St Stephen’s Tavern

Standing next to Westminster tube station and right across the street from The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, St Stephen’s Tavern is a traditional pub that originally opened in 1875. It has been frequented by many  renowned personalities including prime ministers such as Winston Churchill, Stanley Baldwin and Harold Macmillan and even today it is one of the watering holes of some famous British politicians.

The pub still retains its original division bell which rings to warn the British lawmakers that there are only a few minutes to vote.
I like old buildings and as soon as I entered the door I immediately noticed the Victorian wooden carvings on the walls and the ceiling.
Photographs and newspaper clippings adorn the walls of the building.
From the ground floor, there’s a set of stairs that leads you to the 1st floor (2nd floor to the Americans), and on both sides of the wall there’s all types of framed old magazines/newspaper articles, photographs, caricatures, etc., that will make any political history buff to stop and have a look.

It’s on a Grade II Listed building with ornate wooden carved high ceiling and other fittings from the original Victorian structure. (According to English Heritage, “A building is listed when it is of special architectural or historic interest considered to be of national importance and therefore worth protecting.”)

The pub retains many of the original fixtures and fittings.

Unarguably, it is one the best pubs to visit in London for those interested in political history. It’s mentioned in one of Winston Churchill’s biography books and it’s been on my list of ‘historic places to visit’ in the city for over a decade. I’ve only visited once to take these photos with a visiting friend from Manila, and it was packed with tourists and possibly with some of the British government’s elite, too.

Victoria: the queen who gave her name to an era

Today marks the bicentenary of the birth of Queen Victoria.  She was born at Kensington Palace and lived there until her accession, on that historic morning, the 20th of June 1837, when she was informed of the death of her uncle, King William IV.  Up until that day, aged 18, she shared a bedroom with her extremely protective mother and was never out of her mother’s, or her nanny’s sight. But something significant happened on that fateful morning, she went to see the Prime Minister and her privy council on her own without her mother. Then she  moved out of her mother’s bedroom into another room at Kensington Palace and only her governess was given access to her bedroom, a privilege denied to her mother. Even after she married Prince Albert and moved to Buckingham Palace, Lehzen became her private secretary and had access to her bedroom. Again, it was a privilege she never gave to her mother. In fact, she never allowed her mother to live at Buckingham Palace but had bought her a house in London where she lived until her death.

The young Victoria with her mother, Victoria, The Duchess of Kent

It’s safe to say that if there’s one person that had the greatest influence on Victoria’s life, it was her governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen. She was born in Hanover; her father was a Lutheran pastor and her mother was also a daughter of a pastor.  No doubt Lehzen’s Christian upbringing made a strong impact on Victoria.  She came to England as governess to Princess Féodore, Victoria’s half-sister. In 1824 Lehzen was appointed governess to the young princess Victoria, and remained as Victoria’s friend, ally and constant companion. Lehzen was strongly protective of Victoria and encouraged Victoria to become knowledgeable, strong, and independent from her mother’s and her mother’s private secretary, John Conroy’s influence. Her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and Conroy tried to control Victoria and even tried to forced her to sign a document that would make Conroy a regent in case Victoria inherits the throne before she turns 18.  Lehzen advised Victoria against it and she dedicated her life to ensure that if Victoria became Queen, she would be intelligent and strong-minded.  After the queen married Prince Albert, Lehzen became her secretary in private matters. Lehzen was often criticised by many historians for her influence over Victoria but I believe that if there’s one person who truly had only Victoria’s interests at heart, that would be Baroness Lehzen.  Victoria wrote in her diary about Lehzen, “she’s the most affectionate, devoted, attached and disinterested friend I have.”

Baroness Louise Lehzen (Image: Historic Royal Palaces)

Lehzen not only imparted to the princess Christian values but also a love of history. She also provided the love and affection which Victoria never received from her own mother.  The princess was taught to control her temper and to admit her mistakes to all she had wronged, regardless of rank.  Though she encouraged the princess from a young age to keep a journal, she never kept one herself, thinking it inappropriate to her position as a royal servant.  “She was very strict.”, Victoria later wrote in her diary.  The queen had great respect and seemed in awe of Lehzen, but with that the greatest affection as her diary revealed. Even in old age, Queen Victoria often talked about her governess and made mentioned of her in her diary.  The queen provided Lehzen a handsome pension, visited her in Hanover several times, sent her a wheelchair when she was infirmed, and after Lehzen’s death, the queen even erected a memorial in her honour. No doubt, Baroness Lehzen was indeed the greatest single influence in the formative period of the character of the princess.  Lehzen was her confidant, best friend and ally. God has providentially worked it out that Lehzen became an instrument in imparting Christian virtues to the princess, and it must be to her credit, and ultimately to God, for handing over to the nation a queen that embraced Christian values.  God has indeed accomplished His purpose in the life of Queen Victoria. 

The young princess Victoria (Image: HRP)
Queen Victoria captured smiling during her Diamond Jubilee celebration. (Image: Pinterest)

She lived a truly unique life. Under her rule, Britain doubled its size making it the largest imperial power in the world. It controlled more than 14 million square miles of territory (23% of the world’s surface) and approximately 460 million people at its peak. It has an international trade that dwarfed all others, and produced thirty percent of the world’s total industrial output. Its navy dominated the oceans and its empire expanded on a simple principle that trade follows the flag. It was described as being the “Empire on which the sun never sets.”  

There are innumerable books written about Queen Victoria and I’ve read more than a dozen biographies written by both British and foreign historians.  I’ve also read a lot of social history books on the Victorian era simply because it truly is my favourite period in British history. What’s remarkable about this age is the fact that religion pervaded the social as well as the political life to an extent that’s unimaginable today.  The British people embraced Christian values; that’s not to say that majority of the people were Christians but rather, people were extremely religious; were thirsting for faith and are continually seeking it. The Russian theologian Alexis Khomiakov was amazed at how silent the streets of London were on a Sunday. He wrote in his book, Russia and the English Church, (London, 1895): “Germany has in reality no religion at all but the idolatry of science; France has no serious longings for truth, and little sincerity; England with its modest science and its serious love of religious truth might [seem] to give some hopes…” Remarkably, it was also an age of major scientific discovery and progress, and the rise of Darwin’s Origin of Species to Karl Marx’s Das Kapital and other new ideologies that undermined faith in the truth of the Bible.

Taken yesterday during my morning walk at Kensington Gardens

Kensington Palace has a permanent exhibit on Queen Victoria’s life, and to celebrate the bicentenary of her birth there’s a special exhibit called Discover the Real Victoria. It opens today and I can’t wait to visit. I’m sure the exhibit will yield more fascinating and fresh insights into the life of Queen Victoria.

Five years ago I made a comparison of the current queen and her great-great-grandmother in this post.

Spring? More like Summer in London!

We have had the longest winter ever! And this is one of the coldest spring I can remember since I moved to London 18 years ago. April started out bitterly cold this year, and there was little sign the cold will be relenting until about a couple of weeks ago. Not that we didn’t get our spells of brilliant sunshine, we sure did. But even when the sun was out, it still was a bit chilly. Obviously it hasn’t fooled the trees. Wisterias were in full bloom this time last year; today the buds are just barely starting to bulge and it might take two to three weeks before they are in full bloom. Continue reading “Spring? More like Summer in London!”

Postcards from London – Winter 2018

Just as the first signs of the new season are starting to bloom, London is  blanketed in snow and the forecasted severe weather implied freezing cold temperatures until the end of the week. Snow is a fairly rare phenomenon in Britain’s capital, and the tiniest sheet of white can cause Londoners to go into a state of hysteria — flights are cancelled, roads are closed, public transportations are delayed, everything seems to shutdown, and the city goes on a panic mode. Londoners just can’t cope with the downpour of snow! While I like snow and enjoy the lovely wintery landscape, I hate being cold.  With five layers of clothing, I went out with Jared the other day to document the scene. The trees look quite breathtaking under the soft white powdery snow blanket. It was biting cold and even with leather gloves lined with cashmere, it felt like my fingers were falling off haha! I don’t think I can cope living in a place with sub-zero temperatures. Anyhow, we took loads of photos with our iPhones and I just wanted to share a few of them. For my family and friends in the tropics, these photos may cause you to dream about being in winter wonderland. 🙂  Continue reading “Postcards from London – Winter 2018”

HOMEMADE BATH SALTS

I’ve been making bath salts recently — thanks to my friend Rhoda who introduced me to this wonderful concoction. But before I’m quite there let me just say that I’ve been using Epsom Salts, or Magnesium Sulphate, for warm baths, foot soak, shower scrub, facial wash, etc., for many years now (and I’ve also been taking this) but the idea of making bath salts never even occurred to me until I saw Rhoda’s Instagram post

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Taking Magnesium has a whole host of benefits. It not only boosts magnesium levels in the body but it also alleviates muscular aches and pains, helps relieve stress, and other therapeutic effects.

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This is what I’ve been using for many years now; I only order from this company and 10 kg would last me about 6 months (Disclaimer: I did not get paid to promote this product)

As soon as I saw Rhoda’s post, I immediately dried some flowers (I happened to have a bouquet of roses) on the microwave and made some bath salts. I followed Rhoda’s instructions and experimented with different essential oils — orange, lavender, etc.

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The dried flowers smell so good that I decided to put some on a small ceramic dish on top of my desk and every time Jared comes in he’d tell me how he likes the smell  — and he’s not even into flowers, fragrance and all of that girly thing. So for the last three weeks I have this big jar of dried roses sitting in my desk and it will probably stay there forever!  (Photos above and below are before and after drying the flowers respectively.)

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The bath salts are great DIY gift ideas to give to family and friends at any occasion. I have recently given away a few jars as birthday gifts to friends. I’ve simply put the bath salts in a jar, decorated them with dried autumn leaves and card tags  — and voilà, special gifts to friends! ( I love my Everyday Label Punch and enjoy making my own card tags.)

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If you consider adding a cup or two of this concoction to your bath then you can also have a luxurious bath experience in your own home. And you might end up doing it regularly. The dried flowers and the essential oils will make your bathroom, and yourself, smell absolutely divine. 

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After my morning run (I run 5 miles, at Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, 3x a week), I usually soak my feet in warm water with epsom salts and a few drop of essential oils for 10 minutes. Now that I got the bath salts it’s even more convenient and pleasurable to do foot soak. I use them not just for foot scrub & exfoliating foot treatment but also for shower scrub and facial wash (I just add a tiny amount to my facial cleanser). All of us deserve a little pampering sometimes and this is one of those things I do to indulge myself in a little bit of luxury — at a minimal cost! 

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If you’d like to make your own Bath Salts, please follow this link.

CHAT WITH PRINCESS DIANA’S OFFICIAL BIOGRAPHER, HER BODYGUARD AND FAVOURITE ROYAL PHOTOGRAPHER

The 31st of August was just a normal day for us in London, rather unusually bright and sunny, not grey and wet like the day before so we went to Kensington Gardens for a picnic at around 1PM to enjoy the warm sunshine. We were in our usual spot, behind The Orangery, and just as we were about to eat our ‘Chinese take-away’ (we don’t always eat sandwiches and crisps every time we go out for a picnic, you know!?  ), we spotted and heard a helicopter hovering above us. We were then reminded that it was Princess Diana’s 20th death anniversary. After eating I grabbed a book from my handbag and started reading it but the sound of the helicopter bothered me so much that I decided to put it away and told Jared I was going to walk around the park towards the front gates of Kensington Palace.

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I wasn’t expecting to see a huge crowd but there were at least 200 or more people standing around the gates plus a hundred more sitting on the grass in front of the palace. As I was starting to read a few letter tributes I spotted a familiar face — Andrew Morton — the official biographer of the late Princess of Wales. He wrote the explosive book that shook the British monarchy to its very core — Diana, Her True Story. I’ve read some other books he wrote over the years and I’ve seen him on tv being interviewed about his books numerous times hence, he looks familiar. I was too shy to approach him but thought there might not be any other opportunity like this. So, I mustered enough courage and walked towards him. Rather bashful I said, “Hi. You’re Andrew Morton, right?” He gave me a warm smile big and a reply, “Yes. I am.” With a silly grin, probably even blushing a little, I said, “My name is Elna Smith. I’ve read some of the books you wrote and my favourite so far is ‘Diana Her True Story’ which I’ve read in 1993.” “Have you, really? He replied, “You must be very young then. Are you just visiting London?” he asked. “Oh, no.” I interrupted, “I am originally from the Philippines but I’ve lived here in this neighbourhood for over 17 years. You mind if I ask you some questions about Princess Diana?” He gave me another big smile and said, “Sure. Go ahead.” And I sure did take the opportunity to ask him some questions about the late princess, and he candidly answered them all. It was a really nice chat I had with him. He was incredibly gracious and kind. A real gentleman indeed.

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I thanked him and asked if I could have a photo with him; he was happy to do it and even asked a lady standing nearby to do it for us. Interestingly enough, no one else other than myself recognised him. But a lady who took our photo, she was standing right next to us, overheard our conversation and she introduced herself as a German tv/radio host, and asked Andrew a couple of questions about Princess Diana. He then asked where the nearest loo is and I told him, The Orangery or Royal Garden Hotel. He smiled, said thank you and walked away. Afterwards, I ran back towards The Orangery thrilled to tell Jared about my rare encounter with the famous royal biographer. 

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At around 6PM Jared and Trystan were already tired playing football while I was about to finish reading my book when we decided to pack up and go home. But I told Jared, ‘I’ll walk towards the front gates and have another look at the crowd. I might spot another famous personality, may be someone very close to Princess Diana. I’ll see you in half an hour!’  And off I went back to the palace gates . . . 

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Bareface and massive sunnies! Had I known I’d be doing selfie/photos with some famous book authors that day, I’d have put on a bit of make up haha!

Wouldn’t you know it? As soon as I got there, I saw Ken Wharfe, Royal Protection Officer of the late princess — just saw him being interviewed on ITV a couple of days prior. He wrote two books ‘Diana Closely Guarded Secret’ and ‘Guarding Diana Protecting The Princess Around the World’ — I’ve read the first one but not the newly published 2nd book.

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I tried to do what I did to Andrew Morton — introduced myself, asked some questions, and asked for a photo with him. Unlike Andrew Morton, Ken Wharfe was very serious but kind enough to stop and have a little chat. But he was with someone, a younger man, probably his assistant or bodyguard (who knows?  ), who told him they have to go. They seemed to be in a rush that I only managed to ask him one question: ”What was Princess Diana like behind the camera?” His answer was, “Complicated but witty.” 

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I then walked over towards the front gates to check some of the tributes and take some photos. And as I was heading home, I spotted another familiar face! This time, it was Arthur Edwards — a journalist/royal photographer who became Princess Diana’s trusted friend. He wrote a memoir, ‘Diana: The People’s Princes – A Personal Tribute in Words and Pictures’ — another great book I’ve read about the late princess.

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Mr Edwards was having a serious conversation with someone, probably another photographer, when I spotted him. I lingered for about 10-15 minutes and waited until he walked away; then I ambushed him.  No, I didn’t. He’s an elderly man — probably in his late 70s; as he walked away I simply followed him and started talking to him.

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I had a brief but nice chat with him. He’s such a charming old man — gentle, sweet and kind — what I envision a grandfather should be. I truly respect and admire him. Mr Edwards didn’t make any money from his book — proceeds go to Princess Diana Memorial Fund. Apparently, he is in good terms with the royal family and especially with Diana’s two boys who sometimes invite him to special occasions. It was really heartwarming to hear a few stories about Princess Diana from a man who captured not only the joys but also the heartaches of the late princess.

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The next morning, 1st of September, I did my morning run at the park and saw more people leaving flowers in front of the palace gates. While running, I got a phone call from Tina; she wanted to see me at Kensington Gardens where she was heading with Lucia. We then met up and sat in one of the benches in front of the palace. Tina’s grieving over the recent death of her sister-in law and niece and was greatly distressed so I listened to her talk about it and just tried to encourage her.

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In the evening just before the park closed down, Jared and I walked over to Kensington Palace once again to have one last look at the tributes before they are finally removed.

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There were more flowers, handwritten notes, photographs, candles and other tributes on display. So much more than what I saw earlier in the day.

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I was telling Jared on our way to the park that during Princess Diana’s funeral twenty years ago I skipped work and was glued on tv for almost a day; and when I spotted the funeral cortège moving solemnly down the streets of London I cried the first time I saw William and Harry walking behind their mother’s casket. It reminded me of losing my own father at a young age and I tried to imagine myself in their shoes — what it would be like for the young princes to have lost their mother. I said to Jared, ‘I have meet you a few months after she died, and who would have thought back then that three years after Princess Diana’s death I’d be living in London, in the same neighbourhood where she lived for many years.’

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Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would end up marrying a foreigner, much less a British-American. You see, I didn’t dream about living abroad or marrying a white man. My goal was simple — to marry a Filipino, someone who could support a big family so I wouldn’t have to work, I wanted to be a housewife and raise three beautiful and smart kids. But life happens not according to our plan but God’s.And yes, His plan is always the best. I promise, I’m not gonna bore you with my love story though I must say that it’s a rather amusing story full of drama and comedy including death threats, church division, etc.

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Sorry I digress. Back to KP, it was starting to get dark and there were only a handful of people hanging around. Jared insisted on taking some photos of myself; I was barefaced and refused but relented after he told me this might be the last time the whole nation will celebrate Princess Diana’s death anniversary. Jared showed me the photos he took of and said, ‘You have to blog about this occasion, about meeting those book authors yesterday, and include this beautiful picture of yourself.’  I had a big laugh and said, ‘Sige na nga!’ (Okey then). 

Note: Although royal sighting has been the norm around here, and I’ve seen some of the most senior royals (blogged about it  last year —here’s the link), I have yet to see Prince Harry in person.

A TRIP TO MAYFIELD LAVENDER FARM (2ND OF 2 PARTS)

Here’s the first part.

Every summer Jared and I organise different activities for the kids at church as part of our youth ministry outreach program. We always encourage them to spend time with their church friends rather than with their school friends simply because they usually get themselves in trouble when they are with their school friends (yes, we do our best to keep them out of trouble). Whether or not the kids travel during the summer holidays, we always have some activities lined up for them and those that remain in London have the option of joining whatever church activity we’ve planned.

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The lavender field trip wasn’t part of our young people’s summer activity. It never was. It’s rather on my personal bucket list this year; I’ve been wanting to do it since the ‘Burlington Ladies’ lavender picnic didn’t materialise last year. (Take note Aimee, Dynah, Kristine, Marj and Precy!) I wanted to do this excursion on a weekday when it’s not too crowded. So I’ve invited Joy to join me for three reasons — first, she and I both have free time during the week to do an out of town trip together; second, we both share some common interests like baking, crafting, etc., and we enjoy talking about those things other than spiritual matters; and third, it will be our first time to do things together on our own outside of the church. But alas, it never happened. For good reasons. Every time we set a date to go last month it gets either too cloudy and/or rainy, or something else comes up. In hindsight, we realised that the Lord arranged it that way for specific reasons.

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When I mentioned to Jared at the beginning of summer that I thought about inviting the teenage girls to join us for the lavender field trip, he thought it’s not something they’d be interested in doing, and that, it would be the last thing these teenagers would ever wanna do. I told him he was wrong but I didn’t mention anything to the girls until three weeks ago.

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The topic came up when we took Angeli and Anisa out to dinner (we had pizza btw). I was wearing my new maxi skirt and the topic of ‘skirt-sewing’ and ‘lavender trip’ just naturally came up. But before any of our teens and/or anyone from church reading this blog raise their arms up in protest or get jealous that we took the two girls out to dinner without the other kids, let me just say that that week we only had four of our teenagers in town while others were traveling. And we had planned a special activity for those who were in London but for some reasons, two of them couldn’t join us. So with only two girls able to do something with us that week, Jared and I decided to just take them out to dinner after the Wednesday night bible study rather than do something else the following day.

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Over dinner I mentioned to Anisa and Angeli that I was going to a lavender field with Joy wearing the skirt I just made. The girls were thrilled with the prospect of visiting a lavender field for the first time (which greatly surprised Jared. I proved him wrong ha!), they were giggling talking about walking in the field and taking loads of photos in maxi skirt. Anisa even mentioned that she will tell her Mum she needs a new maxi skirt. I told the girls I could teach them how to make the exact same skirt I had on — they got more excited about it so right then and there we planned a sewing workshop. A couple of days later, I took the girls out to a fabric and haberdashery shop to buy the materials. It only costs each of them a total of £9.50 — the fabric was on sale from £5 per metre down to £2 but because they bought 3 metres they got an extra 50 pence discount hence, they only paid £5.50; zipper – £2.30; thread – £1.50, and 20 pence for the hook and eye.

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As soon as we returned to church, we started the workshop. I’ve given the girls detailed instructions on how to take a proper body measurement to determine their waistline; to take the desired length of the skirt; fabric allowance for sewing; width and length of waistband, and so on and so forth — it was clear-cut. Easy enough to follow and they did a great job measuring and cutting the fabrics on their own.

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Sewing is a little bit tricky for beginners but they very quickly learned how to use the sewing machine. Angeli brought her grandma’s sewing machine; Heather brought her dad’s sewing machine; but regrettably, Anisa’s didn’t work, she has the cutest and ‘girliest’ (just made up the word, it’s not in Webster dictionary yet) sewing machine I’ve ever seen. With only 3 sewing machine and five girls, two of them had to wait and work on something like redo the plaits, or cut the fabrics for the belt while others were sewing. I had to quickly move from one girl to the next, keeping an eye on what everyone was doing to make sure they’re on the right track. It was a lot of work and I was moving around like a headless chicken.  At the end of the second day, I was dead tired and felt like the puppies on the pics below haha! (photos from the internet)

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Except for Heather who, instead of a maxi did an easier midi-skirt version, it took the other girls three sessions to work on their skirts. Sewing the invisible zipper was a bit complicated so I had to do it for them except for Heather who had the courage to do it on her own, it was a trial and error but she did it right after two or three attempts. All of them had to remove the stitches or redo whatever mistakes they made, and at times, they showed their frustrations like rolling their eyes or something — that’s expected from teenagers, right?   They seemed excited and happy doing it, but Heather and Angeli were the ones who showed so much enthusiasm and excitement. And for their first ‘real sewing’ project, I must say that the girls did a great job. I am so proud of them. See photos below of all five girls — Anisa, Angeli, Heather, Jasmine and Jemimah — with their skirts on.

And yes, we finally got to do the lavender field trip last week! Heather was away and missed it. (Sorry Heather!) We couldn’t put it off for another week simply because the lavender season is almost over. In fact, mid-July is the best time to visit when the lavender crop is at its finest. As you can see in the photos, the purple hue isn’t as bright as it should have been a month ago.

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The girls look fabulous in their outfits.

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They had fun goofing around the field and posing for photos like there’s no tomorrow!

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Some people passing by actually looked at the girls from head to toe probably wondering why they were in their Sunday’s best.

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Trystan took this beautiful photo of the girls. Well done, Trystan! 

Loved seeing them very happy and having loads of fun. But they’re teenagers so at times they’d roll their eyes when they’re told, ‘Come on girls, give me a big smile!’ 

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Oh, and this ‘sleepy-dreamy’ look? Blame it on the photographer and the magnificent smelling lavender.  The gorgeous smell was very relaxing and made us feel sleepy haha! (I love lavender. I could live in a ‘bahay kubo – ‘small hut’ in the middle of a lavender field.)

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If anyone (am guessing may be some of our church mates who skipped reading the story and just  wanted to see the photos) is wondering why Joy and Oliver ended up joining our young people’s outing (as they’re not part of our teens ministry), here’s the short answer — please scroll up to read the full story — the teenagers just tagged along with us. Joy and I originally planned for this excursion on our own. We talked about going very early as soon as the field opens, taking selfies and/or photos of each other and sitting in the cafe to catch up over tea and scones. But alas, we didn’t even get to sit down and have tea! Lord willing, next year we’ll get to do that ha!? 

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Trystan was our official photographer and he did a wonderful job! Thanks to Oliver/Joy for T’s solo picture below. So cute. He had fun taking pictures of everyone.

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Photos below (courtesy of Joy & Oliver) show the kids and adults alike in action. Even Elijah ended up posing like a model with his head tilted and lips slightly open (with thousands of bees buzzing around us, I was afraid that a bee would actually end up in his mouth as he posed for photographs). 

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There were loads of honeybees around the field and being stung by a bee is not part of the lavender tour. 

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Trystan took this picture of Oliver, Joy and the girls.

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He also captured Elijah and Jeremiah — either gazing at the horizon or watching people, and also, probably arguing on who’s gonna carry the bags.  (We made them carry our bags to free up our hands for the photo shoot. See Elijah carrying my bayong? Thank you man!) Part of the fun of being in the lavender field was actually watching people posing, selfie-taking, or sometimes just staring at the flowers swamped with bees (lavender fields are a magnet for bees).

We didn’t get to tour around the 25 acre field but we got to walk around a portion of the field where the lavender are still in bloom and waiting for harvest. We stayed for about 4 hours and it was long enough for us to leisurely meander around, enjoy the scenery, and take loads of photos.

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We first ended up at the lavender shop, about a mile and a half from the field, but it actually was a blessing in disguise because we got to see Mayfield’s quaint shop.

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I love its rustic charm, and all the beautiful smelling lavender products.

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Mayfield Farm is in a remote but charming part of the Surrey countryside, not in Kent as I originally thought. It’s the only lavender field in England that’s quite close to Britain’s capital city, only 15 miles from central London.

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It has a small shop and a cafe at the entrance of the field where anyone can buy fresh and gorgeous smelling freshly harvested lavender, soaps, aromatherapy, cosmetics, and pretty much everything lavender infused products; the guests can also try their lavender tea, lavender scones and other lavender flavoured sweets. They have a car parking which is free of charge, if you’re able to find somewhere to park. It gets quite busy and the field was crowded when we arrived. In fact, we could hardly get any photos without a photo bomber. But at 5 pm people started leaving and we were able to get some good photos without anyone walking, standing or taking selfie behind us.

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Jared and Trystan both don’t mind taking photos of everyone but themselves. In saying that however, they happily posed for a nice photo with me before we left. (Photo courtesy of Jas).

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See how the lavender is no longer in bright purple hue? Next time we will make sure to visit in mid-July, not in August. Thanks for the pic Trystan!

Jared took loads of photographs and the one below is my number one favourite — the gorgeous blue skies, rows of green and purple hues, and my eyes aren’t shut — they usually are in most photos  — and to top it off, I am holding a lovely bouquet of lavender like a bridesmaid haha!

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Thank you Joy and Oliver for the lavender bouquet! It was one of the best props anyone can have for a photo shoot in the field. Carrying my ‘bayong’ would have been so ‘baduy’ (tacky) haha!

Mayfield isn’t like any of those lavender fields in Provence, France (the lavender capital of the world) but for Londoners who love this gorgeous-smelling plant, it is a great place to visit. I’d highly recommend this to anyone who likes lavender or wants an ‘Instagram-worthy’ photographs. I wish they do allow picnics in the field but sadly, they don’t. Food and drink can only be enjoyed in the sitting area provided in the coffee shop.

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There is no time limit in place for the guests, they can stay for as long as they want, between 10 AM to 6 PM.

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The wafting gorgeous aroma of lavender was overwhelming. I love lavender and just couldn’t get enough of it. It was a blessing to be there; I was reminded while traipsing around the field that only a Wise God can create those magnificent smelling plants. The Lord is the only One who has the power and the ability to provide the increase — growing plants, blooming flowers, bees collecting pollen and nectar to make honey — practically everything around was a beautiful reminder of God’s power in creation. Our teens may not have the time to even pause for a minute and think about God and His glorious creation, but I am so glad they have been a big part of this venture — maxi skirt sewing and lavender farm traipsing — we created a lot of memories together that, hopefully, will linger on long after Jared and I are no longer around. I can only hope that someday their first lavender field trip will become one of those funny stories that they can tell their grandkids.

SUMMER IN LONDON: ALL ABOUT ROSES

Summer is my favourite season of the year. I am a tropical girl after all.  Regrettably, London has a very short summer and there is no distinct four seasons here. It’s a rather odd and unpredictable weather with a cold, wet and long winter months but very brief hot summer days. When it’s not raining I like to go out and take a long walk in the park. And we are blessed to live in a neighbourhood that’s only a few minutes walk to some of the most beautiful parks in the city — Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and Holland Park. There are other parks in London that I love to visit whenever I get the chance. One of them is Regent’s Park — a massive area and home of London Zoo, Royal Botanic Society, etc. And my favourite part of the park is the rose gardens which is absolutely stunning when all the flowers are in full bloom.

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The rose garden is part of Queen Mary’s Gardens created in the 1930s, and has the largest collection of roses in London. There are over 12,000 roses and 85 variety beds aside from many other flowers like begonias, tulips, etc. It is indeed a floral paradise.

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The garden was named after Queen Mary, the wife of King George V. 

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In 1932 when the garden opened to the general public, the first superintendent planted a rose garden which was completed in 1934.

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Almost all rose varieties, from the classics to the most modern English roses, are present at Regent Parks’ rose garden.

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There are shrubberies around that add a sense of fascination to the gardens.

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The wonderful sights and scents of the gorgeous roses, the superb shrubberies and many other plants and flowers all play a significant part in the experience of visiting the park.

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Visitors can sit on the grass, have picnic, and enjoy the garden.

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All the rose varieties have name plaques such as Keep Smiling, Pride of London, Deep Secret, Lovely Lady, and many other captivating names.

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I can’t get enough of these roses.

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The garden smells absolutely divine.

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I’d probably come here every single day in the summer if we live closer to this park.

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We hardly ever come here but about a month ago Jared and I managed to do it; we walked around Regent’s Park for about 3 hours from Primrose Hill all the way down to Avenue Gardens and Queen Mary’s Gardens.

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Jared and I took loads of photographs and this last one is my favourite (I am not the subject but a rather shadowy figure in the background).  If you love roses and happen to be in London in the summer months you should visit Regent’s Park, and you’ll enjoy seeing the sea of roses.