Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Mysteries of Modern Life (2)

How does:

£25 Warehouse skirt

plus

100% cotton

plus

100% polyester lining

equal

"Professional dry clean only"?

Or alternatively, how bad at laundry do they think I am?



It went in the washing machine, by the way.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The impossibility of cold in the mind of someone hot

It's hot.

It's too hot.

My new laid grass is browning. I can't find the sun cream. I have spent the last week in the South, wishing I was North, where, not only did the warmth start two days earlier, but we also have no paddling pool ban.

We drove North, the children and I, yesterday: four children, one adult, 350 miles, 28 degrees, the sun baking us like overdone cakes in an oven, the air con set to max the whole way.

But I have woken this morning to a different world: 8 degrees out there at the moment. Maximum 12 later. Colder than the air I was so desperately blowing at myself yesterday.

And I am flummoxed. I have forgotten how to be cold: which cardi goes with which top; that the children need coats and wellies at nursery, and where those things are. All my plans for this weekend, founded in the heat of the last one, are wrong: who's really going to want to eat salads and ice cream, and spend the day on the beach?

I'm not the only one: already I can see equally flummoxed passersby shivering in inappropriate strappy tops. A has just come in, shivering in just her pyjama bottoms, but refusing to put on her top...

This morning's cold seems impossible. By lunchtime so will yesterday's heat.

Aren't humans odd?



Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A rubbish week.


Well, it wasn't rubbish actually.  It wasn't even that bad.  We did better than we thought we might.  And scroll to the end for a chance to see how you can do....

Here's our Kitchen Canny bag. It looks empty (cunning camera angle) but it's actually about a quarter full.



Here's what we threw away (and estimated cost): 
About four pieces of toast, in small postage stamp sized pieces, thrown on the floor over a period of several days by M, recovered and put back on the table by me, then thrown on the floor (and repeat).  (50p)
Twenty-one (three girls times seven days) dregs of cereal bowls and milk (they didn't go into the bag) (£1).
Quite a lot of uneaten toad in the hole, mash, peas and broccoli.  (£1)

And this was just the stuff off the plates.  Turns out I overcater when cooking for four adults and seven children... 
At least eight half-drunk, cold, slightly greasy looking cups of tea.  (£2, or £16 if I'd bought them in a cafe)
The mouldy corners of a loaf of white bread. (£not very much)


And what we didn't:

A bag of potatoes that wasn't so much growing eyes, as legs, arms, hands and an inflected language.  I chopped them off and they went into the mash.
The rest of the toad in the hole.  My strange children like cold yorkshire pudding, it turns out. Their father likes cold sausages.
An unopened bag of chillis. I got them out of the fridge, where they've been sitting for a while (quite a long while), thought they looked mouldy and then put them on the side to be thrown away.  But when I went to actually do it, they looked fine. So either I'm going mad, or the chillis are un-rotting.  Odd either way.  Not sure we'll ever eat them though.
Some manky spring onions.  We made a delicious Jamie Oliver recipe with them and some left over roast chicken too.  Can't find the recipe online, sadly.
The unmouldy bits of bread.  We turned them into bread crumbs and they're in the freezer.

So not bad, really. So not bad, if I'm honest, that I can't get over the suspicion that we rather cheated.  Because it turns out it's terribly hard to do something you know you're not supposed to when you also know you're going to get caught out.  So I found myself, all week, thinking "Would I ordinarily be using this again? Or would I have thrown it away? Should it go in the bag? But it can't go in the bag, that's wasteful...."

But even then I'm amazed by how much it's all worth. If that's us, being good, and it tots up to a fiver, and we assume (optimistically) that that's what we throw away every week (even when we're not being good), that's £260 a year.  Much better than most, but still an awful lot of money to be, literally, chucking away.

They sell the Kitchen Canny kits. They're a tenner each.  I thought that was quite a lot, although I'm assured that all it does is to cover their costs.  But if you think that you've possibly recovered that in two weeks, you don't have to worry for too long about whether it's worth it.

So will we keep it up? I don't know. I hope so.  And I will be trying to remember the following top tips:

Drink the cups of tea I make for myself.
BBC online recipe finder - need a recipe for half an aubergine, a tin of tuna and the mouldy end of a bit of cambazola? It's probably on there...
Freeze everything.  Ideally in small bits.  The Jamie Oliver recipe wanted streaky bacon.  The rest of the packet went in the freezer, but anally split into little bags of four rashers each so that I don't have to defrost the whole lot and then end up throwing half of it away.
Feed my children less.  To be honest, most of what I threw away was because I'd cooked it for or served it to the children and they didn't eat or drink it. 
Never buy bean sprouts.  They come in huge bags, you only ever use half and when you come to use the rest about ten seconds later they're a stinking soggy mess.    And they don't taste of anything anyway.

What about yours?  Want to see how you can do? Leave your top tip for reducing your waste in the comments below and I'll ask someone lovely from Kitchen Canny to pick the best and they'll send you your very own Kitchen Canny kit.

Or you can just click this link to buy one.


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

It's not easy being green (2)

Hot on the heels of our eco-success (ahem) on Cramond beach (to be honest, it's hard to get worried about global warming when temperatures are sub-zero, or feel like it), we're embarking on green project number two.

And this is a biggie.  So big, in fact, that, if the truth be told, I've been putting it off.

We're trying to get Kitchen Canny.

Did you know:
  • The average Scottish household throws away edible food (not apple cores, not chicken bones, actual food you can eat) worth £430 a year
  • That's £1,000,000,000 of wasted food per year.
  • And of that £18,000,000 worth is still in date?
 And that's just Scotland...

And now you do know, don't you think that's something that needs changing?


I was a bit cynical, if the truth be told.  This is all part of Time to Share, a Tots100 initiative, linking bloggers with local charities, and when I signed up, I thought I'd be helping single mothers in Galashiels, or drug-users in Innerleithen (while obviously making no generalisations about either of those two towns, which have been entirely picked at random, caveat, caveat).  So when I was asked to spend an hour at Changeworks, an environmental charity in Edinburgh, I thought yeah, well, I said I would but...

...but. The thing is, they convinced me. This stuff matters. Look at those statistics.  Just think if that food could, as my mother was always telling me, be parcelled up and sent to "the starving children in Africa", or if that money could be used to help the single mothers of Galashiels or the drug-users of Innerleithen.

And, unlike with my nappies, this really is something I can do, a small thing admittedly, but something that is me, making my own tiny difference.

The problem is, I'm frightened to.

Because they've given me a kit. A Kitchen Canny kit.  And I have to take part in an experiment.  I'm not allowed, for a week, to chuck anything away that could have been eaten (potato peelings and eggshells are excepted).  And at the end I have to look at it and work out how much it's all worth.  And then I have to change.

And I really don't want to.  Because I suspect, in a way that blogging is supposed to, but sort of doesn't always, it's going to hold a mirror up to me, and I'm going to find out that I'm not as nice, or as good, as I think I am.

Because I'm pretty smug when it comes to this sort of stuff.  My mother, born in 1946, is the sort of child of rationing that reuses everything. Leftovers was a meal in our house: in a "What's for dinner?",  "Leftovers" way.  Best before dates were a target, not a guideline.  Bowls of dripping gathered strata, like geological sites, which, come to think of it, was a pretty good representation of their age.

And while I'm not quite that bad, I've inherited a lot of it.  I always use up my leftovers; I try to cook only what we're going to eat; I compost (much easier now we don't live in London); I make soups; I check what food and smells like before I chuck it, regardless of what the packaging says; I decide what meals we're going to have that week and only buy the food we need; I cut the brown bits out of fruit; I freeze manky bananas for smoothies and cakes... I'm good, I really am.  Or at least I think I am.

And I suspect that once I start using my kit, I'll be horrified.

So it starts tomorrow.  Come back in a week to find out how we did.

It's not easy being green... (1)

What's being eco-friendly got to do with a bus?

Apart from the obvious that you're better off, apparently, on a bus (especially now Boris has got rid of the bendy ones) than you are in a car.

Well, it appears my eco-friendly attempts all come at once.

Hot on the heels of my post about nappies (which I'm increasingly getting cross about - in a "am I just getting conned" sort of a way), we got approached about two greeny things.

So, for the first, on Friday morning, very early, the girls and I (no M, who is even less keen than they are on getting cold and wet), put our winter warmers and our wet weather gear on, and ignored the fact that it was May, and drove through the sleet to Cramond beach in Edinburgh, where we joined several hundred (seriously) freezing lunatics to pick up litter as part of the Marine Conservation Society and M&S's Big Beach Clean Up .  We were supposed to be incentivised by the offer of an M&S barbie, but, if the truth be told, our attempts lasted all of an hour before we ran off to B's mother to warm up with large mugs of hot chocolate.

But we did get our picture in the Scottish Daily Mail.... so if anyone reads it and has a copy of last Saturday's paper, do let me know, 'cos we don't, so it's only a rumour so far...  And we picked up nearly M's weight in litter while we were at it.

So I don't feel we failed at that too badly.

Not so sure about the other attempt though...