mardi, décembre 18, 2007

Away to Stuff My Face in Singapore

Whenever the temperature drops below 5ºC, I would fantasize myself telling the Hub, "Honey, it's over for me my adventures in Europe. I'm heading back to the equator..."

But of course a fantasy is a fantasy, for the foreseable future it looks like I'm stuck here in Italy and definitely not anywhere near the 24h prata shop. Just pasta.

In the meantime, it was fortunate that my brother has decided to hold his wedding dinner just before Christmas, giving me the excuse to go home this cold winter albeit the cut-throat air ticket prices.

So folks, that's it, am off to my hot and wet Tropical Christmas. Have a really Merry Christmas and a truly Happy New Year and see you all in 2008!

vendredi, décembre 14, 2007

5th Birthday Party

I get the impression sometimes that I'm always in the midst of preparing for something. Exam, interview, debate, first date, holiday, moving house, childbirth, kids' first day at school, dinner, birthday parties...And since I do almost everything in slow motion, all events do have the tendancy to feel very spread-out and hence the recurring déjà-vu and always-at-it sensation.

I've spent days getting ready for Baby Girl's 5th Bday party. 10 guests (8 girls and 2 boys) are expected tomorrow at 2:30pm. And I do not have the impression that I'm ready at all.

The "Tree House"

From the inside

I've cleared out the spiderwebs in the tiny loft where they used to make balsamic vinegar in and transformed it into a "tree-house". I've moved all the boxes into the guest room and turned the spare room into a play cum movie room. I've made sandwiches, marinated meat for the satay etc. I've planned the outdoor games and prepared the terrace for them.

The little door leads to the loft

Then we woke up in the morning to see snow covering the fields and of course the terrace. Will have to move the games to the arcade.

I baked the cake and prepared the rest of the food. Hub set up the projector for the movie and helped to dress up the kids.

Half the guests arrived on time and the other half an hour late. In fact 2 said they would come but didn't and did not even call to say they couldn't come. That made starting the outdoor games difficult and after a few attempts to get them going, I gave up and moved everybody into the house. In Italy, most parents also tend to stay for the party so I had people to finish up the food for me :-).

They loved the loft and the tiny bouncy castle (and destroyed it) though they may have been too young for the movie Arthur and the Invisibles. Not for the chips and popcorn though, I had to keep the supply flowing, boy, could these kids snack!

At the movies

The chocolate cake I made was very good though Baby Girl was disappointed that it wasn't a Strawberry Shortcake (but sorry it's not the season for berries leh) and most of the food was actually consumed by the parents. I almost managed to avoid the real playroom being run over but of course those kids discovered it on their way out and promptly whooshed through it leaving toys everywhere before they actually left. Sigh...

I for one am just glad that this is all over - till Spring when we celebrate Baby Boy's 4th Bday. Now you know why people prefer to pay others to do the job nowadays, but Hub didn't want to do Opla again and the MacDonald's here's very tiny...So ze house it had to be.

mercredi, décembre 12, 2007

Grilled Chicken and Aceto Balsamico di Modena

Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

One thing I really like about Modena is its Balsamic Vinegar. Most people elsewhere probably wouldn't know that like wine, this vinegar comes in all ages, taste and texture. They use it here to dip cheese in, cook with risotto, serve grilled meats with, toss salads in, dribble over ice cream...In my farmhouse, I even have a little loft where they used to make the famous vinegar in.

So occasionally when I want to take the easy option, I'll marinate my chicken breasts with some salt, pepper, ground coriander, cinnamon and lemon juice and then grill them. Then serve them on a bed of mixed salad leaves with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and of course a very generous amount of expensive old family-reserve Balsamic Vinegar. A sure hit with old and young in this family. Easy cooking.

A few people have been telling me that I am stressed out and should get some help with the kids and the housework. In fact over dinner in our favourite restaurant the other evening, I had an argument with the Hub when he told me that I should get a live-in maid.

The very thought of it is stressing me out even more. I like being alone. What am I going to do with the maid when my kids are at school? She's not a broom that you can hide in the cupboard when you no longer need her. She will be paid for what she is doing certes, but these women wouldn't be able to go home daily after work and would have left their own families (maybe even children the age of yours) to join and look after yours. It would only be decent and very important to treat them like family. But she wouldn't be family. That's the problem.

And I don't know how we manage to get them so cheap in Singapore, but over here in Europe there are minimum salaries to respect and high taxes to pay - and the former is only correct and dignified. So I don't think we'll be able to afford one truth be told.

Then there'll be the difficulty of combatting the bureaucracy here to get legal papers for the girl (no way that I'm hiring anybody illegally). And like everyone she'll need a health insurance which is very costly especially here in Italy. Without a car you can't go anywhere in Modena, so what do I do? Chauffer her around or lock her up in the house during her time off? When we go on holiday, of course we'll have to bring her along.

I cook rather well. And many different stuff from around the world. How many maids will be able to do that? Doesn't that mean that I will have to cook and cook for more people everyday? Even have to respect what she likes or doesn't like to eat. Because do not forget that she is another human being so maid or not, you have to take into account her personal wishes.

Like you and me, she'll have her ups and downs, happy and sad. Will you ignore them? She will miss her family and friends. Maybe have winter blues like myself. Can you understand that?

I know I will and I can. And I do not know why but many people do unburden themselves the minute they see me. I have Aunt Agony written all over my forehead probably. And I do not want to give myself added stress and problems just for that.

So no, thank you. I need help, but I do not need a live-in maid. I have difficulty finding a reliable cleaning lady so I vacuum one floor each week and mop once every 2 months. The Dry Cleaners are cut-throat in their prices so I'll have to suffer the ironing when the shirts run out. I run around all the time and do not seem to accomplish anything. I am slow. I am not a housework passionado like my mother. But what can I say except "So? "

Told the Hub that if he wanted to live in a hotel-like house he could always move to one.

mardi, décembre 11, 2007

False alert - and please accept my apologies

Please let me start by apologising.

I have spent a sleepless night and spent the whole of today walking around like a zombie. I was almost nodding off at the wheel and felt nauseous the whole afternoon. I kept seeing the faces of my children in the place of the Iranian boy.

I am no Christian but started to pray for peace of mind as you know.

I was depressed, angry, hopeless, sad...

And serves me right for forgetting what I usually always do - verify information before starting to believe.

Though please understand that usually pictures do not lie and when it comes to topics like Islamic law, Iran, abused children one may be tempted to jump quickly and cry foul...

I couldn't find peace of mind. I couldn't understand how anybody could do this to children. I wanted to contact Amnesty International and so on.

Then suddenly I remembered that I have not verified this info. And my good friend who sent it to me is a - Jew. Ahem.

Also that once a taxi at Bangkok airport ran its front wheel over my foot while I was trying to board it and it didn't hurt. And my foot is not fleshy like the rest of me.

And I've told G who had lived 5 years in Iran about it and she said that she was surprised as she had never witnessed or heard of any such thing while she was there.

The pictures were true. Only the captions were not.

Apparently it involved a street stunt.

And there was a last picture (that I found elsewhere on the Net) showing the boy safe and sound at the end.

I am so relieved I want to cry. It doesn't matter if I look like a fool. He's OK!

And may this serve as a lesson to me, fancy a girl with 2 Post-Grad degrees in Political Science not verifying her sources before publishing them. Shame on me.

Please accept my sincere apologies.

Having said that, there is nonetheless truly lots of injustice, suffering and exploitation of children around the world - whether in labour, war, famine, poverty or in simple ignorance. I will keep them in my thoughts and will cherish my children all the more for that. I've been having difficult moments with Eldest Son as some of you may know and after yesterday I realised how childhood is short and fragile and that I should really try to be less hard on him.

Please excuse me again.

Please Spare the Children

Picasso's Child with a Dove

It's 4:30 in the morning. Hub has left the house more than an hour ago to join his mistress office. There's going to be a general strike in Italy and Directors have been called to join the office at 3am to avoid being locked out and also to help prevent things from getting out of hand.

I could enter into a discussion about the right to strike, whether when the economy is not doing well you should still have the right to ask for more, or whether one should strike just to not be taken for granted etc, but I will not today. Suffice that the Hub has to work even more on a day when others have decided not to work at all.

I couldn't sleep no more. Probably due to the heavy dinner we had before we went to bed. But probably also due to the malaise that I have been living through ever since my Jewish friend Vanessa sent me 3 photos yesterday. Of an 8 year-old boy in Iran having his arm crushed by a car as punishment for having been caught stealing bread in a market. I am so depressed. I can't get it out of my head.

I am not a Christian. Though I believe that one God or more must exist somewhere. And one thing I've learnt to do in my 4 years in a Methodist school is pray. Not the let-me-strike-loto kind of prayer that leaves you feeling stupid and guilty after, but the kind of prayer that allows you to give voice and order to the myriad of feelings, hopes, worries and thoughts somewhere inside yourself.

I prayed for strength. For peace and wisdom. I asked that if children are and have to be born, to please spare them from (more) suffering, to please give them a chance in life.

I will not enter into a discussion about Islamic Laws, about judging children like adults for (certain) crimes, about poverty and ruling Governments' (ir)responsibilities, child labour, child prostitution, civil and other wars, the huge income gap in the world, capitalism, climate change and how it worsens poor countries' capacity to deal with natural catastrophies, brèf, about all the mal that grown-ups have wrought and continue to inflict on our children...

Though God knows that my parents' embarrassment has always been my being a quarrelsome child, picking verbal fights with my elders; the sometimes heated discussions I've had with my peers at the Faculty (Political Science); my Hub's uneasiness when I enter into debates with dinner guests and start to scream at the dinner table. No, I've no control over my tongue. I've always spoken my mind and hope I always will.

But entering into such discussions right now will not give me peace. Help me to sleep. I need strength to continue living. I need to hug my children, know that they are safe and happy, and not feel guilty about cocooning them when the world out there can be so harsh on so many other children of their age. I need help and guidance especially for Eldest Son, that I be given/granted the wisdom and the strength to be a better mother, to be able to help him as I have not been able to because I am such an impatient, demanding and unforgiving person.

I do not know if my prayer will be answered. But it is a relief to be able to give voice. To spit it out. Put them on the table. All these are not new. They have been gnawing at me for as long as I've known about them, but now and then pictures like the ones I've received yesterday stop me from sleeping. And I need to stop, take stock of my thoughts and ask for the strength to continue with my life in the face of my impuissance vis-à-vis all the evil and injustice in this world. For only when I am at peace with myself can I be at peace with the rest of the world. Be able to face my children when they wake up. Remember that no matter how stupid, naughty or painful they may be, I love them and need to protect them and give them their chance in life like I hope and pray that all those other suffering children out there would be given theirs too.

Many of you know how to pray better than I do. Please do so.

lundi, décembre 10, 2007

Natale Bimbi

Massa's Signature

Ferrari's Christmas Party for children or Natale Bimbi is an event. There are normally 2 sessions (morning from 10 to 1 or afternoon from 3 to 6) though the morning one is usually more popular as it is believed that the pilots often attend the party in the morning.

We turned up at 10:30 am on Sunday having waken up later than we planned to. It was raining as we walked from the car to the tents. But as you would have it, the President of the company arrived just as we did and he instructed his body guard to shelter me with his umbrella while he himself shared his with Hubby :-).

Two circus tents had been set up in the Pista di Fiorano. Inside, it was really festive, with clowns, jugglers, hot chocolate, Panettone (an Italian Christmas brioche), face-painting, hula hoops, decorate-a-santa, diabolo etc stands. Then the circus performance started at 11:15 and we had the usual clown act, rope walking, trapeze, dance and song...and animals. Elephant, horses, dalmatians, horned dunno-what, camels, lamas etc. The kids were fascinated by these animals but I couldn't help thinking that it must be horrible for them to live with a circus. It's bad enough in a zoo, but in a circus? Think cages, whips, training and lots of travelling. They should just fly all of us to Kenya for a Safari. LOL

Eldest Son was a little unhappy as he knew that he wouldn't get a present like the rest of the kids. They would only be for children aged from 0 to 10 and he just turned 11. R's son who's 10 got an iPod, something that my boy has been desiring. Mais c'est la vie, pas de chance.

However, he knew that this could be his chance to maybe ask for a signature from the pilots. Kimi was there as was Massa. I was actually quite uneasy for a while as I didn't know if he'll summon up enough courage to ask them for a signature and they may be there but it wouldn't be easy approaching them. And don't look at me, I'm allergic to stars.

But he must be really motivated because at one point he shot off from his seat and returned with a signature from Massa. He saw the pilot leaving and decided to do something about it. Missed Kimi though. Will now have to find another occasion to get his signature. But this one maybe I'll have to plan for it, like get the guy's photo and find some friend in the company who's always with the pilots to get it signed. Do not like asking for favours, but I hate to see my boy disappointed.

It was raining really heavily as we were leaving. But this time the Ferrari vans and buses had been mobilised to serve as shuttle buses to the gift collection centre. Baby Girl had a doll and Baby Boy some educational toy. Hmm...They only give the really good stuff to the 10-year olds who would be getting their last Christmas present from the company, from the look of things.

Now I'll have to crack my brain and decide what to give everybody for Christmas. The problem is that I give them presents all year round for no rhyme and reason and then when it comes to the big occasions I have no idea what to offer. Baby Girl wants a Nintendo DS Lite so that's as good as given, I've set my good friend in Singapore on the hunt. Eldest Son wants more PS2 games like Dragon Ball Z dunno-what 1 2 3. No idea what to get Baby Boy. The Hub wants Santa to offer him a new rasor. And Santa will kindly offer him one that doesn't make as much noise as the one he's currently using. And who will give Santa a gift?

Festa della Vittoria

Our grey VIP entry pass

Ferrari, as you may know, is the 2007 Formula 1 World Champion (Constructor and Pilot). And 2007 is also its 60th year of existence. As such, a celebration was called for and it took place on Saturday 08 December in the Malaguti Indoor Stadium in Bologna (next to Ikea and Carrefour).

We attended the concert all 5 of us. Quite hassle-free thank God as we had a special sticker for reserved parking at the stadium's doorstep, followed by a special entrance where we had free-flow champagne, orange juice, ice cream, foccacia and hot chocolate to warm us up before we go deaf in the hall.

Met quite a number of people we knew, only we couldn't sit together as we had special seats in the VIP area up front - nearest to the stage and the loudspeakers. Wish I had thought to bring the ear plugs leftover from the Mugello race.

The 3 Pilots called up to the stage to imitate the sounds made by their cars

Eldest Son was really excited though as we were seated quite close to the Pilots (Schumacher, Kimi and Massa), Todt and Michelle Yeoh were also there. I was just a little troubled over the fact that we didn't have any real food in the little buffet and didn't even see them walk past me to their seats...

Fiorello and Laura Pausini

The concert was very good though I couldn't understand 10% of whatever's happening. Rosario Tindaro Fiorello (radio DJ, actor, imitator and singer) was the main star and he was absolutely hilarious (from what I could gather). They loved him. And Laura Pausini, one of the better-known Italian singers outside Italy (won a Grammy last year), made a star appearance. Hub was wondering why the new F1 boss (whose wife I sat next to at the F1 garden party last summer) negotiated her appearance fee himself (when normally it's Hub's Dept's job) but we were given to understand during the concert that those 2 are friends, Pausini having grown up in the Emilia-Romagna region. Okay...

Baby Boy's little windfall

The evening ended at midnight (kids growing cranky by then) with balloons and coloured paper bits raining down on us, probably the highlight of the evening for the Babies. I just couldn't help thinking of the amount of money it cost and what a waste to just sweep it up and throw it away. I know, so spoil sport of me.

Hope we'll be able to wake up in time for the next day's Natale Bimbi celebration.

jeudi, décembre 06, 2007

Tag - You're It!

I've had a difficult few days. The electricity company said that electricity would be cut for 10 minutes and it lasted 4 hours. I was stuck at home, couldn't open the gate; One of the kids broke another DVD (2nd in a few months) and it was this thing with hammering it to pieces that is a bit painful. The first time it was Baby Girl (the cartoon Valiant) and she got the caning of her life from me for that simply because I caught her at it and my short temper is a force to be reckoned with. The last time it was Baby Boy (Monster Inc.) and he was lucky that I found that out after they've all gone to bed and had the night to let the anger dissipate. His breaking into tears when I told him that Santa wouldn't give him any toy for that was enough to make me soften and decide not to punish him. Big eyes and big tears = potent combination.

Then the list of things to deal with that I'm confronted with is disheartening. I do not know where to start from. I've been spending a few days trying to clear out this little spider-infested loft at the top of my house and transform it into a "tree house" for Baby Girl's Bday party, as it may be too cold for her guests to play outside and I want to minimise damage to the inside of the house. I've got this little bouncy castle that I wanted to blow up and keep indoors but of course I couldn't find any electric pump to buy in Modena. I have moved all my boxes from the spare room to the guest room and we're going to screen a movie in there (on the wall) but of course I've yet to buy the movie (Arthur and the Invisibles).

I still have the German Tax returns to handle (the part to deal with before you pass the baton to the Tax Specialist to actually file them for you), the trip to Desaru to plan, presents to buy for Singapore, the packing to do, tonnes of washing to do, hang out, take in and fold, forms for the school to fill out, the one Christmas card to send to my French teacher (sorry all the others, I have no energy to write cards or send presents this year and especially do not want to have to go to the lousy post office here), I need to find money to pay for the unrented flat in Paris and all the works going on in the building etc, continue to shop for food, cook, chauffer the kids to school, ECAs, Bday parties...arrgh I'm so slow and inefficient and incapable of dealing with everything at the same time!

So I'm blogging now to let out steam. Coz unlike the Dutchess, the Hub seems quite immune to my whinging while some friends do read the blog :-). And that Hub in question has disappeared most nights this week anyway. Ferrari has dinners almost every evening this week for different groups of its employees and as a member of the Board Hub has to attend almost every one of them. So much for his diet.

The Dutchess tagged me for the following and I guess I'd better do it or she'll think that I'm rejecting her love :

W H O . W A S . T H E. L A S T . P E R S O N

1. You hung out with? The kids
2. Saw you cry? My Eldest. I was blogging about something sad I think
3. Went to the movies with you? The Hub, kids and MIL. We watched Ratatouille in France. Easy to remember as we rarely go to the cinemas nowadays since we hardly understand movies in German or Italian.
4. You went to the mall with? The Babies - HUGE mistake
5. You went to dinner with? The kids
6. You talked on the phone to? Hubby
7. Said ‘I love you’ to you and really meant it? Baby Boy
8. Made you laugh? Eldest Son. We saw some creature running across the driveway in the dark and it had something shiny on it. Eldest Son said that maybe it was La Souris (The Mouse or Tooth Fairy for the English) running off to collect more teeth in the neighbourhood (he just lost another tooth)

WO U L D . Y O U . R A T H E R?

1. Pierce your nose or tongue? If I no longer need glasses, I may replace them with a diamond on the nose
2. Be serious or be funny? I would prefer to be funny and be able to be funny even when I'm being serious
3. Drink whole or skim milk? Whole
4. Spend time with your parents or enemies? Parents

D O . Y O U . P R E F E R.

1. Flowers or candy? Candy
2. Gray or black? Black
3. Color or Black and white photos? Black & White
4. Lust or love? Can I not have both?
5. Sunrise or sunset? Sunrise. When it turns dark I usually feel bad
6. M and Ms or Skittles? Skittles
7. Staying up late or waking up early? Staying up late if it's because I'm blogging (like now) or reading

D O . Y O U . P R E F E R.

1. Sun or moon? Sun, as that was what came to the mind, but really I should prefer the moon...
2. Winter or Fall? I start getting the blues from the beginning of Fall thru Winter. Do you think I would prefer Winter or Fall?
3. Left or right? Right
4. 10 acquaintances or having two best friends? Two best friends, stupid question
5. Sunny or rainy? Sunny. Hate getting wet.
6. Vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream? Chocolate

A B O U T . Y O U

1. What time is it? 00:43
2. Nickname(s)? Ah Pui (Fatty), Grosse Vache (Fat Cow)
3. What is your birth date? 30 October
4. What do you want? Good health, no wrinkles, more orgasms, more wealth and less cellulite
5. Where do you want to live? Wherever has good weather and especially lots of good food and shopping
6. How many kids do you want? None. But I have 3 and am much blessed
7. You want to get married? Already am, but depending on who I next meet, it could happen again :-)


1. Nervous habit? Nagging/preaching
2. Are you double jointed? What's that?
3. Can you roll your tongue? Yes
4. Can you raise one eyebrow? Think so
5. Can you cross your eyes? Nope. I've one lazy eye so they have a tendancy to wander apart not cross
6. Do you make your bed daily? Almost never. What's the point? It'll be messy again in a few hours
7. Can you draw? Depends on what you mean by drawing (grin)


1. Which shoe goes on first? Right
2. Ever thrown a shoe at someone? Don't think so, though have been using it lots lately to squash spiders and other insects
3. What is your craziest experience ever? Would have wanted it to be a Gang Bang but have missed the boat and now nothing seems crazy...


1. Do you twirl your spaghetti or cut it? Twirl
2. Have you ever eaten spam? Yes
3. Favourite ice cream? Yam ice cream my neighbour used to bring back from the Philippines before her Filipino daughter-in-law died of bronchitis at the age of 35
4. How many kinds of cereal are in your cabinet? Two
5. What’s your favourite beverage? Water
6. Do you cook? Yes

IN . T H E . L A S T . M O N T H . H A V E . Y O U

1. Bought something? Did I breathe?
2. Sang? I sing beautifully if I may say so - the mites in the car's carpet can attest to that
3. Been hugged? Yes
4. Felt stupid? Yeah, like now. Should have gone to bed instead
5. Missed someone? My maternal grandfather
6. Danced crazy? Never. Don't know how to dance at all
7. Gotten your hair cut? No. Usually only have my hair cut when I return to Singapore
8. Cried? Yes
9. Lied? Sure. But nothing that should get me to hell for. Usually stuff like, "Where's my Nintendo DS?" "Have no idea" "Did you buy another dress?" "No, got that ages ago"

Whew! Finished it at last. I'd like to pass the torture love to a few people who may not have (public) blogs : Tag- You're it!

1. Bella Tigre
2. Frau LOKE
3. Margarita
4. Angela of Padova
5. Pris (again)

mercredi, décembre 05, 2007

Fondant au Chocolat

Fondant au Chocolat

At the Christmas Fair, the most popular dessert was of course French - Fondant au Chocolat. French classic and very easy to boot. E, a mother from France made it, which reminded me that I used to do so quite alot myself but have stopped doing so about 2 years ago and do not even know why. Maybe 'coz it's too rich?

But I started making it again last week, just chocolate, with bananas, mixed with white chocolate etc etc. And I'm going to make it for Baby Girl's Birthday party on Saturday next week.

For about 10 Muffin-sized Cakes :

200g Dark good-quality Chocolate
150g Sugar
125g Butter
3 Eggs
50g Flour

Break the chocolate and butter into pieces and microwave them for a minute or 2 till they become soft. Mix well till they become creamy and set the mixture aside to cool a little. If you wish to add a bit of orange taste to it, add in some grated orange zest.

Beat the sugar and eggs till thick and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate mixture.

Fold in the flour gently and take care to mix it well.

Grease a cake mould and pour in the mixture.

Bake at 190ºC in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes (20 if you want a more compact cake as otherwise the heart of the cake will be slightly uncooked). If doing individual portions, 10-12 minutes will do.

Serve with some whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream if you wish.

Absolutely delicious if I may say so. But watch out for the calories.


Got tagged twice in the same week just when it wasn't one of those weeks when I had to scratch my head to find something to blog about :-). But tags are interesting because you get to know more about the person who tagged you, and you get to know more about yourself (like how much you've forgotten about what you've done, read or whatever if you hadn't blogged about it earlier).

I'm going to start with the shorter Meme (courtesy of East Meets West Kitchen) :

  1. A movie that made you laugh - Drunken Master (Jackie Chan)

  2. A book that made you cry - The Bond Maid (Catherine Lim)

  3. A favorite childhood memory - Going to the cinema with my maternal grandfather and him spreading out his newspaper so that I could sit on it on the floor (we only bought 1 ticket, you see)

  4. A Best Friend - My brain

  5. Your favorite animal - My vintage crocodile skin bag

  6. Your favorite food - I'm such a glutton this is difficult. But how about Fish Balls? Simply because I can never tire of them.

  7. An item of clothing you cannot do without - Honestly I would prefer simply to do without. But if I had to, then let it be my push-up bra.

  8. Something you collect - dust

  9. Your favorite store to shop in - Polo Ralph Lauren in Metzingen (but that's history now)

  10. Your favorite flower - Orchid

And let me pass this on to friends I've not seen or may not see for a while :

  1. Pris
  2. Hornbill
  3. Bibou's Mom

mardi, décembre 04, 2007

I got a Prezzie for X'mas!

Prezzie from E

I was having Italian class on Monday morning when the doorbell rang. A parcel for me? Didn't buy anything on the Net lately...

From E in Turin. Opened it up and saw a shoe box. Why would E send me shoes? Did she even know my size (I've big feet for a short girl)? Does she know I only wear natural materials? That I like red? Maybe gold. That I always buy heels but only wear flats?

Hmm...opened it and found a lovely greeting card (did you make it yourself?), Torino Guide (to visit Torino without you?), chocolates (yummy, still couldn't bear to open it yet), nougat (poor teeth) and a packet of X'mas paper napkins (probably knew that I'm too cheapskate to buy decorated napkins - haha)!

Thank you very much, E and Merry Christmas to you and M too!

Toasts and Puffs

Chilli Padi Sardine Puffs

M, R's French Hubby, sent Eldest Son home from Tennis this evening. His 2nd son is in the same group as my boy. I normally just thank him and wave him home as we do not have much to talk about. But this evening, he told me that he was in Singapore last week (his first visit) and that he found it a really beautiful country.

But of course! M is THE guy in charge of logistics for all of Ferrari's F1 races. He was in Singapore to check out the hotels for the team, the race tracks (actually Marina Bay) etc. And of course the Singapore races will have to be in September next year, September being the month when the new school year begins in Europe.

Not that we would be there even if it's going to be during our school holidays as we are honestly no F1 fans. Besides these races cost the earth and all that to go watch cars drive past you so fast that you can't see anything plus they'll make you deafer in the process.

But I'll go there as some kind of patriotic geste - mind you, Singapore's first F1 Race!

Though in case some of the family and friends start wondering if the Hub couldn't help obtain a ticket or 2 for the races, trust that the answer would be niente. I've tried my luck the other day (thought the parents may want to go) and he had said no without hesitation. I am still very pissed off about it truth be told.

But Madame has her own means. M said this evening that if it's for my parents he'll get me the tickets pas de problème. Well, let's hope he really meant it.

Feeling quite pleased after our little exchange, I felt like whistling (if I knew how to) and decided to make a few favourite things in the Hub's absence (just as well or I may be tempted to snigger in his face). I had 2 cans of sardines and so in they went with some chilli padi and lemon juice into some puff pastry to become Sardine Puffs.

French Toasts

Then I saw the half a can of sweetened condensed milk in the fridge and French Toasts came to mind. My favourite recipe being the one we learnt in Home Economics class at the age of 15. Just said milk with eggs, salt, pepper and some ground cinnamon. And I like to lightly toast my bread before dipping it in the egg mixture and frying it in some butter. On a grill like for steak.

And then I finished my glutton act by eating a whole crab all by myself.

lundi, décembre 03, 2007

Happy Birthday Baby Girl

Paper Plates

Baby Girl turned 5 yesterday. But with me being so busy for the school's Fair, I had to postpone her Bday Party to the middle of the month (this coming weekend we'll be having the Ferrari Natale Bimbi or Children's Christmas Party plus the Victory Party celebrating Ferrari's double win this year). Besides, I'm not ready for it anyway. I still haven't finished clearing out the room meant for the party. But I'm at it, I'm on it...

So on Friday last week, at the same time as I was busy moving tables for the X'mas Fair, I managed to squeeze in a little celebration for Baby Girl in her classroom. Ordered a cake from the best cake shop in Modena (the only I know, so it was a coincidence) and served it on paper plates with Beauty, Cinderella and Arielle on them. Both cake and plates cost quite a lot, I can't help but wish to lament over it. Have never paid 40 euros for a small child's Bday cake before. That could have gotten me a cake from La Durée in the Champs Elysées. Prices in Modena are really crazy. And if I'm more thick-skinned, I would have collected the plates for re-use as it was such a waste dumping such pretty plates after just a piece of cake. But all I could do is whinge after that...

It was a good cake though and the kids loved it. Many asked for seconds. We invited Baby Boy's Kindergarten class to join us and I offered his teacher Cristina a plate of my favourite petits fours (from the same shop) as it was also her Birthday. In the car, I was tempted to eat them all myself truth be told, but somehow managed to resist. Barely...

I think I'll bake my own cake for the Birthday Party in 2 weeks. Rather put the money in the Thank-you gifts that I'll be giving away to our little guests at the end of the party. Kids just love that. I know Baby Boy does. He's always asking when he could go to another Birthday party.

Gift Hunting Season

64.46 euros for this

To tell the truth, since we are not practicising any religion, Christmas is not something that we really celebrate. Though we do normally decorate a Christmas tree for the sake of the kids and give them presents (any excuse to do so is always welcome). And I also send out ONE Christmas card each year - to my former French teacher Monsieur Baillon, without whom I may not have gone to France in the first place etc etc.

I had a fleeting thought about my coming trip home the other day and suddenly realised that it would be Christmas when we go back this year - meaning shouldn't I be bringing a few presents home?

I usually bring a few products from wherever we are at the moment e.g. wine, cheese, foie gras, chocolates, olive oil etc to my family, relatives, friends and neighbours when I go home. But this year being the first year that the Hub is working in Ferrari, I thought that it may be nice to offer a few Ferrari souvenirs to a few special people.

So armed with the knowledge that last month's salary has just arrived in the bank, I walked happily into the Ferrari Store in Maranello and did an about turn almost as quickly. Have they gone mad or what? Can you believe that they are selling 3 pencils for 20 euros? And if they come in a leather etui, they cost 40. Leather Key chains at 65, silk and cashmere scarves at 153, caps at 25, the Year Book goes for 80 etc etc. Who would pay so much for things like that?

But having recovered from my initial shock, I suppose I'd better make my way back there sometime this week to get a few things. I do not get to go home often and soon it would be not at all once Eldest Son reaches 13. Next year Ferrari will be hot in Singapore when the F1 race turns up at our doorstep. Money comes and money goes, I'd just have to pretend that I've eaten them all. No more restaurants until we go home then.

samedi, décembre 01, 2007

Christmas Fair 2007

Programme of Events

Je suis épuisée. And jolly glad that it's finally over. But the kids had a good time and I hope we made enough money for the school so that it made it worth the time, money and effort.

Solliciting food donations was no fun when you couldn't force/blackmail/threaten people to do it. I'm new to the school so personal connections were few and I couldn't count on people liking my face to do it. So I had to work on my communication (enthusiastic letter, emails...), be thick-skinned and just ask people in the face if they were going to cook me something (and daring them to say no). I cooked 5 dishes myself, so at least nobody could accuse me of not doing what I've been preaching.

The only prob was that the Hubby didn't cooperate very much on the days leading to the Fair. Certes, he had alot of work as usual. But if I'm going to drop dead all of a sudden, surely the company will be able to survive without him.

On Friday evening, the night I was to do the bulk of the cooking and needed him to help babysit, he returned home at 11pm. Later than usual, in other words. He did it to spite me or what?

On Saturday morning, when I was desperately trying to save the lentil curry I messed up the night before when Baby Girl peed in her pants in the living room, Monsieur spent all morning stuck in his chair reading his emails. Then he had the cheek to complain that he didn't get to play golf. What the *+#%?...

Anyway, we arrived just before the Buffet was scheduled to start and I had my 5 dishes with me (and they survived the car journey, thank God) : Vegetable & Egg Samossas, Chicken Korma, Lentil & Potato Coriander Curry, Spiced Basmati Rice and Orange Pound Cake. And it was quite amazing as we had quite a lot of food donations and had to find another table in extremis to be able to display all of them at the same time. I was told that this was the first year we had so many dishes and especially so much variety. What a relief.

Part of the spread

As I was late, I had to ask for help to get the dishes rearranged in such a way that the vegetarian and the non-vegetarian dishes were separated. Dessert on another table, of course. Then it all started and I didn't get a single moment to breathe, the queue was endless. I was in charge of the cashbox and it was fortunate that I've eaten a few burgers at MacDonald's as I remembered basics like
  1. always greet your clients
  2. tell them how it works
  3. do not forget to propose dessert and other promotions (i.e. recipe booklet in our case)
  4. answer questions about food and ingredients with a knowledgeable air
  5. return change with a smile
  6. hope that they enjoy their meal

Cover of my recipe booklet

I didn't get to eat till when it was almost all over. All my curries and samossas were sold out within the first 20 minutes (yeap, first to go) and I had to promise a few disappointed people to cook them some another time.

R's Krispies Cookies

It was quite educational day as I discovered a pretty nice Swedish dish known as Jansson's Temptation (with potatoes and anchovies) and I saw what Krebinetter (a Danish dish) looked like.

Dessert Spread

I missed the auction but apparently there were a number of rather interesting things for the hammer e.g. a week in a villa in Cyprus, Ferrari goodies, decorated X'mas tree, toys, vegetable hamper, 1-hour massage, my cooking class (went to an English mother whose husband liked my hot lentil curry)...

Paintings for Sale

Baby Boy bought himself a few jars of sweets, an old pirate ship (from the 2nd hand toy stand) and the Hub bought up all of the kids' paintings at 5 euros each. Eldest Son's was really quite lousy and as the Vice Principal's also the Art Teacher, I tried to take her to task for it but she claimed that she wasn't the one who got the kids to do it...Got a set of kids' sofas from the 2nd hand toy shop with the idea of using them to decorate the extra room for Baby Girl's Bday party and Eldest Son for once only spent a 10th of what we gave him as he wanted to save the rest for his piggy bank. As he's losing more of his milk teeth lately, he's obsessed with money and could spend hours counting the coins in his pig.

The Stage

Well, now I can get on with my life. There are still loads to do before we leave for Singapore and I'm not sure I'll be able to deal with everything in time.