Thursday, April 30, 2020

A joyous labor: Jennifer Lopez on the necessity of working and how she deals with working-mom guilt

I need that pink bag!

Even though I follow @jlo on Instagram, it's only now that I saw her videos for the Coach Spring 2020 campaign called "Originals Go Their Own Way". At 50 years old, Jennifer Lopez is having a really good year (good for her) that kicked off with her jaw-dropping performance at the Super Bowl, nominations for her role in Hustler, and her numerous brand endorsements. And yet, as her famous song goes, she's still Jenny from the block and her every interview just shows a woman who is warm and funny and real. Which is exactly what I want to always be!

I'm loving her little NY Minute interviews for Coach. This one, where she talks about being a mom, is especially inspiring for me as a working mom.



The best thing that happened to Jennifer is not her phenomenal career. It was her twins, Max and Emme. I remember covering this story for OK! magazine way back in 2008. As the editor, I was hell-bent on getting the photos and exclusive interview. And we got it! It was a beautiful feature but one I—as a newlywed with no desire for kids—didn't understand.

In London for the 2008 OK! annual conference and so proud of our cover.

Now that I have my own kids, I can appreciate Mommy JLo better. She says in her Coach video, "Your whole perspective on the world changes.  It's all about [the kids]—how you can be better for them, how you need to be better for them. [With] my type of work, I'm lucky that I can have [my family with me]. Because when they're there, they empower me to soar. I want to make them proud."

For Jennifer, being better means never getting complacent, which kinda stung because I wasn't dreaming anymore. I've already had my dream career come true before so I believed that I can't get greedy. I'm lucky I had that. Now I can be a nobody, just be there for my family, dream for them not for myself. But what JLo said stirred something in me. The old me. Perhaps the real me. I want to dream again! I want to conquer something again!

And if the new dreams make life as a mommy harder? Jennifer says, "I think they wish I didn't work as much but I think they also appreciate all they have because of it. Just like anybody's life, it's not perfect but we make the best of it. Just like every working mom... there's not just enough hours in the day sometimes but it's a joyous labor making it all happen."

A joyous labor. I love it! I finally have the words to describe what motherhood is. It's so succinct. So perfect. Motherhood is hard work and the work never ends. But it is also joyful and though we're exhausted all the time, we can't imagine life without this joy.



Here's Jennifer being interviewed by People magazine's Jess Cagle in 2017 [full interview here]. He was asking her about her comeback way back in 2011, when she was a new mom and she was 42 years old (ancient in Hollywood) but that was when she launched her mega-successful album LOVE? and invaded homes everywhere as a judge on American Idol. Jennifer said she was a new woman and the world needed to see the new JLo. "Here's what changed in my life: I had given birth. I had given birth and the kids honestly gave me a new direction. They just made me realize what was real and what wasn't real... They just changed everything."

And instead of feeling, as I did, that motherhood means retreating from the world, for JLo, it meant conquering it. She said, "It's true! There is a thing that happens and 'On The Floor' honestly was me [going]: 'Get back out there. You're an animal. You're a beast! Pull up your panties and get back out there!'"

"Here's what happened: I had the kids, and I started working on some more music and I started thinking about life in a different way. Like I said, I started asking more questions of myself, of love, of what was right and what was wrong, all because I wanted their life to be great, too. And I knew for their life to be great, my life had to be great. I had to fix some things."

And boy did she fix things. Actress, singer, dancer, fashion designer, producer, author, and businesswoman. And mother! Jennifer does all that she does while she's a devoted mother. I am so inspired! Of course I'm aware our situations are different. I know I'd be able to work better if I had household help, for instance. But just dreaming again is a big step, I think! I want to do something again apart from motherhood, for myself really, that my kids will see and be proud of. 

As moms, we all know our children are our priority. That's a given. It's so easy to get lost in motherhood, however, and we forget we are more than moms, that we were someone before we became moms, that we can be something else, too, while we are moms. It's been a struggle for me to go beyond motherhood because it's easier for me to focus on just one thing. But I want to always push myself to work. For my own fulfillment, yes, but also for my boys. I need my sons to see me as more than their mama, because that will color how they see women for the rest of their life. I need them to see women as more than just a devoted wife and a nurturing mother, but as a fully realized human being with dreams and goals and ambition and drive and power. 

That is my joyous labor. I'm so excited! Now let's dance to some 20 years of JLo tunes!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

4 home-based business ideas that actually make money

Many moms ask me how I earn from home, especially now that many of us are suffering a loss of income because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I earn money from just writing. I contribute articles to websites and magazines, my blog earns from sponsored posts, and I get paid for links and guest posts. There are many more ways to put up a home-based business. Today's guest post tackles 4.


GUEST POST - Whether you’re saving up for a huge purchase or looking for a supplementary income, starting a business can be a profitable side hustle. With the available technology today, you don’t need to rent a commercial space, hire employees, or even leave your house to establish a business.

You can earn an extra income just by staying at home and making use of the resources that you have (e.g., your skills, expertise, or hobby). Or you can also find a reliable manufacturer that will supply you with products to sell.

Either way, you can earn money while running your business at home and with minimal capital to start. If you’re looking for inspiration for a home-based business, here are five profitable ideas to try.

Sell Your Handmade Products

Are you a crafter? You can earn money by selling your creations online. Handmade and personalized products are popular gift items, which means there is a market for them. With you making the products, you have a lot of control over the production process. You can tailor products for a particular audience, find ways to make them more cost-effective, or innovate methods to improve quality.

Then you can sell your handmade products through a marketplace, social media, or your own online shop. Certain products, particularly those that ingested or applied on the skin, are regulated under laws. These include makeup, skin-care products, food, and beverages. Be aware of the legalities and permits you need to apply for if you’re planning to sell such products.

Here are some examples of handmade products you can sell:
  • Artworks
  • Dolls and toys
  • Home accessories
  • Jewelry
  • Knitwear
  • Party favors
  • Pet accessories
  • Wedding supplies
Making your own products takes a lot of time and energy, but you have full control of how many you’re going to sell. You can also stockpile your creations before opening the shop. Many crafters take commission work to avoid getting overwhelmed. 

Try Drop Shipping

According to Big Commerce, drop shipping is “an order fulfillment method that does not require a business to keep products in stock.” The business is more like a distributor who does the selling and marketing and then passes on the production and fulfillment to a third-party supplier.

Drop shipping requires significantly less effort on the business’s part, but you have to make sure that your supplier can consistently provide quality customer experience. Otherwise, your business’s reputation will suffer. 

This business model also creates a minimal opportunity for personal branding and customization. One way around this issue is to curate products from various suppliers to provide quality items for a specific niche.

(Note on drop shipping vs. affiliate marketing: As mentioned above, drop shipping allows you to sell other people's products as your own while affiliate marketing is you promoting other people's products and you earn a commission from each sale from your promotions.)

Sell Your Skills or Expertise

Do you specialize in a specific field or have a marketable skill you can sell? Monetize your skills or expertise by starting a service-based business. 

Social media managers, writers, proofreaders, editors, designers, and developers can take freelance projects or sell their skills to marketers, agencies, publishers, companies, or individuals. 

If you’re an expert on a certain field (e.g., finance planning, medical billing, college applications, and SEO marketing), you can publish courses or e-books and sell on your website or platforms, like Udemy, Teachable, or Podia. Or you can start a consulting business and market your skills to companies, organizations, and individuals.

Monetize Your Blog

Create a blog, and choose a specific niche so that it’s easier to find your audience. Pick a niche that you’re knowledgeable in and passionate about. Then publish quality content that’s relevant and valuable to your audience. Engage your readers so that they’ll spend a lot of time consuming the content you create. 

Here are some ways you can monetize your site:
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Advertisements
  • Sponsored content
  • Email marketing
  • Selling digital products like e-books
  • Selling coaching services
  • Sponsorships
The bigger and more loyal your audience is, the more you can earn from your blog.

My blog earns money from brand ambassadorships, too!

Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or a freelancer, earning a living has been made easier through today’s technology. Anyone can now run their own home-based business and earn money by selling products or services or monetizing their knowledge and skills.

So if you’re interested in starting a home-based business, here are a few ideas you can try:

1. Sell handmade products online.
2. Start a drop-shipping business.
3. Sell your skills or expertise.
4. Monetize your blog.

Making money is hard work, but it can be made easier by using the resources that technology and the internet have made available to everyone. You only need to put it in work and find the right opportunities. 

*This guest post was written by Melissa Page. She writes for a living and goes bowling for fun. Follow her on Twitter: @melissapage90If you want to place a guest post on this blog, please email frances@topazhorizon.com.

*Photos from the Biogenic Alcohol campaign 4 years ago! Don't forget to wash your hands with soap and water and sanitize surfaces with alcohol. Stay well and healthy! 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Where to get immunity-boosting Welch’s 100% grape juice (and why!)

Public service announcement, mamas! While we all know that 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 website: https://acefoodservice.com or place your order in the following online groceries: metromart.com, Lazmart, and waltermartdelivery.com.ph.


In these strange days of the novel coronavirus, it's even more important to keep ourselves healthy and strong. So exercise and stock up on fruits and vegetables! That's what I've been doing. Sometimes I make a fruit shake when I bought too much fruit. Or I just let everyone drink Welch's. It's convenient for mommies like me to let a fruit’s nutrients can be enjoyed by my entire family through fruit juices. Regular consumption of 100% grape juice made with Concord grapes such as Welch’s is really part of our diet.  

Doctors advise that the best ways to fight the Covid-19 disease are: 
(1) regular handwashing - make sure to do so for at least 20 seconds to really kill germs
(2) social distancing - this is to lessen the chances of spreading the virus
(3) avoid touching one's face - because our fingers can have the virus and it gets into our system through our noses and mouths
(4) strengthen one’s immune system - a lifestyle of getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and a balanced diet is basic!

A daily diet full of fruits and vegetables is not easy for me. Expensive, hard to store (they ripen quickly in our tropical climate), and needs to be prepared so that my kids will eat it. They're not the kind of kids who just bite an apple or pop a berry in their mouth. I have to make a salad, a smoothie, bake it into bread or cake. So tiresome! 

But I can't give up! So queen-of-convenience me always has Welch's 100% Grape Juice in the house! The Journal of Medicinal Food published a study that said, “Regular consumption of Concord grape juice benefits human immunity.” 

Welch’s juice is full of polyphenols, a natural plant nutrient that plays a key role in supporting a healthy heart. It's packed with Vitamin C, which helps the body recover from infections. Grape juice made from Concord grapes contain natural sugars that are low in the glycemic index. So a refreshing glass can be enjoyed with all the benefits without the guilt.

From left: me, makeup artist Carmel Villongco, Erika Rodriguez of Welch's, and Aliza Apostol at the 150th-anniversary party of Welch's last year
Erika Rodriguez, VP for Marketing of GEMCo, the Philippine marketing agent of Welch’s International, said, “Welch’s juice uses the entire dark purple Concord grape – skin, seeds and all – to release the plant’s true polyphenol power. In fact, at least 20 grapes are squeezed into each 4-ounce glass. Imagine the vitamins and minerals in each glass of Welch’s that can help boost your family’s health especially during this time!" 



Erika has become a friend and I admire her for her devotion to her family. She's also committed to making Filipino families healthy through Welch's! I'm with her on her mission because these are scary times and we mamas must make an extra effort to make sure our families are healthy. I hope you are all safe and well! 

Friday, April 24, 2020

How to get in the mood for sex when you're an exhausted wife

A Loyal Reader sent me a request recently. She asked me to write about sex again. She got hooked on my blog years ago when I was writing about how I was enjoying sex with my husband, Vince, and she said it was so refreshing to see sex talked about enthusiastically and in the context of a loving relationship. She then wondered why I stopped writing about sex.

Well, the kids happened. That's what usually happens when you have sex: You have kids haha. The more kids we had, the less frequent lovemaking became. And let me tell you from experience that a marriage is in trouble when the couple isn't making love. There were a few years when Vince and I would fight about it. He was trying to tell me that he needed sex while I was trying to tell him I'm too tired of taking care of three little boys to be in the mood for sex. It was tough, I will admit.

I'm sure I'm not the only mom who experiences this. Back then, I'd have little chats with my fellow mommy friends and talk inevitably goes to sex—the lack of it, our exasperation at needy husbands, and our bewilderment at why said husbands can't see how fucking tired we are!


What finally worked for Vince and me is good, honest talk. It wasn't easy at the start but talk we did, and this conversation happened several times over a looong time. We needed to be open about our feelings of neglect, of being undesirable, of feeling overwhelmed, of being lonely. It's hard to be intimate with someone who you think doesn't understand you. So the first step we really took as a couple was to be honest so we can understand each other.

That's so important in any relationship, but especially so in a marriage. I needed him to understand why I was never in the mood anymore. At the same time, I had to make him understand the conflicting emotions that even when I'm not in the mood for sex, that doesn't mean I don't want him anymore. So confusing, right???

But talk we did, and understand we did. And finally, make love we did!

It's really difficult to get in the mood for sex if you're an exhausted mama. So here's what worked for me and I hope this helps you, too!

1. Share the load.
Let's all just come right out and say it again and again and again: We don't want to have sex when we're tired. Or when we feel ugly. Or when we feel unloved. Or when we're worried about money or work. Sex is seriously the last thing on my mind when I'm tired from a whole day at work, caring for the kids, and doing chores. I can't even think of sex when we fight or when he's masungit. So if our husbands want us to be in the mood for constant sex, the solution is really simple: They better make sure we never get tired, we always feel beautiful and adored, and we never have anything to worry about!

So my husband started taking over many of my chores. Cleaning, folding the laundry, taking care of the kids. He was already a hands-on father before but when he understood that a tired me means no sex for him, he made sure I rested a lot!

2. Make him put the kids to bed.
I need time to transition from mommy mode to wife mode. So after dinner, I can't mom anymore. I need to de-stress and do a mental shift. Remember: The brain is the most powerful sex organ. If I can't think about making love, I won't be able to make love.

So let your husband do the bedtime story while you collect yourself, quiet your thoughts. If you're a breastfeeding mom or a mom of littles, you'd want to rest your skin from touch, right? Tell your husband he should take over bedtime duties so your skin can rest. In my experience, if I can't carve out time for myself at night, I can't get into the mood for sex. I need at least 30 minutes of Me Time first!

3. Take a shower.
It's so hard for me to feel sexy when I smell like sweat, laundry detergent, toilet cleaner, and cooking oil. Vince used to tell me that he doesn't care what I smell like. And I always retort, "Well, I do!" I just can't do it when I can smell garlic on my fingers. So while Vince is reading bedtime stories to the kids, I lock myself in the shower and wash away all the traces of my day. Then I pretty up my face, go all glowy. Then I apply lotion. Spray on his favorite perfume. He may like me whatever I look and smell like but I need to like myself before I can feel sexy. And I like it when I smell nice and fresh, when my skin is nice and soft, when my hair is pretty. I feel confident to go naked when I know I look, smell, and feel nice. 

4. Listen to love songs.
My favorite is "Crack the Shutters" by Snow Patrol. It's such a gentle yet sexy song about waking up next to someone you love, watching him sleep and wake up, and then exploring each other's body in the soft sunlight. Can anything be more intimate? And when you've been together 21 years and still feel that wonder... it makes me all soft and gooey inside! This song makes me want to go run my fingers all over Vince's skin and make him mine all over again.

I've found that love songs remind me of how much I love my husband. They remind me of who I was before I became a mother. Sometimes I get so steeped in all things mommy that I forget I'm a wife, too. So love songs get me in the mood for romance.


5. Fill your head with sexy.
There's romance and then there's raunchy. Like I said earlier, your brain is your biggest sex organ so you need to make it think of sex. Lovey-dovey is nice, okay. I love it when Vince writes me letters, gives me flowers, and especially when he tells me I'm beautiful. It makes me think, "Oh, he loves me!" But when he grabs me and kisses me, I think, "Oh, he wants me!"

Most of the time, though, we're too distracted by all the things on our To Do list that when the hubby grabs us, it's more annoying than flattering. So we need to think sexy, too. Some people watch porn but I don't like watching other people do it. Some people like dirty text messages. I would be naughty but my kids sometimes borrow my phone and text their Papa so gotta keep that clean. What I do like is naughty reads. I took an erotic writing class back in college and wrote a few sexy stories myself (and got into the U.P. National Writers Workshop where I found the great love of my life!).

I don't write fiction anymore but I love Literotica.com. There's a wealth of kinky stories there—nothing is off-limits. But I stay away from the weird ones. I like reading the romantic ones, like this: "April's Fool." Read it! It's torrid at the start. Okay, it's torrid throughout, I won't lie. But it's a well-written story, there's character development, fantasy, and a nice build-up of romance that is sooo satisfying in the end. After reading it, you'll feel all sorts of out of sorts that can only be relieved by a proper lovemaking session!

6. Do it regularly.
There's no other way around it, ladies. If you want to always be in the mood for sex, you have to have sex regularly. I think it's because you get addicted to all the hormones your body releases while making love. Some time ago, I was talking with my OB-GYNE, Dr. Rebecca Singson, about my lack of interest in sex, and she advised me that the only way to get in the mood is to just do it and do it often, too. She said, "You have to look at it as play. Our children need to play every day, right? At least 2 hours of play for proper growth and development. Why can't adults play, too? Think of sex as play. It's healthy. It's good for you. Do it every day!"

I'm not doing it every day yet. But we're doing it often enough now that my husband is even more in love with me. It's really so fun! We're discovering new things about our bodies and what we like in bed—and that sure is something considering we've been together for 21 years. One thing we haven't tried is sex toys. But I found this new sex toy shop and it's right here in the Philippines. I'm so excited about it. Mamas, check out Noti.ph. I love how the site is so professional and classy. And informative, too. I haven't bought anything yet but after quarantine ends, I'm going shopping!

I hope my oversharing today helped you, mamas! If you have other tips, please do spill. We wives need to help each other keep our marriages not just alive but hot and exciting, too!

*images by Dainis Graveris on SexualAlpha

Monday, April 20, 2020

Homemade recipe: Atsarang talong (pickled eggplant)


I shared this photo on my social media last week and even though I said it looks horrible, I got a lot of requests for the recipe. Apparently, there's a lot of us who love eggplant! Yes, this is atsarang talong, a.k.a. pickled eggplant. The great thing with pickling is you can pickle any vegetable. So if you have lots of veggies and don't know what to do with them, pickle them!

Atsarang Talong (or Pickled Eggplant)

2 eggplants, sliced into strips (I used the long Pinoy eggplants)
2 tbsps salt for water
water for boiling
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/3 cup vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsps salt

1. In a pot, pour enough salted water to cover eggplants. Boil for 10 minutes.
2. Drain eggplant slices.
3. Combine eggplant slices with the rest of the ingredients.
4. Marinate overnight.
5. Eat with happiness!!!

The great thing with atsarang talong is the unique smoky-sweet flavor of the eggplant that balances out the sourness of the vinegar. It tastes amazing! My husband, who has known me for 2 decades, was pleasantly surprised that I knew how to pickle stuff (thanks, Home Economics 101!). He was so happy with this recipe! It tastes great as a side dish to pork chops, adobo, fried fish, pork barbecue, anything inihaw. Try it, too!

Friday, April 17, 2020

How I knew Vince was serious about me (plus old couple photos from before we were married)

Tomorrow is April 18. It's the 21st anniversary of when Vince and I fell in love and our 13th wedding anniversary. So exciting!!! There are no plans haha. I'm just excited at the fact that I've been in love for this long!

My Loyal Readers sometimes ask me, the girl who said she'd never get married and have kids, what changed my mind. Well, Vince did. He didn't force me to do anything I didn't want, okay. He just made me see things his way! And I'm glad he did! I have never been happier. I'm just so glad he didn't give up on me haha

Anyway, as an anniversary gift to you, you who have been following my love story for as long as this blog's been alive, I'm sharing these photos I unearthed recently! My kids, bored from being indoors for weeks now, asked one night, "Mama, how did you and Papa meet?" So I told them and they laughed and cringed and then said, "Pictures! Where are the pictures???" And so I asked their Papa to take out the heavy red album and we all took a trip down memory lane, all 21 years of happiness.


All of these are old photos, in no particular order, from before we were married and I wanted you guys to see. Because you always ask me about my love life, married life, sex life... Thank you for being so interested! It keeps me interested, too, hahaha.

One question I get from time to time is how did I know Vince was serious about me. Well, I knew from the start. He made it clear from the very start. 


And here are my little stories from the many times he showed me just how serious he was about me.


#1
On our first date in Manila (we already had a few in Baguio), instead of going to the mall, he brought me to meet his parents first. That was a complete shock since I wasn't dressed for it and wasn't ready at all. I wore a thin sleeveless shirt and tight jeans—definitely not what I'd wear to impress the parents of a guy I just met. But he said, "You should meet them! Our house is on the way."

"Really? I'm not ready to meet your folks."

"Why not? They'll love you!"

"I'm not... dressed."

"You look amazing!"

And that's how I met his parents. I think everyone was surprised but Vince just smiled throughout the whole thing. Like, he literally didn't say anything. He just let me and his dad do all the talking! He later said in the car, "It's nice to see you with my parents. It looks right."


#2
He asked me, "Do you want to be a June bride?" in May, a month after we met.

#3
He surprised me in the car by suddenly singing to me: "I want to take you home, I wanna give you children, and you might be my girlfriend, oh yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!" That's from Babies by Pulp. We had just started dating and we weren't even girlfriend-boyfriend yet so babies were not anywhere in the realm of my consciousness so that was pretty scary haha


#4
I lived in Antipolo back then and it floods in the Cainta-Marikina intersection all the way up to the rise to Masinag. His low Toyota meant he won't be able to visit me during the rainy season so he bought a big pickup truck that roared through the flood.


#5
When I started working for the Senate, I was dismayed to find out that they hold your salary until you're regularized. You get all of it in one big bulk but I figured I'd look for another job because there was no way I could survive that long without income. Then Vince said, "I'll support you until you get your money. No problem. It'll be like practice for when we're married."

I paid him back when I got my money, which I think offended him haha


#6
He took me house-hunting. After every house we checked out, he asked, "Did you like that?" And I would say, "It's your house. It doesn't matter what I like." And he insisted, "But it does because it's going to be your house."

I have a plethora of little snippets of how he felt for me. I looked through my diaries recently. Apparently, my 2004 diary tells me I did want to get married after all. It also told me why I resisted. Even though I knew he was the one for me, I didn't know if I was the one for him. He wanted the marriage and the kids and because I had endometriosis and was possibly barren, I didn't want to disappoint him. Well, after all that resisting, it turns out I didn't have anything to worry about.

Sharing with you these last two photos, one from my diary and one from my Facebook Memories.




Monday, April 13, 2020

Quarantine Update: What I've been watching on YouTube

Hello everyone! It's a month into our community quarantine because of the novel coronavirus. How are you all? I hope you're all safe and healthy inside your homes, with family you love. We're doing okay over here in our condo. The kids are watching more TV than usual but they do spend their mornings doing chores, playing with each other, and doing arts and crafts. My husband is working from home. I sometimes work, do a few chores but I'm mostly sleeping in. I haven't slept well in 10 years because of motherhood so I'm now definitely catching up!

What else have I been doing? Well, there's Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (yes, I started Tweeting again!). Organizing. Cooking a ton! I finished Spiderwick Chronicles because my eldest boy said he liked it. I've been seducing my husband every chance I get haha.

I fell in love with this little cutie while quarantined.

Another thing I've been doing is watching YouTube a lot. I thought I'd be Netflixing or reading a book, which I do now and then. But I'm mostly on YouTube. I think I'm late to the platform. There are just so many videos I've discovered! I used to just watch YouTube for music videos. But now I'm browsing so much and having lots of fun, I'm even thinking of finally vlogging (yikes—discourage me please haha).

It all started when I was looking for an old Spice Girls music video and got this on my recommendations: a funny Posh Spice!
 


After wandering around in YouTube, I found tours of tiny homes. Such joy! I follow all sorts of tiny houses on Instagram. It's a little hobby I love—checking out people's houses, specifically tiny homes. I like to dream that when the kids are all grown up, I'd live in a tiny home with a big garden or a magnificent view of the mountains.

So imagine how thrilled I was to find Living Big in a Tiny House! I have a lot of favorite episodes but I want to share this one because the couple living here are so cute. The guy's obviously in love with the girl. Ladies, always be with someone madly in love with you.



Another thing I follow on Instagram and like on Facebook are cats and dogs. I can spend hours and hours watching corgis and munchkins! So I searched for cat and corgi videos on YouTube and found so much happiness! My super favorite channel now is Kish-log, which follows the adventures of a munchkin kitten in her new forever home.

It's also a peek into life in South Korea. I loved the accidental home tours (because the camera followed the cat around the house), the food the hooman eats, the changing seasons, and the family trip to Jeju island. The recent videos also touched on how COVID-19 has affected their lives, which was jarring for me because here I was enjoying all the cuteness and then suddenly a reminder of the health crisis felt around the globe.



How about you? What do you watch on YouTube, Netflix, etc? Please share with me! Our community quarantine just got extended and I need more happy distractions from these strange times.

I hope you are all safe and healthy!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Oh, to see beyond the tomb! Hope in time of deep despair

In the Christian world, today is Good Friday, the day when Jesus Christ gave up His life for all mankind for our salvation from sin.

I've always loved the story of salvation. For some of my friends, they don't like the theology of man needing saving. It makes them feel like they aren't good enough. Me, I like the idea that I'm not good enough. It just makes sense because I'm not perfect. I'm not the prettiest, the smartest, the sexiest, the healthiest, the kindest, the mostest of everything. And while I try to be a better person every day, I also rest in the sweet comfort that I may not be good enough for people, but I was good enough for Jesus to give His life for me. It makes my heart glad, no matter what life may throw my way.


Good Friday is when Christians grieve for the death of Jesus. I honestly don't understand why we need to kill Him every year. Why not just celebrate Easter, right? But today is the first-ever time I thought about Jesus in the grave and how his followers were scattered in fear and despair, their beloved Lord and leader dead. All they saw was Jesus in the tomb and they saw no future beyond it. And that made me think of all the times I felt fear and despair: when I was molested as a child, when I was bullied in high school, when I had an abusive boyfriend in college, when Mama died, when I lost my dream job, when Papa died—one year ago today to be exact. 

There were so many times I could've gone down the path of hatred, depression, and self-destruction. But every time I bounced back. Okay, sometimes I crawled back. But every single time I just clung to God's promises that He has plans for me, that there is hope for me, that there is a future. And yet every single time, too, I will confess that I couldn't see beyond the tomb. All I could see was the darkness, never the light. And I guess that's why I just clung to Him because I can't see what He can and I knew if I let go, I'd be swallowed up in the abyss. But because I didn't let go, He always led me beyond the tomb and my life has become bigger and better than I ever even dared to dream it could be.
    
So I was so happy that in my devotions today, I read this verse: “Jesus has the power of God, by which he has given us everything we need to live and to serve God. We have these things because we know him. Jesus called us by his glory and goodness. Through these, he gave us the very great and precious promises. With these gifts, you can share in God’s nature, and the world will not ruin you with its evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

The world tried but it failed to ruin me. Not because of me and how perfect and amazing I am. Far from it. Because of God's nature and the promises of Jesus, my little old self in all its weaknesses and imperfections was able to go through the darkness many times unscathed. How beautiful is that! Thank You, Lord!

I see all the people around me now doing their very best to overcome the fear and uncertainty that the novel coronavirus has suddenly wrought upon us. It's hard to see beyond this, to imagine the new world where a deadly virus is loose amongst us. I honestly don't know how life as we know it can go on. Things will drastically change, no doubt. What I hope is we don't lose hope. I see all the wonderful things everyone is doing—whether it's donating their time and resources to help frontliners and the less fortunate to whipping up amazing things in their kitchen to give happiness to everyone locked up at home. 

Yes, there is darkness around us but everyone is working hard in their own big and little ways to fight it. We are all little pockets of light! I still believe that faith in God adds more than hope. It protects us from despair and ruin. Let's not let these dark times ruin us, dearest friends. This will end, sooner or later. I miss the sun, walking around, freedom. I miss my family and my friends. But for now, I will stay home and cling to that hope that Jesus gave us when He broke the tomb, the hope for a better world and a future beyond our wildest dreams. It will come. I know it! I hope you know it, too. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

How to perfectly brush your teeth and floss with braces

GUEST POST - Do you have questions about cleaning and flossing your teeth with braces? Read on to learn about a simple dental routine that will keep your mouth perfectly clean. 

My teeth were so bad, I had to wear braces for years! 

If you or your child has braces, it can be a challenge to clean them properly. How do you floss between your teeth when the braces themselves are in the way? How do you get rid of food particles if there is a wire barrier preventing access to all parts of your teeth? Not to worry, here are some guidelines to help you find a clean routine to keep those teeth flossed and clean while wearing braces.

Step 1 - Get Ready 

The first step is to get ready to brush. To do this, remove elastics and removable parts of your orthodontic appliances. This step gets all the elements that can be removed out of the way, and makes more space for cleaning. 

Step 2 - Choose the Right Toothbrush 

An electric toothbrush is going to make cleaning your teeth with braces a whole lot easier. Electric brushes also have sensitive modes that go at a slower speed, so you don’t hurt your gums or damage your wires. There are also toothbrushes made especially for people with braces, visit dental clinic in Guelph if having hard time finding the right toothbrush for you. Spindle brushes can get in between your teeth and behind braces to clear plaque and food particles. 

Step 3 - Brush Around Your Braces 

Carefully clean around each brace and under the wires starting with the outside of your teeth. Clean each tooth from top to bottom. It helps to angle your toothbrush to get the best position for cleaning in between and underneath your braces. Once you’ve done the outside focus on the inside of your teeth. 

Your family dentist for braces in Edmonton recommends spending at least 2 minutes brushing your teeth to be sure you’ve thoroughly cleaned them of plaque. This is about 1 minute of brushing for the outside of your teeth, and 1 minute of brushing for the inside. Also, be sure to change your toothbrush regularly as braces can cause more wear. 

This was in 2006. I looked so much better after! Braces are my best beauty investment.

Step 4 - Time to Floss! 

Now it may seem impossible to get a thin band of floss in between and underneath those braces, but flossing is an essential part of dental hygiene — with braces or without. 

Waxed floss is much easier to thread in between your teeth and is not as likely to get caught in your braces. Simply thread the floss under the main wire before passing it in between your teeth. Gently move the floss up and down and then repeat for all of your teeth. You can also use a floss threader to make it easier to thread between your teeth. 

Dental tape is also a good option and may be easier to manipulate than floss. Water picks are an even easier option for removing plaque and debris from in between teeth. They spray water between the gaps in your teeth and do an excellent job of removing food particles and plaque buildup. 

Step 5 - Time to Rinse! 

Mouth breathing can cause health problems so it is a good idea to finish off your brushing and flossing with mouthwash. Mouthwash helps kill any bacteria on or between your teeth that you may have missed when brushing or flossing. It also helps keep your breath minty fresh. Find a mouthwash that contains fluoride to help prevent tooth decay and strengthen your enamel. 

If you don’t like the taste of mouthwash, you can also gargle and rinse with saltwater. Saltwater can help with any pain or soreness you might have because of your braces, and it will help keep your teeth clean. 

Follow this routine, and you will have no trouble keeping your teeth and braces perfectly clean.

Guest post writer Katrina Fernandez is a hardworking individual who always gives her best. As a degree holder, she aspires to establish herself within the media industry. Expert in building online partnerships, she's been working in digital marketing services, Local SEO Search Inc. for several years. If you want to place a guest post on this blog, please email frances@topazhorizon.com.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

KooBits brings Singapore Math to Filipino homes!

I truly believe that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we won't be going back to school anytime soon. So I've been exploring homeschooling and online educational platforms. Koobits sent me this press release and I think it's interesting enough for my kids to use since they're studying Singapore Math in school. Check it out, mamas!


PRESS RELEASE - Award-winning Singapore-based EdTech startup KooBits, announced the launch of two new products: ‘Home-Based Learning’, an online mathematics learning platform, and ‘Live Tutoring’, an AI-enabled online live tutoring service — both with accompanying apps for parents to track learning progress. This is the first official launch of KooBits e-learning products to the consumer market, catering to parents and kids across households in the Philippines and beyond.

KooBits is the most engaging website in the e-learning category in Southeast Asia. It already sees enthusiastic use among over 150,000 children worldwide, with more than 20,000 children voluntarily spending time on the platform to learn every day.


“KooBits has always been dedicated to fostering higher-order thinking skills and problem-solving capabilities in the leaders of our next generation. Our new offerings provide more ways for parents to keep track of their child’s learning progress, ensuring parents are more involved in their child’s development. We are bringing the tried and tested methods from our work with schools right into your households to enrich your child’s maths education with a personalised and engaging online curriculum.” said Stanley Han, CEO of KooBits. 

Their school-based product 'KooBits ProblemSums' helps children build a deep understanding of maths via the acclaimed Singapore Maths pedagogy. It is one of the most widely-used and successful EdTech solutions in the region and beyond, with 361 schools using the system. 


AI-based education tools to foster independent, self-motivated learners 

Both of the KooBits products — ‘Home-Based Learning’ and ‘Live Tutoring’ — utilise AI to provide effective learning solutions for children. The KooBits platform uses its personalization technology and gamification to support students to learn on their own; and at the same time, uses AI and big data to generate learning insights and make them visible to parents and teachers. 

‘Home-Based Learning’ comes with access to unlimited worksheets with full solutions, and comprehensive video tutorials. These tutorials are based on the tried and tested Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract (CBA) approach, which is the model used by Singapore’s education system. This ensures that children do not simply rote-memorise the steps to solving a problem, but are able to visualise and understand the underlying concepts. Once they have mastered the concepts, they are also able to test their skills against their peers with fun activities and friendly competitions, gaining a mastery of the school syllabus from the comfort of their homes. 

‘Live Tutoring’ provides an affordable home learning alternative compared to the industry average. Through a short pre-class assignment that is part of every session, the platform automatically identifies each child’s weaknesses and gaps in learning, and automatically groups them, so tutors can personalise their lesson and address relevant issues for the students during each class. 

The platform also enables assignment of homework to follow up on the concepts that require reinforcement, to ensure that understanding has been achieved. As a result, each tutoring session is customized according to the child’s needs — generating a personalized learning pathway that maximises their strengths, and rectifies their weaknesses. 

Parents can also keep track of their child’s progress, gaining an insight into their child’s strengths and weaknesses. They can monitor what milestones their children have reached in relation to the national syllabus, and can also benchmark their child’s progress against their peers. Armed with this knowledge, they can gently guide their child’s learning pathway, without impinging on their independence. 





Making home-based learning easier and accessible to all 

With ‘Home-Based Learning’ and ‘Live Tutoring’, parents are able to enroll their children in the programmes and are no longer dependent on the school adopting the KooBits system. These new home-based products give parents access to the insights on their child’s learning progress — something that only teachers had access to previously. 

Furthermore, in order to help parents and educators cope with the transition to fully home-based learning, KooBits is making their 'KooBits Weekly Homework' program — that was previously only offered to partner schools — available to everyone at zero cost, at https://www.koobits.com/public. This free service will be open for all till the end of this academic year. 


To ensure the continuity of high-quality education outside the classroom, KooBits has engaged experienced teachers to hand-pick and set questions for interested students in the form of structured formative and summative assessments on a twice-weekly basis. This not only gives students relevant and timely revision, but also presents parents with data on how their child is performing relative to the cohort. 

Stanley said, “We understand that this is a trying period for both parents and children, with a lot of uncertainty surrounding education. We hope that our platform, which encourages children to self-pace and self-direct their own learning, can put their minds at rest when it comes to at-home maths education.” 

With the objective of further democratizing education and helping to accelerate the migration towards online teaching and learning, KooBits plans to offer their e-learning system to all tuition centres by the end of the second quarter of 2020. They are also working on Science education programs, set to roll out in the second quarter of the year. 

Find out more about KooBits at https://www.koobits.com/.

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

Monday, April 06, 2020

Graduation invites I love (plus a grad announcement card I made for Piero!)

Well, because of the novel coronavirus and the community quarantine, I didn't expect that my last boy wasn't going to walk on stage to get his kindergarten diploma, to be honest. We feel a bit sad. Okay, I'll be honest—I'm really sad about it because he was my last kid in preschool and it's an achievement for him... and me! So to make up for the feeling of being robbed of such a wonderful milestone, I decided to make graduation announcements for my boy. For that, I went online and found Basic Invite!

I love it! It has all sorts of templates for invitations for all the occasions you can think of! Here are my top reasons why I love Basic Invite:

Unlimited color combinations 
Basic Invite lets customers choose from infinite color combinations. Every element of the invitation can be changed and you see what your card will look like instantly every time you edit. 

Custom samples
You can order a printed sample of your invitation so you can see the paper quality, how it feels and smells even. Then you can tweak it to your liking before printing.

Over 40 different envelope colors
I love colorful envelopes since they make your mail instantly stand out in the stack. Basic Invite  customers can choose from over 40 different envelope colors. They also said that their envelopes are peel and seal so that the envelopes can be closed quickly and easily.

So let's check out the samples! Here are the graduation invitation templates. There are lots more to choose from so please so check the link. 


Maybe after this community quarantine, we might celebrate with a little party! Just to make our little boy feel special. Here are some graduation party invitation templates to choose from:


I can also make my boy make thank you cards for his teachers using these graduation thank you card templates at Basic Invite.


Since we can't invite anyone to a ceremony or after-party yet, I decided that a graduation announcement card will be good to tell our loved ones that my baby boy is done with baby school and is now all set for big school!

Here are the templates for the preschool type:



And these are what I made:


I decided on the second one because we have the Dr. Suess book, Oh, The Places You'll Go! so it's more relevant to us. 

Since Basic Invite is offering a 15% discount now, my order will just be USD 51.85 from USD 61. So that's just PHP 2,624!

If you're also looking to celebrate your graduation—if not now but someday soon, I hope—check out Basic Invite today. They have other kinds of templates for announcements, invitations and gratitude cards as well. Here's the website: www.basicinvite.com. Enjoy shopping!

*This post is brought to you by Basic Invite.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Want a home project? Change your room dramatically with wallpaper! Here's mine

Since everyone's home because of the coronavirus quarantine, lots of articles about DIY home projects are proliferating online. My husband and I had the same plan for our summer—even before the community quarantine—because Vince was tired of the silver accent wall I painted 6 years ago and wanted something nicer on that wall. Like a really fabulous wallpaper. And that's how we discovered Photowall!


Photowall is based in Sweden. So why did I get my wallpaper from across the world? Well, I've checked out a few wallpaper shops in Manila and, while there are lovely designs available here, we were looking for something bolder. Something that will stand out when you enter the room versus a discreet design that fades into the, er, wallpaper.

With Photowall, we saw soooooo many wonderful and fantastic designs! Super overwhelming! Bold and colorful! Dynamic and stimulating! They drew your attention instead of fading into the background. It took Vince and me a few weeks just going through all the gorgeous choices until we both finally settled on one amazing artwork. I'll show you in a bit!


You can tell from my pictures how happy I am to get our wallpaper! I super loved Photowall—from their beautiful and user-friendly website that showcased all their designs in various real room settings, the ease of ordering on their online store to the super quick production and delivery. I ordered our wallpaper March 9 and it was printed out that same day. It left Sweden March 10 and we got it March 13! Four days!

We were actually supposed to get it on March 12—so it would've just taken 3 days!—but the COVID-19 panic was already starting that week so delivery was delayed. I'm just so glad our wallpaper got to us before the lockdown! So let me do a little unboxing!


The wallpaper is rolled up into this small box. It comes with the receipt, instructions, and the glue.


And this is what it will look like! I haven't been able to put up the wallpaper. Lockdown started March 14 so we weren't able to buy the necessary tools from the hardware shop. So our plan to install it while on quarantine didn't pan out. But, mamas, just look at how absolutely gorgeous it's going to be!!!




That is ART. That's just so "LOOK AT ME!" I can't wait to see that wallpaper up on our wall!

Okay, I'm so happy with it that I created a My Favorites list on Photowall. Let me share with you a few wallpapers and posters that I love. I am totally covering my whole house with Photowall products!


The foxes are for IƱigo. He's really into foxes now.


I highly recommend Photowall, mamas! Check out their website now. We may not be able to get shipments right now because of the quarantine but browse the designs anyway and make a Favorites album like I did. It took me and my husband a month just to go through all the designs and narrow down what we liked. So you now have something to do this month!

If you order, use my code "topazhorizon2021" at checkout to get 25% off! That's a huge discount! PLUS: You can use that code several times from now till May 1, 2020! No, this isn't a sponsored post but Photowall very kindly offered that discount so that Filipinos—my Loyal Readers especially!—can get beautiful wallpaper straight from Sweden, too!