Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's The Giving Journal 2015 (and a giveaway!)

I already bought The Day Designer planner for 2015 but I really like the mission of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf when it comes to their 2015 Giving Journal, so I wanted to help them promote it. And it's a really nice planner, too! Let me tell you a bit about its story before I do my review and giveaway.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (CBTL) 2015 Giving Journal is all about "Overflow and Giving Back." I know the owners of CBTL are Christians so I'm making a wild guess that they're basing their planner's mission on the famous Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
With the Giving Journal to help you plan your year, you can achieve goals and make dreams come true. When that happens and blessings abound, then your cup overflows and it is time to give back and share. It's really quite noble and true. Life takes on so much meaning and joy when you're sharing your life with others. A lot of us will say, "But I have nothing to give." We all have something! Time for our kids, talents for the community, hugs for our friends, smiles for the salespeople or maintenance staff, a sandwich to split with a co-worker, making a cup of coffee for your sleepy spouse. We always are blessed! We just need to see that God provides!

Every year, during the holidays, CBTL releases its Giving Journal, which benefits the Real LIFE Foundation. Since 2008, the company has raised more than P10 million and created awareness for Habitat for Humanity and Real LIFE Foundation. Poor but deserving scholars are given scholarships for high school and college. These scholars are also given LIFE coaching, where mentors help equip these kids with the values and skills they will need to succeed in the real world.

Pretty amazing, right? Create a life of abundance so your life overflows in love and service to others! I'm sure The Giving Journal can help. Let me do my review:

I love love love the cover! It's hardbound in this smooth, velvety material. Nice to run your hands over it. I can imagine feeling pleasure every time I grab it to plan my day!

It comes in other colors but I don't remember the others. Mine is a fabulous, soothing green. 

The names of the journal and the brand are embossed in front, and at the back is a garter seal. 

I like that the owner's info sheet is simple and easy to read. And large. Madaling hanapin at basahin.

The whole planner, by the way, has lots of these bold and graphic patterns and designs. All earthy colors. I am not an earthy color person. I like bold colors like pink and orange and red and blue or just bold black and white. So this color scheme doesn't appeal to me.

Then comes the pages of info about the brand. Can't be helped. It is a product of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf so might as well find out about the name behind the planner.

Then the information about The Giving Journal and how to use it for maximum results follows.

A page for your year's goals. I always like it when my plans are in one page in my planner. I am reminded every day of what my year's supposed to be like and I can then plan every decision and event purposefully.

Only thing I don't like about this is three of the boxes are dark brown. Even if you use black ink to write your goals, mahirap basahin.

Two pages on how to create an abundant life. Very good and helpful suggestions. Some are so simple, which is a good reminder to us all that improving our life needs just small and simple steps.

Vacation planner sheets for those getaways we all need.

Coupons! Sobrang sulit the coupons! Daming free! So if you're a CBTL fan (like me!), you'll be super happy with the offers and deals in The Giving Journal.

Okay, planner pages! They're very simple. Every month starts with a calendar. Love the simple layout. Thank goodness they didn't put those earthy colored graphics here. I don't want to be distracted from my schedule by patterns!

I truly love love love this weekly layout, where the week is on one side and the other side is for your To Do list. I've been using this kind of planner for years. It's more flexible than a daily planner (which I'll be trying out for 2015) but more detailed than a monthly layout.

There are two kinds of notes pages—a dotted one alternating with a blank one. Helpful advice and inspiration is found at the bottom of each notes page.

After 52 weeks, you get a congratulatory note. Hey, everyone who survives life needs to be congratulated! Then blank pages follow, which I always find useful for ideas, notes, drawings and photos.

The last few pages are for helpful information.

The inside back cover has a pocket for receipts and other odds and ends. I think all planners should have a pocket!

What I loved:
  1. The cover material. 
  2. The planner pages. They're simple. Like I said, I want to be focused on my plans so I like that there's no distracting graphics.
  3. No extra unnecessary stuff like measurements, time zones, phases of the moon, etc. 
What needs improvement:
  1. Well, it's a matter of taste but dark colors feel heavy. I don't want to feel heavy when I'm planning my day.
  2. Sana The Giving Journal is available for outright purchase. You can get it for free by collecting stamps for every drink you buy, but what if you're not the patient type? Or you forgot/lost your stamp card? Stress!!!
You can also get my very own copy of The Giving Journal for free by answering this question:
"What Topaz Horizon blog post inspired you to be a better, more giving you?"
Leave your Facebook account name or Twitter handle so I know how to contact you in case you win.

Yes, that's all! Oh, and you need to have a Philippine address. Giveaway ends exactly 24 hours from now. So that's January 1, 4:30pm. Happy New Year and good luck!


CONGRATULATIONS to Emiliana Sison! You won The Giving Journal! Please send me a message over at my Topaz Horizon Facebook page to claim your prize =)

*This planner was given to me. This is not a sponsored giveaway. I'm just giving it away because I already bought a planner!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Topaz Clutch update!

I wanted to tell everyone to buy my Topaz Clutch for gifts this Christmas but this was why I couldn't:

I hope Ni-QUA stocks up soonest! Thank you for all your support for this fun brand collaboration, my dearest readers and friends! Mwah! You have been more than amazing to me this year. God bless you!

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Blissmakerie: The prettiest and most inspiring party I've ever seen

Early this month, I was one of the women Martine de Luna of the inspirational blog, Make It Blissful, invited to her thanksgiving event. She called it Blissmakerie, a gathering of the women she's worked with or helped in her five years of blogging.

I was surprised to be there honestly (with my constant date, Piero, see below), because while Martine and I are friends, we've not actually worked together. I've long wanted to work with Martine to improve my blogs, but I got caught up in babymaking bliss (that's my kind of bliss!) so I put my sessions with Martine on hold. I also focused on family this year, what with two little boys and pregnant with the third to take care of with no yaya (we did finally get a housemaid)! With so much of life happening, I completely lost focus on the blogs.

But I don't regret any of this blog neglect. In fact, it was a conscious decision. Life was happening very quickly and I just had to live it! While many readers may have disliked the sponsored posts na sunod-sunod, I didn't mind. It was either sponsored content or no content. I had lost my "blogging bliss," as Martine would say. Many reasons. Other bloggers brought me down. A difficult pregnancy. A new baby. Just me and my husband raising our boys, which left us completely exhausted. New jobs. All of these left me with no time or energy for blogging outside of sponsored content.

Blogging became another job, although it remained a job I loved. While I consciously distanced myself from writing about my life (I was feeling very fragile this year), I was thankful that I didn't have to completely give up blogging thanks to my dear sponsors who gave me reason (and compensation!) to keep on blogging.

At Blissmakerie, however, my passion for blogging was rekindled. Seeing how Martine grew her blog and her brand, how she collaborated with other bloggers and brands, and helped grow other bloggers' online homes was just the inspiration I needed to shake up Topaz Horizon and Topaz Mommy. I began feeling that old excitement and thrill of sharing my life with you all. I also started dreaming again, visiting old plans I had for the blog. Read this October 2013 post  about my plans for 2014. The last paragraph says:
So that's what I plan to do this year and next year: blog. Grow the blogs, be more purposeful in my writing, get to know my readers more, build my reputation as a credible and honest blogger. Maybe these steps will help me in the next stage—empire building!—or maybe the next stage is more babies and just settling down to be a simple housewife. Who knows? Whatever it may be, I welcome it!  

Well, we now know that 2014 was just all about babies! But I also went back to magazine work so I didn't become a housewife. I did still remain a blogger. And for 2015, that should be my main focus (outside family, of course!).

Anyway! So let's look at this amazing Blissmakerie event so you get an inkling of how it inspired me to blog blissfully again!

The gorgeous venue was at Scarsdale Artisanal Delights ( along Shaw Blvd. Just look at that styling done by Constance Events Styling (! So pretty! But not sickeningly saccharine. Feminine but not girly. Sweet but elegant. I loved it! So pretty! I really told Constance Styling that if I have blog events next year, I'm totally getting them (if I can afford them, that is!).

My place at the table, marked by a Christmas ball with my name and exquisite macarons from Fat Fingers Sweet Treats (

Scarsdale meant it when they added Delights to their name. The scrumptious food was truly good! And I am really maarte with food! I loved everything on the menu!
This pudding a la mode was beyond fabulous. It just had enough simplicity in it to be comfort food (which it is) but it also had just a bit more eye-widening sweetness and texture so that it's not just any old pudding. Must go back for this!!!

Martine invited about 20 of her friends, clients and collaborators. I had a lovely time meeting old friends and making new ones. I like this whole concept of collaboration that Martine dreamed up. Part of what discouraged me in blogging was the suddenly fierce competition and cliques. You know that scene in Mean Girls, that "You can't sit with us," scene? So high school, right? Well, it happened to me at an event. I was so shocked. I walked away, hurt and humiliated. I couldn't handle it! Buti na lang the print media table scooted over and made room for me. Print media are the nicest people!

Then I realized at the Blissmakerie event that not all bloggers are bitches. Many blogging women are wonderful, too. Inspiring and creative and passionate. They use their time online to help other women, to build up, to share. These are the women I want to be with!
Make It Blissful's Blissmakers
Martine's celebrity clients.
Martine with Rissa Trillo of Happy Skin, which sponsored some raffle prizes

After an afternoon of good food, conversations and creative fun, Martine gifted each guest with the darling box of bliss. My Blissful Box, which was a pink polka dot sweetheart from Print Café (, contained these lovely things:

  1. watercolor postcards from Bloom (
  2. tags and postcards from Craftsmith (
  3. Hurraw lip balm from Cutieverse (
  4. olive room spray from Heima (
  5. products from Philosophy (
  6. a vanilla bean from The Vanilla Company (
  7. a vanilla bear and products from A Vanilla Story (
  8. foldable flats from Yosi Samra (
  9. nail polish from Zoya (

I had a blissful afternoon, Martine! Thanks for inviting me, feeding me, and giving me my Blissful Box. And thanks for rekindling an old love that had been smothered by new loves (a.k.a. baby boys!). I have big plans for the Topaz blogs. With Piero a little older in 2015, which may mean I'll have more time, I can finally make my dreams for my blogs come true!

To know more about Blissmakerie and Martine's reasons for throwing such a pretty party, click here.

*all photos, except the ones from my Instagram, are from Shutterpanda Photography (, used with permission from Make It Blissful.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My easy, healthy, cheesy holiday dish

If you're looking for a recipe that's super easy to do but is festive and yummy enough to impress the rest of the family—kids and grownups alike!—then let me share my easy, healthy Cheesy Chicken Rice Casserole!

1/4 of the block of butter
1 cup of chopped onion
2 cups of broccoli
1/3 cup of milk
1 can of condensed cream of chicken soup
1 jar Cheez Whiz
1 1/2 cup cooked white rice

Preheat oven (or a big oven toaster) at 180°C.
Heat butter in a wok.
Add onion and cook till translucent.
Add the broccoli florets and cook until tender but crisp.
Stir in the milk, soup, Cheez Whiz and rice.
Stir until Cheez Whiz is melted.
Pour all of this cheesy mixture into a shallow baking dish.
Pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until it's bubbling!
Serve with love! (This serves 2-4 people.)

I love how Cheez Whiz makes this dish so fast and easy to prepare. The beloved cheese spread adds cheesiness, velvetiness, smoothness and flavor. And of course I love how it's soooo cheesy!

Monday, December 22, 2014

My 38th birthday weekend

Oh wow, December is almost done and I haven't told you about my birthday! November was crazy. Good crazy. My birthday was just one of those good crazy days. I'm grateful that my life is so full of goodness and love. When I turned 38 on November 7, all I could think of was how every year God gives to me is a testament to His grace and love. Not every year is great. There have been years that were bad, even horrific, but on my birthdays, when I look back at the past year, I always still see that God was always there. Always.

This past year, my 37th year, has got to be one of the very best in my life. I really felt God's blessings pouring on me! Thank You, Lord! I hope my 38th year will be even better. But first, let's take a look at my birthday weekend.

Flowers from my Vince and our boys!
Check out how old I am! We recycled candles from the kids' birthdays.
Everyone make a wish!
And the cake is now covered with kiddie saliva!
My flowers are actually a deep red, they looked almost black.

Oakwood Joy-Nostalg gifted me with a stay at one of their suites. I'll talk more about the serviced apartments on my mommy blog but I just found it so perfect that Oakwood's address is on this street:

My sister Jacqui celebrated with us. Thanks, Jacqui, for babysitting the boys!
There was a sofa but my kids like snuggling with their Papa. Just like me!
The boys loved the master bedroom! We did, too!
Oakwood surprised the boys with a gift!
...and me with a beautiful cake!
More wishes!
Steveston Pizzaa surprised me with the yummiest, super-crowded-with-toppings pizza!
Dinner was a sampling of the seafood buffet. Boy, I look tired na here!
The boys conked out really late. Too excited!
Breakfast buffet the next morning!
Then off to the play area!
The kids loved the huge room made for play! 
Like, super!
Meanwhile, us adults lounged and played with the littlest one.
Packing away before heading home!

Happiness! My husband, my kids, my health, my friends—they are everything to me! I pray all the time that I never take this for granted, because I do sometimes. God bless them. May God make me a blessing to them.

May God use me to be a blessing to you all, too, my dear readers! You've been so wonderful and encouraging to me all these years. Thank you, thank you! I pray now for God's abundance to overflow all over you now. God bless you all!

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