Love takes time…

The first time I had gooseberries was when my ex-student, Raphael’s mum gave me some. “Just scatter them on the ground,” she said, “They’re very easy to grow!” Well, I did that but nothing appeared.

Around that same time, my dear friend, Mary, got me some from Thailand and yes, I did try planting a few of those too but to no avail.

Sometime ago, my niece, the one working in Singapore, got us a big pack – I think she said they were imported from some country overseas, I can’t remember where now. I did not get the chance to sample any and the next thing I knew, my missus had taken all that was left in the pack and planted them in a pot. I thought they weren’t nice but she said no, it was kind of damp and they did not want to eat them in that condition.

It did not take long for the seedlings to appear, lots of them, so I picked the bigger ones and transplanted them onto a space in the ground and yes, they grew and they grew. After a long time, there were little yellow flowers but no fruit. I was thinking they were male – they say male plants will not bear fruit.

Much to our delight, one fine day, my girl spotted some fruits growing…

Gooseberries

…here and there. I guess it takes time and with a lot of loving tender care, it will bear fruit eventually. They are still green though so we have not harvested any yet to try.

Since we are on the topic of plants, I saw the photo my friend, Elin, in Ipoh, Perak shared on Facebook of her ginger. She planted that and it sure looked like she had a bountiful harvest. Seeing that, I was thinking that I could do the same especially when those things don’t come cheap anymore these days. I spotted a sprout coming out of the ginger we had in the pantry so I took that section of the tuber and planted it. Yes, it is growing…

Ginger

…but it is still very small. Fingers crossed, hopefully, I will get something out of my venture in due course.

Now, if you may recall, a friend of mine gave me this

Started with one

…around August that year. There was only one then and now there are three and a fourth one is going to sprout out soon.

And talking about friends, Annie and her twins are home from KL for the Ching Ming Festival and she dropped by my house to pass me these…

Goodies from Annie

It’s so very sweet of her to bring me all these goodies everytime she comes home. I tried to give her some things in return but no, she simply would not hear of it and would not accept. Sighhhh!!!!

She just sent me a pack of their own-made wine-infused lap chiang (Chinese sausages) through her mum in November and I have not opened it – saving the precious stuff as I did not know when I would be able to get hold of some more. They are very nice and ever since I have been eating these, I would never buy those dry and hard ones from the shops anymore. I guess now that I have quite a lot, I can open one to use in my cooking.

Other than the sausages, she also gave me my favourite M&S all butter biscuits plus two more new ones to try. Gee!!! I am so pampered, truly blessed, am I not?

Thanks so much, Annie, for everything – great to see you and your boys again. Gosh! They’re so thin and so tall now – you must feed them more to fatten them up a bit. LOL!!! And congratulations to your nephew for scoring straight A’s in the SPM Examination and good luck, all the best to him in his studies at tertiary level. My! My! How time flies! They were just little boys, all the three of them, way back in 2010!

It’s all up to you…

I’ve a small chili plant…

My chili plant

….in my herbs circle, growing out from between the stumps of my jasmine tree that eventually called it a day. I cannot remember how it came to be – maybe I sowed some seeds and one out of many managed to make it.

I had another plant at another section of my garden amongst my Thai basil leaves. That one was not very productive; there were a few chilies, very few and some ripened. Some started rotting and dropped off and eventually, I transplanted it here as well but so far, it does not seem to be doing so well yet. Hopefully, things will change for the better.

Going back to this one, despite the size, it certainly is more productive but I’ve had my share of problems with it. The first round, there were just a few chilies, maybe 3 or 4 and they ripened and turned nicely red so I harvested them. My missus ate them all and yes, they were really nice, she said, very spicy. The second round, there were lots of chilies but they all turned brown close to the stems and dropped off. I went and googled and saw that it could be due to over-watering or a lack of calcium.

The third round was good, lots of chilies and no untoward incident but this time, the fourth round, I noticed that they were starting to drop off but no, there was no rotting whatsoever. Maybe the weather is way too hot these days, I wouldn’t know. That was why I plucked all of them even though they were green, around 10 altogether.

I did not feel like pickling them in vinegar this time around – I decided to make some sambal ikan bilis (dried anchovies dip) with them instead. I soaked a handful of ikan bilis in hot water to soften it a little and also to rinse it clean.

In the meantime, I pounded the chilies with a few shallots plus a little bit of belacan (dried prawn paste), just a little bit, before adding the ikan bilis. I continued pounding a bit more – I did not want to mash up the ikan bilis and end up with a mushy sambal. Lastly, I squeezed some calamansi lime juice and added a little bit of sugar to balance the sourish taste plus a few curry leaves, torn into bits/shreds. Once I had mixed everything together well, it was done…

My sambal ikan bilis

It turned out really nice, went really well with rice and I sure wouldn’t mind making some more soon…and as a matter of fact, I did! I made some more…

Sambal ikan bilis, second round
…yesterday and it’s Friday today which means that my girl will be coming home for the weekend. I hope she enjoys it.

Of course, it’s all up to you what you would like to use or add. I think I saw somewhere people using Bombay onions instead of shallots and some add garlic. I did add a bit of lengkuas (galangal) the second time around but I decided not to risk adding any serai (lemon grass) or kunyit (turmeric) or whatever else in case it did not turn out well – I’d probably try those next time.

All’s well that ends…

…well!

Of course I had to take my car to the workshop right away the following day, Monday, and I had a new license plate fixed. However, they could not get the replacement for the cover of the fog/spotlight by the side so they had to place an order for a set to be sent over from Kuching. Once it arrived the following day, Tuesday, the workshop boss contacted me and I took the car over the second time and in no time at all, it was done…

Done

They did not have the original so they sent the ones (including the lights) for a newer model of the Proton Wira and I actually thought that they look a whole lot nicer. Those lights never worked – if they did, it was only for a while after I had bought the car before it called it a day…and I did not think I had any need for those so I never got them fixed and finally, they are working again! I certainly hope I will not encounter such a storm ever again, touch wood but should I do, I would be able to switch these on – they are definitely brighter than my low lights and would be a lot more visible to on-coming vehicles. They also helped me to fix my wipers – they made such a loud and horrible sound and that really got on my nerves as I drove through the storm. All in all, I had to fork out RM145.00 only, a small price, I must say, for a job well done and I sure am glad and relieved that everything’s fine again.

I did mention that the workshop that I go to does not keep their own stock of spare parts and would have to order from some place whatever they need. Unfortunately, those suppliers seem to take their sweet time to deliver so at times, I would have to wait like…forever! Well, as the English proverb goes, “Every cloud has a silver lining!” The boss or his brother or son and the employees would go here for breakfast/brunch every morning and without fail, one of them would invite me to join them.

That morning, it was the brother who asked me to come along and he had the pian sip mee pok (RM3.00)…

Uncle Lau pian sip mee pok

…from the kampua mee stall there.

I went and ordered the fried kway teow

Uncle Lau kway teow goreng

…from the Muslim stall at the back and when it was served, I was delighted that it came with the sambal belacan

Uncle Lau sambal belacan

…that I enjoyed so much the first time I had this here but no, it was not the same and though it was quite all right, I did not think it was as nice.

It was RM3.50 a plate that time and for an extra 50 sen, I could get one fried egg with my plate of noodles. That morning, I did not ask for an egg nor did I ask for the special but I got a huge slab of fried chicken, anyway and I was stunned when the boss’ brother picked up the tab – it was just RM4.50! I thought that was VERY cheap especially considering that a plate of Foochow fried noodles would set one back by at least RM4.00 these days and the meat and vegetable in it would be barely visible to the naked eye.

The employee that came along with us ordered the fried mee (RM4.50)…

Uncle Lau mi goreng

…and like me, he too got the chicken.

Gee!!! Looking at the prices that I have had to fork out here and there these days for stuff not all that nice, I certainly would much sooner come back here for this instead.

UNCLE LAU CORNER (2.328131, 111.840397) is located back to back with Udak Kitchen which is to the left of Everwin, Sg Merah along Lorong Sungai Merah 2C, off Jalan Teng Chin Hua, across the road from the St Teresa’s Catholic Church and the SIB Church next to it.

Pray…

It was not a very good day last Sunday. There was this landslide at a small town not too far away that not only cut off its communication links but also disrupted the water supply.

We did not manage to go for the novena and the sunset service the night before as we were at the wedding reception so we went for the early morning service before going for breakfast here.

My girl wanted the Sarawak laksa (RM6.00, small – up by 50 sen now)…

Thomson Corner Sarawak laksa

…the other day but not that morning. Anyway, I tapao-ed two packets for her and also for her housemate/colleague for their dinner that evening and yes, it was good as always but I thought that two of the prawns were a bit off so I spat them out and yes, the sambal belacan

Thomson Corner sambal belacan

…was good, obviously made from the better quality Bintulu or Mukah varieties, much nicer than the one here and heaps nicer than this one as well.

My missus had their kampua mee (RM3.20)…

Thomson Coerner kampua mee

…which, of course, is more expensive than most around town and at best, I would say theirs is pretty all right – good enough if you do not have a lot of time in town and would like to get to eat as many of the local delights as possible.

My girl had their pian sip (RM3.50)…

Thomson Corner pian sip

…which at one time, was one of my favourites in town but for reasons unknown, it was taken off the menu. Well, they have it back again now and my girl complained of it being too salty so she had to rinse each of them in the complimentary soup before eating. Probably, the employee spilled too much of the light soy sauce into the bowl. I did try one, rinsed too, of course, and I thought it was good.

After that, we headed home so I could have a short rest before we made our way to my girl’s school in the jungle. Just before leaving, I saw a Facebook friend sharing a photograph of this accident so we decided to use the old road…

Old Oya Road
*Google Maps photo*

…to avoid the slippery road (because of the oil spill) and the congestion. This is a very narrow two-lane road, one going and one coming, a bit winding at times but it is very good, mostly, hardly any of those bumpy “patchwork quilts” along the way and that morning, there were hardly any cars, none of those horrendous reckless, fast and furious show-offs and none of those road bullies that one would meet on the other road that we would usually use. If it is going to be like this all the time, I certainly would choose to go by this way in future.

It was an uneventful drive all the way to my girl’s school and when we reached there, it had started to rain so we did not stay long and quickly made our way back to town. We had just left the school when I received word from my sister, “Very heavy rain in Sibu! Drive safely!” Well, it did not just rain heavily there but where we were too till we had gone past Selangau Bazaar. Much to my relief, it was not raining, just extremely dark like late evening , almost night and I was glad to be able to make it past many of the lencongans (diversions) along the way.

Then, it came! The heavy downpour, so heavy that visibility was close to zero and there were flash floods everywhere which came as no surprise as the people involved in the construction of the Pan-Borneo Highway did not bother about the drainage at all…and there was no way whatsoever by which one could tell if there were any potholes, big or small under the muddy water as one crawled through slowly.

We came to one part that was severely flooded and there were many cars all lined up in the heavy rain, all unsure whether to take the risk and make their way across the fast-flowing water or not. I did not want to wait any longer as if the rain would go on for a while longer, it might render the road completely impassable to traffic. I certainly would not want to end up like the inter-town bus in the flood around this same time last year.

That was why I drove straight ahead into the water. I am not sure but maybe there was a massive pothole and I drove into it causing an upsurge of the muddy water, splashing all over my bonnet. “This is the end!” I thought to myself, expecting the car engine to stop dead and we would end up stuck in the middle of the torrential current…but miraculously, the engine did not give up and I managed to drive on…out of the water and the next instant, we were on our way.

The rain got heavier and heavier and I was feeling the toll so I decided to stop at Stapang for a brief rest and to wait for the storm to abate. It was there that I realised that I had lost my front license plate…

casualtyofthepanborneohighway

…and also the plastic cover of the spot/fog light on the right. Well, that was not as bad as what we saw – somebody’s bumper, liver red or maroon in colour, dropped off and was left behind in the middle of the road! Of course, I am most thankful that we got home safe and sound, everything else is secondary but one thing’s for sure, should we ever be caught in a similar situation again in future (God forbid, touch wood!), I will never ever attempt anything so foolish again. Lesson learnt!

Every week, without fail, I would pray fervently for God’s guidance and protection all along the way to my girl’s school in the jungle and back, twice (four  trips) a week, at least…and I will always give thanks that He has never failed to keep us safe all the time and yes, I do believe that it is because of our faith in Him and it was He who calmed the wind and the sea that had brought us safely across the raging flood, praise the Lord!

SIBU THOMSON CORNER (2.296517, 111.840710) is located at Pusat Tanahwang, opposite Sacred Heart Secondary School, Oya Road or you can go to their other outlet on the 1st floor of the Medan Mall, Jalan Wong King Huo.

On our own…

A big thank you to my cousin in Kuching for the very nice Chinese New Year card…

CNY card 2

…that she sent me, the 2nd one that I’ve received this year. I thought that was so cute, Papa Piggy and Mama Piggy carrying the taels of gold signifying riches or wealth in abundance.

And this gorgeous one…

CNY card 3

…just arrived yesterday all the way from another cousin of mine in Perth, Australia so this one is 3rd in line. I doubt we can find such nice ones here. She even added this interesting sticker…

The Year of the Pig

…at the back of the envelope.

I did not send out any this year not because of any particular reason – just that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Unlike Christmas cards, I don’t think there is any problem getting hold of them around here and anyway, I do have quite a lot from the Mouth & Foot Artists but I just never got round to it.

I think I did mention a few times that we will not be celebrating this year, no open house and no visiting family and friends either, as it has not been a year since my mum passed away – the 1st anniversary will be next month, in March. However, we would have something on our own at home, like the reunion dinner on a very small scale. We would just cook a few simple dishes and invite my sister to join us as she would be alone and we would probably buy some cakes and cookies and snacks as well.

The nice lady at the bank, my friend, asked me the other day if I would want to reserve some new bank notes for my ang paos but I told her that we would not be celebrating so I would not be giving out any this year. I did ask for some of their red packets though – my missus collects them and my sister as well so I can always give to them…

Ang pao packets

I am glad that unlike in previous years, they have subtly done away with the animal in the Chinese zodiac. I do prefer that as I can use the ang paos whenever I like – otherwise, it would be another 12 years before I can use them again as each year, there will be a different animal.

The other night, I went to that supermarket in town to buy some Mandarin oranges…

Buying Mandarin oranges

…to enjoy, this once-a-year thing. Traditionally, it is believed that red and gold are auspicious colours that will bring good fortune and prosperity in the coming year. The nice boys went through each and every one of the oranges to make sure they were all in good condition and if any were less than satisfactory, they would be quickly replaced.

There was a man who got there before me and he wanted to buy 8 boxes altogether. He looked old but my guess is he wouldn’t be all that old, maybe around my age or a bit older or to the most, in his early 70’s. The boys diligently went through all the oranges one by one and I was quite pissed off by how grumpy and fussy he was! When one asked him for his opinion, he snapped back somewhat fiercely and sarcastically, “You say it is good, it is good lah!!!” No, he did not say much else but he just stood there looking very angry like he was angry about something. Why! I even saw him taking some of the fruits and pressing them with his thumb – that is one habit some people have that I absolutely detest and why would anyone want to press an orange! Even if the fruit had been good in the first place, the unwarranted pressure would spoil them eventually. I absolutely hate it when I see buyers doing this when buying fruits, tomatoes and so on.

I was somewhat pissed off by his behaviour and attitude and that got me thinking – is it because of age that people become grumpy like that? Or is it some people’s second nature – they are born like that? Or is it the home environment, the upbringing…or is it this thing about some people – they think they have the money so it is their prerogative to boss people around?

Whatever the reason, I certainly would not want to end up like that – such unpleasantness sure leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth, so to speak. One thing’s for sure, the world would be a very much nicer place if everyone can be nice to everybody, never mind whether they are rich or poor, young or old…and regardless of race, colour or creed. Like how the song goes, “What the world needs now…is love!

Doin’ fine…

Yes, my mint…

Mint

…is doing fine. I got some from a friend, my ex-students’ mum/mum-in-law and I planted it in a pot. It flourished so I transplanted some in other pots and the new plants are doing just as well too.

I guess I can use the leaves to make some mint sauce to go with lamb but we hardly ever cook the meat ourselves – we would just eat it outside. So all I can do would be to make mint tea and the other day, I made this very delightful and refreshing aloe vera drink…

Mint and pandan flavoured aloe vera drink

…with lots of mint and pandan leaves added and yes, it turned out really well plus it has a whole lot of health benefits too!

I do have a problem with white spots appearing on some of the leaves though but I would just trim them and get rid of them – a lot more where they came from, the leaves. I also planted some…

More mint

…in my herbs circle…

My herbs circle

…where I have my curry leaves, my dill, Thai basil, sawtooth coriander, wild onion, oregano, chilies, daun hempedu bumi and even daun sup (Chinese celery)…

Daun sup

They say that I must not plant this in the open – they will not thrive well in the sun but my herbs circle is not shaded and yet, it is doin’ fine there.

Of course, the ones I have in the shade – a whole lot in the trough that I used to plant the mother plant plus a pot where I have transplanted a bit…

More daun sup

…are growing like crazy. I bought the seedling (the mother plant) for only RM5.00, truly a worthwhile investment, and there has been no looking back since. For a very long time now, I no longer have to buy from the market anymore where you will get only a few sprigs for RM2.00 and because you do not use so much at one go, you end up throwing away the rest when they have withered even when kept in the fridge.

Unfortunately, I have not been so successful with tomatoes – I’ve bought the seedlings twice, RM5.00 each too but they just dried up and died. Never mind! Life goes on…and I’ll just go on doing what I do best.

We didn’t know…

Gosh!!! All my life, I thought we planted kunyit (turmeric) for the tuber for use in our cooking and I had some with very big leaves that I used to wrap fish for cooking what we call pa’is ikan. Eventually, it grew a little bit too crowded so I transplanted some at another place – where my missus planted it a long long time ago and it did not do very well (we were both working then and did not have much time to tend to our plants) – and there, it flourished too.

That day, I decided to trim it a little, more specifically to get rid of the old withered leaves and some of those small ones sprouting out to give the rest more breathing space, so to speak. Imagine my surprise when I spotted, hidden among the leaves, a flower…

Kunyit flower 1

We did not know that the kunyit plant will blossom…and a few days later, I spotted another one…

Kunyit flower 2

…and this looked like another one yet to bloom…

Coming soon

I did share a photograph of it on Facebook and some friends commented that the flowers would be good for ulam, eaten with sambal belacan or used to cook asam prawns. I’ve yet to do anything with them but I did go and google for recipes – it looked like all of them only used it to make kerabu.

I also had to trim my serai (lemon grass)…

Serai

…the other day. I have to do this very often and very regularly as it grows really well. In the past, I would harvest the stalks of serai and send them to my favourite Thai restaurant here but it has since closed down. This time around, I ended up with around 50 big fat stalks (I just threw away the thinner ones) in my freezer.

I used to throw away the leaves but not anymore. These days, I pick the fresher, greener leaves and tie them up nicely to put in my kitchen cabinets. It is believed to keep away lizards and cockroaches and yes, it has been said also that serai scares mosquitoes away.  As for the rest of the leaves, I cut them into short lengths and spread them out under the plant. It will help fertilise the soil and of course, the top cover will prevent unwanted weeds from sprouting out all over.

This is from my current batch of ulam raja – it has started flowering…

Ulam raja flower

They grew out of the seeds from the plants in the previous batch – my missus got a lot of seeds from a friend but they did not grow so well. I think in the end, I only got four or five plants but those produced enough seeds to reproduce so many seedlings. Just like my kunyit, I had to get rid of the smaller and thinner ones to give space to the selected few to grow and flourish…and when I pluck any for our ulam, I would pick the nice young leaves to enjoy and leave the bigger and harder older ones untouched.

Gardening can be so therapeutic – when you see your plants doing so well, you will feel so happy, so satisfied…and all that exercise every morning, all that sweating is good too.