Guidebooks for DIY room glowups from Sophia Calima

With all the time we have been spending at home lately, we have probably noted some areas for improvement already.

To give us a feeling of control over our environment, many of us are likely to have been tempted to makeover some of the rooms we frequent in the house.

As luck would have it, doing so by ourselves may not be too hard, especially with the guidance of interior designer Sophia Calima.

Having completed her Interior Design degree from the renowned Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan, Italy, Manila-born Sophia set about finding synergy between modern, western and eastern sensibilities. After honing her talents with stints with with Susan Fredman Design Group Chicago, Droulers Architecture Milan, Lor Calma and Partners Manila, The I.D. Dept Singapore, and Kenneth Cobonpue Cebu, she gained design chops that earned her the moniker “Home Designers That Should be on Your Radar” from Mega Publishing.

She recently launched a book series which is comprised of handy digital guidebooks targeting homeowners who want to make their design goals a reality.

Sophia Calima e-books

Sophia Calima e-books

Sophia Calima e-books

These e-books showcase tips on measuring spaces properly, layout planning for good flow, choosing pleasing color schemes and putting all elements together to transform existing home spaces towards their real purpose such as:

Making the Living Room an inviting place to gather together with loved ones and share meaningful moments

Arranging the Bedroom as a place of respite where people can rest and recharge

And for those who have shifted to working from home, setting up the Home Office to be a place for focus and creativity.

To get your copies of these highly informative e-books, download from at Php350 per book.

Sophia also offers eDesign, an affordable alternative to end-to-end design services wherein consultations, custom design, tips and shopping lists are all provided online with no need for the interior design team to step into the house. This service is ideal for DIYers or clients on a budget as well as those who want to limit physical access to their household spaces in accordance to quarantine restrictions.

For more details on eDesign, click here.

Being stuck at home has afforded us the great opportunity to make it the place we truly want to spend time in. Let’s take advantage of this chance and the excellent resources available to accomplish our home design goals.

Disclosure: Complimentary copies of the e-books were provided to facilitate this feature story.

Header photo Credit: Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Examples of room design taken from Sophia Calima’s Instagram.


Book gives tips on how to help kids appreciate healthy food

With all the fast food, microwaveables and sugar-laden fare easily available in malls and grocery stores, kids these days might be missing out on both the nutrients and flavors that healthy food brings. Earlier generations benefited from home-cooked meals and the time devoted by homemakers to acquiring fresh ingredients but today’s busy lifestyle sees families turning more towards food that is more convenient than truly nutritious.

In Taste Buds: The Magic and Fun of Sensible Food, author Nicolette Francey Asselin shares food-based wisdom gathered from her childhood memories and her medical practice. This booklet is the fourth installment in a series of health books released by Among her notable pieces of advice are:

Avoid using dessert as a reward. This implies that the meal already laid on the table is not the best.

Keep meals simple. Time- and effort-intensive dishes for weekday meals are neither practical nor sustainable given today’s busy lifestyle.

Involve the kids. Getting them to participate in meal preparation – such as chopping vegetables or fetching tools or ingredients – will help them develop an appreciation for the effort that goes into getting a good meal on the table.

Asselin also included a few simple recipes of healthy dishes that she grew up with such as roasted vegetables, ratatouille, a basic vinaigrette for salads and muesli, among others, as well as instructions on how to pickle or ferment foodstuffs at home.

This is a short book and I think she could have expounded more on some sections such as how to balance meat, poultry, seafood and produce in the weekly menu or how to enjoy healthy food outside the home through quick and easy meal preparation strategies.

That said, this book can provide an adequate impetus to start cooking and eating healthier.

Taste Buds: The Magic and Fun of Sensible Food, published by CorpWell Publishing, is available in Kindle format on

Thanks to NetGalley and CorpWell Publishing for the copy of the ebook provided in exchange for an honest review.

This post contains affiliate links.


Want to start cooking fresh and healthy? There’s no need to leave home to shop for ingredients.  With Honestbee, just order your groceries online and you’ll get them delivered right at your doorstep at your preferred time. Use this referral link and get Php500 off for a minimum spend of Php2,500.  You can download the Honestbee app on iTunes or Google Play.

If you’re in the US and an Amazon Prime member, sign up for a free trial of Amazon Fresh to get your groceries delivered to you.

Love books and reading? Try Kindle Unlimited on Amazon and read from thousands of ebooks available in the Kindle Unlimited catalog. of Get your first month FREE.

No Kindle device? Download the Kindle App ebook reader for FREE to read your favorite books anytime and anywhere.

No time to read? Listen to your favorite books instead while you drive, run, shop, and more.  Try Audible for free for 30 days and get two free audiobooks.

A silent Biblical character was given voice in Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent

The story of Jacob’s daughter Dinah is problematic for many Bible readers. The chapter in the book of Genesis in which she appeared is often referred to as the “rape of Dinah.”  After her abduction by the prince of Shechem and her subsequent marriage to him, her brothers Levi and Simeon carried out the murder of her husband and all the menfolk in the land, citing the dishonor done to their family.  After this narrative, Dinah was never heard of again.

Similar to most female characters in the Bible, Dinah is silent.  Other then the notation of her birth in an earlier chapter, what is written about her spans the thirty-one short verses in Genesis 34, none of which are direct quotations from her.

In The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, however, Dinah’s role, and those of the other women in the narrative, are greatly expanded.  Jacob’s wives, Leah and Rachel, evolved from sisters competing for the love of one man: they became leaders of the women in their tribe, guardians of women’s secret and sacred traditions.  Their handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpah, transformed from slave girls and concubines, to sisters and co-mothers of the Jacob’s wives.  Dinah, as the only girl among a brood of boys, became the cherished daughter of four mothers, the vessel of their hopes and dreams.

Much of the secret lives of these women took place in the red tent: it was the place where, under ancient law, women go into seclusion during menstruation or after childbirth.  It was here where their bonds are formed and strengthened, where they were bolstered by the encouragement and support of the other women in the tribe.

Dinah’s idyllic relationship with her family came to an end when she entered into her ill-fated marriage with Shalem, resulting into his murder at the hands of her brothers.

Cursing her father and brothers, she fled together with Shalem’s mother to Egypt where her mother-in-law raised her son among her family of scribes.

In the years that followed, Dinah built a life for herself: she became known for her skills in midwifery, she developed a close friendship with a fellow midwife, Meryt and was welcomed into her family, and she found new love in Benia, a woodworker in the Valley of Kings.

She would then encounter her long-lost brother, Joseph, who has risen high to become the Grand Vizier of Egypt, and who proposed to bring her back to her father’s camp to see him before he dies.

In this retelling of the Biblical tale, Diamant sheds light on the secret lives of women in ancient times. Their stories and traditions are passed down from mother to daughter, sister to sisters. Their bodies are celebrated and consecrated to their goddesses. Their roles within the tribes are shown as vital: they are caretakers, nurturers and healers, not just of their own children but of the whole community.

Diamant also calls attention to the weakness of men: how Jacob’s negligence of his sons resulted in the murder of Shalem and Joseph’s slavery in Egypt; how the malice of Simeon and Levi tore their family apart; and how Shalem’s love for Dinah made him agree to her brothers’ demands which resulted to the destruction of his people.

The novel is also one of hope: in the Bible, Dinah disappears from the narrative after the prince’s murder while in The Red Tent, she was able to forge her own path away from the protection of her family.

It also paints Egyptians, particularly the common people, in a new light, very far from depictions of oppressive slave-drivers towards Hebrews. Here, they are regular folks – midwives, scribes, carpenters and bakers – who are all simply living their lives.

The Red Tent is an important work, not just as a retelling of a Biblical tale, but as a depiction of the secret lives of women in ancient times. While Dinah, Leah, Rachel and their ilk were given minor roles in the Holy Book, in this novel, their lives and their stories are front and center.

I highly recommend this book to fans of Biblical fiction.

Click here to buy this book on

In 2014, The Red Tent was adapted into a two-part miniseries starring Rebecca Ferguson (“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, ” “The White Queen“) as Dinah, Minnie Driver (“Sleepers,” “Grosse Pointe Blank“) as Leah, Morena Baccarin (“Deadpool,” “Gotham“) as Rachel and Iain Glenn (“Game of Thrones“) as Jacob. Click here to watch the The Red Tent on Amazon Prime.  Watch it for free when you sign up for your 30-day trial.

Love books and reading? Try Kindle Unlimited on Amazon. Get your first month FREE.

No Kindle device? Download the Kindle App for FREE to read your favorite books anytime and anywhere.

No time to read? Listen to your favorite books instead while you drive, run, shop, and more.  Try Audible for free for 30 days and get two free audiobooks.

Esther – Royal Beauty by Angela Hunt

Angela Hunt’s Dangerous Beauty series begins with Esther: Royal Beauty. It is the fourth fictional account on the biblical Queen Esther that I have read. The narrative is told from two perspectives: that of Harbonah, one of the eunuchs who served the king of Persia; and that of Hadassah, later called Esther, the beautiful Jewish orphan with a world-changing destiny.

I can’t help but compare this book to another book on Esther: Roseanna M. White’s Jewel of Persia:

  1. Both books portray Esther as growing in maturity and queenly grace. In Esther: Dangerous Beauty, however, Esther is shown to be more shallow, concerned with nice clothes and dreaming of marrying the handsome Persian brother of her friend. She found her way into the Persian royal harem when she was abducted from her Jewish fiance by slave traders seeking to profit from the search for a new queen. Guided by her devout foster father, Mordecai, and the eunuchs she befriended, she wins the heart of the king for a time.
  2. Similar to Jewel of Persia, Queen Vashti is shown to be callous and ruthless woman, capable of unspeakable crimes to achieve her ends.
  3. King Xerxes, unnamed in this novel, is enigmatic. He rarely speaks and, being the sun around which the other characters revolve, his actions are given commentary by Esther and Harbona, and interpreted through their understanding. For me, his character is not fully fleshed out; even his involvement in the infamous affair with his son’s wife was told similar to a shady rumor, not provided with enough motivation.

Esther: Royal Beauty combines the biblical stories with historical accounts (as recorded by Herodotus), and is a good book with which to pass the time. However, I would have liked the King of Kings to be more real.

Click here to buy Esther: Royal Beauty on

Other books in Angela Hunt’s Dangerous Beauty Series are:

Check out my posts on other Biblical fiction:

Love books and reading? Try Kindle Unlimited on Amazon. Get your first month FREE.

No Kindle device? Download the Kindle App for FREE to read your favorite books anytime and anywhere.

No time to read? Listen to your favorite books instead while you drive, run, shop, and more.  Try Audible for free for 30 days and get two free audiobooks.

Jewel of Persia by Roseanna M. White

Roseanna M. White’s Jewel of Persia sheds light on the hidden life of one of the Bible’s most enigmatic women: Queen Esther. Unlike most books about the events that make up the origins of the Jewish holiday Purim which focused solely on Esther and her journey from Jewish orphan to Queen of Persia, Jewel of Persia, ties Esther’s life with that of her childhood friend Kasia. Also, the competition to be Xerxes’ queen is not portrayed as a series of abductions with girls taken unwillingly into the harem. Rather, it was a contract willingly entered into by the potential brides.

I find Jewel of Persia quite gripping, particular when you consider that:
1. Esther was not portrayed as the love of Xerxes’ life. Rather, it was Kasia whose chance encounter with the king sealed her fate to become his most-loved concubine. Kasia’s love for the king was big enough to forgive his many failings as a ruler and as a man, and even to welcome Esther to the harem and help her fulfill her own destiny.

2. Kasia and Esther’s faith is central to the story. It sustains them through the many trials: such as the trials Kasia faced as an outsider in the harem and Esther’s heartbreak over a childhood love. Their personal relationship with God is contrasted heavily against the religion practiced by her enemies.

3. The book also has lighter moments. A running gag is of Xerxes (as in the Bible) offering cities up to half his kingdom at different instances to the people he favors but being met with requests for something else. By the third time this happens, he wonders why no one seems to want his cities.

Jewel of Persia is a compelling sample of biblical fiction.  Check it out on

Roseanna M. White’s other biblical fiction works include:

Love books and reading? Try Kindle Unlimited on Amazon. Get your first month FREE.

No Kindle device? Download the Kindle App for FREE to read your favorite books anytime and anywhere.

No time to read? Listen to your favorite books instead while you drive, run, shop, and more.  Try Audible for free for 30 days and get two free audiobooks.

Check out my other blog posts on my favorite books:

Why fall in love with the Professor in the Gabriel’s Inferno Series by Sylvain Reynard

While I’m a self-proclaimed bibliophile and I absolutely devour books, it is somewhat rare for me to fall in love with a book series to the point that years after I’ve read it, I’m still raving about it to my friends.

Such is the case for Sylvain Reynard’s Gabriel’s Inferno Series which was first published in 2012. Though it began as fan-fiction of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series (and was released in fan-fic boards as The University of Edward Masen under the authorship of Sebastien Robichaud), this series is vastly superior (in my opinion) to its inspiration in both style and content.

Centered on its enigmatic protagonist, Professor Gabriel Emerson and his romance with his student Julia Mitchell, the series of erotic novels explores their growing passion between that transcends their pasts, secrets and fears.

Set against the backdrop of academic life in the University of Toronto where Professor Emerson teaches Dante studies and in Selinsgrove, Pennysylvania where he grew up, the first book, Gabriel’s Inferno, introduces him to his shy and unassuming student Julia, who, without his knowledge, actually shares a deep connection with him and has fostered feelings for him for the past six years.  The next book, Gabriel’s Rapture, sees the two lovers torn apart by academic politics and vindictive rivals.  The last book in the series, Gabriel’s Redemption, chronicles his married life with Julia and his efforts to make peace with his past to build a future with her.

Throughout the three books and six years later, my interest in the series never waned; I find myself re-reading the books cover to cover from time to time. Aside from the story and the quality of writing, much of the credit can be laid at Gabriel Emerson’s character.

But why is The Professor so compelling?  Here are my thoughts as to why:

  • From the descriptions in the book, he is H-O-T as H-E-L-L!  The Professor is tall, dark-haired with piercing blue eyes and has a great physique (having gone “ten rounds with a few Southies in Boston and lived to brag about it”).  Apparently, he can rock the suit and bowtie and still be all alpha male.
  • The man has brains. Being a university professor whose credentials include a graduate degree from Harvard, the man sure has the smarts.  Plus, he can give a lecture about Renaissance literature and art and still have his audience at full attention.  (Check out this part of his lecture titled “Lust in Dante’s Inferno: The Deadly Sin Against the Self”: “Sex is properly understood to be not only physical, but spiritual—an ecstatic union of two bodies and two souls, meant to mimic the joy and ecstasy of union with the Divine in Paradise. Two bodies joined together in pleasure. Two souls joined through the connection between two bodies and the whole-hearted, enthusiastic, selfless giving of the entire self.” Now, that’s just brainy and sexy in one dose.)
  • His mystery is part of his charm. The Professor has inner demons that he grapples with and how he works through them with Julia and helps Julia deal with her own, makes this a deeper romance story than usual.
  • The guy sure knows romance.  Aside from his “moves” in bed, he is also an attentive lover outside of it. Despite the (surprisingly) few love scenes in the books, Gabriel demonstrates time and again what an attentive lover he is: he brings fine food to Julia’s dorm so she can dine in comfort and pleasure while doing her schoolwork. For their first time together, he takes her on a romantic trip to Florence. Plus, he prepared a soundtrack for his seduction (which includes “Lying in the Hands of God” by Dave Matthews Band)!

Gabriel Emerson is an intriguing and irresistible romantic hero. And I don’t mind sharing him with other romance readers who appreciate a strong and sensitive alpha male.

Click here to buy this book series on

You might also like these other works by Sylvain Reynard:

Guess what! Sylvain Reynard recently confirmed that he is working on a fourth novel in the Gabriel’s Inferno series. I’ll be counting the days until it’s released!

Check out my other blog posts about my favorite fiction books:

Love books and reading? Try Kindle Unlimited on Amazon. Get your first month FREE.

No Kindle device? Download the Kindle App for FREE to read your favorite books anytime and anywhere.

No time to read? Listen to your favorite books instead while you drive, run, shop, and more.  Try Audible for free for 30 days and get two free audiobooks.