Playtime: LEGO Minecraft – The Ender Dragon Set

I don’t need another time sapping hobby in my life. I have two young kids, a demanding job, a half decorated house and an unhealthy obsession with small plastic bricks. I am busy…

Well that’s what I thought but then along came LEGO Minecraft and my addictive personality began to stretch its tentacles of curiosity.

I have to be honest, I have never played Minecraft, I was well aware of it and what it was about but I have never been compelled to play it. That is about to change.

Minecraft LEGO Box

We recently got sent the impressive LEGO Minecraft Ender Dragon set and the build has me intrigued to know more about the pixelated phenomenon. I am guessing for most who purchase this set it will be the other way around, they will already be well and truly hooked on the game and the ability to recreate the Ender Dragon scene offline will appeal to their inner gaming geek.

Engage in the ultimate battle with LEGO® Minecraft™ The Ender Dragon, includes pillars, Ender Crystals, Steve, 3 Endermen and more!

LEGO Minecraft The Ender Dragon Set 4
At the risk of starting a flame war with Minecraft mentalists I am going to be honest and say my first impression of Minecraft was I didn’t ‘get’ the whole pixelated look of the game. I couldn’t understand how in this golden age of gaming that something with such basic graphics could have such a mass appeal.

It just goes to prove, if you create a medium that enables users to bring their imagination to life it will appeal to ‘the builder’ in all of us and create endless possibilities for play. You can see why LEGO and Minecraft is a match made in heaven.
LEGO Minecraft The Ender Dragon Set 6

Seek out the dangerous Endermen that dwell in the darkness. Wield your diamond sword and bow to defeat the enemy. Then summon all your powers to confront the mighty Ender Dragon that hovers above the regenerative Ender Crystals. When you’ve slain the dragon, collect the dragon egg to create an exit portal. Prepare yourself for the ultimate battle!

LEGO Minecraft The Ender Dragon Set 5
Out of the latest range of LEGO Minecraft sets I have to say that ‘The Ender Dragon’ is by far the set that appeals to me the most. Maybe that is because I am not a die hard fan of the game and I was drawn to the darkly impressive Ender Dragon.

I definitely had a pre-conception about this set as I thought the blocky look of the set would mean it would be a very straight forward build, especially the pillars. I think LEGO have done a great job to make even the basic elements of this set an interesting and in some places a challenging build.

LEGO Minecraft The Ender Dragon Set 8

There is no denying that this set is ALL about the Ender Dragon and the build did not disappoint. I think the recommending building age of 8+ is about right but there are parts of the dragon especially within the wings mechanism that can be a bit tricky. Although parts of the dragon are a bit repetitive to build it is still a fun experience that you want to prolong.

On completing the Dragon I was surprised and delighted by the button that powers the dragon’s wings. It really brings the dragon to life and adds to the play experience. Once I showed my son the flapping wings he was off flying it around every room of the house, watching his imagination spark was great. He became really attached to it. If he had dinner, the dragon had dinner, if he took  a sh………… ower, the dragon took a shower.

LEGO Minecraft The Ender Dragon Set 7
The push button wings are not the only great feature about the Ender Dragon. The poseable limbs are well thought out and allow for so much flexibility to create numerous positions without compromising on stability.

Then there are the ‘Minifigures’, they aren’t like the standard LEGO Minifigures they stay true to the pixelated blocky theme of Minecraft.

Steve is the showpiece and I imagine will be a firm favourite amongst Minecraft fans. He consists of the normal Minifigure torso and legs but is head is a single square block. The Endermen are sleek and creepy looking and sadly a little flimsy but they add to the eerie atmosphere of the set.
LEGO Minecraft The Ender Dragon Set 3

The beige base plates build the sand island and the layered build create a rocky terrain. The obsidian pillar elements are spaced out across the plates with each supporting an ender crystal, one of which lights up red thanks to a special light brick that is powered when the crystal is pushed down. I really like the light brick, it is bit of a shame that there isn’t a light brick under each crystal.

LEGO Minecraft The Ender Dragon Set 2

LEGO Minecraft Steve

When the Ender Dragon is built it provides a great playground for Steve and the Dragon to battle it out to the death. Just like the game you will need a strategy if you want to beat the Ender Dragon as it will continue to gain health from the ender crystals. But don’t worry Steve is equipped, the crossbow and the sword should help with the impossible mission.

LEGO Minecraft The Ender Dragon Set 1

Picking up the pieces

The battle may have been won but the war continues as this set offers endless possibilities to re-build the scene the way you want. If you are not ready to go free range with your creativity then the instruction book helps you out with some alternative builds to have a go at.

LEGO Minecraft The Ender Dragon Set 9

My son taking playtime to another dimension

We may not be Minecraft fanatics but we still had plenty of fun building and playing with this set, it offers something different to other LEGO themes and I would definitely recommend it.

At a RRP of £59.99 I imagine this will most likely be a Christmas or Birthday purchase. If you do like this set or know someone that will then I urge you to not delay in buying this, I cannot imagine there will be many Minecraft LEGO sets left on the shelves this Christmas.

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Posted in Love LEGO, Reviews, The Blog

Operation Baby Lock Down With Lindam Safety Gates

As a new parent you can’t help but share every single developmental stage your baby reaches, regardless of how big or small. I have been there and whether it is a first laugh, fart or wobbly steps it can feel like a tiny miracle. I am not saying that disappears the second time around but things are a little different, you are more aware of what is on the horizon, well that is how I felt when it came to my youngest son starting to crawl.

I obviously enjoyed watching my son crawl for the first time but I would have been equally happy if we could have delayed it a week or two. The problem with a crawling baby is they get everywhere. One minute they are sat down devouring a banana, the next they are hanging out of the washing machine.  Having learnt the hard way the first time around I was determined not to be outwitted by a baby again. Oh no, it was time for operation baby lock down.

Lindam Safety Gate - Behind Bars

There are a couple of ways to keep your baby safe when they are starting to crawl/ toddle but apparently using a straight jacket is an unacceptable method of parenting in the 21st century. So that leaves one logical solution, safety gates!

We now have three Lindam Safety Gates in our house and I can honestly say I feel safer. I can now sit and watch TV in peace knowing that the kids can no longer get to me… I wish. No despite being tempted to buy 10 Lindam Safety Gates to create a fenced off play area we settled for shutting off access to both the top and bottom of the stairs.

Our 13 month old son is an opportunist, it takes him only a few back turned seconds for him to start his daredevil ascent of the stairs, before installing the safety gates it was impossible to get anything done. Now we feel liberated and reassured that our son can enjoy his freedom without us having to worry about the dangers of the house.

We have three different models of the Lindam Safety Gate, two easy fit models and a wall fixed extending metal gate. The easy fit models are easy to install and perfect for a standard size door frame. My favourite of the two easy fit models is the ‘Lindam Easy Fit Plus Deluxe Safety Gate’ it took 5 minutes to install and the opening leaver makes it really simple and quick to get in and out the room within seconds. This is an important feature when you have a speedy baby crawling after you!

Lindham Safety Gate

Lindam Easy Fit Plus Deluxe Tall

A safety gate designed for families with children and dogs, the extra tall Lindam Easy Fit Plus Deluxe safety gate keeps little ones in and four legged ones out! The extra height ensures that your pet stays where they should, whether its to keep your little one and pet separate or simply just to keep your pet from getting where they shouldn’t. This pressure fit safety gate fits openings of 75cm to 82cm. For wider openings, it can be extended to up to 110cm with the use of separate extensions. 

Lindham Safety Gate Hand Latch

Lindam Easy Fit Plus Deluxe Tall

Upstairs we have no door frame near the entrance of the stairs and our hallway is quite wide, the only model that would work for us was the Lindam Wall Fix Extending Metal Safety Gate.

Lindam Safety Gate Extended - DIY

Installing the Wall Fix Extending Safety Gate can be a bit daunting at first, I only had to look at the instructions to break out into a cold sweat. Unfortunately installing it did require me to get my drill out but thanks to the printed template that comes with the gate, measuring out the required holes was quick and easy. In fact once I got to grips with the installation diagram I found the erection easy [stop it!] and the gate to be extremely robust, which is a must when protecting your kids from the top of the stairs.

Lindam Safety Gate Extended

Not all openings and doorways are straight, or consistent in size, with staircases being the main culprits. The Lindam Extending Metal Wall Fix Stair Gate is both versatile and stylish and is perfect for awkward sizes. It flexibly extends to fit narrow openings of 63.5cm, to wider openings of 102cm without the need for separate extensions.

You can’t put a price on safety but Lindam have and at £19.99 the Wall Fix Extending Metal Safety Gate offers incredible value for money, it really has made our lives easier. Finally we can pee with the door shut knowing the kamikaze kid is safe!

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Posted in 12 Months +, Babies for Beginners, Reviews, So you have a baby, now what?, The Blog, The iDad Tips & Tricks

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie Review

If you follow my blog then you may have noticed that I have been very forthcoming with my excitement for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Well the wait to see it finally ended as I was lucky enough to be invited to the media premiere of the TMNT movie in London last month, which was a fantastic experience.

Upon hearing about the Ninja Turtles reboot earlier this year I was very skeptical about the whole concept and even more so when I heard Michael Bay was producing.  This isn’t because I have anything against Michael Bay movies… but more the fact that I knew the rebirth of the Turtles would likely be morphed into something far different from the original cartoon series and movies, and I was right.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie

If you are reading this and yet to see the film then take a look at the above image and you will immediately notice the new look of the movie version of the Ninja Turtles. I am sure you will agree these Turtles don’t look like the family friendly heroes in a half shell that we have come accustomed to over the last 25 years. In fact they are quite grotesque looking, that’s not to say that a ‘mutant’ turtle should be pretty but their street-wise pumped-up exterior seems a little extreme which I think sets the tone of the movie before you even get near a tub of popcorn.

The Parent Perspective:

As a parent to a turtle mad 4 year old it was the assumptions made on seeing the movie poster that made me seriously question the suitability of the film for my son. Some of you may read this and be questioning my parenting decisions on the basis that I would even be considering taking my 4 year old to a 12A film. Normally I wouldn’t but with the popularity of the Nickelodeon TMNT cartoon series my son is already a big fan of the Ninja Turtles.

It was on viewing the trailer that decided it for me and that on this occasion I would be leaving it until the DVD release before introducing him to the new movie. I was comfortable with my decision despite seeing the number of very young children, many of which must have been under 4, present at the media screening of the film. I have no judgement of those who decide to take younger children to the film as it is a 12A but I would question how much they will truly enjoy it.

The Screening:

With all the warm childhood memories of the Turtles I knew I had to go into the film with an open mind and not let that play a part in forming my opinion on the new movie.

Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with fearless reporter April O’Neil and her cameraman Vern Fenwick to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan.

The film starts with stylish comic book style opening credits that are impressive to watch and helps set some of the back story to the film. We are introduced to April O’ Neil played by Megan Fox at the beginning of the film who is clearly  frustrated with presenting meaningless and mind-numbing news articles. It is her desire to chase the more serious news that leads us to the dark side of the city and ultimately to the introduction of the Turtles.

Up until now the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been hiding in the darkness and successfully carrying out their vigilante escapes in the shadows with no media attention. With the care and guidance of Master Splinter, the Turtles have honed and developed their chosen Ninja disciplines but are they ready as a team to face the evil Shredder?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie - Shredder

The simplified and ridiculously convenient back story that links the triangle of April, the Turtles and the evil corporation that facilitates Shredder allows the movie to zip along at a frantic pace. If you are familiar with Michael Bay’s films e.g. Transformers it should come as no surprise that the film is mainly made up of over the top but extremely entertaining set pieces that do little in regards to plot.

However, I really enjoyed the action set pieces of the film, they are loud and extreme but make great viewing. Don’t ask questions, just sit back and enjoy the action for what it is. The jokes are funny for the audience that it targets..

The battle of good vs evil takes it toll on the Ninja Turtles after a lair invasion by Shredder and the foot clan leaves Master Splinter fighting for his life and Raphael on his own to continue the fight. With the help of April O’ Neil and her Cameraman [Will Arnett] Raphael goes all out to save his brothers and the city.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie - Raphael

Like the hulked up versions of the Turtles the Evil Shredder has also been enhanced, he is no longer just a cape, some dangerous shoulder pads and wolverine like claws, no he is more machine than person, a walking pillar of stainless steel. The strength of Shredder is too much for the Turtles and it will take something special to beat him, something that up till now they haven’t been very good at… Teamwork.

Like many superhero films they seem to try and pull off a combination of dark and gritty story with splashes of humour. I am not sure if that is what they had in mind with the reboot of the Ninja Turtles but it falls short of achieving that. For me it is the story line, it is so vague and convenient it is difficult to take it seriously.

Having said that, I knew I wasn’t going in to watch an Oscar worthy film but went in looking forward to 101 minutes of mindless entertainment. I have to say that I got that, at no point of the film was I bored, in fact I laughed along, took joy in noticing the references to the original series and watched in awe at the elaborate action and special fx.

I am not ashamed to say that I enjoyed it. If you want an easy watch ‘popcorn movie’ or have kids that are Ninja Turtle fans then I would definitely recommend you go and see it. I am sure it won’t disappoint.

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Posted in Reviews, The Blog

LEGO Minifigures Series 12: Photo Fun

The countdown for the hotly anticipated LEGO Minifigures Series 12 collection is over as they were released earlier this month on October 1st. For most of you this may be old news and you are probably thinking where I have been for the last month. Well much to the displeasure of my Wife I have become slightly obsessed with the new Series 12 Minifigs and now spend the little spare time I have taking photos of them.

Yes this may sound sad but this new potentially costly addiction of mine has lead me to a goldmine of creativity that I never knew existed. The community of LEGO photographers is huge and there are literally thousands of people pushing their creative boundaries to create some amazing work.

lego-minifigures-series-12

I am not sure whether my new LEGO photography hobby is as result of my LEGO addiction reaching a new level or if I have just become bored taking photos of my children. I mean once you have seen one photo of a baby with a messy face you may as well have seen a hundred, plus it’s hard work to get them to pose on demand. My life could do without that stress so I am going to start replacing photos of their childhood milestone moments with LEGO versions instead. Oh what the heck maybe over the years I could actually replace them with plastic versions too.

Inspired by movies, history and just everyday life, this collection includes a Space Miner, Battle Goddess, Wizard, Dino Tracker, Swashbuckler, Jester, Piggy Guy, Hun Warrior, Fairytale Princess, Pizza Delivery Man, Video Game Guy, Spooky Girl, Prospector, Genie Girl, Rock Star and a Lifeguard.

I am only joking……………………….. It has actually been my 4 year old son’s free range imagination that has inspired me to get involved, watching him playing with LEGO and creating mind boggling custom creations has challenged me to push the boundaries of my creativity. My son in particular really enjoys playing with the Minifigures as he chops and changes their body parts to create some unique customisations.

LEGO Minifigures Series 12 - Playing with Minifigures

At £2.49 per LEGO Minifigure packet they are a great pocket money purchase or make the perfect reward / bribe for being good around the supermarket, well it’s enough to ensure I behave. The value for money of the new Minifigures Series 12 collection has been increased with the introduction of online codes that allow you to grow your collection online in a purpose built virtual world for Minifigures.

LEGO Minifigures Online is a Free-to-Play game with optional in-game purchases, and the game can be played completely without paying. Diamonds (in-game currency) and Memberships are also available as optional purchases.

Currently I have about 6 of the 16 LEGO Minifgures in series 12 so still a way to go, my favourites so far are the Spooky Girl which I have two of and the Rock Star.

Check out the photos below for a sample of the photos we have been taking with the Series 12 Minifigures. You can keep up with all my LEGO Photography over on Instagram and just search for @The_iDad.

“Tough job, but someone’s gotta do it!”
This photo was taken using the Space Miner Minifigure that comes complete with his own drill and in case it isn’t obvious the mint polos were mine.

LEGO Minifigures Series 12 - Space Driller
“The Sacrifice”
This is one of my favourite photos but one of the hardest to set up. I used two ‘Spooky Girl’ Minifigures, each of which come with the creepy teddy, and a packet of fake cobweb that came complete with a dozen plastic spiders. Trying to get the fake cobweb in the right place was a nightmare.

LEGO Minifigures Series 12 - Spooky Girl
“LEGO Love”
I partnered up the ‘Hun Warrior’ and ‘The Fairytale Princess’ for this photo and thought it would be fun to do a series of photos with these two figures. The frog piece that comes with the Princess is green with envy as he plays the role of the jealous lover.

LEGO Minifigures Series 12 - Hun and Princess
“True Love”
The good news is the frog didn’t have to wait too long to get a piece of the action.

LEGO Minifigures Series 12 - Princess and the Frog
“Taa Daa –  The Rock Star”
The power of love is an incredible thing as the perfect kiss from the Princess transforms the frog into ‘The Rock Star’.

LEGO Minifigures Series 12 - Rock Star
“A Match Made in Heaven”
The Fairytale Princess is so pleased with her upgrade from the Hun Warrior she cannot contain herself.

LEGO Minifigures Series 12 - Rock Star and Princess Love
“The Late Night Gamer”
I love ‘The Video Game Guy’ Minifgure, so simplistic but a fantastic idea which I imagine will have huge appeal to the Gamer market.

LEGO Minifigures Series 12 - The Player 1 GamerIf you are also a fan of LEGO Photography I would love to see some of your LEGO Minifigures Series 12 photos.

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Posted in Love LEGO, Reviews, The Blog, Toys

Playtime: Turtles Movie Deluxe Figure – Raphael

When I was a kid the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were big and there was no escaping Turtle fever. What had started out as a comic book quickly evolved into a popular cartoon series that led to a demand for a toy range that eventually spawned two feature films.

If like me that is where your relationship with the Turtles ended you may or may not be aware that the Ninja Turtles continued to fight crime in a popular cartoon series on Nickelodeon, and now they are well and truly back with their new look movie, which releases in the UK this weekend.

So it should come as no surprise that there is a hot new range of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys out on the market to coincide with the release of the movie.

ninja turtles movie deluxe figure raphael box

If you have seen any trailers for the film you will immediately notice that the look of the Turtles has been revised quite dramatically. They have evolved into lean, green and mean fighting machines, no more so than the character of Raphael, who we reviewed. It is quite a transformation that takes a while to get used to and I imagine it must have been a toy makers nightmare as the design is very different to the Nickelodeon Ninja Turtles that continue to be marketed.

You could argue that commercially it is better to separate the cartoon series and movie toys as they are essentially different brands, but to a child who asks for a Turtles movie toy and receives a cartoon series toy will it matter? I don’t know but it opens up the opportunity for disappointment and as a parent/ shopper I would buy with caution.

turtles movie deluxe figure raphael toy

The Combat Turtles are the scariest and most highly detailed ever, with multiple points of articulation. Raph comes in his red signature gear with his sais, non-removable body armour and elbow and knee pads. Just squeeze his legs to make him use his slashing sais.

When asked to review the Turtles Movie Deluxe Figure we were actually sent the Michelangelo figure and my son who turns 4 next month fell in love with it. Now, if you follow my blog then you may guess that I have a tendency to exaggerate but honestly he really loved that toy, so much so it went everywhere with him be it nursery, the toilet, in the bath, he even went to bed with him. But then disaster struck………… we lost him.

Turtles Movie Super Deluxe Figure Raphael toy holding

If your child has ever lost their favourite toy then you can sympathise that emotions were high and after a four day search party the mourning began. Mike was gone but his memories will live on.

But hey all was not lost as it only took a quick visit to our local Tesco for playtime to resume, but this time with his brooding brother Raphael. My son and I felt that as the biggest and possibly strongest of the Turtles that Raphael should be able to fend for himself if he happened to ever get lost too. Oh and Mikey turned up less than 24 hours later as reports reached us that he was found at my son’s friend’s house.

Anyway about the toy, the Turtles Movie Deluxe Figure is incredibly accurate to the look of the movie Raphael, they have really captured his ‘turtleness’.  At just over 13cm in height the deluxe figure is an ideal size for little hands, which is great as the toy is brought to life with a firm squeeze of his legs which results in both arms performing a slashing movement of his ninja sais.

Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Turtles Movie Super Deluxe Figure Raphael toy sewer pose

The incredible detail of the Turtles Movie Deluxe Raphael Figure is enhanced by the multiple points of articulation which, combined with the interactive slashing action, enhances the playability of the figure.

The Ninja Turtles Movie Deluxe Figure range includes all four of the Turtles; Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. You can also purchase Splinter, Shredder and his Foot Soldiers which offers an exciting range of toys for a Ninja Turtles fan.

Turtles Movie Super Deluxe Figure Raphael toy sewer pose 2

The Movie Deluxe Raphael Figure is priced at £14.99 which, despite being at the top end of what I would pay for a toy of this size and functionality, it still offers great value for money if your child is a fan of the movie or the Turtles in general. I would be happy to pay it again to get the other Turtles in the range as I have seen first hand how much play my son gets out of it.

You can purchase the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Deluxe Figure – Raphael here or at a good local toy shop.

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Posted in Reviews, The Blog, Toys

The LEGO Golden Brickies Awards – A Day To Remember

The very first LEGO Golden Brickies Awards were hosted at LEGOLand Windsor last weekend and we were lucky enough to get an invite to join in the fun.

The Golden Brickies Awards were announced by the LEGO Group last month when they urged fans both young and old to submit their best LEGO Star Wars work using the #GoldenBrickies hashtag. Despite only having a limited time to submit an entry it didn’t stop thousands of creative builders of getting involved, me included.

LEGO Golden Brickies Awards Warwick Davis Selfie

The Golden Brickies is made up of four prestigious awards –  best picture, best mini movie, best set build and overall LEGO Star Wars™ winner for best content creation. The prize for the winner of each category was a  year’s supply of LEGO® Star Wars™ goodies, a LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort Annual Pass for a family of four and perhaps best of all a truly incredible bespoke LEGO® C-3PO award.

LEGO Golden Brickies Awards Storm Trooper Selfie

The awards took place on Saturday 11th October 2014 at the LEGOLand Windsor Hotel and guests were encouraged to embrace the force and don their very best Star Wars attire, luckily for me I woke up looking like a Wookie so not a lot of effort was required!

Although we weren’t nominated for any awards we were all very excited to be a part of it and particularly looked forward to meeting the legendary Warwick Davis, who played Wicket the Ewok in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. It was actually Warwick’s presence that inspired us to dress our 13 month old son up as an Ewok and as there was a prize being presented to the best dressed adult and child it felt the perfect opportunity to leverage the cute card.

My eldest son who turns 4 next month was dressed as a battle between good and evil, he was Anakin Skywalker at the front and Darth Vader at the back, which to be honest pretty much sums up his average day. Both boys looked great despite us having to dress them up in the hotel car park.

LEGO Star Wars Golden Brickies Storm Trooper

My Dark Sided Jedi

As we approached the LEGOLand hotel we were greeted by a gaggle of Storm Troopers and a very convincing Boba Fett lurking in the shadows, but even the most hardened in the galaxy could not resist the allure of our Ewok baby as my Wife and I were gently ushered aside and my 13 month old took the stage.

The next 5 minutes were a whirlwind as guest after guest wanted to marvel at our Ewok baby and then the moment we had worked for happened, Rex the Ewok and Warwick locked eyes, I would like to say that there was a mutual respect between the two of them but that bond was broken within seconds as my Ewok baby prodded his makeshift spear straight towards Warwick’s right eye, it was only for Warwick’s Ewok like reflexes that ensured he escaped unharmed. Then all was fine and we got a nice photo opportunity.

Baby Ewok Costume and Wicket Warwick Davis Star Wars LEGO Golden Brickies

My Ewok Baby – Photo taken by Mikel Buck – http://www.mikaelbuck.com/

Anyway enough about my family, this is about the LEGO Golden Brickies and the well deserved winners… did I mention that my baby Ewok actually crawled away as the winner of best dressed child? Ok sorry that’s enough, now on to the real talent of the day.

The Winners…

LEGO Golden Brickies – Best Picture Winner:

‘Ladies Knight at the Jedi Temple’ by Guy Frankland from Newcastle

LEGO Golden Brickies Ladies Knight

LEGO Golden Brickies – Best Mini Movie Winner:

‘Luke to the Rescue’ by Tim Sutcliffe and his sons Evan(5) and George(4) from Bristol

LEGO Golden Brickies – Best Set Build Winner:

‘May 4th Party’ by Nick Sweetman and his son Matthew (11) from Plymouth

LEGO Golden Brickies May The Fourth Nick Sweetman

LEGO Golden Brickies – Overall Winner:

Daniel Jamieson from London

Overall it was a fantastic day and now I have seen the bespoke LEGO C-3PO award in person I am desperate to get my hands on one. I guess I better get building now for next year’s Golden Brickies Awards.

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Posted in Dad-tivities, Love LEGO, The Blog, Toys

Playtime: Giggling Gourmet 4-in-1 Shop ‘n Cook Walker

This week we were lucky enough to be sent a 4-in-1 Shop ‘n Cook Walker by Bright Starts for the boys to play with. The timing of this toy could not have been better as my youngest son has just turned 13 months and although a bit later than some of his friends he is finally finding his walking feet. I hoped the the 4-in-1 Shop ‘n Cook Walker would give him more opportunities to practice his walking as well as being a fun toy to play with.

Giggling Gourmet 4-in1 Shop n cook walker by bright starts

The 4-in-1 Shop ‘n Cook Walker™ from Bright Starts™ Giggling Gourmet™ Collection entertains baby with 4 stages of play: the cook top is removable for sit and play; the cart legs lock in place so the cook top becomes a stationary activity table; when baby begins to toddle, the wide, sturdy legs are perfect for learning to walk – the popcorn pops as baby pushes the cart along!

BrightStarts 4 in 1 shop n cook walker toy

To be honest we already have two walker toys in our household that my son does play with and do a good job however the Giggling Gourmet 4-in-1 Shop ‘n Cook is so much more than just a walker. The 4 in 1 functionality enhances its playability and ensures it grows with each stage of your child’s development.

As always when there is a new toy in our house there is a crazy level of excitement and a collective pressure put upon me to get it out of the box as soon as humanly possible. Sometimes there is a need for me to get my screwdriver out before the boys get to play with a toy and this was one of those occasions.

The 4 in 1 walker assembles very easily with a few simple clicks and to ensure it remains secure it requires a number of screws to go in through the bottom of the trolley to the underside of the basket. It only took a few minutes and probably could’ve been done quicker if my eldest son didn’t insist on helping.

BrightStarts 4 in 1 shop n cook walker toy 2

Once the walker was built it was time to insert some batteries into the interactive table that sits on top of the trolley. I was caught a little off guard when I turned the walker on as it spurted out a language that was not English and my first thought was I had been sent a toy meant for a different country. Well I felt a bit silly 30 seconds later when I realised the on switch has 3 language settings – Spanish, French and English.

It was time to test the toy out, could it entertain a 13 month old and a soon to be 4 year old?! Could it buy me enough time to pee in peace?!

BrightStarts 4 in 1 shop n cook walker toy 3

Well I never get to pee in peace so that would be asking miracles but the toy definitely did entertain. I was really surprised how well each of the four functions worked and provided a different element of play. We started out testing the walker and my 13 month old pulled himself straight up and started toddling with the assistance of the well built trolley walker.

It didn’t take long for my eldest son to get involved and they both tested out the shopping basket, which was great fun as they loaded it up with the contents of their toy kitchen. For 5 minutes I felt like Dale Winton hosting an episode of Supermarket Sweep, especially when they tried stuffing an inflatable guitar into the trolley… unfortunately there were no cash prizes.

BrightStarts 4 in 1 shop n cook walker toy 4

Up next was the sit and play part which is basically the top cover of the shopping trolley that features a popping popcorn maker which also pops when the trolley is pushed along, much to the amusement of my youngest son. It also includes an open and close cheese toaster that flips up with a press of a button, a sunny side up egg roller and a light up button which when pressed lets off sizzling cooking sounds. I think it is safe to say the popcorn maker is the highlight of the cooker top.

I would definitely recommend the Giggling Gourmet 4-in-1 Shop ‘n Cook Walker not just to those with children learning to walk but the role play element of the shopping trolley makes great fun for older kids too.

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Posted in Babies for Beginners, Reviews, The Blog

Read Along With Woolly Soft Toy

One of the most exhausting parts of being a parent is the bedtime routine, even those who have mastered the art of it will occasionally dread the thought of having to wrestle their child to bed. Well I have good news for you all, bedtimes routines are now a thing of the past as I have found the ideal replacement for a parent. Woolly.

The Read along with Woolly Soft Toy based on the hit CBeebies programme Woolly and Tig is well equipped to send your child off to sleep with a smile on their face and a cuddle in their arms.

Ok ok perhaps Woolly can’t completely replace the need for you to do the bedtime routine but his presence alone is bound to make the overall experience better.

Read along with Woolly soft toy
Read Along With Woolly is a 22cm soft toy that is advertised as a fun interactive introduction to reading for children aged 10 months to 6 years. My boys are aged 12 months and nearly 4 years old so I initially thought Woolly would be a great toy for both of them but for different reasons.

My theory was confirmed when I unleashed Woolly on the boys. My youngest was instantly drawn to the bright colours of Woolly and it didn’t take him long to work out how to make Woolly talk. It was Woolly’s dulcet tones that caught the attention of my eldest son who came rushing over to press each interactive button located on the base of Woolly’s feet. The next 5 minutes were quite hectic as it felt Woolly was stuck on repeat thanks to both my boys taking it in turns to press every noise provoking button repeatedly.

Make learning fun with Read Along with Woolly! Perfect for bedtime, Woolly comes complete with his very own story book featuring four different stories.

Read along with Woolly soft toy 2

Read Along With Woolly has a total of 8 embroidered symbols located on each foot and when pressed he sounds out a different phrase or song, which is entertaining on it’s own, but the fun doesn’t stop there!

Woolly comes equipped with a small booklet that features four read along stories which includes photos and symbols that match those located on Woolly’s feet. The stories are short but sweet and cover the important topics of sleeping, hair wash day, sharing and holding hands. As you read through the story young ones are encouraged to press the relevant symbol on Woolly to bring the story alive.

Read along with Woolly Soft toy full view

I had purposely introduced Woolly to the boys just before bedtime as bait to get them up to the bath quickly and in bed with minimum fuss on the promise that Woolly would be in bed for story time. It may have been crafty but it worked a treat and before I knew it both boys were settled in their pyjamas ready for Woolly’s stories.

A brilliant way to encourage a love of reading; Woolly’s interactive features are bound to delight and entertain your little one.

Read along with Woolly soft toy4

Bedtime cuddles with Woolly

At this point my 12 month old was more interested in cuddling Woolly as my eldest wanted to play along with the stories, despite a bit of a wrestle for Woolly’s love we got through the stories fairly quick.

If I was to be super critical of Woolly the only thing I would perhaps change is the durability of the story book that comes with him. It is made out of a toughened card which is bound with a stitch so it isn’t exactly flimsy and for my near 4 year old it is perfect. However for a 12 month old that insists on chewing on more things than a famished goat, I fear that the book may not last that long.

I love Woolly and Woolly loves me, We’ve been together since we were wee

Read along with Woolly soft toy3

Story Time With Woolly

Overall I think Read Along With Woolly makes a fantastic toy both for his interactive functions and as a lovely soft teddy to snuggle up to. If your child is a fan of the popular CBeebies series Woolly and Tig then I am sure their eyes will light up with delight as they see Woolly for the first time. Woolly is priced at £29.99 which is probably at the very top end of what I would pay for this toy but having said that I think it still represents plenty of value for that price.

If your child is anything like my boys then Woolly will be going everywhere with you and not just restricted to a story at night time. Woolly is more than a toy, he is a friend.

Amazon currently have a sale on this product, buy your very own Read Along With Woolly Soft Toy here

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Posted in Reviews, The Blog, Toys

Playtime: LEGO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Turtle Lair Invasion

If you were to rewind 25 years you would most likely find me searching the street for a loose manhole cover so I could join up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to fight off the evil Shredder. Sadly it was never to be and I lived an ‘ooze’ free childhood and instead settled for a Donatello action figure and a comfy place in front of the TV.

Today as I look upon the new movie version of the LEGO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I find myself caught in a strange cocktail of emotions as a flood of nostalgia and a rush of kainotophobia battle it out for a suggestion of how I feel about the new movie Turtle design. I have to be honest I grew up with the Ninja Turtles and despite the numerous reboots over the years they have remained recognisable, this time they’re different, a bit too different. These Turtles are ready for a fight!

They’re the world’s most fearsome fighting team, They’re heroes in a half-shell and they’re green, When the evil Shredder attacks, These Turtle boys don’t cut him no slack!

Anyway… we were lucky enough to receive the LEGO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lair Invasion set to review, and despite my initial hostility to the new movie character design it didn’t take me long to warm to the LEGO Minifigure versions. After all everything is better in bricks!

I didn’t even have to open the Ninja Turtles Lair Invasion box for the excitement levels to reach fever pitch in our house, shrieks of joy could be heard for miles as we poured out the bags of LEGO from the box. This was going to be an epic build and luckily with the help of my four year old it would slow the building down to snail pace so we could savour the pleasure.

LEGO Turtles Lair Invasion Overview

The Complete Set

The LEGO Ninja Turtles Lair Invasion is the premier set of the new movie range of the LEGO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and boasts a whopping 888 pieces, 6 minifigures, multiple interactive functions and probably most importantly, two LEGO pizzas. This set is impressive!

The Turtle Lair is under attack by Shredder and his Foot Soldiers. Splinter, Donatello and Leonardo must split up to defend their home. Use the bank of screens in the surveillance room to keep an eye on Shredder’s maneuvers. Grab the weapons and defend the manhole cover entrance to the Lair. Climb the ladder and use the cool trap function to drop barrels on the bad guys.

My first thoughts of the Turtles Lair is that this set has been built for playing, although it looks impressive as a stand alone set the real fun is to be had with the interactive features that bring the good vs bad battle alive.

LEGO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lair Invasion - The Build

The Build

The Lair Invasion set has a recommended building age of 7 – 14 and with two thick instruction books this is quite an intensive build. My son is only 4 and although he could never build this by himself he did play a big part in helping put it together, although it did take 5 long days and 12 snack breaks to complete! The downside to such a big set is that it takes time to build which is great for most of us but when the box teases you with all the fun features I imagine as a small child all you want to do is play with it!

Don’t let the evil invaders explode the wall to the fan room, and if the Foot Soldiers discover the hidden door, elevate the slide behind it to drop them in the prison! Shut the cage door to trap intruders and make those villains pay for trespassing on Turtle property!

LEGO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lair Invasion - Playtime

Playtime

The LEGO Ninja Turtles Lair Invasion set consists of three main structures that link together to create the Turtles lair. The biggest section of the lair stands three stories tall and has the fun addition of a helter skelter style slide that wraps around the structure from top to bottom, a fantastic way to get to the control room quickly when you are under attack! Out of all the features this was my son’s favourite part and he spent ages sliding all sorts down it. The best was the cozy slide ride between Shredder and Splinter that apparently reminded my son of us when we go down slides?!

LEGO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lair Invasion - Battle

Let the battle commence

The centre piece of the lair stands two stories tall which is made up of the fan room on the ground floor and a vault door that protects the lair entrance on the top. The fan room features a cool exploding wall that acts as an entrance point to the boisterous Shredder and his balaclava-ed Foot Soldiers. The smallest section of the lair has a sliding cage door that protects the weapon storage and could also act as a great space to trap Shredder and his clan in.

LEGO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lair Invasion - Pizza

The Take Away

As I write this review I realise just how many parts on this set are interactive and enhance the overall playability, which to name a few include a rotating training platform, the barrel launcher, hidden weapon sliding drawer and hidden door. All of these well thought out features allow the seige to play out across all elements of the lair to prolong the fight.

LEGO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lair Invasion - Shredder

Even bad guys love the slide

This set is currently priced at £79.99 which means it is probably better suited as a birthday or Christmas present than as an impulsive purchase. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are definitely enjoying a new lease of life as the new film realeases next month in the UK and movie merchandise is starting to pop up everywhere. I think it is safe to say that the Turtles will be featuring on a lot of Christmas lists this year and if you want to buy something special then this set offers fantastic value for money in terms of building and playability.

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Posted in Love LEGO, Reviews, The Blog

Pimp My Ride: Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Makeovers

The Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Ride-on is instantly recognisable with its trademark red and yellow colours and classic chunky design. The cozy coupe has been around for over 30 years now and it seems that year after year it is the ride on car of choice for even the most discerning toddler. It is no surprise then that with this product being produced for so many years that often these classic ride on cars are passed on from sibling to sibling or even family to family and occasionally their new owners need to breathe new life into them.

We actually have two Little Tikes Cozy Coupes of our own, one is a fairly new Little Tikes Police Car which is great and we also have a second hand classic red and yellow one that is in desperate need of a makeover. I had planned to pimp it up into a Batmobile but I have never found the time to do it, however after seeing what others have done I definitely feel inspired to get out there and give it a go.

You only have to do a quick search on google or pinterest for the term Cozy Coupe Makeover and it will display hundreds of results with a wide range of designs. I have listed below some of my favourites, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

The Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Ride-on – 30th Anniversary Edition
In case you have been living in a cave in a remote location all your life below is a photo of the original version of the cozy coupe.

The Classic Little Tikes Cozy Coupe

The Classic Red Little Tikes Cozy Coupe

The Batmobile
There are several different versions of the cozy coupe Batmobile but this one is by far my favourite, I think it is the attention to detail that really makes it, the classic red bat symbol on the wheels is inspired!

I'm Batman! Batmobile Cozy Coupe Makeover

I’m Batman! Batmobile Cozy Coupe Makeover

Ghostbusters – Ecto1
When I started researching the idea of customising our cozy coupe I thought the Batmobile would be my favourite, and it was until I saw this unbelievably awesome Ghostbusters Ecto-1 cozy coupe! This is pure genius, everything about this project is quality and the attention to detail is second to none from the number plate to the blue hosing from the roof to the petrol tank. Having said that I think that this is slightly too ambitious for a man of my DIY skills.

ecto1 cozy coupe makeover

Who you gonna call?! Ghostbusters custom cozy coupe

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Michelangelo

Cowabunga Dude! This custom cozy coupe is brilliant and very topical at the moment with the upcoming release of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.  I am also loving the fact that they have chosen Michelangelo by far my favourite turtle. A lot of work has gone into this project from the detail of the turtle shell on the roof which looks like dark green tape and the orange material that utilises the cars eyes to full effect. There are some very creative people out there!

Cowabunga! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cozy Coupe Makeover

Cowabunga! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cozy Coupe Makeover

Planes – Dusty
I have not seen the film Planes but I have seen enough of the trailers and merchandise in stores to know that this custom cozy coupe has done a great job in bringing Dusty to life. The most impressive thing about this project is the introduction of the propeller, wings and tail. There is one very lucky child out there that will be the envy of all his/her friends.

planes dusty cozy coupe makeover

Dusty from Disney Planes

Spider-Man

Spider-man, Spider-man does whatever a spider can… or in this case a car. It looks as though the body of the car has used the original red paint work and just added the spider web effect and Spider-man logo with a custom blue paint job to the roof, the result is great.

Spider-man cozy coupe makeover

Spider-man cozy coupe makeover

Fire Truck
Most of the cozy coupe makeovers out there have adopted a beloved theme from a TV show or movie, this person has gone for the classic Fire Truck with some cute addition to help spark the imagination of any budding fire fighter out there. The introduction of the ladder and the hose really help to finish the Fire Truck off, I am surprised the Fire Engine isn’t available in the original range, if it is I must have missed it. If you want to have a go at creating this check out the sweetcsdesigns blog.

Fire Truck Cozy Coupe Makeover

Fire Truck Cozy Coupe Makeover

CAT
Do you have a budding Bob the Builder in your household? If so then you may want to have a go at creating this custom cozy coupe, the classic CAT.

CAT Cozy Coupe Makeover

CAT Cozy Coupe Makeover

Minnie Mouse
This custom coupe is a great interpretation of Minnie Mouse with the pink with white polka dot body paint and the classic mouse ears on the black roof. This coupe is super cute.

Minnie Mouse Cozy Coupe Makeover

Minnie Mouse Cozy Coupe Makeover

Scooby Doo – Mystery Machine
Scooby Doo where are you? Your custom cozy coupe Mystery Machine is parked on a double yellow line! This design of the Mystery Machine is one of my favourites, Scooby Doo is very popular in our house and I could image this would make someone very happy and probably my son too!

Scooby Doo Mystery Machine Cozy Coupe Makeover

Scooby Doo Mystery Machine Cozy Coupe Makeover

Dukes of Hazard – General Lee
I imagine this cozy coupe makeover was probably the idea of a fanatical parent rather than the child it was designed for but either way they have done a great job. I hope they practiced jumping in straight through the window!

General Lee Cozy Coupe Makeover

General Lee Cozy Coupe Makeover

Toy Story – Woody
Last but not least this custom Little Tikes cozy coupe based on Woody from Toy Story is a brilliant idea and one I would never of thought of. I love the fact the paintwork mimics the clothing design of the lovable cowboy Woody. The details on it are great and I imagine a lot of patience was needed to create the chequered shirt and belt buckle. Brilliant.

woody cosy coupe makeover

Woody from Toy Story Cozy Coupe Makeover

If you fancy having a go at doing a cozy coupe makeover you should head over to ebay to see if you can pick up a bargain or if you are a fan of the original you can pick the Cozy Coupe 30th anniversary version up from Amazon for a reasonable price.

I struggled to find the original source of a lot of these cozy coupe makeovers, if anyone knows who the creators were please contact me so I can add a link to the original source as I would love to know more about how they were made.

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Posted in For Dads Eyes Only, The Blog, The Parenting Paradox

Playtime: Halo Mega Bloks UNSC Flame Warthog

This week I was sent a set of the new Halo Mega Bloks UNSC Flame Warthog to build and play with. It made a nice change to get something for me to build and play with as the product is more aimed at gamers than younger children. I have to be honest up until today I very much had the preconception that Mega Bloks was a brand aimed at very young children and produced chunky easy to build blocks and although I had seen the Halo sets in toy shops it wasn’t something I had instantly associated with Mega Bloks.

Not just for recon operations, the all-new UNSC Flame Warthog by Mega Bloks Halo tackles multiple missions. The M12 Force Application Vehicle is the UNSC’s primary ground vehicle, commonly used for its scouting and reconnaissance capacity.

Halo Mega Bloks Flame Warthog

On the hunt…

The packaging of the Halo Flame Warthog box is not only bright but eye catching especially with the Halo imagery on the front, I am sure it is definitely a head turner for any Halo fan. Having highlighted my preconception of the brand I was dubious of how good the quality of the bricks would be and how it would compare to other leading construction brands. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and the quality of the bricks combined with the easy to navigate instructions evaporated any concerns I had.

With an actual working suspension and 360 rotating turret, the highly mobile all-wheel drive “Hog” with all-new flame paintjob is clearly ready for battle!

Halo Mega Bloks Flame Warthog 3

SPARTAN!!

The build of the Halo UNSC Flame Warthog was really enjoyable, I had picked a time where my two boys were out of the house so I wouldn’t have to wrestle bricks off them or surgically remove anything from a small snotty nostril. It took me about 30 minutes to build the set and as you would expect with a recommended builders age of 8+ as an adult I didn’t have too many problems although I did find clicking in the axles that supported the wheels a bit sticky.

Features two new super-articulated micro action figures with customizable armor, includes 2 Spartan GUNGNIR.

Halo Mega Bloks Flame Warthog 2

Making a stand…

I really enjoyed adding the finishing touches to the set with the likes of the 360 degree rotating turret and especially placing the super poseable ‘Spartan Gungnir’ micro figures into the vehicle.

When built the Flame Warthog is a robust vehicle and benefits from the real working suspension as it pushed along rough terrain. Although the likelihood is if you have bought this set for a gamer then it will probably just sit proudly next to the TV rather than being played with as all the action tends to happen on screen.

I think this would be a great gift for any gamer dads or if you just want a great construction toy then this set offers great playability especially for the price. The RRP is £24.99 which I think is fair for what the set offers bearing in mind you get the flame warthog vehicle and the two micro figures.

Mega Bloks offers a full range of Halo sets to keep the gamer fans in your life very busy for a long time!

Posted in Reviews, The Blog

LEGO® Star Wars™ introduces ‘Oscar-Style’ awards just for fans!

Warning, reading this post may result in a sudden yelp of excitement and have you donning a brown hooded dressing gown for days of intergalactic building.

Today the LEGO Group announced the event that all LEGO Star Wars fans have been training for… the Golden Brickies, an award ceremony that has been created to reward families with the most creative LEGO® Star Wars™ builders.

LEGO® Star Wars™ announces its first ever intergalactic national ‘Oscar-style’ awards just for fans! The ‘Golden Brickies’ Awards launch today on the LEGO Facebook page to celebrate the best fan created content for all the creative Jedi builders, budding photographers and film makers out there.

LEGO Star Wars Golden Brickies Awards

Better get building!!

In homage to the legendary movie franchise and upcoming Episode VII, LEGO® is inviting families across the UK to take part in this epic event which will culminate in an exclusive red carpet celebration event at LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort Hotel with other amazing prizes up for grabs.

Still not convinced? Well check out the details of the prizes on offer:

  • An invitation to the prestigious red carpet LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort awards ceremony on Saturday 11th October 2014
  • A chance to meet Return of the Jedi actor, Warwick Davis, as well as the bods behind the LEGO® Star Wars™ universe
  • A year’s supply of LEGO® Star Wars™ goodies
  • A LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort Annual Pass for a family of four
  • Entry into LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort afterwards to enjoy the Resort’s 55 rides, shows and attractions. PLUS entrance to the LEGO® Star Wars™ Miniland, which re-creates the most iconic scenes from the legendary movies and the animated TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars™ in over 1.5 million LEGO bricks.
  • Your very own bespoke LEGO® C-3PO award

If that doesn’t get you bricking it, I don’t know what will!

There are four categories of awards at the #GoldenBrickies:

  • Best picture – create a LEGO® Star Wars™ inspired photograph using your collection
  • Best mini movie – either create a LEGO® Star Wars™ movie blooper or your own alternative movie ending
  • Best set build – LEGO® Star Wars™ inspired build
  • Overall LEGO® Star Wars™ Golden Brickies winner for best content creation

The winners will be selected by an all star judging panel which includes the legendary Warwick Davis who played Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi.

Now to the all important information of how to enter the #GoldenBrickies:

Simply upload your video or picture entry to the Golden Brickies page on the LEGO® Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter, using #GoldenBrickies and that’s it! Submission of entries will be open between 12th September and close at midnight on 26th September 2014. The award ceremony will then take place on Saturday 11th October so make sure you can make it before you enter!

I have already seen a few entries pop up on my social media streams and the competition will be strong, I am hoping to use the force to convince the judges that I am the winner they are looking for. 

Even if you don’t win it will be fun trying and sharing your work with other LEGO Star Wars fans…. here is a photo I took earlier #GoldenBrickies

LEGO Star Wars Millenium Falcon

Save me a seat Wicket!

May the force be with you!

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Posted in Love LEGO, The Blog

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