Friday, July 10, 2020

How I've been


Hey, dear Loyal Readers!

I filled up June with guest posts and press releases (save for my Papa pancake post, which everyone thought was a sponsored post but wasn't). I was in a strange mood last month and didn't feel like blogging while I was going through what I was going through. 

So what happened?

Well, the continuing COVID-19 quarantine was starting to take its toll on me. At first, I was great. I was actually enjoying the slow down of time. But then last month, we had a few health needs—I needed to go see a gynecologist, one kid needed to see a dermatologist because of a skin infection, and my husband and two sons needed to see the dentist. It was no longer simple to go anywhere. 

I needed to see a gyne because I had a really weird period that was first thought to be a miscarriage. It wasn't, thank goodness, but for a while, we thought it was. I had been skipping periods on and off for almost a year now. We were suspecting menopause. I'm 43, after all. Still, I do a pregnancy test every time I miss my period. So last March, my period didn't show up, I took a test then again in April and then again in May. Yes, I didn't have a period for three months! All three times, all my tests (I do two tests each time) showed I wasn't pregnant at all so when my period finally came last month, I was elated. 

This period, however, wasn't the usual. It lasted 2 weeks and I bled so much. On the second week, I started cramping and a big blob of fleshy and fatty tissue came out of me. Alarmed, I took photos and sent them to my friend who was a gyne. She said it looked like placental tissue that comes out during a miscarriage. I was devastated. And confused! I wasn't pregnant so how could this be?

It took a while to schedule an appointment at a clinic so there were a good few days I was in limbo. On one hand, I was relieved because I truly didn't want a baby anymore (in a pandemic???). And then I felt guilty for feeling relieved. What if it had been a girl? Or even another adorable boy? So I started grieving, missing a baby I didn't even know I had. I stopped exercising because I thought maybe that caused the miscarriage. But then I was also bewildered. I wasn't pregnant so how could I have had a miscarriage??? 

Finally, I went to get my tests. I wasn't pregnant at all! Apparently, I had passed a decidual cast. Usually, when we shed our uterine lining, it comes out in bloody pieces, right? But sometimes the decidua comes out intact. It's a relatively rare occurrence and I turned out okay. So I should've felt better, but I didn't. My heart couldn't shake off all that sadness and grief, even when my brain said everything was great.

I guess it was because while I was struggling with my emotions, there was also a lot of upsetting things happening in our country. I used to be a journalist so I am affected by what happened to Rappler and ABS-CBN. I am personally affected since I'm a regular contributor to ANCx, the men's lifestyle website of ABS-CBN. Then the Anti-Terror Bill was signed into law, despite the massive protests against it. Clearly, this so-called democratic government was not for the people. I was devastated.

On top of all that, we finally had to decide what to do about our kids' education this school year. I wasn't in any mood to think about the future, to be honest. I didn't even think we had a future! With COVID-19 cases rising fast every day and the government basically saying we're all on our own, who's to say we'd be alive next year? Why even plan anything? I was in a very dark mood indeed.

My depression lasted all of June. But because my youngest boy turned 6 last Friday, I had to cheer up. I willed myself out of my malaise to order his gifts, buy his cakes. My second boy actually had to remind me to decorate the house for his baby brother's birthday party. That was what finally snapped me out of it. And so, out of my fog of despair, I was able to be happy for my birthday boy. It was my first truly happy weekend in a month! Thank God for my children!

So this week, I finally started exercising again. I started sleeping again. I started working again. It's still a slow process but I'm not wallowing anymore. I'm happy again. I'm angry again. I can feel other emotions outside sadness again. I have hope again. I'm alive again!

And so I can blog again!!!

Thanks for sticking around, dearest Loyal Readers. I hope you've had a better June than mine. And if you're also going through despair, hold on. There is still tomorrow. There is always hope! May your eyes and hearts be opened to the hope that we have in God. "I pray that the eyes of your heart be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people." Ephesians 1:18. 

May God keep us safe and healthy. God bless us all!

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

5 ways how Welch's grape juice keeps me young and beautiful!

Last week, I nursed a huge pimple on my cheek. It's gone now but there's a dark mark that's left, a cruel reminder of that annoying visitor so no #selfie photos in this post haha Anyway, I was thinking that of course my skin will erupt—I haven't been sleeping well lately. Kinda had a strange month. That's why I haven't really been blogging in June. I'll tell you about it on Friday.

Today, I'll tell you about my anti-aging potion—Welch's 100% Grape Juice! Yes! Well, I drink Welch's for my heart, blood pressure, bones, and brain health. I drink calamansi and turmeric tea for immunity and to reduce inflammation. I drink Welch's Cranberry Juice Cocktail to keep my kidneys healthy and to prevent UTI. And I drink tea every morning, too. Wala lang. I think tea is healthier than coffee. 


So tea every morning. I like drinking grape juice or cranberry juice naman during lunch or dinner. Once a day lang ako mag-juice. Even though Welch's has no added sugar, fruits are naturally sweet and I'm trying really hard to cut down on my sugar (because I do like sugary stuff too much!). Sugar can cause inflammation and that's not a good thing for a person with acne-prone skin and asthma (that would be me!).

I do like grape juice best. It's sweet and tangy, and when it's cold, it's quite refreshing! More than all that, I like it best for the way it protects my body from the bad effects of aging. Here are the many ways grape juice keeps me young:

1. It keeps me pretty!
Grape juice is full of Vitamin C and antioxidants. These fight the free radicals we are exposed to from our food and environment by protecting our skin and boosting our collagen. Free radicals can damage skin, causing age spots and wrinkles and depleting collagen, which keeps our skin firm. Grape juice also has Vitamin A and lutein, both of which keep our eyes bright and clear.

2. It keeps my brain in tip-top shape!
Grape juice is a good source of resveratrol. It's a compound that increases blood flow to the brain. That means our brain will stay agile and alert (and hopefully be able to discern fake news and propaganda from the truth!). Stay smart, people! Our country needs us to be smart! 


3. It gives me energy!
Grape juice is filled with complex carbohydrates and natural sugars, which is an excellent source of instant energy. I like water when I'm exercising, but sometimes when I'm feeling particularly sluggish (a.k.a. lazy), I grab a bottle of Welch's 100% Grape Juice!

4. It keeps my heart healthy!
Grape juice has polyphenols that help prevent the build-up of bad cholesterol in our arteries. Anything that keeps my heart happy is amazing!

5. It strengthens my bones!
Old women bent over with age (and the troubles of the world!)—that won't be me! Grape juice is an excellent source of manganese, a mineral that allows our bones to absorb calcium better. 

Okay! So that's how Welch's 100% Grape Juice keeps me young and beautiful! Try it, too. Welch's 100% Grape Juice is 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.


*This post is brought to you by Welch's.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Eat well, live well, stay well! Ajinomoto asks all Pinoys to join Mag-Pinggang Pinoy Tayo 7-Day Menu Challenge

Ajinomoto sent me a gift pack of their products and asked me to join their Mag-Pinggang Pinoy Tayo 7-Day Menu Challenge. Thanks, Ajinomoto! I love using their Crispy Fry for my fried dishes - super hit with my boys! So I was super happy to get their other products. I've been using them for a few weeks now. Today, I cooked pork mechado and the Pork Savor did add linamnam to my dish! So excited to cook more yummy Pinoy meals now!


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PRESS RELEASE - The COVID-19 Pandemic intensifies the Philippine’s battle against Double Burden of Malnutrition. Double Burden of Malnutrition is defined by World Health Organization (WHO) as “the coexistence of undernutrition along with overweight and obesity, or diet-related non-communicable diseases, within individuals, households and populations, and across the life course.” 

The limited distribution and access to food supplies aggravate the plight of poor and low-income Filipino households to sustain each person’s required nutrients through healthy meals. On the other hand, home confinement due to the mandated community quarantine may cause more people to not only restrict their physical activities but also to overeat and/or consume more food with empty calories as part of coping with stress and/or boredom. 

Just 1 sachet for every half kilo of pork for malinamnam yumminess!

Given the importance of maintaining healthy diets to sustain our health and immunity against viruses and bacteria, we should turn to the practice of Pinggang Pinoy® as a viable safeguard to protect our family from diseases. 

Ajinomoto Philippines Corporation introduced “Mag-Pinggang Pinoy® Tayo 7-day Menu Challenge” as a way to encourage homemakers to serve a variety of balanced meals to their families. Homemakers could access the Mag-Pinggang Pinoy® Tayo 7-day menu plan at www.ajinomoto.com.ph and facebook.com/CookmunitybyAjinomotoPH.

I fry my meat and veggies, add the flavoring, then water, and tomato sauce.

This is part of the company’s “Eat Well, Live Well. Stay Well.” campaign to provide Filipino families with practical tips on proper nutrition, recipe menu, and fitness activities to cope, stay well, and enjoy life despite the current COVID-19 situation. 

Ajinomoto’s 7-day menu plan is composed of complete meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each meal provides recipe suggestions for Healthy & Delicious Pinggang Pinoy® Recipes that are easy-to-do and affordable. These recipes are simple, solutions to serve enjoyable Pinggang Pinoy® meals. 


Homemakers could make use of their extra time to purchase widely available and inexpensive vegetables and fruits to complement rice beyond the usual supply of canned goods. Ajinomoto’s recipes make common ingredients more palatable like tofu sisig, meaty pechay picadillo, pork tapa and tomatoes, ensaladang talbos ng kamote, sweet and sour galunggong, and many more. Here are three recipe samplers done in three easy steps: 

Meaty Pechay Picadillo 
1) SAUTÉ onion, garlic, and ground pork. Mix in carrots, green peas, and pechay. 
2) SEASON with pepper, soy sauce, and AJI-GINISA® Flavor Seasoning Mix. 
3) COOK for 1 minute more.

Tofu Sisig 
1) FRY tofu until golden brown. Set aside. 
2) SAUTÉ ginger, onion, and garlic, add fried tofu and liver spread and mix well. 
3) SEASON with sugar and PORKSAVOR® All-in-One Seasoning mix and add chili peppers.

Pork Tapa with Tomatoes 
1) MARINATE pork in water, sugar, soy sauce, pepper, and SARSAYA® Oyster Sauce for an hour or overnight. 
2) SAUTÉ onion, garlic, and pork. 
3) BOIL. Pour the marinade mixture and boil until mixture is thick. 

For full recipes and for more information about Ajinomoto and its products, visit www.ajinomoto.com.ph and facebook.com/CookmunitybyAjinomotoPH.

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

Friday, June 26, 2020

How to tell stories that win the hearts of people

Everyone loves a good story. And everyone has a story to tell. Some people want to share their stories with the world, shouting out loud on blogs, vlogs, and social media. Some people, however, don’t want to be so public so they use anonymous blog sites to share their stories with others online.

Sharing stories that win the hearts of people (a.k.a. viral content) is a talent. If you feel you don't have the talent for this, don't feel bad. You can learn how to tell stories that people will love by honing certain skills. Once you learn these skills, you'll be confident enough to share your stories with your online readers. In today's guest post, you'll find a few tips to gain the best skills to win the hearts of people with your stories.

A blank page doesn't have to be a scary thing.

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GUEST POST - Are you someone who tells stories for other people anonymously? That's called ghostwriting where the stories are shared through the strength of the person or brand you wrote for. But what if you want to tell your own stories but don't want to reveal who you are? How can you make people be interested in your story without making them interested in knowing you? 

Knowing how to tell your story anonymously is a tough deal. Your story must stand on its own. When you’re making an anonymous blog, you need to learn about all the tactics of storytelling to win your reader's heart. Here are some beneficial tips to tell stories that win the hearts of people. 

1. Talk about real things. 

Readers want authenticity. If you cook up a fake story, it will sound false and unrelatable. Only your real stories can make you win the hearts of people. People start developing a feeling of trust and empathy when reading someone’s true story. Don’t make your readers lose trust in your stories. 

2. Don't miss the suspense element. 

What’s the main thing which keeps you engaged in a story? Suspense. It doesn't need to sound like a murder thriller but the secret to keeping your readers engaged enough to read until the last line is to feed them little details throughout. Don't reveal everything. Build up the story before delivering the final statement.

3. Add a human touch to your simple story. 

Whether your story is simple or thrilling, you need to make people feel your experience is relevant to them. You want to make them feel they're not alone. For instance, you can talk about some past experiences which helped you gather confidence to move ahead in life. Your story may be about an ordinary day in your simple life but adding inspiring elements will make it special.

4. Use proper story structure. 

You may have a great story but if you can't tell it properly, people will lose interest and scroll past it. You need to have the basics—good grammar and correct spelling. A good storyteller writing anything from a blog post to a sales pitch knows how to use tone, relatable characters, build conflict, and impart an unforgettable message. 

5. Always have a message. 

Every storyteller knows that the best stories have a lesson. From fairy tales to parables, all the most memorable stories had a profound message. If your story doesn’t have a moral or a message for the readers, then why are you even telling a story! If you want people to remember your story, then it has to have a powerful message they can take away with them.

Write from the heart. Edit with your brain.
* This is a guest post, with my edits. To place a guest post, email frances@topazhorizon.com. 

*Images by Kelly Sikkema and Hannah Grace from Unsplash.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Watch the Mad Men theme song but with a twist

I'm on YouTube a lot these days. I love watching music videos of my favorite songs, interviews of my favorite stars, and home tours of tiny homes and expansive mid-century modern mansions. So imagine my delight when I found this video! I just had to share it with you in case you're a Mad Men and Moulin Rouge fan like me.


If you put together the iconic opening credits of one of the best TV shows of all time and the opening scene of my favorite movie of all time, you get this:


Gorgeous! The song "Nature Boy" is so Don Draper!  

There was a boy 
A very strange enchanted boy 
They say he wandered very far 
Very far 
Over land and sea 

A little shy and sad of eye 
But very wise was he 

And then one day 
One magic day he passed my way 
And though he spoke of many things 
Fools and kings 
This he said to me 
"The greatest thing 
You'll ever learn 
Is just to love 
And be loved in return"

P.S. I'm happy I've learned the greatest lesson in life =)

6 reasons couples should sleep in different beds

Confession: I don't always sleep in the same bed (or at the same time) as my husband. People tell me that not sleeping in the same bed will lead to marital woes. I see their point and I don't disagree. But sometimes I have to work in the dead of night when everyone's asleep. I think I'm also going through menopause so I'm always hot. I want the fan and the aircon on—full blast! So when I do sleep in our bedroom, my poor husband freezes even under the sheets and wakes up miserable. That's why when this guest post landed in my inbox, I just had to share it with you! Tell me if you know exactly how I feel!

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GUEST POST - Is your marital bed feeling like a storm-tossed ship? This is the case in many homes. As much as the couple tries their best to persevere through the challenges, sleep deprivation can affect a marriage in many ways. If getting cozy sleep is affected by the tossing and turning of your partner, it is time that you consider sleeping in different beds in separate rooms. 

Why are my hoomans not sleeping in the same bed anymore? 

Sleeping separately should not be a reason to freak out as the reasons for this may boost your sleep and improve your health as well. Although most couples feel like their sex life will be affected negatively, this is not the case. Give this a try to see how it works out for the both of you. Read on to find out other reasons couples should sleep in different beds.

1. You have different sleep patterns. 

Not all family members have the same sleep patterns—from the children to their parents. In the same way, not every couple share similar sleep patterns or circadian rhythms. As a result, your partner's sleep pattern may be interfering with your sleep quality. If he is suffering from insomnia, for example, you may want to stay up and keep him company, or his tossing and turning may keep you awake, too. Insomnia is not easily solved by just telling your partner to count sheep. Sleeping in different beds or rooms is one way to solve the issue. 

2. You desire different mattresses. 

It's true that once you are a couple you should learn to compromise on many issues. How about when the type of mattress you share is not right for one of you? It is easy when the mattress is not right for both of you—just get a new purple bed mattress to sort out your mattress issue. But when you like a firm foam for your bad back and your husband wants a nice soft mattress to curl up in, there can be no compromise. Someone's going to have poor sleep quality and this will lead to a disagreement that will affect your relationship. Try sleeping in separate beds with mattresses of your choice. 

Try this solution: How about 2 beds in the same room?

3. You have poor sleeping habits. 

Does your partner fall asleep only when he's watching a television rerun? If this is not a fun activity that you do together, both of you will suffer in different ways. Particularly, if your sleep habits are completely different from one another. Such as one has to listen to music and the other wants complete silence or one wants the lights on and the other needs complete darkness. There's also different sleep hygiene—one likes lots of pillows and wrapped in smelly blankets while the other can only sleep on crisp, bleached and starched sheets. These factors can cause sleep fragmentation and non-restorative sleep that cause you to be irritable and fatigued the next day. Again, sleeping in separate rooms may be the solution here. 

4. Your partner snores.

Have you ever considered kissing your partner good night and then retreating to separate rooms? If no, then you must be lucky to not have a snoring husband. Once your partner starts snoring, you will consider sleeping in another room as a perfect option as his snoring will drive you nuts night after night. The snoring issue is common among many couples and it ends up in a conflict that may affect your relationship if not solved. Just as individuals that sleep next to a freight train are disturbed with loud and irregular sounds, a snoring partner will interfere with your sleep cycle, preventing you from reaching the deep sleep stage that makes you feel refreshed in the morning. One step to solving this particular sleep deprivation issue is to discuss with your partner about consulting a doctor for it could be health-related. Meanwhile, rather than sneaking to the couch in the wee hours of the night, discuss sleeping in separate rooms, too. 

5. Your daily routines clash.

Your sleep may be disturbed by different daily routines, such as when your partner works in an evening shift job. This is a common issue that affects a couple's sleep patterns. Hence, choosing to sleep in separate beds will give both of you peace of mind especially when one is an early bird and the other a night owl. 

Another solution: Don't bring work to bed!

6. Your partner is too hot. 

If your partner rivals a flaming log, this is another reason you have to move to a separate bed. There is a certain room temperature that is conducive to fall and stay asleep—between 18 to 22 degrees Celcius is the recommended range by sleep experts. When it comes to couples who sleep together, the heat under the covers may be more than the optimal temperatures. When the temperature goes way up due to a partner that generates a lot of heat, it will affect the other one who ends up tossing and turning and waking up soaked with sweat. 

In conclusion, a couple having to sleep in separate beds is quite a sensitive issue. However, who discusses their sleep compatibility as they are courting their partner? It is important to make sleep a priority for you and your spouse. Also, help each other solve any sleep-related issues that make you not achieve perfect sleep. Besides, it's not just your marriage at stake here. Lack of quality sleep can lead to other chronic illnesses as it gets worse by the day like cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes, stress-related illnesses among others. Consider sleeping in separate beds until the issue you have is solved or if there is no other option for better sleep. 

* This is a guest post, with my edits. To place a guest post, email frances@topazhorizon.com. 

*Images by Fezbot2000Annie Spratt, and Alice Simkin from Unsplash.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Tips to select the skirt that suits you best

Anyone who ever followed my old blog series, Fashion Fridays/Topaz Fashion, would know I love wearing skirts. I like long skirts, pleated skirts, pencil skirts, full skirts, skirts with deep pockets—I love skirts! They make me feel pretty. So when I got a guest post submission today about selecting the best skirt for you out of the many skirts for sale, I just had to publish it!

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GUEST POST - A skirt is never just a skirt. Like any piece of clothing, it should not just be functional but also express who you are. It needs to make you feel comfortable while serving the needs of the day. It should make an impression on others, and that impression should be positive. Here are some ways to select the skirt that suits you best.

Your skirt and your body should go together. 

Long doesn't have to be boring. Just get a fit that hugs you in all the right places. Only P1,553.42!

Skirts come in several shapes to suit every kind of body. The skirt you choose needs to look good and feel good on your body. So choose a shape that flatters your figure. Some skirt selection decisions are obvious for that reason. For example, a form-hugging pencil skirt is perfect when you want to highlight your tiny waist and wide hips. Very sexy!

If you want to show off your legs, a mini is great. The shorter the skirt, the longer your legs look. At the same time, however, a short skirt might not be an ideal choice when your legs are already long. It throws off the proportion of your body. Often, a skirt of a mid-range length is ideal because it shows some leg while keeping your look proportional. 

Choose the fabric that suits your needs.

Denim—the working man's fabric—is comfy and versatile. It can be sexy, too. This skirt is just P931.53!

Knowing the fabric you need or want also makes buying a new skirt far easier. When picking a fabric, you need to think about things like general comfort and how well the fabric allows airflow. A denim skirt or denim blend, for example, offers a high level of comfort. Certain blends also have additional ability to stretch, which may be important to you, especially if you intend to buy a tight skirt. Some fabrics like silk, chiffon, or lace are very pretty but can be flimsy or too high maintenance. Those would be great for a special occasion but not for your everyday needs. 

For daily wear, denim skirts are a popular choice. Denim—or the material used for jeans—is among the most long-lasting and low-maintenance fabrics. It's a safe bet for repeated use because they are comfortable and easy to care for. That's why there are so many denim skirts for sale today. Denim isn't suitable for every occasion and place (like a wedding or at the office), but if you choose a dark color and simple line, it can look formal enough to wear to a lunch out with family or a date. 

Don't be afraid of patterns and colors!

Give off a tropical vibe in this cute mini. Only P1,190.95! 

When choosing a skirt, look at color for inspiration. First, check what colors are already in your closet. Plan to buy skirts that will go with the shirts, accessories, and jackets you have to make the best and most number of combinations. This is a solid plan so you can make good color combinations ahead of time. 

Another thing you have to figure out when buying a skirt is whether you want a solid color or a pattern. Both options are fine, with some exceptions. For example, a solid white skirt will be harder to keep clean. Also, some patterns may make your butt look flat or your belly more rounded. 

Make your skirt work harder.

This bright pink skirt can be used for many OOTDs. And it's just P879.23!

When you finally choose a skirt, it's important to make the best use of it. Having a skirt you love is not enough. You have to know how to wear it in many ways. Don't be afraid to change up how you accessorize it. That way one skirt can help you create many excellent outfits. Pair this bold pink denim skirt with a statement tee and sneakers for a fun day with your girlfriends. Go high-low with a luxe silk blouse, blazer, and pearls for a creative work environment. Liven up an all-black outfit (black turtleneck, black tights, black boots) with this loud pink. 

* This is a guest post, with my edits. To place a guest post, email frances@topazhorizon.com. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Dreaming of India: 7 Must-See Places

My favorite book in all the world is The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye. It's all about the love story of a British soldier and an Indian princess. However, it's not as simple as that. This love story is set against the period of the British Empire and it's an eye-opening look at oppression, religious conflict, slavery, colonialism, and patriotism with beautiful stories of lifelong friendship and brotherhood all woven into a massive epic that is, lest we forget, an unforgettable love affair. 

That's why India's always been on my travel bucket list. Just to see all the places described in Far Pavilions. I've always wanted to see the majestic Himalayas (they're always described as majestic), the temples and palaces, Rajasthan (literal translation: The Land of Kings), the vast deserts, the women, the men. So when I was asked to publish this guest post on the 7 must-see places in India, I agreed! And now I want to go see Incredible India!

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GUEST POST - Life has changed for everyone since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is not the most important thing that has changed by any means, one of the most common things I’ve talked about with friends and family that we are feeling right now is the shift in summer plans. Summer is a popular time to go on holiday and it is just not safe (nor allowed) to travel internationally right now. However, there is no harm in planning long term or talking about places you’d like to go once all this is over! Plus, it’s a great way to stay positive and have something to look forward to. 

A place that is on my bucket list is India. It is such a fascinating place, with a rich culture, history and tradition. 

Here are 7 must-see destinations in India: 


Chennai 

Chennai is a gateway to the south of India and it has a gorgeous city landscape and diverse population. It is a unique city in India due to two primary things: its local culture is based on Tamil traditions, and it will be among the newest megacities with the highest population density. 


Bangalore 

Bangalore is the capital of the state of Karnataka and known as the Silicon Valley of India. Even as a megacity it is one of India’s most livable cities with large, green spaces and continued development, and is actually India’s most livable city. 


Jaipur 

Jaipur is the largest city of the state of Rajasthan. There are a number of palaces, castles and temples to explore here, including the Amber Fort, Nahargarh Fort, Palace of Winds, Water Palace, and more. 


Varanasi 

Varanasi is a gorgeous and spiritual city located in the north of India along the left bank of the Ganges River. It is a sacred place for Hindus and Jains, and more than a million pilgrims visit the city each year. It is also famous for its production of silks and brocades. 


Udaipur 

Udaipur is a gorgeous city in the state of Rajasthan that is famous for its gorgeous lakes. It is a romantic city filled with gardens, forts, temples and palaces, while being situated up off the lakes and gorgeous views at every turn. If you plan on visiting, check in to see if there is a festival around the time you’ll be there, as it is a city that hosts them all year-round. 


Delhi 

Delhi is the capital of India, and it offers so much in regards to arts, history and culture. Must-see sites in the city include the Red Fort, the Baha’i Lotus Temple, and Jama Masjid. This is a city where dining out, visiting sites, walking around markets, and enjoying the nightlife will keep you busy and you’ll instantly pick up on the liveliness of the city. 


Mumbai 

Mumbai is the largest city in India and the most popular to visit. Located on the west coast of India, it is a city on the sea with countless places to explore. A must-see is the Gateway of India as well as the Haji Ali.  

India is a fairly large country and there are beautiful towns and cities to discover in every corner. So this list is definitely not complete, but just some of the must-see destinations! 

* This guest post was written by Mary Davis, a freelance editor and copywriter. To place a guest post, email frances@topazhorizon.com. 


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Celebrate Dad with Cravings special menu and cake



PRESS RELEASE - These past few months have been very challenging for a lot of families. The sudden changes in our way of life brought dire consequences, affecting businesses and livelihood. But on the brighter side of things, this pandemic has made families closer and more appreciative of all the blessings. 

Though things will be different this year, it doesn’t mean that we totally forget to celebrate Father’s Day. Actually, this may be the most perfect time to honor him as he continues to become a source of stability and a solid foundation in our lives, especially during these times. 

Cravings is unveiling a very special Father’s Day menu which can serve 4 to 6 people. This is available from June 21 to 22. Since dining is currently unavailable, bring the homey goodness of Cravings right at your doorsteps. 

No Dad’s Day is complete without his favorite meat dish. The menu includes Bourbon Glazed Baby Back Ribs, overnight rubbed pork ribs which is slow-baked and basted with bourbon honey glaze. Tangy, smokey, and delightful – it will become everyone's favorite! The special rib is served with Sweet Corn and Roasted Honey Butter Carrots, Potato Salad, Asian Slaw, and Bacon Shrimp Rice Pilaf. 

There’s also the Almond Crusted Fish Fillet with Dill Mustard Sauce, which is a lighter fare yet packed with flavors and freshness. The sauce, a Cravings signature, elevates the dish to a classic level, exciting the palate. 

Then, choose between Four Cheese Lasagna or Baked Spaghetti, to make the Dad’s Day meal not only memorable but also a celebration and thanksgiving. 


There is no special meal that can end without sweets. Cravings created a limited-time-only special dessert – the Rocky Road Cake. This is Cravings’ take on the popular dessert with layers of chocolate rice crispies and marshmallow crust, rich chocolate cake, and filled with chocolate whipped cream, studded with salted peanuts and walnuts. This cake is generously topped with soft marshmallows, graham crackers, and pretzels. Dads wouldn’t want to miss a slice!

This special Dad’s Day menu, including other classic Cravings favorites, are available for takeout or delivery. Send a message to 0908-169-3422 or call 8-277-2436 a day ahead to place your orders. 

For pickup, visit Cravings restaurant at 287 Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City. Visit @cravingsphils on Instagram and @cravings.philippines on Facebook for more info.

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


Friday, June 12, 2020

Does your child need vitamin supplements especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, my old blog post about kiddie vitamin supplements shot to the top 10 of my most-viewed posts. I wasn't surprised. Every mommy is desperate to protect their child from this dreaded disease. Even though it seems to be kinder to children, it will still be a nightmare should our kids get it.

Even I bought a big bottle of multivitamins for my kiddos. Thankfully, they're also spooked by catching the novel coronavirus so it wasn't a battle anymore to get them to take their vitamins. What's still hard is getting them to eat fruits and vegetables. It's easier now, sure, but still not that easy. They still try to get out of eating their veggies but eat them anyway when I tell them to "Please eat everything on your plate." Hence, my reliance on vitamin supplements. But are multivitamins really what my kids need?


So when Mommy Mundo offered their mommy community #StayHome #StayHealthy Moms!, an e-health consultation series, I was happy to watch. Mommy Mundo has always loved putting together all these events for mommies and I was wondering what they have planned now that we're all quarantined. Well, with the help of PLDT Home, Mommy Mundo got to connect fellow moms with health experts on their FB Live series.

Since my concern was my children's nutrition, I was happy to tune in to Dr. Gellina Maala's talk, "Natural Nutrition vs Supplements in Boosting a Child's Immune System." Here's what I learned:

1. The food pyramid has crumbled.

Growing up, we all studied the food pyramid. You know, that illustration that says a healthy diet is founded on a lot of carbohydrates! I love my carbs so when I saw the Healthy Food Plate, the new standard of a healthy diet, I was dismayed hahaha. 

One half of our plate should be fruits and veggies. And no, rice and pasta and bread may be made from plants but they are not veggies! They should only make up 1/4 of our plate, with healthy fats like nuts. The other 1/4 of our plate should be protein. And just drink water!!!

It is sooo hard for me to curb my carbs. I've tried countless times. I really love rice and pasta and pansit. But sige, let's try again! 


2. The most malnourished people in society are pregnant women, young children, and adolescents.

And this makes me so angry. I'm not saying men don't need nutrition. I'm just upset that the people who need extra nourishment most because they're either growing a human being inside them or nourishing a baby, or they're going through growth spurts aren't getting the nutrition they need. Dear society, we need to do better!

We have to get our government to make sure pregnant and breastfeeding women understand the importance of eating well for the sake of their babies. We also need to have good feeding programs and educational programs for young children and teens. I mean, we moms who are well off or have access to information and good food, we're fine. We can take care of ourselves. But what about our less fortunate sisters and their children? If you know any way we can help (and I want a government-led initiative because I am so tired of the private sector making salo lahat ng pagkukulang ng gobyerno natin), please tell me! 

3. Nutritional damage in a child is irreversible.

This is alarming! We always think that we can stuff our kids with so much junk or just stick a bottle of milk in their mouths all day. Kasi pwede silang bumawi with vitamins, or kapag mas nakakaintindi na sila, we can make them eat healthy food na. We can't do this pala! Dr. Gellina said that there is a critical window between conception and 2 years of age when our child needs the best nutrition. When we fail to give them the nutrients they need, their brains and bodies are damaged forever. In the words of Dr. Gellina, "Nutritional damage during this period is irreversible." They're not going to be as tall, as fast, as smart, as strong as they could've been if they had gotten the right nutrition. 

So eat well while pregnant! And if you can, please please please breastfeed your child because breast milk is the best food for babies up to 2 years old.  

4. Multivitamins are not necessarily necessary.

So if we need to give the kids the best nutrients, we should pump them full with vitamin supplements, right? Well, no. The most efficient way to get our vitamins and minerals is still through food. Dr. Gellina said our bodies were designed to digest and absorb nutrients from food. So before we buy the supplements, let's really try harder at getting our kids to eat a healthy diet.

The only reason we should turn to vitamin supplements is when our kids are picky eaters or have food allergies. Or if their lifestyle prevents them from getting certain vitamins. For example, since we're all (still!) quarantined, our kids aren't getting the much-needed sunlight their bodies need to make Vitamin D. So I need to ask our pediatrician about this vitamin supplement.  

5. The best way to get your kids to eat healthy is... YOU!

Dr. Gellina was asked about appetite stimulants and she said the best way to get our kids to eat and to eat healthy is to be the role model for them. Have a good relationship with your food and your body. Get the kids to prepare the food with you so they'd want to taste it. Eat healthy food. I'm going to add another tip: Let your kids play, as in physical na laro na mapapagod sila. They will get so hungry and will eat so much after! 


And that's what I learned from the talk of Dr. Gellina on nutrition at the Mommy Mundo #StayHealthy #StayHome series! You can watch the whole thing here.

There's another talk by Dr. Andrea Carag. This will help you discern if what you or your child feels is a viral or bacterial infection. Click click: Decoding the Germ Code: Understanding the Difference Between Viral and Bacterial Illnesses.

With all of us staying home and relying on the world wide web to keep us connected and informed, it is so important to have fast and reliable internet. Try PLDT Home for faster download speeds so that everything you need to know, see and hear is with you in an instant. Check out www.pldthome.com to choose among the many digital products and internet services of PLDT.

*This post is brought to you by PLDT Home through Mommy Mundo.

*images by Tanaphong Toochinda from Unsplash.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

We love the man that cooks pancakes in our house

I know there's a big box of Maya Pancake Mix in the photos. It's only there because my youngest boy likes reading packaging while he eats. So while that's the only brand we do buy, this isn't going to be a pancake post. It's going to be better. It's going to be about the man who cooks pancakes in our house. And I happen to be married to him.


There are many things I can do, but cooking pancakes isn't one of them. It's easy enough but I decided early on in my mommy life that I don't want to cook pancakes simply because I wasn't good at it. It's a selfish thing, I know, because I could've practised till I got perfect at it. Especially since it's so easy when it comes in a box, right? I get guilty about it sometimes because my kids love pancakes. But I do so much already, you know? Do I have to be good at everything? Does motherhood demand that?

Well, maybe it does so I'm beyond grateful that my husband swooped in and saved me from this expectation. I didn't see myself as a damsel in distress. I was just a tired mama. How many tired mamas are there in the world? And how many of us have a husband who says, "Go back to sleep. I got breakfast." Not many of us, sad to say, but I do. And he doesn't know how nice that is but I do.


It's not just breakfast, too. He's like the instant pancake chef. When the littlest boy asks for pancakes, his Papa drops everything and whips up a batch. Breakfast. Brunch. Lunch. Merienda. Dinner. Not all the time and not all day because my kids may love pancakes but they don't want them every day. So when they do ask for pancakes, their Papa is happy to give them that.

The boys are always happy when their Papa is in the kitchen. As feminist as I am, I must confess that I'm still the one who cooks. Thankfully, it's not because my husband thinks women belong in the kitchen. It's simply because I was raised to be a housewife so I'm just better in the kitchen than my husband. We're trying to teach our kids differently. Mama cooks, Papa washes up. Papa is learning to cook more dishes, too. Japanese is his thing now. He's spending more and more time in the kitchen and getting the boys to help him out. So now we have 2 sons out of 3 who want to cook. Ladies and gentlemen, we are succeeding in this thing called parenting!    


Parenting is not easy. We all know that. Even something as simple as cooking pancakes can break you. My sorry story was the kids complained that my pancakes were too thick and chewy. How I was able to fail so miserably even though I used that same box of pancake mix broke me. I was in the middle of my postpartum blues when this happened years ago. And I snapped. That's it! I will never cook pancakes again!

It was just a tantrum. I got over it soon enough. But instead of telling me to stop being immature, my husband just decided he'd take over pancake duty. He saw beyond the anger and saw my despair. Such a small thing to be upset about, right? Anyone would've told me to snap out of it. Anyone else would've dismissed me. But my husband didn't. And that is what makes him special.

"Look! It's Papa's heart, Mama!"

I don't know if my kids know this, too, how special it is to have a papa who loves their mama so very much. I grew up with a mother who would cry to me because my father ignored her needs all the time. So I learned to harden my heart and keep quiet about mine. My husband has to figure me out. Sometimes he gets me wrong, but just the fact that after 22 years he still keeps trying is more than enough to convince me that this marriage is not like the marriage I grew up watching, that what I have is magical and special and truly the stuff that fairy tales are made of. Except mine is real.

Maybe my husband and my kids don't know how nice that is. But I do. Oh, I do. 
 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Beyoncé is Crazy in Love


Is this possibly the sexiest video I have ever watched. My goodness. I think I got pregnant just watching it.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

"Mukhang pera" LOL

Nagsumbong ako sa asawa ko at sa mga kapatid ko about a little issue that was niggling at me. They weren't happy with my kwento but thank goodness they are wonderful people who just gave me good advice. So eto siya: I have this relative - and I love her very much - who's been saying strange things lately. The worst was, "Hindi ko nahalata na maganda ka nung bata ka kasi lagi kang nakayuko." 

Then she said that my head was always down because I looked like I was always looking for money. Then when I grew into a woman, she said, "Buti naman na nahanap mo yung perang hinahanap mo," implying I got rich through marriage.

First of all, I am not rich. Guys! I wish! I don't even know where that comes from. My friends said this relative says nasty things dahil sa inggit. Inggit siya saan? Sa yaman ko? Kelan naman ako nag-flaunt ng kayamanan?? 

Dear Loyal Readers, I know you love me because of what I write - not my affluent lifestyle, my fashionable OOTDs, my extensive travels, my Instagrammable home, my gourmet menu or restaurant reviews, my shopping extravaganzas. Wala kasi akong mga ganyan that's why I know you guys are here for me, not for what I have. 

I'm so cheap now that I cut and color my own hair! What do you think of my new bangs?

My husband says all the time I should go shopping. He'd say, "Please buy something new. Please!" Kasi when he looks through my blog and my Instagram, I wear the same old clothes again and again. My kids wear hand-me-downs or bigay ng mga brands. My things are bought second-hand on eBay or dahil may mega sale. Sabi ni Vince minsan naaawa siya sa akin haha

This doesn't bother me really, if I look poor. Kasi hindi naman totoo—I'm not poor. Cheap maybe haha Yes, I commute. I walk everywhere to save money. I use things until they're falling apart. But I can buy groceries without looking at price tags. I pay good money for good food and good service. And books and my kids' education and future. That's it. Everything else I have can look dilapidated. I just don't see the point of spending money on things I don't care about. So all this time I'm thinking na hindi ako nagyayabang ng kayamanan, right???

So who in their right mind would feel envy towards me? So it can't be envy.

It's condescension. That's what it is. 

I have a great life. I know I do. I'm so happy. My marriage is great. My kids are amazing. My dreams have all come true. I'm blessed beyond words! But instead of all these good things seen as rightfully mine, rightfully deserved, some people think I got all of them just because I married a rich man.

And that bothers me very much.

Vince will be the first to say he isn't a rich man. I find it amusing actually when he tells people, "I have a rich wife." Damn right. I work hard on my writing, editing, PR jobs, my blog, and every project that comes my way. Kung mukhang pera ang pagiging excited ko to finally cash my checks then, fine. But I deserve those checks. I earned all my money and I love it. I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want that power that comes from earning an honest income!

Vince said that he finds it so disrespectful that people assume we're living on some fictional inherited money just because writers and editors like us could not possibly live the way we do (but we live so simply?!). It's disrespectful to him and disrespectful to me. We have our life because we worked damn hard for it. 

This isn't a new issue. I talked about this in an old blog post 9 years ago:

"But people don't see beyond my nice life. They don't see that I spent 1999 to 2009 working my ass off, working 24 hours sometimes, eating very little or skipping meals altogether, skipping doctor check-ups and maintenance meds for my asthma and endometriosis, carefully using and cleaning clothes and shoes so they will last longer, scraping together every peso and enduring the glare of bank tellers while I count out coins I saved up to deposit to my bank account, and delaying marriage and kids because I wanted to have a better life first."

I'm still working my ass off, by the way. Three mouths to feed ain't cheap. But just because I make it look easy doesn't mean I'm not working hard. I've had jobs I hated and you better believe I was miserable and I looked it. Things are different now. Because I love my work, I love working, and I love that my husband supports my career, I guess it does look like this is all a piece of cake. It isn't, but I'm happy anyway. And no one has any right to take this joy away by putting me down every chance she gets.  

I deserve everything I have. Every tiny bit. Every single thing I worked hard for—piso per fucking word. 

So I still love you, dear cousin, but this is good-bye.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

What to do if you get Covid-19 (advice by a UK nurse)

I just saw this on Facebook and I wanted to share it with you! I thought it's a useful guide just in case we catch the novel coronavirus (and with the way things are going in this country and how the government isn't actually doing anything to flatten the curve, it looks like we'll all get that damn disease). 

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image by cottonbro from Pexels.com

Everyone is telling us how NOT to catch #coronavirus, but NO ONE is saying what to do if you get it. Thanks to this FILIPINA NURSE in the UK for putting this guide together:

Finally, some sensible advice From a GP Nurse in the UK.

To Avoid Covid-19
What I have seen a lot of are recommendations for how to try to avoid getting coronavirus in the first place:
• good hand washing
• personal hygiene
• social distancing

But what I have NOT seen a lot of is advice for what happens if you actually get it, which many of us will.
So as your friendly neighborhood nurse, let me make some suggestions:

What to Prepare
You basically just want to prepare as though you know you’re going to get a nasty respiratory bug, like bronchitis or pneumonia. You just have the foresight to know it might come your way!

Things you should actually buy ahead of time (not sure what the obsession with toilet paper is?):

• Kleenex

• Paracetamol

• whatever your generic, mucus-thinning cough medicine of choice is (check the label and make sure you're not doubling up on Paracetamol).

• Honey and lemon can work just as well!

• Vicks vaporub for your chest is also a great suggestion.

• a humidifier would be a good thing to buy and use in your room when you go to bed overnight. (You can also just turn the shower on hot and sit in the bathroom breathing in the steam).

• If you have a history of asthma and you have a prescription inhaler, make sure the one you have isn’t expired and refill it/get a new one if necessary.

• Meals. This is also a good time to meal prep: make a big batch of your favorite soup to freeze and have on hand.

If you get Covid-19

How do you know you have coronavirus?
1. Itching in the throat
2. Dry throat
3. Dry cough
4. High temperature
5. Shortness of breath

So when you notice these things, quickly take warm water with lemon and drink (for relief and hydration). 

• Hydrate (drink!), hydrate, hydrate! Stock up on whatever your favorite clear fluids are to drink - though tap water is fine, you may appreciate some variety!

• For symptom management and a fever over 38°c, take Paracetamol rather than Ibuprofen.

• Rest lots. You should not be leaving your house! Even if you are feeling better you may still be infectious for 14 days and older people and those with existing health conditions should be avoided!

• Wear gloves and a mask to avoid contaminating others in your house.

• Isolate in your bedroom if not living alone. Ask friends and family to leave supplies outside to avoid contact.

• Sanitize your bed linen and clothes frequently by washing and clean your bathroom with recommended sanitizers.

You DO NOT NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL unless you are having trouble breathing or your fever is very high (over 39°C) and unmanaged with meds. 90% of healthy adult cases thus far have been managed at home with basic rest/hydration/over-the-counter meds.

If you are worried or in distress or feel your symptoms are getting worse

Preexisting risks
If you have a pre-existing lung condition (COPD, emphysema, lung cancer) or are on immunosuppressants, now is a great time to talk to your doctor or specialist about what they would like you to do if you get sick.

Children 
One major relief to you parents is that kids do VERY well with coronavirus— they usually bounce back in a few days (but they will still be infectious). Just use pediatric dosing.

Be calm and prepare rationally and everything will be fine.

Do not keep this information to yourself only. Pass it to all your family and friends. May God bless all.

* * * * * * *

Okay, guys, I'm not a doctor who can verify if above info is correct but what's the harm with drinking water and being prepared with a few OTC meds and frozen soups? Stay safe and healthy, everyone. Quarantine rules are loosened and we now have to fend for ourselves!


Friday, May 22, 2020

Quarantine confession: I feel guilty that I'm happy

People are like water. Bruce Lee once said that water takes the shape of its container and when it gets transferred to another vessel, it takes the shape of that new container. It doesn't resist. It is fluid. It changes its shape but it is still water. In the same way, people should be like water. Be fluid. Adapt, change, make the best of where we are contained. And right now we're all contained in our homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He turned 8 while in quarantine. All he wanted for his birthday was to go out of the house.

Matapos ang mahigit na dalawang buwan ng quarantine and I've gone through so many emotions throughout all the fear and anxiety and incompetence of the government and the amazing feats of ordinary citizens and the private sector. What a summer! But now, right at this very moment and maybe for the last month, as I've adapted to the new normal, I've been really happy. But I'm afraid to say it because no one's supposed to be happy in such a terrible time.

It is still a terrible time. Namumutla na kami dahil condo-living kami ang our admin is super strict with us so my kids haven't felt sunlight on their skin this whole summer. My emotions have been wild every day. Especially at the start of the quarantine. Fear, anger, anxiety, worry, helplessness, despair. I lost my lucrative PR clients. Past clients aren't paying me so wala talaga akong pera. Buti na lang may work pa asawa ko. I'm angry at our government. I worry constantly about the future. And I'm afraid of the novel coronavirus and what it can do to my family.    

Then as the days wore on, it slowly dawned on me that I'm no longer worrying about certain things that made me unhappy. I don't wake at dawn anymore. I don't need to force my kids to eat their vegetables and take their vitamins. I don't worry about being a bad mom anymore just because my kids don't play outside or they spend too much time watching TV. I finally have time to fix and organize and clean. And for the first time in 5 years, I'm not gritting my teeth about tuition and enrolment, labeling and covering school books, and sewing name labels on uniforms. I'm finally NOT busy and it is glorious!

I have finally found time for self-care. Like, doing my own LED facials!

You know what's truly different for me? For the first time in the 10 years I've been a mommy, I am finally just here for my kids. Puttering about, cooking, cleaning, reading books with them, playing. Or not doing anything with them at all. Just letting them be kids without me hovering. So nice to just be me—not anxious mommy—just me. Full stop. 

I'm cooking every day, trying new recipes!

I still have a few writing projects to keep me occupied and that makes me happy and fulfilled. My husband is also happy I'm finally paying attention to him! He even joked that working-mom me seems to be happier being a housewife. I don't think I was an unhappy working mom. I love working! But I admit I am a lot less stressed and, well, this is nice. This is really nice. 

Little boy with big leaps in the art department!

I am super happy. I'm writing. I'm with my family. We're safe and healthy. So it is such a special time for me and my boys. Just cooped up in our home, safe from the world. It's almost magical. Like water, I have adapted to the shape of my new situation, flowed into my new container, and I may not like how I got into this state, but I like this cup I'm in.  

I know many people don't like the cup they're in. So I feel guilty that I'm happy. The only thing now that makes me unhappy is the certainty that not everyone feels the same. The world is changing in many scary ways. I'm still scared, too. So I'm extra grateful I have this little piece of heaven, made all the more precious because we don't know how long it will last.

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This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project”. The initiative is a response to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. Igniting and championing the human spirit, “Write to Ignite Blog Project” aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. This project is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, co-presented by Eastern Communications and sponsored by Electrolux, Jobstreet and Teleperformance. 

Join din kayo! Exciting prizes await the winners of "Write to Ignite Blogging Project." Prizes include:
Grand Champion: PHP 20,000 and Electrolux CompactGo Bagged Vacuum Cleaner
1st Runner-up: PHP 15,000 Electrolux CompactGo Bagged Vacuum Cleaner
2nd Runner-up: PHP 10,000 and Electrolux CompactGo Bagged Vacuum Cleaner

Each of the top 3 winners will also win for a cause as part of their prize is the opportunity to donate PhP 10,000 to any of the charitable institution or non-government organization (NGO) accredited by ComCo Southeast Asia. These are Humanility, PGH (Philippine General Hospital) Medical Foundation and World Vision Philippines’ COVID-19 Emergency Response. The top 20 finalists will be announced on June 27 and will also be invited to a special virtual awards night where the top 3 winners will be declared. The top 17 finalists will also receive consolation prizes.

For more details, please visit https://www.comco-hq.com/comco-in-action/comco-sea-launches-write-to-ignite-blogging-project.