vendredi, août 11, 2017

Food from ah yi

Gosh. This post was in draft mode for months and I just realised that.

Ah Yi, the boys' ex-nanny gave us food each time we met up. In May, she made rice dumplings and chinese buns. 

Rice dumpling (Zongzi) is traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat festival. 

I thought my boys would not like the chinese buns (Bao) so I just took one from her. I let the boys try it and they liked it. We three had to share that one big bun.

When it was the boys' birthday, she would make them apple sauce, braised chicken thighs and chinese dumpling (Jiaozi). Last year A1 mentioned that food was not a present. Ah Yi took note. This year for A1's birthday, she bought him a Magic treehouse storybook. A1 was delighted.

For me, I prefer Ah Yi's home cook food as gifts. They are organic and nothing beats home made food. 

jeudi, août 10, 2017

South of Italy in the province of Lecce

Mum came to visit us during the summer school holiday. Actually we needed her to take care of the boys while we worked.

In July, we headed togather to Italy and spent two weeks of relaxing family vacation. We landed at Bari and drove the rented car to our first Airbnb at Lido Marini, the heel of Italy.  Lido Marini is a summer village and the beach is family friendly. It was an ideal location for us as the appartment was just 100m from the beach and along the way, there were shops selling basic stuff. The boys and Seb spent their mornings at the beach while my mum and I sat at the beach chalet taking a drink. We watched the boys having fun in the shallow calm water and building sandcastles.

By 10am, the beach was crowded and there were vendors trying to sell their wares along the beach. There was this mother carrying her toddler on her back trying to send things. It was such a big contrast compared with the sunbathing holiday makers. 
At around 11.30am, Seb would bring the boys back to wash up while mum and I went grocery shopping for the days' lunch and dinner. In Lido Marini, there were only Italians. No one spoke English nor French. Though we had difficulty communicating with the locals (I ended up using Seb's phone to translate after a few days), everyone was friendly to us. They continued to speak to us in Italian and we continued with English and French with lots of hand gestures in between. I find them really kind and simple in their way of life.
The vegetable lady only had local vegetables and chicorée were a plenty. We bought some and cooked it chinese style but it was really bitter.
We found a fishmonger who grilled or pan fried our purchase for us. We went there 3 days straight and had fresh seafood for lunch. One day we bought a roasted chicken from the butcher.
Mum would cook pasta or rice and our lunch and sometimes dinner would be completed.
We did dine out a few times and the Italian menus had no images so we ended up with surprises. 

After lunch, Seb would drive us to visit places of interest. The boys were promised ice cream and after the visit, we would end up at the nearest beach in that area.

We visited Otranto. There was a beach near the port. 
The Otranto cathedral with its skulls of "Martyrs of Otrano" on display.
These 800 inhabitants were killed in 1480 for refusing to convert to Islam when the city was captured by Ottoman Empire.
On another day, we drove to Gallipoli. We walked around the old town which was located on a limestone island.


The seaside of Gallipoli.
After the visit, we stopped at the nearest beach along Baia Verde. This was the beach the boys preferred. They could see fishes in the clear water and had lots of fun.
There are always public beach along side a private beach. In Lido Marini, we just use the public beach. In other places we rented a parasol and two lounge chairs at the private beach as we were not equipped with these. 
We also visited Lecce on another afternoon and also went on a boat excursion. We were blessed with hot, dry weather. We spent a week in Lido Marini before driving up north to our second Airbnb in the highland of Gargano.

Funny stuff: One day we had no water in the appartment after lunch. We contacted the host and he replied that he would send a truck. Turn out there was a watertank at the basement and the water truck came and filled it up. But we still did not have water. After much discussion, we realised that the boys had flipped a switch in their room while playing. That was the switch to pump up water into the appartment. It was an innocent On/Off switch just beside a power socket. Oops. I used this lesson to tell the boys the importance of saving water.

Seb wanted orange juice at an ice cream place. I saw the word "arancio" beside an image of orange and pointed to that. The waiter gave us orange shaved ice.

At the beach chalet, I pointed at the ice coffee ordered by the man opposite my table. Italian drinks small coffee. I explained to the waitress that I wanted a big glass of ice coffee. She nodded. I got a tall glass with a quarter of ice coffee. Oops.  After that, I used Seb's phone to do translation. 

mercredi, août 02, 2017

School outing

In late june, I joined the boys' class for an excursion to visit Chartres' cathedral. We also did a workshop on making stained glass and decorating it.

The kids enjoyed themselves during the workshop. As for the visit to the cathedral, it was not easy to get these young kids to pay attention to the guide.


zucchinis, tomatoes and french beans

We are back after 2 weeks of vacation and are greeted with 4 big zucchinis from the garden. As usual, we found housesitters to take care of the house and pets and they harvested these vegetables for us. We had already eaten one and gave away 2.
Mum and A2 picked french beans yesterday and we had them for lunch. The tomato plant is growing very well and have many unripe tomatoes. I wonder when they will turn red.

Mum is leaving in 2 weeks time. I hope she gets to taste the garden tomatoes. Amazing what we are get from a 120cm by 120cm piece of land.

dimanche, juillet 02, 2017

Vegetable plot update and flowers

One strawberry plant is in the vegetable plot while the other one is in a pot. I had two strawberries half eaten by insects once they turned red. So I kept a close watch on these three strawberries. We did manage to eat them and they were real sweet.
The vegetable plot is getting crowded. The zucchini leaves are getting big and there are beautiful yellow flowers. The tomato plant is taller.
I picked the zucchini flowers and dipped them into chickpea flour and water. I fried them and Seb liked them. It is interesting to be eating flowers.


Speaking of flowers, for my birthday, I received two beautiful bouquets. One from Seb's parents and one from Seb. That's double happiness. Though these flowers can't be eaten, they are feast for the eyes.

Book: De tes nouvelles

I borrowed this book from the village library. It was an easy read. No suspense, just a story of a father and her young girl ending their 7 years of road trip by settling down at Valentine's home. Eric, the father slowly got over the death of his wife and came to love Valentine. The young girl Anna-Nina made friends easily with everyone.
There were other characters who recited their lives along the way. 
Heart warming story and how a family formed between the main characters and their friends. The author has humor and some conversations between the characters were really funny.

This is Agnès Ledig's second book. Her first book, Juste avant le bonheur, is well received too. I shall check if the library has it.

dimanche, juin 18, 2017

Planting

I am starting a small vegetable plot. An area of 120cm by 120cm. For the moment, it has 3 zucchini plants, a tomato plant, 2 strawberry plants, 6 french beans plants, basil, chilli plants and coriander. 

I took seeds from a chilli few weeks back and put them in a small pot. They grew. I am waiting patiently for the fruits of my labor.


samedi, juin 17, 2017

A1's OB

This is A1's faithful friend since he was 3 months old. A1 is 8 now and every night he still sleeps with OB, his best pal. He has other friends in bed but OB is the one he brings for stay over at the grandparents or when we go on vacation. 

In the morning, sometimes he brings OB down for breakfast and at night, he starts looking for OB when lights are out. He would rush downstairs to look for OB.

OB is small but such a faithful friend. A1 loves him a lot. It is not possible to replace him. At least for the moment.
 No present for guessing why he is called OB. His name is tattooed on his paw. ;)

jeudi, juin 01, 2017

Munich weekend

Seb and I spent a weekend in Munich during the Munich Hi-End audio show.  Seb wanted to attend the event for two days while I wanted to visit our dear friend Nicole and her family. It was the first time we met her baby girl. 

We took the 7.20 am flight on saturday and reached Nicole's place by 10am. I spent the day with her and her girls strolling along the streets. The neighbourhood was holding a backyard sale / flea market. It was interesting as people put up stands and tables right in front of their appartments. There was usually a small table with food and drinks, and neighbours and friends chatted while waiting for buyers. 

I managed to get one musical box with story cards in French. The boys could choose a card and read the short story while the music played for a minute. 
We headed to the nearby park for the older girl to play and had her afternoon snack. In the evening, Seb came and picked me up. Upon Nicole's recommendation, we had dinner at Max Pett, a vegan restaurant. We were not disappointed.

We headed to our hotel for a night's rest and early next morning, Seb headed back to his show while I took a bus to Nicole's place. 

The family was invited to a birthday celebration and I tagged along. It was an hour and a quarter's drive from Munich. Schliersberg Bahn was the place and we took a funicular to get to the top. It is a family friendly place.

The view from Schiliersberg was breath taking.

There are self service restaurants, playground, giant trampolines, hotel and a heated pool. I spent a lovely afternoon chatting with the germans in english. I wish more french are open to speak english like their neighbours. I also spent the time eating white sausage with sweet mustard sauce along with a small beer. And then a burger with sparkling apple juice.

By 4pm, I walked down to the car with Nicole pushing the pram and another friend. Andreas and Nicole's older girl slided down on the summer toboggan run. It looked so fun. I have to bring the boys here the next time.

Andreas kindly drove me to the airport. I met Seb at the beer garden. We had a light dinner, shopped at the supermarket and took our flight back. This was the first time I traveled overseas with a backpack as baggage.

We reached home on sunday at almost midnight. Seb's mother had come and stayed at our place since friday evening to help take care of the boys and the pets. We are grateful for her help.

This trip though short was fulfilling. Seb was happy with his show. I was very happy to meet Nicole and her family. We had a good catch up and we enjoyed the time we spent togather. How I wish Singapore is a throw away like Munich.

dimanche, mai 28, 2017

Bonne fête maman

Today is mother's day in France. The boys told the father to pick them up on wed from school so that they could hide the Mother day's presents. 

This morning, they gave me each a paper bag. They drew on the bags and in them, were plants they planted. 

I love their drawings. A1 drew a rainbow according to an english song he learnt in school. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink.  He wrote "Singapoure" to show that the lady was his mother. He asked if the spelling was correct. I told him in french, it was spelt as Singapour and in english, as Singapore. He spelt it Frenish way.

A2 drew a family of four with heart shaped flowers.

The plants were planted by them since a while back. I shall bring one to my office. What a sweet idea from the teacher. Even though they are in primary school, their teacher still makes an effort for such occasion.

jeudi, mai 11, 2017

Upcycle bib

This is my third upcycle bib. I made two from old jeans and gave them to my nephew without taking pictures.

When Tim was here, he left me his old broken jeans. Here is a bib made for his son from that jeans and scraps leftover when I made A1's school bag.

It is not perfect but I find it cute. I shall make a few more for friends with babies.


mercredi, mai 10, 2017

Château de Kergroadez

When we were in Brittany during the April school holidays, we visited a nearby castle. It was Château de Kergroadez. This is a privately owned castle. There is guided tour for visitors and activities for children. It can be rented for events and the castle plans its own escape game. 

We adults took the guided tour while the boys learnt to be a knight. It was a small castle but nevertheless, it was full of history. You can read more at its website.

The roofs and windows were newly restored. The walls of the castle were very solid and stood against the Brittany weather and even fire. 

If you are going to Brittany near Brest, this castle can make a good afternoon outing. 








lundi, mai 01, 2017

Grass is the hair of earth

Spring is here and we spent the past weekend spring cleaning the garden. Seb was busy pulling out weeds while I trimmed the rose plants and planted flowers on the bare flower bed. The boys wanted to help and we gave them each a garden scissors to cut the grass growing along the edge of the terrace.

A2 was happily working and we overheard him saying "Les herbes, ce sont les cheveux de la terre." It means, "The grass, they are the hair of the earth".  I asked where he got that phrase from and he replied he thought of it spontaneously. What a poet!

This makes me look at grass and fields with a different view. Indeed, we are shaping earth's head. I hope it won't turn bald though it is losing its hair at an alarming speed. I hope humans will be creative and intelligent to give earth a head of shining, healthy hair.

mercredi, avril 26, 2017

Home made Pinata

A friend asked how do I make a pinata. Here 's a simple tutorial.
There are 2 ways of making pinata. The balloon paper mache method needs a few days of preparation as one has to wait for each layer of paper maché to dry before adding a new layer.

As I started 2 days before the party, I used the other method; with cardboards. I cut up 2 roughly round cardboards and a few long rectangle strips. I used tape to stick up the side of the strips and the round cardboard. 

Then, I put in the sweets and goodies into the pinata.
I added scrambled paper to fill up the pinata. This would help to distribute the weight so that the goodies would not be at the bottom.
Lastly, I used tape to stick the other round cardboard to close the pinata. I marked with numbers as my circle was not perfectly round. The numbers helped to align the other round cardboard. Oh yes, I forgot to add that when sealing the breadth, remember to put in a string for hanging the pinata. I used extra tape to make it strong.
Now that the pinata was completed, I started to decorate it using crepe paper and a plastic plate. I pasted crepe paper on the side first. For the frills, I folded the paper three times before cutting it. I used to use glue to stick it to the pinata. This time round, I found that tape was less messy. If you need more help in the decoration, check out this website.
Hope this little explanation solves the mystery that pinata is impossible to DIY. If I can do it, so can you. ;-)