The life and times of a home schooling mom of se7en + 1.

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Se7en’s September… And Your Free Printable Calendar…

September 2nd, 2014 · No Comments


Welcome to September…

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Click on the calendar page, it will open in a new tab, print it out and then colour it and fill in the days that you want to celebrate… pop it on the fridge and you are good to go. You can still find all the calendar pages down the right hand side of our website and they are all gathered together in our Almanac page for easy searching… If you have holidays or ideas that you would like to add then please go ahead and comment, I would love to have our calendars packed to the brim!!!

→ No CommentsTags: Celebrity Calendar

Sunday Snippet: When Enough is Enough… Turn Away…

September 1st, 2014 · 5 Comments

I was chatting with a friend the other day about childhood holidays to the Cederberg… which is a beautiful desert like mountain range up the west coast. Let me say that again… hot and dry… very like a desert. We took our kids their for a visit a couple of years back – in the spring. But we used to go their every school holidays and in the heart of summer it got really, really hot; really, really dry… a desert really. As a family we did a lot of hiking and every time we got to a river or a water hole of any kind my mum would take photographs. At home the walls were covered in photographs of beautiful streams, heaps of dragonflies floating above wonderful waterholes. PhotoAlbums filled with pages and pages of incredible photographs of water droplets caught on grass stems. And so many friends would say, it looks just like the English country side… green and lovely, wherever you look. While her photographs were real, they didn’t represent the reality.

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The internet is pretty much like that… I walked this avenue home from school week in and week out as a child, I never noticed how stunning it was, because it was my everyday. I did notice how long it was… that was my reality. However, as an adult I only very occasionally pass by here and every time I am struck by the beauty of it… And the internet is just like this. We tend not to post the ordinary… the momentous dinner, the extraordinary pile of dishes, yes. But the ordinary not so much. The thing is after blogging all about blogging last week, I realised just how much time and effort we put into the internet and how even that can become well… exhausting. And how sometimes we just totally need a break…

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I’ve noticed that power outages ensure a great break from the internet and we always feel refreshed after them… after the initial frustration of not being able to get our intended work done. To all my internet friends today, I highly recommend a break… leave your phone at home, read a real book, just enjoy the ordinary. I’ve totally stopped looking at my phone in the mornings… I leave it “charging” till we are finished with school and the days when school flows over into the afternoon… then my phone stays untouched till we are done. How true is Ecclesiastes 1:8 “All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing: – we know it, we could spend all day on Pinterest looking at lovely things, but unless we say no and turn away… it just becomes wearisome.

→ 5 CommentsTags: Sunday Snippet

Se7en’s Fabulous Friday Fun Post #236

August 31st, 2014 · 4 Comments

A Friday Fun Post… on a Saturday. An unprecedented amount of rain and generally dashing out for a walk whenever the sun shone… And today was really sunny and everybody got into a spontaneous spring cleaning frenzy… I’m all for it!!!

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If you haven’t entered our Adorable GiveAway, then please click on the image and leave a comment… We would love all our readers to stand a good chance of winning this delightful book!!!

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Here are some lovely links from this week:

  1. Soule Mama never ceases to amaze me… These benches … swoon. If she can do it, maybe this will be the summer that we haul those planks out of the garage and do something!!!
  2. I really enjoy ZenHabits and this post: The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes is excellent.
  3. Playing by the Book has a list of 36 Fantastic Books to Look Out for in the (northern) Autumn… and they look totally fab!!!
  4. Gotta love the Guardian’s How to Draw Series… here’s the Secret Se7en!!!
  5. Always time for a bit of scrumptious: Oh Happy Day celebrated Toasted Marshmallow Day… I think this should be popped onto our calendar immediately!!!
  6. This weekend was the Problogger Event, the highlight of the year for Australian Bloggers… so much good content comes out of this event… and if you are looking for incredible posts and tips then follow #PBevent on twitter… I really liked Fat Mum Slim’s Post “How to Create a Big Idea.”
  7. I never thought I needed a school room, but I have to say… Under the Sycamore’s new table is just so lovely!!!
  8. And the se7en + 1th link:

  9. A Blast From the Past: And since it it Labour Day Weekend… I thought I would bring you a whole lot of Labour/Newborn Posts…
    1. Se7en Things I Never Thought About Before Having a Baby.
    2. Se7en Things I Wish I Had Known About Nursing.
    3. Baby Care Through The Se7en Stages of a Little Man.
    4. Se7en + 1 things I Wish I Had Known About Labor.
    5. World Breastfeeding Week: Se7en Things a New Mom Absolutely Should Know.
    6. Se7en Thoughts About Babies and Sleep…
    7. Coping With the Chaos of Visitors and Babies.
    8. And the se7en + 1th…

    9. Se7en HomeBirth Stories and the Se7en + 1th.

That’s us… Hope your weekend is a fabulous one and we are so looking forward to another week of blogging with you all…

→ 4 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

The Truth About The Actual Screen Time of a Regular Blogger…

August 29th, 2014 · 10 Comments

Earlier this week I wrote a post: Se7en Tips for Coping with the Swathe of Social Media… and it was really the theory behind keeping a realistic perspective and a balance between our time online and actual living. This post is the follow-up and really the practical and realistic side of how I spend time online, the when, the where and the how. Keep in mind that I am no organising expert or master of time-management… not to mention that I just love the internet and have been active on it since before the internet was the internet.

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I have to say that I really don’t want to be the mother who is always looking at a screen and I am very conscious of making sure that for school time, story time, the great outdoors and so on… I am just not in front of a screen. That being said, there are times in our day when everyone is busy and working on their own thing, my own thing from my kids perspective is: “blogging and other online stuff…” I am available if they need me, and yes my kid’s play is their work. If they are building lego’s or building a fort, that really doesn’t require my intervention and they don’t expect it, I won’t interrupt them. Similarly, I don’t expect them to interrupt my work either. It is pretty organic, I can see that they are busy and they can see that I am busy… so no closed doors, no large signs saying: “Work in progress or Keep Out”… there are the occasional “No brother’s allowed” and “sister keep out”… but I think that may be a whole ‘nother thing.

Actual Screen Time of a Busy Blogger

  1. Consistency is Key: In an ideal world I would get up three hours before my children, catch up on my emails, grind the corn to make the bread for breakfast (just checking if you are still reading!!!) and dive into school, fresh and breezy and ready for the day when they wake up. Truth is I wake up about the same time as our kids and if I go near my email or just quickly finish off a blog post them I can literally toss our homeschool day out of the window. Those quick little tasks at your computer are attention drains. If you are replying to a business email then you cannot do it while helping someone with fractions – just no. The fractions will suffer, but worse the recipient will receive a very strange email, and it may not be quite representative of the image you are trying to portray. My kids are not aloud online during school time and I apply the same rule to myself. I am pretty much not near my laptop before lunchtime… ever. However, not all screens are laptop screens…
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  3. Not all Platforms were Created Equally: I never use my phone as an actual phone, I may occasionally message with it… I do however use it for most of our “social media-ing.” Different platforms, like twitter and instagram, have very different audiences. If you post the same posts on every platform you can expect your followers to be ever so slightly yawning. Honestly, there is fine line between loyalty and devotion and being good to your followers is an important part of maintaining your following. I do not expect our instagram followers to follow our blog or twitter feed, and only occasionally invite followers to take a peak across different media. I have three main areas that are not our blog, where we can be found online:
    • Instagram:I post about two to three Instagram photographs everyday. I scroll through our Instagram feed, and comment on other photographs whenever I post a photograph. I can and do do this while we are living. Instagram for me, is a mini-blog post, I can share what we are up to, so in order to post we have to be up to something… this is a good thing. There is only so much lying around and reading of books that you can share before you have to get up and actually DO something. This takes about five minutes three times a day and I consider it my “tea break.” I get a lot of encouragement from our Instagram followers and lets face it a mother needs all the encouragement she can get. (Total time: 15 minutes a day).
    • Twitter: I am not on twitter 24/7 by any means, I actually use twitter to share other folks content far more than our own. I engage brands on twitter more than anywhere else and have made great connections over there. I like looking for interesting things that our followers will enjoy. I know you can prepare and schedule your tweets over the day, but I have found that being present when I tweet really ups our engagement. So I don’t schedule tweets, I prefer to check our twitter feed after most meals before I clean up, and to mentally I reward myself with a five-ish minute twitter spell. I check to see what our favourite brands have posted first and then scroll through our twitter feed looking for about three things to share… before tackling the kitchen clean-up. (Total time: 15 minutes a day).
    • Pinterest: And then there is Pinterest, which can quickly become the greatest time vacuum of all. Here is a little secret about Pinterest, you can batch pin and your readers will keep on growing while you are not looking. I probably pin for about twenty minutes one evening a week. I only pin things that I think our readers will like. Please note: Just because I pin a cool kids bedroom doesn’t mean I will be redecorating, just because I pin a cool craft doesn’t mean that I will be hauling out the empty toilet rolls any time soon. I have a board called recipes to try… I don’t feel any guilt that I have only tried about five of those recipes ever. It is stuff I like to see and stuff I think our readers would like to see. Think of Pinterest as a museum of eye-candy and you will be fine, as soon as you think of it as a list of things to do or to get done… you are sunk. (Total Time: less than 5 minutes a day).
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  5. That Pesky Newsreader: Reading and commenting on other blogs takes up a large chunk of my online time, it is how I stay engaged with a lot of our online friends. Usually after the kids are in bed, this is my first port of call… I scroll through my news reader and open in a browser the posts that I either want to link to in our fabulous fun posts, or those that I want to comment on. I know some folk split their news reader into categories like crafts, kids, design and so on… but I have organised my feed reader into categories like: Read immediately, must comment, highlights, and so on… I spend about half an hour reading my news, it is my transition between the day and blogging. When I am finished reading the news and I have read all my “must read” posts… and most of the others… don’t faint: I clear my reader, always. That way I know anything I am reading is current, there is some much stuff on the internet that even if I was on it 24/7 I would be missing something. I feel no pain about setting my newsreader to zero… it is just saying “That was enough internet for the day and my bucket is full.” If my kids have a late or sleepless night then I skip the newsreader for that day… think of it as forgetting to buy the newspaper, the world will keep on spinning.

    Once I have closed the newsreader, I head into my browser and start sorting posts that I opened up. Some are things that spark an idea… I drop them in Evernote. Some post I think our readers will love, I pin them. And I just close the tabs as I go. I know, comments are fading away into oblivion, but I love commenting and I want to let folk I follow know that I appreciate their work. So this is when I will comment and then close the tab. By the end of my fist chunk of time at my computer for the day I will have opened a number of tabs and then closed them again. (Total time: 30 minutes on weekdays).

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  7. And then there is Email: I get a ton of it. I ignore a heap of it. I am just not concerned with having a zero inbox… it is of zero consequence to me. Yes, I feel people shuddering as they read this. Email is pretty much like a telephone to me, there when it is useful and otherwise I tend to ignore it. I do read emails throughout the day… but hardly ever reply instantly. If an email is important then I pop it into a folder called action. During the day, I am juggling far too many things to necessarily get out a coherent email. The emails that I do reply too I consider too important to waste with a shabby reply, when I cannot pay them the due attention they need. Generally email can wait, and it does, until I can give it my full attention. By the time I get round to replying, ideas and decisions have been made and emails take about five minutes to tackle. Anything longer, a reply to a question for instance, is a potential blog post and I put it onto my list of potential posts. (Total time: 5 minutes).
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  9. Totally Not Screen Time: My best blogging happens away from my screen… preparation is key. I have two really good times for working in a day. After lunch everyday we have a rest and a read, everyone reads their own books. I have to read then, I review books and by the time the kids are in bed I am too tired to read with any sort of intelligence. Immediately after our rest, the kids tend to get into the heart of playing and I tend to be at my most mentally energetic. I work away from my computer then, wherever I find myself, creating lists for list posts, doing any research, creating photographs… planning what needs to be written and popping ideas down onto paper… by the time I get to my computer after bedtime, the post outline is pretty much written.
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  11. The Evening Lull: Here’s the thing… once my kids head for bed I very often take a nap alongside them and wake up later to work. If I don’t take a nap… then my brain is not at it’s fighting fittest. I kid you not. This is a good time for me to sort, edit and generally manage photographs. Once I have read my news for the evening I usually head for Lightroom and spend a fair amount of time sorting out photographs… editing, tagging and so on… before sending them up to flickr. I have to do this part first… because it takes an age to load photographs up, remember bottom corner of Africa… internet is not always at its best. Very often the reason I don’t get a blog post out is because it has taken far too long to load the photographs… and I then leave the post until the next night and head for bed while the photographs load. I’ll say it again… sometimes you just can’t post the post you want to post. When I started blogging I would become so disheartened, now I would rather wait until the photographs are ready and the post is all sorted. I am (fairly) confident that our readers will be there to read the next post when it heads out. (Total Time: 30 minutes a day).
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  13. Actual Blogging: My second good brain spell of the day is at about midnight. This is the last thing that happens on any day in the life of inter-netting… and forms a fairly small part of my screen time. By the time I sit down to blog I will have usually have a se7en+1 point list, outlining the post I intend to write. Certain posts have templates up and running and good to go. I love a good template and use them a lot for any kind of post that is likely to have the same style again and again: Recipe’s, Week that Was, What we are Reading Right Now,… I am sure our readers would like me to spend time on creating content, rather than re-inventing the wheel. For all the planning, I have yet to discover the quick post… it takes ages to create a blog post, that is the nature of blogging.

    Otherwise I have a blog schedule, it is not as strict as it once was… but there is still a certain rhythm to our posts. I tend to blog outings on the weekend… those are photo rich and I pop the photographs into the post and then start writing. I only have one or maybe two opinion piece posts a week and they take longer to write. I get at least an outline of our posts away from the screen on a piece of paper, before actually sitting down and typing them in. I have a mailer that mails posts out to readers in the early hours of the morning, if i am not finished a post by then and I know there will be nothing to send out then I leave it for the night and I won’t look at the post again until the next evening. I have this idea that some posts are worth waiting for and I value our readers time enough to let them wait a little longer and have something worthwhile to read… I have a feeling that we won’t be losing valuable and engaged readers if we take an extra day to write a good post. However rushing a post, just to have one, could well turn readers away. (Total time: At least 1 hour a night depending on the type of post).

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    And the se7en + 1th time…

  15. Half an Hour of Planning: I have to spend half an hour on a Sunday evening planning the week ahead… it is a lose plan. Just the days of the week in a piece of paper and what I intend to blog about on that day. Very often the plan changes as I go along. But if there is no plan then the wheels simply fall off. It is vital for our blog that I plot and plan… opinion pieces need a couple o f days worth of ruminating, craft or recipe posts need to be created, books need to have been read, outings need to have been gone on. Quite simply if we haven’t done something offline first, then it is never going to happen online. (Total time: less than 5 minutes a day).

Turns out I spend great chunks of time on what I love the best… blogging, and a lot less time on social media than folk probably expect. I do take about two nights a week off from blogging and one or two days off twitter and instagram completely. I always return eager and ready for more, I firmly believe a break is as good as a holiday.

→ 10 CommentsTags: About Blogging

A Scientific Discovery: River Pollution in Se7en Steps…

August 28th, 2014 · 2 Comments

When the weather is grim we often head for the local wetlands for an amble, instead of the beach. Another one of our favourite spots to go walking is in SilverMine Nature Reserve, which happens to be where the source of our wetland river begins.

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Last week we were lucky enough to hike the river… beginning close to the source we took the day to hike down to the sea… it was long, it was fun and it was well worth the effort to discover the path of a river.

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In our preparation for our river hike we took a trip to the aquarium to learn about river systems… how they work, how people affect them and conservation projects put in place to restore them. You can find out more about rivers and there are a few printables over here. Otherwise WaterWise has some great information on water pollution in our rivers.

A Lesson in River Pollution

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We began our walk with a lesson from our fab ranger and I wanted to share this great activity for learning about the effects of river pollution…

  1. Take a couple of kids and a large plastic sheet… Let them sit together with their legs under the sheet to form the river catchment area.
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  3. Add your carefully collected dry ingredients: we had some bokkie dung, washing powder, baking powder. Add your carefully collected wet ingredients: cooking oil, red food colouring, river sludge.
    • bokkie dung – sewerage
    • washing powder – soap suds from household and industrial washing
    • baking powder – factory chemicals and pesticides
    • cooking oil – representing all the oil from our roads
    • sludgy plants – representing all the algae and plants that can over run our rivers when the balance is not right.
    • red food colouring – all the liquid chemicals that flow into rivers from factories.

    I am sure you could think of more things to add… dental floss for fishing wire, plastic wrap for plastic, polystyrene from take-outs, paper strips from litter… and so on and so on…

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  4. Let it rain. Throw a jug of water onto your river valley.
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  6. Watch every drop of the river water run into the sea, which is really a large glass bowl.
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  8. Make sure that you catch every drop of this precious resource… water.
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  10. Now is the time to think about what would you like to do with that water… certainly not drink it, or to fill up our bath, or to wash the car, or for our plants even.
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  12. In fact nobody could think of anything that they would like to do with this water. It looked pretty grim and we certainly didn’t want to toss it into the river or the sea.

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Se7en + 1 Books Featuring Rivers

Following up on the book theme, a couple of books landed on the lounge table… story books, fact books, project books and classics…

We will bring you the story of our hike later in the week… there was a fab feature that we totally didn’t expect and I think we may well be visiting this spot a lot more often in the future…

→ 2 CommentsTags: Science · Se7en at School

Se7en + 1 Tips for Coping With the Swathe of Social Media…

August 27th, 2014 · 13 Comments

We live in a crazy age… we simplify living until it is fairly complicated. We schedule all the fun-times away and leave ourselves filled with days-of-productivity. We make endless lists of things to be done now, things to be done then and things to never be done at all. We are spending so much time on getting organised that we never have time to get anything done. And yet we are always trying to catch up, always behind… and always floundering. Now one question I get asked a lot is when on earth do I find the time to blog, let alone find time for other social media. Well, time management is one of those things: Either you are spending your time learning about it or you are actually just getting on with things…

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There are so many things that must or mustn’t be done, so many helpful hints when it comes to social media that you feel like you are wandering through a maze of should and shouldn’ts. There is a lot to be said about the when, the where, the how and even the why of “Social Media” and this post is really for those friends who would love to be busy online, but have no idea when they would ever get round to it…

Se7en + 1 Tips for Getting Social Media “Done.”

  1. Know Your Readers as Well as Your Readers Knows You: One of the key components of blogging is knowing who your readers are and writing for them. As a blogger, I am constantly amazed at our readers genuine care for the writer behind the blog. I have never mentioned on our blog that I need the weekend off or even unlimited time off, without understanding pouring forth. Our blog is not the daily news that people expect to land in their inbox at breakfast time, every single day. Our readers are real people, reading a blog written by real people and it shows. If you need a night off, or a week off, or a month off… trust me your blog will be there and so will the readers that count, just as soon as you get back.
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  3. Know Exactly Who You Are: In a world that loves comparative studies you need to know who you are as a writer. For instance I am not a corporate blogger or a media house blogger. I am one blogger, writing about our life and times. To be sure, I don’t have a corporate group of writers behind me or thirty days worth of prewritten posts, our readers know that (I hope!!!).I cannot spin out “multiple thousand word” posts, day after day, and I am sure our readers wouldn’t want them either… there is nothing like mixing it up, and a couple of different types of posts are good for everyone. With eight kids… my time and attention are not actually focused online, my kids take up time and attention and I want them too. Sometimes I have to hold a sick kid all night, sometimes I have to sit and chat with my teens. Our readers have to know I would rather be doing that than blogging. Don’t get me wrong, I am passionate about blogging… but our kids and our family just have a higher priority.

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  4. Know All Your Options: I was that kid that wanted to try every single extra mural in school, and it worked quite well in primary school. In high school, not so much, either you were on the tennis team or the swimming squad. You would think this was a no brainer, but I signed up for everything and would try and get to both practices every time. It took a good coach to look me in the eye and say: “Pick one.” Similarly on the internet… I have a few platforms that I am on, but not tons of them. One has to pick the one or two that work well for you and leave the rest. Chances are that your readers will have a similar mindset to you and if you love instagram or pinterest then so will they. Your readers may love other social media as well, for instance tons of our readers love Facebook, but they know they won’t find us over there… that’s okay. I think it is better to be active in a couple of spaces than spread so thin over every space that you are actually never present anywhere.
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  6. Know When you are Working and When You are Not: Not all screen time is work time and it is important to know the difference. In the olden days when a person had a particular job and they went to the office, their work was contained between clocking in and clocking out, anything over-time was constrained to the contents of your briefcase. Not so anymore. If you are relaxing online and an email pops up: “Urgent, it’s work” it would take only the most disciplined of us not to take a peek. It is really essential to know the difference between your work and play, and I block off times when pinterest, twitter, email etc can quite happily continue on their merry way without me. I can still be on a screen: reading a book, playing a game with a child, looking up a new recipe to try… but it isn’t work time. I switch off all my notifications and relax.
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  8. Know What Times Are good for Working: I block off times when I am online and offline, at a screen and off a screen. I cannot possibly expect my kids to think that they cannot be online for large chunks of the day, if I have my eyes directed at a screen. I very rarely sit at my computer during the day… that doesn’t mean I am not online at all. But, I couldn’t possibly be online during school time – we would never get anything done. If I am not actually doing school with our kids, alongside them, then I am probably doing laundry or meal preparation. I try to get all the household chores done and any blog related work that can be done away from a screen during the day when our kids are about. A lot of our blogging is generating materials, going on outings, creating lists of se7en+1 things in a notebook, reading books for review… A lot of our actual blogging happens well away from a screen.
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  10. Know What Times Are Good For Work: I know directly after lunch, in the lull of the day… there is no chance of me doing anything productive. It is a good time for me to fly through my twitter feed and find a couple of things that I would want to share with our followers. The problem is that it is the perfect time for me to get led astray… and wander down my flickr feed for hours, luckily I have small children that would like a story read to them, so I have a built in time limit. I probably spend about twenty minutes a day on twitter… you are right I could be missing stuff. In fact, I am… but that’s the point: the internet is there all the time, I can stop by anytime, but I needn’t stay. Directly after dinner and getting the kids to bed I am not the best worker either… that’s a pretty good time for me to sort photographs, sorting them and sending the ones that I will need up to our flickr feed later. Turns out, “not galactically productive” times can be good for some types of work too.
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  12. Know When to Just Do Something: One thing folk do say about blogging is be consistent… blog daily or weekly or monthly… your readers are expecting you to rise to the occasion and mostly bloggers do. But there are times when after dinner I would like to just take the night off, read a book and head for bed like a regular person. Once or twice a week is fine… but you can very quickly find yourself not blogging at all. I have found that on those nights when I can’t bring myself to blog whatever I had planned, and there is always a plan (but that is another blog post) just settling in and doing some background maintenance is a good idea too. It is very rare that I do nothing on our blog in an evening… just fifteen minutes of behind-the-scenes tidying up before deciding to call it a night can be just enough to get me into gear and get a blog post out.
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    And the Se7en + 1th…

  14. Know When to Call it a Day:
  15. When you have had your fill move away, we are very tempted to take on more than we can… In a culture where more is always touted as better it is important to know when enough is enough. In the days before internet, you would read the morning paper with your coffee, when you had been through the headlines and read a few favourite columns. At the end of it, you had the news and your coffee mug was empty. Nowadays, the headlines just keep on coming and we can amble over to the coffee machine and get a refill. There has to be a limit and decide what yours is and be done. In the rising tide that is the internet, where one hundred hours of video are added to youtube every minute… the world is no longer your oyster, it is pretty much a raging monster (!!!) of time sapping energy. Not all of it is good and not all of it is bad… a lot of stuff out there is inspiring and a lot of what is out there is simply terrible. The point is, it is up to us to set limits on our time online and eventually you have to say: Stop… call it a day. Spending time with online friends is one thing, spending time living real life is quite another. In order to be a lifestyle blogger I have to be living real life and a lot of it.

So that’s the theory behind getting to grips with your time spent on social media… turns out I had a practical post just waiting to be written at the same time as this one and I’ll follow up and post it later on in the week.

→ 13 CommentsTags: About Blogging

Introducing the Fabulous Jeff and George and A GiveAway…

August 24th, 2014 · 19 Comments

We would love to be the folk that introduce you to the adorable and innovative team of Jeff and George… Jeff is a passionate young rugby fan and George is his best friend, a tiny little springbok enthusiast of the mascot variety. Together they are the most inventive and inspired little local gang that we have met in a long time. Jeff and George are the creation of author Emily Child and illustrator Julia Anastasopoulos. And yes this post is a GiveAway…

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Meet the Book

Jeff and George appear in their just launched, debut adventure: Jeff and George and the Totem Pole, published by Penguin Books, South Africa. These avid rugby fans live in a small apartment in the heart of the city of Cape Town. It has been raining for days, Table Mountain has vanished behind the clouds. They have sorted the refrigerator three times… they have made mini-potato artworks, washed the dishes… These are two terribly busy chaps. They decide to head out, but they need to be prepared: With a roll of black bin bags and another roll of tape, they set out to invent a head to toe raincoat. Black bags and tape everywhere, they are delightfully inventive and you can tell that this author illustrator team have been around the “kids block” a fair bit: Tape, tape, tape… little bits of tape everywhere… turns out their project was a little ambitious, but they do get an amazing working solution, but I don’t want to overshare, just to say there are a lot of black bags, masses of tape and heaps of little edifying labels to ensure the readers understand every nuance of their invention. And just as they head outdoors… in typical Cape Town style. The sun comes out… They were so elated that they pronked with joy.

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This is a book written and illustrated by folk who are young at heart and who have slid into the world of children to bring them the story… it is truly charming. The book is packed full of little South African colloquisms. I think it is so great for kids to see things that are familiar to them and their own culture in a book, and you can’t get much more local than Table Mountain and rugby. The illustrations are just perfect for the story… packed with little details and lots to look at, not to mention word bubbles and little labels – just like professional inventors (!), all over the place. In a word: delightful. And we are hoping for many more Jeff and George adventures down the line.

Meet the Author/Illustrator Team

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On Monday we got to meet up with the author and illustrator team and what a fun team they were… of course we asked then se7en+1 questions because we knew you would want to know the backstory. And yes, they are just as much fun as they look…

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  1. How did they meet? They met as drama students… and have been friends ever since.
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  3. What did they want to be when they were kids and who inspired them? Emily wanted to be an actor, and her folks encouraged her try heaps of stuff until she found her niche. Julia wanted to be a teacher when she gee up and her granny always said: “da da da dum… (drum roll) you can do it” and was her her cheerleader and encourager. There is a lesson here… artists need encouragers!!!
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  5. What’s their favourite childhood book? They both admitted that they loved reading as children… The author: Emily’s favourite childhood book was a little hard to find, Tiny but Tough and the illustrator: Julia, has a classic old favourite: What-A-Mess.
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  7. What have they read just lately? Emily has just read: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender. and Julia has just read: "The Goldfinch: A Novel by Donna Tartt. Both of them claimed that their books were so good, the sort of book that you didn’t want to start another one too soon afterwards… My kids saw this an indicator of true readers… folk that get lost in books and need a breathe of fresh air before diving into the next one.
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  9. What sort of workspace do they have? And it was a unanimous: MESSY. Julia has her own room to work in and the only clear space is the space big enough for the piece of paper that she is working on at the time. And Emily works on a corner of the dining room table, which is no longer used as a dining room table. Aha… real people with real lives!!!
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  11. When do they work? Are they disciplined and routined or whenever inspiration hits them? They try to be disciplined… but life is busy and things get in the way… so in reality they work when the inspiration hits them. They get in a zone and go…
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  13. What would they tell potential young author/illustrators? Practice, practice, practice… always make time to practice your art and keep at it.
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    And then… one fun question to see if we could pull our interview together…

  15. What would be their favourite feast? Turns out these gals can rapture on about food quite a bit… they had something to say about chocolate, italian, sushi, indian, red wine… and just plain old fresh bread and cheese… hmmmmm, yummmm, they sure do know how to paint “word pictures!!!” And before they had started to wander off the whole gang were hauling out there sandwiches, clearly they had set tummies grumbling.

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And would you look: They did add a stunning drawing to our ever growing collection of author/illustrators images in our sketchbook. Don’t you just love it!!! Julia sat and drew it while we chatted and can these gals chat… It was so lovely to meet them… and here is the back story. There is a real Jeff, Emily’s husband, who is just mad about rugby and he has a real little springbok mascot… with the cutest little face, and that would be George. Don’t you love it!!!


Our kids were having so much fun chatting that I don’t think they wanted to leave, so they took it upon themselves to teach them a few hand/armtwisting tricks…

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And concluded that they should stick to books!!!

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Couldn’t agree more!!! Meanwhile look out for Jeff and George on your book shop shelves and in your libraries… they are launching right now and getting outré there.

The GiveAway

So we have a Jeff and George package to GiveAway: A signed copy of Jeff and George and the Totem Pole, as well as two kid size t-shirts (they would fit our 7-10 yr olds) to GiveAway to a lucky reader. This GiveAway works in the usual way, leave a comment before 1 September 2014 and tell us “the title of your favourite childhood book.” We will draw and publish the winners in the following Fabulous Fun Post. I won’t respond to your comments as I do on our other posts because I don’t want to be included in our own giveaway.

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Hierdie boek is ook in Afrikaans beskikbaar.

Our GiveAways are open to everyone: If you have won a GiveAway before never fear – enter away. If you live on the far side of the world – enter away. Postage takes forever from here but eventually it should get to you! Good luck and happy commenting!!!

We would love to thank Emily and Julia so very much for spending time with us and especially for their gift to us… and we would like to thank Penguin Books South Africa who provided us with two copies of the book, one for review purposes and the other for a giveAway. This is not a sponsored post, we were not paid to write the review and the opinions are as usual entirely our own.

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