There is NO excuse not to read.

Reading makes you smart!

These days eBooks make reading incredibly easy. You don’t need fancy equipment and special readers, like you did a few years ago either.

If you are reading this blog in the African Reporter, then you can read. If you are reading this blog on-line, then you can not only read, but you also have access to a smartphone, tablet or computer and the internet.

Even for those people who have difficulty reading, audio books are available. You can listen to them when you are doing something else. Boring stuff like cleaning the house, ironing or travelling in public transport.

There are many different platforms on-line where you can access books.

If you join Amazon or Smashwords—and it’s free to sign up—there are books that you can read for free. Good ones too, you just have to take the time to search for them. Many of the classics are available and often authors have promotions. They give their books away freely to increase their readership.

Of course there are millions of books that cost money too, but they are still cheaper on-line than buying a print copy.

The great thing with eBooks is that you can load lots of them onto your electronic device and carry them around in your pocket or handbag (in the case of a smart phone).  You can’t do that with piles of books.

This is also an awesome time for writers. They no longer have to struggle to try and find somebody who will publish their book(s); they can publish them themselves, on-line.

That’s free too.

You do, however, have to market your own book. It doesn’t sell itself. No matter how good it is (and it better be good) because there is loads of competition out there. You definitely don’t want to be publishing shoddy content.

My friend, Ginny, is known for her Sibo Series, but she’s also written a few other books—do you remember Fudgie, the dog from the blog? She’s busy collating all those blogs into a series of books that are available on-line. You can follow her author profile on Smashwords.

One thing you might remember when you read books online, consider taking the time to go back and leave a review. Writing a few lines is a way of thanking the author for the free book—or even for the books you’ve paid for.

Read more people!

Sibo

Scary Power Failure

ESKOM makes life interesting!

Mum and I had an interesting experience when we went shopping last week. As we walked in, I said “Oh oh there’s load-shedding here!” I could hear the rumble of a generator.

“Don’t be silly Sibo,”mum responded, then stopped, cocked her head and reluctantly agreed.

I smirked a bit because mum hates to be wrong. There seemed to be no problems, so we grabbed a trolley and carried on into the store.

About half way through our shop, the noise of the generator suddenly died and the store went dark.

Dark is not a very accurate description.

It was so pitch black you could barely see your hand in front of your face. One never really thinks about the fact that there are no windows in big supermarkets—there’s a lot of artificial lighting in use.

There were a number of yelps and squeaks. I’m not a fan of the dark either so I sidled closer to mum and hung onto the trolley. Mum, on the other hand, clutched her bag tighter so that nobody could sneak up on her in the dark either.

After a few seconds, people hauled out their cell phones and the pitch black was pierced with random holes of light, which made it less scary. That torch app is pretty useful in a situation like that and if you don’t have one installed on your phone, maybe it’s a good idea to get one. They’re mostly free after all.

The situation didn’t last long. The genny hummed, the lights flickered back on, off and then on again. Everybody resumed their shopping.

“Let’s hurry up and get out of here Sibo,” mum picked up the pace of her shopping.

I was quite impressed with the way that everybody just stopped, stayed where they were and did not panic or do anything stupid. Although I wondered if the shop experienced losses with some dodgy people taking the opportunity to pop items into their handbags or pockets.

I was also curious about what happened at the tills. Did the whole system crash? Did they have to start ringing up everything again?

Being a nosey person, I asked, and the lady at the till said that their system just carried on like normal. It was only the lights that went out.

At least the power seems to have stabilised again… for the moment.

Sending love and light people.

Sibo

It’s a Crazy World

Watch out for your possessions people!

Last Saturday, my friend Ginny had her cellular phone stolen, right out from under her nose! Well, not quite, but close–out of her handbag.

She and her husband were shopping and they were in the fruit section of a local supermarket. She noticed that some women were talking loudly, pointing at those little bags of herbs. She thought that they were probably having a heated discussion about what was needed for a certain recipe.

The next thing she knew was that another woman had rammed a trolley into her, pushing her into the veggie rack. She was wedged between the trolley and the rack and her bag was squished behind her shoulder. Ginny stood there, half expecting an apology, but at least expecting the lady to move the trolley off her foot.

But instead, the woman pointed to some bags of onions on the veggie rack and asked if Ginny would pass her some.

She picked up the one bag, but the person shook her head and pointed at another one. So Ginny passed her one of those. She asked for another one too.

Then she barely thanked her and moved off down the aisle.

The whole thing was a little weird and Ginny wandered around for a few minutes, thinking about it and then put it aside.

Later on, she looked down and saw that the side pocket on her bag was open and her cell phone was missing. Of course, she wasn’t too sure if she’d actually picked it up off her desk that morning and put it in her bag in the first place. Her husband called the number and it went immediately to voice mail.

Her stomach sank—she knew it had been stolen. It had a full battery and there was no reason for it not to ring first. But they went home anyway, to check.

On the way she was racking her brains as to who could have had the opportunity to sneak up, unzip the pocket and take her phone out. Then she remembered the crazy incident in the veggie department.

Her phone was not at home.  They schlepped back to the supermarket and reported the incident. Turned out, upon viewing the video footage, some women had followed them into the shop; probably others did something to distract the security guard (who was right there). Whilst Ginny was helping the one lady, the other lady helped herself to Ginny’s phone.

It’s a jungle out there folks. Be alert!

Sibo

Breathe Deep People

“I’m going home to watch some TV and de-stress!” How often have you heard this? But lying like a couch potato in front of the television doesn’t lower blood pressure at all.

The easiest way to de-stress is to do some deep breathing exercises.

They recommend around half an hour a day, but actually, even a few minutes help.

What a bargain! It doesn’t cost anything and we all do it anyway.  Even better, we don’t need a special place or fancy equipment. In fact, if you catch a taxi, bus or train home, you can do it on the way and be all nice and relaxed and de-stressed by the time you get there.

There are several different methods of breathing to relax but the American Institute of Stress recommends a technique called the “Quieting Response”. It only takes 6 seconds to do and apparently it works like a bomb.

First, you smile inwardly, with your mouth and your eyes. We all know the benefits of smiling outwardly, but this is something different, it somehow makes you relax. (Go on; try it quickly while you are reading this.) Then they tell you to imagine holes in the soles of your feet. As you breathe in (a nice deep breath) you visualize hot air flowing up through your body to your lungs. You relax each part of your body as the hot air hits. Then you breathe it all out again, imagining it flowing down, down, down—back out through the holes in your soles!

Pretty darn easy, right? I’m going to try it next time I’m stressed. Kids get stressed too you know!

True story, often when we are stressed we tense up and it takes a concerted physical act to release that tension.

Did you know?

  • If you opened up your lungs flat, they would cover an entire tennis court?
  • In people, the left lung is smaller than the right lung. Why? So that there‘s space for your heart.
  • The average person breathes around 27 litres of air a minute.
  • Children laugh about 300 times a day whereas adults only laugh around 15 times. We’ve talked about laughing before – it releases all those good hormones.
  • Last bit of useless information… when you sneeze, the air comes out of your body at around 16 km per hour!

Take time out to sniff the daisies people!

Sibo

So cheesy…

A cheesecake without any cheese!

The other day Mum got all excited about a recipe that she saw on foodiesofsa on Instagram. (This is the Facebook link – go check them out.)

A really easy cheesecake that only had 3 ingredients—and not one of them was cheese!

  • 1 kg of double cream yoghurt
  • 1 packet of lemon creams
  • 1 tin of condensed milk (well shaken before opening)

She included the stuff on her shopping list the following day, which happened to be a Saturday and Dad was home. She’d barely packed away the rest of the groceries when she was hauling out bowls to make the tart.

Dad suggested that she find the recipe on her cell phone before she started but she just waved her hand around airily and said, “Don’t be silly—it’s super easy. I remember exactly how to do it.”

Mum crushed up the biscuits in a plastic bag using the rolling pin.  Of course, she didn’t use a Ziploc bag as they suggested—the bag broke and spewed contents all over the kitchen counter. It didn’t matter because the counter was clean, so she just scooped them into the bowl that she’d already greased.

“How long do you microwave them for?” asked Dad.

“Three minutes.”

I think it was the first time that mum has ever actually managed to burn anything in the micro. She spent some time picking out a few black crispy bits and muttering under her breath. Then fetched her phone and double checked the recipe.  In fact, the biscuit crumbs were only supposed to spend 35-40 seconds in the micro!

Dad smirked.

She saved the day by melting a few spoons of butter and mixing it into the by now, rather dry, biscuit crumbs. Then smooshed them down with the back of a spoon to make the crust.

Next, she shook up the tin of condensed milk and mixed it together with the yoghurt in another bowl. That went into the micro for 2 minutes (actually the recipe said 2-3, but she was erring on the safe side). She took it out, stirred it quickly again and then popped it back in for another 3 minutes.

Then poured the mixture over the biscuit base, let it cool a bit and put it in the fridge. Can you believe that cheeky mum licked out the condensed milk tin without sharing? How rude!

We had cheesecake for pudding that night topped with Auntie Rudi’s fig jam.

It was delicious!

Sibo

When the chips are down

Potatoes are gluten free! True story.

We were shopping the other day and had stopped at the frozen food isle to get some veggies and chips. Whilst mum was busy agonising over beans or peas, I noticed a dude taking packets of chips out of his trolley and putting them back in the freezer. He had about ten packets. He then rummaged around in the piles in the freezer, picked out random bags of the same brand of chips and placed them in his trolley.

I watched for a while, entranced.

Then I couldn’t help myself, I asked him what was wrong with the chips he had put back (they looked exactly the same to me.)

Mum gave me one of her dirty looks that says “Sibo! Why are you bothering strangers? Oh wait… WHY are you talking to strangers in the first place?”

The man shrugged his shoulders and told me he did not want “gluten free” chips. He pointed to a speech bubble on the top of the packet.

Mum clutched her head, completely forgetting he was a stranger and spoke to him herself. “Oh my word! Whatever next?” Then she checked our chips to see that they weren’t of the ‘gluten free’ variety.

A few weeks later we popped into a different store and mum grabbed a bag of oven-bake chips without thinking. When we got home, she noticed they were gluten free. She moaned to Dad about how they were taking all the goodness out of everything and soon we might just as well eat twigs.

Dad just smiled and gave mum a hug. Then he told her that chips are made of potatoes and there is no gluten in them to begin with.  It was just packaging. Some people have gluten allergies and don’t know which foods contain what. So having the information on the package made it easier.

Think mum felt a bit foolish, because she huffed and puffed and said they might as well label them ‘boneless’ too then!

I did some research and according to Medical News TodayGluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley. Gliadin and glutenin are the two main gluten proteins.”

Apparently most people tolerate gluten quite finely, but some folk suffer from a condition called Celiac disease and gluten is really bad for them.

The bottom line is—potatoes do not contain gluten.

You can have your chips and eat them people!

Sibo

PESKOM

Power outages are a pain in the butt!

My friend Ginny wrote a modern day, uniquely South African fairy storybook, The Imaginaeries of Faerie Glen, based in a nature reserve in Pretoria. Amongst other things, she rips off ESKOM—calls them PESCOM in the book, which stands for the Pesky Fire-Fly Company and they provide light in the Glen. They are just as unreliable and irritating as our own electricity company in South Africa.

Until the app “Eskom se push” came out, it was nightmare trying to figure out which stage you were on and what number your house was on the grid. There was a horrible, unwieldy table that my Dad printed out and stuck together to make a chart. He laboriously highlighted each teensy numbered block that represented our area. And still we got it wrong. The stages would change or load-shedding would miraculously stop.

Nothing drives my mother crazier than having meticulously prepared for a power outage at a certain time—like at seven o’clock in the evening. Charged solar-power jars, dinner prepared long in advance, lanterns ready, cell phones 100% charged. Plus she’d reluctantly come to terms with missing her favourite programme that evening.

We finished dinner just before seven that evening and sat around the table, waiting for that ‘click’ when everything shuts down.

Nothing.

Mum went to the kitchen to double check the time on the oven clock. That’s a pain in the butt too – you know how many times I have reset those digi clocks in the last few weeks? It was only five minutes past the hour—there was still time for the municipality to hit the ‘off’ switch.

Still nothing.

At ten past seven my Dad declared that that power was going to stay on and Mum could watch her programme after all. I shuffled off to my room and read by light bulb, instead of the solar power jar I had all charged and ready.

The next night, we were on the same schedule—the power was due to go off at seven. Mum was more relaxed this time. She’d also stashed all the lamps back in the kitchen cupboard (my mum’s a neat freak you know). 

Pow! At exactly one minute past seven, the power went out. Mum howled with rage and Dad said naughty words because he’d forgotten to charge his cell phone and only had 5% battery power left.

You just never know, do you?

Sending light and love people.

Sibo

Valentine’s Day

Squished between Christmas and Easter we have Valentine’s Day, where the shops are full of sappy hearts and flowers, enticing people, who have barely recovered from the holiday season, to once again buy, buy, buy!

Valentine’s Day specials on outfits, cards, CD’s, food, holidays, chocolates and even appliances. Really! Who needs a nice new vacuum cleaner for Valentine’s Day?

I know somebody who says if you play the Lotto, you are paying stupidity taxes. I think caving in to Valentine’s Day demands is probably on a par with that.

It’s a vastly overrated day—husbands, boyfriends and partners get into trouble if they don’t shower their loved ones with stuff. Not being taken out to dinner can cause a meltdown.

What is all the hype for?

To loudly proclaim: I love you. I appreciate you. You are my most favourite person in the whole wide world.

Shouldn’t you say that every day? Not just once a year?

It‘s not even a proper holiday—it’s just a commercial day. And yet it has become an occasion where people get upset if their significant other doesn’t acknowledge it, signifying their relationship and the depth of their feelings—so that other people can see too.

It’s also a waste of money day.

Shops rob relatively sane people of money for ridiculous things. Anything adorned with a heart is a sitting duck. Flowers fly out of their buckets. Restaurants are teeming. 

People propose. People compare. And some people die slowly inside from lack of real love.

Many folk desperately hope for a card or a gift. But the day ends and they have a large hole in their own heart, feeling unappreciated, unloved and uncared for.

Here’s a funny story. A friend’s husband gave her a gold bracelet for Valentine’s Day. She was very surprised; they had never celebrated the 14th of February in all their ten years of marriage. She started to dig a little deeper and discovered that her husband was having an affair. His mistress had hinted that she wanted jewellery for the occasion, and feeling guilty, he had bought something for his wife as well. Bummer! It backfired on him horribly.

If you love somebody, show them every day—not just once a year.

Do the little things that count. Flowers, random acts of kindness, gentle words. Live your love.

All the time!

Sibo

Turning dreams into reality

I saw this graphic on Facebook today and it totally resonated with me.

How often do you hear somebody say “I wish I could drive.” (Just as an example—although I do know a couple of people.) But they don’t do anything about it. They catch a bus or a taxi, day after day, sighing and moaning, feeling unhappy, wishing they could drive—being jealous and nasty about those who can.

If you had to tackle them they’d probably say, “But it’s so difficult.” Or “I don’t have the time to learn.” Or “But I don’t have money for a car so what’s the point.” Of course, if they can’t drive, they’ll never have a car, will they?

So they continue to complain that they’re hard done by because they can’t drive.

If they put their mind to it, driving could actually become a reality.

The old saying, where there’s a will, there’s a way still applies.

If they wrote down their dream “I want to drive by the end of 2019.” and stuck it up on the fridge, it would no longer be a dream. It has become a goal.

Then the next steps need to be planned.

Find out where a person can take driving lessons, and how much they cost.

Maybe you need to save first, to be able to pay for those driving lessons. Work out what is affordable and stick to the plan of saving X-amount every single month towards your goal.

Take action! Book the learner’s license test in advance. You can’t take lessons if you don’t have your learners.

Use the time that you are saving wisely: look and see what is happening on the road. Check out the road signs. Study the learners’ book, ask those who can drive questions, get them to test you on questions from the book.

Once you’ve passed your learner’s license, you can take those lessons—because you’ve saved the money and you have it.

When you’ve finished your lessons, you are ready to take your driver’s test. And you will pass it the first time because you’re prepared.

So what if you don’t have a car—you can drive!

There is nothing to stop buying your own car as the next goal. Saving towards a deposit, making it happen—one step at a time.

Turns those dreams into reality people—no matter what they are.

Sibo

The benefits of reading aloud

1st February is World Read Aloud Day.

Last year more than a million people participated in this event. Sounds fabulous, but actually when you come to think of how many people there actually are in this world (estimated at ~7.7 billion in November last year) that is pretty darn pathetic!

Every day should be a read aloud day.

Reading stories to children is probably one of the most beneficial things you, as a parent or older sibling, can do, apart from giving them love, food, clothing and shelter that is.

It’s not only little kids that enjoy being read to either, older kids appreciate a good story too.

Scary fact: South Africa came last in the world in a recent survey. They discovered that 8 out of 10 kids in Grade 4 cannot read for meaning – in any language. What does that terrifying sentence signify? It means that those kids can read the words, but when they have finished “reading” them, they don’t know what they just read.

It makes no sense right? Sadly it’s true, and when you don’t understand what you are reading, it strips away all the joy associated with books.

You, as a parent, have the power to instil a love of reading in your child from early on.

It’s as simple as reading a little story at bedtime. Every bedtime! It’s also a sneaky way of having one-on-one special time with your kids.

When you read with emphasis and expression, it makes the story come alive. Not only does that make it interesting, but the way you read gets your kids to understand how grammar works, without even realising. You pause at a comma and stop at the end of the sentence.

They can hear how words are being pronounced.

Being read aloud to also exposes children to new words and increases their vocabulary.

Literature is also a great way of helping kids understand something that they have not necessarily been exposed to themselves. It makes them more aware and instils empathy.

Please do leave your cell phone in another room when you are reading to your children. Possibly the most irritating thing in the world is having a story continually interrupted by pinging, ringing and a distracted storyteller.

To celebrate World Read Aloud Day we are making ‘Sibo Saves Water’ a free digi-read on the website. It’s a double celebration – the 2nd of February is World Wetlands Day.

Happy reading and listening!

Sibo