Saturday 26 December 2015

"Sit on the toilet, here he comes Squeeze and tween your festive buns!"

We hadn't even reached December when Opeie decided that he knew exactly what he wanted to get Mrs M for Christmas. I love it when the boys are really passionate about something and for Opeie, Knowing how frequently Mrs M uses emoji's (especially this one), this gift was going to show his beautiful doting mom exactly how he feels about her....

I think it complimented the reindeer shaped washing up brush he also chose nicely.

I hope you all had an amazing day.

Thursday 24 December 2015

"Christmas isn't a season. It's a feeling."

While most families are reaching the peak of their Christmas excitement this evening, in anticipation of the visit from that jolly red chap. For us at the Gifts from the pirates HQ it is just another night, as every other year Santa makes a special delivery to us on boxing eve as Seth isn't with us. Although December 25th doesn't feel the same without him here, we can't avoid the festive cheer as we have had an amazing month in preparation for the big day.

Making the house look Christmassy is such a huge thing in our house, last year thanks to the boys grandparents we ended up with a second Christmas tree and this year the boys were desperate for one in their room so two became three. Me and Opeie spent some time making paper chains from extra copies of The Grinch we had to make their room feel even more festive.

We had had a LEGO Santa and Reindeer (wearing a dickie bow and polka dot jumper) that we had built, adding a splash of colour to our kitchen window since late November but Mrs M and the boys were desperate to get some lights up. They did make a huge difference to everyone's festive cheer, which was awesome.

Last weekend in preparation of the special day we all went out for a walk (in the cold wet weather) in search of holly, ivy and other greenery to make our annual wreath for the door although the night we were all going to make it the boys were off playing with their friend so Mrs M made the lovely wreath herself.

This morning we were all feeling really festive and tonight technically not being our Christmas eve, the opening of the final doors on the boys LEGO calendars meant that we couldn't get away from the fact that it was the day before Christmas day.

So today we fully embraced the fun filled family day and spent the afternoon together making (Opeie friendly) gluten free gingerbread cookies...

And a pretty awesome gingerbread house if I do say so myself.

The weather hadn't really been great so me and the boys did our usually Christmas LEGO building session and came up with a festive looking mini Star Wars AT-AT and Tie Fighter.

Although we wont be celebrating the big day officially tomorrow it will be nice to have that extra day for preparation. A HUGE Merry Christmas, however you are spending your holidays this year. We hope you and your families have an amazing time together.

"Miracles can happen, even to those who are small, flammable, and dressed all in black."

Its a family tradition on Christmas eve before bed to read a new Christmas themed book together as a family, which tomorrow we will be enjoying together on our Christmas eve. Tonight though it would have felt wrong to not have read a festive book, despite the fact that Seth wasn't with us. So tonight, as we tucked Opeie up in bed we read my second favourite Christmas story.

THE LUMP OF COAL by Lemony Snicket isn't your average Christmas story, there are no happy elves and a clear lack of the usual cheer. The story though is beautifully written and is everything you want in a festive story, leaving you feeling all warm inside.

 the lump of coal wants nothing more than to be an artist and spend his days creating abstract art. If that's not possible though he would settle for helping out on a Barbeque, cooking vegetables and meat. This story is set in winter though and a good BBQ is hard to come by. Sadly the people that cross his path end up being quite rude and attempt to shatter his dreams until he has a chance meeting with a pharmacy hired Santa clause handing out coupons, who sends him on a new path.

 A present in the stocking of an naughty child doesn't sound like the best place for an artistic piece of coal to live out his days but that chance meeting sets him on the path to happiness and the Lump of coal fulfills all of his wildest dreams. The lump of coal has a great message and is a brimming with some of the magic which surrounds this exciting time of year.

Our bed time story added a little extra excitement for Opeie and we're all looking forward to the big day. Merry Christmas all.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

"No one ever approaches perfection except by stealth, and unknown to themselves."

The boys love playing spies and Seth is a huge James Bond fan, so gadgets always come into their play at some point. Spy net have released some amazing products over the last couple of years that I would have loved when I was a child, the RC Recon Video Bot especially. While we should have been playing spies with Spynets latest product we ended up playing a really interesting game which turned out to be a fun homeschooling exercise.

Opeie sat up stairs on the bunk bed armed with a SpyNet Vibrasonic Walkie Talkie, a clipboard with paper and a selection of coloured pens...

...and I sat down stairs with the other headset, paper and pens. We've had walkie talkies before but these are really interesting as they use vibrasonic technology. You can hear what your team mate is saying without the use of speakers or an ear piece but most importantly when wearing the headpiece you are the only person that can hear what the other person is saying. Great for more stealthy missions.

This time though was a less stealthy mission. As we sat at either end of the house (there is a 30m range) and gave each other commands and descriptions of what to draw for each other. Opeie asked for a Deathstar body and hockey stick legs with spikes on. This was a great home ed exercise for Opeie as it was great for communication, use of descriptive words and of course creative drawing.

The headsets are really clear, and although they were not a great fit on my big bold head they were definitely usable and I could hear perfectly. Size wise these were clearly made for children though. The Spynet Vibrasonic Walkie talkies have been a great addition to our arsenal of spyware and they will get some great use over the coming months. For more of Spynet's great products check out Spynet HQ.


Monday 21 December 2015

"If you can dream it, you can do it."

I love a good family game night. When I was younger it was a game of frustration or mousetrap and although we all still love to sit and play board games of some sort we are definitely products of our era and most of our family game time is console based. The game keeping me and Opeie entertained the most recently is Disney Infinity 3.0 Play without limits. I did that stupid thing years back where I listened to what another parent told me about the earlier games and decided to give it a miss, I never usually do that and I am kicking myself now as the game is amazing.

With an ENORMOUS amount of characters to play with, levels to unlock along the way and a huge free roaming world to play in, I can't see us ever getting bored. Opeie, like many 4 year olds is a big Disney fan and the thing that is so amazing about this game is that pretty much every Disney movie you can think of has been covered character wise over the release of the Disney Infinity games, from the classics like Sorcerer Mickey and Aladdin all the way through to the new releases like Spot from The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out. As far as I am aware all of the characters from the previous Disney Infinity games work with the 3.0 edition but it is important to know that the level packs do not, as we found out recently when Opeie asked if he could get the Guardian of the galaxy pack.

Aside from all the classic characters available, for in game play, 3.0 for me screams "Come and play with me dad" being Star Wars, so me and Opeie have been having so much fun playing together. I am hoping to pick up some more of the Star Wars Characters for the game over the next few weeks and Opeie is working on a 'Good sleep Sticker chart' to hopefully get the Inside Out level pack.

Obviously with 3.0 being Star Wars themed there is plenty of brawling which is great as it is not something I would have expected for this kind of Disney game, parts of the game play remind me of the Kingdom hearts games, which I have loved since playing them many years ago first on the PS2. The game isn't all brawling though and if you are the kind of gamer that is into creating and design then you can let your creative juices run wild in the toy box and create an entire world using your imagination which you can then destroy and rebuild. there really are no limits.

fancy trying out other peoples toy boxes? then there are plenty of downloadable worlds created by people all over the world meaning there are endless ways to play.
If all of this hadn't been exciting enough, Opeie had the little girl round from next door to play last week and it turns out she has the Disney Infinity 2.0 which means we now have Elsa, Repunzel and loads of other fun characters to be playing with for the next few weeks. I would have loved this sort of game as a child myself as I was really into swapping and sharing. Disney Infinity 3.0 is a never ending fountain of fun which will be keeping us entertained as a family over the festive period and for many months to come.


Its been a few weeks since I wrote this post but since then Opeie has been sleeping excellently so as a reward we got him the Inside out level pack which we have been playing over the last few days. The level see's Anger and Joy set out on a mission to bring peace back to imagination land. The gameplay is completely different to Twilight of the republic on this level pack which was a really nice surprise and Opeie is now eager to get hold of the three other characters from the movie (Fear, Disgust and my favourite Sadness).

Sunday 20 December 2015

"But friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold."

When Paper Mario was released on the N64 it somehow completely slipped my attention and Ive never had the chance to play it since. When Paper Mario on the Wii was release though I was completely hooked. The story was completely different to any other Mario game I had previously played and there was a new villain to try and defeat. Playing as my favourite mustachioed plumber with the added bonus of flipping from 2d to 3d was AMAZING and I became a hermet for a couple of days while I completed it. It did take me a while to work out one part from what I could remember because there was a glitch, but it was worth every minute spent playing.

When Paper Mario: Sticker star was released on the 3ds we rushed out to get a copy because I had told the boys how much I had enjoyed playing the previous game. The boys were not disappointed and they still love playing the game now. So when we were doing our usual mooching around on the Nintendo website and spotted the upcoming game Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Bros we couldn't wait to give the next installment a try. Nintendo do such a good job of dragging you in to the games and most of the Nintendo fans I know have been following many of the characters since early on.

Unlike any of the other Paper Mario titles, Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Bros includes both Paper Mario and his more lumpy counterpart when two alternate universes collide and they need to join forces to help each other out. One of the things that I loved from the very start of the game is that you are controlling both Mario and Luigi on the same screen using one button to make Mario jump and another to make Luigi do the same. When Paper Mario then gets thrown in to the equation too you can perform trio moves to get past obstacles and progress through the game. You can use the trio to add power in to your attacks, totem like The legends of Zelda Tri Force heroes and send the slender brother through tight squeezes With puzzles to complete and Pokemon style battles to take part in along the way the game has something for everyone. 

With two princess' to rescue and two Bowser's to defeat, Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Bros is shaping up to be a fantastic game and I am looking forward to getting stuck in over the festive season. Now I've got to try and get the boys off of the game for a bit of Paper Jam craft, I've made my Goomba!

Happy gaming.

Thursday 17 December 2015

"Man is a gaming animal. He must always be trying to get the better in something or other."

When I was younger around Christmas time there would always be at least one Nintendo game I was hoping for. I remember one year really wanting Super star Wars and Mario paint and another year desperate to get my hands on Zool the Ninja Ant. Playing our Nintendo console back then was fun time spent with my family and things haven't changed when it comes to me and the boys. With so many great Nintendo games released this year here's my top 5 that should be in any Nintendo fans Christmas stocking.

Although it isn't my favourite game of 2015 (It's my second), Super Mario Maker in my eyes is most definitely the biggest. This game is huge and rightly so. Being able to design your own courses is amazing and although the game is only single player, being able to create levels for your friends and family really makes this a great family game. With thousands of levels to play, created by other gamers all around the world, there is no end to the amount of fun you can have playing this game.

Yoshi's Woolly world was the game I was looking forward to playing the most. I love cute games and this one takes cuteness to the extreme. Woolly world is a colourful none threatening game but one that can take quite a lot of skill at times. For me personally, the best game of the year and one me and the boys will be playing a lot over the Christmas break.

I am all about the 3ds, as much as I love the Wii U, Handheld gaming fits in better with my days and The Legend of Zelda Tri Force Heroes has been entertaining me while I have been parked up waiting for Mrs M or passing the time waiting for Seth to come out of school. The 3 person multiplayer that can be played from one cartridge is the main attraction for me, with both of the boys having 2ds' but it is also great to take two random gamers from anywhere in the world on missions with me too.

I'll be honest, when I first played Splatoon it didn't really appeal to me, but the more I played it with the boys, the more they got in to it and that excitement is contagious. Splatoon is an amazing multiplayer rumble and I could happily sit with the boys for hours playing this as it is a really fun and competitive game. As far as family games go this is definitely one to be on your Christmas list or a great way to spend that festive cash you get from a distant relative.

I cheated a little on number 5 as it wasn't released this year but the game is still huge so Super Smash Brothers has made its way to my top 5. With an enormous selection of Nintendo characters spanning over many years of Nintendo's history this game really packs a punch. Ive not played the Wii U version of the game but I hear it is amazing. The 3DS game though has been great for me as I can fit a bit of brawling in here of there. I was always a huge fan of the fighting games when i was younger and being able to battle using many of the characters I grew up with is amazing.

There have been loads of new titles released this year, these are just my personal top 5. To find out about other titles and future releases head over to I hope you all have an amazing game filled Christmas, I'll be using the quiet time to work on completing these 5.

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."

It may be grim weather outside but Opeie is not going to let a little rain calm down his festive excitement, especially when he sees giant baubles. This month is all about Christmas cheer!!!

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

A few weeks back the boys built the LEGO Technic Fire Plane and although it did take them a lot longer to build, it didn't deter them from attempting something bigger. There has been some pretty amazing Tecnic kits released this year and Seth really wanted to get stuck in to one with electric functions. The Crawler Crane is a huge build and when you see pictures of it online or see the box in a toy store the images really don't do it justice. I honestly didn't think that the boys would attempt something like this and I thought they would lose interest early on.

The instruction manual is HUGE, in fact I think it is the thickest one we have owned. I thought alone would put the boys off straight away, but no! they were adamant that they would complete it no matter how long it took. It did take the boys a long time to complete but a bit was built at every spare moment and it was really interesting to watch. Apart from the LEGO trains (which I love), we've not owned any kits with power functions so building this was definitely something different.

Although I definitely favour the more classic LEGO, one thing I do love about Technic is that because the parts are generally larger the builds can start to look quite beefy early on and the LEGO Technic Crawler Crane is a great kit for this. After the first two bags it was starting to look pretty big but I wasn't prepared to the final piece.

 The kit comes with a pretty big bag of crawler tread pieces which was the first clue to just how big the finished Crane was going to be. 

A few bags in and the Crane was starting to look enormous. Ive got to admit that I was getting more and more impressed as the build went on. The thought that has gone in to the the design of this kit is amazing and the huge series of different cogs used to make everything move is fascinating. Looking at it I started to think how I could include the power functions in to the custom things that we build.

The boys were awesome putting it together but I couldn't help but think that they had made a mistake some where down the line as there was no movement in the two reels that pulled in the two seperate strings used in the build. I was really hoping that I was wrong but I couldn't see how it was going to work. When they did complete the kit we couldn't get it working at all. There was no power coming from the battery pack until I realised it was my fault and I had only put in three batteries not 6 (I shouldn't have got involved).

Eventually that magical green light came on...

All but one function worked perfectly but we worked out that one of the pieces had come loose that was stopping the crawler from crawling. I am starting to see why LEGO Technic is so popular. When that light went on and we starting moving those levers around we were hooked. As you are building it, it is like any other LEGO kit in a way but when you see that what you have built can move around, the claw can be raised, lowered, opened and closed and the cab can spin it really adds to the fun. This for the boys really made the build and it was clear how impressed they were by what they had achieved.

The LEGO Technic Crawler Crane has changed the way I look at LEGO Technic now and I think the power functions are something that Seth will be wanting to look in to more. The Mercedes-Benz Arocs 3245 is now starting to look quite appealing, could keep us quiet over the Christmas holiday.