Together again…

Gee! How time flies! Last year around this time, I attended the annual dinner of my school, SMK Sacred Heart here in Sibu, during which I was a guest-of-honour as I was retiring. In a blink of an eye, a year has come and gone so fast.

I am indeed glad that though I have left the school for a year, I have not been forgotten. They have graciously invited me to this year’s event which was a grand affair as it was a combined effort with the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association), with around 40 tables (including the invited guests, parents and students) compared to the usual 10 tables  or so (guests and staff only). The function was held at the Phoenix Court at the Paramount Hotel here…

Paramount Hotel, Sibu

Here, you can see a section of the crowd…

SHS Annual Dinner 2008

which included my two godsons, Elias (also my ex-student) and his brother, Kevin…

STP's godsons

Those days, I often had students asking me to be their godfather for their sacrament of Confirmation though personally, I would think I make a rather poor spiritual role model. LOL!!! The food was quite nice, starting with the assorted dish – the Four Seasons…

SHS Annual Dinner 1

followed by the soup dish…

SHS Annual Dinner 2

Hold your horses, Daniel Thong! It looked like sharks’ fins soup, it tasted like sharks’ fins soup but it wasn’t sharks’ fins soup! LOL!!! They had fish maw in the soup instead. Then there was the fish head curry…

SHS Annual Dinner 3

It was quite well done compared to the time when I was here with Huai Bin. The gravy was very nice but I did not like the strong fishy smell of the fish. I guess they used a better type of fish the other day when I had it at Sheraton. Next came the honey fried chicken…

SHS Annual Dinner 4

…and the vegetable/mushroom dish…

SHS Annual Dinner 5

After that, I had to go off somewhere (Again…ask no questions and I’ll tell no lies!) and in the meantime, they served this black pepper lamb dish…

SHS Annual Dinner 6

Nobody waited for me to come back to take the photo; they just dug in! Anyway, I do not quite care for black pepper, so I just had a bit of that. It wasn’t that great but then I might be biased! The sweet yam dessert followed…

SHS Annual Dinner 7

and along with it came the agar-agar (jelly) and fruits…

SHS Annual Dinner 8

Come to think of it, I don’t know why they call it an 8-course dinner when the last two dishes should be counted as one – dessert! On the whole, it was pretty nice…not great, just pretty nice. I did not find out how much it was per table but considering the rising prices of things, that should be around RM300-350. We used to have something like that for RM250…but those were the days.

There were speeches and lots and lots of lucky draws – table and individual. For the table draws, they would pull out a number and everybody at that table would get a prize. I was asked to sit at the SHOSA (Sacred Heart Old Students’ Association, Sibu) table but I went and sat with my ex-colleagues instead…and the SHOSA table won! What rotten luck! LOL!!!

SHOSA - lucky draw winners

I did not get the individual prizes either. My number was 4343 and they drew 4342 instead. Drats! LOL!!! Neither did I get to sing as there wasn’t much time left for that but I would say that was a blessing in disguise especially with Allan around, an ex-student who was formerly attached to a publishing firm and now to a bookstore here. He had won a number of singing competitions even at state-level and those at the Malay kampung here. He did Search’s “Isabella” flawlessly, hitting all the high notes with perfect pitching…

Allan rendering

I remember my karaoke days at the Spice Bazaar here when this song was a hit and how I suffered, with all the agonising screeching like dicekik hantu (strangled by a ghost) by all the Amy-wannabes. With singing like Allan’s, my half-past-six effort would surely pale in comparison. Whew!

Then, to keep to the mood of the recent festive season, they ended the evening with a Hari Raya song by a group of sweet and young Malay lady-teachers who invited the very dynamic, very sporting and very handsome principal, Mr. Vincent Liong to join them…

SHS principal in action

Ok, Mr. Liong, since I did not get the chance to sing this year, you will have to invite me again next year. LOL!!!

And just when I thought that would be the last of the dinners for the year, I received this…

Jude's wedding invitation

Jude (blogger Clement’s brother) passed me an invitation to his wedding next month, so it certainly looks like “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings” or in this case, the fat guy! ROTFLMAO!!!

P.S.
Happy Deepavali to anyone celebrating the Festival of Lights today.

Circle of life…

I received this via email and I thought I would like to share it with everybody today…

Wheels of life
Original source unknown

The first time I saw it, it brings to mind the biblical quotation that says: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:19) This is the circle of our life.

Whether we like it or not, we are born into this world and need others to nurture and take care of us and then we go to school… 

STP as a boy

…and join the insane paper chase. Once we are done with that, we will go out into the world. We toil day and night to put food on the table and to make ends meet…trying desperately to find the meaning of our being here. We plod on each passing day and at times, we may stumble and fall but we will get up again and continue our journey along life’s long and winding road. At times, we may feel unappreciated, unable to see the purpose in what we do but at other times, we may feel consoled by any recognition that we may get along the way for our blood, sweat and tears…

STP's souvenirs from LPM Malaysia

…but at the end of the day, when we have reached our golden years, we stop working to reap the harvest of what we have sowed over the years. As the saying goes, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that he shalt reap.” 

In the words of Mother Teresa:
Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is beauty, admire it. Life is bliss, taste it. Life is a dream, realize it. Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it. Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it. Life is too precious, do not destroy it. Life is life, fight for it.

Have a nice Sunday, everyone!

Please Mr Postman…

The postman came on Saturday morning (the 11th, if I remember correctly) but I was not home at the time, so he left a slip of paper in my letter box asking me to go and collect something at the Sibu General Post Office. It rained that day and by the time my missus noticed it that night, it was already soaking wet so I had to leave it to dry. I went during lunchtime on Monday…but the guy who was supposed to be at the counter had gone off for lunch. Anyway, he came back in a bit and handed over to me my “prize”.

It was my complimentary copy of Quachee’s 50+1 Malaysia book. I have put the word “prize” in quotation marks because everyone who submitted something got a copy, so it would not be a prize in the true sense of the word. As a matter of fact, it was not really a competition per se in the end since everybody got something. Well, actually I had bought a copy of my own already at MPH when I was in Sungai Petani a few months ago at the promotional price of RM19.90, but never mind! Consider it as a small contribution on my part in support of a fellow-blogger. Thanks a lot, Quachee, for the book.

Well, there was a signed letter inside, so a pat on the back for Quachee…

50+1 Malaysia 1

I hate those “computer-generated letters” that make one feel so insignificant. What’s even better than that is he personally autographed each individual copy of the book…

50+1 Malaysia 2

…even though his handwriting reminds me of a doctor’s prescription! LOL!!! The book has been reviewed by some newspapers and magazines and it seems to be pretty well-received. Well, I will be very frank and anyway, I have already passed these comments somewhere and Guachee has been gracious enough to accept them and responded very positively that he would take note of them in his future publications.

My first reaction when I saw the book on the shelf at MPH was, “It’s SO small!!!”

50+1 Malaysia 3

I bought the “Sibu in the making” book a few years ago and I think it was sold at RM50.00. I guess it must have been sponsored by some big shots in town and it was in a way a politically-motivated book and therefore, profit from the sale of the book would not be a top priority. But I think I read somewhere that Quachee’s book will be sold eventually for RM51.00. No doubt the prices of things have escalated like nobody’s business but I feel that is a bit too steep for a small book like that and it’s paperback some more, not hard cover like the Sibu book. After all, there are a number of advertisements in the book, so that should help cover the printing costs.

Now, the book being pocket-size, the photographs inside are very small – some stamp-sized, in fact!

50+1 Malaysia 4

And the font-size of the print is so small that I found it hard to read it in the hotel where I was staying in Sungai Patani.

50+1 Malaysia 5

I was only able to browse through it with ease in the aeroplane on my flight home and I noticed something else about the book then. I am not going to elaborate on this as I have mentioned it to Quachee already somewhere that in his future publications, he should get a good English language editor. (I’m available…cheap! Just pay for my air ticket, hotel and meals! LOL!!!)

On the whole, it is a nice and handy book with a whole lot of information about Malaysia and some very nice photographs, small though they may be. For one thing, it contributes towards putting our country in a favourable perspective which is more than what I can say about certain parties around. Good job, Quachee! Do keep it up…and thanks again!

P.S.
Actually I wanted to give the copy of the book that I had bought to Stella when she was home from Down Under but when the time came, it just slipped my mind so now, I have two copies of the book. Anybody’s birthday coming up? Or perhaps that can be one of my Christmas presents this year. Too bad Kpg Nangka Boy’s already too old to get X’mas presents! ROTFLMAO!!!

Conversations…

FINALLY…after over 36 hours, Celcom’s Broadband connection has been restored…

Every morning, should I drop by the Delta Commercial Centre near my house for breakfast or to buy something, I would meet three ex-colleagues of mine – retirees like me and all three are ladies, so I call them the “First Wives’ Club”. According to them, they have been meeting like this for breakfast for the last 19 years. Gee! I wonder what they talk about in their daily conversations.

They were also invited to Huai Bin’s sister’s wedding  banquet and we sat at the same table. In our conversation that night, I asked them what they thought was nice to eat in the vicinity and they said that I should try the kampua at e-cafe, located directly opposite the back portion of Delta Mall…

Delta Mall - back portion

From the coffee shop, on the other side, you can see this supermarket that belongs to that famous Kuching blogger…

Everrise - Pedada branch

Well, actually I have been to that place before and I had the kampua special which wasn’t too bad but I did not think it was that great. They also told me that at this same place, I could get nice Sarawak laksa or beef noodles from another stall inside. So I went to try the latter…

Sibu's e-cafe beef noodles

Again, I found that it was just so-so. I would much sooner go to that menopausal lady at the coffee shop behind the Sibu Kidney Foundation. Her beef noodles or kampua kosong (plain noodles) with beef soup are definitely nicer…and back to the topic of kampua, I told the ladies that I would prefer the one at Soon Hock Cafe, also in that same area. However, they had never gone to that one as according to them, the kampua lady had such long hair and they were sure a strand or two would drop into the noodles…

Sibu's Soon Hock Cafe kampua stall

There, you can see the lady in black in the photo. That’s the one. Well, I’ve eaten there quite often but never once had I encountered any hair in the kampua. In fact, it is so popular that every morning, it will be quite crowded with people dropping by for breakfast before heading to their offices to work. Of course, if you ask me for my personal opinion, the best is the kampua at the Rasa Sayang Cafe. Period.

P.S.
Checked my Google Page Rank the other day…and hey! I’ve gone up from 3/10 to 5/10, same as anilnetto.com (So far I have only found one that’s higher – a 6…malaysiakini.com!) while many who had a page rank of 5 have dropped to 4 or even 3. Hehehehehehehehe (*evil laugh)!!!

Bachelor boy…

Born on 14th October, 1940, he turned 68 last week…Yes, Sir Cliff Richard celebrated his birthday last Tuesday.

When I was young, my father said I used to listen to his songs (and also Elvis Presley’s) – hit after hit. “Move it” was his first hit but I would very much prefer his slower songs such as “Constantly”, “Evergreen Tree”, “The minute you’re gone”, “Visions”, “The twelfth of never:, “How long is forever” and so on but my favourite songs by him would be his newer ones – “Miss you nights” and “Ocean Deep”.

Many other artistes have done covers of “Miss you nights” including the one-time very popular Irish boy band, Westlife (but I think Cliff does it better!) and there is even a Chinese version of “Ocean Deep” by Taiwanese singer, Emil Chau Wakin (Warning! Do not click the link if you are homophobic!).

Cliff Richard's recordings
From my cassette tape and cd collection

I have his greatest hits on cassette tape as well as on cd…and I also have the more recent cd that he recorded in Nashville – “Something’s going on” (See above picture) but judging from the amount of airplay it got, I don’t think it was very successful. There is one very nice song on the album actually – “I cannot give you my love” but most of the time, it seems that the deejays on the radio stations would rather play his evergreen hits. If you manage to catch TSA (formerly known as Coma Smith) on RedeFm (RTM, Kuching), you can bet that he will play a Cliff Richard song or two on his show.

Cliff Richard has done a number of duets with other singers. I like his “Suddenly” (from the movie, “Xanadu”) with Olivia Newton John and his “All I ask of you” (from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical, “The Phantom of the Opera”) with Sarah Brightman isn’t too bad. I have not seen this album around though…

Cliff Richard's DUETS album

“Two’s company – Duets”, which is a collection of duets by Cliff with a number of renowned names in show biz. One of the songs in the line-up is a cover of the Carpenters’ “Yesterday Once More”, and listening to Cliff singing it, it certainly seems like yesterday…once more!

On and on and on…

Oh dear! They say I am putting on weight…and my perut buncit (protruding belly) is getting very prominent. Sigh! It must have been all those dinners with Cooking4stp and on Saturday night, I was at Huai Bin’s sister’s wedding banquet at the RH Hotel here. It was a grand affair at the very posh venue but the place was somewhat dim, so I could not take nice photographs. That is why I will not put up anything on it but you can always hop over to Huai Bin’s blog to see his post. Be forewarned though! Do NOT click on the video clip of him singing, if you know what’s good for you. ROTFLMAO!!

Then, on Sunday night, I went for the annual dinner hosted by the centre where I am presently teaching, at…

Sheraton Restaurant, Sibu

The dinner started with the usual assorted first dish…

Sheraton 1

Everything was delicious but I did not think there was anything really sensational. The not-to-be-mentioned soup followed – no pic of that, of course, and then we had the celebrated Sheraton curry fish head (Finally, Huai Bin! Finally!!! After all this time, I had managed to get to eat it. Hint! Hint! LOL!!!)…

Sheraton 2

It may not be very photogenic (OK! OK! It was my lousy hp camera and my poor photo-taking skills! Hahahahahaha!!!) but the exquisite taste will simply blow you away! The dish was served steaming hot with the special fragrant rice from Bario in the hill regions of Sarawak. Personally, I do not like having it together with a full 8-course Chinese dinner as one would be too full (and satisfied) to enjoy the rest of the dishes…but since I had not had it for a long time, I literally sucked (Oops!) everything out of the cranium and licked the plate clean! It was that nice, believe me! And it was a lot better than the curry fish head at Paramount that I had with Huai Bin and the others sometime back. A sea cucumber and abalone dish followed…

Sheraton 3

…but I just had a bit and did not think it was anything to shout about. At this point, I stepped outside for a bit of fresh air (Ask no questions, and I’ll tell no lies! LOL!!!) and in the meantime, they served the next dish…

Sheraton 4

Hey! How come nobody notified me?…I got back just in time to snap this photo of the waiter wrapping the last few rolls of the Peking duck! The duck was very nice and even though the skin/wrapper was different from the popiah-look & taste-alike in other restaurants elsewhere serving this same dish, it was just as good. Next came this impressive looking dish…

Sheraton 5

On one side, they had some pie-like things made with a thin piece of bread as the base and egg white as the cover. For the filling, they had some minced meat and prawn…and I think they deep-fried them. Not bad…but the base had the taste of french toast! On the other side, they had abalone again on a bed of broccoli. The sweet yam dessert (or-nee) came next… 

Sheraton 6

I loved the small ones – the sweet mashed yam sandwiched in between two pieces of cheese crackers and coated at the sides with sesame seeds and deep fried. Very  nice, very nice indeed! Finally, there was a fruit platter but I was already filled to the brim and could not stuff anything in anymore.

Kongkay went for dinner at this same place recently and except for what he called the stuffed egg pastry, everything else was different…but looked equally delicious. You can click this link to go and have a look. Huai Bin’s best friend, Ting Chuan had his wedding lunch reception here too and the dishes were mostly quite different too…except for the nutritious herbal black chicken soup that Kongkay also had.

After feasting on and on and on over the last few days, I am hoping to cut down on my food intake this coming week but the fact that dabai and terbulus are in season and available in abundance certainly is not going to help much! I have been invited to my former school’s annual dinner on Saturday but I guess I can always spend the evening croaking karaoke-ing away to the captive audience, just to make sure that I will not be gorging myself with too much food. LOL!!! 

Love you inside out…

Dabai is a seasonal fruit that if I’m not mistaken, is native to Central Sarawak and is something that Sibu town is noted for (even though the fruit may come from towns upriver like Song or Kapit). When I was younger, it used to be available around year end only but these days with the global climatic changes, we may get it a few times in a year.

Sibu's dabai (black olives)

Discerning dabai consumers will be very picky when buying the fruit. There are some very cheap ones going for a song while the good ones may cost up to RM20.00 a kilo. The prices will fluctuate according to the supply, so when there is a deluge in the market, it may be cheaper but the good ones may still linger around RM10 a kilo or more. Good dabai will usually have thick yellow flesh, thin skin and a very rich taste (lemak) owing to the high fat/oil content.

Somebody in his blog said that to cook it, you pour boiling water in it. That is definitely grossly incorrect. You do not boil it in water either for it would only become harder than ever. The fruit is soaked in warm water until it softens. The water must not be too hot or it will cook too fast and become too soft and the taste may be a bit sourish. Once the dabai is ready, you can add salt to it or alternatively, a bit of soy sauce and a sprinkling of sugar. Others may dip it in bottled fish sauce or the salty brine from buduk aur (fermented salted fish). 

Some people preserve dabai by soaking them in salt water but I do not fancy that at all. Other than that, the seeds are in fact edible as well…

Dabai seeds

You keep the seeds and after you have had a fair amount, you boil them in water for a while and then you drain away the water. After that, you have to cut the seeds open and that is the difficult part. My mother (and for that matter, my grandma and aunties) would hold each seed between her thumb and forefinger and chop the seeds open using a meat cleaver on a wooden chopping block. That, of course, is no easy feat as you will need to be pretty good at the skill or you may be in danger of losing either your thumb or finger.

Well, all is not lost. I love eating the kernels and where there is a will, there is a way. What I would do is to take a plastic chopping board and place the seed in the hole for the handle. A bit of the seed will be higher than the level of the board so when you bring down the cleaver, it will split the shell of the seed open without cutting it completely into halves. I usually put a towel or something underneath so that it will not be so slippery and the seeds will not fly all over the place…and the counter will not end up defaced or damaged.

Chopping dabai seeds

The kernel inside is oval-shaped with a brown-coloured skin, looking something like hazel nuts. You remove the skin and you will find the edible part that is light green in colour and tastes something like pistachios.

Chopped dabai seeds

They are very nice, no doubt about it…but cutting the seeds open can be be a chore, as well as a challenge. If only somebody will invent something like a nutcracker to split open dabai seeds. It certainly is a hard nut to crack! LOL!!!