I painted a stylized portrait of Merlin–and here’s how it went down

The months following May 2020 was a difficult time for me. Because not only was the country under community quarantine, but I was also unemployed and grieving the death of my beloved dog Kia. But one thing that helped me get through it all was spending time at home, binge-watching Netflix with my mom. And one of the TV shows that helped me get through this trying time was the 2008 BBC show Merlin

Thanks to the streaming platform, I was able to watch all five seasons of this awesome series.

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Now, there’s so much I can say to describe how obsessed I am with this fantasy show–but I’ll have to save all that for another blog post. This time around, I wanted to fangirl by creating a stylized portrait of the series’s titular character, Merlin (which was played by actor Colin Morgan). 

Here’s how I came about doing it:

On sketching 

First and foremost, I am by no means a professional artist; I just paint as a personal hobby. So given this, there are a few imperfections that I still have to improve on as a painter–many of which I hope to apply in future projects. 

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In this particular piece, I started off with a rough sketch of the character’s facial features on a sheet of A5 canvas paper. Then, I went on to mix different shades of acrylic paint to begin painting. 

I started with the character’s face as it would require the most attention to detail. Then, I proceeded to do the hair and apply highlights to both areas. 

The left image shows the rough sketch of my portrait, while the right photo shows my initial painting of the face.

I also decided not to follow my initial sketch and create a bigger set of eyes for a more “caricature”–like appearance. 

On mixing colors 

This was probably one of the hardest parts of painting because I had to try and get the closest possible colors to the one shown in the reference photo. 

This is a photo of the completed stylized portrait beside its reference picture. Color of the image might look different due to lighting.

I admit, this required a lot of trial and error, but I do believe that I was able to mix the right light and dark shades for the skin, hair, and the clothing. 

On shading  

Finding the right tones to use on the shadows of the character’s face was a bit difficult to do, as well. I had to experiment with varying degrees of black and gray shades to get the desired color. Then, I had to blend those in with some light dabbing strokes using my paintbrush. 

Here’s a close-up version of my stylized portrait.

The end result may not be totally perfect but I am definitely happy with the outcome of my painting. And hopefully, in the near future, I’ll get to paint other characters too like Arthur, Morgana, Guinevere, and Gaius. 

Until then, I hope you give Merlin a try–and who knows, you may even end up enjoying it as much as I did.

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This online shop makes the most beautiful paper flowers–and they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day

NOTE: This is a human interest story and not a paid, branded post. This means the author DOES NOT receive any money from the publication and clicks made on this article.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, a lot of people are rushing to malls and online stores to purchase their loved ones a present. Whether they would buy something simple like chocolates or something lavish like diamond encrusted jewelry, gift-giving on the day of love is a tradition that has been present since time immemorial. And one gift that will always be available during this holiday season is flowers. 

From roses to orchids, many have chosen to show their love and appreciation for their friend, family member, or significant other by buying bouquets of these colorful floras. Although these gifts are beautiful in themselves, one downside to them is that they don’t last forever. After a week or so, these flowers will wilt and you will only be reminded of their beauty through pictures. 

But what if there was a way to give a flower that will never wilt? Would you be open to that? 

Well, now there is. Local online store Alaya Paper Blooms offers shoppers the chance to give their loved ones flowers that are not only beautiful, but will also last far longer than a week. 

Photo Credit: Kevyn Tapnio via Facebook.com/alayapaperblooms

Created with quality colored paper, these flowers are the ideal presents to give come Valentine’s Day. And to help you better understand more about the shop and its products, I got to chat with its owner and designer Kevyn Tapnio. Here’s what I learned during my interview with her: 

There is an ‘everlasting’ beauty in paper flowers 

Typically, when people think of flowers, they don’t relate it to paper. But there is a sweet and genuine kind of beauty to receiving paper flowers–a sentiment that Tapnio realized when she decided to make these floral creations.

“Some people think flowers are overrated, myself being one of them up until recently,” she explained. “As I started to learn more about them, flowers started to become dear to me. Paper flowers take the fleeting nature of flowers out of the equation, so you wouldn’t have to throw them away.” 

Photo Credit: Kevyn Tapnio via Facebook.com/alayapaperblooms

Tapnio first started making paper flowers in 2017 when she helped create a bouquet for her aunt’s wedding. Then fast forward to 2020, she decided to return to paper flower-making while waiting to start her new job. 

“My start date was moved back due to the community quarantine that was put in place. With nothing much to do at home, I ended up making paper flowers, learning more about the craft, and falling for a different flower every day,” she shared. “I didn’t intend to make a business out of it at first, but then I thought, why not?” 

Photo Credit: Kevyn Tapnio via Facebook.com/alayapaperblooms

Today, the shop has over 300 followers on its Facebook page and continues to produce intricate paper flowers. 

The flowers are each a tedious yet rewarding work of art 

Much like any masterpiece ever made, a lot of time and effort go into creating them. The same principle applies to each of Tapnio’s flower creations, which take multiple hours to make. 

According to her, a “single, long-stemmed Ecuadorian rose can take 2 to 3 hours to make” and a  “sunflower can take around 3 to 4 hours.” Boxed flowers and bouquets–on the other hand– take even longer to create because there are many elements that go into them.

“One full arrangement of our heart-shaped boxed blooms takes me a whole day of non-stop work. [And] Bouquets with stems take longer, since I have to add the leaves and several fillers as well.”

Photo Credit: Kevyn Tapnio via Facebook.com/alayapaperblooms

Also, crafting these floral arrangements isn’t always easy. Tapnio admits that there are times she has faced difficulty in making them. 

“It can be frustrating when you’re unable to get the look that you’re going for. Paper does have its limitations, and it could take hours and hours of experimenting to really achieve the likeness of certain flowers. Even the tiniest of details can affect the look of the whole flower–the curl of a petal, the length of the stamens, the ridges in the leaves.”

Despite the complications she has faced, she still finds the end result worth it and she is always elated when her customers find delight in her products.

“Made to last forever, our paper flowers are created with utmost love and care, and with only one goal in mind: To make you smile,” she added. 

Shoppers have variety of flowers to choose from  

The online shop offers a variety of products to choose from and the prices differ depending on the item ordered. 

Photo Credit: Kevyn Tapnio via Facebook.com/alayapaperblooms

Though for Valentine’s Day, Tapnio highly recommends their boxed creations. 

“Our heart-shaped boxed blooms are a crowd favorite, though all slots for those have already been reserved as of writing,” she said. “I do recommend our Mini Gift Boxes though. Many people go for roses and hydrangeas, but we also make them with different flowers by request.” 

Photo Credit: Kevyn Tapnio via Facebook.com/alayapaperblooms

If you’re interested in ordering any one of her paper flower sets, visit their Facebook page and send a message. You and your loved ones will definitely not regret purchasing any of these gorgeous paper flowers! 

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Fans are going to love these new Star Wars-themed postage stamps

For years, the Star Wars universe has delighted fans with a series of epic adventures. From Han Solo, Luke, and Leia’s  first mission to destroy the Death Star in Episode IV: A New Hope to The Mandalorian’s exciting quests with Grogu (a.k.a. Baby Yoda), it’s understandable why many viewers can’t seem to get enough of the franchise. And with Disney+ announcing a new lineup of shows for the fandom to enjoy, it’s safe to say that the Star Wars phenomenon will just continue to grow in popularity in the years to come.

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That’s why it’s not surprising that many companies have decided to capitalize on its success, creating collectible figures, clothing pieces, and even footwear inspired by the George Lucas films. But now, fans have another thing to consider adding in their collection of Star Wars memorabilia–and it’s this new set of Droid postage stamps.

This is not an actual picture of the stamp but a creative representation. To see the full set of designs, visit the USPS website here.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) announced the new line of Star Wars-themed postage stamps last January 26, 2021. According to their website, the stamps will feature the following droids: “IG-11, R2-D2, K-2SO, D-O, L3-37, BB-8, C-3PO, a GNK (or Gonk) power droid, 2-1B surgical droid and C1-10P, commonly known as ‘Chopper.’” 

These stamps come in a timely manner as the Star Wars franchise is set to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.

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More than that, these stamps will reportedly help support Lucas Films and Disney’s efforts in further promoting STEM learning amongst the youth via the organizations “Star Wars: Force for Change” and “FIRST” (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

As of now, there has been no formal announcement on the release date of these Droid postage stamps. So for now, I guess fans should stay put in and enjoy re-watching their favorite Star Wars movies and television series. May the force be with you all!

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Three important lessons I learned from the book ‘I Decided to Live as Me’

Hi reader! The author would like to inform you that she might receive a share of sales from the links on this article. Hope you enjoy the product/s placed here!

When I was around thirteen or fourteen-years-old, I remembered my teacher telling me and my classmates to create a projection map as to where we would see ourselves ten years from now. At that time, I pasted pictures showing what I wanted to be as a twenty three or twenty four-year-old adult–this included having a house of my own, a stable job, and a husband. Little did I know that attaining all of those things isn’t easy. And now, in my late 20s, I am starting to question all the goals and aspirations I had initially planned in my life. 

But thanks to my friend Ves, who introduced me to the Apop published book ‘I Decided to Live as Me, I was able to avoid what could have been a quarter life crisis. 

Written and illustrated by Korean author Soo-hyun Kim and translated to English by Ma. Kristina Carla Rico and Kyung-min Bae, this book gave me a better perspective on life and helped me understand that adulting is hard and messy–but there’s no other way to live through it than by being yourself.


Here are three valuable lessons I got from reading the book: 

Life is not a horse race–and it’s okay to not always be in the lead  

Whenever we attend reunions among relatives, friends, or former classmates, it’s inevitable not to get jealous over their stories of success. Whether it’d be that they recently got promoted in a job that they love or that they got engaged to the supposed “love of their life,” it’s easy to start comparing your life and your accomplishments to theirs. And sometimes, when you realize that the way you live is not “up to par” with theirs, you feel disappointed and upset. 

Personally, I understand what this feels like and thinking about this often leads me down a path of depression. But reading I Decided to Live as Me reminded me that life isn’t a competition and that your growth and development is something worth celebrating–despite it being gradual and slow.


Remember, your worth is not determined by comparing your list of accomplishments with others, but it is based by how you see value in yourself. As the book explained, “True value isn’t measured in numbers. Therefore if you want to be incomparable rather than senior, you should eliminate numbers from your life. What is truly important in your life lies beyond numbers.”  

‘Haters gonna hate’–but that shouldn’t stop you from living your life 

It’s an undeniable fact that not everyone’s going to like you or be a friend to you. And as you go through adulthood, you will meet a series of people who are like this–with some even shooting you down with their harsh words and criticisms. 

When this happens, it’s easy to feel defeated and worthless. But remember their words are not a reflection of you and what you can accomplish–it is a reflection of them and their insecurities. And this book reminds me of this sentiment. 

The author wrote, “We get hurt, numb our hearts, and develop hatred dealing with these people’s  personal frustrations disguised as business-related, insults presented as worries, and rudeness posed as questions. [But] Even if we numb our hearts, moan to ourselves, and hate these people; they are just passersby in our lives.”


At the end of the day, what matters is how you see yourself. So, forget the haters and just continue doing you! 

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Don’t forget who you are and what you love 

For many of us, working endlessly has become the norm, turning us into lifeless robots that value money over anything else. And the problem with this scenario is that we end up being unhappy.

As the book effortlessly explained, “People who suppress their desires in order to do what they have to do lose sense of what they like, what they want, and eventually, who they are. Their life remains in the spectrum of the unknown since they’re never able to discover the life they want.”

I Decided to Live as Myself reminds us that although we have to succumb to the daily grind, we shouldn’t forget to give time to ourselves and explore the things we are passionate about. Whether this is writing short stories or creating memes, take a few minutes from your day (or week) to enjoy doing these activities. 

In the end, I think you will be happy to know that you’ve lived your life balancing work with the things you love. And who knows, maybe someday you can even be able to turn your passion into full-fledged business? 

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There are so many wonderful things readers can learn from the book. And thanks to Apop, you can now enjoy a 7.5% discount from the total price when you use the promo code CMWxAPOP at checkout.


Click here to visit the website and purchase a copy of I Decided to Live as Me today!

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‘Bridgerton’ fans might enjoy these underrated Jane Austen screen adaptations

If you are anything like me and you are obsessed with regency era films and television series, then you’ve probably already binge-watched Netflix’s Bridgerton.

Photo Credit: Facebook.com/netflixph

The first season of the historical drama followed the whirlwind romance between Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page). And through its eight episode run, viewers were able to see how the two turned from friends to eventual spouses. 

Understandably, many people were drawn into the Duke of Hastings and the eldest Bridgerton daughter’s love story. And many of them–including myself–are eager to see more of the Bridgerton romances unfold. But until the streaming platform can confirm a possible next season, here are a few Jane Austen book-to-screen adaptations that Bridgerton fans can enjoy as they wait for more news on the show. 

Emma (2009)  

Through the years, there have been many screen adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma. From Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1996 version to Anya Taylor-Joy’s 2020 adaptation, many Austen fans have seen different versions of the titular character portrayed on both TV and film. However, out of all of these adaptations–many of which I have seen–the BBC 2009 mini-series was the best one of them all. 

Not only did it gradually showcase the friendship-turned-romance between the two best friends, but Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller seem to be the best embodiments of Emma and Mr. Knightley. 

Garai’s tenacious and effervescent portrayal of Emma made the character very likeable and Miller’s stern yet endearing Mr. Knightley will leave fans rooting for him throughout the series’s four-episode run.

Photo Credit: David Venni via IMDB.com

Why Bridgerton fans might like the show: Much like Lady Whistledown or Queen Charlotte, Emma enjoys meddling into the love lives of those around her. So, fans might take pleasure in watching her succeed–and oftentimes, fail–at her attempts in matchmaking, whilst realizing all along that she herself has found her perfect match and it was the man standing right in front of her. 

Northanger Abbey (2007) 

Although this is one of Jane Austen’s less popular novels, I enjoyed Northanger Abbey for its unconventional hero, Mr. Tilney. Unlike the likes of Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley, Mr. Tilney is not always so formal and likes to tease Catherine quite a bit. And the movie version of the Austen hero is not far from how the author described her character to be in the book. 

Played by JJ Field, Mr. Tilney presents a comical and amiable persona that complements Felicity Jones’s portrayal of the shy and naive Catherine. And it’s through their meetings in Bath and subsequent stay in Northanger Abbey that the two realize their true feelings for one another. 

Photo Credit: IMDB.com

Why Bridgerton fans might like the movie: I think fans might enjoy the “rich vs. poor” kind of love story the 2007 film shows. Because like many of the socialites in Bridgerton, Mr. Tilney’s father wants to make an advantageous marriage for his son. But upon learning that Catherine has no money to her name, he forbids a possible union between her and Mr. Tilney and sends her away. But little did he know that Mr. Tilney will do a lot more for the woman he loves… even if that means disobeying his father’s wishes and giving up his inheritance. 

Persuasion (2007)  

Persuasion focuses on the romance between Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot. 

Frederick and Anne were two young people in love. However, Anne’s parents refused the union, noting Frederick’s lack of fortune and title. So, the two parted ways. 

Eight years later, Anne’s family is struggling with their finances and Frederick has now become a wealthy and recognized Royal Navy Captain. With their heart-wrenching parting still lingering in both of their minds and with the tables turned, it begs the question: is there still a possibility of romance between the two despite everything that has happened?  

Starring Rupert Penry-Jones and Sally Hawkins, Persuasion reignites the viewers’ belief in the possibility of second chances, when it comes to love. 

Photo Credit: IMDB.com

Why Bridgerton fans might like the film: Fans might be able to appreciate Captain Frederick Wentworth’s unwavering love and devotion to Anne, in spite of the hardships he faced while being with her during his younger years. And despite having more options for a partner when he returned, he still chose her above everyone else.

Moreover, if fans loved the Duke of Hastings’s “I burn for you” line in the show, wait ‘til they hear Captain Wentworth’s “I am half agony, half hope” spiel–as he pours out his immense love and affection for Anne even after all these years. 

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NOTE: This review is not sponsored by Netflix or any other production houses. This was written purely from the perspective of the writer as a fan of these TV shows and movies.

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Did I get ‘way more than I paid for’ with the Papemelroti Surprise Box?

NOTE: This is a personal review of the product and not a paid, branded post. This means the author does not receive any money from the publication and clicks made on this article.

Ever since my college years, I have been a fan of Papemelroti‘s products. Whether it’d be their stationery pads made with recycled paper or their colorful wall art, I have always been enthralled by the creativity and farmhouse-like design of their products. And truth be told, I have a variety of their items stocked up in my room–particularly their stationery sets and cards which I use to write letters and notes to my family and friends.

So when I found out that they were selling surprise boxes online, I was eager to buy one of my own and see what goodies I can find inside them.

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According to the store’s Shopee page, these boxes are said to “contain a unique selection of products that are worth way more than its price” and that they range from 199 to 499 PHP (excluding shipping fee).

Since I was a bit tight on budget, I opted for the lowest priced box. And combining the 199 PHP cost of the item to the 40 PHP shipping fee, I spent a total of 239 PHP on the whole order.

Here’s what I discovered about the Papemelroti Surprise Box:

On packaging

Seeing as my last boxed purchase showed some external damage upon its arrival, I was a bit skeptical with this one. But to my surprise, the item was securely wrapped in corrugated paper before it was placed inside the courier’s plastic packaging.

This extra step ensured its protection while in transit and I am grateful for it since the box was not damaged upon receipt.

The box was light brown and featured the brand’s logo and a gift carricature in black ink. It also had a dedication note which allowed buyers to give the box as a gift to a loved one.

I personally liked this idea because now, the customer doesn’t need to find nice packaging if she or he would choose to give this item as a present.

Inside the box, I found the following items:

– One (1) black, faux leather bag tag with the word “Hope” on it
– One (1) square notebook with a Christian-themed cover
– One (1) Shakespeare-themed stationery pad
– One (1) inspirational designed notebook with a hot air balloon design
– One (1) free teacup card (this item was not inside the box but inserted in between the box cover and the corrugated paper covering)

Let me go through each of these items one by one…

On the black, faux leather bag tag

The bag tag looks to be made out of black, faux leather and has a copper plate with the word “Hope” engraved or stamped to it. The tag’s lock also seems to be very tight and sturdy–which makes it ideal for luggages you would choose to check in when traveling.

It basically satisfies everything that a bag tag should be. However, in terms of design, there’s nothing particularly special about it. And compared to the whimsical designs of their other products, I have to say that I am not totally impressed with this item.

And after much digging on their website and Shopee account, I can’t seem to find the price for this product. But I found a similar item online that retails for about 85 to 138 PHP (excluding shipping fee)–and I’ll be using this price range as the basis for my overall calculation.

On the Christian-themed square notebook

Everyone who is familiar with the brand knows that it showcases a lot of Christian-themed designs on its products. From bible quotes to religious images, many of their items immediately show customers that this is a store that is highly influenced by Christianity.

And in this particular case, I received a square notebook designed with a blue background, a dove image, and the Philippians 4:6-7 bible quote that says, “I am not anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, I present my requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”

As someone who is diagnosed with severe anxiety and is also a practicing Roman Catholic, I do appreciate the message being shared in this item’s design cover. Plus, its overall appearance is also quite pleasing to the eyes and the pages are clean and made out of recycled paper.

This item also doesn’t seem to be listed on any of their selling platforms, but if I would guess its price, I believe the item would lie somewhere between 80 to 100 PHP (I based this amount on the store’s ring notelets, which look like a smaller version of this notebook).

On the Shakespeare-themed stationery pad and the inspirational notebook

Earlier in this article, I mentioned how the store has a lot of pretty, whimsical designs–and these two items are proof of it!

Even though the stationery pad has a relatively simple design, I liked how it was laid out on the page with Shakespeare’s quote seamlessly integrated on the lower left side of the pad.

Likewise, I liked Robert A. Alejandro‘s hot air balloon design on the notebook. It also featured clean, ruled pages–which is ideal for me since I like writing on notebooks with lines.

But I think the highlight of these two products (and possibly almost all their products in the store) is that they are both made locally and created with recycled paper.

On their website, a colored notepad like this would sell for 28 to 35 PHP and a large notebook like this would sell for 50 to 64 PHP.

On the free teacup dedication card

This free item was lodged in between the box and its corrugated paper covering. It featured a colorful floral and bird pattern created by Robert A. Alejandro and was shaped exactly like a teacup.

This was, for me, the prettiest and most aesthetically-pleasing from all of the items I’ve received. It’s also the cheapest in the bunch as it sells for 8 to 10 PHP on their website.

So, when added all up, did I really get “way more than I paid for?”

Upon calculating everything, at the very least, all of these items would amount to 251 PHP–only a few Pesos away from my total purchase of 239 PHP. So surprisingly, the brand did deliver on its claim of “getting way more than you paid for.”

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Despite this finding, I don’t totally recommend buying the surprise box for the sole reason that you can’t choose the items that go in it. Just like in this review, I received a bag tag that I don’t necessarily find pleasing or have a need for.

Moreover, if you are thinking about giving this as a present, I suggest giving it to a friend who likes stationery items and is okay with receiving religious-themed items. The brand has a very unique set of designs and products and that might not appeal to everyone.

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Lastly, I recommend choosing from the store’s gift sets instead of buying the surprise boxes. At least, in this way, you can be assured that you will like the items you have ordered from the brand.

Hopefully this review helps you make a decision on whether or not you should buy the Papemelroti Surprise Box. And until you make that choice, I wish you all the luck in shopping!

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10 Moments that made season four ‘The Crown’s’ best so far

Warning: This article contains spoilers from season 4 of the Netflix series ‘The Crown.’ If you have not caught up with it yet, I suggest you to skip this review.

When The Crown first revealed its trailer for season four, fans of the show were rightfully excited to see the new additions of the ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana. And since its release last November 15, it has garnered rave reviews from viewers and critics alike–even earning it a 97% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes

Rightfully so, this season featured a number of amazing sequences, storylines, and even dialogue that hooked a fan like me deeper into the show. And to further prove this point, I’ve listed down 10 scenes that I believe made this season the Netflix show’s best so far. 

Diana’s first encounter with Charles  

From the first few minutes of this season, viewers were treated to a scene Diana fans have all been waiting for–the moment Charles first meets the ‘People’s Princess’. 

In a mysterious yet very endearing fashion, Diana crosses paths with the Prince of Wales while in costume at her home. And it is in this scene, we saw the initial chemistry the two shared–setting up the stage for what would lead to a whirlwind romance between the two. 

The death of Louis Mountbatten 

The death of Louis Mountbatten, or “Uncle Dickie” as Charles and Philip would refer to him,  was pivotal to the show as it not only pushed Charles to finally find a “suitable wife” but it also showed the growing tensions brewing between the monarchy and the The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA).

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This later set the precedent for the series to further show the growing tensions between the British royal establishment and its Commonwealth nations during this period. 

Diana meets Camilla Parker-Bowles after her announced engagement to Charles 

After the “Balmoral test” that Diana had to face in episode 2 of the series, she was welcomed and accepted by the royal family as a suitable bride for the future king. So, episode 3 showed her engagement to the Prince of Wales and how she went from an excited fiancé to a woman questioning her relationship with the monarch. 

It further didn’t help that when the Prince had to leave for a royal engagement, she was left alone at the palace with no one to talk to or confide in about her worries. And when she takes up the offer to meet Charles’s ex Camilla Parker-Bowles, Diana realizes that she not only knows very little about her fiance, but she also discovers that another woman holds her husband’s heart and attention.  

This scene was essential to the series because it cemented doubt in Diana’s mind about her upcoming nuptials. 

Michael Fagan’s conversation with the Queen during his break-in of Kensington Palace

The Michael Fagan story was something I applaud the show creators for doing. Because although Thatcher did win the war for the Falkland islands, the whole ordeal did bring problems to the British economy. And the story of Michael Fagan is proof that there are casualties to endeavours like these. 

The episode followed Michael Fagan as he struggled to find work and get custody of his children, amidst the rising poverty in Britain. Desperate and seemingly hopeless, Fagan addresses his frustrations over Thatcher’s actions by breaking into the palace and speaking to the Queen of England in her own room.  

This particular scene was important because it was the first time the Queen questioned Margaret Thatcher’s decisions as the head of parliament–an event which would hint at the growing rift between the two female leaders. 

Moreover, the whole dialogue between the Queen and Fagan was brilliant in highlighting the disparity between the two individuals and it made the monarch herself question the status of the country during this very trying time. 

Diana and Charles talk about Camilla whilst on tour in Australia 

This scene was vital as it was the first time we’ve ever heard Charles tell Diana that he loved her. The sequence of events that followed showed the Prince of Wales initially enamoured by his wife, but only later to get jealous of her growing popularity among the people. 

At this point, viewers got the sense that it was just the beginning of the end for this royal couple. 

Princess Margaret finds out the truth about her Bowes-Lyon cousins 

Everyone has skeletons in their closet and members of the Royal Family are no different. And in the episode called ‘The Hereditary Principle’, we see that the palace went to great lengths to hide their cousins with special needs. 

Photo Credit: Facebook.com/TheCrownNetflix

It showed how far the royal family will go to maintain their “untainted” and “perfect”  image. 

The Queen awards Margaret Thatcher with The Order of Merit 

After the Fagan episode, it was clear that the Queen and Margaret Thatcher disagreed on a number of things during female Prime Minister’s 11-year run in office.

But despite their different stances on certain issues, the Queen still respected the Iron Lady’s work in government and even awarded her The Order of Merit in the final episode of the series. 

Princess Diana hugs a child diagnosed with AIDS in New York 

During her first tour alone in New York City, Diana made waves in the American community as the beautiful and charismatic princess. And her popularity grew even more when she was pictured hugging a child diagnosed with AIDS–an act that was so crucial at the time since AIDS was thought to be contagious. 

This particular event cemented her title as the ‘People’s Princess’ in the eyes of world.

Charles blows up after Diana returns from her tour of New York  

Following her successful trip to the United States, Camilla realizes that even when Charles separates from Diana, she will always be secondary to the Princess of Wales. Seeing his beloved hurt by this, Charles confronts Diana in an explosive scene, wherein he tells Diana that he thinks only of Camilla “morning, noon, and night.” 

What made this moment so captivating was Josh O’ Connor and Emma Corrin’s acting in this confrontation. You could sense the tension between the characters and can even feel the emotions they are going through as the scene played out. 

Truth be told, these two young actors made this season definitely worth the watch, especially O’ Connor, whose portrayal of Charles made me sympathize for a prince who will not only never live up to his mother and father’s expectations but who also felt locked in a marriage he can never get out of. 

Prince Philip speaks to Diana 

What I liked about this scene was the fact that they showed the special relationship between Diana and Prince Philip. In real life, the Princess of Wales shared a special bond with her father-in-law even while her marriage to Prince Charles was slowly coming to an end. 

Furthermore, this conversation hinted at the difficulties Diana will face in the later seasons as she starts to break ties with the royal family and ventures out on her own. 

Overall, this season was exciting from start to finish and had me hooked throughout its run.

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And with regards to the anti-Charles bias the show is accused of–I want to say that I do agree with streaming platform’s statement that although the story was based on real-life people, it is a historical fiction. And much like other shows of this genre–like Medici or Reign–a lot of the real-life events have been altered to make for an interesting storyline. 

Given this, I do advise people who also love watching the show to not take everything there as fact. 

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Viewers can watch the fourth season of The Crown on Netflix

*NOTE: This review is not sponsored by Netflix or any other streaming platform or program. This was written purely from the perspective of the writer as a fan of the show.

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My family and I just can’t get enough of this shop’s sushi bake trays

NOTE: This is a personal review of the product and not a paid, branded post. This means the author does not receive any money from the publication and clicks made on this article. 

Sometime around June of this year, I started noticing the sushi bake craze making its rounds online. At first, I didn’t necessarily understand what the dish was–I wondered, does it taste just like a maki roll? What’s in it? And is it really worth the hype?

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It wasn’t until October, when me and my siblings decided to try the dish out for ourselves. And upon the recommendation of my friend Mark D., we decided to order the Gyudon sushi bake tray from La Mesa Cravings.

Photo of the Gyudon sushi bake dish sent to me via Facebook by La Mesa Cravings

Initially, my whole family and I didn’t know what to expect when it arrived. But after taking the first few bites, we knew that this was a dish we would happily order again from the shop.

Here are a few reasons why I said this:

They have good customer service and the dish is complete and securely packaged

When it comes to service-oriented businesses, good customer service is key in maintaining loyalty with your target market. And La Mesa Cravings accomplishes this by not only being very responsive to inquiries on their page, but also in keeping their customers up-to-date on their orders.

Because once you have ordered and paid for the dish, the team schedules delivery based on your preference. And before the item is even sent out, they send you photos to confirm your order. So, from the get-go, you are aware of its appearance and the items that come with the dish.

Photo of the Gyudon sushi bake dish sent to me via Facebook by La Mesa Cravings

Moreover, the team places it in an aluminum foil tray and secures it with plastic cover to make sure it doesn’t move around while it’s in transit.

The sushi bake is full of flavor and very savory

The Gyudon sushi bake tray we ordered was packed with beef and sushi rice and topped off with layer of creamy cheddar cheese. The combination of these ingredients made the dish flavourful and absolutely filling. And when it’s eaten with seaweed–which comes with the order–the dish becomes almost heavenly!

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Even Filipino actor Paolo Ballesteros can’t seem to get enough of their sushi bake trays, sharing a review of it on his personal social media accounts.

Now, I do admit their menu items can be a bit pricey ranging from 300 to 1,500 PHP (depending on the size and variant and excluding shipping fee), but it’s well worth the price for its savoury taste and overall delicious flavour.

There are more flavors to choose from, not just Gyudon

After devouring the Gyudon sushi bake tray, my family and I are definitely eager to try out the shop’s other flavors. This includes the following variants: Green, Yellow, Red, Pink, Dragon, and Spam.

And fortunately for us (and other sushi bake fans), shop owners Joezel and Ivy Malang-Cruz are now offering the La Colección gift box. This is a set order that allows you to choose four out of their seven sushi bake variants to try and feast on this holiday season.

  Here’s a sample photo of their La Colección gift box. Photo Credit: Facebook.com/lamesacravingsyt

If you’re interested in knowing more about this San Juan City-based shop, you can visit their Facebook page or subscribe to their YouTube channel for more details. 

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‘Subtle Asian Baking’–the online haven for bakers obsessed with Asian-inspired treats

As many of us already know, Asia is home to many amazing baked creations. From Vietnam’s Bánh Chuối Nướng (baked banana bread) to Japan’s Daifuku (mochi) treats, we have seen and may have even tasted some of these delectable desserts during our trips there. 

However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, traveling is highly discouraged as it could lead to the further spread of the virus. 

Given this, a lot of people have taken to baking their own versions of these desserts at home. Some have even mastered its baking techniques, while others still have a long way to go before mastering their craft. And whether you’re the former or the latter, there’s one place online that you can connect with and converse with other bakers about your love for Asian-inspired treats–and that’s through Subtle Asian Baking

Photo Credit: Facebook.com/subtleasianbaking

Subtle Asian Baking is an online community on Facebook that allows bakers from all over the world to share, discuss, and even recommend their favorite Asian-inspired creations and recipes.  

And in this article, I got the chance to talk to the founder Kat Lieu and the rest of the Subtle Asian Baking team on what makes the Facebook group special, the inspiration behind its creation, and what message can they share to aspiring bakers about their online community. 

Here’s what I learned from the interview: 

It’s a community of like-minded bakers who support and encourage each other  

In the Subtle Asian Baking Facebook group, members are encouraged to share their latest Asian-inspired creations without fear or judgment.

“What makes the group special is when people can show off their amazing desserts and bakes, and feel appreciated. [And] when people ask a question, they receive a flood of helpful answers [from other members],” Subtle Asian Baking founder Kat Lieu explained. 

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It is an avenue where bakers can freely express themselves and even help inspire a sense of creativity in other members who see the posts.

Lieu herself admits to exploring other baking ideas after seeing other people’s creations in the group–“[In terms of] creativity, I find myself becoming more and more creative and innovative with my own baking.” 

More than just a platform for sharing one’s creations, it is also a community that engages with its members through virtual bake-offs and online contests. In fact, just last month, they held a charity mukbang for the benefit of the Alzheimer Society of Canada. And as of December 2, 2020, they were able to raise 4,002.50 CAD (approximately 150,611.93 PHP) for the non-profit organization. They were also able to surprise members of the group and participants with a number of special guest appearances.  

“Our mukbang fundraiser was very special. Three CEOs from the Alzheimer Society of Canada, the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, and the Alzheimer Society of Ontario joined us in [the] eating [contest]. We [also] had a special guest eating with us, Fred Chang, a contestant from MasterChef US Season 10. A rising mukbang duo made a special appearance during the Zoom livestream [as well],” Lieu shared.  

These online events were created to both give back to the community and entertain its members.  

“We want to be different. We also want to give back to the community. [Since] many people are stuck at home now, the Internet has become our world. [There,] we can build a community with virtual bake-offs and we can give back through fun fundraising activities.”  

At the moment, the team has prepared two bake-offs for December. The first of which is in partnership with Suncore Foods and is a competition for junior bakers between the ages of 4 to 15 years old. While the second one is a holiday bake-off that features guest judges Catherine Zhang, the Zumbo’s Just Desserts season 2 champion, and Fred Chang, season 10 finalist of the hit show MasterChef US.

Members can stay tuned for more announcements on this through their Facebook page and group, or through their Instagram account.

A recent trip to Japan inspired Kat Lieu to create the group 

The group was created back in May of this year by Kat Lieu. She was inspired to form Subtle Asian Baking after reminiscing about the baked creations she got to try during her recent trip to Japan. 

“COVID-19 was spreading fast and things were closing down. I was thinking about my trip to Japan back in February 2020, and I couldn’t find a group I liked dedicated to Asian sweets, particularly subtle Asian sweets. So, I created the group in [the] hopes [that] I can bring together a large baking community and curate recipes and beautiful pictures of Asian-inspired desserts,”  Lieu expounded.  

“Many of us can’t travel [now], but we can reflect fondly about desserts we love, desserts from our culture, and the baked goodies we had while traveling across Asia and so forth.”

To her surprise though, the group quickly grew since its creation, now amassing over 66,000 members from all over the world. 

Screengrab from Facebook.com/groups/subtleasianbaking

Today, the group is handled by Lieu and the Subtle Asian Baking team, which comprises the following: Owen Li, an IT professional and the team’s very own “air-frying ninja”; Will Leung, a bakery owner in New Zealand; George Lee, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained cook and rising star in the vegan culinary world; and Nichole Tan, a Singapore-based sweets expert.

A message to aspiring bakers: ‘Just start baking!’  

Starting a new hobby can be hard but the Subtle Asian Baking team believes that practice makes perfect. And they continue to encourage aspiring bakers to express themselves and try new things, with a little help and inspiration from their Facebook group.  

“Just start baking! It doesn’t matter if you use cake mix or bake from scratch, just make it and bake it! And please join our group! We are inclusive and [we] welcome all bakers, dessert makers, or dessert enthusiasts of all skill levels. We also welcome savory baking recipes and pictures!” the team said.

To join Subtle Asian Baking, click their Facebook group here and request to be a member. Once approved, you can start posting your creations, joining their online contests, and start conversing with like-minded bakers.

You can also follow them on their Facebook page or on Instagram to stay up-to-date with their latest posts and announcements. 

Happy baking, everyone! 

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Holiday royal romance movies are cheesy and predictable–but that’s what makes them so fun to watch

Almost all of my family and friends know that I am a sucker for this subgenre of romance movies. For years, I have watched a lot of these kinds of films from Hallmark and most recently, Netflix

So, when my good friend Niña came across this video of YouTuber Jack Douglass discussing the “terrifying world of ‘Princess Christmas’ movies,” she knew I had some thoughts on this matter. 

First off, I actually agree with everything Douglass had to say about these movies, especially on the following points: 

– These kinds of movies revolve around three plots, namely the “ordinary woman becomes a princess,” “a princess pretends to be an ordinary woman,” and “a princess and an ordinary woman swap places.” 

–  The names of these movies sound similar (if not the same).

– All of the royal romances take place in imaginary countries that all sound the same–citing examples like “Belgravia,” “Aldovia,” and “Maldovia.”

– The Prince always seems to have a “pronounced english accent.”

– How these kinds of movies use the same actors and actresses in other films that feature the same plot. 

He even makes a valid point in saying how strange it is to know that even though these movies follow the same formula, they manage to become franchises–citing the Christmas Prince films as an example. 

With all of this in mind, you, as a viewer of his video, would even start to wonder, why would anyone want to watch these films after knowing this? 

Now, I can’t speak for everyone… but as someone who has seen many of these holiday royal romance movies (and would probably continue to watch them in the future), what entices me is its predictability, overall feel-good vibe, and Christmas spirit. 

From the get go, I can already tell many of the things that are going to happen in these kinds of movies. For instance, I know there will almost always be some grand ball wherein the prince will be left in awe over the girl’s appearance or that the prince will always choose the “normal girl” over his betrothed. 

But it’s this cliched storyline that keeps me interested because there is a certainty that it will always end in a “happily ever after.” And in this world where anything can go wrong, it’s nice to watch something that promises a happy ending.

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Moreover, these are the kind of feel-good movies that won’t leave you stressed or worried about the characters. Since it’s predictable, you won’t have to agonize about the girl not getting the guy or of someone dying during the course of the film. It’s almost like the ideal kind of thing to watch when you are tired from work or household errands and you just want to relax.

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Lastly, it features a picture-perfect version of the holidays, where everyone is happy and together. And I am guessing this is almost everyone’s ideal scenario when it comes to Christmas.

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So, before you write off holiday royal romance films, I recommend you try watching a few of them first. You never know, you might even end up actually enjoying them!