organisation

How much are you planning to spend on Christmas this year?

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Hiking with the family

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For cheap or free outings during the summer, there’s nothing to beat hiking through the countryside with the kids. So what do you need to think about when planning a trip? Well, first of all you have to plan a route that would be worthy of Goldilocks – not too long, not too short, and with plenty to see and do on the way. Surprisingly, most children can manage an hour’s hiking from the age of about 3, which should involve about 2 miles if it is flat. If you train them up well, then they can easily manage half day hikes from about the age of 7 or 8, and full day hikes by secondary school age, hitting these targets even younger if you take them very regularly. For beginners, planning ambitious peak bagging excursions in the Lake District is probably not the best place to start, so you need to think of something a bit more modest. In such cases, riverside hikes can be particularly good, with birds and canal boats to look at, as can hikes around stately homes and reservoirs with tea and cakes afterwards in the cafe. Tuck away a carrier bag or two and towards the end of August, you can even collect some blackberries while you are out.

One of the secrets to success is making sure kids have the right gear on, especially if the ground is uneven or the weather changeable. Proper hiking boots and breathable, waterproof jackets bought second hand off Ebay are a great start, but it that’s too expensive, try making sure they have decent, well-fitting wellingtons with a supportive insole and couple of pairs of socks on, as well as lots of layers that can be stripped off or added to, depending on the weather. Also take a small first aid kit with blister plasters, insect cream, suncream and high energy Lucozade tablets (a great placebo), and pack a small picnic for en route. The ideal picnic includes lots of liquid, for example watered-down fruit juice, wholemeal bread sandwiches for slow energy release, fruit, muesli bars and biscuits. My grandfather used to tuck away a small toblerone for me to eat when we got to the top of a mountain, which was very motivating, and you might like to think about doing something like this as well. Finally, it can be good to give each child their own little backpack for special treasures – favourite fluffy toy, dolls, penknife, binoculars, torch, camera and so on.  Then onwards and maybe even upwards!

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you want to ride your bicycle?

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Here’s a simple check list for getting your bike up and running now it’s the better weather.

You will need

A pump that actually fits your tyres. This might have a little tube thing that comes out of the end and screws onto both  the wheel and the pump, in which case it’s designed for a Schrader valve. If you need to screw the pump straight onto the wheel, and there’s no removable tube thing,  it’s called a Presta valve. Some pumps will have an adaptor so they can be used for both types of valve. Keep it handy in your hallway or garage.

Some WD40 spray oil in a can, or cycle oil.

Batteries for your lights.

A cycle tool or set of hex keys and spanners to fit your bike.

A bucket of warm water, a cleaning cloth, non stick pan scrub and some Cif.

How to do it

1. Wipe down the main areas of your bike with the Cif to remove any mud. Avoid cleaning the chain. Rinse, and polish dry.

2. Tighten up anything that appears to be rattling, reposition anything that seems to be rubbing on things that it shouldn’t. For example, if your brakes are squeaky, it may be that they have got knocked and just easing them to a central position will solve the problem, adjusting the brake pads carefully so they don’t touch the rim of the wheel when in motion, but are near enough to do so if you decide to brake. If your mud guards are rattling, again, ease them into a central position or tighten up any nuts. If your seat or handlebars don’t feel completely secure, a couple of twists with a spanner should do it.

3. Pump up your tyres so you can only just press your thumb into the top where the tread is once they are fully inflated. Don’t overfill them, otherwise the inner tube will burst. If you underinflate them, you will wear the inner tube out.  Get into the habit of pumping them up at least two to three times a week for optimum performance. Carry a small pump with you when cycling for emergencies.

4. Replace the batteries in your lights so they are ready for use and don’t run out unexpectedly.

5. Give the chain a couple of drops of oil, or a spray or two of WD40. You might also do this for your bicycle lock.

Organising family cycling – top tips

Make sure everyone has a parcel carrier and/or a basket so they can carry their own gear, however young they are. Even our smallest child has a basket on the front of his Postman Pat tricycle for his cagoule and teddy.

Teach children independence by getting them to lock up their bikes safely and securely (so they don’t fall over or get knocked) whenever they park them, and attaching the locks to holders on their bikes when they are riding them. Combination locks can be a little unreliable but are easy for children to use, and can be complemented with an adult D-lock on family trips, when you can lock several bikes together.

Have a box with spare pumps, light, batteries and basic repair kit readily to hand, so you can easily repair things if you are in a hurry. There’s nothing worse than embarking on the school run only to realise someone has a flat tyre, but that another family member has lost the only pump.

Make friends with your local bike repair person so they are more willing to mend a flat tyre for you in a hurry.

Children always need to wear helmets, even on bike paths, as they come off more often and hit their heads, and their skulls are soft. Adults need to wear helmets in traffic, or when doing sports cycling, or if unsteady, but statistically are more likely to break an arm or a leg in other cycling accidents, so strictly speaking have more of a choice in whether a helmet is truly necessary for them, depending on a risk assessment of the cycling conditions. Keep your family cycle helmets on a shelf in a row or hanging from a row of hooks, so they are easily accessible.

Image courtesy of http://www.metalcowboy.com/presskit.shtml

Weekend Cook Fest 4

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Roasted vegetable side dish, vegetarian pasta sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs assorted vegetables (see below)
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • 2-3 crushed garlic cloves
  • Balsamic vinegar for sprinkling
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 oz grated parmesan
  • Marscapone or double cream (small carton)
  • Fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano or tarragon

Technique and organisation:

STEP 1 – Roasted vegetables

Prepare 3 lbs of the following vegetables, any combination: sweet potato wedges, parsnips, sliced peppers,  carrot batons, red onions cut into wedges, beetroot,  courgette slices. Pour a coating of olive oil into the bottom of a deep baking tray and scatter the vegetables on top, drizzling a bit more olive oil over them so they are well covered. Crush 2-3 cloves garlic and mix amongst the vegetables. Sprinkle some balsamic vinegar over the top. Roast in a hot oven for 20-30 minutes, covering with foil if they start to look too brown. Reserve 1/2 of the vegetables to serve with your roast dinner.

STEP 2Roasted vegetable pasta

Just before you want to eat, toss a third of the remaining vegetables into hot cooked pasta and add a few tablespoons of Marscapone or double cream to make an impromptu sauce. You can also add some fresh herbs if you have them, and some grated parmesan. Sprinkle with black pepper if you like.

Weekly cleaning schedule

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The following grid lays out a typical cleaning schedule for a family with a couple of school-aged children once again, with one parent around for an hour or two during the day and able to do some cleaning.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday
1. Remove bedclothes and put clean ones on
2. Wash  bedclothes (take them out of the tumble drier as soon as they are ready, and fold them, to reduce ironing time) 

– wash whites at 60C with whites washing powder and fabric conditioner

– wash light coloureds at 40C with coloureds washing powder and fabric conditioner

– wash dark coloureds at 30C with coloureds washing powder and fabric conditioner

Note: All laundry can be done at 30C if there are no stains, to be more environmentally friendly.

3. Put away  bedclothes neatly in airing cupboard
4. Dust and vacuum bedrooms, including underneath and behind beds
5. Vacuum mattresses once every month or two to prevent dust mite building up
6. Launder duvets and pillows at least once a year, preferably on a hot summer’s day when you can get it all outside to dry easily
7. Empty bedroom bins
Tuesday
1. Dust and vacuum living room (including windowsills, sofas, tables, TV unit, and tops of cupboards)
2. Throw away any dead flowers and water plants
3. Tidy toys, bookshelves and insides of cupboards as necessary
Wednesday
Big clean of family bathroom and downstairs WC
– clean bath, toilet, sinks
– clean shower, shower screen and mirrors
– clean taps (using descaler if necessary)
– make sure there is spare toilet roll and soap
– change towels and flannels and launder old ones
– dust tops of cabinets
– hoover and mop floors
– empty bins
Thursday
1. Wash your clothes – to prevent a washing mountain, only get as much washing going in one day as you can wash, dry, fold/iron and put away that day, or at the very latest the next.
2. Take everything out of the tumble drier as soon as it is ready, and fold it all, straightaway to reduce ironing time to practically zero) 

– wash whites at 60C with whites washing powder and fabric conditioner

– wash light coloureds at 40C with coloureds washing powder and fabric conditioner, Consider using colour catcher sheets for mixed washes.

– wash dark coloureds at 30C with coloureds washing powder and fabric conditioner

Note: All laundry can be done at 30C if there are no stains, to be more environmentally friendly.

3. Big clean of kitchen
– clean oven using cream cleanser on washing up sponge (if reasonable) or oven cleaning gel (if bad)
– clean hob with cream cleanser, or use a special blade if it is ceramic
– wipe extractor fan with cream cleanser on washing up sponge, and rinse off
– Wipe worktops and tiles, including behind toaster, microwave, kettle, etc.
– Hoover bits off floor and then mop
– Polish sink and taps, using descaler if necessary
– Empty bin, wipe down outside and put in new bin bag
– clean tops of cupboard and light switches at least twice a year
Friday
1. Wash, dry and put away children’s clothes
2. Do any mending that’s needed
3. Iron some of the children’s clothes if necessary and make sure there is enough uniform ready for next week.

Weekend Cook Fest 2

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Lemon roasted chicken, chicken risotto, chicken soup

 

Ingedients:

  • 5 lb/2.5kg chicken (largest one you can find)
  • 3 large onions
  • 2 lemons
  • Herbs
  • 4 carrots
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • Bundle fresh or dried herbs
  • Bay leaf
  • Swede
  • 1 oz porcini mushrooms
  • 2 oz grated parmesan
  • 7 oz risotto rice
  • Swede
  • 1 oz vermicelli or stellini pasta.

 

Technique and organisation:

 

STEP 1 – Roasted lemon chicken

Take a normal roasting chicken, put a peeled onion in thecavity along with a lemon cut into quarters, squeeze the juice of a lemon over the top, rub softened butter on the breast, and sprinkle with dried herbs (preferably lemon thyme) and freshly ground black pepper. Roast according to weight (20 minutes a pound plus 20 minutes in a hot oven), until the bones easily come away from the body and the juices run clear or straw-coloured. Serve for Sunday lunch.

 

STEP 2 – Chicken stock

After lunch, take all the remaining chicken off the bone, including the little patches underneath, and reserve the meat. Put the carcass into a large saucepan with 3 pints water, a chopped carrot, some chopped celery, some fresh or dried herbs and a bay leaf tied in a little bundle, and a peeled onion cut into quarters. Seasin with salt and pepper. Boil this up for about an hour to make a stock, skimming any foam as necessary. When it starts to taste good, strain, cool and put into the fridge (it also freezes well, incidentally). You need at least two pints (1 litre) stock for the following two recipes.

 

STEP 3 – Chicken risotto

To make the risotto, an hour before you would like to eat it, soak a 1 oz packet of porcini mushrooms in water according to the instructions on the packet. When the mushrooms are soft, strain and reserve the liquor. Then fry 7 oz of risotto rice in a large, deep frying pan in a little sunflower oil, until the rice is glistening and coated. Pour in a mixture of 2/3 chicken stock and 1/3 mushroom liquor little by little, allowing each bit to be absorbed before adding more. In total you should have added 1-1.5 pints liquid. Once the rice is cooked, and all the  liquid has been absorbed, toss in about 4oz of chicken pieces, the chopped porcini mushrooms, and about 2oz grated parmesan. You can also add a handful or two of frozen peas if you like, and a slug of white wine. Heat through thoroughly and then serve immediately.

 

STEP 4  – Chicken soup

For the chicken soup, just before you would like to eat it once again, finely chop an onion and fry in a little olive oil until transparent. Add 3 sliced carrots, 2-3 sliced celery sticks, and some small cubes of swede, and some crushed garlic to taste, and sweat the vegetables for a few minutes until they start to soften. Then add 2 pints of chicken stock and any remaining cooked chicken pieces you have to hand (if there’s none left, just use vegetables). Cook for about 20 minutes before adding the pasta, wait until the pasta is soft to the bite, and then serve immediately.  You can puree the soup with a hand blender for a more sophisticated presentation.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shopping list – Week 4

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MEAT AND FISH

2 lbs/1kg minced beef 4 gammon steaks

1lb/500g pork stir fry pieces

Beef joint

4oz/100g cooked ham

4 oz/100g cooked chicken

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

2 lbs/1kg new potatoes

4 baking potatoes

Fresh parsley

Fresh chives

Fresh berries (if not too expensive) or frozen

Mango

6 apples

6 bananas

Melon

4 oz/100g grapes

Satsumas

Romaine lettuce

Cucumber

8 oz/200g vine tomatoes

2lbs/1kg carrots

2 aubergines

3 courgettes

2 onions

2 red or green peppers

Fresh basil leaves

Fresh pineapple (or tinned in juice)

STORE CUPBOARD

2 loaves sliced bread

Tomato ketchup and/or relish

Horseradish sauce and/or

 English mustard

Chocolate sauce or Mars bar (to melt for sauce)

Medium rice noodles

Tin chopped tomatoes

Tin kidney beans

3 litre cartons orange juice

3 litre cartons apple juice

Chocolate chip biscuits

Baguette

DAIRY

Sour cream

10 fl oz/250 ml single cream

1 lb/500g vegetable spread

1 pint/ 500ml low fat natural yoghurt

2 pints/1 litre Greek yoghurt

4 oz/100g cheddar cheese

Sliced cheese for sandwiches

FREEZER

2 lbs/1 kg frozen peas

2 lbs/1kg frozen green beans

1 lb/500g value frozen white fish

HOUSEHOLD

Bin bags

Light bulbs

Image: vitasamb2001 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net