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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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.

Pack It In

My kids’ school have a theme song that is sung every year on ‘Speech Day’, (final day of Summer term). This song reduces me to sniffly tears and is nothing to do with my chronic hay fever. Seriously, Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ has got nothing on the Leavers’ Song:

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Cue one of my school-mum’s audibly enquiring, “Are you crying?!” Yes. Yes, I am. And I know I’m not alone. The sniffly tears are for two reasons:

1) The top year are leaving (which last year included my gorgeous niece)

2) It means the endless holidays are upon us. After three visits to Megajump plus Pizza Express for lunch AND dinner, what to do with the little darlings? (Anyone got a voucher code?)

Luckily for me, I married well. And by that I mean my in-laws have a holiday home in Spain, meaning a healthy chunk of the holidays have guaranteed sun, with poolside days and beach-restaurant nights. But before all that, the prep has to begin. Out come the checklists and all the holiday ‘stuff’. Zippies, lockies, baggies, shmaggies – ie. all the containers and compartmentalisers that make your holiday your holiday.

Par example…

 

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This bad boy is ‘the red bag’. Unassuming Clarins make up bag I hear you comment? It may look like any other red make up bag, but it is of great importance. It holds every single key to the family flat in Spain, each on twee keyrings collected over the years.

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As far as I’m concerned, I just need two keys – front door and pool area. However, there are around eight other keys of varying shapes and sizes and I’m not entirely sure of their function. (If my father-in-law asks, I know exactly what each key is for.) If this red bag ever got lost, there would be a missing persons announcement on Sky News and we would sit shiva.

 

Man Bag

Never referred to as a bag. Or handbag. Or cross body bag. Always ‘man bag’. It comes out purely for holidays and husband has no shame in using it. I just wish he would remember where he puts it down, as time is often lost searching for it. “Doll, have you seen my manbag?”

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Add to this my ‘holiday purse‘. I don’t need my advantage cards, vouchers, dry cleaning tickets, etc. This is all I need and there’s usually a spare Euro for the airport trolley inside. Yes, I’m that organised.

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Sun cream bag

From some long forgotten fabulous trip in First Class, I’ve seen many of these Anya Hindmarch freebie bags poolside around the world.

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“Where are the suncreams?” they ask. “In the Anya bag, of course.” Its predecessor was an orange-striped Giorgio Beverley Hills cosmetic bag, a freebie from the days when people only wore the likes of Samsara, Loulou and Anaïs Anaïs.

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I’ve got a perfume headache from just looking at them

 

Beach bag

Every year I try to replace my distressed gold Accessorize beach bag. I say ‘distressed’ but in reality, the gold has worn away through years of use. It has pockets, a zip, carry handles AND a shoulder strap. It comes with me every year and doubles up as my travel bag full of my crap, kids crap and of late, about ten Beanie Boos.

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Some of my extended family

I bought a Stella Rittwagen straw basket bag a couple of years ago and I absolutely love it, fitting in with all the tall, willowy Spanish girls who congregate at our beach.

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However, they only need a towel and possibly a spare thong bikini.  I have numerous towels, goggles, sun hats, creams and so you can hardly see the bag for the overflow.

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To the beach!!

 

Snack bag

This little gingham bag comes down to the pool each day. Pistachios, bread sticks, wafer biscuits – it could hold any number of ziplocked goodies. If it’s not in the gingham bag (which once held nappies and wipes – don’t worry I washed it), then my kids aren’t interested.

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Nail bag

Glamour magazine freebie from years ago and still going strong. I don’t want a free mascara or a new lipstick. I want useful zippy little bags in varying sizes!

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For many friends there is no packing process, but simply a ‘chuck it all in and worry about it at excess baggage’ ideology, but I am a planner. I get the suitcases out around a week before, but mentally they have been out for over two weeks. (Ok three. Leave me be.)

Here is my top five must-do’s when it comes to packing:

  1. Make a list. There’s no point debating this with me. You need a list otherwise you forget stuff and if I’m travelling with you, I’m not wasting precious time traipsing around the town centre trying to find a compatible charger for your tablet images
  2. Packing cubes. Zipped mesh compartments of varying sizes and colours. IMG_5338I love my Eagles Creek ones. Super useful for keeping clothing neatly folded, like silks or linens. Smaller one for adaptors and chargers. Also great if you are doing a few stops on your holiday, so that you can separate the stuff you need for just those couple of nights
  3. If travelling as a family, mix up your packing between the allocated luggage. Nothing worth than losing a case (mine) and having to wear what you travelled in for the next 48 hours until it’s found
  4. Shoes on top. I was a firm believer in shoes at the bottom, but after seeing someone else’s method, I am a changed woman. A layer of polythene (like from the dry cleaners) laid on top of clothing and then shoes placed on top. Go on, try it
  5. Fabric softener sheets:54484011_0_640x640.jpgNothing worse than ‘suitcase-y’ smelling clothes. A few sheets interleaved between the clothes and it’s like home. I then line the hotel drawers and cupboards with them. Mock me with pleasure, I’ll be the one that smells nice and fresh.

 

Hasta luego… xxx