GeekMom Smart. Savvy. Social. Wed, 01 Oct 2014 17:51:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 GeekMom: Comic Book Corner — Sensation Comics, Gotham Academy, The X-Files Wed, 01 Oct 2014 17:51:10 +0000 Happy new comic book release day. This week we review Gotham Academy, C.O.W.L, and Sensation Comics: Wonder Woman.

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Sensation Comics #7

Sensation Comics #7, Art by Marguerite Sauvage © DC Comics

Happy Comic Release Day! Welcome to another installment of GeekMom Comic Book Corner, where we recap our adventures in comics for the week. This week we have a sensational Wonder Woman, meet the new students of Gotham Academy, and find out what the C.O.W.L is up to.

Kelly Knox — Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #7 by Sean E. Williams and Marguerite Sauvage

Wonder Woman’s weekly digital series—now moved to Thursdays on the release schedule—continues to delight fans of the Amazon princess. Issue #7 asks a “What if?” similar to the one we saw recently with Gwen Stacy in the Spider-Verse: What if our intrepid heroine was a rock star?

The one-shot story doesn’t waste much time asking why she would choose the rock star life over the life of a superhero, but it’s easy to guess why when you see how inspiring she is to her young fans. Even as a rock star in the band “Bullets and Bracelets,” Diana is true to herself and unafraid to speak her mind.

It’s the gorgeous art that really stands out for this issue, though. Marguerite Sauvage does a fantastic job of giving Wonder Woman her rock star makeover while still staying true to her costume and origin. The colors are striking, and I found myself flipping through the issue multiple times just to admire the art.

Age Recommendation: 12+

From the cover of Gotham Academy, image copyright DC Comics

From the cover of Gotham Academy, image copyright DC Comics

Corrina — Gotham Academy #1 by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher, art by Kark Kerschl, colors by Geyser with Dave McCaig.

This is a comic I never thought I’d see from DC. One, the inventive and eye-popping art style that causes me to study every page. Two, the unusual concept of a mysterious and dangerous prep school in Gotham City, sort of a Hogwarts for DC. Three, the book is headlined by a female lead and being written by a woman.

But the real reason to read Gotham Academy is that it’s fun, fascinating, and one of the more immersive books I’ve read in some time. Olive Silverlock is our guide to the academy in the first issue, irreverently introducing us to the headmaster (“Hammer-Head”), her schoolmates, lunch period (Belgian waffles? Sign me up!) , and restricted parts of the Academy which, naturally, Olive and her friend Maps need to explore. Bruce Wayne even makes a short guest-appearance. There are hints that something awful happened to Olive over the summer, which piques my interest as well.

Buy it. There’s nothing else quite like it on the stands.

Age Recommendation: Ages 6+ but be warned there are some scares of the gothic variety.

Lisa Tate — C.O.W.L. #4 by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel with art by Rod Reis

COWL Issue 4 \ Image Comics

C.O.W.L. Issue 4 \ Image Comics

The idea of a labor union as a subject of a comic seems both dry and over-political, but if that union happened to be made up of super-powered individuals and their cohorts, it makes for a pretty intriguing story.

The Chicago Organized Workers League (C.O.W.L.), made up of both “powered” and “unpowered” individuals, has been dubbed the world’s first superhero labor union. In the first three issues of this series, the team has defeated a team of villains, had their information compromised, and has been undergoing contractual negotiations with the city over such thing as cost for uniforms and health insurance. This is not to mention the individual members’ own personal battles with spouses and children, inner demons, reputation, and feelings of inadequacy.

By the fourth issue of the Image Comics release, their union woes are evident, as the mayor’s wish to hire “non-union” heroes has resulted in a C.O.W.L. strike. This now challenges the league’s already shaky camaraderie. Add a little blackmail and civic violence to the mix and the conflict continues to escalate.

I do find the characters a little hard to find sympathetic so far. Each of their stories is interesting enough, but it has been hard to really be moved by their struggles and goals. It also utilizes much of the familiar plot points (super-powers gained by exposure to radiation, the public’s mistrust of costumed vigilantes), but it is the setting itself that helps it stand out.

This series has the smooth and sleek 1960s appeal of The Avengers (the British Science Fiction spy series, not the superhero team), but it cranks it up a notch, with a grittier tone. Reis’s art is so varied, it sometimes looks like one those double issue comics, in which several artists lend their talents to different sections. I did enjoy this environment.

Fans of the 50s and 60s “spy fi” genre will enjoy this book, as long as they aren’t looking for the next Astro City, Watchmen, or even the television series Heroes.

Age Recommendation: Mature

Looking for something else, readers? Check out this week’s listed books:

DC-Comics-Old.jpg marvel-logo1.jpg

Action Comics #35
American Vampire Second Cycle #5
Aquaman And The Others #6
Batman ’66 Meets The Green Hornet #5 (Of 6)
Batman 75th Anniversary Trade Paperback Commemorative Collection
Batman Essentials: Batman The Black Mirror Special Edition #1
Batman Eternal #26
Batman Superman #14
Batman Vol 4 Zero Year Secret City TP
Detective Comics #35
Fables Deluxe Edition Vol 9 HC
Fairest #30
Fairest Vol 4 Of Men And Mice TP
FBP Federal Bureau Of Physics Vol 2 Wish You Were Here TP
Flash Season Zero #1
Flash Special Edition #1
Gotham Academy #1
Grayson #3
Green Arrow #35
Green Lantern #35
Green Lantern New Gods Godhead #1
Hinterkind #12
Injustice Gods Among Us Year Two Annual #1
Injustice Gods Among Us Year Two Vol 1 HC
Justice League #34
Justice League 3000 #10
Justice League Beyond 2.0 Power Struggle TP
Lobo #1 New Series
Looney Tunes #221 Kid Friendly
Names #2 (Of 8)
New 52 Futures End #22
Swamp Thing #35
Teen Titans Go Titans Together TP
Tiny Titans Return To The Treehouse #5 (Of 6) Kid Friendly
Wonder Woman #34
Wonder Woman Vol 4 War TP
Wonder Woman Vol 5 Flesh HC
All-New Ghost Rider Vol 1 Engines Of Vengeance TP
All-New X-Men Vol 1 HC
Black Widow #11
Bucky Barnes The Winter Soldier #1 New Series
Captain America #25
Dark Tower The Drawing Of The Three The Prisoner #3 (Of 5)
Death Of Wolverine #3 (Of 4)
Deathlok The Demolisher The Complete Collection TP
Edge Of Spider-Verse #4 (Of 5)
Fantastic Four Annual #1
Figment #5 (Of 5) Final Issue
Guardians 3000 #1 New Series
Iron Man Vol 5 Rings Of The Mandarin HC
Legendary Star-Lord #4 GeekMom Recommended
Magneto Vol 1 Infamous TP
Men Of Wrath By Jason Aaron #1 (Of 5)
Miracleman #11
Moon Knight #8
Moon Knight Epic Collection Vol 1 Bad Moon Rising TP
Moon Knight Vol 1 From The Dead TP
New Mutants X-Force Demon Bear TP
Silver Surfer #6
Spider-Man 2099 #4
Spider-Man Kraven’s Last Hunt Prose Novel HC
Thor #1 New Series
Uncanny Avengers #25
X-Men #20
idw-logo.jpg Dark-Horse-Logo-2.jpg

Angry Birds Comics #5 Kid Friendly
Ben 10 Classics Vol 3 TP Kid Friendly
Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy Vol 17 HC
Flesh And Steel The Art Of Russ Heath HC
Kill Shakespeare The Mask Of Night #4 (Of 4) Final Issue
Popeye Classics #27 Kid Friendly
PUCK What Fools These Mortals Be HC
Rogue Trooper Classics #6 (Of 12)
Samurai Jack Vol 2 The Scotsman’s Curse TP Kid Friendly
Silent Hill Downpour Anne’s Story #2 (Of 4)
Skylanders The Kaos Trap HC Kid Friendly
Squidder #4 (Of 4) Final Issue
Star Trek Gold Key Archives Vol 2 HC
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #38
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol 9 Monsters Misfits And Madmen TP
Transformers Windblade TP
X-Files Year Zero #3 (Of 5)
Angel And Faith Season 10 #7
Art Of Naughty Dog HC
Art Of The Book Of Life HC
Concrete Park R-E-S-P-E-C-T #2 (Of 5)
Concrete Park Vol 1 You Send Me HC
Dream Thief Escape #4 (Of 4)
Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits Of The Dead HC
Eerie Archives Vol 17 HC
Loverboys HC
Star Wars Darth Maul Son Of Dathomir TP
Star Wars Vol 3 Rebel Girl TP
Usagi Yojimbo Senso #3 (Of 6) 

Acronym Key: HC = Hard Cover / TP = Trade Paperback / GM = GeekMom Recommended Reading

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The Freedom Cover – A Great Answer For Prosthetics And Orthotics Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:00:01 +0000 The next post in a series GeekMom Judy is doing about new options in the world of prosthetic leg covers. This product works for prosthetics, but also changes the look of leg braces.

The post The Freedom Cover – A Great Answer For Prosthetics And Orthotics appeared first on GeekMom.



As you might know, if you’re a loyal follower of GeekMom, I’ve been sharing with you the new options that are becoming available for making unique prosthetic leg covers. In my series I’ve shown you several companies that use 3D printers to make fairings, hard plastic covers that click on over the top of an existing leg socket.

As I was sharing one of my earlier posts on social media, I crossed paths with a guy who is making a different type of prosthetic leg cover, and even more than that, he’s making a cover for an AFO brace.

If you’re not familiar with the world of leg braces, an AFO (ankle foot orhthotic) is a white brace that is worn by people who have atrophy or weakness in their calf and/or ankle. Most people who struggle with a drop foot (difficulty lifting the front part of your foot, leading to frequent tripping) wear an AFO brace.

I’m very familiar with AFO braces. For most of my life I had a very weak left foot and ankle, which were complications from a birth defect. By the time I was in my third pregnancy, my leg was worn out and weak. My orthopedic doctor prescribed me an AFO brace and the support it gave me was very helpful as I tried to keep up with our house full of toddlers.



But I hated the look. And I hated how it rubbed rashes and sores on the front of my leg, where it hooked on. Eventually my foot wore out and I happily traded it in for a prosthetic foot. I’ve had no regrets in the ten years I’ve been an amputee but I’ve not forgotten the struggles of living with an AFO brace.

This is why I was so excited to see what a guy named James Devito is doing. Devito had a traumatic medical injury that left him with severe atrophy in his calves and a drop foot that required AFO braces. Like me, he hated how they looked and hated how they irritated his leg. He’s a young guy, and very athletic, so he wasn’t ready to give up just yet. After designing and redesigning, he eventually created the Freedom Cover.

Devito’s design includes a chute in the back of the cover, that cushions the plastic part of the brace, eliminating the rubbing and chafing. For people with atrophy, he has foam inserts that fill out the shape of a leg. This means that when he’s wearing his Freedom Cover, it looks like he’s just wearing tall socks. There is no hint of leg braces or disability. It changed the way Devito saw himself.

On this blog I’ve written about the psychological aspect of making prosthetic legs the shape of sound legs, so there is less contrast between an amputee’s limbs. Devito’s design does the same thing. When both of your calf muscles look the same, there’s no reason for a second glance from a stranger on the street.




With his new covers James rediscovered his life. He walked around all day forgetting he was wearing leg braces. He ran around with his nephews and nieces and once again took long walks with his dog. He not only fit in, visually, when he was in public, he was no longer in pain from plastic leg braces rubbing his leg with every step.

At first he designed the cover for himself. He gained so much confidence while wearing his Freedom Covers that he started to wonder how he could help others. One day at a convention he noticed a guy sitting to the side who seemed to have an oddly shaped calf muscle. With a closer look he realized the guy was an amputee who had stuffed a long tube sock to try to fill out the look of his leg. Devito introduced himself, then proceeded to unzip his freedom cover off his own leg, and zip it over the top of the amputee’s metal leg.

The guy was thrilled with the look and Devito realized his product could help more than just people with AFO braces. For amputees who wanted to blend in a bit more in a crowd, having a zip on way to fill out their thinner leg was the perfect answer. And having a padded cover to protect expensive prosthetic hardware was a bonus.

Devito’s product comes in several colors, including flesh color. It’s easy to zip on and zip off. It never interferes with the function of the AFO brace, and in fact offers even more support for a weak leg, without adding more bracing. It allows people who need braces to get around without feeling disabled.

Last week Devito found another great use for his Freedom Cover. Fransonet Martinez, a young boxer, who is recovering from a car crash that took most of his left leg, is using the cover in the boxing ring, to make his metal leg safer for his opponents. See Martinez’s story here.

Then check out this link for a great video of how Devito’s Freedom Cover works and to see it in action on a real person. It’s an exciting new product in the world of prosthetics and orthotics and I’m happy to be able to share it with you.

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“You Have to F*cking Eat” Is Funny Because It’s True Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:00:31 +0000 Getting your kids to eat right is the perennial challenge of being a parent, and now it's been turned into a humorous not-for-kids children's book.

The post “You Have to F*cking Eat” Is Funny Because It’s True appeared first on GeekMom.


Image: Amazon

We all want to make sure that our children have plenty of healthy foods. Those things include fruits and vegetables and whole grains and all of the stuff the doctor asks about every time you bring your precious in for that yearly physical. But what we want, and the reality of what they eat, is sometimes miles apart. That’s what makes “You Have to F*cking Eat” so darn funny.

I once set myself on a mission to have my kids try a new fruit or vegetable every day. They were very little, and the going wisdom was to get them started young so they’d love good food forever. Whoever came up with the going wisdom never met my kids.

I tried, oh, how I tried, but after the umpteenth time that I watched them choke down healthy food, I gave up. That’s right. I just stopped and started making them things that they would eat in order to save my sanity.

Chicken nuggets, pizza, even hot dogs and all their evil whatever-it-is that everyone tells me they shouldn’t eat are all regular parts of their diet. Sometimes, even stuff they love they won’t eat, and I am totally okay with that, too.


Image: Amazon

That’s why when I saw the book, You Have to F*cking Eat, I feared someone had been spying on me during the great veggie-a-day experiment. But no, this is simply the sequel to Go the F*ck to Sleep.

Two of the great trials of parenting are getting your kids to sleep and getting your kids to eat and these two books turn those struggles into children’s books that are really for adults. Just look at all those happy, fuzzy animals on the cover eating while that little girl is clearly not interested. That’s my life, minus the happy, fuzzy animals, unless you count my daughter’s gerbil.

Go the F*ck to Sleep ($14.95) is available right now, while You Have to F*cking Eat ($14.95) can be preordered with a November 12th release date, just in time for Thanksgiving. You can take solace in its pages after you kids eat nothing of the feast save a roll and a piece of turkey so small it would leave a mouse hungry.

(via That’s Nerdalicious)

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Halloween Scents From Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab: Pumpkin, Cider and Feeding The Dead Wed, 01 Oct 2014 07:00:47 +0000 Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has introduced it's new Halloween themed scents and they've got everything from pumpkins to witches to graveyard dirt.

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Image: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (BPAL) creates some of the most intoxicating scented oils you will ever have the joy of experiencing. Many of the scents are inspired by your favorite fandoms with lines dedicated to RPGs and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, but they also do seasonal lines. The latest is in honor of Halloween and it’s full of pumpkin, vampire, and witch inspired goodness.

It’s pretty much a given that if a company has something that can be “pumpkined” then that’s what they do once October arrives. BPAL has introduced no less than seven different pumpkin scents that are part of their Pumpkin Patch line and they’re unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere.


Image: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

You can choose from scents like Pumpkin 1 which is pumpkin cream with cardamom, black tea, allspice, and ginger milk or Pumpkin 5 with pumpkins, pumpkin vines, and wild mushrooms with white sage, cade, sweetgrass, and vanilla-infused rosewood. They sound incredible, and if you’ve never experienced BPAL scented oils, then you’re in for a treat.

It’s not only pumpkin, though, with the Seven Visions of Autumn grouping and individual scents like Fog Machine Juice, Suck It, and Feeding the Dead. You can get them each in 5 ml glass vials for $23, and having used many of their scents, I can assure you that those vials will last. Just a few drops will have you leaving a wonderfully scented trail in your wake.

You can see the complete Halloween line over at BPAL and order the ones that tempt you the most, but don’t delay, as these will only be around for a short time.

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Building an Elder God: A Review Wed, 01 Oct 2014 01:06:17 +0000 Who wouldn’t want to grow a Lovecraftian terror in the comfort of their own living room?

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IMG_4263 - Version 2

Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

Who wouldn’t want to grow a Lovecraftian terror in the comfort of their own living room?

Building an Elder God: A Game of Lovecraftian Construction is a game from Signal Fire Studios, first published in April of 2012. I bought the game for my son because he loves all things Lovecraftian. I am pretty sure he might be one of the only young children in the world who gets comforted by getting told that Cthulhu will watch out for him in the night. Yes, he has the stuffed animal.


Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

Building an Elder God is a tile-based game, reminiscent of Waterworks, but with—at least in my opinion—far more interesting subject matter. The basic concept is to connect the pieces of your monster, starting with a body and ending with a head, to make a complete monster with no damaged pieces or open ended tentacles. But you have to finish your monster before your competing insane cultist friends finish theirs!

During your turn, you can put a damaged tentacle on an opponent’s monster. They won’t be able to win unless they heal that tentacle either with a whole tentacle that matches that card or with a Necronomicon card (you get two of these cards and you can place one on a damaged tentacle to heal it). There are immune cards, distinguished by a purple glow, which cannot be damaged, and only one damage card can be present on anyone’s monster at a time.


Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

At first, this game seemed really simple, almost too simple, and would be something only kids could enjoy. But if adults are a bit more competitive and the cards come up right, it can prove to be quite challenging. I’d say it is a game suited for families with people of all ages. It usually takes between fifteen and thirty minutes to play a full game. We have a lot of fun playing it.

The artwork on the cards is very enjoyable, especially with the five bonus cards that were available when I bought our set. Ben Mund, the illustrator and designer, also did the artwork for A Very Hungry Cthulhupillar, also out from Signal Fire Studios. I’d suggest sharing this video to enhance the game playing experience. My son, who is a very young twelve, got the biggest kick out of it and quoted from it all day.


Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

Building an Elder God is best played with three or four people, but can still be fun with two. The more people you have, however, the bigger of a playing area you would need. With three people, we almost didn’t fit on the dining room table. Most of our elder god building takes place on the floor. The game says it’s best for ages six plus, but with some help I think slightly younger kids could enjoy it as well. The instructions suggest that the damaged tentacles had been shot, but you can easily explain it with something else—experiments gone badly, etc.

All in all I recommend this game. There is always a lot of laughter and fun when we do. And check out Signal Fire Studios, they have a lot of fun related products you might enjoy as well.


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Sequenced Caffeine Genome Reveals Evolutionary Advantages Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:33:06 +0000 The newly sequenced Coffea canephora (robusta coffee) genome reveals more tricks up caffeine's sleeve.

The post Sequenced Caffeine Genome Reveals Evolutionary Advantages appeared first on GeekMom.

Green coffee beans. (Photo CC-by-SA2.0, Mike Gifford)

Coffee beans on a coffee plant. (Photo CC-by-SA2.0, Mike Gifford)

Monday was National Coffee Day, but I clearly have been under-caffeinated, because I was late jumping into this 24-hour java immersion. Poking around to learn about Coffee Day, I found this great news: Researchers have sequenced the entire genome for the robusta coffee plant, answering some questions and raising others about our favorite buzz bringer.

One of the fascinating discoveries emphasizes the importance of caffeine throughout the plant kingdom. The fact that caffeine occurs in tea, cacao, and coffee suggests that it offers benefits across a wide spectrum of plant diversity. Now,  analysis of the robusta (Coffea canephora) genome revealed that it evolved via a different route than in tea or cacao. (These two plants may or may not have common evolutionary roots for their caffeine. ) This kind of parallel or duplicated evolutionary path to the same destination is called convergent evolution, and is commonly taken to mean that the convergent trait (caffeine!) is highly beneficial.

Another neat detail is that caffeine has been helping plants for a long time; longer than humans have been baristas. It appears that the leaf litter from caffeine-bearing plants discourages other plants from growing, giving the coffee/cacao/tea plants an advantage. Caffeine also protects the plants from some insects, which have evolved the ability to taste caffeine, a compound they cannot tolerate in high doses.

In another neat twist, the caffeine helps the plants because, in low doses, the caffeinated floral nectar offers pollinators a buzz. The insects are much more likely to remember the scent of the flower where they sipped caffeinated nectar and to return to it, making it more likely that  pollen will be dispersed from a caffeine-bearing plant. More coffee! (And tea.) (And chocolate!)

Co-author of this study Victor A. Albert, an evolutionary biologist at the University at Buffalo, describes their research in the video below.

Read more about the caffeine study at these publications:

— Science Magazine: The coffee genome provides insight into the convergent evolution of caffeine biosynthesis (the research report)

— Evolution News: Another Example of Convergent Biochemical Evolution: Caffeine

— Nature: Coffee got its buzz by a different route than tea

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It’s National Coffee Day: Rise and Grind With These Coffee Facts Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:00:19 +0000 A few of the good, the bad, and the jittery facts about coffee.

The post It’s National Coffee Day: Rise and Grind With These Coffee Facts appeared first on GeekMom.


Enjoy the benefits of a nice Cup ‘O Joe… in moderation, of course. Image by Rick Tate.

When people ask me to “pick my poison,” I always reply, “Caffeine.”

A warm mug is my version of stemware at parties and gatherings, and I’m the first one at the percolator in the morning. I admit it; I am a coffee and tea lover.

Since September 29 is National Coffee Day, I have invaded the endless sea of social media infographics to find some facts about this cozy cup of warm caffeine addition.

Some quick facts, according to a list compiled by the health and fitness site Greatist:

1. Coffee beans are berries.

2. Around 52 percent of Americans drink coffee daily, and the average coffee drinker can fill a bathtub with the amount of coffee they drink each year. This is roughly 70 gallons.

3. It is a myth that coffee will stunt your growth or give you heart disease and stomach cancer. However, it will increase restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety if over-consumed. About four cups a day for men, and three cups for women is fine.

In 2011, the British insurance company Policy Expert compiled the health facts some healthy, as well as not-so-healthy tidbits about coffee and tea. Some of the coffee-centric facts, good and bad, include:

1. People who drink coffee have been found less likely to suffer Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

2. Studies have shown there are properties in coffee that can raise cholesterol.

3. Some chemicals found in coffee could be used to make new drugs that treat heart disease and insomnia.

4. Since there are more than 1,000 chemicals found in roasted coffee, 19 of them are known carcinogens.

5. Coffee protects the liver against threats like cirrhosis and liver cancer.

6. One Denmark-based study showed women who drank eight or more cups of coffee a day significantly increased the risk of stillbirths.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 1.41.37 AM

Infographics via Greatist, Happy to Serve You and Policy Expert.

The blog site Happy to Serve You has also created a graphic dedicated to the “Medical Benefits of Being Addicted to Coffee.” The site offers prints of this infographic for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going towards the charity Coffee Kids. The charity works to better the lives of children in coffee-farming communities throughout Latin America.

Some of this infographic’s claims:

1. Moderate (not excessive) consumption of caffeine during pregnancy does not have any negative effects, contrary to popular belief.

2. Women who drink two or more cups of coffee a day have a 20 percent lower risk of stroke than those who drink none.

3. Four cups of coffee a day reduces the risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Whether or not my fellow coffee drinkers will look at these items with skepticism, hope or dread, there is a good chance they are craving a cup right now. The consumer site Surviving the Stores has created a comprehensive list of the places where acquiring a cup of java may be a little bit easier on National Coffee Day. Some of the places that offer, or have offered, National Coffee deals, including samples or a free cup of coffee, are McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and 7-Eleven.

From one coffee drinker to another, enjoy a cup on me, provided it’s a free one.

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Mad Scientist Halloween Tablescape on a Budget Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:00:10 +0000 GeekMom Maryann shows you how to use neon paint to create a glowing Mad Scientist tablescape.

The post Mad Scientist Halloween Tablescape on a Budget appeared first on GeekMom.

Mad Scientist Tablescape. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Mad Scientist Tablescape. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Looking for something eye catching and spooky for your Halloween decor this year? Maybe a Mad Scientist tablescape is just the right thing for you!

It all started when GeekMom Natalie sent me a link to a fantastic tablescape from Pottery Barn featuring a periodic table. The gears in my mind immediately started turning as I wondered how I could do something similar in my own home and on a budget. Recently, I started creating a new tablescape on my kitchen table each month, and I decided to concoct a chemistry-themed tablescape for October and Halloween.

Choosing the Glass

I knew I needed some spooky chemistry glass, and I thought my local thrift store would be a great place to start looking. Let’s face it, I’m a thrift-store-aholic with my favorite being the non-profit Guardian Angel in Fuquay-Varina, NC, which raises money to fund Alzheimer’s research. I wasn’t disappointed with what I found in their “Vases” section. I just about danced in the isle as I filled my cart with amazing glass finds!


Thrift Store Glass. Photo: Maryann Goldman

For $20, I walked away with the majority of glassware that I thought I would need to fill up my kitchen table. I would love to have used real chemistry Pyrex glass, but after pricing some beakers and flasks, they were way over my budget with each piece being $5 or more. I decided that vases with a flared outer rim at the top would work best. Luckily, they had quite a few of those. I felt the rim disguised the vases enough so that they didn’t look like they were for flowers. I also realized that coffee pots with the handles removed did a great job of simulating real flasks. Most of the clear glass was in the $1-$2 price range. Quite reasonable for my budget.


My Glass Selections. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Making the Labels

Next I did a lot of research on Halloween bottle labels and created a Potion Bottle Labels board on Pinterest. I was going to make my own bottle labels, but I ended up ordering some glow-in-the-dark labels from Amazon and Oriental Trading Company. I decided that I wanted the glow-in-the-dark look and the ease of application of the store bought labels. Maybe I’ll make my own next year!

Getting Just the Right Bottle Glow

I also needed to figure out what to fill my bottles with so that they would look great in daylight and also under a blacklight. I created a Halloween Chemistry board on Pinterest as I did my research. What I found out is that there are quite a few options for getting liquid to glow. To summarize, you can use glow sticks, highlighter pens, tonic water, and neon paint, to name a few techniques.

I decided to go with neon paint because I thought it would be the least expensive and least toxic. This is the same paint kids use in preschool to fingerpaint. Just make sure you get neon colors. To make a bottle glow with the paint, just squeeze in several tablespoons of paint, add tap water, and stir.


Washable Neon Paint. Photo: Maryann Goldman

I tried this special blacklight paint for the purple and pink, but it was not as bright under the blacklight as the neon paints that I used. Next time I would just get neon pink and neon purple paint.


Blacklight Paint. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Picking Some Other Elements

So what other items did I think would look good on the table and complement the glass? I pulled out my microscope which I thought would fit right in. I also found a ceramic piece shaped like a stack of books labeled “Spells,” “Potions,” and “Magic” at Michaels that I figured would be a perfect addition to the table. I used a few candles and to fill one of the glass jars with cotton balls and plastic, glowing spiders. I picked up a sparkling, tiny owl to clip onto one of the glass jars too. I also included a small sprig of the yellow wildflower tickweed, currently growing near my home. I got the idea to put green food color tinted water into plastic medical gloves for a spooky hands effect. And, I created a creepy brain by filling one of my larger bowls with cooked spaghetti and green food tinted color water. I picked up some ping pong ball style eyeballs too. I didn’t want my table to be too gory, but I just couldn’t resist the eyeballs. Last but not least, I used some Water Beads. Have you ever used those in a vase? They are so much fun to look at and play with! My kids can’t get enough of them. Check out this post by GeekMom Cathé where her daughter does an interesting experiment with water beads. Just make sure to put your water beads in water 4+ hours before you’re ready to debut your table or take pictures of it. The beads need some time to absorb water and grow bigger.


Glass Beads. Photo: Maryann Goldman

I spent a long time hunting for just the right periodic table of elements poster.  I wanted the largest poster I could find for the cheapest price; I also needed it sooner rather than later.  I ended up buying one off eBay for $10, and I was pleased with it.

Laying Out the Table Foundation

Before you can start laying out your table, you need to decide if you want to use a tablecloth, and what placemats, napkins, plates, and even silverware you want to use. I ended up using a green and white checkered piece of fabric that I found in the attic for the tablecloth. I had two orange and black checkered tablecloths, but I decided against them because I felt they would be too dark when I had the blacklight on. I knew that I wanted purple placemats and couldn’t find any locally, so I used rectangles of purple felt. That left me looking for just the right napkins. Walmart has some pre-cut rectangular fabric pieces in their craft department, and I picked up a pack of various patterns all with a purple and green theme to tie the tablecloth and placemats together. The fabric is pretty easy to fold like a napkin.


Turn Fabric Into Dinner Napkins. Photo: Maryann Goldman

For daytime use, I decided to stick with my Country Cottage and Melissa (green and white checker) Corelle plates, but at night, I decided to go with clear plates that I could light up with necklace size glow sticks.


Melissa Corelle Plate. Photo: Maryann Goldman


Clear Plate With Necklace Glow Stick. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Assembling the Table

When I had gathered all the items I wanted to use, and on the day I was ready to assemble the table, I started out by filling one bottle at a time with the paint and water mixture and placing it on the table. I repurposed a few margarita glasses as risers so that the glass could be displayed at varying heights. I saved a few of the bottles for the water beads, and mixed them up, and placed them on the table too. And most importantly, I enlisted help from the kids who were very excited about the project.


Johnny Mixing Neon Paint. Photo: Maryann Goldman


Johnny Preparing the Spaghetti Brain. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Once you have the bottles laid out in a way that makes you happy, you can add the other elements such as bottle labels, ribbons, flowers, etc. Just keep adding elements, adjusting the layout, and tweaking things until you are satisfied. There is no right or wrong with this.  Just have fun!


Johnny With a Water Filled Rubber Glove. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Checking the Blacklight

I was very pleased with how the table lit up the first time I put the blacklight on it, but there were a few items that didn’t light up. The owl and the “Spells,” “Potions,” and “Magic” books ceramic piece were just as dark as could be. I scratched my head for a minute and decided to try painting them with some glow-in-the-dark dimensional fabric paint that I had lying around. The paint is pretty transparent and easy to apply, so you don’t have to be an expert painter to make this work. Just get a small brush, and apply a thin layer of the paint to anything you’d like to have glow.


Dimensional Glow-in-the-Dark Fabric Paint. Photo: Maryann Goldman

In just a few minutes, my “Spells,” “Potions,” and “Magic” books ceramic piece went from being black and obscure to being one of the most eye catching items on my table!


Glowing “Spells,” “Potions,” and “Magic” books ceramic piece. Photo: Maryann Goldman

I just love how this turned out and couldn’t imagine my table without it! I almost wish I had more items that I could have painted with the glow-in-the-dark paint.

Getting the Most Out of Your Glow Sticks

Although I avoided using the chemicals inside glow sticks to make the majority of my bottles glow, I ended up with one glow stick that broke open accidentally while we were snapping it to make it glow. Instead of throwing it away, I wanted to put it to good use. I had some large and somewhat see-through Glitter Flakes that I poured into a teardrop-shaped bottle. Then I added all the liquid from inside the glow stick. I used an old, but sharp, steak knife to open the glow stick plastic enough to get all the chemicals out. Sometimes you can use scissors, but many of the plastic tubes are too thick to cut easily. Whatever you use, be careful not to cut yourself and to thoroughly wash your hands when you’re done. Otherwise you can have a lesson in how germs spread in your home by turning off your lights and seeing where all the little hands have touched with the glow chemicals. To finish, put the cap on the bottle, our hold your thumb over the opening, and shake up the glitter and liquid. You’ll be amazed at the results!


Glitter Flakes. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Remember those jars of fireflies you collected as a kid? Well, your glowing glitter bottle will look very similar! Bottles lit up this way are truly mesmerizing to view. Since glow sticks only glow for a limited amount of time, bottles prepared this way will only look this beautiful for one evening. However, if you want to light the bottle up again, say the next night, you can always just add the contents of one more glow stick and a bit more of the glitter flakes.


Magic Bottle with Glitter and Glow Stick Chemicals. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Explaining Fluorescent and Phosphorescent

All the kids I’ve ever spent time with are fascinated by things that glow in the dark after being charged under a light or by things that glow under a black light. When I turned on the black light over my table for the first time, my boys were amazed at how it lit up. I even got lucky, and the tablecloth glowed. Another way to include your kids in setting up this tablescape is to take a few minutes to talk about why things glow under various conditions. Take the time to explain the difference between items that are fluorescent versus phosphorescent.

Taking Your Pictures and Sharing Your Result

Make sure to take some pictures to save all your efforts for posterity.  I took many shots with the light on and using my flash.


Neon Concoctions. Photo: Maryann Goldman



Daylight Table Wide View. Photo: Maryann Goldman



Daylight Table Tight View. Photo: Maryann Goldman



Daylight Table Tight View #2. Photo: Maryann Goldman

I also took a bunch of pictures with the lights off and the blacklight on. I used a stick-style blacklight and my guy held it for me as I took the pictures, but you could also put a black light into your dining room table light fixture or a lamp (freestanding or tabletop). I used a tripod to keep my camera still, but you can keep your camera still by leaning on your kitchen counter or against a doorframe. The Auto setting on your camera will probably work just fine as long as the camera is still.


More Glowing Table Elements. Photo: Maryann Goldman



Glowing Table Tight View. Photo: Maryann Goldman


Mad Scientist Tablescape with Blacklight. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Glowing Table Wide View. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Feeling inspired to create your own chemistry-themed Halloween table? You can get some more ideas by checking out my Halloween Tablescape board on Pinterest. I’ve seen some tablescapes that make use of beautiful natural light and various types of foliage from your yard. There are others that gore up the items filling their bottles. You can use traditional Halloween black and orange colors if you like. Or maybe you’d like to have an old manual typewriter that the Mad Scientist can type up his research notes on. If the Mad Scientist gets hot in his lab, an old, black metal fan might be just the prop to add to your table. A black chalkboard could be just the thing for the Mad Scientist to write up his notes on. The Mad Scientist might even have some old tools and scissors for working on his experiments and patients.  How about the perfect old clock? Set your creativity free, and see what you can come up with!

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Confessions of a Disney Infinity Figure Hoarder Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:00:33 +0000 After our Disney Infinity 2.0 bender we should be consumed with buyer's remorse, but we're having too much fun playing.

The post Confessions of a Disney Infinity Figure Hoarder appeared first on GeekMom.

Disney 2.0

We never meant for this to happen, and Disney Infinity 2.0’s Marvel line has done nothing but enable our addiction. Image by Lisa Kay Tate.

A little more than year ago, my husband and I were at the mall admiring a Spyro figure from the Skylander video game series, when another couple passing by stopped to warn us to not to “go down that rabbit hole.” They then proceeded to tell us the money pit this game had become for them, the amount of figures their sons had amassed, and the space it has taken up in their home.

“Don’t, seriously don’t, get started on it,” the wife cautioned, and they continued on their way. My husband and I shared a smug, knowing look. We would never let our girls get that carried away in any one game. We were able to dodge the Skylanders bullet, as our girls pursued other fandoms and games. We were also able to ignore the first wave of Disney Infinity, at least until last Christmas. That was when we made the perfectly innocent decision to purchase the starter pack as a gift for both our girls, as well as the Frozen and Lone Ranger sets.

Then somewhere along the way, we ignited the funky bomb of Disney Infinity figure purchasing. It started with the need to get all The Incredibles and Pirates of the Caribbean figures. It didn’t seem right to have Sully without Mike, and soon Randal was purchased to complete the Monsters University set. All of the Radiator Springs gang soon followed, as well as Toy Story, and the individual “world-less” figures like Rapunzel, Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope, Jack Skellington, and, of course, Mickey Mouse. Somehow we managed to avoid the entire Phineas and Ferb set, although our older daughter keeps hinting it sure would be fun to “build that roller coaster.”

What has happened to us? It is as if we have become the “crazy cat lady” of playable video game statuettes. They overflow from what we thought was a plenty big plastic storage box, and they up more and more space around the entertainment area in the living room. Some have even become permanent home decor. Should I even mention the trading card-like need to collect every power disc bearing supplemental abilities, vehicles, and backgrounds?

We decided to renew our resolve so that this character hoarding would not be the case when Disney Infinity 2.0 came out, but the Marvel/Disney marriage soon began to blossom. When it was first announced that the next wave of Disney Infinity would be Marvel intensive, I knew we were in trouble.

Our intentions for 2.0 were good, I assure you, as we begin paving our little road to the hell of fan-driven hyper-consumerism.

It is possible to just purchase this game’s the starter kit, and embark on a grand adventure. After all, it came with all those tempting fan trappings like Toy Box game discs, web code cards, and a collectible poster. Whee!

But, who wants to stop there?

We reserved our starter pack, with Thor, Black Widow, Iron Man, and The Avengers playable world piece, which granted us a free extra figure from the store (Nick Fury). All we knew is we were planning on rounding out The Avengers. That would be it for our initial purchase.

When Sept. 23rd rolled around, my girls were already giddy for the game, but it wasn’t for The Avengers—they wanted Gamora, Star-Lord, Rocket Racoon, Drax, and Groot—yes, we “had to get Groot!”

That morning, I was fortunate to have a light work load, so I headed to a different store from where we pre-ordered The Avengers to get the entire Guardians of the Galaxy set, as they were hosting a 2.0 launch special. I got there so early I had to wait for them to actually find the figures in the back. It was then I realized I did, indeed, need to be at my boss’s office to do some editing, and sped off with my first big purchase of the day.  I was so distracted thinking about what else we needed to purchase for the set, I neglected to slow down in time to miss the neighborhood speed trap. As a happy little motorcycle cop who looked suspiciously like Patton Oswalt gave me a ticket and a frienly “drive safely” reminder, I could feel the little Rocket Racoon figure in the passenger seat look up at me in shame.

That evening, when we made the family trek for The Avengers starter set, when we noticed the little Nick Fury figure was intended for the Spider-Man world. Uh-oh. Two more stores and one gift card later we headed home with every currently available figure in the new line.


The ability for potential cross-over adventures made it hard not to get more than one set of figures. Image by Lisa Kay Tate

The addictive quality of Disney Infinity 2.0 is that it is just so much fun to play, and we want to play nearly every character in the series.

Like the first series, it is completely family-friendly, combining the creative free-style elements of Minecraft that allow players to build, collect, and play in their own customized environments. However, the individual worlds are so much more challenging and fun than the first series. Cosmo (the canine leader of Knowhere) plays a large part in the Guardians of the Galaxy world, and Ms. Marvel makes an appearance in The Avengers’ adventures.

Figures from one world can cross-over into others once certain challenges have been met, so Nick Fury can play in the Guardians of the Galaxy world, after all. The characters’ “skill trees” that show their different abilities are easy to keep track, and all their “powers” and “skills” are a blast to play. It’s easy to get distracted just swinging around with Spider-Man or flying with Iron Man.

This is where it is a problem.

In just one day, we accumulated the starter kit, two 2-figure play sets, eight individual Marvel figures, and six packets of power discs. Even with taking advantage of unused gift cards, and specials from different stores, this was around $210 in little stylized figures. That is really way too much to take in all at once, yet we did it like the great big suckers we are. I would venture we weren’t the only ones to do this. At least I hope not.

I’m trying not to think of the fact that with November comes the arrival of Merida—my girls’ favorite Pixar character whom I am reminded “could play with Hawkeye”—Donald, Stitch, Tinker Bell, Maleficent, Hiro, and Baymax, as well as others, I might have neglected to name.

As for our Avengers set, only The Hulk is left. He’ll be released on his own in late October, so there will only be one figure for us to purchase that day.

“Thank goodness we’re almost at the end of this one,” I told my husband, once we unboxed the parade of little Marvel heroes and villains and were stuffing our little recycling bin with enough discarded cardboard packaging to resemble Christmas morning.

“Hey, are we planning on getting the Star Wars wave that’s supposed to come out next year,” he asked.

“The what?”

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Star Wars Rebels Sparks the Rebellion Mon, 29 Sep 2014 11:00:07 +0000 If Star Wars Rebels is any indication, the galaxy far, far away is now in good hands.

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© Disney / Lucasfilm

The crew of the Ghost. All images © Disney / Lucasfilm

When Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, the question on almost everyone’s mind was, “Does this mean they are going to ‘Disney-fy’ Star Wars?” Star Wars Rebels, premiering with “The Spark of Rebellion” on October 3 on the Disney Channel before moving to Disney XD as an ongoing series, gives us our first idea of what that would look like. (You could count the phenomenal Phineas and Ferb Star Wars as the first Disney/Star Wars collaboration if you’re feeling nitpicky.) If Star Wars Rebels is any indication, the galaxy far, far away is now in good hands.

Star Wars Rebels“The Spark of Rebellion” doesn’t waste time with much backstory or exposition; with a setting five years before A New Hope, it assumes (quite correctly) that we already know what life is like under the Emperor’s control: Not good.

Rather than spending much time telling us about the protagonist Ezra and his life on Lothal, the action starts almost immediately, and we are taken for a ride into the Rebels universe along with him.

As the loner teenager finds himself caught up in an unexpected adventure, he’s brought on board the Ghost and learns about what the Rebels are fighting for. Each member of the crew is practically begging to have their story told. Kanan is the unofficial leader of the crew and a Jedi in hiding, and I’m already dying to know more about him. Sabine, the Mandalorian, and Hera, the pilot, are just as fascinating.

Zeb is the bruiser of the crew. His character design, like much of the environment and character art of Star Wars Rebels, is based on the original Star Wars concept art by Ralph McQuarrie. Before Chewbacca was a walking carpet, he looked very similar to the towering, slightly bug-eyed Zeb.

Not only does the art harken back to the beginning of Star Wars and A New Hope, “The Spark of the Rebellion” has snippets of John Williams’ original score. I admit, I’m a sucker for the Star Wars soundtrack. As soon as I heard the familiar strains of “The Tales of a Jedi Knight,” I was sold on Rebels—this is Star Wars.

“The Spark of the Rebellion,” the movie that kicks off Star Wars Rebels, is a promising start to the show. The Clone Wars never caught me, but the lighter tone of Rebels (it’s definitely aimed at a younger crowd) has my interest. Tune in to the Disney Channel on October 3 to see if it has yours.

Star Wars Rebels airs on Disney XD beginning on October 13, 2014.

GeekMom attended a promotional screening event to preview the series.

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