Each passing day…

I just received this Chinese New Year greeting card from my cousin and her family in Melbourne, Australia…

CNY card

…a few days ago. Well, it was a bit late for Chinese New Year’s Day proper but still very much in time for the festive season which ends on Chap Goh Meh (the 15th Night) next week, thank you so much to all of them!

This card is really special as it is not just a card. In fact, it doubles as a desk calendar at the back…

Desk calendar

…12-in-1 so I do not even have to turn the page twelve times in a year.

Yes, I am really hopeless with these things – I get the 12-page desk calendar from the Mouth & Foot Artists every year and unless I have given them away to somebody, they are all somewhere in the house, still brand new.

My 2016 Year of the Monkey a page-a-day wall calendar…

Wall calendar

…is still hanging on the wall on the cover page, not even the 1st of January…

A page a day

…talking about standing still in time. LOL!!! My dad used to love this kind of calendars whereby without fail, he would dutifully go and tear a page each passing day to see if it would be a good day or not. I kept telling him that they would print the same thing year in, year out and only the numbers had been changed but it all fell on deaf ears. Ah well! As long as it made him happy, we just let him be.

What about all of you? More into digital clocks and calendars…or you are completely dependent on your smart phone?

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!

The spirit of Christmas past…

In my younger days, my dad would receive a lot of Christmas cards from his business associates and I think we did get some from family and friends as well. I would stick them onto the walls of our wooden house using cellophane tape, arranging them in the shape of a Christmas tree…and sometimes, I would hang them up on strings tied up using thumb tacks, one thing one would not be able to do today in our concrete homes.

Yes, we had a Christmas tree too, an odd looking thing with branches that resembled those brushes used for cleaning milk bottles…or worse, toilet brushes…but it was a Christmas tree and I found immense joy in taking it out year after year and decorating it…and of course, putting the presents at the foot of the tree, waiting for Christmas to come so I would be able to open them to see what was inside each of them.

Anyway, back to those Christmas cards, I got 3 from the Mouth & Foot Painting Artists (and of course, I sent them a cheque for what I received from them) and I quickly sent them to family and friends residing overseas in the hope that they would receive them in time. At the time of writing, I only know that my friend in Adelaide got hers while a cousin in Melbourne is on holiday in Las Vegas so she would probably get hers after that, and I have yet to get any news of the rest.

In the meantime, I went round the shops in town in search of Christmas cards to send to those within the country, only to be laughed at. “Nobody sends Christmas cards anymore!” they all said. Well, I was quite determined and would not give up and finally, I found these…

Christmas cards

…at the Religious Articles Shop at the Catholic cathedral here, only RM3.60 for 12 – so very cheap, only 30 sen each and they were all so beautiful and I loved the words inside some of them. I remember how my Dad was very particular in choosing his Christmas cards to send to people and they must mention Christmas specifically. No, those with only “Season’s Greetings” would not do, not at all.

It used to cost only 10 sen to send a card within the country, unsealed, 15 sen for a letter but when I went to send them, the guy at the counter said it would be 50 sen each and if I am not wrong, that would be the special for Christmas thing. Letters these days cost 80 sen…or more, depending on the weight. Ah well!!! It’s only once a year…and yes, I did buy a lot to keep for next year and the years to come. My sister remarked that the envelopes would turn yellow but no, that did not deter me. It’s the thought that counts, that’s my fervent belief.

I was thinking I would not be getting any this year as there were none forthcoming when just the other day, out of the blue, the Poslaju van stopped by my gate and I got this lovely Christmas card…

From Uncle Paul and family

…from my dear uncle (my mum’s youngest brother) and auntie and my cousins in Kuching. They had sent it by courier service for fear that it would not reach me in time – isn’t that so sweet and thoughtful of them?

This one came from another auntie in Kuching, my mum’s late brother’s wife, and my cousin and hubby…

From Ah Kim, Tina and Mapphy

…and believe it or not, they got the card…

From Perth

…all the way from Perth, Australia – the children & their families are there! It seemed that they too had difficulty getting hold of Christmas cards in Kuching.

And talking about Perth, this beautiful one…

From cousin Yvette in Perth

…came from my cousin there. I loved the golden reindeer sticker seal…

Sticker

…on the envelope and inside, she wrote this…

P.S.

Indeed, in the good ol’ days, at this time of the year, we would be looking forward the the Christmas Eve dance at the Sibu Recreation Club (SRC) and there would be one on New Year’s Eve too…and another one on Chinese New Year’s Eve and no, we would not miss a single one. We all loved dancing so much, dancing for the sheer fun of it and we sure had a great time when these festive seasons came around.

Well, time sure has changed. For one thing, I am getting fewer and fewer Christmas cards each passing year – I did get quite a few in 2015 but the number dwindled in 2016…and in 2017. I guess the time will come when I will not be getting any anymore and in the event of that happening, I certainly would feel that something has gone missing from the spirit of Christmas, something like in the words in this song
“You know, I don’t know why
I get to feeling sentimental
About this time, every year.
But every time I see a Christmas card,
I somehow can’t help reminiscing…
…I thrill with every word, every line
Guess I’m always sentimental ’round this time
Pardon me if a tear falls among my Christmas cheer
It’s the mem’ry of an old Christmas card…”

Anyway, card or no card, let us give thanks and praise to the Lord above that we are blessed with this opportunity to wish one and all a Holy and Joyous Christmas…

Merry Christmas

…in whichever way we choose. Happy Christmas!

What you do…

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.” (Matthew 25:40-45)

I was going through my usual routine, gardening, one morning when I spotted this insect…

Insect

I was amazed by its vibrant colour and thought it was beautiful. I shared some photos of it on Facebook and one commented that it was very smelly. Well, if it was, I did not detect any stench from it, not at all. Another said that it was a pest and I replied that all God’s creatures, big and small would be most welcome in my garden – I always call it an eat-all-you-can buffet for insects, birds, whatever.

I always tell my girl to share what she has especially with those who do not, “As thou give, thus shall thou receive,” those would be my exact words. However, I did add that when one gave, one should not expect anything in return – sometimes, you would get nothing tangible but God would be all seeing and all knowing and He would bless you in His own ways.

I, for one, am truly blessed ever so often and just the other day, I received this packet of bee pang (fragrant rice krispies)…

From Paul & Lim

…from a friend of mine in Kuching. It certainly was so sweet and thoughtful of him to remember this old chap and to send me a little something through my good friend, Lim, who was in Kuching for a while. The latter also gave me his own-grown mangoes. Gosh!!! They were really sweet and juicy and all of them were good. Sometimes, I would buy mangoes only to find that they were rotten inside. I guess it is the same with people – to quote a line from Shakespeare, “The false face hides what the false heart doth know,” or in Chinese, we say, “We know his face but we do not know his heart.”

Moving on, it so happened that I was back here again the other day. I did manage to find a vacant parking space behind some blocks of shops and had to walk a bit to go to where I wanted to go and do what I wanted to do. After that, since it was close by, I decided to stop by for the nasi lemak for lunch.

When I got there, my friend/ex-student, Alex, was just leaving and I asked him what was good there. He said all the fried stuff with the much coveted wok hei fragrance would be pretty good but no, he had not tried the nasi lemak.

I went in and I saw that they had chap fan (mixed rice)…

Chap fan 1

…and the options looked nice, like they were home-cooked…

Chap fan 2

…so I decided to go for it and save the nasi lemak for another day.

These were my picks…

My picks 1

…for which I was charged RM4.50 in total – I think the lady said RM4.00 for 3 but I did ask for a fourth, so I had two meat and two veg…

My picks 2

…altogether. I had a hard time trying to resist the salted egg…

Salted egg

– I do love that…and I managed in the end so I did not help myself to it.

I must say that I enjoyed it all…

My picks 3

– it was kind of low on salt, not oily and I could not detect the msg so some people may feel it is kind of mild or bland but I loved it. I sure would not mind going back for more, should the opportunity arise.

I wish they would not use those plastic plates even though the food was not exactly piping hot – I would prefer glass or ceramic instead. I rather like the place, very clean and not quite like a coffee shop per se and there did not seem to be a lot of customers, both times I was there, so it was nice and quiet, not busy and noisy and more often than not, hot and stuffy too like in some coffee shops – with the resulting discomfort and commotion at those places, I just could not wait to make a run for it.

The total, including my kopi-o peng (iced black coffee), came up to RM6.10. I gave RM10.00 to the lady and she did ask if I had 10 sen and I said that I didn’t…and thought no more of it. On my way back to the car, it occurred to me that she had not given me the change so I turned and made my way back to the shop.

On the way, I dug into my pocket and found RM4.00 in one ringgit notes. She DID give me the change, after all, and I just shoved it into my pocket absentmindedly…and yes, she had waived that 10 sen without my asking! Indeed, it was just 10 sen…but it’s the gesture, the thought behind what you do that counts most of all. As they say, little things do mean a lot.

WELCOME COFFEE SHOP (2.292472, 111.826947) is located along Jalan Bindang among the Tunku Osman area of shops, right next to the Singapore Chicken Rice outlet there behind the HSBC Building.

You are a winner…

Congratulations to Payung Café, Sibu

Payung Cafe Sibu
*Photo from their Facebook page*

…for winning the 8th Chief Minister’s Environmental Award (CMEA) 2017/2018 in its new category for eateries and food outlets…

Trophy
*Andy’s photo taken at the event*

The presentation ceremony of this special state-level award from the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) was held last night in Kuching.

The café has won the Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Award twice, once in 2013/2015 and was the 1st runner-up in 2016/2017

Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Awards

For one thing, I am not sure what exactly the judges for this particular tourism award are looking for. It appeared to me that they were rather fastidious in picking the winners and would look critically at the food, the decor and the ambiance, the cleanliness and all that – in my humble opinion, they seemed to be missing the wood for the trees as personally, I do feel that for an award as such, they should consider as their top priority the appeal to tourists.

As far as I know, many tourists or visitors from abroad and other parts of the country do drop by Payung – its location right behind one of the leading hotels in town is an added advantage and many said they came because of its listing in websites such as Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor…

Trip Advisor

This hawker centre/food court in Kuching is truly deserving of the award, of course – the locals call it the “tourist trap” as many do go there and according to them, dining there isn’t exactly wallet-friendly…but I really wonder if it should be given to a steakhouse in a five-star hotel, for instance. Do tourists come to Sarawak and go for our steaks? I must say they have very much nicer, fresher and juicier…and thicker ones in their own countries like Australia and New Zealand, just to single out two. Instead, one thing they should also look at would be whether they serve any of our own local delights for the tourists to enjoy, dishes uniquely Sarawakian especially, or Malaysian at least, that they will not be able to find in their own country.

Anyway, back to the CMEA, the people at Payung do use a lot of natural stuff for their decor, all the natural plants around the place and the simple fresh flowers for their centrepiece…

Centrepiece

…and all over…

Fresh flowers

…and one can’t miss noticing these coconut palm leaves, sprayed blue…

Coconut leaves, blue

…or green…

Coconut leaves, green
*Photo from their Facebook page*

…so they will last like…forever.

Many complained about the thatched roof…

Thatched roof

…in front as it blocked the sign (see 1st pic) and as a result of that, they had to search high and low before they could find the place and some even gave up in the end.

They also use these dried palm leaves…

Palm leaves

…and rattan basket trays…

Basket trays

…and in some of the photographs, you can see the blue and green benches that they made from discarded wood – I must say that whatever wood that is, it is really good hardwood as those benches are real heavy.

I love this little hut, also made from the aforementioned wood…

Little hut

…and just look at the concrete construction blocks that they use to erect the heavy and sturdy shelves…

Shelves

…instead of going out to buy from the shops…and we all know that the ones these days do not last very long and will have to be thrown away pretty soon.

They do not have anything deep-fried on their menu so they do not use a lot of cooking oil…

Payung counter

…except perhaps for grilling their chicken chops and according to them, they will not reuse the oil…nor will they pour it all down the drain like what they do at many places. Instead, they will give it to the workers to take home and use for their own cooking.

Why, those creative people even made their own Christmas tree one year…

Christmas tree

…using some grass that they found by the roadside somewhere instead of buying the plastic or whatever artificial ones from the shops. They have not put up the decorations this year so I do not know what they have got up their sleeves this time around.

For one thing, the place is not air-conditioned so that is one plus point in their favour as far as being environment-friendly is concerned.

All things considered, I do think that they truly deserve this prestigious award, don’t you agree?

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.

Gotta get it right…

When it comes to fried eggs, I like it done the traditional old-school way…

Wok-fried

…fried in a wok with a bit of the oil splashed onto the yolk so it will not be “bright and sunny” as in a sunny-side-up. I wouldn’t like it flipped…

Flipped

…though as even though the yolk may still be runny, it does not look all that nice.

I certainly am not crazy about those fried using a ring…

Ring-fried

…but they do that at some places where they do everything on a hot plate. At a burger stall, for instance, they will toast the bun, fry the patty and the egg all at one go…and I guess using the ring will ensure that the egg white does not flow far and wide and will fit nicely in the bun.

I do know for a fact that some people use a few rings at a time, also on a hot plate, so they can fry a number at a time and serve them in a tray or plate like what they do at some nasi lemak stalls. However, I am not fond of the thick and rubbery white in eggs fried this way and besides, one will not get the lovely fragrance and taste of the golden frills all along the edges.

For one thing, the one frying must make sure that the plate is clean or else there will be that unsightly layer of “soot” at the bottom like the one in the above photograph or the one I had here

Burnt and uncooked

…even though the boy did not use a ring and even though he was frying one egg at a time, the end result sure did not look all that palatable.  No, they did not burn the egg, just that the plate was dirty and they went on and fried the eggs on it.

In the case of that last one, the white was still uncooked around the egg, something that I encountered at a five-star hotel in Kuching

Uncooked

I would have thought those guys would have gone to some cooking school and would have the credentials to show but the one who fried the eggs for me sure needed a refresher course…but at least, I saw how he fried two eggs at a time and learnt something that morning – he broke them into a bowl first.

The traditional Malaysian breakfast at the old school Chinese coffee shops would include our local coffee in the thick blue and white cup and saucer way back in the good old days but not anymore,  the loti kiap/roti kahwin (sandwich toast) that I blogged about in yesterday’s post and half-boiled/cooked eggs.

However, for me to cook half-boiled eggs the way my mum used to do it, I would need to boil some water and pour it over the eggs, cold from the fridge, and let them stand for 15-20 minutes depending on the size and also how many I am cooking at one time.That is why I would prefer to just fry them using a non-stick pan as it will be faster this way and besides, I am too lazy to take out my extra-heavy wok (7-ply Zebra brand) even though I do prefer my eggs fried that way.

To fry two at a time, following what I saw the aforementioned guy at the egg station at the hotel did, I would break the eggs into a cup…

In a cup

…heat up the pan and grease it with a bit of oil and pour the eggs into it…

In a pan

Move the pan to swirl the egg white in it and spread it all over the pan and if you are thus inclined, before the white gets cooked, you can push the egg yolks to the middle to make your fried eggs look more presentable, not lop-sided like mine.

Turn down the heat and wait till the egg white is completely cooked and the bottom is lightly browned like this…

Bottom, golden brown

You can cook it a little longer if you wish and on low heat, it is not likely that it will end up burnt.

There you have it! My pan-fried eggs…

Pan-fried

…not uncooked around the yolk, not burnt at the bottom – so very easy, absolutely no problem at all. I really wonder why I see so many people in the food business who just can’t seem to get it right!

Do what you like…

Everyone has his or her own likes and dislikes, his or her own preferences and idiosyncrasies and of course, one is free to do what one likes.

I have a toaster…

Toaster

– it was given to me by a dear friend as a wedding gift; he was my best man but sadly, he had passed away not too long ago, may he rest in peace.

Of course that was a long time ago but yes, it is still in very good working condition. For one thing, things made in those days are a lot more durable and lasting than what one can get from the shops these days. We had a sandwich and waffle maker that my missus got from some direct sales agency, using her bonus points – it was working all right but one fine day, when we turned it on, the electricity in the house went kaput! In the end, we just had to throw it away. Thankfully, it came for free and as they say, easy come, easy go!

Going back to the toaster, I am not fond of using it as if the toast is brown enough, the whole slice of bread will be crusty, inside out. Other than that, I am not all that crazy about going through the trouble of taking it out of the cabinet and after using it, when it has cooled, I would need to clean it before putting it back.

I guess it will be the same if I use my oven…

Oven

I got this free using my credit card points and yes, it has its uses, small and convenient so we will not use the big one that is part of our gas stove unless absolutely necessary. I’ve never tried using it to toast bread…

To toast bread

…though so I am not sure how it will turn out.

In the old days in the coffee shops, they would place the bread on the charcoal grill…

Charcoal grill

…to toast it. I had seen them scraping the black surfaces once it was done and they would generously apply their own-made kaya (coconut jam) and place a slice or two of butter on top and serve. Of course, that was so very nice unlike what we will get today. Firstly, nowadays, they will use an electric toaster or an oven toaster and then they will serve it with canned kaya and margarine.

As a matter of fact, they actually had one charcoal grill at a hotel in Kuching for guests to use to toast their bread if they were thus inclined…

Charcoal grill at Grand Margherita Kuching

…and yes, I did toast my bread on it when I was staying there once.

There is one very popular place in Sarikei where people will go for the toast. I think they give butter, not margarine so that is a bonus and other than the kaya, it looks like they add peanut butter as well but I have never been there so I have no idea how they toast the buns. I have also heard a lot of this place in Kuching that is famous for its toast – Rowena goes there sometimes, it seems…but I have never been there either so I do not know how they go about making theirs.

So how do I go about mine? I like to toast the bread on a non-stick pan…

Non-stick pan

…till it is nice and brown on the outside…

Brown on the outside

…but still soft like fresh bread inside.

Once done, I would apply a thick layer of kaya – I like the made-in-Singapore Glory Brand, just like homemade…and slices of butter…

With kaya and butter

That sure beats any loti kiap (sandwich toast) or roti bakar that we can get at the shops here…or if there is any that is better around town, I sure do not know of it.