Posts in "Living" Category — Page 2

Meal Planning using Google Calendar

This is a great tip I got from this site, Simple Mom. My husband and I had been discussing budgeting for our family food shop (dull, I know) and he mentioned that a colleague at work had a menu plan. My immediate response was “There must be an app for that” but having ransacked the Android Market, iPad apps etc (we are a geeky family) I couldn’t really find anything that worked. However, the Googlel calendar idea works perfectly and is a very fool proof way of planning family meals.

I don’t want to restate everything on the Simple Mom website, but essentially you set up a separate Google Calendar from your usual one (you will need a Google account for this). Each recipe is an “Event” and you can set it to recur every 2 weeks or whatever you want (I set it to two weeks but think we will get bored of that so will probably create a calendar with a month’s worth of meals in it). I put the URL for the recipe (if I’m using one, there are a few dishes I could probably cook blind fold by now) in the “Where” field and the text of the recipe in the “Notes” section. You can then email yourself reminders of what you’re cooking each day (by adding a reminder to each “Event” or recipe).

Why do this? The basic reason is that having a menu plan eliminates waste. If you know what you are going to cook for the week, it is a huge help when doing your weekly shop, stops you ordering too much food (and having to put it in the bin or panic eat it before it hits the use-by date) and helps you keep an eye on whether you are cooking nutritious food for your kids. You can plan things sensibly, for example if you are cooking chicken every second Sunday, you know you will have chicken stock and so make sure you have the ingredients for risotto, soup or whatever you usually make with it. I have now saved my shopping list for each scheduled week in my Ocado account, so all I have to do is bring up “Week 1 Shopping List” in my account and add all the items straight away when doing my shopping online. If you use Epicurious and some other recipe websites, you can also email yourself a shopping list.

Just So Festival – new camping event for families only!

I was recently sent a press release by the Just So Festival, and as this sounds like a great family and eco friendly event of the kind I’d love to go to, I’m happy to pass on the info to Mimimyne’s blog readers! Sadly I don’t think Mimimyne will be able to exhibit at this one but will definitely be interested in appearing at this event in the future.

Kids enjoying themselves at the Just So Festival
Kids enjoying themselves at the Just So Festival

This summer sees the launch of the first ever camping festival devoted entirely to families.

The ‘Just So Festival’ is the dream child of two couples who’ve spent years visiting traditional festivals with their children and finding much of the entertainment to be off-limits… so they’ve set up a camping weekend in 65 acres of unspoilt Staffordshire woodland where everything – from traditional fairground to artificial beach, from gypsy bands to top name authors – is aimed at giving children and their parents a fantastic and magical experience.

Highlights from the programme will include a visit from the Royal Armories team with their ‘Never Mind the Pollocks’ action-art event, Parkour training sessions from some of the UK’s top free-runners, following the Fairy Queen trail with the Fairyland Trust, and one of our favourites, a party with the Moomins.

According to festival director Rowan Hoban, “families will be able to go on this amazing journey of the imagination, participating in a medley of art, craft, music and theatre within a beautiful natural landscape”.

The experience of families going along to the Just So Festival will be a far cry from your average festival. Camping is in small woodland glades, where families can request to be sited near friends. There will be an bedtime noise curfew (though the local rabbits and hedgehogs may not comply), and a large and comfy nappy changing area with changing mats and wipes laid on. The loos will, of course, be lovely.

The Just So Festival will take place from 20th-22nd August and will play host to up to 3,000 people. Tickets are now on sale.

Just So Festival Community Interest Company is a not-for-profit organisation.

For more information visit the website at Just So Festival

A greener lifestyle: joining Zipcar

First of all, I hope you are all enjoying a lovely Easter break! I wanted to share with you what I’ve been doing recently to help me work towards my 10:10 pledge (as an individual, and as a business too!). My family recently moved to a car-free development so when our residents parking permit ran out, we had to sell our car (and the roof box) on Ebay. This was a relatively hassle-free experience in the end (Ebay is a very efficient process if you are a seller) and we were happy with the prices we got, but the next step was worrying about how we were going to get around on those unavoidable occasions when we will need wheels.

Step forward, Zipcar. We had researched some other companies but Zipcar is the only one that currently lets you take pets on board (in a pet carrier) so it was a no-brainer for our family. Also, I caught them doing a promotion outside Waitrose, so was able to join for £25 a year plus £30 free driving time – not bad! This meant I was able to scurry home with the Zipcar card in my hot little hand ready to activate, rather than waiting for them to send it.

My husband and I then had a look at the site, logged in and booked a car for a Saturday drive to Epping Forest with the kids and Dexter the dog. The site is VERY easy to use, it allows to you select your nearest car for the block of time you want. In our area, the nearest car (they all have names, bless) was very popular and seemed to be booked out for a whole week, so we had to choose one about ten minutes walk away. This is a tad inconvenient if you have a dog in a pet carrier, but my husband nobly went and fetched it. Wow factor? If you have an iPhone, you can UNLOCK the door with it once you’ve installed the Zipcar app and make the car HONK. It’s like being James Bond, or Knight Rider or something. The kids (and my husband) love this.

The car itself was a VW Golf, which seems to be a popular model. It was very clean, our only complaint was that it smelt very faintly of smoke. Possibly someone just used it who had been in a smoky venue, who knows. You pay for petrol with their complimentary credit card, but ours had a full tank anyway, so off we sped to Epping Forest. The dog thought that as he was in his crate, he must be on his way to the vet, and whimpered all the way, but hopefully he’ll get more relaxed about this! We had a lovely walk for an hour or two, and then faced a slight obstacle – muddy boots. In our old car, we’d have just hopped in merrily and lived with the dirt. However, we had brought a towel to clean the dog, luckily, with so put the boots on this and put him back in his carrier. My husband returned the car to its bay, with a farewell honk or too.

We’ll be continuing to use this service and are very happy with it – we may not use it so much for driving out of London for UK holidays, as it works out a little less economically, but in London and around I think it will be a lifesaver. And we are saving ourselves between £1500 – £2000 a year from our old car’s running costs – it will take a lot of Zipcar trips to get anywhere near that!

Classical Music Concerts for children in London

I was recently sent some tickets to take my children along to hear LMA Orchestra perform classical family concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, and I thought I’d tell you more about this great opportunity to introduce your children to classical music.

This concert series is quite unusual as it is especially for kids and their parents. They play games, tell stories, sing, clap and dance and the children even get a chance to conduct the orchestra and sit in amongst the players. Very few orchestras do this and they are trying to get as many children there as possible. The orchestra makes no profit from these events they are purely to pass on knowledge and exciting learning! Here are some of the events they’ve got coming up:

Mini Maestro Family Concert
Saturday 17 October 2009, 4.30pm
Beethoven Symphony No.3 ‘Eroica’

Come and enjoy our friendly Family Concerts, a musical playground with full orchestra where everyone can listen, learn and join in the fun and games. Go on a musical treasure hunt, take a quizz and face the challenge! Enjoy a ride on our orchestra side-car or play musical chairs. You might even get to conduct the orchestra!
So join us for a feast of musical treats. See you there!

Ticket prices: Children £6, Adults £8
Tickets available from the box office: 020 7766 1100
Buy tickets online
Concerts last for 1 hour and are suitable for ages 4 and over.

Mini Maestro Family Concert
Saturday 14th November 2009, 4.30pm
Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony

Come and enjoy our friendly Family Concerts, a musical playground with full orchestra where everyone can listen, learn and join in the fun and games. Go on a musical treasure hunt, take a quizz and face the challenge! Enjoy a ride on our orchestra side-car or play musical chairs. You might even get to conduct the orchestra! So join us for a feast of musical treats. See you there!

Ticket prices: Children £6, Adults £8
Tickets available from the box office: 020 7766 1100
Buy tickets online
Concerts last for 1 hour and are suitable for ages 4 and over.

Family Carols by Candlelight
Saturday 12th December 2009, 4.00pm
With special guests Vivamus, Choir and conducted by Rufus Frowde
Ticket prices: Children £8, Adults £12
Tickets available from the box office: 020 7766 1100
Buy tickets online

Enjoying a family concert at St Martins in the Fields
Enjoying a family concert at St Martin's in the Fields

Juggling Work and Childcare over the Summer Holidays

“Recently I was rung on the telephone by a journalist who wanted to ask me about working from home. As I was chatting away to her, I mentioned that one of the risks of working from home is children interrupting you on a business call. As if on cue, I hear a “Mum”! from the bathroom, as my youngest child is not able to open the door by himself, so have to excuse myself to let him out and chat to him before returning to the phone call. So many people work from home these days, that having children within earshot while taking a work call is not regarded as the crime it might once have been – and didn’t I start my own business so I could play with the kids, go to the gym and eat lunch when I wanted, rather than at someone else’s whim? However, I have paid the price for my flexible working lifestyle, as I said to the journalist on the phone, sometimes it’s hard for me to switch off and I don’t think I’m the only one.”

Read the rest of this interview with Tabitha Potts, featured on BT Tradespace,here

Day One of Recycle Week

This week I am recycling electrical waste. As I have masses to do, and am planning a simultaneous clear out of the kitchen, I’ve called in a pro to help me today – Birgit Medele of Clear of Clutter has helped me out before when I was drowning in a sea of junk/files/toys, and has a brilliant way of systematically sorting through things.

I thoroughly recommend getting a Universal battery tester – mine cost £3 on Amazon and has worked a treat. So far we have cleared three cupboards, filled one box with donations (mostly kitchenware – I had two potato mashers and four corkscrews!) for the charity shop, filled one box with recycled paper/glass/aluminium and sorted out one box of live batteries (about 20) and one box of about 15 to be safely disposed of, using my fabulous new gadget. It’s very satisfying not having batteries sitting around which may or may not work. I am going to switch to using rechargeable batteries when possible, buy a charger and keep trying to buy non-battery gadgets but I’ll use these up first!

We also have sorted out 8 used print cartridges and one very ancient Nokia mobile phone which are going to go into charity freepost bags (order them for free from Recycle4Charity and donate to the charity of your choice). Each cartridge will raise £1 and the phone can raise up to £30! I am going to sell any other phones I find on Ebay if possible as well but plan to donate 10% to charity for each sale – easily done using Ebay’s “sell for charity” option. People forget that a lot of the junk sitting around in their houses can be donated to charity or sold and turned into cash for yourself or for others. Mobile phones in particular are highly toxic to the environment and should never be thrown away in household waste: always donate to charity, recycle or sell it on.

Here’s a link that was sent to me recently which might be of interest to companies working out how to dispose of waste:
Waste disposal

Waste Collection is an online retailer providing waste management products and services to companies.

Recycle Week: I’ve made my pledge!

It’s Recycle Week from June 22nd until June 28th this year in the UK, and Recycle Now are inviting us all to make a pledge to recycle more, or in a different way from before. I already do home composting in the garden and recycle food waste and paper, aluminium, cardboard and plastic, thanks to the excellent recycling service offered by Tower Hamlets Council. I try and donate other stuff to charity, put it on craigslist and (occasionally) sell on Ebay. However, I’ve decided to try and tackle one of the most pressing clutter problems in my household, which is electrical equipment, unwanted gadgets and (aagh) cables and batteries. Batteries sit around waiting to go to recycling, and rejoin new batteries in a jumbled pile. So I am going to sort out the unused gadgets, old computers, cables and batteries. My first step has been to buy a battery tester, a mere £3 from Amazon. I’ll blog later in the week about how I’ve disposed of other things! And if I don’t carry out my pledge, I give up Facebook and Twitter for a whole week: which is a terrifying prospect…

Recycle Week

Jocasta Innes speaks about cooking on a budget on Brick lane!

Jocasta Innes, author of best-selling budget cookery classic, The Pauper’s Cookbook and over sixty other titles on cookery, interior decoration and lifestyle, is giving a free talk for fans at the Eastside Books bookshop on Brick Lane on Saturday June 13th between 12 noon and 1pm. She will be making dishes for visitors to try – some will feature great local ingredients from shops on Brick Lane like the well-known Taj Stores, a few doors down. Come along for a convivial chat about food, tasting session and book signing at Eastside Books in Spitalfields!

Christmas Countdown – make a traditional English pomander!

Happy Christmas !

Jocasta Innes made some home-made pomanders for Mimimyne to sell at the Eco Design Christmas Fair last weekend, which were a hit with shoppers! They are an Old English traditional gift, used for room scenting and natural moth repellents. If you’re stuck for last minute gifts, try making one of these using the following instructions! You will need a small orange, some cloves, a knitting needle or toothpick (to make holes), ground cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice (optional, if you want to scent the fruit), masking tape and a length of pretty ribbon if you wish to hang it up. Take the orange and decorate with cloves, making a hole with the pin and studding the cloves in close together (but not so the holes touch) in a regular pattern. Ideally, they should cover the surface of the fruit to help preserve it indefinitely. If you want to hang it up, use the masking tape to mark off four strips of orange undecorated in a ‘cross’ pattern from top to bottom of the orange (take this off when you have finished studding in the cloves). This is for your ribbon, so imagine you are wrapping a round parcel and you will see what I mean! Dry in an oven at a low temperature, for an hour. If the surface is covered densely with cloves, you can then roll your pomander in cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice once a day for a week, to add to the lovely Christmassy smell. The orange will shrink to a smaller size, so do not fasten the ribbon on until you have baked it.

More Christmas tree decoration tips from Jocasta Innes

Today’s tip from Jocasta Innes’ DIY Christmas is to spray or paint a plastic doily in gold or silver and hang it on the tree with red ribbon (use the compostable red ribbon from Wild Cherry mentioned in my previous post, or recycle some if you can!). You usually get these when you buy a cake, although they are not as common as they used to be. They look charming, as she says, hung up on tree branches.

A tip Mimimyne has to add to this: have you tried using scratched CD’s as decorations? These tend to clutter up the house otherwise or go into landfill. We decorated some at the Paintbox playgroup I run in East London using glitter glue and added tissue paper ‘angel wings’ (you can use paper doilies, cut in half, for this) and a round sticky paper ‘head’ to make recycled Christmas glittery angels! We now have a flock of them flying around the playgroup, and they look very pretty. I will post some pictures next week!