Important Lessons January Taught Me

Sunday, 11 February 2018

A month that started very strong ended with a trip to A&E, some minor operation and a health scare. January was indeed a very weird month for me. It was a month of promising beginnings, yet it was emotionally and physically demanding. It's okay though, because it was in January when I finally found the place where I belong professionally, and it was when I proved my worth without even trying.

So, despite January being a roller coaster ride, it inspired me to do better and make things happen. And with just a month gone, 2018 has already taught me a number of valuable lessons. This is the reason why I started this blog series, so I can share what I have learned and hopefully inspire other people too. 

1. Confidence is everything.
- I never thought that I could get my confidence back that easy. It only took me a black jumpsuit and a 3-inch heels to stand up tall and say, "Confidence, Darling". Haha. But seriously speaking, life-changing decisions can make or break your confidence. I decided to leave my plain-sailing job of 5 years because of some people who constantly made me question my abilities and doubt myself. Where I am now, I see women everyday who want nothing but have their confidence back and be completely happy again. I am so grateful to be a part of this team who empowers women (and men) to be who they want to be. 

My new found confidence has given me the power to make positive change and motivate other people. It is now my job to protect the fire that's burning inside me, and not let anyone steal my confidence ever again.

2. Use your time wisely.
- This is one lesson I learned ages ago but in January, I felt like everyone wanted a piece of me more than ever before. To be fair, I always try my best to be there for the people I love and care about, be it physically or virtually, but January was out of control. As much as I appreciate that perhaps people sometimes forget that you also have your own life to live, own problems to solve and a body (and soul) to nourish, you don't need people to infuse negativity into your already challenging life, especially when you have implied that you too are going through something.  For once, I decided to step back from those people and devoted more of my time and effort to those who genuinely deserve them. By doing so, I made people who were very deprived of support and attention, feel more valued and appreciated.

3. You can't fake kindness.
- You are either kind or you're not. However, there is also such a thing as opportunistic kindness. I know people who are only kind to those above them because they need their approval and they are afraid of rejection. The same people can also be nice to people below them, only because they believe they have the power and control over them. So, the people in between don't get the same act of kindness because they are basically of no use to them. But they fake kindness regardless because they feel the need to impress. Kindness should be consistent. It shouldn't only be given to people you can benefit from. Kindness should be extended to anyone at any given time. You can fake kindness until you make it, but ultimately, what is not innate will betray you. 

4. Anywhere you go, whatever you do, there is always someone who is not going to like you.
- Generally, people at my new job are kind and helpful. However, there is this one lady from another department that hasn't shown any interest in me at all. Not that I need her approval, but as professionals, I expect her to at least acknowledge me when I say hi to her. But I guess someone has to be that person, otherwise professional life will be less exciting. :)

5. When your instinct tells you it's time to move on, move on. You are on your way to making your dreams come true. 
- It took a painful betrayal, a trip to Venice and a liberating divorce experience for me to finally learn how to listen to my instincts carefully. There are only a few things in this world that are worth fighting for. If you have a single doubt whether someone or something is worth the battle, it's your instinct telling you that perhaps it's time to move on. So listen carefully. 

Last year, just like in the years before that, I let go of a few things, including dear friends and dream jobs, and yet I am definitely happier now than I have ever been in my life in the UK.  I am really happy that I followed my gut feelings and left my previous job in December. And because I moved on,  I am more positive and happier in my new job. Despite the fact that where I am now is very different from the respectable surgeons and the equally reputable hospital that I am used to, I am still very much excited and inspired because this is another dream come true.

6. Difficult situations are the best teachers in life, so treasure them.
- On my first official day at work, I was thrown into a difficult situation where I was forced to showcase my managerial skills in a still unfamiliar place, with people I barely knew. But this was the best thing that happened that day because I effortlessly eased into my role and instantly became a part of the team. I didn't do anything special other than be myself. I am grateful to the cause of the problem because I never had to go through the dreadful anxiety of starting a new job. That day was a learning curve and I haven't stopped since.

7. Hone that skill that nobody taught you.
- I've always known that I have the skill to inspire and empower people in my own little way and I believe nobody taught me this. This is a skill that came so naturally. One day, I found myself empowering someone who was convinced she was a failure. That's how I realised that I don't have to be in the television or in youtube, or even a writer (which was my dream by the way) to motivate other people. I can just be myself and be there for others when they need someone to lift them higher. I am fortunate that I am now in a professional environment where I can surely develop this skill.

Well, January has gone by quickly and we're almost half-way through February. I already have learned a few valuable lessons in the first ten days of February and I am eager to learn more. Life is more exciting when there are lessons to be learned.


Six Years Gone

Sunday, 28 January 2018

If there is one story that I will never get tired of sharing, it would be that of our beloved Keith Ashley. It's now been six years since we lost our angel. The pain has eased a great deal, but I guess it will never completely go away. Everyday, I think of him like he never left. But as soon as reality sets in, my heart aches all over again.

In the last five years, I have been doing little things to remember Keith, and this year is no different.

Ten days ago, I donated blood for the 4th time in the last three years to honour Keith. During the time that he needed to be transfused, there was no blood readily available in the private hospital that he was confined in, nor in the government hospital across the road. My family had to travel miles and miles away to buy blood. This shouldn't really happen. Blood should be available immediately when someone needs one. This is the reason why I decided to start giving blood. I wanted to help save lives in memory of my son. Yesterday, I received a message saying that the blood I donated has been issued to Worthing Hospital.I became emotional after hearing the news. I am just so happy and proud to have done such an amazing thing because of Keith.

And today, just like in the last 5 years, I lit a candle for Keith, said a little prayer and played his favourite song Lighters. 

I wasn't able to speak to my family that much today because we went to a Christening, but I know that they prepared something for Keith as they've always done in the last five years.

Speaking of Christening, this morning was my first time to hear mass properly since Keith passed away. The mass was a bit more laid back than what I'm used to, but it was still good. I am actually honoured to have witnessed the Christening of a child who went through so much last year at aged 3. It sort of brought sad memories for me, but today, I saw nothing but hope in the very resilient child and his family. 

Ah, six years have gone really fast. I miss the boy who brought so much joy into my life. The boy who has made me proud and continues to do so. The boy who changed my life for the better and who continues to inspire me to do better.

Life will never be the same without my boy, but his memories will always be with me. He will forever be loved and remembered.


My Best London Dining Experiences In 2017

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Good, if not better food experience was one of the things that came up in my recent conversation with J about things that we plan to do more in 2018. There is no doubt that our love for food in general has grown in the last two years. And with that, I am glad that I now have learned how to cook better because this means that we don't really have to go out and spend money in order to enjoy delicious food. 

In 2017 though, without even realising it, we dined out in some of the finest restaurants in London more than I ever did since I moved to London 5 years ago. Most of the food that we ate last year truly ignited my senses and sent me to foodgasm. 2017 gave me the opportunity to connect more with food, hence providing me with the best London dining experiences to date.

1. The Ivy - 1-5 West St, Covent Garden
- A few years ago, I went to The Ivy for the first time to try their (then) famous sticky toffee pudding. After that, I went back a few more times but for different reasons. In November last year, I went back again, this time with J and his parents.

I've always loved The Ivy because of it's stained-glass windows, classy interior and extensive collection of art deco paintings. However, it was noticeable that the restaurant has undergone some facelift as I couldn't remember the bar in the middle being that big. Even the menu has changed. One good thing though, the food remains excellent, and the service- exemplary as usual. For starters, we had Crispy duck and persimmon salad which was uber delicious. For mains, I had the Yorkshire pork cutlet (£23) which surprisingly came in quite a big portion. J and his dad on the other  hand, had the deep fried haddock (£19). His mom only had salad because they had a heavy lunch. Unfortunately, my favourite sticky toffee pudding was not on the dessert menu. I could have asked for it anyway, but the pork really filled me up. But at least I have an excuse to go back.

2. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon- 13-15 West St, Covent Garden
- Last year, I discovered that lunch was a cheaper way to experience Michelin-starred dining. I prefer it now to be honest because it's less pretentious and much quieter than dinner. Our dining experience at Joel Robuchon in Covent Garden was truly amazing. Everything was of the highest standard from the moment we stepped in the restaurant until we left. The £39 per person three-course meal plus a non-alcoholic drink was cheap in my opinion, considering the quality and the amount of food that we were served. Plus the outstanding customer service from the all-smiling staff.

3. The Palomar- 34 Rupert St, Soho
- A few months ago, J's mum sent us a magazine with a list of the 100 best restaurants in Britain. On the list was our neighbour, The Palomar. I wondered why whenever I passed by the restaurant, day or night, there was always a long queue outside. Out of curiosity, we visited the restaurant and I can easily say that this Israeli restaurant is now one of our favourite restaurants in London. It was my first time to experience Israeli food and it was amazing. We prefer the dining room than the kitchen bar because it's quieter and more comfortable for us.

4. Clos Maggiore - 33 King Street, Covent Garden
- As a separate treat for my birthday last year, J brought me to Clos Maggiore for lunch. Clos Maggiore is known as the most romantic restaurant in London. Unfortunately, the conservatory wasn't available at the time, so we were seated in the private dining room upstairs which was equally romantic sans the fake cherry blossoms and the fireplace. The ambience was warm and intimate, and our waiter was friendly and attentive. I couldn't really fault the food as it was delightful. To start, I ordered the Dorset crab which was very tasty. J ordered the Windsor Royal park venison and Wagyu beef terrine. I was craving for duck that day (as any other day), so I had the mouth-watering Honey-glazed Goosnargh duck for my main course. J ordered the oven roasted chicken breast which he thoroughly enjoyed. For desserts, J opted for the European artisan cheeses which was overwhelming. I went safe and had the creme brulee because why not? Oh, I had an extra dessert because it was my birthday, plus a candle to blow. All for £34.50 per person. Clos Maggiore was indeed a very memorable dining experience for us.

5. The Ritz- 150 Piccadilly St, St James's
- Although I have stayed at The Ritz once before, I really never dined there. So when my niece visited in February last year and invited me to The Ritz for an afternoon tea, I didn't hesitate. It was the best way to cap off her visit to London. I expected nothing but a first class afternoon tea experience and my expectation was truly met. We had our own waiter who was very polite, friendly and obliging. The food was flawlessly presented, and delicious of course. It came in two batches unexpectedly, so we didn't finish the whole thing as it was a bit too much for petite ladies like us. But we nevertheless enjoyed the food and the whole glamorous experience. 

6. Hutong- The Shard, St Thomas St
- Breath-taking views, impeccable service and exquisite food- what else could I have asked for in a restaurant? We brought J's parents to Hutong in April last year and we were very impressed. When I made the booking, I requested for a table by the window and that was exactly what we got. We watched the raging London sunset while we waited to be served by the very accommodating staff. We had the  "melt-in-your-mouth" dimsum platter(£17.50) for starter. I was feeling selfish that night so I ordered their most recommended signature dish, the Red Lantern (£36) for my mains. It's basically amazingly flavoured soft-shell crab covered in red chillies. Don't get me wrong, I offered my food to my companions but I don't think they were keen on seafood, so I had the huge bowl to myself. Hehe. On top of that, we also ordered another signature dish, the whole Roasted Peking Duck (£62) which was served in two stages. This, I must admit left me feeling like a very ignorant person. I was expecting the quantity of a "whole duck" to be served, but we had what it seemed like two small portions of duck instead. But to be honest, it was the best duck I've ever had so far.

7. The Wolseley - 160 Piccadilly, St James's
- I was surprised at how laid back the atmosphere was at The Wolseley. I was expecting men in suits and women dressed elegantly, so I felt relieved when I saw diners in their "street-wear" outfits. I thought the place was too crowded and noisy but when we were sat down, my attention was immediately drawn to the historic architecture. The food and service were good. The chopped liver (£9) we had for starter inspired me so much that I made my own version of it on New Year's eve. I wanted to try something I haven't had in a long time so I went for the Schwein (pork) Schnitzel (£20.50), while J opted for the roast chicken (£21.50). 

8. Maze Grill Mayfair - 10-13 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair
- I am not a fan of Gordon Ramsay nor J, but I thought we should try one of his restaurants at least. J came to the Maze Grill with me reluctantly. I mean, the service was warm and friendly, and the food was good. So, I think it is safe to say that we had a good dining experience at the Maze Grill. J enjoyed their tomato soup (£8) while their two-piece buffalo chicken fillets (£7) left me wanting  more. I was missing steak at the time,  so I ordered that for my mains (Rump steak £20). J has always been the healthier eater so he had the fish of the day which was seabream.

9.  Gymkhana - 42 Albemarle St, Mayfair
-  I learned how to appreciate Indian food more when I started going out with J. I had Indian friends back in Bristol and whenever they brought me food,I always complained that it was too hot. But now, I actually love it. Gymkhana is a good place to go for Indian food in London, and the first photo above says it all. I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and efficient service. The food was excellent. Although quite pricey, it's definitely worth the experience.

10.  Orient- 15 Wardour St, Chinatown
- I guess it is only fair to say that our favourite Chinese restaurant in Chinatown is Orient. Not only that the food is great, but the service is outstanding (you don't normally get that in a lot of Chinese restaurants). Orient is our to-go-to whenever we are craving for Chinese food. Their dimsum platter (£8) is always good as well as my favourite roast duck (£10.50 for quarter). J likes their crispy shredded beef (£10.60). We have also tried one of their set menus, and for £21 per person, it was far two generous for two. 

11. Romulo's Cafe- 343 High Street Kensington, Kensington
- I can't cook Filipino food very well, and so it is quite important for me to find a good Filipino restaurant in London, and I am happy that I finally found one. The first time I went to Romulo's cafe, I wanted to eat every single thing on the menu. The selection of food was rather impressive- traditional Filipino dishes with a twist. And the service was surprisingly amazing- quick, very friendly and efficient. A few weeks later, I went back to Romulo's twice in a row for my work leaving do and invited my foreign friends. It was their first Filipino food experience and apparently, Romulo's has raised the bar. They very much enjoyed the whole Filipino food experience and would be willing to go back and try other dishes as well. By now, I probably have tried majority of the food on their menu, but my favourites are the pandesal and the sisig. I know it is expensive, but I have been to another fine dining Filipino restaurant in London, and Romulo's is definitely more worthy of my money. Let's just say that in Romulo's, you definitely get what you pay for.

There you go. I am not sure when will I be able to go back to the restaurants I have just mentioned because where we live, we have so many choices of good restaurants and we want to try them all. This year, we aim to have a more balanced dining experience in such a way that we try both old and new restaurants, and also to go further beyond our neighbourhood. 😊

I just love food. Do you?


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