Sunday, April 19, 2015

iCamping

So I went camping.



AGAIN.

I don't know who I am anymore. I don't even like camping, and when I say camping, I don't mean in a nice park with shower facilities and power. No, no, no. I went real camping, I am the next Bear Grylls at this rate.

Why do I do this to myself? Same reason I do pretty much everything else these days.

For my kids.



They just love it. Every single minute of it. They don't even complain all that much about the smell of the drop toilet.

I asked them what they love about camping so much and they couldn't even tell me. They weren't sure if it was just doing what they wanted, riding bikes, Easter egg hunts, playing in the bush, sitting up late around the fire, sleeping altogether in the tent, sleeping in sleeping bags or catching yabbies.



They also loved making iMovies.

We had no wifi or phone coverage but they still had their ipads and I am so glad they did. We didn't ration screen time at all and just let them do what they wanted and the iDevices really came in very handy.

Making an iMovie with your cousins requires a lot of work. You all need to negotiate about the story, the characters, who is playing which part and who gets to do the filming. You need to learn about how the sun impacts upon the picture and change scenes when required. It takes hours of playing together to get a few minutes of the story and it provides a beautiful recollection for everyone afterwards.



As we sat around the fire each night, Arabella was asking where certain constellations were. We tried to point them out until someone brought out their phone and showed us the SkyView app. It's fantastic and if you are out in a beautiful starry night (we had a full red moon too), you will love the way that this app 'draws' the images for you of the stars right above you.

The kids spent time each night riding bikes by torch light, they put their head torches on and ride in the bush, add a few glow sticks to your wheels and it's a fun sight. But when the torch batteries go flat, heading to the drop toilet in darkness isn't pleasant...so just grab a phone and use the torch. If you don't already use it, the torch on your smart phone is just as handy as the clock/alarm.




You can also use an iDevice to take lots of photos of all the things you are doing, like all the ones in this post.

Bush camping can be fun (and filthy and lots of work for parents) it's not something I plan on doing every holidays, and I do struggle with it a bit. But if you go camping with your kids don't think you can't take technology with you, new stuff is exciting and wonderful and can provide you with extra special memories of your time away.





Thursday, April 2, 2015

Inspiring stuff: Plumpy'Nut


“I am hungry.”

How many times does a Mum hear that in a week? How many times are our kids really hungry? None. It’s usually just a few hours since they last ate, at the most. Still, we race about preparing a variety of offerings to ensure they get the food to keep them strong, growing and healthy. It’s our most basic yet essential job. I can’t really even imagine not being able to find food for my kids.


But, when I was being introduced to CARE and hearing of some of the stories from the team who are out working around the world we also started talking about Plumpy’Nut.

I had never heard of it and it’s not available in Australia, the CARE team had gone to some effort to arrange a few packets for us to check out.

“Would you like to try it?” they asked.

“Not really” I replied, “but I will.”






It has a smooth consistency, a peanut butter with extra sugar taste. They are certainly not jumping on the IQS bandwagon.

I seemed to be more interested in Plumpy’Nut then everyone else.

I just find the story of how things come to be really interesting.  I wanted to know who invented it, why did they invent it, how did such a product come to be?

Plumpy’Nut is a squishy peanut butter paste in a packet. But it’s really a development that is changing famines and emergency situations like never before.

Be it from drought, natural disaster or war situations there are times in our world that children in the MILLIONS are just dying due to lack of food, and as much as we want to send them some fruit and vegetables, the reality is that we can’t. Fresh foods, milks, and powders all have other problems. They perish, there is no water to add to them, the packaging spoils or they need some form of preparation. In an emergency you don’t have a sippy cup or a bowl and spoon to serve up something, there are no bottles for babies and even if there were nothing gets sterilised.  There are no fridges and the heat can destroy many foods. Sacks of rice or wheat can’t fix the hunger.

People keep starving. Children keep dying.

Then Plumpy’Nut gets invented in 1996 by a French Paediatrician and a food processing engineer, they even base the idea on Nutella…but they omit the chocolate and throw in some important vitamins and minerals instead. The business of Nutriset begins.

Nutriset package Plumpy’Nut in such a way that you simply rip the top corner off and kids just sit and suck on the packet throughout the day. No preparation required.

It doesn’t need to be in the fridge and it has a shelf life of two years.

Even more useful is that health workers can give it to parents to feed their kids without needing to put the kids in to hospital situations.


Being able to feed your kids makes Mums happy.

Plumpy’Nut is cheap, it’s tasty to kids, it’s transportable and convenient. It stops babies from dying, and they can start eating it from 6 months old.

The whole thing is just brilliant.

I get inspired by people who invent things when no one else was even working on it. Or perhaps they were, but they still didn’t come up with this answer. The rest of the world was throwing research, development and marketing into the latest chocolate bar or kids cereal for the developed world. They wouldn’t have considered the RUTF market was worth their time. That’s the Ready to Use Therapeutic Food business, for those not in the biz!

The World Health Organisation started using Plumpy’Nut in Niger in 2006 and the results were amazing. They now say that over 2,000,000 children have been saved from dying of malnutrition. Far out! Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help to think how amazing this basic food product is.



It doesn’t need swanky marketing campaigns and jingles to sell it, there is no fancy coloured design to make it attractive to kids to encourage them to choose it. The packet just uses three little pictures to show you how to eat it. Just knead the paste, tear off the top corner, and suck. Done. Your meal is served.

These days Nutriset have lots of other big business issues to deal with, they have competitors wanting in on the action and legal cases about patents. They try and make the products in countries where it is most needed and have a number of factories in Africa, but still others are fighting them to have the recipe and the rights to make similar stuff.  This is what happens when you invent something remarkable, everyone else wants to ride your coat tails.

But that’s just a side story. The real story, is babies on the verge of death slowly getting the nutrients they need to ensure they grow. Not much more inspiring then that. Is there?






P.S If you want to throw some support to CARE Australia who provide Plumpy'Nut in emergency situations, head this way.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Annoying Marketing Tactic







As a sucker for learning about what other people are doing to market their wares I will often stop for marketing surveys, answer the door to sales people and read the brochures that everyone else throws away. 

Last week I was shopping in my local massive consumerist mecca centre and a sales chick asked me if I would like a showbag. 

Sure I said. 

It was a great quality thick cardboard bag with fancy rope like handles. 

But it felt particularly light. 

I took a squiz in the bag to see how small the brochure could be that I expected was the only thing in the bag, but instead I saw something I have never seen in a marketing goodie bag before. 

This bag was TOTALLY EMPTY. 

As I look in the bag and show my disgust at being handed an empty bag the sales person then tries to drag me in to her booth to ask me questions about perfume. 

I was really annoyed. I said no, I don't want to hear about your perfume and she replied with "What? You don't like perfume? Really, are you saying you don't like perfume?" and at the same time she refused to take the bag back. I was left standing there holding out the empty bag with a 20 something year old with excessive make up on wanting me to talk to her and buy a product, but I was just getting really annoyed. 

I wanted to get away from there and when I finally did I just couldn't help thinking of why this tactic was being used to sell a product, any product. It's annoying from the first moment. It makes the potential customer feel like they have been 'had' from the beginning. You kind of feel like a bit of a dick saying thank you to someone handing you an empty worthless bag. 

But then the next day I was at another mecca of shopping madness and the exact same thing was happening. This time I spotted them, arms outstretched with empty bags being handed to unsuspecting shoppers and I guess it must get them a sale from time to time. Usually, people don't repeat bad marketing tactics day after day if the sales don't come through, so maybe this idea of just belittling your customer from the outset works for some products. 

Have you been a victim of the empty bag hander? Did you stop and buy anything?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

There is a change going on at parks around Australia

Last week we spent some time playing a game of off ground tiggy.

All you have to do is keep off the ground when you are playing. It was pretty fun because we were in a paddock with some really big rocks so we had to jump to keep from getting tagged.

The view was pretty good too and we sat for a bit to just soak it all in and be thankful that we are not restricted to the plastic slides of small suburban stamps of grass that are the standard parks of modern Australia.




Then I keep seeing people at the new Royal Park play area at the Royal Children's Hospital. Today the weather was a perfect autumn day. Bright and sunny, the very day that you can not waste indoors.

The new play area is built where the old Children's Hospital once stood. When the hospital was demolished, the area was reclaimed to be used for open space and an area for kids to really play.

And play they do.





There is not a scrap of plastic at this park. There are ropes and wood and trees and grassy hills and water and sand and metal.


It's the kind of park that doesn't have a safety fence and encourages kids (and their parents) to take greater risks. Not everyone will like it.



In the water play area if your kid is the type to run when they were told to walk, well, they might find out pretty quickly what it feels like to fall on wet concrete. The rope climb is at such a height that you won't be holding your child's hand if they make it up there. The slide is metal, old style, so it's possible little bums might feel the heat, but it didn't bother any of those whirling down it today.

These things didn't bother any of the kids I saw today and the only issue my girls had was when we told them it was time to go. We spent two hours there and they would have happily stayed another two.



This nature play park is the way I notice more and more parks are going. We are slowly moving away from the highly regulated slides and climbing frames that are a regulation number of centimetres off the ground. We are accepting that kids have enough crap in bright red, yellow and blue at home and not enough trees, grass and bugs. If your kids are beyond the preschool years, this is even better.

If your bigger kids have been getting bored at the local parks, it's time to take a trip to Royal Park.

Have you noticed a change to the parks in your neighbourhood?






Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What you need to ensure you can make friends with parents at a new school.

When you start your kids at a new school, making friends with new families can take a little while.

You can try all the usual ways of meeting friends, you know, like the normal people. Such as introducing yourself at the school gate at pick up/drop off times. You can pester your kids for the names of new classmates and try and arrange catch ups out of school, you could even volunteer to be on the canteen roster to meet other parents.

Or, you could try the following little tip.

Ensure you have your jumper leads in the back of the car.  Yes. That's all.

This week as I was leaving school a little bit late due to a catch up with a teacher, a friendly man approached me asking if I had jumper leads in my car. Um? I had no idea. I said I would go and check and drive back. But he told me it was for another parent, he was just trying to help her out.

Due to my extreme organisational skills, I did find jumper leads in with the spare tyre, so I whizzed down to help out.

No one likes car trouble so the poor Mum, with a car full of school kids was looking quite stressed as her car sat there with no chance of getting her home.

A couple of minutes later and the Dad had it all sorted, but during that time teachers, handymen, other parents, kids who knew my kids...all came to check if all was ok.

BINGO.

Just met more families and was the hero who saved the day.

That stressed out Mum didn't actually thank me at all or even ask my name. But hey, I am taking it as a new friend anyway!

Long live the jumper leads.


Monday, March 16, 2015

The More Diet




It has come to my attention lately that I have been a little of what some might call a glutton.

The type of person who readily goes for the second (or third) cream bun when one was sufficient. It’s an easy trap to fall into because cream buns and cheese platters are very very tasty and they make me feel very very good. I truly believe I can eat my way through any occasion.

So I have now devised myself a new regime which shall begin the Monday after next (approximately). I am calling the new regime The More Diet. It will consist of five simple things that I must do more of, but none of them will require real exercise.

1) More Sleep.

I just don’t get enough and I am the only one to blame. I wake tired and drag myself through the day. Real studies (not the type in Cleo magazine) actually prove that people who don’t get enough sleep put on more weight then those who do. I am not sure if this is because when you are asleep there is less chance you will be eating the marshmallows from the pantry, but either way, I am going to give it a whirl.

2) More Water.  

How easy is it to just drink some water? It’s everywhere, requires no effort and keeps you hydrated. Not drinking enough water is just stupid. Dehydration can make you tired (see above) and there is no benefit to drinking sugary drinks. Drinking water also means you eat when you are hungry rather then eating when you might just need a drink.

3) More Laughing.

Surrounding yourself with fun people, playing with the kids, laughing at more jokes, watching funny stuff on YouTube, going out with friends who really make you happy and watching some comedy movies all help increase the happy laughter in your life.  When you are happy your body releases happy hormones through out your body. Unlike sad hormones, the happy ones don’t need feeding. They make you want to move and be busy and dance about. The sad ones, they like to be fed processed food, to drink wine and to lay on the couch. The sad hormones should really be called the 'make you fat' hormones, because that is what they do. The happy hormones that come from just making yourself smile will kill those sad bastards and stop you eating.

4) More Breakfast

You have heard it a gazillion times. Skipping breakfast does not make a slimmer you. Muffins are not bread, not even blueberry ones, so eating them at morning tea at work, the ones with cream cheese icing on them, well, that just isn’t going to help. I just need to eat breakfast. No excuses. I might just have to Eat what the kids are eating. And I'll leave the muffins –  they are always stale anyway.

5) More Walks with Friends

I have a couple of friends close by and every now and then when it’s time to catch up with one of them I suggest a walk around the river. It’s more of a stroll then a power walk, but the alternative is coffee and sitting down, and a teeny little bit of orange cake. Every time I walk with one of these ladies I feel so much better for making the effort. Together we solve the problems of the world as we stroll, the time goes really quickly and rather then feeling like exercise, the catch up feels like a treat. Adding in an extra friends catch up each week is going to make it even easier to add more Laughter into my week too…it’s just a win/win/win situation.



That's it. I may have devised the easiest glutton proof diet every invented. It's just five easy things to do more of to improve your health. Surely it's going to work, how could it not? 









There are no guarantees that this diet will lead to any weight loss at all. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Oh the Places your blog might go…


Last year I received an email from a team of people who assist CARE Australia with their marketing. They were looking for some online ambassadors and wondered if I would be interested.

My first response to them was that I wasn’t sure I could do them justice. I have known about CARE for years and am quite fond of them due to two main reasons. Firstly, they have a super high focus on women and girls, not just because it might be the trendy thing to do at the moment, but because they know helping women and girls around the world can benefit the immediate family and then the larger community. Secondly, they are not connected to any religious group around the world.

I replied to the team to let them know that while I was interested in hearing more, I just didn’t know if I had the ‘readership’ to really help them out. They decided that that was still ok. See, told you they were all nice people.

So last week I went off and had a meeting with the other online ambassadors, the PR team and a group of people who work for CARE. 

WOW. 

Now has that team done some travel, been some places, met some people. LIVED SOME LIVES. They were all quite young and fabulous and inspiring.

They each shared some stories about the work they have been doing over the last few years and then I had to ask the question…does it all seem so hopeless sometimes? Does it? Because I am the type who could see all the suffering and then all the waste and feel overwhelmed, feel beaten by the largeness of it all.

The answer is simple. No. They don’t. 

They feel lucky and honoured to be able to share such times with people who need them. To be able to give a little to people who can turn it into so much. They feel joy at statistics that show the number of kids in school where they are working continuing to rise and rise. They are happy to see girls going to school for longer and women who can provide for their own families and they see fewer babies dying and better care for pregnant and birthing mothers. This is what they see. That is what they feel.

It was powerful and encouraging.

And daunting. My role is so basic, it is just to simply share stories of things that I think you might like to know about from CARE. I am not going to be begging you for money for causes or holding a virtual tin shake on my blog. I know that’s not what you want. But there are so many things to know. So many stories that you might not otherwise hear about because they are not about famous people, or influential people. I want to try and tell you some of those stories from time to time.

And that is how my blog has found itself with a new blog tile on the side. This simple graphic that tells you, I am an Online Ambassador for CARE AUSTRALIA.




I hope you enjoy the stories I share with you.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mums at the Movies



A good friend suggested we take advantage of both our kids now being at school AND us having a day off work at the same time to book in a fortnightly movie date.

SUCH A GREAT IDEA.

The cinema's are empty, there are no crowds, and because the kids are at school you can see whatever you want...not something rated PG.

Today we went to see The Imitation Game. Splendid. What a movie. Such a gem of a film. I really do love stories about real people who have kept going when everyone else doubted them. People who have believed in themselves when others did everything in their power to bully them, to stop them, to belittle them.

The Imitation Game tells the story of a man who I should have known about. A man who really did change the world but did it behind the scenes and quietly. He wanted so little, just to be left to work, to use his brilliant mind, but that was not to be. Humans are stupid and it is stories from our history that we need to be told about to remind us of how stupid we can be.

The Imitation Game is a story that has been hidden for over fifty years, but the details are now out and you won't regret going to see this movie or reading the book about Alan Turing.

I am sure the movie stretches the truth and is creative with many things, but the underlying story is there, and for me is was a fascinating introduction to a mind capable of so much, in a person that just doesn't 'fit' into 'normal'.

And if you are reading this on any form of computer (which you are unless someone printed it out for you) then you have Alan Turing to thank for it. It was him who invented the thinking machine, the idea of a digital mind, the computer.  Imagine that. Imagine having a mind so special that the work you did won a war and then you invented the machine to start changing the world everywhere.

Imagine...
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