A Conversation about Bread

Debs G: A Becky Lee!  I need your blueberry cobbler recipe for the challenge!

A Becky Lee: I don’t know if I have it at the moment because I use Mrs Beeton’s Cookbook and it’s stashed away in a box somewhere… but from memory, it’s flour, milk, sugar, blueberries… and I’m not sure if we need eggs, but it does need a binding agent… let me check… Yes, yes it needs eggs.

Debs G: What else would I use other than eggs?!

A Becky Lee: Well, Iunno, blood?

Debs G:  WHAT?!

A Becky Lee: It’s a good binding agent!  It’s got albuluminimumuninm in it like eggs do!

Debs G:  You mean Albumin?

A Becky Lee: Yeah!  Apparently egg albumin and blood albumin is pretty much the same, and you can use blood for when people have egg allergies.  My friend Tatya, you know, the one who is super into Medieval cooking is all excited about this because some archaeologists unearthed an ancient bread that was made out of blood in some battlefield somewhere.  It was super high in protein and stuff.

Debs G: You mean, the soldier bled into the bread and it got preserved?

A Becky Lee: No, it was made with blood.



Debs G:  You mean, the soldier died and the bread was on the battlefield and soaked up all the blood like some kind of wheaty vampire.  Anyway, where is Tatya getting this blood from?

A Becky Lee: … a butcher…?

Debs G:  Oh, yeah.  She was probably using cow blood.  I guess you could that from a butcher.

A Becky Lee:  What else kind of blood did you think she was using?

Debs G:  Iunno.  Human?

A Becky Lee:  WHY WOULD SHE USE HUMAN BLOOD?!  That’s disgusting!  We don’t want to get Kuru!

Debs G:  You can’t get Kuru from eating blood!  You can only get it from eating raw human brains!

A Becky Lee:  Well, you can also get it from cornea transplants…

A Becky Lee: … from people who eat raw brains…

Debs G: Exactly.

Our family has some strange conversations sometimes.  Incidentally, for those of you interested in making the Viking Blood Bread, Tatya recommends the recipe from An Early Meal – A Viking Age Cookbook & Culinary Odyssey by Daniel Serra and Hanna Tunberg.


Tatya’s Addendum:  I couldn’t find a butcher to get me clean blood, so I got the blood from a friend when they had a sheep slaughtered.  The kitchen looked like vikings had marauded through it with one hapless Christian monk.  (Only one monk because there wasn’t that much blood)

Deep Conversations with a 5 year old girl (or, Little E packs for a trip)

Little E taking a breather and recovering from earlier traumasDebs G: Okay Little E, I want you to go and choose two pairs of shorts and two pairs of trousers and bring them to me.

Little E: Can I choose a skirt too?

Debs G: Yes, you can bring one skirt.

Little E: (rummages in cupboard) Okay, here they are, Mummy!

Debs G: Okay, um…now, how many shorts are here?!

Little E: Five. And one flower skirt. And one pair of jeans. And also these leggings.

Debs G: Okay, we only needed two pairs of shorts, but never mind, I guess if you have leggings and jeans you don’t really need another pair of trousers. (packs them all in the bag) What…what are you doing?

Little E: (rummaging in cupboard) I am getting some tee shirts.

Debs G: Good thinking! You need three tops.

Little E: Okay, here they are, Mummy!

Debs G: Um…right, how many tops are here? There’s eight. You only need three tops. Choose three.

Little E: Okay. I choose these three tee shirts.

Debs G: Good good good…

Little E: And also this Hello Kitty one with the long sleeves.

Debs G: Er…okay. I guess the Hello Kitty one is cute.

Little E: And also this one with the flower that is like the flower skirt.

Debs G: That’s uh…that’s five tops. Okay never mind. I guess you can layer some of these if it gets cold. Now, can you choose one dress to bring.

Little E: Okay, here Mummy!

Debs G: Whoa, that’s fast! But wait now, look here, that is not ONE dress, that is five dresses. Can you just choose one?

Little E: Okay, Mummy! I choose this butterfly one! Look, it is nice and cool and pretty.

Debs G: Very nice! Let’s put that in the suitcase here.

Little E: If it’s cold, I can wear this other blue one, and I can wear the Hello Kitty top underneath it and I will be warm and cosy.

Debs G: Fine, FINE, FINE!

Little E: Also, I can wear this cardigan, this jumper, and these woolly tights. In case it gets cold.

Debs G: Fine, FINE, FINE!!

Little E: And also I can wear this other skirt! And my fancy blouse!

Debs G gives up completely on packing light



Meeting Old and New Friends at NewCon

People who roleplay tend to be a shy bunch, so they’re not always super-easy to find.  I met most of my best friends at roleplaying conventions.  They’re a great and (usually) safe place to meet up with other people who are interested in the same things that I am.  Since I’ve only recently moved into the Newcastle area, I wanted to get in with other gamers in Newcastle and hoped that I could attend a convention or similar gathering to meet some.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long as roleplayers in Newcastle had been clamouring for a roleplaying convention of their own.  NewCon, the Newcastle Roleplaying Convention, just started this year and the Boobook and I had a wonderful time attending.

For those of you who haven’t heard about roleplaying, it is, in its most basic form, a shared storytelling experience.  People pretend to be various characters within the story and go on imagined adventures together.  There are many different types of rules and story settings for this sort of game, though the most famous of these would be Wizards of the Coast’s  ever-popular Dungeons and Dragons fantasy setting.

The convention was held at the local leagues club and entry fees weren’t very steep – just a gold coin donation to your choice of charity (Beyond Blue or White Ribbon) and away you go!

While I was at the convention, I ran two games of Engine Heart, a free setting about robots.  In it, my 5 players took on the bodies of 5 little household robots, as they worked together to escape the house that they were trapped in.


The map means nothing!

We had a lot of laughs and it was interesting to see how different people came up with different solutions to the robots’ main problem of figuring out how to turn a doorknob when none of them had hands.

I played a few games too – Droo and I had a go at trying out Fiasco, a crime caper simulation game that randomises characters and settings for truly unexpected plot twists ala Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Burn After Reading.  We couldn’t stop laughing throughout the game as our crime trio made one blunder after another as their attempt to kidnap a Russian mobster resulted in one of them being tied to a giant teddy bear and paraded around the streets of London atop a Mini Cooper.


Figuring out what possible stupidity happens next in Fiasco

We also tried some new board games courtesy of Serial Games.  We played several rounds of a competitive board game called Tsuro: The Game of the Path, which proved to be quite entertaining.  The Boobook intends to purchase said game sometime in the future so that we can play it with friends.


The object is to stay on the board and not collide with anyone else.  This is much easier said than done.

Plus, I got to meet up with a group of Vikings (more on that next week) and even signed up for the local chapter of the International Game Developers Association!


Vikings from Óðin Hundi

All in all, I had a wonderful time at NewCon 2016.  I’m glad that most of the proceeds of the convention went to charity.  They even had a charity auction of various games.

Thanks to Good Games for running a great convention!  We’ll definitely be back next year!

INK to the Void – a creative writing holiday camp by Monsters Under The Bed

Last December, we were very privileged to have been invited to another brilliant creative writing workshop run by Monsters Under The Bed!

J had such a great time at the SurviveINK and the EpicQuestINK workshops, I just knew that he would be totally stoked to attend INK to the Void, a space-opera themed workshop!

I have to say that I was really impressed by how hard Lead Trainer Leroy Lam worked to organise a completely immersive experience for the kids, even teaming up other homegrown companies like KIT SABERS and SaberMach to provide the appropriate props for the workshop.

When we received an email inviting all initiates of the Knights of Inspiration to the Arts House to join in the fight against Emperor Banal, J really started to get fired up. Imagine how excited he was after watching the following video, designed to introduce the workshop trainers (all of whom are professional, published writers!)

We also received a little worksheet, with some basic guidelines as to what to expect as well as some exercises to help prepare them for the workshop. From the worksheet, I could see that this workshop mainly revolved around world-building, that is, creating a fictional universe that is established enough to allow a reader to suspend their disbelief and become fully engaged with the story.

As with all other Imagination and Knowledge (INK) workshops, INK to the Void took place over three days. On the first day, after a short briefing, all the kids were divided into groups according to age and ability. J was in a group of 6-7 year old kids, all boys with bloodthirsty instincts, and introduced to their two trainers. I was pleased to see that there would be at least two trainers managing each group, which allowed for more individual attention.

The kids were each given a series of activities and worksheets encouraging kids to think out of the box and invent their own science fiction worlds populated with creatures adapted to life on other planets. The trainers then guided each child into thinking critically about how their imaginary creatures would have evolved to surviving in an alien planet’s climate and atmosphere. They then awarded credits based on the degree of inventiveness and detail of each child’s work.


An Immersive Experience

Credits earned during each activity could be exchanged for real-world equipment such as blasters, shields and health packs at the INK to the Void trading post. It was worth it just to see the looks on the boys’ faces as walked into the trading post and caught sight of the vast array of shiny new blasters!

I found out later that each of the blasters started off as fancy water guns purchased from Daiso and elaborately decorated with metallic paints. The trainers even took special care to make sure that no two blasters were exactly alike!


J goes shopping at the INK to the Void Co-op

After the first set of writing exercises, the trainers took the various groups for an adventure walk around the Arts House as part of a reconnaissance mission (but really to get the wiggles out of the younger kids who had been sat in a room for too long).

Each group had their own little pick-your-own-adventure, heavily customised to the suggestions of the group’s participants, and at the end of it each group discovered a bizarrely decorated cube.


J presents The Artefact

They were then asked to examine the cubes and decide what each component of the cube could do. Some of the kids were asked to present their Scientific Findings to the rest of the class.

J, as usual, applied his comedic mind to the task and decided that the telescopic sight on the cube could be used on bad guys by making them appear naked so that they would be embarrassed and run away!



J presents his ideas to the class before watching a saber fight display

During the second day of the camp, the kids were encouraged to dress up and get into the role-playing spirit of the workshop! J carefully packed his blaster and shield into his backpack and I managed to cobble together an outfit for him using one of my tunic tops which I cinched together at the waist with a sash. I thought it would help him pass for a pretty good Jedi knight!


Our little Inspiration knight going on epic adventures and battling his trainers

The day started off with a set of games, where the kids had to use the characters that they had invented from the previous day’s work and imagine how their characters would interact with each other in different settings and scenarios.

These games eventually evolved into a create-your-own-adventure style group storytelling session. At the end of it, the trainer wrote down the main events of their adventure on a whiteboard which each child used as an outline to base their story upon, adding their own details as seen from their character’s role and point of view.

On the last day of the camp, Little E (who had been attending the camp as an observer) wanted to get in on the roleplaying action, so I did up her hair into two little buns, turned a fleece-lined vest inside out, and found an old braided hairband for her to wear as a belt. Not a bad costume for a Princess Leia wannabe, if I do say so myself!


J and Little E get into the roleplaying spirit

This last day of the workshop was mainly focussed on refining their stories and sharing their writings with each other, but the highlight of the day was when each child ‘graduated’ as Knight initiates and earned their Inspiration Blades.

Basically, this meant that they built a lightsaber from scratch using parts supplied by KIT SABERS.


J posing with Little E and preparing the parts to his Inspiration Blade under the watchful eye of Lead Trainer Leroy

As you can imagine, the room was awash with excitement, as each child helped assemble their own working lightsaber, and then customised their lightsaber hilts with coloured duct tape. J just had the BIGGEST grin on his face the whole week after that!


A brilliant end to the INK to the Void workshop.

Apart from holiday workshops, Monsters Under the Bed also holds regular writing classes for both primary and secondary school students! If you are looking to give Monsters Under The Bed a looksee, I hear that they are holding trial classes at the upcoming SmartKids Asia Exhibition during the March School Holiday week from 18 – 20 March 2016. They’ll be at the exhibition from 11pm to 9am. You can sign up for their trial classes here.

I’m also looking forward to hearing what they have in store next! Apparently there will be another INK holiday workshop this June 2016, which is going to appeal to both boys and girls alike!

Internet Broken!

Hi Everyone,

Normally there would be a big long post here but ever since the National Broadband Network got installed in my house, it seems that we’ve been having difficulty “resolving the DNS server” (whatever that means).  The problem is so widespread that it’s actually also an issue at my workplace.

Even The Boobook isn’t entirely sure what’s broken here, but it’s probably an issue with our ISP.

We’ll be back to normal Owls Well programming as soon as this problem is fixed.


A Becky Lee

(This post was done on my phone.)