Monday, December 28, 2020

Inside the BDJ Power Planner 2021 (and yes, a giveaway!)

Okay, I'm still in a Christmas mood and also a New Year's mood! Let's do a planner giveaway! And not just any planner but the Belle de Jour Power Planner 2021! 

Before we get to the giveaway, let's talk about the planner. Belle de Jour is French for "beauty of the day." And if you get a BDJ Power Planner, your every day will be filled with beauty. You can't escape it. Every page of the planner is full of inspiration so you can have a great day.

The theme for 2021 is being one with the Earth. That means when you plan your day, the planner hopes to remind you to honor your mind and body (because we are made of earth), connect with others meaningfully, and be inspired and thankful for our environment and make it a better place.

As you can see, the pages are all about being positive and beautiful - something we'll most likely need in massive doses in 2021 since the pandemic is far from over.


Despite the fact that we'll most likely live with COVID-19 for one more year and therefore must stay home to stay safe, the BDJ planner is feeling optimistic and included a booklet of shopping perks. No worries - many of the vouchers can be used for online purchases.

I'm actually a bullet journal fan but I decided to try a ready-for-occupancy planner (haha) this 2021 because customizing a bujo takes up so much of my time. I've already started using my BDJ Power Planner and guess what I did - I started customizing it. Old habits die hard haha. But at least many of the pages have been made for me (monthly spreads, weekly spreads) so that means less time on planning and more time for actually doing.


So now you have a peek at the BDJ Power Planner 2021! Next year also happens to be the 15th anniversary of the BDJ planner. My blog is also 15 years old next year! Hooray! So let's start the fabulous 15th anniversary of BDJ and Topaz Horizon with a giveaway!

Here's how:
1. Just blog about what you're looking forward to in 2021. It can be just a short blog post. No need for a long essay - unless you want to write one!
2. Add this at the end of your post: "I'm also looking forward to winning a Belle de Jour Power Planner from TopazHorizon.com!" 
3. If you don't have a blog, you can also do a Facebook post. Just link to this blog please!
4. Leave the link to your blog post or Facebook post in the comments below. 


I'll share your blog posts on my blog's Facebook page and will choose a winner* on Sunday, January 2.

Good luck!

*Winner must have a Philippine address. This giveaway is mine alone and BDJ has no idea I'm doing this to the planner they gave me haha. If you'd like to check out their other planners (they have several that are not as feminine as the BDJ Power Planner), click here to browse and shop.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

My most read blog posts this 2020


I've been blogging for 14 years and 7 months and I still don't understand what makes people go to my blog. Four of the top 10 read posts in 2020 were published in past years:

"Top mommy bloggers in the Philippines" was written last year and that one was intentionally written to get views. I know PR agencies and brands Google this topic all the time so I plan to update that post every year.

"Physiogel Calming Relief" is a review post from 2016. Beauty bloggers tell me that they get tons of hits because everyone's always looking for reviews before they buy products. But I've reviewed other beauty products and they don't appear on my top 10 list. 

The FERN-C post was published in 2016 and it did well only this year and I believe that's because parents got freaked out by the COVID-19 pandemic and researched for the best vitamins to boost their kids' immunity.

As for the BabyLove diaper pants 2018 post... I don't know what happened there. Maybe people are finally realizing BabyLove is a great diaper brand. Yes! I was a longtime Pampers mommy, even was a brand ambassador, but BabyLove changed my mind.

For this year's posts, three were about relationships. I noticed that a long time ago actually. Whenever I blog about my love story, the posts get thousands of views. Not my kids, not my work and money advice, not my sponsored posts - it's my marriage that people want to read about. I'd love to write about it more because I love my husband SO MUCH. But! But But! I happen to be married to a really private man who tolerates my oversharing because he knows I like oversharing. So since marriage is compromise, I scaled back on the marriage posts.

Here are the links to the other top posts, in case you're interested:

Koobits online math classes 

Morbid to-do list

Vince was serious about me

Advice for celebrity kabits

Mukhang pera

How to get in the mood for sex

So it's 2021 next week! And it's also the dawn of my 15th year as a blogger. WHAT! Fifteen years?! What do you want me to blog about more, dear Loyal Readers? What do you want me to do this new year? Tell me and let's see!


Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas!

Happy holidays to you all! We spent the last 10 months indoors, navigating what is perhaps the biggest change in our times. I hope you made it through with your loved ones. I hope you are counting your blessings - even the tiniest ones which often are the biggest ones, if you look at them again. I hope you are holding on to hope. 

Merry Christmas, dearest darling Loyal Readers! From all of us in our home to all of you in your home, may God bless us all.


Monday, December 21, 2020

Celebrate with easy cocktail recipes using Welch's Sparkling Juices

It's the holidays! All you need for these recipes is fruit juice, fruits, sweetener, and Welch's Sparkling Grape Juices. You'll also need a champagne flute because the tall and narrow glass and its small opening preserve the bubbles better. If you don't have a champagne flute, just choose your tallest, skinniest drinking glass (a.k.a. Collins glass).

Citrusy Sweet Chiller

This is based on the recipe for a French 75, which is basically gin, lemon juice, and champagne. I replaced the champagne with Welch's Sparkling White Grape Juice so that the effervescence remains. I used the White Grape because this is a clear, sparkly drink. The gin is still there but the sweet-tart taste will mask that. So be careful not to drink too much of this because it still has a kick!


Ingredients

1 oz gin
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ozs sparkling grape juice, chilled
Lemon twist

Instructions

1. Put gin, sugar, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with a couple of ice cubes. Shake well until the sugar dissolves.
2. Fill a champagne flute with ice.
3. Strain the mixture into the flute and top with sparkling grape juice.
4. Garnish with a lemon twist. Enjoy!

Easiest Ever Christmas Sangria

When it's Noche Buena, there's always a fruit salad on the table. Why don't you grab 2 cans of fruit cocktail, one for the dessert and one for this simple punch? Sangria is a cold drink from Spain served with chopped fruit in the glass. It's traditionally a red wine but you can use white wine, sherry, brandy, rum, or if you don't want any alcohol, just a mix of fruit juice and soda water. I switched out the alcoholic bubbly with Welch's Sparkling Red Grape Juice for a sweet and merry drink everyone in the family can enjoy. 


Ingredients

1 can fruit cocktail, drained
2 bottles sparkling red grape juice 

Instructions

1. Put the fruit cocktail in a pitcher.
2. Fill with sparkling red grape juice. Enjoy!

P.S. If you want it to be less sweet, add freshly squeezed citrus juice since the sour will balance out the sweetness. 
 

*This post is brought to you by Welch's. Welch's 100% Grape Juice, Juice Cocktails, Sparkling Juices, and Fruit Snacks are available in all leading supermarkets, drugstores, and convenience stores. You can have your favorite health drink delivered right to your doorstep! Visit the Ace Food Service website, or place your order in the following online groceries: Metro Mart, Lazmart, and Waltermart.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

How to develop your child's social skills while quarantined, tips from my sons

People ask me sometimes how my kids are coping with the longest lockdown in the world. They also ask if they're feeling sad that they don't see their friends and family. They are fine, I'm glad to report. I like to think my husband and I are doing a great job making them feel safe and happy at home, but there's only so much we can do. My kids need other people, too!


In one of my articles for the Wyeth website, Parenteam, I shared a few tips on how to develop our child's social skills. To write that, I tapped my dear Loyal Readers to share their tips so I'm really grateful you guys are always so happy to help me out. Thank you!

Well, I just want to share that even my kids were eager to help their Mama write her article. They gave me advice, too! My kids are always telling me how to do my job. I let them. It's a good way for them to communicate how they feel and how they think we should improve. Although some suggestions ("If you let me stay up till midnight, I can practice my drawing better!") get shot down sometimes. 

(Confession: said kid is actually beside me drawing and it's 11pm.)

Here are my kids' tips on how to develop social skills even while quarantined:

1. Let them go online, supervised of course.

My popular kid is Vito so he's the one who felt the loss of his friends the most. He sometimes plays video games with his friends after he told me this: "Mama, even Alfonso plays games with his friends and cousin. Fornite and Minecraft Realms. You have to let me play with them so I have someone to play with!" So I allow it as long as I'm in the same room.

You can also try Messenger Kids. My middle child, Iñigo, is a huge fan. He has to send messages and photos and videos he created to his friends and even their parents every day! Vito prefers Viber because he likes video chats.


2. Introduce new experiences.

Iñigo is an introvert so he's actually pretty happy to be home all day. He can always find something to do in our house! This is what he suggested: "Experience lots of things at home - tasting new food, playing new games - so your child learns new things that we can talk about together." Yes, he talks like that to me when I ask his opinion on some of my articles. So cute!

My youngest son Piero advises this, "Learning new things like when you taught us about the urinary tract in the penis and how it goes to the bladder and the kidneys." He says that was so amazing. Encouraging your kids to ask questions helps develop their communication skills so please talk with them - you're all they have in lockdown.

3. Get a furry friend.

We already have a rabbit but she's mine so my kids don't really interact with Bunny Blue. So when a neighbor who was moving out asked for people to adopt their hamsters, we took three! My sons are SO HAPPY NOW. There has been a huge change in their mood. Iñigo says, "Pets are important in lockdown. They keep you company, give you comfort, and play with you." 

The kids love their hamsters so much. Their play together improved, they babysit each other's hammys, and they've gained a sense of responsibility not only to their pets but to our home.

(Important note: Pets are a huge commitment. They are expensive. Your home will have animal smells no matter how clean you are. You will have to live with fur, poop, pee, and noise. I only recommend this tip if you can fully commit to a new family member - your pet!)


And those are my sons' three tips on how to develop social skills while in quarantine! 

By the way, I also wrote an article on how to help our kids with the stress of lockdown. If this is happening in your home, please take a look. Writing this article helped me manage my kids' stress. I hope it helps you, too!

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Gift suggestions: 12 delicious Pinoy homemade goodies!

It's almost Christmas! If you're not yet done with your gift shopping, I've got a surprise for you - I gathered the yummiest treats into this list! Choose and shop and send your love to family and friends and know that you're sending the very best deliciousness!
 
Bibingka Manila 


I'm a huge fan of bibingka. So when I found out about Bibingka Manila from Timmie Hilado (I met her because of baby shop Urban Essentials), talagang I had to try it and I loved it so much I gave to my mother-in-law. That's a huge sign of approval from me! You have got to buy Bibingka Manila for yourself and your loved ones. too. The rice cakes are rich and buttery and perfectly textured. So good! The ube is my favorite flavor. The box these come in is a gorgeous, elegant black or pale blue (Solenn x BibingkaMNL). Just add festive ribbon. Gift-ready! 

Instagram: @bibingkamnl 


CanDIshhh Bakes 


Okay, if you must know something about me, it's I love focaccia bread. Looking at the heavenly focaccia masterpieces Didi Tiu Tang made is making me drool. I know Didi from way back when she used to buy OK! magazine and I love everyone who loves Hollywood and royalty! I just didn't realize that Didi's focaccia is fit for celebrity! Choose from Classic Rosemary, Caramelised Onions and Garlic, Rosemary Tomato & Olives - each flavor just P250!  

Facebook: CanDIshhh BAKES


Celine's Kitchen


We can't gather together for Christmas this year but that doesn't mean we can't send our love, and what better way than with freshly cooked food? Celine Fonacier, my block mate from our UP days, is willing to cook a feast for your loved ones. She uses only the best ingredients, sourced from select suppliers, and cooked in a meticulously clean kitchen. Her bestseller is lechon belly roll that is soooo crispy and tasty, her customers can't stop raving about it. A kilogram is onlyP880! Order now!



CHIP 


If you're craving thick, gooey, chunky, monster cookies that will awe even Cookie Monster, then you must grab a box of CHIP cookies! Just look at that cookie my blogger ninang Trixie Esguerra made (P.S. she made me ninang sa kasal niya this year)! My personal favorite is Classic Break - a choco chip cookie that OD'd on dark chocolate chips. Then I neeeeeed White Chick, which is a cookie stuffed with white Belgian chocolates and roasted Macadamians. Trixie has two boxes right now called Everything Box for a sampler of all their flavors and Smash Hit Box for the bestsellers. Order na! 

Facebook: CHIP


Chrissy Bakey


My mommy friend Chrissy Caballero bakes the best carrot cake and scrumptiously moist chocolate cake! You must try them out. And then give them to all your friends and family! Order Hoppity Poppity Carrot Walnut Cake for P650 and the Legendarily Chocolatey Chocolate Cake for P450 now.

Facebook: Chrissy Bakey


Gia's Pizza and Breads


Send a delicious and healthy pizza! Gia's Pizza is the small business of my Assumption Antipolo classmate, Dr. Aizel. Their pizzas are made from sourdough and made with the freshest vegetables. The Pizza alle Verdure is only P325. Not a fan of veggies? There are Italian sausage and chorizo flavors, too. 

Facebook: Gia's Pizza

John Dough


If you love fresh sourdough bread, then you must check out John Dough. Created by my inaanak sa kasal Chef Edward Bugia with Chef Angelo Santos, the bread they bake is 100% whole wheat and healthy and delicious. They offer pan de sal and loaves to batard and focaccia. Try them all! Wrap them while still warm in a beautiful kitchen towel or place in a bread basket for a rustic and cottagecore gift.

Facebook: John Dough


Kesong P's Premium Kesong Puti


Taste this cheese made from the freshest carabao's milk! Made lovingly from a recipe passed down the generations, my former Summit Media colleague Billie Palabyab and her husband Ian Palabyab are so proud of their premium cheese that celebrities love to include in their recipes. Eat it with hot pan de sal, toss in a salad, or melt on top of soup! They have holiday packs now for P350 nd P550. 
Mama Bear's Baked Goodies


Tita Vicky is the mom of my former Summit Media colleague, Haze Romawac. She bakes healthy goodness. Take your pick: chocolate chip cookies, chocolate oatmeal bars, brownies made chunky with either walnuts or choco chips, moist chocolate cake, fruit cake, pan de sal, camote loaf, and more. Click here for the full menu.



Nieta


Jars of special artisanal jams homemade by Patricia Paredes, a former editor like me! I'm a fan of jams, marmalade, and jellies. I love them on warm toast with golden butter, poured over vanilla ice cream, a dollop on a slice of pie. Yum. Try Nieta's because these are curious flavors of pineapple and sili labuyo. Or calamansi mint and gin. Even onion marmalade. Interested? A 4oz jar is just P190 to P210.  

Instagram: @nieta_ph


The Two Weirdoughs



Why not give a nutty pie this Christmas? It's bursting with holiday flavor so order Why Nut, Walnut? from The Two Weirdoughs. The new baking business by Lally Fider, my friend from my magazine PR days, is not just about pies. They offer chewy cookies and creamy pastillas, too! Order now! 



Unreal Pies 


I love pies. I love pie soooo much! And I am a huge pie snob, too. But take a look at these unreal pies by my Summit Media colleague Jacque de Borja. She makes them herself so it's full of love, goodness, and freshness! She makes only two pies: Blueberry Cornmeal Crumble and Apple Crumble, and they are made from the best ingredients. The blueberry is P1,399 for 9" and the apple is P1,199 for the 9". Place your orders now!

Facebook: Unreal Pies

Friday, December 11, 2020

Taylor Swift just sang about my mother

Taylor Swift just launched her new album, evermore, today. I'm not even done memorizing the lyrics of the songs in folklore, the album she launched just a few months ago. Yes, even though I listen to folklore five times a week! Well, now I need to learn the songs of evermore. And I'm starting with "marjorie" because it's about my Mama.


Well, no, "marjorie" isn't about Mama. It's about Taylor's grandmother, Marjorie Finlay. She was an opera singer who inspired Taylor to have a musical career. But the lyrics, Ms. Finlay's gestures and facial expressions - that's exactly like Mama. It was insane, watching the videos of her. I wish we took videos of Mama, too, so I could show you how elegant, graceful, and beautiful she was. Just like Marjorie.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Make your Christmas spread merry and bright with these The Maya Kitchen-tested recipes

Woah! In about 2 weeks, it's Christmas! This year went by so fast. We're not going to let the disruptions of this year change our Christmas so thanks to Maya Kitchen (which was actually the one who reminded me that it's almost Noche Buena time!!!), I am now planning my holiday menu. Check out these recipes for a Marseille Seafood Soup, an extra special Lechon Belly, and delightful baby bibingkas!

* * * * * * *


PRESS RELEASE - Things may have been so different the past few months, but there’s one thing that won’t change: The Christmas season remains to be the most hopeful time of the year when you gather ‘round the table with your loved ones enjoying a spread of eats and treats that have been made from the heart. 

While the holiday celebrations may be scaled back for everyone’s health and safety, the Christmas celebrations at home can still be merrier and brighter by carefully preparing a delicious menu that the entire family will love. Here are three showstopping recipes from The Maya Kitchen that can make your Christmas spread extra delightful this season.

Marseille Seafood Soup


Marseille Seafood Soup is a light and flavorful French soup that’s versatile enough that can include your family’s preferred seafood—it can be shrimp, squid, or clams, your call! The Maya Kitchen’s take comes out with a cheery ochre color from saffron powder. 

INGREDIENTS

4 pieces tomatoes
3 mugs fish broth
1 mug fish fillet, sliced into chunks
1 mug seafood (you can use shrimps, clams, squid, or whatever you prefer)
1 teaspoon Pernod alcohol (you can use a teacup of diced fennel as a substitute, but unfortunately no local alcohols have the same taste)
1 piece small onion, sliced
1/3 teaspoon saffron powder

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Choose a combination of your favorite kinds of seafood and fish. Just make sure to remove the bones, skin, and shells.
2. Peel tomatoes. Slice them into four wedges.
3. In a large pot heat your broth and bring to a boil. Set a handful of seafood aside. Add tomatoes, fish chunks, and the rest of your ingredients to your broth.
4. Reduce heat to low and cook for 30minutes without covering your pot to allow your liquid to reduce.
5. After 30minutes, remove from heat, and pour the soup into a blender (you might have to do this a few times depending on the amount of soup). Blend well on full power until the soup is smooth.
6. Pour soup back into the pot through a fine strainer. Use a wooden spoon to help press the soup through the strainer, allowing all the liquid through.
7. Set the fleshy residue that is left in the strainer aside. Add the rest of your seafood into the soup, along with the Pernod, and pepper to taste. Stir and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

RECIPE NOTES
To increase the number of servings, simply multiply the measurements of the ingredients by the number of guests.

Lechon Belly with Bacon Saffron Rice Stuffing


As Noche Buena may be a bit pared down this year, ordering a whole lechon seems too much for a single household. Your family can opt to prepare Lechon Belly with Bacon Saffron Rice Stuffing, which combines the juicy tenderness of pork belly and the irresistible crispiness of lechon, plus some earthy and sweet saffron rice stuffing surprise. 

INGREDIENTS
2.5-3 kilos boneless whole pork belly slab
2-3 tablespoons rock salt, enough for rubbing
2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoon freshly pan-roasted black peppercorns, crushed

Rice Stuffing:
¼ cup olive oil
200 grams picnic bacon, cut into small cubes
2 pieces medium-sized onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
5 cups cooked rice (sticky or Japanese rice)
2-3 small sachets saffron powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons curly parsley, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
annatto oil (heat up ¼ cup annatto seeds in 1/3 cup olive oil)

INSTRUCTIONS
1. In a large tray, lay flat the pork belly skin side down then prick or cut all the meat portion using the tip of a sharp knife then season or rub the meat on both sides with rock salt, garlic, ground pepper, and freshly pan-roasted crushed whole black peppercorns. 
2. Place and chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours without cover. Remove seasoned belly from the refrigerator and sew up both ends of the belly using an over-sized needle with the use of butcher’s twine or any kitchen twine until it looks like a body of a “lechon”. 
3. Place again inside the refrigerator until ready for stuffing. 

To make rice stuffing:
1. Heat oil in a pan and pan-fry bacon until golden brown.
2. Add in onions and garlic and pan and sauté until aromatic.
3. Toss in cooked rice and give a few stirs until the rice is fully covered with the sautéed ingredients.
4. Season with saffron powder, salt, parsley, and zest of lemon.
5. Continue mixing the rice until the lemon is aromatic.
6. Turn off the heat and cool the rice. Set aside for later use.

To assemble:
1. Get the sewn pork belly and stuff with the prepared bacon saffron rice stuffing.
2. Enclose both ends of the stuffed pork belly with foil and cover the entire top of the pork belly with foil. 
3. Arrange in a roasting pan and roast in a preheated oven 350°F/177°C for about an hour then turn up the heat to 375°F/190°C removing the foil on both ends, every 30 minutes’ brush belly with prepared annatto oil. 
4. After an hour turn up the heat again to 400°F/204°C and continue roasting until the skin of the pork belly gives a crackling sound when knocked. 
5. Remove belly lechon from the oven and rest for 10 to 15 minutes before chopping.

RECIPE NOTES
Yield: 10-15 servings

Assorted Mini Bibingka


To round out your Christmas feast, why not prepare a medley of Mini Bibingka? This time, do something beyond traditional and get adventurous in the kitchen. Make your bibingka with ube, buko pandan, coffee, or chocolate flavors. You can even take some of your bibingka up a notch by topping it with leche flan for a sweet, creamy finish or slices of salted egg for a savory kick.

INGREDIENTS
4 eggs
1 pack MAYA Original Fluffy n’ Tasty Hotcake Mix 200 grams
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon rice flour
¼ cup fresh milk
¼ cup coconut cream
¼ cup coconut milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
Different flavorings and toppings as desired ube flavoring, buko pandan flavoring, instant coffee powder, leche flan, chocolate ganache, etc.
salted egg, sliced
cheese, sliced or grated
banana leaves for lining of pans (optional)
grated coconut (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350⁰F/177⁰C. Line mamon molder or 6-holes 8oz muffin pans with banana leaves. Set aside.
2. In a bowl beat eggs, then add hotcake mix, rice flour, sugar, milk, coconut milk, coconut cream, and melted butter. Mix well. Fold in desired flavors.
3. Fill up to ¾ of the mamon molder or muffin pans with the bibingka mixture. Bake bibingka for 10 to 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. 
4. In the middle of baking, around 5 to 6 minutes of baking, gently take the half-baked bibingka and top it up with sliced salted egg and sliced or grated cheese. Then put it back in the oven to completely bake the bibingka.
5. Serve with butter on top and grated coconut on side.

RECIPE NOTES
Yield: 8-10 pieces

With a delicious Noche Buena spread and the warm company of your loved ones, a scaled-down Christmas celebration can be as memorable as before—and maybe just a bit more meaningful.

Like and follow The Maya Kitchen on Facebook @MayaKitchen and Instagram @TheMayaKitchen1. Learn great recipes at www.themayakitchen.com



*To be featured on Press Release Tuesdays, send it to frances@topazhorizon.com. First photo by septiandy lim on Unsplash. Food photos courtesy of Buensalido PR.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

The Christmas 2020 ad of McDonald's made me cry (plus, stories of my kids and Santa Claus)

The holidays are here! And you know what that means - TV commercials! I love Christmas ads. That's one thing you have to know about me. It's two things I love - ads and Christmas! Well, this one by McDonald's UK is my favorite this year so far:


Ugly cry when "Forever young, I want to be forever young..." came on. I want to grow old and I want to see my boys grow up. But I wish we could stay this happy forever. The way they believe everything we say. The way they look up to us. The way they enjoy each other and laugh all day. I hope this lasts forever, this innocence and joy and trust in the goodness of life. Forever young. 

My boys just wrote their letters to Santa. Even 10-year-old Vito. I told him, "You think Santa will still give you a toy? Most kids your age stop believing in him because Santa's gifts kinda suck." In our house, Santa's gifts need to be handmade so it looks like Santa's elves made them. So between a wooden toy and a video game or even a book, you know what wins. But Vito said, "I still believe in Santa! And his toys don't suck. I've been a good boy all year." Yes, he has. So he gets a toy from the North Pole then.

Check out what Vito said about Santa when he was 6:


The second boy, my Iñigo, was the one who reminded me that we need to send the letters to Santa, which surprised me because just last month, this happened:


So I really thought he wasn't going to write to Santa. But he did. And I thought to myself, "Yey, he's still a baby!"

Meanwhile, the baby of the family was all grown up when he wrote this:


Kinda made me cry. On one hand, he still believes in Santa. On the other hand, he's mature enough to realize he's got all that he needs and he doesn't want anything more. Either that or he thinks Santa will get him coal for being naughty this year haha

Kids! They make my heart glad. 

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope we all enjoy your kids while they're small and even when they're big. May we all always be forever young at heart!

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

#ShareTheSparkle and celebrate with Welch’s Sparkling Juices

It's December! Time to draw up those lists: gift lists for family friends, wish lists for yourself, to-do lists for all the holiday preps, and of course the grocery list for Noche Buena! Make sure you include Welch's Sparkling Juices in your list, okay? My family and I absolutely LOVE Welch's Sparkling Juices (Red Grape is my favorite). Read on to find out more about our must-have drink!

* * * * * * * 


PRESS RELEASE - The holiday season of 2020 is so different from past years. Christmas parties and gatherings would be turned into online celebrations and gifts are now bought from online stores. So much has changed but one thing remains the same -- the love for family. 

There is still so much to celebrate and be thankful for, even at home. If you want the entire family to join the fun, Welch’s has a line of Sparkling Juices that are fizzy but guilt-free. Welch’s Sparkling Juices -- Sparkling Red Grape, Sparkling White Grape, and its newest addition this year, the Sparkling Rosè -- are bubbly and 100% alcohol-free, making it perfect for both kids and adults, even expecting mommies, too! 


“Even though we couldn’t still go out and have parties or join large gatherings, Welch’s is inviting everyone to have their own celebrations at home,” says Erika Rodriguez, VP for Marketing of GEMCo, the Philippine marketing agent of Welch’s International. 

The Welch’s Sparkling Red Grape and Sparkling White Grape are both heart-healthy and delicious. Pressed from the freshest Concord and Niagara grapes across America by farmer-families, this 150-year tradition of “Real Grape Goodness” has made Welch’s one of the most loved beverages in the world, especially by Filipino families. 

On the other hand, Welch’s Sparkling Rosè has a light, refreshing taste, and the sweetness of a ripe summer fruit. Pretty in its pink bottle, it looks great in any online party you may host at home. 


All three Welch’s Sparkling Juices are easy to mix with other beverages, so you could concoct a variety of unique bubbly mocktails to impress your family. Add a splash of your favorite juices and discover the goodness in each sip. 

Each bottle makes for an excellent and convenient Christmas gift, so you can have it delivered to the homes of your friends, relatives, and co-workers. Lift up your family’s spirits with a sparkling drink that’s all about celebrating life and special moments.


A Product of the USA, Welch’s products are available in retail stores. To learn more about Welch’s Sparkling Juices and recipes, visit www.welchs.com or follow Welch's PH in FB and IG. You may also have Welch’s Sparkling Juices and other Welch’s juices delivered at your doorstep by visiting https://acefoodservice.com. Or place your order in the following online groceries: metromart.com, Lazmart, and waltermartdelivery.com.ph.

*To be featured on Press Release Tuesdays, send it to frances@topazhorizon.com. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Slow down, mama

It's December tomorrow. Holiday rush! I just realized I've only gotten a third of my gift shopping done. But we did finally put the pink tree up. And the house feels a lot more Christmas-y and so I'm beginning to feel it's time to rush-rush-rush the shopping and wrapping and sending of gifts! 


And then this old poem that I posted on my now-hidden mommy blog (remember Topaz Mommy?) popped up on my Facebook Memories and I took a deep breath and said, "No stress this year, Mama. Just enjoy the fact that you survived 2020 (fingers crossed) and you get to celebrate Christmas again."

SLOW DOWN MUMMY

Slow down, mummy, there is no need to rush,
Slow down, mummy, what is all the fuss?
Slow down, mummy, make yourself a cup of tea.
Slow down, mummy, come and spend some time with me.

Slow down, mummy, let's put our boots on and go out for a walk,
Let's kick at piles of leaves, and smile and laugh and talk.
Slow down, mummy, you look ever so tired,
Come sit and snuggle under the duvet and rest with me a while.

Slow down, mummy, those dirty dishes can wait,
Slow down, mummy, let's have some fun, let's bake a cake!
Slow down, mummy I know you work a lot,
But sometimes, mummy, it's nice when you just stop.

Sit with us a minute,
And listen to our day,
Spend a cherished moment,
Because our childhood is not here to stay.

Thank you, Rebekah Knight, for reminding me to just savor the moments of motherhood.

And then I saw this heartachingly tender lullaby of a mommy to her baby about slowing down, too. Mamas, get the tissues ready.


Beautiful song by Nichole Nordeman. Thank you for making songs about love, family, and God - what really matters in this broken world that's just rushing to destroy us all.

We all need to slow down. And this year just made us do it. Really enjoying the time I have with my family this year. I don't think I'll ever have this magical time with them again. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Meet my calamansi plant, Min-Min

Let me tell you what's inspiring me these days. This is my calamansi plant. 


Our relationship was off to a bad start since I didn't know how to take care of plants. For a loooooong while it looked like she was going to be another plant I'd kill. She lost many of her leaves. 


And then after months of trying this much water and that much sun, I finally figured her out. And she's now sprouting so many new baby leaves and buds, like she's celebrating my understanding of her after all these months that must've been terrible for her.


Relationships are like that. Life is like that. You just have to keep trying to figure people out, figure life out. The trick is not to give up because when you finally get it, oh how you'll be rewarded ❤️


*This was my DAY 18 post of my #therestof2020 I'm doing over at Instagram. I wanted to reclaim 2020 and stop just waiting for bad things to happen. Instead I'm going to actively look for good things that are happening in my life so that I can look back at this year and say it was a good one.

Sweeping your girlfriend off her feet with the right engagement ring

Three things happened this week that can't be a coincidence: (1) I'm in the middle of watching "The Crown" on Netflix and thought that scene where the Queen asks Diana to choose her engagement ring from a tray of baubles was a bit sad; (2) my kids and I put up our Christmas trees - we have three! - and one of them is quite memorable because when he proposed Vince put my engagement ring in it for me to find but I couldn't find it haha, and (3) this guest post on engagement rings appeared in my inbox! So I'm publishing it!

* * * * * * *

Diana's sapphire ring influenced proposals ever after.

GUEST POST - At one point or the other, we’ve all searched for Miss. Right. In the process, some individuals have found their missing ribs, while others are still on the hunt. Once, you’ve found the girl of your dreams, you feel on top of the world. You can’t wait to settle down with her and give her the best in life. Of course, you’ll also get to meet her parents and tie the knot. But in the midst of all these, getting the ideal engagement ring becomes an essential factor to consider, as it shows your undying love for your wife to be. Besides, your girlfriend can’t wait to show off her shiny ring.

But how do you find the right engagement ring? Here is a secret I will show you. Have you heard about the 4Cs? And I mean Clarity, Cut, Carat Weight, and Colour. Yes, these elements are essential in selecting the ideal ring for your spouse. Even GIA-certified gemstones revolve around the 4Cs. They determine the cost and quality of your precious stone.

It’s My First Engagement Ring Purchase

For you, this may be your first attempt at purchasing an engagement ring for your significant other, and you are confused as to which one to select. You’ve come across several options and terminology that you feel overwhelmed with information overload. Hit the brake and let me explain some things to you. Buying a diamond ring with the highest rating in each gemstone category (4Cs) does not necessarily imply that it will appeal to you more than one that slightly falls short of any of the 4C class.

By the way, your diamond ring does not have to meet every criterion to be perfect. Perfection is just an illusion in the world of jewelry. What is essential is having a gemstone that appeals to the user and comes at an affordable price – except you have tons of cash lying in your bank account to splurge on an expensive ring. Even at that, it does not mean a thing.

What Should I Do?

The first factor you have to consider when shopping for an engagement ring is your budget. Yes, you must have a price cap. How much can you spend on a diamond ring without affecting your livelihood? Your jeweler will provide you with a broad range of rings, each having an individual price tag that meets a specific pocket size. You don’t have to save for years before affording an engagement ring for your spouse. Remember, time is of the essence. While you are saving up, she is growing older, and someone else is already asking her out.

You can always get her a better jewel over time. However, that doesn’t mean that you should be frugal as well. Purchase a diamond ring you can afford easily. If you don’t know her ring size, get anyone she is using currently or has worn, press it against a bar soap to get its impression, and take it to the jewel store to get the right size. But if you are not all about surprises, then ask her.

That looks like four small diamonds made to look like a giant one.

Don’t Be in a Hurry

I understand that you have to tie the knot in no time. But don’t rush things, especially when purchasing an engagement ring. The last thing you want is to make a mistake. You can discuss with your jeweler about getting the ideal diamond ring for your spouse.

* This is a guest post, with my edits. To place a guest post, email frances@topazhorizon.com for my rates. Mug photo by Jose Martinez, sapphire ring photo by Fallon Michael, both on Unsplash.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Mommy mission: Make 2020 one of the best years in my kids' life

It's not news to say that this year is a really bad year for the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of people to lose their businesses, their jobs, and worst of all, their loved ones. I didn't earn much this year. And since next year looks like it will be like this year, I'm thinking of closing down my sole proprietorship and just registering with the BIR as a professional.

Bad news all around, I know, but I'm determined to make the most of 2020 and 2021. I'm feeling hopeful. In fact, my words for 2021 are JOYFUL ANTICIPATION. I always get my word for the next year around my birthday (I just celebrated my 44th birthday!). This year's word is LOVE. When I blogged about that word, if you read the post (read it!), you'd get chills about how I predicted what 2020 will be like. So since God impressed upon my heart the words "joyful anticipation," I have hope for 2021. 

2020 gain: I learned how to cut hair!

These past 252 days, I've been doing my best to make my kids like our situation. Their world, just like everyone else's, was turned upside down. One day they were going to school and seeing their friends, the next day (and 252 days after) they didn't. No one can tell them when this will end. 

But here's where history comes in. We told them that the last great pandemic was in 1918 and it lasted two years. And that was when the medical and scientific community plus media weren't as modern as they are today. So we told the kids, "History says this should be 2 years, but science and medicine are more advanced now so it could be shorter!" Thanks, history!

We finally tried homeschooling. 

So one year down, one more to go! It sounds frightening but we just approach it one day at a time. Today, the goal is to stay safe, stay healthy, stay alive. I feel very accomplished every night and we're all in bed, healthy!

My kids may not be seeing their friends and relatives, but they do see them online from time to time and they're spending 24/7 with us! We may not have gone on vacations, but they literally didn't have school for 5 months and spent it lolling about eating, playing, and having fun. If that isn't a vacation, I don't know what is! We didn't eat out at our favorite restaurants (that's just McDonald's, Pancake House, and Bonchon, by the way) but we discovered so many restaurants during lockdown delivering amazing food!
 
Vince finally bought a 3D printer and it's been his joy all year!

It's not the best year ever but I refuse to see that my kids lost anything this year. Because at around June, I did. I got depressed. We missed Piero's Kinder graduation and that made me cry. We missed his debut in big school, and that made me cry again. We pulled out Vito and Inigo from their school and that made me weep. I lost much of my lucrative PR projects and that sent me panicking. I was just focused on what we lost that I couldn't see what we gained. And what we still have - each other. So many people have lost their family and friends. The fact that we're still together is a BIG DEAL. 

I'm going to celebrate that. Because I don't know how long I can celebrate that.

I now have time to take care of my skin!

So I've been careful not to show my boys that we lost anything this year. It's all, "Yeah, but look what we're able to do instead!" This year is when we get to teach our kids grit, flexibility, and just the sweet grace of appreciating what we have now. Because tomorrow is unsure and I want to model to them that that doesn't have to be a scary thing. 

We've spent the last 252 days watching movies and TV shows, vegging out to YouTube videos, playing video games, and sleeping late - all weekend treats pre-pandemic. We got new pet hamsters because, well, we now have time to actually care for a fur family. The kids play the piano, draw and paint, read, write books. They now have time for creating things because there's no more homework and 2 hours in traffic every day.  

The kids are forever making things, like this plushie car.

So yes, there have been losses but there have also been gains. I don't want them to see what they've lost (and seriously, they haven't lost much at all) and just see this time as one of the best years in their life. "The year Mama and Papa were just home. The year we bonded as brothers and became friends forever. The year we discovered what we wanted to do in our life (this is my hope!) because we had time to do all sorts of things. The year we learned so many things because Mama and Papa finally had the time to talk with us instead of rushing here and there. The year Mama wasn't cranky and tired. The year we were relaxed and happy and safe at home."

I don't want to make plans for 2021 or for Christmas even. Everything's just so uncertain. The plan is just to stay safe and survive today. But there is a joy in my heart because the ones I love most in the world are with me. And I've been forced by this pandemic to spend time with them and make that time count. Because who knows how long I have with them? 


This year's word is love. And I see now God's wisdom when He told me I'm going to need a lot of it this 2020. It's love that's making this strange year more than bearable. It's love that changed my mindset to look at this challenging year as an opportunity to be a better mommy (I was always the overwhelmed mommy!). And I am a better mommy now. The stressed out, rushed, always frowning, exhausted mommy was so 2019. And I hope even after this pandemic is over, she won't come back ever. I'm going to learn how to love the time I have, the rest I get, and all I'm learning this 2020. I'm going to embrace this year and the grace it has given me.  

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:21-23