Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Make Nutella your own!

This post is brought to you by Nutella.

My kids love Nutella. Especially Vito. That's him trying to take home a giant jar of the hazelnut spread. My firstborn can eat out an entire jar if we didn't stop him. No joke. He eats Nutella sandwiches every morning—as soon as he wakes up, for second breakfast at 10, for merienda, and for just before dinner. I have had to regulate Vito's consumption of Nutella! So when Nutella asked me if I liked Nutella, I practically yelled in happiness! I like Nutella a lot, sure, but my kids LOVE it. So of course we would love to be part of the Nutella campaign!

I'm so happy to announce that I'm the brand ambassador of Nutella's super fun new campaign, #YourNutella!!!

So let's talk about #YourNutella!

1. What is this #YourNutella campaign?
Filipinos love Nutella and Nutella knows that. So this is their way to say thanks to all of us Nutella addicts by giving us the chance to have our very own Nutella jar. Yes, personalized. With our name on it!

Fabian Heymer, brand manager for Nutella Southeast Asia, says, "For many, Nutella has been a huge part of their childhood as they enjoyed the spread at breakfast... Everyone's name is unique and we are at an age when personalization is vital, just like our friendship and relationship with our fans, and we hope that our #YourNutella campaign would convey our gratitude for their support."

2. How can I get my own jar of Nutella???
Right now, the #YourNutella campaign is making the rounds of your favorite supermarkets, offering Nutella jars with pre-personalized labels. Just look for your name! For a complete schedule, please check out Nutella's Facebook page (click here).

3. Oh no! I didn't find my name! / Oh no! I missed the supermarket stop near me! So no hope for me?
There is hope! Just visit Nutella's website (click here) to create your own label. Nutella will then snail mail you your own personalized label! Make one for you, one for each kid, one for each sibling, one for your mom and dad, for your classmates, officemates, boyfriend, girlfriend, everyone!!!

4. Will a personalized jar cost more?
Nope! The specially labeled jars are still Php 279. The size available is exclusive to the 350g one, though, so if you're like my family who likes to buy the huge jars, well, no luck!

5. How can I be part of the #YourNutella campaign? 
Once you get your own jar, take a photo of it, of you and your jar, of your kids and their jars, of the whole barangay with their jars, share a story on why you love this hazelnutty-chocolatey spread, and share on Instagram. Please tag @NutellaSEA and use the hashtag #YourNutella.

I was so happy to bring Vito to the #YourNutella launch event at Glorietta Activity Center last May 14. I rarely get to bring Vito to my work (it's IƱigo and Piero I tote around) so he doesn't really know what I do. All he knows is I write. But on that day, Vito was all wonder and joy because his Mama had such a fun job. With Nutella!!!

Look at our pictures from the happy day:
While waiting for the program to start, Vito painted.
Together with the Nutella and Ferrero team, we turned on the switch for the Nutella factory!
And here are our personalized jars!
Vito lined up to create his own label.
Serious while activating the conveyor belt.
After about 5 minutes... tadaaaa!
Our own Nutella jars!
My nutty love!

Thank you, Nutella, for letting me spend time with my son. We love our personalized jars. But we all shared our Nutella—even the ones with our names on it!—because family is all about sharing, especially the stuff we love best. Like Nutella!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

10 ways I keep my home healthy

This post is brought to you by Biogenic Alcohol.

Hi everyone! I wanted to ask—because it's a Saturday today—what do you do on weekends? I know people usually unwind on weekends, go to the mall, visit family, watch a movie. In my home, we clean. Yes. We clean. Especially my husband. He goes on a crazy cleaning blitzkrieg on weekends.

Why do we clean on weekends? First, we don't have an office job so we're home pretty much all week long so we do maintenance chores every day. On weekends, that's when we do the deep clean. Second, our household help goes home on weekends so we really have no choice but to clean the house ourselves. Plus, we like it that she's gone so we can really inspect the house.

If I'm giving off this impression that our house is squeaky clean, well, no. With three kids aged 5 and below, a spotless house is impossible. Impossible!!! But we try, we try. Most days, we keep the mess at bay. But we do have certain rules that must be followed so that our home is clean and happy and healthy. Here are my 10 rules:

1. Go barefoot. Most Asian homes practice leaving shoes at the door. This is a good way to prevent dirt and germs picked up from the outside world from entering our home. We have shoe cabinets by the hallway so that shoes are packed away as soon as we come home.

2. Wash hands. We wash hands as soon as we get home. I even wash hands before I hug my kids. Although that makes them feel a bit bad, that I go to the washroom first instead of hugging them when they greet me at the door. So now, while I'm in the elevator zooming up to our floor, I get my Biogenic from my purse and sanitize my hands just so I'm germ-free before I knock on our door.

3. Clean as you go. Life with small children inevitably means there will be sticky, cruddy, smelly and yuck-what-the-hey-is-this?! surfaces everywhere. I have learned that instead of falling into deep despair over the state of my household, I should equip every room with wet wipes and alcohol and attack said mysteriously scary surfaces.

4. Wipe switches and door knobs with alcohol. These are usually forgotten and neglected parts of our home. But if you really think about it, light switches and door knobs are frequently touched; therefore, they are breeding ground for germs and bacteria. Wipe with alcohol!!!

5. Use alcohol after washing butts. I learned this the hard way. I usually just wash my hands quickly after washing poop from my kids' butts. It's my husband who is more meticulous. He'd not only wash his hands thoroughly, he'd also sanitize with alcohol. But when we were toilet-training one child and poop was everywhere, I must've not cleaned my hands well because I suffered two weeks of debilitating stomach nightmares. I have been more careful since!

6. Wash food before storing. Here's a tip: Before putting away the grocery, wash the fruits and vegetables first. This way, when your kids raid the fruit basket and you're not there to wash the fruit they want, you can rest assured that the apple they're munching on is already clean.

7. Wash hands before, while, and after cooking. Especially while cooking! I used to just throw a towel over my shoulder and then wipe my hands on it after I peel something, mix marinades, chop veggies and meat. But when I became a mother, there are now many occasions where I need to go out of the kitchen to inspect a crash or to separate little boys fighting and wrestling. I really cannot touch my sons if my hands have oil, garlic, or—worst of all—blood on them.

8. Colorful meals. I'm really trying to add more color to our meals. Pediatricians and nutritionists say there should be at least three colors from the rainbow at every meal, with an emphasis on greens! I've added salads and soups and while my kids are resisting the vegetables, they like soups and don't protest too much when their Papa and I mince veggies and mix them with their rice. Yey!

9. Encourage lots of fun. My husband and I love giving our children with our 24/7 presence and lots of presents, too. The toys, books, games, and experiences are necessary because we spend soooo much time with them. We need to fill the days with fun. A happy heart does good for the soul and for the body!

10. Hugs! I have three sons and I want them to be hugged and kissed so much, their hearts will be so full of love. Loved-up boys will grow up to be secure, peaceful, emotionally strong men. And that's all I really want them to be,

There you go! Ten rules! Well, I have more tips and tricks but I gave you 10 because this week, my blog turned 10 years old so I'm a bit obsessed with the number. If you have more tips on how you keep your home clean and healthy, do share in the comments below. My favorite ones get a Biogenic gift pack from me!

To know more about how Biogenic helps us mommies, like their Facebook page, Official Biogenic Alcohol. You can also follow them on Instagram at @Biogenic_Alcohol and hashtags #BiogenicAlcohol and #MyBiogenicWorld.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Blog Biz: 10 questions about my blogging career

Today is the 10th anniversary of Topaz Horizon!!!


Well, I started blogging in 2005 over at Friendster so this year marks my 11th year as a blogger. But since the Friendster blog was private, I never considered it as a blog. More like brain farts for my family and friends. Then Friendster announced it was going to charge for blogs. Someone told me Blogger was free so I moved out of Friendster. My first Topaz Horizon blog post was published on Blogger on May 24, 2006.

Now here we are. It's been an amazing 10 years, people!!!

Over the years, I've gotten many questions on how to have a blogging career, and I've always dismissed these questions with a laugh. I still can't believe I have a blogging career! But I've listed down the frequently asked Qs and decided I'm going to finally answer them. I mean, it's been 10 years!

Blogging in 2009 on my beloved HP Mini!
1. How did you start blogging?
Since I was a little girl, I've always wanted to be a newspaper columnist. I thought columnists were the coolest people. They had enough clout and smarts to be given a regular space to say what they think. How powerful that is!

In 2006, I was asked to be a contributor to Inquirer's Lifestyle section, which was under new editorship. I knew it was the foot in that I needed! I was so excited! But in 2006, I had just become the editor-in-chief of this wonderful new magazine called OK!, a Hollywood entertainment title. My publisher told me, ever so gently but firmly, that I needed to focus on OK!. So I declined Inquirer and focused everything I had on growing OK! because my publisher was right.

Still, I was a bit heartbroken. Okay, a lot heartbroken. So a friend told me I should try blogging. She said, "It's just like writing an opinion piece for a newspaper but better because you set your own topics and deadlines and you get feedback from your readers immediately." "Why is that?" "There's this feature called a comments section. It's addicting!"

And she was right. After I published my first post here on Topaz Horizon and then got my first comment, I was hooked. I still get a high ten years after. Thank you for all your comments!  

2. Why did you turn your blog into an income-generating business?
Two years into blogging, I heard that people can earn money from their blogs. Back then, the revenue came from text links and Google ads. Then digital advertising agency Nuffnang invited me and a few other bloggers to Singapore for a blogging conference. I was blown away when I met bloggers from all over Southeast Asia and Australia. They were earning so much money, it was crazy! A college student just bought a new car. Another young person quit her banking job. Another one was earning $2500 a week from Google ads. And another one practically had her entire life—from bottled water and food to her house and the appliances in it—sponsored!

I remember coming home to my 10- to 14-hour magazine job that paid P35,000 a month and feeling confused and angry. I'm a writer, an editor and a journalist. Every word I write must earn money. That was my job. At the conference, they called blogging the new media and it was sucking up advertising budgets from print media. I decided then and there in 2008 that it was time to shift careers.

3. When did your blog start making money?
My blog started making money through text links about a year after I created it. It was the easiest thing: I signed up for PayU2Blog and every week, it assigned me words or phrases that linked to an advertiser's website. I got paid $5 per link. Because I was prolific, I earned about $20 to $30 a month. Not much but I used the extra money to shop online.

In 2008, Nuffnang started giving me a few assignments. All I needed to do was write about a product or experience. This was called a sponsored post. I earned about P12,000 a month and that went on for about four years. In 2012, I retired from magazine publishing when OK! was discontinued, killed off by the new media called entertainment bloggers. With nothing to do, I focused on blogging... and what a payoff. Now my blog is a registered business!

Blogging was easier when I didn't have kids haha. This was in 2010, when I was about to give birth to Vito!
4. How does your blog make money?
My blog earns mainly from sponsored posts, a few ad placements now and then, and brand ambassadorships. I also earn from sponsored social media posts. My blogging career coupled with my magazine experience have recently landed me new gigs as speaker at events for working women and moms. I also do workshops about blogging, beauty and social media.

I don't earn gazillions (as of now, I am still a non-VAT entity so that means I'm earning a modest sum) but we're happy blogging allows me to stay home and be a mommy.

5. What's the best thing about blogging?
The people I've met and become friends with. Yes, the money is nice. The freebies, too. The experiences are cool also. But to be very honest I love the people I've met through my blog. From moms and homemakers just like me to celebrities and the most fascinating personalities!

But the ones I appreciate most are the Loyal Readers who congratulated me through my wedding and with each pregnancy and birth, helped me mourn my mother, laughed at my silly stories, cried when I was sad, mended my broken spirit, and prayed for me and my family throughout the years. Some of you Loyal Readers became my friends in real life. Some of you love me and my sons like we were your own family. Thank you! Family is the best thing I got from blogging!

6. What don't you like about blogging?
Well, if there are good people out there, there are bad people, too. Thank goodness they are few. And that's all I'll say about it!

7. How do you feel about bloggers' bad reputation?
The crazy thing about blogging is it's not a professional world. Anyone can blog. You don't need a degree or apprenticeship or years of experience. That makes it a wonderful medium, but it also attracts people who have no idea about journalistic practices like editing, checking facts, citing sources, respecting intellectual property, keeping one's integrity when faced with advertisers who will bribe your opinion, and basically not being a libellous asshole.

Bad bloggers, like the proverbial rotten apples, do spoil the whole barrel. But I don't want to lump them all together. Some PR agencies these days also don't have good training. Instead of building relationships with media (bloggers included), they just treat all bloggers as uncouth, unprofessional people with no real jobs. I've had to be curt with certain agencies, for example, and the next thing I heard I'm a snob. Woah. All I said was I can't work with certain brands since I don't use the product or I can't attend their event because I need to be with my children. My being forthright made some people think badly of me. So now when I hear that a blogger behaved badly, I reserve judgment. It could be not entirely that blogger's fault. Of course, some bloggers do behave badly but let's not go there!
Blogging is easier now with smart phones and social media.

8. What's your advice to new bloggers?
Blog because you love sharing your life with people. Don't blog because you want to earn money. You won't see money till maybe after a year of blogging. Don't blog because you want to be famous. Readers, brands and technology are fickle. You're hot stuff today, tomorrow your social media world is suddenly an empty wilderness. So your motivation to blog should just be love! Money or no money, many readers or just a few, you do it for the fun of it. You'll enjoy it no matter what. And that's the only thing that will sustain you—joy!

9. What's your advice for longtime bloggers in a rut?
Same as above! Just remember the reason why you started blogging—and if you're a longtime blogger like me, that means you started your blog when it wasn't an income-generating venture. Find a purpose in your blogging so that every blog post is a mission accomplished!

10. What are your future plans for your blogging career?
I don't know how long this will last, to be honest. It's been really fun watching where the blog is taking me. I'm now being booked for speaking engagements and workshops, for example. I have appeared in an ad, which still boggles my mind. Right now, even though it's my main source of income, I treat blogging not as my career really but as a stepping stone to something else. Maybe I can do more speaking engagements! Maybe I can do a TV show! Maybe I can write a book! Or maybe I can suddenly just stop blogging and become a concert pianist.

Where did that come from?!

I do have plans for the blog on my 10th year. Introduce a series on a parenting advocacy—mothering boys. Write posts that support working moms. And, as this first Blog Biz post is doing, share what I've learned about blogging every other month to help other people find success in this medium. Blogging has been very good to me. I want it to be good to everyone!

Thanks for reading Topaz Horizon, dear Loyal Readers! You are THE BEST! The very very best. I thank the Lord for every reminder of you. And I have 10 years' worth of reminders. God bless you!