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Planting herbs

When we moved last year, I had a wee shopping spree chez Ikea and apart from the bookshelf and dining table and chairs, I dropped a couple of herb kits into the basket too. I discovered the kits sitting sadly in one corner of my kitchen, forgotten, so I guess now is as good a time as ever to rescue them and fulfill their destiny.

Herb garden

Herb garden

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Early spring, abloom

Spring finally arrived in Paris. It has been a touch unfortunate that it came adist sustained peaks of pollution in the past week; such a shame that we could not be out and about to enjoy the sunshine and the blossoms without worrying about scratchy throat and allergic reactions. But, ah yes, but, as soon as the count dropped slightly, off we went for a stroll to visit the Iron Lady.

Spring in Paris

Spring in Paris

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La Cuillière en Bois

We used to go to a particular crêperie at least once a month, and we brought just about every one of our visitors there, who loved it too. We were therefore fairly sad when the brother-and-sister team decided to sell their business. While we had been back there under the new ownership, things were just not the same anymore.

La Cuillière en Bois

La Cuillière en Bois

We started to test a few other crêperies near us but failed to find one that we really like. Incredulous, in a manner of speaking, since we lived near Montparnasse – the veritable neighbourhood filled with crêperies! We found some of the more famous ones served something very average, and horror, even pre-cooked galette. A crime, if you ask me.

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So many places…

Q: What makes a wonderful gift to someone who has been bitten by the travel bug?
A: A scratch map! (pun not intended) ;)

Scratch map

Scratch map

Anne gave me this highly entertaining gift for Christmas but I’ve just got round to getting the materials to hang this map in the apartment. Right now, I’m attempting to remove the curls out of it, after a lot of fun scratching out the places that I’ve to, plus a couple of countries which I’ll be visiting soon – I’m too excited to leave them off the map!

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Four years and a semi marathon

Semi Paris 2015

I woke up yesterday morning with thousands of butterflies in my stomach. What was I thinking when I signed up for the semi marathon of Paris? Me, the fair-weather jogger who had just indulged in two weeks of holiday diet and last ran exactly four weeks to the day, never mind the fact that I’ve never yet completed a distance further than 12-13K, top! I nearly crawled right back into bed and stayed under the cosy duvet with my Kindle.

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Jeff Koons – a retrospective

File this under “arts I do not understand”.

I was at Centre Pompidou with S to check out the retrospective exhibition on Jeff Koons, famed for its balloon dogs. As usual, I entered into the exhibition rather naively and knowing next to nothing about the artist. I feel reading up too much about an artist tends to colour one’s judgement since the articles will inevitably contain praises and criticisms; I like forming my own opinion without voices of others in my head.

Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons

What an eclectic mix of work. Sure enough, there was the giant balloon dog about half-way through the exhibition, but the retrospective began with a series of work “Pre-New” and “The New” based on vacuum cleaners (huh?) and advertisements. I was, simply put, confused. The section on “Banality” contains mostly porcelain-based sculptures, including a rather creepy one of MJ with his monkey. Right-io. Next came “Celebration”, which is prettier and happier, with balloons, heart, and more balloons.

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Food I’m missing

Barely back in Paris and I’m hankering for Malaysian food. Apparently a fortnight was hardly enough for me to eat to my heart’s content, and boy did I eat. Gone was the 3 meals per day “rule” which got easily doubled up when different people tried to feed me at different times of the day. Not only that, I wouldn’t even think about photographing the food but just grabbed the plate/bowl and started wolfing them down. The damage? Just under 3kg of weight gain… (eeep!)

Malaysian noms

Malaysian noms

From homemade favourites such as popiah, mee suah (longevity noodles in Chinese red wine – not shown), bak chang and assam laksa – made upon request; my aunt and grandaunts are simply awesome! – to eating out as well as trying to finish up Chinese New Year meals, it was a full-fledged makan-thon! My family was not the only people enthusiastic in feeding me, my close friends put in major contribution too! Had I remembered to photograph everything, this post is going to be very, very long indeed.

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Hokkien New Year

I know, it’s getting confusing. First there’s the Chinese New Year, which some also dubbed Lunar New Year and Spring Festival, which falls on the same day as the Vietnamese New Year (“Tet”). Then, separately, the ethnic group known as the Hokkiens (or Fujians) celebrate their particular new year on the 9th day of Chinese New Year in a ceremony that’s known as Bai Ti Gong. That’s literally “Praying to the Heavenly God”, and it occurs on his birthday.

Hokkien New Year

Hokkien New Year

My family mostly identifies ourselves as Hokkiens, following matrilineal practice passed down by my (paternal) great-grandmother. Funny that, considering my great-grandfather was actually Henghua yet pretty much nobody in the family speaks this dialect at all following the passing of my grandfather. Notwithstanding, both ethnic groups originated from the same region in China. I suspect there’s a lot more to know about family history if I am to really dig into it, but to keep things simple, I’m first and foremost a Hokkien, with a touch of Peranakan from Penang.

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Reunion of the departed

Much has been said about the importance of family reunion dinner during Chinese New Year. However, within certain ancestor-worship practicing family, the reunion of the departed is equally important. We were taught to remember our ancestors, to invite them home on special occasions, and to share festivals with their spirits.

CNY preparation

CNY preparation

This Chinese New Year also noticeably marks my first ancestor prayer session where my grandfather now sat among the departed, while everyone else had had time to get used to it in the past couple of years. In the past, he would be the one cooking up a storm in the kitchen and prepared the reunion meal. I kept expecting to see him by the large wok, tipping in all kind of ingredients and served up dish after dish in quick succession.

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At the joss paper store

For the third time in seventeen years, I travel home to celebrate Chinese New Year. Usually, I keep my visits to the summer months, when I could take extended time off without too much difficulty, but upon my grandmother’s request, I’m back for two weeks and pretty much entirely at her disposal.

CNY preparation

CNY preparation

In the run up to the Chinese New Year celebration and the preparation for family reunion dinner (and prayer), I accompanied her to a local joss paper store to stock up decorative items for the house as well as some supplies, like joss sticks, prayer papers, candles, “money” for the dead “in the Kingdom of Helheim” no less! It’s all part and parcel of the culture, but sometimes I feel guilty about all these burnings of offerings considering the dire state of our environment…

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A whopping decade of blogging

Time flies; it appears I’ve been charting of (mis)adventures for a good decade now. I started blogging on the suggestion and encouragement of my friend D, back at a time when I was searching for a solution to share (travel) news with my family and friends while trying to limit the use of photo attachments that could easily clog up emails. Remember, once upon a time, we did not have mailboxes with 1G+ storage space nor super high speed internet! With the help of Ed and JC – they are awesome technical rockstars! – I managed to get something up and running in no time.

DiXit

Of course, there aren’t ten years worth of blog posts on this site. Blog 1.0 was hosted elsewhere, written at a carefree time where I was less concerned about public sharing of personal information. With time came better awareness and the want to protect the privacy of people in my life so when I acquired this current domain name, I made a conscious decision to keep their stories away from Blog 2.0. F does get regular mention because often, it’s our story that I’m retelling.

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Pâtisserie Myu Myu

It seems there was a silver lining afterall in finding the Pâtisserie de Choisy closed on a day when I really needed to buy some fresh Asian/Chinese pastries for G’s going-away do the next day. This ex-colleague of mine had just returned from a trip to Hong Kong and was pondering why there aren’t any dessert shop in Paris similar to those I recommended to him. He absolutely adored them.

Myu Myu durian cake

Myu Myu durian millefeuilles

In my attempt to hunt delicious alternatives, I stumbled upon Pâtisserie Myu Myu mere minutes walk away, tucked away in a small street off Avenue de Choisy among residential buildings and would easily go unnoticed. It also doubles up as a salon du thé for those wishing to stay there for a bit.

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Dining Izakaya – 6036

Last year, Chef Haruka Casters – formerly of Abri, where I had great meals with family and friends but a nightmare to get into nowadays – striked out on her own and opened up a small, 14-seats izakaya in Belleville. Its name 6036 represents the distance, in miles, separating Paris and Tokyo, but here, the two food cultures are closely wed to make an interesting Franco-Japanese meal, tapas style.

Izakaya 6036

Izakaya 6036

The menu here changes regularly but there are seemingly some staples (onigiri, cold cuts of Galice and Belotta, St Nectaire or Comté, macha crème brûlée), others rotated and appear every so often, and some depending on the season. A good mix, I would say, for a menu of approximately 10-12 items: 7-9 savoury, 1 cheese and 2 desserts. On the late November night we were there with a few friends, we tasted 10 of the 12 items possible, skipping out on the soup and the carbonara.

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Tales of two photos

Weekend morning, every now and then, I allow myself the luxury of a lie-in. What was different this particular morning was the effort F put in getting breakfast ready. He didn’t just got me any random croissant, he had gone to a rather fancy bakery (where you must not stretch your hand beyond the glass barrier to point at something!) and picked up a selection of goodies. With tea and mandarin juice to complement the pastry.

Breakfast

Breakfast

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Niki de Saint Phalle

We made a last ditch effort to catch the exhibition of Niki de Saint Phalle at the Grand Palais today. My colleague S saw it recently and absolutely loved it. I don’t know anything about Saint Phalle, except some of her sculptures are permanently installed by the Centre Pompidou and her style of work is so distinctive that I immediately recognised it when I saw “La Tempérance” in Luxembourg City.

(Note to self: I should write about Luxembourg City one of these days, as this blog contains only two measly P365 posts about it.)

Niki de St Phalle

Niki de St Phalle

I had expected to see more of her characteristic colourful and bountiful figures, and I ended up getting to know a lot more about the artist – sculptor, painter, filmmaker; the sources of inspiration – albeit painful ones in some cases – of her works; and some very personal story brought forth to the surface. I learned that art was “a way of taming those dragons which have always appeared in [her] work” and she wanted “to show everything; [her] heart, [her] emotions”.

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Forming new habits

At the start of the year, I figured I would start working on self-discipline, a concept that somehow escaped me in the past year or two. Nothing too drastic though. The plan is to identify key things I would like to do each month and then adopt a handful of daily actions that contribute to these goals and be mindful about maintaining them. This way, every month, I will be consciously doing something rewarding, advancing self-development and most importantly, reinforcing discipline.

River Seine

Reading though a couple of articles (1,2) I came across yesterday, it appears I have gone into the realm of habit forming, even if I had not specifically targetted such an action from the start. I was not even aiming to change my behaviour into automatic deeds per se but the mechanism I’m applying is similar, all for the sake of “focus”.

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The perks of museum passes

Let me just put it out there – if anyone ever feel like giving me something but not sure what makes a good gift, one of the sure things would be an annual museum pass. It doesn’t matter if it’s a solo or a duo card – although the latter is handy to bring F or a friend with me – as long as I get to enjoy the many different exhibitions around town. ;)

Museum passes

Some of the perks attached to these passes?
– No queuing to enter a museum nor its exhibition(s)
– Share the joy of museum visits without queuing (with duo card)
– Multiple visits to interesting (temporary) exhibitions
– Discounts for purchases at the gift shop
– Discounts for guided visits or exhibition conferences
– Free/discounted tickets of affiliated sites/museums
– Free/discounted tickets to linked/special events

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Missing Dublin

Late November, upon getting news that a close friend of mine would be back in Dublin all the way from Australia, I did a quick search for flights, asked for a day off work the following morning, and bought my tickets back to the Fair City too. It was impromptu enough for one of my aunts to complaint that I didn’t give her enough notice to make arrangement to see me!

Dublin from the air

Dublin from the air

I woke up super duper early to catch the first metro to Porte Maillot, then bus to Beauvais Tillé, and Ryanair to Dublin. Tired, I ended up taking a quick nap during the flight and when I next opened my eyes, we were approaching the Irish coastline and I could make out the Wicklow Mountains in the horizon. We approached by way of Dun Laoghaire, Dublin Bay and then Howth, before landing in Swords. It was a beautiful day for my homecoming.

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Trolling Fox (Faux) News

Life in Paris – and France – is gradually returning to the norm in the aftermath of the shootings at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher. In this past week, enormous queues had been spotted all over Paris at newsstands, everyone eager to get their hands on a copy of the survival issue of Charlie Hebdo, currently printed at a phenomenon number (5 million copies!) and being doled out to the newsstands like ration during tough times. The first mornings, they sold out rapidly and disappointed folks were told to return the next day after they were restocked.

Charlie Hebdo

I found myself standing in a queue on the third morning, fulfilling a request that came from abroad just the previous evening, and snagged the third last copy at my local newsstand. Not that I read it though; we had never read Charlie Hebdo before and were not particularly pushed in starting anyway. The copy got duly posted away and I hope it won’t disappear in transit. Anyway, this is less interesting than the skirmish between Le Petit Journal and Fox Faux News.

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Feasting on galettes des rois

January can only mean one thing in our household – it’s open season for galette des rois! It seems the limited time availability only fueled my hunger for more, so this addiction is unlikely to go away anytime soon. However, after two seasons of buying small/single portion galette des rois on a nearly daily basis, this year, a change of strategy. We would buy only at the weekends, and fancy galettes des rois are on the table. * happy dance *

Galette des rois

A whopping eight galettes des rois had came through our door so far. Well, we started early this year, over the New Year’s long weekend, before Epiphany officially kicked off. It made sense since C&M were staying with us and C loves them as much as I do! We’ve largely stuck to one galette des rois per weekend-day rule, except yesterday when we had a small tasting party with friends; three galettes des rois were served and today we’re having none. It was a “sacrifice” I’d gladly make because it’s a lot more fun to share them :)

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Postcards: Louvre (FR)

While going through my stash of photos taken last year – way too many of them! – so I can select a few for printing, I noticed I’ve a good few photos taken while I was at the Louvre or in the vicinity. There are probably more lost in some of the folders that I don’t have time to give much scrutiny to…

Louvre

Louvre

I must admit that I don’t go there as often as I’d like to because I’m not a fan of the massive crowd that jostles to get in and see only the “highlights” when there are so many other gems to look out for. I make special efforts to go there, however, when I get to go on THATLou hunt with Daisy. Now, she’s the woman who knows it inside out! ;)

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Let peace be the guiding light

I had not realised how significant these photos could be when I took them a few days ago, on a night out with friends to catch a ballet flamenco performance. I thought I was just photographing things that I thought to be pleasing to look at.

Peace and light

Today, millions – French and non-French alike – came out to demonstrate unity against extremism and terrorism, to defend their rights and that of their compatriots, and to mourn the deaths that remind us how fragile life can be if we choose violence against peace.

Anyone who the need to kill, to pillage, to rape, or to strap bombs onto a 10-year old little girl so to make a point, the only point they are making is their barbarism knows no moral nor ethical bound. How sad is that? Sowing fear does not make one a hero, but a coward who fear living a righteous life; the scheming, the plotting, everything in utmost secrecy. How sad is that? Living half a life and mostly lies; nearly loveless and nobody that truly cares. How sad is that?

Please, let peace be your guiding light, no matter where you are, which religion you adhere to, what custom you practice.

Let peace be the core of your being.

Laughing with

No one laughs at God in the hospital
No one laughs at God in the war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God, we’re all laughing with God

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Neige d’Été

When I stumbled across an article recently that pointed to a new praiseworthy restaurant in my neighbourhood (mere 5 minutes walk from home is a bonus!) it’s a no-brainer that I should check it out. Taking advantage of the fact that we have visitors to entertain over the new year period, we need no further excuse to try snagging a table. What’s nice – for once, we were not working so we could even opt for the more budget-friendly lunch menu.

Neige d'Été

Neige d'Été

Neige d’Été (a somewhat whimsical “summer snow”) is discreetly located, with nary a sign pointing to its existence, until you’re right at the entrance and see the name palely etched across the glass of the door. Its interior – work of Japanese architect Shinku Noda – of minimalist features with shades of white is punctuated by occasional colours from the bouquet of fresh flower near the door and earthy tones of the settees. It felt a tad delicate to step in. Even the cutleries were hidden from sight – check the drawer in front of you but be careful not to spill everything onto your lap!

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Postcards: A Parisian sunset (FR)

The start of year has been very kind to us. We hosted a couple of friends since New Year’s Eve, which we celebrated by attending a graceful performance of the Nutcracker at Palais de Congrès, and since then we’ve been busy with various activities. That was how we ended up at Jardin des Tuileries on day 2 of the year and caught this beautiful sunset.

Sunset in Paris

Sunset in Paris

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(re)focus

Happy New Year! Bonne Année! Selamat Tahun Baru!

Lightshow

I suppose this signals another yearly recap is due. Did I learn and did I make mistakes in 2014? A-plenty! Did I go off (life) tangent and lose sight of goals that I’ve set for myself? Ab-solutely! Did I carry bagfuls of regrets and mutter sorries along the way? Nope!

I refuse to wallow in laments for things I cannot change.

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Once upon a clear sky in Hong Kong

Sunny days with blue sky were hard to come by during my little sojourn in Hong Kong. We had snatches of it on our first day – ah, what a bright welcome – and then the city was just shrouded in foggy whiteness/greyness on the following days. I was beginning to wonder if I was actually in Hong Kong or in Beijing… Lo and behold, on the final day of my trip, I woke up to clear blue sky and everything was basking in shimmering light!

Sunny Hong Kong

Sunny Hong Kong

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How to gain a few kilos in a week

First, there were dim sums. Then, came desserts. There were even some street food/ snacks. But, as you may have guessed, I was not done with eating yet. I dare not step onto the weighing scale when I got home from Hong Kong, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I’d put on a few kilos; my jeans felt snugged… /whistles

Food in Hong Kong

Food in Hong Kong

For someone who is not big on biscuits and cookies, I had fun tasting a large range of goodies offered at Kee Wah Bakery and Koi Kei Bakery. There are multiple branches for each of these famous bakeries, with friendly staff that really want you to know how delicious their treats are and why you should buy a few more packet of everything. Guess who was the sucker who hand-carried boxes of delicate egg rolls back to Paris?

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So many markets

I’ve lost count of the number of markets I stumbled upon in Hong Kong. In the vicinity of Mong Kong/Yau Ma Tei, visitors’ guides are recommending the Bird Market, the Flower Markets, the Ladies’ Market, the Temple Street Night Market and the Jade Market. The variety of things that anyone could buy is just mind-boggling. Not only that, all of these markets could be pretty much visited in one go – they form a complete walking tour route! Somewhere along the way, there are shops and stalls to pick up walkabout snacks. ;)

Hong Kong markets

Hong Kong markets

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Hong Kong by night

Central Hong Kong puts up a colourful display of neon lightings no matter where you go and look, and over at the harbour waterfront, the Symphony of Lights set to wow visitors nightly at 8pm with its almost-15 minutes lightshow. I caught the show one evening from the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, and for anyone interested in listening to the accompanying narration, the places to be are the Avenue of Stars and Golden Bauhinia Square (Wan Chai).

Hong Kong by night

Hong Kong by night

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