Making Strawberry Jam

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The lesson I’ve learned today is that sometimes the experience is more important and enjoyable than the end result. My youngest son and I had been planning to make strawberry jam all summer but for one reason or another we didn’t get around to it before we went on holiday. So yesterday we finally went to the pick-your-own farm near to where we live only to discover that the strawberry picking season was over! Not ones to be deterred by such a small obstacle we decided to pick apples and blackberries for crumble instead and buy the strawberries from the greengrocers.

Being a complete jam-making novice, I found a recipe for strawberry jam on the BBC Food website which looked easy enough. So, having prepared the fruit the night before, we got to work today when daddy and big brother were at a football match and little sister was playing happily with Lego. It was great fun but, unfortunately,  we (read I) ended up over-boiling the mixture so in the end the jam had a rather toffee-like consistency. And although we halved the recipe, I still think we should have got 2-3 jars out of it rather than one! But the taste is great and if you spread it on hot toast it loses some of its chewiness. Casper happily wolfed down two slices so I think we did well for a first effort! Now all that remains is cleaning the red glue (sorry jam!) off the kitchen surfaces…

Strawberries mixed with sugar and ready to go in the fridge overnight. We used 500g of fruit rather than the 1kg given in the recipe.

Strawberries mixed with sugar and ready to go in the fridge overnight. We used 500g of fruit rather than the 1kg given in the recipe.

The jam boiling away on the stove.

The jam boiling away on the stove.

Our one and only jar of strawberry jam.

Our one and only jar of strawberry jam.

Casper enjoyed his jam on toast despite the toffee-like texture.

Casper enjoyed his jam on toast despite the toffee-like texture.

 

 

 

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The Beauty Edit: Hard as Nails

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This picture is the first glimpse of the upcoming Essie Winter 2013 Shearling Darling nail polish collection which is due to hit stores in October. The six new nail colours range from rich, dark burgundy and light pastel shades of lilac and frosty blue to a darker grey-blue and pearly rosy brown. The lighter shades are a surprising addition to a winter collection and, while I think they would look pretty with a tan, I prefer a dark polish in the colder months. My personal favourite is probably the namesake of the range, Shearling Darling, closely followed by Sable Collar and Parka Perfect. Which is yours?

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Currently Coveting #8: The Perfect Autumn Knit

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Anthropologie is hands down my favourite store to visit and have a browse around. It’s like a treasure trove full of lovely clothes, accessories and homeware, all beautifully displayed in an old building where every nook and cranny reveals more hidden gems. At the moment, however, as I don’t relish a shopping trip into town with three children in tow, the online store will have to suffice.

This lightweight sweater by Knitted & Knotted is perfect for early Autumn days when a chill is just starting to creep into the air. The cream colour makes it wonderfully versatile while the cute ruffles stop it from being another boring basic. Add a statement necklace (as in the picture above) and it’s smart enough to wear for evenings out. What’s not to like? And yes, I have already ‘clicked to buy’ so I will let you know if the real thing lives up to the online promise.

The Weekend in Pictures

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On Saturday night we booked a babysitter and went out to the cinema to see the new Steve Coogan film, Alan Partridge – Alpha Papa. My husband chose the film and while it was quite entertaining, it wasn’t really my cup of tea. But the cinema itself more than made up for it. Just 15 minutes down the road from us, it is part of a small independent chain and is a far cry from the massive Odeon theatres with their overpriced pick and mix and jumbo tubs of popcorn. The theatre itself is quite small with two or three seat sofas and tables to put your drinks and munchies on, and attached to it is a cosy bar where you can buy wine, beer, soft drinks and a large selection of snacks from pizzas and olives to chocolate buttons and retro sweets.

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I love England in late August/early September. It is usually sunny, although the evenings are getting darker and nature’s palette is slowly transforming into beautiful red, deep orange and bright yellow. Today we decided to make the most of the long Bank Holiday weekend by heading to Hatchlands Park, a National Trust property and parkland, near Guildford in Surrey where we went for a walk across cows meadows and the children played in the woods.

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All that fresh air and exercise left us all feeling famished but luckily we were going to the in-laws for lunch. My mother-in-law is a fantastic cook and had made a lovely roast chicken followed by the most gorgeous (gluten free) apple and blackberry crumble.

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A game of croquet in the garden (complete with the requisite squabbles over who was winning and who was cheating).

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And finally, today’s all black outfit was one of the £7 H&M dresses I bought at the start of the summer teamed with leggings and patent wedges from Topshop. Hope you all had a great weekend. X

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Strike a pose…..and relax!

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This morning I went to my first yoga class in a very long time. Before the kids came along I was a member of a gym with an amazing yoga instructor and I used to go three times a week. Then after I had Cameron I switched to a more family friendly gym with a creche and while I tried a few yoga classes there, I didn’t gel with any of the instructors.

While I’ve carried on doing other forms of exercise and am fairly happy with my general fitness, I have noticed that I’m not very flexible these days. I don’t harbour any hopes of being able to do the splits again but at the moment I can’t even touch my toes when I bend over (and I imagine that as I get older it will only get worse..)

It’s easy to dismiss yoga as ‘not real exercise’ as, unless you attend a fast moving Ashtanga or Bikram class, you’re unlikely to work up much of a sweat. But this morning’s session reminded me of the many other benefits of yoga. I have to admit that when the alarm went off at 8.15am (on a Sunday!) I was tempted to pick up the phone and cancel but I’m so glad I didn’t. For the rest of the day I felt calmer than I have in a long time – even the children jumping off the sofa and throwing all the cushions on the floor didn’t disrupt my relaxed state.

I will definitely go again and try to combine yoga with running, swimming and other gym classes. On a superficial level I’m also excited about being able to invest in some lovely yoga clothes and as always Sweaty Betty has a great selection. But maybe I should attend a few more classes before I reach for my purse…

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Home Sweet Home ♥ (So why do I still feel homesick?)

After all the yummy but not necessarily healthy food I've been indulging in over the last two weeks it was nice to start the day with a healthy breakfast of low carb muesli (recipe here), yoghurt and fresh strawberries

After all the yummy but not necessarily healthy food I’ve been indulging in over the last two weeks it was nice to start the day with a breakfast of low carb muesli (recipe here), yoghurt and fresh strawberries

We’re back from our holiday and while it’s nice to be home (despite the mountain of washing and sorry state of our cloakroom – see here), as always I feel like I’ve left a part of me behind. There is a saying in Sweden which roughly translates to ‘Away is good but home is best’, meaning that it’s good to go on holiday but the nicest part is often returning to your home and familiar routine. But what if the place you go away to is also your home or at least used to be?

I was ten years old when my dad was transferred from Stockholm to London and apart from a couple of years in the US and Ireland I have lived in the UK ever since. We were only meant to stay here for 2-3 years but once they were settled my parents didn’t want to leave and despite my father now being retired they still have no plans to move back.

When I was a teenager I had no desire whatsoever to return to Sweden as I thought (rightly or wrongly) that London’s fashion and music scenes where infinitely cooler than anything my home country had to offer. Now that I am older and have children of my own I find myself appreciating my childhood more and more – the fresh air and open spaces, being able to go ice skating and cross country skiing in the winter and swimming in the lakes in the summer.

In an ideal world I would like us to live in Sweden for a year or two so that the children learn to read and write in Swedish and, perhaps most importantly, really embrace the country and culture as part of their own identity. At the moment they definitely think of themselves as more English than Swedish which is hardly surprising as they were born here and have never lived anywhere else. And while they all understand Swedish it is a struggle to get the boys to speak it unless they’re with their cousins who haven’t learned English yet. One of the hardest things is that my sister and I have lived in different countries for the past 18 years as she moved back to attend university and ended up staying. We keep in touch via Skype and email but often talk about how nice it would be if we lived closer, especially now that we both have children.

For now, however, such a big move is not possible as my husband’s work necessitates him being near London. While that may change at some point in the future, I imagine that as the kids get older it will be more difficult to uproot them from their friends, not to mention disrupting their schooling at a crucial stage. I don’t want to relocate permanently though as I love our life here – our friends, our house and our lovely village with its great sense of community.

And it’s not that I want to impose my own nationality on my children but I would like them to feel that they could choose to study or work in Sweden when they get older (there are some benefits over the UK: further education is free and property prices are generally lower). At the same time I like the idea of putting down roots and creating a family home to encompass all their childhood memories from toddlers to teenagers. We have been in our current house for just over six years now and it’s the longest time I’ve lived in one property since I left Sweden.

There are no easy answers but for now I’ve resolved to carry on speaking Swedish to the children, even if they insist on answering back in English, and upholding traditions such as St Lucia and Midsummer. It would be great to visit more often but for a family of five plane tickets are not exactly cheap so at the moment two or three trips a year is probably all we can manage.

Maybe one day we can get our own holiday home somewhere on the coast of Sweden. Something like this would be amazing (a girl can dream can’t she?):

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Fun at Legoland

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We rounded off our holiday with a trip to the original Legoland theme park in Billund, Denmark. We had booked a two-night package staying at the Legoland Hotel, which I was slightly nervous about, having read mixed reviews about it. But I needn’t have worried – the hotel was great, with big spacious rooms, friendly service, decent food and of course Lego everywhere, including Lego gifts for the children and two big tubs of bricks in our room.

All three children in one picture, looking at the camera and smiling. Hardly EVER happens!

All three children in one picture, looking at the camera and smiling. Hardly EVER happens!

Because the ferry back to England doesn’t leave until 7 in the evening, we had two full days at the park meaning that, between us, we went on every single ride. The boys and their dad were keen to go on the bigger roller coasters while Clemmie and I stuck to the trains, boats and gentle carousels although we did meet up at regular intervals so we could all do some activities together. My parents were also with us and the kids even managed to convince them to come on some of the rides, including the pirate ship one where the objective was to shoot everyone with water canons. Needless to say, we all got soaked but luckily it was a sunny day so we dried off pretty quickly.

A great end to a great holiday!

Clemmie's favourite ride, the horse carousel.

Clemmie’s favourite ride, the horse carousel.

Casper took a break from the white knuckle rides to sift dor gold in the 'Western' area of the park

Casper took a break from the white knuckle rides to sift for gold in the ‘Western’ area of the park

Smiling on the Legoland train

Smiling on the Legoland train

 

 

 

 

A Taste of Sweden

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Many people probably think that Sweden’s culinary delights only consist of meatballs and pickled herring but it’s a well kept secret that the country also boasts some of the best ice cream and pizzas. Good enough to rival the Italians in my humble opinion. Not to mention the melt-in-your-mouth Marabou chocolate bars and the bakeries with their yummy cinnamon buns and flaky buttery Danish pastries.
I’m firmly of the belief that holidays are for indulging and this trip has been no exception. Maybe it’s a good thing that we’re leaving in three days’ time, otherwise I’d end up the size of a house!
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Sun, Sea and … Shopping!

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Holidaying in Sweden in August is always slightly risky weather-wise. It was with some trepidation that we decided to return to the same place in Southern Sweden where we spent our summer vacation two years ago. While the scenery is stunning and the house is a stone’s throw from the beach, the summer of 2011 was truly awful and (I kid you not) we had only one day of sunshine. The rest of the time howling winds, rain and temperatures of 15c meant that we were forced to make excursions to museums, indoor play centres and the cinema which, although enjoyable, is not exactly what you want to be doing in the middle of August.
Last year we were desperate for sunshine so we booked a holiday to Mallorca where we would be guaranteed some decent weather. But I do love the Swedish summer (when it doesn’t rain) and it’s important to us that our children feel at home in the country that is a big part of their heritage so we decided to bite the bullet and give it another go this year.

So far we’ve been lucky, with sunny mornings enabling us to swim in the sea and play on the beach until lunchtime. The afternoons have been more mixed but at least we have been able to do outdoor activities like mini golf and I’ve also ticked off a few of the shopping trips on my list. Updating the autumn wardrobe will have to wait until we’re back in the UK, but the interior shops here are amazing and any spare room in the car is filling up fast. At the moment all new purchases are wrapped securely to withstand the return journey so pictures will follow when I’m back home.

Hope you’re all having a great summer! X
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Our holiday so far

It’s hard to believe that we’re already coming to the end of day five of our two week holiday – time really does pass too quickly sometimes.

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We had a fairly calm crossing on the ferry to Denmark on Thursday (luckily for me as I get seasick very easily). Apart from some squabbling in the backseat, the drive over to Sweden also went very smoothly and we stopped in the southern town of Lund for the first night before continuing our journey to Astrid Lindgren’s World.

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The park is a tribute to the much-loved children’s author and the many wonderful characters she created. The most famous of these (internationally at least) is Pippi Longstocking and at the moment she’s also three year old Clemmie’s favourite.

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I love that throughout the day there are performances where a cast of brilliant actors bring the stories to life. Astrid Lindgren’s books are a huge part of my childhood and it’s heartwarming to see my children enjoy them too.

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The miniature traditional Swedish houses dotted around the park are stunning. I wouldn’t mind living in this one myself:

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A road trip with three kids can be trying at times but one of the best bits is finding little gems along the way like this golf club with an amazing view where we had lunch on Friday.

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Or this lovely interior shop which was located next to an old mill that we visited today on our way back to the south of Sweden.

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This afternoon we arrived in Åhus where we will spend a week with my parents and my sister’s family. After dinner at a beachside restaurant the kids played on the beach with their cousins as the sun was setting, wading out into the shallow water and hunting for jellyfish. A perfect summer’s evening!

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