Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Global Food Education - Jamie Oliver's crusade

Last weekend we took our elder daughter on a bush walk. It was an 11 km walk and was quite challenging. We spent 3 and a half hours walking, admiring the beautiful views, looking at the interesting plants and enjoying some family time spent out in the fresh air.  On our drive home afterwards, we used some free vouchers we had to get McDonalds burgers, chips and coke.

Did we just spoil all that good exercise we just did? Are we sending the wrong message to our kids - rewarding them for exercise with fast food?  I don't believe so - I think balance is the key, if you have that, then kids can have treats and fast food so long as it's the exception rather than the rule. 

I've had conversations with other mums who won't let their kids drink coke, or have thing like chocolate cereal. Our kids do get sweet treats,  drink coke and eat fast food, but they have an overall healthy balanced diet and plenty of exercise and fresh air.

However it's not just about what we do and don't let our kids eat, it's about an understanding of what our bodies need, and educating our kids to make the right choices in terms of their health.

The obesity epidemic

1 in 4 Australian children are overweight or obese.

Shocking statistic isn't it?
We really need to take care of our children and educate them to ensure the best possible future for all of us.

Overfed and Undernourished

I recently read about a documentary film - Overfed and Undernourished, which follows an 11 year boy from Brisbane who was battling obesity. He moved in with his aunt and uncle who helped him to change his diet and lifestyle. In 3 months he lost 20 kg and became more active and and confident.  It's not so much a story of weight loss and diet, but of showing a lifestyle change that it is possible for others to make to fight, in particular, childhood obesity. Learning about the food we eat, taking control by learning how to cook it ourselves, and in addition becoming active. In short, how to lead a healthy active lifestyle.

Jamie Oliver's crusade

Jamie Oliver is well known for trying to educate people on healthy eating having made many TV shows helping people learn how to cook, and also trying to change school meals to become healthier.

Now, Jamie Oliver has just launched a global petition to fight for better food education in schools. This petition is starting in Australia, and yes I have signed it, but is, as its title suggests, it is a worldwide petition. His aim is to create a large enough movement to make G20 governments take action to combat the obesity epidemic the western world is facing.

Education is the key to better, healthier lifestyles for our kids. And Jamie Oliver is providing a great platform for this to start and continue to grow.

Food Revolution Day 2015

On May 15th this year, Food Revolution Day will take place around the world. This event started in 2012 and is growing each year. Last year's Food Revolution Day saw over 9000 events held in over 121 countries! People get together to hold cooking classes, events and dinners aiming to encourage good and healthy eating for all.

If you still need convincing of the need for this food revolution - please watch Jaime Oliver's TED talk from 2010. It's just 20 minutes long, but very powerful and clearly explains the problem and what needs to be done, can be done and is already being done!
I'm certainly going to get our girls aware of and involved in Food Revolution Day this year. Perhaps we can get their school involved, but at the very least they will be cooking and learning more about healthy food with me at home.

Visit Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Site to see how you can get involved in this great movement - by signing the petition, educating your own kids, or something bigger!

What will you do?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top 10 Riddles for kids

Riddles are questions posed so you have to actually think, perhaps use deduction and certainly think logically and laterally to find a solution.
As a kid, I could never remember riddles or jokes but loved the idea of them and whenever someone had memorised a bunch of them, I used to love guessing.  There are two main kinds of riddles, the more serious kind, using logic and intelligence and the other that force you to be ‘street smart.’

This is one of my favourites from the latter category.

If a plane is flying from Venezuela to Columbia and disaster befalls it. There is a terrible crash and the plane lands exactly on the border between the two countries. In which country do they bury the survivors?

(Answers to all riddles are found at the bottom of this post.)

The rest of my Top 10 for kids would be:

You are a bus driver.  At the first stop on your bus route, 4 people get on, at the second stop 8 people get on, at the third stop 2 people get off and at the fourth stop everyone got off.  The question is, what colour are the bus driver’s eyes?

One day, a father went to his three sons and told them that he would die soon and he needed to decide which one of them to give his property to. He decided to give them all a test. He said, 
"Go to the market my sons, and purchase something that is large enough to fill my bedroom, but small enough to fit in your pocket. From this I will decide which of you is the wisest and worthy enough to inherit my land." 
So they all went to the market and bought something that they thought would fill the room, yet was still small enough that they could fit into their pockets. Each son came back with a different item. The father told his sons to come into his bedroom one at a time and try to fill up his bedroom with whatever they had purchased. 
The first son came in and put some pieces of cloth that he had bought and laid them end to end across the room, but it barely covered any of the floor. 
Then the second son came in and laid some hay, that he had purchased, on the floor but there was only enough to cover half of the floor. 
The third son came in and showed his father what he had purchased and how it could fill the entire room yet still fit into his pocket. The father replied, 
"You are truly the wisest of all and you shall receive my property." What was it that the son had showed to his father?

If there are three oranges and you take away two, how many will you have?

What gets wetter the more it dries?

If you drop a yellow hat in the Red sea, what does it become?

A box without hinges, key, or lid, Yet golden treasure inside is hid.

What can run but never walks,
Has a mouth but never talks,
Has a bed but never sleeps
And has a head but never weeps?

Each morning I appear
To lie at your feet
All day I will follow you
No matter how fast you run
Yet I nearly perish in the mid day sun.
What am I?

Three guesses, What have I got in my pocket?

Do you have any favourite riddles? Feel free to leave them in the comments and see if anyone can guess the answers!


10.  Silly- they don’t bury the survivors.
9. You are the bus driver- the same colour as yours!
8. The son had showed his father a match. Whenever he lit the match, it filled the entire room with light, yet it was still small enough to fit into his pocket.
7. Two (you took two)
6. A towel
5. Wet
4. An egg
3.  A river
2. Your shadow
1. Good question- a magic ring? - from The Hobbit

Monday, March 30, 2015

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand

In January, as part of our trip Backpacking in Asia with our kids, we visited the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a day.

On past trips to Thailand we have had elephant rides, but this was totally different and opened our eyes to elephants in Thailand.

Elephant Nature Park is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre where you can visit and volunteer to help the plight of the animals - elephants, dogs, cats and even buffaloes and other animals.

Lel Chailert founded the park in 1996 as a sanctuary for rescued elephants. Visitors come to the park to see the elephants in their natural environment rather than in a show or for rides.  You can feed the elephants, 

help bathe them in the river 
and observe and learn about them.

We learned about how elephants are a part of Thailand's culture, economy and history. Elephants were used heavily in the logging industry until 1989 when logging was banned in Thailand. Many families who owned elephants to help with their logging work, suddenly found themselves with a huge burden of an elephant to take care of and feed, but no income to do so with. Many people sold their elephants into tourism as a result or the elephants were neglected and suffered accordingly.
Lek has dedicated her life to helping elephants and this sanctuary is an amazing ongoing achievement and a shining example of what one person can achieve.

During our visit to the park, we also watched a video that showed what elephants in Thailand go through to become trained for rides and tourist shows. We saw a video of "the training crush" where elephants are forced into a cage a tied there so they cannot even sit down. They remain there for days, sometimes being beaten or stabbed to 'break' them and make them more obedient.  It was horrific and heartbreaking to see the way these animals are treated, and made us re-think our views on elephant rides, no matter how well the animals appear to be treated.

We also heard and saw the stories of the elephants at the sanctuary and why they are there. Stories of elephants being forced to work when heavily pregnant and losing their babies as a result, also terrible cases of abuse and beatings.

But being at the sanctuary for the day and seeing the great work that is being done to care for these amazing animals, seeing all the volunteers who are helping to feed and care for them and the tourists who are happy to pay their money just to be close to the elephants, and feed and bathe them; gave us hope for the future of elephant 'tourism' in Thailand.
 Lek is leading the way in a change in elephant tourism in Thailand.  Other elephant parks are beginning to follow suit and change their practices after seeing the success of the Elephant Nature Park as a tourism venture.  
When we went, it was booked out a week in advance and we were just lucky to get in thanks to a last minute cancellation.

Our girls loved being around all the animals - not just the elephants but also the many dogs and cats around the park.

It was a great experience for them to be so close to the animals, but to also learn about the reality of animal tourism.  
We spent the day getting close to the elephants but at the same time learning to respect them and be safe around them. The steel hook that many mahout use to control the elephants when tourists ride them or have photos taken with them are not used at the Elephant Nature Park. Instead the elephants are treated with respect and love and there is no need to stab or prod them into submission.

I would highly recommend a visit to the Elephant Nature Park if you ever head to Chiang Mai in Thailand. A great place for the elephants and such a rich experience for the tourists. There is also an option to go and stay there for a week as a volunteer to help take care of the animals. Our girls have their eye on this possibility when they're older and it is certainly something we could encourage.

Have you ever had any experience of animal tourism? 
We'd love to hear of any similar places in other parts of the world.

Friday, March 27, 2015

News programmes for kids - Behind the News

Do your kids watch the news or read the newspapers?  How do they start out? Diving straight into adult news reports can be difficult, intimidating or just downright boring for kids. So how do you get them interested and learning about what is happening in the world around them?

The News when I was a kid

Growing up in the UK in the 1980s I used to watch John Craven's Newsround. This was the world's first TV news programme aimed specifically at children. It was shown at the end of the children's programmes each weekday afternoon. This programme still runs today, although John Craven himself has retired from the show which is now just called "Newsround". I used to look forward to watching this show. It was interesting and I learned a lot that then enabled me to watch the news with my mum and dad and understand more about what was going on.

Australian TV News for kids

Here in Australia, the ABC has a children's news programme on each day, "3 News" which is aimed at younger children. There is then a weekly news programme aimed at upper primary and secondary children, called BTN (Behind the News).

I first came across BTN when I was teaching English as a foreign language and used it for listening exercises with my students. Our girls then began to watch it sometimes at their primary school, and recently we've rediscovered it via their website where you can watch all the stories, take quizzes and polls, and even learn how to become a reporter yourself.
There are also teacher resources available - with new ones being produced weekly based on two current news stories.

BTN is the perfect fit for our two girls, currently aged 9 and 11. They do have an interest in the news, but watching adult news programmes is a little too much for them - too detailed and long, and their background general knowledge isn't sufficient for them to understand many of the stories.

BTN simplifies the stories and provides the background information necessary to understand them. There are also a lot of fun stories to help hold their interest.

This is one website our girls will be returning to a lot and gaining plenty of information and knowledge from as well as having fun with it. I would definitely recommend it as a fun introduction to news stories for children.

Do your kids like to watch the news? Do they watch children's news programmes or the regular news reports with you?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Lemonade Stall - encouraging entrepreneurship in kids

Last year we had a garage sale at our house, and our girls decided to make and sell some lemonade and cookies too. They had great fun making the lemonade, cookies and the sign; and planning the whole thing. They worked out the cost of the ingredients and made a little bit of money, but saw how much effort and time went into the whole thing and the relatively small profit that resulted. 

However, they are both still keen to make and sell something. As a start, they have their own on-line Junior Madeit shop 
(Little Lightbulbs) selling upcycled jeans inspirational bag tags. 

They've sold a few, but as yet haven't really pushed and put a lot of time into their small 'business'. 
We're trying to find ways to help and encourage them in their endeavours, and the following story was a good place to start.

Make a Stand Lemon Aid
Last year I heard about the organisation, 'Make a Stand' when I saw a trailer for a documentary movie about the little girl who decided to sell lemonade to end slavery.  At the age of 8, she saw a picture (initially seen by her parents in a gallery) of 2 little boys with slabs of rock tied to their backs.  
(to see the picture go here).

The picture upset this little girl - Vivienne who wanted to stop child slavery.  Her idea to make money to stop child slavery was to set up a lemonade stall.

With her parents help she did this, and in less than a year reached her goal of $100,000 raised.  How did she raise this huge amount of money just by selling lemonade?  Well, she got noticed by the right people, had the support and help of her parents, and she was dedicated to her cause and set up her stall every single day.  
To read more of the whole story and see how far this little girl has come since then, you can visit her website - here.

One thing that really interested me about this story, was what it was that motivated this little girl to take this cause on and be so focussed and determined to help others?

When, as a parent, you are telling your kids to stop fighting over things and hearing the cries of "It's not fair!  That's mine!  She took my...  They got more than me.",  how does an 8 year old see things so differently, and want to devote all of her time and energy into helping others? 
Is this something instilled in her by her parents? 
Had she ever done anything like this before?  
Is she just a particularly caring and giving child? 
What tipped the scales for her?  
Was it the image itself, or perhaps the way her parents told her about it?

I think it's truly amazing what this little girl has done and is still doing and I'm looking forward to seeing the documentary movie.

A different kind of motivation

When our girls heard this story, it did inspire them to want to raise money to help a cause too.  
For them, they both love animals, and like the idea of raising funds to sponsor an endangered animal through the WWF. This is something I myself do through sales of my own e-book, so the girls can see an example of it working too.
I think they find this a better incentive than just selling things to simply make money for themselves. There is more of a why - a clear focus and reason for selling things and making money.

The girls are currently working on more things to make and sell in their Madeit shop 
and ways to promote their shop and make some regular sales to be able to support their own cause, and sponsor an endangered animal.
I think having a cause will give them more motivation and more of a reason to put some more time and thought into their little 'business' . 

Making and selling things is such a great thing for kids to do and learn through and we shall encourage and help wherever we can.

Have your kids ever taken a stand against anything? Or set up their own shop or stall selling their creations? Any stories, tips or ideas would be very much appreciated!  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Angkor Wat with kids

When I think of the most wonderful man-made places in the world, I certainly do not automatically think the kids would be interested in them.
I think of the Pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt, Easter Island monuments, the Coliseum, Machu Pichu, other South American or Mayan ruins and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Do kids even know about them or even care about them?
Certainly, until they reach a degree of self awareness and study the topic, probably in early teens, kids are not even aware of other cities and certainly not countries or historical buildings.  This is a generalisation, but dinosaurs brought to life in action movies probably trump most kids list of things to see and do.  Do they care about ancient things in general? Probably not.

Before our trip backpacking in Asia with our girls, the things we were looking forward to and those that the girls were looking forward to were certainly different. They were most excited about Universal Studios in Singapore, Legoland in Malasia and seeing Elephants in Thailand. Angkor Wat barely registered as an exciting prospect.

Going to Cambodia, I was so excited about seeing the ancient city of Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples.  I wasn’t so sure that the kids would be enamoured with the idea or reality.  For me, seeing how people used to live, imagining their daily life, the pomp, the circumstance and the grandiosity of the ruling classes is what it is all about.  Imagining the organisation and the vision of getting hundreds or thousands of workers to plan, physically lift and create a vision of a temple, pyramid or even city is a wonder to me.  The time it took, often in years to complete is amazing, the ability to build a lasting monument or creation for eternity was the driving force among many of the great kings and rulers.

Arriving in Siem Reap
When we arrived in Siem Reap, the whole experience rather than just the temples was what stood out for all of us.  Finding ‘Radar’ our Tuk Tuk driver was a great help. Him allowing the girls to take photos on the motorbike was a highlight for them as was his happy face as he dropped and picked us up after our adventures. He was very good value!

After buying our tickets at the gate (the 3 day pass) we rushed to the elephant station to take a trip up the hill for the sunset over Angkor.  In retrospect this was a mistake.  The sun does not set over Angkor but in another direction entirely and the crowds were truly unbelievable. 
Whilst I would go back to Angkor, I would certainly never do this sunset hill experience again!  

An Elephant Ride
The elephant trip too was probably a bad idea. At the time, it was a reward for the girls for having done so well in the 8 hour bus journey back from seeing the Irrawaddy dolphins inKratie.  The elephants seemed well cared for and were being looked after as working elephants rather than living in town, which is a good thing. 

 Contrasting this with our later trip to Elephant Heaven, or Lek’s Elephant Sanctuary near Chang Mai in Thailand put this experience in perspective.  We enjoyed it at the time but, I don’t think I would take a commercial elephant ride again after knowing what most have gone through in the ‘crusher’.

At the top of the hill, we joined the queue to get to the temple at the top of the hill- a bad idea.  There were hundreds of people and also hundreds of Chinese tourists who were not so keen to stand in a queue and pushed past us, over walls and directly contradicted every rule of politeness that has been written, and not written, in the western world.  Jill politely walked to the front of the ‘queue’ to see what was going on and managed to get a mouthful from a guard who obviously found someone that would actually listen to him for her troubles.  We gave up after watching people push past us for 25 minutes and walked back down the hill and had a lovely sunset at the bottom of the hill with less people and Angkor Wat just next to us.

The next day we were up super early and got to Angkor Wat for sunrise.  
This was definitely worth it. I think we took a thousand photos that day. Although there were still large crowds of people, the sheer scale of Angkor Wat meant there were plenty of quieter places to watch the sunrise from and explore - you just had to leave the reflective lake pictures until the crowds had cleared later!

But it was worth the wait!

 The girls played at being tour guides and we looked at guidebooks, listened in on tours and generally climbed through the under restoration ruins.  

Every different temple had it’s own character.  The bass reliefs were cool, the worn down steps that you could clamber up and down and the endless ‘jigsaw puzzle’ blocks scattered around awaiting a puzzle master to assemble were awesome.  

Each temple was unique, matching the vision of the ruler who was adding his vision towards his perpetuality. A standing vision through the passing of time.

Tomb Raider
We finally reached Ta Promh, the place famous for the setting of Tomb Raider and Angelina Jolie coming out from below the famous tree which is growing out and from the stones is a great spot and as we had managed to be going in the opposite direction to the tour groups, it wasn’t even busy. 

 We had lots of time to take pictures and marvel at the size, age and complexity of the root systems and the enormity of the trees and time that lead to this wonder.  The next step will be for us to get the girls to watch the movie Tomb Raider- a definite gap in their pop culture knowledge!!

Finishing the day with tired legs from all the walking also made us feel we had got our money’s worth.  It was truly a great day and experience, and although the girls perhaps did not appreciate the historical significance, they thoroughly enjoyed the active and physical hands on nature of the site which is both enormous and accessible.  Seeing the monkeys around the site was also a bonus for the girls - especially the cheeky ones who knew where to pinch their breakfast from!

On return to Australia, our eldest daughter also appreciated the experience as she had to make a project, brochure and speech on an ancient civilisation- this trip certainly made the task easier for her!

This was definitely a highlight of our trip and a memory for a lifetime for all of us.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to make a fabric bracelet - upcycled from a jeans waistband

I sew and upcycle a lot, especially from old jeans and I wanted to find something that our girls could upcycle and sew for themselves and get a bit creative.

These bracelets are super simple and allow for plenty of decoration and creativity!

Here's how to make a fabric bracelet from a jeans waistband:

First of all cut the waistband from an old pair of jeans.

Unpick the belt loops and remove.

Fasten the button on the waistband and wrap it around your wrist for size. Remember to overlap the two pieces!

Cut the waistband the size you would like and lay if flat.

Then unfasten the button and overlap the two raw edges where you just cut and pin together.

Stitch using a zig zig stitch for strength in a box shape where the two pieces overlap. Use a denim or larger needle on your machine for this as the layers are quite thick. You could also hand stitch this if you don't have a sewing machine!

And that is your basic fabric bracelet finished!

Now comes the fun part - adding the embellishments.
For this one I added a fabric flower - just simple circles of varying sizes cut from denim and other scrap fabric. 

Place the circles on top of each other and stitch through the centre with a button to hold in place. Then snip around each circle to make the 'petals'.

Then scrunch the flower up and roll between your hands to make it look more like a flower!

And stitch it to the bracelet - hiding your previous stitching!

One finished flower fabric bracelet!

You can embellish these bracelets with anything you choose.
My girls chose beads, an old kids plastic necklace and some ribbon. They are all just hand stitched into place in designs they chose.

I want our girls to learn to create with upcycled materials, and these bracelets are simple enough for them to make by themselves, and flexible enough to make them with endless different designs!

What have you or your kids created with upcycled materials? Maybe you have an old pair of jeans you could try one of these bracelets with?

I shall be linking this post to many of the fabulous linky parties whose pretty buttons can be found on the bottom of this page.
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