Sunday lunch at the Cook and Barker

The Cook and Barker describes itself as 'A Real traditional Northumbrian Country Inn'. I couldn't describe it more perfectly myself. Nestled away in the picturesque village of Newton on the Moor, you would never believe you were just minutes away from the busy A1. I usually work every Sunday so a proper Sunday lunch is a real treat for me and when it worked out I would have last Sunday night off, I wanted to make the most of it and book somewhere nice.

I asked for recommendations of the best place to go on my facebook page and The Cook and Barker was a name that appeared over and over again so we booked at table for the five of us at 5pm on Sunday evening.

The Cook and Barker feels warm and inviting and I loved how friendly the staff were. We were seated in 'the snug' which was a lovely little hideaway from the main bar. The pub was busy with locals but not too full that we felt rushed. 

Our food was amazing but I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. The roast beef melted in the mouth, the roast potatoes were crisp, the vegetables were cooked to perfection and there was so much to go around. The gravy was packed full of flavour too. There is no children's menu as such but we were made to feel very welcome and there was a lovely family atmosphere. Children can order half portions of anything from the main menu.

Everybody was really good and ate all of their greens so we could not resist some homemade desserts which finished off our meal perfectly.

Our bill was just short of £60 for two courses, wine and drinks which is a good price considering the quality (A Sunday lunch is £8.95).

I cannot wait to visit the Cook and Barker again. I think it would be the perfect place to escape from it all and stay over for an evening. I also really like the look of their special evening menu which is only £45 per couple for 3 courses, coffee and a bottle of wine on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday evening. Bargain!

To find out more about The Cook and Barker, you can visit their website here: 


An afternoon at The Science Museum, London

The Science museum is located next door to The Natural History Museum and across the road from The V&A museum. All of these fab attractions are FREE and very easy to find on the doorstep of South Kensington tube station. I knew my son would love to spend his 8th birthday here so after a whistle-stop tour of the Natural History museum in the morning, we made our way over to The Science museum. There was no queue which is always a relief and again, no pressure to make a donation (although always good to do this if you can).

As soon as we entered I was completely blown away. There was so much to see and do and I really didn't know where to look first! We picked up a map from the information desk (free) and made our way along the ground floor. This featured lots of inventions that have shaped the modern world and a space section which was fantastic - I especially loved the model of Apollo 11.

The Science museum features new technology too and it was great watching the 3D printers in action and looking at some of the fab items that have been created (including a whole bike!).

Next, we stopped on the third floor and spent quite a bit of time in their 'futures' exhibition. There were lots of interactive computer games designed to make you question the future. Questions such as, 'Should parents be allowed to track their child's location through satellites or is this an invasion of their privacy?' were posed and explored using fun games (I loved pretending to be a child, sneaking out and dodging the satellite beam so I wouldn't get caught).

Next, we walked through the fly zone which featured lots on lots of planes from throughout history up to the modern day. It was very interesting looking at a cross section of a modern-day jumbo jet (they are huge!!) compared to the very first flying machines. There were some paid-for experiences in this section such as a 4D flying with the red arrows experience and flight simulator's that looked like lots of fun.

The main part of the museum I had wanted to visit was the launchpad which is where most of the hands on fun is. It is designed for ages 8-14 years but my 5 year old also loved it. It was fairly busy but I must say all of the children were very polite and everybody took their turn fairly. There are over 50 hands on exhibits that were lots of fun including looking through a brick wall (this had me stumped for a while until I figured it out!), launching a rocket, learning about viscosity through experiments, making waves and learning about magnetism. We had a fab time in this area and all absolutely loved it. 

There is a learning room within the launchpad where free demonstrations, talks and experiments occur throughout the day. There is no need to book a place, just listen out for the announcements. We watched the FLASH, BANG, WALLOP show which was all about explosions. Very exciting! The show lasted about 20 minutes and was very engaging with lots of audience participation. Lots of things were blown up and barbie was even fired from a canon! The show was really lots of fun and the presenter skilfully sneaked some learning in too - my children now know all about the combustion triangle!

At 3:30pm we hadn't eaten anything since lunch so decided to eat in the energy cafe by the entrance. In future visits I will definitely plan ahead and take a packed lunch to enjoy in one of the museum's picnic areas (including one right next to the launch pad) as the prices were very high. One small slice of cheese and tomato pizza was £6 and a can of coke was £1.70. Still, we enjoyed it and were in a rush and £32 for lunch for 4 didn't break the bank.

We left through the gift shop and again found some of the prices to be very high. A Rubik's cube for example was £18. There were lots of good pocket money toys to choose from though around the £2-£3 mark. My daughter loves her slime ball!

We left The Science Museum after 2 hours as we needed to catch our train home but could have easily spent a lot longer here. We all really enjoyed taking part in the hands on experiments and I loved how the exhibits were all modern, relevant and engaging. We will definitely return to The Science Museum in the future.

You can read more about The Science Museum here:-


2 hours at The Natural History Museum

When in London this weekend for my son's 8th birthday I could not decide between taking him to The Natural History museum which to me is something every child should see in their life or The Science museum which is next door and I think my son would enjoy too as science is his favourite subject at school. I have been to The Natural history museum before with my husband so we were very aware of how huge it is but still, we took the decision to try and see them both in the same day. I am pleased to say, it can be done!

The Natural History museum is very easy to find - simply exit South Kensington tube station and it is right in front of you - you will probably spot the queues first! We got there for just after 11am and queued for approximately 20 minutes - the queue was very fast moving.

The Natural History museum IS FREE! and nobody hassles you to donate (although of course it is good to give what you can). Maps can be purchased for £1. There is an impressive model of a diplodocus in the museum foyer but don't forget to look around at the stunning architecture too. We paused for a moment to consult our map and decide upon the main sections we wanted to see.

Our first stop was the blue zone on the lower floor which is home to the famous dinosaur exhibit. This was definitely the busiest part of the museum with the flow of people regularly coming to a standstill. We still managed to see everything though and take a few pics. The dinosaur exhibit is spread over one floor with a mezzanine level which you walk along first. It is packed full of information and I think if you wanted to look at everything properly you could expect to spend 3 hours in this section.

We are big dinosaur fans in our house and it was lovely watching our children putting their knowledge to the test as they were naming the dinosaurs and consolidating everything they have learnt at school. The highlight of the dinosaur exhibit for us was definitely the moving T-Rex - very scary!

The exhibit questions whether T-Rex's were killers or scavengers amongst other things, is full of up to date research and really makes you think. We loved it and there is something for all ages.

Next, we quickly walked around part of the Green section (sorry - no photos). It was lovely walking amongst the planets, models of cells and fossil collections. Although we didn't stop to read anything it was enough to just walk around and take the environment in.

After the Green section we headed to the red zone which was the other part of the museum we really wanted to see. This section is all about our ever changing planet and featured lots of interacting ways to learn about weather, erosion, volcanoes and earthquakes. I was really inspired to read that weather is never actually destructive - it simply changes part of our world. Certainly food for thought!

How fantastic is the entrance to the red zone! Loads of fun and very exciting. I can't believe this is free!

The volcanoes and earthquakes area was amazing with lots of hands on fun - the highlight being the earthquake simulator. We all got to stand in a mock shop and the floor moved as if we were in a real earthquake - such a fantastic way to learn about what happens.

We spent about two hours in the Natural History museum but only probably covered about 1/8 of everything there is to see. You could easily spend two days here but if you want to, you can also break it down and spend a few hours there only visiting a few sections of interest. We certainly learned a lot during our two hours - everything was so visual and interactive. I would really like to visit the museum again and see more.

We left the museum via the gift shop - some things were expensive however these cuddly dinosaurs were only £8 which I didn't find too bad. There is a huge selection of fantastic books available to buy too and certainly worth a browse.

You can find out more about The Natural History museum here:-

The museum is situated next to the Victoria and Albert museum and The Science museum.


How to surprise your children with a trip to London

As you may have read, this week we are attending the MAD blog awards in London. The awards happened to fall on the same weekend as my eldest son's 8th birthday so we hatched a plan to take Harry and Heidi to London for the weekend but keep it a complete surprise.

When I noticed Wrapped for you* on twitter (follow them here) who are a local firm based in Gosforth specialising in creating bespoke personalised chocolates I just knew this would be the perfect way to reveal the surprise to the children.

I contacted Kerry, who runs wrapped for you with my idea and she loved it. It was fantastic to hear somebody as enthusiastic about my plan as I was. You can browse lots of different designs and order your chocolates on the wrapped for you website.

You can also design your own chocolate bars and even upload photographs or you own company logo. We decided to leave the whole design to Kerry and I could not have been happier with the results. Large chocolate bar's cost from £4.95 each.

Don't they look fab!

So on Friday morning the children dragged themselves downstairs fully expecting to sit down to a bowl of cereal but instead found these beautifully wrapped (wrapping is included) chocolate bars instead.

Here is their reaction:-

Now I don't normally allow my children to have chocolate for breakfast but today I did make an exception and they loved it! It really didn't last long.

Thank you to Kerry for such a wonderful service and great product. I will not hesitate to use your service again.


Haveli - Modern & Elegant Indian cuisine in Ponteland

Last night we enjoyed the most wonderful experience at Haveli in Ponteland*. We were seriously wowed. The last time we were this impressed was when we dined at Dinner by Heston in London last year. In my opinion, your experience at Haveli is pretty on par with a Michelin dining experience. It really is stunning.

You would not expect a restaurant of this calibre to be situated within in a small shopping area of Darras Hall - placed next door to a sandwich shop and co-op supermarket the elegant building kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. However it's location certainly did not put diner's off and the restaurant had a lovely buzz about it as we arrived at 8pm on a Thursday evening.

I was immediately impressed with the stylish surroundings and more importantly, the warm welcome we received at Haveli. The restaurant manager Atul has worked at 5 star establishments throughout the world and this is certainly evident throughout service. His team are an absolute credit to him - I watched as they effortlessly ensured every single diner was looked after. We had a few questions about the menu and it was very refreshing to see that all of the staff knew the menu inside out and could answer our queries with ease. They all seem to genuinely care about your experience and clearly enjoy working as part of the Haveli team.

We were taken to our table for the evening and perused the menu. The wine list was very reasonably priced with a large glass of house white being priced at less than £6. There was a good selection of beers to choose from and some of the signature cocktails sounded lovely - I am definitely going to try one on our next visit.

We were brought some obligatory poppadoms and dips with our drinks - the tamarind, coriander and mango dips were slightly more unusual to what we would normally receive in a traditional Indian restaurant. They tasted wonderfully fresh and were packed with flavour. 

Our starters arrived and we were blown away with the presentation. I ordered the Salmon with mustard and honey and a green pea relish. Wow! This is the first time I have tried modern Indian cuisine but it is safe to say it won't be the last. My dish had a wasabi-like kick to it and was served with tiny slithers of radish with caviar which was a lovely touch. £7.95 for this dish is unbelievable value for money. It was genuinely one of the best plate's of food I have ever eaten.

Steve ordered the Bharwa Khumb. These are crisp mushroom's filled with pickling spiced cottage cheese. My husband is a self-confessed mushroom connoisseur and will nearly always order a mushroom starter if there is one on the menu. He described this dish as the best mushroom dish he has ever tasted and has already warned me he will be talking about them in month's to come. High praise indeed!

The main menu has had a little bit of an overhaul recently and I was pleased to see some curry classics to choose from. I opted for the Goan lamb vindaloo (I was feeling brave) and Steve opted for the Chicken Jalfrezi. We shared a rice and naan between us. The lamb in my curry was just so tender and although I had ordered a vindaloo which does have a reputation of being rather hot, it was perfectly manageable and you could actually taste a warming combination of spices. I find that far too often, a hot curry is made that way by the chef simply adding more chilli powder. This definitely isn't the case here and my dish was moderately hot yet still delicately flavoured and absolutely delicious. Steve thoroughly enjoyed his Jalfrezi too and particularly enjoyed the fine pieces of ginger running through the dish which every now and then would provide a pop of fresh flavour.

The dessert menu is small but perfectly formed. Steve ordered the Mango and Cardamon Creme brulee where as I was intrigued with the Masala and Passionfruit cheesecake with rhubarb reduction and a gin and tonic sorbet. Both desserts arrived and again, the presentation was stunning. I genuinely cannot believe how desserts of this quality can be priced at less than £5! It was refreshing to try new flavour combinations that I have not experienced anywhere else before and was the perfect way to end our meal.

Haveli is, in my opinion, definitely one of the top fine dining restaurant's in our region. If you would like to try some modern Indian cuisine then this is definitely the place to visit. Head Chef, Imamuddin Khan is clearly some sort of culinary genius and Atul and his team will really look after you and make sure you enjoy your evening. 

When you dine at Haveli you feel as if you could be sitting in a high end restaurant in London and not a suburb of Newcastle, yet thanks to the highly skilled front of house team the atmosphere remains very relaxed and informal and I would certainly feel comfortable bringing my children here too.

Prices are very reasonable for the standard of food service you will receive at Haveli and if you dine between 5pm-7:15pm you can choose 3 courses for £21 from the early evening menu. Haveli also now offer a takeaway menu which I would highly recommend if you are planning a special evening in at home.

Thank you Haveli for such a wonderful evening, we are already planning our next visit.

Make sure you like the Haveli facebook page to keep up to date with special offers and competition.


3-5 Broadway, Darras Hall, 

Ponteland NE20 9PW


Monday 5pm - 11pm

Tuesday 5pm - 11pm
Wednesday 5pm - 11pm
Thursday 5pm - 11pm
Friday 5pm - 11pm
Saturday 5pm - 11pm
Sunday - Closed

For reservations -  01661 872727


When do you let a child walk to School alone?

I knew this question would crop up sooner rather than later - my eldest at the sprightly age of 8 has asked to walk to school by himself. It is no longer cool to be walking with mum and he would much rather be walking with his friends.

Now before I am blasted the answer is definitely going to be no until he is in year 5 which is the age our school allows children to leave school un-attended. This however is 2 years away! Do I have to put up with his sulky face until then?

I am a loud and proud free-range parent. I want to give my children as much freedom to explore and exercise their independence as I can but obviously within safe limits. These safe limits tend to mimic what I was allowed to do at his age (which did not include walking to school by myself until I was 9 I might add). I do not believe there are more dangers now than there were when I was young, we just seem more aware. Harry is a very sensible and responsible 8 year old but I do have to bear in mind that whatever freedom's I allow Harry set a precedent for what I allow his slightly crazier younger siblings to do in the future.

So, I have decided on a compromise. Our walk to school does not involve any roads - it is a 1.5 mile walk straight up one cycle path. I would estimate that 80% of pupils and parents walk this route and everybody generally knows each other. I have decided that after Christmas, Harry can walk ahead of us with his friends as long as he waits for us at the school gate so we can all go into school together. I feel like this is a fair compromise as he will always be in my eyesight but can walk far enough ahead to feel like he is gaining some sort of freedom with his friends.

What do you think? When did your child start walking to school alone? I would love to hear your opinions.


Beamish - Summer 2014

Last Christmas we booked to visit Beamish on one of their Christmas evenings. There were parts of it that were fab (Santa was amazing and we loved the carol singers) however we did encounter some problems. I highlighted these problems to management at the time and have to say they were really interested to hear our comments and learn from them. Beamish should be proud of their customer service and willingness to put things right. We were invited back this summer to see everything that Beamish had to offer and we had such a fantastic day that we have been converted and will now definitely recommend Beamish to everyone and anyone who will listen.

Beamish is well signposted from A1 and parking is free. You pay once and can visit as much as you like during normal opening hours for a whole year for free. This is fantastic value as there is so much going on/to do. If we lived closer we would definitely make use of this every month - our toddler loved the trams and would be very content just spending an afternoon riding on these! There are lots of events throughout the year and it would be lovely to watch Beamish change throughout the seasons. An annual family pass for 2 adults and 2 children costs £48 (under 5's are free). 

Beamish is a living museum with real life actors telling the story of life in the North East in the Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian era's. Today was just a whistle stop tour - we missed a few sections/activities and would love to go back next year to spend more time taking everything in.

Our first stop was the Pit village and colliery. I loved how you immediately feel as if you have been transported back in time - staff are all wearing authentic costumes, the cars that are driving around are vintage and even the information signs look like they belong in the past. My eldest and my mum joined the tour to venture down a real life mine. They were given hard hats and the tour was fully guided - my 7 year old loved learning about how children worked from the age of 4.

Next, we walked through the village - there is an open door policy and it is exciting opening a door to somebody's home and not knowing what you'll find. We found ladies making mats and a lovely man making his own bread in the kitchen. The actor's are happy to chat away and answer any questions. 

Everybody loved having a turn of the old fashioned washing machine.

Before we left the village we had to check out the old school house. There is so much to look at and take in - we tried some Victorian playground games and practiced writing on slate and with a quill.

We caught the vintage style bus from the village to the 1940's farm and had fun meeting the pigs, horses, chickens and geese. The farmhouse is amazing to walk around and I had serious Aga envy!

Next, was the definite highlight of our three year old's day - a ride on the famous trams. Of course we had to ride on the upper deck! We all loved this and I had to bribe Jack to leave his seat when we arrived at the town. We passed the vintage funfair with carousel on our way and will definitely visit next time.

Our stomach's were starting to rumble by this point (and weren't helped by the wonderful aromas's wafting from the sweet shop and bakery). There are a few options when it comes to food - a traditional fish and chip shop in the village, a cafe near the entrance, snacks from the Sun Inn pub (pickled eggs and pork pies) or the tea rooms. We opted for the tea room. There were lots of people taking a picnic by the bandstand too.

The food in the tearoom was reasonably priced - expect scones, tray bakes, jacket potatoes and a few home cooked meals to choose from. A children's lunch bag was £3.95 for a sandwich, juice and a choice of three other items which was very good value. Our jacket potatoes hit the spot too.

The town is probably my favourite part of Beamish - there is so much going on and again there is an open door policy. You can wonder around town houses, watch a Victorian dentist, pay money into a bank and visit their vaults, buy sweets from a sweet shop (and watch them being made), visit a general store, watch a baker and then buy some freshly made bread......the list is endless. You could easily spend a few hours in this part of Beamish alone.

We spent 5 1/2 hours at Beamish but could have easily spent more. I was so impressed and really would recommend investing in an annual pass if you live nearby. Next time we visit we are going to explore the Waggon Way and hopefully catch a vintage steam train, enjoy fish n chips cooked in beef dripped from Davy's chip shop and visit Pockerley Old hall.

If you're looking for something different to do this Halloween, why not try a Halloween evening at Beamish (not included in annual pass) - expect ghost stories, fancy dress competitions, escapologists, hall of mirrors and more!

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