Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Pride Adventures #2

Whilst the writing on the next Razarhawk arc is underway, I have been lending my scrawlings to a rather marvellous comic series called The Pride, created by Joe Glass. The Pride is a fabulous ensemble LGBTQ supergroup led by FabMan.
Have you ever been sick of being misrepresented? Of having no one like you to look up to? Have you ever wanted to change everything?
The Pride is a comic book series created and written by Joe Glass, and featuring art by a host of amazing creative talent from all around the world, including Gavin Mitchell, Kris Carter, Mike Stock, Dan Harris, Kris Anka, Cory Smith and many, many more.
 I was approached by Joe to work on The Pride Adventures #2 on a short featuring all the laydees! He knows me so well! :p

Here is a sneak peak at the first panel that will appear in the short 'Ladies Night.'

Such fun to draw!

You can find out more and buy a copy of The Pride here! Go on! It's got Gail Simone's seal of approval!


I am so excited to be writing this. For those who may require a little bit of background, I have struggled with gastrointestinal issues since 2008. You can read loads of details in my Worry Wart comic if you like that kind of thing! To put it mildly, my bowel and I have not been on the same team. I employed many tactics, the one I used most aggressively was total denial. It became my normal. Everyone told me to 'just eat bread' or 'calm down' and 'stop thinking about it.' It became quite usual for the doctors I saw to treat my mind rather than my body, and so I had been on many an anti-depressant for it because, quite rightly, I was very distressed and it caused my anxiety.

Well, a little over 6 months ago now, when my symptoms where the worst they'd ever been, I declared war. I declared war on my nerves and war on anyone who wouldn't take my health seriously.
I contacted a Nutritional Therapist with a rather sorrowful email. I outlined my 5 year gastro-upset and asked if there was any such thing as a 'stress free diet?' (I still believed at this point that the mind ruled the body, and since I was so anxious, it was driving my symptoms) I started seeing her in July 2013. The first thing she suggested was to get some proper, thorough lab stool tests completed and analysed, as how the hell else will you ever know what's going on inside? There were expensive, and slightly traumatic, but they have since become my greatest weapon. Knowledge is power.
The results were not surprising. What's wrong Doc? Well, everything.
We tried a few different things to begin with. A couple of months introducing supplements and a 'better' western diet, then we tried to flood my system with good guys, stripped my diet back further, found combinations of foods that were giving me hell etc. Eventually, 100 days ago, after my symptoms seemed to persist, she suggested stripping my diet right back to an 'elimination phase.' Essentially a siege tactic, a 'starvation' period. Not to starve myself you understand, but to starve whatever little shit bad guys were swimming around my body having the time of their lives. One of the results of my test proved that I had 'scant growth' of probiotics in my intestines. You're supposed to have BILLIONS. In the time that my bowel has been without these essential good guys, the baddies have run amock, and settled in places they definitely shouldn't have settled. Cutting off their food supply would be a drastic change to my life, but it would eventually starve them into submission. Once they are starved and weak, I could introduce some good guys and hope they find home.
The elimination phase was the hardest thing I have ever done! This handy graphic makes it look all sweetness and light:
Don't be fooled by the cuteness! RAWR!

So I cut out starchy carbohydrates, sugars, fruits, dairy, grains, processed, packaged and prepared foods. The only fats/oil I could have was Coconut Oil for cooking. 99% of the supermarket was irrelevant to me. At first, with the removal of carbs from my diet, my body packed in! I was so weak and lost a stone in weight very quickly, followed by another stone much more slowly. I got a cold pretty early on and it almost wiped me out. I remember finding it physically hard to climb the stairs or get in and out of a chair! Running was out of the question and walking to work and back was such a chore, no matter how slowly I walked! My periods also stopped for a while. As my body got used to my new intake I have slowly put half a stone back on as I had to greatly increase my portion sizes. This diet was giving my system a break, a proper rest. Everything on this list is easy for my body to digest and I was following a strict supplement program to make sure I got everything I needed! 

Writing this, 101 days later, is easy! But the amount of times I nearly gave up are numerous. It was so hard if I had to leave my home/routine. For example, travelling to conventions was a nightmare. I have done 3 conventions on this diet and at each con I lost half a stone over the weekend as taking the right amount of food with me is impossible. Without a fridge to store meat or cooking equipment I could not prepare the meals I had been having. I would take as much frozen meals as I could and hoped they would last! I introduced ground almonds after a month and this really helped, as I was able to make 'baked' products, like the muffins made from almonds and butternut squash I posted on this blog! I also introduced bananas, and this made such a difference. Being able to walk into a shop and grab a banana was a very big help. At the Falmouth Convention we did last October, the organisers kindly let me use their microwave so I could heat my veggie soup! ^-^

In my general day to day life routine, I became even more of a foodie than I was before! Making meals out of these minimal few ingredients became a fun (no, not always fun) challenge and I have managed to make some seriously tasty food! Making a ginger Chicken soup stock and cutting the courgettes into noodle shapes meant that I could fake a 'ramen' dish for example! Or making a batter out of ground almond and an egg meant I could have almost-proper Fish and Chips! I have been converted to celeriac chips for life! I made granolas with chopped baked nuts and cinnamon. I've made almost-a-lasagna, almost-a-shepherds-pie and even, on Christmas day, Ian and I managed to make my dinner look like everyone elses! It became really important for me to feel more like I wasn't missing out by making my meals in familiar ways. 
However, try having a sugar free Christmas before you start thinking this was easy! Go a week without coffee... Man I really miss coffee! I miss an awful lot of things! 

Fish and Chips! Chicken Ginger Ramen!
Pecan 'bread' topped with mushed banana! Granola with Coconut milk!

But now, after 100 days, I am writing this following my latest consultation with my nutritionist and well, I have never felt a bigger pay off! All the paddy whacks and tantrums and going to bed hungry because I was just so angry at my situation have made this feeling all the more worth while. The next phase is introducing a whole new long list of vegetables and making my diet as naturally anti-bacterial as possible! Some strains of bacteria can lie dormant or go into a hibernation mode if they are starved. They've been hiding there, waiting! And a great way to coax them out is to introduce a little of their food source and then KICK THEM IN THE FACE! So I will be introducing small amounts of honey (their food) and eating Garlic (their demise!) GARLIC! After 100 days of no garlic I don't shitting know where to start.. I could weep! 
Of course, I have to monitor everything carefully as any one of the foods I'll be introducing could be problematic. Garlic is a high FODMAP food and sometimes this can give people with troubled digestions ever more trouble! But I'll be taking some natural anti-biotic supplements too! 
What I'm trying to say is, it feels like Christmas to me right now! I can't wait to explore my new list of veg and I can even introduce PEACHES!! 

And, looking back over all my food diaries, this nice long break for my digestion has done me a heap of good! I've never been more normal, regular, and healthy in my whole life! I mean I'm shitting really well people! And my anxiety? Well, I won. I've been off anti-depressants for over a year, I've not taken an Imodium in 6 months, and I have been to conventions, on long car journeys, on flights, new peoples houses, cinemas, new cafes, I bought my first car, the list is endless! I feel like this diet has been my ultimate secret weapon! Knowing exactly what's wrong on the inside gives me the best possible chance to fix it. And it wasn't all in my head. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Portrait Commission

Before Christmas, I was commissioned by a rather fabulous husband to paint an A3 full colour digital family portrait for print as a present to his wife!
Since they are Game Of Thrones nuts ((AND HIS SURNAME IS STARK!)) the portrait was to be Winterfell themed! I had so much fun painting it!
Here it is posted with permission of course:

And here it is all framed! I received this photo on Christmas day along with some rather lovely messages! It made my day!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

binty learns the art of war!

I'm going to use the old verbiage: I remember it like it was yesterday.

One sunny, winter morning in Cardiff, during a particularly honest conversation in the infancy of our relationship, Ian turned to me and said “I have something to tell you.” Since he was following a truth of my own and wore such an apprehensive expression I prepared myself for the worst. I actually thought the words 'Oh god, he's got a kid.'

After some fluff and a few 'out with its!' he finally hurled the words 'I play Warhammer!' at me and flinched in anticipation of my response. Writing this, 2 years later, I do understand his anguish. I think he genuinely thought it was going to be something we couldn't share. However, at the time, I think my heart burst in my chest with pure and utter love.
  1. How could anything that this man enjoys as a hobby bring anything but happiness to me?
  2. OMG you mean the little battle dudes!? That you get to paint and shit and go to war and that?! My brother had some and my friend Dylan brings some into work and I've aaaalwaays wanted to watch a game! Will you show me?!   
Basically, his confession benefited me more than him. I finally had an in.


The following Christmas brought my first Battle Box! Ian had chosen the game Warmachine as a starting point for me and my premier army was to be Khador! According to the battle college wiki page:

“Warmachine is a 30mm tabletop wargame from Privateer Press. It is a fantasy wargame with a touch of steampunk set in the Iron Kingdoms, originally created by Privateer Press as a Dungeons & Dragons game world. It is currently in its second edition of the rules.”

Everything I needed to go to war for the first time was included in the battle box. He'd assembled the two heavy 'Warjacks' and the 'Warcaster' that the box provided and added a tape measure, some pebbles, a pen, some card protectors and some laminated rules for my faction! How cool! He chose the army Khador because the battle box came with a female character as the Warcaster (this is like a leader!) She is called Sorscha and she's a mega bitch. Perfect!

That NYE we attempted my first game.

Overwhelming is an understatement.

I tried, I really did, but quickly became fed up and lost confidence fast. We have since come to realise that Ian has been speaking this wargaming language for nearly twenty years... whereas I was trying to relate everything to, say, computer games. I couldn't grasp the basic mechanics, got all tied up in knots thinking about spells and became quite stressed trying to decide what to do and when.

Unfortunately, and quite probably because I didn't take to it quite so well, we sort of gave up. It was something we couldn't find time for in the years since and I felt that Ian had given up trying. He had enough friends to play with and I'd failed dramatically! I mentioned it a few times and even went looking for models (I bought a Spriggan!) but it was relegated whilst real life took over.

This Christmas, however, it seems we've come up with a strategy that feeds my interest and isn't overwhelming! He's been teaching me the basics one step at a time! Sounds simple really... We played one round just making moves using the SPEED stat (a numerical value indicating how many inches a model can advance) Then we played the next round moving and attacking using the MAT stat (Melee attack!) and we've been carrying on like that, adding in the different elements of the game one round at a time.

I can't believe how much fun I am having!

During all the house moves up and down the country (and others!) we've had to endure in our short relationship, it's sad that my battle box has been misplaced somewhere in storage. I couldn't want it more right now! Since Ian has a bigger Khador army already (and others) I've been using his models whilst he uses his Cygnar battle box.

I've been looking at the other factions in the Warmachine universe and have decided on investing in a Cryx army! The Cryx faction has some wicked girlies in it (yes, this is important to me!) The Cryx battle box itself contains one such girlie, the Warwitch Deneghra!

There's a gaming centre and shop in Cardiff called Firestorm and this New Years Eve we travelled there to buy my Cryx battle dudes. I can't wait to play them! This time I will get chance to assemble them myself (with much much guidance) and paint them too!

Ian also took me to have a look around the nearest gaming centre to me in Bristol: Bristol Vanguard! We chatted to the dude and he gave us a tour! We got to see the tables which are all kitted out with terrain and there's a painting room! I am going to join the forum and see if there's any other girls out there that play Warmachine! I sure hope so!

Firestorm Games: the merchants of WAR!

I also hope to blog my progress since it will include so many different steps and skills! I hope these will be interesting from a complete n00bs perspective. Cleaning up models, painting them ready for battle, visiting gaming centres, playing the damn game... phew!

I love writing about what I'm currently enjoying, I hope you will enjoy reading it ^-^