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.

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.