Monday 31 October 2016

"Would you do it for a Scooby Snack?"

Like a true old timer, I have just been standing outside the house talking to my neighbour about how we never did anything for Halloween as children. I don't EVER remember going trick or treating or decorating the house and as we stood there draping spooky lights over our hanging baskets and getting things ready for the kids to carve pumpkins and make Halloween spiders, I thought how much this time of year has changed since way back then. I do love decorating the inside of the house every year, the boys get excited and it is one of the many things that I look forward to doing as a family each year.

The shops are getting better each year making it easier to pick up decorations etc but the one thing I don't like (and it may make me sound like a grumpy old man), is the costumes aimed at young children. Do children of the boys age really need to look like half of their face is missing or that one of their limbs has clumsily dropped off.  last year I asked the little girl that lives next door what she was dressing up as and she said "zombie red riding hood with blood dripping from my eyes!" Ewww!

Thankfully the boys aren't really into the 'Frightening' side of Halloween and Opeie went for a full on cute approach to the All Hallows' Eve celebrations after a fun package arrived through the post last week. Scooby Doo was one of my favourite shows as a kid (until that scrappy appeared anyway) and I can't believe he's still going strong, but even more crazy is that he has now been immortalised in my favourite brick and has even starred in his own LEGO movie too! Clearly the lovable pooch is here to stay. Opeie has been keeping his awesomeness alive this week by virtually living in a Rubies Scooby Doo costume that he got for Halloween. 

Mini Scooby Doo has been everywhere with me and surprisingly has been great entertainment for the older folk in the supermarkets. He's been making people smile everywhere we've been, especially because of the mini Scooby Doo he's been carrying under his arm too. There's no surprise at all that because of this new Scooby skin that he has acquired, it has been a pretty Scooby Doo heavy kind of a week, Episodes, Books, LEGO and Magazines. It's been touch and go a few times whether we were actually going to get him out of the suit for bed.

Part of me is a little jealous that I can't just dress up as a character I love and pop to the supermarket to get bread, I guess I'll just have to continue being his less interesting side kick. Whatever you've  dressed up as this year, I hope you've had an amazing Halloween.

Friday 21 October 2016

"It depends on where you put the paint, not how much you splash on."

Although I have been a huge Nintendo fan since as far back as I can remember, there was a period of a few years that I missed out on in the gaming world because 'Girls' became the main point of my attention. Because of this, I was late to the Paper Mario party, completely skipping the first release in the series on the N64. When I realised later on that 'Girls' weren't all that, I fully submerged myself in Paper Mario: The Thousand-year door and I was hooked. For me, growing up with the mustachioed plumber, it has been awesome to see the character get reinvented again and again. Paper Mario is right up there with Galaxy and Sunshine as my favourite Mario games.

You can imagine my excitement then at the release of Paper Mario Color Splash. This game couldn't be more me, bright, colourful and starring that plumber that we've all come to love over the years. 

After finding a Colour drained paper Toad in a letter from Prisma island, Paper Mario and Peach embark on a mission to the island. On arrival, they meet Huey a talking paint can who is the guardian of the color fountain. Shortly after the team run to the aid of a Paper Toad who is being drained of his colour by a Slurp guy and so their adventure begins. Throughout the game there are drained Toads, colourless items and patches of unpainted wall and floor etc that need colour adding to it which you can paint with your hammer if you have collected enough paint.

With a variety of battle cards to use to defeat enemies you find along the way and paper puzzles throughout the levels, Color splash is shaping up to be a real gem of a game, everything you would expect from the Paper Mario series.

We are only a short way in to the game but its clear Color splash is going to keep us all entertained over the coming weeks. With the weather starting to get a little more bleak as we get closer to winter I think we could all do with a bit of color.

Thursday 20 October 2016

"Tell me school, are you proud of the things you've done?"

I don't usually share video's etc on the blog and I don't like this guys videos usually but this one really got to me last week and I felt it was relevant to what we are trying to do with Opeie and his home education. There are a lot of intelligent points made here and it paints a very clear picture to why in my opinion the UK school system is broken. enjoy...

"Better three hours too soon than a minute too late."

Just a quick post tonight as there are lots of things I need to be doing. In keeping with our Halloween craft this month, we decided to make a Halloween clock to teach Opeie how to tell the time. I concentrate so much on reading, writing, and Maths when we're not creating fun things that I forget sometimes about the simple things that are really important. I have no idea when I was taught to tell the time but Seth informed me today that he didn't learn to tell the time until he was 7 so it's good to start covering it now.

We made the clock using two paper plates, some card for the hands and one of those gold folding clippy things (I have no idea what they are called). We then decorated the face using foam numbers and glow in the dark Halloween stickers. The clock is now stuck on the window of the lounge doors and at different points of the day I tell Opeie the time and he adjusts the clock, he'll have this down in no time! The great extra is that by putting the value of each number in 5-minute blocks around the edge, we can also cover his 5 times tables too! Extra points for making Maths fun!!!

Wednesday 19 October 2016

“Ô, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.”

During a chat outside of Seth's school one morning, the seaside town of Seaham was brought to my attention. In all our times visiting various beaches we had never ventured in that direction and I wouldn't usually consider driving 3 1/2 hours for a beach, unless it was somewhere we were staying for a few days. As it is well known for its sea glass though, I thought it sounded well worth the drive.
If Opeie and I are driving a fair distance I like to break the trip up as it can't be much fun for him being in the car for that long. So I Googled Seaham to look at the surrounding area (because my geography is awful) and after a short discussion with my co-pilot we decided on an afternoon adventuring in York to break the trip up, followed by a drive to County Durham to camp for the night, ready for our beach combing glass hunt.

When we arrived at York we parked up and removed our trusty Micro-scooters from the boot, sometimes I honestly don't know what we'd do without them now, they make getting about so much easier. The older roads in York (for obvious reasons) were not scooter friendly but we were able to get from each historic landmark to the next with the greatest of ease! As soon as Opeie had spotted Clifford's Tower high up on that hill, he made it very clear that he wanted to go up to the top. I was wishing I had one of Micro's shoulder straps all the way up that old winding staircase as trying to carry two scooters and hold Opeie's hand was a pain. At the top though we were rewarded with a great view of York, which took me right back to the last time I visited when I was around 10.

I would have loved to have taken Opeie to the Jorvik centre, which I remember being really fun when I was younger but sadly it is still closed after the flood from the river banks breaking last December. We did however still get our fill of Viking history by visiting the Home and Abroad exhibition at St Marys, where we learnt about the life of a Viking and their industry. We also met a very interesting Viking while there who told Opeie all of the Viking history surrounding the amber necklace that Opeie has worn for most of his life. Opeie didn't look impressed when he asked his age and then was then asked why he wasn't out working. The exhibition isn't huge but there is plenty of fun activities inside including making Viking jewellery and learning about Runes.

Concerned about pitching a tent up before dark and not actually having anywhere to camp at this point, we decided to scoot back to the car and continue our journey to County Durham. Opeie was clearly shattered and dropped off straight away, leaving me to soldier through the drive on my lonesome. When we arrived at Seaham we pulled over so that I could Google local campsites and found a lovely campsite tucked away called Strawberry hill. People obviously have more sense than us, camping on a cold night in autumn as we were the only ones in the field. Suited us though as we didn't have to worry about noise.

We popped the tent up really quickly and then using lots of blankets, two huge thick duvets and of course our sleeping bags, we built a nest in one of the bedrooms and settled down for the night. 

While getting Opeie off to sleep I made that classic parenting error and fell asleep at the same time (around 8:30). Which meant at 3am I was wide awake, sitting outside the tent making myself a coffee in the freezing cold. Opeie followed suit and woke up full of beans around 5 and we made the crazy decision to pack the tent up in the dark and head towards the beach (which was 20 minutes from where we were staying). Our crazy idea paid off though when we pulled up at the beach front around 6 and ate our cereal in the car while watching the sun rise. It was one of those beautiful moments you hope your children will always remember.

 When the sun had come up a little we headed down to the beach in search of some shoreline gems! We were both suprised to see that we were not the first people on the beach, there were some serious sea glass hunters down there with their carrier bags at the ready to hold their booty. We picked a quiet spot that hadnt yet been searched upon and began our hunt. I assumed you would really have to look to find the sea glass but there was lots of it about, it was the bigger pieces and certain colours that you really had to look for. Opeie was in his element and it was lovely to see him wrappd up, hunting for glass and interesting rocks at that time of the morning.

After 3 hours investigating the beach the early morning adventures had started to catch up with Opeie and I could see that he had possibly had enough. We had filled a jar with various colours of Sea glass and I had a very heavy backpack full of rocks that Opeie had found interetsing and also big ones to paint for Halloween. We should have a fun seaside themed craft week ahead. If you can get to Seaham it is definitely worth the visit, but if you are going there looking for Sea glass get there early, I was genuinly shocked at the amount of people on the beach by 7:30. It was lovely chatting to people as we hunted though.

We've got a couple of fun idea's for our next seaside adventures and we are hoping that the next one will be a visit to our friends at Micro, so watch this space.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

"Use your imagination, not to scare yourself to death but to inspire yourself to life"

It's got to that time of year again where we go into a craft frenzy. There is something so satisfying about decorating the house for Halloween and Christmas and we couldn't wait this year to get going with the spooky fun. Halloween is so much more fun when you have children and I like to think we take full advantage of these cold wet autumn days by filling them with fun activities. Me and Opeie have been researching fun Halloween craft ideas and while out doors hunting for branches, leaves and pine cones to make an Autumn wreath for the front door, we also decided that we wanted to create monster wreaths for the doors inside the house. We wanted to make a fluffy monster wreath and speant a week popping into charity shops looking for something suitable to cut up for cheap. We had no luck and was feeling pretty deflated until I was searching for one of Opeie's toys under his bed and found a huge box of pompoms and lollipop sticks, BINGO!

We cut out a big cardboard ring, fired up the glue gun and started sticking. With lots of bright coloured fluffy pompoms to choose from, Opeie was thouroughly enjoying the craft activity, sitting outside despite the cold. There was a few moments where there was a freak gust of wind and he was chasing pompoms around the street but it just added to the fun as he ran around laughing. With the cardboard ring completely covered and looking very bright and fluffy, we added big polystyrene balls for eyes and some black teeth covered in green slime and Hey Presto! our monster wreath was complete.

Not 100% happy with what we had achieved though and eager to continue our fun Halloween activities, Opeie opted for another wreath because apparently there are alot more doors in the house to decorate. We looked around the house for something else colourful and found a basket full of Play doh lids that I had saved while cleaning out the boys room a while back.I had no idea at the time what I was going to use them for or why I was even saving them but the bright colours sucked me in like some sort of magpie.

I had already cut out a second cardboard ring (clearly I knew he would want to make a second one before he did), so the glue gun made another of his weekly appearences and we got sticking. Im not sure my parents would have let me use a glue gun at the age of 5 (I could just imagine myself pretending I had Han Solo's blaster and making a mess everywhere), but Opeie is calm, loves craft and is really responsible so the gluing was left up to him. Opeie made some lovely bloodshot eyes and mad fangs from lollipop sticks and in no time at all , another door in the house was looking fabulous.

Weve got so many ideas planned for the school holiday with Seth that the house is going to be filled with lots of spooky things. The great thing is, when they all come down, theres no need to feel sad as we can start on the Christmas decorations then! being a dad is AMAZING!

Thursday 13 October 2016

"I just want to spread hope, peace and chili dogs for all"

After choosing to be in the Nintendo camp back in the late 80's while I was at school, despite all my friends swaying towards team Sega, I began a life-long relationship with Mario and his friends. I've grown up with Mario almost as far back as his own life began and because of this, I've never fully warmed to Sonic... Until now. Sure I could see why my friends enjoyed playing the sonic games, they are colourful and fast paced,  but for me, they never really had the magic of Mario.

This is something that has stayed with me for over 20 years. I've tried many times over that time to give Sonic another shot but I'd play briefly and then lose interest. I assumed that this would be the same with the latest instalment Sonic Boom Fire and Ice, the boys love the games though so I thought that I could base the review on their thoughts about game play and content. As I watched Opeie play over his shoulder and was handed the console every time he needed help, I was dragged into the game and quickly got hooked.

Sonic boom is an offshoot of the Sonic the hedgehog series and is a follow-up to Shattered Crystal which surprisingly I had never heard of (considering I pay close attention to all the Nintendo game releases), this one clearly slipped by without me realising though. The game is a fast and colourful side-scrolling game where you can use Sonic and his friends unique abilities to progress through each level. The fire and Ice side of things, makes the gameplay a lot more fun as to melt ice structures Sonic can engulf himself in flames but can also freeze water by surrounding himself in ice. The elemental powers are a nice touch to the game.

 Dr Eggman makes his return as the game's antagonist and has found a new element (Ragnium) which he is using to create an army of super robots (that old chestnut!). Of course, Eggman and his goons are no match for Sonic and his friends and as you progress through the game you plough through his army as you go.

On top of the main game play, Fire and ice has a variety of special stages and minigames and although I've not played yet, it also offers multiplayer modes. After playing Sonic Boom fire and Ice I think I've been converted.  I'm not sure I'll go looking through the Sonic the hedgehog back catalogue but this game has got me hooked for now and I'm fully embracing it. 

Sunday 9 October 2016

"The photograph itself doesn't interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality."

Remember those days when if you wanted to take a photo you had to have an actual camera with you? my first mobile phone didn't do ANYTHING! apart from make calls and send messages, which at the time seemed amazing. I am the first to moan about people being glued to their phones or tablets, but despite the frustrating rise in antisocial behavoiur, technology has made everything easier. Documenting Opeie's homeschooling adventures has been amazing and as a lot of our learning is done organically outdoors, being able to capture the amazing things we see and get to talk about means that those things can stay with us.

This week, while scooting home from an eventful homeschooling adventure we spotted a huge cobweb with a very busy spider wrapping up their dinner. Opeie was fascinated and we stood and watched for quite some time. This for me is one of the big plusses for home education, we fill our days with all sorts of little events like this. As we scooted the rest of the way home we talked about what we had seen and the interesting sighting spurred on many, many questions from Opeie, exactly what I want from a day of learning.

"Work like a Captain - Play like a Pirate!"

One of our favourite places to visit during our last trip to Orlando was Pirates Cove golf adventure. Pirates cove is one of those fun looking places that you see from the road while driving and you know you have to go and play. Despite the heat and the sweat continuously running down my face I just love being outdoors in the sun, doing something fun (and a little bit competitive) with the people I love most. With the option of the Captain's course, Blackbeard's challenge (which is more difficult) or the 36 hole Adventure, we decided to go for Blackbeard's challenge and with our putters and balls at the ready, it was game on!

Someone may have got a couple of cheeky hole in ones!!!

 Pirates cove on international drive is in the perfect spot if you are planning a day of visiting some of the smaller attractions that Orlando has to offer. If you are not hiring a car during your stay, Pirates cove is on the I-Ride route which connects most of the attraction by bus, making it really easy to get around. As an 18 hole game only takes around an hour it's great to squeeze in between other places to visit. We had been to the outlet malls and had a game before going to Ripleys believe it or not. It's handy to know that the location is also near Wonderworks, The Titanic experience, and many other great attractions.

We had left the last two days of the holiday free with no plans and asked the boys what they would like to do most. They both wanted to try out the other Orlando Pirates cove situated at Lake Buena Vista, as we had driven past it many times during our stay and they wanted to try out a different course, as I said it is one of our favourite things to do while away.  The layout of the course is completely different than the one on international drive so it is definitely worth checking the two out if you enjoy a spot of putting.

If you want a great way to fill an hour between attractions then I cannot recommend this place enough, the friendly welcoming staff and fun pirate themed course compliment the amazing weather perfectly and it is the perfect way to relax while away.