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

Smells Like Teen Spirit..

.. and by that I mean snakebite n’ black, pot noodle and mouldy bed linen.

Packed to the roof like they’re up for some serious car boot sale action (old Kodak centre in Harrow anyone..?), I’ve spotted many laden cars heading North with wide-eyed teens in the back, clutching their teddies in excitement as they headed off to University.

I (vaguely) remember being one of those teens and it’s only now in my 40s that I can look back at the experience and truly understand why my friend’s mum hung about for hours at our student house, scrubbing at the bathroom and kitchen until her marigolds wore through and she left the house sobbing.

To me and my Uni girlfriends, it was a palace. To our parents, it was a cesspit that we had foolishly handed over a deposit and a month’s rent to our landlord. Having housed six boys prior to our arrival, it took many weeks to embed it with our ‘girl smell’. The basement however, was another level (if you will pardon the pun.) I can still smell it now…

If I could go back and re-think my career, I wish I had gone into perfumery. I can happily spend hours in the candle and fragrance departments and if you’ve ever wondered why coffee beans often appear alongside candles, it’s to neutralise your sense of smell before the next sniffing. I don’t think the yearly coffee bean crop of Latin America would have helped our basement.

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Milk and two sugars please

Smells are so important to me. They trigger memories – happy, sad, funny. These are a few of my best/worst smells:

GOOD: Lavender – reminds me of my late Grandma who loved the smell of it. I always travel abroad with lavender oil and a couple of drops on a pillow at night definitely helps the kids get to sleep. Also great for a relaxing bath. I had a relaxing bath once in 2005. I have kids now.

 

BAD: Baby poo. I remember the horrific baby poops that seeped up the back of the baby-grow. Usually when you were in the John Lewis toilets, already sweating, lactating and trying to get a feed in.

GOOD: Tarmac. I actively seek out roadworks. I called my Dad recently to ask about some signage on the back of a truck. ‘Paving, rendering, tarmacadam’. After mocking me for  pronouncing it ‘Tarmac Adam’, he informed me that it’s actually the full name for ‘tarmac’.

BAD: Damp clothing – so, you wash your clothes and hang them to dry. You go to wear a top and notice the cuff was stuck inside itself. Oh well, it’s dry now and all is fine.   No. It’s not fine. Stinks all day long. Wash it again.

GOOD: Comfort Sunshiny Days fabric conditioner. Best ever. I like everything to smell clean and fresh. My sister in law has the market cornered on that. Her whole family have animated flowers wafting around them at all times. Even the dog.

BAD: Dog poo. Even the tiniest amount (always stuck in the tread of your trainers) is enough to make me retch.

GOOD: Husband’s after shave. You can keep your Creed Aventus (fyi, now available for women too). Robert Piquet ‘Notes’ is the one I love on him. Unfortunately it’s no cheaper than Creed and is so-called ‘Notes’ because you need bucketloads of banknotes to pay for it

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BAD: Gefilte fish. You can’t roll a shit in glitter. And the same goes for a carrot ‘hat ‘on top of minced fish…

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GOOD: Hotel foyers – I love how the good ones smell amazing when you walk in and almost set your mood. I remember my honeymoon and my obsession with the smell of the place where we stayed – a friend would always bring me back lotions and sprays when she visited South Africa.  Luckily ‘Charlotte Rhys’  is now available to order in UK, but it never smells quite the same at home. Possibly the lack of sea view and room service.

 

BAD: Earring butterflies – I’m as hygienic as they come so don’t pretend and act holier than thou. It’s a real problem for us all.

GOOD in a BAD WAY: Original stonewashed denim. When I was a teen, drooling over the Levis commercials featuring Nick Kamen and Brad Pitt, there was a tiny shop on Golders Green Road called ‘Yankee Doodle’ that catered to the Levi 501 obsession of North West London. (South London crew had ‘Soldier Blue’ on the Kings Road as their mecca.)

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The old site. The entrance was where ‘Gentle Care’ is and about half of ‘Virgin Money’

Small but perfectly-stocked, it was stacked ceiling-high with bandanas and converse and my favourite Levi 501s. The jeans had been through a stone-washing process that an intoxicating bleached smell. Ripped, stained, ink splattered, torn, worn. No wonder there was a sign up stating that you had to have your parents permission to buy from there.

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An original display from Yankee Doodle (thanks to Dani who owned the shop – more stories please!)

 

GOOD: Freshly baked bread, specifically challah, in the boot of your car.

artisan-challah-bread

Better than the artificial smell of the yellow vanilla trees dangling off your rear view mirror.

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Controversially, I have a friend who prefers the black ice scent to vanilla – something about the musky, manly smell. They should actually manufacture challah-scented Little Trees…

LIGHTBULB MOMENT!!!

“Hello, Little Trees? I’ve got a new scent idea for you…”

That’s Chrismukkah presents sorted then…