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Paris

It was a beautiful autumn day, last Sunday. I jogged past the Wall for Peace four times that morning, and I walked past it another time that evening after strolling along the Seine. I have missed the colours of the sunset at its most intense but it was nevertheless a beautiful sight. *Camera click*

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Friday the 13th. I don’t have any particular emotion attached to the day, I don’t get superstitious over it, I would even treat it as a good day to buy the lotto just to defy the conviction of some to the notion of unluckiness. Just another day. It is just a day like any other day.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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(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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Run, baby, run

At the end of September, I rather impulsively decided that F and I should sign up to do a semi-marathon. A bit of a wacky idea considering I am hardly the model jogger/runner, while F would dutifully head out once a week for a good hour or so; I’d do so about once every 2-3 weeks, not to mention I’m also more likely to do a shorter route. Honestly, I’m really not great at self-discipline when it comes to sports/fitness-related activities. Just ask C about my “standing pool date” with her…

10K run

In any case, I have time to work at training, no? Afterall, March seems so far away, even if I’ve started drawing up all kind of potential training programme etc. And the sheet of paper is now sitting right underneath a big pile of papers that I’m supposed to read for work. Training three times a week – hah, who am I kidding? Instead, time is ticking away and I still manage to weasel my way out of weekend jogging sessions with F.

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Un samedi au marché

My first year in Paris, I used to meet up with A most Sunday to go together to the market at Auguste Blanqui (13ème). Since I moved to the 6ème and subsequently the 15ème, the market trips have become infrequent. There are a number of markets within walking distance that I could go to at the weekends, but somehow I didn’t. I love going to the market; I’m just not there as often as I’d like.

At the market

At the market

I guess playing house with a partner does change one’s shopping habit. Any week that there are not enough fresh produce to last till weekend, or too much that it runs through past weekend into a new midweek, means we would be topping up our purchase elsewhere. Or sometimes, there are just household item shortages that necessitate visits to the supermarket so while we are there, why not get the grocery too to save some time?

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The villages of Cinque Terre

This is one place, or more accurately, national park which needs very little introduction. The famous five Ligurian villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore (from north to south) – interspersed along the rocky coastline of the Riviera di Levante have been written up and photographed by many, and here I am, with my meager personal contribution about these overly-revered villages.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

F and I had rented quite possibly the smallest AirBnB room in Vernazza (cosier than Parisian budget hotel rooms, if it is at all possible), at the street level, so we could not open the wooden shutter without everyone looking in while we enjoyed the privilege of hearing every conversation in passing. It was conveniently located for us to explore the area but you can also see why it was tough for us to air the enchanting “eau de pied” when our hiking boots were off!

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Lunch at La Ciboulette

The rain just wouldn’t let up. We were supposed to roam the famous market that lined the streets of the old town and canals of Annecy, but we ended up staying in for a grasse mat’ and read in bed. Eventually, we had to brave the weather and headed out, since we had a lunch reservation at La Ciboulette. We took the long way round so we could at least catch a glimpse of the market.

La Ciboulette, Annecy

La Ciboulette, Annecy

Slightly drenched after our walk, we stepped into a visibly posh restaurant with opulent interior, charming paintings, antique decorative pieces, and actual silver salt-and-pepper shakers and butter dish awaited us at the table which we were assigned. The couple at our neighbouring table were clearly in celebratory mood: a bottle of champagne with two long-stem flutes had just been brought over by the sommelier.

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Easter touches

We had a festive Easter weekend chez mes beaux-parents, partly because it was, well, Easter, and partly because we were there to celebrate several family events in one fell swoop. F’s mum impressively prepared most of the feast for some 30-odd people herself and topped it up with a couple of specially ordered deli dishes, while F’s dad was in charge of the wine and champagne selection. Not much for the rest of us to do really, except to help setting up the place prior to guests’ arrival.

Easter decoration

Easter decoration

While I assisted with the set up, I also couldn’t help but snuck a few photos and here. Just as well, because everyone else who were there ended up taking tons of people shots and none of the decors. My belle-mère was delighted to have some pictures to show off the fruits of her labour. On the other hand, isn’t it terrible that once guests started arriving, I became sort of a shrinking violet and stopped playing photograher?

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Guinness is better in a cake

Blasphemous as it sounds, I do not like the taste of Guinness. All the years living in Ireland didn’t help me personally in terms of taste acquirement. I admit to a twinge of jealousy when observing Erasmus students and other visitors – F included! – taking to it quickly and could declare the pint in Ireland as the best they’ve had.

Guinness cake

A clever idea came not so long ago. Like mothers who slyly hide peas and brussel sprouts so the kids would eat them, I thought using Guinness as a cake ingredient could be a neat trick in improving how I perceive the taste of Guinness. With St Patrick’s round the corner, I even have the perfect excuse to whip the cake up without the guilt (or the worry) of eating it all by myself.

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Project 365: Week 11 – Kif-kif

Here’s a word I’m not sure if it’s in the French dictionary – my mini French-English dictionary doesn’t have it – since it’s largely a slang: kif-kif. It basically means (all) the same, or alike. Something that is kif-kif really doesn’t have much importance one way or the other. I must admit it’s not an easy “word” to try to convey through photos, but then again, there are not many words in French starting with K in the first place, and they’re also not easy to photograph over 7 days without all looking the same! (See, back to kif-kif) ;)

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Menu

10 Mar: In this small tarterie, it seems all tarts are made equal. Pick any two savoury tarts, plus a drink, and they’re yours for less than €8. It also inevitably reminded me of Mouff’Tarte, my favourite tarterie before it suddenly closed down over Christmas break a couple of years back. When I came back to Paris in the new year, another café had taken over the shop space. People may say a tart is a tart is a tart, but I’m saying no, some tarts are more superior than others.

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Project 365: Week 10 – Jardin

We are lucky that there are gardens and parks everywhere in Paris. For a major city, it is quite green and often colourful. And to the gardening enthusiasts, even small apartment sizes are no deterrent. They work their magical green fingers to nurture something on their balconies and their rooftops. Annually, there are even special open days where public could meet the gardeners of major parks for chit-chat and tips exchange!

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Bird

3 Mar: Sure sign of spring, right? We’re starting to spot birds other than pigeon coming out from hiding, chirping away happily, and some would even try to follow us around with cute little expression which says “feed me”. We could do with more foliage on the trees though, since they’re still looking a little bare. Can’t wait for the warmer and longer days. I need more daylight, please!

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Project 365: Week 9 – Inachevé

Oh yeah, I have about a gazillion (well, it feels like it) unfinished stuff that I would like to wrap up, but there isn’t really a reset button in life where you can press and clear the whole lot in one go to start completely fresh and anew. And perhaps to take on less so each can be completed in good time. How do we, realistically, decide between being ambitious so to do it all and being pragmatic so to be selective?

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Porte St Denis

24 Feb: The top part of this medieval city gate of Porte St Martin gleams but the remaining looks like it had seen better days. I had initially thought this is the outcome of unfinished restoration/cleaning work, but upon a small research, it seems I am wrong. The two-tone schema is brought about by the difference in materials used, marble vs limestone. The marble certainly keeps its shine better than the limestone that absorbs much of the pollutants in the air.

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Project 365: Week 8 – Heureux

I tried to Swype “heureux” on my phone once when I had forgotten to change the language setting accordingly. It came back with the suggestions of “heiress”, “heretic”, “heroes”, which amused me to no end. Happy, also the title of the crazy catchy song that everyone’s dancing to, is an amazingly difficult word for me to pronounce in French, but who cares? Just because I can’t say it like a native, it doesn’t mean I’m not. Happy, that is. Not only that, it makes F laugh, because it’s cute. ;)

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The Seine by night

17 Feb: To walk about Paris by night and see the flickering lights reflected in the Seine always lifts me up. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it. There’s of course a big element of admiration on top of the feeling of being privileged to live in such a beautiful city. If you’d told me when I was young that I’d be destined to call Paris home one day, I would have laughed at its absurdity. It seemed rather unattainable back then, with the language and the culture divide. Now, as I set my roots, I hope to conquer them.

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Project 365: Week 7 – Galerie

This week’s word is not an entirely foreign word, but when F suggested it to me as the theme to photograph, I knew immediately that this makes a good opportunity for me to explore the galeries et passages of which some are well-known but many stay pretty hidden. These Parisian galeries can be think of as precursors to modern shopping malls.

Created at a time where waste management was a citywide problem yet demands were there for more comfortable (window-)shopping experience, these covered passages offered well-maintained arcades and shelters from the elements. Some of them are still kept in good condition, but sadly a good few more are quite run down. Many had also been demolished – in its heyday, some 150 were present but only about 1/6 of them remains today, and not all are open to public.

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Galerie Vivienne

Galerie Vivienne

10 Feb: I couldn’t resist posting more than one photo of Galerie Vivienne, the most elegant galerie that I’ve visited in Paris, and certainly the best known among the visitors who search for something off the usual grid. Elaborately decorated entryway, mosaic flooring, stylish lighting, and surely enough, the shops that line this passage are also seriously upscale. A walk deep into the passage reveals private spiral staircase, presumably leading to some residences. I wouldn’t mind having such a prestigious address here ;)

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La Table d’Aki

F and I marked our anniversary with a small splurge – dinner at La Table d’Aki. Promptly at 8pm, the window cover was raised, and we stepped into a dining room about the size of the living room in our cosy Parisian apartment. Definitely minimalist in decor, monochromic palate of white (except the draft-blocking curtain and the low wall, both in red, by the door), as we were seated, I whispered to F: “16 covers only!”

Dinner @ La Table d'Aki

Dinner @ La Table d'Aki

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Project 365: Week 6 – Finesse

La finesse is one of those words I hear often but the changing context had me questioning if I really understood it. My 20-year-old mini dictionary said little except “fineness” yet I often hear it as a word that describe the finer things in life, of elegance, of delicateness, of refinement. Other contexts suggest physical shape of a person, in the state of being slim and slender, as well as one’s behaviour, worthy to be noted as in fine moral standing. I suggest we explore the finesse in French objects.

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Sea nymph

3 Feb: This is not the first time I’ve posted a photo of this water nymph on Pont Alexandre III, and it’s unlikely to be the last. I adore this sculpture. I always drop by to say hello when I’m in the area, and I’m also very pleased to see it free from the clutches of love-locks (yes, some muppets put locks on her before). There are many other sculptures on this same bridge, but I find her presence calming and radiates a certain inner beauty.

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Naïve little Asian

January kickstarted the year with a busy bout of moving-related activties and whats not, but February doesn’t plan to be overshadowed with a peaceful lull. Instead it throws in a challenge that had been most unexpected – something that threw me off, shakened me – and had me questioning, for one short second, if I am suited to live in a big city.

Sculture

In short: I was blindsided and scammed in my own home. Definitely not my day.

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Project 365: Week 5 – Écarlate

When the word écarlate was picked, I thought photographing this should be relatively straight-forward. Not quite so. To try to differentiate scarlet from all the different shades of red is far more challenging than I’ve prepared for, so much so that I think renaming this week’s theme as red would be more appropriate. Well, enjoy “scarlet” ;)

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Swatch watch

27 Jan: Some of my friends would be surprised to hear that it has been a while since I ventured into any Swatch shop. It is for my own good, considering I have hard time resisting picking up a new one every so often to add to my collection. While I don’t have as many to rotate for every day for a month (yet?), it is a tad excessive to own quite so many watches – am thinking I should donate some away.

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Project 365: Week 4 – Doré(e)

It’s strange to look at the calendar and to note that January is coming close to an end. Among family and many friends, the chatters of the day revolve around the preparation for the upcoming Chinese New Year, prompting some action on my part to organise a CNY dinner with a few close friends next week. Sadly, it has been years since I spent CNY at home. Ah, those were the golden times indeed… And oh, speaking of golden, that brings us to the word of the week: doré(e)!

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Perfume

20 Jan: Have you ever wonder why perfumes exist mostly in shades of gold? I understand from marketing stand point, of trying to evoke this sense of luxury and wealth, and link it to a certain status bestowed among perfume users, but shouldn’t the fragrant matters more than the colour of the liquid? In my mind, the darker the shade of gold, usually the more off-putting the scent. Too strong, too intense, just too much.

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Project 365: Week 3 – Composé

When I was photographing with this week’s word – composé (composed of, compound) – in mind, I was wondering how much of a stretch can I go in interpreting it? I’m still trying to familiarise myself with my new neighbourhood, and there are still things to be done to turn the apartment into a home. With my head half in the air, certain interpretation may be shaky. If only it’s possible to photograph the compounded stress I was feeling earlier in the week but slowly dissipated as more and more task got struck off the check-list…

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Pastries

13 Jan: You know the whole “stressed spelled backward is desserts” thing? Yes, I sought some sweet cure today, in the form of a mixed box of bite-sized treats. Adorably called the children’s selection, six different desserts have been put together, checking the boxes on: fruitiness (lemon tart), nuttiness (hazelnut tart), chocolateness (chocolate tart), crunchiness (candied choux), silkiness (vanilla slice) and fluffiness (praline choux).

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Project 365: Week 2 – Bordélique

This week has been completely bordélique and I have pretty much abandoned a whole bunch of things aside to concentrate on the move (although not before completing another MOOC). Packing up our lives after two very comfortable years while accumulating more things than ever was a lot of work, and cleaning up two apartments added to the load too. It appears the previous tenant to our new apartment doesn’t understand the concept of hygiene and cleanliness…

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Brochures

6 Jan: I guess packing could be a whole lot easier had I not been obsessively keen on keeping every single brochure, map, ticket and whats not from our travel. I’ve been meaning to sort them out and save only the most “important” ones in a travel scrapbook, but clearly I’ve been procrastinating… I won’t have time to go through them now but I will definitely get working on the scrapbook as I unpack, so nothing beyond the necessary will stay in the new apartment.

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10 first bites

It is no secret that I love to eat and I always prioritise things that seem unusual when picking from the menu. Sometimes, when there are more options than I can manage on my own, I throw the puppy eyes at my dining companion in hope he/she picks up on my inner plea to order one of them… ;)

Last year, in writing the list of 101 goals, I added “10 things I’ve never tried before” and hope it’ll make food discovery more interesting. However, actually having dishes in front of me often translates to “busy eating, no time to think or take photos” and therefore writing this post had taken a little longer than expected.

10 new food

1. Courgette flower: semi-hidden here between a slice of chorizo and a cherry tomato, the courgette flower is bright to look at and delicate to taste. They don’t transport well nor last beyond a few hours after picking, so it’s not something that can be easily found in Paris (much easier in south of France though). It tasted like, well, courgette, but a “lighter” version. The flower also has a soft velvelty texture, like most edible flowers really.

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Project 365: Week 1 – Aléatoire

With seemingly a gazillion and one things happening, this week’s photos consist of a random mix, summing up the chosen word rather nicely: aléatoire. I must admit, photography is low on my priority at the moment, as we dealt with certain apartment-related hiccups, postponed our move by a week, and started to pack (and still packing – how much stuff can one own while living in a small Parisian apartment?!) everything up. Intermittently, there were friends to see, closing exhibitions to catch, and galette des rois to eat.

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Carousel

30 December: Throughout the month of December, all the carousels owned and operated by the city council have been offering free rides to much delights of the children, and perhaps parents/grandparents too, especially those whose young ones normally want to ride it over and over and over and refuse to leave without throwing a tantrum. Afterall, it can get expensive quickly. The danger, of course, is said children in question will continue to seek the same, if not more, number of rides once they are no longer free again…

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