Saturday, February 18, 2017

USA Day 1-2: JFK and New York.

Suddenly in the mood of travelling - the last time we went away was to Italy in October last year and it wasn't particularly great - what with me being unwell and all.

But USA was amaaaazing. No, like really, A-MAH-ZING. Tetiba USA hahaha.

We started off the journey from Birmingham International Airport.

[KLM]
Birmingham → Amsterdam Schiphol → John F. Kennedy Airport, New York

return

[Air France]
John F. Kennedy Airport, New York → Paris Charles de Goule → Birmingham

Our tickets costed about £550pp return. We could've saved more if we flew from London but Adam was working the day before the trip, so we decided not to get too stressed out on planning and just pay extra for the convenience. And I always prefer flying out from Birmingham as it's a smaller airport (despite being international) and it's easier to get to (about 1 hour plus by train from Leicester).

And I only learnt on our trip that KLM and Air France sort of like partner together. You can manage your KLM booking on Air France website and vice versa, although I personally find KLM website more user friendly.

A little note as well, I know most overseas students are aware of this, but I'm surprised that some of my friends in Malaysia don't. Go to skyscanner.net to find and compare cheap flights. It works most of the time, and Alhamdulillah so far I had no issues with the agents/companies listed. However it's quite tricky with domestic Malaysian flights. MAS, for example, doesn't display the total amount including tax on Skyscanner (not even on their website, I believe?). So while they appear cheap on Skyscanner, the total amount changes after you're directed to MAS website. I feel this is quite deceiving, especially having become used to the UK/EU system where they're obligated to include tax in their display price - what you see is what you pay. But it's nothing too major, just something to keep in mind.

Another tip - I'm one of those who religiously key in my MH Enrich number (MAS loyalty point) in whatever airline that I fly with, especially with the long-haul ones. I don't really check if the airline that I'm flying with actually partners with MAS, but since I have the number in hand anyway, I just put it in. This proves to be a smart move as I always have some magic Enrich points appearing on my account - which means, free flights, woohoo! Not really free since you do have to pay some fee and whatnot, but it's definitely cheaper and you're more flexible to book at the last minute with Enrich points, since the points required stay the same. 

Anyways, we haven't gotten into the USA part yet, whaaatt?!??

Right, back to business.


While on this map the journey doesn't look particularly impressive, this one certainly does.


Talk about flying trans-Atlantic, woha! 

The journey itself wasn't too long, probably around 7 hours. But bearing in mind that we had to transit in Amsterdam/Paris, total travelling time one way was around 16 hours, almost the same as going back to Malaysia including transit. If you manage to bag a direct flight UK/Ireland to USA, it would be around 7 hours max.

We spent around 10 days including travelling times around The States. We only went to New York City, Niagara (Buffalo), and Washington DC before heading back to New York JFK. Considering how maaaaasssive the country is, you can imagine how much time we spent on the road driving from one place to another.

On to New York.

Day 1: JFK Arrival

We arrived at JFK quite late at night. Having foreseen this, I decided to book a room via AirBnB nearby the airport. The host also offered pick-up for a little extra cost so that was a bonus. Unfortunately I didn't take any picture as we were super tired and the place wasn't very exciting either. It did the job for both of us - a double bed with shared bathroom. The pick-up was straightforward, I can highly recommend this place for a short night or quick transfer to/from JFK.

Link to AirBnB: Room with wifi near JFK

Day 2: New Yoooorrkkkk

Took the train into NYC rather early in the morning and started the day with this.


HAHAHA true New Yorker I tell you.

Not sure what got into Adam's mind when he ordered a dozen donuts.

Since we were staying at New Jersey (NJ), ie not in Manhattan, we had to carry our rucksacks around us. We found a place to leave our luggages, I think it cost around $10 per bag for the whole day. Google, and you shall find.

So onto NYC.


New Yoooorrrrrrk, country jungle wet dreams tomaaahhtoooo. There's nothing you can't doooooo.

I. Could. Not. Get. That. Song. Out. Off. My. Head. (I made up the first part)

But really, there we were, in the middle of the busy Times Square, and mind you, it's The New York Times Square, NOT Berjaya Times Square *scoffs HAHAHA. I can still feel the excitement in my bones right now, honestly.

Being the city girl that I am, the experience was thrilling. Exhilarating. Growing up with American movies and dramas, everything felt so surreal. People (by that I mean, the Brits) used to comment on my American accent when I first came to England - THIS WAS IT, people. I grew up watching/listening to THIS. 

Btw I sound more British now. *scoff some more

That day was basically spent walking around with our heads tilted up all day. 


Like this, the Empire State Building. Now now, how could I get Alicia Keys' Empire State of Mind our of my head, you tell me. New Yoooooorrkkkkk ---

Okay I should probably stop now.

But this building truly reminded me of Sleepless in Seattle movie, hopeless romantic I know.


A picture in front of Sephora because I promised Nadd I would take one, just because. And no, I did not get a single thing there.

Grand Central Terminal.



Inside Grand Central Terminal. 

I grew up listening to it being called The Grand Central Station (blame the movies!). So imagine my disappointment (and rather, embarrassment of my own ignorance) when I found out that it is now called Grand Central Terminal. Again, there are few movies that were filmed here, but one that I remember most is from Step Up 3D. 

Ahh my life in movies.


The Rockefeller Center. Notice Malaysian flag waving up there?!

Each place in NYC has its own story to tell, but you can do that from your own reading I guess. But anyways, this Rockefeller Center has a viewing deck where you can see New York from up above, including the Empire State Building. It doesn't come cheap though, although I couldn't really remember how much you'd have to pay to go in.

And here's the best part of New York City..


The Halal Guys!

I read about them A LOT before travelling to The States. And A LOT of the comments involved  QUEUES. And they weren't joking about it either. The queue extended to the corner of the block, so imagine how we felt when we first saw them. But fret not, once you're in the queue, it was only for 10 minutes top. They only take cash, so have your 10 bucks notes ready. Meals are around $7 each, and the portions are huge. It's a simple menu, I think with 5-6 options depending whether you want rice or kebab with either lamb or chicken, or both. But man, the food was heavenly.

We had our food at the side walk like a true New Yorker (haha I doubt!), partly because we were starving and the smell was too tempting.


The you-think-I'm-gonna-share? look.

We walked around for a bit more before heading bag to the luggage storage as they closed at around 6pm.



Times Square in panoramic view.

Since we were staying in New Jersey, we had to take the bus from Port Authority Bus Station. Round trip was $3 pp if I remember correctly, but you could also purchase 10-tickets for better price. The journey itself took around 15-20 minutes one way from Port Authority to NJ.

And this was what greeted us once we got off the bus at NJ.


New York skyline!

To be completely honest, part of the reasons why I chose this AirBnb (click for link) was honestly for the view. It wasn't the cheapest option if I wanted to be truly calculative, but I thought it was worth the journey and view. And the whole stay was amazing! We stayed for 4d3n and honestly, I couldn't fault the host at all. We had pastries and freshly brewed coffee every morning - and THE Hazelnut Coffeemate - I blame them for introducing that to me!

I initially considered staying somewhere in Manhattan to save on transport cost, and some of them worked out pretty much the same as staying in NJ. You pay more for the accommodation, but less on transport. Problem is, these accommodations are usually the dingy ones - shared bathrooms, no breakfast etc. Nowhere near what we got with the AirBnB. Highly recommended.

Arrived here to the magic padlock with a secret code, ha!



And somehow I became Anabel during that stay. 




They had 2 cats, which Adam wasn't particularly excited about. But me? CATS! Okay I can be quite scared of them but still, CATS!


So that sums up our first day around NYC. Hoping that I could keep up with this USA series as God knows how many pictures I have to scroll through, and the brain exercise to remember the details is just, bleghhh. But hey, it's NEW YORK!

Okay excitement over. Later.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Stonehenge - just, rocks.

Ayah has been wanting to visit Stonehenge since his last UK trip some time in July last year. But we were short of time and Adam was working so logistics were quite difficult. We went around Wales - which deserves a post on on its own (as usual), but not quite Stonehenge. So this time we had a weekend off with the family so I thought, why not.

The journey itself took about 2 hours according to Google map, but we had to detour for a very good reason (will share later!), so it felt like a very long never-ending drive. You know it's a long drive when there's this.


Road trip selfie.

After what felt like an eternal journey into nothing-ness, we finally caught a glimpse of the magnificent..


Rocks.

My first thought, "I expect you to be bigger?!"

And now is the time that I bore you with this legendary Windows 97 screensaver/wallpaper.


But our photo, first.


While this looks pretty majestic, it actually isn't. It's not even as big as I thought it would be. I mean, you look at Kaabah pictures and when you got there you're like, wow, I just cannot, like wow. But this one..

Obviously comparing it to our qiblat isn't the most appropriate thing, but just to tell you how disappointed I was..

I was properly disappointed. Heartbroken. Gutted. Dumbfounded. Flabbergasted. The list goes on.


Putting a grainy picture of us from my cousin's phone - one for the memory.

Apart from the rocks, there's also other areas to explore. Like this,


Tiny huts which are just about my height.


And this - where you can find out how many people of the same strength you need to recruit to build your own Stonehenge. I thought Adam did pretty great although the scale only lasted a few micro seconds. 

Grow up strong ok Seed buddy.

I personally feel that our biggest mistake was not exploring the Information Centre first (didn't take any pictures inside because I was already too disappointed, ha!). We went straight to see the rocks despite the staff recommendation to start with the Information Centre first, which of course didn't make a lot of sense. 

Once we've been inside the Info Centre only then things started to be more interesting. I mean, I now know that no one can actually be sure on why Stonehenge was built in the first place - it was thought to be a sacred burial place for the dead - but no one could truly confirm this.

Great.

But really, start with Info Centre first.


This is how the entrance looks like, btw. 

The actual site itself is about 1.5miles from the entrance, but they do provide free shuttles back and forth.


Not sure why I end this post with a picture of their shuttle, but there you go.

Some tips.

1. Book online to save money. The ticket itself is about £15.50 pp online but a quid or two more at the entrance. And you'd have to queue if you buy at the gate.

2. Bring snacks. Unless you want to be trapped in the overpriced cafe with very limited selections, bring some snacks with you. There's no eateries elsewhere within 3 miles radius (I made that one up) either.

3. If you're not a big fan of history, maybe give Stonehenge a miss. Unless you live nearby or going towards that direction anyway. Nothing personal, just not sure it was worth the long drive in our case.

4. Last but not least, if you do decide to go just because, go with an open mind!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Home, away from home.

Here's to more blogposts in 2017!

I realised I haven't really posted any pictures around our not-so-new home. So here's one.


Hehehe.

We were doing a bit of cleaning around the house before my family arrived, and this was taken just after Adam vacuumed the rug. I thought it's pretty cute seeing his palm prints on there, probably because he couldn't resist having a little 'sketch' on it, haha.

Serious photo now.


Our humble simple no-nonsense living room! 

Having moved from a tiny 1-bed flat with very limited living space to a 2-bed flat with maaaassive living room (and bedroom too!), it was initially really tempting to fill in the space with more stuff to make it more homey. Maybe a couple of pictures here and there, and a small vase with plastic (or fresh) flowers? But we persevered. 

Well more like I persevered, because Adam really couldn't be bothered. 

I wanted the space to look a bit more homey and personal, but at the same time I don't want clutters. I never really appreciate flowers and small trinkets anyway, although I do adore them when I see them at others' places. So what we had back then is all that we have now. In fact if you look at the picture, we hardly ever buy things!

1. TV - free.  It's from Adam's previous apartment in Belfast. (I don't know how he managed to get away inheriting the TV and not paying for it.)

2. TV stand - free. The previous tenant at our previous flat in Leicester left it for us. (I asked if they had anything to sell us before they moved out, and they gave it for free!)

3. Leather couch - free. My neighbour at Grasmere St where I used to live with my housemates left it outside their house with a sign saying "Help Yourself". And of course I couldn't help myself. It's friggin' free!

4. Purple couch cover - (sorta) free. It's actually a duvet cover from Adam's years in Belfast. I haaaate leather couch (freezing bums!) which is a bit ironic because I insisted to have this one, but at the same time couldn't justify spending £20 plus for a fabric cover. This did the job.

5. Rug - (sorta) free. From my years in Grasmere St, Leicester. The house had wooden floors.

6. Stand lamp - (sorta) free. Again, from Grasmere St.

So really, we didn't buy anything new since Adam moved in to Leicester last year, apart from the Xbox 360 - and even that is second-hand.

(My mom always wonders how is it that we're so thrifty given that both of us are doctors.)

Speaking of Xbox, I played Castle Crashers yesterday and this popped up.


Sent it to Adam because he was on a long day 13-hr shift, hehehe.

And I thought I'd share this picture as well.


This was last night when Adam just got home from his shift having dinner, and I love how everyone was very fixated on the movie. Reminds me that yes, this flat is quite expensive for what it is, but nothing compares to having everyone in the same space comfortably. (We could never do this in Leicester.)

Anyways, my favourite space of this flat is actually the kitchen! Will probably share that one someday.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The longest January yet.

January feels like it's dragging on foreeveeeerr. Let's see, I've done nights (8.30pm-9.30am), I've done lates (2pm-10pm), I've even done long days (8.30am-9.30pm). And I'm currently on day 8 of a 9-day stretch, yet it's not even February! There's something about this Paediatrics job that makes time go awfully selloowww I swear.

On the bright side, I've actually been working for nearly 2 months on this job, nearly half way done!

Anyway, on to my favourite topic - Seed.

He's a big boy now! Fine, more like tummy's getting bigger and bigger. I can no longer sujud without feeling the pressure around the hip. Walking fast means holding my tummy for support (read: mums' instinctive mechanism). I just feel constantly heavy.

Which brings us to the next point - I'm not exactly heavy, heavy. I've only gained a little over 4kgs over the last 6 months. I don't look terribly pregnant apart from the growing tummy. So I shouldn't really feel that 'heavy', if anything.

In fact, I've hit my current weight once when I was home in Malaysia for nearly 2 months or so. So really, this isn't really heavy.

It's a lie if I say I'm not worried about Seed not growing enough - after all people keep warning me about weight gain in pregnancy and I, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. I've been constantly tired and stressed on the job, and I well know it can affect baby's growth.

But I keep reminding myself, as long as Seed's healthy, figures don't matter. He's been kicking up a storm, his favourites are handover time at work and just as I'm about to sleep. I have a feeling he's responding to voices (hence the handover dance!). Also, he sometimes kicks like mad when Adam's telling me things, and pauses when I tell Adam about this - what a cheeky bunny.

I've been told that babies recognise the language spoken to them - as if, they pick up the accent and lingo. Obviously they might not understand just yet, but they're aware. And for this very reason, I reeeeally think Adam and I should speak more English at home.

Yes, we often talk gibberish to each other - (rahsia kebahagiaan, kah!). How to speak English then?

Craving-wise, I find myself in a bit of a sticky dark mess of coffee addiction. I cannot get the Hazelnut Coffeemate that we had in The States out of my mind. That. Is. Pure. Gold. I tell you. So I've been looking for alternatives here - Old Town's not one of them as they're too high in sugar, and the less sugar ones taste too artificial to my liking. So I ended up scouring through Amazon and found the Hazelnut Coffeemate, for a friggin' £7! Gaaahhhhhh.

Although to be fair, it's not really the money I'm too concerned about, it's the potential exponential increment of coffee consumption that might come with it that's more worrying.

(Word of caution: I might still end up buying it, lol.)

So yeah, reeeally. Nothing too exciting going on right now. My family's now here, actually in Amsterdam to be exact, ha! Other than that, life's pretty much as what it is - work and sleep. I've also been posting from my iPhone instead of laptop, because, sleeeeeep. (I need at least 8-9hours of sleep to function properly the next day).

Mad respect to pregnant doctors who work until right before they're due!


One not-terribly-pregnant doctor counting hours to finish her 13-hour shift. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Something warm and fuzzy.

There's something about living abroad thousands of miles away from home, just the two of you - just him, and you. 


It can be pretty lonely, it can seem like an endless journey with no definite destination, and at times, it can be really frustrating. 


But it's mostly amazing. The love that you have for each other, is a different kind of love. It's the tenderness, the affection, the morning snuggles on a frosty Sunday morning when you have to work for a 13-hour shift, knowing full well that none of us really wants to do that. 


It's knowing that we're in this together, lonely or not. Alone, we can be lonely together, can't we?


Adam was about to snuggle up to me one night, when I suddenly shoved a bolster into him and turned the other way. I was half-asleep (with somehow very good reflex) so of course I didn't remember anything. 


So when he told me this the next morning, we laughed. He even acted out the whole thing again - there we were, two perfectly grown adults on a foreign land far far away from home - jumping in bed, re-enacting the scene that wouldn't even mean much to others. But at that moment, at that very moment, it felt like we belong here. We belong together, and that's all that matters.


It's just warmth and fuzziness. 


I have a habit of tickling his feet in the morning when they stick out of the duvet (he's just got really long legs!), and he would shuffle, sometimes even wiggle his toes, half-asleep. 


The same as how he likes to snuggle up to me at night, and hold me close when I'm asleep. I don't think he even realises doing it, especially in the middle of the night - I'm a light sleeper, he's the complete opposite, totally comatosed. Still, he'd give me soft pats as if trying to put me back to sleep.


(Basically we really like each other when one of us is asleep.)


I suppose that's the thing about the togetherness in us. Lonely or not, we're in this, together. 


Always.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sugar talks.

I want cakes. I know I usually just tweet about it but this time I might as well write. 

Cakes. The way of life. 

Speaking of, last time when we went back to Malaysia, we had a deep discussion about sugar, health and all sweet things. 

What you must know is that Adam selaaaaalu bantai I sebab suka makan cake and ice cream. And unhealthy things in general. Dulu kat KMB dia siap sorokkan air tin Nescafe sebab I suka sangat minum coffee. Ada sekali tu dia bagitau our other classmate suruh pesan kat I jangan makan banyak sangat. Kemain.

So sama lah lepas kawen pun. Kadang2 risau sebab Bella suuuuuka makan cake. Adam takberapa sangat sweet things. Dia suka anything cold, rather. Particularly yogurt.

Anyways, kitorang balik Malaysia check blood sugar masing2. Curious. Alang2 ada test strip kat rumah Umi. 

And guess what? My fasting sugar was 4.7! For someone yang memang sweet tooth, that's pretty impressive. Adam? 5.9, amek ha. To be fair dia makan kerepek pisang just before testing, but still..

So we agreed, I memang suka benda manis, tapi I sangat particular pasal sugar intake on things that I can control. Eg, 3in1 drinks. Especially coffee ones. They're loaded with sugar sebab nak counter pahit coffee tu supaya jadi lemak2 berkrim. 

I stop herbalife dulu pun sebab conscious dengan sugar dia :( 

Ada sekali at some point I quit sugar cold turkey. Kalau boleh memang aim less than 4 teaspoon per day - including makanan dalam packet. Note that I memang jaaaaaarang letak gula dalam minuman macam coffee (again), so most of my sugar intake dari packet/prepared food je. 

Simple tips yang I practice bila nak beli makanan kat kedai dalam packet/bungkusan untuk tengok kandungan gula. 

1. Tengok under "carbohydrate, of which sugar" dia berapa per 100 gram. As a ground rule, 4g sama dengan satu sudu kecik gula. Anything less than 4g is considered low sugar, anything above 20g is high in sugar. 5 sudu kecik bak hang. And kalau fikir balik, 20g sugar per 100g, 1/5 kandungan makanan tu ialah gula semata!

2. Tengok order of ingredients. It's a regulation rasanya, that manufacturer kena letak ingredients in order of significance. So kadang2 tu kalau beli juice atau kordial, tengok ingredients list, contohnya - Water, sugar, blackcurrant extract, etc.. Maksudnya gula dia lagi significant dari actual juice. Sama dengan coffee 3in1 (lagi, sebab I memang suka minum kopi), ada satu produk tu ingredients in order dia adalah - Creamer, sugar, coffee..... Last2 baru dia letak herba ke apa entah. Kat laaaaast sekali! (Ni brand kopi yang market untuk kesihatan). Hm, maksudnya herba atau bahan2 untuk sihat dalam kopi tu sikit sangat. Instead dia hanyalah kopi, creamer campur gula. Harga pun boleh tahan. 

I have nothing against these health products, cuma 3in1 meeeemang kena be careful with. Haritu masa buat elektif kat klinik kesihatan, ada new diagnosis of diabetes, umur baru 27. Puncanya suuuuka minum 3in1, siap tambah susu pekat lagi. Minum kopi sihat ok, bukan Nescafe biasa2 tu. 

Rakyat Malaysia makan kat kedai dah la minum air manis (teh ais sedap please!), kat rumah pun nak tambah lagi manis. And makanan ruji kita nasi, which is carbohydrate yang akan bertukar kepada gula kalau tak convert jadi tenaga (exercise). Simple but often overlooked. Semua menyumbang ke arah kencing manis.

Ke arah 2017 yang lebih sihat, marilah lebih conscious dengan apa yang kita beli/makan. Slow2, lama2 terbiasalah. Take it from someone yang hantu cake ni :)

Dr. Bella.