dimanche, avril 26, 2009

Singapore Day 2009 - at last

Singapore Day 2009

Let me set this straight : I didn't go there for the free food. I wasn't so desperate that I would pay 200 euros for an air ticket and another 200 for my tiny hotel room and London transportation just to attend Singapore Day 2009 and eat. At this moment, it would cost just as much flying all the way to Singapore if it's just for the food.

Singapore Humour

Believe it or not, I am proud that my country wanted to organise an event for us Singaporeans living overseas (with the added intention of wooing us home) and I felt that since London is just a 2-hour plane journey away, I should support the event. Besides, it would give me a reason to leave the kids with Hub for 2 days - something I've not really done before. And I hoped to catch up with a few of my friends who would be joining the event from Paris. Finally, I just wanted any excuse to go to London.

View from the plane (maybe Belgium)

I flew with Ryanair from Bologna to London-Stansted. Plane was delayed, then the Stansted Express train was delayed along the way (which was stupid as I paid £10 more for the train thinking it wouldn't go through traffic jams like a coach), meaning that I arrived in London itself 2 hours later than expected. I then made the mistake of buying the Visitor Oyster Card from the airport as it would be cheaper and easier getting the normal Oyster card from the Underground itself. Finally I was charged £5 for a journey that would have cost less than 2 because when I alighted at Hackney Downs (to go to the Burberry Outlet, what else) I couldn't find the card reader and didn't tap my card on my way out.

Visitor Oyster Card

Other than that, boy, London is shopping paradise. I went there planning to eat and ended up shopping till I literally dropped. Within a few hours I've busted both my baggage and pocket allowances. Just Burberry, Westfield Mall (one of the biggest in Europe) and Harrods...And I didn't even get to visit Oxford Street, Whiteleys, Saks or Neiman Marcus. And my 2nd day in London was frustrating since I couldn't buy anything anymore. I must return...

Burberry Outlet (29 Chatham Place, Hackney)

But the consuming euphoria was shortlived probably tainted by years living outside big cities. In Stuttgart the Germans don't shop much, they usually put their money in big houses and big cars; In Modena, there are few shops and whatever they contain cost the earth. The anti-climax after my shopping high was therefore a feeling of incomprehension. How could these people consume as much as they do? Everywhere you turn people are consuming. It's crazy and I wonder if not a little immoral. Hypocrite me, I know.

Still, I *heart* London (though maybe not the CCTVs everywhere! And they call Singapore a Police State...) There is so much to see and do. Shop and eat. Would have loved to visit a museum, catch a musical. How I've missed living in a big, vibrant and cosmopolitan city. There are people of all colours and sizes everywhere you go. In forums dominated by Americans, they would be warning you about how seedy and dangerous Hackney is. I was surprised to turn up and see how colourful the neighbourhood was, and how friendly and helpful all the migrants living there were. And loved the smell of curry and fried chicken in the streets. And the fact that you could walk into Tesco with a shopping bag and the security guard wouldn't seal it with stapler pins or another plastic bag. The Italians are paranoid when it comes to this.

Baby Matteo - Wendy and Franck's cutie

I've also walked till I got blisters in my feet. And I loved that. With Wendy, Franck and baby Matteo we walked from Harrods to my hotel in Bayswater on Saturday and that took us a lovely 45 minutes through beautiful Hyde Park.

Room above Circle Line

My hotel. Hyde Park Towers (3*) at Bayswater. Tiny room with a single bed and tiny en-suite bathroom. With the underground train running under it every 5 minutes from 5am till past midnight (and shaking the furniture in the room). But I expected that since I've read comments on the Net on the hotel and I knew that you couldn't ask for much when booking a single room in a city like London. Overall I'm quite happy with it otherwise. Room was clean and comfortable, very brilliantly located and even has a TV (though British television sucked). Heard the hotel has a good breakfast, but never got round to eating it. I took away lots of food (e.g. Prawn Dumpling Noodles, Cantonese Roast Duck, Seafood Hor Fun...) from 2 Chinese restaurants (Hung Tao and Four Seasons) in the neighbourhood plus a bun from Cinnabon one night at 10pm and had it for dinner, supper and breakfast all within 8 hours. Put on a kilo over the weekend. Ate so much I couldn't sleep.

SUKA London Bus

Singapore Day 2009. Wendy got me a seat on the double-decker London bus booked by SUKA (UK's Singapore Club) and it brought us to Hampton Court Palace. Thanks to her fast pass we managed to get in without queueing up and therefore were among the first people to - eat. There were more than 20 Makansutra hawker stalls serving food from Kueh Chap to Katong Laksa, to Satay, Roti Prata, Char Kway Teow, Mee Siam, Chilli Crabs, Chui Kueh, Muah Chee, Old Chang Kee Curry Puffs, Dough fritters, Indian Rojak, Yeo's Green Bean Soy Milk, kacang putih etc. OK, the food didn't taste as good as they would in Singapore (because they had to make do with locally-sourced ingredients) and some of the queues were really long - but it's still so good to be eating Singapore food and queueing up with a friend or 2.

Hampton Court Palace

And the Hampton Court Palace grounds were huge. There were 7000 of us (funny enough - many many Malaysians) and still enough room for everybody. We had goodie bags (the MICA one was great, I loved the t-shirt, Jazz CD containing Singapore oldies, the toys from the old days...), free magazines from Singapore, manhunters, performances from the Dim Sum Dollies, Liang Ziqiang etc. The mobile toilets were clean, there were people around to pick up rubbish, bref, the organisation was top. The day was sunny, making it so nice to picnic on the grass (individual mats provided) and guess what? I met my old friend Harin! She was manning the REACH stand. Also met my brother's boss from PSD. She confirmed that he would go far in his career.

Welcome to Singapore Day 2009!

Satay Man

That evening, we arranged to have dinner at Bayswater (they have some of London's best Hong Kong Chinese restaurants there) with MF and Rani (my friends from Paris) and the party enlarged to 9 in total as we bumped into another group of Paris-based Singaporeans on their way to dine at Gold Mine (102 Queensway, Bayswater). Even at past 9pm we had to wait quite a while for a table but it was well worth the wait as the food was really good - especially the Cantonese Roast Duck and Beancurd with Chinese Mushrooms. Wish I could bring some home for Hub as it was his birthday on Sunday, but as you know, my luggage was full. Had a really great time with these people and we were the last to leave the restaurant that evening.

If I had any regret it was the fact that I couldn't have some tim sum at Royal China during my stay. Or buy more. Or have the kids with me (yes, I can be quite masochistic at times). And that I had paid more for the Stansted Express but it had to send me back to the airport - on a coach.

Finally, I left London on a sunny day - and returned to a rainy Modena. C'était le monde à l'envers.

PS : A note on the London Burberry Outlet. It was easy to find, just take a train to Hackney Downs from Liverpool Street station. Walk towards Hackney Central, look out for the Tesco near Morning Lane, walk past it and then turn right after the Duke of Wellington Pub. However prices were only slightly cheaper than in the boutiques and there wasn't much choice, in fact, I suspect that the city boutiques probably would be cheaper during Sale. Still, there were some good buys, I got a £650 silk dress for a fraction of the price, for example. Couldn't find bags or shoes that I like though. Was told that the Burberry at the Bicester Outlet could be a more interesting option. I liked the Burberry store near Harrods - it was BIG.

jeudi, avril 23, 2009

Char Siu Pau (Honey BBQ Pork Buns)

Char Siu Pau

We had Bake Sale and Book Sale at school this morning. Made more than 2 dozen Curry Puffs. Thinking that most people are healthier than myself, I baked most of them and fried half a dozen. Funny enough, the fried ones were snapped up first. What do you know, ah?

Then I had a craving for Char Siu Pau (Honey BBQ Pork Buns). Baby Boy had a play date with a little girl M in his class and knowing that I would be able to prepare the buns and watch them play at the same time, I decided to go ahead and make them.

Before steaming

I have blogged nearly 2 years ago about my Chicken Buns (Gai Pau) and the recipe for the bun is simple, rapid and really quite good. Baby Girl helped roll out some of the dough for the buns. She said it was like playing with Play Dough.


The Honey BBQ Pork I prepared by marinating bite-size pieces of lean pork in some sugar, soy sauce, sherry, plum sauce, 5-spice powder, ground ginger and sesame oil for more than an hour. Then I browned some onions and garlic, added the marinated pork and stir fried till it was almost cooked through. Finally I stirred in some oyster-soy sauce mixed with water and corn starch to thicken the sauce. Left the filling to cool.

Since I had curry puff filling left over, I also made a few Curry Potato and Egg Buns. Baby Girl actually preferred them to the Char Siu Pau.

After this I will try to finish up packing for my trip to London in the morning. I will be away till Sunday. Singapore Day 2009 here I come!

mardi, avril 21, 2009

Pigeon Murder

Scene of the crime

I left home at 14:48 to pick up the kids.

At 15:23, I arrived at my gate only to discover the SDA delivery van leaving my compound - without leaving me my parcel. I have just missed the guy and couldn't call him back. He didn't see me arrive. Hmm, what did I buy this time? Can't really remember.

Then, as I reached the front of my house, I saw a big mess in front of my door. I was sure it was clean when I left the house, why did it look like there's a blob of something where there used to be nothing?

Sent Eldest Son to investigate.

"Mom, it's a dead pigeon. Doesn't have a head. Can see its insides...Blegh."

I hate birds dead or alive. A decapitated one with its innards visible? Feathers everywhere...Is this a sign?

What could have happened in just that 30 minutes of absence?

Who did it?

I have lots of pigeons so I'm not lamenting the loss. Just why couldn't whoever killed this one do it somewhere else. And get the rest of them while it's at it.

Plus I need to get out of my house this afternoon and couldn't bear to walk past the gory sight/site again.

And who's going to clean up? Don't look at me.

Any Sherlock Holmes out there?

There are at least 4 dogs in the neighbourhood. The owner of 2 of them died a few days ago - maybe they have not been fed since.

There are also foxes, cats, falcons around. We've seen some of them, heard the rest.

I don't suppose it could have been a bird fight (we also have pheasants, grouse, woodpeckers, magpies, crows etc), it wouldn't have gotten this violent surely.

What happened. Who murdered the pigeon?

Update : At 15:55, Baby Girl saw another bird picking at the carcass. Gross.

Who's that bird?

15:58 : The same bird flew away with what remained of the pigeon.

Bird(s) no more

Someone get me out of this place!

But at least now I'll only have the feathers, innards and blood to clean up. Unless some other animal's into feathers.

I had planned to roast a chicken this evening for dinner. You can imagine that my heart's no longer in it.

lundi, avril 20, 2009

Return to the Stove

Rice with Nasi Lemak Sambal Chilli

Sometimes it is good to take a break from cooking on a daily basis. I say that as after not cooking for more than a week (when we were on our ski trip), the return to slaving over the stove (after a difficult start) actually felt inspired. At this very moment, I feel like I could do any dish if I set my mind to it. I'm in such a cooking euphoria I've even subscribed for the first time in my life to a food magazine - Maxi Cuisine - before the enthusiasm fizzles out as usual.

This evening I revisited a favourite dish in the family - Indonesian Beef Rendang. Baby Girl had 3 servings of the rich spicy curry. It took me 3 hours to cook the curry but it was well worth it. Hub really enjoyed it too.

Indonesian Beef Rendang

But it was too rich for me at the moment (I seem to be suffering from some indigestion), so I just had some plain jasmine rice with soft tofu and...Nasi Lemak Sambal Chilli. One jar I brought over from Singapore last year. Some of my new friends who have not been to S.E. Asia may remember my telling them that where I come from, we're very fond of eating our food with chilli purée. So shiok.

dimanche, avril 19, 2009

Caramelised Apple Crumble

Caramelised Apple Crumble

It rained. Non-stop since last night. I had Baby Boy's party a month after his birthday hoping that the weather would be good - and it rained. Anyway if I had good luck I would have struck the EuroMillion by now. Should have known.

I have a big house but it contains small rooms everywhere. How to have more than 10 kids in the same space at the same time was the question I constantly asked myself. Besides I'm not like LP, I do not know how to organise party games - especially for 4-5 year olds. The older kids (e.g. siblings who tagged along) on the other hand I could lock them up in Eldest Son's room, he has his own computer with internet access, Playstation 2 etc.

So I had play areas everywhere - like a buffet. Ground floor : Kaufladen, mechanic's work station, toy kitchen, Power Rangers figurines; 1st Floor : Dressing up and make-up, Barbie dolls; 2nd floor : Pirate ship, mini-house (pretend tea party). In case of emergency, I would have screened a video and offered popcorn, but it didn't happen.

I've also planned a parallel party for the parents who stayed : red and white wine, bruschetta, blinis with tarama, apple crumble...Only this time round only 2 mothers stayed. But nothing's lost, I wouldn't have to cook dinner this evening - lots of food prepared in advance.

I made a fusion version of the Apple Crumble this afternoon. France meets England = Caramelised Apple Crumble.

4 Apples (preferably Reinette)
Sugar and water for the caramel
Ground Cinnamon
150g Flour
100g Butter (room temperature)
80g Brown or White Sugar
A handful of frozen red berries

Heat up oven to 210°C. Peel and slice the apples into 1-cm cubes.

In a Pyrex pie dish, make a caramel out of some sugar and water. When the caramel is ready, remove the dish from the oven and place the apple pieces evenly in the dish. Sprinkle some ground cinnamon all over. Add in some red berries for some acidity if you so wish.

Sift the flour into a big bowl, add in the sugar and soft butter (cut into small cubes). Using the rubbing-in method, rub the mixture with your fingers till you get a dough ressembling bread crumbs. Add in some oats and mix well.

Cover the apples in the baking dish with the crumble. Bake in the hot oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

Serve hot with cream or custard.

Hub (after many many crumbles in his younger days having lived a few years in the UK) loved it.

Fraisier (Strawberry Cake)


At Baby Boy's birthday party last year, I made a Fraisier with a butter cream filling that was really too heavy. It bothered me for a whole year and I decided to make another one for this year's party - with a much lighter filling. It still wasn't perfect as I couldn't find enough crème fraîche and had to make do mainly with whipping cream. Crème fraîche would have provided more consistency to the cake which turned out too light for my liking. And since I couldn't find a good pâte d'amande (marzipan), I made a chocolate disc to cover the cake - making it difficult to slice it. Otherwise it was a good cake, and I said so as Hub liked it and he's not easy when it comes to desserts.

Baby Boy blowing his candle

Fraisier :

Sponge cake base (sliced into 2 - make your own or buy one)
500g Strawberries
500ml Crème fraîche
1 packet Chantifix
40g Sugar
2 Vanilla pods (or 20g sugar + 2 packets sucre vanillé)
Strawberry syrup
Kirsch (optional)
Pâte d'amande (marzipan)

Bake a sponge cake and slice it into 2.

Drizzle some strawberry syrup and Kirsch onto them.

Whip up the crème fraîche with the Chantifix, sugar and seeds from the vanilla pods till stiff.

In a springform mold, prepare a bottom layer of the sponge cake. Line strawberries (sliced into halves) cut-side facing the sides of the mold. Fill up the middle with the rest of the cut strawberries face-down. Fill up the inside of the mold with the whipped cream. Cover with the other sponge cake.

Refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

When ready to serve, de-mold the cake and place a pink-coloured disc of pâte d'amande on top of it. I didn't have one so I melted some dark chocolate and made a chocolate disc to cover my cake.

mercredi, avril 15, 2009

Porc au Caramel

Porc au Caramel

When I was a student in Paris, I used to go to this little Vietnamese takeaway in the Latin Quarter (next to the Chinese restaurant Mirama in rue St. Jacques) for a portion of freshly-cooked Porc au Caramel. That would make up a weekly indulgence (usually to decide between this and Mirama's roast duck), the budget being pretty tight in those days.

I wished ever since that I've kept a tighter eye on her when she was preparing the dish, as in my memory hers tasted better than most of the others I would get my tongue on in the following years.

Myself, I cook the dish in different ways depending on my mood e.g. with or without soy sauce, with ginger or without, with 5-spice powder or not at all...

Whatever it is, Pork in Caramel Sauce is a sweet and salty dish that goes beautifully with steamed jasmine rice and a cold glass of sweetened lime juice.

Method 1 :

Lean Pork (sliced thinly)
Garlic (optional)
Onion (optional)
Ginger (optional)
5-spice powder (optional)
Nuoc mam (fish sauce)
Soy Sauce (optional)
Brown or white Sugar
Corn starch (optional)

Slice the pork thinly and marinate it for a few hours in some soy sauce (if using it), a touch of 5-spice powder and nuoc mam. In a small bowl, mix more nuoc mam and soy sauce together and set aside.

Heat up the sugar in a sauce pan till it starts to turn brown. Add in some water to make a caramel.

Heat up some oil in a wok and brown the ginger, garlic and onions. Add in the marinated pork slices and stir fry for a few minutes. Pour in the nuoc mam (and soy sauce) and simmer the pork in it. Finally add in the caramel and mix well, coating the pork slices in it and simmer for another few minutes. Just before serving, add in some cornstarch (dissolved in some water) mixture to thicken the sauce if you wish.

Another method would be to marinate the pork for a few hours as in Method 1. Then brown some ginger and garlic in a little oil and fry the marinated pork in the fragrant oil till just cooked. Remove and set aside.

In the same wok, heat up 2 Tbsp of oil and add in 2-3 Tbsp of sugar. Keep stirring with a pair of chopsticks or a spoon till the sugar has dissolved and turns a light brown. Return the pork to the wok and stir-fry for a few minutes, taking care to mix the pork well with the caramel. It should sizzle and turn a darker brown. Serve hot.

lundi, avril 13, 2009

Teacher Appreciation Day 2009

ML decorated the lovely table

This year (end-March) we celebrated the 2nd edition of the ISM's Teacher Appreciation Day. I particularly looked forward to it (i.e. the lunch) as it meant that Spring's here at last and as the parents get to finish up whatever's left over. And I know that some of the mothers loved the chance to see their kids eating or playing during school hours. Baby Boy for example looked at me sadly when he knew that I wouldn't be doing canteen duty when he would be suffering from more pasta. But I was sure he would survive.

Besides, I was once again charged with organising the lunch. Though this time round I needn't bang gongs to obtain food since the number of dishes required was small compared to what was needed for the Winter Fair. The PTA sent out a general message asking for food, I checked with the staff as to what they would like to eat and then sat around (sort of) and waited for (sometimes encouraged) the food to turn up.

As with anything one can never please everybody. This year, Asian food figured importantly among the starters and main courses while Western desserts dominated the sweets. This from the look of things seemed to figure well with the Staff (who were the Stars for the day after all) - though I heard noises that some people questioned the Asian predominance (though LS' Chili con Carne was way spicier than the curries) in the offering and were twittering about it in the corridor. To that I can only say : I'll be waiting for that Gambas à la Plancha that I've sollicited for and didn't get, not to forget the so many interesting European dishes (besides lasagna) that somebody out there could have made. In fact, I was wondering if it would go down well if I should set up a menu the next time I organise a lunch - and have people volunteer to make the dishes in it. But will definitely be accused of culinary dictatorship. Arrgh.

Some of the mains

Otherwise community lunches are usually great because we cook, serve, eat and clean up together - and learn each time about a new dish.

The desserts!

Myself I made a Vietnamese Beef Salad (too much dressing - turned soggy), 2-way Tofu in Soy Sauce (just for JA actually since tofu's an acquired taste) and Sweet and Sour Pork. Among the dishes we had Egg Curry, Samoussas, Italian Seafood Canapés, Pappadums, Potato Paratha, Vegetable Sambal, Okra, Spicy Stuffed Tomatoes, Vegetable Bryiani, Chicken Korma, Chili con Carne...And the desserts were wonderful, not much left over unfortunately - for us. There was Lemon Meringue Pie, Cheesecake, Gulab Jamun, a sweet Milk dessert, Chocolate Cake, Dark Caramel Cake, Apple Crumble, Mascarpone with Berries, sweet balls...

There were also more than a hundred cupcakes and cookies made by the mothers for all the children in the school! In this I admit that I've lost a little of the who's-being-appreciated bit but the point is that everyone in the school was happy on that day and I hope especially the teachers.

All in a Wednesday

Eldest Son has a few talented classmates (but he's not)

MIL complained that I blab about Asian values and our celebrated filial piety but failed to talk to her recently. I didn't have the time to tell her that I didn't have the time to talk to her. But she should realise that if her son called her every week that's because most of the time I reminded him to. He doesn't ever talk to my mom so I don't see why I should feel bad if once in a while I did not talk to his (and receive the same news twice).

And an indication of my lack of time could be the fact that I didn't get to talk to my own mom before I left for my ski trip. And so the parents woke me up with non-stop calls to my mobile phone at 6 o'clock one morning - when I was at Risoul.

I thought something bad happened at home. They thought I was maybe buried in the Italian earthquake. Anyway, I am indeed grateful not to be in L'Aquila where the earthquake happened and to know that I have people who worried for me from so far away. Even if I was zombied for the rest of that day and couldn't remember which ski to turn as I skied down the slopes - from lack of sleep.

The weeks leading up to the ski trip (and even right now as I'm typing away) had been busy. Or I'm just not capable of dealing with a few things at the same time with efficiency and speed. It did take me 2 days to pack our luggage for our ski trip - and I always travel light.

Pao Bhaji

Anyway, the Wednesday before the trip had been one of those fruitful caloric ones. I started out by meeting my Indian girlfriends (and one not-at-all Indian one) for lunch. K made a lovely curry that we ate with (lots of) buttered toasted bread (hello calories). Apparently what used to be labourer's fare has now become restaurant fare and I was lucky not to need to travel to India to get to enjoy it.

A-M's Tiramisu

I also had a Kashmir tea which was fragrant and lovely - but once again, hello calories. There was also yoghurt rice, P's healthy carrot dessert and A-M brought along a yummy Tiramisu that busted the calorie count for the day. The Amendola Park's just below K's flat, maybe if it wasn't raining and if we weren't running short of time, I would have tried to walk a few rounds to burn off some of the calories. Maybe.

More artwork in the MY Presentation (still none from my son)

It was difficult leaving the girls behind but I had to rush to pick E up so that we could reach the school in time to catch our sons' Middle Years presentation on Art and Music, Venice sinking or something like that. And prepare ourselves for the next day's Parent-Teacher Meeting. I had 7 teachers to meet. Imagine that. Wanted to ask them how they managed to let him get away with almost no artwork in that MY presentation - except for painting paper fishes for the decoration. April's Fool?

Monkfish (Lotte) and Tofu in Curry

Monkfish and Tofu in Curry

The Eat according to your Blood Type book said that monkfish, tofu and curry are good for me. So I made us a Monkfish and Tofu in Curry. Do not know if it was good for the kids, will have to bleed them soon to find out their blood group(s).

If you've read the book, you could become quite concerned like myself. My blood group is the cancer-prone, usually will-not-recover-from-it kind. When you look at my relatives dropping like flies with the kind of cancers associated with my blood group, you would worry like I do about our lack of fighting chances.

The book was written by a Naturopathic Doctor. I think that science-backed Natural medicine has a future and I'm willing to give it a try. OK, it wouldn't be easy and my will is weaker than most.

Anyway the curry is a simple one that consisted in marinating the fish slices in some ground turmeric, salt and lime juice. Then shallow fry the pieces and set aside the flesh leaving the fishbone in the pan. As for the tofu, use a soft but firm one and cut it into cubes to be deep-fried.

The curry I made using the generous fishbone, onions, ginger-garlic paste, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ground coriander, fennel seeds, bay leaves, curry leaves, tomato paste, yoghurt and coriander leaves. Salt, pepper, lime juice and chilli to taste. Then return the tofu and fish slices to the curry and simmer for a few minutes before serving.

Ski Week 2009 et Semaine de l'Humour de Risoul

Semaine de l'Humour de Risoul 2009

People often wonder why we ski in Spring. All through Winter you see families in the school leaving on long ski weekends while we stayed put.

Skiing is an expedition when you have to pack for 5. I cannot bear the thought of packing and vomiting my way up and down a mountain - for a weekend. It has to be for at least a full week, I've decided (and I like deciding).

I am the only person in this family who do not rejoice at the mention of skiing. I ski out of devotion to my family - since there is not much shopping to be done in most of the ski stations. As such, I prefer to ski when there is sunshine (I'm from the equator after all), when the days are long (so as to be able to see better) and when there are fewer skiers around (less stress).

The slopes seen at 8pm from our hotel's terrace

The beginning of Spring is perfect for skiing - if you know where to go.

The French Alps habour some of the most wonderful ski stations in the world. In the last few years we've skied mainly at Flaine and at Risoul 1850 - both stations with almost unfailingly important snowfall.

At the bottom of the slopes

Risoul 1850 is situated in the Southern Alps in the Hautes Alpes-Cotes d'Azur region. It is part of the 2nd largest skiing domaine in France (together with Vars). At 1850m-2750m, you usually find snow even in April. Not to forget sunshine and never-ending slopes.

The Babies are crazy about skiing. And they ski really well for their age. They were doing mainly blue and red slopes this year and we brought them to the very top of the mountain where you normally do not find many little children. Baby Boy especially has no fear. I am needless to say the slowest in the family and spent my time freaking out behind the kids. The Babies passed their ski exams with flying colours, of course. I was told by my ski instructor that it would be best if I repeat Class 2 next year. As if I would dare to join Class 3 (very advanced) in any case...But if you have to know, I usually whine when I am at the top of a slope but once I'm on it, I'll just ski whatever its colour. And I didn't fall nor feel tired this year, mind you. Power Plate and better technique helped. Yeah!

Baby Boy with his medal (Flocon/Snowflake) and cert

The Babies' room

The village of Risoul from April 5th till 10th hosted a Semaine de l'Humour and the free one-man stand-up shows (comedies) all took place in the auditorium of our village-club (Touristra-Leo Lagrange). Fancy not having to cook any meals all week-long (different theme every evening e.g. North African, Savoyard etc) and at 9:15 each evening we would dump the Babies at the Mini-Club and then saunter to the auditorium to catch a show.

Top of the slopes

La Messe de Merri
opened the Festival. He's quite famous in France but I'm not too hot about him. What I really enjoyed were Jean-Francois Cayrey, Ali and most of all, Les Bonimenteurs. God, I nearly died laughing. Those 2 guys were really good, creative, knew how to involve/engage the audience and I would love to catch another of their shows soon. You know what they say, laughter's the best medicine. Just what I need.

Cherry on the cake - we stopped by a supermarket in Briancon on our way back to Italy and went crazy over all the good stuff we could find in France but not in Italy. Spent nearly 300 euros on we-do-not-know what. Couldn't open the car boot until we reached home.

And we also had Chinese for lunch. Like Hub said, even the Chinese food in Briancon tasted better than the ones you usually find in Modena. Restaurant Au Pekin (25 rue Centrale, 05100 Briancon, Tel : 04 92212422) is run by a Teochew Chinese from Thailand. Good nems, Saigon soups, Thai Fondus, a decent Poulet au Gingembre, Porc Caramel (yummy) and tim sum. Not cheap though but everyone's happy.

We didn't snack too much on this trip. Bought some organic chocolate cookies from NaturaSi before we left and nobody wanted to eat them. Hub said that's the beauty of organic food. It tastes so bad you wouldn't want more of it and yet you are willing to pay alot for it because it's all part of the psyche.

So well, that's our ski week for you. Now it'll be a few long weekends in the South of Italy throughout Spring followed by Summer in Singapore. Am I glad winter's finally over - for now.