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!

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.

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

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

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.