Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Making Nigella's Carrot Cake

Few weeks back, I gave my husband a short list of cakes that I planned to make in the coming weekends and asked him which cake I should bake first. He said Carrot Cake. I obliged.

After browsing some Carrot Cake recipes online, I picked a recipe that I wanted to use for making my Carrot Cake and shopped for some missing ingredients for the cake. While I already had everything prepared for my weekend baking session, I fell sick for about two weeks so my baking plan was halted.

Last Saturday morning, I finally spared some time to make my first Carrot Cake from scratch using Nigella's recipe. Nigella's Carrot Cake was great and moist, even when eaten 2-3 days later, and I had stamp of approval from my husband and MIL on its overall taste. However, I cut the amount of sugar used for making the cake as stated in her original recipe because we don't really like overly sweet cakes that much.

Here's my version of Carrot Cake recipe, adapted from Nigella's Carrot Cake recipe (I further cut the amount of sugar here because my Carrot Cake last week still tasted rather sweet despite the reduced sugar used). This recipe makes a 2 tier 7" cake - so it's pretty tall cake for a home made standard.

My first Carrot Cake.

Nigella's Carrot Cake

Ingredients:

For the Carrot Cake:

300gr Cake flour
1 tbsp Milk powder
1/4 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground cloves (I skipped this because I didn't have any)
1/4 tsp Nutmeg, grated or powdered
A pinch of salt
4 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla extract
335ml Sunflower Oil
300gr Sugar
125 gr Carrot, grated
100gr Walnuts, chopped
50gr, Raisins, optional
2 tbs Boiling water

For the Icing:

175gr Unsalted butter, at room temperature
200gr Cream cheese, softened
200gr Icing sugar, sifted

Yum! Sweet-spicy and nutty tastes - all in one cake.

Tutorial:

  1. To make the cake: Grease and line two spring form tins (about 7") with baking paper and set aside.
  2. Sift together flour, milk powder, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt. Set aside.
  3. Separate 2 of the 4 eggs.
  4. In a bowl, beat the 2 egg whites until they form soft peak. Set aside.
  5. In a separate large bowl, beat the oil, vanilla extract and sugar using electric mixer. Add the whole eggs one at a time. Beat the mixture well before adding the egg yolks. Stir in the grated carrots, raisins and walnuts until well combined. Fold in the flour then add the boiling water.
  6. Fold the egg whites to the cake batter.
  7. Divide the cake batter between two tins and bake the cakes in a preheated oven (170 degree Celcius) for about 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Once baked, let the cakes cool completely before icing them.
  8. To make the icing: Mix butter, cream cheese and icing sugar until well incorporated.
  9. To assemble the cake: Sandwich some icing between the two tiers of cake then cover the rest of the cake with the icing. Put the whole cake in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving as the cream cheese icing fares better if the cake remains in the fridge.

This cake is not difficult to make but admittedly, making this cake involves quite a bit of steps, hence takes longer time to prepare, and it uses more bowls/plates and baking utensils for preparation as well - so more baking stuff to wash afterwards. 

Also, I think I made a mistake in frosting the cake with icing that just came out from the fridge. I made the icing before my cakes cooled down and kept the icing in the fridge before using, as such icing the whole cake was such a challenge process I almost cried. I just could not produce that nice and smooth finish on my cake. Nevertheless, when the cake was sliced, the messy icing was not that obvious and the cake still tasted delightful. One more note, I kept my carrot cake in the fridge all the time when not serving it as the cream cheese icing melts quite fast and loses its nice and firm texture if kept at room temperature for too long.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Holiday in Hospital

How did you spend your long-awaited Hari Raya holiday over the weekend? By going on a overseas vacation? By visiting your extended family and enjoying free flow of festive food? By eating jars and jars of cookies? How nice. I also want.

I spent mine in the hospital with a spread of hospital food, IV drips and pills - all the way until Hari Raya holiday officially ended. Bummer level God.

#throwtable #kickthechair

Let me go back to two weeks ago before I tell you more about my recent hospital stay.

On Saturday night two weeks ago, I was attending a wedding dinner in KL with my husband. Halfway through the wedding dinner, I began to feel a bit of back aches and muscle pains. They were not so serious, so I simply thought I was too tired, had not been sleeping well or coming down with flu. When we came home that midnight, I swallowed a Panadol.

The next morning, the body pains were still there. How weird. Usually, paracetamol works wonder to eliminate body pains or muscle aches. After breakfast, I took one more paracetamol. My body pains were eased off but they came back few hours later, after the paracetamol's effect ran off. That whole day, I started having on-and-off body pains but didn't know if I had fever or not.

On Monday morning last week, I asked my husband to send me to a clinic as my body pains had become outrageous, rheumatic-like, and I had chills too. I felt cold all the time (jacket and socks were part of my compulsory uniforms last week) and was not able to sleep well the night before due to the massive body pains. The doctor in the clinic said I had a viral infection hence the fever, body pains and chills. He prescribed me with some antibiotics and ibuprofen.

The above happened again. I felt slightly better after taking the medicines but once their effects ran off, I began having another bout of pains, chills, headaches and fever again. These cycles repeated until the next morning. Although, I just saw a doctor the day before, I urged my husband to send me to hospital's Emergency Unit (ER) because I wanted to have a blood test. I demanded to know what the hell was going on with my body because I had never had anything like this in my life before.

The doctor in the ER ran a blood test on me after he looked at me and temped my fever. He thought I was having a Dengue Fever but my blood test result read that I was dehydrated and having some infection somewhere as my neutrophils level was higher than normal. I was sent home with the same antibiotic prescription and three pills of more powerful analgesic. The on-and-off fever, body pains, chills and headaches still went strong for the next couple of days and I was basically bed-ridden for many days by now.

By Thursday, I felt slightly better because on Thursday night (when the medicines were at work), I could bake some buns!

Who knew that on Friday evening, I began feeling really shitty and succumbed so much pain again. My husband sent me to the same clinic that I went to on Monday but the doctor told me that I should just go to ER and do another blood test again because my high fever had gone way too long. She could not help me because she couldn't do any blood test until this week due to Hari Raya holiday. I left that clinic and my husband drove me to ER again.

Luckily, thanks to Hari Raya holiday, the ER was quite empty and I was treated almost immediately. The doctor ordered another blood test and while waiting for the blood test result, I was asked to take two Panadols - scared that I may collapse because I had been nurturing 38.5-39 degree fever for many days.

About an hour later, the ER doctor read me my second blood test result of the week. He said that I was having a Viral Fever but the neutrophils level was lower. However, since I had been having on-and-off high fever for one week already, he suggested "Do you want to be warded?" I was stunned and there was awkward silence as I was registering his suggestion. "Oh. Is it necessary?" "If you stay here, we will be able to monitor your fever and do further tests on you. You can opt not to be warded too." 

After some deep considerations, I decided to just be warded. To be honest, the thoughts of suffering many more rounds of body pains, chills and headaches alone at home were very traumatic to me. I needed help, was exhausted from the fever nonsense and wanted to be healthy again very soon. Further, Naomi happened to throw tantrum at the ER and looking at that, the ER doctor even tried to convince me to just stay in the hospital for few days so I can rest.

I have actually planned my life pretty nicely when it comes to hospital stays - that I would not be staying in hospital except when I give birth. Nevertheless, I guess I could not help it this time around. So, hospital it was.

Minutes after I confirmed that I wanted to be admitted, at around 9.15pm, I was hooked into IV drip. Before the nurse pricked my hand again, I told him, "Bang, is it going to be painful or not? Please don't make this so painful, OK! I hate and am scared of needles." Then he sprayed something on my hand and mentioned that the spray would slightly numb my hand while he pricked the needle. "Oh really? Got such thing? Why the nurses previously never applied this spray to me?" "Oh, because usually this spray is for children". -_-

Damn painful.

While I was being put on the IV drip, my husband already went home with Naomi because she was crying buckets and her tantrum fits were pretty bad (she thought she was the one who was seeing doctor so she wanted to go home badly). In the end, I got admitted to the hospital like a hobo - no accompanying family, no one took care my hospital deposit until the next day and I only had my wallet and hand phone with me, all placed in a small white thin plastic bag. My extra clothes, specs, towel, etc - basically all of my personal necessities were still at home because I didn't expect to be hospitalized that night. My husband only delivered my bag and settled my deposit the next morning - I guess he was too occupied becoming Naomi's Mommy for the night. My MIL is in Thailand since last week so my husband had to take care of Naomi on his own when I was away.

Here's my boring first breakfast in the hospital on the next day.

Breakfast, Day 1.

When my attending doctor did his morning round, he told me that he would only release me from the hospital after he made sure that I had no fever at all in the next 24 hours. In addition, my urine test came out not so good. My urine was so dirty because of the infection I had for many days. That means, I still could not leave the hospital as yet.

Before he left, he pointed something, "What is your urine doing on your bed table?" I would love to reply him, "Oh this is my DIY room freshener. My urine smells like Lavender so I just had to put it next to me. Hmmm..." But, I refrained myself from saying that. I told the doctor,"It's not my urine. It's my temporary contact lenses' case because last night I didn't bring it." The nurse actually gave me a small container that is usually used to collect urine sample for my temporary contact lenses' case and a small bottle of saline water for my lens solution. The nurse said the container was sterile so okay lah.

Cool contact lenses' case. You want?

My husband and Naomi visited me three times in a day but their visits were not long because Naomi was very naughty. On Saturday morning, she actually played masak-masak (cooking) with the small butter from my breakfast tray, saline water for my contact lenses and anti-bacterial mouthwash. She poured the butter and the whole content of my mouthwash bottle to a plastic container and I had to buy a new one because of this. Shortly after Chef Naomi did her short cooking show, my husband quickly dragged her home to minimize more damage in the ward.

My favourite visitor. 

My lunch was served exactly at 12pm. This lunch was surprisingly very good that no single grain of rice was left on my plate. Maybe I was very famished during lunch time but this was the last time I remember I still had good appetite.

Lunch. Day 1.

Afternoon tea time. Hospital's hot chocolate drink sucked to the max. It's not Milo and very tasteless. I had to add the creamer and sugar to the drink yet it still tasted pretty awful. Next time, please bring some Milo from home if you get hospitalized, okay?

Tea time. Day 1.

My dinner came at 6pm sharp. Sadly, I had gastric pain and felt very nauseous on Saturday evening. I barely touched my dinner. I only ate like one spoon of rice and all the watermelon cuts, I guess. I felt so bad wasting the food because I knew I would be hungry later on but really, I have lost all my appetite.

Dinner. Day 1.

My daughter had her dinner, chocolate cake dessert and shower in the hospital before she went out with Dad on Saturday night.

Madagascar on TV, yo!

My doctor promised me that I could go home on Sunday morning. Before he came, I was served with breakfast. Breakfast in the hospital is served very early, around 7am. I already woke up at 6am something when I was hospitalized! What a miracle. I am not a morning person. I guess the life in the hospital is so boring that everyone sleeps very early at night and wakes up so early the next morning. Even my room-mate in the hospital showered and washed her hair before 7am (and the sky was still dark). It's not like she was going to office or something.

Here's my porridge breakfast - my last meal in the hospital. I specifically ordered porridge because I was so sick of bread. I wanted to puke every time I thought of bread.

Breakfast, Day 2.

The chicken porridge tasted fine, until I spooned the chicken out. OMG. There were huge chicken chunks in the chicken porridge. Why not might as well put the whole chicken there, huh? It was so laborious to eat chicken chunks with the watery porridge like this. As I ate the porridge, I plotted a grand plan to write this chicken chunk matter in the feedback form when I left the hospital later on but eh? Apparently no feedback form was handed to me last Sunday so I couldn't complain about the porridge.

Horrifying chicken in the porridge. Don't do this at home.

Not long after breakfast, my doctor showed up. He briefly checked me then announced, "You have no fever so as promised, you can go home this morning. But, since you are not totally well, you must rest for few days at least and see me again on Wednesday."

YES! Finally, I was discharged, with truckload of medicines and 3 bottles of anti-bacterial mouthwash.

When I left the hospital, I felt better because I didn't have any more fever but I still had to deal with headaches, gastric pains and nausea every now and then so I must lie down often. Also, I was bloated. I don't know why but after I left the hospital, my face, feet and face were swollen for a few days. I couldn't fit to my normal pants because my stomach was and is now still very bloated. I was not even bloated when I was pregnant. Tell me, was it the IV drips?

Moreover, I have lost my appetite until now. I feel hungry and crave various food all the time but once I swallow my first spoon of food, I cannot stomach my food. How torturing.

That's all my ramblings about my first real experience staying in the hospital because I was sick. I am still in my journey to recovery now.

By the way, I actually blogged in my Dayre when I was in hospital because there was no laptop in the hospital. Somehow, mobile blogging made more sense to kill the time while in the hospital.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Shed Me Some Light

I brought Naomi to see her regular paediatrician this late afternoon because she needed a followed up check for her phlegm issue in her lungs. Thank God, she is much better than last week now. Last week, Naomi had to be nebulized for the first time to clear the massive phlegm in her lungs due to prolonged phlegmy coughs.

I told Naomi’s doc that we are going to Cameron Highland this weekend and he asked me which hotel we are staying. I answered, we are staying in an apartment but I don't know which one. He then commented that now is a good time to go to Cameron Highland because it’s not holiday season, bla bla bla. This paediatrician is a nice middle-aged uncle and Naomi has been seeing him in the past 2 years or so.

Since our visit was near to his clinic’s closing time and I noticed he had less or almost none patients after Naomi, I casually asked him other things.

"Doc, can I ask you something?" "Yes." "I actually gave birth to a stillborn last year. Can you enlighten me if that was because of me or what I ate during pregnancy, etc. I just don't want this to happen again." After he learnt this, he asked me how far the pregnancy back then, what the cause was, which hospital I delivered the baby, whether my husband and I carried any post-mortem investigation to the deceased baby, etc.

Once he got clearer picture of what happened to me and Dylan, he illuminated that statistically speaking, 1 out of 10 babies (during pregnancy) dies in the womb or has to be terminated due to many issues. Foetal death is a sad thing but unfortunately quite common.

Moving on, he explained that stillborn usually is not because there's something wrong with the mother nor what she ate that made the baby passed away, especially if the cause of death was umbilical cord related. He then took a blank white paper from his drawer and drew the picture of a uterus, baby, and placenta and how umbilical cord actually looks like in a uterus on that paper. Using this illustration, he told me that baby movements are the ones that cause umbilical cord issues and tangled umbilical cord cannot be prevented. There’s almost literally nothing we could do to prevent tangled cord to happen. Nonetheless, he thought Dylan's tight knot on his umbilical cord (that entirely cut his blood and food supply off from my placenta) was a rare unfortunate case.

After this brief explanation, this doctor told me to get past of my gone baby (re: Dylan) and try to get another baby soon. Further, he stated that usually babies who die in the womb are the results of them having some problems that led them not being able to go through the so-called “Nature Selection” process. It’s like the way Nature's implies that these babies are abnormal or will not live healthily later on. Often, babies who have some kind of abnormalities miscarry or die in utero. 

Not too satisfied with this answer, I questioned him. “How come my gynae never spotted anything wrong during my prenatal scans?” He replied, “Sometimes ultrasound scan can scan the baby’s face and so on very clearly but cannot detect certain abnormalities.”

Before I ended our visit, I shared with him that my efforts to be pregnant again so far have not been successful. He responded, "Just be happy and who knows after your Cameron Highland trip, you get pregnant again". I laughed. "I don’t know. There had been too many disappointments lately, even though both my husband and I seemingly don’t have major fertility issues."

He commented that I shouldn't think too much about TTC because pregnancy is a very elusive thing. The more you chase pregnancy, the further it gets away from you.

He gave me the example of his Sister-in-Law who had 4 or 5 miscarriages and failed IVF. When she finally gave up, by accepting the fact that her life would be fine with a baby but it will still be all fine without one, she got pregnant again.

I couldn't agree more to this example.

Truthfully, I had heard the same old things (notions such as baby comes when you least expect it or give up TTC-ing and bam, you made a baby! and many more) for as few as a thousand times and sadly, it's not that easy to live these words if you are overshadowed by your strong desire to have another baby.

I noted his example by saying that it's hard to give up TTC-ing because naturally, I want another baby again (read: badly) after I lost Dylan. I am still battling with my demon, called Envy, when I see other pregnant women and those with new baby. He remarked, "I see. But envy is a very negative feeling and it's not good for you. If you see other pregnant women or babies, you SHARE THE JOY. You will be happier when you feel their joy as well. And when you are happy, you can get pregnant more easily." 

I stunned when he mentioned the words “share the joy”. Good Lord! How hard it is to share the joy while I mostly feel sore about the above. (No offence to all pregnant readers, friends and families on this specific discussion, okay… This is an issue I am still working on).

Just before I ended this visit, his final advice to me was, “Be happy and enjoy life. Life is short after all. I hope my small advice help you a little”.

Thank you, Doc. Good bye. I’ll see you again in two weeks’ time.” 

So, I shared the above conversations I had with Naomi's doctor with my husband after I got home. This is the comment that I got from him, "I already told you exactly the same thing for a long time.. You never listen. Whatever I say is rubbish and other people’s advice is wisdom to you". I just gave him a big smile and said “Well, Doc’s advice on giving up was not novel to me either...”.

Ahhh….. Sometimes I do wonder why it is so hard to be a completely happy and contented person. Away from all negativities in life, particularly those in the head.

One of greatest blessings in life: My chubby checkers.

Good thing that I have Naomi who is my absolute anchor, constant reminder and reason to be happy and grateful in life. No matter the sourest lemon it threw me last year.

Ok lah.. Let's just be happy and no more living in the past. 2014 was undoubtedly a bitter-sweet year, 2015 so far is a soul searching chapter for me. I think I have come a long way since Dylan's incident and I really need to let go the past, whatever it was, in order to have a future. A much brighter and happier one, hopefully. 

Good things come to those who wait, they say.

Oh yea, recently I set up a Dayre account which I sort of update on daily basis (yep, mobile blogging is apparently very convenient!). Please follow my Dayre, if you have one.