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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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!
London is brimming with old historic shops and is home to some of the world-famous department stores such as Selfridges, Harrods, etc. Liberty of London is one of them and it is my all-time favourite shop in the city. It may not be as massive as Selfridges or Harrods but the imposing Tudor style structure is very unique; of all the buildings in Regent Street it truly stands out and is quite attractive.
The shop opened in 1875 by its original owner, Arthur Lasenby Liberty, with only £2,000 (the equivalent of about £200,000 in today’s money) capital borrowed from his future father-in-law. The store was a huge success that within a year and a half he paid off his loan (much to the delight of his fiancée and future father-in law) and he decided to buy the neighbouring properties to expand the shop floor.
Arthur Liberty was knighted in 1913, and by the time of his death in 1917 he had already amassed a great fortune and owned several properties including a manor house and an estate in Buckinghamshire.
The magnificent mock-Tudor building that houses the store today was built in 1924. It was designed by Edwin T. Hall and his son Edwin S. Hall using solid oak and teak timbers from HMS Hindustan and HMS Impregnable — two old British warships from the Royal Navy. The building rises to the same height and length as HMS Impregnable. They used authentic and original Tudor techniques to make the structure look like a real Tudor-era building. Above the main entrance of the department store is the weathervane of the Mayflower. It is the exact replica of the historic ship Mayflower, which took 102 English pilgrims to New England, in 1620. From the ground floor, as visitors enter the main atrium, they would easily notice the four floors supported by wooden beams towering above their heads.
I took this photo looking down from the fourth floor balustrade into the central atrium, and below photo looking up to the ceiling — this will give you an idea of the lovely architecture.
So it’s not just the exterior that is ornate but the interior as well. Unlike Harrods and Selfridges where every corner, every tiny space is practically occupied by different companies, mostly on concession, Liberty does not operate that way. It is a spacious shop and has a homely atmosphere; not bursting with astonishing range of merchandise.
The interior design is simple yet elegant; each floor is immaculately organised into a beautiful space that makes shopping (or in my case, window shopping) more pleasurable. Having an experience with the fashion industry (mainly with distribution, price control and merchandising), I couldn’t help but think every time I am at Liberty that there are a lot of empty space that could be used to promote more products. But I always remind myself that it’s not like Harrods. Liberty always try to maintain a homely, more like a family run-business unlike other department stores in the city. And in my humble opinion, this is what makes Liberty stand out. I took innumerable visiting Japanese friends (many of them are ‘licensees’ or those who have license to manufacture European goods in Japan) here to show them how they should try to imitate Liberty; that the feeling they get being there should be the type of experience they should give to their customers when they visit their shops back in Japan.
The fabrics and haberdashery section occupies almost a third of the entire second floor and it is my number one favourite corner in the whole building. I only come here when I am taking visiting family and friends but now that I have started sewing my own clothes, I will be coming to check out their new fabrics collection every season. During their summer sale a couple of months ago, I was able to buy some really cheap remnant fabrics — 3 metres of Tana Cotton Lawn fabrics for only £20, regular price is £22.50 (US$30) per metre.I love Liberty fabrics especially Tana Cotton Lawn which has a silky texture and really the finest cotton fabric available in the market. (Btw, I only buy Liberty fabrics when they’re on offer, at least 50% or more discount. If I have deep pockets I would not even consider buying a cotton fabric for a full price. I’d always wait for the end of season sale. Their silk fabrics are a dream — costs US$70 a metre!)
Liberty prides itself in being the home of small floral prints fabrics — the epitome of Englishness.
Aside from the fabrics, my other favourite part of the store is the Interiors Emporium. I particularly like the Oriental objet d’art and the exotic indoor plants.
I also like the designer vintage section. There are loads of Chanel, Valentino, Hermes and other top designers’ vintage outfits and accessories.
I also love visiting the stationery section.
And of course, there’s Café Liberty — a great place to go for afternoon tea!
Over a month ago, Adiben and I went to the café after a couple of hours of window shopping; didn’t have the full afternoon tea but just a cup of herbal tea and a few sweets.
The flower shop is also a little corner I like to visit when I come here. I usually stop for a minute just to admire the gorgeous flowers.
Sometimes the florists are around making some of the most beautiful floral arrangements anyone can see.
Almost every corner of the shop is dotted with all types of historic figures reminiscent of the Tudor era like the shields of Shakespeare, Henry VIII’s six wives and many others. And of course, the famous clock’s inscription is a great reminder to us all — a wise word indeed — “No minute gone comes ever back again, take heed and see ye nothing do in vain.”
Liberty has some of the most classy garments, jewellery, textiles, home furnishings and other objects — all very luxurious merchandise, and it is indeed a fashion cognoscenti’s haven. I always tell my visiting family and friends that Liberty of London is an absolute must-visit while they’re in town.
Summer is my favourite season. I love wearing cotton and linen dresses as well as ballerina shoes and flip-flops. I am a tropical girl indeed! My body has already acclimatised to the cold weather, that is, after living here for almost 18 years, but I still give Jared the customary whimper at the onset of winter months.
It’s mid-October and my autumn/winter clothes are still in the loft! Next week I plan on taking them out; to quit trying to wear summer clothes in the middle of autumn and to finally sort out the wardrobe. The thought of returning to winter months fill me with dread. But the Lord reminded me this week that He made a perfect plan when He gave us time and seasons. He declared in His Word that the time and seasons will stay so long as the earth remained (Genesis 8:22). And His timing is perfect. Time and seasons come and go as the Lord planned it from the foundations of the world. That everything happens according to His plan. They are in God’s hands, we just need to trust Him. One of the scripture verses I’ve been meditating on this week is Ephesians 5:16-17. It says that we need to redeem the time because the days are evil. “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”
Despite the little whimper I usually give Jared about the onset of winter season, I also relish the joys of autumn especially the changing foliage and the mild temperatures. It’s hard to resist the warm colours and I simply can’t ignore the red and gold while out taking a walk in the park.
Here are some photographs I took at Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park during my afternoon stroll this week.
Enjoy your weekend!
This week I saw for the very first time this rather odd but beautiful flower at Kensington Gardens, just behind the Albert Memorial. If anyone knows what they’re called please drop me a line. Thank you!
We really don’t go to restaurants very much, contrary to what my family and friends back in the Philippines seem to think. I’m not an avid foodie but I’m constantly being asked for restaurant recommendations by people who actually eat out much more frequently than I do. In saying that however, I’m not bad at finding places that are a good value. I try to keep up with the current events not just on politics but also on arts and culture — of course, including the theatre and foodie scene in London. More often than not, I find interesting ethnic places with good fresh food, swank restaurants, neighbourhood joints that have great lunch deals or new places that we want to try. Jared and I actually prefer to stay in, cook our own food, and would only eat out on special occasion. On weekends, I always cook something special…maybe a Japanese, or Thai, or other exotic dish. Apart from the take-away meals, mostly Japanese or Italian, from Eat Tokyo, or Metro Pizza, or other neighbourhood restaurants, we do eat reasonable, home-cooked food.
Every now and then, however, perhaps 6x times a year — birthday, anniversary or some type of a milestone, Jared and I go out for a really wonderful meal. Usually around this time Jared would take me to a fancy restaurant for a meal as a special treat for my dad and mom’s death anniversary (1st and 15thof November). But because we have been so busy and caught up with everything that’s going on, we haven’t been able to do it this month.
On Saturday though, we had a splendid meal by the River Thames. But first, please allow me the leeway of a moment to dwell upon the occasion. At least I hope you will. About five weeks ago, Mavy sent Jared and me an invite to a special meal. She’s the daughter of Ate Mercy, one of the longest standing members of our church. She and her husband, Kuya Romy, are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary, and Mavy (she’s the ‘real foodie’), found a pretty cool place to celebrate the occasion. It is a rather eccentric yet unique venue — massive ‘see-through’ igloos by the Thames River in London’s Southbank.
It was a delight for Jared and me to dine with the Andres family in this space. The riverside snow globes eatery is one of Jimmy Garcia’s — dubbed as the ’Pop-up prince’ — quirky places to eat at London’s Southbank Centre this winter. It is Jimmy’s homage to Courchevel (French Alps ski resort) where he and his friends often visit at the end of a long season of working as chefs and chalet host — at least, that was the premise of this extraordinary dining experience, according to this. From the lush photorealistic igloo to the swan-stamped glasses and cutleries — it’s all quite lovely. Difficult, even, not to exclaim over the ‘disco-dancing light’ in the middle of the dome, or the beautiful striated metal ‘tiny swan’ on a tea/coffee stirrer, or the artful composition of the warm mulled wine — btw, it was the best mulled wine I had in London.
Lest you assume this sort of environment to be cold or forbidding, let me reassure you that it’s not. It was warm and comfortable. The chairs are cushy, and tables are generous — comfort reigns supreme. They even provided a blanket for each guests but none of us even used them.
Another extremely likeable feature of this eatery is that it’s not defined by any particular group of people — other than those who can at least occasionally afford an expensive meal by London standards. It opened the day prior, and I noticed that it certainly draws a hipster crowd, but there were plenty of elderly patrons, and families with young children especially at The Lodge (the 2-storey structure right next to the snow globes).
But the food, yes, the food! The starter alone will fill anyone up to the brim — a lot of different selection of small plates to share — Mulled Wine cured Gravlax Salmon, Poached Baby Pear, Rapeseed Oil Croute, Lemon Creme Fraiche Game Terrine, Bacon Crumb, Plum Jam, Brioche Toast, Smoked Goat Curd, Roasted Pumpkin, Pickled Beetroot with toasted hazelnuts, etc. Everything is superb, consisting of fresh ingredients and ideas which are not too complicated.
The menu also boasts other favourites such as Aberdeen Angus Beef Steak, buttered baby potatoes, fresh salad, etc. To wash our meals down, a couple of chilled bottle of red and white wine were picked by Michiel and Mavy, both are wine connoisseur. I tried the red wine and it was very good.
I actually love eating this way, since I’m something of a grazer by nature and prefer to have many smaller plates, small tastes — Japón style dining. Six small plates came first, and after a nicely spaced interval, another set of starter arrived — all delicious.
Then the main course was served — Aberdeen Angus Beef Steak, Traditional Alpine Fondue, a Selection of Artisan Charcuterie, New Potatoes, Bread and Side Salad. In all honesty, the steak was a stand-out. It was impeccably cooked — medium rare, tender and highly flavourful.
The Fondue was also very good — the subtle creaminess of different types of cheese playing gently to the piece of bread dipped in — it was perfect.
Then, of course, the dessert was served last. At this point, I was already feeling a little full but of course, I can’t skip dessert. I love sweets, and in my opinion, a meal without a dessert is rather incomplete. As it was a set menu, we all had Winter Spiced Crème Brûlée served with shortbread and coffee (others had tea with it), and in my greed I really wanted to try both Crème Brûlée and Shortbread. So I tried to happily slurped it all but was too full and could only eat half of it. The classic crème brûlée spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg is an exemplary dessert — not too sweet with a crisp caramel shell on top — it couldn’t be bad, and was in fact divine, managing to be both rich and light. And the Shortbread biscuit was oh-so-buttery-rich and crumbly.
It’s worth mentioning that I had standing gag of a hair-raising double-take when I looked at the check. It wasn’t handed to me which is a good thing.When the waiter put the bill in front of Michiel I saw that the meal costs a trip to the Philippines — mind you, a flight to Manila and a connecting flight to an island resort and back to London! As expensive as it was, it’s actually quite reasonable for all that we’d had — 8 people and two tiny tots. Maxime and Indigo did eat bits and pieces — and of course, they entertained us.
Another plus to my way of thinking is that while you may eat rich dishes like this, you’re more unlikely to overeat or become overly full unless you’d purposely do it (like I did ). The portions are more than enough for all of us (in fact, we had leftovers), which is why the prices are also moderate for this highly satisfying cuisine. If you’re hosting family or friends to whom the mark of a good restaurant is how full their doggie-bag is likely to be, don’t take them to this place, you’re better off taking them elsewhere. But do go with a group if you wanna try the Snow Globe dining. Oh and by the way, I did not regret stuffing myself silly. That was my only meal on Saturday.
It was one of the most memorable and enjoyable meals we had. Not to mention the longest — from the time the first course was served till the dessert was brought in, it took at least 4.5 hours. I mean, the whole shebang took at least 5 hours — and it didn’t even seem like it was that long. We slowly but surely had eaten the food, played with Maxime and Indigo, shared some stories, watched the fireworks and daylight disappear, etc. We particularly had a good laugh listening to Ate Mercy and Kuya Romy’slove story, once again — a love story worth penning for posterity. (Mavy should write both her mom and dad’s version — funnily enough, there’s ‘her’ and ‘his’ version of the story! )
With thanks as well as big hugs and kisses, we took ourselves off home, where Jared and I had embarked on making preparations for the next day, the Lord’s Day. We took our head out of the lofty culinary clouds where it had been, and evinced some interest on the work at hand. Jared offered me tea as he stretched out next to me on the couch, and I declined to have anything, not even a cup of green tea (I always drink green tea after dinner but not that night). Indeed I stuffed myself silly that I didn’t even wanna think of green tea, until I woke up the next day.
It was indeed a glorious meal; a joyful celebration and one that will stay with Jared and me for the rest of our days. Thank you so much Ate Mercy, Kuya Romy, Michiel and Mavy, Renz and Hannah for allowing us to be a part of this wonderful occasion, a milestone in your family.
Note: Any of my Christian friends reading this (I mean, thelegalists), please don’t be offended and/or disappointed that I had a little sip of mulled and red wine. FYI, while Jared doesn’t drink, he hates the taste and smell of alcohol, I do like red wine but I only drink socially, only on special occasion. And no, I never got drunk in my 40+ years of existence. And Jared wouldn’t mind telling anyone that in our family, that is, my side of the family back in the Philippines, wine is always served at every meal, except of course, at breakfast. But no one in my family is alcoholic, well, except for one — a maternal uncle who’s been drinking alcohol since he was 18, but by God’s grace, still quite strong and lead a very active life at 80. Oh, and I must mention, although Jared and I do not serve alcohol when we host lunches/dinners; in this country, it is actually customary even for preachers to serve alcoholic drinks when they have guests at their home, or to order alcohol while dining out with friends. So there, my American and Filipino legalist friends!
Today I want to be a discerning learner. I wonder what does it mean to be a learner who is made in the image of God? The world is full of learning opportunities for ourselves and others. And with the technology available to us today, almost all of the educational materials we need is at our fingertips. As Christians, how do we determine what is worth the cost, both in time and money, to invest in for education? Does it really matter if educational materials include the Christian worldview as long as biblical studies receive sideline attention?
When I was a baby Christian, I had to navigate those murky waters. I started out with The Navigators (an international, interdenominational Christian ministry established in 1933) discipleship program which had been used by the Navigators missionaries during my time at the University of the Philippines. All the reading materials available — pamphlets, books, etc., for me to read and learn from, came delivered into my dormitory. Despite the variety of Christian materials, the box did not include any bible. Back then I’ve only used the modern translation of the bible and didn’t own a copy of the AV or Authorised Version until I went to graduate school.
As time passed, I grew in my knowledge of the Word, and learned more about living as a Christian. I then realised the importance of having the Christian worldview included in the daily study of subjects. I began to understand that if Christianity becomes considered a Sunday morning or afternoon activity with a ten minute daily Bible study time, that faith can begin to wither as the brain compartmentalises who or Who has authority over the subject matter and hours of study time.
Now I choose to invest in educational materials for myself which integrate the true authority of God. When God is left out, subjects seem dry and without life. Materials lacking a mention of God’s place can be used discerningly with a sprinkling of salt to make them palatable. Mature Christians have a shaker full, but new Christians may not possess enough discernment to enhance dead subject matter.
These initial thoughts speak on what learning in the image of God means to me.