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.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Escape to Perhentian Island July 2017

When we were planning the trip to Malaysia, we included a one week escape somewhere that both of us agreed. I understood that diving was not included this time.

As the time drew closer, I can feel that hubby can't just let go the idea of diving in Malaysia, which he truly enjoyed the last couple of times he was there. It was a hard decision because it means a huge suitcase full of diving equipment, and it was going to be a family trip. Beside taking off my precious time with my family, I have to stay under hot sun getting tanned, which was one of the last things I want to do in my life.

Anyway, I started checking into different locations we could go, which offers diving activities and suitable for young kids. I asked my family if they know of any diving trip that hubby could join. So diving was in the agenda. The diving suitcase was the first to be ready. However, I was so reluctant that I left everything at the last minute, nothing was reserved before we left France.

Touched down in Malaysia, my sister found a diver that is willing to accompany hubby, but this suggestion was refused. He wanted a family trip. At the very late minute, we couldn't find any hotel that was still available through online booking. We went through a travel agent with skyrocketed price and booked the flight one day before departure.

I know this was going to be one of the most boring trips in my life. But I had to go. 5 days in Perhentian Islands, dream of many divers. My role was to be the nanny while my husband dives. He made every effort to be with us whenever he can, yet I still felt so bored, especially when kids were complaining and fighting nonstop.

When hubby went diving, we walked around the island. The kids were attracted by different kind of swing.
Sometimes we just stayed at the beach in front of our chalet. Kids playing at the beach while I read. I finished 4 books I bought by the third day.

Hubby would sacrify a diving session and come with us from time to time. We would do trekking to the other side of the island. We bought two loafs of bread for fish feeding.

The island is magnifique in view. I used to enjoy snorkelling trips when I was 20+++. Not anymore because with sunbath freckles appear, and having two kids mean you have to take care of them day and night.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dining at odd hours

In general, French are taught to eat at the same time everyday, and avoid to snack in between time.
My kids were having a 4 meals schedule since baby:
8am - Breakfast
12am - Lunch
4pm - Snack
8pm - Dinner

Restaurants in our areas do not open until 12pm for lunch and 7pm for dinner. Between 3pm to 7pm, it would be difficult to find a place to dine except fastfood.

In Malaysia, it is a totally different story. We dine whenever we want. Check these out.

Dinner at 5pm, savouring satay in Kajang. Followed by supper at 11pm.

Dim sum at 11am.

Fried kueh teoh at 4pm.

I'm not sure if eating at all hours are healthy. We just want to be relax for a month.
Yes, we have touched town in Malaysia since several days ago.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

The new French president is younger than me

I feel old.

The new elected French president is younger than me, only 39 years old.

 A historical high score against the rival : 65% vs 35%. For the first time the traditional strong political parties from the right and left wings were left out in the final.

8,8% of blank vote, that shows how many French felt unsatissfied with the final two candidates.

I watched the final debate between the two candidates. Once again I admire the system, having the candidates talking about their programs, defend their ideas and attack their rival. You need to be excellent in public speaking at least to be able to be the candidate.

Anyway, I don't remember much of the debate, the few things I recall was:
- The "taxe d'habitation", one kind of local tax will be cancelled
- There will be fewer students in each class in the elementary schools, like 12 per students instead of 20++ today.

Hope for a better France, especially in terms of security.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

When walnut is a dessert

My in laws have been to our place often to help with the DIY projects. When they were here, we usually had a tapas type of Saturday dinner. Over the time I had made almost the same kind of food.

 We usually have these...

 This when I was in the mood to make something visually attractive...

 My in laws brought this because they were cheaper in their place...

 Stuffed mushroom with something, I tried to alternat the stuffing..
I made this, I would like it to be a bit more chruncy, still need improvement...

So one day I was putting all kind of appetizer on the table, and since I know my MIL loves walnut, I purposely put it right in front of her. She was eating everything else except walnut and cheese. I felt weird, but when they had finished other stuffs they moved on to cheese. Then I realized they were following the appetizer-main course-cheese-salad-dessert-coffee kind of sequence. And when we moved on to dessert, I saw my MIL eating walnut, finally. I was like, oh!!!! Walnut in the shell is dessert!!!! When the shell is removed packing with nut mixed it is appetizer.

And I only realized this after living more than 11 years in France??? Oh my.

PS : In Malaysia we can jump from appetizer to dessert then back to appetizer and cheese. So, that's why I still couldn't get why eating in sequence is so important.

Now you see, now hopefully don't!

When we bought our land, we realized there was a big house right in front of our garden. We hesitated, as French people dislike houses with "vis à vis", they prefer to be able to relax in their own garden under privacy.

Don't know why, our neighbore decided to install so many windows on the North side of their house. It didn't bother me much, as I got used to those non privacy houses in Malaysia. 

So we finally did something to it. We bought 12 trees that would have green leaves during all 4 seasons, hopefully it would hide the view gradually. Hubby is conscious that he has a lot of maintaining works to do, as we can't let the trees grow too high.

I have never expected that planning trees needed so many times. It took hubby and my FIL the whole weekend. They had to dig up holes enough to put the tree in. It was hard work. On Sunday, an old lady cameby to tell them to stop as they were making some noise while digging. Oh, the sacrosanct Sunday. Hubby was supposed to mow the lawn but it was pu on hold. So no lawn mowing on Sunday then.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Yogurt cake from school

Aelig came back from school and took out a sheet of paper.
It has yogurt recipe on it and she requested me to make it together.
The school has been teaching them baking, making crêpes and pies with some simple recipes, but I have never really tried any at home.

Since she asked for it, I just let her play with it, and of course her sister wanted to join. The little one was more into eating the dough then making it.

The result : it was eatable considering how simple it was the making process. Plus, I had never made Yogurt cake before, hubby told me that I should use a square baking dish instead of a rectangular one.

Here is the recipe, translated from French:

Yogurt Cake
Quantity : 8 persons
Preparation : 15 minutes
Baking time : 30 minutes

4 eggs
1 natural Yogurt
2 cups of sugar (I presume it means using the Yogurt container as measurement cup)
3 cups of flour
1 cup of oil
1 tablespoon of yeast

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C
Mix in the order of the ingredients one after another
Pour into a baking dish
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes
The cake is to be eaten when it turns golden and not too cook, it will remain soft.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

No cheese in the cake

I was trying to learn to make more desserts so that when there are guests coming, I won't be limited to those that I make regularly.

Through Whatsapp, I learnt that there was a type of Taiwanese cake that was quite popular at the moment. Since I got most of the ingredients I decided to give it a try.

After I had put the cake in the oven, I realized I made a mistake. The dough was mixed with grated Parmesan cheese, and it had a layer of cheddar cheese. What makes the cake unique was its sweet and sour taste, but it is a taste not too common in France, especially for a dessert.

It turned out ok. I kind of like it but I was the only one. :-(. Some kids from the neighborhood came to play and it was the 4pm snack time, so I offered them to take a slide of this cake. One had a bite and announced that she didn't like it. The other one took several bite and decided to give up. Luckily my girls finished their part.

The second morning I suggested this as breakfast to my daughter (in Malaysia we do eat cake as breakfast), but she refused and mentioned that she didn't like my "cheesecake". As for hubby, he reluctantly tried one, and told me that the fact to see a layer of cheddar cheese in the cake turned him off.

So this was just an effort that didn't bear fruit. No cheese in the cake then. That's probably why American style cheesecakes are not popular here.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

The weekend of DIY

Hubby continues on his DIY projects. This weekend, the focus was on lamps.

The goal was to add three lamps to the kitchen area. To do this, he has to dig a hole on where he wanted to hung the lamp, then link an electrical cable from the hole to the central hole where it used to have a lamp thus the electricity supply. It took him quite some times to do this, as the cable had to passe through above the ceiling, to go through between the ceiling and the roof, then come down to the electrical supply hole.

 The result. The central hole was closed after so that we won't see the electrical cables hanging there.

He also installed a design lamp in his daughter's room with color matching the wall color.

Lamp installed in the other girl's room. She was not happy at the beginning when she saw it. She said her daddy should had asked her opinion on the color, she would have wanted a red one. I explained to her that it was to match her wall color, she was thrilled after. However, the brightness was not suitable for reading, since she has myopia, I urged hubby to change the bulb.

Finally we can hung a towel and toilet paper in the toilet. I was so amazed, the design these days included a flat surface above the toilet paper so that you could put your smartphone on it while doing your business. 

Anyway, hubby has become a handy man, he is so into DIY now.