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.


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.


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.


Check 1, 2, 3

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


“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.


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.)


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.


..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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.



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.


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


Aisle Have What She’s Having…

This is about the extent of a Tuesday evening in my house:

(Shouts upstairs to family)

“Anyone for anything else on the online shop?”

Bissli, please!” [Eldest]

“Soy sauce. Kikkoman not Blue Dragon, please!” [Youngest. So specific]

Jaffa cakes please!” [Husband, he of simple requests. He claims these are super low in fat and ‘all the footballers eat them’. Sadly, he is not a pro-footballer. Nor do pro-footballers eat ‘Jaffa Cake sandwiches’. Recipe at end of blog.]

Aside from the shame of their utterly unhealthy requests, I get so bored of my weekly shop that I will often cold-call my friends and slay them with “GIMME 5 RANDOM ITEMS ON YOUR FOOD SHOP – STAT!” (Stat: A common medical abbreviation for urgent or rush. From the Latin word statum, meaning ‘immediately.’)

Desperate for further inspiration, I have also taken to introducing one new item a week for the family to try. Last week was dried coconut shreds. The kids were totally disinterested until I said they were Daddy’s ‘foot skin shavings’ and somehow the gross concept intrigued them. Eldest even went back for more.

I definitely live to eat and I love to try new foods – goji berries, jackfruit, Popchips (yuuummmm) and so on. With one exception – beetroot. I have tried, really I have. I was about 8, it was 1983 and the biggest famine in Ethiopia was occurring. I distinctly remember standing in the school lunch line as I moaned to my best friend, “I hate Thursdays – it’s salad day.” This meant limp lettuce, shredded carrot and little cubes of beetroot.


Pure evil. And red. Like the Devil (and Arsenal)

I can still feel the pinch on my upper arm through the flimsy yellow gingham of my summer dress as my Headmistress dragged me from the line and scolded me in front of my classmates,

“There are children starving in Africa.”

From that day on, I ate my salad every week without a moan. My oldest BFF had to endure similar with Tuesday’s ‘Roast’ offering. Potatoes, soggy cabbage and fried minced beef. Somehow, through inner strength or some such shit, she stored the maggoty-looking beef bits in her cheeks, akin to a hamster, finish her mains and somehow managing to eat dessert still with beef-stuffed cheeks. A trip to the loo would then see her spit out stored mince into those green recycled paper hand towels. She was a staunch vegetarian for the next 25 years.


I can still smell them. They were always green. And utterly non-absorbent

So, as convenient as it is to have ‘Colin, in Raspberry van’ deliver my regular weekly shop, sometimes I like a trip to the supermarket to see what’s what.



Off I go, trolley bags in the boot. (I have mentioned these in an earlier blog, but they really are amazing.)  Of course there is a method to my madness and these are 5 rules I stick by to get in and out as quickly as possible:

1) I rearrange items in the trolley as I go along, simply because it makes packing quicker. That said, you may get caught behind those gems in the supermarket who wait until the cashier gives them their total before they make a move to get their wallet and loyalty card out to pay. It’s not Supermarket Sweep. You know you’re gonna have to pay. Be prepared.


When you hear the ‘beep’, think of Supermarket Sweep

2) I often leave my trolley at the end of the aisle (it’s called a ‘gondola end’). What’s the point of playing trolley bumper cars if I only need one packet of rice?

3) I choose my checkout carefully. Much like queuing for car park barriers in previous blog, the shortest queue is not always the quickest. You could also end up behind Mrs. Forgetful who chuckles as she suddenly remembers the ‘only thing she came in for’ and goes off for 5 minutes searching for milk. Yeah. Hilarious. Write a list FFS.

4) I kind of like the self-checkout. Proper fist-punch opportunity if you can do it without ‘waiting for assistance’ all because the feather-light bag of lettuce hasn’t registered in the bagging area. Also, by going down this route you avoid the freaks at the standard checkout. The ones who can’t grab the product separator quick enough to mark the division between their shopping and mine. LIKE I EXPECTED YOU TO PAY FOR MY STUFF?!!!


5) Sometimes I go stealth if I only have a couple of items. Head towards the customer with the trolley-full, piled higher than a Pizza Hut salad (extra bacon bits please) who no-one wants to queue behind. If you’re lucky, they’ll let you go in front of them with your insignificant couple of items.


Ahhhhh memories

I rarely give my husband the task of shopping. Aside from he fact that it takes him ages and he returns with enough crisps and chocolate to cater a kids party, I am very specific and he works to utter vagueness. It’s not worth the argument or re-anactment of one of my favourite films ever: (“Clean up on Aisle 5, Irv.”)

As promised, a recipe for you chocolate lovers out there.

Jaffa Cake Sandwiches


Jaffa Cake triple pack of 36 Jaffa cakes


Open carton. You will find 3 long packets of Jaffa cakes.

Tear open 1 packet and remove 3 Jaffe cakes.

Place 1 Jaffa cake between 2 Jaffa cakes, sponge sides facing outwards, like a sandwich.


Repeat until full. One pack makes 4 sandwiches.


*enters husband for Masterchef immediately*