Sunday, March 27, 2016

Award-Winning Books by Fiza Pathan

The FOURTH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL Beverly Hills International Book Awards® 
recognized CLASSICS: How we can encourage children to read them by Fiza Pathan in the category of Education as a winner. It also recognized Amina: The Silent One by Fiza Pathan as a winner in the category of Regional Fiction.

The competition is judged by experts from all aspects of the book industry, including publishers, writers, editors, book cover designers and professional copywriters. They select award winners and finalists based on overall excellence.

CLASSICS: How we can encourage children to read them is a multi-award winning non-fiction do it yourself handbook for parents and teachers describing various techniques to propagate the habit of reading classics in children of all ages. It has won the following awards:

Mom’s Choice Awards® Kindle version- Silver Award.
2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards-Finalist
2015 Eric Hoffer Award- Honorable Mention (eBook/non-fiction)
2015 IAN International Book Award- Finalist (How-to)
2015 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award- Bronze Medal
2016 EPIC EBook Awards – Finalist Non-Fiction.
4th Annual Beverly Hills International Book Awards- Winner in Education category.

Congratulations for the double win to author Fiza Pathan at the
4th Annual Beverly Hills International Book Awards!


Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter Lily Capital of the World

When I take long road trips, I love to visit botanical gardens and parks, it's such a relaxing pause from the driving task.  And as an avid gardener, it often give me lots of new garden design ideas or a totally new plant learning experience.
On a trip along the west coast, from California to Oregon, on and off highway 101, and after I passed the hills in Northern California, forested with giant redwood trees, I could see the Pacific Ocean sparkling in the sunlight. I went to a coffee shop and got into a conversion with a local about the area, and was wondering if there is a botanical garden somewhere in Del Norte County.  He explained me that this county and it's surroundings are the Easter Lily Capital of the world, producing 95% of all Lily bulbs and cut flowers. Ooops... I had never heard about it and got excited at the prospect of taking photos of large fields with millions of Lily blooms.  He gave me directions to one of the largest Easter Lily farms, but driving through tiny, winding country roads of the Smith River area, I could not see a single flower, nor any farm or nursery signs.
Finally I discovered a huge row of greenhouses and a commercial building. 
I drove to the place and went to their office, inquiring if I can take some pics for my gardening blog. They explained me that there is not much to see in terms of blooms, and offered me instead a tour of their facilities, which I certainly accepted. I like these little surprises when traveling. 

Lily Growing Tour.
A nice young lady gave me a wonderful 2,5 hour tour of their Easter Lily production (owned by a Dutch family) - through long rows of buildings and explaining the development of both, bulbs and cut flowers.  Letting the flowers bloom would negatively impact the bulb growth. They are harvested in the fall, packed and shipped to commercial greenhouses and nurseries, where they are planted in pots and forced under controlled conditions to bloom for the Easter holiday.  And for the cut flowers: Their blooms are still closed when packaged, as they have a long trip ahead before offered in flower shops or grocery store flower sections.  Greenhouses and huge bulb fields stretched for about a mile.  Almost their whole staff is Mexican, and when you go into the Cooling Buildings where the flowers are cut and packed for transport, you think you come to a party, with loud Mariachi Music.  The people might need some hot music, it's very chilly in there and the workers are bundled up like in winter.  


The company grows mostly bulbs and sells them to nurseries, the Lily flowers (or Daffodils, Tulips etc. in other greenhouses that they also grow), are cut flowers, and they package them long before they even show any colors or open their blooms - so, not very attractive in a photo.  I finally had to go to a nearby nursery to take some Easter Lily pictures.  Funny trip. 

Almost Perfect Climate and Soil.

The coastline known as Pelican Bay offers growers an almost perfect climate.   Lilium longiflorum, the Latin name for the Easter Lily, is native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan, from where the US nurseries ordered their plants.  After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, trade between the two nations ended, opening the door for West Coast bulb growers to expand their cottage industry as the value of Lily bulbs rose.  The soil is perfect too: mostly clay and gravel broken up by eons of organic matter washed off the coastal hills, perfectly suited for cultivating Lily bulbs.  They remain underground for almost three years to reach maturity.  During this time, they are harvested, sorted, cleaned and replanted three times.  Mature bulbs are harvested from late summer to mid-fall, and packed in boxes between beds of moistened peat moss.  The boxes are shipped in refrigerated trucks to nurseries throughout the United States and Canada. The bulbs are then potted, fertilized and timed to bloom for the Easter season.

Care for your Easter Lily Plants.
How potted Easter Lilies are thriving indoors - or outdoors, if you are a dedicated gardener and want to plant your spent bulbs in the garden - can be found in detailed infos on the Garden Helper website.  But be aware that Easter Lilies are naturally not blooming around Easter time.  As with most Lilies, they are showing their beauty out in your garden only in summer. 


Friday, March 11, 2016

2016 Round-the-World Solo Flight

ICAO Honors Pilot-Alumna Shaesta Waiz for 2016 Round-the-World Solo Flight


To help commemorate International Women’s Day 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) welcomed Captain Shaesta Waiz to Montreal as part of a series of ceremonies commemorating her adventurous plans for a 2016 round the world solo flight.
ICAO was made aware of the Dreams Soar campaign through earlier contact established between its courageous pilot and Captain Aysha Alhameli, the first woman pilot from the United Arab Emirates and that nation’s current Representative on the ICAO Council.
Born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan and, driven by a passion for aviation, Shaesta Waiz eventually went on to become that country’s first certified civilian female pilot.
To help inspire a new generation of women towards careers in aviation, the 28 year-old graduate of Embry-Riddle University will be embarking on an ambitious “Dreams Soar” round the world solo flight later this year, helping to raise awareness of the need for greater global access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education for women and youth.
If successful, Waiz will become the youngest pilot in history to complete a global solo flight.
“I have a very strong passion for aviation that I want to share. But it’s more than that. I want to show women that they can succeed in anything – including flying around the world,” she commented. “My aviation dreams have had a huge impact in making me the pilot and the woman I am today and I’m very grateful for ICAO’s recognition and support as I embark on this incredible voyage for STEM.”
“It is very important for our global sector, as we seek to foster the next generation of skilled aviation professionals, that we continue to inspire and attract the best and brightest,” remarked ICAO Council President Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu. “Women professionals and leaders will be critical to how effectively aviation responds to the challenges ahead, and Shaesta and her journey are an inspiration to them all.”

“The United Nations’ goal this 8 March is to help accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 5 which are directly related to women’s empowerment. We are honoured to be sporting Shaesta and her journey to raise awareness on these issues in our States and industry, and to be able to highlight the importance of greater gender parity and opportunities for women across our entire global network. "Flying solo” is something every woman does in her life at some point to pursue their goals."
Press Release by Embry Riddle University

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Schattenfrau: Short Stories by Claudia Westphal

SCHATTENFRAU - one of several fascinating short stories by Claudia Westphal.

„Es gibt etwas ganz Besonderes zu feiern,“ sagte er am Telefon und seine Stimme bebte vor Freude. „Was ist denn los?“ fragte sie überrascht. „Du rufst mich im Büro an?“ „Ich kann jetzt nicht reden. Ich bin eigentlich noch in einer Besprechung und gerade jetzt stehen einige Leute um mich herum, die jedes Wort mithören. Ich wollte nur kurz Bescheid sagen, dass ich heute Abend vorbeikomme. Den Champagner bringe ich mit. Wir lassen die Korken knallen. Um Acht stehe ich vor der Tür. Bis dann, meine Liebe. Ciao.“
„Aber….“ weiter kam sie nicht …
Kurzgeschichten von Claudia Westphal. Spannend, amüsant, nachdenklich… für den kleinen Lesehunger zwischendurch oder als Geschenk für liebe Freunde (e-books Können direkt auf die email des Empfängers gesandt werden). Claudia Westphal verführt uns mit den kleinen, heiteren
Lese-Häppchen zum Schmunzeln und zum Träumen, zum Lächeln und Mitfühlen oder Nachdenken. Sie versteht es mit dem Leser zu spielen, ihn auf eine falsche Fährte zu locken, um ihn letztendlich mit unerwarteten Wendungen zu überraschen.

Dies und viele andere spannende und amüsante Kurzgeschichten entdecken Leser in SCHATTENFRAU von Claudia Westphal auf Amazon nur 2.60 Euro / US$2.99

Ueber die Autorin Claudia Westphal:
Aufgewachsen in Nordrhein-Westfalen lebte sie ausser in Deutschland mit ihrem Mann und Ihren erwachsenen Kindern auch in Canada und in Grossbritannien. Sie war viele Jahre in der Wirtschaft tätig, bis sie ihrer Kreativität und Liebe zum Schreiben nachgab und ihre knappe Zeit dem Schreiben von spannenden Kurzgeschichten zu widmen begann. Ein weiterer Band von Kurzerzählungen ist bereits in Vorbereitung.


Reblogged: So You Want To Volunteer?

Charmaine Craig: "Since the start of the crisis, and in the height of it – all throughout the summer and up until after I arrived in October – not one of the large well-funded government or NGO’s were paying for any food... Not one... Over 750,000 of our fellow human beings would have starved if not for the volunteers who fundraised and set up food programs."
Canadian Volunteer Charmaine:
You are looking at numerous heartbreaking images whilst scrolling through your news feed, and thinking: What can I do to help? You read stories of volunteers and how they are helping in the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II. You have this overwhelming urge to help, but don’t know if your small contribution will make a difference in such a large complex situation.

You may ask yourself: Do I have the time? Can I afford it? Will my friends and family support my decision? Do I have the skills? Will I be able to handle seeing people in crisis and focus on their needs? Can one person really make a difference?

These are some of the questions I asked myself before going to Kos, Greece, to help the refugees. And the answer to all of them turned out to be “yes”. I already had three weeks booked off work, but I wasn’t sure if my help was worth the cost of the flight and hotels. However, my desire to help far outweighed any logical monetary or math equations. I needed to ‘see’ for myself what was going on in the world, and I needed to feel like I was doing more then just depositing money into a charity’s bank account—where, I might add, you don’t actually know who the money benefits.
If you are coming from North America I wouldn’t recommend any less than ten days, this would maximize the value of your volunteerism. Flights are too time consuming and expensive to travel that distance for any shorter period of time. Keep in mind that your time in service should be more valuable then the cost of the flight and hotels. You will discover the time you can lend to volunteering is in demand, and you may find that you want to stay longer. Many volunteers who planned on staying one or two weeks ended up postponing their flights home. I ended up staying two months, and I met many volunteers from EU countries when I first got there who went home and came back again before I left. Once you realize the great need for volunteers, you will feel very guilty about leaving.


She Encourages Potential Volunteers.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, whether you are qualified or if you have one arm, two or none – anyone can volunteer. Some volunteer organizations have age restrictions, which is a bunch of hooey—look elsewhere. If you care about people and want to do something to help, there is something for you to do. A volunteer may do one job or fifteen. A wide variety of skills are needed: coordinating teams, nursing, purchasing and transporting goods, fundraising, sorting donations of clothes and shoes, getting donations to those who need them, improving conditions, cleaning the beaches, preparing and distributing food, making children laugh, or just being on the beaches to welcome the refugees with dry clothes and a smile. And everyone is capable of giving a hug.
NGO's Tremendous Bureaucratic 
If you are patient enough, you can get on with one of the larger NGO’s and have your travel and accommodations covered. Otherwise, count on self-funding your trip.
When I first decided to volunteer I applied with a couple of the larger well-known organizations, and after receiving their complicated application packages I realized that was too slow a route for me to go. So I researched online to find where I could best be of some help. I joined many Facebook groups that were organizing volunteers for the borders of Serbia/Croatia and Macedonia/Greece, and the Greek islands where the refugees first arrive to Europe by boats. I came across a news article about two ladies who had been to Kos to help in August, and were returning with a group of volunteers for a second trip in October. I liked what I read: these were two women who went out and made an impact. Their return trip was during the time I had off work, so I contacted them and asked if they would mind if I joined them. Meeting someone who had already been in the trenches, so to speak, took a bit of the worry off.


Taking Things in Her Own Hand.
Once I had a definite plan of action, I told my family and friends what I was doing. I did not discuss it beforehand, as I didn’t want anyone to try to dissuade me. I made the decision on my own, but once I told everyone I realized I had underestimated the amount of support I would receive. My boss said he would pay for my flight, and my friends helped to put together a good list of supplies to bring for the refugees. They also helped gather donated supplies, purchased supplies and gave me money. They proved to be a tremendous support for which I am ever so grateful.
I purchased my airline tickets, reserved a hotel (recommended by the group I was meeting), filled four very large suitcases and a carry-on bag and super large purse, and travelled to Kos, Greece.

Do your research when purchasing flights. Coming from overseas means transferring flights somewhere in Europe before reaching Athens, and from Athens you need a domestic flight to whichever island you have decided to go to. This often means a seven-hour wait in the Athens airport, so be ready for that. There are some direct flights from the UK to the islands. There are many pricing options, and if you play with all of the cheap flight websites you will find one that suits your needs. And if you are coming from North America, be sure to set your web browser to incognito before using sites like SkyScanner and then set the currency to Euro–when the computer knows you are from North America, the price is much higher. I looked at numerous flight options with a wide range of prices. For me, it was a bit cheaper to travel to Turkey and take the ferry from Bodrum to Kos; however to save time I opted to fly through Athens. I thought the seven-hour wait at the Athens airport was preferable to the extra flight from Istanbul to Bodrum and then the ferry to Kos. But next time I think I may go the Turkey route.
Many hotels will give a discounted price to volunteers. In fact, some are close to free. When you are looking at where to volunteer, get in contact with the page administrator—remember the Facebook groups you now joined? Each stop along the refugee route has a group page or pages with information for volunteers, and many have corresponding websites. Be sure to use the resources available – they are a valuable source of all kinds of information. Here you will find where there is the most need, how the refugee process is currently managed in that location, and what volunteer activities will suit your skills. You can also get tips on where to stay, the best ground transportation, and what to pack.
Donated Supplies.
Be careful with the supplies you bring from home. Remember that baggage limits vary with each airline, and in most cases you will need to pay extra for excess luggage. When planning what to bring for the refugees, think about what is more economical to purchase at home, and what is lightweight and small enough to bring with you. And again, ask someone on the ground what is needed. You may end up bringing something they already have plenty of.
This is what I packed (most of which was collected/donated by those lovely friends I mentioned)

260 emergency blankets
100 rain ponchos
120 toothbrushes and toothpaste (50 were cool kids’ ones)
60 small packages of Wet Wipes
100 disposable razors (in hindsight-I would bring more, as they are much cheaper at home)
50 small bottles of hand sanitizer
50 hotel-size bottles of shampoo (skip the shampoo if watching the weight)
100 hotel-size bars of soap
50 Emerg C packs to mix with water
100 hair combs
144 fruit bars (SunRype brand flat fruit snacks,
72 in a box for $8 Canadian)
10 packages of playing cards
50 small stuffies for the children 4 packages of coloured chalk
10 toques
10 pairs of socks
5 pairs of men’s shoes

The last three items I recommend purchasing when you arrive (unless they were donated). It is much cheaper to get shoes, socks and toques there, and it helps support the local economy – in addition to saving weight and space in your suitcase. Also, next time I would skip the hand sanitizers and add more fruit bars. The adults and children absolutely loved them, and they were getting so little vitamin C as it was.
Don’t forget to pack your own clothes! I had very little room left for mine, and actually ended up wearing layers of them to save room in my case. Be practical when making your list, and check out the weather before you leave – and prepare for rain! I live on the rainy British Columbia coast and I have never experienced such torrential downpours as I did in Kos.

The majority of the volunteers aiding in the current refugee crisis are self-funded. The amount of money you need to volunteer depends on a variety of factors (e.g. flights, hotel, ground transportation, food) but you should try to do everything on the cheap, so that more benefit can be given to the refugees. You do not have to be rich, and it is not necessary to bring extra to donate to the refugees. Your time and service is desired, invaluable and priceless. However…


Start a Fundraiser
I planned my trip thinking I would be responsible for all of the costs. At the time it didn’t occur to me to fundraise for it. I was lucky enough to have my employer pay for my flight as his way of contributing to fighting the crisis. I came prepared with a budget of my own costs, and a dollar amount of what I could afford to spend on supplies for refugees. I planned to figure out once I was there what to purchase for the refugees, and/or what I would give organizations working on the ground. But once I arrived and talked to many other volunteers, and took some time to analyze how the NGO’s, the smaller volunteer organizations and the individual volunteers were contributing, I realized that it was the groups of individual volunteers that were providing the majority of the aid – either with their own money or with money they raised through fundraising websites like GoFundMe.

Since the start of the crisis, and in the height of it – all throughout the summer and up until after I arrived in October – not one of the large well-funded government or NGO’s were paying for any food. Not one. Over 750,000 of our fellow human beings would have starved if not for the volunteers who fundraised and set up food programs. 


No Shelter for Refugees.
Then there is the problem of shelter…did I mention the torrential rains? At each stop on the route there are tents set up by the UNHCR, but these are greatly inadequate for capacity, privacy and security. Each place on the route has volunteer groups who have dealt with the shelter situation in varying ways. On Kos, the volunteers discovered a way to use the hotels as shelter for the families, the disabled and the elderly—by paying for them. Finding funding is so important – needs can change every day, and volunteers on the ground can see what’s missing and go out and fill that need, immediately.

So in short, prepare to want to spend more, and prepare your friends. Start a fundraiser, or campaign for a volunteer group on the ground that has one. I started mine after I arrived and saw the desperate need. Trust your friends, family and colleagues—they will want to help you out. That being said, do be careful how you spend the donated money. Think about where your donors’ money is going to be used, and how you can maximize the benefits from donations by helping the most people.

Give Comfort.
Can you handle seeing fellow human beings in crisis and focus on their needs? I believe you can. My biggest worry going over was how I would handle seeing children in crisis when I can barely handle watching children get hurt in the movies. I am not experienced in crisis. I am not a first responder, a nurse, psychologist or anything like that, and I do not even know first aid, though I do have children who somehow survived childhood. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it, but I knew I had to try. I won’t go into detail of all the different situations of crisis I faced while in Kos, but I will tell you this – The human capacity of love and the yearning to help a fellow human being in crisis conquers all fears.
You will be able to give comfort, to enable them to feel some dignity and to encourage them to have hope. You may cry after in your room or break down in another volunteer’s arms, but you will handle it and go on to give comfort, hope and faith again and again.
You will make a difference. I have faith in you.

With love, Charmaine

Reblogged from Writer Christoph Fischer's Blog 


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