GeekMom Smart. Savvy. Social. Tue, 23 Sep 2014 12:00:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 LastPass—Your Strong Password Solution Tue, 23 Sep 2014 12:00:15 +0000 GeekMom Maryann tells us about how LastPass can manage your passwords with confidence and security.

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The Last Password You’ll Have to Remember. Photo: LastPass

Recent news reports are filled with stories about personal information, including credit card numbers, being hacked and stolen. Often, the reports include tips and suggested actions you should take to secure your data. While the types of theft going on at Target, and more recently Home Depot, are out of your control, there are clearly some steps you can take to lower the risk of having your data stolen. If you are using the same password to access multiple sites and accounts, and if that password is not as strong as it should be, I encourage you to read on and consider using LastPass to manage your passwords.

Let’s face it, I was as guilty as the next person about using the same weak password over and over again to access online shopping and banking sites. GeekMom Natania gave us some tips last fall about protecting our personal identity. I inserted one number into an 8-character word that I could easily remember, and I called that a password. Although, the password was accepted by most sites as a valid password, I kept seeing warnings that my password wasn’t strong enough. I knew I should start using a stronger password containing capital letters, special characters, more numbers, and even spaces, but how was I supposed to remember something like that? Even if I could remember one stronger password, how could I switch the passwords I use for all the sites I access to use unique strong passwords? My head was spinning, and I continued on hoping I wouldn’t be effected by my repeated weak password use.

But what if  I only had to remember one really strong password for a tool, and then I could use that tool to generate and remember strong passwords to every other site I access? Well, that’s what LastPass provides. Sold!

About a month ago, my guy, Don, started using a password management product called LastPass after he learned about it by listening to a podcast from The Tech Guy—Leo Laporte. Leo interviewed security expert, Steve Gibson, who highly recommended LastPass for managing passwords. Don promised me he would set up LastPass to manage his passwords first, and if he was satisfied, then he’d let me know to go install it. It didn’t take long before he was ready to tell me that LastPass was working well for him and to encourage me to implement it.

From start to finish, it took me about 2.5 hours to switch the majority of my passwords over to LastPass management. Even though that seems like a large chunk of time, I felt my migration went smoothly and quickly. Just make sure to give yourself a few hours of uninterrupted time. No one wants to be in the middle of changing passwords while there are a lot of distractions going on.

Initially, I installed LastPass on my Windows 8 PC. LastPass works on most platforms, operating systems, and browsers, although I recommend starting out on your PC or Mac and then rolling out LastPass to your other devices (e.g. phones and tablets). I already used Chrome to manage my passwords, so when LastPass started for the first time on my PC, it asked me if I’d like to automatically put the passwords it found on my hard drive into what LastPass calls the Vault. I replied, “yes,” and a few minutes later LastPass had access to all my passwords, user ids, and the sites I access. I picked a few sites, and verified that I could correctly log in. In a few cases, I had to correct the email address being used for the user id. I changed email accounts a few years back, and some of the data on my hard drive still had the old email address. LastPass also asked me if I’d like to delete the password data from my hard drive, but I said no. I knew I could take that step later if desired. Plus, I planned to change all my passwords anyway.

At this point, you could stop and take a break, but you really haven’t gained any additional security protection. LastPass is just managing the same weak passwords that were already in use before you installed it. I went on to use LastPass to log me back into each of the sites it was managing for me in the Vault. Then I navigated to the Change Password section of my online account. I used LastPass to generate a new strong password, and then I saved the information on both the site and back in the LastPass Vault. Easy! Before long, all my passwords were unique and strong!

LastPass Change Password Screen Sample Photo: LastPass

Sample LastPass Password Generation Screen Photo: LastPass

LastPass provides a Chrome extension, as well as extensions for all the other major browsers, that will help to automatically fill in your passwords when you log into websites. I have found this extension to be very helpful as well, and I recommend that you install the right one for your browser.

After I was totally happy with how LastPass was configured on my PC, I set out to enable LastPass on my iPhone, Galaxy Tab 3, and iPad 2. I started out by going to the App Store or Google Play Store and downloading the LastPass for Premium application. While it is free to use LastPass on your PC or Mac, it will cost you $1 a month to create a LastPass Premium account and use LastPass across all your devices. I think it’s worth it! As I invoked LastPass on each device, I put in my LastPass password and automatically had access to the same Vault as I have on my PC.

The first thing I did on my iPhone was try to log into Facebook. Of course since I had changed my Facebook password, I was no longer logged in. So how did I log in? Well I brought up the LastPass application on my phone, found Facebook in the list of websites managed by the Vault, and selected it. I was given the opportunity to view my Facebook password or to copy it to the clipboard. I chose the clipboard option and then navigated back to the Facebook login screen and pasted the password into the password field. In no time at all, I was logged into Facebook, and I never had to type the long password or view it on my screen. I did the same thing for my Gmail, Amazon, and eBay accounts. Once I completed the process on my iPhone for the majority of my password-protected logins, I went over to my Galaxy Tab 3 and iPad 2 and repeated the process. I was impressed with how well this process worked across devices and operating systems.

The information on the LastPass website is very helpful, including tips in its “Getting Started” section. LastPass also includes a “Form Fill Profile” and allows you to share select passwords with other LastPass users. For example, there are a few websites that Don and I want to share the same login information for, and LastPass will make that easy for us.

So far I’ve had no regrets about converting to LastPass. With all of the news articles lately about personal information being stolen, isn’t it about time that you take your password protection to the next level?

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How Ecological! A Review of EcoFluxx Tue, 23 Sep 2014 11:00:58 +0000 EcoFluxx is one of the many games in Looney Labs’ line of Fluxx card games. GeekMom Melanie wonders, is it worth buying another Fluxx game?

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Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

Designed by Alison and Andrew Looney, EcoFluxx is one of the many games in Looney Labs’ line of Fluxx card games. Santa gave it to my son for Christmas, since he is such a huge fan of Cthulhu Fluxx and also because he’s a big lover of cute natural things.

But I wondered: Was it worth buying yet another Fluxx game? We already had three of them.

The blurb on the Looney Labs website is as follows:

In the wild, you must adapt to survive! Will you win by having your Bears Eat Fish? Or will someone change the Goal so that their Frogs and Insects can make Night Music? Play ecology themed Actions and Rules like Scavenger or Composting, but watch out for Creeper cards like Forest Fire, that can hurt everyone! Discover a little about how things go together, with EcoFluxx—the nature game of ever-changing rules!

Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

The packaging of the game is kid-friendly and appealing, at least to my kid. The same goes for the artwork on the cards, done by Derek Ring. Even I enjoyed looking through the cards at the various critters. Shockingly enough, the game is educational. Throughout play, my son was asking questions. “What’s this?” He was reminded about photosynthesis, recycling, and how composting works. There are predators and decomposition. And of course, all the fun gameplay that always comes with Fluxx.

To get an idea of how to play the game, the Looney Labs website has a copy of the rules. Gameplay can last anywhere from 2 minutes (I’m not kidding) to an hour, averaging about 15 minutes or so.

We’ve played with two and three people, but you can play with up to six. It’s the perfect game to play after dinner for a nice family activity, or even to take on a trip to play in the hotel.

The rules are super easy to learn, and it’s not a complex game. There is strategy involved, though, so don’t let the simple concept of the game fool you. The instructions say ages 8+ will enjoy, but I think that with some reading help, most 6-year-olds could enjoy it.

I would note that this is a nice addition to any homeschooler’s game library. There are so many opportunities for discussion about how life and the environment work together. It makes teaching the subject almost effortless. There is even a learning guide online for those who are interested.

All in all, I have nothing negative to say. EcoFluxx is a fun game for the whole family!

Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

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Five Ways to Geek London With London Pass, Part 1 Mon, 22 Sep 2014 13:00:00 +0000 I'm a literary geek, a nautical geek, and a time geek; the husband is a bit of a history geek, with a particular interest in Londinium; and our daughter? She thought most of what she wanted to see in London was Platform 9 3/4. That changed.

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The Tower of London. Photo credit: Fran Wilde.

Tower of London. Photo credit: Fran Wilde.

In August, the Wilde family visited London for the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention (aka LonCon3), where two of us were panelists. We had a few days to travel before the convention and different ideas about what we wanted to see: I’m a literary geek (shocking, right?), a nautical geek, and a time geek; the husband is a bit of a history geek, with a particular interest in Londinium; and our daughter? She thought most of what she wanted to see in London was Platform 9 3/4.  That changed. Because we were on a budget, we discovered many ways to tour London affordably, taking the tube, walking a lot, and using the London Pass. We were pleased to see that when we visited three attractions or more per day, and took into account additional discounts, last-minute promotions, and the excellent (and free) London Pass app, our 3-day London Passes* (£81 adult / £53 child) did indeed easily pay for themselves, as advertised.

Meantime, we often were able to skip long waiting lines, allowing us more time to walk around London. (And we bought several umbrellas using our London Pass gift shop discounts.) There are so many things to see and do in London (not all of them on the London Pass) that we found ourselves pretty overwhelmed at first. Using the London Pass app, we were able to mark our favorite points of interest, which let us be more organized about where we toured. Because some things we wanted to see and do were not on the pass, we took that into consideration and budgeted for them separately. We still think the London Pass was a great deal. Here’s Part 1 of our favorite five ways to geek out in London that the London Pass puts within easy reach.

Theater Geek

  • Leicester Square was our first stop near the National Portrait Gallery to pick up our London Passes, as we didn’t have them mailed to our home. We found the London Pass offices located downstairs in the ticket information booth at the center of the square. While there, we took a long look at upcoming shows, as London Pass holders can get substantial discounts off tickets. (If you’ve had your pass mailed to you, you can order tickets online too.) (Cost: Free, bonus discounts.)

    At Shakespeare's Globe Theater. Photo Credit: Fran Wilde.

    At Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. Photo Credit: Fran Wilde.

  • Shakespeare’s Globe Theater – We first tried to go late in the afternoon, but found tours had already ended. Not a problem, the next morning was beautiful, and we came back first thing. The Globe is, as the original was, open to the elements. Our guide was eloquent on subjects ranging from how sets were designed to the origin of the term “stinking masses.” One particular Harry Potter fan was delighted to find a brick outside bearing the name of the actress who played Madame Hooch in the movies. To sum up: this is a must go. The rebuilt Globe Theater is exquisite inside and out, and their museum of costumes and sets downstairs was of great interest to the whole family. If you can, take the opportunity to see a performance while you’re in Southwark. The ticket booth is at the end of your tour, although families with small children may balk as we did at the standing-room-only option. (Cost: £13.50 Included. Gift shop discounts with the pass.)
  • London Pass holders can also get free backstage tours at the National Theater.

      History Geek

  • Start with Tower of London, and go early. Even though the London Pass let us skip the ticket line, we took a leisurely walk across the Tower Bridge (also on the pass) and by the time we arrived, the entrance line snaked and weaved across the pavement, despite the sudden downpours. Luckily, the line also moved at a very fast clip, so we didn’t get too wet. Once inside, we used the pass to get discounted audio tours. All three of us chose the kid’s tour. It’s very well done and, according to other members of our party, funnier than the adult audio tour. On our way out, we explored the new coinage exhibit just inside the main gate, and found it excellent, with great interactives and a look at other aspects of the tower’s history. (Cost: £20 Included. Audio tour discounts with the pass.)
A section of Roman Wall, The London Museum. Photo credit: Fran Wilde.

A section of Roman Wall, The London Museum. Photo credit: Fran Wilde.

  • The London Museum traces the evolution of the city from pre-history through Londinium’s heyday, all the way to modern times. It’s a little museum that packs a huge wallop. We immersed ourselves in Roman culture (Londinium) and saw a piece of the original Roman wall, peered at an Auroch’s skull, and even learned how long each of us would have survived the Black Death. Utterly fun and well done. (Cost: £5 Included.)
  • Westminster Abbey – Lines form early here as well, but with our London Passes, we were able to skip the ticket office. Once inside, the tombs and memorials of nobles, scientists, musicians, artists, statesmen, and writers (yep, you’ll see Westminster again on the Literary list) grace the outer areas while royal tombs occupy the inner circle. The adults among us were overwhelmed by it. The kids were interested in the details of the tombs because our kids are fairly creepy. (Cost: £18 Included.)
  • The Tower Bridge exhibit, Windsor Castle, The Churchill War Rooms, and many other historic buildings are also on the pass.
  • Should you spend a day being a Nautical Geek (below), don’t miss the Fan Museum in Greenwich. The small museum has a great collection of vintage fans from all periods, as well as a study of the language of fans. Most important, if you can make reservations, it has an excellent and affordable tea. (Cost: £4 Included. Tea is extra.) [Many thanks to Julia Rios, co-editor of the wonderful YA Science Fiction and Fantasy collection, Kaleidescope, for telling me about this museum!]
  • At certain times of year, you may be able to visit Buckingham Palace, which we did with a discount from the London Pass. The best audio tour here is again the kid’s tour, this time conducted by the palace corgis. The artwork and architecture in the palace alone is worth the visit.

Nautical Geek

  • Our London Passes got us on Thames riverboat trips all the way to Greenwich. You can take the tube, but believe me, this is the way to go. The city’s naval history is told along the rivers’ banks, and the river cruise makes for a great way to see it all. (Cost: £18 Included.)

    The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Photo Credit, Fran Wilde.

    The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Photo Credit, Fran Wilde.

  • The National Maritime Museum is free once you arrive in Greenwich using either your riverboat trip or a London Pass travelcard to get around on the tube. The museum contains all aspects of British maritime history, from exploration and maritime battles to modern-day racing. Everyone loved this one.
  • Through January 2015, and for additional admission, the National Maritime Museum is celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Longitude Act with Ships, Clocks, and Stars: the Quest for Longitude, a not-to-miss examination of the race to find accurate methods of navigation. We took some of the money we’d saved by using the London Pass and bought tickets to this exhibition and its companion exhibit, Longitude Punk’d (see below). Totally Worth It. (Cost: £8.50.)
  • The Golden Hinde II, the reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake’s galleon, located in Southwark, is not on the London Pass, nor is the Cutty Sark, but the HMS Belfast is. (Cost: Adult ticket £15 Included.)

Tune in soon for Part 2 of our London Pass adventure: Literary Geek and Time(lord) Geek! *The author received a complimentary 3-day London Pass from Leisure Pass Group.

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Face It, Tiger: Gwen Stacy is Spider-Woman Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:00:57 +0000 What if instead of biting Peter Parker that fateful day, the irradiated spider found Gwen Stacy first?

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Edge of the Spider-Verse #2

Edge of the Spider-Verse #2, Art by Robbi Rodriguez. All images © Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics is building to its latest event, the Spider-Verse, which promises to bring together the variety of wall-crawlers from across the various Marvel alternate universes for some epic action. Edge of Spider-Verse #2, released last week, introduces a new Spider hero that has immediately captured the attention of comic fans everywhere: Gwen Stacy, Spider-Woman.

Edge of the Spider-Verse #2

Edge of Spider-Verse #2

Imagine that of instead biting Peter Parker that fateful day, the irradiated spider found Gwen Stacy. What would become of Pete? How will Gwen’s father, Captain Stacy of the NYPD, react to the vigilante? In just one issue, Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez bring us into this intriguing and, of course, amazing Spider-verse.

The high energy of every page and Gwen’s struggle with being viewed as a villain, not a hero, in this alternate universe create a book that just begs to be on ongoing series.

“We get to interpret the character of Gwen in this new light,” said Rodriguez in a interview. “We get to punk her out a bit, and make her a kind of heroine that even more female readers can relate with. Not just a female version of Spider-Man in a different costume, but a stronger character in her own right. A real individual who could, if the opportunity ever arose, take up Spider-Man’s role someday.”

When Gwen isn’t busy swinging across the NYC skyline, she’s the drummer in the band The Mary Janes—when she can actually make it to a gig, that is.

Inspired by Gwen and lead singer Mary Jane Watson, a real band called Married With Sea Monsters made their own version of the song “Face It Tiger” featured in Edge of Spider-Verse #2:

Check out the song, and be sure to pick up the issue, especially if you’d love to see an ongoing title starring Spider-Gwen. The first printing has already sold out, so call your favorite comic shop to see if it’s in stock. Spider-Gwen returns in other Spider-Verse tie-ins coming later this year.

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The Mysterious Energy Source of My Children Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:00:03 +0000 While your parental energy resources dwindle as the evening wears on, have you considered that your toddler's source of energy may be otherworldly?

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Image: Sarah Pinault. After being bitten by a radioactive spider, my son gets energy tips from Steampunk Iron (Wo)Man.

My children, two and five, believe that mealtimes are an unnecessary interruption to their busy lives. My youngest will happily chow down on a handful of Cheerios as he’s bouncing off the walls, but sit him down for a meal and we have a battle ahead of us. My eldest doesn’t even want the Cheerios! Occasionally he will eat a dinosaur tree (broccoli), but most of the time he will even refuse a big plate of spaghetti if it stands between him and his toys.

Whilst they have decided that their intake is not an important part of daily life, their output has not decreased. They have just as much energy, just as much get up and go, as they did while eating seconds and thirds at every meal. I must therefore hypothesize that my boys derive their energy not from food, but from some alternative energy source. I have narrowed it down as follows:

1. They have Kryptonian blood coursing through their veins and derive strength from the yellow Sun.

2. The plastic ring that was given to my eldest by a nice lady at the grocery store actually contains a piece of Starheart and has him encased in a life-supporting force field.

3. They are not merely my sons, but are the avatars of some long forgotten god such as Khonshu.

4. They have a genetic mutation, a la Hank McCoy, that will only fully appear upon reaching puberty. Heaven help me!

5. They were caught in a nuclear explosion while at daycare, and now have the ability to create identical duplicates. What I am seeing is not one active little boy, but several more sedate ones.

6. They are able to convert impact energy into raw strength. Therefore the more active they are, the more things they crash into, the stronger they become.

7. Their energy is linked to their environment, and somehow increases as parental energy levels decrease.

8. Their natural physiology was enhanced by immersion into an electrical field conducted by a chemical compound.

9. They were bitten by radioactive spiders.

That’s why they have more energy than I do 99.9% of the time, surely.

*Musings on my superhero children were originally posted at

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Batman Eternal #25 Exclusive Preview Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:00:50 +0000 A look at the first four pages of Batman Eternal #25.

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All images copyright DC Comics.

All images copyright DC Comics.

Batman Eternal is the Gotham comic I’m enjoying most right now, with the multiple storylines and a cast that includes all the familiar Batman characters, a few new ones, like Harper in this preview, and some forgotten ones, like Julia Pennyworth. All we need now is Cassandra Cain and Onyx.

Batman Eternal #25 releases on Wednesday, September 24. It’s available at local comic retailers and digitally at

Page 1
pages 2-3

Page 4
page 5

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What Downton Abbey Season Five Can Do For Me! Sun, 21 Sep 2014 12:00:55 +0000 GeekMom Sarah ponders what the future holds for life at Downton Abbey.

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Nick Briggs/Carnival Films 2014 for MASTERPIECE

Our beloved Downton Abbey returns to U.S. screens on January 4, 2015, but comes to the UK this weekend. Executive Producer Gareth Neame has already confirmed a brief cameo by George Clooney; what more could I ask of season five you might say? Plenty, I can ask plenty.


Image: preview

- We need a “good” ladies maid for Lady Grantham. Baxter is lovely, and I’m sure there’s some wonderfully evil Thomas story lines to come, but no one can hold a candle to Miss O’Brien. We need an evil ladies maid to juxtapose with Anna.

- The children in this picture look eerily like Children of the Corn with a British accent. While I’m not keen on more children’s story lines, a few involving Mr. Carson, I think, would be wonderful. Sneaking down for snacks maybe, hiding behind the curtains. I see Mr. Carson being more of a Grandad to Lord Grantham’s Grandpapa.

- Molsley, what is left to be said about poor old Molsley. Well let’s kill two birds with one stone, shall we; let’s see him set up shop somewhere with Baxter. Get rid of the complaining and the niceties in one fell swoop.

- Lady Mary’s love interests were I think played out to their fullest in Season Four. Certainly she needs to pick a suitor, and while part of me still adores Evelyn Napier, I have to hope for the dashing Lord Gillingham. More Gillingham, I say, more Gillingham. I worry that she will marry Harry (Gillingham) but mess around with Ike (Blake).

- I hope Griggs comes back and they get the baby; Edith needs a happy ending. I fear Griggs will come back but have become a Nazi, and Edith will have to make a horrible choice.

- For Anna and Bates, I would like to see children, if only to explore the differences between upstairs and downstairs more. I’m guessing Anna won’t get much maternity leave. It might also take their minds of the murderous tendencies or Mr. Bates.


Image: preview

- Simon Bricker, played by the delightful Richard E. Grant, will appear in four episodes. An art historian and house guest, I fear he is intended as a love interest for Cora. I hope he is a love interest for Edith, after turning away the Nazi Griggs. She does like her older men.

- Tom Branson seems to be getting into the swing of things as man about the estate. I’d like to see him embrace the lifestyle a little more for Sibbie. I’m a sucker for a daddy-daughter storyline. He might not have laid aside the revolutionary for Sybil, but for Sibbie? I think we’ll see more upward mobility on his part.

- An illegitimate child from Lord Grantham’s youth to complicate the inheritance? We haven’t had an inheritance complication in a while.

- Three words. More. Paul. Giamatti.

So what are you hoping for from Season Five?

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A Great British Export: The Gruffalo Sun, 21 Sep 2014 11:00:33 +0000 Oh help! Oh no! It's a Gruffalo. Who do you expect to meet on a walk in the deep dark woods?

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Picture: Sarah Pinault. My very own Gruffalo family.

Since having children I have enjoyed sharing my own favorite childhood stories with my boys, I have also enjoyed discovering new stories with them. One of my favorites was discovered shortly after having my first son in 2009, with the help of Grandma. The Gruffalo was then celebrating its tenth year of publication and if you know our family, then this is the first book your child will receive as a present from us. If they like it as much as we do, it will be followed with The Gruffalo’s Child. It is one of those stories that sticks with you and just keeps getting better with each telling. Now that my second son is expressing interest in picking his own bedtime stories, we read through both of these tales daily. He knows all the words, and acts them out as he is sitting in my lap.

< Spoilers—of a sort > On a crisp day, a little mouse sets off for a stroll in the woods. Along his way he encounters many foes who would devour him but for his cunning and quick thinking. Announcing that he is meeting up with a far scarier creature than they, he describes the Gruffalo, an animal so fierce and vile as to send all predators running for the hills. Feeling quite well of himself, the mouse is shocked to turn a corner and discover that his imaginary protector is real, and wishes to snack on him! Gathering his wits, the mouse leads the Gruffalo back through the woods, back past his predators and by the time he has woven his tale, has sent the Gruffalo running in fear.< /Spoilers >


Written by Julia Donaldson, the story is simple, the rhymes are clever, and the repetition makes it feel instantly familiar without ever becoming tiring. The mixture of fantasy and reality are the perfect blend for the childhood imagination. Along the lines of Roger Hargreaves and Roald Dahl, The Gruffalo sneaks in that spark of the unusual to a young audience. Also, just as the work of Roald Dahl is incomplete without the illustrations of Quentin Blake, the story of the Gruffalo is enhanced by the magnificent illustrations of Axel Scheffler. The pair have collaborated on well over a dozen stories together; in the Pinault home alone you will find Tabby McTat, the Musical CatCharlie Cook’s Favorite Book, and The Smartest Giant in Town, all of which are regulars in the night time rotation.

This story has been a hit with every child we have introduced it to. In fact it is a hit worldwide and has spawned a sequeltwo moviesmany games, and an extensive line of merchandise. Perfect for a Geeklet to obsess over. The website goes from strength to strength, with games and sing-a-longs.


The movies are just as entrancing as the standalone story. Each about twenty minutes long, they are narrated by a mother squirrel voiced by Helena Bonham Carter. They feature the voices of Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter’s Hagrid), James Corden (Doctor Who’s Craig Owens), and John Hurt (Harry Potter’s Ollivander, and the War Doctor). However it is the music by French composer René Aubry that really sets the movies apart from other animations. It is an absolute delight to listen to, wonderfully entertaining and calming at the same time. Thanks in large part to a beautiful score, it is one of those movies that you don’t mind your child getting addicted to, that you can watch or listen to many times over and not get exceedingly frustrated with!

If you enjoy listening to stories on long rides with your children, there is a fantastic box set of Julia Donaldson stories which includes The Gruffalo. Many of the stories are read, and then sung by Imelda Staunton, whose voice you will recognize and fear as the voice behind Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter franchise. Be warned however, if your children are anything like mine, this 14-minute tale will be on repeat for every hour long drive you take. You will also recognize the voice of Jim Carter on one of the stories. Jim Carter, of course, plays Mr. Carson on Downton Abbey. If you want to hear him sing, this is the set for you.

*Musings on The Gruffalo were originally posted at

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New Tim Burton Trailer: Stunning and Creepy, of Course Sat, 20 Sep 2014 13:00:01 +0000 Something less fantastical from Tim Burton this way comes. Big Eyes, his biopic of Margaret Keane, opens on Christmas Day.

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Whether you like his movies, adore his movies, or couldn’t give a hoot, one thing’s for certain, Tim Burton’s always going to shock you. Whether making Catherine O’Hara sing a reggae song, or having Helena Bonham-Carter bake questionable pies, Burton’s always got a twisted twist somewhere. His latest movie doesn’t seem to have that same sense of the overt peculiar, but his subject matter will certainly give him plenty of opportunity for some emotional peculiarity.

Big Eyes is a biopic of Margaret Keane, whose paintings of over sized doe-eyed children are certainly in keeping with Burton’s aesthetic. It is her life, success, and divorce, however, that are the subject of this movie. I look forward to seeing Burton explore artistic property, and the rights of a woman in 1960s divorce court. Her divorce proceedings made it all the way to federal court, where finally, Margaret challenged her husband (who had been claiming authorship of her works) to a “paint-off.” She notoriously created a painting in front of the judge to prove that she was the artist. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Burton movie without those remarkable eyes making their way into a few mirrors and real faces along the way. Burton seems to have long been taken with Keane’s work and in fact, in 1998 Keane painted a portrait of Burton’s wife, Helena Bonham Carter, stating “She looks like my paintings—she has big eyes.” (LATimes)

For me, anything starring Amy Adams and Kristen Ritter is a must see movie event.

The trailer for Big Eyes was just released this week and the movie opens on Christmas Day.


© 2014 – The Weinstein Company

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Keeping Geeky Contact In College Sat, 20 Sep 2014 12:00:42 +0000 "Miss Us?!" was the caption in this postcard sent by the Postagram app. My son and I wanted my daughter in college to know we were thinking about her...and maybe laugh.

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“Miss Us?!” was the caption for this photo postcard sent to my daughter in college. Her brother and I worked hard to get the perfect shot. (Image By Rebecca Angel)

ME: Did you find out if you made it into the jazz ensemble yet?
DAUGHTER: Not yet, but I had my first art studio class today and my teacher is really enthusiastic.
ME: That’s great! HUGS!

It has been almost a month since my daughter left for college, and we’ve been exploring the different ways of keeping in touch. Chatting with some other moms with first-year-college students, we all agreed that modern-day technology is great. Gone are the days where there was one phone for each dorm floor, with students waiting in line.

One mom said she had never texted before in her life, but solved her daughter’s laundry crisis with texts and photos. Another mom said her son set up Skype for her, and she wasn’t sure they’d ever use it, but he needed a heart to heart the other day, and she was so glad to see his face, even on a screen.

For my daughter and I, texting is the casual “I’m thinking about you” mode of communication. The above text is typical, and that’s it for the day. We don’t go back and forth, and I don’t text her more than once a day. If she wants to, I don’t mind!

One of my favorite apps is Postagram. You take a picture, add a note, and the app sends a real postcard with the photo via regular mail. (See the top photo. Heh-heh.) Once you have your addresses in, it takes so little time to send something fun.

There’s also the old-fashioned way of using snail-mail: I sent a fan art card of Korra to remind her to finish up season three. I also sent a box of snacks, and she gets a magazine subscription at home, so when that came in I mailed that out, too.

Email has been used for business things: she forwards us things the college needs, or alerts, or whatever, us forwarding her information about schedule stuff with the family.

My daughter has a Facebook page, but doesn’t post much. I’ve gotten a “like” or two on photos I’ve posted. And she did send a photo of one of her art projects to a few people via messaging. Facebook isn’t so popular now with the younger set?

Skype, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, these are things I don’t use and have no idea if she does. I’m sure there are a dozen more social media sites that could be part of keeping in touch with your kid away from home.

We’ve had three phone calls. The first one was right away, and she needed to talk about a college paperwork financial thing. The second was two weeks later. I asked if it was an okay time to talk and she said she was studying and would love to take a short break. We chatted about this and that, and I tried not to tell her exactly how much I missed her, but happily listened to all her adventures. The third was a “I need my mom” call after a particularly harsh day in figuring out college social life.

As the semesters go on, I’m sure we’ll get into a familiar rhythm of communication, but this is where we are now. Of course, there is the dilemma of how or even if to tell about emergencies. For example, I decided to send this text at the end of a crazy day:

ME: Everything is fine, but I wanted to let you know your aunt got her finger caught in the food processor. She’s very lucky. We spent the morning at the clinic, but she has her whole finger! Your cousins were freaked out, but everything is ok now.
DAUGHTER: Poor Aunt! Glad everything is ok. Hugs!

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