Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Delhi Break

A trip to Delhi right before Christmas was not really in the plans, but here I am accompanying B on his quick trip. I hired car to drive me around and look what showed up--this vintage taxi cab. Narem, the driver, even looks like a 50's college student! (I have to take a better photo)

Yesterday we went to Khan Market. Today we are off to Dilli Haat and Central Cottage Emporium. Having him drive me around for the day costs about $20. There are other car services with more modern cars, but I think this is pretty cool.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Villa Kalimaya, Bali

Bali has its share of 5-star hotels like the W, the Bali Hyatt, and all the others in the Nusa Dua area. But originally unique to Bali is the experience of staying in a fully staffed Balinese villa.

Outdoor dining bale

A Balinese villa is just a big house usually on a sprawling property. The common areas like the dining and living rooms are in the main pavilion and the bedrooms are usually separate stand-alone structures. These bedroom pavilions have their own ensuite bathrooms, and if it's truly Balinese, an outdoor shower.

There are other bales in the property, for gathering together and hanging out.

Villa Kalimaya one such villa-- perfectly located in the fun area of Seminyak, where all the hip restaurants and bars are. The W Hotel, Potato Head and Ku De Ta are a little more than a javelin throw away.

The very first time we stayed in Bali was in 2005. I booked the whole (extended) family in a big sprawling, newly-open villa in Ubud called Sukhavati Retreat. We stayed "home" a lot and hang out in the living room bales, the kids swimming in the pools all day.   Ubud is the artists' area of Bali--quiet, serene, far from hip noisy bars. It's like Manila and Tagaytay (in distance).

This time we were seven girlfriends in Bali for a retreat. We had to have enough peace and privacy,  but we also needed to be right in the happening area because we wanted to shop, and go out for dinner and drinks after a full day of reflecting and goal-setting.

Seminyak is authentically Bali and centrally located--it has cool upmarket shops and the most of-the-moment bars and restaurants.

Villa Kalimaya consists of a main house with two bedrooms, and three other bedrooms that are stand-alone units laid out in the sprawling 2000 m2 property.

There is a pool bale, which we didn't even have time to hang out in (But I did a yoga session here one morning!)

(Yoga facing the pool--what a great view!)

The bedrooms were all equal in size with one king bed and a big bathroom.

One of the bedrooms in the main house

The bathrooms are equally spacious, and the showers are all Balinese-style--outdoors--so you're close to nature, meaning there could be a little frog staring at you while you're sudsing.

The villa comes with a complete staff of cleaning ladies, gardeners, guards, butlers and a chef. 

We gave them money for marketing, and they just cooked whatever we desired. If we didn't plan ahead (and they didn't cook anything), we could order take-out from a thick folder of menus compiled by the villa. Remember, we were so close to the main street, and also many restaurants.

Chef Ketut could also give cooking lessons! (But we didn't have time, sayang)

With PAL flying straight to Bali now, Denpasar is just 4 hours away. I remember when getting to Bali was a trek--fly to Singapore and overnight there to be able to catch the morning flight to Denpasar. Not anymore! (except that the PAL flights are at night, not good for morning people, but perfect for night owls like us)

Entrance to our home for the weekend, Villa Kalimaya

I remember always being mesmerized by the low lighting of Balinese gardens. They are masters of atmospheric lighting with subdued glowing "dark-sky" type of lighting.

Many Manila homes have since caught up, and many gardens here also have this kind of dramatic lighting.

It's a bit dark, but that's the whole point. You can see the stars in the sky and there is nothing glaring in your face!

Our stay at Kalimaya was memorable. And to think I found this gem online! I'm looking forward to my next Bali trip, and having another villa experience!

The very efficient staff who saw us off at midnight!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to be Happy

Once in a while, it's nice to be given a straightforward "road map" on what it takes to feel better. Like a recipe, just read and follow.

This "How to be Happy" talk was given at the girls' school last month, and was open to the parents. Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend. Fortunately, they posted these fliers on the middle school bulletin board.  As a self-improvement junkie, I also noticed the same messages printed on tarps hanging from the hallway ceilings.  The message is worth sharing.

Read, follow and be happy!

Five ways to wellbeing 

The following steps have been researched and developed by the New Economics Foundation.



There is strong evidence that indicates that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world.

It’s clear that social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and for acting as a buffer against mental ill health for people of all ages.

With this in mind, try to do something different today and make a connection.
  • Talk to someone instead of sending an email
  • Speak to someone new
  • Ask how someone’s weekend was and really listen when they tell you
  • Put five minutes aside to find out how someone really is
  • Give a colleague a lift to work or share the journey home with them.


Be active

Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups.

Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for promoting well-being.

But it doesn’t need to be particularly intense for you to feel good - slower-paced activities, such as walking, can have the benefit of encouraging social interactions as well providing some level of exercise.

Today, why not get physical? Here are a few ideas:
  • Take the stairs not the lift
  • Go for a walk at lunchtime
  • Walk into work - perhaps with a colleague – so you can ‘connect’ as well
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the final part of your journey to work
  • Organise a work sporting activity
  • Have a kick-about in a local park
  • Do some ‘easy exercise’, like stretching, before you leave for work in the morning
  • Walk to someone’s desk instead of calling or emailing. 


Take notice

Reminding yourself to ‘take notice’ can strengthen and broaden awareness.

Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities.

Heightened awareness also enhances your self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices based on your own values and motivations.

Take some time to enjoy the moment and the environment around you. Here are a few ideas:
  • Get a plant for your workspace
  • Have a ‘clear the clutter’ day
  • Take notice of how your colleagues are feeling or acting
  • Take a different route on your journey to or from work
  • Visit a new place for lunch. 



Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the opportunity to engage in work or educational activities particularly helps to lift older people out of depression.

The practice of setting goals, which is related to adult learning in particular, has been strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing.

Why not learn something new today? Here are a few more ideas:
  • Find out something about your colleagues
  • Sign up for a class
  • Read the news or a book
  • Set up a book club
  • Do a crossword or Sudoku
  • Research something you’ve always wondered about
  • Learn a new word.



Participation in social and community life has attracted a lot of attention in the field of wellbeing research.

Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy.

Research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing.

Text from here.  My photos.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Just Call Me...Martha!

I've had this collection of blue and white plates stashed in my cabinet for so long and I finally decided to do something with them. 

I found some cakestand hardware online and ordered a few sets. It arrived in the mail with these complicated instructions on how to drill centered holes.

I read everything, carefully followed the instructions, and tried to mark the plates.

Then I handed the pattern guide to my carpenter so he could do the same. Instead, he didn't even bother with the instructions and did his own thing.

He measured across the plate, taped the center, and started drilling away. 

I was still reading the instructions and marking plates and he had already drilled a few. Sometimes instructions make things more complicated.

The plates are quite old, some more than the others-- but they are not precious-old.

 I collected them over a span of a few years and many are from eBay. I love all the patterns.

And now the exciting part--assembling.  I don't know if I threaded them correctly.

Et voila!

Now that I have all these tiered plates, I try to use them whenever I can.

And here they are in action...

So perfect for serving little snacks, cupcakes, and 

Sometimes I amaze myself with my (or ok, my carpenter's) crafty skills. Martha would be proud.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Our Little Cherche-Midi Apartment

Old leather armchair, mid-century brass clad coffee table, 
zebra skin, vintage globe light, books galore!

B joined a Philippine business mission that spent 2 nights in Paris, and 1 night in Bordeaux. Of course I was going to tag along but it was going to be too short a trip for too long a flight, so I made a deal:  If you want a roommate, can we stay 3 more nights in Paris on the way home? (Although I wanted to say one-week more, I was being realistic and mindful of his business schedule).

Still, this was not going to be a quick fly-in, fly-out workaholic trip. That is being too disrespectful to Paris!

Black and white photographs on the walls

We decided on the trip rather late so I didn't know if I could still find a suitable apartment online for our 3 extra nights. And then I lucked out! An apartment right on Rue du Cherche-Midi, in the 6th, was available on the exact 3 nights we needed! Our host was squeezing us in between two other week-long bookings she had.

 Our host said almost all the furniture and tabletop decor came from fleamarkets and brocantes

It was a third floor walk-up, but I didn't think twice since we could use the exercise. It was also tiny at 36 m2, but compared to a hotel room in the same area, which is about 18m2, this was going to be luxurious.

Best of all, the price was right.

 Kartell Bourgie lamp and Philip Starck ghost chair

Rue du Cherche-Midi is an exciting street for me. There are the numerous home design stores,  brocante stores, the restaurant Chez Dumonet, the bakery Poilane, Le Bon Marche and Le Grand Epicerie down the get the visual. (My heart is racing just typing this).

Bon Marche department store

Upon entering the tiny apartment, I was happy as  it was tastefully decorated with old flea market finds--wonderfully creative, homey, comfortable--just my type of place.  The one-bedroom apartment was expertly laid out and seemed much bigger than its actual 36m2.

It's always amazing to stay in 5-star luxurious hotels but I save that experience for places in Asia where one gets the most bang for the buck.  In Europe, luxurious hotels are so expensive that it hurts not only the pocketbook but also the conscience.

 iconic mid-century Nagel modular chrome candelabra 
(Ahem, notice the correct order of my adjectives--print these writing tips for you and your kids)

The cost of our three nights here was  going to be equivalent to one night at the  Sofitel Faubourg, where we were booked with the group (and I overheard that we were already given an extra special deal for those Sofitel nights!) I was pleased.

Then it just happened that it is decorated in a way that speaks directly to my soul?!  What a stroke of luck! I went from pleased to ecstatic.

It turns out that our host's boyfriend is a brocanteur and interior designer. No wonder the interior design is a deliberate mix of iconic finds. It is done up very confidently too--low key, practical and tasteful.  There were tons of French interior design magazines on the bookshelves of the apartment.

I was conflicted--should stay in and devour all the design magazines (it didn't stop raining all weekend)?  Or go out and rummage through the weekend brocantes? This is Paris... we have to go out--rain or rain!  In the end we did both.

This particular trip was filled with so many highlights for me; the people in the group were all wonderfully warm and gracious, and the events we attended were exceptionally special.

 I didn't take a photo of the opposite wall--she had lovely cookbooks and the pantry was stocked with high quality olive oil and balsamic, artisan sea salt.

Simple as it was, this well-located, tasteful little Cherche-Midi apartment was also a highlight for me and the perfect epilogue to a very memorable trip.

don't I look thrilled?


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