Thursday, December 25, 2014

French Christmas Meal 2014

Snow, turkey, Christmas tree, presents...these are the elements that make me think of Christmas.
In our region, it hardly snows; in my family, we seldom eat turkey.
So there you go, we celebrated Christmas with no snow, no turkey, but with Christmas trees, plenty of presents, and scrumptious foods.

Seafoods are usually on the menu in our region since we are very close to the sea. On Christmas Eve, we started our celebration with slice of salmon or tuna on a toasted bread spread with savour cream, then sprinked with some chopped shallots. A few drop of lemon juice added some fragrance to the combination. Then we had rolled ham spread with cream cheese. Other finger foods including carrots cut into stick form, some nuts, and some pomelo.

Celebration would not be completed without a glass of champagne.

Another French Christmas tradition : eating foie gras with onion on a toast, then sprinkled with some salt. This is a heavy meal, not everyone can digest well the foie gras. I stopped eating since several years ago.

One of the signature dish of my FIL : scallop with wine sauce, in my family we like to eat it with panfried apple.

As mentioned in my previous post, finish one's plate means mopping the sauce with a slice of bread. Here I had no problem cleaning the sauce on the pan as it was too good to leave them to waste.

We continued to the cheese section : crêpe stuffed with cheese (not sure what type of cheese), the two went along very well.

My MIL signature dessert: raspberry Christmas cake. The traditional Christmas cake is made of lots of butter so it was very heavy. My MIL reduced the butter and matched it with rasberry, very refleshing.

Hubby saw Mangosteen imported from Malaysia so he decided to buy two. Very expensive, at 20€/kg, these two costed around 2€. My MIL mentioned that French love to try out exotic fruits during Christmas season.

Santa Claus passed by earlier this year as the little girl was a bit sick, she went to bed without eating dinner days before. Luckily she recovered on Christmas Eve, after meeting Santa, she was able to stay with us.

Here the little angle, very satisfied with the presents, waiting to blow off the candles as she was also celebrating her birthday. Yes, she has turned 5!

Christmas day lunch. Here were the appetizer.

We had this wine from 1996 to go along with the meal.

Boudin blanc : one kind of stuffed sauce with apple. Apparently it was a very old tradition to eat this during Christmas, but we don't do it often. I'm not a big fun personally.

We did not eat capon like every year, instead we had beef fondue. Again, not a big fun so I didn't eat much. We had the leftover Christmas cake and Tiramisu as dessert.

After the meal, the sun was shinning so we decided to go for a walk in the park nearby.

We also had our annual family photo taken. This year we are blessed with Awena joining our family.

Hope everyone had a blast like us this year, and wishing everyone a prosperous year ahead!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Honey, please finish your plate!

When I eat rice, I make sure I finish every grain of rice in my plate. If I don't do it, this phrase will keep flashing in my brain "谁知盘中餐,粒粒皆辛苦". It literally means that every grain of rice represents the hard work of a farmer.

So when hubby finishes eating and I see in his plate that there are some grain of rice left (just like what is shown on the photo above), I will ask him to clean up. Once he protested, saying that I do not clean up my plate when I left sauces in it. And he actually thinks that eating all those grain of rice is harder than cleaning up the sauce! Well, funny because I feel the complete contrary.

For him, the plate on the photo above is an unfinished plate. To be fair, I left much more sauce on my plate compared to this photo, especially tomate sauce when we have pasta or spagehetti. 

In France, I have seen many people mopping up their plate with a piece of bread. I do it when I really love the sauce, but not systhematically, and I don't think tomato sauce goes well with bread. Sometimes I feel full already and there will still be salad, cheese and dessert coming, so I figure I better leave some space in my stomach than filling it with bread and sauce. 

So, do you clean your plate of rice or sauce? Or maybe both?

Friday, December 12, 2014

In France, we have The Little Mouse

It happened. Her first tooth just dropped.

Unlike in the USA where tooth fairy would come collect the tooth, in France we have The Little Mouse. Yes, we told her that the mouse would passby to give her a present or a coin, she was excited.

She has a loose tooth since two days, then she decided to take it off, I suspect that she did it so that she could get a present quicker. She put the tooth under a pillow, and kept going to check it out if the mouse has passed by.

Well, she only got it the second morning, as we didn't expect the tooth would come out so quickly. I had to make a trip to the local grocery to pick up something. She was thrilled when she saw the present, and immediately put the two euro coin into her saving box.

Tooth fairy or Little Mouse, it is just something the occidental world created to please their kids, just like the character of Santa Claus. One day she would find out that it is just an invented story, hope she will take it well though.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Maman, can you carry this?

This happens a lot to me.
Me as the mama, + a baby on me + climbing up stair to fourth floor.
And Aelig would ask me to carry leaves / sticks / chestnuts...

Source :

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Her play corner

With Aelig growing she needs more and more space. Spaces to store her toys, books, belongings, and also spaces for her play time.

Here is her cooking corner. During autume we have chetnuts all over the ground close to where we live so she collected them. They became her cooking ingredients.

Friends gave her a box of new game. She doesn't play it by the rule, but instead created her own game. She arranged the frogs by color, led by a queen, each on a lotus leave. Then she slowlly moves the first one forward, and all other follow suit. She can plays this for a good hour.

Another moving game of her. The car or bus follow each other closely. She would move the first one forward, then repeat the same move for the second, third...until the whole troop advanced. By the way, she cut a piece of white paper into pieces (on the left at the edge of the rail) and I was not allowed to throw them. It is her cooking ingredients apparently.

I place unused papers for her here so that she could draw on them before they go into the recycling bag. At her age she needs lot of papers.

She hasn't touched this puzzle for almost two years. One day she just decided to lay them on the floor, and match the bear family with different outfit. She would present them to me for each outfit to see if I like the combination she chose that day.

She is a big girl now, she can play alone. But most of the time, she asks me and her baby sister to sit beside her and see her advances her frogs or her buses/cars. She plays with them everyday and begs me to not tidy them up. Let's just say that my tolerance towards untidy rooms has increased so much after I have kids. It is either a battle to make them tidy up or just have one eye closed.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Stock up books from China

I have heard about purchasing services (代购) from China, but have never really used them. I love reading but I couldn't find cheap options buying Chinese books from France. The purchasing services I found online usually required some fees, and that topping with the hefty shipping costs have stopped me completely.

But a reading worm needs its foods. I bought some from Taiwan for my birthday. And finally, the urge to share my childhood readings with Aelig has prompted me to seek again, especially I heard many Malaysians are buying from TaoBao (淘宝), a website that hosts many sellers from China for a wide range of products. My effort didn't bear any fruit as some didn't ship overseas and some didn't accept international payment. I thought it wouldn't be possible without a Chinese banking account, but recently I found a solution. My friends recommended a purchaser, who specializes in buying books for overseas customers. I just sent him the websites (淘宝 or others), he calculated the shipping costs, we both agreed on the total (books + shipping), then I did a wire transfer to his French account. Once he received my transfer, he went to order the books, sent me a photo when the books arrived, then shipped them to me. He didn't charge any fees, but accumulated points from those websites and got some discount from the shipping company he used.

And voilà, two months after, the package has finally arrived!

And what did I order? 45 Doraemon comics! It is a shame that Doraemon is not famous in France, despite the fact that French are very familiar with Japanese mangas. Doraemon was my childhood hero, and the fact that Aelig has shown interested in comics, I thought it was time to introduce it to her. I think she will love this robotic cat who is afraid of mouse but who helps his master in many ventures that kids can only dream of.

I also ordered a set of Chinese story books. It features 366 legends related to traditional festivals, ancient believes, tales and myths. I looked online on books that are suitable to Aelig's age, and I always wonder why those famous parenting bloggers recommended classic western fairy tales or story books from USA (all translated into Chinese), instead of stories written by Chinese authors. In today's world every kid seems to read and watch Disney's cartoons, know by heart fairy tales like "The Ugly Duckling", "The Little Red Hat". What is it so wonderful to teach our kid about a wolf eating a little girl? Anyway, this set of books are arranged by month. We started with January so we touched about the story of Nian (why Chinese celebrate New Year with fire crackers), the Chinese Zodiac (she was intrigued). Some stories are not for her age but she still remembered some part of it so I think she will get there eventually. And, I have to say that by reading these it helps refresh my memories on certain legends or learning something new.

I read to her the first book of Doraemon. She was curious, she placed all of them beside her bed, but she decided that those are books that she would read alone without me. Ok, I don't want to force her. Anyway, I can't help but take one to read for myself. Maybe deep down I bought these for myself!

The Chinese legend series are arranged by color on the floor in her room.

Ok, I have to reveal that this is one of the saddest moments being a parent. Aelig is myopic so she has to wear glasses when she is in school or when she is watching TV. I felt guilty as I was myopic too so she probably got it from me. I hope all these books that I bought her would not increase her myopia though.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mutual respect : 'I Want To Touch A Dog' event


I was a bit surprise to see this photo circulated in Facebook.

Growing up in Malaysia, I know that my Muslim counterparts are not supposed to touch dogs. Their religion considers that dogs are unclean. If one has to be in contact with a dog, one needs to clean himself in a certain way. Therefore, seeing a Muslim Malaysian getting closed to a German Shepherd with her kid got me curious.

Reading further I found out the 'I Want To Touch A Dog' event recently organized in a park in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysians from different races and religions showed up. The goal was to help address animal cruelty and overcome prejudice and fear towards dogs.

Anyway, no matter what my Muslim counterparts decide, touching or not touching, this is their choice, and I learn to RESPECT. Just like they respect other Malaysians to own a dog at home. If one chooses to stay away from dogs due to religious aspect, one shouldn't be reprimanded.


Living in France, I learn that believers from different countries have different practices even though they are from the same religion. For example, I talked to a coworker from Algeria. She was surprised to hear that my Muslim counterparts in Malaysia do not touch dogs, as she doesn't practice the same things. The same goes to Buddhism: Buddhists / Taoists in Malaysia do not eat beef in general , but Buddhists in Taiwan do. How about Christian? My Christian friends here were so surprised that some Christians in Malaysia do not drink alcohol. They told me that Jesus drank wine at his last supper (in the photo above there is some red liquid in a wine container on the table). People just have different beliefs and practices and what is important is that we learn to RESPECT their choice.

Coming from France, hubby and his friends discovered that Muslims in France and Muslims in Malaysia live a different life. They were charmed by the colourful traditional baju kurung (costumes) and the friendliness of my Muslims counterparts. One commented that the female workers in Carrefour looked so cute with their blue uniform and blue head scarf. Hubby loves to go to Hari Raya open houses.

In my opinion, Malaysians, regardless of race and religion background, could live in harmony as long as we show mutual respect. I missed those days when we got invited to Raya open house for some satay and ketupat; and Deepavali open house for some Indian breads.

By the way, Happy Deepavali to all Malaysians at home!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wednesday = no school no work no daycare day

One month into the Wednesday = no school no work no daycare day routine, we are slowly adjusting to the new organisation. The girls wake up at the same time, but we can take things slowly instead of rushing out of the door for school/daycare/work. Hubby enjoys it as well as he can sleep a bit more on Wednesday mornings.

In France a lot of government subsidized clubs used to offer sportive activities for kids on Wednesdays. However, since this September every government schools have class on Wednesday mornings. This has pushed majority of sportive activities into Wednesday afternoons. We went to a club forum where many clubs set up a stand to explain their activities. Through a friend we found a club who organizes session of get-together where everyone is encouraged to converse in Mandarin. For a long time I had looked for a Mandarin playground for Aelig and this seems to be a nice fit.

So I enrolled her for this program and we tried out the first session. The group was small with kids from mix couples (Chinese/French) and a French kid. Some kids prefer to speak in French, but the organizer spoke in Mandarin. I brought a long some Mandarin books and I was proud that Aelig volunteered to tell a story in Mandarin. Even though she was not that fluent, she had the courage to finish the story, with my help. Then, I was surprised that she was not shy but blended in instantly when the organizer was telling a story.

We decided to go back and enroll for more sessions. The organizer proposed to teach Aelig Chinese writing along with her own kids. She learnt to read and write several words a week. Most importantly she started to show some interest in writing, she even did some practice at home.

Through internet I also got connected to a group of Chinese mothers in my city. We informally started a playground, not regularly but occasionally we gather in a place to let the kids play together. I would like them to speak in Mandarin but some kids prefer to speak in French. I observed that some kids choose to speak French even though their mothers speak Mandarin to them. 

Another picnic + playtime for Aelig and her new friends. Hopefully the group would grow so that we could organize the outings more regularly.

Well, we had exceptionally sunny weather in September, it is going to be a challenge to bring them out as the raining days seem to be back in October.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

French tolerance: The traveling people V - They are still here!

I got back from my maternity leaves and was surprised to discover that the traveling people invading our office's parking lot are still there. Well, according to my coworkers, they left for a few months then decided to come back. The property management has actually installed a gate with access code to prevent them from entering, but they know how to deal with gate, they are squatting where they want just like the gate never existed.

Maybe due to word of mouth, their communities are expanding, they also invaded another empty field around the office spaces.

Photo shows a worker installing fence around the area. I don't know if this will really prevent them from staying.

It is sure that their present costed some money to the property owners here.

Well, I don't think they are bothered, they actually hung some clothes on the fence!

Some wandered why the prefecture is not reacting. The prefecture is supposed to send out some polices and conduct an expulsion operation. Some thought that the prefecture chose not to act because it is better if they stay in office area instead of housing area. Offices are empty during weekends so there would be less complains.

Employees are not happy about it but we know there is nothing we can do. Once a coworker lodged a police report due to some minor physical dispute with the traveling people. He was parking his car and a young guy from the group arrived and parked his car at high speed. He nicely asked the person to play more attention, which provoked a fight and at one point he was grounded. With their children and animals running around we do not feel safe to park there anymore.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hat on please!

I never have the habit to put on a hat when it is sunny, a winter hat when it is cold. My parents didn't put a hat on us when we were younger, and in school we were running wild bare head during recess times.

It is very different in France. Ever since Awena was born, whenever I bring her out, I was reminded again and again to put a hat on her. People told me that babies' nook and cranium are fragile, that their skin are soft so they could get sunburn easily. Same goes to the young kids. I once saw a grandma insisted to put a hat on a 5 year old who would just take if of when the grandma walked away. Due to my own upbringing, I didn't pay much attention to bring a hat for Aelig, but you can see that I'm the weird one. Photo below shows a school outing and Aelig was the only one without hat.

I don't know how those Malaysian kids survive, playing sport under 30°C hot sun? Or we are just born differently?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Back to work at 80%

My maternity leaves ended. I have gone back to work since last week, at 80%.

In France certain employees choose not to work full time in order to spend more time with their kids or simply have time to themselves. The most common being:
-  Mothers working at 90% to take care of their kids who don't have school on Wednesday afternoon
-  Mothers working at 80% to take care of their kids who don't have school on Wednesday (my case)

When Aelig was born, this idea didn't come into mind. But with two kids, it suddenly makes a lot of sense, and I'm really glad that I don't have to work on Wednesday. It is such a huge change, my week is cut into two, I'm happy on Tuesday morning knowing that I don't have to work the next day!

The request to work at 80%, or commonly known as 4/5ème, was simple and straight forward. I briefly told my boss about this intention and I got an oral approval. The HR told me to send them a registered letter two months before my maternity leaves end. I will get an amendment to my work contract, where my salary will be cut off 20%, so do my annual leaves. A lot of people who are already working 80% told me that I would be getting some allowance from the government to compensate my lost of salary. It is a win win situation for the government and the employees, as if kids are with the babysitters, the government will be paying the social charges for the sitters. By taking care of the kids themselves, the charges towards the sitters will be reduced, which in return is being paid to the mothers to encourage them to take care of their kids themselves.

Some mothers did tell me that Wednesday with kids are busier compare to working in the office. I can see that it is true as appointments are being booked now on Wednesday, and as Aelig grows older, I will need to send and fetch her to various activities. I'm still getting information on what to do and where to go on Wednesday, I will share when it is more organized.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

France takes good care of me and my baby after birth

France takes good care of mothers and babies after birth. Here are some of the cares I received after discharge from the maternity ward.

Attachment to our health card
Before we got discharged from the clinic, an officer of CPAM (Healthcare agency in France) came to visit us. She gave us the form to fill in order to attach the baby to both me and hubby's health card (Carte Vitale). Within a week, the baby appeared in our health cards so we could get reimbursement from CPAM directly instead of filling a demand form and send it to the agency. This service was not provided during Aelig's time and she could only be attached to one parent. I praise them for this improvement, it saves us the time to deal with the agency and the hassle of having to remember to bring the card where Aelig was attached to.

Home visit from a midwife
The CPAM officer also proposed us a home visit service from a midwife in our area. I immediately said yes. She took the appointment with the midwife and sent me a SMS to inform me the detail of the appointment. The midwife came two days after I went home and once a week during three weeks. She examined both me and the baby. She answered all our questions. This service didn't exist during Aelig's time, how I'm glad they added this as it really reassured me that both me and baby were doing well.
Cost: 27€ per visit, fully paid by the National Healthcare Systems.

Visit to the gynecologist
It is recommended to pay a visit to the gynecologist 6 weeks after giving birth. My gynecologist examined me to know how well I recover, and she reiterated on the importance of contraception. She also prescribed me to 10 sessions of postnatal physical therapy.
Cost: 23€ paid by the National Healthcare, 27€ paid by my private insurance.

Postnatal Physical Therapy (Rééducation périnéale) - 8 sessions
Some foreign reports commented that this therapy is to teach you to make love again so that you will make another baby quickly. Well, it was not presented this way to me. Not once I was told by the medical professionals that this therapy was to please my husband or to quickly get pregnant again or to get back on nice body shape. My gynecologist and midwives recommended this so that I can reinforce the muscles around my pelvic floor, in order to prevent leaking issues in the future. I did 8 sessions with my midwife. I brought both my kids along with me and when the baby cried, she took care of her while I was doing the exercises, how nice!

So what did I do? We started with exercises to tighten the pelvic floor. My midwife inserted two fingers there in order to feel my movements. She then taught me how to hold up my body without breathing, so that the organs can get back to their normal place. I would tightening and releasing my pelvic floor, then do a round of hold up of my body, then the tightening and releasing exercise again. The following six sessions involved a lot of gymnastics for the pelvic area, which would indirectly exercising the abdominal. I did 8 sessions instead of 10 as prescribed because we cancelled two sessions and after an examination the midwife felt that I didn't have to replace the two missing sessions.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience, as beside practicing gymnastics I was able to ask her questions regarding my recovery and the baby's development. I didn't do this after having Aelig because I was not convinced that it was important. Now I'm convinced!
Cost : 19.60€ per session fully paid by the National Healthcare Systems.

Protection Maternelle et Infantile (PMI)
PMI is local healthcare center for mothers and children. The baby should go through medical checkup once a month and we could do it with our family doctor or PMI. During Aelig's time they only had a nurse but this time around, they have a nurse plus a doctor who could give vaccinations to children. I was impressed since the first appointment. The nurse was very friendly. A friend told me that I could ask for BCG vaccination (not mandatory anymore in France but recommended if one is to go to Malaysia) in this center. Indeed. The center was equipped with all kind of vaccines so the doctor immediately agreed to give the vaccination. I'm so glad that it was done and that I didn't have to go through the painful experience to get someone to give BCG vaccination! Another improvement is that instead of getting the vaccination every month like what Aelig did, a baby now only needs get the pain during his/her 2nd, the 4th and the 9th month of life.
Cost : Free for the parents, the PMI gets 28€ from the National Healthcare Systems per visit.

We are so blessed to have all these good cares!

The Giant Long Ma (龙马)

Nantes seems to be the expert in creating the machinery giant. After the Giant Grandma , and the Elephant (quick becoming the main attraction of Nantes), we now witness the giant Long Ma (dragon horse in Mandarin), prowling around street of Île de Machine.

Long Ma debuted its first show end of August and is heading to China. It is a gift from France to China to mark the incoming 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. It will settle in Beijing and becomes another attraction there, just like the giant elephant in Nantes.

We were there the last day this Long Ma made its appearance. I thought it will walk as slow as the elephant but to my surprise, it actually walks fast / runs and spews fire. I heard a French commenting : well, it will walk in China, they have the space so it has to run fast! It also pretends to eat some bamboo leaves, and I heard a woman saying : Oh, how come it eats leaves? It is a Chinese dragon, it is supposed to eat fish in the sea! Ok, frankly, I have not heard of this Long Ma, an ancient legendary creature in the Chinese culture. We always say "The Spirit of Long Ma" (龙马精神) to describe a strong and prosperous spirit, and I thought it means the spirit combining the two animals: dragon and horse.

Anyway, I observed that dragon in Chinese and the European culture is somehow different. Dragon is considered an audacious animal, it brings good luck in Chinese culture whereas in the Western world, it could be a vicious and dangerous animal. Besides, they don't look the same physically. Photo shows a typical Chinese dragon, it is slim and long and doesn't have wings even though it can fly. Western dragons on the other hand have wings with frightening looks. (see photo below).


Hope the audiences in China will enjoy this amazing art giant machine!

Friday, August 22, 2014

5 days in the maternity ward (法国生产记之住院)

We stayed in the maternity ward for 5 days. I don't know why, but I was sad to leave the day we got discharged.

I chose the same clinic as I had good memories from my first delivery. The team (doctors/midwives/nurses) was very professional and provided good advises. The foods tasted yummy but I could be biased since breastfeeding made me hungry all the times. I had breakfast around 7am, lunch at 12pm, snack at 4pm and dinner around 6pm.

My typical breakfast. I ordered hot milk but they gave me hot chocolate instead. They only corrected the mistake during the last day of my stay.

Lunch. It was amazing, I didn't have the feeling of being full anymore. For my first delivery, I actually ate the hospital food plus confinement food my aunt prepared.

Every day the midwife came to see me and gave me painkiller. I didn't really need it because I didn't feel too painfull, just uncomfortable. I was told that Jun, July and August are peak months for delivery so all the staffs were overwhelmed. I had a different midwife everyday and I felt that they were in rush everytimes. Nurses came to check on the baby everyday too. There was one that I adored, she gave me plenty of advises. She told me that I can let the baby cry as long as she is fed and her diaper is clean.

I prefer to have plenty of rest so only close family came to visit me. Aelig came everyday and accepted well that I had to stay in the clinic with the baby. She was proud to be big sister.

We had to learn how to bath a baby and all that jazz again. Frankly, I forgot some of the details, but it just came back after several practices.

This time around the nurses proposed to take care of the baby in the nursery room during the night (They didn't propose me when Aelig was born and I didn't ask). For three nights they came to fetch the baby then sent her back three to four hours later for nursing. It was heaven as I could sleep for several hours straight without a crying baby beside.

I felt that my recovery from the birth was slower this time. It was very uncomfortable to move around. The first few days I felt dizzy after standing up, I didn't have this problem last time. One nurse told me that was normal as some of the organs were displayed during the pregnancy, it takes time for them to get back to their original position. Another new experience for me was the painful uterus contraction. One night after sending the baby to the nursing room, I was hoping for a good night sleep. I was waken up by a sharp pain from my stomach and couldn't sleep for the whole night. The doctor told me that it was uterus contraction, that women with more than one delivery will feel it stronger compare to the first one. The sharp pain came from time to time and I had to take a stronger form of painkiller to ease the pain.

I was happy and relief to have the single bedroom. It was important for me to be able to rest without being disturbed. It costed 70€ a day and it was fully paid by the insurance.

Baby diaper changing area.

Private bathroom attached to the room.

Once the baby was gaining enough weight, we asked to be discharged. We had to get approval from the pediatrician and my gynecologist. My gynecologist actually came to see me the fourth day while I was taking my breakfast, so she said she would pass by again the morning after. She came again at 8am but I was sleeping (after a long night fight with the baby), so she left. I went to see her after being discharged as her clinic was located at the same area.

As for the baby, she cried a lot during the stay, hubby came to help me out everyday. Anyway, we were happy to bring her home!