mardi, septembre 29, 2009

Nothing Better To Do

When a task has once begun

Never leave it till it's done

Be the labour great or small

Do it well or not at all.

When I was 12 and leaving Primary School, my form teacher Mrs Wong wrote this in my autograph book. For some reason, it has remained with me and I could never seem to shake it off my mind.

I have learnt many things from Mrs Wong, e.g. that rice noodles are less fattening than wheat noodles (she had an excellent figure), or that if you worked at your Maths everyday, you'd get A* almost automatically during your PSLE, or that (even corporal) punishment is fine as long as it is fair and the rules clearly spelt out and agreed upon right from the start.

I was made a School Prefect in Primary 6 based on my good academic results in Primary 5 (Prefects then were selected from among the Top 10 in standard) - but a few teachers objected as I was a stubborn child who often defied authority. But Mrs Wong (who was both our Form teacher and the school's disciplinary mistress) ignored them and told me, looking me in the eye, that she was only interested in what I could and would do for her in the coming school year. She had understood that if I had defied authority before, it was because it wasn't authority worth respecting. Those teachers practised favoritism rather blatantly and I disagreed with them, often standing with those kids who were bullied by their favourites.

I learnt that it was important not to abuse one's authority. And for the one occasion that I had, I was caned in front of the class. It was shameful, of course, but it would have been even more shameful if I had not been given the occasion to reflect on and learn from my own mistake(s). How many more times in life would I come to wish that the ground would open and swallow me up, but of course I knew better than that. We cannot erase our mistakes, we can only hope to learn from them.

I do not know how much the opening 4 lines have affected my life since, but it is true that I usually do not entreprend anything unless I am quite sure that I'll be able to do it. It could be anything as ridiculous as filing paperwork, handing in homework or doing housework. If I cannot give enough time or attention to it, I simply wouldn't touch it (yes, any excuse not to labour is a good one) :-)

Truth be told, I am not that proud of myself. For decades now, my failure to write the script for my class play at Secondary School still haunts me. I was best at English composition in my class. As such, Mrs Smith (our Scottish teacher) gave me the job of writing a script for the inter-class drama competition. I took on the job but was incapable of producing anything (that pleased myself). In the end I refused to hand in something and another classmate took over the job.

This quest for perfection would prove to be my downfall a few times over over the years. I am grouchy, impatient, intolerant and unforgiving (especially with myself). Hub says that if the children lack confidence, it's because they have a mother like me.

Salvation probably came in the form of age. With time and experience I have come to understand, if not accept, that while I may try to do things well, I may never actually succeed in doing it the way I would have liked to have it done. I have also understood that what I think is good may not necessarily be so, that what may seem bad right now may in retrospect one day turn out to be a blessing (and vice versa). Fact is, life is not one straight line; it has to be taken as a whole. On fait le point de temps en temps sur le chemin, mais pour le meilleur ou pour le pire, il faut qu'on continue de vivre. There is no turning back. And at the end of the journey, does it really matter if it has been a success or a relative failure - as long as it has been a life well-lived?

Hub came back from Insead and got me my favourite stack of newspapers and magazines (in French, English, even Spanish...). I read about China's Communist Party's 60th Anniversary in power. As a Singaporean Chinese, this doesn't mean anything to me, or if it does, it was more a feeling of pity that many Chinese traditions and customs are lost no thanks to those atheist revolutionaries. And then a write-up in the IHT exposing how the city of Changchun had been starved to death by a PLA siege in the Communists' struggle for power caught my attention and troubled me for a few days. If blood has been shed to achieve political power, it rarely bears well for the people.

We all know that there is no one History in reality, only interpretations of it. Governments may try to impose their interpretations on the population, but usually that would only be in competition with the interpretations made by the country's or other countries' academics. But in China, they are so totalitarian that they actually manage to suppress almost everything, including other interpretations of history from existing at least on their soil. I tried to google up "Changchun" and most results would mention the famine but wouldn't tell you about the heartless ways the PLA allowed its inhabitants to starve to death. Hiroshima was bad, the Holocaust equally so - but at least we all know about it, read about it, visited exbibitions and watched films made about them. We will be paying a few hundred Euros so that Eldest Son could visit Dachau near Munich with his class this November and learn about the Holocaust.

I agree with Lung Yingtai, author of Big River, Big Sea - Untold Stories of 1949, that memories and experiences are precious because only when we know our own history better could we face the challenges ahead. Indeed what happened had already happened and there is no point crying over spilt milk, but it is nonetheless important to know. To open up the wounds, cry over them and give closure to those who had suffered - and lessons to those who come after. Like she said, the purpose of her work was neither accusation nor condemnation, but instead, to pay tribute to all those who had been downtrodden, insulted, or damaged by the past. “For the tens of millions of people who died through injustice, I want to pay respect to their souls by means of literature,” she said. I would like to read this book, but it would be too painful to read it in Chinese, I will have to wait for the English translation.

I couldn't help thinking that China is therefore a dangerous country because of its tendancy to write its own History and suppress other interpretations of it. If it doesn't face up to its past, it will never learn from it. When will its leaders understand that you cannot erase your mistakes, but can only hope to learn from them?

lundi, septembre 28, 2009

Tofu Omelette and Cucumber Salad with Sweet Soy Sauce (Kecap Manis)

Tofu Omelette and Cucumber Salad with Kecap Manis Dressing

The Chinese restaurant owner gave me a few pieces of fresh tofu the other day. Just as well as I had a craving for something fried, fresh, soft, crunchy, salty and sweet. Made a Tofu Omelette and Cucumber Salad with Kecap Manis dressing.

Actually it's like Tauhu Telor only I didn't have the mould and didn't want to use my deep fryer (if possible, ever again). Could also add in some crushed peanuts, fresh chilli and julienned spring onions for extra texture.

Villa Aggazzotti

Villa Aggazzotti

I've been here for more than 2 years now and have not walked beyond the grounds that come with the house. One reason could be that I'm not a curious person, or that I hate the idea of grasshoppers jumping out at me every step I take. I've always said that the landowners should pay us to stay in their house. Without us it would have disintegrated in no time out here.

Our house seen from afar

The other day, needing some distance from Hub who pissed me off because he complained all day long that the walls were too hard when I asked him to hang up a few frames, I decided to take a walk and check out the other end of our compound. I was brave and managed to ignore those jumping grasshoppers (there were lots of them). I just imagined that they were Hub.

The vineyard along the way

The path led me past the organic Agriturismo Aggazzotti run by our landlord's cousin and the Villa Aggazzotti (that you could rent for weddings and functions) to a dead end - a very smelly dead end occupied by what looked like a chicken farm. I made a quick U-turn and decided to pop into the agriturismo for a visit. They have rooms to let, a restaurant, a nursery, a few animals and a vineyard. Soon they would be harvesting the grapes to make lambrusco and Balsamic vinegar, I should make a note to turn up then and take a look.

The grounds of the Villa

And I saw the Villa. I mean the front entrance. It was closed but is situated in a shady garden that has a little chapel (?) in the middle. This is a very important family in these parts. They own almost everything here, including the land that now houses the golf club. What kind of glorious past do they have?

Villa Aggazzotti

I walked back home. Found those 3 frames on the wall. Weren't the walls too hard?

Home-made Tofu

Homemade Tofu

I've been trying for a few months now to buy tofu from the tiny Chinese shop here in Modena - sans succès. They get their tofu from another Chinese shop somewhere else and during the warmer months, they can't sell it fast enough causing much wastage from spoilage. Out of desperation I've decided to make my own Tofu, using homemade soy bean milk and Nigari (bitter sea salt) bought from the organic food store here.

Homemade Soybean Milk

If you are thinking of using a shortcut with store-bought soybean milk, forget it. I have tried using even the organic ones and they don't work - principally because the content of soy in the milk is too low. In fact, the soybean milk we buy in bricks contain very very little soy, it's best to make your own.

Basically you need to boil (e.g. 1 litre) soy milk and then let it cool down to between 75°C and 85°C. Dissolve 2 Tsp of the Nigari in 200ml of warm water and pour it in a big bowl. In one go, and at about 30cm above the bowl, pour the soybean milk in the bowl and let the mixture set for 5-10 minutes.

Curd formation

Prepare your tofu moulds lining them with clean cheesecloths. I didn't have the fancy stuff so I used plastic boxes that the supermarkets sold their fruit in. They just need to have holes in them for the drainage. If you want to offer me something next, I could do with a small wooden tofu mould :-).

Drainage in the mould

Scoop the soy curd into the moulds and fold the ends of the cheesecloth over them. Put some weight on top and let it sit for between 25 and 35 minutes depending on how firm you want your tofu to be. Nigari is a little bitter so you may want to rinse your tofu before consuming it. The Japanese usually use this while the Chinese prefer calcium sulfate (gypsum) which has the added advantage of containing calcium, of course. And I think it also gives a better result than Nigari when home-made as it makes bigger curd. You can also use lemon juice and will need to add it in (e.g. 2 Tsp) without diluting it in water and to do it when the soybean milk is about 40°C.

Texture is similar to the organic tofu they sell at NaturaSi here

If not consuming this tofu immediately, keep it in an airtight container and immerse the tofu in water that has to be changed daily. Home-made tofu doesn't keep for very long since it doesn't contain any preservatives. Truth be told I prefer the tofu we find in Singapore supermarkets. I didn't like the texture of my tofu. Will have to work on it, I guess.

Meanwhile I have just finished a 20-chapter Hong Kong TV series (War of the In-Laws 2) starring Liza Wang. I must say that nothing is better than watching a show in Cantonese. And I still prefer the veteran actors as the new generation of HK actors look weird and can't act as well. 4 more days to go be fore the Hub comes home. Just 4 more days of playing the zombie in front of the computer.

PS : If you're very hardworking you can also make your own soybean sheet...It's just the layer that forms on the top of the soybean milk as you are heating it.

vendredi, septembre 25, 2009

Cannelé de Bordeaux

Cannelé de Bordeaux

I used to go to the Montparnasse train station just to buy the cannelés that would have arrived fresh from Bordeaux on the morning's TGV. I would buy (and eat) them by the dozen and seeing that they cost a small fortune, it is fortunate that we no longer live in Paris near Montparnasse.

Somehow its rich crusty caramelised shell and its moist chewy spongy interior reminds me of some of our Nonya Kuehs and I love it. I knew that I should have invested in a few of those copper moulds that are traditionally used to make the cannelés, but they are very expensive and would take up too much space. Besides, the Cannelé de Bordeaux is notoriously difficult to make and I do not know if I will have the patience to work on it till I get it right. So silicon moulds I would have to live with.

This was my first attempt and I failed. But I will try again another day. Wish me luck.

mardi, septembre 22, 2009

Crabmeat Pancake, Duck and Cucumber Salad

Crabmeat Pancake, Duck and Cucumber Salad

I love crabs. Unfortunately the Sri Lankan ones we get back in Singapore are unavailable in Europe and here in Modena, even the big hard-shelled ones you don't see much of. I therefore resort to buying canned crabmeat, though when they are not fresh and shelled, you have to cook it differently e.g. in soups, salads, omelettes...and Crabmeat Pancakes.

This recipe is adapted from Ken Hom's Wok & Co cookbook. Makes about 6-8 small pancakes.

55g flour
1 egg
1Tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tsp salt
ground black pepper
1 Tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbsp chopped onions or spring onions
Half a dried or fresh Thai chilli
125ml milk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
120g crabmeat

Mix the flour, eggs, sesame oil, salt, pepper, ginger, onion, chilli, milk and lemon juice in a large bowl. Then add the crab meat.

The batter

Let it sit for at least 30 minutes.

Crabmeat Pancake

Heat a little peanut oil in a crepe pan and prepare the pancakes as you would the usual crepes.

Duck and Cucumber Salad

I ate my crabmeat pancakes with a Duck and Cucumber Salad. Using leftover duck breast, fresh cucumber and a light soy sauce and toasted sesame oil seasoning for the cucumber and a drizzling of good balsamic vinegar on the duck. That's my lunch for today, eaten in front of the computer as I watched the Korean drama "He who can't marry". Like I said, I do so adore handsome Korean leads...

dimanche, septembre 20, 2009

Graduation Photo with Family

Freaky 90's graduation photo (son said I look very different now)

First the Babies are working on family trees or something like that at school and needed pictures of my parents, siblings etc. Then the parents received a letter addressed to me by Mr Lee of Portrait Master Studio in Singapore, informing us that he has since become an artist and had stopped operating his photo studio. Out of goodwill, he would sell us the negatives from our (long-ago) convocation photo sessions - would I be interested?

You bet. In that age of non-digital photography, you actually used negatives and the idea alone of seeing them again excites me. And believe it or not, I was just thinking about it a few weeks ago. If only all my fantasies about striking the lottery would come true just like that.

Though why he didn't give us our negatives back then, I couldn't remember. Studios today usually give you a digital hardcopy of photos you take and print with them.

Anyway, all the best to that Mr Lee. It mustn't be easy converting from taking photos and touching them up manually to actually drawing and painting. Or maybe it is - what do I know?


Duck Magret with Thai Red Curry and Lychees

I haven't been making anything fancy since I came back. Just the usual easy or tried and tested dishes. Every September, I feel as if I'm starting a new year all over again - just 4 months away from the real one. And this makes me nervous and very uneasy. Plus, at the risk of repeating myself, I have to watch what I eat after an over-indulgent summer.

Last evening we had Argentinian Entrecote for dinner. For lunch today, it was Grilled Duck Magret with Thai Red Curry and Lychees.

2nd take

Hub will be away at INSEAD in France for 2 weeks. I am looking forward to singing Singstar in bed (we just installed a LCD TV in our bedroom) with the kids and eating Mamee instant noodles. Middle-class housewifing sometimes can be such a pretentious job. When you read magazines and watch TV, they encourage you to be like Martha Stewart when all you want to do is be like your own mother finally.

After I've autumn-cleaned, being mono-tasked, I may look into working on new recipes and experimenting with new dishes. Having inherited AB's leather chairs for the dining table, the kitchen looks quite neat for a change and I may just feel like entertaining again. And it's about time I start using my retro-blue Kenwood mixer and give myself a good excuse to buy a pasta machine. :-)

vendredi, septembre 18, 2009

Tarte aux Girolles (Chanterelle Tart)

Tarte aux Girolles

Was supposed to stay away from puff pastry, bacon and crème fraiche, but when I saw those chanterelles the other day in the supermarket, I had to buy them and forget the diet. Of course I could do just the simple sautée with olive oil, parsley and garlic (which I actually did - for the tart), but with the quantity of chanterelles I have, I could do a few different dishes with them and Tarte aux Girolles oblige! Hub prepared his famous French vinaigrette to dress his frisée salad to accompany the tart.

This evening, we'll have the classic Poulet aux Girolles (Chicken in Cream and Chanterelles).

mardi, septembre 15, 2009

French Toast Club Sandwiches

Ham and Cheddar French Toast Club Sandwiches

I suspect that my cleaning lady thinks I'm a cheapskate. She cleans my furniture and she thinks to herself, "They only have Ikea..." Just last Monday she told me that they have bought a new mattress - and it costs 2000 euros (!). That's almost 10 times what I paid for mine.

Last year, I lugged home a 50-euro dondola from Ipercoop. Said cleaning lady thought it was a good idea and went to buy one too. Only she bought the 200-euro one because she felt that the one I had was too cheap. And she was right, of course. The wind came and blew the dondola away and after a few times it broke.

I am like a karang guni (recycling man). I hoard almost everything and just 2 weeks ago I felt like Christmas had arrived early when AB offered to let me pick out a few things from her house as she wouldn't be moving most of her (year old) furniture and household stuff with her. Only of course I couldn't really take the big stuff as I do not have much space left with my own junk. The temptation to throw out the Ikea was great, but then I got sentimental because Ikea it may be but I went alone most of the time to lug the stuff back. And guess who did the assembling? Literally alot of sweat and energy went into them. Still, I took some really nice things (she has good taste) including a TV though that didn't mean I am happy that she had to move. I really like that girl alot and I am still sorry that I've lost my ham croissants for the Winter Fair buffet...

And the main reason why we buy Ikea is because we're nomads. You watch TV and you see that most nomads live in tents that can be rolled up and packed on the yak. We move every few years and could never know beforehand what kind of flat or house we would be renting next. Definitely no made-to-measure furniture and preferably not too much furniture as so often we were obliged to give half the house away when we moved. But I am so sad, because I dream of building my own kitchen and bathrooms and I am still waiting to plant my potted olive, lemon and rose plants in the ground.

Back to the cleaning lady, she actually brings me toys (recycled from other households), ornaments and even shirts for Hub. It really freaks him out and I was going to tell her that I have enough junk at home besides I almost only buy branded stuff (except Ikea) nowadays - when she told me that she was sure I wouldn't mind her bringing stuff to make the kids happy because unlike most other (middle class) women I'm not a snob. Oh.

Maybe not a snob, but I'm now certainly a hypocrite.

Anyway, I'm into autumn cleaning now. One room to another I have decided to dig out the junk and go through them - even if I may decide to keep them after all. So I have no time to cook fancy.

Dinner a few nights ago consisted of Club sandwiches composed of French toasts, cooked ham and cheddar cheese (and cooked in olive oil instead of butter). And I really go heavy with my condensed milk when I make French toasts. I'll find any excuse to consume condensed milk - they remind me of my childhood for some reason.

And I did give away at least 8 bags of clothes and shoes from just one room. Some of them to the cleaning lady who will surely recycle them elsewhere. Next week I'll attack the boxes of paper in the dining room and the toys in the Babies' room.

lundi, septembre 14, 2009

You've been Pinked!

My oldest friend sent this to me today. A pink ribbon to remember those ladies who had been struck by cancer.

This is in memory of my paternal and maternal aunts who died of lung and colon cancer respectively.

And to the rest of us still standing, a reminder to be informed, to keep abreast of cancers that may touch us and to have ourselves checked regularly for them.

Pass it on.

Singapore's Food Heritage @ National Museum, Singapore

National Museum, Singapore

The National Museum of Singapore has come up with a food and culture series known as Life & Living and I signed up Hub and myself for the talk titled "Singapore's Food Heritage" - hoping to know more about our hawker culture, how some of our local dishes started out and how they have evolved over the decades. As the talk cost a good S$30 per head and was to be made by a contributor on the popular (the only one mentioned in the Visit Singapore portal) Singaporean food blog, I imagined that I couldn't go wrong in opting for it instead of another cooking demo at a culinary school.

Talk on Singapore's Food Heritage

I was of course mistaken. But it wasn't something I was to discover immediately as the location was top. The National Museum has undergone quite a makeover since the last time I was there. I love old buildings and am really happy that they have thought to preserve this one. A modern wing made of glass and steel has been built as an annex to the old main building and it introduced light to the whole complex without sticking out like a sore thumb or stealing the show from it.

New wing of National Museum

The talk took place on the ground floor in a spacious and airy room with high ceilings. On the tables were write-ups on various hawker places in Singapore selling Hokkien Prawn Mee, Chicken Rice, Rojak, Ondeh Ondeh, Prawn Mee etc. They commented on the food, provided a few anecdotes on the people running the stalls and shared the addresses. No mention of history, origins of dishes etc which I thought would come later during the talk itself - not.

We started out the afternoon with a guided visit of the exhibition gallery showcasing some of our most popular hawker dishes e.g., satay, laksa etc. There were also exhibits of old mobile satay stalls from the days when we ate out in the streets - before we had our hawker centres. As well as videos demonstrating how to cook some of the dishes - always welcome. The problem is that our nice guide was only 17 - hardly the sort who could remember how it was like in the good ole days. I can probably remember more - because I'm an auntie who has been there done it eaten that. They should have taken one of those uncles from MacDonald's and put him in this gallery instead.

Satay stall from the past

Next, a 21-year old young man named Gregory turned up to give us the talk. I have nothing against young people. They have more time to document themselves and are probably more research-savvy. We were given tiny tasty tasting portions of some of his favourite hawker foods e.g. Katong Laksa, Otah Otah, Hokkien Mee...That he knows and likes his hawker food I have no doubt of. But that he could share anything of Singapore's Food Heritage or hawker culture - I can't say for sure. He was very polite and knew how to excuse and say his thank yous - but couldn't really field questions from the audience about ingredients, how a certain dish started out and evolved (like even I knew that Ba Kut Teh started out as medecine for the poor coolies, for example, and is cooked differently between the Teochews and the Hokkiens), couldn't compare similar dishes from our neighbours and probably doesn't know how to cook. Also lacked some common sense. He should have warned the foreigners in the room to eat the ondeh ondeh in a single bite, for example. So that nobody would get gula melaka splashed onto the front of their clothes.

Tasting portion of Katong Laksa

We left knowing where to find the current good hawker stalls but still ignorant of Singapore's Food Heritage. Without being too academic, still, the word "heritage" brings to mind origins, history, traditions, passing down/inheritance...This talk should be titled "Introduction to Singapore's Hawker Food" or "Where to find Singapore's Best Hawker Foods" instead.

Your auntie me could possibly give a better talk. And save 60 bucks. Imagine the amount of Hokkien Mee you could buy with that.

samedi, septembre 12, 2009

Pan-Grilled Turbot/Rombo

Pan-Grilled Turbot

The turbot is a flatfish that has a firm tasty flesh that I buy occasionally as it is quite costly and weighs quite alot (minimum 1 kg) which is too much when only Hub and myself will be eating it. Otherwise it is easy to prepare and always makes a lovely meal.

Last evening, I had it marinated in some salt and olive oil, rubbed some garlic on a hot non-stick frying pan and grilled the fish in some olive oil. On the side, I prepared some cherry tomatoes marinated in olive oil, crushed garlic, herbs (e.g. dill, fennel...) and crushed chilli peppers and spread it on top of the turbot in the last minutes of its cuisson - covering the pan to finish cooking the fish in its own steam.

The French do not usually eat pasta on its own like the Italians, but use it to accompany a meat or a fish. I placed my Pan-Grilled Turbot on a bed of pan-roasted thin-cut potatoes, fresh wide tagliatelle and just-boiled spinach.

This is the kind of dinner I usually make when I run out of time after too many hours spent on the Internet. And I have spent the whole of yesterday booking 2 holidays for October - one to London and the other to Valencia. I would like to move a bit before winter sets in. This is already too depressing to contemplate.

vendredi, septembre 11, 2009

458 Italia World Premiere

458 Italia World Premiere, Maranello, Italy

The 458 Italia World Premiere took place on 09/09/09 and was a private very exclusive preview for selected clients and potential clients of the new Ferrari. The official launch would take place a week later at the 63rd Frankfurt International Motor Show.

The dining room

For once spouses like myself were invited to the World Premiere of a new Ferrari. Very glad to be able to actually sit down and eat a meal - without cutting up meat in X plates and refilling X glasses every few minutes. Very nice too to be able to wear a dress and forget about the need to have pockets.

Ferrari clients are very rich and/or famous, very masculine so you get a room filled with testosterone eventually dangling in its arms other hormones at least 20 years younger, often modified esthetically and wearing boobs jewellery that could steal the limelight from the new car.

Not being able to compete with the diamonds or the expensive cocktail wear, I decided to put on my new long printed purple silk dress from Zara and my not-so-new gladiator sandals also from Zara - comfy stuff. But I nearly suffocated myself when wearing my Misaki 4-strand pearl choker. Nonetheless I was pretty pleased with my "decorated" self - until I discovered that the guy sitting next to me was one of the Damiani brothers and therefore surely a great jewellery expert. One, as I would find out in the course of the evening, who has more than 100 carats of diamonds incrusted in his Ferrari. Alas I would have other things to worry about throughout the evening, like how to stop my boobs from spilling out of my dress.

A place at the table

I was fortunate to be able to have DC and M with me as Hub had to sit at another table with his guests and didn't have time for me. There were also DC's counterparts from Pininfarina and another Ferrari Director who has a Chinese sirname but who is not Chinese and who didn't seem to have a funny bone in him. One of Ferrari's test pilots (the last winner of 24H du Mans) was also part of the table. Dinner, thank God, was simple but good. Seabass Ravioli with fresh tomatoes and basil flowers to start followed by a really tender Chianina beef filet with mixed salad. After the farewell lunch that we shared with AB, I was so very off my diet for the day.

Qui est Qui?

Our table was next to the President's and I got a nice view of Kimi all the time. He has let his hair grow and used a pair of sunglasses to keep it from getting onto the face. There was also the new Ferrari pilot Fisichella who being Italian brought tears to his countrymen happy to have an Italian drive a Ferrari again.

458 Italia on display

The 458 Italia is a beauty and is a first in many things - but don't count on me too much to tell you about them. Once again, DC has outdone himself style-wise, though I still love his California the most. Performance-wise, I understood that this car is 1.5 to 2.5 seconds faster at take off from 0-100 or something compared to its predecessor - though why those guys should be in such a hurry I have no idea. It also has all the important controls on the steering wheel, V8 engine with direct injection, new aluminium chassis, F1 dual-clutch gearbox, carbo-ceramic brakes etc. Many English and Japanese clients around and you should see the faces on those men, all rapt and rapturous.

Gene, Badoer, Schumacher, Felisa, Montezemolo (President), Raikkonen, Fisichella, Fedeli

Massa said Hi from Brazil

Schumi tells you what it was like driving this car

The President himself presented the new car and charmed the audience with his humourous repartee, anecdotes, intimate remarks...In fact, you realised then what an exclusive club/family Ferrari and those who drive or aspire to drive a Ferrari make. Just that alone would sell the cars, I suspect. And when in addition it's a world's 1st in so many aspects...

458 Italia - The main features

However I wish that he wouldn't be so hard on Kimi. Maybe it's an Italian joke but I do not see why he had to keep harping on the fact that Kimi doesn't like to talk. Moral of the story the guy is not as popular as Schumi or Massa or even Fisichella in Italy and often gets the least applause. Pity as he's the cutest of them all and looks like your boy next door. And men are often better off just agreeing with you and not talking too much.

Fireworks above the Fiorano tracks

Dessert was served buffet-style outside with a view of the Fiorano tracks and the sky. And the guests were offered a fantastic fireworks display, each time you thought it was over it only got better. It was a lovely evening and I was really happy to have been a part (albeit nondescript) of it. It makes it a little easier to live with the Hub's long hours and working Saturdays and for being in this hole of a city. I can only hope that Ferrari will finish off the F1 season in some beauty and get off to a better start in the next. And if you have the money (and know not what to do with it), buy this car.

dimanche, septembre 06, 2009

Club Med Ria Bintan, Indonesia

Club Med Ria Bintan

We wanted somewhere to go to for sun, sea and sex. But didn't want to take another plane for it. Desaru in Malaysia was a little disappointing the last time, so we decided to try out Bintan Island in Indonesia. And on Bintan there are a number of resorts from the Nirwana to the Banyan Tree Group, but we finally settled on Club Med as they offer all-inclusive holidays and I didn't feel like playing travel agent.

The private beach at Club Med Bintan

We (including my mom) took a ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal in Singapore. It lasted less than an hour and was a smooth and comfortable journey. Before that we nearly couldn't leave as Hub had forgotten his passport. "Why didn't you remind me?"

Why don't you check!

He was really inflated, that man. He had only himself to look after and he couldn't even remember his passport. In the past, whenever I asked him if he had his passport, he would tell me that he had travelled more than me, so of course he always remembers his passport. And now it was my fault because I didn't remind him.

Thank God we were in Singapore and at the drop of a call, my dad rushed from wherever he was (i.e. buying lottery - that gambler) to pick up the passport from the flat and then bring it to us by taxi. Imagine that happening when you are at Bologna airport, it would have cost a fortune in money and in time. As it was, we were just finishing breakfast at the coffee shop when he arrived. Of course it helped that we were really in advance. Hub was wondering why we set out so early for the ferry, he should be grateful we did.

Our room


You arrived to ice lemon tea and smiling GOs (Gentil Organisateur) at Club Med Ria Bintan (4*). A Japanese and Italian GO showed us to our rooms on the ground floor of a building partially overlooking the sea and mostly facing a little hill. We had 3 rooms of which 2 were connected. They were quite lovely and warmly decorated. Small LCD TV, thick mattresses, teak furniture for the balcony...Lots of wardrobe space, emergency torchlight (we had a blackout on our 1st night), a large shower.

Late lunch with seaview

At Club Med you eat for free and for as much as you want almost all day long. They had 3 main stations i.e. Chinese, Korean and Japanese plus the usual salad, international and dessert stations. You also drink from morning till midnight - always as much as you want. The quality and taste of the drinks weren't consistent though I averaged 5 alcoholic cocktails daily when I was there in addition to coffee and the non-alcoholic ones. A bar is always somewhere near you, whether you're at the pool, near the beach or walking past reception on your way to the tennis courts. Thank God we're not rich enough to go to a Club Med all the time.

A chacun son cocktail

Most activities are also included in the stay e.g. flying trapeze, golf practice, sailing, kayaking, wind surfing, archery, yoga, aquagym, bocce ball...You also have 24-hour access to the tennis, squash and badminton courts, with free loan of the rackets and balls. And if you need someone to play with you, they'll arrange it. The children can be part of the Mini-Club where they are looked after from 9-5.30 and then again from dinnertime till 9pm. The Babies were bored after 2 days and preferred to stay with us though. Meanwhile, teenagers like Eldest Son got a GO hanging out with the group, bringing them to try out different activities. We never saw the boy from after breakfast till just before dinner. And at 9pm, he would watch a live performance (there is one every evening) with us and then disappear again till bedtime.

Robin Hood

Beach Baby

If you want to play golf in an amazing setting, you can do so at the Ria Bintan Golf Club next door - like Hub did. It is said to be one of the best in Asia. But prices are European though you also get a caddy and a buggy for it. Hub's already thinking of bringing his second set of golf clubs over to Singapore the next time and leaving it at the parents' place - so that he can play golf anytime he wants when he's there. The left-handed golf club rental there was expensive and really horrible.

Ria Bintan Golf

On the whole it was a good trip as we had a massage at the spa (good massage therapists from Bali) and I've enjoyed the archery (got lots of bruises and a medal to show for it) and golf sessions, the warm water temperatures in both pool and sea and I love the fact that the beach is private and has clean white sand. Also, unlike some other Club Meds, it was rather calm there and they didn't have music booming nor do they force you to sing and dance with them every 30 minutes.

Beach bar

Main pool

If I had a complaint, it was the lack of Frenchness in this Club Med. As most of the clients come from Asia, entertainment was mainly visual and you didn't have the usual cafe-theatres, plays or stand-up comedies in French. When you go to a Club Med, you do somehow expect it.

My bull's eye

That was our last outing before we returned to Italy. After a week of buffets and cocktails, it wasn't just my luggage that was overweight.