How to Throw a My Neighbor Totoro Birthday Party

When I was pregnant with my second child, we figured out the perfect theme for decorating the baby’s room: a Totoro nursery!

When we found out the baby was our second girl, we figured out the perfect middle name: Mae—different spelling, but same name as the little girl from My Neighbor Totoro. So when the first movie she actually watched end-to-end was My Neighbor Totoro, it only made sense. And when it came to letting her choose the theme for a second birthday, again, it only made sense that she would pick Totoro. Continue reading How to Throw a My Neighbor Totoro Birthday Party

Why I Gave My Nephew Spider-Man

In our house, we limit screen time, maybe an hour a day. For the first two years, we capped TV watching at an hour a week.

We also tend away from the licensed products.

You know the ones I am talking about, the Elsa socks, Batman toothbrushes, or Elmo dolls. So imagine my husband’s surprise when I announced we were giving our two-year-old nephew Spider-Man for Christmas.

It all started with a sentence:

“I’m going to lose!”

Continue reading Why I Gave My Nephew Spider-Man

PAX Australia 2015 (Part 1): The Geek Social Hub

If the “geek shall inherit the Earth” then PAX is where they divvy up the loot.

As an expo, it is a huge opportunity to try new games, find new talent, and “mingle with your people.” Trust me—I have plenty of new finds to +1 your geek status.

But as a social hub? It’s a whole other level.

Continue reading PAX Australia 2015 (Part 1): The Geek Social Hub

Dakster Dances Anxiety Away With the “Macarena”

Anxiety and depression have prevented me from doing some normal day to day things for most of my life. Over the past five years, I’ve learned something very valuable; put me in armor or a costume and, despite my mental battles, you can see my natural personality shine.

This year, I started going back to school for my degree in Media Communications. The first week of my new class I was tasked with creating a video that showcased my goals and who I am. I had to upload it to YouTube as “unlisted” so my instructor and classmates could see it.

<Insert panic attack here>

I freaked when I read the assignment. I emailed my instructor, sent him messages on the classroom board, called his campus office, all because I was having a panic attack over making a simple 4-minute video with me as the main subject. Continue reading Dakster Dances Anxiety Away With the “Macarena”

GeekGirlCon 2015 Cosplay Gallery

GeekGirlCon in Seattle, WA, sold out again this year! GeekGirlCon might have a reputation as one of the year’s most relaxed and family-friendly conventions, but that doesn’t mean that cosplayers don’t bring their A game.

Here’s a gallery of some of the best costumes on display on Saturday, October 10, at GeekGirlCon 2015.

Continue reading GeekGirlCon 2015 Cosplay Gallery

6 Questions With Darling Army’s Cosplay Clothing Wiz

The Darling Tennant Suiting Cosplay Jumper Pinfore (left) and the Galaxy Police Box Cosplay Kimono Dress (right) are two of Darling Army’s top sellers. All photos courtesy of Darling Army/Amanda Marin.

A few weeks back, we featured “11 Awesomely Geeky Aprons” on GeekMom. People love aprons because they provide a nice excuse to squeeze a little cosplay in everyday—or at all, if you like to keep your cosplay behind closed doors.

However, as the owner of the online shop Darling Army, cosplay artist Amanda Marin makes designs that you’d be proud to wear almost anywhere. Heck, I’d wear this Pokeball skirt or even this Baymax pinafore to the grocery store, if I could.

Amanda doesn’t just create aprons, but she also does dresses, skirts, bibs, tights, and more. She aims to add one new design to her site every week, but she’s also pretty open to suggestions. She just isn’t always open to new orders. In fact, she typically only takes on 20 projects at a time, which can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to create. When she does take on new orders, she usually fills up within 4 to 5 minutes. (Mark your calendar; the next order window will be open on Sunday, September 13, 2015, at 7:00 a.m. PDT.)

Although she constantly has orders to fill, I got the chance to ask Amanda about her online shop, her inspirations, and some of her best-sellers.

GeekMom: Please describe your shop…

Amanda Marin: I focus on making cosplay alternatives for cute enthusiasts. In general, I take male characters or objects from shows and adapt their designs to be more flattering for a woman’s body. Instead of making full cosplay or dresses, I focus on adapting these designs into kimono dresses and pinafores which can easily be adjusted for multiple sizes and removed, which makes them ideal for long convention days. Have you ever tried to even take a simple eating break during a con in full cosplay? It’s a nightmare!

Photo: Amanda Marin.

GM: How long have you been doing this?

AM: I’ve been sewing my own cosplay for almost 15 years (since I was 12), but I’ve only been offering them to other people for the past four years. When I was working towards my teaching credential, I couldn’t hold a normal job because I was student teaching full-time during the day and going to classes at night. Since I didn’t have money for Christmas presents that year, I made my friends fandom pinafores with leftover fabric and they loved them! Eventually, I decided I’d have to start selling my designs online since it was my only job option. The rest is history!

GM: Would you say that most people order for cosplay or everyday wear? Or do you even know?

AM: It depends. Most people order the pinafores and kimono dresses for conventions and specific costume events. The skirts and capelets are more for everyday wear. My printed dresses and tights are new, but I think a lot of people are ordering those for everyday and casual convention days.

GM: Where do you get your ideas?

AM: From whatever I am playing, watching, or reading at the time. I have a sketch folder with over 400 designs that haven’t come to the store yet. Every time I join a new fandom or see a new character design, I usually add a couple sketches to that folder.

GM: What is your top seller?

AM: That’s actually pretty hard to say! For a while, my David Tennant Suiting Pinafores were on top, but the addition of kimono dresses has brought a whole new group to the store. For now, I’d say the Galaxy Tardis Kimono Dress has been the most popular design for the past two months. It changes based on the season. Convention season usually sees more anime and gaming-inspired designs, while Halloween leans towards Doctor Who.

GM: Is this your full-time job?

AM: Yes! So much for that teaching degree. I work 10 to 15 hours a day on orders, depending on the season. Halloween usually sees me working from morning ’til night.

For a peek at more of Amanda’s designs, check out the Darling Army website and the Darling Army Facebook page.

A Look At the Best Cosplay of MCM Manchester Comic Con

Error 404: Booth Not Found © Sophie Brown
Error 404: Booth Not Found © Sophie Brown

A few weeks ago, I was able to attend Manchester Comic Con for the fourth time. Since its inception in 2011, the con has continued to grow, expanding both in space and time, giving it hugely increased floorspace and a second day.

As one of the largest conventions in the north of England, the con attracts huge crowds and even with the extra space, the con floor remains packed out. I had debated bringing my five year old along this year for the first time, however after seeing the Saturday crowds I opted against it, choosing to introduce him to the convention world at a smaller local show instead.

The Victorian Steampunk Society Giving a Talk © Sophie Brown
The Victorian Steampunk Society Giving a Talk © Sophie Brown

This year’s Expo suffered many of the same minor issues as previous shows. However vast improvements have been made.

No on-the-door tickets were available on the Saturday which prevented people queueing for hours outside the venue in poor weather—an issue in previous years—in the hopes of getting inside.

This did, however, create one of the longest queues I have ever seen for general admission: one which stretched out of the venue, across the courtyard, over a street, and most of the way around the next block, at the time I arrived. Regardless of its length, the fact that the queue was composed only of those with pre-purchased tickets meant it moved quickly. Two friends who joined the end of the line at the time it stretched around the block reported it took only 45 minutes before they were inside.

Main Stage During the Arrow Panel © Sophie Brown
Main Stage During the Arrow Panel © Sophie Brown

One of my personal gripes with the show was the simple lack of activities. The main stage hosted only a few talks per day alongside the daily cosplay masquerade, and the only other scheduled events were Robots: Live battles.

This year The Victorian Steampunk Society were in attendance with their own events schedule, but even this addition was not enough to really fill two days. I spent some time testing out board games over at the Esdevium Games stand which filled several hours, but even then I found myself ready to leave by early afternoon on Sunday (having left early on Saturday too) because there were only so many times I could walk around the same merchandise stalls.

Trying out Bring Out Yer Dead at the Esdevium Stand © Sophie Brown
Trying out Bring Out Yer Dead at the Esdevium Stand © Sophie Brown

I love Manchester Expo, and having spoken to many regular con attendees, it is a favorite for a lot of the UK geek crowd. Despite its growing size, the con retains a friendly small-show atmosphere and has a great mix of stalls both selling merchandise and for artists over in the Comics Village. I’m already looking forward to bringing my son.

However, I do wish there was simply more to do than just walk around or meet up with friends. While guests are not everything, it is disheartening to see the same company’s London show attracting huge guest stars like Gillian Anderson, Felicia Day, John Noble, and members of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast, while Manchester gets Sylvester McCoy and two of the cast of Arrow.

When the highlight of the weekend’s main stage schedule is a world exclusive preview of an extra from the Robot Overlords Blu-ray—a film that (tragically, it’s actually pretty good) almost nobody went to see—it really suggests a need to try to reach a little higher. Reaching higher has been one of the things the show organizers have been great at. Every year, Manchester Comic Con has grown and improved. I hope it continues to do so. In the meantime enjoy a look at some of the amazing cosplay for this year’s show.

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13 Awesomely Geeky Aprons

My Little Pony via MTCoffinz on Etsy.
My Little Pony Rainbow Dash apron via MTCoffinz on Etsy.

I love to cook, which means I have very few shirts that aren’t stained with sauces, oils, and other ingredients from my kitchen experiments.

A few years back, I went into this super-cute general store in New England and found a handmade apron for a mere $6. It was a no-brainer of a purchase, as well as one that has saved me from having to throw out half of my wardrobe.

Aprons are an essential kitchen tool, which come in a variety of patterns. While the $6 special is hard to come by, if you’re willing to pay a few extra bucks, there are a slew of them out there that allow you to extend your geeky fashion to the kitchen—or even the convention hall. Want to see what’s cooking in the world of geeky aprons? Check out the slideshow for 13 of my current favorites.

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Shopping List:

Being The Worst Cosplayer

Image By Rebecca Angel

What defines the worst cosplayer? Perhaps not remembering much about the character. Not even their real name. That was me!

Image By Luke Maxwell

This is She-Ra, Princess of Power. In case you aren’t familiar with her, you might know her brother He-Man. When I was little, I watched He-Man on a regular basis, and then She-Ra too. I have fond memories of visiting my Grandma with my sister. First we got a snack of two cookies (never enough!) and a cup of milk (eww, but I had to drink it.) Then we would sit in front of the TV and watch those two cartoons.

Skeletor was seriously bad when I was six. The speedos didn’t faze me. I wondered why that scene of He-Man throwing a rock was in every show. I loved, loved, loved She-Ra’s pegasus. And she was so cool.

Flash-forward to now, decades later. My sister decided she wanted to be She-Ra for Halloween last Fall. Our mother made a fantastic costume. Getting ready for ConnectiCon this year, I remembered the costume and decided I could cosplay! I haven’t cosplayed in several years, and with no work involved getting it ready, I figured I was all set.

Forgot about the research part. Research? Yeah. I watched the cartoon thirty years ago, so my memories are really, really vague. It didn’t occur to me that I should review some stuff before going to a geeky convention where people might actually be FANS of my character. Oops.

It started the morning I was getting my costume on at a house crowded with people all going to the Con.

ME: (getting the headpiece on over the wig)
CON-GOER 1: You look adorable!
CON-GOER 2: That’s fitting since her name is Adora.
ME: No. I’m She-Ra.
CON-GOER 2: Right… and her real name is Adora.
ME: It is?
CON-GOER 1: (laughs)
CON-GOER 2: (sighs)
ME: Didn’t He-Man have another name too?
CON-GOER 2: Yes.
ME: Kevin?
CON-GOER 2: Adam.
ME: Damn.

I filed that information away in case someone called me Adora instead of She-Ra. I was all set! Except I wasn’t. The first person to recognize me unfortunately knew way more about the show.

REAL FAN: She-Ra! Yes! Great costume!
ME: Thanks!
REAL FAN: Watch out for (insert random strange name here.)
ME:…um…yeah! Yeah, I will!
(Walking away with my son)
ME: Was it obvious I had no idea who she was talking about.
MY SON: Yes.
ME: Damn.

I ran into the fellow con-goer from the morning and pumped her for more info. I couldn’t remember most of what she told me (should have written it down) but I did remember the power sword words: “For the honor of Grayskull… I am She-Ra!” Good for me. By the end of the day, I didn’t run into anyone who quizzed me, but I did get some thumbs up from fans, and one photo taken. Yay!

Next time I cosplay I promise to know a little more about my character before parading around. I really am a fan of She-Ra, just a very old one.

The Perfect Jewelry for Cosplay and Everyday

EdithYorkinspired Jewelry on Etsy
Some favorite pieces. Photo: Martha Lewis.

Here at GeekMom, we frequently share DIY cosplay ideas. Those include everything from the costume itself to the best accessories. Maybe you’re looking for a steampunk gypsy hairpiece or tips for Big Hero 6-themed family cosplay. How about the perfect jewelry to go along with your costume? Last week, I had an opportunity to interview Martha Lewis, crafter and jewelry designer. She repurposes older, and sometimes incomplete or broken, pieces of jewelry into new works of art appropriate for cosplay and everyday.

GeekMom Maryann: Hi Martha Lewis! Welcome to GeekMom, and thanks taking the time to talk to us about your passion for jewelry making.

Martha Lewis: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my jewelry.

GMM: When did your interest in jewelry making start?

ML: After 33 years working for the Henrico County Police and Sheriff Departments in Virginia, I retired on January 1, 2011. A month later, I signed up for a beginners jewelry-making class offered through the county for $6. I went to my first class, and two hours later, I left with five pieces of jewelry that I had just made. The skills I learned in the class evolved into a love for creating and designing one-of-a-kind jewelry items. I found that I have a real knack for recycling loose beads, broken bracelets, and tangled necklaces and morphing them into new meaning for each unique piece.

EdithYorkinspired Jewelry on Etsy
A wonderful combination of treasure chest and lock. Ahoy mate! Photo: Martha Lewis.

GMM: Who was your inspiration?

ML: My grandmother, Edith, and her namesake, my mother. They both loved colorful and shiny jewels. With the passing of each, I was afforded the privilege to be the new owner of their trinkets. Since they both grew up and lived on the York River, as did I, EdithYorkinspired was chosen as the name for my jewelry line.

GMM: I understand that you have memories of a favorite childhood piece that belonged to your grandmother. Can you tell us a bit more about that piece and why it speaks to you?

ML: When I was a child, my grandmother gave me an opal ring surrounded with rhinestones. I loved wearing it, even though it turned my finger green! I still have the ring, and I will always cherish it.

EdithYorkinspired Jewelry on Etsy
An eclectic combination of brass elements combines for a beautiful necklace. Photo: Martha Lewis.

GMM: Can you tell us a bit more about where you find the pieces for your designs? Sometimes at local thrift stores, I see bags of broken pieces of jewelry. Do you snatch those up?

ML: I find a lot of vintage jewelry at estate sales and auctions. Typically, there will be a box or bag of broken and tangled jewelry up for sale. More often than not, I bid on the unknown. Once I get home and rummage through it, it’s always a surprise to see what I can actually use. I have gotten some pieces from thrift shops, but I find that most of their grab bags are costume jewelry.

GMM: How long does it take you to make your pieces?

ML: Since each piece is unique, that plays a big role in how long it takes to complete. If I finish a piece but am not pleased with it, I will break it down and start over.

EdithYorkinspired Jewelry on Etsy
Making use of old timepieces. Photo: Martha Lewis.

GMM: Can you tell us a bit about what goes into the creative process to take a bag of loose beads, pendants, etc. and form a vision for the new piece?

ML: Usually, I will decide on a pendant, or main focal point and go from there. Coordinating beads, chains, charms, and a clasp are all decided on before I begin crafting.

GMM: Are you aware that some of the pieces you create fit in nicely with cosplay and steampunk? I’ve seen clocks, keys, owls, and other wonderful vintage items in your jewelry.

ML: When I first started this hobby, probably 75 percent of what I was making was related to or referred to as steampunk. I still make that style along with beaded items. Since each piece is created from a vision, it pretty much depends on my thought pattern at that moment.

EdithYorkinspired Jewelry on Etsy
Tools of the trade and a wonderful assortment of pieces to work with. Photo: Martha Lewis.

GMM: I understand that you previously sold your jewelry at local consignment stores and through Bling of the Past. How can interested buyers view the current pieces you have for sale?

ML: In June 2015, I launched EdithYorkinspired on Etsy. I plan to add new items on a regular basis to hopefully capture repeat viewers and lots of sales.

GMM: Thanks for taking the time to talk to the GeekMom readers about your wonderfully unique jewelry items.

ML: It was my pleasure, and thank you for offering to spotlight EdithYorkinspired.

EdithYorkinspired Jewelry on Etsy
Beautiful green-themed owl. Photo: Martha Lewis.

Like what you see? Martha would love to have you visit her EdithYorkinspired Etsy store.

Costumes and More From ConCarolinas 2015

Arrow costumes. Photo by Debadeep Sen.
I found fellow Arrow fans to photograph with my Nyssa al Ghul costume! Photo by Debadeep Sen.

This past weekend, ConCarolinas returned to Charlotte, NC, for the 14th year. It’s a great con that I always enjoy, and this year was no different.

It was, however, quite different from last year’s event in two significant ways. Last year’s guest of honor was George R. R. Martin, which was amazing, but it gave the con a significant slant in attendance to Game of Thrones fans. This year was back to a broader audience with far fewer Khaleesi costumes.

The con also moved to an Embassy Suites with a convention center space in nearby Concord from its previous location at the University Hilton. Opinions from long-time con-goers varied on the change. Some felt the new space was a bit too large (and perhaps would have been more useful for last year’s roving bands of Khaleesis). Indeed, some panels that would have felt full in a more size-appropriate space seemed sparsely attended in the expansive rooms available in the new hotel. On the other hand, the layout on a square was quite convenient (keep walking; you’ll find what you’re looking for!). And with the amenities of an Embassy Suites (read: massive, cooked-to-order breakfast and evening drinks both included), not to mention the spacious hotel rooms for con-goers who like to pile in, I found it to be a great space for a con.

Despite a Kids Track, there didn’t seem to be particularly many children in attendance. (This apparently shortage may also be because I left my own children with their grandmother!) The schedule also featured several panels for parents that I attended, including “Getting Your Kids Into Gaming” and “Raising Scientifically Minded Children.” The latter spurred an interesting debate amongst some of the panelists over whether and to what extent we should be pushing all children into science.

Jim Craig, the panel moderator and Planetarium Director at The Schiele Museum of Natural History, commented that science doesn’t have the same cool and exciting portrayal in pop culture that it did in the 1950s and 1960s. He also noted that today, we tend to blame problems on scientists instead of politicians. After the other panelists suggested ways we can change this, such as through encouraging children with competitions and games, author James Maxey said, “The whole concept of how you make it cool is the wrong way to go. Coolness isn’t the problem—science doesn’t have a marketing problem.” He went on to say that a century ago and even more when so many great discoveries were being made, it wasn’t 50 percent of the population who understood science. It wasn’t even 5 percent. “We never needed a majority of people to understand a science in order for it to advance,” Maxey said. “So I don’t know that trying to get everybody engaged is the wisest route.”

Science guest of honor Catherine Asaro rebutted that we’re in a scientific time unmatched in history, where we all take technology for granted. She argued that to keep up with that pace, the population in general needs to be more scientifically aware. Craig replied that that’s why the smart people work to make the technology more idiot-proof, explaining that while he has a broad understanding of his phone, he doesn’t have any idea what makes the earphones work or what the science of the glass in the screen is. “I could devote years of studying to understand it, but would that enhance my life?” he asked.

“We don’t all need to be specialists,” Asaro said. “We just need the awareness that you just demonstrated.”

In far less serious hours of the con, there was a lot to take in. Doctor Who fans gathered with Fourth Doctor scarves, which they laid end-to-end in a Guinness World Record attempt. (No word yet on the outcome.) One of my favorite geek entertainers, Mikey Mason, gave several concerts. Nerd-Vana Burlesque made their ConCarolinas debut, although my favorite part of that show was not the burlesque, but emcee Rich Sigfrit’s readings of 50 Shades of Grey as characters like Ron Swanson and Pinky and the Brain. (You can see a few other of his “50 Shades of Wrong” characters on Nerd-Vana’s YouTube channel.)

If you find yourself looking for a great Southeast con to add to your schedule, you can register for 2016 now for only $30. Next year’s event will be held June 3-5, 2016. Check out the photo gallery below for some of the con’s highlights, including the great costumes.

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Denver Comic Con DIY Cosplay: ‘Big Hero 6’

Not perfect, but it'll work. My older son's Megabot prop to use at Denver Comic Con this weekend.
Not perfect, but it’ll work. My older son’s Megabot prop for Denver Comic Con. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Last month, our family had a fun time with costume preparations for our Big Hero 6-themed family cosplay for Denver Comic Con. While most of our parts were commercial-off-the-shelf purchases from places like Amazon and our local craft store, some of our items had to be homemade. I used a Pinterest board to collect all of the ideas we found.

For a refresher on the looks we were trying to achieve with our sons, check out our inspiration pictures for Hiro and Fred.

Iron-On T-shirts

With the help of some iron-on printer paper, I made the T-shirts with simple $5 T-shirts from our local hobby store.

Iron-on printer paper is a godsend. Photo: Patricia Vollmer
Iron-on printer paper is a godsend. We were also pleased with Fred’s pendant. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Fred’s Pendant

The green pendant around our Fred’s neck is homemade from Fimo clay. It turned out really well; bright and sturdy. I used plastic lacing for the cord.

Fred's pendant. It's not precisely the same, but I'm very pleased with how similarly it turned out. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Fred’s pendant. It’s not precisely the same, but I’m very pleased with how similarly it turned out. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Fred’s Knit Cap

I’m afraid time got the better of me for Fred’s knit cap. I found some great hand-crocheted ideas online, and bought some some blue-green yarn. But then, I got diverted—and diverted again… and again… and again.


I ended up not starting on the knit cap until mid-week just before the con, and I feverishly finished it about 12 hours before we headed out the door!

Hiro’s Megabot

Our older son asked about whether we could buy a toy Megabot to carry around the con. He asked this question about two weeks prior to the event, and some basic interneting yielded no such toys. We saw a cute Megabot flash drive, but it ships from China, so there was no way we’d get it in time. We saw numerous ideas for making homemade Megabot props out of paper, styrofoam, or Fimo clay.

We didn’t trust the paper or foam versions lest it gets destroyed during the con, so we tried our hands at the Fimo clay version, with guidance from this Spanish-language video we found on YouTube.

Rolling out the Megabot body and limbs. Pro tip: Do what you require with the lightest colors first, then work with the black clay. As you can see, we did everything in reverse and spent a lot of time scrubbing our hands before handling the white and yellow clay. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My son assembles the Megabot, using wooden kabob skewers as supports. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Not perfect, but it'll work. My older son's Megabot prop to use at Denver Comic Con this weekend.
Not perfect, but it’ll work. My older son’s Megabot prop for Denver Comic Con. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

The Final Result

Fred and Hiro ready to enjoy Denver Comic Con! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Fred and Hiro ready to enjoy Denver Comic Con! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Dr. Callaghan

My husband pondered quite a bit about how to fit in with our family theme. We started investigating the “evil” Dr. Callaghan with the kabuki mask, but we didn’t give ourselves enough time to make it successful. Instead, he came up with a clever, but subtle, idea.

Look closely. My husband had a fun time making up a San Fransokyo Tech Showcase badge. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Look closely. My husband had a fun time making up a San Fransokyo Tech Showcase badge. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My husband quite literally paused Big Hero 6 to capture the logos and the name of the robotics lab for this faux conference badge. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Feedback from DCC? It was all very subtle… perhaps too subtle. My husband insists that no one noticed he was anything other than a guy attending a con in khakis and a sweater vest. My sons found their doppelgängers and I got some photos of with them.

Two Freds. They traded costume tips and ideas too. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My oldest son found his Doppelganger. It was the only other Hiro Hamada we saw at DCC all weekend. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My oldest son found his doppelgänger. It was the only other Hiro Hamada we saw at DCC all weekend. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Denver Comic Con: Family Cosplay at its Finest

Our ‘Big Hero 6’-inspired family cosplay was much less outrageous than our 2012 experience, which wasn’t altogether a bad thing. We are posing with a replica Back to the Future DeLorean for a TeamFox fundraiser. Photo: Terry Holler, used with permission.

The amazing Denver Comic Con weekend is over, and I’m now overflowing with so much to write about! Our family’s whole weekend was such fun! Let’s talk about it!

About Denver Comic Con

Denver Comic Con is an education program of the Pop Culture Classroom, a non-profit that serves the Denver area with programming that centers on pop culture.

During DCC itself, the Pop Culture Classroom was ready to go with nearly 400 hours of educational programming and 9,000 sq. ft. of convention floor dedicated to the Pop Culture Laboratory, an area designed to engage kids in STEAM educational activities, youth-based programming, and fun activities for our younger attendees and their families. Younger guests were able to work directly with professionals from the comic book and animation industries as well as other creative professions.

Family Focused…No, Really!

Denver Comic Con prides itself on being family-friendly, and they mean it. You see evidence in this with the low prices for children to attend ($5 for one day, $10 for the entire weekend—the same costs as taking your kids to a movie!), as well as the plainly published rules for cosplay and conduct during panels.

As mentioned in the previous section, one of DCC’s most celebrated features is the Pop Culture Laboratory (which is pronounced “La-BOHR-a-tory,” as explained on signs around the con). Located in the dead center of the upper convention center floor, this area is meant expressly for younger guests; the kids have priority for all programming, however, parents and kids-at-heart can take part if space is available. In fact, at some point during the con, some makeshift signs appeared reminding guests that the laboratory area is alcohol-free. Who wouldn’t want to take part in comic art classes, a forensics lab mystery, or hearing Patrick Warburton read Green Eggs and Ham?

Family Cosplay: The Rule, Not the Exception

Children are everywhere at Denver Comic Con. While I was pleased that my sons are old enough to keep up with my crazed roaming all over the Colorado Convention Center, I was constantly making googly faces at the adorable younger children dressed as everything from Steven Universe (easy peasy: jeans, flip flops, and a red t-shirt with a yellow star painted on) to Harley Quinn to Princess Peach to one of Daenerys Targaryen’s baby dragons.

When our family was at Dragon*Con in 2012, we were stopped constantly because family cosplay, by which I mean the family is dressing together with a common theme, isn’t as popular there. In fact, there simply aren’t many kids at all. But if are looking for all the fun of an affordable, large—and by large I mean over 100,000 guests!—con with a focus on youth and doesn’t sell out in two minutes, come to Denver!

Enjoy photos of some of the family cosplay from this past weekend.

Several of our neighborhood families were part of the Denver Comic Con fun and dressed together. Can you guess who these kids are? Hint: the two in the middle are twins. Photo: Janet Baratti, used with permission.
Several of our own neighborhood’s families were part of the Denver Comic Con fun and dressed up together. Can you guess who these kids are cosplaying as? Hint: two of the kids in the middle are twins. Photo: Janet Baratti, used with permission.
Is this couple cute or what? I tried so hard to get the baby dragon to smile but she was just too tired. This was late in the day on Saturday and mom said she was wiped out. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Is this couple cute or what? I tried so hard to get the baby dragon to smile but she was just too tired. This was late in the day on Saturday and mom said she was wiped out. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Okay, not a family, but I couldn’t ignore a set of Ghostbusters complete with realistic (and HEAVY!) proton packs now, could I? Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Last, but not least, with one of the weekend’s big-ticket events being a reunion of the Animaniacs voice actors, this family’s costumes were a huge win! I’ll be writing more about these folks in another DCC post. I’m very grateful this family was willing to step out of line to pose for me. Little Wakko was very tired but still smiled. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

GeekMom received family media passes to Denver Comic Con for review purposes.

Conquer the Convention With the Con*Quest Journal

First page of my Con*Quest Journal. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
First page of my Con*Quest journal. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

The Con*Quest journal comes with a sharpie marker and 30 pages for autographs, artist sketches, cosplay photos, panel notes and quotes, favorite vendors, stickers, and comic book style pages to note down all there is a standard convention. In the back of the binder, there’s a spot for business cards, a zipper pouch to hold ticket stubs and other paper swag, and four sleeves for holding comics, art, and photo-ops.

I carried my journal with me on the first and last days of the MegaCon. It was helpful in keeping the business cards for vendors in one place and storing my autograph from Michael Rooker. For the most part though, I put it together at home.

I found that with my comic book shopping, I didn’t necessarily want to take my journal into the convention each day. If I had it to do over, I would have taken just the autograph pages into the convention with me and filled in the rest in my hotel room. I also would have taken my Polaroid camera to print out my pictures and label them while it was all fresh in my brain.

Looking at my finished MegaCon journal, I can see where I have plenty of space to put in another set of pages for another convention. Of course, if I took this to a convention like DragonCon or SDCC, I might have needed two journals.

At the moment, Con*Quest does not sell refill pages, but hopefully that will be an option in the future. If you need more standard blank pages though, you can grab a four pack for $5.

A standard Con*Quest journal costs $40 + shipping. For $5 more, you can get a tote that is perfect for carrying it in. I recommend this because it’s annoying to have to go into your backpack every time you need to pull it out.

If you want to have a little social interaction at the convention, pick up a pack of Con-pliment cards ($3 for a pack of ten). I gave these mostly to children because their faces lit up when someone appreciated their costume.

For those who want something a bit smaller than the regular Con*Quest journal, check out the Con*Panion mini journal. It has some of the same design pages, but in a smaller format.

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GeekMom received a sample of this product for review purposes. 

Denver Comic Con: Who’s Joining Me?

Image credit:
Image credit:

Well, it’s been a while for my family, but we’re looking forward to getting a chance to attend another con in a couple weeks! This time, it’s Denver Comic Con!

During my interview with Erin Gray at Dragon*Con in 2012, it came up that I was at Dragon*Con with younger children. She told me that of all the cons she’s attended (and that would be many), among her favorites was Denver’s, expressly because it is so kid-friendly.

My family is very excited to be able to join me while I cover DCC for GeekMom. The con is May 22-25 at the Denver Convention Center and (unlike the bigger, more commercialized events), there are still tickets available!! There are only day-passes remaining, but that sure beats getting shut out of the event altogether. That’s awesome, isn’t it? While the venue is just as big as some of the larger events such as NYCC, the organizers work pretty hard to keep it down-to-earth. With an all-star lineup of film, comic, and gaming celebrities, it doesn’t appear to be too overwhelming.

Here are some of the things my family is particularly looking forward to at Denver Comic Con:

A Truly Family-Friendly Con

How do I know? Well, two things jumped out at me. First of all, the cost for children to attend can’t be beat! At $5 for one day or $10 for the entire event, you can attend this Comic Con for less than the cost of a movie or even a trip to our local zoo! DCC clearly wants children to be there.

The second thing that indicates how family-friendly this event is can be seen in the cosplay rules. “Denver Comic Con is kid-friendly. Keep it PG.” The website requests that all “bits” be covered and that all costumes have proper undergarments.

We have several friends in our neighborhood with young children who make a family weekend out of DCC, and we look forward to collaborating with them on costumes and what panels they’ll be attending.

The Animaniacs Celebration

Okay, okay, okay… this one has our entire family excited! DCC announced in March that they’ve confirmed the four voice actors from Warner Brothers’ hit animated series, Animaniacs! Wakko, Yakko, Dot, Pinky, and the Brain will all be featured in an “unplugged” style music event. This is at the top of our family’s “to do” list while at DCC.

While my husband and I enjoyed the original series run in the mid-1990s while we were in college, we were pleased to share the show with our sons when it aired in syndication on Hub Network between 2012 and 2014.

Weird Science Cast Reunion? Yes, Please!

While most people will think of The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and St. Elmo’s Fire for 1980s pop-culture films, sometimes Weird Science falls in between the cracks. It’s a classic as well, topping off Anthony Michael Hall’s string of mid-1980s roles as the awkward geek archetype.

To celebrate Weird Science’s 30th anniversary, DCC announced a cast reunion panel on May 23, featuring Hall, who played Gary, Ilan Mitchell-Smith as Wyatt, and Kelly LeBrock as the stunning Lisa.

My husband and I are interested in this reunion panel, and we’re curious if they can get Bill Paxton—Chet—to make an appearance.

Image credit: Breckenridge Brewery
Image credit: Breckenridge Brewery

DCC’s Official Microbrew, “Hulk’s Mash”

I can’t speak for other cons, since we haven’t been to many others, but no event in Colorado is complete without a microbrew! Breckenridge Brewery designates an official DCC beer every year with fun comic-inspired names (such as “Brews Wayne” and “The Fantastic Pour”). This year’s “Hulk’s Mash” was the winning name from over 700 entries, featuring a 6.0-percent ABV pale ale. While in years past the label has been designed by comic book artists, this year they looked to a local Breckenridge, Colorado, art student for the design.

The beer will be for sale at venues throughout the Denver Convention Center area, and my husband and I are looking forward to giving it a try. We had Breckenridge Brewery’s Christmas Ale at our family’s Christmas party last year and it was very popular.

DCC’s Local Scene

One of the things I’ve grown to love since moving to Colorado in summer 2013 is this state’s pride. DCC is very proud of the local talent in literature, music, and comics. I’m looking forward to hearing some of the geeky bands that have been announced so far, such as The Stubby Shillelaghs and Hello McFly, which is a consolidation of numerous Northern Colorado bands to play Back to the Future-inspired tunes at the DCC May 24 Cosplay Shindig event. The Stubby Shillelaghs particularly caught my attention because they bring together two things near and dear to my heart: Celtic music and geeky goodness!

Getting Back into Cosplay

My family hasn’t done much cosplay since we moved here—unless you count my younger son’s Adventure Time birthday party from 2014.

Since we immensely enjoyed the last time our family cosplayed altogether, we decided to give it another go this year. It turns out my oldest son bears a not-so-bad resemblance to Hiro Hamada, so you can guess what direction we’re taking. We are now working on the loose ends for the Big Hero 6 theme (I’ll keep my husband’s and my costumes a surprise); here’s a sneak peek of what we’ve finished so far. Now…where can I find a toy Megabot??

Fred's knit hat and mullet wig are forthcoming, but right now I couldn't be more pleased. Image: Patricia Vollmer.
Fred’s knit hat and mullet wig are forthcoming, but with what we have so far, I couldn’t be more pleased. Image: Patricia Vollmer.

Emily Jones at wrote up a great A-to-Z post about how to make the most of DCC with kids in tow (except for the 21+ after-party). We will be sure to check out the tween/teen STEAM and craft areas with our sons.

Even if you can’t join us, you can still follow along! Be sure to keep in touch with me on Twitter at @vollmerdp, where I will be using the hashtag #DCC2015 to let you know what my family and I are enjoying during the event.

Until Next Year: MegaCon 2015

MegaCon 2015 - Me, my brother, and some random guy \ Image:  Celeb Photo Ops. Used with permission.
MegaCon 2015 – Me, my brother, and some random guy. \ Image: Celeb Photo Ops. Used with permission.

MegaCon 2015 was a huge success this year in Orlando, Florida. With a wide variety of celebrities, artists, vendors, and cosplayers, it was a weekend of diversity.

This year I had three goals: meet Michael Rooker from Guardians of the Galaxy, get a mini painting from Katie Cook, and get my picture with Stan Lee. I accomplished all three and each was as different as the next.

On Friday, I took the opportunity to stop by Michael Rooker’s table and I could have stood there and listen to him interact with people all day. I was super nervous to get his autograph and a picture and could barely talk the entire time (damn anxiety!). During our brief 2-minute interaction, I got his autograph, took a picture with him, and got a total of three hugs. He also invited me into his next photo, which was with my brother, for a group shot of us flipping off the camera (he said it means “I love you“). It was the highlight of my first day and well worth the $90 I spent ($40 for the picture and $50 for the autograph).

Even though Michael Rooker says it means, "I love you," I think I'll keep it kid friendly in here. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Even though Michael Rooker says it means, “I love you,” I think I’ll keep it kid-friendly in here. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

My next stop after Michael Rooker was My Little Pony and Gronk writer and artist Katie Cook.

Katie Cook is one of my favorite authors, artists, and all around nerds. I follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (does that make me a social media stalker?) and I’ve memed her dogs (who should have their own Facebook page in their own right). On the top of my shopping list at her booth was a mini painting of my own. A mass the box full of choices she brought with her, and the option of having one drawn for you on the spot, I choose one of my spirit pony, Pinkie Pie and her party canon. I also asked her to draw me one of my mom’s pups for her birthday and a Deadpool for my younger brother. It was some of the best $30 I spent the entire weekend.

Saturday was my cosplay day and I spent about half of it in my latest cosplay build, Batgirl. I’m especially proud of this costume because my husband built my cowl (not bad for his first time) and I did the sewing of my belts and pouches. My little brother debuted his first cosplay, Red Hood. We were a happy little Batman team with so many positive comments on our builds that day.

Our group this year consisted of Wonder Woman, myself (batgirl), my brother (Red Hood), The Rocketeer, and Jango Fett (my husband) / Image: Jim Carchidi
Our group this year consisted of Wonder Woman, myself (Batgirl), my brother (Red Hood), The Rocketeer, and Jango Fett (my husband) / Image: Jim Carchidi

Sunday was my shopping and Stan Lee day.

To start, I understand Stan Lee has a ton of fans to see and get through each day, but the photo op with him was probably the most impersonal thing I’ve ever done. I would have gladly paid more money for the photo op in exchange for an interaction that was more than “Put your stuff down. Walk behind. Smile. Leave.” No words were spoken. No real “moment” was had. I’m not saying that I regret doing it, because it was something that my little brother and I did together and will cherish for a long time. It just wasn’t nearly as exciting as I expected. My brother on the other hand, was shaking from the excitement when we left. If he comes back next year, I think I’ll do the autograph session instead for the chance at a slower moment in his presence.

I know he is awesome with his fans because a friend of mine ran into him outside the restrooms and Stan actually asked for a picture of him and his cosplay group.

This is what happens when you are standing outside the restroom at the right time. 219th Brain Surgeons, we are an Umbrella Corporation group from the Resident Evil franchise and Stan Lee \ Image: Thom Sousa Used with permission
This is what happens when you are standing outside the restroom at the right time. 219th Brain Surgeons, we are an Umbrella Corporation group from the Resident Evil franchise and Stan Lee \ Image: Thom Sousa

With my third and final goal complete, I used the rest of the day to hit up the vendors for some goodies.

In past years, it felt like half of the floor was taken up by comic book shops or toy sellers. This year there was a nice mix of everything and not too much of it either. came again this year and debuted their Hero Boxes! I reviewed one of these boxes last year and it was by far my favorite subscription box out there so far. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but you get your money’s worth. I also picked up a few other items that I’ll be reviewing in a separate post here on GeekMom.

My favorite purchase this year was a “Surprise” Optimus Prime lightbox from Ransom Designs. I love this piece because it has a different image that shows up in the background behind Optimus when you turn it on. It was also the priciest thing I bought all weekend at $75.  A friend of mine surprised me with an original sketch of SquirrelPool from artist Charles Thurston, who was hanging out in artist alley.

SquirrelPool by artist Charles Thurston. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
SquirrelPool by artist Charles Thurston. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

The vendors and the talent weren’t the only varied things this year. The cosplayers came in a wide variety as well.

Instead of the usual bunches of Harley Quinns, Deadpools, and Batgirls, it seemed like every genre was represented in its own unique way. I ran into a family cosplaying as Batgirl, Red Hood, and their 2-year-old son was wearing a Batman shirt. Another family did up their stroller in Steampunk awesomeness and they were all dressed in the same style. I ran into a cute cosplay family where all the little boys were TMNT and their sister was April O’Neal (2013 series version). They told me they almost had a Splinter join them, but he changed his mind.

Despite wanting to spend some time in the hallways this year, I had so much fun at the vendors and the main room that I hardly spent any time there.

The biggest news of the weekend was that MegaCon was bought out by FanBoy Expo. As with any buyout, there are rumors abound, but one thing has been confirmed: the convention has been moved to Memorial Day weekend next year and will last four days instead of three. This change puts the convention happening not only during a holiday weekend, but also at the same time and in close proximity to Spooky Empire.

For attendees, this will mean for higher hotel rates, larger crowds, and more traffic to get in and out. From a business standpoint, it’s a financially smart move for not only the convention, but the businesses surrounding it. It will be interesting to see what happens and what impact this change will have on the crowds. With the date being set during Star Wars Weekends I already know of one group that will not be able to attend.

Anyway you slice it, MegaCon 2015 was one of my favorite events of the run. From meeting Michael Rooker, standing by Stan Lee for a photo, getting a mini painting from Katie Cook, and spending quality time with my husband and brother, I don’t see how 2016 could be any better.

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Orlando Geeks Unite! It’s Time for MegaCon 2015

Welcome to MegaCon. \  Image Savanna Kiefer
Welcome to MegaCon. \ Image Savanna Kiefer

MegaCon will be taking over the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, on April 10th thru April 12th this year. Complete with celebs, a one-mile indoor walk benefiting the Hero Initiative, gaming, cosplay, and vendors to make you drool.

This year’s MegaCon is a little more special to me because I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday (okay, so I’m celebrating a week early…so sue me) and I’m going to make it count. I have plans for a Stan Lee photo op, a picture and autograph from Michael Rooker, and hitting up some of my favorite artists and vendors for some presents to myself.

The celebrity line-up includes Stan Lee (Mr. Marvel himself), Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy/The Walking Dead), Robbie Amell and Danielle Panabaker (The Flash), Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk (Firefly), David Ramsey (Arrow), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who/Guardians of the Galaxy), and many more.

Also in attendance will be the cast of the Animaniacs—Rob Paulson (Yakko), Tress MacNeille (Dot), and Jess Harnell (Wakko)—which should make for a great “Voice Actors Gone Wild” panel.

In addition to the contests, gaming, and speed dating, MegaCon will also be hosting the first MegaWalk benefiting the Hero Initiative. For $40 you can participate in a one-mile walk lead by Superman legend, George Perez. The best part, other than the really cool medal and swag, is that the walk is indoors and goes right into the main convention hall.

A few of my favorite artists will also be there including, Larry E. Watts (Robyn Hood), The Art of Danny, Charles Thurston, and Ravenwolf Studios. I have pieces from each of these amazing artists and they are worth stopping by and dropping some change on.

Ravenwolf Studios \ Image: Ravenwolf Studios
Ravenwolf Studios \ Image: Ravenwolf Studios

When it comes to shopping the vendors, my favorites are The Crafty Dork,, and Sons of Sandlar.

The Crafty Dork makes adorable amigurumi dolls based on anime, comics, and video games. Sons of Sandlar is the spot to stop at if you want super comfy real leather boots for cosplay or day-to-day wear. I tried them on at a Ren Faire a few weeks ago and fell in love with them.

The 4th Doctor. \ Image: Crafty Dork
The 4th Doctor. \ Image: Crafty Dork is the place to go for your apparel and other geeky accessories. MegaCon is their first convention where they will be selling their awesome Hero Boxes at the booth. You can order your box at the convention and they will ship it to you from the warehouse. For the ladies, they will have some great merchandise including a super cute Rocket Raccoon tank dress, complete with ears and a tail. Of course, you can expect some great Age of Ultron shirts to be on sale as well.

This dress is Rocket Racoon approved.  \Images:
This dress is Rocket Raccoon approved. \ Images:

Not all great booths have something to sell other than awesomeness, so make sure you hit up the 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, Droid Builders, and Mandalorian Mercs booths. Each group will have their own unique photo op set up and who knows? You may run into a wookiee or two.

If you have plans to be in Orlando from April 10th thru the 12th, make sure you stop by and check out the convention. Tickets start at $30.00 for a day or $75 for the weekend. Children 10 and under get in free with a paying adult. MegaCon is an all-ages convention and strollers are welcome.

Knitted Captain America Costume Beats All The Rest

Image: David Alvarez Cosplay
Image: David Alvarez Cosplay.

I once attempted learning how to knit, but it did not go well. The yarn has long since been given away, but this makes me wish I’d kept at it awhile longer. It’s a full Captain America costume that has been knitted from top to bottom.

She’s knitted the boots, belt, gloves, and even a bag that doubles as a shield. Although a shield is Cap’s primary weapon, cosplayer Fangirl Physics also comes armed with two matching blue knitting needles. This is just amazing!

Image: Corpus Photography
Image: Corpus Photography.

If you’re thinking of attempting this cosplay on your own, then you’ll want to check out her making-of page, which has the details of how she made it all. There’s also a link to the pattern and she has been answering questions, too.

So, if I started trying to learn to knit again, then there may be a chance I could figure out how to do this in time for next winter. Or maybe I should just stick to buying premade costumes and leave the knitting to the pros.

(via Fashionably Geek)

Do You Have The Cosplay Bug?

Whoops! Wrong bug. \ Image Flickr user pikawil100, some rights reserved
Whoops! Wrong bug. \ Image: Flickr user pikawil100, some rights reserved

Five years ago, the costume bug bit me hard. The only known cure was to build a costume of my own and wear it out to as many conventions as possible. What no one told me was that the cure was addicting. Once you built one costume, there was a good chance you would want to build another, and then another, and so on.

With five years of experience in the craft under my belt, I’d like to share with you some symptoms that you may exhibit if you too are bitten by the costume bug. If any of these sound like you, I suggest you immediately… do nothing. It’s a fun hobby and you could be doing worse with your time after all.

You know you’re a cosplayer when…

You have more reference pictures of your current build than you do of your own children.

You hoard JoAnn Fabrics coupons and know all the tricks to getting the best deals (including using competitors coupons).

Clip: Galaxy Quest

When you meet someone new,  your first thought is which character they would look best in.

Your friends no longer question how you cut yourself and instead ask what costume you were working on at the time.

Clip: Star Wars Episode V

You walk into Home Depot and see endless possibilities that have nothing to do with actual plumbing or home improvement.

Someone asks you what you think about a particular character and instead of remarking on their personality, you comment on how difficult their costume would be to build.

You know the true value of duct tape, super glue, and a sewing kit in an emergency.

duct tape
Clip: Mythbusters duct tape special

You’ve done household chores in various costume parts because you are testing out your mobility and comfort levels.

Your garage is filled with tools and supplies that have never been used for their intended purpose.

You have more costumes than work appropriate clothing.

arrow cool
Clip: The Flash series premiere

You openly admit to skinning leather couches you see on the side of the road for project material.

You have to advise your spouse that those empty bottles on the table are NOT trash & not to dare throw them out. They will eventually become rocket boosters.

You get excited for new costume ideas more than new plot lines.

Clip: My Little Pony – Power Ponies, The Hub

Your desk has been covered in partially painted deconstructed Nerf gun parts for the last six weeks.

Your spouse starts asking if this bronzer/eye shadow/nail polish is yours or mine?!

Special thanks to my Facebook friends and fellow GeekMoms for their contribution to this article.

Cosplayer’s Survival Kit

Cosplay Emergency \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Image: Dakster Sullivan

It’s not uncommon for something to go wrong while wearing a costume. The trick is learning how to handle it with what you have on you. I’ve worn a range of costumes from armor to body paint and they all require a few basic principles when out and about. If your character has a bag of some sort as part of their costume, you’re in luck. For the rest of us who have to make do with our pockets or utility belts, it can be a bit harder.

Sewing kit
Image: Dollar Tree

The Empire didn’t exactly issue your average backpacks to the clones, so when it comes to my armor costume, I have to rely on someone else to carry my emergency supplies. In this case, I get the individual sized super glue packs at the Dollar Store and I pre-cut some duct tape in the color of my armor. That’s really all you can do when you have a hard plastic build. Zip ties are great to keep on hand as well and are Empire approved.

If your build has some soft parts where you can store a few necessities, here is what I suggest you keep on you.

My personal favorite emergency kit item is an emergency sewing kit I found at the Dollar Store. It’s just small enough to fit into my Batgirl pouch, but large enough to hold everything listed below, with some room to spare. The clear bag makes it easy to check your supplies quickly.

A few things I added to this kit are:

– Hand sanitizer to keep the con crud away
– A contact lens case filled with paint for touch ups (get one that screws shut)
– Cotton balls (for applying paint)
– Small comb (you want to look your best in the paid photo ops don’t you?)
– Needle and thread in the color of your soft parts
– Pre-cut duct tape in the color of your costume (next to C4, it’s the most useful stuff on the planet)
– The individual use size super glue (your local dollar store should sell something like this).
– Rewetting drops / spare set of contacts
– Chapstick

When it comes to snacks, I like to keep beef jerky, gum, and small candy that won’t melt. It’s not much, but when you’re hungry and the lunch line is an hour long, it will make a difference in your stomach.

For hydration, I’ve discovered that the squeeze and go apple sauce packets double as disposable water bottles. Freeze a couple apple sauce packets the night before and store them in your pockets the day of the convention. Once you eat the apple sauce, fill it up with water from the water fountain and you have a nice little stash to keep you from dehydrating.

Do you have a go-to item for costuming emergencies? Share it with us in the comments. We’d love some ideas on what to add to ours.

PinBusted or PinTrusted: Long-Lasting Lip Color Tutorial


DivineCaroline wakeupformakeup website

We’ve all been there, where we put on lip color and it either doesn’t stay or it gunks up within an hour of putting it on. I mean, what’s the point of paying $10 or more for lip color if we can’t get it to stay on long enough to enjoy it? I’ve tried moisturizers, exfoliating, putting lip liner all over my lips before my lip color, and those expensive “all day” lip colors. Nothing ever works as well as it should and after an hour, I’m left wiping the gunk off my lips.

Makeup selfie! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Makeup selfie. Image: Dakster Sullivan.

While combing Pinterest for boards to follow in the cosplay world, I stumbled on a pin that claimed to make my lip color last all day. My first thought was, “Yeah, right!” My second thought was, “What the heck. What do I have to lose?”

I took to the bathroom and dived into the tutorial with low hopes and high expectations.

Your shopping list for this method is pretty short and it’s likely you already have most of it in your makeup kit:

• Lip Exfoliator
• Foundation or concealer
• Lip color of your choice
• Tissue
• Translucent powder

I didn’t have any exfoliator or translucent powder, so I scrubbed my lips as best as I could and used baby powder instead of the brand that they recommend.

Five minutes and some anxiety about dropping my phone down the toilet later, I was done.

While testing out my Batgirl cowl, I learned it was best to keep my mind busy rather than sitting around and watching a clock, so I decided to run a few errands to take my mind off of how long this trick would last.

By the time I got home an hour later, there was no visible gunk on my lips and for the most part, no loss of appearance. I ended up forgetting I was wearing it and reapplied my lip color only once after a couple of hours.

At the end of the day, I never noticed any gunking on my lips and I never felt like my lips were peeling under the makeup.

That Makes This Pin Trusted!

If you’re a cosplayer and need your makeup to last or are just someone who enjoys wearing lipstick in general, give this tutorial a shot to make it go the distance. I’ll definitely be using this trick the next time I’m in a costume that requires makeup.

Pin It! Cosplay Edition

Pin It Cosplay
Image: Dakster Sullivan

Welcome to the first in our new series, Pin It! Here we will discuss our favorite boards, pins, and pinners in the world of Pinterest.  To some, Pinterest is the “black hole of project making” but for a cosplayer it’s becoming a holy grail of information.

For those of you not in the know, Pinterest is a giant internet cork board where you can “pin” your favorite things. I have a board for just about everything including food I want to try out, sewing projects for when I have free time, comic books I enjoy, cosplay tutorials, holiday ideas, and more. It’s a great place to find ideas, daydream about things I’d like to do one day, and just waste time in general.

Cosplayers should be warned that once you get started, you will never run out of projects to spend your time on. On the upside, you can find some very useful hacks and tutorials for any project.

It’s easy to get lost in the ever-growing mass of information that you can find on Pinterest so organization is key.

My advice is to have a board for projects you are working on, a board for projects you dream about, and a board for tutorials you think will be useful. That’s just to start with. You can go crazy with the boards later. For now, stick with the basics.

To get you started, here are some boards you should consider following:

Cosplay Tutorials:
Me! – Cosplay – <shameless self-promotion here> I waste a lot of time on the internet pinning things I like and things I think others will find useful in the cosplay world.
Aidan Bailey – Cosplay Tutorials – Some great tutorials on here.
GeekMom – Clothing and Cosplay – Our lovely ladies, myself included, pack this board with loads of stuff that’s worthy of a look.
The Prop Replica Forum – All boards! – Tons of stuff from amazing cosplayers and prop builders.
Sarah Neko – Cosplay – Nice range of tutorials and information. 
Luminous Lacquer – Cosplay Tutorial – A nice mix of armor, wigs, purchasing tips, and more.

Cosplay Makeup:
Quick Draw McGraw – Cosplay Makeup – There’s a nice balance of everything in the makeup world on this board. My favorite is pin showing the transition from ordinary man to The Joker
Demona – Cosplay Makeup – This board is less prosthetics and more natural makeup including how to tame your eyes, give yourself a powder-done mermaid look, and making lipstick to matches your character. 
Karen Smith-Bryant – Cosplay & Makeup
 – There’s more than just makeup on this board, but the makeup tutorials are what make me want to follow it. 

Gender-bend cosplay:
Mrs.DeGoey – Amazing Gender-bend Cosplay – Sometimes the most fun part of cosplaying is portraying a character who is the opposite sex or race as you. Check out this board for some great ideas.
Joseph White – Rule 63 Cosplay – Nice mix of men and women on this board.
Tessa Kolva – Gender Bend and Costumes – Ideas and art for gender-bend cosplay.
Vanessa254 – Supernatural Gender Bend – Supernatural gender bending cosplay.

Cosplay Photography:
Tess Gordon – Cosplay Photography – There’s a lot of anime stuff here, but even if you are not into that genre, look at the photos for ideas for your next shoot.
Big Mike – Cosplay Photography – This board has a nice range of work from children to adults.
Jene Harrison – Cosplay Photography – Very nice work posted on this board.
Andrei G Photography – Cosplay Photography Ideas – A ton of ideas for poses.
Nancy Murphy – Cosplay Photography – There isn’t much on this board, but it’s still worth checking out.
Rachael Kruithof – Costume Photography – Lovely ideas pinned here.

Do you follow any really cool boards or have a pin that you are particularly fond of? Let us know in the comments!

A Geek’s First Renaissance Faire

This past weekend I attended the Florida Renaissance Festival in Deerfield, Florida. This was my first Renaissance Faire and after hearing so many great things about it,  I was anxious for my own medieval experience. I went into the faire only knowing that it was medieval / renaissance themed and that’s it.

We arrived a little early, and I’m glad we did because they have an opening ceremony where the key players of the court are introduced. It’s a ten-minute show that includes a canon being fired at the end. The humor is family friendly and a nice way to kick off the day.

We planned on spending two days there since Saturday was mostly the celebration of the “Rain” of King Ferdinand (thank you Florida weather). Despite the weather, the faire went on and we had a very fun day of hopping around in the rain and seeing as many vendors and booths as we could.

We ran into musicians, stilt walkers, faire players, and even a guy carrying pretzels on a giant stick like in the ye’ olden days.

If you didn’t come prepared in a costume, they had a rental area for you to pick out and play the day in. I forgot to stop in and check on their prices though (bad Dakster!).

The first booth we came across that made me stop for a bit was the home of Red’s Majikah Perfumery. It was a cute little booth with bottle charm necklaces that you could get filled with your choice of oil. My mom purchased me a small green bottle with a tree on it filled with peppermint (used to treat migraines). She decided on a purple bottle with lavender (calming). I really enjoyed this booth because they were inexpensive (one for $15 or two for $20) and the cork absorbed the oil inside for a gentle smell coming from the bottle.

As we walked along, we came upon another vendor with some charming ear cuffs and hair ornaments. My hair was too short for this one, but my mom has long, pretty, purple hair and modeled this one for me. I picked up a pair of flower ear cuffs for myself. They had some great steampunk ear cuffs as well, but I felt the flower ones would match my day-to-day life a bit better.

We didn’t get to see any of the shows because we were enthralled by the vendors so much, but what we did see as we were walking past looked really fun.

The Mud Show in particular looked like it was going to be a blast because the first three rows of the stage had been flooded from the rain…and people were already in the audience, sitting in the water, waiting for the show to start. I guess you could say it was swimming room only (dun dum).

The rest of the day was filled with walking and admiring the artistry of the costumes that the players and the attendees were wearing. The children were dressed as everything from princesses to a mix of Tinkerbell and Princess Ana (I guess you really can’t escape Frozen). The talented musicians were a joy to the ears and had a nice covered tent to listen to them play while it rained.

I did take a moment to stop at the Apothecary booth and listen to Sir Elrick talk about herbal first aid kits to a scout. Sir Elrick was a scoutmaster for 25 years and uses his time now to teach herbal medicine. One of the items he talked about having in the first aid kit were yellow onions.

Bug Bites
Cut a small yellow onion just below the top
Score the inside like a checkerboard
Squeeze the juice onto the bug bite
Rub it in for 20 seconds

The oil inside the onion acts as an anesthetic for the bug bite and will reduce the swelling and take care of the itching.

A few other interesting areas of the festival were the fencing and archery areas, Kids Kingdom, and the Tomato Torture.

Tomato Torture was like a medieval dunking booth. For $5 for 5 tomatoes, or $20 for a basket of tomatoes, you could throw them at some poor sap in the torture spot. I don’t feel too bad for him though, because he was having just as much fun throwing insults at people. He had me cracking up with a few of his insults including, “I have an idea. Throw it like I’m the guy that gave you that haircut.”

The Kids Kingdom had bounce houses, arts and crafts, games, and stage shows just for them. The prices were between $5 and $12 depending on if you wanted to go in once or be able to go back all day. I wasn’t able to get any pictures of this area because I left my son at home (and boy was he mad at me for that).

When it came to the fencing and archery areas, the archery area had a lot of adults while the fencing had more kids around it. It was $4.00 to fence your partner for five minutes or $5.00 to fence a master for five minutes.

I regret not seeing at least the jousting match, but I was so concerned about walking around and not missing anything that I ended up doing just that. Missing stuff. The next time I attend, I’ll be planning my time a bit more wisely (and bringing a lot more cash).

Tickets start at $21 per day for adults (12 and up) and $9 for children ages 6-11. If you can stay for the weekend, I highly recommend it. There is no way you can see all the shows, vendors, and otherwise medieval awesomeness in one day.

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Celebrate Finn the Human with the Latest Adventure Time DVD

Adventure Time: Finn the Human, featuring 16 episodes featuring Finn, comes out on DVD on November 25th! Image credit: Turner Entertainment.

Just in time for the holidays, Adventure Time fans can enjoy the latest DVD collection from Cartoon Network: Adventure Time: Finn the Human. This collection, like their others, includes a free gift. This time, it’s a drawstring version of Finn’s backpack.

This collection of episodes span six seasons of the Emmy-award nominated series, all of which delve deeply into Finn’s psyche and backstory. If you own the complete seasons of the series (seasons 1-4 are out now), then you might find a compilation such as this an extraneous investment. But if themed-compilations are preferable, this one is a lot of fun.

One of my favorite episodes in this collection is “We Fixed a Truck” which features the voice and music of the great Weird Al Yankovic, playing a character named Bananaman, a lonely, geeky neighbor who craves companionship. Bananaman shows up in one other episode–also on this DVD collection, but in “We Fixed a Truck” you can hear the adorable song “Hanging Out Forever”, to which Weird Al brings a special comedic compassion.

As for the backpack, I think a true fan will take exception to it being square instead of round, and it’s really nothing more than a standard drawstring backpack. The fabric seems fragile, and the ends of the drawstring cords have already started fraying (a quick pass of a lighter will take care of that.) If you enjoy a simple Finn cosplay, it will make a great accessory, as long as you’re okay with it not being round. My son noticed right away that it was a rectangle. Since he requested one for his last birthday party earlier this year, I made a round one out of flannel.

There are no bonus features on this DVD; it’s just the sixteen 10-12 minute episodes. But don’t worry, it provides nearly three hours of viewing. DVDs in this form are popular with my sons for road trips, so they don’t get significantly invested in a story just in case we turn off the car, as they might with longer movies.

Despite the lack of bonus features, I think this DVD collection will make a great gift for your Adventure Time fans. Adventure Time: Finn the Human, is available starting November 25, 2014, will retail for $24.98, and will be available at major electronics and media retailers, such as at Amazon.

GeekMom received a copy of this DVD for review purposes.

Creating Your Steampunk Persona

Some of the steampunk characters from Sun City Steam Fest include (clockwise from top left): Nikki Bolt, Captain Arcko Bancroft, Oeil De’Blanc, Priestess Lilith, Gerll Sutcliff and Rev. Henry The Eighth, and Baron Günter Von Nethen. All images by Rick Tate.

This week, my family and I attended our area’s first steampunk event, Sun City Steam Fest, held November 14-15 in El Paso, Texas.

We got suited up for the event (we even created our own steampunk gypsy headpieces), grabbed our modified Nerf gun weaponry, and headed off ready to make a splash among the performers, vendors, and reenactment troupes. When we arrived among the celebration, I came to the embarrassing revelation that my steampunk costuming efforts were incomplete. I had the look, sure enough, but as others introduced themselves and asked who I was, they weren’t looking for my “everyday” title; they wanted to know the story of my steampunk alter ego.

I didn’t have one.

The steampunk culture, as I’ve come to learn over time, is more than just cosplay. It is strongly embedded in history, classic literature, art, science fiction, and fantasy. Steampunk cosplayers don’t just dress to impress; they become completely emerged in their alter egos. While other forms of cosplay draw primarily from pre-established characters, these steampunk personae not only incorporate an original look, they often come with their own monikers and one-of-a-kind back stories.

Bonnie Black Donnie O’Irish, Viola Penelope O’Donnell, Doctor Robert Hatter, and Sonya Tyburn the Dragonslayer.

The festival itself was held in the city’s historic downtown area, which has its own share of Old West history, creating an ideal setting for the event. The first evening’s kick-off tea was at the local paranormal society headquarters, Ghosts 915. It’s housed in a historic saloon and brothel, which is said to still be haunted by its former patrons. Saturday’s events were at a chic nightclub called Tricky Falls, a restored circa-1914 Henry C. Trost-designed theater, which is currently on the National Register of Historic Buildings. These hosting venues were joined by area steampunk and cosplay groups, The Clockwork Rebellion and Coyote’s Fortune, in creating the festival. This provided a lot of material with which the area steampunk community could utilize.

I took advantage of this rich pool of characters to get some advice on finding and developing my own steampunk persona.

Vendor “Dr. Robert Hatter,” purveyor of custom steampunk guns, said to “look into military names or other titles.” Also, try to move yourself up in rank or status. If you’re a Mr. or Ms., go by Doctor or Professor.

Clockwork Rebellion member “Oeil De’Blanc” made use of a second language to give his persona a more exotic edge. His name, French for “white eye,” refers to a prominent facial feature he sports. He said it helps to “read up” on the genre. Dig into some steampunk books and stories and see what’s out there. He said it’s also fine for steampunk cosplayers to work on more than one alter ego, and added his wife has more than one. For the day I attended, she was “Nikki Bolt,” top mechanic for an airship originally built by her father.

I learned that the difference between just a pretty costume and a well-developed character is what you don’t see. Some seasoned characters will give you a story worth hearing.

Another Clockwork Rebellion member, who went by “Bonnie Black Donnie O’Irish,” said he’s a history buff, and that his character is the product of an incredibly-detailed alternate history created for El Paso. Part of this history (if I have it all correct) dealt with the city not taking part in World War I, due to it being invaded by Mexico in 1916. The name “O’Irish,” he said, is a phrase for someone who puts on fake Irish airs or uses a false accent. Donnie’s companion for the day was “The Priestess Lilith,”  who said she blended several mystic elements, including voodoo, to bring her character to life.

GeekMom Lisa’s character….still a work in progress.

Members of Coyote’s Fortune, who present workshops on character development and prop-making at cons around the region, explained a good character is like a real-life person; always changing and developing. “Sonya Tyburn the Dragonslayer,” for example, started out as a simple mercenary, while “Captain Arcko Bancroft” is s crypto zoologist who continues to develop bigger and better means of capturing and studying mythical beasts.

Finally, whether or not the steampunk culture is part of a person’s everyday passions, they can still build a simple and believable character by drawing from their real-life experiences. A few I met included:

Viola Penelope O’Donnell. A character whose name was inspired by the family of her real-life alter ego. Both her grandmothers were “Viola” (one’s first name and the other’s middle name), and her cousin was Penelope.

Rev. Henry The Eighth. Henry is an ordained reverend in real life, who runs haunted history tours with Ghost 915. This worked well for his daughter’s persona, Gerll Sutcliff, a ghost hunter.

Baron Günter Von Nethen. The Baron’s character was a German airship captain who, after losing his troops in battle, was “banished” to the badlands of the borderland, where he is currently stationed. This was an easy choice, as the Baron’s real-world counterpart is an actual member of the German Air Force.

I do feel sufficiently armed with enough data to successfully put together a worthy steampunk persona. Alas, for my own alter ego, I’m currently following the path mentioned by the Dragonslayer…it’s a work in progress.

Comikaze Expo: Pop Culture and Parenting Panel

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Pop culture and parenting panel photo: J.R. Roughton, Kendra Moras, Melody Mooney, Kelly Spears, Shawn Thomas, Jennifer Estaris, and Theresa Wollenstein. Photo: Jennifer Etaris.

Is your kid turning you into a geek, or are you a geeky parent wondering how to navigate life with a kid in tow? Join us for a rousing discussion of modern-day parenting, including best habits for device use for parents & kids, cosplaying, online privacy, using tech to make you a better parent, when is best to introduce kids to the Star Wars movies (and in what order?), and more! Bring your kids and your questions!

This was the description for the pop culture and parenting panel I was a part of last weekend at the Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles.

There were six of us parents and it was moderated by Theresa Wollenstein. Theresa is the co-founder of the League of Extraordinary Ladies and the assistant organizer of the group I created, Geeklings and Parental Units.  It is important to mention here that Theresa completed the entire panel while wearing four-month-old Leia and being the solo con parent to her two-year-old! Truly a Marvel Mom.  

Also aboard were Kelly Spears (president, Valley Moms meetup group), Kendra Moras (portrait photographer), Jennifer Estaris (baby-wearer and game designer for Nickelodeon, Disney, Atari, and Majesco), J.R. Roughton (runs JAG Gym and the Character Counts! sports organization; USA Gymnastics-certified director and business executive; and Character Counts! Certified character educator), and Shawn Thomas (story editor at Disney Channel , writer for Dog with a Blog, and CEO, vice president, and craft services at Mystify Productions).

Theresa Wollenstein moderates while baby-wearing. Photography by Kendra Jean Moras.

There was a nice turnout of parents and geeklings. The hour was spent sharing personal parenting experiences along with laughs at ourselves.

Screen time and devices has become a hot topic in the parenting world. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) had recommended no television or screen time to babies under two and limited exposure in general with children and teens. With so many geeky parents being first adopters to all things tech and social media, we explored what the realities and pros and cons to these recommendations are.

J.R. Roughton, who has years of experience working with kids at JAG Gym, also has a son on the spectrum. He was originally  an advocate for leveling the playing field by not referring to any device used for his children’s educational reading and learning in pejorative terms. He explained that he had to abandon the mission once his son was evaluated and placed on the spectrum, and went on to share that his research discovered that spectrum kids could not absorb the over-stimulus from screens. This finding made the choice to quit using them with his son all together final.

Young Lucas Moras (named for George Lucas) heads up the rebellion with Mark Cronan, Ella as Hera, and Siena Craig as Sabine from Star Wars Rebels. Photography by Kendra Jean Moras.

Kendra Moras, who works independently at Photography by Kendra Jean Moras, countered with positive screen and device experiences. She was amazed at the language skills and small motor dexterities of her son Lucas,who had been using tablets early, even before his first birthday. She also credits his advanced vocabulary and grasp of complex dramatic play at four to some of the more intricate plots and terms he learned from movies and superhero shows.

Theresa kept the great questions coming. One that we all chimed in on was: ‘What pop culture character, if any, do you try to model your parenting after?” Kelly Spears, who is the president of the largest parenting chapter, Valley Moms, mentioned she has always loved Marge Simpsonbut found herself making her famous frustrated mom snarl more often then she would like. Jennifer Estaris, a game designer at Nickelodeon, mentioned she and her husband (who came in character) like Alana and Marko, from Image Comics’ Saga. Shawn Thomas, writer for Disney’s Dog with a Blog, responded that he thought Darth Vader was the obvious choice. After all, he did offer Luke an early seat in the family business.

Theresa’s four-month-old daughter Leia looks up to her friend Lucas. Photography by Kendra Jean Moras.

Along with providing information, the panel members also wanted to provide the room as a safe haven of sorts from the busy con floor. We supplied crayons, games, comics, and a space for diaper changing and breastfeeding. One of the best moments for me was looking down from the stage at the front and seeing my daughter laughing with her cosplaying friends.

There is always the question of bringing kids to cons and whether or not it’s really worth it. Will they be able to handle the crowds? What about strollers? Are there places to sit down or to go when a meltdown occurs? We have had a few years of trial and error and I can firmly say that this time my three-year-old really enjoyed it. She loved dressing up as the Twi’lek pilot from the new Star Wars Rebels and lasted a full day. She actually insisted I call her the character name “Hera,” and not Ella all day. She also got a nice mention in Fashionably Geek for her mini cosplay efforts.

Ella giving attitude as she cosplays Hera from Star Wars Rebels. Photo: Melody Mooney.

Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo is now in its fourth year. The pop culture expo, partnered by Stan Lee and Elvira Mistress of the Dark, brags that it is the only convention owned and operated by pop culture legends. It was co-founded by CEO Regina Carpinelli. She shared her vision with the icons for a better show and together they crafted a unique convention. With growth comes some pain. The Los Angeles Convention Center is showing signs of overflow by way of parking and long lines at check in. Even with these inconveniences, the crowds seemed happy to shop the various vendors and booths and share in their favorite cosplay.

Not having to deal with hotels and travel was a huge plus for us. There may not be many panels like ours who welcome families, but there is strength in numbers and hopefully as we move forward, there will be more con family needs met. After all, today’s geeklings are the cosplayers, gamers, creators, and panel members of tomorrow.

Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy

Image: Chronicle Books
Image: Chronicle Books.

When I first saw Star Wars and the other movies of the original trilogy, I was a young kid. We saw them in the theaters when they were first run. Considering what the actors were wearing in the movies was the least of my thoughts. I was too caught up in the stories, and, yes, fawning over the cute Ewoks. I took the characters as they were, completely lost in the movie, suspending all disbelief, in the way that only children really can. And even though I know quite a lot about clothing construction now, having sewn a great deal, my mind still doesn’t consider movie costumes the way you might think.

Enter Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy. This heavy, coffee table-style book is filled with every wonder from those three movies, at least in terms of what people were wearing. We begin with Leia’s drape-y, white, iconic outfit from A New Hope on the cover, and then forewords from three of the design team start the book off. The rest of the book consists of visiting each of the three movies, one by one. Concept art, behind the scenes photos, prototypes, and plenty of text and quotations explaining what you’re seeing fill this definitive book. We learn about the evolution of the major costumes through the series with plenty of explanation for costumes of all ranks of importance, from Vader’s dark robes and Obi-Wan’s worn rags to Catina costumes and what the AT-ST driver wore. Fold-out pages show more detail on several costumes (yes, including Slave Leia). And up close, a lot of the props look like someone made them in their basement. But we never seem to notice that in the movies themselves.

The Star Wars website shares more information and a trailer for the book:

This book is a cosplayer’s delight. If you or your kids have any interest at all in dressing up like a character from the original Star Wars trilogy, the photos, images, and information in this book will help guide your creations extremely well.

Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy retails for $60, but is currently $37.95 on Amazon. It is a perfect gift for Star Wars fans, cosplayers, and those interested in costume and design; this book is the ultimate resource.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

DIY Star-Lord Infinity Orb

Guardians of The Galaxy was one of the most popular films of last year, but considering how crazy we all went for the ragtag bunch of intergalactic misfits there’s shockingly little official merchandise available. I needed Star-Lord’s Orb for a cosplay and put together this tutorial for anyone who wants to have a go at making one themselves. They make excellent party bag favors and are incredibly fast and cheap to make.

What you need:

  • A Polystyrene Ball (the Orb should fit comfortably in your hand so consider whether you are making one for a child or an adult when choosing what diameter ball to purchase, mine was three inches in diameter)
  • A Hot Glue Gun and Glue Sticks (I used three sticks to cover my ball)
  • Black and Silver Paints (grey optional)—I used a mix of acrylic and enamel

Continue reading DIY Star-Lord Infinity Orb

16 Ways for Twin Peaks Fans to Fill Their Time Until 2016

Twin Peaks © ABC
Twin Peaks © ABC

“Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen.” So said Agent Dale Cooper to Sheriff Harry Truman in Twin Peaks way back in 1990. Yesterday Twin Peaks fans got a long-awaited present in the announcement of nine new episodes scheduled for 2016. But 2016 is a long way away, so how can we while away the days until we finally get to revisit the place where the owls are not what they seem? Here are 16 things for fans to do while they wait, so grab some damn fine coffee and a slice of incredible cherry pie and start making your list.

Twin Peaks on Netflix © Sophie Brown
Twin Peaks on Netflix © Sophie Brown

1. Re-watch the Show
It might seem obvious but there’s no better way to rekindle your love of a TV show than by going back to the source material itself. Twin Peaks is currently available on Netflix as well as through Hulu, Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, and iTunes. The 1992 spin-off film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is a little trickier to locate but it is available on iTunes and on DVD/Blu-ray, speaking of which…

2. Buy the Box Set
The show was finally released on Blu-ray earlier this year as Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery. It has been upgraded to HD and the set includes a ton of special features including 90 minutes of “Missing Pieces,” the legendary lost scenes from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The $90/£50 price tag is pretty steep but if you want more than a basic re-watch of the episodes then it’s worth every penny.

The Salish Lodge & Spa Atop Snoqualmie Falls © Salish Lodge
The Salish Lodge & Spa Atop Snoqualmie Falls © Salish Lodge

3. Stay at the Great Northern
One of the most iconic images from Twin Peaks was the Great Northern Hotel and its beautiful location atop a waterfall. Today the hotel is known as the Salish Lodge and Spa, a luxury retreat in Snoqualmie, WA—the hotel even offers a “Romance Concierge” service. The hotel’s interior is not the same as seen on the show but if you want to take a trip to a Twin Peaks-themed location then there really is no better place to stay; you can even take your dog along too.

4. Attend a Twin Peaks Convention
Is there a better way to feel connected to other fans than to attend a convention? If you’re feeling inspired then the Twin Peaks UK Festival in London is just a few weeks away on November 15th and will be attended by Dana Ashbrook, James Marshall, and Sheryl Lee. If that’s a little too soon (or a little too far) then Twin Peaks Fest will be held July 24-27, 2015, in North Bend, Washington. The schedule already looks amazing so I suggest picking up your tickets ASAP. Something tells me that next year’s event is going to be much more popular than usual.

Gravity Falls © Disney
Gravity Falls © Disney

5. Discover Something New
Twin Peaks may have been off air for over twenty years, but many other shows have come along in its wake and built on its legacy. Most famously is The X-Files which expanded the concept of a central mythology and took the show’s strange, cinematic landscape to the masses; ideas that were built on once again in more recent offerings like Lost, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men. If you want something more family friendly, then Disney’s increasingly bizarre animated show Gravity Falls works well as an introduction to the “small town with something dark and mysterious to hide” genre—it’s as popular with adults as it is with kids. Finally, moving away from television, Welcome to Night Vale is about as close to Twin Peaks radio as you could wish for, drawing you into the small town lives of apparently normal folk who are never what they first appear to be.

6. Save the Owls
We all know that the owls are not what they seem, but one other thing we know is that many of them are in danger. If you want to use your Twin Peaks enthusiasm to do some good in the world, then why not consider making a donation to one of the countless owl conservation charities around the world? You could even combine your donation with your Christmas shopping by buying a Snowy Owl Adoption Kit from the WWF which includes a plush snowy owl—perfect for the Harry Potter fan in your life.

Fan Phenomena: Twin Peaks © Intellect
Fan Phenomena: Twin Peaks © Intellect

7. Read a Book (or Several)
As with any cult hit there are a number of books published on every aspect of Twin Peaks. From The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer—written by director David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer—to multiple volumes examining the show critically from every imaginable angle, thousands of pages are waiting out there to be turned. If you’re looking for an introduction to this sort on in-depth look then Fan Phenomena: Twin Peaks edited by Marisa C. Hayes and Franck Boulegue is a wonderful first step that will rekindle your passion as it takes a look at aspects of the show including dream logic, feminism, and Audrey’s sweater collection.

8. Buy Yourself a New Shirt
One of Coop’s suggestions to Harry for a present to himself is buying “a new shirt at the men’s store.” We might not want to buy precisely the kind of shirt our favorite FBI agent has in mind, but there are plenty of Twin Peaks-inspired shirts available on the internet these days. Etsy, Society6, and RedBubble are all good places to look and keep an eye on the t-shirt dailies websites over coming months as designs are bound to pop up there too.

Twin Peaks Soundtrack © Warner Bros.
Twin Peaks Soundtrack © Warner Bros.

9. Listen to the Soundtracks
One of the most memorable things about Twin Peaks was its score; unsettling soft jazz composed by Angelo Badalamenti that underscored everything that happened in the mysterious little town. The soundtrack and the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me score are available from iTunes and at Amazon as both CD or digital downloads. You can find the music on YouTube as well if you’d like to have a listen through first. If you’ve already heard the soundtrack a thousand times and want something new with a similar feel, then check out Alex Baranowski’s soundtrack for the recent theatrical production of A Streetcar Named Desire in London which has a distinctly Twin Peaks feel. You can listen to the complete album for free on Soundcloud and on Bandcamp where it is available to download for £6/$9.50.

10. Cook a Meal
Food is vitally important in Twin Peaks and many of the series’ most iconic phrases and scenes revolve around it. Peaks-inspired foods include: black coffee, cherry pie, donuts, leg of lamb, baguettes with brie and butter (Rocky Mountain Woman has a recipe that will make your mouth water just from reading it), creamed corn, hard-boiled eggs, maraschino cherries, crispy bacon, and the taste sensation when maple syrup collides with ham. Just be sure there aren’t any fish in your percolator.

Twin Peaks iPhone Case © Mess via RedRubble
Twin Peaks iPhone Case © Mess via RedRubble

11. Chat to Your Very Own Diane
“Diane, I find myself confused by all the technology in Twin Peaks today. Whatever happened to a good, old fashioned tape recorder?” Who knows what Coop has been doing since we last saw him but chances are he might well have updated his personal tech since 1991, and I’m pretty certain you will have done so too. To keep some of Coop’s retro vibe going, why not convert your phone into Coop’s tape recorder using this case which is based on the original prop? The cases are available at Society6 and RedBubble and fit the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy. If you want to take it a step further, you can also take to starting every question you ask Siri with “Diane…”—she’ll still understand you!

12. Check out more Lynch Films
As I’m sure you’re aware, Twin Peaks’ creator and director David Lynch has a vast, if somewhat surreal, collection of films under his proverbial belt and 2015 seems like the perfect time to work through them. Classics include Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive. Sadly most aren’t currently available on Netflix but check out Amazon for a good range of DVDs and instant downloads.

Black Lodge © Jak Locke
Black Lodge © Jak Locke

13. Play the Video Game
Yes, such a thing does indeed exist! Black Lodge 2600 was created in 2011 by Jak Locke in the classic Atari 2600 style and invites you to help Agent Cooper escape from The Black Lodge. It is available for free (although if you enjoy it, giving a donation to the designer would be highly appreciated) and includes a PDF also designed to look like a vintage manual. It’s also only 16Mb so you won’t need to wait hours for it to download, even if you live somewhere as disconnected as the Lodge itself.

14. Plan a Cosplay
Twin Peaks offers a huge variety of cosplay options for any gender preference and many would be easy to pull off with a small budget. The Log Lady is a fairly common choice (either with a real log or with a somewhat lighter one made from felt) as is the ever-so-stylish Audrey Horne. Some of the more creative ideas I’ve seen around include dead Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic, and Dr. Jacoby with his unforgettable sunglasses. If you need inspiration, a search for Twin Peaks cosplay on Tumblr wields some mind blowing results.

Twin Peaks Board Game © Chantal Patton
Twin Peaks Board Game © Chantal Patton

15. Play the Board Game
Not an easy thing to find, and be prepared to pay a hefty sum if you are lucky enough to do so, the Twin Peaks Murder Mystery Game was published in 1991 and features donuts as counters—what more could you want? The game also includes something called a Pentagon Deathtrap. I’m sold.

16. Visit a Cafe
As well as the filming locations around Snoqualmie and North Bend, there are a number of Twin Peaks-inspired locations all over the world. Earlier this year Flavorwire published a list of seven restaurants inspired by the show which included locations in Copenhagen, New York, and Atlanta, as well as many in the Pacific Northwest. Atlanta’s Bookhouse Pub even includes a themed cocktail menu with drinks inspired by the characters. I know where I’m stopping for a drink if I ever find myself close by.

Hopefully you’ve found a few things you’d like to do over the next year and a bit. Remember you can always make yourself a hot cup of coffee (black as midnight on a moonless night) and take a nap in your office chair and to transport yourself right back to the place pies go when they die.

Store Con, or Conning on the Cheap

Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

Like many other kids, my twelve-year-old son loves to go to conventions. So far he’s been to Boston Comic Con, Rhode Island Comic Con, Gen Con, Boskone, and more. As you can imagine, the costs of these experiences add up, and as much as I would love to take my future writer and game designer to all the cons, it just can’t happen.

Here in my city of Worcester, Massachusetts, we have a comics, games, and collectibles store called That’s Entertainment. We are regular customers there, and we really enjoy taking part in their events. They do things for Batman Day, Star Wars Day, etc. The other day I saw an ad about their “Store Con,” free admission for everyone, part of the purpose of which was to get people to come in for a preview of a certain game that was coming out.

It gave me an idea: Suggest a “Store Con” for your regular store.

Tails, cosplay
Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

People open and/or work at gaming and comics stores because they are passionate about the industry. Let’s face it, it doesn’t pay a whole lot and unless you are into the genre, the perks can be pretty slim. Wouldn’t they be excited to have customers who were just as pumped about being in the store as they were?

The other thing is, when a store can show that they have happy customers who are enthusiastic about being in the store, it attracts more customers for them. Trust me, they want folks to come in there with banners flying or they shouldn’t be in business. One of the best parts about going to a con, at least in my son’s and my eyes, is dressing up. What would “Store Con” be without a little cosplay?

“Our” comics and gaming shop also does a lot of other things for kids as well. They have coloring contests and game days. They go through a lot of effort to keep the store family friendly. The best part is that if I have an idea for an event or activity, I feel like I can go to the people who work there and discuss it with them. As long as it’s a feasible idea, they would be open to discussion, and I will bet other shops are the same way. It’s a great way to have a geeky time with minimal financial investment.

Jawa, cosplay
Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

What if you don’t have a great shop nearby?

You can still create a small event right in your own backyard. Have your child invite his or her friends over, and encourage them to dress up as their favorite characters. Invite your friends, too. It’s always handy to have a few extra adults around to help facilitate games and to make sure everyone is having a good time.

Have some games out so the kids will feel welcome to try them out. Grill up some food, have some fun snacks. Keep it simple and keep it fun. Depending on how elaborate you want to get, you could even name your backyard event.

Who wouldn’t want to go to MELCon? Okay, don’t answer that. The important thing is that it’s your family’s event. Listen to your kids and do what will be fun for them. Don’t go overboard and don’t get lost in the details. It’s all supposed to be fun.

And who knows? Maybe your backyard or store convention could become an anticipated annual event!