Tag: featured

Healthy, No Bake Sweet Treats To Make And Eat With The Kids

It’s summer!…And the heat wave has definitely taken over! Here’s a guest post from Craig, an Editor at Cake Journal who — thank goodness — is sharing with us 10 easy ways to enjoy sweet and healthy treats that will keep our kids’ little fingers busy too. The best part is: there’s no baking required.


When it comes to feeding kids, it’s no secret that they love the sweet stuff. Unfortunately, most sweets are quite unhealthy and require hours in the kitchen baking a loaf or a cake. The good news is, there are tasty (and healthy) alternatives that you can make in your kitchen, all without an oven. In addition to being perfect for little hands, the kids can help with making them as well!

1. Frozen Fruit Pops

Ingredients:

– 1 Cup Plain (or vanilla) Yogurt

– 2 Tbsp Honey or Agave

– 1 Cup Frozen Fruit (your choice)

– Popsicle Sticks

– Paper Cups

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Directions:

Have your kids measure each of the ingredients out, allowing the frozen fruit some time to slightly thaw. From here, have them pour each ingredient (aside from the sticks and cups) into the blender. Once finished, place the top on and blend until smooth or slightly chunky.

Pour the mixture from the blender into a measuring cup. Then, have the kids pour the fruit mixture into each paper cup until 3/4 filled. Next, the Popsicle sticks should be placed in the middle of each cup before they’re all placed in the freezer. Freeze for a few hours, or until solid.

2. Ants on a Log

Ingredients:

– Celery

– Peanut Butter (or sunflower butter)

– Raisins

Directions:

Chop the celery into medium-sized logs and then thoroughly wash and dry. After this, fill a plastic baggie with peanut butter and snip off a corner with scissors. From here, have the kids squeeze peanut butter inside each of the celery logs. To finish, top the peanut butter with raisins.

3. Parfait

Ingredients:

– Vanilla Yogurt

– Fresh Strawberries (chopped)

– Fresh Blueberries (halved)

– Granola

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Directions:

Have the kids place two spoonfuls of yogurt into individual cups (the bottom should be covered). From here, have them sprinkle the strawberries and blueberries until the yogurt is covered. After this, the layer of granola should be sprinkled on top. Have them continue to layer until each cup is filled with delicious parfait!

4. Cat-Face Rice Crackers

Ingredients:

– Bananas (sliced)

– Rice Cakes (apple or unflavored)

– Peanut Butter (or substitute)

– Carrot (thinly sliced into triangle shape)

– Raisins

– Coconut Strings

Directions:

Have the kids spread peanut butter on each of the rice cakes until covered with a thin layer. After this, the carrot triangles should be placed at the top of each cake to resemble ears. Kids can have fun assembling the cat faces on the rice cakes, using the sliced bananas as the base of the nose, the coconut strings as the whiskers, and the raisins as the eyes and nose.

5. Fruit and Cheese Skewers

Ingredients:

– Grapes

– Strawberries (sliced)

– Cheese (any variety, cubed)

– Toothpicks

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Directions:

While skewers can be used, it’s recommended to use toothpicks for smaller children who are practicing their fine motor skills. These are easy to create, with each child given the freedom to assemble the skewer (or toothpick) how they’d like. Simply push each food onto the toothpick until it’s full. Enjoy!

6. Fruit and Nut Bars

Ingredients:

– 1 Cup Dried Cherries

– 1 Tsp Honey

– 1/3 Cup Sunflower Seeds

– 1/2 Cup Almond or Peanut Butter

– 2 Cups Honey Nut Cheerios

– 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Directions:

To begin, soak the cherries in a bowl of hot water for around 10 minutes, then puree them in a food processor with the vanilla. Have the kids then pour all but 1/2 cup of the cereal into the food processor. Pulse until all the ingredients are combined. After this, the kids can get messy.

Have them mix the cherry mixture, seeds, honey, almond or peanut butter and remaining cherries in a bowl until combined. After this, simply roll spoonfuls of the mixture into small balls and store in an airtight container.

7. Chocolate Dipped Fruit

Ingredients:

– Dark Chocolate (or, any kind that your kids would love to have)

– Bananas

– Strawberries

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Directions:

Over the stove, melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water (to prevent burning). After this, let your kids have fun dipping their favorite fruit in the chocolate (have them use toothpicks to hold the fruit to avoid messy fingers). Place the dipped fruit on a plate covered with parchment paper and store in the freezer for a sweet treat any time.

8. Fruit Fizz

Ingredients:

– Watermelon (diced)

– Grapes (halved)

– Strawberries (diced)

– Pineapple (diced)

– Kiwi (diced)

– Ginger Ale

– Pineapple Juice

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Directions:

After slicing and dicing the fruits, let your kids layer it into their cups any way they like. Once finished, pour ginger ale on top, leaving room for a splash of pineapple juice. Stir with a spoon. Have the kids eat the fruits while sipping on their drinks.

9. Peanut Butter Pinwheels

Ingredients:

– Whole Wheat Tortillas

– Bananas (sliced)

– Strawberries (sliced)

– Peanut Butter (or alternative)

– Granola

Directions:

Have the kids spread peanut butter on top of the tortilla so it’s covered. From here, they can sprinkle on their favorite fruits as well as granola, making sure to leave space around the outside of the tortilla. Once finished, roll the tortilla up and cut into slices to create sweet pinwheel treats.

10. Snack Mix

Ingredients:

– Honey Nut Cheerios

– Dark Chocolate Chips

– Almonds (these can be left out)

– Plain Popcorn

– Granola

– Banana Chips

– Coconut

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Directions:

The best part about this recipe is that you control the amount of each ingredient that you add. Let your kids measure out portions of each ingredient in a large bowl, gently stirring as they go. Once they are satisfied, store the mix in an airtight container to munch on at any time.

Sweet Treats Without the Work

No oven? No problem! Grab your kids and make any of the recipes above without the danger or heat of an oven. Each is tasty as well as healthy, so you won’t feel any guilt about allowing them to indulge.


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Craig spends most of his time finding every excuse to test out new baking recipes. He writes about everything from cake recipes to fun baking projects to vegan baking.

 

 

If you enjoyed these recipes, go indulge some more! Visit: CakeJournal

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Why Helicopter Parents May Be Putting Their Children At A Disadvantage And How They May Be Hurting Your Child

Do you suffer from parenting dilemmas? You’re not alone.Having written several parenting tips for clients just recently, I’ve come across the term, “helicopter parenting,”  After reflecting on indirect parenting conflicts we’ve had with one of my son’s classmate’s mom, I was able to detach myself from despising how this parent has been jumping on every opportunity, it seemed, to include herself in my son’s and her son’s affairs. Instead of indulging myself at pinpointing her every bad motive, I actually ended up asking myself, “Am I a helicopter parent too?”

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What is helicopter parenting?

Based on an account offered by Kate Bayless on parents.com, “The term ‘helicopter parent’ was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter; the term became popular enough to become a dictionary entry in 2011.”

Helicopter parenting is when parents leave very little room for their child to experience the world on their own. Helicopter parents have made it their business to tell their child what to do and how to do things.

According to Bayless, one of the factors that drive helicopter parenting is when parents see other parents become overly involved with their respective children. “Peer pressure from other parents” is how Bayless terms this. Where my children are schooled, I’ve noticed too many parents become overly involved in children’s plays, science projects, and field trips. You know you’re a helicopter parent when your child is 10 years old and he or she is celebrating birthday in school with you present or, worse, you’re celebrating it outside of school with other over involved parents like yourself. Hmmmm…

In “The Effects of ‘Helicopter Parenting” by Joel Young, MD, published in psychologytoday.com, several studies that demonstrate the disadvantages of helicopter parenting to children were cited, among which was developing anxiety and depression. A study of 377 emerging adults aged 17 to 30 years old, published in the SAGE journals concluded that, “HP (Helicopter Parenting) was also associated with poorer functioning in emotional functioning, decision making, and academic functioning.”

“(Helicopter parents are) not allowing their child to become independent or learn problem-solving on their own, nor to test out and develop effective coping strategies,” says Naomi Ekas, the co-author of a study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies in 2017.

Helicopter parents can hurt other children too

I couldn’t find any study about how helicopter parents could be hurting other peoples’ kids. However, in my personal encounter with helicopter parents, I realized that here’s how helicopter parents can harm your child:

  • They can hurt your child’s self-esteem. Helicopter parents get themselves involved in group projects (seriously!), overthrow the leader who could be your son or daughter, and dominate the discussion to benefit their child (who suddenly becomes the group leader). This undermines your child’s leadership capabilities and it can hurt your child’s ego so much more when it’s his or her first experience to lead a team. Can you imagine how traumatic this could be to your child?
  • They can hurt your child’s feelings. Parents hate. I’ve heard how the same group of parents have gossiped about another boy, a class bully allegedly. While we’ve been teaching our son to make friends with this boy because he may be acting out for being left alone, these parents are telling their kids to stay away. It’s a pity how grown ups can act more like children than children, really.
  • They can hurt your child’s future. Helicopter parents brand children they dislike. Watch out, because they even brand the parents. They gossip about a child’s gender, parents who get plastic surgery, and families that are ‘dysfunctional’. They spread the malicious news around, destroying your child’s and, possibly, your family’s reputation.
  • They can hurt your child physically. I see a lot of close physical encounters between parents and children, and between different sets of parents in public play areas. Stay around to watch your kids but, don’t hover.
  • They can endanger your child’s safety. We’ve experienced how parents who are desperate to make their children get noticed in school mindlessly endanger our child’s safety and security. Our son has been repeatedly asked to go out of school premises  — without our permission — to meet with parents over some school project. We feel thankful that our son has been wise enough not to join them.

What’s the motivation? Helicopter parents want to become the “World’s Best Mom” or, the “World’s Best Dad”. Funny? Not at all. They do these things to show their love and support for their child, at the expense of another — possibly your own. In fact, I couldn’t care less if they like hanging around their child, fighting their battles on their child’s behalf but only as long as they keep my children out of it.

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How do you deal with helicopter parents?

  • Be vigilant. My son didn’t let us know that parents were becoming involved in school projects. That’s not because he doesn’t trust us but, because he thought he could handle it on his own. Our fault was that we didn’t think such parents existed and we weren’t able to prep him. When we learned about it for the first time, I made it clear that the next time parents got involved, it stops being his arena but, ours.
  • Be straightforward. Helicopter parents in my son’s school called a group meeting with us, parents — four children out of seven in the group. I saw that as an opportunity to make myself clear. I said, “They’re 10 and perfectly capable of handling their discussions on their own.”
  • Think before you react. When parents fail to get to your child the first time, they will take your child personally. Don’t be confrontational but, make sure to inform people on need-to-know basis, that includes teachers if you encounter helicopter parents in school or, operators if you encounter one at a child park. You should refrain from reacting over harmless situations involving your child and another for as long as parents are not involved. If you overreact, you lose your credibility.

I can confidently say that my children are growing up to be smarter, more mature, and more independent. I can also honestly claim that my son, who has become the victim of helicopter parents, has learned more than hurt about the experience. For that, I am thankful.

How we’re raising our kids

All good parents want only the best for their child. Sometimes, it’s never enough but, sometimes, too much parenting can also injure your child’s character, personality, future potential, and, worse, also damage another child’s spirits.

After reading Malinda Carlson’s “10 Warning Signs That You Might Be a Helicopter Parent (And How to Stop)” on afineparent.com, I sighed with relief. I am not a helicopter mom after all. How did you fare with Carlson’s 10 criteria?

I’m a parenting junkie. I guess every mom and dad is. After two years of making the big shift from being an absentee parent to becoming a work-at-home mom, this past Holy Week came at a good time for me to reflect on the kind of parent that I’ve become. So far, I’m happy that we’re raising good, little people in our home without having to fight their battles for them.

How do I say we’re on the right track?

  • Our children regularly share their day’s highlights with us. With or without us prompting them, our kids feel free to tell us how their day went. It lets us know that they feel free to communicate with us and to share what’s going on in their lives with us. The quality of communication always provides a good gauge of the quality of our relationship with our kids. When my son shared his frustration over parents meddling with school projects, that was how I learned we were dealing with difficult parents.
  • They take initiative. Our children are very independent. They get into their PJ’s by themselves, eat on their own (the youngest occasionally ask to be spoon-fed but she’s only 4), and pack their own bags when they’re scheduled for a sleepover at their grandparents’ home. This shows us that they are taking responsibility.
  • They make decisions. We allow our children to make decisions at a certain level based on their readiness. Just this morning, my husband and the kids played basketball. Our youngest wore a plain shirt, denim shorts, and long, colorful socks. Rather than getting into a dead-end argument with her, my husband tagged her along. She wore her sneakers and her attire didn’t really pose any safety risk.
  • They to do their homework alone. Our youngest, of course, requires more guidance but, we never do her homework for her. As for our eldest, we expect more. Even though I’m almost always at home and pick him up after school, I never made it my habit to peep into his notebooks. Instead, I ask him, “Do you have any homework?” or, “Is there anything you need to complete your projects?” Sometimes, he forgets things but, I’m not after him getting high grades only but, more importantly, I want him to start training to take responsibility for his own actions. When he asks for my help, that’s the only time I step in.
  • They help with household chores. They make the bed. We make our eldest take on more responsibilities now. We even let him handle the thermos with supervision.
  • They have honest-to-goodness fun. We refrain from hand-holding our kids at play. After all, it’s one of the few times that they are able to mingle with other kids from outside of school. We like exposing our kids to different kids — kids who have a lot, just right, and those who hardly have anything that they can call their own. It’s one of the best ways that we’re teaching them to respect people from all walks of life.

In short, don’t turn your children into oversized babies.

Are you a helicopter parent? Could this be your wakeup call?

Is This A Sign Of Love? Or, Do You Have A Heart Problem?

Happy Valentine’s Day! Admit it! You’ve taken extra steps to look extra special today, didn’t you? Well, for good reasons, everybody else around you is dressed up for date night tonight. You probably have yours calendared at 6 pm on-the-dot. New dress, new stilettos, a good looking new haircut, even your nails are done. You’re all set but, is your heart well?

Listen To Your Heart

Falling in and out of love are all part of life. The loves you’ve found and the loves you’ve lost all make living life worthwhile, don’t they? How your heart feels can be just as confusing as your first love if you don’t know how to listen in.

You have to tune into your body to help you figure out your heart health

 

As a matter of fact, experts are saying that you have to tune into your body to help you figure out your heart health. Listed below are some of the tell-tale signs that your heart may be in BIG trouble:

1. Breathlessness and fatigue. When you’re putting in more effort to breathe even with just a mild exercise or just walking yourself from the bedroom to the bathroom, there could be something wrong with your heart. If your endurance and stamina, likewise, suffers inside the bedroom, most especially if you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction when you know you’re not yet at that age, you should consult with your healthcare provider.

2. Sleeping disorders and snoring. Do you snore? Also known as sleep apnea, snoring is far from just being an embarrassing sleeping habit. It’s a symptom of heart disease, even of an impending heart attack. You snore because your air pathways are not as open as they should be while you’re sleeping. Therefore, as your body, most especially your lungs and your heart, try to compensate to obtain the volume of oxygen your body needs, your brain, heart rate, blood pressure, and even breathing become adversely affected. Permanent damage to your organs develop over time.

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Many studies have also confirmed that there is a link between missing sufficient hours of sleep night after night and developing heart diseases, among many other chronic, lifelong ill health conditions. Two such studies are discussed below:

  • A study published in the Current Cardiology Reviews sorted through studies linking sleeplessness to hypertension (HT), coronary heart disease (CHD), and diabetes mellitus (DM). The researchers concluded that there is sufficient evidence to show a link between lack of sleep and these three diseases. The conclusion reads, “the relationship between sleep time and incidence of CHD or DM is U-shaped. Sleep periods that are neither too short nor too long may be important to keep us healthy”.
  • In another study published in the European Heart Journal, the researchers observed over 470,000 subjects based in 8 countries with baseline data reported across 15 studies spanning 7 to 25 years. The researchers concluded that, “Short duration of sleep was associated with a greater risk of developing or dying of CHD (and) stroke”. The researchers further noted that sleeping for more than 9 hours a day is also associated with increased risk for heart disease.

3. Heart palpitations. Fine if it’s your true love that’s making your heart skip a beat but, if you become more aware of your heartbeat more often then, something must not be right. Heart palpitations signal that your heart’s components — muscles, valves, ventricles — aren’t well-coordinated that’s why you feel a skipped beat or a throbbing, racing heartbeat. This may be triggered by caffeine, tobacco, stress, menopause, and pregnancy. Poor health, including the presence of conditions like CHD, having lower than normal levels of potassium in your body, and anemia can also cause heart palpitations.

4. Gum and oral diseases. It might surprise you to know that your oral health has also been linked to developing cardiovascular diseases. One study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine demonstrated that subjects who have had their oral health checked and treated more regularly spent less on medical and hospitalizations costs for both coronary artery disease (CAD) and cerebral vascular disease (CVD).

Another study published in the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology which reviewed the results of studies linking periodontal health and heart diseases confirms that a link exists between these two variables. However, the researchers further concluded, “Prospective interventional studies are required to determine the exact link between PD and CVD as well as to evaluate whether periodontal treatment may reduce the risk of developing CVD.”

Studies linking oral health and heart health are relatively new, and the American Heart Association is taking things more slowly. An article published on the organization’s website reads:

“Periodontitis and heart disease share risk factors such as smoking, age and diabetes, and both contribute to inflammation in the body. Although these shared risk factors may explain why diseases of the blood vessels and mouth can occur simultaneously, some evidence suggests that there may be an independent association between the two diseases.”

5. Aching shoulders. You will usually dismiss this as your regular symptom of stress but, now you must know to never again take sore shoulders and upper back pains lightly. These could be signs of deteriorating heart health. On the other hand, painful shoulders can also lead to heart problems, as a study of more than 1,200 laborers claim. The researchers said that injury to the shoulders may cutoff or slowdown blood flow, increasing an affected person’s risk for developing heart problems.

6. Dizziness. Poor blood flow to the brain, most especially when further aggravated by low blood pressure, limits the supply of oxygen entering both your brain and your heart. If you’ve been feeling nauseous lately, it can’t be a good sign.

7. Chest pains. First of all, any chest pain that you feel, most especially if it is sudden and intense or, persistent, must be immediately brought to the attention of a healthcare provider. Chest pains can signal an impending heart attack. Of course, other conditions can also make your chest ache, among many, that includes: muscle strain, ulcer, and Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD or, acid reflux).

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Here’s a guide prepared by the Harvard Medical School to help you distinguish chest pain that is likely due to a heart attack versus chest pain that may be caused by other reasons:

More likely to be a heart attack

Less likely to be a heart attack

Sensation of pain, or of pressure, tightness, squeezing, or burning Sharp or knifelike pain brought on by breathing or coughing
Gradual onset of pain over the course of a few minutes Sudden stabbing pain that lasts only a few seconds
Pain in diffuse area, including a constant pain in middle of chest Pain clearly on one side of the body or the other
Pain that extends to the left arm, neck, jaw, or back (see figure below) Pain that is localized to one small spot
Pain or pressure accompanied by other signs, such as difficulty breathing, a cold sweat, or sudden nausea Pain that lasts for many hours or days without any other symptoms
Pain or pressure that appears during or after physical exertion or emotional stress (heart attack) or while you are at rest (unstable angina) Pain reproduced by pressing on the chest or with body motion

Give Your Heart The Love It Deserves

People say that you have to love yourself first so that you can love others more. Caring for your heart today is one of the best ways that you can demonstrate self-love. Get yourself screened for heart disease most especially when you feel any of the common signs and symptoms of an unhealthy heart shared in this article, and if you have any one or more of the following risk factors:

  • old age (above 45)
  • hypertension
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • overweight or obesity
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • family history
  • chronic stress
  • any existing heart condition
  • previous heart attack

(This article is unsponsored.  It is not meant to provide any medical or treatment advise of any sort.  Please seek the help of a medical professional if you think you may need treatment.)

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Entertaining At Home For The Holidays

Thank goodness for the Holidays! It’s that time of the year once again when we gather around for great food with our closest family and friends to celebrate Christmas. Tonight, it gets even more special as every home prepares the traditional Noche Buena feast.

In the Philippines, we are known for celebrating the longest Christmas season. The Christmas Fever begins September 1. It never fails to overwhelm my friends from other countries, really. If you are organizing a Holiday reunion, sometimes it takes an entire year to prepare it because everyone gets so busy around December, that it is best for you to block off everyone’s schedules months ahead.

Nothing Like Home

Most people these days will choose the convenience of renting a serviced residence or reserving a table at some cozy place over entertaining at home. The top consideration is cooking and cleaning up before and after the party. In many instances, travel time and space considerations also factor in.

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Generally, for Christmas Eve at least, Filipinos would gather at one home, usually with extended families but, more and more people stay home with just their respective family units. Here’s a quick checklist that you can use to  make sure that you’re ready to host Noche Buena and Media Noche at your place:

1. Clean your home. Where do you start? Good question. In general, start cleaning from the ceiling (make sure to dust off those spider webs!), then the walls and shelves, then down to the floor. The toilets in your home, not just the one that your guests will be using, need to be scrubbed. It pays for you to give more attention to this part of your house because you want your guests to feel comfortable when nature calls, not to mention, you want your house to smell fresh and clean, and bad smelling toilets can easily spoil that.

Add a bowl or hang a basketful of potpourri. In my toilets, I hang hand towels washed with fabric softener and then I spray just a little bit of a bleaching solution and fabcon. I use the same solution to clean surfaces and my floors. After that, the house smells wonderful! It is so much unlike when you just spray air deodorizer or place a gel freshner that dissipates in seconds, this one stays. I like spraying the same solution to my curtains, bedding, and rugs as well. I’m pretty sure when I get a sofa, it will get this same treatment too.

2. Decorate. The best part of home entertaining is bringing the Christmas spirit to your home. Of course it gets a lot harder and more expensive if you are decorating a larger space that includes both indoor and outdoor spaces. I personally like LED lights bright and white. This year, as we transition to a new home, I opted for a DIY, non-traditional Christmas tree. The kids and I saw this beautiful Eiffel Tower-inspired makeshift tree at the mall once — not for sale — made of silvery glittered strings that we tried to recreate it.

To do away with having to use steel to stand the tree, we opted for a thick silver insulation (cost: Php 150 per meter) which I rolled into a cone. I attached rhinestone bands (Php 150 per roll) to the outer side to make the material more shimmery. Then, I topped off with two 5-meter bright white LED lights with blinking functionalities. I must admit that it does not look much when the sun is up but, at night, it does feel like the stars in the heavens are gracing my home. I tacked some of the aguinaldos and bagged gifts on it to make it even more personalized.

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I almost forgot to rave about how wonderfully, flowers can instantly cheer up and brighten your home. Make that a must for your centerpiece but also add bits and pieces to the periphery. These beautiful gifts of nature will also make your Holiday photos prettier and cozier.

3. Wrap up the gifts. What is Christmas without gifts? The season gets even merrier with these surprises. If you have little children at home or, as guests, Christmas Eve becomes merrier with gifts tucked under the tree. Hunting for the right gift for the right person at your budget level can be pretty tough but, always exciting. Don’t feel pressured to give expensive gifts just get something your friends and family members can make practical use of.

4. Let the Holiday music play. Add more Holiday cheer to your home’s ambiance with cheerful Christmas singing in the background. I personally like our local chorales singing to popular and traditional Philippines Christmas songs but, I haven’t had the chance to get copies of these. I settled for another great musical genre — that of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and their contemporaries. Music sets up your and your guests’ Holiday spirits.

5. Make sure you can stay relaxed. Make sure that you can sit down and talk to your guests when they arrive. Here are some pointers:

  • Prepare everything that can be prepared ahead, ahead of time. From my in-laws, I’ve learned this cooking technique they call sinangkutcha (I’m not even sure I’m writing the term correctly here) but, the concept involves getting all the meat sautéd and boiled to your desired tenderness as early as the day before. On Christmas morning, you can just add in the sauces, spices and garnishing.
  • Consider disposables. Don’t keep yourself away from entertaining your guests because you need to do the dishes in between. The environmentalists will have a say but, if you’re entertaining at home without maids, it really isn’t practical for you to bring out the silverware. I personally choose paper or starch plates and glasses over plastic plates so that your disposables remain biodegradable.
  • Designate a trash collection area. This should be easily accessible to you and to your guests as well. Don’t  have to collect soiled dishes. Your guests will be happy to throw in their own trash.
  • Keep that toilet dry and clean. I regularly have a mopper in each of my bathrooms. I hate wet floors. I don’t remove those moppers from sight even with visitors. It’s sort of a cue for them to  leave behind the floors as dry when they got there. Make sure there’s liquid soap in the sink and towels to dry their hands with. Add in alcohol and lotion when you can. I also like dropping those blue solid detergents into the tank. They help keep the odor away and pretty much last until your party ends.

6. Cook hearty, festive Holiday dishes. The stars of the feast. We all love food and they make gatherings even more memorable. I like making Hors d’oeuvres for my guests — simple ones, nothing fancy that requires cooking. I cut up celery stalks and carrots. If there’s cucumber, cut them up too. I have chips ready and prepare a dip made with ginger, juice of a slice of lemon, hot chilis, basil, onion chives, and a sauce made from reduced fresh milk and melted cheese. Wines and liquors should also be chilled and ready to be served. These will keep early birds busy as you wait for the others and put the finishing touches to your dishes.

Check out the following Holiday dishes that we make in our home and that you might want to try in your own kitchen:

Roast Pork Belly

Beef Morcon

Arroz Valenciana

Callos

Chocolate Cookies

From my family and I to yours, Merry Christmas and cheers to a prosperous New Year! We hope you find warmth in this season of joy.

 

The Challenges Of Freelancing

Still contemplating on quitting your job and starting your own business where the only investment required are your brains, your time, and your own brand of hard work?

Freelancing might seem too easy, most especially when you get all tangled up in destructive online literature that try to sell you the “Top 10 Secrets To Become A Successful Freelancer” ebook or, the “The Best Strategies To Earn Six-Digits As A Freelancer” course. Ha! So, be careful.

It’s A Whole Lot Of Sweat, Blood And Tears

I started freelancing in 2013. I was not contemplating on quitting my day job but just to pass the time and distract my mind from the very serious literature that came with my work in the world of social development. When I’m working online, I realized that I didn’t have to waste two precious hours debating the problems of the world with people who could hardly understand what  people on the ground really need. Working online meant completing a task, usually just one very specific task — in my case, that could be writing an article, a web copy, a blog or, an ebook, and delivering these on agreed timelines and to the specs provided by my clients. Simple, ain’t it?

Not. If you’re seriously courting the idea of working as a freelancer, whether as a writer, graphics designer, applications developer, accountant, virtual assistant, and what not, there are certain downsides of freelancing that you must become aware of and take into consideration before jumping ship.  Listed below are just the top five challenges of freelancing (well, from my perspective, of course):

Challenge No. 5: Dealing with difficult clients. Aha! Now, even if you don’t have to deal with annoying officemates when you’re freelancing, you still do have to deal with difficult clients. I am blessed, I guess, that in my less than five years of freelancing, I’ve so far been duped, unpaid (wawa!) by just one client. I had to really study the material. It was for a graduate school course work about tuberculosis. I got paid for the first milestone then, the client disappeared!

Unfortunately, freelancers do have to bite the bullet. You have to accept that, in most situations, you’re on the losing end of the table. Eventually, you will be able to find honest clients who hate to make their workers feel short changed. Even then, what I’ve found useful is to negotiate the terms of work and payment with your client beforehand. For example, request to be paid 50 per cent of the total amount when you’ve drafted half of the book, and the remaining amount upon completion.

Protect yourself from unfair requests for revisions too by defining how many times your client can send back the work with his or her comments for you to revise BEFORE you exert any effort on the assignment. Where there is anything vague, make sure to ask, clarify, and reach an agreement with your client — and document it by email or by chatting.

There are also online platforms for freelancers that help you stay protected and make sure that you get paid for your hard work. These platforms facilitate the work contracts and payments, some even making sure that the client has funded the work and holds it in escrow. The funds are released as soon as you and your client agree that a milestone has been achieved. The downside of these platforms is that they take a percentage of your pay which serves as management or facilitation fee.

Challenge No. 4: Meeting your deadlines. There’s all sorts of work opportunities online, and if you’re keen enough and have the drive to keep learning new things, you’ll never run out of services to offer other people. Thing is, your energy is a constant — you can only do so much in a day because you need to sleep, no matter how organized you are or, how diligently you fill out and try to stick with your notes on your Starbucks planner. That’s how our bodies work and there’s nothing that you can do about it.

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I’ve found myself several times in challenging situations where I have committed to overlapping deadlines with multiple clients. The most number of clients I’ve had to serve at the same time was four. I find myself in these situations when my primary clients aren’t sending over work so, the remedy is to look for other work opportunities.

I would say I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to meet my deadlines in spite of the crazy requirements and timelines. It’s being familiar with my work pacing that I’ve been able to negotiate reasonable deadlines. Of course, I also made sure that each of my clients felt that my output was the product of blood, sweat, and tears — and sleepless days and nights. (Seriously, sometimes I don’t even know what day it is!)

Key takeaway: Negotiate. May I also add that you should keep your clients updated of how far and long you are to completing the job.

Challenge No. 3: Making yourself available 24/7. So, how do you make yourself available 24/7? It’s not possible. All it really means is that you are consistently online at specific times of the day and make sure that your client knows about it.

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I have to confess I’ve been guilty with this point lately, mostly due to unreliable Internet connection — the biggest “no, no” when you’re doing online work. Unfortunately, my current residential arrangements neither permits a Fiber nor a DSL connection. I see this issue dragging on for the next couple of months or so. For now, the only track I can take is to let my clients know that I am on unreliable broadband and LTE connections. Nevertheless, I made sure I had redundant means to stay online, even though that still does not permit me to spend 24 hours on real-time apps, such as on Skype, because LTE and broadband are more expensive and do not give me unlimited Internet time.

There are some types of freelance work, like serving as a virtual assistant, where less than a DSL connection cannot apply. Often, clients will define their IT requirements, most especially when they need you online at specific times of the day or, if they have to consistently reach out to you.

Challenge No. 2: Keeping up with the “K’s” and “Q’s”(“Kings” and “Queens”) of freelancing. There’s no dull moment if you’re a freelancer. Heck! That’s why I couldn’t even post a single article on this personal blog for months now. I have to keep myself valuable to my clients by delivering valuable work. Unlike in a traditional 8 to 5 job where employees are protected by labor rights, including tenure, freelancers are highly dispensable. That’s partly because there’s so much talent all over the world.

So, when you do get all serious about becoming a freelancer or, if you are already freelancing, think about what added value (a value proposition) you are bringing to your clients. In my case, a lot of people can write but, not too many can connect with their readers, plus I also keep proving that I am worthy of my client’s trust not to plagiarize, to research my topics well, and to consistently deliver top grade work (Ahem!). They’re very smart and they will be able to tell if you are worth their money or not.

Challenge No. 1: It can’t be all about the Benjamins, Baby! If you’re really hardworking and have the  stamina to be the best of the best in your chosen field of freelancing then, you can literally see those Benjamins credited regularly to your account. Once you get the hang of it, you’re going to keep wanting more!

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Here are just some of the situations where your interest for those Benjamins have to take the backseat:

  • When quality has to come first. Don’t turn in work just because you need to hit your financial targets for that specific period. Keep in mind that freelancing has a lot to do with earning a good reputation for delivering quality outputs which is not very common in the world of online work.

When you recognize how difficult it is to find a client who is as hardworking and honest as you are, you will learn to always put quality first, even above your Benjamins. That’s because you respect your client, and you know he or she is smart and will be able to tell good from bad quality of work. If you turn in less than stellar output, it’s likely your client will find a replacement. In the end, you lose big time.

  • You simply need to get offline. As a freelancer, you will be spending most of your time online, even when you’re the first person in your home to get up in the morning and still be the last to hit the sheets after midnight. You need to raise your monthly financial targets and that’s your reality. However, you do have to set aside time to do other things than just working on your tasks, negotiating with your clients, and looking for your next client.

You’re wanted by your clients any time, all the time but, your loved ones need to spend time with you too. After all, that’s one major benefit of freelancing that you do have to learn to take advantage of. Besides, when you get downtime, your productivity bounces back more fiercely so, find time to close that laptop and do something more personal.

Just last month, I had to re-learn the wisdom of taking a break. Normally, I would run my basic errands throughout the day — do the household chores, and fetch the kids from school, even pick up stuff from the market or the mall — but, always with my laptop in tow. I’m writing my articles while waiting for school dismissal. I type away during guitar class. I’m up before I prep breakfast, and I’m still online long after my family is in deep slumber. My body had to force me to stop for a full week with a terrible headache and flu that came with sore eyes, as if making sure I wouldn’t peek into my Skype or email while I’m on my flu meds! I’ve forgotten to set aside “me” time. We all need that constantly.

  • Your client is facing business difficulties. You must not offer your services for free or, at a bargain. However, when your relationship with a client has grown to become more personal, you also cannot help but care — it’s human nature. It also comes so much more naturally when you realize that your long-time, repeat client has been financing your freelancer lifestyle and paying for the bills.

You have to realize that when your client succeeds, you succeed with him or her too. That means you have to be ready to negotiate for a win-win situation, not just you winning on one end, even when that might mean getting lower rates. One of my clients re-negotiated my rate once. I agreed for a lower rate that was still acceptable to me which came with a promise that I will get higher volume of work which, in turn, translated to higher total earnings — win-win.

  • Humanity calls. Other than my recent bout with flu, there was one other time I remember when I had to tell my client I had to be offline for two full weeks. That was when I got involved in humanitarian work for Tacloban City which Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated in 2013. I was surprised how my client even thank me for putting in work for the people who badly needed help and relief. Sometimes, there are just some things that need to be on top of your freelancing business, and among those moments is when you have been given the power and the opportunity to help others.

What’s It Going To Be?

Still think you will succeed as a freelancer? You probably will. You’ve heard what entrepreneurs have shared about putting up your own business and making sure it succeeds? They say you need patience, a lot of hard work, and the heart to take the leap and risk it. The same is true with freelancing. It may or, may not be for you but, you’ll never know unless you try.

See also: What pros aren’t telling you about becoming an online freelancer

“Mom, Can I Have My Own YouTube Channel?” – Must You Approve Or Refuse?

Last night, my grade school aged son popped me this question.  Initially, I thought that he was being silly. My first reaction was a grin and a crisp, “Hahaha”.  Having realized that he was still waiting for a serious response, I said, “Why?”

“All Of My Friends Are On YouTube!”

According to the 2014 study, “Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development” published in the Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22475444>, young people say they want to be on social networking sites (SNS) “to stay in touch with friends, make plans, get to know people better, and present oneself to others”.

The researchers were able to find evidence that adolescents participating in SNS benefit from advancing their social skills. Nevertheless, the study also found several negative impacts concerning social media and children, that includes comparing themselves with others in their network.

I Said, “No”

My son presented me with 100 other reasons why he needs to be on YouTube but, in the end, I said, “No” and it was non-negotiable. Of course, he asked me back, “Why not?”

I gave him these Top 5 reasons why I wouldn’t let him have his own YouTube account:

1.  There are too many bad people in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t lost my faith in humanity. I teach my kids to trust people but, before I tell them that, I tell them to doubt others first. Unfortunately, there are too many bad people lurking online waiting for their next prey. Frankly, Internet privacy and security is not something most of us, not even our institutions including our children’s schools, are teaching our kids.

2.  There is an appropriate age to be on SNS.  Based on the US Children’s Online Privacy Act, that age is 13 but, in most territories, that’s really not defined. The bottomline is that, there is a certain level of maturity necessary to understand the benefits and risks inherent with having accounts on SNS.

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3.  The inherent risks are real security risks for children and your entire family. I told my son, “You’re simply too young to know what kinds of information you should be sharing online and not”. Can you imagine a public post that reads, “Gone for the Holidays. Off to Hawaii!” That’s the same thing as inviting burglars to rob you while you’re sipping your piñacolada, watching the sun set on the other side of the world. I see many adults continue to post such information so, how can we expect kids to do any better?

4.  Younger children must learn to connect with others in more traditional ways first. It’s harder to feel empathy when you’re online. Online communication makes your child miss out on most of the more important non-verbal cues which, sometimes, say more than what is actually being said or typed back. Succeeding in life is always linked to how well somebody is able to connect with others and genuinely care. My son needs to learn those values first so that, someday, he may be able to contribute to the good, valuable content available online.

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5.  Any information made available online becomes public property.   I don’t count on any SNS privacy and security policy because the truth of the matter is that we are all leaving footprints of ourselves whenever we are online. Of course, the audience settings on Facebook or, the non-public posts on YouTube videos are helpful yet, there is always the possibility of getting that “private” information out there, most especially when these are shared with others, even with just a handful of people very close to you.

Whatever my son posts on the Internet becomes part of his online footprint and can have an impact on his future. Before he creates his YouTube account or any other SNS account, therefore, I need him to appreciate the fact that owning and managing a social media account is a big responsibility he has to be able to keep for his sake and for the sake of others, including both the people he knows and not.

One thing is for sure, now is not YET the time for him to have any sort of social media identity. Well, but, that’s just me. Have your children asked you about creating a social media account? What’s your take on this?

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What To Do When You Got A Full Week To Travel The Philippines

When you have a full week to spend in Manila, Philippines, don’t just stay in the capital! Make time to visit the nearby provinces.

Via domestic flights, you can opt to:

1. Catch the hidden natural wonders of Palawan. The capital, Puerto Princesa is alluring but, if you want more enchantment, go to El Nido or, click to see what’s in store for you in Coron.

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One of the hidden falls on the road south from Puerto Princesa.
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On the way up and down to Kayangan Lake, Coron, Philippines.

2. Fly to Bohol. From Tagbilaran, arrange for road transportation to see the Philippine Tarsier, one of the smallest mammals and the one with the largest eyes, and witness the grandeur of The Chocolate Hills of Bohol. See the old churches around town, although many have been destroyed by the 2013 major earthquake that struck the island. Take the Loboc River Cruise and have your lunch on a raft. Proceed to Panglao Island or, in case you don’t have premium budget for an overnight stay, choose one of the resorts by the shore and just take a day trip to the island.

Philippine Tarsier in Bohol, Philippines
When in Bohol, have your photo taken with a Tarsier on your shoulder. Don’t hold if you’re too afraid so as not to harm them. They’re cute but very fragile. They are highly endemic, endangered and bred in captivity.
The Chocolate Hills of Bohol, Philippines
Watch The Chocolate Hills of Bohol from a view deck. You’ll keep wondering how such a magnificent natural wonder was formed by the earth’s violent movements.
Loboc River
Have lunch on one of the rafts or, simply take a cruise down this quiet, still, and historic river of Bohol.

3. Catch the sun in Bicol. Misibis Bay is located on Cagraray Island, Bacacay in Albay Province. To get there, fly Manila to Legazpi City. Feast at the sight of the majestic, perfectly shaped cone of Mayon Volcano and take an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) or even hike up before proceeding to Misibis Bay after lunch or, early the following day.

Mayon Volcano
It greets you the moment you step out of your plane and arrive in Legazpi City, Albay — Mount Mayon, best known as the volcano with a perfectly shaped cone.
Mayon Volcano
Get up close and personal with Mount Mayon. Rent one of these cool ATVs. You can also choose to hike up to the peak. Make sure to check in with the locals before heading to the top as this is a very active volcano and there are danger zones off limits to trekkers.
Bigg's Diner at Embarcadero
Don’t leave Albay without getting a taste of the local “good food” favorite, “Bigg’s Diner”. Make it the branch located at Embarcadero where there is a viewing deck with telescopes so you can view the peak of Mount Mayon and the port below.

 

If you’d rather travel on the road, Boy, Oh Boy, you’re in for a feast for the senses — yes, that includes a rather extraordinary experience for your tastebuds and tummy too.  If you got just 1 week to tour around Manila and the provinces in Luzon, here’s an itinerary that you can use.

Day 1: Arrival.  Check in to Sofitel Philippine Plaza or Hotel H2O for a magnificent view of Manila Bay and the sunset laid out in front of you. Make sure to get a bay side view. If you’d rather see the bustling night life of Makati City or, The Fort in Taguig City, there are also plenty of hotels, both posh and business style, that you can choose from.

Day 2: Drive Out South. Leave your hotel early morning to catch the early morning sunrise of Tagaytay, located about an hour up to 1.5 hours drive from Makati or Manila Bay. Have a cozy breakfast at Antonio’s to experience the ambiance of the glorious Spanish Era in the Philippines or, have a filling buffet breakfast with a full view of the Lake and Taal Volcano at Josephine’s. If you love your Starbucks and just want to take shots of your espresso, there’s a bar located in the area also facing the lake.

Taal Volcano, Tagaytay, Philippines
Catch a view of the Taal Lake on any of the establishments fronting the lake. If you want a closer encounter, take a boat ride and head to Taal Volcano.

From here, you can drive up to a beach in Batangas or, try the hot springs of San Pablo or Calamba in Laguna. Batangas is a diving site. If you’re into that, then you should make time to spend a day or two in Batangas. If you’d rather take a relaxing dip in a hot pool of water, head to Laguna where manmade pools are filled with natural hot spring water coming from the lakes and mountains in the area. You can choose to stay or, go back late afternoon to your hotel in Manila.

Day 3: Drive Up North. Drive back to Manila on to C-5 or via EDSA, all the way to the North Luzon Express Way (NLEX). Make Pampanga your first stop. If you love the outdoors, most especially when you are traveling with grade school aged children, you should check out the activities at Sandbox, located in Porac, Pampanga.

Or, you can also just go on a gastronomic adventure in Pampanga. After all, it is recognized as the Culinary Capital of the Philippines. You can’t miss Aling Lucing’s Sisig in Angeles City. Don’t fill up because you do have to try nearby Mila’s for their Chicharon Bulaklak and Paco Salad with Salted Egg too.

Mila's Chicharon Bulaklak
Mila’s Chicharon Bulaklak — the crunchiest, juiciest pack you’ll ever have!
Mila's Paco Salad
Balance out the grease with this local salad served with salted eggs and tomatoes.

If you want to go full outdoor fun then, you should drive up all the way to Mt. Pinatubo for a rugged adventure. This mountain last erupted on June 15, 1991, which buried several towns in Zambales, Pampanga and Tarlac, while the effects of the eruption were felt worldwide. It continues to be the home of Aetas, a group of indigenous people residing in Luzon. Several tour packages are available which take you on a combination of a 4×4 drive and hiking to the mouth of this caldera for a view of the lake.

Stay a night in hotels inside or within the vicinity of Clark Field where one of two former US bases (the other one was in Subic) was once located.

Day 4: Head to The Hundred Islands. Former Filipina beauty queen, Charlene Gonzales, was asked during the Miss Universe Pageant, “How many islands is the Philippine archipelago made up of?” to which she wittingly answered, “High tide or, low tide?” The 100 islands in the 7,100 islands that make up the Philippines is located in Alaminos, Pangasinan. From Pampanga, it should take you half of the day to get there. According to Ms Gonzales it could go up to 108 or, experts claim, possibly more, on low tide.

Your target is to get to Alaminos by sundown because there are no hotels in the area. Instead, you should get a guest room from local homes of townsfolk. You need not worry as these are all registered by the local government. However, do not expect the convenience of a five-star hotel. You should also ask your host for a “bangkero” or boat’s man. It’s best for you to book your boat now and ask your boat’s man or host as well if they can market and prepare lunch for you on one of the islands the following day.

Hundred Islands
See one of the best offerings of Islands Philippines by visiting Alaminos, Pangasinan — your entry point to The Hundred Islands National Park.

Must-try food? Fresh Sinigang na Hipon or Isda (Shrimp or Fish in Tamarind Soup Base), Inihaw na Liempo (Grilled Pork Ribs), and Alaminos Longganisa — one of my most favorite sausages of all time!

Day 5: Sail to the Islands. Spend the early morning to around noon touring the many islands in the area. Take lunch and make room to befriend the locals. Dare yourself and your company to find your own island and practically really own it for several hours.

Make it back to shore by around two or three in the afternoon. Pack and drive farther up north to Baguio. You should be in your next destination by dinner time. To experience the best of Baguio, you should book a room in advance at The Manor or, Le Monet Hotel which are both located inside Camp John Hay. If you’d rather experience the city center, I personally recommend the newly refurbished Paragon Hotel on Otek Street just one block away from Burnham Park.

Warning: It can get really chilly at night so you better not be wearing the beach outfit you had on at Hundred Islands.

Day 6: Explore the best of Baguio. For a more detailed account of what you can do during your stay, check out this post and this post and this if you want to go all the way to Sagada. Baguio is only about four hours drive away from Manila so, you can either spend another night or, head out on Day 6.

Day 7: Visit Old Manila. If your plane leaves late evening, you can still catch the grandeur of Old Manila and go fully loaded on history by visiting Fort Santiago, Intramuros, and the National Museum.

Spoliarium by Juan Luna
Spoliarium by Juan Luna at the Main Gallery of The National Museum. Juan Luna topped other entries to the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 held in Madrid with this painting. It was a defining moment for Filipinos where they beat the Spaniards, the colonizers, during the Expo. You should also take the time to go to nearby Intramuros and Fort Santiago or, even take a half day tour of Corregidor, a historic island just off the coast of Manila Bay.

Been to any of these places? Share your tips. If you found this guide helpful and actually used it to tour Philippines, whether you are a local or a foreigner, give your thumbs up, better yet, share the most defining moments of your trip with us! Happy vacationing!

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