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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow Angels

I was right to fear the mountain.

At 1530h, snowflakes floated down like slowly waltzing fairies. They whispered invitations as they passed. Enchanted, we followed their dance up the slopes in a cable car and joined their party at 3000m above sea level.

Excitedly, we sat down on our luges and pushed off. Not long after, the waltzing fairies whipped themselves into a disco frenzy and there were so many that we could see nothing beyond 15m. Their noiseless dance didn't seem friendly anymore and I began to be afraid.

We couldn't go back up because we were one quarter way down. We decided to push on. But we couldn't see beyond all the white, and so we took a wrong turn and ended up on a steep slope for skieurs. The luge went so fast that the powdery snow churned upwards into our faces and filled our mouths and noses. We were drowning in an ocean of cold white powder and we had to stop to walk and fall down the slope. One skieur after another zipped past us and soon, there were no more skieurs because the sun was setting and I suppose that the ski slopes were closed.

We were alone - Little Boy, The Husband and I. I looked at my brave little son who maintained a stoic silence even as his eyes panicked and ran screaming down a dark tunnel with no end. The Husband and I searched for a sign post and fumbled with frozen fingers for our mobile phones. I started to look around for a cave and I vaguely remembered that one could survive the cold by digging a hole to bury ourselves in. It was dark and our fingers were so numb that the mobile phones could not be found. My heart screamed again and again, in the great white silence and I felt sorry for my Little Boy who trusted in me and The Husband to keep him safe and we had not done so. The Husband could do nothing for us without his skis. He could only keep us calm. "Let us not panic" he said. But my heart was not listening anymore.

What kind of pathetic parents were we? Little Boy had icicles in his hair and ice in his eye brows... and even ice cubes in his scarf where the water vapour from his breath had frozen, and with every breath, the ice cubes grew bigger. Even our snot froze. There was a brooding silence all around us. The Daughter had disappeared.

I didn't know it but Little Boy prayed to God for deliverance.

And God sent Pascal, a Snow Angel. He was about 1.85m tall with the kindest eyes in the world and a voice that calmed our hearts. Before long, a powerful scooter stormed up the slopes to rescue Little Boy and I. The Husband stayed alone on the slope and the scooter went back for him. But I was almost in tears because The Daughter was nowhere in sight. I feared oh... I feared that she had luged off the mountain side, or fallen into a hole where we would find her only the next morning, frozen and dead. My Daughter, with her whole life before her...

Once arrived at the Safe House, I tried to organize a search for her and as I tried to calmly explain that there was a 15 year old girl still on the slopes cold and alone, she emerged from the white darkness of the awful blizzard and ran crying into my arms. As I folded her into my arms, I think I experienced the most joyful moment of my life.

The people at the Safe House were very kind. There was hot chocolate waiting and they helped us to collect our gear. Powerful snow scooters scooped us all up and deposited us gently at the hotel. We owe our very lives today to men such as Pascal, Jannick and Thomas... and women such as Sylvie, who make up the Groupe Sureté of the Val Thorens.

People like Pascal sweep the slopes at every slope closure for people like us who are caught off guard by blizzards that take less than 15 minutes to build up and blind the unwary. People like Jannick ride their scooters up the slopes to carry people down to safety. People like Thomas man the call centre and co-ordinate rescue missions. And people like Sylvie make sure that there is hot chocolate and warm conversation to help us forget.

I promise you that I will NEVER go up the slopes again. N-E-V-E-R! There is absolutely nothing wrong with my bed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

La Luge

"La luge" (I learnt today) is that thingy you sit in to slide down the hillside. "Le toboggan" is the slide fashioned into the slope for the "luge" to slide down upon. Val Thorens has a very very very long toboggan. The entire descent takes 45 minutes. Now, imagine sitting in a luge and pushing yourself off for an exhilarating ride that lasts 3 quarters of an hour. Now, don't you think that is safer, much more civilised... and therefore more fun than ski-ing?

You don't? Oh well... I do. And so do plenty of other 3 yr olds.

The children took one private lesson yesterday and spent the afternoon on the Green slopes... and I went down the Green slippery slope of Envy. Even Little Boy (the Mr Clumsy of our family) came back with tales of his exploits on the slopes... and he pontificated on ski-ing techniques whilst nodding sagely to similar comments from The Husband. Since I understood so very little of their happy and animated conversation, I felt rather miffed and left out. You would think that if these people had both the courage and the skill to master the snows, they would politely keep it to themselves, non?

So The Family decided to bundle me up in ski pants, got me a ski mask, a pair of ski gloves and shoved "une luge" at me because a Sulking Mother is a terrible one to have along on a ski trip. The Husband grinned at me evil-ly saying "Your bed has lost its charm huh?" So I spent the morning tobogganing down the Green slopes whilst the children ski-ed smartly down and The Husband began to look rather more handsome and dashing as he zipped past me and turned smartly to photograph the descent of our kids.

It's funny how much more attractive men look when they're ski-ing. There is a sense of powerful grace in the way they move. And you know what, their faces are tanned and rugged looking. Hmmmm... that's another thing for me to do on the ski slopes. Sit in my luge and ogle the men. Hee!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Waiters in French restaurants are consummate professionals. They hold their noses way up high and they have courtly manners. They say things such as "A votre service" (At your service) or "Je vous en prie" (I pray thee) and "Je vous propose" (I propose to you... such and such a dish). They know exactly what goes into each dish and will be able to discourse knowledgeably about the various merits of each, and they might even ask a few questions to get to know your tastes before they propose anything. And they call me "Madame", each time with a slight nod of the head and an imperceptible discreet bow.

Their every action is smooth and elegant. And they are most certainly NOT at the beck and call of the customer. On the contrary, these professionals know without looking when you have finished your plate, and come by your table without being asked. They know exactly when not to bother you and they will even make polite conversation with you if they think you feel like talking. In the Singaporean context, they aren't waiters. They're Personal Food Consultants.

However, all this consulting takes time and the guest must learn patience. Whilst they are with you, their attention is on you and on no other, and they will freeze with a haughty stare the impolite guest who dares to intrude into the moment that Mr Waiter is at present sharing with another guest. You see, you are a not merely a client at his restaurant, you are a paying guest and he is your host. And there are rules of courtesy governing the behaviour of both parties, and if one should flout these rules, the other is well within his rights to be offended. And you will find yourself very soundly snubbed from then on. No more polite conversation for you! People who have experienced being snubbed by a French waiter, could well have unknowingly broken some rules regulating social behaviour in France.

So, in a French restaurant, you learn to be patient. Everyone is there to have a lovely evening and so everyone lingers to enjoy food and conversation. And Mr Waiter treats everyone special, including you, when it's your turn.

This is something that Little Boy is unused to. In Singapore, we expect service staff to come immediately when we call. So, when Little Boy has to wait for the plates to be cleared, polite conversation to end, and dessert to be served, he becomes very impatient. The Daughter has it all figured out though. She leans across and whispers "People here linger over their food. You must learn to linger."

In truth, I don't mind this lingering business because one simply wants each mouthful to last forever and the children have grown old enough to be funny and knowledgeable. They're great conversationalists, our kids.

Val Thorens

Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in France, and it gets the earliest snows because of its altitude. The children had seen snow in USA but not the waist high snow banks of fine powdery snow that would make our ice kachangs blush and hide themselves away (for not being quite as fine).

I like snow from behind a window pane, and from under a thick quilt with a "café au lait" in one hand and a croissant with jam in the other. Not for me the romps in the snow with snowmen and snowballs. Not for me the ultra stylish swoosh swoosh of the tanned "skieurs" gliding effortlessly down the slope, deftly avoiding rocky outcrops and the tips of small pine trees. Not for me the charms of trudging through knee deep snow leaving enchanting footprints behind me.

It's very very cold you know. Nonetheless, I've never met anyone who thinks ski-ing is unpleasant. And I can understand why. These mountains exude a sense of powerful majesty. To fly down the slopes on skis and feel the kisses of the mountain air is a thrilling experience. The rush of adrenaline keeps people coming back for more. From the beginning of time, Man has enjoyed flirting with danger... conquering it. "Skieurs" must feel like Kings of the Mountain, non?

But I fear the mountain. God is in these mountains and it is not the God of my everyday who is gentle and patient. This is God when He decides to appear in all His masterful glory as Sovereign of all He created. Here is the face of God that sends me flying for refuge because to contemplate This face is to feel a keen sense of my own vulnerability. I cannot relax around these mountains. I love my slippers, shorts and t-shirts too much and I dislike the encumbrances of gloves, coats, scarves and boots. Here, I cannot run around with legs and shoulders bared to the sun for the kisses of the mountain are cold... oh so cold. And wherever I go I cannot help but see the mountain's potential for violence - its avalanches, its blizzards and people being carried off the slopes on stretchers.

But The Husband loves the mountains. When we were students, it was he who dragged me up the slopes at X'mas, New Year and over long winter weekends. He would then disappear up the Black slopes for his adrenaline fix. In France the slopes are categorised by difficulty from Green, to Blue, to Red and then finally, the Black slopes. On one occasion, he came back after the start of a blizzard recounting that he had almost ski-ed himself off the mountain side for lack of visibility.

But it isn't fair for a Cowardly Wife such as I to prevent The Husband from sharing his love for the mountain with his children. It also isn't fair for a Cowardly Mother such as I to deny the children an experience that they will remember. So, to console myself, I booked a rather pricey hotel with excellent service staff, sumptuous breakfast spreads and refined chef-prepared dinners. I have come armed with a stack of magazines and my own soft fleece blanket. And I intend to STAY in bed for 4 days to admire the snow from behind a window pane.

I will of course, get up for meals.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Le Marché Du Dimanche

Eating out tends to be expensive in France. A very simple meal costs about S$100 for a family of 4. Of course, even simple meals in France is comprised of a starter, a main and dessert/cheese. Still rather elaborate by Singaporean standards where one eats a plate of char kway teow and lunch is over.

On our first day here, we ate at a charming brasserie (we were told that it had been around for the last 100 years) where the décor was reminiscent of the 1940s. The tiny tables were placed so close to each other that people had to move tables for me to squeeze into my seat. There was a lively buzz of soft conversations and the intense fragrance of coffee in the air. It was altogether very pleasant. Little Boy ate up his lunch and part of all ours. The food was that good.

But one does not need to eat out to eat well. I contrived to book accommodation that came with kitchens. Armed with my kitchen, I plunged into the crowds at the Sunday market. We found a stall selling about 14 different varieties of oysters. We bought a dozen for S$20. There were some specialty breads so we picked up a loaf. And I swiped 4 different goat cheeses from the crêmerie with exotic names like Crottins de Chavignol (roughly translated as "shit bits of Chavignol"), Trou de Cru (i.e., a Hole of Raw) and Bouchons de Sancerre (i.e., Corks from Sancerre"... which looked exactly like a peeled banana). Very evocative names that reflect sense of humour of the peasant folk who created these masterpieces from milk. I even found a stall selling organic apple juice and pear juice.

And then we had lunch. Very fresh raw oysters with a hint of lemon and a lot of sea in them, chewed down with crusty bread and good French butter. The children loved the bread and the cheese but balked at the raw oysters. I was puzzled. In my own experience, I had taken to French oysters like a walrus but it took me 2 years to get into cheeses. Oh... if only Sunday markets were everyday. I would go back there to get a dozen oysters a day.

For another meal, I went sniffing around for a "charcuterie". This is a place that sells treated meats of every sort. I carried away packets of pâté (these come in a variety of different meats, from pork liver to goose liver to chicken and salmon) and meat mousses and my favorite "rillettes d'oie" (minced goose). The variety of treated meats is mind-boggling. All one needs to do is to close the eyes and point. It doesn't matter what you choose. They're all good. Then, with a baguette (french crust bread) lunch is again served.

I like hot dinners so I bought filet mignon and served up steak with flavoured with herbes de Provence. Oh... I look forward to every meal here.

Of Wives and Courtesans

The Husband and I are back in Paris again. For the first time, it is neither in transit, nor for work, nor to study. We're here to see Paris with the children. I've known this city for more than 25 years and still I discover things about it that I didn't know.

At Versailles yesterday, I saw for the first time, the Petit Trianon and Marie-Antoinette's Hamlet. For those who are curious, Marie-Antoinette was the unfortunate Queen at the time of the French Revolution. The poor lady was beheaded at the guillotine. The story goes around that when told that the peasantry had no bread to eat this Queen responded callously to her Ministers, saying "Well... then let them eat cake."

The Petit Trianon was a welcome change from the main palace at Versailles. The one was a man's way of showing the world that France was a powerful country and the French king was someone to be reckoned with. It was breathtaking in its grandeur. Everything was gold, brocade and every inch of stone was sculpted. In contrast, the Petit Trianon was a woman's way of living her life contentedly and far more simply, away from the heavy pressures of a regimented court life. The decor was light and feminine. The stonework was unadorned and the garden communed intimately with the house in a manner too casual for royalty. Just looking at the Petit Trianon gave one a sense of the woman who lived there (Marie-Antoinette).

She was a carefree spirit who fled the heavy protocol of her husband's palace... and she stayed very much a little girl at heart. I don't think she was at all suited to the heavy responsibilities of a Queen. All my life, I had thought her to be a wastrel of a Queen who splurged on dress after dress to the detriment of her nation. The Petit Trianon seemed to portray a different woman altogether... She was a merely girl who never grew up, and who was still playing with make-believe doll houses after bearing 4 children - except that her doll houses were life-sized and constructed within her very own estate. Gosh... the lady constructed a village complete with cottages (with thatched roofs) for her to play in!! I once thought very badly of this Queen. I thought her evil, unkind and wasteful. It turns out that she was merely immature.

Then I figured out why the French psyche tolerates the peaceful co-existence of wife and mistress. Indeed, no one in France batted an eyelid when Francois Mitterand claimed both wife and mistress as his own. My moment of epiphany came in when I learnt of the existence of Mme du Barry (mistress of Louis XV) and Mme de Maintenon (mistress and later wife of Louis XIV). French kings married for political expedience but that didn't stop them from falling in love, and very often, they were faithful to their mistresses till death. Both mistresses wielded considerable influence on royal decisions and were given lands and titles to keep and enjoy. In such cases, I think being the mistress is probably more advantageous than being the Queen. One has all the informal privileges without any of the formal duties. When push comes to shove, the Queen is beheaded and the mistress is spared. However, the most awful thing about being a Queen would certainly have to be giving birth in public. 19 royal children were born on this bed in full view of the entire court standing behind the gilded balustrade. Ewwwwwwwwwwwww!

Not surprisingly therefore, the French psyche has never denigrated the courtesan. Courtesans were celebrated for their brains and their beauty. With both, they had access to immense personal wealth and power. These were women who succeeded in a man's world and it is upon their legacy that women like Coco Chanel built their success. After all, Coco Chanel started her design house with money from her lover who had married another for expedience, but had loved her openly and well.

It is a very French mental model of the man-woman relationship and one that I never understood because I come from a culture where women were possessions (you know, bond maids etc...). To be the mistress of a man is to be a slave to the first wife. In France, that was not so. In France, women are cherished, spoiled, loved for our beauty and respected for our brains. And in a country such as this, being a mistress is sometimes better than being the wife, simply because the mistress is loved till death do them part... and the wife is sometimes not.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Milo's Place in the Family Huddle

The Family Huddle started when we were living in the US. One day, the children and I decided that we would give The Husband a scare by ambushing him when he got home. So, we kept a lookout for his car and then went to hide. The Husband came in to a house with no one that he saw. En route to the bedroom, we attacked him. He got pushed on to the floor and quickly overpowered by 2 small children and a tiny wife. There was a lot of yelling and screaming and hair pulling.

Not long ago, we got into a Family Huddle again. Milo was most indignant that he wasn't part of the mêlée. He stood outside the Forbidden Area with his entire body on high alert and looked quite offended. We finally moved the Family Huddle into the patio so that he could take part.

Since then, I've been really mean. I've taken Little Boy more often than usual onto my lap for noisy hugs and kisses from which I secretly peer to enjoy poor Milo's indignant look. The Daughter disapproves because she thinks I shouldn't try to provoke another's jealousy. I know I shouldn't but I am so tickled.

Okay... okay... I stop.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Termite Protection?

Almost everyone I know who have had experience with renovating an old house has advised me to pump anti-termite chemicals into the foundations. Since these are intelligent people with experience, I am inclined to take them seriously. It would be most unwise to try and save a little money only to be saddled with pest infestations every other month.

However, I do not then understand why my architect would advise against termite protection, saying that termites can fly in from the patch of jungle opposite my house... or from the neighbour's house, and protecting the foundations of my own house is thus futile.

So I sit here wondering who is right? If blog readers have any wisdom or experience to share that can help me make up my mind, I would be so very appreciative.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More Chocolate

We went to the Valrhona outlet today and got The Daughter a selection of chocolate. The Palmira is something called a Grand Cru. It's made exclusively with cocoa beans from the Palmira Plantation. The Daughter assures me that it is by far the nicest chocolate... but I didn't dare eat it. The tonsils feel like they're about to balloon.

That is all the chocolate I am prepared to buy. The rest is coming out of her pocket money. Anyway, I don't like chocolate that much. What I did like was Amoy Street Food Centre's Piao Ji Fish Soup. It's even better than Han Kee, which I ate 2 days ago.

I am now content. I have had my fish soup fix!

Being Contrarian

There is an interesting article in The Straits Times, December 2, 2009. It's about people's tendency to spend more and more on "quality" goods when they perceive that others are spending more on "quality" goods. Over time, things cost more and more, and the people who can really afford luxuries are STILL those who earn more. The relative position of how people stand in relation to each other does not change. Only that everyone needs to pay more even for poor quality stuff.

It's crazy... but it's true.

I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. That is to say that family fortunes were made by men who started finance houses, dabbled in property development, rubber plantations and what-not. It was a family where women wore jewels (not diamond bits) and were conversant about the latest brands and fashions. It was also a family where I saw women pawning their jewelry and scrimping on housekeeping money when the men made big losses and were in debt. You hid those hard times from the world. And then there were the long-drawn legal battles over inheritances.

It disgusted me.

When times were good, there was so much to show off and when times were bad, there was so much shame to hide... and people forgot to love each other.

I developed my own psychological defenses against this sort of emotional trauma. I decided that I was not ever going to envy another's wealth, nor be ashamed of my lack thereof. I will spend my money when I feel like it, and not when someone else spends on "high quality". Fortunes rise and fall in an uncertain world, why have one's happiness all tied up in THINGS?

Such an attitude allows me to be genuinely happy for the person who has enough to splurge on the things he/she feels like buying... and it allows me to respect those who have not enough to buy article luxuries.

But of course, such equanimity vis-a-vis wealth cannot be maintained beyond a certain point. I do everything I can (and more) to ensure that there is enough for food and books and that we don't sleep in the rain. Things are important after all when it comes to food and lodging.

Over the years, I developed a perverse pleasure in spending my money in the opposite way that everyone else would spend it. If everyone was going for hair rebonding at $350/= (in those days, that was how much rebonding cost) I would cut my hair myself. When everyone was into ********* brand of briefcases, I would go to France and buy back a Tessier... a very old and established artisanal brand of leather goods with strong stitches and well worked leather. When I went into Takashimaya to compare workmanship, the Tessier I bought for a $300/= had not a single frayed stitch, whilst the ******** brand (priced at $1200/= had three frayed stitches (yes, I counted). The sales person said it was because it was a showpiece. When everyone took $100k worth of renovation loans, I put in a vinyl floor and lived without a sofa because I did not want to take a loan.

The funniest though was the time the imposing Sikh jaga at the hotel lobby refused to allow us to park our little Suzuki Swift in the VIP lot meant for us. Our little car took up about half that lot. I had a tinge of embarassment then but it quickly passed.

And I didn't buy my first diamond until after I bought my first investment property. And since I've not developed the habit of wearing jewelry, it didn't make sense to buy more than a few pieces.

What matters in life should be true quality and not the aura of quality created by savvy marketeers. Or the heady feeling of being swankier than your friends. So, if a pair of slippers is a quality product, does it matter that it costs $2.90/=? And if a bra provides good chest support and is made of breatheable cotton, does it matter if it costs $3/=? And if a Tessier has thicker leather and sturdier stitches, then so what if it is not $1200/=? And so what if no one in Singapore has heard of Tessier?

If everyone thought this way, then merchants would have no excuse to charge close to S$50/= for a pair of children's jeans when the cost price is a fraction of that. Come on! I once bought from a pure cashmere Ralph Lauren pullover (leftover stock from 3 seasons back) for S$50/= that I still wear today... and for $50/=, I could maybe get 2 or 3 pairs of Osh Kosh B'Gosh kids' jeans from a factory outlet. And at Walmart, I could get t-shirts for S$3.50 that looked really nice and didn't change shape in the wash.

$50/= for a pair of kids' jeans. Hmmmmmmmph!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


That's chocolate in old Aztec.

The Daughter has developed an inexplicable taste for expensive chocolate... and she is on a mission to develop her chocolate palate. Till this afternoon, her strange passion was confined to reading books on chocolate. Today, we drove down to Jones the Grocer and... and... and... spent a lot of money on chocolate. I won't even tell you how much we spent because it would only spoil my very carefully constructed Frugal Petunia image. And of course, The Husband reads my blog... and I don't want him to keel over.

The Daughter is now engaged in an elaborate chocolate preparation exercise. Each bar has been carefully cut up into neat squares and placed in Ziploc bags. Space has been made in the herbal fridge where the temperature is an ambient 12 Deg Celsius to 18 Deg Celsius... Oh... you mean you don't know? Any other temperature just won't do!! Sigh! All that fuss for a bar of chocolate.

I was asked to run downstairs to taste a square made from Ecuadorean cocoa beans and then there was another made with extraordinarily fragrant cocoa beans from a single plantation called Chuao and another from the beans of the Porcelana Plantation. It seems that like coffee, good chocolate is made from good beans and like wine, growing conditions, plant cultivars and the harvesting process has to be rigorously controlled or the end product would suffer in some way or other.

For the moment, my uneducated palate can only discern that the chocs have more body and roundedness and much less sweetness than the candy bars one buys in supermarkets. I cannot discern the difference in fruitiness etc... One thing is sure though, the chocolate bars are very fragrant and the roundedness lingers on the palate for some few seconds after the swallow. Altogether, it was very pleasant indeed.

Usually, after eating chocolate, there is a cloying sweetness that lingers in the throat and causes phlegm (and later a sore throat) if not washed down with copious amounts of warm water. These chocs weren't like that. There was no cloying sweetness at all. But that's about all I can manage to discern (especially after a big bowl of the Amoy Street Food Centre's Han Kee Fish Soup).

Nonetheless, if you wanna hear it from the pros, I copy out here the Tasting Notes that accompany the Chuao choc - "It has an initial flavour of plums, red fruits and an aromatic and sumptuous roundness". Nope! I can't taste the fruits. It tastes like chocolate that doesn't hold the potential to make me sick... but maybe if I were willing to spend more money (and put my waistline at risk) I will learn to discern the red notes and the golden notes.

What I did was to tell The Daughter was that she would have to save up her pocket money to buy more of this kinda choc. So she said, "Next year, could you cook extra for dinner everyday? I'll pack lunch to school and save up everything to buy chocolate."

I'm rather ambivalent about this strange passion but then again, I don't want say no to something just because I am ignorant. But truly, teenagers do the oddest things!! But I am glad that she isn't into vodka tasting or opium appreciation! So yeah... I guess for love of The Daughter I will be laying out more cash (though not as much as today... good grief!!) for more chocolate. ESPECIALLY since she has identified the MUST VISIT European Chocolatiers and intends to have The Family detour there for chocolate tasting sessions.

Excellent Flip-Flops

I wanted to cook up a seafood galore for my friends with the freshest clams, fish and prawns. I went back to the wet market near my old home of 15 years and ordered from the fishmonger (and his wife) who had taken care of me and my family for 15 years. I watched them age and they watched me age. I do know that they're a little more expensive than neighbouring stalls but the relationship has stood the test of time because they've never failed me. I don't even have to choose my produce. I arrive to neat bags all packed and ready to go. At home, they go straight into the freezer and when I cook them, they're ALL fresh. And I mean ALL.

Unfortunately, after I moved house, they were a bit far and I went and dallied with other fishmongers. The family is picky about freshness and all it takes is one bag of less-than-fresh fish/prawn/squid for me to start exploring the produce from another stall. These new relationships lasted 6 months at the longest. There was one whom I thought I could build a new life with but sadly, he gave me 3kg of bad prawns that traumatised the children so badly I had to throw the whole lot. There is nothing worse than powdery prawn.

In my hour of need, I went back to the old and trusty fishmonger and his wife. It felt good to be back at the old market and it made me think that being able to afford more expensive items doesn't mean a higher quality of living. Prices at that market have stayed quite low but the produce is excellent. On Sundays, the out-of-the-way market that has none of the upmarket airs of Jones the Grocer's, is packed full of people.

And what really convinced me were the 2 pairs of slippers I got for $2.90 apiece. They're absolutely non-slip. They cushion the feet oh-so-comfortably and they were a fraction of the price I paid ($16.90) for an earlier pair that puts my health at risk on rainy days because they absolutely won't adhere to any wet floor. And these didn't even look as good as the $2.90/=!! Of course, taste is subjective but we like our accoutrements plain, simple and boring.

And then I kicked myself really hard because Little Boy needed 2 pairs of jeans for the European winter holidays. I almost keeled over and died when I saw Kiddy Palace selling them for close to $50/= apiece. Kids' jeans for $50/=? Whoa! And no-brand ones at that! I shrugged my shoulders and decided that well... maybe it was the inevitable inflation... and I bought them anyway. Not without my heart bleeding though. And then I really kicked myself because they were selling very thick and well-cut adult jeans for $20/= apiece at the market and their kids' jeans were going for $10/=.

The next time I need anything, I am so going to the old market FIRST to see if they've more good stuff at pretty prices!!