Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hubby wants a new kick-ass camera

Because sooner than we thought, we're having a little one and Vince definitely wants better pictures than this grainy one:

Well, it still took our breath away.

And with that, I'd like to say that this year may have been difficult for us all but God is faithful and good and He keeps pouring down His blessings on us all if we just open our eyes and see the wonder of His hands. Life is pretty amazing! Tomorrow is another year and, for me and Vince, we're already sure it's going to be very very different and full of endless surprises. Well, isn't each day a surprise?

One thing that continues to surprise me and make me happy is how there are so many of you reading this blog! Thank you! You've been a big part of my life, my dear Topaz Horizon readers, and now my life is about to change yet again and if you'd like to join the ride, come along, come along! And if you feel like sending my husband a spankin' brand new Olympus EP-1, why bless your heart!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

My goodness! I know I haven't updated but that's because these past few days have been beyond amazing! I'll tell you more about that later on when the busyness of the season has died down.

So we had Christmas dinner with my Sales family last night. That was the best Sales Christmas dinner so far because the kids outdid themselves--from a musical performance on the marimba by darling Elizabeth and Michael Jackson dance numbers by the irrepressible Zo to a Christmas play written, directed, produced and starred in by Elizabeth, Zo, Kevin, Sean, Auntie Gigi, Mommy Lizelle, Uncle Phil, Uncle Vince and Auntie Frances (with music, effects and scenery helpfully provided by Joe, Uncle Lit and Lola Di!)!!!

Then today was spent with my Amper family. We basically spent all afternoon outdoing ourselves on the Playstation's Rock Band. What incredible fun! I mean, we're such a musical family so Rock Band should be a cinch but oh no, we were so bad!!! But that wasn't what mattered--it was being together again and having a jolly good time.

Ack, no pictures yet. Too sleepy now. Will update as soon as I can. In the meantime, I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and I wish you and your family a Happy (and more prosperous!) New Year!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Out of the woods

I think I'm finally out of a depression. Regular readers, you know I haven't had a good November. Now, I think I can finally explain what happened. A huge opportunity was offered to me the day before my birthday. It's so huge--in terms of prestige and money--that I was, and still am, reeling from it, so dazzled and flattered was I.

This is a good thing, right? Well, it is. But even as I thought about and then finally accepted the new opportunity, I began wondering if I made the right decision. It wasn't actually a done deal yet--I still had to go through some processes--but as I went through each step, I began to get restless. The littlest things upset me. I had a hard time sleeping. I would often find myself sighing and crying quietly but regularly like the maddening dripping from broken kitchen faucets.

I went on shopping sprees (will blog about my new vintage finds soon!). I became more tired than usual. I stopped doing my chores. My clothes and papers started piling up, my mess started creeping from my desk and my side of our bed to the living and dining areas. Vince, very neat and organized Vince, kept quiet but offered gently to help clean up, and I'd say, "No, no, I'll do that myself." But I won't. At work, I projected my happy self. But inside I was feeling unsure and stressed, and couldn't find pleasure in the job I love.

The few who knew about the offer (except OK!'s managing editor Lana and our ninong sa kasal who thought the brand was a dinosaur) was just as dazzled. They said, "Take it! Take it!" And I did! I felt like I grew shinier in their eyes. But as the final interview ended and the Americans said they were "very impressed," I ended that overseas call with a heavy heart, wiped my tears away and looked through OK! magazine and realized I just can't leave it. Not yet. I also wasn't ready to spend 24/7 doing something new--I'm like that: When I'm involved in a new project, I forsake everything else. When my mother died, I haven't seen her in almost 2 months, because I was that busy. I don't want to be that busy again.

So yesterday, after exactly 5 weeks of incredible highs and crushing lows, I turned down the offer. The night before, I alarmed Vince by sobbing my explanation: "I'm happy where I am now. I want to be grateful, not greedy." I think Vince was confused--being a man, he is the conquering type and thought the offer would be a great challenge, which he knew I liked. He also liked the money. Hell, I did, too. But I've always followed my heart, and look where my heart brought me--OK! magazine, my lovely home, and most wonderful of all, my darling husband Vince. My heart told me I wasn't ready to rock this boat. In the end, Vince assured me that he supports my decision. And I know he does, although I think he got frightened by my crying!  

I know I'm crazy to refuse so don't leave comments telling me I'm stupid. I already know that. There's still that ambitious part of me that's screaming in my head in absolute fury. I know opportunities like this don't come traipsing along every day, and I'll just have to live with this decision for the rest of my life. But now that it's done, my agony is over, my insomnia is cured, my world is again at peace.

Maybe now is not the time. Maybe in the future, something just as big will present itself again. Or maybe this means my time in a glamorous job is nearing its end and I should do something else--something not glamorous at all. Whatever the future holds, I only know that what I choose will always be the one that, in the words of that timeless song, will need all the love I can give, every day of my life for as long as I live.

Of course, I'm still thinking about the money I could've gotten. But I'll just have to make more money some other way. Kindly click on my ads then and buy shoes from me!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Behind the scenes of OK!'s Christmas staff shoot

Staff shoot post again! This shoot actually took place months ago (you can see what happened there here, here and here) since we had to take photos of Joanna while her pregnant tummy was still small. You see, we usually have our photos taken a month before the issue comes out. Since this was for the December issue, we had to have the shoot late October, but since Joanna was going to give birth in October, we knew she wouldn't be available so we just shot the Christmas shoot in July. Whew, long sentence there!

Our art director Sonny tells us where to stand and how to pose. The idea was Gossip Girl. Since I never watch that silly show, I have no idea what he's talking about. But when we look at the pics, they tell me we all nailed the GG look.

This is what came out in the magazine... with some major Photoshop editing! The wrinkles and folds of my dress around the stomach area was smoothened (the dress was a size 2 and I'm a 4. I could hardly breathe in it!), Sonny's pants were darkened from blue to black to keep with the color scheme of red, white and black. Joanna's dress came out orange so we color-corrected that and...

... well, since Joanna was hugging her tummy up there, we took her photo from down here, cut it out, pasted it back up there, and removed her baby bump. Yes, that's possible with Photoshop! Since this was coming out in the December issue--and Joanna had given birth by then--we can't have her pregnant! We also extended the mat we're all standing on. The shoes--except my nude pumps and Elaine's studded gladiators--were all borrowed so to prevent scuff marks on the sole, we had to stand on that mat. Sonny, who's not on the mat, had masking tape on the soles of his shoes (you can see the tape peeking out). We digitally removed that, too.

Nikki, OK!'s beauty columnist and our stylist for the shoot, joins us. As our photographer Ocs adjusts the light, we all rest from all the smiling and catch up. We super miss Nikki! She's getting married in a couple of months and we're all buzzing about what we'll wear to her stylish wedding. Meanwhile, doesn't Elaine look so Blair?

There are three things the OK! staff all love: Hollywood celebs, eating and laughing. Our photo shoots are always a nightmare for the photographers because we can't stop laughing. I posted the photo of us looking the least hilarious (of course, I can't let us look silly!).

And here's the entire staff with the team who made us look fantabulous! Want to see the final shot? Pick up OK!'s December issue and you may even get a chance to win the most expensive moisturizer on the planet!

XOXO,

Friday, December 04, 2009

My beauty blog has a new look!

I've seriously neglected Beauty For A Living. I've been buried under a mountain of press kits and beauty products that I really don't know which to feature anymore! So I just ignored my beauty blog. But I checked it out recently and found the template had completely gone on self-destruct. I wonder how long that's been like that! Thank goodness I discovered...

Shabby Blogs has a wealth of the most adorable backgrounds, headers, buttons and cute extras so perfect for my beauty blog! Now Beauty For A Living looks really beautiful. Go visit my pretty blog now!

What's that you said? When will I update Topaz Horizon's inky look? Well, I really don't know. I decided long ago that this blog will be black for the simple reason that black screens consume the least energy. So when you're reading my blog, you're also saving the planet! But yeah, I'm getting pretty bored with it myself. Do you think it's time for a Topaz Horizon makeover, too? I want it to still be black, though, with maybe touches of orange design elements... without it ending up looking like a Halloween blog. If you can help me out, I'll send you a bag of beauty products!

P.S. Is no one going to join my OK! contest? I'm giving away a jar of the most expensive moisturizer on the face of the earth!

Yummy!

Have y'all visited Yummy magazine's spankin' new website? It's gorgeous, filled with fabulous photos of easy recipes you can do in 30 minutes. The best part about it is it's so easy to navigate! My favorite part is the specialized search--type an ingredient and the recipes with that ingredient appear!

So yesterday, Vince told me, "Are we ever going to eat the mozzarella?"

Are we ever going to eat it indeed! I've had that block of soft cheese for a few months now. I popped onto Yummy.ph and decided to make a Linguine with Tomato and Mushrooms. It had all these ingredients (yes, count them and rejoice, oh busy wife!):

Then you just saute them all together in a wok (I like a wok better than a pan):

Then you twirl pasta onto some nice plates, top with the mushroom and tomatoes (I added a few slices of leftover steak):

Then you finish by breaking up pieces of soft creamy mozzarella on top!

That's it! Dinner was amazing--Vincent made googly eyes at me all night and then some! And for that alone, I am a fan of Yummy.ph forever. Go to the site now for recipes that can improve your health, your mood and perhaps even your marriage!

P.S. My friend Mariel is also their food blogger! Yey!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The birthday post!

I know I said I had a very stressful November--my birthday month!--but do know that I had a wonderful wonderful wonderful birthday because of my husband. Vince gave me my blender! And a clothes steamer, too! These may not sound very romantic to you women out there who prefer diamonds and trips abroad but if you're a homemaker/career woman like me, believe me, it's the home gadgets that you'll scream over!

Vince, thank you for my silver Osterizer and for now drinking yogurt smoothies against your will yet you do so happily for me. Thank you also for the clothes steamer and for bearing with me and the mountains of clothes to be pressed that now no longer exist because of your wonderful gift. Thank you also for my beautiful tulips and for telling me that I am even more beautiful than the gorgeous flowers. I had a great birthday. Thank you!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It is time for war

I am a huge fan of Lord of the Rings. I have a deep love and respect for this mighty work, both the books and the movies. While I love all the characters, I have a special fondness for Theoden, King of Rohan. He is a man of peace but when that peace was threatened, he became a man of war. These days, his words ring true for us Filipinos. Listen.

"So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?"

"Tonight we remember those who gave their blood to defend this country. Hail the victorious dead!"
  
"We shall have peace... We shall have peace, when you answer for the burning of the Westfold, and the children that lie dead there! We shall have peace, when the lives of the soldiers, whose bodies were hewn even as they lay dead against the gates of the Hornberg, are avenged! When you hang from a gibbit for the sport of your own crows, we shall have peace!"

"Arise, arise, Riders of Theoden! Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter! Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered, a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises! Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!"


Today marks the seventh day of the Maguindanao Massacre. To the government--both in power and those running in the upcoming elections--we are watching you. To the suspects who are still at large, we will hunt you down. There shall be no peace while the blood of 57 murdered people cry out for justice. There shall be no peace!

UPDATE: The body count is now 64. 

Monday, November 30, 2009

In the classroom again

I don't know if you know but I'm a teacher. I started by teaching Sunday School. I was also a preschool teacher ten years ago. Today, I may be a magazine editor but I still teach my staff (and other magazine staff!) about making a magazine. It comes very naturally to me, teaching. I like getting knowledge and I like sharing it as well. And I've been blessed that some people have actually called me their mentor. That's such a big role and to be called one is amazing!


So when Theodore P, a DLSU student, requested that I visit their college class and give a talk about the celebrity magazine industry, I was excited. And nervous. Well, part of the jitters came from looking blotchy because of an allergic reaction to an acne treatment facial I had a few days before the talk, but I was nervous because I haven't been in a classroom as a teacher for so many years. Thankfully, the allergy subsided the day before my talk.

When I entered the classroom and everyone started taking their seats, I felt a tad more comfortable. But it was when there were a few latecomers that burst in--this is a pet peeve!--the old Teacher Frances snapped back and I was in business.


I had a lot of fun at my talk. Theodore warned me that their professor can be intimidating and will grill me about magazines. I assured him I'd be fine; she may be teaching it but I'm living it. And at the talk, their professor was such a sweetheart! She and her class asked a lot of very good questions. They were difficult questions, too (I love difficult questions!), which says a lot about their level of interest and intelligence. I could've gone on and on and on but, alas, we only had an hour and a half.


Well, I found the experience so invigorating that I really don't mind doing it again! It's so lovely to be surrounded by young people. They're so beautiful and they don't even know it. Remember when I said that my hubby says I can still be mistaken for a college student? I used to believe him until I actually saw hundreds of college students at the DLSU campus. They're so young and perfect--the bright eyes, the taut skin, the shiny hair, the swift grace of limbs, the refreshing unsophistication and (I envy most of all), the flat tummies!



If you're a student (or a teacher) and would like to have me over and talk to your class, drop me an email! If I have time, I'd be glad to go. To Theodore, Bianca and Pau, thank you for inviting me to your class. I really enjoyed myself and I'm glad your class had fun, too. I wish we had more time, though! I'll keep an eye on you three--I have a feeling you'll be big names in the media one day!




Friday, November 27, 2009

Celebrate life!

While this indeed has been a terrible month, I do want to say that life is still a most wondrous thing. Like the rest of the country, I am saddened and outraged by the unfolding horror story of the Maguindanao massacre, but there are also stories of triumph I will not ignore.
First, Manny Pacquiao made sports history--winning seven world titles in seven weight divisions. Sure, his triumph was tainted by allegations of an affair with a certain plain starlet (Manny, take notes from Brad Pitt--if you must leave your wife, make sure you're leaving her for someone spectacular. It doesn't make it less despicable but, as Angelina has smugly proved, it makes it almost reasonable), but Manny is now a true international supernova. I don't think anyone in the Philippines can claim that!

Second, CNN honored Efren Penaflorida as their Hero of the Year. I voted for Efren, not because he was a fellow Filipino but because I truly believe in his work. As you may know about me, I came from a poor family but because my parents valued education, I've come a long, long way.

Efren brings the classroom to poor children. Not only does he teach them reading, writing and arithmetic, he also teaches them about hygiene. This is very important! I heard that Efren's really tough about cleanliness. Is that necessary? Yes! Keeping yourself clean and well groomed means you value yourself and the people you relate with. There can be no progress if there is no respect--for oneself and for others. So by teaching kids to be clean, he's taught them the most important thing of all: respect. Bravo, Efren!

CNN also awarded Efren's efforts with USD 125,000. That's PHP 5.9 million! And he's pouring all of that money into his Dynamic Teen Company. I hope he can build a place with a roof and nice sturdy contemporary furniture. Because he operates out of a pushcart, rainy days, of which there are many in this tropical country, can be a big deal. But a school with walls, a roof and a library, oh, that would be heaven!

Third, Ismael Mangudadatu, whose wife and relatives were the main focus of the barbaric attack last Monday, today filed for candidacy for the gubernatorial position that had cost him grievous loss. He had been threatened in the most unimaginable way for pursuing this post and, instead of fleeing for his life, he continues to bravely oppose the Ampatuan clan, current rulers of Maguindanao and believed to be the masterminds of the massacre.

Today, he rode down that same road where 57 innocent people, which included his family, journalists and travelers, were butchered just four days ago. It was lined by people, their fists clenched and raised in support and defiance. Ismael was encouraged and said, "I hope this will be the start of our liberation."

The Maguindanao tragedy may have diminished us all but because of Manny, Efren, Ismael and the rest of us who still toil on to make this earth a better place, hope springs eternal. And life will still be a cause for celebration. Mabuhay ang Pilipino!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mourning in November

My favorite month in all the year is November. It's my birthday month and I love getting older. I usually spend the entire month celebrating.

But this year is different. First, Galady was fading away. Then she died.

Then I was also sick for a good two weeks, on my birthday in fact, which meant I had to hide away from the world. Being sick that long made me think that growing older isn't so nice after all. Then various aches and pains manifested themselves--a chronic pain in my right forefinger's joints, feeling gassy and tummy achy, the usual headaches, a strange feeling of emptiness in my sinuses. I wonder why this is happening all of a sudden. I do have a hormonal imbalance (I've been looking up bioidentical hormone replacement. Austin, Texas has a facility that offers it) and I haven't been back to my doctors for my usual check-ups. That's because I've been feeling invincible these past two years. Now, at just 33 years old and 19 days, I feel old and tired.  

Then some intrigues happened. I won't explain further but I'm hoping that that's finally done.

Then a truly horrible event in my country occurred just this Monday. In Maguindanao, a province way down south, at least 54 people were massacred for election-related reasons. The killing of one person in cold blood is horrific; imagine seeing bodies upon bodies piled on top of each other. The women were mutilated and sexually abused before they were riddled with bullets. The men were shot multiple times, too. Then there were people who just happened to be driving by--they were gunned down, too. This was no simple execution.

Seeing the earth by that sad roadside reddened by so much blood, I can actually feel my own blood responding, curdling in my veins, pounding in my head. The horror, the shock and the outrage I feel, that my countrymen feel and the world feels... This is just beyond comprehension.


After such knowledge, what forgiveness?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Excited to give a talk!

My dearest Topaz Horizon readers, I know I haven't been updating as often as I usually do. Been melancholy since Galady died and also been busy entertaining Matilda who is now a lonely wabbit. Then there's stuff happening at work (sorry, can't disclose) but suffice it to say that these have been interesting times. And if you're Chinese, you know that that's actually not a good thing!

Hello, my name is Mozzarella. I'm Frances' teddy bear.



I'm also going on a hypoallergenic diet. Had a bad allergic reaction to a facial this weekend (the seaweed mask did it). So I should avoid everything that I'm allergic to so that my skin won't get worse. So good-bye chicken, eggs, seafood, milk, chocolates, citrus fruits and everything else that makes life worth living!!! Man, I really hate hypoallergenic diets! Some people recommend a complete colon cleanse to flush away all the allergens in my system but I'll stick to drinking water. I just had my last two squares of brownies actually and, at dinner, a few sips of spicy chicken soup. Yum! So now I'm itchy again but... only for tonight. Tomorrow and for the next week, I'll be good.

This is what Frances looks like when she's blogging.

No pictures obviously. So my darling Mozzarella will pretend to be moi. Indeed I look ghastly. Splotchy and red. So upsetting since I'm giving my first ever classroom talk on Wednesday. I'm sooooo excited! Except that I look like a cooked lobster so now I'm not so excited to face a roomful of students as the representative of the glamorous world of magazines. No way can anyone look glamorous with a swollen, red, bumpy face. But they invited me because of my credentials not because of my skin or the clothes I wear. Still, please pray my skin will calm down by tomorrow.

I'm really excited about my talk. It will be in De La Salle University and I'll be telling some college kids all about the celebrity magazine industry. And, honey, y'all know I love my job! Goodness, it's like being paid to eat candy really. Ya, some days it's cloying, some days it's sickening but most days, life is oh so sweet. And to tell kids about it is really something I'm looking forward to.

Now the question is what shall I wear? I wanted to wear my usual skinny jeans-comfy tee-and-sexy heels combo but my hubby says I should look professional. But that's what I wear when I go to work! Vince says I should put on the arsenal of dress, heels and makeup so I won't look like a student. Aww, ain't he sweet? He thinks I can still pass as a student! I love you, Vince!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chuck!!! Chuck!!! Chuck!!!

Forget about Christmas! I suddenly can't wait for this year to end! January 10 never felt so far away! Chuck is baaaaaaack!!!



Sigh. I'm so excited! Chuck and Sarah's budding love affair (and sexual chemistry!) is like a nice heated blanket on a bitterly cold day. Makes me feel all warm and toasty from head to toe. And is it just me or is Chuck getting cuter and Sarah's getting hotter? Is that even possible??? Love Chuck! The countdown has begun! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Now this is one "twilight" I like

I am now in the process of making my wish list for Christmas. A Wii maybe so that I can be encouraged to do some exercises, a Philip Stein Teslar watch so that my headaches and stress will be tick tocked away, a pair of Jewelmer pearl earrings and the pink Sony Cybershot TX1. I know. That's some wish list! Gosh, I need to make more money to buy myself these expensive things!!!

Vince and I love this commercial for the Sony Cybershot TX1:


We love the song--it's called "Firefly" and we really want to know who sang it and if it's a full song.

UPDATE: The wonders of Google led me to Emma Pask, an Australian Jazz singer. She sang at Nicole Kidman's wedding! Anyway, she sang this especially for the Sony TVC. So it's as short as that. What a shame. I love that song! Here are the lyrics:
When the twilight sings, it's washed away
Way by the sea, open up your eyes
Believe the dream
You see how I feel
That feeling something's just not real
We are drifting through the stars
Floating here to Mars
Believe the dream

Wow. That did not make any sense at all. It's like something you'd find on Japanese stationery. I love it! Anyway, the camera will be loved for its ability to capture sharp and clear images at night. They call it "handheld twilight" and this feature allows you to take photos at night without the need for a flash! I need this! My photos with flash are always washed out and ugly.

Sony!!! If you're reading this, please send me a TX1 (pink please)! I live in a Sony world--PSP, PS2, PS3, e-Book Reader, Sony Ericsson phones, voice recorder, camera, Bravia... I really really want the TX1 (and the star pendant in the commercial, too!).


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Vince and Galady

Well, what do you know, it's almost Christmas. The pink tree is up, the gifts are starting to collect under it and I'm going through the first of many Christmas party invitations. It's a bit sad that we won't have our Christmas mascot around this year, though. Well, we'll have to force Matilda to pose for pics then!
Galady is actually Vince's baby girl. I was just the adopted mom so Vince was very sad when Galady passed away. He was really heartbroken. Still is. And he wanted me to add these photos of them so you all see how much he loved Galady:

I love both their noses!

Vince misses his fat stuffed toy...

... and his super soft pillow!

I try but I just can't compete with
her huggableness and photogenic talent!

Poor Galady wanted that cabbage leaf very much!

Look at how round she was! That's why seeing her so thin and old really killed us. Vince has tons more photos of his baby girl. But I guess that'll be all for now. Hope you don't mind the photo tributes to Galady. It's just hard for us to let go...

Uniquely Singapore: I spent P10,000 on food and food alone!!!

Let's continue with our Uniquely Singapore Series, shall we? This is me at the Royal Selangor cafe in Singapore having chai and a siopao. This was my breakfast. The siopao was so tiny, I almost wanted my money back. It's a good thing the chai was amazing. Rich and bitter and sweet and full-bodied. Wonderful way to start any day!

When you're in Singapore, you have to try the chili crab. That's what everyone told me and, because I always have to eat the best when I'm somewhere new, I let my friend Ana (that's her in black in the middle of the photo) lead me to No Signboard. That's the name of the restaurant. And if it looks like a posh place, then your eyes aren't deceiving you.
This chili crab was the bomb. It looks tiny in the photo but the crab was actually as huge as a dinner plate. It was also frikkin' expensive. I literally felt the crab crawl up my esophagus when I saw the bill. I just slipped my credit card to the waitress, hoping my husband won't kill me. When I did get home, still stuffed with crab and the amazing mushroom salad, and told Vince about my wildly expensive meal, he said, "Was the crab good?"

"Unbelievably good."

He smiled, "Well then, that's okay."

OMG. I tell you I have the best husband. Ever!!!


It's a good thing then that the chili crab was last on my to-eat-in-Singapore list because I still had a huge appetite for these:
Marinated Smoked Tuna
with Feta and Balsamic Olive Oil salad


Light Cream of Asparagus with Green Peas
topped with Chive Mousseline


Rosemary Marinated Chicken Breast
with Saffron Cheesy Mash Potato


Praline Hazelnut Gateau with Raspberry Jelly
These were all served at the Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards. And they were all a delight. Thanks to Franny Haw for the photos!

Now, not all of my meals were so haughty. We bloggers feasted on the hawker stuff--cheap and edible but not exactly the kind that would make your eyes roll in ecstasy, like this bland pork rice topping meal I had (I could tell Anton Diaz was disappointed with my safe choice!).But that nasty-looking crab that's insanely priced? Heaven. I spent an indecent amount on that crab. Well, it was worth it!

I would like to thank Nuffnang and the Singapore Tourism Board for this Uniquely Singapore Series.