Monday, November 23, 2015

Burt's Bees holiday offerings out in stores and on Zalora!

I attended a lovely little lunch with the wonderful people of Burt's Bees recently. I hardly ever attend events because of the terrible traffic but I ventured out because I'm a longtime fan of Burt's Bees. I think I've been using their lip balms for more than a decade now!

Before I get to my story about the lunch, here are my favorite BB products:
Makeup remover wipes, cuticle cream and lip balm. I always have these! 

Okay, now why did Burt's Bees throw an intimate lunch? Well, because their cute holiday gift sets are now available in stores and from Zalora! Here they are:

Here's a detailed look:
This is the Outdoor Adventures gift set, for your friend who likes to travel. Includes the Ultra Conditioning Lip Balm, Res-Q Ointment, Hand Salve and Intense Hydration Treatment Mask.

Set comes in a zippered red tin for only P495!

This is the Classic Feast from the Garden gift set. I love that all these goodies come in a zippered canvas pouch—so perfect for kikay kits or for traveling! This gift set has Soap Bark & Chamomile Facial Cleanser, Peach & Willow Bark Deep Pore Scrub, Milk & Honey Body Lotion, Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream, and Shea Butter Hand Cream.

Five products in a fab pouch for the shockingly low price of just P995!!!

These are lip balms in cute character packs. Each tube is only P225 so grab a bunch to distribute to your girlfriends, your kids' teachers, your officemates, etc!

If you want to see the rest of the Burt's Bees gift sets (oh yes, there are LOTS more!), check out Zalora here

Visit Burt's Bees website for more details. Like them on Facebook. Follow them on Instagram (@burtsbeesph). Remember: Burt's Bees is now sold online through Zalora!

Thanks, Burt's Bees, for the goodies! I'm giving all of these cute Burt's Bees gift sets to my fellow editors at BABY Magazine. Yey!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Loving L'Indochine's travel collection

L'Indochine is the baby of my mom pegs Char Carlos and Leona Panutat. I know Leona from her styling days in magazines and she introduced me to Char who knows my husband from college and then I find out her husband is the cousin of my husband's dear friend. Woah. Did ya get that? Nope? Well, all I meant to say is... small world!

And that world Leona and Char have definitely explored! I even featured them in BABY Magazine because they're just so darn jetsetting women! But don't mistake them for tourists. They travel the world for work. They're especially passionate about everything in Asia and they will cross rivers and climb mountains seeking artisanal finds in cultural villages and craft markets. Cross my heart this is the truth!
The background, by the way, is a pouf we bought from L'Indochine. We love that pouf!

Leona and Char say, “We travel for a living searching for the most beautiful pieces to bring home.” Their trips have taught them to adopt a system that works for them, and this inspired them to create a travel collection that might work for us, too. "It was only natural for us to create our own travel essentials. Pieces that we knew we needed but couldn't find elsewhere. We wanted them sturdy, functional yet still very L'Indochine.” 

What Char and Leona came up with are definitely as eye-catching as they are functional. I have a lovely tote from the Ikat-Stripe style which is just love! The L'Indochine ladies say that all the pieces from the Travel Collection are "made of sturdy canvas and tough leather, they have special details like the Hmong pockets and tassels that give them something extra. They're also very limited in quantity and no two are exactly the same.”

“Our customers can expect beautifully made, quality bags and accessories that only get better with time. They are the perfect sizes and styles to take with you everywhere,” Char and Leona conclude. Check them out!

Ikat-Stripe Collection
Add a strap to this Ikat fold-over envelope clutch—et voila!—you have a sling bag. 

This Ikat-and-stripe tote bag is sooo cute! The silky tassels come in blue, pink, green and orange.

Ikat and stripe convertible sling bag.
 Block Print Collection
This Hmong block print sling tote is roomy enough to hold all your travel essentials 
     and lets you be hands free.

Hmong block print Weekender bag that’s perfect for using as carry on.

Travel case organizer with Hmong block print to keep your gadgets, tickets 
      and itinerary in place. 

For Men (and for women who like leather)

Leather card envelopes in chic colors.

George Cable Roll are made of the softest leather.

Leather money clips

Roqui travel case in canvas and leather materials

L’Indochine stores are located at the 4th level of SM Mega Fashion Hall and at the 3rd level of SM Aura Premier.

Like the Facebook page of L'Indochine.

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

A return to blogging

Sit tight. This is going to be a long read. I got a lot to say!

I turned 39 last weekend, on the 7th of November. Big day. Small celebration. Just me, Vince, our baby boys, and my sister who dropped by for a quick visit on her way home from work. Quiet day. Nothing happened much. That's a good day, mind. I LOVED IT! With all the NOISE in my life since having kids (don't have kids if you want peace and quiet!), the best birthday gift was a quiet day, just chilling at home, napping, relaxing.

The nap was the best.

Nap!? Yep. I am old. But I'm happy!

Anyway, it being a quiet day, I had time to reflect on what I want my last year in my 30s to be like. Well, I want to do something more meaningful. Aside from motherhood and marriage, of course, which really are the most meaningful aspects of my life now and forever. It's been a tough year or so, starting from my last pregnancy in 2014 to now, just juggling everything. I'm not good at juggling. What a startling thing to realize when you're almost 40. I mean, I'm supposed to be amazing at everything by now. But, surprise, surprise, I'm not!

Family has really taught me a lot about humility. Strangely, being humbled by my failures makes me happier because I see myself pick myself up after each failure and face another day and say, "I'll do better today. I love them too much to give up trying." As long as I know I'm trying, I know I'm a good wife and mommy. Not the best, I'm afraid, but the fact that I never give up gives me hope, and hope makes me happy because as long as I have hope, I know I'm alive, and that God gave me another chance to make a difference in my family's life!

So I've been busy being—or trying to be!—a good wife and mother. That's enough for today, I always say. But I see a lot of other women around me changing the world, and while I have no grand plans for changing the world, I do want to use whatever influence I seem to have to make it a better place.

This influence I was made to realize this year when I appeared on lists like 15 Filipino Moms We Love, 7 Most Inspiring Pinay Mommy Bloggers, and 28 Engaging Filipino Mommy Blogs to Follow. My husband and I were invited to be part of The Asian Parent's parenting council. Brands like Bobbi Brown, Philosophy, Powerbooks and Enderun partnered with me to hold workshops. What an incredible year for me as a blogger!!!

Whether that influence is big or small, real or perceived, I don't know. I always said that I just blog because I want to share stories, that I'm not interested in being inspiring. Numbers and influence don't matter to me. If they did, I'd be more serious about blogging! I'd blog every day, I'd attend all the events, I'd make myself a brand! But no. I've often said here and to anyone who pushes me to build "my brand" that I'm a storyteller. I just want to tell stories. So if I don't feel like telling a story, I'm not going to blog. I'm just going to live my stories and maybe I'll share them one day and maybe I won't. My prerogative.

Thing is the past two years I haven't been wanting to tell stories. Mostly because the past two years have been crushing as they have been exhilarating. I'm living a glorious life as a work-at-home mommy to three healthy, beautiful kids. At the same time, I'm desperately trying to survive each day without failing as a wife and mother (and yet I fail, not every day but many days). And while I'd love to share all my triumphs, I realize I'd have to share my trials, too. Balance, you know! But I want to keep those ugly stuff to myself. So I retreated from blogging. Until I figured out what blogging should be for me—whether to tell my stories, to just become a lifestyle blog of fun finds, to earn money, to be a "brand"—I just kept blogging as an income-generating activity.

But I missed blogging. Real blogging. I still love it. Many of my friends now are because of my blogging. Many of the people who hate me now are also because of my blogging but who cares about the haters, right? Well, I do, sometimes, but am I really going to let them stop me from doing what I love?

LOVE. That's why I blog. I love it. I love it. I love it. I LOVE BLOGGING!

I hate that I have haters because of it. I hate that bloggers now are in it just for the fame and the freebies. I hate that bloggers have a bad reputation. I hate that I've had to stop myself from publishing posts because I worry about being bashed. I hate that there's so much competition and backbiting and gossiping when I've always believed that blogging is so beautiful because it's so personal. Everyone is unique and so every blog is unique. Why the need to compete and malign and besmirch?

For all the stress blogging has put me through the last couple of years, I realize now I still want to do it. I miss the old days when blogs were intimate and inspiring and relatable, when they electrified me with their thoughts and dazzled me with their pictures. I miss blogs where I found someone who thinks like me, who understands what I'm going through, even when they were from the other side of the world and spoke another language. I miss blogs where everyone bared their hearts and souls and didn't give a damn about what people (or brands) thought, blogs that made me stop and think and feel. I miss these disembodied voices that shouted out or whispered to the vast space of the Internet and spoke to me because they are astonishing in their authenticity and boldness to say what they think and share their story. They were relentless in saying, "This is me! Listen to me! I am proud to be me!" and they were never stylized, put on, pretentious. They were real.

I think there are a lot of those that still exist today. I just haven't been reading blogs lately. Big reason: Motherhood takes up all my time. Smaller reason but just as important: Many of the blogs I followed stopped being relevant, got boring, or they became avenues for press releases (and they don't even try to add their personalities to the press release or the sponsored post). Or perhaps, like mine, they simply stopped updating.

There are many reasons for the slowing down of blogging. I gave mine—I wanted to understand what I was going through before I blogged about it, and I was intimidated by the haters. I mean, really. Is a blog post worth the vitriol? Is there no such thing as respect these days? But I also have more reasons why my posts have lessened. These are Facebook and Instagram. I felt sharing my thoughts with my friends on Facebook was safer, and Instagram made daily updates fun and easy. Why go through the agonies of giving birth to a blog post when a cute photo and a funny caption will do the trick?

Readers have also migrated from blogs to other social media platforms. My readers (yes, you!) prefer to leave comments on my Facebook page rather than fill out all the blanks in the comments form that Blogger requires. I do that with the blogs I follow, too! It's just easier. Even I prefer chatting with my readers on Facebook. People are also on their mobile gadgets more and because of those small screens, they don't want to scroll through paragraphs and paragraphs of words. (If you've gotten to this point, thanks for sticking around!). Everyone wants fast content and blogs are not fast content. At least, the content that matters, the content that draws people in, the content that invites you to "Come sit with me a while and let's talk about our life," that asks you to think and feel and dream, that demands a response. Readers now don't like content like that. It just takes up too much of their time.

So why did I want to return to blogging then?

I believe strongly that some things need to be said and they need to be explained. It doesn't matter if only one person reads it but if it changes that person's life, then that is everything. I don't need to change the world but I need to tell my stories and if those stories made someone laugh or cry or think or make a change (whether to a recipe or in their relationships), then sitting down in front of my computer in the dead of night to write my story and share it was less of a lonely activity. It was an act of community, friendship, fellowship, love.

And if love is the motivation, then why stop doing it? The numbers won't matter anymore. The haters, the sponsors, the number of followers and likes—they won't matter! They will affect content now and then but if love affects everything, then content—whether it's a personal post, a funny post, a sponsored post, a silly post—content remains fresh, relevant, real.

Blogs are real when you see that the person behind it is passionate and unafraid, and I want that back, if not for every blog then for mine at least. Rest assured I've been very real all these years. I've said no to brands (and to lots of money) because I don't believe in the brand. I've been vilified for being "picky." I've gotten into arguments because I insisted that I'm going to give an honest review of the product or service, no matter if it's a paid review—"You bought the space, not my opinion," never goes down well with anyone.

But while I've been unafraid when it comes to the business side of blogging, I've paused with my personal stories because I was concerned about being judged or hated by readers. Why haters will want to loiter here, I do not know, but the hate has affected me. It's not fear of them I feel (I've faced worse); it's more of I just don't want the negativity in my life. So I watched my blogs' content become increasingly sponsored as I retreated from personal blogging. I've thought a few times of letting the blogs die a slow, natural death, but something stops me. "Ten years of blogging," I think. "My sponsors!" Now I know it's really because of love. I love blogging and if I love something, I shouldn't give up on it.

And I'm glad you haven't given up on me either, dear Loyal Reader.

For you, I'm going to make some changes here:
  • I'll be merging my two blogs, Topaz Horizon and Topaz Mommy. Easier for me to update, easier for you to follow! 
  • I will blog regularly. I can't promise an update every day (a lovingly made blog post takes time!) but definitely I won't allow weeks to pass anymore before I publish a story. 
  • I'll balance the sponsored content with personal content. 
  • I will talk more about topics that mean a lot to me but I was shy to share—my faith in God, feminism, women empowerment, raising my sons to be feminists, the joys outside of motherhood that moms are always feeling guilty about (for example, a fulfilling career), awareness of sexual and domestic abuse, and women writers.
Topaz Horizon will have more meaningful content. It will be the meaningful act that I will start to do before I hit 40. This isn't a little blog anymore so I'm going to use this blog for the better. I love blogging too much to give up trying. As long as I know I'm trying, I know I'm a good blogger and from now on, I'm going to make sure this blog makes a difference in someone's life!

Thanks for reading, Loyal Reader. Thanks for the birthday wishes, too, and for telling me how my stories have inspired you, helped you, changed you, entertained you. You inspired me to make this change! Thank you for your love all these years. God bless you all!

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