Despite the countless times we have made the trek to Florida, we have never taken the time to head over to Universal Studios. Our days in the Sunshine State are reserved for one place and one place only—Walt Disney World. It isn’t so much that we hate on Universal, but that we love Disney so much we don’t want to spend time elsewhere. That finally changed when we made a trip several weeks back, unexpectedly, and for just a few days.
It wasn’t a full-on family vacation, but a spur-of-the-moment adventure. My husband had to travel to Orlando for work and we decided to make the best of it by meeting up with him halfway through the week for a little getaway. The thing is, we usually do Disney for 10 days at a time so there was no way we could do our normal vacation in just 5 days.
This had us rethinking our entire strategy and we decided to check out some places outside of the Mouse House. Now, don’t get me wrong, we spent a fair amount of time at our favorite haunts in Walt Disney World, but we ventured forth and tried a few new places, too. On the list was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.
It would be wonderful if we could each buy a shiny new car the second the old one started to look shabby. Even if you’re careful, scratches, dents, and general wear and tear can take their toll on your precious. One solution is to take it to a detailer and have them buff and polish until it looks like new, but that can be expensive. I recently discovered how easy it is to bring a car back to life and here’s why you should try this, too.
I write about cars all the time. It’s my day job to know about horsepower and torque and wheelbases and all those numbers the engineers love to quote. I know a lot about cars, but I have never once tried to do any cosmetic work on my car to reduce the effects of age. Awkwardly applied touch-up paint, yes, but buffing and polishing, never.
There are few things in life less glamorous than vacuuming. Cleaning the bathroom and ironing shirts are both up there, but vacuuming is definitely high on the list. That’s because it’s never-ending and tiresome. Hauling out a huge vacuum is a pain and when you have kids, there’s constantly stuff that needs to be cleaned. The Dyson V6 Slim is a cordless vacuum with all the power of the big ones in compact form.
Let me go on record saying I hate housework. I keep a very tidy home, which is why I hate housework so much. There’s always something in need of tidying. I no sooner vacuum the floor than the entire thing is a mess again. It’s like there’s an invisible version of Pig-Pen from Peanuts and he’s lurking in my house. It drives me crazy.
I have a very nice upright vacuum. It is a Kirby and it cost me a small fortune many years ago. It works, but it weighs a ton and I hate dragging it around the house. The Dyson V6 Slim takes care of that problem by being a lightweight 8.25 pounds. It’s easy to carry up and down stairs and even the kids can use this thing. That right there is enough to make it worth the price.
There’s a motor that spins at up to 110,000 rpm, which is three times faster than a conventional vacuum motor to generate plenty of suction. The main body is where the motor is housed, along with a clear bin that collects debris. There’s a long, hard tube that extends out from the motor and two different attachments.
You can opt for a bristle head attachment or a narrow nozzle that has a brush or hard end, depending on what you’re trying to clean. You can also lose the hard tube and connect the attachments directly to the motor. This makes it compact and perfect for cleaning up in the car.
The vacuum worked well and that bristle head picked up dirt better than my pricey Kirby. I vacuumed once with the Kirby and once with the Dyson V6 Slim and was amazed by how much dust it still sucked up.
Emptying the clear bin is easy. You just hold it over the trash and push a little red button. Since it’s clear, it’s easy to see when it’s full. No trying to figure out if a bag is full or if a hidden receptacle is about to overflow.
The Dyson V6 Slim cleaned my home beautifully. It is lightweight and easy to pull out for quick clean-ups, but there were a few drawbacks. It gets warm and you’ll feel the heat in the trigger after a few minutes. You also have to keep that trigger pressed the whole time. This helps conserve the battery, but it is tiresome. Lastly, it only runs for about 15 minutes per charge. It’s not for whole-house cleaning, but for quick clean-ups.
The vacuum comes with a charging unit that can be screwed directly into the wall. It holds the accessories and is an easy way to store your vacuum when not in use. I didn’t think I needed a vacuum like this, but now that I have one, I wonder how I managed without one for so long.
The Dyson V6 Slim is available for $259.99 through Walmart. It’s not a cheap vacuum, but it is worth the price for its convenience, versatility, and cleaning power.
GenCon, held each summer in Indianapolis, Indiana, touts itself as “The Best Four Days in Gaming.” The focus isn’t on video games, but on board games, card games, role-playing games, and miniature wargames. It’s the unplugged game convention and it is a massive affair. You cannot possibly see and do it all, but having just come back from my fifth GenCon, these are five things that should definitely be on your list.
1) Wander the Vendor Hall
It’s pretty much mobbed from open to close, but you must spend at least some time wandering the aisles. There are big names like Fantasy Flight Games alongside small independent companies that are the ones you should really check out. The big guys will be in your local games store, but the small guys might not, so this is your chance to demo great games you’ve never heard of and take them home on the spot.
2) Watch the Cosplay Parade
The cosplay parade at GenCon happens on Saturday afternoon and it’s not to be missed. Any cosplayer can participate in this march through the convention center to an area outside the vendor hall where they all gather. It’s a great chance to take pictures without clogging up the aisles of the vendor hall.
You have to take a break from gaming sometime and that means squeezing in a few hours of sleep and grabbing something to eat to keep you going through your next game demo. There are food options aplenty, but my can’t miss meal is at Scotty’s Brewhouse. They rename the foods to things like Goblin Fried Pickles and Ectoplasmic Dip, play geeky movies all day, and have the 501st on hand in the evenings for photos. Also, you get a limited edition die that’s a different color each day of the convention. One can never have too many dice. Good food. Good beer. Free dice. Enough said.
You know that tower you built on your kitchen table with a handful of playing cards? Imagine that, but with hundreds of cards from all different kinds of games stacked into towers that start on the floor and rise up above your head. This charity event is open to anyone with some very creative types building clocktowers and even dragons. Saturday night at 10:30, it all comes to an end. Everyone throws coins at Cardhalla to knock it down with frantic bidding taking place to see who gets to toss the first coin. Cardhalla comes crashing down and local charities benefit from all the donations.
5) Play All The Games!
This is The Best Four Days in Gaming, so play some games. There is open gaming everywhere, even in the hotel ballrooms, and if you don’t have friends at the con, then you’ll easily make some. People want to play with all the games they just bought and will be looking for players ready to join up. Don’t be afraid to jump in and try a new game with a whole new group of gamers.
Just remember, food, sleep, and a daily shower are important parts of the convention experience too. You can’t see it all, so don’t stress. Instead, enjoy what you do see and make the most of every minute. It’ll all be over before you know it!
We have just returned from a wonderful Alaskan cruise. This was my first cruise and my first trip to Alaska so it was a very big deal. Months of planning finally got us there and we had a wonderful time aboard the Disney Wonder. There were three stops along the Alaskan coast starting at the northernmost point of our trip in Skagway.
You expect to see certain things while you’re in Alaska. The list of expectations includes bears, bald eagles, and maybe some salmon swimming upstream. We saw all these things and they were amazing. What we did not expect was running into two wonderfully nerdy guys. They were hiding in plain sight at the Alaska Excursions Grizzly Falls Ziplining Adventure in Skagway.
We signed up for this excursion before the cruise because we love ziplining. We’ve gone several times closer to home and thought it would be fun to fly through the trees up north. You simply cannot beat the scenery up there and it was a beautiful view. We crossed suspension bridges, zipped over rivers, and had a grand time.
What made it one of the highlights of the trip were the two guides, John M. and Sam, who led this adventure. Once we were all suited up, they took us out onto the course and gave us the safety rundown. It wasn’t until I had zipped a few lines that I noticed John’s green helmet was painted to look like Boba Fett.
I asked him about this and he said he was a huge Star Wars fan and had even attended Star Wars Celebration several times. Sam joined in, tipping his head to show the Magic symbols covering his helmet. Nerds of the North!
The rest of our ziplining excursion was a fantastic mix of information about the landscape and talk about our favorite books. They were both voracious readers and we all ended up making lists of new books that we each wanted to read. We even had a chat about New York Comic-Con and San Diego Comic-Con and which was the better of the two. My vote goes to New York.
It was a wonderful experience. All the guides—even the non-nerds who were guiding some of our friends—were fantastic and made the experience something to remember. Should you find yourself in Skagway, Alaska doing some ziplining, look for the guys with the nerdy helmet decor. They’ll make the day one to remember.
Every year at the end of June, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) hosts an incredible event in Detroit that gives journalists a chance to drive all of the company’s vehicles. The brand includes Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler, Ram, and Fiat so it’s a pretty big list. It’s a rare chance to experience every car in the lineup during the course of one day.
It all goes down at Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan and this year, they had something special planned for their show-stopping Hellcats.
If you aren’t familiar with these cars, then here’s the lowdown. They are the muscle cars of the Dodge lineup and they bring a ridiculous, insane, stupid, completely unnecessary amount of power to the road. Each has 707 horsepower which is mind-blowing. The first time I had the chance to drive the Charger Hellcat I was admonished to pretend there was an egg under the gas pedal and to try not to break that egg. Why? Because smashing that egg will result in the car turning into a rocket ship on wheels. Not that this is a bad thing.
This time, things were a little different. They did not want us to drive slowly. They did not want us to take it easy. They wanted us to let loose with all 707 horsepower on a section of track reserved just for the Hellcats. It was separate from the rest of the event and required a short bus ride. Once you stepped off the bus, there they were—two Hellcats patiently waiting to blow your mind.
It was all staged like a real drag race complete with that red, yellow, and green light post to let you know when to hit the gas. There are very few times in your life that you can let loose with a car this powerful and this was my big chance. I did not waste the moment.
Now, not being a professional drag racer or professional driver, I have no experience with how one is supposed to drag race. I thought it was just about hitting the pedal hard and steering in a straight line. There were a few people in front of me awaiting their turns and we got to talking about the best way to start.
You’re supposed to left foot brake which is incredibly difficult if you haven’t developed the muscle memory in that foot. It’s sort of like that first time you got behind the wheel of the car with your Dad to learn how to drive and hit the brake so hard at a stop sign the seat belts locked. Come on, I’m not the only one that managed to hard brake and test their Dad’s patience.
It’s like that when you try to left foot brake. You’re also supposed to rev the engine a bit before the light turns green and then snap your foot off the brake and give it gas when the light changes. The guys told me that if I didn’t do it this way, then I’d post a horribly slow and embarrassing time.
I watched a couple of guys give it a go and then it was my turn. There was an experienced driver in the passenger seat on every run so there was someone to guide you at least a little, but the fancy footwork was all up to the driver. I told him about all the advice and he asked me what I wanted to do. “Mash the gas pedal,” I said. “Then you do that,” he said.
The light turned green and I mashed that pedal for all it was worth. The engine roared, the tires squealed, and the car took off down the track like that rocket ship I mentioned early. It was glorious. I didn’t even care if I managed a decent time because getting to let loose with all that power was so exhilarating.
Nevertheless, when I got out of the car after the first of what would be many runs, they all asked about my time. Turns out I was right in line with the rest of the group and even better than a few. Score one for letting loose and having fun, technique be damned!
Yesterday I had the chance to drive a Challenger Hellcat up the coast from Massachusetts to Maine. It was a bright green Sublime that you could see a mile away. It was all I could do not to mash that pedal once again when I got to an open stretch of highway. There aren’t a lot of times when you can take advantage of all the car’s power, but oh is a Hellcat worth it for those few moments when you can let it go.
Automotive technology has come a very long way over the last few years. Fuel efficiency is better and seeing hybrid and electric cars is no longer out of the ordinary, but there’s one problem. No one is buying into the whole zero emissions thing right now even with a growing number of options that are significantly better for the environment.
This was the topic of conversation at the NEMPA/MIT Technology Conference held this year at the MIT Technology Center. It’s an annual event organized by the New England Motor Press Association along with MIT to focus on technology issues in the automotive industry. The topic this year was the challenge of getting people to buy into zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs).
You might remember a few years back when gas prices were frighteningly high and everyone was clamoring to get into a more fuel efficient car. There weren’t even a heck of a lot of hybrid options out there at the time so people were on waiting lists for cars like the Prius. Then gas prices came down and our priorities changed.
The expert panels of speakers included representatives from General Motors, Toyota, MIT, and the International Council on Clean Transportation. They represented different groups all trying to convince consumers to go green and get into a zero emissions car.
If you look just at the cost of gas, that might not convince you to get into a ZEV, but if you look at the environmental impact, then it’s a no-brainer. Bob Perciasepe of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions gave a great example of the impact of ZEVs.
A hybrid produces roughly three tons of carbon dioxide annually which is a lot less than a beast like a Hummer at ten tons. Your traditional gas car probably falls in the middle somewhere, so you can feel good if you’re driving a hybrid. If you want to feel really good, then look at a ZEV. They come in at 60% more climate-friendly than even a hybrid. That’s a significant difference.
Pure electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are out there and they’re much more environmentally friendly than even the best hybrid on the road. The problem is, people are loathe to embrace this new technology and want to stick with what they know.
There are concerns about electric vehicles and their range, but the network of public charging stations continues to grow as does the speed at which they can fully charge a vehicle’s battery. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are lagging behind on refueling options making them an even tougher sell. The infrastructure doesn’t exist in a way that makes most people comfortable.
It’s like that old line from Field of Dreams. If they build it, they will come. The next time you’re in the market for a new car, take a second look at ZEVs and consider not just the dollars in your pocket, but the pollution in the air and how much you can help by going zero emissions.
There are dozens of automotive events held throughout the year, with journalists and bloggers invited to drive and learn about a brand’s latest offering. Heels and Wheels is unique because not only does it have cars from different companies all in one place, but it’s also only for women.
It isn’t so much about excluding men as it is tailoring a program specifically to women. All the attendees are women and so are most of the presenters. You might think cars are a guy thing, but this event proved that women are just as excited about cars.
There was quite a list of vehicles for us to drive and they covered every possible car buyer. There was a Jaguar F-Type convertible that runs $105K and, although it may clean out your bank account, it will be worth it for the thrill of driving it on a twisting road. It is the essence of a sports car with looks, power, and a delicious sound.
Those who still have kids in the house will appreciate the Kia Sorento and Nissan Murano. Both of these cars were favorites with the moms because they are manageable crossovers with good mileage, plenty of room, and great styling. The pair have been completely redone for this model year, so you’re getting the latest and greatest in safety and technology all for about $40K.
Even if you have kids, you might be someone who wants a car somewhere between the sporty Jaguar and a utilitarian crossover. The Buick Regal GS was a surprise, providing a very upscale driving experience. This is not your dad’s old Buick. It’s way better and you will be impressed by how much the brand has to offer. Roomy, luxurious, and very responsive, the Regal is a worthy family sedan.
Also in the mix were two muscle cars from Dodge. We had a chance to drive both the Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack and the Dodge Challenger 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shacker. These were my personal favorites because I simply love a muscle car. There’s an older generation Charger parked in my garage, so I’m completely biased. These two are much more powerful than what I drive and they made me want to buy a new car.
We’re talking 485 horsepower with all the brash, in-your-face looks and sound that a car can muster. The Challenger would be tricky with kids, but the Charger is your chance to own a family sedan with serious attitude. Both make you feel like you own the road and, this part I love, both had a woman engineer at the helm.
Alison Rahm is the chief engineer behind these two muscle cars and they are, like some people say of their pets, her babies. Sure, her babies happen to have enough horsepower to blow the doors off of other cars, but that suits her just fine.
Heels and Wheels 2015 was a chance to drive a great selection of cars and talk with a diverse group of women, each with their own preferences when they’re behind the wheel. No two of us were looking for the same thing in a car, which is why there are so many cars out there in the first place.
The lesson here is to get out there and drive when you’re looking to make a new purchase. Try out every car you like and see if it’s really what you want or if it’s not what you expected. Whether it’s a Jaguar, a Kia, or a Dodge, there’s a car out there for you that’s a perfect fit.
My travel expenses were covered by Heels and Wheels to attend this event.
Gas prices have left the stratospheric heights they reached a few years ago, which means people aren’t thinking about hybrids these days. The pain at the pump isn’t so bad and hybrids get a bum wrap for being blah, ho-hum cars that no one wants to drive. The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has been completely redone this year, giving you plenty of reasons to go green.
There are two models to choose from, so you can go traditional hybrid or opt for the new plug-in model. Both are surprisingly not hybrid-ish behind the wheel. You’re not driving a sports car, but you also won’t feel like you’re driving a glorified scooter. There’s even a chance for you to play with your drive experience by selecting one of three drive modes.
Eco is the most economical choice and it’s also the least exciting. I wouldn’t drive in Eco unless I found myself in the middle of nowhere, desperately trying to eke out the best fuel economy possible.
There’s a huge difference when you switch to Normal and the Sonata Hybrid suddenly becomes a car you want to drive. Press on the gas and the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine proves that it is alive after all, with 193 net horsepower in the hybrid and 202 net horsepower in the plug-in. It’s all paired to a very smooth 6-speed automatic transmission.
Turn things up one more level to Sport and the steering and throttle response increase slightly. Again, not a sports car, but you’ll completely forget you’re in a hybrid, especially if you can find a nice winding road with tight corners. Opt for the plug-in and you unfortunately lose Sport mode, but stick with Normal and you’ll still be happy.
There’s a nifty energy indicator in the instrument cluster that lets you see how your driving style and choice of modes are affecting your fuel economy. It gamifies the driving experience by breaking things out to show how often you’re driving efficiently and how often you’re driving like Mario Andretti. It’s likely to make you ease up on the gas, if the numbers aren’t going in the right direction.
The plug-in will run in three different modes and you can choose which one. There’s electric, hybrid, and battery charge. It can run purely on electric for 24 miles, more than any other vehicle in its class. That does mean it has a larger charge time of about 3 hours on a 110 volt and nine hours on 240 volt. It also has a class-leading range of 605 miles.
On the outside, there are some changes from the gas version of the Hyundai Sonata. There’s a larger grille, modified front and rear bumpers, and new wheel designs. It’s like a stealth hybrid that doesn’t want to brag about being green.
Hyundai has also pushed a lot of the battery components beneath the floor mat in the trunk to make for a nice flat load surface. It has 13.3 cubic feet of cargo space, so there’s plenty of room for groceries or a family’s luggage. They did eliminate a spare tire to free up some of that space, but there is a tire-mending kit instead.
While we’re talking about all that space provided by the lack of spare and relocated battery, let’s talk about the warranty. The car has a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year/100,000-powertrain warranty, but the best part is the lifetime hybrid battery warranty. They’re the only ones with a lifetime warranty on their hybrid battery, giving them a huge advantage over the other guys.
The interior is spacious and, as is typical of today’s Hyundai, absolutely beautiful. They aren’t the cars they were a few years ago and this is a very good thing. The Sonata Hybrid has plenty of room for a family of four and if you need to put someone in the middle in the back, they won’t hate you for giving them that seat.
There are two big reasons people buy hybrids. The first is environmental responsibility and the second is fuel economy. Hyundai has the first one covered not just by producing a hybrid, but by being environmentally responsible at a corporate level.
Their recently remodeled headquarters uses recycled concrete from the old building to reduce waste and varying types of glass on the windows to make climate control more efficient. They even boxed up 73 pine trees and kept them safe during construction before replanting them at the new finished building.
They’ve got the second one covered with the numbers you’d expect from a hybrid. The estimated highway fuel economy on the Sonata Hybrid is 44 mpg, while the plug-in electric gets 93 mpge. You will happily be driving past the pump far more often than you have to stop.
The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid offer two great choices for those looking to go green with their next car purchase. A beautiful and comfortable interior, sporty styling, great fuel economy, and that lifetime hybrid battery warranty make this car a winner.
Hyundai covered my expenses to attend this drive event.
Roughly once every two weeks I get my nails done. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures and it forces me to sit down and relax and do nothing. It’s impossible to write or even use your phone when you’re getting a manicure and sometimes I need forced relaxation. None of my manicures have been as cool as this one featuring BB-8.
He’s the runaway star of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and he only had a few precious seconds on screen in the trailer. I imagine that R2-D2 is somewhere off in a corner pouting because the little orange droid with the rolling ball for a body has stolen his thunder.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love R2-D2, but BB-8 is too cute to ignore. I want to know how he works and I want to know what he’s up to in the movie. That’s why this is the best Star Wars-themed manicure ever.
It’s the work of Kayleigh O’Connor who has created all sorts of amazing nail art from Star Wars to Breaking Bad. This time, each of her nails is tipped with bright orange, but her thumb has been transformed into a perfect 3D version of BB-8.
Idris Elba may be most well known as an actor in movies like Thor and Pacific Rim, but he’s also a car enthusiast who has set a new speed record. He got behind the wheel of a Bentley Continental GT Speed and broke an 88-year-old flying mile speed record on a beach in Wales.
Unlike other timed races, a flying mile lets a driver get up to speed before hitting a timed zone. To officially set the record, the race is run twice within one hour and in opposite directions. Elba set his record at the Pendine Sands in southern Wales.
Elba drove the 626 horsepower Bentley at an average of 180.4 MPH with a top speed of 186.4 MPH to break the record set back in 1927. That one was set by Sir Malcolm Campbell in a car called the Napier-Campbell Blue Bird. He later went on to be the first person who drove a car over 300 MPH at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1935.
Elba’s stunt was all part of a new Discovery Channel series. He will be starring in Idris Elba: No Limits which is set to air this coming July.
The earthquake in Nepal has left thousands dead and ravaged the country. The recovery process is going to be a long one with many months of rebuilding and recovery ahead for the area. It’s heartbreaking to see images of the devastation and it can leave you feeling a little powerless to do anything to help.
Video game company Bungie is doing their part with a special shirt design that they recently put up for sale in their on-line store. The Destiny-themed shirt will help raise funds for organizations that are assisting with relief efforts in the country.
“Nepal needs help now, Guardians. Answer the call and become a real legend.”
The shirts are available in men’s, women’s, and youth sizes with 100% of the profits going to help recognized charities directly aiding the people of Nepal. You also get an in-game shader and emblem code. Shirts are available for $24.99 in their online store now through May 24th and will begin shipping out to customers in June.
It might not seem like there’s much you can do for Nepal, but every small bit helps.
Lots of people think that cars are a guy thing. Even more think that trucks are a guy thing, but this ad from Ram Trucks will change that perception.
The ad celebrates women who have used courage to do what they, and everyone else, thought was impossible, and it features women who have broken down barriers to achieve success in their fields. You’ll be inspired to do whatever it is your heart desires by the time the ad finishes.
The 60-second spot aired during the Kentucky Derby and includes women like two-time Kentucky Oaks-winning jockey Rosie Napravnik and country singer Miranda Lambert who is the Academy of Country Music Awards most-awarded female artist. That kind of success only comes from pushing harder than you think is possible and never giving up.
There’s also outdoorsman Eva Shockey who is the first woman in 30 years to be on the cover of Field and Stream, professional motocross racer Tiana Falls, and a host of other women who have gone on to achieve great success.
Sure, it’s an ad designed to convince you to buy from Ram Trucks instead of one of its competitors, but the angle is still worth nothing. Truck commercials traditionally aim squarely at men, leaving women somewhere out of the picture.
This time, women are the focus of the ad and I love seeing the toughness, perseverance, and determination of women being celebrated.
The summer months are almost here and that means family road trips and adventures are getting close. There will be plenty of kids and parents looking to keep their phones and tablets charged, and the PureGear Powerbank is up to the task.
This is a 10,000 mAh battery that can charge either two handsets at the same time or a single tablet. It can charge one handset three times over so it will easily take you through a day’s adventures, even when you’re using your phone’s camera to take tons of pictures.
It arrives pre-charged so it’s ready to go and even includes a micro USB cable. There are two USB charging ports (1A and 2A) so it’s compatible with a wide range of devices and it has a blue LED readout to help you see when the battery is running low. It even starts blinking when it’s almost empty so you’re not caught by surprise.
The challenge with battery packs is making them easy to carry and the PureGear Powerbank manages this by being both lightweight and small. It measures 3″ x 6″ x 1″ so it’s something you can fit in a purse or your pocket.
It’s also just the right size so that you can easily hold and use your phone with the Powerbank tucked behind it, still charging your device. You won’t have to be constantly unplugging it every time you want to snap a picture.
The PureGear Powerbank is now available for $59.99 and is a great accessory for summer travel, business travelers, and even kids getting ready for the big trek to college this fall.
I once attempted learning how to knit, but it did not go well. The yarn has long since been given away, but this makes me wish I’d kept at it awhile longer. It’s a full Captain America costume that has been knitted from top to bottom.
She’s knitted the boots, belt, gloves, and even a bag that doubles as a shield. Although a shield is Cap’s primary weapon, cosplayer Fangirl Physics also comes armed with two matching blue knitting needles. This is just amazing!
If you’re thinking of attempting this cosplay on your own, then you’ll want to check out her making-of page, which has the details of how she made it all. There’s also a link to the pattern and she has been answering questions, too.
So, if I started trying to learn to knit again, then there may be a chance I could figure out how to do this in time for next winter. Or maybe I should just stick to buying premade costumes and leave the knitting to the pros.
Star Wars Celebration is set to happen next month and it will feature all sorts of amazing Star Wars goodness, including this mural. It’s the work of artist Robert Burden, who spent 2,000 hours over 18 months to see it to completion.
The work measures 15-by-8 feet and is an oil painting tribute to all those classic Kenner toys we played with when we were kids. There are over 150 characters and vehicles represented in their original forms, so you’ll immediately recognize them from playing on your bedroom floor.
Although his focus was vintage toys, he wasn’t limited by them and included some more modern Hasbro toys like Qui-Gon Jinn, Queen Amidala, and Darth Maul. There are also images that aren’t Star Wars at all, but hat-tips to things that influenced the franchise. You’ll find a toy Nazi solider in there and Yul Brynner from The Magnificent Seven.
This incredible work will be on display for the first time at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim from April 16-19. It will also be for sale if you want to take it home, but will cost you a whopping $200,000. If you can’t afford that without wiping out the college fund, then head over to Burden’s website, where you can buy a limited edition 24-by-36-inch print for $250.
There are only 200 being made and each is signed, numbered, and stamped, making it a very special Star Wars collectible.
It’s a stereotype, I know, but women do tend to love shoes. I have a closet full of shoes and technically do not need another pair, but that won’t stop me from buying more anyway. Sometimes, shoes are beautiful, like these with their carved, wooden dragons for heels.
You can find them in the Fashion4Freedom Etsy shop and they’re not only beautiful, but have an incredible backstory. It’s called the Saigon Socialite shoe collection and it’s a tribute to the ancient Vietnamese craft of Pagoda wood art.
Fashion4Freedom takes liberty in translating the timeless beauty of ancient Vietnamese wood art through the lens of modern luxury. After 18 days incubated in the hands of village artisans, our reincarnated soles are born.
The collection is a fusion of ancient symbols found in traditional art combined with a modern sensibility for comfort.
There are a variety of designs that include dragons and horses, and each is handmade so they’re going to be unique to the wood and the artist who made the carving. No two can be exactly alike. They even request a photo of the outline of your foot so they can customize the fit to your exact foot shape and size.
The wooden heels come in 3″ or 6″ heights and have rubber soles so you won’t be as likely to slip down the sidewalk. The uppers are semi-gloss ultra smooth leather lined in pig skin. Check out Fashion4Freedom and see if you’re not tempted to add one more pair of shoes to your collection.
Crossovers are smaller SUVs that make it easy to carry kids and cargo, are much more affordable than full-size SUVs, and have fuel economy that won’t have you crying when gas prices rise. The Ford Edge has been leading the pack in sales, so Ford was very careful to improve things with their 2015 redesign.
It’s definitely a mom car in all the best ways. It manages to be functional and stylish so that you’ll like carting your kids to and fro and won’t mind having to make a mad dash to the grocery store because you suddenly need supplies to bake cupcakes for a party at school tomorrow.
Let’s start with the new technology in the #FordEdge, in particular the parking package. The Titanium trim level comes with an option package that will help identify a spot that is large enough for your car, and then steer you into that space. You manage the gas and brakes while the car manages steering.
As the wheel spins, a disconcerting thing if you’ve never experienced this before, messages on the infotainment screen will tell you when you need to shift from Drive to Reverse. It will do this both for parallel and perpendicular parking and if at any time you want to take control, then just put your hands on the wheel and the system disengages.
The only drawback is that the system is slow. If you’re in heavy traffic and there are cars waiting for you to park so that they can pass, then you’re going to get a few honks of the horn.
There’s also lane keep assist which will help keep you from drifting out of your lane. If the car drifts past the lines, it will let you know and it will nudge you back in the right direction. There are limits, however, as it will eventually tell you to put your hands back on the wheel. This isn’t full-on self-driving technology, but it’s getting close.
One of my favorite bits of technology wasn’t as fancy, but it was very useful. There’s a 180-degree front camera that lets you see when you’re trying to pull out. My drive was in Arizona so there wasn’t a snowbank in sight, but this feature would be so helpful when the winter snows make pulling onto the road an impossible task. It even has a washer so you can clear off mud and salt.
The inside benefits from an upgrade with materials that look and feel better than the previous generation of the Edge. I also liked that surfaces aren’t fussy, so when your kids inevitably get something icky and sticky on the seats, the seats will be easier to clean.
Soft-touch surfaces abound and there is storage everywhere you look. There are spots on the doors for holding water bottles that keep them in place so they don’t fall out when you open or close the door. There is a cubby on the top of the dash and another to the left of the steering wheel. If there was a spot that could hold something, Ford made it usable.
The rear seats fold down easily and even kids could push them back up into place. The best part about these seats is that when they fold up they do not catch the seat belt.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve managed to catch the seat belt as I’ve pushed the seats back and then had to open them up, adjust the belt, and push the seats back again. There’s a gap that lets the seat belt easily move so this just won’t happen in the Edge. It’s a small thing, but the kind of thing you’ll really appreciate when it’s freezing cold or pouring rain and you just want to get into the car.
Ford has also made the Edge a very smooth and comfortable ride no matter where you sit. The rear seats are large enough that the kids won’t be touching each other, God forbid, and front passengers won’t be bumping elbows either. The Edge evens out rougher roads nicely and the ride is quiet so you will be able to hear your kids and talk to them without that awkward half-yelling thing you do in noisy cars.
There are three engine choices starting with the all-new 2.0-liter EcoBoost twin scroll turbo 4-cylinder with 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque. This is the smallest of the engines and if you’re looking for oomph, then this is not the engine for you.
The 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 gets 315 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque and is a lot more fun to drive. There’s more power here and you feel it when you accelerate, but you’ll also pay an extra $10K for the option, so drive them both to see what you think before you make the call.
The last choice is a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 with 280 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque that has flex-fuel capability. They all get a 6-speed automatic transmission and can tow up to 3500 pounds for when the weekends come and it’s time for a getaway. Trucks are great, but they’re far from your only option for hauling stuff behind a vehicle.
The Ford Edge has received myriad updates for 2015 that not only keep it from falling behind in this competitive segment, but help keep it leading the way. Pricing starts at $28K making it easy to get into this comfortable, attractive, and functional crossover.
Ford covered my expenses to attend this drive event.
Those first 16 years go by in the blink of an eye and suddenly you’re handing over your car keys to your teenager. You do everything you can to keep make sure they’ll be safe, make sure they know what to do, but how do you know if they’re really behaving behind the wheel? New Teen Driver technology from Chevrolet can help.
This snazzy new tech will make its debut in the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu and will help parents monitor their teen’s driving habits so that they can make sure they’re being safe. It starts with muting the car’s audio if the front seat belts aren’t buckled as a little reminder to buckle up.
The volume can also be preset, based on the key fob, so that music can’t be blasting at a ridiculous volume that would cause distraction for your new driver. Additionally, if the vehicle is equipped with active safety features like forward collision alert, stability control, traction control, and rear cross traffic alert, then these features will be automatically turned on and won’t be able to be turned off.
The Teen Driver system can also keep track of how your teen is driving by providing information on how far and how fast your kid is going on the road. Forward collision alerts, forward collision braking events, and antilock brake events can also be monitored to provide parents the opportunity to discuss driving patterns with their teens.
The system is not subscription based and is available as an option on lower trims while being a standard feature on the Premier trim of the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. Now you’ve got one more tool for keeping your new teen driver safe on the roads.
Fans of Big Hero 6 will absolutely love this adorable crocheted Baymax hat. I haven’t crocheted a thing since I was little, but this could make me get back into the hobby. It’s the work of Sarah of RepeatCrafterMe who has posted the full directions on her site along with step-by-step photos to help you with the project.
She has it all broken down so that there’s a section for the hat, a section for the head, and a section for the arms to make it easier to follow. Baymax is also easier to work with than some other characters because he’s all white except for his little black button eyes so there aren’t lots of colors to manage.
Technically this is for kids, but who’s to say that you couldn’t modify things just a bit and make this for yourself? No one. So go ahead and crochet this adorable hat for yourself and absolutely no one is going to try to stop you. They will, however, be jealous so make sure you keep a close eye on him so he doesn’t go home with the wrong grown-up.
You can find the instructions at RepeatCrafterMe along with all sorts of nerdy crocheted items. Best of all, the patterns are free!
The latest cool build to go up for voting on Lego Ideas is one that’s sure to appeal to anyone who grew up in the ’80s and spent hours pumping quarters into a machine at the local arcade. It’s a set of three arcade games especially for Sega fans.
The first game is Space Harrier which was released in 1985 and designed by Yu Suzuki. It used what they called Super Scaler technology to give things a 3D effect. In the deluxe version of the game, the whole cabinet moved as the player moved the joystick so this Lego version moves left, right, up, down, and tilts.
There’s also Out Run which came out in 1986 and was also designed by Yu Suzuki. This time the cabinet moved according to how you turned the wheel in the racing game so this model moves left and right.
The last game is Thunder Blade which came out in 1987 and had a seat that rotated to match your motions as you piloted a helicopter. This model follows suit with a seat that rotates in a circle.
The set even includes three minifigs. Set designer SpacySmoke made a Male Sega Fan, Female Sega Fan, and a miniature Yu Suzuki to immortalize the game designer in Lego form.
The set needs 10,000 votes to be considered for production by Lego. You can lend your support and help make this set something that we all can play with one day.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.