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Once-a-year day…

Gosh!!! Time does seem to fly, really…and it seemed like only yesterday when we had our reunion bash and before we knew it, it was time to get together yet once again.

My school’s alumni’s annual reunion dinner was held at the same venue on Saturday, 5th April…to coincide with the Ching Ming festival so that those ex-students coming home to perform their filial duties would be able to join. This year, the festival did not coincide with Good Friday so they did not have the luxury of a long weekend at their disposal – some had already got everything done the previous weekend or earlier during the week-long mid-semester school break. Probably that was why there were only 80 tables, or so I was told, as opposed to 100 last year…

SHOSA SEOSA annual reunion dinner 2014

There was a sape band in attendance…

The Etnik Revolution

- winners of the Borneo Talent Award, the Etnik Revolution, 3 of whom were former students of my school, playing some of the popular hits of today and also those from days gone by, in their unique traditionally and exotically-Sarawak style. I think I heard “I’m yours“. “The Final Countdown“, the very popular “Anak kampung” and a very familiar Mandarin oldie – if I’m not mistaken, it was this one.

There was also some entertainment such as this dance by our counterparts from our sister school…

Cha cha cha

…and of course, there was the food.

It was RM450.00 a table this year – if I remember correctly, it was less last year but I’m not very sure as I can’t really remember now. I do not know exactly how much a table was. Perhaps, the associations would use part of the money for their funds for their various activities, I wouldn’t know, but it did not matter really as I would say the food was good and we enjoyed what was served very much.

The first dish was our more-than-Four Seasons…

more-than Four Seasons

- the hot version with the gravy, kept constantly warm with the fire down below.

The soup followed and thankfully. I could not find any trace of the unmentionable in it so it was more like an egg and shredded chicken soup thickened with corn starch. It was very nice though – which goes to show very obviously that whether there is any of the offensive stuff in the soup or not, it does not make any difference as it is completely tasteless and more for some people to flaunt their wealth than for anything else.

Personally, I feel that the stuffed duck here…

Stuffed duck 1

…is the best in town and it did not matter one bit that they did not bother about the presentation for after the waiter had cut it up…

Stuffed duck 2

…it looked a whole lot better than when it was served…

Stuffed duck 3

…and it tasted really good too! We all loved the glutinous rice in it as well and in fact, Melissa had two huge servings of this!

Ken, my ex-classmate back from Brisbane, Australia, was swept off his feet by the fish curry…

Fish curry

…served with the very fragrant Sarawak’s own Bario rice. He said it was absolutely beautiful and I would say it was pretty good though I do know of a place in town that does it a lot better.

This vegetable and mushroom dish followed…

Vegetable & mushroom

…and then, there was the black pepper lamb…

Black pepper lamb

…which was nice too but I thought having had our fill with all that came before, it was kind of heavy and I would very much prefer a prawn dish instead…and lastly, we had the fruit platter.

I really must thank my ex-classmate and good friend, Robert, for making the arrangements and booking two tables for all of us – the Class of ’69/’71 from our school and the girls’ school next door…and the kind and generous guy insisted that it was his treat and simply refused to accept any payment of our share. Oh dear! Oh dear! And I even brought my family along – so shy lah, really!

Nope! I did not sing this year. We were all very good and behaved ourselves but I did go on stage to receive our lucky draw prize – they did it table by table and both our tables won something! This was what we got inside the boxes…

Lucky draw prize

They say they’re very good but I wouldn’t know as I would usually use some old towels or t-shirts as and when necessary and most of the time, I would just send my car to the car wash. I’m too old to wash it myself now, I’m afraid. Sigh!!!!

Ah yes!!! One more thing! There was this pretty lady that night who stopped by my table to say hello and she added, “I like your blog!!!” Ooooooo….that certainly made my day! It sure is nice to know that there are people out there who actually appreciate what I’m doing and enjoy my daily sharing. Now, who says old people are boring? Tsk! Tsk! LOL!!!

So, there you have it! Our annual reunion dinner for this year, 2014…and if anyone is interested, it has been announced that next year, it will be held on the 4th of April (Saturday) so those abroad especially can start planning their trip home right away…

More than anything……

It’s my blog’s 6th anniversary today. Yes, it has been six years since my first post on the 7th of March, 2008.

Dining in the dark
*Still eating after all these years…*

Many came and many went – I don’t think any who used to drop by and comment are still doing that these days anymore. If you care to look at the people who commented on that inaugural post, all the unfamiliar names that you will see would bear testament to that. Some were bloggers then though I don’t know if any of them are still doing that but some do keep in touch like the ones who would take the trouble to come and visit me during Chinese New Year, for instance…

Ex-blogger friends
*Archive photo*

I certainly am thankful and appreciate that very much even though I am not too sure whether they still drop by my blog anymore to see what I’ve been up to lately. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t…but it doesn’t really matter as it doesn’t change the fact that through my blog (and theirs) at one point in time, we became friends and have remained so to this very day.

Indeed, what I am most grateful for, after all these years of blogging, is the priceless friendships that I have made with all the wonderful people that otherwise, I would never have got to know. That alone is enough to keep me blogging and I certainly look forward to make lots and lots more friends in the years to come. As we would write in our autograph books in our younger days…
Make new friends, keep the old
One is silver, the other is gold
.

Six years. Six years of warmth, love and affection from you, you and you. Who could ask for more?

I have nothing, nothing at all, to give in return other than my friendship and all that you will get to see each passing day in this simple blog of mine which, I hope,will serve as a permanent record of everything especially all the happiness, all the joy that we have shared and will share over the years, precious times, precious moments to be cherished forever.

Thank you…from the bottom of my heart.

The last farewell…

It has been a week now since that fateful morning when, at the break of dawn, I received the devastating news of the tragic accident that took the life of one loved so dearly.

His father called me that afternoon and in between sobs, he thanked me and my family for our love and for always taking good care of his son. I told him that I would be at the funeral but he insisted that I should not go as it would be troublesome but nonetheless, there was no question about it. I just had to go. I just had to be there to bid him one last farewell…

It was held at the St Theresa’s Church…

F1

…in his hometown, Serian…

F2

It was a sad sad day for all – those who were not able to be present and all that thronged the parish hall that morning to say goodbye…

F3

He looked very good – like he was sleeping peacefully but the fact remained that we had lost someone so close to our hearts, leaving behind an emptiness that would be impossible to fill ever again.

F4

The school band, of which he was the teacher-in-charge, was there…

F5

…and when they played Amazing Grace, there was not a dry eye in the hall…

F6

…as everyone, even his students, wept uncontrollably. He passed away on Sunday and I heard that all day Monday, his students were lining up at the staff room in his school to leave flowers and messages on his table – they must have loved him so much too…just like me and my family and all his friends.

I flew to Kuching and got a ride to Serian for his funeral but I was not the only one who came from afar. Mohan, who was formerly his colleague in Bintulu and a very close friend, came all the way from Ipoh…and I met someone from Sungai Petani who said that she flew from Penang to KL to Kuching and made her way to the little town. There were many others from all over Sarawak as well and I felt very thankful to those who stopped by to say a few comforting words to me, those who knew us and how we were such great friends – I certainly appreciated that.

It has been a week now – the tears have yet to run dry, the hurt and the pain still remain…and deep in my heart, I know, for sure, that the memory of you, Jimmy, and all the happy moments we shared would live on and on forever in our hearts.

It has been a week now and to this day, I still ask WHY…why, Jimmy, why?

FOOTNOTE:
There will be a special Requiem Mass for Jimmy tomorrow, Monday, the 24th Of February, 2014 at 5.30 p.m. at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Kuching. Those friends and loved ones in the city, do try to show up and pray for the repose of his soul, may he rest in peace.
Thanks.

Goodbye, Jimmy, goodbye…

My very dear friend, Jimmy, has left us.

He was always jovial, always happy. He was always a joy to have around and we will miss his infectious laughter.

He was kind, always generous and so very loving and caring and to me, he was more than a friend – he was like a brother, a son.

In loving memory

He was on his way back to Serian early Sunday morning, 16th February, 2014, at around 5.00 a.m. to attend the church service there with his parents when he was involved in a tragic self-accident.

His funeral will be held this morning at 10.00 a.m. at St Theresa’s Church, Serian.

Words cannot express the profound sorrow that my family and I feel at the loss of one loved so dearly and who had so much love to give but had to leave so soon, too soon. Let us all say a little prayer today for him, may God bless his soul and eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, may he rest in peace.

Goodbye, Jimmy, goodbye…

Every year…

On the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, it is customary for us to have a bowl of longevity noodles…

Mee sua

…served in chicken soup cooked with our traditional Foochow red wine and so it was this year as well. We had that the first thing in the morning when everyone has got up.

Every year, for many years now, my in-laws would drop by in the evening of the 1st Day for dinner and this year was no exception.

My missus cooked this very nice chicken rendang

CR

…and kacang ma chicken…

KMC

…but she steamed it a little too long and the meat was falling apart a little bit. Nonetheless, it tasted great and everyone loved it.

We only had a bit of the duck for our reunion dinner that previous night so there was a lot more of it…

Duck

…and we served that as well.

Likewise, my missus made a lot of the lokan

Lokan

…and saved most of the lot she made for this dinner with all the members from her side of the family.

Nope, this was not what was left over from the previous night’s dinner. My missus cooked this mixed vegetable dish…

MV

…exactly the same way as she had done the night before and she made this salad too…

Salad

…using the giant freshwater prawns that my brother-in-law gave us recently.

No prize for guessing where I tapao-ed these from…

Otak-otak

- the otak-otak that my mother-in-law fell in love with instantly at first bite, and the mushroom rolls…

MR

…as well as the lamb curry…

Lamb curry

No, I did not get any special discount or none that I know of – I did not ask for it…but they were so kind as to make everything extra large, twice the usual sizes! That certainly saved a lot of work so I think it would make a lot more sense to just buy home all our favourites instead of slaving and sweating it out in the kitchen all day…or for several days in a  row. After all, we’re no spring chicken anymore and no longer have the strength and stamina like we used to.

The highlight of the evening was the yee sang that we started off the dinner with…

Yee sang

…by mixing all of the ingredients together and throwing it up in the air to signify togetherness and for good fortune in the coming Year of the Horse. I’ve had that a few times before but this was the first time I had it in my own home – this is not easily available here, Sibu being a Foochow town and if I’m not mistaken, this is actually part of the Cantonese culture. Thanks to my good friend, Mandy, who went through the trouble of buying that and sending it all the way from KL, we all could have the pleasure of experiencing the traditional practice and enjoying eating that this year.

So how was your Chinese New Year this year? More of mine in the next post, so do stay tuned!

Back to the grind…

School has just reopened last Thursday, the 2nd day of 2014, and I’ve driven to Selangau and beyond to Melissa’s school three times, one and a half hours each way! Yes, we’ve been busy tying up loose ends to get back into the same ol’ routine now that the holidays are over…so I have not been around much to try out new food at new places in town.

Like what she used to do before, my missus would cook some stuff for Melissa to just heat up and eat in the course of the week but my instincts tell me that most of the time, she’ll be too busy with her work and everything to even cook rice so she would skip her meals. That is why I would think it is better to cook her something that she can just heat up and eat without having to go through the chore of cooking rice and heating up the dishes to go with it.

With that in mind, I made sure there was a little bit extra of the fried mee kua (dried egg noodles) with sambal hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns)…

FMK

…that I prepared for breakfast over the weekend and the next morning, I cooked some more dabai fried rice

DFR

- skin removed so it would not have the siap-siap taste. I wonder how they say that in English. It’s not exactly bitter – let’s just say that it’s not particularly all that pleasant. Period.

Other than these two options for my girl to take back to her school, the mum cooked her some stuff as well…and hopefully, she will take some time off her work to eat and will not come back home looking like a refugee from Somalia or Ethiopia. That daughter of mine is always too serious in what she does and would go out of her way to make sure everything’s to her satisfaction, neglecting most of everything else. Sigh!!!!

Besides not going out to eat lately, we have not been cooking anything special at home either – just the usual stuff but we did get one HUGE buah sukun (breadfruit) from my brother-in-law from Bintulu. I mentioned in a recent post that he drove back to Sibu and gave us some giant freshwater prawns and we all went out for dinner together. He also gave us one of the fruits from the tree in his own house compound and it was sooooo big, as big as a giant buah nangka (jackfruit) and among the things that my missus cooked with it was this very delightful local dessert, the bubur cacar

BC

…comprising the buah sukun and sweet potatoes plus sago pearls in thickly-rich pandan-flavoured and gula melaka (palm sugar)-sweetened santan (coconut milk). Oooooo…that was so nice and the three of us finished the whole big pot of it in no time at all.

So how has your new year been?

Everybody’s grumbling at the rising prices all around, it seems. I was at a shop buying things for my girl to take to her rural school and I saw some bottles of Bovril…and I had not had Bovril noodles for quite a while now – not since the last bottle ran out and I had been using the Bonox and Vegemite that I got from people overseas but not to look at a gift horse in its mouth, I frankly feel that they’re not as nice – definitely not with noodles. I used to buy the big bottle, over RM20, almost 30, but I guess at times like these, it would be best not to indulge too much and try to do without some things that are quite dispensable…so I got the medium one instead, over RM14.00 a bottle. I think at this point in time, I can still afford that but I guess rising prices or not, it is always wise to keep an eye on our finances and expenses. As they say, a fool and his money are soon parted…and look after your pennies, your pounds will look after themselves. At times, it’s all those little little bits of spending that we do not pay much attention to that will burn a hole in our pockets.

The next morning, I cooked some Bovril mee sua for breakfast…

BMS

…tossed with pounded garlic chili and garnished with fried shallots and chopped spring onions, with fish cake slices, cherry tomatoes and egg by the side – no msg and no extra salt added and it was so so so good! Boy, did I miss that?

Well, I’m back in my usual empty nest syndrome now and let’s hope that things will start happening soon so I will have something to blog about, otherwise I may be forced to go on an extended hiatus until further notice. Hang around! You’ll find out soon enough.

The usual…

My brother-in-law and his family in Bintulu did not drive home for Christmas as the weather had not been very good and the road conditions were absolutely horrendous as they were taking their sweet time in upgrading and resurfacing a long stretch along the way between Sibu and Selangau – I heard that my blogger-friend was caught in a crawl for around half an hour along that stretch when she drove to Mukah recently.

Then he, my brother-in-law, appeared at our gate one evening with, among other things, a bag of freshwater prawns for us. I would say that was timely indeed as it is virtually impossible to get any at the market nowadays owing to the current bad weather so I think we will stuff those in the freezer and save them for Chinese New Year. What a relief it was when he told us that the road works had been completed so we would not need to go through that slow and bumpy ride when we sent Melissa to her school at the end of the holidays.

Anyway, my other brother-in-law, the one in town who was at our Christmas dinner a few nights before that, called and asked us to join them all for dinner here the following night…and we had the usual – their pandan chicken…

PC

…and their butterscotch prawns…

BSP

…both of which were as nice as always.

The sweet and sour fish…

SSF

…was good too though we wondered why they had cut the fillet into such small bits – something that they did not use to do before.

Their own-made tofu was good as usual…

OMT

…and this was very nicely done – the claypot pork belly fried with salted fish and dried chili…

CPB with SF & DC

My brother-in-law had this somewhere else and loved it so much that he wanted it again so he requested specially for it – the fried omelette with Chinese sausage (lap cheong)…

FO with CS

…but personally, I think I would be able to do a much better job at this. It was all right, nice enough…just nothing to shout about.

There was also the not-to-be-missed sea cucumber soup and for some reason or other, this came last – the cangkuk manis fried with egg…

CM with egg

…by which time everyone was already too full to eat much else so they had to tapao (takeaway) most of it home.

All in all, even though the things on the menu were the usual that we have been having over and over again every time we drop by this place, it was nonetheless a delightful meal especially when it was with one’s own family members…and the best part was I did not go home feeling like I had had an overdose of monosodium glutamate. For that, I would give them the double thumbs up!!!

Eternally…

It was Boxing Day, the 26th of December…

26.12.2013

…when I was invited to another wedding. Another ex-student of mine was tying the knot…

R & J 1

…with his bride to have and to hold eternally…

R & J

Don’t you think they made such a lovely couple – the radiant bride and the handsome groom?

There I was at the same table with a few of my ex-colleagues who were also invited that evening to the very grand wedding banquet. The food was good…

Dinner is served

- in fact, I would say it was nicer than at the other two venues here and here that I went to not too long ago though I thought they could cut down on the monosodium glutamate in most of the dishes. I guess it was just me, now that I am cutting down on that in my own cooking at home – the rest did not seem to mind one bit.

Well, if anybody is interested, the wedding video is available here. You can click on the link and have a look.

Congratulations once again, Rufus and Jessica…

Cute wedding dolls

Wishing you all the best and may the good Lord shower His abundant blessings upon the two of you in the years ahead as man and wife. Cheers!

Just like old times…

When I was still working, I had official tasks to perform at the end of every year, right through Christmas and the New Year, so much so that these festive days would just pass unnoticed – there was hardly anytime for much else. But around this time, my friend, Jimmy, would come from Bintulu and Lim from Roban/Kuching for the same and they would stay at my house. We, Melissa especially, would enjoy the company and the fun that we would have together despite having to go through the chore – W-O-R-K – when everyone else was celebrating and having fun. Later, Lim’s missus joined the team and eventually, they moved to Sibu and they’re both working here now, blessed with three kids to date.

Well, coincidentally, it was the DongZhi or Winter Solstice Festival that day when Jimmy had to fly in for one of the meetings and I decided to ask them all over to my house not so much as to celebrate the festival but for a get-together just like old times…and for the dinner, I chose to have a jungle theme, all the traditional ethnic or kampung-style dishes that one would not be able to get anywhere in town.

I cooked some steamed tuak (traditional ethnic rice wine) chicken with a bit of cincaluk (fermented shrimps) added…

STC

…and also some tempoyak prawns

TP

I was at one of the Rejang Park shops earlier that morning as Jimmy wanted to buy some groundnuts that people in Kuching seem to be crazy about. He bought a kilo on his previous trip but they never reached the person they were meant for, it seemed…and this time around, he bought two kilos. I got him to try the kuachee (pumpkin seeds) and he ended up buying a kilo of that as well – that’s another must-buy when Kuching folks come to town.

Anyway, when we were there, the guy at the shop asked me to buy their bamboo clams and I saw that they were BIG and they had been nicely cleaned. I had never cooked those before as cleaning them to get rid of the sand in them could be really tedious and troublesome but they looked good and were going for RM25.00 a box (one kilo) only so I decided I would give it a try…

BC

I fried them with some curry powder, among all the other ingredients that I added, and they were a hit! Before the night was through, there was not a single one left.

I bought one ikan terubok masin (salted fish) at the market here sometime ago but I never got round to frying it so I decided to do just that for the dinner…

ITM 1

…and serve it as one of the dishes that night…

ITM 2

It sure was a good idea as the salted fish was certainly very well-received too and went well with all the other dishes we had…especially the dabai (wild black olive) fried rice that I cooked…

DFR

I thought it was not very nice as usually, I would only cook a bit for breakfast once in a while and I was not used to cooking such a large amount at one go but it was all right when eaten together with everything else.

I fried some bihun with those canned clams in soy sauce

CSSB

…with cangkuk manis added for the kids in case the dishes that I had lined up did not go down well with them but they liked most of what we had and they loved the bihun too!

Melissa made this buah emplam (local sour fruit from the mango family) sambal

BES

…which everyone loved a lot and I also had some cincaluk dip…

CD

…in case anybody wanted it a little bit stronger and of course, there was that very nice fried tempoyak that the boss of Payung Cafe gave me

Payung tempoyak

My missus and Melissa also prepared this dish of Bintangor rojak

BR

…with the special sauce that my friend, King Hua, gave me recently…and since it was the DongZhi Festival, my missus and Melissa made these traditional glutinous rice balls…

TYB

…with sweet potato added, hence its colour, which made them easier too chew and swallow than the usual tangyuan balls. They went a step further and stuffed some of the balls with gula melaka (brown palm sugar) and the rest with some durian cream that my missus made. Everybody enjoyed them very much especially the kids and they even asked for seconds!

So there you have it – our simple dinner that night…

Dinner is served

…with all the ethnic/kampung delights and of course, when you’re in the company of great friends, anything would taste nice, that’s for sure!

Those were such happy times and not so long ago
How I wondered where they’d gone
But they’re back again just like a long lost friend
All the ones I loved so well…

…it was yesterday once more!

Tomorrow…

It’s Christmas Eve today…so tomorrow, it will be Christmas Day.

The decorations have been up since last month…

Xmas decor

…and Christmas carols and songs fill the air in every shop and mall in town (though some have seen it fit to play those Chinese New Year songs instead).

So it was at my favourite cafe in town

Payung Christmas decor 1

…all geared up for the festive season…

Payung Christmas decor 2

…when we went there for dinner last week with my friend, Jimmy…

J & us

…who was in town at the time.

We had most of the favourites that we ordered when we were last there with Melissa’s friend but this time around, instead of the papaya salad, we opted for the Payung rojak

PR

…which I would prefer, given a choice between the two. Hmmm…they added buah kedondong (umbra) leaves to it and we all loved that – the leaves were very nice and fragrant.

We also had the chicken masala

CM

…that we did not have on our previous visit and like most of everything else that they serve there, it was very nice too.

We also had their tempuyak (fermented durian), fried with ikan bilis (dried anchovies), chili and whatever else…

Payung tempuyak

…and it was simply out of this world. My missus remarked that she could just eat that alone with rice, nothing else…and would end up having seconds. What a pleasant surprise it was when the boss came and gave me a tub of that so-very-yummy stuff to take home! Thank you so much, Peter – that’s so very nice of you!

For dessert, I ordered their banana cake and ice cream…

BC with IC

…as I wanted the cake expert to give it a try and give his critical appreciation of the much-loved delight. I did not take a photo of what we had as it was served while I was all over the place chatting with the people around and by the time I got back to the table, they were already halfway through. So what did the critic think about it? Well, he said it was not exactly a cake in the true sense of the word especially with its unique texture and the very nice chunks of fresh bananas in it – he felt it was more like a cross between a cake and a Malay kuih (cake) but he felt it was really good and he liked it a lot.

After dinner, we went to the town square where they had all the lovely Christmas trees…

Christmas in Sibu 2013 1

…the festive decorations and the twinkling colourful lights…

Christmas in Sibu 2013 3

…to spread the joy of the auspicious season to all and sundry…

Chirstmas in Sibu 2013 4

…that thronged the place by the droves – people from all walks of life, all races and religions to bask in the spirit of the festive season.

Blessed with absolutely perfect weather that night, we also grabbed the opportunity to check out the street food fair right across the road…

FF1

…where they were selling all kinds of tantalising  delights…

FF2

…but we were simply too full from our scrumptious dinner to have a bite of anything so after walking around, mingling with the happy crowd and basking in the festive cheer, we called it a day and headed on home.