How I Celebrated 40

Sunday 31 July 2016

As my birthday month draws to a close, please allow me to write about my 40th birthday one last time. 

My 40th birthday was very special to me because despite not having my family and my closest friends around to celebrate an important milestone with, J and my new found friends in Wellington made sure that I had the best 40th birthday I could ever hope for. 

And so the celebrations began a week early. On the 2nd of July, what I thought was a simple get-together to formally introduce me to the rest of the "power puff" girls turned into a surprise birthday party. Sort of. My friend E has previously mentioned about bringing my favourite cake (ube-macapuno)for dessert, but I didn't know that there was going to be party hats and candle-blowing involved. 

I was deeply touched by the girls' thoughtfulness because honestly, I can't remember the last time I had this kind of birthday party- so simple yet so heartfelt. Even my mother was so happy when she saw my photos on facebook.

On my birthday weekend, we travelled to Sydney as planned. It was the best birthday weekend ever.

We arrived back in Wellington just before midnight on the 10th of July. Basically, I spent the last few minutes of my thirties at the airport and the first few minutes of my forties in a taxi. So, here's hoping to more travels in the coming years!

The following day (on my birthday), I woke up to a voice message from one of my favorite little ones Ethan, singing happy birthday to me. This was followed by a photo of him with a birthday cake. The sweetest thing ever. Thank you, Ethan.

Tired from our tip to Sydney, I didn't get up until about midday- one thing that I have not done in a very long time. Then we went to shop for food in the afternoon. Afterwards, I phoned my family. As expected, they celebrated my birthday with pancit for long life (haha) and some fried chicken. 

In the evening, J and I had an intimate dinner at one of our favourite restaurants in Wellington, Boulcott Street Bistro. Finally, a birthday dinner without any fuss. Just the way I wanted it to be.

And then there was also a post birthday celebration. My friend Eirenne and I had a fantastic afternoon tea at Martha's Pantry in Cuba Street. Yes, I finally gave in to an afternoon tea and I really enjoyed it. And they had plain scones, too.

My three-week birthday celebration ended with a yummy Yum-cha at my favourite Chinese restaurant in Wellington- Majestic Cuisine in Courtenay Place. 

And I have my Wellington clique to thank for that.

Although I was not expecting any gifts from anyone (as I just normally don't), J and some of my friends still made an effort to make me feel extra special on my birthday. My friend Katie bought me another acre of sunflower seeds in Uganda. Another friend of mine, Kemi sent me beautiful cards and a little book. The Wellington girls got me flowers and an apron, which I really need as I am cooking a lot more now. :) 

Eirenne got me an easel, while J bought me a painting set. Now, I am pressured to paint.:p

Not to mention the overwhelming birthday greetings from family and friends on social media. There was so much love.

I honestly can't think of any better way I could have celebrated my 40th birthday. What happened in that three weeks encapsulated everything that is important to me: people, food, travel, love and happiness.

And that is how I did 40.

tintin x

That Weekend in Sydney

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Even those things you never dreamed of happen if you follow your heart.

I say so because I never dreamed of visiting this part of the world let alone live here. But because I took the leap of faith and decided on a whim to come and live in New Zealand with the man I love, here I am seeing beautiful places that I never dreamed to see. Just like Sydney.

To J it was a mere weekend getaway. To me it was the best birthday gift ever! I only became obsessed with Sydney a few months after we arrived in Wellington. I was finally only about 4 hours plane ride away from the city everyone was talking about back in London. So we planned to travel to Sydney half way through our intended year stay in Wellington.

But first, we needed a visa. We did not know this as I came to New Zealand without a visa but was given one upon arrival, so I didn't do my research and just assumed that they do the same in Australia. But apparently not. Prior to any travel to Australia, British citizens need to obtain an electronic visa and/or ETA (Electronic Travel Authority). Luckily, they were able to issue a six-month visitor visa at the information desk in Wellington airport. Phew.

We flew out as early as 0700 (with Air New Zealand). Thank God there were no flight delays as Wellington is apparently well known for delayed flights because of the wind. We arrived in Sydney just before 9am. From the airport we rented a car and drove straight to the city.

We didn't have any itinerary as such. I told J I only wanted to see one thing- the Opera House (but what else) then we can go to wherever he wanted to go afterwards. So he took me to the Opera House straight away.

But I was looking for a particular view- the opera house with the Sydney Harbour Bridge behind it. Yes, it's the view that has been photographed a hundred thousand times according to J. But it's iconic and I wanted to have my own photo. So the following day, we headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens to get the view that I was dying for. 

Then we went back in the evening for the night shot. Simply amazing.

On our first day in Sydney, we got lost on our way to the Opera House and drove over the Harbour Bridge by accident. Man, what an experience! I got a little scared as I could feel the height of the bridge. Perhaps I have not overcome my fear of heights yet after all. 

Then after that we wandered under it and looking up made me cringe. On the other hand, there were some people who were brave enough to climb the bridge or simply walk over it. Much respect to those people. 

The bridge looked quite complicated with the multiple lanes for motor vehicles, trains, pedestrians and cyclists. But it is a beautiful bridge indeed.

Then there's the CBD (Central Business District). We only actually had the chance to walk around the CBD in the morning of our last day in Sydney.  Hmmm, one of my friends said that it felt like San Francisco for them when they went there. I don't know why but the city gave me the Manhattan feel. I probably don't know what I'm talking about but walking amidst those tall buildings and across the main shopping streets somehow gave me the ambience of New York. Well, that's just me anyway.

Unfortunately, I don't shop when I travel. I really would rather spend my time exploring beautiful places rather than browsing inside shops -even if the sale was on and it's generally cheaper in Australia than in New Zealand. But for future reference, Pitt Street, Castlereagh Street and King Street are the main shopping areas in Sydney. 

Of all the places that we drove past and went to, the Rocks is my favourite. It's like old and new Sydney combined. It boasts really nice cafes and restaurants, beautiful little shops, old buildings, cobblestones and weekend market. It's just across the Opera House and a few steps away from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I particularly enjoyed our short walk by the harbour and within those cobblestone streets on two separate occasions. 

Another area we visited was Newtown. It actually reminded me of Shoreditch in London with all the graffiti and murals, long stretch of multicultural cafes and restaurants, interesting shops and lively atmosphere. We actually went there to find a bookstore. Oh, how I honestly loved this unique idea. It was not exactly easy to find one but we eventually found "Better Read Than Dead" in King Street. We ended up buying four books. Then we went to another bookstore and bought one more. 

Also while we were checking out the market, J overheard someone mentioned an apparently good bakery- the " Black Star Pastry" in Australia Street. Although we were not that keen to find it at that time, we came across it anyway while looking for a cafe. But we were not prepared to queue so we went to the cafe next to it instead.

You can't go to Sydney and not visit the beach regardless of the weather, because winter can also be summer over there. Just like on the day we decided to visit Bondi beach. It was definitely a summer weather so we were lucky to be able to hang out for a bit and watch the surfers. 

For me, three days was enough to get a real feel of Sydney. We didn't have to rush to see anything. In fact, we had enough time to really enjoy the city- sightseeing, walk around, sit at cafes, eat at good restaurants and drive around  some beautiful areas of Sydney.  We even had time to visit the Sydney Aquarium. Unfortunately, we didn't get to visit the zoo. 

We stayed at the Fraser Suites in Kent Street for two nights. The hotel is quite old with discoloured carpet, scratched cabinet doors and some mould in the shower, but it's clean otherwise. The service was good. Of course I got a complimentary wine for my birthday which we didn't drink because we no longer drink alcohol. Haha. And we had a very good view from our room on the 36th floor, plus I loved the L'Occitane toiletries. 

And now the food. I must tell you that we had really good food during this trip and we ate at some very good restaurants in Sydney. 

1. Home Thai - 1-2/299 Sussex Street
- On our first night in Sydney, we treated ourselves to Thai Food and the closest restaurant we found from our hotel was Home Thai. The busy-ness of the restaurant didn't come as a surprise to me because the food was cheap but good. For starter I had the steamed dimsum (AU$7.50 for 5 pcs) while J had the fried chicken (AU$9). For main, of course I had seafood Pad Thai (AU$17) but I was unable to finish it because it was far too spicy. But it was good. I just wish I didn't mix the chilli.  J went for the red curry duck (AU$15) which was very delicious. 

2. La Guillotine - 518 Kent Street
- Fortunately, J knows real good food. He was the one who found this oldest French restaurant in Sydney and it was one of the most amazing meals I've ever had. The restaurant was very quiet which I really liked. I may not have a photo to prove how good our meal was, but I can still remember how tasty, juicy and soft my Magret de Canard was. And J's creamy chicken and mushroom in pastry puff was very delicious as well.

3. Nick's Bar and Grill- 32-33 The Promenade, King Street Wharf
- Since I haven't found lobster in Wellington, I was very keen to find one in Sydney and I did (but of course). We went to Nick's Bar and Grill in Darling Harbour and although it was a little bit touristy I enjoyed my garlic and butter lobster. J on the other hand was not very sure with his kangaroo steak. He said he probably will not have it ever again. I had a bite and although it didn't taste that bad at all, it was the thought of eating a kangaroo that put me off I think. So, no more eating kangaroos.

4. Doyles on the Beach - Watsons Bay
- On our last day in Sydney, we enjoyed the scenic journey to Watsons bay via New South Head Road towards Vaucluse. I must write about this first because I saw the most amazing view of the Sydney harbour here. Unfortunately, we were not able to take any photos as we were running late for lunch and we couldn't find a good spot. Unless we went inside people's properties I suppose. So, it's so sayang.

Anyway, Doyles on the Beach was the highlight of our food trip. Perfect pre-birthday lunch. I love seafood and Doyles on the Beach exceeded my seafood expectations. Nothing too fancy, just purely delicious food. Plus the service and the view? Amazing really. One of the best food experiences ever.
Classic Prawn Cocktail, AU$19.60
Doyles Seafood Chowder, AU$18.50
Doyles Selection, AU$42.80
Doyle's Famous Fish and Chips (Barramundi Fillets), AU$46.90

I had a very good experience in Sydney because I like the city. Most importantly, I was with the best travel buddy ever. I know I have travelled so many times in the past but I am having a totally different travel experience right now. It's less stressful, no arguments (so far) and it's sort of more relaxing. I am hoping that J and I  will continue to travel like this as it makes the experience more meaningful, albeit without those romantic shots. What's important is that I know that the romance lives in our hearts. Naks.

But seriously, I have J to thank for, for being who and what he is.

tintin x

40 Before 40: What happened to my list?

Monday 4 July 2016

Two years ago on my 38th birthday, I wanted to challenge myself so I wrote 40 things I wanted to do before I turn 40. I was very optimistic at that time that I would be able to do at least half of the things on my list. However, it's only a week before my 40th birthday and I only managed to cross off 12 things. Ha.

I must admit that when I was doing my list, I was just beginning to regain my self-confidence. I was knocked down really hard you see, and when I finally picked myself up and knew that I was strong enough, I thought I could do just about anything. Duh. I think my confidence went overboard that I didn't even realise the financial implication of this list. So, it's not really a surprise that I wasn't able to do even half of the things I believed were easy to achieve. 

Coming from a heartbreak at that time, I wanted to take revenge and the best revenge I could think of was to do things for myself once and for all, and partly  to impress other people, mainly men. Yes, I know. How stupid, right? I wanted to prepare myself for when the next Mr. Right comes along. I thought that doing those things would give me more confidence and would make me a better girlfriend in the future. What I didn't realise was that despite the failure of my marriage, I was and still will be the best girlfriend (or wife) any man could ever have (believe me). So there was really no need for me to impress. Naks.

And then of course, J came along and my priorities changed once more. Yes, our relationship became my priority but this doesn't mean that I have forgotten about myself. In fact, I love myself more than enough that I am able to love the person this much. After all, I can't really give what I don't have, right? So I don't regret that I was unable to do more than half of the things on my 40 before 40 list because now I have J. This is because I am happy to be where I am now. I have a well-balanced life and a partner who doesn't even realise  how amazing he is. Life is really good, and I can't complain. 

So what happened to my list?

1. Learn how to swim - My fear of water prevented me from learning how to swim, but I will still do this once I find a cheaper deal. :)
2. Learn how to drive
5. Run in UP Diliman- I am hoping to do this next time I go home.
6. Learn to Ski - I'm sure I'll be able to do this in the near future.
7. See the Northern Lights in Iceland - I still want to this but not necessarily.
8. Run a Marathon abroad - I considered running the Wellington marathon but it was in the winter (last week) and the weather has been really unreliable so I couldn't train.
9. Write a book - I am half way through.
10. Have my own Art Exhibition- This almost happened, but New Zealand came along. I am no longer expecting this as it's far too ambitious,  but perhaps there is a possibility that I might be able to hang one or two at some exhibition in the future. So watch this space. 
11. Learn Martial Arts- I've always wanted to learn Martial Arts but I guess it's too late now, so I might give this a pass. 
12. Visit Cambodia and/or Vietnam- This is still on the cards and I'm sure I'll visit either or both countries soon. 
13. Learn another language- I actually learned basic Italian before I made this list, but I need a refresher. 
14. Go camping- I'm sure one day this will happen.
16. Watch Kris TV live- Unfortunately, the show has now stopped airing. But I still want to meet Kris Aquino in person one day. Ha.Ha.Ha.
17. Learn how to pole dance- Hmmm...perhaps I would reconsider.
18. Learn how to play the violin- I may still learn in the future but I think for now, it's enough for me to be able to tell other people that my son Keith played the violin. Also, I met a professional violinist a few months ago and I am happy that I was able to share Keith's story with her.
19. Be a motivational speaker- Apparently, I already am to some people so I don't need to be on TED talks. :)
20. Be a Humanitarian Volunteer- Not exactly humanitarian, but I have devoted some of my time to volunteerism. 
23. Watch Tour de France in Mont St Michel- Not probably to watch Tour de France anymore, but I would still love to see Mont St Michel. One day.
24. Read at least 24 books
26. Watch Sarah Geronimo and The Killers in concert- Unfortunately, neither of them had a concert in London in the last two years.
29. Mud Run- I knew I wasn't ready for this challenge.
30. Sailing- I added this randomly as I thought I was going to do it with a friend.
31. Climb a mountain
32. Visit Pooh corner- Oh my love for Winnie the Pooh. I should really do this when I go back to England.
33. Find the best cheese roll in London or learn how to make it
34. Medical Mission- Too ambitious I suppose. But one day, it will happen.
35. Watch an Opera- I actually don't really want to do this. It's just here to impress.
36. Cycle around London- Somehow perhaps I have done this. J and I went cycling around London one day but I had the Bike Ride in mind when I wrote this.
37. Stay in a Monastery-  At some point in my younger years, I thought of becoming a nun. This is on my list because I wanted to experience life in a monastery even for a short period of time.
38. Run in 5 major parks in London- I have only done 4 so far. Will make up for it when I go back to London.
39. Ask 5 "guys in light blue shirt" to give me 3 challenges each- Will not do this anymore as I no longer need to impress men and my search for that guy in light blue shirt ended when I met the guy in light grey t-shirt. :)
40. Continue to inspire people and make my dreams come true- Will do this for the rest of my life. 


This is another proof  that I can't really plan my life. I wanted to go to some places and do some other things, but the universe had a better plan for me. Instead, I took the leap of faith and made one of the easiest decisions I've ever made in my life - to come and live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world with the man I love. And this my friends, made up for the things I was not able to do on my list. 

So from now on, no more lists. I'll just go wherever life takes me and enjoy the journey no matter how challenging it could be. After all, life is a trial and error. If I fail the first time, all I can do is try again. It's always better to try and fail than not to try at all. Besides, every failure is a lesson learned. And in my case, every lesson I learned became my weapon to become a better person. 

And so, let the journey begin.

tintin x

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