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

Travel Review – Swiss Farm Henley

Travelling with kids – Camping…

I know. Why would you voluntarily put yourself, and your whole family, in a tent for the weekend?

Not only that – but you’d bring all your friends along too! (though good thing obviously!) And a dog!

We’ve been going camping since Jackson was in Reception with a few of his school friends and we always have a blast. It’s a firm favourite of ours and we always look forward to it every year.

The kids play and parents get to chill, drink wine, eat and catch up.

The Girls

We normally have a BBQ and make s’mores, (also firm favourite!) and we all and chip in and share food and snacks. It’s beautiful.

It’s completely stripped back, with all our focus firmly on our kids.

TENT

We have a fantastic bell tent that we bought from Soulpad a few years back. I can’t recommend this tent enough. It comfortably fits us all (2 adults, 3 kids and a dog), all our gear and food. It’s relatively cool in the day time and warm at night. Check out the website – I promise it’s worth every penny.

Inside our Bell Tent

This year we decided to head to Swiss Farm in Henley and boy – it was fabulous. It’s a great camp site! I completely understand the hype now. Staff are so helpful and nice from the get go at reception. We stayed in a deluxe pitch (with electrical point, park bench and water point close by) and it was well worth the extra. We had so much space! The site is very well looked after too – everything is super clean and accessible. The showers and toilets were fantastic, and easy to find. Again, really fresh and super clean.

Blue Skies

We loved the pool area. We were lucky (?) to travel here during the heat wave so the water was a welcomed break. I don’t know how well I would have coped inside the tent when the sun was blazing down on us. Buddy the dog could come to the restaurant next door to the pool and this was a life saver. It meant one of us could sit and have a coffee with the dog whilst the rest of the gang went for a swim. But it also meant that he could come with us when we went for a beautiful cooked breakfast in the morning!

The only gripe was that people were putting towels out in the morning session to save sun loungers in the pool area. I mean… Really?

Mags.

Some of the families left their towels on the sun loungers, then kept popping out for lunch and later dinner – making those sun loungers out of action in between… Anyway. I was desperate to get an umbrella for the baby and my porcelain skinned children! Next year I will bring my own umbrella.

We had dinner in the restaurant twice and it was really nice. I can really recommend a visit here if fancy a break away from the usual camping food. Order the fish and chips – it’s amazing! Followed by any of the breakfast dishes. You’ll thank me later!

Eggs Benedict. Beautiful.

The staff are so friendly and service minded. Always smiling. They can’t do enough for you. Our food order got mixed up twice, but they were quick to rectify the problem.

The Gang

Livermore Top Tips:

  1. Bring your own pool umbrella. No joke.
  2. They’re meant to operate a “one session per day system” whereby you can use the pool for one particular 2 1/2 hour session only, but this wasn’t in place when we where there so the pool was rammed. I reckon head for the early slot if you fancy a swim with little ones.
  3. Head into Henley if you fancy a change of scenery. It’s gorgeous.
  4. Check the calendar before you head here. There was some sort of music festival in Henley when we stayed and the music was SO LOUD. We didn’t sleep.
  5. There is so much for the kids to do here. Playgrounds, swings, walks through the woods, the pool. You’ll be spoiled for choice
Erika and Karen
Sunkissed.

Easy Peasy S’mores

“First I drink the coffee, then I do the things.”

Sums me up pretty accurately.

It can’t be any kind of coffee though. I’m quite particular. It has to be strong, with a healthy helping of frothy milk in a nice mug or cup. Yes, slightly OCD perhaps but there we are. I am a mum of three, I don’t have lots of luxuries left in this world.

But I also really like to experiment with coffee beans. I like to mix in some hazelnut coffee with my normal coffee beans. In time for Halloween and thanksgiving it’s Pumpkin spice.

Not the syrup mind you – it has to be the actual bean. I find the syrup too sickly for my liking.

My absolute favourite is an Amaretto Flavoured coffee from the Little Coffee Box Co. Just like dunking a gorgeous biscotti in your coffee!

Recently I discovered S’mores Coffee and it’s amazing. It tastes just like you’d expect it to. I can imagine sitting by the campfire with a cup of coffee slowing devouring some scrummy S’mores at the same time.

Speaking of S’mores. I found a really easy peasy recipe online I’d like to share with you.

Most S’mores recipes call out for Graham crackers. Unfortunately we don’t have them in England and so I was thrilled when I discovered this recipe which uses McVities Milk Chocolate Biscuits.

This recipe is so simple. Honestly, It’ll only take a few minutes to prep, cook and eat.

You’ll need:

⁃ Milk Chocolate Digestives

⁃ Marshmallows

⁃ Skewers or thin sticks

• Place the biscuit on a plate, chocolate-side up. This will be the base of your S’more.

• Set the top biscuit close by.

• Prep your bamboo sticks by soaking them in water

• Thread your marshmallows on the bamboo skewer

• Toast your marshmallows over an open flame until they’re hot and soft in the middle. If they catch on fire, just blow them out and continue toasting until browned. They’ll be even nicer!!

• Slide the toasted marshmallows onto the biscuit (chocolate side) and sandwich the top cookie on top.

• Press down slightly until the marshmallow oozes out the sides a little… Heaven.

Enjoy ❤️

Love, Jess

The National Trust and the unfortunate tale of Lady Arabella Stuart

When I was little I used to subscribe to a Swedish comic series called Kamratposten. It tackled all the issues a nine year year old might face; friendships, jealousy, love, hate, and most importantly not getting Applejack for a Christmas present.

I’m still upset about that one.

In my teens I moved on to Veckorevyn. The Swedish equivalent of Teen Vouge if you like. It had lots of teen advice, interviews with Hollywood and pop stars, make up tips and shiny posters. Who doesn’t need to know what Jason Priestley and Luke Perry’s favourite breakfast cereal is?

(Seriously though. What are their favourite breakfast cereal?! I might have to find out!)

And don’t worry Petra – Luke Perry is still yours!

As an adult I’ve tried a few subscriptions – a certain popular health mag, (in the hope that I would somehow become more healthy just by reading it), a monthly cookbook club, the National Geographics, Science magazines, Mother&Baby, Snack subscriptions and more.

There is one subscription though that I would wholeheartedly recommend, and it’s a gem.

The National Trust

(https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk) describes themselves like this:

“We look after special places throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland for ever, for everyone.

…We restore them, protect them and open them up to everyone. For the Trust, conservation has always gone hand-in-hand with public access.”

We are so fortunate in this country to have so much history, so many stunning places to visit, and just being able to walk around these grand old estates and houses, learning about its past owners.

We’ve been to quite a few National Trust places and they all have their own individual charm.

There’s generally beautiful gardens and/or woods to explore, gorgeous food – often locally sourced and a gift shop. (I love a gift shop.)

It’s the perfect day out for the whole family.

When we go there’s mum and dad, grandparents, a 90-year old great granny, kids, a baby and dog. A tall order!

When we stayed in the Peak District last we visited Hardwick Hall.

Built in the late 1590’s the house and the furnishings were very impressive, but what really stuck with me was the story.

Its first owner Bess of Hardwick was an extraordinary woman. She came from humble beginnings to becoming the second wealthiest woman in the country, after Queen Elizabeth. She married four times, and seemed a remarkable woman for her times.

This is also a stark contrast to poor Lady Arbella Stuart, Bess of Hardwick’s grand daughter. Related to the Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots, she was thrown into the middle of royal intrigues and was practically imprisoned at Hardwick Hall for most of her life.

Bess brought her up to be fit for the royal court. She was introduced to Queen Elizabeth who was very impressed by the girl. But when Arbella’s aunt, Mary Queen of Scots was executed she fell into Queen Elizabeth’s bad books and Bess had to keep Arabella away from all society.

As an only way out of her house arrest, Arabella fought for her right to marry a man of her own choosing.

She almost did manage to escape to France with her beloved, William Seymour, but was caught and put in the Tower where she died aged only 39.

How there’s not been a series about this house, and these remarkable women, is a mystery to me!

And we’ll need a King James and a William Seymour. I wonder if Jason Priestley and Luke Perry can do English accents?

Love, Jess