Friday, November 30, 2012

Dressing the Bump: the Empire Waist

Thirty-five weeks and not a single pair of maternity pants in sight!

Some pregnant women might be thinking that they have to spend a bundle on clothes that they'll only be using for a few months. Well, ladies, I'm here to tell you that you don't! I've lasted nearly nine months (!) without buying any maternity clothes (aside from one suuuuuuper comfortable maxi dress that I can live in forever), and just using stuff from my existing wardrobe. Of course, I wasn't one to wear anything ultra-fitted to begin with. Funny how I feel better about wearing clingy things now that I have a bump! This little monster is something I want the world to see (versus my old, babyless-but-round-tummy. Har).

This is the first in a series of posts about things that you might already own and can still use during your pregnancy. You'll be spending a lot on other stuff, so it helps to save where you can! And if you must buy new duds, you don't have to limit yourself to the maternity section--you can actually get things that you can use even after you give birth. I think I'm fortunate though that I've been on track with the weight gain, plus most (if not all) of the lbs have gone to my tummy. So my clothes still pretty much fit. (Another reason to keep your weight in check!)

My first pregnancy wardrobe staple: the empire waist. To the uninitiated, an empire waist is a waistline cut above one's natural waistline, right below the bust. Because seriously, you do not want to wear something that sits on your natural waist once you start ballooning.

Most dresses with an empire waist usually have flowy fabric after the cut, so there's a lot of room for your growing belly. All three dresses above are things I've had for ages. (I do love a good empire waist since it tends to be more forgiving.) The first dress, though, is a bit more streamlined, so it sadly doesn't fit over my belly anymore.

I've got a few more go-to preggo styles in succeeding posts. Expectant mommas, what are your own wardrobe staples?:)

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I thought my first official baby shower was going to be yesterday, but my wonderful co-workers surprised me with one last Friday! And because I wasn't prepared (i.e., I wasn't able to charge my camera), this one Instagram photo will have to do for now...

Photo by Cosmo's EIC/Instagrammer Extraordinaire Myrza Sison

Details (clockwise from top left):
  1. As I was walking down a corridor, I saw one of the girls clutching Japanese paper. I just figured she was working on a racket without telling me. Haha. They decorated the pantry with these hanging pouffs. On the table: a delicious spread from Conti's, including my absolute favorite baked salmon!
  2. Super cute colorful plastic spoons and forks. We all wanted a mismatched pair when it came time to eat! And the polka-dot table cloth is courtesy of...the prop room. Haha. It reminded me of an adorable office baby shower that I saw in the now-defunct Blueprint (I loooved this magazine!).
  3. A giddy me! I was super touched that they went through all that trouble. The entire GH staff was there, plus friends from other magazines. On that day, I was wearing my trusty black maxi dress and a chambray shirt knotted above my bump. Not seen: my zebra-print flats.
  4. A fantastic white chocolate cheesecake with macadamia nut brittle from Kitchen's Best! Ermegerd. If I didn't have a weigh-in to worry about, I would've finished the damn thing. IT WAS SO FRICKIN' GOOD.
And as if all these weren't enough, they gave me my coveted Flexibath! I had been wanting this collapsible, space-saving tub ever since Frances recommended it. And now it's mine! (Er, the monster's!)

I can't thank my team enough. Not only are they so talented, hardworking, and such a joy to work with, but they're also so incredibly thoughtful. I joked that the last thing one should do is spring a surprise on a heavily pregnant woman, but I do love surprises, and I am very very grateful! A little thank you *kick* from monster as well!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

So You Want to Be a Writer

...who gets paid to write. If you're interested in becoming a contributor (specifically to my magazine), these are some of the things you have to keep in mind:

1. Know how to write! There are "writers" who don't seem to know the difference between its and it's, every day and everyday, should have and the abominable should of (cringe). There are those who use one word over and over, and those who hit shift+F7 every sentence. (You may think you're so smart for using such big words but, trust me, people can tell when you're dissimulating it.-> See what I did there?) And then there are those who use my pet peeve: dangling modifiers. 

If you want to write professionally, you first need to know the rules. And basic grammar! And it helps to know your idioms. Since Filipinos aren't native English speakers, that's where a lot of us stumble. (And while we're on the topic: It's result in, not result to.)

So many people fancy themselves the writer, but really, it's not just about putting sentences together. I feel slightly peeved whenever someone assumes that it's easy. Case in point, a recent conversation...

X: I want to make money out of writing. How do I start?
Me: Hmm. You have to put a portfolio together, then maybe try submitting your work to editors. Although as an editor, I tend to favor those with previously published work.
X: I'm a [insert another profession here], so it should be easy for me.
Me: ...

I'm not saying that I would make a good [X's profession here] any more than this person would make a good writer. But I feel that what I do, what people in my industry do, deserves some respect. Writing isn't easy. (It could be. Sometimes.) It's hard work. Answering essay questions when you were in school doesn't automatically make you a writer. You need to hone the skill, and you need to develop an ear for it—I know that sounds odd, but there has to be some sort of melody and harmony when you put words together. And that's not something you can just do on a whim.

2. Follow the brief. So what happens when an editor is impressed enough with your writing samples to give you an assignment? Unless he or she tells you that you can go nuts and give it whatever treatment you want, stick to the brief. I always send my contributors very detailed briefs, which include the topic, questions I want answered, tone, word count, even the references I would like to see ("Interview at least two financial experts"). I send pegs for format and tone. Sometimes I can't help myself and even suggest a rough outline, because I do not like surprises when it comes to assignments—I don't like getting submissions that are way off the mark. But it happens. I don't know how, but it happens. And then it's a whole big back-and-forth between me and the contrib or, if there's no time, a big rehash job for me. Or if there's really no time, we suddenly have to go in a direction I'm not happy with because the contrib couldn't follow a simple brief. If you MUST go a different direction for whatever reason, discuss it with your editor as soon as you can.

You have to understand that briefs are there for a reason. The topic is well-thought-out, something the editorial team brainstormed about. The concept has been discussed by the section editor and the art director, so there's a planned layout already, with earmarked space for text. Your assignment is also part of a bigger picture--I like to have a mix of different formats (lengthy features; piece-y, tip-filled articles; image-heavy stories), and when you don't follow the brief, sometimes those plans go awry, causing discord in a perfectly planned issue. Things like word count aren't a mere suggestion or a random number pulled out of nowhere. I've had to edit a 4,000-word article down to the 2,000 words indicated in the brief. Conversely, I've had to turn a 350-word "article" (which looked more like an outline) into something with the required 1,000 words.

I paid the writer 35% of the fee. 

Follow the damn brief.  

3. Do your research. When you write for a publication, make sure that you get your info from experts in the field or books written by credible authors—not from Wikipedia. I once read an advice column in a local magazine (not Summit!), and all the answers were culled from various websites. Que horror! The readers might as well have Googled the answers to their questions themselves!

It annoys me no end when I read an article that quotes heavily from websites. I've had to include "no websites as reference please" in the briefs I send out, because in this day and age, people have just gotten so used to firing up the search engine whenever they need info. When you write something for a publication, you have to make sure that the info you give is more than something a quick search will yield. Talk to actual people. Ask questions that the basic post doesn't cover. Refer to good books (and attribute!). It's about giving your article the kind of value that a Google-able story doesn't give.

4. Edit yourself. In your haste to submit an article, you may skip a very valuable part of the process: re-reading and refining. I can tell when something was thrown together at the last minute. The misspelled words (and spell check is a standard feature!), the incohesiveness, the lack of a logical flow... Learn to edit yourself--and allow for time to do so. An error-laden submission tells me that you didn't really put that much time and effort into the assignment. Which brings me to...

5. Make a good impression. It's about meeting deadlines. It's about submitting quality work. I've had contributors give me all sorts of excuses for not meeting the deadline. I've had contributors submit something that's so far from what was discussed. (See #2.) I've had contributors suddenly back out of an assignment. 

I have had them blacklisted. Or, at least, I avoid getting them if I can.

We have deadlines for a reason. Sometimes, the lateness can be justified, and I really do try to understand, especially if it's a one-off and the contrib has proven to be generally reliable. But if you're a first-time contrib and you submit late, you can bet that you won't be hearing from me again. Here I am, giving you a chance to get your work published (an opportunity you tell me you're very grateful for), and you blow it. What's up with that? And what makes you think I'll subject myself to that again?

Deadlines are sacred to us because we run on a schedule that involves editing text, laying it out, turning it over to production, proofing, and printing. The entire process is delayed the minute you submit late. And that makes me cranky. It also makes me feel somewhat disrespected--we had an agreement, and you didn't fulfill your end of the bargain.

Editors talk to each other. When looking for new contribs, I ask others for recommendations, and what they thought of certain contribs. You don't want to be branded as a flaker, or someone who submits shoddy work, or someone who's hit and miss. That's how you lose jobs. If you intend to make a career out of writing, you have to be that person we gush about, and that only happens when you consistently turn in good work, on time.

That being said, I think it's difficult to find writers nowadays who have that awesome combination of talent and a good work ethic. I know a few, but they're the ones who get a truckload of other writing jobs (precisely because of skill + work ethic), so they don't always have time to accept every assignment. If you feel that you've got what it takes, you might want to give it a shot. Leave a comment with your email address, and I'll let you know where you can send me your writing samples.:)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Closet Cleanup Tips

I had grand plans of having a garage sale this month. I have sooo much stuff to get rid of, and I got excited by the idea of organizing a cute little garage sale, based on a story that appeared in Real Living a few years ago. It was going to be really organized: I was going to group like items together in a pretty way, and not just haphazardly. I was going to hang all dresses and blazers on a clothes rack (which I already had). I was going to have piles of neatly folded shirts and jeans. I was going to have a table with books I wanted to let go of. I was going to have a section just for shoes, and another just for bags. I was going to have stickers on all the merchandise, indicating price, and I would just stick the tags of sold items onto a notebook for easier tallying. I was deciding between wearing a fanny pack (haha) and keeping a cash box. I was going to have tons of P5 and P10 coins for change. I was going to use all the paper bags I had lying around for purchased items. I even found someone to help me on the day of, because I felt that the sale had to be manned by two people at all times.
And then I remembered I was pregnant and just didn't need the added stress in my life!
I realized that our street isn't really heavy on the foot traffic, and I wasn't quite sure where I could post ads around the village. And it's been so frickin' HOT (in November!!!) that I couldn't imagine sitting outside all day. So I just gave all the stuff to my mom for her church group's own rummage sales. While it would have been nice to make a little bit of extra money, my main objective, really, was to get rid of clutter!
I've already tossed quite a few things, and I'm not even done yet: over a dozen pairs of shoes, over 20 bags, and lots and lots of dresses, pants, skirts, tops, and shawls. The process is pretty overwhelming, but it feels so good to have unloaded all that stuff. I think a lot of people are daunted by the idea of a closet cleanup, so allow me to tap into my Good Housekeeping side and offer a few tips:
  1. You don't have to do it all in one go. I divided my closet cleanup into phases, staggered over different days. I can't imagine spending an entire day pulling out stuff, trying them on, and deciding whether to keep or toss--that's just exhausting. So I set aside one to two hours over a few weekends to do the deed. Phase 1 was my dress closet (which is technically half my husband's closet. We are currently under negotiations regarding closet space...). Phase 2 was when I started on my dressing room--I weeded through all my pants and stuff on hangers, like long-sleeved tops and blazers. Phase 3 was folded items, so all my shirts and shorts. Phase 4 was bags and my shawl drawer--I never realized I had so many bags. I love opening my closet now and seeing all the space cleared! I have two more phases to go--my miscellaneous drawer (socks, tights, other random items) plus jewelry drawer, and some big bags full of stuff under my vanity. After that, I can finally move on to the guest room (a.k.a. our tambakan!).
  2. Know your style (and your lifestyle). I'm more of a classic dresser so I got rid of trendy items like harem pants. And I'm a grownup with minimal chances of going camping, so I said goodbye to a pair of cargo shorts. I got rid of a few jerseys, but I know I'll be going back to disc next year, so I had to keep a whole lot of them.
  3. Be brutal. I tried to be as brutal as possible, letting go of items that I had been hanging on to for one reason or another (none of which involved wearability). So, au revoir to stuff that I was keeping for sentimental reasons (e.g., "But it was a gift!"--keep the sentiment, not the item if you're really not going to use it), adios to the things I bought from ukay a few years ago ("But it was such a steal!"--well, it's looking a little ratty now), so long to bags I've had since before I got married but which I haven't used in years. I'm still on the fence about a top that served as my costume at my first ever CADs concert though. I know I'm never going to use it, but in this case, the sentimental value is great. It might just go into my "seasonal wear" pile (thick sweaters and scarves at the back of my closet).
  4. Do it regularly. Keeping clutter at bay shouldn't be a once-a-year event. The enemy of being organized is "mamaya na" ("I'll leave it for later"). Whenever possible, decide on the fate of specific items right then and there--what do I do with all this mail? I bought a new dress--which one should I toss to make room for it? I got all these beauty products that I can't use--what to do with them? (That last one is a perpetual problem at the office--there are days when my cube is just overrun with stuff, so I do "Free Stuff" day every few weeks.)
I'm hoping to be done with all phases of my cleanup in two weeks. Got any tips of your own? Let me know!