That Three-Day Summer Trip To Dorset, England

Sunday, 20 September 2020

It suddenly dawned on me that we might not be able to travel at all this year. With the UK corona virus numbers rising again, a second wave is upon us. Local lockdown has been implemented in some places in the UK, and the government is highly likely to implement lockdown restrictions (again) in London imminently. So for now, all I can do is relieve our travel memories from last year. I have been going through our travel photos because honestly, I miss travelling. This is when I realised that I haven't written about our trip to  Dorset last year.

For so many years, Dorset has been on my list to visit in the UK - only because I wanted to see the Durdle Door. But when I was planning our trip, I realised that I had more reasons to visit Dorset - the land of countless roundabouts (haha). It was indeed a pleasant trip and an experience that is worth sharing.

During this trip, we decided to stay in a town called Evershot- a historical sleepy town, approximately 45 minutes drive to Lulworth where Durdle Door is located. With just over 300 population, Evershot is a perfect place for serene holiday, far from the madding crowd as Thomas Hardy put it.  Thomas Hardy was an English novelist and poet who referred Evershot as Evershead in his book Tess of the D'Urbervilles. The Acorn Inn where we stayed, is a very charming hotel with exceptional service. Our four poster bedroom, the Tess, was cosy and traditional; overlooking the village. The Acorn Inn is a hotel experience I will not forget.

Places we visited:

1. Lulworth
- Lulworth is a part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and this is where the Durdle Door is found, as well as the Lulworth Cove. It was August when we went and although it was a sunny day, the wind made it quite uncomfortable for us to stay longer. It was also ridiculously busy, with all people of all ages wanting to perhaps take advantage of the good weather for a picnic. It was too busy for my comfort though, so a glimpse of the stone formation that always reminds me of Monet's "The Manneporte" was more than enough for me.

2.  Highcliffe
- Highcliffe was not in our itinerary, however we had a few hours left  before dinner, so when we were searching for places to see on our way to Christchurch, we found the Highcliffe Castle. We took a detour and didn't regret it. Highcliffe Castle is an 18th century castle that was once a home to mr Selfridge (of Selfridges). We were not in the mood to explore the interior that day, but we enjoyed examining its picturesque exterior. Roaming around its beautiful grounds was relaxing. Not forgetting that refreshing coffee break under the tree at the end of the day.

3. Christchurch
-  We only actually went to Christchurch because the restaurant that we wanted to try was in the area. As it was approaching dinner, we didn't have much time to fully explore this riverside town. We, however, had the chance to walk by the quay which was refreshing after a full day of driving from one town to another.

4. Corfe Castle
- Corfe Castle is a village located on top of a hill in Purbeck, between Wareham and Swanage. We went here on our last day in Dorset. The castle is about 10-minute walk from the car park. Once we reached the top of the hill, we were rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of the village. The entrance fee of £10 per person was definitely worth it. 

Where we ate:

1. The Acorn Inn- 28 Fore St, Evershot DT2 0JW
- As we arrived in Evershot in the evening, we thought it would be best to have dinner locally. The restaurant in the Acorn Inn where we were staying looked credible, so we decided to have dinner there. The restaurant was charming and cosy. The service was efficient and the staff were delightful and accommodating. I loved the fact that the restaurant was not busy at that time. Their menu was inviting, it made me want to order more than what I could actually eat. But I was conscious that we would be eating more in the coming days so I decided to take it slow. I saw whitebait (£7) on the starter menu, so without a question, I ordered this. It was perfectly salty and crunchy to say the least. For the mains, I had the pan roasted Dorset pork loin, black pudding and apple hash pickled fennel broad bean and apricot veloute (£19). My plate looked messy when it came, but the tasteful food overshadowed this. J had the traditional fish and chips (£15.50), which he said was good. I was not going to have dessert as I devoured the whitebait, however I saw sticky toffee pudding (£8) on the dessert menu, so I had to have it. All in all, it was an amazing first dining experience in Dorset and I would recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting the area.

2. Rick Stein - 10-14 Banks Road, Sandbanks, Poole BH13 7QB
- When we had our Cornwall driving trip in 2017, we visited Rick Stein's Cafe in Padstow. The original plan was to dine at the main restaurant, however it was fully booked. To be honest, J and I have been watching his TV shows, and we have always been fascinated by his food. So, we thought that it would be nice to eat at his restaurants whenever we visit the Southwest of England. In Dorset, we drove to Sandbanks only to have lunch there. And perhaps, as you would expect from a Rick Stein restaurant, the food is pricey. We had a langoustine on ice each for starter which was definitely a mistake. In retrospect, I should have ordered something else. I actually went to Rick Stein for their famous fresh crab, so I ordered a whole Singaporean Chilli Crab for my mains. I found the waiter quite judgemental when he asked me if I was sure I could finish the whole crab as it was quite big. I couldn't help but say, "You haven't seen me eat a whole crab, so trust me, I will be fine". He had the shock of his waiting life when he collected my plate and found only empty crab shells. J on the other hand, had their Singaporean seafood curry which looked mediocre, but was surprisingly flavourful. It wasn't one of the best dining experiences for us, but it was worth a try. The panoramic view of the Poole harbour was a treat.

3. The Jetty - 95 Mudeford, Christchurch BH23 3NT
- Our last dinner in Dorset was at The Jetty- a seafood restaurant on water's edge in Christchurch. We didn't make any reservations but were gladly accommodated by the friendly staff. I found the food quite expensive for what it was, but perhaps you pay for the location and the stunning views of the Mudeford Quay. We ordered the octopus salad for starter (the price escapes me) and the Jetty Surf and Turf for £40. 

4. The Pig on the Beach - Manor Rd, Studland, Swanage BH19 3AU
- If I were to go back to Dorset, I would make sure that I stay at The Pig Hotel. I loved the yellow house and the shabby chic interior. It's a shame that we didn't have much time to really explore the property, but I would really love to go back there one day. Lunch at The Pig on the Beach was the best way to end our Dorset trip. The food was amazing and affordable. The staff were brilliant. We were very well looked after despite the fact that we were only there for a quick lunch. The property has incredible sea views. J and I were both impressed that we wished we stayed there even just for a night. Anyway, food-wise, everything was topnotch. We shared a crab cocktail (£9.50) for starter, which inspired me to make my first ever prawn cocktail a few weeks later. J chose the Purbeck sirloin steak (£28) for his mains, whilst I had the buttery Poole Bay plaice (£21). I highly recommend this restaurant.

And that's our Dorset travel experience. It was short but nonetheless a memorable trip.

Ah, I really can't wait to start travelling again. For now, I must remain patient until we are certain that we are totally safe to visit places again.


The Corona Lockdown Made Me Cook It

Sunday, 30 August 2020

The Corona lockdown was definitely a good opportunity for me to upscale my skills in the kitchen. I have been learning how to cook since 2016, when I took a career break and lived in New Zealand for almost a year. I mean, I know I can now cook, however, I have only been cooking food that I am comfortable cooking. In short, I (always) play safe because I am very impatient in the kitchen (this is the only aspect of my life that I am impatient with). So, when the lockdown was imposed, I decided to level up in my cooking. I started cooking food that I would not normally cook, food that I haven't eaten in a very long time and food that I very rarely cook. I even learned how to bake bread, cakes and muffins. So yes, another good thing that came out of the lockdown is the fact that I am now inspired to take on my cooking into new heights. So, watch this space. :)

Allow me to please share the food that I have cooked during the lockdown:

1. Cakes, Breads and Muffins
- I say this as if I actually baked amazing cakes. Haha. Not really. I started baking banana bread during lockdown just like everyone else. I am comfortable with banana bread because I have baked it once before. For me, it's the safest and easiest to bake. Then my birthday came, and I decided to throw an afternoon tea party for myself and J. I was forced to bake scones, cupcakes and my birthday cake. It was my first time to bake a proper cake. I chose pistachio cake because I found the recipe easy. I also baked red velvet cake for the first time. Surprisingly, I pulled it off very well. 

Then I tried to cook pandesal- the first proper bread I ever baked. I mean, it wasn't the most successful pandesal, but it was not bad for a first timer. 

2. Pasta
- Although pasta is easy to cook, I very rarely cooked it before lockdown because J and I were cutting on carbs. But since lockdown, we have declared Fridays as our pasta night, so I have been cooking pasta more than ever before. The pasta dishes that I enjoy cooking the most are fusilli and cheese (because J is not keen on macaroni), creamy carbonara and garlic pasta. 

3. Steak
- To be honest, as much as I love steak, I don't really want to cook it because it is messy to cook. I don't like it when the oil splatter all over. Besides, I was never good at cooking steak. So, whenever I craved for steak, I would go out to eat. Saying that, it is J's favourite so I really made an effort during lockdown to learn how to cook it properly because we couldn't go out. I still haven't got it 100% right, but at least I am a lot better.

4. Filipino dishes
- There are not many Filipino dishes that I can cook, and J can eat. This is the reason why I very rarely cook Filipino dishes at home. During the lockdown, I craved for some really badly so I cooked my favourite kare-kare, liempo and adobo. To be honest, it was only recently that I was able to cook proper adobo. I mean the colour and the taste finally tasted like the adobo back home. Yes, they say that every Filipino should be able to cook adobo. I was one of those who couldn't. But perhaps now I can? Also, I tried to cook sisig for the first time ever and it was definitely a success!

Oh, I also made an no-churn ice cream for the very first time. Of course, I tried my favourite Filipino ice cream flavour- ube.

5. Pancakes
- You probably wouldn't believe me if I say that before lockdown, I couldn't cook pancakes. I mean, I have attempted many times before but they were either bitter (from too much baking powder) or flat and chewy. I was on the verge of completely giving up on pancakes when I came across Food with Mae's recipe. Her 4-ingredients recipe gave me hope. You have no idea how happy I was when I finally saw those fluffy pancakes. J was even wondering why I was so happy. Then I took my pancakes to another level and made my version of "duck and pancakes" (instead of waffles). :)

6. Spam and Corned Beef
- I really can't remember the last time I ate spam and corned beef. But the lockdown gave me the excuse to eat them again after God knows how long. And boy, was I excited!? It was definitely the perfect comfort food for me during the time of lockdown. And of course, garlic rice which I haven't cooked like in forever.

7. Tofu, Dahl and Nando's Chicken
- Okay, I never thought that I would and could actually cook tofu and dahl. These two dishes really never occurred me. And although I knew that I could buy Nando's Peri-Peri sauce, I never really tried using it for cooking. So, thanks to Mindful Chef for inspiring me to cook  dishes that otherwise I wouldn't cook. 

8.  French Onion Soup
- I have always wanted to learn how to cook French onion soup because this is J's favourite starter but for some reason, I never tried it. Perhaps because I thought it was difficult to cook. But I was wrong. In short, my first ever French onion soup was a success. Another dish that I can add to my starter list.

I still have a long way to go, but at least now I am more motivated to cook. :)


My Dear Keith- You Would Have Been 20 And Making Your Dreams Come True

Monday, 17 August 2020

Seeing your friends' posts on social media always make me wonder if you would have done the same, too. You know, creating your own social media accounts and regularly posting stuff that interested you. You were very shy when you were a child, but saying that perhaps you would have gained more confidence in university. Yes, you would have been 20 and chasing your dreams.

I am very pleased to tell you that I am still in touch with some of your friends. Thanks to facebook and instagram for allowing us to do so. Your friends have grown into very fine young men and young ladies. I am sure you are proud of them. Your best friend A is attending PLM, whilst X is studying Psychology in my alma mater. Every now and then, I chat with A, I and V. From what I can gather, they are all doing well. Hayyy, I can only wish you were still here so I could enjoy watching you become an admirable young man. All I can do now is take comfort in the fact that you are in a better place - a place where you see lighters all the time.

To celebrate your 20th birthday, Meow and I donated blood for the 9th time. Unfortunately, they had no appointments today so we had to do it one week ago. The blood has now been issued to one of the biggest hospitals in London. Thank you for inspiring me to give back this way. 

Some traditions continue of course. As soon as I woke up this morning, I went to your little corner in the house, lit a candle, said a little prayer and played your favourite song, Lighters. I also wore your favourite colour blue. I feel better now, however I remain hurt. As I said many times before, I don't think the pain will ever go away. But I know you are looking down on me. You give me the strength to fight the challenges that come my way. I know you do. There are times when I want to give up on something and then I think of you. In an instant, I find the strength to carry on. You have always believed that you could do things no matter how hard they were. I think the same way now because of you.

Anyway, back home, they celebrated your birthday as they always have done since you were born. Apart from our immediate family, only people from the church were invited. 

It has also become my tradition to honour you in my social media accounts. My instagram story today is dedicated to you and of course, I posted something about you, too. You know that I have been writing for a long time now, right? In fact, I still need to finish your book. I really should find time to continue working on it. 

By the way, I received a few heartwarming messages today from those who still remember your birthday. My friends and yours also left comments on my posts. One of your friends left a comment that made my heart so happy. You see, a lot of people loved (and still love) you because you were a very good child. You were the perfect package- good natured, good-looking, talented and smart! I wouldn't have been surprised if young ladies were chasing after you. I can imagine you being an ideal man to a lot of young ladies out there. Oh dear Keith, how I wish you never left.

I am sure you had the best birthday on the other side, anak. I can only imagine you being surrounded by lighters and beautiful angels. As much as it always hurts me that I can never celebrate your birthday with you ever again, I take comfort in the wonderful memories that we have shared when you were still with us. I will always be proud of you. 

I love and miss you anak, always and forever. Please continue to pray for us.

Mommy TIN x

P.S. I hope you have seen Tatang Cardo out there. :)

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