Mother’s Day

“Mum was led into the courtroom.

It was a grand room and people were sitting in the pews staring at her intently as she walked in. Some murmured things under the breath, but mum couldn’t hear what they were saying.

She was wearing her best shoes, and they were making an annoying clicking sound for every step she took.

She couldn’t see her mum, but Mum hoped she would be allowed to sit next to her.

“We have to ask you a few important questions” they had said. “It’s about your mum and her students”.

They said that it was important that Mum told the truth.

“Your mummy is in a lot of trouble Anna” they said.

Mum was getting more and more nervous. The courtroom was packed. She recognised some of the villagers from home, but most were unfamiliar, unfriendly faces.

She was ushered to the front on the courtroom before the judge. He was an old stern looking man who didn’t look up at her once.

Her new best shoes were hurting her toes and she wished she hadn’t worn them. Auntie had said not to wear them.

Mum suddenly sees her and cries out.

Her mum is standing to her right side on a make shift raised part of the courtroom, flanked by two secret police officers. Her hands are tied behind her back. Her hair is tied back in a neat bun and she’s wearing a soft grey suit. Her eyes are heavy, she looks tired but she’s smiling at Mum. “I love you” she mouths to Mum.

“Silence in the courtroom” the judge shouts, his voice echoing throughout the room.

Mum is trying to fight back her tears. They are stinging her eyes.

Her shoes are hurting her toes.

“No crying” they had said. “The judge doesn’t like crying”.

Mum doesn’t want to get her mum into trouble. She mustn’t cry.

They ask a lot of questions. “Had she seen her mum outside of school with the students?” “Is your mum interested in Politics?” “Is your mum an anti-communist?”

Mum answered no to of their questions. She kept her eyes firmly on her Mum who was smiling back at her throughout. “Keep looking at me” mum whispered.

She looks tired, mum thought. She wished she could hug her and Mum would tell all would be okay and that they could finally go home…”

My mum Anna was put on the stand to testify against my Granny Helena when she was six years old. This was post war Poland and anyone who was deemed “anti-communist” or “anti-establishment” was punished heavily.

Helena was a teacher and had allowed her 17 year old students to use her classroom to meet and discuss politics.

A right we take for granted.

Helena was a WW2 Hero and it was seen as an embarrassment that she had allowed these boys to foster anti communistic ideas and a “free” Poland. As such, the government would have to set an example…

Helena was sentenced to prison for 8 years and the boys were sentenced to 4-12 years.

This year on Mother’s Day I feel incredibly proud and humbled to celebrate two extraordinary and brave women – my mum Anna and grandmother Helena. ❤️

Love, Jess

Adorable Cloud Macarons

I don’t know about you guys but I’m a sucker for a Wedding, Christening, a Welcome party, Baby gender reveal party and any other joyous family occasion. I love them!

But I’m a wreck. Generally before, during and after the event.

I used to be more cynical, but since kids I can often be seen ugly crying at your events. Soz.

Our best friend sang. I cried. Photo cred: Matilda Söderström

Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, maybe it’s the hormone, maybe it’s the wine, I don’t know, but it just gets me.

Father dancing with daughter – I cry. Photo montage – I cry.

Mum speech – I cry.

Poem readings – I cry.

Puppies or babies – I cry.

Recently we celebrated our youngest addition, baby Laban, to our extended family tree. It was a wonderful party with family and friends with lots of tears (obvs) and laughter.

Camilla, my niece, bestie and Laban’s mother, is a fantastic baker and she made these adorable cloud macarons that I just had to share!

Here is the recipe:

170 g icing sugar

110 g sifted almond flour

90 g egg whites (about 3)

2 tablespoons sugar

For the Passion fruit filling:

125 g white chocolate

50 g passion fruit purée

2 teaspoons of honey

2 tablespoons double cream

Preheat your oven to 125. Sift and then mix the almond flour and icing sugar in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites. Top tip: Make sure the bowl is clean and dry beforehand!

Add the sugar and keep whipping until smooth and glossy.

Now carefully add the almond flour and icing sugar and the food colouring (if you’re using it).

Mix until the mixture is smooth and lumpfree.

Top tip!

1. Prep your baking sheet and make sure you’ve marked the size and shape of your macaron beforehand – it’ll make it super easy and straightforward to pipe your macaroons later.

2. Have a little bowl with water next to your baking sheet for dipping your finger and gently pressing down the “ends” with!

Now pipe your macarons onto a baking sheet. Let the macarons rest 45 minutes.

Bake for about 20 minutes in the lower part of your oven.

One way of knowing they’re done is to gently lift one and if you can easily remove it from the baking paper then you’re done.

Let your macaroons cool completely.

For the filling:

Break down the chocolate into smaller pieces.

Weigh the passionfruit purée.

Heat the chocolate and passion fruit gently in pan.

Stir gently from time to time. The filling is done when the white chocolate has melted completely and the filling is smooth and glossy.

Now add your food colouring and set the mixture in your fridge for at least two hours.

Once set and you’re happy with the mixture its ready to be piped in between your macarons.

Happy Cloud

Enjoy! ❤️

Love, Jess

Syltgrottor/Thumbprint cookies

I love baking and my kids love baking.

I don’t however always love baking with the kids. Often it can be stressful, messy and chaotic.

But it CAN be enjoyable. What you need is some fool proof easy recipes and you’ll be ready for anything. Well, most things.

I go for recipes that are straightforward and that requires some kind of decorating part later. Kids are particularly ace at this part!

(Unless you’re a perfectionist like me and do find it mildly stressful too. You learn to breathe through it.)

I recently found this recipe in a Swedish magazine and it’s a winner. It’s definitely fool proof and your cookies will always turn out well! Your kids will love making these too, adding the jam and whatnot.

So as part of my Swedish, easy to make, kid friendly recipes, I’m going to kick things off with Syltgrottor (I hear they’re similar to Thumbprint cookies? Can anyone confirm?) .

Syltgrottor are a mixture between a shortbread and a Viennese type biscuit.

This recipe is a winner, and has never let me down.

***The key here is to not overwork the dough and chilling the dough before baking***

• 4 1/2 dl flour

• 1 dl caster sugar

• 1 tsp bakingpowder

• 2 tsp vanilla extract

• 200 g butter (room temp)

For the filling:

Your favourite type of jam. Recently we used Cloudberry and Wild Strawberry jam.

Recipe:

Turn your oven to 200°C. (180c if fan assisted)

Cream your butter and sugar. Once creamed, add your vanilla extract. Mix your dry ingredients in separate bowl.

Now quickly mix the ingredients until it all just comes together. (Don’t overwork the mixture!)

Let your dough rest in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.

Roll the dough into a cylinder and then pinch off and roll each small piece, (about the size of a walnut), into small balls.

Now place the gently into fairy cake tins. Make a hole in the cookie using your thumb and add your jam. Pop into your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.

Take the cookies out and let them cool on a cooling rack.

Enjoy. ❤️

Love, Jess

Three is the magic number

Do you have two kids but still have that niggling feeling in your stomach that you’re not quite done?

Do you miss those little butterflies turning into little kicks as your baby grows inside you?

Oh and the baby smell?

Yeah. I hear you. I know because I felt it too. My husband and I talked about it a lot. I told him early on that I’d like a big family.

I’m one of a three and for me it’s the natural set up. With three you’re never lonely; you always have someone who’ll play with you. You can and will learn from your older and younger siblings. Our household was sometimes (often!) crazy and hectic but ultimately very happy. Brooks had a more traditional upbringing (whatever that means?) with one sibling but he was open to the idea of us having a big family.

Question Time:

“So what’s it like having three?”

People ask me this all the time. Well, it’s hard to give a straight answer but here are some of my musings…

1. You’ll be Busy

Yes. You’ll be busy. Always. From now on, just assume you’ll be busy.

(Of course, at the moment it’s also full on as baby Alfie needs our undivided attention with nappy changes and napping and feeding but our other two are a bit more independent. But still, there is Ballet, football practice, guitar lessons, piano lessons, play dates, tennis, TaeKwon-do, Baby Sign class, jabs, Parent evenings, Carol concerts, Nativities, drama performances, dance recitals…. The list is endless.)

2. Friends

If you didn’t know who your friends were before three kids, you definitely will after. You’ll need help with dropping and picking up from school, moral support, pep talks, wine outings and cake sharing… it takes a village and all that!

3. Money Money Money

Makes the world go round right? Yep. There’s a financial impact. You need one more of everything. More food. More clothes. One more room in your hotel on holiday. You’ll need a bigger car. We got a seven seater in order to get the brood around.

We also needed more room in the house. We recently made our attic into two rooms and bathroom and it’s been a lifesaver.

4. I got this.

The main difference I notice in myself is my confidence. I know what I’m doing and people generally leave me to it. Yes, I still get the unsolicited help but it just doesn’t bother me in the same way. It’s hard one to explain, but i feel like a super mum.

5. Pass the coffee

You’ll be tired. Oh so tired. I didn’t realise I could be this tired. But it’s okay, you KNOW it’s just a stage and the kids will grow up and you’ll have other wonderful oddities to battle. Remember, you’ve got this.

6. A messy kitchen is a sign of happiness

Yeah. This one. Just resign yourself to the fact that your house will never be tidy until they’re at least twenty. One part of your house will be squeaky clean and then the children arrive and it’s back to square one. But as they grow they’ll learn to tidy up more. Swings and roundabouts.

7. Washing you say?

Invest in a good Washing Machine, a good Tumble dryer and a large dining/kitchen table that could hold a lot of clothing/washing and a lot of sorting clothes baskets. That’s all I’m going to say on this one.

8. All the love

You’ll feel at the end of your tether, everything’s gone wrong and then suddenly you’ll have three little ones snuggled up in bed with you and all is good in this world.

So yeah. Not an easy decision. After much deliberation my husband and I decided that we would try for number three.

Whilst we feel tired, (oh so tired), skint, stressed and confused at times it’s by far the best decision we ever made. We have all the love and are complete, happy and fulfilled.

Love,

Jess ❤️

Walnut and Coffee Birthday Cake

We had an amazing day yesterday celebrating Brooks’ birthday.

We ventured to a new restaurant at The Grove, Hertfordshire on the Saturday (a review to follow) and on the Sunday was spent in our local park.

All in all – a lovely birthday weekend.

We’re so lucky to live in the beautiful countryside with so many parks and lakes nearby. We used to live in London for years, but once we had Jackson we decided to move further out.

It’s honestly been the best decision for us as a family. (Albeit I miss London terribly of course! Luckily it’s only a 20 minute train ride away!)

Anyway. Cake.

I tried a new cake recipe! Brooks’ favourite cake is Coffee and Walnut cake so that’s what I made. The result was super tasty and I’ve shared the recipe here:

Ingredients:

• 225g butter

• 225g caster sugar

• 4 eggs

• 50ml strong espresso coffee

• 225g self-raising flour

• about 75g walnuts

For the buttercream topping

• 125g unsalted butter (room temperature)

• 200g icing sugar

• 50ml strong espresso coffee

Decorations:

Walnut halves and any chocolate bars you like. I used Wispas, Mini Fudges, Minstrels, Ballerina cookies (Swedish cookies – similar to a Chocolate Jammy Dodger), Mini Reese’s Cups, KitKat.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

2. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until very light and pale.

3. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well to completely incorporate each egg before adding the next egg.

4. Add the espresso to the mixture and stir well.

5. Add the flour and walnuts and stir well to completely combine.

6. Spoon the cake mixture into two lined and greased 20cm/8in cake tins.

7. Transfer to the oven to bake 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the cake is golden-brown.

8. Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

9. For the buttercream topping, beat the butter and icing sugar together in a small bowl until pale and light.

10. Add the espresso and mix well.

11. Spread the buttercream over the top of each cake, then place one cake on top of the other.

12. Decorate the top of the cake with walnut halves as well as all the favourite chocolate bars!

Last Day of Christmas

Happy New Year!

I took some time off writing to focus on our family. Hope you all enjoyed the holidays.

Growing up, on the last day of Christmas, we’d always go to the “Julgransplundring” – or Christmastree plunder – generally organised by our local church.

We’d dance around the tree, sing songs and eventually take the tree and all the decorations down, eat Christmas food, drink and be merry.

Any edible decoration found on the Christmas tree was game, and often there was loads hidden in the Christmas crackers.

(In Sweden we place our homemade crackers in between the tree branches. We normally fill them with sweets and small gifts.)

At home we’d also have a final Christmas feast; using up any frozen leftovers and some extra bits.

We’d smash the Gingerbread house and have that for dessert along with whatever mum had baked such as cinnamon buns and saffron buns.

What I love the most about the tradition is that it makes something that it’s rather tedious, like taking the tree and all the Christmas decorations down, fun and exciting for all the family. In fact, I’m pretty sure why we do this.

We somehow keep some of the Christmas magic going AND get help from the kids. Win win.

We had a lovely day yesterday. Maggie and I baked cinnamon buns and saffron buns and I prepared a Christmas feast comprising a chicken roast with all the trimmings as well as Jansson’s frestelse, beetroot salad, prinskorv and herring.

We have one more day off before school so we’re off down to the lakes for a quick stroll with our friends.

2019 is going to be a great year.

Jessica’s Black Forest Gateaux Trifle

“Så mörk är natten i midvintertid.

Men se, då nalkas Lucia.

Hon kommer, den goda, med ljuset hit.

Hon kommer med hälsning om julefrid.

Hon kommer med ljus i sin krona.”

Yesterday was Santa Lucia day – the celebration of light. It’s one of my favourite Swedish traditions. The origins is the story of Saint Lucy and marks the beginning of Christmastide. It always falls on the 13th December.

The legend of the martyr Saint Lucy is rather grim. During the Roman Empire, the Christians were being persecuted. Many hid in the catacombs, and Saint Lucy would venture down there with trays of food. As it was so dark, but in need of full use of her hands, she wore a candle lit wreath on her head to light up her way with her tray of food. She was later killed for refusing to marry a pagan.

Nowadays, we all get up super early and head to our church. Normally fighting through snow and frost and huddle up inside. We all pile in to the church and sit down in the pews. The church will be decorated beautifully and everyone seems happy, in spite the early rise. And in spite of having to sit so close to one and other. (Swedes don’t like to have sit close next to strangers.)

Then we patiently wait for Lucia to enter the church. Wearing a white dress (white representing innocence. Cheerful!) and a red sash (red symbolising the blood of martyrdom. Again, cheerful.), and a gold wreath/crown with candles on her head (the candles symbolises the fire that refused to take Saint Lucy’s life….Yep.), walking at the head of the procession.

And it gets me every time.

The Nordic countries have very little sunlight in winter.

And from the darkness that engulfs the church, suddenly this glorious light appears, gradually filling the space. The heat from the candles warming us.

And the singing. The beautiful hymns. Softly in the beginning and then progressively building in strength.

(Have a look and listen here)

This year I was invited to talk about Lucia at my daughter’s school. I dressed up in my white dress and crown, (yes, I have my own set!), brought extra white dresses and candles for our very own Lucia procession and gingerbread cookies.

My goodness. It was so beautiful. The kids were so curious and asked lots of questions like:

From “which candle is your favourite?” (Pointing to the candles in my crown)

“Is that your nightdress?” to “when are we eating the cookies?”

We all sang Lucia songs and ate the gingerbread cookies.

Because that’s the other thing about Lucia day. It’s a Feast and we eat. A lot.

Speaking of Feasts – I tried a new trifle recipe that went down very well with my friends that I’d like to share with you. It was so easy to make! I’ve tweaked a recipe my friend Erika shared with me.

Jessica’s Lucia Black Forest Trifle

Ingredients

Good quality custard

100g good quality chocolate

400 g brownie bites

50g Black cherry jam

About 100g Cherry brandy

300g cherries (pitted, if you can get them)

100g amaretti biscuits

400ml double cream

Decorations:

100g Toasted flaked almonds

Chocolate curls

Cherries

1. Melt the chocolate, either in a microwave in short bursts or over a bowl of simmering water on the stove. Leave to cool but not to get too stiff.

2. Gently stir in your custard and mix the two together.

3. Now cut the brownies or chocolate cake into fairly thin slices and arrange in the bottom of the bowl. Spread one layer of cherry jam and then continue with the second layer of brownies and spread over more jam

4. Pour over the cherry brandy, then sprinkle over the cherries.

5. Put your amaretti biscuits into a bag and bash gently with a rolling pin until a coarse like sand consistency. Don’t worry if there’s smaller and bigger bits. The difference in texture will taste wonderful.

6. Sprinkle your amaretti sand over the cherries.

7. Now pour over your custard in an even layer.

8. Put some clingfilm over your trifle and leave to chill until just before serving.

10. Whisk the double cream in a bowl until it forms soft peaks, then smooth this over the custard.

11. Decorate with your toasted almond flakes, chocolate curls and cherries.

Enjoy. ❤️

Love, Jess