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

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

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

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

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