Thursday, July 30, 2020

Frances Finds: blueberries in Manila! Plus, my homemade blueberry honey oatmeal bar recipe

Confession: I have never ever had blueberries before. Well, I've had blueberry cheesecake, blueberry pancakes, blueberry jam, and once a blueberry smoothie, but fresh blueberries, picked from the bush? Never. I've never even seen one. So imagine my delight when I found out I can get fresh blueberries here in Manila!!!

So I got a small crate and look at Mother Nature's edible sapphires:


Fresh blueberries taste like a mellow duhat. A little sweet, a little tart, a little fragrant. I love it! I had enough to make smoothies and toppings for pancakes and my breakfast oatmeal, but I also wanted to make my own blueberry recipe. Check this out!


Blueberry Honey Oatmeal Bars

INGREDIENTS

1 cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup oatmeal
¼ cup US Blueberries
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons honey

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease aluminum foil and line an 8-inch square baking pan with it. You can also use parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Add nuts, oatmeal, sugar, and blueberries to a large bowl. Mix well.

3. In another bowl, whisk together oil, butter, and honey.

4. Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients. Stir and fold until well mixed.

5. Pour the mixture into the baking pan. Use a spatula to distribute and tightly press the berry oatmeal mixture.

6. Bake for 20 minutes.

7. Cool until completely firm, about 1 hour. Slice into bars and store in a jar or a Ziplock bag. Enjoy!


Don't feel like cooking? No worries! Because it's a fruit, blueberries are delicious and perfect on its own. Just pop in your mouth. You won't stop at one, I guarantee it. It's so simple and easy, it's the perfect snack! 

Blueberries are nutritious, too. So mommy me was happy to offer them to my kiddos. I checked just how healthy blueberries are (I always have to, to convince my kids to eat anything that doesn't resemble candy haha) and here's what I found:

Blueberries are full of antioxidants.
They may be small but each little blueberry is full of antioxidants that protect the body against many diseases.

Blueberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C.
This vitamin protects cells against damage by neutralizing free radicals, builds collagen so we stay looking younger longer, helps our skin recover from damage faster, and aids in the absorption of iron.

Blueberries help manage your blood sugar levels. 
These little balls of blue contain soluble fiber, which helps slow down the rate at which sugar is released into the bloodstream. Plus, fiber is always good for your digestive system!

Blueberries are low in calories.
With only 80 calories per serving, feel free to pop a few in your mouth!

These are just a few of the nutritional benefits I listed down. I'll share more in another post since I'm so inspired to make a few more dishes with all these blueberries I have!

Fresh blueberries are now available at S&R Membership Shopping, Always Fresh PH, Fruit Loot PH, and Dizon Farms Delivers.

You can find everything you need to know about blueberries and the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council here: https://www.blueberrycouncil.org/ and from the U.S. Blueberries Philippines accounts on Facebook and Instagram.


*This post is brought to you by U.S. Blueberries Philippines.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

5 ways to #StayStrongStayBeautiful with Watsons

PRESS RELEASE - As lockdown restrictions start to ease, the ‘new normal’ we’ve been living in is slowly starting to change. Do you remember New Year’s Eve when we thought 2020 was going to be an amazing year? Little did we know what horrors we were about to face. Let's be glad that as we adjust to a new way of life, Watsons is here by our side. Read on for some tips and recommendations on how we can all stay strong, stay beautiful, during these times.


Stay Protected
Making your health a top priority is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to yourself. By following good respiratory hygiene, you also protect the people around you from catching viruses such as colds, flu, or even COVID-19. Right now, the best practice for containing the disease are the ones you already know: Wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands regularly, and take your vitamins. We supplement our diet with vitamins from Enervon, Stresstabs, and Watsons Generics. We keep our body clean with products from Safeguard and Dove and care of our oral health with products from Listerine, Oral-B and Himalaya.


Stay Prepared
While online shopping isn’t something new, the current health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people are now purchasing their necessities. It’s a good thing that Watsons has a website where you can order what you need and have it delivered to your doorstep. Our Watsons shopping list always includes brands like Strepsils, Sinecod Forte, Vicks, Solmux, and Biogesic to help relieve the symptoms of common illnesses like colds, cough, and fever.


Stay Glowing
Self-care is important to maintain a healthy relationship with ourselves as it produces positive feelings and boosts our self-confidence and self-esteem. Skincare is a great way to practice self-care. Something as simple as massaging your favorite moisturizer into your skin can relax your mind and soul. Products from Belo, Ponds, Celeteque, Neutrogena, and Dermaction Plus by Watsons can help keep our skin look nourished and glowing.


Stay Gorgeous
While everyone is excited to have their haircuts soon, expect that going to your favorite salon or barbershop will never be the same as before. At-home makeovers seem to be the sensible routine nowadays. Treat yourself with a much-deserved self-care experience using L’Oreal Excellence, Beautylabo, or Naturtint for your dream hair makeover along with Pantene and Naturals by Watsons products to keep your hair healthy and strong.

Stay Dapper
Skincare is not just for women, men need proper grooming and skincare routines too! Men’s skincare is always straightforward and easy. Adidas, Old Spice, and Gillette are brands that offer products to help with men's skincare and grooming needs.


Watsons is always here to provide us with a wide range of health and beauty products to make us look good and feel great. To provide more value to its Watsons Card and Elite members, Watsons is giving free 100 bonus points for a minimum Php1,000 purchase of participating products on select weekends: July 31 to August 1 and August 14 to 15.

Shop now at any branch near you. Check out this list of 700+ Watsons stores open nationwide: bit.ly/Watsons-Stores. You can also order via Watsons call & pick-up or call & delivery service. Here is the list of Watsons stores and contact numbers to call: https://bit.ly/3fsRUeK. You can also shop online at https://bit.ly/WStayStrong-Broadsheet.

For more details, follow @watsonsph on Facebook and Instagram.

ABOUT WATSONS

Watsons is part of the Health and Beauty Store chain of A.S Watson, the largest health, beauty, cosmetics, and perfumery retailer in the world. Today, Watsons H&B Asia is the leading health and beauty chain in the continent with successful operations in 13 markets.

In 2002, A.S. Watson Group joined hands with SM Prime Holdings Inc., the Philippines' leading shopping mall developer. The partnership brought about the first Watsons stores in SM Megamall and The Podium (Ortigas). Watsons now has over 700 stores in the Philippines, serving more than 100,000 customers nationwide.

Watsons strives to ensure that their customers get the best value for their money through monthly promotions, special offers, and continuous consumer marketing programs. Each Watsons store houses nothing but the best brands from top manufacturers all over the world and also carries its own competitively priced, high-quality private labels and brands. With more than 1000 brands ranging from medicines, cosmetics, and fragrances to personal care items and general merchandise, Watsons Your Personal Store delivers only the best health, wellness, and beauty solutions to each and every customer.

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

Monday, July 27, 2020

Taylor Swift's "I Did Something Bad" at the AMAs 2018 is soooo good!


I know Taylor Swift has a new album right now. In fact, I listened to folklore nonstop since Friday 12 noon. Nonstop, no kiddding. But today, I had to "shake it off" - the melancholy and sadness of that whole album. I LOVE IT, okay? Taylor finally made that "indie record that's much cooler than mine." This 8th album is, in my opinion, her best yet! I'll make a proper post on all my feelings about folklore. Maybe. I'm still emotional.

That said, I just needed to listen to something more upbeat and powerful now that it's Monday and I have a lot of work to do haha. 

Behold, my favorite live performance of Taylor Swift. And I love ALL her live performances but this one is so so soooo good. 



Monday, July 20, 2020

Why are my favorite influencers not taking a political stand?

I'm listening to songs from the 70s so I'm feeling pretty mellow while I blog today. So, nope, you're not going to see me say bad things in answer to the question in the title haha (well, let's see!)

Okay, so apparently my last post, while not trying to be political in any way, was political and a few readers sent me DMs saying thanks for speaking up and "sana mas marami pang bloggers na tulad mo who make a stand." Well, I was really just talking about my health but, sure, everything's political so I won't disagree. 

Politics is a set of activities or strategies based on ideas or beliefs. So I'm Frances. I believe in truth, freedom, human rights, equal treatment, feminism, and God. So everything in my life - every decision I make - will be influenced and dictated by my beliefs. 

Do I like people who lie? No.
Do I think rape jokes are funny? No.
Will I support people who pass laws curtailing our rights? No.
Do I think it's okay for people to curse God? No.
Do I condemn people who speak up even if I don't agree with them? No. 

See, even when I don't like the fact that our human rights make it possible for other people who really should shut up not shut up, I respect that right. Up to the line when that freedom becomes a crime, of course. These are my politics and I try very hard to stand on my beliefs. So, yeah, I sometimes lie. And, I hate to admit this, I sometimes think some people shouldn't be allowed to talk or vote. When it comes to really serious matters, I try to be consistent. It's in the small matters (which is the harder, you know?) that I try very hard to live according to my beliefs because how can I make anyone trust me if I have no integrity?

I think everyone should write down what they believe in and have the integrity to align all that they say and do with their beliefs.



So influencers. Isn't it such a waste that they have this huge platform and they don't use it for politics?

Well, it's not as simple as that. Here are the reasons why your favorite influencers aren't making any political statements:

1. They have a contract not to say anything.

As a blogger, I get proposals from brands. But I always clarify this in my contract: "Blogger will not engage in any controversial activities that may affect her reputation or the brand." So I lay it out: "Hi, I like to speak my mind and comment on issues, sometimes I say bad words, sometimes I talk about sex. Is this going to be a problem?" If they say it's going to be a problem, then no partnership.

I can do that because usually maliit lang naman ang proposed bayad haha But what if hundreds of thousands or even millions ang ibabayad sa iyo? Hirap to say no, diba? So I don't blame influencers who agree to that clause.

Am I saying my silence can be bought if the price is right? I'd like to think no. Like I said, I try to live with integrity. But if there's anything 2016 onwards showed me it's really very in these days to have cognitive dissonance. 

2. They have to take care of their mental health.

Another thing 2016 onwards showed me? How hateful people can be. Wow, diba? You want to know what hell is like? Just visit the comments section! Like I said, some people talaga shouldn't be allowed to say anything. But it's their right so...

Influencers have a very public profile. That's necessary for them to amass a following. So if they say anything people don't agree with, they invite hate. Many people can handle it. They're usually politicians (unless your name sounds like a drum "bong bong bong" LOL). You'd think that public figures like influencers would also be able to handle trolls but influencers live on social media (politicians don't) so they're exposed to the hate. There's no barrier, no cushion, no filter. That's going to do lots of bad things to your brain, your psyche, your health. 

So influencers who're usually on social media for the love and admiration will not do anything that will invite hate.

3. They don't understand real life.

I love this saying, "If you don't have a leg to stand on, you can't put your foot down." For anyone to have a firm conviction, they need to have thought about the issues first. You can't have an opinion if you don't have facts. (At least, that's how it should be. So many people now have an opinion and they don't even have the facts or they deny the facts!)

Many influencers just keep quiet because they really don't understand what's going on. Sometimes it's because they're in their lovely bubble. For example, why will they comment on hunger if busog sila? On jobless Pinoys if their one IG post is worth P200,000? 

Or maybe they're just not smart. They try to think about the issues but hindi kaya ng brain nila. So they won't say anything na lang. Is that wrong? I don't know. I think we should always inform ourselves but that's just me.

4. They're already helping in other ways.

Some influencers aren't very good with words. Kaya nga nag-Instagram sila kasi mas magaling sila sa mga picture-picture haha. Joking aside, many influencers are good at supporting causes on the down low. They donate. They raise funds. They make silly videos na pa-daplis comment on the situation pero babaw lang, happy lang. So we don't know everything about a person's life so we shouldn't judge, right? Baka mas malaki pa naitulong nila kesa sa atin.

5. They don't care.

Yep. They just don't care! And you can't accept it because these are people you look up to. You think because you admire them, they're better than you and they reflect your ideals or represent your goals. And if they're not making a stand (or worse, they're making an evil stand), then what does that say about you?

Believe me, I've been crushed by disappointment these past few years. It spans from the near and dear to public personas. People I looked up to for being devoted to the God of love, truth, and life supported a presidential candidate who spewed hate, lies, and death. A politician I admired for her gentleness voted for defunding of the Commission on Human Rights and pushed for the Anti-Terror Law. Doesn't anyone have integrity anymore?

So you see, just because influencers have tons of admirers doesn't mean they're perfect or that they represent who you are. We can't demand for them to make statements because what if they're contractually obligated to not say anything? What if they don't want the attacks that come with making a stand? What if they aren't really smart enough to understand the issues? What if they're really just evil?

My husband likes to tell me about the movie, The Remains of the Day. It's the story of a butler, James Stevens, played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, who is devoted to his master, Lord Darlington. He serves him because he thinks his Lord is better than him. In the end, he finds out his master is a Nazi sympathizer and that destroys him. James says, "[Lord Darlington] chose a certain path in life, it proved to be a misguided one, but there, he chose it, he can say that at least. As for myself, I cannot even claim that. You see, I trusted. I trusted in his lordship's wisdom. All those years I served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile. I can't even say I made my own mistakes. Really - one has to ask oneself - what dignity is there in that?”

My politics dictate that I believe in freedom of choice. If influencers (or people you love) don't want to say anything, let's respect their decision. The way I see it, people who want others to speak up should be the ones doing the speaking up. Let's be the one to think and speak out. Let's all do what WE can to change the world for the better. Maybe we'd inspire others to do the same.

P.S. Oh wow, this blog post got quoted a lot in The Manila Times!


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.