DIY: Winter Cat Shelter for Outdoor, Feral, and Free-Roaming Cats

My daughter and I are cat people. We have four at home and every Wednesday we volunteer at our local cat shelter, Cat Tales. We spend up to ninety minutes feeding, grooming, and socializing the approximately 100 cats who live there, including the two in the image above.

On the right is Sundance who strongly resembles Captain Marvel’s flerken cat, Chewie, and on the left is Bruce, named after the Batman. The shelter is made up of four rooms, all with access to the fenced-in outdoors. In the last month more and more cats have come indoors due to the colder weather. But what about the cats who live outside the fences?

Aeris and I decided to build a cat shelter for feral or free roaming cats to take refuge in this winter. It’s what Catwoman would do.


  • A large plastic bin, with a lid
  • A foam cooler, with a lid
  • Straw, shredded newspaper, or batting for insulation
  • Measuring tape or ruler and an X-acto knife or like cutting tool
  • Duct tape
a photo of supplies required to make a cat shelter
Photo by the author

Continue reading DIY: Winter Cat Shelter for Outdoor, Feral, and Free-Roaming Cats

Forget Pepe. #ifoundmurky at BlizzCon 2015

Throughout October, leading up to BlizzCon 2015, one hashtag ruled them all as far as Blizzard games were concerned. The tag #ifoundpepe took off as players tweeted images of their characters with the beloved bird on their head.

When the Blizzard Gear store released a plush Pepe, the frenzy around him reached a fevered pace. But while there were dozens of Pepes to be seen throughout BlizzCon, another character also seemed to have caught the eye of crafters throughout the fandom. So I would like to propose a new hashtag, #ifoundmurky.

Murky is a murloc, a small creature that most World of Warcraft players would recognize as one of the many mobs that characters plow through in their quest for experience and gear. Heroes of the Storm players might recognize him as a niche character that shocks everyone when a player selects him.

No one really gives the poor creature much of a thought, outside of being a humorous addition to any game. But he has found love among a small group of crafters and I caught up with a few of them at BlizzCon. Continue reading Forget Pepe. #ifoundmurky at BlizzCon 2015

The Force Awakens…A New Set of ‘Star Wars’ Snowflakes

Graphic designer Anthony Herrera has been creating snowflake patterns for Star Wars fans since 2011, delivering a fresh batch of designs each year.

For his 2015 set, Herrera celebrates the release of the seventh film in the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens, with seven new character designs featuring Rey, BB-8, Finn, First Order Stormtrooper, Kylo Ren, Kylo Ren Lightsaber, and Poe Dameron.

This latest bunch brings the total to 57 different Star Wars patterns from which crafty fanfolk can get cramped fingers, crossed eyes, and a big smile making.

Another recent addition is Herrera’s Guardians of the Galaxy snowflake patterns set, with all five members of the team, as well as Baby Groot and Ronan. These join his already popular set based on the animated Disney hit, Frozen. Continue reading The Force Awakens…A New Set of ‘Star Wars’ Snowflakes

How to Throw a My Neighbor Totoro Birthday Party

When I was pregnant with my second child, we figured out the perfect theme for decorating the baby’s room: a Totoro nursery!

When we found out the baby was our second girl, we figured out the perfect middle name: Mae—different spelling, but same name as the little girl from My Neighbor Totoro. So when the first movie she actually watched end-to-end was My Neighbor Totoro, it only made sense. And when it came to letting her choose the theme for a second birthday, again, it only made sense that she would pick Totoro. Continue reading How to Throw a My Neighbor Totoro Birthday Party

Eat Like a Geek: Bonfire Night

In the United Kingdom, November 5th is known as Bonfire Night. Across the country, bonfires are lit and firework displays held to commemorate the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot way back in 1605.

There are many different foods associated with Bonfire Night although few of them could be called healthy. Among them are toffee apples, treacle toffee, and baked potatoes cooked within the fire itself, but perhaps the most classic Bonfire Night food is parkin.

Continue reading Eat Like a Geek: Bonfire Night

Aren’t You a Little Colorful for a Stormtrooper? ‘Star Wars’ Watercolor for Kids

Have you ever looked at a stark stormtrooper and thought, “That guy could use a splash of color!” If so, this is your chance to put your own spin on a stormtrooper with this creative watercolor painting perfect for you and the kids.

Continue reading Aren’t You a Little Colorful for a Stormtrooper? ‘Star Wars’ Watercolor for Kids

Geeky Ornaments to Knit and Crochet

The air cools; fall begins, and out come the sweaters! I love knitting and crocheting, but as a mother of three small children I don’t have the time for large projects like sweaters.

This year I thought I’d spend my autumn months knitting and crocheting some geeky holiday ornaments! Here is a list of both knitted and crocheted ornaments you can make. Keep them for yourself or gift a bit of geek to any nerd on your list! Some of these are actual ornaments and some are amigurumi that you can add a simple yarn loop or a hook to for hanging. Continue reading Geeky Ornaments to Knit and Crochet

2 Disturbingly Fun Ways to Repurpose Broken Doll Heads

My girls have enjoyed their dolls…a little too much.

Their Barbie-sized dolls have enjoyed tea parties, but have also flown the Space Shuttle into a planet, with the help of a sling-shot and wall, fought crime and overly-playful dogs, cliff dove into a pile of cactus, and been strapped on the back of remote control cars like little NASCAR racers.

These dolls are no sissies in our house, which has led to a few plastic mortalities. On more than one occasion, we’ve gone to put away dolls, only to find one or two surviving pieces left, often the head.

Look what the cat dragged in…literally. Find broken doll head a better fate with some re-paints. All images: Lisa Kay Tate.

Continue reading 2 Disturbingly Fun Ways to Repurpose Broken Doll Heads

7 Perfectly Spooky Halloween Treats

Skull full of witch fingers, anyone? Photo from the author.
Skull full of witch fingers, anyone?
Photo from the author.

I can’t pretend this isn’t one of my favorite times of the year. When else can you offer someone a skull full of almond flavored witch fingers and not expect screams?

But whether you have signed up to bring the classroom treat, are throwing a Friday-night-fright-fest, or just feel like serving something creepy for dessert, finding the perfect, easy, recipe can be a chore.

Allow me to help!  I’ve collected seven of my favorite creepy concoctions. I do not take credit for creating any of these ideas, but I’ve kitchen- and kid-tested each of these and know they are sure-fire hits, whatever your event.

Happy Haunting!

Used Q-Tips

Used Q-Tips with Butterscotch. Photo from the author.
Used Q-Tips with Butterscotch. Photo from the author.


  • Mini-marshmallows
  • Sticks (either lollipop sticks or actual Q-Tips with the cotton heads clipped off)
  • Ear Wax (butterscotch, caramel, or cookie butter—see below)


This is one of the simplest treats to make. Simply place one mini-marshmallow on each end of the stick and dip in the “ear wax” of your choice. Store bought butterscotch and caramel don’t always set up completely and can cause some stickiness between “Q-Tips” on the tray. Homemade caramel usually sets up harder and is a nice option—email me for my recipe and instructions. Or, Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter works wonderfully. Continue reading 7 Perfectly Spooky Halloween Treats

10 Halloween Costumes to Hit You in the Feels

We are one week out from Halloween, and if you’re still thinking about costumes then you need to strategize. This article really deserves a sub-heading: Costumes to Guarantee Extra Candy From Crying Geeks (On a Budget and Short Notice). Because we all know that’s the primary goal, right?

If you truly want to make the most of your Geek Parent status, you need to think beyond the standard costume. We’re talking fine detail. We’re talking characterization. We’re talking props. Trust me—the props bring the feels, like Moffat to a flame.

Each of the following suggestions stays true to the nature of Halloween—Everybody’s dead, Dave (well, kind of). There may be spoilers ahead, although all of these characters are at least 12 months old—you have been warned.

  1. Carl (from UP)

You’ve seen the cosplays of Old Man Carl, carrying balloons and his zimmer frame. Amateurs. Do the old man costume—suspenders; bow tie; talcum powder in the hair; glasses. And add a photo frame or scrapbook with Ellie’s picture poking out of the top. Whenever anyone looks at the costume, just glance down at the picture and sniff.

  1. Hiro (from Big Hero 6)

Now, the obvious choice would be the brother, Tadashi—but that might be a little obtuse. Instead, go for a simple version of Hiro (cargo pants, red t-shirt, blue cardigan) with props: A slightly deflated Baymax balloon. We all know he survives at the very end, but after the tearjerker with Tadashi… I just don’t think the candy-rich geeks could handle the feels from Baymax’s sacrifice *sniff*.

Photo by Evil Genius Mum
Photo by Evil Genius Mum

Continue reading 10 Halloween Costumes to Hit You in the Feels

Monster Plants From Outer Space: DIY—Try It!

When I first saw Shirley Bovshow’s “Man-Eating Monster Plants,” I knew I had to make some of my own. If you haven’t been to gardening maven Shirley’s blog “Eden Makers,” please visit! She’s the go-to for all things growing. Or, in my case, all things dying. My thumbs are mostly black, not remotely green. But as this craft only requires inanimate objects, I figured I had a shot.

For full disclosure, I feel I should start by telling you that crafts can be difficult for me. First off, I’m not innately “crafty.” I’ve met those types of people. The folks who can tie a bow perfectly every time, or wrap the perfect present, or artfully put together a bouquet of grocery store flowers so they look like a hundred bucks.

That's one scary plant! Photo from E. Lillith McDermott
That’s one scary plant!
Photo from E. Lillith McDermott

Not me. My grocery store flowers look, well, like grocery store flowers. But, I am also a tad bit of a perfectionist. Okay, more than a tad. I’m a total and complete type-A perfectionist.

Generally, those two personality aspects add up to several days of stress when any craft project is undertaken.

This was no exception. The fabulous Bovshow only required an hour, plus drying time, to make her version.

Mine took three days. Continue reading Monster Plants From Outer Space: DIY—Try It!

Make an Easy Shonen Knife Costume!

It’s a cool feeling when your own children embrace some of your memories, and make them their own. My six-year-old has discovered the pop-punk trio Shonen Knife.

Whether it’s their catchy beats, colorful homemade-looking videos, or their Ramones-meets-Hello Kitty look, they are her band, and she wants to dress like them. Specifically, she wants the two-tone heart dresses they wore in their sugar high of a video, Riding on the Rocket.

Per her request, I created a way turn two cheap t-shirts into one retro and colorful Shonen Knife-inspired costume that can be worn year round.

What you need:

  • Two inexpensive t-shirts (one white, one another bright color)
  • Fabric adhesive tape
  • Black cloth paint
  • One or two sheets of bright colored craft foam

    Basic materials for the Shonen Knife dress. Two tees will soon become one. Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

Continue reading Make an Easy Shonen Knife Costume!

DIY: 3M Auto Boot Camp Proves You Can Make Your Old Car Look New Again

It would be wonderful if we could each buy a shiny new car the second the old one started to look shabby. Even if you’re careful, scratches, dents, and general wear and tear can take their toll on your precious. One solution is to take it to a detailer and have them buff and polish until it looks like new, but that can be expensive. I recently discovered how easy it is to bring a car back to life and here’s why you should try this, too.

I write about cars all the time. It’s my day job to know about horsepower and torque and wheelbases and all those numbers the engineers love to quote. I know a lot about cars, but I have never once tried to do any cosmetic work on my car to reduce the effects of age. Awkwardly applied touch-up paint, yes, but buffing and polishing, never.

Continue reading DIY: 3M Auto Boot Camp Proves You Can Make Your Old Car Look New Again

Your Guide to Creating the Perfect Tree of Life Pendant

Recently, I found myself caught up in the tree of life phenomenon. Specifically, I took a real interest in wire-wrapped, handmade tree of life pendants. I had an opportunity to take a three-hour class, held by Wattle Tree Designs, at a local gift shop. Boy, was that a lot of fun! Women, beads, laughter, and the age-old art of passing down a craft from one person to another. I was hooked! Read on for inspiration and instructions on how to make your own tree of life pendants.

Continue reading Your Guide to Creating the Perfect Tree of Life Pendant

Turn Plastic Rings into Bat Bling!

DC Comics has now declared Batman Day to be an annual event, celebrating what they boast in their publicity as the “World’s Most Popular Superhero.”

It’s only proper to accessorize accordingly.

Here’s a way to make some unique bat jewelry out of those cheap plastic novelty rings that I’m assuming are now a legal requirement for most birthday goodie bags and carnival game prizes. All it really takes is some paint, rhinestones, and ambition.

Continue reading Turn Plastic Rings into Bat Bling!

3 ‘Star Wars’ Handprint Paintings for Younglings

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

When my daughter was a toddler, one of our favorite activities was making handprint paintings together. She loved feeling the cool paint as the brush tickled her fingers, and I loved having a small keepsake of her little hands. Add a Star Wars theme to the handprints, and you’ve got a perfect painting to hang on the fridge or paste in a geek mom’s scrapbook.

Here are three Star Wars handprint painting ideas crafted with small hands to make happy memories.

What You Need

  • Washable paint (Crayola)
  • Paint brush
  • Black marker
  • Paper

Princess Leia Continue reading 3 ‘Star Wars’ Handprint Paintings for Younglings

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.

Be the Artist: LeRoy Neiman

Put in motion your favorite “fictional” sports by capturing motion and color using some LeRoy Neiman influence. (Image: “Slytherin vs. Griffindor” by Lisa Kay Tate)

The Artist: LeRoy Neiman

Everything about 20th Century American painter LeRoy Neiman was colorful, from his art to his personal style and attitude.

LeRoy Neiman was always colorful. His autobiography, All Told, was released just days before his death at age 91. (Artist image courtesy Creative Stuff, via Wikicommons. Program cover: New York Jets via Wikicommons. Book cover: Lyons Press.)

He was born in 1921 in St. Paul, Minnesota. His father abandoned his family at an early age, and he was raised by his mother, whom he had described as “spirited” and “ahead of her time.” He grew up in a working class neighborhood, and had even referred to himself as a “street kid,” but that didn’t stop his artistic cravings. In school, he painted signs for school assemblies (as well as tattoos on his friends during lunch). In the Armed Forces, he painted backgrounds for Red Cross shows.

Later in life, he continued several successful commercial art and fine art ventures, for everything from magazines to sports program covers.

His signature painting style came about in the 1950s, when he discovered that “free-flowing paint” produced fast-moving strokes and therefore, fast-moving action.

In terms of his art, Neiman was prolific. He could produce a couple dozen paintings a year, and was constantly sketching images he used for his painting ideas.

According to his biography on his official website, Neiman often painted on “Masonsite or Upson (a board made with ground wood and recycled paper products), and used a sheer coat of polymer ground (a type of primer)” on the surfaces. Then he laid on the color. He painted large brushed areas with oil paints, combined opaque and transparent materials to compliment each other, and made the most use of both positive and negative space as he could. There were often two or more media in each painting, including watercolor, ink, graphite, gouache, or felt-tip marker to achieve the look he wanted.

He said in a 1961 issue of American Artist he would use colors, painted outlines, and space to help him “describe whatever is emotionally necessary for its intended function in the picture.”

He is best known for sports paintings, and drew action-filled scenes of Olympic games, horse racing, Super Bowl bouts, and most every other kind of team or individual sport. His images also covered a spectrum of pop culture icons of hundreds of celebrities from Sylvester Stallone to Liza Minnelli. He even created 40-foot-high murals for dancer and choreographer Tommy Tune for a New York City theater. He also painted landscapes, animals, and images that inspired him on his travels to exotic locations.

Neiman’s own look of a New York-style “man about town” was recognizable as well, as he was always seen with his large handlebar mustache and, most the time, with his trademark cigar.

Neiman painted nearly his entire life. In 2010, he had a medical problem that resulted in the amputation of his right leg, but he continued to paint. He died at age 91 in 2012 in the New York home he and his wife shared for more than 50 years.

Even through his paintings weren’t always perfectly in tune with the natural color schemes of the actual subject, he said he remained true to the subject in his own way.

“I do not depart from the colors borrowed from life,” he said in VIP Magazine in 1962, “but I use color to emphasize the scent, the spirit, and the feeling of the thing I’ve experienced.”

The Project: Fantasy and Sci-Fi Sports Scenes

Neiman’s use of color often brought out what he called the “spirit” of the subject, not necessarily the expected norm. Fortunately, fictional bouts don’t have to worry about what’s always completely real. (Image: “GoGo On The Grid” by Lisa Kay Tate)

I’m ending this summer’s Be the Artist projects with something fun, colorful, and easy to explain…but not so easy to achieve that it doesn’t pose a good challenge.

In celebration of Neiman’s colorful spirit, as well as the start of many school and professional sports, let’s paint an action image of a favorite “fictional” sport.

This project is the perfect opportunity to play with mixed-media. If the color works…use it! (Image: Lisa Kay Tate)

One of the reasons Neiman’s work was so popular was that sports and fine art had never really come together before to a great extent. He had tapped onto a new and vibrant genre with this artistic marriage. Even those who prefer books or movies over playing fields and arenas have to admit, fantasy is filled with sports like Quidditch, Hunger Games, or Pod Racing. It’s out there, and it’s exciting.

Look at screen shots from favorite movies or comic book pages for a favorite “sports” or “recreational” image and paint it. Sounds easy, but can you capture that action? How far are they leaning on their brooms or ostriches? How far back is that throwing arm? Examine these pictures and see what clues make our eyes realize this static picture is actually full of movement?

Now, can you capture it with without “sketching” it or drawing it out first? Okay, I’ll go easy on beginners. Go ahead and sketch out your idea lightly, or take advantage of the method used in the Roy Lichtenstein project with just broad brush strokes. Don’t worry about facial details. Novices can even try tracing just the outlines like the Alphose Mucha art project, but only use these “cheats” to get started if you have trouble.

With Neiman, the key was in strokes and color. Neiman did do some portraits and figure drawings, but he was the king of energy and movement. Put your art in motion, by adding color along the figures edges, splashes or splotches in the background, and other touches of color overlaid through the entire picture.

Try some splatters and bold strokes, or use a sponge and pat down the background with layers.  Also, remember Neiman liked to combine media, so go ahead and use watercolor with acrylic, or colored pencil with pastels or crayons. If it looks good and works for the sport, then that’s the only rule you need to follow.

Whatever you pick, be bold! Be bright! Stand out! Whether it was his art or his own persona, quiet subtlety wasn’t what Neiman was often known for, as he said in a 1984 article in Esquire:

“I like being outrageous,” he said.

“Joust” by the Tate girls used acrylic, watercolor, and fine tip marker. (Image: Lisa Kay Tate)

Top 10 Tips For A DIY Haunted House

1.  Spray paint is not water-soluble—wear gloves.

2. If using a handyman for labor, be specific. Just telling him you want a “table covering the toilet” will result in a small piece of plywood balanced on the stool.

3. When covering the walls in plastic sheeting, clearly mark where the outlets are hidden.

4. Do not replace all lighting sources with black lights until after you decorate.

5. Dogs do not like large, animated spiders.

6. Dogs do like severed latex heads.

7. Turn off sound-activated animatronic zombies before giving your mother-in-law a tour.

8. You may think you’ve scrubbed all the glow-in-the-dark spray off your hands, but you can’t be sure until you go to the movies.

9. If using a basement or garage, count the fake plastic spiders. It makes finding the real ones easier.

10. The interwebs lie! The recipe using brighteners and phosphorescence does not make black light paint. It does, however, make a potent smoke bomb.

Okay, so those may be my top 10 lessons learned, but unless you too get a call from your neighbor to report a runaway Golden Retriever carrying a bloody head, they may not be the most applicable. But after building several over-the-top haunted houses, I’m happy to pass on some hard-won advice: Continue reading Top 10 Tips For A DIY Haunted House

Accio, Books! Make a Hermione Granger Bookmark for Back to School

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Go back to school with the brightest witch of her age by making a Hermione Granger bookmark to nestle in her one of her favorite things: a book.

This bookmark is inspired by the look of the new Pop! Hermione Granger recently released by Funko.

What You Need

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox
  • Black, white, maroon, gold, brown, and light tan/peach cardstock
  • Black enamel dot stickers (like these from Doodlebug, found in craft stores with the scrapbooking supplies)
  • School glue
  • Scissors
  • Black marker

Get Started!

Begin by cutting two black strips the same size, approximately 1.25 inches by 6 inches (or 4 inches for a shorter bookmark). Cut a small oval for Hermione’s face, and a strip smaller than the black strip for her neck and shirt.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Next, cut a small shape for the tie out of the maroon cardstock, and a small strip of gold for the tie’s stripes.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Cut a hair shape out of the light brown cardstock, using the oval as a guide for size. (Remember, this is Hermione, so the poofier the better!)

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Now it’s time to start putting it all together!

Glue the oval behind the hair, and then glue the white strip to the bottom of the face.

Then, glue the maroon tie under Hermione’s chin. Cut the gold strip to fit and carefully add two stripes to the tie.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Next, cut a small triangle in the top of one of the black stripes for the front of the robe. Line it up with the tie and glue the robe to the shirt.

Flip the bookmark over, and glue the other black cardstock to the back to finish the robe and give the bookmark a cleaner look.

You can also trace her hair on the brown paper, cut it, and glue to the back of her head to finish the clean look.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

You’re almost done! Place two black enamel dots for Hermione’s eyes, and draw a smile beneath.

Finally, to add some texture, use the school glue to draw waves in Hermione’s hair and down the length of the robe to give it some detail.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

After the glue on the front dries, flip the bookmark over to add waves to the back of her hair with school glue for the final touch.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Allow the bookmark to dry completely, and Hermione is complete.

Be the Artist: Ansel Adams

moon over tatooine
Moons Over Tatooine, using a photo of the moon, and a set up display of plastic toys. Tatooine, by the way, has three moons. Two suns, three moons. Ansel Adams would have loved it there. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

The Artist: Ansel Adams

Ansel Easton Adams, born in 1902 in San Francisco, California, was known for his black-and-white landscape photography, primarily of the wide open spaces of the American West.

Adams used the contrast of light and dark to make his images more dramatic. Adams portrait by J. Malcolm Greany, Public Domain. All other images by Ansel Adams from the National Archives, via Wikicommons

As a child, Adams was prone to hyperactivity and hypochondria. He did, however, love the view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the surrounding landscape around his home. He also loved the beauty of nature at a very young age.

Adams was a talented pianist through his youth, and his focus on piano was what helped curb some of his hyperactive tendencies. He even planned on making it his profession at one point.

He got his first camera in 1916, a Kodak Brownie, where he took his first photos of Yosemite National Park during a family trip. So began his love of the camera, and he was ready to apply it to his love of nature. He was so inspired by Yosemite, he returned there the next year with tripods and better equipment. He was soon learning basic darkroom techniques, and even acquired a job in San Francisco as a photo finisher, but kept returning to Yosemite. He eventually met and married Virginia Best there. Best ran Best’s Studio in Yosemite, which is today known as Ansel Adams Gallery. In the 1920s, he begin selling his photography of Yosemite from that studio.

An avid outdoorsman and environmentalist, Adams captured many of the wonders of the natural world on film including Glacier National Park, Carlsbad Caverns, Taos Pueblo, and many others. As a member of the environmental conservation group, Sierra Club, Adams even worked as a summer caretaker for the organization’s visitor center in Yosemite Valley when he was a teenager.

In the years before digital cameras and instant photo adjustments, Adams, along with fellow photographer, Fred Archer, helped develop a method of determining the best exposure for a scene. This is known as the “Zone System.” Even if his subject matter seems uninteresting to some critics, his pristine capture of shadows and light is still appreciated today. He did do some work in color, but found black and white more appealing.

Even his early photographs showed his care of balance, and he experimented with different methods of making images more beautiful, including soft-focus etching, the Bromoil Process, and other methods.

No matter how simple or vast his subject, Adams wanted it to be more than just a snapshot.

“It is easy to take a photograph,” he said in his self-titled autobiography, “but it is harder to make a masterpiece in photography than in any other art medium.”

The Project: Moon Over…Wherever

moon over Hobbiton
Moon Over Hobbiton, Middle Earth using my moon image and some cutouts from a movie magazine. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

Adams took one of his most famous works while visiting New Mexico in 1941: Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. This darkly peaceful work depicts the quiet Northern New Mexico village, with snow-covered mountains in the background, residing under a full moon.

This piece, at least to New Mexico residents, often pops up in the news, as photographers still try to re-create it today. This in itself isn’t a problem, except for some reason or another the residents of Hernandez don’t enjoy getting visitors with cameras interrupting their solitude. It is understandable to want one’s solitude, but it is also no mystery, upon seeing the photograph, why is makes for an inviting photo op.

An old desktop calendar image of Adams's Moon Over Hernandez, New Mexico (bottom left) serves as inspiration for these pictures of the moon (and an eclipse) from our backyard. Image: Lisa Kay Tate
An old desktop calendar image of Adams’s Moon Over Hernandez, New Mexico (bottom left) serves as inspiration for these pictures of the moon (and an eclipse) from our backyard. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

To pay homage to this piece, which exemplifies Adams’s mastery of light and dark balance, as well as avoiding any trespassing issues, this simple photography and collage project takes advantage of the convenience of digital cameras and photo editing apps, while still demanding a little creative thinking on the part of the photographer.

First, take a picture of the moon from your home. You don’t have to capture your landscape in the photo if you don’t want, but make sure it is from where you reside (unless you can’t get a good shot of it, then take one from an area as close to your home as possible). Plus, it’s a good excuse to get outside and enjoy nature, like Adams did.

Once you have your image, print it. Color is fine for now. The black and white aspect comes later.

Next, either draw or set up a little scene from a favorite place, real or fictional, and cut it out. If you build one, take it at a slightly lighter time of day, so it will stand out against the moon. Again, color is fine for now.

These little plastic toys will look more authentic once changed to grayscale. Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

Take the little “landscape” and place it over the picture of the moon, so it looks like it is in the forefront. Once finished, take another photo of the finished product. Don’t scan it—as tempting as it would be—as that would be missing the point of the whole thing, taking photos.

Now, here’s the key. If you’ve taken these photos in color, use the grayscale tool on your digital device or photo editing app (they should all have one), and look at the difference. Much more dramatic, isn’t it?

If you have taken these in black and white, play with the levels to get that Ansel Adams effect or dark and light contrast. I also used the Pixlr web app to create the torn edge effect (also to add some stars to Gallifrey). Print them out on photo paper, and you’ve got your own personal Moon Over… image.

Fair warning, photography can be quite addictive (and I’m not talking about selfies). It only takes the spark of one inspiring view to ignite that passion to capture one’s world on film, just as Yosemite did for Adams.

“The splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious..One wonder after another descended upon us. There was light everywhere,” he wrote in his autobiography. “A new era began for me.”

Maybe one will for you, as well.

moon over gallifrey
Moon of Gallifrey, using our moon photo, and a simple drawing of the Gallifreyan landscape, as well as an online filter to add some stars. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

This Geeky House: Enchanted Forest Inspired Home and Garden

Summer is waning, and I am trying to hold on to the last bits of warm before the fall sets in and the colors change. The magic of summertime inspired me to find some modern treasures that put a little magic into your home. Here are seven (a magical number) that will enchant your rooms and gardens and make you feel like you live within a fairy ring:

Image courtesy of Dellamorteco

Dryad Statue

This gorgeous statue from art studio Dellamorteco is made out of handpainted resin will have you wondering which of your trees are also inhabited by nymphs. He also makes a beautiful Dryad Winestopper and a spirited Titania (The Fairy Queen) statue!


Image courtesy of Bodner Chandeliers

Firefly Branch Chandelier

While this one was my favorite, Bodner makes a whole line of woodland chandeliers that are quite pretty. If you don’t want to buy the lighting, this is also a very easy item to make. There are a thousand and one examples online.


Image courtesy of Shawn Lovell Metalworks

Tree Bed

Yes, the price tag on this bed is steep, but LOOK AT IT. Stunning. Anthropologie makes a similar bed for much less, and if you are on a budget, creating your own could be as simple as attaching some natural or spray painted branches to a cheaper canopy bed, or hanging them like a canopy from the ceiling.


Image courtesy of Trustworth Wallpaper

Trustworth “The Fairyland” Wallpaper

There are actually several Trustworth wallpapers that would fit in an Enchanted Forest home, but this one was my favorite and the most appropriate in my opinion. Can you imagine a wall of this? It’s magical enough to evoke the spirit of the forest but abstract enough to be very modern.


Image courtesy of Terrain

Victorian Fernery Bench

I can already see myself sipping tea in the garden on this incredible fern bench, surrounded by the trees and plants that provide shelter to the fairies and the woodland creatures. I also love this little set.


Image courtesy of Karma Kiss

Toadstool Table

Can you imagine your little fairies and gnomes playing and snacking at this adorable table? Inside or outside, this would make everyone feel happy and magical! There’s another version at Hearthsong as well.


Image courtesy of FairyBehindTheDoor

Fairy Doors and Accessories

I’m going to tell you a little secret, there is nothing more powerful than a fairy door. If you hide it in your garden, it gives your family and friends great delight. If you put it somewhere passersby can discover it, their delight will be your joy. You can build a full village or just one little door, but it immediately enchants its surroundings. The one above came from Etsy Shop Fairy Behind The Door, who carries all sorts of styles and options. There are also many others on Etsy. I even saw a section for fairy accessories in the garden section of Target the other day! Last but not least, make your own! Using natural and recycled materials you can DIY some awesome fairy shelter and playgrounds!

Home Sweet Geeky Home!

GeekMom Call For New Contributors!

cropped-cropped-geek-mom-transparent.pngNote: Thank you all so much for the submissions. We have looked them over and expect to be sending out invites by Friday, October 9th.

Geeky parents of the Internet, GeekMom wants you!

GeekMom has been an active community blog for nearly 5 years now, and we have a dedicated group of people who participate and enjoy sharing their experiences as geeks and as parents. We want to grow and bring some new energy into the family; and that means finding new geeky parents to join our ranks. Continue reading GeekMom Call For New Contributors!

Zucchini Hack: Make Your Own Gummy Worms

We're not kidding. Zucchini worms are not only healthy, they taste awesome.
We’re not kidding. Zucchini worms are not only healthy, they’re chewy and sweetly delicious. Photo: L.G.  Weldon.

It’s “Overwhelmed By Zucchini” time of year again. My family is all too aware that zucchini lurks in their omelets, their smoothies, their pizza, and their burritos. My neighbors are onto my little trick of leaving anonymous squash gifts on their porches. My friends are no longer fooled by Zapple Pie.

Time to turn to my trusty secret weapon: the Excalibur 3900. This miracle machine (a.k.a. a dehydrator) sits on our laundry room counter, churning out marvels all summer and fall. It gives me the power to convert a head of cauliflower, chopped and dried with salt and garlic powder, into crunchy snackable tidbits that fit in a pint jar. It lets me transform a peck of tomatoes into dried tomato slices that neatly fill a quart bag. It enables me to turn a sink full of peaches into dozens of flavor-packed fruit roll-ups.

Which brings me to zucchini. Yes, that monster zuke in your garden or CSA basket can be transformed into tasty gummy fruit. Not like the candy version; more like the health food store version of gummy fruit. Go ahead, give it a try. You can get through quite a few monster zukes this way.

Zuke Gummy Worms

You might want to change the recipe name, either to keep from fessing up to the main ingredient or to avoid comparison with those wildly colored and artificially sweetened candies. Maybe call them Zuke Fruits. (Zucchini is a fruit, btw.)


  • 6 to 7 cups of peeled zucchini, cut into thin strips*
  • One 12 to 16 ounce can of unsweetened juice concentrate, undiluted (apple-raspberry, grape-cherry, or pineapple are wonderful)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of water
  • Optional: flavorings, such as fruit extract or fruit oils (I use a dash of lemon or orange extract when using pineapple juice)
  • Optional: for a sweeter snack, add up to 1/4 cup honey or up to a 1/2 cup sugar

*Peel zucchini and cut out the core so that no seeds or sponge-y seed area remains. I cut the strips about as thick as my husband’s fingers. As long as they’re somewhat uniform, cut them as you please. Heck, make them into cubes if you like.

Make healthy zucchini candy.
Peel away the skin, then cut into uniform strips. Photo: L. G. Weldon.


Put all ingredients in a large, non-stick skillet. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. The zucchini will not be completely immersed in the liquid, but will soften as it cooks. Stir gently with a rubber or silicone spatula as needed to move the liquid around so all the pieces have time to simmer in the juice.

Continue cooking until all pieces are translucent. Chances are the liquid will be entirely used up by that time. Typically, it takes about a half hour but it can take longer. If the pieces still aren’t done, you may need to add a few spoonfuls of water. I often take out the pieces as they become translucent in order to let the others cook longer.

Spread the pieces so they’re not touching on non-stick dehydrator sheets and load in the machine. Put the dehydrator setting on “fruit leather” or “fruit.” On my machine, that’s between 115 and 125 degrees. Start checking for doneness after about 8 hours. It can take up to 24 hours, depending on the size of the pieces. I check by peeling off a smaller, more done piece and munching it. Testing is the fun part.

(I tried cooking a batch of these on Silpat sheets in the oven on the lowest temperature, 170 degrees. When they didn’t get to the dry chewy stage after about 9 hours, I got impatient and tossed them in the dehydrator. The fan in the dehydrator really accelerates the process.)

You’ll know when they’re done. They should be somewhat tough and quite chewy, keeping your mouth much busier than you’d expect. If they’re not chewy, they’re not done. Keep checking, since you don’t want them all the way to crisp! Because their moisture content won’t be as low as most long-term storage items cranked out by dehydrators, store them in an airtight container and use them up in a few days. Or keep them in the fridge (that’ll make them a dental challenge for sure). We haven’t chilled any we’ve made because they get eaten up too quickly.

These little snacks are remarkably tasty. They’re also (unlike actual gummy worms) very filling. Zucchini has fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and C, folate, choline, and even omega-3 fatty acids. It may lose some nutrients from cutting away the peel, but each piece is a highly concentrated package of tasty energy. It can’t be compared to the candy. It’s better. Not rainbow-colored, but sweet and delicious.

Cover Girl Announces Star Wars Edition Makeup

Image credit: CoverGirl via Allure Magazine

Last month, Lucasfilm announced an assortment of product partnerships for the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, including Verizon, Duracell, General Mills, Subway, HP, and FCA US. The seventh was CoverGirl cosmetics, and today we finally got to see what that will look like.

On the up side, Star Wars! Possibly on the down side, depending on your makeup preferences, the colors are very trendy and not necessarily daily wear, featuring shimmery purples, a gold, and a silver shade. But on the other hand, while a luminous lilac might not be office wear for your day job, they could be perfect for your next cosplay. The nail colors are a bit more wearable. (And I’m amused that one is named Nemesis, which seems more like a Star Trek color name.) There appear to be two mascaras, a Light Side and a Dark Side that are repackages of their Super Sizer mascara. They come in 10 different tubes, each with a Star Wars quote on it, from “Do. Or do not. There is no try,” to “You will meet your destiny.”

See all the pictures in the preview at Allure magazine and get it in stores September 4.

TOMS Shoes for Gamer Girls (No Painting Required!)

Red Gamer TOMS Shoes © TOMS
Red Gamer TOMS Shoes © TOMS

Most moms are familiar with the comfort and style of TOMS shoes. If you wanted to add your distinctive geek style to your comfy slip-ons, though, you usually had to take the time to paint them yourself.

But not anymore! Continue reading TOMS Shoes for Gamer Girls (No Painting Required!)

Be the Artist: Alphonse Mucha

It seems every pop culture icon has been given the Mucha treatment. Why not a self-portrait or family picture? Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

The Artist: Alphonse Mucha

Alphons Maria Mucha (AKA Alphonse Mucha) is credited as being the father of art nouveau (French for “new art”). Born in the Czech Republic in 1860, drawing had been his hobby since he was a small child. When he was around 19, he began taking on decorative painting jobs, especially scenery for theaters, and eventually began formal training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.

He got his “big break” as painter in 1894, while living in Paris. He had already been creating designs for magazines and advertising, and was asked to do a new advertising poster for a play featuring Paris’s most famous actress, Sarah Bernhardt. His piece gained so much positive attention, Bernhardt began a six-year contract with Mucha.

Mucha wanted to concentrate on his fine art creations, but it was his commercial work that was best loved by admirers. Artist image: Library of Congress (Public Domain). Poster images: Wikicommons courtesy of

Mucha was soon producing several works for theaters, books, posters, and advertisements in his now familiar style of what soon became known as “Art Nouveau,” (new art). This style featured young women in flowing robes, sometimes with flowers, sometimes with halos, and often in pale, pastel colors.

Despite his popularity in this style, Mucha was frustrated it was his commercial work that gained the most attention. He wanted to concentrate on his fine art. This included his 1899 publication, Le Pater, an occult-oriented look at The Lord Prayer (of which not more than 500 copies were made), and his twenty-painting series, The Slav Epic, documenting the history of the Czech and Slavic people.

In the 1930s, Mucha’s work began being denounced as “reactionary” when German troops begin moving into Czechoslovakia. He was one of the first people to be arrested by the Gestapo there, and developed pneumonia during his interrogation in 1939. Shortly after his release, he died of a lung infection in Prague.

Many were already considering his style “outdated” at the time of his death, but Mucha’s art is still extremely popular with present day art lovers.

Despite the events surrounding his death, Mucha said his work was meant to bring people of all types together. The Mucha Museum in Prague features one of his inspirational quotes on the subject:

“The purpose of my work was never to destroy but always to create, to construct bridges,” Mucha said, “because we must live in the hope that humankind will draw together and that the better we understand each other the easier this will become.”

The Project: Mucha Yourself

Mucha’s halos were a mainstay in most of his images. What details will you put in yours? Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

Anyone who has visited a book store, wandered past the window at an art shop, filed through the poster art at craft and interior design stores and sites knows Mucha’s work is pretty much everywhere.

Take an even closer look, and it’s pretty evident Mucha and art nouveau-inspired fan art is all the rage. Everything from Disney Princesses to Doctor Who. Google any characters or pop culture icons with the words “art nouveau,” and there’s a four-to-one chance someone has done a Mucha-mashup of them.

If this is the case, what is there left to create? Well, is there any art nouveau fan art of…You? No? Let’s change that.

Find a full-body or waist up photo of yourself…or a relative or friend…you want to send back to the art nouveau era. Using tracing or other light-weight paper, trace the outline of your subject with a fine line black marker, making the outer edge slightly broader than the details. You can over-exaggerate features such as flowing hair or clothes if you want. Once done, carefully cut it out and set it aside.

Use a simple tracing of a photo to create a black and white image, you or your kids can color in on their own. Images: Lisa Kay Tate.

On another, more substantial piece of paper, create your “Mucha-esque” background. The most obvious choice being that large circular “halo.” To make this, draw two concentric circles. Make the center one slightly off-centered or flush in the middle. Next, using a stencil or compass, draw several connecting circles in the space between the larger and smaller circle. Now, within each circle, draw items colors that best represent the subject of your drawing (fandoms, flags, astrological signs, flowers, occupation-related items, etc.).

Finally, give it a border and background. Mucha often flowers, stars, clouds, solid backgrounds, vines and other flowing designs, if you’re looking for some inspiration.

If you’re ready for an even bigger challenge, add some words. These can be free-handed or cut and pasted on the picture from printed out letters. has about eight or nine really good art nouveau style fonts to try out.

Once the image is set in place, color it in with colored pencil, watercolor, or marker. Mucha’s work often has shades of yellow, pink, blue, green, and other pastels. Take a look at some of Mucha’s work on sites like Pinterest for color and design inspiration.

How simple or detailed you go is up to you, but make it personal. Art was a very personal matter to Mucha, and this inspirational quote by him is often seen accompanying posters, essays, photos, and exhibitions featuring his work:

“Art exists only to communicate a spiritual message,” he said.

What message do you want Mucha’s style to help you convey about yourself?

It isn’t hard to find Mucha’s work, or pieces based on his work, which are on everything from calendars and t-shirt designs to fan art. Images: Lisa Kay Tate.


‘HGTV Design Star’ Jen Bertrand Talks ‘Doctor Who’ and Country Club Punk

Daughter's Room with center divider Photo Credit: Bob Greenspan
Daughter’s room with center divider. Photo credit: Bob Greenspan.

Several years ago, my husband and I lost our collective minds. We decided to remodel—and not just a bathroom or six-month kitchen overhaul. No, we decided to go for broke, move out, and take our stately 1920s-era Grande Dame all the way down to the studs.

After about a year of fighting with contractors and praying for fire, we could finally see the beginnings of what could someday be a livable home. And it was about this time that I realized how little I actually knew about interior decorating. What I really wanted was more than just help with cushions and colors; I wanted a guide to help me encapsulate my family’s personalities and tastes within our surroundings.

While our architect, Chris Fein of Forward Design, was doing an award-winning job of modernizing our space while staying true to the original deco feel, neither of us was well-versed in the subtle nuances of embedding personality that would take our project from a house, albeit a remarkably well-designed one, to a home.

Daughter's Room with center divider Photo Credit: Bob Greenspan
Daughter’s room with center divider. Photo credit: Bob Greenspan.

Enter HGTV Design Star winner Jen Bertrand. I didn’t choose Jen because of her award-winning status, however cool it may be. Instead, I knew her through our mutual involvement in a community charity, and figured if anyone could “get” me, it would be her.

Some time ago, when asked to describe my personal style, I coined the phrase “country club punk.” It stuck, and if I may be so bold, pretty much works. I’m way too tame for the actual counter-culture, but odd enough to require a two-chair buffer zone at PTA meetings.

Recently, Jen and I sat down to debrief and discuss the project, life, and Doctor Who.

E. Lillith McDermott: Why don’t you tell me a little about your background and why you went into design?

Jen Bertrand: Actually, I am a non-traditional designer, self-taught due to my love (AKA obsession with) interior design. My father was a colonel in the Air Force and we moved every 2-4 years. My mother would choose the most hideous of houses and then magically transform it into a home through creativity and style. It doesn’t hurt that I lived in Germany, Holland, and Italy and got to see great design that stands up to time and looks beautiful 500 years later!

As for my education, I have a B.A. in Art Education with an emphasis in ceramics and a masters in Teaching & Leadership. I learned to apply the principles of design from my art life into my designs. And I guess it doesn’t hurt that I won the show Design Star Season 3 on HGTV. It is lovely, and a little self-assuring, when 5 million people are cheering you on and you pull it off!

ELM: Okay, so I’ve described my personal style as “country club punk.” In five words or less, what’s yours?

JB: Risk-taking comfortable contemporary is my personal style, but my professional style is whatever makes my client’s soul happy! I try to get into their hearts and heads and help them pull off whatever is their dream space.

Son's Room Photo Credit: Bob Greenspan
Son’s room. Photo credit: Bob Greenspan.

ELM: That’s a perfect segue into one of my favorite aspects of our project—how you worked with my kids. It was very important for me that they felt their rooms were really theirs; that they could see themselves in the design. I also wanted them to begin to understand the importance of art and design for making daily life richer.

JB: Yes! To all you parents out there, it really is fun to get your children involved in your home design. Not once has a child ever grown up and said, “My home had the perfect shade of beige!” Having the children be a part of the process really made it easy, because I knew what everyone wanted.

The daughter’s room was fun because I started with the idea of toile wallpaper of a London scene, which you took and ran with!

ELM: We love the wallpaper! The toile idea sparked a memory of an amazing piece of toile artwork I’d seen on—which everyone needs to bookmark immediately! We were able to get a toile wallpaper with Doctor Who characters embedded in it, in a deep purple!

JB: It was a great push and pull of ideas. I, of course, love the room divider that we found online and created our own version of with an upholstered aspect. The thought behind it was really to create two “zones,” due to the size and shape of the room. And of course, I love that we used red Mongolian lamb on her tulip chair—which, I have to say, we did long before PB Teen had all their furry chairs! The other aspect of that room was keeping already owned elements and giving them a fresh feel. So often we are quick to throw away and start new, and what is that teaching our children? Instead, look at your items with fresh eyes. Or, I say invite friends over, pop open some wine, and dream up all the ways you can change something and still keep it!

Son's Room Photo with Grey Muppet Chair Photo Credit: Bob Greenspan
Son’s room with grey Muppet chair. Photo credit: Bob Greenspan.

ELM: My son’s room was a bit more open, design-wise, as it was a completely blank palette. Since our daughter’s room was one of the least changed areas of the house, but the boy’s area moved sides of the house and had completely new walls, ceiling, everything—I’d say we went even crazier in there!

JB: It was also really fun because I have a son the same age, so I was pretty sure I knew what would make him happy! There are lots of parts of the room that I adore, but I think the most fun was buying super textured bath mats at every Home Goods in the city and then taking them to our upholsterer and asking her to cover a massive chair in them. And the best part was that she was excited to do it!

ELM: We love that chair! We call it the “Muppet chair.”

JB: Ha! And of course, I love that we put steel on the ceiling in his play room. It added the perfect amount of industrial, but in the most unexpected, not in your face, way that really finished off the space. And I would be absurd if I didn’t mention the Doctor Who curtains…

ELM: Once again courtesy of!

JB: Which go perfectly with the TARDIS desk and window shade.

Son's room with metal ceiling Photo Credit: Bob Greenspan
Son’s room with metal ceiling. Photo credit: Bob Greenspan.

ELM: We had a lot of fun combing through Doctor Who quotes to have printed on the shade. My daughter got a book of sayings as a gift and we all went through it as a family. Obviously, the boy got the final say, but we all had fun going through the process. Okay, I’m sure we could talk for hours about the kid rooms, but I wanted to touch on the basement. As we’ve had people over, that is probably the area most commented on. Is there anything you’d like to add?

JB: I have to say, even though I had no part in it and only got to design around it, I am obsessed with the Star Wars diorama. It is amazing and it is probably (besides the piano) my favorite part of the house. To me, it honors the client’s past of owning a comic book shop, their childhood because we all grew up with Star Wars, and their future of bringing in the unexpected into their home design. To me, how a family styles their home says a lot about them and for you all, it was just that… all about family. Which is why the wall map was perfect! We created a custom map to apply to steel panels to create a huge magnetic map for all the magnets collected on family trips—one more family tradition represented in the home design. Also, as you know, you all love to throw a party! I’ll never forget our first meeting where the basement was still showing signs of a massive Halloween party. It’s not often you hear a client say “excuse the fake blood.” I knew I was going to have fun at that point! That being said, the basement bathroom needed to be interactive and the wallpaper was a fun way to create a moment that could house memories and silliness over the years to come!

Basement with Star Wars display Photo Credit: Bob Greenspan
Basement with Star Wars display. Photo credit: Bob Greenspan.

ELM: And it has! Every sleepover takes place in the basement and all the kids love coloring on the wall! So, you mentioned the piano. Next to the basement, that is second most discussed item.

JB: The piano, I adore! I befriended a graffiti artist and have used him in various capacities over the years. But when I saw the piano and asked if we could paint it and you said “yes,” my light bulb went off! What is unexpected… who doesn’t love a good graffiti tag? Okay, maybe not everyone, but I do! The crazy part is all we did was tell him to stick to a grey tonal palette and have fun. I find that when you work with creative people and you don’t give them too many parameters, you get the best end result. And the great part is that it is subtle and yet a great conversation piece!

Smiley faces made to be colored with markers. Photo Credit: Bob Greenspan
Smiley faces made to be colored with markers. Photo credit: Bob Greenspan.

ELM: It is absolutely a great conversation starter. I get asked so many questions about it every time we have company. Which, as you’ve pointed out our love of parties, happens often! Well, I really loved working with you. I hope you enjoyed it as well!

JB: You had me at “country club punk!” Really? Who wouldn’t love that aesthetic? Plus, it was a job all about collaboration. We had an uber-cool architect, homeowners with unique personalities, and my Willy Wonka brain—how could we lose! Also, I married a Brit, so meeting someone and the first question is “So, who is your favorite Doctor?”—how could we not have fun?

Jen Bertrand and her Willy Wonka brain can be found at You can also find her on instagram at @hgtvdesignstarjenniferbertrand

What a Dip: Delicious Dip Recipes for Every Day


Easy everyday homemade dips.
Easy, everyday dips. (CCO public domain Eisenmenger)

Dips and spreads aren’t just for parties. They make packing lunches easier and snacking healthier. If you toss them on the table while dinner is in the works, they’re also a great way to reduce pre-meal whining. Yours and the kids’.

Here are four versatile recipes: two sweet, two savory. Go ahead, tweak the amounts or add new ingredients as inspiration hits. For most recipes you’ll need a blender to achieve the requisite smoothness. I swear by my Vita-Mix (actually, it keeps me from swearing). When using a different blender you may need more liquid in the following recipes.

Healthy dip made with beets and pineapple.
Bright pink, still healthy. (Image: L. Weldon)

Tickled Pink Dip

You’ve probably never encountered this recipe before. It’s a bright concoction that doesn’t taste much like beets but adds lively color to your table. No one said you have to fess up about the ingredients.

1 small fresh beet peeled, chopped, and cooked until tender, about a quarter cup total (if using canned beets, make sure your product contains no vinegar)

1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple in juice, drained (reserve liquid) or 2 1/4 cups fresh chopped pineapple

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons honey, more to taste

Process all ingredients in blender until smooth. If more sweetness is desired, add additional honey.

Serve with fresh pineapple wedges, apple slices, or other firm fruit as well as bagels, toast or muffins.


VLUU L200  / Samsung L200
Bright color, bright flavor. (Image: L. Weldon)

Apricot Dip or Spread

Leave this recipe chunky or blend it to a creamy smoothness. Make it with other dried fruits, like cherries or mangos. You’ll find plenty of ways to enjoy it.

1 cup chopped dried apricots

¾ cup orange juice or apple juice

8 ounces cream cheese or mascarpone cheese

honey, optional

Combine apricots and juice in small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or more. If microwaving is preferred, combine same ingredients in large microwave-safe glass dish, cook at high heat for three minutes. Cool, then drain and reserve liquid.

Beat the cheese until smooth. This is easier if you warm it briefly first in the microwave or in a dish over hot water. Incorporate apricots, adding cooking liquid to desired thinness (up to 3 tablespoons). For a sweeter taste, add a few spoonfuls of honey. For a smoother dip, process in a blender.

Serve as a dip for apple halves, pear slices, and other firm fresh fruit. Try as a spread for small bagels, toast, pancakes, and muffins. You can also use it in sweet wraps: Just spread on whole grain tortillas or pitas, add sliced strawberries or other diced fruit, then roll the wraps and slice into rounds.


VLUU L200  / Samsung L200
Super flavorful. Make sure to blend it well. (Image: L. Weldon)


This uniquely flavorful Mid-Eastern dip always includes walnuts and red pepper. Many recipes call for breadcrumbs, onion, and pomegranate molasses. This version is quick and tasty.

1 cup (half pound) shelled walnuts

1 8 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained (or one small red bell pepper, roasted)

2 cloves garlic, minced (raw or sautéed)

½ to 1 teaspoon ground cumin (I like to roast whole seeds, but ground is fine)

½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon salt

2 or more tablespoons cold-pressed olive oil

½ tablespoon lemon juice

either 1 teaspoon honey, or 1 teaspoon black cherry concentrate, or 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses

Dump all ingredients in blender container and pulse until mixture is smooth. More olive oil or a dash of water may be needed to blend well.

Serve as a dip with pitas, flatbread, or crackers. Use it as a dipping sauce for raw or grilled veggies, kebabs, or hot sandwiches. Thin it to serve over tomatoes and avocados as a protein-rich salad dressing.

Hummus and variations. (image CCO public domain Tohma)
Hummus and variations. (Image CCO public domain Tohma)


The variations on hummus are unlimited. Try one or more of extras such as curry powder, chopped spinach, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh parsley, or green onions. Replace the garbanzo beans with black beans, lima beans, adzuki beans, or fava beans. Replace the tahini with almond butter, cashew butter, or peanut butter. How about a hummus tasting event?

2 cups cooked, drained garbanzo beans

2 to 3 cloves raw garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons cold-pressed olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)

salt and pepper to taste

Process garbanzo beans, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in blender until smooth. A few tablespoons of water or additional oil may be needed. Add tahini and blend until it is incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Hummus is often served in a low dipping bowl. It’s often topped with oil, a dash of paprika, some fresh parsley and lemon slices on the slide. Scoop hummus with pitas, flatbread, or crackers. Scoop it with celery sticks, grape tomatoes, and carrots. Roll it up in wraps with meats, cheeses, or veggies. Serve it with a chopped salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, red onion, and mint leaves. You pretty much can’t go wrong with hummus.

Be the Artist: Jackson Pollock

pollock cookies
These Pollock-tribute cookies are one of the best ways to combine art and cooking projects. Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

The Artist: Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock was a an American abstract expressionist artist best known for his drip painting, a form of abstract art created by paint dripped or poured onto a canvas or other surface.

Even books about Pollock feature his drip painting method on their covers. Images: (l to r), Cooper Square Press, Harry N. Abrams, and Taschen Publishing.

Pollock was born in 1912 in Wyoming. He always possessed an independent and aggressive nature, and was expelled from two high schools as a teenager. He later moved to New York to study at Art Students League, and later found work during the Great Depression for the WPA Federal Art Project. Soon after, he received a commission to create a mural on the townhouse of renowned art collector Peggy Guggenheim, and people begin taking notice of his talent.

It was in 1936, when he first discovered the use of liquid paint for drip painting method. He not only preferred this style, he used whatever he could to create his images, from resin-based paints to household paints. He became so well known for this style, a 1956 Time Magazine article dubbed him “Jack the Dripper.”

Although some critics regarded his style as nothing more than random, “meaningless images,” he went on to become one of the Twentieth Century’s most respected artists.

One thing about his style, is it very satisfying and energetic to try out, and there are even online sites that allow people to try out his method. The site (not to be mistaken with the actual biography site), will take art lovers right to a page where they can create their own drip painting.

my pollock
An image made on the site, created by Lisa Kay Tate.

Pollock died in a car accident in 1956 at age 44, and was given a memorial retrospective exhibit of his work at New York City’s Museum of Modern art a few months later.

Pollock didn’t always care what these critics thought, as he knew what he wanted to say and how to say it. That was what mattered.

“Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you,” he said in a 1950 interview in New Yorker. “There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn’t have any beginning or any end. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, but it was. It was a fine compliment. Only he didn’t know it.”

kermit cookie
Pollock liked to use unconventional means for his drip painting style. Why not decorative icing, like on this Kermit the Frog-inspired Pollock style cookie? Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

 The Project: Pollock Cookies!

Pollock used a number of less conventional tools in his works, such as sticks and basting syringes, so this project will utilize a medium that is both unconventional and tasty… decorative icing!

Since this is an art project more than an actual cooking project, use commercial pre-made, plain sugar cookie dough, like the type that is almost too tempting not to eat raw.

Use regular commercial cake decorating icing or gel icing, or use a basic powdered sugar glaze recipe found in pretty much every baking cookbook there is. Different colored glazes can be made with just one drop of food coloring in each batch, and a small medicine dropper, syringe, or teaspoon can be used to create the drip pattern.

Cookie Monster and Elmo cookies! Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

Like the Be the Artist project for Josef Albers, this project is primarily about identifying at theme through color. Find a favorite group of characters… Justice League, the characters of Inside Out or cast of Orphan Black, X-Men, the band Gwar…whatever you want to represent, and convey it, via drizzling color schemes on plain, cooked, sugar cookies in icing.

For example, the family really enjoyed Cookie Monster’s “Shower Thoughts” at with musings from New York City museums (including cookie-related comments like “cookie dough is sushi for desserts!”). We thought a nice cookie homage to him and other Monster muppets would be in order.

Use two, three, or four colors that represent that character. Drizzle them on the already baked and cooled cookies in icing, but not just all over the place. Think about how much of each color this character would best be represented by, as well as the placement. Let them dry and arrange them, not stacked, onto a serving dish.

Once finished, you can serve this little tasty gallery as part of an art-themed party, or just as a way to make dessert or snack time a little more colorful. To make it more interactive, have everyone guess which theme or characters the cookies represent, before eating them.

These may not be works in traditional paint on canvas, but the according to the book, Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics by Clifford Ross, Pollock expressed what he felt the important source of modern art is…and it wasn’t merely in the medium, or even in the subject:

“Most modern painters work from a different source, they work from within,” he said.

Fozzy & Kermit
Fozzy Bear and Kermit cookies, by the Tate Girl bakers. Image: Lisa Kay Tate.