Friday, August 28, 2020

5 ways to encourage your kids to be more physically active

The last 6 months have seen our kids quarantined in our homes to keep them safe from the novel coronavirus. Unfortunately, kids need sunshine, exercise, and lots of play to be healthy, too. So if you're lucky enough to have a garden or a roof deck, do go out and play there! I live in a condo so it's been tricky. What I do is tell my kids they have to exercise first (and finish their list of art, literary, music activities, plus chores) before they can play on their gadgets. So that's really pushed them to work out!

But today is the weekend! We can go to our condo's amenities deck and play there! Today's guest post offers 5 other ways to encourage kids to be more physically active.

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GUEST POST - There are invaluable benefits that your children can receive from regular exercise. Physical activity is crucial for your child’s health and development, but in the social media world we live in, your kids may be more interested in their news feed than getting outdoors and taking up a hobby or sport.

As parents, we want to do what’s best for our children, so if you’re concerned about their behavior, weight, or general wellbeing, here are 5 ways to encourage them to be more physically active.

1. Find Fun Activities

If your child doesn’t enjoy a particular activity or sport, the chances of them sticking to it are slim. It’s important that they find something that stimulates their brain and keeps them entertained. Otherwise, they are more likely to throw a tantrum, which no parent wants to deal with. There are tons of hobbies and sports that your child can partake in, such as swimming, tennis, and baseball. If your child loves to play baseball, installing fencing will keep your neighbors happy

2. Make Time for Exercise

If your children are of school age, it’s likely that they have a mountain of homework and other planned activities to adhere to, but that’s not to say that they shouldn’t exercise as well. Scheduling time for physical activity is crucial, regardless of how busy their schedule is. Children need time to get outdoors and play, so if they’re spending the majority of their day indoors, putting other things on the back burner and letting them have breaks is a good idea. This is extremely important for their mental health and wellbeing.

3. Get Rid of Distractions

Whether you like it or loathe it, social media is used by many children across the country. While there are some benefits to social media, if left to their own devices, children will spend every waking hour behind their smartphone or tablet. Distractions like the TV and computer emit blue light and can have a negative effect on your children, such as difficulty getting to sleep and mood swings, so switching off the TV and eliminating distractions at various intervals is key.

4. Set a Good Example

You can’t expect your kids to be physically active if you’re not doing so yourself. Children pick up on their parents’ patterns of behavior, so if you’re preaching about the benefits of regular exercise but are lounging around the house, this will set a bad example to your kids. Children who see their parents regularly participating in sports and physical activity are much more likely to try it out themselves. There are lots of activities that you can do as a family, which can be a great opportunity to bond with your kids, as well as reap the health benefits of exercise.

5. Speak to Your Child’s Doctor

If you’re struggling to get your child motivated to exercise, it may be wise to book an appointment with your child’s doctor. They will have a better knowledge of what sports and activities are suitable for your child, as well as what strategies you can implement in your home life to get them interested in physical activity. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you have major health concerns about your child’s weight, as your doctor is there to help you, rather than judge.

Regular physical activity can be a great opportunity for your kids to socialize with others, improve their fitness, and boost their concentration levels. All children can benefit from regular exercise, so while it may be hard to motivate them at first, as long as your kids find hobbies and sports that they enjoy, you will notice a huge difference in their behavior and health.

*Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

5 ways we can help elderly family members

This guest post is helpful but during the pandemic, we're prevented from seeing loved ones. It's for their own good. Please let's refrain from visiting our elderly family members to keep them safe from the COVID-19 disease. We can use technology instead to maintain a meaningful relationship with our senior loved ones. Be safe, practise social distancing, and stay home!

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GUEST POST - For many of us, family comes first before anything else. The aging process is inevitable, so doing everything you can to support your loved ones as they enter their senior years is important. As your parents get older, they may require more help and assistance, and you’ll want to know how to act and what strategies to take. With that in mind, here are 5 ways in which you can help elderly family members.

Empathize with Your Parents

As your parents get older, you may be startled by their frustration, change in behavior, or neediness. There may be some instances where they’re very unpleasant to be around. However, you need to be empathetic towards their situation and understand that they may be acting out of fear, rather than a personal attack on you. Aging is a series of losses, such as health and wellbeing, employment, and independence, so try and put yourself in their shoes, which can help you know what action to take.

Keep in Regular Contact

If you live nearby your elderly parents, popping in regularly and seeing how they’re doing can make all the difference. For those who live further away, there are lots of ways that you can keep in touch, such as by using video conferencing tools like FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Viber, or Zoom.

As your parents head into their senior years, your interaction may be the only one they receive that day, so it’s important that you maintain regular contact. We all live busy lives, so it’s advised to set a reminder on your smartphone so you can check how they’re doing. 

Get Other Family Involved

If you have siblings, it’s important that you share the responsibilities of looking after your elderly parents. Effective communication is critical among family members, especially if your parents require additional support and assistance. Having a close circle around you can help reduce stress levels and be a good opportunity to let off steam. Seeing your loved ones decline in health can be heartbreaking, so having other family members who can be a shoulder to cry on is important. If your siblings live nearby your parents, they can keep you regularly updated on how they’re doing, which can bring you peace of mind.

You can also ask your parents' neighbors to check on your parents every day. Maybe they can play cards together, start a gardening hobby and grow vegetables together, or watch a favorite show at each other's houses.

Seek Out Potential Problems

When visiting your parents’ home, there may be repairs or changes that need to be immediately addressed. The last thing you want is to return to your own home and be worrying about your parents’ health and safety, so make sure that you look out for uneven flooring and ensure essential items are within arm’s reach.

Many elderly family members want to hold onto their independence for as long as possible, so make sure you tell them that you’re trying to help, rather than being a hindrance. Should your parents have a fall because of uneven flooring, you will never forgive yourself for not acting sooner, so seeking out potential problems and rectifying them is key. 

Encourage Physical Activity

Many aging parents tend to shy away from the outside world, which can have a huge impact on their health and wellbeing. We all know how important regular exercise is for our mind and body, so encouraging your parents to get out and about is crucial. If your parents struggle with their mobility, there are very heavy duty mobility scooters that can help them get around with ease. There are tons of light exercises and activities that your senior parents can take up, like yoga, walking, and stretching, which can boost their mindset for the better.

If your parents’ health is starting to decline once they enter their senior years, it can be hard to see them struggle in front of your eyes. Being there for your elderly family members and supporting them in the best way you can ensure they lead a good quality of life. 

*Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

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

Monday, August 24, 2020

5 best U.S. states for starting a small business

I've been checking out the immigration policies of other countries. It seems like one of the most guaranteed ways of getting permanent residency in any country is to put up a business there. It's not cheap, of course, but I can see why governments want new businesses to be pumped into their economy. This guest post is a list of the 5 best states in the United States that you can start a small business in. Good luck!

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GUEST POST - If you’ve been considering starting a small business, we’re here to tell you that it pays to do your research first. Yes, you can set up in any state in the country, but some states are much more favorable than others when it comes to things like taxes. Some states also have declining populations and economies which make starting a business in them a pretty poor idea. For a state to be positive, it needs to be flourishing, both economically and socially. Using research performed by Seek Capital, we are going to show you the top five states to start a small business and explain why each is a good choice.

1. Utah

At the top of the list is Utah. Venture capital flows freely in this state with just over 100 companies receiving $1.16 billion in funding in 2019. This is the fifth best in the country. In addition, the growth rate of companies in the state and the number of employees taken on by companies in Utah is higher than average. Of course, what most people are interested in is the tax savings they can make should they move to Utah. This varies depending on whether you have an LLC or a corporation – with LLCs able to post their losses on members’ private tax returns. However, the low corporate income tax rate of 4.95% is certainly attractive.

2. Texas

Nicknamed the Lone Star State, Texas is the second most populated state in the country and is also one of the best states for starting a small business. Especially well known for its crude oil industry, this state is also home to a lot of tech startups, especially in the cities of Houston, Austin and Dallas. Starting a company in a state such as Texas is also relatively simple, making it a top choice for those new to entrepreneurship. With affordable living and property, a surging GDP, a strong working population, and good weather year-round, Texas is a top choice.

3. Florida

Florida may be a top state for retirees, but it’s also one of the best for those who want to start a travel company. The glorious year-round weather, a low top marginal income tax rate, and a lack of state income tax for individuals all combine to make this state a great contender for new entrepreneurs. What’s more, a good percentage (18.8%) of businesses are able to get up and running for under $5,000 in Florida. It is perhaps this that led to Florida having the largest number of new entrepreneurs in 2019.

4. Colorado

For those who want to get away from the heat, Colorado is an enticing option. Economically a great choice, the working population in the state has grown by 7% over the last five years, and its GDP growth is also higher than average. In addition, over 80% of businesses that start up in Colorado are still active a year later. The state ranks as the tenth best in the country for corporate tax rates, and a high number of jobs tend to be created by those starting up in the state. If you love the mountain air, and want to launch a new company in 2020, Colorado is certainly a worthy choice.

5. California
Finally, we have California. Full of big name companies like Facebook, Google and Apple, California is a great choice for tech companies, but entrepreneurs in other industries as well. 99.8% of the businesses in California are small, yet they’re certainly mighty and employ over 7 million people between them. And, while there is quite a bit more red tape in this state than others, and the corporate income tax rate is higher than almost all over states, the five year survival rate of businesses is higher than average. Although possibly not as impressive as the four proceeding it, it’s still a good option to consider.


Which state are you planning to start a small business in?

*Photos by Ian Schneider, Carlos Alfonso and Ahmet Yalçınkaya on Unsplash.

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

Friday, August 21, 2020

5 ways to amplify your morning routine

Next week, we go back to some semblance of a normal life: School starts! It's still not the school we're used to but, hey, after 5 months in quarantine, back-to-school puts back some structure in our lives. This means we need to take control of our mornings, take them back from the lazy limbo it's been for nearly half a year. So when this guest post popped up in my inbox, I took it as a sign from the universe telling me to get with the program! 

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GUEST POST - From the moment you wake up, it’s important that you’re full of energy, drive, and motivation for the day ahead. Whether you have a long day at the office to endure, or a mountain of household chores, your morning routine can be the difference between staying focused and losing concentration. To help give you the boost you need, here are five ways to amplify your morning routine.

Embrace the Morning Light

Instead of laying in bed and staying in the dark, make sure you embrace natural light which can start your day off right. Once the sun rises, it can brighten your mood, improve your performance on tasks, and enhance your perception. When exposed to natural light, your skin will absorb Vitamin D which can prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of weight gain. Getting outdoors in the morning and being in the fresh air can also do wonders for your wellbeing. 

Drink a Cup of Coffee

It’s important that you’re full of energy and drive in the morning, so what better way to kick off your day than by having a cup of coffee? Coffee can boost your physical performance, help you burn fat, and most importantly, boost concentration levels. If you have a Nespresso machine, there are over 30 types of capsules to choose from depending on your preference and taste. While there are lots of benefits that caffeine can give you, it’s advised to stick to drinking coffee in the morning only, otherwise, you may have difficulty getting to sleep at night.


Set Goals

If you wake up in the morning feeling confused and disorientated, it can be hard to gain focus for the day ahead. Setting achievable goals can boost your motivation and give you something to work towards. Whether it’s tackling a project at work, or completing day to day errands, having things to accomplish can get you in the right mindset and help get your morning off to the best start possible.

Meditate

If you’re the type of person who wakes up feeling anxious and tense, the thought of doing anything can fill you with dread. However, there are lots of relaxation techniques that you can practice which can help you feel calm and collected, ensuring your morning and day ahead run smoothly. Meditation helps to calm your nervous system, optimize your circulatory system, focus your energy, and boost your immune system. The main purpose of meditation is to reduce stress, pain, and anxiety, so waking up a little earlier and taking 15 minutes to meditate can make all the difference.


Exercise

Getting your mind and body psyched up for a busy day is important, so taking some time to do physical activity is key. A morning workout can make you stronger and healthier, as well as increase your longevity. While it can be difficult to find the energy for exercise once you get out of bed, you will soon notice an improvement in your mental and physical health. Working out in the morning can increase alertness, give you more overall energy, and get you in a better mood, so whether you head to the gym, or perform a workout from the comfort of your home, making exercise a priority is important. 

All the strategies above can transform the way you think and help get your morning off to a good start. If you’re the type of person who wakes up feeling groggy and sluggish, using any of the tips above can increase productivity levels and help you get the most out of your day.

*Photos by Alexa Williams, Danielle MacInnes, and Carl Barcelo on Unsplash.

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Our schedule for our first ever month of homeschooling!

We are so excited to start homeschooling this year! Well, I am. My kids vacillate - sometimes they're so excited, they're the ones planning their lessons. Most times, they mourn the coming end of the longest summer vacation of their lives. So let me edit my first sentence. I am so excited to start homeschooling this year! I even made our schedules. Check them out.

Piero is Grade 1.

Our school week starts on Tuesday. This is because my husband and I have work. Mondays are usually our busiest days, whether it's for work or for errands, so my husband said we should leave Mondays open for us. To make their Saturday feel like a weekend, I lumped all the "dirty" classes on that day.

The kids' weekend will then be Sunday and Monday, which they honestly wouldn't feel anyway because we're all under quarantine. If I didn't force them to look at the calendar, they won't even know what day it is.

All my sons' schedules are the same, save for my Grade 4 boy, who has an extra subject, HELE (Home Economics and Livelihood Education), which can be an hour long in case we do cooking, carpentry, or typing. But if his little brothers want to join those activities, they can. Here's what their schedule is like:

Get Ready!
After breakfast, this is when the kids will brush their teeth, comb their hair, and change into their school robes. Yes, we got Harry Potter robes! The kids took Sorting Hat quizzes and got sorted into their houses - Vito is Hufflepuff, Iñigo is Gryffindor, and Piero is Ravenclaw! This is a good way to get them into the right frame of mind for school while still being fun and nerdy haha.

Circle Time
To start the day, we'll all gather together for the national anthem, for prayer, and to study Bible verses, inspirational quotes, poetry, singing, reading aloud, and whatever we feel like talking about together. I only allotted 15 minutes for this but we can be flexible and extend to 30 minutes if the discussion is really good.

It's really important to encourage discussion during this time, not while in class where I think I'll be instructing more than conversing. Of course, questions are always welcome but I used to be a teacher and there's a time for instruction and then a time for questions. Because if you just keep opening the whole day to the kids, they'll never stop talking. A huge part of learning is listening.

Of course, a big part of learning is also discussing the topics, questioning, investigating, hence Circle Time. I also want Circle Time to be their chance to learn communication skills, correct pronunciation, the art of conversation, critical thinking, and debate. 

Part 1
My kids love Math and Music so I decided we should start the day with those subjects. Then I followed up with the subjects they don't like, Filipino and Araling Panlipunan.

Part 2
After recess, we'll study Science, Reading, Language and Writing. Science because it's always fun and can perk them up after Fil and AP haha. Reading, Language and Writing are quiet subjects, which is good for me so I can leave them while I prepare lunch.

Wrap Up!
This is going to be like Circle Time but it's more of a summary of the day. The boys can tell me if they need more time on a lesson or they can move forward. Our homeschool provider also recommends that the kids keep a journal of their day so that they themselves have a record of their progress. So we can do 5 minutes of journaling before packing up.

Iñigo is Grade 3.

The rest of the day is devoted to whatever they want. Sleep, play video games, play with each other. Extra-curricular activities like piano lessons, art class, language classes, quiet reading of books, and of course their chores. They can also study their lessons more, if they like.

Meanwhile, the afternoon is when I can work.

I hope this works!!!

This is just for the first month. For our first week, I don't think we'll actually follow it. I want us to settle down into the schedule. We all need to adjust to an academic routine again since there was no school for almost half a year. I plan to just get all of us get used to do the Get Ready! and Circle Time periods. I think we'll all be struggling with inertia. I, for one, need to wake up early again!

I read in some homeschooling blogs that it's good to start the first week of homeschooling on a Wednesday so everyone only has 3 days of school and won't get shocked by the change haha ("10 First Day of Homeschool Ideas" by The Reading Mama). We'll see! I'm pretty sure we won't follow our schedule hahahaha I'm just going to be chill about this whole business.

Wish us luck!

Vito is Grade 4.

We chose to homeschool this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We could've still enrolled them in their school. In fact, their school (I miss their school already) was so nice, they offered us the opportunity to enroll with tuition assistance. We really appreciate that but money wasn't really our concern. We chose to homeschool because:

1. My husband and I have virtual meetings with our colleagues. In our experience, more than an hour in a virtual meeting is inhuman hahaha It's never pleasant. I mean, the first 30 minutes to an hour is fine. But more than that, even I, a grown-up, couldn't sit still. What more for little boys?

2. We did try and see how the kids would take it. Over the summer, we took a few online sessions with MyNanai, an online babysitting service. My eldest actually lasted an hour without fidgeting. My two younger ones? They started standing up and leaving the session at the 30-minute mark. How rude! So mortifying haha. So when our boys' school said they'll have their classes from 7:30am to 2pm, we decided we didn't want our kids to go through 6 hours in a virtual class.

3. We were unsure of the future. During the summer, DepEd kept changing their mind about everything. Then the boys' school said they might ask the kids to come to school by the third quarter. We just knew, with how things were going in our country, that there is no way our kids will be safe by September. So we decided to keep them home.

That's it! That's why we're homeschooling! It's not because we think it's the best way to educate our kids. We don't even know how I'll be as a teacher. I bet I'll tear my hair out in a month's time haha. We're all approaching homeschooling as OUR best option, given the circumstances. And if we enjoy it, then hallelujah!

I'm actually looking forward to it. Wish us luck!

UPDATE: First week of homeschooling done and we didn't follow the schedule! We just went with the flow. The kids wanted more time for Math because they love Math. For one Araling Panlipunan class, we made the Philippine flag so that suddenly became AP and Art! Gotta be flexible =)

Monday, August 17, 2020

My list of things I celebrate - no matter what! Plus, a giveaway from Welch’s Sparkling Rosè

Because my family and I have been enjoying the newest sparkling drink in town, I decided to share the happiness by giving away Welch’s Sparkling Rosè to 3 of my blog readers! Hooray!

That's the great thing about Welch's Sparkling Juices - there's white, red, and the pretty pink rosè - they make us want to celebrate! We keep a chilled bottle ready for whatever happy occasion. And even in these crazy times, there's always a reason to celebrate. We just need to open our eyes to what's good in our lives and choose to honor it.


Let me share with you my own list on why I choose to be happy:

1. My family is together. 

And in the 5 months we've been stuck together at home, we haven't killed each other! Wow, we really do like each other! Kidding aside, I'm happy I'm with the people I love most in the world. I know so many other families aren't together or their work exposes them every day they need to leave the house. So I'm grateful. Really beyond grateful I have my boys with me.

2. We are all healthy.

It's been 150+ days and so far, so good. Please let us be healthy forever, Lord.

3. Vito turned 10!

Actually, all my sons had their birthdays in quarantine. While we always celebrated their birthdays at home, we do miss the fun we had after the kids blow out the candles on their cake. We'd usually go to Kidzoona or Kidzania. But why look for something you can't have? This year's birthdays were fun, too! This year's new tradition: the treasure hunt for their gifts! So fun! Kahit maliit bahay namin, and daming hiding places pala. The kids had a blast!

4. I'm learning watercolor painting.

I signed up for May de Jesus-Palacpac's watercolor classes and look at what I made at our first class!


I'm so happy. May is such a good teacher. I'm going to get her to teach my kids painting for the art class of our homeschooling this year.

We've been busy with hobbies these past 5 months. My kids have been learning to play the piano on their own, no classes or video tutorials. They've also been creating their own board games, writing books. My husband bought a 3D printer and he's been printing out these amazing things and learning to paint them, too. So fun!

5. We discovered lots of good food and good neighbors.

I'm going to blog about all my food discoveries this quarantine. I try to cook every day (lessen exposure to the outside world ba) but nakakapagod siya. Etong quarantine, parang wala na akong ginawa kundi magluto! My kids seem to have black holes for stomachs! So thank the heavens for restaurants and new food businesses.

Another thing I'm grateful for is my neighbors. I don't think I can ever live without pasabuy anymore. Meron pang freebies. We just Viber each other, "I have extra rambutan. Who wants?", "I baked cookies. Who wants to taste?", "I'm growing lettuce. P120 a kilo. Who wants?" or "Naubusan ako ng cheese. Pwede pahingi?" Even if the world goes back to normal, I need this newfound neighborliness forever!


I'm also so happy that Welch's renewed their sponsorship of my blog!

I like Welch's. Kaya nga I endorse all their products! Not only are they delicious, they're good for the body, too. And now they just launched their new bubbly, Welch’s Sparkling Rosè.

It's a non-alcoholic drink so everyone in your family can have a glass. It has a light taste - a little sweet and a little tart - that's made delightfully refreshing because of all the bubbles! Even though quarantine is still in effect, we didn't put off our celebrations and you bet Welch’s Sparkling Rosè was part of every celebration - kahit simple Sunday lunch lang, a bottle is there! Elevate experiences, diba?

You, too, can raise a glass and celebrate any occasion (birthdays, anniversaries, virtual graduations, baby showers) with Welch’s Sparkling Rosè. You can get Welch’s Sparkling Rosè at Waltermart, Robinsons Supermarket, and Landers. You may also have Welch’s Sparkling Rosè and other Welch’s juices delivered at your doorstep by visiting https://acefoodservice.com. You can also order from the following online groceries: metromart.com, Lazmart, and waltermartdelivery.com.ph.


Join my giveaway!

Or you can join my blog giveaway! I have 3 sets of gift bags, each with 2 bottles of Welch’s Sparkling Rosè. For you and a friend. Or both for you!

Just leave a comment below telling me what you're happy about. It can be one thing or it can be a dozen reasons to celebrate! Make sure you leave your Facebook name or Instagram handle so I can reach out to you in case you win.

I'm going to pick ONE WINNER from the comments. Then next week, I'll have a Facebook giveaway. And then another one on Instagram after! Good luck!

For more #realgrapegoodness from #welchssparklingjuices and #welchsph, follow @welchs_ph on Instagram and #sharewhatsgood!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Fontanilla G. Tina! You won my Welch's Sparkling Rosè giveaway! Please send me a DM over my Topaz Horizon Facebook page to claim your prize =)

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

Friday, August 07, 2020

Homemade: Lunch with U.S. blueberries as the common ingredient!


I've really been enjoying my new tiny fruit friend - blueberries! Ever since I found out you can buy fresh U.S. blueberries in Manila, I've been experimenting with how I can include it in more dishes. I made a blueberry breakfast bar that was nutty and delicious. And to my family's surprise (mine, too!), I made a really delicious lunch using blueberries as a sweet and tarty ingredient. Check out what I made!

Easy Leafy Blueberry Salad
Just toss salad greens, a handful of blueberries, and another handful of walnuts or cashews into a bowl with the salad dressing of your choice (this is Kewpie mayo). Done and delicious!


Blueberry Balsamic Pork Chops with Blueberry Sauce
Click this link for the recipes for the balsamic-marinated pork chops and blueberry sauce. But you can just grill some pork chops your usual way and serve with the sauce, which is also good with vanilla ice cream!

This blueberry sauce is so easy to make and so yummy!

For dessert, let's just keep it simple: a small bowl of fresh blueberries. Blueberries have a mellow sweet taste that you can pop and pop and pop them in your mouth. Your taste buds won't get overwhelmed, but you'll definitely want more. Blueberries are so snackable!

I've been feeling good about adding more fruit to my diet since I'm more of a vegetable girl than a fruit fan. Plus, I think my body's been benefiting from all the antioxidants, Vitamin C, and soluble fiber blueberries are packed with. Here are a few more reasons why I like adding blueberries to my diet:

Blueberries are so easy to add to anything!
It's small enough that just a handful adds fun to your yogurt, breakfast cereal, salad, sauces, smoothies, fizzy drinks, etc etc etc! The taste won't overwhelm your dish at all but when that little blue ball pops in your mouth, the delicate sweetness and light tartness is a lovely surprise!

Blueberries are packed with goodness.
Good things come in small packages, as they say, and this is so true with blueberries. It may be small but it sure is mighty when it comes to nutrition. Each berry is a great source of vitamin C, fiber, manganese, vitamin K, and a host of other essential nutrients.

Blueberries are good for middle-aged me!
Since they're so full of good stuff, blueberries may help me stay younger longer. It benefits my skin (builds collagen and speeds healing), my gut (increases good bacteria), my blood sugar (manages the levels), and my brain (helps improve memory).

Of course, I'm supposed to eat half a cup a day to really get all those benefits. So that's why I was looking for ways to add blueberries to every meal!

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

Get to know more about this mighty fruit from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council here: www.blueberrycouncil.org and the U.S. Blueberries Philippines accounts on Facebook and Instagram.

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

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

I prepared a morbid to-do list, just in case COVID-19 takes me

Lockdown, Part 2! How are you coping? With the COVID-19 cases rising to a whopping 116,000+ (as of today) in the Philippines, we're under strict quarantine again. And because our government has no plans on dealing effectively with this pandemic - unlike other countries - it looks like "Matirang matibay!" is everyone's battleplan. We are on our own, guys, so please be extra careful.


Thing is, kahit na maging extra careful tayo, mukhang magkakahawaan din tayo eventually. Look at all those stories of people who didn't even go out of their house, who disinfected everything, and they still got it! What the what! Define malas, guys.

So after 5 months, I've finally confronted the fact that I might get COVID and die from it. Kayo, naisip niyo na rin ba yon??? I think kailangan na natin lahat isipin this very real possibility.

Me, I have had to finally confront it. I've had asthma since I was 5 years old. My lungs are very weak. For as long as they can remember, my kids always get nagged to wash their hands. I also spray their hands and their things with alcohol. They tolerate it. Hindi kasi sila sakitin so they think nothing of it. Of course I don't want them to get sick, but to be very very honest, I'm scared they'll bring home something that will make me sick kasi kung ako nagkakasakit, malala talaga. Simpleng ubo at sipon ng mga bata nagiging asthma attack, acute respiratory infection, or bronchopneumonia sa akin.

Imagine how I feel about this COVID-19! It scares me because it's so highly contagious that if I were to get sick of it and end up in hospital, I'd be isolated and, if I were really unlucky, I'd never see my husband and kids again.

Important reminders!

So even though I am even more obsessive with washing hands now, I decided it's time to do a few preparations. Just in case. Here is my Morbid To Do List:

1. Prepare important documents.

Collate documents like birth, marriage certificates, business documents, utilities, bank accounts, insurance policies, email and social media accounts and passwords, important phone numbers, copies of my IDs.

2. Ask my sister to swoop in.

Ideally, it should be my husband but he's never had anyone die on him yet thankfully. So we don't know how he'll function in the aftermath of my death. My sister, meanwhile, has buried our parents. I have, too, but I was pretty useless both times. My sister was efficient - from hospital bills and death certificates to coordinating wakes and burials. She even remembered to thank the hospital and funeral home staff - something I only did when I saw her do it. She thinks of everything.

3. Prepare an isolation room.

Okay, let's get lighter. We don't have to die! In case hindi naman serious masyado, I need to have a place ready for a COVID patient in my house, whether that's me, my husband, or my kids. My husband says our sick room should be the kids' room. I was thinking my bedroom sana kasi may en suite bathroom kami and it's best that the patient has his own bathroom, lalo na since the patient will not only be coughing out phlegm and blowing his nose into the sink, the virus is present in our poop, too.

My bedroom is also the farthest, most isolated, and quietest room in the house. But since my husband's home office is also in our bedroom, hindi pwede. Naisip ko rin to use our maid's room since may bed naman dun and again, malayo sa flow of activity in the house.

Thank goodness also for this to-do list I found. A nurse wrote down what we should do in case we get COVID. Basically, it just says stock up on tissue, paracetamol, mucolytic, and Vicks Vaporub since a mild case of COVID is a really bad case of the cough and flu. For asthmatics like me, I should make sure I have enough asthma medicines to last me a while (that'll be my maintenance meds, Ventolin nebules for the nebulizer, and my Ventolin inhaler).

So I also need to set aside pillows, bedsheets, and towels. Plate, utensils, drinking glass, and cup should be labeled or at least different from the ones the family uses. Actually, because my parents - yes, both of them! - got tuberculosis when I was a teenager, I know the drill. I just need to do the next step, which is...

4. Discuss with my family COVID-at-home procedures.

When the house is ready, I gotta sit the kids down and tell them when someone is sick with COVID, we have to stay away from the patient's room. No matter how much we miss that someone, we don't ever go in their room. For at least 14 days.

Now, with no one sick sa family ko, obviously relaxed kami sa bahay since we're safe. But in case someone does get sick, the virus is now in the house, so the kids must know it is imperative to practice handwashing even more.

The kids also need to know to avoid using the patient's utensils and towels. No aircons! Every window open! Ano pa ba? Yun pa lang maisip ko but definitely this is a conversation we must have with our families.

Something else that worries me is if ako ang magkasakit, paano kakakain pamilya ko? Ang tagal kasi ng COVID! My freezer and pantry are well stocked so may food naman but wala kaming maid and other family living with us so my husband will have to learn how to cook more dishes! Lord, sana hindi kami ever magkasakit please!

5. Talk about what happens in case of confinement.

This is the scariest and saddest of all. When someone is sick enough with COVID to need to be hospitalized, there's a very real chance that someone won't come home. The worst part is there's no chance to say good-bye.

I honestly don't know how to bring this up with my kids. I don't want to scare them. I don't want to take away their hope. Maybe the best thing to do is assure them every day I love them and that I know they love me so just in case the worst happens, they'll have that knowledge to see them through.

And that's my list!

Funnily enough, I was going to put "prepare a death outfit" on my list. Diba when my parents died, I always blogged everyone needs a death outfit to spare the bereaved the emotional toll of going through your closet? (Gosh, I should add that to my list - organize my closet so that my family won't have to confront the chaos in there!) Well, I remembered that people who died of COVID don't get to have a wake or even a proper funeral. For me, that's the most heartbreaking of all for everyone involved—to die alone and not be able to say good-bye.

An important thing I should really do is to tell my family and friends - the ones I don't see now - that I love them. Now that we're prevented from seeing each other and then not knowing if we'll ever see each other again makes it more urgent for me to not take them for granted. I need to just send a "thank you" note. That should be enough. No need to get overly dramatic. After all, hindi pa naman ako mamamatay haha So I gotta make a new list of people to send my love to!

And that's my list!


I know we're all scared. This pandemic truly is a formidable foe because of its insidious way of stealthily attacking us. It makes us put up our walls and suspect everyone. It isolates us from the people we love. But it doesn't have to stop us from building meaningful relationships while observing health and safety procedures, of course!

So stay home, stay safe. If you must go out, always wear a mask (and now a face shield), and keep 6 feet away from other people. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds minimum. Don't touch your face. Sanitize. Be prepared! That's the best way to cope with the fear. God bless us all!

*My Lockdown shirt is from LINK - it's from their Pandemic Collection. There are other nice shirts from their other collections. Really liking their dinosaurs and wild things shirts. You can shop at their stores in Lazada and Shopee. Lots of promos until August 31, 2020! Follow LINK on Facebook and Instagram for more promo updates.

*The stickers on my face shield are from the Alice in Wonderland collection of Moleskine. They say, "I'm mad" and "You're mad." Of course in the book, the Cheshire Cat meant mad as crazy, but in my case, I put them there to literally mean I'm angry! Hindi ko na ma-take ang nangyayari sa Pilipinas.


Monday, August 03, 2020

Reverse mortgages - can you walk the talk?

I was talking to some loved ones about mortgages. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they lost their main source of income and are now looking for other income streams because they have to pay the mortgage on their beautiful new home. So when this guest post about reverse mortgages showed up in my inbox, I figured it may interest many people. Unfortunately for us living in the Philippines, I don't know if it applies but for my readers in the United States, read on!

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GUEST POST - Although people look forward to retirement while they're working, nothing hits harder than getting to the point of retirement and still not having enough money. Many people turn to personal loans or remortgaging their homes to solve this problem, but neither of these is advisable because the last thing you want during retirement is a commitment to years of recurring debt. There are also grave consequences should you miss a payment, such as a foreclosure or eviction - something you don't want to face in your senior years.

A far better alternative is a reverse mortgage, as you are able to take advantage of the full amount of the loan without being under any pressure to repay it until the loan comes to an end. Sound too good to be true? Let me break it down for you.

What exactly is a reverse mortgage?

Where you would have paid a monthly predetermined amount towards the settlement of the total amount of your loan if you had taken out a regular loan, a reverse mortgage works differently. You can take advantage of this long-term loan and enjoy access to the money, as long as you stay in the house to which the loan is bonded.

HECM - where does that come in?

These four letters are quite simply an acronym for a home equity conversion mortgage. The difference between that and a reverse mortgage is that a HECM is issued by a state agency. This means that the state-issued loan comes with government-backed insurance. Apart from this point, there is no further remarkable difference between the two.

I've heard of a reverse mortgage calculator - what is it?

This is a very useful tool that any lender, no matter which kind you choose, will use to determine your financial standing at the time of your AAG reverse mortgage review. This calculator takes into account the age, condition, and physical location of your home, in order to create an overall picture of what you can and cannot afford and whether you would be eligible for a loan. Because federal laws prevent you from borrowing the full value of your home in the form of a loan, the calculator is also useful in determining what percentage of the total value you would be allowed to borrow.

Do bear in mind, however, that if you already have an existing home loan in place, you would have to settle that amount first, using the funds that have been made available to you in your reverse home loan, before you can access the balance of the funds.

How do I get my money?

You can choose to have the money made available to you in either a lump sum or in a line of credit. If neither of these is to your preference, you can also select to have a set monthly amount paid into your account for as long as there is money available in the loan. You are free to decide which option best suits your needs and lifestyle.

*Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash.

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