Friday, 30 December 2011

SEASON'S GREETINGS

It is hard to believe that 2011 has already come to an end. I am not sure how to celebrate it or whether to celebrate it but one thing for sure that it provides people with an opportunity to speak out their best wishes for others.

Please accept my best wishes for the New Year. May it bring to you and your loved ones health, happiness, peace, and prosperity. May it see your hopes fulfilled and may it be rich in the successful accomplishment of your most important aims.

I'd also like to take this as a chance to thank everyone who has viewed my blog (homeofhomemadereasures.blogspot.com) and facebook pages (Why Bee and MADE BY Y) and has shared their much appreciated comments and feedback with me publicly or privately. I am still at the beginning of this inspirational and exciting journey and am grateful to all those who have been supporting me. I hope to share with you as practical, meaningful, informative and helpful information and products as possible in the coming years too.


Enjoy what is left of this year and I hope to catch up with you all in the next year!

REFRESHING YOGHURT DRINK

ayran

It is summer in Australia and there are many days when we look for a cold refreshing drink around the house due to the heat.  Most packaged drinks are sugary and as always, they have a few too many ingredients for an innocent summer drink. They are only two of the reasons why it is best to make your own at home.

Here is a refreshing yoghurt drink recipe for you that can easily be followed and made by even young school aged kids. It is a traditional Turkish drink and is often used in the Middle East too. I have not tried it myself but heard that it goes well with some sweets even though it is most commonly consumed with pastry, kebabs and even on its own.

Ingredients:

Natural plain yoghurt (click for homemade yoghurt tutorial)
Water
Salt (traditionally used but it is upto you to discard if preferred)
Ground mint (optional)

Method: 

Just mix your yoghurt well and add some water in it as you stir it. It needs to be very smooth with no lumps in it. The consistency depends on your taste but I would suggest it to be not too runny or too thick. Then add a pinch of salt (into your glass only or into the jar) and some (preferably homemade) ground mint.

Before serving it, mix it well and serve it cool (you can leave it in the fridge for a while before serving it or add some ice cubes into it).  

Enjoy!








Thursday, 29 December 2011

A SHOE RE-DO FOR THE CRAFTY

Here is an idea for the craft cravers. I haven't tried it myself but it doesn't look much complicated and the video recorded instructions are quite clear. I think it is a fun project and can be very helpful in utilising shoes that are out of fashion or are scratched lightly. It would also make it possible to design a matching pair of shoes for a particular dress since apart from some classic colours that can be boring, not many shoes can match many outfits.

Click on the play button in the middle of the picture below to watch the video which runs for approximately 3.5 minutes. 


Enjoy adding a new life to your old shoes!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

WHICH FISH NOT TO FEED CHILDREN

Fish is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which play a huge role in brain and eye development, and is very nutritious. It is a great idea to feed babies (starting from about 7 months old) and kids fish regularly (about two baby/kid serving size a week). However, you need to be mindful of the hazards of mercury in fish. In high doses, this metal is harmful to a child's developing brain and nervous system.

Mercury is everywhere including the weather we breathe in. Fish have mercury in them too but what you need to keep in mind is that certain types of fish have much larger amounts of it than others.

As a general rule of thumb, just remember that the larger the fish, the higher the mercury level. There are some logical reasons behind this. For instance, larger fish eat smaller fish. Therefore, on top of their own mercury levels, they contain the mercury from the fish that they eat as well. In addition, in most cases, larger fish live longer. Thus, they build up higher levels of this metal in their bodies since they have more time for more mercury exposure.
Big fish

These are the kinds of fish that contain the highest level of mercury:
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish
Some experts also recommend that children between the ages of 2 and 6 not be served fresh or frozen tuna (there are some arguments on canned tuna), striped bass, bluefish, Chilean sea bass, golden snapper, marlin, orange roughy, amberjack, Crevalle jack, Spanish mackerel from the Gulf of Mexico, and walleye from the Great Lakes.

Fish for childrenAccording to the experts in the U.S., these are the fish that are both low in mercury and high in healthy fats:
  • herring
  • mackerel (Atlantic, jack, chub)
  • rainbow trout (farm raised)
  • salmon (wild or farm raised)
  • sardines
  • whitefish
I highly recommend that you include fish in your child's diet and I definitely do not recommend to discard fish from the menu to avoid exposure to mercury. Fish is the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids. On the other hand, here is a list of foods and drinks that include some Omega-3 for your information in case fish don't work for your life style. 
  • Eggs 
  • milk
  • soy beverages
  • juice
  • yogurt
  • bread
  • cereal
  • margarine 
The above are now fortified with omega-3s in many countries. Some don't contain very much DHA or EPA, but small amounts can add up. (Look for products that contain at least 50 milligrams of DHA per serving.)


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

CARROT DIP


carrot dip recipe
Easy Carrot Dip
Carrot dip is very easy to make and is easy to consume too. I especially recommend it when the weather is warm/hot as well as when you have many carrots in hand that you don't know what to do with. Most dips also make a good finger food when served with some crackers or better yet, homemade chips (see my entry on how to make easy and healthy homemade chips). Dips are great as appetisers, snacks, side dishes and party foods.
flat bread chips
Homemade Chips

Ingredients: 

Carrots (3-4 medium size or as many as you like)
Natural yoghurt (depends on the amount of the carrot. If the carrot is about a bowlful, then add yoghurt about the same size or a bit more or to taste)
Oil (preferrably olive oil) (approximately 2-3 tablespoons)
Garlic (optional)
Pinch of salt (or according to your taste)

Method:

Wash, peel and grate the carrots. Heat up a pan with oil in it. Add the carrots and stir it for a few minutes on high heat, until it becomes soft. Take it off the stove and leave it aside. While it is cooling, mix your garlic, yoghurt and salt well. Add the coked carrot and mix it until there is no big lumps of carrot. Serve it cool.

Enjoy!





















Monday, 26 December 2011

WHY DO COWS HAVE HORNS?

cows
We had a pretty rough afternoon and evening here in Melbourne yesterday. It was so stormy that unfortunately, many people from certain suburbs had their cars damaged because of the hail.

Mr. Junior was quite uncomfortable due to all that thunderstorm and lightening and found it challenging to fall asleep at his sleep time at night. I thought it might be helpful for him to have a little teddy in bed so that he can hug it tight when he feels a bit scared. Despite the fact that he has never had a comfort toy, last night, I offered him a teddy in pyjamas thinking that it would be the perfect comforting friend for bed. Even though he was glad with the idea of a comfort toy in bed, he didn't want the teddy. Instead, he asked for a cow that is almost more than half his size and was gifted to him by some much loved family members. We gave the soft cow to him and I think he felt better with it next to him. However, this time his curiosity took over and he couldn't sleep for a while because he said 'he had some problem'. His problem was that he had some questions in mind about the cow and they were important to him. One of the questions was 'why do cows have horns?'

It is almost always about lots of 'why' and 'how' questions with him at this stage. It is extremely enjoyable, surprising and challenging. Some of his questions make us think really hard. Sometimes, he asks questions that we have never even thought about. Sometimes, we know the answers but it is the matter of finding the right words to explain them to him. At times, he asks questions that we too would love to find out the answers of.

Last night, we told him that some animals have horns to guard themselves but even we weren't quite sure whether it was the reason or whether it was the only reason (or, for example, do they use them while mating or finding food too?). He found the answer satisfactory enough I suppose. So, I went online after he was asleep and checked what information was available on that. Below is all I could find.
  • Some cows have horns, while others don't. It depends on the breed. 
  • Female cows can have horns just like bulls (male cows). It is not gender dependent. 
  • In most cases, domestic cows are 'de-horned/debudded' to protect the carers as well as the herd as it is believed that there is no natural predators and they can do without them. 
  • (I was unable to find the reasons behind having horns). 
For further reading on cows, you can visit some websites such as this. Some of the information given is so interesting and some is sure to give many of you goosebumps.

If any of you have any factual information on 'why cows have horns', please share with us so that we can give more reliable information to our children as well as feeding our curious minds with it. 











Sunday, 25 December 2011

DID YOU KNOW ...? (5)

nocturnal animals
Raccoons are nocturnal animals. During the day, they like to sleep in hollow oak trees.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

LOW COST ACTIVITY IDEAS FOR PRE-SCHOOLERS

It is that time of the year once again when we all have some time off from work, school and many other activities. Now is also a time when it can become challenging to keep our little energy bombs, who will be with you all day and night, busy at home happily. Some of the activities below are suitable for indoors, whereas some others are specifically designed for outdoors. They can be used at home, at school or at a birthday party easily and they may be real savers during this holiday season.

* Odds and ends box-include pegs, tins and lids, shells, large buttons, costume jewellery, and other knick knacks.

* Paste and collage - fabric, leaves, wool, egg cartons, old magazines, pasta.

* Threading - beads, buttons, macaroni, cotton reels, cut up plastic straws threaded onto strips of plastic or shoe laces tied at the end.

* Photo albums - include family photos, children's drawings, magazine pictures of favourite characters, old birthday cards.

* Playdough (See my homemade playdough recipes here)

* Water play - wash plastic dishes or doll's clothes in a baby's bath. Use plastic containers, funnels and sieves for pouring activities. Also see these activity ideas as well as this one.)

* Musical instruments - ice cream container drum with wooden spoon sticks, shakers made from empty cream bottles filled with rice (tape the lid), craft shop bells sewn on ribbon or elastic wrist bands.

* Skittles - plastic drink bottles or detergent bottles with a rubber ball.

* Make an indoor obstacle course using chairs, cushions, cardboard boxes and a skipping rope for children to climb over and under, walk along, crawl through.

* Cardboard boxes - can be turned into a boat, car, plane, garage, TV set, oven, sandals etc.

* Cubby house - throw a blanket over a table, add small cushions, plastic cups and plates and baby blankets. Also read my post titled A ZERO COST CUBBY HOUSE IN A MINUTE here.

* Dress up box - include old hats, shoes, pieces of material, costume jewellery, belts, ties, scarves, purses and handbags.

* Puppets - decorated paper plates on an icy pole stick, empty plastic bottles, old socks. Also see my post on MONKEY PUPPET.

* Nature walk - collect leaves, stones, pine cones, shells, feathers.

*Cooking - cook with your child.

*Gardening - garden together with your child.

* Puzzles - cut out and paste big pictures on to cardboard, then cut the picture into two or four pieces for children to put back together again.

Note: Some of the above recommendations are from a Positive Parenting Course while others belong to Home of Homemade Treasures Blog.

Friday, 23 December 2011

HOW TO STOP SWEARING

Many people swear for different reasons at different levels. However, most people would agree that it is a bad language and can be an unwanted habit. The suggestions below are for people who believe they have a bad habit of swearing and would like to do something about it. It is never easy to break a habit but it definitely doesn't mean it is impossible.

how to stop swearing

Here is a fun strategy for you: Every time you feel like/want to/need to swear, just use a tongue twister instead! I will be sharing with you some tongue twisters on my facebook page (Why Bee) but lets get you started right here, right now with a few examples:
  • Toy boat
  • Irish wristwatch
  • She sells sea shells on the sea shore
  • Betty Botter bought a bit of butter
  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
If you believe that the above suggestion wouldn't work for you, then try this one: everytime you need to swear, just give yourself a gentle pinch on the arm or pat your lips with your hands once or twice. 

Lets see what else may work for you. Every time you are about to swear, just say 'beep' instead. So, it goes like this; Beep off!, You are a beep!, Beep!

Replace the swearing word with a good word such as 'pretty' or 'marvelous'. I know it will feel funny to use a 'good word' when you are upset and swearing due to your frustration but give it a try and you never know, this may be the one doing wonders for you. 

You can also try not to swear during the day and then indulge in using the words you kept to yourself during the day when you are all alone at night if it will make you feel better. 

Alternatively, if you can't stop it on the spot and a swearing word slips out of your mouth, then punish yourself with the hope that it discourages you the next time. For instance, every time you swear, you have to give a certain amount of money to your partner, put money into your child's money box or better yet, donate! This strategy may work for you when trying to break your habit of swearing. 

Give yourself some reasonable time limit. For example, 30 days for breaking a habit may be effective but you need to use a habit breaking strategy at all times during that time.

Don't forget, it is very expectable that there will be some initial pain and discomfort but it is a normal stage of breaking any bad habit. Just believe in yourself and pay attention to it for a while. Consistency is the key!



Thursday, 22 December 2011

FRUITY CONES

Fruity Cone
This recipe makes a delicious, appetising and a nutritious snack for kids. Try making this together with your child. You can also use this recipe when you host a birthday party. 

Ingredients
Mixture of fresh fruit in a variety of colours
Square ice-cream cones
Yoghurt or icecream (optional)

Method
Wash and chop fruit into 1cm cubes. Drain the fruit of excess liquid and pile into the cone. Top with yogurt or a dollop of ice cream if desired. Serve immediately to prevent the cones going soggy.

Variation: If you don't have square cones, use the more common round ones but perhaps use smaller fruit pieces such as some blueberries on the bottom before topping it up with the rest of the fruit cubes. 

Note: The picture and the original idea were taken from here

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

SEASONAL PRODUCE LIST

There is no doubt that the best thing to do is to consume fresh produce when in season for many reasons (health perspective, environmental reasons etc). Here is a list for you for General Australian Seasonal Produce. There are also some other lists (state by state) that are only clicks away from that page. Enjoy!

CARTON SANDALS

Recycling cartons

These are the photos that I copied from a tutorial published here. I thought even just these three pictures are clear enough to give you a good idea on how to make a pair with your kids. If you have a school aged kid, she may not even need any help at all (depending on the readiness of using sharp objects/cutters). I am sure, she will be able to come up with her own design all by herself easily. I really like the idea of reusing/repurposing materials as well as keeping my children busy happily. Lets see if you enjoy it too!


Craft activity

DIY sandals

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

HOMEMADE HAND SCRUB

Hand scrubs are used to exfoliate/remove dead skin cells and they soften and rejuvenate skin. They are an important part of personal care.


How much do you spend on hand scrubs that you don't even know what chemicals are contained in? Well, here are only a few of many quick, easy and safe homemade hand scrub recipes that cost very little.


Lemon and Sugar Hand Scrub Recipe


To make about 350gr (approx 12oz) of handscrub, these are what you need:
  • 2,5 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoonsful of lemon juice (or essential oils of your choice)
First, mix the sugar with the oil and then add the lemon juice to it. Mix them well until a paste texture forms. Pour or spoon it into an airtight glass jar and keep it there. If the mixture (or rather the sugar) settles on the bottom of the jar after a while, just give it another stir before use. 

If you only want to try it first, I would recommend you use only a quarter of those ingredients and make about 85gr (3oz) of it initially. Even that much will go for a while as all you need is a tiny bit of it each time you use. 

Oatmeal Hand Scrub Recipe
  • 2 tablespoons of oatmeal
  • 1,5 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
First, you need to soak the oatmeal in 1/4 cup of water. When the oatmeal softens, add the lemon juice and olive oil to it and mix thoroughly. 

This is also a hand spa recipe and the best way to use it is that you should rub the mixture into your hands and let it stand for 1-2 minutes. After that, rinse your hands with cool water and pat dry. Apply moisturizer to your hands and let it soak in 10-15 minutes.

Another Homemade Hand Scrub Recipe
  • 1/2 a cup of sugar
  • 3 tablespoonsful of olive oil 
  • 3 tablespoonsful of water
  • A few drops of scented oil of your choice (optional)
Mix the sugar, oil and water well until it becomes a paste with no lump. Then, if you prefer to use a scented oil, add the oil and stir it again.

How to use hand scrubs:

Apply mixture to your hands and rub in a circular motion until you feel that you have achieved your ideal skin softness or until the sugar dissolves. Do not rub any further if your hands start to hurt or burn (don’t worry; this is probably not an allergic reaction to any of the materials, but instead from the rubbing of the grains of sugar). Rinse your hands with water until you can no longer feel the grains of sugar. Towel dry and apply lotion if you like.  


Note: We only store brown sugar at home and I know most of homemade hand scrub recipes work wonders with it. So, feel free try using brown sugar when making your own.



Monday, 19 December 2011

ZUCCHINI DIP

I've learnt this recipe from a friend of mine who is really good at cooking using a variety of fresh produce. She is kind enough to share with me her especially easy to make recipes that are healthy and do not take much effort to make. Since we tried this dip for the first time, it has become one of our favourites especially during hotter days. This recipe as well as most other dip recipes go really well with some homemade chips. Check out my entry titled 'HEALTHY, YUMMY, QUICK and EASY CHIPS?' posted on 27/11/2011 or just click here.

zucchini dip recipe
Ingredients:

Zucchini/courgette (amount depends on how much you want to make but even two medium size zucchinis should be fine for a side dish for a family 3 or 4)
Plain yoghurt (about a small bowlful should be fine but again, it depends on how much courgette is being used) (perhaps 1,5 cups of zucchini and 1 cup of yoghurt would be a good match)
Oil (we prefer olive oil) (only a few tablespoons)
Garlic (optional-about a clove)
Dill (optional)
Salt (optional)

How to Prepare:

Wash the zucchinis and grate them. Heat some oil in a saucepan and add the shredded zucchini to it. Stir it for a few minutes or until it becomes soft. Then leave it on the side and while it is cooling, start preparing your yoghurt mix. Put your natural plain yoghurt in a large bowl. Add some garlic and salt and stir them a little. Add the warm or cold zucchini and finely chopped dill into the yoghurt mixture and mix well. It is best when consumed cold.


Note1: You can try roasting your zucchinis before going ahead with the rest of the recipe if you like but I normally cook them lightly in a pan.
Note2: You can prepare your zucchinis the night before or even a bit earlier and leave it in the fridge in an airtight container and when ready to consume, all you need to do is to prepare the yoghurt mix! I love making my dips the day before I have a function on and on the day, I have so much less to do. If you can't finish the dip on the day, don't worry, just leave it in the fridge and you can still easily consume it the next day too!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

MR. JUNIOR MEETS THE SAURUS FAMILY


On 27/11/2011, I wrote about Mr. Junior's wish to visit a 'dinosaur museum'. Thanks to jazz's comment after reading my post, we learned about the dinosaur exhibition at Scienceworks in Melbourne. This morning, Mr. Junior asked for a museum visit again and we decided to take him to Scienceworks after Miss Junior's organics shopping was complete. Overall, it was great fun, however, I do have some negative comments too.

The dinosaur section, we thought, wasn't quite worth the entrance fee and it did not have enough variety of activities to keep kids busy there. We believe that it could have been more engaging. You can watch and admire the roaring and moving dinosaurs only for so long and then you want to move on. I guess Mr. Junior's favourite activity there was the one, where, using his fingers, he could pick colours, shapes and colour a digital image. There was also a sand pit where kids could 'discover bones' using brushes. There were some other activities too but I guess for most kids there, they were the highlights of the place. So, it wasn't bad, it is just that the amount of money you pay to get into that section (we had to pay $21 for that section as well as the general entry of $20 for two adults, 1 baby and a toddler) isn't necessarily worth it especially when you see that your child cannot find many activities to keep busy with and you need to leave the place in half an hour or so.

Science-works

On the other hand, Scienceworks' general section was quite interesting and hands-on. It was so good that we all found it hard to leave even after we got pretty tired due to all that running and other challenges. It offered a lot of activities, information and challenges that noone in the family was left bored at any stage (well, for Miss Junior, it was all about the new environment, colours and the excitement around her). You can run, jump, measure, watch, listen, ride, play, pull, push...

In general, it was a great family outing and I am sure Mr. Junior will be talking about the dinosaurs and everything else that he saw there today for a while. Thanks once again jazz!

DID YOU KNOW ...? (4)

According to some sources, a fava bean is included in a Christmas cake in Portugal and traditionally, whoever gets the fava bean has to buy the Christmas cake the following year! (If you would like to read more about fava/broad beans, check out my post titled BROAD BEANS (FAVA) on 03/11/2011).


Fava beans

Friday, 16 December 2011

THINGS I CAN DO: The EVERYDAY ESSENTIALS AT HOME

(Continuing with the 'Positive Parenting' course notes...)
  1. Positive modelling
  2. Clear expectations for behaviour
  3. Praise good behaviour
  4. Focus on behaviour, not qualities of child
  5. Explaining requests 
  6. Keeping emotion out and my voice down
  7. Givens and choices
  8. Reasonable expectations
  9. Keep adult matters among adults
  10. Spending time together

Thursday, 15 December 2011

GOJI BERRIES (WOLFBERRY)

wolfberry

The first time I ever heard of 'goji berry' (also known as 'wolfberry' but there is an argument about the name of it. Some say that goji berry is the commercial name to wolfberry, while some others argue that they are originally two different foods) was approximately about five years ago. I used to work with some adult students from all over the world (lucky me!) at the time. Many of my students were well educated and some used to work as doctors, teachers, scientists, engineers, opera singers, producers etc in their home country.

One day, as I was having a conversation with some of my Chinese students one of whom was in health science, the topic came to some certain foods and dried goji berry was the heart of the topic. It took my attention quite a bit as all of the people originally from China (or Tibet) that were in that group talked about it quite highly and passionately. The lady whose occupation was doctor also told me so much about its health benefits which made me even more interested. Those days, I didn't even know where I could get them from and but I was told that most health stores and Asian groceries stored them. At the time, through those lovely people, I was able to access to those berries but later on, I had no issues finding them at a local health store. I have actually noticed in more recent years that even some well known franchised supermarkets stock them in their health food section where the packaged nuts and other snack foods are. I must admit I have come across with one or two articles which claimed that today's goji/wolf berries aren't the same as the ones they claim to be this beneficial, but overall, they do sound quite attractive to me and it has taken its place in our diet on and off for almost 5 years now.

Now, lets look into the claimed medicinal properties of wolfberries/goji berries.

Wolfberries are termed a superfruit. They have a high level of vitamin C. Some test results show that goji berries contain antioxidants and therefore they may prevent the growth of cancer cells, reduce blood glucose, and lower cholesterol levels. Goji berries are used mainly to protect the liver, help eyesight (which was emphasised quite a bit by my students at the time as well), improve sexual function and fertility, strengthen the legs, boost immune function, improve circulation and promote longevity.

In regards to the consumption of it, I was informed by my students at the time that I should have approximately half a dozen (about 6-7) dried goji berries a day. They can be added to some foods or some people make tea out of them. However, I was also told that I could just eat them raw too which is what we do. I was also asked not to eat any goji berries when I experience any symptoms of an upcoming cold or flu. They said, during that time, wolfberries should not be consumed.

Enjoy!






Wednesday, 14 December 2011

HOW TO FOLLOW A PARTICULAR DIET?

I am one of those lucky mothers whose children are healthy and don't have to follow a certain diet due to its known unwanted reactive affects on them. However, I am also one of those mums who pays a lot of attention to her children's daily intakes on a regular basis voluntarily. I sometimes think that it would have been much easier and less stressful (or wouldn't it?) to keep a particular diet for treatment related reasons rather than prevention purposes even though I appreciate their health very much undoubtedly.

Let me get to the point here. My husband and I have made the conscious decision that we do not want to introduce foods that contain added sugar in them in the first years of our children (and also give them as little exposure to processed foods as possible we decided on). Is this unfair in anyway? Is this harmful? Are they going to be unhappy or disadvantaged because of this decision? Is this do-able? In which ways is this decision likely to affect their development physically, emotionally and socially? How does this suit our personalities and lifestyles? and so forth were some of the questions that came to mind after brainstorming about it and we talked through it, we read about it, we talked to people and observed others etc. As I have mentioned before, we knowingly made the decision that they were not to be introduced some certain types of foods that we believe do not promote a healthy lifestyle or healthy habits.

We have made sure from the beginning that our loved ones and all the other closed family and friends are aware of our decision and we have been very lucky for having supportive people around us overall. There have been times and situations when some people may not quite agree with us but it will not stop them from respecting our wishes on this matter. So, we have had almost no problem in this regard when it comes down to most people around us.

I know we have been lucky in this sense because I have witnessed and heard of many people where even very close family members would get offended or not respect similar wishes of other parents and it would cause some unneeded tension on both sides.

However, I still find it very frustrating when I see people and especially professionals such as coaches, teachers, trainers, carers and alike offer our kids lollies etc or make us feel uncomfortable because of our decision or even when they were informed of our decision at the beginning making our children think they are excluded from the rest of the group.

It really frustrates me because I really do believe in what I am doing in this sense but even more importantly perhaps, it makes me think how it would have been if my children had some certain conditions that prevented them from the consumption of particular foods. I am sure there are many people whose children are unfortunately in particular strict diets due to their health conditions and I don't know if their kids or themselves too made feel this way intentionally or not. For example, are their kids', say, swimming trainer too gives every other child a lolly or a bar of chocolate in the group when they celebrate some achievement while your child is just looking at them (because the trainer was informed that your child has a sugar-free diet, he gives the other kids a lolly in front of your child while skipping yours)? I know it is very unfair on your child and I must admit I have the luxury to allow my children to break the rule at that particular moment regardless of how I may be feeling about it as it is not life threatening in our case but WHAT IF  IT WAS? What if my child couldn't take it because it was a 'life-threatening' food for him? Do we have to always explain to people why he is not allowed certain foods? Do I have to feel as if I am such a mother who is disadvantaging her child because of her 'over the top' rules? Does my child have to have a condition to be taken seriously when it comes to his diet requirements? How come it is this normal that people can offer especially kids, who are not at the age of having strong 'self-discipline', foods or other things that are known and categorised 'unhealthy' universally (I know the amount is extremely important here too but in general I am talking about foods that are not considered to be 'healthy' and/or natural)?.

Just recently, I have had a chat with an educator originally from Canada. She came to Australia quite a few years ago as a migrant, she said. She mentioned that when she came here years ago, she had some challenges in this sense as well. She had some young children with her at the time. She said that in Canada, sugary foods aren't big (or weren't big at the time) and even if there is a party and they have cakes, it would be perhaps a fruit cake and it would have no icing on it whatsoever. However, after coming to Australia, she had the urge that she had to come up with rules for her children as they were exposed to so much sugar here. She said that even at school her daughter was given some of that type of food which she formally complained about.

I am normally pretty comfortable with the decisions that Mr. Hubby and I make as we generally take things seriously especially if it involves kids and we generally put lots of thought in it before going ahead with something. We may be taking things a bit too seriously perhaps but this is only because we believe that this is the best for them. However, with this particular topic especially, I don't think I am doing anything wrong but I still feel frustrated and stressed when my child is left out too obviously or when I get the looks etc.

I don't think we are alone in the world taking this path with our children's diet and feeling this way but I still feel as if we come from a different universe and we are not understood well on this matter.


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

FIRST AID FOR BURNS

The correct first aid for a burn is cooling immediately with cool running tap water for a minimum of 20 minutes. Do NOT use iced water, ice, butter or oil.

Source: Kidsafe (Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia)

Monday, 12 December 2011

SOME WATER BASED GAMES

Here in Australia, the weather has become pretty warm recently and I have started using water based games more often. Mr. Junior loves playing with water anyway and these almost no-cost and easy-to-do games help him keep cool and busy. I also like these games because they provide wonderful opportunities for me to introduce more words to enhance his vocabulary (eg. wet/dry, pouring/spooning/pulling/pushing/squeezing etc) and maths skills (heavy/light, big/small, empty/full, 1ml/5ml etc).

Depending on your little fun lover's age and readiness, you can alter the materials a bit (initially, I'd definitely recommend the use of sponge rather than the syringe as syringe needs more challenging fine motor skills and hand-eyecoordination skills than the sponge does and it is important that your child enjoys it and doesn't get frustrated because of it. It is always helpful to make sure that they feel that they can achieve things before moving onto the next level. Challenges are great but not too much of it. You need to decide and perhaps play by ear what and when he/she is ready for).

bowl
A little bowl

Materials needed:
  • two containers - any size you like (I like different size jars made out of different materials. Even some glass or plastic cups or some little bowls would work well for most kids)
  • a tray or a large container to prevent water spill
  • water
The idea here is that your child transfers water from one container into the other hopefully without spilling any. First, one container is filled with some water and then it is poured into the other. There may be some water spill but the large tray in which the other two containers are placed will still keep the rest of the house dry!

a sponge
A simple sponge

Materials needed:
  • a sponge (not too big, for it would be hard for your child to hold well)
  • two containers (any size you like but one criterion you need to keep in mind is that the sponge should fit in them)
  • a tray or a large container to prevent water spill
  • water
How you use these materials is that the containers are placed in the large tray. One of the containers is filled with some water. The sponge is dipped in the one with water, the water is sucked and then squeezed into the empty container. This is repeated until all the water is transferred into the originally empty bowl. They can keep doing it until they've had enough.
water games
A syringe with no needle


Materials needed:
  • a syringe WITHOUT a needle (especially with younger children, the bigger, the better)
  • two containers any size you like
  • a tray or a large container to prevent water spill
  • water
Note: This particular activity may be best suitable for children over the age of 3 or 4. 

What your child does here is similar to the one with sponge (see above).  The containers are placed in the large tray. One of the containers is filled with some water. Using the syringe, some water is sucked and then emptied out into the other container.  This is repeated until all the water is transferred into the originally empty bowl or alternatively, they can keep doing it until they've had enough.



Feel free to use your own variation and please don't forget to share with us your variety.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

COMPOSTING AT HOME

Compost, also referred as 'black gold' by some gardeners as it is very rich in nutrients and is as valuable as gold for gardeners, is something that once you get your hands on to, you can never do without. It is extremely easy to do at home and it doesn't have to cost you a cent!

Here, I will be giving you tips on how to make your organic compost at home easily and without any expense even though it is up to you to decide whether you'd prefer to go buy kits and nice looking compost bins etc. I will be sharing with you the essentials of composting and then you go ahead and work with whatever agrees to your taste and lifestyle.

Composting is nature's process of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil known as compost. Anything that was once living will decompose. 


There are three types of composting: 
  1. Backyard Composting
    • Needs two elements: Greens (grass clippings and food scraps) and browns (fallen leaves, woody branches, straw, shredded newspaper etc) 
  2. Worm Composting
    • Doesn't need much space or a big garden. Food scraps are used.
  3. Grasscycling
    • Achieved by leaving grass clipping on the lawn to decompose. 

Below is a copied list for 'backyard composting' from this website.


Compost Ingredients


WHAT TO COMPOST 
Greens = good sources of nitrogen
Grass clippingsmix well so they do not pack down
Coffee groundsinclude filter
Fruit
Vegetablesall vegetables & peelings
Egg shellsadds calcium
Manure from herbivoresi.e., horse, cow, rabbit. Do not use if animal is sick
Tea bags
Hairhuman or animal, may be slow to degrade
Grains
Feathers
Blood mealextremely rich in nitrogen

Browns = good sources of carbon
Leavesimproved aeration
Strawa good source of bulky material
Sawdustmust be from untreated wood
Newspaper
Yard wastebest cut to sizes 2" or less
Paperboardi.e., cereal boxes, paper plates and napkins, break into small pieces
Dried grassesgood source of carbon
Wood ashmust be from untreated wood

WHAT TO AVOID & WHY 
Diseased plantsdisease can spread if pile does not get hot enough
Weeds with seedsor weeds that can sprout from bits of root. Seeds or bits of root may survive and sprout in garden if compost doesn't get hot enough to kill them.
Dog or cat fecesmay carry parasites and diseases that infect humans
Toxic chemicals
(pesticides, etc.)
will harm or kill beneficial soil life
Charcoal (briquettes)will not break down in compost
Fats, oils, greaseattracts animals and keep anything they coat from breaking down
Meat scraps, bones, cheeseslow to break down, smells bad and attracts animals
Treated logscontains high amount of chemicals

There are different methods of Backyard Composting. One method is as simple as digging a hole/trench in the garden and putting the food scraps in it and then covering it up with soil. The other easy method is called 'tumbler'. Add the compost materials in with a little bit of soil and turn it around everyday. If you would like to learn about more methods, by doing some search on the internet, you can access to a wide range of sources or you can visit here

Lets now move onto Worm Composting. A place for the worms (preferably the red wigglers) to live in is a must. You can easily use a bin for this purpose but it shouldn't be too deep as it needs to have some air flow. You could utilise whatever you have in your hands (plastic or wooden container) and if needed, add some holes to it, which is what we have done. However, be mindful that if you are using a treated wooden bin, it may contain some arsenic or other chemicals that may have been used as preservatives. Also, because of the moisture, the wooden bins may not last longer than only a few years. 

There are different ways to do this but let me share with you one way of getting started. 

How you prepare a plastic container (if you haven't bought one that is already ready to go) is that first of all, make sure it is on the ground so that the soil organisms can get in (or I have seen people who would make some holes in the container and then bury it to the ground. There are options and it is upto you to decide what works the best for you). Add a handful of dirt to the bottom of the bin (especially if it isn't on the soil) and fill it with shredded, moist, black&white newspaper. Make sure the paper pieces are not too large or wet as they would interfere with air circulation. Once you have got this bedding ready, add a variety of food scraps from the right range (see the list above). Try to have a good balance of them and if possible put them in a layered manner so none is too thick. Rock dust perhaps a few times a year helps. So does adding a small amount of soil. Also, ground limestone rock, egg shells, or oyster shells are helpful in keeping the bin from becoming too acidic.

Do NOT add the following: Meat or fish scraps or shells of prawn or crab (an option to use them is just digging a deep hole and burying them as they are good for the soil). Do not add dog or cat poo or weeds with seeds (otherwise you will be spreading the seeds around your garden). 

Make sure your bin doesn't become too wet in the rain etc. So, cover it up with a tarp well. Also, turn it over periodically. When fully decomposed, the compost will have a pleasant earthy smell and you will see little or nothing of the original ingredients.

Here is how we make compost as a family at home. We simply cut up the bottom of a bin and made it its lid. We removed the actual lid and that larger side of the bin became totally accessible to the ground. We put that open end (originally the top of the bin) on one of our garden beds (meaning we have already covered the bottom with soil/dirt like recommended above). And then basically, we started adding our greens and browns to it as well as adding some soil at times and turning it over and airing it out at times. Don't forget, if your container is deep, you should make some holes on the body of it since it is essential for air circulation. It works really well for us because we are interested in organic gardening as much as possible and also we have so much food scrap from home cooking and the high consumption levels of fresh produce at home that we are glad to recycle whatever we have got whenever possible. It is good for us, our children (they will hopefully learn it and carry it on), our garden, good for our environment...

I hope this was helpful for many of you out there.

Have a helpful day!


Thursday, 8 December 2011

SOME FUNNY EPISODES AT HOME

I had to share with you a few of many funny memories that I have had the luxury of having while spending most of my days and times with my two gorgeous children.

Yesterday, this is exactly what happened. I left Miss Junior on the floor of our living room and went to my bedroom to get some work done. Mr. Junior got up from his afternoon nap and started crying in the hallway because he couldn't see me in the living room where he likes to see me when he wakes up. I went next to him, talked to him etc but he said that he didn't want to stop yet and 'wanted' to cry more. So, I respected his wishes and went back to my work in the other room. As he was loudly crying, Miss Junior must have felt the negative vibe too and she started crying as well. Then, Mr. Junior stopped crying, went to Miss Junior, told her with a much softer voice exactly this: "shhh... You don't cry, I cry"and then quietly went back to the hallway and started crying once again! I thought it was hilarious! It actually didn't end there. I took both of them and put them in each lap where I tried to calm them down, gave them cuddles etc. They kept going for a while but the funny side of it was that they looked at one other's eyes as they cried. As they looked at each other, they cried even more.

Another episode was that one day about a month or so ago, I was quite impatient and frustrated as Mr. Junior was having a few tantrums in a row and it wasn't my best day anyway. As I became less tolerant and started raising my voice, I noticed that it wasn't any helpful for any of us. So, I told him that I needed some time alone to calm down. I told him that I needed to go to my room for a few minutes and then I'd be feeling better. However, even after I closed the door, he kept going off and I told him that I only needed a few minutes but I really needed it. He didn't quite want to give up but realised that his crying hard won't really get him anywhere. Nor will it make me open the door right then. I can't be sure if it was the reason but somehow he changed his tone a bit -still crying though- and said "mummy, I don't make trouble, I just want to talk". That was exactly how he said it and that made me smile once again. So, I opened the door, he apologised (yes, he knows how to apologise when needed but it definitely doesn't stop him from doing it again), sat down next to me and initiated a little chat out of nowhere!

Kids are unbelievable!

MONKEY PUPPET

Make a Monkey Puppet

I read this on this site here and thought it would be great to share it with you too. It is nice and easy and I am sure your child or students will love it too! You can use the monkey face that you made using the instructions given previously (see my blog entry titled AN EASY ART PROJECT: How to Draw a Monkey Face).

-- If you have a woolen glove that has lost its mate, use it (and your art work) to make a simple monkey puppet. Put the glove on your hand, and hold your three middle fingers up together. Glue the monkey face to the front of these three fingers, leaving your baby finger and thumb free to act as the hands and arms of the monkey. Now you have a monkey puppet!

-- You could also make mini monkey puppets by gluing smaller monkey faces to the end of craft sticks or popsicle sticks.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

HOW TO RAISE A HAPPY BABY

I must admit, personally, I am not quite sure whether there is a certain universal formula for this but I guess there are things that definitely help in keeping babies happy and hopefully grow up to be positive and happy people. Undoubtedly, various sources would have some slightly different opinions or suggestions but here is what comes to my mind as a mother of two and as a person who reads and discusses about kids related topics fairly often:

Physical Needs: Even the richest or the most famous person in the world can't enjoy their luxurious lifestyles or the items that normally make them happy unless their tummies are full and the need to go to the toilet has been met. First thing first! Make sure your baby is not hungry, overtired, sleepless, cold, hot, wet, has a soiled nappy on etc. (I think most babies are quite happy once this stage is successfully passed which is not always the easiest thing in the world, I must admit-especially sleeping). So, be responsive to your babies' needs and read the signs well.

Emotional Needs: How many of us don't need or want to feel some warm hugs, hear some softly spoken nice words, look into the eyes of a person with love that can be read in their eyes too and so on. Babies are the same. They need to feel that they are loved and cared for and are secure. I am not sure who can't get enough of hugs and feels happier in our case; me or my babies/children? So, give your baby hugs, touch/rock them gently, be connected with them.

Right Atmosphere and Environment: Of course some calm music etc would be helpful but I am actually referring more to a safe, fight free (as much as possible) environment with a good vibe in general here. Consistency is a significant need too. Last but not least, make sure you provide her with lots of opportunities to have fun.

Other: Playing together is a great way to keep babies happy now and in the future I believe. I don't mean play together at all times but I do mean often. They sure need some time alone or with others and it is a very important part of their physical, social, emotional and mental development. However, playing with you and feeling the responsiveness and affection help them build confidence which also leads your baby to be an independent, resilient and a happy person. Furthermore, it is also significant that you talk to your child. Regardless of the age of your precious one, your child will benefit heaps from your talk and the soothing voice of yours. It is never too early to start talking to your baby! Yes, you can and should definitely start talking to your little angel even before the birth, when pregnant.

Please feel free to add or discard any suggestions in the comments section if you believe that is needed.

Enjoy your lovey-dovey day with your baby today!


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

SELF CARE

Here is some further notes from a Positive Parenting course (I have posted some other notes previously)

I have no doubt that we all know that we should take time for ourselves for a healthy lifestyle and to be able to help our loved ones better but sometimes we need to be reminded of it.

Lets start by saying: TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF: YOU ARE WORTH IT!

Self care is important because;
  • this is the only self you ever have
  • you deserve yourself at your best
  • this is a gift you give to others
  • it builds and demonstrates self-respect and our entitlement or be treated with respect by others

Some suggestions:
  • write
  • paint, draw
  • read,
  • exercise,
  • play an instrument,
  • visit a museum,
  • take lessons,
  • engage in your favourite hobby,
  • go to the gym,
  • go for a long walk,
  • paper yourself and go to the hairdressers,
  • take a bubble bath,
  • watch a movie,
  • read a trashy novel or good book,
  • listen to music,
  • paint your toenails,
  • cook your favourite meal, or try a new recipe,
  • wear a nice perfume,
  • simply take a nap,
  • get in touch with a supportive friend or relative,
  • meditate or pray,
  • do some gardening,
  • dance - play your favourite music with a good beat and dance to it,
  • do something new,
  • check out a yoga video or DVD from your local library, and make time to do it,
  • daydream,
  • smile,
  • set a timer, close your eyes, and breathe deeply for five minutes,
  • sit outside and breathe fresh air and enjoy the sun on your face,
  • get up fifteen minutes early so you can linger over a cup of coffee,
  • bake a scrumptious dessert just for you,
  • re-read something that has been especially encouraging to you,
  • write in a journal,
  • go to a park and sit on the swings with your kids,
  • go to bed an hour early,
  • watch the sunset,
  • listen to soothing music,
  • grow something, such as a house plant or fresh herbs,
  • sit with a cup of hot chocolate or some hot tea,
  • give yourself permission to say 'no' to something you really don't have time for or are not interested in,
  • say 'yes' to something you'd really like to do,
  • express your creativity,
  • lend a hand to someone in need,
  • hug your kids!
Have a type of day that you deserve!

Monday, 5 December 2011

MR. JUNIOR'S FIRST GRADUATION CEREMONY

We are so excited this morning as it is Mr. Junior's first graduation day at school. We can't wait to take a part in it. We were informed that Mr. Junior and his group will put on a concert too. It is hard to believe how much he has already grown! As they say, time flies when you have fun. I am just an excited and (as always) a proud mum today.

Enjoy your day while we are enjoying ours!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

SUNDAY SPECIAL


homemade food

There is nothing like a Sunday morning when all the family members gather around a breakfast table and just eat and chat. Especially if the cook is a person like Mr. Hubby, it becomes even more amazing and I feel very lucky and blessed to have such a luxurious quality time with my family! One thing I never forget is that I can never take it for granted.

Today, I was able to have one of those beautiful mornings with the family. Mr. Hubby told me a few days ago that he's recently found a new taste at a cafe near his workplace that he had really enjoyed. Unlike me, he is pretty good at telling what a certain food has in it even without having to talk to the actual chef. This particular avocado spread/dip is different than the usual guacamole dip and  is one of those ones that Mr. Hubby has recently tried, liked and decided to try making a homemade version of.
avocado dip recipe

This spread (or dip) has only three ingredients which are:
  • Fresh mint (preferably from your own garden)
  • Spreadable cheese
  • Avocado
Coarsely chop/tear the fresh mint leaves and add it into the cheese and avocado. (Mr. Hubby decided after tasting the pictured below dip that it would have been better if the cheese was much less in ours).  

We enjoyed it on a piece of toasted Italian style cabatta bread for breakfast but you could easily use it as a sandwich spread (perhaps at work?) or on flat bread chips (see my previous post titled HEALTHY, YUMMY, QUICK and EASY CHIPS? on 27/11/2011) or it could be placed in a finger food platter for a party.

Enjoy a delicious day with some loved ones!


cheese spread with avocado

Saturday, 3 December 2011

DID YOU KNOW ...? (2)


Australians invented notepads (1902), the surf lifesaving reel (1906), aspirin (1915), the pacemaker (1926), penicillin (1940) the Hills Hoist clothesline (1946), the plastic disposable syringe (1949), ultrasound scanner (1961), the wine cask (1965), the bionic ear (1978), dual-flush toilet flush (1980) anti-counterfeiting technology for banknotes (1992) and long-wearing contact lenses (1999).
See here and here

Friday, 2 December 2011

A ZERO COST HOMEMADE CUBBY HOUSE IN A MINUTE

Make a cubby house under a table. Just put a sheet over the table big enough to cover it (or if the table is against a wall, it should be big enough to cover the other sides) and let your child's imagination go crazy! You will be surprised how much he/she will enjoy it (especially if they have a play friend too).

Have a fun day!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

ARSENIC IN APPLE JUICE

arsenic in apple juice

According to HealthDay News (28/11/2011), the toxic arsenic was found in most tested apple juice samples in some low levels. 160 samples were tested on and 95% revealed some low levels of arsenic in it while 8% had high levels of it.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has told that it has increased its monitoring of arsenic in apple juice and it will also establish what levels of arsenic is safe.

I personally don't know what to trust anymore! Everyday something new comes up and challenges my previous knowledge or something that I haven't given much thought to appears right in front of my eyes. I just hope that it will not be too late when we learn about things the next time. One more reason why HOMEMADE IS THE BEST!
homemade juices