Archive for the ‘Leisure’ Category

1st November this year fell on a Tuesday. I could have made a bridge for a longer “weekend”, but could not due to my workload at work 😦

I was glad to break off work for that one day that week for a yearly family reunion, hosted by one of my SIL’s. While driving to my SIL’s, we stopped at a friend’s house. I received a text message from F that she was giving away some of her ‘harvests’ in her garden. 

Guess what? I hand-picked the chillies in her garden. They were so, very, very fresh! She wanted only the red ones, so I helped myself to the green chillies. I didn’t mind the ‘raw version’ at all, because I knew if I left the chillies wrapped in absorbent paper in the lower drawer of the fridge, the chillies would ripen. 

And I was right!

10 days later, some of the birds’ eye chillies had turned to a lovely bright orange-crimson colour. And I knew exactly where some of the chillies would end up into 😉

Thai Chef vs Me

There was one Wednesday that I took a day off and brought my 2 sons out for lunch (Note, both boys had half-day school / Univ on a Wednesday). We went to a Thai resto near our place. 

For starter, I ordered Tom Yum Goong (TYG) for us. It was a good TYG, but I missed that Oomph in their soup. It was a wee bit too lame. 

Saturday came, and TYG was in the pipeline for our lunch menu.

So here it was, my version vs the Thai Chef’s. 


And not only that, I made my TYG in my thermomix! 


To be honest, I could eat my TYG all day without anything else that day, because it had been a while since I last made the soup! I looked back at a post I wrote; it was in March this year when I had friends over. You can read it all … Here 🙂

Because I love bold-tasting soups, I thought of a way to totally infuse the aromatics in the soup first before proceeding further. Be warned! It’s a highly seasoned soup that hits the palate and warms the heart without burning, if you know what I meant 😉

(Note: This is my own recipe using my preferred method – tried and tested – after a few trials and errors).  

Please be aware that some measurements are not given as only you will know how much or how little you want to put in the dish. Remember, “Ut quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum” or what is food for one man may be bitter poison to others. 

Ingredients A

  • 2 cm piece galangal
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 lemongrass
  • 2 coriander roots

Ingredient B

  • 5 g cooking oil / coconut oil

Ingredient C

  • 1,500 g water

Ingredients D

  • Lemongrass, bruised and halved
  • Shallots, halved 
  • Galangal, sliced
  • Bird’s eye chillies, lightly bruised
  • Kaffir lime leaves, lightly bruised with the fingers

Ingredients E

  • Fish sauce, to taste
  • Homemade chilli paste, eyeball for colour, taste and flavour
  • Salt, to taste 

Ingredients F

  • Prawns, shelled 
  • Mushrooms, sliced 

Ingredient G

  • Lime juice, to taste
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved or whole

Ingredient H

  • Fresh coriander 

Steps –

  • Place A in the TM bowl. Grind 5 sec/ sp 10  * 2

  • Add B. Sauté for 3 mins/100C/ sp 2 
  • Place D in SB and add C. Cook for 15 mins/ 120C/ sp1


  • Remove the SB and tip the aromatics in a bowl. Set aside for garnish later.

  • Transfer F in the SB. Cook for 4 mins/120C/ sp 1 or until the prawns are cooked. 

  • Remove the SB and set aside the cooked prawns, mushrooms, etc
  • Add E. Cook further for 5 mins/ 120C/ sp 2


  • Add G. Stir for 1 min/ R/ spoon
  • Assemble a serving bowl with prawns, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, some slices of galangal, bird’s eye chillies, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Garnish with H.
  • Done!


Happy 1st Anniversary!

I made the TYG to go with my Nasi Ulam and baked spiced chicken. Our Saturday lunch was the bomb, by the way, with full-blown explosion of flavours. Yup, my kind of food 🙂


There’s no better way to celebrate my first year anniversary of owning the thermomix than sharing with you some of the dishes I have conjured the past 12 months using my most used kitchen gadget today!

And as they say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words‘ …


IMPORTANT NOTICE : Please be aware that I’m neither a Consultant/ Advisor nor an employee of Thermomix.  I am NOT paid anything from any parties. I just happened to own a thermomix and love doing what I’m doing and will continue doing so. 

Happy Mid-Week ya’ll!

Cheers!

When my 2nd year University son came up to me in Feb this year, here’s what happened.

He walked towards me holding a scruffy looking piece of paper.

Me: What’s that in your hand?

Son: Er….nothing

Me: Then why are you coming to me when there’s nothing?

Son: Ah…. actually there’s something I want to tell you…

Me: Yes, go on…. I’m listening

Son: Me and my besties are going for a holiday this summer… to the Balkans, at least 5 or 6 countries..?

Me: What?!! That’s still 7 months down the road and your final exam’s in June. Shouldn’t we be discussing that first?

Son: Well, we’re in a planning stage ….

Me: That’s a good plan, son, and who’s going to pay for your holidays?

Son: Erm…..that’s what I’m here for ….

Me: OH-KAY! Then I know what’s best for you. If you don’t get through your exams, there will be no hols for you. If you get through your papers, papa or mama will not pay your hols, but you have to earn it yourself. Get a summer job! Okay?

Son: Ok, mama *big smiles*

And by the way, he got through all his papers and did his summer student job at the company I work with, but working at the most unaccomodating graveyard shift. You can read it all here: A Mother’s Insane Sacrifice 

But hey, wait a minute! Isn’t this post about 7 girls? And why am I chewing over my son’s story? 

Well, to be honest, there’re some similarities and dissimilarities on both sides of the narratives. 

Ready?

Se7en!

My son left for Skopje (their first stop) with 6 buddies, all boys, in September before the new semester began! The weather was a bummer, with some waterlogged days and some, sunny days. The boys were away for 2 weeks.

I left for Porto with 6 friends, all girls, recently in Oct. The weather was a bummer, with one day when we were completely soaked! We were away for only 3 days!

My son and his mates planned their holiday destination early this year and came to a unanimous consensus to visit the Balkan states plus Budapest since February. They met regularly at one of the boys’ houses to discuss the details of the trip, places of interests, budget, mode of payment etc. 

My girlfriends and I talked and planned about an all-girl getaway via whatsApp, with several destinations mentioned, but no mutual consensus to any one location. It was just a plan, so it seemed …

Our girlie conversation started in March. One of the girls, AO, was pregnant with her second child. Her baby was due in May. For her – inititally – it was a no go as she said she would be in a breastfeeding mode, depending on the date of our trip.

So with the 6 remaining heads, the topic was cooled down for a while and was again brought up in April. That time, AO was in Kuching with the intention of having her baby delivered there. While AO was updating about news and foods in Kuching, the 6 of us decided to go on with the trip plan without AO, hence, on 26th April, C sent out a doodle poll to gather a unanimous and compromised date of our inaugural all-girl weekend getaway. 

Lo and behold! We had a date!!! Amazing… considering it came from 6 double X-chromosomes Homo sapiens. LOL!

The weekend of 22nd October it was! Brilliant, and wait until you hear this…. because we wanted to stay 2 nights, those who’re working had to take a day off on either a Friday or a Monday. We all decided to take Friday off to fly to our chosen destination and came back on Sunday. Yup, it’s a short trip but for goodness’ sake, we are all married girls with and/ or without kids (yet).

Doing Our Own Things

Since the doodle poll in April to secure a date (which was brilliant), we went on to do our own things. Nothing was discussed anymore about our trip, except at fleeting moments when one of the girls, AM, brought up the subject but only to be swept under the rug or fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, AO had given birth to gorgeous baby Z. Due to work, business trips, kids’ activities, football season, exams and the summer holidays, our intended all-girl getaway appeared to be just an ambitious and far-fetched idea/ plan.

Meanwhile, my son and his 6 buddies had settled some prepaid expenses of their pending trip and he was showing me the places and locations they would cover and visit. Mum could only admire…

Midas Touch

August arrived. My family and I went for our ‘ritual’ South of France trip. While enjoying the sun, great food, sceneries and fresh air, I was showing my girlfriends some photos of our Provençal summer getaway, despite the sporadic internet connections at our holiday home in one of the remotest parts of South of France.

 

That was probably the photo that Midas touched. Suddenly a trail of chatty girls started to re-open the conversation that was held back frozen some 4 months before ….

Thursday, 11th August … Full Steam Ahead!

After the girls saw the photos I shared in our group chat, the conversation went full steam ahead …

And here’s how 7 girls made the decision in one evening ! It was a vivacious and animated conversation…. but darn the internet connnection!!

AO: Yup … we really should plan a trip next time

X: We have our trip in October!!

AO: Where you girls going again?

D (with very limited internet connection): Our trip in Oct? Not even planned anything yet! (suddenly, no internet connection/ out of conversation)

AO: Oct will be pretty cold already, unless we head South… Spain/ Portugal

X: That’s the plan, somewhere South. Corsica?

AO: I wanna go, but baby Z has to tag along

X: Where’s AM, our organiser?!!

AM: My questions: Are you still keen on our all-ladies’ trip? If yes (in Oct), (1) where? (2) flying or taking the train? (3) who are still keen to go?

AO: Yes (1) anywhere (2) anything (3) me

C: If weekend, we fly

X: Corsica? Flying… if Corsica. Me

C: We talked about Porto. Corsica is also OK. Flying is best if long weekend. Me, depending on date.

X: C, we had the doodle poll, remember? We had a date… the weekend of 22/10

AO: Are we doing Fri-Sun or Sat – Mon?

AM: First, how many of us going or rather who are confirmed going?

AO: Me, you, X. C maybe. G? O? D?

AM: Also need to confirm if 21/10 to 23/10 or 22/10 to 24/10 or 20/10 to 24/10

X: Let’s wait for G, O and D to respond

AO (deflecting her thoughts): If we go to Pisa from there, train to La Spezia and then Cinque Terre! It’s soooooo gorgeous!

C: I have been there but don’t mind going again. Very beautiful. Italy’s always a good destination. Pisa/ Verona/ Bologna

AM: Are we going for food, sight-seeing, walking or shopping or all three?

AO: I don’t really shop. For me it’s food and views (preferably ocean/ sea)

C: If it’s a long drive to Cinque Terre, then we will need an extra day …

AO: Plus anywhere next to the ocean, is bound to offer fresh seafood

X: It is a short trip, so I would recommend to keep it simple

AO: You’re right…. just saw Pisa’s airfare was soooo cheap, I lost my mind

AM: We go for all – sightseeing, walking, some fun/ excitement, food and some shopping

AO: Ryanair is pissing me off. Their website is ridiculous; no matter which destination I clicked on, it always directs me to Berlin!!! Easyjet is having a sale now…. lemme search..

AM: If I’m not mistaken, D has mentioned no France trip for her

G (just joining in the conversation): I’m going to Napoli on the cruise after our all-girls trip, so no Napoli, please 

AO: Grrrr…. OK no Easyjet

G: Milan, I don’t mind

AO: OK, I don’t either. Any destination for me is good. I haven’t been many new places, always the same few drivable cities

AM: Before we look at air tickets, we still have to decide 1-2 destinations and the 3 dates I mentioned that we are all OK with. Only then can we talk about air tickets

C: I stick with Porto. I don’t think we should spend too much time again on destination. We know we do not want to go too far and make it too complicated. Italy or Portugal. No one mentioned Spain but that is also good. Alternatively, Edinburgh? Or Ireland? Please be quick as some of us need to apply for leave. And make sure kids are taken care of

G: I agree with C on this matter. Ireland is pretty boring. I have been there a few times and no Edinburgh please ‘cos I plan to go there to see my sis in Glasgow.

AM: Does D have wifi or internet access at her holiday villa?

D (back in the conversation): Argghhhh!! Issues with internet connection. So slow. It was fine when we arrived but not anymore.

X: So ladies (1) Porto (2) Bologna (3) Naples

AM and AO: Porto looks OK to me

D: OK with location (I assumed, Porto?), but no France please. Have we booked the hotel yet and what’s our budget?

AO: Take an apartment from AirBNB? Much more fun? Can cook too…

AM: Hah … we are on holidays. Also wanna try the local foods.

D: We all need a holiday! No cooking please. I wanna see places. Move around.. a bit of shopping (souvenirs) and Port wine!!!

AO: Agree! Agree! No cooking …

D: Need to check location to/from airport. Is the place too remote? Walking distance to city centre? Places of interest?

X: Single room or twin sharing? Best to stay around city centre

AM: Twin or triple sharing? Do we need to rent a car?

X: I don’t think we need a car

AM (summarizing): Destination = Porto. Meals = No cooking. Transport = no rental of car. Accom = Hotel

D: Please book accomodation first before booking air tix

C (suddently sidetracking): My initial idea was to go and book into a spa in Germany!! We drive there in 2 cars, then save on flying cost and just spoil ourselves and baby Z in a spa

AO: I would love to be pampered!

C: No need to buy air tickets. Then go out eating in the Mosel area and have a great time

X: I’m easy …

C: Not sure about Germany as well …. Heard some good ones in Austria but that is too far

AO: Aiyah, me anything anywhere anytime OK

C : Are we back to Lisbon??

AO: No, I’m exploring German Spa hotels now …. cos I do love German food

C: I can drive and take 3 more persons. Driving there is approx 3 hours

AM: Please no Germany or Austria, please, please !!!!

C: Why not???

AO: Ok ok AM …. let’s find a spa hotel in Porto?

X: Ladies, are we going to Porto to stay in a spa?

AM: I do not necessarily need a spa hotel in Porto. Depending on the rest, I go with the flow

X: We go there for sightseeing so let’s get a decent hotel

AO: I definitely wanna go out sightseeing, eat local food, then go back spa a bit before sleep

D: Are you sure all of us want spa hotel? To be honest, I don’t like to be cooped up in the hotel. I want to walk and see places …

AM: We really need to come to a certain decision …

X: I’m with D

AM: I’m with D and X

AO: I think it’s safe to say we’ve settled on a destination

X: Let’s park the spa trip another time, ok?

D: Brilliant! (and suddenly no connection …)

AM: How many of us for Hotel? Apartment?

X: AM, D, are you into hotel or Air BNB?

AO: I’m still pinning on AirBNB because much cheaper and allows more camaraderie. With the savings, can splurge on food, shopping …

AM: Hotel and in the city, if possible. I’m not much of a spa person – does not work for me

X: OK

AO: Ok lets do hotel

C: Best hotel in the city …

AO: Yay! Let’s book

X: Lets wait for G and D. For D, it’s definitely no cooking, I know …

AO: Cooking is for future trips that are weeks long

C: I’m a light sleeper, so can’t share room

AO: Ooooh… are we all taking single rooms? I’m OK with sharing or single

AM: I guess it depends. If anyone wants to share rooms, can share, otherwise, she can also decide on a single room

AO (feeling excited): I’m just excited we agreed on a destination. LOL … And I’ve not been to Portugal, so extra chuffed

C: Yay!

D (back in the conversation): Just reading your messages. Catching up. So hotel, OK for me ..

X: We need to book the flights to enjoy the rate

AO: Yes, agree,must get flights asap

D: Once we have agreed on location and place, only then can we proceed to book the flight. But must be unanimous

X: How do we manage the flight booking? Book individually?

D: Not heard from G or O ..

G: Sorry ladies, my phone battery died last night when I was out so only saw messages now. Yeah, I’m fine with Porto. Twin sharing is fine with me. Think I can share with AM since she asked me. As for flights, best we book ourselves, no? Just send the appropriate itinerary to all and we book ourselves

X: I have the flight itinerary. SN Brussels

G: Email or in this whatsApp? So many messages, I will need to read through …

C: Email the definitive is best

G: So Fri to Sun, I’m OK with that

AO: Its only G who needs to get home before Monday is it? Would anyone mind if I stayed one extra night on my own (anyone is welcome to join me, of course). If I’m alone for extension, I can visit my friends in Faro

G: Anyone can stay as long as she wants. I can still come back on Sunday

AO: I understand that majority needs to work Monday. The non-workers are welcome to spend an extra day there with me, optional.

G: I prefer to come back earlier cos Thursday early morning we are leaving on an 11-day cruise. A lot of travelling…

AM: I do not mind coming back on Monday, too

AO: Great AM, we stay an extra day, k?

X: O, are you joining?

O (just got a new job and busy with her work, just joined in the conversation): Read through all the messages… Yes, joining! Sorry, can’t chat long. Need to work.  I go with the flow …

X: Are you going to take with you hand baggage or check in?

AO: One small luggage

X: Please note tickets are non-changeable and non-refundable

D: Hand baggage. Check and go. I’m doing that. Faster.

C: Me, too. Pack light …

D: Wear something warm on and carry light. October will be quite cool

C: Agree with D

AO (the first to book): Wow, me plus baby only Eur xxx total. Cheap cheap cheap! Booked and paid…

AM: Air tix and hotel booked! Yay … our tour begins…

D: Did we all book flying the same hour?

X, C, G, AO: Yup!

AM: Thanks to X who had us speeding up with our booking

AO (sidetracking again …): I’m going to get dining tips! I want that portuguese egg tart …pasteis de nata!!! Seafood!

G: Re the rooms, we have 2 twin sharings and one triple. Since I will be sharing with AM, my guess is that D, X and C will take the triple, right? The extra nights, those who will stay behind can bunk in together. Then rooms issue settled

AM: I have 3 sizes hand carry luggages at home, all Samsonites. Which is the standard size??

D: Check Brussels Airlines website. Allowable carry-on baggage Check&Go is 1 piece, max dimensions 55x40x23 cm with max total weight of 12kg. Note Size and weight apply hand in hand. If size is OK but weighs a ton, you cannot hand carry

X: AM, check the dimensions of your baggage. We are taking the Airbus, so it should not be an issue if you sticked to the dimensions as per D‘s guidelines. I do face issues at times when on biz trips, where they put your luggage away because of the size of the plane but it’s rare..

AM: Thanks X, so far I got checked before because my carry on looked bulky but it fitted to their measurement basket.

D: Again, suggest you carry light and wear warm clothings on with good walking pair of shoes. That should solve the carry & go baggage dilemma. Read its cold in Porto even in the Summer esp at night !!

All Settled and Ready to Go?

Phew!!! The double X-chromosomes managed to agree in record time … in one evening’s conversation!! One summer photo snowballed the effect with X speeding things up. Thanks, X! Note, there was no face-to-face communication, but only text conversation via WhatsApp. Thanks to cyberspace and 7 thinking heads ‘brainstormed’ by a Marketing & Sales Manager, a Communications Manager, a Lawyer, a Business Finance Controller, a former Nurse, a Food & Beverage Expert and a former Flight Stewardess cum Restaurant Manager. We were such diversed personalities, and strong-headed, too, that we even managed to come to a decision, was utterly amazing!

Oh by the way, did you manage to count the number of cities and locations in our conversation?

In case you lost count, at least 13 destinations were hinted at! Corsica, Lisbon, Pisa, Porto, Verona, Bologna, Naples, Edinburgh, Mosel, Nice, spa in Germany, Ireland, Austria… It was a LOOOOONNG list. But Porto was the winner!

Meanwhile, my son and his 6 buddies returned home from their trip from the Balkan Peninsula plus Budapest on 20th September before the new University Semester started. Their 2 weeks hols saw their friendship grew even more. The group was made up of the following students: 2 Civil Engineering and 1 Business Engineering students, 1 Sports Science student, 1 Business Management student, 1 student of Architect and 1 IT student.


Now, how will 7 girls and a baby fare after the weekend trip of 2N and 3D in Porto?

We shall see…

Stay tuned *wink*

Porto, here we come!

 
While waiting for the next part, please hop over to this post: When 7 girls decided to meet …

Cheers!

 

Yes I know, the Summer Holidays are over. Hubby and I came back to earth ~ abruptly ~ to work; as for the boys, it’s the start of their new school term, one of them at least (the younger one).

Geez… Time flies!

Anyway, I’d like to relive that holiday mode in this post. After all, it’s a continuation of the last few days of our recent Summer hols.

<< Flashback…

17th August. Three more nights in the Provence and back to reality. Yikes

Nope! I tried to shake my head off the reality because I was very much in my holiday mode.

However, with almost back to back activities we had had the past days, we tried to have a more relaxing time at our holiday home. Since we arrived at Lagarde-Paréol, almost 2 weeks earlier, we had not got the chance to explore the surrounding. So near and yet so far …

By the way, 17th August was declared a slow and lazy day. While hubby was e-reading a book on his iPad and my older son was watching a film on dvd on his laptop, I turned to my younger son and said, “Let’s go for a walk and explore our neighbourhood, you and I”

I was lucky my younger son was game with the decision as he had intended to make a video of our summer hols. Any new photos would be great material for an amateur video.

Lagarde-Paréol

Lagarde-Paréol is a tiny village with a population of ca 300. The nearest biggest city, Orange, is 12 km away where most of the inhabitants commute to work there. 

If you’re looking for a shopping holiday near where you live, then forget Lagarde-Paréol. There are not many shops nearby and there are very few organised events. In other words, it’s a rather laid back location. But we loved it there. The peacefulness, tranquility and serenity… and lots of fresh air, away from the maddening crowd!

The place is rich in flora. I loved the smell of nature and the colours.

It was so still and quiet that my son just lay down on the deserted narrow street (can you spot him?). I wasn’t panicked at all because cars passing by were really sporadic.

There are a few winegrowers in the area and they bring a bit of life to this little village. 

The wine grapes are deep purple in colour, very heavy and dense to the touch. Although I was tempted to pop a grape in my mouth, I shrugged the thought off. 

In hindsight, I should have tried at least one grape. Now I haven’t the notion of how wine grapes taste like versus table grapes 😛


My son and I walked for more than 2 hours and we suddenly felt peckish. By the time we got back, it was 5.30 pm. I realised we did not have any proper meal that day. We only had brunch at 12’ish.

There was nothing much left in the fridge or the pantry, so we decided to have dinner in the nearest bigger town.

Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes

We left the house at 6.30 pm and drove 5 km to Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes. It’s the nearest ‘biggest’ town from Lagarde-Paréol. The village has a spectacular view of Le Mont Ventoux as backdrop. 

It’s amazingly quiet in the early evening on a weekday. Looking for a restaurant was like looking for a needle in a haystack. We found two restaurants, but they were closed and there were 2 pubs opened, however, they did not serve decent meals.  So we walked on, hoping to find that ‘needle’…

And then … Eureka

It was NOT a restaurant, but a little pizza stand, adjoining a private residence. Interesting!  

We immediately walked in the patio or terrace area and found enough chairs and tables for us to dine on.

And dined we did! It was one of the best pizzas I have tasted. Why? Because it was home- and hand-made, from the dough to the toppings.  

And you know what? There was no cutlery! So we became complete philistines and ate our pizzas with our fingers. So what?!

They were seriously supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

Suddenly, Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes came to life. We heard ceaseless mobile phone calls and orders kept rolling in. People came by and picked their orders. 

And here’s the one-man show chef who made it possible. 

A simple smile creates its own message without words, but action with superb execution. 


Happy mid-Week!

Cheers!

It’s Friday. If you love flea markets, you will love the Friday market at Carpentras. This is one of the largest village markets in the Provence with 350 stalls or more set up each week on the town square, narrow roads and parking areas. We have been to Carpentras twice before in our previous trips during the Summer hols. We have never gotten tired of re-visiting the market – again – this summer!

Carpentras is 32 km from our holiday home. We arrived there rather late at around 11 am, thus, finding a parking space was a HUGE problem as most of the open-space parking areas in the centre of the town were reserved specially for the setting up of the stalls, making parking very squeezed and limited around the vicinity or the outskirts.

We finally found a parking area a bit far out of the centre at Parking area La Roseraie. We didn’t mind the walk through the Châteaux La Roseraie, a small park which is quite well maintained. The first thing we noticed when we got out of the parking area after crossing the road were the hand-painted boulders. I found lovable E.T. !  My younger son rushed to his Pikachu, which is synonymous to the current crazy game, Pokémon Go! Arghhh!

If you’re wondering what the lime green structure is, well, it’s a makeshift library. I noticed the books were well read with stained pages, flipped multiple times. Unfortunately, all books are in French …

When we reached the centre, the smell of local produce whiffed past our nostrils instantly, and the magnificent colour and sound are everywhere. For the locals, it’s their weekly shopping. For us, tourists, we were there to admire what we saw with memories captured on our lenses. I wished I could buy loads what were sold there, especially the handsome-looking garlics from Piolenc! But I had to remember that we would be travelling back home some 1,000 km in a few days. The smell of garlic in the heated trunk was not a good idea. Duh!

By the way, I did buy the more floral-scented items. The bouquet of dried lavender and sunflowers would look great in our newly bought porcelain Provençal cricket vase 😉

It would be a shame if we had left the Provence without buying the infamous artisanal soap bars, traditionally known as Savon de Marseille (soap from Marseille).  Traditionally, the soap bars came in the aroma of olive oil. Today, the soaps are made artisanally with extracts from seasonal plants, flowers, fruits, nuts, oils and herbs. Our favourites are lavender, jasmine, olive oil, rose petal and green tea. And that’s what I bought ! *big smile*

Oh yes, I noticed the same lady selling the soap bars at Carpentras was also at the Tuesday market at Vaison-la-Romaine 😊

We had been walking around quite a bit in the limited time we had before the 350 odd merchants called it a day by 1 pm.

When most of the stalls packed it in, we walked away from the market place and square, away from the maddening crowd and found ourselves perusing a board with the cheapest lunch deal ever!

I have never came across a complete meal comprising a starter, main course, dessert and a 25 cl glass of rosé wine at Eur 14 anywhere in Europe !!!  Let me know if you have paid lower than Eur 14 anywhere else? I’m talking about an eatery in Europe! 

I had Croque Monsieur with salad for starter. My main course was veal stew with basmati rice. Hubby had tagliatelle with scallops. Our dessert was tarte tartin.  It was nothing fancy, but for the price we paid, it was definitely worth it.

Oh by the way, the name of the brasserie-resto was La Cantina at Carpentras.

We left Carpentras with a smile on our face and a story to tell.  And I just did 😉

Our next stop that afternoon saw us heading to a totally different “planet”, which brought us nearer to the Sun…

I wonder …

See ya!

Cheers!


Sunday arrived. We had 6 guests coming at 3 pm. I had no idea how to start or what to cook or prepare as there was zero inventory in the pantry, fridge and freezer! 

Luckily, the night before, we consulted the villa owner about supermarkets in the vicinity. He was very kind and provided us with an address. Brilliant! That was a good start.

Meanwhile my girlfriend, M, was sending me updates about her contingent and going through the names of who would be coming. I have met M’s husband as well their 2 daughters and have known the girls since they were tiny tots. They have now grown to be knockout beauties!

The 2 girls brought along their schoolmates and suddenly M had to be an instant Mum to 4 lovely ladies.

M is not just a friend. She was a former colleague. We both worked at Pfizer BE in the late 90’s. We now work in different companies and we still get to meet socially when we could with 2 other former colleagues for an all ladies’ day out. Check out this post Ladies’ Day Out.

Putting my Thinking Cap on …

Thanks to the villa owner who passed us the address of the Supermarket the night before. It was definitely easier visualising what to put on the table for our guests when we were at the supermarket.

French baguettes were a life saver! And they’re in abundance where we were. Phew

To go with the baguette, there’s soup. I also made sardine dip or side dish (with chopped chillies, shallots, spring onions, fresh coriander, lime juice, salt and pepper). This went perfectly with the baguette as well.

I made a 3rd plate of the refreshing yum woon sen (my own version of the Thai vermicelli salad).

Since it’s Summer hols, we didn’t go by any dining rules. Why bother? It’s not all about food, by the way; it’s meeting and greeting and having a sense of comradeship that’re more important. Chips, nuts and what-have-you nested happily on the serving table. 

And then there were 10 of us …

Our guests arrived on the dot. 3 pm sharp! Bravo. Well done, M!

It was great meeting up with M and her family again ~ and mind you ~ in France, more than 1,000 km away from our homes. So glad that our paths crossed this Summer hols. Everyone had a fantastic time in the pool or poolside and basking in the sun and just talked, oblivious to the passage of time. 

I couldn’t remember what time M and her family left. No one kept track of the time. When they finally left, suddenly our house became so quiet…

Sunday was a fulfilled day spent with friends. Monday was a day of rest, which helped a great lot in charging our mortal batteries for the next days.

Vaison-la-Romaine

We headed for the Tuesday markets at Vaison-la-Romaine, which was 22 km away. I love going to the markets in the Provence. There is at least one or more than one village market every day in the week. Vaison-la-Romaine is just one of them. Unfortunately, it’s not my favourite village market. I’ve seen better ones at Bonieux, a hilltop village in the Luberon region of Provence.

When going to one of the village markets, we had to make sure that we left early as all markets will call it a day by 1pm. 

We bought a huge loaf of pain fermie (sourdough loaf), which lasted for 2 and half days. This was considered as fast moving and would only happen during the Summer hols. Breads back home in Belgium would often go untouched, until they get mouldy on the 5th day. Lol!

The Best Cheap Lunch Deal Ever at Beaumes de Venise!

For a complete menu of Eur 18 per person, comprising of a starter, main course and dessert, I would recommend this address: La Part des Anges at Beaumes de Venise.

We were pleasantly surprised by the excellent presentation of every single plate served for an incredibly cheap lunch menu. 

Mind you, I had one of the best starters in a long time, Tiramisu Provençal. My main course was duck meat in raspberry sauce served with French fries and salad. My dessert was the refreshingly light and tangy lime panacotta. 

The tagliatelle carbonara was my younger son’s choice of main course, by the way.

Thumbs Up for a superb lunch👍🏼

We stayed on at Beaumes de Venise a bit longer because suddenly my other half was attracted to something …

Was it something or someone? Let’s find out, so stay tuned to Part 3…

Cheers!

11th November is a National Holiday in Belgium and France to commemorate the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of WWI. This took place at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year 1918. Armistice Day is how it’s called in Belgium and France, which coincides with Remembrance Day in Britain and Commonweath countries and Veterans Day in the USA. 

97 years later … 7 girls (or nearly 7) decided to get together on 11/11 at around 11 …

You have probably read about 3 of the girls in a post I have written in 2010 in “Murphy’s Law or was it just …?” and in 2012 on “The MasterChef in X, C and A …” and a more recent write-up, “Coconut Pandan Chiffon Cake – First Successful Attempt”

Since then, our group has grown to 7, including myself. It is not easy to assemble all 7 girls at one time, since almost all of us are working/ living at different locations in Belgium and Germany. Our plans to meet up were usually confined to a weekday lunch during lunch break, and that spelled QUICK lunch! We would love to have a LAZY lunch at our own LAZY pace. Weekends can be tough to meet as well because we all have our own lives to lead!

And by the way, 11th November was a Wednesday and a National Holiday in Belgium … so we decided to meet, all 7 of us.

Erm… me think it was C who started the ball rolling that time round – a week before 11/11.

C : Anyone wants to watch Crimson Peak? Let’s all meet, please..!

G : Me! I’m free on 11/11

X : Count me in

AO : Oh no, not Crimson Peak… I have a very strong imagination … I pass, but if you girls are meeting in Antwerp, let’s lunch at DJL..

AS : Yes for Crimson Peak and DJL

O : I’ll let you girls know my availability later ..

X : Let’s watch Spectre then to have a full quorum

AO : No Bond movie for me please. I usually sleep watching a Bond movie … You girls go ahead with CP after we lunch at DJL. I’ll drive home …

Me : I’m not a fan of 007, too. The movie’s really quite predictable .. How about Martian? LOVE Matt Damon and heard the movie’s brilliant!

G : Martian is EXCELLENT, but I’ve seen it already. We can all watch different movies when we are at the Cinema. I’ve done that with other friends …

AO : Oh, I love Matt Damon!

C : No Bond for me. After lunch, I’ll drive home …

AS : No Martian for me, please! I’ve watched it already with hubs and it was brilliant!

Me : Excellent! Brilliant! Must watch lor…

G : Oops…. Timing issues. 

O : Ooops … I wish I could make it with you girls but hubby has to work on 11/11 and no one’s taking care of my boy. So sorry ladies 😦

Oopsie! …. now which movie did we all agree to watch OR did we get to watch a movie at all? That’s the Question!!

Da Jia Le (DJL)

11/11 arrived and some of us car-pooled. X came to my house to pick me up first and then to another location to pick up G and AS. C was on her way to the resto and AO just left her house. Well, at least lunching at DJL was unanimously agreed upon, and besides, it was an all-girls day out! No hubbies and kids tagging along. Yay!

AO has frequented DJL and has shared some of her ‘eating spree’ photos there with us on WhatsApp. The dishes looked mouth-wateringly amazing, which reminded us of foods we could get easily back in Kuching or elsewhere in Malaysia.

I was told DJL was opened for business not too long ago. It’s a pretty small resto in the heart of China Town, Antwerp. The teeny weeny resto can accommodate less than 30 people at one time, hence we made sure that we could secure a table for 6 on 11/11. Reservation was key.

Whoever came first went straight to the resto and it happened to be C! Then X, G, AS and I arrived and finally AO. A pity O could not join us. Hopefully, we could ALL make it another time *wink*

The chef of DJL happened to be a Malaysian, of Cantonese origin who hailed from Kuala Lumpur. He spoke mostly Cantonese and some Mandarin. His wife was a little bit more linguistic as she tried her best to speak Dutch, with the Dutch-speaking patrons (I eavesdropped, btw). We have pre-ordered our dishes which were off the normal Menu card. That way, we were guaranteed of the authenticity of the dishes.

In hindsight, the one dish that put a BIG smile on my face was the Cantonese-style Yuen Yong Noodles (yin-yang rice noodles). Cryptically, that noodle dish says a lot about us girls – in relation to the choice of movie we had to make. The yin-yang noodle dish is a combination of 2 types of rice noodles, ie kueh teow (flat rice noodle) and bee hoon (rice vermicelli). If one can’t decide on kueh teow or bee hoon, then this is the PERFECT dish! And the name of this dish is downright perky. LOL!

  

Besides the Cantonese-style yin yang rice noodles, we had the delectable Char Kueh Teow, Loh Ark, Sio Bak and Kangkong char belacan. If you are wondering why there’re no English translations, well, those dishes are off the normal Menu card, remember? 🙂

  

The Char Kueh Teow was especially good as we had to order a second plate. As you can see, we licked our platters (almost) clean!

  
 

Now, did we or did we not watch a movie after lunch?

THAT is the Question!

Well, we did not plan to drive 130km (to and from home to Antwerp) just to eat! For goodness sake, it was a holiday and it was the only day we could meet – nearly all of us – without any cling-ons 😉

And the conclusion?

We came out of the cinema humming to the tune of Sam Smith’s Writing’s On The Wall. So here we were, standing amidst the walls of the cinema complex … with mixed feelings.

  
 

Watching the movie was like reading a Marvel comic strip. How could he have 2 soft landings? A sofa and a net waiting for him out of the blue?  He is as immortal as the villain. Ah well, it was just a movie…

Anyway, the crux of the day was having good fellowship, a feeling of comradeship and girly talk from 11 am until 7pm.

Oh by the way, X, your photo was picked as the Choice Photo Award on my blog ~ this post, at least! Kam sia! 😉



Until the next time, girls! 

Ciao!

 

 

Two winters ago, when we moved out from our 3-bedroom apartment and bought a house, we inherited a pretty matured garden – the walnut tree, climbing grape plant, rhubarb, lavender, red berries and the many flowerbeds just to name a few. Little did we realise that our little garden transformed into “Eden” some 4 to 6 months after our move 😀

Spring’s in the air!

Ooops….to be precise, Spring WAS in the air.  This post happened to be two seasons too late 😀

<< Flashback…

The rookie in me went gallivanting around the entire backyard smelling the Spring air and arming with a digital camera.

I could not resist.

The colours were amazing!

1. Flowerbed11. Flowerbed21. Flowerbed3_Tulip1. Flowerbed4_Roses1. Flowerbed51. Flowerbed6_Forget-me-not1. Flowerbed7_Forget-me-not1. Flowerbed8_Forget-me-not1. Flowerbed91. Flowerbed101. Flowerbed111. Flowerbed131. Flowerbed141. Flowerbed151. Flowerbed161. Flowerbed172. Grape tree2. Red berries2. Walnut tree2. Anise Hyssop

A rose is a rose is a rose, until…

Our rose beds did not disappoint us – red, yellow, white – all blossomed immaculately.  Neither my husband nor I have green fingers. We trusted nature and let nature took its course.

3 Red Rose3 Yellow Rose

3 White Rose13 White Rose2

Beautiful, aren’t they?

Picture-perfect, until someone rang our door bell this summer – THRICE! The first one was shorter, and then it became lingeringly longer the second and third time.

*Ding Dong*

*Diiinnng Donnnnnnng*

*Diiiiiinnnnnggggg Donnnnnggggg*

It was Lucas’ Mum.

Lucas is my younger son’s school friend. He was at our place since noon and it was 6pm when it was time for him to go home.

My husband opened the door hurriedly after the 3rd – annoying – ring. Lucas’ Mum did not come in the house immediately; instead, she beckoned my husband to come out of the house.  She was pointing to our white climbing roses.

“The red spots on your white roses are the wicked works of the “valse roos” (which is Dutch for false rose) growing unawares next to your climbing roses”, said Lucas’ Mum. 

4 White Rose_red spots14 White Rose_red spots24 White Rose_red spots34 White Rose_red spots4

Huh?  How did she know all these?

Then we learnt that her Mum had gone through the same thing. She was only sharing with us a similar experience.

“You have to destroy the shoot from the roots.  It’s not the real rose, but pretends to look like one”, retorted Lucas’ Mum.

Oh my…. she sounded dead serious.

“There! There’s the false shoot.  Destroy it before it multiplies!” She continued.

 5 White Rose_false shoot15 White Rose_false shoot2

When Lucas and his Mum left our sight, I started pulling the shoot, but the hardy shoot was deeply rooted to the ground. It did not move an inch.

While hubs was busy with the weeding and pruning in another part of the garden, I focused on the “false rose”. The thought of having all these unwanted clones in our garden scared me to bits.  I tugged the shoot with all my might and it finally came off. 

Whew!

I tried to google to get more information about the “false shoot”, but zilch. Nada. Maybe it is called by another name; however, I only got to know this “alien” in the Dutch language.  This false shoot has nothing to do with the “False rose of Jericho”, by the way.

My tugging ended with a snap of the shoot, which was the less tough end, reminding me of snapping an asparagus at the base to remove the toughest end of the spear, but boy, was that  a giant of an asparagus!

6 False rose shoot16 False rose shoot2

By the way, the most interesting point to note is that the false sucker has 7 leaflets as opposed to 5-leaved cultivated roses. A real rose shoot is thorny whilst the shoot of the wild sucker is thorn-less.

Check this out!

7 Seven leaved shoot

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet
-William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet –

Come Spring 2014, do check out your rose garden, that’s if you have one 😉 

Brilliant Blog Posts @ HomestMum



Have a great week!

Cheers!