Monday, 26 November 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Christmas Wishlist by thegirlnextshore
New frames for my glasses. Mikimoto Starfish ring.  Mikimoto Akoya Pearl Set. Cerruti silk dress.
Oyster Day Date (White dial, plain bezel, President bracelet). The perfect grey tee. Bobbi Brown Long Wear stuff. DW nato strapped watch. A new wallet.
Dermalogica stuff. Daytona in everose gold & black leather/Nato strap. Rick Owens sheepskin leather jacket. Lotsa denim shorts.
The perfect nude pumps (Jimmy Choo Anouk). More cons. Manolos, preferably the Chaos and/or Carolyne range.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Lessons on unnecessary stress

The past few weeks have seen my stress levels on a high which caused sleepless nights, erratic hunger pangs and a splattering of unwanted zits (that come and go as they please like London rain) across my forehead. See, I've planned my year-end holiday in the Philippines early this year. I've timed it before our mandatory week-long Christmas break so I'd get to spend time in Manila longer. That was the easy part. The thing that made it all a bit difficult was my UK visa renewal.

It wouldn't have been so hard if the Tories stopped changing immigration laws and managed the UK Border Agency better. I could've easily applied for an indefinite leave to remain as I've been here for over six years as well but because the laws have changed yet again, I had to apply for another restricted working visa.

I sent my application late September thinking I'd get the results back in three to four weeks max (based on previous experience). After over a month of waiting, which involved an issuance of biometric details, I still have not heard from UKBA. Horror stories from friends (ie no word since a June application/three-month wait for passports) and news about the God-forsaken agency kept me at constant unease. My flight date loomed closer, flights got more expensive (a £200 jump in a week!) and my working status was in limbo (what if, after all this waiting, I wouldn't get it?). It all got a bit depressing and the introductory winter weather did not help at all.

I had a convo with my mother and vented about how I seriously NEED to spend Christmas with them this year. She told me to pray, that they will pray. My friends  here have been so supportive as well, they told me to pray, that they will pray. After a horrible, horrible, horrible week and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I gathered my act together and went to St. Paul's Covent Garden during my lunch break. And I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. I came home feeling a bit more relaxed.

And then a few days later, an answer.

So there you go. My future in London is definite for another three years and I get to go on my holiday in December. Stress relieved.

I guess there are a few lessons in all this, other than better anticipation of things to come when you can't rely on your government for quick results (okay, let's not get too political about this). One is that the Power of Prayer is amazing.

We all worry a bit too much when adversity strikes and whilst it's easy to vent and rant and swear at our misfortunes, we forget that it's actually easier to pray. In all honesty, I've never appreciated Luke 11:9-13 until this month. Literally, I've asked for an answers and I've received them; I've seeked for a bit of sanity and He was there; I've knocked on the UKBA doors and once again I've been given the opportunity to stay here longer.

All that said, I've realised in this process as well that you can never be too sure of anything. I've thought about the possibilities of leaving the country if my visa wasn't approved, and though the idea of leaving my home for the past six+ years and being unsettled again is a scary thing, I've actually prepared myself for it (just in case). As clich├ęd as it is, we really may not get what we want all the time, but we will always be given what we need. We just have to be ready for it. Acceptance can sometimes be a hard thing, but it can make things a thousand times easier.

Lastly, taking inspiration from Mr A-Z and Mr Marley, I've realised how blessed and lucky I am. Looking back, this visa situation is nothing compared to what others are going through. There's a burning heap of gratefulness in me - for my support group, for my family, for every person and everything that's been given to help me survive. Life's too short to worry it all away so we should always be appreciative and never forget to give thanks. End of the day, whatever The Man Up There has got planned for the future (and wherever life takes you) He's got your back. Always.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Six (?) tracks for November

Another month, another playlist. =)

1. Disclosure feat. Sam Smith - Latch
Admittedly, when I heard this on the radio I got hooked and had one of those Google-the-lyrics-to-find-out-which-song-this-is-because-I-am-too-lazy-to-Shazam-it moments. Sam Smith's vocal contribution is so smooth it reminded me of Maxwell's Love You. It's a great track with just the right amount of bounce for chilled nights with your mates or your lonesome (you'll like it if you like SBTRKT), but I'm sure it won't be too long til the remixes hit the clubs.

2. Jessie Ware - Devotion
Jessie was one of the favourites to win this year's Mercury Prize Award (but I bet on Alt-J and they won!!!). I first heard her on SBTRKT's Right Thing To Do and I remember thinking 'Ooh.. where did I hear that voice before?' It's distinct enough, but the influences are there; it has a sort of nonchalance that affects you like The xx's Romy Madley-Croft's, an effortless sultriness like Sade's with India Arie's soul, and an upcoming sense of relevance like Katy B's. Her album Devotion is quite a lounger, give it a listen.

3. Peace - Bloodshake
This is my take-me-back-to-summer song this month. The percs remind me of all sorts of tropicana and I just want to be transported to a grand secluded beach with amazing waves and coconuts. It's been released a few month's back, but I've only really appreciated it recently now that the chill's had a bit more bite. It has the same feel as Friendly Fire's Jump In The Pool, Two-Door Cinema Club's Undercover Martyn and Mystery Jet's Serotonin - all my favourite summer songs in the past few years. Can't wait til they release a full length studio album as their EP Delicious is quite promising.

4. Masters in France - Playing With My Friends
It's that tune from the super cute IKEA advert! What an awesome modern take on the BB King original! I like how cheeky-chappy this version is. It's not as soulful as the oldie but equally as fun. The bass makes you bop your head without being all too out there so it's trippy enough without being exhausting. Fun fact, they're not French, they're Welsch! Funny, because the vocalist's voice has the same rasp as fellow Welsch singers Tom Jones & Kelly Jones (Stereophonics).

5. Alt-J - Bloodflood
I featured Alt-J last month because I thought their album An Awesome Wave is awesomely genius. A month and a Mercury Prize Award later.... I'm still super in love with the band and their tunes. Here's a live version of my favourite track on their debut album which is... *breathe in, exhale* awesome.

6. Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson - Someday
An old favourite off Break Up. I have mad love for Pete and I actually think Scarlett did great stuff in this album, too. I love listening to this song in bed on a gloomy Sunday morning. It makes me sink further under the duvet and it's just cosy. There's a strange comfort I get from listening to sad(ish) songs, even when I'm not feeling gloomy at all. Makes me feel a bit creative. But that might just be strangely me. This version's a remix as I can't find a track of the original. 

I'm actually throwing a seventh track for my bestie M. You know it, buddy. Always.

Ben Howard - Keep Your Head Up
I wanted Ben to win the Mercury Prize Award if Alt-J didn't. His voice is uniquely addicting; it's not exactly pretty but it's intriguing. Also, he made me like one of the most annoying songs in the planet. That counts for something.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Halloween 2012

Halloween! by thegirlnextshore

So this was my peg for Halloween. I was too lazy to go overboard on my fancy dress as it was a school night and I was coming straight from work so I tried to keep it simple and casual. Ended up looking like this:

 Topshop 'Geek' tee; All Saints mini; H&M leopard-print flats; American Apparel thigh-highs
Angels wig;
 Accessorize bangles; sunnies from Leicester Square

Went to Lab's Hallogreen party, sponsored by Chartreuse.

The girls all looked lovely.

Geek + Wednesday Addams + Pink Pussy(cat) + Two-Faced hotness + Flapper Girl + Elton John

The boys definitely brought it. Who knew they would be so good with makeup? =P
Day of the Dead Flowered Skull + Vampire NPH + Jack Sparrow & The Mummy

So glad Wednesday and Uncle Fester were able to join us.

A few skeletons came out of the closet...

And then there was this curious, curious box...

Overall, a very fun night with the world's oddities.

Glad Halloween's picking up in Londontown. There's definitely been a sharp increase in the number of themed parties this year. Can't wait til next year!

Some photos nicked from the Lab facebook page, check it out here.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

My awesome week with Mr P

So Mr P was in town a few weeks ago. Yay! Of course I was ecstatic, can't you tell?

He arrived early in the morning, day after his birthday. We went straight to Borough Market for oysters and paella.

I've organised a sort of surprise dinner with our London friends at Burger and Lobster. =) He thought we were going on a a joint birthday date. I was quite panicky as the girls kept ringing and he kept asking questions; it was difficult to talk about plans as I had to fib and come up with excuses. In hindsight, I should've instructed the girls to talk in code. Reckon it was worth it though, the confused look on his face was priceless when we jumped the 2-hour-wait queue.

So happy our friends came around to see him despite the erratic weather! =)

Went to Lab afterwards for drinks.

 The next day we had brunch with G. Mr P wanted fish and chips so we went to Olley's, which is listed on TimeOut as one of London's best fish and chips spots. The servings were massive but we weren't impressed.

We met up in the evenings for post-work shenanigans and ate our way through Soho. We went to Burger & Lobster again; downed G&Ts at B-Soho before queuing up for ribs + chicken + pulled pork at Bodean's; had a few burgers here and there; and sampled some treats at my local market.

He cooked for us, too. I've asked for him to cook his amazing salpicao and beefsteak but he wasn't happy with the end result. Not sure what he was on about because G and I actually really liked the dishes. We ended up getting Chinese takeaway. Boo. He also made some arroz caldo (using arborio risotto rice!) and fried tofu when we were both feeling under the weather. Such a nice comforting meal!

Of course we had to go back to Borough Market for more oysters. If I'm being honest, I seriously think the main purpose of this trip was to get all oyster-ed up. On this lone trip I think he may have had 16 or so. And a massive burger in between, too.

Before you judge us by the size of our bellies, I assure you that we've gone on some 'normal dates' too. We saw Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre and watched Skyfall on opening day (quite early in the morning too!). Also did a bit of supposed shopping (because the boy needs a new wallet) and a stroll along South Bank via St. Paul's.

Before we knew it, the week was over and again we had to wait for trains, planes and for time to click out. Goodbyes are never pretty but I'm happy and grateful I got to spend some time with him on my favourite month of the year. Plus, I'll see him over the holidays anyway. =)

But it goes without saying, I still miss him a lot. Every. Single. Day.

Play your cards right =)

Friday, 2 November 2012

The 28th Birthday

So turning 28 wasn't so bad.

I went to work on my actual birthday and felt spoilt as my colleagues treated me to amazing surprises and pressies. It seemed like a normal Thursday until the fire alarm went off and everyone had to evacuate the building. As we rushed out I realised that I've left everything at my desk including the most important thing - my birthday cake! Luckily the issue was rectified and nobody got hurt. We all got to have some bubbly and munchies. =)

Flowers ♣ Cupcakes ♣ Cards

The next day I had my actual birthday dinner. We were supposed to go to this newly-opened cocktail bar in Soho but they had a booking problem and cancelled our table the night before. I was stressing out as most restaurants were already fully booked and we were a party of 20. Thankfully, we managed to get a table at Souk Bazaar in Covent Garden. North African grub it is.

The group decided to take on the Marrakech Feast thinking we only get to choose one main course from the set menu so imagine our surprise when our server said we get EVERYTHING on the list. I wasn't really able to take photos as we were all overwhelmed with the amount of food. We had had so much to eat, I was pretty full up after the starters. It was pretty tasty though and everyone seemed to enjoy the meal. 

Whilst everyone chatted around the table, some sort of birthday song (in English and in two foreign languages) blared from the super loud speakers. I thought it was for the table next to us as they've had some loud birthday shenanigans before supper, but our server turned up with a plate of candle-lit baklava and placed it in front of me. It was pretty embarrassing as the song played for about five minutes and it was so loud! It was an 'Awwww' moment, but I seriously couldn't wait for the super loud music to stop.

We went to Foundation for some jam jar cocktails and a bit of dancing. My friend B managed to convince the bouncer to get us all 18 of us in for free, woohoo! I don't think anyone got drunk (which was good and, uh, a sign of maturity?) but I knew everyone danced their socks off. =)

My amazing cousin D dropped me home afterwards and I spent the next few hours wide awake in bed. I was tired from the day's activities but nostalgia blocked sleep. I've spent six birthdays away from home and the guest lists have changed each year. This made me realise how many people have come and gone, how much I miss my buddies who live faraway and those whom I've lost touch with. But hey, everybody moves forward and my last wish for the night was for all these people to be as happy as I am.

I thought about how far I've come and how different everything is from last year, from fiver years ago and from a decade ago. At 28, I am surrounded by a great bunch of people: I have thoughtful colleagues and housemates; a solid set of friends in Manila (they're always 'there' even when I'm 'here') and in London (my family away from home); an awesome partner whose love never fails to surprise me every single day; and an amazing close-knit family. I've never felt so much love. It hurts thinking about how much He's been so good to me. I am so so so so so so blessed.

The sun was already out by the time sleep crept in. I said a little prayer, and then I fell asleep. It was a very, very, very good birthday indeed. Thank yous, and thank You. =)