Saturday, 28 July 2012

Proud to be British

What luck. I managed to watch the Opening Ceremony last night from some of the best seats in the house - and although I didn't get home until almost 5am, it was definitely worth it. Amazing. Absolutely bloody amazing. Without doubt, the best production I've ever seen.

Sky said it 'lived up to the hype' (no mean feat for Sky, which I generally regard as the broadcast equivalent of the Daily Mail). The Telegraph said we've proved we're 'a country that can still put on a show'. And The Washington Post reported it as 'an event celebrating the shared culture of the English-speaking world.' In short, I think we can conclude it was a success.

Personally, I loved some bits more than others; James Bond and The Queen were pure genius, David Beckham was brilliant and the music sequences were fantastic. Similarly Rowan Atkinson was hysterical. But I'd leave out Paul McCartney (really, he proved he's no longer up to the job at the Jubilee concert - hopefully this was the final nail in the coffin) and I thought the athletes parading went on for too long - although I appreciate they are the true stars of the show. 

Celebrity spots included David Walliams, Heston Blumenthal, Cliff Richard (does that count? Probably not) and the cast of Downton Abbey. As a keen Hugh Bonneville fan, I had no choice but to nip over and say a quick hello - what a gentleman. Lovely guy. Not quite as good as me chatting to Boris Johnson, but almost...

This morning, Martini Towers was up in force to see Team GB in the road race - and how fantastic was that? The crowds were huge and the general atmosphere is that the party has arrived. Long may it continue...

I'm always proud to be English, but today I'm honoured to be British. 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The greatest show on earth

The countdown has started...

I cannot believe it's less than one week to go - after 18 months, it's almost here and will be over too quickly. Even the weather seems to finally be turning. Yes, the media is having a field-day with all things negative (#chipgate has been my favourite so far), but I think people are really starting to get excited. Of course, it really helps that Bradley Wiggins has pulled in such a fantastic result - who'd have ever thought it? Personally, I can't believe he's still competing in another race and is then planning to just pop along to the Olympic time trial a week later. Lucky for me though, because he's cycling right past my house. I'm betting there'll be a few more people than previously planned to step out in support, thanks to his historic win. What a great way to start off the Olympics. 

I'm working every day now until 12 August. I'm going to be at the Park most of the time, but I'll be at home for the road race and time trail and I'm also hoping to get to Eton Dorney at some point (make sure you're shouting for Tim Brabants - he's a legend). Stay tuned for photos and updates galore. I can't wait. 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Back to normality...of a sort

Well, I've made it. Just. Back for my first full week of work, after the birth of tiny Martini. Shattered? Of course. Shock to the system? You bet. But the chance to meet Boris and Dame Kelly Holmes (again) in the same week? Definitely worth it. 

On Monday, I did wonder how I was going to get through the week. Tiny is still waking up about once a night, although she no longer feeds - I think she just wants to say hello - and she needs a bit of soothing to get back to sleep. This is no problem if you can take it easy when you get up (and generally loll about in your pyjamas). Not so if you have to get up, attempt to actually look more pulled together than someone who's been pulled through a hedge backwards, feed three children, sterlise bottles, empty the dishwasher and get out of the door by 7.40am. Thank God for the nanny is all I can say. 

Someone who's been pulled through a hedge backwards
Boris was an absolute legend, by the way. Totally off message, he wanders around in his cycling helmet and speaks to everyone - he's very engaging. And hilarious. And he really does ride around on his bike (being a cynical PR, I assumed that was all staged. I can confirm it isn't). 

It's definitely tough to leave Tiny at such a young age, it's not long until September - and then it will all be over. And I can have the rest of the year off, to enjoy a well-earned break. Something tells me that, by that time, I'll need it. 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Jubilation abound

What a fantastic weekend we had at Martini Towers. We headed down to the Garden Party at Hampton Court on the Saturday, which turned out to be a very sunny affair (there was a slight wardrobe malfunction, as when we left, it was bloody freezing and there was a small heatwave by the time we arrived. Long sleeve t-shirts were not suitable). Other than that, though, it was good fun.

On Monday, our street had a party - the road was closed and everything. This strategy for a party is highly recommended - no need to travel, easy access to beds and other requirements for multiple children, and constant access to your own fridge for champagne supplies. Perfect. And, as you can see from the picture above, we fully entered into the spirit of things - that's Eldest Martini in a hat that's far too big for him, but he refused to take it off, nevertheless. 

Another picture of our street party:

Admittedly, not the best weather we could have hoped for, but since when would we let that stop us? Even better, all the bunting and flags can be stored for a short time, and then brought out again in time for London 2012. Recycling at its best!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Updating a minimalist wardrobe

For those that don't remember, or haven't shared my pain, my normal (and by that I mean 'non-maternity') wardrobe is severely lacking. I was reminded of this when I lay out my normal clothes - I'm back in my old jeans (praise the Lord) - and I thought that it would be a good idea to sort my wardrobe into winter and summer items. There's actually no need, because I don't have enough to separate out. But I won't start going on about that again. (Mr. Martini - you have married a saint.)

However, it does give me a great excuse to go a bit shopping crazy now I'm getting back into shape. My general aim is to buy fewer items, of better quality, but there's no doubt that I'm still tempted by fleetingly trendy pieces from the likes of Primark. Or so I thought. It would appear that I'm going to have to trek over to Hammersmith to get hold of their decent stock. I may well do this next week - stay tuned on that. 

But, I have spied a couple of items that I'll be trying to purchase in the sale. There's this fab green maxi dress from Hobbs:

Basically a summer maxi dress, but a bit much at £119. 

And there's the Davina dress from LK Bennett:

There's a huge variety of colours - I actually like the plum - but £225 is again a bit much for someone not earning whilst on maternity leave, so fingers crossed for the sale. When do the sales start, anyway?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Sunshine, wellies and sickness

Isn't it just bloody typical. Finally, for the first time in about six months, the sun decides to shine and we have a beautiful garden where I should be enjoying it. Unfortunately, both Tiny and I have been stuck down with general illness - she's vomiting and I feel just awful. Not exactly ideal conditions to make the most of the (no doubt limited) summer that's just arrived. 

On top of this, I've just received an email informing me that the Hunter Wellies I ordered from BrandAlley when the weather was horrendous and I realised that I didn't have any suitable Wellington boots are due to be delivered today. Inspired. As soon as it stops raining, my rain attire arrives. Oh well, at least I'll have them handy for when the weather turns again.  

My plan today was to go shopping - which had to go on hold. Disappointing, as I'm planning to try and pick up the following top from Primark:

It's a steal at just £12. Guess I'll have to wait until I'm up to facing the shops. Which will probably be tomorrow. Fingers crossed. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Getting back on the fashion wagon

It has been nine very long months, but I'm finally thinking about getting back into normal clothes and updating myself on the latest trends. Quite frankly, my whole maternity wardrobe is going straight to the charity shop (I'll get Mr. Martini on that) - I'm sick of the sight of it. If I do have another, I'll be treating myself to some new maternity clothes. 

Given that I'm not quite back to my normal size (but the diet has started), I'm starting with bags and shoes. I desperately need a decent work bag to carry a laptop, but unfortunately don't have the money to buy the Mulberry one I should have bought when I saw it in the outlet shop in Bath (it's now been discontinued, so that will teach me). Given my financial constraints, I'm opting for this one in the meantime. I absolutely love the satchel style and the quality of the leather looks fantastic - I will, of course, report back as and when I order it. 

Scaramanga, Medium Overlander, £105
The only slight concern is that it's not as professional looking as some other options, but I don't care at this point. 

On top of this, I've found the shoes I'm going to buy if I get a bonus from work (not definite) - they are a fantastic pair of nude wedges from Russell and Bromley. Unbelievably, this shop does not really have a website (see for yourself) but I will take a picture when I next visit the store (hopefully this week). They cost £265. But they are perfect. On a slightly more cost effective note, I love these:

Hawaiian floral peep toe shoes, New Look, £24.99
They will probably cut your feet to shreds, and obviously will only last for the summer (and who'd want them come September? They certainly won't be back in fashion for some time) but for £25, who can complain? Bargain. Get them here

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Double chocolate chunk muffins - and no sleep to speak of

I am absolutely loving being the mother of a newborn again. Third time round, I think I'm probably more relaxed and just enjoying the time with Tiny - I know it won't be long before she's stomping around the house, attempting to run the place. (Obviously, I don't allow this to happen, but Mr. Martini is a bit of a sucker when it comes to his daughters.)

Of course, sleep is not really happening - I'm permanently in a sort of 'jet-lag haze' - but I don't even mind that. And, on the positive side, I only have to focus on Tiny, because the nanny (who, if I was that way inclined, I might marry, she's so bloody good) is still looking after the elder and middle martinis. Inspired. 

It was the nanny's birthday earlier this week, and I decided to bake double chocolate chunk muffins as a treat (although some who have tasted my cooking may not think this would be classed as a treat. Naturally, I don't talk to those people anymore). And, even if I say so myself, these muffins were great. Admittedly, I added extra chocolate - because you can never have enough chocolate - and under cooked them according to the recipe, but they really were good. I'd also like to point out, the parchment paper cases are not a nod to me being extremely trendy, but instead make up for a lack of preparation as we had no paper cases. Actually, the parchment paper worked out fine - and who cares anyway? It's only there for two minutes before you rip it off!

So, here's how I did it:

- 7oz plain flour
- 1oz cocoa powder (use the best quality you can find)
- 1tbsp baking powder
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 4oz golden caster sugar (I didn't have golden, so just used regular)
- 4oz white chocolate, cut into small pieces
- 4oz milk chocolate, cut into small pieces
- 2 large eggs
- 3.5 fl oz sunflower oil
- 8 fl oz full fat milk

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (or equivalent). Line the muffin tin (either 12-hole for regular sized muffins, or 6-hole for large ones) with paper cases / parchment paper.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in the caster sugar, white and milk chocolate pieces. 
3. Place the eggs and oil in a separate bowl and whisk until frothy. Gradually whisk in the milk. Then stir into the dry ingredients until just blended. (Note: the batter will be quite liquid - this is fine.)
4. Pour the mixture into the muffin tin, filling each one three-quarters full. 
5. Bake in the preheated oven for around 20 minutes - they should still be gooey in the middle. Cool on a wire rack (although I quite like them warm!) and enjoy with a lovely cup of tea. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Drum roll please... It's a girl!

It's been a long old wait, but on Saturday 21 April at 6.06am, our beautiful daughter was born. It hadn't been a good night. In short, I was in early labour and was admitted to the hospital at about 7pm. Unfortunately, the labour didn't progress and I wanted to go home - they wouldn't let me (so different from St. Thomas' - they'd have held the door open, I reckon) and instead opted to break my waters at 4.30am. I wasn't keen - mainly because if it didn't kick start labour, they would then have started pumping me full of drugs to get things going. And after birth number 1, I really didn't want that. But, it wasn't my choice, so no point getting upset about it.

There was no need to worry anyway. Almost instantly, the mega contracts started. They were double the intensity I was experiencing before and we were reassured the second stage of labour was on its way. Perhaps slightly less reassuring was the speed with which things progressed. It took just 90 minutes to go from proper contractions to birth. I wouldn't exactly describe it as a pain-free experience, but at least it was over quickly.

And the end result was totally worth it. What a beauty. Weighing in at a healthy 7lb 3oz, our darling daughter (to be known hence force as Tiny Martini) could not be more perfect. Am I sleeping? No. Am I coping being outnumbered by children in my own home? No. But am I happy? You betcha. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Tick tock, tick tock

For goodness' sake, how much longer? Without doubt, the waiting is the worst part of labour. At least once it's started, you know it will all finally be over at some point in the next few hours. This part, the bit where I wait around, not really able to do much, is much, much worse. Let's just get on with it.

Apparently, however, darling child number three has other ideas (much like her brother and sister before her). So, what to do during these mind-numbing days?

1. Have a cup of tea. Obviously.
2. Clean. Seriously, the bathrooms have never looked so sparkling. 
3. Go shopping. For about 20 minutes, before I discover I can't stand up any more and really need the loo. Again.
4. Log on to work emails. Realise things have moved along nicely without me, and that no one needs anything from me. So, log back on to Twitter. Again.
5. Check the already packed hospital bag. It's still packed. 
6. Check the time. It's 10am. Brilliant. 
7. Probably time for another cup of tea then. 

And so it continues. I think I need to find a decent box-set to distract me...

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Looking for love in London

So, I have this friend (really, I know people often say this and really mean themselves - but rest assured, in my current state, this really is about my friend) and what she really wants is to meet a decent bloke. Unlike some of my other single friends, her list of requirements isn't off the scale ridiculous (he doesn't have to earn a shed load of money, look like George Clooney or have a loose connection to the Royal Family - although these would all be a distinct bonus, naturally) - just a normal guy, who'll treat her with a bit of respect. That's it. Not asking that much, I would have thought, given she lives in a city with more than 3.5 million men in it. 

Apparently, however, this is no easy task. You may ask - is she really trying?  The answer is yes. Internet dating? Check. (Most men seem to be quite up for sex, but not much else.) Singles nights? Check. (Apparently, mainly attended by women.) Flash mob dating? Check. (I have absolutely no idea what this is, but the sound of it makes me grateful I'm married to be honest.)

So, what to do? A quick Google search indicates that the ratio of women to men participating in online dating is 2:1. The odds are definitely not in our favour. Sport would be my default plan if I found myself in a similar situation, but unfortunately, she's really not sporty, and there's nothing worse than doing something and being really bad at it - especially if everyone else is at least semi-acceptable. Which, of course, they would be be, because they're doing it in their spare time and therefore must enjoy it at least a bit.

When I put a straw poll out on Twitter, Guardian Soulmates was recommended. She has tried that, and continues to do so, but it's not leading to much success. I have to admit, I'm at a loss. Neither Mr. Martini nor I have any single male friends to introduce her to, and it seems to be the same with most of our gang - all the men at least are settled down. If you've got any ideas, let me have them. I'll be sure to pass them on.

And of course, I'll be keeping an eye out for eligible doctors at Kingston hospital. On that note, I really should pack that hospital bag. 

Saturday, 24 March 2012

38 weeks and counting...

It's official. I'm exhausted, I can't really walk and I'm in pain. In short, I have to admit defeat. The third pregnancy has won.

Next week, I'll be 39 weeks pregnant. Yes, the photo above reminds me that it's all worth it, but next week is also my last week at work, so it's going to be a tough week. Commuting on crutches is no fun (the SPD is worse this time) and my workload seems to have tripled in a week. Ho hum. 

This pregnancy seems to have been quicker than the others. Have I packed a hospital bag? No. Have we ordered the cot? No. We've identified the new car (read: van) we need, but have we bought one? No. In fact, do we even have any nappies? No. I know people tend to be a bit more relaxed with third children, but this is ridiculous. My mission this weekend is to try and resolve at least some of these. 

All of that said, things always look better in the sunshine. Once the baby is born, I'll be able to move again and play with the Martini children in the garden. I can't wait - and it's not long to go now. Everything else will work out. I hope. 

Friday, 24 February 2012

Splashing about on the river

I really do love my job. I spent the day with Tim Brabants, current Olympic kayaking champion, and it never fails to amaze me how inspirational Olympic athletes are. Their dedication and commitment to their sport is just astounding. I'd love to think that if I could just find the capability to train three times a day, I could be an Olympic champion too, but if I'm really honest, that's probably just not true. (Okay, it's definitely not true, but let's not focus on detail.)

On Sunday, I'm going to the diving at the Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park. This is very exciting - I was really hoping for tickets to the diving for London 2012, but wasn't lucky enough to get them in the ballot - so this is the next best thing. I'll either be seeing the 3m springboard final, or the 10m final. Either one is good for me. 

And last week, Mr. Martini was my representative at the Velodrome. He saw Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton. Not a bad day out...

Sunday, 19 February 2012

People Carrier - the final nail in the coffin

You know you've crossed a line, and are never coming back, when you finally give in and admit you have no choice but to purchase a people carrier. They aren't pretty, and they certainly aren't hip, but unfortunately, regular sized cars are not going to cut it with three kids under three. The size of the car seats alone is enough to foil most cars. Couple that with the need for a Phil and Ted's, a Maclaren and enough kit to rival a small branch of Mothercare and voila - you're in people carrier territory. 

After some serious research (well, as much as you can do in this area - it's as boring as buying bed sheets), we've opted for a Chrysler - the Grand Voyager. This surprises me, because the conversation with the salesman in the shop went as follows:

Him: What are you looking for?
Me: A car that fits a family of five comfortably, including luggage. 
Him: Anything in particular that the car needs to have?
Me: No.Main issue is budget.I'm not bothered too much about mileage - just that it runs well and isn't too old. I seriously don't care what extras it has - it just needs to fit us, and I don't want those random swivel seat things. I want the chairs that fold up into the floor (I have since discovered this is called 'Stow-n-Go', should you ever need this piece of information)
Him: Okay, how about this one (shows me to a monster silver wagon)?
Me: Looks fine. How much is it, and what else do I need to know about it?
Him: Well, it's got leather interior, parking sensors and a DVD system.

Hmmm. Clearly not Salesman of the Year. However, turns out, these cars are the best value for money (and actually, the DVD system has subsequently become an essential). We've come a long way from the days when I used to dream about buying an SLK from Mercedes. 

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Winter skincare - pregnancy style

With the sub-zero temperatures, my skin has hit an all-time low. Pregnancy number one didn't impact my skin at all. In my eighth month of pregnancy number two, my skin suddenly became so dry I needed to apply body oil, which my skin absolutely drank, twice a day. It's now pregnancy number three (I think I need my head tested), I'm seven months in and you'd be forgiven for thinking I'd been on holiday for a month - let me assure you I haven't - with the amount of flaking that's going on. 

So, the skincare regime has been stepped up a notch (or three). Naturally, I have zero time, so the products have to be quick and effective. I'm using Clarins Renew-Plus Body Serum (£37) on my arms and legs, Clarins Bust Beauty Extra-Lift Gel (£40.50 - not cheap, but seen me successfully through two pregnancies, and holding it's own in this one -  if it's not broken and all that...) on my bust and Neal's Yard Mothers Balm (£19.50) on my expanding tummy. I've successfully made it through twice with no stretch marks, and I don't intend to start now. That said, I've used a whole raft of tummy creams during my time and to be honest I don't think one's is better than another - I think the most important thing is to just keep moisturising. The more the better. I have the Bio Oil in reserve for when things get really bad. 

My face is holding up much better. I strongly believe this is due to the absolutely amazing Clarisonic I got for Christmas. I'm currently using the Lancome Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate (£55 for 30ml), which is fantastic, and then just good old Olay Classic Care Beauty Fluid (at £4.69 you really cannot go wrong) - although I've heard good things about Soap & Glory 6-in-1 Superboost Moisture Lotion (£12), and I might switch to that when the Olay runs out. That's right - it's all rock 'n' roll at Martini Towers :-)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Really, I just don't care

On one of my journeys home from work this week, I picked up on this thread from Mumsnet which made me chuckle. It started as a list of things people really couldn't care less about, and then developed into a hate list of all the things that annoy people. I preferred the first bit and thought I'd join in with the top ten things that I just don't care about:

1. Pets. Especially dogs. They are not children.
2. People who put their pets in clothes. See above.
3. Other people's holiday photographs. Well done for going. I'm not interested what it looked like.
4. Your children's sleeping/eating/potty training habits. It's enough to have to deal with my own. I don't need to live through yours too.
5. American 'sports' (I use the term loosely). With the exception of ice hockey - that's okay. World Series? You'd think that would include some other countries. Apparently not. So don't bother me with it.
6. People who moan constantly, but do nothing about whatever's upsetting them. Put up, or shut up. 
7. Reality television programmes. I don't know who you are and I don't care. Don't irritate me.
8. The latest Nintendo/Xbox/Sega-whatever. Who on earth has the time?
9. Switching energy/phone/broadband providers to save about 20p a year. It costs more than that to research it.
10. Cars. If it works when I put the key in the ignition, we're good to go. Couldn't care less what size engine it has, how many miles to the gallon or anything else. 

The worst thing about writing this? Realising I could go on...

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A new dawn in cleansing has arrived at Martini Towers

Now, I'll be honest. When I opened my Christmas present from my sister (who, for those that are not regular readers, lives in New York) I'll openly admit I didn't have a clue what it was. I had never heard of a Clarisonic Mia and I certainly had no idea how to use one. But, I was about to be very pleasantly educated.

A quick bit of google research taught me that:
1. It is the smallest Sonic Skincare Cleansing System, an electric face brush using technology called 'Sonic Cleansing' - a way of brushing your skin to remove dirt and oil while cleansing
2. It is a one-button, one-speed, one-minute device that comes in a variety of colours
3. It's completely waterproof - so its safe for even me to use in the shower
4. It cleanses six times better than with your hands
5. It prepares skin for better absorption of creams, serums and moisturisers
6. It's gentle enough to be used twice a day

(See for yourself on the Clarisonic website)
Moreover, google revealed that this has actually been on the market for a while. My sis assures me these are massive in the US - and in the UK, they've had some very positive reactions too - I've just missed them. Shame on me.

My sister knows me well. I love a gadget and I love my beauty products, so something that combines the two was always going to appeal. And funnily enough, during my recent trip to the States I briefly considered buying the Neutrogena Wave Power Facial Skin Cleanser. I didn't because, although it's considerably cheaper than the Mia (it's available in the UK for £15 - it was about $13 in Target), I decided I'd probably never use it. So, when I opened my present, I was delighted.

The unit is completely waterproof - it has an innovative way of charging - it's called a pLink charger - that attaches magnetically. The first time, they recommend charging for 24 hours, although obviously the voltage in the US is half that of the UK, so it was quicker here. Once charged though, it lasts for 20 minutes. 

I was keen to get on with it. It's so simple to operate, it's untrue. Literally, there is one button and it shuts off automatically after one minute, so you can't overdo it. The brush is gentle yet really effective - it left my skin feeling lovely and smooth. I did think I'd only use it in the evening (mornings are pretty time critical at Martini Towers) but I've been using it twice a day since I charged it.

The pack does come with a small tube of cleanser, and my very generous sister also bought me some Clarisonic Refreshing Gel Cleanser, so  I'm set for the moment. However, you can use with any cleanser, so you don't even have to switch from a brand that you're partial to. Always a winner in my book. 

The brush heads are replaceable, and they recommend changing them every 2-3 months. This is not the cheapest exercise in the world. You can buy the Mia on and at various other outlets for £120. The replacement heads cost around £20. But, and it's a big BUT, I personally think this is money very well spent. (Or, get a generous sibling to buy you one for your birthday). I can't comment (yet) on the long-term results, but over the past week, my skin has improved considerably. I'll report back in three months on the longer term effects. 

My overall verdict: it's pricey, but it's worth it. Buy one. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Travelling BC (before children) vs travelling with kids

Well, we've made it. 9 hours out and 7.5 hours back, on the mighty American Airlines. Despite the aircraft looking concerningly like it was recently used to film Pan Am (seriously, televisions in the ceiling of the plane is something I didn't realise was still possible), the crew were helpful and it we couldn't really have asked for a better experience at the airports or in the air. Booking with BA was a mistake, but that's another story. 

But, I can't help comparing the whole experience to a time when air travel was a very different beast. Before I had children, this is roughly what I had to look forward to when travelling:

- 24 hours before flying - check-in online. Obviously, no issues here. Consider whether or not to pay the 'special offer price' to upgrade. Generally decide against it, thinking I'll save the money to shop at the airport
- 2.5 hours before flying - pack. No real planning required - just throw a few things into a bag. Anything I forget, I'll buy when I get there. Argue with relevant travel partner that this should have been done earlier. Head to the airport.
- 1.5 hours before flying - get to airport. Check in bag and head to security. Curse people with children that take hours to dismantle all their luggage / pushchairs / hand luggage for the x-ray machines. Tut under my breath as I swan past them with only my coat and my handbag to go through the machine. 
- 1.25 hours before flying - shop. Wander round duty free, buy make up / perfume / gadgets / clothes. Have a quick look round Boots and buy whatever it is I've inevitably forgotten.
- 1 hour before flying - head to the bar. No matter what time of day it is, it's always wine o'clock at the airport. 
- 30 minutes before flying - check the board to see if the plane is boarding. If it is, order a final drink to help the journey along.
- 15 minutes before flying - the board now says 'final call'. Consider buying another drink - depends how far away the gate is.
- 5 minutes before flying - head to gate. Discover the gate is bloody miles away, break into a gentle jog and make it just as they are closing the doors. Settle in my seat and wait for the drinks trolley to arrive.

I would like to point out that this system never failed me - I have not yet missed a flight. 

And the routine for the most recent trip - with two children and me being six months pregnant:

- 1 week before flying - start packing for the kids. Also call the airline, discover there are no children's meals and that we can't sit together as a family. I'll do a separate post on this, but in short, after a week of trying we finally discovered that we couldn't check-in online and couldn't do anything to change our horrendous seat allocation. 
- 1 day before flying - finish packing for the kids. Start and finish my packing. We have a total of 10 items - 3 x suitcases (one for me, one for Mr. Martini and one for the Martini children), 2 x car seats, 1 x pushchair, 1 x change bag (for me as hand luggage), 1 x back pack (Mr. Martini's hand luggage) and 2 x trunki's. These are brilliant by the way - highly recommended. For all the toys you need at the airport and on the plane to entertain the children. If I wasn't pregnant, it would also have contained a bottle of vodka for me.
- the night before we leave - load the car so we're ready to go.
- day of the flight - 5.30am - wake up, get dressed and then get the kids up. Give them a snack and then get in the car.
- 6.30am - head to the airport.
- 7am - arrive at the airport. Unload our 10 bags onto two trolleys and push them to the check-in desk. This takes half an hour. Oh, and our flight departs at 11.30am. We are at the check-in desk a record four hours before we take off.
- 7.30am - check-in. As previously mentioned, we couldn't do this online, so it takes quite a bit of time.
- 8am - we now only have four hand luggage bags - light in comparison! Prepare ourselves for the security checks. Queue patiently, get stopped, have to go through our bags, produce the toddler food supplies and wait for them to be security checked. Try and stop the kids running back through the security scanners, which they find very entertaining. Try not to irritate all the other passengers with all our coats, bags, shoes and other random kit while the security guards check our food. Fail to stop Elder Martini riding around on his trunki making ne-naw noises and sometimes knocking into other people's legs. (His trunki looks like a fire engine.) Make huge sighs of relief when we're finally given permission to progress and head through to the air-side section of the terminal
- 9.15am - head straight to the airport lounge (okay, some habits are too hard to give up). Get the kids breakfast. Attempt (and generally fail) to get a cup of tea and some toast whilst the kids are distracted looking at the planes. This doesn't last long. 
- 10am - begin checking the screens to see when the gate opens. 
- 10.30am - head to the gate to get a good spot close to the front. Make ourselves known to the crew and ask if we can board early. We can't - families don't get priority - so just wait until our row block is called.
- 11am - settle on the plane. Unpack half the toys from the trunkis and get the water beakers ready for the kids. And then sit back to prepare for the nine hour flight. 

What a difference two children make. Weird thing is, I wouldn't have it any other way. (Although I'll admit, I did look ever so slightly wistfully at the duty free shop at T3 as we walked straight past it.)