Sunday, December 17, 2017

Did you use my mushroom?

I used to be the one buying groceries, preparing meals for the family. Sincerely, I know I did a poor job, and I didn't particularly enjoy it. I found myself always buying the same ingredients, making the same meals. Worst, I lost even the motivation to cook dishes I used to cook. My husband pointed out : he barely sees curry chicken, clay-pot chicken anymore.

Things just gradually changed. I needed to cook dishes that I know my kids would at least eat. And, time was pressing, after picking up kids from school, I didn't have much time nor energy left to prepare somethings more decent. 

Since I was the one buying grocery, there was a bookkeeping in my mind. We just finished this, we were running out of that, we needed to buy this, the kids demanded that. I was not used to plan ahead neither. I started planning dinner when I drove home, or the night before. And I remembered I had that and this ingredient left in the fridge.

Except that, it was mostly hubby who handled meals during the weekend. And sometimes he did complementary groceries for his own needs. I would complain : why did you buy bacon again? We had three packs sitting in the fridge! You know we had two bags of potatoes here, and you just bought the third one? Due to my complains, he would buy according to what I ask him to use in the fridge. But then it created another problem, I didn't know what he was going to cook, and when he was going to use the last pack of "lardon", I protested : No! I needed that for tomorrow dinner! He was so frustrated that he yelled at me : everything I do it's just wrong to you!

Then it comes this planning change, a change I welcomed with my heart. He decided to take care of the kids on Wednesdays (4/5ème). Now he works 4 days a week and I switched to full time. Since Awena goes to school as well, we can finally do the one parent sends them in the morning one parent pick them up at the evening model. I choose to send them because I'm not a morning person. Most of the time during the week, when I got home, the dinner is served. Except evenings when I work from home so would pick  them up right after school, and sometimes I prepare dinner.

But mainly, hubby handles grocery.
And what happened? The other day, I heard him saying : did you use my mushroom?
No I didn't.
He finished them without realizing.
Did you use my fish?
No I didn't.
The fish just went missing. We didn't know why.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

When all the chocolates are gone

On the 30th of November, one day before the kids were allowed to open their advent calendar, I saw that Awena had already took out 3 chocolates out of hers. Unlike her sister, she is just someone who doesn't listen to her parents. Hubby caught her hiding the chocolates in her room.

On the second day of December, six chocolates were gone, amid our warning that she would soon run out of it, and someday she would just see her sister eating chocolate while she has non. The warning didn't work, she refused even to open the box by date. She just randomly chose the boxes she wanted.

On the fourth day of December, she decided to open all the boxes, got out all the chocolates, and laid them on the floor.

On the 7th day of December, all the chocolates were eaten. Meanwhile, the big sister follows the rule, she patiently enjoys a chocolate per day.

Maybe that's because she's three that she doesn't understand things, or that's just her nature personality. She is just so different from her elder sister. When we said no to candy, the elder one was disappointed but did nothing. Whereas the younger one, she smiled at you, did nothing in front of you, but eventually you would find out that she ate a candle, at your back.

I hope things get improved. The house is a mess permanently and 80% of the damages came from her. She is just so unbearable. 

The arm broken witch

Didn't manage to finish this post earlier.
We are at Christmas season but I had something to record to myself about Halloween.
Halloween was not a big event in general in France. For example it didn't have the Halloween parades in most of the cities just like in  the US. Last year the kids were away, we got so many kids knocking on the doors that we were so fed up at the end. 

Can you see her arm cast? Well, she broke it the first day of school holidays, on the trampoline. It seemed ok at the beginning, but she cried during the night, her hand was swollen the second morning so hubby decided to call a doctor as it was a Saturday. In France, clinics do not open on weekends (except Saturday morning). A doctor came, declared broken bone in her wrist, and she was going to the emergency. Yeah, there was no other option, the girls were supposed to go after lunch with their grandparents, but instead she went with hubby to the emergency. Emergency here doesn't mean fast treatment, they waited for like 4 hours until someone finally entertained them. I have always wondered why people had to go to emergency for this kind of things. I mean it could totally be done by a small clinic, for radiography and putting the cast. But not, such clinics don't exist, so everyone with something broken would have to wait in emergency, after the personals treat life threatening cases and have some times for this kind of patients. 

My MIL prepared the costumes for them, and I think she did a good job. 

Finally our turn to go knock on our neighbors' door. Around half didn't answer, some answered but said they ran out of candies, or parents not at home....

Mostly they just want candies. I don't understand why we give kids so many candies, it was just another successful western marketing campaign I guess. 

Her arm cast lasted 6 weeks. She had to stop going to swimming classes and gymnastic training. She wrote and ate with her left hand, until when the cast was removed, she couldn't adjust back to using the right hand immediately. Overall, I felt that she was really brave, didn't fuss much about the inconvenient cast, I helped her wash, she mostly changed herself. At school, her classmates offered to jot down notes for her. I was so eager for it to be over, didn't like to see her in cast. Hubby said she got his gene, he broke many parts of his body when he was young. Well, I hope this is not true...

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

An authentic French restaurant

Once a week we eat out in a restaurant. Like I said yesterday, they are not much varieties in Nantes, we usually go for pizza, as French restaurants that would please us and not too pricey are hard to find.

There is one that we like just close to where we live. My eldest dislikes it though, at her age, she only goes for food she likes, not the atmosphere or the presentation.

My entrée. French cuisine emphasizes a lot on presentation. This was fish with avocado sauce.

Hubby's entrée : Fois gras 

My main course : scallop with squid

My dessert : pumpkin cake with chestnut sauce

We were 4 adults and 2 kids. Everyone ordered a menu of entrée + main course + dessert, and we had two rounds of appetizer. We also ordered a bottle of wine. All these costed us 180€. 

I mean, I can't afford to pay 30€/person every time we go out dining. Hubby said he paid around 13€/person when he eats lunch downtown Nantes. For sure there is a huge different on price between lunch and dinner + dining during weekend. French restaurants always come with some decorations, nice presentation on the plates, wines, sometimes cheeses, salads and coffees. All these factor in it becomes less affordable.

But, some time I only need a bowl of noodle soup, at a restaurant close by. That's another problem, restaurants are concentrated in downtown. Further from it you get pizza, couscous, Chinese buffet, or frozen foods that they warm up for you when you order. Not worth the price, that's why we prefer to eat at home most of the time.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Eat drink in Paris

When people tell me that Nantes is a Metropolitan city with lots of foreigners, I always keep silent. Sure it has lot of foreigners, but most of them are from the same continents, there are less diversity compare to like, Austin. In Austin, we had so many choices : Tex-Mex, BBQ, Cajun, Italian, French, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, African, you name it.

The restaurants in Nantes suck big time. They have less variety, more pricey and rigid business hours. For example, if you want to eat Dim Sum, you need to go to Paris. They don't even have ramen soups. The sushi is not as authentic. 

To enjoy my time in Paris to the fullest, I decided to go one day earlier before Eason's concert. As soon as we got off the train, we headed to a restaurant that sells different type of dumplings and dishes. The dumplings were made on the spot. And surprisingly, it was so cheap! We paid less than 10€ and we ate well. We ended up begging the boss to go open another restaurant in Nantes, that was how desperate we were.

It was a lovely day with sunshine. Paris seemed wonderful if you are not in rush. I decide to walk to enjoy the view.

In the evening, a friend brought us to savor ChongQing steamboat. I had never tried it before, but it warmed up the whole body, and my heart.

Walked to the Louvre to enjoy a cup of tea there.

The last day in Paris, I got some time to kill so I decided to go towards the Eiffel Tower. Then I met my friend in Chinatown to buy some groceries that I can't get in Nantes, and packed our lunch before heading to the train station. 

After this trip, we were so jealous at friends who live in Paris. They have so many restaurant choices and can eat at wee hours. I managed to have Korean lunch with my friend, had a bubble drink, but didn't have enough time to try out a restaurant that serves Chinese breakfast with soya milk, Chinese bun, and different type of tofu dishes. That would be for the next time.

Eason Chan in Paris 30 Oct 2017

Even though I live in France, I still prefer to listen to Mandarin and Cantonese songs. I was hoping one day I could go to see Faye Wong's concert in live. Well, she is half retired now, and there are not many Asian singers performing in France.

Never say never, it just happened one day a friend posted on WeChat that she was going to see Eason Chan's concert alone. I was so excited as I really love this singer, and I have never imagined that he would hold a concert in Paris (relatively smaller Chinese community compare to London, Canada, USA). I decided on the spot that I was going with her, and I dragged another friend to join us.

There you go, Eason's C'mon in Tour in Paris. I seldom read Chinese news here so I almost missed it.

My friend wanted to stand close to the stage to enjoy the atmosphere. So we bought standing ticket. She dragged me to queue 4 hours before the concert in order to get a good spot, closer to Eason. It was a cold evening. There were already 25 people in front of us when we arrived. Another friend arrived just in time to deliver us some Chinese buns as dinner. Around 5pm, Eason got down from a bus and some fans were going crazy. He entered quickly to the concert hall for rehearsal. The entrance was supposed to open at 6:30pm but it only opened at 7pm.

As soon as the doors opened, we rushed in, and managed to stand at the forth row right in front of the stage. We were packed like sardines. We were with a bunch of Chinese youngsters and overall they were well behaved. Except the man in hat. The girl behind him asked several times if he could just remove his hat when the concert started. He ignored her at the beginning, but eventually snapped with an answer "they are tall people in front of me, should I ask them to cut off their heads?" I was speechless. 

The concert started around 8:30pm. By that time, we were already standing for 4 hours and a half. My feet were sore, but people kept pushing. Anyway, I was elated to see him singing so close by. It was worth the wait, but it would be the last time. I'm too old to get crazy like this.

 Here was how the concert hall looked behind us. Right in front of the stage a place that could fit around one thousand people standing, my guess. Audiences with seat were on the first floor above us.

He sang lots of new songs, the concert ticket came with his new album.

When hubby saw the photos, he commented that Eason dressed poorly. Well, he sings well, that's the most important to me.

The concert finished around 10:30pm. We waited a bit as the organizer said he would sign our album. But we were chased out of the concert hall, so we decided to go for supper. A bowl of ramen soup at 11:15pm, you don't get to do this in Nantes!

Thursday, October 05, 2017

A scene in a bakery

It was hubby's birthday so I went to a bakery to buy a cake.
I was already not in good mood because my girls were fighting who got to choose the cake, and one decided to stay in the car.

I chose a cake that would suit the taste of most of the family members. The seller, with gloomy face, asked when I planned to eat it. I said soon, and she shook her head saying that it would be best eaten two hours later to let it defrost. I insisted to buy that cake but she was very reluctant. Instead she proposed me to buy some slices of similar cake which were in display. I can sense that I had no choice, she won't sell me the other cake anyway, beside I could choose different favors to please everyone. 

At this point, a man walked into the bakery. I was still in the middle of choosing and there was a woman beside me looking at the patisseries. The man walked directly to the cashier and asked to buy a baguette. The first seller, with gloomier face, pointed out that he was jumping queue, and that "ça se fait pas", meaning that we don't do this (jumping queue). The man apologized as he thought me and the woman beside me were together. The seller repeating that he can't do this, but the transaction was done, the cashier got the cash. Since the seller still bitching about it, the man got annoyed and raised his voice :"So what do you want me to do? Should I put back the baguette and queue again?" Then he left offended. 

I was all puzzled at this situation. Frankly it was not a big deal as we were still choosing. I was surprised at the way the seller pointed out the mistake, and how the man reacted to it. I can really see that customers are not king in this bakery. 

Back home, hubby said I chose his favorite slice. We all loved our slices except one who was disappointed at her chocolate favor. The girls fought again on who should hold the box with the slices, who should serve them, who should blow the candles, who can have the water bottle...I so need peace at home.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

First week of school

The little one has started to enroll into the French education system since the beginning of September. She was so eager to go to school. I guessed she wanted to do everything just like her big sister.

Back to the school for the eldest, first day of school for the little one.

The big sister had no problem integrating into her new class, as her three closed friends are in the same class. Everyday she told me that she is so happy to go back to school.

 Happy to go to school

Ok I didn't know kids start learning computer skills at kindergarten level

Things turned out differently for the little one. The first day we sent her to her class, she was exploring the classroom without problems. We waved goodbye and she just smiled at us, whereas a little girl one age older than her (they are sharing the same class between 3 and 4 year old), had problem letting go of her mother. I picked her up after school and she was all fine.

Surprisingly, she was all gloomy the second day. She refused to wake up, saying that she was sick, and the whole morning laying down on the sofa didn't want to eat breakfast. She kept saying that she didn't want to go to school. I didn't know what to do. The big sister didn't have this problem at all. She went to school 6 months younger than her little sister now, and since the first day staying after school till we picked her up at 6:30pm. For certain people the school day was too long for her but she never complained.

I decided to bring the little one to school as I had to sent the eldest anyway. I told her that if her teachers agreed that she could go home, I would bring her home since I worked from home that day. However, when I told the teacher about her situation, the teacher insisted that she stayed. She held her little hand, brought her to a corner and introduced her to new friends. The little one burst in tears hearing that she had to stay. I turned cold turkey and walked away. It was the right choice, as in the evening when I picked her up, she was ok. Her teacher said that she was a bit disturbed eating in the canteen. In the evening she kept telling us that she vomited in my car, which was not true, I didn't know where she got the idea.

Wednesday had half day school, they were both happy to go, and happy to see me when I picked them up. The little one even tried to sing us a song with hand gesture, I guessed she learnt it from school.

Thursday and Friday were big days for me. My company had moved to a new location since Monday, and I was going there for the first time since I worked from home at the beginning of the week to be able to send and pick up the kids on time. The school gate for the eldest opens at 8h35, but the little one only at 8h45. I was afraid to arrive too late at work, so I arranged that a parent with whom both her kids in the same class as mine would take care of them as soon as she arrives at the gate. They had to stay after school so I had to prepare a snack for them. But surprisingly, the snack box was untouched in the little one's school back so she didn't have her snack. On Friday the other mother told me that it seems that parents have to put the snack box in a different location, and she was going to ask for me as her kids didn't need to stay in the garderie after school. Till now, I didn't know what happened, the little one said she did have her snack, but the snack box was missing...

It seems that we parents have problem getting used to the new school year...

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Milk formula : a real necessity or a result of marketing

Recently we had a gathering with friends in our place. I told some of them how parents attitude were so different between Malaysia and France regarding milk powder. At the end of the conversation, I told them that my kid has refused drinking milk before turning three, and I still had some milk powder left. When they left, one friend took the two tins of milk powder, saying that she would feed her kids with them. If they become sick, she would stop. These powder were already opened and on the tin it stated that it would be preferable to finish the powder within a month. This friend is a doctor.

These conversations just brought back my observations about how crazy the parents were in Malaysia regarding the quality of milk powder. They are willing to pay exorbitant price for a tin of milk powder. They believe that kids should continue drinking milk everyday until around 10 years old.

Several years ago I went back to Malaysia with my eldest daughter with a tin of Nestle Nidal. It didn't last for two weeks so I went to shop for Malaysian milk powder. I was so surprised to discover the price. A tin of PediaSure, weighted 900g, costed around RM50, wherease Nestle Nidal costed around 12€ at that time. So they were almost the same price as exchange rate was 1€ to RM4.4. But considering the minimum wage was around RM900 vs 1000€, the milk powder in Malaysia costed almost 5 times more than in France. And, low income group did not hesitate to buy expensive milk powder for their kids as it was considered necessary to help kids grow. I didn't believe at all that expensive milk powder could provide better nutrient, so I went for a cheaper brand. And last time I went back, the PediaSure milk powder has surged to RM90 per tin due to weak RM against USD.

When comparing the ingredients between the two brands of milk powder, I didn't see much different. Yet Malaysians were so crazy about the US imported milk powder.

They were huge price range in Malaysia for these products, it could go from RM20 a tin to RM100. These were not the case in France, milk powder was usually between 10€ to 20€.

Even organic milk powder didn't cost as much as those in Malaysia.

The milk powder companies were not allowed to advertise in maternity wards. So parents choose one according to their preference. I chose Nestle because it was the only brand I knew, and luckily both my kids accepted it without problem. I had heard that some parents had to change several brands as their kids refused to drink certain brand.

Milk powder is a necessity for babies so it has huge market potential in every country. In China, due to the one child (now two) policy, parents fight to provide the best milk to their kids. Due to the scandal that put down their own local milk powder producers, most of the Chinese parents buy their supplies from overseas. I have known of several Chinese friends here working part time as resale, they buy milk powder in French supermarkets and send to Chinese customers in Mainland China. Hong Kongese were mad at their Chinese counterparts as they smuggled the milk formula from the shells while visiting, leaving the local mothers facing the shortage of milk formula.

My mother had asked me several times how could we afford to let go of milk for our kids. I always explained that in French healthbook for kids, kids need dairy products which could be obtained not only from milk, but cheese, yogurts... so milk formula was not compulsory after they turn one or two year old. However, France had had the period where milk was forced into every household, and the real reason behind was that the milk industry was producing too much milk so their lobbyists influenced the government to force the milk consumption. 

Now I wonder, is the consumption of expensive milk formula in Asian countries, partly, or largely contributed by the excessive advertising and marketing campaigns in the that region?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Black bread is the new trend?

There were a some bakeries chains with French name in Busan : Paris Baguette, Tous les jours...they were everywhere and quite popular among the locals. So I figured they must be selling French baguette. One day I went inside a bakery in the biggest shopping center in Busan and my eyes were caught on these breads.

Well, these black color breads didn't look too appealing to me. 

 A black baguette with foreign filling, it must looked weird to French people.

But no, France also selling black baguette, bake with charcoal. Saw this here.

It must be the new trend.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Busan Trip : Lost in Translation

After Perhentian, we had one week trip to Busan, leaving the kids with my mother and my sister. I heard that in some part of Korea, only Korean is being used. It was very true, sometimes we landed in restaurants that only had Korean menus, buildings that only had Korean signboards...What caught my attention was the translation, either in English or in Chinese. Sometimes, it was poorly translated, or when you read one language to another, they just don't match.

We were in Gamcheon Culture Village, and we saw this "No Way" sign. I think it wanted to indicate "No Outlet", but I'm not sure anymore. It could mean "No Entrance"?

Still in Gamcheon, I think this sign asks the visitors to put the umbrella outside. I got the meaning from the drawing, as I think the sentence in English was not complete, and the sentence in Chinese had grammatical mistake.

I don't read Korean so I could only understand this signboard by reading English or Mandarin. 
The translation in Mandarin sounded weird to me. It didn't really match what it meant in English.

I'm still confused about this mailbox. It looked like a mailbox but it seemed that it was not a real one. The Chinese sentence on the right hand side indicated "The only mailbox in the world that doesn't deliver letters". We almost dropped a postcard there, why would they put a mailbox as decoration in a tourist spot?

I had the same confusion in Guangzhou Airports. What does this mean? "The Exit of Flight Cancellations"? I have not noticed this kind of exit in other airports. They made a specific exit in case flights are cancelled? 

I wonder if all these were the results of Google Translate. It could be.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

A little big of privilege

When we pass through the Malaysia Immigration once we touched down in Malaysia, we usually use the little privilege we have : passing as Malaysians even though I'm the only Malaysian. I just need to tell the officer that they are my family, and the officer would nod his head, no question asked. There were several counters for Malaysians and it usually went very fast. Different story for the foreigners lines, it could take a lot of time if several big flights arrived at the same time. When we got back from Busan, there were huge lines for foreigners, and I just told the officer that my husband was with me and we probably saved one hour. Thanks Malaysian officers for granting us this little privilege.

I said it is a privilege because it was different story going through immigration in French airports. I was always asked to queue in the foreigner line. Even when my daughter was 18 month old, she was crying seeing mommy queuing on the other side, nobody took pity on us. Since France is one of the most visited countries in the world, the foreigners lines could be long. Once we asked to queue as a family in the EU line but it was refused. I don't remember what happened later, another officer told my husband that I was allowed to queue with them. Anyway, this time, the privilege was extended to France because both times we went through the EU line.

Malaysia is a country that practicing price discrimination between locals and foreigners in some tourist destinations. For example, to visit the Petronas Twin Tower, a Malaysian adult would pay RM30 whereas a foreigner adult would have to pay RM85. Hubby was quite annoyed by this practice, sometime he refused to go to a place just because he had to pay higher price than Malaysians.

When I book our trip to Perhentian, I was warned that we needed to pay a Marine preservation fee, and foreigners had to pay a higher price. Tourists were paying in Kuala Besut jeti before going on the boat. When it was my turn, the officer asked if the white man beside me was my "suami" (husband in Malay), I nodded, he gave me two tickets for adult and one for kid. He just applied the local price to hubby because he was my "suami". Thanks for giving this small privilege!

Friday, August 04, 2017

Perhentian Escape : Another form of burkini

In Perhentian, we met a lot of French Muslims. They probably feel comfortable having beach vacations here as no one is going to tell them wearing burkini is a form of provocation to the society.

In perhentian, not only the Muslims are covered up. The Chinese from China too. I didn't dare to take a photo of them directly. Just checked out the photo above, the woman on the top right wore a black swimsuit that covered her whole body. Her kid in the middle wore the same type of swimsuit. In fact, my mother told me that my nieces and nephews also wear them. The only difference is they don't cover up their hair. I'm not sure if French are going to protest if Chinese tourists wear these showing in any French beaches. I grew up wearing T-Shirt to the beach, as we didn't use sunscreen. It could be the natural protection from sunburn. So covering is really not a big deal in the water, unless you want to show your body.

Perhentian Escape : The sweet burden on the back

This day, we paid for a half day trip to Pulau Rawa. The girls took turn to ride on husband's back. Aelig has been going to swimming classes, so from time to time she was comfortable enough to stay in the water by herself, with life jacket on.

 We went to snorkelling in Perhentian 4 years ago. This was Aelig riding on hubby's back.

Aelig 4 years ago.

And he had Awena on his back, the same age as Aelig 4 years back.

Three of them snorkelling around while I waited on the boat.

We brought with us some bread to feed the fishes, but she decided to eat some of them.

I stayed most of the time on the boat as I didn't feel like doing snorkelling. At one point I saw that hubby wanted to go further and deeper, so I went into water and put Awena on my back. As a non swimmer I didn't know how to well control myself in the water so I bumped into some corals and stones and hurt my foot and ankle. 

There were other people on the same boat and by chatting, I realized they were from the same hometown as me. They both had a girlfriend from China who enjoyed Perhentian very much. They were jeolous hearing that we could took one month off work to travel. It is true, annual leaves are usually one or two weeks in most of the Asian countries.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The junior diver

So, a new diver is born.
We asked if she would be interested to go diving with daddy.
She said yes.
Hubby briefed her about the process, she was all excited about the idea.
Normally the diving courses were for people more than 8 years old. Hubby asked the diving center, they accepted her.

The dive was scheduled for around 3pm, but the coach was late so they only started around 4pm. At 7 and a half year old, she went for the first dive.

It lasted for about one hour, she was underwater for probably 15 minutes. It costed RM240 or around 49€. So much more expensive than hubby's (RM70 per dive with own equipment).

Next time they can go diving together. Seeing how at ease she was in the sea, we were glad that we insisted to send her to swimming classes.