Nerdache Box Is Your Geeky Food Subscription Box Full of Treats

Image: Nerdache Cakes

Image: Nerdache Cakes

There are so very many monthly subscription boxes that one could become overwhelmed and possibly go broke trying them all. I’ve sampled a few, but none have hooked me enough to stay with them every month. Now that I’ve discovered Nerdache Boxes, that might be about to change.

The idea comes from Nerdache Cakes based in Clifton, New Jersey which is run by Ant Roman. She loves to bake and specializes in all things nerdy from wedding cakes to cupcakes to cookies.

She recently expanded her offerings to include monthly subscription boxes featuring delicious nerdy treats. The theme changes from month-to-month with February featuring, you guessed it, nerdy love stuff. Sadly, I found out about these boxes after February was sold out.

You don’t have to sign up and get every month, but order each month only if you like what’s in that particular box. She’s just set up a Facebook page specifically for Nerdache Box so you can follow and see when the next box will be available.

This is a very new service, and it’ll be cool to see how it develops over the coming months. I am now officially stalking the Facebook page, determined to get my hands on one of the March boxes as soon as they’re available.

A subscription box that’s nerdy and filled with tasty eats? I’m in!

(via ThatsNerdalicious)

Build This Periodic Table of Spices For Your Kitchen

Image: Wayne Hammond

Image: Wayne Hammond

Kitchen organization is a work in progress for many of us. It seems that once you get one cabinet organized, another becomes a bottomless pit of forgotten foodstuffs. The worst offender is often the spice cabinet or spice drawer or wherever all the seasonings end up at the end of the day. Instead of digging to find them, organize them—with science!

This periodic table of spices was built by Wayne Hammond who was suffering from an out of control spice drawer. It was hideous.

Image: Wayne Hammond

Image: Wayne Hammond

Hammond came up with a brilliant solution that not only makes use of an otherwise unused space in his kitchen, but adds a wonderful nerdy bit of science to his cooking. He designed a periodic table of spices using botanical taxonomy as his foundation. This yielded a fantastic chart that looks just like the periodic table of elements, but with things like garlic, chives, and parsley.

Image: Wayne Hammond

Image: Wayne Hammond

He constructed the whole thing in a spot housing a doorless kitchen cabinet that measured 11″d x 17″w x 30″h and originally held wine bottles. He removed the wine bottle racks and had metal shelves built to hold his spices. The chart he developed is now on the walls of the cabinet and it’s all highlighted by a spotlight. It’s just that cool.

You can get the full details on how it was made over at Make including a downloadable PDF of the periodic table. It’ll make you feel like a mad scientist every time you cook!

(via ThatsNerdalicious)

Take a Seat in This Beautiful TARDIS Chair

Image: Etsy Seller WittsWhimsy

Image: Etsy Seller WittsWhimsy

Yes, what we all really want is for that magical blue box to appear in our yard one day. Chances of that are pretty slim, but you can at least get this incredible TARDIS chair for your living room. It’s a one-of-a-kind piece made by Etsy seller WittsWhimsy who turned an old chair into something entirely new.

It’s a Begere Regency chair that needed lots of love, so she started with sanding down the worn wood until it was smooth and then painted it black. The original cushion was also in bad shape so she completely remade and replaced the cushion with 4″ heavy duty memory foam.

The whole thing is then covered in silk shantung that she hand-painted in blue with that familiar TARDIS theme. It’s covered front and back so it’s the TARDIS no matter how you look at it, and there’s even a little surprise when you lift the cushion. No, it’s not bigger on the inside but it does have a field of stars as though you just opened the door to the galaxy.

The TARDIS chair is currently for sale for $695 in Illinois with shipping available throughout the United States.

(via RiellyGeek)

The Wonderful Crazy of Attending an Auto Show

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Photo: Nicole Wakelin

Nerds have conventions like SDCC and NYCC, but gearheads have their own versions of these fan conventions. There’s the LA Auto Show and the New York Auto Show, but the big one is, of course, the Detroit Auto Show. It even has an acronym, NAIAS, because every good show needs an acronym.

I attended this year’s NAIAS (North American International Auto Show) for the second time as a guest of Ford. They gave us access to all the latest and greatest that they had to offer, but they also gave us plenty of time to wander the show floor and check out the general craziness of things.

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Photo: Nicole Wakelin

The big deal at auto shows is when they reveal cars and it’s all staged like a mini rock concert. There is loud music. There are lights. There is even sometimes smoke just to make it really, super cool. You don’t actually need to look at the schedule of events, but rather can just hear where the next debut is about to occur.

There were several big debuts from Ford and they happened not on the show floor but in the Joe Louis Arena which is attached to the convention center. It is a special slice of crazy. Last year they debuted their new F-150 and this year they debuted the F-150 Raptor. This had truck people all in a tizzy.

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Photo: Nicole Wakelin

They also showed off the Ford GT, and this one had me in a tizzy. It looks absolutely beautiful and it sounds completely delicious. After its debut, they brought it into the auto show proper for display. You know how I knew it had arrived? The rumble of the engine as it slowly coasted into its place was enough to announce its presence without even being seen.

The media days at an auto show are completely insane with photographers and journalists from around the world all converging on Detroit for a few days to see what automakers think we’ll all want to buy in the coming years. Even if you can’t attend the media days, if you’re into cars, make a trip to your local auto show and get a look at all the latest and greatest in shiny automobiles.

Ford covered my expenses to attend this event.

Why I Love Burrito Van, or Down With Kale!

The first time I tried kale was at a swanky automotive event in New York City. There were swanky drinks, swanky cars, and swanky appetizers on swanky little trays. It was swank. And then, there was kale.

I had never tried kale before, but had heard of its wonders. It was supposedly delicious and easy to make and the perfect substitute for not-healthy potato chips. This is what everyone told me. Everyone.

So, when I spied the funny-looking green things I asked if they were, in fact, the wondrous kale. I was informed that it was kale and that it had a light dusting of some kind of fancy salt I can no longer remember. I decided to try the kale.

You people, you all lied!

There is nothing tasty about kale. It is like munching on a piece of particularly crunchy grass. Pieces of it stuck to the roof of my mouth leaving me to awkwardly try freeing it with my tongue like a communion wafer in church. You cannot stick your fingers in your mouth to free that wafer and you cannot stick your fingers in your mouth to free stupid kale in a room full of swanky people being swanky.

I should mention that my partner-in-crime at this event, Emme, was equally appalled by the kale. She is not swanky. I love her and love that she thought the kale chips were the spawn of Satan. I’m pretty sure she encouraged me to use a strong swanky drink like mouthwash to free the kale. I say pretty sure because things are a bit of a blur after that, likely due to the strength of the swanky drink.

I have not once knowingly consumed kale since. I have no idea how anyone eats the stuff. Burritos, however, I totally understand. That is why I love this video by Parry Gripp and animator Nathan Mazur. Not only is it an ode to burritos, but it comes out firmly against kale.

Down with kale! Long live burritos!

(via ThatsNerdalicious)

Little Boy Sees Star Wars for the First Time, Completely Loses It

Star Wars came out a decade long, long ago when the only way to see the movie was in a theater. I was seven, so my Dad took me to see it and the movie completely and utterly blew my little mind. According to him, I watched half the film with my jaw dropped down to the floor. Now kids see it for the first time in the comfort of their own homes. This 3-year-old boy is one of those kids and his reaction is brilliant.

It appears that he’s already familiar with the characters as he calls out Darth Vader and “Storm Woopers.” Storm Woopers? I will now think of them this way forever and until the end of time. It makes them much less scary and makes this kid unbearably cute. He’s adorable and the way he keeps adjusting his glasses to be sure he doesn’t miss anything is just killing me.

His dialogue is great, but his physical reactions will have you giggle-snorting your coffee onto your monitor, so be warned. He shushes Dad with a finger held up as the movie starts and then he has the most incredible freak out. There is jumping up and down. There is flailing. There is dancing and there is a huge smile.

Since I saw the movie for the first time in a theater, I could not jump up and down, but if I could have, I’d have done exactly what this kid did, right until they kicked me out. If we’re being totally honest, and we are, that’s exactly what all Star Wars fans do inside every single time that music starts to play.

The completely rapt look on his face is how we’re all going to look when Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters in December. You guys, that’s this year! Yup, absolutely flailed my arms at that thought and barely refrained from jumping up and down at my desk.

(via NerdApproved)

OnStar Adds New Services to Make Life Easier

Image: OnStar

Image: OnStar

OnStar has been around for 15 years now and in that time has grown to become what many people think of as an essential service in their cars. Available exclusively on General Motors vehicles, it can provide directions at the touch of a button and, even more importantly, help during an emergency. Now they are expanding the service to include three new features that will make your life easier and maybe even help save you a little cash.

It’s one thing to have a warning light for low oil, low washer fluid, or that dreaded check engine light, but now OnStar can help you know about a problem before it actually causes an issue. There is new predictive technology that uses OnStar’s 4G LTE connectivity to provide data streams from sensors monitoring different systems within your car. If it senses something is not as it should be, then it can send you a notification in plenty of time for you to address the problem.

You don’t have to wait for an email or a phone call either. It can just send a message directly to your car so you’ll get the notification while you’re driving. This is pretty fascinating tech as it uses fancy algorithms to constantly monitor your car’s performance and see into the future. I would like this on every gadget I own.

The new service will also expand your ability to monitor things like tire pressure and oil levels. Rather than just the monthly summary available now, these things will be able to be monitored around the clock. These features will all roll out starting with the 2016 Chevrolet Equinox, Tahoe, Suburban, Corvette, Silverado, and Silverado HD in select models.

Image: OnStar

Image: OnStar

Another new OnStar feature that will be available on all 2016 and even some 2015 and earlier model years will be Driver Feedback which will let you take advantage of possible insurance discounts through Progressive Insurance. With your consent, OnStar will compile a report with driving metrics that evaluate your driving style over the course of 90 days.

They will then share this with Progressive which may be able to offer driving discounts based on safe driving habits. You don’t even have to share it with Progressive if you don’t like the results. The choice is yours, so you’re in control of how your data is shared and if it will ever be seen by Progressive.

Lastly is OnStar AtYourService which provides a host of features that includes the ability for OnStar agents to assist with finding hotels and even booking your reservation. A partnership with Priceline will not only find a nearby hotel, but also help get a better rate than you might find on your own.

Additional partnerships with RetailMeNot and Entertainment Book will give you digital coupons for retailers in your area. They’ll even help you find a place to park with Parkopedia and provide something to pass the time on road trips with Audiobooks.com. These are just the first partnerships in a service they expect to grow over time to help you find what you need, when you need it. This service will roll out throughout the year.

Cars have all sorts of fancy infotainment systems, but the big complaint is making everything easy to use, intuitive, and actually helpful to drivers and passengers. OnStar is doing an increasingly great job of bridging the gap between what we want tech to do, and what it actually does in practice.

Right now, you may think of OnStar as your emergency backup plan or your instant source of directions, but these new services aim to make OnStar your source for anything and everything when you’re on the road.

Beautiful R2-KT Ring Inspired by a Dad’s Love For His Ailing Daughter

R2-KT Ring

Image: Paul Michael Design

This Star Wars R2-KT ring is beautiful all on its own, but becomes exquisite when you know the story that led to its creation.

R2-KT is a little astromech droid that came in to being thanks to 501st Legion founder, Albin Johnson, whose daughter, Katie, was battling brain cancer. Her diagnosis came in November 2004 when she was only six years old. She underwent treatment that included chemotherapy and Katie bravely fought the disease.

One day during her treatment, her family took her picture in front of a church where Katie noticed that one of the windows looked a lot like R2-D2 and an idea was born. Her dad decided to create a very special pink astromech, R2-KT, to watch over Katie.

He brought his idea to life with the help of the R2 Builders Club who hurried to complete the droid and present it to Katie. She was able to spend some time with a prototype R2-KT in all its pink glory before she passed away on August 9, 2005.

The full, complete R2-KT was presented to Katie’s family the following July and now serves to help others, just like the 501st Legion, making appearances at conventions, charity events, and children’s hospitals all across the country. The little droid inspired by a child’s vision of R2-D2 in a church window now helps other children fighting their own battles.

This beautiful R2-KT ring was made by Paul Michael Design to look just like the little pink astromech. It joins a long list of nerdy designs that includes Cylons, X-Wings, and even a TARDIS necklace. Many of his creations are available on his Etsy site and he is happy to work with you on a custom designed piece.

 

Build a Lego Arcade Machine Christmas Ornament With The Kids

Lego Ornaments

Image: Chris McVeigh

It’s a lot of fun to get creative at the holidays and make the ornaments that decorate your Christmas tree. Artist Chris McVeigh has some great ideas for adding a little Lego flair to those decorating efforts. His latest nerdy offering is a trio of classic arcade machine ornaments in a festive red, yellow, and green.

Those aren’t the only designs that will delight your inner Christmas nerd. He’s also got a TARDIS for all you Whovians and the Death Star and Millennium Falcon for Star Wars fans still giddy over that new trailer. If you and your kids love playing with Lego bricks, then these designs are sure to provide plenty of fun getting the tree ready for the holidays.

Even better, McVeigh has made all of his designs available as completely free PDF downloads on his site. He’s got all his nerdy designs and some that look like the more traditional balls and baubles that decorate our trees.

There are also some designs available for purchase in his store that include all the bits needed to make each ornament so you don’t have to work at pulling the pieces out of that giant Lego bin overflowing in your child’s closet.

(via NerdApproved)

A Bacon Scented Pillowcase For Sweet Bacony Dreams

Bacon Pillow

Image: J&D’s

There’s nothing quite like waking up to the smell of bacon in the morning. It doesn’t matter how comfy your bed is, the smell of bacon is a lure that cannot be resisted by any means known to humankind. Even the most world-weary of us will put on slippers and a warm robe and trudge down to the kitchen for some fried pork bliss. Now, with this pillowcase, you can enjoy the smell of bacon all the time right from the comfort of your bed.

J&D’s is offering a bacon-scented pillowcase ($12.99) that will keep the sweet smell of bacon swirling around your head while you sleep. The smell is supposed to last for 6-12 months as long as you wash the pillowcase according to the care instructions.

They do include a list of possible side effects that includes:

  • Happier dreams of breakfasts past, floating on bacony clouds or placing the winning hog at the 4-H contest.
  • Effortless, overnight weight loss by kicking your digestive system into high gear – try not to eat your pillowcase.
  • Dramatic increases in your intelligence and higher brain functioning because… Bacon.
  • Easier wake-ups – your mornings will be like being shot out of bacony cannon.

Nothing we can’t all handle. Bring on the bacon!

(via ThatsNerdalicious)

Watch the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer in Lego

Star Wars Screen Shot

Image: Screen Shot

The first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has only just made its debut but already people are having their way with the video. YouTuber Snooperking wasted no time putting together a Lego version of the trailer that includes everything from the trisaber to the Millennium Falcon’s triumphant return.

Don’t miss the subtitles that were not in the original trailer and add a nice dose of humor. Also, be prepared to worry over whether or not you remembered to turn off the oven.

(via NerdApproved)

French Toast Taquitos? Yes, Please!

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Image: Oh Bite It!

Thanksgiving is over, but that doesn’t mean all the holiday cooking is done. It’s not all about sitting down at a table with the family for a giant feast, either. Christmas morning is always a big deal in our house with quite a spread, and this year I’m thinking that spread will include these French Toast Taquitos.

The recipe comes to us from Just Bite It! who knows how to make your mouth water. You start off by cooking some sausage links and then rolling them in pieces of flattened bread with the crusts cut off, because crusts are icky. The whole thing then gets dunked in the traditional egg and milk mixture before it’s all fried up until golden and delicious.

You can sprinkle this with cinnamon or powdered sugar or go nuts and use both. I plan to go nuts. There will also be real maple syrup, not that fake stuff because no one wants imitation maple product on their breakfast. Oh, yes, these most definitely are happening in my house on Christmas morning.

You can see the full recipe over at Just Bite It! and have everyone smiling the next time you make breakfast for the family.

Hanging Out With Dodge and Mötley Crüe at Gas Monkey Live

General Lee #DodgeRocks

The General Lee, but no sign of Bo and Luke. Image: Nicole Wakelin

Dodge is 100 years old. In fact, it’s actually 100 years old on this very day, as I’m writing this post. It was November 14, 1914, that the Dodge brothers built their very first car. This is a pretty big milestone and to celebrate, Dodge threw one heck of a party.

Dodge Rocks Gas Monkey” involved a car show on an epic scale with over 800 Dodge fans bringing their cars to the Gas Monkey Live venue in Dallas, Texas, to show them off and enjoy a concert with Mötley Crüe. I’ve been to car shows, but this one puts every other car show ever to shame.

I signed the hood of a car! Image: Nicole Wakelin

I signed the hood of a car! Image: Nicole Wakelin

Try to imagine row after row of Chargers and Challengers and Vipers with the most beautiful custom work you have ever seen just sitting there for you to try not to drool over. These weren’t Dodge’s cars, these were real people’s cars and they were all incredible.

There were brand new cars along with some classics in simply beautiful condition with lots of custom bits that made each one unique and very personal. The owners ran the gamut from grandfathers proud of their vintage rides to twenty-somethings with tricked out rides full of lights and gadgets galore.

Mopar Thor Tattoo #DodgeRocks

Thor says, “Mopar or No Car!” Image: Nicole Wakelin

My absolute favorite car of the bunch was one Texas boy’s Thor-themed Challenger. Yeah, nerds unite even at a car show! Even better? The car originally belonged to the guy’s grandma. A grandma driving a Thor Dodge Challenger? Awesome.

There were also ride opportunities where professional drivers thrashed about a track in a Viper drift car to the delighted squeals of their passengers. Okay, it may only have been me squealing, because it was simply too much fun to sit quietly.

Thor Challenger Engine #DodgeRocks

Behold, the Thor Dodge Challenger! Image: Nicole Wakelin

Once the drifting was over it was time for drag races with two Challenger Hellcats. Drag racing. In a parking lot. Legally. With a professional driver. Oh, Dodge, you killed me with all the awesome car goodness.

It was held at Gas Monkey Live. Richard Rawlings’ new music venue across from the Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill. He was on hand to chat and take pictures with the crowd. It’s worth noting that this guy has the most perfectly styled hair. Seriously, I can’t style my own hair as well. Richard “Perfect Hair” Rawlings was a great host and I’m pretty sure he was just as stoked as the crowd for the whole thing.

Wicked Witch #DodgeRocks

Of course the Wicked Witch drives a Hemi. Image: Nicole Wakelin

Unbelievably, this was not the end of the awesome because once the car show was over, it was time for another show from Mötley Crüe who are in the middle of their “All Bad Things Must End” final tour. Dodge and Rawlings arranged for the band to play at the garage and they arrived in Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcats with all the squealing tires and smoke one would expect for a rock band’s grand entrance.

The concert itself was fantastic. This was no giant arena, but a smaller venue unlike any that Mötley Crüe normally plays. Not only did they sound great even after all these years, but my 14-year-old self was in her glory singing along to songs I remembered from high school.

It was all over too fast, but it was an absolute blast and it’s still hard to believe I got to be a part of something so special. Happy birthday, Dodge, and thanks for inviting me to the party! #DodgeRocks

Win a Family Four-Pack to Northeast Comic Con!

NECC

Image: Northeast Comic Con

It’s great to go to the monster cons like San Diego and New York, but there’s something to be said for those smaller regional cons. They’re still loaded with pop culture goodness and plenty of celebrities and they’re never as crazy crowded.

This year, I’m attending Northeast Comic Con for the first time with my husband and kids and I cannot wait. It runs December 6th and 7th at the Shriner’s Auditorium in Wilmington, Massachusetts, and GeekMom has tickets to give away to one lucky family! Here’s what you can expect at the convention:

This year’s event highlights include a holiday shopping experience for nerds and the people who love them, cosplay for adults and children with “Create-A-Hero/Villain/Character” contests, voice actor workshops and script readings, free-play video game arcade and tournaments, workshops for K!DZ, celebrity autograph signings, panel sessions, plus 150 vendors of vintage and modern toys, comic books, collectibles, art, jewelry, fashion, and pop cultural artifacts.

See, it’s got all the goodness of the big cons just in a smaller more manageable venue. They’re also transforming the convention center restaurant into the Kreature Kantina with food, beverages, trivia, and a live band. Yes, that band will be playing the Star Wars Cantina song.

My kids are going to be cosplaying as a medieval princess and Rainbow Dash, so they’re practically guaranteed to have a good time. Also, Santa will be there which means I have a better than even chance of getting a picture of my cosplaying kids with Santa for our annual Christmas card.

Want to join me? Just enter through the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance at a family four-pack good either Saturday or Sunday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you don’t win, you can buy tickets at the door or buy them online and save. See you at the con and good luck!

Chrysler Is Giving a $60K Scholarship to an Aspiring Auto Designer

Design

Image: Chrysler

Chrysler is holding its third annual design competition and up for grabs is a $60K scholarship to the College for Creative Studies. The contest is open to aspiring auto designers attending U.S. public high schools in grades 10 through 12 and offers the chance at a scholarship, MacBooks, and summer design courses.

It’s officially called the Detroit Autorama Design Competition 2015 and tasks entrants with creating a next-generation Dodge for 2025. Students will need to submit a 500-word essay on what the Dodge brand means to them along with a hand-drawn image of their future Dodge.

“The purpose of this competition is to expose students early in their education to the possibility of a career in automotive design while allowing us to connect with young talent and help to develop their artistic skills,” said Mark Trostle, Head of SRT, Mopar and Motorsports Design, Chrysler Group LLC. “We’re excited to once again team up with one of the leading design schools in the country, CCS, and the Detroit Autorama to bring the competition to a national level.”

Prizes include:

First place

· $60,000 scholarship to CCS (must meet college entry requirements)

· Apple MacBook Pro (13 inches, 2.5 GHz)

· Three-week summer automotive design course at CCS (includes housing, meals, and field trips)

· Three passes to Detroit Autorama in Detroit

Second place

· Apple MacBook Pro (13 inches, 2.5 GHz)

· Three-week summer automotive design course at CCS (includes housing, meals, and field trips)

· Three passes to Detroit Autorama in Detroit

Third place

· Apple MacBook Air (11 inches, 2 GHz)

· Three-week summer automotive design course at CCS (includes housing, meals, and field trips)

· Three passes to Detroit Autorama in Detroit

Fourth place

· Apple iPad with Retina Display (16 GB)

· Three-week summer automotive design course at CCS (includes housing, meals, and field trips)

· Three passes to Detroit Autorama in Detroit

Winners will be selected by designers from the Chrysler Group Product Design Office, including Ralph Gilles, Senior Vice President – Product Design; Joe Dehner, Head of Dodge and Ram Truck Design; and Mark Trostle, along with industrial design faculty from CCS.

Entries are due by Friday, January 23, 2015, with finalists announced on January 30th and winners revealed on March 6th at Detroit Autorama in the COBO Center in Detroit. Get the full details at the Drive for Design Facebook page and good luck!

The 2015 Dodge Charger: A Sedan That’ll Blow Your Mind

Dodge Charger Hellcat Track

Image: Dodge

Once you have kids, you have to rethink your automotive priorities. That cute little two-seater won’t work anymore no matter how much you love it, so you’re going to have to spring for something larger. There’s the ubiquitous minivan, but there’s also the good old sedan. The 2015 Dodge Charger is a sedan, but good doesn’t apply. This is a bad, bad, sedan and it’s so much fun, you won’t even miss that two-seater.

Let’s get something out of the way right at the start. The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. If you’ve looked at a Charger then you’ve heard about this beast with its 707 horsepower. This is insane. I say that in a good way and, having taken it around the track, it was some of the most fun I’ve had behind the wheel of a car. Still, this isn’t the Charger I’d buy as my everyday car.

I know, that sounds like a whole different kind of insane—why wouldn’t you want all that power?—but stick with me for a minute. I happen to own a 2010 Dodge Charger, so I’m speaking as the Mom who refused to buy a minivan and instead bought a muscle car.

Dodge Charger SXT

Image: Dodge

When I got into the Hellcat on the track, the instructor pointed at the “707+ horsepower” on the screen and asked me what it meant. I looked at him questioningly and said, “Don’t mash the gas pedal?” and he responded, “Right. Pretend there’s an egg under that pedal. Be very, very gentle.”

Okay, egg under the gas pedal. Check. They gave us the go ahead, I gently pressed the gas, and instantly the imaginary egg under my gas pedal was a blob of sticky goo. I didn’t mean to do this, but 707 horsepower is a lot and it’s hard not to hit the pedal harder than necessary.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved that car and drove it in circles until the Dodge people told me I had to get out of the car and go home. The one I would buy, however, is the 2015 Dodge Charger SXT Plus. I had the chance to drive this one through the West Virginia countryside and it was enough to make me think about upgrading what’s in my garage right now.

2015 Dodge Charger model lineup.  From left to right: 2015 Dodge

Image: Dodge

This version of the 2015 Dodge Charger has a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. There’s also a Rallye Group that turns his into a 300 horsepower engine with 264 lb-ft of torque. Note that this is not a Hellcat but those are still hella good numbers. Another good number is the price. The Hellcat starts at $63,995 while the SXT starts at $29,995.

You can mash the gas pedal, when the law allows, and you will get an impressive burst of speed that will squish you back into the seats and put a smile on your face. It is loaded with comfort and convenience features and the SXT trim makes things a little more special, a little sportier, with LED fog lamps, Uconnect 8.4″ touchscreen, heated seats and mirrors, remote start, dual zone climate control, an Alpine sound system, and a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Dodge Charger SXT  (2)

Image: Dodge

Add on the Plus Group, which technically costs less to add than the actual options if you separated them out, and you up the sport factor even more. Now you’ve got leather seats, a heated steering wheel and backseats, a rear camera, illuminated cup holders, driver and passenger lower LED lamps, and a security alarm.

Basically, the Charger SXT Plus is the Hellcat’s smarter, slightly more well-behaved older brother. He’s the one you want to bring home to Mom because he’s responsible and polished, but still a sexy bad boy beneath all those good manners.

Chrysler covered all expenses for me to attend this event.

Chevy Aims to Educate: Keeping Teen Drivers Safe

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GeekDad Matt Blum and GeekMom Nicole Wakelin with a new friend. Image: General Motors

There are a lot of milestones in a child’s life like getting that first tooth and learning to walk, but the one that scares a lot of parents is the day their teenager gets a driver’s license. It’s a rite of passage for teens, but how do we make sure our kids are safe once they drive away?

That was the focus of the #ChevySafety event recently held in Detroit during Teen Driver Safety Week. We heard from a panel of experts on teen driver safety and got a behind-the-scenes look at all that goes into making cars as safe as possible for all of us.

First, the reality of the situation. Car crashes were the leading killer of teens ages 13-19 in 2012. That’s a downright frightening statistic, but don’t go running to take your teen’s keys just yet. There are things we can all do to help ensure that our kids are safe whether they’re the ones behind the wheel or a passenger in a car one of their friends is driving.

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Image: General Motors

You may have a car with the latest safety technology, one that warns of approaching traffic, cars in your blind spot, and even beeps if you drift out of your lane, but all that technology isn’t the thing you need to be focused on for keeping safe. The biggest thing that any of us can do, and it’s one that’s been hammered into our heads for years, is buckle our seat belts.

It’s kind of funny that, given the vast amount of safety technology in cars, something old-school is most likely to save our lives. You’d also think that teens would buckle up all the time since we’ve been strapping them in to within an inch of their lives since the day we brought them home from the hospital, but you’d be wrong.

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Learning about safety tech first hand. Image: General Motors

A study by Safe Kids Worldwide, partly funded with a $2 million grant from General Motors, showed that 25% of teens don’t buckle their seat belts. Add to that the fact that nearly half of teens killed in car accidents in 2012 weren’t wearing a seat belt and the problem is even clearer. Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of death to those sitting in front by 45% so almost half of those lost young lives could have been saved by a seat belt.

You know it’s important and I know it’s important, but how do we impress upon our kids that they need to buckle up every single time? Talk to them.

Studies show the more we talk to our kids, from the time they’re young not just when they’re teens, the more likely they are to heed our advice. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has done studies that show teens are twice as likely to buckle up and 70% more likely not to drink and drive when parents take an active part in the process of educating them about driver safety.

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Image: General Motors

We saw the extensive amount of testing that goes into making cars safe, from crash test dummies to high-tech virtual reality labs that can analyze something as minute as the pattern a windshield wiper clears so you can always see clearly. We also got a look at the incredible OnStar Command Center where they can help in an instant if something does go wrong, but it all comes back to parents. We simply need to talk to our kids.

The technology is incredible to experience first hand and it’s easy to see how it can help save lives. The facility where they run all those dummies through their tests is huge and impressive, but it just won’t do the trick if teens don’t buckle up.

There are programs like Countdown2Drive that will help you get started with this important conversation. Talk to your kids early and often about buckling up and not driving distracted and you’ve gone a long way toward making sure they come home to you safe and sound.

General Motors covered all expenses to attend this event.

2015 Toyota Camry: The Family Sedan Gets an Upgrade

2015 Toyota Camry

Image: Toyota

The Toyota Camry is kind of a big deal. It’s been the best-selling car in America for the last 12 years in a row, so when Toyota decided to change it up, they had to do so very carefully. You simply can’t afford to mess up the best-selling car in America and the good news is, they made it even better.

They didn’t just tweak it a little here and there, they completely overhauled it with every single body panel except for the roof getting a new look. Inside, they’ve changed most of the surfaces so that what you touch feels better. This is the Camry you know, but at the same time you’ve never met.

I had the opportunity to drive the 2015 Toyota Camry recently and I was looking forward to seeing what they changed and if it really made any difference. Every time an automaker comes out with a new version of an existing car they claim it’s different, but making it feel that way is a bit of a trick.

2015 Toyota Camry Front

Image: Toyota

Toyota totally pulled it off, making this mild-mannered sedan less mild and a lot sportier and more appealing. It’s offered in no less than nine different variants, so there’s likely one that will fit your budget and your needs.

It sounds a bit complicated, but basically what you’re looking at are changes in trim from the base LE, to the sporty SE, to the more luxurious XLE, and lastly the XSE which combines both sport and luxury features. They’ve also got a hybrid that comes in three different trim levels.

Your last choice is between two different engines with either a 2.5-liter 4 cylinder or a 3.5-liter V6. Most people opt for the smaller engine, but I’m telling you, if you enjoy driving and want a little more pep on the road, you should give the V6 a test drive. There is a big difference between the two so it’s worth checking out.

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Image: Toyota

I drove not all, but quite a few different variants of the new Camry and got a really good feel for what they changed. The one with the most noticeable new look was the SE, the sporty one, and it has a downright aggressive grille with styling to match. No mild-mannered anything as this thing takes to the road.

The luxurious XLE will make you feel like you’ve taken a seat behind a much pricier car than its $26,150 starting price. Yes, you can get into all but the V6 variants for under $30K, and you get an impressive list of safety and convenience features.

2015 Toyota Camry Interior

Image: Toyota

Driving a sedan this size likely means you’ve got passengers along with you, often kids, and we all want our kids to be safe. Standard features include 10 airbags, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist as well as Smart Stop Technology brake-override system. That’s all standard on every single Camry that rolls off the line.

You can opt for additional features like a Pre-Collision System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Auto High Beam, and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Safety is a priority for Toyota and it shows in all these safety features.

2015 Toyota Camry Charger

Image: Toyota

Convenience features also abound with a 12v power port, USB port and a wireless charging system for select smartphones. There’s a special space where you just set your phone, a light comes on, and you’re charging. How cool is that?

The Camry looks good, feels good, is packed with safety, and is something of an escape from the world outside the car. Even the sounds of a torrential downpour during my drive were kept at bay. This is thanks to better door and window seals, noise insulating carpet, and exterior tweaks to make the air flow over the car with less turbulence.

If you’ve driven a Camry and think you know the car, think again. Toyota has taken the best parts, made them better, and given everyone a reason to take another look at the 2015 Toyota Camry.

Toyota covered all my expenses to attend this drive.

Giveaway: Win a Logitech iPad Keyboard Folio, Wireless Speaker, and Mouse

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Image: Logitech

The kids are all back to school and Halloween is nearly upon us so it’s time to send out those care packages to all the college kids. Instead of sending them just tasty treats that will be gobbled up and gone before their next all nighter, Logitech is giving away a care package that they’ll use all year long.

It includes a little something of the practical and a little something that will let your college student have some fun. There’s a new mouse from their Color Collection, an Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad, and a Mobile Wireless speaker so they can turn up the tunes when it’s time to put away the books and have some fun.

  • Logitech’s 2014 Color Collection Mouse ($29.99) in eye-catching patterns and contemporary colors.
  • The Logitech Ultrathin ($99.99) that gives students an incredibly fast, fluid and comfortable typing experience for their iPad when on-the-go
  • The Logitech X300 Mobile Wireless ($69.99), a powerful wireless speaker that brings fun tunes to study hall.
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Image: Logitech

The mouse is really cute and the speaker sounds fantastic, but by far, the one that I really love is the keyboard. It’s lightweight and makes using an iPad anywhere so much easier. Students can bring it to class, study groups, everywhere, and still get all their work done.

You can enter the giveaway over at my Total Fan Girl blog where a winner will be chosen at random after midnight on Monday, October 13th.

Good luck and Happy Fall!

I received these products for review purposes.

The Tech Behind The 2015 Ford F-150: And Now I Want a Truck

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Image: Nicole Wakelin

I have never owned a truck because I couldn’t see why anyone would buy one unless they worked in construction or were a cowboy. Those guys, they need one, but me? No, I do not need a truck to haul my kids to school. However, after driving the all-new 2015 Ford F-150, I really, really want one.

Trucks are a big deal in the automotive world, and this one is pretty much the biggest deal of them all. It’s not just the best-selling truck in the United States; it’s the best selling vehicle. Period. The end. So when Ford redid the whole truck this year, people were excited and nervous.

When you’ve got a vehicle like the F-150 in your lineup. you simply can’t afford a fumble. Ford introduced their truck back in January at the Detroit Auto Show, but it wasn’t until now that they invited the press to drive it for the first time down in San Antonio, Texas. I was on this first-drive of the F-150 and it was an incredible experience.

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Image: Nicole Wakelin

You may or may not know the horsepower on your car, but if you’re buying a truck, there are numbers you’re sure to be looking at before you plunk down your hard-earned cash. The two biggies are towing capacity and payload, and the F-150 has the other guys beat when it comes to full-size pickups.

It can tow 12,200 pounds and haul 3,300 pounds, and it does this with the help of some pretty amazing technological advancements. One of those advancements helps not just with its capability, but with its fuel economy and that’s due to the use of aluminum alloys instead of only steel.

This truck lost an incredible 700 pounds over the previous generation. That is a stunning number in an industry where every last ounce they can cut from a vehicle’s weight is cause for celebration. This means better fuel economy, braking, maneuverability, and handling, all of which become incredibly important when your truck is carrying a load or pulling a trailer.

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Image: Nicole Wakelin

And, if you’re like most people, you’re thinking about those aluminum cans you can squish under the heel of your shoe and wondering if this is a good idea. Is it safe? Is it strong? Will it hold up under the pressures of daily use? The answer is yes.

They torture-tested this thing over more than 10 million miles, which covered all sorts of scenarios. They had it on their proving grounds, in labs, and even gave it to select customers who they new would, well, beat the heck out of it to see if they could make it fail. They couldn’t. The truck passed all of those tests with flying colors.

The F-150 now comes with four different engine choices, including a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost designed just for trucks. This engine is capable of producing 325 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque, which falls in the middle in terms of capability. Most people needing mid-range capability and about 90 percent of those who look for light-duty trucks will find this engine a good fit.

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Image: Nicole Wakelin

It’s also equipped with start-stop technology that turns off the engine when the vehicle stops, saving you money at the pump. This is one of those features that, in some vehicles, is simply awful. The sound and vibration of the engine turning off and on can be downright jarring, but it was almost imperceptible in the F-150 trucks I drove. Really, the only reason I noticed it was off was the sudden silence, just like driving a hybrid.

There’s also an EcoBoost for those needing more from their truck. The 3.5-liter engine provides 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. This one is the monster. It’s also the one capable of the top range in towing and payload and has been tested in the real world with over 500,000 F-150s with this engine already on the road.

Inside, there is a mind-boggling array of trims that take the F-150 from basic truck that gets the job done all the way to something that looks and feels like a high-end sedan with leather trims and wood finishes. And it’s also packed with the latest infotainment and safety technology like a 360-degree camera, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and a lane-keeping system. No matter your needs, there’s a configuration of the F-150 that will be a perfect fit.

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Image: Nicole Wakelin

And driving the F-150 is something you have to experience. It is a big truck, so if you haven’t piloted one down the road, then your first few minutes will be spent thinking, “Wow, this is big.” That feeling, amazingly, only lasts for a short time, because though this is a big, capable, powerful, truck, it’s also a very well-mannered one.

Handling is smooth and easy, making you forget just how much truck that steering wheel is moving along the road. The seats are also supportive and comfortable, so that even after a full day of driving, there’s no road-weariness or stiffness when you get out of the truck.

I had the chance to tow a 9,000-pound trailer—something I have never done before—and once my heart stopped trying to beat right out of my chest, it was easy. Despite being a lighter vehicle than before, the trailer never pushed the truck, even going downhill. I drove a competitor’s truck right after the F-150 and experienced the disconcerting sensation of the vehicle almost jerking forward when the trailer did push the truck. In the F-150, it simply didn’t happen and the drive was much easier.

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Image: Nicole Wakelin

It was a unique experience driving the 2015 Ford F-150, with access to engineers and experts that could answer my every question and explain exactly what the truck was doing along the way to make driving easier. They’re running special test drives from October 11 through December 21 in 38 cities, so you can try out the new F-150, too. Pre-register for events or just show up and they’ll be happy to let you take a drive.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what the all-new 2015 Ford F-150 has to offer, whether you’re using it to haul heavy loads or just for hauling the kids to school.

All trip expenses were covered by Ford.

“You Have to F*cking Eat” Is Funny Because It’s True

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Image: Amazon

We all want to make sure that our children have plenty of healthy foods. Those things include fruits and vegetables and whole grains and all of the stuff the doctor asks about every time you bring your precious in for that yearly physical. But what we want, and the reality of what they eat, is sometimes miles apart. That’s what makes “You Have to F*cking Eat” so darn funny.

I once set myself on a mission to have my kids try a new fruit or vegetable every day. They were very little, and the going wisdom was to get them started young so they’d love good food forever. Whoever came up with the going wisdom never met my kids.

I tried, oh, how I tried, but after the umpteenth time that I watched them choke down healthy food, I gave up. That’s right. I just stopped and started making them things that they would eat in order to save my sanity.

Chicken nuggets, pizza, even hot dogs and all their evil whatever-it-is that everyone tells me they shouldn’t eat are all regular parts of their diet. Sometimes, even stuff they love they won’t eat, and I am totally okay with that, too.

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Image: Amazon

That’s why when I saw the book, You Have to F*cking Eat, I feared someone had been spying on me during the great veggie-a-day experiment. But no, this is simply the sequel to Go the F*ck to Sleep.

Two of the great trials of parenting are getting your kids to sleep and getting your kids to eat and these two books turn those struggles into children’s books that are really for adults. Just look at all those happy, fuzzy animals on the cover eating while that little girl is clearly not interested. That’s my life, minus the happy, fuzzy animals, unless you count my daughter’s gerbil.

Go the F*ck to Sleep ($14.95) is available right now, while You Have to F*cking Eat ($14.95) can be preordered with a November 12th release date, just in time for Thanksgiving. You can take solace in its pages after you kids eat nothing of the feast save a roll and a piece of turkey so small it would leave a mouse hungry.

(via That’s Nerdalicious)

Halloween Scents From Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab: Pumpkin, Cider and Feeding The Dead

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Image: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (BPAL) creates some of the most intoxicating scented oils you will ever have the joy of experiencing. Many of the scents are inspired by your favorite fandoms with lines dedicated to RPGs and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, but they also do seasonal lines. The latest is in honor of Halloween and it’s full of pumpkin, vampire, and witch inspired goodness.

It’s pretty much a given that if a company has something that can be “pumpkined” then that’s what they do once October arrives. BPAL has introduced no less than seven different pumpkin scents that are part of their Pumpkin Patch line and they’re unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere.

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Image: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

You can choose from scents like Pumpkin 1 which is pumpkin cream with cardamom, black tea, allspice, and ginger milk or Pumpkin 5 with pumpkins, pumpkin vines, and wild mushrooms with white sage, cade, sweetgrass, and vanilla-infused rosewood. They sound incredible, and if you’ve never experienced BPAL scented oils, then you’re in for a treat.

It’s not only pumpkin, though, with the Seven Visions of Autumn grouping and individual scents like Fog Machine Juice, Suck It, and Feeding the Dead. You can get them each in 5 ml glass vials for $23, and having used many of their scents, I can assure you that those vials will last. Just a few drops will have you leaving a wonderfully scented trail in your wake.

You can see the complete Halloween line over at BPAL and order the ones that tempt you the most, but don’t delay, as these will only be around for a short time.

MyCharge Talk & Charge Batteries Simplify Charging While Using Your Phone

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MyCharge Talk & Charge for iPhone, Image: MyCharge

There are a lot of choices when it comes to keeping your phone charged when you’re on the go, but they don’t all make using your phone at the same time easy. Awkward cables, the need to switch cases, or bulky charging units can make it all but impossible to use your phone while it’s getting juiced. The MyCharge Talk & Charge devices finally take care of that problem.

Available in two flavors for either the iPhone 5S/5C/5 or for phones with a micro-USB port, these battery packs are slim, lightweight, and roughly the size of your average phone. They have built in cables that let you plug them in while the battery itself stays out of the way, tucked snug against the back of your device. There are even little rubber feet so that it won’t scratch your case or phone.

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MyCharge Talk & Charge for Micro-USB Devices, Image: MyCharge

You can still easily hold your phone for texting, emailing, or talking without the battery getting in the way. It makes your phone thicker, but it doesn’t make it unusable or force you to unplug and stop charging. It also doesn’t require you to swap out your case since the built-in plugs work with whatever case you usually have on your phone.

The iPhone version will provide an additional 13 hours of talk time with a 3000mAh lithium ion battery. It’s also capable of pass through charging and will charge your device and the battery at the same time. It measures just 4.9″ x 2.4″ x 0.5″ and weighs only .26 pounds.

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MyCharge Talk & Charge for Micro-USB Devices, Image: MyCharge

The micro-USB version also has pass through charging and will provide an additional 18 hours of talk time with a 4000mAh lithium ion battery. It measures 5.0″ x 2.5″ x 0.4″ and weighs the same trim .26 pounds. This one does double-duty with the addition of a USB port that will allow you to charge a second device at the same time.

Both also have an LED readout so you know how much charge is left in the battery. Simply press a button and the four lights display the charge in easy-to-read 25% increments so you won’t be caught off guard when it’s empty.

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Image: MyCharge

Using these on my phone, I found that they quickly became my favorite battery packs for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is that they are so darn small and easy to use. It seems that as soon as my phone runs out of juice and I plug it in, that there are ten different reasons that I need to use my phone.

It’s awkward with a big cable and an even bigger charger. This one is so small it was still easy to hold my phone in one hand for texting. It was also small enough that I could easily hold it to my ear to talk without having the battery hanging awkwardly.

The Talk & Charge batteries also didn’t run hot, which many batteries do especially when you’re charging and using your device. And they charged quickly, giving my phone a healthy charge in a very short time, again, while I was using it, too.

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Image: MyCharge

These are small enough that you can carry them anywhere and are perfect for tucking into your purse or bag just in case you run low. They’re also great to have on hand in case the power runs out and you need to make sure you still have your phone ready to use.

The MyCharge Talk & Charge for iPhone and micro-USB retail for $59.99 each and are a great solution for those looking for lightweight phone charging that doesn’t hamper your ability to actually use your phone.

I received these products for review purposes.

Our Epic Family Road Trip to GenCon

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Helping build Cardhalla. Image: Nicole Wakelin

We’ve been to GenCon for the last five years, but it has always just been me and my husband. We’ve flown out and driven out and decided that driving is more fun. Flying can be a hassle and I love road trips, so we always stop at fun places along the way. World’s largest ball of twine? I’m in!

This year, we did the whole trip a little differently because we decided to bring our two girls for the first time. They’re 12 and 10 and have been to local conventions, just nothing this big and all consuming. It’s one thing to drive into Boston for the day to attend PAX East, but an entirely different thing to drive 14 hours and then spend four days straight at a convention.

We thought about this, a lot, before we actually decided to bring them on the trip. It’s not just the distance, but the whole intensity of the thing. We wondered, as much as they love to play games, would The Best Four Days in Gaming be too much? Would they stay up late and be so tired that by day three they’d be little wrecks? Would this somehow make them hate gaming and never want to go near a board game again for the rest of their lives? We had concerns.

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Image: Nicole Wakelin

In the end, we decided that we’d make the trip with the girls and just play it by ear. We didn’t plan to attend a lot of events. We didn’t have a crowded schedule of games to play. We didn’t even plan our exact drive route. Instead, we figured we’d see the sights on the way and take it easy once we arrived at the convention.

Lots of people make the drive from New Hampshire to Indianapolis in one day, but we broke it into two, stopping in Buffalo, New York, at the Staybridge Suites so we could have Buffalo wings for dinner. It’s what you have to do when you’re in Buffalo, right? Last year when we made the trip on our own we stopped there, too, and tried Anchor Bar. This year, we went with Duff’s Famous Wings because we were told that these are the places you go to in Buffalo for wings.

Although we liked Anchor Bar, Duff’s won our hearts for their super hot wings and giant bowls of french fries. If you want great hot wings and plenty of fries and giant pitchers of soda at a price that won’t break the bank, then try Duff’s. Also, there are two locations and though you might be tempted to go to the original, the one near the airport is not far and way less crowded with no wait when the other location is packed.

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Paula’s Donuts. Omnomnom! Image: Nicole Wakelin

We also found a great stop for breakfast at Paula’s Donuts. This and Duff’s are all within just a few minutes of the hotel which really makes this a great pit stop. Sure, donuts aren’t the healthiest breakfast but I’m choosing to channel my inner Bill Cosby and his famous chocolate cake bit. If you go, try the cheese donut. I know, sounds odd, but think cheese danish. Everyone local suggested we try it, and they did not steer us wrong.

We arrived at GenCon on Wednesday night, the day before the convention started, and the kids had plenty of time to unwind in our room at the JW Marriott. This is where we stay every year. The staff handles the crazy of everyone checking in at once as though it was no big deal. They’re friendly, helpful, always professional, and never frazzled.

There are lots of places to eat in Indy, but the hotel offers a little break from the mobs of gamers. Their restaurant, Osteria Pronto, offers a wonderful breakfast buffet and a selection of upscale meals for dinner. It is on the pricey side, but the food is worth it, and the wait is never as long as you’ll find at less expensive restaurants in the area.

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Ready for GenCon! Image: Nicole Wakelin

First thing Thursday, they were ready, and when I say ready, I mean ready like it was Christmas morning! There was no plan to get there the minute it all opened, but the kids wanted to see the crazy.

It was packed, and they were totally fine with the mob. They held our hands through the initial rush through the doors and happily wandered the show floor with us, checking out games and dice and stuffed animals and t-shirts and hats and, it was a lot of stuff. This is a big convention and it hit a record number of attendees this year at nearly 60,000 people, but the crowd was still manageable.

The girls loved every minute. They tried out some demos, had fun looking at the cosplayers, discovered the joy of eating at food trucks, and my oldest narrowly avoided being thrown in jail by a Stormtrooper. Hey, it happens at GenCon.

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A little Imperial entanglement. Image: Nicole Wakelin

This was a GenCon unlike any other for me and my husband. We still went out and gamed, but we ended up splitting up with the girls so we could show them each the things they wanted to see. One night, the three of them played a new game at some chairs in the hotel lobby and the girls thought it was the best thing ever.

During GenCon, gamers take up every square inch of space in the local hotels. There are games being played everywhere you look at all hours of the day and night. This small moment, simply playing a game with my husband in the hotel lobby, made them feel like they were a part of it all and it was wonderful.

They even helped us at at our panel, where we recorded an episode of The D6 Generation with a live audience. Let me tell you, if you’re trying to get a room of unruly gamers to behave, nothing works as well as having two little girls give them all sad puppy dog eyes.

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Cosplayer: @meaghanslottje Image: Nicole Wakelin

At the end of it all, we were all exhausted, but in the best way possible. We stayed up too late playing games. We walked around all day long hardly stopping to rest for fear of missing something good. And we all ate like we were on vacation.

But what made it perfect was going with the kids. We shared something we love and they loved it, too. It wasn’t the same as going on our own, but in the end, this GenCon was so much better. The last day, my youngest was very sad and said, “That went too fast. I don’t want it to be over.”

I know exactly how she feels.

The 2015 VW Golf GTI: The Hot Little Car That’s Big Fun

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Image: Nicole Wakelin

I learned how to drive a stick, or manual transmission, back when I was in college. It was after someone totaled my car and I was buying a new one on a budget. I saved $500 going with a manual so I learned, on my brand new 1991 Jetta GL, and the car lived to tell the tale. When I got behind the wheel of the new 2015 VW Golf GTI I was reminded of why everyone should learn how to drive a stick. The answer is one word and that word is fun.

Now, I’m not going to say the actual learning bit is fun. That’s kind of terrifying as you try not to roll back on hills, and embarrassing as you stall in front of your friends, but it is so worth it. It’s worth it so you can get behind the wheel of a car like the VV Golf with a manual transmission and see just how much fun it can be to drive. That’s exactly what I got to do at this year’s Volkswagen full-line drive.

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Image: Nicole Wakelin

It’s available as a 6-speed automatic, but, really, if you’re going for a hot little turbocharged hatchback with 210 horsepower, then you need the 6-speed manual because that’s where the fun lives. It’s right there, in that little knob that looks like a dimpled golf ball (cute, Volkswagen) and you hold it in the palm of your hand.

If you know how to drive a manual transmission, then you totally get me. There is something empowering about revving an engine hard, taking it up to that redline, and then shifting gears. The car doesn’t do the work for you, deciding when it thinks you should shift as if it knows better. You do the work for yourself and in the Golf GTI it’s work that will make you all kinds of happy.

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Image: Nicole Wakelin

The thing is, in a car like the Golf GTI, it’s not fair to call it work because it’s just too darn fun. Some manuals are difficult, with finicky shifts and touchy pedals, but not this one. Within just a few minutes I was cruising the winding roads of Virginia with my driving partner, Julia Coney of All About The Pretty.

Both of us were in love with our bright red Golf GTI. This is the sport-tuned version of the Golf and it loves to be driven. We also thoroughly enjoyed our time in Virginia and The Salamander Resort which fellow blogger Carissa Rogers fell in love with during the trip.

I say “our” Golf GTI because we both wanted to drive it home. In fact, Julia loved it so much she was seriously considering buying one when the program was over! I took a different approach and decided to see how seriously they took that VW commercial where the guy licks the handle of the VW he wants so no one else snags it from the lot. Sadly, it did not make the car mine.

You’ll get some stellar fuel efficiency while you’re having fun since the Golf’s 2.0-liter inline four cylinder is not thirsty. Its 25 city/34 highway EPA estimates will have you driving past the pump more often than you stop.

Not only will it save you money at the pump, it won’t break the bank with its $24,995 starting price. This includes a leather-wrapped, multi-function sport steering wheel, 18″ Austin alloy wheels, 5.8″ color display touchscreen, Bluetooth, and LED fog lights. If you want it completely tricked out, it can still be yours for under $30K.

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Image: Nicole Wakelin

Driving shouldn’t just be about getting from point A to point B. I know, a lot of the time that’s all it is when we’re rushing from one thing to another, or stuck in rush hour traffic. Driving isn’t so fun then, but the right car can make dull driving bearable, and good driving absolutely joyous.

And that’s what the VW Golf GTI is all about. It brings the joy to driving. If ever there was a car that was made to be a manual, this is that car. This hot little hatchback looks good, is comfortable, handles beautifully, and on a warm summer day with the sunroof wide open, it’ll make you want to keep driving until you run out of road.

Volkswagen covered my expenses to attend this event.

OtterBox Agility Tablet System Offers All-In-One Protection

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Image: OtterBox

Tablets are wonderfully useful devices, but they’re also expensive so it’s important to protect them from damaging mishaps. The challenge is to find a case that does all of the things you want it to do while protecting your device. This is no small challenge, but the OtterBox Agility System combines multiple pieces that function together to keep your tablet protected while improving its functionality.

The OtterBox Agility System is available for multiple tablets including the iPad 2/3/4 and Air, iPad Mini with retina display, Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy Note 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 3. I tested the system on our iPad 3 so all information and pricing is based on that system. Let’s start with why I keep calling it a system and not simply a case.

There are multiple pieces to the OtterBox Agility System, and they all work off of the Agility Shell ($39.95) which is the foundation for the system. Think of this as the kind of sturdy case you likely already associate with OtterBox. It protects your device soundly by putting a hard, thick, plastic shell around the tablet. It has a lip that extends above the surface, which is wonderful since this means when it gets put down roughly on its face, the screen won’t scratch.

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Image: OtterBox

That last bit doesn’t sound like a big deal, but that’s a make or break feature as far as I’m concerned. Don’t believe me? Just wait until your child decides to put your tablet face down on a driveway or bricks or cement. Better yet, wait until you drop it and it bounces onto the driveway before landing face down. Yeah, that little raised edge is a lifesaver.

The plus side to this case is that it’s solid and protects well, but the drawback is that it’s on the heavy side. If lightweight protection is at the top of your list, then this could be an issue. The weight is due partly to how protective it is, making it a case that feels like it will genuinely give your tablet a fighting chance, and partly to the fact that this is the foundation to a larger, interlocking system.

That system all revolves around a magnet built into the back of the Agility Shell. This is what connects the shell to the other system components and is the heart of what makes the whole system so darn good.

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Image: OtterBox

You could just stay with the Agility Shell, but you can add three different styles of folios that add extra protection, covering the touchscreen and functioning as stands for easier use. The base folio is simply the Agility Folio ($49.95) which is a very lightweight folio with a suede-like finish and two stand positions. It attaches to the magnet on the back of the shell and folds around to protect the touchscreen.

The idea of having just a magnet attaching the folio to the shell might be a little disconcerting, but this magnet means business. I opened the folio, let my iPad dangle from the end of it, and even shook it while it was hanging there and it didn’t come apart. Of course, I’m not recommending you do this every day, but it does add to peace of mind that the folio and shell aren’t going to come apart on a whim.

The next folio up is the Agility Portfolio ($69.95) which has a more professional leather finish and folds completely around the tablet. It looks snazzier and has a multi-position stand and is the one you’d likely want if you’re at a client site and want to make a bit of an impression.

Although this one looks nicer and offers some extra protection and extra stand positions, I preferred the basic Agility Folio. It did the job while still being lightweight and easily slipped into luggage pockets during a summer filled with a lot of travel. The Agility Portfolio likely won’t see as much use, although those who find themselves using their tablets frequently during business situations may prefer its more professional look.

The third folio is the Agility Deluxe Folio (Coming Soon) which I did not test, but is worth mentioning since it is a part of the system. It adds on the other two cases by providing storage for things like headphones, a keyboard, and whatever other random bits you need when you’re on the go.

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Image: OtterBox

The last piece of the system is mounting devices. There’s the Agility Wall Mount ($29.95) which you adhere permanently to a surface and allows you to snap your tablet in place, again with the built-in magnet. Anyplace you want to have easy access to your tablet is an ideal spot for this wall mount. Put it in the kitchen to have your tablet at the ready for recipes, or even a bathroom mirror or office wall.

For less permanent mounting, there’s the Agility Dock ($49.95) and Agility Power Dock ($99.95). I did not test the Power Dock, which powers both your tablet and two other devices at the same time. It looks to be very similar to the Agility Dock, just with the addition of charging. I did test the Agility Dock and this is my preferred method of the various mounting and docking systems.

The magnet locks in securely so you don’t have any fear of it falling off of the dock, and the dock can be adjusted to just the right angle. It’s also portable, so you don’t have to worry about it being stuck to the wall in the kitchen when you need it on your workbench in the garage. Just pick it up, and move it wherever you go.

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Image: OtterBox

The OtterBox Agility System offers a comprehensive system, not just a case, for protection of your tablet. You get a sturdy case, a choice of folios to protect your screen, and a variety of docking and mounting systems to make using your tablet a breeze and not break the bank in the process.

I received these products for review purposes.

Giveaway: Product Protection Is Now SIMPLR™ Than Ever

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf SIMPLR™.

Let’s face it, kids can be a destructive bunch. It’s just a fact of life that even the most careful children sometimes break things. I lost many a necklace to my baby’s chubby little fingers and now that they’re older, our tech is at constant risk. My preteen daughter once fell on the stairs and smashed a brand new iPod to bits. A protection plan like the ones offered by our sponsor SIMPLR™ would have made my life a lot easier.

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You can purchase a SIMPLR™ plan at select retailers from an ever-increasing list whenever you buy your product, or even choose to sign up as long as 30 days after you make your purchase. SIMPLR™ Protection Plans give you peace of mind so that you don’t have to worry about cracked screens on your gadgets, necklaces torn right off your neck, and all the random drops, spills, and mishaps that cause us all so many headaches. It might be the kids’ faults. It might be your fault. Either way, you’re covered.

The process of getting a plan really couldn’t be easier. First, you simply register for a SIMPLR™ Protection Plan and you’re off and running. If something goes wrong, relax. All you have to do is fill out a claim online and then ship your product out or schedule an in-home repair for the big stuff like appliances.

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There’s no worrying about fees or deductibles or repair costs. A SIMPLR™ Protection Plan means you just sit back and a repaired or replaced product or a reimbursement will be on its way. Give SIMPLR™ a try and stop worrying about your stuff. #SIMPLRPLAN

As a part of this promotion, now through Sept 4th 2014, you can enter to win one of (30) $150 Amazon gift cards. This contest is open to US residents only. Enter using the easy Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf SIMPLR™.

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Kick-Butt Disney Princess Cosplay, No Princes Needed, Thank You Very Much

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Image: The Will Box

The thing with the Disney princesses is that parents, and especially moms, seem to take one of two sides. They’re either fine with the pretty princesses and their flowing locks and their penchant for getting into trouble that requires saving by a prince, or they find them horribly objectionable for those very same reasons. I fall into the first group.

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Image: The Will Box

I’m totally fine with the Disney princesses and I loved it when my girls were young and wore costumes all day. One loved Cinderella and by the time she outgrew that phase, and the dress, it was nearly as tattered as Cinderella’s rags. I’ve often wondered if they’ll still like the princesses and have favorites once they’re adults.

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Image: The Will Box

This group of women clearly never outgrew their fondness of the Disney princesses and decided to cosplay the characters as warriors instead of damsels in distress. I absolutely love this cosplay and the fact that these princesses are perfectly capable of saving themselves, their princes, and probably everyone in the land!

Jasmine: Gladzy Kei
Megara: Megan Langan
Elsa: Jessica Nigri
Anna: Vivid Visions
Cinderella: Jessica Roh
Snow White: Andy Rae
Ariel: Caroline Dawe

Photography: The Will Box

You can see even more pictures from the photo shoot over at Fashionably Geek.

Robert Downey Jr. Gets Even More Awesome, Is Doused In a Bucket of Ice for Charity [Video]

It’s a fair bet that many of you have already had a bucket of ice dumped on your head as part of the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS and that you also have a Facebook feed full of  videos of very chilly, wet friends. If you aren’t familiar with this challenge, then here’s the scoop.

If you’re challenged, then you have 24 hours to accept and donate $10 to an ALS Charity and dump a bucket of ice water over your head. There’s the option to decline, but if you’re too chicken for your ice shower, then you’re supposed to donate $100 as penance.

Lots of people have done it, including a fair number of celebrities, one of whom is Robert Downey Jr. who posted his video that includes the names of the three people he’s challenging to follow his example.

The #IceBucketChallenge has been running since July 29th and in that time over 70 million people have donated over $4 million to ALS charities. Watch Robert Downey Jr. take the challenge, shirtless in a pool no less, and check out who gets the honor of dumping the ice on his head.

Giveaway: Pokémon TCG: XY-Flashfire Booster Box and Theme Decks!

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Image: The Pokémon Company

We here at GeekMom have a great giveaway for the aspiring Pokémon trainer in your life featuring the Pokémon TCG: XY-Flashfire expansion pack. This expansion pack includes the Mega Charizard-EX and Mega Kangaskhan-EX cards, as well as the Brilliant Thunder theme deck and Mystic Typhoon theme deck. You know the Pokémon fan in your life would love to have these for their next game.

The giveaway includes (1) Booster Box and (2) Themed Decks for a total of three items. Entering is super easy through the Rafflecopter link below. You can even enter multiple times to increase your chances of winning.

The contest will run through midnight ET on Wednesday, April 13th, at which time a winner will be randomly selected. As soon as that winner is notified, their name will be posted right in the widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note this giveaway is open only to those with shipping addresses within the continental United States.

Good luck!