The Weekend in Pictures

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{I went for a walk on Saturday morning and snapped these lovely daffodils}

Isn’t it amazing what a difference a bit of sunshine can make? We have had glorious weather this weekend and somehow everything seems so much easier when the sun is out, everyone is happier (including the normally grumpy drivers in London!) and even food seems to taste better when it is eaten outside, underneath bright blue skies. I wonder if it’s just because nice weather is such a rarity on these shores. I’d love to know – if you’re lucky enough to live in sunnier climes, does it still boost your mood or do you just get used to it?

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{The outdoor furniture could do with a good clean but it was blissful to sit outside with a cup of coffee and a magazine, listening to the birds chirping in the trees and the children arguing over the football (oh well you can’t have it all!)}

Blue accessories

{Lady in blue: Me up in town this morning wearing my blue pumps from New Look (bought five years ago), a white and blue scarf (bought in Sweden), knitted jacket by Odd Molly, jeans by Paige Denim and sunglasses from Oliver Peoples}

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{We try to go up to the Swedish Church in Marylebone twice a month so the children can go to Sunday school and practice their language skills. Afterwards, there is always coffee and plenty of cakes – during Lent they serve traditional Swedish semla (cakes flavoured with cardamom and filled with almond paste and cream) – sooo yummy!}

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{It looks like it will be the perfect week to fit in a few power walks and trips to the park. No doubt the rain will return at some point so I intend to make the most of it!}

Now the kids are all in bed, the washing up is done, my blog post is written and I think we have time to squeeze in a couple of episodes of House of Cards. We’ve almost watched all of the second series so have to find another one soon…

Hope you’ve all had a great weekend. X

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Recipe: Swedish ‘Sockerkaka’ Sponge Cake

Sockerkaka

I realise this is a bit of a departure from my previous healthy living post but I just downloaded last week’s photos from my camera and wanted to share this recipe with you. Sockerkaka (meaning: Sugar cake) is incredibly popular in Sweden and it is the perfect cake to whip up when you have unexpected company as it’s so simple to make and pretty much all the ingredients are cupboard staples. I made this last week when my friend and her daughter came over, it took me no more than ten minutes to mix up the batter once the kids had gone to school and then I could get on with my work while it was baking in the oven. You could add other flavours such as cocoa powder or lemon juice and zest but this is the original (and in my opinion the best) recipe:

3 eggs
180 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
50 g butter
100 ml milk
220 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla essence until white and fluffy. Melt the butter and stir in the milk, then add that to the mixture. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and carefully fold into the batter. Pour into a prepared ring cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes.

This Week’s Favourites

I just sat down to write my weekly round up post and realised I only had four pictures (and none of them of actual people!) from this past week! I guess now that I’m working four days a week and not out and about so much, there aren’t so many photo opportunities (let’s face it, pictures of me hunched over the laptop with a cup of coffee are not that interesting).  It doesn’t help that it’s January – the month which is renowned for being devoid of social engagements – so hopefully things will pick up in the next few weeks. My mood has finally lifted over the weekend and I feel much more positive going into the new week – going for a run yesterday morning really helped so I’m planning to fit in a couple of sessions at the gym this coming week to try and hold on to those happy endorphins!

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I found this book in my bedside cabinet – I can’t remember where I got it but it made for entertaining reading on a train journey into London for a meeting this week. The book was first published in 2006 so some anecdotes were a bit out of date but it gave some interesting insights into the fashion industry.

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It finally stopped raining and the weather got cold (and sunny) enough for me to wear the Ugg boots I got for Christmas. I love Uggs – so warm and comfortable!

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Friday night TV dinner – spaghetti carbonara with a side salad and a nice glass of red – in front of Breaking Bad, of course. We’re now on the last series – what will we do when it’s all over? I’m hoping the second season of House of Cards is out soon…

I had planned to go to the movies with a friend last night to see American Hustle but we left it too late and when we tried to book online all three cinemas near us were sold out. We will have to try next weekend instead.

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A trip to Ikea was on the agenda today, to buy a new shelving unit for my eldest son’s room, storage boxes and all the other usual bits and pieces that magically seem to jump into our trolley every time we visit the Swedish superstore. I was fairly restrained today it has to be said as we’re still feeling the pinch from the Christmas blowout…

It’s almost 8pm so time to round up the kids (who are still downstairs riding the wave of that second wind of energy they seem to get as soon as bedtime approaches) and try to get them into bed. I’m determined that our mornings this week will be a lot more pleasant than they were last week…

Happy Sunday to you all! X

 

This Week’s Favourites

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I could really do with an extra five (child free!) hours in the day at the moment. Despite my best intentions I still haven’t wrapped ANY of the Christmas presents and each day more packages are arriving in the post and added to the towering pile of cardboard boxes in the laundry room. I feel like one of those compulsive shoppers who keep keeps buying more and more stuff but just hiding the unopened bags in the cupboard (except none of the purchases are actually for me). Tomorrow I really must start opening the boxes and wrapping a few each night…

But first here is a quick recap of my week:

1. I’m doing most of my Christmas shopping online but I did venture into town earlier this week and stumbled across a cute Christmas market in the church yard, complete with traditional stalls and..

2. ..an old-fashioned cart selling hot chestnuts. I’ve never actually tried them (if anyone has – are they nice?) but they smell gorgeous.

3. The advent stars in our kitchen windows are switched on every afternoon as soon as it starts to get dark. I love how they make the room feel all warm and cosy and always miss them when they come down in January.

4. It was a very busy weekend for us and one of the highlights was the Christmas concert which Casper’s Beaver Scout group put on last night. Casper and his friend dressed up as The Proclaimers and gave a sterling rendition of their hit I’m Gonna Be (500 miles).

5. This morning we got up early to go to The Swedish Church in London for the annual St Lucia celebration. The boys dressed up as ‘stjarngossar’ (star boys) and Clemmie was a tiny Lucia. We all sang Christmas songs before going down to the church hall for gingerbread biscuits, coffee and juice.

6. I know I’m biased, but have you ever seen a cuter Lucia? Clemmie was very brave and stayed at the front of the church for the whole concert. My baby is growing up!

7.. Counting down the days: We lit the second advent candle today, not long to go now!

8. My husband and I also had a taste of this year’s Glogg (a bit like mulled wine but nicer, in my opinion!) before dinner.

9. We rounded off the weekend by heading over to our friends’ house to celebrate their daughter’s third birthday with this yummy red velvet cake. The perfect end to a great week!

We also finally bought our Christmas tree today, so the kids and I put the decorations up when we got home but the lights aren’t on yet so I haven’t taken any pictures. It’s on my list for tomorrow along with the wrapping and writing the Christmas cards…

Hope you have a great evening! X

Recipe: Saffron and White Chocolate Cake

Saffron cake

Christmas for me is all about traditions – carrying on old ones from my childhood as well as creating new ones just for our family. Despite having lived in the UK since the age of ten, when I was growing up we always celebrated a traditional Swedish Christmas (with a few English twists). Much of the festive season revolves around food and in Sweden saffron is synonymous with Christmas. For St Lucia Day (read more about it here), which falls on December 13, it is customary to serve bright yellow saffron buns studded with raisins. While the buns are rather time consuming to make as the dough needs to rise (but they are oh, so worth it, I will share the recipe when I do make them), this cake takes hardly any time at all. My eldest son has inherited my love for saffron so I made it for his birthday earlier this month and I’ll make another one for the first of advent to serve along with Glögg (similar to mulled wine) and gingerbread biscuits.

Ingredients:

100g unsalted butter
100g white chocolate
0.5g saffron (if you’re near a Scandinavian food store you can usually buy the saffron powder in tiny (but expensive) bags)
2 eggs
160g sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
130g plain flour

Preparation Method:

Melt the butter together with the white chocolate in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the saffron and put to one side.Whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence until white and fluffy. Add the chocolate and butter mixture and stir until combined. Sift in the flour and carefully fold it in. Pour the butter into a prepared spring form cake tin. Bake in an oven preheated to 200 degrees for 15-20 minutes depending on the desire texture (I like the cake to be slightly gooey in the middle). Allow it to cool before serving.

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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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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Off to Sweden we go!

Sweden Collage

The bags are packed, the house is clean, the fridge is empty and the milk has been cancelled. All that remains is to load everything and everyone into the car and we’ll be on our way tomorrow morning. Catching the ferry to Denmark and then driving over to Sweden to stay in a cottage by the beach. I can’t wait!

I will try to update the blog while I’m away but you can also follow me on Instagram where I’m called aspoonfulofstyle (link)