Monday, December 31, 2012

Happiest of New Years to you!

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art—write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can.

"...I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.

"And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." 

These were Neil Gaiman's New Year wishes for his readers 11 years and 6 years ago. Last year, he wished for us to make mistakes because mistakes mean we're trying something new. 

I'm trying something new this year. Be a full-time mom, be a work-at-home mom. Somewhere along the way, maybe I'll renovate the house. Maybe I'll teach writing. Maybe I'll take up classes, like baking and crafting and guitar playing. Or maybe I'll find that being a mommy is so demanding that I'll just devote myself to the boys. Lots of plans. No plans. For the first time ever, I am allowing life to happen to me, instead of me controlling everything. I've worked so hard. Now I just want to enjoy life and all that I've worked for.

I wish the same for you! Happy 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Dreaming of a new look for 2013

For the house, not me!

I'm getting tired of our blue walls. I love them, make no mistake, but after 5 years of living with them, I am ready for a new color. Or a non-color like gray or white.

I was browsing through fab online magazine and instantly fell in love with these stark yet cozy, elegant rooms:

All that light! So amazing. It's like a photo box!

I do admit that I do love color a wee bit too much to just go black/white/gray. I have a pink Christmas tree, for heaven's sake! So I'm pretty sure I'm going to add pops of color here and there. But I do want white walls now. Or gray. Hmm. Still can't decide.

The truth is I want a non color because I take most of my photos inside the house. Me, my kids, my products. And I always have to color correct everything because everything takes on a bluish tinge: our skin, our clothes, our hair, the products! I want to look like a human being, not a Smurf haha.

What's your home makeover plan this 2013?

*photos from

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Dearest darling readers,

Thank you for being a blessing to me and my family this year. Thank you for the good will, the love and encouragement, the prayers, and the gifts. You have truly blessed us. I send you God's blessings of love, peace, and abundance, too! Merry Christmas!

Frances and Vince and our kiddos Vito and Iñigo

*photo by Blow-Up Babies but arte-fied by me that's why it looks weird, I guess!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Topaz Fashion: Jumpsuit day

Okay, guys, just one photo today because I only went out twice this week. Tuesday, for a full day of photo shoots and today to watch The Hobbit with my husband. My outfit today was actually cute but we forgot to take a photo. Oh well! Anyway, I was supposed to go to two events—Benefit's anniversary party and a secret blogger dinner—this week but I suffered a bad cold and sore throat (recovering now!) so been mostly home.

Anyway, today's Topaz Fashion features my super old jumpsuit. I don't even remember where I bought this. Some little store in Robinsons Galleria.

I wore it on Tuesday. Had two photo shoots that day so I had to be as comfy as possible. Plus, I brought baby Iñigo with me so I had to be boob-accessible. I wore my jumpsuit with my snakeskin sandals from Charles & Keith. The photo shoots were for my Behind the Scenes column. It's in the fashion section of Manila Bulletin. Today featured Ana Amigo Antonio. Next week, it will be Patty Laurel-Filart, the pretty woman I'm posing with in the shot above.

I love this jumpsuit to bits! But it was bought when I didn't have my mommy flab (see pre-mommy photo of me in that jumpsuit here) so now... I dunno. Maybe I'll sell it on eBay, too. Time for a new wardrobe!!!

Happy weekend, fashionistas!

P.S. This is a good read on OOTD fashion blogs: "Has street style jumped the shark?". Are fashion blogs real style or are they all staged?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Silly dream, serious realizations

Let's take a break from all the sponsored posts I'm doing so I can tell you about this absurd nightmare I had the other morning.

In my dream, I had won Binibining Pilipinas. In my dream, sobrang grabe ang ganda ko, kahit ako napa-wow sa sarili ko. I was perfect. My hair was thick and glossy, my arms and legs smooth and slim, my tummy flat and firm, my teeth straight, my face flawless. I won Bb. Pilipinas-Universe!!!

The real winners!

But curiously, I was dismayed. I hid in an obscure bed and breakfast. I hid for so long that tabloids were splashing ugly stories about me on their front pages. Finally, I went home to my parents' house. Papa was so happy to see me. Mama was so proud, too. I should have realized at this point that this was a dream. Haha, posible pang manalo ako ng beauty pageant pero imposible yung buhay si Mama, diba, since she passed away in 2008. So dapat I said at this point, "Oh it's just a dream!" But, no, I still didn't get that this was a dream; in my head, I thought it was all real.

Anyway! Papa was so proud. He said, "Everyone's talking about you! Magandang publicity stunt yung nawala ka ng ilang araw. Magaling ka talaga sa PR, anak!" I didn't respond. I was looking for something, I don't know what, but I looking here and there.

Papa kept on talking. "Ang problema na lang natin is paano natin itatago si Vince at mga bata. Syempre, Bb. Pilipinas-Universe ka na. Hindi pwedeng may asawa't anak ka!"

And that was when I realized what I was looking for. I said, "Papa, asan si Vince? Asan ang mga anak ko?"

"Don't think about them!" Papa said. "One year lang naman ang reign mo so tiisin mo muna sila. Mas importante we prepare you for Miss Universe!"

I started crying. "No, no. I have to see them! I have to see them now. I don't want to be Bb. Pilipinas. Paano ba ako nanalo? Hindi naman ako rumampa??!" Hahaha but in my dream mega-tears ako nito. I was crying so hard as I said, "I'll tell everyone the truth! I'm not a binibini! I'm a wife! I'm a mother! I want to see Vince and my kids!"

And then Papa and Mama looked at me with anger and disappointment. Papa said, "Ganyan ka talaga. Selfish! Minsan ka na nga lang nagbigay sa amin ng Mama mo ng reason to be proud of you and so typical of you, uunahin mo na naman ang sarili mo!"

And that was when I woke up. I still thought it was real because the first thing I did was look for Vince, Vito and Iñigo. To my relief, Vince was asleep beside me but I had a few seconds of panic when I didn't see the boys in the house. I quickly remembered, and this was when I finally shuddered off my nightmare, that the babies are in the playground with their yayas. I was okay. I was home. I was with the most important people in my life in my most important role.

Silly stupid dream, right? Right. Vince was laughing throughout my kwento. I was laughing, too, lalo na dun sa part when I said hindi naman ako rumampa. But I found myself conjuring my dream again and again, if only to see Mama's face again and again. So even though it was a ridiculous nightmare, it was okay.

You know, it was never my mission in life to please my parents. Neither did I go out of my way to disappoint them, mind. I remember a conversation with Mama when I was in my teens. We just had an argument but when we'd calmed down, I told her, "It's not that I'm being disobedient or being difficult or that I want to cause you pain. I just want to live. Whatever that means. Please let me live."

My parents never wanted me to be a writer, never wanted me to have a career. They just wanted me to get married, have kids, serve the Lord. But they did let me be. They disapproved of my college course, Creative Writing, but they let me take it. They disapproved of my boyfriends but they treated them all well. They didn't like that Vince and I were getting waaaaaaay too involved but they treated Vince like their son. They didn't understand my career choices but they were happy I seemed to be a success. They didn't like that I waited and waited to get pregnant but when I finally did become a mother, Papa—because Mama was no longer around—just congratulated me happily.

So I know that maybe I was a disappointment to my parents because I didn't turn out the way they dreamed it when I was born and they dreamed their dreams as they counted my fingers and toes. But I also know that they're fiercely proud of me despite that. I'm grateful they allowed me to be who I am and to live my life the way I wanted. It must have been so difficult for them to see me struggle and fail and not lift a finger to help because I insisted I didn't need help. They allowed me to grow, to be me, and eventually to realize on my own the truths they always knew and tried to teach me.

So my nightmare was absurd because it isn't true. My parents are proud of me, even though I took a different path, even though I was different from them, even though my dreams weren't their dreams. Eventually, even though we fought tooth and nail, they let go. They let me be. And though they were afraid and doubtful, I knew somewhere in there, there was hope and trust. And that was all I needed to be really, truly me.

Trivia: I was a beauty queen in high school. No joke!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hot days call for cold desserts

This has got to be the hottest Christmas season in living memory.

Whenever I hear that traditional song, "Malamig ang simoy ng hangin," I feel...

(a) horrible that the planet is truly suffering global warming,

(b) sad that my children will not understand what cold Decembers are unless we go to another country maybe, and

(c) really old since that song is now about an ancient time when Decembers were actually cold!

We've been comforting ourselves with ice cream. There's tubs of it in the freezer and when we go out, even more ice cream!

Vito calls it, "I cream!"

Don't worry! I didn't give Iñigo any ice cream. He did chase after my cone of melting choco creaminess. Poor baby!

How about you? How do you beat the heat?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Topaz Fashion is back! What a freelance writer wears

Oops. Totally forgot to do Topaz Fashion! Too many things happening on my side of the world. I had planned to be completely work-free from my last day of employment till my baby Iñigo turns a year old in May. Had promised myself, "You've been working too hard for the last 14 years. Take some months off. Hell, take a year off!" But I find myself working still on many new projects!

My father-in-law calls it inertia. I've been working non-stop so I will find it almost impossible to completely stop. So since the last day of my employment (Nov 15) to exactly one month later, I'm still as busy as ever.

Well, to be completely technical, I'm still officially employed. My last day as editor-in-chief of OK! magazine is end of working day today. So today is the last day I will promote the December issue!
Please grab a copy! It's the very last issue! It's a collector's item!

Today is also my very first day as a newspaper columnist!
My columnist's photo shot by Sara Black.
An entire spread! My first column is about Sara Black and her new book, We, Love.

It's a childhood dream, folks. When I was around 12, I listed down what I wanted in life: to be an editor-in-chief of an international title and to be a columnist in a national daily. That's it. That's all I wanted in life! And now I can add columnist to my resumé! So thrilled!

I also managed to take photos of outfits I wore when I remembered that I have Topaz Fashion on this blog. Here they are:
Plains & Prints denim zip-up dress, Charles & Keith sandals, Cuzo nylon tote
Shoot and interview outfit. This is also my default breastfeeding outfit. Actually, whenever I bring that Cuzo bag, that automatically means I have Iñigo with me. I had an interview and photo shoot to go to for Circuit magazine. I wrote the cover story on Iza Calzado. I wanted Iza to meet her nephew so I brought the baby. Oh, and also I know from experience that shoots can drag on forever so breastfeeding mommy me needed the baby along!

Missoni sweater dress, orange VNC sandals, Gucci shoppers tote
Photo shoot and girlfriends' day out. This was when we shot Sara Black for my column. When you do a photo shoot, you have to be as comfortable as possible. But I got stuck in traffic and the shoot ended while I was in the cab so I detoured to my friends' party in Red Box Greenbelt.

This dress is actually nice on me when I was chubby. It's a knit dress that's supposed to ride on my hips and butt with the hem ending mid-thigh. But I bought this when I just gave birth to Iñigo so I was fatter then. Now that I've lost all the weight, no more hips and thighs to hold on to so the dress drops straight down and looks baggy on me. Maybe I'll sell it on eBay because it's really too big for me now.

K & Company dress, Kenneth Cole peep-toes, Longchamp clutch
Nuffnang Country Manager's dinner for talents. This was on Wednesday, 12/12/12, the day Congress voted on the RH Bill. I wore purple to signify my support for the bill that finally finally finally passed! Like the previous dress, this one is also loose on my body. So sad because I really like this! I'm losing too much weight, I think.

Anyway, Nuffnang is planning big things for 2013, hence the dinner. It was nice to meet the Nuffies and the other bloggers. I'm really excited to do more work for Nuffnang's many clients!

K & Company dress, Zara ballet flats, Longchamp clutch, Charles & Keith sunnies 
Visit to Acqua Iguazu site for a sponsored blog post. I love love love this dress! Perfect red dress. Anyway, I was supposed to use my Kate Spade black leather tote but all my essentials were already in my clutch so I just grabbed it. I'll try to be more coordinated but I tend to let convenience trump coordination!

Whew. And that's the life of a freelance writer for you—busy but still stylish (or at least attempting it)! Hope you enjoy the weekend, dear readers! Don't forget to grab OK!'s December issue and today's Manila Bulletin!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Vince's Life trilogy!!!

I'm a certified Vince's Life fan. I want to say I'm the #1 fan in the entire world (I do have reason to be *wink wink*) but when I Googled Vince's Life, well, there are some pretty devoted fans out there who can quote entire passages from this romantic trilogy!

I betcha my 13th month pay (yes, I'm actually still officially employed) that these fans will freak out once they find out that Summit Books has released the second edition of Vince's Life. Edited by Vince himself and featuring new book covers by Boizei Malicdem, this new edition will thrill once more with the heart-melting story of how Vince found and lost and found love again.

My favorite book is the last one, The Wedding. Everyone likes the first book best because that's when Vince and Andrea fall in love, get together and break up. But for me, it's The Wedding that really made me swoon. It is the most mature, most committed, most romantic story. Plus, it's the best written. Of course, before you can appreciate the last book, you must read the first two first! So grab the entire trilogy!

Each book is just P175 and is available at all bookstores. So the three books is just P525. For such a great story, it's super affordable! Best gift to give to the girls in your life—daughters, cousins, nieces, wives, mommies, girlfriends. So they know how a real man loves and how they should be treated and what true love really means. Grab your copies now! Mwah!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Look! I made a doll!

I discovered Craft MNL on my Facebook feed. One of my Facebook friends took a crafts lesson and I clicked on her photo and that's how I decided I wanted to take doll-making lessons!

Now, I had thought that we'd be given blank dolls and then we'd just decorate them. But silly me, it wasn't a doll-decorating workshop—it was a doll-making workshop! We made our dolls from scratch! Here is my photo essay of my very first doll creation:
It all starts with handfuls of this. I forget what it's called.
Let's call it stuffing! Wads and wads of this!
I made the head.
Here's the neck.
The yarn marks the eye and temple area.
Pins and needles! Yards of yarn!
That's our teacher, Jac Zapatos, a wife, full-time working
mom to a toddler, and a doll-maker! Follow her crafty blog,
I am handmade.
This is a really soft cloth. It's my doll's skin. 
Stitching away. 
Not very neat. Sigh. I haven't stitched in years!
Stuffing the limbs with more stuffing!
Head, arms, body!
Slim legs! The doll looks better chubby actually
but since it's MY doll, I made her thin.
Skinny like me!
Closing up seams.
Pins mark the eyes. Then I satin stitched the eyes.
Making the hair with red yarn. Because I'm a redhead!
Super cute! She looks like me! 
This is the most difficult part, stitching on the hair. My fingers swelled up.
Tada! Our pretty dolls!

It was so much fun making my own doll! I named her Clementine, from the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I'm already thinking of what workshops to join next. Craft MNL has tons of fascinating classes like glass etching, decoupage, bookbinding, flower arranging, making rubber stamps and so much more. They're super affordable, too. My doll-making class was just P850 with materials! 

I highly recommend joining workshops. The last one I joined, a writing workshop way back in 1999, I found me a hubby! Haha. So sulit talaga siya! 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


I forgot to tell you about this!

My life is surreal. First, Rissa Mananquil Trillo then Lucy Torres Gomez. Now Cecile Zamora Van Straten. I have only met Cecile thrice in my life and all those times involved food. The first time was the opening of Pepper Lunch at Power Plant and she personally attended to our table, showing us how to cook our food. The second time was at Cibo Greenbelt 5, when she sent over dessert for my friend Kate who was eating dinner with me. The third time was at Via Mare, when we all had merienda with author Samantha Sotto and then Cecile offered to take me and my son Vito home. There's always food with Cecile! That's why when I think of Cecile Van Straten, I think of food.

Yes, I am deriving pleasure from typing their full names. It's my way of convincing myself that important people read my blogs because I still can't believe it!

Thank you so much to everyone who take the time to visit Topaz Horizon and Topaz Mommy. All of you inspire me! God bless you all for the encouragement and support. Mwah!

UPDATE: Four times pala! The last time I met Cecile was at the launch of Magnum ice cream bar and we were surrounded by trays and trays of Belgian ice cream and coolers upon coolers of Magnum. So food pa rin!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Best & Worst of celebrity and entertainment in OK!'s December issue

The magazine was already about to run in the printers when I saw Kristen Stewart in that lace gown. It was a dress that made everyone either love it or hate it. I, for one, loved it. Absolutely loved it! Loved that it was so polarizing and arresting that it deserved a cover. So I called the printers and was able to make my dream come true for the second time when I trilled, "Stop the presses!!!" and replaced the cover with KStew.

Oh, to be in your 20s, with milky white skin, with long lithe limbs, and an A-list status! You could frakkin' wear the most ridiculous outfits because on anyone else, people would laugh at how stupid you look but when you're young and perfect, you can get away with anything and everything. Yes, from nearly nude gowns to having "momentary indiscretions" with a married man with young kids!!!

So tell me—is Kristen Stewart's gown the best gown you've seen this year or the worst? Personally, I actually liked it. Her sartorial picks this year made the entertainment editor in me giddy with pleasure. She was always wearing buzzed-about outfits. As for her personal picks, and by that I mean her life choices, they ain't so hot. So for me, KStew is this year's best dressed but worst decision-maker. The kinda star an entertainment magazine adores!

The December issue of OK! Philippines is filled with all things terrific and terrible. TV, movies, music, red carpet gowns, trends in fashion and beauty... You name it, it's in the December ish!

Sorry I had to make them smaller! In the previous extra-large
format, you can actually read the Best of Beauty list! Oops.
Grab a copy na lang haha

We have Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, for our royalty fans. We have our much-anticipated Best of Beauty List, our tried-and-tested and most recommended products for the year. We have the coolest gift-guide fitting for the stars in your life. Very very proud of this issue!

Which also happens to be our last.

Yes, folks. After almost 8 years, OK! Philippines is turning its very last page. We couldn't keep up with the lightning speed of the internet and the celebrity blogs like Perez Hilton and Just Jared. While I love all the instant news, my heart is breaking because I love magazines and I'm sadly a witness to its death.

My staff and I had the most amazing time making this fabulous magazine and we will miss it terribly. But we've known OK!'s fate for months and we've all already moved on to new adventures. Still, we will always look back to the years we worked in OK! as the most fun we've ever had. It truly didn't feel like work at all.

My final Letter from the Editor. I cried while writing it!

I'd like to thank our publisher, Summit Media, for the incredible opportunities and the massive support all these years. Thank you for offering me a sweet spot within the company when OK! folded and thank you also for understanding and encouraging me when I decided to strike out on my own and be a freelance writer and full-time mommy instead. I will always view Summit as home and Summiteers as family. Thank you so very much!

Many many hugs and kisses to our loyal readers. It is really breaking my heart reading your shocked dismay on our Facebook page. I had thought—since we've known for a few months—that I'd be ready for your comments when you find out about OK!'s fate. But reading your messages, wow, my eyes can't stop tearing up! Thank you so much for your devotion. We love you and we will miss you, too!

Monday, November 26, 2012

What I learned at Blogopolis

Last week, Vince and I attended the biggest and most fabulous blogging summit in the country—Blogopolis! Presented by Nuffnang, the conference dealt with topics such as how blogging truly is the new media, how to keep coming up with great content, how to turn your blog into a brand, how to engage your audience, how social media helps market your blog, what advertisers look for in blogs and bloggers, how to turn your blog into a real money-making machine, and the trouble with that troublesome Anti-Cybercrime Law. Then there's a party at the end of it. So comprehensive! And all that packed in one day!

I wanted to be there the whole day but I'm a mommy so I can only be a few hours away from home. I figured that the most applicable to me right now is how to attract advertisers, what kinds of services can I offer clients, and how I can turn my blog into a brand. So I just attended the afternoon session.

This dapper guy is Liam Capati. He's the media director of Starcom. That means he gets to say where the ads go. That means we shoulda gone up to him and said hi! See all those logos behind him? I want all those brands on my blogs and Twitter campaigns. Liam, if you're reading this, please make my wish come true! So far, I've worked with Meralco, Sun Cellular, Coca-Cola and McDonald's. That means I'm on their radar!

Actually, I got a big surprise when Liam mentioned that my parenting blog, Topaz Mommy, is a good example of a well written, well done, well branded blog. I knew Topaz Mommy has great writing (of course!) but I didn't know it's already seen as a brand. I must be more aware of what I'm doing!

That's Carlos Palma, executive director of Havas, with Liam. They're talking about numbers. Basically, what they're saying here is your blog doesn't have to be as huge as Yugatech or Chuvaness. Of course, a large readership is great but it's more important for advertisers to be associated with good blogs. So what matters to advertisers?

  • The blogger's personality. Is she engaging? Does she make readers feel like they're her friends? Is her personality strong enough that she stands out in a sea of bloggers? 
  • The blogger's influence. When she recommends something, do people try it? Are her blog posts shared, her Tweets reTweeted?
  • The blogger's authority within her niche blog market. Does she know what she's talking about? Is she an expert in her field?
  • The blog's good reputation. Your blog may be popular but if it's too negative or controversial, brands won't want to work with you. 

Now numbers. When is a blog big enough to make advertisers sit up and notice? Well, here's the thing: Because of the long tail statistical distribution, it doesn't really matter. Let's say Brand X has P10 million to spend on a campaign. Media buyers are in charge of distributing this budget over various media. So TV gets a chunk, so does a few print publications, and some big bloggers. Let's say P6M went to that. The rest of the money, which is still a hefty P4M will now go to a group of smaller bloggers and social media influencers.

That's where we come in. The more, the merrier because Brand X wants to be talked about. Sure, the money isn't as big as the one that goes to traditional media but considering that blogging is just a fun hobby for most of us and not a job, any income that comes in is amazing!

Now the good news is with blogging and Facebook, bloggers are getting a bigger and bigger chunk of that pie while traditional media's slice is getting smaller and smaller. So if you're asking me, "Should I blog?", I only have one answer: "Hell, yeah!"

Now, I did say that blogging is usually just a hobby for most bloggers but when your hobby becomes huge and starts taking up most of your time, Abe Olandres, Nuffnang's Country Manager, says it's time to make it a brand and a business.

Abe says there are many ways to make money from your blog. Display ads, sponsored posts, paid links, affiliate sales, co-branding and partnerships. I've done all of the above, except co-branding and affiliate sales. It's good money, y'all. But not enough. That's why I'm focusing on making the blogs bigger next year. It's top priority! I want to earn as much as some of my blogger friends! They earn much higher than I do as a magazine editor!

Besides, people already think of me first as a blogger. Then they remember my day job. It's an afterthought. So I might as well make blogging the day job, right? We'll see if this plan pans out!

Speaking of people thinking of me as a blogger, here are a couple of readers I met at Blogopolis:
Roxi of Mr. Jacob's Mom. She's so sweet! She's like my top blog commenter. I should give her an award! 
Chrissy of Changing Nappies in High Heels. I always run into Chrissy everywhere! 

And this is me with my date, Mr. Third World Nerd. We're having dessert and coffee at Shangri-la Makati while Blogopolis is on break. Vince wrote about what he learned from Blogopolis, too. Check it out!

Next year, if Nuffnang holds another Blogopolis, I'll stay the whole day. Why? Because we won the grand prize this year—an iPad Mini!!! But since mommy-to-babies duties and my breastfeeding boobs dictate my schedule, we couldn't stay and so we lost the prize! It's okay, it's okay. What I've gained from Nuffnang and Blogopolis is worth much more than an iPad Mini. Chos!