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

Food for Thought

Food glorious food, I truly eat to live and still have my very first cookbook.

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I made these as a kid

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not obsessed by food (*thinks of sister-in-law’s spag bol and salivates*), but I do kind of, sort of, plan my day around what I’m eating. Husband is no different and will often walk in from work and lovingly greet the fridge as if it were another child.

I also have a fair few like-minded friends. There’s the one that compiles an ‘eatinerary’ for trips abroad, plotting what restaurants they will visit and the friend who has a dedicated meal-planning notebook. To be fair, notebook friend has to contend with a nut allergy, a milk allergy and a fuss-pot toddler. (Did I mention that she was a vegetarian?) Busy life, big family, after-school activities – you can see the sense in planning. As Benjamin Franklin says:

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Whilst husband calls me stubborn, I say ‘tenacious’. I hate to fail and firmly believe in the mantra:

‘If at first you don’t succeed, call it ‘Version 1.0′ and try again.’

For example…

Folding a fitted sheet correctly. Whilst my kids watch You Tube videos of FULLY GROWN ADULTS (ffs) opening ‘Shopkins’ packets, this is my ‘thing’.

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#Shopkins, shopkins! Once ya shop, ya can’t stop!#

Opening a jar of pickled cucumbers. Unless Ryan Gosling lives opposite me and I can feign weakness, me and the Jarkey can handle it.

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You really think I perfected my cheesecake the first time I made it? No chance. There were many versions and much critiquing. In my house we call it ‘TBF’. ‘Tried but failed’. TBF often gets used with dinners, clothing, the England squad. It’s so versatile.

Monday’s meal is always sacrosanct. The busiest day for after school activities, dinner needs to be a crowd-pleaser. Eldest calls it ‘Up the Bum Chicken and Crispy Rice’. (She’s very visual). Recipe at end of blog, but here’s a taster:

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Just look how the light catches her breasts…

Whilst I’m all for a cook-fest, I love eating at friends, going to farmers markets and trying new restaurants. I once read that you should always order out the dish you can’t/rarely make yourself. So if it’s Greek, I will almost always order chops. It’s not that I can’t cook them, but more that I can’t bear the lingering smell in my kitchen.

Posh or pokey, there has to be something that sticks in my memory and makes me want to return somewhere. I have a friend who by her own admission isn’t massively into cooking, but she once made a pasta bake and much like the blobs of oozing mozzarella she generously baked inside it, it sticks in my memory. As does her signature Banoffee Pie. I think she must add something magical to it, because I don’t even really like bananas.

Whether a place has got 3 Michelin stars or a drive-through, as long as its tasty, I’ll eat it. An unassuming pub near me does the most delicious burger and chips. Maybe it’s the dinky little condiment pots they bring to your table? The quaint wooden spoon with your order number on it? Or the cosy fireplace in winter? For me, I will go back every time for that dish. Only negative is that you pay at the bar upon ordering and I miss doing the ‘sign your palm’ thing we all do when we ask for the bill. (I also miss the ‘zip-zap’ noise from the old credit card machines.)

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Olden times

Whilst I enjoy reading social media threads about Penis Beakers or discussions about the best eye cream, I’m most happy when the focus is on food. My photo library is mainly foodie pics or screen grabs of recipes.

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Watermelon, Feta & Kiwi Cube. I will never, ever make this

As promised, ‘Up the Bum Chicken and Crispy Rice

Wash the chicken, don’t wash the chicken. Much like Brexit, it’s your choice and you will have your reasons.

Place chicken in an ovenproof dish. I use a Le Creuset dish. All about ease. One dish. Oven-to-table.

Pat chicken dry with paper towel. Salt and pepper all over. Cover with cling film and leave in fridge all day.

Rinse basmati rice until water runs clear and leave soaking in fresh water all day.

Remove chicken from fridge about half hour before cooking – I always cook from room temperature. Pat it dry again – helps crisp the skin.

Preheat oven to 200˚C.

Shove a whole onion and some garlic cloves, both unpeeled, up the chickens bum. I sometimes do a Jamie Oliver variation of this with a whole boiled lemon, garlic and thyme. I talked a friend through this  recipe, thinking nothing could go wrong. Foolish me. (She has since perfected it and now regularly makes it.)

Either way, it’s all up the bum stuff.  (Don’t worry – link is nothing sinister, just a clip from one of my favourite films ‘Wish You Were Here’, with Emily Lloyd. She was due to play Julia Roberts’ role in Pretty Woman. Fact.)

Spray chicken with some extra virgin olive oil and pour about half a cup of water around it. I mix in some chicken stock too. Shove in oven.

After an hour, pour drained rice around chicken.

General rule: 1 cup of rice, 2 cups water. 2 cups rice, 4 cups water, etc. Add some chicken stock to the water, pour onto rice and stir in s&p and a drizzle of oil. If you have time/inclination, fry over some diced onions and add to the rice, but I often just add dried crispy onions. Sometimes egg noodles too. Stir.

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Lazy option

Back in the oven for another half hour. Chicken cooks for 1.5 hours total.

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Rice angels. Never a grain of rice left

Some friends have argued this seemingly short cooking time with me, but I’m yet to kill anyone so I must be doing something right.

If all else fails, at least I can fold a fitted sheet properly…