On How I Became A Popster

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Since Sarah Geronimo has occupied most of my mind and my time this weekend, I might as well write something about her and why I am a fan.

It was 2003 when I first heard of her. I went back to the Philippines for the first time after three years of living abroad. On our way home from the airport, my cousin played a song in the car and asked me to guess the singer. It was one of my favourite karaoke songs (although I sounded like a cockroach being strangled whenever I sang it)- To Love You More by Celine Dion. And because Celine Dion was my favourite at that time, I confidently said it was her. My cousin was quick to correct me and said it was Sarah Geronimo. I was like, "who"? Apparently, she won a singing contest the year before. I listened to the whole song and I couldn't believe that I was listening to a 14-year old. I fell in love with her voice instantly, and that's how I became a Popster.
Photo grabbed from www.lionhearttv.net

For me, it wasn't hard to love Sarah Geronimo because she is different from other female Filipino celebrities of her generation. She is innately talented. She always sings from the heart, and makes "birit" with a class. I used to love watching ASAP because of her. Unfortunately, I don't watch it anymore because I don't have TFC. Luckily, Popsters are everywhere on Instagram so I am very much updated with what's going on with the Popstar Royalty.

In fact, whilst I am writing this, I am watching snippets of her concert last night at the same time and I am in awe. She is incredible. How can she do all that? She is the most versatile female performer in the Philippines as far as I am concerned. She seems to never get tired. She consistently sings and dances with so much energy and still manages to maintain her vocals. I think she is getting better with age. 

Anwyay, I love Sarah G because of how she is off-cam. Based on what I have read about her, she is very humble, shy and kind. She is apparently very different on stage- almost like she is possessed whenever she performs. 

I mean,  Sarah is everything that I am looking for in an artist- a total performer with a heart! I am still hoping that one day, I will be able to watch her concert. :)


Five Lessons March Taught Me

Sunday, 8 April 2018

The beginning of March was rather uplifting. There were some positive feedback from work, and some quality time well spent with people who really matter to us. It was an overdue catch up with one of our favourite couples in London, so what was the better way to spend the day than good food, good laugh and some karaoke with a 3-year old girl? I live for days like that and I am glad that I have amazing people to share it with.

However, just like anything in this world, some good things never last. Towards the end of March, my effectivity as a ward manager was put to test. I reflected long and hard as to why would this happen just over two months into my role. I asked myself multiple times, "is it me?". When I was at a point where I was going to start doubting myself yet again, I heard a voice inside me confidently telling me that it is not my fault and it will never be my fault. It felt like waking up from a bad dream. Since that day, I was fully convinced that whatever happens, it is not my fault because I know I am trying my very best. To be completely honest and not to brag, I am doing a good job despite not having a direct management background. This, I say with strong conviction because it is true.:)

This is why everything that is happening at work right now is a learning curve. I believe that every success and every failure is an opportunity for us to be one step closer to where we want to be. Hence, these lessons:

1. Let your work speak for you
- In the workplace where there are people who are in constant pursuit of recognition, if I may say, in every little thing that they do, you want to be different and be that person who works quietly and let your work do the talking.  At the end of the day, it is not how much you have done, but it is how the work was done that matters. Your motivation to work harder and be the best among the rest should be the difference that you make to yourself, your craft and to other people, and not the constant affirmation you get from others every time you do a great job. Those things do not last forever. Instead, let your actions define you as a person and not the words  you hear from other people. 

2. Be proud, not of what you have achieved, but of what you have become because of what you have achieved
- I get it. People work very hard to be successful and that's okay. What isn't okay is when people let their success get to their heads. I have worked with people who "power-trip" because they think they are better than others. They start picking on other people, making them feel incompetent of their jobs. And this is simply because they know they are in a higher position than them. People become too focused on their achievements that they often forget the person they once were. In this world where everything is temporary- even success, people should always go back to where they've come from and view success as nothing but an instrument in finding the person that they truly are. Only then they can truly be proud of themselves and call themselves successful. 

3. The right people will stay
- And this applies to all aspects in life. Whilst I almost blamed myself for losing a good member of my team, I realised immediately that perhaps she wasn't meant to stay. I've always believed that the right people will stay no matter what the circumstances are. Where there are many challenges, the right people will stand by you and will walk through the journey with you. This is why I remain positive that things will get better in time, when I finally have all the right people around me.

4. People leave not because of the job, but because of people
- I know this very well because I left my previous job for the same reason. It is a disheartening fact, but no one can blame anyone for leaving work because of their colleagues. The truth is, we spend eight hours a day, five days a week of our precious time with people at work. That is more than what we actually spend with our loved-ones. Personally, I would like to spend my valuable eight hours with people that I get a long with. People I can share a laugh with. People who are kind and compassionate towards each other. People I can call my family outside my family. Life is too short to be spending it with people who judge you, undermine you and constantly try to make you feel bad about yourself. So, why stay?

5. Focus on what's important
- Sometimes it is very hard to determine what truly is important in our lives. It has been a constant battle for me in the last three months to resist sacrifising my life outside work in order to fulfil professional demands. I had to constantly remind myself of how I rose above those who made me feel less of the person than I am at my previous job- and that is the fact that I have a good life outside work. I used that as a weapon to defy all the negativity back then, and I will use that again so that I don't lose focus on what truly is important in my life.

Ha, this entry perhaps sums up the challenges I am facing at work currently.  But as I always say, this too shall pass.


On Acceptance, Forgiveness and Death

Saturday, 31 March 2018

I was expecting to see Kuya in bed- looking gaunt, weak and in pain. Instead, he was sat on the couch, chatting away-looking strong and far from that person I was told only has a few days (or a month at most) to live. He was sort of surprised to see me, whilst I was happy to see him healthier than I expected. We hugged like old friends. And as I closed my eyes, I emptied my mind and my heart for a second to allow all the emotions through, silently and wholeheartedly. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes as I let go of his tight embrace, but I knew he didn't need tears at the time. He then said,"O, paupuin niyo si Cristine". Ate asked him very politely to go back to his bed so I could sit on the sofa. That simple gesture evoked some good memories of when I used to regularly hang out in their flat in Bristol. Suffice to say that I remain grateful for this couple's generosity towards me back then.

After an hour of catching up and sharing our positively stressful life in London with his other visitors, our conversation somewhat turned deeper. Kuya spoke in an almost melancholy voice. As I listened to him though, I saw the same person I met over five years ago- eloquent, sharp and passionate. Whilst he used to consistently speak with strong conviction, that day, there was this sense of humility in his voice. That hour of honest conversation with him reminded me of three of the most important lessons that I have learned through the years:

1. Acceptance
- Sometime in 2014, I wrote that "acceptance is the key" in one of my blogs about letting go and moving on. This was validated by Kuya when he said that he needed to accept things the way they were before he could finally let go. His words still echo in my head, "acceptance talaga". He said it took him a long time to be able to do this which really surprised me. I have always known him to be feisty and I assumed that he could easily let things go. 

What I have learned (and still learning) from this life is that there are things that you cannot change no matter how hard you try. Stopping when you know you have done your best doesn't mean you are giving up. It only means that you have accepted the situation for what it is. Once you have done this, find it in your heart to let go, and believe that you can and will move on. Only then that you can truly be happy and free.

2. Forgiveness
- Kuya and I parted ways in a rather disheartening circumstance. What once was a very strong alliance became somewhat a painful separation. To be honest, all that has happened in the past no longer matter to me, but my visit to Kuya made me reflect on what happened then. Perhaps during that time, we cared too much for other people that we were both unsure what and who was really worth fighting for. I can only assume that on his part, he fought for the right reasons and for the right people.  Whilst on my part, well, I may have fought solely for the person who ended up hurting me, but then again, if it were not for that reason, I wouldn't be where I am now- in a place where every single battle is worth fighting for.

I don't know about you, but a person doesn't even have to ask for my forgiveness for me to forgive them. That's why when Kuya asked for forgiveness that afternoon, I knew in my heart and in my mind that there was nothing to forgive, only bridges to rebuild. 

3. Death
- As morbid as it is to talk about, death is a reality we all have to accept. I can't remember witnessing anyone I personally know openly talk about death, but Kuya did exactly that that afternoon. He bravely said that he is not afraid to die. This left me speechless, but I admired his strength. It seemed like he has accepted his fate and is ready to be with his Creator (from the words he confidently uttered). But not yet. I would like to believe that four weeks can be many more weeks, as examining him, he looked physically and mentally able to make it a little bit further. And I am claiming it.

Looking back on that afternoon, I am really glad I made an effort to visit Kuya no matter how busy my life has been. I am grateful that I was able to listen to him once again and make proper conversation with him, just like the old times really. I am praying that God will allow us to see each other again soon, hopefully not for the last time.

That afternoon was a poignant reminder that life is indeed too short. I am guilty of not reaching out earlier, but all that matters now is our renewed friendship. It honestly feels great to let Kuya and Ate back in my life again. I know not everyone deserves a second chance, but I believe we do. It certainly is never too late to start over again.


8 Lessons February Taught Me

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Boom. Just like that and it's mid-March. I certainly don't know where the time is going. All I know is that I am back at chasing it. Life in 2018 so far has been a roller coaster for me, but I am very much enjoying every bit of the ride. There are days of course when it all becomes overwhelmingly nauseating.  But when this happens, all I do is close my eyes and think of all the blessings that have come and are still coming my way, then I am renewed almost instantly.

To say the least, the first three months of 2018 has been a learning curve. And whilst I enjoy writing about food and places, all that this year has allowed me so far is to reflect on the lessons that I have learned, hence this second entry for my lessons learned series.

1. There is such a thing as good stress
- I am not going to deny that I am under quite a bit of stress at the moment. However, the stress I am going through right now isn't the stress that can cause skin breakout or the stress that will make you like a zombie. Instead, it is that kind of stress that excites you and pushes you harder to achieve a certain goal. It is the stress that makes you feel good about yourself and see things in a more positive light. It is the stress that keeps you motivated despite all the negativity that surrounds you. It's the kind of stress that makes you love life even more despite the challenges. It is that- good stress. I never knew it existed until I experienced it, and it feels so good.

2. Be kind and the world will be kind to you
-  If you are an innately kind person, the universe will find its way to repay your kindness. It may not be the biggest things that you are hoping for, but you should remember that oftentimes, it's those little things that really matter. Be it a weekly free coffee from your favourite coffee shop, a free chocolate bar from somebody you've just recently met or an extra stamp on your loyalty card- be grateful just the same. Or it could be that priceless moment when a five year old said that you are the kindest in the family.

3. Don't give up on something without even trying
- One day at work, we were talking about marmite. Someone asked me if I like it and I confidently said no as if I've tried it before. When I admitted that I actually haven't tried it, I realised one thing: that I have given up on something without even trying. That moment, I was reminded of those times when I was easily convinced I couldn't do something, when in fact I never actually tried anything. Luckily now,I have an angel up in heaven who always reminds me that I can do anything. He gives me the courage to keep on believing and trying on something even if I am often feel like a failure. He made me believe that everything and everyone deserve a chance in this world.

4. Always be mindful of your words and your actions
- I can no longer count how many times I have actually said this to other people in the last month. Personally, I have been a victim of misinterpretation and I have fallen out with really good friends because of this. I have learned my lessons since then and now, I am trying really hard to be mindful of how I say things and react to a situation or a person. What I learned recently is that some people interact with you to find something that they can criticise about you. Hence, every single word you say, every eyebrow you raise and every body action you make is going to be scrutinised. Believe it or not, if any of those is not of their "standard" (whatever that is), you will be portrayed as rude, abrupt, inappropriate, etc. But saying all that, also remember that you are not here to please anyone. 

5. Owning up to your mistake is easier than explaining yourself
- Recently, I made a mistake of not arranging something important and as a result of this, someone was very disappointed. Whilst I used to be very defensive and would waste time explaining to people why I made a mistake no matter how small, on this occasion, I just said sorry and admitted it was my fault. Being an occasional perfectionist doesn't always allow me to own up to my mistakes easily, you see. Of course I would apologise but I would then give as much justification as I can just so I don't look like a complete idiot. It's only when I have accepted the fact that I am now a manager that I decided to learn how to take full ownership of my mistakes. I learned that by doing so, I can make better decisions for myself and the people around me. 

6. It only takes one  person to ruin the whole experience
- Just as when you think that you are in an almost perfect place, someone comes along and makes everything more interesting for all the wrong reasons. Life is funny like that. 

7. Chain letters- sometimes it's some people's way of asking for a miracle
- Last month, a close family friend passed away. I wasn't aware that he was suffering from a medical condition, but he frequently sent me chain letters. Now I must tell you that although I broke the chain all the time (because I never passed it on),I always acknowledged his letters and said thank you. Somehow when I heard the bad news, this was the first thing that came to my mind. It suddenly dawned on me that perhaps, he was sending those chain letters hoping for a miracle. Then I realised that although those letters get so annoying sometimes, we should at least try and not ignore them because that could probably be some people's only hope.

8. It can always be worse
- I am normally a very positive person, but there were at least a couple of times last month when I was very tired and complained about silly things like not having time to do household chores and not having things that I don't really need. J was quick to remind me that my situation wasn't really bad. He asked me questions like, "what about the mothers who work full time and don't have maids?" and "what about the people who die in war everyday?". And he was right. My situation could definitely be worse. Therefore, I shouldn't really complain especially when I am fully aware that there are other people out there who are genuinely suffering.

There you have it. Despite how ridiculously busy I am these days, I am enjoying this chapter in my life because I am learning and growing  a lot personally and professionally. 


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?


2017: The Highs and The Lows

Monday, 1 January 2018

Reflecting on my life in the past year made me realise that despite the challenges, 2017 was indeed a great year. I am beyond grateful that I was blessed with so much more than I prayed for (except for a baby hehe). As much as I'd like to write every single blessing that I received in 2017, it's quite impossible so here's six of them:

1. Living in Soho with J
- Nothing really compares to living in the very heart of London with the most amazing partner. It's been the best London experience so far and I am glad I am sharing this experience with J.

I love living in Soho because I feel like I live in two different worlds. Despite our neighbouring streets being so ridiculously busy, we could still have that sense of "sub-urban life" when we are inside our top floor flat. Of course, we hear some occasional screaming at night, and the most annoying sound of revving engines but majority of the time, it's peaceful and quiet. I also love the fact that we are surrounded by pretty amazing things: restaurants, cafes, shops, theatres, most sought-after tourist attractions - you name it, it's in the neighbourhood. 

I know sooner or later, we will be moving out of Soho, so I am making the most out of it while I can.

2. The handful of people who chose to stay in my life
- Through the years, people have continuously made me feel less of the person that I am. So in 2017, I have disconnected (yet again) with some people and I honestly don't feel bad about it. In my life right now, I need people who will lift me higher and help me become a better version of myself.  I have a handful of those and that's all that matters. I'm truly grateful.

3. Those little dreams
- From hosting my first ever three-course sit down meal at home, to owning my most coveted kitchen appliances and cookware, to finally starting to grow some herbs in my kitchen- it's those little dreams that got me all inspired and excited in 2017. So yeah, I am going to make all my dreams come true in the years to come, one little dream at a time.

4. Travel
- I thought that we didn't travel much last year, but looking back, we actually had some amazing holidays in and out of the country. 

I finally reconnected with Farrah after a few years of not being in touch, and it was the best thing ever. Our trip to Edinburgh in March strengthened our relationship and provided a foundation for our future adventures.

In June, I joined J's annual family holiday in the Lake District for the first time and I had the most relaxing holiday ever. Then in August, we visited beautiful Cornwall which was the travel highlight of our year. 

Our unexpected trip to Seattle in October was the best surprise of my 2017. It was a memorable trip because it was our first trip to America together, and for just two days, we managed to do quite a lot of things. I was also able to spend time with my cousin. And then there was that day trip to Paris which gave me the opportunity to catch up with the most neutral person I know. :)

5. Giving up my job
- One of the things I promised myself when I came back from New Zealand was not to let anyone take that inner peace away from me. Unfortunately, I failed terribly in protecting my own peace. For a few months, I was surrounded by unwavering negativity. It was far from my intentions to live my professional life that way, so I took the first possible opportunity to get out. So a week ago, I finally left my job after almost a year of uneasiness. What a relief!

6. That Interview
- Recently, I went to a last minute job interview. The interview required me to give a 20-minute presentation on Leadership and what it meant to me. To be honest, I didn't have enough time to prepare for the interview. Hence, I was very nervous to a point of dropping my memory stick and almost knocking the laptop down. After my presentation, the interviewer reassured me that there was really nothing to be worried about and that I should be very proud of myself because my presentation was amazing. Then I nailed the interview after that. I knew then that I got the job but with interviews, you can never be sure. Unsurprisingly, I was offered the job and I couldn't have been more prouder of myself. It felt so good to be back in my old form - confident and capable.

But of course, 2017 wouldn't have been that exciting without going through some seemingly minor but unpleasant and emotionally challenging experiences.

1. My family
- For the past few years, I have been trying really hard to keep my family together but I don't think I will ever succeed. It breaks my heart to see my family slowly fall apart, but I know I have done everything I could and I don't think there is anything else I can do. I am the only one trying to hold the broken pieces together but I don't think it's worth it anymore. Until now, I am unable to live my life fully because of guilt. I feel like I can't be completely happy knowing what's going on with my family back home. I am tired. I want to be happy without feeling guilty. I just want my family to live in harmony. I want them to be more understanding of each other. But perhaps that's too much to ask. So be it.

2. The first three months back at work
- I had the most difficult three months at work early last year. Everyday, I went home hurt and feeling really incapable. Perhaps people didn't realise how they made me feel, but they sure did a good job in making me feel really bad about myself. I will never forget those three months. But thanks to these people because they made me realise how fortunate I am in so many ways. Because of them, I now have a better understanding of the people who are not genuinely kind.

3. My mother's stroke
- I was hit quite hard when my mother had a stroke twice between October and November. I was preparing for the worst thing that could possibly happen. Fortunately, my mother pulled through and made a fast recovery. Thank God.

4. The Oxford Street false terror attack
- Being locked down in a dark basement because of a potential terror attack was the most terrifying experience I had to go through last year. Definitely one of the most unforgettable moments in 2017.

With all the highs and the lows, I can honestly say that I've maintained a balanced life in 2017. I am very proud that my life in however many years has never been boring. It has been constantly changing for the better, one aspect at a time. Whilst I still wish that one day, every aspect of my life will be just the way I've always wanted it to be, I also believe that I can't have everything in this life. So for now, I am grateful for all that I have no matter how imperfect some of them are.

So as the New Year begins, I am hoping to live an equally good, if not a better life in 2018. I will continue to work hard to become a better person. I aim to spend more time doing the things that I love, and only with the people who are truly worthy of my time and effort.

And because 2017 gave me more than I asked for, I am hoping to give back a little bit more in 2018. I am hoping to be able to help make this world a better place to live in, one confidently beautiful person at a time. :)

To the universe, thank you for all the wonderful blessings and  the valuable lessons. 

And to you, dear family and friends, thank you for being a part of such a great year. I hope and pray that your 2018 will be filled with so much love, peace and happiness. Here's to a healthy 2018!


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