Posted in bloggers, Food, Lifestyle, Reviews

The Beef Wellington Experience

This past month my sister has been OBSESSED with watching Hell’s Kitchen on Netflix. I think she’s developed a serious crush on Gordon Ramsay and his swearing, blustering, slightly misogynistic demeanour (the kind that will probably not be tolerated in the current climate of #timesup and #metoo movements).

So because I am an incredibly generous sister, I decided to buy her a gift voucher for The Beef Wellington Experience at The Savoy; this package includes a three course meal – in which the main attraction is the beef welly of course – and a complimentary glass of rose wine.

Just a quick shout out to the people who contributed money for this voucher. I would not have been able to afford this for both Arlene and myself so thank you to our orthopaedic team and Arlene’s friends for your generosity!

Anyway, my sister and I were so excited for this experience. We pulled out all the stops, got dolled up and got ourselves outfits that cost pretty much the same as a meal at The Savoy but hey, that’s what extra shifts at work are for. Arlene looked all grown up in her pant suit look from Oasis whereas I stuck to my usual cropped top Taylor Swift circa 2015 inspired dress.

Its a good thing we live so close to The Savoy, which is located at the Strand near Charing Cross Station and Covent Garden, because those heels were NOT made for walking. Its a lovely old hotel that’s been around for decades and its got a really classy, elegant, old-world feel to it. Also, I always say that you can tell a lot about a place based on its toilet and the toilets at The Savoy are top-notch. Lol

Our restaurant voucher was to be redeemed at The Savoy Grill, which is a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. Obviously, the man himself wasn’t there but I’d like to think he still keeps one hand on the pie and ensures that the restaurant standards live up to his name.

I love love love the service. I found myself thinking that its nice to see how the other half lives every once in a while; its true what they say, money DOES grease the wheels and make everything easier. The servers seamlessly served us our aperitifs and starters while my sister and I tried not to feel too out of place.

For starters we had a glazed omelette Arnold Bennett, which is a really fancy name for something that consisted of fish and eggs. Nevertheless it was really really tasty.

I was really apprehensive about the Beef Wellington. It’s such a well-known dish and I’ve always wanted to try it, but I was worried this was going to be like the time I really wanted to try a cheese soufflé and ended up wasting 30 euros for what is basically egg and cheese.

I didn’t want the Beef Welly to be like an oversized sausage roll or worse. I’m also not used to eating my meat medium rare; for some reason I’ve always preferred it well-done but because medium rare was recommended I figured, what the hell?

My worries were completely unfounded because this was one of the most delicious dish I’ve ever had in my life. Served with mashed potateoes, kale and red wine jus, and with the beef perfectly cooked, it was worth every pound that I paid for it. Okay maybe the serving was a little small, but that’s probably a testament to how good it was: I wanted MORE.

After a palate cleanser of passion fruit sorbet, we were ready for the final course. For dessert, we had a table-side server to flambe crepe suzettes for us. This got me really excited, I felt like a kid watching a fireworks show, I don’t know why. I was grinning the whole time the server was doing this, he must have thought I had a few screws loose.

We though the night would end there, so imagine our surprise when the manager offered us a tour of the kitchen, a chance to meet the chefs and some petit fours to cap off the evening. I thought my sister was going to cry she was so happy. I think she was having visions of Hell’s Kitchen and was super excited to see the behind the scenes action; I’m happy to say its nothing like Hell’s Kitchen in terms of swearing and near-nervous breakdowns, but it was just as intense in there. Thank you chefs for the photo op!

Anyway, apart from the petit fours they also gave my sister a complimentary birthday tart with candles and everything. It was an absolutely incredible evening and it really made my sister so happy. It was a night she won’t soon forget and I’m banking on that because the 12th of August (MY birthday) is just around the corner and she’ll have to plan it. Lol

You can purchase the same experience and lots of other offers at The Savoy website by clicking here. Its quite pricey but its nice for special occasions or to purchase as a present when there’s lots of you pitching in.

Thank you to the staff at The Savoy Grill for a memorable evening.

Posted in murder mystery, Reviews, Theatre, Thriller

Theatre Review: Witness For The Prosecution

For my sister’s birthday, I got us both tickets to see a production of Agatha Christie’s Witness For The Prosecution. Having just become massive fans ourselves, we thought it would be a good night out and plus, who doesn’t love a good murder/mystery?

First of all, the venue itself is amazing. I was excited when I heard it was going to be at the County Hall and in the room where Parliament used to meet in the 20s. The entrance is on Belvedere Road which is just across St. Thomas Hospital and at the back of the London Eye.

We were really chuffed when we got inside the actual theatre. Its set up so you can pretend you’re at the Old Bailey, which I think is the old criminal court near Newgate Prison. It had jury boxes and everything, and if you’ve got money to spend you might want to get a seat in the jury box for a more immersive experience. You may or may not get to participate in the actual play so get your best thespian voice ready.

It was worth splurging for stall seats because you’re really close to where the action is. Also, they were really roomy and comfortable so you don’t ever feel like you’re practically sitting on top of your neighbour for the duration of the show.

The play tells the story of Leonard Vogel, who’s been accused of murdering a rich woman that he’s befriended and goes to visit once or twice a week. His arrest is based on the testimony of the housekeeper who swore she heard him talking to the victim around 5 minutes before the time of death.

The play unfolds like a courtroom drama, and I had initial misgivings about that because I thought it would be very dry and boring. I could not have been more wrong. The actors were so good and the story itself is so riveting that you won’t even notice you’re halfway through the first act already.

There were also some unexpected lighthearted and even comedic moments, usually aimed at the Britishness of the British. Because this play was oh-so-British, from insulting each other politely (no one does this as well as the British) to offering tea during times of crises and even the British attitude towards foreigners…it was all very well done.

I have to say I guessed the plot twist about 3/4 of the way into the play but I was still shocked when THE BIG REVEAL was unveiled. I love how, just like in other Agatha Christie works, she manages to convey so much without having to bombard the audience or the readers with unnecessary details. You are instead led through a series of truths, half-truths and out and out lies and its up to you to make heads or tails of it to come to your own conclusion.

Overall, I had a really great time and I’d highly recommend this play to both theatre lovers and fans of the crime and murder genre because I can guarantee you’ll have a great time.

Click on the link here to go to the website, wherein there’s a tab for you to buy tickets. The shows are incredibly popular so the weekends might be fully booked but there’s plenty of seats during the weekdays and it doesn’t really last that long. Its finished by 10 and there are good transport links around the area (Waterloo, Embankment and Westminster stations and a lot of buses).

Cheers and Happy Birthday to my sister Arlene (shown on the photos with me)!! xx

Posted in Books, Dystopia, Fantasy, Reviews, Young Adult

Book Review: Ready Player One

So, there are three things you should know about me:

One. I have always loved quests. It doesn’t matter if it involves treasure hunts or a race to a predetermined finish line, if it involves jumping through hoops and solving riddles in the process, I am all for it.

When I was a young and idealistic clinical instructor, I used to organise an Amazing Race Velez College Edition for my nursing students at the end of each placement as a fun way of testing their knowledge and skill as well as, you know, using my powers to get them to do silly stuff like put their faces on a bowl of flour to find the clue hidden underneath. It was awesome.

Two. I love the 80s. I mean, I was only alive for three years of it but my dad and uncles were all 80s aficionados. The three of them had a combined and impressive collection of CDs of artists from the 80s and DVDs of films from that decade. My favourite uncle especially was really into 80s new wave so from the age of 8 and beyond, I had Billy Joel singing Uptown Girl and Kate Bush longing for Heathcliff in ‘Wuthering Heights‘ as the soundtrack of my childhood.

Three. I am a big geek. There is no way anyone who knows me will fail to realise this. I did well in school, I was into books and music and film and I cannot play a sport to save my life (unless Scrabble counts as a sport).

Growing up this gave me a lot of insecurities and for a long time I probably pretended to be a lot cooler than I was, but I’ve reached the age where all you can really do is just be yourself and realise that who you are is awesome simply because ITS YOU.

This is what this book celebrates I guess: quests, the 80s and geekdom. Honestly, this book is like manna from heaven for every geek and gamer out there (of which there are many I’m sure). The number of pop culture references that Wade and company used to solve the quest, get to Halliday’s egg and save the world in the process is so ubiquitous it nearly made my head spin.

I have to admit I did not get most of them, especially the ones relating to video games. But there’s plenty of things that I did get: John Hughes films, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, to name a few. I also loved the Marty McFly reference because the Back To The Future trilogy are among my favourite films of all time.

I know that just like any book that’s reached a certain level of popularity, this one is already getting a lot of backlash and criticism from people who think the references are self-serving, self-referential and complete and utter nonsense. To that I say:

I really don’t get why people feel the need to take a book so personally. I’ve given negative reviews about a book before but I’d like to think I’ve always had something positive to say about it rather than just tearing it to shreds. As someone who aspires to be a writer someday, I appreciate how hard it is to string together a coherent paragraph that will somehow convey the stories that are in your mind, let alone have the commitment to actually get it published.

I think the premise and the plot of this book is stronger than it gets credit for. I loved the more sinister undertones lurking behind the exhilarating quest and the subtle message of the dangers of OASIS, the super-immersive virtual reality program that has enthralled the masses in this dystopian future. It also amazes me that for a book that celebrates all things techie and geeky, it still somehow manages to convey a very human story of acceptance,friendship and love.

Okay so its not without its faults, but overall I find the writing to be so superb that it had me in its hooks even though I have no idea how to tell the difference between an Atari and a Nintendo PS, and though I’ve never played a game of PacMan in my life. The narrative moves forward in an exciting pace and ultimately ends in a triumph that leaves me wanting to do this:

I can’t wait to watch the Steven Spielberg-directed film adaptation and watch as Steven Spielberg pays homage to 80s pop culture and, well, Steven Spielberg.

Steven Spielberg GIF by Golden Globes - Find & Share on GIPHY

Okay, so that is probably a little too self-congratulatory for my taste but you can’t blame the guy for having had such a heavy influence on most of the films released during that period. He IS one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Let’s not hold that against him and this book.

If you haven’t got a copy already, go buy this book. Solid 4 stars!

Posted in Books, murder mystery, Paranormal, Reviews, Thriller

Book Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

I very rarely give five star ratings anymore but I am happy to give this book the first of hopefully many to come this year.

This book absolutely blew me away. It kept me up at night and awake at the crack of dawn. It weighed heavily on my mind for two straight days; I was thinking about it over breakfast, while I was reading my emails, when I was arguing with a colleague and I even spared it a thought while I was swiping through Tinder. Lol

This is like a supernatural version of an Agatha Christie novel. A colleague asked me for a synopsis of it and she wanted me to be succinct so I told her its like if Murder On The Orient Express met Groundhog Day and they had a baby then that baby is this book.

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at the night of the ball during a weekend house party. I don’t think that’s a spoiler because duh, the bloody title gives that away. That is not the main point of the novel. The point is that she is doomed to be murdered again and again until someone solves her murder.

Aiden Bishop is the man tasked with this herculean task. And you would think he’d have a fighting chance if the day repeats itself over and over again because hey, at least you’ll learn from the mistakes of the previous day right?

There’s always a catch; and the catch in this instance is that every time the day resets Aiden wakes up in the body of a different house guest which will serve as his host until he either falls asleep or dies.

More to the point, this whole sequence of events is actually some kind of loop and at some point he will intersect with himself in his past and future hosts, in which case he will need to figure out how to either influence future events or change the course of the day without fucking everything up basically. It gets terribly complicated in the best way possible.

This book was completely mind-boggling. I am simply amazed at its level of complexity; the amount of attention to detail it must have taken to keep everything straight and to make sure nothing gets missed must have taken heaps and heaps of notes and post-its and cross-referencing, not to mention meticulous editing. I simply don’t know how Stuart Turton did it but I, for one, am glad that we have this fantastic book as evidence of his hard labor.

The best kind of murder mysteries are the ones where everything is so unpredictable that you’ve given up trying to wade through all the false information and red herrings to try and solve the mystery yourself. This was what I did with this one. I just prepared myself for the unexpected, and told myself this is one mystery that I will not be able to solve. And I was right, I did not see that ending coming.

Utterly unpredictable, compelling and compulsively readable, this kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I’ve read so many of these that I am very rarely surprised but well done, Mr. Turton, you’ve managed to do the impossible.

For my American readers, this book is out in the US sometime in September. For UK readers, get thee to your nearest bookstore now!

Five Jumping Up and Down Stars!

Posted in College, friendship, relationships, Self-Discovery

Dear 21-Year-Old-Me

A friend of mine recently posted a Facebook status to remind everyone in our year that its been 10 years since we graduated from college and we are, in fact, getting older by the minute.

Honestly, you could not pay me to be 21 again. At 21 I was heavily overweight, insecure, confused and emotionally stressed. I had no idea what the future had in store, all I know was that I was damned petrified of it.

At 21, I was looking back at my college years with some measure of regret for the things I’ve done and the things I didn’t do. I think I was having some kind of identity crisis because I felt like I could have lived a little more in college, and by live I mean drank more alcohol and maybe partied just a little bit more.

But its different when you see things from the 20-20 perspective of hindsight. So I have just a few things to say to my 21-year old self.

There’s a place for everything and everything in its place. Do not worry that you’ve never experienced an overnight party or had a hangover. In 4 years you’ll find yourself vomiting up those unfortunate shots of Jaeger bombs somewhere in Lambeth North station in London of all places and you’ll tick that off your bucket list.

It will take you a good five years to get over your current “great love” and the source of your emotional stress. But get over it you will, and you’ll be a better person for having gone through it.

Finding our true love is proving more difficult than I thought. Prepare yourself for some rough years ahead. Haha

Your years as a clinical instructor will change you in ways you’ll never imagine. Be prepared for “scandals”, be prepared to be hurt but take comfort in knowing there’s something great waiting around the corner. So sign that job contract, do not even hesitate.

You will find yourself thanking the stars time and time again that you were intelligent long before you grew into your looks. You’ll find ways to cheat physical beauty later.

Try and go easy on the cakes and the steamed rice and the servings of lechon. But don’t worry too much about your weight. We will find a happy balance in the future and we will learn to love our body. Mostly.

The people you meet in college are some of the best people you’ll meet in your life. Don’t be afraid or intimidated by how different they are from you; those differences are the very reason why they were brought into your life. By the way, 10 years from now those people will still be grateful you chose to study instead of party. Almost as much as they’ll still be talking about your wonderfully loopy handwriting.

Give yourself credit for the things you’ve done. You are more or less a good person, and at least you can take credit for trying to be one.

Do not listen to that voice in your head telling you you should have gone into medicine. That’s not your calling.

Be nicer to your family. Even your annoying siblings and cousins. They will soon become some of the best friends you’ll ever have. Yes, even your brother.

Hey by the way there’s this thing called Instagram that you may want to invest money in. Lol

David Archuleta will not win American Idol. You’ll get over it.

In about 10 years, you’ll find yourself a bit more settled, in a foreign country and having experiences you never thought you’ll have. You’ve travelled, you’ve met new friends, and you’ll still be scared and confused most of the time…but really, 21-year old self, relax. Don’t worry too much about the future. We’ll be okay.

You’ll soon find yourself where I’m sitting, giving yourself a pat in the back saying, “We did good.” So for now, enjoy all the years in between. See you soon. Xx

Posted in bloggers, family, Moving to London, relationships

Bad Dreams and Irrational Fears

Yesterday I had a long shift at work that eventually ended in me sprawled on the couch at 9pm trying to decide whether I’m more tired or hungry, and whether it was worth giving up being horizontal to prepare dinner. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best of moods.

In the middle of all this, my mum FaceTimed me from the Philippines – as she usually does around that time. She gets up early every morning to go to church (every morning without fail! Now that is a woman who does not feel conflicted about her faith) and she makes a point of ringing my sister and I before she leaves. Maybe so she’ll know if anything’s come up in our lives that necessitates her praying for our eternal souls.

Anyway, I’m ashamed to say that I was too tired last night to bring myself to have a decent conversation with my mother. I was so self-absorbed and cranky that my dad eventually told her to just let me off the phone and rest because I seemed so tired.

I felt incredibly guilty after that. I mean, I so seldom see my parents because I live abroad and these phone calls are their only means of ensuring we stay connected. I’m very lucky that my mum makes an effort to call every day despite the 8 hour time difference; its gotten me through the worst of homesickness when I first got here and through tough times and seemingly insurmountable challenges. They made me feel supported and loved.

Of course my neurotic subconscious chose to express my guilt in the form of a nightmare where my mum was on a ship that had problems at sea and everyone on it has been now been declared missing and presumed dead. I woke up at 2am still in the grips of emotional upheaval and thinking that the last thing I ever said to my mother was that I was too tired to FaceTime her.

I of course rang her telling her about this nightmare and she laughed in my face and told me I was crazy. I probably AM but that’s beside the point. The point is I’ve always had this irrational fear about phone calls. I don’t like receiving missed calls because you never know who was trying to ring you and whether or not it was something catastrophic. Especially missed calls in the middle of the night. Or missed calls from work or your boss.

My mum once rang me in the middle of a working day (London time) and when she couldn’t get a hold of me proceeded to leave the most serious voicemail in the world asking me to call her back when I can. I thought someone in the family had died. It turned out she was just testing whether her new sim card for international calls worked. I nearly had a coronary. I told her never to do that again.

I also sometimes think about how life can suddenly throw curveballs at you. This may seem fatalistic but we never know when a certain conversation with someone we love may be our last. And if you think about it, we take so much for granted that we sometimes forget to even say ‘I love you’ at the end of a conversation with our parents or siblings or partners. This really gets to me, the fact that you never know. So you have to make the most out of it, out of every moment.

I guess what I’m just trying to remind myself is that you should never get to the point where you’re too busy to make time for the ones you love. You have to learn to prioritise, see the bigger picture and remember what’s important. In addition, just because it appears to be ordinary doesn’t mean its not important. Life is made up of small ordinary moments; its what you do with it and who you do it with that makes it extraordinary.

Now that I’ve done this little self-talk, I’m going to ring my mother again and hope I can now sleep better tonight. Lol

Cheers!

Posted in Books, murder mystery, Reviews, Thriller

Book Review: Into The Water – Paula Hawkins

So I was thinking about how I was going to approach this review and I thought about being neutral about it and keeping what I really thought to myself, but then I remembered something: This is MYblog, not some editorial piece where I am obligated to be diplomatic about my opinions. So below is an honest review of a book that everyone seems to think is great but I found somehow…unsatisfactory.

Let me just say this about the author: she is a damn good writer. Even when I struggled with the plot, even when nothing made sense, I kept going because the prose was just so damn readable. I have a weakness for books where the writing just flowed and I’ve probably stuck by books with plot holes the size of the hole in the ozone layer purely because I was enamoured of the writing.

So books like these, just like Paula Hawkins’ debut The Girl on The Train, capitalise on confusing their readers right? That’s fine. But it seems to me with this book that the author is confused herself; she couldn’t quite figure out whether she was writing a thriller, a murder/mystery or a fantasy novel.

As a result, there were a lot of things that were thrown into the plot that I thought were completely unnecessary. They muddled things up so much that in the middle of the book, I found myself asking ‘what in the hell is the plot?!’ and ‘what is the point of all of this?‘ and also, do I really care enough about these hateful characters to see this thing through to the end?

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I did finish the book, by the grace of God. 

The plot centres on the Drowning Pool, a river in the town of Beckford. I’m not sure if this town is fictional but its supposedly set somewhere in England and probably not a place I’d go visit anytime soon. Anyway, this pool has claimed a lot of “troubled” women’s lives going back to the days when witch trials by water were a thing.

The latest in this long line of victims is Nell Abbot, mother, neighbour, friend and sister to Jules. Nell was obsessed with this pool’s history and the true story behind each woman’s death, and in the process of uncovering the truth she sets off a chain of events that lead to her broken body being found in the very pool she found fascinating. Did she jump? Was she pushed? How did she come to be there?

I find it really sad that the book did not live up to the promise of its premise. There were a lot of things wrong with it but I think it all boils down to the lack of a tighter plot.

I tend not to read reviews prior to reading a book because it tends to colour my own opinions of it, but I gave in to temptation with this one and I agree with the general consensus in the reading community that the cast of characters in this book was simply too big. When the inevitable Hollywood film adaptation comes how are they going to afford to pay all those actors? In addition, no one was likeable in this book. So you have a bunch of characters that no one really cares about running around town making a mess of things and as a reader, you just don’t see the point.

Don’t get me wrong, each individual backstory was quite interesting. The teenage suicide, the troubled family, the rebellious daughter, the sister with a turbulent history with the victim…taken separately they were strong storylines. But together they just didn’t make sense or add to the overall narrative of the story in my opinion (it felt almost like you were reading two books). You could have taken out one arc and the main plot line would have still come to its inevitable conclusion.

And the conclusion itself, well, these things always have a plot twist don’t they? And the most interesting thing about this book is that the plot twist is that THERE IS NO PLOT TWIST.

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I saw the end coming from a mile away and it was heavily hinted at a third of the way into the book. I didn’t like it. I like being taken by surprise when I read these things; even if I’m usually clever enough to make good guesses I still get satisfaction from being taken on a journey to discover the truth. There was none of that satisfaction here. Totally predictable.

Anyway, thank goodness I bought the hardbound edition of this  book for a steal in one of the Oxfam charity shops because I would not pay 18 quid to buy this. It was so-so at best, and if anyone wants my copy you are welcome to it.

Overall rating: 2 stars