Children’s Books

In this pandemic, children have had their lives affected in many different ways. Whether it was doing school on-line or missing school field trips or being exposed to Covid, many have spent a large proportion of their time on-line. Children’s books are meant to challenge their imaginations and provide stories they can relate to.

Illustrations Are Important

Illustration from Shirley Hughes children’s book The Nursery Collection

As a children’s book author, I know how important it is to have illustrations with the story. The story comes alive when children can see the characters which ignites their curiosity. Movies and videos for kids don’t always allow them to use their imaginations. Imagination is a powerful tool and helps the child create or use their mind to imagine what could be or what the characters could do.

Writer’s Tool Kit

Writers of children’s books really need to appeal to children and can do so by challenging their imagination and use of descriptive words. Books can have simple wording or use more complex phrases again to challenge the child’s mind. One useful tool for the children’s book author is the use of colorful illustrations. Children are fascinated by different color images. In the story above, the child is not just walking down a path but is wearing bright-colored shoes, pink overalls, with flowers, her pet dog and cat, her doll and last of all her baby brother all in the same scene. There is a lot going on in this scene. The reader can discuss with the child when reading the book together which is what the author had in mind.

Stories That Children Can Relate To

Rupert Bear in his famous yearly annual for children

Happy Endings

Children like stories with happy endings. With Rupert, children can look at the world of adventure and fun through different animals who are dressed in brightly colored clothing. These animals would not be like this in real life. However, the characters are helpful to children to think about the world they live in and their friends and family in a different light. They will want to join Rupert and his friends on adventures too!

Sally with her children’s book The Fairy Hollow Chronicles illustrated by Barbie Warwick

The Best Part

By making children’s books colorful, interesting, challenging and fun to read, children are off to a great start in the world of books. They will enjoy reading as they get older and venture into longer books with no illustrations. Most importantly, children’s books help children begin their journey into language which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

What Is The Inspiration for a Character in a Book?

What is the inspiration for a character when writing a book? Inspiration can take many forms and ends up providing the author with characters that can be used in the book being written.

Inspiration Helps Authors with Book Titles

What Inspires the Name of a Character?

When I first started thinking of ideas for my children’s book The Fairy Hollow Chronicles, I took inspiration from my own children to create the characters. My daughter loved fairies when she was very young so that provided me with the idea for four fairies. Adventures are always fun when you are a child so the idea that the fairies had to go on an adventure was born. Then, the names came easily as I chose names of her friends from elementary school.

Characters from the Fairy Hollow Chronicles – Christy, Katie, Megan & Lizzie

What Should Characters Wear?

Authors need to describe their characters. In The Fairy Hollow Chronicles, the four fairies are tiny so it was easy to have them dressed in ballerina tutus with their hair in buns. Ballerinas always wear buns. Young girls who take ballet enjoy wearing the tutus and having their hair in buns. The mayor in the book needed to be in a suit as he means business. The idea for the toad came from various stories I read as a child and also the toad character fits the mayor character perfectly.

My mother dining out with friends in Vancouver – What could they be talking about and how do they know each other?
Pages from The Fairy Hollow Chronicles
Pages from The Fairy Hollow Chronicles – Fairies dressed as ballerinas.

Photographs

Ideas for other books that I am writing came from photographs. Sometimes a photograph can inspire an author to write a story based on what might be happening in that photo. The photos from WW2 in England are an inspiration and ask me to write about what the young men and women in the photos are laughing about, worried about, thinking about and how the war affected them. As the daughter of parents who went through WW2, I am intrigued to include in my book these points to round out my characters.

My mother and her friend in 1935 – A photograph for inspiration – What is going on in this photo?

Inspiration is the Summary of Many Ideas

The inspiration for characters in a book comes from everything including family, friends, photos, artwork, current fashion, and the author’s imagination. By using all these ideas, the characters come to life which makes enjoyable reading for all of us.

Tips For Summer Food Safety:

How To Stay Safe This Summer & Prevent Food Poisoning

Summer is Almost Here!

Now that summer is almost here, more of us will be camping, having a barbeque and preparing picnic food.

With restrictions and social distancing still in place, an outdoor picnic is a great way to meet up and share food. However, this is a time when food poisoning can increase due to leaving hazardous foods out on the picnic table in the hot sun therefore allowing bacteria to grow.

Salad

Tips You Can Follow This Summer:

Remember the mantra Keep Cold Foods Cold. Foods such as potato salad and caesar’s salad need to be kept cold at 4 C or 40 F. Do not leave these salads sitting out in the hot sunshine for hours as they will be in the Danger Zone where organisms can grow.

Keep Cold Foods Cold & Use A Cooler When Grocery Shopping

Greek Summer Salad

If you are purchasing foods ahead of time at the grocery store or supermarket, place the frozen or cold foods inside a cooler containing ice packs or ice gels in your car. This will help maintain a constant cold temperature for your products until you are home or at your picnic or campsite.

Raw Food Storage

Raw foods such as hamburger meat should be double wrapped and placed in the cooler as well so as not to leak on other foods. Raw meat juices or blood can easily cross-contaminate. If you have cooked products such as hamburgers or hot dogs, keep them in separate closed containers so as not to become cross-contaminated with raw juices if stored together in the cooler.

Skewers ready to barbeque

Barbequing

Barbequing is very popular in the summer months. When cooking hamburgers, always remember to keep the raw meats separate from the cooked burgers. Do not place the cooked burgers back on the plate used for the raw meats as cross contamination will occur. Use separate utensils for the raw meats and the cooked hamburgers. Never eat under-cooked or raw hamburgers as bacteria such as Ecoli can cause food poisoning.

Barbeque
A summer favourite of burger and salad.

Recycling Plastic Utensils & Take-out Containers

When using plastic utensils and take-out containers, remember that these can be recycled. Covid is mainly spread through aerosols so the single service items can still be recycled. Better yet, take your re-usable dishes with you when camping or having a picnic and wash them later using hot soapy water.

Handwashing

Most importantly, don’t forget to wash your hands and/or use the hand sanitizer before, during and after preparing and serving food. It is extremely important to be vigilant on this practice as it will reduce the spread of covid as well as prevent food poisoning organisms from making you ill. If you are ill or experiencing symptoms, do not prepare the picnic foods.

Have a Safe Food Summer!

As we face a summer with many events cancelled, picnics, barbeques and camping in the great outdoors will provide us with outdoor dining and safe distancing with our friends and family. Keep your picnic foods stored safely at the correct temperature and the risk of foodborne illness will be reduced.

Social Media Is Really Anti-Social

When Social Media first came out, I thought the name wasn’t appropriate for there isn’t anything social about it. As human beings, we need to interact face to face with others so we can have conversations, watch our facial expressions and understand what we are saying to each other.

Using the Ipad for business

Are We All Addicted?

Social media has been a tremendous help with the pandemic. As we haven’t been social throughout this time, we have seen friends, family and participated in meetings, classes and ceremonies on-line.

Office Face-to-Face Meeting before Covid

From the time we wake up until we go to bed, we are constantly on our cell phones or other mobile devices. Addiction explains why people still drive and use their cell phones. They are addicted to know who is calling or they just have to make another call or send another text. Everyone knows not to use a cell phone when driving because the driver must concentrate on the road at all times. Addiction has taken over and people can’t stop using the cell phone when on the road which has caused tragic accidents and sometimes death.

On the cell phone while studying

I’ve also noticed people on cell phones when walking down the street sometimes never look up. I had a near crash with one person who wasn’t looking where she was going but madly typing away on her phone. Fortunately, we both didn’t get hurt but she should have paid attention to where she was walking instead of being so distracted.

The Proof of Addiction

Computers for Office Staff

A new book written by Adam Atler, a professor at NYU, is called Irresistible. He lays out the evidence for the hidden danger in our lives called behavioral addiction. From tracking social media “likes” to constantly counting our steps, we are being guided by the technologies we use.

Instead of letting addiction rule our lives, we can take steps to live more productively. This behavorial addiction is preventing us from forming meaningful relationships, raising empathetic children, and separating work from sleep and play. Who would have thought a decade ago that Facebook would attract 1.5 billion users? As the author suggests, many of these users wish they spent less time on the site. Also Instagram users spend hours uploading and liking sixty million new photos every day on the app. More than twenty million people daily count and monitor their every step with a small wrist-bound device.

Suggestions he makes include workplaces shutting down at six pm and disabling work email accounts between midnight and five am the next morning. Games, similar to books with chapters, can be built with natural stopping points. Social media platforms can demetricate which is removing the numerical feedback allowing damaging social comparison and chronic goalsetting. Children can be introduced to screens slowly under supervision instead of all at once. Our culture needs to make space for a work-free, game-free, screen-free downtime to make it easier to resist the lure of behavioral addiction. This will result in us communicating with others directly which will make us happier than any screen time or device could ever do!

SOURCE: Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology And The Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter

Food Safety Makes Sense

In my former career, I was a public health inspector/environmental health officer and ran my own business called Enviro-Food Consulting. I trained a large number of restaurant and foodservice workers on food safety techniques. One of my future projects is a blog book based on my last blog called Food Safety Makes Sense.

As we are presently in the pandemic, the public forgets that food poisoning cases also are still happening and are preventable. It makes sense for us to remember that food safety is important to all of us.

The Attitude of Foodservice Workers

I have taught many groups of workers from teens to seniors. The most interesting point to remember is that food safety is not treated seriously. Working in a restaurant is thought of as just another job. Management is not

always supportive. If workers notice that management doesn’t take an interest in them, they are not concerned about food safety. That means sanitizing isn’t done carefully, hands are wiped not washed, and dirty cloths are not replaced. Now we are in the pandemic, at least sanitizing is taken more seriously but outbreaks are still occurring.

Cappucino

Food Prepared & Purchased In A Typical Day

If you think about your typical day, many of us consume food made at home or nowadays may enjoy a takeout item including drinks such as coffee. We all forget how much we depend on the food supply chain to provide us with safe food to eat which won’t make us ill. Many cases of foodborne illness are not reported as they mimic the flu.

Breakfast Meals For Take-Out

Breakfast Egg Sandwich

Consider The Following Points:

For example, if you had an egg sandwich for breakfast in a restaurant, do you consider:

How old is the egg that was used in the ingredients?

Did the food handler preparing the sandwich wash his/her hands before preparing the sandwich?

Food Handler Washing Hands
  1. Was the handwashing done properly not just using a shot of hand sanitizer? Hand sanitizers are wonderful when sinks with hot water and soap are not available. However, in a restaurant kitchen, there is a designated handwashing sink to use. Handwashing with hot or warm water and liquid soap sanitizes hands most effectively.
  2. Was the work area sanitized? This should be done with an approved sanitizer in a spray bottle and clean cloth. If the cloth is dirty, contaminants will be spread around the surfaces.
  3. Was the sandwich cooked to the proper temperature?
  4. Is the purchases sandwich hot, lukewarm or even cold? Uneven temperatures mean the food is in the Danger Zone where various food poisoning organisms can grow.

Do You Still Want To Eat the Egg Sandwich?

After thinking about all these points, do you still want to eat the egg sandwich?

Food safety affects us all though we take this for granted even in the pandemic!

Opportunities for Young Women in WW2 in England

Women today do not know how far we have come. It wasn’t that long ago that women were raised to get married and that was it. No career was to be considered. Not even university.

A Job in London


While researching my book Olive’s Obsession based on Olive working at the Beaver Club in London during the war, I have found that there were not many choices for young women. Olive, who in real life was my mother, went to Pitmans’ College in London to learn shorthand. She then went on to learn typing and worked as a secretary for such amazing companies as Quaker Oats and the EverReady Battery Company. The Ever Ready Battery Company got bombed during the war and very fortunately all the staff were gone as it was night time so no one lost their lives.

Life in London

Olive and her friend in London in WW2

My Mother always said that she was in London working but did not see a lot of war going on. She maybe said that so that we, my sister and I, growing up would not think she had suffered. They all suffered severely especially with the bomb shelters being in the tube at any hour when the alarm sounded. Also, the lack of food and rationing books that had to be presented when purchasing food. Everything was for the war effort.

Voluntary Work in the Red Cross

Volunteers in the Red Cross

What Were Your Opportunities?

As for the opportunities, you were either a teacher, nurse or secretary. You were expected to marry young otherwise you were considered an “old maid” which many dreaded. If you were a member of the aristocracy, then you were expected to marry high up. No career was in the cards for you. That explains why volunteer work became popular with the aristocracy as they were appearing to do good for the lower classes. The class system existed in Great Britain at the time.

Ladies Having Tea in London

I plan on researching about job opportunities in World War II for young women to find out what their lives were really like.

Hard Cover Books Versus E-Readers

I remember when e-readers came out such as kobe and kindle. I wasn’t too happy with thinking that books would be read on an electronic reader. Where would the feel of the book be and the joy of turning pages to find out the rest of the story?

Paperback Books to Read When Travelling

Paperback Travel Reads

Even though I travelled at the time, I always took a few paperbacks with me and was able to read them on the trip. Some of the travellers I met really loved their kindles as they could load many books on them at a time. This saved carrying extra books in their luggage which was an advantage. There is also the concern with the radiation level emitted when holding the e-reader near the body. This also happens with the constant use of cell phones though the public doesn’t accept t

The Joy of Reading Books

However, I have always loved to read books and turn pages into each story. It’s great to be able to hold the book and flip the pages and carry it with you to read when you can. This is what influenced the sales of e-readers. It was originally thought that many would use kindles and printed books would become obsolete! The public have continued to read books because they enjoy having the book to hold, read and flip through. Printed books won’t go out of style as we all enjoy them too much. There is a place for both e-readers and printed books in the reading world which is a good thing for book lovers everywhere.

My new children’s book The Fairy Hollow Chronicles

Debutante’s Lives in WW2

While researching information for my book Olive’s Obsession, I found a fabulous book called Debs at War: How War Changed Their Lives 1939-1945 by Anne de Courcy.

Debutantes

I was amazed to learn how little the debutantes knew about life. They had been sheltered for most of their young lives. Their main goal in life was to find a good match and marry very well. The higher up the better! Then war came along. Many had servants and maids who did everything for them. All of a sudden, they were thrust into the war effort. Some went into nursing, some worked for the Women’s Voluntary Association, some became pilots and some drove ambulances. One deb was asked what she knew about the gas tank. “It was full of oil and hair,” she replied. Her chauffeur had taught her this but instead of saying hair, he had said air! As for support from their parents, many didn’t dine with their mother or father until much older.

Debs in their evening dresses in 1939.

Life Influencers

The sole influence on their lives was Nanny. They learned all her mannerisms which carried them through life. They were challenged during the war to use skills they didn’t know they possessed.

Female pilots in WW2.

Chosen Paths

Imagine going into culture shock from your world where the lady’s maid looked after all your clothes to one where being inspected for head lice was routine. Some went on to Bletchley Park or became Land Girls. Most went into the Services – as FANYs, ATS, Wrens or WAAFs. The class barrier had existed in England but it dissolved under the love and war or continued on to in superiority to those less wealthy. No one was catering to them when they volunteered.

Character in Book

I will be having a debutante as one of the characters in my book. More details to come.

Characteristics of the Plot

What characteristics does the writer consider when deciding the characters in a plot? I plan on a future book based on my mother’s experiences in England during World War 2. I know there are a lot of books written about women and the war. However, my mother did something unique. She volunteered in London at the Beaver Club. This was a place where Canadian soldiers could come to get sandwiches, coffee, new socks and maps to get around London while on leave. Of course, I won’t be calling the book The Beaver Club for obvious reasons. The working title is The Maple Leaf Club. The Club had various women volunteering there mainly with the food preparation and serving. Many of the women have long since passed away and perhaps their sons and daughters didn’t know much about it. The book I plan to write includes a murder in the Club and the life of Olive, the main character, who works as a secretary for a British firm and really wants to start a new life in Canada.

Research is required for this book. The photos I have of my Mother are helpful and the reunion photo is amazing. Many ladies fit into one large photo but all in black and white. I once asked my mother if she had dated anyone at the club. She replied, “Oh no, not me. I was too shy!”

What stands out in this story is the selflessness of the women who volunteered their time to work in the Beaver Club in London in the middle of the war. Life in wartime London was tough enough but these ladies volunteered their time to help Canadians. I’m looking forward to researching this book and learning what my mother experienced during the war.

Inspection Reports

As a public health inspector, I remember waiting for the restaurant manager to discuss the inspection report based on my visit to the foodservice operation. I had been writing my report by hand. In those days, reports were handwritten noting any deficiencies which required correction. A voice suddenly interrupted my train of thought, “I wasn’t expecting a woman!”. This came from the manager of the restaurant. He was shocked that a woman could do the job.  My reply was “You never had it so good!”. Now in 2021, many years later, those words are the working title of my next book which will be a memoir on my experiences as a female public health inspector.

When I began my first position in Medicine Hat, Alberta, there had not been another public health inspector hired for 20 years. I was described by one of the inspectors as “a bright light”. I didn’t walk around plugged in all the time but I did bring a new perspective on getting the job done. The secretary was impressed to have a female around the office. She told me that a new broom sweeps clean. Another inspector, who also had been with the unit for 20 years, was not pleased to have a female inspector on the job. I might have shown him up as he hadn’t done much work for many years.

There was definitely lots of work to be done. Restaurants hadn’t been inspected, small towns had been neglected, grocery stores and hotels had not had follow-up inspections. One of my restaurant managers in a small town called Bow River reminded me that I was tough. “Your reputation has preceded you!” she said. Her restaurant had many violations but she and her staff did co-operate and clean up. It was wonderful to have food operations running in compliance compared which protected the health of the population.  Also, the general public noticed the improvement in foodservice operations when dining out and phoned in compliments to the Health Unit.