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

Prepare to Be Amazed

I was a Brownie. I was a Girl Guide. The whole ethos of ‘be prepared’ definitely made an impact on me, although half the time I think it’s because I just can’t be bothered with the hassle that comes with not being prepared.

Like in the car:

(loud sneeze)

“Mummy!!!! Quick! I need a tissue!!!”

‘Use your sleeve’ some may say but I just don’t need the extra washing so for that reason, tucked in the side door pocket are tissues. Yup, the flat pack of tissues that you think no-one ever buys from Boots. Well I do.

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Like in the kitchen:

If I can make dinner in the morning and have it on a slow cook all day, then when I come through the door late from the kids’ swimming lesson, I don’t need to worry about dinner whilst washing their hair, sorting their homework and unravelling the swimming costumes that have been rolled tighter than a Havana cigar. (* Favourite post-swim recipe at the end of the blog.)

Like on a plane:

Whilst everything goes up into the overhead storage, I keep essentials with me in my seat so that there is little need to stand up (interrupting my prime film viewing). Kindle, iPad, moisturiser, chewing gum (for plane breath) and sucky sweets for the kids upon landing. Oh, and massive cosy scarf that’s been freshly washed. I then mummify myself by wrapping the scarf around as much of my being as possible. I like to imagine other passengers can also see animated flowers wafting off of me as I move around in my seat.

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I actually use Fairy, but their ads don’t have flowers

Like when I go out for the day:

My bag has the usual suspects – keys, wallet, phone, but amongst it all is a Mary Poppins-style bottomless cosmetic bag of wonders, including things like: plasters, stain remover wipes (best things ever), mini perfume atomiser, calpol tablets (kids) and lip balm. In the 80s it was Lipsyl, but today, it’s Eve Lom Kiss Mix.

 

I am what is known as a ‘lip licker‘: yup, it’s a real condition. I always have a pot of this wondrous stuff with me and can’t bear it when people dip their fingers into the pot. For this reason I shove my lips directly into the pot to apply and it seems to deter others from finger-dipping.  (Win-win.)

But my point with this blog (and I don’t want to sound too Carrie Bradshaw), is ‘how organised is too organised’?

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Carrie? Can you help?

I have a friend (no names mentioned but she will know soon enough), who is so insanely organised, that she readies the breakfast stuff for her kids the night before. Bowls are placed on the kitchen table, filled with cereal of choice and then covered, yes, covered, with cling film. It’s “to stop the spiders going in.”

With being prepared, I do get it. I am it. I had to revoke my Costco membership because I was fast becoming their second biggest stockpiler of loo roll. (And the cookie multi-packs.). It was just too dangerous for me to have access to such a place.

A recent trip to Disney indulged every organised bone in my body. Schedules, restaurant bookings, ruck-sack packing for the parks. I was all over it and loved it.  Including ordering disposable ponchos for the ‘wet rides’. Yup, I did that.

Husband is all for being prepared too, although this translates as ‘I’ll leave my coat out on the couch instead of hanging it up, because I’m only going to wear it in the morning.” Oh, ok. I’ll just empty out all of your clothing onto the floor so that you don’t need to ever open a cupboard or drawer ever again. (He’s tempted by this idea, I’m sure.)

And it’s not just my generation – the older generation seem to be on the preparation path. Although in some cases it may be ‘Preparation H‘. So canny is my mother in law, that juices are Nutri Bullet-ed the night before and vitamins are all measured out. I guess she’d be dead by the time she counted them all out in the morning, so fair do’s…

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Only the half of it

My kids are on it too – they see not brushing their teeth in the evening as ‘no big deal’ (whilst I freak out), as the toothpaste is still on the toothbrush for the morning.

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I think the whole point of me wanting to be prepared is an innate sense of not wanting to fail or let someone down. What if my lovely neighbour needed to borrow some sugar or milk …or even sumac?

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Yup. I have that

And if I ever ask if I can come to Costco with you, just say no.


*Post activity dinner where you come through the door too late to fuss with cooking.

Perfect Pot Roast by Ree Drummond, The Frontier Woman.

I cook it all day long in the oven on 100°C with no worries. Leave out the wine and rosemary if you want a ‘lighter’ taste. My family aren’t mash fans so I lightly toast a ciabatta that I’ve sliced in half along the length. Place in a bowl and spoon over the meat and the juices soak into the bread. Am now salivating. Roll on swimming next week.

(I’m midly obsessed with Ree. She’s was a city girl, moved to the country, married a cowboy and now lives on a ranch with her four kids, writing, blogging, cooking and has recently opened a store. I want to go there and meet her. And eat her food. And say yee-har.)