Sunday, February 03, 2019

Durian and love

My mom knows I love durian, so she bought some and freeze them during the durian season. 

Now, in between meals, she would de freeze some and invite us to eat. My husband loves it too. I felt so loved.

From France to Malaysia

I was preparing gifts to bring back to Malaysia, and I went for the classic one.

My family loves ciders, especially those from Brittany. Added in some wines and champagnes. It would be so much easier if we can hand carry them. 

Butter cookies, candies, foie gras and sesame sticks

Fresh walnuts, saucissons and chorizo

Different type of chocolates. The seller told us that these will melt at 30°C, so we handed carried them in the planes.

Different type of cheese including 9 packs (16 pieces) + 1 family pack (32 pieces) raclette cheese.

Some Longchamp bags

Everything arrived safely in good conditions. I thought I was pushing too far, buying too much stuffs but at the end, they all fit in the suitcases without exceeding the weight limit.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Convinced by Jackie Cheung

I started listening to Jackie Cheung's songs in the 80s when Hong Kong pop songs were dominating the Chinese community. He was not my favorite, but he was famous enough to make people know him.

I had less opportunity listening to his new songs after I left Malaysia. When I saw friends posted news about his latest concert in Paris, I decided to go. He was called god of the songs, I knew he would give us the best performance. Beside, going to Paris with friends is always a nice getaway from the routine life.

There I went, on the 28th of November. My friend took care of the bookings, she almost missed the train though, got in two minutes before the train to Paris departed. The concert was simply awesome. He totally convinced me that he is the best. At 57 years old, he sang 3 hours, with 1 or 2 minutes break from time to time while his band took over, allowing him to change and take some drinks. His songs touched my heart, reminding me of those old days, while discovering many new songs that I checked later on YouTube.

His concert was very different from Eason Chan's that I attended one year ago. He brought over a music director with a band, orchestra, dancers and stage art performing team. I was especially impressed by the lighting system. The only regret I had was the fact that he had to speak in Mandarin instead of Cantonese. A lot of songs were sang in Mandarin even though there existed also Cantonese version. I guess he had to speak the language where majority of his audiences can understand.

Beside the concert, we also went to Miro's exhibition, and visited the gallery in Pompidou center. There were easy access to lots of Asian foods. We ended the trip by visiting the Chinese supermarket in Chinatown, where I got mangosteen, and other fruits that are more expensive in my town.

Arriving in my town train station, I quickly hopped inside a tramway as hubby was supposed to wait for me at one of the stops. When I finally sat down, I saw 7 missed calls from hubby. He wanted to give me a surprise, and was waiting with the little one around the train station. He was so mad that I didn't pick up the phone. My phone was in my backpack as I was holding two bags full of fruits and roasted porks from Paris. We finally managed to meet somewhere.

Now, I still have Jackie'q songs lingering in my head. Sometimes I couldn't concentrate at my work, a very bad timing as I had bunch of works to catch ip after absent for two days. Will definitely go buy his CDs when I have chance.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

New school year 2018

The school year starts in general in Sept in France. I always wonder why they would "start" something in Sept, the 9th month of the year, instead of in January. When I told my coworkers about this, they can't imagine that in Malaysia we start the school year in January, and, without a long summer holiday break! Anyway, the girls were eager to go back to school.

Sept 2017

Sept 2018

Every morning except Wednesday during the week, I have to prepare them for school. I usually wake up earlier to prepare myself, then wake them up to have breakfast together. It was a stressful moment, as either they complained about the breakfast, or they fought, or they took their time for everything. Especially the youngest, she would first lay down in sofa, refused to eat anything. Then by the time everyone was done, she came and requested breakfast. Of course I refused, I didn't care if she went to school with empty stomach, I had already warned her enough about the consequence. At one point, the eldest required a different hair style per day, and she had it listed on a paper. Some of them took me 10 minutes, and sometime she changed her mind last minute.

The school gates open at different time as one is in primary and one is in kindergarten. I have to send the little one to her class, sometimes she wanted me to stay to see her play a game, to show me something she has learnt. When I finally managed to walk out of school, there was traffic jams waiting, and I showed up always a bit late at work. 

A morning kiss to her sister before entering their school compound (primary school and kindergarten are separated by a gate).

Schools here will have 6 or 7 weeks of classes, then follows by a 2 week break. A lot of parents appreciate the break, including me. The girls usually go to their grandparents, that leaves me some personal time, and very relax mornings. It is amazing how having kids and without kids can change one's day. 

After the break de la Toussaint, we suddenly manage to have less stressful mornings. Hubby wakes them up before going to work, and the youngest stopped laying down on sofa, instead she comes directly having breakfast with us. And most importantly, the eldest prepares breakfast for me, and she is very proud about it. I still have to rush the little one to eat faster, as she can spend all her time talking or day dreaming. The eldest is less picky about her hairstyle as well. Sometimes they are done earlier so they read on sofa or play together while waiting for me to get ready. I always try to clean up the kitchen after breakfast.

The little one was chosen as class representative. That was a surprise to me, but well three of them were chosen because there was a tied at vote for two of them. The election process was quit formal, they had to write the name of the person they chose on a paper and put it inside an envelope, and the teacher counted the vote by taking out the paper one by one. A democratic process at young age.

I always remind myself, that there is only less then 2 school years left that they will go to the same school together. At one point, the eldest will go to middle school, and they will each have their own circle of friends, and school life. Therefore, I should appreciate these mornings, when they are still eating and playing together.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Separation and Togetherness

These several months have been very hard for me. There were several coworkers leaving the company. People I had been happily working together for years, people who gave me a lot of autonomy in my works and who made me discovered what I was good at. I didn't know it could be so tough until I realized we would no longer having lunch together, nor bitching about something or someone anymore. Farewell parties one after another, and there is still one planned in November. I almost cried during a meeting yesterday, thinking that I would be hearing his voice and jokes for the last time during work environments. Thanks for being my coworker Céline, Patrice, Regis, Noëla, Vincent, Samuel and soon Nicolas.

The photos below warmed my heart. Separation at work, but I'm seeing my girls bonding everyday. Of course they fight, they yell at each other, but they also have fun together. 

The big sister reading to her little sister during her bath time.

The big sister fasten the bell for her little sister.

Reading together

Playing together

I felt so proud that day at this playground. The little one wanted to do this game, but I was tired having walking for several hours that day. I refused to go queue with her. The big sister, after playing somewhere else, came to her and proposed to queue with her. She did several rounds under the watch of her big sister. Not only that, the big sister stopped people from jumping queue in front of  her sister, and yelled away kids who tried to play several times without queuing. She didn't keep quiet if some kids didn't respecting the rules. She also brought her little sister to play swing. She started to show that she was capable to protect her sister.

But for how long? That's a question I often asked myself. For how long will they do stuffs together? In less than two years, the big one is going to secondary school, the little one to primary school. Will they still play together? Or will it be time they play separately? Will they seek out each other? Will their share their happiness and sadness? It is hard to tell. But in general, I notice, siblings are less close in France compare to Malaysia. When they have their own families, they see each other during Christmas, or weddings, or family gatherings. Some manage to travel together but it is rare. My sisters and nieces are traveling this Christmas and will stop by to pay me a visit. I'm eager to see them. I don't know if age matters, but I'm feeling even closer to them now despite the fact that we are living thousand kilometers away. Love has no distance I guess. 

Sunday, September 02, 2018

We are letting them go

I'm someone who throws unused stuffs easily. Except books, photos, some sentimental gifts, I can let go of anything. I enjoy cluster free environment. Beside, since I'm the one doing the housework, less things to handle mean less hassle.

My youngest is 4 so its time to let go of baby equipment. We have two cars it means 4 car seats for the kids. Plus it has infant car seat, baby cradle car seat, toddler car seat, ... it never ends until the kids turn 10. Car seats aren't cheap, so far we only invested in two. Someone lent us an infant car seat (for baby up to 6 month old), never used a baby cradle car seat, borrowed one toddler car seat + one given by someone. Currently, they are both on booster seat (one bought entirely new, two second handed and one given by someone). Now, its time go get rid of the first infant-toddler seat we bought (see photo). I was looking at how to install it in the car on YouTube, and it reminded me that baby from 0-6 months have to sit against the traffic flow. How we were eager that the baby grew faster so that we can finally switch the seat facing the direction just like the adult. It was also troublesome during winter, as with all the thick clothes it was difficult to fasten the seat-bell. It is so much better now, and I'm just waiting for the little one to be able to fasten and unfasten the seat-bell herself.

We bought the stroller when the eldest was almost 3 month old. Hubby carried her around with a baby carrier wrap. Both kids were not much in the stroller, they tend to walk like the adult. It has been over a year that the little one didn't ask for it. So, time to get rid of it.

Balance bikes has become quite popular in France. We got one from the leboncoin (French craigslist) for 20€. A new one could cost as much as 120€. The little one got a bike with stabilizers plus a real bike for her birthday. Well, hubby went with her to pick up the bike, but she saw the one with stabilizers, tried it and fell in love with it. She was crying so hard when she got home with the bike hubby planned to buy, that eventually we agreed to buy her the one with stabilizers as it was more adapted to her age.

 A friend gave this to me, the little one has not paid much attention to it anymore, so time to let it go.

Lastly, hubby has invested in a scale that would send the result directly to his cellphone, so the traditional one should live a second life with a new owner.

Selling things on leboncoin is one way to get rid of stuffs, but I'm not sure if it is efficient though as the website is overflow with announcements. I saw people selling clothes for 2€ and they just uploaded tons of photos to the website. I participated in a garage sale, managed to sell some kids clothes. I also donated quite some clothes to the school (who get paid from the organisation who collects clothes). Anyway the five items above are on sale and I hope they get a new owner soon.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Summer holidays childcare options

8 weeks of summer holidays could be a headache for parents who work. In my case, we use a combination of solutions:

1. Taking time off and heading for vacation somewhere with the kids

A week vacationing in the Alps mountains. Hiking, swimming, sightseeing. We got a rental apartment with my CE with subsidized rate. Hubby was pushing us almost everyday to go hiking somewhere. The little ones walked better than me. Aelig was sicked almost the whole week, she got red eye and running nose. She had to wrap her nose every two seconds and that irritated the skin under her nose, which made her very uncomfortable. Even so, she continued walking with us. Awena enjoyed so much indoor swimming she urged us to bring her there everyday.

Another week in Provence. I had always wanted to go to Provence to see the famous lavender fields. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the lavenders were already cut off where we stayed. It was Awena's round to get sick, she had sunburn and refused to go to the swimming pool as it was outdoor. Aelig on the other hand enjoyed the children club. She chose to stay with the club instead of heading out visiting the villages around with us. The rental was with hubby's CE, including three meals per day. Hassle free holidays indeed.

2. Working from home

My company allows working from home so I took advantage of it. The kids stayed with me for a week. The other week Aelig went for the summer camp and Awena stayed with me. When both were with me, I organized play date so that they got to have fun with their friends. They knew they shouldn't disturb me when I work. When Awena was with me without her sister, she played quietly beside and knew to not make noise when I was over the phone with someone.

3. Sending the kids to grandparents

We are lucky to have grandparents who are willing to take care of the kids. I entrusted them 100%. They eat and play well there. Went to the beaches 8 times. My MIL even had Aelig doing summer school exercises. They also got to visit some relatives, a real bonding time with the big family. Not forgetting, it also means parenting holidays for us! No kids for several weeks, it was heaven for me.

4. Going to work with the kid

When Aelig was in the summer camp, Awena went to work with hubby for a day. She was curious to see her dad's office. She went to have lunch with hubby and a coworker, and managed to take a nap in the office.

5. Summer camp

Aelig has participated in summer camps since 4 years old. She really enjoyed it, so we sent her to a different camp every year. They sleep in a tent, and was trained to participate in cooking. The Town Hall organizes an information session around March, and parents have to fight for a spot for those popular camps. One Saturday morning after the information session, hubby would be on his computer at 9am sharp, and fill the online form as quick as he could to secure a spot. Luckily, we always got what she wanted.

These were options we chose to make sure the kids have a fulfilling summer holidays. In the past, when we still had a babysitter, we paid her to take care of the kids. We also sent Aelig to leisure center. These options were quite expensive, we can't afford to do this the whole summer. Overall, its best to have family nearby who are willing to help. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Durian : king of the fruit or shit

The durian season lasted longer this year. Prices dropped due to oversupply.
This is great news for durian lovers in Malaysia.
There is a Malay saying : "Durian runtuh, sarong jatuh", which means when durian falls, the sarong falls as well (as people would pawn their sarong in order to buy durian).

I for one is a big durian fan. It is definitely the king of fruits for me. Unfortunately, the prices soared and this fruit has become too pricey or you could even consider certain species (Musang King...) as luxury fruit.
Oh I miss savoring durian at those all you can eat buffet durian store with friends and family.

In France, we can buy frozen or whole durian but they are expensive and less tasty (imported from Thailand). I was watching Fort Boyard (French Amazing Race) the other day, they were at the "eating awful thing moment", it was then I wonder if they would put durian as awful thing to eat. And bingo! The chef introduced durian to the contestants and asked them to eat durian puree. I was like, let me eat all of them! Most of the contestants puked, they had to close their noise with their fingers before eating. 

This shows how much your environments shape your tastes.

A postcard to ourselves, from one year ago

Last summer we visited Busan in Korea. At Gamcheon Culture Village, it proposed a service : to send you a postcard you wrote one year after. We found it was a great idea, so we did it.

Naturally we forgot about it. This summer, when we got back from vacation, I suddenly thought about it. There were late to mail the postcard, I told myself. One day later, hubby came home and brought the postcard to me.

Here it goes : a postcard we sent to ourselves, one year ago.

I laughed at what my husband wrote : We were walking, and mom is going to complain again, that we should have taken the bus, etc. Yeap, a huge difference between us. Among the tourists, you can see Asians riding buses, cable cars, while the Europeans walk. It was an hot summer around 33°C, we were visiting Taejongdae Park. It was hilly and everyone else was queuing for sightseeing train. And because I was with a French, I had to walk (uphill, under hot sun).

Anyway, glad to receive the postcard, a little souvenir from our last trip.