Sunday, March 22, 2015

Afternoon walks

In my French family, there is a tradition to have a walk in the afternoon after lunch. There are plenty of parks and woods with walking trails around, and most often we are not alone. We are joined usually by families with young kids, old couples holding hands, or a man or a woman walking their dog. We do not have this tradition in our own small family but since we have nice weather at the end of winter, we decided to go out for an afternoon walk. We loved it so we continued with more walks in the wood.

On a sunny day, trees are clearly reflected on the lake surface.

The leaveless trees are welcoming spring who would revitalizing their life.

Walking in the wood. It is such a huge difference to a tropical forest.

The little girl is happy to go out. These days she waves her arms and legs in excitement realizing that we are heading out.

Dozing off on daddy's chest, so comfortable.

The big girl has plenty to do : picking up flowers, collecting stones, touching everything with her stick...

Most of the time she walks behind us since she has too many things to occupy herself. But from time to time she rushes to catch up with us.

Passing through a bridge. It is actually a canal bridge.

Walking through a tunnal, the big girl liked the echoing effect.

While enjoying the peaceful scenery, it made me think of a Chinese poem I once learnt at school.
Withered vine, old tree, crows at dusk (枯藤老树昏鸦) 

Here I'm replacing crows with ducks since they sound the same in Mandarin. :-)

Tiny bridge, flowing brook, cottages (小桥流水人家) 

Acient road, west wine, lean nag 古道西风瘦马

The poem ends with:
The sun sinking west, a heart-torn traveler at the end of the world (夕阳西下, 断肠人在天涯)

It resonates in a sad atmosphere but it was certainly not how I felt at that moment. It actually warmed my heart with the peaceful, tranquility ambiance, especially the lovely time I got to spend with my beloved family. 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Chinese New Year Movies 2015

When I was a teenager, I loved Chinese New Year. Beside getting the red envelope and savoring plenty of good foods, I especially enjoyed time spending with friends, hopping from one house to another, and going to the cinema for Chinese New Year movies.

This must be an unique tradition in the Chinese movie markets I guess, as I don't think they do the same thing during Christmas or Deepavali. The movies do not necessary linked to anything CNY, but normally at the end of the film, the actors and actress would reappear on the screen and express their blessing to the audiences. 

There are 8 movies on the list during CNY this year. My favorite is Triumps in The Skies. I watched this drama series years back and I really love Francis Ng (吴镇宇).

If I were in Malaysia, I would probably go watch From Vegas to Macau II since it is starring by Chow Yun-Fat.

Lucky Star 2015, a typical CNY theme movie (Hong Kong), I would go for it if I long for good laugh.

The King of Mahjong is directed by a Malaysian, with a Singaporean actor pairing with some Hong Kong stars. I would go to support the Malaysian/Singaporean film industry. Even though the market is limited, Malaysian/Singaporean films are blooming, they have joined the CNY market a while back.

Another CNY theme movie with a Singaporean actor.

Franckly I don't like Jackie Chan's movie, too much actions, I think it is more appealing to the men audiences. His films are always the big hit during CNY.

Sandra Ng becomes a man? Worth watching. 12 Golden Ducks.

Another Hong Kong theme CNY movie.

These firms are not aired in France, I would rely on the internet if I want to watch them. How about you? Have you watched at least one CNY movie since the first day of CNY?

The Yee Sang Puree

It has become a tradition that we have Yee Sang during Chinese New Year (CNY). It is a dish to be eaten during the 7th day of CNY to celerate the day of Human. It is a common celebration among the Chinese communities in Malaysia and Singapore, less common in China tough.

This year I prepared twice the dish to celebrate with two different groups. I didn't follow the Malaysian recipe as I can't really get the same ingredients, and some people don't like raw fish. Instead, I created a simple platter consisted of seven kind of colorful vegetables, and a sprinkle of sesame seed. It was quite well received by the French, the tossing ritual was convivial. We ate them as starter / entrée.

We had some leftover vegetables afterthat, and since we were running out of food for Awena, I decided to make her some Yee Sang puree.

Since she was too young to join us while tossing and enjoying the dish, this would make up for her.

She dislikes pieces in her puree, so I needed to make sure all the ingredients are well blended.

And the verdict? Well, she didn't like it that much. It was the first time she didn't finish her meal in the sitter's place, and she was less enthousist during dinner seeing this puree again.

It doesn't matter, at least we know there are things she doesn't like.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Tiger Mom's Piano

When Aelig was 3 - 4 year old, I wanted to enroll her into piano classes. In France there are many clubs (sport or leisure) subsidiazed by the Town Hall who offer activities with an affordable price. Well, I couldn't find any club who would take a 3 year old. They told me that she was too young, and they would only accept kids that could read at least the alphabets. Hubby teased me by saying that I'm a Tiger mom, forcing my little one to practice piano at such young age!

Well, the idea was put off, and I don't think we could afford a real piano anyway. I have been looking at a toy for her to play with, so that she could play the music and sing at the same time. She loves her school teacher because she teaches her lots of songs. She sings every evening, mostly French songs, and each time it has to start from the first one she learned at school till the latest one.

I have been eyeing this small piano for a year. I waited for the sale period last year but it was not on sale. I went back to check out this year, still not on sale. One day while shopping I stumbled upon this shop that sells tons of cute kid products, including this one. I felt in love with the shop and decided to pay the price: 66€. Pricey for me, but with the gift card from our company, I only paid 2€ out of my pocket.

Can't wait to show her the gift!

Bought this little ball for Awena.

Colorful dolls.

Owl shape game play mats.

Other Owl theme products.

Baby sleeping bags. In France the doctors advise against blanket and anything else in the baby bed. Babies wear this kind of sleeping bag to keep them warm.

Cute bag!

I love the products in this boutique. Most of them are made in France, so a bit pricey.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Chinese New Year Ang Pao Market Rate 2015

Update 15/02/15 : Revised rate in OCBC Malaysia Facebook page:

This year the Chinese New Year would fall on the 19th of February. It coincides with the winter school holidays here, so I wanted very much to go home with Aelig to celebrate this event with my family. Well, didn't make it last year and couldn't make it this year. Hopefully next year then.

I found the below information interesting so I would like to share it with you. In Malaysia, it is the trandition within the Chinese communities to offer angpow (red envelop stuffed with money) from married adult to other unmarried adults / kids. This is just a general guideline on how much money you want to slip into the red evelope before distributing.

Kids love receiving ang pao. I remembered we would share among friends the amount of ang pao we collected. There were many memories : friend bribed me to accompany her to someone's house because the host would distribute angpow; whose parents among our schoolmates would give the highest value. Mostly I envied friends who had grandparents because they would get at least four more angpow than me. At that time, we got RM1 - RM2 from friends parents. RM5 would be considered a big win.

Over the year the market rate has increased significantly. I didn't have much chance distributing angpow because I didn't go back for Chinese New Year every year. The first year I did that I gave out around RM1500 in angpow, which was a huge budget, but on the other hand Aelig received lots of then so it even out. Still, for couple without kids with moderate household income, it must be a big burden doing this.

A site note : I used to think that giving out angpow is so much pratical compared to giving present (eg during Christmas). One of my coworkers told me that she prefers giving gift, as giving 20€ to someone is a big budget to her, but the amount is relatively insignificant to the one receiving. I found it so true. These days kids get so much pocket money that RM20 is really nothing for them, but a nice T-Shirt might make them happy.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

New Year's Meal 2015

I'm late in posting this but I just want to record this for my personal reference in the future.

After the Christmas gatherings, me and hubby were tired and sick. We decided to stay put and celebrated the New Year with only our small family. I wanted to do something really simple, but hubby still went out for grocery and prepared us a special meal with seafood theme.

We started with appetizer, typical French toast with difference kind of spreads.

Hubby made the bottom toast himself. He then spread them with sour cream, some herbs and salmon.

French toast with crab meat spread.

French toast with fish eggs spread.

French toast with oyster spread.

Some cheese and nuts.

Non alcoholic champagne for the big day so that me and Aelig could join in.

The entrée : gambas with basilic and pin nuts.

The main dish : salmon with herbs.

Dessert : Raspberry Christmas cake.

The girls had good time playing together.

Thanks hubby for these wonderful meals and good times together.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

She doesn't know how to make the bed!

"She doesn't know how to make the bed!" Cried hubby.

This phrase still linger in my mind. It was the first time I visited France, he brought me to his grandmother's house, and we were asked to make the bed. I stood in the room, didn't know where to start. That was when hubby realised that I didn't know how to make a bed, so he shouted to inform his parents.

I don't know why people created such a tedious job to make the bed, and thus making my life miserable doing this task. Just so you know how easy it was when I lived in Malaysia : a bed sheet that covered the whole mattress, plus a blanket. So very morning I just need to fold the blanket, that was it.

Back to the scene in France. I discoverd that making the bed involves changing the pillow cases, putting a bed sheet on the mattress, adding another top bed sheet, following by several layers of blankets depending on the weather condition. When bed sheet + blankets are aligned, tuck the sides under the bed. A person then lies in between the top and bottom bed sheet.

Photo shows a bed that needs to be made before sleeping in.

It doesn't seem so complicated right? Well, let me tell you the tradition in my French family (the other French are probably practicing the same thing). When you invite someone over, you are normally responsible making the bed before they arrive. So, if you are inviting several people, all of the beds have to be done. In the case above we were asked to make our own bed because grandma was too old to have to make all the beds alone. In my house we use duvet with cover, so another thing to do is to dress the duvet. And most importantly, the pillow cases + bed sheet + duvet cover need to match in colors and design! My bed sheet in Malaysia was bought separately from the blanket, so they didn't match. I didn't know it was a big deal in France. Wait, we are not done yet, I have to also provide towels to the guests. Yeah, we are talking about providing services like in a hotel.

The worst thing is the laundry after our guests left. Even if they only stayed for one night, we have to wash all the pillow cases + bed sheets + duvet covers, and iron and fold them. I was shocked to see my MIL ironing all the bed sheets, towels, table clothes, was a long process...

I do not think making the bed this way is more comfortable. For myself, I still do the same thing like in Malaysia, just a bed sheet + a blanket. And, I asked my guests to bring their own towels. I know, I'm bad.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The King Cake's Drama

France is mourning for its losts. What happened is wrong and sad. I might share about my thoughts later.

It is January, the month where we savour King Cake again. It is a tradition where the youngest kid will hide under the table, and call out the name of the person who will get a slide of the King Cake. When everyone gets its slide, they will eat their cake and find out who gets the fève (a porcelain figure hidden in the cake). That person will become the king or the queen of the day and is entitled to a paper crown. Most bakeries sell these during the whole month of January, the most common fillings being frangipane and chocolate.

We were going to the Wednesday Chinese class so I thought it would be a good idea to bring some King Cakes to share with the kids. As usual it took Aelig a little time to warm up before actively participing into the lessons. When the lesson ended, we were going to warm up the cakes when suddenly Aelig threw us a tantrum. She told me she wanted the fève for herself. I explained to her that it depended on her luck, I was not the one deciding who gets it. She wouldn't listen to any word I said and started crying and insisting she wanted to be the one getting the fève. While we were trying to warm up the cakes, she prevented other kids to touch the cakes and claimed that the one cake was for her alone. It was a whole mess as I had to feed Awena at the same time. I forgot what happened next, but finally she sat down eating her cake, and several minutes later she standed up with a smile telling me secretly that she won, as she flip opened the crust and saw the fève inside! When she finally got it, she jumped with joy and other kids were happy for her too.

Well, she didn't have to the drama queen, as it turned I got the fève from another cake. Together with what her grandma gave her, she has now three fève in collection, that she happily put with her frogs game.

I was very disturbed by her behavior, other kids didn't ask to get the fève, they were surprised at her crying. On the way home, I asked why she was so afraid that others would get the fève, while she didn't react that way while her classmates got it when they had King Cake at school. She told me that all her classmates are her friends and she likes them, so they can get it. But these kids from the Chinese lessons are not her friends, so she would be very angry if they get it. Wow, I didn't know that! They played along well, Why won't she consider them her friend? I probably need to pay more attention to her emotions.