Friday, May 30, 2008

Casu Marzu: cheese with maggots

When you see food covers with maggots, you know it's time to throw it away. Not in this case with the Italian cheese, Casu Marzu.

Literally, this cheese is good to be eaten, when the surface is full of living maggots. It goes bad when all the maggots are dead.

It looks so gross that I don't even want to see it. Sincerely, who dare eating this?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wife not virgin: court granted cancellation of wedding

This happened in France. Seriously.

To top it off, it was a court decision based on the French civil code (Code Civil des Français) that allows cancellation on an union if there is an error of "quality". In this case, the fact that the woman is no longer a virgin is considered as "error of quality".

An engineer, got married to his wife (both Muslim) and discovered that she is not virgin on the night of the wedding (8 July 2006). He came out around 4am from his room, saying that "She is not virgin, I'm canceling everything". Since that day he started all the paperwork to cancel the wedding. This April, the court granted his request, agreed that he has been cheated by his wife.

This news created some debate and one of the arguments is that the woman is dishonest so it is not wrong to divorce her. She shouldn't have said that she is virgin knowing that this element is very important to her husband.

I wonder, if I told hubby that I'm a good cook and in fact I'm not, can he file a divorce according to this civil code that he is not getting a quality wife? :-)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More foods from hubby

Lasagna. I want to cook this for my family but they don't eat beef. Is there chicken or pork lasagna?

Vietnamese nem, something like Chinese spring rolls but this version has some seafoods and sticky rice noodles.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I got paid!

Yes! I got my first pay check today. Well my second if you count the one week muguet job.

Due to some technical issue, I only got paid now even though I started the internship at the end of March.

Just want to share with you the pay slip which has around 20 lines of items. Look at all those deduction from the salary.

We went to Barcelona to pre-celebrate this moment. :-) We started spending one month before seeing this extra income. Seriously, I don't know how I manage to live on hubby for so long. I strongly believe that a woman should have her own income at any moment. I hope I will always have some income from now on.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The big jump

Please meet this ambitious French man, Michel Fournier. At 62, he is attempting to jump from 40km above the earth surface in the skies above Saskatchewan, Canada. He was supposed to jump today but due to the windy weather, he would do it tomorrow.

At 40km, the temperature is around minus 100 centigrade, and since the air is so thin, he must inhale pure oxygen for hours beforehand, in order to get rid of the nitrogen in his blood.

Once the balloon has taken his capsule up to the jump height, his intrepid sexagenarian must leap head first out of the receptacle and free-fall for seven minutes. When he hits 1,000 meters, he pulls the chute if he still can, and enjoy a leisurely descent of eight minutes. Before ripcord time, he will be breaking the sound barrier at speeds up to 932 mph, and enduring temperatures as low as minus 115C.

I hope he is going to make it this time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Retirement reform: Malaysians happy the French on strike

Several weeks ago the Malaysian civil servant union demanded to extent the retirement age from 55 to 58. It got approved and people are happy.

Today, the French government announced the possibility to require a French to work 41 years instead of 40 years in order to enjoy a full retirement pension. Result: 700 000 people on the street against this reform.

Of course both countries have a completely different retirement system. In Malaysia each worker has their own retirement fund that they channel a part of their salary into. As for the French, the young pay into the system and the system then pay out to those who are retired. The biggest difference is, a Malaysian can easily spend all of the pension fund before he leaves the world, while a French will keep receiving his pension check until his last breath. Therefore the extreme reaction to the retirement reform. A Malaysian would like to work longer so that he can keep pumping money into his personal retirement fund. For the French, there is simply no interest to work longer. Can't blame them really.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Train or budget airlines?

Last week Air Asia (a budget airlines in Malaysia) was giving out 5000 free seats from Kuala Lumpur to Perth. This week they are having a promotion to Perth again, starting from RM199 (around 40 euros) one way. Of course after adding taxes and charges, it would add up to around 300 euros, for a 5-6 hours flight.

Nowadays flying is longer a luxury option. There are so many cheap flights to the surrounding countries from Malaysia and they are even talking about RM1 promotion from KL to London, a direct 11 hours flight.

I have not seen this yet in France. The low cost market is opening little by little but the destinations are quite limited, mostly from Paris to big cities in the European countries. A lot of people said the government is trying to protect the high speed train (SNCF), which provides extremely expensive services. For example, we went to Paris last weekend, and by renting a car we managed to cut the cost into half compared to travel by train. Basically, after 26 years old, you have to pay the full premium price.

Sometimes I'm not sure whether a strong and protected SNCF is beneficial or harmful to the community. In France, if a place could be reached by train, most likely there won't be any bus services. For example there is no bus connecting Nantes (where I live) and Rennes (where I work) even though there are a huge group of people commuting within these two cities in a daily basis. How I miss the Klang - Kuala Lumpur (1h journey) express bus that only cost RM3 per way. If I choose the train option between Nantes - Rennes (around 1h15min journey)it would have cost me around 500 euros per month.

Cheap food and cheap transport, these are two important basis needs that are missing in France.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Things that could disturb your daily life: French speciality

Of course it has to do with strikes and demonstrations that seem to happen all year round. 3 years in France I'm numbed with strikes involving civil servants and public transport.

But this week I learnt different kind of strike that could potentially disrupt your daily life:

1. Your children's teachers are on strike so the school is closed. You will either pay for a baby sitter or take a day off to take care of them. They are on strike to protest against the elimination of some school positions in the coming September. I wonder whether we should put "the right of going on strike" first or "the right to learn"?

2. Fishermen are blocking some marine ports which hold the gas supplies to the gas stations in the areas. If this continues, it could lead to gas shortage. Imaging no gas at gas station and you have to walk or take your bike to work. This happened many years ago and only stopped when the government sent out army to interrupt the strike. These fishermen are protesting against the skyrocketing petrol price.

So far I'm lucky enough to not be seriously disturbed by any strikes. I hope my luck continues...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Oven heaven

After 11 months, we finally got our oven back functioning. I realized that oven is such a nice cooking tool, that you just have to put everything in a baking dish and then you are free to do other stuffs. Very different from the Asian cooking, where you have to constantly stir, fry, cut, chop while cooking. Before moving to France, each time I came for a short term visit, I was amazed how my MIL can just sat with us chatting and managed to prepare baked dessert for every meals. The magic of oven solved the misery. Now I wonder how much time my mother missed busying in the kitchen while the others already started eating or buried in the conversation.

Hubby was specially excited since he can now prepare his own pizzas:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Street language in the office

It has been 6 weeks I'm in the French corporate world, and I'm just so disturbed by the street language using in the office. I don't know how long I could resist before I become one of them.

I'm not sure whether it applies to all the fields and in all offices, but the one I'm in, I keep hearing words equivalent to "fuck", "shit", "bitch", "slut", "holy cow"...something that my French professors prevented us from saying, but something that the French themselves employ in their daily life.

Maybe because I was mostly working with women or people were kind of polite, I hardly heard anyone around me saying all these. When people got angry at their work they will usually say "Gosh", "oh my God", "oh dear"... or "alamat" in Malay.

For a country who tries so hard to protect their language from the invasion of foreign languages, it is just too astonishing that they allow the street language permeating into the corporate world and slowly into schools. The president as well got caught saying bad words to his people. So who's next? Are we going to hear a judge saying "slut" in a court session? I really hope someone is doing something to "purify" this beautiful language.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The age of a grape vine

I'm more than one month old. I can only produce grape when I'm three years old.

I'm around 10 years old.

I'm around 20 years old.

I'm more than 70 years old but I still produce good grapes.

My baby grapes are forming in spring.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Falling into the wine trap

We got an invitation to an open house for a vineyard, which later caused our credit card to experience severe "heart attack" as boxes of wines were being loaded to the trunk. The vineyard owners appearantly have effective marketing skills as the open house came with a package of free foods, drinks, horse ridding and vineyard visit.

These fresh breads stuffed with goat cheese and French rillette are just simply delicious! We would definitely go back next year. :-)

A ride with the horses touring around the neighborhood.

Visiting the vineyard.

On the way to the vineyard we stopped by to store some mushroom. We bought 5kg!

I saw this in the second vineyard we visited. Did you see the fish just jumps out to "enjoy the nature"?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Small lighting project

Today is a public holiday as France is celebrating the end of World War II. Amazingly, a lot of stores are operating including those who sell home improvement products. We used the holiday and the fact that the in laws are here to install some lighting in the apartment. Well we are very pleased with the result.
This one has Chinese characters "Happy New Year" on it.

This one is being installed in the living room and the lighting level could be controlled and adjusted.

Random photo

I found this photo cute. You won't be lost if you are dressed like that within a group. Within second you can tell that 5 & 8 are missing (7 is half hidden by 6).

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Barcelona fresh market

We visited the fresh market closed to Las Ramblas Street. Once inside I was caught by a bunch of colorful and mouth watering fruits. This market of course sells other stuffs, but I'm such a fruit-addict that I only thought these photos, hmmm. After some observation we found that the groceries here are generally cheaper than in France.

Fruit store at the entrance

See how gigantic these avocados are! And the mango on the right bottom on this photo cost around 4,30 euros. So expensive!

These strawberries and cherries are less pricey than in France

We got a spicy appetite stimulating sausage

Monday, May 05, 2008

Barcelona = tapas heaven

The concept of Spanish tapas — eating little plates of food with alcoholic beverages are quite similar to the Japanese sushi or the Cantonese dim sum (with tea). This trip served rather as a food tour to us, seeing that we spent more than 200 euros on these tapas. Each tapas cost around 1.25 euros to 2.50 euros, and we can easily consume 15-20 each meals. Anyway these tapas are quite filling and after 3 days I was hoping to try out other Spanish cuisine.

Look at the huge amount of tapas that covered the whole table! After one hour they were mostly in our stomach.

Tapas with Sangria, the good match

Sunday, May 04, 2008

What would be the first thing you want to do coming back from a vacation?

We arrived Nantes around 11pm.

After dropping all the suitcases, I went straight to my laptop. Hubby did the same. We stayed on the computer for almost an hour, even though we have to wake up super early tomorrow.

Yeah he is a geek, and I'm the geek's wife. Computer and internet have long been one important part of our life.