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The Christmas shoes…

Nope! I did buy a new pair of shoes the other day but no, they were not for Christmas. You see, I had one pair of shoes – yes, you heard me right! I only had ONE pair of shoes and when we got home from the wedding banquet that night, I noticed that the outer layer/skin of the PVC/fake leather was peeling off…like some cockroaches in the house had been having a feast in the night while we were sleeping.

And yes, it was PVC, not leather. The last pair of leather shoes that I bought was in London in 1994 – Clarks no less. I had picked out a nice pair at a clearance sale for over RM90.00 but less than RM100.00. It was just RM3.50 to a £ at the time. After that one, I found wearing leather shoes excruciatingly painful so over the years that followed, I would only buy those PVC ones. They looked like leather but no, they were not leather and they were soft and nice to wear especially some that were padded/cushioned inside…plus they were cheap – around RM39.90 a pair only.

So, that day, I went to this megamall…

Chirstmas decor at Star Megamall 1

…to the branch of the shop there where I usually bought my shoes and never mind that people always say that the name stands for “Buy and throw away”, I find their shoes very comfortable, not painful at all so I would buy from them and nobody else…everytime. For one thing, there is some truth in what people say – when I was still working and I would use the shoes every day, they did not last very long – maybe around 3 or 4 months only but it did not matter to me as they were cheap and at least, I had an excuse to buy and put on a new pair of shoes quite frequently.

I found a pair that was padded inside and looked very comfortable. I could not see the price tag so I asked the young shop assistant and he said, “RM90.00!” I looked at the sticker stuck to the sole – it read, “RM89.90.” I did not say a thing…and asked for my size. I wear size 10…and they only had 8 and 11…no 9, no 10. I tried the 11 and it was way too loose, very comfortable but no, they were too big for me. That was why I had to pick another one of the correct size that also seemed quite soft inside. It was on sale and I got a 50% discount…and ended up paying RM44.99 for that pair. Gosh!!! Gone are the days when I could get a pair for less than RM40.00…and it wasn’t even during a sale! Tsk! Tsk!!!

So now I have a new pair of shoes and I also got the chance to see the nice decor that they had put up at this mall for Christmas this year…

Christmas decor at Star Megamall 2

…and talking about Christmas and shoes brings to mind this very sad song – The Christmas Shoes” that I had blogged about many years ago in 2009. Well, if you have the time to spare (over one and half hours), perhaps you would like to watch the movie…

…but do not blame me if in the process, you use up a whole box of tissue paper.

Otherwise, you can just click the above link to hop over to that old post to listen to the song or watch this one here…

- the very sad and touching story is in the lyrics.

Long way 2 go…

It’s still a long way to go…till Christmas, way over a month but knowing how time flies these days, it will be here in no time at all…and on my part, I’ve received those greeting cards for the festive seasons…

Greeting cards

in aid of the less fortunate and I’ve mailed them the cheque already in payment of those that they had sent me.

I have read somewhere also that the decorations are up in some towns and cities in the world and even right here in Sibu and they are starting to release the Christmas albums for the year too. One of them would be this one…

…by the a cappella group which includes that song from “Frozen”. If you’re not sick of it yet, I bet you would be if you have to put up with the neighbours’ kids singing it day in and day out…slightly out of tune. LOL!!!.

It is still too early to name my No. 1 Christmas song for the year but I quite like this one…

…by the winner of The Voice Australia 2013 though I was never all that fond of the Malaya Curry original with or without that Just-in kid. nor the one by the cast of Glee. Unfortunately, I don’t think the album will be available here though – you will have to get it at the departmental store in Australia that is producing it and releasing it for Christmas.

And talking about departmental stores, John Lewis in the UK has released their Christmas commercial for the year…

…and it is so meaningful, so touching that I would unashamedly admit that it took quite a bit of effort on my part to hold back the tears in my eyes. This has got to be my favourite for the year, anytime better than this one or this one, for instance…or this one featuring David & Victoria’s boy – I don’t think there will be any other that will be as nice. Do click the link and watch the video clip…and tell me whether it moves you as much or not.

Their commercial last year was very good too, very meaningful as well. It touched on the joy of friendship and in giving and receiving…while this year, the theme is love. After all, Christmas IS love and what is Christmas if not shared with one’s loved ones…or when one does not have a loved one to share it with? I don’t know how many times I’ve clicked the link to watch the video clip and each time, I love it all the more. I read somewhere that the ad cost £7 million to produce and in fact, Monty the Penguin was animated. Holy cow! I could have sworn it was a real penguin!!!

Going back to the topic of songs, they are saying that the song featured in the commercial – Tom Odell’s cover of John Lennon’s “Real Love” (revived by The Beatles for their 1995 Anthology collection) may just end up as this year’s Christmas No. 1 in the UK. Well, I do think it is very nice though not quite a Christmas song…and actually, I don’t recall any that I liked last year – the last one that I thought was very nice was this one by Christina Perri, two years ago in 2012. Hopefully, there will be something as sweet and beautiful coming out in the days to come…

Hey brother…

I was in the vicinity of the Rejang Park shops here that day as I had to go to the mini-post office there to send some stuff and I stopped by this coffee shop…

Happy Hours

…that I’ve blogged about several times before, here and here, for instance.

Sometime ago, there used to be a stall here selling fish noodles and it was very popular. Long queues were the order of the day and after you had asked for what you wanted, you would have to stand there and wait. Once it was ready, you would have to take it yourself, self-service. The tom yam was everyone’s favourite but when I went once, I had the clear soup fish bihun and I thought it was all right – it certainly did not get me running back for more. Well, the lady has moved elsewhere and no, I have never gone to check her out at her new place but I hear the situation has remained unchanged. For one thing, she certainly is no Miss Congeniality and I certainly have no intention of patronising places with people like that. We pay them money, they make a living out of us so they should show us at least a little bit of respect. Surely it does not hurt one bit to be a little bit nice to people and I just cannot understand why people would want to keep going to such places at the risk of being scolded. Real silly, don’t you think? There are things that I can live without and I certainly can do without those things sold by this kind of people.

Well, I heard that her brother has set up his own stall at the old place selling the same things and no, he will serve you at your table – you will not have to do it yourself. Since I was around there that morning, I thought I would just check it out…

Happy Hours stall 1

…and yes, the guy was very nice and friendly. Who says the fruits from the same tree are all the same?

My missus would probably want the zhao cai – she loves that with its sourish preserved vegetable soup and somehow, I could not get myself to go for the tom yam. Boring ol’ me, I just asked for the chin tan or clear soup with hung ngang, the big bihun (RM6.00)…

Chin tan hung ngang 1

…which was nice even though I had a problem with eating the noodles using a pair of chopsticks – I’m not very good at using those. I wasn’t exactly fond of the fish either. If I’m not mistaken, it was just those frozen fish fillet, usually Dory, that isn’t my favourite. Preferably, he could  use some of the local fish fillet and he can always charge more should anyone asks for that.

Other than that, the soup was very much to my liking – light and tasty and I enjoyed the minced meat balls…

Chin tan hung ngang 2

…that came with it.

There used to be an old lady at the stall next to this one…

Happy Hours stall 2

- she used to dish out some pretty nice stuff and I remember specifically her char kway teow and her pek koi. I did not see her that morning and I was not sure if these people were related to her or they had taken over that stall.

For one thing, I think the coffee here is cheaper – my kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) was only RM1.60 compared to RM1.80 elsewhere and besides, I enjoyed the old Mandarin favourites that they played not too loudly at the place including this one…


在雨中 – 劉家昌/尤雅

…that I love a lot! Ahhhh!!! What sweet memories that song brings!!!

FOOTNOTE:
I have received a series of anonymous comments, using an email address that led me to one of those food groups on Facebook but I am not sure if that Facebook page and the person concerned here are indeed related.

Well, according to one of the comments,
“…the owner have long change; The foods there is pretty delicious already; You should actually try the new foods there instead of commenting…” [SIC]

In another comment, the commentor said:
just to add on–>I just cannot understand why people would want to keep going to such places at the risk of being scolded ; you really should find out next time before posted this…I mean I believe not only me but people that live around there like me certainly knew that the owner have change, so….do visit the place at the its busiest time: when I meant busy, it is very very busy…” [SIC]

…and in yet another comment, the person remarked:
“…I really suggest that you go and try that place again since the owner have changed totally; I am certainly surprise by the way you wrote it without finding out information as this actually decrease my credibility towards your blog… even the one who whom do the drinks for this shop have changed -.- ; For goodness sake, please go and try again…I am actually surprise and disappointed =( by the way you insult the new owner…” [SIC]

From the latter comment, as I understand it, it seems that what he/she meant is that somebody else has taken over the noodle stall and somebody else has taken over the selling of the drinks in the shop. The comments are kind of vague and I am not even sure but it seems he/she is talking about this particular shop in my post. Yes, I did notice that there are new people running THIS coffee shop – Happy Hours…and the food stalls (not too sure about the kampua stall in front and the chu char place at the back which was not open that morning)…and I did say I liked what I had and the guy was nice and friendly, the coffee was cheaper than elsewhere and I enjoyed the Mandarin songs played. Well, if we are talking about the one and the same, then I do not know what the commentor is going on and on about since I did not say anything not too flattering about this place, the place, the people nor the food.

Nonetheless, thank you for your comments whoever you are but if I may add, “It is not so much what you say but how you say it.” I am indeed thankful for any added information, correction and even personal opinions contrary to mine that anyone would like to share but it would be nice if people can try and put them across nicely or in a more pleasant manner instead of just barging in and scolding away – just like the kind of people aforementioned in the post. Thank you.

This is our song…

Did you have that special song at your wedding, the one where you and your spouse had your very first dance as man and wife? No, I did not have one but I did have a videotape (Yes! That’s right! It was so long ago already!) recording of the church ceremony and what I did was to take excerpts from the whole thing to compile one short clip and then I dubbed the audio track with this song that I sang myself with one of those minus-one recordings that I had on cassette tapes.

It has been the general practice for sometime now to show a special video clip featuring the bride and the groom and so far, those that I’ve seen, the most popular songs used for the purpose are Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” and Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and at one time, it was Shania Twain’s “From this moment on”. These days, it is not uncommon to have a band in attendance at wedding receptions and they will play all the beautiful love songs that are most suitable for the occasion but if I were to engage one, I certainly would want to double check their playlist as at one wedding in Penang, I was wondering why they chose to play Trisha Yearwood’s “How do I live” which, I feel, is a rather inappropriate song with lines that go:
Without you,there’d be no sun in my sky.
There would be no love in my life
There’d be no world left for me.
And I, baby, I don’t know what I would do,
I’d be lost if I lost you if you ever leave,
Baby, you would take away everything real in my life…
Gosh!!! I wouldn’t think it is a good idea to think such depressing thoughts, not at one’s wedding. What do you all think?

Generally, the people here are more into Chinese songs and one song that I’ve heard being sung quite a lot would be this one…

As a matter of fact, I’ve sung at weddings a few times myself and those that I’ve presented included Elvis Presley’s “Can’t help fallin’ in love”, this version of Nat King Cole’s “When I fall in love”, Olivia Newton John’s “Let me be there” and this one…

In fact,  a blogger friend sang this very song at his own wedding for the grand entrance of his bride and according to him, he changed the lyrics a bit. I guess he didn’t quite like this line:
“…I know you haven’t made your mind up yet…”
…but other than that, I would think the rest would be perfectly all right and it certainly is such a beautiful song.

Among the more contemporary ones, I think I love this one the most…

…though I can’t imagine dancing to it, considering that it does not have that kind of melody that would make you wanna sway and sweep one off one’s feet, so to speak.

So what song did you have at your wedding? Or if you have yet to tie the knot, which one would you choose to be your song?

Story…

This brand new place in town…

Aussie Story, Sibu 1

…is a dream come true for two guys, Johnny and Frederick, each with his own lucrative profession by day and by night, they run this place together as all their lives, this has been something that they had always dreamed of and wanted to do.

Why the name, you may ask? Well, one was a chef in Ireland (and has an Irish wife, if I’m not mistaken) and now he does the cooking in the kitchen with his assistants while the other worked in Australia before, helping a barista there to brew coffee and make other drinks as well and that was where he acquired the skill to do what he does now. For so long ever since he was Down Under, the latter had wanted to open a place like this but when he came back, he got all caught up in his profession and never realised his dream until now, together with his partner. According to him, initially they had planned to do it after they had retired but in the end, they decided not to wait till then and just go ahead to make what they had been hoping for a reality.

That is why they do not open for lunch, just for dinner from around 6.00 p.m. and the kitchen closes at around 10.00 p.m…

Aussie Story 2

…as they still have their daytime jobs at the moment but coffee and drinks will be available till past midnight.

It’s a neat and pleasant place…

Aussie Story 3

…none of those excessively gaudy decor and clutter that one can find in some eateries here, there and everywhere. I like its simplicity and the use of real tablecloth sure adds a special classy touch to the place.

Actually, Huai Bin and I were heading some place else for dinner that night when we chanced upon this one so there was a last-minute change of plans and we decided to stop by here instead to give it a try. We shared these slices of french loaf with the very nice creamy topping…

Aussie Story French loaf toast with creamy topping

…which reminded me of my rich and creamy cheese scrambled eggs but there was much more to it and whatever went into the making sure enhanced the taste a lot more and the two of us enjoyed it very much. However, I would like the bread to be toasted a little bit more so that it would be crusty on the outside while still soft on the inside – I certainly would make that special request the next time I drop by and order these for starters.

We also had the Irish stewed lamb shank (RM38.00)…

Aussie Story Irish lamb shank

…which was very nice though I would not say it is my favourite in town. The meat was very nicely done, real tender and it tasted great. Personally, I would prefer a stronger gravy, something thicker and richer but perhaps, that is something else, not really the authentic Irish recipe.

The fish and chips (RM15.00)…

Aussie Story fish & chips

…was good. We ordered that when the chef told us that they do not use dory – he did mention what fish it was but I can’t remember the name now. I can’t say that it swept me off my feet though but it was definitely a lot better than those one would find at some other place in town and for both of the main dishes that we had, I thought the coleslaw was really good, very much nicer than any that I had had before – I certainly enjoyed that very much.

One thing that impressed me the most was the PR. The chef himself came out to tell us the details about every dish available on the menu and give his recommendations and after the food was served, halfway through the meal, he came out again to express his hope that everything was all right and get our feedback.

It so turned out that the niece of one of the guys, who is currently studying in Northern Ireland, home for the summer vacation, was helping out at the restaurant and she was in my English tuition class a few years ago…and when I ordered my usual glass of iced water, she insisted that I had something else so she could treat me to the drink. After some persuasion, I relented and asked for this glass from their Dilmah tea series – the Monin fruit tea, iced…

Aussis Story Moinin fruit tea

…and I had the one with green apple. It certainly was very nice and refreshing…and of course, the best things in life are free, right? LOL!!!

After we had finished our dinner, the barista came and spoke to us and it was he who told us the whole Aussie story and insisted that we had coffee…

Aussie Story latte & cappuccino

…on the house. I had the cappuccino while Huai Bin had the latte and we thought they were great. The guy did tell us the brand of Italian coffee that they use but of course, this old man with his very short memory span is not able to remember. Hehehehehehe!!!!!

It certainly was a delightful dining experience, not that the food was awesomely great but it was pretty good – what made the difference was how cordial everyone was and how they went out of their way to make sure that everything was to one’s satisfaction and to make one feel very much at home….unlike what one would find at most other places in town. I certainly would give them full marks for that…and based on that alone, I would not think twice about dropping by for dinner again.

To wrap things up, I would just want to add that somehow or other, the story brings to mind this song that is a favourite of mine…

…and the lovely and very meaningful lyrics:
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am

…and talking about songs, I did wish they would play some pleasantly soothing songs or music softly in the background (not so loudly and not those horrendous choices of songs that I would find at some places – that would absolutely ruin the mood and I would eat quickly and make a run for it). That, I feel, would help bring the ambiance and the whole dining experience to a whole new level.

Well, if anybody has not dropped by to try this place out yet and is thinking of doing so, it is among the shops right across the road from SMK Deshon, Jalan Sena, NOT around where the Italian restaurant is but to the extreme left in the block behind the very big Good Happiness Restaurant next to the Teochew Porridge coffee shop there, somewhere around the Sibu Bus terminal area, to the left hand side…and oops!!! I almost forgot! Thank you so very much, Huai Bin, for the lovely dinner treat and thanks to Frederick and Johnny for the drinks and the coffee. Keep up the good work, guys! Cheers!

Master Jack…

Gosh!!! You would be as old as the hills, like me, if you know this song…

…which was quite a hit during my time and received its fair share of airplay in those long gone days but no, we do not have a Jack here…just a Tan…

Master Tan 1

There used to be another makan (eating) shop here and I, for the dear life of me, simply cannot remember what my friend asked me to go and try and anyway, I guess I can’t do that anymore as they’ve closed shop and somebody has taken over.

I think they’ve renovated the place and spruced it up a bit…

Master Tan 2

…so it sure looks much nicer now than before.

I suppose anyone can jolly well guess what their specialty is simply by looking at the cartoon on the shop sign and the banner and that was what we all had when we dropped by the place to check it out last Sunday morning. Melissa had their original beef soup noodles (RM5.90)…

Beef soup noodles

…while my missus had their beef offal soup noodles (RM7.50)…

Beef offal noodles

Unfortunately, we thought the soup was rather mild and did not have the nice and strong beef taste that we would have loved very much in the broth. We could detect a hint of daun ketumbar (coriander leaves) in the soup and we’re not all that fond of it. Here, we would usually have daun sup (Chinese celery) instead…unlike in Kuching where you may find those leaves in most everything there. So if you’re not crazy about those as well, make sure you tell them not to add any when you place your order. Come to think of it, I wonder where they get theirs from as I do not think anybody sells it at our wet markets in town.

I ordered their fried noodles with beef (RM7.50)…

Fried noodles with beef

…and that was exactly what I got – fried noodles that came across something like fried Maggi (instant noodles) with a few pieces of beef and a complimentary bowl of beef soup. Ok…ok…I know some of you are waiting anxiously for me to say it so here goes: I do think that I can fry something much nicer at home. LOL!!! It was a tad too oily for my liking but with the chili dip that came with it, I would say that it was quite good. However, for that kind of money and those pieces of beef that I could count with my fingers on one hand, I don’t think I would be going back there to have this again.

I may want to drop by to try some of the other things they have on their menu though, just that we would not be ordering these that we have already tried. It seems that they have quite a wide selection to choose from including these…

Master Tan menu

…and I wonder if their soup power…

Soup Power

…is the same as the celebrated ones that they are selling at the Malay stalls at the hawker centres in town.

It does not seem to make much of a difference but yes, it will be a little bit cheaper if you drop by during their happy hour [SIC]…

Happy hour

…from 12 noon to 3.00 p.m.

Well, if you happen to do that and find anything that is really nice and worth trying, do let me know so I can head back there for the same. In the meantime, I’d probably go and look for something that’s cheaper…and most likely, nicer too, elsewhere.

Aloha Oe…

If you are as old as I am, you would probably know this song from the movie “Blue Hawaii”, starring the late King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley but when I was younger, this song was more popular than the rest from the original movie soundtrack. These days, however, my favourite would be this one…

…which I still sing time and again at karaoke sessions and it’s a great song for weddings, I would say – very appropriate.

Well, for reasons known only to the proprietors, they decided to call their shop by this name…

Aloha Corner 1

…and I think I would be quite right to say that it is one of the most popular coffee shops in town – always crowded all the time and very difficult to get a table despite the fact that parking can be a real pain where it is located…

Aloha Corner 2

The main attractions here, I guess, would be the Sarawak laksa and the Sibu-style egg-wrapped fried kway teow but when my missus and I dropped by for lunch the other day, she had the kampua noodles (RM2.70)…

Aloha kampua mee

…and it was pretty good. I could detect the fragrance of the lard used in the tossing of the noodles the moment it was served.

Actually, I wanted to go there for the sole purpose of giving their ayam penyet a try…

Aloha ayam penyet 1

I had had people telling me that the one here was much nicer than the one I had here, not as dry and so on and so forth.

Let’s start with the rice. For one thing, it was not wrapped in banana leaf so it did not have that squeezed texture similar to what one would find in nasi impit or ketupat and of course, it did not have the nice banana leaf fragrance either. It wasn’t plain white rice though – in fact, it was their nasi lemak. Unfortunately, there was so very little “lemak-ness” that one could barely detect the presence of its very very slight hint of it…and  that was why I thought they might as well not bother as one would hardly be able to tell the difference.

I don’t know if this is the sambal

Aloha ayam penyet sambal

…that you would get if you order their nasi lemak but if it is, then I would say that it is not all that great. I’ve had nasi lemak sambal at many places elsewhere that is a whole lot nicer than this.

The complimentary soup was very good though – chicken and definitely not the usual plain water with salt and msg added that you would get at many Chinese shops and food stalls.

As for the chicken, it was HUGE – one whole thigh…

Aloha ayam penyet - chicken

…but to me, it was just fried chicken…with traces of the oil used in the frying though not all that much. I could not see how it was any different as it was neither flattened not clobbered, and thus, not penyet. The only consolation was the fact that it was a bigger piece that the other place that I would frequent…plus it was cheaper by 50 sen.

All things considered, I wouldn’t think I would bother dropping by here for this again. In fact, I do feel that even the one that we had here would be much nicer…