How was your half term? I’m still adjusting to the fact we have a kid old enough to have our arrangements dictated by school holidays. We decided to spend our February half term on a family skiing holiday in the French Alps, with 9 of us over 3 generations celebrating my father in law’s 70th birthday.

We went to our usual resort in Montgenevre, France, just over the Italian border, flying to Turin and then getting a transfer. It’s part of the Milky Way Hautes-Alpes, roughly where the 2006 Winter Olympics was held and has been a ski resort since 1907. At 1,860m, the resort is good and high which means the snow is nice and reliable.

I obviously took loads of photos but I also filmed some bits and got M to as well, which I put together into the following video, if you’d like to see.

M’s family have been coming to Montgenevre since he was in ski school himself and we’ve been there several times together too. This perhaps isn’t the resort for you if your entire party are composed of expert black run adrenalin junkies (mind you, Candide Thovex, an extreme skier, was filming in the resort this week) but for mixed ability family friendly skiing we think Montgenevre has enough challenging reds and blacks combined with lovely gentle bunny slopes and some gorgeous sweeping motorway type greens all the way down the mountain to keep everyone happy.

Admittedly there is a lot of preparation in going skiing with a baby/ young children but with the right attitude and a good deal of balancing it is one of the most enjoyable and relaxing holidays we have taken.

There is no getting around the cost of a ski holiday but with some preparation it can be a moderate rather than extortionate bill. We take the middle ground between a fully catered chalet and total self catering by booking everything through a company which specialise in making ski holidays easy: Ski Etoile. We pay a little bit more for things than if we organised them ourselves but the beauty is everything is organised for us, even the chalet and transfers are booked for us. We just tell them our dates, requirements, book flights and arrive at Turin and are picked up by a driver. Ski school, ski hire and lift passes are all ready and waiting for us and there is a locker in the ski hire place for us to use which means we don’t have to drag our kit up and down to the slopes. A cot and a highchair were brought to the chalet and we didn’t have to worry about anything the whole week, whilst still have the enjoyment and freedom of our own chalet.

The two kids spent every morning in ski school, whilst I looked after Buster, hung out with my mother in law and enjoyed coffees in the sunshine. M, his brother and Dad used the 3 hours in the morning to ski hard. In the afternoons M and I went skiing together whilst the kids ate lunch with their grandparents and then we all hung out together, skiing or tobogganing, before heading back to the chalet for baths, dinner and lazy evenings.

I had a ski lesson on the first day with the excellent Barbara from ESF which Gerry at Ski Etoile organised for me. The great thing about using Ski Etoile was that we could just ask Gerry to sort things out and then we paid the bill at the end of the week – we were able to hire sledges, for example, and my father-in-law’s boot broke, so he just spoke to the ski hire shop he sorted him some boots and they were added to our invoice. Barbara really gave me confidence to ski at my preferred speed, reminding me that if I was “taking pleasure” from the experience, what did it matter what speed everyone else whooshed past at!

Pip and her cousin both did Club Piou-Piou every morning and thought it was fantastic. They made friends, spoke French and learnt the skiing basics which we then put into practice together. I will probably follow this with another post on the specifics if anyone is interested?

Buster, on the other hand, spent a lot of time Alpine napping but also seemed to thoroughly enjoy his first ever snow experience. Next year he will join the childcare in the mornings which will mean M and I can do some more skiing together – we didn’t book anything this time as I wasn’t sure how much skiing I could or wanted to do, as I haven’t really done any exercise of that impact since he was born as my pelvic floor has rather been in recovery mode since delivery a 10lb 8oz baby!

There is so much more I want to say, so I think I will split this into two posts, including some of my top tips for skiing with kids, and recommendations of things to pack!

It seemed an apt day to publish this when part of the tube is even more delayed due to strikes, and I spent my 3rd morning in a row waiting for 6 trains to pull out of Finsbury Park station before I could get on one myself. Research by Citrix Go To Meeting suggests we spend over 11 days a year commuting and that the average commute is 45 minutes – which would be my commute length if I didn’t have to spend a good proportion of time waiting for a train I can fit inside…

Which is why I really like Fridays. On Fridays, I work from home. I make some coffee, do the school run and am back at my desk at home by 9am, blood pressure so much lower, feeling so much calmer, and ready to begin work. If I have a lot on, I can also use my commuting time to spend working, gaining an extra 2 hours of useful time back. I also use it to spend more time with Pip, and have some contact with her school, which I think is hugely beneficial to us all. Additionally, I use my lunchtime to catch up with the laundry and housework, meaning we can spend more time as a family at the weekend. Win, win, win!

My company prides itself on being flexible and family friendly, but it is still a big corporate and working from home even once a week is not standard. I wish I could work more days from home particularly as I think meetings are pretty easy using new technology for everyone to dial in from home and it is just habit preventing a more flexible approach. I wish we could get to a point where management can see the benefits that I can see… I gain back an extra 8 hours a month working from home, 5 more than the average 3 that the research suggests and even if that is split between time for me and time for work, that is still a whole half a day per month in terms of person hours.

Do you ever work from home? What do you do with your extra time?

Collaborative post

I’ve always been rather a fan of the January reflections but only in alternate years have I managed to post any of my thoughts for self-improvement for the year ahead here at The Little Pip. One of the (some would argue many) downsides to working a full time job in addition to writing a blog like this is that time is limited. Stating the effing obvious of course but I am good at spinning many plates and still finding a few minutes for writing. It helps of course that I am happy to press publish without too much agony but still, it’s something I enjoy, need and therefore I do find time to do.

I went back to work after maternity leave at the start of the month. Somewhat unrelated but I mention it because I used the time away from squeezing in blog related admin to spend time hanging out with my children and family, recovering from at least 8 weeks of back to back lurgies and generally reflecting on why my most recent attempts at new year’s resolutions have all remained resolutely the same. Same old stuff. The only progress I have made is the one where I wondered what to do about a second child. That answer of course came last April.

Looking back, I suppose I will wonder what took me so long. I think I was just approaching things wrong. I suddenly realised that I have not made a conscious choice about how I/we want to live. Blame everything I like from parents to being a generation X renter, but I have been making my life decisions the wrong way round. A work related strategy for me starts with considering the outcome and then working out how to get to that place, but instead of starting from the outcome, I’ve been plodding along with a whole bucket load of assumptions. I’m still not sure what my desired outcome is, mind you, but I’m hopeful a new mindset will help me find it.

So, I have decided this year I will not have resolutions as such but will get behind a trend for which I am at least five years too late and choose a word for the year. No matter which way I frame this, the word I’ve chosen is negative but I have decided to overlook this because sometimes the negative can be a positive; just as a decent amount of white space on a page brings additional meaning, so will reframing my resolutions by starting with a more negative concept.

My word is reduce – stuff, debt, stress, negative thoughts, wasting time with pointless multitasking and so on. I’m not going to make big proclamations about not buying anything, or stopping blogging, or reducing time on the internet because I like doing all of those things. What I do not like though is the stress with which the stuff in my flat raises or the personal anguish I feel after I have wasted an evening neither doing something useful online nor watching a film because I have been doing both, simultaneously, and therefore actually doing neither. Instead, I am going to try and approach things with a more mindful or meaningful outlook – being more conscious of why I am doing things and what I would like life to be like. An outcome based focus, if you like. Do I actually need the thing I am buying or am I doing it because up until now buying things has made me feel better. I do not have to keep things because I have always had them – a lot of the things I keep out of some misplaced sentimentality are just things, and not even ones intended to be long lasting. It is ok to get rid of things people have given me, or that I do not like, or simply do not have space for.

A major change in mindset came after watching The Minimalists documentary on Netflix. Whilst I realise it is a privilege to have earned or acquired enough money to have many possessions and a privilege to be able to let them go, it is also simple reality. I can make more mindful decisions in the future but lamenting how I got to here is not going to change anyone else’s situation.

Two things really resonated: “Use things; love people” and the more practical 20/20 rule – I do not need to hold onto things ‘just in case’ because I might need them again if they can be replaced in under 20 minutes for less than £20. I do not need to keep things which are worn out or tired because I might want to use them again – particularly clothes and household items.

As to how this fits with blogging and my search for a beautiful life and enjoyment of recommending products, that will not change. I will still work with brands that I like and use their products and will be happily recommending away as I do now, because I enjoy doing it. It is up to each person as to what they buy, bring into their lives and use – I do not see the two things as mutually exclusive.

More soon…