Monday, March 14, 2016

My last blog post on Topaz Mommy

Hi, dear mommies that I love so much!

Today is a sad day. I'm saying good-bye to Topaz Mommy today. I've been talking about the difficulties of mommy blogging for a while now, coupled with the stress of maintaining two blogs. My Loyal Readers have been assuring me for more than a year that they will appreciate following just one blog.

I couldn't decide which blog I was going to kill, even though my readers told me I should keep Topaz Horizon. I love Topaz Mommy. But I realized that I'm not really talking about my kids anymore anyway. I knew it was mommy blogging that had to go.

First, I'm not as brave as I used to be and I don't want to be judged harshly as a mother. Things like giving my first baby formula, using disposable diapers, vaccinating my boys, letting them play with gadgets, giving them fast food to eat—these things make other moms call me a bad mom. I'm not a bad mom. For myself, I honestly don't care what other people think of me. But for my boys, I don't want people to think (or worse, tell them) they have a bad mommy.

Second, I've always planned on giving my kids complete privacy when they turn 6 years old. Why 6? Well, I thought that while they're still babies, their faces are still changing, they're still stuck to me nearly 24/7, and they have no concept of social media. But now that my first boy is turning 6, he'll be spending half the day in a school far from me and my protection. He'll meet strangers without me. I want his face to be anonymous now, which is possible since it's still not in its permanent form.

And he's aware of social media now. He tells me if he wants his picture posted, for example. Most of the time, he doesn't so to those who tease me that I have favorites based on the number of photos of my sons that I share on Instagram, nope, I don't have favorites. I love my eldest son as much as I love the second and third. But most of the time, that little boy doesn't want his photos shared so I don't.

Third, I can still talk about parenting on Topaz Horizon anyway. After all, my second and third sons are still babies. I can still share them with you, my dearest Loyal Readers! My few parenting stories will continue there so you can still follow my adventures as a mommy there. No real good-byes!

Well, saying good-bye to this blog is very real to me.

I'll keep this blog up as an archive of the six most wonderful years I've known so far. Best years ever! Crazy years, for sure. What an emotional roller coaster it's been! Yet another reason I've had a hard time with mommy blogging. When I started this blog, I promised that I will always be brutally honest. But things change. I realized I can't share everything with you—how I felt about my pregnancies, how motherhood is changing my marriage, how I feel about how other parents parent, how I feel about breastfeeding after three kids. It's not just those big things, even the silly milestones we're proud of, I have become shy to share. Like how my kids were toilet-trained (very quickly, if you must know!). I feel that that's too private, even though parents ask me all the time how we did it so stress-free. So if I'm having trouble sharing the everyday joys and trials of motherhood, then it's time to let mommy blogging go.

But not all of it! For more of my adventures as a writer, editor and wife who also happens to be a mommy, do follow Topaz Horizon. In fact, to entice you, I'm doing a fantabulous giveaway right there right now!

So no good-byes. Just a change of scenery. But thank you, all of you, for the warm welcome to motherhood, the guidance and encouragement through the dark days, the friendship and the love, the prayers and blessings, the gifts and all the virtual hugs and pats on the back. Grabe! You are such a HUGE part of my life as a mommy. Huge. I don't know how I would've navigated motherhood without you, your support, your wisdom, and your friendship. Especially since I don't have a mom, you were all mothers to me. Thank you!


Yes, thank you. Thank you so much for loving my family, especially my darling little boys! I can't thank you enough. God bless you!

See you at TopazHorizon.com!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Our romantic dinner at The Peacock Garden at Bohol

Ahhhh, romance! Since Valentine's Day is just a couple of sleeps away (that's how my kids count the days, by counting their "sleeps"), I'm brought back to the last romantic dinner Vince and I had. And it happened eight months ago!

I knoooooow. With three little kids who want us to eat dinner with them, brush their teeth, tell them bedtime stories, and tuck them in bed, anything romantic doesn't happen after 6pm! So thank you so much to The Peacock Garden at Bohol for preparing such a lovely dinner for us.
i heart u

The Peacock Garden has a special package called the Love Package (but of course) which include the following:
  • Accommodation for two (2) nights
  • Complimentary upgrade to the Premier Room
  • Daily a la carte breakfast at Old Heidelberg for two (2)
  • Romantic four-course dinner at Old Heidelberg
  • 90-minutes body massage
  • Whole-day countryside tour with lunch at Loboc River
  • Return airport/seaport transfers

Vince and I had that romantic dinner and it was amazing. AMAZING! And you already know how we feel about the food served oh so lovingly at The Old Heidelberg. (Click here for that story)

Since we had the kids with us, The Peacock Garden very kindly offered their nannies to watch over the kids. Yes, there are childminders! You just have to set an appointment with them a few hours beforehand. Then they arrive at your room in crisp uniforms, clean, fresh, and armed with books and toys!

With the kids in good hands, Vince and I sat down to this magnificent feast!

Salad
Fresh Garden Greens with Grilled Tandoori Chicken Breast,
Pineapples and Peppers in Yoghurt Dill Dressing
Homemade Salmon Pasta Salad with Fresh Garden Greens
and Grilled Prawns in Sesame Dressing

Soup
Chicken Bouillon with Duck Ravioli
Beef Consommé with Pancake Strips and Herbs

Main course
Grilled US Beef Tenderloin Steak with Black Peppercorn Sauce,
Sautéed Green Beans, Grilled Tomato and Gratin Potatoes
Poached Norwegian Salmon Fillet with Saffron Cream Sauce with
Pechay, Asparagus and Sundried Tomato Pappardelle
Dessert
Homemade ube ice cream
Creme Brûlée

Oh my, Old Heidelberg, you have outdone yourself! We enjoyed the food and each other so much, we lingered too long and so our kids came looking for us!


We will be back, we will be back, The Peacock Garden! Thank you for spoiling us silly with your amazing food, incredible service, and gorgeous resort!

To know more about The Peacock Garden and to book a stay at this exquisite place, click here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

3 mindful tips from Glad® ClingWrap on how to save food

This post is brought to you by Glad® ClingWrap.

I'm happy to say that Glad®, a line of food protection products, sent me and some of my mommy friends their products. We all love Glad®! When Glad® asked us if we wanted to try their products, we all said, "Matagal na naming ginagamit ang Glad®!" But of course we wanted more!

Many Pinoy moms really are Glad® fans. And I'm personally glad (heehee) about that. I read a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization [http://business.inquirer.net/204890/cost-of-food-waste-reaches-2-6tyr-says-fao] which said that USD 2.6 trillion worth of all food produced in the world gets wasted. Trillion. I can't even imagine trillion. I can believe it, though. In my own home, I regret to say there have been many times we've thrown away food because it wasn't stored well so it lost its freshness, or the texture became weird, or the taste went bad. Sobrang sayang talaga.


Keeping food safe from spoilage... and little hands! Glad ClingWrap FTW! 😄


So I started using storage containers from Glad®, like freezer bags for meat in the freezer, sandwich bags for leftover cereal, chocolate bars, and, well, sandwiches. But the easiest way to store food properly is to just use ClingWrap. Simply wrapping the fresh fruit or vegetable, or even the plate with leftover food in it seals in moisture, helps keep bacteria out, and prevents smells from other food in the fridge to affect each other. Properly packaged food in ClingWrap keeps fresh food in peak condition!

Here are three tips from Glad® ClingWrap on how to save food:

Monday, February 8, 2016

Family fun dining at The Peacock Garden in Bohol

Tonight, at bedtime, my second son, Iñigo, was in a chatty mood. "Mama, I want a house that flies. I want it red." I asked, "And why do you want a red flying house?" "So I can go to Bohol all by myself!"

It's been eight months since our trip to Bohol and my kids still ask me to go back. Like, all the time! Thank you so much to The Peacock Garden and to Paint It Red for bringing my family there. The trip was unforgettable. Literally. My boys won't let me forget about The Peacock Garden and Bohol! They talk about it constantly. I'm like, "Life has moved on. Can you guys move on? Maybe let's get excited for Legoland or Disneyland maybe?" Nope. They are obsessed with Bohol.

Let's listen to Iñigo's chatter tonight:

"In Bohol, there's a big garden. Big! And beautiful! I like that garden, Mama."
"In Bohol, the cempede is bigger. The biggest cempede I ever see!"
"In Bohol, the ants are papa ants cause they're SO BIG!"
"In Bohol, the flowers are bigger and more white."
"In Bohol, the swim pool is bigger. Our pool is not nice."
"In Bohol, the bees are so big! I want to see those bees again so Vito will cry!"
"In Bohol, the food is yummy. They're my favorite. I want to eat there again."

Ah yes, the food in The Peacock Garden's The Old Heidelberg restaurant. Soooooo gooooood! Let me give you a tour of the place first:
The Old Heidelberg has a big dining room! Heavy wooden furniture dominate. It's surprising at first since I'm so used to seeing modern styles but the decor quickly grew on me. Very family, homey, comfortable and solid—perfect for little boys!

The restaurant is presided by large chandelier and a heavy table made of marble and wood.

The chairs are made of carved wood and embossed leather. Seriously elicited oohs and aaahs from me!

I fell in love with that high chair.

Anyway! Let's go to the food. Oh, the food! I still dream of the food! Moms and dads, the food at The Old Heidelberg is seriously worth flying to. Here are a few of the dishes we ate:

I didn't order this (Vince did) so I don't know if this is the Beef Brisket (served with seasonal vegetables and parsley potatoes), the Beef Stroganoff (served with homemade Pappardelle), or the Grilled Beef Fillet Steak (served with red wine sauce, bacon beans and baked potatoes). The beef looks like it's the Grilled Beef Fillet Steak but the side dishes look like it's the Brisket. Whatever it is, Vince loved it because he didn't talk to me while he gobbled this all up!

Oh my, this Spicy Pork Tenderloin Salad was refreshing and hot at the same time! Light and yet filling. The contradictions in this dish!

The Club Sandwich is a grilled tender chicken breast with crispy bacon and molten cheddar cheese on toasted Foccacia bread. I need this right now.

This is called Strammer Max. Does this look like plain old ham and eggs? Maybe, maybe. But it's not. Well, yes, it's Black Forest ham and fried eggs on rye bread but it is unforgettable. If I can eat this every morning for the rest of my life, I will be completely content!

Oh, this Deep Fried Camembert! When people found out we were at The Peacock Garden, everyone said, "Try the camembert!!!" Crunchy outside, soft inside, the cheese is served with seasonal berries, cashew nuts and honey. Soooo good!

Ahhhh, the food at The Peacock Garden is exquisite, delicious and unforgettable. And they even sneak it up on you while you're in the pool! We came out of our refreshing dip in the pool to find these fresh juices and moist pastry bars waiting for us! Oh, The Peacock Garden, we will be back for another delightful stay! 

To know more about The Peacock Garden and to book a stay at this exquisite place, click here.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Topaz Mommy nominated for Best Parenting Blog for Blogopolis!

Hi everyone! I've got great news! Topaz Mommy was nominated for Best Parenting Blog for Blogopolis, the biggest blogging and social media conference in the Philippines. Yey! 

But now the judges need to choose a winner and I need to submit three blog posts from 2015 for them to read and judge. I can't pick three! I love ALL my blog posts haha! So please help me decide by voting for your favorite Topaz Mommy blog post published last year. Here are my top picks:


Why I'm still a working mama -
I talk about how I love working and that my career doesn't make me a bad mother at all.

What true love means -
I realize that love is not of gooey and googly-eyed stuff but of backbreaking and soul-crushing, no, soul-soaring service.

Taking back my joy -
I come clean about my difficulties with marriage and motherhood and then take a stand against the defeat I feel as a wife and mother.

Vito is 5 and that is a most wonderful thing -
I honor my firstborn son, who is the brightest soul that inhabits my universe.

Struggling with mommy blogging -
I explore the delicate balance of online parenting confessions vs respecting my family's privacy.

Tried and failed. All good! -
I share my failed adventures and what I learned from them.

Please pick your favorite so I can submit them! Thanks so much and wish me luck!


I'm just thrilled to be nominated. Thank you, Nuffnang! There are so many wonderful and inspiring parenting blogs in the Philippines. Yet I will still encourage every mother and father to add your voice! It's never too crowded in the parenting blogosphere. We need to form a community so we can all learn from each other and support each other. It takes a village to raise our kids, remember? Let's be that loving and encouraging village—we need more neighbors! Come join us!



The Gruffalo is back in Manila and my kids LOVED it!

My kids loved the Gruffalo books. They loved the movies. And they love the musical!!! The Gruffalo is back in Manila and you really must see the show!

The Gruffalo is about a Mouse who went hunting for nuts in the deep, dark wood. She gets hunted by a Fox, an Owl, and a Snake instead! She outwits them by inventing a terrifying monster called a Gruffalo. But is the Gruffalo really just a figment of her imagination? Does she truly escape the Fox, the Owl and the Snake? And does she finally find nuts???

My kids found out and they loved how the story turned out!


This is actually the second time Vito and Iñigo watched The Gruffalo, but they were so young the first time they watched it so this show was all so new to them. And Piero, too! Look at how happy they are:

Omigosh, the cast is so talented! And fun. And funny. And friendly. And they really interacted with the audience—the kids were going wild!

There are still six shows left:
Jan 29, Friday at 4 PM
Jan 30, Saturday at 10 AM
Jan 30, Saturday at 12 NN
Jan 31, Sunday at 10 AM
Jan 31, Sunday at 12 NN
Jan 31, Sunday at 2 PM

Buy your tickets from Ticketworld now. You can also buy at the theater's box office itself. Tickets start at P1,000 and end at P2,500. But Carlos P. Romula Auditorium (a.k.a. the RCBC Theater) is so small, it's okay to get the cheapest seats!

Do watch! Super duper highly mega recommended to the max!!!


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cute kids unboxing Smart Bro Gadget Plus Plans

This post is brought to you by SMART Communications.


We made an unboxing video! Diba I said we parents should make unboxing videos? Well, my husband and kids did! Check it out by scrolling down to the next post. Be prepared for mega cuteness!

Kids are just so perfect for videos. They're just adorable! When I watched the unboxing videos of these kids for SMART, I have to say that even when they're all geeky, they are still soooo cute! 

For example, how cute are these kids talking about the Acer Iconia One 7?


And check out this girl rattling off the specs of the Lenovo Tab 2 A370:


And I know you've seen this before from my last SMART post, but I'll post it again because this darling little girl is so articulate!


They're so aliw. I swear I can't do what they just did. I'm smart, okay, but I can't do gadget reviews. Thank goodness I'm married to a gadget nerd! (Love you, Vince!)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Vito and Iñigo's very first unboxing video!

If you have young kids like I do and you have an iPad or smart phone or anything that can load YouTube, then I am sure you know all about those unboxing videos.

After a couple of years of my kids watching Hobby Kids and Disney Collector and everyone else who takes a video of toys being opened, our boys Vito and Iñigo decided they want to make their own unboxing video! Watch watch!



My favorite highlights:
Bloopers like someone forgetting his pants!
Hugs!
Going out of frame!
Showing what's inside the box—they know the drill! 
Letting loose in the background!
Adorable good-byes!

It is sooo cute really. Their Papa and I are super proud that our kids have such fine motor skills, and can communicate really well, and love doing their little projects and dragging us along with them! The kids love this little home video of theirs. Maybe we can do more videos soon!  

* * * * * * *
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Friday, January 15, 2016

Windows 10 is what every #ModernMomOnTheGo needs!

This post is brought to you by Microsoft Windows 10.

I am still working my way around my new Acer 2-in-1 device. It's powered by Microsoft Windows 10 and it's pretty fantastic. But I'm taking my time discovering its features. Since I'm a writer, editor and blogger, I really just use my laptop for writing, editing and surfing the Internet. That's about it. Oh, and some photo editing now and then. But other than those things, MS Office and Edge (that's the browser) are enough for me.

So the super nice people at Microsoft decided to help me out a bit and actually invited me over for a little tutorial. Just to tell me, "Hey, you can do so much more with Windows 10, ya know!" So off I went to their super nice office and what was supposed to be just an hour's tutorial became 2-and-a-half hours! I was so impressed! And a bit overwhelmed. Oh, the wonderful things I can do with my PC!

One of the things I totally like is the sign-in process. This really makes me feel secure because my kids grab my tablet or laptop a lot and if I happen to have left it on the table, they could easily get it while I'm away and then type words or delete articles or share links to strange sites with my Facebook friends. Yes, this has happened. I'm not being paranoid.

There are three ways to access my tablet. With a PIN. With a really complicated password. Or with a photo!

If your PC has an Intel Real Sense 3D camera* and you've upgraded your OS to Windows 10, you can also do Windows Hello. This log-in security feature is soooo cool because it uses your face to sign in. Yes, it's facial recognition! We are totally living in the future! So the camera just scans your face and then you're done! The PC turns on. You can also use your thumb print if you don't like your face haha.

The other thing I liked is the Snap Assist. I'm never doing just one thing when I'm in front of my computer. I mean, really, do you just do ONE thing? Right now, I'm blogging, Facebooking, watching a YouTube video on planners (my new obsession), researching stuff to debunk the crazy stuff people share on Facebook, and writing an article for a website. All at the same time. Some people call that unfocused. Mothers call that multi-tasking.

And Snap Assist really helps me multi-task! Snap Assist lets me see my windows all at once. Unlike other OS where I'll need to resize windows or minimize them, Snap Assist automatically resizes and arranges my windows on my screen in a, well, in a snap!

You know what that means? I save time. I'm not looking for windows I've minimized. I'm not resizing windows I want to see all at once. I'm looking at everything I'm doing simultaneously. That means a lot when you're a working mom at home and every second is precious because you never know when the baby will wake up or when the doorbell rings!

These are just two of the things I totally love about my new Windows 10. Next up for me to explore? Sway, which is like Microsoft's own PowerPoint but a million times better. PowerPoint is for kids. Sway is for the pros. Since I'm now a businesswoman who does pitches to clients and workshops for blog readers, I need Sway to make my presentations more slick and amazing.

That's all for now! I'm so glad Windows 10 is helping me with my mommy life and my working woman life. Have you upgraded to Windows 10 yet? It's free till July! Oh, and please do tell me what else on Windows 10 I should check out! Thanks!

*Click here for a list of PC devices that have Intel Real Sense 3D cameras.


Monday, January 11, 2016

The perfect gadget deals for you and your kids this 2016!

This post is brought to you by SMART Communications.


We're overflowing with gadgets in our house. Contrary to what many parents fear, technology hasn't made our kids badly behaved or stupid. They're honestly the nicest and smartest kids I know!

I've found that technology is an amazing parenting tool—my kids learn so much from the apps and games we download for them! But of course, if lazy parenting happens, then gadgets can become a nightmare. Still, I believe that the use of gadgets, as with toys and books, just need to be regulated. As long as you control the time your kids spend on their gadgets (or time spent watching TV, playing outside, reading, etc!), there's really nothing to worry about.

With that out of the way, let's introduce you to the Smart Bro Gadget Plus Plans of my ever wonderful blog partner, Smart!
Smart Bro is now offering gadget bundles called HERO PLANS. Actually, this promo was launched around Christmas time but hooray, hanggang ngayon, go lang siya nang go! Here are the bundles:

Plan 599: Two (2) Acer Iconia One 7 + 4G Pocket WiFi 
Plan 899: iPad Mini 2 16GB  (no cashout, 30 mos lock in)
GPP 399: Lenovo Tab 2 A730 (3G) 


As an extra treat, these amazing Hero Plans come with FREE 30-day subscription and FREE 1.1 GB data for top entertainment apps like iFlix, FOX via Viewstream, and Spinnr! Umuulan ng libre! Happy New Year!

Anyway, if you do get your kid a gadget, baka pwede na kayong gumawa ng unboxing video like this:

Friday, January 8, 2016

Easy and delicious dishes all under 15 minutes!

This post is brought to you by Jolly.

So, mga mommies, how was your holidays? Mine was great! I really felt the Christmas spirit this 2015. Nung 2014, hindi talaga (three babies overwhelmed me!) pero game face on lang kasi kawawa naman yung mga bata if I had let Mrs Scrooge out, right?

I don't know about you but I really think holidays (and any family celebration for that matter) are really hard on the mother. Who plans the party, does the invitations and RSVPs, shops for food and decor, decorates the house, cleans the house, cooks the food, entertains everyone, and washes and cleans up after?

The kids will fall asleep right before the party starts, when you still need to do a gazillion things!
The kids will destroy everything. Everything!

I'm not one of those moms who live for throwing parties. I have friends who are like that and I like being their guest! But since getting married and having my own home almost 9 years ago, I have had thrown a few parties now and then and... I don't dislike it that much anymore. To be honest, I dread and whine about the preparation but when the day of the party arrives, I'm really happy and enjoy myself throughout the bash.

After all and sundry, parties at home are still fun.

Here are my reasons why I'm not so much of a party-pooper anymore:
  1. I only invite a small number of people. Nothing more than 15 people in my house. More than that and it's chaos. Besides, meaningful conversations and interactions don't happen in a big party. You have to keep it small so that everyone's forced to talk!
  2. I've learned to relax. My husband Vince hasn't haha He's the one who scrubs the bathroom clean, changes the hand towels, wipes down all surfaces... He's the reason I'm relaxed! (Thanks, bunny!) All I do now is light some candles and cook.
  3. Or not! A big mom hack is ordering food (my go-to party food provider is Almost Gourmet and Eats Happy). Try it! Your sanity will thank you! If you like, you can transfer the bought food onto your own serving dishes and then make everyone think ikaw nagluto hehehe. 
  4. If I do feel like preparing something in my kitchen, I have good stuff in my pantry that I can rely on to whip up something quick. I'll share with you today three dishes I made during the holidays that were fast, easy and delicious!
This past Christmas, we had the Amper Family party at my home. I was a bit fretful because we didn't have a maid to help out (we always let our kasambahay enjoy the weekends and holidays). While it was a potluck arrangement, sa sobra kong busy, I didn't have time to prepare mega dishes. Buti na lang ang dami kong Jolly products in my pantry. Because Jolly has a wide range of products, I was able to prepare lots of food for me and my family without me having to slug it out at the supermarket or take forever in the kitchen.

Here are recipes of the dishes I made the past two weeks using Jolly products:

For appetizer:
I found this recipe in Tricel Nava-de Guzman's book, Yummy, Mommy, a delightful cookbook for moms who have picky eaters for kids. I served this as a grilled cheese sandwich, but you can also serve this as a dip for veggie sticks or as a spread on crackers.

Cheese Pimiento


1/2 cup Jolly Red Pimientos, minced
1 cup grated processed cheese
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup Jolly Real Mayonnaise
1/2 cup Jolly Pineapple Tidbits, drained (optional)
  1. In a mixing bowl, mix well the pimientos, the cheese and the mayo. I super minced the peppers because I personally don't like chunky pimiento spreads. And grating cheese—what a workout! Who knew?
  2. Just before serving, fold in the pineapple tidbits. You don't have to do this and I didn't when I made my husband's grilled cheese sandwich (he hates pineapple), but I did put the pineapple in my sandwich and found they added a nice crunch. I won't do it again, though, since I don't like chunky pimiento spreads!

VERDICT: Super good! The Jolly pimiento was super malasa, which worked really well with the sharp cheese. Also liked the smooth and creamy flavor of the Jolly mayo!