Center Parcs Woburn review

I’ve said it before – Center Parcs is a Parents Paradise.  Everything is set up with little ones in mind. I mean, everything.

I ain’t going to lie though – it’s expensive.  One week at Center Parcs easily equals a week’s holiday in the sun somewhere abroad.  Coming to, and in some degree, staying at Center Parcs is expensive.

But I guess this is where you’ll have to ponder the pros and cons and decide what’s important for you.

We stayed for a week during the Easter Holidays.  We had to queue to check in this time but it was generally smooth and straightforward.  It was tricky to find a parking space as it was absolutely rammed but we got there in the end.

The park itself is lovely and the perfect size. Big enough to not feel on top of other people, but you can easily get everywhere on foot.

We stayed in an Executive Dog friendly lodge in the Oak area, close to the Aqua Sana.

The Accommodation

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Our digs.

We loved our lodge. It was clean and fresh and it had all the amenities you could think of. Bring extra washing up liquid and dishwasher tablets though! They don’t give you enough initially. Also, if you’re staying a week, and is a coffee lover like us, then I suggest you bring some spare coffee pods for the Nespresso machine.

Our lodge was adapted for dogs but you’d never really know – it was really super clean and didn’t smell of dog at all.

We had a two bed lodge this time and it felt very spacious. Each room had an ensuite; one with a shower and one with a jacuzzi bath. The two older kids shared a room and loved it!

There’s an outside area with table and chairs and a BBQ.

The kitchen area was great. Really clean and it had pretty much everything you need for cooking for the family. There is a wine cooler which is a bonus.  The freezer is TINY, like a freezer compartment – keep that in mind if you’re bringing food from home.

Not that you need to bring lots of food. I would say bring food for the first night (unless you’re planning to eat out every night) and then top up from the local Parc Market if necessary.  It’s a great little shop and has a great variety of products.

What To Do

Honestly, Centre Parcs Woburn has so much to offer. There are loads of outside activities. Boating on the lake, riding your bike everywhere (though it’s quite hilly!), feeding the ducks in the lake, crazy golf, go for a play in the numerous play areas or just go for a walk – you are spoilt for choice!

We brought our bikes and it really worked well for us. Yes, it’s hilly, but our older kids really enjoyed the experience. We learned our lesson from last year and had bought a bike trailer for Maggie and Alife to chill in.  (You can find some really nice second hand ones on eBay)

You can pay to do activities too. Jackson, Kiri and Brooks headed to the Falconry Centre for an hour with the big birds. It was an amazing experience; the bird handler really took the time to explain and show how to handle the birds.

Maggie and Oscar the Owl

We did Aqua jetting again as well as Archery, Climbing, Pottery, Ballet Class, Teddy Bear Making, Maggie and I met the gorgeous Owls.

Swimming

But the main focus was the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. The kids, and grown-ups loved it here.

There are different zones or splash areas depending on your age and something to suit everyone. The big boys loved the Rapids in particular and the wave pool.

Maggie and Alfie loved the smaller splash area and grew more and more confident in the water each day.

I’ve said it before – there isn’t an actual pool for swimming which is a real shame.

We learned our lesson from last year and so we hired a Cabana to stay in.  It’s pricey, but definitely worth it for a welcomed break in the day – particularly if you have a baby or toddler. (Or just need a nap in the middle of the day!)  There’s a fan, cold drinks (you get a mini fridge), comfy chairs and a TV.  It’s like your very own little beach hut.

In terms of food and drink there’s a Starbucks and Monty’s serving pizza, hot dogs and burger. Not gourmet food but absolutely fine and kids were very happy.

Food

Sarah and LEON, sittin’ in a tree…

We (okay me and my friend Sarah) fell in love with Leon’s and we had a take away pretty much every day.  Loved everything about it. The food is right up our street. We didn’t dine out this stay because, you know, three kids.  We used the Parc Market more and cooked at home every night.

Aqua Sana

The Star performer overall again was Aqua Sana Spa. WORTH. EVERY. DAMN. PENNY. You leave the place feeling really refreshed and rejuvenated. Bliss.

There are these comfy sofas on the sunlit roof terrace overlooking Center Parcs and initially we thought “maybe a bit boring” but no. We snuggled in lapping up the rays and woke up 40 minutes later.  I had a lovely manicure too – what a treat!

Wonderful staff, wonderful Spa area – just perfect.

General

I felt so relaxed.  Like I’ve not felt that relaxed in a long time – so happy and content. Of course there were some hiccups, but in general it was all pretty awesome.

We’ll be back.

Pro’s:

  • For us, not having to take the kids anywhere abroad on an airplane was a big bonus.
  • It’s only a 40 minute drive from our house. Anything that saves travel time is a blessing in this house
  • We could bring Buddy the dog
  • There are LOADS of child and toddler activities. All three of our kids would be catered for.
  • It’s safe and fairly contained. We could let the kids out and play and they were free (within reason obvs) to run around on their own.
  • We travelled with friends who stayed in the lodge opposite us. This made such a difference as kids and adults alike always had mates to hang out with and we could all split up at times to do different activities.
  • The Tropical Swimming was a HUGE hit with our kids. We went here every day.  It’s also free. (Yay)
  • No cars are allowed in the village so the kids got to practice their bike riding skills in a safe environment. Having our bikes also meant we all got some exercise every day riding up those steep hills!
  • The lodges were immaculately cleaned every day.
  • Staff are generally incredibly lovely and accommodating.
  • The Aqua Sana Spa is outstanding. You’ll leave floating on clouds.
  • There are loads of restaurants and take away places to choose from – or make food at home!
  • The Supermarket onsite is great and has pretty much everything you need. You can also leave the site and head to Tesco’s down the road.
  • The wine cooler.

Con’s:

  • It IS expensive. And everything on site is expensive. Captive market and all that.  It’s just what it is.
  • Staff are very young. I felt like the place was run by teenagers.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a bit odd.  Some lacked experiences generally.
  • It’s very steep and hilly – not ideal for little ones on bikes
  • They really need to invest in a proper pool area for swimming
  • The freezer and fridge are tiny, especially if you’re a large family of five.  Bring a lot of cupboard ingredients and top up during the week
  • They were really slow at service – prepare to wait in queue for your food.
Squad. 

 

 

 

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

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 ❤️

Jessica’s Tiger Cake

I’m obsessed with cake tins. I must have about a dozen already.

I’m prepared for any kind of Cake Tin emergency. You name your party and I bet I have a tin to match.

Some tins are perhaps more obvious than other.

Like my super cute gingerbread man tin and the equally adorable snowman tin. I also have Halloween covered with my Skull and Pumpkin tins.

I also have a Swedish Dala Häst tin, a Crayfish tin, a Darth Vader tin and a Spider man tin.

I also have more “traditional” shaped Socker Kaka cake tins.

Us Swedes do love a Socker kaka. And who can blame us, they’re delicious and easy to make. And goes so well with coffee.

A triple threat type of cake.

A traditional Socker Kaka was one of the first cakes I learned to make.

Speaking of tins, I recently acquired this beauty. How gorgeous?! It’s from the American company Nordic Ware.

But it’s no use having lots of tins if you’re not going to use it so today I tried making a Swedish classic sponge Cake, a Tiger Kaka.

I added some home made hazelnut butter too. We don’t buy the ready made kind… (I’m sure you’ve all seen the super cute banner advert. If not, here you go)

Anyway, adding the hazelnut butter made it even more scrumptious.

Here’s the recipe:

Jessica’s Tiger kaka

4 dl flour

2 1/2 dl caster sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

Dash of vanilla extract

50 g margarine

1 dl milk or single cream

2 tbsp cacao

2 tbsp hazelnut butter

Heat your oven to 160°C (fan assisted)

Butter your cake tin and add the bread crumbs.

Whisk your butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add your eggs, one at a time.

Mix the dry ingredients, add the milk and gently fold into your butter and sugar mixture.

Put a 1/3 of your batter into a bowl. Mix in the cacao.

Add vanilla to the other batter mix.

Put the vanilla batter into your tin. Add the hazelnut butter into little chunks. And finally, pour over your cacao mixture. Using a fork, gently mix the two different batters and nut butter together. It doesn’t have to be precise.

Put your cake in the bottom part of the oven for about 45-60 minutes.

Check with a cake stick, if the batter comes off the stick then it’s done!

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes inside the tin.

Take the cake out of the tin and let it cool on a rack.

Once cooled you can dust some icing on top or just leave it as it is.

Enjoy. ❤️

Love, Jess

Holy Mackerel – Alfie’s Party

Holy mackerel. What a party! 💙 Today we celebrated Alfie with lots of our family and friends. 

As usual I was running around all over, (#threekids) but we all had such a lovely time.  The kids had decided we should have a Under the Sea theme. 

I love a party theme.

To be fair, I love a party. In fact, if you know me well you’ll know not only do I love a party, but I particularly organising and planning a party. Any kind of party! 

The morning was spent sorting out the party food and decorations. 

Ocean Blue Scallop square dish
Ocean Blue Scallop dish

Honeycomb decorations
Honeycomb and Fan decorations

 

 

I got most of the decorations and balloons from eBay and some of the helium balloons from Morrison’s. Their party section really is excellent and good value too. 

I’m in love with these honeycomb decorations. And you can order a set in a colour scheme which is so handy too. I chose blue green and then bought some Aqua blue shade fans to go with it. 

We put popcorn in little buckets and added a sprinkle of mermaid glitter. 

Popcorn in a bucket y’all
Mermaid sprinkles. What’s not to love?
A banner just for Alfred

We had personalised Alfred banners and Blue 1st birthday balloons. (You can never have too many balloons in my mind) 

I love serving salads at parties as it’s simple to make for big numbers and easy to individualise by adding a few ingredients here and there. 

Also. Salads mean I can have lots of cake for dessert. Win – win.

Today was no different and this is one of the salads on the party smorgasbord.  

Roasted pumpkin and sweet potato salad

This super yummy (and healthy!) salad is made up with green leaves, spinach, roasted pumpkin, roasted sweet potatoes, walnuts and pomegranate. 

Drizzle some balsamic glaze over and you’ll be all set. 

Another popular salad is a broccoli coleslaw salad with roasted cashew nuts and dried cranberries from Costco. It’s simply divine and a firm staple on all our party tables.  

Sandwich cutter – dolphins and ❤️

As well as some good old sausage rolls I also made ham and cheese sandwiches in the shape of dolphins for the kids that all went down very well. 

Under the Sea Quiz. Kept the adults busy for ages – result

Alfred’s granny had made all the cakes and they looked and tasted amazing!

Cupcake Fish Cake
Vanilla sponge cake
Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing and edible sea creatures on top

And how about this weather we’re having?!We were sitting outside, in the sunshine, whilst the kids were running around playing in the garden in October!

We couldn’t have asked for a better set up. 

That sky…

Now it’s time to put my feet up, have some bubbles and catch up on Strictly. Happy Saturday everyone! 

How to make Jansson’s Frestelse

Christmas is less than 10 weeks away.

We’re in Christmas prep mode in our house. (Yeah, no. Mainly me. I am in prep mode. Kids and husband are blissfully unaware)

I’ve bought most of the presents, planned the advent calendar, what decorations to make and use, drinks and food menus and the colour scheme on the tree. 

With age I’ve come to realise that I may just be a teeny tiny bit OCD when it comes to Christmas and especially when it comes to decorating the tree… 

But I digress. 

So you may have noticed that I like food. 

I like discussing food, watching programmes of people like Nigella and Gordon making it, looking at pictures of food, food competition programmes, cooking myself but also eating it. 

For me, food plays a major role in making Christmas magical. 

And for a Swede living in the UK, Swedish Christmas food become extra important. It’s nostalgia, cosy, familiar… it’s Yule. 

I order my Swedish Christmas food from Totally Swedish and the Swedish Shop on Ocado online every year. 

There has to be a Christmas Ham, Julmust (a special soft drink), meatballs, prinskorv (mini sausages), my Swedish Sticky Ribs and Jansson.

Heck. I’d even go so far as to say I’d try making ”Dopp i grytan”, just to feel extra Christmassy. 

(Even though, like Lena in Svensson, Svensson I know that no one would eat from the pot anyway) 

For those of you who haven’t tried it Janssson’s Frestelse is a traditional Swedish Potato Gratin dish. But tastier.

Since I want to avoid any disasters on the actual day, I trial the food in the weeks leading up to on Christmas Eve and Day. (The Swedes celebrate on the 24th – more on that in another post!).

This week I’ve made Janssson’s Frestelse and I’d like to share my recipe with you. 

Janssson’s frestelse is traditionally made of potatoes, onions, *pickled sprats, bread crumbs and cream. 

For my version, I’ve added some shallots as I think it really complements the dish.

You will need: 

  • 1 1/2 kg potatoes – the waxy kind (Maris Piper or King Edward)
  • 2 big yellow onions and 1 shallot onion
  • Proper butter (for frying and to dollop on top of gratin before cooking)”
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tin sprats (à 100 g)
  • 4 dl double cream
  • 2 dl milk
  • Plenty of breadcrumbs to cover the dish (about 2 tbls)
  • Sugar (for caramelising the onions) 
  • Deep oven dish, smothered in butter
  • Pot to boil your double cream and milk 
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 160˚C. (fan assisted) 

Peel the onions, shallots and potatoes. Slice the onion thinly, chop the shallots very fine and fry them in the butter. Add the sugar to caramelise. Add a pinch of cinnamon.

Cut the potatoes into thin strips

Potato on a board
Sliced potato

Take out your sprats and lay them to one side. Take the juices and put into a bowl. You will mix in the sprat juices with the milk and cream later on. 

Now layer your onions, potatoes and sprat fillets in a deep dish – sort of like you would a lasagne. 

Start and end with a layer of potato. 

Milk and cream summering

Heat your milk and double creme on a gentle heat on your stove. Let it simmer for a minute then take away from the heat. Mix in the sprat juices. 

Pour the liquid over your potato and onion dish. Add the breadcrumbs over the top and add small knobs of butter on top. The butter will bring some extra crunch and tastiness to the dish. 

Bake in the lower part of your oven for about an 1 hour, 1 1/2. 

Janssons Frestelse

The potatoes should be soft, the milky cream should be reduced and the top a lovely light brow colour.

(If you find that your dish is getting too dark then put some foil on top to stop it from burning.)

Sprats

*if you’re not a fish fan, then you can leave this item out, but as the sprats and its juices gives the dish its saltiness you’d have to balance the dish well when seasoning 

Enjoy!

First Birthday Milestone

He’s one. One. A whole year has passed since he join us. 

How is that even possible? He was only a newborn yesterday! 

I remember lying on that hospital bed and they placed the most perfect little boy on my chest. He had black hair and huge, beautiful blue eyes. 

We were both pretty exhausted after a long labour and so we just lay there, so happy and content.

We had achieved a VBAC2 and although elated, pretty shellshocked. 

Alfie’s such a delightful little person and nothing makes him happier than hanging out with his older siblings. Or Buddy the dog. He loves them no end. 

He loves to explore and is such a confident little boy. 

He’s extremely sociable and loves to be around people – especially kids. 

He’s adventurous, and will try and climb any kind of stair, ladder, stool – you name it, he’ll try and conquer it. 

But he’s also extremely affectionate and will give you the best snuggles imaginable. 

The moment he joined our family I became a mother of three. Everything changed from then on. The way we live, travel, eat. I’ve changed. 

But all to the better mind.  I’m more confident and self assured. In a kind of “I’ve got this – bring it on” way. 

It’s reassuring to know and trust what I’m doing. In the same breath, also having the confidence to ask for help and advice when needed. 

It’s going to be hard being the youngest but he has the bests of prospects with such caring and loving siblings. 

Jackson and Maggie were up at 5.30am this morning. They had tidied the front room and decorated the room with birthday presents and balloons. Such super stars. They will always have your back.

So, happy birthday little man. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.