jeudi, janvier 24, 2008

Talk of the town

Remember how Singapore was suddenly made famous by Nick Leeson in the financial market about 12 years ago? Well, someone out did him. That someone was a trader working in the second biggest bank of France, Societe Generale. He made his bank lost $7 billion (5 billion euro) by conducting rogue trading. This is definitely the hot topic in our office. See, we are a financial risk-management software company. And we are trying to figure out how this trader managed to cover and snow-ball his errors until this moment and at this amount. Most of us know of someone who is working in Societe Generale. Well, there goes their bonus as the bank lost a further 2 billion euros because of the sub-prime mortgage crisis in US.

On a brighter note, we were really glad that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga made it to the finals in the Asutralia Open. He defeated Nadal in 3 sets. Though I am no big tennis fan, we do have cable TV in the office common area. Everyone was pretending to get water, coffee, orange juice so as to catch a glimpse of the action. When it was the final set, most of us were glued to the TV. Tsonga was not known. His ranking was 38 and he managed to defeat the number 2 guy in tennis. We really hope he would do France proud as it had been many many years since a french made it to the finals of a Grand Slam.

Note: When I mentioned we, I was referring to my colleagues.

Today, there was a strike with the public service workers like teachers, nurses etc..... Against increase cost of living and low pay. Sarkozy promised to increase french purchasing power during election period. Now, he avoided talking about this subject in his speeches. The news were just speculating if he had secretly married his girlfriend. Yeah, the ex-model who had dated men around the globe including father and son. In BBC, there was an article on the dilemma of India for the visit of Sarkozy and his girlfriend. Should they share the same suite? What is the protocol for a visiting president bringing his girlfriend along? The president's communication team did a good job to steer more pressing issues aside for some juicy gossips about the president's personal live.

To end, Singapore Prime Minister came visiting in Paris. Reading from the news site in Singapore (sadly, I did not read about this in French site), he met up the president, foreign minister and prime minister of France. He invited all of them to come visit Singapore. This morning, I read in the free papers given at the metro station that Lee Hsien Long visited the Quai Branly museum with the ex-president Chirac. At last, Singapore is mentioned. How rare to hear about this small country over here.


In France, there are seasonal vegetables and fruits. In winter, I find that there are less variety of fresh vegetables. Courgettes, aubergines and green beans are mostly imported from Spain or Marocco and they cost much more than in summer. Still, I managed to find a vegetable that is becoming my favourite greens. Okay, it is not exactly green in color. It is called endive. Endives have a bitter after-taste and most of the time, it is served as salade. I do not like raw veggie and prefer to cook them.
My mother-in-law made me discovered endives a few years ago. She baked them with ham and creamy sauce. I like it but find it hard to get the sauce consistent.

Other ways of cooking endives is to boil them in water with sugar to remove the bitterness for 15 mins. Remove them from the pot and dry them. Dash some lemon juice over them, sprinkle some herbs and put them in the oven for about 30 mins. That is a simple way.

Another way is to wrap bacon or ham around the endives after they are boiled. Sprinkle chesse and pepper over them and grill them for 15 mins. Grilled bacon and crispy melted cheese with endives. Yummy!

Both dish taste good and are defintely ideal as a no fuss, no frills week-day dinner.

mercredi, janvier 23, 2008

Of needles and hems

I need to shorten the curtains I bought. As I had no needles at home to mark the length, I went to the supermarket this afternoon to get a pack. Guess the price.

It cost me 5.50€ for a pack of simple needles. I had no choice but to take it. But I am sure that in Singapore, I could have bought 10 packs of needles for SG$11. Well, one pack is enough to last me a lifetime. Sometimes, the things in France are just outrageously overpriced!

Another example is to find a tailor to adjust the length of the pants. In Singapore, I did it for SG$3 in the wet market. Over here, most charge around 10.50€. I am still looking for one that cost around 7€. I know it exists but I forgot where it was since it was 3 years ago that I did it.

dimanche, janvier 20, 2008

Galette des Rois

During the month of January, a special cake can be found in the bakery. It is the galette des rois (King's cake). This puff pastry usually has frangipane filling in it. In each cake, there is a little figurine hidden in it. The person who gets this figurine will be the king of the day. He will have to wear a paper crown for the entire day.

This cake is to celebrate Epiphany when the three wise men paid homage to baby Jesus. In the old days, a bean was used instead of a figurine.

Well, for the whole month of January, we would be eating the galette des rois for dessert. It is like eating moon cake during the 8th month of the Lunar Calendar. When dining with friends, we would have galette des rois. In office, usually a galette des rois party will be organised.

I had mine with my company last week. Each part of the galette had to be randomly distributed. Being the newest in the company, I was asked to name who should get the galette without looking. I had to make sure that everyone was named. We had 5 galettes and ended up with 3 kings and 2 queens. If you do come to France in January, do try one from the bakery. Some bakeries make galette for one person. You will be sure to be the king of the day.

mercredi, janvier 02, 2008

Thanks giving 2007

Looking back on 2007, I count my blessings. God had been good to us. Seb and I changed jobs and had no regrets. We moved into our apartment and our last furniture finally arrived on 29/12/2007. We are very comfortable in our new place. Both of us are in good health though I was recently down with gastric flu and Seb with a big cold. These are annual affairs when our immune system is weaker during winter.

In 2007, we travelled often. I discovered various parts of France and due to work; I discovered Finland and Luxembourg as well. Seb had his share of travelling too. Our lives are pretty much the same as before – still loving each other. We made efforts for each other. We called each other before leaving office to go home. We did grocery shopping together. We shared house chores. Simple things like that should not be taken for granted. Over all, we have no complains for 2007. Thank God!


On the first day of 2008, I decided to clear space in the big red box which contained cards I held dear. I would like to throw old cards to make space for new ones I received from the last few years. I was the sentimental kind of person when it came to cards. I kept cards given by friends. As e-cards got more popular, I received fewer cards. I in turn sent less cards too.

So, I spent hours looking and reading the cards. Most were Christmas cards, some wedding cards, a few farewell cards. There were also birthday cards, postcards and of course; cards given by Seb. We gave each other cards on valentine’s day, wedding anniversary and birthdays. It was difficult to decide which card to keep and which card should go. I tried my best. If a friend only sent me a card, I put it back in the red box. Even though one might reasoned that we had already lost contact and this card no longer held any meaning to the friendship. I prefer to think that at one stage of my life, I was good enough to receive a card from the sender. Our paths had crossed and this card was the evidence.

I received the most cards from Claire. Our friendship dated back 9 years ago. We communicated often by emails and phone. Still, it felt so good to receive a nice card with thoughts of the day in it from time to time.

My little possible-to-keep resolution for this year is to send out cards to family and friends. Emails are quick and cheap. But cards filled with hand written words and travelled slowly by snail-mail add delight and surprises to the receiver! Don't you agree? *hint hint*