As the year draws to a close it seems natural, at least for myself, to reflect on the year that has been and look ahead to the one to come. I’ve been thinking about what I want to hold on to and what I need to let go of — whether beliefs, or habits, or hobbies, or dreams. I realised a necessary pruning is in order, not just of the mind but also of the heart. Continue reading “Thoughts on New Year's Day”→
The winter landscape in London is really a thing of beauty. I love taking long walks at the park even in the dead of winter, and I am always in awe of God’s work in creation especially by the sheer beauty of the seemingly dead (but actually teeming with life) trees. Continue reading “Christmas in London (3rd of 3 Parts)”→
It has been a crazy week so this is a quick post . . .
It has become a tradition at our church here in London, to have an annual Candlelit and Cantata Service at Christmas. We had it on Sunday last week and it was a joyful day of worship with congregational Christmas carols, special music by the adult and children choir, as well as lots of eating and fellowshipping. The catering/event committee prepared a Vietnamese-themed meal. Thanks to the choir, catering/event committee members, cleaning crew, and others who helped out.
On Monday morning my friend Adiben phoned to say that she just got out of work, and we agreed to meet up for breakfast. She came over to Notting Hill and after a quick chat on where we should eat out we decided to go to this place but more on that later.
In a strange coincidence, we bumped into Vic and so we abducted him. We went to Claridge’s Hotel to see their ‘upside-town’ tree (not your typical Christmas tree, I must say, it was designed by Karl Lagerfield), walked around Mayfair, took photos of the street lights and storefront display, had pizza and tea, and walked more until it was dark. So the breakfast extended to lunch, tea, etc.
London is magical at this time of the year; every nook and cranny of the city center is practically decked out with lights and decorations.
The Cartier flagship store, my favourite building (only at Christmas time I must add), truly stands out.
Our breakfast: pastries and coffee — the famous Cronut (not my fave but Adiben wanted to try it so we shared one), DKA (my fave), gingerbread and chorizo croissant (my first time to try — both very good!). I’ve been to Dominique Ansel Bakery 3x prior to Monday’s visit but haven’t done a proper review, may be after Christmas I will do a post about my dining experience there.
The last but not the least. I got to visit Maxi — my favourite one-year old girl in the whole wide world! It’s safe to say, after working with little kids at our church in the last 17.5 years, that Maxi is the best baby ever — not fussy, hardly ever cries (and when she does you’ll just see tears running down her little cheeks), and she’s just a happy little girl. It’s a joy watching her every Sunday. When she is away traveling with her parents and/or can’t come to church for whatever reason, I do miss her. It was nice being able to visit her on Thursday, we did some baking (notice her chocolate-filled face after eating chocolate chip cookies!), played a little bit and had chit-chat with Momma Mavy. Can’t wait to do it again soon!
Two more days before Christmas. I’ve got to get some gift wrapping done tonight, and prepare for church. I wish you all a wonderful day of worship tomorrow. Love to you all, dear family and friends.
The festive season is upon us and so I plan to mark the special occasion in my own way by posting reviews of events which feature people and places in a jovial mood. I am kicking off the week with a little story about the events I attended last week.
First and foremost, the ’Burlington Ladies’ annual Christmas dinner was held a week ago, the 12th of December. We had the usual exchanging of gifts, sharing of stories with lots of laughter, and simply catching up with one another — it was a fun night as always. For this year’s gifts, we decided to do something different — it was a recycled or unused gifts we received and we had to give the reason why we didn’t use them. There’s 6 of us in the group but Dynah has already jetted off to the tropics and missed the fun for the first time. It wasn’t the same with Dynah’s absence — we missed you girl! By the way, we call ourselves ’Burlington Ladies’ not because we had some sort of upper story grandeur, we don’t. It simply happens that the first time we got together as a group was at a special tour organised by the management of Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly. Long story that deserves a separate post for another day but just to say that just like the previous years, it was another fun-filled Christmas get-together with this bunch.
Then I attended another Christmas dinner on Thursday night hosted by Vic. This time, it’s our little ‘foodie group’ — there’s 6 of us, and just like the Burlington Ladies, we also get together not just to eat but to share gossip about Philippine politics – well, actually more about Filipino politicians and Manila high-society haha! What can you expect? Everyone is a diplomat aside from Aimee (who works for HerMaj Queen Elizabeth II) and myself (well, I work for the King of Kings, the Boss of all the bosses). So there.
I promise that there will be more photos on the next post, it will be about the two events early this week. Hope you’re getting all your shopping, gift wrapping, baking, and all the Christmas preparations done before the week is out.
My inbox has recently been flooded with emails asking for the template and step-by-step instructions ofthis gingerbread house, an old post from December of last year. Regrettably, I do no longer have the templates of any gingerbread houses I made over the years, including those of the London iconic buildings, simply because I give them away after using them. I had no plans of reusing them again as I always make something new every year.
So, my big apologies to anyone who contacted me. Let me just quickly explain how I made the Globe Theatre gingerbread. To start with, and this applies to any gingerbread I wanted to make, I always look for photos of the structure I want to copy, then draw them on a piece of paper — must be precise in dimension — then cut them, make necessary adjustments, and finally transfer them on to a cardboard. I then assemble them together using a washi tape. This is a very important process to make sure that all the pieces perfectly fit together. For the gingerbread itself, I use a recipe I’ve posted here. I prefer to use melted sugar as glue but if that doesn’t work for you then an icing sugar with egg white is a good substitute but it takes several hours to dry. To achieve the brownish colour I simply add cocoa powder to the icing. For the Globe Theatre I used icing sugar because it was a little project I did with my goddaughter Anisa. It is not ideal to use melted sugar with kids around.
I failed to document the whole process but here’s a few photos that will give you an idea how I did it. Please email me if you got any other questions.
Candy canes were used as pillars to hold the weight of the roof.
We made this back in December of 2012. Anisa came over to our flat and we did it for a few hours in a couple of days.
Little Anisa and I at the Globe Theatre many years ago, long before we made this gingerbread. Now she’s almost as tall as me and I’m afraid she’ll be taller than me in a year or two!
We were happy to showcase the gingerbread at our church’s fellowship hall on Christmas Day 2012.
The Big Ben gingerbread house deserves a post for another day.
I’m one of those women who will use any excuse not to put on a pair of black opaques tights unless necessary. But as winter colds up, I don’t go out without any black tights on. I mean, a pair of 80-denier opaque tights underneath my trousers (plus thermal shirt, a hat, a pair of gloves and the whole shebang) as if London is experiencing a sub-zero temperatures!
The sun might be out and the temperature might not change from one day to the next, but it’s not the deciding factor of whether to wear tights or not. For instance, this morning it’s sunny and having a tights on, plus a thermal shirt, just feels wrong – or at least it feels wrong until I’m outside, shivering. Anyhow, London is cold and wet almost everyday in the winter months where black tights are really practical and entirely appropriate.
I learned on my first year of living here though that British women have a particular attachment to black opaque tights that baffles a tropical girl like myself. Back then I didn’t, for the life of me, understand the women’s obsession with black tights in the spring and summer months. Seriously, most British women wear them all year round! I finally figured out the reason: they have hairy legs and are too lazy to shave everyday. LOL! In the Philippines, black tights are relegated to the back of the drawer. Back then I only wore them when I visited another country on a winter season. Filipino women proudly bare their legs whether rain or shine. Now that I call London home, I only wear tights when it’s too cold. And I have a simple rule — all winter I wear trousers and my legs are hidden away but on a warm day, I let my legs breathe.
This season, on the countless days (just like in the last 16 years of living here) I’ve found myself staring at my 80-deniered thighs on cold, overcast days. It’s been freezing cold nowadays, between 30-43°C temperatures, and it has finally persuaded me to quit complaining about wearing tights. If I stick to my ‘rain-or-shine-wear-tights’ rule during AW season, I suspect my legs will walk me in to April or May of next year having never seen the light of day.
December has a contented glow about it. Although it’s cold and grey, and there’s only the prospect of deepest winter ahead (forecasters are predicting that Britain is set to have one of the harshest winter in years with temperatures dipping as low as -10C), the Christmas lights and all the festive decorations around bring a cheeriness and warmth to the now long, dark nights.
During the winter months I make time for my own golden hours and indulge in reading a book, or writing. And recently I’ve been doing calligraphy, drawing and watercolour painting.
Also, I appreciate the landscape by walking around the park and collecting leaves. As it’s hard to resist the warm colour of the horse chestnut seeds while out taking a walk, I always end up collecting them. They’re not edible but are nice to put in a bowl and use as a table centrepiece.
December is a very special time for me to reflect on all the blessings that the Lord has bestowed upon my life, and I always look forward to the new year when I turn another year older!
Christmas is about family reunion and get-together with friends packed with fun & games; more eating and cheer, and simply luxuriate in festive spirit.
As we begin the countdown to Christmas Day, so we begin our festive preparations. I love Christmas, and I am especially excited to celebrating this year’s festivities.