Tuesday, October 4, 2016

the gamble

Thank you, you-know-who-you-are :)

I remember the day you thought it'd be cool to use, "Dentist?", as an ice-breaker. Although you eventually discovered that this dentist is financially poorer than you. I learnt to open up to you maybe because you have been persistent till today...

Or maybe because of that time when you drove from hundreds of kilometers away, dropped all your meetings, and I woke up at a hospital to you staring at me. Wrinkles all over your face, looking worried and exhausted, in your working attire. I thought it'd be just a one-time thing. Second time I got warded, again, there you were, sleeping on a chair at my bedside, 6 o'clock in the morning, although barely 12 hours before, you told me you were in Terengganu on official reasons. I never had to eat food they served at the hospital because you'd always equip me with food supply enough for days when you had to get back to work. Till today, whenever I need you, you'd always make space and time for me, no matter how busy you are. Even if for only an hour, but you'd make sure that you're there for me because I am a hopeless train-wreck.

Or perhaps as I threw tantrums, you'd pop up at places you know I'd go to because my life is boring and every single day, I always stick to my mundane routine. And you had never tried to change it because you know how strict I am with my dietary habits.

Or days when I'd be financially tumbled but because I'm such an egomaniac, I'd refuse to admit it, but I'd suddenly find navel oranges and Subway sandwich hidden somewhere somehow. 

Or your panicked facial expression when I found the handphone you planned to surprise me with as my birthday gift, which unfortunately got stolen by an arsehole.

Or maybe because after 3-4 months already, I still get my daily wake up calls from you at 6 o'clock. They even come with snooze mode because when I go silent for half an hour, you'd call me again because you know that I often fall back asleep.

Or how you'd almost always pick me up no matter where you were before that and not even once did you complain about having to drive me wherever I want to go although I am an indecisive bitch when it comes to choosing a place to eat. 

Or how you'd remember things about me... like how I prefer my sandwich to be - roasted chicken on a parmesan oregano bread, with extra lettuce and onions, capsicum, cucumber, jalapeno pepper, and tomato. No sauce, please. Or the only 2 types of coffee that I'd usually go for - long black or cappuccino. Or my favourite cakes - red velvet, hummingbird, cheesecake, and chocolate cake (when I'm PMS-ing). Or my favourite chocolates - Kinder Bueno, good dark or Belgian chocolates.

Or the way you always figured out that I was having chest pain during that one month of my heart acting up, eventhough I was talking, trying to act as if everything was fine.

Or how we'd laugh at my ridiculous imaginations and at times, we'd converse as if we're just normal friends. I feel like I can always be silly self around you.

Or perhaps when you accurately described things I did during my school days although I was such an ignorant kid, I almost never knew that you existed - like which sports house I was in. Which monsoon drain became my playground. Which song my band used to jam a lot (but I guess that's almost never a secret anyway). The way I dressed up before.

Or how I eventually learnt to look at you. And I caught myself falling in love with your smile. And eventually - for you.

Hey you... maybe because my previous experience was terribly dark. I am always pessimistic when it comes to my love life. I don't know how long will you stay. I know that I don't cope well with your flaws although you welcomed mine with open arms. But I do know one thing - I'm gonna enjoy this moment while I still can. And I thank you for this :)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

health, the priceless wealth

I've been unwell these few months. Imagine just surviving among the darkest moments in my life, being caged for three years. I had been locking my eyes on becoming an oral maxillofacial surgeon, but when I was engaged, I put that dream aside because I was idiotic enough to listen to a man telling me that I should spend more time at home as a wife. Finally, when I broke free from him, a path suddenly opened up.

I remember performing root canal treatment on a patient when I received a call from my superior telling that a post was just opened at oral maxillofacial surgery department of Hospital Tuanku Jaafar Seremban (HTJS). A fortnight later, there I was - finally free of admin works and mundane general dental practice. I finally got more used to manipulating that surgical scalpel, trimming bones, entering operation theaters, working at odd hours.

I was thriving. Despite at times feeling overworked, I was thriving. I am that type of person who enjoys being under pressure. Umi said, "I have never seen you happier than you are now walaupun kau penat".

Suddenly, a couple of months later, I started to experience breathlessness, chest pain, and giddiness. I have never failed to donate my blood every three months. Most of the time, my health status would be in excellent condition. In August, for the first time ever, I didn't make it through triage for blood donors. My blood pressure was 90/60mmHg. My haemoglobin level was excellent. "Maybe I'm not in my best form now", I reassured myself.

A few weeks later, while I was walking from my bed to the toilet, I didn't know what exactly happened, but I only remember waking up, lying beside my toilet cubicle. Two days later, while organising Basic Life Support course, the giddiness returned, worse. I could barely walk. I excused myself to seek medical attention. While I was driving there, I basically passed out thrice. Since the giddiness would occur preceding my syncopal attack, I was prepared for it. Hazard lights turned on, I'd stop on emergency lane.

As I arrived at the clinic, while waiting for my cue to be seen, again, I passed out for an hour, I missed my turn. When I entered that consultation room, I was examined by a medical officer. My blood pressure was 90/65mmHg (normal blood pressure 120/80), pulse rate was 44 beats per minute (bpm) (normal 60-100bpm). He ordered for ECG to be done and presented my case to the visiting family medicine specialist. Next thing I knew, they told me that they're transferring me to HTJS on an ambulance. A branula was fixed into my vein.

"Hmm... maybe they needed to just perform a few additional investigations on me", I didn't know that my condition was serious, because as long as I can still walk on my own, I would reassure myself that I am still quite fine... until I arrived there, double beeps, and I was pushed to red zone (emergency department is divided into three zones. Green - for non-critical. Yellow - Not so critical. Red - Life-threatening conditions).

"What. The. Fuck? Red zone?". And I had a defibrillator placed at my bedside and numerous wires attached onto my chest. Cardiac monitors. Continuous vital sign monitors. That's when I saw my heart rate further dropping to 37bpm and my blood pressure going to 85/44mmHg. My branula got thrombosed. I have prominent veins due to nature of my work, so it's usually very easy to set an IV line on me, but unfortunately this time, my veins started to go shitty on me, and they tried to access it through about 5 routes. Not funny getting pricked twice or thrice at each spot.

I was warded for about 4 days. The dreaded possibility of having to let go of my dream specialisation was daunting when the specialist said, "We suspect you to be having this condition congenitally, but it was never caught on ECG because it had been occuring transiently all these while, but not anymore now. I'm afraid that you might need a pacemaker implanted, so I am referring you to IJN. They'll decide". I would wake up at 4 to 5 o'clock in the morning for them to record my vital signs, crying. I was dispirited. They ruled out all possible causes they could think of. So many blood samples were taken, I eventually felt sorry for the houseman in-charge who had to do them. I was supposed to be admitted for one more week, but I begged that specialist to discharge me so that I could get back to work.

"I would, but promise me that you'd record your vital signs from time to time and if your blood pressure crashes, come to our emergency department STAT and go easy on working. Push too hard and your heart can possibly shut down. And I want you to rest for the next five days", he said. Doctors make worst patients. I didn't listen to him and I had to face its consequences. I was discharged on Friday. By Saturday, I was already attending a two-day course held by USIM. I felt my extremities going cold and clammy, breathless, and a bit giddy. Still. I pushed myself until a few days later...

My blood pressure crashed again to 75/50mmHg. My pulse rate went haywire for awhile. Most of the time around 40bpm and once when I had palpitations, I looked at my cardiac monitor and saw my heart rate soaring to nearly 200bpm before settling too far down again.

"I'm very sorry, Dr. I guess you're gonna spend your birthday in the ward". Morning of 23rd August 2016, I woke up, tearful again, but how ungrateful was I? I am blessed to know many genuinely sincere and kind people. I had so many visitors coming with cakes, gifts, and well wishes. I thought my boss wouldn't understand my condition. After all, he used to yell at me all the time, questioning my competency, but Allah is the All-Merciful.

"Girl, so how are you?", asked Dr Latif and I poured out all my troubles to him. Mostly about me feeling unsure whether I can still further my studies in oral maxillofacial surgery with a pacemaker in me and this heart condition. "You know Prof ****? His sinoatrial node is problemmatic just like yours too. He had a pacemaker implanted and he handles all instruments fine. And today he's one of the best surgeons around. Even with this you braved through performing and assisting all surgeries and never complained to us about it, I'm sure you'll be okay. Just get your health issues sorted out first".

Health is indeed a priceless wealth. However much I want to become a surgeon, it will all mean nothing if I lose my life pushing myself too hard. In the meantime, I'm feeling quite alright. In two days time, I shall go to IJN for my appointment. Let's just hope for the best.

Monday, July 18, 2016

the thrill of doing things impromptu

Within 30 days, I made 2 decisions impromptu. Flew to Penang to see my brother from another mother, Acap, and I tagged along with Murni to Kelantan for food hunt. I guess the past 30 days had been all about reminiscing my good old undergrad days.

Having my pisang brother by my side, I didn't expect fancy things. Roaming aimlessly while listening to metal and a few ridiculous (i.e Ayda Jebat) songs on his radio, trying on a pair of RM3000-worth earphones and experience a few seconds of eargasm, eating food similar to those we had during those days, spending hours at a guitar shop, drooling over guitars priced RM10000 and above - those were enough to put a smile on my face.

And more of reminiscing my undergrad days - I tagged along with Murni to Kelantan and we hunted for good food for a couple of days. While we're at that, I got to meet a few former colleagues, lecturers, and a staff nurse who used to nag at me affectionately all the time. These people - they had never given up on me although I screwed up again and again.

Murni, me, Yana, and Ajih 

Met Helmy, Prof Azizah, Dr Sarliza, and Che Mi

We enjoyed our super short trip to Kelantan a lot despite having to end it with a pretty severe episode of food poisoning. So severe I almost fell asleep in a toilet cubicle!

Although my former matrics-mate, Nik Ahmad Fadhil, and I intended to meet up in Kelantan, he coincidentally flew here for a marathon a day before my trip, so we hung out that night instead.

Who would've thought that Nik, the very person who was pretty reserved and passive five years ago, would chit chat over coffee till midnight passed? He wasn't even a coffee-person back then! I guess people change with time. We eventually learn to enjoy the ups and downs of life and explore new things, because hey! Life is short.

As I look back at these moments, I can't help but to think how good being free feels like. I lost my freedom for three years. Not gonna lose it ever again. I now know well enough - if a person truly loves you, he won't let you feel caged and trapped.

Maybe I am a true free spirit. As free as a bird.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

the forgotten joy

As expected, being an officer at the Oral Maxillofacial Surgery dept of Hospital Tuanku Jaafar Seremban isn't easy. I have a lot of unlearning and relearning to do. I guess serving at a general dental clinic for almost two years desensitised me to certain things - things I shouldn't have missed in the first place. There, quantity is our pressure point, rather than quality; but at my current workplace, it's the other way round.

Being just another human, I'd reach my limit now and then - stress-wise. I learned from experience that the first step is to acknowledge my stress and understand that at times, to withdraw myself from the stressor is wiser rather than just clinging on. Of course, I learn from my mistakes, but I also know that pushing forward non-stop would only mean putting myself at breaking point - which would be a grave mistake.

Thanks to my colleague who came over and officiated my humongous mixer, once again, I tasted the joy of cooking - or in this case, in the form of baking. I took a day of leave just to bake cupcakes. Whenever I get extremely stressed, my escapism would be food. A little stress would require just enjoying good coffee. Extreme stress would require cooking food instead. I often try my hands on elaborate recipes under such circumstance.

I remember feeling so lonely and stressed when my parents were away for two years and there I was, during eid, recalling recipes my late aunt left me. And I cooked Johorean laksa. We, Malaysians, have so many varieties of laksa. I have cooked almost all of them, except for Sarawakian Laksa. And hands down, Johorean laksa is the toughest one to cook if you're a rigid person like me and happen to be born into a large Johorean family. Preparation alone consumed an hour while cooking it to perfection took me three hours in total.

Once, I had a bad fight, so I started searching on the net and there I was. I made nasi kerabu with ayam percik, ikan kembung celup tepung, kerabu, sambal budu, and sambal kelapa.

So a few days ago, I gathered enough courage to try baking hazelnut sponge cupcake with custard topping, chocolate ganache, and almond croqan. I had this mindset of  'I can't bake' because my mother doesn't bake much because she's not good at it. She's amazing when it comes to Asian cuisine, no kidding, though. I baked once during highschool, and what supposed to be a butter cake turned out like a brick of vanilla-flavoured shortcake. This time, it turned out fine! My sponge cake was so fluffy and not too sweet, even my parents ate them happily. Still, I guess I screwed up on the chocolate ganache. Should've cut on its sugar because that, was on the sweeter side.

"Awak tak nak try buat marble cake ke, Ira? Umi suka marble cake", my mother said to me. 24 hours later...
Right after tarawih, a freshly-baked marble cake was ready for her. She ate a lot of it, smiling all the way. 

"So, Umi, I can bake, can't I?"

"Boleh sangat. Haha, senang aku tak payah order kuih raya dah", she answered.

This Ramadhan, apart from my usual missions, I have a new one - which is to bake one type of eid cookies each weekend. My sister, Wani, requested for corn flake cookies. There's a story behind it:

During our time in Subang, we had a neighbour who we fondly call Aunty Dillah. She used to bake corn flake cookies and the best curry puff (with home-made puff pastry) I have ever tasted till this very second. I used to go to her house a lot, playing with her cat, reading her son's comic books, and growing fatter eating things she cooked and baked. If there's any neighbour I would remember till I die, it'd be her. Since my parents were always busy working, she sort of became my second mum. To whom I told whatever that had happened at home and at school. 

So this afternoon, I read through about 12 recipes of corn flake cookies I found online (may God bless all these generous people for sharing their knowledge at zero cost). If you're used to cooking, you'd acquire another skill which is you can pretty much guess the taste of food from their recipes. So of all 12, one caught my eyes, although it didn't convince me a hundred percent. I did a little tweaking with it here and there and...

Flour explosion - first time using a paddle attachment

And my mother's verdict on it:

I'm a happy daughter.


Edited on 14th June 2016 (as requested by Farah):

Here's the recipe:

Crunchy Corn Flake Cookies (Tweaked)
Originally by: Azie Kitchen (I tweaked here and there and omitted a few ingredients here)

250g unsalter butter (I increased it to 270-280g)
180g castor sugar (You may adjust this during the creaming process to suit your taste)
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 egg yolks
180g Kellogs Cornflakes - crushed lightly

Ingredients to be sieved:
210g corn flour (I reduced this to 190g)
150g general purpose wheat flour (I reduced this to 130g)
1/2 tsp baking powder

1. Cream butter and castor sugar well
2. Chuck in egg yolks and vanilla essence and continue creaming for awhile just to mix them well
3. Chuck in sieved ingredients and fold it over with the mixture above
4. Chuck in lightly crushed cornflakes and fold it along with the mixture
5. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius
6. Bake the cookies on a baking pan lined with baking paper for 20-25 minutes till they are light brown in colour
7. Once freshly-baked, they'd feel quite soft. So let them cool down. They'd crisp up in about 10minutes

1. During step 3 and 4, do not overwork your dough. Fold it over just for the mixture to blend well. The more you work on the dough, the denser and harder your cookies will be which we do not want
2. Unsalted butter is ideal for this recipe, but you may use salted butter too, but that'd result in having to add more castor sugar to achieve ideal sweetness
3. To cream butter and sugar means mixing them both with a mixer until mixture fluffs up, you don't really feel those sugar grains, and the colour of the butter becomes pale yellow
4. If you don't have a baking paper, you may opt for a greased pan. Just thinly grease your pan with butter
5. Egg yolk is the yellow part of the egg

Sunday, June 5, 2016

first cafe latte with cappuccino foam (VCR Coffee Bukit Bintang)

Yet another episode of coffee hunt came to pass.

So a barista suggested for me to visit VCR Cafe (located on Jalan Galloway, Bukit Bintang) if I'd like to experience coffee made by the very barista who holds the title of Malaysian Best Barista 2016.

Typical of me. After a tiring day, a cup of coffee and a dose of Murniyati would usually make my day. Right after I had discharged all my warded patients, I sped off to KL, kidnapped Murni, and brought her to the cafe.

First impression was - "Damn, such a small cafe. Where am I supposed to sit?". Little did I know that it is double-storied.

As I entered the cafe, I was greeted warmly by its barista. Have no idea what's his name though.

"I came all the way from Seremban, please tell me that your cappuccino is made with double shot espresso". Yeah, I am blunt like that, most of the time; but according to him, theirs is made using single shots instead since that's how their machine is calibrated for. "But I can prepare you cafe latte with cappuccino foam instead if you want that kind of topping. It's good, trust me". I took his words and didn't regret it at all. And I had a swan drawn into my froth! Its staff were friendly - which is surprising considering negative feedbacks on Foursquare regarding that; but then, hey, I didn't go there during peak hour.

This place is the perfect one to spend a quiet morning/night, enjoying your coffee. What more if you're a sucker for vintage stuff. Every single deco in this cafe screams vintage. Very cozy.

Murni had squash toast with sausage while mine was smoked duck quiche. If there's one word that I can use to describe the cafe on the whole, it'd be 'fresh'. My salad was lightly dressed and along with bits of pomegranate, it balanced out the saltiness of the quiche. Bear in mind though, that quiche there didn't have the classic tart shell. Its crust had a bread-ish texture. Their sausage isn't the typical factory-made sausage. Expect a huge arse homemade-looking sausage which was super delish! I will order that next time.

Before going back, I ordered yet another cup of coffee. Long black this time. I'm a pretty old school person. I prefer my coffee bitter, but I guess they're into third wave coffee - which means they serve sour long blacks. Not much of a fan of that, though.

Would return, definitely. For another cup of cafe latte and sausages!


This is Murni, my ex-roommate during matriculation days. A very easy-going and fun lady to spend my day with. I remember the first thing that I noticed about her on day one at the college - hazel eyes. Frankly, I have never met any Malay with a pair of beautifully hazel-coloured iris like hers. And she nagged a lot during that time too. That used to annoy me, but I guess I learnt to embrace that part of her. I would feel awkward if she suddenly becomes quiet instead. She stands up for you (yes, do not underestimate her petite physique).

The best part of her is she's a no-nonsense, mature lady and enjoys food as much as I do, while most of the time, I am quite an airhead (the serious me would show herself only in clinic). Our once weekly cheat day would comprise of one or two slices of dessert (we'd usually ask the waiter, "What's your best dessert here?"), two main courses (at different places), and we'd usually end our day at a quiet cafe (I am so grateful that she tolerates this part of me despite not being a caffeinated-beverage-consumer herself).


By the way, eh heyyy! My childhood friend, Azizi, has gotten married to the love of his life, Nad. Congratulations. lovebirds. Have a blessed marriage!

Reuniting with Subang-mates in Malacca

Sunday, May 22, 2016

of good cappuccino (Engineers Coffee Bar Putra Nilai)

I have been on calory restriction for about eight months now, but once in awhile, when I have extra free time, I'd make a detour here and there, make space for something out of my daily healthy menu. Therefore, I usually make a mental note whenever I find a good place to eat - so at least my calory and money expenditures are well justified.

This time, I shall leave a review on a cafe which had been around for a year or so, but it's only recently that I started becoming a regular customer there. Reason? Good cappuccino. Good service. Good food. 

Cafe: Engineers Coffee Bar Putra Nilai
Operating Hours: Daily, 3.00PM - 11.30PM (closed on Mondays)

So I guess my coffee addiction is back, thanks to that my recent vacation. So there I was, roaming around, exhausted mentally and physically, ransacking my brain for a cafe with a visible espresso machine. Do note that I live in Nilai - not exactly a place you can bump into one easily. This place popped up in my mind. "They'd better have a good cup of cappuccino", I said to myself.

Walked in, surprised to see its price - which is cheaper than most cafes in Kuala Lumpur. RM9 for a cup of cappuccino. "Darn, cheap coffee. Might be a bad coffee too", pardon my prejudice for the one I received proved me wrong. In fact, it was so good (bonus point - cappuccino here is made with double shot espresso. Triple shot espresso is upon request), I finished it within 2km of drive. I returned the very next day for another dose. And the day after. It came to the point of opening the door to its barista smiling and asked, "Sugarless cappuccino, right?". Trust me. I know my coffee. I have been a coffee drinker since I was four years old and hooked on it ever since, thanks to my late grandpa. 

Today my family and I had our lunch there. They had pastas while I had roast beef sandwich. The portion of my sandwich was humongous. Two sandwiches (yep, two of the one in the picture above) packed with sliced roast beef and cheddar cheese along with about a cup of lightly-spiced french fries presented in rustic style. I'd let those basic store-bought white bread slices slide since I had a lot else on the plate! And only RM8 for all of that? "Are they making any profit out of this? It's too cheap tapi sedap", I asked my father.

RM10 per plate of pasta, which is a huge cut down compared to previously. Expectation wasn't high. I expected much smaller portion, but nope. I think they retained about 80% of the original portion and they still tasted as good as they were before. I highly recommend their lemak cili padi and carbonara pastas. 

I had been eyeing their cylindrical-shaped cheesecakes. Guilty as charged, I have a sweet tooth. Since I had people to share it with today, I ordered for Oreo cheesecake (the above is blueberry cheesecake though). Its base was somewhat thicker than normal cheesecakes and somewhat hard, but I gave it some time and once it had softened, it tasted quite nice. Not the best cheesecake I have had, but decent enough.

If you'd like to have your food packed, they have eco-friendly paper boxes too. 

I will be honest. I lived in Subang for more than two decades. I visited so many cafes in Malaysia already. This one is worth going to especially if you expect a place with quiet and cozy ambience. It certainly isn't one of those overpriced and overrated hipster cafes with Instagrammable but tasteless food.

In case you're wondering if I'm being paid to write this entry - nope. It's a good cafe. Period.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

mental reboot

I am currently under acute post-vacation spell, so severe to the point of randomly driving around, despite feeling exhausted that I am unable to converse properly, just for a cup of cappuccino - which I, thank God, found at Engineers Coffee Bar Putra Nilai.

If there's one thing in Melbourne that I sorely miss, that's its abundant cafes with good coffee! I wouldn't call myself a caffeine addict. I'm more of a coffee junkie. Unlike most people, coffee does not keep me awake. Its scent calms me down and when I have difficulty in falling asleep, a good cup of long black coffee usually would do the trick. I remember my former colleague pointing it out a few months ago. "Z, is it just me or do you just fall asleep right after you get your cup of coffee every single day?", she said.

The very first day in Melbourne, I went straight to Hudsons Cafe and got myself a cup of cappuccino. It was so good that I made a promise to myself to get two doses of coffee daily during my stay in Australia. I went to more than fifteen cafes within eight days! Since I had visited the country a few times before, seeing kangaroos and koalas wasn't included in my itinerary.

I spent most of my time strolling along the streets of Melbourne. I would take trams only when I got too exhausted. Enjoyed the city life from early in the morning till night which of course did not involve clubs and that sort. After all, I am no longer that person who enjoys being in crowded places.

I only went out of town for a couple of days for penguins and chocolate - the latter had me caught in a temporary trance and I ended up spending hundreds of dollars on that - not for myself, though. For my staff and colleagues.

This might sound funny, but however developed and civilised that country seemed, I still longed for my country while I was there. I'm not sure why. I have a pretty vague idea - perhaps the warmth we, Malaysians, have. Culturally and weather-wise. It's just that the current unimpressive economical and political situations along with globalisation are slowly making us forget our roots and values. I haven't given up on Malaysia. I might not be able to change the world, but at least I can still serve the society in manners I deem appropriate and best within my limited capability... and just hope for the best that at least a few people would be reminded of kindness and sincerity from me just as I do from those who do so. The world might feel crueler and more merciless day by day, but we don't have to join the pack... or so I think...