Reunited…

Parents always take pride in their children and brag about which overseas university they have graduated from, what high-ranking position they hold, how much they earn a month like the old ladies in this video clip. They may never admit it but deep in their hearts, it saddens them that in their old age, their children are not around by their side or do not even come to visit them often.

Chinese New Year is a good time for family members to return home from near and far on this auspicious occasion to gather together as one big happy family for the traditional reunion dinner on the eve of the festival. This message is nicely presented in this video clip. It does not have to be a grand banquet – just a simple meal will do but what is most important is the togetherness that seems so lacking today now that the extended family has become a thing of the past.

In good times or in bad, it is good to try and keep the traditions alive even in some small way like the granny in this video clip. What I fail to understand is  there are people who can afford to go on extravagant vacations anywhere in the four corners of the globe but they are not bothered to make a trip home to be reunited with their families on this supposedly joyous time of the year but of course, if they do not have a home to go to – like the poor little boy in this video clip, then that’s a different story altogether.

There are some who may not be going home this Chinese New Year. Maybe the flights are fully booked or the air tickets are ridiculously expensive…or the flights may be cancelled at the last minute because of the incessant torrential rain that has been going on for so long that it seems it is never going to stop. On Friday night, I heard this news report on the radio that the Sibu-Bintulu road is impassable to vehicles because of a landslide and clearing works may not be completed hat soon because of the horrendous weather. Such unpredicatable sad state of affairs may foil even the best-laid plans.

Well, I hope you’ve all clicked the links and watched the videos, courtesy of Petronas and are feeling quite miserable by now. Don’t worry cos’ you’re not alone! My daughter is not coming home either this year…

I gotta get a message to you…

“Come on, let’s twist again like we did last summer.
Yeah, let’s twist again like we did last year…”

The grasshopper was having a ball of a time, singing his heart out and dancing away while the ant frowned in disgust and continued her work, saving for a rainy day. Having a good head on her shoulders and never one to rest on her laurels, she knew that time and tide would wait for no man and soon the much dreaded harsh and cold winter would be here. She, of course, had the foresight to make hay while the sun was still shining to prepare for the long freezing months.

“Hey,” said the grasshopper, “this twisting thing is really fun! Good ol’ Chubby Checker sure knows his stuff.” The ant turned a deaf ear and refused to say a word, knowing that it would be like casting pearls to swine. “Don’t be a wet blanket now, girl! Come and let your hair down! Haven’t you heard that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?”

The ant snapped at the insect, “When the ground is blanketed with snow and there is nothing for you to eat, it will be too late for you to cry over spilt milk!” However, the grasshopper ignored her and starting twisting away again like a maniac in a frenzy.
“…and round and round and up and down we go again…”

The grasshopper

True enough, in a blink of an eye, the days grew colder and soon the ground was shrouded with thick blankets of snow. The ant was safe in the confines of her warm and cosy home and was getting ready to hibernate and have her well-earned rest when she heard a knock on the door, so feeble and hardly audible against the howling of the icy-cold blizzard outside that for a while, she brushed it aside as a figment of her imagination.

The ant

In the end, she decided to go and check, opening the door just a little bit to peep outside. To her horror, she saw the grasshopper sprawling on her doorstep. “Help me,” he pleaded. “I’m not ready yet to join the Heavenly Choir! After all, as they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed.”

The ant gave him a cold stare and reprimanded, “I told you to get ready for these difficult times but I was like a dog barking at the moon. So now, it’s time for you to face the music. As you sow, so shall you reap!” On that note, the ant slammed the door in the grasshopper’s face…

This is an abridged version of my adapted version (using idioms and proverbs) of the well-known Aesop’s fable for children that was featured in one or my SPM English Language 1119 workbooks…and I thought it has a fitting message for everyone in view of the current economic recession. Save all you can, do away with all those unnecessary spending e.g. on fireworks and firecrackers, and avoid being too extravagant in your preparation for the coming Chinese New Year. Moderation is the key.

Have a nice weekend!

My favourite things…

I’ve mentioned this takeaway food stall in my previous post but just in case some of you missed it, it is along Jalan Bandong at the car park in front/behind the shops and food centre. It opens around lunchtime only and a lot of people on their lunch breaks will stop there to buy on their way home.

Sibu's Bandong stall 1

They do sell the food economical fast-food style with rice but I did not ask how much they charge for that. There are some barbecued items as well – chicken wings, fish…but I don’t fancy those stuff that much, maybe just once in a while.

Sibu's Bandong stall 2

One thing that I like about this place is the fact that the food is tightly covered and they will only open up when somebody wants to buy something…

Sibu's Bandong stall 3

I must say those eating stalls across the road opposite the teacher-training institute in Sg Petani, Kedah should emulate this good practice, and I’m sure it will not take much effort nor incur a lot of extra expenses.

Oh dear! They’re running out of chicken kurma, it seems…

Sibu's Bandong stall 4

…but never mind ‘cos there are still a lot of other things to choose from – around 20, I reckon. Now, should I buy this Siti Nurhaliza’s “secret recipe to success” – ayam masak merah…

Sibu's Bandong stall 5

…or my all-time favourite – this tempting-looking rendang hati (liver rendang) ? I think I’ll just go with the latter…

Sibu's Bandong stall 6a

…and this is RM5 worth of it…

Sibu's Bandong stall 6b

…and perhaps I should buy some fish as well; the black pomfret curry (kari ikan bawal hitam) does look pretty nice too…

Sibu's Bandong stall 7a

Kari ikan lima ringgit, encik!” (RM5 of fish curry, mister!)…

Sibu's Bandong stall 7b

…plus RM3 worth of fried midin (jungle fern)…

Sibu's Bandong stall 8

Gee! RM13.00 altogether and that certainly is a lot of food for two for one meal (…but of course, I had a bit on my own for lunch – couldn’t resist “sampling”! LOL!!!). I think I’ll just save the fish for the next day…

So what’s for lunch today? Going to Bandong, anybody?

No more (1)…

At one time, imported canned food from China used to be very cheap, and relatively cheaper than that from other countries overseas and at times, even cheaper than our own locally-manufactured stuff, but not anymore!!! Despite all the horror tales that I heard and knowing about the high salt content and extensive use of artificial preservatives, I still went on buying and consuming regardless, but not anymore!!! No more!!!

I used to love the Ma Ling luncheon meat and the Great Wall corned beef but the quality had dropped so much that they had become quite inedible. I was forced to turn to other alternatives like Linkz or Celebrity corned beef that cost around RM5-6.00 a can and I thought that was so expensive until the other day when I bought this can of Gulong stewed pork chops…

China's stewed pork chops

Good grief! That cost RM8.50 a tin!!! Daylight robbery!!! Well, that is it! No more! I am NOT going to buy canned food from China anymore after this! Gee! RM8.50!

The other day, I went to this foodstall here and bought RM5 worth of daging masak hitam and got a substantial amount, probably more than what we can find in that can of meat! And the best part was – it was very very nice! I also bought RM5 worth of ikan parek (stingray) curry and got one pot full. My missus and I had it for dinner, together with the masak hitam, and we had this much left over – enough for another meal…

Stingray curry

Now where is this foodstall, some of you may want to know? It’s at Bandong. They set up the stall around lunchtime and a lot of people going back on their lunchbreak will stop by and tapao home. I went again today and bought this yummy vegetable soup dish of cangkuk manis and ketola for only RM3.00…

Cangkuk manis and ketola

I didn’t exactly know what that was but one thing’s for sure, it wasn’t masak lemak as there was no trace of santan (coconut milk) and all the better too! Too much of santan isn’t healthy owing to its high cholesterol content. The ladies’ fingers masak sambal was absolutely delicious though! Two thumbs up! I really love it!

Ladies fingers masak sambal

That was RM3.00 worth. I added the hardboiled eggs myself for extra protein and just in case, the stingray curry was not enough for the two of us. So without including the price of the eggs, today, I only spent RM6.00 for dinner for two persons, and RM10.00 the other day. Cheap, eh?

In the face of the economic recession, we should be thinking along these lines – how to scrimp and save and not spend like there’s no tomorrow. Bank interest rates have dropped by 0.2% and I hope it will not slide further as I have to depend on the interest to supplement my measly pension! I shouldn’t have believed the crap I read in somebody’s blog on the EPF and withdrew every sen – at least, they give some 5% or so per year. Sigh! I wonder if they will let me put the money back in or not…

Happy together…

Last night, I went to a birthday gathering and the food was from the Sweet Family Restaurant at the Sibu Bus Station commercial area (Jaya Li Hua). I have featured this food outlet twice before – here and here.

It being a birthday, we had fried mee sua (thread/string noodles)…

Sweet Family's fried mee sua

…but from my personal point of view, I think Ruby Restaurant does it better, and we also had butter fish fillet which was not bad…

Sweeyt Family's butter sweet fillet

…and the house specialty – Philippine pork leg which I had the last time I ate there…

Sweet Family's Philippine pork leg

…and here, you can see my friend, Jimmy, from Bintulu, carving the trotter into manageable pieces…

Jimmy and the trotter

Oops! You forgot to breathe in, Jimmy! LOL!!

We also had some fried baby kai lan, sea cucumber soup and fruits for dessert. I could not stay too long as I had to rush home just in case the flood waters rose again…and thankfully, nothing of the sort happened!

Don’t let the sun go down on me…

If I remember correctly, the last time it happened was way back in 1993 – December 25th, Christmas night. It poured buckets the whole night through and at 4.00 a.m. my neighbour called telling me to move my car quickly. I bolted out of the house, drove the car to higher ground and waded back home in the knee-high flood waters. When I entered the house, I saw that the water had come into the living room – the Christmas presents, the Australian sheepskin floor rug were all swimming around.

I alerted my wife and the maid (I had one then) and in a jiffy, we moved the refrigerator and the gas cooker upstairs and then started to shift the other things to a higher level. The water subsided the next day when the rain stopped…but by evening, it rose to an even higher level – up the split level until two steps up the staircase. We were stranded for three days but at least, we could do the cooking as the two most essential items were salvaged in time. (After the flood had subsided, I had to call  10 young and strong students to the house to get the refrigerator down! Amazing what strength one may have in an emrgency!) All my neighbours could not save anything – their refrigerator, piano…all those were submerged and damaged in the flood that year. What had caused it then? Well, they were constructing a bridge or doing some works along one of the tributaries of the Sungai Merah and had obstructed the drainage. There wasn’t any flood in much of the other parts of town that were not within the vicinity of the watershed.

Well, it has happened again this year – January, 2009…and I’m not really sure what the reason is this time. For one thing, it had been raining cats and dogs non-stop for the last three days. On Sunday morning, a friend of mine from the Ulu Sg Merah/Nang Sang area had driven through the flood and he and his family were safely on dry ground before his Unser broke down. They took refuge at my house the whole day and by evening, when the flood had worsened and the rain showed no sign of abating, he hired a lorry to send them back to their house, leaving his car at my place.

By nightfall, the water had reached my place and this was the scene from my water-filled car porch when I woke up on Monday morning…

Sibu flood January 2009

(Looks familiar, Stanleycarter? LOL!!!) Just an inch or two and the water would have entered the house…

Sibu flood - January 2009 2

By afternoon, the water had subsided and the sun came out for some three hours or so. At least, there were glimpses of blue sky among the clouds and other than some slight drizzle now and then, it did not actually rain for the rest of the day.

Sibu flood - January 2009 3

Like in 1993, much of Sibu town including the flood-prone Lanang Road was not affected, so I reckon it has got something to do with the drainage into Sungai Merah, aggravated by the king tide at this time of the month. All I could do was to pray that the weather would hold all through the night and the wretched flood waters would not be back…

I think it did rain a bit in the night but the water level is much lower this morning. It looks like the worst has passed…

P.S.
You can hop over to victorkiu.com to see photos of the more severely-stricken areas.

Do that to me one more time…

I had mentioned somewhere that I would be going for dinner at the Blue Splendour Restaurant here again one week after the birthday celebration I attended recently. This time, it was the wedding reception of my ex-student, Clement, whose mother was my ex-colleague in Sacred Heart until she and her sons migrated to New Zealand for the kids to further their studies there.

Thankfully, the dishes, though similar, were a bit different. Many were surprised that the fruits were served first but if I’m not mistaken, it seems to the the proper thing to do – healthwise, that is. Then, we had the Four Seasons platter…

Blue Splendour dinner 1

The items were not exactly the same as what we had a week earlier, and after that came the not-to-be-named soup and it was green in colour!

Blue Splendour dinner 2a

Don’t ask me why it was green because I do not know! Even the waitress did not know and some people at the same table were speculating that they added wheatgrass…

Blue Splendour dinner 2b

There were bits of fish maw in the soup as well. It tasted a bit different from the usual but it was nice (But I would prefer the original recipe though!). The steamed fish was next…

Blue Splendour dinner 3

…and more speculation ensued, this time as to what type of fish it was. They thought it was “ikan semah“, one of those freshwater fish from upriver that is worth its weight in gold – some RM200-300 a kilo…but they were of the opinion that this one was from a fish farm as it had a slight “mud” smell to it. They do rear this type of fish these days and others like “ikan tangadak” but they do not come cheap either. I encountered it once at the market and it was going for RM50 a kilo. I’d much sooner go for snowfish and the like. This came after the fish…

Blue Splendour dinner 4

…braised sea cucumber and broccoli. I’m not really into this dish but it was okay. I’d rather have sea cucumber stuffed with minced meat and braised in thick soy sauce and five spice powder. But I loved what came next – braised pork belly with man tao (steamed plain buns)…

Blue Splendour dinner 5

Ooo…it was absolutely delicious and unfortunately, they only had a bun per person at the table so I could not have a second helping. Then came this dish of scallops, water chestnuts, mushrooms and celery…

Blue Splendour dinner 6

…which was, in my point of view, just so-so. But I loved the cereal prawns which was a welcome change from the ones last week that were coated with sesame seeds…

Blue Splendour dinner 7

I had a few of those and quite a number of spoonfuls of the “or nee” or yam dessert…

Blue Splendour dinner 8

It was not sweet, my compliments to the chef! Those at other restaurants are way too sweet to my liking and this one was also different as it had slices of sweet potato in it and some seeds at the top. Very nice!

Well, that should be the last of the sit-down Chinese 8-course dinners for the Rat Year…unless something crops up unexpectedly, but with Chinese New Year coming in a couple of weeks, I guess dieting and slimming down (a bit) will have to be temporarily put on hold. LOL!!!