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:


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!


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:





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


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.


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.


  • 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


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


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.


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
  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.

The Wind Rises: The Engineer’s Dream – A Review

The Wind Rises, animation for adults

The Wind Rises, animation for adults

I am a thorough and complete sucker for Studio Ghibli’s stuff.  As far as I’m concerned, the quality of their output is more or less consistent with utter perfection[1].  I’ve practically watched it all, from Laputa all the way through to Grave of the Fireflies[2].

So, when Miyazaki Hayao, Ghibli’s founder and (in my humble opinion) the best animation director, producer and writer in all of history, announced that he was making his final film forever and everest (no seriously guys, I’m totally retiring this time, no takesies backsies, really, this is for real my final film), I simply had to watch it.  Not that I’m actually convinced the film really is his final one, of course, the Senior Mr Miyazaki has had so many retirement and comeback films that I’m almost convinced that he’ll rise up from the grave like a zombie just to make a few more after his death.  Besides, Miyazaki’s retirement and comeback films are among his best and greatest works[3].

Final film or not, I was very pleasantly surprised when Madman Entertainment announced that The Wind Rises was to be released in Australian theatres subbed and not dubbed.  And, like the Ghibli loving anime fan I am, I went to see it with my friends at the Dendy.

Life is but a dream

Life is but a dream

The Wind Rises is covers the heavily fictionalised biography of famed aircraft designer, Horikoshi Jiro, as mashed up with the story from Hori Tatsuo’s famous work about living with tuberculosis, The Wind has Risen.  The story is loosely told as a series of important events in Jiro’s life, starting from childhood, with each segment connected to the others by a tangled web of beautiful dreams.  The movie begins with a dream, as the child Jiro both fantasises about flying and realises the reality of his inability to do so due to myopia.  It ends with a dream, as the adult Jiro considers the things he has done with his life and the future paths he still has ahead of him.

As expected of a film by the Senior Mr Miyazaki, The Wind Rises contains many of his favourite things – vintage planes, flying scenes, strong female characters, romance, anti-war sentiments and Anno Hideaki[4].  The animation certainly lives up to its studio’s name.  Scenery is drawn or painted with the utmost precision and no detail is left out during reality scenes – every face is unique, the backgrounds are never still with sunlight moving.  The animation in dreams, however, take on a slightly more blurry and unrealistic quality.  There’s a fantastic sequence in one of the dreams where the Jiro finds himself standing on the wing of one of Gianni Caproni’s aircraft, which happens to be so full of people that the plane itself starts doing ridiculous things – its metal sides bulging out and people hanging out of every conceivable window, gun port, access hatch and doorway.  The scene is both ridiculous and yet touching and poignant.

I must, at this point, make a mention of the fantastic sound work that went into this film.  Not only are the sound effects very suitable for what happens in the film, but I was extremely surprised to note that every sound was created by a human throat!  It was certainly an interesting directorial choice on Miyazaki’s part.

Mummy Warning:  The Wind Rises is definitely not a film for children unless you are willing to discuss issues of war, death and disaster.

The movie contains intense scenes depicting the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and its aftermath and also has a particularly gory depiction of a lung hemorrhage that, while partially censored, still makes it abundantly clear that the victim of said hemorrhage is not dripping, but vomiting copious amounts of blood from the nose and mouth.  Definitely not something you’d want to show the kids.

Beauty in the moonlight

Beauty in the moonlight

The themes present in the film are definitely adult as well.  A large part of the film is dedicated to the bittersweet romance between Jiro and his fiancee and later wife, Satomi Naoko, as she slowly slips towards an inevitable death from tuberculosis.

There is also a certain amount of controversy surrounding the film’s anti-war themes, particularly since Miyazaki seems to go out of his way to condemn Japan’s denial of its crimes in World War II and the attitudes of victimisation that the Japanese people take in regards to the war.  The film itself makes overt references to the Kempentai (Japanese Secret Police) and pretty much references every axis sin in the lead up to WWII.  Personally, I think that these controversial and adult themes serve to strengthen the movie instead of diminish it.

That's some beast of steel and wood!

That’s some beast of steel and wood!

By the by, I highly recommend watching this movie with an engineer if you have one in your group.  Engineers will LOVE this movie.  Miyazaki makes full use of the aeroplane blueprints gifted to him by Caproni’s grandson.  Planes are animated in exquisite detail, with cutaways showing the framework inside the wings and the various moving parts within.  Technical drawings spring to life off the blueprints as the characters imagine their form and function[5].

I love this movie.  It’s challenging in its melancholy nature, yet sweet and hopeful in its own way.  I would certainly view it again and am definitely going to buy a copy for my personal collection and not just because it’s made by Ghibli.  It’s definitely worth watching on the big screen, especially with surround sound.

A Becky Lee Rates The Wind Rises: One high-quality engineering slide rule with ALL THE electrical and mechnical units.  And two engineers to fight over it.  And all the manly tears.

The Wind Rises is showing in select theatres across Australia and is slated for theatrical release in Singapore on the 20th of March 2014.  For more information on where it is expected to screen, check out the website at

[1]Tales of Earthsea and Ponyo notwithstanding.  *Braces herself for incoming fancannon fire*

[2]That being said, you’d never get me watching Grave of the Fireflies twice.  It’s too depressing.

[3]As of last checking, Mr Miyazaki announced his unretirement on New Years Day 2014.

[4]Rumoured to be one of Miyazaki’s best friends and the director of the insanely popular Neon Genesis Evangelion, and possibly the most insane anime director of all time.  OF ALL TIME.

[5]There’s a scene of a slide rule that is pretty much guaranteed to make any engineer worth his/her salt squee with joy.

Three Awesome Children’s Books (and an exclusive discount code!)

We’ve been discovering a whole bunch of lovely new books that are fast becoming highly requested favourites from the Owls Well library which I just cannot wait to share with you!

Here are three of our most recent additions to the Owls Well bedside table:

1. Moon Rabbit by Natalie RussellSGD$8.90 (RRP$12.60)


This sweet story about Little Rabbit who makes a wish on the moon for companionship is beautifully illustrated by author (and artist) Natalie Russell. Little E loves this book so much that she will quite often sit quietly and look at the pictures by the hour!

Natalie Russell also has some free printable activities pages available on her website (which has some very lovely pictures!) that will help kids to think about the story in greater detail.


2. Fox in Socks by Dr Seuss – SGD$8.90 (RRP$20.00)

This is a completely hilarious book that has us all in stitches. It starts off simple, and then gets really zany as the Fox in Socks challenges his friend Knox to a battle of tongue twisters! Now that J is starting to read on his own, this book is really great for getting him to practice.

We take turns to read and try to see who can complete each section without making mistakes – although it is really hard because we all start getting the giggles!

There’s also a Fox in Socks activity sheet that you can download from the Dr Seuss official website here.

3. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle: SGD$16.90 (RRP$22.40)


Here’s a nice little board book with plenty of rhyme and repetition, illustrated with Eric Carle’s signature collages. I really like reading this one to the kids and making up all the different animal noises as we go along! It also comes with an audio CD so that you can play it in the car – makes for a nice and sedate car journey.

Afterwards, it may be worth trying to make some painted tissue papers with your preschoolers in order to create some colourful collage illustrations together – just follow these simple instructions from the Eric Carle Official Website.

By the way, all the books are available at our favourite online bookstore, The Groovy Giraffe (You can find out more about The Groovy Giraffe here) which is currently celebrating their milestone of 1000 Facebook Likes! Congratulations, guys!

A Bonus for All Owls Well Readers:  Just enter the coupon code ‘owls15’ at checkout to enjoy a hefty 15% off all the books in the Children’s category (on top of the already heavily discounted prices!). Coupon code is valid until 18th March 2014!

(All prices printed are correct at the time of this post. We are proud to be part of The Groovy Giraffe’s affiliate programme. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that make Owls Well possible!)

Games with James: Forbidden Island Gag Reel

Okay, we had a TON of hilarious footage leftover from the first episode of Games with James, so here’s a little bonus gag reel for you to brighten up your Moanday Monday morning! Enjoy!

Games with James will be back with episode 2 next week!

P.S. Want to play Forbidden Island 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!