Dilly Dally…

My dill is doing very well in my garden, flourishing away and it sure comes in handy every time I want to cook what we call pa’is ikan

Pa'is ikan buris
*Archive photo*

…or fish wrapped in leaves and grilled over hot charcoal or in my case, in the oven. Incidentally, I’ve tried doing the same thing with udang galah (freshwater prawns) but it turned out somewhat disappointing, nowhere near as nice as with fish, ikan buris especially.

Sometime ago, I noticed that it had started flowering…

Dill, flowering

…and when I shared a photograph on Facebook, somebody said that it would fly all over the place and make such a mess in the event of there being any wind but no, it…

Dill flowers, close up 1

…did not happen that way and is always a delight to look at – those elegant little white flowers…

Dill flowers, close up 2

…on the branches. I went and googled and much to my surprise, though the plant and leaves look the same, the flowers are quite different from the dwarf variety grown in temperature countries.

But talking about the wind, one night, there was a storm and it broke one of the branches of my dill plant so I had no choice but to cut it off. I did not want to throw it away so I trimmed the branch and stuck the cuttings in a bottle of water…

Dill in a bottle

…and much to my surprise, they did survive for a long while and no, the flowers remained and did not fall off and eventually they started to dry up…

Dill flowers, dried 1

I must say that it looks rather nice even when dried…

Dill flowers, dried 2

…and makes a beautiful display of dried flowers for the house, don’t you think?

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Love will keep us alive…

This jasmine tree…

My jasmine tree

…that my late father planted in my garden many many years ago, along with the rambutan tree in the backyard, does not seem to be doing very well. It was doing all right all these years even when the branches were covered with wild orchids, moss and parasitic plants. I did make an effort to clear away all those that time when they came to rescue my rambutan tree.

What I found out was there were these HUGE black ants, what we grew up calling padak, infesting the roots of the tree and somebody told me that I could buy one pesticide and mix with boiling water to pour over the roots of the tree and that would get rid of the ants. In the meantime, I had no choice but to saw away the dead branches one by one…

Sawn branches

My problem is I have those daun hempedu bumi  leaves growing all around the roots and every morning, I would go and pluck a few leaves to brew tea with hot boiling water and drink because of all the medicinal benefits of those very bitter leaves. Of course I would not want to drink it anymore if I had poured the toxic pesticide all around.

These leaves are not easy to plant, it seems. The plants will just appear anywhere and everywhere by themselves and if you take them to plant them nicely in a more orderly manner at a proper place, chances are they will eventually wither and die.

I guess I have not much choice so I have tried transplanting the seedlings at a safe place, far away from the jasmine tree and it does look like they are getting on fine…

Daun hempedu bumi

Once they are big enough, it will be time for me to embark on my mission to get rid of those ants.

The tree has bloomed time and time again and once, the whole tree turned white with all the flowers and the fragrance filled the whole neighbourhood. It would be sad to see it wither away – I guess in the meantime, I will just have to treat it well and hope for the best.

So what’s new in my garden these days? Well, not much really but I have planted this sawtooth coriander…

Sawtooth coriander

…that I picked up at the wet market one morning, a whole bunch of the plant, 5 altogether, I think, including the roots for only RM1.00. I planted all of them and I am glad to see them doing very well including this one that I planted in between some bricks – there was a Thai basil plant there before and despite the rather unlikely location, it grew really well too. I wonder why.

For the uninitiated, if you do not know what sawtooth coriander leaves are, these are similar in taste and smell to the daun ketumbar used to garnish a whole lot of dishes in Kuching like their Sarawak laksa

Kuching laksa
*Friend’s photo on Facebook, edited*

…for instance, or their oyster omelette/pancake…or their butter prawns. They are very popular among the people there but it is very hard to come by here. I remember once some folks were having a popiah party and they actually had those leaves air-flown from Kuching!

Generally, people are put off by the smell – they say it smells of bed bugs but I do feel it is an acquired taste and now that I have learnt to take that, I actually quite like it these days. It is used a lot  in the Thai dishes here…and they also use it here and not too long ago, I stumbled upon it being used for the beef noodles…

Restoran Muhajirin beef noodles

here.

My ulam raja plants have all called it a day, the ones with the orange and the yellow flowers but my missus got the seeds for a different variety from a friend and I planted them…

My ulam raja

…and some have sprouted and are growing pretty well. Hopefully, I will get to see the purplish pink flowers soon.

Generally, all my plants are doing very well especially now that I am spending a lot more time taking care of them every morning and late afternoon or evening. Hopefully, the love that they are getting will keep them alive!

Better next time…

I often saw enticing photographs or people blogging about the nasi ulam but I don’t think we can get that here and all the while, I was wishing I could give it a try. It so happened that one morning, I saw Martin Yan on AFC cooking it and it looked kind of simple and I decided to give it a try.

I got these leaves and herbs from my garden…

Leaves & herbs

…ready and cut them thinly…

Cut thinly

…except for the pandan leaves.

Yes, I had a look at somebody’s recipe and she added a whole lot of things such as daun limau perut (kaffir lime leaves), torch ginger flower (bunga kanta) and kerisik (toasted grated coconut) even but I did not have those so I just went ahead and did without them. I should have added some chili though – we always have those in the fridge/freezer, ever ready for use as and when the need arises.

I did have some fish flakes and also some udang kering (dried prawns) soaked to soften…

Fish flakes & udang kering

…and pounded well…

Udang kering pounded

I think I should cook the rice afresh but I had a lot in the fridge so I decided to just use that instead. I mixed some sliced shallots and the pandan leaves, cut into shorter lengths, added a bit of salt and Thai fish sauce…

Rice for steaming

…and put that in the steamer to steam.

Once done, I added all the aforementioned ingredients…

Ingredients added

…and tossed well.

It so happened that my Bintulu brother-in-law came to town for the Ching Ming Festival and he brought us these…

From Bintulu brother-in-law

…it being the bubuk (krill shrimps) season right now, thank you so much to him. I was quite tempted to add the dried bubuk or the cincaluk (fermented krill shrimps) and pound some sambal belacan (dried prawn paste dip) to eat with the rice but I did not and I lived to regret it.

The rice was all right…

Better next time

– fragrant with all the ingredients added but I was pretty sure that the real thing with all the extra ingredients and everything else would be a whole lot nicer. As it was, I think I would enjoy the East Coast delight, the nasi kerabu here, a lot more.

Never mind! I will do it again one day and being older and wiser now, I do think it will be a lot better next time. Any pointers from anybody in the know to help me improve are most welcome!

Tribute…

The Sacred Heart Old Students’ Association (SHOSA) and the alumni of our sister school, St Elizabeth’s Old Students’ Association (SEOSA) held their combined Annual Reunion Dinner last Saturday, 31st March, 2018 at one of the ballrooms at a leading hotel in town…

SHOSA & SEOSA Annual Reunion Dinner 2018

I was invited to the one last year, 2017, too and I did book a table myself and was there with my family and some of my ex-classmates in 2013 while in 2014, my good friend, Robert, also my ex-classmate, booked two tables and asked us to join him. I think it was in 2016 that they had this annual gathering at the school’s centenary hall and yes, I was invited but I did not feel well that day so I had to miss it…and I can’t remember what happened in 2015.

Anyway, this year, Robert booked a table again and yes, he did ask me to join them…

Robert & friends at their table
*Friend’s photo*

…but I had already accepted the invitation from the alumni.

I do enjoy this annual event as I will get to meet many of my friends including those good old friends of mine from the good ol’ days…

Group photo
*One of the girls’ photos on Facebook*

…and also many of my ex-students, some of whom I would only get to see once a year – at this much-looked-forward-to event..

This year, the theme was “Tribute”…

Theme - Tribute

…and the two former students’ associations were paying tribute to the retired teachers, 20 from my school and 10 from the girls’ school, and for reasons unknown, my photographs appeared in the local English daily as well as the Chinese one…

In the news

Each of us received this very nice-looking plaque…

In appreciation

…in appreciation of our services over the years. Actually, I was an ex-student of the school myself too – from Form 1 to Form 5.

They usually pick the date each year to coincide with the Ching Ming Festival but this year, the festival was a bit later – on the 5th, a weekday and perhaps the dinner coincided with the Good Friday/Easter weekend so probably there were some who chose to go to church for the Easter Vigil and there were not as many tables as last year.

Next year, it will be on Saturday, the 6th of April…and Ching Ming in 2019 will be a day earlier, on Friday, the 5th, (It will not coincide with Good Friday/Easter, on the 19th of April) so if anyone is planning to come back at that time for the festival and also to join the reunion dinner, it would be best to book your airline tickets AND your hotel rooms real early as  they would all be fully-booked as the time approaches.

Mama…

Today marks the 7th Day after the passing of my dear beloved mum…

Flowers 1

She was into her 11th year, bedridden as a result of a backbone and nerve problem that caused her so much pain that she was unable to walk. My father, who was around at the time, decided not to go ahead with the surgery as the risks were high as she had heart problem, diabetes and anything and everything but knowing her for who she had always been, she put up with it all and was always cheerful and got on all right with her condition.

Of course, over the years, it got worse and the pain she was suffering from got more chronic and intense and she was somewhat depressed, especially after my father died and that badly affected her emotionally, her appetite, her physical strength and everything. There were all kinds of problems and ailments along the way…so much so that we are indeed thankful to God above that He has seen it fitting to grant her relief from all that she had endured all these years…

Flowers 2

We were always very close during my growing up years probably because I was the second of her two naughty boys and it was not until 9 years later that my sister came along.

Flowers 3

I was the one in the kitchen with her, doing all the peeling, cutting and chopping, all the pounding…and beating the eggs and the cake batter using that brass thing that looked like a spring and she had me keep an eye on the rice. We did not have a rice cooker then so we cooked that on a kerosene stove, later a gas cooker and I was thankful for that – in 1994, when I was in the UK, we did not have a rice cooker either and I could easily cook the rice without any problem at all – when the other guys in our house in the university campus did it, it would turn out uncooked or it became porridge.

I was the one who would accompany her to the market, carrying the rattan basket and everything she bought was wrapped in newspapers in those days and was placed in the basket which got heavier and heavier as we went along from stall to stall and at the end of it all, we would take the bus home.

I was the one who would accompany her to watch those Malay movies from Shaw Brothers and Cathay Organisation as well as the Hindi movies, the afternoon matinee at 2.00 p.m. I guess my dad was not into those, only the English and the Chinese ones that we would go and watch together at night – he had to work, running his business, during the day from early morning till late afternoon.

I was the one who would go to a pengillan with her, the Malay/Melanau wedding receptions at the kampung, go and nanggok in the stream beside our house with our maternal grandma – her mum, our maternal grand-auntie – my grandma’s sister and her sisters and cousin – my aunties. At the end of it all, all of us would gather around and sit on the floor to enjoy the fruits of our labour. How I enjoyed eating the luit, those little shrimps, still alive and jumping around, with the sambal that she would prepare.

Flowers 4

Of course, boys will be boys and there were times a-plenty when we got on her nerves and pushed it a little too far so we had to be taught a good lesson. Spare the road and spoil the child, so they say. I remember my dad as the sole breadwinner and yes, he provided for us very well all through the years but I do not recall him being the disciplinarian that my mum was but even so, he would just sit there and we would not dare make a sound. On the other hand, despite all the scolding, the caning and everything, we drove our mum up the wall!

She was a superwoman who did everything – the cleaning, the washing, the laundry, the ironing, the cooking from dawn to dusk, the gardening and mowing our massively-expansive lawn with no less than 10 rambutan trees in just one section of it, among all kinds of trees that we had all over the land where our house was sited and yes, she was the one climbing up those trees, harvesting the fruits for sale…and of course, I was there to lend a hand. Shudders! She even single-handedly slaughtered the chickens to cook for us and her chicken curry was simply the best – family and friends would flock to our house without fail every Christmas  and Chinese New Year just to enjoy it!

Come Christmas, my aunties – her sisters – would give us cloth by the yard, not the kind of gifts little kids would fancy and look forward to…and my mum would make identical shirts on her sewing machine for my brother and I in time for Chinese New Year when the two of us would don those shirts like identical twins, not that we looked anything like each other. No, we did not buy clothes from departmental stores then – there weren’t any at the time.

Flowers from Melissa to grandma
*Flowers from my girl specially for her dearly beloved grandma on the 7th day of her passing*

No, I would not say she had a hard life – I do think she found joy and fulfilment in all the things she did and yes, she loved us well. I could go on and on about the happy times, the wonderful memories from all those years – there is so much to remember and cherish and sad though I may be that she has left us, after all those times, watching her in pain, feeling so helpless as there was nothing much we could do other than to comfort her and be around for her and to pray,  I am thankful to the Lord that by His Will and His Mercy, she would have to suffer no more.

Eternal rest, grant unto my mum, o Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. God bless her soul, may she rest in peace.

Wrong address…

My cousin, the one who would come to Sibu every year with his parents and sister(s), sent word that he would be sending me something for Chinese New Year. The sister dispatched the parcel on Friday via courier service – no, not our national poslayu or poslambat, take your pick –  and tracking showed that it arrived in Sibu the very next day, Saturday. Soon after that, there was an update that afternoon saying that the address was invalid.

I called them but there was no answer so I drove to the place and I found that it was closed. I guess I had no choice but to wait till Monday morning and I was there as soon as they had started working for the day.

It turned out that my cousin did not indicate the lane in my address so they could not deliver it and there was an extra digit in my contact number so they could not call me either. They passed the parcel over to me without any fuss whatsoever and I took it home happily.

Ripping off the layers of thick brown paper with a FRAGILE sticker on  the outside revealed this box…

Toaster

…inside. Oh? I wouldn’t need a toaster anymore now that generally, we do not eat bread as it is not gluten-free.

Opening the box, it looked like I was getting some essence of chicken…

Essence of chicken

…or so I thought. Hmmm…perhaps they reckoned that this old guy could do with a little bit of energy boost especially after all that hard labour I had to go through harvesting my rambutans.

After removing the layers of bubble wrap, I saw this golden seal…

Golden seal

Nice touch! Signed, sealed…but almost didn’t get delivered! Hehehehehe!!!

Opening the box, I finally got to what my cousin had sent me…

Bacon jam

– the bacon jam that I got sometime ago from Phong Hong and out of the three that she sent me, I liked this one most of all. Oh? I noticed that one of the two had whisky in it – gotta try that one soonest!

Thank you so much, Jude and a Blessed and Happy Chinese New Year to you and your dear parents and sweet sisters. May God bless you all abundantly in this Year of the Dog…and thank you, Sabrina, for the very elaborate and meticulous packing and going through the trouble of sending it over to me. All’s well that ends well.  Cheers!!!

Pride and joy…

Yes, you can say that my rambutan tree is my pride and joy especially when it is the sole survivor here out of so many trees in my grandpa’s garden in Sungai Merah a long time ago and some 10 trees or so in our own at No. 96, Race Course Road (now renamed Jalan Awang Ramli Amit). You can read the complete history of the tree here.

I never took good care of it – it did bear fruit regularly but most of the time, they were small and not very juicy and there were a lot of ants so more often than not, we did not even bother to pluck the fruits. It was in March last year that I noticed that the tree was not doing very well because of the wild orchids and parasitic plants growing on the branches so I got Peter and his boys to come and help and it improved by leaps and bounds after that and was growing really well since then.

I did get Peter and his boys to come again one more time to trim the branches that were touching the roof at the back of my house for fear that the ants would use them as bridges to cross over and go indoors. It was already flowering and bearing fruit by then, lots and lots of them but for reasons unknown, many did not stick – they all dropped to the ground, turned black and simply dried up but thankfully, a lot were spared…

My rambutans

I gave a lot away to family and friends and it most certainly swept everyone off their feet. The flesh is thick and crunchy and at the same time, so very sweet and juicy…

Thick and crunchy, sweet and juicy

…and the best part is how it does not stick to the seed and no, unlike some rambutans, the hard outer layer of the seed does not come off with it at all…

Doesn't stick to the seed

However, one fine day, I discovered that those fruits growing closer to the ground had simply disappeared into thin air! I did not see anyone taking them nor do I have any proof so I shall just let it rest at that and will not say anything more about it. Thankfully, there were still a lot of fruits higher up so I was able to pluck those and distribute left, right and centre.

Unfortunately, eventually, only the ones very high up in the sky…

High up in the sky

…were left and no, there was no way I was going to climb up the tree to get to those…

Come and get us!

The only way I could get them down was to saw the branches…

Saw the branches

…and pluck the fruits.

Of course I had to dispose of everything properly and no, I would not burn them in my backyard and pollute the air. What I did was to saw the branches into shorter lengths, short enough to fit into my car boot…

Saw them short

…and tie them up in bundles…

Tied in bundles

…and I would pack all the leaves in one big plastic bag.

Once I was done, I would take them to one of those places with the refuse disposal bins placed there by our municipal council for the public to use and I would throw everything in one of those. I would get rid of the leaves and take the plastic bag home and reuse but more often than not, the twigs would cut slits and leave gaps by the side so in its condition, there is no point taking it home and I will just have to use a new one instead.

Yes, that sure was a lot of hard work so don’t you say that I am badly in need of some exercise – I sure get more than enough of it doing this!

The tree is rather bare now…

The tree

– it probably will be worse once I’m through with it but hopefully, with tender loving care, new branches will grow soon and by the end of this year, there will be another round of my pride and joy…

My pride and joy

…for all to enjoy – guaranteed 100% organic, pesticide-free, no chemical fertilisers used.