Do You Pinterest?

“No, I prefer Quarterest. I don’t gallonterest because they charge.” – my witty fourteen-year-old.

I could browse through Pinterest for hours, and have. It’s a great place to waste time, to find oodles of inspiration. As a mom and writer, I love Pinterest. And now that I can keep some boards secret, I love it even more. In addition to being the keeper of the family schedule, I also coordinate our teacher gifts, Halloween costumes, and meals. As a writer, I could use a little inspiration to get me back on task, while keeping track of all the ideas that gradually coalesce into a writing project.

I am by no means a Pinterest pro. But other than the usual Food, Fashion, and Fun Boards, here are a few ideas on how to use Pinterest to organize our crazy lives: Continue reading Do You Pinterest?

‘The Force Awakens’: Star Wars Nail Art Tutorial

Manicures and Star Wars. Nope, this isn’t a “which one of these is not like the others” puzzle. When I randomly ran across the the Cover Girl Star Wars makeup collection of nail polish, I bought them all. OK, well, FIRST I bought the lipsticks because I also really love lipstick. Then I went back and bought all the matching polishes. Because LIMITED EDITION. I mean, that’s the nerd equivalent of a dog whistle.

The problem was that I had sort of become tangentially addicted to nail wraps because they were so much prettier! And there were designs! And it was EXCITING. However, my cheap self decided that if I had just dropped a ridiculously obscene amount of money on nail polish, I couldn’t just let it sit in a drawer. They needed to be used in a way that incorporated as many polishes as was humanly possible at one time.

This led me to my mortal crafting enemy, Pinterest.

Continue reading ‘The Force Awakens’: Star Wars Nail Art Tutorial

Pin It! Cosplay Edition

Pin It Cosplay
Image: Dakster Sullivan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey Pinterest Users: Stop Saying This, Please!

Photo by Natania Barron.

Hey you. You use Pinterest, right? Cool. Awesome. Love to see you here. Love your Doctor Who board—like whoa. And your recipe collection was seriously inspiring.

But could you do me a favor?

Could you stop it with the phrase, “I could never?”

Not sure what I mean? Here. Let me help you.

I could never pull off that lipstick.

I could never find the time to do that craft.

I could never get the recipe right.

I could never be that fit.

I could never get my husband to agree.

I could never manage that hair color.

Sound familiar?

Why do we do this? Why do we see things we like/want to try/aspire to be/want to experience, and immediately cut ourselves down? Is it societal? Must be.

Think about it this way: If you heard your child speaking that way, what would you say? I’d turn around immediately and tell my daughter that she’s wrong. That she can try and do anything she wants, whether it’s teal hair or knitting herself a full-length Doctor Who scarf or perfecting a baklava recipe. That even if it doesn’t work right, that’s not what matters. Lipstick can be changed. Recipes can be tried again. Hair will grow.

Life is too short to cut yourself short! Not to get all Stuart Smalley on you, but y’know what? You. Are. Awesome. 

Sure, Pinterest is good for dreaming. And sure, there are going to be things we never get to in our lives. But please, please. Rock that pin. Rock the ensuing selfie. Rock it, love it, embrace it. If it turns out wrong, tell the story, pour yourself a glass of wine, and laugh it off.

How to Throw a Harry Potter Party Without Spending 1000 Galleons

All Photos: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

My daughter’s favorite film (for the moment) is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. When she suggested a Harry Potter-themed birthday party this year, I jumped at the chance. After seeing the phenomenal Hogwarts hootenanny Jenn shared last summer, I knew there were a lot of great ideas out there to be found for the big day.

Last year we chose a party at a local venue, and not only did it feel like it lacked my daughter’s personality, the cost was sky high. Determined to make this party one to remember without breaking the Gringotts bank, I handmade almost all of the decorations and activities. Here are a few ideas for your next Harry Potter-themed party, inspired by Pinterest and my own love of all things Hogwarts.

Costumes for Guests

You can’t have Hogwarts students without proper robes, but at $30-$40 a pop for the licensed costumes, there was no way we could afford to get one for every guest. Pinterest to the rescue! Pieces by Polly has the genius idea of turning adult XL black T-shirts into robes with very little sewing. I don’t own a sewing machine, so I sewed nine robes by hand, but I got started early so it wasn’t an overwhelming amount of work. You can find black T-shirts at a craft store like Michael’s for $3-$4 each.

After the kids were sorted, we pinned a paper house crest to each robe. Take a look at the party activities below to see what we did for the ties!

Wands can also be expensive if you look for official merchandise, or you can make your own for practically free that can withstand a lot of dueling during the party.

Harry Potter Party
Photo: Kelly Knox

All it takes is chopsticks, hot glue, and paint to craft a wand. There are quite a few tutorials out there, but one of the best can be found at Give Peas a Chance.


Guests were greeted by Platform 9 3/4 on the front door, which they had to pass through to get to Hogwarts.

Harry Potter Party
Photo: Kelly Knox

Again, there are many instructions for how to make a brick wall, but it simply takes an inexpensive white twin sheet, sponge, and red paint.

Inside the house, we wanted to re-create the look of the Great Hall, so we hung paper towel tube candles with fishing line.

Harry Potter Party
Photo: Kelly Knox

This also called for the hot glue gun, along with white paint, cardboard, and battery-powered tea lights. (I found a set of 12 on Amazon for around $6.) Harry Potter Wish List has all the details for creating this magical effect.

By this point, I was having so much fun making Hogwarts-related items that I even carried the theme over to the water bottles for the party.

Harry Potter Party
Photo: Kelly Knox

Or, as I like to call them, Potter Water!


With a birthday in January in Seattle, my kindergartener is destined for indoor parties for the foreseeable future. (So much rain!) That meant instead of playing Quidditch in the park, which would have been highly entertaining for all, we had to be a little creative for our party activities.

After sitting under the Sorting Hat (a witch’s Halloween hat in our version of Hogwarts), kids worked on their first activity for the party, coloring paper ties for the House they were sorted in.

Harry Potter Party
Photo: Kelly Knox

Use this fantastic template to print a tie on cardstock, punch two holes, and tie an elastic cord.

Once the students were in proper attire, it was time to play!

I drew a Pin the Glasses on Harry Potter poster with markers, along with cardstock glasses for each guest.

Harry Potter Party
Photo: Kelly Knox

Partygoers also played Freeze Dance to the wizarding-world hit “Do the Hippogriff” by The Weird Sisters, which you can find easily on iTunes on the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire soundtrack. If dancing isn’t your kid’s style, you can play Freeze Duel instead, where kids pretend to have a wizard’s duel but must freeze when the music is paused to win the duel.

Like Skylar’s birthday party that Jenn attended, we had a “Have You Seen This Wizard?” photo booth made of poster board.

Our one big splurge was the Harry Potter-themed candy we handed out to guests. I ordered Jelly Slugs from Candy Crate for each guest as their “goodie bag” (and they took home their robes and wands as well). I also happened to find Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans in a candy store for less than offered online, so I just had to pick them up. This turned into a hilarious activity at the party, as kids spent time studying the box and daring each other to taste test a flavor.

All in all, our little wizard had a blast, and her guests enjoyed their time at Hogwarts. I hope yours do, too!

Geek Parenting: You’re Doing It Right (Yes, YOU!)

Doing It Right. Photo: Cathé Post
Doing It Right. Photo: Cathé Post

Each time I have the privilege to sit on a “raising geek kids” panel at a convention, I look out at the attendees and I wonder what brought them into the conference room. It’s certainly not to be regaled with tales of the latest cute thing my five-year-old said, and it’s not just to win a door prize. (Well, okay, maybe it’s the door prize.)

But I’m pretty sure they’re there for the same reason I also attend panels about parenting, that lingering question in my head, “Am I doing this right?”

I want to assure each of them, yes, you are. You gave up your time at a convention—often precious alone time, if you’re lucky enough to have found a sitter—to listen to other parents share their tales from the trenches and offer up advice about raising the next generation of geeks. Usually anyone willing to give their time to thinking about being a better parent is already a good parent.

We all need some reassurance once in a while, especially in those moments where we stare at our kids and wonder if we’re doing this whole parenting thing right. So here’s a handy list to remind yourself once in a while that yes, you’ve got this.

Geek Parenting: 14 Signs You’re Doing It Right

• You read GeekMom. (Bonus points if you also read GeekDad.) You could be trolling Pinterest for Chris Hemsworth photos, but instead you’re reading blog posts about doing stuff with your kids.

• You work just as hard on your kids’ cosplay as you do your own. You know that amazing feeling when you adore what you’re wearing, and you want your kids to feel that, too.

• You share your favorite things from your childhood (She-Ra marathon, anyone?) but you also give your kids the freedom have their own childhoods—not relive yours.

• You don’t hold yourself to perfect Pinterest Parenting standards and embrace the lovely chaos of childhood.

One small section of the game room. Image: Nicole Wakelin
One small section of the game room. Image: Nicole Wakelin

• The family that games together… (Video games count, too!)

• You let them break apart that 665-piece LEGO Guardians of the Galaxy set you just spent two hours building together.

• You consider GeekDad’s classic 67 Books Every Geek Should Read to Their Kids Before Age 10 a challenge to accept.

• You encourage your kids to explore the world (and moon) around them.

• You know how to build a decent blanket fort.

• You know when it’s time to put away the screen. That means the times you switch off your iPhone to play LEGO or My Little Pony (or both) with your kids.

• You cried during The Force Awakens trailer because, not only is it all the nostalgia feels for you, you know your kids will also get to marvel at new Star Wars movies at the theater during their childhoods.

• You laugh at your kids’ corny jokes.

• When your kids geek-out about something, you don’t mock or laugh—you know the feeling.

• You’ve stood in line for more than 30 minutes for an Iron Man made out of balloons or Frozen face painting that your kid just has to have.

Basically, if you give your time, attention, and love to your kids, you’re doing it right.

What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!


You Can Stop Pinterest Parenting Now

My own Herculean efforts once went into trying to capture the last day of preschool. Then I realized that maybe the “bad” pictures are better after all.

Stop letting Pinterest ruin your life. Seriously. Stop it. Here are a few things Pinterest is good for:

  • Gathering party theme ideas
  • Finding dinner ideas
  • Storing reference photos for your next cosplay project

Things you should not be using Pinterest for:

  • Letting strangers make you feel like a terrible mother

I’ve been seeing an increasing number of blog posts and social media statuses about how inferior someone feels because of the Perfect Pinterest Moms they’ve put themselves in invisible competition with. Why? Because your life isn’t hard enough already? You need to win a non-existent cupcake decorating contest with no prize?

The most recent was a fellow GeekMom sharing this blog post, which humorously shares the agony of trying to take Pinterest-perfect, Instagram-ready, first-day-of-school photos, complete with a painstakingly decorated chalkboard noting the child’s grade, basic favorites, and anticipated career. Here are a few of the comments on that post:

“I spent two hours making signs. For three minutes of pictures.”

“It’s a struggle each year, as she get topped out on how many attempts it takes. Look here, smile, hold the sign, put your skirt down, where are your shoes, put down your lunch, smile, where’s the sign, etc. I’m usually sweating by the time we’re done.”

“This morning I had a full-on argument with a FIRST GRADER that no, you will not wear whatever you want today.”

“Isn’t the sign supposed to make the pictures better and not way, way harder?”

To that last one: yes. Well, no, perhaps that was not the explicit intention of whomever started this sign madness, but that is indeed what it should be for. I promise that when your little MacKenzaryaowyn graduates from high school, you will have no idea whether the pink shirt year was first or second grade. So sure, the sign has a purpose. Visiting ten stores to find the perfect vintage-look chalkboard that reminds you of Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, spending two nights making it, and then trying four different locations around your house until it’s all just perfect—these obsessive steps do not have a purpose except to make you crazy. And if you’re like me, they can sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.

Would doing all of that in any way enhance your kid’s first day of school? Oh, did you forget? The first day of school is about them, not you. They are not embarking on further education so that you can show every stranger on the internet what a great mom you are because you found exactly the right lighting to commemorate that your child got on a bus successfully.

Gave them a healthy lunch or money to procure it at school? Sent them with the appropriate supplies in their backpacks? Made sure they were dressed in something reasonably weather-appropriate? Congratulations, you have succeeded in your role for the day. In no way will any of your Pinstagrambooking improve that experience for them. It’s just going to make you late for work.

Of course, that’s merely one day. Let’s talk about the real Plague of Pinterest: birthday parties. Not long ago, a friend linked to this screed against children’s birthday parties. This is clearly a woman who gains no joy from the party experience. And her kid isn’t even four! I don’t know what vicious celebration demon from Party Planet forced her to throw elaborate parties for a child who wouldn’t even remember them, but she was clearly scarred by the experience. Number six calls out Pinterest specifically, but we could apply this vague social pressure to most of the line items.

Here’s the thing. Some of us genuinely love making first-day signs and perfectly arranged Elmo fruit plates and cake pops that look like animals and weird things with Mason jars. And that’s cool. (Full disclosure, I may be one of those people from time to time.) But this is the important part: Some of us want none of it, and that’s OK. Totally, absolutely, 100% OK. You are in no tiny way an inferior mother because you didn’t hand-engrave invitations to your child’s first birthday at which you served 365 canapés each hand-designed to reflect a day of his life.

Upon pondering all this, I thought, well, surely our own mothers were plagued by something similar, except from magazines they actually paid good money for. I mean, I’ve seen Family Fun and wondered who thought it was “fun” to pull random crap out of the trash and “upcycle” it into “art” projects I’m just going to have to throw out in secret later.

So I dug up a 1988 issue of Working Mother magazine. Inside I found articles about… wait for it… being a working mother! (Favorite title: “Why would your man want a stay-at-home wife?”) Then there was a story about the wonders of microwave cooking for a busy mom and a Luvs ad featuring a baby sleeping on his stomach. (Also a plea from The Potato Board that you consider potatoes to be a vegetable.) Today’s mom-mags instead contain two pages about simultaneously pinning fall footwear trends and eating Greek yogurt while commuting, one page reassuring you that day care is good for your kid, and 30 pages about how to compose adorable bento box lunches customized for each child and making them seasonal sensory bins despite the fact that you have a full-time job.

So screw Pinterest. And Instagram. (Can we laugh for a moment at the massive amount of time and effort going into photos for something called Instagram?) And the “better” moms you’re friends with on Facebook. And all of the blogs of all this BS. If you want—genuinely want—to hand-craft your kid’s childhood into picture-perfection, do it. Absolutely do it. But if instead you feel like by doing that, you’re missing out on actually experiencing that childhood while you’re stuck behind a camera, then stop.

Drop the camera. Run with your kids, and remember that when you’re that involved, there’s no time for photos. And isn’t that really better?

A DIY Mid-Century Medieval Guest Room Upgrade


With two kids, a dog, and space at a general premium, having a guest room has never been an easy task for our growing family. We’ve made some sad attempts over the years to accommodate visitors, including a futon (shudder), a second-string queen sized bed (which ended up covered in marker), and an office/nursery combination.

A year ago, we finally moved to a house that had an additional bedroom, a flex space. Naturally, that means that for the last year, it’s pretty much stood as a testament to every last box we didn’t unpack, and included a mountain of computer junk.

No. More.

When I had the chance to try out a new mattress from Simmons—the Simmons ComforPedic iQ™—I knew the time had come for a redesign. A DIY project of, well, moderate proportions (kids, job, deadlines).

First things first: Behold the mess of our guest room.

Before - Room.jpg
I don’t even. Image: Natania Barron

Believe it or not, this picture was taken after two room overhauls. We knew we couldn’t lose the office space—face it, we’re not the kind of family that can afford to let a whole room sit unused most of the time. But the setup we had didn’t work. My husband Michael works from home up to two days a week, but the big square table we had just wasn’t happening.

I envisioned a wall dedicated to the office, while the rest of the room could serve as a comfortable space for sleeping and resting guests. The ComforPedic iQ™ is a particularly nice choice for guests (and non-guests, as I have a feeling our 8-year-old is getting a bit jealous) because it’s all about, well, you guessed it: comfort. Seriously, I can attest to how comfortable it is—and not just in the ways you’d imagine. The mattress itself is built around Smart Response™ Technology, which naturally adjusts to the sleeper’s body weight and proportions. Plus, it’s topped with Ultra Cool™ Memory Foam to help regulate temperature. If you’re at all like we are, that’s a really important part of the equation. (Also, diamond dust. Yup. Diamond dust.)

Now, we purchased a bed a few years ago from Costco that we call the Space Bed. That’s because it’s a knockoff of another foam bed and was significantly cheaper. It certainly does its job, but the support is nowhere near as comprehensive as with the ComforPedic iQ™. In our testing of the bed, we found less aches and pains (and my husband suffers from sciatica, so we’re very familiar) and, in my case, less legs and arms falling asleep. Not to mention that you can, quite literally, feel it subtly adjusting to you as you relax. It’s kind of amazing.

A cross section of the ComforPedicIQ — image: Simmons

So, good for the goose, good for the gander. Actually, in this case—better for the gander. (Wait, are my guests ganders? I’m confused.)

But I digress. I’m unapologetically addicted to Pinterest, and given the opportunity to design a bed in a small space, I decided to gather my craftiness and have a go. Initially, I was going to make a headboard out of some material I got over at the Scrap Exchange in Durham, and affix it to cardboard. But then I did some more Pinteresting and decided that, given I had extra curtain rods, a sort of medieval drapery action would do the trick. As a result, the whole room has a medieval feel. The yellow and black fabric was cut and draped (no sewing for this gal…) and then I hammered some medieval-looking mirrors to the backdrop. A duvet set from Amazon and Ikea added the final touch for the bed and, I’ve got the say, the final result is a lot nicer than I thought it’d be. I call it Mid-Century Medieval.

The desk situation is a more difficult nut to crack.

Initially, since our budget is basically as thrifty (not cheap) as humanly possible, we were going to use an old door to make a long desk. Now, I already have a DIY standing desk that I put together with some shoe organizers from Target and an old desk we had (total price: $50). But Michael needed something that would allow him to sit and stand during the day because he’s just not as awesome as I am.

Anyway, given that I didn’t want to turn our precious weekend into a sojourn and since we didn’t find anything serviceable at The Scrap Exchange, we went back to Costco and took a look around. While they have some really awesome and awesomely expensive computer desk arrangements, it was a simple, sturdy, foldable table that got my interest. Yeah, it’s pretty basic. No, it’s not gorgeous. But set with some more risers and some lightning, it really gets the job done. Most importantly, it allows for free movement in the room and it doesn’t crowd the living arrangement. And best yet? It was $50. Sure, we’ll likely spring for something nicer down the road, but the current setup is smooth. I’m thinking of upholstering the table with some oil cloth for some extra texture and color.

As a special bonus? For the last six years, we’ve been schlepping around a large Dwarven Forge collection, which is absolutely phenomenal stuff, but… well, pretty much took up the entire space of our closet. But with a bed comes an added magical plus: under-the-bed space. And wouldn’t you know, the whole collection fit there seamlessly. It’s sort of like the TARDIS of beds.

That's more like it!
The final product. Plus kid. Image: Natania Barron

Oh yes, I also have a sword by my desk. Because you never know when you—or your guests—might have to fend off zombies. See? I’m thinking ahead.

This weekend, we have our first guest arriving. And for the first time in a decade, I’m ready to show the room off. I don’t feel like I have to make apologies for the crib/desk/blow-up mattress/futon lumps. It’s a room I’d like to live in, and where sleep will come easily to those who seek it. Zombie invasions, notwithstanding.

This post is brought to you by our sponsors, ComforPedic iQ™ by Simmons.
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Lottie Dolls Is Running a Super(hero) Costume Contest!

Girls can be superheroes, too! Photo credit: @Lottie_Dolls

Here at GeekMom we’ve had some spirited behind-the-scenes debates on whether or not Barbie’s unrealistic dimensions affect a little girl’s self-image. Some, like me, wonder if women’s tendency toward perfectionism isn’t perhaps the result of the barrage of idealized feminine images children receive through their toys and the media. Others at the blog take a softer approach, claiming, “I played with Barbies as a kid and I turned out happy and confident.”

What we have agreed upon, though, is that Arklu’s Lottie Dolls are wonderful toys—many of us have bought them for our children or for friends. Whether you appreciate the fact that Lottie has a “childlike” body (she doesn’t wear makeup, jewelry, or high heels either), or just enjoy her for her hobbies (including robotics, ballet, karate) and accessories (puppies, picnic baskets, pirate queen ensembles), there is no getting around the fact that this is a fun, well-constructed, charmingly-conceived toy. Also: affordable.

And now, as it turns out, your family could win the entire Lottie collection—dolls, accessories, clothing, and animal friends. Lottie Dolls is teaming up with the non-profit organization “Brave Girls Want” to launch a global competition to get kids aged 10 and under to design a superhero outfit—the first “crowdsourced doll outfit design by a child” for the Lottie™  doll.

With the release of a whole slew of superhero movies on the way, we know that there is an acknowledged lack of strong female superheroes out there, so this is why we thought a competition and campaign with the message that girls can be superheroes too is very much needed.

Want to enter the contest? Here are the details…

The prize:

  • One lucky child will see their superhero outfit design manufactured and made commercially available in Autumn 2014.
  • The winning child will see their original artwork design, first name, age, city, and country on the back of the outfit packaging.
  • The winning child will also win the entire range of Lottie dolls, accessories, and outfits.

How to enter:

  • Parents: Go to the Superhero Contest app on the Lottie Facebook page; like the page and download and print out the Superhero Outfit Design template.
  • Kids: Start coloring and create a superhero outfit design for Lottie.
  • Parents: Take a photo of your child’s design and upload it on the Lottie Facebook app, and fill in a form to allow your child to enter.

Terms and Conditions:

  • Competition open to kids aged 10 and under only.
  • Parental permission required to enter the competition.
  • Competition closing date 7th May 2014.
  • A winner will be selected by jury and confidentially notified in May 2014.
  • Multiple entries permitted.

Full terms and conditions available here.

PS: A selection of entries is shown on Pinterest—and if you have ever enjoyed the company of a little person with a vivid imagination you will need to immediately head over there and check out some of the superpowers that the contestants have imagined for Lottie:

  • “She can touch animals wounds and they go away. She shoots bandages over their wounds.”
  • “She can fly into whirlwinds in air and water. She can make rainbows.”
  • “She shoots love hearts from her hands to make sick children better.”
  • “Her cape shoots out [watermelon] seeds to grow for all the children [so that they] never go hungry again. No one will ever die from hunger or thirst again!”
  • “She can fly with her jet pack and protect dinosaurs.”
  • “She shoots rainbow colored hearts from her hands. When she hits a villain it makes them turn nice/good instantly. If she was real there would be no wars.”

This is good stuff; you won’t want to miss it!

Pinbusted or Pintrusted: Easter Eggs

Pinbusted or Pintrusted: Easter Eggs
Are popular Pinterest Easter Egg pins Pinbusted or Pintrusted?
Photograph and image composite © Helen Barker

My heart sank when I read the throwaway final line of our school newsletter last week. It read: “The school Easter Egg competition will take place on Thursday the 3rd of April.” Although I’m normally the first one to start a new crafty project, my recent sewing exertions left me feeling all crafted out. However, with an eager 4-year-old egging me on, I decided that we ought to try a few egg dyeing techniques. I started to trawl Pinterest for ideas. Here in the UK we don’t do a lot of egg dyeing at Easter. Decorating, sometimes; eating, often; throwing, occasionally; but we don’t generally dye them. I like dyeing yarn and fabric, and I thought that this was something that my daughter could do herself with a little help. We picked out three egg dyeing pins that looked bright and exciting: tie dye, shaving foam marbling, and melting wax crayons. I also thought we’d try a decoupage style photograph tutorial too, as that looked like fun.

To prepare for our decorating eggstravaganza, I hard-boiled and cooled some eggs for my daughter to use. I decided that I’d like to make my eggs into decorations, so spent a good half an hour blowing the insides out instead. This does give a lighter egg, plus you can use the insides for scrambled eggs or omelettes. If you’ve not blown an egg before you just need to make two small holes, one at each end, with a sharp needle. Hold the egg upright and blow really hard into the top hole, catching the insides into a cup or bowl. Keep wiggling the needle around inside to pop the yolk. If you have been advised to avoid raw eggs I’d give this a miss and stick with the hard-boiled eggs, as some of the raw egg can come back out of the hole. We started with the standard brown eggs available in the UK, but I decided that we’d have better results with white eggs instead, which meant a trip to the supermarket for duck eggs. They were a little more expensive than normal eggs but worth it, because the results were much better and the eggs themselves are bigger too.

Tie Dye Eggs
The process and results of the tie dye egg dyeing.
Photographs © Helen Barker

Our first attempt was the tie dye eggs, following this tutorial. This was such a quick and easy craft. We laid a few sheets of paper towel into a glass dish lid and sprinkled on some drops of liquid food coloring. After we were happy with the colors, we added some white vinegar until the paper towel was wet and the colors had blended. Next, we wrapped the eggs up tightly in the paper towel, popped them inside a plastic bag, and sealed the top. We left the eggs for about 24 hours before unwrapping them. This worked really well and was incredibly easy. Because the vinegar is added to the paper and it’s held against the eggshell for a long time, the colors are really bright and vibrant. My daughter was able to do this almost completely independently, with just a little help to make sure that she didn’t end up covered in food coloring. This was by far my favorite technique and one I’ll be using in years to come.


Marbled Eggs
The process and results of the shaving foam egg marbling.
Photographs © Helen Barker

Next we tried the shaving foam marbling, where I followed these very comprehensive instructions. For this, we put down a layer of shaving foam in the glass lid, before sprinkling on our food coloring and giving it a swirl to make the marble patterns. After the eggs had been dipped in vinegar, we rolled them through the foam and put them onto my baking rack to dry. The next morning we removed the foam and found that the eggs had taken some of the color, but not as much as the tie dye technique. I tried with a duck egg and found that most of the dye seemed to wipe off, which left a pretty but pale egg. Whether we didn’t soak them in vinegar for long enough, or whether we used too much shaving foam, I don’t know. The shaving foam was quite expensive and we used a whole can, so it’s worth trying to get a couple of eggs out of each batch. You can mix the colors together and then use it as a background for the next lot of food coloring, which makes it go a bit further. On the plus side this was lots of fun and nowhere near as messy as normal marbling, and it was easy to clean up afterwards too. Unfortunately the results weren’t quite as lovely as I’d expected, especially considering the results that I’d seen online. It might just have been my technique at fault, but this wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, and it’s not a technique I’d use again.


Melted Wax Crayon Eggs
The pretty results of the melted wax crayon egg decorating.
Photograph © Helen Barker

The wax crayon eggs looked like they should be really easy. While the eggs boiled I gathered a pile of wax crayons ready to start. However, it was that moment that my daughter decided to wander off upstairs and start making something else. By the time that I’d managed to coax her back downstairs again our eggs were really only warm. Although this made them easier to handle, it also meant that the crayons didn’t melt as well as they should and the colors were rather muted. I had one hard-boiled egg left, so we gave that another blast in the pan and had another go. This time the egg was hot to the touch, and the wax crayons melted more easily, giving much better coverage and color. However, it was difficult to maneuver the egg without smudging the wax (despite my MacGyvered holder made out of an upside down rubber ice cube tray). For our duck eggs, I made sure that we used the wax crayons on them while they were still very hot. I had to handle and turn the egg over for my daughter, but she was able to draw on it herself. The results were really vibrant and very easy to achieve.


Photo print eggs
The process and result of the photo print egg technique.
Photographs © Helen Barker

Our final egg involved gluing photographs on the eggshells, following these instructions. For this, I prepared some photographs and arranged them in Photoshop, making them small enough to cut out and stick into the eggs. I chose one of my Waterlogue images and my daughter wanted photos of her little brother. I then stuck the edges of a tissue down onto a piece of card with masking tape before feeding it carefully through the printer. I left the printer at normal plain paper quality, as I didn’t want it to use too much ink. After cutting the photos out, we glued the single sheets of printed tissue onto the eggs carefully with clear drying craft glue. PVA, Decopatch glue or Modge Podge would be fine for this. My daughter found this quite tricky, as she kept ripping the fragile tissue with the brush. If you’re careful though, the results are really pretty. The images need to be quite small and you need an inkjet printer that will take the extra width of the tape and tissue, but it was fairly quick and definitely gives a really interesting egg.


If you’d like more inspiration for decorating your Easter eggs, have a look at Laura’s Not Your Average Easter Egg post, or learn how to dye eggs with Kool-Aid in Judy’s post, Mmmm, Fruity!

The Doctor vs. Sherlock: The Ultimate Geek Face-Off

Screenshot of the Doctor vs Sherlock pin. Screenshot by Ariane Coffin.
Screenshot of the Doctor vs. Sherlock pin. Screenshot by Ariane Coffin.

About one year ago, I came across a simple image on Pinterest. It read:

“The Doctor & Sherlock knock on your door. The Doctor asks you to be his companion. Sherlock asks you to be his blogger. Who do you choose?”

A simple premise, but a very tough decision! Who would I choose? I repinned the image with my own comment, “Depends on The Doctor. 9th for me, yes. Sherlock would be interesting but quite rude, right?”

Since then, that pin has been the one I’ve received the most comments on. First observation: Nobody on Pinterest can type or spell. Second, Doctor beats Sherlock! I pulled the data from the Pinterest comments and added to it the votes I received from the GeekMoms, for a total of 48 responses. Out of 48, 14 chose Sherlock, 20 chose the Doctor (in any incarnation), 7 tried to connive their way into picking both, 5 people had complicated answers (i.e. “it depends on the Doctor,” along with other factors), and finally 2 people went rogue by choosing Martin Freeman/Watson.

Doctor vs Sherlock: The results. Graph by Ariane Coffin.
Doctor vs. Sherlock: The results. Graph by Ariane Coffin.

Some of my favorite comments were the arguments about ways to choose both. Good point, Madisyn, good point.

Doctor vs Sherlock commenter debate. Screenshot by Ariane Coffin.
Doctor vs. Sherlock commenter debate. Madisyn did correct “bit” to “but” in a later comment. Screenshot by Ariane Coffin.

Perhaps the single most interesting answer I received came from my husband. “Why would I be a companion? I’d just be the freaking Doctor!” Is it just my husband or are all men this cocky?

How about you, who would you choose?

Pinbusted or Pintrusted: Moleskin Underwire Bra Repair


On my latest installment of “Pinbusted or Pintrusted,” I decide to take a walk on the wild side and share my experience with a bra-repair idea I came across recently. Bear with me while I “bare all” with you some facts about my unmentionables.

I took a shopping trip to the Mall of America near Minneapolis in January 2010. This was while I was living near Omaha, Nebraska, so it was only about a 5 hour drive. It was one of the more frivolous things on my bucket list, but I’m very glad I had the chance to visit and spend quality time with a girlfriend.

A view of the massive Mall of America, January 2010. Bear with my while I set the stage for my latest Pinterest adventure. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

We were lucky to hit the mall while many of the national retailers were offering very good post-holiday sales. I remember picking up some nice deals at the Crocs store, Lego store, Gymboree, Bath & Body Works, Yankee Candle, and numerous other not-really-necessary-but-nice-to-have stores.

Victoria’s Secret was offering one of their “Buy One, Get One Half Off” bra sales. I had recently returned from a Middle East deployment during which I only wore very inexpensive sports bras. This was because the laundry service we were required to use was quite brutal on clothing. Fancy lingerie and war do NOT mix.

A Victoria’s Secret sale was just what I needed. I scored a couple of pretty, functional brassieres at a great price.

Fast forward four years. Those two bras, in rotation with my other unmentionables, have served me very well. However, even the best quality lingerie will show signs of wear after four years. I like to think I have taken good care of them, either hand-washing or machine washing in a delicates bag on a delicate cycle…and never letting them enter a dryer. Many will claim that I should have pitched those bras long ago but I don’t wear these bras every single day, and I feel like I take good care of them.

The first thing to go kaput on both of these bras that I bought in January 2010, at about the same time, were the underwires. The wires themselves are perfectly fine, still performing the job for which they were installed. However, the ends of the wires have started to poke through the reinforced fabric along the bottom-edge seam.

While my first instinct would be to run out to Victoria’s Secret and buy replacements for these two bras, I was hesitant. I’d prefer to hit a sale, and over the  years I simply don’t make the time to browse the mall stores like I used to. So I sought ways to buy more time with these otherwise very comfortable, very flattering pieces of lingerie.

The Pinterest Pin

I had seen this type of pin come across my Pinterest feed a few times over the couple years I’ve had my account. I pinned it myself and decided to give it a try.

Basically, you’re cutting a piece of moleskin and adhering it to the area of the bra through which the underwire is poking out. The pin I saw claims that just by wearing the bra with the moleskin, the adhesive will be strong enough to endure washings and buy several more months of wear.

Let us explore this pin in more detail, shall we?

What Is This Moleskin You Speak Of?

Most folks can probably go through life perfectly fine without ever needing to know about moleskin. It was first as a soft, functional fabric that was first seen in the mid-20th century on military uniforms. But in modern times if you run, hike, or do any activities that involve a lot of walking (such as walking commuters in bigger cities and military members), moleskin is a life saver. You can purchase it at most drugstores or big box retailers near the foot-comfort section.

Today’s moleskin comes to us as a self-adhesive sheet with a soft flannel-like surface. Simply adhere a piece to a blister on your foot—or an area prone to getting blisters—and it helps alleviate the rubbing, thus mitigating blister formation and discomfort.

You can buy moleskin at any drug store, but I had some on hand with this little first aid kid that I keep in my hiking daypack. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
You can buy moleskin at any drugstore, but I had some on hand with this little first aid kid that I keep in my hiking daypack. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

By taking advantage of the comfort of this moleskin, it’s an easy way to temporarily fix a rogue underwire.

Easy Peasy!

First, contemplate the area of underwire that giving problems.

OW! The wires on both sides, at the center of the bra, had started poking through the fabric. Photo: Patricia Vollmer
OW! The wires on both sides, at the center of the bra, had started poking through the fabric. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Now let’s cut a piece of moleskin to completely cover the hole.

Cut what you need from the sheet of moleskin. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Cut what you need from the sheet of moleskin. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Before peeling the backing and placing the moleskin over the problem area, take a moment to try to force as much of the wire back under the bra fabric as possible. Then adhere the piece of moleskin to the problem area.

Place the piece of moleskin over the problem area and press it firmly into place. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Place the piece of moleskin over the problem area and press it firmly into place. In this case, I’m still checking that this is an appropriately sized piece before peeling the backing. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Viola, two repaired areas! Not the best-matched repairs, but no one can see this when you're wearing it. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Viola, two repaired areas! Not the best-matched repairs, but no one can see this when you’re wearing it. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

How Did it Do?

The moleskin repairs worked like a dream! It was perfectly comfortable. I usually wear my fancier bras more than one time between washings, and I had no problems at all until it was time to wash.

While many of the pins suggest that the warmth and humidity of wearing the bras will adhere the moleskin well enough to withstand washings, this didn’t happen for me. With each washing, the moleskin would come off. The remnant of moleskin that came off didn’t seem to have much adhesive left, so it was as good as trashed. I simply cut new pieces and did this entire process over again. Once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t take long at all.

The Verdict

Pintrusted, but with a caveat. Keep in mind that this is meant to be a temporary fix; to buy a little more time so you can get out to your favorite lingerie retailer for replacements. I needed to re-cut and re-apply moleskin patches after each washing, but I am willing to do this for a little bit until a good Victoria’s Secret sale comes along.

Pinbusted or Pintrusted: DIY Silver Cleaners


Every year at Christmas, I hang a set of music-box silver bells. The bells have been around for awhile, so they are no longer shiny and bright. Now that the holidays are over and the tree is down, it is that dreaded time where I must break down and clean the silver.

Bells before being cleaned. Images: Timothy Post
Bells before being cleaned. Images: Timothy Post.
You can see in the final frame there is a lone clean spot surrounded by tarnish.
You can see in the final frame, there is a lone clean spot surrounded by tarnish.

I found my silver cleaner, but it is so old, it has separated. So, I investigated Pinterest for possible DIY methods of cleaning silver. There are so many ideas out there! Now I get to figure out if any of them work.

First up, I used baking soda toothpaste. It was messy (but minty!). The supposed purpose of using the toothpaste is for cleaning an item that shouldn’t go in water. Yet, in order to get the toothpaste off the tarnished item, it has to be rinsed. The item also has to be damp when toothpaste is applied to it.

Keeping all of these things in mind, I went to town on my bell from 1984. I cleaned around the outside of the bell three times. When I rinsed it, it looked better, but it wasn’t worth the hassle and mess to clean it in this manner.

Verdict for the toothpaste cleaner: Busted.

Baking soda by itself is mildly effective when cleaning silver. But it seems to really make silver sparkly, some science and bubbles are needed in combination with the baking soda. No problem. Let’s make it happen!

Compare the before and after. Much brighter after.

Another pin I stumbled across suggested using two antacid tablets in regular temperature water. I was skeptical, but lo and behold, the results were actually quite sparkly.

The details in the silver piece were still dark, but the smooth surfaces were bright and shiny. Waiting to let all of the bubbles finish cleaning took a bit of time, but the result was usable. A chemical reaction occurs when the antacid tablets are dropped in water: the tablets contain citric acid and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). When you drop the tablet in water, the acid and the baking soda react (giving us our cleaning bubbles!).

Antacid Tablets in Water: Trusted.

Finally, I tried the pin that I found spread the most through Pinterest: Boiling water and baking soda in a container lined with tin foil. This is as easy as it sounds.

I lined a container with foil. While I had the kettle boiling my water, I poured a layer of baking soda in the bottom of the container. I placed my bell in the container and started slowly pouring in the water. It immediately started fizzing and bubbling. When the initial steam cleared, I saw a huge difference between the silver that was under the water and the silver that had not yet been cleaned. After a minute or two, I tipped over the bell, so the top would be clean too.

In the bottom left corner, you can see where the chemical reaction stopped on the bell. We soon tipped it over, so the top would be cleaned too.

The reaction works because silver tarnishes because it has a chemical reaction with sulfur-containing substances in our air. When silver combines with sulfur, it forms silver sulfide, which is what appears to us as the dark tarnish on silver. By removing the sulfide with a chemical reaction, the silver is shiny again. There are nifty chemical equations to prove what process takes place, but my chemistry is too rusty to be reliable. Rust…there’s another chemical reaction! I digress…

This worked really well. It worked faster and slightly better than the antacids. The details were pretty well cleaned and didn’t require a lot of scrubbing afterward. There are also other versions of this method involving olive oil to polish after the process and boiling the baking soda in the water, but I didn’t do those variations.

Tin Foil, Boiling Water, and Baking Soda: Trusted!

I hope this helps the next time you don’t want to dig out the chemical cream to clean your silver. Things you probably already have in your kitchen will probably work just as well without the mess!

Pinbusted or Pintrusted: Melted Crayon Wax on Pumpkins

Photo: Karen Burnham

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve never been the crafty kind of geek. My mother exposed me to all the normal arts-and-crafts growing up, so I have knitted a scarf, and made a block quilt, and woven some table runners in my day. The only one I took to was cross stich, and even that failed to hold my interest past college. Likewise my father introduced me to basic carpentry, as when we designed and built a table for his model railroad, but I have rarely worked with wood since then. My geekdom now revolves around creating carefully crafted book reviews more than any tangible product.

But now I have a toddler, and I want him to feel more comfortable with these things than I do. So I’m dipping my toe in the arts and crafts world, ever so carefully. So I went to Pinterest, bless ’em, and searched on “craft toddler.” I’m not quite sure why melting crayons on pumpkins comes up, but I see that it is a very popular thing to do. So I decided to try it!

Photo: Karen Burnham
Photo: Karen Burnham

This one worked out great. All I needed was a pumpkin (on sale after Halloween, got this one for $1), a box of crayons, and a lighter. I spread newspaper on the kitchen floor, gave my son the lecture about fire being hot and only adults being allowed to touch the lighter, and got to work. Frankly, the hardest part was unwrapping the crayons—they get that paper on tightly! Fingernails or an X-acto knife recommended.

But the crayons melt very easily, and you can either let them drip down or, once they’ve melted a bit, draw on the pumpkin with nice, rich streaks. My son (2 years, 2 months old) had no trouble holding the crayon at one end and putting the other in the flame, and found it kind of fascinating. And he generally enjoyed pulling all the crayons out of the box and mixing them up. He did get some of the melted wax on his hand, but it didn’t hurt him at all, and he was quite interested in the way it hardened and could be peeled off.

Our pumpkin isn’t as wax-encrusted as some on the Pinterest page, but the nice thing is that we can keep adding to it over time. My son seemed to lose interest in about 15 minutes, so what you see above is just 15 minutes worth of melting wax time. Luckily, cleanup was a cinch. Crayons go back in the box, crayon wrappers get folded up with the newspaper, and you’re done.

If we do this again, which seems likely because it’s easy and fun and satisfying to one’s inner pyromaniac, I’d do a couple things differently. I’d use a smaller pumpkin to start with (I honestly couldn’t find a smaller one, likely because I was looking in November instead of October). And I would make sure to focus on brighter, primary colors. The pink, yellow, red, white, and green all stand out well. Orange and peach blend into the pumpkin, and any darkish color such as blue or purple just looks black. Finally, next time I will take the advice of several Pinteresters, and use a tapered candle instead of a normal lighter. Works the same, and with even less annoying risk of burning oneself. (Although after years of long experience with Bic lighters, I had no trouble using one for this project.)


Pinbusted or Pintrusted? Pintrusted! This works with a toddler as long as the adult keeps control of the open flame, and I imagine it will work even better with older kids. I was especially glad that melted wax is as harmless to my child as I remember it being when I was a kid. And it will make a spiffy centerpiece for our dining room table leading up to Thanksgiving. (I usually forget all about centerpieces and such… did I mention I’m not naturally crafty?)

Pinbusted or Pintrusted: Clean Stainless Steel with Olive Oil

Photo: Kelly Knox

The first day with our shiny new stainless steel refrigerator, I stood and admired its gleam… for about 10 seconds, when my daughter ran straight to it and smacked two yogurty handprints on the door. Rather than shoo her away from every appliance in the kitchen until she turns 18, I decided to focus on a way to clean the stainless steel instead. To the pins!

Tips on Pinterest included specific stainless steel cleaners like Affresh or Weiman, as well as Pledge furniture polish or Windex glass cleaner wipes. As we already had some of the wipes, I gave one a shot, but no luck. The streaks and fingerprints still glared at me defiantly.

Plus, as the mom of a preschooler whose hobbies include touching every surface in the house, I preferred to try something more natural, and somewhat inexpensive. Many pins recommended olive oil to polish stainless steel, to my surprise, and so I decided to give it a shot.

It was difficult to work up the courage to smear olive oil on our aforementioned new appliances. What if it streaked? What if it went rancid and our fridge ended up smelling like the dumpster behind Carabbas? Then it occurred to me that I had the perfect test subject: our old, messy stainless steel trash can.

Photo: Kelly Knox

It’s not obvious to see in the photo above, but the stainless steel trash can looks brand new again. Olive oil acted as a polish, turning the entire surface a bit darker, and got rid of the smudges. It didn’t feel noticeably greasy, either.

Here are the steps for cleaning and polishing stainless steel with olive oil:

1. Clean the surface with a non-abrasive soap or baking soda and water.

2. Once the stainless steel is dry, rub in a small amount of oil with a soft rag. Go with the stainless “grain” and use some elbow grease to really work it in.

3. Wipe the stainless steel with a clean, dry rag or paper towel to remove excess oil and give it a little more shine. (Some walkthroughs mention an additional step of wiping it down with vinegar, which I didn’t do.)

My confidence boosted by the experiment on the stainless trash can, I tried the same steps on the dishwasher, which was in dire need of cleaning.

Photo: Kelly Knox

The water drips and fingerprints went away after the olive oil was applied. On the dishwasher, though, I didn’t get as much coverage as I did on the trash can, and there were some streaks.


Pinbusted or Pintrusted? Trusted, hesitantly. I’ll try this on the same surfaces again when they get full of fingerprints.

I will add a caveat, however: I’m still too chicken to try it on the refrigerator.

I’ve read about varying results when applied to stainless steel, probably due a “faux” stainless finish or a lower grade stainless steel. You may want to test a small corner or the side of the appliance before applying the oil on a large area.

Do you use olive oil on your stainless steel? Or do you have another trusted method?

Pinbusted or Pintrusted: Party Food


One of my favorite things to pin on Pinterest is party foods because they generally combine two categories I love: cute things and delicious things. Last weekend was my son’s fourth birthday party and I found myself catering around forty people, so I used the party as an opportunity to try out several things I had pinned to my party food board.

Monster Sandwiches © Sophie Brown
Monster Sandwiches © Sophie Brown

Monster Sandwiches

I varied these slightly from the original pin by using green grapes instead of olives for the eyes, simply because grapes were cheaper and the spares could be added to the buffet fruit bowl. Although the sandwiches turned out OK and made a lot of our guests smile I think they were much too big. I used whole slices of Milk Roll bread which seemed small enough at the time I was constructing the sandwiches but compared to the pin were enormous. This idea has some great potential for Halloween parties and I’m already envisaging a Monster Book of Monsters variation if I ever find myself hosting a Harry Potter themed party (please, please, please let my children become Potterheads). This is one to try again.


Fruit Skewers © Sophie Brown
Fruit Skewers © Sophie Brown

Rainbow Fruit Skewers

This was actually my second year making fruit skewers because they proved so incredibly popular at last year’s party. They need to be made fairly close to the time of the party, but a few hours out is fine. They are so easy to make (once the fruit has been peeled anyway) that they could be left in the hands of an older child. This year I bought pre-chopped pineapple chunks to save time and I also varied from the original pin as I did last year by using strawberries instead of raspberries which I think are a little too tart for most kids. The colors of these skewers are wonderful and they really brighten up a buffet table without needing to pile on more artificial produce. Parents seem to appreciate them too as they always disappear quickly.

Fruit Palm Tree © Sophie Brown
Fruit Palm Tree © Sophie Brown

Fruit Palm Tree

I had a lot of leftover fruit from the skewers so I decided to give this design a go because it seemed like another pin that would be very easy to make. One problem, however, is that it needs to be made very close to the time you are serving food. This is because the banana will rapidly turn brown and unpleasant if left out so you need to consider your kitchen space and available time during the party itself. This is a great idea for using up leftover fruit and is easy to vary with other items such as green apple slices for the leaves or mango for the sand. It’s simple enough to work as a regular dessert too.
Verdict: Confirmed

Bell Pepper & Hummus Octopus

This is the only item I neglected to photograph. The octopus was very easy to make and he looked great on the table, the problems began when people started eating. The octopus sits in the hummus making it hard for people to actually get to it. I considered simply swiping a small amount of hummus over a plate and leaving the rest in a bowl to the side, but even that seemed wasteful. The octopus requires you to leave most of a pepper unchopped. Unless you leave a knife out for people to chop it themselves (and honestly, who’s going to be the parent who takes a knife to the octopus?) most of a pepper is going to go uneaten and probably wasted. This is a pin that looks great but fails on both practicality and wastage issues so I won’t be doing it again.

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes © Sophie Brown
Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes © Sophie Brown

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

I got the idea for these not from Pinterest but from a local mum who was discussing making them at our women’s group a few weeks before the party. It was only after making them that my fellow GeekMom Amy tweeted me to say that her attempts are always a Pinterest Fail.

I wrapped my cones in foil before filling them with cake mix to around a third/three-quarters full because I was assured this prevents them from burning. The cakes are actually quite large and take longer than you might think in the oven, keep checking every few minutes until they’re cooked through. On removing the foil the cones were a little soft but as the cakes cooled they hardened back up to their pre-cooking state. I topped them with Betty Crocker Cream Cheese Icing and sprinkles and they looked great. I can’t speak to the taste myself as I personally cannot stand the taste of ice cream cones (which incidentally helped prevent me eating any before they made it to the party) but our guests all loved them. I was informed later by my niece that in contrast to what all the pins tell you, the cakes are very difficult to eat. Because they are large and the icing is packed right at the top, a lot of the smaller kids left the bottom of their cones—although these seemed to be consumed happily by the parents!

Pinbusted or Pintrusted: Natural Ant Killer


If you’ve ever had ants in your house (and let’s be honest, who hasn’t?) you know how desperate a person can be about getting rid of them. I’ve got ‘em. Bad. But I don’t want to spray chemicals to get rid of them, so I’ve been experimenting.

The folks over on Pinterest are crazy for natural ant killers:

“This REALLY works–STILL no ants–we had an ant-free summer!”

“It works!”

“Worked on the regular black ants … great stuff.”

I decided to try out a couple of these methods. Here’s how it went down:


This article, pinned to Pinterest, says of dry cornmeal:

“They eat it and become bloated and it does them in.”

I wasn’t sure about the science behind that statement, but it seemed easy enough. I sprinkled piles of cornmeal –  outside – right in the path of some very active ants. Almost instantly the ants moved in and started hauling off bits of cornmeal. I waited; I read in a number of places that it could take up to a week to see results. A week later? Two weeks later? The ants are still happily marching back and forth, farming aphids. They might even be a little bit fatter after that feeding session. Pinbusted.

Borax and sugar, dry mix

A dry mixture of borax and sugar acted like a sponge in my humid climate, quickly turning into a hard cake. The ants were not impressed. Pinbusted.

Pinbusted or Pintrusted? Which of the popular natural ant killers on Pinterest actually work?
Do we have a winner? Image: Kris Bordessa

Borax and sugar, liquid

Pinners claimed that ants swarmed to this DIY liquid ant bait immediately. I placed three different trays of this near ant trails. In two places, the liquid was initially ignored. In the third—the location with the most ants—the ants did swarm to it very quickly. A couple of hours later, there were ants bellied up to the bar in all three locations. The ants took the bait. They disappeared for a day or two. But now they’re back, with no evidence that their numbers have been reduced. Pinbusted.

So, I’m still looking for the perfect natural ant bait. Got one? Please share in the comments! I’m getting desperate.

(Lest you think this whole pest control issue is boring, check this out. Poisoning ants and a little science wrapped into one fun-filled project.)

Screen grab of
Screen grab of

Parenting the Pinterest Way: The Road to Insanity

Image: Sarah Pinault. Feet, a common photo across the mother-net.

When I became a mother, I didn’t realize how much I would be affected by those around me. Then I discovered blogging, then Pinterest came along, and suddenly I am surrounded by virtual mothers to compare myself to. Mothers to judge myself by. As I went deeper and deeper into the mother-net, I found myself coming up short more often than not. Technology is both friend and foe to the modern mom.

My name is Sarah and I am a virtual-mom junkie.

I’m a relatively sane person if such a thing exists. I have had my battles with PPD, a dose or fifty of Zoloft, I abuse caffeine on a daily basis, and I control my OCD tendencies by punching myself in the arm! I also have too much on my plate. I work full time, I have two boys under the age of four, I write for GeekMom and myself, I craft avidly in many forms, I have taken up running, and I volunteer at church. I overreach on a daily basis. So recently I decided to attack the thing that was compounding all of this into one massive ball of insufficiency – the internet.

I began to reduce the virtual moms around me in several key ways:

  • Pinterest. I had been surfing pinterest daily. Ostensibly compelled by a desire to improve myself, educate my children, and streamline using tactics that have worked for others, instead I found myself compiling monstrous to-do lists. So I went cold turkey and deleted the app from the Ipad. This in itself was a huge step. No longer at my finger tips, I found myself logging in on the laptop only when I actually needed something.
  • My blog feed. The demise of Google Reader came at just the right time for me to assess what I was reading and why. Several of the blogs I read contained beautiful pictures and wonderful ideas, but did nothing more than take up my time and make me feel bad about my own skills. Poof, gone! It’s hard to cut the cord, but sometimes you just have to let go.
  • Email notifications. The unsubscribe button is your friend. If you no longer receive the Pottery Barn sales flyer, you won’t go running to Pinterest for a cheap way to make the $3,000 canopy for your toddler’s room. If you no longer receive comments on posts you do read, you won’t be driven crazy by internet trolls and judgmental moms.
  • Limiting screen time. It’s not just for kids folks! I used to be on the internet while having breakfast, while cooking dinner, and even while watching television. It never seeped into my time with the kids, but boy do these portable devices make it into every other second you have. Delete the app, delete the cookie, then take the next step and put the device in its bag for the morning. Trying not to turn on the laptop when I turn on the kettle for my tea has probably been the hardest part. Now I listen to the chickadees in my garden and chat with my husband for a few more minutes each morning. Bliss.
  • Localize. The activities of a homeschooling mother in Utah or a military wife in Texas just have no bearing on my life. While I love broadening my horizons and seeing the world, sometimes those things can just make you feel bad about yourself. These days I focus on reading things local to New England, from people more reasonably within my own social bracket.

This may not be something I have to do for the rest of my life but for right now, limiting the ways in which I use the internet on a daily basis is proving to be far more effective than a latte or a date night.

Virtual mom junkie signing off.

Pinbusted or Pintrusted: Golden Snitch Cake Pops


As you might tell, I’m having a blast with these Pinbusted or Pintrusted posts! I didn’t realize how powerful Pinterest can be when used with a goal in mind.

For example, I have a Nyan Cat birthday party board, which I used to plan for my youngest son’s birthday party earlier this year.

Last summer, my oldest son requested a Harry Potter birthday party. We were on the heels of Dragon*Con, when he had a magical experience as a pretty-darned-good award-winning Yule-Ball-attending Harry Potter, so of course I started a Harry Potter birthday cake board on Pinterest. When I found this Pinterest pin for “Golden Snitch Cake Pops” I thought: I can do this for my son.

My Harry Potter met Professor Dumbledore at Peachtree Center at last year's Dragon*Con. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My Harry Potter met Professor Dumbledore at Peachtree Center at last year’s Dragon*Con. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

I’ve been a Bakerella fan for years. Her cake pops are works of art! I am the proud owner of the original Cake Pops cookbook. (GeekMom Judy reviewed it a couple years ago.) I can’t be sure Bakerella invented the cake pop (her post where she first thought about sticking a stick in a cake ball is very cute), but she certainly brought them — and the ability to make them — to the masses.

But all these years, I never made cake pops. For my sons, though, I’ll try anything!

While I didn’t do the butterbeer flavored cake as suggested in the pin (my kids don’t care for it, after having tasted it at Harry Potter World at Universal’s Islands of Adventure earlier in 2012), I did follow the guidance on how to mix the crumbled cake with icing, roll the cake pop balls, and attempt to dip them in melted candy melts.

It didn’t go well at all. I couldn’t get the cake balls to stay on the sticks, nor could I maintain the correct consistency for the candy melt to dip the cakes properly. I used Wilton gold-colored “Color Mist” product to turn the pops gold. At least that part was easy.

I like to think I’m a pretty good cook/chef/baker. I can’t say whether it was the humidity or just my incompetence, but this whole process was incredibly frustrating for me. How does Bakerella make it look so easy? It must be my incompetence: thousands of people — besides Bakerella — have successfully made them, right?

A tray of wingless golden snitches drying. I used a gold-colored edible spray paint to make them gold. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
A tray of wingless lumpy golden snitches drying. The candy melt product was too thick. I used a gold-colored edible spray paint to make them gold. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

I had no problem rolling out the gum paste to cut out the wings, but I had a hard time keeping the wings on the cakes, even though I made a point to cut one side of each wing to fit into the pop. Out of 36 cake pops, I could only get the wings to stay on about six of them.

One of my most successful cake pops. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Did the kids mind? No. Did the cake pops taste good? Yes, I think they did. In the grand scheme of things, was my son’s birthday ruined because the cake pops came out a little lumpy? No, not at all.

Pinbusted or Pintrusted? For me, pinbusted! Call it the perfectionist in me. However, I have friends who have done perfectly successful cake pops. Perhaps this is one of those instances where practice makes perfect. I know I can do this. Time to break out the candy melts!

Show us your cake pops! Go to our Facebook and/or Twitter pages and upload pictures of your cake pop successes and failures. Be sure to tag @GeekMomBlog on Twitter!

Rock Candy: Failed Recipe or Lesson in Science?

Our final attempt at making rock candy gave us big results! Images: Cathe Post
Our final attempt at making rock candy gave us big results! Images: Cathe Post

Over the past month we have been experimenting with making rock candy. In true scientific fashion, we have done the experiment multiple times changing variables to see how the outcome changes.

In our first attempt, we followed a recipe we found on Pinterest. We followed the recipe. I can say we followed it exactly even with a 3-year-old and 7-year-old helping. When we put the sticks into the solution, the sugar immediately fell off the sticks and floated to the bottom of the jars. After waiting ten days, the end result yielded little besides a crust of crystals on the top and bottom of the solution. Even though we had no candy to speak of, we embraced the failure and talked about stalactites and stalagmites.

For attempt number two we used the leftover solution from the first attempt. I boiled each flavor individually to dissolve all of the crystals that had formed on the bottom of the containers. I let the sticks dry for an hour. I discovered when I was done reheating the solutions that I was a stick short, so I let one dry overnight. It produced the most candy of the sticks. Most of the sticks had the same result as the first attempt: The sugar didn’t stick and fell to the bottom of the jar. The one that dried overnight did not lose its sugar and produced a nice candy. After seeing the result on the stick that had sat over night, we decided to try reusing the solution one last time.

On the third and final crystal experiment I let the solution come to a full boil for five minutes before removing it from the heat. The sticks all dried overnight. The result was several candy suckers! We had more than pictured, but I put the sticks so close to the bottom, the crystals joined with the stalagmites and popped right off the sticks when we tried to pull them out.

The kids had a blast making these. We learned a great deal about crystals. Here are some things we talked about:

The different shapes of crystals
How chemistry affects cooking

We also learned that sometimes it is okay to fail so we learn more about what it is we are trying to accomplish. Plus, each time we attempted this experiment, we got to eat the results.

Pinbusted or Pintrusted: Dawn and Vinegar Shower Cleaner

When I’m on Pinterest, I’m usually there scouting for crafts or surfing through the best category on the site (Geek, of course). It’s rare that I look for anything to use as a solution to a problem. But when I was fed up with the continual state of grime on our glass shower door, I remembered my cousin had told me about something she’d spotted on Pinterest.

I took to the pins in desperation to find the magical cure for soap scum.

If you search for shower cleaner on Pinterest, one comes up time and time again: Blue Dawn and vinegar. The dish-washing liquid, when combined with an equal part of vinegar, is a solution that many pinners praise for taking off soap scum without scrubbing.

Dawn and Vinegar

I don’t know what mystical ingredient blue Dawn has hidden inside, but this stuff works. Just spray, wipe, and rinse. I’ve stopped trying to scrub with Magic Erasers or any other commercial cleaner on the shower doors since trying the Dawn and vinegar solution. I would love to post a side-by-side comparison showing you our scummy shower glass and the clean result after using this mixture, but I just don’t have a camera good enough to focus on icky soap residue. (Plus, I’m not sure you really want to see where I shower every day.)

Here are a few notes based on our experiences:

  • When mixing up your Dawn and vinegar solution for the spray bottle, be sure to follow the original directions and heat the vinegar first. My husband made a batch without realizing that was a step, and the result didn’t work as well.
  • As you can imagine with something that uses heated vinegar: this stuff does not have the “lemon” smell you normally associate with cleaners. Or, as my daughter put it, “Why does it smell so bad in here?” The odor dissipates quickly enough, but just be prepared for a strong vinegar smell. Chances are you might prefer it to a chemical cleaner.
  • Some reviewers mention that using less Dawn (instead of an equal part) will result in fewer bubbles and suds, or sprinkling salt on the bubbles to get them to go away. I’ve not had an issue with that yet, but it’s worth noting. If you see a lot of bubbles in the bottom of the stall, be sure to clean it all out to prevent slipping.

Most comments insist that you select blue-colored Dawn specifically. I’ve only tried blue as a result, but the scientific side of me is dying to make a few test batches with other kinds to see if it does make a difference. If you try out this pin and have success with another color or brand, please let me know in the comments below.

Pinbusted or Pintrusted? Trusted.

It might not work for the glass doors in every shower, but it worked for mine.

Pinbusted or Pintrusted: The Ribbon Wreath


In this installment of Pinbusted or Pintrusted, I will show you my adventures in making a ribbon wreath. I saw the pin right around the time when we GeekMoms were enjoying a summer gift exchange in 2012. I had drawn one of the editors, and I was totally thinking “something homemade” for her.

When I came across this pin by blogger Stacy at She’s {kinda} Crafty, I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, I could totally do this!”

Now, here’s the kicker: the pin takes you to a post that shows several shots of a well-done ribbon wreath, but they are not instructions for how to make the wreath. You need to click through to Stacy’s Halloween wreath, which then has the instructions linked at the Tatertots and Jello blog.

After that wild goose chase, it was smooth sailing for me. First, I collected the materials:

  • Wreath form
  • Thick/wide ribbon to surround the wreath form
  • Assorted colors of ribbon (This can be absolutely anything you want, but I recommend they be similar thickness so there’s a uniform “lay” to the ribbon.)
  • Hot glue gun with plenty of glue sticks

Follow the photo captions to see my journey through this craft.

First, wrap the thicker ribbon around the wreath form. Only one dollop of glue is all it takes to keep it together.
First, wrap the thicker ribbon around the wreath form. Only one dollop of glue is all it takes to keep it together. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Next, I had to cut the ribbon. While the wreath shown in the Tatertots and Jello blog shows varying lengths of ribbon...I chose to cut the pieces uniformly. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Next, I had to cut the ribbon. While the wreath shown in the Tatertots and Jello blog shows varying lengths of ribbon…I chose to cut the pieces uniformly. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The next task is to glue the ribbon lengths into loops. This was a long task....and my poor fingers were pretty blistered after gluing about 200 loops of ribbon together. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The next task is to glue the ribbon lengths into loops. This was a long task….and my poor fingers were pretty blistered after gluing about 200 loops of ribbon together. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Then I glued the loops to the wreath form. How to do this is up to you. Someone people will start at the 12 o' clock position and work his/her way around the wreath form. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Then I glued the loops to the wreath form. How to do this is up to you. Some people will start at the 12 o’ clock position and work their way around the wreath form. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

I decided to add some flair to the wreath by printing out some GeekMom logos to laminate.

This was more difficult than I thought. I wanted a decent quality printout, so I had to go to my local Walmart and print it at their DIY kiosk.

I got some great results from one of these machines. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
I got some great results from one of these machines. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

The finished product is below.

The one-and-only pin-feather in my hat that truly turned out great! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The one-and-only pin-feather in my hat that truly turned out great! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Pinbusted or Pintrusted?

I will say trusted even though my own results aren’t as vibrant-looking as the ones I saw on Pinterest.  This isn’t a difficult craft to do, but it does take some time. I chose to work on it while sitting in front of Friends reruns over the course of several evenings last summer. My oldest son even helped me by breaking out our second hot glue gun and blistering up his fingers too.

After putting GeekMom Jenny’s wreath in the mail, I immediately set forth to make another ribbon wreath for my front door.

I decided to make a second ribbon wreath for myself. I did a better job with the GeekMom wreath IMHO. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
I decided to make a second ribbon wreath for my own front door. I did a better job with the GeekMom wreath IMHO. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

A couple weeks later, I saw this variation on a ribbon wreath at a friend’s house.

I used to live in University of Alabama country. So these kinds of wreaths were pretty popular down on the Florida Panhandle. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
I used to live in University of Alabama country. These kinds of wreaths were pretty popular down on the Florida Panhandle. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Have you ever tried a ribbon wreath? What did you think of the amount of work involved? Did you like your results?

My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter


Screen grab of Pinterest page

You may have met Quinoa. She’s been spotted in London, Hollywood, Seattle, Chicago, and Miami. You may have even seen her in your home town.

Tiffany Beveridge—wife, mother, freelance writer, aspiring novelist, maker of incredible cookies, kitchen dancer, clothes horse, funny in person, funnier in print, middle child—has created a Pinterest board that excels at pure entertainment. “My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter” introduces us to the fictional Quinoa and her equally fictitious friends. Toddlers and tweens, boys and girls, all share in the chance to be dubbed Quinoa for 15 minutes of fame on Pinterest. Populated with images of sultry children in fashion garb, divas with glitter, and disinterested young hipsters, the board features Beveridge’s sarcastic wit shining through with each description.

Everything went fine at Quinoa’s playdate with Booker until she realized that when he said he loved vinyl, he meant jackets not vintage records.

Know what really gets Quinoa down in the dumps? Pleather.

When Quinoa wears her chevron maxi, she opens a portal in the trendy space/time continuum and can travel to any fashion trend in history.

The page is a most excellent diversion, though I have to point out that many of the pins go to uncredited images or bad links.

Five Ways To Feel Like A Beach Geek

Image by Lush
Image by Lush

It’s summer for those of us in the northern hemisphere, and just as we’re starting to see the possibility of beach days approaching, those of you down under are wishing they’d last a bit longer. Either way, here are a few retail-therapy goodies to help you pretend you’re basking in the sun and playing in the sand–or defeating a kraken. Up to you.

The Mermaid by Lush

Lush sells fresh, handmade soaps and body care products made with only vegetarian ingredients and minimal packaging. I love stumbling across a Lush store when I’m travelling–and it’s easy since you can smell them coming (in a good way!). Their latest product is The Mermaid (pictured at the top of this post), a limited edition bath bomb with the sales being donated to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. When you buy one, you also get a download of “The Mermaid Song,” the first release from “The Coldwater Project.” Continue reading Five Ways To Feel Like A Beach Geek

10 Things We're So Over on Pinterest

Image: Natania Barron

When Pinterest burst onto the social media scene, there was a ripple of excitement among the GeekMoms. Curating shiny pictures, ordering and pinning things — yes, this pertained to our collective interests. We practically fell over one another to get invites. But in the last few months, we’ve all started to notice some trends that are, how shall we say, completely and utterly annoying. So we thought, in the spirit of Pinterest, that we’d share.

From hairdos and hairdon’ts to unexpected abs, here’s our top ten list of things we’re so over on Pinterest.

1) Nail polish. It’s got a ubiquitous pose. The hand, tilted just so. The nails, aligned just right, clutching that marvelous bottle like Excalibur pulled from the stone–no, no more, just… stop. Half the nail polish shots we see are pretty much straight off the Sally Hansen shelf (which, let’s face it, we’re all quite capable of); the rest look like you totally did that with your left hand (nailed it!). A small percentage are actually pretty keen (like some amazing geek inspired examples that include multiple TARDISes or Pac-Man, etc.). But by and large, we’re reaching for our nail polish remover. For our eyes.

2) Misfiled pins. Chalk it up to our obsessive compulsive tendencies. But why in the world are nail polish poses showing up under Food and Drink? Or Nature? Not to mention those truly annoying before and after shots of “Look at me I lost 50 lbs. in six months” showing up in just about every category out there (I mean, it’s one step away from the “ridiculously easy tricks to lose weight” ads). Surely there’s got to be a better user-generated way to curate some of this stuff. Not to mention, they really need to improve their search. Seems like Google Search integration would totally be the way to go.

3) Keep Calm and… Okay. So, like Facebook, Pinterest has demonstrated itself as one of those places online where memes go to die. And while the Keep Calm meme hearkens back to WWII propaganda in England and has a certain historical charm to it, I think we can all agree that it’s been done to death. Literally. Let’s truly carry on, shall we? And of course that’s not to mention all the other terribly hackneyed memes out there. Just because you can use Photoshop, doesn’t mean you should–and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s funny. Let’s leave it to the professionals. (Kristen just hopes that less “Keep Calm” doesn’t usher in more of the Gibson girls bemoaning making dinner memes. I’m with her.)

4) Bad links to crappy ads. Because so much of Pinterest is merely about the outside (the shiny pretty pictures) plenty of people have used this to exploit users by hiding links to their online schemes. Take a pair of R2-D2 shoes I pinned, without checking the link. I was later informed that it went to some bunk website selling crap. New to Pinterest at the time, I had no idea the links conveyed like that. I was just sharing because OMG R2 SHOES. I try to be more careful now. But it’s not the first time I’ve seen this, and it still proliferates. We need a way to report this stuff better, don’t you think?

5) Hair bows. Granted, I give Gaga points for this one. She’s a style icon. She can wear a meat dress, or a paper bag, or a Muppet dress and totally get away with it. She’s haute geek. But hair bows on the general population pretty much look ridiculous. Especially on poor little children. This needs to go away, pronto. Along with some of the really, really ugly hair “experiments”.

6) Gwyneth Paltrow. Nothing against Gwyn. I like her, I do. She’s plucky. She’s got some pipes, cool style, and hey, she’s even got her own website, which I dig. I just can’t figure out how no matter what I search for, she shows up. Looking for a brownie recipe? There’s Gwyneth looking gorgeous and making me feel guilty for wanting brownies. Want some ideas for a baby shower? There’s Gwyneth reminding you that her children are cuter than yours. Want some wedding tips? There’s Gwyneth smiling at you to inform you that she’s Mrs. Chris Martin. It gets to a girl after a while. I say let’s counter with a little Tina Fey.

7) Willowy Girls in various poses. This term was coined by our own Laura. You know what I’m talking about. She’s tall. She’s thin. She’s blonde. Her hair is tousled just so. Her dress is flawless, her skin akin to moonlit alabaster. Maybe she’s sharing how to get the perfect French braid, or exhibiting the next must have fashion accessory. Maybe she’s staring your way to entice you to feel terrible about yourself. Whatever reason she’s there, she is everywhere. It’s time for some buxom, regular ladies to own it. Don’t you think? Too much polish and we might as well chuck in Pinterest for Cosmopolitan.

8) Jars of stuff. Hey, look! It’s a jar with glitter on it! It’s a jar with cookie ingredients in it! It’s a jar filled with leaves! It’s a glowy jar! A jar in a jar! A Jar-Jar in a jar! A jar filled with a preserved goat fetus! (Okay, I’ve never seen that last one, and I’ve got to admit that would be kind of cool.) But, let’s have a talk, oh persistent pinners of the magic of the Jar. Jars are containers. See-thru containers. And guess what!? You can put stuff in them. Apparently, on Pinterest, this is a novel concept. Next up: Tupperware!

9) Rainbow cakes. So. It turns out if you add massive quantities of food coloring to box cake in a spectrum of shades, you can stack them up and make rainbow cake. Never heard of that? Wow, you must be the last human on earth.

10) Abs with no heads. Nothing says “you’re a complete and total fitness failure” like the glorious abs of a person you don’t know. It’s kind of intimate, y’know? And there’s something downright off-putting about headless bodies. If I follow your fitness regimen, does that mean I have to forsake my head? Sometimes these are accompanied by lists of how to get these rock bodies, and it always includes uncomfortable sounding positions like a “Russian twist” which, I think, sounds like a delicious vodka beverage. But most of the time it’s juxtaposed against food. You know: Rock hard abs and… seventeen layer cheese lasagne covered in Bearnaise sauce. Perfect Pilates sculpted thighs offset by deep fried brownies slathered in butter cream and ganache. How are we supposed to be motivated when we’re getting these mixed messages?

What’s the solution to this pintastrophe? Well, aside from jars full of pickled science specimens, let’s just say I’m open to suggestions.

(Special thanks to Brigid, Kelly, Laura, Melissa, Judy, Patricia, Sophie, Ariane, Kris, and Kristen for their input!)

Win Some Geeky T-Shirts From We Love Fine

If you’ve never had a chance to check out all the cool and ridiculously geeky shirts at We Love Fine then you don’t know what you’ve been missing. They’ve got everything from The Avengers to Star Wars to Hello Kitty. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve got one shirt that combines all three of those things. Now they’re giving you a chance to win five of your favorite shirts with a Pinterest contest they’re running through June 22nd.

Like a lot of people, I’ve gotten lost for who knows how long looking at all the cool stuff on Pinterest. There’s just no end to cute lol cats, food I want to cook but never will, and crafts I want to make but could never manage. One thing I can manage is looking at t-shirts that I want to own and pinning them to a board. That’s just about all you have to do to get a chance to win. Once you’ve got your shirts pinned, send them the link and they could be yours.

You can find all the contest details over at We Love Fine. I’ve already picked my favorites so what are you waiting for? Start pinning!

Pin a Quote to Pinterest

pin quote on Pinterest, Pinterest quote, pin words on Pinterest, pin text on Pinterest,
Wikimedia CC 2.0

Those of us enthused about Pinterest know the site has one limitation. The pages we want to save must have an image to capture for our “pins.” But the tubes don’t always cooperate. Some pages don’t feature any images while images on other pages may have very little to do with why we want to bookmark them.

Now there’s a solution. A free tool called Pin A Quote makes it easy to highlight a portion of text, save it as an image, and upload it to Pinterest with the original URL. This, added to the wonderfully useful Bookmarklet tool which similarly captures images (and URLs) makes Pinterest even more convenient. Now that we can grab text as well as images, every site is fodder for our Pinterest obsessions. Join me there!



Social Media Etiquette and Copyright

Pinterest is taking off in a big way. The virtual pin board site lets you visually organize favorite projects, wish lists, tips, recipes, and books. Or pretty pictures like this shot of a gerber daisy that my son recently took. With Pinterest, you can use a special little bookmarklet to add the image to one of your boards. Other people might see the picture on Pinterest and think it’s lovely and RE-pin it to one of their boards. There is some really cool stuff showing up on Pinterest.

The GeekMoms are loving Pinterest. (And yes, of course we have a Downton Abbey board!)

But here’s the rub. While Pinterest allows users to share some great inspirational images, it’s also opening up a can of copyright worms that’s working its way across social media. I noticed several months ago that many of the images on my Pinterest feed were also showing up on Facebook pages that I followed. But instead of sharing the image as a link that would take viewers to the original post or even to the pin board they’d found it on, people were uploading the image directly to their Facebook photo albums. On Pinterest, folks are sharing images without maintaining the link to the original source.

Hello, copyright infringement!

As an author, I’m acutely aware of copyright issues. My work has been plagiarized and turned in as student work, and it’s shown up on websites – copied verbatim – under another person’s byline. Those incidents notwithstanding, most of us were taught in school that it’s not cool to plagiarize the written word. But photos are another matter entirely. Who didn’t cut National Geographic images from magazines to enhance a geography report? While our teachers recognized that using an author’s words as our own was unfair use, utilizing a photographer’s work without proper credit didn’t give them pause.

But those were just simple book reports. Now we have the Internet, where we encounter countless images every day and with a simple cut and paste, can share those great images with our friends and followers. Easy, peasy.

But wait! Don’t you think the photographer who took that great shot of Niagra Falls would want credit for his work? Don’t you think the blogger who took the time to take pictures and write out instructions for how to make Princess Leia cupcakes would want you to visit her site for the details?

Think of it this way. What if you knit a sweater and I took it and gave it to my mom and told her I made it? Even though I suck at knitting? That would be unfair, yes? Or what if you brought your killer vegetarian chili to a potluck at my place and I told everyone that I’d made it? So not cool, right?

This has been a sore spot with me as I watch some really fabulous ideas appear on my Facebook and Pinterest feeds without the artist receiving credit. I’ve mentioned my concerns to some Facebook page owners, but they’re just not getting it. Others are still posting photos to their own albums in what I think is an effort to drive traffic to their pages, adding a cursory link to the original photo. Sure, people can now locate the origin of the photo or idea, but the person who posts in this manner is still giving the impression that the photo is theirs. If you go to my Facebook page and click on ‘photos’ you’ll see this across the top of the page: Attainable Sustainable’s Photos. Does that lead you to believe those photos are mine? And that I have the right to post them? I’m betting so.

It turns out I’m not the only one who’s taking issue with all of this uncredited sharing. Link with Love is working to encourage people to share photos responsibly. While they don’t address the Facebook issue at all (that’s my particular gripe) they’re suggesting a neighborhood watch type plan to protect  intellectual property. Their Dear Pinterest post has some simple suggestions for pinning kindly. Retain links. Post credits. Link with love, they say.

Photographer Sean Locke takes a stronger stand, questioning whether Pinterest itself is actually infringing upon artists’ copyright.

It sure sounds like copying people’s photographs without authorization would be copyright infringment [sic].  Yet, Pinterest seems to be encouraging people to scour the web, pinning (copying to their servers) artwork created by others: “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.”

In a follow up post, he discusses the idea of fair use. Is it fair use to share a photographer’s “all rights reserved” image from Flickr? I’m going with no. In this case, the photographer has explicitly spelled out the fact that s/he is reserving all rights, right there in black and white.

Here at GeekMom we have this discussion a lot. We like our posts to have great photos. But at the same time, we’ve passed up some really fun stories simply because we didn’t receive a response to our request for permission to use a photo. We can’t just grab an image we love and use it. We use images that are in the public domain, creative commons, or images that we have permission to post.

Being cognizant of the fact that photos on the web are someone’s intellectual property and not a free for all is the first step toward making sure that artists are credited for their work. I’m no lawyer and who knows if Pinterest will face legal issues for copyright infringement down the road, but it seems like there are a few simple steps that pinners can take to reduce the frustration of artists.

1. Always pin from an original source. This way, it’s easy enough for people to get to the original content, which is especially important if there is a recipe or instructions to go with an image.

2. For goodness sake, don’t copy the text of an entire post and share it along with the pinned image. Again with the copyright infringement! Plus, it makes my feed really hard to read.

3. A site or blog that features a “pin it” button welcomes your pinning. Artists websites that feature a portfolio, probably not so much.

4. If you’re an artist or blogger who’s concerned about having your stuff out there on the web sans credit, consider using a watermark on your images as I’ve done with the gerber daisy photo.

Artist Kal Barteski offers even more suggestions. I truly hope you’ll go have a look and join me in making sure that the hard work of artists and bloggers you love is credited to the right person. I also invite you to pin this post, using the gerber daisy image (which, incidentally, my son has given me permission to use) with a note about pinning responsibly.

Daisy photo: Evan Bordessa

Rainbow text: Link with Love, used with permission


A GeekMom’s 34 Goals for 2012

Number 17 on my list of goals: Have one thriving crop. This mutant carrot is the outcome of my last gardening attempt. Photo by Cathe Post.

A friend of mine recently published her professional website after months of preparation. One of her premier posts shared 30 things she would like to do this year in honor of turning 30. It’s not a milestone birthday year for me, but the idea made sense. In an effort to set reasonable goals instead of unattainable demands, I’m going to follow in IndieKate‘s blog-steps and create a 34 in 2012 list. Here it goes…

  1. Work on getting in shape – I just signed up for Fitocracy so I can log all of my Dance Central time in Workout Mode.
  2. Keep up with my blog – I would like to share more on my personal blog than a log of articles I write for GeekMom. Some blogs I read just share one moment from the day that their readers can identify with. I’d like to do the same, if I’m not cleaning up the mess from said moment…
  3. Social Butterfly – I want to put myself out there more. I am on PinterestFacebookTwitterGoodreads and Google +. I hope to cross share through all of these platforms at least once a week.
  4. Keep up with Phineas and Ferb this summer – There is a calendar. I printed it for my daughter last summer and we only did about a third of the things that we wrote on it (let alone the ideas that came with it).
  5. Watch less TV – My husband would probably not understand this one. I listen to Netflix shows while I’m on the computer. If I listened to audiobooks or podcasts instead, I would probably be better off.
  6. Read More – I HATE reading. Due to my astigmatism, I end up reading the same line in a book multiple times before getting past it. It makes book reading less than fun. It’s “better” now that we have a Kindle Fire, because I can show one paragraph per page and increase the font size, but it still hurts my eyes – I have to really be interested in the book.
  7. Learn at least one more of my husband’s miniature games – I played Warhammer Fantasy with my husband for a year. It was great fun. But, I played the season, won the tournament (and a really cool sword) and left it at that. So now I should catch up and learn Blood BowlHell Dorado, and Dystopian Wars.
  8. Learn an activity with my daughter – I don’t care if it’s Heroclix or something non-geeky – we had a lot of fun learning Pokémon together (have you heard the recent GeekMom podcast?). Mother/daughter bonding is good.
  9. Earn my Tournament Organizer’s title for Pokémon – Since I keep running computers for Pokémon tournaments, I really should have a copy of the program on my computer. In order to have that, I need to earn my stripes!
  10. Drink water – 8 glasses a day…blah…blah…blah…
  11. GeekMom – The responsibilities of a core contributor on GeekMom are not unreasonable, and yet I find myself fighting to keep up from time to time. I would like to work to 125% of what is required, because GeekMom is a great community to be part of. I keep find myself saying, “That would make a great article.” So, sit down and write the article already!
  12. Pre-school – This would be a goal for later in the year. As my youngest nears turning three, I look at the pre-school choices and cringe. The idea of teaching him myself is daunting, but doable – and he’d love it.
  13. Eat more veggies – I eat veggies twice a day on a good day. I could be better about it.
  14. Ride my bike – Even riding my bike once this summer would be more than I did last year.
  15. Edit out the virtual garbage – This would include cleaning out the backup hard drive, deleting old documents, and having everything backed up and organized in one location…instead of three.
  16. Make headway in the yard – We put in a playground (swings and a slide thanks to my parents) this last summer. We have a small rectangular backyard. I would like a third of it to be raised gardens and a stone oven for baking pizza/bread, a third lawn, and a third playground. It means DOING IT.
  17. Have one crop thrive – I have a black thumb. Enough said.
  18. Go back to church – I haven’t been in a year. Again, if I make it once this year, it will be a step in the right direction.
  19. Vote – I missed our last local election and felt guilty about it for weeks. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain about how your taxes are spent.
  20. Date – My husband. I need to make that clear. I have known my husband since 1993. We started dating in 1998, and were married in 2003. Several times we’ve misplaced the romance. We seem to find it if we can go on a date.
  21. Pet the cats – Isn’t it scientifically proven that animals can reduce stress levels? I have four cats, so I should be four times less stressed, right?
  22. ADHD – I need to learn all I can about this. My daughter was diagnosed with it, and I think it is a HUGE source of the behavior issues we have had in the last three years. Learning how to help her deal with her symptoms will be a relief.
  23. Remain close to my parents – I am an only child. My parents live less than 5 miles away. I have tried very hard to be there for them this year as my mom has taken on difficult volunteer tasks and my dad has undergone chemotherapy. This year can only be better for them, right?
  24. Have a cemented financial plan – Being in a one income household is hard. I am thankful that my husband’s job provides a roof over our head and food on the table. GeekMom Judy Berna had a similar resolution this year.
  25. Learn how to fix one thing – My husband is very handy. He cooks, he sews, he fixes the stuff that needs fixing. Just once I should take initiative and learn to do it myself instead of asking him.
  26. Attempt to potty train – My 2-year-old wants to do everything his sister does. So, perhaps this summer I will have the guts to attempt to teach him how to use the potty. Isn’t it as easy as throwing cheerios in the toilet and having them do target practice?
  27. Write a book with my daughter – She loves drawing and telling stories. It would probably be a great geeky story – an epic tale even!
  28. Start a video podcast – The hubby and I have been watching Hank and Katherine Play Super Mario Brothers Wii! on YouTube. Where my husband is inspired to play his ukulele and make videos someday like the DoubleclicksMolly Lewis, or Pomplamoose, I want to make a board game blog. We shall see if I can get anyone to help me – I can’t really play board games by myself.
  29. Brush up on my sign language – I used to be fluent, but if you don’t use it, you lose it.
  30. Run a D&D campaign – I don’t know that RPG Kids would count. But I would run a one-shot game in a heartbeat.
  31. Add to my client base – It would be nice to have a couple more clients to tutor in the art of running a computer.
  32. Make one item out of one of my craft books – Complete a large fiber project  (like an afghan) or a project from a craft book. I have a shelf full of craft/fiber books that are fun to look at, but I haven’t done anything other than look at them. I have done a few projects from the GeekDad books, but I want to complete ALL OF THEM.
  33. Do one Arduino project – This is an intelligence challenge. Can I be smarter than the programming language? (I wasn’t in college – that’s for sure).
  34. Enter one photography show – Just one. Just enough of a commitment that I have to attempt to take artsy-fartsy shots throughout the year.

I don’t think this list is unattainable. It will take some work, but there isn’t one thing on this list I can’t finish (maybe 33, but I will at least attempt it). What are your goals for 2012? Do you have some of the same crazy plans as I do?