The new ITV documentary ‘Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy’ is not in any way an explosive version of Princess Diana’s interview about intimate details of her marriage, or her, and her husband’s extra-marital affairs. There was none of that. Rather it was an intimate account of her sons, Princes William and Harry, on how they view their mother and the impact she had on their lives yet with very little new insight. William and Harry speak about their mother on film for the first time and they didn’t really go that far or that deep which is understandable. They probably feel it would be a dishonour to Diana if they revealed too much about her life. I wish we heard them talk about what they learned from their mother’s mistakes, or their own reservations about a life lived in front of the public eye.

Interestingly, Prince Harry talks about her mother being a naughty parent” and telling him “to do anything naughty as long as you don’t get yourself caught doing it.” I’ve read some biography books about the late princess and learned about the complexities of her public persona, how she manipulated the media and all of that, but watching her talking to a stalker demanding he gives her and her sons some privacy is absolutely compelling.

Towards the end of the documentary, Prince Harry talks about the first time he cried after his mother’s death, and Prince William reveals how he keeps the memory of his mother alive for his children. He says, “I do regularly, putting George or Charlotte to bed, talk about her and just try and remind them that there are two grandmothers, there were two grandmothers in their lives, and so it’s important that they know who she was and that she existed.” William also jokes that his mother would have been a “nightmaregrandma. He says, “She’d love the children to bits, but she’d be an absolute nightmare. She’d come in probably at bath time, cause an amazing amount of scene, bubbles everywhere, bathwater all over the place and then leave.”

It was then finally, as I watched William share all of that, that it went from public to personal testimony – with William talking of an imagined grandmother, suddenly showing up unannounced at bath time, creating madness around yet making it so much fun for the kids, and leaving just before it gets all too messy — perhaps just enough for the kids to cry out, “Granny, please don’t leave!”  It is perhaps the most fitting comparison given in this documentary for Princess Diana’s legacy – showing up, moving things around, creating a little bit of a mess here and there while making everyone around laugh and feel loved, and then disappear in an instant.

Whether you’re a fan of the late princess or not, you’d enjoy watching this documentary. Footages of Diana shaking hands with AIDS patients, talking to the homeless people in London, accepting flowers from a little girl on the street, or visiting the landmine victims in Bosnia — all of these show that she really had a unique gift of making people feel loved; that she can easily empathize with anyone, and she really did care for the less fortunate.

Enjoy watching!

Note: Sorry the link to ITV no longer exists, and it’s not available on YouTube.


So I have finally started learning how to sew! When I told an old friend of mine back in Manila that I was in the process of sewing a dress, she told me it’s pretty ambitious to do a shift dress for a first sewing project, and that I should have started with a pillow case or a placemat. I reasoned out and told her, “But it would be very easy sewing a pillow case or a placemat.” 

Anyway, I’m doing this for a few reasons, and here’s why I am doing it:

  • Because I wanted to learn how to make my own clothes. Learning a new skill is really important to feeling enthusiastic about being creative even if it means trying and failing. (And I am not very creative so this is a big challenge.)
  • Because I thought it would be a lot of fun. I like buying fabrics and I especially love Liberty London fabrics. I also convinced myself that I could make my own clothes; that I could create something, but just the act of taking my body measurement out on a piece of paper then make a pattern and cut the fabric sounded fun — seems like a delightful release from the seriousness of my work.
  • Because I simply want to challenge myself and prove to myself that I can do it. The challenge of a task that I consider really big is quite exciting.

So yes, dressmaking it is that I have added into my list of hobby!  But the truth is I’ve been here before — many moons ago. In high school I had a Dressmaking/Tailoring class — it was part of the secondary school curriculum back in the Philippines. All the girls in my class were taught how to make a pattern for a set of pajama; I actually made one for myself and wore it until it did no longer fit me. Regrettably, I did not develop any of those practical skills I have learned in high school (I was more interested in scholarly pursuits), but I do have great memories about my Dressmaking/Tailoring teachers, Miss Monica and Mrs. Avila. Both ladies were very gentle and soft-spoken, and I absolutely adored them.

Anyway, three months ago I was chatting with one of my church mates, Melita, and she informed me that her mother (who is a dressmaker in the Philippines) was coming to London and stay with her for five months to help out with the kids. Melita heard me say a few times before that I wanted to learn sewing so she kindly offered me to come over to their flat and take lessons from her mother. I thought it was a brilliant idea. So I spoke with her mother about it as soon as she arrived in the country and she happily agreed to teach me but it took me a month or two before I could finally come over to their place to finally do it. I must mention that Tita Mely is a very gentle and soft-spoken lady who reminded me so much of my dressmaking/tailoring teachers back in high school.

I showed up at their flat one morning with some fabrics, pattern drafting paper, tape measure, and other sewing accessories, and Tita Mely (pictures above) very patiently taught me how to take my body measurement, how to make a pattern for a dress, skirt, top and trousers, and even showed me how to cut the fabric. It took two and a half hours to do all of that. Thankfully, Ken Zion, Tita Mely’s grandson, slept the whole time and there was no interruption.


After that crash course, I had a fabric ready for sewing and it took another 2-3 weeks before the sewing machine I ordered online was finally delivered. I originally wanted a brand named Robert but it was out of stock and was told I have to wait until mid-summer for a new stock to arrive. Incidentally, I found this sewing machine brand named after myself  Elna (or was I named after it? haha), and it was on sale and came with special offer such as free extended guarantee for 5 years, 50 pieces of threads, 5 scissors, 5 bobbins, and many other sewing accessories. When I checked it online and found out it’s good enough for me, I went ahead and ordered it. (BTW, I’ve only heard about this brand 3 months ago while searching for a new sewing machine to buy, and I got mine from Sewing Machine Direct and received an excellent service.) And as soon as it was delivered I played around with it; learned how to load the bobbin, the 20 Stitch selection, etc.


The next day I talked to Tita Mely and asked her where to start — she explained that I need to cut the interfacing from the leftover fabrics and start sewing them together, then the arm hole, and so on and so forth. I thought it was a bit daunting that she won’t be around when I finally do it. And by the way, she is taking care of her 10 month-old grandson when her daughter goes to work (Melita is a physical therapist and works at a hospital in north London), so it would be too much for me to carry my 6-7 kilos sewing machine to their place or to ask her to come over and take me through the whole sewing process.


So I took her instructions and also referred to the Sewing book that Phebe, another lady at our church, gave me. As soon as I started sewing to connect the interfacing, the fabric got stuck, the needle was twisted and I had to do it all over again.


After sewing the arm hole, sides, etc., it was time to put the zipper on. I hand stitched it rather than use pins, then after sewing it I found out that the zipper wasn’t concealed as it should be. I obviously didn’t do it right. After reading the sewing machine manual I was reminded that there’s a little device called ‘Zipper Foot’ I need to use for sewing the concealed zipper. Anyway, the Seam Ripper came in very handy and I spent a good 15-20 minutes taking the stitches off before I could finally fix it.


The last thing I worked on was the hem of the dress — the easiest bit — started sewing the one end of the slit (top left photo) to the other end to finish it off. I devoted 2 hours each day for 4 days sewing this dress, and that was the end of my first dressmaking journey.

Here am I traipsing around the streets of Notting Hill with the very first dress I made! Jared and I actually took a little walk around the neighbourhood on the same afternoon I finished sewing just so he could take some pictures of myself. 

The dress is made of one meter Liberty Cotton Tana Lawn fabric (which I bought for only £9 — regular price is £22.50), and it was good enough to make this simple shift dress. When I brought Tita Mely and Melita to Liberty department store to show them the fabrics department (I love going there just to admire their massive collection), they were on sale and we were able to buy some at a bargain price. I love the pink and purple flower print on my new dress and couldn’t be any happier with my first project.


I got all these five other Liberty fabrics and plan on making a maxi ball skirt, a top, and more dresses. Can’t wait!

With my mentor at Liberty department store after we shopped for fabrics over a month ago. Thanks Tita Mely for the sewing lesson! 


The Cotswolds is one of Britain’s most picturesque places located in south central England about 800 square miles in land area and comprises a range of rolling hills that runs through five counties — Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.  It is the favourite country retreat of the rich and famous — Kate Moss, Kate Winslet, Elizabeth Hurley, Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron and many other prominent figures in Britain own a Grade II-listed country pile in this part of England. 


One of the pleasures of visiting the Cotswolds is like traveling back in time — practically walking down the same roads that the Romans originally built —  and exploring the different medieval towns and villages, each with its own unique identity, yet all with those distinct and prominent Cotswold attributes such as the ‘wolds’ (old English for rolling hills), unspoilt ancient villages with historic churches, yellow-golden stone and thatched roof cottages, medieval market place, antique shops, etc.



Burford, a little town often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Cotswolds’, is just 19 miles west of Oxford, and well worth the visit. It is originally a fortified Anglo-Saxon ford which later became a wealthy wool town.


Burford’s little village atmosphere even on the main high street is quite astonishing.


The famous High Street runs downhill towards a medieval bridge with a tiny river called ‘River Windrush’ and both sides of the street is lined by impressive ancient shops and houses.


There’s also plenty of chic accommodation, quirky shops and shopping to be had on the high street.


You can even head off the beaten track and explore the wonderful alleyways and side streets to unearth hidden gems such as charming cottages and beautiful courtyards.


It has a very impressive architecture of all the High Streets I’ve seen in Britain — the stylish antique shops, restaurants, pubs and tea shops are simply incredible.


The 16th century Tolsey building (picture below), was once the meeting place for medieval merchants, now a museum is a delightful place to visit for anyone interested in looking into Bruford’s industrial past.


Another real gem with many interesting memorials showcasing some of Burford’s historic past is St. John the Baptist Church. The ‘Burford Levellers Martyrs’ have interesting memorial plaques in the church along with some of Burford’s great families such as King Henry VIII’s barber-surgeon. (The so-called ‘Burford Levellers’ started in this little town and grew out of the conflict between King Charles I — who believed on the divine right of the king — and the Parliament — representing a demand for the sharing of power. The conflict eventually led to the infamous English civil war in 1642–9. Some of Oliver Cromwell’s army, who were besieged in the church in 1649 watched from the roof of the church as their ringleaders were executed in the churchyard.)

Image: St John the Baptist Parish

This little town also has the distinguished claim of having the oldest pharmacy in Britain, Reavley’s, which opened in 1734.


Burford is indeed one gorgeous English town where you can spend hours gawking at the beauty of every building, each shop and all the cottages you pass.


Little changed over the centuries in this little town, and it has so much character and history.


It is a popular destination for its beauty, history, antique shops and other attractions.


Almost all of the houses I’ve seen have a name inscribed on the doorway and have old wooden door I truly love and wish to have. Told Jared numerous times that if we ever build a house somewhere, anywhere in the world, I’d like to have a similar one or an original door of an old English church building that closed down. 


You can visit the hotel frequented by King Charles II and his mistress, the English actress Nell Gwynn, and also where Lord Nelson used to dine.


The three medieval bridges match with all of the old buildings.


 As you walk downhill on the High Street you can see the stunning view of the rolling hills to remind you that you’re indeed in one of England’s historic ‘wolds’.


Spring and summer months is the perfect time to visit the Cotswolds. The scenery is simply stunning; whichever way you turn to is ‘Instagram-worthy’ and will make you appreciate the quintessential English charm found nowhere else but in this very part of Britain. Visiting the Cotswolds is truly a unique experience. Its proximity to London and the abundance of historic villages to explore make it an ideal place to getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. Traveling to Burford is quite easy — you either drive for an hour or so depending on the traffic, or take the bus from central London to Oxford for 50-60 minutes then take another bus to Burford for about 15-20 min. Alternatively you can take the train to Oxford and hire a cab or take the bus.

Note: This is first in a series of historic towns and villages we visited in the Cotswold this summer. Here’s Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown. Also, another beautiful and interesting place to visit in the Cotswolds is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, and I did a review last summer of Blenheim Palace.


Our visit to Shetland was precipitated by a friend’s invite for Jared and I to explore the islands. He told us that we will see the northernmost tea shop, northernmost police station, northernmost bus stop, northernmost hotel — practically everything northerly, and boy, was he right! We’ve seen everything northerly in the British isles when we visited the tiny island of Unst. To get to the island, we took the ferry for about half an hour (the car was loaded on a ferry) to an island called Yell and then on to another ferry for 45 minutes to Unst. What completed our trip was the visit to these islands.

I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Muness Castle, Britain’s northernmost castle, a remarkable house of the late 1500s built for Laurence Bruce of Cultmalindie.
Most northerly Tea Room.
Most northerly Tea Room.

Most northerly Tea Room.

Most northerly hotel
Most northerly police station

Most northerly food shop and gasoline station (photo taken from inside the food shop).

Most northerly post office
Image: Shetland.org(Promote Shetland)
Image: Shetland.org(Promote Shetland)
Image: Shetland.org(Promote Shetland)

I couldn’t resist posing for a photograph in front of the most northerly bus stop, and the most colourful I’ve seen — it  has flowers, books, table and chair and candies for anyone to enjoy while waiting for the bus. 


Shetland is absolutely beautiful. Its vast expanse of striking wild beauty will awe any first time visitor  — its craggy terrain; the towering sea cliffs; the empty hidden beaches, the turquoise seawater; the haunting nature; the boundless blue skies; the tiny wild flowers in the meadows — the landscape is indeed quite dramatic. The tranquillity and sense of vastness and openness is truly a world away from the hustle and bustle of London life.

Image: Promote Shetland/Shetland.org

Having lived in a small town (I was born and grew up in a little town in southern Philippines just a few minutes walk to the Pacific Ocean), I am relishing the thought of going back to the countryside. Visiting Shetland, especially the islands of Yell and Unst, reminded me of my hometown — it has none of the big city drawbacks. These cluster of islands may not be easy to get to (there is no direct flight there from London), but I love the bucolic scene and immensely enjoyed the visit. Also, it is a blessing to have a little bolthole in Shetland — thanks to our friend Kevin who has given us an open invitation to come anytime we want to get away. Shetland is an authentic rural escape where time seems to stand still and I can’t wait to visit again!


Here’s the previous posts:

In Part 1 I focused on the mainland especially Lerwick, the capital town as well as the nearby villages.

In Part 2 it was about meeting local people and some historic sites on the island like Scalloway Castle, Clickimin Broch, etc.


Haven’t done much crafting for ages but thanks to a very special lady who recently rekindled my desire for new creative pursuits. I am not very crafty myself but I used to do a lot of Scrapbooking on weekends even after I got married but haven’t done it for years. After our trip to Shetland last month I mentioned Rhoda in my blog; I’ve never heard of Stampin’Up! before but on the same day I’ve meet Rhoda and added her on Instagram and Facebook, I found out about her creative outlet; how she turned her hobby into a business and how she became a pioneer Stampin’Up! Demonstrator in the UK that enables her to travel around the country and some other European cities to teach crafting.


A couple of weeks after we returned from Shetland, Rhoda surprised me with a parcel that consists of Annual Catalogue 2017-18, Kit Card Soft Sayings, Stampin’ Scrub, Stampin’ Mist, Classic Stampin’ Pad Berry Burst, Glue Pen Fine-Tip and Scissors Paper Snips — a really beautiful Stampin’Up! kit that got me very enthusiastic about trying my hands on crafting once again.


The new catalogue gives you a lot of ideas on what you can do and while browsing through this book I realised that even those who are not into arts and crafts will be convinced that they can be creative.


Last week I finally got to continue playing with the kit and accomplished something. I finished working on one card and enjoyed it from beginning to end. 


It’s actually very easy and so much fun to do. Everything is provided in the kit and there’s loads of ideas on the catalogue or you can come up with anything you fancy. The last thing I did after stamping the word ‘To my dear friend’ on a piece of paper was to cut it out and used a Sharpie permanent marker on the border and then pasted it on top of the card.


I convinced myself after working on this card that I can certainly make more from now on and do no longer have to buy any cards.  If I only have the time, I’d love to do this on a daily basis as it’s a fantastic outlet to get my mind off from the hustle and bustle of London life but because there’s so much going on, I’d devote at least two hours 2-3x a week to do this.

Rhoda’s Instagram account has been a source of inspiration and I always look forward to her new post everyday. Anyone interested in crafting, please check her website Quick&EasyCrafter and try Stampin’Up! — it is very exciting, so much fun and a wonderful hobby to get into.


I’ve been following Notting Hill Yummy Mummy for almost three years now. She is a Notting Hill resident who inspired me to share on social media what goes on in our neighbourhood. She launched her debut novel The Beta Mum Adventures in Alpha Land over a week ago, and I got to read it a week before it was out. I enjoyed it so much and did a review here.  That’s why I’m honoured to share the exciting news of her new novel right here. In this conversation we discuss how she began her blog, her love of reading and writing and, of course, her debut novel.


With the fabulous author at the book launch of ‘The Beta Mum’

Elna Smith: Hi Isabella! Thank you so much for your time. Let me firstly start by saying ‘Congratulations on the success of your book launch last week.’  For the few of my readers who haven’t come across your words yet, can you please share a little about yourself? Please share with us your story. 

Isabella Davidson: Firstly, thanks so much for having me on your blog! I am a mum of two young girls and live in west London. I wasn’t always a writer. I started out as a doctor, but when I had my children and went back to work I realised I wasn’t going to be the doctor I wanted to be or the mother I wanted to be, so I stopped working and focused on raising my children. That’s my priority right now.  

ES: What originally drove you to start your blog ‘Notting Hill Yummy Mummy’? 

ID: It all started out as a bit of fun, chronicling the lives of Notting Hill residents after hearing lots of entertaining stories and anecdotes. Then, as I got more followers and readers, it’s evolved and become more of a lifestyle blog, with travel and restaurant reviews. 

ES: You’ve built an online readership and eventually decided to write a novel about the people you talk about in your blog. What drove you to write a novel?

ID: I always wanted to write a book – it’s always been a dream of mine – and I decided to go for it after a few people mentioned that they loved my writing. It gave me the confidence to write a book! Of course, west London is very entertaining so I chose it as the setting, and I wrote about what I know best: mums in west London. 

ES: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned when it comes to writing a novel, and what advice would you give to anyone starting out now?

ID: The biggest lesson is that if you want to write a novel and be somewhat successful, you will have to really want it and have tenacity. The entire process is really hard work: coming up with an idea, writing the book, getting a publisher and then selling the book. Each step of the way needs so much time and dedication that you have to have a really thick skin and persevere. And it isn’t about making money! It’s about loving to write. 

ES: Who are the people, what are the books, places and experiences that have shaped who you are today? 

ID: My parents of course influenced me so much. My father has written a book too, so I saw him working on his book for years and it gave me the thought that I could write too. My mother is the empathetic one, which is needed when writing fiction, to see life through other characters’ eyes. 

I loved reading when I was younger, so every book I read and loved shaped me as a writer and made me want to write. On weekends, I would wake up and read instead of getting dressed and playing outside. It was what I loved to do. And that has followed me my whole life. 

ES: It is exciting times that your debut novel is finally out. So what’s next? What are you most excited about right now?

ID: Well, quite a few people have asked when the sequel is coming out – which is not completely out of the question! But I will need a bit of time to digest everything that has happened with this book. I still have an enormous amount of book promotion to do and it takes up a lot of time! I recently did a live TV interview on London Live, which was my first live TV show, and I was so nervous and excited as the same time! 

ES: Lastly, I must say that you’re one of Notting Hill’s famous ‘Yummy Mummies’ and majority of the young girls in Britain (according to a research study done a few years ago) want to be like you when they grow up — get married to a banker and become a yummy mummy, or get married to a footballer and be a WAGs, live in one of London’s posh neighbourhoods, raise beautiful children, travel the world, and all of that. I am sure you’ll have a lot of young girls reading your novel this summer. (Btw, I have nieces in the Philippines who regularly reads my blog and I’m sending them copies of your book). What advice would you give to young girls?

IS: That’s very sweet of you! Not sure I am that famous, but I would like to think that I can inspire girls to follow their dreams. I would tell them that they should find what they truly love to do and to work really hard at it. That’s what really will make them happy in the long run. Not becoming a wag or a banker’s wife. And all the rest will follow. 

ES: Thank you so much for your time, Isabella. 

Featured image and this photo: courtesy of the author