Sunday, July 28, 2013

iPad love

I thought Vito was asleep. The bedroom was dark and quiet. Then I saw his ears glowing in the dark.

Vito loves many things. LEGO, Ninjago. Lightning McQueen and Finn McMissile. Doughnuts. Mama, Papa and Baby. But what he loves most of all is the iPad.

He has hundreds of photos with his iPads. From birth to now. It's crazy. He's learning so much from it, too. Words, letters, colors, numbers, patterns, physics, industrial design! He's so good at games that are far too advanced for his age.

What apps do you recommend we get for our Vito, mommies? Thanks!

Friday, July 26, 2013

I'm a brand ambassador for Lotte Xylitol!

Hooray! Topaz Mommy is now promoting Lotte Xylitol! Thank You, God, for the opportunities to use my writing skills to help other parents!

Full confession: I agreed to be a brand ambassador for Lotte Xylitol simply because I truly do like the chewing gum. It's sweet and leaves my mouth fresh. That's enough reason for me to love it. But I didn't realize that it's not just ordinary chewing gum, it's a dental gum! After the educational seminar we had on dental health and how Lotte Xylitol can prevent tooth decay, I am now so very proud to be endorsing this product because it is an amazing product!

Xylitol is a 100% natural sweetener derived from birch trees. Used as a sugar substitute, this sweetener is comparable to table sugar or sucrose, but with less calories! Plus, it's not the kind of sweetener that bacteria in the mouth feeds on—it's not sugar! Since bacteria feeds on sugar and since xylitol is not sugar, bacteria in the mouth starve. No bacteria, no acids form. No acids, no cavities! By chewing on two pellets of Lotte Xylitol four times a day, we can prevent tooth decay!

Lotte Xylitol also picked other fab mommy bloggers to be brand believers. That's (from left, standing) Rowena Wendy Lei of Animetric's World, Tin Dychiao of Manila Fashion Observer, Ginger Arboleda of Mommy Ginger, Fleur Sombrero of Mommy Fleur, (from left, seated) Martine de Luna of Dainty Mom, Lotte GM Soi Kitaguchi, Jackie Go of Go Jackie Go!, and me with Iñigo.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kate's post-baby bump is so big and normal. Awesome!

As a former entertainment magazine editor and a woman, I would always balk at photos of celebs who had just given birth and they look like... they didn't!!!
Nicole Kidman 2 weeks after giving birth
Gisele Bundchen 6 weeks after giving birth

After I gave birth to Vito, my sister looked at my tummy and said, "Why is it still big?" with matching look of nausea. Because nine months and 33 lbs don't disappear overnight dammit!!!

So thank you, Duchess Kate. You are so royal, so beautiful, and so normal! I love you!

For more photos of the royal baby (hello, Prince George Alexander Louis!), go to The British Monarchy Heir Facebook page. Sooo cute this Cambridge family!

For more photos of Duchess Kate and her fab style (pregnant or not!), check out Duchess of Cambridge News & Style Files Facebook page. I'm a fan! Especially when they created this:
Doesn't it look like a Topaz Mommy image? I love it!

*Nicole Kidman photo from Pop Sugar, Gisele Bundchen photo from Daily Mail. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The elevator pitch

The elevator pitch is what you tell people about your brand or product if you only have a few seconds to sell it. It's called elevator pitch because you're supposed to pretend you're caught in the elevator with your customer and you have to pitch to him before the doors open and you lose his attention.

Well, I don't have an elevator pitch for my blog. Yesterday, Gingersnaps invited some blogger moms for lunch. Naturally, the mom-and-kids clothing brand wanted to get to know each mom so we were asked to talk about ourselves and our blogs. When it was my turn, I found myself completely rambling. I simply did not know what to say!

I said something like, "I'm Frances. I'm a mom of two. I've been blogging since 2005. Then when I became pregnant, I started a mommy blog where I write about my kids. I used to be a magazine editor but I gave that up so I can be with my kids. I'm soooo happy!"

Ugh. Boring. Thought bubble as I was talking: "A mommy blog will of course be about kids. Why did I have to say what my previous job was? No one's even listening. I'm not saying anything interesting!"  
I'm not being insecure here. I was just surprised to realize that I seriously did not know what makes my blog special. It's just one of millions of mommy blogs that talk about motherhood, the triumphs and trials, the shopping finds, the recipes, the tips and tricks and of course, the kids. It's an ordinary mommy blog.

And yet I know Topaz Mommy is special because my readers are so passionate. You really leave comments, you really remark on everything. I don't see that on most other mommy blogs. You're so engaged and so affected! So I guess what makes Topaz Mommy special are my readers! Thank you, everybody!

Cuteness overload!

This is just a few seconds long but you super better watch it because it is soooo adorable!

Mom said she walked in, caught the kids, walked right out to get her camera and take a vid. And what she caught was soooo priceless!

Ya know, Vince and I aren't wired for video. There are tons of times that our boys are doing something so hilarious or cute or heart-melting and then we laugh and melt and then we say after all that, "We should've taken out the video camera!" Always! We always forget we can take videos! Grrr!

This, for example. This was too cute. But no video!

Too bad. We could've been gajillionaires by now, like the Charlie Bit My Finger boys haha!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Topaz Mommy and Sangobion in the news

Some mommies have asked me how it feels to be a brand ambassador. Yep, if you're new here (Hi! Welcome to my blog!), I'm one of the Brand Believers of Sangobion. It's an iron supplement loaded with vitamins and minerals.

I started taking Sangobion when I was pregnant with Vito. That was 2009. My OBG said I needed extra iron because I had low blood pressure, I was borderline anemic, and I'm going to be making a lot of blood for my baby. He prescribed Sangobion.

When Merck approached me a few months ago to be part of their Brand Believers roster, I said yes because I really believed in Sangobion. Just look at my super perfectly healthy Vito and Iñigo!

So how does it feel to be a brand ambassador? Well, it's kinda strange for me when I had to actually go onstage with celebrities. I'm not a celebrity. I'm a journalist. I'm used to being behind the scenes, behind the camera, writing the story. To be in front of the cameras and to be in the news... It's definitely a new experience! I hope I'm doing a good job because this is so new to me.

Thanks for this, Natalie Cristobal!

Lessons I learned from this media exposure:
1. When you go to an event where you're a brand ambassador, have your hair and makeup done. Professionally!
2. Wear a girdle. Then even with a girdle on, suck it in anyway!
3. Always have a camera-ready smile. In a lot of the photos (I have friends in the media who showed me their pics of the event), I look bewildered and scared haha.

Well, so this is how it feels to be a brand ambassador. I'm still getting used to the publicity part but I will say that I like the part where I must tell my readers and followers about Sangobion. Yes, it's a great vitamin and iron supplement. I like that my lips and cheeks are rosier. I like it because it doesn't cause tummy upset—it's easily digested and it doesn't make my poop alarmingly black. I like it because I'm not so tired. I like it because it tastes like chocolate. I highly recommend it!  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Merienda time is Del Monte spaghetti time!

This post is brought to you by Del Monte Spaghetti.

At Iñigo's birthday party a few weeks ago, I said I used Del Monte Spaghetti Merienda Packs to feed his little guests. Maybe that's why Del Monte is now a Topaz Mommy brand partner. Hooray!

I was actually planning to blog about the merienda packs right after Iñigo's birthday but... I forgot! But I did take photos while I was cooking. So all of these photos are from May haha.

The Del Monte Merienda Pack is a customized set of one packet of spaghetti and one packet of spaghetti sauce. There's just enough in each pack to feed four people. Or two very hungry people. Or one famished individual!

So since each pack is about P40, that's P10 each serving! Super sulit because even if mukhang maliit yung pack, it's really a lot when it's cooked na.

The Sweet Style is P40.
The Filipino Style is P37.50. I wonder why the Pinoy variant is cheaper!
The packet is a little bigger than your hand but when cooked, it's a lot!
Lots of sauce! Make sure to add your kids' fave extras: hot dogs, corned beef, luncheon meat!

And here is my little birthday boy! He's 14 months now and he already looks much different. He loves spaghetti! Here's his spaghetti face:

What's your kid's spaghetti face? I'm going to do a fun giveaway soon, mommies! Tapusin ko muna yung Taal Vista giveaway ko!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Family fun at Taal Vista Hotel: Day 3

Finally, the very last post on our Taal Vista holiday! It seems like we spent forever there but really it was just three days. I didn't have to make a series (this isn't a sponsored post series) but because we had such a great time and we had so many wonderful photos (and because the marketing communications director is my friend haha), I just wanted to share my family's fun with you!

So on our last day, guess who showed up? The sun! Oh, glorious sunny beautiful day! The kids went exploring even before breakfast, while having breakfast and after breakfast! Hindi maawat!

After the kids met the sun, the trees, the bugs and the breeze, we had a tour of the hotel grounds. Unlike hotels these days, Taal Vista sprawls. That means it's not a high-rise—it's a hotel with wings and grounds and gardens. You really do a lot of walking! Kapagod! But we had a golf cart yey!

We've already been to the spa and the kiddie play area, the Kultura souvenir shop and the restaurant and café. On our third day, we saw the herb gardens, the pool and the rooms. We have gazillions of photos but I'm going to faint from exhaustion just resizing and uploading! Here are a few official photos from Taal Vista:
Batangas 2BR suite - Lake Wing
Premier room without balcony - Mountain Wing
Deluxe King room - Lake Wing
Deluxe Queen room - Lake Wing
Superior Twin - Mountain Wing

Bongga, diba! Here's our photos:
This is the mega Taal Suite. It has two bedrooms, a dining area, a living room, a pantry and 3 comfort rooms.
The view.
One bedroom has twin beds.
Vito immediately took off his shoes and climbed up.
This is the Tagaytay Suite. It's just a wee bit smaller than the Taal Suite.
The bedroom of the Tagaytay Suite.

We had so much fun exploring the rooms. Next time, I want that Mountain Ridge mega suite. Anyway, after our indoor tour, the kids were let loose again outdoors!

They did so much running, walking, climbing and falling that they immediately fell asleep as soon as we went back to our room. They didn't even help pack! Joke. I don't make them pack, ha. Anyway, when we checked out, they were still knocked out. But I think it was because of all three action-packed days. And to think two of those days were super rainy! There's so much to do at Taal Vista!
Thanks so much, August and Celine! Thanks so much, Ro! Thanks so much, Chef Edwin! Thanks so much, Annie! We had a lovely time! We will be back!!!

I hope you all enjoyed my kwento. Wasn't it fun? I had fun telling you all about it!

* * * * * * *

So now... the contest!!!

I'm giving away an overnight stay at Taal Vista for two lovely people. The winning mommy's stay includes a buffet breakfast! There will only be one winner but she can bring a special someone with her. Here's what you have to do:

If you're on Facebook...
1. Like Taal Vista Hotel's page.
2. Like my Facebook page, too!
3. Post this as your status: "I want to win an overnight stay at @TaalVistaHotel! @TopazHorizon is hosting the contest on her blog! "

If you're on Twitter...
1. Follow them on Twitter (@taalvistahotel).
2. Follow me, too!
3. Tweet this: "I want to win an overnight stay at @TaalVistaHotel! @FrancesASales is hosting the contest on her blog! Pls RT!"

It's very very important that you tag!

It's very very important that you only post/Tweet ONCE. Nakakainis yung Tweet nang Tweet nang Tweet! Immediately disqualified yan!

I'll pick a winner next Sunday, July 21. Good luck!!!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Family fun at Taal Vista Hotel: Night of Day 2

Okay, I disappeared for a week. I have too much on my plate! All good things, all good things. Topaz Mommy is busy living and loving life so that I can have lovely stuff to blog about! But I missed you and so I'm back from outer space with the continuation of the Taal Vista vacation.

Kina-career ko talaga itong Taal Vista Hotel posts! It's really only because we had a magical time really. Anyway, I promise that there's just this one post and then the next one will be the last one and that last one will be the contest. So, see, there's a reward in the end! For one person nga lang haha.

So! Where were we? Okay, so we went to Tagaytay one stormy week in June and we stayed at Taal Vista because it had the best view of the volcano and the lake. We also picked that place because it was right beside the new Sky Ranch but since it was raining, we didn't get to enjoy it (but we already did last March!). We did, however, get to enjoy the beautiful hotel, the exquisite service and the divine food. And for this instalment, I tell you about how I enjoyed the spa and a romantic dinner, too!

Here is my private room. There's a nice canopy overhead. The massage bed is very comfortable. There's a shower room and a nice closet for your clothes plus a large full-length mirror. Quite nice!

I had the Salt and Aloe Vera Glow Scrub (P1,500) followed by the Warm Herbal Oil Massage (P1,250). Here's the collection of oils. They all smelled great!

The scrub was okay—nothing different from the usual scrubs from other spas—but the warm oil massage was wonderful! It felt very sensual because a brush is used to apply the warm oil and the softness of the brush and the warmth of the oil against the skin is soothing. I loved it!

After my massage, I got really sleepy but we had to eat dinner. We got a special note to meet Celine and August at the fireplace. Ooh, we have a date! (Oh, to refresh your memory, Celine is the marketing communications manager and August is the executive assistant manager.) So Vince, the kids and I bundled up and looked for the fireplace.

On our way there, we were treated to this: trees shrouded in fog, dazzling the night with the glow of their strung-up lights. It lent mystique to our night's mystery rendezvous.

And here we are! Our special romantic dinner by the fireplace! This is awesome. We were delighted. The photos don't do any justice to this special dinner. Thanks, Taal Vista!
My Vince and Vito are happy!
I'm still oily from my massage haha. I didn't even get to comb my hair and put on makeup and jewelry!
The centerpiece!
As you can see, Vito was very impressed! He absolutely loved everything! Vince and I loved everything, too, especially the food!

Dinner started with poached prawn ceriche with organic crispy green salad in Balsamic reduction. This was perfect. Just enough lightness, sharpness and sweetness to make the tummy want more!

Oh, if you're wondering what Vito ate (you know kids and their relationship with fancy food!), Chef Edwin prepared special kiddie dishes for him. As for Iñigo, he ate bread and fish from my plate.

Oh wow. This this this! This is Tagaytay bulalo. Oh, that name. How deceptively simple when in fact this soup just exploded in our mouths with rich flavor! This bulalo is the best soup ever. Ever! I wanted to ask for the whole kaldero!

Our main course was pan-seared honey-glazed salmon steak on a bed of mashed potatoes, topped by a fennel salad. This is delicious. The fish, the vegetables—fresh! So light, too. So there was still room for dessert!

Dessert was interesting. It's chesa cheesecake with guava gelato. I can't say I loved this because it was so very new to me. My palate wasn't used to it (it took me five years before I fell in love with sashimi, for example). I have never tasted chesa. It's a yellow-orange fruit that kinda looks like a mango and a papaya. I've never tasted it, like I said, but Wikipedia says the flesh is sweet with the texture of cooked egg yolk. It really did have that texture! The guava gelato also tasted exactly like guava but creamy and cold, of course. It was fascinating and fresh and quite good but also very new to me.

Vito and Iñigo didn't get to eat dessert. They fell asleep around the time the fish was served. Vince and I ate dinner with one hand since we cradled a kid each!

Mmm. Good food, good company, good conversation, good night. Happiness!

Okay, off to bed for me. I'm going to finish this Taal Vista adventure series and do a giveaway tomorrow so make sure you drop by again!

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