Friday, 30 September 2016

“Hmm! Adventure. Hmmpf! Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.”

The world has gone nerd crazy for Star Wars once again! It's crazy to think how much of an impact the films have had on the world of movies and although thousands of people queue to be the first there at the opening night, the toy world has got fans equally as hooked.  I'm writing this post this evening because at midnight the toy stores will be able to sell the toys and merchandise from the upcoming Rogue one movie. It is important to know that I actually didn't think much of The force Awakens and I felt the same about the three movies that came before it, I am a classic Star wars fan through and through. This does not at all hinder my views on the merchandise though. Disney does an awesome job with its licensing and the companies that supply the products and they are everywhere in stores and taking over social media (we all remember the laughing wookie lady). 

For me, as you can probably guess, it's all about the LEGO! I thoroughly enjoyed my solo building session a few months back when I sat outside building the Resistance X-wing fighter. I find building so relaxing, Mrs M always jokes that it is like meditation to me, transcending to a higher state of existence. So being the selfish father that I am, I decided to yet again have a little me time. I thought about all those Star Wars fans turning up to the toy stores before midnight to get their hands on the new merchandise, and how lucky I felt to be sitting in the comfort of my own home, relaxed and slipping slowly into my brick trance.

The only minor downside to the Star wars kits personally is the mass of grey bricks used. I love colour when I am building and would love to custom build all of the cult star wars kits in bright quirky shades. Which is why I jumped at the chance to build the Christmas Deathstar when the boys came up with the idea. The AT-AT kit would definitely be on my colourful custom job list, with it being from the original movies. Being able to build the new AT-ST walker gave me a taster of that though. One thing I really love about the Star wars kits is the weapons, I'm not usually big on guns/blasters on my LEGO builds but I always find it interesting looking at the small parts the designers have used to add detail in to the weaponary.

I had only planned to build the one kit and save the other for the boys to build. I got so into the AT-ST build though, that within minutes of completing the AT-ST, the Tie Striker was being unboxed. I didn't think for one second that I would stay up to complete it but I sat up until 2am clicking those addictive bricks together. The build was great but it wasn't until I reached the wings that I was really impressed as they are so big.

2am and with two new Star wars kits built, I couldn't resist taking them out in the back garden under the stars for a few photos for twitter as I had been tweeting away as I built. All geeked out it was time for bed, only to be woken up first thing by two other LEGO enthusiasts excited by the new ships and casually dropping hints at a possible new Death star delivery from that big jolly red chap in December. The new kits have us all eager for Rogue one just as I imagine that if you watched the movie first you would be eager for the release of the LEGO kits. This relationship between Star wars and LEGO seems unstoppable and I cannot wait to see what comes out next.

You can find the full range of Star wars LEGO here.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

"A frisky spirit makes my trombone sing."

Despite opting to not send Opeie to school this year, I still at times run 'Daddy school' (as Opeie calls it) much like school in regards to the subjects. Outside of the reading, writing and numeracy we cover a lot of science and art, we use museums to cover history and also the cultural side of art galleries and museums to cover geography. PE is covered by all manner of things but mainly the Micro scooters, whizzing around on those is all the exercise we need.

One subject that doesn't get covered though is Music, unless of course you count all the dancing about to Justin Bieber that we do. I was desperate to learn an instrument when I was at school but it just wasn't on my parents list of important experiences for us so it just never happened. I don't want that for the boys and I hope their lives are full of amazing experiences during these important years.

The blog has been amazing for making many of their fun experiences possible and a couple of weeks ago we were asked if we would like to try a product that I probably would never have heard of if it hadn't have been for the email, or unless the boys decided brass instruments were the way forward. The pBone, in their own words is  "the world’s first plastic trombone; it's a lot of fun but also a quality instrument, perfect for beginners and professionals". Now when considering an instrument to learn, the trombone wouldn't have been anywhere near the top of the list for the boys. In fact I probably would have ruled out any instrument from the brass section of the orchestra. The reason being the weight. for a 4 year old and a 9 year old with a muscle condition that affects his hands I imagine a brass instrument wouldn't be the most comfortable to hold up, but this is what is so amazing about pBone as an instrument. The lightweight design opens up the trombone to any age and makes holding this instrument a lot easier for people that would find the brass alternative difficult.

The trombone arrived and we couldn't wait to have a go, myself and Mrs M couldn't get a peep out of it but in great Opeie style he picked it up and made a huge sound, me and Mrs M just looked at each other and started laughing because we were shocked. Seth also had a go and after Opeie explained what to do he let out a toot too. Its great seeing the boys have a try because of the size of it, but as I said because of the weight issue being taken care of this instrument is now accessible to anyone, a truly amazing product.

So where are we now? Well we live in a world now where if you want to know how to do something right away you go on Youtube! I have learnt so much over the years from watching video's of tutorials and people doing various things. I made an awesome lamp a few weeks back (which I'll write about soon) and even threaded Mrs M's eyebrows one evening while watching the TV thanks to the magic of Youtube. With this kind of information readily available to the boys I never want them to feel like they cant do something, they know that if there is something I cant do or need inspiration, that's usually where I turn. The initial induction in to learning to play the Trombone has been no different and Opeie has sat and watched a fair few videos.

The pBone has opened up another fun avenue in the boys development and I really hope that it is something that they stick with as I am interested in learning with them. Since receiving the pBone we have also noticed the pTrumpet too and I wont lie, the thoughts of a possible Gifts from the Pirates brass quartet has come to mind on more than one occasion so watch this space.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

"By the Mystic Moons of Munnopor!"

Us LEGO geeks and Minifigure collectors all around the world have our favourite theme of those amazing bricks and although I adore all LEGO, for me, the theme that really gets me excited is LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. As a child, reading comics was a big thing for me and the Marvel Super Heroes gave me a way to escape into an exciting world where anything is possible. These days I don't seem to have much time to catch up on the comics I love but LEGO are definitely keeping this Super Hero fire burning strong.

When the early Spider-man sets were released it was so exciting, I never thought for a second though that we would get to see Guardians of the galaxy immortalised in LEGO (which was a comic run that I loved) or that there would be a Thanos figure as well as characters like Hyperion and Giant man. LEGO has come a long way over the last few years and for enormous fans of the brick like me, it is a very exciting time for custom building.

The huge rise in Super Hero movies has obviously been the reason for this great new collection of LEGO hitting the shelves and I am constantly keeping my eyes open for anything online that will give me a clue to what may be released next. I'm still hoping for a comic style Baron Zemo figure as he is one of my favourite all time villains from the comics and I would love to see a Thunderbolts team LEGO kit (My favourite run of Marvel comics).

The most recent of LEGO's awesome Marvel Super Heroes kits hitting the shelves is to coincide with the release of tMarvel's new movie Doctor Strange. I knew very little about Doctor Strange as he rarely popped up in the comics I read growing up so I've been reading up on him before going to see the movie. The LEGO kit is different from any of the other kits released due to the attributes of his character. There's no trucks with rocket launchers or futuristic looking planes.  The kit focus' on the inner madness of the Sanctum Sanctorum, Doctor Strange's house that is protected by enchantments and illusions. I love the detail in this kit and it works perfect as a display piece as well as having great playability. Building the kit had us wishing we still had Ironman's Malibu house built.

Everything about this build is really thought out and for a lower to mid price range kit I think you really get a great kit for your money. Doctor Strange, Mordo and the ancient one are great figures and look awesome displayed on the side of our arcade with the rest of our Marvel Super Hero collection. 

Doctor Strange's sanctum Sanctorum is a must have kit and has jumped the list to my second favourite kit of 2016. Nothing is beating that LEGO city fun in the park kit. Up next the web warriors ultimate bridge battle set which We have been eager to build, so watch this space.

Monday, 26 September 2016

"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

One of the Orlando experiences that really had an awesome impact on us as a family and stayed with us for the whole of our first trip there 5 years ago was the Disney breakfast. Being able to go to the Disney boat club to have breakfast with Minnie, Goofy and Donald was a magical experience. When we arranged to visit Orlando the following year it was our first year working with Visit Orlando and as we started organising our itinerary for what ended up being a very busy holiday, we knew that we had to save space for a morning meal with the Disney crew (most important meal of the day don't you know).

This trip was no different. The experience we had the previous two times had us longing for another visit. Our favourite holiday photo from the first visit was at the Disney boat club. The entire surrounding area is beautiful and great for taking photos, as we sat outside the dining area waiting to be called to our table we asked someone if they wouldn't mind taking a photo. It turned out to be a lovely shot and we wanted to recreate it 5 years on.

As Minnie and her friends had not changed their boat club outfits during our three visits to the Disney breakfast, it was great to get pictures of the boys during each time to compare. Sometimes it blows my mind at how quickly the time has gone and at how grown up both the boys are now. It doesn't matter how big they get though. When they see Minnie and her friends they are my little boys all over again, that's the magic of Disney.

The food at the Disney breakfast is lush. The selection (considering it is breakfast) is huge. Despite us not being able to some of the food due to us not eating Meat, Dairy and Gluten etc, what makes the Disney breakfast dining experience stand out above any other place we had eating in Orlando is the extent they go to to make sure there is a great selection of food for you to eat, no matter what dietary issue you have. We were able to request gluten, Dairy free Muffins, and waffles (shaped like Mickey Mouse), and the chefs went above and beyond to make food from the buffet, minus the ingredients we couldn't have, especially for us. The whole experience is magical, exactly what you would expect from Disney.

After eating, there is no rush to leave the boat club area, which I think is great considering we were not Disney guests at the hotel. The manmade beach and huge lake are lovely to walk around and it is so relaxing that you could easily lose a few hours just casually pottering around. The decked are at the edge of the water was on our list of possible wedding venues. A quiet, intimate service, somewhere special to us. I'm still not sure where we will eventually choose though.

Our trip to the Disney boat club was just as special as our first visit. What makes Disney so magical (and Orlando on the whole) is the effort that the staff go to, to make sure that while you are there, you are fully entertained and treated like a VIP, and that you leave the restaurant with a huge smile on your face, eager to visit again.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

As a family that loves to read, we do everything we can to motivate the boys to better their reading skills. Because of this, characters from stories and certain authors have become very special to the boys and an ongoing part of our lives. While visiting the greatest family tourist destination in the world, it's awesome to be able to fully submerge ourselves in the books that we adore and feel part of the stories and characters that have had a huge impact on our families development. Dr. Seuss was huge for me growing up, not at Opeie's age unfortunately, I was much older when I first read his amazing stories, but it was something I wanted to share with Opeie early on. We own a huge collection of his books and I've loved reading them to the boys. It's lovely now though that Opeie is reading them back to me and I'm falling in love with the stories all over again. Seuss landing takes us right into those stories and being able to meet the characters at Islands of adventure is a great addition to the park visit and probably Mrs M's favourite part of the holiday (she loves the Lorax).

It's been a while since I read an actual book but I squeeze a comic or graphic novel in where I can. Marvel was my big love from very early on and characters like Spider-man and the Avengers took up a huge chunk of my 'quiet time'. Reading comics is something that I've passed on to Seth now and I can't wait until he gets into some of the great comic runs that I have adored over the years. Super hero island is an awesome place for photos and with heroes and villains out in the street happy to pose for pictures, it's super hero heaven.  The last time we came to Orlando Seth was unfortunately too short for the hulk roller coaster and Opeie was far too young for the Spider-man ride but this time round, height wasn't an issue and they both got to enjoy the rides they had missed out on. Seth and I also took a ride on Dr. Dooms tower of doom which totally took me by surprise and had me feeling a little nauseous haha. While Seth and I made the most of riding the bigger rides , Mrs M took Opeie investigating and Opeie spotted some Super heroins that he could bat his eyelashes at.

The other huge hero from the books we love is obviously Harry Potter, who didn't get the attention he deserved during our last visit. Seth was too young for reading the books and neither of them had watched any of the movies. I was a big fan of Harry Potter at the time and was excited about visiting Hogsmeade, sadly, when you have a none interested 5-year-old and a breastfeeding 2-year-old though, you don't generally get to do the things that you want to do.  Seth is reading the Order of the phoenix now for his school reading and both boys watched all the movies on the build up to the holiday so you can imagine the excitement when we finally did arrive at Hogsmeade. Despite the long queuing time (which your mind is cleverly taken away from with so much going on), for me and Seth the Hogwarts ride was the best ride of the holiday.

For us as a family, Universal studios/Islands of adventure will always be the ultimate park attraction in Orlando. It has many of the things we love, all together and this amazing theme park reinforces the improtance of reading and the magic that comes with colourful characters we adore.

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