Thursday, 27 August 2015

Guest post- Working Remotely: How to Keep Your Connection Secure


We love sharing tips on working from home efficiently and ensuring that your information is secure and your connection safe is an important consideration if you are going to work from home. Our guest blogger, Cassie, from securethoughts.com shares some excellent tips on keeping your connection secure. 

Cassie is a technology enthusiast who enjoys sharing her knowledge of internet security and work at home tips. 

Working Remotely: How to Keep Your Connection Secure

I would like to thank Jozi WAHM for sharing this article with her wonderful readers. I’ve found the blog to be a fun read filled with all sorts of different tips and anecdotes that are useful to know about. In particular I’d like to recommend this post about actually getting work done at home.

If you get to work from home, there are a lot of benefits, such as not having a commute and working in a comfortable environment, but you also have to contend with the added responsibilities. Chances you are working from a personal device and a home connection, and so it is your job to make sure that everything related to your job is safe; otherwise, you could suffer the consequences of a company data breach.



Here are a few ways you can help keep your connection secure: 

Be Conservative with Your Network Information:

Your home network information is how people get into your network, for good or for ill. Chances are that a skilled hacker with that information can go in from a street or two away and steal many of the files you use for work with the right equipment, depending on how you have things set up for sharing on your home network. If that data gets out there, it is hard to get it wiped clean from the internet where such data is often sold to the highest bidder.

You don’t need to tell everyone who walks into your house your network name and password. They can get by without internet for a while and likely have a data plan anyway. They might not be malicious, but they are out of your control and thus a potential security risk if they don’t take as much care as you do (which is a distinct possibility). If they persist, explain your situation, and if they do not understand, ask them to leave and meet them elsewhere in the future. Your job and home security isn’t worth the company of such a rude person.

Use a VPN on All of Your Devices


If you work remotely, that doesn’t mean you are working from home. There is a great likelihood that you meet clients or customers in public settings such as coffee houses or restaurants. These places have public networks, which can be useful but are also incredibly risky to use, as hackers can easily intercept data over an unprotected network. This data could include a great deal of work information, not to mention your financial data, to make you the victim of an identity thief.

The best defense you have against such a threat is called a Virtual Private Network (VPN). What a VPN does is use an encrypted connection to make your computer connect to an offsite secure server which will process your requests for you. This encrypted connection allows you to safely browse the internet on any network without having to worry about anyone looking in. It also has the added benefit of being a service that will mask your IP address, so that you can access regionally restricted content and websites that are censored by certain governments. You will also be able to avoid government surveillance in many of the more restrictive countries out there, which may be vital to certain professions that make their home their office.

You should know that they are great for home use for the same privacy and security benefits, and that using one that is well-reviewed will put your mind at ease when it comes to your data security.

Take a Look at Your Old Files and Connections

Sometimes it is not an attack on our connection or computer that can lead to problems. Sometimes it is just an oversight on your part because something was left around or a connection not closed on your computer. Your dropbox folders should be dealt with whenever a contract ends, and the best thing that you can do is to have a personal policy to clear out or store away any old files that might have important information on them. If they might be useful or important in the future, place them on a flash drive that is stored away from anything with an internet connection.

Now might also be a good time to make a clean cut and change all of your passwords and security question answers. Go through all of your different cloud services or similar sharing software and cut old connections. The goal is to cut off past problems and security holes so you can focus on a secure future.


 

Thank you for reading, and the best of luck to you with you work regardless of where you work.




Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Because you Can't Argue with a Toddler

There is just no point arguing with a toddler...

Like when he cries for the purple plate but actually means the blue plate and you give him the purple plate and he points to the blue one instead and you tell him that is blue and not purple but he insists it is purple and cries until he is blue, I mean purple in the face...

You can't argue with that.


Like when you ask the kids what they want for lunch and he says butter and takes you to the fridge and points to the butter and cries when you give him something else for lunch and explain that butter is not a meal but he keeps crying and crying until you can't take it any more and give him a tiny blob of butter...

You can't argue with that.


Like when you put him in bed before eight to catch up on some work after his bedtime but no amount of boobing, bedtime stories or lullabyes will send him to sleep, because he is not tired because he had a long afternoon nap while you slaved away...

You can't argue with that.



Like when you think he is sound asleep and you pull out that gorgeous slab of imported Swiss chocolate that you have been saving, and his ultrasonic hearing picks up the rustling of papers from four rooms away and he comes running to demand his share...

You can't argue with that.



Like when he smears his cereal all over the kitchen table, singing 'tidy up, clean up'.

You can't argue with that.



You might think that you are the responsible adult, the one in charge, but he is the one who really wears (the pull up nappy) pants. Say what you want, introduce naughty corners and time outs, calming jars, ignoring tactics or any other technique, if your debate opponent is a toddler, the toddler will always win.

Because there is no point arguing with a toddler...

Because you don't really want to argue with a toddler...

Because you love some of the things he does so much...





Like when he plants dozens of hugs and kisses on you for no reason at all...

You can't argue with that.




Like when he laughs uncontrollably at silly things...

You can't argue with that.



Like when he sings and dances...

You can't argue with that.




Like when he 'helps' you around the house...

You can't argue with that.




Like when he imitates the things that you say and do...

You can't argue with that...


Like when he tries to change his own nappy...

You can't argue with that...


Like when he fills your heart and your dreams...

You can't argue with that. 



SHARE this post if your heart belongs to a toddler that you can't argue with.  


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Dear Large Retail Supermarket

Dear Large Retail Supermarket


By 'you', I am not referring to any one retail store in particular, these are general observations across various stores.

As a mother of two tiny tots, I have no issue with you providing me with Stikeez, knife sets or any other 'free' promotional item. There are a few other things that I would like you to consider (pretty please, with a Stikee on top).



I am sure you had the best of intentions when adding those super cool trolleys with the steering wheels that look like cars. My kids love them. Here's a few things though. I loathe them because they are bulky, heavy and nearly impossible to maneuver down your narrow isles where your workers are busy unpacking stock on a busy Saturday morning. If you are going to introduce them, please put more than two per store, there are usually more than two kids in your store at a time. Also, please maintain them so they still have their steering wheels attached, children tend to burst into tears when you give them a car with no steering wheel. Oh, and just a heads up- they should fit through all your till points.

Speaking of the till points, how do you expect your cashiers (many of which have sizable derrieres) to fit in those tiny gaps, wedged between trolleys and the till? I have had many a cashier move my trolley inadvertently because she shifted backwards just an inch. 




Another thing, why do you only have two tills open when there are thirty-five till points? Here's a thought- maybe you could build just half that number of till points to begin with, have them wide enough for customers and your cashiers to fit through and actually have them all operating simultaneously!

I must thank you for providing those trolleys with the baby seats at the top- they  were a lifesaver when I had a toddler and a newborn. Just a suggestion- is it possible to move the baby seats a little lower? I can't see over the top of them and I am sure my fellow shoppers are not impressed when I ram into them because I cannot see them. I am a little bit on the short side, but not unusually so. While we are on that topic, please could you place all your items within reach of all your shoppers of a reasonable adult height?

Now, can I have a word with you about those horrific isles of sweets as you queue for the till point? Now I have to listen to incessant nagging, begging and pleading for bags of licorice and gums. Then, when I tell my husband he can have some sweets the kids want some too.



One last thing... and this is a biggie. The items listed until now were minor inconveniences but this one irks me.  Do not mislead your customers. As a customer, I do not think that honesty and transparency are too much to ask for. 

When you lure in customers by advertising a huge special and then remove all stock of that item from your shelf, people are going to be a little bit peeved. When your 'special' price is the same, or even higher than your regular price, you are not fooling anyone. When you put stickers over packaging information relating to the questionable source of an item or the fact that items are genetically modified, you are losing the trust of your clientele. We are not idiots. Well, most of us, most of the time.

Thank you large corporate for listening to my mini rant.

Regards,

Jozi WAHM

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The Hardest Decision For Mothers


After your first baby is born comes the decision of whether to return to work or to stay at home and look after your precious arrival.Of course, for some, finances mean that there is no debate as to whether or not to return to work, so this is a non-question for some. For many though, myself included, this has to be one of the toughest decisions to be made as a mother as a decision in either direction has such life altering implications for your entire family and its future. 



Having been on both sides of the fence, I have decided to share my story.

My Story:
When I was pregnant with Noodle, I had a high flying professional career at a large corporate. A and I had not been married very long and we had debts to pay. The selfish part of me was reminded that I had studied for many years and put in many hours of blood, sweat and tears to get where I was, so the thought of giving it up seemed counter-intuitive. Besides, I worked for a company that gave a generous six months of paid maternity leave (well generous by South African standards anyway). I had a boss who, being a mother of young children herself, was supportive of my role as a mother.

I had heard horror stories about nannies, but there was a great creche just meters away from our office block that colleagues raved about. Their babies seemed happy enough and it was just downstairs- surely I could pop in at lunch every day, I thought. I went for a tour of the creche, where they boasted state of the art facilities, hi-tech equipment, a pristine playground and even a full time nurse on duty for the baby class. They had a good schedule and a low staff to child ratio. Heck, they even had a certified Halaal kitchen providing all meals and snacks for the day. 

So, it seemed like I had all my ducks in a row and the decision was made to take six months maternity leave and then return to the trenches.



Then Noodle was born and the reality of what it means to be a mother and just how much a baby of just a few months old needs her mommy set in. 

The day I left Noodle at creche for the first time was the hardest of my life and her helpless  cries will forever haunt me. On day one, a trial run a week before I was to return to work, I spent an hour at the creche with her before detaching myself. I went to my car and spent half an hour sobbing uncontrollably. I was only going to leave her there for an hour or less that day, so rather than returning home, I stopped at some nearby shops. I bumped into an old friend whom I had not seen since university. She had her baby with her and looking at her baby sent me back into tears. She probably still thinks I belong in a psych ward. 

I could not do this, I thought. What was I doing, leaving my baby who could not even sit properly unassisted, let alone communicate properly if something is wrong, with strangers?  Of course, large corporate made me sign a lock-in contract before I had left, with insane penalties for breach, so leaving now was not an option at this point, even if I so chose.

The next few months were excruciatingly tough. Noodle cried her eyes out every morning, clinging to me for dear life. I would phone several times a day to find out if she was okay and they reassured me that she was, but I was convinced that the cries that I heard in the background were hers. A corporate re-shuffle also meant that I was twice as busy as ever before at work and usually did not even have a chance for that lunchtime visit, which the creche discouraged in any event. 

For these few months, I felt guilty that I was missing so many pivotal firsts in the life of my precious angel, with even more guilt when I read articles about the adverse psychological effects seen later in life in infants left in day care at an early age. Noodle would go to bed very late at night, probably trying to make up for missed time with mommy, and would wake up several times a night. Evenings were spent seeing to baby, doing household chores and everything else that goes with running a household and it would often be midnight before I got through the list of essential chores (yes, I have a very helpful and supportive husband but he was exhausted too). I was severely sleep deprived and my work suffered because of it.

By the time my 'lock-in' period had passed, things had gradually gotten better. Noodle had adapted to life at creche and life carried on and I stayed on at the company for the next two years.  Working full time also had its perks. I had the luxury of buying whatever I wanted or desired for me and my family without checking my bank balance each time. I could interact with colleagues on an intellectual and social level and during the day time go to the bathroom unaccompanied and even have the occasional coffee break (luxuries that stay-at-home moms do not have).

By the time Squish was on his way, I knew that I did not want to go through that experience again. After much deliberation, the decision was made to become a stay- at-home/ work-from-home mom. I spent the first eight months or so after Squish was born completely focused on being a good mommy and wife, seeing to baby and learning to perfect the art of round rotis and soft burfee as expected of any good Indian housewife. I also  used this time to plan my business empire (which has not yet become an empire) as I knew that I needed intellectual stimulation (and some form of income). Then, slowly since, I have been incorporating my work from home plan.

 I do not regret my decision the second time around, although anyone who thinks that staying at home is easier than being at work is wrong. They are both tough, in different ways. Being at home means almost never having time away from the kids, which in itself is taxing. The level of sleep deprivation is similar and being at home, the household chores seem to multiply. Working alone means not having the same resources or colleagues to bounce ideas off and I under-estimated how difficult it would be to working at home with a baby and around his schedule would be. However, the benefit has been to actually have time to spend with my children, to watch them grow and to impart the values that I would like to bestow at this early and impressionable age.

In the end, both were the right decision for me at the given time. I may not stay at home forever, but for now, this is what works- for us anyway. 



We would love to hear your story about your decision to go back to work or stay at home after your baby was born. What prompted your decision? Would you do it again? What has been the highlights and low-lights? Email joziwahm@gmail.com with your story and we might just publish it on this blog.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Currently...

I realise that I have not been blogging as often as usual, there is just a lot of other stuff going on in the background. Let's see...


WORKING ON:

I am busy planning some exciting upcoming blog posts. Besides that, I have a new long term work venture (besides my regular WAHM'ing) and am busy finding my feet so that is occupying a lo of time at the moment.

ENJOYING:

I have so much to be grateful for. 

I love the warmer weather we have been having and not having to be wrapped up in layers and layers of clothing. The kids are having fun playing outside more too. 

I love the fact that my kids are playing together so well now. I even managed to go back and lie in bed for a few minutes yesterday after giving them cereal.

Despite being very busy, August has been a fun month so far. I got to be spoilt rotten by my husband, kids and parents for my birthday, lots of meals out, spending time or at least getting in touch with old friends, a games day with the kids and their cousins and an ice-skating trip.

Noodle and I built a huge jigsaw puzzle together and Squish and I have been making play dough figurines together. It now temporarily adorns our dining room table as Noodle will not let me break it again. 


NOT ENJOYING:

Recurring plumbing issues at home (yuck) and ironing as I still have no domestic helper. Laundry and ironing is the bane of my existence and I try to get through it by making a game of it, testing how many items I can iron in x number of minutes and 'clocking' the next level by getting to the bottom of one washing basket of ironing.

AMUSED BY: 

The fact that my eighteen month old son can count in Spanish (thank you Dora the Explorer) and that he is obsessed with 'sala tea' (Masala tea aka a chai latte). 
LESS AMUSED BY:

The fact that Squish has nicknamed my breasts 'kaka boobie' and 'other boobie'. Kaka Boobie feels offended. Yes, we are still breastfeeding, despite my plans to wean him.

DREAMING OF:

An upcoming family holiday to faraway lands, reading travel reviews online and planning itineraries. Exciting times ahead!!!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Keeping an Eighteen Month Old Entertained Indoors- Ten Fun Activities

My little Squish is growing up at lightning speed. He is learning to talk in caveman-like sentences, sing nursery rhymes and to engage in imaginative play. With all this rapid development, he needs more and more stimulation to keep him busy while I attempt to get some work done.

Here are our favourite indoor activities at the moment:

1. Tiny books

We have a big basket full of tiny toddler sized books. These are great for mommy to read to tiny sized toddler. However, their primary use in our house is different- the books get stacked, lined up, scattered or arranged in various other patterns. Emptying from the basket and throwing back in is also a favourite activity (though mommy does most of the re-packing).



2. Little plastic corner pieces

These little plastic bits came as protective covers on a new lounge suite (now an old lounge suite). They now get stacked and un-stacked and also get used to create obstacle courses.




3. Play dough

This is great for when I need to get some work done. I use an edible, home-made version. 

4. Wooden blocks

Building towers is a favourite at the moment.Breaking down towers is even more popular.

5. Camera phone

Ocassionally, I let my little man take selfies from my phone. You cannot tell that this is a blurry version of his tracksuit top and possibly his face, but aren't the colours pretty?


6. Bag of tricks

This one is always a hit. Fill a bag with random objects- an empty container, an old set of keys, a broken watch, some paper, a cloth, a calculator, a bangle or any other non-toys (adult stuff is way more fun apparently). Let toddler explore. Change items in the bag each time it is produced. (P.S. Old set of keys can be listed as a separate item as toddlers will find a myriad of uses for these.) 

A variation of this is to fill an old purse or wallet with business cards or other cards that you are no longer using (like those store cards that keep arriving in the mail that you have no intention of activating).

7. Cooking

Squish loves playing with Noodle's toy pots, pans and plastic toys. He whips up delicious meals for me- like this one. Sausages and cooked gherkin anyone? Real pots, pans and spoons are also very popular at the moment.


8. Pegs 

Yes, regular clothes pegs make great toys. I give Squish a little rod and he tries to pin all the pegs onto the rods. (This activity normally happens while I am hanging washing). 

9. Large buttons and a money box

Squish loves throwing coins into the slot of a money box and this is great for building fine motor skills. However, due to the choking hazard, I let him use large buttons, slightly bigger than a R5 coin.  

10. Sensory jars

Squish loves this at the moment. Read how to make it here.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

How to Make Easy Peasy 5 Ingredient Cookies




You may have noticed two things by now about me:

1. I have a sweet tooth.
2. I like recipes that are quick, easy and simple.

Needless to say, when I stumbled across this very simple five ingredient cookie recipe, I knew I had to try it. 


This recipe is perfect for when you want something to dip in your tea or coffee but don't have basics like eggs or baking powder- the ingredients are all stuff that you probably have lying around anyway. Best of all, they only took about fifteen minutes in total, including baking time (prepping took only about five minutes).
 
The biscuits have more of a shortbread texture than a regular choc chip cookie one. When I made it, they were scoffed down by my family on the same day.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips

Method:

Cream the butter and castor sugar until well mixed. Stir in vanilla essence. Add in flour slowly and mix well until you have a soft crumbly mixture. Add chocolate chips.


dough choc chips


Form into balls, flatten slightly and place on baking tray. Do not worry too much about expansion as there is no baking powder.

Bake for about 10 minutes (depending on your oven) at 180 degrees C. 

Decorate as desired, if you wish. (I just dusted them with icing sugar).  

Enjoy!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Leaving a Positive Beauty Legacy

One of the perks of blogging is that every now and then a company will contact you and give you samples of their products. When Dove contacted me saying that they would like to drop off a small gift, I thought, awesome, I am almost out of deodorant and body wash anyway (ha ha ha). What I got was even better. 


I must admit that I was a bit confused when I found a package with an empty jar and some post-it notes until I read on and discovered the purpose of the #BeautyLegacy Kit, which beats free products hands down (okay, there were two bars of soap in the package as well but those were incidental.) Thank you Dove SA!!!

In celebration of Women’s Month, Dove has launched a film to illustrate the importance of women seeing beauty in themselves. Watch the Youtube video here (I strongly recommend it). Dove's research shows that 71% of girls feel pressure to be beautiful, but are less likely to be anxious about this if they have a positive role model. Dove has thus asked women to make a difference to the next generation of women by leaving a positive beauty legacy. 

As a mother of daughter's, this means not passing on your own insecurities to your daughters. This of course made me think about whether I am doing anything which will make Noodle feel self-conscious about any aspect of her physical appearance. I know we have always emphasized inner over outer beauty but it has made me contemplate whether there are any non-verbal messages relating to body image and whether I am passing on any of my own body insecurities (which let's face it, most women have) to my daughter.

Despite being just four, I can already see signs of insecurity about certain aspects of her body, for example she hates her toes, which she says are boy toes (I have no idea why, her toes happen to be very cute). I have to wonder if the fact that I often blow dry her beautiful curly hair (more for convenience sake as it is less knotty this way) sends out a message that her curls are not beautiful. This jar serves as a reminder that we need to be positive influences in all aspects of building self-esteem in our daughters.

So what is the empty jar all about? The #BeautyLegacy Jar is to be filled with positive messages and affirmations on the post it notes- things that you would have loved for your younger self to hear and to pass these on to the next generation of girls in your life. When having negative thoughts, you can be inspired by these positive messages.You can also leave positive messages around the house or in your daughter's lunchbox. Noodle cannot read very well yet, but I will be filling the jar with positive messages that she can read when she is older.


Tips for leaving a Positive Beauty Legacy for Your Daughter

 Here are some excellent tips from Dr Colinda Linde:
  • Make your daughter media literate and to develop a critical eye.
  • Steer clear of competition with other mothers about how you or your daughters look.
  • Steer away from negative talk about other girls' looks.
  • Meet every compliment about your daughter's appearance with at least two about other aspects which are not based on appearance.
  • Help her build skills that are independent of appearance.
  • Talk about aspects of yourself that you genuinely feel good about.

The Dove Self-Esteem Project
The Dove Self-Esteem Project delivers self-esteem education to girls aged 7-17 years through lessons in schools, activities for mentors, online resources for parents and partnerships with youth organizations. 

Education programmes and fun interactive activities can be downloaded at  http://selfesteem.dove.co.za. You can also share your #BeautyLegacy story on Dove's Twitter (@Dove_ZA) or Facebook (Dove South Africa).