Honest Valentines from Mommy’s 15 Seconds

Meet Mommy. She only has 15 seconds to record her thoughts while hiding from her children in the closet or bathroom. No one knows how many kids she has or what her real first name is, but one thing is certain, whether she is inventing things to make life easier or sharing poopie stories, she sure is funny!

For Valentine’s Day, Mommy got a great idea that backfired horribly…

Well, to be honest, Honest Valentines are kind of funny… Continue reading Honest Valentines from Mommy’s 15 Seconds

Challenger: Thirty Years Later

The year was apparently 1986. I wouldn’t have known. After all, I was only 7 at the time. I was in second grade. The teacher’s name was Mrs. Morrow, or as my mom and I called her, Mrs. Moron. She was super mean. She was the kind of mean that makes you read Miss Nelson is Missing and think that you got Miss Viola Swamp as your full-time teacher.

Second grade was the year I learned to sneak out of class and hide in the hallways. I’d sneak to the library, having told the teacher I was going to the bathroom.

It was also the year I was Big Into Space. All over television, we were seeing things about the amazing teacher, Christa McAuliffe, who was going to travel into space. She was a woman. She was a teacher. She was going to get to RIDE ON A SPACESHIP.

Continue reading Challenger: Thirty Years Later

Trying Not to Raise Kylo Ren

I can’t stop thinking about Kylo Ren.

There’s no way to explain this without the nitty-gritty details, so if you’re still avoiding The Force Awakens spoilers (I know, you’re a parent, getting out of the house is hard!), you might want to stop here. But even if you never intend to see it and you hate Star Wars and you just wish the hype would die already—you, on the other hand, can keep reading. You should keep reading. Because this post (like my last Star Wars post) isn’t actually about Star Wars. Not really. It’s about what it means to be bad, and what it’s like to wonder if your child could ever fall to the Dark Side. Star Wars, like all good stories, is a metaphor for real life.

Continue reading Trying Not to Raise Kylo Ren

Tabletop Game: Paperback from Fowers Games

Image: Nathan Morse
Image: Nathan Morse

Over the last few years, I’ve had to ban myself from Scrabble. I’m quite good at it, and it’s not any fun for folks when I play with them. That’s okay, I love watching! On the other hand, I miss creating words from a pile of letters, and seeing the words players create when I’m not stealing the prime board locations. What’s a wordsmith to do? Find a new game, of course! Enter Paperback: a deck-building game which challenges players to design a great deck of letters, and gather great abilities to publish the most books. While visiting Jonathan Liu last summer, he introduced me to the Kickstarted hit, and I’ve loved it ever since!


I opened the box to find eleven small decks of cards, and a collection of starter decks. The rules were very straightforward:  Make words, earn money, and buy letters. If you have the money, you can buy a Novel card instead. Novels are wild-cards, but they are also the primary source of points. Okay, great! We passed out the starter decks, lined up the cards, and dove in. There are 7 piles of letters, organized by price, one trash pile, three decks of Novels, and the Common Cards, which we’ll get into later.

Starting Hand

The starting decks follow the format popularized by Wheel of Fortune. The player gets R-S-T-L-N and 5 wilds. Notice a lack of vowels? That’s intentional. This way, you always have something to do with your wilds. They are how you get vowels! Without enough Novel cards in your deck, you can’t make words. Too many, and you won’t earn any money, because Novels don’t add any value to your word! See the number in the top left corner, below the letter? That’s how much value your letter adds to your word. A word made entirely of Wilds is worthless, so be prepared!


Each letter you buy is worth more than your five starting consonants. Similar to Scrabble, letters that are harder to use are worth more. Some letters, as you can see above, have special abilities. You have to use the letter in your word in order to get the effect. The player forming the word QUIT above get’s two more cards in their next hand (making it 7 cards!), and their opponents can only use one ability in their words until the player’s next turn.


Here, you can see an example of most of the mechanics. In the word “GAMBIT”, the cards G-X-M-?-IT are used. The G makes the X a wild card, but leaves its value alone. The M has a special ability, it doubles the value of the word, but you can only use it once! The Novel card isn’t worth anything in this word, it just provides the B that was needed. The IT card is a special card, too. It has two letters, which must be used in the same order they are printed. The value of the hand is calculated so: (3+5+2+0+3)x2, making a total of 26! That is one high-value word!


Another turn, the player plays the word “YAWN”, spelled Y-?-?-N. It includes two abilities, an attack and a +2 Draw. The Y’s ability means players can only draw five cards, regardless of the words they next play. The N allows the player’s next hand to be 7 cards, which puts them at an advantage in the next round.

common cards

The Common Cards are my favorite feature. The vowels A, E, I, and O are accompanied by two special cards, the Common Spacebar, and the Common Dyslexic. These cards are used by players under certain conditions. At the beginning of the game, as you can see in the picture above, the Common Cards are shuffled, then placed on the Common Card tracker. Any player can then use the shown letter in any of their words. If a player makes a sufficiently long word, they obtain the shown common card! For the first, they must use seven letters, including the Common Card. Up to four Common Cards can be obtained before the game ends.

Jarring Common Claim

Here you can see the word JARRING spelled J-A-R-R-?-N-G. Because the word is seven letters long, the player takes the A from the Common Card pile, and adds it to their deck. This is the only way to obtain a Common Card, which are each worth 5 points, but be careful! If you trigger the end of the game too soon, you might not have enough points to win!

It took a couple of plays for everyone to find a groove, but we all found it easy enough to play. Strategies evolved rapidly, and it became a highlight of our visit to play with Jonathan and our kids. It’s a great game for adults and kids with a moderate-to-advanced vocabulary.

With quality pieces, interesting mechanics, and a handful of mini expansions included, I feel like the $25 price tag is entirely justified. This is one game that makes a regular appearance at game nights, and is always well received.

Have you played? Tell me what you think!

Disclaimer: A copy of Paperback was provided for review purposes.

The Best Trick To Play On Your Children — So Sneaky!

My husband and I have this little trick we play on our children.

Every night, we try to get our three children in bed as close to 7:00 pm as possible. Our rule is that they need to stay in their rooms quietly and lights must be off. Oh, unless they feel like using this

Are you scratching your head over there? Continue reading The Best Trick To Play On Your Children — So Sneaky!

Beanie Bags: Happy Mail for Yarn Junkies

Subscription “boxes” are popping up all over the internet these days! From makeup to nerd gear, there are so many out there! I looked into yarn subscription boxes but most of them were $32+ a month like Yarnbox, Fiberista Yarn Club, and Yarn Crush.

These boxes are definitely appetizing, but as a mother of three small children, I just don’t have the money for that. In September, I saw a suggested post on facebook featuring the Jimmy Beans Wool Beanie Bag. Beanie Bags debuted in October, and I was lucky enough to grab one before they ran out. For $10 a month, this sweet little bag of yarn and goodies is a steal! ($10 USA, $15 international.)

Continue reading Beanie Bags: Happy Mail for Yarn Junkies

Top 20 GeekMom Articles of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close and we prepare for 2016, take a look at some of your top viewed GeekMom posts from 2015.

What does this list tell us? That you are a diverse group of readers, interested in everything from creativity to conventions to coding to knitting to Lego to pop culture discussions.

What’s ahead? There’s sure to be more about women in the world of geekdom, DIY articles putting geeky spin on clothing, knitting and baking, more tech and more strong opinions about everything from Marvel movies to the comics.

Thanks for joining us in 2015 and here’s to a great 2016!

If you like any of the below articles, let us know why in the comments.

1.The Meanest Thing You Say to Your Creative Friend

What I could really use is a time turner on my hands. Photo by lozikiki on Flickr
What I could really use is a time turner on my hands. Photo by lozikiki on Flickr

Article by Ruth Suehle.

You just worked your creative butt off and finished the final touches on your amazing project only to show it to a trusted friend, family member, or blog community and this is the response you get:

You have too much time on your hands.

In her article, Ruth discusses how this phrase can take on dual meanings. She also addresses how one should respond to such comments, with or without snarky retaliation when dealing with friends, family, or anonymous commenters working on their troll skills.

2.Whoops! Inappropriate Old Movie

Whoops, inappropriate movie.
That’s a whole different sort of entertainment. (CC 2.0 by Nadia Hatoum)

 Article by Laura Grace Weldon.

Have you ever thought about showing some of your favorite cult classics to your tiny human?

Check out Laura Weldon’s article about showing Blazing Saddles, Airplane, or Sleeper to her kiddos.

Also, check out some of the comments other geeky moms have faced when watching movies that are inappropriate for kids. Pop some popcorn, scroll through the hilarious comments from fellow GeekMoms and enjoy this article one more time.

3.Why I Won’t Be Attending Wizard World

An upcoming Wizard World convention’s webpage with the “Cosplay & Fan Communities” section conspicuously empty, but representative of their attitude towards those groups. Screenshot by Ruth Suehle (thanks to Boycott Wizard World on Facebook for pointing out this glaring hole in event information).
An upcoming Wizard World convention’s webpage with the “Cosplay & Fan Communities” section conspicuously empty, but representative of their attitude towards those groups. Screenshot by Ruth Suehle (thanks to Boycott Wizard World on Facebook for pointing out this glaring hole in event information).

Article by Ruth Suehle.

Wizard World-branded Convention, is it a Fandom gathering or Fan-exploitation.

In her article about the pros and, well, cons, Ruth takes on the Wizard World convention and how they move in after other major conventions come to town. She even explores several instances when Wizard World feigned ignorance when prize winners stepped forward to claim their prize, only to receive blank stares from the Wizard World officials.

Explore Ruth’s hard hitting article about disappointed fans as they get slapped in the face by Wizard World Convention and its dark secrets.

4.  The Dreaded G-Word: When Your Child is Asynchronous

Image Source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Image Source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Article by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley.

Parenting isn’t neat, clean, or pretty. Most days parenting consists of chaos and emotional highs or lows. Continue reading Top 20 GeekMom Articles of 2015

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Seven): Sam Wilson: Captain America

Captain America. The quintessential all-American hero. Nice Brooklyn boy willing to subject his body to medical experimentation to win the opportunity to fight for the little guy, freedom, and your grandma. Always has been. Still is even though someone else has taken up the title, the mantle, and the shield.

Steve’s thoughts on his chosen successor? “When I handed that shield over to Sam, it didn’t come with a rule book. I trust him to do what he thinks is best for our country.”

A large sector of the population, however, isn’t willing to accept the new Cap as “their” Cap despite Steve’s endorsement. Why? A questionable past? Does he booze it up with Stark? Go on shooting rampages? Run people down with his car on the sidewalk in Vegas? Sell drugs? Do drugs? Embezzle SHIELD funds? Play his music too loud? Kick puppies?


Sam Wilson is daring, daring, to Cap while African American.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Seven): Sam Wilson: Captain America

5 Things I’m looking Forward to in 2016

I have a confession: I struggle with the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The presents are unwrapped, the festivities at a lull, but life hasn’t returned to normal. With no bustle and swing to occupy my time, I tend to get a little blue.

My youngest tends to be a worrier and focuses a bit too heavily on the negatives.  So when things are getting rough, we help him stay positive by listing five things he has to look forward to the next day.

Since I try not to be one of those do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do parents, I’m practicing what I preach. I’ve made a list (and checked it twice) of things I’m looking forward to in 2016. Hopefully, just thinking of all these upcoming treasures will help shake loose those end of year blues.

  1. Movies:

With so many fantastic titles upcoming, I had to group them all into one category. I’m looking forward to so many, in fact, I probably should have made this the last, and best, item on the list. But I’m too excited!

Having just let the theatre after seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the second time, my brain is abuzz with previews. What am I looking forward to? It might be a shorter list to say what I’m not excited about, but here goes:

  • X-Men: Apocalypse
  • Independence Day: Resurgence
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Suicide Squad
  • Deadpool

    Photo from FoxMovies and Marvel
    Photo from FoxMovies and Marvel
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • The BFG
  • The 5th Wave
  • The Forest
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
  • Doctor Strange
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass
  • Gambit
  • Finding Dory
  • The Secret Life of Pets
  • Moana

Continue reading 5 Things I’m looking Forward to in 2016

And That Was the LAST Time I Had Sex With an Embroidery Major: Rhinebeck 2015

Whichever flavor of geek you fancy yourself, there’s a gathering for you. We all love to be able to mingle among our own people, to learn from them, to get ideas from them, and to make friends that will last beyond the week(end). Who doesn’t love the idea of being somewhere where everyone gets you?

If you’re a knitter or crocheter (I’m the former myself), then the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY is just that place for you. It is the ultimate pilgrimage for anyone with a fondness for yarn, making yarn, making things with yarn, buying yarn, and/or the furry animals from which the yarn originates.

Continue reading And That Was the LAST Time I Had Sex With an Embroidery Major: Rhinebeck 2015

DIY: New Year’s Eve Masquerade

Christmas has collapsed around you and the Post-Holiday Blues are making it so easy to just … Netflix. But then *gasp* … A party invite!! A New Year’s Eve party invite!! And it requires … A mask?!?

Hold on to your spandex, minions!! We are going blow your night away with the best DIY masquerade costume ever.
Continue reading DIY: New Year’s Eve Masquerade

So Your Kid Wants a Hoverboard

It’s that time of year. If the prospect of our kids being home for one to two weeks isn’t scary enough, we also have to shop. Sure, the holidays are about peace, and goodness, and religion, and all that stuff that we wish life were always about. But it’s also—let’s be honest here—about the stuff.

And what bigger craze is there this year than the hoverboard? What do you do if your kid wants one? Do you give in? I mean, we’re now firmly set in the future of Back to the Future II, and the Hoverboard is officially a reality. And since you can’t take them to see Jaws 19 at the Holomax, can’t you at least make this dream (of yours) come true (for them)?

The easy answer is yes. Absolutely. Here’s the $400 (or $319 plus tax somewhere, I’m sure). Kids, enjoy the future and all its wonders! If that is your choice, good for you. You’re all set. Happy Holidays.

But what if, while the idea of having a hoverboard in your home sounds Totally Tubular to the 80’s kid in you, the adult in you thinks it might be kinda dangerous, expensive, or otherwise a bad idea?

What do you do then?
Continue reading So Your Kid Wants a Hoverboard

54,600 Un-Birthday Wishes for Alice in Wonderland

November 26th, 2015, marked the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The origin of the Alice stories were conceived by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Oxford mathematics don, whom the world knows as Lewis Carroll.

In 1862, Dodgson constructed the basis of the Alice stories while on a boating trip with the daughters of Henry Liddell: Lorina Charlotte, Alice, and Edith. Henry Liddell’s middle daughter, Alice, requested Dodgson write the Alice stories down.

In 1864 Dodgson presented Alice Liddell with a handwritten, self-illustrated manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground on November 26th.

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND Illustration by Sir John Tenniel.

“It was all very well to say ‘Drink me,’ but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. ‘No, I’ll look first,’ she said, ‘and see whether it’s marked poison or not’; for she had read several nice little stories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts, and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that, if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.”

(Alice’s Adventures…  20-21)

Continue reading 54,600 Un-Birthday Wishes for Alice in Wonderland

‘The Rise of the Tomb Raider’ Exclusive Art Giveaway

The revitalization of Lara Croft returns in Rise of the Tomb Raider, available exclusively on Xbox One. In celebration of this monumental sequel to the reimagining of Lara Croft, we have an awesome set we to giveaway.

The Rise of the Tomb Raider wooden crate is filled with four pieces of limited edition artwork as well as a digital download of the game to go with the prize pack. Check out the widget below to enter to win. Continue reading ‘The Rise of the Tomb Raider’ Exclusive Art Giveaway

Is It Okay To Turn Amputees Away at Amusement Park Rides?

Photo: Judy Berna Canobie Lake, NH
Canobie Lake, NH. Photo: Judy Berna.

It’s summertime; the time you pack up the kids and head to the amusement park. If it’s hot outside you head to the water park. For most families, the only thing that might be worrisome is whether their youngster is tall enough to ride certain rides. But what if your child was turned away for other reasons—like the fact that they have a prosthetic limb?

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

In recent years, this has been happening more and more at parks around the country. It’s happening to children and adults. Sometimes it makes the local news and many times the article becomes a Facebook favorite. I have watched these stories with interest, since I am an amputee and have frequented many amusement parks without ever having a problem.

You might assume my point of view on this topic would be fully in support of the amputee in the story. Not necessarily.

First, let’s break down the issue. In the 12 years since I had my surgery, society’s acceptance of prosthetic limbs has changed dramatically. Amputees are no longer afraid of wearing shorts in public. In fact, the attitude has changed so much that most of the amputees I know have crazy designs on their legs that they like to show off.

I believe this change is part of the reason we’re seeing these stories about amusement park problems. Those who are missing limbs are no longer afraid of going on adventures with their families. And they are wearing shorts, so it’s very obvious they have bionic limbs. In past years, if an amputee showed up in line for a roller coaster, they most likely were wearing long pants, and the ride operator never knew.

Add to that the fact that amusement parks are more and more terrified of lawsuits. As our society becomes more sue-happy, these parks are having to be vigilant about safety rules and policies. For smaller parks, one major lawsuit could close their doors forever.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

So why would I ever not side with my fellow amputees, you might ask? The short answer is this: Every amputee is different, every prosthetic setup is different, and in some situations, they may not be safe on a ride they really want to try. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been an amputee, how strong the rest of their body is, how far they had to travel to get there, or how badly they want to try this ride. If it’s not safe, it’s not safe.

Let’s use roller coasters as an example to represent the average amusement park ride. Let’s say this particular ride has a bar over your lap and your legs hang down. This ride was designed by engineers who were using a standard body as their subject. The only deviance would be allowing for extreme heights or weights. My six-and-a-half-foot teenager is technically barred from a few amusement park rides because a person of his height is not technically safe in the design of that ride.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

If a body is of average height, but has legs that only go down to mid-thigh, this kind of ride could actually be very dangerous. Much like a child who is too small for a booster seat can slide under the belt and be harmed, an amputee with short limbs can easily slide out from under the safety bar. Even an amputee with one above-the-knee amputation runs a higher risk of sliding out.

Another issue is prosthetic limbs that might fall off. I am actually very surprised I was allowed to ride a roller coaster in NY that allowed the rider’s legs to hang down. I have a below-the-knee prosthetic, made of hard plastic, with a foot made of titanium. I was confident my leg would not come off, because the design I wear allows for me to be pulled across a room by my leg, with my prosthetic never even coming close to coming loose.

But if I didn’t have this system, or if it was a hot day and my leg was looser than normal because of sweating (which happens), there is a real risk that my leg could have come off and been a very dangerous projectile. With as tightly as parks now pack their coasters into the footprint of their property, there is a good chance a leg would hit a human target.

There is no way a ride operator can be trained on all the different kinds of leg systems. There is no way there can be a blanket policy that applies to every kind of prosthetic socket. There are many amputees who can ride specific rides very safely. But how do the teenage park workers decide who is safe and who is not? Herein lies the problem.

Amusement Parks are a fun way to make new family memories.  Photo: Judy Berna
Amusement parks are a fun way to make new family memories. Photo: Judy Berna.

I hate to see my fellow amputees, adults and children, denied a fun day at the park with their families. It breaks my heart to think of an amputee child being told they can “do anything” with their prosthetic limb, then be turned away once they are at a park. This actually happened recently.

And because there is much confusion about what is safe and what isn’t, the result is people who have perfectly safe prosthetic limbs being turned away. This is exactly what happened to the 8-year-old in the link above. She had a below-the-knee prosthetic covered in a gel liner, and was turned away from a water slide because her leg “might scratch the slide.” This is completely ridiculous.

Parks have become over-vigilant to the point of lacking common sense, which results in more and more news stories about amputees being denied access.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

After much thought, I’ve come up with one solution. It might never come to fruition, but we need to start brainstorming to solve this problem.

Since a prosthetist is really the only person who is qualified to determine how stable a limb might be and which rides it would actually be safe on, they need to be involved in the decision. There needs to be a standardized form, which is offered to all amusement parks and water parks. This form would be filled out by an amputee’s prosthetist and presented to the customer service desk at the park. Then a special ID could be issued to the amputee, which demonstrates to the ride operator that the amputee can board.

This form could easily be printed off from a park’s website. Parks could also offer a season “pass,” which allows an amputee to turn the form in once, then every time they visit that park, they can refer back to the original form and get their special ID tag.

Somewhere in the language of the form, there would have to be a disclaimer, so the prosthetist would not be responsible for any injury or accident that might happen. Otherwise, no prosthetist in his right mind would sign a paper like that.

It would take a lot of organizing to make this happen, but it would sure beat the system we have now, where every park decides for themselves what their rules about prosthetic limbs might be. And they usually err on the side of caution, which denies many “safe” amputees a chance to enjoy the park.

GeekMom Judy's nephew, Soul, enjoying an amusement park ice cream cone.  Photo: Judy Berna
GeekMom Judy’s nephew, Soul, enjoying an amusement park ice cream cone. Photo: Judy Berna.

As an amusement park customer, or as a mom or dad to kids who love them, how do you feel about amusement parks turning away amputees, solely because they have a prosthetic limb? I’d love to hear the opinions of you able-bodied folks out there. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Now excuse me as I go load up the car with kids. We are on our way to the zoo. That’s one place I know I’ll be welcome, bionics and all.

Watch The New Ant-Man Trailer

Image credit: Marvel Studios

Only a little more than six weeks to go until one of the founding members of The Avengers sees if he can measure up to the standard the rest of the MCU has set–even at a half-inch tall. Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd up against Corey Stoll as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket and premieres July 17, 2015. Watch the latest trailer here:

The Rainbow Conundrum: I Can’t Pick a Favorite Color

color main
Families play on an interactive color changing floor at a street festival. It is near impossible to choose a favorite color when they are so wonderful in their own way. Image by Rick Tate.

Remember the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where Arthur and his knights have to answer those three questions to safely cross the Bridge of Death?

WHAT is your name?
WHAT is your quest?
WHAT is your favorite color?

Were I among those unfortunate knights on their quest, that final question would lead me hurling into the “gorge of eternal peril” with an unceremonious……AAAARRRHHHHHHHH!!

I realized earlier this year that I don’t really have a favorite color. What the heck?

This weird little revelation occurred after taking those popular online polls asking, “Which BBC Sherlock character are you?” or “What fictional princess are you?” These always ask for a favorite color choice, and all I can do is turn my head and blindly pick one.

Why do I even have to choose? Aren’t all colors wonderful in some way? I guess this fits in with the whole trend of categorizing everyone into some type of personality cubby hole, and that includes color psychology.

To find out what my favorite color might be, based on my personality type, I sailed through several online self-awareness sites like Psychology Today and Psycologia, I read a commentary on Goodreads, and found an entire sited devoted to “empowering yourself with color,” by the authors of an eBook called The Colour of Sex. I’m guessing it’s either pink or fifty shades of grey, but I don’t think I really want to know. Another favorite source was the book The Secret Language of Color, which I love looking through for inspiration and enjoyment. Each source had its own take on these colors, but there were similarities among all of them.

This appears to be is the general consensus:

Red. Red is the color of love, passion, energy, and stubbornness (described in some lists with the politically correct phrase “strong willed”). People often try to thrust this one on me. Older relatives and teachers told me that red is “my color,” and I should wear it more often. Others, my husband included, will vouch for the personality type description, but I am not stubborn and I won’t back down on that issue. I may fit the description sometimes, but I am hardly ever drawn to the color. My only really red clothing item is my Sheldon Cooper “Bazinga” shirt. I do like that shirt.

Orange. Orange is fun and social. One of my favorite animals, a tiger, is orange. My favorite sherbet flavor and fruit is orange. I have a lot of gingers in my family with happy, orange hair, and I adore the pink and orange sunsets. It also is the color of things that irritate me like construction traffic cones and the some power-crazy safety patrol volunteers. The popular television series might claim “orange is the new black,” but it really isn’t. It’s orange, and it isn’t fooling anyone.

Yellow. Good old yellow. Cheery and optimistic, yellow tends to associate itself with self-sufficient, logical people who appreciate their individuality. I think yellow might be one of my least favorites. It tends to hurt my eyes in bright light, and I often associate it with the color of bodily fluids I have stinky memories of having to clean up, when I was studying veterinary technology. However, I think yellow roses are beautiful, and love using yellow markers when drawing with my daughter. I’ve found yellow flows the smoothest on paper. Therefore, I guess yellow and I have a love-hate relationship.

Green. Loyalty, faithfulness, and a love of nature have all been associated with green. I love nature and the outdoors, and the many places that could best be described as “green.” Tall piney forests, open grassy fields that include parks, leas, pretty much all sports fields except golf courses, and secluded garden areas. Plus, The Shire in Hobbiton is green! Unfortunately, the word has been over politicized. I care about the environment, but the phrase “going green” is so over-used now, it is borderline cliché. There is even an entire political party that calls themselves the “Green Party.” I have nothing against the party itself, but I prefer my colors to be unaffiliated.

Blue. Blue is the chosen color of peacefulness, serenity, and reliability. Fair enough, but blue lovers have also been described as “conventional.” Boring—and wrong—in my opinion. How is a TARDIS conventional? The Blue Man Group? The rear light of the Millennium Falcon? Christopher Eccleston’s eyes? I have to take issue with that one. Many things I love are blue, be it royal blue or turquoise, but am I really the type to be partial to the blue collar “Everyman” of colors?

Purple. Purple is the elegant color of royalty, and people with deep spiritual and emotional needs, as well as those prone to creativity. Everyone wants to be that purple person, and when I was a teenager in the 80s, too many people claimed it as their own, from Michael Jackson to Prince. It was the “in thing” to love purple. I remember picking out my first lunchbox in Kindergarten based on the fact it was purple. It turned out, I had picked an Osmond Brothers lunch box, so purple is also the color of my first big humiliating moment in school. Admittedly, purple is a beautiful, stunning color, and I love to include it in art projects. It is just too popular.

It might be best to heed the advice of my daughter’s picture book and let “all my colors show!” Image by Lisa Kay Tate.

A fun little infographic can be found on  Psychologia, but I personally wouldn’t take it as personality-defining gospel. If anything, it’s a better indication of the type of mood the colors themselves provoke in pretty much anyone, regardless of which one they find most appealing to the eye.

I would agree that sometimes seeing certain colors affects my moods, and sometimes stress levels, but if I had to pick one to look more than any others, it would make me miss the ones I don’t get to see. Fickle, yes, but at least I’m up front about it.

Okay, what does it me say about me that I can’t choose a constant “favorite” color?

I even did the social medial online psychology forums, to find out what not having a favorite color means. Do I suffer from multiple personalities? Am I magic? Am I just boring? Nope. Apparently, according to those experts on the chat forums, as well as a few of the articles themselves, I do have a favorite color. I’m just in denial.

I simply need to look around at my choices in clothes and decorating to see which color is prevalent.

If clothes were the case, my favorite color would be black. I have a bunch of black clothes, but not because I’m a dark, deep, moody control freak. My reasons for choosing these clothes are simple. I have two kids and a black dog. Not a lot of hair and food stains show up on black. In addition, I’m struggling with losing weight and I feel better about myself in what is considered the “slimming” color. Finally, most of the t-shirts I find amusing are most commonly found in black. The other choice is usually just white, and that brings me back to my two-kids-and-a-dog explanation. I like black, but like to mix it with other colors, too.

If my house were the case, my walls are mostly beige, which is not a favorite of mine. As a matter of fact, I’ve been trying to remedy it room-by-room with less blah earth tones and browns. A group of colors, by the way, that are also sound choices when dealing with dirt and dog hair. As for my choice in furnishings and home “décor,” well let’s just say it’s all over the spectrum.

I just don’t get it. Why can’t I just enjoy different colors in different situations? It’s not like I’m a player with a different partner on my arm every weekend? They’re colors, not significant others!

Some may tell me I’m in denial, but I would like to think I’m just creative. Some days are blue and others are red. Some nights are purple, some mornings are yellow or orange, and weekends are a comfortable green. Sometimes I follow the advice of the children’s picture book The Rainbow Book by Kate Ohrt and its ornate kaleidoscope pages, “letting all my colors show!”

If I had to pick a color right at this point in my life, my constant companions are my well-worn denims, while I continue to take comfort in the vast azure West Texas sky. My day also wouldn’t be complete without seeing the bright, shiny baby blues of my children.

Now I know if I was faced with having to cross that infamous bridge of death, I would at least be able to bluff and say my favorite color is Blue…no wait, I’ve changed my mind it’s…….. AAAARRRHHHHHHHH!!

Pirate Day Book Review: Scott Chantler’s Pirates of the Silver Coast

Image courtesy of Scott Chantler.

Abandon yer landlubber ways and set sail with the Cutlass: Read Pirates of the Silver Coast, an all-ages fantasy adventure graphic novel by Canadian cartoonist Scott Chantler. It features a feisty, adventurous girl seeking her lost brother in a fantasy medieval setting. In this fifth story in the Three Thieves series, former circus acrobat Dessa is seeking her kidnapped twin brother Jared, along with her two companions, Fisk and Topper.

At the opening of the book, Dessa is waiting for a broken leg to heal and hiding with her two companions. Topper is a small blue being, who is quick-thinking and loves a good risk. Fisk, on the other hand, is a quiet, huge and gentle creature, who has been outcast from his tribe. To proceed with their mission, the three need funds. Raising funds and seeking Dessa’s brother while under pursuit by the evil queen’s guard, using the highly sought-after map to a mysterious island that Dessa acquired in the previous issue, gets this tale off to an in-your-face start.

Image courtesy of Scott Chantler.

Once the trio have purchased safe passage on the Cutlass, they get to mix it up with pirates—several times. Some people are surprisingly piratical, some pirates are surprisingly human, and our friends require bravery, trickery, feats of strength, or leaps of faith to continue the journey without piratical penalties. At the end of the book, I wanted to keep reading to find out the resolution to all of the dangling questions and intriguing situations. I would love to read this book with youngsters in my life.

Since I have not yet read the preceding volumes in the series, I did not have a strong sense of the characters’ history or personalities. Dessa and Topper tell us who they are quickly through their actions, but Fisk is so quiet that his other characteristics are hard to discern. There is a sense in this story of payoff from earlier story investments, as if the series is a big Jenga tower and this episode is the point where we start worrying about each move we make.

Chantler’s art and writing move the story along briskly and convey the plot clearly. I did not have to study panels to figure out what was happening, but sometimes I studied a panel just for the fun of it. The art style is uncluttered and direct with clean lines, a somewhat painterly style, and the pages vary between bright primary colors and more muted, neutral palettes, depending on the atmosphere. My favorite line was, “By the great mermaid’s clamshells!” and my favorite image was of Fisk gliding through the air with his head up and his arms wide. Not because it is particularly artsy or beautiful, but because it looks both fun and serene—and it’s effective, in story terms. Images like this make it easy to hope to see this story as an animated or live-action film.

Image (c) Scott Chantler Image (c) Scott Chantler

Q&A With Scott Chantler

GeekMom: Did you have any particular inspiration or goal in designing your main characters? We love strong female protagonists at GeekMom, but Dessa’s posse is interesting too.

Scott Chantler: Topper and Fisk are characters I’ve been kicking around since university. There’s an old drawing of them in one of my sketchbooks from probably 1993. So those are characters who have been with me a while, just waiting to pop up as sidekicks somewhere.

Dessa herself came much later. My original 2006 concept for Three Thieves had a boy lead. Before actually pitching it, I changed it to a girl. It just felt a little less cliché, and maybe made her seem a little bit more vulnerable out there in that pseudo-Medieval man’s world. You’re seeing a lot more female heroes in comics lately, especially in all-ages books. In fact, a lot of them are using “strong female characters!” as a sort of feminist marketing hook. Which is fine, but Kids Can has never publicized the Three Thieves books that way, which I’m happy about. That Dessa is a girl has never been a big deal (Pirates is the first book in the series to reference to it as a plot point.) Because it shouldn’t be. I certainly wasn’t trying to force some kind of social justice agenda. The themes of the series are more universal than that.

GM: Without serious spoilers, what was your favorite part of creating Pirates of the Silver Coast and/or the Three Thieves series?

SC: The entire series is just a blast to work on. But Book Four (The King’s Dragon) was pretty dark, so I purposefully wanted to make this one light and fun. Of the five books so far, it was the easiest to write. It’s a little shorter than the others, so that helped. But it also ends with a couple of big twists that I’ve been working toward for years now, so I always knew exactly where I was going. Finally arriving at those scenes was really satisfying.

GM: Who did you read as a child and who do you read now?

SC: When I was very young, I was all about superhero comics. When I hit my teens, it was more about fantasy comics and fantasy novels. Conan the Barbarian, DC’s Warlord, Terry Brooks’s Sword of Shannara, etc., Tolkien of course. A lot of that stuff ended up in forming the Three Thieves books.

As an adult, I’ll read pretty much anything. Fiction, non-fiction, genre stuff or “literary” stuff, comics, or prose… I just like to read. Prose-wise, I’m finishing up Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter’s The Monuments Men. Comics-wise, I’m re-reading the ‘90s Vertigo classic Sandman Mystery Theatre.

GM: Do you prefer writing or art? Do you ever wish you were collaborating on the book creation?

SC: Cartoonists get this question a lot, and it’s always puzzling to us, because in comics the art is the writing. Most of us don’t think of them as two separate things. We’re people who “write” with pictures. That said, the script stage goes faster than the drawing does. But it’s also less satisfying than looking at the giant pile of art boards you’ve got when you’re finished. So it’s a toss-up.

And no, I don’t wish for a collaboration. We can all name some successful writer/artist teams who seem to share a vision, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. I think a true synthesis between word and image is best achieved when those two things are married inside a single creator.

GM: What is the hardest part of the process of creating your comics?

SC: The drawing stage takes a long time—longer than I’m sure most people would imagine. Drawing comics is more fun than digging ditches for sure, but sometimes when you’re several months (or years, in some artists’ cases) into the process, it’s hard to remember that. Many of us also work in isolation, which makes it tough, too. There’s no one around to give you a pep talk when you need one.

GM: Any tips for kids or adults interested in pursuing comics?

SC: Drawing skills are important, of course, but I would stress to them that comics aren’t simply heavily-illustrated books, but a unique storytelling language. And mastering that language involves so much more than drawing. You need to think about what to draw, not just how to draw, and that means studying drama, studying film, studying movement, studying iconography, studying anything that helps get ideas across to readers, visually. Creating comics isn’t about picture-making; it’s about communication. The best cartoonists aren’t the ones who draw the coolest-looking stuff. They’re the ones who can translate their ideas most effectively into simple, clear, dramatic imagery.

(GM: Amen, brother!)

Thanks to Scott for that insight into the life of an artist and writer. You can see the trailer for Pirates of the Silver Coast and buy the book at Scott’s website. Pirates of the Silver Coast is 96 pages from Kids Can Press. It sells for $8.06 and is suggested for ages 8-10.

The mino™: “Don’t Outrun Your Shoes”

The Runmino is the perfect way to objectively measure wear and tear on running shoes. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
A rare glimpse into the depths of my running shoe. The mino is the perfect way to objectively measure wear and tear on running shoes. LED lights will illuminate as the footfalls trigger a counter in the heel pad. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

I received an opportunity to check out a mino. This is a device that measures your footfalls on your running shoes.

“What on Earth are you talking about?”

Okay, let me start over. The mino is a computer chip in a heel pad that counts based on impacts. You slip the heel pad into your shoe. It’s programmed to count up to the equivalent of 400 running steps, with a panel of LED lights that will light up one-by-one as the count gets higher. When all the lights are lit, your shoes will have experienced an equivalent of 400 running miles, which puts quite a toll on the soles and might occur before other more visible signs of wear and tear, especially if you’re an avid runner…like I used to be.

I had received a sample mino to try out last fall, but I asked the representative if I could wait until I bought my next pair of running shoes before starting my review. This is the company’s recommendation. Thanks to a snowy Colorado winter, it wasn’t until late February before I bought new running shoes and could put some miles on. Read on to learn more.

What Comes in the Package

mino packaging is very simple. It’s meant to hang on a hook at your local running specialty store. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
  • One mino heel pad
  • One 2.5mm thick foam heel “spacer” for the other shoe so you aren’t standing lopsided
  • Instruction card
The top piece is a spacer meant to give your non-mino shoe a matching lift. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The top piece is a spacer meant to give your non-mino shoe a matching lift. It also has the instructions, which you will always have in your “other shoe.” Photo: Patricia Vollmer.


Installation is quite simple. Peel the adhesive from the underside of the counter and stick it underneath your insole.

My awesome new running shoes. I have a lofty running goal in late 2014/early 2015, so I'm starting to venture off-road and needed shoes that could handle it. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My awesome new running shoes. I have a lofty running goal in late 2014/early 2015, so I’m starting to venture off-road and needed shoes that could handle it. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The company worked hard to make these as thin as possible, so don't be alarmed when you see circuit boards! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The company worked hard to make these as thin as possible, so don’t be alarmed when you see exposed circuit boards! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.


Simply press the blue button in the middle of the “o” in mino to see a quick illumination of the LEDs. The more lights lit means the more compressions measured. Once the mino measures 350 miles of wear, the yellow warning LED will light up. When the red light shows up, your shoes have exceeded 400 miles.

The company recommends checking the LEDs every 3-4 weeks.

That’s it!

It’s important to point out that the mino is meant for one use only. You will need a new one for every new pair of running shoes. Which means, yes, you’re generating some additional waste when you’re getting rid of your running shoes.

How Does it Work?

The convention among long-distance runners is to replace running shoes approximately every 300-500 miles. The folks at ParaWare, the company that makes the mino, decided to come up with a means to objectively measure footfalls that would approximate this distance.

The mino is designed to measure 400 miles worth of compressions on the foam unit. Using an estimate of 600 steps per mile (based on an average human’s stride), after around 240,000 compressions of the foam pad it will fully illuminate all six LEDs. According to the instructions printed on the foam “dummy” pad, 3 lights is approximately 1/3 worn, 4 lights is approximately 3/4 illuminated, and once the yellow light is lit, you’re within 50 miles of the 400 mile breakpoint.

In addition, the mino is designed to measure walking footfalls differently than running footfalls. So walking mileage will add up more slowly than with runs. Perhaps through a force measurement?


I was very surprised at how transparent the mino was during my runs. I have a Princess and the Pea syndrome with my running shoes and clothing: anything uncomfortable will distract me and make my runs miserable. So I was quite concerned about a possible bumpiness in my insole distracting me.

But it didn’t. I can feel it a little when I’m walking (which I rarely do in my running shoes; typically I put them on and run right out the door), but during a 5K run, my footfalls were such that I didn’t feel a thing!


So far I’m about 75 miles into my newest running shoes with a mino installed. So when I press the button to illuminate the LEDs, I still only see one light.

If you are a long distance runner who puts so many miles on shoes before other signs of visible wear, this is a genius invention that will help you objectively track the wear on your shoes. It’s a great gift, and the fact that minos are made in the U.S. make them even more appealing!

The mino has an MSRP of $15.00 and can be purchased at the company’s website, or at several running specialty stores as listed here. Give it a try with your next pair of runners.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

11 Young Reader Picks for National Reading Month

Some of our Young Reader Picks. Images courtesy of their respective publishers.

As children grow and become more confident readers, the choice of books can become bewildering. Children’s publishing is luckily in a vibrant and exciting place at the moment with plenty of fantastic new books being released each month, but it can be difficult to find the right book to inspire and engage young readers as the choice is so vast. In my day job as a teacher of 8-9 year olds, I know the importance of helping children to find the right book, and I scour thrift stores and jumble sales looking for good books for our class library. Local libraries are great for book advice too, as well as good bookshops.

To help point you in the right direction when choosing books for your young readers, the GeekMoms have come up with these books as being great for independent readers, up to around grade 5 (or year 6 in the UK). They would also be wonderful read aloud at bedtime to younger children, who can’t yet manage to read them on their own.

Tales don’t come much taller than Fortunately, The Milk by the wonderful Neil Gaiman. I’m slightly biased having heard him read an extract from this last August, but it’s a very funny story of what happens to Dad when he takes a long time to come back from the shops with the milk needed for his children’s cereal. Time travel, ancient gods, aliens, pirates, and dinosaurs are just some of the things that the harried father has do deal with while trying to provide his children with their breakfast. Older children will be able to read this adventure independently, but it also made a fantastic bedtime story for our 4-year-old. I haven’t seen the US edition, which is illustrated by Skottie Young, but the UK edition has lovely illustrations by Chris Riddell. — Helen Barker

Older children with a sense of adventure will love Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver. This is the first of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series about Torak, a boy who lives in a hunter-gatherer society 6,000 years ago. When tragedy strikes in the opening pages, Torak has to find out where he fits in the clan society while bonding with a wolf cub. The author researched wolf behavior and New Stone Age culture and technology, and this research is clearly seen in the attention to detail in the story. The real strength however is in the exciting storytelling and rich language. As well as buying the book, you can also listen to an audio book version for free, read by the great Sir Ian McKellen, no less. — Helen Barker

Oliver’s parents spy the Wandering Isles. Illustration by Sarah McIntyre. © OUP

More adventure awaits in Oliver and the Seawigs, by Philip Reeve and illustrator Sarah McIntyre. For younger readers than Reeve’s Predator Cities/Mortal Engines series, it describes the adventure of Oliver as he tries to rescue his explorer parents from wandering isles, despotic teenagers, and sea monkeys. Yes, sea monkeys. The story is jaunty and the characters endearing, and the whole thing is set off beautifully by the lovely nautical illustrations. I bought this for my daughter for Christmas and she made us read it to her at bedtime three times in a row! — Helen Barker

A girl called September is our heroine in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. It’s a fantastical tale of library wyverns, fairies, and other magical creatures experienced by September, who is thrilled to have been pulled from her boring home life into the magical world. However, as expected, things are not what they seem, and soon it is time for September to make difficult decisions. — Helen Barker

My class of 8-year-olds loved Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away From the Circus (and joined the library) by poet A.F. Harrold. Fizzlebert longs for normalcy away from the circus, and when the opportunity arises to join the library, he takes it. Unfortunately this starts a chain of events that leave him in a dangerous position, with possibly no way to return to the circus. Children will enjoy this madcap adventure, with a cast of circus characters and some rather creepy pensioners. — Helen Barker

A page from My Dad’s a Birdman by David Almond, showing Polly Dunbar’s lovely illustrations.
© Candlewick

David Almond has a book to suit almost every reader. For older children, the tale of Skellig is full of mystery and wonder. Younger children will enjoy The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas or My Dad’s a Birdman, both of which are fun, but don’t pull their emotional punches. Almond’s work walks a fine line between fantasy and truth, and there are so many layers that older children will be able to read between the lines and get even more out of the stories. — Helen Barker

An unusual mother/daughter writing team known as Zizou Corder came up with the trilogy of books that start with Lionboy. Set in the near future, when Charlie’s parents are kidnapped he must use all of his skills, including the ability to talk to cats, to track them down. Charlie embarks on a great adventure, bonding with a group of circus lions and attempting to find his parents. — Helen Barker

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd is a great book for older independent readers. It centers around Ted, a boy with Asperger Syndrome, who has a mystery to solve when his cousin disappears while riding on the London Eye. Ted is such a great character, and his Asperger Syndrome is handled in the narrative in a sensitive way. — Helen Barker

Got a Phineas and Ferb fan in the house? I know what they’re doing today! The Book of Doof, with comics written by Scott Peterson, features the hapless villain in a variety of hilarious stories, comics, and tips for finding an arch-nemesis. Kids who are fans of the strangely lovable Heinz Doofenschmirtz will find a lot to love in this fun book. — Kelly Knox

If this has whetted your appetite for brilliant books, you can find more recommendations in our 2013 Caldecott BooksSeven Books British Kids Love10 Picture Books to Inspire Imagination, and 17 Picture Book Picks for National Reading Month posts.

 GeekMom received some of the books on this list for review purposes.

Old School Pranks vs. High Tech Tricks With Marvin’s Magic

Marvin’s Magic kits span the spectrum of tech-centered illusions to retro-style pranks.
Images by Rick Tate

With April Fools’ Day approaching, I thought I would try out a couple of kits from Marvin’s Magic, created by British illusionist Marvin Berglas. This resulted in two generations comparing “high tech” trickery with “old school” pranks. It was which generation was drawn to which kit, however, that surprised us the most.

One of the kits incorporated a high-tech theme to sleight of hand with the Junior Edition of Lights from Anywhere. I won’t reveal its secret, but will say it is deceptively simple. A little fancy sleight of hand practice and the proper room lighting on the part of the user will result in an very impressive little display. When we showed it to family members who weren’t yet “in on the trick,” they were very impressed. You can see a few seconds of my own awkward, unpolished attempt at this Light Illusion. If I can achieve this in a just a short time, imagine what some practice could do for more graceful hands.

I personally found this illusion extremely addictive and spent a good portion of the evening hoarding the trick, practicing “bouncing” the light around, and pretty much pretending to be Loki. This trick is suggested for ages 8 and older, and rightly so, as it would be something a little harder for smaller hands to master. Our 11-year-old daughter found it a little harder to control, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

We also checked out the Fifty Pranks to Freak Your Friends kit after the light show and I admit I was underwhelmed at first, especially after playing with “magic light” for the previous hour. Also, having grown up in the home of a full-time prankster, my dad, I recognized some of my his favorite homemade pranks with new packaging, but my daughter fell immediately in love with all of them.

It was the simplicity of the execution, the mischievous Weasley Twins-style potential and the promise of those unabashed facial expressions surprise from her victims, that really drew her in. She especially loved the “Scary Spider Trap,” and “Freaky Body Parts” in a box. Anyone who remembers the classic “rattle snake eggs” prank or “mummified finger” causing big scares—followed by big laughs—as a kid will be nostalgic with these pranks, as well.

Taking a cue from the Fifty Pranks to Freak Your Friends, our daughter surprised us with a room covered with neon pink notes.
Image by Lisa Kay Tate

She tried most every item in the box at least once, giggling the entire time. She read the kit’s booklet on how to use each prank in different ways, as well as suggestion for fun pranks that don’t even require the provided props. She plotted out loud which friends and family members—and some good-natured teachers—she wanted to torture with certain pranks.

Finally, booklet in hand, she disappeared from sight for about a half hour before her bedtime. The quiet should have tipped us off that something was amiss, but we were too busy playing with the “pretty lights” to notice. It wasn’t until we entered our own bedroom later that night, and found ourselves victims of the Great Pink Post-It Explosion of 2014. As we stood dumbfounded in our room looking at a small army of pink notes, each naming the item they were stuck to (phone, lamp, pillow, Middle Earth sword, etc.), we heard a blast of laughter coming from across the hall. Apparently, our silent shock was just the reaction our apprentice prankster wanted, and she laughed hysterically for about five straight minutes. For our daughter, this simple prank, well executed and timed, was worth its weight in 100 fancy “high tech” illusions.

Although the light-based magic was a welcome addition to our family time, we learned with every generation everything old is new again, but it never does stop being fun.

Lights From Anywhere, and Fifty Pranks to Freak Your Friends are available at marvinsmagic.com

GeekMom received these items for review purposes.

Denver Mini Maker Faire May 2-4, 2014: Calling All Front Range Makers!

Image: denvermakerfaire.com

To our Front Range fans: the Denver Mini Maker Faire is coming May 2-4, 2014!

After the overwhelming success of the NoCo Mini Maker Faire in Loveland last October, I was thrilled to hear that the folks at Maker Media are bringing the event to Denver.

You can read more about the Denver Mini Maker Faire with this Makezine.com writeup and visit the Denver Mini Maker Faire website. I plan to be there, and hope to see you there too!

But I come to you with more pressing news—if you are a Maker based in the Front Range and you haven’t submitted your application to participate in the Denver Mini Maker Faire, you have until Monday, March 16th (as in, THREE DAYS from this post date!) to do so. Visit the Google Doc linked here to make your intentions known.

See you in May!

How (Not To) Make Cookie Shots

I almost didn’t write this post. After all, we’re taught–whether overtly or implicitly–to hide our failures. But failures are important. Not only that, a “failure” (failed failure?) is ostensibly how chocolate chip cookies were invented to begin with, which makes it seem all the more relevant to discuss my semi-failure to make cookie shots.

I think the photo of Dominique Ansel’s chocolate chip cookie shots, debuting today at SXSW, had been on the Internet roughtly 3.7 seconds before my husband announced a desire to eat them. And since I frequently am away for work at fun events (like SXSW) drinking shots (that aren’t just milk) without him, I feel a certain obligation to deliver on baked goods when I’m home.

Screenshot of dominiqueansel’s Instagram post of the cookie shots

But before I get to that, let’s talk about Pinterest, the now common source of wacky baking and craft ideas. Cookie shot creator Ansel is previously known for the creation of the cronut, so I think it’s safe not to hold yourself to the standards of a professional baker.

But if you haven’t been on Pinterest and felt like an abject failure as a mother and crafter, then either you haven’t been on Pinterest, or you have much higher self-esteem than I do. It’s part of why we started the GeekMom “Pintrusted or Pinbusted” series. Does that fantastic idea you saw getting shared on everyone’s board actually work? Or is it another glowing Mountain Dew hoax? Even if it works, is it going to turn out like that beautiful photo, or is going to be a candidate for Epic Pinterest Fail?

It doesn’t take too long on that site before you’re convinced that everyone but you has a fantastic DSLR, which they use in their naturally lit home photo studios to capture the exquisite creations they make while their children sit quietly coloring yet another “World’s Greatest Mom” picture to hang on the stainless steel refrigerators that, like the immaculate counters where they photograph their baked goods in progress, are completely free of fingerprints, stains, or dripping finger paints.

I’m calling BS.

Nobody’s that perfect.

Myself included, which is why instead of spending the weekend perfecting these cookie shots that my husband and children were going to destroy faster than you can say “Chewbacca,” I’m going to share it with you exactly how Version 2.0 went, imperfections and all. (Version 1 is crumbled in a pile on a plate by the stove.) It’s up to you to take this and either improve on it to make your own jealousy-inducing pretty Pinterest post, or just straight up make the messy ones and throw them down your gullet. Either way, I’m going to tell you where I went right and where I know I could have done better. Then it’s up to you.

The recipe

Here’s the trick with this. You want a strong cookie. A crunchy Chips Ahoy style chocolate chip cookie, not one of those pansy Soft Bake floppy things. What the heck, you might even try this Chips Ahoy clone recipe. I’m not that smart. I decided to wing it based on a three understandings:

1. I wanted low moisture for a sturdy cookie, which means eliminating at least some of the brown sugar, which play a large part in giving chocolate chip cookies that je ne sais quoi that you love. Sadly that means giving up some flavor for the fun of having a cookie shaped like a cup.

2. I thought shortening might be a little sturdier, but butter is butter. Butter. It’s one of my favorite kitchen items. I split the difference and went halfsies.

3. Worst case scenario, I have to toss it out and try again. This also led me to go with an egg-free recipe so that I could cut the quantity down without ending up trying to add 1/3 of an egg. Bonus, you can eat the dough without hearing your mom in your head warning of salmonella.

Here’s what I used:

1/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cups of white granulated sugar
3/8 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp vanilla
? of chocolate chips

That’s a very precise quantity of chocolate chips, you see. I’ll explain shortly.

First, cream the fats and sugars until they’re all light and fluffy. Resist the urge to give up here and just eat the sugary butter. If you’re unable to do so, first cream pure butter and sugar and eat that–it’s way tastier. Then add the rest of the ingredients except for the chocolate chips and combine until it’s mixed. It might end up like crumbly balls instead of dough. That’s cool. It’ll work out. I used the KitchenAid with the paddle attachment.

For Version 1.0, I mixed in the chocolate chips. Except I accidentally grabbed a bag of GIANT chocolate chips. This, while delicious, is an unsuitable choice when trying to make reasonably thin-walled cups. The chips looked like freakish cookie warts. It was not pretty. The first way to solve that problem would be to use mini chips instead. I decided to just take them out of the dough altogether–but don’t worry. They come back later. As to the quantity? I’ve never measured chocolate chips in my life. Just pour them int until it looks “chippy” enough. Nobody’s ever said, “Take these cookies back! They have far too many chocolate chips in them!”

Now it’s time for the hard work. As soon as I saw the shots, I knew what pan I could use. Some number of years ago, I bought this Ikea “muffin tin”. What it actually is is a popover pan. Because I was totally going to make popovers, which I’ve done exactly twice. Now it’s got a purpose. I’m sure it feels better about itself.

I tried both molding over the outside of the pan (upside down) and using the interiors, and the interior option was far superior. I sprayed the cups because even though there’s plenty of fat in these cookies, I wanted to be darn sure they released in one piece. Then I took small bits of dough and pressed it against the sides until it made a cup shape. Save the bottom for last since bits will crumble down as you’re working. It’s OK to press it pretty thin; these rise. Balloon? Expand? Whatever you call it, I’d consider trying cutting down the baking soda to reduce the expansion. Then I made plugs out of crumpled foil to shove into the middles. Make sure the bottom isn’t wider than the top, or you’ll crush the cup trying to get it out again.

Once all your cups are made, stick it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or an hour or longer. (I let them sit in there while I made dinner.) Then bake them at around 375° F. I tried a few different options between 350° and 400°. I settled on 385° on convection, which more or less translates to 365° in a regular oven. It didn’t seem to make a huge difference in the results. Bake for 10-12 minutes. (I did this while I went to meet the school bus and hoped it wasn’t late. I feel like Perfect Pinterest Moms probably have the multitasking thing mastered.)

Voilà! Cups! More or less. Let them cool before getting the foil out.

The empty cup. CC-BY-SA Ruth Suehle

Then this is where I brought the chocolate back in. Or, as I said to my husband, “Let’s see what happens when you melt chocolate chips that have globs of cookie dough stuck to them!” Spread the melted chocolate around the inside walls and bottom of each cup. I was pretty sure before beginning that this coating would be necessary, but I decided to test the theory. I have now poured milk into an un-chocolated cup so you don’t have to. It does not work. I delivered to aforementioned husband a plate of milk with a leaking cookie cup sitting in the middle of it. He gladly ate it anyway.

The quickly photographed (and thus out of focus) leaking cookie. CC-BY-SA Ruth Suehle

Now you have chocolate not-chip cookies, in a cup shape, ready for serving! Pour milk in the ones for the kids and Godiva white chocolate liqueur in yours. You deserve it after all that work, and I’m pretty sure that’s what the stuff was invented for.

Cups before filling. CC-BY-SA Ruth Suehle

Not only that, I assure you that when they’re enjoying all your hard work, not one of your family or friends is going to complain about the lack of Pinterest-perfection to the creations. “Look at those weirdly fluted edges and chocolate that’s not even a little bit smooth!” said nobody ever while eating chocolate chip cookie cups. So relax. You’re already the best mom ever.

Cookie cup joy. Apparently they are best enjoyed with one’s eyes closed. CC-BY-SA Ruth Suehle

Feels Like the First Time: Reliving My School Choir Days

English cover of the 1984 single “I Want to Know What Love” Is by Foreigner.

You know that feeling you get, when something you always thought was pretty cool coincides with something you love, and makes a whole pile of awesome? Benedict Cumberbatch on Sesame Street, the It’s a Wonderful Life episode of Warehouse 13, little boys dressing up as Darth Vadar for Superbowl commercials. All of that rolled into one big moment for me this week, when I found out that Foreigner—a British/American band that brought us “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Feels Like The First Time”—was not only playing in my town, Portland, Maine, this week, but on stage with them would be the choir from Deering High School.

I was a bit of a choir geek back in the day. Sure I toyed with Orchestra and the violin, I half heartedly learned the guitar, but it was to the choir room I found myself going year after year throughout high school. From Mr. Mason, our choir director, I learned lessons of diction and clarity that I still hear myself repeating on an almost daily basis. How long to carry an “s” sound in the middle of a word. When to use a hard “g” in “ing,” and when to swallow the middle of a word. From Mr. Mason I learned the opening pre-amble to “White Christmas,” memorized the words to “The Seven Joys of Mary,” and learned that a high E was within my range. It is no longer within my range.

Turns out, this is something that the band has done across the country for the past six years as part of their effort to promote music education. Along with the chance to perform on stage with a band that has sold over 80 million albums, the participating choir gets $500 and the opportunity to sell Foreigner CDs on site. The sales go to the music education fund of the Grammy Foundation. The Choir’s role is only a minute long; they will sing backup on “I Want To Know What Love Is.”

I got the chance this week to ask a few questions of Gil Peltola, the Choir Director at Deering High School.

GM: What excites you most about this opportunity?
Gil: This is a great opportunity for my choral students to actually be on stage with a world famous rock band. They’re usually in the audience looking up, but this time they will be on stage looking at the audience.

GM: What excites the kids?
Gil: Pretty much the same thing.  The thrill of being on stage with a famous rock band. Actually, the parents are just as excited (maybe more!) about this adventure—they grew up with Foreigner.

GM: Has the Glee effect had an impact on how you, and indeed how the kids, approach choir now?
Gil: I just had this conversation with my students as we plan our music for the future.  They would like movement to be a part of their singing and productions but also realize that the music must come first.  They are thrilled about adding motion to their music.

GM: Were you a Foreigner fan before this?
Gil: I listened to them on the radio but I was more of a jazz fanatic.

GM: What are you doing to prep yourself, and to prep the kids for Tuesday night?
Gil: Not to down play our performance, but we will be just singing the chorus of “I Want To Know What Love Is” with the group on stage. We have a recording and video to watch.  Most important we need to be professional throughout the entire performance and smile as big as we can.

GM: What is your favorite memory of your own time with the groups of your youth?
Gil: Again, being a jazz aficionado, I had the opportunity to see jazz musicians such as Cannonball Aderley, Buddy Rich, Bud Shank, Herbie Mann, and others at local jazz clubs.  I hope my students will remember this concert and enjoy being a part of music on stage.

Gil expressed his thoughts on music in our education system, thoughts that I can testify worked in my own life thanks to a strong music program. “For me, the purpose of music is performance.  We work so hard at rehearsals to perform usually only one time. Hard work produces good results.  They can go as far as they wish with hard work and dedication.  Hopefully this will excite them and make them go further in life.”

My own choir director taught me vocal tools that I use everyday so the key thing I wanted to know from Gil was what he most hoped the kids would take with them when they left his Choir. “I hope they take the love of music with them.  I always tell my students that music is a life long personal partnership. In college there are many music groups, instrumental and choral.  Every community also has musical groups that the public can join. Love music and performance, and keep it in your life as much as you can—it is good for the soul.”

Foreigner is playing, with Deering High School, at the State Theater in Portland, Maine, on Tuesday February 18th. Their tour continues throughout the year, check out their tour dates and see if they are playing with a high school choir near you.

Don’t Make the Geek Girl Angry. You Wouldn’t Like Her When She’s Angry

Ninja snake
Have you made a geek girl mad lately? When you least expect it….expect it. Photo by Lisa Kay Tate.

Well, now you’ve gone and done it. You’ve somehow switched on the gamma rays and provoked the Geek Girl. This normally adventure-loving, laid-back, and usually even-tempered being is suddenly morphing into a steaming, livid, infuriated ball of fire.

In simple terms, whatever you did, you pissed her off and that’s never a smart move.

Here are some of the top reasons why:

We Are Brilliant Wordsmiths With a Penchant for Memorizing One-Liners.
Yes, this does include some of the world’s best insults drawn from sources as varied as Shakespeare to Star Wars, you warthog-faced buffoon.  We fangirls are so adept at crafting words, we can cut you to the quick without even resorting to Mamet-style profanity. What this means—and I’ll explain it in small words so you can understand it—is we can do it in public for everyone to hear, you miserable vomitous mass.

Ergo, if you decide to insult us in front of our family, friends, or anyone else, you will find yourself branded a “sanguine coward, bed-presser, huge hill of flesh, bull’s pizzle, stuck-up half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder,” who’s “mother was a hamster, and father smelt of elderberries.”

Try and counter by using worn-out name-calling or dropping words like “bee-yatch” in the mix, then be prepared to be “weighed, measured, and found wanting,” because you are a sad, strange little man (or woman) and you have my pity.

We Don’t Need That Extra Excuse to Carry Out a Good Prank.
It’s not that we’re vengeful; we’re just more than willing to teach a little lesson to those in need of an attitude adjustment. Plus, I’ve always felt pranks are wasted on April 1, as everyone is pretty much expecting them. Of course, that has never stopped me from carrying them out each year. However, it is the prank of,  for lack of a kinder word, revenge, that is the sweetest and most unexpected.

Like The Count of Monte Cristo, we are patient and our tormentors’ comeuppance will be slow, well thought-out, and ultimately very satisfying. It may be an embarrassing and very loud computer hack in the office or a well-placed novelty “voice device” whispering random eerie remarks from your air vent. Perhaps you’ll encounter a full-size Slenderman cutout lurking quietly in the garage, waiting to be noticed at just the right moment. Who knew you were such a huge Justin Beiber fan? Everyone in your office, now!

We are waiting and ready to pounce like a Ninja toilet snake, which by the way, might even be waiting for you, too. If you’ve recently been an absolute jerk to a geek girl, including making the ill-fated mistake of pranking us first, it might be smart to look before using the “facilities” or sliding your arm under your pillow at night.

Trust me when I tell you: Don’t let your guard down.

Don’t Assume Your Company Is Preferred Over That Of Fictional Characters.
Geek girls like me have been well aware for years how utterly disgusting it can be for a partner to lust over the airbrushed, gravity-defying, over-endowed feminine ideal no human can ever match without computer or plastic enhancements. Knowing this, we would also never hold up our spouses to those unreasonable levels.

Does this mean we’d pass up the occasional mental journey aboard the Black Pearl, a light-speed scoundrel-heavy trek across the galaxies in the Millennium Falcon, or a tumble through time and space in the TARDIS? No, it does not. If our real-life romantic interest decides a little sympathy for a hard day is not necessary or that there are more important things to do than occasionally listen to details of a traumatic stressed-filled situation, then there’s a magical place in our minds where leather-clad Time Lords (yes, that one!), intergalactic smugglers, and sarcastic pirates are more than willing to extend their arm and take us away for awhile.

This just isn’t a warning for significant others. It’s for all you “overly concerned” friends, who worry we are spending too much time reading comic books and not “real women’s novels” or that we would rather see Pacific Rim for the fifth time than that sappy new rom-com even once.  It is these instances that we would prefer to hang out with our butt-kicking gal-pals lopping zombie heads with Michonne from The Walking Dead, climbing mountains and practicing archery with Princess Merida from Brave, or putting bad guys in their place through intelligence and martial arts with Melinda May in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

So, next time our partner (romantic, business, or other) tries to over-explain why they should never be the one to perform a simple household or office chore, or our pals share a passive-aggressive sympathy for us actually opting to go on a family date night to The Lego Movie over a bland evening of “whine and wine” with them, you might notice us with a blank, faraway look in our eye.  This is not the look of complacency with a situation. It’s our escape through the rift into our other world where we are forever welcome—an exciting one, where they know us well and treat us right.

Which brings me to my next brief reason…

My photoshopping
My apologies to the fan artist known as “The Untempered Prism” for using her beautiful work (inset) as a tool to work out my frustrations, but in all fairness that little blonde companion was dressed suspiciously like me. Original image can be seen on her DeviantArt page.

We Know Photoshop and We’re Not Afraid to Use It.
Just because I would never think of being unfaithful to my spouse, ditching my friends, or inflicting physical harm on someone out of anger, doesn’t mean there isn’t a little alter ego of myself getting back at the offending parties in the wonderful world of digital manipulation. One nice holiday portrait can be cut and pasted into a pile of space debris, a disembodied head post-zombie massacre or even into a nice tasty snack for Jabberjaw.

Make us angry enough; we’ll even become the subject of our improvised art. If we can place a head on a stake in the midst of Mordor, then how hard is it to re-color some fanart and give The Doctor a more worthy companion?

I love my husband and my friends, but there’s no telling what that naughty little digital me would do when she’s angry…very angry.

We are Generally Easy-going, Happy and Fun-loving.
I think it can safely be said, judging by the first four reasons I’ve given, that geek girls are imaginative and playful. We use any situation to siphon the joy out of life and spread it to all those around us.

One might wonder exactly how this final reason is even a problem. Well, it’s simple: If you’ve made a geek girl angry, you must have really, incredibly, remarkably screwed up.

Seriously, what did you do?

We enjoy good-natured ribbing and fun, can let minor discrepancies slide (who hasn’t forgotten to take the trash out?), and can actually understand how you can, on rare occasions, spend more than three figures on a video game, as long as it’s a limited edition with a great Assassin’s Creed statue.

If you’ve dug deep enough in our inner-core to cause our ire to erupt, then you must have gone way, way too far. If you have messed with our family, destroyed our confidence, or emotionally or physically hurt us or anyone we love, then you have done the near impossible and made…us…MAD.

To that I say both “congratulations on your achievement” and “run,” because Dr. Banner has summed it up splendidly: “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Exclusive Preview: DC’s Trinity of Sin: Pandora #4

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In Greek myth, Pandora is the character that set loose chaos on the world.

In the DC Comics Universe, Pandora was the character charged with the guardianship of a supposedly magic box which instead turned out to be the DC-equivalent of a portkey that allowed the Crime Syndicate–villains from an alternate world–to invade the DC Earth, thus kicking off the big Forever Evil event in the DC Universe.

The box/portkey has been opened, the villains loosed have wrecked chaos but Pandora is now determined to stop it. In this preview of issue #4 of her series, Pandora makes a visit to the Syndicate’s world and encounters an evil version of a DC hero: the Martian Manhunter. More importantly to the plot of the Forever Evil, Pandora finds the pieces of her box and begins her new job of putting chaos back where it belongs.

I’m not entirely sold on the Forever Evil event–DC seems to be already too full of gloom and doom–but Pandora appears to be playing a similar part as Harbringer did all those years ago in Crisis on Infinite Earths, as the catalyst and possible wild card in saving the Earth.

Written by Ray Fawkes and drawn by Francis Portela, Trinity of Sin: Pandora #4 will be available in comic stores on Wednesday and available digitally via Comixology.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2: Attack of the Foodimals

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is one of my family’s favorite movies of all time. We went through a spell where our 3-year-old watched it almost every day. I liken it to The Big Lebowski–the jokes and gags get better and better with multiple viewings. It’s a marvelously crafted film.

Naturally, we had September 27th marked on our calendar as the release date of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 starts with a recap of the first movie, with a couple of key details added. Our hero scientist, Flint Lockwood, created the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (FLDSMDFR) which turned water into delicious food that rained down on the people of Swallow Falls. That was great for an island of people that ate only sardines, until the food started to mutate and eventually drove the people off the island. After Flint stopped the FLDSMDFR from spewing mutated food, the machine crashed down to Earth. One might think it would have been destroyed, but then we would be sequel-less!  No, the FLDSMDF is still operational, and it has filled the island with evolved mutations, foodimals.

The trailer gives no hint to the main plot of the movie, one which takes us even further from the source material, the books by Judi and Ron Barrett. Growing up, Flint’s hero was TV scientist, Chester V. Chester V created a food corporation called Monsanto… er, I mean… Live Corp.

The specialty of Live Corp. is a line of food bars that’s a substitute for fresh food. Chester V and Live Corp. came to do the cleanup on Swallow Falls, and after they evacuated the residents, Chester V hired Flint to come work for him. How could Flint pass up an opportunity to work with his hero? But soon we realize that Chester V’s motives might not be pure. He wants the FLDSMDFR for himself. After several teams of Live Corp. workers failed to find it from the jungle of Swallow Falls, he suckers Flint into going back to find it, explaining the machine needs to be destroyed before the sentient food learns to swim. If that happened, why the food would destroy the major landmarks of the world.

Naturally Flint’s friends don’t let him go alone, so our beloved character from the first film return with him, including Sam Sparks, Flint’s Dad, Steve the monkey, Chicken Brent, Manny, and Earl (now voiced by Terry Crews, the only person I can think of who does Mr. T as good as Mr. T.) I could have watched them exploring the jungle of foodimals for hours. Flamangos! Shrimpanzees! Fruit Cockatiels! Meatbalruses! The animation is gorgeous, and it was one of the few times I wished for a movie-toy tie-in. I want a foodimals playset!

Flint makes many of the same mistakes he made in the first movie, so easily manipulated by a greedy individual that would separate him from his friends. This being a family film, you might guess that friendship wins in the end. There’s also nice, not-so-subtle messaging about environmental conservation in the face of corporate greed.

I’d love to tell you that this movie passes the Bechdel Test, and with the addition of Barb the ape (voiced by Kristen Schaal), it almost does. But, in the one conversation Barb has with Sam Sparks, they’re talking about a man. Bechdel fail. Still, Sam Sparks remains an empowered girl character. She’s not only a scientist, but she’s the moral compass of our island explorers.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 may not be quite as good as the first movie, but it’s still very satisfying if you enjoyed the first one. The whole family had moments of laughing out loud, and it was the first time our 3-year-old has been able to sit through a whole movie in the theater. I suspect we’ll enjoy it even more with multiple viewings.

GeekMom: Comic Book Corner — September 25th, 2013

carol danvers captain marvel
Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel, copyright Marvel Comics

Happy Comic Release Day! Welcome to another installment of GeekMom Comic Book Corner, where we recap our adventures in comics for the week. Dakster reviews Ms. Marvel’s early stories while Corrina continues her look at DC’s villain month, and Melody gives us another look inside her daughter Ella’s pull pile.

Dakster Sullivan — Ms. Marvel Essentials Vol. 1, by Various writers and artists.

After being exposed to Ms. Marvel for the first time during an online course on gender, I was inspired to learn more about this iconic character and her first solo comic appearance. I turned to Amazon and found The Essential Ms. Marvel Vol. 1. and I’ll admit that I initially found the pages lack-luster and uninviting. After reading the first few pages, I put the book on a shelf and picked up something more current, instead.

This past weekend, though, I was actually experiencing some anxiety about reading an intense DC Comics storyline when I noticed the much-neglected Ms. Marvel book on my comic shelf and decided, “What the heck?” and picked it up, hoping it would distract me from the book I was avoiding.

I didn’t expect Ms. Marvel’s stories to be thrilling or full of awesome. Turns out, I was wrong…

Turns out, Ms. Marvel is full of action and awesomeness–but in a more relaxing and entertaining manner than other high action stories. The first few issues have a nice balance of backstory, as we watch Carol Danvers adjust to her new position as Editor in Chief of Woman Magazine, and her alter-ego, Ms. Marvel. Ms. Marvel’s battles with the villainous Scorpion and Destructor were amusing to read–what with all of the punches and quips bouncing off of each other.

Even though the story stands up well by itself, I think Marvel was smart to include some more well-known Marvel characters such as Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man), Mary Jane Watson, and the guy you love to hate, J. Jonah Jameson.

Here, Jameson plays more than just pain-in-the-neck editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle, he’s also an opponent to women in the workplace, making plenty of comments to show his feelings on the subject. After Danvers wins yet another verbal exchange with him–and, tellingly, after the door has already closed and he’s alone–Jameson mutters, “Women. Whatever made them think they were any good outside of a kitchen.”

I wanted to slap Jameson right out of the book, but knowing some history about how women were treated in the 1960’s, I shook my head and laughed, instead–especially since Jameson has no idea who he is really talking to…

At first, I neglected Ms. Marvel because her black and white comic book stories felt lack-luster. I forgot that many of the silver age books are far superior to some of the flashier books of today. Through Ms. Marvel’s stories, I discovered a character who is a strong woman, who stands up for herself and her gender in the days when women’s liberation was a very hot topic. Watching her take down some of Spider-Man’s villains gave me something familiar to recognize, and after a few issues, I was reading because I loved the character and not just to find out what was up with her Spidey friends.

And if you’re still looking for a more modern take, try Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight, the new Carol Danvers series, which we reviewed in Comic Book Corner in May.

Curious to know what I’m pulling this week? Check out my pull list on Comixology.

Corrina–DC Villains Month 

DC Comics continues their month-long villains event, where the titles are being taken over by the bad guys in preparation for the coming confrontation of the Justice League and their evil alternate universe versions, the Crime Syndicate, in the Forever Evil event. This week contains a batch of Bat-villains, a haunting alternate universe story that’s really a prequel to Forever Evil, and a twisted Krytonian fairy tale.

The standout for me was Secret Society #1 (replacing Justice League) written by Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates with art by Szymon Kudranski. Part of the reason was the focus on the twisted relationships in the alternate universe Batman clan, with Batman, Alfred, the Joker, and Dick Grayson all sorts of wrong. The story was dark but fascinating and the alternate world characters came alive, rather than feeling like second-rate versions of their good counterparts. As a one-in-done story, it fails, but as a prelude to Forever Evil, the tale made me more interested in the event than anything else I’ve read.

Doomsday #1, subbing for Batman/Superman, is written by Greg Pak with pencils by Brett Booth. The story is set on Krypton and the framing device is the House of El together to tell a fairy tale to young Kara Zor-el. The look at Kryptonian history works wonderfully, with a surprise bogeyman as little Kara tries to sleep.

Killer Croc #1 is written by Tim Seeley with art by Francis Portela and takes an entirely different track, telling a nice, self-contained story of Killer Croc haunting the sewers of Gotham and chasing his prey, a trio of corrupt cops. Why Croc is after the cops proves surprising, though with his thrist for vengeance, Croc still falls into villain rather than antihero territory. Other Bat villains spotlighted include Bane, back to the old twisted honorable warrior and his idea of taking over Gotham, and Man-Bat, who tries to be a hero but somehow cannot escape becoming a monster.

First Born #1, by Wonder Woman writer Brian Azzarello with art by Aco, is a Greek Myth-style take on a villain that was also mostly a one-in-done tale. This may interest readers enjoying the mythology in Wonder Woman.

In other comics out this week, the Superman villains Parasite and Metallo are back in origin stories with very EXTREME covers; Black Adam, Shazam’s dark mirror, is brought back from the dead to protect his homeland, setting up a confrontation with the Crime Syndicate; Ocean Master, Aquaman’s Atlantean brother, uses his liberation from prison to head straight for home, though he shows a glimmer of a conscience; and Sinestro’s origin is retold from the point of view of those who consider the traitorous Green Lantern to be a hero.  

MvK coloring pages Melody Mooney–Ella’s Pull Pile:  Monsters Vs. Kittens by Dani Jones

I asked my toddler, Ella who loves kitten, what she thought of monsters? She answered they were ‘spooky’. With Halloween and trick or treating right around the corner we decided to explore if the friendly and fierce can indeed become friends.

Sitting down together, we read Monsters vs. Kittens by Dani Jones from the Stan Lee’s Kids Universe collection.

Answers and fun were found in the 32 brightly colored pages of over-sized comic book style illustrations. The monsters were not too scary and kittens were cuddly. The simple story ends on a sweet note; even opposites have something in common and can become friends. Downloading color pages from the Stan Lee website site, we assembled our own monster and kitten comic. There are more fun things to read there and we can’t wait to explore them all. Previews of titles are available for online viewing. Author Dani Jones also created an ongoing web comic: My Sister the Freak.

Looking for something else, readers? Head over to Comixology to see what’s coming out today. I hear there’s a sale on Fables going on as well!

Zero Day! Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Premieres Tonight

The cast of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. image courtesy ABC Television/Disney

They’re here!

We started the Countdown to the premiere of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on September 1st and have spent the month talking about all things S.H.I.E.L.D.-related, with the past week focused on profiles of the agents on the show, including speculation on how Coulson survived his supposed death in The Avengers.

Tomorrow, we can finally talk about the show itself, which premieres at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.

To recap, check out the posts on the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D.; recommended reads; a look at the spy agency’s creators, Jack “King” Kirby and Stan Lee,; the evolution of Nick Fury’s role in the Marvel Universe; S.H.I.E.L.D.’s enemy Hydra and its techtech created for S.H.I.E.L.D., including Life Model Decoys; various agents from the comics, including Maria Hill, Sharon Carter, Jimmy Woo, and Valentina Allegra De Fontaine; a look at the Howling Commandos from World War II; and the research facility that’s seemingly destroyed at the beginning of The Avengers, Project Pegasus.

And read our review of the pilot, which has only slight spoilers.