Thursday, 8 December 2016

"Its all fun and games, 'til Santa checks the naughty list"

With Christmas only weeks away, our preparations for the big day are in full swing. Rather than encouraging the boys to write a huge list of things that they want we told them to write 5 things on their Christmas list that they would really like from Santa. With gaming being such a huge thing, it was inevitable that one of them would ask for a console game. I wasn't at all surprised that it was Seth as he uses gaming as a distraction for his daily physio. With this in mind I thought I'd write about my top 5 Nintendo releases of 2016.

I love a good platform game. Finding it difficult sometimes to dedicate larger amounts of time to the bigger role-playing type games its always great to have the sort of game that you can just switch on wherever you are, knock out a few fast paced levels and then switch off until your next spare few minutes. Kirby Planet Robobot ticks all those boxes and has been my game of choice while parked up waiting for the troops.

If you played the original then who doesn't love a good remake. I bought a friend of mine the 3ds Ocarina of time remake at the beginning of the year after he had had an unfortunate accident while away and was advised by his GP to relax for a few weeks. Ill never forget his eyes lighting up as he unwrapped it, as the game was a great memory from his childhood. With Twilight Princess you can relive the epic story again in HD. With a huge free roaming world and many puzzles and activities to complete along the way, this is a game that will have you hooked.

Although Sun and Moon is HUGE at the moment, it seems that the Yo-Kai Watch fire is still burning bright in the Nintendo gaming world. I honestly expected things to have died down a little with this game now but I am constantly getting updates from the Yo-Kai Watch Twitter site, telling me that the game is still as big as the early weeks of its release. Yo-Kai Watch is a 3DS Role-playing game that has been compared to Pokemon a lot. If you look past the similarities though you'll see that this game has a pretty cool story and characters that you can really relate too. If you played a demo of this game I can guarantee you would purchase it.

Pokémon Moon is the first handheld console role playing game that I have got into for a long time. If I am honest I probably would not have even given it a try if it wasn't for Seth's excitement over its release and him being adamant that I had to have the game too so that we could play together. I'm so glad that he did steer me towards it though as I am hooked. If I had Mrs M's job travelling back and forth to London then this is how I would be spending my time. The latest installment from the Pokémon franchise is a must.

 It was a close call between Pokemon and Super Mario Maker but for me personally, Mario Maker has so much more to offer with its gaming experience. This is a game that has endless possibilities and will never get boring as you are creating the levels yourself. On top of that there is an enormous catalogue of levels created by gamers all around the world. Whats more is that as of last week the game has now made its way to 3DS meaning you can take your creations on the road with you. For me, Super Mario Maker is everything I want in a game.

Whatever you decide on this Christmas you can be sure that Nintendo has you covered for gaming entertainment. It has been a really great year for Nintendo releases and I am so excited about 2017 with the release of Nintendo switch, yet again Nintendo are going to revolutionise on the go gaming.

Merry Christmas Ya'll

"Puck the halls with lots of Slapshots Fa la la la la la la la la "

'Dad can we have something hockey related to go on top of our tree this year?' was roughly what was said when the boys had finished decorating the Christmas tree in their bedroom this year. Every year it has been tradition for the boys to choose random toys to be our festive showpieces, but with hockey becoming such a big part of their lives this year it was inevitable that they would want their new love up high above the branches. There are so many cool Christmas related items available in the US and Canada and I'm kicking myself that we didn't realise that Hockey was going to be so big while we were away so we could have snapped some things up.
Sadly over here in the UK it is difficult to get many of these items and with import tax, extended delivery time and high costs, I just couldn't warrant splashing out this close to Christmas. So.... we did what we do best in our house and decided to make our own hockey-themed tree topper. Opeie is a big Chicago Blackhawks fan, partly because he loves the Jersey but also because he's a big Waynes World fan (I know what an awesome kid). So the Chicago Blackhawks were the starting point for our Christmas craft session. 

It's great crafting with the boys because they come up with the best ideas, like having a goalie mask and a Waynes World cap for the head piece. I threw in the idea for the wings and Opeie's last minute hockey stick idea while eating a frozen banana and being inspired by the stick,  meant our team creation ended up looking pretty great I think.

"Much to learn you still have"

It doesn't happen very often but when I see the chance to have a solo LEGO kit building session I fully embrace it. The boys want to be a part of all the building but when it comes to LEGO Star Wars they are just not that interested, so I use that as 'me time'. I can fully appreciate why they are not interested in (probably) LEGO's most popular theme, as in many ways they are like me, they love building in as much colour as possible. The LEGO Star Wars range is definitely heavy on the black and dark grey but they are true to the movies so its understandable, I'm not sure Darth vader would have commanded the respect and fear that he did, if he were flying about in a pink and green stripey Tie fighter.

As much as the Monochrome ships are less pleasing to me visually compared to, say the recent Beatles yellow submarine kit or (sticking with Star Wars) the Ewok village (which I would love to get my hands on), there is something else that excites my interests with these kits, the shapes! As a custom builder who spends a lot of time lay down on the floor creating with the boys, I am fascinated by the design features of the Star wars range and the detail that goes in to recreating the obscure shapes of some of the ships.When I reviewed the LEGO AT-ST and the Tie Striker a few months back I couldn't wait to get into building the main body of the AT-ST and the wings and cabin of the Tie Strike (which by the way is an awesome build). Seeing how the pro's design these kits is a huge inspiration for my own building with the boys.

Last nights build was no different. As I started unboxing Krennic's Imperial Shuttle from the Rogue One range, I couldn't wait to see how they had designed the crazy shape of the main section of the ship and those huge impressive looking wings. One thing I always feel a little guilty about when I'm building kits alone is Opeie not being there to build the Minifigures, it is his favourite part of any build but this is the only chance I get to do it. The 5 figures and Droid that you get with this kit are great, Pao is definitely my favourite, I'm sure that face of his will come in very handy down the line.

There's something about LEGO building that really relaxes me and clears my head, Mrs M always jokes that LEGO to me is like a form of meditation. There is something so satisfying about watching a build take shape. I wasn't expecting the wings to be as big as they are, even though the measurements are on the box. Once they were on though I couldn't wait to build that impressive main body of the ship, it gave me so many new ideas for creating odd shapes, it was some serious LEGO schooling.

I slipped in to that LEGO trance as soon as I started building the shuttle and before I knew it it was 2am as I clicked the last few pieces in to place. I can honesty say, I have never had a LEGO kit that wasn't an absolute joy to build. It may be a space ship heavy on the black bricks but the structure and design of this kit is really interesting. With retractable landing skids, a main body that opens up from every angle and huge wings that fold up, this kit really is a perfect playable kit as well as a great display piece. You can learn a lot about brick placement from the LEGO designers and I was full of inspiration after completing this.

Much like the AT-ST and Tie Striker build (which I also built into the early hours of the morning), I couldn't resist taking the Imperial shuttle outside to photograph it in the moonlight. With a huge range of LEGO Star Wars kits available, Krennic's Imperial Shuttle is definitely a must for any collection.

To see the full range of LEGO Star Wars and Rogue One kits click HERE!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

"The fungus among us"

I have loved this Autumn, Opeie and I have been on so many homeschooling adventures and even though I have my 'am I doing enough' moments. I am confident that Opeie has learnt a lot over the last few months and most importantly has loved every minute of it. Homeschooling has been amazing since day one, being able to learn while being outdoors and doing exactly as we please has had an amazing impact on Opeie and he is the happiest and most loving child, I am so proud of how he is growing. Our outings throughout the week are a mixture of mini games and investigation that are ongoing. One of those, which started during the early Autumn months was fungi hunting.

It all started when we spotted fungi straight out of a Disney movie. I've never seen red toadstools (The fly Agaric) growing anywhere before so it was a nice surprise and kick-started a fungi hunt everywhere we went adventuring. Our collection is just getting started but I wanted to share the photos that we have collected so far which Opeie is really excited about. Mrs M aptly named the post after a mushroom burger that I had in Orlando earlier in the year at the vegan restaurant Ethos. So here they are "The Fungus Among us".

Monday, 5 December 2016

"Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher."

After living in Birmingham for most of my life and never really feeling 100% comfortable, the move to Shropshire changed everything for me. It's true what they say about being surrounded by negative people that don't make you happy, it really does have a huge impact on the way you develop over time and it was something I had battled with for many years. Meeting Mrs M opened up my world to a completely new way of thinking. Life was instantly filled with happiness, I found that I had more confidence than I had ever had before and I have been able to achieve so much more than the 29 years prior to meeting her.

Love can do that to a person and it is something I think about pretty much every day. Although the negatives have helped me learn and become a better person, I hope the boys don't have to go through as much heartache as I have over the years. I'm never going to be able to stop these things from happening in their lives but I hope that the happy, loving and safe family life that Mrs M and I have built for them with be all the foundations they need to learn from. 

This was initially going to be a post about a photograph I took of Opeie while we were out rambling but instead became a 'what I was thinking about' while rambling with Opeie. Life is great and I've said it so many times on the blog, this boy is well and truly smitten!


Thursday, 1 December 2016

"I want to be the very best, like no one ever was..."

Back when we first started writing for Nintendo I would write a lot of my posts from the car as I spent a lot of time waiting around for Mrs M and Seth, picking them up from places, so my 3ds went everywhere with me. It's not been that way for a while but yesterday, Because we couldn't get an extra ticket for Seth's nativity, I found myself in that perfect gaming situation again. It couldn't have come at a better time really, because at Seth's request I've embarked on a new Pokémon adventure with the latest installment Sun and Moon and I was itching to pick up where I'd left off.

There have been some amazing games released this year from Nintendo but for Seth, Pokémon Sun and Moon has been the most anticipated! He was a huge fan of Omega Ruby and Since he found out about Sun and Moon he has been counting down the days to its release. Despite my ongoing love affair with Nintendo which started around 30 years ago, I have somehow never played a Pokémon role-playing game. Seth was adamant though that I needed to join him so that we could both play together. His excitement was infectious so I jumped on board and we've both been playing for the last week.

When it comes to gaming I like the classic Mario way of doing things. 8 worlds, various levels that aren't too long etc, as I find it easier to fit that kind of gaming between other things that I'm doing. I'd love to get lost in a game but I find it difficult to make the time so it doesn't happen often. Sun and Moon surprisingly has been the sort of game that made that time as I was fully engrossed in the game within the first 10 minutes and I've literally been squeezing in bursts of gameplay every spare chance I've had. Seth has been loving it, as even though it is not a multiplayer game we've been sitting and playing together while checking out each other's Pokémon.

We had downloaded the demo a few weeks back so were both excited that we could take Greninja over to the full game. it was a great addition to the team (despite not being able to control him at the moment). We also added Munchlax to the team from getting the game around the release date. The early bird catches the.... Munchlax apparently! As I said I've not played a Pokémon game before, but Sun and Moon appears to be mapped out like the previous Role playing installments from what I have read. The story draws you in early on and being able to roam around battling and catching wild Pokémon in all the grassed areas scattered about is great. Because Seth knows so much about Pokémon I thought I was going to be terrible at playing but the story explains everything clearly and you feel like a Pokémon master in no time, knowing when to use a grass or water type Pokémon etc. 
The story so far has been really well written as you battle your way through the islands. Despite being extremely annoying, I kind of love how the bad guys (team skull) irritate me so much. When you bump into them while moving around the Alola region and they start talking that cringe worthy 'Gangster wannabe slang' while wearing those skull scarfs around their faces I instantly want to destroy them. Always a great feeling when you are playing a game as the hero.

The aim of the game is to move around the islands to advance and grow as a new trainer. With strong adversaries to defeat, including kahunas and Trial captains on each island. The battles get increasingly more difficult as you progress. It's not all battling though, there's a lot of focus on how you treat the Pokémon you catch too and your little army can get a lot stronger through affection and taking good care of your team mates, which is a great lesson to add into a game for younger players.

I've played Sun and Moon a lot over the last week, which for me has been really surprising. The game is amazing but what adds to that is how happy it makes Seth that I'm playing something that he loves. It's been great bonding time for both of us.

If you are looking for 3ds gift ideas this Christmas then Sun and Moon is a must and with Mario Maker coming out this week too, this years festive period seems like it's going to be dominated by that Gaming giant that has grown with me for many years.

And now I am off to bed to squeeze in another hour of play. Ive 'gotta catch em all' after all.

Monday, 28 November 2016

The sunshine state, through younger, more inquisitive eyes.

After having such an amazing time away this summer we had a lot to write about and the boys had collected ticket stubs, flyers and a huge amount of photos of all the great places we had visited. Opeie, always wanting to be in on the action, Saw me writing holiday blog posts one night and asked if he could make a holiday book about all the things he got up to. It's really adorable, he see's the newspapers and books that he writes as his own version of the blog and I love that. 

A few days after we got back he started his book and we've completed pages here and there amongst doing all of our other home ed activities. We had so much to write about thanks to Visit Orlando. I love watching him write, it makes me realise how well this home schooling is going and reinforces that for us, it was the right decision to make.

Anyway, I'll leave you in Opeie's capable hands, Our holiday in his words...

"It's an ongoing joy being a dad."

Opeie gets more and more adorable each week. When he was a baby I loved the way he would smile at me and reach out to touch my face. When he learned to talk, the words 'I Love you Daddy' hit me like a crazy wave of emotions (and still do). Now that he can write himself, his latest addition to his adorableness, is leaving me little notes about. I had hoped it for so many years, but I never actually realised that being a dad would be this amazing. I feel so lucky every day


Thursday, 24 November 2016

"There's excitement in the air!"

We have been to some awesome LEGO events over the last few years and each one that we have attended has left us with huge smiles on our faces. When you love a product like this as much as we do then you can imagine the excitement of feeling like a VIP at these brick related soirees. Despite all of the previous events being amazing, there was something extra special about our recent invite. It's not every day we get invited to a LEGO store opening and if that wasn't exciting enough, also the biggest LEGO store in the world.  The countdown to this amazing day, for me, was more exciting than the build up to Christmas.


 Opeie and I traveled to London in a bit of a giddy mood, We were looking forward to visiting some great museums in London but the main event was definitely what was keeping the Cheshire cat grins on our faces. Opeie had come up with a great idea a couple of days before our trip to make LEGO name badges for the event so that people knew who we were, So we had some fun on the build up.


After pottering around the Museum of Natural History for a couple of hours we headed towards Leicester Square. It was exciting to see the escalators at the tube stations advertising the new store and the excitement almost tipped us over the edge. We were definitely ready for some LEGO action. The store location really couldn't get any better, we could see the bright yellow store covering that was up for the official store opening that following afternoon from quite some distance and the surrounding area of Leicester square was buzzing with street entertainment and people enjoying the sights.


Being able to see the store before it was opening was really special for Opeie and he loved that we had to enter behind the huge LEGO covering hanging over the store, he said he felt like we were important, which I loved. The store is AMAZING and we were greeted by the happiest group of people, who were clearly loving being there. There were loads of LEGO staff around waving at Opeie and coming over to talk to us, it was a really amazing experience.

The Leicester Square flagship store seems to have every LEGO kit available at the moment and they were also offering the chance to buy the new Architecture kit the day before it was officially released. This was made even better by the fact that the creators were in store that evening and we got to chat to them for a while and they showed Opeie how Big Ben worked. The guy that created the enormous Big Ben in the front window was also in store and we got to chat to him about building on a bigger scale which was really interesting.


What I loved most about this bright colourful store was that everywhere you turn there is somewhere amazing to take a photograph. With Big Ben, a Tube carriage, Phone box , Lester (the store mascot) and the feature wall, it is like one huge eye-catching backdrop. Aside from the amazing Staff and people to talk to, the thing that stole the show for us was the Mosaic Maker. On arrival we had both been given a scratch card to win a prize. Opeie had scratched off a LEGO mosaic and I had no idea what it was. While we were chatting to our friend Sophia she filled us in and was really excited for us. The Mosaic Maker is the first of its kind, a photo booth that takes your picture, turns the image into a LEGO guide for a Mosaic and then prints out the large image along with the bricks to build it. We couldn't have asked for a better souvenir for our visit to the most exciting store in London. 

The whole experience had me and Opeie excited and chatting all the way back to the hotel that night and the following morning Opeie couldn't wait to look at his new (very special) LEGO kit. There is something so magical about those amazing bricks and they have been the reason for countless hours of bonding with the boys. Our visit to the Leicester Square store reinforced even more why LEGO is such a huge part of our lives

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