Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My creamy and cheesy scalloped potatoes and kangkong recipe

This post is brought to you by US Potatoes.

My family loves potatoes. Mashed potatoes, hashbrowns, potato chips, french fries—my husband and kids devour these! Me, I like potatoes in my favorite dishes: caldereta, menudo, afritada, mechado, nilagang baka. Because potatoes are healthy, I don't mind serving this all the time. So you can probably guess what vegetable I always have on my grocery list! 

During the holidays, my son Iñigo and I saw a recipe on Tasty (Creamy Scalloped Potatoes with Kale) and we decided we were going to try it out. Mostly because we already had most of the ingredients in our pantry and we wanted to try something new with our potatoes. I tweaked the recipe a bit and I want to share it with you because it is so delicious!


Creamy and Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes and Kangkong Gratin

3 medium-sized US potatoes, washed and peeled
4 big bundles of kangkong (leaves only)
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup cheddar cheese, grated
¼ cup bread crumbs

Béchamel Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

1. Make the Béchamel sauce: In a sauce pan, sauté garlic in melted butter over medium heat.
2. Add flour and stir quickly or else it might burn. 
3. When mixture browns a bit, add milk, salt, and pepper. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens.
4. Slice US potatoes about ¼-inch thick. 
5. Pick out the kangkong leaves and shred.
6. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and olive oil over the kangkong and mix gently.
7. In an oven dish, arrange a layer of kangkong, then overlapping potatoes, then the cheeses.
8. Pour half of the Béchamel sauce over the layers.
9. Repeat!
10. Top with bread crumbs. Add more cheese if you like!
11. Bake at 170°C for 30 minutes covered with aluminum foil. 
12. Remove cover then bake an additional 30 minutes till the cheesy breadcrumb topping is golden brown.

Cheese! No need to grate. This will melt to a gooey mess anyway!
Cheese, milk, potatoes... And kangkong! Great combination!

My husband loved it! The kids found it yummy, too. Hooray! Mommy win!

As a mama, I have to be more mindful of what my family eats. Of what I eat! I cook a lot of meat dishes and I really try to add more vegetables to our every meal. It's hard to make the kids eat green stuff but they like broccoli, carrots, corn and potatoes, so I serve these happily! 

I want to add how my three boys will benefit from eating potatoes regularly. Here are the 5 reasons potatoes are good for very active and growing kids (and for my husband, too, who runs for fitness): 

1. Potatoes have no cholesterol and saturated fat. 
A little fat now and then is always a happy thing but a lot of it can cause a whole plethora of problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

2. Potatoes are rich in potassium.
Potassium is good for muscles. Little boys are always flexing, using, stretching their muscles. I know because if I don't control them, they'd destroy my house with all their running, jumping, kicking and punching! Did you know that potatoes with skin have tons of potassium—more than bananas, spinach or broccoli? I didn't! I thought bananas were the king of potassium but maybe that's why potatoes are called POTAtoes because of all that POTAssium! 

3. Potatoes are a good source of fiber.
We need fiber in our diets because it helps our systems work better. Blood sugar is regulated better, weight is managed better, tummy feels full longer, digestive system functions better and cleaner. A medium potato with skin contributes 2 grams of fiber, which provides 8% of the daily value per serving.

4. Potatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is perfect for kids because it helps wounds heal faster—and my kids are always getting scrapes and bumps! Plus, this antioxidant keeps gums healthy, help with iron absorption, and many more! Potatoes provide 45% of our daily nutritional value! eat potatoes! 

5. Potatoes are a good source of Vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 is good for metabolism, making blood, making proteins, making you healthy and keeping you alive basically! And that's what I want my kids to be—alive and healthy!


I'm definitely going to look for more ways to serve potatoes to my family, but in healthier ways. My recipe above is a lot salty, to be honest! Next time, I'll make it with no-fat milk and no salt because the cheeses are salty enough already. For added fiber and nutrients, I also won't peel the skin. These steps should make my potato and kangkong gratin even healthier!

Please share with me your potato recipes, too! If you share it on Instagram, please tag me (@topazhorizonblog) and use the hashtag #USPotatoPowerPH so I can find your recipe! 

Oh, and check out the Potatoes USA-Philippines Facebook page – the official platform of Potatoes USA Philippines to know more about potato nutrition, recipes, upcoming events, and general potato facts.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Questions to ask yourself before you get married

This time ten years ago, I was sick with the flu. Or maybe my wedding jitters were just manifesting as the flu! Anyway, even though I was unwell and stressed out with the wedding countdown (but my friends made me feel better with a surprise bridal shower!), I knew there was one thing I had no doubt about: marrying Vince! I loved that man like nothing else in the world and when we decided to get married, I felt a peace that I had never felt before.

Over the years, my blog readers have emailed me asking about my wedding suppliers, for a copy of my misalette, and many other questions. The one I love and dread the most is "How did you know you were ready to get married?" I love it because I have never been so sure of anything in my life! I dread it because when people ask, that already means they're not ready to get married yet and I don't know to tell them that! 

How did I know I was ready to get married? There were many factors that decided it for me (detailed below), other than the fact that I loved Vince. Honestly, love isn't a good enough reason to walk down that aisle. If love was the only reason for marriage, then what do you do if the love fades or even goes away? It sometimes does, you know, when the drudgery of work suffocates you both and the children overwhelm a marriage. What happens when you fall for someone else? Or when you're far apart and can't love each other with affection and service? Marriage isn't about feelings. It's about commitment, family, duty. Love makes those easier, but if you can't commit, if you don't want to be part of a family, and if you have no honor to fulfill your duties, then you shouldn't get married.  

If he's someone you really, really like, that really, really helps!

Now let's say you're already engaged. Should you busy yourself with the wedding? Of course, but don't get distracted from your upcoming lifetime commitment. This is the time you should be seriously evaluating yourself, your fiancé, and your relationship. Most couples are surprised to find that their engagement period is one of the hardest times together. Not only do you have a wedding to plan but you’re also contemplating the reality of a future with your partner. Plus, this is usually when you're spending lots of money and time with each other's family. The stress of it can be overwhelming. As long as the stress is all coming from the outside and not from each other, you should be fine! 

Anyway, I wanted to share with you the questions that played on my mind when I got engaged and maybe, if you're also wishing to get married, you should ask yourself these things before your wedding happens!

Are Your Finances Secure?
Let’s face it—love won't keep you alive. No matter how romantic that song goes, you can't survive on sex, hugs and kisses. You got to eat, you need a roof over your head, you got to pay the bills. You don't have to be rich, but you and your fiancé shouldn't be irresponsible either. Can you live on your own? Can you support a family? If kids aren't in the plans, can you support your dreams? 

Money affects a marriage profoundly. When you feel insecure or even afraid because the bills are piling up, creditors are knocking on your door, your kids aren't eating enough, or you can't afford the doctor or proper treatment when the kids are sick, your marriage will crumble. Marriages aren't built on money, sure, but they are built on a strong foundation of duty. Part of that duty is to provide for each other. 

During your engagement, you can already gauge your fiancé's financial readiness. Do you know each other's money situation like income, debts, and assets? Can you discuss the wedding budget comfortably or is talking about money a big no-no? Are you getting into debt just to have the wedding of your dreams? Is he shooting down your wishes because he doesn't want to spend money at all? If there are money issues now, you can be sure you'll always be fighting about these when you're married so address them now before it's too late!

What Do You Want For Your Wedding?

Speaking of the wedding of your dreams, make sure it's the wedding you BOTH want. Have you ever gone to a wedding where you know it's a bridezilla up there at the altar or it was a domineering groom who's running the show? You can see just one person's personality! It doesn't bode well for a successful marriage because marriage is a partnership, not a dictatorship. 

It’s important that your wedding day itself represents what both of you want. You may be the bride but remember you're sharing that "stage" with your man! Always consider what he wants, too. Think about your husband-to-be carefully—the way in which he proposed may signify what he wants the wedding to be like. For example, if he asked your father for your hand, then he may be a traditionalist. 

My husband didn't ask my parents' permission to marry me because he knows I'm a feminist and I would be offended by any act robbing me of my agency. Yet even though he knew I didn't want an engagement ring, he still gave me one and an extremely traditional one, too—a diamond solitaire! This made me reflect on why we give diamond rings (because diamonds mean tradition and they signify forever) and I realized that my husband may respect my very modern attitudes but he remains old-fashioned in some areas. So I made sure that our wedding had a modern vibe but kept everything else—white dress, my parents walking me down the aisle, our vows—strictly traditional. 

My wedding was all about compromise. It made me understand that it isn't about me anymore. Marriage is going to be about yielding, understanding, compromising, and working together. My wedding made me realize that I'm okay with that.
Vince said he always imagined me with flowers in my hair so I gave him that, too.

Do You Communicate Well?
The stress of wedding planning can be terrible, so if you start to bicker about small and unimportant things, don’t worry too much. It’s only natural to get snappy in times of stress! Just take a deep breath and take a step back to stop the arguments from escalating any further. 

However, if you feel that your conversations aren’t productive and that you're arguing too much, then that's a big red flag. Filipinos are lucky because we're close to our family and friends and we can bring up our worries to them and they can hopefully give good advice. But I find that family and friends tend to take our side (because they love us very much!) and aren't very forgiving of anyone who causes us pain—that includes your fiancé! So maybe you and your fiancé should consider going to a relationship counselor and talking about your issues before you get married. Make sure you iron out any glitches in your relationship before you make that big commitment.

Do You Want The Same Things?
Finally, one of the most important questions to ask during your engagement is if you and your fiancé want the same things. Of course, no one is the exact same as each other. If you're planning your honeymoon and one of you is desperate to visit France and the other’s craving pizza and pasta in Italy then you can compromise. But if you disagree on fundamental issues then you might start to realize that there are cracks in your relationship. 

There’s no point in marrying someone in the hopes that they might change, particularly on subjects like wanting children, keeping your career, supporting his dreams, religious and political beliefs. Some things are so integral to who we are that to spend our lives with someone who doesn't agree with those integral parts of ourselves is asking for a lot of pain and suffering. 

Wanting the same things, sharing the same values, and heading in the same direction are key to the success of a relationship. While my husband and I shared many beliefs and priorities, we also had a lot of differences. He knew I liked being a career woman (his parents were the traditional husband-provider and housewife) and I knew he wanted kids (I was leery of them). Before we got married, we had a talk where he assured me he'll always support my desire to work and I assured him that with him as my partner in parenting, I'm not so afraid of motherhood anymore (I still freaked out when I found out I was pregnant more than two years later haha). 

So if you have a boyfriend now or just got engaged, ask yourself these questions. If you like the answers, then congratulations! I'm so excited for you! If you don't like your answers, then see if you and your man can work out your issues. Good luck!

Friday, April 07, 2017

Mom & Blogger: Finding The Balance To Maximize Both Roles

Hi, dear Loyal Readers! I know I've been missing from this blog for a few weeks now (I blogged just twice last month!). I'm busy with my job as consulting editor for beauty website, Calyxta.com, and also with my new column about work-at-home moms at parenting website, Juana.com.ph. Between these two new projects, home management, mothering and blogging, I didn't realize that I'll have such a hard time juggling! Life was much easier when I was just a mom blogger!

I'm not complaining, though. It feels good to be writing regularly for a publication again (and about parenting, too!). I'm also grateful for Calyxta because I got to experience corporate life again without the full time commitment. I still work from home and only check in at the office three times a week. It's helped me and my family adjust our expectations for when I go back to the corporate world. The Calyxta project ends this April so I can blog regularly again in May! I'm so excited. I miss blogging so much!


If you're a mom who wants to stay home with your kids and yet earn money, too, do try blogging. I know the web seems overpopulated with mom bloggers but believe me when I say that all mom voices are welcome here. We all need a community and it's so nice to find similar voices and feel comfort knowing you're not alone with your parenting struggles. If you don't want to be a mom blogger, that's great, too. You can write about your hobbies and interests instead. If you can earn from your blog, that's even better!

Blogging for business is an attractive career choice for any mother. Not only does it present the potential to earn good money from doing something you love, but it also offers versatility and control. Ultimately, that means you can build a work schedule on your terms, enabling more quality time with the children.

Juggling the two roles of mother and blogger isn’t an easy task, though. Frankly, failing to manage your time in an effective manner will cause major damage to both. As I've proven myself recently, I failed to juggle. Thankfully, it was my blogging that suffered—not my kids! This made me think of how I can keep things under control. Here are a few tips I found:

1. Build an organized workspace. 
The toughest challenge facing any home-based entrepreneur is finding a way to use the property as both a home and a workplace. Building a quality home office should be top of the agenda. It will help separate the two elements of your life and is also a clear indication for your family too. If you’re in the office, you’re at work. My friend, personal branding coach Martine de Luna, says in my Juana article, 5 Tips to Battle the Cons of Working from Home, "When I have to work at home, I separate myself from the kids and go to my workspace on the second floor. When they see me at the desk, they know it’s [do not disturb] time."

Speaking of workspace, my husband moved my desk to our bedroom so I can close the door when I work. But as a mommy of little kids, I haven't been able to do this yet haha. Another challenge I have is organizing my paperwork. Running a business from one small room can feel daunting, so going paperless is key. Fortunately, being a digital operation gives you a great starting point. Meanwhile, an online p.o box address can save you from facing huge amounts of paperwork. Either way, finding the right balance in this arena can only work wonders for your aspirations. 

2. Know your blogging goals. 
While I started blogging more than a decade ago as just a hobby, I've turned blogging into a business because of my work with many brands. Of course, since it became a business, I've had to be more serious about blogging. I had to set goals beyond just sharing my stories.

Many people scoff at it but blogging is a serious job. It requires a lot of time, hard work and money. Without a sense of direction, though, you’ll find that you'll falter on the job. Unfortunately, the productivity and outcomes will be far worse, too. So as a businesswoman, know why you're blogging, who you're blogging for, and what do you want to achieve through your blog.  

Planning ahead to ensure your blogging platform grows in the right way is essential. You can schedule posts regularly, make sure you share your posts on every relevant social media account, engage your readers on your Facebook page, use the right hashtags. This will help grow your blog and your influence, which will get the interest of sponsors. 


3. Consider letting your family play a role. 
Because mommy blogging is so lucrative these days, mom bloggers usually get accused of exploiting their children. Mining their kids' lives for entertainment, they say. As any proud mommy will tell you, sharing our kids' adorable photos and telling stories about how wonderful family life is is not about entertainment. We genuinely LOVE our kids and we're so proud of our happiness! We want to share away—whether we get paid or not! 

Readers also love having that insider's peek into the blogger’s life—and nothing is more authentic than a mommy's stories on her parenting adventures. Motherhood is just so huge, demanding, surprising and profound that it's impossible to fake. Plus, everyone loves kiddies. As many readers have oh-so-honestly told me, they don't read my blog because of me; they read it because they love my kids! And it's always so amazing when a parent feels the love of people for her kids. Mommy blogging is the best!

Now, as the kids get bigger, I do believe they need more privacy. But they can still be involved in your blog. Technology plays a huge role in modern society, and today’s youth probably know more about the internet than most adults. Once yours are at the right age, it could be worth giving them a little job within the work. Whether it’s writing, building SEO, or managing your blog's Instagram or Pinterest accounts doesn’t matter. It’s a great way to bond together while they develop skills they'll need for this social media-obsessed world. 

4. Invest in ideas that benefit both worlds. 
If your blog is about parenting, then virtually every day doubles up as content for the blog. But as you may know by now if you've been following my blogging adventures, there will come a time when you'll want to give your kids privacy. So what will you blog about then? I've chosen to blog about being a working mama. It's still about my insights on motherhood but my kids aren't as exposed. 

Many mom bloggers have transitioned successfully from baby stories to niche interests but still within motherhood. A music blogger might review the instrument that they’ve just bought their child. A food blogger may discuss family recipes. I love how my friend, Denise Rayala of Royal Domesticity, found even greater blogging success when she started her #Baonserye, where she showed the packed lunches she made for her daughter. It's brilliant really—she moved the focus away from her daughter but her mother's love is still so evident through the lovingly made lunches, plus she offers priceless tips and ideas for other moms! Squeezing great content out of your everyday life will reduce your research time and just be more fun to do. 

As a blogger, you should have a creative mindset. Use it to find ways of merging blogging and mom duties, and you’ll save loads of time and effort. Good luck, mommies!


*photos by Mark Yao for Biogenic

Friday, March 31, 2017

This is how God provides for me

This post is brought to you by Ariel laundry detergent.

Today, on the last day of International Women's Month, Ariel honored 100 Fearless Filipinas by publishing this ad on national broadsheet, Philippine Star.


A hundred women — rich and poor, career women and homemakers, young and old — all doing their best to make the world a better place, especially now that the world seems to have become a darker place. I'm one of the 100 Fearless Filipinas and I am truly honored. I'm also a lot surprised and when I expressed it, they told me they thought I had to be on the list because of how I've bravely chosen to work from home and for all the honesty this blog is known for.

Well, freelance work is not easy. In the five years my husband and I have been doing this, delayed checks and no projects can be stressful. I try not to worry. Believe me when I say I don't spend my days nibbling on my nails in fear. I really don't! But on those days when the bank account is nearing zero, I do cry out to God in alarm. When you're a parent, your biggest fear is not being able to protect and provide for your children. But I refuse to parent out of fear.

I grew up in a home with no money. There was always so much anxiety. There was dread when the phone rang or when the mailman delivered the bills. There was shame when we visited relatives and they all looked down on us. There was the humiliation of being the only house on the street with the electricity cut off. There was always that nagging worry. Worry, worry, worry.

That's part of the reason I didn't want to become a mother. I couldn't fathom raising children in that bubble of fear. So I worked so hard, forsaking almost everything so I wouldn't be poor. I guess I finally came around the idea of motherhood when I started earning well — when I was 32. With our combined income, my husband and I had more money than we needed and we spent it shopping for our new home. We had no debts. We had fat savings. It was time to have kids!

We had Vito and then we had Iñigo. And then we lost our jobs.

You can't imagine the intense fear I had in 2012, dear Loyal Readers. I was losing my job as a magazine editor but I was being offered a great position within the company. Nothing had to change! Yet a huge part of me longed to be a stay-at-home mommy. Imagine that! I was so happy being a mama, I had to choose between job security and mommy heaven.

I guess you all know which one I chose.

Just before I had to give the company my decision, I remember spending one weekend in agony. My childhood was haunting me. I remember an interview I did with Ryan Agoncillo and Judy Ann Santos, and Ryan revealed that his wife's greatest fear was to become poor again. Surprised, I said, "But — forgive me for this remark — you have so much money. You're both so successful. How can this even be in the realm of her imagination?" And he replied, "You know how her dad left them and they suddenly had nothing? She never wants to go through that again." And that was me in 2012. Gripped in paralyzing fear. I never want to be poor again!

I confessed this fear to my prayer group. Remember my Praying Wives group? Amazing women! Earl Paolo, our ringleader, told me that it isn't me or Vince who is the provider of our family. It's God who provides, and He just uses me and Vince as the conduit of blessings for our little boys. According to our faith, He will give. Of course we must work, too, but there will be days when we can't work — we're sick, for example — but the blessings won't ever dry up as long as I just believe God will provide.

There were many verses on God's provision that Earl gave me but the one that helped me most wasn't about God's faithfulness but about the lack of my belief.


Do not conform to the pattern of this world, 
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 
Then you will be able to test and approve 
what God's will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

That verse! That is the verse that changed my life! Even now as I typed it, I was moved to tears.

Do not conform to how this world thinks! Change how you see the world and the world will change for you! I don't have to work myself to death. I don't have to repeat the life my parents led. I don't have to be afraid. Believe in God — test Him! — and He will do wonders.

Well, did I become a multimillionaire? Did I jet off to various locations? Did I have a wardrobe to die for? No. But here's how it worked:

1) My blogs (back then I had two blogs) suddenly took off! Both on number of visits and amount of sponsorships. Like, from 30,000 views a month to almost 60,000. I have no idea how that happened. I give workshops on how to build and grow blogs but what happened to mine was so organic and so weird that I just chalk it up to divine intervention.

2) My blogs earned me more that I ever did as a magazine editor. Huge surprise! The income allowed my husband and I to stay home, raise Vito and Iñigo, and make Piero! We are both hands-on parents. Literally just at home with our kids every single day. We have a good life. We have good food. We buy lots of toys and books. We have the A/C on every day! I can't complain!

3) When the clients aren't paying, that can be terribly frustrating. In theory, I have all this money but in reality, my bank account is almost empty. That just doesn't make sense! It doesn't happen all the time, okay. We're fine most of the time but there really have been days when I'm staring at the bills and telling God, "I know You have provided because I have so many projects but please help me!" And then suddenly a check or two is available — sometimes just enough to pay for that month's bills, sometimes a lot more. It's exciting, this life! You can see it as stressful or you can see it as exciting. Renew your mind!

4) And then God uses other people to provide for my family. Sometimes, the blessing is so specific to what I need that it just can't be coincidence. Here are a couple of examples:
This is not a sponsored post but I just want to tell a story of how God blesses me with just what I need. I had to do a sponsored IG post for Lady's Choice where I share a photo of my macaroni salad. I've been sick for more than a week and couldn't go to the grocery to buy pineapple chunks for the recipe. And I was feeling down, thinking I won't be able to do the post, and so I prayed for... I really don't know what I prayed for because I was blabbing to God about how bad I feel and how I need to get better and maybe I can ask client for an extension or if I can just get enough strength to run to the supermarket and get pineapple chunks. Well, God didn't make me better or strong enough to go to the grocery. He sent me the pineapple chunks! He probably decided I should stay home and rest instead of running around like crazy like I always do. Thanks, @jollyeatsph, for letting God use you to bless me. Thank you, God, for everything, as always! You are my provider and I am grateful You have never failed me and my family, always giving us what we need and sometimes even more. Thank you! #momlife #faith #MakeItJolly #blessed
A post shared by Frances Amper Sales (@topazhorizonblog) on





So all I want to say, dear Loyal Readers, is I live in hope and faith. Despite how I grew up, despite all the fears I had, despite all that I do, my life is lived in hope for all things wonderful and that's why it is wonderful! Sure, my husband and I deserve credit because we always try to make good decisions. But sometimes even good decisions don't have the expected results, sometimes no matter how you work hard the money doesn't come, sometimes no matter what savings you built the economy crashes because of outside forces (sigh!). But it's okay. God is sovereign over all!

It's okay. Don't worry. Give it up to God. Pick yourself up. Carry on always. Don't stop moving. Always believe. That's the secret to my fearless life. A renewed mind. A hopeful heart. A faithful God. May you have these, too! God bless you!

Friday, March 17, 2017

A year of babied baby skin with Belo Baby (plus, a giveaway!)

This post is brought to you by Belo Baby.

CONTEST IS CLOSED.

Hi mommies! It's been a year since my babies started using Belo Baby products. Happy 1st birthday, Belo Baby! Thanks for making my little boys three of the first children to try out your new products. We like them a lot!


Mommies, if you haven't tried the Belo Baby line, please do so! I've used a lot of baby skincare lines—some are great, some aren't—and Belo Baby is one that I do like mostly because it's a quality brand and very affordable. Kapag tatlo na anak mo at lalaki pa silang lahat (and so they're always sweaty and sticky and dirty), you want to give them a bath all the time. But if super mahal ng bath products, nakakaloka! I want my kids to be super clean of course but gusto ko ring tipirin yung paggamit mo ng products! The struggle is real haha. So I like discovering good products that won't hurt the budget. Hence, Belo Baby!    

Hair & Body Wash, P219.75; Face & Body Lotion, P224.75; and Bar Soap, P79.75

Belo Baby products don't hurt my budget, yes, but they also don't hurt my kids. Made of 100% certified all natural ingredients, the Hair & Body Wash, the Face & Body Lotion, and the Bar Soap (plus the colognes and hand sanitisers!) are gentle on the most sensitive skins. Nothing in it can harm my kids' delicate skin. No preservatives like paragons and Tetrasodium EDTA, and no softeners like phthalates. These ingredients may prolong the life of a product but they've also been linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. We mommies would never want anything that can mess with our baby's developing bodies!

So Belo Baby uses cocoa butter, shea butter, and sweet almond oil—all-natural ingredients that strengthen, moisturise, heal, and protect skin. My kids have been using Belo Baby for a year. and their favorite is the bar soap. They like how it's so slippery, like an extra bath toy. My favorite is the Hair & Body Wash because it doesn't lather too much. Bubbles may be fun but they indicate the presence of detergent, which can irritate skin. So I avoid anything that says, "Bubble Bath!' in it.



Now, because it's Belo Baby's first birthday and it's their image model Scarlet Snow Belo's second birthday this March, I want to do a giveaway! If you want Belo Baby products which are "crafted with care for the most delicate skin, for the most meticulous moms", then this can be your lucky month! I'm giving away three (3) sets of Belo Baby Hair & Body Wash, Face & Body Lotion, and Bar Soap! Here's what you need to do:

On Instagram:
1. Just post a photo of your baby on Instagram.
2. Let this be your caption: "This is my baby _____ and I want him/her to feel the #BeloBabyLove experience! I like @belobabylove because it's made of all-natural ingredients, and crafted with care for the most delicate skin, for the most meticulous moms. I hope I win @topazhorizonblog's #BeloBabyTurnsOne giveaway!"

On Facebook:
1. Just post a photo of your baby on your Facebook wall.
2. Let this be your caption: "This is my baby _____ and I want him/her to feel the #BeloBabyLove experience! I like @belobabylove because it's made of all-natural ingredients, and crafted with care for the most delicate skin, for the most meticulous moms. I hope I win @topazhorizonblog's #BeloBabyTurnsOne giveaway! If you want to join, too, click this link: http://www.topazhorizon.com/2017/03/a-year-of-babied-baby-skin-with-belo.html"

Winners will be announced on March 24. Good luck, mommies!

To know more, visit www.belobaby.ph, like www.facebook.com/belobabylove and follow @beloabylove on Instagram and Twitter.

CONTEST IS CLOSED!

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS:

Xian Shade because he's a Star Wars fan.

Baby Nathan because he looks so makulit and because his mommy said she wants the best for him.

Chicay because she's a tough girl and tough girls need the best products for their delicate skin.

Thanks for joining the Belo Baby first birthday giveaway, everyone!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Probiotics benefits for pregnant women

This post is brought to you by FrisoMum.

I'm studying probiotics recently. First, because I'm reading up on FrisoMum, the sponsor of this post. Two, because my kids' pedia prescribed probiotic supplements for them, so that they can absorb more nutrients (my kids are skinny like their parents). Third, because there's a lot of articles on probiotics that are popping up on my Facebook feed. And last, because I was deleting photos on my phone (the endless quest to make more space!) and I saw lots of pics of pregnant me! And yes, I took probiotic capsules when I was preggers and also whenever I have tummy trouble.

Pregnant in 2014! Last time na yan!!! More pics here =)

We all know (if you drank Yakult as a kid) that probiotics promote healthy digestion. That also means they're used to treat disorders like bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, and diarrhea. I guess that also means if you like eating street food, you should toughen up your tummy with probiotics haha

Anyway, the articles I'm reading say that healthy gut bacteria also help in a whole lot of other ways. Let me count these other ways:

1. Keeps skin clear,

2. Keeps the vagina and urinary tract healthy,

3. Prevents bad breath,

4. Regulates immune function,

5. Reduces inflammation,

6. Kills off bad bacteria so you won't rely on antibiotics,

7. May have a hand at preventing autism.

Woah. If you're a woman, that's a lot of reasons to include probiotics in your diet, right? If you're pregnant or planning to be pregnant, that part about autism is a huge reason to take probiotics stat! Plus, when delivered vaginally, our baby's first exposure to bacteria is in our birth canal. We better make sure the bacteria there is the good kind!

Working mamas, a snack of yoghurt with fruit and nuts is definitely a healthy and yummy option!

You can get probiotics from food like yogurt, miso, kefir, kimchi, cheese... Actually, a lot of fermented stuff really (but I dunno if that includes wine and beer haha). All over the world and throughout history, every culture ate fermented food. That's because there were so refrigerators back then. Because of that, they had to preserve food, and fermentation is one of the processes they used. Now fermentation creates trillions of these good bacteria that we now apparently need for our bodies to be healthy! Anyway, I'm not a fan of fermented anything so it's been hard for me to include probiotic-rich food but I'm trying!

If a daily diet of fermented food is not to your liking, then you can ask your OBG about taking supplements. I did and she told me that probiotic supplements are like the greatest thing ever. Not her words, okay, more like her attitude about it! If you're preggy now and reading this, ask your OBG about probiotics.

FrisoMum is a pro-digestion milk for moms that cares for the tummy. It's packed full of prebiotics and probiotics on top of the vitamins and minerals you need. You get better digestion, better nutrition, and better times spent together with your family because you're healthy!

FrisoMum is available at selected Mercury Drug stores in Manila, Luzon, and Cebu. Always ask your OBG about taking prenatal supplements. Like their Facebook page for more nutrition tips for your pregnancy.

*yoghurt photo by Peter Hershey from Unsplash.


Monday, February 27, 2017

First look: The Honest Company's spring 2017 diapers! Plus, Jessica Alba's tips for working mamas

When a brand founded by a Hollywood mommy asks you to do something for them, you do it. Well, I would because I used to cover Hollywood celebrities in my former life! I am so starstruck that Jessica Alba's The Honest Company gave me the chance to share with my readers the first look at their Honest Diapers spring 2017 designs! Here's your exclusive first look:


So cute! I still have one kid in diapers (although we're gearing up for toilet training this summer!) so I am very much smitten with these designs! I especially like the bugs!

Just like their founder, Honest Diapers don't just look good on the outside, they're also made of good stuff in the inside. They have an ultra-soft plant-based (PLA) inner and outer layer with a bio-based wheat/corn blend in its super-absorbent core. They don't go through chlorine processing and there are no chemical bleaches in them either. No latex, lotions, phthalates, optical brighteners, organotins (MBT, DBT, TBT), or most common allergens. No fragrances, too, just naturally derived odor blockers from citrus and chlorophyll.  

Jessica Alba is included in Forbes magazine's list of America's richest self-made women.

I'm in awe of what Jessica Alba has done with The Honest Company. Really! From being a major Hollywood star to now one of the richest self-made women in the US of A—that's some feat! And what I admire most about her is she created her brand because she wanted the best for kids and moms everywhere. I may not be able to relate to her glamour and the wealth, but I definitely can relate to her being a mommy who works so hard to give her family the best, given what I know and what my resources can afford.

When Jessica isn't busy growing her billion-dollar company, she is actively involved with charities such as Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, ONE, Habitat for Humanity, Project HOME and more. But, like all good mommies, the one job she enjoys above all others is being a mom. Yes, she's now my working mama peg! (I have a lot actually. Will blog about this soon!)

Jessica is also an author. Wow!

I asked The Honest Company if their founder has advice for us working mommies, and here's what Jessica said: "Don’t get overwhelmed trying to do everything at once. Lay out what you can get done now and what will take longer.” 

I learned this the hard way. As a working mama with no household help or nannies, I spent the first few years of my motherhood completely overwhelmed. I was trying so hard to be the best mommy ever to my baby boys that I got depressed when I would (of course) fail. It was when I became more organized (thanks, bullet journaling!) and less hovering (thanks, Netflix!) that I started to relax and just take mothering one day at a time. And I believe my family is all the better for it! I now truly enjoy being a work-at-home mommy.


I'm sure Jessica is waaaaaay busier than I am but she's learned to feel happy and proud to be a working mama. We don't need to be with our kids 24/7 to be a good mother. In fact, Jessica says we should let go of mommy guilt. "Don’t be hard on yourself," she says. "Doing your best to be present wherever you are is what’s important."

Finally, Jessica emphasizes the need for all mommies to take care of themselves. "Make time to eat healthy and stay active," the famously fit star advises. "It’s worth it to recharge once a week: Get sleep, have a date night or a girls’ night in, and drink some wine!" Oh, I wish I could follow her advice more often! I do believe that we moms pour so much time, energy and resources in giving the very best to our kids but if we don't take care of ourselves, we can't give the best mommy to our babies! Again, I learned this the hard way. I was so tired and ugly and unhealthy that I wasn't 100% happy being a mom. I was too spent to give anything! So this 2017, I've really resolved to visit the salon once a month, nap more, read again, spend more time with my husband, and see my friends. 

Thanks, Jessica, for sharing your work-life balance tips with my working mama readers! Thanks, The Honest Company, for sharing your new spring diaper designs with my style-savvy new mommies!


To shop the Spring 2017 diaper collection of The Honest Company, click here. I suggest using a courier service like Johnny Air to have your purchases shipped safely here in the Philippines. Locally, The Green Company (with branches in San Juan, Pasig, and Banawe, QC) carries The Honest Company products. A few products are also available at Landers Superstore. 

Hmm. Maybe I should collaborate more with The Honest Company. It's so aligned with my blog—everyone knows me as the most honest mommy blogger! Even their office looks like my house! Lemme pray about this!

*photos and quotes courtesy of The Honest Company; Jessica Alba's photo from Forbes.com

Monday, February 20, 2017

What I found out about mom bloggers at the Carrier SlimPac event

This post is brought to you by Carrier SlimPac Klarwind and XPower 2 air conditioners.

I was invited to a lunch Carrier Philippines hosted for mom bloggers. It was nice and intimate, held at the cozy Aruga Hotel at Rockwell Center Makati.

We were there to know more about the new SlimPac floor-mounted air conditioners Carrier just launched. Jenni Epperson, a lifestyle blogger and author, hosted the event and here she is flanked by the XPower 2 (left) and the Klarwind (right), which was right beside me. I got cold!

We were also treated to some home decor tips from interior designer Irene Dee.

We also found out how to have a more blissful home and intentional life from psychologist and author Michelle Alignay.

Well, I learned something else that day and it's about mom bloggers. Yep!

Here's what I learned about mom bloggers: We ask a LOT of questions!


We asked anything and everything from how the units work, how they've been improved, how they're installed, how are they safe, what colors do they come in, how much they cost, and more! Carrier was so surprised at all the probing and detailed questions that they had to answer of course, so we all went waaaay past the allotted time for the program and ended up having lunch at 1pm. So dear brands who are going to invite mom bloggers for a presscon: Get ready for all our questions!

That shouldn't be a surprise really. When it comes to products for our home and our family, we aren't bloggers just covering an event. We're mothers first and foremost, and we will scrutinize and turn that product upside down and inside out until we're satisfied that it's met our criteria:

1. Is it good for our family?
2. Is it safe for our kids?
3. Is it affordable?

For me, Carrier's new Klarwind and XPower 2 floor-mounted air conditioners meet all three.

1. Is it good for my family?
Yes! Because I live in a high rise along EDSA, I have our A/C on all the time. I can't open our large windows for two reasons: the pollution and my small malikot kids. I can't have the smoggy air coming in and I can't have my kids falling out!

The new Carrier SlimPac floor-mounted A/Cs are not only sleek and stylish and would look good in any home, they are also energy efficient. The 3-step filter system also cleans the air my family breathes. Dust, lint, spores, bacteria, and fungi are all filtered out and away from my family's lungs. That's good news because everyone in my family has an allergy of some sort!

I'm especially enamored with the Klarwind unit because it swivels. The 270° swivel head means it distributes the cool air faster and more efficiently.

2. Is it safe for my kids?
Yes! Aside from that amazing filter system, the new Carrier SlimPac floor-mounted A/Cs won't tip over and crush little kiddies. They are installed not just to the floor but also to the wall. I can be assured that my kids will be safe even with these silent cooling systems in the room. Plus, they are practically invisible. They're designed to blend into the decor so kids will quickly forget they're there.

3. Is it affordable?
Well, the new Carrier SlimPac floor-mounted A/Cs sure aren't cheap. At SRPs of 120K++ and 80K++ for the XPower 2 and Klarwind respectively, I'll have to scrape the credit card mighty hard to buy a unit! But because of its low electricity consumption even though it's so powerfully cooling, because it's so energy efficient, and because of the filter system, I'll be able to save on electricity and allergy medications! The benefits on my wallet is over the long-term and the good things it can do to my family's health makes the Carrier SlimPac floor-mounted A/Cs a great investment!

While I wish this was a review post, I'm not in the market for A/Cs yet as I'm still happy with my energy-efficient and powerful Carrier wall-mounted units. Yes, I'm really a Carrier mommy! But when I'm ready to buy, I'm definitely looking at the Klarwind!

Carrier ambassador Jenni Ep obviously loves the XPower 2.
Jane Cheng, Cat Antonio, Marilen Montenegro, and Jackie Go with the Klarwind.

If you'd like to know more about the Carrier SlimPac XPower 2 and Klarwind units, visit www.carrier.com.ph. These floor-mounted air conditioners are now available in major appliance stores nationwide.

*photos from Mommy Mundo

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A peek at Tod's Women's SS 2017 collection

I've always loved the classic lines of Tod's bags so I just had to check out the new Spring-Summer 2017 collection!

This is the Sella. The leather is firm but soft. I can't explain it! But I love it. I love the contrast stitching details, too. Must have this!

This is the Tod's Twist. Sleek modern lines but made more fun with the tassel and cube accessories. It's a lovely handbag that you pull apart so you can see everything in your bag. See those silver buttons at the sides? That's the hinge. I love that the bag opens up like a glorious box. Another must have!

This Wave bag and its baby companion are so neon orange, it's crazy! I love that vivid orange! Totally a signature piece.

Since Tod's bags have very simple designs, if you want something more fun, the luxury Italian brand has a collection of bag charms for you.

Here's a better look at the collection:

Tod's Bauletto:

Tod's Bauletto handbag:

Tod's Double T bag:

Double T Petite bags:

 Tod's Wave bag:



 Tod's Micro Bauletto:



And then here am I with my Tod's D Bag. YES! I finally have one! After all these years, I found it at an online store in Japan! The size and color and exact model I want!
I was supposed to use it for work but I've found that it makes a great diaper bag because it's roomy and sturdy. Yep. I finally buy my dream bag and it ends up being a diaper bag!

Anyway. To see more of the Tod's Women's SS 2017 collection, visit their website, Tods.com. Tod's is available at Rustan's Shangri-la Plaza and Greenbelt 4.