A city stroll

Leave a comment

What is there to do in London on a crisp, cold but sunny Friday in half term?

A museum trip is always a winner. Miss Five Year Old has a little obsession with museums. I am sure she is genuinely interested in Roman Londinium and the Egyptians, but I also think the pull of the museum shop has a part to play.

So anyway, we decided to visit the Museum of London at Barbican and meet up with Mr Mumwithapearlearring for lunch while we were in the area.

The Museum of London is one of my favourites. I love the relevance of it, especially how you really feel like you are in the middle of all the history being in the centre of London, in EC2.

Part of the fun of a museum for Miss Five is completing one of the children’s activities (usually some sort of sheet where you have to find different displays). Today was pretty busy and slightly chaotic when we arrived, so she opted to do some sketching instead of some interesting pieces.

Roman London artefacts

Roman London artefacts

Next, we went to the Georgian Pleasure Gardens, a theatrical and slightly eerie replica of the gardens where glamorous ladies would stand around in their magnificent dresses to socialise.  With Phillip Treacy hats galore, this interactive space gives you a little insight into Georgian London high society and really is fabulous.

image

image

Speaking of Phillip Treacy, the amazing milliner to the royals and stars alike (remember Carrie’s fantastic fascinators in Sex and the City?) his Georgian creations were slightly more stylish than this little number he dreamt up for Princess Beatrice. Who could forget this little baby?!

Princess Beatrice making an impact at the royal wedding

Princess Beatrice making an impact at the royal wedding

From the museum we strolled over to St Pauls. I never get sick of admiring this view.

St Paul's looming ahead

St Paul’s cathedral looming ahead

We had a quick pit stop at the other Pauls for an afternoon macaroon. There’s always time for a macaroon. And it goes oh so well with a good coffee.

These macaroons are like heaven in each bite

These macaroons are like heaven in each bite

After our little indulgence we made our way over to Guildhall, with a spring in our step from the coffee kick.

Ooh! Here it is!

Ooh! Here it is!

Guild Hall

Guild Hall

Guildhall is kind of overlooked, I guess in the shadow of St Pauls. Within Guildhall is a Roman amphitheatre they uncovered only in 1988 when they were excavating the area to build the art gallery that it also houses.

Needless to to say, it was pretty impressive and was very, very quiet as I don’t think tourists really know about it. They even had lit up people to show you what would have gone on, from gladiator battles, lion fights and public executions.

A Roman amphitheatre, right in the heart of London

A Roman amphitheatre, right in the heart of London

Roman ruins and rubble

Roman ruins and rubble

There are also a few levels of art gallery to explore.

Victorian and modern paintings to browse in a really quiet gallery

Victorian and modern paintings to browse in a really quiet gallery

And I must say an extremely nice security guard who gave Miss Five Year Old a £1 coin just because. She obviously had the cute factor going on today!

image

This is the by-product of the museum shop and the end of a successful day out. We just had to have them.

image

We love London!

Follow mum with a pearl earring on WordPress.com

A slippin’ and a slidin’

2 Comments

The gods pressed the pause button on the rain and the sun came out. Hurrah! Right. Time to get out.

After much nagging from Miss Five Year Old about going ice skating, we decided to make our way over to Alexandra Palace, or “Ally Pally” as it’s locally known. I really ought to get out a bit more. After living close by for over a year now, this was my first time venturing over to Ally Pally, the People’s Palace, so they say.

Located  just next to Muswell Hill it stands. And I’m not one for saying O.M.G, but this really deserves an OMG for the views alone. As it’s up really high you get an amazing panoramic view of London. And it looks like this.

View from Ally Pally

View from Ally Pally

My trusty iPhone camera really doesn’t do it justice. But it really is pretty special. The expanse of green lawn overlooking central London really reminds me of the view of Perth from Kings Park in Western Australia, my home town. Ok, maybe not the same balmy temperatures but I can imagine on a warm sunny London afternoon it would be a prime picnic spot.

And now onto the ice skating. It’s pretty standard as ice skating goes.

It’s definitely no Somerset House, which is pretty amazing.

Skating at Somerset House

Skating at Somerset House

Or oozing in ancient history like the Tower of London.

Skating at the Tower of London

Skating at the Tower of London

But Ally Pally is pretty good for a local rink that is open all year round.

Ice skating at Alexandra Palace

Ice skating at Alexandra Palace

And off we go...

And off we go…

It’s quite reasonable for a family ticket and you get a very average pair of ice skates to use. Average, meaning they could really do with an update as they look like they have seen maybe one too many pairs of feet. And we were a little disappointed by the ice scooters. We had been coercing Miss Three Year Old into ice skating with the promise of her being able to skate with a penguin.

However, the penguins must have all escaped as we were given a boring red frame to push along. That really didn’t do much to help with the enthusiasm for Miss Three.

Definitely not a fun penguin.

Definitely not a fun penguin.

Besides ice skating there is a boating lake, pitch and putt, Little Dinosaurs soft play and cafés.

And a good playground which finally put a smile onto Miss Three’s face.

A fun playground for little ones and big ones.

A fun playground for little ones and big ones.

I woke up with sore legs the next day. That either means I’m really unfit or it was Hard Work.

And hey, it was so much fun I didn’t even realise I was exercising!

So next time you venture up to North London it’s definitely worth a visit. And I think when the weather starts behaving itself it really will be a treat.

Follow mum with a pearl earring on WordPress.com

Sunday morning egg and bacon bites

Leave a comment

After a night out with Mr Mumwithapearlearring and with a craving for a good old fry up, I came across this recipe recently and couldn’t resist trying it for myself. We were having a lazy Sunday morning, the girls were playing happily and the Winter Olympics were on….right this calls for something a little delicious (as well as to celebrate Jenny Jones’ bronze in snowboarding).

You will need (for 6 egg and bacon bites)

  • 12 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 6 medium sized eggs (you can use large ones but risk over flowing the tin)
  • 6 pieces of toast
  • a handful of grated cheese
  • chopped chives or parsley

First, preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Make the toast, and use a cookie cutter to cut out circles to fit your muffin tin. Mine were a fraction too large but I just squashed them down in the tin and hoped for the best.

Make your toast circles with a cookie cutter.

Make your toast circles with a cookie cutter.

Squeeze the toast circles into the base.

Squeeze the toast circles into the base.

Next, cook the bacon, making sure it’s only about 80% cooked. You want to be able to bend the bacon around the muffin tins.

While the bacon is still warm and pliable, wrap it around the edge of the tin. I used two pieces as one didn’t quite wrap around the outside.

Grate some cheese and sprinkle a small amount on top of each toast circle, in the middle of the bacon.

Wrap the bacon around the edge and sprinkle a bit of cheese.

Wrap the bacon around the edge and sprinkle a bit of cheese.

Then crack an egg into each little bacon cup.

Medium sized eggs fit perfectly. Large eggs would probably overspill.

Medium sized eggs fit perfectly. Large eggs would probably overspill.

Bung them in the oven for about 10-20 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs. I cooked mine for about 15 minutes as I like my eggs firm on the top, but runny in the middle.

Take them out of the oven and……te dah! Egg and bacon bites.

Crack some black pepper on top and sprinkle on some chopped chives.

image

Look at these little beauties!

My husband absolutely LOVED them. They were so supremely delicious, oozing, runny egg yolk while getting a small bite of toast, melted cheese and bacon, all in one go. What more could you want for a recovery Sunday morning brunch?

Egg and bacon bite

Egg and bacon bite

A crispy bacon nest for your egg

A crispy bacon nest for your egg

 

image

There’s no better way to eat these than taking a big bite.

Gooey, runny egg centre.

Gooey, runny egg centre.

Oh, and if you want a veggie option you can make them minus the bacon and they still worked a treat. Just add a twist of salt on top (you don’t need salt with the bacon ones).

Veggie option minus the bacon. Still holds together nicely.

Veggie option minus the bacon. Still holds together nicely.

The kids loved them too. A new firm favourite. Try them, super easy.

Follow mum with a pearl earring on WordPress.com

Yum Cha Silk and Spice

Leave a comment

It was one of those cold, bright and sunny Saturdays when we decided it was about time we got a dumpling fix. Yum cha, dim sum, whatever you call it, it was definitely calling us (and also the fact that it was Chinese New Year).

So what better excuse?

We decided instead of battling the crowds on the tube of the Northern line heading into the crazy crowds of China town, we would mosey on over to Camden.

You would never expect to find amazing yum cha in the heart of edgy Camden. But right across the road from the entrance to Stables market (and that infamous Cyber Dog

Cyber Dog- the shop with podium dancers

Cyber Dog, the shop across the road from Yum Cha, with podium dancers

punk/rave/electro/not really sure how to describe it shop that is basically a nightclub that sells clubbing paraphernalia) is Yum Cha Silk and Spice.

And while we are not the subject of Camden, the ex-home of Amy Winehouse, most people that know me, know that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Camden. Actually probably more hate than love.

I love a few good things about Camden such as Gilgermesh (a restaurant/bar/club with amazing interior), the markets are pretty special and unique,  as well as Yum Cha Silk and Spice with the dim sum I am about to show you.

But the rest is….all a bit too gritty for me. Something always happens to me when I go to Camden. This time, as we were getting the little ones out of the car a man “off his head” on something quite disturbing staggered slightly too close to the pushchair for my liking, then fell into the doorway of a nearby shop. Lovely.

Anyhow, onto the yum cha.

The restaurant looks quite unassuming from the outside.

Yum Cha Silk and Spice

Yum Cha Silk and Spice

And it is quite basic on the inside.

Pretty standard decor with wooden chopsticks (not that there's anything wrong with that)

Pretty standard decor with wooden chopsticks (not that there’s anything wrong with that)

But we weren’t there to be wowed by the decor. After being bustled through the busy restaurant (family of 5 with a large pushchair) we were all seated and ready for our little parcels of deliciousness.

We were starving after our Saturday morning ritual of the girls’ swimming lessons so we probably over ordered. However, we did a pretty good job of polishing off most of the contents of those little cane baskets.

In between feeding an 8 month old, tending to the two others and trying to eat something myself I have only taken photos of the things that were especially tasty. Oh, and my three year old continually singing out a new song she learnt at nursery this week, “Kung Hei Fat Choy, is happy, happy new year!” added to the ambience.

We started off with the salt and pepper squid. It was really tender and the crunchy, garlicky, chilli bits were especially good.

Salt and pepper squid

Salt and pepper squid

The kids love, love, love the BBQ char siu pork buns. My five year old had two baskets all to herself she loves them so much! Sadly, I missed out on tasting them, but they were obviously good. The girls call them “pork bunnies”.

BBQ pork "bunnies"

BBQ pork “bunnies”

The prawn and chive dumplings were packed full of chive and very fresh tasting.

Prawn and chive dumplings

Prawn and chive dumplings

As were the har gau prawn dumplings.

Prawn dumplings

Prawn dumplings

The cheung fun (flour rolls) were melt in your mouth and was perfect with the sweet soy sauce.

Cheung fun

Cheung fun

The crispy pork puffs were moreish and we wished we had ordered more.

Pork puffs

Pork puffs

My husband’s favourite is the Shanghai pork dumplings. These little babies look very ordinary and plain on the outside. But when you bite into them, you get an explosion of warming soup and pork in your mouth.

Shanghai pork dumplings

Shanghai pork dumplings

We finished off with the egg tarts…crispy pastry with sweet custard middles. Mmmmmmmmm.

Custard egg tarts

Custard egg tarts

And was all washed down with copious amounts of jasmine tea.

"More please!"

“More please!”

"Thanks"

“Thanks”

When we had eaten as much as we possibly could (and left the table slightly in a state of disrepair), we left to brave the streets while marvelling at all the quirky stalls of the markets across the street. This time we didn’t see anymore dodgy sights, but the girls did end up with some glow in the dark goodies from Cyber Dog after going in with Daddy for a little jump around to the pumping music.

Kung hei fat choy! Happy Chinese new year!

 

2014 Year of the Horse

2014 Year of the Horse

 

 

Follow mum with a pearl earring on WordPress.com

Prepare your child for school: Tip #3 “Once upon a time…” Part One

Leave a comment

I am sure everyone knows the importance of this (and I am quite possibly preaching to the converted), but I really can’t stress highly enough the value of reading stories to young children.

Kids learn so much from reading…remember they are little sponges? I won’t go into the nitty gritty about what they learn as there are so many positive points to story time, and I am sure you don’t need all the theories behind benefits to reading.

It’s such a cliché, but it’s never too early to start reading books.

image

A little Einstein in the making…

A six month old will enjoy looking at bright pictures and will love listening to catchy words (actually you could talk about anything, they just love hearing your voice). Board books are good for babies, otherwise over enthusiastic grabs at the pages will result in rips and tears!

There are so many books out there to choose from, so what are the best ones? Any books that inspire your little person to sit still and focus is a winner. The key thing is to help them develop a love for books and reading. In my opinion, books that are off shoots of a TV series or film tend to not be as engaging or the highest quality reads. But then, if it makes your child tick, then use what they like!

What I can do to help you is to give you a few pointers on some tried and tested books I have used over the years, both with my own children and in the classroom. The best books to choose are ones that are repetitive, have a good rhythm, have rhyming words or appeal to a 3-4 year old’s humour (for example, anything to do with undies for some reason is always a hit).

To make it a bit clearer, I have separated my top picks into different categories. There are hundreds of fantastic books that would make my list but I have narrowed it down to just a few…..well I’ve tried my best to, anyway.

These books, in my opinion, are the best staple books to read and enjoy (over and over and over again!). If you need some guidance and can only buy a few, then you can’t go wrong with the ones below.

So here goes.

My top “vintage” picks:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, an old favourite, and first published in 1969!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, an old favourite, and first published in 1969

An old favourite. This story helps to teach the basics of counting, healthy eating choices and even the scientific concept of the life cycle of a caterpillar. There is a wealth of activities you could do with your child after reading the story, just google it and you will see. 

Rosie’s Walk 

First published in 1968

First published in 1968

“Rosie’s Walk” has detailed and interesting illustrations with very simple text. A sly fox follows Rosie the hen around the farmyard with amusing consequences. This story is great for position words such as around, over, across etc. If you are feeling adventurous, you could even recreate Rosie’s Walk as an obstacle course at home (reinforcing those position words too as they go, of course).

The Tiger Who Came To Tea

Who doesn't love a spot of tea?

Who doesn’t love a spot of tea?

Sophie is a little girl with an over active imagination and a tiger ends up coming to their house. They end up going to a restaurant (where they eat a haute cuisine dinner of sausages and chips) for dinner because the tiger has eaten all of their food up. This is a perfect story to talk about table manners and how to behave politely at the table.

Where the Wild Things Are 

Published in 1963 a firm favourite in many households

Published in 1963 a firm favourite in many households

Any story that gets made into theatre is generally going to be high quality reading material. Max has an enchanting adventure in his pyjamas. One to get those little imaginations sparking!

And here are my top four picks for more recent classic books:

Each, Peach, Pear, Plum 

Ties characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales together ending in a feast of plum pie

Ties characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales together ending in a feast of plum pie

This story has lots of rhyming words and loads of detail in each picture. Each page has something for the child to find and makes reference to common fairy tales and nursery rhymes your child is bound to be familiar with, or you have sung time and time again until you are blue in the face. 

The Gruffalo 

Stroll into the deep, dark wood to discover the Gruffalo

Stroll into the deep, dark wood to discover the Gruffalo

Julia Donaldson has written many fantastic books, but this is probably the most popular. Again, a story that has been made into theatre. Lots of rhyming words and alliteration to get the little ones engaged.

Hooray for Fish 

Bright, bold and colourful pictures with rhyming and repetition

Bright, bold and colourful pictures with lots of repetition

This is a story that my kids never get tired of. It’s great for understanding concepts such as size, shape, pattern and positioning as well as throwing in lots of describing words. My kids love giving me a kiss at the end when the little fish finds his fish mum….usually complete with snot, mind you.  Awww thanks!

Handa’s Surprise 

Love the illustrations in this story and all the delicious fruits!

Love the illustrations in this story and all the delicious fruits!

Handa’s Surprise is a story I remember using as a student at uni. Once again, there is so much you can do with this story- just google the story for lots of good ideas you could do for weeks! Time to get out those wooden BBQ skewers and make some fruit kebabs after reading.

Now these books are perfect for early learning and particularly suitable for 2 year olds. They are fast paced with simple sentence structure that can keep their attention.

Dear Zoo

Lift the flaps to discover a new pet

Lift the flaps to discover a new pet

The zoo sends a pet and each time you lift the flap it’s not quite the right type of pet. Lots of repetition and describing words in this story and the kids will love it. I don’t know what it is about flaps, but kids fight over who gets to lift them. Fighting over a book? Bring it on!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? 

Perfect story for reinforcing colours

Perfect story for reinforcing colours

This has got to be my favourite story for teaching 3-4 year olds. It’s really catchy phrases are repetitive and they also rhyme. There are animals of every colour which makes learning colours a cinch with this book. It’s a great one for kids to read back to you, and gives them confidence as they can’t get it wrong as it’s so predictable.

Where’s Spot?

All kids love a game of hide and seek!

All kids love a game of hide and seek!

Another lift the flap book where children need to help Spot the dog’s mum find him hiding somewhere in the house. A fabulous book for practising position words, for example, behind, in front of, under. You can even play this one at home with a favourite toy (just make sure you can find it again though).

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt 

It's a bear....Aaaaargh!

It’s a bear….Aaaaargh!

Another all time favourite where the kids go on an adventure with their dad and encounter mud, woods, snowstorms and finally a cave…..with a very scary bear! It always makes me think they are trekking through Hampstead Heath, although I’m probably way off. Anyway, it’s another goodie and another opportunity for physical development (perfect obstacle course material). And when you reach the back cover it has a picture of the bear that makes them think with a bit of critical analysis….is he really a scary bear after all?

Seeing as this post is starting to get on the lengthy side and I have a tendency to get a little bit too excited about childrens’ books, I’ve decided to split my best childrens’ book recommendations into two parts.

So stay tuned for Part Two, where I’ll give you my best of books that kids can’t help laughing out loud to, and books that have a moral to the story.

In the meantime…grab a book, a child and a comfy corner and get reading!

Follow mum with a pearl earring on WordPress.com

Aussie meat pie

Leave a comment
Image

Happy Australia Day!

And what a perfect excuse to make a delicious steak and mushroom pie on a cold and dreary day in North London. Australia Day only rolls around once every year and it would be very rude not to get back to my roots and indulge in some fine Australian “cuisine”.

The ingredients you will need:

  • half an onion
  • teaspoon of cumin
  • half a teaspoon cinnamon
  • a few bay leaves
  • a few cloves of garlic, crushed
  • braising steak
  • good few handfuls of mushrooms
  • glass of red wine
  • can of chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml beef stock
  • cornflour if needed
  • plain flour for dusting steak
  • puff pastry (I cheat and buy a pack!)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

The first thing you will need to do is crush the garlic, chop up the onion and sauté until cooked.

Meanwhile, chop up the steak into bite sized pieces and dust with the flour.

Braising steak: chop into bite sized pieces

Braising steak: chop into bite sized pieces

Season with salt and pepper.

Add the steak to the pan (or in my case the slow cooker) with the garlic and onion.

Add the cumin and cinnamon. Add the bay leaves.

Roughly chop up the mushrooms and add them to the pan.

Give it all a good stir

Give it all a good stir

Add the glass of red wine and cook and stir until the wine is evaporated. Then add the beef stock and chopped tomatoes.

Slow cook the mixture for at least 3 hours until the meat is tender. You may or may not need to add some cornflour if it needs to be thickened.

Roll out the pastry for the base of the pie dish (greasing the dish first just incase it sticks).

Add the mixture to the pie dish.

I decided to do a lattice pastry top, literally cut the pastry in strips and lay over each other in opposite ways.

A lattice top makes it a bit lighter

A lattice top makes it a bit lighter

Cook in the oven at 180 degrees for about half an hour or until golden brown on the top.

image

Cook until golden brown (and until the delicious smell permeates your house)

Serve with with mash, peas and carrots.

Fosters beer and Aussie scarf  is optional. However, devouring this tasty pie is compulsory, no matter which side of the world you are.

image

Follow mum with a pearl earring on WordPress.com

Prepare your child for school: Tip #2 Mark making

Leave a comment

So following on from tip #1 on making sure your child gets plenty of time to build up those little muscles so they have plenty of “oomph” to power those pencils, the next obvious thing to think about is mark making.

Mark making is the buzz word in early years education. It’s a major part of the early years curriculum in England.  Teachers are always looking for opportunities for children to “make marks” throughout all the learning areas and to mix it in with their play. So this means drawing, early writing, painting, well anything that is capable of making marks (and which can often have very messy consequences!).

The best thing to do is give your child a variety of pens, pencils, markers and crayons and let them experiment. Praise any efforts they make, but try to avoid asking them, “What have you drawn?” or “What is it?”.

Often children are not “drawing” anything, but enjoying feeling the pen glide along the paper, they may be captivated in watching the bright marker trailing behind their movements, or like watching the paint dribble down the page. They don’t need to “produce” anything, in fact, it might just look like a really ugly scribble.

Painting to make marks and practising those fine motor skills

Painting to make marks and practising those fine motor skills

If you want to talk about what they have done, then you could say, “Tell me about your picture”. Then they can tell you that the ugly scribble is actually a beautiful princess or that massive splodge of grey/ black paint that started off as all the colours of the rainbow is actually a treasure map. Can’t you see where X marks the spot?!

It's a pretty princess

It’s a pretty princess!

Mark making doesn’t have to be limited to good old fashioned pens and paper. You might be game to try mark making in shaving cream, jelly, sand, gloop (a corn flour and water concoction) or finger painting.

Finger painting= messy, but fun mark making

Finger painting= messy, but fun mark making

Mark making at the beach. See? It can be done anywhere!

Mark making at the beach. See? It can be done anywhere!

Even the infamous iPad has its place with mark making. iPads are quite restricted in our house to plane journeys or a very special treat. However, using a drawing or writing app for kids is perfect mark making practise.

iPads can be perfect (and clean!) mark making as well as hand-eye coordination. Duration is limited in our house.

iPads can be perfect (and clean!) mark making as well as hand-eye coordination. Duration is limited in our house.

Another good alternative is using chalk. We recently painted one of the walls in the girls’ playroom in chalkboard paint. I am sure passers by thought we were a little odd. Picture my husband and I paint brushes in hand, with the shutters wide open for fresh air at 10pm on a Tuesday night painting our wall black, but was well worth the effort. We now have a whole wall that they can freely draw, write or make marks on without getting in trouble!

A great idea to keep kids busy of all ages

A great idea to keep kids busy of all ages

Chalkboard paint is a fab way to get your kids mark making. We used 1.5 tins, about £30 for the wall from Homebase.

Chalkboard paint is a fab way to get your kids mark making. We used 1 and a half tins, about £30 for the wall from Homebase.

And of course chalk can also be used outside on the pavement on a sunny day or works really well on black paper.

Even the most unenthusiastic drawer I am sure can be persuaded to mark make using some of the different methods.

It really is trial and error.

Trial and error for the children experimenting with marks.  Trial and error for the adults to work out what makes your child get inspired to mark make!

Follow mum with a pearl earring on WordPress.com