Taking my daughter to her first comic shop (#MySundayPhoto)

An important part in any geek parent’s life – taking their kid to a comic shop for the first time. Continue reading Taking my daughter to her first comic shop (#MySundayPhoto)

Planning a family trip to Barcelona

This is a sponsored post in association with Avis Car Hire UK.

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Barcelona is a place we can’t wait to take our daughter too.

Like many Brits, I have taken our close proximity to continental Europe a bit for granted. It wasn’t until I got together with my Kiwi wife that I started to take trips there more often. New Zealand is a fairly isolated country, and Kiwis often come to live in London just to take advantage of having all these countries on their doorstep.

But Barcelona (as well as Spain) is still a place I have never been to. I don’t know why – I love the food & what I know of the culture, and I even have a soft spot for the football team. So I can’t wait for us all to head there for a family trip.

City breaks are my favoured kind of holiday. I find the beach too boring (and sandy!) – I would much rather be eating terrific food, admiring the architecture, checking out local attractions, and the like. But I guess one of the great things about Barcelona is that you can have both.

City guides are vital for a newcomer to make the most of their trip, whether it’s for a matter of weeks, days, or even hours. While helping you out with the headline attractions, the best ones will also alert you to hidden gems – to enable you to have an experience to cherish.

Avis have put together a handy & informative Barcelona Guide, and here are some of the recommendations that caught my eye.

1. Tibidabo Amusement Park

This place sounds great, a vintage theme park – over 100 years old – located on the outskirts of the city (so hiring a car probably the best option). Many of the rides are still the original ones, and it also offers great views of the city.

2. Parc de la Ciutadella

Font de la Cascada – photo by Charlie Dave (click for more)

Barcelona is blessed with many parks and open spaces. The Parc de la Ciutadella opened 140 years ago, and includes the beautiful Font de la Cascada (pictured).

3. La Monroe tapas

I couldn’t possibly imagine a trip to Spain without indulging in some Tapas. La Monroe is less rustic more hipster, but the food looks delicious.

4. Churros at Xurreria Trebol

More food, the guide recommends indulging in churros (or ‘xurros’ in Catalan) at Xurreria Trebol. These sweet treats are essentially Spain’s doughnuts that you dip into melted chocolate sauce. There are available all over the city but this is their top pick. I know, I want one right now too…!

5. Kiss of Freedom street art

Located in the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is this vibrant piece of street art. From a distance it’s a large (8m x 4m) close up of two mouths kissing – but on closer inspection you see it’s a photomosaic mural – individual images of people enjoying a self-defined moment of freedom.

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For lots more on the above and other great Barcelona travel tips, check out the Avis  Barcelona Guide. Avis also offer car hire in Barcelona.

 

 

Taking the #DinnerTimeChallenge with HelloFresh

Since becoming a stay-at-home dad 5 years ago, I have been cooking the majority of our dinners. Generally, I’ll feed out daughter first, and after my wife comes home from work I’ll get on with our dinner, while she does bath & bedtime. We will then have our dinner (and wine) while watching TV.

This also happens in a similar fashion on weekends. So we very rarely eat together as a family.

Frankly, now our daughter is 5-years-old, there is no excuse for us not eating together as a family more often.  We can’t even blame having a fussy eater child, who we need to make another meal for, as she likes most things we do – probably even more. We’ve just gotten into this habit. One could even call it a rut.

HelloFresh asked us to undertake the #DinnerTimeChallenge – to eat as many meals together as possible. They made this a lot easier by giving us 4 family meals a week, as part of their weekly recipe box delivery service.

They also provided us with some interesting stats – some of which applied to us. We are one of those 73% of UK families who don’t get together round the table to eat meals together, and 69% of adults who eat dinner watching TV (or similar). We also feed our child first, like half the population.

This is all a great shame, as we love food in our house, and our daughter sees it as a real treat for us to eat together as a family. Having a family dinner is guaranteed to put a smile on her face.

So we undertook the challenge, with HelloFresh’s family meals for us to cook. Frankly, it is a brilliant service. You get the ingredients to create each meal, including individual portions of herbs & spices – as well as the recipes created by their team of chefs.

HelloFresh recipe cards

The meals are imaginative, healthy, straightforward to make, and most importantly (to me) delicious. It’s really reignited our own interest in trying out new dishes, and given us great kick up the behind to have more family meals.

One of our family meals was this Butternut Squash & Pancetta pie.

And it’s not just me doing the cooking. My wife has made as many as me, and our daughter is keen to help us in the kitchen – and she’s at the age when she is actually helpful (especially in washing up!)

The 5-year-old helping out in the kitchen (she really was a help!)

I’m really glad we undertook this challenge, as it’s inspired me to help us act more like the family we want to be – in this case, one that shares their love of food together.

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We have been provided with a 3 month Hello Fresh subscription for the purposes of this review. To get a £25 discount from your first Hello Fresh delivery, click here.

What to eat when enjoying a Movie Night in

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Iceland Foods.

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This time, dad went to Iceland to pick up some party foods to compliment a movie night in.

Having the right snacks on hand when watching a movie is important, because there’s nothing worse than a) being distracted from the story because you’re hungry, and b) coveting the delicious looking food onscreen. Given this, I wanted to have food related to specific movies.

I browsed the aisles at my local Iceland store for food that inspired movie choices. I remain happily surprised how tasty their frozen food is. The #PowerOfFrozen means that we can have these foods to hand to cook straight from the freezer. There’s no compromise on flavour because of this – and as you will see many of these foods surpass their non-frozen counterparts.

Anyway, first up we start with a classic combo.

Harry Potter – with mini-Hogwarts feast of Chicken and Sausages

We’ve only just started on the Harry Potter series with the 5yo. My wife read has read her the first book at bedtime, and we have subsequently watched the first movie.

A memorable food scene is the annual Hogwarts feast. There are many dishes on display, and from Iceland’s Party Food range I chose chicken drumsticks and sausages for our chosen snacks.

The chicken drumsticks were Iceland’s southern fried chicken ones, and there are definitely lots of chicken drumsticks on offer at the feast. These ones have a really moreish peppery herby coating. My daughter and I can attest to that.

The sausages are classic cocktail ones, so perfect finger food. I’m used to buying these pre-cooked from the supermarket, so it was great to have oven fresh ones.

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E.T. – with Pizza and M&M’s

Steven Spielberg’s E.T, The Extra Terrestrial is one of those films that should be in everyone’s childhood, and is certainly in my daughter’s as we have enjoyed it together many times already.

There are two iconic food moments in E.T.

First, when Elliot first encounters the alien, it’s whilst collecting a pizza that he ends up dropping – and ruining. I always lament the demise of this pizza, so having one of your own is important so you can get over this loss quickly!

Iceland have an exclusive Pizza Express range, and I chose our favourite pepperoni & sausage one – which is the same topping choice in the movie. Iceland’s Pizza Express range is really tasty, with great toppings and a nice sourdough base. I was really surprised how much I liked this range, and they are way better than the branded Pizza Express products available in other supermarkets.

The other memorable food scene is when Elliot tempts E.T. into his home using sweets. In the movie, they are Reese’s Pieces, which are hard to come by in the UK – and frankly M&M’s are better (and were Spielberg’s first choice), so I bought those instead.

This combo is enough to stave off any food envy while watching the movie.

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Howard the Duck – with Duck!

Perhaps turkey would be a better pairing with Howard the Duck (1986), a twisted curiosity from Star Wars creator George Lucas. The Marvel comic character has been enjoying a renaissance since his cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy, but his first onscreen outing was in fact in this 80’s misfire – which is a movie I have a real soft spot for.

There’s only one choice to eat with this – Duck! Baked in the oven straight from the freezer, these duck spring rolls were nice and crisp, and the perfect accompaniment to consume while watching the misadventures of Howard – a humanoid duck from another world stranded on earth, and the somewhat intimate relationship he strikes up with a human woman (believe it or not – this is a kid’s film).

To be honest, dusting off the movie was a good excuse to try out these tasty duck rolls. With a nice dab of sweet chilli sauce, these sweet meaty treats are delicious.

If you’re in the mood for more duck (not Howard), then these duck steamed buns are also available at Iceland.

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So there you have it. These were my pairings from Iceland’s party food range. Any ones you can think of?

Digital Childhood – Protecting Our Kids Online (ad)

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Kaspersky Lab.

Our children engage in the digital world from their earliest days. When our daughter was born, I would upload weekly videos to YouTube so our family on the other side of the world could keep track of her development.

This has grown from there, now including sharing her story with people we don’t know, via this blog and associated accounts. Being online is as much a part of her life as play, books, and television.

She – like many of her peers – is beginning to explore this world herself. While she doesn’t have her own phone or tablet, she does have a KANO computer. This is used under supervision, but the issue of her online safety is becoming something we need to make part of her day-to-day life as much as, for instance, road safety.

Global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab recently surveyed 10-15-year-olds and found that a third had witnessed online violence, and a quarter had viewed pornography. Two thirds also said they knew how to hide what they were looking at from their parents.

They also interviewed some children about what they had seen or encountered online, and how much their parents know about what they’re up to.

Our children are living a digital life in a way that no previous generation has been able to. Online trolling, bullying, and even grooming are a modern phenomenon for us as parents to deal with. Kaspersky Labs have recognised this, and parent’s growing concern (as well as lack of knowledge).

They have a product called Kaspersky Safe Kids which can help protect children online, whether on a desktop, laptop, or smartphone. Beyond this, you are also able to monitor their online conversations and keep track of their location.

Parts of this may be a step to far for some, as there are clearly issues around privacy. Should we be monitoring our children’s whereabouts and communication so closely? Should we tell them we’re doing it? If they know, will they find other ways around it, or if we don’t is it breach of trust?

But the fact remains there are people trying to advantage of children online. As parents, the choice of how to approach this is yours. The online environment is not one we grew up with – especially in terms of  handheld devices and social media.

Like road safety, we need to strike a balance between educating our kids as well as ensuring they remain safe.

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Kaspersky Safe Kids is a downloadable app which helps you protect your children in a digital world, on their iPhones, iPads, Macs and Computers. For just £10.99 for a year’s subscription you can stay connected with your kids and be sure they are in a safe place. For more information about Kaspersky Safe Kids, please visit iTunes.