Center Parcs Woburn review

I’ve said it before – Center Parcs is a Parents Paradise.  Everything is set up with little ones in mind. I mean, everything.

I ain’t going to lie though – it’s expensive.  One week at Center Parcs easily equals a week’s holiday in the sun somewhere abroad.  Coming to, and in some degree, staying at Center Parcs is expensive.

But I guess this is where you’ll have to ponder the pros and cons and decide what’s important for you.

We stayed for a week during the Easter Holidays.  We had to queue to check in this time but it was generally smooth and straightforward.  It was tricky to find a parking space as it was absolutely rammed but we got there in the end.

The park itself is lovely and the perfect size. Big enough to not feel on top of other people, but you can easily get everywhere on foot.

We stayed in an Executive Dog friendly lodge in the Oak area, close to the Aqua Sana.

The Accommodation

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Our digs.

We loved our lodge. It was clean and fresh and it had all the amenities you could think of. Bring extra washing up liquid and dishwasher tablets though! They don’t give you enough initially. Also, if you’re staying a week, and is a coffee lover like us, then I suggest you bring some spare coffee pods for the Nespresso machine.

Our lodge was adapted for dogs but you’d never really know – it was really super clean and didn’t smell of dog at all.

We had a two bed lodge this time and it felt very spacious. Each room had an ensuite; one with a shower and one with a jacuzzi bath. The two older kids shared a room and loved it!

There’s an outside area with table and chairs and a BBQ.

The kitchen area was great. Really clean and it had pretty much everything you need for cooking for the family. There is a wine cooler which is a bonus.  The freezer is TINY, like a freezer compartment – keep that in mind if you’re bringing food from home.

Not that you need to bring lots of food. I would say bring food for the first night (unless you’re planning to eat out every night) and then top up from the local Parc Market if necessary.  It’s a great little shop and has a great variety of products.

What To Do

Honestly, Centre Parcs Woburn has so much to offer. There are loads of outside activities. Boating on the lake, riding your bike everywhere (though it’s quite hilly!), feeding the ducks in the lake, crazy golf, go for a play in the numerous play areas or just go for a walk – you are spoilt for choice!

We brought our bikes and it really worked well for us. Yes, it’s hilly, but our older kids really enjoyed the experience. We learned our lesson from last year and had bought a bike trailer for Maggie and Alife to chill in.  (You can find some really nice second hand ones on eBay)

You can pay to do activities too. Jackson, Kiri and Brooks headed to the Falconry Centre for an hour with the big birds. It was an amazing experience; the bird handler really took the time to explain and show how to handle the birds.

Maggie and Oscar the Owl

We did Aqua jetting again as well as Archery, Climbing, Pottery, Ballet Class, Teddy Bear Making, Maggie and I met the gorgeous Owls.

Swimming

But the main focus was the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. The kids, and grown-ups loved it here.

There are different zones or splash areas depending on your age and something to suit everyone. The big boys loved the Rapids in particular and the wave pool.

Maggie and Alfie loved the smaller splash area and grew more and more confident in the water each day.

I’ve said it before – there isn’t an actual pool for swimming which is a real shame.

We learned our lesson from last year and so we hired a Cabana to stay in.  It’s pricey, but definitely worth it for a welcomed break in the day – particularly if you have a baby or toddler. (Or just need a nap in the middle of the day!)  There’s a fan, cold drinks (you get a mini fridge), comfy chairs and a TV.  It’s like your very own little beach hut.

In terms of food and drink there’s a Starbucks and Monty’s serving pizza, hot dogs and burger. Not gourmet food but absolutely fine and kids were very happy.

Food

Sarah and LEON, sittin’ in a tree…

We (okay me and my friend Sarah) fell in love with Leon’s and we had a take away pretty much every day.  Loved everything about it. The food is right up our street. We didn’t dine out this stay because, you know, three kids.  We used the Parc Market more and cooked at home every night.

Aqua Sana

The Star performer overall again was Aqua Sana Spa. WORTH. EVERY. DAMN. PENNY. You leave the place feeling really refreshed and rejuvenated. Bliss.

There are these comfy sofas on the sunlit roof terrace overlooking Center Parcs and initially we thought “maybe a bit boring” but no. We snuggled in lapping up the rays and woke up 40 minutes later.  I had a lovely manicure too – what a treat!

Wonderful staff, wonderful Spa area – just perfect.

General

I felt so relaxed.  Like I’ve not felt that relaxed in a long time – so happy and content. Of course there were some hiccups, but in general it was all pretty awesome.

We’ll be back.

Pro’s:

  • For us, not having to take the kids anywhere abroad on an airplane was a big bonus.
  • It’s only a 40 minute drive from our house. Anything that saves travel time is a blessing in this house
  • We could bring Buddy the dog
  • There are LOADS of child and toddler activities. All three of our kids would be catered for.
  • It’s safe and fairly contained. We could let the kids out and play and they were free (within reason obvs) to run around on their own.
  • We travelled with friends who stayed in the lodge opposite us. This made such a difference as kids and adults alike always had mates to hang out with and we could all split up at times to do different activities.
  • The Tropical Swimming was a HUGE hit with our kids. We went here every day.  It’s also free. (Yay)
  • No cars are allowed in the village so the kids got to practice their bike riding skills in a safe environment. Having our bikes also meant we all got some exercise every day riding up those steep hills!
  • The lodges were immaculately cleaned every day.
  • Staff are generally incredibly lovely and accommodating.
  • The Aqua Sana Spa is outstanding. You’ll leave floating on clouds.
  • There are loads of restaurants and take away places to choose from – or make food at home!
  • The Supermarket onsite is great and has pretty much everything you need. You can also leave the site and head to Tesco’s down the road.
  • The wine cooler.

Con’s:

  • It IS expensive. And everything on site is expensive. Captive market and all that.  It’s just what it is.
  • Staff are very young. I felt like the place was run by teenagers.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a bit odd.  Some lacked experiences generally.
  • It’s very steep and hilly – not ideal for little ones on bikes
  • They really need to invest in a proper pool area for swimming
  • The freezer and fridge are tiny, especially if you’re a large family of five.  Bring a lot of cupboard ingredients and top up during the week
  • They were really slow at service – prepare to wait in queue for your food.
Squad. 

 

 

 

Adorable Cloud Macarons

I don’t know about you guys but I’m a sucker for a Wedding, Christening, a Welcome party, Baby gender reveal party and any other joyous family occasion. I love them!

But I’m a wreck. Generally before, during and after the event.

I used to be more cynical, but since kids I can often be seen ugly crying at your events. Soz.

Our best friend sang. I cried. Photo cred: Matilda Söderström

Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, maybe it’s the hormone, maybe it’s the wine, I don’t know, but it just gets me.

Father dancing with daughter – I cry. Photo montage – I cry.

Mum speech – I cry.

Poem readings – I cry.

Puppies or babies – I cry.

Recently we celebrated our youngest addition, baby Laban, to our extended family tree. It was a wonderful party with family and friends with lots of tears (obvs) and laughter.

Camilla, my niece, bestie and Laban’s mother, is a fantastic baker and she made these adorable cloud macarons that I just had to share!

Here is the recipe:

170 g icing sugar

110 g sifted almond flour

90 g egg whites (about 3)

2 tablespoons sugar

For the Passion fruit filling:

125 g white chocolate

50 g passion fruit purée

2 teaspoons of honey

2 tablespoons double cream

Preheat your oven to 125. Sift and then mix the almond flour and icing sugar in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites. Top tip: Make sure the bowl is clean and dry beforehand!

Add the sugar and keep whipping until smooth and glossy.

Now carefully add the almond flour and icing sugar and the food colouring (if you’re using it).

Mix until the mixture is smooth and lumpfree.

Top tip!

1. Prep your baking sheet and make sure you’ve marked the size and shape of your macaron beforehand – it’ll make it super easy and straightforward to pipe your macaroons later.

2. Have a little bowl with water next to your baking sheet for dipping your finger and gently pressing down the “ends” with!

Now pipe your macarons onto a baking sheet. Let the macarons rest 45 minutes.

Bake for about 20 minutes in the lower part of your oven.

One way of knowing they’re done is to gently lift one and if you can easily remove it from the baking paper then you’re done.

Let your macaroons cool completely.

For the filling:

Break down the chocolate into smaller pieces.

Weigh the passionfruit purée.

Heat the chocolate and passion fruit gently in pan.

Stir gently from time to time. The filling is done when the white chocolate has melted completely and the filling is smooth and glossy.

Now add your food colouring and set the mixture in your fridge for at least two hours.

Once set and you’re happy with the mixture its ready to be piped in between your macarons.

Happy Cloud

Enjoy! ❤️

Love, Jess

Syltgrottor/Thumbprint cookies

I love baking and my kids love baking.

I don’t however always love baking with the kids. Often it can be stressful, messy and chaotic.

But it CAN be enjoyable. What you need is some fool proof easy recipes and you’ll be ready for anything. Well, most things.

I go for recipes that are straightforward and that requires some kind of decorating part later. Kids are particularly ace at this part!

(Unless you’re a perfectionist like me and do find it mildly stressful too. You learn to breathe through it.)

I recently found this recipe in a Swedish magazine and it’s a winner. It’s definitely fool proof and your cookies will always turn out well! Your kids will love making these too, adding the jam and whatnot.

So as part of my Swedish, easy to make, kid friendly recipes, I’m going to kick things off with Syltgrottor (I hear they’re similar to Thumbprint cookies? Can anyone confirm?) .

Syltgrottor are a mixture between a shortbread and a Viennese type biscuit.

This recipe is a winner, and has never let me down.

***The key here is to not overwork the dough and chilling the dough before baking***

• 4 1/2 dl flour

• 1 dl caster sugar

• 1 tsp bakingpowder

• 2 tsp vanilla extract

• 200 g butter (room temp)

For the filling:

Your favourite type of jam. Recently we used Cloudberry and Wild Strawberry jam.

Recipe:

Turn your oven to 200°C. (180c if fan assisted)

Cream your butter and sugar. Once creamed, add your vanilla extract. Mix your dry ingredients in separate bowl.

Now quickly mix the ingredients until it all just comes together. (Don’t overwork the mixture!)

Let your dough rest in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.

Roll the dough into a cylinder and then pinch off and roll each small piece, (about the size of a walnut), into small balls.

Now place the gently into fairy cake tins. Make a hole in the cookie using your thumb and add your jam. Pop into your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.

Take the cookies out and let them cool on a cooling rack.

Enjoy. ❤️

Love, Jess

Edible Christmas Tree

Everyone loves a Christmas film don’t they?

But what I really look forward to is the Christmas cooking programmes. I’ve watched them all; Delia, Nigella, Jamie and Gordon – and I love them all. This year I’ve been watching Mary Berry’s Christmas Party; it’s brilliant.

And who knew there was so many ways to prepare roast potatoes?!

Anyway. Something that Nigella said in one of her Christmas specials (whilst preparing six individual poussins. As you do.), was about having people over at Christmas. She was reminiscing about her mother getting hysterical about mass catering.

“I don’t want to make myself miserable trying to keep everyone else happy. Food has to be really great to eat. But above easy on me.”

I’m with you there Nigella. We’re having people over at Christmas and I want to make tasty, yet easy to make food.

I saw an edible Christmas Tree recipe online recently and had to try it. (Honestly, any recipe with the words puff pastry, chocolate and cinnamon in it and I’m all over it).

This. Is. A. Winner.

I don’t know if I can call it a recipe, I mean it’s so easy to make! Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Here’s the recipe:

You’ll need:

2 x sheets of puff pastry

Chocolate spread

Cinnamon

Caster Sugar

100g good quality dark chocolate

1 beaten egg (for the eggwash)

Sharp knife of pizza slicer

1. Put your puff pastry on an oven tray and using your sharp knife of pizza slice cut out a Christmas Tree.

2. Lift off one of the sheets of puff pastry and put it to one side.

3. Take your chocolate spread and dollop the spread over the sheet on the oven tray. Spread it out evenly.

4. Lay the other sheet over the other and brush with egg-wash.

5. Sprinkle a good amount (about a tablespoon) of the cinnamon sugar on top.

6. Pop it into your oven for about 18 minutes.

7. Once your Christmas tree is in the oven take out your chopped chocolate. You can either heat in the microwave or over a pot of boiling water on the stove. Just make sure you don’t burn the chocolate.

8. Once out and cooled a little bit sprinkle some icing sugar on top.

9. Serve straight away

Enjoy.❤️

Love, Jess

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.

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

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