Top 20 GeekMom Articles of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close and we prepare for 2016, take a look at some of your top viewed GeekMom posts from 2015.

What does this list tell us? That you are a diverse group of readers, interested in everything from creativity to conventions to coding to knitting to Lego to pop culture discussions.

What’s ahead? There’s sure to be more about women in the world of geekdom, DIY articles putting geeky spin on clothing, knitting and baking, more tech and more strong opinions about everything from Marvel movies to the comics.

Thanks for joining us in 2015 and here’s to a great 2016!

If you like any of the below articles, let us know why in the comments.

1.The Meanest Thing You Say to Your Creative Friend

What I could really use is a time turner on my hands. Photo by lozikiki on Flickr
What I could really use is a time turner on my hands. Photo by lozikiki on Flickr

Article by Ruth Suehle.

You just worked your creative butt off and finished the final touches on your amazing project only to show it to a trusted friend, family member, or blog community and this is the response you get:

You have too much time on your hands.

In her article, Ruth discusses how this phrase can take on dual meanings. She also addresses how one should respond to such comments, with or without snarky retaliation when dealing with friends, family, or anonymous commenters working on their troll skills.

2.Whoops! Inappropriate Old Movie

Whoops, inappropriate movie.
That’s a whole different sort of entertainment. (CC 2.0 by Nadia Hatoum)

 Article by Laura Grace Weldon.

Have you ever thought about showing some of your favorite cult classics to your tiny human?

Check out Laura Weldon’s article about showing Blazing Saddles, Airplane, or Sleeper to her kiddos.

Also, check out some of the comments other geeky moms have faced when watching movies that are inappropriate for kids. Pop some popcorn, scroll through the hilarious comments from fellow GeekMoms and enjoy this article one more time.

3.Why I Won’t Be Attending Wizard World

An upcoming Wizard World convention’s webpage with the “Cosplay & Fan Communities” section conspicuously empty, but representative of their attitude towards those groups. Screenshot by Ruth Suehle (thanks to Boycott Wizard World on Facebook for pointing out this glaring hole in event information).
An upcoming Wizard World convention’s webpage with the “Cosplay & Fan Communities” section conspicuously empty, but representative of their attitude towards those groups. Screenshot by Ruth Suehle (thanks to Boycott Wizard World on Facebook for pointing out this glaring hole in event information).

Article by Ruth Suehle.

Wizard World-branded Convention, is it a Fandom gathering or Fan-exploitation.

In her article about the pros and, well, cons, Ruth takes on the Wizard World convention and how they move in after other major conventions come to town. She even explores several instances when Wizard World feigned ignorance when prize winners stepped forward to claim their prize, only to receive blank stares from the Wizard World officials.

Explore Ruth’s hard hitting article about disappointed fans as they get slapped in the face by Wizard World Convention and its dark secrets.

4.  The Dreaded G-Word: When Your Child is Asynchronous

Image Source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Image Source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Article by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley.

Parenting isn’t neat, clean, or pretty. Most days parenting consists of chaos and emotional highs or lows. Continue reading Top 20 GeekMom Articles of 2015

Photos From London’s Brick 2014 Lego Show

The Incredible Steampunk/Pirate Land Diorama
The Incredible Steampunk/Pirate Land Diorama

Over the weekend, the munchkin and I were lucky enough to attend Brick 2014 at London’s Excel Centre. It was the biggest Lego show the UK has seen, running for four days and attracting thousands of Lego fans of all ages. There was so much stuff to see that it would take me ages to write it all up, so I’m going to let the photos do the talking for me. Suffice to say that if you love Lego and ever get the chance to go to a similar convention, I heartily recommend it! Highlights for us included:

  • Joining in with the World Record attempt for the largest Lego video game diorama – they opened up loads of the new Minecraft sets and let everyone go crazy building houses, towers, giant creepers, mines and cart tracks. The results were very impressive and certainly got everyone hooked on it – the on-site Toys R Us had almost totally sold out by the end of the day.
  • The videogame area was full of PS4s and Xboxes running the new LEGO Batman 3 game, as well as the older Marvel and Harry Potter ones. Beyond Gotham looks like a great successor to the Lego Movie game, which we had some much fun playing together recently.

Read the rest of Nathan Barry’s post and see more photos at GeekDad.

GeekMom’s 2014 Lego Bricks Gift Guide

Lego Guide
GeekMom’s 2014 Lego Brick Gift Guide. Collage: Cathe Post

If your geeky house is anything like mine, Lego sets and accessories have been added to a majority of the family wish lists. Here are some recommendations from the writers at GeekMom to you:

IMG_6160
Lego Superheroes Knowhere Escape Mission Building Set. Image: Cathe Post

Lego Superheroes Knowhere Escape Mission Building Set Instead of buying an advent calendar this year, GeekMom Cathe bought a couple of Lego sets and divided them up (a page of instructions a day) to cover the days and left the minifigures for last. This set features Rocket Raccoon and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy along with some other standard and unique bricks. $36.97

IMG_6162
Lego Movie Cloud Cuckoo Palace. Image: Cathe Post

Lego Movie Cloud Cuckoo Palace One of the most imaginative Lego worlds comes in an affordable set with one of the more popular characters—Unikitty! $19.97

81jI5Pr8GlL._SL1500_
Lego Building Bricks and Minifigure Molds. Image: Amazon.com

Lego Building Bricks and Minifigure Molds For the Lego brick lover in your life: Make candy, soap, crayons, ice cubes, bath fizzers—the possibilities are endless! $12.35

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 9.35.08 AM
The Lego Movie. Image: ShopLego.com

The Lego Movie If you have a Lego fan on your list who doesn’t own this movie, it is a must have. There is something for everyone, young and old. A geek favorite. $17.73

lego
Lego Friends Jungle Tree Sanctuary. Image: shoplego.com

Lego Friends Jungle Tree Sanctuary Lego Friends Jungle Tree Sanctuary includes a Mia mini-figure, plus lion cub, parrot, turtle, and monkey. Accessories include walkie-talkie, microscope, computer, binoculars, backpack, camera, and much more. Build a three-floor set with birdhouse, bedroom, laboratory, and paddock with pond. Ages 7 and up. $40.93

DUPLO Creative Picnic
Lego Duplo Creative Picnic Set. Image: Lego.com

Lego Duplo Creative Picnic Set If you have a toddler or preschooler who loves kitchen and food play, this is a great set to add to your Duplo collection. It’s also a great introduction to Duplo, with real-world items that inspire representational play and work on those fine motor skills. Ages 18 months to five years. $24.99

LegoJuniorsRacing
Lego Juniors Race Car Rally. Image: Lego.com

 

Lego Juniors Race Car Rally This set is great for a young car lover. The Lego Juniors line, for that transitional stage from Duplo to regular Lego, has some nice sets available. But, this racing set kept one GeekMom editor’s toddler busy for quite some time. It’s a 350-piece set that comes with two minifigures. Ages 4-7. $29.99

Scholastic
Lego DC Super Heroes: Phonics Boxed Set. Image: Scholastic

Lego DC Super Heroes: Phonics Boxed Set Your youngster can learn their vowel sounds in this book series featuring heroes from the DC universe. Books in the series focus on a sound per book and have the Lego cartoon art we know and love. $11.10

You Can Now Rent Your Favorite Lego Sets

lego Rental
Image: Pley

There are lots of Lego sets, but your pockets are only so deep and your house has only so much space. What to do? Now you can rent your favorite Lego sets so your kids have new ways to explore and create all the time.

It’s sort of like Netflix, but with Lego sets and it’s a brilliant idea. Pley has hundreds of different sets from which you can choose. You simply put the sets you want in a queue, and when you send back one set, then the next goes out to you and should arrive in just 2-3 business days.

Once you sign up for the service, you get a one month free trial before your monthly subscription starts. The subscription costs are broken down into sets that are small ($15), medium($25), or large($39). The really cool part is that there’s no limit to how long you keep a set. If your kid hates it, then send it right back. If they like it, then keep it for long as you choose. If your child absolutely falls in love with a set, you can even purchase it at a discount.

They’ve already got a couple of issues covered, things I’m sure that popped into your mind right away. Each set is completely sanitized before it goes out so you’re not getting a germ-filled toy, and if you lose a piece (up to 15 pieces actually), there’s no need to panic as it’s covered.

Unfortunately, they haven’t figured out how to avoid impaling your foot on a Lego brick in the middle of the night. If that happens, then you’re on your own.

(via NerdApproved)

GeekMom 2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Building Blocks and Lego Bricks

Do you have a builder to shop for this holiday season? Whether your builder is 4 or 104, or if they are a collector of Lego brick memorabilia, there is something in our Building Blocks and Lego Bricks list for everyone. There are even some non-Lego brick recommendations for builders who want to change it up.

Lego Adventure Book Image: No Starch Press
Lego Adventure Book. Image: No Starch Press

The Lego Adventure Book by Megan Rothrock features step-by-step instructions for building a variety of projects, including a fun Lego idea lab, medieval themed projects, and a dinosaur. If you know someone with a Lego collection, this book will send them on a creative adventure in mixing and matching pieces and parts to create something new. $17

The Lego Adventure Book Image: No Starch Press
The Lego Adventure Book. Image: No Starch Press

The Lego Adventure Book, Volume Two offers up nearly 40 models complete with step-by-step instructions for creating spaceships, pirate hideaways, dragons, fast cars, and more. On top of that, there are even more inspirational example models and tips from some of the top Lego builders in the online community. Read GeekMom’s complete review for more information. $15

The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder's Guide Image No Starch Press
The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide. Image: No Starch Press

The Unofficial Technic Builder’s Guide Skilled Lego builders will be giddy at the possibilities in The Unofficial Technic Builder’s Guide by Pawel “Sariel” Kmiec. From simple mechanisms to outrageous suspension/gearbox/drive-train combos, this book is perfect for the Lego geek who wants to move beyond packaged kits of Lego bricks. $22

Lego Brick Ice Cube Tray Image Dropzone Deals
Lego Brick Ice Cube Tray. Image Dropzone Deals

Lego Mini-fig Ice Cube Tray Have a Lego-crazy kid (or parent) in your family? Surprise them with this fun ice cube tray that makes mini-figs. Any drink will taste better with mini-figs floating around in it! $9.59

Lego Minifig Ice Cube Tray Image Dropzone Deals
Lego Brick Ice Cube Tray. Image: Dropzone Deals

Lego Brick Ice Cube Tray So, you’ve purchased the mini fig ice cube tray, why not surprise them one more time with ice that looks like actual Lego bricks? Great for birthday parties or just family movie night. Every Lego loving family should have this ice cube tray in the freezer. $9.49

Lego Cell Phone cover Image Lego
Lego Cell Phone Cover. Image: Lego

Lego Cell Phone Covers A great stocking-stuffer, this Lego cell phone cover is like a mini building plate. $20.44

Lego Chima for different platforms. Image: Amazon.com
Lego Chima for different platforms. Image: Amazon.com

Lego Chima This chapter of the Lego-game-verse gives you a lot for your money. Collect coins, characters, and more for hours—and I do mean hours—of play on your Nintendo DS/3DS/PlayStation Vista. The popular Chima Lego brick characters are represented by voice actors and subtitles making this game one anyone in the family can enjoy. $18

Fullscreen capture 11242013 64645 PM
Darth Vader Flash Light. Image: Amazon.com

Darth Vader Lego Flashlight Do you need to shop for someone who is afraid of the dark…side of the force? Maybe this flashlight shaped like Darth Vader will help. $22.75

Gift Guide - gadgets - Lego Boom Box Image Lego
Lego Boom Box. Image: Lego

Lego Boom Box If you are shopping for a Lego brick enthusiast who would love to listen to tunes while building, consider this brick shaped boom box. $40.62

Fullscreen capture 11242013 64745 PM
Lego Star Wars Pens. Image: Amazon.com

Lego Star Wars Pens These pens that can be “built” into characters like R2-D2 and Darth Vader.  $8.95

Fullscreen capture 11242013 64815 PM
Lego Minecraft: The Nether. Image: Amazon.com

Lego Minecraft: The Nether Recreate a Minecraft world as a micro-scale Lego model and explore the adventure of The Nether with three buildable Micromob figures: 2 Ghasts and a Zombie Pigman. $34.95

Fullscreen capture 11242013 64917 PM
Periodic table of elements wooden blocks. Image: Amazon.com

Periodic table of elements wooden blocks Start your wee geeks out right in the world with a set of wooden stacking blocks featuring the periodic table of elements. Uncle Goose also makes blocks featuring Chinese, Korean, and Japanese characters; Italian, German, and Russian blocks; and Braille and American Sign Language blocks. $31

Fullscreen capture 11242013 65324 PM
Woodmobiel Standard Kit. Image: Amazon.com

Woodmobiel Standard Kit This high quality wooden toy system includes pre-drilled pine posts, pine wheels, plastic boards, steel cap nuts and bolts, fasteners, and wrenches to join pieces together. Kids can build 20 different life-sized toys including a wagon, crane, bicycle, and plane. Ages 5 and up. A gift that will last for generations. $299

Fullscreen capture 11242013 65331 PM
Erector Super Construction Set. Image: Amazon.com

Erector Super Construction Set This special edition set is interchangeable with all Erector sets. It comes with a 6V battery-operated motor, 643 parts, instructions for 25 fully detailed models. For makers age eight and up. $59.99

Lego Architecture Studio
Lego Architecture Studio. Image: Lego

Lego Architecture Studio New to the line of Lego Architecture kits, the Lego Architecture Studio departs from the very successful formula that Lego has established with its kits of significant buildings and structures from around the world. With this newest kit, people can design their own architecture structures, from the simple to the complex. All of the pieces are white or clear, and the kit comes with a book that will inspire design. It gives only a few building tips, but it’s like the unstructured Lego kits of yore, except with pieces specifically useful for architecture. Great for adults and kids alike. $149.99

The Lego and Playmobil advent calendars Image Lego.
The Lego and Playmobil advent calendars. Image: Lego

Lego and Playmobil Advent Calendars Start or continue a holiday tradition this year! Advent calendars are a great way for religious or secular families to count down to a winter holiday. Lego and Playmobil always have fantastic offerings, with new calendars every year. Check out their selections this year. $20-30

Fullscreen capture 11242013 65421 PM
Thinker Linkers. Image murrahwoodcraft.com

Thinker Linkers Thinker Linkers from Murrah Woodcraft were on display at Maker Faire New York this year, and the addictive pull of these large-scale wooden building pieces was undeniable. Even the toddlers were jumping in to play and create with these full-size building sets. $23.50-$200

GeekMom 2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Clothing

Is there a geek in your life who wears their geekiness everyday? Many of our GeekMoms suggest these fashionable accessories and pieces of attire as gifts this holiday season.

Book Scarf Image www.etsy.comshopstoriarts
Book Scarf. Image: www.etsy.comshopstoriarts

Storiarts Book Scarf Wrap the page of a good book around your neck. Storiarts Book Scarf™ is created from American-made, cream colored, super soft 100% cotton jersey knit fabric, about 65″ in circumference and 12″ wide. Fabric has been doubled over and sewn along the edge and at the center to create a thick, chunky, and moldable “page.” Choose a page from Sherlock Holmes, Romeo & Juliet, Wuthering Heights, Anne of Green Gables, and many others. We’re partial to The Raven. $42

Hadaki tote Image hadakishop.com
Hadaki tote Image: hadakishop.com

Hadaki Cool Tote This tote bag comes in seven cheery designs. Each can be wiped clean thanks to coated cotton, featuring 3 interior pockets, one exterior pocket, with plenty of room for your tablet along with other essentials. $50

ScotteVest Travel Vest
Scottevest: Image: Scottevest

Scottevest vests and clothing We all have many (too many?) gadgets that we carry around on a daily basis. Most clothes have pockets, but many aren’t designed for holding specific kinds of things, such as iPods, phones, even tablets. Scottevest is a company which makes versatile, high quality clothing in many different styles to hold all of our things, be they electronic gadgets or baby pacifiers. These are items that you will wear for the rest of your life. $125 for a vest

R2D2hoodie
R2-D2 tunic: R2D2 hoodie. Image: Her Universe

R2-D2 tunic This R2-D2 tunic from Her Universe is a great gift for Star-Wars-loving GeekMoms, and it now comes in kid sizes, too! $40 (adult), $35 (kids)

TannimCustomChucks - Photo by Tannim, used with permission
TannimCustomChucks. Photo by Tannim, used with permission

Tannim’s Custom Chucks You know what your wardrobe is missing? A custom pair of Converse high tops that show off your fandom allegiance. Tannim’s shop covers everything from Game of Thrones to My Little Pony, and the Doctor Who versions are pretty spectacular. Orders must be placed by 11/15 at the latest for holiday shipping. $115

Screen Captures
Totoro Kigurumi Pajamas. Image: Amazon

Totoro Kigurumi Pajamas Adult full-length pajamas. Need I say more? There are also Totoro Feet Slippers if you wanted the full footie-pajama experience from your youth. $26

GoFollowRabbits skirts - Photo used with permission
GoFollowRabbits skirts. Photo used with permission

Custom Skirts by Go Follow Rabbits The incredibly cool Mars Rover skirt from Go Follow Rabbits was worn by one of our readers in our Geek Chic Fashion spread, and now we’re hooked. GeekMom Jackie is especially coveting the Doctor Who and R2-D2 skirts. Orders must be placed by 11/21 for holiday delivery. $45.99-$54.99

GapBatmanMittens - Photo from the Gap website
GapBatmanMittens. Photo from the Gap website

Gap Superhero Mittens Junk Food’s line of comics-inspired kids clothing is the best thing to happen to The Gap in a long time. Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman mittens are available. $16.95

Fullscreen capture 11102013 81107 AM
Lego Star Wars Crossing Image:Amazon.com

Lego Star Wars Crossing Zone T-shirt Lego Star Wars guys re-creating the famous Beatles album cover. This shirt represents the best of building and music geekiness. $10.50

The Princess Bride Tshirt Image: Amazon.com
The Princess Bride T-shirt Image: Amazon.com

Princess Bride costume T-shirt We are huge fans of The Princess Bride in this household, so is it any surprise that I fell in love with this t-shirt featuring the very recognizable costumes of my favorite characters? Twue wuv! It is, however, inconceivable that they don’t offer a women’s cut. (You mock my pain!) $20

Lego Wrist Watch Image Lego
Lego Wrist Watch. Image Lego

Lego Brick Watch Check out this cool watch that looks like it’s made out of Lego bricks! $18.03

Art of the Brick—A Journey Through Art With Lego Bricks

"Art of the Brick."  \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
“Art of the Brick.” \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

Ever since he was a child, Nathan Sawaya has loved to create with Lego bricks. However, as an adult, he abandoned his favorite past time in order to attend law school. Subsequently, he successfully (though not happily) practiced as an attorney. After realizing his heart was truly only at home building with his Lego bricks, Sawaya left the boardroom and turned his love of building into an actual career. Today, Sawaya‘s The Art of the Brick exhibit at Discovery Times Square in New York City winds up exploring the nubbed, outer limits of Lego brick art, re-imagining everything from cultural mainstays like the Sistine Chapel and the Thinker to the darker emotional spaces we all share.

I have to admit: When I visited this exhibit recently, I was expecting a short two-room experience…not seven rooms filled with everything from re-creations of Renaissance paintings to a dinosaur that took up an entire room (and most of Sawaya’s summer). The only thing that could have made my Art of the Brick experience better was if my Lego-loving 7-year-old-son could have been there with me. Since he couldn’t make it, I people-watched other children and enjoyed their expressions as they journeyed through the rooms.

There are a few rules about the exhibit you need to be aware of before going.

First rule: There are no backpacks allowed. This frustrated me because I use my backpack as a purse. Thankfully, Discovery Times Square ultimately allowed me to keep my backpack in my possession, instead of checking it at the desk.

Second rule: Flash photography is not permitted in the exhibit (disclaimer…unless you possess a media pass). Personally, I think they’re doing you a favor—the flash photos I took didn’t come out so great.

Last rule: You are not permitted to touch the sculptures.

So, as long as you keep your hands and your flash to yourself, the exhibit guards will leave you alone.

Each of the seven rooms has something different to spark interest. 

One of my favorite rooms in the exhibit was “Through the Darkness.” This installation is also where it got a little spooky for the younger kids—though most seemed to handle it just fine. The lights are dimmed in this area in order to highlight feelings of fear, and conflict, as well as a search for happiness. I found the digital plaques on the wall in this room thought-provoking—definitely worth your time.

Having suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember, I found the “Trapped” installation here particularly affecting—there have definitely been times in my life where I’ve felt trapped by anxiety. Sawaya ruminates, “There is always a way out, sometimes we just need help to find the way.” Maybe one day I’ll find my way out, until then, I have this Lego brick art to remind me that I’m not alone.

I also loved the bright colors and interesting quotes that I found in the “Metamorphosis” room. This is where visitors will encounter one of Sawaya’s most famous works (also a possible up-and-coming Lego set), “Yellow.” The information sheets next to each piece of art  here often included a quote offering insight into the inspiration for the piece. Some of the quotes really got me thinking, especially this one that went along with the piece “Untitled,”

When children want to be invisible, they simply hold their hands over their eyes, making it so they can’t see the world. Then they reason that the world can’t see them either. Sometimes we keep using this trick, even when we grow up.

I felt as if Sawaya was speaking directly to me at this point because that is what I do when I’m having a panic attack…I close my eyes. One of the reasons why I enjoy wearing my Clone Trooper costume actually is because it covers my eyes from the world. Once, when I passed out at Star Wars Weekends, I started to panic. I remember all the voices around me and the feel of their hands pulling me out of my costume, but don’t remember what any of them looked like because I kept my eyes closed, hoping that it would all just go away and that I would be okay.

Another quote that really hit hard with me coincided with the piece “Inside,”

When we’re born, we’re all given a shell to live in. And one of the joys of living is being able to fill it any way we like.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized I have the freedom to fill my shell anyway I like, and through writing and costuming, I’ve done just that. I’m looking forward to seeing how my 7-year-old son “fills his shell” as he gets older.

But there were still more rooms to explore…

Something else I found interesting about Sawaya’s art was how he made use of classic paintings and art and reconstructed them in Lego bricks. The first room in the exhibit actually features art from the Renaissance period, with Lego versions of the Mona Lisa as well as a segment of the Sistine Chapel (protip: look up, or you’ll miss this one). This is one of the rooms children might want to rush through, but I would recommend taking the time to show them each piece of art and the neighboring image of its real-world counter part.

The next room was filled with just as much history as the first, with art from ancient Greece, Africa, and Egypt. The largest sculpture in this room, though, and the one that got the most attention from both adults and children, was a head sculpture from Easter Island, also known as the Moai. This piece took over 75,400 pieces to assemble and the 1:1 scale was impressive. At one point while gazing up at the many tiny bricks used to create curves and smooth lines, it occurred to me: There’s a lot of history to be learned in both these rooms and I can’t think of a more engaging way to expose kids to it than with Lego bricks.

At the time I visited the exhibit, a final room included fan art chosen to be displayed as part of a contest. My favorite piece in this room was the Transformers Memorial Park, created by 35-year-old Craig M.

The last sculpture in the exhibit is actually a hands-on-experience: You’re given the chance to write your name on a Lego brick and place it on a giant sculpture. When the exhibit closes in January 2014, Nathan is going to take all the Lego bricks and refurbish them for a new project and any of the Lego bricks he doesn’t use will be donated to charity.

Final thoughts.

To get the most out of your Art of the Brick experience, take my advice and don’t rush! My mom and I completed the our exhibit visit in roughly an hour, and looking back, I wish I had walked a little more slowly and paid closer attention to the information about each piece. The information sheets next to each installation reveal more than just the names of the works, they are opportunities to dive deeply into each piece.

Before we left, I asked a few of the children what they thought about what they saw. A 7-year-old boy told me his favorite piece was the Peace sign because it had pink Lego bricks in it (score!). Another boy chimed in to say that he really enjoyed “Yellow” (see first image), but it took him a few minutes to give me that answer because he enjoyed everything about the exhibit.

When I got home from the exhibit I realized two things. One, it’s possible to do soul searching in rooms full of Lego bricks. Two, Lego bricks really do have infinite possibilities when it comes to what you can create with them. When I got home from my trip I saw my son’s Lego bricks in a different light and after I showed my son some of the pictures from my trip to the exhibit, I think he saw them differently too.

Bottom line:

If you’re a Lego-loving family, this Times Square Discovery Art of the Brick exhibit is a must-see! You have until January 14th, 2014 to visit The Art of the Brick before Nathan moves on to his next adventure. So if you’re in the area, make sure to stop by! For more information, including admission fees and operating hours, visit Discovery Times Square’s website.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Disclaimer: GeekMom was provided with free admission for the use of this post.

World’s Largest Lego Model Unveiling in New York City’s Times Square

GeekMom reveals an exclusive photo from Core Contributor Amy Kraft taken at this morning’s unveiling in New York City’s Times Square. Looks like the rebels have invaded. Or, more likely, taken refuge. Kids can climb up in the cockpit and get their picture taken with the in-flight photobooth in the Lego console.

photo 2 largest lego build

Check out the rest of the photos from the event on our Facebook gallery and see Amy’s earlier article today on how these fabulous replicas were built.

What It Means to Be Geeky

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

I have to be perfectly honest with you. When my writer’s group friend approached me after one of our monthly meetings, and asked me if I’d ever be interested in writing for the GeekMom blog, I immediately had my doubts. GeekMom? Wouldn’t a Geek Mom be someone who understood a whole lot more about electronics, computer programming, and , um…math, than I ever would? I was an English person in high school and college. Math and the sciences were not my strengths.

But my friend, who is an editor for the blog, wouldn’t let me off so easily. She was on a mission to gather a group of women who were passionate about a lot of topics. I quickly came to see that the term ‘geek’ in the world of GeekMom actually stood for more than just a love of science. Now that I’ve been around the block a few times as a core writer for GeekMom, I’ve fallen in love with the concept.

GeekMom Laura Grace introduced us, as we branched away from the GeekDad forum, in this way – “Every day GeekMom.com demonstrates that fostering our own passions requires us to value them. Give them a little space. Hoist up our geek flags and let them fly.”

Here at GeekMom, when we say you ‘geek out’ about something, it doesn’t matter the topic. Anything that makes you happy, keeps you engaged, makes you squeal when you get to participate in it, can be considered geeky. Some of us geek out about science related topics. But beyond that, many of us geek out about so many other things.

Through this adventure I’ve met some of the most amazing people. Well, I use the word ‘met’ quite loosely. Most of the smart, funny women I’ve learned from and grown with, as we’ve discussed a huge variety of topics on this blog, I’ve only met online. We’ve had long email exchanges and encouraged each other in our individual passions. I’ve learned about conventions and hobbies I’d never known about before. I have come to understand huge areas of interest that were always foreign to me before. That’s not to say I adopted their hobbies. But I’ve loved learning about them, and understanding in a much deeper way, how we are all amazing women because we are all made up of a unique variety of passions.

I decided it might be time to show our readers just how diverse our group is. If you think you can’t relate to a website called GeekMom, read on. I almost guarantee that somewhere on this list you’ll see yourself. When I put the question out to our GeekMom writers, “what makes you geek out”, these were some of the answers I got back. Who do you relate to the most?

GeekMom Jules –

Academia and learning (specially STEM, some history)

Non-fiction

World religions

Star Trek

WordPress Design (seriously, if I can find an excuse to buy another domain and design another website, I’ll do it)

GeekMom Rebecca –

Tea. Check out her tea blog!  

Science literacy and creative arts

Music

Making a labyrinth for a history camp for kids

Sexy fictional men

FONTS! I am a total geek about fonts!

GeekMom Dakster – 

Comic books – I read pretty much anything that doesn’t involve sex or drugs. Batman and Booster Gold are my favorite characters in DC and the X-Men and Avengers are my favorite in the Marvel Universe.

Cosplay – I already own three professional grade costumes and hope to make some more.

Photo: Dakster Sullivan
Photo: Dakster Sullivan

Retelling’s of classic stories such as Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella.

Music – I love all types of music. Soundtracks and Taylor Swift are my current favorites.

Dancing – I allow myself one hour a night to pop on my headphones and dance to my hearts content

Justice League, Batman and Superman animated series

IBC Root Beer – My happy hour drink of choice
Computers – I’m a notwork admin after all
New Tech
Shiny objects
Writing – I love to write stories, especially comic book stories.

GeekMom Ariane –

Programming

Math

Trivia

Casual gaming

DIY/Crafts (though I’m terrible at them!)

Baking

Playing music (saxophone)

Minimalism

New experiences (I am easily bored, so I tend to obsess over a topic and then move on. You should have seen me in my saltwater aquarium days! Ah, back in the good ol’ days when I had no kids and unlimited time and money to pour into random hobbies! I also love seeing new sights, trying new foods, and making an adventure out of everything.)

GeekMom Laura  –

Subversive cooking,

Open source and collaborative solutions to social ills

Small scale sustainable farming

DIY, particularly pushing myself to learn new things

Mediation, peace-making, history and current application of non-violence

Neuroscience and other research as it pertains to learning

Natural learning and homeschooling

Body-mind health, lately focused on healing from/preventing trauma

Anthropology, particularly relating to hunter-gatherer lifestyles

Foreign films

All things pertaining to reading including libraries, book-related art, writing, and most of all, reading itself

Outsider art

Strange maps

All things bookish

GeekMom Brigid –

Music (indie,punk and Yann Tiersen)

Cooking

Food – husband and I are gourmands of the local and sustainable but wholly decadent variety

Wine – wait thats also food

Cheese – oh wait thats food too

Art – nouveau, pre-raphaelite and some contemporary

Design

Fonts

Books – both for their contents and their value as artful objects

Mythic & Magic

Squirrels! (Yes, you read that right. Some day I’ll get her to write a post about why she loves squirrels)

Tea

 GeekMom Corrina –

Also a tea geek. Loose tea all the way.

Comic books, especially superheroes.

English royal history. Yes, I have the entire royal line of English Kings from William the Conquerer to Prince William memorized.
Sherlock Holmes
Writing!

GeekMom Patricia

College sports

Star Wars

Books, books and more books (which is why I got my knickers in a knot about my oldest son not loving books as much as the rest of our family, but that seems to have resolved itself now, phew!)

Military: history and current affairs

Running, fitness

STEM, especially when it comes to seeing youngsters develop a love for STEM

Gadgets and gizmos <– this is part of what I LOVE about GM!

Gardening geekery

GeekMom Andrea

Scifi (not so much fantasy, though I’ll read anything with a dragon or King Arthur on the cover).

Emotional health/mental health/how the brain works/what drives behavior.

Special education/how we learn.

Contemporary music–anything recorded since the 40’s. Classical: not so much.

Photography.

How things work. Especially things with knobs or screws or wires.

Learning new stuff.

 GeekMom Natania –

Rock music

Ukuleles, guitars, amps, gear

Romantic poetry

Middle English romances

Research

Thrift stores/antique stores/old stuff/vintage stuff

Pre-Raphaelite art/William Morris/furniture

Cooking (especially making complicated things, like beer)

Research

Social media/the web/analytics/data

GeekMom Kriss –

Growing things. You should see my collection of seeds.

A beautiful bounty. Photo: Kris Bordessa
A beautiful bounty. Photo: Kris Bordessa

Real food.

Vintage fabric.

Treasure hunting (thrifting/garage sales)

Hawaiiana/‘ukulele music.

Books/reading.

GeekMom Mandy

Fantasy and Sci-Fi (I like fantasy a little better)

Costumes

Disney (just found out that my in-laws might start being snowbirds in Orlando, which means more Disney trips for us)

Movies in general – my husband and I see a lot of movies in the theater and have a huge collection of Blu-Rays. We rank our favorite movies throughout the year.

 GeekMom Rachel –

Writing

Cooking (baking and making bread)

Gadgets (tech and cooking gadgets)

Home Entertainment (movies and TV)

circuits with without soldering)

GeekMom Melissa

Books, books, books, especially children’s books, and especially especially the work of L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Noel Streatfeild, and Maud Hart Lovelace. I’m a card-carrying member (literally, it’s in my wallet) of the Betsy-Tacy Society.

Bee-and-butterfly gardening. We’ve planted milkweed everywhere we’ve lived.

Gardening literature, especially the work of Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence. And Allen Lacy. I could read nothing but horticultural lit and be happy.

Japanese candy. Fortunately I have Kristen in my life to keep me supplied. :)

Fiber and fabric, all the fiber arts. I haven’t *made* much since my kids came along–my old loom is gathering dust in the garage–but anything to do with yarn makes my heart go pitty-pat.

British period dramas. Helloooo, Downton Abbey. And Lark Rise, Cranford, Garrow’s Law, Berkeley Square, all that stuff.

Education & homeschooling philosophy. Charlotte Mason, John Holt, the works.

I get very excited when I have a new social media platform to figure out.

GeekMom Amy –

– Kids’ books, especially the picture book variety

– Kids’ games and apps

– Kids’ TV

– Animated films

I guess I have a few grown-up things, too:

– Design

– Movies (particularly the libraries of directors like Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and the Coen Brothers)

– Violent or otherwise adult TV (play really well in contrast to the kids’ stuff: The Wire, Lost, Breaking Bad, etc.)

 

GeekMom Sarah – I’ve really learned a lot from reading the posts on GeekMoms and I now get excited about things that I wouldn’t have before, like the space program, STEM and Firefly which I just started to watch last week.

I geek out over amigugrumi and knitted goods. For example, I just created a Jayne Cobb hat for a friend and am working on some Amigurumi patterns of the Octonauts for my son. I avidly follow several amigurumi blogs and am constantly trying to come up with my own. I will spend a fortune on Red Heart Yarn and get high looking at the colors!

I also geek out over books. Old books, new books, vintage books, paperback books, hard cover books, pre-release editions, first editions, foreign language editions. I love to judge a book by it’s cover, as long as I can savor it for a while!

I geek out over Disney, that is my life long passion. I wrote my Bachelors thesis about how Disney represents foreign cultures to America.

I’m a big TV geek, some sci-fi, some not. X-files, Star Trek (TNG), Buffy and the life. I am currently devouring Heroes, having missed it the first time around. But I also have an obsession with Mash, The Good Life (Good Neighbors in the US) and anything from old school British comedians. Old cartoons, new cartoons. Okay this list could be endless!

GeekMom Sophie

Well obviously X-Files is my number one geek out, I can literally talk for hours about even the tiniest detail of the show. I cosplay Scully, have two shelves of books, another shelf of the VHS tapes, the complete DVD collection plus other DVDs and random collectibles. I’m now building a collection of art pieces based on the show, got a private commission and a limited edition show piece in there already along with an original sketch drawn by the actor who played Langley. A friend’s old boyfriend did some graphic design and made her and some friends (including myself) these adorable cartoon badge sets, they’re like XF for kids so Mulder’s shooting an alien with a water pistol and the Cigarette Smoking Man has a lollipop instead. So freaking cute and there’s only three or four sets in the world.

As you might be able to tell, geek art is another huge geek out of mine. I wish I’d had time to keep Geek Art going but I couldn’t manage it alone alongside GeekMom and life.

Disney theme parks is a biggie, I’m not especially bothered about the films although I own most of the classics, for me it’s the parks. I have a whole shelf of books on the architecture, conceptual history and behind the scenes information. It’s why I was so thrilled to interview Len Testa last year, he’s an idol of mine for really getting into the nitty gritty of how the parks run. I’m hoping to get the Poster Art of the Disney Theme Parks book at some point.

Scores/sountracks from film/TV. I have dozens of them and look forward to their releases almost as much as the film itself. I’m so excited at the prospect of Volume 2 of The X-Files scores, more Hobbit and Hunger Games this year. I’m also hoping that the Room on The Broom score by Rene Aubry will be released and dream of a Castle score one day. The first X-Files autograph I collected was Mark Snow, I have a limited edition signed CD sleeves from the Vol one box set, the demand was so high the site crashed minutes after I got through!

GeekMom Kelly –

Video games, in particular the creation/development and game soundtracks

Comic books

Star Wars

Harry Potter

Astronomy.

A long time ago I used to geek out about anime big time. I wrote something like 100 reviews for an anime review site, and I watched every series completely before I reviewed them. I shudder to think how much time that adds up to. It later turned into love for Japanese dramas, which I still enjoy.

Oh this is a weird one, dancing shows. I love So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew. I even figured out the choreographer for a random commercial and geeked out that I got it right. Dancing With the Stars isn’t my thing because I don’t think it’s fair to the stars to be judged.

 GeekMom Helene  –

Space

New advances in science

Science education

Photography

Optics

Ireland

Doctor Who

BBC shows

My Little Pony

Cake decorating

Fencing

Girl Scouts

GLBTQ equality activism

Breast and Ovarian Cancer Info

And that leaves me, GeekMom Judy –

Reading/books (I have a library card from the NYC Public Library System, because I couldn’t resist, even though we lived in Upstate and just visited New York City 3 or 4 times a year)

More specifically, Memoirs. (after having written my own, and having spent decades reading others, I am still fascinated to see how a person goes from childhood to adulthood and becomes who she’s supposed to be. It’s twice as fascinating to me as a story someone made up)

My newest 'baby'.
My newest ‘baby’. Photo: Judy Berna

Prosthetics and Amputees (I love telling you about the amazing products and professionals that have blessed my life, and the athletes who have inspired me)

The new Revolimb
The new Revolimb. Photo: Joe Mahon

Lego anything, including learning about the behind the scenes action. (with three sons, and having collected sets for almost 20 years,at each holiday and birthday, we have about as many bricks as Legoland)

Travel/Exploring new places (with an archaeologist husband, we’ve seen some pretty amazing places, following his job around the country)

Winter Sports, including skiing, snowboarding, sledding and snowman creating. It was a huge treat for us to attend the Winter X Games, just up the road from our house, for the past two years. Those athletes are our rock stars.

DSC04583
Super Pipe Practice. Photo: Judy Berna

And speaking of rock stars, in the past few decades I’ve come to really appreciate and love small indie bands. You know, the chicks and dudes who play because they love to? Check out this amazing song, “Not Born to Beauty” that says it so well (track 8).  We have a fantastic local venue in my hometown, and I have an old artificial leg that has the whole Bacon Brothers Band’s signatures on it. I’ve met the most amazing people, who also happen to be talented musicians.

The whole band signed it!
The whole band signed it! Photo: Judy Berna

So that’s our list. What would be on your list? What topics would you like us to write about more, or cover less? We’d love to hear what you love to read about. Welcome to the new, independent GeekMom. Welcome to your GeekMom.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Does It Feel Like Lego Bricks Just Keep Getting More Expensive?

Lego image CC BY-SA 3.0 Benjamin D. Esham / Wikimedia Commons

Lego sets aren’t just for kids–and they certainly don’t come at kid prices. I’ve gazed longingly at the “Death Star” and “Imperial Shuttle” kits, the “Mindstorms NXT 2.0,” the adorable “Hogwarts Castle,” and even “The Black Pearl.” But for the combined price of those sets, you could make a mortgage payment.

In fact, every time my husband and I see a Lego display, we comment on how they’re so cool, but so darn expensive. And everyone we knew had piles of them when we were kids–it doesn’t seem like our parents would have bought them at these crazy prices! I decided to compare the inflation-adjusted prices of Lego sets over the years to see how big the difference was.

As it turns out, after going up in the 70’s and 80’s, the average price per brick has actually been trending down. I sampled the prices of sets through the years as listed on brickset.com from across themes and set sizes. To try to make it an apples-to-apples comparison, I excluded minifigs by themselves, accessories, promotional items, games, or anything that required batteries, as well as Mindstorms, Duplo, and non-brick items. Here’s how the data graphs:

lego price/brick graph

One factor that is not accounted for here, which is harder to track, is price/weight. Many people believe (and have observed in their own purchases) that price-by-weight is more consistent than price/brick (i.e., is that a set with 10 2×4 bricks or 10 4×6 bricks?). Prices in any given year are also subject to the changes in oil prices, which may be the biggest factor influencing brick price in the coming years…

I have two theories about the cause of the apparent-but-imagined price increases (feel free to chime in with your ideas in the comments). Initially, I thought that licensing costs for names like Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean were driving the prices up–but the licensed sets don’t seem to be any more expensive per brick than other sets. This lead me to my first theory–that these sets seem more expensive because they contain a lot more bricks than sets did when I was a kid. For example, the $399.99 “Super Star Destroyer” contains 3,152 pieces! In comparison, 1975’s “London Bus” had 110 pieces and sold for $49–after adjusting for inflation, that is an appalling $1.87/brick!

My second theory is that, in my childhood memories, I am actually recalling the products of Lego competitors. We had both Lego and non-Lego brand bricks in our house. (Woe be to the kid who tried to stick the two types together: they never come apart.) One of my favorite sets was the Papa Smurf Loc Blocs set (even if one forum poster I came across calls Loc Blocks, “Legos for kids whose parents hated them.”).

On the up side, the bricks are nearly indestructible (as opposed to your feet, should you step on a stray brick in the dark). This means that the old Lego box languishing in your parents’ garage is just waiting to find a new home in your kid’s room, with 100% of the joy that you had the first time around, for absolutely free.

For tons more Lego brick price data, read more below.
Continue reading Does It Feel Like Lego Bricks Just Keep Getting More Expensive?

Minifig Madness: A Legoland Insider Tip

Legoland Florida had just opened for the day, and we were hot on the trail of the park’s retail manager. We had reason to believe he had the much-desired mobster minifig, and if we could find him, that minifig would be ours.

Trading minifigs is a big part of the fun of visiting Legoland, although many park-goers don’t know about the tradition. Guests who bring a minifig from home (or buy one in the park) can trade it for any of the minifigs park staffers wear on their nametags. Fellow guests may trade with you if they choose to, but staffers are more or less compelled to surrender their minifig when asked.

Legoland staffers sport minifigs on their nametags.

We didn’t know about minifig trading before arriving at the park, so our first stop was the Minifigure Market, where you can buy minifig assortments, customize your own figure, or choose from the mystery packs, which contain an undisclosed minifig (more on that later). We bought a mystery pack, which turned out to contain a boxer with a helmet and gloves. Browsing the gallery of possible minifigs in the mystery packs, my son spotted a mobster and decided that was his trading target for the day. We eyeballed the staff’s minifigs, but none of them sported the mobster. Then the cashier told us that the retail manager, who just left the store, was wearing the mobster on his nametag. “He should be pretty easy to find: He’s wearing a purple shirt!” she said. We headed off in hot pursuit.

Any outing is more fun when you’re on a mission, and finding the perfect minifig is no exception. As we explored the park, searching for the minifig made even ordinary moments more exciting. Waiting in lines for rides became an opportunity to scour the crowd for cool minifigs. We struck up countless conversations with Lego-minded strangers – kids and adults – while contemplating whether to trade for their minifigs. When afternoon came and we still hadn’t found the mobster-wearing manager, we headed back to Minifigure Market to see if they’d had a sighting. They hadn’t, but the manager tipped us off to a different strategy: By feeling through the wrappers of the mystery packs, we could figure out which one contained a mobster.

We began squeezing each of the packets in the mountain of minifigs, feeling a bit like Wonka fans looking for a golden ticket. During lulls in business, the manager would come by and help us palpate the packages. Other customers stopped by to see what on earth we were doing, and some joined the hunt, picking up tips from the staff on how certain telltale shapes can reveal what’s inside, like the furry hat of the British Royal Guard soldier. After patting what felt like hundreds of minifigs, I felt something that seemed like the mobster’s gun-toting instrument case. We checked with the manager for confirmation, and she concurred, so we bought it, and, ta-da…she was right! It wasn’t the way we expected to get him, but we had a great time nonetheless.

Success!

Another insider tip: There’s no limit to how many minifigs you can trade, so bring a bag! Any time you see a staffer with a cool minifig, you can swap it for one of yours. Accessories are fair game, too.

Thanks to Legoland Florida for hosting us at the park’s media preview.

 

 

Legoland Florida: The Young Lego Geek’s Paradise

Like Steve Jobs was to Apple fans, Legoland Florida is to all of the young Lego fanatics.  On Saturday, October 15, 2011, thousands of loyal fans from around the world converged on the grounds of the new Legoland Florida theme park for its grand opening.  Legoland Florida did not disappoint.  It was uncanny how passionate and informed the young fans were about Lego.  It was eerily similar to how adult Apple fans admired Steve Jobs and his fabulous tech gadgets. It was fun to discover all of the ways Lego fans chose to display their love for the Lego brand.

Aaron and Nine year old Max from Sanford, FL express their love of Lego.

Young Legoland fans scouting out the park map
Young Legoland Florida fans scouting out the park map. Photo by Gina Clifford
A young Lego fan expresses his passion for Lego bricks with this cool t-shirt
A young Legoland Florida visitor expresses his passion for Lego bricks with this cool t-shirt. Photo by Gina Clifford
Lego Star Wars fans with the very cool Lego R2-D2
Lego Star Wars fans with the very cool Lego R2-D2 at Legoland Florida. Photo by Gina Clifford
Lego Shoes
Cool Lego Shoes worn by young Legoland Florida visitor. Photo by Gina Clifford

Legoland Parks are designed to appeal to kids between the ages of two and twelve, so I talked to a bunch of kids in this approximate age range (4 – 13) to learn about their favorites parts of the park. Kids enjoyed sharing their experiences in the park, so taking an informal, non-scientific poll of kids’ favorite experiences at the park was a snap.

The Dragon coaster was definitely the favorite attraction in the park in my poll. Other very popular rides for eight- and nine-year-olds were the Driving School, the Flying School, and the Technics Test Track roller coaster.

Unofficial Favorite Legoland Activity Poll
Unofficial Favorite Legoland Activity Poll

Theme parks, by their very nature, are extremely stimulating to our senses.  Legoland Florida, though, is a bit more laid-back than the usual theme park. In fact, there are many areas of the park where families can take a break.  Miniland USA is a great place to linger and take in the amazing details at your own pace.  Cypress Gardens, renewed to its original splendor, is indescribably beautiful and a perfect place to escape from the crowds for a bit.  Winding paths open into breathtaking vistas of the gardens and Lake Eloise. There are even benches along the shore of the lake under giant oak trees.

Cypress Gardens
Cypress Gardens fully restored to its historic splendor in a section of the new Legoland Florida Park. Photo by Gina Clifford

Several moms noted that there was no sign of over-stimulated children crying and screaming at the end of the day at Legoland Florida.  Kids that I spoke with were happy, relaxed, still smiling, and bubbling about their experience in the park– even if their parents were looking worn-out.

Nine- year-olds can be very fussy eaters. Children with food allergies can pose an even bigger challenge.  Thankfully, Legoland Florida has healthy, tasty, kid-friendly options.  Because we are a wheat and dairy-challenged family, we headed to the Market Restaurant and enjoyed Asian noodles, grilled vegetables, rotisserie chicken, and assorted grapes. Our meals were tasty; the service was fast, and the staff knowledgeable and friendly.  We sincerely appreciated that the manager helped us choose items that were dairy- and gluten-free.

Legoland Florida has a store called the Minifigure Market just for building and purchasing minifigures.  This store was so packed on opening day that there was a 30-minute wait just to get in from around 4:00 pm until closing.  Minifigures, like Lego bricks, can be customized by mixing and matching parts and accessories. Young Lego fans love them.

All Legoland Florida staff members wear nametags made from Lego bricks, and many attach Lego Minifigures to their nametags. A little-know secret I learned from the Legoland Marketing staff is that Legoland staff members wearing a minifigure will exchange minifigures with young park attendees who bring a minifigure to trade. The Legoland staff members have great stories about their trades and love to interact with fans in such a unique fashion.

Adrian Jones, general manager of Legoland Florida wearing his Minifigure
Adrian Jones, general manager of Legoland Florida wearing a Minifigure on his nametag. Photo by Gina Clifford
Young Lego fan trading Minifigs with a Legoland Florida Staff member
Young Lego fan trading Minifigures with a Legoland Florida Staff member. Photo by Gina Clifford
Lego Fan With Lego Minifigure at Legoland Florida
Lego Fan With Lego minifigure at Legoland Florida. Photo by Gina Clifford
Michael, 11, and his Mom at Legoland Florida
Eleven year old Michael from Orlando poses with his mom at Legoland Florida. Michael is a Lego minifigure fanatic and recommends reading the Minifigures Standing Small book. He would love to trade for the Samurai Fan Pick minifigure. Michael attends Milwee Middle School and is the youngest member in his First Lego Robotics League. Photo by Gina Clifford

Clutch Powers fans will surely enjoy the 4D Clutch Powers Adventure movie in Fun Town.  The story is well-written, the effects are fun, and the characters are as enjoyable as ever.  Do not forget to find Clutch Powers on a  billboard in Miniland USA’s Las Vegas.

Clutch Powers 4D
Clutch Powers 4D. Photo by Gina Clifford

My family was lucky enough to stay at the Nickelodeon Suites in Orlando.  Nickelodeon Suites is one of the Legoland Florida Bed & Brick hotels, which includes 13 different hotels in the Orlando and Winter Haven areas.  With free shuttle service to and from Legoland, families visiting Orlando attractions can easily add Legoland to their vacation schedules. The short 45-minute bus ride to the Legoland Park was a relaxing way to arrive at the park without having to worry about parking. The best part about the Nickelodeon Suites, however, is that it is a destination full of fun all by itself. It is the ultimate kid hotel and complements the Legoland experience nicely.

We really appreciated the comfort of our two-bedroom suite, complete with sink, microwave, and mini-refrigerator. The kid-centric theme got a double thumbs-up from our nine year-old, especially the very cool bunk bed, TV, Sponge Bob wall décor and colorful and convenient shelving.

Sponge Bob Themed Room at Nickelodeon Suites in Orlando, Florida
Sponge Bob mural in themed room at Nickelodeon Suites in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Gina Clifford

The beautiful pools and water parks were probably our nine-year-old’s favorite parts of the Nickelodeon Suites Resort.  Like Legoland Florida, the Nickelodeon Suites designed its grounds with kids in mind, and the water parks are no exception.  There were plenty of lifeguards attentively watching the swimmers and water slides, too.

Nickelodeon Suites Lagoon Water Park
Nickelodeon Suites Lagoon Water Park. Photo by Gina Clifford

The character breakfast was quite a hit with the youngsters. Popular Nickelodeon characters like Sponge Bob and Dora the Explorer danced and posed for photos with their fans. Oh, and the food was great, too. In fact, because our server asked about food allergies, we were able to talk directly to the chef. He made us outstanding dairy-free, gluten-free pancakes.

Honestly, the character breakfast appeals mainly to the 4- to 6-year-olds.  Our nine-year-old enjoyed watching the crazy singing and dancing, but has long outgrown his love of live dancing TV characters.

There is much more to see and do at Legoland Florida and Nickelodeon Suites.  Judging by the passion and creativity I witnessed at Legoland Florida, the future Steve Jobs is probably a Lego fan and wants nothing more than to spend a day or two in paradise at Legoland Florida.

Thanks Nickelodeon Suites and Legoland Florida for the press package.

MOC Olympics 2011

If you’re an uber-LEGO Geek, you probably know that MOC stands for My Own Creation. For those less obsessed than my son uninitiated in LEGO speak, when you use your imagination to build a LEGO creation from scratch (like you’d learn to do with the LEGO Master Builder Academy) it’s considered a MOC.

Hosted by MOCPages, the 2011 MOC Olympics kicks off in September and will span the course of three months as adult and youth builders go head-to-head in seven different elimination rounds. If you want to try your hand at out-creating another LEGO fan, you’ll need to be a member of MOCPages (it’s free) and sign up for the MOC Olympics group. Last year’s entries are pretty impressive!

Via Brothers Brick

San Diego Comic-Con Day One: Star Wars Legos, Ewok Attack!

Lego bricks anyone?

Yesterday was my first full day at San Diego Comic-Con and it was fantastic! There were so many things to see that I found myself wandering from booth to booth, panel to panel, with absolutely no plan. I thought I’d try to at least walk the floor in some kind of order so that I’d know what I’d seen and what I had to investigate another day, but no, I jumped from booth to booth like a cat chasing a laser dot on the wall.

One booth that was a ridiculous amount of fun was from Lego. They had a giant pile of yellow bricks, and I desperately wanted to swim in it, but there were all these kids and I figured Lego probably would not appreciate my enthusiasm. In addition to the swimming pool that I couldn’t use (but did play with for a bit) their store was selling a handful of early-release Star Wars Lego sets.

 

 

 

There was a Republic Frigate, Anakin’s Podracer and then I found this little gem which was my favorite of the whole bunch. That’s right, it’s called Ewok Attack! I added the exclamation point but I have to say I think there should be one on the box. As a long time fan of the cute but deadly Ewoks, this was the first thing at the con that I really had trouble not buying on sight. You’ve got happy little Ewoks minding their own furry business. Along come the evil Imperials, but fear not! These guys will defeat them with logs and sling-shots and rocks. You’ve just got to love the Ewoks. No, really, you do or they will leave you broken on the forest floor.

Lego Smith Nightspeeder

 

 

If you happen to be an Imperial and the Ewoks aren’t your favorites, then what about this Sith Nightspeeder? I think it’s important to note that, speeder or not, the Ewoks could still take you out with a well-placed bit of handmade rope.  I know, these aren’t just Imperials, they’re Sith, but the Ewoks are not to be underestimated. Snazzy vehicles pose no challenge.  None!

Lego Millenium Falcon

 

 

On the other hand, if you’re Rebel Scum, then you can have the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs. Yes, build your very own Millenium Falcon so you can help the Ewoks and shoot down any Sith that may escape their deadly grasp. Yes, Han and the Ewoks had a rocky start, but in the end he came to love them, too. No one can withstand their cuteness.

These great new Lego sets, along with Darth Maul’s Infiltrator, Podracers and a Republic Frigate are only available at San Diego Comic-Con for now, but you’ll see them in stores this August. Now, I’m off to the con again, and if no one’s looking I’m going to dive into that pile of yellow Legos.  Think anyone will notice?

A Look at Grapevine’s Legoland

The toddler-friendly Duplo Village has Lego sculptures and lots of large, squishy blocks

Even before I had a kid, I wanted to go to Legoland. The California theme park has dozens of rides and attractions, a water park, and acres and acres of amazing Lego sculptures. And there’s a new one opening in Florida, too. But since it will likely be a few years before my family can make the trip to either one, I was intrigued by the opening of a much smaller version of Legoland right in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We decided to check it out.

Legoland Discovery Center in Grapevine, Texas, is an indoor attraction that’s attached to the supersized Grapevine Mills Mall. It’s not a theme park, but it is a pretty decent attraction, and it provided some solid family entertainment. (Note: It’s a good thing I do have a kid now, because the Discovery Center does not allow adults who aren’t with kids.)

Here are some of the highlights from our visit.

  • Kingdom Quest: This is Legoland Grapevine’s featured attraction, and it gets prime real estate just past the main entrance. It’s a knights ‘n’ castles-themed ride that snakes a four-person car slowly through a winding path. Each rider is given a laser gun and encouraged to shoot goblins, spiders, and trolls that pop up on large video screens on the walls. The scary parts were a bit worrisome to our 3-year-old son, and he didn’t want to ride it again, but it didn’t really upset him. Two older kids (5 and 6) in our group had a good time blasting their enemies and saving the golden dragon eggs.
  • Merlin’s Apprentice: The other ride at Legoland Grapevine is a pretty standard cars-whirling-around-a-center-axis deal. Each car is a two-seater, and each seat comes equipped with pedals that control your vertical position (i.e., the faster you pedal, the higher up your car goes). This one was a big hit with all the kids in our group.
  • Legos Studio 4D Cinema: We enjoyed this 15-minute 3D film about Bob the Builder and his attempts to make a roller coaster out of building bricks. It’s short enough that kids won’t fidget much, and there are nicely paced popping-out-of-the-screen effects that wowed the young audience we were with. The “4D” comes in when water is spilled in the movie — a fine mist of water sprays over the audience, an effect that caused plenty of giggles. There are also some wind and snow effects.
  • Miniland: This one may interest parents more than kids. It’s a room full of tiny Lego buildings and structures, mostly replicas of Dallas and Fort Worth landmarks. They’re wonderfully crafted, and for fans of miniatures like me, they’re fascinating. But despite some cute motion effects here and there, it’s not that exciting for most kids.
  • Lego City Play Zone: Honestly, this is just like any other play center climbing structure. It’s big, and kids like it, but it’s nothing special.
  • Other attractions: We didn’t check out the Princess Parlor (we had all boys with us), we bypassed the Lego Racers track (too crowded), and the Duplo Village warranted only a stop-by (although it’s a good place to chill out with a toddler). The Lego Factory is only accessible when you first enter the Discovery Center, and it’s just a brief look at a few cartoon-y machines that supposedly make Lego bricks, accompanied by cheesy narration from a supposed Lego “scientist.” Honestly, we were so ready to get inside that this part just felt like an annoying delay.
Lego replicas of Dallas’ Fair Park in Miniland

Things to note:

  • Tickets are $19 per person, with a 15% discount for buying online. (You also get to go to the shorter entry line with online tickets.) It’s free for kids age 2 and under. Everything is included in the ticket price except food and whatever you inevitably purchase at the gift shop on the way out.
  • There are height restrictions for the rides and for some attractions, and kids must wear socks to go into the Play Zone. (They’re very serious about the socks, and will do a sock inventory on your party before you enter, and will sell you socks for $1 if you need them.)
  • There’s a Lego Cafe selling drinks and snack foods, but no one was visible manning the counter when we sat down at the adjacent tables for a break, so it was lucky we’d brought our own snacks. (Note: Outside food and drinks are officially not allowed. But we were not busted for passing out juice and crackers! Go ahead and bust me now, Legoland — I dare you!)
  • Yes, you can do birthday parties there — they have some dedicated rooms behind the Cafe.

If you’re not already in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I wouldn’t say Legoland Discovery Center is a reason to travel. (And there are similar Discovery Centers in Chicago, Atlanta, and Kansas City that might be closer to you.) But if you happen to be in the area, it’s a fun way to spend a few hours with the kids — especially when the Texas heat makes anything indoors feel like an air conditioned dream.

Meet the Lego Master Builder – Part Two! (subtitle: What Happens to the Old Models?)

Just over a week ago I introduced you to a fun, creative guy named Steve, who is one of the rare people who can put the words “Lego Master Builder’ on his business cards. In my first post I shared with you how he came to work for Lego and what the typical path that leads to a job as a Master Builder looks like (hint: there isn’t one).

As entertaining as that post was to write, I actually saved some of the best stuff for this follow up post. Let’s dive right in.

My photo from Toy Fair- an amazing model!

Just as there is no typical resume for a builder, there is also no typical day at work. Some days Steve works on big models, like the life sized version of Lightening McQueen, that his group cranked out to launch the Cars2 construction sets. That project took weeks.

Other days he works on finding alternate models that can be built from standard retail sets. He (and other Master Builders) redesign the set, then create free building instructions. Sometimes he creates new concepts and drawings for possible future models.

He also spends some time on the road, representing Lego. He attends Lego events and store openings, helping children and their families build models (I’m guessing he’s really good at that, having enjoyed my time with him at the Toy Fair).

Okay, so while we’re on the topic of display models, let’s talk logistics. I’ve been to a few Lego stores, including the one down at Rockefeller Center, and they’re filled with amazing models. I’ve always wondered who builds them (Steve and friends!) and what happens to them once their shelf life is up.

For one thing, they’re all glued. The builders recognize that many children will be crawling on them and touching them and stability is important. Once a model is no longer needed in its original location it’s moved back to the company office and lives out its life next to other model has -beens (which is why, I’d imagine, the company headquarters must be an amazing mixture of themes, with Lego aliens and X-wing fighters living alongside Dora the Explorer and Spongebob).

If, by some chance, they were ‘loved’ too much and are just too worn out to retire with grace and dignity, they instead head back to the earth. They’re crushed and recycled.

The exception would be the models constructed during building events, which are not glued. When they make it back to company headquarters, they’re taken apart, sorted by size and color, then packed away to be used at another event. Yes, the sorting can be a monotonous job and yes, they accept volunteers.

Now on to Steve’s personal portfolio. He tells me that they do use computer programs to design their models, but much of the work is also done off the top of their heads. It’s always good to leave room for the creativity factor.

When asked what he found most challenging to build, the answer was a simple one. Human heads. “Generally speaking, creating a good lifelike head of a real person is about the most difficult thing we do,” Steve says. I don’t have any trouble believing that.

The biggest creation he’s ever built was a 21 foot great white shark. This is one project he didn’t mind having a little help in constructing.

Steve's great white shark.

His favorite model is a unique one. “My personal favorite  was a 2 foot long octopus,” he said. “The challenge was to create a realistic model of an octopus the way they crawl across the ocean floor with all their legs curling and spiraling over each other. While it’s not a huge spectacular model, or some kind of wild show-stopper, it’s still my ultimate “see,-these-don’t-have-to-look-square” model, and I’m still pleased with it whenever I look at it. I built it 12 or 13 years ago.”

Steve's pride and joy!

Later this summer I’ve been promised some insider pictures of the newly redesigned building studio at the U.S. company headquarters in Connecticut. Now that we all know some of the insider information, it’s time to take a peek at the actual behind the scenes place where it all goes down. Many thanks to Steve, for his candidness and humor in answering my endless questions.

As if I needed another reason to love this company that keeps my kids’ creativity supercharged.

 

 

 

 

Mini Weapons for LEGO Mini Figures

What’s a dad to do when his 9 year old son laments the fact that LEGO doesn’t make WWII weapons? If you’re Will Chapman, you devise a plan to create tiny weapons that are compatible with LEGO mini figures. That request was made in 2006. Today, Brick Arms produces 100 different weapons & accessories, weapons packs, and custom mini figures.