News & Articles

Holiday organisation

clip_image002We all remember that classic film moment in Home Alone when Kevin was left at home because of the manic rush to catch the plane… Whilst this might seem extreme, recent research from E.ON revealed some shocking pre-holiday organisation:

· Almost one in 10 holidaymakers have left a loved one at home in their rush to catch their flight

· 17% said that they have left important holiday documents such as passports

· Almost one in five have forgotten their luggage

So if you’re planning a holiday, here are some organisation tips to make sure you have everything covered before you all head off.

1. Check you have all necessary documentation

Sounds obvious but ensure you have your passport, entry visas, tickets, driving licence, hotel confirmation and boarding pass, and keep them together in a plastic folder. Take a list of useful numbers with you in case of an emergency, for example emergency contact details for lost mobile phones or credit cards.

2. Make sure you’re aware of the luggage allowance

Being stuck at the check in desk with overweight luggage will not start your break off on the right track. Different flight companies have different allowances so make sure you know the limits before you start packing. There are many digital luggage scales around these days so invest in one of those - it will be cheaper than the excess baggage charge you’ll end up having to pay!

3. Lock up your house

clip_image004E.ON also discovered that 13% of people forget to secure their homes before they go on holiday, leaving them vulnerable to robbery.

Double check the doors and windows and ask a family member or neighbour to check on the house and move any mail left behind the door (an indication that the property is empty). Remember that if you haven’t properly secured your home before going on holiday your insurance may be invalid, so taking the time to check everything is important.

4. Take out travel insurance and EHIC if you’re off to Europe

Make sure you have an up to date European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), this will ensure that you are covered should any of you get ill in Europe. EHIC is free to apply for so avoid any websites that are charging a fee. Visit the NHS website to get your card.

Please note that the EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance, things can still go wrong such as lost or stolen baggage or delayed flights so make sure you’re covered.

5. Get your finances in check

Travel money ordered at the last minute will cost you more, so it’s advisable to shop around online for the best deals which can then be picked up or delivered.

Remember to let your bank know you’re going abroad and that you intend to use your card overseas, if sudden overseas activity causes them to become suspicious your card might be stopped – so remember to take down their phone number just in case.

To read more tips on organisation, click here.  Otherwise, happy holidays!

Food waste – the good, the bad and the ugly truth

Food waste is a big issue in the UK and we waste an incredible £12.5 billion a year on food through a lack of understanding of use by dates. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink a year – 4.4 million tonnes of which could be eaten*. So how can we identify the good, the bad and the really ugly truth about food waste?

 

Date labels

There has been some confusion with regards to the labelling on food in the past but recently the government has been clamping down on food manufacturers and improving clarity around the dates issued on food labelling:

· Best before: this refers to the quality of the food rather than safety. Food is still safe to eat after the best before date, but may no longer be at their best.

· Use by: thisimage advice is about safety, it can be eaten up to the date but not after.

· Display until / sell by: these are for shop staff and not the public.

 

Do you waste food?

We don’t want to admit we waste food, but each of us throws away up to 110kg of food a year. Explore your kitchen and see where you might be wasting good food without even realising it:

· Fridge: incorrect storage is one of the main reasons we waste food. Your fridge should be set at 5 degrees Celsius or below to help your food stay fresher for longer.

· Cupboards: use cupboard staples such as rice and pasta to add to leftover food from a meal

· Shopping list: check cupboards and fridge and write a list of items you actually need instead of stocking up on things that might go to waste or that you already have.

· Leftovers: we often cook or prepare imagetoo much, use airtight containers to store the leftovers and put in the freezer for an extra meal.

· Storage: many of us are unaware of the correct way to store things; put bread in a cupboard or a bread bin, keep fruit in the fridge and store potatoes in a cool dark place.

Follow our tips to save money on the food bill, and reduce unnecessary food waste!

 

For more handy tips and time saving, click here

The meaning of spring cleaning

daisy Lighter evenings, flowers blooming and temperatures warming up can only mean one thing – spring is on its way! The first warm days of the year also mean it’s time to tackle our annual spring clean, stepping up normal cleaning duties a notch, in-order to banish the winter blues from the house.

It has been suggested that the origins of spring cleaning date further back than we could imagine; in Iran they continue to practise what they translate as “shaking the house” on the first day of spring which means everything from the drapes to the furniture is cleaned. A similar tradition is the Scottish New Year held on Hogmanay (31st December), a practice now also common in Ireland, North America and New Zealand.

Cleaning woman Another possible origin of spring cleaning can be traced back to the ancient Jewish practice of thoroughly cleansing the home for the spring-time memorial feast of Passover; this is in remembrance of the Jews’ hasty departure from Egypt following their captivity. During this seven day observance, Passover prohibits the eating or drinking of anything that might be fermented with yeast, and therefore everyone was commanded to rid their homes of even the smallest remnants – conducting a thorough “spring clean” of the house.

In Northern Europe and North America, the spring cleaning custom was practical due to the regions’ wet climates; before the vacuum cleaner was introduced, March was often the best time for dusting. It was warm enough to open the windows and doors and the high winds would carry the dust out of the houses. For the same reason, modern rural households often use the month of March for cleaning projects involving the use of chemical products which can generate fumes.

Whilst in Greece, their thorough spring clean is carried out during the first week of Great Lent, which is referred to as “Clean Week”, held on 1st April.

For handy tips and time saving advice on spring cleaning your house, click here

Exercise harder, not longer

If spending hours in the walking the doggym and not with your family isn’t your thing, be reassured that recent studies show that shorter bouts of higher intensity exercise is more effective than working out at a moderate pace for longer periods of time.

Less really can be more

One study* involving 10,000+ adults showed that people who walked slowly, even for up to an hour, saw no preventative benefits; however those who walked briskly cut their risk of metabolic syndrome (hypertension, extra weight, high blood pressure) by nearly half.

The same theory applied for weight loss; people who exercised at a moderate level for 30 minutes a day lost more weight than those who laboured through hour-long sessions – just because the intensity of their workouts were revved up!

Finding the happy medium for you

This doesn’t mean you have to start power walking everywhere though! A recent study in circulation discovered that just 2.5 hours of light exercise a week can reduce major factors that contribute to developing heart disease. However, high intensity exercise is recommended for the purpose of warding off obesity and high blood pressure.

So be your own judge. Whilst it was found that light physical activity doesn’t decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome it can reduce the chances of heart disease, whereas higher intensity exercise does have a more pronounced effect such as increasing your heart rate, dilating your blood vessels and breathing more heavily than normal.

For more tips and advice on saving money and time effectively, click here

*Source: BMJ Open

Sleep better, not more

sleep In today’s anxiety-ridden, deadline-heavy world, our precious eight hour sleep tends to be stolen away from us and replaced with fidgeting restlessness.

Britain is an insomniac nation: the NHS spent £49.2 million on sleeping pills in 2010-2011*, up 17% in just four years, with medical professionals putting this increase down to worries about the credit crunch and unemployment.

Here are some tips to catch those missing Zs:

Diet

Eating at the correct time of day conditions the body’s metabolism to wake up and wind down, which is why breakfast is incredibly important; this is a metabolic window of opportunity that tells your body that there is a supply of food so there’s no need to shut down.

Duration

Margaret Thatcher boasted that she only needed four hours of sleep a night. Everyone’s different, its just about awareness of your needs.

Power naps

Winston Churchill was fond of naps, saying “You’re better well rested than well briefed”. Power naps are a restorative measure on the body, so taking the occasional nap helps us relax.

Dreaming

Dreams categorise memories. If we’re going through a rough patch these dreams tend to materialise into nightmares, but perhaps we should embrace them more as they are simply clues about problems that we need to face up to.

Locations

We instinctively need to feel safe before nodding off. Some people find that prefer white noise or fans to help them sleep, but it’s all about reducing the distractions and sending a message to your brain that you’re safe.

Exercise

If you over-rest you tend to feel lethargic, over-exercising could cause burnout so get the balance right. Spending hours staring at a computer can wear your brain out, but exercise ensures your body is ready to wind down when its bedtime.

For more tips and advice on saving money and time effectively, click here.

*Source: NHS Business Services Authority

A glimpse of family life through the ages

Can you imagine a life without all the technology and convenience that we have today? Family life has changed so much through the centuries, shaped by culture and economics. Let’s take a look back through the ages to see how families handled their time together:

Family life in the Middle Ages (1500-1800)

Wheat In the 16th and 17th centuries most women were housewives and men worked on the land. For households in the country the wife was expected to bake the bread and brew the beer (it wasn’t safe to drink water). She was also responsible for salting and curing meat, making pickles, jellies and preserves (necessary for the time before the fridge!), make candles and soap, cook, wash the clothes and clean the house. The housewife also had to have a knowledge of medicine to be able to treat the family’s illnesses as only the wealthy could afford doctors.

In the 17th century privileged boys and girls went to infant school but only boys went to grammar school, girls were generally taught by tutors and learnt subjects such as music and needlework – it was considered important that girls learnt ‘accomplishments’ rather than study academic subjects. Poor children did not attend school and by the age of 6-7 were expected to work on the land.

Family life in the 19th Century

Industrial revolution Things didn’t look up for the family in the 19th century; the industrial revolution transformed life in Britain where families went from living and working in the countryside to living in towns and working in industry.

Working class women lived a life of endless hard work and drudgery with the industrial revolution creating a huge demand for child and female labour, with husbands becoming the stay-at-home carers. If they weren’t at home husbands had to work away in order to secure jobs, this is where ‘commuting’ began, whilst two world wars also meant that all men had to be an ‘army-workforce in waiting’.

Churches provided what little education there was for poor children, with the state refusing to take responsibility for education until 1870 when the Forsters Education Act insisted that schools should be provided for all children. (Picture source: Wikispaces)

Family life in the 20th Century

Thankfully things greatly improved in the 20th century with the family becoming healthier and better fed, clothed and educated.

Corporal punishment was phased out in most primary schools in the early 1970s, the cane was abolished in state secondary schools in 1987, and finally abolished in private schools in 1998.

In the early 20th century it was unusual for women to work, however this changed in the 1950s and 60s. New technology in the home made it easier for women to go out and work, before this the housework was so time consuming there wasn’t that option.

tablet

Family life in the 21st Century

Technology has given us improved resources to manage what we can these days, the increase in home working and flexible working enables us to spend more time with our families. Women are achieving in gender neutral roles, and in some cases men are now able to be the stay-at-home dad again!

For more tips on maximising family time, click here.

Family resolutions for 2014

clip_image002[4]

As the Christmas holidays draw to a close some families are taking the opportunity to consider activities and resolutions for 2014, such as planning holidays and maximising the time they have as a family.

Coming together as a family to decide on resolutions can be a bonding experience; instead of telling the kids, ‘Okay, the parents have decided this…’, there should be more ‘Let’s think about how we can spend more time together as a family’. Family resolution is a shared commitment and ensures that everyone’s opinion is heard and that everyone is able to contribute.

The key to setting successful and achievable resolutions is about framing it positively, instead of resolutions such as ‘no puddings in 2014’, a family might choose something more achievable like ‘eat healthier in 2014’. Some other ideas to consider are:

  • Reduce TV time: whilst the television can be sometimes seen as a ‘caregiver’ for children, introduce family fun breaks in between so that everyone can take a respite from the screen in the evening.
  • Evening meal together: set a certain time in the evening so that everyone can sit down to enjoy a meal together and discuss their day.
  • Go outdoors: research shows that children these days spend less time playing outdoors than any other previous generation. At the weekend have one outing together, it doesn’t have to be expensive, it can simply be about having a walk before Sunday lunch.
  • Introduce a family calendar, this way everyone can manage their own time accordingly around activities that bring everyone together as a team. Ensure that the evening meal is included, the walks or excursions. It’s also important to mark personal time for individual members in the family – everyone needs their own downtime after all.

There will inevitably be setbacks along the way, clip_image004[4]however these can always be worked around with compromise, after all the calendar is there from a suggestion point of view – nothing is set in stone, but ensure that an alternative time is put aside for those one-off unavoidable situations.

Taking the time out to acknowledge success throughout the year for achieving a goal is also incredibly important and motivating. A reward for sticking to the family calendar for three months will mean a day out together to just have fun and kick back, this also gives everyone a sense of purpose to achieve what’s incredibly important as a family.

For more invaluable advice on maximising family time, click here

Managing the morning rush

Breakfast iStock_000029448042SmallThe early morning exit can be total chaos sometimes – we’ve all been there. Everyone’s leaving at  once, no one knows where their keys are, the coats aren’t where they ought to be, we’re all tripping over each other to sort ourselves out and get out the door…

A little bit of preparation and planning can go a long way in taking the stress out of getting ready each morning. While it won’t guarantee a perfect day, it feels good when everyone can leave the house in the morning on a positive note.

One way of organising the mass exodus iskeys supplying each family member with a cubby hole or a basket near the door. This way they can come in, leave their keys and other essential items in one place, then the morning evacuation will be a little more organised.

Ensuring coats are hung up in the same place each evening will also help, once family members get used to the routine of leaving keys in their cubby hole, hanging coats and other outerwear in the same spot once they come in this will reduce the traffic bottleneck at the front door each morning.

It can be helpful to prepare as much as possible the night before. Try creating a To Do list 

- choose outfits
- set the breakfast table
- get school bags ready
- pack lunches

All family members should have their own alarm clock, set the alarm 10 minutes earlier to avoid morning rush.

All family members should make their own bed when they get up, it doesn’t need to be perfect but it builds a sense of routine and responsibility. Click here to read more advice on getting the kids to clean up after themselves.

It’s easy to lose our temper when everything around us is chaotic, but shouting is ineffective and not a great way to start the day. If you feel your temperature rising, take a step away, a few deep breaths and think how you can cleverly turn your kids round and get the morning back on track?

Make sure everyone clears up after themselves once breakfast is eaten, so dishes are in the sink or dishwasher and table is wiped down. This gets everyone involved in the clean-up.

For more invaluable advice on maximising family time, click here

To Do.... a To Do list

So, do these To Do lists work? I think so, writing a To Do list eases the stress; just by creating a simple, itemized list, that crazy and overwhelming jumble from your brain is transformed into organized, manageable tasks that can be prioritised and even delegated! Voila!

Chart goals

There’s something incredibly satisfying about crossing off tasks as they are completed; it takes a couple of attempts to actually get the To Do list to work in the way you want it of course, my first effort went something along the lines of the list opposite:

How we’re affected

To Do lists are essential if you’re going to beat work overload, otherwise we appear unfocused and unreliable to the people around us. When we do make these lists we experience less stress, reassurance that we haven’t forgotten anything, and the ability to focus our time and energy on high value activities such as spending time with the family.

Now there are so many options to even bring your To Do list into the digital era! There are smart phone apps that feature mobile updating, push notifications and calendar integration – even technology wants us to create To Do lists!

Read more handy tips from Time For You 

 

Funny-To-Do-List-Image

Funny-To-Do-List

Above: one of the more amusing To Do Lists out there...

Simple Ways to Clean and Eradicate Mould In The Home

The early signs of black mould at home should not be overlooked. Aside from making your home look ugly, black mould is also an indication of presence of mildew which can rot wooden window frames and doors. Walls, clothing as well as furniture can also be damaged by moulds.

 

Getting rid of mould

 

What makes it even more disturbing is that damp is an allergen which may affect the health of your family. Before treating the mould, first of all you should know what is causing it. Inspect the exterior of your home. Cracked pipes, gutters and roof tiles allow water to penetrate into your home’s structure. Rising damp may occur also because of nonexistent damp course. But the most common reason for black mould to appear is condensation.

 

Daily activities like washing, bathing, cooking and even breathing can create moisture released into the air. Since air can only hold a specific amount of water vapour, when it gets cooled by contact with cold surface such as window, wall or mirror, the vapour turns into water droplets. Normally, condensation is a problem when the weather is cold.

 

Due to the high levels of moisture in the kitchen and bathroom, mould is likely to be common in these places. Rooms facing north and those places with poor ventilation such as basements and cellars may also suffer. This is not only a problem prevalent in older properties. As a matter of fact, building materials can actually take a long time to properly and completely dry out hence brand new homes can likewise be affected.

 

There are simple ways to get rid of mould. The first indications of damage include musty smell and ugly black patches. Areas around baths and showers require particular care to prevent moulds from appearing. Mould removal methods vary and this depends on the location of the stain.

 

To get rid of mould on tile grout, use an old toothbrush that has been dipped in bleached. You can also use diluted vinegar for alternative natural remedy. A paste made from baking soda and small amount of water works as well. Leave it to soak for fifteen minutes and scrub like mad. Make sure to rinse afterwards. You can also find mould removal solutions in the grocery store for ingrained or stubborn mildew.