Sunday, 30 October 2011


Dates are one of our favourite snacks at home. They are sweet in taste, don't need preparation and are easy to consume. This healthy fruit can even replace some of the sweets that aren't good for you. When we feel peckish or are looking for some sweets, we generally have a few dates which we find quite satisfactory. They are nutritious and delicious too! Mr. Junior has it as a treat at times and we also bring one or two with us as a snack for him when we are out and about.

According to some sources, the background information to dates is that they are believed to be originated from around the Persian Gulf. Their history goes back to possibly as early as 6000BC. Later on in history it was spread into the northern Africa and into Spain and elsewhere as time passed.

Not many so yummy foods are so rich in iron and fibre as dates are. They are known to have some laxative effects and they reduce high cholesterol. Additionally, due to the rich iron content of it, it is also good for people who suffer from anemia.

They are also known to help digestion and the maintenance of a healthy nervous system (due to the potassium in them). Furthermore, they include a potent antioxidant that benefits thyroid function as well as immune system.

The dates that are in many supermarkets and local delis come in both fresh and dried versions. The dried ones are generally kept in the dried fruit and nuts section and the fresh ones are displayed in the produce section. The best ones are the unbroken smoothly wrinkled skinned and the plumb ones.

Attention! Up until a year or two ago when I was reading a book based on a story in Libya (I think the book was called The Country of Men), I didn't know that they could have little worms in them. In the book it was mentioned and I quickly went and checked a few of ours out. I must admit, it wasn't the happiest moment in my life. So, watch out! It is one of the best energy giving yet healthy and tasty snacks but they have their down points too. Make sure you look at them before eating.

Note: Did you know that dates are often consumed especially during the holy month Ramadan by Muslims. They generally break their fast with dates.

Friday, 28 October 2011


handmade stamps for kids
This is a homemade version of art stamps for kids. The name has it all: it is a stamp made out of a potato. We used to do this at secondary school. Your child (I recommend 3 years old and above) would like this homemade activity too.

The materials you need for this activity are half a potato, a knife, some paint and a piece of paper (perhaps you could use the back of your scrap/spare paper?).

Depending on the age of your child, you may carve a shape/pattern (eg. a flower, a star or a even a simple car) on the potato using the knife when your child is not around. The rest is extremely easy and your child is likely to play on his own -without any help from you- happily for a while. However, you may prefer to demonstrate it first. He needs to dip the carved part of the potato into the paint and then press it on the paper. You may want to make a few shapes and I am sure they will be well appreciated.

Just a reminder that you may need some display area after this. Your child may come up with quite a few masterpieces for display :-)

Note: Don't forget, nothing goes to waste. Depending on what kind of a paint you used, the whole (if the paint can be totally washed off and cleaned of any paint residue) or the rest of the potato is still edible.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


The devastating earthquake that happened and affected  east and south east of Turkey on 23/10/2011 claimed hundreds of lives. There is a fear that the actual number of the deceased due to this disaster may reach or go over a thousand and many more are left injured. Our hearts go out to everyone affected!

This is just a reminder that any help may be well needed right now. You can donate to the Turkey earthquake victims through your state's Turkish Consulate office (Eg. Melbourne Turkish Consulate in Victoria) in Australia or another reliable organisation (such as Turkish Red Crescent: wherever in the world you are. Even a donation of $10 would undoubtedly make a big difference.

Have a safe day with your loved ones!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Not many people are totally aware of how electricity is used by everyday appliances around the house and how leakages can be stopped easily. Some people also don't remember on a daily basis that switching off any lights or any other electrical equipment whenever not used/needed is a way of energy saving. For the others who are more concise about turning off their equipment more regularly still need to know that there is a big question to be answered: how to switch them off more efficiently?

power wall units

energy saving tips
Turning off your TV or your washing machine at nights or before leaving home is good, but not good enough. Take a further step and turn them off from the power switches/wall units when you don't use them. Switch off your TV, computers, lights, electronic machines, kettles, coffee machine, charges (stanby and sleeping modes still use power)... By doing so, you will be saving some money on your rocketing high electricity bills, helping environment by reducing greenhouse gases, and reducing any risks involved electronics around the house (I personally take extra caution with, for example, the washing machine in case Mr. Junior decides to play with it when out of my view).

It is also very important that we teach our children these skills from younger ages by showing them, making it a part of our daily life practices. Don't forget, MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO!

If you would like to look into energy saving ideas in more details, you can visit some reputable websites. One example to them is

Sunday, 23 October 2011

WHAT A DAY! Animals, Colours, Sun, Fun...

What a beautiful sunny day we had in Melbourne today and it was perfect for a great celebration!

As you know from my last post, the launch of Children's Week in Victoria took place in Melbourne Zoo today. It was not overcrowded as I was expecting it to be and it was definitely a fun day. We had to skip the morning shows but were there all afternoon. During the time we were there, we managed to see a few live shows and also visited some sections of the zoo. Mr Junior has been complaining since we went to the Werribee Open Range Zoo in Victoria a few weeks ago that he hasn't seen any elephants there and so we were on a mission today that we had to see some elephants this time (No pics, sorry).

During the time we were there, Mr. Junior kept his energy levels high thanks to all the healthy homemade snacks that we had brought with us. I wish I took a photo of them but it was too late when I thought of doing it. I will share some healthy snack ideas that work well for us and may work for you too in the near future.

Here are a few pictures from today's activities. Enjoy!

Children's Week in Melbourne

Celebrating children's week

Peppa pig show


Children's week at Melbourne Zoo

Saturday, 22 October 2011

CHILDREN'S WEEK (22 - 30 October)

Today is the first day of nationally celebrated annual event Children's Week in Australia (universally celebrated on the fourth Wednesday of October, which is the 26th of October in 2011). It is annually celebrated since 1996. It aims to celebrate the right of children to enjoy childhood. It is also a fun time when children can demonstrate their talents, skills and achievements.

Even though it is a national festival, there will be different activities in different states. So, you may want to contact or check out the website of your state's Children's Week Australia office and see what activity calender they have. For the ones in Vic, I recommend you visit to see what they offer to you locally (different councils may have different activities too). Here I am listing only a few activities from a huge range for the Melbournians: 

- Children's Week Launch 2011: Melbourne Zoo, Elliott Ave, Parkville  
Date: 23/10/2011 Time: 10.00am-4.00pm 

- Music and Art Discovery Day:  Great Hall and Gallery Spaces, NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road 
Date: 24/10/2011 Time: 10.00am-2.00pm.

- Lets Go Baby-O!: State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston Street  
Date: 26/10/2011 Time: 11.00am-12.00pm

- Dress Up, Afternoon Tea with Families:  Little Assets Melbourne City, Ground Floor of World Trade Centre, Siddeley St 
Date: 28/10/2011 Time: 3.00pm-4.30pm

These are only a few of many as I have mentioned before. Some of the activities are totally free of charge while there are some which may require some fee (eg. entry fee). Check out if you would like further information and the full list of events around Melbourne city. 

Have a lovely Children's Week with your children!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

FUN TIME: Water Paint for Kids

On a sunny day, there is nothing like being outdoors with or without kids. Recharging some positive energy, storing some Vit D, getting tipsy with fresh air.. You just can't help being happy especially if you are with your kids and they are enjoying themselves too. However, not always it is that easy to keep them away from TV or playstations indoors or out of strong sun or take them to places that they want to go but you don't want to for whatever the reason may be. Let me share an activity idea that I had learnt through an early learning centre with you. I guarantee you that it an easy, almost costless and a fun way of keeping everyone happy.

You need a bucket or anything that can act as a bucket (eg. a used ice-cream tub or the bucket of a playdough set etc) and a cheap brush. You can decide on the size of them yourself if you like since it doesn't matter much as long as it is not too small or big for your kid. I think the only luxurious thing you need for this activity is WATER (especially these days, it is pretty luxurious, isn't it? But I guess you could save some water that you used  for washing some fruit or vegetables  earlier and repurpose it for this fun activity!) So, lets do it again: 

You need; 
  1. A bucket
  2. A paint brush
  3. Some water (hopefully clean enough recycled water)
water paint

After putting some water into the bucket and perhaps demonstrating it for your child if preferred, just let your little man or skillful little daughter have fun painting the fence, or the sides of your vegie patch, walls, rocks, pots...  Whatever you have in your backyard or around you that you don't mind to be water painted, I am sure your toddler or preschooler wouldn't mind painting any of them. It will give them a feel of some responsibility (they are doing some work, can't you see?), develop some motor skills as well as focus skills all of which are needed for preschool. As they paint, the wood or rock that they are painting changes its colour with water which amazes the kids, and a few minutes later in the sun, it is ready to go again! It is not really messy, dangerous or costly. Not many kids would mind doing this activity again and again. 

Note: This activity can be used as a birthday party activity too. You just make sure each kid or the team of kids has a bucket and a brush and enough surface to water paint! Feel free to use any variety of this activity as long as it works for you and your kid/s. Don't forget to take lots of pictures (and perhaps even perhaps share them on this blog with us) as they are having lots of fun!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

SHAKE IT BABY: A Rattle from a Bottle

DIY baby toys

Keeping babies busy is generally pretty easy as they are mesmerised with almost anything. However, one of the challenges with them I believe that they constantly need attention. I like it when I can negotiate a balance with Miss Junior these days: when up, some food and play time involving mum, and then some time alone even if it may mean only a few minutes. Not that this happens very often! Anyhow. I also like to offer her a variety of environment, textures, activities and senses to experience with. I am a believer of those scientists who claim that babies benefit from some various fun activities when developing their motor and sensory skills.

One of the most commonly used toys for babies is undoubtedly rattles. I have an alternative homemade rattle that is the easiest and cheapest way to keep a baby entertained for sometime. As you can see in the picture, you only need two types of materials: An empty bottle which has a cap and some chickpeas or beans, broadbeans or whatever that can fit in the bottle neck and can make sound that you have on hand (I personally prefer changing the stuffing at times to introduce different types of sound). (If you like, you can use some coloured chocolate beans to make it look more stimulating too but I don't really keep them at home so that Mr. Junior, and even more importantly Mr. Hubby, don't eat them.). You can even ask for some help from your older child if you have one when making this toy. It would be a great focus, hand and eye coordination and motor skill developing as well as fun activity for him/her. However, the usual rule applies here as well: Do not leave children unattended when doing this.

After the completion of the preparation of this toy, which takes less than a minute, all you need to do is to give it to your little shaker and let him/her go crazy playing with it. You may want to demonstrate it initially if that's what you prefer. Don't forget to put your earplugs on if your toddler wants to give it a go too!

CAUTION: Don't forget to be mindful of choking hazards when using this homemade toy. Make sure the cap is tightly closed, there is no hole to the bottle from which anything would come out, no stickers around the bottle that the baby may suckle and bite a piece of. If you have another child at home (your child or a visitor), be sure that they do not open the cap at any time. Monitor your baby when playing with it.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


Handmade furniture

A few months ago, when I was still pregnant and was going mad due to my nesting, Mr. Hubby was taking me to places with the hope that I would find something that I'd like for Mr. Junior's new room. I had an idea in my mind which I thought was perfect for my gorgeous son's room and was unable to find anything good enough for him on the market (I am a typical mum, often nothing is good enough for my children). Every time I checked out a store, I would become more disappointed as it felt like there wasn't much hope in finding something similar to what I had in mind anytime soon and I'd always feel that it was getting too late for us to set up a new room for him so that before Miss Junior's arrival, we could prepare her room and get Mr. Junior used to his new palace.

After spending so much time on the lookout and feeling of frustration, Mr. Hubby decided that he had to put his foot down and make a decision that he could convince me to go by as well. He took me to IKEA a few times and showed me some storage ideas there that he liked. I wasn't quite happy with bits and pieces of it but eventually, I noticed that I had to be more flexible as well. My design was out of our reach and I had to accept it. So, we made a plan. Oh no, actually, two plans.

DIY kids furniture
Plan A: Mr. Hubby, and Mr. Junior of course, would try to make something similar to my design in mind using wood bought from a local hardware store. Of course this involved a lot of time trying to do some self learning/teaching and  asking for professional opinions on especially Mr. Hubby's befalf. I think quite a few people working at that particular hardware store know us pretty well by now. We visited them quite a few times then.  They even asked if we could be kind enough and show them some pictures of the room after the completion of the project at the time. They too liked the design and wanted to see it in place at least in picture. Unfortunately, we never made it to that stage.

Actually, the bookshelf turned out to be very nice except for that it was a bit crooked. It had to be perfectly leveled to work well but it didn't in our case but I must admit, I was still extremely proud of the boys' effort and the overall result. That procedure taught us that it wouldn't be wise to continue with that particular plan. So, we moved on to Plan B immediately.

Plan B: Using the homemade bookshelf as one unit, we had to use the furniture from IKEA and make them a complete set. To be honest, it is not my favourite store. I really disliked especially the colours on offer there at the time and realised that boys made a great team working together and had lots of fun while making the bookshelf. So, I decided to be very nice and generous to them and gave them more work :-) I needed them to repaint the IKEA furniture to match the bookshelf. I was thinking of another colour initially as I thought Mr. Junior needs a variety in colour options as his nursery was mainly green too but after looking at paint options that matched our criteria, green was the best choice of all. So, we bought some drawers and shelves from that store and the boys sanded them down and repainted them. Actually, I had a go at the painting of the homemade shelf too. Not many people who have visited our home believed for a while that it is a homemade shelf. It looks awesome, totally professional look apart from the uneven level which isn't very obvious. It is a beautiful complete set and everytime we look at it, we remember of the good times we had choosing (OK, I admit, that part wasn't the most enjoyable), painting, and reassembling of Mr. Junior's furniture. There is nothing like a good warm personal touch and much put love when you make things. Homemade is the best!

(Note: Please don't mind the bookless bookshelves and the old blinds at the back. This was a photo taken impatiently. If I could wait  bit more before taking the photo, you could have seen a few things improved in the picture.)


Ground mint
Up until last few years, I had never thought I could never buy dry mint from shops again. I sort of knew that it is easy to grow mint in the garden or in a pot but didn't really think it was this easy! We planted some mint in one of our vegie patches in the garden I guess 4-5 years ago and since then we have never needed to do much, really. Now, all we do is to make sure that it doesn't stay 'thirsty' and also cut it close to the ground as often as possible. It is a great herb to share with loved ones or neighbours as it performs much better when cut often. You cut it, use it, in a few weeks, it is ready to go again.

Now, how to dry it? Well, it is as easy as growing it. You cut it from the stem close to the root, make sure it is clean, wash it, put it on a tray with some kitchen towel or paper towel and wait until it dries. Once it is totally dry, which can take different periods of time depending on the weather and where you place it, you use some man power (it is generally Mr. Hubby who does it in our case) to put it through some fine strainer. The stems will not go through the strainer anyway, so don't be too concerned about leaving them on when you pick them. I guarantee you that not only you will save money, you will also discover a new smell and a taste in your diet. I don't think I can ever go back to the ones I used to buy from supermarkets. The smell and the taste of our homemade mint is heaps better!!!

In regards to how to use ground mint.. Let me give you a few simple and tasty ideas that you too may want to try if you haven't done so before. Lets number the ideas:

1. Mint in yoghurt drink. (If you don't know what yoghurt drink is, stay tuned! I will soon write a recipe for it. It is one of the most traditional summer drinks in Turkey but traditionally, mint is not included in it. However, most Cypriot Turks prefer it with mint. I personally like it both ways. If you are after a cold and fresh drink, give it a try and leave me a line to let me know what you think).

2. Stuffed vegetables with mint. Most mediterranean recipe books would include some sort of stuffed vegetable recipes in it. So did our menus at home as a child. They are healthy, can have a colourful variety which doesn't only look good but also offers different vitamins too. Try adding your homemade dry mint into the stuffing of one or many types of vegies.

3. Yoghurt Soup. This too is a traditional Turkish soup and tastes fabulous especially with the addition of ground mint on the basic sauce of it which contains olive oil, mint and - preferably homemade- chilli flakes. If you want to learn how to make this soup, either wait till I get around putting the recipe up here or do a little online search on it. It is one of the easiest and fast cooking soups. It is also Mr. Junior's favourite soup. We make it hot during cooler days and cold during hotter days (especially when out, the cold yoghurt soup is an excellent homemade food to bring with us in an air tight bowl).

These are only three easy and tasty ways of using your homemade dry mint at home. Enjoy!