Sunday, March 31, 2024

My Nana Mouskouri playlist

Do you know Nana Mouskouri? I grew up listening to this Greek singer and actually wanting to look like her. Hence, my penchant for black-rimmed glasses. Anyway, she has the most interesting voice. This is a list of my favorite songs sung by her. I arranged them in order of my favorites ever, top to bottom. Listen, listen.

"Both Sides Now"

This is a song I sang to Vince when we were coming home from the writers workshop in Bagiuo way back in 1999. I sang it because I was thinking of Ferris wheels because that's where we fell in love. He said he's never heard of this song before. I said it was Nana Mouskouri. He never heard of her either. Then I realized everyone knows this to be Joni Mitchell's song. But I love this version best.

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale 'comes real
I've looked at love that way
But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

"Song for a Winter's Night"

I was so obsessed with this song when I was kid! Silly 14-year-old me had just read Wuthering Heights and then I heard this song and I would cry for an imaginary love who was far away from me, with only a letter, a lamp to read it by, a glass of wine, and the snow outside to mourn and hope with me. 

If I could only have you near 
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
And to be once again with you

"Scarborough Fair"

This is another song I sang to Vince on that fateful bus ride. For me, this and Simon & Garfunkel's covers are the very best ones. 

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine

"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"

I think this is the most beautiful cover, even better than Roberta Flack's. Josh Groban did a cover a few years ago but nothing compares to Nana's version.

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the empty skies, my love
To the dark and the empty skies

"Love is Like a Butterfly"

This song made me excited to feel love for the first time! I really did wonder if I would feel butterflies. Thing is I had boyfriends and I didn't feel any butterflies anywhere. So I was kinda disappointed but decided that, well, creative license and all. So imagine my joy when I finally felt butterflies when Vince and I started going out! So, yes, kids, love is like a butterfly!

Love makes your heart feel strange inside
It flutters like soft wings in flight
Love is like a butterfly, a rare and gentle thing

"Yesterday's Dreams"

I remember listening to this song for the first time and being so sad that dreams and hearts can be shattered and broken. But then it makes a complete about-face in the chorus! It's a lovely song of hope after despair.

You are my harbor
My dream of tomorrow
My promise of sunshine
My shield from the storm
"Your Love, My Love"

She sings this so tenderly. I just remember listening to this and hoping I would find a love like this - so sure, so true, so constant - one day. And I did!

When our castles crumble, when our dreams take flight
And we sometimes find it hard to face the morning light
There is one thing that will see us through the darkest night
Your love, my love

Isn't Nana amazing? 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

ChatGPT designed my house

I love ChatGPT. It's like my personal assistant. "Research this for me. Compute this for me. Make an outline for me." And now I asked it to decorate my house! My prompt was describing the bones of each room first, colors that can't be undone (like my seafoam green headboard and green bathroom tiles). And then I gave it instructions on what I want for each room. And here's the result!

A little too brown and gray, but I love everything else. Maybe I'll choose a navy blue or forest green sofa. Can't go with white because I have sons.

Sooo pretty! I like that pale yellow, so elegant.

The prompt for this was to use blue wallpaper with florals and birds because I still have that gorgeous Photowall wallpaper that until now I haven't used!

ChatGPT couldn't get what I wanted here. I prompted it to design a bedroom with 3 bunk beds like the ones I blogged about here: Decor Ideas for 3 Kids Sharing a Small Room. But it tried and tried and the rooms kept getting weirder hahaha So this is the best one of its attenpts.

And here's our bedroom! I love it! A bit too green and fancy so I'll maybe go with a cream wall. Remember when I designed a room to win that headboard? That was so fun and exciting. I'm so proud of winning that!

Then here's its rendition of our common bathroom. Believe me, this is the best it can come up with. Not happy with it but, hey, ChatGPT is not an interior designer haha

And here's the design it came up with for our master's bathroom. So gold and fluffy!

Now, with AI, there's always something off. Like 3 toilets in the green bathroom. Or the toilet with a throw pillow in the shower in the gold bathroom. Or the ladder in the bunk bed. Here's a peek at the process:

Well, that was fun and I wanted to show you since you, my dear Loyal Readers, moved in with me when I was newly married and making a home. I think ChatGPT got some good ideas but I won't be going with any of them, except maybe that pale yellow paint in the kitchen!

Friday, March 22, 2024

Juggling Kids & an Online Biz? Conquer Both with 11 Proven Time-Saving Hacks

To all parents out there, kudos. Juggling between parenting and running an online business is not for the faint-hearted.

While the internet has created opportunities for various online businesses, allowing many people to work from the comfort of their homes, it is a tough gig. And when you add parenting (another tough gig) to the mix, it can be challenging.

The never-ending duties and responsibilities can consume your physical, mental, and spiritual resources, leaving you running on empty.

Are there solutions to make the gig less tough? The trick is working smarter, not harder. In this article, let's explore proven time-saving hacks to help you along the way.

Back in the day when the kids were small and I was trying to do everything all at once. I made it work, yes, but it wasn't a good idea! I was stressed out all the time!

1. Set daily/weekly/monthly and yearly goals

Setting goals saves you time since it showcases what you must achieve and do at a specific time. Without goals, you run the risk of drifting along without focus.

Jot down your big 3 to 5 daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. Analyze them and break them into small steps achievable daily and build up monthly until you achieve your yearly goals.

With these goals down, you gain clear objectives that push you to create more time since you know what to tackle daily. It also minimizes jumping between different and unnecessary tasks.

2. Batch, anchor, and block schedules

Batching your time, anchoring various habits, and blocking schedules is a series of productivity hacks that enable you to juggle your online work and parenting.

Anchoring is where you tie two important tasks together. So, you do one while doing another.

For example, I can anchor drinking water and checking my email. Yes, I don't like having my inbox/Viber/Messenger all open and my notifications are off. The ping of new messages distracts me from work! So I set a time for checking email and when I do, I drink water, too. This ensures I stay hydrated while staying updated. 

Batching your time allows you to concentrate on similar tasks within a dedicated time and without interruptions. This means organizing similar tasks and concentrating all your energy in a specific time setting. Block scheduling means setting aside a specific time to perform a specific task.

For example, I try to block schedule my afternoon for the specific tasks of meetings. That way, I can get writing and researching tasks done in the morning and I can just focus on my meetings after. 
3. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize!

What is most important to you? Does this task or activity get you closer to achieving your goals? If yes, then that is a priority; focus your energy on it.

Embracing prioritization and categorizing tasks according to their urgency allows you to focus on what is needed now while moving non-urgent and less important tasks for later.

4. Set a timer

When you schedule a task, set a timer. Setting a timer keeps you focused on the task at hand by concentrating your efforts to finish before time is up.

You can also try the Pomodoro method to increase your focus and productivity. My friend Mommy Ginger gave a talk on this in one of our Lean In Manila Circle Sessions! The pomodoro technique works as follows:

- Pick a task you need to work on.
- Work on it for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break
- Do 4 sessions of pomodoro, and then take a longer break

The pomodoro technique has been proven to increase focus, and productivity and help you beat procrastination.
5. Let everyone chip in

Chores are not simply the purview of one parent working from home. You cannot tackle every single chore by yourself, while running an online business and parenting. Divvy up the tasks and chores fairly. Do not become the family martyr.

If you have older children, create an age-appropriate chart and divide simpler chores for them to do. Letting your kids help with various chores gives them a sense of responsibility and allows them to develop life skills.

This is also something I learned from our recent Lean In Circle Session, "Reclaim Your Time." Involve the family, make them realize that everyone contributes to everyone's success. It's a team effort always!

6. Embrace a morning routine

A morning routine sets up your day for success. Embracing a morning routine enables you to structure the day, keeps you organized, and allows you to tackle more challenging tasks while you are still fresh. 

My weekday mornings go like this:
6-6:30 - Drink water, prepare breakfast and baon
6:30-7 - Wake the kids (I should get them to do this on their own actually), drink coffee while the kids eat breakfast
7-7:30 - Kids leave for school, I shower and get ready for work
7:30-8 - Check messages (personal and freelance work) while on commute
8-8:30 - Put on makeup while I check my work email, then jot down my tasks for the day.

7. Have a weekly cleaning schedule

A clean home is a comfortable working environment and a safe playing ground for kids. Cleaning, when not well planned for, can become hectic and tiresome. Plan to do light duties at certain times, while for deep cleaning, you can opt for it once per week, thus keeping the house clutter-free.

Here's a sample list of basic cleaning that can be done daily:
Make beds
Tidy up and pick up any clutter
Clean the kitchen surfaces and any food prep areas

Laundry, deep-clean of bathrooms, grocery, batch cooking - these can be done on weekends.

8. Use auto-pay systems

Paying bills can be a hectic, but easily forgotten chore. Whether these are your household or business bills, it pays to remember and settle them on time.

You can avoid penalties and inconveniences by setting up automatic payments.

Autopay allows you to pay bills online without remembering the due dates or checking your emails and mail all the time. It's an excellent hack for parents to save, reduce stress, ease bill pressure, and increase your credit score.

9. Embrace meal planning

Create a weekly menu, make a grocery list, and then order your groceries online. I use Metro Mart, but not often, only when I'm super busy. I still like going to the grocery and planning what I'll cook based on what I find.

Knowing the kind of dinner to prepare each night and buying groceries in advance saves time and, of course, money and cooking stress.

Additionally, you can embrace batch cooking and batch prepping. On weekends, make a large pot of stew, curry, casseroles, or other easy-to-freeze food. Freeze it in smaller batches, and defrost and make meals as needed.

You can use online meal planning apps like AnyList, Mealine, or Pepper Plate, or make one yourself and store favorite recipes, thus making it easy to plan which meal for which day.

Alternatively, try meal delivery services such as HelloFresh, to make meal prep time a little easier.

There is no one size fits all, do one, two, or all the above meal prep ideas, as it suits your family and your schedule.

10. Have a regular bedtime routine

A constant bedtime routine enables you to get enough rest and embrace the next day in a relaxed and calm manner. Some bedtime routine ideas may include taking a bath, picking the next day's clothes, packing lunches, and meditation.

I used to have a hard time getting to bed but now I just set my watch to remind me it's 10 pm, time for bed! I write down things I need to do for the next day, do a face massage while praying, then I'm asleep! 

11. Embrace professional help

Nothing beats a little help. This is the one tip I haven't been able to do! But I think moms shouldn't; be shamed for asking for and hiring help. If your budget allows it, embrace babysitters, cleaners, and other home help as needed.

Additionally, consider a digital marketing agency to help take your business to the next level. They can assist with your social media, web design, PPC, SEO, and other essential marketing tasks for an online business.
Juggling kids and an online business is not easy at all. Life pulls us in different directions, but the most enjoyable one for any parent is earning a living while being able to take care of their little ones. The hassles of working and parenting can take a toll on any parent. Try some of the above hacks to save time, improve focus, and increase productivity.

Liked any of my tips? I hope you did! I'm planning to write a book on how to juggle everything and still be happy. I don't know if I can write it yet, though. I don't have the time haha! But if you encourage me and promise to buy the book, I'll do it!!!