Tuesday 23 August 2016

"Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide the madness."

Micro Scooters have been a huge part of our lives for the past 3 years and there have been a crazy amount of adventures had in that time. I've said it so many times over the years but being able to whizz around with the boys and be a part of all the fun is one of the things I enjoy most. They've given the boys so much confidence and have also taken the pressure off Seth's muscle condition at times when we've been out walking.

In all these years though I've NEVER been out scooting alone, until last night! Mrs M had work that needed to be done and I had nothing I needed to do so I packed a backpack, chose some tunes (DJ Yoda's how to cut and paste country and western edition for starters), popped in my headphones and embarked on my own moonlight adventure. There was of course another reason for my solo trip out (because I never stop being a dad!). The boys have been playing Pokémon GO recently and I figured I could scoot from ours to the town park (where there are an abundance of Pokéstops and plenty of those little critters to catch and hopefully take over some yellow and blue gym's along the way). GO TEAM VALOR!

It's amazing just how quickly you can get about when you haven't got two little ones stop starting every 5 minutes, and switching off and going into my own little world was so much fun. I did have a chuckle to myself at one point when it clicked that I was a 36 year old chap scooting around, battling Pokémon and taking down Gym's, but I knew the following morning Opeie and Seth would be excited if they had new Pokémon added to their collection. As I arrived at the town park the sun had completely gone and the darkness made me realise that if I'm going to do this more often I really need to invest in some form of lighting before I end up breaking my neck.

After spending an hour hitting up all of the Pokéstops in the park and loving every minute or my solo scoot I decided to head home. The music and the scooting complimented each other perfectly and the warm evening breeze made the scoot even more enjoyable. I had to scoot down a very dark lane on the way back which to be fair was pretty daunting, if it hadn't have been for the torch on my phone I'm not sure how I'd have done it. I really need to get some lights sorted.

By the time I had got home I'd scooted 12 kilometres and was feeling pretty great about my little adventure. Opeie woke up this morning excited to see 3 new Pokémon in his Pokédex and despite there being a dull ache in my calf muscles the excitement of going up a level had Opeie eager to get out and scooting again this morning. There is something so relaxing about a solo scoot in the moonlight and if my legs let me later It might be me, my iPod and my Micro Scooter hitting the streets once more.

Saturday 20 August 2016

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

At least once a year I write about one of our favourite hidden adventure spots in Shropshire. It's not very often that I find a place that I want to keep going back to, but Shropshire has some really interesting places to hang out and has been perfect for Opeie's homeschooling. A friend of ours introduced us to Cosford Grange a few years ago and as soon as we turned into the secret looking drive that leads up to the B&B I was completely hooked by its curious sculptures and interesting looking trees.

The woodland walk sign doesn't really prepare you for what you are about to find as you walk down the steps. The over hanging rock face (if you know the area) doesn't seem like it belongs there, which makes the place really interesting. Add that with the interesting statues, hidden play house and various paganesque and other religious trinkets and you've got yourself a pretty amazing place to visit.

What I love most about the place though is how peaceful it is. In all the times we've been there we've never seen another person, apart from the chap who runs the b&b and because it is so quiet the woodland area is rich in interesting wild and plant life, making it the perfect place for a spot of drawing/painting which we had planned for that afternoon.

After walking along balance beams to get across the pond the boys found a quiet spot under some huge leaves and let their artistic flair run wild. I love those quiet afternoons when hardly anything is said because we're all busy doing something fun and are content in our surroundings.

I'm not sure if Cosford Grange woodland is extremely well thought out or completely random. The trees with all the shoes nailed to it does make me think the latter. Which ever it is though, it really works. Our arty afternoon was so relaxing and again not another person to be seen at all. Just us our canvas' and paint. It is local places like this that really make me feel lucky for being in Shropshire now. Since the day I moved here this place has felt like home and this very special place is the perfect place for adventuring with my two special boys.

Thursday 18 August 2016

"You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality."

It's been a fair few months since me and my friend Steve completed the LEGO arcade which has become a pretty awesome addition to our home. When I get up in the morning and walk out of our room it is the first thing I see across the landing and it always makes me smile. I feel really proud of what we both achieved. The boys love the fact that they have an arcade in their room but the build has caused a little problem. The Christmas Death star that we built is no longer accessible to them to play with which Opeie has been a little bit disappointed about. The shape of the build and the fact that all the sides were open made it the perfect shape for Opeie's LEGO adventures and roleplaying with his Minifigures. How rude of me to box that in and have it on display.

I felt pretty bad, so after many many chats about why I can't keep getting it in and out,  we decided that we should build another, but more fitted to the themes that Opeie loves and the recent release of the Disney Minifigure range was all the motivation we needed to get building, so we started coming up with ideas. I wanted this build to be built solely from the bricks that we had, to keep costs down because I can get far to carried away with ordering parts from Bricklink when we are working on something big. we did, however, need odd shaped plates for the levels so I made that my one purchase and actually stuck to my plan even though I did have to change a few ideas because we were missing certain coloured bricks. 

With the characters from the Disney range being so colourful I knew that it was going to end up a great looking build and we got so into it from the minute we started. The plan was that we were going to build it together but at 5 Opeie didn't really have the patience to sit there for long each building session so Opeie dipped in and out but was involved in every part of this fun team build. I'd say he ended up more like a foreman/architect, explaining exactly what he wanted and where things were going to go which was great as you can't beat a child's imagination and ideas. The great thing about the original Death star build is that each level is built in quarters which, for a build of this size is perfect for a customising as you can work on each room individually.

So here's what me and my little Disney fanatic came up with...

The lower level of the Death star is really limited space wise as to get the rounded shape without making the complete build enormous the roof needs to be quite low, apart from the quarter open section that we had used for the Wampa in our Christmas Deathstar build. Because of this Opeie came up with the idea of having an underwater scene all the way through that level with treasure chests full of gems, shells, starfish and any other sea related LEGO pieces to make it look pretty. We used the open section for Ariel and Ursula and also found Flounder out from a Disney Princess kit that we had bought Mrs. M a year or so ago for Mothers day which we were pretty excited about.

Opeie loves role playing with his Minifigures and really enjoys playing with the kitchen, lounge, and bedrooms on the Simpsons house so we decided to make the Mickey, Minnie, Donald and daisy sections like rooms from a house. Donald and Daisy got the kitchen, with an oven, sink and breakfast bar. Minnie's room became the lounge with pink and white sofa's and a Mickey head coffee table and Mickey got the bedroom. Opeie informed me that Mickey was messy so he needed dirty socks on the floor, old pizzas and drink cans. We made the door joining Mickey and Minnie's room mouse shaped and built one of Mickeys walls with Windows to look like his trousers.

With the next level complete we had got to the rooms I was more excited about building. When the Disney series was released I was itching to get my hands on the Cheshire Cat and Alice, as I have always loved the books and the Disney movie for me was one of my favourites. There were so many ideas for the Alice in wonderland scene but as we had the Cheshire Cat it seemed only right to try and recreated the scene in the movie when the two meet. 

Opeie came up with the idea of having a slide down the upper centre column so our Alice in Wonderland room became two Alice in Wonderland rooms and we added a room on the upper level with the white Rabbit about to go down the rabbit hole (with the slide to the next level). I didn't have the rabbit mascot figure to use for the build so I put some feelers out on the Lego Facebook trade pages asking if anyone had some ears for trade (as I didn't need the whole figure) and a lovely chap called Ian Messaged and said he had some and would happily just post them to me as a kind gesture, genuinely nice guy! 

I walked into the boys room this morning and spotted the luggage cart from the City airport VIP kit we recently reviewed and I noticed the 'follow me' sticker on the back, so I couldn't resist adding that in above the rabbit hole too.

We knew exactly what we wanted to do for Peter Pan and Captain Hook but ended up building the section three times before going with what we did. If I'm honest I'm not at all happy with Hook's ship but Opeie loves it so it stayed. Part of the room was water for Captain Hook's ship and the other was land with Peter Pan in a tree house (another great idea of Opeie's). I added tick tock croc to the water but then Seth came along and put a clock in his mouth which I thought was great. The little details really make these builds and it makes such a difference building with the boys as they come up with the best ideas.

Aladdin was originally going to be the cave of wonders but we thought that it would end up being quite bulky and take up a lot of space, so we went for a market scene. That part of the movie really stuck out for us and the song is so catchy. Opeie was frantically trying to find the only Minifigure style monkey that we have to use for Abu as he wanted him scaling a wall with stolen fruit. The scene gave us the chance to use our snake charmer which had been sitting in a box since we got him. I racked my brain for ages on how I was going to make the genie look like he was coming out of the end of the lamp and then Opeie just clipped him to the top. I'm still not sure why that didn't cross my mind but again having helpers really makes the difference.

I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do for the toy story scene because it wasn't just buzz and the alien that we had from the latest series. Opeie has quite a nice collection of the other characters from the movies and of course wanted them all displayed. With so many characters to fit in a small area, I was stumped. I attempted to make a larger scale bed and dresser but it looked awful. The boys had no idea too so we went to our back up Mrs. M, who casually said 'why don't you make the wagon toy chest', that woman is a genius. With a few of the figures peeking out of the chest, there was plenty of room for Lotso, Bullseye, Rex and their friends. The build has made me realise though that we need to get hold of Hamm, Stinky Pete, and Twitch.

With the larger mid-level complete we only had the top to work on and I was eager to get the whole thing finished so that Opeie could play with it. The one section was already complete with the White rabbit waiting to go down the rabbit hole and Alice casually reading her book under the tree, 

I was really looking forward to building the Maleficent section of the Death Star because of the contrast in colours with the rest of the build. We knew it was going to be heavy on the grey and we all thought that castle style walls would look best but we were not sure how to fill it. In the end, we made a glass casket for sleeping beauty (I had to use rapunzel and she doesn't look very sleepy haha). We added in a poisonous apple and Opeie was more than happy with that.

Opeie's idea for Stitch was to have the walls looking like a space scene with stars and have Stitch in his red and white escape ship. Lilo and Stitch is one of Opeies favourite Disney movies so I really wanted to do a good job of that section. I tried so many times to build a ship but each time it looked awful so I had a word with the boss to discuss our other options. We decided on a beach scene with Stitch playing in the sea. With a beach bar, surfboards, water skis and sun loving folk it really was the better-looking option and turned out great.

Which left us with only two characters to display from the series, Mr. Incredible and Syndrome! Sadly these guys got relegated to hanging off the side of the build fighting because Opeie knew exactly what he wanted to do with the remaining room. 

He didn't ask " do you want to build a snowman?" He just gave me clear instructions to exactly what he wanted for the frozen section of the Death star. Mrs. M had bought me the Frozen castle for my birthday last year and Opeie wanted Elsa, Anna and Olaf up top for all to see. So using the pieces from the LEGO movie ice cream truck we built Anna's ice cream stand while Elsa just shot her ice Ray's about and that pretty much concluded our build. Opeie has however spotted the new Frozen kit and wants Sven and Christof for the scene.

My favourite part of the build was probably the most simple. As soon as I saw the Toy story aliens were going to be included in the Disney Minifigure series I thought how great it would be if someone made the grabber machine from the Pizza Planet scene in the movie. So I went hunting on the swap sites for aliens and managed to get hold of 17 over two days. Using rounded curve windows we turned the lower centre column of the Death star into a grabber which you can see through every room on the first two levels, genius use of space if I do say so myself.

I enjoyed building this so much more than the Christmas Death star because I was using a lot more colour and it was great switching between the themes. Seth said excitedly, "that Death Star looks brilliant, you know that box of all the Simpsons figures that we're not doing anything with? Maybe....", I stopped him there, I think I'm done with Death stars for a while. All that's left to do now is play and Opeie has been loving it even more than our previous build.

We finished this a few days back and yesterday me and Seth started on his big build idea, so watch this space. If last nights building session, while he was doing his physio was anything to go by I think it's going to be a pretty impressive build together.

Want to see more? check out the video HERE!