Taking Up Residence

Well, I saw her off. And it set me off.

Youngest. Gone off on ‘residential’ for the week* with her classmates.

*okay, three days.

Okay, two nights. It feels like a week, okay?

She’s my baby and was a bit anxious about sleeping out. It was no different when my eldest did her final trip away for a week in Year 6 and I can still remember my own residential trip in 1986 to Boreatton Park.

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F*ck me, it’s still going!

Aside from abseiling, archery and other outdoorsy antics, I remember: stonewash denim, cartoon characters on my jeans, reversible jumpers and my snazzy ‘Le Clic’ camera.

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This exact one!

Whether you’ve done none, one or many of these trips, they can be a bit of a minefield.

Will this blog help?

Probably not – but it’s worth reading for the hell of it, especially for the recipe at the end. (Feel free to just skip to recipe.)

The School Meeting

A couple of months before the trip, there’s will be a meeting, featuring a powerpoint presentation of what the kids will be doing during their time away, culminating in a checklist of what’s required for the trip.

I like the parent questions part the best:

“So, can we definitely not pack them some snacks?” (That parent is definitely going to be packing contraband.)

“Can we send a letter in advance?” (Along with the many notes already stuffed inside the wash bag, underwear and fleeces.)

“Can squirrels get into the cabins at night? What about spiders?” (Their own childhood fears coming out right there.)

The Checklist

I’ve got two girls, so fortunately there is much hand-me-down activity in the way of wellies, waterproofs and those massive checked PVC bags for the duvet/sleeping bag situ.

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Check 1, 2, 3

I go by the list. I’m fastidious. I like ticking things off, bit by bit, like Mrs Hinch.

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“All the best, mate”

I also love the tech ban that most school trips have. It’s healthy. Far too much time screen time. (Maybe I should go on a school trip…? Unknown-8.jpeg)

Can’t beat the innocence of a disposable camera. Don’t worry, my expectations are low. Mainly just flash reflecting in windows and mirrors, much red eye and lots of blurred action shots.

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This was my bunk bed

The Packing

I think it’s important for the kid to be involved in the packing process. My daughter and I discussed and vetoed, removed and added until we reached the final selection. (That was just which leggings matched what jumper.)

I’m a huge fan of packing cubes for family trips, as they’re brilliant at keeping everything neat, tidy and organised. ‘Tick-tick-tick’ on all three thing in my book.

 

.. But! On this occasion, and call it spoon feeding, but I needed to make it super simple for my nine year old, so those massive resealable bags come in exceptionally handy.  You can pack an outfit per day in each bag and simply mark the outside of the bag with what day/activity. Foolproof. (Until she decides to swap things from the ‘spares’ bag’. I’ve already seen pictures from the trip and she’s definitely not wearing Wednesday’s clothes.)

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Friend’s bag situ. She would make a very tidy murderer. Leg. Arm. Head. 

 

Sentimental and shameful stuff

I’m just going to throw it out there…

…Yes – I pack little notes for her.

…There may be a muzzie stashed in the bag,  ‘liberally’ sprayed with Mummy’s perfume.

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..There may also be Tisserand lavender essential oil in her wash bag. My kids have had a few drops on their pillow since they were babies, a tradition carried on from my Grandma. It calms them and sends them off to sleep peacefully.

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This one. Purest lavender smell, imo

…There may be a some fabric conditioner sheets inserted into each resealable bag of clothes. (All about the smells, me.)

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These I like, from Costco

…’Rab’ was the most essential part of the packing. A very worn but utterly adored Jellycat bunny, which was washed and mended in prep. Mainly because I’m so ashamed of the state (and farschtink) of it.

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For my next trick I shall be performing a tracheostomy

 

So, how will I be filling my spare time with one less child to tend to? Prepping for her return on Friday of course! She put in her dinner menu request, which culminated in Mummy’s cheesecake for dessert.

With Shavuot in just over a month, I view this as a practise run.

Baked Cheesecake recipe

9″ inch springform tin, lined

Pre-heat oven to 180°C

Crush 175g Digestives and mix with 50g melted unsalted butter.

Flatten mixture onto bottom of tin.

Then…

1lb fresh curd cheese.

250g Quark cheese.

3 large eggs, added one at a time.

6 oz caster sugar, added a bit at a time.

A capful of vanilla extract a few drops – I love the Nielsen Massey one.

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This.

Mix all of those things together by electric whisk til they’re smooth and silky.

Pour this mixture over the crushed biscuits.

At this point, it’s your choice if you go for a bain marie – I do. Barry explains it best

Place foiled-wrapped tin in a bigger oven pan and carefully pour boiling water about halfway up the side of the springform. Like a bath.

Middle shelf. 25-30 minutes but keep an eye for browning as all ovens differ.  A bit of browning doesn’t matter. Nor cracking. You’ll see why in a minute…

Heat off. Leave oven door ajar with tin in there for another 5 minutes – helps it set.

Remove tin from bain marie and let cake cool completely out of the oven. (For the idiots, do not remove springform.  I didn’t;t say that, did I?

Hand whisk 300ml soured cream, teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons caster sugar and pour this on top of cooled cheesecake, thus hiding any imperfections.

Cover with foil. Fridge overnight. Release from tin and serve.

Ta-da!

(2 more sleeps. Pass me some lavender oil…)

x

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Hallo-mean

In a blink of an eye, somehow it’s end the of October and Halloween is upon us all. No longer is it just a small celebration compared to our American friends across the pond who go large or go home for Halloween shenanigans.

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Otherwise known as ‘All Hallows Evening’.

Which became ‘Hallowe’en.’

And now, as we commonly know it, Halloween.

No wonder they simplified it. People can’t even get their apostrophes right at the best of times, especially when high on sugar.

Some believe that Halloween ends the harvest season, which, spookily coupled with the fact that it occurs at the same time the clocks go back, it does seem to make sense. If you’re in this blog for some big facts about where it all originated from, then  The Telegraph link gives some pretty interesting viewpoints, including the fact that people used to carve turnips, not pumpkins.

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Can’t take credit for this

Without wanting to sound like a misery (which would be a totally apt costume), Halloween doesn’t sit well with me.

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“I’ll take good care of you. I’m your number one fan.”

This nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that it is a Pagan festival. (Room for all beliefs on this blog).

It’s just because I like getting value for money with things and I’m a big punter for cost-per-wear when buying clothing. So, try as I might to get my kids to recycle something from ‘the dressing up box’, they’re not having it.

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“What about a fairy princess zombie?” I ask.

(raised eyebrow from daughter #1)

“How about a rainbow unicorn devil?” I say cheerfully.

(raised eyebrow from daughter #2, although very, very hard to tell as she is super blonde and the eybrows will definitely require future tinting.)

“Maybe a mermaid monster?” I suggest helpfully.

(They both leave the room at this point.)

I summon up all the determination I have remaining after a two week half term stint and suggest a fun option for the youngest.

“How about bloodying up the fabulous pink tafetta ballgown that your sister wore in the school concert last year?” (Ebay £12.99)

Eldest throws a tantrum and refuses to give up the dress that she will never wear again and which no longer fits, simply that she loves it as ‘a memory’.

My turn to raise an eyebrow, which doesn’t go un-noticed by eldest.

“Mummy, can I customise your wedding dress then? It doesn’t fit you and you’re never going to wear it again….”

Fair point, well made.

But no. My dress shall sit in the loft, in all its tissue paper and boxed glory, until I can re-eneact the scene from ‘Pretty in Pink’, thus living out all of my John Hughes 80s fantasies.

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Andie – my hero

With a heavy heart I drag myself to the computer and thank and berate in equal amounts, those clever people at Amazon for inventing Prime.

My girls hear the keyboard click and come rushing in…

“That one! That one! ‘Zombie cheerleader’, Mummy!!! Quick – turn on 1-click!”

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They are not fools, my offspring.

Upon me questioning the ‘zombie cheerleader hybrid’ being akin to a ‘zombie princess mish-mash’, ie. ‘scary’ merged with ‘sweet’, I am again met with a double set of raised eyebrows.

At the end of a two week half term stint, I am weak. And I give in, high on fumes of ‘We love you! Best mummy ever! Thank you thank you!’

It all just escalates from there really…

The loft decorations are brought down and as if by some Chanukah oil-burning miracle, the Poundland spider wreath decoration still has life in it and the battery is still going strong two years later.

As if by magic (dark fucking magic), there are lanterns and plastic ghosts and jars of eyeballs now adorning the front of my house that would make Jonathan Ross proud.

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Woss’s house

Just when I thought I had gotten away with it, the annual pumpkin request is made and we head off to Morrisons for pumpkins.

So we’re pretty much Halloween ready.

Costumes  –

Pumpkins – 

Decorations – 

Sweets for visitors –

The trick part? Getting my kids to bed so I can hunt down the Bounty miniatures.

If that makes me a freak, I’m happy with that.

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A bounty of Bounty

Happy Halloween. 

Final Call…

I’m a big fan of getting to an airport on time early. There. I said it. I detest rushing. I will happily get up in the middle of the night (okay, so maybe it’s only 05:30), birds tweeting, to catch that first flight out of Luton. I’m not saying I would choose to rise that same time every single day, but there’s something exhilarating about watching the sky change colour, as you journey excitedly towards an airport.

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Highway to the danger zone… (okay, Malaga)

I’ve usually amassed about 4 hours sleep the night before because I have packed, unpacked and repacked to remove and replace various pieces of redundant clothing, additional medicines, another bottle of suncream, etc. I have also checked and double checked my alarm is set. Again, no rushing for me. I want my shower, I want my breakfast. Otherwise I’m not fun Mummy.

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Shower-fresh before a flight. Always

Travelling outfit is laid out ready for the whole family, because I physically don’t have it in me at 5am to concern myself with what everyone is wearing. And it would definitely become my concern.

Whatever I choose to wear, it will usually include a wrap-around scarf thing to mummify myself from plane seats (see earlier blog) and trainers with socks. I can’t deal with sandals in an airport –  too many trolley wheels and stampeding feet. I ‘sandalled’ once and at security we were told to remove shoes. Me. Barefoot. Airport floor. (*insert dry heave here*) Hence, always socks.

The packing side of things is a whole other blog (useful, if you’re after packing tips), but for years I avoided buying luggage scales. My bathroom scales were sufficiently accurate, if a little painful to read…

  1. Step on scales to set the display to ‘0.0.’
  2. Swiftly dump case on scales and pray that it doesn’t topple over
  3. Case topples over before registering a proper reading
  4. Repeat steps 1 & 2 until successful (usually 5 or 6 attempts)

As long as I was within a pound or two (weight, not money), I knew I was okay and could feign disbelief to husband at check-in, that official reading was a good 6 or 7 kilos more than my reading at home. “Ah, it must be because of our tiled floor surface.”

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However, those days of blagging extra kilos are long gone. (Even though, for the record,  the kids and my stuff weighs nothing and giant husband’s clothes are far heavier per item. Just saying.)

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Money saving travel outfit option 

One-click Amazon Prime a couple of years ago and I became the proud owner of a proper set of luggage scales which give an accurate digital reading.

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360kg? Sounds about right…

In fairness, and I have got better, (honest Guv) the majority of the weight-bulk in my case is toiletries. I can’t help it – I’m allergic to so much stuff that it’s not worth the risk of local purchases. I tan badly enough as it is. I don’t need an eczema flare-up on top of it.

Plus, holidays are a great excuse to go nuts buying new toiletries and bump up your Boots points. New toothbrushes, new toothpaste, new shower gel, new ‘shooshie’ – we love a shooshie in our house.

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Shooshies. Why? What do you call them?

I know someone who ‘sparks joy’ (that Marie Kondo method) at finishing something, such as a box of cereal or some face cream. For me, I’m all about new and not just around holiday time.

Butter – the peel-off of that paper bit on top – heavenly! And that first butter curl? The best. Just stay away with your toast crumbs please.

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Nutella – I’ll give the gold foil a satisfying stab, but then every single piece of foil needs peeling off. Every last bit.

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Unacceptable

Greek yoghurt – that protective paper film thing confused the hell out of me the first time I bought the product.

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How do you pronounce it?

Milk – Once the lid is off, I am wary of people who don’t fully remove the peel off part. I’m live with people who do similar to tins of sweetcorn and tuna. It pains me.

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The horror of it…

Face/eye cream – a BIG favourite, especially if it comes with a protective lid thingy that makes direct contact with the product. I can eek out at least a week’s worth of usage from lid excess, before even touching the product inside the pot.

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New toothpaste – those first few pumps to get the toothpaste out? That’s what dreams are made of. We are a pump dispenser family, although to save our marriage, I no longer share a dispenser with him. (FYI, He does still have his lid. It was discarded at first use, although it’s sits in the bathroom cupboard. ‘Just in case’.)

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His (on the left) is no longer my problem…

Must go to bed. I’m getting up in 4 hours and am still swapping things in and out of the case.

Happy summer. xxx

P.S. It’s pronounced ‘Fa-yeh’!

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No, really. It is.

You’re Getting My Back Up…

Yesterday (and for about the past couple of years) I’ve had a niggling stress about all things computery, particularly the amount of photos I have stored and if one day the cloud will just evaporate.
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I try to back up at least once a month to an external hard-drive, I sift through my files regularly, photos especially, with the aim of deleting and printing some of these amazing memories. The problem is, when I sift through these photos, I get lost in a memory or the kids want to look at my wedding photos whilst I explain for the umpteenth time that ‘no, you  weren’t at Mummy & Daddy’s wedding because you weren’t born’. (eye roll)
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Having suffered with eczema badly as a kid means I’m not a massive fan of myself in photos. Unless the glam squad have gone to town on me – hair, make up, spray tan – then please keep the camera away from me. I’m far happier photographing my kids.
Each time my family purchases anything new, I am in charge of setting it up. I take instructions well and am one of those people who lays out the Ikea kit to meticulously count each piece out and cross match it to the diagram.
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The problems with new bits of kit is that it means new manuals, wires, plugs, etc. Husband and I are still teaching charging skills to the kids who feel it’s ok to abandon one device that is out of battery and simply move onto another.
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Each time I upgrade my phone, the seemingly simple task of transferring the data goes utterly wrong. Some of my contacts disappear and I have no idea who is texting me:
“Hi. Are you coming Friday?”
“I’ve lost loads of numbers. Who is this?”
“It’s your Mother-in-law.”
I receive messages about being ‘unable to back up – increase your storage’ more regularly than White Company VIP Shopping Cards come through my door. A few quick deletes of school concerts and sports day videos and I’m in the clear for another month or so.
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With the amount of ‘stuff’ we save and download on the family laptop, switching between users can take forever. The only time I want to look at a beach ball for that long is at the actual beach. I am the main laptop user so husband will often just use my log-in to buy something online. Problem is, I end up with all the email notifications:
‘You have bought a snood.’
‘Your order of a snood is in progress.’
‘Your snood is out for delivery tomorrow.’
‘It’s tomorrow! Your snood is out for delivery.’
Hurray! Your snood is delivered.
(Your snood looks like a piece of crap – you should return it.)
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This is not actually my husband. (He is paler)

I’ve subscribed to far too many websites as well. This is entirely my own doing as I am a sucker for offers of  ‘10% off your first order by subscribing to the newsletter’. I try unsubscribing to these sites but someone once told me (…so I believe it) that if you enter your email address to unsubscribe, they know it’s a manned account and will continue to send you junk mail. Thanks to a suggestion from a wise Facebook friend, I now have the ‘Unroll Me’ app to do all the tiresome unsubscribing from mailing lists for me. So far we’re at 33 …
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The problem with tech issues, is that they really do stress me out. The amount of inward strength required to call these helplines is monumental. I’ve listened every accent across the globe, I’ve allowed the remote access (freaks me out) and I’ve queued in-store for hours.
“My phone is completely broken and I’m flying to Outer Mongolia first thing tomorrow morning for a VERY important meeting”. (That is husband’s usual spiel. He is awaiting his BAFTA…)
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We can see you in 6 hours

So, whilst I’ve typed, the offers have rolled in for a new vagina, interest free credit on a loan and ‘Paypal’ telling me that my account was accessed from Moscow at 3am.  ‘Please be cilcking here for resolv the porbelm’.
And a White Company discount card just arrived through my letterbox…
Happy shopping. x x x