Be Kind. Always.

The flight home from our holiday was…. interesting. A wee bit challenging. 

Okay.  I’m just going to say it – it was pretty awful. 

Alfie had picked up a cold on our last day (but, of course) and so he was feeling a bit under the weather. And he’d started teething again.   Hello Molars! 

And then we had the delightful flight delay at Tenerife airport (thanks TUI) for no apparent reason, which every parent dreads anyway. 

I could feel that Alfie was getting anxious before we’d even got to sit down in our seats.  It then transpires that Alfie was only allowed to sit on the left hand side of the plane. (Whaaa?) 

I was seated on the right, with the other kids. Brooks was sat across the aisle on the left.

We find that it’s better for all the kids to be sat together and the other adult across the row and we sort of tag team.  

Jackson always helps with Alfie, and Maggie to be fair, and it seems to work well. And he settles better with mummy at the moment.  

But I digress. 

Luckily, the kind lady and her son next to Brooks agreed to swap seats.  

But Alfie was already wriggling and as the plane took off, so did he. He screamed for a good 10 minutes. And I mean – he screamed like only a teething/ear-aching baby can. 

Then he fell asleep for an hour and seemed a bit perkier but then the screaming started again as we started our descent into Gatwick.  

I tried everything. Feeding him, cuddling him, distracting him. Nothing worked. Thinking about his cold, it must have been his ears. 

Normally, you would get a few passive aggressive sighs and angry stares from other passengers – but not this time. 

There was so much kindness. So much understanding. Honestly, I was surprised and really touched by how wonderful our fellow passengers were. It must have been a tricky flight for them too, but rather than huffing and puffing, they showed their solidarity. 

One older lady passed me a fan to try and cool him off, another woman in the row behind us put her hand on my shoulder, smiled and said: “We’ve all been there honey. Don’t worry”. 

As soon as we touched down in London Alfie stopped crying and we made it home, tired but happy.

Travelling with kids is challenging, no matter how many kids you have. Parenting  is hard. 

Feeling the support from our fellow passengers on the plane made the trip bearable and definitely reignited my faith in humanity again. 

As the saying goes:

“Be kind; you never know what someone else is going through.” 

I caught the travelling bug when I was eight

Traveling with kids – the airplane edition

Our oldest is a seasoned traveller after years of commuting between Sweden and U.K.  For him, flying has become second nature and he doesn’t bat an eyelid nowadays. He always behaves in an exemplary manner. 

I’m joking obviously. 

Jackson

He’s a child.

They will always try and throw you a curve ball or eight.  You know, to keep you on you your toes. 

I remember the first time I went on a plane. I was eight years old and we were flying to London, our first holiday as a family.  

Travelling anywhere with my family was always a challenge.  You see, my parents are complete polar opposites.

Mum worries about EVERYTHING and has to be at the airport at least four hours before take off. She’ll have her bags packed at least a week in advance. 

My dad, on the other hand, well, he is never in a hurry and would probably arrive five minutes before boarding if he got his way. 

Let’s just say this is a recipe for disaster/interesting family time.

I got the travelling bug right away. 

I loved watching all the people rushing round to different destinations, the cabin crew – so sleek and professional, and feeling the plane take off into the clouds for the first time, watching Arlanda disappear 

Nowadays, the novelty of flying has worn off somewhat.

I’ve flown with many airlines to all kinds of destinations – both for work and leisure.  

I’ve had good trips and awful trips. I’ve been on long flights and short flights. I’ve missed flights and slept on an airport floor.  (Yes, really). 

Although I’ve had so many experiences with airplane travel,  some things are a constant.

I’m sure most of you will know these things already, but here’s a list of a few things we’ve picked up along the way.

Livermore’s Top Tips:

  1. People will always rush to board the plane. It doesn’t matter whether you fly short or long haul, budget or premium – we all want to get on that flight prontissimo.  You either join them or sit down and wait in protest.  Or you book first class and sail by the queue – up to you and your budget.  We’ll all end up on the same plane after all. 
  2. Boarding sequence is a weird one but generally speaking, if you have seats at the front or the very back you’ll either be boarding first and off first – or on first, off last. (Again, unless you fly Business or First Class) 
  3. Buy your snacks and food before flying. It’ll be nicer and cheaper.  Everyone does it so don’t worry about what’s etiquette. 
  4. Having said that, recently we’ve had some very meals with SAS and Tui respectively. I think airlines are upping their game! 
  5. Prepare for the unexpected. When we flew to Tenerife the cabin crew suddenly announced that we would be landing in Agadir, Morocco to drop off some crew. (I’m not kidding!) Bring extra nappies, babymilk, wipes, spare clothes and board games.
  6. Invest in a good power bank. An iPad is your best friend on long flights. You want it fully charged!
  7. I’ve said it before – headphone splitters. They will save many fights – err, I mean flights, in the future.
  8. I screen shot all the booking emails (parking, tickets, airplane lounges, car hire etc, etc) and the inside of the passport and then save into an album on my phone. That way I have all the info I need at hand in case the hard copies go awol and I don’t need to sift through numerous emails. 
  9. Most airline check ins can also be done really easily via an app.
  10. Team tag your luggage. If you’re like the majority of the population then you most likely own a black, red or navy suitcase.  (Unless you’re like me and love pink and purple coloured bags!) 
  11. We bring a refillable bottle and take through security. You can fill them up on the other side for free! 
  12. Another thing we do is to have a case for all our cables/chargers. That way, they’re all in one place and easy to access on the plane or once you’re at your destination. 

Happy Travels!

My flowery suitcase

Love, Jess

How to make Spooky Halloween Brownies

Being a Swenglish family we have the luxury to mix, amend, borrow and sometimes create a lot of our holidays. We can chose the things we like and make them into our own family tradition. 

For example, we celebrate traditional

Swedish holidays like Lucia and Midsummer, we have a Crayfish party in August, and an annual Eurovision party in May. 

We have a little mini Swedish Christmas on the 24th of December with the Christmas ham and Jansson’s but our Christmas is on the 25th.  

We celebrate Bonfire night, “Mys” on a Friday and generally have a roast every Sunday. 

We join the hordes of other revellers in park on a Bank holiday. (Even if it rains!) 

It made me think though. Other than Easter and a Royal Wedding – what other British holidays are there? 

Anyway. It’s lovely to pick and choose really. The best of both worlds!

We’ve also borrowed from our cousins overseas and have totally embraced Halloween.

The best Halloween I ever experienced was when I lived in Illinois in the nineties, but that’s a story for another day. 

This year we’re in Tenerife, Spain on holiday over Halloween and so it has been a very different experience. 

Believe Hotel Halloween Entertainment Schedule

The hotel we’re staying in have gone full out, with tons of decorations and dress up opportunities and lots of different activities everyday so the kids (and grownups) will get the full Halloween experience! 

Apparently their Casa del Terror is meant to be be really scary…. We’ll send Brooks to trial and review it on Wednesday.  

For me, one of the awesome parts of Halloween is all the fun Halloween theme food you can serve – and eat! 

Before we left England the kids and I made some spooky brownies. They’re super easy to make and so tasty. Kids and grownup alike will love these!  

This is the recipe we used…

You’ll need:

2 bowls 

1 microwave safe bowl

Small pan

20 square tin 

Baking parchment 

Edible eyes (sugar craft) 

4 large eggs

250g unsalted butter

200g good quality cocoa powder

300g caster sugar 

300g flour 

Pinch of salt 

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract 

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder 

50g white chocolate and 50g dark  chocolate

Marshmallows (we used the extra big fluffy kind and used about 5) 

  1. Preheat you oven to 175°. We used a 20cm square tin for this. (It depends on the consistency you’re after. If you use a smaller tin your batter will be more gooey, if using a bigger tin, the batter will be crispy). Add some baking parchment to stop it from sticking to the bottom.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up your white and dark chocolate into chunks. You’ll use these later once the brownie isbaked. 
  3. Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa powder. 
  4. In a different bowl mix together eggs and sugar. Once mixed, fold in the dry ingredients adding the flour and baking powder last.  
  5. Tip you batter into the tin and spread out evenly.
  6. Add you white and dark chocolate chunks to the batter.
  7. Put your mixture into the oven and cook for about 20 -25 minutes. 
  8. Let your brownies cool.
  9. Once cooled, put your marshmallow into a microwave safe bowl and melt for about 30 seconds a go. You want it really sticky and gooey.
  10. Take your marshmallow mess and this is the tricky sticky part.
  11. Word of advice: You’ll have to work fast with this one as the mixture will cool and harden quickly. Dip your fingers into the marshmallow mixture and carefully pull strings over the brownie, effectively making a web like patter. Keep adding more and more marshmallow strings. 
  12. Add your edible eyes 
  13. Now it’s ready to be served whole as a cake, or cut into individual squares.


Love Halloween Hate Scary Movies

I love Halloween. 

Jackson trialling his electrifying Halloween costume

I love dressing up for Halloween. Under duress I dress up my children, dog and house. My husband is down with the dressing up but he’s firstly awesome and secondly an actor, so dressing up is second nature. 

My decoration collection has steadily been growing for years. A lot of the supermarkets stock a lot of fabulous Halloween decorations nowadays and I always head to TKMaxx for any fun/extravagant extras. And I ain’t done yet. 

Alfie wearing his Lion outfit

Every year I research different themes and  with the kids we come up with fun ghoulish food and drinks menus. I go full out. 

(Mind you, that is true for most Holidays. I go BIG. But that’s for another day) 

However, as we have small children I try and find themes that are less offensive and scary. 

More Casper, less Pennywise if you will. 

I love Halloween. The autumnal colours, pumpkin soup, dia de los muertos, candy, being creative – not only when it comes to costumes, but also the food. 

I hate Scary Movies. 

I really, really do. 

Watching Poltergeist as a teenager positively traumatised me. I had nightmares for weeks. Heck, even now, if I see the TV flicker the hairs at the back of my neck stand up. 

And don’t even get me started on those twins in the Shining or Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

Even though I dislike them so much, I’ve somehow watched most of the more notorious scary films. 

As an adult though I refuse to watch them. My imagination runs away with me and I can’t sleep.  

A lot of pop-culture references and iconic characters come from horror films. I’m sure you can name a few; Michael Myers, Jason, Norman Bates or (perhaps the scariest of all) Freddy Krueger. 

 Fortuitously, growing up I missed the whole Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and recently I thought it a splendid idea to acquaint myself with it.  You know, to see what all the fuss was about. 

Surely it wouldn’t be scary now, I’m a grown woman, it’s the middle of the day, it’s just a film. 

Wrong. 

Brooks found me on our sofa in the lounge, pop music blasting out from the speakers, all the lights on, no sound on the TV watching Nightmare of Elm Street, hiding behind a big pillow. 

This year we’ll be away in Spain for Halloween so the kids and I decided to have our own spooktastic party early.

We’re making spooky brownies, spooky cupcakes and mummy frankfurters. 

Today we were making hot dog mummies. Such an easy dish to make and the kids love it. Here is the recipe I used: 

Frankfurter Mummy

You’ll need:

  • a packet of hot dogs/Frankfurters (8)
  • puff pastry, either shop bought or make your own 
  • Mustard 
  • Edible Eyes, for decorating once cooked and cooled
  • An egg (for the egg wash) 
  • Ketchup for the (historically inaccurate, yet very tasty) blood
Puff pastry ready to be cut into strips

Preheat your oven to about 180 (160 Fan assisted)

Take your puff pastry out and carefully cut out thin strips.

Now thread the strips around the frankfurters. You don’t have to be too precise, they’re mummies after all.

Once you’ve covered them with pastry, place them on a baking sheet. 

Egg wash your frankfurter mummies.

Place in your oven and bake until the pastry is brown. (About 15 – 20 minutes or so) 

Take your hot dogs out and let them cool. Add little dots of mustard at the top of every frankfurter and add the edible eyes for the finished look. 

Enjoy! 

Frankfurter Mummies

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. 

It takes a Village

This is a still from a film Brooks worked on recently called Cold Hands.

It’s written and directed by Mac Carr, shot in beautiful Falmouth, Cornwall. 

Brooks’ portrayal in the film really is stunning, and I hope you get a chance to see it. I’m a little biased, of course, but it really is a fantastic film. 

Being cast in films and TV projects means that sometimes he has to be away filming for lengths of time – either in the UK or abroad.

His jobs are often fun, sometimes crazy and intense, at times weird and unexpected. 

He can tell you all about that time he arrived in the Ukraine on a grey winter’s day to film an advert and he was picked up at the airport by a proper James Bond caricature villain. 

This man was huge. A good 2 meters and 2m wide. (Okay. No. But he was huge) 

He was standing in the arrivals foyer with a note that said Brooks in large letters. Brooks walked up to him and said cheerfully that he was Brooks. The man didn’t respond, but rather looked at him in complete silence. Then he simply gestured for Brooks to start walking. 

The James Bond villain walked him, in silence, to the car park where he gestured for Brooks to get in the back of a huge black Mercedes (- villain). 

There was a bullet proofed window between him and the driver (- villain) and the man drove him, in silence, all the way to the centre of the town to a manicure salon (er… – villain?) and then later the hotel.  (- villain).  Again, all in silence. 

Brooks rang me so many times that night. To make sure the kids and I were okay of course. 

Although we’re obviously overjoyed when he gets a job, because it’s his passion in life and he works so hard, it’s tough when he goes away, not only from a logistical point of view. 

Anyone with kids will tell you that it’s not an easy feat to look after kids on your own and three of them? 

Well, let me tell you – it’s a completely different ball game altogether. 

It’s the Big League people. 

This house runs a military camp. 

Everything is ready and set out the night before. 

The kids know the drill. When daddy is away, they must help mummy more at home.  When daddy is away, mummy turns into a drill sergeant. 

The food for the week is prepped and ready. The school bags are ready for school, their water bottles, packed lunches done, books, after school and club stuff sorted, tennis lessons, guitar and piano lessons, Taekwondo, football and swimming and Lord knows what else – all of it has to be ready and organised.  Mine and the kids’ clothes are ready and laid out ready for the week. We arrange play dates, we head to the library and go to the park after school.

Sounds fun yes, but it’s exhausting. 

If you’re on your own you don’t really get a break either. My kids have never been great sleepers and so they tend to be up a few times every night. 

I also sometimes get a bit scared. It’s a big house and I’m forever grateful for my dog’s presence – just in case. 

Gorgeous Friends

It also reminds me how lucky I am to have the best of friends.  My friends will offer to give the kids a ride to and back from school, have them over for play dates – you name it. 

Especially if you’re an immigrant like myself and my family are miles and miles away. My in laws are incredibly supportive as well, and will always help when Brooks is away. 

There’s a saying isn’t there. It takes a village and never was a truer word spoken.