mardi, décembre 12, 2017

Christmas windows

We went windows viewing at Printemps and Galleries Lafayette after chinese lesson. The boys told me they enjoyed viewing the windows though I felt that they had outgrown this tradition. They used to look at each window for a long time, catching all the details.
Seb felt that the window displays were full of consumer goods and had lost the magical Christmas feeling like it used to be. There was even a display of EasyJet with its plane and bears dressed as crew members. 

We went into Galleries Lafayette to admire the center decoration. I find it really pretty with all the candies bright balloons.

I told the boys this was the last year but they were keen to come back next year. We shall see.

jeudi, novembre 16, 2017

Almost zero waste

I have always recycle and do my part to save energy. On my own effort, these are some of the examples:
1. Lights are turned off when I leave a room. 
2. Tap is turned off when I do not need running water. Like scrubbing the dishes or pots, brushing the teeth, shampooing my hair.
3. When washing vegetables, I have a basin in the sink to collect the water. I then pour the water into a pail. This water is used to water the plants. The water collected from washing rice is full of  nutrients and help my orchid plants to bloom frequently.
4. Left over food are given to Handsome.
5. Peels from fruits and vegetables used to be kept in a bag and thrown into the forest while walking Handsome as natural compost or food for wild animals.
6. Plastic, paper and glasses are recycled. I tear off the plastic window from envelopes as this flimsy plastic cannot be recycled.
7. I keep jam jars for friends who makes jam.
8. I use grocery plastic bags as rubbish bags instead of buying black rubbish bag. 
9. On my letter box, there is a sticker 'No publicity' to avoid junk mail.
10. Since I work from home, I don't flush the toilet after each short usage. 
11. I boil hot water and keep them in a hot flask. I notice colleagues boiling a kettle full just for a cup of tea.
12. If the sun is out or if the fireplace is working, I hang the clothes to dry instead of using the dryer.
13. I mend clothes and A2 wears hand me downs from A1.
14. I source for pre-loved items at flea market or on
15. Back of envelopes or unwanted papers are used to write shopping list or to do list.
16. I bring my own grocery bags to supermarket. For my rubbish bags, I have friend and family in Singapore who give me supermarket plastic bags.
17. I try to buy local and organic.
18. I eat less meat.
19. I recycled my hair.

Living in this village, I came to know other mums who are eco conscious like me. Some are striving towards zero waste. Kudos to them. We exchange ideas and I came to realise from our discussions that though recycling is good, the best is to avoid having materials to recycle.

That means making our own, instead of buying excessively packaged products from the supermarkets. 
For my part, I have cut down on buying cakes and snacks and instead make cookies and cakes once or twice a week. Some friends even made their own cleaning products but I am not there yet.

I wished for a yogurt maker for my birthday and am making yogurts for the boys regularly. This means less plastic yogurt containers to throw since they cannot be recycled. And the boys love my yogurt.

A neighbour takes my veggie and fruits peels for his composter. I no longer throw them in the forest. He in return gives me the rich soil. That started me in creating my vegetable plot this year.

I use a cup to reduce the waste of hygienic pads. 

And with these ladies, we are organising events to influence people to care for our planet. 

We started a seed library in the village library. Our seed library is basically a box containing small paper bags of seeds. People can share seeds from their gardens or take seeds they want to grow. 

Our last event was a clean up of the forest. Our forest looks green and clean. We were expecting small litter and beer bottles. However, the participants found bulky garbage like plastic table top, tyres and a gas heater too.

Our next event in Dec would be on a DIY theme. We shall be making sponges from old socks, cloth produce bags, microwave heat-able bean soft toys and bird seeds feeder.

I am proud that there are movers and shakers in this village making an effort to save the planet despite their busy schedules. 

If you have ideas to add in, please leave a comment. All ideas welcome. 

dimanche, octobre 29, 2017

Rome revisit

This post is way overdue. It has been in draft mode since my last post about our Italy holiday. Let me put a proper end to our summer holiday in Italy now that autumn is here. Seb and I visited Rome in 2013 thus Rome is not new to us. As all roads lead to Rome, I would like my mum to visit this city.

From Gargano, Seb drove us to Rome to our third Airbnb. It was an apartment with two bedrooms nearby the Colosseum. The apartment was very comfortable with everything provided, even washing detergent. If you are keen, drop me a comment and I can share the Airbnb with you.

In Rome, we walked a lot in the city center and enjoyed ice creams under the hot sun. We visited chapels and cathedrales. We took photos at the main attractions, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Palace of Justice just to name a few. We had wanted to visit the Pantheon but it was closed when we arrived.

With my mum, we visitied the Vatician City while Seb brought the boys to the science center. We reserved a guided tour of the Vatican Museum online to avoid the long queue. The guided tour was informative and we ended the visit with the Saint Peter's Basilica.

After Vatican City, we met up at the appartment to rest. Seb told me the activities in the Kids' Science Center were in Italian and was not useful for the boys. He had to explain to the boys. Still, the boys had a good time.

On our last day, we visited the Colosseum. There was a queue due to the security check. Tour operators were touting and telling the people in the queue that it would take an hour and half to get to the ticket counters. They offered guided tour which could get us in without the queue. As Seb and I had done a guided tour before, we were not interested. The queue moved on fast and it took us less than 20 minutes to get the tickets. These touters were liars.

The end of our Rome trip was also the end of our summer holiday. My mum enjoyed Rome. The kids enjoyed the beaches more than Rome. I enjoyed my time in Italy and do not mind coming back for the next summer.

jeudi, octobre 26, 2017


I made three bibs from scraps of the boys' school bags I made few years back. It is addicting making bibs. They are really easy to do. 
Just need to find babies to give to now. Next project is to make three girly bibs as I have three friends who just had baby girls.

mercredi, septembre 27, 2017

A note to his father

This happened on thursday when A2 was at home after school with his father. I was bringing A1 to his music lesson.

Seb recounted the following. A2 came into the home office and took a piece of paper and starting writing.  Seb was having a conference call with his colleague then. He did not pay attention to what A2 wrote when A2 presented him the paper. Seb just put a cross on the box 'Yes'.

A few minutes later, he heard the gate opening. He looked out from the window and saw A2 wearing his helmet riding his bicycle to leave the house. Seb quickly shouted at him to come back. He read the paper carefully and realised that he had given permission to A2 to join his friend to ride their bicycles outside.

When I reached home, I saw A2's friend Lucas lingering at our gate. I told him to get his mother's approval to come play with A2 in our garden. 5 minutes later, the two boys were having fun in our garden.

I read A2's note. It was no fault of A2. Seb admitted that he should have taken time to read it. A2 is a witty boy. He knew he could not speak to his father so he wrote a note.

It reads "Il y a LUCAS DEOR (dehors) avec son vélo je pe(peux) ales (aller) avec lui DEOR (dehors) avec lui en vélo. Coch (coche) ui(Oui) Non. LES-clés silteplai (s'il te plait) papa."

Translated to english, it would be "There is Lucas outside with his bicycle. I can go with him outside with him on bicycle. Tick Yes No. The keys please father."

There were a few french spelling error but it was a clear request in my opinion for a 7 year old who was determined to get permission to play with his friend.

When he got his father's approval, A2 looked for the house keys. He called the dog to enter into the laundry room and shut the door tight. The laundry room connects to the garage. As he was not sure which button on the remote control key opens the main gate and which the garage door, he did not want to accidentally open both the gate and garage door and risk having the dog run out of the house.

This he explained to me during dinner time. We all find it amusing but told him that he should have known the answer even before writing the note. Seb and I do not think the boys are old enough to ride their bicycles outside without an adult.
This little boy really has lots of tricks up his sleeve.

mercredi, septembre 13, 2017

Farewell party for our family doctor

Our family doctor has retired. Her colleague organised a surprise farewell party for her and invited all her patients.  Though we were told to bring food for four, potluck style; there were still too much to eat and drink.

Our doctor was happy to see her patients and chatted with everyone. She gave a touching thank you speech. Her husband also gave a speech thanking us for being great patients to his wife. It was a jovial event.
I got the doctor a book and left my gift on a table full of flowers and gifts. That's when I saw a beautiful cake. What an appropriate cake. :-)

Speaking of the book, it was recommended by the book shop owner. It seems interesting. I would go check the library for it.

I never thought I would attend my doctor's retirement party. Living in the countryside does make a difference. People are more personal and there is more human touch than living in a big city.  I hope the new doctor will be just as warm as the retired Doctor Thery.

dimanche, septembre 10, 2017

Gargano, South Italy

We spent 4 days at our second Airbnb in the Gargano region. This place used to be a convent. The structure collapsed about 50 years ago and the owners bought the place and divided it into 3 apartments.

Inside the apartment, the walls were very thick and kept the place cool despite the hot summer weather.

This was our apartment with two bedrooms. There was a big swimming pool and we were the only ones using it in the afternoon. The boys had fun jumping into the pool. 

We could hear the bells of the cows and barking dogs as there was a farm just beside. A2 being the animal lover went to look for the farm dogs.
We visited Foggia, San Giovanni Rotondo, Vieste and Monte Saint Angelo. And each day, we either stopped at a beach or headed to the swimming pool.

We visited Foggia after lunch and all shops were closed. They only opened from 5pm. The streets were deserted in the afternoon. At San Giovanni Rotondo, we were looking for dinner. Seb suggested eating Chinese as we passed by a chinese restaurant. We went in and while ordering, a chinese man came over and asked if we were from Singapore. He had overheard my mum and I talking. He was a Malaysian living in Singapore and had come to Italy to help out his chinese friends in the restaurant. He hoped to open one in Rome. What a small world. I did not expect to meet any Singaporeans or Malaysians in San Giovanni and it was rather inland and there were only locals. I wished him the best.

On our second day, we saw a mother cat with her 5 kittens just outside our appartment. They were very thin and the left over food we gave them were quickly finished up. A2 insisted to give the cats more food. When visiting Foggia, we stopped by a supermarket and A2 bought a box of cat food. He was very eager to go back to feed the cats.

There were almond trees where we stayed. The cats ate the peeled almond nuts. We were amazed. The boys had fun cracking. A1 ate the broken almond nuts and kept the perfect almond nuts for his father and the cats. Such a sweet boy. My mum enjoyed cracking the nuts and became a pro. She found the technique and I had to keep up her pace plucking almonds from the tree for her to crack.

We had sunny weather throughout our stay except for the day when we drove 20mins to visit Monte Saint Angelo. It was rainy and cloudy. We visited the castle and the famous sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo. It is the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to archangel Michael and is an important pilgrimage site. We had to walk down many steps to reach the grotto where the shrine was. The architecture was interesting.

After Monte Saint Angelo.,we headed to the beach. It was deserted due to the weather. It was very cloudy but the water was still warm. The boys just loved to be in the water.

After Gargano, we drove to Rome, our last destination in Italy.

samedi, août 26, 2017

Book: Le mec de la tombe d'à côté

The village library is closed during the school holidays. One of the librarian is A2's classmate's grandmother. One day while picking up the boys, I met her and asked if the library had travel books on south of Italy. A few days later, she passed me two books and told me she had borrowed them under my name. Wow. This is village life. I appreciate this kind gesture.

Back to the main topic. I borrowed two books, Le Tresse and Le mec de la tombe d'à côté before the holidays. The latter was written by the Swedish author Katarina Mazetti and translated into several languages. In english, the title is Benny and Shrimp.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I read it late into the nights during our vacation.

The story is about two people who visited the graves of their loved ones and met each other there. Desiree was visiting her husband and Benny was visiting his parent. They shared a bench and slowly got to know each other.

They became an item but both were opposites in personalities and in their life styles. Desiree was a cultivated girl working in a library. Benny was a struggling farmer who had to take care of the animals and the land now that he was alone without his parents.

In the book, Benny and Desiree described about their relationships in alternating chapters. It was funny to read what each other expected from his/her partner. I also got a glimpse of the Swedish culture and food.

The ending was interesting. I was not expecting it but it did not come as a surprise. Did they overcome their differences and get togather at last? You have to read to find out.


We visited Alberobello on the way to our second Airbnb. Alberobello is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a small town with interesting white-washed conical-roofed houses.

We parked near the church and had lunch in a trullo, the name of these conical-roof houses.

It was a very hot day and we were in the inlands so there was no sea breeze. After a good lunch in the cooling trullo, we visited the town. But we did not go far as it was really too hot. We bought postcards and ice cream for the boys and headed to our destination.

All the driving to this town for such a short visit. Still, it is worth visiting. Would have been better on a late afternoon.

vendredi, août 18, 2017

Book: La tresse

Just read the first novel written by Laetitia Colombani. La Tresse , the braid. 
Three women living in three continents different.

Smita was an untouchable living in India with her husband and her 6 year old daughter. She wanted a better life for her girl.

Giulia was a 20 year old Italian living in Sicile. She worked in her father's declining business making wigs from Italian hair. When her father met with an accident and was in coma, Giulia had to head  the business and realized that the company was going bankrupt.

Sarah, a successful lawyer in Canada. She was a single mum to her 3 children. Her brilliant career collapsed when she was diagnosed with cancer.

All three determined ladies faced with difficulties in their lives and trying their best to overcome them. Though they never met, at the end, they were connected.

Smita ran away with her daughter as the child was not allowed to study and looked down upon. She wanted to join her cousins in the city 2000km away to give her girl a better future. Along the way, she made her pilgrimage to the temple of Tirupati. As an offering, she shaved her head as she had nothing more precious than that. She wanted to thank and receive blessing from Vishnou.

Giulia saved the family's business by going against the wish of her mother and sister. She bought hair from India to make them into wigs as supply was low in Italy.

Sarah was devastated that her company abandoned her upon knowing her illness. The sacrifices she made for her career were in vain. As a fighter, she came out of depression and decided to take care of herself well. She went to a salon recommended by a fellow patient and got a wig. One that was made from hair from India, washed and dyed and planted hair by hair in Italy and fitted her like a glove on her head. She felt confident to combat her illness and gained a new perspective of life.

This is a positive read. The stories of Giulia and Sarah are our daily struggles and I can relate to them but what strikes me most is the life of Smita. In this era, it is still very real in India. The untouchables doing work that no one wants to do and most of the time not getting paid for it. I wonder when this caste system will end.

PS: This book is in the process of being translated to other languages. Keep a look out if you are interested to read it in English.

Boat excursion

One afternoon while in Lido Marini, we went on a boat excursion to visit the various sea caves along the coast of Salento. We have a choice of the Ionian or the Adriatic coasts. 

When we arrived at Leuca, there was a boat leaving in 20 mins time. It was for the Ionian coast. We took that and visited the Grotto of Mesciu Scianni, the Grotta del Fiume, the Cave of the Nativity, the Three Doors, the Stalla and finally the Dragon Cave. As the names suggested, in the cave of the Nativity, there were rock formation that looked like a scene of the Nativity; in the Three Doors, there were 3 arches to enter the cave and at the Dragon Cave, there was a dragon head looking rock.

The boat commander spoke only Italian. We were fortunate to have a couple who translated for us. The lady was from Belgium and her boyfriend was Italian. I then translated to English and Chinese for my mum.
On the way back to the port, we had 20 mins of swimming near the Dragon cave. The boys were happy to have their arm floats and enjoyed swimming in deep water.

At the port, we spotted fishes and small crabs.
Our boat excursion lasted 1hour and 30mins. We had a drink and snacks at Leuca before heading back.
Everyone enjoyed themselves.