Games with James: Episode 3 – Munchkin Deluxe

With International Tabletop Day coming very soon on the 5th April 2014 (this Saturday, people!), now is the perfect time to start practicing your gaming skills and passing them on to your kids!

J hopes that this Wil Wheaton-inspired video will encourage more people to introduce boardgames as part of their own family time – as you can see from the video, even though Little E is too young to play the game, we still include her at the table!

If you are interested in playing Munchkin Deluxe with your family, do check out your local game store or buy online at My First Games – tell Pam that Debs G from Owls Well sent you!

P.S. I’ve figured out how to manage cutaways without messing up the sound! Yay! *production value UP*

P.P.S Check out the first episode of Games with James here.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – A Spoiler-Free Movie Review

Marvel Studios says:

ARE YOU READY FOR ANOTHER MARVEL SUPERHERO MOVIE????

captain-america-poster- Yes!

Yes, I am!

I volunteer as tribute!

Marvel Studios heard my plaintive cries for succour and sent me along to the preview screening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and I’m really excited to tell you all about it in this (spoiler-free) movie review!

So, right, Steve Rogers (or Captain America, as he is more commonly known) is flexing his box-office muscle and he is looking fiiiiiiiiiine!

Captain-America-no-mask-winter-soldier

Chris Evans being awesome

The movie does away with all the sissy crybaby stuff from the first film and goes straight for the adrenaline-soaked old-school action, all shot on location in Washington D.C. and aboard the good ship Sea Launch Commander, as the recently defrosted Steve Rogers opens up a Can of Whoopass and then passes it around to all his newfound friends – Black Widow, Falcon and Shaft (who goes by the name of Nick Fury in this movie).

Moral of the story is: Sharing is good! We must all learn to share with our friends!

Along the way, there are wheel-screeching car chases, explosions, death-defying skydives, explosions, the resurrection and the life, explosions, shield-thumping combat, explosions, shocking political plot-twists, explosions and last-minute rescues!

You know me, it's my duty to...bring you the very best violence!!!

You know me, it’s my duty to…bring you the very best violence!!!

The only things that are missing from this film are robots and Godzilla but who cares about that?!!

I mean, at one point, Captain America even takes down a fighter jet in hand-to-plane combat!

That is some hardcore badassitude, right there, my friend!

And of course, there are the awesome special effects which are brilliantly and cleanly executed with sparing use of computer animation!

In the words of the great and venerable Mr Torgue Flexington:

I am here to ask you one question, and one question only: EXPLOSIONS?!!!!!

Scary looking dude

The title of the movie, The Winter Soldier, refers to The Bad Guy with his super-shiny metal arm and his super-secret identity that is a secret even to himself (but of course, if you paying any attention at all to the film or you’re a Marvel fan, you’ll know who it is). Watching this dangerous fellow wrestle a car to the ground is intriguing.

The real intrigue, however, lies in the story which is as tangled as a plate of spaghetti (with plenty of sauce) and let me tell you something:

IT.

TASTES.

GOOD.

condor-shaft-captain-america

Samuel L Jackson and Robert Redford are all about the business. Show business.

SO, SO GOOD.

Both Shaft and The Condor (who plays Alexander Pierce) bring weight and credibility to their roles in this one. Their allegiances are quite clear cut although the movie tries its utmost best to keep you guessing:

Who’s the bad guy? Who’s the good guy? Who knows? And do we care?

Well, if you’re confused, just listen to the Captain’s Words of Wisdom:

Steve Rogers brings to the table a refreshing mix of genuine wholesomeness with a sprinkle of derisive self-deprecation which makes him a real treat to watch and stops the movie from being too flippant. It’s terrific fun seeing him banter with the Black Widow, and honestly heartbreaking to see him visit his bedridden old flame from the 1940s.

movie-still-captain-america-winter-soldier

Are you lookin’ at me? In 3-D?

I watched the film in Eye-popping 3D, but I honestly feel that 3D for this film is probably a waste of time as the 3D effects are very limited – so save your pennies for popcorn, and just catch it on the Regular Big Screen. That will be more than enough to enjoy the all the fun (and explosions).

Look at my date!

Look at my date!

I am ready to pledge my allegiance to Captain America, you guys!

Debs G rates Captain America: The Winter Solder – A two-handed fist bump and a BOOYAH!

Look out for Stan Lee’s inevitable cameo, as well as a nod to TV sitcom Community from the directors of the film, and a brief appearance from our very own Chin Han (who even gets to say a line!)…oh, and stay to the very end of the credits for TWO teasers which got me very excited about some future Marvel crossovers!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is showing in cinemas across Singapore from 27 March 2014.

(Thanks to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures for inviting me to watch the preview of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.)

Upcycling for Kids: Cardboard + plastic biplane model

Ready for the Red Baron!

Ready for a Dogfight!

After the Chinese New Year holiday, we had a ton of Yakult bottles and empty cartons (from the boxes of oranges that people were exchanging) lying around, so J and I decided to turn them into a cool model Biplane!

I tried my best to model the biplane after the Sopwith Camel[1] that Snoopy uses in his epic battles against The Red Baron.

Materials:

  • Cardboard scraps
  • Cardboard toilet roll 
  • Small plastic bottle (we used a Yakult bottle for this as it has the same diameter as a toilet roll)
  • Scissors
  • Any sticky tape or glue (PVA glue or white school glue is best. We used masking tape.)
  • Optional: Paint
Adding some colour

Adding some colour

Instructions:

1. Cut out the various pieces of the aeroplane out of the scrap cardboard and paint them. You will need two wings, two struts/wheels, one propeller and one tail fin (made out of a rectangle and a triangle shaped piece). I made a template of the various parts that you can refer to as a guide (or you can print it out, glue it to the cardboard and cut around it). Just click here to download the free printable template[2].

2. Create the plane body:

  • Attach the plastic bottle to the cardboard roll, so that the tapered end of the bottle acts as the ‘nose’ of the plane. We did this by jamming the Yakult bottle into one end of the toilet roll.
  • Glue or stick the propeller onto the ‘nose’ of the plane.
  • To make the tail fin, glue or stick a triangle perpendicular to the centre of a rectangle.
  • Cut 3 slits, about half an inch apart, on the other end of the cardboard toilet roll.
  • Slide the tail fin into the slits in the cardboard roll. The flat end of the triangle goes into the middle slit whilst both ends of the rectangle can be fitted into the slits on either side.

3. Add wings:

  • Cut 4 slits in the bottom wing of the plane, along the bold line.
  • Fold the struts/wheels along the dotted lines to make a U shape.
  • Slide the struts into the slits on the bottom wing of the plane, making sure that the wheels on each side are on the bottom of the plane, in the two slits in the centre.
  • Place the body of the plane in between the struts in the middle. Adjust the body so that one third of the plane sticks out in the front and two thirds at the back. Glue or stick into place. Adjust the struts so that the top of the struts are roughly flush with the top of the plane’s body.
  • Place the upper wing on top of the struts and glue into place.

Now you are ready to fly!


[1] Yes, I know that the Sopwith Camel propeller has only two blades on it! We used some artistic license ok?! Geez.

[2] Want to share this free printable? Thanks for being generous but please direct readers to this post for the actual file. All my downloads are intended for personal use only with your home printer. Commercial use or any sharing or distributing of these files is strictly prohibited.

Games with James: Castle Panic Gag Reel

Here’s a little bonus gag reel for you with some deleted scenes from last week’s episode of Games with James to brighten up your Monday moaning morning! Enjoy!

Games with James will be back with episode 3 next week!

P.S. Want to play Castle Panic with your family? Check out your friendly local game store or (if you’re in Singapore) you can buy online at My First Games – tell Pam that Owls Well sent you!

P.P.S. Don’t forget that International Tabletop Day is coming up on the 5th April 2014! Make a date with your family and a brilliant boardgame and be prepared for some awesome FUNTIMES!

Funtimes at the Changi Naval Base

Naval-Museum-tourist-tourism-singapore

Yes, you can sail the seven seas

Earlier this week, we were very privileged to be invited to spend the afternoon at Changi Naval Base.

As Singapore is situated along major international trade routes, Changi Naval Base plays a very important role in the protection of ships and has hosted naval vessels from many other countries such as the US, France, UK, Australia, China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Pakistan, all of whom rely on the base for repair facilities, supplies, administration and logistics support.

We began our visit with a tour of the Navy Museum, which is right outside to Changi Naval Base and is open to the public.

We were accompanied through the museum by a couple of friendly sailors, who were able to tell us more about daily life onboard the ships and submarines. Little E was in awe of the female officer who talked to us about the challenges that sailors have to overcome during training.

Exploring the Navy Museum

Exploring the Navy Museum

The children were absolutely fascinated by all the interactive exhibits and simulators which helped them to learn more about how the Singapore Navy came to be the modern maritime fighting force that it is today.

We want you as a new recruit!

We want you as a new recruit!

J even had a chance to try on the Naval Officer’s uniform! (There was a women’s uniform for Little E too but she didn’t fancy it.)

After exploring the Bofor and Oerlikon guns indoors (with the kids from Tan Family Chronicles) and admiring the hundreds of plaques received from navies from around the globe, we headed to the outdoor gallery to take a look at some retired weapons from decommissioned ships. Outside, the kids were encouraged to climb onto the old guns and get a feel of how the naval gunners operated them!

Protect the motherland

Protect the motherland

The Singapore Navy is also involved in numerous humanitarian operations around the world. We learned about how the Singapore Armed Forces provided disaster relief and humanitarian assistance to the victims of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Indonesia, as well as in Northern Arabian Gulf to support the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.

J and Little E were most intrigued by the counter-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden, Operation Blue Sapphire, and were very excited to learn that we would be privy to the slipping off ceremony of the RSS Tenacious, a frigate with a Sikorsky S-70B naval helicopter on board, which will be helping safeguard ships transiting through that busy trade route.

Operation Blue Sapphire: The RSS Tenacious heads to the Gulf of Aden

Operation Blue Sapphire: The RSS Tenacious heads to the Gulf of Aden

The Gulf of Aden is known as ‘Pirate Alley’ and pirates are known to chase after cargo ships, sometimes even kidnapping the ship’s crew and hold them for ransom. As this waterway is vital for sea trade, the Republic of Singapore Navy has been working together with other navies in the international community to keep the Arabian Sea safe and ensure freedom of navigation in that region.

Bon voyage, RSS Tenacious!

Bon voyage, RSS Tenacious!

It was heartbreaking to see the 151 brave crew members of the RSS Tenacious wave goodbye to their families, whom they will not see for the next three months. Many of the crew members had young children who were shouting ‘Goodbye Mummy!’ and ‘Goodbye Daddy!’ as the frigate set sail.

singapore-navy-stealth-frigate-71

A Formidable-class frigate

The RSS Tenacious is Formidable-class frigate, and despite its enormous build, it is a stealth vessel and is built in such a way that its radar signature is equivalent to that of a rowing boat! Additionally, the pale grey colour of ship allows it to blend into the horizon, making it virtually invisible.

Even with the ship’s engine running at full tilt, all we could hear from a few metres away was a faint humming noise, and as you can see from the image above, the ship hardly makes any waves at all as it slides through the water! It is no wonder that the RSS Tenacious is also called a stealth frigate!

You can find out more about the RSS Tenacious and Operation Blue Sapphire at the Sea of Support website where you can also drop a line to encourage the 151 crew members on board the ship!

After the RSS Tenacious headed off into the horizon, we hopped on a bus for a tour of the Naval Base.

A windshield tour of the Changi Naval Base

A windshield tour of the Changi Naval Base

J and Little E were excited to see all the different vessels berthed in the harbour, especially black submarines and the orange-hulled MV Swift Rescue, a submarine support vessel carrying the submersible rescue vessel, Deep Search and Rescue Six. The MV Swift Rescue had just returned from the unsuccessful search and locate operation for the missing Beijing-bound Malaysian Airlines plane (MH370).

Thank you!

Thank you Singapore Navy for a fun day out!

The Navy Museum is open from 9am – 5pm on Mondays to Fridays and 9am – 3pm on Saturday.

Admission to the museum is FREE!

The Navy Museum: 112 Tanah Merah Coast Road (Next to SAF Yacht Club)

You can follow the Republic of Singapore Navy on their Facebook Page for information about upcoming Navy events, such as the Navy Open House or public visit and outreach programmes.

iNbox: Fun in a Box (Plus an AWESOME giveaway!)

Both J and Little E are naturally curious about the world and the things around them and one of my greatest joys is helping to guide them along their learning journey. I like to use a variety of different methods to inspire them – apart from reading to them from books and showing them interesting videos, I like to work together with them on craft projects and play games together that will reinforce learning concepts.

However, coming up with a constant flow of fun and engaging ideas can be challenging (and exhausting), so when Smart Alley approached me and offered an opportunity to review the iNbox, I was very excited!

You've got Mail!

I call this game ‘FUN IN A BOX’, said the Cat

The iNbox is a monthly subscription service which sends along a themed box packed full of fun educational activities aimed at 3-7 year olds. The activities in each box are centred around the adventures of Flinto the Octopus and his friends, as they explore the world together.

To keep the ideas fresh and unique as well as relevant, the team behind iNbox works closely with early childhood educators in developing their materials and has an ongoing partnership with the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad to devise exclusive quality games that will address the developmental as well as entertainment requirements of our wiggly preschoolers!

Here’s a look at what’s inside the iNbox –

Chock-a-block full of FUN

Chock-a-block full of FUN

  1. A set of fingerpaints and an apron
  2. A construction kit – build your own Safari jeep
  3. A craft kit – make some animals
  4. An activity book
  5. A board game
  6. A illustrated storybook

As you can guess from the picture above, the theme for the first iNbox is Wildlife Safari! I really like the cute pictures and bright colours, and the animals are all very well drawn and easily identifiable.

Fun with Flinto

Fun with Flinto

The kids started by reading the book together with their Grandpa, who is visiting with us this month! The story was very simple and easy to read, which makes it a great bonus for emergent readers like J, who was able to read it aloud by himself. The illustrations were certainly appealed to Little E, who became very excited about identifying the animals on each page.

A few days later, we sat down and did the crafts together. Little E worked on painting a set of die-cut cardboard animals under Grandma’s watchful eye, whilst J constructed a cardboard jeep with Grandpa.

Make and do

Make and do

Each craft kit came with a set of clearly written and illustrated instructions, which were very easy to follow. I was quite impressed with the materials provided, which were cleanly cut and well-packaged.

J and Little E seemed very pleased with the end result!

Let's go on Safari!

Let’s go on Safari!

The kids also had fun playing the boardgame together. The board game itself is only suitable for 2 players and involved some simple counting and tile-matching. I personally would have preferred a game that included more players (perhaps up to 4), but the box caters to a single parent-child pair.

I can see how the iNbox would be a great for Grandparents as well as parents who are racking their brains for meaningful activities to do together with the little ones, especially on a rainy afternoon (or three)! Not bad for $22-25 a month!

Heads or tails?

Heads or tails?

If you would like your very own iNbox, Smart Alley is generously hosting a massive giveaway of 100 of the Wildlife Safari subscription boxes!

To snag an iNbox for your kiddie, simply follow these instructions:

  1. Simply log-in to www.myinbox.sg
  2. Click on “I Want My iNbox”  button and fill in your delivery information
  3. Wait for your iNbox to arrive! 
  4. HAVE A FUN!

EDIT: I’ve just been informed that the massive giveaway has already received an overwhelming response and they have already run out of Wildlife Safari subscription boxes. However, Smart Alley is giving away TWO April iNboxes exclusively to Owls Well readers!

For a chance to win, just leave your name and email address in the comment box below! Giveaway closes on 26th March 2014 and is open to Singapore residents only.

Good luck!

(Update: The winners have been emailed. Thanks for playing!)

Games with James: Episode 2 – Castle Panic

Playing strategy games with preschoolers can be fun, especially when it involves destroying mythical monsters as a family! J hopes that this Wil Wheaton-inspired video will encourage more people to introduce boardgames as part of their own family time. With International Tabletop Day coming very soon on the 5th April 2014, now is the perfect time to start practicing your gaming skills and passing them on to your kids!

If you are interested in playing Castle Panic with your family, do check out your local game store or buy online at My First Games – tell Pam that Debs G from Owls Well sent you!

P.S. We have a 2 camera set up for this episode! *production value UP*

P.P.S Check out the first episode of Games with James here.