Christmas in July

Grow your own presents – succulents are easy and rewarding.

The adverts for functions and fairs talking about Christmas in July made me start thinking about presents.

Don’t know about you but I always run out of money at Christmas time. This year, I’ve decided I’m going to make my presents and for the ones I have in mind, now is the time to start.

Imagine gorgeous little succulent gardens.

Succulents are very rewarding and easy to grow. My friend Ginny moved into a house that has loads of succulents. Initially, she wasn’t a fan and silently vowed that she’d replace them all with “proper flowers”. Yet, two years of gardening has taught her to love all the various types. Pinks, reds, purples, greens and each type produces a fabulous flower.

They don’t ask for much water either.

She’s always breaking bits off and sticking them into the ground in a different spot, to see if they change colour. Succulents that are green in the shade suddenly go bright red in the sun. Most of them have a very shallow root system and grow easily from a little bit.

But you can also grow them from a single leaf. This is how you do it.

Gently twist the leaf off (take a bottom leaf so you don’t trash the mother plant). You’ll see that sap oozes from the place on the leaf where it was removed.

Put the leaf on a piece of paper towel on the window sill, or some sunny spot, for a few days until it forms a scab. Wait for that scab, otherwise, the leaf might rot.

Once the leaf has formed the scab place it on top of some soil. Keep the soil moist (not soaking—just moist). After a few weeks, you’ll see that it starts to grow roots. If you leave it, the roots will eventually go down into the soil, but that would also be a good time to plant your baby succulent in a different pot.

Another awesome thing about succulents is that they don’t need much soil. So you can grow a few different varieties in one pot. This looks super cool.

They seem to grow well in old tins—we’ll talk about ways to jazz up tins next week.

Scout around your neighbourhood for different succulents and start a little nursery people. Feel free to send us pictures.

Happy growing!

Sibo

A serious Hottie

A good way to stay warm is to do some exercise. Don’t be a couch potato—go for a cycle, jog, brisk walk, hula hoop or do something else that you enjoy.

Sjoe! It’s become rather cold lately. Of course, I suppose that’s to be expected, seeing as it is now winter, but honestly, I am not a fan of the cold.

A good way to stay warm is to do some exercise. Don’t be a couch potato—go for a cycle, jog, brisk walk, hula hoop or do something else that you enjoy. It takes the sting out of winter.

There is, however, nothing worse than climbing into an ice-cold bed.

My Dad is afraid of electric blankets, he knows somebody whose house burnt down. Seriously, the entire place was raised to the ground. In fact, they were lucky to get out with their lives. So electric blankets are banned in our house.

We’ve had various forms of hot water bottles too. Those electric ones that you plug into a socket and make weird gurgly noises… but they don’t seem to last very long. We’ve had bean-filled ones that you heat up in the microwave. Erk! Those only work if the microwave is super clean. Mum had a proper rubber bottle but somehow she managed to lose the top. She searched and searched but it was gone. I think she threw it away in the bin without thinking, but I’m not brave enough to voice that thought.

We’ve now resorted to the hotties that my Grandmother used to make.

Take a bottle – any kind of bottle will do, but generally, whisky or brandy bottles work a treat because they are quite thick.

Boil the kettle. Very carefully fill the bottle with boiling water—use a funnel if you have shaky hands. If you are little, get a parental agent to do it for you. Boiling water gives one of the nastiest burns, so I’m not kidding when I say be careful! It works well if you put the bottle in the sink and fill it up.

Screw the top on tightly and… here comes the best bit… put the bottle in a long sock. My Gran used to knot the sock at the top so that the bottle could not fall out, but we don’t bother with that.

You’ll find this hot water bottle works like a bomb. If you put it into your bed an hour or so before you go to sleep the bed will be nice and warm. Easy peasy. 

Stay warm peeps!

Sibo

Believe you CAN!

Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Have you noticed that some people go out there, do their thing and it works perfectly? Every. Single. Time. On the odd occasions when it doesn’t, they bounce back and tackle it from a different angle. Everything they do looks effortless.

This is often due to having bags of confidence and high self-esteem.

These are the people who feel secure and know that they can rely on their skills and strengths to handle whatever comes their way. They are ready and able to handle what life throws at them.

They think “I can” instead of “I can’t”.

True confidence is embedded in reality. These people know exactly what their strengths and weaknesses are. They don’t pretend to be something that they’re not.

Many people are not so confident, but in actual fact, it’s not that hard to cultivate a sense of confidence. It just requires some work.

  • It all starts with self-belief and building a confident mindset. Start by thinking “I can do that” instead of “Oh no, I can’t possibly do that”. Shake off any self-doubt.
  • Compare yourself kindly. We’re not all good at everything, but we are all good at something or have something that we can be proud of.
  • Make a list of the things that you are good at. Then practise so that you can do them even better.
  • Feel proud of the things that you do well. You don’t have to boast, but you can give yourself a pat on the back.
  • Dress for success, whether you are going to the office or to school, feeling confident in what you are wearing plays a part. Iron that shirt, polish those shoes!
  • Be assertive, not aggressive. Being aggressive turns a person into a bully. Quietly putting your foot down makes you somebody that people sneakily admire.
  • Take a small risk and challenge yourself to do something that’s just beyond your normal comfort zone. If at first, you don’t succeed, try again. Don’t give up.
  • Give yourself permission to be the ‘real you’. Instead of trying to fit in and be like everybody else, embrace your quirks and let them shine. Be the individual you are.

Remember what wise old Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

At the end of the day, your confidence is your own to develop or undermine.

Stand tall people.

Sibo

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.