Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Perfect Trio for Evening Skincare Routine

If you have been reading this blog, then you would have known that the Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum and the Clinique Night Turnaround Revitalising Moisturizer are a must in my evening skincare routine. But recently, I have included another product as the final step in my evening skincare routine.

The said item is none other than the Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate. It is a replenishing nighttime facial oil which helps restore the appearance of skin in the morning.

The Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate is not a new addition to my beauty stash; in fact it has been sitting in my beauty cabinet for a while. You know when you purchased and tried something and then somehow it had fallen off the wagon? I can't even recall why I stopped using it.

But earlier this year, I decided to give it another go mainly because I am on a mission to try and clear out my beauty stash so I can make way for new beauty products that I would love to try. Being an Accountant, I hate to see any products go to waste. I like to get as much use as I can unless the product is not suitable or cause reactions to my skin.

The trio combination comes in right after my Clinique 3-Step Skin Care routine - cleanse, tone and moisturise. I first apply the Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum onto my skin. I absolutely love how light this serum is and how quickly it gets absorbed into my skin. My skin instantly feels hydrated upon application.

I then apply the Clinique Night Turnaround Revitalising Moisturizer. I can't live without this night cream because it truly works overnight. It gives me a luminous and glowing skin when I wake up in the morning. It makes me look like I've had a good 8-hour of sleep, which is something that I don't often have the luxury of.

The Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate comes in as the final step in my evening skincare routine. I use 2-3 drops and warm the oil between the palms of my hands and pat it onto my face, starting on the cheeks, forehead and finishing off on the chin. This ensures that I have even application without moving the products that had been applied previously. The face oil also smells absolutely divine, thanks to the lavender essential oil in it. Lavender essential oil is well known to be the perfect scent to induce calmness and relaxation leading to a good night sleep. But did you know that it also helps soothe inflamed or irritated skin, making it brighter and more radiant in the morning?

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Chinese New Year | Where to Eat in London

This Friday, 16 February 2018 is Chinese New Year, an important festival in the Chinese calendar. It marks the start of a new year following the lunar cycle. This year is the Year of the Dog; there are 12 animals all together as such the full cycle completes once every 12 years.

One of the main traditions of Chinese New Year is the family reunion dinner, which is held on the eve of the New Year. It is deemed as the most important family get-together meal of the entire year. It is often held at the house of the most senior family member of the family and all children and grandchildren are expected to be present. Married females will follow the husband for a reunion dinner with his side of the family; a non-negotiable long-standing known tradition. Hence historically, Chinese families are known to favour sons over daughters as sons will carry the family surname and will be home for the annual reunion dinner. 

As Chinese New Year often comes not too far after the Christmas holiday, my friends and I do not have the privilege to return home and celebrate with our families. As a result, friends become our away-from-home family. Every year, we meet up for our Chinese New Year luncheon at a restaurant of choice. So today, I thought I'd share my most frequented restaurants in London to satisfy the Chinese/Oriental food cravings.

For Dim Sum (dumplings), my go-to restaurant is Royal China, which has locations spread out all around London e.g. Baker Street, Queensway, Canary Wharf, and Fulham, to name a few. You may think of Dim Sum like tapas, they are served in small servings and can be either steamed or fried. Just like tapas, the idea is to order many small dishes and shared amongst your friends. My must-have Dim Sum are steamed prawn dumplings, prawn Cheong fun (prawns wrapped in steam rice noodles), fried custard buns and either congee (rice porridge) or beef hor fun (fried flat noodles with beef).

For an upmarket alternative, Yauatcha is another favourite restaurant for Dim Sum. It has a slightly more bar/western vibes to it but the food remains authentically oriental. I like both their Soho and Liverpool Street outlets and their selection of cocktails and desserts are simply to die for.

If I fancy dishes and rice, I would either go to Four Season or the Gold Mine in Queensway. Four Season started off in Queensway but now have two outlets in Chinatown - a sure sign that business is prospering. For this upcoming Chinese New Year, my friends and I will be heading to Gold Mine Restaurant. In terms of dishes, typically we would order, roast duck, steamed eggs, stir-fry green vegetable, steamed fish, and a tofu dish. These dishes are served with a side of steamed rice.

Another restaurant in Queensway which is also a favourite of mine is the Mandarin Kitchen. It is very well-known for its signature lobster noodles. The classic version is cooked with ginger and spring onion sauce. The lobsters are meaty, fresh and the noodles are just perfectly cooked - springy, soft but not too overcooked.

As always, it is good to book in advance and try to make sure everyone arrives on time. Most of these restaurants have a policy of no table until everyone in the party had arrived.

My other tip would be, due to their popularity, these restaurants get very busy so more often than not, you are not encouraged to hang around after your meal and they typically ask for the table back as soon as you finish eating. What my friends and I typically do is, once we finish our meals we'd adjourn to a local cafe for coffee and cake. 

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Pilates - An Overview and Why I Love It

If you had seen this, this and this post, you would have known that I was undertaking a Pilates teaching course late last year and two weeks ago, I got my test results and I passed! I definitely stretched myself a little too much towards the end of last year to the point that I could only find time to sit for the Pilates theory test on Christmas eve (I had completed the practical application test earlier). Hence why my result was slightly delayed due to the Christmas - New Year holiday season.

With this new qualification, I decided to add another category to this blog - Wellness - to bring more topics to the mix because I often find the blogs that I enjoy reading the most are the ones that cover a variety of topics. I hope the broad genre covered on this blog will appeal to wide range of readers, as there is a little something for everyone. I also believe the word 'Wellness' is sufficiently broad to cover myriad topics including fitness, healthy eating, self-care and mindfulness as an avenue to share my thoughts on these topics as I progress through on this journey myself.

To mark the debut entry, I thought I'd start with what Pilates is. Although Pilates has hit the fitness industry by the storm, I still get asked what is it, not to mention that many still think it purely aims to strengthen the core/abs. This post is just an overview and not a detailed breakdown of all things Pilates.

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) and it started off as a form of rehabilitation exercise. Joseph Pilates initially created the exercise programme to help wounded soldiers recover from the injuries they suffered from the World War I. Eventually, the method flowed through to dancers, athletes, and physical therapy patients to stay in top form to achieve optimum health.

Pilates is a mind-body exercise as the philosophy behind it is 'A sound mind in a sound body'. When you are in a Pilates class, very quickly you will come to realise that it is almost impossible to execute Pilates movements without thinking about what you are doing and which muscles you should be engaging. This is because Pilates exercises favour quality of movements over the number of repetitions. As a result, it is very common to hear the instructor says phrases such as 'you should feel..' or the work should come from...' as part of the cues. It is also about personal best based on quality, not quantity. Therefore, the emphasis is work with your own body, your centre, your alignment, and your own range of motion because our body is unique to ourselves. There is no place for FOMO or comparison with the person next to you in a Pilates class.

Pilates can be done on a mat or using specialised equipment such as the Reformer. One method is not better than the other, in fact, they complement one another. Pilates exercises done on mat relies on body weight, flexibility and builds on core strength and control. Specialised equipment builds on these strengths by adding resistance to the repertoire.

I first heard the word Pilates back in the early years of 2000 but didn't know anything about it. My Pilates practising journey started in 2012ish, on the mat, in general Pilates classes at the gym. I have now progressed to the Reformer and started doing a more dynamic version of Pilates (with weights added to the mix etc) in Pilates studios. As a person who was never into fitness and certainly wasn't into sports or exercise, the Pilates method resonates well with me, and I've stuck with it over the years, and I certainly have seen its benefits.

Firstly, a strong core and let's address the misconception of what 'core' means. Often people associate core with abs or six-packs. In Pilates, the core goes beyond the abs; it is everything that is in the centre of our body starting from the bottom of the diaphragm to the lower spine, the obliques and the pelvis. A strong core is achieved by integrating all these elements into movements when you are executing pilates exercises.

Poise and long and lean muscles is another benefit of practising Pilates. Gym workouts tend to build short and bulky muscles - which is absolutely fine if you are into those. I personally have always been a fan and admirer of the body of ballerinas and rhythmic gymnasts. This is why the Pilates method resonates with me. Pilates elongates muscles which makes you feel and look taller and leaner. It also strengthens and improves muscles elasticity, resulting in a balanced and flexible body. A flexible body could reduce injury not only when you are exercising, playing sports but also in your day to day lives. Simply think of a simple act of picking up something off the floor. When your body is flexible, you could do it with ease (even gracefully if you want to), but if you're not flexible, a tiny wrong move could lead to a muscle pull. I am sure we all have experienced that at some point and how unpleasant it feels.

Thirdly, no matter how cluttered or stressed my mind is, I always come out of a Pilates class feeling more mindful with improved mental clarity. This is because Pilates exercises connect the mind to be in tune with the body. By emphasising proper breathing and correct body alignments, Pilates exercises require concentration which 'forces' us to be in the moment, which can sometimes feel like a privilege in this day and age of 'busy-ness'.

If you haven't discovered Pilates yet, I hope this overview will spark your curiosity and interests. As always, if you're new to any form of exercise, consult your GP and physician in the first instance. For me personally, it has been a very enjoyable and self-discovering journey and I can't wait to spread more Pilates love further! ❤️

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Florence, Italy | My Favourite Spots

Seeing that we are already at the end of January 2018, I thought it is about time that these photos which I took while I was in Florence in July 2017 see the light of days.

Notwithstanding that Florence is relatively small and compact, it still has a lot to offer. There is plenty to see and they can be easily done by foot. The three main highlights for me were the Firenze Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery and the Boboli Gardens.

In my travels around Europe, I have seen so many Duomos, but the Firenzi Duomo simply trumps them all. The size, the grandeur, the intricate details and the combination pink and olive green marble walls simply took my breath away. It is, after all, the most iconic landmark of Florence and it definitely dominates the city's medieval city landscape. If you want to, you could climb up the bell tower, but be sure to plan and book your tickets in advance. I wish I had done that, as I missed the opportunity to get the City view from the top of the Bell Tower.

The Uffizi Gallery is another favourite of mine. The Gallery houses the greatest collection of Italian Renaissance art hence it is unsurprising that it has the highest number of visitors each year. With over 45 Halls spread within the Gallery, be sure to plan your visit accordingly. If you don't fancy going in, you could simply wander within the compound of the Gallery. You could observe aspiring artists doing their thing, pick art pieces to bring home or get your very own portrait sketched. 

The Boboli Garden is beautiful and it is more than a green spacescape of Florence. The expansive nature of the Garden means it could offer a combination of green landscape, sculpture, fountains and peaceful atmosphere for garden lovers and avid walkers. There is plenty of nooks and corners to explore. It is best done when you feel like doing something free and easy but still want to feel like you are exploring and discovering.

While I feel that I've seen the highlights of Florence, there is plenty of the details yet to be seen such as the real David. I guess it can only mean that it is worth a re-visit in the future.


Sunday, 21 January 2018

New In #4 - New Year's Skincare Haul

Unlike other fashion items, skin care products don't go on sales often. Having said that, there are instances when you will see me making a beeline to beauty counters to stock up on my can't live without beauty products. And those instances are when I am at the airport in the duty-free shops, when department stores do special beauty promotions, and when brands offer gifts with purchase.

During the recent sales, I have stocked up on a few of my beauty favourite items and today, I thought I'd share what I bought recently with you. It is a small haul but it's a mixed bag of products that I am repurchasing and trying out for the first time. 

The Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum is a constant item in my beauty routine, as featured in my 2016 favourite post. Ignore the word 'Night' because it can definitely be used both in the morning and in the evening. I mainly use it as part of my night time beauty routine, but this winter there have been occasions when I apply it on to my skin in the morning as well. It is light and sinks into my skin in no time at all. This means it doesn't add any more time to my morning routine when I am often rushing to get out of the door, but it gives the added advantage of leaving my skin feeling fresh, hydrated, and looking more rested. 

The Clinique Smart Custom Serum is relatively new to me and this is the first repurchase since I've incorporated it into my daytime beauty routine. The serum comes in between my 3-steps skincare routine and moisturiser. The primary reason I decided to try the Smart Custom Serum is that of its multitasking ability. With the endless choices for serums on the market, I wanted something that could address all my concerns; dehydration, dullness, lack of radiance, uneven tone and ageing. I don't have all these concerns all the time or at once, but our skin can be temperamental at times be it due to hormonal, diet or the weather. This serum is called 'Smart' because it has properties that address all of my concerns. It evens out skin tone, improves radiance, tackles lines and wrinkles, and lifts and firms the skin. It also contains hyaluronic acid which gives hydration and plumps up the skin. It is 'Smart' enough to identify what the skin needs at a particular time and will address those. This means not only my bathroom shelves are less cluttered, but also keeps my bank account happy from not having to buy an endless number of products to address different concerns.

The final item I bought, the Clinique Smart Custom Moisturizer is a new item that I've not used before but would like to give it a go. I still have a tiny bit of the Estee Lauder Revitalising Supreme + Global Anti Aging Power Creme left which has been my moisturiser of choice in the last 3-4 years. There is certainly nothing wrong with it. I just feel that I wanted to try something new and to see what the combination of the Smart serum and moisturiser will do to my skin. Both the Estee Lauder and the Clinique moisturisers are comparable in terms of their multitasking abilities. The added advantage of the Clinique Smart Moisturizer is it comes with an SPF15. While this is an experimental purchase, I am looking forward to using it.

Have you bought or tried new beauty products recently? 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

New Year's Afternoon Tea At the Intercontinental The O2

While most people kicked off 2018 with resolutions to eat healthily, cut-off sugar and booze after the Christmas period binge, I did the complete opposite.

One of the gifts I received for Christmas was a Champagne Afternoon Tea at the Intercontinental The O2, which has an expiry date of 31 January 2018. After a super relaxing 12 days Christmas-New Year's holiday, returning to work on 2 January was rather challenging, to say the least. Throughout the week, I felt I was experiencing a jet lag. I felt I needed to head to bed as soon as I finished work. I definitely needed something to look forward to to get through the week, so I thought what better time to redeem the gift voucher I received. It was also the perfect opportunity as London was pretty quiet still as not everyone had returned to the grind, and to prolong the holiday feeling a little bit more before life gets busy again.

The Intercontinental at The O2 is a stone-throw away from where I live, and if I wanted to, I could walk from home (I should, but I didn't). The Afternoon Tea is served at the Meridien Lounge, on the Ground Floor of the Hotel. With the view of Canary Wharf and the relaxed atmosphere, it was the perfect spot for a relaxing Afternoon Tea either with your family or your friends.

In terms of the spread, you get to choose between a brut or rose champagne. An option without champagne is also available. The tea range is listed over three pages and the spread of finger sandwiches, scones and cakes were beyond delectable. I went for the rose blend tea which is often my choice of tea for Afternoon Tea. It is subtle, light and has the nicest but not overpowering aroma. 

I was particularly impressed with the selection of the mini sandwiches and sweet treats. There were pretty, delicate and cleverly curated with a mixture of unique flavours and ingredients that work together while still maintaining the classic Afternoon Tea feel.

The finger sandwiches included cheddar cheese and pickle on carrot bread, cucumber and radishes on beetroot bread, smoked salmon with cream cheese on basil bread and truffle egg on a brioche bun. As I don't eat pork, I swapped the ham sandwich with a chicken sandwich. 

I felt that the classic scones were perfect to cleanse my palate before moving on from the scrumptious savoury sandwiches to the sweet treats which included Blackberry Bonbon Torte, Plum and Custard Verrine, Pear and Apple Tart, Spiced Chocolate Pyramid and Quince Macaroon. 

I truly enjoyed the experience and I thought it was a great way to celebrate the end of the first working week of 2018.


Sunday, 7 January 2018

2018 Beauty Resolutions

Happy New Year! I hope you had a great start to 2018.

Seeing that this is the very first blog post of 2018, I think it would be rude if I proceeded without mentioning new year's resolutions. I am all for resolutions as we all need that something extra to look forward to, to work towards, to challenge ourselves so that, one day, when we look back, we can see how much we've achieved and how far we've come along. The key for me is always setting realistic targets so here are my three 2018 Beauty Resolutions. Nothing too crazy...

When it comes to my daily beauty routine, I have it nailed down to a T. My morning and evening beauty routines are pretty much set in stone, even down to the products that I know work effectively for my skin. Other than my daily beauty routine, I am also on point with my facials, hair cuts, nails, brows, and laser treatment appointments. However, improvements could certainly be made to the other more weekly routine and here they are.

Face mask | I love using masks and I do do it as part of my beauty routine. However, its frequency and consistency could be improved. At present, I tend to only do it when I remember to, and I am sure a more consistent schedule would not only be great for winding down after a hard day or week of work but also, my skin will appreciate it too. I have also put a ban on myself from buying more masks until I've started using up my current stash.

Body scrubbing | Body moisturising is one of my must-do steps which I do as soon as I step out of the shower. But I haven't been very religious with body scrubbing. Body scrubbing not only helps getting rid of dry skins especially during this cold winter months but also, helps body lotion to be absorbed better into the skin.

Hair Mask | There was a period of time when I was pretty consistent with my home-made hair masking method. But somehow the routine had fallen off the bandwagon and it is something I am keen to bring back to my weekly routine.  Virgin coconut oil + lemon juice is my favourite combination; it is natural, effective and wallet friendly too.

What resolutions have you set yourself for 2018? Beauty or not-beauty related, do share as I'd love to hear about them. x

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 | Looking Back and A Year in Review

This is it. The last day of 2017 and I can't possibly put up a post on the very last day of the year without doing a year-end review.

A part of me feels that 2017 was a blur because the year really flew by very very quickly. Before I know it, here I am typing the last post for the year while trying to recall how the year had gone. The other part of me thought this is going to be a short entry because I didn't think a lot had happened. Oh boy, how wrong was I! Having done a recap to help me write this post, I can safely say that A LOT happened during 2017.

On the personal front, it was my 12th of living in London. That is a long time and an achievement on its own. I also feel that 2017 was the year when I feel most comfortable with myself. I no longer care as much about what people think of me and how I am viewed. I am totally comfortable being on my own, in my own company (a little too much at times) and no longer wait for others to do something. I have watched movies and musical productions as well as gone on holidays on my own because I now subscribed to the notion that life is too short to be waiting for others. I've also become less obliged to saying 'yes' simply to please others. I am OK with saying 'no' without the feeling of FOMO.

Career-wise, I succeeded in finding a new role in my company, albeit it is only a temporary one. I am currently being seconded to a different team. I feel the change was very timely and what was needed as I've been in the previous role for a good three years and I am ready for new challenges.

I read the Marie Kondo book around April this year; I started and finished it in one sitting. While I do not fully implement every. single. method that she promoted, the book has been instrumental in curbing my spending habits. I've become savvier in terms of what I buy and keep in my space. I used to simply buy, buy, buy every time there was a sale, but nowadays, I only buy things that I really really need. I have also become better at getting rid of things. While I don't classify myself a minimalist and probably will never become one, I've become really good at decluttering, especially in the clothing and admin (utility bills, old statements, catalogues etc) department. I could do better in the make-up/beauty space, but they bring so much joy so I guess I get to keep them, yes?

Fitness and health wise, currently, I am definitely at my fittest. I now weigh the same as when I graduated and size wise, I am at the smallest I've ever been. I achieve this without following any fad diets. I basically made a lifestyle change whereby I try to eat clean 90% of the time and I incorporate exercise as part of my lifestyle. I don't cut any food category from my diet, I simply make sure that I eat more of the good stuff and if occasionally I crave for any naughty treats, I will have it - in a small portion - to satisfy the craving. It's amazing how these changes have a lasting effect on my well being.

I consider myself lucky because every year I get a chance to get away from London, to either revisit places that I've been before or to explore new places. This year, in particular, I was in Kuala Lumpur to see my family, then in Melbourne for a friend's wedding. It was during the same trip that I went on the Great Ocean Road tour where I saw the Twelve Apostles. I also managed to squeeze in two short breaks to three places that I've not been before; Florence & Pisa, and The Algarve, Portugal.

London is definitely one place where you will never be short of things to do/see. This year alone, I went to three concerts - The Piano Guys at the Royal Albert Hall, John Legend and Mariah Carey, both at the O2. I also had a good laugh when I watched The Kinky Boots Musicals in summer.

I cannot end this post without mentioning the three side hustles that I am so very proud of. Firstly, as you may well have read previously, I passed the ABRSM Piano Theory exam with a Distinction. Secondly, my love for blogging returned after I purchased this Montaigne theme from pipdig and since then I have been blogging consistently on a weekly basis, which is something I'll continue in the new year. Finally, I have taken my love for Pilates to a new level and direction by taking up a Pilates Teaching Training course.

So yeah, these are some of the highlights of 2017 for me.

I still can't believe tomorrow will be 2018! A new year, a new beginning, an opportunity to start afresh. 
So what's next? 
Career wise, I definitely want to make the most of my secondment. I want to expand my knowledge and increase my skillsets. I still very much so in love with the corporate world, the fast pace and ongoing challenges still give me the buzz and it's the reason why I wake up every morning. It is also the reason why I have been so consistent with my workout routines. They are my outlets to let off my steam and to wind down.

Corporate world aside, I do want to expand my creativity. I used to think that I have no creativity in me. But over the years I've come to a realisation that I do have some - I am good at styling, I am great with makeup, I absolutely love photography, I truly enjoy writing and most definitely I really really enjoy playing the piano (although I am still relearning). I am itching to try out hand lettering and modern calligraphy which I am sure stem from my childhood obsessions with stationery. Insta Stories has also sparked my interest in videography so who knows that could be the space where I dip my toes in next.

The Pilates Teaching Course made me realise that there are only so many hours in the day. Between self-practice and teaching practice, there was a period of time that I had to give up other things to focus on Pilates. At times I felt it got a little too much especially during the period leading up to the festive season. Don't get me wrong. I absolutely enjoyed the learning experience and am definitely up to becoming a movement ambassador because trust me - pilates is amazing! But I think for 2018 I really want to slowly hone my teaching skills while continuing my self-practice, instead of jumping straight into the Reformer Pilates Teaching course.

Travel wise, I don't have many on the cards at the moment, other than Kuala Lumpur to see the family and potentially Adelaide to tag along with my sister who will be attending a wedding there. But as with previous years, my travel plans tend to unfold as the year goes by and I myself is looking forward to seeing the places where 2018 will take me to.

Last but not least, as much as I am grateful that I have a roof above my head, a place that I own, it would be nice if the London property market moves a bit so I can look at options for my next home.

With that, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you a Very Happy New Year and may you have a great start to 2018! xx

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Christmas Day | How To Be A Gracious Guest

When you live in a different continent and thousands of miles away from your family, you will have to make your own Christmas tradition. Over the years, I've done an equal number of times when I spend the holiday with the family and when I stay in the London to enjoy some quiet time. And it is often when I choose to do the latter that my lovely friends would welcome me into their homes on Christmas Day.

So today, I thought I'd pen down a few reminders on how to be a gracious guest that will guarantee you another invite in the future. None of these is groundbreaking, but there is no harm in reinforcing the importance of being a gracious guest.

Firstly, always confirm your attendance. Try to do it as soon as you receive the invitation. This is not only for the headcount and logistic arrangements but also it sends the message that you truly want to spend the time with the host. If you leave it too late, not only the host will need to make last minute adjustments but also may feel that your last minute decision is due to lack of other options. Never make the host feels like they are the next best alternative.

On the day, show up on time and bring a gift. It doesn't have to be extravagant; it could be as simple as a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers. A cheese platter and a small dessert that can be shared with all the other guests always go down a treat as well from my experience, as long as you check with the host if it is ok for you to bring those. You want your gift to complement the menu that the host is serving and not outdo the hard work that the host had put in.

Another tip that my late mother taught me is, never turn up hungry. Yes, it is Christmas Day and it will be typical that your host will have prepared food enough to feed the village. However, it is always a good idea to have something small before you leave the house. It will avoid you feeling hangry in the event the party doesn't start on time for whatever reasons. But don't eat until you're too full that you cannot enjoy the food that had been prepared by the host because that would be wasteful (& rude).

Bring your personality and be in your best behaviour. Be cheerful, chatty and mingle with other guests. Get to know other people and their interests, and don't simply turn the conversation to yourself. In addition, don't try to top every joke and story with your version - it's not a competition. Especially in this day and age of social media, do not simply sit in one corner with your phone. If your host suggests to play a board game, join in the fun, even if you're not very good at it. Focus on participating instead of winning, and have a great laugh along the way.

Help out. I don't mean taking the vacuum cleaner and mop out. But if you see an empty glass, offer to top up the drink. In between courses, offer to take the dirty plates and cutlery's to the kitchen but be sure to check with your host first. Some people like things done their way and may find that your assistance is in their way, but more often than not, offering a helping hand is usually accepted with arms wide open. I often offer to put the kettle on for coffee and tea partly because I like my coffee made a certain way (read: coffee snob). By offering to help I can assure that it is made to my taste.

Finally, know when you excuse yourself and don't overstay the welcome. Hosting is hard work and takes a lot of energy. The work often starts way before the actual day of hosting itself. So pay attention to cues and leave at an appropriate time so that the host can have some rest after all the hard work to ensure everyone had a good time.

I hope you find these reminders useful and no matter where you are and whom you're spending your Christmas with, I wish you a very Merry Christmas! x

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Christmas Holiday | Things That I Am Looking Forward To

So it is one week until Christmas eve and for about a week, London will turn into a ghost town. If you are anything like me, you may well be excited at the prospect of an upcoming holiday, but actually not quite ready for the Christmas day itself. Work wise, I still have things that need finishing before the out-of-office can be switched on and gift wise, I haven't finished shopping so let's not even mention gift wrapping.

If you had read this post, you may remember the three things that will have kept me busy leading up to the present. It feels like a long time ago that I wrote it and at that time Christmas felt so far away.

By way of an update, I have started the new role and I must admit that the learning curve is slightly steeper than I had imagined. I am enjoying every minute of it though, but changing roles involves more than just learning how to do the job. It also means that I have to pick up new working styles and learn how to deal with new personalities whom I'm dealing with.

I have also received my ABRSM Piano Theory exam results. I passed with a Distinction, which was what I was aiming for with a score of 93%. I am very pleased with myself on this front.

I still have one more hurdle get through. It's the pilates teaching exam which I aim to complete by Friday. I have attended all the teaching workshops and have been assessed for my practical teaching application so it is just the online theory test that needs completing after which I will definitely be in the full swing of Christmas holiday mode (oh and officially become a certified mat Pilates instructor).

Putting the anxiety and panic feeling aside, here are the things that I am looking forward to doing during the Christmas holiday.

Pure relaxation is definitely at the top of the list. I am looking forward to wake-up gently in the morning and slowly easing into the world while sipping my first cup of coffee. Working in the financial services sector in the City of London means that I am always rushing manically every morning hoping to beat the morning rush so I can get to my desk on time. Breakfast is often skipped and I function purely on caffeine until I get to lunch time. I think a gentle start to the day will be very much welcomed during the Christmas break. I am also hoping to incorporate homemade green smoothies during the holiday period as part of my breakfast. I think my body will thank me for it especially after all the indulgence leading up to Christmas.

Last Christmas, I watched Series 1 of The Crown. Series 2 has been released on Netflix and I can't wait to get stuck in. In addition, I still need to finish watching S3 of Madam Secretary so that I can start on S4. The last season of Scandal is also on the agenda not to mention, Suits, which I am sure will no longer be the same without Meghan Markle, but hey, she will be living in the UK, which means she's one of us now, and I very much welcome that.

On the piano practice side of things, I have always been one who can play the opening section of Fur Elise. I am hoping to practise the middle part during the holiday so I can play the whole piece instead of just the renowned first section.

I noticed that the barre studio that I regularly go to will be opened on the odd days between Boxing Day and New Year. I aim to drop in on days when my favourite instructor is teaching to get my body well into the fitness routine before everyone else returns in the new year. Don't you just hate it when gyms become packed, classes get fully booked and seeing faces that you've never seen before in January? Blame it on the holiday binging and new year's resolutions. As much as I welcome new faces, I can't wait to see my regular fitness buddies during our lunchtime barre classes.

Majority of my friends will be away for Christmas, either to be with their family or to break away from the cold London winter. Having said that I am sure there will one or two who will stay in London, so I am looking forward to catching up with them. When I looked back to last year's Christmas holiday, I was actually out every day between Christmas and New Year as so many of my friends who live abroad spent their Christmas holiday in the UK. So far, I've not heard of anyone who will be here this time around, but we shall wait and see. I've also two friends who recently had a new born. It’ll be nice to pay them a visit as well.

Last but not least, remember these books recommendation? I haven't started on the third book, so that will be something that I'd like to do during the Christmas holiday.

What about you? What are you looking forward to most during the Christmas holiday?