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, I couldn't get a peep out of it but in great Opeie style he picked it up and made a huge sound, I started laughing because I was so 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). 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.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

"Artists are just children who refuse to put down their crayons."

When you pull into the car park at the Florida mall and round the corner of Macy's you are greeted by a huge display of colour and some giant fun loving crayons up to mischief. From the outside, the Crayola experience looks like the most fun you could possibly have and when you get inside you are not disappointed. Everywhere you look there is somewhere awesome to take a colourful pic. The staff (like everywhere else in Orlando) are all smiles and clearly there to make your experience magical.

Eager to find out what the tokens were for that we were given on arrival, the first thing we came to were machines where you could create your own crayon labels which was great. These crayons have barely changed since I was at school and I remember filling in my colouring book pages clearly (with my tongue hanging out the side of my mouth for concentration). I really enjoyed colouring as a child so it was a lot of fun creating these labels. Turns out you can't give your crayons inappropriate names though, much to my disappointment. 
*must remember that these are children's attractions.

With machines for you to melt crayons into various shapes, ones that melt your crayons and spray the hot wax to create fun spinning creations and photo booth areas that take your picture and turn you into a colouring book page, there is loads to keep you entertained during your visit.

The great part about the attraction is where it is situated, making it the perfect way to break up a hefty shopping trip, because us tourists need to fill up those empty suitcases we travelled to Orlando with and it's not much fun for the kids at times. While we were there we also visited the Crayon factory to see how the crayons were made which was really interesting.

The Crayola tokens can also be used on the vending machines for the play putty in a variety of colours and there are plenty of cutters and other tools available to keep you occupied for some time. Clearly I had let myself go this holiday and was having too much fun!

To top off our amazing visit we left through a great giftshop where we were able to fill a huge tin with every colour crayon they had and more, meaning we could continue our Crayola adventure back at the apartment. A definite thumbs up for our creative little colour fiends and I thouroughly enjoyed the visit myself, a recomended attraction for any fan of colour.

Sunday 11 September 2016

"My escape is to just get in a boat and disappear on the water."

When planning a trip to Orlando it is easy to get caught up in the big attractions and commercial side that it is so well known for. Although there is nothing wrong with this it is important to know that there is a lot more to this beautiful part of the world and you can find out all you need to know through Visit Orlando. If you venture further out from the main tourist area you are rewarded with picturesque scenery and really interesting plants and wildlife.

For the first morning of our awesome family holiday, I had booked us an adventure in Winter Park. I am ashamed to say that I had done no research about where we were going and had based the outing on the fact that we planned on eating at Ethos, and it was in the same area. We had visited winter park during our last holiday to Orlando and driving through residential areas to get there, after going from highway to highway, gave us the chance to see a completely different side to our holiday destination.

Enter Charlie, a really sweet guy who after getting in his boat gave us an amazing tour of the beautiful lakes surrounding the idyllic suburban city, courtesy of Winter Park Scenic Boat tours. As we looked out on lake Osceola I thought 'Wow! this is beautiful but how are they going to make this trip last an hour?'. Had I have researched the tour I'd have found out that we would also be out on lake Virginia and lake Mizell which were connected by cool picturesque canals covered by cypress trees and other interesting plants.

As Charlie narrated the journey you couldn't help but hang off his every word. The story of the history of the lakes and its residents was fascinating and it was a really educational trip for the boys which was a huge added bonus for us. The architecture in the area was beautiful and there were so many stories being told about the people and families that have made Winter park the area it is today.

What stuck out for me the most was the story of the restoration of Capon house. A huge historic building for winter park that was set to be demolished before being saved by the local community. Charlie explained how the property had been cut in half and transported from one side of lake to the other via barge in two journeys so that it could continue to be a part of the historic area. I would have loved to have been there to watch that. The story had us watching videos of the move on YouTube that evening and it was fascinating.

The trip wasn't all about the architecture and its caring community though. We also learnt a lot about the nature surrounding the area and the plant life growing on the edges of the waterways. The most interesting to hear about was the resurrection fern that when subject to the sun and hot weather, shrivels, goes brown and looks pretty dead but as soon as it rains is completely rejuvenated.

There was a moment during the tour where the boys were hoping that Charlie was going to take the boat up this ramp, thankfully though we stayed on the water and continued listening to the story.

Despite all of the beautiful scenery, interesting architecture and fascinating nature, Opeie was loving these floating in the water and wanted to know what 'No Wake' meant. I had absolutely no idea until I had googled it. Clearly I have not spent much time on the water.

There really was so much to see during our hour on the lakes and I could have happily gone round again. It's great coming to Florida, the home of Mickey Mouse but if you take time to look at the historic side of Florida you'll find real Beauty and a more organic side to a holiday destination that will continue to drag in huge crowds. Charlie and the staff really made the visit and it's always great to be made to feel so welcome.