The Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad Christmas Gift Guide… for Kids!

With Christmas ’round the corner, we’re finally at that point where influencers show you the hottest toys and what you should spend your money on this Christmas. You’ll see posts full of affiliate links galore as we sell our pound of flesh… but I don’t want to take that route.

Christmas is a strange time for my Christian family.

While we don’t want our kids to feel like outcasts in school when we choose Christ over Claus this December, we find it essential to make Christmas a time to spend with family, friends and our church community as we get ready for another year of challenges and celebrations ahead.

But you’d better believe we’re still going to get them some toys.

This Christmas marks the first year we can start moving from toddlers’ toys to ones I might want to play with, and I plan to take full advantage of it!

Despite Sarah’s qualms over the space in our home versus how much I review, I’ve been blessed to check out many of this season’s new toys up close and personal these past few months. From tech to STEM to collectables and more, I’ve hand-picked some toys that I think you’ll find dope for the little people in your life.

So let’s get to it!

(And don’t you worry—for those of us in a rush, I’ve created links to all the product below for easy access!)

Xbox One S Minecraft Limited Edition Bundle
The VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX2
VTech Touch & Learn Activity Desk Deluxe
The VTech Zoo Jamz Stompin’ Fun Drums
VTech 4-in-1 Stroll & Grow Tek Trike
#StikBot Farm Movie Bot
Tumblstix
Spin Circuits
The PAW Patrol Sea Patroller
The Etch A Sketch Freestyle & The Etch A Sketch Joystick
Hatchimals Glittering Garden
Mayka Toy Block Tape
Tangles
The Original Fidget Cube by Artsy Labs

DO ALL THE THINGS: The 2013 100 Wrap-Up 41-50: Nostalgia, Nintendo and the Need to Clean

Somewhere along the road, I lost a week. Whether it was from an Icepocalypse in Toronto that displaced us from our home, leaving it without power for 30 hours; a nasty illness making it much harder stay jolly (and/or conscious) through the 4-day celebration that is our family’s Christmas; or simply underestimating the wealth of family and friends we have that wants to meet DoomzToo, I suddenly found myself at the tail end of December with entirely too much content left to write!

A sane man would quit, patting himself on the back for the best effort he could’ve possibly put out in a year, and rest on his laurels promising to do a better job the next year.

Unfortunately for me, no one’s ever mistook me for a sane man.

In an effort to make up for lost time, I’ve written. Not the easiest when you have a son who refuses to sleep without being held after all the attention he got at Christmas, but in those 5-minute spurts where he isn’t fighting the urge to shut his eyes and catch some Zs, that’s what I’m doing.

So feast your eyes on the next installment of my year-end wrap-up, and if I don’t manage to knock all these 100 stories out before we’re singing Auld Lang Syne on the 1st, just remember this — I left 2013 with a roar, not a whimper.

On with the show!

Candy Crush Saga | The Art of Candy Crushing — How I Finished 395 Levels in Candy Crush Saga

“I never placed a game on my phone ever, and then I played Candy Crush.”

— becsophia

There’s a whole list of things that make Candy Crush Saga as addictive as it is:

  • You get 5 lives to progress and lose a life every time you fail a level. While they do come back, it takes 30 minutes for each life to return, so there’s an incentive for you to do as well as possible.
  • The map showing all the levels is not only massive, but it shows the current positions of every Facebook friend you have that plays. So it gives you a strong incentive to prove that you can do better than everyone else you know.
  • But that’s not all — King didn’t only want you competing on the macro scale, trying to make it the furthest out of all your friends; they went right to the micro-level, showing where you rank for top scores on every level! Talk about a shot straight to the ego!
  • And to anyone out there who thinks that Candy Crush Saga is just a jazzed-up Bejeweled clone, I’ve got news for you — where Bejeweled is usually just a fixed grid with different modes of gameplay, King angled to blow PopCap Games out of the water, with 5 modes of gameplay in its levels combined with boards of different sizes and a bevvy of obstacles that only grow harder to navigate and infinitely more frustrating as you advance through the levels. Don’t knock it ’til you try it!

But I assume you’ve come here today because you’re already a Candy Crush convert, so you already know this. You don’t want an overview that you could get anywhere on the Internet — you want some concrete tips on how to beat your addiction by beating the game. So let me tell you about my journey.

Beating the Unbeatable

It might not LOOK so complicated, but it gets VERY frustrating, VERY quickly. Lots of keep an eye on!

I’d been warned about Level 391 well in advance by my longtime friend Justin, who told me that he might stop playing Candy Crush Saga because it was too impossible. Within 40 moves, they wanted you to get 77 yellow candies, 66 blue candies and 55 red candies, which were all relatively easy. The hard part? Getting 240,000 points in the process.

To put that in context, getting to level 391 is a pretty amazing feat by Candy Crush standards. Of my 1600+ Facebook friends, there’re only 4 of us who’ve made it that far or only about 0.25% of the sample. I attacked 391 with the same powerful methods I’d used to get to that point — combinations of sprinkled candies (or “colour bombs”) with striped and wrapped candies for more points; combining striped and wrapped candies with each other when I needed to do so that I could last longer — but no matter what I tried, I consistently landed in the 120-150K point range.

As ashamed as I am to admit it, it looked like the end of my candy crushing!

Like I said though, I eventually figured it out. There is a way to make it even further, but it’s not the method you were expecting! First, though, let’s build up with some basic tips.

Some Basic Tips

Let me put this bluntly — if you’re stuck on level 23, you’re either not trying hard enough or not playing well enough. In the early stages of Candy Crush Saga, there are some quick things you need to know so that you too can crush all the candies:

  • Combining special candies is your new best friend. There’re 5 different types of special candies in Candy Crush, but the more common combinations are:
    • Striped Candy + Wrapped Candy = larger candy that clears the 3 rows and columns surrounding the spot where you activated it
    • Striped Candy + Sprinkled Candy = turning every candy of the striped candy’s colour into a striped candy, having them all activate simultaneously for some major damage
    • Wrapped Candy + Sprinkled Candy = destroy every candy of the wrapped candy’s colour, plus all those of another random colour right after
    • Sprinkled Candy + Sprinkled Candy = destroy every candy on the screen (as long as it’s not behind a barrier)

    I also recommend combining striped, wrapped and sprinkled candies with the other special candies (i.e. the jelly fish and coconut wheels) to see what happens when you combine them (or you know, visit here: http://candy-crush-saga.wikia.com/wiki/Candies)

  • Sometimes we set ourselves up for failure from the start. If you enter a level and the conditions don’t look well-suited to victory, if you haven’t made any moves yet, you can exit the level without losing a life. Gotta be economical with those lives — you only get so many!

But this is basic stuff — simply knowing how to mix special candies and reset levels will only take you so far. You’re gonna need a little more — so let’s take a look at…

Secret Ninja Art: Advanced Candy Crush Saga Techniques

There are three tips I suggest to have the best chance for success in Candy Crush Saga.

Tip #1: Don’t Be Ashamed to Let Your Facebook Friends Know You’ve Caved

Candy Crush Saga is becoming more of a household name every time the sun rises — a recent analysis estimated that it’s played 600 times a day, and doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down!

But I’ve come across a ridiculous number of people who try to hide that they’re playing Candy Crush!

People. It’s a social game. You’re SUPPOSED to tell people that you’re playing it.

Plus, King makes your life a whole lot easier when you connect Candy Crush Saga with Facebook:

later in the game, where you need to meet certain conditions to keep advancing, you only need to get 3 Facebook friends to send you a ticket to move forward (relatively easy since so many people are playing right now). If you choose to play without Facebook connected, not only do you need to either play Mystery Quests or pay to keep going, you can only play one Mystery Quest per 24 hours, meaning it either takes you 3 days to get new levels or $1 to advance in a game that’s supposed to be freeBITE THE FACEBOOK BULLET ALREADY!

Also, while extra moves from friends in Candy Crush never quite work as they should, extra lives do. You can stay disconnected from Facebook like a sucker if you want, but I can tell you that there’s no way I’d have made it through levels 370+ as quickly as I did without a stockpile of 50+ lives to help me through.

Why make things harder for yourself?

The Facebook connection makes life far easier, particularly because you can take advantage of Tip #2….

Tip #2: Never Play on One Device Alone

One of the great things about Candy Crush Saga is that it’s available everywhere. You can play it on an iOS or Android device, or straight through the app on the Facebook site. But as I played on my iPad and Galaxy SIII, I noticed something funny — while my progress synced between every device, my lives and charms didn’t. So when I’d play through 5 lives on my phone, all I needed to do was pick up my iPad and carry on from where I left off — part of the reason I could burn through 10+ levels a day without having to fork over any cash for it. But it was because of this tip that I came across the craziest tip of all — Tip #3 would change the way I played Candy Crush Saga forever.

Tip #3: Crushing Candies on Your Phone Does Not Crushing Candies on Your Computer Make

In the end, it all comes back to Level 391. I’d tried on my phone, I’d tried on my iPad, but that goal of 240,000 points wasn’t getting anywhere in reach.

But on the computer, I got 300,000… in 3 moves.

Wait, what?

That’s right, you heard me — the mobile and browser version of the game don’t score the same way!!!

If you Google about Candy Crush scoring, there’s no definitive guide to it — everyone knows that it’s complex and no one’s explicitly detailed how scoring works, but one thing I know is that it’s inconsistent.

So in short, if you want to play to progress, play mobile. If you want to play for points, you better get on that Facebook tip!

Game Over

Admittedly, one of the best parts of being barred from playing Candy Crush while on the go is getting to stockpile all the lives I used up while I was stuck in the 370s. But it is pretty sad to open the game to send lives, help others make it to new levels… and do nothing else. A friend pointed out that I could go back and get the top scores on every level before me, but now that I know about the scoring discrepancy, I’m more likely to do it on the computer at home than on my phone, so nuts to that.

With that said, the computer version has 440 levels compared to the mobile’s 395, so I’m still ploughing through in preparation for whatever’s to come!

Anyway — I hope this helps you crush more candies, and I’m going to do some of that myself!

Good hunting!

HYFR and YOLO,

–case p.