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.
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.
I went to the Farmers’ Market early this morning and forgot to put on my hat and gloves. It was so cold that I felt like my fingers were falling off haha! When I checked the temperature, it was 2 degrees — already too cold for me! I just wanted to crawl back in bed and get cozy. I’m dreading the onset of the winter months. I am not looking forward to another five-six months of wearing layers of clothes, heavy coats, boots, gloves and hats.
You’d think I’m already used to this kind of weather because London has been my home for almost 18 years now. Nope! I am a tropical girl and do not enjoy wearing winter outfits. Having said that, I am so blessed to call London my home. God has been so good in allowing me to live in one of the most prestigious cities in the world. It is a beautiful place full of fascinating history whichever way you turn. I’ve been able to see London from the beautiful spring and summer months through to harsh and long autumn and winter season for the last 17 years, and it has enabled me to gain a lot of perspectives on things.
From a weather perspective, it is not like Greece, or any of the Mediterranean city that is beautiful throughout the year. While some people like the freezing cold weather, and the rain (not me though), it can get especially cold, grey, wet and very windy, and sometimes snowy during the winter months. So visitors have to come at the right time in order for them to really enjoy the city. Whenever I am asked by family and friends when is the best time to visit, my response is always, “Visit in the summer months, July or August, or early autumn, September or October.”
I found this 3 minute video of London on a bright and sunny day. It is captivating and worth watching.
When I was growing up, the period from October 31 to November 2 was a big holiday in the Philippines. It is not a huge festivity like Christmas but people would normally take a few days off work, travel back home to be with their families to honour their loved ones, both the dead and the living. Filipinos are very superstitious and religious people you see . . . even those who claim to be nominal Catholics do pray for, and to, the dead (the image of President Duterte crying in his mother’s grave uttering ‘Tabangi ko, Ma!’’ — please help me, Mother! — is a classic example of this). Back in my day, and I’m referring to 30-40 years back when I was very young, everyone did lit candles in the cemetery to commemorate All Saints’ Day (November 1st) and All Souls’ Day (November 2nd). In our family we always had a novena (a form of worship consisting of special prayers on nine successive days) at home every night during these festivities aside from offering a mass (that is, paying money to the priest to hold a special service) for the dead family members. A lot of Filipinos still do practice this tradition to this very day. Personally though, All Saints’ Day took on a completely different meaning when my father died on November 1, 1984, exactly thirty three years ago today. Three days ago my older brother turned 50 and as I was on Skype chatting with everyone, the family gathered to celebrate his birthday, I was reminded once again that my father died at age 51 — really young.
So this is the time of year when my own particular brand of seasonal affective disorder sets in. And no, I’m not talking about a depression that goes on for months, or until the dead of winter is over. Rather it’s intentional, I purposely spend some time being sentimental, reflecting or dwelling in the past, and sometimes I seem to get stuck there, at least for a week or two. I don’t get weepy, or spend time crying for hours on end, or have no appetite and don’t wanna go out or see anyone. None of that. I just tend to be more quiet and solitary. I naturally keep things to myself and not bother to share my deepest thoughts and feelings with anyone, not even with my husband. I deal with it on my own. That’s just the way I am. I know how to live inside some of my sorrow, the grief that never really goes away.
Around this time of the year since my father’s death, I become quite nostalgic for the way things were, in what seems like only yesterday, but in fact they’re long ago and far away moments. I’m no longer a little girl, anticipating Christmas or any of the holidays. We all grow up, we get older, and yes, we lose people we love. Our siblings, or those we’re close to do get married and move away, and start spending their holidays in other family circles. In my case, I am the one who moved farther away, thousands of miles from my family and friends. In the same way that once we settle in one place, we make friends and then some of them move to other parts of the country, or other parts of the world, or become estranged. And as we get older, our beloved elders pass on and the list of people we miss gets longer.
Just about everyday last week I listened to my parents’ favourite music, and I haven’t listened to any of it for many months. But the other night I played one of my mother’s favourite songs ‘The Autumn Leaves’ over and over — probably a hundred times that day (FYI, Eva Cassidy’s rendition is my number one favourite). For some reasons, I have vivid memories, as a 3-4 year old girl, watching my mother playing the guitar while singing The Autumn Leaves and I tried to replay that particular moment in my mind as I was listening to the song while doing calligraphy and watercolour painting — which, by the way, I find very therapeutic.
A good part of the weekend and yesterday, and yes, a fair portion of today, particularly this morning, were laced with these melancholic moments, and broody concern for the past. Each time I was ready to caw under the weight of my own deep oblivion, strong arms wrapped themselves around me and Jared would simply say, “I’m here, my dear!” That was all I needed in order to remember that indeed, I have a lot for which to be truly thankful. It seemed time, today, to come full circle, and invoke the spirit of my father and mother, thirty four and eight years gone respectively (November 1,1984 and November 15, 2009), by going through old photographs, videos, listening to their music — simply reminiscing the days gone by.
Christmas is just around the corner; strong arms are wrapped around me as we make plans for the holiday traditions we’ve begun to evolve over the past seventeen years. Making plans always cheers me up. And really, how sad can I be when there’s so much to be joyful and thankful for? Besides, I’m drinking English tea right now, and a cup of tea makes everything better!
I’d better stop right here before I get maudlin again.
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!