Sunday, January 22, 2017

Quirky Birthday Party Ideas for Kids

Many of my readers tell me they discovered my blog because they were looking for intimate birthday party ideas for their babies. For reasons ranging from no budget to not liking their relatives haha, many mommies didn't want to throw huge parties. But because of our culture's penchant for throwing wildly extravagant fetés for babies, these moms wondered if anyone in the Philippines actually threw tiny birthday parties and didn't die of humiliation afterwards. Aaaaaand that's how they found me! Hooray!  

I'm not throwing shade at big parties, okay? I imagine that if my circumstances had been different (ex. my babies liked strangers, my kids and their cousins were the same age, friends were also having babies, my house was bigger, I had lotsa extra money, etc), maybe I'd have thrown huge parties, too. In fact, we did try a big party for Iñigo and that was fantastic, but we all decided after that that the smallest parties had the biggest fun! 

This year, however, my kids are turning 7, 5 and 3. They have more friends now and want big birthday parties. So as early as now, the kids are throwing me their suggestions for their parties—some crazy (a Ghostbusters party with real ghosts), some blah (Avengers party. Again.). As a working mama, I want my kids to have the birthday parties they want but done with lotsa fun and creativity and definitely within a reasonable budget.   

What are your plans for your kid's birthday party, mommies? Why not try something a bit out of the ordinary this year? There are some tried-and-true themes that kids always love, from superheroes to Disney characters. But putting a fun and quirky twist on the usual birthday party can give your children something to remember plus let your own creativity shine. Here are a few ideas to help you get started with planning the perfect event. 

Cooking Party
This is something my little chef Iñigo will enjoy. Kids love getting messy in the kitchen. If you have a smaller group on hand to make this manageable, you could make the main activity a cooking session. Whether it’s decorating cupcakes and cookies or making their own pizzas, the kids can get creative and learn some new skills in the process. You could extend the theme to the party’s decorations and costumes. Dress up with chef hats, and let the kids customise and take home their own aprons as a party favor. 

Detective Party 
My kids have discovered that silly Inspector Gadget and also love the investigative skills of the Ghostbusters. So let your guests unleash their inner super sleuths with a detective-themed party. If you’re a lover of murder mystery dinner parties, this would be the junior equivalent! Create your own clues and scatter them around the house for a different twist on a scavenger hunt. Costumes could include Sherlock-inspired caps, magnifying glasses and fake moustaches. Crafts can involve invisible ink, allowing guests to solve the crime. 

Science Party 
I love this idea for my eldest son Vito because he's started asking a lot of questions about how things work. Make the most of children’s natural curiosity by throwing a science-themed party. You could set up a few basic experiments or a more outlandish mad-scientist themed party. With this one, part of the fun is in planning the decorations! There are also sorts of science-themed treats that you could dish up, including frog-shaped cookies and juice served in beakers or test tubes. Add in some fun fancy dress including lab coats, goggles, and wacky wigs, and you’ll have a mad science blast. 

Fairy-tale Theme
Princess- or Disney-inspired themes are always top of the heap for little girls’ birthday parties. But my boys like fairy tales, too! My littlest boy Piero loves being read to and enjoys fairy tales and fables so a fairy-tale party would be great for him. You could give this idea a unique twist by picking a specific fable or fairy tale. For example, choose Goldilocks and the Three Bears as your theme and you could transform your home into the abode of the bear family. Place different-sized chairs around so that guests can find the size that’s “just right,” along with porridge-inspired treats and whimsical woodland décor.

These are just a few top ideas to help you start flexing your own creative muscle – ask your child for input and you may be able to find the perfect theme! 

For a look back at my kids' tiny parties, see here:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A New Year, a new you? Work-from-home careers for busy moms

It won't come as any surprise to my readers that being a mom is a full-time job. As a mom, we are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our job never ends! Whether you're a full-time homemaker, a work-from-home mommy, or a mom who goes to an office, we never stop working at all. That is the truth.

Many mommies tell me they wish they can work from home, just like I do. (Meanwhile, now that my youngest son has weaned, I'm thinking maybe it's time to go back to corporate!) But many of them also tell me they don't want to be a blogger like me. I totally understand—sometimes I don't want to mine my life for business opportunities, too! Sometimes the need for privacy takes over, you know? That's why I'm steering my blog away from my mommy life and to a space for working mamas. 

So what other options are there for moms who want to be with their kids and earn money at the same time, but don't want to be bloggers? The good news is that there are plenty of career paths now available for moms to work from home all day. Let's take a look at some of them.

Realtor or Appraiser
Real estate agents are usually able to set their own schedules and often expect their employees to be able to work at the evening and on weekends. The job of an appraiser is to calculate the value of property by comparing it to similar properties in the same area. The job requires some training and certification, so you'll want to start thinking about it now if you plan to become one before the end of the year. The pay is good, and there are lots of benefits.

My friend, Kabbie Alipio, is in real estate. She used to be a fashion editor (that's how we met, when we were both editors for OK! magazine), and then her husband asked her maybe she can help with his growing real estate business. So she jumped ship. She now earns so much more than she ever did in publishing and she gets to be with her adorable daughter, Kelly. Best work-life balance!
Get Kabbie to help you find your dream home via Upside PH.

So try real estate, mommies!

Hairdresser or Makeup Artist
Women are always going to demand services from people who can help them achieve the look that they want. This means that there is a lot of demand for beauticians, like hairdressers, makeup artists, and mani-pedicurists. The great thing about beauticians is that they are able to work from home and work flexibly around their own timetable. The most successful beauticians, hairdressers, and makeup artists are those who specialize in particular areas, like weddings. Rates of pay tend to be higher for things like weddings and special events.

One of the best wedding makeup artists I know is Jasmine Mendiola. We also met in the magazine world, when Jas used to be the fashion and beauty editor for Total Girl, and sometimes I'd ask her to contribute to OK!. Jas has since left for more lucrative work in advertising and events. She also does beauty workshops. She writes beauty articles. She's a stylist. She's also an in-demand makeup artist and hairstylist for brides. Whew! Despite her busy schedule, she still gets to spend lots of time with her kids, Mio and Roux. 
Check out Jasmine's work at Jasmine Mendiola.

So try the beauty industry, mommies! You can do nail art, waxing, massages—all of these pay so much! 

Interior Designer or Home Stylist
If you have a passion for interior design, then becoming an interior designer is a good option. Although education and training are usually preferred, there are plenty of opportunities in the markets for people who just have a passion for decor. Most people succeed in the interior design industry by focusing on one or two very lucrative clients and ensuring that they meet their needs. 

A mommy interior designer who endlessly surprises me is Camyl Besinga. She used to be the managing editor of Cosmopolitan (that's why I know her). She's also in a band. She's a stylist, too. And did I mention that she's an interior designer? Like, what can this woman not do?! She also has a cutie little girl!
Check out Camyl's work at Gal At Home.

So try interior design, mommies! You can also start a home-cleaning service, a gardening biz, or make products for the home!

Most people think that accountancy is a job that has to be done in a big office. But as an accountant, you can actually work for yourself from home, allowing you to do things like preparing clients' taxes and creating financial reports. In addition, you are able to work flexibly, or even part time if you wish. Most accountants start out with a bachelor's degree in accounting, but you don't have to start out this way. You can also start as an assistant for an established accountant. What's more, there is plenty of training online through people like the CPA Exam Guy

Haha, okay for this job, I have no friend to give as an example. I don't know any mommy who is an accountant! I guess former editors may branch into a lot of things but finance is way too far from the spectrum! But do try accountancy, mommies! My goodness, I've been looking for an accountant and bookkeeper forever to help with my business books. There is a HUGE market out there for freelancers and sole proprietors like me. I finally have an accountant but he's a he so I can't feature him as a working mama!

If you're wondering how you can grow your business if you're stuck at home, don't lose heart! The first place you could look to build your customer base is your family and friends. Try your community, too. Try your online community—I find this very effective. Use Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin to tell people about your work. The best way to have a cheap shop and office? A blog that features your work! So try blogging, too! Good luck, mommies! 

Monday, January 02, 2017

What 2016's most popular posts can tell us about blogging in 2017

Happy New Year, everybody!

Indulge me for a moment: I want all my Loyal Readers who are bloggers to check their stats and see which of your blog posts ranked the highest. List them down and then study that list. I'll tell you why in a bit but first, here are Topaz Horizon's most popular posts in 2016:

#1 Review: Flawless Advanced Anti-Acne Facial
#2 Mama's regrets
#3 What exactly is a supermom?
#4 I saw my future in an instant
#5 Frances Finds #GiftsTheyllLoveatNBS
#6 Topaz Horizon is now officially a mommy blog
#7 Review: Physiogel Calming Relief range
#8 Life changes this year with the new school year 
#9 Is blogging even still relevant this 2016?
#10 Raising kids in the time of blogging

Beauty reviews, motherhood, marriage, blogging, and shopping finds. Those are the topics that my readers liked the most. Although I'm a little suspicious about the National Book Store post because I think NBS promoted that.
Or maybe this was a popular post because people love to shop? What do you think?

In November, as I turned 40 years old, I launched a new look and a new direction for my blog. The look was cleaner and more professional yet still feminine. The new direction was my blog will now be a working mama's journal, a working mother's life shared with other working moms! It is my hope we can create a community supporting each other. That's the goal. Thing is not one career-oriented blog post made it to my popular-posts list! What to do?

Well, I've decided to marry what my readers want with what I want. I will still continue to talk about beauty, motherhood, marriage, and shopping but all in the context of working motherhood. To tie it all neatly together! So I've found my niche (working mamas unite!) and I'm so excited to blog this 2017!

You see, last year was a bit of a limbo for me. I decided to kill my mommy blog so I can stop mommy blogging and be a lifestyle blogger. However, my lifestyle was very much dominated by my kids—from what I wore and what I ate to what I read and watched! What else am I going to write about?!? As a writer, I have always been told by my writing teachers and mentors: Write what you know. And all I know now in this stage of my life is being a mommy so here we go! Mommy blogging again! But I needed focus. And after many tries, I found it, I found my focus! Working mamas unite!

Throughout 2016, I also experimented with different topics seen in blog series. I did Ask Frances, Frances Finds, Topaz Talks, and Blog Biz. Here's what you'll still see in 2017 and what will stay in 2016:

Ask Frances was an advice column but I quickly found out that I couldn't sustain it. First, the questions sent were too hard—marriage trouble, OFWs resenting their families, mothers resenting their kids and their husbands. I'm sorry if I didn't answer your questions, readers. I didn't because I couldn't. Second, the questions were mostly sent anonymously so when I ended each Ask Frances post with a request for contact info so I can send their gift, only two replied and got their gifts! So that didn't fly.

Frances Finds will continue! I have lots of products and goodies to tell you about!

Topaz Talks is fun—it's me chatting with other working mamas and they reveal tips and tricks about work and motherhood, plus information relevant to the season. I have three Topaz Talks lined up! I just haven't been able to transcribe my interviews because the holidays were much too much! Stay tuned for those!

Blog Biz was my favorite series! I was only supposed to do that every other month but I liked talking about blogging so much, I did it every month. I even did two Blog Biz broadcasts on Facebook Live! I realized I love sharing my blogging secrets, and I really want everyone to have a blog. I like telling stories and I love reading other people's stories so let's all write our stories! Plus, if I can help other people, mommies especially, to earn from blogging like I do and be able to stay home with their kids like I do, then my blogging has been worthwhile!

So there you go! My blogging strategy for 2017! Focusing my blog to be by and for working mamas will also help me with everything—from the sponsors I work with, the workshops I'll do, and the speaking engagements I hope to get. It's easier to explain my blog to brands now! I'm so happy that after 10 years, I've finally understood what to do with my blog! Imagine that!

Okay, now tell me what you plan to do with your career and your blog this 2017. Tell me about your blog's most popular posts and what it told you. I'd really love to know!

Happy New Year!!!