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

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

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

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

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

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

Pop-Art of a different Kind

It’s that time of year when school is finished and kids are on holiday. The first few days are fun because the alarm clock is on holiday too and there is no need to leap up early in the morning, but if you are anything like me – after a few days you start to get bored.

One way of keeping busy is to make awesome festive decorations using stuff like toilet roll cores, old magazines. Make your own glue too by mixing flour and water into a paste (don’t make it too runny or too thick – experiment).

It’s more fun to get a group of friends together, plus you can pool your resources and share – like paint, glitter and stuff like that.

Make a bowl of popcorn – either on the stove or in the microwave (yes – you can eat some of it). But remember not to put any salt or butter on the popcorn that you are going to use for your decorations. Ask your mom for a needle and some cotton and thread a length of about 60cm of popcorn.  Make sure to knot it properly (or glue it) at both ends so that it does not fall off. You can also spray these with some gold or silver spray paint to make them look even more festive.

Squish the cardboard toilet roll core slightly and cut it into strips of about half a centimetre. Use five strips to make a flower shape and either glue or staple them together at the centre. Paint them and string them up with the popcorn to make a fancy daisy chain.

Paper beads are also fun to make. Roll up a strip of paper (2cm wide x about 7cm long) into a tight thin little tube (use a tooth pick or twig to roll it around) and stick the end down with a dab of glue. Once the glue is dry you can paint your paper beads if necessary.

Other easy and really cheap but effective decorations to make are paper chains. Find an old magazine and cut strips of paper (about 2cm wide x 15cm long). You can either staple or glue them together to make a long chain. Try experimenting by making the strips wider or thinner and see which ones you prefer.

You could make one string of decorations using all of the above methods!

Have fun,

Sibo

Books are Friends

My friend Ginny gives talks in schools sometimes. The topic is “Books are Friends!” It’s interactive and the kids also get to add their two cents worth. This is how it goes:

F is for Friends! Books are better than friends because you don’t have to ask somebody’s permission to go and visit a book (unless you want to go to the library) and books don’t get cross and fight with you. You never feel lonely when you have a book for company and you can have fun escaping into fiction or fantasy. Plus you can use them to find out facts. Reading sets you free!

R is for Reading! You can read a range of books at any rate you want to – fast or slow. You rest when you want to, and if you enjoyed a bit, you can return to it and read it again. You can read about your rights too.

I is for Interesting! Books are incredibly interesting and inspiring. Reading makes you intelligent. You can read important stuff. It’s impossible to get bored if you have a book to read. Of course, don’t forget – books are printed with Ink.

E is for Everybody! Books are for everybody and can be found everywhere. Excellent books explain things and equip you with knowledge. They are exciting and entertaining. Best of all – you don’t need electricity to read a book with your eyes.

N is for Nice! New books are nice too.  Books are necessary, we need them. You can turn to the next page to see what happens in the story every night. Books have names – just like you and I. But you should never ever mistreat your friends.

D is for Dependable! Just like a really good friend, books are always there for you. You can read the daily and when you have finished your book, you can donate it to somebody else to read. They are delightful but you do have to look after them. Dictionaries are great books too. Diaries are books that you can write about your own life. Don’t forget about digital books either!

S is for Story! And for Sibo of course! Some of our story books talk about saving water, electricity and strays. Taking shorter showers and planting seeds.  Separating rubbish and recycling.

On Saturday there is a pop-up book fair at the Alkantrant Library, Lynburn Rd, Lynnwood Manor, Pretoria from 09h00 – 12h00. Come and meet some new friends. Get your Christmas shopping done nice and early.

Lots of love,

Sibo.

The need to read

The 8th of September is International Literacy Day.

So what? I hear many people say. I don’t have time to read. I can’t be bothered to read. Reading is boring… but actually we read all the time!

We read social media updates, road signs, food labels, and information on goods that we buy. We need to know whether we should wash that new item of clothing in hot water or cold water – right? And for that you need to read the label. Or the instruction manual that comes with your latest gadget.

Or what about recipes?

That’s reading, isn’t it?

Many people stick to magazines, newspapers or read on-line, and that’s all good but…

What about reading for pleasure? To escape reality without going anywhere—you can travel the world, learn about new places, time-travel with science fiction and fantasy, or read sloppy romantic novels where the girl always gets the boy in the end (unlike real life!!). What about mysteries or those scary ‘Who dunnits’?

Okay! So books are not exactly cheap, but you don’t even need to buy them—join the library. Or share with friends, as long as you look after the books and return them in the same condition that you received them in.

If you don’t like reading… at least consider reading to your children!

It has been proven that kids who are read to from a young age have a distinct advantage over those who are not.

Children are naturally inquisitive and love to ask questions – when a parent reads a picture book to their offspring, they are exposing them to different things. They can point at pictures and say “What is that?” or “Who is that”. It encourages youngsters to start thinking and asking questions.

It enhances a child’s vocabulary.

In addition to a better grasp of language, reading assists with spelling too.

We all love a good story, and bed-time reading (in any language) instils a love of books at an early age—something that stays with a person for the rest of their life.

Plus… a bed-time story is a great way to bond with your child. You get to sit on the bed, snuggle with your nice clean kid and read. It’s a fabulous way of having one-on-one time in this overly busy world of ours where there is not always quality time for everybody.

Please read more people!

Sibo

xxxx

 

Circle of Life

Hah! You didn’t really think you were going to get away without a blog on exercise during women’s month… did you? (No! Power posing does not count as exercise.)

Whilst smiling and complimenting might exercise your soul (as well as those of other people) and laughing might be great for your belly and face, it is important to stay fit.

Exercising releases those endorphins that make you feel happy and lessen the perception of pain. Apparently it does not matter how long you exercise for to release those hormones – the effect is the same, whether you go for an hour long jog or jog on the spot for ten minutes.

If cycling, jogging or gym is your thing – then great – you don’t have to read any further. However, if you are one of those ladies who groan at the thought of doing some physical activity – then this is for you.

Hula hoop people!

It’s the most awesome activity that the whole family can do.

It strengthens core muscles and improves posture no end, in addition to shaving centimetres off the squidgy bits of body and defining leg muscles.

Kids can happily use the normal hula hoops that you find easily in shops.

But ladies… here’s the good part – you can make your own, extra-large hula hoop, very cheaply!

Toddle off to the local hardware store (or nursery) and buy five metres of 25mm black piping. Yup – the stuff that gets used in the garden or irrigation. At the same time, get a 25mm connector and some insulation tape.

Lay the piping down in the sun for an hour or so to soften it slightly. Then chop off approximately 50cm from either end.

Boil the kettle, pour some boiling water into a mug and quickly dip each end of the piping into the water, then plug them together with the connector whilst the plastic is still soft.

Voila! You have a huge hoop.

You are probably going to look at it and gasp… NO WAYS CAN I USE THAT THING!!

But try it. Go on. Try. You’ll see that hula hooping with an enormous hoop is much easier than one of those small ones.

Taping it up to look pretty is optional. It does make it a little heavier, which is even better for losing weight.

Whilst you are hooping, you can do arm exercises to further tone up.

Or mediate and plan your day.

Let’s all BE who we ARE ladies.

Sibo

xxxx