Thursday, February 05, 2015

Topaz Reads: Discussing #GirlBoss on Feb 16!

When I suggested a book club over at my Facebook page and Instagram, I got enthusiastic support from a few readers. Like, maybe three readers haha but that's okay! I figured it's easier to discuss a book with a few people than say a hundred, right, so here it is! I'm officially announcing the first ever book for the #TopazReads book club: #GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso.

I'm in the middle of it now and I won't spoil my review but I will tell you a bit about the book.

#GirlBoss is the autobiography of Sophia Amoruso, so, yeah, it's a non-fiction book. Sophia is the CEO of Nasty Gal, a multi-million dollar clothing company that started on eBay selling stolen goods. Wait. What? Yes, she was a thief and that's why I wanted to read it—I wanted to know how someone who used to be a crook reformed herself and got rewarded by millions of dollars! I like that the straight-and-narrow road has financial rewards.

The book came out last year and enjoyed success because—and this is my opinion—there were books like Lean In and celebrities like Emma Watson and social media movements like #YesAllWomen. I am all for feminism and raising awareness on women empowerment so I was happy to choose a book that puts "girl" and "boss" in its title. I just hope it's a good book!

So anyway! That's all I'll say now. The book review will be published here on Feb. 16, Monday. Then I'll be online at 11 PM to chat with you live. Well, if any of you are still awake at that time! Sorry, readers, I'm a mama and I can only work late at night! My guess is no one will chat with me haha.

To participate in the live chat, just visit on Feb. 16, Monday, read my review, then leave your questions/reactions/agreements/disagreements on the comments section. At 11pm (+8 GMT), I will go live and reply to every comment that I publish. If you're online at the same time, we can have a real chat! The chat will last just 30 minutes because it's already rather late in the night, but I think it will be fun!

So please pencil the date in your calendars and see you back here on Monday, Feb. 16, for the very first #TopazReads edition!

#GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso is available at Fully Booked.

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Monday, February 02, 2015

Bedside carafe

Help meeeee!

I really really want a personal carafe on my bedside table (because for the first time in all my 38 years, I now have a bedside table!). I get so thirsty in the middle of the night sometimes. I have a KOR water bottle, which is really nice, but now that I have a bedside table, I really think a carafe should be on it! I like the bedside ones, it's just a small bottle with a cover that doubles as a drinking glass. I just don't know where to buy a nice one.

I found a few on eBay:

I like them all, but I do like Drink Me best because I'm an Alice in Wonderland fan. Trouble is all these carafes are abroad. If I do buy one, I'm afraid it will get broken while it's on its way to me!

Does anyone know where I can buy one here in Manila? Thanks!!!

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: Xiaomi Redmi 1S (a guest post!)

Today, I'm giving my readers the very first guest post on Topaz Horizon. Ever. This contributor has actually written three guest posts on Topaz Mommy so he's no stranger to my blogs. Everyone, please welcome Vince Sales. I'm okay with him writing on my blog because I have this massive crush on him. But don't tell him that! (Photo captions are mine.)

Guest post from Topaz Daddy here. Frances said she couldn’t do this review, so she pulled me out of tech journalist retirement (yeah, I used to be one) to review the Xiaomi Redmi 1S that everyone’s been talking about lately. I haven’t written a gadget review in ages, so I will keep it short and sweet. No tech jargon here, just the fun stuff!
It's a really nice phone. Simple, sleek, solid, good weight. Feels good to hold.

What’s the fuss?
If you’ve never heard of Xiaomi before, the story so far goes something like this: So, like, you know, there’s a company called Xiaomi that’s like the Apple of China. And, like, the phones they make are really really good. And dude, they’re like super cheap, like half the price of what you’d expect. There’s the Mi 3 that goes for just P10,599; so awesome. Then there’s the P5,599 Redmi 1S that’s like a mid-range phone with an entry-level price. Totally cray-cray.

So is it all too good to be true? Should you get a Redmi 1S? And what about the selfies? Scroll down to find out.

The Screen
Like most smart phones nowadays, the screen on the Redmi 1S is honking big. They squeezed a 4.7-inch screen in there, and it can go toe-to-toe with other big screens from more high-end phones, like the iPhone 6’s 4.7-inch screen (but not the 6 Plus’ 5.5-inch screen). Beside the iPhone 5’s itty bitty 4-incher, the Redmi looks like it’s from the future.

Very bright and clear screen. And it's survived falls, too. 

The Build
If you’re looking for a shiny metal obelisk, you’re looking in the wrong place. This isn’t the steel Mi 3 or an aluminum iPhone. The Redmi 1S is made of plastic. This is not an entirely bad thing. It doesn’t feel as rich as top-of-the-line Samsungs or iPhones, but the plastic doesn’t feel cheap at all while keeping the phone light and strong (and cheap). And it can do something that most other smart phones can’t: you can change the back casing. The Happy Chinese New Year red case actually looks pretty darn good.
Dahil Chinese New Year na, the red one is just perfect for the season!
Redmi vs iPhone 5s

The Battery Life
I am told that battery life that lasts for more than a day is a good thing. That would make the Redmi 1S’ battery life pretty good because I normally got through a day without charging. I am not a very heavy user of phones. Your mileage may vary.

Living with Android and MIUI
The Redmi 1S runs Android with the highly-acclaimed and controversial MIUI slapped on top of it. Everything they said about it is true. It’s brilliant. It works like a dream. It feels like iOS, and it copies features from all the right places. 

I’ve been an iOS user for most of my smart phone life and MIUI has won me over. This is mostly because (in the Philippines at least) MIUI integrates brilliantly with Google services, plus a hundred tiny little things that are too many to mention. I like how it handles notifications. I like how you can choose to prioritize Wi-Fi over cellular data. I like the different colored LEDs that tell you what kind of alert you’re getting. I like the automatic over-the-air downloads. I like that it’s dual SIM. And so on. So, yeah. I like it.

The Camera
Once you have a proper camera (like my pride and joy Olympus), camera phone pictures all look lousy to you. So I was surprised to find out that the pictures from the Redmi 1S were surprisingly good. I’ll let you judge for yourself.

Some selfies from the front camera.


You don’t get the control of an SLR, but you can select focus, which is good. And also the LED illuminator actually lights things up nicely when your subject is in range. I didn’t even notice the LED illuminator was going off most of the time, but the shots still came out looking natural and not harshly lit.

Redmi for you? For me?
I found a lot to like with the Redmi and precious little to dislike. Big screen, great camera, MIUI, and that price (PHP5,599)! Be still my heart. It’s hard to find a better deal than that. 

For that price though, you should know that you don’t get LTE nonsense or metal construction, and you don’t get a bleeding edge processor. But if you’re looking for something more fancy, you’ll probably want to trade up to the Mi 3 (or the Mi 4 if you can find one). For most people, there’s plenty of smart phone right here for an outrageous price.

Specs Highlights

Xiaomi Redmi 1S

Screen: 4.7-inch, 720x1280, 16M colors, 312 pixels per inch
Processor: 1.6GHz Quad Core
Storage: 8GB (expandable up to 64GB via microSD)
Camera: 8 megapixels (rear), 1.6 megapixels (front)

OS: Android 4.3, MIUI version 5 skin 

*A unit was lent to us generously for review, but all opinions are honest and unbiased.

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