German Easter when his mother would help him and his brother hollow out eggs to paint and later hang on outdoor trees or branches placed inside the house. I liked the idea of an original handmade ornament in the room and loved the personal story behind it. I continued to work as Phil blew out yolk after yolk with his cheeks incredibly red and eyes like Roger Rabbit.
The kitchen and dining room came together at a much more pleasant pace as Phil and I learned that it was not impossible to better manage time. The extra $5,000 won from the previous challenge was put to good use as we hired Sasha’s handymen to do the painting for us. This gave us more time to concentrate on the kitchen, where we took the cabinet doors of and lined the inside, to give more depth and volume to otherwise sterile and flat cabinetry.
We put the finishing touches on our design and were amazed to have thirty minutes to spare. I happily made handwritten place cards for each of the judges as we waited for the challenge to end.
The second judges’ walk-through was no easier to face than the first. Jamie was supportive and loved the eggs while a little disappointed that our cupboards had not been lined to perfection (damn bubbles). While we had been hoping to appeal to Laurence with our semi-English inspired table, it was hard to tell if he liked the design or not. His comments were not altogether negative but their icy delivery gave us chills.
As we entered Design Court, I felt myself overwhelmed with incertitude. We were standing next to all the other teams, having still not seen any of their designs and not knowing what would come next.
Once again, we were asked to step back and the two of us breathed a small sigh of relief. We remain in the competition, with another chance to prove ourselves and improve our designs.
Seeing Paul and Ash go was hard. During the pauses during filming, and in other rare moments of respite, they were two of the contestants that we felt immediately close to. Luckily they live nearby and we hope to someday take Dali the boat and Dali the team to visit them!
Meanwhile, team Dali remains on land and ready for the next challenge.