GeekMom Smart. Savvy. Social. Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:10:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 15 Alternatives to Trick-or-Treat Candy Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:10:13 +0000 When you can't reconcile your healthy eating habits with handing out Halloween junk, here are some alternatives.

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Trick-or-Treat alternatives. ( images)

Trick-or-Treat alternatives. ( images)

When my kids were tiny we successfully avoided Halloween’s trick-or-treat. We hosted costume parties with their toddler friends. We let our kids stand at the door to pass out non-candy treats on Halloween night. One year we set up a wildly inventive Halloween scavenger hunt with our other health-conscious friends, watching three and four-year-olds dash all over our shared yards to find treasures like packages of vitamin C gum, cloth bags with blocks, and carob candy spheres wrapped to look like tiny planets. These tactics all worked well until the oldest in each family went to school. Then the lure of roving house to house on a dark night, shouting “trick-or-treat,” was too great. The tradition is clearly an inescapable part of a child’s Halloween.

Still, we aren’t fond of handing out corn syrupy candies or, as suggested in so many “alternatives to Halloween candy” lists, a bunch of cheap themed plastic toys destined for the trash. Here are our suggestions, with prices.

Ka Boom Comics  (Thanks to GeekMom Jenn for this hint.) 50 kids’ comics for $19.99  Last day to order!

Monster Tattoos 72 for $5.05

YumEarth Organic Lollipops 5 pound bag for $28.28

Halloween Temporary Tattoos 144 for $7.95

Book Grab Bag. Start picking up kids’ books from thrift stores, garage sales, and library sales to hand out.

Glow Stick Bracelets  100 for $10.98

Pirate’s Booty, Aged White Cheddar snacks 60/ 0.5 ounce bags for $28.94

Play-Doh  15 mini tubs for $8.99

Make Your Own Halloween Pumpkins Stickers 75 sticker sets for $6.29

Endangered Species Chimp Mints 64/ 0.35 ounce packages for $38.52

Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks 24 pouches for $16.88

Annie’s Homegrown Organic Vegan Fruit Snacks  36/ 0.8 ounce pouches for $27.76

Snyders of Hanover Variety Pretzel Snacks  36/ 1.5 ounce bags for $17.93

LED Finger Lights  80 for $15.99

Jack o’Lantern face oranges.  Use a permanent marker to decorate Clementine or regular-sized orange.

Citrus Jack o'Lanterns. (image:

Citrus Jack o’Lanterns. (image:


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Disney’s Moana Promises Adventure and Beauty Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:00:30 +0000 Disney Animation Studios released some information about their upcoming film Moana and GeekMom Patricia can't wait! But she will have to wait over 2 years.

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Image: Disney Animation Studios

This week, Disney Animation Studios announced some details about their latest CG-animation project, a full-length feature films that will be titled Moana. I’m very excited for this film, in part because I lived in Hawaii as a young girl and spent some time on Guam—my parents lived on Guam while I was in college. I was exposed to Polynesian culture and learned about such legends as Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, and her rival, the goddess Poli’ahu of the snow.

GeekMom Jules and I did some dishing on Twitter not long after the first concept art was released in December 2013, and we discussed our hopes that the heroine Moana (pronounced “moe-ah-na”) will pay tribute to South Pacific roots with respect and elegance. We saw some of this in the Lilo and Stitch films (such as learning about ohana), but that series was more comedic, lacking the “princess” element that Disney’s more successful films have possessed. I see Moana leaning more towards the “Princesses” even though, so far, the press releases haven’t turned her into a daughter or spouse of royalty in any way… which is okay by me.

According to the press release, Moana will take part in the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, where the heroine, Moana, will embark on the journey of her life in search of a fabled island. On the way, she will meet up with her hero, Māui, a Hawaiian mythological demigod who Disney plans to bring to life as Moana’s traveling companion.

I predict that Moana will be another skillful juxtaposition of classic Disney storytelling and beautiful animation art while paying respect to some of the great Polynesian legends and folklore. I saw a similar credence paid in The Princess and the Frog, in which the firefly Ray is pining for his love, Evangeline, who—in the movie—lives as a star in the heavens. This character pays respect to a Cajun legend of the same name, immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline, A Tale of AcadieI read this poem not long after moving to Louisiana in the mid-1990s, and it gave quite a bit of insight to the Cajuns of Louisiana, whose people had come from Nova Scotia in the mid-1700s after the Great Expulsion.

Moana is planned for release in late 2016.

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Choose Your Own Adventure in Fantasy Life Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:00:55 +0000 If you prefer fighting, magic using, crafting, or gathering, there's a Life for you in this new Nintendo 3DS game.

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© Nintendo / Level 5

All images © Nintendo / Level-5

Fantasy Life, out October 24 for the Nintendo 3DS, can perhaps best be described as a cross between Final Fantasy and Animal Crossing. The game is a blend of RPG and life simulation, giving you the opportunity to choose a Life (or class) that best suits your play style. If you prefer fighting, magic using, crafting, or gathering, there’s a Life for you.

With a title illustration by Amano Yoshitaka and music by Nobuo Uematsu, Final Fantasy fanatics might be tempted to pick the game up on that pedigree alone. While there is an overall quest with a standard RPG story line, you’re not in any rush to complete it, so the similarity to Final Fantasy pretty much ends there (give or take an airship). If you would like to merely stand in the blacksmith shop and work for two hours, there’s nothing wrong with that. You’ll level and complete tasks for your Life master all the same.


12 classes, or Lifes, are available in Fantasy Life. I chose Angler for my first Life, as I often enjoy gathering and crafting classes in games. After working my way through the first two chapters of the main quest by mostly dodging enemies, though, I decided to try a new Life. My days of being an Angler weren’t all that terribly exciting as they were, although Applefish did tremble at my expert prowess with a fishing pole. Okay, not really. Once I switched to Magician, though, I started progressing through the main storyline at a more enjoyable pace. But I keep eyeing the cooking Life…

If you switch your Life at any point in the game, you keep the skills you’ve already learned, so you have the opportunity to master all 12 Life classes in Fantasy Life. Sorry, Applefish, but you shall keep trembling. This gives the game a large amount of playability and bang for your buck, always a welcome feature when buying any video game.

fl-screen1The localization team deserves a special shout-out for the clever wordplay and jokes in the character dialogue, which couldn’t have been an easy task when translating the original Japanese release. More than once I’ve caught myself grinning at the in-game text, which is well-polished and flows well.

If you’re a lifelong JRPG fan, or the type of gamer who fishes and tailors more in games like EverQuest than you do hunt, Fantasy Life might be right up your alley. It’s a quiet, colorful game that even kids 10 and up can play, making it a great diversion on those long road trips you have coming up for the holidays.

Fantasy Life is available October 24, 2014, for the Nintendo 3Ds at a suggested retail price of $39.99.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

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A Little Death With Your Tea? Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:00:59 +0000 The "Teacup Poisoner," clear bobas to choke on, and a game to see how much caffeine will kill you!

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tea death

Image By Duncan Barfuss

As a TeaPunk, I come across some interesting tea facts. To get into the spirit of this month, I looked up death. Can you die from tea? Apparently so (or at least get really, really sick). Bring these up at your Halloween tea party for some macabre conversation starters:

The “Teacup Poisoner,” an English serial killer of the later 20th century put poison in the tea (and other drinks) of over 70 people! I like this quote from his father, when his boy had been “experimenting” with poisons on his family in his early years: “He warned his son to be more careful in future when ‘messing about with those bloody chemicals.'” Really? Be more careful? That’s it?! It wasn’t until he killed his step-mother that the family finally turned to the police.

This seems to have been an honest mistake: A server mixed up sugar with a toxic cleaner in a restaurant making tea for a patron. She survived, but eeeeep!

I am a big fan of bubble tea, but this is so dangerous! You can’t even see them in the glass! Who created these? Choking hazard!

Not exactly deadly, but cheap tea may contain too much fluoride for your health. Good tea doesn’t cost that much, so don’t go for the cheapest box on the shelf, okay?

Taking too many green tea supplements can cause liver damage. This is how people come to the conclusion that “natural” remedies are bad for you: A lab takes a whole food, like green tea, turns it into some concentrated pill form, and then someone is able to take waaaay too much of the stuff and gets sick. Drink a few cups of the normal version (it’s so much nicer of an experience than chugging pills!) and get all the benefits without liver problems.

However, even the whole version of tea can be abused. Too much of anything is a bad thing. Moderation, people. Even tea. This woman had 150 cups a day!!! Of course something is going to go wrong! Is her bladder half the size of her body? How is this even possible?

And now for death fun and games! How much caffeine would it take to kill you? Plug in your drink and weight and find out! My son explored this a bit, and laughed at how hard it would be to ingest that much tea…though I’m sure someone has tried.

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U.K. Youth Can Learn Computer Skills With The Doctor Tue, 21 Oct 2014 18:15:18 +0000 CBBC announces digital literacy-focused Doctor Who game.

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Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.00.35 PM

Image Copyright BBC

The Doctor and his most persistent foes have teamed up for a new online adventure—teaching young people in the United Kingdom computer skills.

The BBC children’s site CBBC, aka “CBeebies,” has created The Doctor and The Dalek. This free goal-driven web game for ages 6-12 helps The Doctor free a Dalek from a Cyberman vessel. The game, which follows the latest computing curriculum in England, will challenge youth to learn beginning skills such as repetition and loops, programming and coding, and logical reasoning. The game debuted this month as part of the BBC’s Make it Digital digital literacy project that offers similar games from other popular BBC children’s shows.

Adding to the game’s appeal is the voice of the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, and a story by writer Phil Ford, who has penned episodes of Doctor Who (including this season’s “Into The Dalek”), Torchwood, and The Sarah 1024px-CBBCNEWLOGO2010Jane Adventures.

Unfortunately for American web users, this game is currently only available via the web-based CBBC site accessible exclusively to internet users in the United Kingdom. For now, American Doctor Who fans can find the occasional educational or just-for-fun Doctor-related apps from Doctor Who Adventures magazine, geared towards school-aged children.

There’s no information yet on whether this latest game will make its way “across the pond” for American audiences, but the BBC has announced there are tentative plans to make this game usable on computer tablets in 2015. Who knows? Maybe the upgrade will be available to the benefit of young Whovians in the United States as well.

Only time worthy of a Time Lord will tell.

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Chatting with Jen Wang, In Real Life Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:00:49 +0000 GeekMom Melanie had the opportunity to chat with artist Jen Wang about her work on the new graphic novel, IRL (In Real Life).

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Image: Jen Wang, First Second Books

Last week I interviewed Cory Doctorow about the new graphic novel IRL (In Real Life). This week, I’m catching up with his artist co-creator, Jen Wang, to see what she had to say about this project. Please help me welcome her to GeekMom!

GeekMom: So Cory Doctorow said you did all the heavy lifting on this project. Would you say that’s true?


Image: First Second Books

Jen Wang: The way this project worked was I was given free rein to adapt the script however I wanted so as to offer my own vision to the story. After that Cory would go over and offer ideas of his own and help guide the script into something that matched us both. We went back and forth like this for a couple drafts before settling with what we have. So yes, I made most of the changes in the story from the original to the graphic novel version, but it was a melding of both our sensibilities. And of course I did all artwork!

GM: Could you tell us a little about the artwork in IRL? What inspired the images in your mind? Was there something you felt was important to capture in the images?

JW: The most obvious decision in the design was the contrasting color palettes between the real world and the online world of Coarsegold. This is all from Anda’s perspective so it makes sense that her real life is uninteresting and the online world is colorful and exciting. I ended up using a “brown” filter over the real life images to reflect a serious (but not depressing) reality, while I used a multicolored filter to heighten the colors in Coarsegold. Other than that, I was given free rein to illustrate the book however I liked so I just had fun making up a coloring landscape that I felt would be appealing to someone like Anda.

GM: What is the process like, making a graphic novel, and perhaps, working on IRL in particular?

JW: I start with a script, which in IRL’s case involved both Cory and I. My scripts are roughly four pages of comic to one page of script so from there I have a rough idea how long the book is going to be. From there I do really rough thumbnails one chapter at a time. I like the thumbnails to be as rough as possible, enough to give me an idea of where to go, but leaving it open to experiment during the actual drawing process. The next phase is the pencil drawing, and after that the inking, scanning, and coloring.

GM: I lived in Flagstaff for a few years, and I noticed the couple frames where you have some background imagery, like the outside of the school, for instance and the landscape behind it, are just spot on. They really capture just the right things about the atmosphere of Flagstaff. Have you ever been there? Or were you able to catch that just from pictures and ideas?

JW: I have been there! I was actually on a trip to the Grand Canyon when I first stayed in Flagstaff. I thought it was the perfect place for Anda to live. It’s so beautiful and peaceful, and you’re next to one of the great natural wonders of the world. And yet I could see how all this would be lost on a teenager. The town is small and there’s not a whole lot to do. Someone like Anda would easily be compelled to spend a lot of time online in a fantasy world.

GM: I loved the expressions on the characters faces throughout the book. I think you’ve captured so much of the dynamic teen personality in this book. How do you think you managed to do that?

JW: Expressions are a thing I love to draw, so it’s fun for me to indulge in. It’s like a form of acting except it comes out through a drawing instead of your body. I don’t like being the center of attention so I feel like having the emotions one step removed and projected onto a character is one way I can conjure these feelings vicariously without having the focus be on me. Who knows, maybe in alternate universe I would be an actor!

GM: This is your second book. Has anything changed for you in the way you approached the work between your first and second books?

JW: I definitely started writing full scripts after my first book Koko Be Good. With Koko, I scripted a chapter and drew it chronologically one at a time. Meaning I didn’t get to the ending until I got to the ending. I used to be more into stream of conscious writing and allowing myself to feel the surprises as they come. Now I much prefer being able to edit and improve on things and look at the piece as a whole.

GM: What was your favorite part about working on IRL?

JW: Finishing it! But no, kidding aside, the writing process for this project was hard but it taught me a lot. I’d never worked with another writer before and I’d never rewritten so much before, but I’m a much more confident writer now than I was at the beginning of it.

GM: We know that Cory Doctorow is a very active… well, activist. Would you classify yourself as such? What things are important to you?

JW: I wouldn’t say I’m as active as Cory, but I definitely feel very strongly about issues particularly with women, queer identity, and race. Sometimes I feel a little unsure how to approach activism because I know there’s an inherent privilege to being able to do that. It’s presumptuous to be in a position of education and outreach and tell people how to think even if I believe it is right. On the other hand, I’m in the unique position of writing literature for young adults and I definitely care a lot about what I represent as a creator and as a person. I hope at the very least as a woman and person of color my voice adds something of value to the young adult and comics readership.

GM: How do you think gaming can affect a teen’s life?

JW: Games are very time consuming and immersive. It can affect a lot! I don’t say that in an alarmist way because a lot of good things can come out of it too like friendships built, identities born, and creativities sparked. Like I think it’s so great kids are playing Minecraft and building their own worlds. On the other hand I wish there was more diversity in games and more variety in the types of games being made. That’s changing every day though as game-making becomes more accessible and I feel very optimistic.

GM: Do you game? If so, what do you play?

JW: Not a whole lot. I have a bunch of games on my phone and once a while I’ll play something off Steam everyone’s been recommending. Games are like comics in that the mainstream hasn’t appealed much to my demographic, but as the making and self-publishing becomes more accessible to creators I’m seeing more and more stuff that appeals to me. Gone Home, Analogue: A Hate Story, and Dear Esther are fantastic story-based indie games. I also like a lot of text-based games likes the ones made for Twine like Howling Dogs and Horse Master.

GM: Do you have any advice for a younger person trying to break into art or gaming?

JW: I can’t speak for gaming, but for art I’d say the best thing to do is just start drawing. Start drawing and have a lot of fun. It can be intimidating comparing yourself to others and what being an artist means for your future, but the best way to be an artist is to really love what you’re doing. Have fun and meet other artists online and at conventions. They will motivate, inspire you, and make you feel less alone as you toil away at your drawing desk.

GM:  Any thoughts for younger people who might be interested in helping others like Anda does?

JW: Get to know all different types of people! Listen to their stories and let their experiences inform you how to help them. Maybe some people don’t want your help, but they appreciate your support. Also, if you don’t see enough outlets for an issue you care about, feel free to make your own. Start a blog or a project that helps raise awareness like the Ice Bucket Challenge. Not only can it be fun, but it might inspire new people to your cause.

Thanks so much for chatting with me, Jen Wang! And for the rest of you, please check out IRL, available now wherever books are sold!

jen wang

Image: Jen Wang

Jen Wang is a cartoonist and illustrator currently living in Los Angeles. Her works have appeared in the Adventure Time comics and LA Magazine. She recently illustrated Tom Angleberger’s Fake Mustache. Her graphic novel Koko Be Good was published by First Second. In Real Life is her second book. 

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A Chewbacca Paper Portrait for Pint-Sized Padawans Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:30:34 +0000 Craft it up, fuzzball! This Star Wars paper craft is lots of fun for little ones.

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All images: Kelly Knox

All images: Kelly Knox

Thanks to Phineas and Ferb and Star Wars Rebels, my five-year-old daughter is finally embracing her own love of Star Wars. Together we came up with a paper portrait of Chewbacca that not only gives her fine motor skills and creativity a little workout, it’s also pretty dang cute.

You’ll need:

  • White cardstock
  • A sheet of white paper
  • A sheet of black paper
  • Two sheets of brown paper (different shades)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Black marker

To begin, rip up the brown paper into small squares. Next, draw a stick figure with long arms and legs on the cardstock—Wookiees are tall and lanky, after all! This will serve as a guide for Chewbacca’s basic shape.

Next, spread the glue liberally around the arms, legs, and head to stick the shredded paper pieces and turn them into Chewie’s fur.

Chewbacca Paper Portrait

You can stick each ripped piece on individually to craft your Chewbacca, or try my daughter’s favorite method of grabbing a handful and sprinkling it on like confetti. Pat, shake the paper, and then fill in the missing spots with individual shredded pieces.

Once all the spots are filled in and pressed onto the cardstock, cut a small rectangle out of the black paper for Chewie’s bandolier.

Chewbacca Paper Portrait

Glue it on top of the brown pieces. Next, use the sheet or a scrap of white paper to cut out small rectangles to complete the details of the bandolier. Draw lines on each rectangle to finish the bandolier look.

Next, use the black marker to draw eyes, nose, and a mouth for Chewie’s face. You may want to wait for the glue to dry, but my five-year-old was too excited and drew the facial features as soon as the fur was complete. (She opted not to add a mouth for her design.) She also drew toes on Chewbacca’s feet, as they occasionally stick out in various images of him.

Chewbacca Paper Portrait

And your Wookiee is complete!

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SF Worldbuilding: Dinosaur Train Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:00:56 +0000 Karen tries to fill in the worldbuilding background to make PBS's Dinosaur Train make science fictional sense.

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Dinosaur Train


Like so many toddlers, our 3-year-old has completely imprinted on PBS’s series Dinosaur Train. As a scientist-colleague of mine pointed out: “It’s like crack for toddlers. It combines two of their favorite things, dinosaurs and trains.” As it made a refreshing change from another PBS show, Daniel Tiger, for the last few months Dinosaur Train has been our go-to entertainment while we need to cook or clean or look after the new infant. (So far our toddler’s TV entertainment universe has been: Mythbusters, Daniel Tiger, Dinosaur Train, and Lindsey Sterling music videos–go figure.)

So my husband and I have spent more hours than I care to count listening to (but not really watching) Dinosaur Train. And thus, as dyed-in-the-wool science fiction fans, our dinner conversation has been tending more and more to trying to fill in the world building gaps of this series–like you do.

It’s made clear that the troodons (the “smartest dinosaur” by brain weight to body mass, apparently) operate and maintain the train–the Conductor mentions that he knows how to repair the train if it breaks down, and they’re the ones having tea in the caboose. But who built it in the first place? And why? There doesn’t seem to be any comparable technological development near the train stations that Buddy and Tiny visit, so it seems unlikely to be a native innovation. Usually if there are train stations nearby you’d expect to have local telegraphs or other circa 19th century inventions. My husband and I have been coming to the conclusion that the Dinosaur Train troodons are actually Time Lords, and the Conductor may be an early incarnation of the Doctor. Sure, in the TV show Doctor Who the Doctor always appears human, but I have it on authority from Paul Cornell that the show has no official canon (since otherwise in forty years of being on air, it would violate its own canon more times than it could count) so it’s easy to imagine the Doctor manifesting as a dinosaur.

Then I start thinking about the stations. For one, Mrs. Pteranodon always buys train tickets, but what would the economy be in this situation? What would she use for payment? Maybe it’s more of a first-come, first-served free reservation system. Also, there are obviously a limited number of stations, and I imagine each one being a center of culture and technology in an otherwise natural landscape, like an ocean port on a desert island.

After all, all the dinosaurs that the kids visit speak the same language, even when they’re separated by millions of years (the train visits stops in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous time periods, all part of the Mesozoic Era). So I suspect that the troodons or the train builders (if they’re not the same) have standardized the language in the areas in which the trains operate. I remember once being utterly annoyed by a C. J. Cherryh story where an individual goes back to his species’ home planet after 40,000 years of no contact, and there was no linguistic drift at all–all the characters could understand each other perfectly. Could you understand Old English easily, much less Neanderthal language? So obviously there’s some external standardization at work in the Dinosaur Train universe, where the characters are separated by tens of millions of years.

Of course the show never really tackles the implications of time travel. The Pteranodon family lives in the Cretaceous period, the later of those visited by the train. So theoretically, they could dig up the skeletons of folks like Morris Stegosaurus (late Jurassic) or Petey Peteinosaurus (Triassic). That’s got to be weird. And what does it mean to say “We’ve got to catch the train because we don’t want to be late for dinner” when it’s a time traveling train? Perhaps all the stations are part of some managed parallel time network such that they all advance through their local time at the same rate? We do know that you can visit the same stations and see the same individuals (as in multiple visits to Rexville for Buddy to learn about T. Rexes) repeatedly, so the stations definitely aren’t perfectly  fixed in time.

Now, so far we’ve only downloaded the first season of Dinosaur Train; we’re holding off on the later seasons for our next big trip. So maybe we learn more about the train’s infrastructure later. And of course, if this were any normal grown-up science fiction show then halfway through Season One there’d be an episode where the train broke down while in one of the Time Tunnels and the kids would have to help the Conductor repair the train (possibly with an added lesson about how everyone has different skills and we can all work together to solve problems). Then we’d get more technobabble that would fill in some of these world building gaps. But in the meantime, we parents can entertain ourselves with thoughts of a Doctor Who/Dinosaur Train crossover, and try not to think too hard about the colonialist implications of the troodon-run stations being potential “islands of civilization” in otherwise “backwater” or “close to nature” landscapes. And also not think to hard about what or who went into the carrion that Delores Tyrannosaurus and her daughter Annie were eating. After all, as Morris Stegosaurus points out: “The plates do seem to scare the big meat eaters away… Most of the time.”

Don’t get me wrong–we love Dinosaur Train, and really appreciate the way the show’s concept allows the writers to have the dinosaurs interact while still pointing out that they didn’t all coexist in the same time period. We love the way they have the kids form hypotheses, and our son has been pointing out different animals that are carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores. So all our science fictional speculation is all in fun–just what our SF brains turn to during the 3rd or 4th dozen time we hear each episode.

So what kids shows do you fantasize about making fully science fictional? Next up: the implications of benign feudalism in Daniel Tiger… (or maybe not).

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Review: Pee-wee’s Playhouse Seasons 1-5 on Blu-Ray Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:00:53 +0000 Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray will be released on October 21st and features all 45 episodes of the cult classic children's television series.

The post Review: Pee-wee’s Playhouse Seasons 1-5 on Blu-Ray appeared first on GeekMom.

PWP_3D Box Art (1)

Image: Shout Factory.

Mecka-lecka hi…Mecka-hiney ho!

This week Pee-wee Herman fans in Canada and the U.S. will be greeted with Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray and DVD. Our family had a chance to preview the Blu-Ray discs of all five seasons, consisting of 45 episodes. My husband and I enjoyed a trip down memory lane back to the days of traditional (and recently defunct) Saturday morning cartoons, and our 9-and-11-year-old sons couldn’t stop laughing at the silliness.

For those unfamiliar, Paul Reubens got his start in the early 1980s as a stand-up comic in Los Angeles, inventing the Pee-wee Herman character as part of a routine that ended up generating an incredible following. In fact, throughout the mid-1980s Reubens didn’t appear in public other than as Pee-wee. Many fans didn’t even know his real name throughout the 1980s…which in the pre-internet age wasn’t that difficult to conjure. The sellout stand-up shows featuring Pee-wee introduced friends such as Cowboy Curtis and Miss Yvonne. In 1985, a very young Tim Burton worked with Pee-wee on the full-length feature film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, now a cult classic for Generation X’ers everywhere, including my husband and me.

After the movie’s success, Pee-wee’s Playhouse was developed for CBS’s Saturday morning television lineup, featuring Pee-wee having a fun, silly, time in his house exploring the world around him. His friends Chairy (a chair), Magic Screen, and Pterri (a young pteradactyl) were joined by visitors such as Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne), Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart), and Reba the Mail Lady (S. Epatha Merckerson in her first television role). Phil Hartman also makes numerous appearances as Captain Carl in one of his earliest television roles. You can also hear Cyndi Lauper singing the Betty Boop-styled opening theme song.

Even though viewers experience chaos and silliness in each episode, know that in each one there’s an underlying message: be kind, and others will be kind in return. Randy, a puppet character, will often do or say something mean, and this will turn into a lesson for viewers.

In addition to the 45 episodes of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, viewers will enjoy the interviews and featurettes that provide an additional four hours of viewing. Unfortunately, there is nothing that explicitly spells out where the featurettes are located among the discs. There’s a table of contents inside each of the two clamshells that outlines each episode title, with a header about there being bonus features “near” the contents of the 3rd disc in each set. But know that they’re on each set’s 4th disc. It’s very sweet hearing the cast and crew talk about some of the clever things Paul Reuben did for his colleagues, such as the “yearbooks” he had made to commemorate the end of each season’s filming. Also, the writers and artists regale throughout the interviews about the creative license they had in set design, skit design, and writing. Hear Mark Mothersbaugh and Danny Elfman talk about the music, and hear about Stephen Johnson and the artists of Aardman Animation discuss the skit sequencing. The bonuses are definitely more interesting to the adults than to the kids, with the following topics to enjoy:

Building the Playhouse
Opening the Playhouse
Writing for the Playhouse
The Look of the Playhouse
Music of the Playhouse
The Cast of the Playhouse
Puppets of the Playhouse
Animating the Playhouse
A Very Merry Christmas Special
Fans and Memorabilia of the Playhouse

Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series is timeless and will capture kids’ attention and enthusiasm even nearly 30 years later. The Blu-Ray box set will be available everywhere starting October 21, 2014, will retail for $149.99, and can be pre-ordered through Amazon for $96.99.

GeekMom received this product for review purposes.

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8 Delicious Gingerbread-themed Recipes (Take That, PSL!) Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:00:54 +0000 Tired of the pumpkin spice craze? Get out of that funk with these gingerbread-flavored delights.

The post 8 Delicious Gingerbread-themed Recipes (Take That, PSL!) appeared first on GeekMom.


Gingerbred babycakes with cinnamon caramel photo by Dennis Wilkinson. Read how he made them.

Earlier this month, the GeekMoms sounded off on their feelings about the most divisive topic of the season: pumpkin spice all-the-things. I noted that for me, it just means that the much smaller slice of the world that turns to gingerbread a month later is near.

One of the things I love about gingerbread (other than it simply being delicious) is how much you can adjust it to suit your mood. More sugar for sweeter or add cracked pepper for spiciness. Dial up the ginger or the cinnamon to suit. Change cinnamons! (Side note: If your cinnamon has been in the cabinet longer than six months, it’s time to buy fresh. You’ll be amazed at the difference.) As the time when I can get gingerbread lattes draws near, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite gingerbread-themed recipes:

Gingerbread Doughnut Muffins. I’m eating these as I write this. Not super sweet or spicy, just a good kickoff to Gingerbreadmania.

Gingerbread Spiced Marshmallows. I’m a huge fan of Joy the Baker. Her writing is delightful, and her recipes have never steered me wrong once. She also has two books you should check out (here and here).


Image credit: Joy the Baker Gingerbread Spiced Marshmallows

Guinness Gingerbread. My beer tastes tend towards stouts and porters, so how better to improve on gingerbread than with Guinness? Alas, the gingerbread-themed items I can’t recommend are the gingerbread-flavored beers. I haven’t found one yet that wasn’t just awful.


Image credit: Katiecakes Guinness Gingerbread

Gingerbread Waffles. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me to do this until a local restaurant served them as a seasonal special with cream and lemon curd. You can do it with pancakes, too.

Monkey (Ginger)Bread. Like monkey bread. But better.


Image credit: Food52 Monkey (Ginger)Bread

Gingerbread Scones. For some reason, I tend to forget how much I like scones until I go to a scone-eating country for a few days, and then I’m obsessed all over again. Making them gingerbread is just a double win.

Gingerbread Scones Recipe

Image credit: Gingerbread Scones

Lebkuchen is the German version of gingerbread. If you’ve ever been through Bavaria, you’ve no doubt seen Lebkuchen’s cookie form, usually in the shape of hearts with messages on them. (I’d love to see your pics of some geeked-up Lebkuchen cookies!)

Finally, after all that baking, what better than a gingerbread martini? Enjoy the season!

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