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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A Bit of a Do

I would definitely say that I’m an introvert. Handy link if you need clarification about what an introvert is. (Youngest thought it was a description for an ‘innie belly button’. ‘Extrovert’ being an outie one of course.)

In a nutshell, I love stimuli – articles, films, conversations, people watching… but once I’m ‘full’, I need time on my own to digest all that ‘stuff’ and reflect, possibly doing something with this new information. Like maybe write this blog.

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For today, at least…

Over the past few weeks there has been plenty of time for fun stimuli. A flurry of invites for birthdays, breakfasts, dinners and bar mitzvahs filled my social diary for February and March ..and I loved it.

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Husband? Hmmm, not so much.

For those with ‘FOMO‘ – ‘Fear of Missing Out’ – he is the polar opposite, suffering from a horrific case of ‘FOBO’ – Fear of Being Out’.

I’m not saying he’s anti-social, but     He’s anti-social.

But once the invites are in, where to store them?

I’m a neat freak and the whole magnet-to-fridge thing is an eyesore for me.

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DEFINITELY not my fridge. This just makes me itchy…

Plus, I can’t deal with all the paraphernalia falling off each time the door is opened or closed. (And when husband gets home from work, there is much fridge traffic.)

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*Not me. Or my fridge. Although I do have ‘Mrs Balls Chutney‘ in mine too

Pinboards are a nice idea in theory, but again, messy. Plus there’s a chance of standing on a rogue pushpin. Anyone else fondly remember finding these embedded into the sole of your school shoe, as you tap-tap-tapped down the corridors?

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Ahh, the humble drawing pin

For me, all pertinant paperwork has to be stored in a display folder.

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Like this one

Every party invite (kid AND adult), school class list, timetable, letter about choir, or any other A4 (or smaller) piece of paper that requires attention will be stored here.

Message me and ask…

‘When do the kids break up?’

‘When is sports day?’

‘What time does so-and-so’s party start?’

‘Is so-and-so’s barmitzvah at Radlett Reform or Radlett United Synagogue?’

And the information is at my fingertips. (Bar the last bit of info, where an entrance into Radlett Reform could have been a major error…)

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MAZEL TOV!…Do I know you?

With alot of these invites, comes a necessity to ‘get pitzed up’. To put into context:

Saturday evening, dinner with friends…

“Are you going casual or getting pitzed up?”

Or more specifically thanks to Google:

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You say Farpitzs, I say Pitzed

Alot of these invites thankfully carry indications as to the level of appropriate dressing. Or at least they used to. Black tie, black tie no tie, cocktail, dress to party, glam, party, fancy fucking dress (FML), casual, ‘festival’… and so on.

Each one will carry the same conversation with my husband, an hour, possibly half an hour, before we are due to leave for said ‘do’.

Him: “What’s the dress code?”

Me: “Dress to party.”

Him: “Can I wear jeans?”

Me: “Unknown-6.jpeg

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Ideal outfit goals for husband on the end

For me, I LOVE the prep. By all means stop reading right now, as next bit is going to sound super shallow, of Kim Kardashian proportions…

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Pitzed up

Exfoliating, face mask, spray tan, manicure, pedicure, hair cut, hair colour, blow dry, comb out (it’s a thing), make up, outfit.. and that’s just the men. Trust me – I go to alot of ‘things’, and there are a great many tanned women standing next to their considerably paler partners. There needs to be more of this:

 

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Tanning guru Jules Von Hep at work. On a man

I say I enjoy it.. but then again, it’s an utterly exhausting, logistical process, involving a flurry of bank card activity as stuff is bought, returned and exchanged. (And you always forget that you need tights.)

Don’t worry. I agree… First. World. Problems.  But it’s the world we are living in. And we need to prepare our kids for the future.

Here’s some 2018 GCSE sample maths questions:

Q18: If Vicki has a party on Saturday night, in order to achieve optimum colour, should she have her spray tan on:

A) Monday

B) Thursday

C) A week before

D) Friday

Q19: If Suzie wears 5″ heels to a party which starts at 8pm, what time will she lose feeling in the balls of her feet:

A) 8:03pm

B) Midnight

C) 1am

D) 9pm

Q20: If Gemma eats two pieces of sushi at 7pm at a wedding reception and has five toffee vodka shots during the course of the evening, at what point will she throw up?

A) Never

B) Half past midnight

C) 9:30pm

D) 11:15pm

Q21: If Rachel’s dress is midnight blue, which shoes will match perfectly:

A) Rose gold

B) Gold

C) Antique gold

D) Nude

If Lloyd is going to a 40th party, what is the probability that he will sing ‘Jump Around’ whilst wearing fake sunglasses, neon bracelets and a bandana:

A) 0%

B) 2%

C) 50%

D) 100%

Q22: If Scott has a tendency to sweat alot when dancing, how many spare shirts should he take with to change into during the course of his son’s barmitzvah party?

A) One

B) Two

C) Three

D) Ten

 

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Scott, take ten…

 

A full list of questions will be available in due course.

Now to wash off my spray tan….

x

Pour Aller au cinéma?

My nephew recently emerged the other side his GCSEs (he did brilliantly, thanks for asking) and I loved hearing all about his studies and progress along the way (as well as being extremely thankful that I didn’t have to sit mine again, let alone understand the latest grading system to come into play.)

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It was my nephew’s grasp of languages that impressed me most, as I have complete admiration for people like him who study another language and shine at it (a nice shiny A*), with particular props to those who opt for the language route without bi-lingual parents.

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Standard

At school I was surrounded by people studying everything from Chinese to Russian to Latin. I then went onto University, with many friends choosing to study Business with a language. When I started working at MTV, I was in the hub of the European Marketing Department and surrounded by colleagues who were multi-lingual, which I could only throw in the odd ‘ja’, oui and non, much like Joey in ‘Friends’.

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Ouais, ouais, naturellement

As I sat back and listened to them commandeer events in French, German, Spanish and everything in between, I wish I had taken my studies further than just French and German A-level, in order to be able to get more involved at events. Whilst I had mastered fluent Avagav, it just wasn’t a widely recognised enough language.*

 

It’s some time ago, but random foreign words have stuck in my mind.

For the Germans out there:

Mein Vater ist ein Tankwart – My dad is a petrol pump attendant. (He isn’t, but this phrase was my GCSE pull-it-out-of-the-bag to impress the adjudicators one.)

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Add to that a selection of favourite German words that friends and colleagues taught me:

Meerschweinchen = guinea pigs

sehr lecker = very tasty

Fledermaus = bat

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Yes. Potato salad is very tasty

..and for the French lovers:

 

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Ahh, Louis Laloupe. Good times

Je suis une fille unique – I am an only child (Yep, still am.)

Pour aller au cinéma? – Which way is the cinema? …I wonder if anyone studying French has ever actually used this in a real life situation? Or the Town Centre for that matter. So cliché. (Pun intended.)

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Tournez  à gauche

Pamplemousse = grapefruit

Parapluie = umbrella

That amazing ability to converse confidently in a foreign language still impresses me and  revisiting languages is definitely up there on my list of things I want to do in the future.

If not just to be able to sing certain song lyrics properly. ‘Despacito’. ‘Mi Gente’. I’m singing something but it’s definitely not the right words.

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I mean, if Justin can’t even do it…

Each summer I visit Spain (okay, just Marbella) and I can now confidently chuck in the odd ‘una bolsa’ (a bag) and ‘una mas’ (one more) in the ‘supermercado’ (oh, come on it’s not that cryptic). In my mind, with just a couple of words, a smile and a nod, they believe I am Spanish.

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In reality, when the cashier tots up my shopping and announces, “Setenta seis euros y ochenta y ocho céntimos,” I freeze and hand over a €100 note and simply hope for the best. Literally, I have no idea past ten.

You see, communicating is ‘my thing’ if you haven’t realised. I get terribly frustrated when I can’t get my point across, which is the issue with my limited Spanish. I often get panicky when I have to make a restaurant booking, even with the help of iTranslate

I can do the days of the week, thanks to a catchy little song my youngest learnt at nursery.

I can specify number of diners and the time I need the table for. When they reply with ‘Perfecto’ (great) or ‘Hasta mañana’ (see you tomorrow), it’s all good. Anything other than that and I usually hang up and pass the role onto a better-equipped person. (Husband.)

Even when I do manage a successful booking it can sometimes go wrong. Case in point this summer, when my kids really, really, really wanted to go back to the equivalent of Benihana’s and have scrambled egg flipped into their mouths from the hibachi grill. I try to get them to eat scrambled egg at home, but no such luck. Am considering flipping all non-desirable foodstuff at them with a spatula.

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‘Joséhanas’

I had booked it for ‘Debbie’ (that’s me) for 8pm. I had booked early enough in the week. I had confirmed the day before. The kids were living for it.

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Arrive at restaurant.

“No. No booking for Debbie, but you can sit at a normal table and order from the menu.”

“Errr. No.” I said. “My kids want omelette flipped at them.”

After much ‘discussion’, arm flapping and referring to the reservation book, it was 8:15. The other booking had clearly not shown up and I suggested we have the table or they lose custom anyway.  On the way to the table I casually enquired who this other reservation was for.  The other person was ‘Waby’.

Yes, I’m ‘Waby’.

I guess things get lost in translation.

x

(*campaigns to GCSE board to introduce Avagav as a recognised language option)

 

Keep Calm and Remain Stationary…

I don’t need my iPhone display to tell me that September is upon us. You can feel it, see it and even smell it in the air.

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If July and August were all about shell collecting for me, then September brings the conker harvest. Memories of going to school with a carrier bag full of conkers and chucking the contents across the playground with an accompanied, “SCRAMBLE!!” (Wouldn’t happen today – the bags are 5p…)

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Of all the seasons, Autumn is my favourite as it reminds me of walking to synagogue with my dad to celebrate the start of the Jewish New Year. On our journey, we would look at the change in scenery, spot figs on a neighbour’s tree and I would collect conkers, storing them in his prayer bag to add to my collection at home. (Conkers, not prayer bags…)

You can just ‘smell’ autumn in the air – if I was cryogenically frozen a la Woody Allen’s ‘Sleeper’, I could easily sniff out Autumn.

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A futuristic conker

It may also be because there is another distinct smell in the air – that of parental relief that the kids are going back to school, quickly followed by the whiff of panic that a lengthy list of items needs to be bought from the uniform shop and stationers.

With a queue to rival that of ‘Thunder Railroad’, including ticketing and barriers, unfortunately the uniform shop ain’t no Disneyland. And there’s definitely no option to buy fast passes. (I would if I could.) Everyone is treated equally and there is no favouritism.

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There is a method of course…

Step 1 – Make a fucking list

Seriously – it’s uniform shopping 101. You have a line of bored, angry, frustrated, irritable people, many of them who would choose the returns queue at Zara over this shit. Make a list and make your time in the shop as quick and painless as possible.

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During a quiet period

 

Step 2 – Muster up lots of patience

As Axl Rose once sang, this patience needs to be doled out in bucketloads.954d455cd24bfa8eeac06c668042940d.jpgPatience with your kids, for other hapless parents and also for the poor staff dealing with your precious darlings who are arguing over the length of their skirt, itchiness of their jumper and the ridiculously oversized track suit.

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“It’s fine. You’ll grow into it.”

However, my patience wears thin when you consider that the usual staff count will have been bolstered with ‘holiday staff’. Under normal circumstances, I’m fully willing to give people a chance, but not the uniform shop. I have no shame in offering up the risky-looking temp staff member to the person behind me in the queue. I would much rather wait another few minutes for an experienced member of staff.

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The above rule also applies when it comes to buying school shoes. My youngest is ‘full of personality’ when it comes to shoe shopping and only one staff member will be able to fit her with minimal fuss. (She knows who she is.)

Armed with a supply of coppers to keep them occupied at the swirly-whirly helter-skelter charity box, I patiently wait until I get ‘my person’. Job done in just a few minutes.

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‘The Money Spinner’. (Trademark name fact fans)

 

Step 3 – Choose your branding wisely

Whether you go for sew-in, stick-in, stamp-in or reckless Sharpie daubing, the choice is yours when it comes to labelling it all. I have one friend who goes supersized on her sew-in labels, meaning her kids’ items can be identified from Mars.

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Personally, I opt for a mixture of all the possibilities listed above, but just know that I have it on good authority from a teacher friend of mine, that they’re more likely to hand back the easily identifiable stuff, than a biro scribble that has faded in the wash.

There is just so much to do, and we haven’t even covered my favourite part of it all – the stationery.

Much like new toiletries for holiday, there is nothing like filling a new pencil-case with smelly pencils, ridiculous rubbers and highlighter pens that never seem to be used for highlighting anything, just drawing emojis.

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I take it as a time to replenish my own home-stock – new sticky tape, glue, pens, post- its…all of which have depleted over the holiday with the amount of arts, craft and the slime factory which was shut down months ago, but I believe is still operating via an underground cell.

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The joy of throwing out the pencils that no matter how many times you try to sharpen them, the lead gets stuck in the sharpener. Or the pen that has no lid and has inked up the entire inside of the pencil-case. Colouring pencils that are down to the nub.

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And if you were ever in doubt of the correct spelling of the word ‘stationery’…

Stationery – it has an ‘e‘.. as in ‘envelope’. Which is a form of stationery.

(And yes, the use of ‘a’ in the word ‘stationary’ in the blog title is deliberate.)

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And proud of it

Good luck to everyone starting new schools. (Particularly those with correctly labelled stuff.) xxx

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