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. ❤️

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