mardi, mars 31, 2015

Our driveway

Recently, we got rid of the gravels covering our driveway and replaced them with nicely laid setts.
Seb and I could not stand the gravels though it is common to have gravels covered driveway due to the low cost. When coming home, it was easy to pick up the gravels into the house with our shoes. Also, we often had to tell the boys to stop playing or throwing or kicking the gravels around. 

After much discussion and getting quotations from different contractors, we decided to pave our driveway with setts. Another option was having asphalt concrete like the road but in red colour. Seb felt that setts made the driveway looked more classy and it would last longer.
So the works begun with a compact excavator digging up the gravels and the soil. Then, a big truck came to remove them.
After that, the dump truck came with a mountain of fine gravels which was flattened.

Once the preparation works were done, came the moment to pave the setts. The contractor laid the sett one at a time on our 100m² driveway. It was a tough job. The setts were heavy.
When that was done, cement was poured over as the joints between the setts. We waited a few days for the cement to harden and the finished product was one beautiful driveway.
All these in a total of 13 working days. Two and a half week. We are very happy with the result. The boys can now cycle from the garden to the driveway. Round and round the house. Seb and I do not miss the gravels at all. The above photo was taken when the setts were wet. When dried, the setts were lighter in colors and more lovely.

There are still a few things to do to improve the house. We can cross out the driveway on our list. So far, we had done major works to our garage, changed the front and back doors with better thermal isolation. Not to mention fix broken down fixtures. With spring here, it is time to take care of the garden.

vendredi, mars 20, 2015


We spent 4 days 3 nights in Batam just before Chinese New Year. It was a big family gathering with my family in Singapore and my brother's parents-in-law. In total, there were 11 of us. My brother and my sister-in-law (SIL) helped to organise the whole trip. We stayed at Harris Waterfront. My Singaporean friends asked why we stayed so long at Batam and why we chose the hotel which was secluded.

Singaporeans usually would stay for 2 days one night at the center of Batam to enjoy massage, shopping and cheap food. We prefered a quiet place with a big pool. Harris Waterfront suited us well. It was a distance from the center (30mins drive). And 4 days 3 nights was just right for us to chill and relax. 

The older folks in the group headed to the center everyday to enjoy the above three activities I mentioned. Our boys stayed in the pool the whole day. They enjoyed themselves a lot in the water. 

We hired a mini-bus with a driver for two days to bring us to places. On one evening, we had a seafood dinner at another end of Batam. The boys helped to pick fresh scallops. We had crabs, flower crabs, seashells, fish, scallops etc. It was a feast yet we only paid SG$130 in total. That was really cheap.

In the bus, A1 and A2 were happily counting the many motobikes in Batam. We were amazed to see whole family on a motobike. The boys were alarmed to see that some did not wear a helmet. I could not understand how the adults would wear a helmet while their children were unprotected.  

While Seb took care of the boys at the pool, I did go out with the folks for massages. I paid 20€ for 90mins of massage. Recently, I went with a friend for a massage in France. I paid 100€ for 50mins. I do miss the cheap and good massage in Batam.

We had a good time in Batam. Two years ago, we visited Bali. We couldn't compare the two places of course. But seriously, Batam is good enough for us. The boys were just happy to be at the pool. Seb however would prefer a place with a nice beach. Maybe the next time would be Bintan.

We really enjoyed this family gathering. My boys got closer to my family during this trip. As for me, I am thankful that my SIL planned everything for us. I did not have to take care of logistics which made the stay even more relaxing.

I would recommend this hotel. There was not a big crowd maybe because of its location. My 2 boys had the big pool to themselves on one afternoon. This place is affordable and though it might be run down in certain areas, the friendly staff makes the stay really pleasant. They even performed welcome dance and breakfast dance. It lives up to its motto. Simple, Unique, Friendly.

mercredi, mars 11, 2015


During our recent Singapore trip, our concerned friends asked what we did to our pets. I explained to them that we got housesitters to take care of our house and pets. Most were amazed by this unexpected answer. Further discussion led most to conclude that this arrangement was not for them.

At first, this was what Seb thought too. He was not comfortable with the idea of having strangers staying in our house while we were away. But I had a colleague who had had his house looked after while he was away and things turned out fine. Putting Handsome in a pet hotel during winter was harsh and he would be miserable. Bao Bei too would not be happy away from home. While on Facebook, I saw an ad from TrustedHouseSitters. I clicked on it and read more about the service. Everything was listed clearly on the website and it had good comments from reliable references.

I took up a month's membership, put up a posting description our house, our pets and the dates we were away. Right away, I had almost ten requests. Mostly retired couples who wanted to see the world while helping out to take care of the house and animals. There were children books author, retired researcher, professor and teachers among these candidates. Most were from USA and Canada. As this TrustedHouseSitters is an UK website, most members are english speaking.

Since all of them have reports on police check and experience in taking care of animals, it was hard for us to decide who to accept. Based on first come first serve basis, Seb and I had a Skype conversation with Chris and Eve since they were among the first to write to us and were quick to reply which time I posed questions. They wanted to escape the cold snowy winter in Canada and France was an ideal place for them.

We decided on them and as planned, they arrived on a monday, stayed at a hotel for the night and came over to our place on tuesday afternoon. We brought them around the town to show them the essential stuff and the forest walk with Handsome. We had raclette for dinner and they enjoyed this chessy meal.

The next day, we flew to Singapore. During our stay in Singapore, our housesitters took great care of our animals. They were homely people and visited Paris only once. They visited Orleans, Chartres and Rambouillet and enjoyed my quiet village. I knew these because we communicated regularly by email.

When we returned, Chris and Eve continued their vacation visiting friends in Scotland before heading home. Pior to coming here, they had spent a week in England taking care of a pet lizard. All these for free. I provided free lodging for them and in return, they took care of my pets and my house. This is a win win situation.

We are blessed to have such ideal housesitters. I heard from my neighbours that the couple walked Handsome very often.

I do not mind using TrustedHouseSitters again in future if we have to be away for a long time. For the moment, pet hotel is ideal for that few days of getaway. 

mercredi, mars 04, 2015

Chinese New Year in Singapore

This year's Chinese New Year was during the boys' winter school holiday so we took the opportunity to spend it in Singapore. This is a first for the boys and they enjoyed themselves.
Thanks to The Wacky Duo, I found a few places featuring lion dance and brought the boys to watch them. They totally loved it. I was surprised to catch a dragon dance at Suntec. As it was a monday, the crowd was small. The boys got to sit right in front of the show.

We visited Chinatown to get into the mood of Chinese New Year. It was hot and soon the boys were bored. I did managed to get some souvenirs for friends back in France. We stopped at a coffee shop for drinks and that four cold drinks cost us $17.80. No fresh fruit juice, no beer, just lime juice and soda. Boy, that was a rip off.

We could see sheep and goats everywhere as it is the year of the ram.

On the first day of Chinese New Year, my mother gave the boys each an ang bao (red envelope with money in it). The boys opened the packets immediately in front of her. I had to explain to the boys that it was not christmas where we opened the presents right away. I told them to put ang bao they received in my bag and I would help them keep them. At the end, we could go shop for a present each. The boys did just as told when we visited relatives and friends. I also had friends over at my mother's place. My boys were impressed. They told me “Maman, you have many friends.”

I am happy that they get to celebrate chinese new year in Singapore at this age. Though the trip in Singapore was short as we spent a few days in Batam, the boys had a taste of how Singapore celebrates Chinese New Year. A2 even wanted to wear a chinese costume. He would love to wear it to school but it is too cold here.