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

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.

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.

Lemon and Tomato Stuffed Sea Bream

My dad is a Fisherman, so fish was always been part of our weekly diet.

Growing up, I didn’t really appreciate the freshly caught fish on our dinner table. I didn’t realise how fortunate I was. But I do now. I crave it.

I don’t like to mess around with the fish though. It’s truly beautiful gently oven roasted with a few accompanying ingredients.

My husband had to have a major operation this week and nothing says “I love you” as a home cooked meal.

* So the night before my husband’s big operation I made him some beautiful oven cooked Lemon and Tomato Stuffed Sea Bream.

Here’s the recipe:

2 whole sea-breams (cleaned and gutted)

5 large potatoes (for the mash)

50 ml whole milk (for the mash)

2 garlic cloves

6 small tomatoes on the vine

1 tbsp olive oil

2 lemons

Couple of sprigs of thyme

Good quality butter (for mash and the fish)

1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. 2. Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks and, put in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and add salt, cook for 20 minutes or so. (Depends on the type of potato you’re using).

Once cooked, drain and start mashing. Add a little bit butter and milk for taste and texture.

3. Rinse the fish properly. Now slash the fish through the flesh down to the bone.

4. Season and rub with the olive oil.

5. Slice the lemon into medium slices. (In term of the thickness, think a pound coin.).

6. Add the lemon slices to the cavities of the fish.

7. Now add your washed tomatoes to the belly cavity and a sprig of thyme.

8. Chuck in some pieces of butter on top of your fish fillets.

9. Bake in your preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes.

10. Baste the fish occasionally during the cook.

11. Serve with your mashed potato and vegetables.

Enjoy ❤️

Love, Jess

* Yes. I know. If you know us well you’ll know fish isn’t Brooks’ favourite protein. But fish will keep you strong and felt appropriate somehow. ❤️