lundi, juin 29, 2009

Esploraria Il Parco dell'Avventura, Lame (MO)

Climbing Babies

Hub was telling me the other day that we are here on earth to enjoy, seek pleasure. That worried me profoundly, for I believe that we are here rather as part of a larger scheme of things. Like the ubiquitous ants and the shitting pigeons, we are here to serve our part albeit one that has to change and adapt to the environment and the times. In the past, he and his bunch of friends (I always say that birds of the same feather flock together) used to upset me with what I considered selfish, egoistic behaviour when it came to seeking pleasure (living each day like it's your last one?) and it was our being away from Paris in the last few years that had more or less allowed me to forget that. To hear him say that, I started getting goosebumps and a sense of foreboding. When you see all the suffering around us, how can you say without any qualms that we are here to enjoy life?

Anyway, I tortured him a little yesterday by insisting that he please our children by driving us to Parco Esploraria in Lame (MO) near Zocca. He complained all the way : the mud roads were horrible (GPS' fault or was it mine?), the outing was badly organised (we didn't have lunch before setting out and the pizzeria nearby was closed), wasn't that too nice a day not to go to the pool at the golf instead etc. I shut my trap for a while (because he may be very calm with other people but with the family he's capable of exploding and doing weird things like scream, drive the car to the curb, especially when he's stressed out at work like nowadays) and then at some point I pointed out that for once, the children were not even complaining about the horrible journey, they were so excited to be going to the Park they just wanted to talk about what they would do there. Doesn't that give one pleasure?

Church in Zocca Rolling hills around

We found a nice pizzeria just a few minutes from the Park in the nice little town of Zocca. Very pretty and the hometown of Italian rock star Vasco Rossi. Sometimes we shouldn't plan everything, we should leave a little room for pleasant surprises.

Parco Esploraria

And Parco Esploraria (750m above sea level) was lovely, a nice little place for doing what we came to do - Tree Climbing. The park contains structures for tree climbing, wall climbing, mountain biking, snow-tubing (during winter), outdoor excursions, school trips, holiday camps etc. It's quite well-organised and I much prefer it to the larger and more well-known outfit in Monte Cimone. Eldest Son and Hub would climb the Adult course (17 euros) and the Babies the Children's course (12 euros). There's also a Baby course (2-5 years, 7 euros).

Adult course

We were a little worried at first that Baby Boy would be too short for the Children's course. Indeed he often had difficulty reaching the higher ropes, but his sister's help plus his courage, motivation and enthusiasm made up for it and he did beautifully on the entire course. Finished the whole thing in less than 2 hours and had time to repeat the whole course. He was really doing it like a Pro towards the end, and though I had to stay on the ground to follow them through (boring and tiring), I was really happy. And the Babies, needless to say, were as pleased and proud as peacocks.

Babies in action

On the way back, I saw a few places serving Bolenghi, a crepe-like local speciality eaten both sweet and savoury. If our friend weren't so grumpy and not ready to please other people, I would have loved to stop and try one.

samedi, juin 27, 2009

Playing with My Camera

My Kitchen

I've had this camera for at least 2 years and only now did I know that I could change things like colour, ISO speeds, add date etc. Talk about slow...This is so fun!

Hub in the Salon

Looks like another era...

vendredi, juin 26, 2009

A Time for Farewells

The Babies singing to songs from ABBA

The beginning of Summer is a difficult time for most expat families. Besides the hassle of preparing for the coming holidays, one often has to brace up to say goodbye to people you have come to know and like over the past few years. This year you yourself may not be leaving, but still, you have to work out how to comfort your children who would be losing their friends - once again.

Eldest Son and friends

Last evening we attended the school's annual end-of-the-year celebration. They prepared excellent performances involving the children as usual, but I wasn't able to concentrate, feeling quite restless and all. I had to keep myself chirpy and exuberant - and avoid talking to people I knew would be leaving. In case I break down and start to cry.

My Bollywood Beauty's leaving too!

Otherwise, I met my favourite girls some of them dressed to the nines. And I ate a dozen of those sweet mignons. So much for the diet.

Sari Queens - picture of elegance

Baby Boy gave his teacher a "diamond" ring - yes, he's well-trained. Though hopefully in the future, he'll not ask mommy to pay for his rings :-). His taste went to big antique styles with a huge centre stone. It was a copy of some famous royal jewel and much as I tried to steer him towards a cheaper piece, he wouldn't hear of it. And if you know how stubborn my son is, you would give up like I did. Anyway 2 of my children studied under this teacher so she's worth it, I can only hope that she didn't find it too gaudy.

Baby Boy and Ms Sheldon

We attended farewells for Rb, ML and FB last week so if you wish we've spread out the tears. Still, on the last day, I nonetheless found it difficult to say goodbye without crying. I can only wish them the best wherever they go to next.

With this, I would start to pack for my journey home. This summer we would be in Singapore with a few short trips to Penang, Saigon and Bintan Island - if we didn't get quarantined for swine flu. 220 cases in Singapore the last time I heard. Quite a lot for such a tiny country, don't you think so?

Happy Summer Holidays, everybody!

jeudi, juin 25, 2009



MIL is an artist. Only she has more or less stopped painting since the old man died a few years ago. He used to frame up her work for her.

Recently she started to be a little inspired again. In a short while, she was quite productive and painted a portrait each of Baby Girl and Baby Boy (from their photos).

Baby Girl is quite good at drawing and I'm sure that it didn't come from me. I am not good at anything, unfortunately.


I am really happy that she did them. It's nothing like being painted by your own grandma. This would give the children something to hang up in their own homes, something to pass on to their own children. I wish I had portraits like these from my ancestors.

Last I heard she was working on a portrait of me. Ahem.

Pre-Sale Acquisition

Nova Check nickel-coloured Hobo Bag from Burberry. It just arrived chez moi this afternoon. Had to get it before the Sale as I would be away then. And of course when I would be in Singapore, the Sale there would be over. Still, I would head straight out for Orchard Road when I touch down. You never know, with the crisis, they may still have a few nice things leftover. Adrenaline's pumping just thinking about it...

2009 School Photo

The Siblings

mercredi, juin 24, 2009

Strawberry and Cream Tart

Strawberry and Cream Tart

The strawberry agriturismo nearby had its harvest a few weeks ago and it gave me visions of cream and more cream for some reason. I had to go there pretty often when MIL was around as she fed herself more or less on all sorts of expensive delicious fruit and no matter how many kgs of cherries or strawberries you bought they would disappear within a day or 2.

So it was on auto-pilot that I made my way to the strawberry farm even after MIL's departure. I paid for 2 kgs of strawberries and then remembered that there wasn't really anybody around to eat them - before they perish.

At the same time I kept seeing cream everywhere and since my newly-ordered toy of pleasure has yet to arrive, cream would have to go to the stomach in more orthodox ways. It's the weather, it makes one hallucinate at times.

The supermarket was selling this new product : chocolate short-crust pastry. I had whipping cream and mascarpone in the fridge, lots of vanilla-ed sugar (as in real vanilla pods kept in a jar of sugar - nothing chemical) and a stock of Havana rum. Put them together and you get a Strawberry and Cream Tart.

Grade 1 Pool Party

Kids in the small pool

The last event of the school year that I organised as Class Rep of Grade 1 : Pool party at LP's. Nice-sized pool, even nicer garden, house near the school and the most gracious of hostesses - it was all set to be a great pool party and it was.

The weather has been fickle lately but for once the sky held out though it looked at times like it wouldn't. The afternoon started out with one mother having to enter the pool fully-clothed to save a drowning child which couldn't be better-staged as it really set the pool party mood *(*wink*). The kids played together both in the big and small pools and enjoyed the snacks that a few mothers prepared. And we chatted, of course. There is synergy in the group and it really makes me look forward to seeing everyone again in Grade 2 next year. The class teacher joined us later as she had a meeting before and the kids were so happy to see her!

PS : The photo has been re-touched in order not to show the children in their "true" colours :-).

Grilled Dumpling Noodle Soup

Grilled Dumpling Noodle Soup

This is the kind of food that I crave and can eat all the time. Sad, isn't it? After a decade of Michelin-noted restaurants, gourmet cooking classes etc.

But nothing gives me more satisfaction than a simple bowl of noodle soup. This one is composed of left-over grilled dumplings from a Chinese takeaway, left-over Bak Kut Teh soup, thick rice vermicelli and fried onions from Ikea. So shiok!

vendredi, juin 19, 2009

Grade 1 Pot Luck Lunch

Grade 1 Pot Luck Lunch

One of the last mothers' events for Grade 1 was a pot luck lunch in my garden. I've had the honour in the last 2 years of organising most of the school's food events and I have come to know a few good cooks in our community. Most of the time we cook for other people to eat - but on this day we would cook and eat the food ourselves.


My bunch of nice mothers turned up with enough to feed us - and others. One woke up early in the morning to bake ham croissants, another baked a cheese pie before she set out to play a round of golf. Others queued up in the supermarket for cold cuts and tigelle, prepared spelt for a salad or emptied the freezer for a hot chilli...We had yummy scones, a gorgeous chocolate cake, fruit salad, vegetable salad, Lebanese Fateh...and I made a Singapore-style Chicken Curry singing at the same time along to an old Sandy Lam cd. I miss karaoke, by the way. Nothing like Chinese love songs to make you feel all unloved and emotional. Never could understand the weird stuff Hub listens to e.g. that screechy Kate Bush and her washing machine song. Why would you want to be reminded of your wash when you could cry over lost love? Anyway I digress as usual.

Lovely day, lovely company, lovely food, lovely conversation(s). We would be missing a few mothers next year (sob sob) and we wish them the best wherever they'll be, and hope that they'll remember us and our gatherings fondly. Bonnes vacances!

mercredi, juin 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ms Ramsay!

Today the Grade 1 class teacher turned 27. Goodness, when was I last 27?

We baked her a cake and surprised her with it before the end of the school day. Any excuse to eat cake is a good one. Any excuse for the mothers to meet up and have a chat is another one. Finally any reason to make a lovely person happy - we were happy to provide.

lundi, juin 15, 2009

My Babies in Action

A.k.a. ISM Sports Day 2009.

Their team lost, but they had fun participating. Baby Girl did quite well too, coming in among the top 3 in her age group for a couple of events.

This year, there was a TV crew from the UK hanging around. They were doing some programme about promoting British food in Italy and our school had the fortune of being offered some grilled sausages for lunch in exchange for the kids' honest opinions about the food. Ahem.

Multiplying Flowers 2009

Last year I had one pathetic flower from this plant. This year, I think I'll be having at least a dozen. And I hadn't done anything special to it. Days like this, it makes me yearn for my own home and garden so that I could plant in the ground. But knowing that we wouldn't be here forever (and that the soil is not fertile), I need to keep all my plants in pots.

And if only money could multiply just like that (x12) from one year to another without my doing anything about it.

This year's roses

dimanche, juin 07, 2009

Medieval Erice and Greek Segesta, Sicily

View of Old Erice from the Torre

Erice is situated on Mount Erice at 750m above sea level and overlooks the city of Trapani. It is known for its medieval town. You could drive up there or take a funicular from the bottom (closed during winter and when it's windy). The views from up there are spectacular though it could be cloudy and very windy (like it was when we were there).

A courtyard in Erice

Next to the Pepoli Castle (where you could drink coffee, taste wine and sleep over)

We bought a MEMS combined ticket (5 euros per person) that would allow us to visit 6 monuments and like MIL grumbled, they were mainly churches or piles of rocks. My favourites were the Real Duomo and Torre di Re Federico. The others e.g. S. Martino (for its wood sculptures), S. Giuliano (Ceroplastic works), S. Giovanni (medieval frescos and marble sculptures) and Ruderi SS. Salvatore (ruins of a monastery) were so-so. Still it was a nice walk and I loved soaking in the historical feel of those piles of rocks, if only there wouldn't be so many souvenir shops selling the same stuff everywhere to bring one back to reality.

Torre di Re Federico

Royal Cathedral - beautiful!

We also drove to Segesta to visit another pile of rocks - this time Greek. Hub was furious with the ticket seller as he refused to offer a ticket to MIL (free for those over 65) as she didn't have her ID card with her. MIL doesn't travel with her purse when she's with us - so if you wish, it's a testimony to our generosity.

Doric Temple, Segesta

Segesta is a curious place. It has a 5th century BC Doric temple that was not roofed over, lacked an altar and was probably never finished. But it is well preserved though what a Greek temple was doing in a non-Greek city is a curious question.

This supposedly used to be a market place

More ruins

After the temple visit, one could pay extra to get on a shuttle bus to visit more ruins on top of the opposite hill, or walk up (1.5km). It was an easy walk, so we chose to walk.

Greek Theatre

I love ruins, they transport me to another time and age and I love the feel of them. Especially when these ruins were linked to Virgil's Aeneid and it was suggested that the Elymians (Sicily's indigenous people) were descendants of refugees from Troy. The Greek theatre was beautiful especially with a superb view of the surrounding countryside. Every odd-numbered year in May it would host classical theatre performances from Greek tragedy to classical Japanese, alternating with the Greek theatre in Taormina. But it is true that you'll need alot of imagination trying to figure out what the other piles of stones used to be.

Anyway they claimed that Segesta was abandoned in the 13th century after a number of wars and with the population moving to a better situated Castellammare del Golfo. They also claimed that a muslim community lived there at some point (found a mosque). Sicily must be a really fascinating island. Greeks, Romans, Normans, Arabs etc have passed through in its past. Makes me want to read the Aeneid again. How come I couldn't remember any of this Sicilian bit when I read it more than a decade ago?

11/12/2009 : We just received a fine for having parked illegally in the city. There was nothing on the windscreen when we returned to the car on that day though. It took them 6 months to contact us and half the fine went to "administrative costs".