Jessica’s Black Forest Gateaux Trifle

“Så mörk är natten i midvintertid.

Men se, då nalkas Lucia.

Hon kommer, den goda, med ljuset hit.

Hon kommer med hälsning om julefrid.

Hon kommer med ljus i sin krona.”

Yesterday was Santa Lucia day – the celebration of light. It’s one of my favourite Swedish traditions. The origins is the story of Saint Lucy and marks the beginning of Christmastide. It always falls on the 13th December.

The legend of the martyr Saint Lucy is rather grim. During the Roman Empire, the Christians were being persecuted. Many hid in the catacombs, and Saint Lucy would venture down there with trays of food. As it was so dark, but in need of full use of her hands, she wore a candle lit wreath on her head to light up her way with her tray of food. She was later killed for refusing to marry a pagan.

Nowadays, we all get up super early and head to our church. Normally fighting through snow and frost and huddle up inside. We all pile in to the church and sit down in the pews. The church will be decorated beautifully and everyone seems happy, in spite the early rise. And in spite of having to sit so close to one and other. (Swedes don’t like to have sit close next to strangers.)

Then we patiently wait for Lucia to enter the church. Wearing a white dress (white representing innocence. Cheerful!) and a red sash (red symbolising the blood of martyrdom. Again, cheerful.), and a gold wreath/crown with candles on her head (the candles symbolises the fire that refused to take Saint Lucy’s life….Yep.), walking at the head of the procession.

And it gets me every time.

The Nordic countries have very little sunlight in winter.

And from the darkness that engulfs the church, suddenly this glorious light appears, gradually filling the space. The heat from the candles warming us.

And the singing. The beautiful hymns. Softly in the beginning and then progressively building in strength.

(Have a look and listen here)

This year I was invited to talk about Lucia at my daughter’s school. I dressed up in my white dress and crown, (yes, I have my own set!), brought extra white dresses and candles for our very own Lucia procession and gingerbread cookies.

My goodness. It was so beautiful. The kids were so curious and asked lots of questions like:

From “which candle is your favourite?” (Pointing to the candles in my crown)

“Is that your nightdress?” to “when are we eating the cookies?”

We all sang Lucia songs and ate the gingerbread cookies.

Because that’s the other thing about Lucia day. It’s a Feast and we eat. A lot.

Speaking of Feasts – I tried a new trifle recipe that went down very well with my friends that I’d like to share with you. It was so easy to make! I’ve tweaked a recipe my friend Erika shared with me.

Jessica’s Lucia Black Forest Trifle

Ingredients

Good quality custard

100g good quality chocolate

400 g brownie bites

50g Black cherry jam

About 100g Cherry brandy

300g cherries (pitted, if you can get them)

100g amaretti biscuits

400ml double cream

Decorations:

100g Toasted flaked almonds

Chocolate curls

Cherries

1. Melt the chocolate, either in a microwave in short bursts or over a bowl of simmering water on the stove. Leave to cool but not to get too stiff.

2. Gently stir in your custard and mix the two together.

3. Now cut the brownies or chocolate cake into fairly thin slices and arrange in the bottom of the bowl. Spread one layer of cherry jam and then continue with the second layer of brownies and spread over more jam

4. Pour over the cherry brandy, then sprinkle over the cherries.

5. Put your amaretti biscuits into a bag and bash gently with a rolling pin until a coarse like sand consistency. Don’t worry if there’s smaller and bigger bits. The difference in texture will taste wonderful.

6. Sprinkle your amaretti sand over the cherries.

7. Now pour over your custard in an even layer.

8. Put some clingfilm over your trifle and leave to chill until just before serving.

10. Whisk the double cream in a bowl until it forms soft peaks, then smooth this over the custard.

11. Decorate with your toasted almond flakes, chocolate curls and cherries.

Enjoy. ❤️

Love, Jess

Poland comes to the rescue

This summer, due to soaring temperatures (hello global warming!) Sweden was suffering from an epidemic of wild fires and our Swedish firefighters were struggling to cope.  

In a show of solidarity lots of EU countries sent help. Norway, Denmark, Germany to name a few.  Poland sent the biggest fleet of 140 firefighters.  

And guess what? We saw them! Driving to my parents house from Arlanda airport in Sweden this August, we passed a long convoy of Polish fire engines. It was extraordinary. 

Along our route, we saw hoards of people standing on bridges with big posters saying thank you and waving. These fire engines were on their way home after spending weeks fighting fires in Sweden. 

Truly inspiring. And how beautiful to see European countries coming together in solidarity. 

That time I kissed a Moose and a travel review.

Moose

Moose. The symbol of Sweden.

They are Majestic. Regal.

Moose are absolutely huge. It’s extremely humbling when you happen to see one up close and personal. Moose weigh up to about 700 Kg and they’re about 2 meters tall. They are MASSIVE.

They truly are the Kings of the Scandinavian Woods. (And North America!)

Growing up in the Swedish countryside, surrounded by woods, I’ve always had respect for these gentle giants. You did not want to meet one at night driving your car. The impact is the same as hitting a train at full speed.

Once when I was about 17, I was in the kitchen making a cup of tea when I suddenly got that horrible feeling… My hair at the back of my neck stood up and my blood froze.

I had that feeling like someone was watching me. I turned to the window and there it was. A huge dark shadow, staring right at me.

It was early autumn and it had already started getting darker in the evenings so initially I couldn’t really make out what the shadow was. Trust me when I say that I was PETRIFIED.

However, I soon realised it was a huge Moose cow. And she was in our garden. Eating our apples.

Having Moose appear in your garden does happen on occasion so I wasn’t too bothered by that.

But something was odd… She was acting erratically.

Eating the apples but sort of dropping them and slobbering all over place. She couldn’t walk straight.

She looked… drunk.

Moose

We called the farmer next door and he informed us that yes – she was indeed drunk. She had eaten all the over ripe apple off our trees and she was wasted.

We had no choice but to wait her out. She ate some more apples and eventually wobbled back to whence she came. I thought of offering her a strong cup of coffee, *jordgubbssaft and a couple of paracetamol to help with the hangover but decided against it.

I promise you. You’ve not lived until you’ve seen a drunk Moose.

Moose are really abundant in that part of Sweden so there are lots of Moose road signs around. Growing up, the word was that the German tourists used to steal the “Beware, Moose!” signs of the road. I’m not sure if there’s any truth in this but they sure do love a Moose Safari.

And who can blame them?!

I was delightfully surprised by how much I enjoyed this outing to Virum Älgsafari.

Virum Moose Safari

We arrived early and I’m very happy that we did because we didn’t have to queue for the ride.

We jumped in one of the carriages, ready to meet the Moose.

The Rangers talked through the safety rules and explained not to get out of the carriage, stay seated and calm.

The Moose were all out in the paddock and they moved up to greet the tractor. They were absolutely huge up close. We’d all been given vegetables and greens to give the Moose.

The Rangers said that the Moose will give you a kiss if you lean out with a treat. There was no way in hell I was going to do this. But then when my 6 year nephew did it without hesitation I couldn’t really NOT try.

So that’s how it happened.

I kissed a Moose and I liked it.

I received a slobbery kiss from Albin the Moose and I can confirm that it was pleasant and not at all scary.

Our kids loved the ride and the whole outing in general. We had lunch near the playground and seeing the massive queues waiting for the next Safari I was really glad we’d been on the first ride.

There’s a cafe and a shop onsite too that sell the normal tourist paraphernalia. And a lot of Moose road signs – presumably for the German tourists.

Livermore’s Top Tips:

  1. Arrive early. Make sure you get on the first ride of the day. You can’t pre-book and the Safari gets really busy.
  1. Bring hand gel
  1. Bring a packed lunch. The cafe is lovely, but as with most things in Sweden, a bit pricey
  1. There’s only one customer toilet by the cafe and shop and so the queue was very long. There are toilets outside by the first barn on your left as your enter the Moose Park.
  2. Try the Zip Wire.

* Yes. It does work. (I swear by this hangover cure.)

How to make a Swedish Sandwich Cake

Any Swedish birthday party, christening or work do would not be the same without a luscious tasty smörgåstårta – the much loved sandwich cake.

Layers of bread with gorgeous filling in between each layer. Finished off with a savoury icing and decorations on top. (Yes. You can probably tell I like smörgåstårta.)

My husband and I met at Uni. We had not been going out for long and it was his birthday coming up. I wanted to surprise him and make him something really special for his birthday. Awesome girlfriend points and all that.

He came over to my house and I sang happy birthday and presented him with the cake. He looked confused:

“- Aw thank you… You’ve made me a… Er… Mega club sandwich?

⁃ No! Well, I guess it might look like a club sandwich to you… It’s a sandwich cake. A Swedish specialty.

⁃ Ah…. You said you made me a birthday cake?

⁃ Yes. This. Is. A. Cake. Ta da!

⁃ But… cakes are sweet. This is savoury? It’s a sandwich –

⁃ …Cake! See?”

He tried the cake, he loved it and married me.

I realise that the sound of a savoury cake might seem a bit strange. You know, a bit like Peter Kay and the Garlic Bread… (If you’ve not seen the clip I’m referring to then look it up – it’s hilarious!)

For my Swedish friends, however, smörgåstårta is as normal and traditional as meatballs and lingonsylt, IKEA and rain on Midsummer Night’s eve.

I’ve made a few of these through the years and they’re always very popular. For birthdays, school graduations and for our children’s christenings.

There are hundreds of recipes out there. You can use so many different fillings – tuna, bacon, ham, pate, egg, prawns and salmon – whatever takes your fancy.

My absolute favourite is the tuna mayo and prawn variety. I have a recipe I’ve used over the years. I’ve adapted it somewhat to suit my British family’s palates and I thought I’d share it with you here:

Jessica’s Swedish Sandwich Cake

(This cake will feed about 15 – 20 people)

A big tray covered with foil

Spatula

Chopping board

3 mixing bowls

Ingredients:

2 loaves of white (toast) bread (about 45 pieces). This depends on the size of the tray of course.

Filling 1, Tuna:

3 cans of tuna in water

2 dl mayonnaise

3 dl cremefraiche

1 tbl Dijon mustard

1/2 lemon juice

Dill, finely chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

Filling 2, Prawn:

300g peeled prawns

1/2 lemon juice

1 dl dill, finely chopped

2 dl mayonnaise

2 dl creme fraiche

For the “icing”

2 dl whipping cream

3 dl creme fraiche

0.5 dl mayonnaise

1 dl dill, finely chopped

1/2 lemon juice

For decorating the cake:

Hard-boil and peel 5 eggs then finely chop

Prawns (about 300 gr)

Cucumbers, very thinly sliced

Cherry tomatoes

Lemon slices, cut into triangles

Dill

Red or Black roe (optional)

Method:

Keep your fillings in two separate bowls. Drain the water from the tuna. Mix all the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

Do the same with your second mixture.

Put the fillings the fridge while you start on your “icing”.

Whip up your cream to just about the soft peak stage.

Fold in the creme fraiche and mix gently. Fold in the mayonnaise, dill and lemon juice and mix gently.

Leave in fridge to cool.

Get your bread ready by cutting off all the hard edges.

Lay the bread down to make an even first layer – 9 in total.

Get your fillings from the fridge.

Gently add some of the tuna filling to the first layer. Leave a little space at the edges or the filling will spill out at the sides.

Add a second layer of 9 bread slices on top of your tuna filling.

Now add your prawn filling and then repeat the process twice. (1 more layer of tuna, 1 more prawn)

You will end up with 2 layers of each filling in total.

Add a final layer of bread.

Get your icing out of the fridge and completely cover your cake with the icing. Use a spatula as it always end up a bit messy.

Once you’re done then wrap the cap carefully with clingfilm and leave in the fridge.

This cake will taste better if made ahead of your party, preferably the night before.

Party Time! Now comes the fun part – decorating the cake.

Add the chopped up egg to all sides of your cake and on top. Make a pretty patter using the prawns, tomatoes, dill and fishroe.

Add the thinly sliced cucumber to all sides of the cake.

Cut the lemon into tiny quarters and add to the top of the cake.

Enjoy!

Travelling with kids – Vimmerby

We spent a week in a beautiful house in the outskirts of Vimmerby in Småland during our Sweden trip this summer.

The house was an old missionary building from the 1800’s. It was beautiful, with lots of antiques and odd furniture and we all loved it!

There were three families in total and we all could fit comfortably. (Although there was only one toilet and shower!!)

We knew we wanted to explore the beautiful countryside. We wanted to go swimming. We had also planned for a day out at Astrid Lindgren’s World (ALV) and a Moose Safari.

The first day we headed to ALV and we all had a brilliant time (-see earlier post for more Info on ALV).

The house we had rented for the week was situated nearby Lönneberga Village – the village were Emil grew up – and so for our second day outing we headed to Katthult farm, Emil’s family farm.

Emil is a fictional character created by Astrid Lindgren. He’s sweet and cheeky little boy, and although he means well, he always somehow ends up in trouble! He lives on a farm with his mum and dad, little sister Ida, the farm hand Alfred and farm maid Lina.

Emil looks up to Alfred and considers him his best friend. He doesn’t care for Lina much, who’s constantly nagging Alfred, trying to get him to marry her. His mother Alma is kind and loving, but his father Anton on the other hand has a short temper – but is generally the one who suffers the most from Emil’s pranks!

This was such a lovely experience! The kids got to pet the horses, the cows, the chickens and the rabbits. The tried to collect water from the well, hide inside the earth cellar and even to walk on stilts!

The buildings were used for the Emil films and it was fascinating for the children to see how people lived at the end of the 1890’s. You can visit Snickerboa’, the little wood shop shed, where Emil used to hide from his father. Most of the Emil films were filmed around the property and so it all felt very familiar!

The Katthult house is a privately own property, and I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a stream of tourists wandering around your land every day! But hey, each to the own.

You have to pay to enter Katthult and there’a a cafe onsite, with buns and coffee/ tea and ice creams. There is also a great gift shop.

We headed further down the nostalgia route and visited Bullerbyn.

Entry to the village is free, you only need to pay for parking.

Essentially – it’s the three houses from the books and films, a barn for jumping in hay bales, a lovely cafe and a playground. We all had a brilliant time here!

Alla Barn I Bullerbyn is a collection of books written by Astrid Lindgren and is basically based on dad’s upbringing.

The books tells us about the lives of six children and their families living in a tiny village in Småland in the late 1930’s.

The village consists of three houses lined up next to each other with parents, farmhands and housekeepers, lots of barns and farmland.

The book is narrated by one of girls and the kids go on all sorts of adventures. They swim in lakes, jump in hay bales, and celebrate Lucia and Christmas.

We all loved this outing! We had to bribe our children in order to leave the hay bale jumping!

I really recommend the cafe onsite. Hands down, they were the best cinnamon buns I’ve had!

The following days we headed to some fantastic beaches at camping sites nearby Vimmerby.

The wonderful thing about Sweden, particularly if you’re near the coast, is that you’re never far from water – be it the sea, a lake or river.

Most beaches in Sweden will generally have a sandy beach, a water tower to jump from, a playground of some description and toilet facilities.

Sweden was experiencing a heat wave this summer so most beaches were very busy, but even so there was always plenty of space and we always found parking. The beaches are free to visit, though double check before you set off.

Here are the Livermore’s Top Tips:

⁃ Most camping sites will have a cafe onsite but bring packed lunch, just in case they’re closed for any reason. It’s also quite pricey!

⁃ On that note – invest in a food thermos and bring your own hot lunch! We put hot dogs (and added hot water obvs) in our thermos and brought the buns and condiments with us. A nice change from soggy sandwiches!

⁃ If you’re planning to go swimming, then just head online. There are loads of beaches and camping sites nearby and they’re free to visit.

⁃ Have a coffee and bun when you get to Bullerbyn. You’ll talk thank me later.

⁃ Don’t buy your carved Emil gifts at ALV. Save your pennies and get them from Katthult instead!

⁃ Invest in a good beach umbrella. It was SO hot during our visit and it was pretty tough on the little ones. We had a beach tent,which was great, but a good quality umbrella would have helped.

⁃ We are all different. We have different parenting styles, bed times and routines. We have different food tastes and whether your child is allowed on an iPad or not. We travelled with families that we know well and that we’ve been away on holiday with before. This helps immensely. If you’re going away as a group then my number one rule is to be FLEXIBLE. Go with the flow and expect to bend your rules a little bit. Be prepared to compromise and negotiate. You’ll end up having a lovely, stress free time.

Travelling with kids – Vimmerby and Astrid Lindgrens Värld

Give the children love, more love and still more love – and the common sense will come by itself.”

– Astrid Lindgren

I grew up reading Astrid Lindgren’s books. Pippi Longstocking, Emil i Lönneberga, Alla Barn i Bullerbyn to name but a few.

It’s linked with most Swedish kids’ childhoods – it’s happy memories and gorgeous summer holiday days.

I’ve tried to introduce the books to my kids with mild interest. Both kids like Pippi of course. She’s a rebel. She’s a kid who can take care of herself and say what she wants. She’s kind and good hearted and fair. And of course, the strongest girl in the world. My absolute favourite quote from Pippi Longstocking – and there are many to choose from – I think is very relevant today and as a mother of a strong willed, red-headed little girl:

He’s the strongest man in the world.’

‘Man, yes,’ said Pippi, ‘but I am the strongest girl in the world, remember that.

The books are truly wonderful. Astrid Lindgren was such an amazing story teller. Her characters are heroic and complex. Like Ronja – my personal favourite character growing up – the Robbers Daughter who is determined to go her own way and trust her heart.

She believes in what’s wrong or right, so much so that she defies her own father, the Robbers King in order to defend a friend. Then we have sweet Emil, who means so well but always end up in a pickle. The Brothers Lionheart, a story about two brothers that talks about death and grief in such a beautiful way.

We recently visited ALV, Astrid Lindgrens World during our stay in Sweden. Astrid Lindgren World, aka Astrid Lindgrens Värld, aka ALV is a huge theme park, built around all the different stories by the famous Swedish author.

Each show has its own “world” with fantastic sets and props, animals and characters – all making it look authentic and as if you’ve stepped into an Astrid Lindgren book.

Getting there was super easy. It’s clearly signposted throughout Vimmerby. We had hired a little house for the week near to Vimmerby town so we only had to drive for 15 minutes or so to get there. (More on this in my next blog post!)

There was however a looooong queue for the car park early on but the ALV team worked so fast to get everyone in and parked up that we didn’t actually have to wait very long.

As it was Maggie’s birthday she got to go in for FREE! Happy birthday Maggie!

We got ourselves a mini wagon to pull our picnic along with and for tired little feet at the end of the day. Definitely worth its weight in gold.

We headed to Pippi first as this show is always the most popular. It was jammed packed but we ended up with great seats at the front. In hindsight, with it being around 11am, we would have brought something to shade the baby with. The sun was blazing and it was tough to sit out there for 10 minutes.

The show was super short which was a bit disappointing. I guess they have to get through a lot of the Pippi stories during the day. The whole world is named after her after all.

After and before the show you can meet Pippi (and the supporting cast), Lilla Gubben (the horse), and walk around Pippi’s house.

After the show we walked through Vimmerby City Centre. Basically a replica of the city centre but in miniature – so sweet! Everything was tiny. The kids said that this must be what Giants experience every day.

We stopped by the sweet shop and the kids (and adults!) got their sweet fix.

We headed to Emil after as we knew we wanted to have our picnic by the Barn playground.

The Emil show was really excellent with some fantastic performances all round. Jackson and Maggie loved it and sat through the 20 minutes easily. Again it was jam packed but it didn’t really matter and we had great seats.

We found a great table by the Barn (just behind Lönneberga) and we ate and then the kids could do wild playing for a while.

We went to Ronja’s show – as always – fantastic and emotional. The robbers song is so beautifully and stirring, it just makes me cry every time.

Alfie and Maggie LOVED the miniature street, with houses the kids could play in/with. Maggie made some friends and were making cakes and buns inside the Bakers Shop. We spent a good 30 minutes here, having a coffee and ice cream.

We watched two performances of Brothers Lionheart and this show was by far our favourite. Absolutely fantastic performances, great actors, a great stage and set. Everything was well thought out. Special shout out to the Dragon… Even I got a little shiver down my spine when I saw her on top of the castle wall! Top marks and worth the trip to ALV alone. The show is a bit darker then the rest, but then so is the book. It also brought up some important questions about death and in particular where you go when you die. (In the story the brothers end up in a sort of purgatory to finally end up in heaven..)

Here are the Livermore’s Top Tips:

1. Overall – get to the shows you like to watch EARLY. Study that map and show times like your finals exams. This will guarantee good seats.

2. There is no way you could watch all the shows you like in one day. There isn’t enough time to enjoy it all and soak up the atmosphere, so choose your favourite shows beforehand.

3. Bring a picnic and coffee/tea. The food, although nice tasting is expensive and the queues are very long. The coffee was awful. Definitely one of the worst so bring it with you.

4. Buy a FOOD THERMOS. This was an eye opener for us. From now on, no more soggy sandwiches. Instead gorgeous hot food on the go. Genius. (We got ours from ICA, 129kr)

5. Self explanatory, but remember to bring water and something to block out sun if necessary. Hats are a must have. And brollies. The shows are outside and there is hardly any cover or shade.

6. If you bring a picnic, hire a mini wagon. It’s easy to bring along the park and it’s a godsend at the end of the day when the kids are tired from all the walking.

7. On that note – bring comfy shoes because you’ll be doing a lot of walking.

8. There are “child wristband” stalls before and inside ALV. You write down your name and phone number on wristbands for the kids. This place is so incredibly busy and so it’s easy to get lost. With the wristband, staff can easily get hold of the parents of a lost child. (This did actually happen when we were there. A little girl got separated from her dad. We called dad who was by her side within minutes!)

9. If you can, book two days. If you want to experience all of it, then I suggest you stay over and come back for more. It’s pricey, but it’s definitely worth it for the experience.

10. ENJOY IT. It’s a magical place. I loved it so much this time and so did our kids. They were completely mesmerised by all the stories and characters. And even though it’s all in Swedish, the actors act out the actions so well, so it was pretty clear anyway.

The World Cup 2018 – Sweden vs England

The World Cup.

Sweden Football T-shirt

It was inevitable that England and Sweden would meet. I was kind of hoping that we’d both somehow get to go through the knock out stages. Maybe they’d draw, after penalties, and we’d both win!

But at this point the game was unavoidable; we knew this. Both teams had fought off many worthy opponents to get to this stage and now it was game day.

It’d been a massive build up all week. “How would be cope?” “What if it ends in penalties?” “Who will the kids support?! “The pressure!”

The tension was building throughout the day and come 3pm it was about to burst! You could feel it in the air. The streets were deserted. Brooks popped to the shops and there was one lady working the tills at our local Tesco.

“They all took the day off!” The lady said to the people waiting in the queue to get some last minute hummus.

UK Flags

We were ready. Flags were out and the gloves were off.

England took the lead early on and never let off from that point. Their team stronger, hungrier for the win. I was willing the Swedish team on, hoping that they’d equalise and produce some kind of miracle.

Our kids, however, soon lost interest in the game and resorted to playing with Lego in the front room.

England, very deservedly, won the game in the end.

My husband and I went outside to tell our kids that unfortunately Sweden was out of the World Cup and found them playing happily on picnic blanket, blissfully unaware of any drama.

Our kids on a picnic blanket

“Who won Daddy?” Jackson asked.

“England. 2-0”.

Jackson smiled.

“We were always going to win.” Jackson said. “Either way…”

Our beautiful Swenglish children both smiled at us briefly and then went back to their game.