Sunday, January 01, 2017

New Year Gathering 2017

Happy New Year 2017!

We hosted a New Year celebration this year in our place with friends and their kids. 8 adults and 6 kids. We had a blast. I'm so glad that we did this, after the party, I feel the house is so empty, really miss the friends' company.

We started talking about New Year celebration in October, I was not sure if we were capable to host as even though we had moved in, the house was still undergoing some home improvement projects. Like for example we still didn't have a place to hang our winter costs, our dressing was not started (still not)...The house was not perfect to host, but our guests were very understanding, they didn't mind just for one night, they came with their sleeping bags.

I worked on Thursday and Friday. Since the girls were on holidays, they stayed with me, so I had to work from home while taking care of them. As soon as hubby was home, I rushed to the supermarket to buy groceries. It closed at 8pm, but the fresh food sections (meats, vegetables, seafood) started to get things of their display at 7pm. Saturday morning (31th) was spent to clear the house whereas hubby went for the last round of grocery shopping (for fresh meats mainly). I did this as soon as I had time but with the girls, the place got untidy and dirty quickly. The girls' rooms were cleanup to receive guests. 

Some guests arrived around 3pm. They helped us prepare the food. French women I know are all very capable, they usually prepare everything before hand so when guests arrive, the kitchen is spotless and they are with you through the meals. This is so unlike the Malaysian style, where my mother and aunt are busy cooking while the guests and other family members would start eating without them. Anyway, hubby likes to gather everyone and prepare things together. 

Our friends prepared a game for the kids : fishing for gifts!

I prepared a gift bag for the kids. Inside, it has some party items like a balloon, a hat...most importantly, I wanted to include some Malaysian touches : a paper lantern and a pack of handheld firework. Malaysian kids play paper lantern with candle during Autumn festival and firework during Chinese New Year. When it got dark, we had a work outside with lantern and firework, despite the freezing weather. For some reason, the firework was difficult to light compared to those we had in Malaysia, so finally not every kid got to play with it.

Apéro : Margaritas (a Tex-Mex drink we loved from US), some light starter. I also prepared a verrine (pamelo, avocado, smoked salmon with lemon juice) and some stuffed mushrooms.

The men were preparing Caïpirinha, a type of Brazilian drink with sugarcane liquor, sugar and lime. We learnt this from a Brazilian friend during our stay in Austin.

 The main course 1 : Chinese style hotpot

The main course 2 : Plancha (griddle) with 7 types of marinated meats. We bought 1,5kg of beef, 1kg of chicken, 500g of pork.

The kids were having fried rice and chicken nuggets at far end. In general people prefer the plancha, I was into hotpot. The hotpot ingredients could be grilled as well. Overall, people got their dose of meat and seafood, they seemed to be very satisfied.

At mid-night, we had champagne and kissed and wished everyone a prosperous New Year. We continued our soirée with a game. We had light dessert : mango and lycee around 2am in the morning. The courageous men stayed up till 5am.

In the morning, we gradually woke up around 11am, had breakfast, went for a walk, and continued the plancha for lunch. Some friends left before lunch, some after lunch, some helped us clean up (we don't have a dish washer). After they left, we took a nap. It was tiresome but we got a great time.

Wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous New Year!



Sunday, December 18, 2016

Baby Gym Christmas Party 2016

The baby gym was having a Christmas party for the kids.

When we arrived, the trainers had set up a Christmas tree, and different kind of gym equipment for kids to jump, crawl, climb, run, and have fun.

The party has gathered three group of kids. After an hour of the usual gym classes, the main trainer gathered everyone together and yelling for "Santa". They screamed 4 times before he finally arrived.

 Kids surrounded him. He asked if everyone was well behaved, and all of them said yes.

Santa called out name and handed each a gift. They girls waited patiently for their turn. Parents prepared the gift at the beginning of the party and gave them discretely to the trainer. I asked the trainer to include a gift for Aelig who was not in the baby gym program.

Soon Santa called out their names. This time, Awena was not afraid at all. She happily kissed Santa as requested.

 Awena got a pair of pajamas, as for Aelig, it was a gift I had long in mind.

This toy was more for Awena's age than for Aelig. But she showed her interested each time she saw it :  in someone's house, when we were in the doctor / dentist waiting room... I know this would please her.

As expected that, she claimed that this was her favorite gift so far. Awena was disappointed though. She was happy to have the pajamas, but when she saw this toy, she checked again, and said "there was no toy for me". She sneaked into her sister room when she was not around so that she could play with it. As a parent, I was sad to see one happy and the other one disappointed. Hopefully I could catch up on the real Christmas gathering.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Company Christmas Event Dec 2016

This year my company year-end Christmas party was held in the Cité de Nantes. 

First we were invited to watch a show: three people playing music instruments while doing some acrobat, quite well done. The big daughter was glued to it the whole 1 hour, while the little one was following for 15 minutes then started climbing up and down from her seat.

After the show, we were handed two bags of snack for the kids, and the adults had to go through a long queue just to get a pastry and a hot drink. Food wise we can sense a huge budget cut compared to years before.

 We were told that some games areas were set up. The little one was intrigued by this book area, but since she didn't take a nap before coming, she became fussy quickly.

 The kids got their snack, while I was queuing for ours, managed to chit-chat with some coworkers. Later we played a game, quite easy, depending on the dice color we needed to blow down some fake colorful candles.

We were told then that there were more games upstairs. The kids were totally glued to as soon as they set foot in this area. The little one played with enthusiasm some cars and some trains that she had to put on those racks.

 What I loved the most was the Lego area. Tons of pieces of Lego for anyone to play with.

 Kids teamed up with their parents, constructed some crafts using Lego pieces, wrote down their team name, and I believed the organizers would choose a winner later.

 So many kids happy to find Lego pieces at their services.

 The big daughter was hooked to the train set for a while before joining her little sister.

When we left, the Christmas lighting was on, the girls was disappointed as they couldn't enter the area to get closed to Santa. By the way, due to budget cut, my company didn't invite Santa this year. I didn't know about this (I didn't go ask either), so I told my kids what we were going to see Santa. The big daughter accused of lying when we were about to go. Oh well, she will see Santa soon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Some French last name

After so many years living in France, I'm still amazed and shocked at some of their last name. For those Mr Small, Ms Carpenter, Mr Goodman, Mr Bigkind, it was kind of funny but still ok. However for those with pejorative last name, like the headmaster Mr Bastard, Mr Big boots, how do they survive all these years? French people do not react to these names anymore but I do. Each time I see the headmaster, I don't know how to address him, I won't want to call him Mr Bastard.

One day while I was working, I saw a mail coming in, I had a glimpse and saw something about croissant. I told myself that someone was bringing croissant to work to celebrate about something, but when I opened the mail, it was from Ms Croissant. If Ms Croissant were to bring croissants to share with us, I don't know how I would react.

December is approaching so I'm scratching my head about gifts. At my work I have to deal with a bunch of names so one day I thought I must be dreaming but I saw a guy with last name "Cadeau" = gift in French. I was like, no way someone is named Mr Gift, but it was real. Now I don't know how to react with Mr Gift. Maybe one day I will know someone who is Mr Right?


Rice porridge à trois

On Wednesday, we usually have rice porridge for lunch. Hubby doesn't like it so I take the opportunity to introduce some Malaysian food to the girls, when their father is at work. I always opt for simple dishes, so porridge with some fish, sweet potato porridge, and the mandatory fried eggs (荷包蛋).

Use the chance to steam whole fishes instead of fish fillet. The man at home like less when fishes come with bones, and eyes.


For some reason, the eldest accepts better Malaysian dishes in general. She likes porridge and red bean soup. She asked me porridge for lunch sometimes. She loves fried eggs too.

The little one won't finish on bowl of porridge if I don't ask her to finish. When she was one year old she ate in big quantity, but when I presented her porridge, she would eat two spoons then completely refused it.

As a lazy mother, rice porridge with sweet potato and fried eggs are the easiest food to prepare. I love it myself. But the little one would finish the egg and refused all the sweet potatoes.

I used to cook rice noodle too, but I'm not keen to clean up the mess after.

My mother must shake her head seeing this. Porridge with dishes are quite common for descendant from Fujian region, so we got to eat plenty when we were young. However, she always completed it with two three dishes, unlike me only fried eggs. Anyway, it seems that when we grow old, we would appreciate some comfort food from childhood, I hope the girls will think about this "rice porridge à trois" moment. 

PS : Just realized, I have never eaten fried eggs when I'm invited to someone's house here. It must not be a common dish in France.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Lawn : one month after

One month after planting the lawn, here's how much they have grown.

The seeds turned into grass two weeks after, we were so excited!

The man has been working on all sort of tasks, rain or shine. He was working on installing some protections on the borders between the soil and the wood deck to prevent the soil from going under the deck and to reduce the humility from the soil destroying the wood. 

One month after:
He removed the soils while installing the protection and put them back after, that's why the areas around the deck have not yet growing.

The South side : lawn growing except the part which was served as a passage to walk to his vegetable garden.

The North side.

The East side.

In between, they cleared the weeds along the border with our neighbor, and put a plastic protection to prevent weeds from growing again.

And, we are far from finishing. They are going to build a small wall between our garden and the neighbor's. The materials have arrived : sand, cement, bricks, woods, strings...Another weekends of work are waiting....Hopefully the weather won't be too harsh for them...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Planting the lawn

When we bought this land, I would have never thought that we would have a hilly garden.

 It looked flat to me, so I was foreseeing an expanded straight forward lawn.
March 2015: The day the foundation was carried out, they dug out hills of soil. We posted on several sites to ask if someone needed our soil, but nobody was interested. 

July 2015: After spending 5000 euros damping the soil, we yielded. The remaining soil was spread out to form three levels. Gone was my imagination of a straight and even garden.

Aug 2015: I was given the task to loosen the soil and started planting some mustard. Frankly I was not motivated, I only did a very small part.

Mustard planted to fertilize the soil. Aelig spread all the seeds that were meant for 400m². It grew rampantly after.

For around one year, the garden was abandoned as we were overwhelmed with other tasks. Excepted a small area for our kitchen garden where hubby grew tomatoes, chilies, pumpkins, French beans, green beans, and raspberries. We started removing specific weeds that would be hard to unroot after, and most of the grass and weeds were finally cut off at the beginning of Oct 2016. We chose to not use pesticides to kill the weeds as we want the garden to remain chemical free.

The garden shape still didn't please us. Hubby decided to call back the builders to remove the extra soil that we didn't damp.



Three loads of truck, sent to a specific dumpster that we had to pay for.

The earthmover also helped loosen the soil, and scraped the weeds from the surface.

Hubby and my FIL started to prepare the soil. They sorted out the stones, the debris, roots with garden and landscape rakes.

 It involves a lot of work. Hubby had to use a wheelbarrow to transport stone, roots, debris, construction damps...

Since the soil was already broken down by the earthmover, we didn't rent a motorized cultivator to do the job. Instead, I used the garden folk to dig out stone and weeds buried under. It was so much easier to do after the earthmover did the preliminary job.

Roots, stone to filter and remove

It was a team work for the whole family


                                       The whole land has to look like this before seeding


                                                                            Seeding


                        Using a roller to compact the soil and to let the seeds remain in the soil




After 5 days of team work, the garden was finally looking good. It will look geogeous when the lawn growths, I hope!

PS : Some people used landscaping contractor to prepare their lawn, but it was very expensive. Our neighbore did it in one day, he invited a friend who was a landscape contractor, plus 3 other friends. 5 of them started at 8am, and they finished around 6pm. They had less tasks though as their land was flat whereas ours have a lot of slops to take care of.