2015 GeekMom Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. It’s the one time of year when you “legally” have to shower Mom with love—and gifts! Of course, we’re kidding (sort of). While most moms do love the homemade cards, hugs, and brunch offers, a lot of us also love to get a gift that keeps on giving. So instead of giving your mom (or yourself) the same old wilted flowers, consider one of the gifts listed below in our 2015 GeekMom Mother’s Day Gift Guide.

The Sprite Bag by Pixelle is a ThinkGeek exclusive. Photo: ThinkGeek.

Bookworm Shoulder Tote
Haul around your mom gear in this large zippered bag from Blue Q. It’s waterproof, wipes clean, is made from recycled materials, and is crazy strong. It measures 11-by-15-by-6.25 inches. One percent of the sale price supports The Nature Conservatory. And if the bookish design doesn’t do it for you, check out the same tote with a Da Vinci design or a Batista design. [$13.30]

“I Aim to Misbehave” Car Decal
This car decal serves two important purposes: It shows off your mom’s love for Firefly and that she is one spirited lady! [$6]

Multitool Hair Clip. Photo: Yaacov Goldberg/Monkey Business.

Multitool Hair Clip
Made of stainless steel, this creative hair clip for Mom is a secret multitool. It’s a screwdriver, wrench, trolley coin, ruler, and cutting edge, always handy and helpfully keeping her hair out of her eyes. [$9]

Ogio Hudson Pack
GeekMom Dakster is a huge fan of Ogio bags. As a mom on the go, her go-to laptop bag is the Ogio Hudson Pack in Peacoat blue. It fits her laptop, iPad, iPod, writing supplies, and all without feeling bulky on her back. [$64.99]

Pelican Elite Weekender Luggage
Built for the adventurer, this luggage will take any beating the cruise line, airline, or any other transportation service can throw at it. GeekMom Dakster likes having her bag around to protect her costumes when traveling to conventions. [$445]

The Sprite Bag by Pixelle
“Level up your look” with the subtle touches of The Sprite Bag by Pixelle. It’s just the right size for a mom on the go and comes in white or black. [$49.99]

ThinkGeek Star Wars Stainless Steel Pendants
For the Star Wars mom, check out these pendants from ThinkGeek. Choose from Boba Fett, Rebel Alliance, Stormtrooper, or Tie Fighter. [$29.99 to $39.99]

A peek inside Ryder Windham’s Ultimate Star Wars. Photo: © 2015 Dorling Kindersley Limited.

Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book
Coloring books intricate enough for adults are trendy right now, as if we haven’t been coloring in them all along! You may prefer a different adult coloring book like Steampunk Coloring Book or Unicorns Are Jerks. [$11]

Furry Logic
Furry Logic is a fun book filled with furry animals and cute logic. It’s a quick and easy pick-me-up read for anyone. [$8.99]

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will)
Get Mom prepared for the inevitable attack of the garden gnomes. They may look harmless, but these cute and decorative keepers of gardens are secretly planning to attack you and everyone you love. [$11]

Instant Happy: 10-Second Attitude Makeovers
Everyone needs a pick-me-up every now and then. For the days when Mom is feeling the weight of everything on her shoulders, hand her Instant Happy: 10-Second Attitude Makeovers. It has 128 pages of happy thoughts, with cute drawings and animals to accompany each one. [$11]

Knit Your Own Zombie. Photo: Fiona Goble/Adams Media.

Knit Your Own Zombie: Over 1,000 Combinations to Rip ‘n’ Reassemble for Horrifying Results
Easy-to-knit, hard-to-kill zombies held together with Velcro strips and snaps, so you can create your own mashups. Knitting never looked so easy and yet, so softly terrifying. [$12.04]

Subversive Cross Stitch: 50 F*cking Clever Designs for Your Sassy Side
Stitch some snark with this updated anniversary edition of the now-classic book that upended the ladylike craft of cross stitching. “Eat, Drink, and Be Quiet” may add some charm to your kitchen. If you have no intention of making any of the designs, just leave it out to shock your Great Aunt Rhonda next time she visits. [$11.50]

Ultimate Star Wars
A trained tauntaun of your own would be a fantastic gift. Sadly, Echo Base won’t ship them to Earth. Instead, consider this newly released large-format hardcover book to explore the Star Wars galaxy chronologically. It’s packed with in-depth information about characters and storylines. Yes, it has photos of tauntauns. [$26.49]

Your Family in Pictures: The Parents’ Guide to Photographing Holidays, Family Portraits, and Everyday Life
Your Family In Pictures takes mom from the basics of family photography to the more advanced setups. Our recommendation? Pick one of the suggested cameras out for her in the first few pages and wrap it up with this book. Say cheese! [$15.99]

Geeky tees. Photo: Friendly Oak.

Banned Book Socks
Ankle socks with a kick, these Banned Book Socks feature titles on one foot and strike-outs on the other. Wearable all year ’round, not just during Banned Books Week. Made of nylon, polyester, spandex, and cotton; machine wash. [$10]

eShakti Gift Card
eShakti lets Mom customize clothing in sizes from 0-33. With numerous patterns and styles, she can pick out her favorite neckline, hem length, and sleeves style. The online retailer features a wide variety of fabrics. GeekMom Fran likes the cotton dresses very much. Did we mention that most dresses feature actual full-size pockets that you can put things in? Yes. [Varies]

Friendly Oak Geeky Tees
Printed on super soft American Apparel tees, these women’s shirts come in a variety of geeky designs: An octopus in a top hat! Sloths! Hot air balloons! Pirate ships! Bugs! Books! Dinosaurs! Bats! [$18 to $19 each]

High Commander Cardigan
Mom is the ultimate power in the universe, and now she can show her Imperial strength with the High Commander Cardigan from Her Universe. The light sweater is perfect for everyday cosplay, but subtle enough to pass as a simple gray sweater. But true Star Wars fans who catch a glimpse of the insignia on the front will give Mom a knowing smile. [$50]

Hot Topic’s Orphan Black Fit & Flare Dress
Hot Topic’s latest television show-themed clothing line is Orphan Black, and the red DNA-patterned flare dress is a standout. One of the best things about this simple dress is you don’t have to be a fan of this popular sci-fi series to appreciate the cool DNA double-helix design. This could be the perfect gift for science teachers… or just any mom who loves and appreciates the building blocks of life. Keep in mind Hot Topic’s women’s clothes tend to run in juniors’ sizes, so it may be a smart idea to get a size larger than Mom would usually wear. Oh, and FYI: This looks cute with another item in the Orphan Black line, the Lightweight Ombre Open Cardigan. [$29.50]

Solar System Knee Highs. Photo: Sock Dreams.

Marvel Ladies Knee High Socks
Comic book fans of Captain Marvel, Black Widow, and Spider-Woman will wear these knee-high socks with pride. Whether she’s padding around the house stealthily in Black Widow socks or channeling her inner Princess Sparklefists in her Captain Marvel knee-highs, Mom will feel like a superhero in these ThinkGeek exclusives. [$14.99]

Octopus Arm Cozies
Above the elbow arm cozies are a stylish way to tell Mom she’s cool and keep her warm at the same time. Sock Dreams has several styles and colors, but everything goes better with cephalopods. Made of 95-percent cotton with spandex; machine washable. [$25]

Solar System Knee High Socks
Mom will be walking on the sun with these Solar System Knee Highs from Sock Dreams. Made of 75-percent cotton with polyester/spandex, they’re machine-washable and keep their shape. For all the times she’s found your socks, or told you she loves you to the moon and back. [$10]

Toothless Tail Fin Skater Skirt by WeLoveFine
Help Mom show her dragon pride with the Toothless Tail Fin Skater Skirt by WeLoveFine. It’s flowy, it’s twirly, and it was designed to look like Toothless’ tail fin—complete with a white Viking skull on the back. [$25]

A peek at the “Relax” setting on the Philips hue lighting system. Photo: Philips.

D-Link WiFi Smart Plug
If you’re anything like GeekMom Rachel, you’re constantly telling someone to turn off the lights. This handy gadget bypasses the people who never seem to learn and allows you to take control. Just plug the Smart Plug into any existing outlet, push the WPS button on your router, and the button on the Smart Plug. Then, you’ll be able to power off (and on) everything that’s plugged in via the mydlink Home mobile app, which is free for iOS and Android devices. [$39.99]

Martian Notifier
The Martian Notifier is GeekMom Dakster’s new favorite phone accessory. It’s a simple smartwatch whose only job is to send notifications from your phone to your wrist. What’s great about it is that there are no fancy bells and whistles; it’s simple, to the point, and the battery lasts over five days on a single charge. It also comes in white, black, and red. [$95.99]

Me-Shot Deluxe 2.0
Give Mom the gift of selfies with the Me-Shot Deluxe selfie stick. It comes with a remote to help her get that perfect group shot and it’s compact enough to fit into her bag. [$49.99]

Martian Notifier. Photo: © Martian Watches.

Parrot Flower Power
For the mom who lacks a green thumb, this little device can be a lifesaver—or at least a plant-saver. It’s basically a little smart sensor that sticks right into the soil. Once it’s embedded, it can measure moisture, fertilizer, ambient temperature, and light intensity, and will send all of that info to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. In case Mom needs a little extra TLC for her plants, Parrot also has a library with info on thousands of plants, flowers, herbs, and more. [$49.95]

Philips hue Connected Light Bulbs
Sure, you could offer to mow the lawn or do the dishes, but the gift of automated lighting is something that Mom can use every single day. And it’s downright addictive! That’s because the hue offers remote control of lights via any smartphone or tablet. Even better, it’s also a nice decorative element, since the hue can be adjusted to make mood lighting in over 16 million colors. [$199 for the Starter Pack]

Sonos Play:1 Wireless Speaker
Just because Mom isn’t partial to extra-large speakers doesn’t mean that she can’t rock out. This small, mighty speaker is the least expensive in the Sonos line, but still packs the power needed to drown out Dad’s singing. It’s important to know that it needs WiFi or the Sonos Bridge ($49), as well as the Sonos app. Once everything is hooked up, it can stream music to anywhere in the house. Also nice to know is that you can always add on to this gift later, since it works well alone, in pairs, and with every other speaker in the Sonos line. [$199 each]

XSories Large Power CapXule
The Large Power CapXule keeps Mom’s GoPro camera safe and charged with the case’s built-in battery. [$79.99]

Sauria Cakestands. Photo: MoMA.

Kitchen Goods
Don’t Talk to Me Yet Mug
For coffee- or tea-loving moms, for sleep-deprived moms, this white ceramic mug lays out when it’s safe to approach with questions about where your socks are, or whether you should be allowed to wear flip-flops in 20-degree weather. [$17]

Evil Genius or Everyday Super Hero Mugs
Is your mom a superhero, or does she get a certain amount of pleasure from being just a little bit bad? Be careful picking the appropriate one for your GeekMom—or buy both and let her decide how she feels in the morning! [$10.50 each]

Kitchen towels. Photo: LoveYouALatteShop.

KitchenAid Mixer Decals
If Mom has a KitchenAid mixer, it most likely lives on the countertop. Why not help her put a little bling into that permanent fixture? There are an endless number of decal options, from flames to flowers to a Flying Tiger Shark Plane. GeekMom Rachel has a set of superhero-themed decals for her KitchenAid and can tell you that they are easy to apply and stick quite nicely, even after a messy, marathon baking session. [Starts at $9.99]

Onion Goggles
GeekMom Rachel says that she loves a good cry—but not when that cry is initiated by cutting onions. Her husband got her a pair of these a little while ago. “They make me feel like a superhero and work like magic,” she says. [$19.95]

“They See Me Rollin’ They Hatin'” Kitchen Towels
These towels are too cool for school. Kick-ass kitchens? That’s another story. In case your mother isn’t down with the lyrics of Chamillionaire, there are plenty of other punny options that she’d be happy to display in her kitchen. [$18]

Triceratops Cake Stand
A 2014 Grassi and Bertoni design for the Museum of Modern Art, these dinosaur cake stands can hold all of Mom’s favorite cakes. Made of porcelain, the triceratops stands approximately 5 inches high, with the brontosaurus being 3.5 inches high. [$130]

Tsuro: The Game of the Path. Photo: © 2015 Calliope Games.

Toys & Games
Cluedo Sherlock Edition
Eagle-eyed fans of the BBC’s Sherlock know even the great sleuth himself enjoys Cluedo (or Clue in the United States), provided he wins. Now, the BBC has come up with an official Sherlock Edition of the classic mystery game. There’s a reason the original version of Clue is still a tabletop favorite, and now this version has made it even more enjoyable to match wits with friends and family around the table. A perfect Mother’s Day gift for those treasured family game nights and those who are still waiting… and waiting for Sherlock Season 4. [$39.49]

Fiesta Sea and Shore Series 36” Giant Octopus
Ignore all descriptions that allege this stuffed creature is a child’s toy. Those staring eyes, curling tentacles, and soft body make for an awesome cephalopod pal for someone your age too. You don’t have eight arms to attend to all your mom-ligations, but at least your giant octopus does. [$69.99]

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. Photo: Nintendo.

A beautiful board game to play with the family. Players compete to see who can stay on the board longest. For two to eight players, ages eight and up. Each game takes about 20 minutes to play. [$24]

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
If Mom has fond memories of playing Final Fantasy or other Japanese RPGs, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a no-brainer. It looks fantastic on the New Nintendo 3DS, with phenomenal voiceovers, a sweeping story, classic JRPG elements, and a big world to explore. Hours of epic gameplay just might fill that Dragon Age-shaped hole in any RPG fan’s life. Just FYI: This title is only compatible with the New Nintendo 3DS. [$39.99]

Check Out This Sweet Tool for Electronics Comparison Shopping

Screenshot from http://www.productchart.com/3d_printers/
Screenshot from http://www.productchart.com/3d_printers/

Want to know which flash drive or SSD gives you the most GB for the dollar? Or trying to find your options for a laptop with a touchscreen, 10 GB of RAM, and a 17″ screen? If you haven’t seen www.productchart.com, it does all those things, comparing smartphones, laptops, tablets, flash drives, and solid state drives in a convenient chart form. And as of Thursday, the site lets you compare 3D printers as well.

Germany-based programmer Marek Gibney created the tool. Clearly excited by data, he also created Gnoosic, a tool that helps you find new music you’ll like based on the stuff you already enjoy.

Gift Guide: Ideas For Makers and Hackers

Image source: Ruth Suehle.

There’s not much shopping time left before Christmas, but it’s not too late to fill in the gaps with gifts for the makers and hackers (or would-be makers and hackers) on your list! Here are our recommendations, sorted by skill level.

Young Children

Image source: Amazon.

Snap Circuits (price varies)
You can get basic Snap Circuits sets for as little as $20, and they’re a great introduction to young ones with an interest in how things go together. You get to make lights light up, sounds buzz, and fans whir without soldering, but still with the ability to see what a complete circuit looks like.

Image source: No Starch Press.

Super Scratch Programming Adventure! (Covers Version 2): Learn to Program by Making Cool Games ($16)
I always recommend this book to parents who want to get their kids interested in programming. Scratch is very basic; it introduces the principles of programming with puzzle pieces and a clever cat. This book adds a comic book aspect and results in a finished game that the child made herself.


These items are ready for someone who has little to no programming or hardware experience.

Image source: MakeyMakey.com.

Makey Makey ($50)
If you’ve ever said to yourself, “Gee, self, wouldn’t it be great if somebody would turn this banana into a game controller?,” then the Makey Makey is just the thing you’re looking for. Basically, it turns anything into a keypress. Like what? The product description suggests ketchup, pencil graphite, your grandma, pets, and rain. Anything that can conduct at all. It’s a super-easy entry point to electronics.

Image source: Sparkfun.com.

LilyTwinkle ($19.95)
This is the anybody-can-do-it path to LEDs in your hoodie. As long as you can hand sew without crossing the threads, you’re good to go. It comes with the board, battery, thread, and even the needles, as well as four white LEDs. Sew a path from the board to each LED, and you’re finished. Tip: The Firefly Jar Kit at Sparkfun is the same board and same price, but with a felt “jar” to give you a starter project. And you can always reuse the pieces later. Those ready for more complicated projects should check out the more advanced LilyPad board in the next section.

Image source: Amazon.com.

Soldering Iron (price varies)
Any electronics builder is eventually going to need a soldering iron. There are several basic kits out there, including ones from Elenco, the company that makes the fantastic Snap Circuits toys. (Those are a great gift for the much younger future makers on your list.) Elenco also offers a Deluxe Learn To Solder Kit with more practical application practice.

Image source: Sparkfun.com.

Electronic Dice Kit ($19.95)
This is a fun kit to build for someone who knows how to solder but not how to program, especially if they also happen to be gamers. About an hour of building, and they’ll have an LED D6 device.

Image source: Sparkfun.com.

Metro-Gnome $14.95)
Similarly, the Metro-Gnome is a basic digital metronome for the music-loving maker on your list. It requires basic soldering skills (or serves as a learn-to-solder project).

Image source: Adafruit.com.

myDazzu ($19.95)
This programmable introduction to wearable electronics includes three LEDs and built-in light and temperature sensors. But you don’t have to know how to solder!


These are the gifts for someone a little bit older or a little bit more experienced. They don’t need to be programmers (yet), but these things will help get them there.

Image source: No Starch Press.

Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming ($21)
This is the book I recommend for kids who are a bit beyond Scratch, but not quite ready for the usual programming books.

Image source: O’Reilly Media.

Raspberry Pi—and related items ($35 and up)
A Raspberry Pi itself costs $35 from any number of retailers. If you’re looking to spend a bit more, you could buy a few accessories for a project you think might interest the recipient. There are also starter kits like this one from Adafruit, which are useful if you have no idea what to buy. However, in my opinion, they tend to be a bit overpriced for anyone who has any tinkering items at all already. Of course, I also have to mention my own book, Raspberry Pi Hacks: Tips & Tools for Making Things with the Inexpensive Linux Computer, which includes more than 60 tips and projects for users of every experience level. (See notes in the next section about whether you should get a Pi or an Arduino.)

Image source: Sparkfun.

ProtoSnap – LilyPad Development Board Complete ($69.95)
For those who would enjoy the LilyTwinkle mentioned above, but with a few more bells and whistles, the more robust LilyPad Protosnap includes more LEDs as well as a light sensor, temperature sensor, and buzzer.


These gift recipients know what they’re doing and are ready to build. They probably already have some programming experience.

Image source: Adafruit.com.

Bare Conductive Paint ($9.95)
Bare Paint is a water-based paint that lets you draw (well, paint) conductive lines on just about any surface where you can paint. It’s safe and way easier than acid etching, but it’s not waterproof.

Image source: Amazon.com.

Arduino—and Lego! ($25 and up)
People often ask me whether they should get a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino. It’s an apples and oranges situation—the Pi is a full computer. Plug in an SD card and peripherals, and you can boot right into Linux. The Arduino is only a microcontroller. So for someone who has no idea what to do with it, it can be a lot less satisfying to dive right into after Christmas dinner. That said, if you do have someone in the family with more patience and/or programming experience, I recommend also picking up Arduino and LEGO Projects, a book of projects you can build with Lego bricks and enhance with an Arduino. There’s even a TARDIS project on the cover!

Image source: Adafruit.com.

DIY Gamer Kit ($56.95)
If you want to give a ready-to-build Arduino-based gift, this is a good starting point. It’s a tiny screen (8×8!), but you can upload your own game’s code to an Arduino and play it on this board. Tutorials are available for those who need some inspiration.

Membership to a local hackerspace (price varies)
Of course, anyone can benefit from this gift, but I put it under the advanced listings because they tend to not be inexpensive. If you’re not sure where yours is, check the listings at hackerspaces.org.

Mother’s Day Gift Guide 2014!

Me and my little geek \ Images: Dakster Sullivan
Me and my little geek \ Images: Dakster Sullivan

Mother’s Day is May 11th and to help you get some of your shopping done, we’ve come up with our top picks of items we think your mom will love. From the book worm to the technology lover, we have something for every mom on this list.

Clothing and Accessories

Ogio Hampton’s Laptop Bag ($70)
Next to Oakley, Ogio makes some of my favorite bags. The Hampton’s Tote is big enough for a laptop and mom’s other every day needs and comes in eight different colors.

We Love Fine Princess Luna shoulder bag and matching dress \ Images: We Love Fine
We Love Fine Princess Luna shoulder bag and matching dress \ Images: We Love Fine

We Love Fine Luna bag ($39) and matching Fit and Flare dress ($34)
This year at MegaCon, I discovered the We Love Fine My Little Pony Princess Luna purse (say that six times fast). While on their website looking for the perfect ensemble to go with my new shoulder bag, I found the Fit and Flare dress! Talk about a match made in MLP heaven.

STEM Girl Swag tank ($28.99)
Just a fun, simple tank for the science nerd in all of us. Great for summer.

Frehiwot scarf ($36.00)
Handmade with soft 100% cotton. Each scarf offered by LiveFashionable.com helps to create sustainable women-run businesses in Ethiopia.

PlanetBox \ Image: Amazon
PlanetBox \ Image: Amazon

PlanetBox Stainless Steel Lunchboxes ($39.95-$79.95)
In the past year I have thrown myself into a mid-life romance with home-made lunches. Suddenly, I’m carving out portions of my evenings in order to make tuna-olive tapenade, provencal potato salad with green beans and hard-boiled eggs, and barley salads with chickpeas, mint, and feta. My first question (“where is this coming from???“) has quickly been supplanted by a second, more immediate question: how am I going to get this to work?

Enter: PlanetBox’s stainless-steel, bent0-style, machine-washable lunch systems. The hasped boxes come with covered “dippers” or containers to hold a salad, dressing, or dip, and can be slipped into colorful, coordinating carry bags. The thing that delights me most? This is ridiculous, but I adore the  fairy magnets that I bought separately to fit into the lunchbox top. Sometimes it’s the little things…


ADAPT \ Image: Amazon
ADAPT \ Image: Amazon

Adapt Bluetooth adapter ($39.95)
I’m a headphone junkie, but one thing I’m not a fan of is the wires. By plugging your wired headphones into the adapter and turning bluetooth on your device, Adapt makes your wired headphones, wireless. I love using this with my earHeropro headphones while at work to ease anxiety and be discrete about having headphones in my ears!

HP Envy Touchsmart M6 Laptop ($620)
The HP Envy Touchsmart M6 laptop is great for moms who have a lot on their plate and want a laptop that can handle it all. With 6GB of memory, 750 GB hard drive, Beats audio system, and a dedicated graphics card, this laptop is great for moms who like to surf the internet, listen to music, do a little photoshopping, play graphic-intense games, or anything else they desire. I’ve had mine for a month and there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not happy with it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4-Inch Tablet (Black) ($369.99)
Now we’re talking. High-res 8.4 inch display to watch movies, play games, edit documents, take pictures, read, video chat, and more. View and use two apps at once with multi-window feature. Uncomplicated with multi-user mode, letting family members logs in separately to view their own apps, background, and email. Use it as a universal remote control. This one does it all.

iBN26 NFC Bluetooth Stereo System with Speaker Phone ($70)
As a mom, I have my hands full enough without a bunch of wires keeping me down. That’s why I like this stereo system with a built-in speaker phone. It’s small enough that I can move it to my work area and stream my music while I work in my office or the living room. My favorite feature of this unit is the lacking of fancy lights on it, so I can put it beside my bed and not worry about it keeping me up at night. Compatible with Apple and Android devices.

Clarus Premium Dual Driver Earbuds with Mic ($199)
The Clarus Premium Dual Driver Earbuds by Moshi are by far the most comfortable over-the-ear headphones I’ve ever worn. From the moment I opened up the box, I knew I was going to be treating my ears to luxury with the padded case and attractive clear stand. Included in the box is a set of three ear pieces to ensure the perfect fit and a splitter in case mom wants to share her beats with you.

PowerShellController \ Image courtesy of Logitech and used with permission
PowerShellController \ Image courtesy of Logitech and used with permission

Logitech PowerShell Controller + Battery ($99)
For gaming moms on the go, this will charge your iPhone while you use the satisfying controller to play. There’s an extensive list of compatible games, offering something for whatever strikes your fancy. The combo is kind of a lifesaver on flights, in doctor’s offices, and even when commuting on public transportation. If you’re all thumbs when it comes to gaming on your iPhone, this is a great alternative.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad mini ($79.99)
The iPad mini is such a feel-good size for a tablet, but sometimes a keyboard would be amazing. Logitech is now offering their Ultrathin Keyboard for the mini, and it is just great. A powerful magnet turns the keyboard into a sturdy cover, and it transforms the very portable tablet into a great little laptop alternative.

UnuAeroCase \ Image Courtesy of Unu
UnuAeroCase \ Image Courtesy of Unu

uNu Aero iPhone 5S Battery Case and Charging Pad ($99.95)
If you’re looking for a way to charge your phone on the go, this is a great option from uNu. Put your phone in the hard case, place the case on the Charging Pad, and you don’t have to fiddle with docks and wires ever again. Plus, when charged the case itself provides an extra six hours of battery life for your phone just by pressing the button on the back. A clever, easy system to ensure your phone never dies on you again.

Cricut Explore ($299.99)
The new Cricut Explore is an impressive piece of machinery. The die cut system is the latest evolution of the Cricut line of products, and it is fully digitized. No more cartridges necessary, and the software is a true design space where you can create your own images and even upload images to be cut out. A luxurious item for any craft room.


The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart($15.26)
Find horticulture in every sip of alcohol in this fascinating guide to your favorite drink’s biology, chemistry, and history. Fifty drink recipes and gardening tips included.

Tequila Mocking Bird \ Image: Amazon
Tequila Mocking Bird \ Image: Amazon

The Beauty of Different by Karen Walrond ($19.13)
This gorgeous book explores beauty in fresh ways, helping readers see their own beauty in differences that are not shortcomings but distinctions, maybe even superpowers. The author’s work can also be seen on the photoblog Chookooloonks.

Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by Tim Federle ($11.40)
This is the ultimate gift for the book-obsessed. It features 65 delicious drink recipes, each with a literary twist, such as The Last of the Mojitos, Love in the Time of Kahlúa, A Rum of One’s Own, and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margarita. Each drink is paired with wry commentary on history’s beloved novels. Oh but there’s more, like drinking games, appetizer recipes, and delightfully witty illustrations.

BookBook covers by Twelve South by Twelve South ($34.99 to $69.99)
These covers look like vintage books, but are actually cases for your phone or tablets. The hardback cover and rigid frame protect your device while also disguising it from theft. There are no corner straps or elastic bands, this case has a secure hold on your electronics. It has two zippers, making it easy to unzip just enough to connect to headphone cable or charging cord. It features an a variable-angle display stand and a built-in typing stand. It looks and feels like you’re holding a book, which you are.

Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman ($13)
Sure, if you have kids, Mother’s Day is all about you. But if you happen to be mother who has already lost her own mother, this day can bring up some sad emotions too. Having been a “motherless daughter” myself since my early 20s, I highly recommend the book Motherless Daughters, by Hope Edelman. I’ve re-read it many times, and each time I do it touches me in a new way.

I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed her follow up book called Letters From Motherless Daughters ($12), that is broken up into chapters according to how long ago you lost your mom. Either one would be a touching gift for someone on your list who might be having trouble celebrating the fact that she is the mother, when she’s missing her own so deeply.

Renewed \ Image: Amazon
Renewed \ Image: Amazon

Renewed by Lucille Zimmerman ($11)
Starting to feel like you’re living your life for everyone except yourself? Need to be reminded why it’s important to listen to your own needs, even when there are little people in the house? The book Renewed by Lucille Zimmerman might be exactly what you need. It’s quick to read and you just might find yourself bookmarking several sections that speak to you the most. Buy one for yourself, and for any other mama in your life who might need a bit of renewal.

Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westerosillustrated by Michael Komarck and designed by prolific pop-up designer Matthew Christian Reinhart.($40)
This item combines so many things I love: maps, books (including interactive books), that steampunk-meets-fantasy intro to HBO’s Game of Thrones, and, of course, the dangerous and wonderful world of Westeros. In addition to the individual pop-up elements, the larger pop-ups combine to form a map of Westeros, complete with Winterfell, King’s Landing, and the ominous Wall. I challenge anyone to look through this without chanting the theme song, as well as any Games of Thrones fan to not want this in their collection.

For the Home

UniFlame WAD820SP 34-Inch Slate & Marble Firepit with Copper Accents ($129.00)
Stylish outdoor firepit made from slate and marble with wrought iron stand. This includes a heavy steel grate, with a 22″ round firebowl that’s easily loaded with wood. Game nights on the patio!

ProjectLife: Clementine design \ Image: ProjectLife
ProjectLife: Clementine design \ Image: ProjectLife

Project Life Memory-Keeping System ($19.99 and up)
Not everyone is a born scrapbooker, and the aisles of stamps, stickers, and decorative papers in craft stores can make some people itch. This was the case for GeekMom Jackie, who began using Becky Higgins’ Project Life when her daughter was born. The entire system consists of gorgeously designed journaling cards and endlessly customizable plastic sheets to hold photos and cards. You can even fit Instagram photos in special sleeves. The system is fool-proof and addictive, offering both print supplies for memory binders or a digital option to make your scrapbooks online. $29.99 for core kits (cards only), $19.99 and up for binders, and $29.99 for big packs of page protectors (all sold separately).

Hängen Wall Planter ($58.00)
Opus Garten offers unique, durable, and sustainable options for anyone who likes growing things, without any fuss. Their products contain no PVC, BPA, phthalates, or paint. GeekMom readers, use the coupon code “wiredmom” until Mother’s Day for a 20% discount on any Opus Garten products including Hängen Wall Planter and Airplant Nests.

Hänge Wall Planter is an elegant planter with sub-irrigation that hangs easy as a picture using a quick-release ball and cord system. Perfect for growing herbs or ornamentals, indoors or out

Airplant Nests  ($16.00)
Airplane Nests are wall-mounted flexible fingers especially designed to hold Tillandsia (air plants). Each pack contains four Airplane Nests for creative wall arrangements.

LED Color Changing Showerhead ($39.95)
Turn regular showers into something far more colorful. The lights are water-powered, infusing the (flow restricted) stream with ever-changing hues.

Disclaimer: Some GeekMoms may have received review samples. 

Explore Space With LittleBits

Image from http://littlebits.cc

This week littleBits announced the results of their partnership with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center when they announced the latest in their line of product kits. The littleBits Space Kit for Earth and space science explorers contains powerful electronic modules, coupled with projects and activities designed by NASA scientists and engineers.

“With the days old discovery of earth-like planet Kepler-186f, SpaceX’s successful docking at the International Space Station, recent evidence of the Big Bang, and the introduction of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new Cosmos documentary, space is more than ever at the center of the cultural conversation,” said Ayah Bdeir, littleBits founder and CEO. “Yet our relationship to space remains distant. With the littleBits Space Kit, we aim to bring space closer to home by putting the building blocks to invent, learn and explore directly into the hands of educators, students, NASA enthusiasts and builders of all ages.”

Founded in 2011, Ayah Bdeir created littleBits with one sole mission, to turn everyone into an inventor by putting the power of electronics in the hands of everyone. LittleBits breaks down complicated electronics into powerful modules to make it easier to “play” with the electronic components without worrying about soldering or wiring. The Space Kit added an additional three modules to the littleBits product line, an IR LED, number counter, and a remote trigger.

I’ll admit when I opened the box I was surprised that these 12 tiny pieces could create the advertised rovers, satellites, and radar dishes that were described in the five lesson plans and ten hands on projects.  Boy, was I pleasantly surprised!

Having studied electronics in college, I am very familiar with the amount of work that goes into planning a circuit and time that it takes to create a working project.  However, within minutes of opening the box I was able to light LEDs, play MP3s, and play with waveforms.  The Space Kit lessons are specifically designed to teach scientific principles such as electromagnetic, kinetic, & potential energy. As a STEM educator, I thought the ease of use was unparalleled. Each module is completely contained and modules connect via metal magnets that act as connectors between circuits. I had a friend’s ten-year-old daughter come over and she was able to follow the carefully designed lesson plans and blissfully play with the set as you can see in the video below, playing with sound wave forms.  She loved it!

As impressed as I am with this kit, learning that it retails for $189 really surprised me. The only thing that stopped me from buying this, and every other littleBits kit, is that high price point. For less than the price of a single littleBits Space Kit you can buy a massive educational kit from a comparable modular circuits company with more than 80 pieces and close to 175 written lessons.

Image by Helene McLaughlin

For more information and to purchase the littleBits Space Kit visit: http://littlebits.cc/kits/space-kit.

Bare Conductive: Electric Paint for Crafts & More

Bare Conductive © Bare Conductive
Bare Conductive © Bare Conductive

I’m always interested in trying something new in the world of crafts, so the idea behind Bare Conductive’s battery-powered cards made with electric paint fascinated me.

Bare Conductive sells kits that contain everything you need to make a selection of flashing cards: batteries, LED bulbs, a tube of electric paint, and cards printed with instructions. The idea is very simple: Punch holes in the card to affix the battery and bulb (making sure to line up the positive and negative sides correctly), then squeeze a line of electric paint along the marked line to create the circuit. Once the paint is dry, the circuit will be complete and the bulb will begin flashing.

A Finished Card © Sophie Brown
A Finished Card © Sophie Brown

There are, sadly, several issue with this. Firstly, if you follow the instructions as suggested, then the bulb will simply blink until the battery gives out—not very useful, if you plan to actually give the card to someone. I solved this issue by leaving a small gap in the paint line that could then be bridged at will by a paper-clip or other small metallic object. You could also put some of the electric paint onto a small piece of paper or a stick to create a flap that could be opened and closed by the recipient.

Secondly, there’s the difficulty of actually getting the card to someone. You have now created a card that has a small glass bulb sticking out of it, so if you plan to send your card through the mail, you’re gonna have to package it very well for the bulb to remain intact. OK, that’s not a huge design flaw, but it is something you need to consider before putting money down on cards that are not cheap to begin with. Personally, I’m not sure I’d risk it, which of course limits me to creating these cards only for people I can hand-deliver to.

Bare Conductive Paint © Sophie Brown
Bare Conductive Paint © Sophie Brown

Finally, I had a lot of issues with the cards themselves. My first card was something of a bust because the LED bulb was so faint, I couldn’t see it blinking. I actually thought I’d done something wrong on the circuit and spent a long time trying to find the problem, until I leaned over the card and spotted the faint blinking when it was in my shadow. I tried again with a second card, which worked much better; however, this one stopped working after a short time. I again hunted down the problem and determined that the electric paint had developed a hairline crack, which had broken the circuit. Cracking after only a short time could be an issue if you use the paint for repair jobs as the manufacturers suggest on their website.

One of the other products on the Bare Conductive website is the Glowing House Set, which contains all you need to build two cardboard houses that can then be lit from the inside with the LEDs and more powerful batteries. A more permanent project such as this, which also allows for easier battery replacement, seems like a better use for the electric paint than the card kits; assuming of course, that the paint doesn’t crack. The paint can also be bought fairly cheaply on its own, so you could create your own projects after a trip to the local electronics store. The possibilities for prop-making are limitless and could allow people with no soldering experience to create their own electronic devices. I have visions of glowing steampunk ray guns dancing in my head already.

I love the concept of electric paint and the ideas it opens up. While I would be nervous about allowing my son to use a soldering iron until he was in high school, this would allow us to start playing with basic electronics and circuitry at home from a much younger age. It’s not a perfect product and there are issues, but if these can be resolved then the possibilities are endless.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes. 

Review: JBL Synchros S700 Headphones Tested with Beastie Boys

Image: JBL.com
Image: JBL.com

Over the past couple months, I’ve had the chance to check out the top of JBL’s newest line of headphones: the Synchros series. With Synchros, JBL is promising a set of high-quality headphones featuring their JBL PureBass sound quality, with the higher-end models featuring JBL’s new patent-pending LiveStage signal processing capability.

I received the JBL Synchros S700 headphones at the end of last year. Family members and I have been using them throughout the house to test its comfort, sound quality, and rechargeability. I was able to compare these headphones with other full-sized over-the-ear headphones, such as the Able Planet Clear Harmony model I had reviewed in 2012, as well as Beats by Dr. Dre Solo headphones. We are very pleased with these headphones, although the price tag (MSRP $349.99) might be off-putting for many. However, if you are a fan of bass in your music, this is the investment for you.

The Synchros S700 sets itself apart from the other Synchros models in that it’s rechargeable. The headphones have a built-in Li-ion battery that will provide the LiveStage signal processing for up to 28 hours of continuous listening. Read on for my impressions of the S700.

What Comes in the Box 

  • Synchros S700 headphones with built-in Li-ion battery
  • Faux-suede clamshell zippered carrying case with velvet interior
  • USB charging cable
  • Universal headphone cable with multi-function controls
  • iOS-specific headphone cable with multi-function controls

The Power Button: What Does it Do?
They’re headphones, so things are pretty straightforward. Put them on and enjoy! Unlike the Beats Solo headphones I used for comparison, you can listen with these headphones without hitting the power switch.

The power button—to turn on the LiveStage signal processing—on these headphones is quietly embedded on the left ear cup. Just depress the round panel with the letters “JBL” until you hear the long solid beep.

The little white light will illuminate when the headphones are powered on. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The little white light will illuminate when the headphones are powered on. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

The sound capabilities on these headphones probably won’t make much of a different to a lay-user. But I broke out some of my more serious GeekMom-Headphone-Test music to see what’s so special about this particular pair.

My music of choice for this is Beastie Boys. The album is called The Mix Up. The song of choice is titled “Electric Worm.” It’s full of bass. Without the power on, the low pedal tones are sitting in the background…as if it were an afterthought. But when you depress that “JBL” button, the difference is profound! This is not noise-cancelling going on; this is an explosion of bass that will transform the way you listen to your bass-y music.

I did a side-by-side test with this song on the S700s, the Clear Harmony, and the Beats Solo headphones. While everything else about the sound quality between the three was comparable, the S700s will “pull” the bass out significantly better. In fact, this CNET reviewer claims that the S700’s bass is superior to that of the Beats Pro headphones, that company’s highest-end model.

Save the Battery Life. Really.
Unfortunately, most of what I use headphones for does not involve such bass. Therefore, if you’re using these headphones to watch Downton Abbey on PBS.org without bothering your husband who’s watching Archer in the same room, the LiveStage capability isn’t really going to make a difference.

Speaking of batteries, I have had these headphones in my possession for 2.5 months and still haven’t had the batteries run out on me. I’m sure I’ve had them on for more than 28 hours (the advertised battery lifetime), but I probably only remembered to turn on the power to the headphones about half the time.

If you do hear the low-battery warning beeps, it’s easy to plug the headphones into your nearest USB port for easy charging. I was able to get charging to occur both on my laptop and with a USB-to-A/C adapter. I can’t speak for how long it takes to reach full charge on the headphones, because I haven’t run out of battery yet to take that measurement.

It's in the details. Easy-to-maneuver hinges, aircraft aluminum trim makes these more professional-level. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
It’s in the details. Easy-to-maneuver hinges and aircraft aluminum trim makes these more professional-level. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

No Skimping on Luxury
The fine details to these headphones set it apart from other over-the-ear headphones with comparable sound quality. The super-soft real leather ear cups have made these headphones a pleasure to wear for long periods of time. The lightweight aluminum headpiece and trim makes for a sleek, modern design that seems classier than Beats plastic molding on each of their models, except the “Pro.”

The aluminum headpiece has a cushion on the underside for comfort. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The aircraft aluminum headpiece has a cushion on the underside for comfort. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Cable Troubles
The S700 comes with two headphone cables: One for iOS devices and the other for “all others.” Both cables worked perfectly well for their purposes. We tested them on the following devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod shuffle, MacBook Pro computer, Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, and a Dell Zino PC computer. I did the main audio quality testing with my MacBook Pro.

I had numerous concerns with the cable. For starters, it’s shorter than other headphone cables I’ve experienced for higher-priced headphones. At only 50 inches, it’s over a foot shorter than the Able Planet Clear Harmony cable.

Both cables have multi-function buttons on it that allow you to control your music, but on the S700, the controls are rather high-up on the cable, in approximately the same location as on Apple earbuds. Therefore, you can’t see which buttons you’re pressing. You will need to learn by touch which are which.

Finally, as is the case with all high-performance headphones with completely-removable cables, you need to be sure to firmly plug in the cable at both ends. On the S700, this isn’t as obvious as one might think. This caused me some issue last month, when I was excitedly beginning an episode of Sherlock on PBS.org and didn’t realize one end wasn’t seated all the way. I had the background music, but no dialogue.

Going Soft on the Case
I was very surprised that such expensive, high-quality headphones had a soft-sided case. I do know that comparable models of over-the-ear headphones (Beats Pro, Bose QuietComfort 15) include more rigid cases. I think JBL should rethink this product’s case.

These are very high-end headphones, meant for the true audiophile, sound engineer, and DJ. If you look at the Beats by Dr. Dre “Pro” model, you’ll see similar audio capabilities, design features, and pricing. The sound quality on the Synchros S700 is very good and even with my “layman’s” ears, I could tell the bass qualities are top notch.

However, if you’re like me, listening to music most often when working out or binge watching Doctor Who and Walking Dead episodes in the same room as her sons playing with Lego bricks…well, it probably won’t make a difference.

If you know someone who has discriminating tastes in their audio equipment, the Synchros S700 headphones would make a great gift. If you think you or your loved one doesn’t need such capability, JBL’s full Synchros line includes numerous models of headphones and earbuds to fit every budget and useage choice.

JBL Synchros S700 headphones retail for $349.99 and can be found online at JBL.com or other electronics retailers, such as Amazon. You can also check out the entire Synchros line here.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Handcrafted Steampunk USB Drives!

Photo: Steamworkshop
Photo: Steamworkshop

Sure, you can pick up a USB drive for $20 or so at any office supply store. But are they this awesome? Etsy seller Derrick Culligan crafts “accurate reproductions of items that never existed” for sale in his Etsy shop, Steamworks. These fab USB drives made with brass, copper, glass, and watch parts, for instance. They run from $100-250 or so, but just think how much you’ll impress the folks at your next con when you whip one of these babies out. (Alas, while the gears look functional, the operation of the flash drive is purely electronic.)

Steampunk USB drive
Photo: Steamworkshop

Motorola Talkabout MT350R Two-Way Radios Are Perfect For Summer Fun

Motorola Talkabout MT350R Two-Way Radios, Image: Motorola
Motorola Talkabout MT350R Two-Way Radios, Image: Motorola

Summertime means outdoor fun, and if you’re worried about your mobile phone surviving the elements, then the Motorola Talkabout MT350R Two-Way Radios are a great alternative. These durable and easy to use walkie-talkies will keep you connected with your family and friends when you’re hiking, at the beach, camping or even at an amusement park.

The feature that’s a stand-out for me is that these are weatherproof. This means you can take them on a hike and not worry if they’re dropped in a mud puddle, or bring them to the waterpark and not panic when your kids manage to sit on them in soaking wet swimsuits.

Continue reading Motorola Talkabout MT350R Two-Way Radios Are Perfect For Summer Fun

Review: Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred: Seriously Geeky Stuff to Make with Your Kids

Image courtesy No Starch Press

File this under: how did I not know this existed before? Snip, Burn, Soldier, Shred: Seriously Geeky Stuff to Make with Your Kids is exactly what it sounds like: a book of projects for you to make with your child. Most of the projects are pretty timeless and range in the level of skill and power equipment involved. There’s the delightful sock Cthulhu monster that involves only socks, stuffing, scissors, and needle and thread. There are also soldering projects, carpentry projects, and everything in between.

If you want to spend 2013 with practical hands-on learning experiences, this is is a treasure trove of ideas. Better yet, they’re all cheap ideas that you can do without buying a gigantic robotics kit or huge machinery, and there’s enough room to build on the ideas for new inspiration. The projects here are also appealing to both genders and a range of skill levels, and they explain why the project works as you build it. That would make it a great tool for teachers and homeschoolers as well as DIY enthusiasts.

The illustrations are black and white and mostly photographic with a few line drawings. The author chose to use more text and fewer illustrations to explain the projects. I actually prefer this to lots of pictures without enough explanation. Snip, Burn, Soldier, Shred avoids the trap of kid project books, in that it doesn’t talk down to the reader. It also doesn’t use a high level of industry terms and jargon, so don’t feel like you have to know everything about electrical engineering if you want to make the homemade electrical guitar.

My daughter is in love with the first project in the book, a lock box made of wood and containing many different types of locks. I think we’ll make it together once the weather is a little better and we can go outside for the sawing stages. Meanwhile, all our mismatched socks are going to turn into squids. I know we’re going to have a lot of fun with this book and a very crafty new year.

Full disclosure: a review copy of the book was provided by No Starch Press.

TEDActive Makers Hack Art, Urbanization, and Kinetic Energy

Laurence Kemball-Cook, CEO of Pavegen
Laurence Kemball-Cook, CEO of Pavegen Photo by Gina Clifford

TED is an annual, global idea conference. TEDActive is the arm of the TED conference that engages thinkers and doers in projects centered on the TED Prize. What happens when an artist, an engineer, an inventor, and a technology guru at TEDActive put their heads together around the idea of urbanization? Talk turns to making as an impromptu team emerges.

Luis Cillimingras of Ideo was the Urbanization project facilitator at TEDActive. Kiel Johnson is a fine artist with an amazing talent for working with cardboard. Kiel created a miniature city from cardboard for TEDActive. Laurence Kemball-Cook is the CEO of Pavegen systems, a company dedicated to converting human footsteps (kinetic energy) into electricity. Laurence presented at TEDActive, demonstrating how people’s footsteps on a Pavegen tile can be converted to electricity that can be used to power a radio. In his hotel room the evening before his presentation, Laurence hacked the radio (to accept power from a Pavegen tile). Beau Ambur, president and founder of AD&HD, Inc. is a technology guru who, as a child, taught himself electronics, wiring, and device hacking.

Because making things is what these guys love to do, they rapidly brainstormed a way to use a Pavegen tile (people power) to light up Kiel’s cardboard city. Luis purchased all the wiring, LEDs, and resistors required for the project. Beau, the technology guru, worked with Laurence and set about calculating resistor and power requirements. Over the next day and a half, the team wired the city up to the Pavegen tile.

Beau's calculations
Beau’s calculations Photo by Gina Clifford

As the team worked furiously to complete the wiring before the conference ended, people started making cardboard additions to the city. Someone built a yacht, another person created a TED sign. Someone even built an elevated park with resistors for tree branches.

Resistor Trees by Jenna Sampson
Resistor Trees by Jenna Sampson Photo by Gina Clifford

Finally, shortly before the end of the last TED session, the wiring was complete. The miniature city’s red lights glowed brightly as people streamed into the room and lined-up for their chance to jump up and down on the Pavegen tile. Some danced, juggled, and even laughed as they powered the city’s red lights. Literally and figuratively, this miniature city was “people-powered.”  What if real cities embraced diverse maker cultures and tasked them with innovative design and energy projects? If this project is any indication, our cities would be more beautiful, efficient, and fun.

TEDActive Attendees Power Cardboard City with Footsteps

About the Team

Miniature City Project team
Photo by Gina Clifford

Laurence Kemball-Cook is the CEO of Pavegen systems, a company dedicated to converting kinetic energy into electricity. Laurence was inspired to create Pavegen as a graduate student working at a large energy company in the UK where he was tasked with designing solar powered streetlights. Admittedly, Laurence is not a fan of corporate structure and was bored by the uninspired work he was doing. Motivated by his Sustainability and Industrial Design Engineering graduate college courses, he came up with the idea to harness otherwise wasted human kinetic energy to power lights or store the energy in batteries for later use.

Kiel Johnson is a fine artist with an amazing talent for working with cardboard. His miniature cardboard city, augmented with miniature signs, boats, hammocks, and art created by TEDActive attendees throughout the week, celebrates The City 2.0, the 2012 TED Prize.

Beau Ambur, president and founder of AD&HD, Inc. is a technology guru who, as a child, taught himself electronics, wiring, and device hacking.  It was Beau’s idea to light up the miniature cardboard city, and he definitely had the skills to accomplish the task.

Luis Cilimingras works at IDEO and facilitated the Urbanization project at TEDActive. Throughout the week, Luis worked tirelessly to facilitate conversations about improving cities as the world’s population shifts to urban environments.