Saturday, May 28, 2016

10 ways I keep my home healthy

This post is brought to you by Biogenic Alcohol.

Hi everyone! I wanted to ask—because it's a Saturday today—what do you do on weekends? I know people usually unwind on weekends, go to the mall, visit family, watch a movie. In my home, we clean. Yes. We clean. Especially my husband. He goes on a crazy cleaning blitzkrieg on weekends.

Why do we clean on weekends? First, we don't have an office job so we're home pretty much all week long so we do maintenance chores every day. On weekends, that's when we do the deep clean. Second, our household help goes home on weekends so we really have no choice but to clean the house ourselves. Plus, we like it that she's gone so we can really inspect the house.

If I'm giving off this impression that our house is squeaky clean, well, no. With three kids aged 5 and below, a spotless house is impossible. Impossible!!! But we try, we try. Most days, we keep the mess at bay. But we do have certain rules that must be followed so that our home is clean and happy and healthy. Here are my 10 rules:

1. Go barefoot. Most Asian homes practice leaving shoes at the door. This is a good way to prevent dirt and germs picked up from the outside world from entering our home. We have shoe cabinets by the hallway so that shoes are packed away as soon as we come home.

2. Wash hands. We wash hands as soon as we get home. I even wash hands before I hug my kids. Although that makes them feel a bit bad, that I go to the washroom first instead of hugging them when they greet me at the door. So now, while I'm in the elevator zooming up to our floor, I get my Biogenic from my purse and sanitize my hands just so I'm germ-free before I knock on our door.

3. Clean as you go. Life with small children inevitably means there will be sticky, cruddy, smelly and yuck-what-the-hey-is-this?! surfaces everywhere. I have learned that instead of falling into deep despair over the state of my household, I should equip every room with wet wipes and alcohol and attack said mysteriously scary surfaces.

4. Wipe switches and door knobs with alcohol. These are usually forgotten and neglected parts of our home. But if you really think about it, light switches and door knobs are frequently touched; therefore, they are breeding ground for germs and bacteria. Wipe with alcohol!!!

5. Use alcohol after washing butts. I learned this the hard way. I usually just wash my hands quickly after washing poop from my kids' butts. It's my husband who is more meticulous. He'd not only wash his hands thoroughly, he'd also sanitize with alcohol. But when we were toilet-training one child and poop was everywhere, I must've not cleaned my hands well because I suffered two weeks of debilitating stomach nightmares. I have been more careful since!

6. Wash food before storing. Here's a tip: Before putting away the grocery, wash the fruits and vegetables first. This way, when your kids raid the fruit basket and you're not there to wash the fruit they want, you can rest assured that the apple they're munching on is already clean.

7. Wash hands before, while, and after cooking. Especially while cooking! I used to just throw a towel over my shoulder and then wipe my hands on it after I peel something, mix marinades, chop veggies and meat. But when I became a mother, there are now many occasions where I need to go out of the kitchen to inspect a crash or to separate little boys fighting and wrestling. I really cannot touch my sons if my hands have oil, garlic, or—worst of all—blood on them.

8. Colorful meals. I'm really trying to add more color to our meals. Pediatricians and nutritionists say there should be at least three colors from the rainbow at every meal, with an emphasis on greens! I've added salads and soups and while my kids are resisting the vegetables, they like soups and don't protest too much when their Papa and I mince veggies and mix them with their rice. Yey!

9. Encourage lots of fun. My husband and I love giving our children with our 24/7 presence and lots of presents, too. The toys, books, games, and experiences are necessary because we spend soooo much time with them. We need to fill the days with fun. A happy heart does good for the soul and for the body!

10. Hugs! I have three sons and I want them to be hugged and kissed so much, their hearts will be so full of love. Loved-up boys will grow up to be secure, peaceful, emotionally strong men. And that's all I really want them to be,

There you go! Ten rules! Well, I have more tips and tricks but I gave you 10 because this week, my blog turned 10 years old so I'm a bit obsessed with the number. If you have more tips on how you keep your home clean and healthy, do share in the comments below. My favorite ones get a Biogenic gift pack from me!


To know more about how Biogenic helps us mommies, like their Facebook page, Official Biogenic Alcohol. You can also follow them on Instagram at @Biogenic_Alcohol and hashtags #BiogenicAlcohol and #MyBiogenicWorld.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

NEW SERIES! Blog Biz: 10 questions about my blogging career

Today is the 10th anniversary of Topaz Horizon!!!

TEN YEARS!!!


Well, I started blogging in 2005 over at Friendster so this year marks my 11th year as a blogger. But since the Friendster blog was private, I never considered it as a blog. More like brain farts for my family and friends. Then Friendster announced it was going to charge for blogs. Someone told me Blogger was free so I moved out of Friendster. My first Topaz Horizon blog post was published on Blogger on May 24, 2006.

Now here we are. It's been an amazing 10 years, people!!!

Over the years, I've gotten many questions on how to have a blogging career, and I've always dismissed these questions with a laugh. I still can't believe I have a blogging career! But I've listed down the frequently asked Qs and decided I'm going to finally answer them. I mean, it's been 10 years!

Blogging in 2009 on my beloved HP Mini!
1. How did you start blogging?
Since I was a little girl, I've always wanted to be a newspaper columnist. I thought columnists were the coolest people. They had enough clout and smarts to be given a regular space to say what they think. How powerful that is!

In 2006, I was asked to be a contributor to Inquirer's Lifestyle section, which was under new editorship. I knew it was the foot in that I needed! I was so excited! But in 2006, I had just become the editor-in-chief of this wonderful new magazine called OK!, a Hollywood entertainment title. My publisher told me, ever so gently but firmly, that I needed to focus on OK!. So I declined Inquirer and focused everything I had on growing OK! because my publisher was right.

Still, I was a bit heartbroken. Okay, a lot heartbroken. So a friend told me I should try blogging. She said, "It's just like writing an opinion piece for a newspaper but better because you set your own topics and deadlines and you get feedback from your readers immediately." "Why is that?" "There's this feature called a comments section. It's addicting!"

And she was right. After I published my first post here on Topaz Horizon and then got my first comment, I was hooked. I still get a high ten years after. Thank you for all your comments!  

2. Why did you turn your blog into an income-generating business?
Two years into blogging, I heard that people can earn money from their blogs. Back then, the revenue came from text links and Google ads. Then digital advertising agency Nuffnang invited me and a few other bloggers to Singapore for a blogging conference. I was blown away when I met bloggers from all over Southeast Asia and Australia. They were earning so much money, it was crazy! A college student just bought a new car. Another young person quit her banking job. Another one was earning $2500 a week from Google ads. And another one practically had her entire life—from bottled water and food to her house and the appliances in it—sponsored!

I remember coming home to my 10- to 14-hour magazine job that paid P35,000 a month and feeling confused and angry. I'm a writer, an editor and a journalist. Every word I write must earn money. That was my job. At the conference, they called blogging the new media and it was sucking up advertising budgets from print media. I decided then and there in 2008 that it was time to shift careers.

3. When did your blog start making money?
My blog started making money through text links about a year after I created it. It was the easiest thing: I signed up for PayU2Blog and every week, it assigned me words or phrases that linked to an advertiser's website. I got paid $5 per link. Because I was prolific, I earned about $20 to $30 a month. Not much but I used the extra money to shop online.

In 2008, Nuffnang started giving me a few assignments. All I needed to do was write about a product or experience. This was called a sponsored post. I earned about P12,000 a month and that went on for about four years. In 2012, I retired from magazine publishing when OK! was discontinued, killed off by the new media called entertainment bloggers. With nothing to do, I focused on blogging... and what a payoff. Now my blog is a registered business!

Blogging was easier when I didn't have kids haha. This was in 2010, when I was about to give birth to Vito!
4. How does your blog make money?
My blog earns mainly from sponsored posts, a few ad placements now and then, and brand ambassadorships. I also earn from sponsored social media posts. My blogging career coupled with my magazine experience have recently landed me new gigs as speaker at events for working women and moms. I also do workshops about blogging, beauty and social media.

I don't earn gazillions (as of now, I am still a non-VAT entity so that means I'm earning a modest sum) but we're happy blogging allows me to stay home and be a mommy.

5. What's the best thing about blogging?
The people I've met and become friends with. Yes, the money is nice. The freebies, too. The experiences are cool also. But to be very honest I love the people I've met through my blog. From moms and homemakers just like me to celebrities and the most fascinating personalities!

But the ones I appreciate most are the Loyal Readers who congratulated me through my wedding and with each pregnancy and birth, helped me mourn my mother, laughed at my silly stories, cried when I was sad, mended my broken spirit, and prayed for me and my family throughout the years. Some of you Loyal Readers became my friends in real life. Some of you love me and my sons like we were your own family. Thank you! Family is the best thing I got from blogging!

6. What don't you like about blogging?
Well, if there are good people out there, there are bad people, too. Thank goodness they are few. And that's all I'll say about it!

7. How do you feel about bloggers' bad reputation?
The crazy thing about blogging is it's not a professional world. Anyone can blog. You don't need a degree or apprenticeship or years of experience. That makes it a wonderful medium, but it also attracts people who have no idea about journalistic practices like editing, checking facts, citing sources, respecting intellectual property, keeping one's integrity when faced with advertisers who will bribe your opinion, and basically not being a libellous asshole.

Bad bloggers, like the proverbial rotten apples, do spoil the whole barrel. But I don't want to lump them all together. Some PR agencies these days also don't have good training. Instead of building relationships with media (bloggers included), they just treat all bloggers as uncouth, unprofessional people with no real jobs. I've had to be curt with certain agencies, for example, and the next thing I heard I'm a snob. Woah. All I said was I can't work with certain brands since I don't use the product or I can't attend their event because I need to be with my children. My being forthright made some people think badly of me. So now when I hear that a blogger behaved badly, I reserve judgment. It could be not entirely that blogger's fault. Of course, some bloggers do behave badly but let's not go there!
Blogging is easier now with smart phones and social media.

8. What's your advice to new bloggers?
Blog because you love sharing your life with people. Don't blog because you want to earn money. You won't see money till maybe after a year of blogging. Don't blog because you want to be famous. Readers, brands and technology are fickle. You're hot stuff today, tomorrow your social media world is suddenly an empty wilderness. So your motivation to blog should just be love! Money or no money, many readers or just a few, you do it for the fun of it. You'll enjoy it no matter what. And that's the only thing that will sustain you—joy!

9. What's your advice for longtime bloggers in a rut?
Same as above! Just remember the reason why you started blogging—and if you're a longtime blogger like me, that means you started your blog when it wasn't an income-generating venture. Find a purpose in your blogging so that every blog post is a mission accomplished!

10. What are your future plans for your blogging career?
I don't know how long this will last, to be honest. It's been really fun watching where the blog is taking me. I'm now being booked for speaking engagements and workshops, for example. I have appeared in an ad, which still boggles my mind. Right now, even though it's my main source of income, I treat blogging not as my career really but as a stepping stone to something else. Maybe I can do more speaking engagements! Maybe I can do a TV show! Maybe I can write a book! Or maybe I can suddenly just stop blogging and become a concert pianist.

Where did that come from?!

I do have plans for the blog on my 10th year. Introduce a series on a parenting advocacy—mothering boys. Write posts that support working moms. And, as this first Blog Biz post is doing, share what I've learned about blogging every other month to help other people find success in this medium. Blogging has been very good to me. I want it to be good to everyone!

Thanks for reading Topaz Horizon, dear Loyal Readers! You are THE BEST! The very very best. I thank the Lord for every reminder of you. And I have 10 years' worth of reminders. God bless you!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Meet the Biogenic Mom Squad!

This post is brought to you by Biogenic Alcohol.

I'm so so so excited to announce that I'm a Biogenic Mommy!


Naks! I'm in an ad. Kung kelan ako malapit na mag-kwarenta, dun pa ako naging mowdel. I'm thrilled!

Biogenic Alcohol chose three moms to be their ambassadors: (from right) makeup artist, beauty resource person and beauty blogger Nikki Tiu of AskMeWhats; model, fitness enthusiast and lifestyle blogger Jackie Go of Go, Jackie Go!; and magazine editor, digital PR/marketing entrepreneur, lifestyle speaker, and mom blogger me. They liked that we keep ourselves on our toes even as we're busy with our families.

I think Nikki, Jackie and I are the typical modern mom. I feel like all the moms I meet now are multi-hyphenate. It doesn't seem to be enough that we're mothers; we're also busy pursuing passions, earning income from little projects here and there, and being actively involved in our own communities. The moms now are really so amazing. Sometimes when I get overwhelmed with the stuff I do, I look at other moms and get inspired again to not give up and to do more. Not because it's a competition but because I want to squeeze out everything that life has to offer!

I'm glad I can do all this and still be with my kids almost 24/7. I feel very very lucky. I'm glad I can work and be a mommy at the same time. Much like how Biogenic takes care of me and my family—it does its job by killing germs and disinfecting everything my kids touch and yet it takes care of us by being gentle on our skin. Biogenic and mommies. Perfect together!

I gave away BABY Magazine to everyone at the shoot. Please grab a copy, too!

As a busy mommy, I love that Biogenic comes in convenient packaging. Spray bottles in big and small sizes!!! So I have Biogenic bottles in the entry hall, in the kitchen, by the dining table, in the bathrooms, on my work desk, and of course in the diaper bag and my kikay kit. And now that it's almost pasukan na, I'm packing a small Biogenic spray bottle in the grooming kits of my sons. Biogenic everywhere! Amoy Biogenic na kami, sa totoo lang. My kids love it. I love it!

Okay, I got kilig again about my new brand ambassadorship! Lemme share with you a couple more photos from the shoot. Here are some behind-the-scenes shots:


To know more about how Biogenic helps us mommies, like their Facebook page, Official Biogenic Alcohol. You can also follow them on Instagram at @Biogenic_Alcohol and hashtags #BiogenicAlcohol and #MyBiogenicWorld.


Here's the photo Biogenic used for our print ad that's coming out in magazines next month. Guys, may print ad na ako! Pwede ko nang sabihin I'm a mowdel hahaha But seriously, I'm happy to be representing a brand that moms can trust, and I'm glad I'm endorsing Biogenic with moms you can also trust—Nikki and Jackie, two of the nicest and super-in-love-with-their-kids mommies I've ever met! Find out more about us Biogenic moms by following this special hashtag: #BiogenicMomsReveal on Instagram! See you there!


*photos by Mark Lao of Trio Photography

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Topaz Horizon x Belo Baby giveaway!!!

This post is brought to you by Belo Baby.

My boys are currently using the Belo Baby products I took home from the launch event Piero and I attended a few weeks ago. Well, we've used the Hair and Body Wash, Face and Body Lotion, and colognes. The bar soap, not yet.

Iñigo loves all the colognes!

I like that the Belo Baby line is made of all natural ingredients, specifically shea butter, cocoa butter and sweet almond oil. I like that there are no allergic reactions, that the boys' skins are clean and soft, and that they smell so delicious. Buttery and creamy. Mmmm!

So in our experience, Belo Baby has been true to its motto: “Crafted with care for the most delicate skin, for the most meticulous moms.”

Now your babies can experience Belo Baby, too!


Belo Baby is giving me three (3) sets to give away to my Instagram followers. Each set includes Belo Baby Bar Soap, Belo Baby Hair and Body Wash, and Belo Baby Face and Body Lotion. My mechanics are super simple and super cute and I suggest you join soonest! 

Here's all you need to do:

1. Post a photo of you and your baby on your Instagram account. Kailangan cute kayo! 
2. Tell me why you want your baby to experience Belo Baby.
3. Use these hashtags: #BeloBabyLove and #THxBeloBaby.
4. Tag me (@francesasales).
5. Tag Belo Baby (@belobabylove).

That's it! 

I'll pick three (3) Philippines-based winners who will win Belo Baby products. What's my criteria? Basta super ako natuwa dahil cute and creative ang post, panalo na! I'll announce the winners here and on Instagram on June 3, 2016. 

Ang saya-saya! Sali na! I want to see your cute babies and I want them to be a Belo Baby like my babies. Good luck!

To know more about Belo Baby, visit www.belobaby.ph. You can also like their Facebook page (belobabylove), where you can watch the Belo Baby Journey, starring Scarlet Snow, the new baby girl of Dr. Vicki Belo and Hayden Kho. It is such a cute video! You may also follow @belobabylove on Twitter and Instagram.

Belo Baby is available at leading supermarkets, groceries and department stores. You can also buy Belo Baby online from Lazada, Cudsly and Zalora. Just click the shops' names to shop.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My boys in the summer collection of MANGO Kids

This post is brought to you by MANGO Kids.

My sons are enjoying summer inside our home. Yep, because of the too-hot climate, I've decided to keep them indoors and only let them out either really early or almost at sunset. And even then I tell them to retreat because I've never seen them so thirsty, sweaty, flushed and tired. I'm scared of heatstroke so... Yeah, been keeping them at home and just filling their lazy days with fun things to do.

When we do go out, I make sure they're ready for the heat. Stylishly ready! And I'm super liking the clothes we got from MANGO Kids. Check out the outfits I put together for Vito, Iñigo and Piero:

The shirts are soft and light cotton material. Love the designs, too!
Shorts are light to wear, too. Waists are adjustable.
Here are the outfits for Vito:

Here are the outfits for Iñigo:

Here are the outfits for Piero:

And here are the boys wearing their MANGO Kids summer outfits:

So handsome! So presko! So stylish!

MANGO Kids has branches at SM Mall of Asia, Ayala Center Cebu, BF Paranaque, Trinoma, Glorietta, Eastwood Mall and SM Megamall.

Enjoy shopping, moms and dads! There’s a ton of super cute stuff for boys and girls. Lots of cute stuff for the girls actually! Every time I'm at MANGO Kids, I find myself checking out the girls' section and wondering, "Why don't they make these in my size!?"

Monday, May 16, 2016

Iñigo is 4! What fun!

My dearest darling beautiful bunny rabbit Iñigo turned 4 last week and we had the most fantabulous day!

First, it started out with Iñigo oohing and ahhhing at the birthday decorations we put up. This year, we let our Lightning McQueen party decor rest and we used Avengers instead. The birthday boy was impressed!

His cake was a simple Red Ribbon cake that I decorated with an Iron Man mask. That was Vince's idea. Which he said was actually Iñigo's idea. So we gave him what he wanted! He was thrilled!

When I asked him what his birthday wish was, he said, "Iron Man!" Then he said we made his wish come true and pointed to the mask on his cake. Oh, birthday boy, little did you know that we had more surprises for you!

First, new red shirts! Iron Man, of course. He immediately changed into the hoodie we got him. Isn't that such a cool shirt???

Then because he did still love Cars, we got him a new Mack. He already has two Macks but this one is also a storage unit. It can fit his other cars.

The birthday boy with his Papa. Vince is always the one excited about our kids' birthdays, to be absolutely honest. He's been preparing for Iñigo's birthday for weeks! What a daddy! I love him so much for being such a great father!

Back to Iñigo!

After a big lunch at Cibo—the kids' favorite restaurant after McDonald's hehe—we went to the newly opened Kidzoona at Shangri-La Plaza. The kids had a BLAST! Three hours of FUN!


We have a gazillion photos of the boys enjoying the day. I'll do a different post on that. Today, I just want to honor my beautiful darling Iñigo. He's 4 and he's the sweetest little boy. Always so sensitive to me, always playful, always so full of love and lambing. He grows ever so adorable with each passing year!

Dear Iñigo, thank you for being so happy and loving to me and your Papa, and to your brothers, even the super kulit Piero who gets on your nerves. Thanks for always getting gigil with us. We love how much you love us and aren't afraid to show it!

Our birthday wish for you is perfect health all the days of your life. May you grow in love, wisdom, strength and compassion. We love you so very much! God bless you!

* * * * * * *
To see Iñigo's 3rd birthday, click here (party at home) here (party that was sponsored) and here (for birthday cakes and chocolates).

To see his 2nd birthday, click here.

To see his 1st birthday, click here.

To see his birth day, click here.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A big thanks to all who help moms!

This post is brought to you by SMART Communications.

I've been away from this blog for soooo long! The elections took nearly all my attention, stole away my time, and drained me emotionally. In fact, I almost forgot it was Mother's Day last Sunday. That was how consumed I was with the whole thing! But my husband and my kids surprised me with a sweet card decorated with handmade flowers, and added rabbits to the mix!
I don't want to pack it away. The kids made those flowers themselves.
The rabbits are wall hooks. Because I leave my clothes draped on chairs everywhere 
😝

I'm a lucky girl. I know I keep saying that. Someone told me baka ma-jinx. Ako naman, my belief is if you're not acknowledging your blessings, they'll be taken away. So araw-araw talaga, I look at my husband, my kids, my life and say, "Thank You, God! I don't know what I did to deserve them because You know I don't deserve them, and yet You gave me them. Thank you!"

As a mother, I especially want to honor my husband for being my total partner in parenting. What do I mean by "total"? Well, society has clear-cut definitions of what fathers and mothers should do. Fathers provide and discipline. They should never help with childcare. Mothers take care of the kids and the home. They should never have a career.

In our home, however, Vince and I share all responsibilities. There's no shirking of responsibilities just because gender dictates so. He loves the nurturing part—giving our sons baths, feeding them, and teaching them how to read. I like to do those, too! But many times, I'm spent and Vince always swoops in, always ready with a cuddle and a kiss for me and the boys. Some people think that's a mother's job. If that's how they see it, then thank you, Vince, for not shying away from mothering our boys!

I have friends who are single mothers and they are grateful for the family who swooped in and stood as fathers for their kids. Some even stood as mothers for those times when my single mother friends had to be away to be providers. I have friends who are lucky enough to have found yayas who love their kids. Those are the best kind of yayas because they will care for your kids with their very lives.

Motherhood may be a tough job but I'm glad we have help. Thanks so much to everyone who helps us moms with the mothering. Whether it's our husbands, partners, best friends, mothers and mothers-in-law, sisters and sisters-in-law, brothers and brothers-in-law, neighbors and yayas, God bless the people who share the burden of raising our little ones. 


Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 02, 2016

Learn how to dress your pregnant self stylishly in Mom 101

Happy Mommy's Month!

It's been a very busy past few weeks for me—I have new blog partners and new endorsements! Mother's Month (hehe because we all know we have to appreciate moms all this month!) is just as busy. The scariest part is I have new speaking engagements! I'm frightened and excited at the same time because with my workshops, I usually just speak to 10-20 people. My talks this month have an audience of 120-150!

The first one is this Saturday, at the Mom 101 & Breastfeeding 101 series of St. Luke's Medical Center. This series is by the OBG Department and this weekend's instalment has a summer theme. I'll be talking about how to dress your baby bump stylishly even when it's so hot!



My segment is sponsored by Elin Maternity Wear. I was the first ambassador of Elin way back in 2014. It was so fun to have all my maternity clothes for free! Thanks, Elin! Actually, I still wear Elin because they have clothes for breastfeeding moms, too. And if you check out their site, they have other clothes that moms and non-moms can wear. Shop here: Elin.ph

I hope you can invite your pregnant friends to come spend the day with us on Saturday! Just register through the number stated on the poster above. See you!