Monday, February 28, 2011

Moving to Munich?

No. No. Not talking about me. Although H's company has an office here, this city has not been offered to us. It is a nice city... but I think it would be quite difficult to live here as my German language is absolutely ZILCH. (You probably think that it would be the same in Helsinki...as I don't speak Finnish either. But EVERYBODY speaks English there. The moment I hesitate a little, English is immediately spoken. More about Helsinki in a different post)

Anyway, if you ARE moving to Munich and is wondering where the heck you are going to get those Asian grocery...FEAR NOT. Just around Roseinheimer Platz Station, there are like three asian grocery stores already. The Hong Kong Market is located inside the building that is attached to the Station, and just outside there are two - one I think is called Asian Shop and the other ..am not sure. They are pretty well-stocked. Well, well-stocked compared to the Jakarta shops that I am used to. Prices looked reasonable too.
I was just telling H that because we lived in Jakarta where everything imported is so expensive (cheese, wine, ice-creams, etc), the prices in Europe doesn't look as scary as I initially thought it would be. Actually, some things are even cheaper than Jakarta. Can you believe it? Haagan Daz is definitely cheaper here, amongst other things.

Of course, there are things that are waaaaaay more expensive than Jakarta...hair cuts, manicure, massages etc. But I chanced upon a salon that does Men's Haircut for 9 Euros. Not bad leh... and the salon looked decent and professional. Am sure you can find cheaper ones further afield from the city center. And there's a nail place (New York Nails?? I think it is called) in this Rosenheimer Platz Station that does Manicure for 15 Euros.More expensive than my usual Jakarta place but think boleh tahan too.. as it looked professional. Eh... some places in Jakarta would charge this amount for Manicure one leh...

Shopping in Munich seems nice.... although I have not really bought anything other than two pairs of Esprit tights from Karstadt Departmental Store (on sale... 2 pairs for 5 Euros!) and a set of fondue forks from Kustermann (very very nice homewares store!!). Besides the usual brands that we are used to, there are lots of shops that look really really interesting. The market - Viktualien-markt has lots of interesting stalls - fruits, vegetables, flowers, cheese, wine etc etc.. and the road lining this market is full of meat and sausages shops. Germany is definitely not a place for non-pork eaters. Everywhere also pork, which of course is good for porkers like us. Hahhahaha

Okay lah... I need to go sort out my voucher for my tour tomorrow...

Chocolates. Chocolates Everywhere...

Indeed. Chocolates are everywhere here in the city. Chocolate boutiques or should I say Chocolatier is at every street corner. I was just in a departmental store this afternoon, and there was a sale on chocolates. Handmade chocolates, chocolate bars, pre-packed chocolate boxes etc etc. I was soooooo tempted to buy some as the prices were very affordable compared to back home. With such competitive prices, Corporate Chocolate Gifts must be the norm here. I would certainly be a delighted corporate client if I receive a lovely box of chocolates! Who wouldn't? Everyone loves to receive gifts, and double so when it is a box of goodies!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Hills are Alive.....

......with the Sound of Music. Ah..Ah..Ah......

Yes. For UN-musical people like me, Salzburg is home of "The Sound of Music" musical starring Julie Andrews; rather than the home of the world renowned Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (btw, that's not even his real name) who was born here. So instead of going for the traditional sightseeing tours, we went for a "Sound of Music" tour - visiting the key locations where the Hollywood musical was shot. With Hollywood being Hollywood, the story was of course exaggerated and changed. In reality, Maria married the Captain earlier than the Nazi occupation, and the oldest Von Trapp child is actually a boy NOT Liesl! And they did not climb over the mountain towards Switzerland as depicted in the end-scene of the movie. If they really took that route via the Untersberg (the mountain shown in the movie), they would end up right into the arms of the Nazis. They actually took a train to Italy....which was deemed too boring for Hollywood. :-)

Lots of other interesting facts about the movie and the reality. Did you know that the real Von Trapp family runs a small hotel in Vermont, America? Perhaps one day, I will visit their Lodge. Yup. I have to say that "The Sound of Music" is one of my favorites! I really enjoyed this tour. Our guide, a Brit was funny, interesting and very animated. Before the start of the tour, I casually asked "Are we going to sing on the bus?" and the answer was a big YES. And SING we did! Hahahahha pretty fun. H, who was rather stoic throughout the tour (probably not seen the movie???) was singing and humming "the hills are alive....." whilst working on his computer just now. Got bitten by "The Sound of Music" bug too! Hehehe...

After the tour, we walked up to the Salzburg Castle (Festung Hohensalzburg). Wallow! I must be sooooooo unfit cause I was huffing and puffing and sweating like a pig! We weren't really interested to go in but after the strenuous climb, I think it is a MUST to enter the fortress. Paid the Euro 5.70/ person entrance fee, took an audio guided tour and came back down. Down was naturally a breezeeeeeee. Visited the main attractions - Salzburger Dom, St. Peter's Monastry, Getreidegasse etc etc before going up to the roof terrace on The Hotel Stein for wine and Italian Antipasti. Lovely views...But abit chilly though. Don't know why they didn't turn-on those standing gas heaters but had warm blankets instead.

And from here, we went to an Austrian restaurant for dinner. H insisted that he must eat Wiener Schnitzel, plus an order of ribs and beer. Couldn't finish, of course.... Had to 'ta-pau'...so that will be breakfast!!?!?
As shops close pretty early, we came back to the hotel immediately after dinner. Otherwise what else to do? Don't fancy going for a Mozart concert...

We will take a train back to Munich tomorrow.... H will be working in Munich for the next few days, leaving me to jalan-jalan ala the Lonely Planet...or maybe not.

We just can't stop eating!!!

As you may already know, H and I are over in Salzburg, Austria for the weekend. And with this being a "holiday", we have been indulging quite a bit... Wine - red, white, sparkling, cheeses, cold cuts, sausages etc. And just today, after having wine, cheese and cold cuts at the rooftop bar of a boutique hotel by the River Salzach, we went straight to a traditional Austrian restaurant for dinner. Gosh! I am sure our weight has sky-rocketed. Should have checked out those phentermine reviews before I came out here. Perhaps I could have gotten a bottle of phentermine to help curb those greedy appetites!!

Do you know how to get rid of pimples?

I think I've Asked this question many times before ....how to get rid of pimples?
Does it matter whether the pimples are on my middle-aged skin or on my adolescent S1? I wonder...
Our pimples are due to the changing hormones within us ...mine turning menopausal and his into adulthood?
Or is it due to the bad, unhealthy processed foods that we keep feeding ourselves?
Or could it be because of something as simple as lacking in hygiene?
I don't know. Would someone enlighten me please!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Thrills of being Upgraded!

Don't you love the feeling of being upgraded? ...and it is doubly great when you have not even paid the full price in the first place!!!
When I walked into our 4* Salzburg hotel room, I thought it looked kinda big for European standards. A seating area with a 2 + 1 settee, writing desk and king sized bed. It had a separate toilet and the bathroom is huge. Bathroom is even bigger than our New York hotel room in Jan 2009. Serious. No joke. I asked H if we have been upgraded and he also blur blur. Then I went online to have a look at the different room types for this hotel. To my delight, we have been upgraded to a Junior Suite!!! And the best is that I didn't even pay the actual rate for a normal Double room which was 99 Euros per night. In fact, we only paid USD 99 per night through Priceline's Name Your Own Price option. As you know, the exchange rate is approx 1 Euro to 1.40 USD. So really great deal and great savings. I do love this Priceline Name Your Own Price Option. So far, it has not disappoint in the hotels that they've given me. Btw, did i mention that you don't know what hotel you are getting until it is confirmed? But most of the time, it's all well-known brands like Hilton, Sheraton, Crowne Plaza etc etc.

Oh yeah... We are in Salzburg in Austria. H has meetings in Munich next week so we flew to Munich this morning (Friday, 25 Feb), and took a train over. Very cheap train tickets at 29 Euros for the both of us. And actually, if our boys are with us, they travel free with us on this ticket too. If you are ever here in the Bavarian region, don't buy individual tickets. We almost did and that would have cost 100 Euros or thereabouts. Lucky I surfed the internet for tips. Get the Bayern Ticket! It covers regional travel within Bavaria and to Salzburg in Austria (plus 2 other Austrian cities). And it's fir groups of up to 5 people! Yay!

What would we do without the Internet???

Friday, February 25, 2011

Really Overweight???

Don't know why my H kept saying that he is overweight. When I look at him, I think he looks ok. Not too fat nor too puny.
He keeps asking me to get him some weight loss pills to lose the extra few kilos. But seriously, I am a little hesitant. I am afraid that instead of losing fats, he might lose the very bit of muscle as well and result in a too skinny frame. I can't exactly have my hubby look slimmer and leaner than me!!! Perhaps specially formulated weight loss pills for men would be a better bet. Heard that they target the fats and not muscle mass. What do you think?

Artic Cloudberry?

Bet you don't know such a berry existed. Neither did I.... That is until I arrive in this cold and dry place. The skin on my face started to peel a day after I arrive, and figured that the moisturizers that I had brought along were not suited for this extreme weather. A walk through a chemist solved my problem. Came upon this product that uses Artic Cloudberry - a rare berry that grows in the arctic bogs which has more powerful nutrients than other plants due to its short period of growth in the arctic. I was surprised that just after one application, the peeling skin was gone and my face is not as dry as before! I am now thinking of getting the whole range of products like the facial cleanser, toner, wrinkle cream, eye cream etc etc. Only problem is whether it will work well when I get back to the tropics or not??

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ferry Ride Back to Helsinki

After spending a day (below freezing!! At -14 deg C) in Tallinn. Am now sitting in a comfortable seat in the Superstar Ferry bound for Helsinki.

What exactly did I do?

The guide greeted me at the Arrival hall of the ferry terminal. Yup. I was the one and only person... So basically had a personal guide. Started off with a guided tour around the city (in a heated car, of course), saw the main buildings... President's House, old Tzar's Palace etc etc. The guide gave a brief rundown on the Estonian history, its invaders, its culture, products, independence - which is tomorrow.

After circling the old Medieval Town, the driver dropped us off and we started on the walking tour. Did you know that there are two medieval cities side-by-side? Anyway, it was freaking cold and the medieval cobblestone was all covered with ice and mighty dangerous. Nearly fell a couple of times. The guide was quite afraid and kept asking me to hold on to her. I said better not. If I fall, just I alone gall. Don't wanna pull her down along with me!

We visited an old Medieval Church and sat in the same pew where the current president usually sat. Not that it mattered to me but she seemed excited that my butt should be 'somewhat' touching the place where her President's butt touched. Hehe.. And then bits of gossip about him... Divorcing his American wife to marry a woman 20 years his junior. Men!!

She took me around the old town and pointed numerous buildings which I have forgotten... Brain frozen liow, you see! I had earlier left my ear muffs in the car!! Anyway, one thing I remembered was a Pharmacy that was over 600 years old and is still a pharmacy today!
The last bit of the tour was a traditional Estonian lunch at a restaurant. It was then free time around Tallinn.
First thing I did was pop into Esprit (yeah. It is right in the middle if the old town) to buy a hat to cover the head and ears. Can't risk any more brain cells dying!! Walked around and decided to go for a manicure to kill time.
Yes. Tallinn is where Finns come to play, shop, eat and have fun. Not forgetting to make glasses! My manicure costs Euro 12. Cheap lo. No need to tip summore. And would you believe that some flowers including arrangements are cheaper than in Jakarta?
And when I checked out the supermarket, 2 big slabs of marinated baby back pork ribs for less than 8 Euros. Think in Jakarta, probably have to pay about USD 30 for the same amount!
Think I've found my affordable spas!!!

And as I boarded the ferry, saw some people carrying cartons and cartons of booze. Must be d@mm cheap.

Okay la. My iPhone running out of battery liow.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Enroute to Tallinn, Estonia!

Yup. Whilst the hubs slog at the head office, I go spend his money.
But you would agree, right?
Wife spend hubby's money is "teen koong, tei tou"!
Well, since I am supposed to see what living here would be like... I joined the hundreds if not thousands of Finns crossing the Baltic Sea to Estonia. From what I have heard, Finns crossover for shopping, spa and relaxation. If we move to Helsinki, maybe this will be my weekly haunt?? I supposed most shopaholics take the car on the ferry to load up on the shopping.

The crossing takes 2 hours and I have one more hour to kill. Thank goodness there is free wifi. Thus my single-finger typing on my iPhone to update this blog. So please excuse me if you see lots of typos.
Did I mention that the Baltic Sea is all frozen. Wanted to take a photo...but but...more about my stupidity below.

Anyway, I have a guide waiting for me over at Tallinn , for a tour of the places of interest and the old medieval center. Unfortunately, this stooooooopid scrapbooker forgot to load the fully-charged battery into her DSLR. So Bodoh. Really. Donno what the brain is doing! Seriously have to start using it, otherwise it is no different from a frozen brain that can be cut up and devoured! I actually left my hand-luggage at Starbucks, Jakarta Airport and went to meet H in the lounge, happily reading my book for quite a bit. Then when it was time to get to the gate, he asked me where was my bag and I went "I thought you had it". Waliow! Panick aje. I ran off to Starbucks. Thankfully it was still there. Otherwise, DSLR will be gone! *sigh*
Serious. Either Helsinki or Jakarta or God Knows Where, once we have confirmed where we will be, I need to do something that utilize my brain. Lest those brain cells will have no chance to rehabilitate.

On a lighter note, both H and I went to Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite - Les Folies 2011 Workd Tourat the Hartwall Arena here in Helsinki. Didn't even know she was performing until I was flipping through some magazines last Sunday (20 Feb) whilst having a drink with H over at Casa Largo @ Hotel Sokos that I saw she would be performing in the city on the 22nd of Feb. Thought it would be fun to attend. Went online and managed to get tickets. I must be really out of sync as I don't know half the songs...cause I am still stuck in the "I should be so lucky...lucky lucky lucky" era! The finale was pretty good. Fountains and Cirque du Soleil-like performance.
And Enrique Iglesias is performing here in April. I supposed the good thing about living in Europe is that all these performances are easily-reachable ... Everywhere is a short hop away.

What is the difficult thing then?
I will leave that for another post... After I've visited the Asian Grocery Store, Malaysian Embassy and the International School of Helsinki.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, S2!

S2 celebrates his 11th birthday today!
It seems time has really accelerated. Not too long ago, I had this chubby and cute little baby in my arms. And now, I have a braces-clad, skinny tween! Oh. How I wished my babies would remain cute and chubby... Only consolation is to have tall, big, and handsome boys! Hahaha..

Happy Birthday, son!

P/s yes yes...we'll have a party when I get back.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Brain Freeze!!!

I'm sure you have experienced Brain Freeze once or more whilst enjoying that Ice-blended Frappucino or Slurpee.
But have you experienced it when there is no drink in hand???
I did. This morning.

After bidding farewell to H (got to go to work, of course!), I made sure I was dressed up properly. Ear muffs, scarf, boots etc. As I stepped out of the hotel lobby, I glanced at the thermometer. The digital display read -18 deg C. Same as the day before. Shouldn't be a problem, I thought. It did seem okay. Only problem was having to balance my walking.... The pavements were quite icy even though gravel had been used to increase traction. H joked the day before that perhaps I should have football boots studs on my UGGs. Hahaha..
Anyway, I headed to the Main Railway Station to purchase my tour tickets. It was a short walk so not too bad. It was when I walked towards the Esplanade that I felt it. Brain Freeze...from the cold! And then I couldn't feel my face. Shiaks!
I jumped into a bookshop to heat-up, then ventured out again. It didn't take long before I felt it again. Saw a cafe but decided to skip it. Boy! Did I regret it. LV, Longchamp, Laura Ashley etc etc...but no cafes! (actually got one. Think my brain freeze distorted my eyes!!! Haha)
Then when I saw a kiosk, I quickly dashed in to shelter from the cold and got a cup of hot latte.
Had to say that hot beverage did work wonders, as I managed to venture out to the Kauppatori (Market Square) area to snap a few pictures. Not many stalls though, as it was so cold. There were fish stalls hidden within little tents. Other than that, it was quite deserted. In spring, this place will be filled with flower stalls.

This probably is the coldest place that I have ever been. The sea by the Kauppatori was frozen! Really amazing views! I will post some photos but Peter Lik, I am Not! Soon after, I was slowly losing my face again...and had to pop into a nice cafe by the Esplanade to have a fattening Hot Chocolate with whipped cream. Then it was time for my bus tour of Helsinki. The tour had one stop but lazy and cold me just stayed on the bus. Saw the main sights of Helsinki.... I told H later that I probably know more about Helsinki in my one day than his 20 previous trips combined. Hahaha...

After the tour ended, the moment I exited from the warmth of the bus, I felt my face gone again and I reaaaaaaally needed to visit the little girl's room. Found another nice warm cafe and the most logical thing to order was hot soup....which I thought was pretty expensive at 7.50 euros for self-service. Luckily it was yummy and hot. Initially, I had great plans. I thought of taking the ferry to Suomealina Sea Fortress after the bus tour...but after having a frozen brain and a face that isn't really there, I thought I will do that another day.
What did I do then?
Retreated back to the warm and cozy hotel room to thaw out those frozen brain cells!

-18 deg Celsius today!

Arrived in Helsinki on Saturday at about 1 pm (local time) after a looooooooong flight.
We flew from Jakarta to Singapore, to Frankfurt and then finally to Helsinki. As the plane was approaching the runway, the sight below was beautiful. All white with snow and pine trees. The temperature was -12 deg C when we left the airport.
My clothing was okay....warm enough but had to buy a pair of ear muffs. The hotel concierge was telling us that there were guys who had their ears frozen and dropping off!!! Yikes!! Wei? H refused to get a pair for himself and kept joking that he can't feel his ears!

The temperature went down to -18 deg Celsius today (Sunday). And that was the daytime temperature. Don't know what is the temperature tonight...am nicely tucked in bed in the warmth of our hotel room. Initially, was going to stay in a one-bedroom apartment but read from online reviews that the heating in the apartment was inadequate, no hair-dryer, no front desk etc etc. Glad that we switched to a hotel.... smaller (of course) but the heating is great - the bathroom floors are heated... no sudden cold shock when on the throne! Hahaha...
If we move here, really must get a house with heated bathroom floors too!

Checked out food prices in supermarkets today... Some things are cheaper than Jakarta (ham, cheese, sausages, juices, potatoes) some are similar (eggs, some fruit) and some are more expensive (meats, fish and especially garlic!!! H was like going Oh No!!! He absolutely lurves garlic!!). The range of cheese, yogurt, cold cuts is amazing. Figured that we need to eat like the Europeans, then we'll be okay. I was telling H that since the boys and him are always complaining "why Chinese again?", I will keep the more expensive Chinese veggies and foods for myself, and just feed the rest of the family cheese, pastas and what-nots!! Hahaha...
Actually, so much ready-prepared foods. No need to cook. Just heat up can already.
Got to go to the Asian Grocery Store to see their range...otherwise must fly to London every month and go Sei Woh Hong for my Chinese stuff!!! Haha...

Moving here? Donno yet!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I am NO Tiger Mother

I am sure most of you have heard about the HUGE controversy surrounding Amy Chua's book, "Battle Hymm of the Tiger Mother". If you have not, just google "Tiger Mother" and I assure you that there will thousands of hits. It is quite an interesting read.

My kids go for sleepovers,, don't get straight A's, choose their own activities, watch tv during school days, play games till their eyes pop out over the weekend. So you can hardly say that I am the stereotypical Chinese mom.

So why bring this topic up?
I had a short chat over a cup of coffee yesterday with a fellow mom from school. As we were talking, I lamented about finding my boys not exactly up to the level they are supposed to be although the school keeps saying they are "great". My basis? I used Malaysian workbooks. Yah. The country ranked 8th in the world in terms if education (errrrr...when compared with countries of similar GDPs).
My friend's remark was "maybe you are expecting too much from your boys?"
Wei??? Am I?
When I tutor them, I make sure they understand the concepts and basics before they can go off to do their nonsense. No point in knowing how to do some problems if their understanding is not fully there. I can see that the boys do understand the foundation concepts better after each of our sessions. So it is a fact that they can do it. They just need the little bit of
push.
I feel that if they can do it, why want to settle for mediocrity?
My friend argued that the school teaches the kids to think outside the box, excel socially blah blah blah.
Yes. I agree. That part is commendable but why can't we excel both socially and academically?

I feel the academics is lacking in International schools and the ang-mohs really Molly-coddle the kids too much. Read the controversial piece. Though I do not agree with her archaic parenting styles, I wholly agree when she said that we push our kids because we know they can do it! The part she said about Ang-moh parents tend to fret over damaging their children's self esteem is also very true. Take my boys' school for example...something as simple as football. My S1 is in the U14 B2 team. Why B2? It is clearly a C team. Last year, they had A, B and Cs. This year, they go by A, B1 and B2. Why the change?? My good guess is that some ang-moh parents complained about the tag 'C' is damaging their kid's self-esteem. Come on! How long do they want to keep the kids in a cocoon????
The real world is not going to be so kind to our kids lah!
Their bosses are not going to say "Good Job!" when crap is presented. The kids need to know that they need to work hard to excel. Be it sports, academics, friendships or whatever. If we keep them in a cocoon, sheltering them from every single bad thing ( I am not saying endangering your kid, ok?), making sure everything is hanky-dory; how are our kids going to survive in the real world?
Don't even talk about working life. Just university is enough. Are you going to be there to protect him/her from nasty lecturers and fellow mates? No, right?
Besides, kids are not dumb la. I asked my S1 what he thinks about this B2 or C - which is more appropriate? His answer was very straightforward - C because technically, when letters are used, they should be exhausted first before we bring in the numerals, I.e. A B C through to Z, then A1 B1 C1 so on and so forth. I thought that was a pretty good answer!

Another thing my friend commented was I ought to take the environment in consideration....since international school and all. I don't agree lor. In their school, there are loads of little heirs and heiresses who have gold mines that can last a few lifetimes. Is it okay for my kids to behave like them? No, right? My kids will have to work hard just like their dad. No gold mines tuck somewhere in a Petaling Jaya Sekyen! Apparently there is a girl in the school that is soooooo rich that she comes to school 3 months, then travel to America with her dad for 3 months with a personal tutor, then back to school again. An old friend who have since left told me that sone kids give Rolex Watches as birthday presents! Yup. Waliow is correct! All these kids no need to study hard. No need to work hard. Do I tell my kids no need to work hard? So, the more the environment is not 'ideal', the harder I have to work against it!

This same friend also said that I shouldnt tutor my own kids. Yes. I am not a patient woman. I don't do it consistently. So I wonder...
Will a paid stranger in some tuition center be more concerned than I? To make sure that they have understood the concepts presented?
Mmmmmmm...

This topic is endless..... Cause there will always be different parenting styles...and we will always disagree.....
Like how I am disagreeing with some moms at school. I feel there is not enough homework, and the ang-moh moms think there is too much homework! I feel kids are not challenged enough, the ang-moh moms think they are! If my son can come home and watch tv and go on facebook almost every night,, certainly there is too much free time! Even if there is homework, it is done in a jiffy! I can't say exactly that they have done a bad job because both are always having good reports, and are in either the top or 2nd groups when they do segregate the different levels. So ? Work is too easy in this international school?? Then why the ang-mohs say they are challenged? Challenged means a little more challenging, harder to complete, right? Or am I getting the whole concept wrong? I don't know lah!

Boys' Grandma is Here!

But poor grandma....stuck in traffic for two hours from airport to Senayan City. If she would have gone straight home, would be another hour!!! The traffic here is really GILA la. Laundryamah was with me then and she said "afraid need to go toilet only!". Immediately I called my mom. Thank goodness she was still doing good!

As I was saying, we took a cab to meet my mom at Senayan City. Figured that we could at least have a Chap Goh Meh dinner. Mom said she was a bit scared of yue sang already but S2 wanted it so we ordered it...since last day of CNY liow.

Hope my mom is not going to be terrified to step out of the house because of the horrendous traffic!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Busy Day...

The day started bright and early this morning. Was up at 5.50 am before my alarm rang at 6.10 am.
Usually, I will just check that boys are up and ready for school. But this morning, I had to prepare breakfast for the boys. What happened to my maid? Good question.
On Monday night (14th Feb), she said her son was ill and had to go home and will only come back to work on Wednesday morning (16th Feb). Baloney lah! I was going to give her a day off on Tuesday (15th Feb), in lieu of her off-day this Saturday (20th Feb). Usually, she will have a full 24-hour day, i.e. if she goes off at 4.00 pm on Tuesday, she should be back at 4.00 pm Wednesday. But this time, she told me she will come back Thursday morning. This was last Saturday (12th Feb) when we discussed about her off-day. Really taking me for granted! Her last off-day, I gave her 2 nights off which was over CNY. That is ME giving her off. How can she EXPECT to have 2 nights off ALL the time? I really hate it when they do this. Obviously I said NO.
So you say lah! Really son ill or bluff? My H said sure bluff. I think so too. Maybe she wants to spend Valentine's Day with her husband??

I put in the washing, then went off for my Yoga class. As usual, traffic was a nightmare. I tell you... if it is not for the tranquility of my house, I would have gone GILA long time ago. I got so fed-up that I hopped off the car in the middle of the road and walked to my Yoga class oblivious to the loud honking from the cars... they must be cursing this crazy woman in the middle of the road!!
After two hours, I got home. Showered, had a sandwich for brunch and then popped out to a blissful 2-hour facial (errr... stuck in the jam on the way there, of course!) and then to my waxing salon, to the supermarket to get groceries for tonight's dinner. Got home. Gave instructions to the maid (Yes. She did come back this morning... otherwise, I might have to postpone my trip) on dinner, and then pop out to the Factory Outlet on the way to the boys' school. Didn't manage to buy anything. Was supposed to look for a hat and perhaps a sweatshirt or two. Saw a Nike Sweatshirt which was only USD 8 but it was a bit dirty. Oh well...

From there, went to McD's to grab a burger and nuggets for the boys' snacks before zooming to their Mandarin Class. Dropped them off and then proceeded to the mall to buy a spare mobile phone - Need it so that mom can have a local number when she comes tomorrow. Yup. Boys' grandma will arrive tomorrow afternoon... to help with babysitting/supervising the boys while H and I are away. Before you go "Another Holiday??". No it is not a holiday. Okay...maybe HALF-holiday for me. But it is a WORKING trip for H. We are off to Helsinki.... It is a look-see trip for me since I have not been. Need to check out the place and see if I can actually live there.

Tomorrow will be another busy day... Chiropractic Appointment at 9 AM (Yup. Still seeing him. Oh. Did I mention he is quite good loooking? hehehehhe), pick-up Laundryamah at 10 AM from her hotel, and then off to do our nails at 10.30 AM. I have to plonk her back to wherever she wants to be by 2 PM, leaving me enough time to get home, and to send the car to the airport to pick my mom at 4 PM. And since tomorrow is Chap Goh Meh.... will surely need to have a CNY's meal with Grandma at a restaurant in town!

Happy CHAP GOH MEH everyone!!

Those Tiny Little Things...

Are you amazed by those tiny little things that we call memory cards?
I find them incredibly so. They are so tiny and compact BUT they sure pack a punch!
These little babies can have 16 GB of memory space.... perhaps even more!
Do you know how many photos you can store in a 16 GB memory card? Countless!
Technology has really come a long long way. I remember my huge laptop with 20 MB of memory... and it was supposed to be top-of-the-range at its time! If only I could bring one of these babies back in time!

Ignorant!

Who? Who is ignorant?
I am.
I always thought that "compression garments" are for women who wants a smaller waist. You know... those corsets worn by the Victorian ladies that has to be cinched tighter and tighter with the help of the maids of those days. Well. How wrong I was!
"Compression garments" are pieces of clothing that actually provides support! Quite the opposite of what I had in my mind, huh?
It is useful to people who has to stand for long periods of time, or people with poor circulation. Some athletes wear them for increased performance and reduced injuries. I should order some compression stockings online as I hear that they can prevent deep vein trombosis when travelling on flights. And yes. I do have a long flight coming up soon.... very soon...in less than 48 hours to be exact.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"En Puhu Suomea"

...... basically this means "I don't speak Finnish".

Hahahaha... you probably would say that I am so "takk-hann" to find this out eventhough we have NOT confirmed our move. This is the thing about being an expat wife.... whenever a posting is ending, and there are many different country possibilities, you tend to spend time researching on those places. And I mean LOTS of time. And many times, a lot of those time spent will be somewhat WASTED. I remember when there was a time when Tokyo was a possibility. I spend hours (and I mean really tens of hours, if not hundreds!) on the net checking out of the various housing options on the outskirts of Tokyo, English pre-schools etc etc. And the outcome? Bangkok became our posting!

This time may be the same. I may spend hours and hours finding out about living in Helsinki, and at the end... we may NOT move there. To date, I have to say that I did spend tens of hours on the net already. Remember the Dream House that I posted a few days ago? That took many hours.... cause I started to google in English, which didn't come up with many results. Most of the English sites were all advertising for holiday homes. I had to resort to a Finnish site, which means I need to learn a few Finnish words to input into the Finnish Search Engine.... basically Assunot = Housing.
Well, as I said... That house was what I would love to have but will have to see what's our housing allowance and also the location. Although H said that he wouldn't mind topping up on the housing, we'll still have to consider how much is too much, right? He asked "car or house?".
I am not exactly a car person...so I would definitely go for house.
Originally, we had sort of decided that we will get a Volvo XC90 for me... then he said "we'll go for smaller cars then!". I was thinking maybe a small to mid-size Toyota or Ford.

A couple of days later, whilst surfing the net, I saw that second-hand Ford Fiestas were going for 4000 Euros. Told H so... and he said "NO lah! No need Ford Fiestas". You know what?
His version of smaller cars mean Toyota Harrier or Ford Escape. That's not exactly small, is it??? Yeah. Yeah. We also spent quite a lot of time searching for cars on the Finnish website.... which again, may be a waste of time.

Yes. All this uncertainties of NOT knowing whether we are going or staying is driving me nuts. Walnuts. Hazelnuts. Pecan nuts, and all sorts of nuts. Majorly stressing me out. I find that I am clenching my jaw with more intensity.... needing to wear my mouthguard even during my short naps. I supposed I am more anxious about our next posting this time round because S1 will be starting the first of his iGCSE year in August 2011, and we just can't take things likely.

I remember years ago..... I used to harp on H about 'the next posting', and all the uncertainties..... until he got quite fed-up one time and said "I can go and be a taxi driver. I go and drive around, and when my shift is over, I come back at the set time. That's the certainty you want, is it??". Really let him chuei-cheong! And then with years, I learned to relax and just take every posting possibility with a pinch of salt until it is finalised and confirmed.... Afterall, boys were in still quite young then. For a while, the profession of Taxi Driver was not brought up.

UNTIL now!!! Schools. Schools. Schools. Need to know in advance to put in application forms... and NO. Can't just simply apply cause it costs 3000 Euros per child just to put in the application forms. And International Schools are so full these days... EVERYWHERE. What if there are no spaces? PENGSAN lah. So you can imagine my anxiety... which would mean my constant badgering of H on this matter. So one fine day, he said "it's time for you to call your friend, N. Tell her I will drive one of her taxis. Better still. Tell her you will drive one too. Two of us on the job will be better. Oh yeah. Tell her that I want to drive the Mercedes...think I will look better in it than the Toyotas." GILA hubby, I have... (Yes. I know the lady whose family owns and runs the biggest Taxi company here... If you have been to Jakarta, I am sure you would know which company I am referring to)

Oh well. Will update here on what is happening to us!
And btw, the weather at Helsinki today is -13 deg C. Warmer than the last time I checked... which was -18 deg C, but feels like -22 deg C due to wind chill!!!
Oh yah. My GILA boys... we were at the supermarket just now and one of the freezer had -20 deg C on its digital display, and they commented "let's put our heads into the freezer...to train ourselves for -20 deg C!". HAHAHHAHAHAHAH

It is TIME.....

For years, I have been saying that I should start doing something more productive and useful with my time. I pondered on a full time job... but being 'spoilt' as an expat wife, I want to have some free time to do 'fun' stuff during the weekdays too. Plus we currently live in a country where work permits for foreigners are hard to obtain. The next best thing, as suggested by my dear hubby is to invest in stocks online. I can do it anywhere, anytime ....as long as I have an internet connection.
What's great is that hubby will provide me with the investment funds and anything I make, I can keep! Woohoo!

It is TIME now.... for me to really get onto this bandwagon.

First thing to do is probably to have some guide on stocks. Yes. I know buy LOW sell HIGH but which company stock to buy? Certainly I need to know about the company, its industry, its financial health etc etc, right? And it certainly will do no harm to have the insights and tips of a financial guru. Perhaps on Forbes.com? For years, we have heard about the billionaires on Forbes list. Surely there will be great insights to be had on their website.

Second thing to do is to sort out my online brokerage account. The hubs was so kind to have set up an online trading account on E-TRADE, and put in the investment funds. But is E-TRADE the best? I was looking at the list of online brokers on this website mint.com. The site obtains the trading profile and will search for the best brokerage firm that suits my trading style. Sounds quite straight-forward.

The other thing that I need to do is to get my financials in order.....I need to have an application that will bring all my financial accounts together online, allows me to set budgets and would even give notification when there is an upcoming bill payment so that I can avoid paying late-fees. At the moment, I find that I keep paying late fees for one of our credit cards. That's a real bummer!

Happy Belated Valentine's Day...


Late is Better than nothing! Maybe I am just saying that because I am hoping for a Valentine's Day gift from H?? What can he get me from INDIA?? A packet of papadoms, perhaps? Or maybe a few packets of tandoori spices? Hahahhaha...
Ya. Ya. He is in India now... but did wish me Happy Valentine's Day. Was surprised that he even remembered the day... for he is so blurr one. Or maybe because his boss was calling the wife 4 to 5 times?? My H actually said "he called his wife 4 to 5 times today, so thought I should also call you".
Actually, we have NOT celebrated Valentine's Day for donno how many donkey years. Think the last time was when he was still "CHASING" me back in Malaysia. Think we went to some restaurant up on The Mall, and as usual... the restaurant was dark and a stalk of rose were given as door gifts for lady diners. Other than that. I don't remember anything else.
Usually, the boys will purchase some candygrams at school during this time... Don't know who S1 buys it for, but S2 buys it and stuffs it all in himself! But this year, Valentine's Day was during the school's half-term, so no school means no candygrams. ----> Save money.
Valentine's Day really is just an excuse for businesses to make money. Roses cost more. Dinners at restaurants cost more. Teddy Bears cost more. Better wait till ONE day after Valentine's Day to celebrate Valentine's Day, ie TODAY!
Hahhahaha..
Ya lah. Ya lah. I am un-romantic. To add to the un-romanticism, we actually had BAK KUT TEH for dinner under BRIGHT BRIGHT lights.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Old House"

Okay. My house is not exactly old but it is getting rather tired-looking. I supposed with the usual wear and tear coupled with my "maturing" tastes in decor, the house looks like it needs a complete makeover. New paints with new colours, new floor tiles for the living areas, kitchen and bathrooms, new cabinets and fixtures for both the kitchen and bathrooms... I could go on and on with what I would love to do to this house.

How about you? Do you feel like your house needs a makeover? Don't know where to start?
Well, I certainly would advise you to think about the styles that you like and don't like and the rest of the planning stages will follow.... If I were you, I would start on the bathroom. It is usually the smallest "room" in the house afterall, and thus easier to work on.

Still don't have any ideas what you want? Check out this online store http://www.betterbathrooms.com/. It is indeed a great site. Browse through the various bathroom styles available on the site. You'll be surprised at the number of styles and colours available. Take note of what you like and don't like. Be mindful that the style that you choose should be something that you can live with for a fair bit of time. Otherwise, you'll be shopping for new bathroom fixtures sooner than you think.

You can compare prices which would allow you to find something to suit your budget. No worries about going OVER. I think that's what most people get into - going OVER-budget when they remodel. I personally like the bathroom suites. The fixtures all have been carefully chosen to be coordinated to be of a certain style. Great if you are not a Style-Guru! You certainly don't want to have a bathroom fashion faux-pas!
And you know what is great about this ONLINE store? They actually have a REAL and PHYSICAL store! Actually, THREE showrooms in the UK.
Isn't this good news? You can physically walk through "your" new bathroom and have a feel if you like it. Feels great?
You can immediately order in store.
Or if you still wanna think a little bit more... That's no problem either.
Do the online ordering!
And you delivery can be as fast as NEXT-DAY!
Sounds Great, right?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

If we really must go....

I want this house!!!

http://asunnot.oikotie.fi/vuokrattavat-asunnot/6227663

Okay... Not exactly this one but something like it!

UPDATE:
H was using my iPad yesterday and he chanced upon my blog on one of the open pages. He saw this post and commented "Looks like you are very takk-hann to post this kind of thing!"... If only he could see that I have added the photos of the house here, donno what he would comment then!

Decided to post the photos of the "dream house" here... in case it is already out of the market and the link above does not work no more.
I say "dream house" because we have yet to have information on our housing allowance. It might be above the company's budget. When I showed it to H, he was quite pleased with it to... and said he doesn't mind to top up a bit if I am happy.

Anyway, here are the photos...

Front of the House... probably in Spring or Summer

Back of the House
View from the House

Foyer of the House

Living Room

Kitchen

Bathroom

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

"Fatt Hau"

Yeah. Donno why today I "fatt hau" and wanna change the look of my blog. Thought I will go with something GIRLY like PEACHY PINK. But then too lazy to go and change the colours of all the side-bar thingies. I thought it would be quite easy...but then I would have to go to those third-party sites, select the colour, copy the entire code and then paste it into blogger. Aiyerrrr... so banyak things. Thus...that will have to wait.

Oh yeah.. I'm sorry I had to add a "word verification" for comments... as lately donno why so many spam promoting some porn site. Adoi! And my boys occasionally read my blog... don't want them to think that mommy is advocating that. Do we?

A pleasant Surprise...

You do remember that I am the class mom for my S2's class, right?
It's not exactly a difficult job... just organize meetings once-a-term to obtain feedback/complaints/comments from the parents in S2's class, write simple minutes/updates to the parents, to gather some volunteers for the Class Reading program and to attend the Class Rep meeting once-a-term.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this Flower Arrangement when I got home one day. It was from S2's Class Teacher to express his gratitude for my help. Made me feel kinda guilty as I haven't been really doing that much really.
Nevertheless, it was really really nice of him...

Btw, this is a back-dated post (before the Xmas holidays of 2010) but I felt that I had to post this in my blog to remember this nice Canadian teacher..
Thanks. Mr. SLb!


Sunday, February 06, 2011

I AM Stressed but I shouldn't be.....

As H puts it "I don't know why you are stressed and thinking so far ahead!".

I can't help it. I try not to think too much but little details and things keep popping into my head. I'm sure you've heard me mention in bits and pieces in previous posts that it's time to move out. Most companies ship out expats after 3 or 4 years. And we are overdue.....

Well, my H has officially taken on a new position since the beginning of this month - a global one. His boss offered him to be based in Moscow, Warsaw or Helsinki. Moscow was immediately thrown out of the door (we were in Moscow last Summer and we absolutely do NOT want to live in Moscow) and then Warsaw was in the picture. I was apprehensive about the idea... living in Europe???? I mean I did live in England for almost 6 years but that's a country where I have relatives and ENGLISH is THE language. Moving to Warsaw would mean that I would need to learn Polish, get used to the weather, drive on the wrong-side of the road etc etc. It is a challenge ... but I was kinda warming up to the idea.

But meanwhile, my H who was trying to SWAY his boss from sending him to Europe ...kept asking him "Why Warsaw?". His intention was to get posted to somewhere in ASIA. Well, the plan BACKFIRED big time. Now. Warsaw is out. Worse. The 'ideal' place in the bosses' eyes now is Helsinki. ALAMAK! PENGSAN!!!

Yes. I was disappointed. When H told me the news, he had to add "it's -21 deg C in Helsinki today". YIKES!
Helsinki is located so much further north. So much colder. So much lesser sun.
And yes. I would still have to learn a totally different language. Still have to drive on the wrong side of the road.
And worse... Finland is a developed nation - meaning I would not be able to find someone to help me do the occasional ironing. At least in Warsaw, I am sure I can find a Polish woman to come in and do the occasional cleaning and ironing if need be. I've done some research on Warsaw... quite a number of Asian grocery stores, 10 Tescos, 2 Ikeas, shops that I am familiar with... Houses for rent are also quite reasonable and nice-looking. Also found chinese tuition and music tuition centers for the boys. As it is somewhat still developing, there are relatively more expats, i.e more choices in international schools - schools have more pupils meaning pool of potential friends is bigger.

As for Helsinki, their public school system is exceptionally good. So good that many countries actually send educators to Finland to study their successful system. And thus, only one international school in Helsinki with a small pupil population.... less friends for my boys, and definitely less friends for me. Been trying to have an idea of housing there...but everyone seems to be in apartments. SMALL apartments like 50 sq m. Aiyo. How to move to a 50 sq m when we are in 40 sq m. house now? I mean I do not expect similar large size...but must be at least 1800 sq ft with 3 bedrooms. Did find some decent-sized houses online but they were located outside of the city center. About 25 minutes drive to the International School...so not too bad. Journey to boys' current school from our house takes an average of 40 minutes anyway.

Whenever I voice something to H about Helsinki, he would say that he doesn't understand why I am thinking so far ahead.... as he is still trying to change things. Well, I guess things CAN change very quickly... he might be able to convince his boss or he might find a different career option??
Two weeks ago, we were still talking about flying to Warsaw for a look-see and now... my flight goes straight to Helsinki.... So who knows? In two weeks, there might be changes again....

Don't wanna think till things are concrete....but really hard not to.

Gong Xi Fa Chai!!

GONG XI FA CHAI!





Nope. I am not late... it is still Chinese New Year. Today is only Day 4. Still another 11 days of festivities....
As we did not go back to our "hometown", we have not had alot of yummy goodies. Only bought some kum, Nien Gao, Sweets, Preserved Plums & other fruit, plus some love letters and kuih bangkit. Don't know if I mentioned it, but the pineapple tarts that I baked earlier was devoured in less than 3 days by the 3 greedy boys in the house...so none left for CNY.

Didn't really decorate the house up.. but did buy new bunches of pussy willow and some fire-cracker "lights"... Somehow, didn't look too CNY though.

This year I was pretty lazy so did not cook on New Year's Eve. We went out to a restaurant instead. Had the customary salmon yue sang, of course. Also had Peking duck with the duck meat stir-fried with spring onion & ginger, soft shell crab, fried lala, crabmeat soup, steamed egg and iced mango pomelo. Meal was rather satisfying... as I hadn't slaved over the stove all day! Hahahha

We had CNY parties on Day 2 and Day 3.... funnily hosted by angmoh families. Okay - Day 2 was not exactly totally angmoh as the wife is Chinese. Their house looked so much more festive with all the RED decor and Lion puppets etc. Most of the angmoh guest were either wearing RED, chinese-style tops or even cheong sams. Felt so odd in my brown top! Hehehehe...

CNY Day 3 was totally angmoh. When I asked what she wanted me to bring... she actually requested that I bring yue sang! Not exactly in those words. She said "the chopstick toss noodle dish"! I was totally blurr until she slowly described what the dish consisted of. Of course I wasn't gonna make it lah. Had to go to town to get it from a restaurant.

And today, we went to our regular Chinese Buffet Brunch at Mulia Hotel... Was quite disappointed today. Not only the price per pax has increased, the food variety has decresed. Previously, there would be Peking Duck, Roast Pork, Suckling Pig, yummy Fried Prawn Wontons ... and today, they said those items are Ala Carte! Obviously H complained to the manager... and as they recognised us as regulars, they gave us a complimentary plate of roast pork and suckling pig, and apologised for the change. With this change, I supposed we will not be coming here again... I mean I can understand the 'expensive' items taken off the buffet but even cheap stuff like chicken feet? I was a bit surprised when they told me that was Ala Carte too! Looks like we have to find a new Chinese Buffet Brunch place to go to.....


Friday, February 04, 2011

USB Drives in ALL Shapes and Sizes...

These days, you can get usb drives in all shapes and sizes. And I mean ALL shapes and sizes. They can be a tiny little thing, or be embellished with lots of bling, be personalized with your company name and logo or be in a funny shape ...like a sushi. Yup. You heard me right. A sushi-shaped usb drive. Never seen one of those? It was featured in the film Green Hornet.... when the character Brett Reid tried to secretly record a conversation with the bad guy onto his sushi-shaped usb drive whilst dining in a Japanese restaurant. Both my boys were roaring with laughter when they saw that! I personally prefer a usb drive with a bit of bling...