Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Russia--- where are you?

I notice that the numbers for my Russian readers is well down. Perhaps you were all arrested for demonstrating at Mr Putin’s inauguration. I do hope you continue to say what you think. There is no going back for democracy. Once bitten--- well, you know the rest.
Your history is not one that gives me confidence that a Mr ‘Strongman’ will gradually erode the hard won victories re a democratic nation. You have so much wonderful history and I wish you a more positive future.
Keep reading and best wishes.

Bullying--- social media has made it so much easier to do

Bullying in its various forms has always been with us and probably will continue to plague us. It is bad enough amongst adults, even in the workplace, but for our young people it can be life threatening. I was pleased to see the article in the NZ Herald today, as it once again highlighted the damage that young people suffer.
I work with teenagers, and this issue of bullying is one that is a daily factor in the lives of my ‘charges.’ It was a problem when I first started in this work, but it is now so much easier for the ‘bullies’ to act out on their nasty pathways. What is sad is that it is so much easier for them to do so, anonymously at times and over a far larger baseline.
Bullying has gone beyond the realms of classroom gossiping and the odd push in the playground. Now, a victim can be set up and receive the unwanted attention from variety of sources, possibly all started by one person. It used to be rumours spread by word of mouth, but now, there is a choice of texting, social media sites like Facebook and even Utube. What is more, sometimes Utube is used to fan the scope of the bullying even more. People, who have absolutely no connection with the victim, get aboard and add to the nasty and often dangerous melange of tactics.
Young people have taken their own lives as a result. We cannot get away from that fact. Often, adults standby, seemingly powerless to stop the carnage. The fact is that they are not. As responsible adults--- they must do something, even of it is just to tell someone who is a postilion to help, like a dean, counsellor, youth aid officer and other outside agencies. (I will out a list at the bottom)
As parents you need to act if your son or daughter has changed and looks depressed. If they won’t talk to you and unfortunately that is a common thread for our young people, then go to the school and talk to the deans, counsellors and if necessary go to the top--- the principal. Above all------ DO SOMEHTING. Talk to your friends, boss---someone will know what to do. If you do nothing, your children are at risk. The ‘no tell’ culture that is endemic in our schools has to be challenged and there is evidence to suggest that this can also be changed.
Bullying may not always be life threatening but it has an insidious way of affecting your children’s’ educational aspirations, so act now. One again I say--- talk to your children and give them the time that they need. If that means having a little less in the way of the ‘latest gadgets’ in the home because you have sacrificed a bit of work time, then so be it.
Let’s continue the discussion about bullying in a wider circle. Take it to your local MP if you have to.
  OK—here are some numbers that you should display around the home. You are not giving up some imagined ‘parental; right’ based on the belief that you ‘know your kids’ and that you ‘don’t want them talking to a stranger,’ when they should have been coming to you. Lest face it--- some parents just say--- ‘you have to stand up to them yourself.’ That may have some adherents who swear by it, but the very nature of the new ‘faceless’ bullying makes that pretty hard to achieve.
 KIDSLINE 0800 9428787 (Sorry—only NZ)
YOUTHLINE   0800 376633    or FREETEXT 234

Gluten free diet-- Fad or what?

I was pleased to see the news item on TV1 tonight about the ‘gluten free fad.’ I thought it was balanced and much overdue----because for many people proclaiming a gluten-free diet for ‘health’ reasons--- well it is just that, fed by silly Hollywood starlets who wouldn’t know anything about gluten, even if it bit them in the bum!
Only one in a hundred NZers is reported to have Coeliac Disease. Such people have had their condition scientifically diagnosed and must stick to a completely gluten free regime. I am not a Coeliac but I have family members who are, one for at least 15 years.
When that diagnoses was made, life had to change and the best way for me to accommodate the restrictions was to learn myself. Out went many items in my pantry and it was back to basics for cooking in those early days. It was like deconstructing everything we cooked when my sibling came around for dinner. The only safe way to ensure that there was no hidden gluten in the form of sauces and processed foods was to stay simple.
That is easy enough but it gets a bit boring so we gradually sought out products that were labelled gluten free. Believe me--- there were not many around then and we had to become bloody good at reading labels and understanding that gluten can be lying in wait in the numbers and equations on the labelling.
Probably the hardest to source then in any quantity was bread products. Those available were cake-like and tasted like sawdust, only good for toasting. Forget about a nice fresh fluffy white sandwich. The pasta available then was also crappy. But things have changed.
Along came the ‘Gluten-Free Food Shows--- a real blessing both for the stimulation they gave to producers to design new products and rediscover others that had been around for ever. Natural is always best. The breads improved and the pastas increased in variety and quality. Other food manufacturers discovered ways of producing their offerings without using wheat and other gluten-laden flours.  The only problem is the price. Gluten free products can be pricy—for example, breads can be up to three times the price, but with competition, that has improved slightly. One can get a prescription for some gluten free basics.
I suppose we can thank the starlets for publicising gluten free products, which means that the market is bigger and then things make more sense economically.
Ethnic foods can be good too. I find that Vietnamese and other South East Asian foods can be quite helpful for the person seeking something safe and different. The only problem is that if one goes to a food hall, there is the possibility that the cooks don’t understand the concept, but if you have a friendly knowledgeable friend like we have, then navigating through the hazards is possible. Indonesian soy sauces; the thick sweet variety which is thickened with palm sugar can be acceptable, but once again, you have to be careful.
Good on you TV1--- you brought common sense to the issue. If anyone wants to engage in a meaningful conversation about going gluten free--- make some comments and I shall put up some simple very tasty recipes, often designed by myself.