Winning Streak!

Sibo’s blog is an international winner!

People! How cool is this? My blog, as in the one that you read in the African Reporter every week (which also runs as a real online blog on my website) is a Global Blog Awards 2019 Winner. Seriously, you could have knocked both me and Ginny over with a feather.

Ginny saw the competition advertised on Facebook in April and entered the blog without really thinking about it too much. Last Monday, she got an email saying that our blog was one of 7 finalists out of the 258 participants that entered the Global Blog award.

The company that runs the blog competition, Ukiyoto, judges blogs not only on the content but the creativity, uniqueness, originality and focus as well. We are honoured, not to mention seriously chuffed, that they thought Sibo’s blog ticked all those boxes.

As part of a winner’s package, Ukiyoto will publish a book of my best blogs—a minimum of 15,000 words. So Ginny better get cracking and pick out the goodies. This book will then be marketed and sold around the world.

Do you have a favourite blog? Remember you can always search for topics. Let us know in the comments if you do.

As if that wasn’t exciting enough she got an email a few days later saying that she’d won another competition. This one was from The Writer’s College (UK, New Zealand and South African based online writing college). She’d submitted 600 words about her best writing tip.

Ginny used The Dog’s Blog as an example—the column she used to write for the Springs Advertiser. Not only is her article placed on their winner’s webpage as great writing advice, but she also won some cold hard cash!

The thing about competitions is, if you don’t enter them, you simply don’t stand a chance of winning. It’s not like playing the Lotto, or taking a raffle ticket, where it’s all up to chance either. It takes some effort to enter a competition, but the end result can be wildly exciting.

There are lots of different competitions out there, not only one for people who write. But if you are a writer, and have a good writing tip up your sleeve, why not visit this link and try your hand in the next ‘best writing advice’ competition.

Go out and make your own good luck people!

Sibo

Pop-up Book Fairs… or unfairs!

Position is everything when it comes to a book fair in a mall.

Last Saturday there was a pop-up book fair at our local mall. Initially, there were about 35 authors who had originally promised the organiser that they’d be there. Sadly, several of them cancelled at the last moment and we ended up with around 15 authors.

To make matters worse, the mall had positioned the book fair near one of the less-used entrances, in a closed off area that was darn near invisible unless you knew it was there and went looking for it.

There was no signage either.

Ginny and the organiser bounced around in the walkway, trying to entice people to at least come and look.

It’s amazing how many people are not interested in books. They’d simply say “No!”

So it’s not surprising our South African reading statistics are terrible. Reading should be done at home too. If kids see their parents reading, they’d be more likely to pick up a book. There was an article on EWN two weeks ago that proclaimed “Nearly half of SA children have never read a book with a parent”.

This is unbelievably sad.

Because our book fair was stashed in a well-hidden nook, it meant there were very few feet traipsing around the tables laden with books and other goodies. Some authors tend to entice readers with cookies and brightly wrapped chocolates. I’m not sure why they do this—Ginny certainly doesn’t—but possibly they think if a potential buyer snags a chocolate they’ll feel obliged to stay a little longer, read the back of a book or two and maybe even buy one.

The authors were not pleased with the lack of customers. Ginny used the quiet time to prowl around the tables and check out the other books. She came across a totally delightful, award winning story called ‘Smelly Cats’ written by a young girl named Stacey Fru. She wrote it when she was only seven. It has charming illustrations and the story is awesome. Stacey, now twelve, has written several more books and, amongst other things, is a motivational speaker. Check her out on Facebook to see just how fabulous she is.

Ginny’s mum bought Smelly Cats as a birthday gift for Isabella—her great grand-daughter (Ginny’s granddaughter) who is turning seven this year. We know her mum will read it to her, and soon she’ll probably be able to read it herself.

Judy Skeggs aka Ginny’s mum chatting to actress Milan Murray, who also writes kids books.

Take time out to read to your children please people.

Sibo

Expo’s are Awesome

It’s not what you know… but who you know when it comes to sponsorship.

Last week Ginny, Lets Look Publishers and I had great fun. We had a stand at the Africa Health Expo at the Gallagher Convention Centre for three whole days. It was an exhibition with loads of fancy medical equipment and interesting products, with people from all over the world exhibiting.

The delegates and visitors (and there were more than 10,000 medical professionals that attended this expo) wandered around, soaking up all the fancy, high-tech displays of technologies, products or services, on their way through the huge halls to the conference venue.

There were many interesting talks and lectures by top professionals from South Africa and the rest of the world during the three days. This is because medical professionals have to continually renew, refresh and update their knowledge when it comes to healthcare.

Informa, the London-based company that hosts this huge annual event, generously donated over R600k from the conference proceeds this year to the South African charity organization, Reach for a Dream.

Hundreds of people passed by our bright, simple, not-at-all-what-they-were-expecting-to-see-at-a-health-expo stand.

They’d stop and read the Sibo banner first. You could just imagine what they were thinking… What the @#$! is this all about?

Then their eyes would wander around the stall and alight on the interesting Sibo book covers or the snazzy wall charts. They’d be intrigued.

Lets Look Publishers have a huge variety of wallcharts on just about any topic that you can imagine, but obviously, we displayed all the health-related charts at the expo – trauma, TB, stress, anxiety, pregnancy, the brain, rape, the human body etc etc etc. You can check out the complete catalogue here.

Then somebody would pounce on the person or group and explain. On occasion, we ran out of people to explain yet the delegates would just hang around, patiently waiting their turn.

But sometimes people would just skid to a halt, shake their heads and exclaim “Tell us about Sibo!”

Turns out the medical community is just as interested in our books as the educational sector. Some nurses moaned because we don’t have titles on general safety, avoiding burns, washing hands, special needs and type 1 diabetes… YET!

The University of Pretoria Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control also had a stand at the expo, which was fabulous, because we worked with them a few years ago and wrote this book together. It’s being used in Limpopo to help bring about life-style change as far as avoiding malaria goes. We could just tell people to go and see for themselves how well Sibo works!

Ginny made fabulous contacts at the expo and we’re hoping that some of them translate into new Sibo titles on health-related topics. As we’ve explained in a previous blog, we like to find funding for interesting new subjects so that the books can be given out freely to kids.

Many children in South Africa do not own a single book.

That’s so sad. Worse, according to a recent survey, over 70% of our children cannot read for meaning in Grade Four. That’s just tragic. We all have to help fix this situation in any way we can.

Sibo’s books appeal to kids. They have bright, interesting illustrations that speak to the text. The stories are written in rhyme with important information gently woven into the storylines.

One of the subjects that also came up was entrepreneurship, something that has been dear to Ginny’s heart for ages.  Little people need to learn from a young age that if they want something, they should come up with clever ideas to help turn their dreams into reality. These days there is a culture of expectation. Hold thumbs that we can find a sponsor for this title too.

Thanks very much to Informa for facilitating our stand at the Africa Health Expo.

Stay tuned folks, we’ll be reporting back on all the interesting projects and books that transpire.

Happy days!

Sibo

Libraries are Lovely

Borrow a book from your local library today!

When last did you set foot in a library?

In the last few years, libraries have become somewhat obsolete, what with e-Books and the internet. Tasks and assignments that would have automatically driven one to the local library can now be looked up online with very little effort.

The whole culture of being in a space where one could trawl through volumes to:

  • find the necessary information
  • read it
  • be considerate of other users in the process
  • look after the borrowed book and return it in the same condition, to avoid the cross clucking of an irate librarian

has almost disappeared.

In reality, libraries are still fabulous places where all sorts of things happen. They don’t only have a wide selection of books to choose from, but also have motivating speakers, holiday activities, story hours and other interesting events.

They’re safe havens of quiet and solitude. Some libraries have areas where kids can do their homework. Photocopies can be made or one can just sit quietly and read.

The City of Joburg recently tweeted that they have extended selected library’s hours to be open on Sundays between 9am and 3pm.  This is awesome news.

Joining the library is easy. All you need is your identity document or driver’s license and a Municipality account. There’s a short form with basic details to complete. Parents can list their dependents on the form and they get their own library cards.  Books are normally issued for a two week period. Be warned though, if you bring them back late, you’ll have to pay a fine of R2 per book per week—even if they are only one day late.

If you borrow a book, it stands to reason that it needs to be looked after. Why… obviously, because many other people will want to read the same book!

Whilst the World Wide Web is incredibly useful, sometimes nothing beats a decent reference book that can be still found on a library shelf.

My friend Ginny’s local library even hosted a pop-up book fair, where a group of authors gathered and showcased their work. The books were for sale too, with a percentage of the sales being donated to the library. A win-win situation!

Join your local library—you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Many of our South African children have problems reading, this is a great way to help.

Sibo

Write it all down!

Journaling makes one a better person!

Hands up who journals regularly?

 “But I don’t have time…” I hear you say. Well people, make time because the only person who will benefit is you. Journaling is awesome for many different reasons.

For starters, it keeps you centred, helps identify your strengths and weaknesses and clears your head. Once you’ve written something down, you can let it go. It gives you an opportunity to reflect on your day, see what you were proud of or what you could have done differently.

But don’t only journal to talk about your day. Write down your dreams and aspirations and then go back and visit them periodically to see how you are progressing. Are you getting closer to your end goal?

“But I don’t know HOW to journal,” I hear you mutter.

It’s not hard. You don’t need a fancy book to write in – you can happily use a cheap school exercise book. It’s best to use a book and not your computer or phone because then you can’t get side-tracked checking social media or answering e-mails quickly.

Find a private place that is free from distractions.

Set a time limit – start with 5 minutes if you are just beginning.

Describe an experience – write down what happened that day.

Write affirmations e.g.

  • I’m a caring mother/father/grandmother. (Yes! Journaling is for everybody.)
  • I’m a fabulous cook.
  • I’ve maintained my body weight.
  • I’m a great teacher (or whatever).
  • I passed my test well.

Adopt an attitude of gratitude – list a few things that you are thankful for.

Do a critical self-analysis. Who am I? What did I do right or wrong? What could I do better? What’s holding me back in life? How do I fix this?

Obviously, you don’t have to do all of these every day.

Have fun in the process:

  • Maintain a log of successes.
  • Start a journal of selfies.
  • Write with your non-dominant hand.
  • Keep a nature diary

Write first thing in the morning or last thing at night (or both). You certainly don’t need to be a great writer to benefit from writing down your thoughts and feelings.

Remember, your journal is private – for your eyes only – be honest with yourself. There’s no point in fibbing because nobody is going to see it.

In a nutshell, journaling increases your optimism, reduces symptoms of stress, helps you advance towards your chosen goals and makes you a better person.

Start writing people!

Sibo

Empowering Children – one page at a time

Fun, easy to read books with interesting information woven into the story-line.

Did you know that there are fourteen titles published by Lets Look Publishers in the Sibo Series? Every month we make one of those books free to read on the website. Except for Sibo Looks Right, our road safety book, that’s always freely available.

These books are all about empowering kids with knowledge. They’re in rhyme (we call it wacky rhyme) are fun to read, with interesting facts and information sneakily woven into the storyline.

I know a person is not supposed to brag about their own stuff, ahem, but these books are best-sellers because many of the titles have sold more than 2000 copies. One of them (Sibo on the Move) also won awards. How cool is that!

Yes, yes Sibo, I hear you say, why are you bothering us with all this chitter-chatter about your books?

Let me explain. The way we publish our books is a little different.

Ginny comes up with an idea for a topic and finds funding for that particular book so that it can be distributed freely to kids, schools and libraries. (Many children in South Africa do not own a single book and we want to help change this.)

To date, organisations like Gautrain, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Health, University of Pretoria Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control, Department of Arts and Culture, Nash Nissan, South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement, BASF, the chemical company, Super Group as well as some private individuals have sponsored titles in the Sibo Series.

Topics covered are the following (in order of date they were published):

  • Global warming – Sibo Makes a Difference
  • Growing your own veggies – Sibo and the Veggie Bed
  • Saving Water – Sibo Saves Water
  • The sea and sustainable resources – Sibo and the Sea
  • Space – Sibo in Space
  • 3 R’s (recycling, reusing, reducing) – Sibo Tackles Trash
  • HIV AIDS – Sibo Thinks Positively
  • Nanotechnology – Sibo Sizes Things Up
  • Biodiversity – Sibo Likes Life
  • Chemistry – Sibo Mixes Things Up
  • Animals – Sibo Saves a Stray
  • Malaria – Sibo Fights Malaria
  • Road safety – Sibo Looks Right
  • Etiquette using public transport – Sibo on the Move

We still want to write on subjects like bullying, careers, immunology, maths, engineering, mental disorders, saving money and planning.

If any organisation out there would like to invest in Sibo and help us empower children, please contact Ginny (ginz.stone[at]gmail.com). Of course, you could have a book on your own topic too.

It’s also a great advertising opportunity.

Sibo

Pecan Surprise

How to make a delicious home-made pecan pie.

Some friends gave us pecan nuts and Mum decided she wanted to make pecan pie. Dad found her a recipe on the internet. She looked at it and groaned. Mum’s not good with fiddly things—remember the cheesecake a few weeks ago?

Luckily for Mum, Dad cracked those nuts because otherwise she would have broken her nails.

The ingredients needed for the pastry were the following:

  • 1 cup of cake flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • cup of cold butter (cut into small blocks)
  • half a tablespoon of caster sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons of iced water

You had to sieve the flour and salt first. Then, using your fingertips, rub the cold butter into the flour until it’s all crumbly. Then add the caster sugar to the flour and mix in the egg yolk, water and lemon juice. Knead the dough for around ten minutes, then wrap it in cling film and let it chill in the fridge for an hour.

After an hour, you roll out that dough that’s been chilling in the fridge (literally – hahaha) and line a pie tin (or a pie dish). Prick the base of the pasty with a fork and blind bake it in the preheated oven for 10 minutes at 180oC

That’s just the pastry base people.

For the filling:

  • 3 large eggs,
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 80ml golden syrup
  • 3/4 of a cup of pecan nuts.

While the base is cooking, whip up the filling quick. Beat the eggs (you can chuck in the left over egg white from the pastry too), add the melted butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and vanilla essence. When the mixture becomes sort of foamy, it’s ready.

When the base is cooked, fill it with the nuts and pour the sweet eggy mixture over the top. Bake it for about 40 minutes.

Mum made the pie exactly according to the recipe the first time. It was absolutely divine.

The second time (a week later) she did not bother with any of the fancy stuff.  She melted the pastry butter in the micro, mixed all the ingredients up, chucked the dough directly into the pie dish and baked it immediately.

Sometimes you have to make something properly the first time, to realise that you can take short cuts.

It tasted equally delicious!

Sibo

PS – If you’d like to know how to crack a pecan nut – see here.

Recycled Wall Art

Mosaiced wall using old broken plates and tiles.

A couple of weeks ago, we did a blog on my friend Ginny’s garden swirl that she created out of cement rubble. This weekend, she repurposed some broken crockery into awesome wall art.

In a home full of people things tend to get broken—plates, cups and bowls especially. Because she’s an arty soul, she hoards stuff like that so it can be reused.

First she drew a picture on the wall with chalk. Chalk is great because you can rub it out and start again if you don’t like it.

Then she hauled out her stash of broken stuff.

Wearing gloves, she laid the big shards out carefully, figuring which pieces would work best. Crockery is awkward, because it has ridges underneath which can make some pieces difficult to stick on the wall.

She has tile cutters, but also uses easy-to-find tools. She puts the broken plate into a sturdy see-through plastic bag and taps it hard with a nice smooth rock. She taps and chips until she has the size she wants. (Yes, sometimes the shape of the flower changes because she taps too hard.)

She used two old broken floor tiles for the vase. Those she simply put in a bag and smacked them with the handle of a spade.

A word of caution people – these shards are sharp and you should work with care.

Ginny didn’t. She didn’t have plasters either, so she used toilet paper and masking tape. That works well enough too.

The wall was green. Reusing an old plastic margarine tub, she put in several spoons of white tile grout and then mixed two teaspoons of Powafix green cement oxide into the grout. Slowly, she added some Tile Magic tile bond (adhesive and grout additive – also makes it waterproof) and stirred it up well until it was a gloopy porridge texture. If you put too much liquid in, just add a bit more grout until you get the right consistency. Don’t make too much grout at a time because it dries out relatively quickly.

An old ice-cream stick works well for putting the grout onto the plate before you stick it onto the wall. Ginny had enormous fun sticking the broken shards onto the wall to make her picture.

See for yourself—a bare patch of wall turned into a work of art.

Monday the 22nd of April was Earth Day—up-cycling is fun people and every bit helps.

Sibo

Be Safe on the Roads Please.

It that time of year when people take to the roads, but in order to get to your destination safely, you need to drive properly.

A reminder of the major rules when using the road:

  • Buckle up. Make sure everybody in the car is wearing their seatbelts before you even set off.
  • Do not drink and drive. You might think it is okay to have a few toots and then get behind the wheel, but your concentration is impaired and you are not as responsive as you usually are. Anyway—it’s illegal!
  • Pull over if you are tired. Falling asleep behind the wheel is the ultimate danger to yourself and everybody else on the road. Don’t let yourself get to that stage. Pull over and have a nap. Or do what my Dad’s friends do—whenever they are going on a long road trip, they take turns driving, one hour each. It sounds a very short time, but it breaks the journey up and makes the whole thing more doable and much safer.
  • Stick to the speed limits. This is a biggie. Every year people die on the roads because some wally thinks it’s okay to speed. Those limits were not put there to irritate you; they are there to keep you safe. Just obey them, okay!
  • Do not use your cellular phone when you are driving. Unless you have a hands-free kit that is. No answering calls, definitely no texting, no checking your inbox quickly, no taking a pic of that gorgeous sunrise or sunset—it might be the last one you’ll ever see if you do.
  • Kids—no shouting, arguing or playing the fool in the car when your parentals are driving. It can cause them to lose their concentration which is dangerous.

There are also rules for walking on the road too.

These are only a few of them:

  • Always walk facing oncoming traffic.
  • Don’t ever run across the road.
  • Wear bright clothes at night time if you are walking on the road so that the cars can see you.
  • Don’t walk and text using your cell phone—pay attention to what is going on around you.

Remember, you can brush up on your road safety skills by reading our book, Sibo Looks Right. Thanks to Nash Nissan and other fabulous people, it’s always available 24/7 as a free read on my website just click on the cover.

Lives get lost on the roads. Make sure yours is not one of them.
Mike Ward (Nash Nissan) and Ginny Stone

Be safe people and happy holidays.

Sibo

Rubble Rousing

Use your imagination… things do not have to be as they are.

Gardening can be an expensive hobby, but does not have to be.

My friend, Ginny, has become an avid gardener.

When they first moved into their house the front yard was bare. Obviously, the people who had lived there previously had tried planting grass, but then a water shortage hit and it died. There were a nice variety of succulents along one wall, with various bits of droopy vegetation decorating the fence.

Ginny and her lovely husband jumped in and decided a raised bed would be the way to go. They made a round one and filled it with teensy spinach plants. The spinach flourished… but the birds devoured most of it before they could. Summer arrived and it shrivelled up and died despite being watered. They decided to wait a while before planting anything else.

Then my friend had a run-in with cancer and to keep herself occupied and turn her brain off, she attacked the front garden.  She sculpted, laid and dug, all by the seat of her pants. So sometimes things worked out and sometimes they didn’t. The garden shop lady nearly died laughing when she discovered that she’d laid garden paths with gravel but had no weed cloth underneath. She bought the cloth but discovered it was nasty to work with and did not, in fact, actually do the job. The weeds still appeared.

Fast forward eight months. Ginny had been ogling out some building rubble up the road from their house.

“I want some of that,” she declared.

Her not-so-lovely husband rolled his eyes. “No! You’ll have to find somebody else to help you steal rubble from the side of the road.”

So she enlisted her daughter’s help and they raided the pile. But there was a dude at the house who gave them the thumbs up, so it wasn’t actually stealing after all.

She laid out that rubble in the same raised circle bed that they’d originally planted the spinach in. Piled blocks on top of each other until it looked appealing. Then she mixed a sloppy bowl of dark brown Tile Magic grout and tile bond liquid and gave the whole structure a quick wash of colour. Luckily they also had lots of compost from all the leaves and garden refuse to fill it up with earth.

The end result… a fabulous swirl in the garden full of herbs and flowers.

Get creative folk!

Sibo