Thursday, May 17, 2018

How a great vacation can inspire your home décor

My favorite holiday ever will always be in London, UK. First, it's the first country I traveled to all by myself. A solo trip—even though that trip was for work—is always unforgettable. Second, it's the city where Vince and I spent our honeymoon. That's why London will forever be my favorite foreign city, and I like to keep mementos of my time there around my house. For example, these throw pillows that baby Piero is resting on.

Everything in this picture sparks joy!

This is a guest post, by the way. I think my working mama readers will like this topic because Filipinos are such tourists and we love putting souvenirs of our travels all over our homes. Enjoy this little post!

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If you are someone that likes to travel, you may already be intertwining your travels and memories with your home décor. Traveling to different countries can be an excellent source of inspiration. People have varying ideas and cultures that may make their indoor spaces unique and invite. By taking some of those ideas home, you can incorporate your memories and experiences into your living spaces and, ultimate, your lifestyle. Here are some of the things that you can do to let your vacations inspire your décor. 

During your vacation, you may buy some items or artifacts to remember your trip. Naturally, you would want to put these items on display. By adding some relevant décor, you can accentuate the personality and atmosphere your souvenirs provide to your living space. If you, for example, bought a little replica of the Statue of Liberty during your time in New York, you can draw some attention to it with a framed photograph of the Manhattan Skyline.

Ref magnets are the cheapest and most functional souvenirs!

There are many different cultural aspects to interior decorating that you can apply to your own home. Feng Shui, for example, originated in China and claims to harmonize you with your living space. You may gather some ideas that you may like that are engraved in a society’s lifestyle and use it as inspiration for your décor. 

Prominent features or export products like oriental themed décor and patterned rugs can transform your room into the place that you came to know and love. 

As far as décor is concerned, you can hardly go wrong with some plants. It is also the perfect way to use your vacation as inspiration for your décor. If you spent some time at, say, a tropical beach, you may find a nursery that sells plants that grow in those areas and use them as décor in your living room or even your home office. You can also compliment the plants’ presence with wallpaper that has floral or bamboo themes or even a souvenir that you bought like a lay or a portrait of a fish or a beach landscape.

Next time I go to Baguio (where I met my husband), I want to get a pine cone!

Many countries have decorative patterns that are unique to their societies and lifestyles. Scandinavian pine tree patterns can, for example, easily be incorporated into your interior space’s features and décor. Simple patterns like squares or V-shaped patterns may seem conventional but can change the atmosphere and personality of a room completely. One of the best ways makes patterns part of your décor is to make use of rugs, wallpaper, or curtains. 

Functional décor 
One of the more practical ways your vacation can inspire your décor is with functional pieces such as serveware, woven baskets, or racks and hooks. Trays, bowls, and plates can be the ideal way to bring your vacation into your décor. Some countries have little teaspoons that many people like to collect. Storage accessories such as wine racks or hat stands can also traditional to a place that you visited during a holiday. 

You can tell that the person who lives here loves the sea.

Color schemes 
Sometimes, interior spaces are dominated with the same color scheme. If you like a particular color scheme or hues, why not use in your room’s decorations? Tropical destinations with ocean views and sandy beaches have typical blue, light brown and sap green elements that you can easily bring into your home with natural elements. 

You may also have to use features that are already available in your interior space like a window with a view over a garden or a big piece of blue sky. By simply adding one or two additional decorative features, it can establish the color scheme that you saw and experienced during your vacation. 

Interior decorating styles 
There are many different interior decorating styles all over the world. Whether it is mid-century modern, industrial, minimalistic, or Scandinavian, chances are that you will find a style that has prominence at the place where you had your vacation. The French are known for their love of shabby chic, and when you do a little research, you may find a lot of attributes to a particular style that looks familiar and inviting. 

Many times, modeling your décor to a specific style will inspire you to incorporate the things you experienced during your vacation into your interior space.

*Photos from Unsplash: @filios_sazeides, @sunyu, @danedeaner

*This post was written by Clarissa Caouette and contains paid links.

Monday, May 14, 2018

How I deal with mommy guilt

I had a long day. That was my excuse, but all moms have long days so is that really an excuse to lose my temper and be unkind to my children? All my days are long yet I can usually hold my exhaustion at bay, at least until 9 p.m. when the last kid finally dozes off and I can also relax. 

On this particular day, however, I was worn out because we were on vacation. The kids were too excited about the new environment, and I was worried about my deadlines. We may be on holiday but my work didn't care about that! It was way past the boys' bedtime in a new room at a new place and I was feeling old and stretched thin. Without warning, I snapped. 

I yelled and then I cried. They were stunned. In that silence, I knew instantly I was wrong and I apologized. As soon as I said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean those bad words," my sons hugged me and cried in relief. I didn't feel relief, however—I felt even more guilty! Waking up the next day greeted by love letters decorated with flowers made me feel even worse. I felt like a bad mother.

Many moms wrestle with that thought. "Am I a good mother? I got mad at them—am I a bad mother? I gave them junk food. I didn't give him a bath. I fed her formula milk. I gave him the iPad. I let her watch TV. I hired a yaya. I work. Am I a bad mother? If I'm not a bad mother, why do I feel so guilty?"

Let's talk about guilt first. The dictionary (Merriam-Webster) defines guilt as "the fact of committing a breach of conduct especially violating a law and involving a penalty." Guilt means we did something wrong. Guilt is a fact, not an imagined offence. 

In many cases, mothers don't do wrong when we make decisions we feel are best for our family. Whether that's being a working mother and hiring household help to skipping a bath (because the baby's not dirty anyway!) and letting the kids watch TV (because you need some peace and quiet). Yet even though we didn't commit a crime, we still feel guilty. 

I do. I feel guilty all the time. But I can easily squelch that guilty emotion when I remind myself of two facts: (1) I'm doing my very best, and (2) I love them so much! Everything I do is because I love my kids and that alone makes me a good mother.

Then that day happened. The uncalled for yelling and the cruel words that broke my kids' tender hearts. Yes, I was doing my very best giving my kids a holiday (so they can have fun) and trying to meet deadlines (so I have their tuition money). And yes, I love them very much. But I was wrong to say what I said. And I was definitely guilty.

When I commit a real offence—no matter the reason!—there are only two ways to deal with the guilt: (1) Apologize immediately and sincerely, and (2) forgive myself.

I hope saying sorry shows my kids that their mama makes mistakes and realizes it immediately. I hope they see that by sincerely apologizing and not blaming them for my mistakes, I admit that I'm not a perfect mother but I try so hard to be a good mama anyway. Lastly, I hope they see that I will always try again and again and that I won't ever give up being their mommy. That means I need to forgive myself when I do wrong so that I can get up and give motherhood another go.

I'm lucky my kids are the most forgiving people in the world. They are so quick to hug me and say, "It's okay, Mama! We love you!" Their love makes me realize I'm not a bad mommy. A flawed one definitely but a good enough one nevertheless. And I shouldn't feel guilty about that.

*This was published in for Mother's Day 2017.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

How to get your start up off the ground

I have a confession to make: I really want to sell something! 

When you're a mommy blogger like me, lots of little mommy businesses ask for help in raising awareness for their brands. I'm always happy to help. As a mompreneur myself (my business is blogging), I know how it feels to want to financially contribute to the family, scratch that creativity itch, and be with the kids all at the same time. It looks great from the outside but it's not so easy to do. So whenever mamas ask me to help them by posting about their product on Instagram or on Facebook, I help. 

But back to my confession. I will confess that starting a brand that sells beautiful and useful things for working moms is a huge dream of mine. Whenever mompreneurs approach me about their brands, I always feel a twinge of envy. Not envy in a bad way, but envy in a "Look at all these amazing women putting up their businesses. When are you putting up yours???" way and sometimes it makes me sad. But then I have to remind myself, "No! You will be inspired! One day, you will finally put up that working-mama brand. One day!" I call this my "inspired envy" emotion. It's a good emotion because it drives me to work harder!

So I've been slowly learning about starting a brand. Not just the flowery and inspirational parts of it because everyone talks about following their dreams but no one talks about funding and BIR and taxes, right? I remember going to a workshop before and this mommy who sells baby stuff was the speaker. And she goes, "Well, I really love expensive things for my babies and no one was selling [this brand] here so I decided to sell it myself." And someone asked, "How did you get funding and the rights to distribute that brand?" And she said back, "Oh, I don't know. My dad took care of everything." 

Sorry but sobrang negative infinity points na siya sa akin. Not inspirational at all. Not encouraging at all. Not helpful at all. May asawa't anak ka na, umaasa ka pa rin kay rich dad for everything. So, in that case, I didn't feel my usual "inspired envy" at all. 

Thankfully, I know more women who started their businesses from their own savings, from asking for a loan from the bank or from their family and friends, or they used their money from their retirement. That's how I started my blogging business, by the way. I relied heavily on my retirement pay from the magazine industry.  

Nowadays, you'll find even more people who can help you start your business. That's because more and more people are turning to running their own small businesses rather than following career paths of employed positions in other people’s businesses. It’s not all too surprising. At the end of the day, who doesn’t want to be their own boss? Plus, the success of online only stores (which are a whole lot cheaper and easier to set up than traditional brick-and-mortar stores) is inspiring, especially to us mommies. So, if you’re planning on creating a start up of your own, there’s no better time than the present. Here are a few things that you will need to cover to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

Funding Your Project
The first thing that you need to secure when it comes to setting up a small business is funding. After all, without cash at hand, how are you going to get the ball rolling? Everything requires investment and ideally you should be able to access the cash quickly rather than having to wait on gathering savings. If you don’t have money behind you from the start, you should consider a business line of credit loan. This will give you access to money within your credit limit as and when you need it, allowing you to pay the sum back in smaller installments down the line!

How do you get a nice bank loan? Well, you must establish good credit. How does one do that? Well, a bank account is a good start. A credit card or two that's always paid in full and on time helps a lot, too. Plus, a good business plan. 

Of course, I'm talking about regular people. There are many other people who have tons of money to throw around and funding is never a problem. If you have friends like those, you can ask them for help. Just make sure you can pay them back!

I'll just make kwento. I was attending a women entrepreneur seminar, and a woman shared how she started her business. "Oh, I went to China and I was bored so I went shopping and charged everything on the credit card and then just told them to ship it home. One month later, my husband called. 'Customs is asking about this shipment! What did you buy that cost me 600,000 yuan?!' [That's P5 million] Haha sorry I don't understand Chinese so I just said yes yes yes to the shop owner. And that's how I became a businesswoman because I had no choice but to sell all those things I ordered!"

Buti pa siya. For us regular folk, we'll have to work harder to get funding. Thankfully, a lot of home businesses don't require a lot of money to put up. You can sell mobile phone load cards. You can buy stuff from Divisoria and sell them online. You can bake extra cupcakes. You can buy extra woven bags from your bakasyon grande sa probinsya niyo (or whatever crafts your hometown is famous for) and sell those. 

If you don't want to get into debt just to start a business, you don't have to start big and expensive. Whatever your funds at hand can buy, then that's what you sell. Just be patient! 

Taking Care of Legal Business
There are all sorts of legalities that come with becoming a small business owner. Depending on where your business is based and where it intends to operate, laws will differ. But generally speaking, there are a few things that every business will require. 

Making Your Biz Legit
When you're making at least P5,000 a month from your business, it's time to register with the BIR. Okay, no one likes paying taxes. I don't know anyone who is thrilled to part with their hard-earned money and give it to a corrupt government. But pay taxes we all must. 

On the bright side, when your business is BIR-legit, it's easier to get more and bigger clients, raise more funds, to scale up, to rent an office/warehouse. When you also pay taxes, it's easier to get visas if you need to travel since an ITR is one of the documents needed to get a visa. As you can see, there are more benefits to paying your taxes so register your business with the BIR and pay your taxes (let Taxumo* do that for you!).    

Business Address
When you register your business with the BIR, you will need an official business address. Ideally, this shouldn’t be your personal address, as it may be required for correspondence and could also be distributed publicly. If you don’t have a commercial property to start with, there are plenty of packages out there that allow you to purchase a physical business address or a PO box. This gives you more privacy.

My business address is my home address but this year, our homeowners association changed their rules and now I need a new business address. It's been very stressful! So if you're about to start a home-based business, look for another place to register with the BIR. Even if it's okay with your condo/village/etc now, it may not be okay in the future and you don't want to go through the hell I'm going through now. Your options are you can ask a friend who has a brick-and-mortar store for help. Just ask her if you can rent a table. Yes! The BIR accepts that! If you don't want to inconvenience a friend, there are virtual offices who offer this service. They'll be your business address and they'll even accept mail and packages for you. 

Open a Separate Bank Account
It’s also likely that you will need to open a business bank account. These accounts offer you the same services that you will be used to with your personal account, but they allow you to deal with more withdrawals, cash more checks, and deal with a generally increased cash flow in and out of your account.They also have the benefit of helping you to separate your personal finances from your professional finances. This makes processes such as tax returns at the end of the year a whole lot less complicated.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property
By the time you’re ready to start selling, you will have put a whole lot of time and effort into creating your brand and products. So you want to ensure that they are protected from theft and reproduction. Protect your intellectual property by copyrighting and trademarking as much of your intellectual property as possible.

These are just a few things that you should consider when you plan to start up your own independent business. But taking care of them sooner rather than later will make the whole process a lot more smooth and simple! Good luck, mamas!

*Use my code FRANCES when you sign up with Taxumo.

**This post contains paid links. Photo from Pexels.