Convention Report: Would You Pay To Attend A Panel?

Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America The First Avenger. Image from Flickr user Ronald Woan, Creative Commons.

Last week, MegaCon held in Orlando, Florida, announced a paid panel with celebrity guests from Doctor Who. The fans were screaming about the fact that there was a panel during convention hours charging a fee (and $25 per person at that). My first thought was that if a panel is going to be a ticketed event, it should be held after convention hours. Realizing that might not fit in the media guests’ schedule, I guess that can’t always work out.

On Monday, MegaCon released this statement on their Facebook page:

Good evening everyone. We would like to address the many comments that have been brought up in regards to the announcement of the Doctor Who Special Event for MegaCon 2015.

This event was requested on behalf of the media guests participating in this special event for the fans of Doctor Who. Like all the media guests that attend our show, we do not set or control the pricing for their autograph fee, photo ops, or any special programming outside of what we offer with the cost of admission into MegaCon.

Please remember, this is a special event outside of the many events that we offer to you with the cost of your admission into the show. We encourage you to check out our regular schedule of events, which will be available next week, which include panels from the media and comic book guests and other free activities such as card and tabletop gaming, video gaming and costume contest…”

I applaud MegaCon for answering their fans’ concerns with the reasoning behind the charge. And with that statement in mind, we can no longer be upset at the convention, but instead at the celebrities who want to charge us to bask in their glow. I guess they need to make up the money they are going to spend at Disney World while they are here.

After realizing that the convention is not the ones charging but instead it’s the guests themselves, I started to wonder… How long until this becomes standard? Are there circumstances when paying for a panel wouldn’t be a burden to fans, but instead, be helpful?

Thanks to a discussion with my husband on this subject, I realized there are times when a ticketed panel during con hours makes sense.

I’ll use MegaCon as an example.

The convention is open for around eight hours per day for three days. During that time, panels are running from open to close. Meanwhile, the vendors’ room is also open, gaming is happening, speed dating running, cosplayers are wondering the halls waiting for photographers to catch them in all their glory, the costume contest is going on, autograph signings, photography opportunities, and the list goes on.

Meanwhile, hundreds of convention-goers wait in lines for panels and miss out on all of the other fun that is happening. Why? Because there is no other system for guaranteeing them a seat in the room where their favorite celebrities are going to be.

While those hundreds of people are waiting in lines, the convention itself could be losing money because those people are not out spending money in the vendor room, getting autographs, or taking pictures with the cosplayers. Some of those waiting in line for panels probably had to make the choice between getting a scheduled photo-op or going to the panel.

For those like myself that already have high anxiety at conventions, I physically can’t sit in a crowded line to get into an even more crowded room (my heart is racing right now at that very thought). I would love to attend one, but because of this disability, it just can’t happen.

In short, both sides lose. Convention-goers don’t get to see everything because of having to wait and the convention loses because those people are not on the floor spending money or going to the other activities that the convention had to pay to have there.

There is a solution though.

Let’s say the more popular panels that are held in the higher capacity rooms, charge for the first 10 rows. $10 per person sounds reasonable. For that $10, you get a guaranteed seat and that frees you up to go about your business around the convention while you wait for the panel to start. If you don’t want to pay, you don’t have to, but you are also put in a position to wait for hours in a line.

If you want to go a step further, charge $20 to sit in the first five rows and give people the option to pay $10 to get a guaranteed spot in the room. Those with tickets are allowed in first and everyone who wanted to wait, goes in after. To give everyone a fighting chance to get in, don’t sell as many tickets as there are seats. That way, anyone that just can’t afford to pay, doesn’t have to worry about not getting a spot. They just go about business as usual, waiting in line.

I know this adds one more expense to an already expensive convention, but think about how much this would help conventions like DragonCon, San Diego Comic Con, and other big names out there.

It’s a borderline security hazard to have people sleeping in the halls waiting to get into a panel. On top of that, think of all the things people miss at those larger conventions by sitting for hours waiting for a panel.

I can already hear you yelling at the computer screen, “But Dakster! What if they get greedy and charge more every year?”

There’s a solution to that as well.

Instead of pocketing the money, I propose that the convention donates all of the panel ticket money to a charity. This way, everyone wins and a charity is helped in the process. To add to their press, at the end of the convention, they could announce how much money was raised for the chosen charity. (The Hero Initiative would be my pick.)

This won’t work for every convention or every panel, but it’s an idea that could grow into something that not only benefits the convention in terms of good press, but also helps the fans get more out of their ticket by not being held up in a line for a panel instead of enjoying the rest of the convention.

What do you think? Are there times when you would be willing to pay a small fee to get into a panel or would you rather just take your chances and wait in the line with everyone else?

Let me know in the comments!

This Saturday Is Ice Cream For Breakfast Day!

Ice Cream Cutie By Lilianna Maxwell

Celebrate Ice-Cream For Breakfast Day this Saturday, February 7th. What? You’ve never heard of this splendid holiday? Gasp! Well, now you do and there’s no excuse. And your kids will love you for it. Here are some resources.

For recipes and random love of the creamy stuff, The Ice Cream Geek has great ideas.

You know you tried this as a kid yourself. Astronaut ice-cream.

Did you know the ice-cream scoop was reinvented?

Go all out and get some Superhero Ice Cream Treat Tubs to make it even more fun.

The Hulk ice-cream sandwiches are cool. They use matcha (green tea) powder, so this tea geek gives them a big thumbs up!

Several ice-cream parlors around the country use this day to raise money for children’s charities. Check if there’s one near you: Make your kids happy and do good in your community. What’s not to like?

Enjoy your sweet holiday :)

Robert Downey Jr. Gets Even More Awesome, Is Doused In a Bucket of Ice for Charity [Video]

It’s a fair bet that many of you have already had a bucket of ice dumped on your head as part of the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS and that you also have a Facebook feed full of  videos of very chilly, wet friends. If you aren’t familiar with this challenge, then here’s the scoop.

If you’re challenged, then you have 24 hours to accept and donate $10 to an ALS Charity and dump a bucket of ice water over your head. There’s the option to decline, but if you’re too chicken for your ice shower, then you’re supposed to donate $100 as penance.

Lots of people have done it, including a fair number of celebrities, one of whom is Robert Downey Jr. who posted his video that includes the names of the three people he’s challenging to follow his example.

The #IceBucketChallenge has been running since July 29th and in that time over 70 million people have donated over $4 million to ALS charities. Watch Robert Downey Jr. take the challenge, shirtless in a pool no less, and check out who gets the honor of dumping the ice on his head.

7 Nonprofits to Support in 2014

By Photos public [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Photos public [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are those who think New Year’s Resolutions are a waste of time, and there are those who diligently make them every year. I’m in the latter camp. I love New Year’s resolutions, and what’s a better resolution than supporting some great causes?

If you’re looking for a little altruism to start 2014, here are a handful of really great organizations to support:

Cure JM Foundation works to raise money and awareness for Juvenile Myositis, a collection of rare autoimmune conditions affecting children. Rare disorders are the hardest to raise funding for, and organizations like Cure JM provide invaluable support for families.

Curiosity Hacked (formerly Hacker Scouts), founded by our own Samantha Cook, is collecting donations to bring their outreach programs to Children’s Hospital and family centered homeless shelters, where children have no access to build their skills and create what they have only imagined.

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International continues the work of its namesake, who was murdered in 1985 while working to protect the endangered mountain gorillas of Africa. The African outpost of the organization is the Karisoke Research Center, founded by Fossey. The center works to protect the mountain gorillas of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also works to educate and support the local communities. They smartly believe that educating and helping the people of these embattled areas is one of the best ways to keep the gorillas, a prime target for poaching, safe. encourages young people ages 13-25 to get out into their communities and take action on issues that matter to them. GeekMom Laura included them in her tips for fighting Mean World Syndrome. There is a donation link at the bottom of the site, but this organization is really about helping your older kids find their voice and make an impact. It’s their world.

Lupus Research Institute focuses on another devastating autoimmune disease. Lupus affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans, and according to the institute “Most are young women of childbearing age.” What sets LRI apart from other Lupus research organizations is its sole focus on the most innovative, “novel” research in the field.

One Simple Wish grants wishes to children in foster care. The founder, Danielle Gletow, was a Top Ten CNN Hero in 2013. Foster children receive the absolute basics through government funding, but they do not have access to the simple pleasures that many of us take for granted. Gletow’s organization lets you search wishlists that children have made through their social services agency and fund a specific child’s wish. It could be anything from an XBox to an outfit for job interviews. You can also purchase $40 “We Care” kits for children entering or aging out of foster care, with essentials like shampoo and a toothbrush.

Worldbuilders is running its annual fundraiser for Heifer International through February 2nd. Author Patrick Rothfuss runs a lottery with all kinds of glorious literary prizes. For every $10 you donate, your name is entered into the lottery. GeekMom Kelly wrote about last year’s fundraiser, and you can find all of the details on Patrick Rothfuss’s blog.

Cthulhu in a Coloring Book? Help John Kovalic Make It Happen

Cthulhu Coloring Page © Courtesy John Kovalic

John Kovalic, cartoonist and GeekDad extraordinaire, is currently raising funds for his Bike the Barns charity bike ride. The 7th annual Bike the Barns ride in Wisconsin supports the FairShare CSA Coalition’s Partner Shares program, which “brings fresh, organic food from local farms to low-income families in our community.”

If Kovalic reaches his fundraising goal, he’ll make a preschool coloring book he’s been working on free for download! Sample pages include classics like a mermaid, dinosaur, and pirate, and he promises more geekery will be included. He’s also released an adorable, trick-or-treating Cthulhu illustration that will be part of the book.

Where else will you find Cthulhu in a coloring book? Visit John Kovalic’s pledge page and consider supporting the cause.

Indiegogo Campaign: TinySuperheroes


I have to thank my mom for pointing this one out to me. Last summer Robyn Rosenberger made a cape for her two-year-old nephew’s birthday. She was also following the story of a little girl named Brenna, who was fighting a serious skin disease. The idea of the cape met the reality of children battling incredible obstacles, and her organization TinySuperheroes was born.

Since making their first cape in January of 2013, they have made 500 capes for sick and disabled children. This Indiegogo campaign (which ends on June 18th!) will help raise money to make and distribute 1,500 more capes in the next year. Their motto is “Empowering Extraordinary Kids – One Cape at a Time!”


Judge Us By Our Size Do Not–The Galactic Academy

Image Courtesy of the Galactic Academy
Image Courtesy of the Galactic Academy

The Galactic Academy is one of the best kept secrets of Star Wars costuming. Dedicated to the fans 17 and under, these costumers are a force to be reckoned with. Unlike their big brother and big sister organizations, The 501st and Rebel Legion, the Galactic Academy does not require screen accuracy to be welcomed in. The only requirement is the child must be under the age of 18 years and own a Star Wars costume of some kind.

Their website describes the life of a cadet as “hard, grueling work. Only the best can even hope to survive the process, but those lucky few will earn their Academy Medals and become the envy of the galaxy.”

Continue reading Judge Us By Our Size Do Not–The Galactic Academy

This Dragon*Con, the Fans Pick the Charities


Charity auctions and other fundraising events are a mainstay of many fan conventions, including Dragon*Con. In 2012, they raised more than $45,000 for the Georgia Chapter of the ALS Association. The year before, it was $40,000 for the National Inclusion Project, which helps children with disabilities. And the con’s annual blood drive is a popular event, donating thousands of units of blood over the weekend. This year the con decided to approach charity a little differently by asking the fans where they’d like their donations to go in 2013.

The event asked people to participate in a poll between April 15th and April 28th, during which more than 39,000 votes were cast for one of five pre-selected organizations. The top three vote-getters were named as the official charities of Dragon*Con 2013.

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, which shelters injured, abused, and unwanted exotic animals, won 66% of the vote and thus will receive 50% of the money raised during the con. The second-place charity, Georgia Conservancy, will receive 30%, and third-place Marcus Autism Center will receive 20% of the funds raised.

Over the last eight years, Dragon*Con has raised almost $224,000 for charity. This year it will add a matching contribution from the con itself of up to $50,000. In addition to that official charity fundraising during the con, they’ve donated $265,000 to The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (where Dragon*Con is held) and other organizations.

Chainmail for Charity

Jon and his Great Dane Bane, who passed away this year from Bloat.
Jon and his Great Dane Bane, who passed away this year from Bloat. / Image: Rebecca Waters

Chainmail for Charity is a Facebook project by 501st Legion member Rebecca Waters , to help raise money and awareness for her husband’s heart condition. With Jon unable to work, Rebecca works day and night to help pay for not only their regular bills, but also Jon’s mounting medical bills; that is where Chainmail for Charity comes into play.

Jon has a genetic heart condition that caused him to suffer a massive three week long heart attack last year. That same year, after suffering a full blown congestive heart failure and with only one functioning coronary artery, Jon had to undergo a quadruple bypass with a heart that was only functioning at 20%. During the surgery, they discovered that his mitral valve had ruptured and he now required a mechanical mitral valve replacement at the same time.

As if that wasn’t enough, less than a week after the surgery, Jon and Rebecca learned that the damage to the left side of Jon’s heart was so bad that he would need a pacemaker and would be dependent upon it to keep him alive. Continue reading Chainmail for Charity

Please Vote for Noah's Light Foundation

Jedi Noah and the Florida Garrison / Image: Florida Garrison
Jedi Noah and the Florida Garrison / Image: Florida Garrison

Jedi Noah Larkin was a very special boy to my 501st Legion garrison. We had the honor of helping him celebrate his birthday last year and this year, we helped honor him at this memorial service in Kissimmee, Florida.

Noah was a happy little boy who was perplexed that people would not do something to the fullest. He wanted to be the next Walt Disney or George Lucas because they “just did!” His battle with brain cancer lasted from October 29th, 2009 and ended when Noah moved on to his eternal home at 4pm on May 29th, 2012.

Noah’s life touched many of us in the Florida Garrison and his memory continues to live on through the foundation his parents set up in his name to help raise money and awareness for children’s brain and spinal tumors.

Like many charities, Noah’s Light Foundation needs a boost. Chase is currently giving away $5 million in grants to charity through voting on their Facebook page. It just so happens that voting ends on what would have been Noah’s ninth birthday. Personally, I can’t think of a better birthday present for such an inspiring and loved little boy.

Help me honor this little boy and his short (but very much loved) life by voting for Noah’s Light Foundation.

May the Force be with Noah and all those who were blessed to know him.

Cyber-Bullying Towards Star Wars Fans — Not Cool

Image: Local 10 News
A more appropriate caption would be, “An amazing Obi-Wan Kenobi stands and poses for his many fans at CVI” Image: Local 10 News

Last night, a slide show of Celebration VI cosplayers, featured by a local news station, was brought to my attention by a fellow member of the 501st Legion, a professional costuming organization that uses the dark side of the force to help raise money bring and awareness for charities world wide.

Some of the images were friends of mine, hanging out and enjoying the convention. What my friends didn’t know was that their pictures were being taken to be used for a slide show that can only be described as cyber-bullying. The person who put this slide show together did not leave anyone out, including children.

Let me give you some information about the people being attacked in the slide show:

Most are members of the 501st Legion,

Last year, the 501st Legion helped raise over $12 million dollars for charities worldwide.

The 501st Legion is a not-for-profit organization. All of our activities are funded by the membership and fundraisers within our group.

Two things confuse me about this public ridicule. The first is that the 501st Legion has trooped this news station in the past, at their request. So, why, after we have helped them in the past, do they choose to attack us now? The second thing is that this news station has run articles and news reports about anti-cyber-bullying. One write up was even entitled, “3 Things Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids“.

So my question for the news station is this, has your stance on cyber-bullying changed?

If it hasn’t and they are still against cyber-bullying 100 percent, my suggestion to the station is that they remove the slide show and issue an apology, especially to the children who were subjected to this.

If you have ever been touched by the 501st Legion, and want to help, you can.

Contact the news station and let them know they are out of line and ask that they remove the slide show from their site. You can reach them via their Facebook pagethrough their website, or by calling 954-364-2500. If you decide to contact them, please do so respectfully.

Thank you and may the force be with you.

Update : The station has removed the slide show from their site, but no apology has been issued yet. I will update this page if we receive one. Thank you!

Update 9/7/2012: Our cries for the slideshow to be remove and an apology to be issued was heard yesterday at 6pm. Thank you to everyone for reaching out and letting the station know that enough is enough. May the force be with you. 

Wear Your Music

Hear it. Wear it. (Image:

Having a guitar playing son in my household, I know how often strings have to be replaced. I guess I never thought about the millions of guitar strings that musicians discard every year.

But Hannah Garrison did. A trained jeweler, she’d been crafting them into bracelets for years. Then she responded to a classified ad on Craigslist posted by some guy named Steve Bernstein. He was a magazine publisher trying to figure out how to sell more ads to guitar string companies, so he was looking for ways to cleverly repurpose guitar strings. Hannah’s was one of 160 responses he received. An hour later the two of them met to form a company based on core principles of recycling and donating a portion of the profits to charity. They named it Wear Your Music.

Today the company runs out of an old stone building in Woonsocket, R.I.  Both Hannah and Steve donate their time, as do most of their part-time employees. World famous musicians donate strings (find your favorite guitarist) to be fashioned into unisex bracelets, which customers receive in a CD case gift box along with a certificate of authenticity. The proceeds of each original artist bracelet are donated to that particular artist’s charity of choice. For example, Anna Nalick’s donations go to Covenant House of New Orleans, Michael Franti’s donations go to Power To The Peaceful, Brandi Carlile’s donations go to the Looking Out Foundation, and Michael Kang of The String Cheese Incident directs his donations to Conscious Alliance.

It’s also possible to order a bracelet made from your own strings. The most inexpensive options are handmade recycled guitar string bracelets without certification, costing $19.95. Wear Your Music also offers guitar picks made from gemstones, journals made from old album covers, and other innovative music-related items. I see major gift potential here.

The Lego Lemonade Stand… in Progress.

Photo: Karen Nolan (Lego)

It turned out to be a great first day on the Great Lego Lemonade Stand Build in downtown Philadelphia yesterday! If you didn’t catch the post about this great fundraiser for pediatric cancer research, check out the information we gave you yesterday or go to Alex’s Lemonade Stand to get the details.

In a nutshell, if you’re in the Philadelphia area, take a minute to stop by and help finish this colorful, important project. One of our favorite Lego Master Builders, Steve Gerling (seen in this photo, standing at the right) designed the unique project and is on site to orchestrate its construction.

If you’re all about the actual lemonade, show up tomorrow (Saturday, June 9) to take part in smaller, speciality builds and get your free cup of refreshment. Maybe it will inspire you to go home and make your own stand out of any raw materials of your choosing (I’d personally suggest a card table and a folding chair, but that’s just me…).

Star Wars Week: An Interview With Dave Liew, Artist And Future 501st Legion Member

Artwork by Dave Liew. Images used by permission.

Dave Liew aspiring member of the 501st Legion, Malaysia-Brunei Outpost, is well known by 501st Legion members for his amazing artwork. His work can be seen on several charity projects including the Princess Leia Charity Auction, Japan Tsunami Relief and R2KT charity patch runs. I first stumbled on Dave’s work during the Japan Tsunami disaster when I ran across his poster to help raise money to aid relief efforts in Japan. His passion for his art shows in each piece and the detail of his work really makes him stand out as one of a kind in the industry.

GeekMom: What was your first experience with Star Wars?
Dave Liew: My first experience with Star Wars was when I was between six and seven years old, and was watching A New Hope on my local tellie. That’s where my interest in sci-fi, especially SW, grew. My dad has been a great supporter in my quest for sci-fi. He was strict with what I watched and when I watched, but when Star Wars was on TV, even though it’s a re-run, he would definitely let me watch it…only after I’d done my homework and house chores of course.

GM: What draws you in?
DL: Robots, spaceships and of course the story of good versus evil. The magical Force handed down from the Master to the Apprentice.

GM: How long have you been into drawing and graphic arts?
DL: Well, I have been drawing since I was young. My first drawing was of a clock! I got my talent from my mum who is good in art and encouragement from my dad works hand in hand to where I am now. I never took illustration as serious professional work till recent years, where I started doing character design for an online game company and from there my love of drawing grew again. After that, I started accepting jobs doing character schematic for 3D productions and films.

GM: Do you have a favorite Star Wars piece?
DL: If it’s my artwork, it’s definitely the Japanese Tsunami artwork; it reaches out to so many people out there to help the people of Japan in their greatest need.

GM: How long does it usually take you to complete a project?
DL: Well, usually it takes a week. The initial few days is just to do the research and development on the subject. It’s important when creating the artwork that you feel and fully understand the subject; then your message can be heard loud and clear. I know I’m on the right track when I draw the illustration while putting myself as another person looking at it and I get the right feeling.

GM: Do you have a routine or favorite item that you like to have when creating your art? (ex. favorite pen, sketchbook, music, location, etc…)
DL: My usual hang out place is a local coffee shop with free WiFi just a stone throw away from my house and my trusty Asus laptop!

GM: Do you prefer digital or old school pen and paper when creating your art?
DL: Well, different styles take different approaches. For detail artwork, I’ll go for old school pen for better control on shading. For more structural final artwork, I’ll go for digital.

GM: Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
DL: Han!

GM: I really enjoy your work with the Princess Leia project. How did you get involved the cause?
DL: It started as a piece of artwork to give a word of encouragement to Zev and Frani after being inspired by their love for Leah.  Zev was kind enough to post it up on his FB page. The Princess Leah Angels dropped me an e-mail and said they would like to use the artwork to create merchandise to raise funds for Leah and I gladly said yes. Recently, I was able to help the Esquenazi family again for The Princess Leah Art auction.

GM: Do you have a favorite charity project that you’ve worked on? My personal favorite is the Tsunami artwork you did in 2011.
DL: My favorite is the R2KT patches because I had a lot of fun designing the various shapes and designs with Albin Johnson. The great thing is he gave me a lot of freedom to design the patches and I went all the way.

GM: What is the most memorable troop / event you can participated in with the 501st Legion (in costume or out of costume)?
DL: The Thailand Flood Troop, a four- weekends in a row troop. I was assisting Kirby (TK-8555) on the planning and it was a good experience and learning curve handling troopers and venue sponsors. This troop was my first appearance as Republic Commando Niner. (I’m still in the midst of getting approval from the Legion for that costume.)

GM: Would you like to give a shout out to anyone that has helped you succeed or become the person you are?
DL: My parents. I could never thank them enough for all they have done for me. Another person I would like to thank is Shanz Lim, my closest buddy who has helped me through thick and thin.

If you would like to see more of Dave’s work, please check him out online. Each piece is limited to 20 prints, so if you like something, you better act fast.

Don’t Make Hulk Wanna Smash The Internet

She-Hulk by kazamatsuro – Photo via Creative Commons

I hate New Year’s resolutions. Especially the part where the internet is flooded with copycat articles full of tips, tricks, top-ten lists, and celebrity declarations. The changing of the calendar doesn’t make the date special, and broadcasting their intent doesn’t necessarily help people achieve personal goals. Every year at this time, I compulsively dodge those posts and articles and vlogs because exposure to New Year’s resolutions tends to cause an Incredible Hulk-like transformation in me. And I don’t really want to be the person who leaves a path of ALL-CAPS destruction in the comments of every other new post on the internet during most of January.

There’s probably no hope of reversing the resolution trend, especially not with the entire weight of the weight-loss industry backing what I snarkily refer to as the season of shrinky self-destruction. However, resistance is not futile. This year, I’m encouraging people to break with the tradition, and if they won’t, to at least consider alternatives to the set of boring, doomed cure-alls that most people resolve to pursue.

Many of the common New Year’s resolutions focus on accomplishing more, acquiring more stuff, and doing everything faster. Those are exhausting, largely foolhardy endeavors, especially for anyone trying to become a healthier and happier person. For a fun, easy change of pace, try doing less, getting rid of stuff, and slowing down. That last one is the best, I think. Just imagine how much stress we could ditch simply by taking our time. Resolving to slow down will probably improve the quality – if not the quantity – of our work and our relationships, two goals that may not be on everyone’s list, but probably should be.

If oppositional resolutions aren’t your cuppa, but you can’t resist the impulse to make resolutions altogether, try just sticking with the good things you already do. And if you must share your resolutions with the world, the least you can do is resolve to work on something more important to the world than your weight. 2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives and the International Year of Sustainable Energy For All. If those causes don’t motivate you, try browsing the Project For Awesome for a charity that does, then put your back into supporting it. It’s probably as good for your heart as going to the gym, albeit in a different way, and selfless deeds are far more interesting for others to read about on your blog.

People who are happy in their New Year’s resolution ruts? I beg you, please, to attend the science about habit formation and will power’s limitations. Confine your resolutions to small, specific actions you can easily add to your existing routine. This should improve your likelihood of success, and hopefully diminish the flood of woeful posts about failed New Year’s resolutions that also make Hulk wanna smash the internet.

HoNoToGroABeMo: Growing a Beard for Charity?

Beard - No Beard From Eidetic Opacity

What do you do when your husband comes to you and says that he wants to grow a beard? I cringed. My husband has never been the type of guy to have facial hair of any kind. When he explained to me that it was a campaign to raise fund for breast cancer research, my resolve melted away.

A year ago when a friend of ours joined How Not To Grow A Beard Month (aka HoNoToGroABeMo), my husband, and fellow GeekDad, Brian McLaughlin was inspired that there was something he could actually do to inspire support for breast cancer research. Up to this year, our family has given an annual donation to one of several breast cancer charities in the name of members of my family who have survived a breast cancer diagnosis. It is a cause I whole heartedly support. The problem has always been that it is hard to involve the guys. I mean, men don’t have obvious breasts and it seems that all of the breast cancer campaigns are full of pink and can be tough for guys to relate to.

Founder Kris Johnson was inspired by National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as it is known to participants worldwide) and its 30-day campaign to encourage novelists to write more than 500,000 words. Participation in NaNoWriMo has increased from 21 participants in 1999 to more than 200,000 writers in 2010. In March of 2007, Kris was also inspired by Evo Terra’s 5 o’clock shadow project where he would take a photo of himself at 5 PM everyday to show the world how much stubble he had amassed. So, in November of 2007, Kris decided to combine the model of NaNoWriMo with that of the 5 o’clock shadow program to create HoNoToGroBeMo. Its open to anyone “foolish” enough to set aside their razor for a full month.

The rules are simple:

  1. Shave every bit of hair off your chin, cheeks and upper lip on October 31st.
  2. Don’t shave again until December 1st.
  3. Take a photograph of the “progress” at roughly the same time every day and post it to the Internet.

Donations are accepted throughout the month to support your favorite facial hair farmer, each brings their own sense of personality to their daily posts. Some provide incentives to donors, some like to remain anonymous at all cost, and for others, like my husband, growing a beard apparently turns them quasi-evil like Dr. Doofensmirtz. The whole campaign is in good fun as 100% of the donations go straight to funding breast cancer research.

When my husband, Brian, decided that he was ready for a challenge, I kept an open-mind and supported him the whole month. I have reserved any real opinion of the facial hair till tomorrow, December 1st. That hasn’t been hard since I’m still on the fence. Today is the last day to contribute and if you are are interested in donating, please visit the HoNoGroABeMo donation site before midnight tonight!

Here has been the progression of his facial hair and his evil scientist side emerging.

Day 1 - Fresh shave and the husband I've always known
Day 6 - Nearly a week of growth has caused Brian to become friends with Dr. Doof!


Day 7 - The beard has made him contemplate building a freaking rocket
Day 15 - The optics for his rocket's laser are coming along nicely.
Day 18 - The rocket prototype! Its so shiny.
Day 23 - The first sign of wavering, the beard itches, a lot.
Day 25 - The real laser that Brian rigged to attach to his rocket.
Day 29 - The rocket is complete! The beard is not.
Day 30 - Today, the results of 30 days without a razor.

So what do you think? Should he keep the beard a bit longer? Are you interested in donating to the bearded fellows? Would you be interested in joining next year (or maybe your husband)?


Glorious Do-Gooder Gifts


Living simply is important to me. I also love to give gifts. I reconcile this by giving ethical presents whenever possible. You know what I mean, purchases that help out a worthy organization. You can often buy such gifts at your local museum, house of worship, or any non-profit knowing that a portion of the sale price helps to benefit that institution. You can also extend holiday goodwill by scooping up any of the following do-gooder gifts.

The mission of SERRV is “to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide.”

non-profit gifts, charity benefitting presents, ethical holidays,

A wide range of gifts are available, including home decor and holiday items.  Pictured are the $19 Arte Cobre earrings, $22 carved Peruvian gourd ornament,  $15 beaded Fireworks cuff, and $10 raindrop bud vase.


Wounded Warrior Project provides programs of direct benefit to injured service members. Support the project with the purchase of a t-shirt (item shown is $22.99), embossed journalsurvival strap, or other gear.


For each CamelBak Better Bottle purchased, $10 goes to support the efforts of This organization provides sustainable water solutions for some of the billion people who currently lack clean drinking water.

This bottle is BPA free, has a built-in filter, and costs $35.


The profits from each $20 package of Salty Turtles are donated to HELP USA, a charity that fights homelessness.

Other products available include energy bars, popcorn tins, and dark chocolate.


Xeko eco-adventure series games help kids learn about biodiversity.  Trading cards that also function as game cards,  these sets come in “county” packs such as China, Indonesia, Costa Rica, and Madagascar. Each purchase benefits Conservation International.

Games are $14.54, add-on packs are $3.99.


This Limited Edition Shemergency Kit sells for $25. It may be the ultimate portable gift for the woman who has everything. It contains 25 solutions for personal care and fashion emergencies such as folding hair brush, mirror, earring backs, nail clipper, mending kit, stain remover, pain reliever, tampon, and tissues.   Ten percent of the proceeds from the sale of this kit will be donated to breast cancer research.


Darfur refugees playing soccer with a ball made of trash tied with string were the inspiration for the development of a ball so durable it could be used anywhere. One World Futbol is an all-terrain ball specially designed for adverse conditions. It requires no pump and will remain inflated even if punctured. It also self-adjusts to variations in altitude and temperature. For every purchase of a $39.50 One World Futbol, an identical ball will be donated to a refugee camp, war zone, or other community in need.




Freewaters is working to improve the living standards of people without clean drinking water through their direct-cause initiative, ProjectFreewaters. Their site notes that each year “more people die from the consequences of unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war. Dirty water and a lack of proper hygiene kills 3,300,000 people annually, most of them children. At Freewaters we believe access to clean water is a basic human right.”

Their fund-raising efforts include t-shirts, womens’ and mens’ sandals, plus luxurious slippers.

Each pair of slippers provides a person in need with safe drinking water for a full year.  Slippers shown $25, t-shirt $25.



Support public radio while browsing through a wealth of games, gardening items, green gifts, music, books, puzzles, and more.


Binary clock $25


Shut The Box game $24.99





Ten Thousand Villages has been creating fair trade opportunities for artisans in the developing world since the mid 1940’s.  They offer unique handmade products from dozens of countries, with proceeds providing a living wage.

Shown are $24 shesham wood puzzle from India, $54 Indonesian dragon kite, $39 chameleon pot from Cameroon, and the $24 enlightened wisdom sconce from Nepal.

Enjoy using the mini or full-sized version of this rugged solar-charged flashlight, knowing that BoGo Light will donate another. In the developing world, the average family spends up to 30 percent of their income on light (kerosene lanterns, candles, battery-powered lights). The batteries in each BoGo Light last for 750 to 1,000 nights of use at an average of six to eight hours per use. These lights are particularly valuable in remote healthcare settings. BoGo Light encourages you to choose what program you’d like your light donation to benefit.

Mini size $29.99, full size $59.

EverythingHappy is a family-run company offering face-shaped blankets. What’s even more unique is that the concept was dreamed up by the family’s seven-year-old son, David Holdridge. David wanted to combine his little sisters’ favorite things: stuffed animals and blankets. Now 12 designs are available in several sizes. For each blanket purchased, another goes to a child in the U.S. or around the world, often to hospitals and orphanages.

Prices start at $20 for an 18″ x 18″ blanket.

Purchase blankets, comforters, sheets, quilts, throws, or pillows from Blanket America and the same item is given to someone in need in the U.S. or Haiti. The founders’ goal is giving a million blankets to the needy in the U.S.

The cotton and bamboo blankets shown come in your choice of six colors, and sell for $44.99.





non-profit gifts, charity gifts, do-gooder gifts, BOGO gifts

Toms has been in the forefront of the one for one movement, giving away a pair of shoes for each pair purchased since 2006. So far they have distributed over a million pairs to children in need around the world. They encourage all sorts of customer collaboration, like pledging to go a day without shoes, becoming an agent of change, or sharing theirdocumentary. Now Toms has a new campaign, buy a pair of sunglasses and give the gift of sight to a person in need.

For prescription glasses (even a monacle) go directly to Warby Parker. The company is named after character appearing in Jack Kerouac’s personal journals. The founders see the world through a different lens too. Warby Parker crafts fashion-forward, reasonably priced glasses. For every pair you buy, a free pair or vision care will be provided to someone in need either in the U.S. or developing world. More than a billion people worldwide don’t have access to proper vision care, but this company is working to change that frame by frame.




non-profit gifts,


ASPCA works to prevent cruelty to animals, rescue animals from abuse, pass humane laws, support shelters, and educate the public on animal. Gifts available include t-shirts, jewelry, books, and pet toys.


Consider Funkitty Twist N’ Treat $5.99



or Hide A Squirrel $19.99


ORBIS flying eye hospital travels with an onboard operating room and training facilities, bringing eye care professionals all over the world. Each year they restore sight to thousands of people.

Now L’Occitane offers naturalshea butter soap in the shape of airplanes with 100 percent of profits donated to ORBIS.  Choose a pink or blue bar, 3.5 ounce, for $6.


Striiv: The High-Tech Walkathon in My Pocket


Home Screen. Image: Striiv

Striiv is a nifty little device. To call it simply a pedometer would be doing it a disservice because there’s all sorts of things going on behind its little touch screen. I’ve been using it daily since I was sent one to review a few weeks ago. Out of the box (and even while it’s still in its box), you’ll see the design owes a great deal to certain Apple devices. It’s lightweight and comes with a keychain attachement and a clip, making it easy to grab and go. The touchscreen requires a heavy hand, but that might be a positive cosidering how much time the Striiv spends in my pocket. It also has great battery life. A full charge lasts me a few days.

The biggest question I had to ask myself is if this Striiv is worth its hefty $99 price tag when you can get any other old pedometer for twenty bucks, or a pedometer app for your phone for even less (not to mention the new iPod Nano’s Nike+ integration). The answer depends on what motivates you.

Challenges. Image: Striiv

First, there’s the general tracking of your steps. Striiv can track walking steps, running steps, and even stairs. I find it to be fairly accurate, though I think it might overcount stairs. I love that it counts stairs. I find that I will walk up or down a few flights of stairs if I know my Striiv is in my pocket. There is also a Challenges feature, where you can select easy, medium, and hard challenges for yourself such as ‘Run 250 steps in 20 minutes’ (easy) or ‘Take over 17,368 steps today’ (hard). The latter one is incorporating my personal best day for steps, which is archived in the Stat section. I think that might have been the first day of NY ComicCon.

With all of these steps you can earn trophies. I didn’t think much of these at first, especially when I earned 16 of them on the first day. Too many, I thought. Plus they were things like ‘Burn a Cupcake’ and seeing that just made me think, “Hey! I burned off a cupcake. Now it’s time to eat a cupcake!” But the trophies have gotten more interesting as my steps accumulate. I’m on day 24 and I earned the Ultramarathon trophy, which means I’ve walked 100 miles! That feels amazing!

A tree grows in Myland. Image: Striiv

All of these steps and trophies are earning me lightning bolts, which do a couple of things. First, is they power the Myland game. To call this a game is a bit of an overstatement. It’s really a fantasy land that you can customize by building structures and planting trees, which attract centaurs and magical animals to your land. The thing is, I showed this to my 6-year-old daughter who loves it. Every night she grabs it off my desk and plants new things, checking on our progress. It’s a fun thing to do together as part of our nighttime routine, even when she chastises me for not walking enough to build our Parthenon that day. She’s even been known to run laps around our apartment or up and down the hallway to get more lightning bolts for the game.

Earning clean water. Image: Striiv

The lightning bolts also power the walkathon, which I find to be Striiv’s most motivating feature. My lightning bolts quickly add up to one of the following actual donations:

  • 18,000 steps conserves a parking-spot size area of Tanzania’s rainforest for 1 year.
  • 18,000 steps provides a day’s worthy of clean water for a school child in South America.
  • 60,000 steps immunizes one child in the world-wide fight against polio.

I’ve already completed several donations, and that feels amazing, too. You simply sync the device with your computer and your donations are tallied. I really wish there was a community tally on the website that shows how much progress has been made throughout the Striiv community, but I’m glad there’s at least a tally of my personal donations on the device itself.

In addition to more of a community on the website, I’d love to see more games that make more interesting use of the built-up lightning power. I’d also wouldn’t turn down the ability to play mp3s. I’d also love a kid version for a fraction of the price that could sync with mine, given how much my daughter loves it. Striiv is definitely worth $99 to me, though.

Zombie Race for Charity & Lots of Laughs!


Chef Zombie, me as Homecoming Queen Zombie, Doug & daughter Maddie as a zombie family.

A few days ago, I had the distinct privilege of competing in the only race I have ever been in, not counting elementary school field days. Every year, my town of Shreveport, Louisiana has two different charity events: Run with the Nuns, a motorcycle rally that benefits children’s health programs in our community, and the Shreveport Zombie Walk, which benefits our local food bank, and I also coordinate.

While working on planning the zombie walk, Liz Swaine, the head of the Shreveport Downtown Development Authority, was immensely helpful. She is the reason our zombie walk was downtown this year instead of at a local mall, and it was much more successful, as I wrote in a previous post for GeekMom. Liz had a wonderful idea; she wanted to have a zombie race at opening night of Run with the Nuns. Spectators would bet on which zombie they hoped would make it to the finish line first, and all of the proceeds go to charity. Liz just needed me to help round up some zombies. How could I resist?

Parcel Peggy takes a break before the race, so she will be in tip-top shape.

Several of my dedicated volunteers at the annual zombie walk stepped up. One couldn’t make it due to illness, so she sent her daughter and friend in her place. Another gentleman, Doug, who is always a wonderful costume judge at the walk, brought his young daughter, to be a family zombie team for charity. My most helpful volunteer at the walk this year, Peggy, donned her scariest make-up and black contacts and showed up as a very creative “Parcel Peggy.” Super dedicated and generous zombie fan Buzz came as the original block head, “Charlie Brown Zombie.” My good friend Keith, box office manager of our downtown indie theater, the Robinson Film Center, took a break from work and stepped out onto the closed-off street in his Shreveport Zombie Walk-iconic “Zombie Chef” costume to join in the fun. I went as “Homecoming Queen Zombie,” knowing that a zombified version is the only way I would ever be crowned as such.

Charlie bit Snoopy, then Snoopy ate Woodstock. What a blockhead!

We wandered the crowd, talked with Liz, and drew straws to decide who would actually win the race. We acted out in clever ways to make the crowd laugh; from stretching our aching, decomposing bones at the start line, to walking around aimlessly, trying to nibble on each other. Spectators started placing bets. Chef Zombie was the most popular; in my opinion, Keith must have a “fast” look to him, because when the race started, he was great at going the wrong way and those who bet on him were going crazy!

Liz announced all of us zombies; we all came with a back story as to how we died and became zombified. The crowd listened and placed more bets. The prize for picking the winning zombie? A $100 gift card to a grocery store, good mostly for the butcher department, Liz told the crowd. The finish line was established. Our goal was a nun, Sister Sharon, who was standing at the end. The first zombie to make it to her would get some tasty nun flesh as a reward. I find it immensely refreshing that the Sisters were so fun; they loved our make-up and chatted with us before the race. I will say it here, and I have said it before: Creative, fun & different ways to raise money or goods for charity are the way to go. This zombie race was a wonderful idea.

Zombies were told to make the race last; drag it out, make it funny and engaging, make the finish be a nail-biter. We took the challenge and I think we all did wonderful! We had a blast and the crowd seemed to love it. One of the teen zombie’s dad was nice enough to use my camera to get video of the entire race for me. Here it is, in it’s fake blood-filled hilarity. This may be the funniest five minutes you will watch today. (Note: it is dark at the beginning of the video, but it does lighten up.)

The GeekMoms Podcast #6 GeekGirlCon: Inspiring Kids and Parents

The show kicks off with an interview with Amber Love about Women of Wonder Day, an annual auction and in-store event where you can bid on beautiful art and collectibles in support of domestic violence charity programs.  Then Nicole is joined once again by GeekMom Cathe Post to talk about her weekend with her husband and daughter at the first ever GeekGirlCon in Seattle, Washington.  This new entry on the convention scene drew some big Geek Girl names to help promote a positive attitude toward all geeks, men, women and especially kids.  And you’ll also hear how the GeekMoms took a stab at the Google+ Hangout feature and ended up having a chat with Felicia Day.

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Nicole Wakelin: Total Fan Girl and Twitter

Cathe Post: GamerMom V1.0 and Twitter

Theme Music: Rebecca Angel

Ikea Soft Toys For Education

Image: Sarah Pinault

I grew up within miles of an Ikea, so moving to Maine was a bit of a shock. No flatpack furniture, no cheap but stylish sofa, no awesome kids section, no meatballs! When I had my son back in 2009, a college friend who shared my love of Swedish design sent him one of his first soft toys; a giraffe in a strawberry car from Ikea. Strawberry Giraffe, as he was affectionately called, was soon a staple in our playtime regimen. Sadly he faded out as my son discovered real cars and solid food, but he will always have a place in my heart.


This year, Ikea is once more holding its Soft Toys For Education campaign. Between November 1st and December 24th, about $1.35 from every Ikea soft toy sale will go to Save the Children and UNICEF, to aid their efforts “to help realize every child’s right to a quality education.” One of the things I have always enjoyed about Ikea is that you can spend a dollar, or a couple of hundred dollars, on what it is you want. The same holds true for their soft toy collection: you can spend 49 cents or $19.99. It’s a great place to take a toddler because buying something to keep them quiet (not that I do that, no not me) doesn’t break the bank. It’s also a great way to teach your child about giving. They get a toy and that purchase helps children in other countries. When I was a child my mom and I would routinely go through toys and take them to the children’s ward at the local hospital. Ikea’s campaign gives parents a chance to share that sentiment on a global scale. You don’t even have to live near an Ikea; these toys can be purchased online. Perhaps as a class gift, a toy and a note that says your gift helped a child somewhere in the world.

In 2010 the campaign raised over $15 million. By the end of 2015 it is estimated that Ikea social projects, in conjunction with Save the Children andUNICEF, of which this is one, will have benefited 100 million children.

Extra Life: Play Games. Heal Kids

Extra Life. Be A Hero.

My two girls are turning one of their bedrooms into a restaurant. There is a pink tea cart parked in front of the door with a sign that reads “Please Wait. Not Open.” and I can hear the clinking of their Beatrix Potter tea set. I’ve been given a lovely appetizer tray of Wheat Thins and American cheese slices to tide me over until they open, but I must type quickly because at any moment they will call me for dinner on the bedroom floor. This is part of the fun of being a parent, and a child, but not every family is able to enjoy such simple pleasures.

There are children who fight for their lives every day.  They struggle with the smallest tasks because their biggest challenge is not deciding how to get the crackers out of the high cabinet, but trying to survive.  My youngest has terrible asthma and the most frightening days of my life have been spent in hospitals, watching her struggle for every breath.  It is a horrible ordeal for parents and children.  Our last hospital stay was at Children’s Hospital Boston.  The people there saved my daughter’s life and although I can never repay that debt I can try to help them just a little by being a part of Extra Life.

The idea began in 2008 when the gamers of the Sarcastic Gamer Community decided to honor the memory of Victoria Emmon, a little girl who lost her battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  In her memory, they came up with the idea of Extra Life, a 24 hour gaming marathon.  In the first two years they raised $302,000 for their local hospital (Texas Children’s Hospital) but saw the need to expand their reach.  The event now includes every country on the planet and participants can raise funds for Children’s Miracle Network hospital of their choice.

Extra Life is being held on October 15th, 2011 and I will be playing games for 24-hours straight to raise money for sick kids. I’m playing a week later this year (as a make-up day) since I can’t participate on the 15th, but I’m still determined to support kids who are fighting for their precious lives. You can help by either signing up to participate and support your local hospital or by making a donation at my Extra Life Donation Page. Your donation is tax-deductible and 100% of your gift goes to helping heal kids. The work these hospitals do is worth supporting in any way possible.  All the proof you need is upstairs about to open a restaurant on her bedroom floor.

Stand Clear Of the Swinging Sabers

Star Wars At 30 (Tokyo)

Some of my favorite Star Wars collectibles are the ones I snapped up in Tokyo (like this banner shown above)

So, it’s no big surprise to see the Japanese celebrating the release of the films on Blu-Ray by making the subway handrails look like light sabers…

By the way, Japan can still use help.  If you’re local to SoCal, check out this charity event thrown by We Heart Japan.

Do-Gooder Gifts for the Holidays: Personal As Well As Global

gifts of service, do-gooder gifts, donation gifts, gifts of love,
Conversation at Night by Margret Hofheinz-Döring

It feels great to give gifts. It feels even better to give one that does good.

You know what I mean, a donation that plants a tree, digs a village well, or trains a midwife in the name of your recipient. It’s a wonderful way to show love and respect. But quite often at the moment your friend is opening gifts at her shower or your family is gathered for the holidays, a card describing your very thoughtful gift just doesn’t seem very festive. It also may not fully convey the meaning you intend. Lets veer away from examining materialism and and the struggles so many of us have simply getting by. Lets simply talk about making these global gifts more personal.

It helps to connect the gift to what the recipient means to you. Why not protect endangered land for someone who grounds you? Donate baby chicks in the name of your favorite chick pals? Give the gift of vision in honor of someone who helps you see things in a new way?  Letting recipients know what they mean to you and why you chose a particular donation can be an integral part of the gift.

Sometimes it also helps to include a small symbolic present along with the real gift of your donation. The following gift pairings are suggestions to get you thinking as you consider the extraordinary possibilities these organizations offer.

Put a jar of dirt in a gift bag. Or tie a ribbon on a small potted tree. Include an acre ($50). Adopt An Acre is a land purchase program sponsored by The Nature Conservancy. So far it has protected 600,000 acres around the world from logging and other development. Your gift of $50 adopts an acre of land in danger of deforestation. The program sends the recipient of your gift a personalized certificate, a world map, a fact sheet, and more.

Present a homemade goodie, include a week’s worth of groceries for a struggling U.S. family ($45). Wrap baby booties, toss in a safe motherhood kit for women birthing at home in Haiti ($33). Tie a ribbon on a water bottle, provide a bike ambulance for African villagers ($36). Alternative Gifts International partners with established charities in the interest of a peaceful world community and environmental protection.

Tie a gift tag on a jar of local honey; add bees, a beehive, and training for new beekeepers ($30). Wrap up a chick flick, include a starter flock of chicks ($20).  Heifer International’s approach to ending world hunger has to do with life-sustaining gifts that expand on what the organization calls “unimaginable blessings.” For example, when one family receives a milk cow from Heifer International, they agree to give that cow’s first calf along with their own knowledge of animal husbandry to someone else in the community. The recipient of that calf makes the same agreement, and so on.

Give a reusable net shopping bag and toss in a life-saving bed net ($10). Nothing But Nets focuses on malaria prevention, a disease which kills over a million people (often small children) each year. The strategy is based on providing a type of bed net shown to reduce disease transmission rates up to 90%. Every donation provides a specially treated net and prevention education.

Tie a packet of seeds to a trowel, add the gift of heirloom seeds and gardening tools for a Native family ($50). Give a print of a beautiful scene, add the gift of vision restored to a blind person ($50). SEVA is a Sanskrit word for compassionate action. It gives donors an opportunity to share the honor of providing needed services in gift form.

Gift a photo of a girl you love, add protection for a formerly exploited child ($50). Wrap a package of pencils, add a backpack full of school supplies for a needy U.S. child ($30). Present a CD, add the gift of art and music instruction for a child ($20). World Vision sends direct assistance to projects benefiting oppressed or impoverished people in many countries around the world.

You might also enjoy making a donation locally. Consider what causes are dearest to the heart of your recipient and give a gift of your time or money to further that cause.

gifts of gratitude, gifts of service, random acts of kindness,
Hand by Fernando Castro Pacheco

Consider a charity clearinghouse when you have no idea of the recipient’s interests. A gift certificate to allows your boss, your brother’s girlfriend, and that dear uncle whose politics you can’t fathom to donate to their own causes.

Although the above organizations are known for reliability, remember to give wisely. The best programs allocate three-quarters or more of their budgets directly to programs rather than wasting resources on administration and fund-raising. They also operate on an open-book basis and consistently work toward their goals. Before donating to any cause, check them out. Go to Charity Navigator or the American Institute of Philanthropy’s Charity Watch.

And if you’re really inspired to do good, bring it on when it’s your turn to receive. Consider what a gift you can give others by asking friends and relatives to perform acts of kindness on your behalf instead of giving YOU presents. This woman requested 30 such gifts for her 30th birthday.

After the Halloween Haul: What To Do With All That Candy?

Image: CC by Matt McGee via Flickr

After the trick or treating is over, the decorations stored, and the costumes have been put away, we are left with one thing: tons of candy. We limit our geekette’s candy to one to two pieces a day, if that. The best thing is, she kind of self-limits. We have the candy sitting out in a plastic bag on the counter but she rarely asks for a piece. She forgets it is there.

So last year, round about August when another Halloween was rapidly bearing down on us, we found ourselves with a two gallon baggie full of candy. I started hunting around for something to do with it.

Turns out, there are quite a few options. Here are some things you can do with all that candy. The best part is most of the ideas can be turned into quality family time. Be sure and contact places to make sure they are accepting donations and keep in mind some Halloween candy has holiday specific wrappers so they may not be good to use for other holidays, or may expire.

  • Blue Star Mothers: our local chapter takes candy donations and put them in care packages for the troops overseas. Check with your local chapter and see if they take candy donations.
  • Ronald McDonald House: find your local chapter and see if they are accepting donations. Many of the kids and their families that are staying here don’t get to go trick or treating.
  • Local children’s hospital or nursing homes: head over to your local children’s hospital or nursing homes and your kids can reverse trick or treat. Rather than knocking on doors asking for candy, they can knock on doors and give it to the residents. They can even get some extra wear out of their costumes.  Be sure and check with staff at the facility and get the OK before going.
  • Separate the items into plastic baggies and save for presents for teachers or others to whom you would like to give small gifts. You can decorate the bag with ribbons or a fancy paper tag.
  • If you are into cooking, save the candy bars to make candy bar pies or use them to top brownies or add them to cheesecakes for the holidays.
  • Save it for your child’s birthday pinata. That way the other kids get to take most of it home.
  • Make Christmas decorations. Use the particularly colorful candies and either string them together for a candy garlandor hang them with fishing line from the tree. You can also glue them to a foam wreath or Styrofoam tree shape to decorate your house or use them to decorate a gingerbread house.

These are just a few ideas to get your started. What do my fellow GeekMoms do with your candy haul?