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

Swedish Meatball Puff Pastry Rolls

A match made in heaven?

I noticed him straight away. He was very tall and handsome and had luscious floppy hair. He was charming and confident with a cheeky smile to match.

He asked me where I was from and I said Sweden. He said he liked meatballs from IKEA. I asked where he was from. I said I really like a Sunday Roast.

We would end up being in the same class at Uni for three years but our love didn’t blossom until our third year when we were cast opposite each other in a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Being a Swenglish family means we get to pick and choose the best bits from both cultures. I make foods that I love from home, as well as dishes from my new home country.

Some purist would say one shouldn’t mess with perfection but I think fusions enrich our lives.

So the humble Swedish meatball. And an English sausage roll.

I decided to marry the two and the result was beautiful.

Here is the recipe:

Jessica’s Swedish Meatball Sausage Rolls

Best served with a lingonberry jam creme fraiche dipping sauce on the side.

250g Beef Mince

250g Pork Mince

1 dl milk

1 dl single cream

1 dl crumbs

2 eggs (1 for the mixture, 1 for the egg wash)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground white pepper

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp sugar

Margarine (for frying the meatballs)

For the Dipping Sauce

⁃ Lingonberry Jam (Ocado and ScandiKitchen sells this in the U.K.)

⁃ Creme fraiche

Add your cream and milk to the breadcrumbs and let it stand for 10 minutes. Stir gently.

Put your Mince in a bowl and mix in your spices carefully, followed by your egg and lastly the breadcrumb/cream mixture.

Get your pan ready. Now wash your hands and get rolling! Start by rolling the meatballs and putting them one by one on a side plate, ready for some frying.

Once you’re done with the rolling, start frying! Make sure you shake the pan from time to time as you want an even cook.

Once cooked take them off the heat and let them cool completely.

Get your puff pastry and cut into thin strips.

Now roll your meatballs up into little rolls, just like you would a sausage roll.

Once you’ve wrapped the meatballs in pasty, get some egg wash on them. This will give the pastry a nice shine.

Put your meatball puff pastry roll into a hot oven (180, fan assisted) for about 10-5 minutes – or until the pastry is nice and golden.

In the meantime, mix your lingonberry jam with a bit or creme fraiche into a nice thick dipping sauce.

Take your meatball roll out of the oven and serve.

Enjoy. ❤️

Love, Jess

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!