Talking About Bullies With Charlie Brown

With The Peanuts Movie right around the corner, Warner Bros. has started releasing some of the gang’s previous adventures on DVD. Last month, I talked up The Emmy Honored Collection, which sparked a lot of laughs in my house. This month, we have a Peanuts DVD that actually sparked an interesting conversation. Continue reading Talking About Bullies With Charlie Brown

A Crash Course in Charlie Brown In 1 DVD

It’s an awesome family movie night, Charlie Brown! Photo: Rachel Cericola.

Peanuts mania is coming.

Of course, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Pigpen, and the rest of the pals have been popular for well over half a century. However, the kids are about to reach out to a whole new generation, with the November release of The Peanuts Movie.

Whether you have a fan at home or want one, you can prep for the upcoming big-screen adventures with the new Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection DVD, which is coming out Tuesday, September 15.

Out of the five Halloweens my son has gone trick-or-treating, he’s dressed as Peanuts characters for two of them. We have Peanuts books, posters, figurines, stuffed animals, T-shirts, puzzles, DVDs, and more. Needless to say, he was very excited about the arrival of this double-disc DVD. However, he was also really surprised at how much he has missed.

Of course, we watch all of the Peanuts specials on broadcast TV—multiple times a year, as well as in the off-season. (Thank you, DVR!) If you’ve been watching, you’ll notice that for every viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas or It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, there’s a little bonus episode, which supersizes the experience to a full hour. Some of those extras are available on DVD releases, and at least one is featured here. However, this set mostly compiles some of the lesser-known episodes.

Photo: Warner Bros.

That’s not to say these aren’t popular episodes. In fact, every single one of the 11 specials included in this set was also an Emmy nominee, with a pair of winners in there as well. It’s not a comprehensive collection, since there are many other Emmy nominees in the Peanuts arsenal. After all, they probably need something for the next collection. Plus, we’re never going to get A Charlie Brown Christmas without paying a separate fee for it.

So, yes, some of them you may have seen before. My son informed me that She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown is currently paired up with the broadcast run of Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! He also said that You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown is a bonus feature on the DVD for You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown. (The kid really knows his Charlie Brown.)

However, a few of them he hasn’t seen, and offered some surprises. For instance, he was quick to point out that in a few of these specials, you actually see adult characters. Adults in a Peanuts cartoon? Say it ain’t so! Also, there are two specific specials that evolved into some great conversations—and it wasn’t just a bunch of mwah, mwah, mwah.

What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? was made for the 39th anniversary of D-Day, and discusses the historical event in great detail. It was one that my son knew little-to-nothing about, so this was a great springboard into the topic. Why, Charlie Brown, Why? has a main character dealing with cancer. This special was very serious and sometimes sad, but also took a slight edge off a topic that has touched our family (and just about every family we know).

On a less serious note, I had the hardest time explaining It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown. How does one explain poor fashion choices, dance steps, and hairdos?

Also worth noting is that Warner Bros. has “remastered” each of the specials, so you may notice a slight bump in video quality. I thought it offered a little boost over some of our VHS copies, but nothing outstanding. For that kind of bump, I’m guessing Warner Bros. would have to put these specials on Blu-ray. Something that is more noticeable is that each of these episodes doesn’t include the trademark Vince Guaraldi soundtrack. It’s absolutely noticeable here, but this is how they originally ran so many years ago.

I’ve been a fan of Charlie Brown long before my son came along. That rubbed off on him pretty quickly, though. He was into the cartoons and books before he could even say the names “Charlie Brown” and “Snoopy.” (For the longest time, he called them “Man” and “Fweet,” two names that are sorely missed.) From one Peanuts-loving family to another (or one that’s hoping to be), the Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is a must-have.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

6 Questions With Darling Army’s Cosplay Clothing Wiz

The Darling Tennant Suiting Cosplay Jumper Pinfore (left) and the Galaxy Police Box Cosplay Kimono Dress (right) are two of Darling Army’s top sellers. All photos courtesy of Darling Army/Amanda Marin.

A few weeks back, we featured “11 Awesomely Geeky Aprons” on GeekMom. People love aprons because they provide a nice excuse to squeeze a little cosplay in everyday—or at all, if you like to keep your cosplay behind closed doors.

However, as the owner of the online shop Darling Army, cosplay artist Amanda Marin makes designs that you’d be proud to wear almost anywhere. Heck, I’d wear this Pokeball skirt or even this Baymax pinafore to the grocery store, if I could.

Amanda doesn’t just create aprons, but she also does dresses, skirts, bibs, tights, and more. She aims to add one new design to her site every week, but she’s also pretty open to suggestions. She just isn’t always open to new orders. In fact, she typically only takes on 20 projects at a time, which can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to create. When she does take on new orders, she usually fills up within 4 to 5 minutes. (Mark your calendar; the next order window will be open on Sunday, September 13, 2015, at 7:00 a.m. PDT.)

Although she constantly has orders to fill, I got the chance to ask Amanda about her online shop, her inspirations, and some of her best-sellers.

GeekMom: Please describe your shop…

Amanda Marin: I focus on making cosplay alternatives for cute enthusiasts. In general, I take male characters or objects from shows and adapt their designs to be more flattering for a woman’s body. Instead of making full cosplay or dresses, I focus on adapting these designs into kimono dresses and pinafores which can easily be adjusted for multiple sizes and removed, which makes them ideal for long convention days. Have you ever tried to even take a simple eating break during a con in full cosplay? It’s a nightmare!

Photo: Amanda Marin.

GM: How long have you been doing this?

AM: I’ve been sewing my own cosplay for almost 15 years (since I was 12), but I’ve only been offering them to other people for the past four years. When I was working towards my teaching credential, I couldn’t hold a normal job because I was student teaching full-time during the day and going to classes at night. Since I didn’t have money for Christmas presents that year, I made my friends fandom pinafores with leftover fabric and they loved them! Eventually, I decided I’d have to start selling my designs online since it was my only job option. The rest is history!

GM: Would you say that most people order for cosplay or everyday wear? Or do you even know?

AM: It depends. Most people order the pinafores and kimono dresses for conventions and specific costume events. The skirts and capelets are more for everyday wear. My printed dresses and tights are new, but I think a lot of people are ordering those for everyday and casual convention days.

GM: Where do you get your ideas?

AM: From whatever I am playing, watching, or reading at the time. I have a sketch folder with over 400 designs that haven’t come to the store yet. Every time I join a new fandom or see a new character design, I usually add a couple sketches to that folder.

GM: What is your top seller?

AM: That’s actually pretty hard to say! For a while, my David Tennant Suiting Pinafores were on top, but the addition of kimono dresses has brought a whole new group to the store. For now, I’d say the Galaxy Tardis Kimono Dress has been the most popular design for the past two months. It changes based on the season. Convention season usually sees more anime and gaming-inspired designs, while Halloween leans towards Doctor Who.

GM: Is this your full-time job?

AM: Yes! So much for that teaching degree. I work 10 to 15 hours a day on orders, depending on the season. Halloween usually sees me working from morning ’til night.

For a peek at more of Amanda’s designs, check out the Darling Army website and the Darling Army Facebook page.

Actor Jon Heder Gets Funny & Sort of Strange in Our Q&A

PICKLE AND PEANUT - "Greg" - Pickle lends his new pimple friend Greg to frenemy Lazer in hopes of landing an invitation to his cool party. When they realize Lazer has no intention of returning Greg, Pickle and Peanut must save him. The series premiere of "Pickle and Peanut" will air Monday, September 7 (9:00 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney XD.(Disney XD) PEANUT, PICKLE
Pickle and Peanut premieres September 7 on Disney XD. Photo: Disney XD.

Names like “Pickle” and “Peanut” are ones that you’d give your cats. However, if you’re execs at Disney XD, you’d give names like that an entire TV show.

That said, the upcoming animated series Pickle and Peanut isn’t about two fluffy creatures. It’s about a pickle and a peanut—and as you’d imagine, it’s pretty weird. It’s not just weird because the main characters are living, breathing, and sometimes screaming pieces of food. It’s because it revolves around two pieces of food entering their last year of high school, and experiencing all sorts of wacky adventures. (You can sample some of those in the video featurette below.)

Adding to the weirdness is actor Jon Heder, who voices Pickle, the emotional half of this comedy team. (22 Jump Street‘s Johnny Pemberton is Peanut.) You probably know him best as Napoleon Dynamite, the 2004 indie film phenomenon, with all sorts of sweet jumps and even sweeter dance moves. I know him as one of the weirdest, most entertaining people I’ve ever had the opportunity to interview.

Here’s what happened when I asked Jon a few questions about his role in Disney XD’s Pickle and Peanut.

PICKLE & PEANUT - (Disney XD/Todd Wawrychuk) JON HEDER
Jon Heder. Photo: Disney XD/Todd Wawrychuk.

GeekMom: Exactly what kind of personality does Pickle have? (Do pickles have a personality?)

Jon Heder: No, pickles do not have a personality. They are inanimate objects and are only for human consumption. But they taste like silliness and mild annoyance mixed together.

GM: What do your kids think about their dad voicing a pickle?

JH: One thinks it’s funny and the other rolls her eyes. Yeah, she started rolling those eyes a year ago, and life has been lovely ever since.

GM: This show has some serious weirdness to it. What age group do you think it’s designed for—and why? 

JH: Well, it’s on Disney XD, which caters to the 6-11 year-old boy audience, but I think Disney wants this show to step outside the normal demographic and appeal to young girls too and especially dads who like a little irreverence in their cartoons, such as Ren and Stimpy.

GM: What are some of your favorite cartoon characters—and did you draw on any of them for inspiration? If so, how?

JH: Pickle is the Stimpy in this show. He is the Flapjack. Fat Albert might also be drawing some obvious comparisons, but they both have similar emotional personalities. I love Scruffy from Futurama. Uncle Iroh from Avatar: Last Airbender is also one of my favorites. They both have deep emotional cores that carry the morals in each of their shows.

GM: Do you have a favorite type of pickle (half sour, etc.)?

JH: Are there many different kinds of pickles? I know there’s dill and sweet. That’s about all I know of. I mean, dill is delicious, especially chilled in a mountain stream overnight and enjoyed on a hike the next day.

GM: I have to ask: Did you keep anything from the Napoleon Dynamite set?

JH: I kept a wolf and unicorn poster, some boondoggles, a stinky foot fungus given to me by the moonboots, and the “Vote for Pedro” shirt.

Pickle and Peanut debuts Monday, September 7, on Disney XD.

Make Weird, Wonderful Ice Cream Without the Work

Dear Moon Pie Ice Cream: Get in my belly! Photo: Rachel Cericola.

It’s hot, so I want ice cream. Okay—it doesn’t have to be hot for me to want ice cream. That said, I do feel a lot better about having ice cream when it’s homemade ice cream.

Homemade ice cream has a taste that’s just so fresh and delicious. And making it yourself allows you to pack cookies, candies, fruit, and whatever else you want into one bowl. Heck, you can put carrots and cardamom into it, if you want. In fact, that sort of experimentation is heavily encouraged in No Churn Ice Cream.

This book inspires readers to make some pretty weird, often wonderful flavors. Even better, you don’t need rock salt or some type of contraption that needs the deep freeze for 24 hours. Instead, No Churn Ice Cream has an easier way—as well as a whole lot of recipes.

Photo by Teri Lynn Fisher.

Leslie Bilderback, the same author who taught us how to make mug desserts and spiralized main courses, provides several interesting options, as well as plenty of old standbys. The hook on this book is that ice cream is as easy as mixing fresh ingredients in a bowl and popping that medley into the freezer. There are plenty of complex offerings too, with interesting flavor combinations such as Orange Flower Water-Almond Ice Cream, Pineapple-Pepper Ice Cream, Beet-Pistachio Sorbet, and much more.

Even though the idea is that this process is simple, the book shows you plenty of ways to pimp your ice cream concoctions, with purees, swirls, cookies, candies, and more. The idea of crushing up circus animal cookies and layering them into ice cream had me frothing at the mouth.

To start, however, I wanted to keep things simple, so I opted for old-fashioned mint chip. Although all of these recipes can be made with a whisk and the power of your biceps, I opted to use my KitchenAid mixer, which made things easy-peasy. The key is to whip the cream and fold in remaining ingredients. Once everything is blended, just pop the mixture into the fridge for six hours. Any freezable container can become your ice cream container. I opted for a loaf pan, but you can upcycle old containers if you’re a budding Breyers.

Of course, it’s really hard to wait the full six hours, so don’t be ashamed to sample after about four. My first attempt was minty delicious, even though I sort of messed up by not chopping the chocolate. I guess I was too excited and didn’t read the directions thoroughly. Even after the mixture was frozen, it was easy to remix into a different bowl. Either way, it didn’t keep us from scarfing it down.

Next, I wanted to try something with a bit more flair—and this book has plenty of those options. I played it semi-safe though, by making Moon Pie Ice Cream. I am wondering if I will ever make (or eat) another flavor again. Oh my. This was a little slice of heaven covered in a big slice of marshmallow fluff. It was simply awesome and made me more excited about trying the rest of the recipes in the book.

However, I opted to wrap up my review process by checking out another old-fashioned flavor: vanilla. In my opinion, if you’ve got a good vanilla recipe, the world is your oyster—at least the ice cream world. With this basic flavor, you can stir in all sorts of goodies, including the aforementioned animal cookies (which I loved).

Next on the list: Blueberry-Blue Cheese Ice Cream. Oh my! Photo by Teri Lynn Fisher.

Just know that despite being simple, some of these recipes do not have simple ingredients. For instance, the vanilla recipe calls for actual vanilla bean. In my area, the cheapest I could find vanilla beans in a pinch were two for $10. Upon seeing this price, my eyes popped like something out of an old cartoon. When I showed these magic beans to my husband and told him the price, he said I could have picked up two gallons of already-made ice cream for the same money. However, the cost was for the greater good. You could probably substitute extract, but that wouldn’t be by the book now, would it? Just don’t be afraid to experiment, or at least do a little bargain shopping. (I know that affordable vanilla beans can be found online, but I wasn’t willing to wait!) The point of the book is that ice cream can be a simple but also creative process. However, you probably don’t want to blow your budget on well… beans.

Still, it was fantastic. It was even more fantastic when I stirred those little frosting-covered animal cookies in. Or chocolate chips. Or chocolate-covered pretzels. Yum.

I definitely want to get more adventurous with my ice cream making, and this is the book to help make that happen. No Churn Ice Cream is filled with recipes that are fun—and ones that are funky (in a good way). The next flavors on my must-try list include Blueberry-Blue Cheese Ice Cream, Apple-Spice Ice Cream, Blood Orange Sherbet, and Cardamom. I will check those out after one more round of Moon Pie, of course. If you’re in the mood for ice cream (hello, everyone!), I’d recommend that you pick up this book, pull out a freezable bowl, and get to work!

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Archie Comics… On Broadway?

Photo via

If you thought that Archie’s new look was a wild, new approach to the classic comic book character, get ready to see him burst into song. Archie, Jughead, Veronica, and Betty will soon be like you’ve never seen them before, live and on Broadway!

Adam McKay, the writer/director behind Anchorman and The Other Guys, is working on the project with Archie Comics and Funny Or Die. Yes, I thought this had to be a Funny Or Die sketch at first. However, it turns out that the Riverdale gang is indeed packing up and heading for The Great White Way.

“Archie represents a bygone era of America. And like all bygone eras, there are elements we miss and elements that should be bygone,” said McKay. “This will be a musical that deals with both those realities in a bright, colorful, and slightly demented way.”

McKay is writing the book for the new show. The rest of the creative team and a start date will be announced at a later date.

Disney Is Streaming ‘Lava’ for Free

"LAVA" Pictured: Uku. Inspired by the isolated beauty of tropical islands and the explosive allure of ocean volcanoes, “LAVA” is a musical love story that takes place over millions of years. From Pixar Animation Studios, director James Ford Murphy and producer Andrea Warren, “LAVA” opens in theaters on June 19, 2015, in front of “Inside Out.” ©2014 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
“Lava” is a musical short that plays prior to Inside Out in theaters. Photo: Disney Pixar.

If you want to watch the beautiful Disney Pixar short “Lava,” you don’t have to race to the theaters still playing Inside Out or even wait for the Blu-ray. It’s available now, absolutely free.

For a limited time, Disney Movies Anywhere is streaming the critically acclaimed short about volcano love—and finally, I can cry in the privacy of my own home.

“Lava” is available in the Disney Movies Anywhere app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices for two weeks (through August 12, 2015). Sorry, but it’s not a download or anything. However, it is a little freebie that you can play over and over again to get your fill before it’s released as part of the inevitable Blu-ray.

Are you ready to fall in “lava” again? There’s a little clip below, in case you need incentive to snag that app!

Raising an Adventurous Eater: Vague on Venezuelan

Tequeños are Venezuelan cheese sticks. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

So far, my family has had a few good eating adventures. I knew that sooner or later, we would hit a roadblock. That block was at a Venezuelan restaurant—and it was made up almost entirely of fried cheese.

That’s not to say that fried cheese is bad. (Oh, quite the opposite.) And I’m not going to say that this outing was awful, because it wasn’t. We went to a place in Boston called Orinoco, which has gotten all sorts of awesome reviews. I was very excited. Going into this restaurant, I had all sorts of mouthwatering ideas about spice and corn and more spice. Alas, it was not to be.

The restaurant is in a beautiful location in the city. The decor was great, the service was great, and even the menu was really appealing.

I started off the evening with a Mojito Cojito, a drink that the waitress had recommended. It definitely made me feel like I was hanging out on the beach, but only because it had a slight taste of Coppertone. That’s because this drink is made with coconut rum and had tons of pieces of coconut swimming in it for good measure. The more I drank it, the more I liked it though—go figure, it’s made with rum!

The empanadas. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

For an appetizer, we opted for Tequeños, which are basically Venezuelan cheese sticks. The big difference between these and your typical cheese sticks is that the dish is made with guayanés cheese, which is a white cheese that originates from the south east region of Venezuela. American fried cheese is typically served with tomato sauce, but these came with a chipotle ketchup. It was a yummy, spicy condiment, but it also seemed really weird to be dipping cheese sticks into ketchup. I don’t mind weird, but I was a bit disappointed that the ketchup was the star of the dish. The cheese was supposed to be salty, but it and the coating on the outside came off as a kind of bland. My mantra that “fried = good” was blowing up in my face, people. That said, my son hoarded the extra stick to himself. He wasn’t the least bit disappointed—yet.

For the entrees, he chose what seemed to be the most authentic between the three of us: empanadas. We’ve had a few empanadas before, but these featured a Venezuelan-style shredded beef and peppers. He’s not a fan of peppers to begin with, but he picked a few of those out and managed to wolf down a good portion of the beef and a few of the outer fried pockets. My husband said the flavor reminded him of sausage and peppers that you’d get a ball park—and he meant that with the highest of praise. The dish also came with a salad, which had a sweet, garlicky dressing on it. That was enjoyed by all.

My husband picked Parrilla Caraqueña, a mixed grill plate that included strip steak, chicken, and chorizo. It also came with a side of yucca fries and guasacaca, which is Venezuela’s version of guacamole. He said it didn’t taste particularly ethnic, but that everything was very well seasoned. Overall, he was completely happy with his meal and almost cleaned his plate (and some of my son’s too).

The Parrilla Caraqueña, a mixed grill plate. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

For my entrée, I opted for Pollo Adobo, which is a chicken dish. I also ordered up a side of yucca fries, which sounded like a good idea at the time. I love me some fried goods, but after the cheese, the fries felt like a bunch of little bricks sitting in my tummy. The chicken looked pretty enough and was made with oregano oil and scallions, which it was swimming in. It was cooked really well, but a little fatty for my taste. It was also a bit saltier than I like.

I’m not sure how authentic the food is here, but I had read it was pretty darn close. I don’t expect all of our adventures to be wonderful, but I found this one to be particularly disappointing. I think because I was expecting so much more. I would love to come back again though and maybe order something different. The atmosphere was lovely and the menu was filled with other options that I had my eye on. In the meantime, onward and upward!

Celebrate the History of ‘Peanuts’ with National Franklin Day

Photo: 20th Century Fox.

With the fifth full-length Peanuts film right around the corner (and the first in 35 years), now would be a great time to introduce your kids to the works of Charles M. Schulz.

And today, especially—it’s National Franklin Day! I’m not sure who came up with this “holiday,” but around my house, we love celebrating all things Peanuts just about every single day, which includes the franchise’s first African-American character.

In fact, we have been big fans of Franklin, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the gang for years. I’ve told my son on numerous occasions that he will be required to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas with me every year until he turns 18. (Sweetly, he tells me he’s willing to go beyond that age.) We watch all of the specials, have several DVDs, and even read the comics. Needless to say, we are pretty psyched for the new movie.

If you want to get your wee ones ahead of the game, the TV specials and comics are a perfect way to start. More specifically, you can talk to them about the impact of Franklin on the Peanuts franchise and comics in general.

Forty-seven years ago today, Franklin made his first appearance in Peanuts comics. He was actually inspired by a letter Schulz received from Harriet Glickman. Following the death of Martin Luther King, the school teacher urged the cartoonist to add an African-American character to the lineup. On July 31, 1968, Franklin Armstrong made his debut.

According to the people at Fox, Franklin is actually Charlie Brown’s best friend. Funny, I always thought it was Linus! A few other fun facts:

  • Franklin has been voiced by 19 actors over the years.
  • His favorite sport is ice hockey.
  • The Peanuts Movie will mark Franklin’s first appearance on-screen since 1999.

Check out a peek at Franklin’s upcoming film appearance in the trailer below. The Peanuts Movie will hit theaters on November 6, 2015.

Disney Writers Spark Conversation via ‘Descendants’

DESCENDANTS - The teenage sons and daughters of Disney's most infamous villains star in Disney's "Descendants," a live-action movie that - with a knowing wink at traditional fairy tales -  fuses castles with classrooms to create a contemporary, music-driven story about the challenges in living up to parental and peer expectations. Made for kids, tweens and families, the movie premieres FRIDAY, JULY 31 (8:00 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney Channel and Friday, July 24 to verified users on the WATCH Disney Channel app and (Disney Channel/Jack Rowand) SOFIA CARSON, CAMERON BOYCE, DOVE CAMERON, BOOBOO STEWART
Sofia Carson, Cameron Boyce, Dove Cameron, and Booboo Stewart star in the Disney Channel’s Descendants. Photo: Disney Channel/Jack Rowand.

Of course, we all love our kids. However, those awkward, drama-filled teenage years can be brutal. Now, just imagine having to parent one of Disney’s Descendants!

Believe it or not, there are some very familiar themes in the upcoming Disney Channel original—as well as some familiar faces and a whole lot of new music. If it sounds a little like the fairy-tale version of High School Musical, that’s no coincidence; the live-action movie was helmed by Kenny Ortega, who serves as director, choreographer, and executive producer.

Set in the idyllic kingdom of Auradon, the film starts off with Ben (Mitchell Hope), the teenage son of the Beast and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Just as he’s about to take the throne, Ben offers a shot at redemption to the spawn of Disney’s most infamous villains. Mal (Dove Cameron) is the daughter of Maleficent (Kristin Chenoweth), Evie (Sofia Carson) is the daughter of The Evil Queen (Kathy Najimy) from Snow White, Carlos (Cameron Boyce) is the son of Cruella de Vil (Wendy Raquel Robinson) from 101 Dalmatians, and Jay (Booboo Stewart) is the son of Jafar (Maz Jobrani) from Aladdin. After being banished to the Isle of the Lost for 20 years, the four are invited to attend prep school alongside the teenage progeny of the Fairy Godmother, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Mulan. Will the teens follow in the wicked footsteps of their parents?

DESCENDANTS - Stars of the upcoming Disney Channel's movie "Descendants" and its director Kenny Ortega were the guests of honor at a screening party held at Disney Studios in Burbank, California on Friday, July 24.  The contemporary, live-action adventure tells the story of the teenage sons and daughters of Disney’s most infamous villains. "Descendants" premieres Friday, July 31 (8:00 p.m. ET/PT) on Disney Channel. (Disney Channel/Image Group LA) JOSANN MCGIBBON (WRITER/CO-PRODUCER), SARAH PARRIOTT (WRITER/CO-PRODUCER)
Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott are writers/co-producers for the Disney Channel’s Descendants. Photo: Disney Channel/Image Group LA.

Not if writers Sara Parriott and Josann McGibbon have anything to say about it. Okay—maybe I should have included a spoilers tag. However, this is a Disney movie, people.

And that’s pretty obvious, if you’re paying attention. In fact, families should try to spot all of the Disney references throughout the film. Sara and Josann, who are currently celebrating 30 years as writing partners, have pointed out a few favorites, including the use of “hi ho” as a greeting and the spinning wheel from Sleeping Beauty. There are also a whole bunch of nods in the Fairy Godmother’s “Goodness” class, which the kids have to take when entering Auradon Prep.

There’s plenty to talk about after the film as well. Besides encouraging your kids to watch some pretty cool Disney classics, Descendants weaves the topics of self-confidence, finding the beauty within, freedom of choice, personal responsibility, teamwork, justice, and empathy into the film’s 112 minutes. To help fuel a little post-movie chatter, Sara and Josann gave GeekMom six topics to spark conversation between families and kids watching Descendants.

Sara says:

  1. “You have to choose to be good. Circumstances or background may influence you, but in the end, one needs to choose to be good.”
  2. “Do not let people label you, nor should you label others. It’s very easy to buy into a label—Evie thinks her label is ‘beautiful,’ but she learns she is so much more. Carlos thinks dogs are ‘vicious pack animals’ until he encounters Dude.”
  3. “You can change. Things can get better. It takes reflection, strength, and support, but you can overcome circumstances to become the person you want to be.”

Josann says:

  1. “Listen to that voice inside you that is telling you right from wrong. More often, this is going to apply to peer pressure or other personal impulses. Remember you have a choice to do the right thing.”
  2. “There is true pride in accomplishment, especially from hard work.”
  3. “Face your fears. Some fears make sense and are smart to have. But some fears really cut off your options and make life less fun. When Carlos finally meets a dog, he realizes how wrong he’s been to be afraid all his life. Maybe there’s something you can learn more about that will make you less afraid.”
DESCENDANTS - With a knowing wink at traditional fairy tales, Disney's "Descendants" fuses castles with classrooms to create a contemporary, music-driven story that introduces Mal, Evie, Carlos and Jay, the teenage progeny of Disney’s villains. It premieres in Summer 2015 on Disney Channel U.S., followed by Disney Channels around the world. (Disney Channel/Jack Rowand) DOVE CAMERON, KRISTIN CHENOWETH
Dove Cameron and Kristin Chenoweth star as mother/daughter team Mal and Maleficent. Photo: Disney Channel/Jack Rowand.

Descendants airs Friday, July 31 at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on Disney Channel. The Descendants DVD will be released the same day.

13 Awesomely Geeky Aprons

My Little Pony via MTCoffinz on Etsy.
My Little Pony Rainbow Dash apron via MTCoffinz on Etsy.

I love to cook, which means I have very few shirts that aren’t stained with sauces, oils, and other ingredients from my kitchen experiments.

A few years back, I went into this super-cute general store in New England and found a handmade apron for a mere $6. It was a no-brainer of a purchase, as well as one that has saved me from having to throw out half of my wardrobe.

Aprons are an essential kitchen tool, which come in a variety of patterns. While the $6 special is hard to come by, if you’re willing to pay a few extra bucks, there are a slew of them out there that allow you to extend your geeky fashion to the kitchen—or even the convention hall. Want to see what’s cooking in the world of geeky aprons? Check out the slideshow for 13 of my current favorites.

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Here’s Your Chance to See ‘The Iron Giant’ on the Big Screen

The Iron Giant photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It’s hard to find one imperfection when it comes to The Iron Giant. This 1999 animated film was dubbed a bomb when it was first released, but of course it went on to be a classic. That’s because it’s beautiful to watch, with stunning artwork, a great voice cast, and a really wonderful story. In fact, it makes me cry pretty much every single time I view it.

Soon, I will be shielding my weepy eyes from the masses, because The Iron Giant is headed back to theaters for a very limited engagement. Warner Bros. Pictures just announced plans to show The Iron Giant: Signature Edition in select theaters, in conjunction with Fathom Events.

This is a “Signature Edition” of the movie because it has been remastered, but will also include two new scenes. And because this is the lost work of first-time director Brad Bird (who went on to do The IncrediblesRatatouille, and others), it should be worth the special trip.

Winner of nine Annie Awards, The Iron Giant is based on Ted Hughes’ 1968 science fiction novel, The Iron Man. However, this one has nothing to do with superheroes—and everything to do with superheroes. It’s actually the story of a friendship between a boy named Hogarth (voiced by Eli Marienthal) and a giant metal man (Vin Diesel), who is both wanted and feared by masses that have been made paranoid by their Cold War surroundings. Jennifer Aniston and Harry Connick Jr. also voice characters in the acclaimed film.

The Iron Giant: Signature Edition will be shown in a special screening at theaters around the country on Wednesday, September 30, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. local time. There will also be a single encore on Sunday, October 4 at 12:00 p.m. local time. If you miss it, there will be an HD version of The Iron Giant: Signature Edition available sometime this fall. However, you probably don’t want to miss it! Check the Fathom Events website in August for ticket pre-orders as well as a list of theater locations.

The new poster for The Iron Giant: Signature Edition. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Here’s Why I Want the New ‘Die Hard’ Blu-ray Collection

The Nakatomi Plaza: Die Hard Collection. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC.

“Welcome to the party, pal!”

Sure, I’ve seen the Die Hard movies a jillion times now. Okay—I’ve seen the first one a jillion times. The second and third come in… well, second and third. I’ve actually seen the third one a lot. I’m working my way up to quoting the fourth and the fifth.

However, I would proudly call those last two flicks my own just to have the upcoming Nakatomi Plaza: Die Hard Collection.

The original is probably one of my favorite action movies and definitely one of my favorite Christmas movies. It’s also one of the movies that will always keep me awake at night.

This upcoming special edition packs all five Die Hard flicks into a replica of that very familiar Los Angeles tower. Yes, it’s the same one that had most of its windows shattered, the same one that had John McClane’s bloody footprints stamped onto the side, and the same one that aided in blowing an FBI helicopter right out of the sky.

Inside, it has Blu-ray and Digital HD versions of Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard, and A Good Day to Die Hard. The last two also feature an unrated version of each film. There’s also a bonus Blu-ray on “Decoding Die Hard,” a 32-page booklet about the franchise, and five villain collectible cards. Hans, booby—you’ve got yourself a trading card!

Fox will start taking pre-orders for the Nakatomi Plaza: Die Hard Collection in their booth at San Diego Comic-Con, as well as online. You can expect to pay $89.99 for this magnificent piece, and I’m guessing they won’t take bearer bonds. Otherwise, you can score one when it’s released on October 13, 2015. Yippee-ki-yay!

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC.

Why Is Matisse’s Brilliant Yellow Fading?

Images illustrate a virtual reconstruction (left) and the actual condition (right) of Le Bonheur de Vivre/The Joy of Life by Henri Matisse, 1905 – 06, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, U.S. Photo courtesy of Winterthur Museum.

When we were kids, we visited art museums to examine all of the big, bright paintings with wide-eyed wonder. Today, some of those paintings aren’t as bright as they used to be.

In a new study, an international team of scientists have discovered exactly why the bright yellow pigment favored a century ago is turning to a drab beige.

It turns out that the original chemical compound, cadmium sulphide, which is a highly water-insoluble and bright yellow, is subject to a light-induced oxidation process that turns it into a colorless, water-soluble cadmium sulphate. Yikes! This is not a good thing, since it was favored by so many of the Impressionist, post-Impressionist, and early modernist masters. Henri Matisse is just one of the many artists who used it in their works—works that are fading fast.

“The results of this study reveal how critical it is to understand not only the chemistry of the discolored paint, but also the chemistry used to prepare the paints that were available to the turn of the 20th-century’s most enduring artists,” said Winterthur Museum‘s Senior Scientist Jennifer Mass, Ph.D. “Our study points the way toward several important areas requiring further investigation, among the most critical of which is developing a protocol for identifying the ‘at risk’ paintings that are in their earliest stages of degradation, even before it is visible to the naked eye, so that such works can be placed in the proper display environments that will prevent their degradation from worsening.”

Mass led the international team, who used X-ray diffraction, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence analysis, and infrared microscopy to study the fading pieces at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France. The study specifically looked at Matisse’s The Joy of Life, although the discoveries could also apply to other Matisse works, as well as those by James Ensor and Vincent Van Gogh.

“As a chemist, I find it striking that in paintings of different artists and different geographical origins that (presumably) were conserved for circa 100 years in various museum conditions, very similar chemical transformations are taking place,” said Koen Janssens, chemistry professor at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. “This will allow us to predict with higher confidence what may be happening to these works of art in the coming decades.”

The ESRF said that museum scientists over the past decade have estimated that “this disfiguring phenomenon is affecting billions of dollars of our global cultural heritage.” The findings can help them identify and help preserve “at risk” paintings, as well as learn how to properly digitally restore damaged paintings and create a computer-generated image that reveals the artists’ original intent.

“When we combine our findings on the works of Henri Matisse with the studies carried out on works by Vincent Van Gogh and James Ensor, the understanding of their degradation gives us a road map to guide us in the preservation of these works,” Mass said. “It also provides us with the information needed to digitally restore the damaged paintings, creating a computer-generated image that reveals the artists’ original intent.”

The study is featured in an article, “2D X-ray and FTIR micro-analysis of the degradation of cadmium yellow pigment in paintings of Henri Matisse,” in the June 2015 issue of Applied Physics A.

Marvel Offers Unlimited Comics for 1 Cent

The Marvel Unlimited promotion is valid through July 27, 2015. Photo: Marvel.

Remember when you used to be able to get comics for just a few cents? Well, Marvel is making comics available for a penny—about 17,000 of them.

The company just announced plans to offer its Marvel Unlimited service for the introductory price of 1 cent. As part of the San Diego Comic-Con festivities, this deal will only be offered to new subscribers and only for the first month.

However, that’s an awful lot of eye candy for the price of well… penny candy. The collection features 75 years of Marvel Comics, which includes The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, and so much more. If it seems really overwhelming (in a good way, of course), click over to the Discover section, which allows users to search by storylines, characters, or creators.

To get the discounted goods, you will need to use the promo code PENNY during your checkout process. Just know that this offer is only good through July 20, 2015. (Editor’s Note: The offer has been extended through July 27!) There are a few other restrictions as well. Like, don’t expect to cancel your current subscription to get the discount; the offer is only open to new and former (now-cancelled) members who have not subscribed with a promotional offer in the last 6 months. It also doesn’t work on gift subscriptions, Annual, or Annual Plus memberships. Make sure to read the fine print!

The Marvel Unlimited app is available on the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. After the 1-cent promotional period is up, expect to pay $9.99 per month. However, that fee ensures that you’ll always have plenty to read, since both classic and new issues are being added on a weekly basis.

Raising an Adventurous Eater: A Bevy of Brazilian Treats

From now on, I want all of my meals in clay pots. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

In the last (and first) installment of Raising an Adventurous Eater, my family and I checked out Senegalese. This time, we went for Brazilian.

We had been to a nearby Brazilian steakhouse more than a few times, so we originally weren’t too sure this would be unfamiliar territory. I’m happy to say that we were wrong—dead wrong.

As mentioned in my last installment, I am a pretty adventurous eater, but not a meat eater. Well, sort of. I haven’t eaten red meat or pork in over 15 years now, and I’m not planning to do that anytime soon. That was one of the reasons I was a bit nervous about Brazilian. My previous experiences at the steakhouse were pretty limiting. It was usually meat or chicken and fish wrapped in other meat. However, it turns out that Brazilian cuisine offers a bevy of different options. Even better, they don’t typically come on the gigantic spool of meat I’d previously seen at that steakhouse.

For this adventure, we opted for a place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, called Muqueca. This restaurant is famous for serving dishes in clay pots, which are made from clay and mangrove tree sap. They also come all the way from Vitória, Brazil, where they are shaped, dried, and fired up to perfection. At least, I have to assume they are perfection. I’m not exactly a clay pot expert, but I can tell you that they are the perfect cooking vessels.

Fiery deliciousness. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

To start, I opted for a Caipirinha, which is supposedly the national cocktail of Brazil. According to the menu, “the word ‘caipirinha’ is the diminutive version of the word ‘caipira,’ which refers to someone from the countryside, being an almost exact equivalent of the American English hillbilly.” When I asked about what was in it, the waitress informed me that it was like drinking vodka. I don’t drink much vodka these days. In fact, I don’t drink much at all. She assured me that it was delicious and came in a variety of flavors, including my chosen passion fruit. It arrived with about 10 limes chopped up inside and the potency of a sledgehammer. It was like a party in a tall glass. Yum.

For an appetizer, we ordered Salgadinhos, which are basically little fried balls of deliciousness that you can get stuffed with cod, shrimp, or chicken. We chose the latter. It also seemed to have a thin layer of mashed potato or maybe even yucca on the inside. My son, who hates potatoes in any shape or form (with the exception of chips), devoured these things and proclaimed their awesomeness. I informed him of the presence of potato and he sort of shrugged it off. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: It’s hard not to love anything that’s fried.

My son got to “cheat” a little bit here, since there was an actual kids’ menu at Muqueca. He chose the grilled chicken, but it was marinated in a savory little sauce to make it stand out from your typical kids’ meal. It also came with fries (which he shunned—whose kid is this?), as well as plain white rice and a hearty portion of savory black beans. He’s never been a huge bean fan, but he tried it. He said it wasn’t his favorite, but that it wasn’t bad, either. I consider that to be a win.

For the adult entrees, we discovered that Muqueca isn’t just the name of the restaurant; it’s also a national dish with seafood that’s poached in a broth with tomatoes, cilantro, onions, olive oil, coconut milk, dendê oil (palm oil), and a natural coloring seed called annatto. It’s sort of like seafood stew—and it’s downright fantastic. I opted for Shrimp Muqueca, while my husband got the Arroz com mariscos, a seafood casserole with shrimp, mussels, squid, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, coconut milk, and rice all in the same bowl. Mine had rice and a separate fish sauce on the side.

Each entree was cooked and served in clay pots, which keep the dishes nice and hot. In my family, we would devour my father’s pizza the second it came off the hot pizza stone, so I wasn’t afraid of scalding a few taste buds. It was so worth it.

And speaking of scalding: This restaurant offers hot sauce as a condiment and it was exactly the type of spice I was hoping for when we chose Brazilian. This is not the kind of hot sauce you’d find at the grocery store or even in a bottle. It’s made on the premises. I doused one of my shrimp into the sauce and immediately found that not to be such a wise decision. The Caipirinha wasn’t exactly the best chaser, either. It was like trying to put out a campfire with lighter fluid. The heat sort of reminded me of wasabi, but it was a different kind of pain. I later asked the waiter what was in the sauce. He said it was a mixture of Brazilian malagueta peppers and different kinds of hot sauce. He also said we came in on a day with a weak batch. Thank goodness, because, well… I need that skin on my lips, okay? He also mentioned that if he ever had a cold, he could just smell the sauce; it doubles as a remedy for being stuffed up. It was oh so hot, but very yummy.

May cause simultaneous tears of joy and pain. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

All three of us enjoyed our meals and, with the exception of the fries, we cleaned our plates. My son was super happy about the kids’ meal option, but still tried something different. My husband thought his was very hearty and full of flavor. I didn’t really see mine as a stew, but I did find it to be fantastic. It came with plenty of shrimp and they weren’t the sea-monkey kind that I see a lot of restaurants trying to pass off in their shrimp dishes. The fish sauce (called pirao) really wasn’t necessary. It was fine, but the liquid that the Muqueca sits in was delicious all on its own.

Our second eating adventure was another awesome success. Now where can I get myself a set of those clay pots? I need to start serving our meals in them immediately!

‘Homestar Runner’ Creators Get Weird With Disney XD

YouTube screenshot by Rachel Cericola.

If you’ve been experiencing a void that Homestar Runner used to fill with goofy cartoons, games, and a whole lot of Strong Bad, have we got some news for you.

Disney XD has hired The Brothers Chaps to create a web series called Two More Eggs. The series will include a total of 40 original cartoon shorts, which will run on Disney XD’s YouTube channel and Watch Disney XD all summer long.

The writing duo, who also go by Mike and Matt Chapman, are best known for creating Homestar Runner back in 2000. This isn’t the first time that the two have collaborated with Disney, though. The brothers wrote for the Annie Award-winning Wander Over Yonder and Matt has worked solo on some of the Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts and Gravity Falls.

The cartoons will be a weird and wonderful mix—well, mostly weird. However, they also include all sorts of different styles, including flash, computer-generated imagery and animation, as well as live-action.

“Disney’s support has allowed us to organically evolve these weird cartoons in exactly the way we imagined,” said The Brothers Chaps. “We’ve worked on these shorts with the same autonomy as with our own Homestar Runner cartoons, and it’s been tons of fun.”

The first three cartoons, “Dooble – Dooblie Doo,” “CGI Palz – Theme Song,” and “Hot Dip – Not 4 Momz,” have already debuted. Based on these three entries, I am not sure this series will be fun for the whole family—unless you have a family filled with college students. Take a peek and if you like what you see, there will be a new short every Tuesday throughout the summer.

Testing Out the Coolpad Arise and Freebie Phone Service

A peek at the front and the back of the Coolpad Arise. Photo: Scratch Wireless.

My son is eight and we just started letting him take his bike down our semi-busy street. Every single time he leaves the house, my chest muscles constrict ever so slightly. Aside from worrying about who and what may be running him over, I often wonder where he is.

Since he has several school friends who live on our street, he could be at one of maybe eight different houses. If an emergency arises or dinner hits the table, we don’t want to have to call half of his class to find him.

We gave him a digital watch, which has an alarm. This seems to be getting him back in time for dinner. We thought about a phone, in case of emergencies, but seeing that he’s only eight, we’d like to wait a few years before adding another monthly bill. Another interesting option is Scratch Wireless, a phone service without the actual service plan. Instead, this freebie option can deliver calling and text messaging over WiFi. Even better, it gives him a lot of the phone perks, without the pricey plans and equipment.

The latest Scratch device is the Coolpad Arise, which runs a mere $99. It’s certainly not cheap, but it’s cheaper than a lot of phones and other portables currently on the market—ones that do the exact same things as this one.

The Coolpad Arise is an Android device, which means that not only will it offer all of the power of the 4.4.2 KitKat OS, but it can also access all of the goodies at the Google Play Store. So what you spend on apps (although I didn’t spend anything during our time with this phone), you’ll make back on the lack of a monthly phone bill.

Out of the box, the Coolpad Arise looks like most fancy-schmancy smartphones, which almost every single kid (and adult) will appreciate. Even though I had the device charging in an out-of-the-way location, my son sniffed it out like it was coated in fresh baked cookies or something. He saw that shiny exterior, wanted to know exactly what it was, and more importantly, when he could start smudging up the screen.

Photo: Scratch Wireless.

Speaking of the charging, I am going to let you in on a little secret that may save you $99—or at least a few fingernails. This thing has a battery that you need to install. It’s not mentioned anywhere in the documentation (that I could find), but it’s there in the bottom of the box. To install the battery, you’ll need to pry off the back of the phone’s outer shell. There’s a little notch in the lower right-hand corner of the phone to help you get it open. It’s so teeny, it looks like a design element. You may not even notice it, unless you hold it up to the light. It’s also not easy to wedge open. Seriously, I thought I was going to need a nutcracker and a screwdriver; it was that tight. However, I’m kind of glad it’s that way, since it means that the thing won’t be opening up and the battery won’t be flying out on the road while my son is peddling away.

After letting it charge overnight, I inspected the device, which is really lightweight. (I weighed it in at 5.5 ounces.) It’s also a nice looking phone. There’s a 4-inch touchscreen and the top has an audio jack, an earpiece jack, and a USB/power port. The left side has a volume key, with the power key on the right. The bottom of the screen has touch keys for the main menu, home, and to go back. The back of the phone is where the speaker lives, as well as the 2-megapixel camera. It also features Bluetooth, in case you want to stream music to a wireless speaker.

For my first use, the Coolpad Arise did take a minute or two to boot up. Then, it updated, restarted, and instantly found my home’s WiFi connection. It will ask for a Google account, which you’re going to need for all of the Android/Google Play goodness anyway. To activate the phone, you’ll need to provide a name and email address. The entire setup took just a few minutes and the phone delivered a Massachusetts-based phone number, which is pretty awesome, since I live in Massachusetts. (Although that seems to be standard, based on GeekMom Jenny’s previous Scratch Wireless review.) The service also gives you the option to transfer a phone number from another provider, which may come in handy for those of you looking to ditch a monthly bill.

The phone comes preloaded with the Scratch App. This is what allows you to connect to random networks and purchase “passes.” Passes allow you to use the phone in areas where WiFi is not free or available. According to Scratch Wireless, you can always text for free, even when no WiFi is available. Does this device deliver on such magical promises? I was determined to find out!

I made my maiden call while connected to my home WiFi, to my sister in Delaware. She seemed impressed with the overall sound quality. However, I was pacing (as I often do during my phone calls), and she said a few times that I got a little fuzzy. I noticed this was usually when I walked towards my home office, so there may have been some electronic interference. She also noted that the call sounded worse when I was on speakerphone. However, I thought the quality of her voice was much better when on the speaker. Up to my ear, her voice was a bit tinny. The quality of the signal was pretty great, with no drops or misunderstood words. I do think that a few of my sentences to her were on a delay, but it didn’t make the call any more annoying than most cell calls. My son certainly didn’t complain about the quality of calls with his friends. Then again, I think it could have sounded like he was yelling through a tin can and he would have been very happy.

Outside of the house, I had a hard time tapping into free WiFi. I live in a quiet area near the beach, so it’s not like there’s a Starbucks or McDonald’s every few feet. Most people nowadays keep their WiFi networks password-protected (and so should you!), and I saw plenty of those. If you live in an area where there are a lot of businesses offering free WiFi, you will be super happy with using this phone anywhere and everywhere.

Of course, this isn’t a knock on the service. I’m just saying that your interest in the Coolpad Arise as a working phone may have a lot to do with how much WiFi is available in your immediate area. Or if you plan to only use the phone at home, awesome. Sold. If you need it for a constantly moving 8-year-old in a suburban area, your mileage may vary.

Here’s a bonus though: Wherever you are, there’s free texting. From the grocery store, I sent and received messages with my husband, without being connected to any WiFi. Out on the beach, I didn’t have as much luck and got a lot of “not sent” messages. That said, the beach by my house is like a cell phone dead zone, so this is not totally surprising at all. According to the people at Scratch Wireless, the texting is free 24/7 through Sprint, even when you’re not on WiFi. MMS texting, which includes group and picture texting, is not free. So if you’re in an area that doesn’t get Sprint (or any service, for that matter), you’ll be out of luck.

For times when you need that WiFi for calling or MMS texting and don’t have access to it, Scratch Wireless offers the option to purchase data passes. These come in variety of flavors for voice and data. Sadly, there are no options to purchase both; they are separate. For $1.99, you can get 24 hours of unlimited calls or 24 hours/50MBs of data. For $6.99, you can get 30 days/100 minutes of calling or 30 days/500MBs of data. And finally, the $14.99 plan will give you a month’s worth of calling or 30 days/1GB of data. Data passes can be bought right on the phone with a credit card, but you can absolutely get by without having to make any purchases whatsoever.

Photo taken with the Coolpad Arise. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

As mentioned, the Coolpad Arise also has full access to the Google Play Store. My son had no problem finding all sorts of games to play and seemed very happy with the performance. He did end up deleting Netflix because he said it was taking a while to load. I reloaded it, and sure enough, it took so long to sign in, I just gave up. However, I had no problem streaming YouTube, as well as playing other apps.

Also worth mentioning is that this phone has Google Voice, which sort of makes it a little cooler than my iPhone 4. This delivers easy, immediate answers to just about every question imaginable, whether you want to know about the weather, the 1978 Academy Awards, the pizza places in your immediate area, or the nationality of golfer Rory McIlroy.

My one gripe: Currently, there’s no such thing as a Coolpad Arise case. While the phone is pretty inexpensive at $99, it’s not like I want to be replacing the screen or have cracks on the outside. During our time with the phone, we didn’t have any mishaps. However, considering how many times I’ve dropped my iPhone while I’ve had it, I’d say a case is a must. Scratch Wireless says that they are working with a manufacturer to get a case out soon. Hopefully, that will come out before the company’s next phone release!

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Monkeying Around With ‘Curious George 3’

My little monkey watching Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

It’s hard to believe that a third Curious George movie was needed, but here we are—and we are extremely glued.

Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle is out today and it’s as cute and cuddly as ever. Long gone are the voices of Will Ferrell and Drew Barrymore. However, our family is deeply involved with Frank Welker (George) and Jeff Bennett (The Man with the Yellow Hat), who have been voicing their respective characters since the PBS show launched back in 2006.

Despite the direct-to-video nature of this movie, Curious George 3 also includes the voices of John Goodman (who is extremely recognizable) and Angela Bassett (I was pleasantly surprised to see her in the credits!).

© Universal Pictures.

Although it took my son about 5 seconds to notice that the animation is a little different from the TV show, it didn’t seem to bother him. Curious George 3 is a fun little movie.

It’s really less about George being curious and more about him being in his natural habitat: the jungle. It’s hard to remember a time when George wasn’t flying kites, eating donuts, roller skating, and eating at Chef Pisghetti’s. However, in this 81-minute adventure, viewers get to see this good little monkey talk to animals (who aren’t Hundley) and swing from actual trees.

The Man with the Yellow Hat is the one who seems out of his element, riding a log flume and an ostrich. And spoiler alert, people: We actually learn the man’s name! Maybe I previously missed it, but I don’t ever remember it coming up before. I just always assumed that he didn’t have one.

It’s interesting how and why George ends up in the jungle due to a botched space mission. So you get the spacey atmosphere mixed in with the jungle for pretty complete adventure. It still isn’t as awesome as the first movie, but Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle is similar to an extended episode of the TV show. I can tell you that we were pretty riveted for the full runtime, with a request to watch the extras once the feature was over.

Speaking of which: The extras are pretty slim. It would have been cool if they put a few deleted scenes or even an episode of the PBS show on the disc, but there are four sing-along songs from the movie. This lineup includes “Welcome to Paradise” by the Plain White T’s. The full soundtrack should actually be available the same day as the movie.

And if your little one is still curious about Curious George, you can check out the clip and even work on some of the activity sheets listed below. There’s also a free Curious George photo app that’s now online, allowing you to photobomb George in scenes from the movie. Enjoy!

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Raising an Adventurous Eater: Sampling Senegalese Spice

Brochettes de Poulet. Photo courtesy of Gluten-Free-N-Y-C, used with permission.

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: I love food. I was brought up on my grandmother’s meatballs and fried dough. (She actually made it every week!) My dad made delicious pizza and veal cutlets. And when we felt like going out, there were cheesesteaks. Oh. So. Many. Cheesesteaks.

Wait… what was my point?

Oh yeah. While all of this food was insanely delicious, it wasn’t exactly adventurous. It wasn’t very artery-friendly, either. Since my youth, I’ve sampled plenty of other foods. However, my palette has still been pretty limited.

My husband recently suggested that we spend our Saturdays branching out of our family’s comfort zone. Instead of trying to choose between the seven or so restaurants within driving distance, we should delve into the unknown and check out new types of cuisine. We live about 30 minutes from Boston, so the options are literally endless. In some cases, a world map may be involved.

And now with our plan in place, I must mention a few caveats. First of all, I haven’t eaten red meat or pork in over 15 years now. It’s a bit limiting, but I am not planning to add on any additional animals for the sake of this experiment. Also, my 8-year-old son loves salad, but absolutely loathes potatoes… like they’re salad. He feels that way about a lot of starch, actually. Where did he get that from? While some would consider his style to be adventurous, he definitely used to be more daring. In fact, I’m starting to find that he depends a bit too much on the kids’ menu—and eats way too many burgers, usually with no sides. This was as much for him as it was for us.

(In all fairness, it’s more for us, but he needs to suck it up!)

Photo courtesy of Teranga Restaurant.

With that said, our first outing was to Teranga, which is supposedly the first Senegalese restaurant in Boston. First or last, it was just plain awesome.

Going into the restaurant, all we really knew about Senegalese food was that it was African. That’s it. We also knew that the restaurant is highly rated on TripAdvisor, our go-to spot for all restaurants, hotels, and various other attractions.

According to the restaurant’s website, “Senegalese cuisine is a melting pot of diverse cultures including French, Asian, Arabic, and African.” It also says that the word Teranga translates to “hospitality.” It’s not just the name, but also appeared to be a motto, since our waiter was extremely friendly, helpful, and willing to help us make selections.

We aren’t usually appetizer people, but opted to check out the Brochettes de Crevettes, which is basically shrimp on skewers. It sounds very simple, but had this kick-ass little Sriracha sauce on it to well… kick your ass. It was super-spicy, but also delicious. Seeing that my son doesn’t like shrimp or extreme spice, we let him off the hook for this one. Besides, it meant more shrimp for me.

Another appetizer option we checked out was Accara, which is a batter made of black eye peas and then fried. I am pretty sure I would eat a shoe if it were fried properly, so you can imagine how quickly I devoured these. It came served with a little zesty tomato/onion sauce on the side. My son was willing to try this, but doesn’t have the same penchant for fried goods as his mother (or father). He declared it to be “not his favorite” and left us to stuff our faces. I’m not exactly sure I would order this one again, given its fried-ness, but it was downright delicious. I could have eaten an entrée-sized portion of those Brochettes de Crevettes, though.

The very delicious Michoui. Photo by Vivian C. on Yelp, used with permission.

For entrees, my husband went with the Michoui, a marinated, slow-roasted lamb shank. Seeing that I don’t eat red meat, he doesn’t get to have lamb often and was really pleased at how delicious this meal turned out to be. Just looking at this thing, I could tell how moist it was. The meat was practically falling off the bone! It was served with couscous on the side.

I had my heart set on the Poisson Braisé, which is a tilapia dish with yucca couscous, but it was not to be. They were out of tilapia. So I went with the Brochettes de Poulet, which is a hearty portion of tangy, skewered chicken that’s grilled and served with an onion sauce on one side of the plate and a Sriracha sauce on the other. It was also topped with what I thought were yucca fries, but the menu listed it as alocco, which are fried sweet plantains. Whatever it was, it was delicious. The plantains sort of balanced out the spicy shrimp, but I still managed to tip those little fry babies into the remaining Sriracha for an extra kick.

My son didn’t have the comfort of the kids’ menu here, since they don’t have one. However, he happily opted for the Yassa Guinaar. This looked similar to the lamb, but was actually a marinated chicken dish. My son wasn’t too thrilled at having to eat off the bone, but I reminded him that I had seen him devour a KFC leg or two without any issues. Since it was a hearty piece, I helped him cut the meat off, which was covered in a lemony onion sauce. He complained that the sauce was “too hot,” but it wasn’t the least bit spicy. My husband and I determined that it might have had a bit more salt than he was used to and encouraged him to mix the sauce and chicken with bites of his jasmine rice. That gave him the happy face I was hoping for.

Our first culinary outing was a massive success, in my opinion. We love spicy and this was definitely a spicy adventure—although one that didn’t make my son want to turn up his nose and/or throw a fit. It’s fun to try something new and something different. And when you mention to someone that you tried Senegalese food, it typically conjures up the response, “What was that like?” In a word: Awesome. I’m hoping for something just as successful for the next installment of “Raising an Adventurous Eater.” Stay tuned!

Catch Up on Classic Christopher Lee on June 22

Horror of Dracula (1958 UK) aka Dracula Directed by Terence Fisher Shown: Christopher Lee (as Count Dracula)
Christopher Lee as Count Dracula in Horror of Dracula. Photo: © Universal Pictures/Tom Edwards.

This week, we got the sad news that Sir Christopher Lee had passed away at the age of 93. Geek-film fans knew him from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as his roles in the Star Wars and Hobbit franchises.

However, Lee had quite the lengthy film career, which included well over 275 credits. Turner Classic Movies will highlight some of Lee’s earlier works with an eight-film tribute on Monday, June 22. More specifically, TCM will show Lee in some of his creepier roles, including Count Dracula. Here is the full schedule:

  • 6:15 a.m. The Mummy (1959)
  • 8:00 a.m. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
  • 9:30 a.m. Horror of Dracula (1959)
  • 11:00 a.m. Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966)
  • 12:45 p.m. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1969)
  • 2:30 p.m. Horror Express (1972)
  • 4:00 p.m. The Three Musketeers (1972)
  • 6:00 p.m. The Four Musketeers (1975)

It’s too bad that The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Wicker Man, or The Man with the Golden Gun isn’t on this list, but you can’t be too picky. Just be advised that all of the times listed are Eastern, so set your DVR accordingly!

Disney Teaser Prepares Us for a Visit to ‘Zootopia’

ZOOTOPIA – Pictured (L-R): Nick Wilde, Judy Hopps. "It's a nod to the great Disney animated animal films we all grew up with, but with a funny, contemporary twist," said director Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph,” “The Simpsons”). "Our artists and animators did tons of research to integrate true animal behaviors into each of our characters. The world of Zootopia is fantastic, infused with international flavor that will be relatable to everyone.” ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Disney just released a teaser for its next animated film, Zootopia. What’s not to get excited about? It’s just a teaser, but we know it will have tons of animals, as well as Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin. That’s certainly a good start.

However, what intrigues me the most is that this upcoming film is by the same team that brought us Big Hero 6, Frozen, and Wreck It Ralph. And since it’s Disney, you know it will have stunning animation and plenty of cuddly characters.

The teaser below makes it seem like there could be a lot of animal-related hijinks, but no superheroes, princesses, or cool gadgets (unless you think the cell phone is cool).

According to Disney, the film focuses on Zootopia, a metropolis that brings together every member of the animal kingdom—but not always in complete harmony. Goodwin voices Officer Judy Hopps, a new bunny on the police force, with Bateman as sly fox Nick Wilde. The two are an unlikely pair of partners out to solve some type of case. Since this is just a teaser, that’s all we’re getting at this point. What case, what animals, and what other famous voices are involved is all part of the mystery at this point.

Think you’ll be visiting Zootopia? You have time to plan that visit, since the film isn’t coming until March 4, 2016. In the meantime, check out the teaser trailer below.

Latest ‘Dragons’ Races to Netflix This Month

DreamWorks Dragons: Race To The Edge. Photo: © 2015 DreamWorks Animation Television, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The dragons are coming!

In the GeekMom world, we know this is a very good thing. Both kids and parents alike will be thrilled to know that these particular dragons are part of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise—and can be a permanent part of your home via Netflix!

The streaming service is about to launch Dragons: Race to the Edge, a new original series. Unlike the films, both of which made me cry (hey, I’m not the only one!), this new show will feature 13 episodes of action and adventure. Of course, there should be at least a few heartfelt moments as well.

In Dragons: Race to the Edge, Hiccup and Toothless find an ancient artifact known as the Dragon Eye. This piece holds a slew of secrets about undiscovered dragons and what life is like beyond the borders of Berk.

“If the Book of Dragons is an encyclopedia, the Dragon Eye is the internet,” says Doug Sloan, the show’s executive producer.

If you’re familiar with the franchise, you should know what to expect as far as the tone and pace. After all, it’s not the first time this franchise has come to the small screen. Dragons: Riders of Berk and Dragons: Defenders of Berk previously aired on the Cartoon Network.

Now, Netflix is taking over the reins. Despite promising to look and feel different, they are bringing along Jay Baruchel (Hiccup), America Ferrera (Astrid), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fishlegs), and T.J. Miller (Tuffnut) to reprise their respective characters. I think this is awesome news. For me, these voices really add something to the series. However, I am most excited to see the animation is still up to snuff. You can get a glimpse at that in the sneak peek below.

“Grown-ups can watch alongside kids because the jokes are funny enough, the storytelling grand enough, and the adventure amazing enough for all ages,” Sloan adds.

Dragons: Race to the Edge will be available for streaming starting June 26, 2015.

‘Phineas and Ferb’ Creators Talk ‘Last Day of Summer’

PHINEAS AND FERB - "Lost in Danville" - Damon Lindelof, co-creator and writer of "Lost", joined "Phineas and Ferb" creators and executive producers Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh for a screening of the series' "Lost" themed episode featuring story by Lindelof at the Disney Toon Studios in Glendale California on Wednesday, September 10. "Phineas and Ferb: Lost in Danville," guest starring Terry O'Quinn, Jane Kaczmarek and Rob Morrow, premieres Monday, September 29 at 7:30 p.m., ET/PT on Disney XD. (Disney XD/Rick Rowell) PHINEAS, DAN POVENMIRE (CREATOR/EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "PHINEAS AND FERB"), JEFF "SWAMPY" MARSH (CREATOR/EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "PHINEAS AND FERB"), FERB
Phineas and Ferb creators/executive producers Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh. Photo: Disney XD/Rick Rowell.

Well, kids, all good vacations must come to an end—even the animated ones. So after 104 days of summer vacation, 126 episodes, five one-hour specials, and a Disney Channel Original movie, Phineas and Ferb is about to wrap up.

Even though it will live on through the magic of reruns, the series has stopped producing new episodes. However, unlike so many other beloved shows that have come and gone, this Emmy-winning (and highly rated) series is getting a big finale. Will Phineas Flynn and Ferb Fletcher build a rocket, fight a mummy, or climb up the Eiffel Tower? Will Candace finally bust her brothers? Will Doofenshmirtz and Perry go back to being jumping buddies?

That last one is definitely a stretch, but all of these questions will be answered when Phineas and Ferb airs its very last episode later this week. Of course, the show plans to go out with a bang—and it doesn’t even need one of Doofenshmirtz’s “In-ators.” Disney XD will air a 73-hour marathon before the final episode, “Last Day of Summer,” airs on Friday, June 12.

Not to worry; this isn’t really goodbye, as much as it is another little vacation. Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, who created, produced, wrote, and even voiced Phineas and Ferb (Povenmire is particularly active, as the voice of Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz), are working on a new show for Disney XD. Mikey Murphy’s Law is expected to launch sometime in 2017.

I got the chance to have a hilarious chat with Dan and Swampy, who talked about how Stephen King influenced the big finale, what the next project will be like, and how losing Doofenshmirtz is going to be hard on everyone.

GeekMom [Rachel]: I’m going to give you the same question I’m sure everyone is giving you: Why is the show ending??

Jeff “Swampy” Marsh: That wasn’t the same question. Everybody else asks why we’re so good looking. At least, that’s what I remember.

Dan Povenmire: That’s how we take it. The question was actually, “Why do you look like that?” We took it to mean why are we so good looking.

You know, when we started the show, they picked up 16 half-hours and we were like… that’s 32 stories! How are we going to tell 32 stories?

Swampy: What have we done??

Dan: Now, we’ve done 126 half-hours, which is 200-some stories.

Swampy: We were pretty cocky and thought we’d get two seasons.

Dan: I think we’ve done much more than we were even planning on doing with them. It’s been a lot of fun, but I feel like, especially fourth season, we started running into walls periodically. We’d start to pitch an idea and realize, oh no, we’ve already done that. It’s sort of like that South Park episode, where they kept saying, “The Simpsons did it. The Simpsons did it,” because The Simpsons have been on the air so long. But it was sort of like, oh no, we already did that. So we were towards the end of an order and we said, “would you guys mind” if we just took these hour-long specials they wanted us to do, and made it into an actual series finale.

Swampy: Animated series don’t get to do a series finale.

Dan: Little comedy, animated cartoons don’t usually get to say goodbye. We felt like it would be nice to be able to wrap it up. It’s going to play forever on Disney. There’s so many of them that by the time you’re done watching, whatever 73 hours of them, then you’ll be ready for the first one again. It was just a nice way to say goodbye, I think.

GeekMom: I’ve seen a lot of people freaking out on social media about the show ending. Are you surprised at the reaction?

Dan: It took us a bit aback. I was actually waiting for jury duty in the hall of the Los Angeles courthouse and I saw that Disney PR sent us the link to the announcement and said, “Okay, you can finally tweet this.” We’ve been sort of under a gag order for the better part of a year. So I tweeted it and I looked on Twitter and there was such an outpouring of emotion, that I literally started crying. I was reading page after page after page of people telling us what the show had meant to them. I started crying and I went in to wash my face before I went in for jury selection. I looked at myself and I looked like such a crazy person and I was like, maybe I could use this to get out of jury duty. Nobody wants the crying juror! Instead, I just turned the phone off and went and looked at them later. The case was actually dismissed by the time we went into the courtroom.

Swampy: Dan called to me to ask if I was reading the Twitter feed and crying. I think my response was [starts wailing]…

Dan: We had known that the show was going to be over for like over a year now, because we had to write it, had to make it. We went through the last storyboard pitch, the last animatic, the last voice records, the last color, the last mix. All of these were sort of milestones for us. It was sort of our way of saying goodbye. We’ve been various degrees of sad and bittersweet for all that time. It wasn’t until that day that the rest of the country, the rest of the world got to know it was ending; it was so fresh for them that it made it fresh for us again.

GeekMom: I just watched the last episode [which you can get a peek at in the clip above] this morning and I am not sure how to describe it without too much spoilage. I looked at it as a take on Groundhog Day. How would you describe it?

Swampy: It’s a mash-up of Groundhog Day and The Langoliers.

Dan: The Langoliers by Stephen King.

Swampy: Kids love Stephen King references—almost as much as they love Tom Stoppard references.

Dan: Especially when it’s a Stephen King book that he wrote as Richard Bachman. I’m not sure, maybe that’s a Stephen King. I think it was a Bachman book. I think The Langoliers was a Bachman book.

GeekMom: Let’s talk a little about the new show that’s coming out, Mikey Murphy’s Law. What’s it about? How did the idea come about?

Dan: It’s about a kid named Mikey Murphy who’s the great-great-great-great-great grandson of Murphy from Murphy’s Law, which is that whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Murphy’s Law just happens around him all the time. He sort of lives in this cyclone of calamity. Things go wrong around him all the time. Because that’s just been his life his whole life… you know, if you’re born with one arm, you just go about and figure out how to do everything with one arm and you don’t think of it, because that’s just the way your life is.

Swampy: He wouldn’t change it. If you were to ask him, it makes his life exciting and different and an adventure every day.

Dan: He’s the most positive and optimistic kid. That’s just the way his life is, and it’s sort of following him around on his adventures with this friend of his and all the kids at school and how people interact with him while things are falling out of the sky.

GeekMom: I know a lot of parents who feel like Phineas and Ferb is the one kids’ show that they can tolerate. Will the new show have the same vibe?

Dan: It should. It’s our sense of humor and our vibe.

Swampy: We’re not going to stop doing all of the things that we enjoy doing. We seem to have connected with everyone, so all of that is going to remain.

Dan: We went through several different ideas before settling on Mikey Murphy because we felt like this is a really good follow-up to Phineas. It has the same kind of positive energy, it has the same opportunity for jokes that the parents will like as much as the kids. I think it will feel like it very much exists in the same kind of universe.

GeekMom: Will music be a big part of the new show?

Swampy: We’ve decided that there will be no music in this—not even a soundtrack.

Dan: We don’t even like music.

Swampy: That’s a good idea. We should rethink that.

Dan: You just gave us a great idea. Maybe we should put music in the show.

Swampy: I don’t think we’d be able to produce animated shows without some music in them.

Dan: Swampy and I used to write together at another network and the executive producer of that show kept telling us, “Okay, no more songs. It’s really hard, there’s all these people dancing, it takes us longer to animate it.” And we were like okay, and we’d write a song for the next episode and he’d go, “This one is good, but no more songs after this.”

GeekMom: The final episode is coming up, but Perry still gets his own one-hour special later this fall (The O.W.C.A. Files). Is this a one-time thing or is there a spin-off possibility?

Swampy: We’ll see how people take it, but it really just felt like… it was some area that we wanted to play in. It felt like a fun adventure.

GeekMom: When looking back on the show’s 126 episodes, do you have a favorite “Inator?”

Swampy: Oh, man!

Dan: There have been a lot of good ones. We’ve done “Shrinkinator” several times.

Swampy: It’s “Shrinkspheria.”

Dan: Yeah, we did “Shrinkspheria,” we did “Shrinkinator.” Then we had it on his balcony for a while, so we could continue to use it.

Swampy: The thing that I liked about “Shrinkspheria” is the whole theory that went with it, that it was simply by using the “Inator” name—that’s what was messing him up.

Dan: [In Doofenshmirtz’s voice] I’ve done this whole “Inator” thing a billion times. It just doesn’t work. I think I’ll call it “Shrinkspheria.” I think that’s the problem; it was the “Inator” name.

GeekMom: I’m going to miss that voice so much.

Dan: You and me both. That’s the thing I’m going to miss the most. There are so many times where I have an idea and think this would be a great Doof rant, I’ve got to put it in… oh, that’s right, we’re not doing it anymore. A lot of sort of sad moments like that. It used to be that I could either put it in the show or we did this “Doof’s Daily Dirt” web show that whenever I had anything I wanted to rant about, I would just write it up and do it for that. Like… [In Doofenshmirtz’s voice] Carly Rae Jepsen, what’s it about with her songs? “This is craaaazy, so here’s my number, so call me.” That’s not crazy; you give somebody your number because you want to see them again socially. You know what would be crazy is if she didn’t give the guy her number and she wanted to talk to him again later.

PHINEAS AND FERB - "Last Time of Summer" - The summer season is coming to a close and it's Candace's last chance to bust her brothers. She is quickly foiled, but is presented with an opportunity to redo the day when she sets off Dr. Doofenshmirtz's Do-Over-Inator, which results in other consequences like rips in the space-time continuum, the shortening of days and the disappearance of her brothers. This episode of "Phineas and Ferb" will air Friday, June 12 (9:00 PM - 10:00 PM ET/PT), on Disney XD. (Disney XD) BUFORD, ISABELLA, PHINEAS, FERB, BUFORD
The final episode of Phineas and Ferb, “Last Day of Summer,” will air on June 12 on Disney XD. Photo: Disney XD.

The 73-hour Phineas and Ferb marathon kicks off on Tuesday, June 9, leading into the finale, “Last Day of Summer,” on Friday, June 12 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT). The show will then continue to air daily on Disney XD and Disney Channels around the world.

Unboxing All 6 Blu-ray Editions of ‘The SpongeBob Movie’

There are six versions of The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea and has six Blu-ray releases coming out today? Scream it with me: “SpongeBob SquarePants!!!”

We know SpongeBob is an icon and all that, but why are there six Blu-rays for The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water? These aren’t separate covers for SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, Sandy, and Plankton. There’s a Blu-ray Combo Pack, the Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, and four retailer-specific versions.

Those four extra versions are exclusive to each respective retailer, with each one packing in a little something extra that’s separate from the actual discs. All of the special goodies are only available with a purchase of the Blu-ray. If you don’t have a Blu-ray player, there’s also a single-disc DVD out today as well. However, the Blu-ray also includes multiple special features. Besides the actual Blu-ray disc, a standard-def DVD, the Digital Copy, and the UltraViolet Digital Copy, there are over an hour’s worth of extras, including:

  • On the Surface
    • SpongeBob SquarePants: Out of His World
    • When I Grow Up, I Want to Make Funny Sounds
    • Becoming Burger Beard
    • Making the Burger Mobile Chase Sequence
    • It’s Hip to Be SquarePants
    • A Day in the Life of a Sponge
  • Underwater Awesomeness
    • Plankton Rules the World!
    • Bikini Bottom Confidential: Rock Stars of the Sea
    • International Sponge of Mystery: Meet Bubbles
    • International Sponge of Mystery: The Speech
  • Bikini Bottom Boogie
    • Thank Gosh It’s Monday
    • SpongeBob Sing-Alongs:
      • Thank Gosh It’s Monday
      • Teamwork
      • Theme Song/Rap Battle
    • “Squeeze Me” Music Video by N.E.R.D.
  • Deleted/Extended/Alternate/Test Scenes

The 3D version of the Blu-ray has all of the same special features listed above, but adds in a 3D version of the film and a 3D-enhanced version of the “Thank Gosh It’s Monday” deleted scene.

Want to know which version you’ll want to buy? (Because you know you’re going to want to buy one of them.) My son and I got to unbox all six versions being released today. Check out the goods in our video below. Are you ready, kids? I can’t hear you…

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is available now as a Blu-ray Combo Pack and a Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack. It’s also available on DVD, VOD, and Digital HD.

Disney Promotes ‘Summer’ Event With Retro-Style Gaming

Disney’s “Soaring Over Summer Arcade” will include retro arcade-style games with voxel versions of Jake, Sofia, Miles, Doc, and Henry. Photo: Disney Junior.

Disney Junior is getting ready for a sizzling summer. The network just announced plans to launch the “Soaring Over Summer” event, which will include new episodes of several shows, awesome guest stars, and retro-style arcade games.

“Soaring Over Summer” will last for a total of seven weeks, starting June 29. It will include a brand new episode of one show every single weekday during that time period. As part of the event, we can expect to see new episodes of Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Miles from Tomorrowland, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and Henry Hugglemonster. If you miss an episode on TV, you’ll be able to catch it the same day on Watch Disney Junior—assuming you won’t be playing video games.

Yes, while your kiddies are watching their favorite programs, you can be playing in the “Soaring Over Summer Arcade.” Disney Junior plans to unleash several retro-style arcade games with voxel versions of Sofia, Doc, Miles, Jake, and Henry.

During the “Soaring Over Summer” event, look for season-three premieres of Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First, with the latter featuring guest voices Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) and John Ross Bowie (The Big Bang Theory).

Other geeky guest stars to expect this summer include Malcolm McDowell, Jim Rash, David Tennant, Nestor Carbonell, Brett Dalton, and Chloe Bennett in episodes of Jake and the Never Land Pirates; Isla Fisher and Sean Aston on Sofia the First; and Alton Brown on Miles from Tomorrowland.

The “Soaring Over Summer” event will run from Monday, June 29 through Thursday, August 28. The premiere episodes will air each weekday at 9:00 a.m. ET/PT on Disney Channel and 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on Disney Junior.

7 More Super Wonder Woman Gifts and Wants

Black dome Tungsten Carbide ring with a Wonder Woman design. Photo courtesy of Custom Tungsten.

Even after two years, our list of “7 Super Wonder Woman Gifts and Wants” still has me, well, wanting. That’s probably because Wonder Woman never goes out of style. However, she does apparently go out of print, because some of the stuff on that original list is no longer available. In other words, it’s time for an update.

Oh yes, I still want that mixer. And yes, it’s still only available in Brazil. Sigh. That said, there are many other awesome Wonder Women-themed goodies out there.

This list may be a little late for Mother’s Day gifts, but really, any time is a perfect time for a little something devoted to the Amazon princess. Here are our latest Wonder Woman-themed gift picks.

Custom Tungsten Wonder Woman Rings
These aren’t quite as strong as Wonder Woman’s bracelets, but each of Custom Tungsten’s Wonder Woman-themed rings are still pretty durable. They’re also pretty eye-catching, with a variety of different patterns available (including the one pictured above) in designs ranging from 4 to 10mm. If you want it to have a personal touch, opt for the engraving. Either way, each one is custom-made, so make sure you measure wisely; actual ring sizes range from 4 to 17. [$24.50 to $49]

Wonder Woman Superhero Socks
Sometimes, you want to hide your superpowers. These Wonder Woman socks are perfect for putting your Wonder Woman fandom out there, but you can also easily hide them under the outfit of your everyday alter ego. That’s because they have all of the Wonder Wonder flash, without the cape. Have you seen those socks with the little capes on the back? They’re cute, but I prefer my socks cape-free. It’s hard enough running, without having something flapping in the breeze. That said, if you want the flash without the cape, these faux lace-up socks would also be a pretty perfect accessory. [$8.99 to $11.99]

Wonder Woman-inspired Sassy Apron. Photo courtesy of Sassy Apron on Etsy.

Wonder Woman Apron (Part 2)
Despite having superpowers in the kitchen, stains are my nemesis. They’ve also ruined more than one favorite shirt. While the apron that I previously mentioned is still available, I really love this one that Sassy Apron is selling on Etsy. And really, having a spare apron in your arsenal may be necessary. This one is cool, cute, and it’s made to order—as every super-suit should be. [$42]

Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Comics. Cover image: IDW Publishing.

Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Comics
Get ready to explore the origin of the world’s first and most kick-ass female superhero through 196 pages of black-and-white comics. This coffee table book has all of the strips that ran in newspapers from May 1, 1943, until December 1, 1944. These haven’t been printed since the series’ original run, making it even more of a must-have. Besides familiar faces, the Lasso of Truth, the Invisible Plane, the bracelets, and so much more, the book has an opening essay that provides a few peeks at promotional materials, original sketches, and other tidbits. [$35.25]

Wonder Woman Bangle Watch
With so many people relying on smartphones to provide the time these days, you don’t see as many watches. This is a watch worth showing off. Of course, it’s not as cool as Wonder Woman’s bracelets (and it won’t deflect bullets, either). That said, it does have the power to keep you from being late! [$44.95]

Wonder Woman pillows. Photo courtesy of Comicscon on Etsy.

Wonder Woman Pillows & Pillowcases
Next time I go to take a snooze on the couch, I will dream of kicking some serious ass—at least if I have one of these pillows to put my weary head upon. Choose between different patterns and sizes, all of which are handmade by Comicscon on Etsy. You can even opt to purchase just the cushion fabric, the cover, or the cover and filling, so you can create your perfect Wonder Woman pillow. [Starts at $8]

Wonder Woman Messenger Bag. Photo courtesy of Think Geek.

Wonder Woman Messenger/Diaper Bag
I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine wearing a utility belt. This thing is much more my style, and I don’t even care that it’s “technically” a diaper bag. Officially licensed by DC Comics, this messenger bag has mesh pockets, an insulated bottle holder, and space for whatever else you need to carry on a daily basis. And just in case you are toting a superhero-in-training, it comes packaged with a changing pad and cape-shaped burp cloth. Think Geek is currently out of stock (of course!) on this bag, but it can be found on Amazon as well. [$37.98]

Todd Parr Talks Pregnancy, Parenting, & Giving His Books Away for Free

Todd Parr photo by Jeff Fielding.

For many years now, I have been reading the works of Todd Parr to my son. When he was a baby, we’d flip through It’s Okay To Be Different and Underwear Do’s and Don’ts. At the age of eight, he still often sleeps with his copy of The I’m Not Scared Book. (It’s quite wrinkled.)

Now, Parr is putting out something new for parents. It’s not just for parents to read, but for them to enjoy—and it’s in Parr’s quirky, colorful, signature style. The author/illustrator of over 30 acclaimed children’s books has just released We’re Pregnant, with the inevitable follow-up We’re Parents coming on June 8.

While you may be quick to pre-order both books on Amazon, know that Parr is actually giving away both of these books for free. Why would he do that exactly? To benefit charity. With every download, The First Years, the same company that makes every baby item imaginable from strollers to sippy-cups, will donate money to two nonprofit charities. Project Night Night provides more than 25,000 free “night night” care packages to homeless infants, toddlers, and children each year, while Cradles to Crayons works to deliver other essentials to children.

GeekMom recently got the chance to chat with Parr and The First Years’ Lynne Mello. Check out the video interview below to find out more about the new eBooks, how giving them away benefits so many children in need, and how Parr’s upcoming The Goodbye Book tackles one of the author’s toughest topics yet.

To download We’re Pregnant, go to The First Years website—and remember to bookmark it for the June 8 release of We’re Parents!

Video: Muppets Talk to Kids About Moms in ‘Muppet Moments’

Muppet Moments airs on the Disney Channel. Photo: Disney Junior/Rick Rowell.

Most moms love getting homemade cards, pictures, trinkets, and other mementos for Mother’s Day. I especially love those little questionnaires that they fill out in school. (I’ve seen a few interesting answers regarding my age, weight, and favorite hobbies.) Could you imagine what some of those responses would look like, if the questions were being dictated by a Muppet?

That’s what a few lucky kids got to do, as part of Disney Junior’s Muppet Moments. The new short-form series features all of your favorite Muppets, talking to kids about a variety of different topics.

GeekMom has an exclusive sneak peek at Friday’s episode, titled “Moms.” It features Gonzo, Kermit, Rizzo the Rat, and a few really cute kids.

If you want to see more, check out the “Moms” installment of Muppet Moments this Friday, May 8 at 8:25 a.m. (ET/PT) on the Disney Channel.

2 Self-Published Books Take Bedtime to the Moon

A peek at the inside of Little and the Moon. Photo: Justin Gloe.

My son is always asking if we can read stories on the iPad. I personally prefer the look and feel of an actual book, but the digital format gives us the opportunity to sample a lot of really good bedtime adventures.

Recently, I got to peek at a pair of bedtime stories that specifically deal with the moon—but in two very different ways, by different authors. Justin Gloe’s Little and the Moon and Bella Woodfield’s The Girl and the Moon are short, sweet stories designed for young adventurers right before they blast off to dreamland.

Even better, both of these books were self-published, via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform for eBooks and CreateSpace for the print. It’s nice to be able to explore new these stories, all while supporting someone else’s dream.

Photo: Bella Woodfield.

Little and the Moon is a short story about Little, a tabbit who lives a lonely life and longs for a friend to share adventures with. Apparently, a tabbit is a little creature that lives in the forest, and was a something inspired by Gloe’s rural Missouri upbringing. The artwork is cute and the story is even cuter, as Little goes about his travels. It’s short, but just the right amount of time for a bedtime story. Even better, the outcome should leave your little with a big smile right before bedtime.

Even shorter, The Girl and the Moon follows one girl’s quest to find out what the moon would taste like. It’s an interesting plotline, but how “feet” isn’t an option, I don’t know. The story involves the girl trying various ways to reach the moon, in search of a little sample. This one has a bit more color, but just a few words per page. It’s not exactly Goodnight Moon and won’t be very satisfying if it’s the only story in your bedtime routine. That said, it’s a cute concept and a quick, fun read.

Both of the above books are fictional, so don’t expect to end the night on an educational note. We especially loved Little and the Moon, because of the style, length, and the creative main character. The Girl and the Moon would be best for a beginner reader, although it’s certainly a sweet way to squeeze in an extra story at the end of the night.

If you’re interested in more advanced spacey adventures, also check out One Giant Leap, Moonshot, The Magic School Bus Lost In The Solar System, and There’s No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System. Each one is a bit more lengthy (and a bit more expensive), but we’ve really enjoyed each of these at bedtime—and during the day, too.

GeekMom received these items for review purposes.