Monday, November 28, 2011

Romance isn't dead!

November was a very exciting month for the magazine I work for. We finished our last issue for the year (yep, the December issue just hit newsstands last weekend!), it was my birthday and my staff gave me one of my requested gifts (the moist and tempting red velvet cake from Karen's Kitchen!), and Kabbie got engaged!!!

I won't tell the story. That's for the bride-to-be to share. So click here for the super romantic proposal!

Did you read it?! Good! Now that you've read the story, here are some things I want to share about that special day:
This wasn't the shot that made it to the magazine.

1. The plan was for Mitor to propose at 3:30 p.m. Thing is we finished hair and makeup early so we got to Cafe 1771 early, the shoot started early and, therefore, we finished well ahead of 3:30! We implored the photographer, Mitch Mauricio, to take individual shots, even though there was no need for solo pics for the magazine. Mine are below:

2. My makeup is so dark =( Compare my fez with my arms. Sigh! Anyway, I posed with my brand new Fino bag. It's Vince's birthday gift! It went well with the Gryffindor-meets-Glee-meets-Gossip Girl color scheme.

3. Finally, just as we were running out of ideas to keep Kabbie and the staff in the venue (wacky shots anyone?!), Mitor arrived! We went through all the steps to the big surprise. And Kabbie was super shocked!

4. I told Mitor that he had to be super dressed up for the proposal because (a) when you ask a woman to spend the rest of your life with her, you better knock her dead with how handsome a husband you'll make, and (b) this was going to come out in the magazine. As the editor of said magazine, I decree that everyone who appears in its pages be well dressed!

5. Mitor gave her a rock. Check it out!

Congratulations to the happy couple! Marriage isn't a bed of roses (well, it is if you remember that roses have thorns!). It's hard, it takes work, it takes commitment. But the love, the friendship, the laughter, the joy, the... everything! Oh, it's oh so worth it. May you both be blessed all your shared lifetime!

Friday, November 25, 2011

My stamp collection

Weekend weekend! And what do we do on weekends? Some shop, some go out with family and friends, some watch movies, some play sports, some paint their roofs or fix the faucet or do some motorhome repair, and then there are those who devote their idle days on quirky little hobbies like stamp collecting.

I have a cute stamp collection myself. They're all of rabbits!

It's a modest collection. I have many more stamps--so adorable and clever!--but this would be a very long and picture-heavy post if I posted them all. I haven't actually been able to attend to my little hobby since I gave birth in 2010, so imagine my shock and delight when Mariel's dad, Tito William, sent me these awesome gold stamps:
The stamps came in a special folder encased in protective plastic.

OMG. They're 24-karat gold foil! I haven't taken them out of the plastic. I don't want to soil them with the oils and dirt from my fingertips. It's an amazing pair of precious stamps. Tito William, thank you oh so much! I will cherish these stamps forever!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What I want for Christmas (the frivolous list!)

The trouble with having everything you ever dreamed of is this: When people ask me what I want for my birthday or for Christmas, I end up saying, "Nothing. I have all that I need." Or I say, "Just give gifts to my Vito. I'm okay." But of course I want stuff. Don't we all?! It's just that the stuff I want entail a lot of money so it's kinda embarrassing to tell people, "Well, actually, I'd love it if you gave me this-and-that!"

What's this-and-that? Well, limited edition books, fine pens, high-thread count bed sheets, monogrammed stationery... You know, stuff! Totally unnecessary, totally frivolous, totally wonderful! Here are a few specifics:

The green Mango dress. Because I look fab in it and everyone agreed! So obviously I should have that darling dress in my possession!

A wrist watch. Someone sent me a link to some Michael Kors watches and I was suddenly reminded that I used to be a watch girl. Yep, before I had a baby, I felt absolutely naked without a watch. Then Vito came along and watches and bracelets and bangles became part of my other life. I actually already have quite a number of lovely watches. But I want a new one. Maybe a Philip Stein one.

A weekend (or maybe the entire holidays!) away. Preferably at Tagaytay, ensconced in a log cabin with my hubby and little boy! It's just too hot in Manila. What is up with this strange weather?!

New shoes. I'm going to sell all my pre-preggy shoes on eBay. I don't think I'm the sky-high heels kinda girl anymore. So I want new ballet flats and will try something I have never ever worn before: kitten heels. Uh-oh. I think that, yep, I am finally a mommy!

A curling iron. After I read The Picky Dresser's easy tutorial on how she gets perfect hair every single day, I vowed that I should have that Vidal Sassoon Ceramic Instant Heat 32mm Iron!

O.P.I. nail polish. I have nice nails so I love a good mani-pedi to show them off. Here I'm wearing Glitzerland. This was the year that I became a nail polish snob, by the way. Used to be any drugstore brand was okay but ever since I discovered fabulous (and expensive) nail polish, there was just no going back for me. I always bring my own bottles of polish to the nail salon and I want more!

A pearl set. I want a single strand golden pearl necklace and a matching pair of earrings. Because I'm 35 years old and I should have something that classic and perfect in my jewelry box!

Diamonds. Aha! I think, since this is the priciest in the bunch, maybe I'll wait till after Christmas and ask it from Vince as my push present! A push present is what you get for pushing a baby out. The whole process is gory and dangerous and horrifying and glorious all at the same time so for carrying his baby for 9 months and pushing it out safely, hubby oughta reward your efforts! For Vito, Vince gave me my topaz ring. I've been mulling over what I want for Wiggle and have finally decided I want a diamond bracelet or a pair of diamond studs. (For more on push presents, head over to Topaz Mommy!)

I can think of more! Since I've been a very good girl this year, I do believe I deserve some lovely treats. But let's leave the list at that because, well, I do have everything I need and more! With my darling husband and baby boy, our wonderful home, our health, life is beyond fabulous. And I don't want to be too greedy. So... okay, I'll be happy with the nail polish!

What's on your dream gift list? Do share! Maybe I can add your wish to my list!

P.S. Still shopping for gifts? I highly recommend you read my Topaz Horizon Gift Guide!

Need to escape this heat

In Tagaytay in 2010
I never imagined I'd be typing out that title in the middle of November. By this time usually, the cool weather has descended and everyone's taken out their cardigans and sweaters and scarves and jackets. My uniform this time of the year is usually a dress with opaque tights and a cardi, or jeans and tee with a scarf wrapped around my neck. This year? My dress code is various states of undress!

Well, that's global warming for you. Scary. Sad. Especially since I have to think about what kind of future my kids will have to see!

As for now, all I want to do is escape to a cooler clime. Actually, earlier this month, I had wanted to hit the beach so that I can spend the days with a good reason to be nearly naked. But the sun, oh the sun, it's just too hot! So I've been thinking of either Baguio or Tagaytay.

The last time I visited Baguio was a disaster. Vince and I had met in Baguio in 1999 and went back for a trip down memory lane. I booked us a room in this awful hotel that Lonely Planet had recommended as a good place to stay. I never believed Lonely Planet from then on! Our room had cardboard walls and a bare light bulb. The bathroom's walls didn't reach the ceiling so if you had to do No. 2, well, let's just say we had to go outside and leave the room's door open! There was no hot water (in freezing Baguio!) and, oh wait, there was actually no running water at certain hours of the day.

The last time I went to Tagaytay was for my friend Nikki's wedding. Vince and I stayed at this lovely boutique inn that unfortunately also had thin walls. We were kept up by the owners' kid and friends partying the night away. I was pregnant with Vito then so I was hormonal so I complained very angrily.

So now I guess I want to go back to one or both cities to make happier memories! But since my pregnancy is a bit delicate, Baguio is not an option for now. So I'm looking at Tagaytay. Someone told me that since I have a family, I'm better off renting a log cabin so I Googled some rentals and found these cabins at Tagaytay Highlands:

I can see it now: cold nights, the smell of pine in the air, the cacophony of crickets, then Vince and Vito and I wrapped in warm blankets, feet propped up on rustic log furniture, sipping hot cocoa, reading or chatting or tickling each other.

Sigh! Just looking at those photos already makes me feel better. I wish we can escape the city! Some of my friends have actually made plans to spend Christmas somewhere cold--either Sagada and Tagaytay or abroad in Hong Kong. I am so envious! It would be so lovely to get away from this terrible heat!

*log cabin photos from here.

Funny girl!

This video has been making the rounds on Facebook. I tried not to watch it for fear it may be one of those porn spam everyone's been freaking about (Well, can you blame me? The screen cap showed a really sexy woman!). But after dozens upon dozens of recommendations from FB friends, I watched it and had a good giggle. Meet Ashleyslips:

I love her funny accent and her sense of humor. But I'm totally loving her body! So gorgeous in that bandage dress, which is, by the way, not a hot trend anymore after having been worn to death everywhere. Sad since I was dreaming of wearing one (with chandelier earrings, charm bracelets and sexy heels!) after I got a curvier body, but then I got pregnant. Anyway, back to Ashleyslips. My goodness, those armpits! Some deodorant brand should get her as a model--her pits are perfect!

Since I've only gone dancing twice in my entire life--in 2003 at Malate with Vince (quite hotly!), and in 2005 at Embassy with my friend Kate--I couldn't really relate (though I did find her funny). So I checked out her other videos. While I didn't watch No Other Woman, I find this parody of that silly movie hilarious!

I'm spending the evening watching her other videos. I just know I'll have funny dreams tonight, although I hope I don't wake up with her accent!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Recording the passing of the years through really great photos!

Thank you to everybody who loved my photo shoot for my 35th birthday! You are all too kind. Some of you said that an annual photo shoot is a fab birthday gift to oneself. So let me share with you the other photos from the past years.

When I turned 30, I discovered to my delight that I looked better at 30 than I ever did in my teens or 20s. Maybe it was because at 30, I finally started a skin regimen and had my hair done by a real stylist (thanks, Mariel, for nagging me for months to get a makeover and bombarding me with beauty tips and skin products!).

Since then, I've tried to document what I look like around my birthday. I want to see a progression so I'll usually have a photo shoot done around October or November.

31 years old
I was a newlywed here. Vince says I looked my best the first year we were married haha. Must be the honeymoon glow! This is one of my favorite photos ever! It was taken by Willy Saw. I don't remember who did my hair and makeup. The golden brown hair was by Louis Phillip Kee, as always! We shot this at Rustan's Makati because we liked the festive decor. I had just turned 31 here.

32 years old
This was taken by Willy Saw, makeup by Mimie Bautista for L'Oreal Paris and hair by Ogie Rayel. We shot this on a cloudy day by the window of Dimensione at Bonifacio High Street. This was also the last year I was 100 lbs. I miss that waist. I miss those arms!

33 years old
Photo by Willy Saw, makeup by Ces Guerrero, hair by Ogie Rayel. We obviously like working with Willy and Ogie. Willy will not rest until he gets a fantastic shot of you. Ogie knows how to work with hair and personality. He always makes my hair look thick and lush, like he worked in that Bumble and Bumble product Hollywood is crazy about. If you see my hair on a real day, my hair is just the flattest, thinnest, wispiest thing you ever saw! Plus, he keeps my style simple because I'm a no-fuss hair girl. All the other hairstylists always try to give me big curls, which will always always fall flat within 30 minutes.

34 years old
I had given birth just over two months before this shot. I took this photo myself. I came from a photo shoot but didn't really like the results (I looked a decade older) so as soon as I got home, I took out the Olympus, held it at arms' length and shot away. I like the other shots from this on-my-own shoot because some of them really really look like my son, Vito. Yup, because of my chubby cheeks! We have the same eyes and smile. I also like that I don't look 34 although Vince says I look like a toddler here.

35 years old
Photo by Sara Black, makeup by John Pagaduan for shu uemura. You already know the story behind this shoot. Vince says the photos from here are his favorite shots of me yet. Well, he liked the black-and-white nude pic, that's why! I'm already pregnant here so Sara said she wants to take photos of my belly when it becomes huge. I haven't decided yet if I want a preggy photo shoot. What do you think?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Death and the wonder of God's promise

Tito Lito Calzado at my wedding in 2007
My Tito Lito died yesterday. I wasn't close to him but my Papa and Tito Lito were almost like brothers when they were growing up. Then his children, Dash and Iza, have always been very sweet and nice to us so his death makes me sad. I know how it is to lose a parent and Iza was very beloved by Tito Lito. It is always heartbreaking and gut-wrenching to lose a love like that.

But wakes in our family have always been... Hmm, the right word escapes me but "fun" is what comes to mind. There's lots of food and conversation, lots of singing and musical performances, lots of funny speeches, definitely lots of tears but there's a ton more laughter. I grew up going to wakes and funerals and thoroughly enjoying them, even the one for my own Mama. All of my friends told me that Mama's wake was the only wake they attended that made them actually want to stay, that when they left, they didn't feel sad or scared. They felt entertained and warm and fuzzy and even happy. Yup, that's my experience, too!

My sister Jacqui, cousin Iza and sister-in-law Rose
at Mama's funeral in 2008.
You can say that it's because the Amper family (and Calzados and Dadaps) is a family of musicians, singers and actors. Every time there's a crowd, we all rise up to the occasion and try to make everyone happy. Even at our wakes! But the real reason our wakes are such happy events is because we're Born Again Christians and we see death as a graduation from this miserable life. There is more envy than sadness at a loved one's passing. And there is that wonderful peace that passes understanding, and the shining hope that we will be reunited one day with our beloved.

When Mama died, my eulogy was based on Jeremiah 29:11 "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" When someone you love dies, it's very hard to think of the future. How can life go on after this? So that promise, that this painful experience is not meant to harm me, truly did give me hope. I said in my eulogy, "Mama is dead but she doesn't belong in my past. She is in my future because we will surely meet again one day."

Peace, hope, joy. Sure, there is that awful grief but there is also the comfort of such wondrous peace, hope and joy. I wish you all that same peace, hope and joy, even in the midst of your darkest night, even in the face of death itself.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Photo shoot with Sara Black and John Pagaduan

Just recently, I decided to have my photos taken because, well, it's my birthday! Since I'm so blessed to have friends who are makeup artists, hairstylists and photographers, I pulled out my phone and started cajoling my friends to make me beautiful. But I seemed to have caught everyone on a very busy time so darn it!

And then Sara Black suddenly texted, "I'm free for 30 minutes on this date. Want to do it then?" Of course I said YES! I called shu uemura's John Pagaduan. He had tons of events that day but he said, "Sure, I'll do your makeup. Your face is easy lang naman!" All my hairstylist friends were fully booked, however, so I had to be content with my flat, lifeless hair.

I spent an hour on John's makeup chair and he transformed me from plain to absolutely amazing! We had so much fun catching up and gossiping. Then off to Sara's studio where she was in the thick of a Mega magazine beauty shoot. As soon as there was a lull in that shoot (the models had to change their makeup), Sara propped a camera in front of my face and started snapping away.

We were done in 20 minutes! And this is what she caught:

There's more photos—with less clothes!—but only Vince gets to see!

Thanks, Sara and John! You made me look beyond fabulous! I'm so lucky to have you as my friends.

To book a photo shoot with Sara Black, go to
To book a makeup session with John Pagaduan, call the shu uemura Learning Atelier at Power Plant Mall:  897-8575

Saturday, November 05, 2011

My Nuffnang Story

A lot of people ask me how I earn money through blogging. Well, I earn most of my blogging income from Nuffnang. I joined Nuffnang in 2008, soon after my mother died. Mama's death had completely wiped us out financially so I was looking for ways to make more money and Nuffnang was recommended by my friend, Jennie of Marriage and Beyond.

At first, there was just a tiny trickle of blogging income coming in (so I was very relieved when the company I work for gave me a big raise in early 2009!), but after a few months with Nuffnang, things started getting very interesting! So without further ado, here are...

My Top 10 Reasons for Loving Nuffnang

10. I got a free trip to Singapore!
On the Singapore Flyer with fellow bloggers
 In 2009, Nuffnang invited me to join the first ever Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards in Singapore. I was shy to go since I didn't know anyone on the trip but I packed my bags, kissed my hubby good-bye (with tons of melodramatic tears), and then met some of the most fascinating people in Asia!

I learned so much about blogging from that trip. The most important lesson? That you can earn SO MUCH MONEY! I remember my jaw dropping and my eyes going very wide when some of the bloggers I met (some just barely out of college) told me they just bought a car or quit their job all because of the money they earned from blogging. As soon as I got home, I told Vince, "I'm taking this blogging thing seriously from now on dammit! Those kids are earning more money than I ever dreamed of!"

On our way to the awards ceremony (I'm the girl in far right)
So, obviously, I want to go to the second Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards! This time, it's in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. On Dec. 16, 500 bloggers from all over the Asia-Pacific region will be invited to a lovely weekend stay at the Putrajaya Marriott. The awards ceremony will again honor the the region's best bloggers and bring together the blogging communities so that we can all learn from each other. Plus, the lucky bloggers get a free tour of the city! The event is sponsored by Volkswagen Malaysia and Putrajaya Marriott, and if you want to win an exclusive invitation to the event, click here!

And please nominate your favorite bloggers (ahem! ahem!) for the awards!

9. I won a Gucci bag!
Nuffnang has a lot of contests. Their partners are always willing to raffle off really cool stuff like gadgets, and in my case, happily, a designer bag! I won the Confessions of a Shopaholic contest and the prize was a limited edition Gucci shoppers tote. So do check out Nuffnang's exciting array of contests (I think there's one a week!)

8. I always get tons of goodies!
Here are just a few:
I've also gotten beauty products and fabric conditioners. I know I've gotten more but I just can't remember them all! So much stuff!

7. I get invited to lots of exciting events.
Nuffnang never seems to run out of stuff to offer their bloggers! There's always a beauty launch here, a fashion show there, a movie screening now, a field trip tomorrow. I sometimes wish I wasn't so busy so I can attend them all!

6. I met celebrities!
Alodia's the girl with the backpack.
Alodia Gosiengfiao at the Asia-Pacific Blog Awards at Singapore. Alodia is so cute and shy and talented. There are no airs, no snottiness, no spoiled brat-ness.

Solenn is the girl who forgot to put on a shirt!
Solenn Heusaff at Neutrogena Fine Fairness Ambassadors launch. Well, all I can say is she's sexy. And very sweet to fans. But she looked very uncomfortable the entire time at the event, like she was very scared. I dunno why!

Iza Calzado at the Myra-E event that launched her as their new model. Funnily enough, to me, Iza is not a celebrity, even though she's one of the hottest stars in the country. That's because I can never erase the image of little 5-year-old Izadora following us, her cousins, everywhere, saying, "I can dance! Want to see me dance? Please watch me dance!"

5. I earn money!
I almost forgot that that's the reason I joined Nuffnang in the first place! How's the income, you ask? Well, Nuffnang's been very generous with giving me assignments and you'd have noticed some of them because they're marked as "sponsored posts" (for example, you all loved the Mango post, which was not just fun to do but was also paid for!).

I'd earn more if I accepted all their proposals but I only take on brands I believe in, use or want. But as it is, I've already earned lots of shopping money! Thanks, Nuffnang!

4. I gained new friends.
That's Shen of Shen's Addiction on top and Nikki Tiu of AskMeWhats. They are just two of the wonderful bloggers I've met at the events Nuffnang keeps throwing for us. I'm so glad I joined this blogging community because I've been forced to go out and meet fellow bloggers. You see, if you're a blogger, obviously you spend a lot of time in front of a computer so there's not much of a social life there for bloggers. But because of Nuffnang's plethora of events and activities, I've met some of the most wonderful people ever!

3. Nuffnang believed in my non-blogging ventures.
One of the very first people who bought my satchels is from Nuffnang! Trixie Esguerra is the talent manager of Nuffnang and I never expected that we'd have a friendship. I'm very careful to keep my professional relationship, well, professional. But Trixie is, like the rest of the Nuffies, so much fun and bubbly and makulit, that you can't help but adore her. Plus, she was one of the very first who bought my satchel and mega promoted my bag business! She didn't have to but she did. Thanks, Trixie!

2. Nuffnang supports good causes.
It's not all freebies with Nuffnang. One of the best out-of-my-comfort-zone experiences I've ever had was when we visited Sunshineville in Las Pinas. We met a thriving community of homeowners, working happily for a better life. It was really refreshing to see how giving jobs to people makes them confident, happy, proud. That exposure was the first time I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur since I saw that it isn't charity dole-outs that help people at all.

Nuffnang also makes sure its bloggers get an education. By this, I mean free classes to everything from cooking to financial freedom. I've been wanting to attend their cooking classes at Enderun but weekends are yaya-less so I haven't had the opportunity. But I'm glad I was able to attend the Philam Life financial planning class. I learned so much! I bought a mutual fund investment plan soon after that session (but with a different insurance provider. Oops!)

1. Nuffnang cares about their bloggers.
The first people who visited me when I gave birth to Vito were Nuffies. Thanks, Anne Franco and Carlos Palma. You got to the hospital with flowers and gifts way before my own family and friends did! To say I was surprised is an understatement. Vince said, after you left, "Wow. You must really mean a lot to Nuffnang." I don't think I'm special that way; I think Nuffnang really just treats their bloggers like family.

And that's why I'm glad I joined Nuffnang. I earned not just money, but a wealth of experiences and a lot of new friends. And family. I have my Nuffnang family. For that alone, I am very grateful.

This is my official entry to the Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards 2011. To join, click here.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Preggy and pretty in Mango's F/W 2011 pieces!

Pregnancy is usually not the time in a woman's life that she's deemed fashionable. In all honesty, it's tricky to dress a pregnant body. The swelling tummy, boobies, butt and the fast rate they swell just make dressing up so difficult! That's why a lot of preggy women resort to tents--it's much easier, simpler and doesn't require a lot of thought!

But I can't give up on style, especially since Style Bible included me in their Pregnant & Pretty list the last time I was pregnant. I got a reputation to hold up, darn it! So for this second pregnancy, I had a blast checking out some stylish wear from Mango's Fall/Winter collection. Mango very kindly lent me a few pieces to try out at home and these are the winning looks that I'm imagining will be perfect for the following occasions this Christmas season:

For when I'm out gift shopping
navy-and-white striped knit dress (P2750),
nude sandals (P5,950) 
Totally loving this dress! It's very see-through, though, so you conservative sweethearts might want to wear a slip underneath. As for me, with our weather and the crush of the holiday shoppers, I think the thin and comfy knit is perfect!

blue tote (P1950), aviators (P995), bangles (P845 for two)
The roomy faux leather tote is perfect for shopping! And I love its navy color--classic but not basic. The plastic bangles are fun and pulls the whole look together. And what's more classic than aviators? This look is so simple, easy and stylish!