It’s just another New Year’s Eve…

Is it just me or what is it about New Year’s Eve that always seems to make me feel kind of emotional, sort of remorseful that another year has gone by – however good or bad it may be and without fail, each year, this song originally by Barry Manilow always comes to mind?

STP's good ol' days

The lyrics of the song go like this:
Don’t look so sad,
It’s not so bad you know.
It’s just another night, that’s all it is,
It’s not the first, it’s not the worst you know,
We’ve come through all the rest,
we’ll get through this.

We’ve made mistakes,
but we’ve made good friends too.
Remember all the nights we spent with them?

Mel and friend at SP

And all our plans,
who says they can’t come true?
Tonight’s another chance to start again.

We’re not alone,
we’ve got the world, you know.
And it won’t let us down,
just wait and see.
And we’ll grow old,
but think how wise we’ll grow.
There’s more, you know –
it’s only New Year’s Eve.

STP with mrs and Stella, Pollie and hubby and Teresa

It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
another night like all the rest.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
let’s make it the best.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
it’s just another Auld Lang Syne,
but when we’re through,
this New Year, you’ll see, will be just fine.

Mel and friends in SP

You may click this link to hear this song –  the very beautiful version by Lea Salonga, the international star from the Philippines of “Miss Saigon” fame…but don’t blame me if it brings a tear to your eye. A Happy New Year, everyone from STP, Mrs STP and Melissa…and may God bless all of us in the days ahead in 2009.

The lonely goatherd…

Ah well, I do not know of any song about shepherds and I would not think “American Pie” is an appropriate title, but this post is going to be about the shepherd pie that I made on Sunday – my version of it, that is!

Normally, for the pie filling, I will use minced beef, peas and a lot of garlic – fried with whatever sauce that I can find in the fridge e.g. smoked barbecue sauce. But this time, I had neither minced beef nor peas, so I decided to fry some corned beef with thinly-sliced Bombay onions and with that, I lined the bottom of my rectangular-shaped Pyrex casserole and pressed it down gently…

STP's corned beef shepherd pie 1

For the cover, I would need some mashed potatoes. Nope, I will never use those that come in boxes at the supermarts. I saw some KL hotel chef doing that in one of the cooking shows. Actually, it is very easy to make. Just boil some potatoes until soft, peel them and remove the eyes. Then, you mash them with a tablespoon of butter, some grated cheese and milk. I just used fresh milk but somebody told me it would be nicer with powdered milk.

Having made the mashed potatoes, I covered the corned beef in the casserole with it and used a fork to draw ridges on the surface. Then I put it in the oven to bake for around half and hour…

STP's corned beef shepherd pie 2

When it had turned slightly brown at the edges, I removed it from the oven…

STP's corned beef shepherd pie 3

You may keep it in the oven a while longer if you want it darker – just don’t burn it! LOL!!! After I had taken it out, I cut them into squares and served…

STP's corned beed shepherd pie 4

Perhaps I should have pressed down the corned beef harder to make it stick together but there really was not much of it from one can and I only had one in the pantry. Still, it was delicious and at that serving size, there should be enough for eight. Really easy to make, don’t you think?

On days like these…

It was one of those feel-good days yesterday…for me, at least – very exhausting but still, I wish all days could be something like this. We got up early to go to St Mary’s Church for the Sunday service; we did not want to go to the flood-prone Sacred Heart Cathedral that we usually frequent in case the water came back and we would get stranded there.

After mass, my daughter said she wanted Sarawak laksa for breakfast, so we went to MAS Corner here as it is more conveniently located from where the church is compared to e-cafe. So she and I had this…

Sibu's MAS Corner Sarawak laksa

…but both of us felt that the laksa at e-cafe is much nicer. My missus had their halal kampua special and said that it was good…

Sibu's MAS Corner kampua special

After stopping at my mum’s place on our routine daily visit, we headed home and I decided to make my own version of the shepherd pie. I will  be featuring this on another day though, in a separate post.

Now to move  on,  when the pie was done, I decided to have a brief siesta but that was not meant to be as right then,  my handphone rang. It was David; he and Laura would be leaving today and would like to meet me for tea. So we agreed to meet at Thomson Corner, opposite Sacred Heart Secondary School here for cendol.

I got there first and while I was waiting for them to arrive, Yan and Miri blogger, James, (who happened to be a second cousin of mine) and his wife happened to drop by the same place. We were supposed to meet for dinner the night before but I chickened out at the last minute for fear of being caught in the flood. So I sat with them for a while to chat before David and Laura and also Laura’s brother, Gilbert came and then, I shifted to their table.

Before I forget, thanks so much for the hotel key cards, David. It certainly is so sweet of you to remember that I collect those. Have a safe trip, you and Laura and enjoy yourselves at all the honeymoon destinations that you have lined up. It sure was nice getting together with the happy couple and Gilbert,  catching up on old times and all that, but I had to leave eventually as I had a prior engagement with another group of students – my Literature in English students of 2007. They did outstandingly well in the subject (5 of them – 3 distinctions and 2 credits, if I remember correctly) that had since died a natural death after I retired.

We met, as agreed upon at the recently-opened Fantasy Food Court  for dinner but we were early and they were not ready to start their business for the evening yet. In the end, we decided to go to the Sweet Family Restaurant instead and had the Philippines roast trotter…

Sibu Sweet Family's Philippine pork leg

and the gong pao chicken…

Sibu Sweet Family's gong pao chicken

…the midin (wild jungle fern) fried with belacan (dried prawn paste)…

Sibu SweetFamily's belacan midin

…and sea cucumber soup. It certainly was a delightful meal, and thanks a lot for the dinner treat, Gerard, Chun Fatt, Mike and Elias. Too bad we’ve lost touch with Spencer who’s currently doing his matriculation in Labuan. Like Elias, Gerard’s my godson as well, presently back on holiday from Melbourne and he brought me these macadamian nuts, a koala bear souvenir and a squirrel. A squirrel? Well, probably it’s  a carving on the wood of the eucalyptus gum tree or something…

STP's pressies from Oz

Well, thanks, Gerard and congratulations on successfully attaining your dream and qualifying to do dentistry when you enter university next year. Melbourne U, I reckon? All the best in your undertakings to you and to the rest as well.

If only every day could be as nice as this one with blue skies and everything nice…

Sweet love…

So how was your Christmas? Had a bash, did you? As for me, it was quite uneventful and just slipped by as quietly as it came…other than the X’mas Eve lunch with my ex-students and the steamboat dinner, the church service on the day itself and the wedding and flood on Boxing Day. No turkey, no leg of lamb, no ham…nothing! Sob! Sob!

But I did get this nice homemade fruit cake from Pollie….

Pollie's homemade fruit cake

and also this Walkers’ Scottish fruit cake from Stella (and shortbread too!)…

Fruit cake from Stella

The old lady cooked some curry chicken and steamed this coffee layer cake…

Mrs STP's coffee layer cake

…and that was it! I came down with a flu, so I did not feel like doing anything…or eating anything for that matter. Looking at it on the bright side, I had survived Christmas without piling on the calories. What about you? Gone back to the gym yet? LOL!!!

Well, New Year’s just a few days away…so what are your plans? More partying in the works? Right now, I’m still pondering on the New Year’s Eve Dinner & Dance at the Sheraton Restaurant (1st Floor) at RM50.oo per head. I must say this is very cheap considering that it is inclusive of  a Chinese sit-down dinner.

They’re getting together some members of the once very popular Sibu band – the Clef 4 Plus, along with a few local singers to form a band that will be entertaining diners that night so obviously, you can expect songs from years gone by, so I’ve been told, from people like the Elvis Presley of Sibu (John Sia), the Tom Jones of Sibu (Sebastian Bong – Stella may remember him from the Spice Bazaar days) and Pei Lei who used to win numerous Chinese singing competitions at divisional and state levels way back then. If you are interested in joining in the fun, you can call one of the organisers (Peter Sia) at DIGI-8884811.

I have not made up my mind yet…but at least that’s one party where you may get to hear Herman’s Hermits’ “Years may come, years may go” and sing the traditional Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of midnight!

A night to remember…

I attended David and Laura’s wedding reception last night at the Rajang Ballroom, TanahMas Hotel here. It was a pretty grand affair with door gifts for everyone in quaint little pouches…

D&L's wedding reception 1

…and here’s a pic of the cutting of the wedding cake and a section of the crowd…

D&L's wedding reception 2

…and in the next one, you can see the couple on their table-to-table rounds to propose a toast to the guests. Laura’s mother is in the photo and you can bet that’s one very happy mum – having singlehandedly (after the untimely demise of her hubby) raised such great kids and now getting a wonderful son-in-law.

D&L's wedding reception 3

The food was good…and definitely better than what one would usually expect from the hotel restaurants here, compared to the more authentic Chinese restaurants. We started off with the 4-seasons platter…

D&L's wedding reception 4

followed by the not-to-be-named dish and hence, there isn’t any photo of that, and this plate of steamed snow fish that I liked a lot…

D&L's wedding reception 5

After that came the roast chicken and duck combination…

D&L's wedding reception 6

and braised sea cucumber…

D&L's wedding reception 7

before they served the lamb that seemed very popular among the other guests at my table. It was just ok by me as I’m not a fan of black pepper sauce…

D&L's wedding reception 8

…but I thought the chilli prawns were delicious…

D&L's wedding reception 9

…except that the serving was somewhat small – just a prawn each, I guess. Lastly, the desserts came – something like bubur pulut hitam (black glutinous rice sweet dessert) and a plate of fruits.

Thanks for the invitation, David and Laura. It was indeed my pleasure to share the joy on your very special day and once again, here’s to a life filled with happiness for the both of you. Yaaaa……..aaaam Seng!

D&L's wedding reception 10

STOP PRESS:
This may be of interest to some of the readers. After the reception last night at around 10 pm, there was a massive traffic jam in the town. The floods are here again…with only one lane left along Jalan Kampung Nyabor in front of McDonald’s while the fire station area was totally submerged and the Ngui Kee building looked like the Ark afloat on the flood waters. I heard Lanang Road was flooded…and needless to say, Jalan Pedada too.

It was the 29th on the Chinese lunar calendar last night and today’s the 1st. Usually, the tide will be the highest on the 3rd and that will be Monday, the 29th of December. I suppose it would be best to stay home…safe and dry until the water subsides. Take care, everyone!

Now and forever…

I went to another wedding this morning – David and Laura’s. David was my student in school before and Laura was in my English tuition class for a few months but we got to know each other quite well from our involvement in the inter-school English debates.

It certainly is flattering to get invited to ex-students’ weddings as I would like to believe it is an indication that I’m not one of those teachers whom they would never want to see again once they’ve stepped out of the school. Here, you see Laura’s brother, Gilbert, leading her to the altar to give away the bride on behalf of their deceased father…

Bride and brother

Gilbert, who comments quite regularly in my blog, is an ex-student of mine too, currently a JPA scholar in Canada. The wedding ceremony was held in St. Mary’s Church here…

David & Laura's wedding 1

…and in this next photo, you can see the couple happily walking down the aisle as man and wife, united in the eyes of God…

David & Laura's wedding 2

…and this one below shows the couple thanking everyone for coming to the church service, which I feel is the most important part of somebody’s wedding though many seem to think otherwise…

David & Laura's wedding 3

These days, it seems to be the norm to send out wedding invitations with the clause: “Gifts are respectfully declined.” Perhaps people should send out conditional invitations stating that they are invited to the dinner reception only if they attend the wedding mass in church. LOL!!!

Oops…sorry, I digress! Old people tend to do that a lot. Anyway, heartiest congratulations to the two of you, David and Laura, and here’s wishing you years and years of happiness ahead…

David & Laura

This song is specially dedicated to the newly-weds…

Last Christmas…

Darn! I came down with a flu on Christmas Eve…and was sneezing away like nobody’s business. So instead of joining in the revelry at those  more impressive (and expensive) diners where they had Christmas set dinners and buffets, I decided that I should go someplace where I could have  a lot of soup. That was why my family and I ended up at the Twin Star BBQ steamboat restaurant…

Sibu's Twin Star BBQ steamboat restaurant

I was here not too long ago with an ex-student, now a lawyer…and left the place with Jay Chou’s theme from the movie “Fearless” ringing in my ears after listening to the guy full blast all night long! This time, when we arrived, they were playing Mariah Carey’s X’mas album including “All I want for X’mas is you”. Ah well, at least it’s Big Boobs and not Jay Chou, thank God for small mercies!!

This is an eat-all-you-can buffet place where you pay RM19.00 per head and you are free to stay as long as you wish and eat as much as you want (but they threaten to charge you if you have any leftovers). Like I said, I had the flu so I had a lot of soup from the steamboat…

Sibu's Twin Star steamboat 1

Sibu's Twin Star steamboat 2

Sibu's Twin Star steamboat 3

I had mentioned in my previous post on this place, that the sambal belacan dip that they provide is really very nice…

Sibu's Twin Star belacan dip

…and luckily, we went earlier as many tables were reserved and by 7 or so, the place was already filled to the brim and the diners were spilling onto the street. Then, they got rid of Big Boobs and started playing Wham’s “Last Christmas” – the hip hop/rap version. It certainly did not do the song justice (Some things are best left as they are!!)…but it was definitely nicer than the techno version of the song that followed.

My missus and my daughter obviously enjoyed themselves grilling the beef and other things on the hot plate and eating away, oblivious to the not-too-delectable music being played…

Sibu's Twin Star BBQ 1

Incidentally, when the hot plate gets too dirty, they will offer to change it for you and give you a new one. That’s nice! I think most places would not have bothered at all.

Sibu's Twin Star BBQ 2

There’s fried noodles and other similar fried stuff as well…

Sibu's Twin Star fried noodles

…free flow of drinks and all the ice cream you can eat (Nestle though, not Baskin’ Robbins or Haagen Dazs! LOL!!!).

But after more than a dozen different versions of “Last Christmas”, I was already getting hysterical and could not wait to get out of the place. The last straw was when the Crazy Frog’s version of the song came on! We immediately took to our heels…and I did not care if I would never hear that song ever again in my life! Hahahahaha!!!