Doodle Lit Gives Readers of All Ages Interactive Experience

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Catch the Doodle Bug with Doodle Lit, the recent publication by the creators of BabyLit.

The colorful simplicity of the Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver BabyLit series has been introducing beginner readers to the world of classic literature since 2011, by teaching simple concepts like counting, weather, colors, and opposites with classics like Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, Alice in Wonderland, and Anna Karenina.

Now, readers of all ages can increase their literary appreciation through the ageless practice of doodling with their interactive book, Doodle Lit.

The book includes several doodle prompts based on the works of authors like Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Charlotte Brontë, and others.

Doodlers can doodle some autobiographic sketches inspired by illustrations from Jane Eyre’s life, compose a Shakespearean-style love letter, try their hand at tattoo design inspired by Moby Dick character Queequeg, and even “Hot Rod” up an 18th century buggy.

Both Adams and Oliver explain the importance of the act of doodling in the book’s introduction, as well as what this simple artistic practice means for them.

“Doodling is such a simple form of being creative,” Adams says in her introduction comments. “When you doodle, you usually allow yourself to do it freely—you’re not worrying about trying to make a final piece of art or worrying what someone else will think.”

This book maintains the simple look of the BabyLit series, only in the black-and-white line style indicative of the many popular “doodling” books available from different authors and publishers.

Another nice feature are the periodic “historical footnotes” included throughout the book. Young doodlers can learn such diverse facts as what a scrimshaw was to sailors and what the national bird of India is (peacock), as well as which Brontë sister wrote what.

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Fans of the BabyLit series will recognize the clever minds behind Doodle Lit.

Although the BabyLit series is geared towards toddlers and beginning readers, don’t make the assumption that Doodle Lit is also just for children. The book may be created with the intention of helping get kids more excited about classic books, but this is something even adults will love doing.

Young children will relish the sheer pleasure of coloring, drawing, writing, cutting out masks, and creating collages using classic literature as source material. Tweens and teens can even get into the prospect of adding their own contemporary creative aspects to timeless classics. This will even be a gateway for young adult readers to be inspired to learn more about the stories and books behind these projects.

For adults, it is a chance to rediscover the classics they may have already read, as well as have an incentive to read those classics they may never have gotten a chance to yet. This would be a fun coffee table book to add to now and again, or you could keep a set of drawing implements nearby for guests to contribute their own “works of art” to a favorite story.

Adams has written two classic lit-inspired books for adults, including Y is for Yorick: A Slightly Irreverent Shakespearean ABC Book for Grown-Ups Hardcover, which would be fun companion gift with Doodle Lit.

There are plenty of books and authors who seemed to be noticeably missing from this series. J.R.R. Tolkien and Jules Verne come to mind, but there is only so much space in one book. This volume is primed for follow-ups; maybe with some focused on specific genres, like poetry or science fiction. Adams and Oliver have certainly opened up the possibilities.

Whether Adams and Oliver ever decide to create a second Doodle Lit volume is up to them, but as for the reader, the question remains “To “Doodle” or “Not To Doodle.”

The answer is clear—and written plainly on the cover—by all means, “Doodle.”

“When you’re young, you’re smart enough to know that art is fun,” Adams says in the introduction. “When we get older, sometimes we forget that. Art is fun. Just doodle.”

Review originally ran in GeekMom on June 1.

Why Do We Love The Hat Box Ghost So Much?

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A few of the Hat box Ghost items we’ve created in in the past couple of years. The Haunted Mansion just isn’t complete without him.

One of Disneyland Park’s most mysterious residents returned home this month, as part of park’s 2015 Diamond Celebration.

On the weekend of May 9, the newly re-imagined Hatbox Ghost was installed in the attic of the Haunted Mansion, appearing just before guests’ DoomBuggies make the backward descent into the ride’s raucous graveyard.

Dressed in full Victorian cloak and top hat, like a non-lethal Jack the Ripper, the grim grinning figure leers menacingly at guests as his head disappears from his shoulders and into the large transparent hatbox in his outstretched hand. The head then disappears from the box back onto his shoulders.

That’s pretty much all there is to him; the concoction of a basic lighting effect that didn’t seem to work the first time… and we Haunted Mansion fans just love him!

Walt Disney Imagineering Producer Jeff Shaver-Moskowitz announced the ghost’s long-anticipated return to the mansion in a Disney Parks podcast that same weekend.

“The Hatbox Ghost was one of the original 999 Happy Haunts in the mansion,” Shaver-Moskowitz said in the podcast. “Sometime around the opening, he disappeared and has been missing from the mansion for the past 45 years.”

Shaver-Moskowitz noted this ghost is one of the mansion’s most popular figures ever, and it didn’t even exist there… at least not since the attraction’s opening in 1969.

This means, no one my age or younger had ever even seen this ghost in person until this month. The majority of Disney visitors older than myself have never even seen the original ghost, although many have claimed to have “sighted” him that first year. There is only one video I know of, released on the fan site Disney History Institute (unaffiliated with the Walt Disney Company), that even proves this original ghost appeared in the ride at all. No one seems to even know where he went.

I find myself among those admirers of the Hatbox Ghost. He has made his way into my Haunted Mansion decorations, many of which are displayed year-round, plastered on my file cabinets with homemade magnets and clippings, living among my Halloween models, and hidden in the images of our New Orleans-themed guest bathroom (if you know where to find him).

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The Hatbox Ghost has been the subject of several pieces of fan art, like this one by artist Chris Martin.

It is as if I know him as well as any of the other Haunted Mansion ghost visitors that I’ve seen again and again.

I’m not the only one. This ghost has had his own fan page on Facebook, and director and author Guillermo del Toro wanted to use him as the focus on a motion picture based on the attraction. Whether that film ever sees the flickering light of the silver screen remains a mystery in itself. The fan artists and cosplayers love him, as well. One of my favorites is a portrait by pop culture artist Chris Mason.

The marketing geniuses at Disney have done their best to keep this ghost in people’s minds, whether or not he has been in the park for more than four decades. He’s been featured in postcards, T-shirts, books, as the mascot for a past “Haunted Holidays” campaign where he talked about haunted sites around the world, pin-trading events, and as a costumed character. Families can even download their own Hatbox Ghost paper model from the Disney Family site.

The Hatbox Ghost’s return is such a little thing in the grand scheme of the park—practically no changes were needed to add him to the attraction. However, his presence is so significant to Haunted Mansion lovers, as he is the amalgam of the original, old-school classic design from Imagineers like Yale Gracey and Marc Davis, and today’s advancements in animatronics and computer animation.

He’s elegant and graceful. He’s eerie. He’s relatively simple in concept, but apparently complex in design. He’s classic. He’s humorous and weirdly friendly. Most of all, however, he’s very, very, Disney. I’m not talking about the overly tech-savvy, yet nonetheless impressive, Disney style of today. The Hatbox Ghost is the picture of early-stage Disney Imagineering at its finest.

I think it’s appropriate the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland Park is in New Orleans Square, because there’s a word of French and Spanish origins often associated with the spirit of the city: lagniappe, or “a little something extra.

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Yale Gracey with a promo shot of the original ghost, circa 1969.

The Haunted Mansion is filled with these kinds of extras. The wild-eyed faces in the hallway wallpaper, the dueling gunmen portraits in the ballroom, the one broken singing bust head, and the seductively creepy nose wrinkle of the “Little Leota” farewell bride. All of these little “lagniappes” add to the ride, and are as good effects, if not better, than the Hatbox Ghost’s little head trick.

So why is the Hatbox Ghost so popular? I think people love a good mystery, a good reason for speculation, and “where is he now” conspiracy theories.

For me, the Hatbox Ghost represents my own growing up with the mansion. Never mind the fact the ghost and I are the same age—I think I look considerably younger, though—the Haunted Mansion is one of my favorite attractions, second only to Pirates of the Caribbean. This ride also scared me so much my first time on it, I never even made it past the stretching room. It was 1973 or 74 and I was just a toddler. The rules were a little more lax then, and I was perched atop my father’s shoulders as we entered the room. While everyone else was huddled safely together, I was exposed and alone over everyone’s head as the walls begin to stretch. I panicked and begin clutching the scalps of random victims. Long story short, they stopped the stretching room elevator and let us out.

The next year, I muscled up some courage and made my way through the ride, looking through a cage of my own fingers. The year after that, however, I started seeing the imagination behind each ghost and haunted hallway, and I fell in love with the ride. So much so, my youngest daughter’s first venture on the ride last year was, “I want to go again!”

This summer, there is just one more reason for riders to “go again,” and I’m sure many will make a few repeat runs through the ride just to see the ghost’s head grimacing up from his hatbox.

I predict the glamour around the ghost will settle now that he is back home, and he will become just another familiar favorite for most guests. For those in on the folklore, however, he’ll be that special “something extra.” He’ll be that mystery that still isn’t quite solved.

After all, that original ghost model has to be out there somewhere, doesn’t it? The logical explanation is the ghost just wasn’t working properly, and it was eventually scrapped for parts.

That’s both sad and not particularly fun. I like to think he’s still out there somewhere, perhaps roaming from attic to attic, looking for a suitable home. Judging from the flood of YouTube posts excited about seeing the new ghost, there are plenty of folk willing to take him in.

Three Ways to Make Upcycled Flowers

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Upcycled flowers with a rockabilly, gothic or bohemian edge.

Everyone loves flowers, but giving flowers on a date, holidays, prom, dances or other special occasions may seem like an over-done gift option.

This is where upcycled crafts are perfect. These three easy flowers craft can be used to give a geeky or punky dates, or homemade flower for Mom on her birthday Mother’s Day, with little effort and even less expense, but with a whole lot of love and imagination.These items are similar to some popular crafts found on Pinterest, Etsy, or other art and DIY sites, only these have been given a special edge to appeal to mom’s of different tastes and personalities.

Gothy Industrial Water Bottle Blossoms

IMG_0242-660x427Items needed:
Plastic water bottles
Cheap plastic novelty rings
Spray paint, nail polish, or craft paintCut the bottom and top off a plastic water bottle, making sure to cut out the mouthpiece. Using the natural shape of the bottle, cut around to it resembles flower petals. Older crafters can further shape the petals by holding the ends over a candle flame and gently molding them. This will get hot, so only adults should attempt this step
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Cut the top and bottom of the bottle, warp the ends with a candle, color the the blossoms with paint of felt tip markers, and glue the layers together.

Use nail polish or craft paint to create some designs on the underside of the petals, than spray over them with the spray paint (or use dark craft paint). The designs will remain visible through the top.

With jewelry or metal glue, glue the layers of the flowers by placing the “top portion” of the bottle with the bigger center hole in the back. Glue guns can be used, but remember heat will continue to warp or melt the plastic and make it very hot to the touch. Proceed with caution if using one for this step.

Paint or decorate a cheap spider or skull ring left over from those endless Halloween carnivals to look a little steampunk or like a Día de los Muertos calavera (skull). Clip the flimsy back off the ring, and glue it to the center of the flower. Add other embellishments if you want.

Place the complete blossom on a magnet or pin back.

Rockabilly Egg Carton Rose Tattoo Cards

IMG_0263-355x470Items needed:
Cardboard egg cartons (Styrofoam works, but isn’t as pretty)
Card stock paper
Felt tip or fine line markers, watercolors, colored pencils, or other drawing materials

Cut the individual “egg holders” out of the carton, and clip around the four corners to resemble a “flower petal.”

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Cut individual egg cups into flower shapes of various sizes, paint each layer, and glue them together with the smallest layer on the inside. These roses can be attached to a tattoo-style card.

Color most of the flower one color, and color around the outer edge of the flower with a different color to resemble a vintage tattoo. You can color the inside of the petals black or a dark color, to add to the shading, and give it an outline with a black marker. Glue the carton layers together to form a simple rose. Three or four layers makes a decent-sized rose.

Fold a letter-size piece of card stock in half and draw a “Mom” banner, or the name of the intended, leaves, or other items that are common in vintage tattoos (birds, hearts, anchors, stars, etc.), leaving a space for the flower. Don’t trace it. Even if your drawing isn’t perfect, it will be original.

Use strong craft glue or a glue gun to attach the completed carton rose to the card. Give this as an art card, or place a fun frame around it for a cool art print.

For ideas, here’s a link to some vintage tattoo designs.

Bohemian Comic Book Paper and Cloth Flowers

IMG_0254-537x470Items needed:
Old comic book or magazine pages
Felt or other scrap cloth
Yarn
Assorted plastic or paper beads

This is as easy as folding tissue paper flowers, only with a much more colorful medium…comics!

Layer two or three comic or magazine pages and fold them in an accordion pattern, like a simple paper fan.

Using a few pieces of yarn, gently tie the fan in the center and either tear or cut the edges of the page to the desired flower sizes you want. Slowly pull the flower layers apart, to make a carnation style flower. The pages may tear a little, so be very careful.

Cut out some leaves or additional petals with felt or scrap cloth, then randomly glue them between the layers.

To make a paper bead, cut a strip of magazine or other paper in long, thin, triangle formations, and lightly cover one side with school glue. Place the wide edge over a toothpick, and roll it up like croissant.

Embellish with plastic or paper beads by tying them to the loose ends of the yarn.

These finished paper flowers look cute as Bohemian or gypsy-style hair or hat pieces, and can be glued on pin or barrette backs.

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Fold the paper in an accordion pattern, and secure with yarn or string. Gently pull the layers apart. For the paper beads, cut papers into long wedges and roll them over a toothpick.

Originally ran in GeekMom on May 7, 2015.

Minor League Mascots: The Good, The Weird and The Geeky

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geekymilbWhen my city finally got a Triple-A baseball team last year, after jumping through all the usual hoops from bonds to sponsorships, it was time to pick a mascot suitable for West Texas. There were plenty of options, such as Desert Dawgs or Vaqueros, all worthy of a border town with a Wild West history.

Eventually, the powers that be decided the best mascot to serve our city was The El Paso… Chihuahuas.

This was met with some wonderful tweets to our local news media from area residents and ball lovers including… “Yo Queiro no thanks,” and “Oh well, at least the beer is cheap.”

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“Chico,” the El Paso Chihuahua.

Apparently, a shaky little bug-eyed dog didn’t go over with the masses at first. That was, until the first home game. After seeing the ballpark and how much kids loved “Chico” the mascot, the team’s first season was a huge success. The home games were wonderful experiences for the “dog days” of summer, including a few “Bark in the Park” bring-your-pooch nights, and the souvenir dog bowls in which they served the nachos! Yes, the little Golem of a mascot soon won over the skeptics.

One of the best things for me, however, is we got to play a nearby team with one of the best names in the game, the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Isotopes name is perfect for its New Mexico home, with the state’s contribution to the atomic and nuclear ages from Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratories, the Trinity test site at the White Sands Missile Range, and the often-debated WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Project).

The name’s origin, however, comes from much different source, The Simpsons, and the fictional town of Springfield’s home team, the Isotopes. Albuquerque’s name was inspired by a famous Simpsons episode where Homer protests his beloved team’s potential move to none other than Albuquerque. There’s no “official” affiliation of the team to the series, but fans will find statues of Marge and Homer at the ballpark.

With baseball season in full swing (no pun intended), now is a fun time to take a look at a few of the other minor league teams around the county with some particularly geeky or clever team names.

Official MiLB (Minor League Baseball) teams include:

Akron RubberDucks. The name doesn’t just refer to a lovable bathtub buddy. It celebrates Akron, Ohio, as the birthplace of tire companies like Goodyear, Firestone, and other big wheels in the rubber industry.

Cedar Rapids Kernels. This is not a type for Colonels, this Iowa team’s corny name likely refers to Cedar Rapids being one of the world’s largest corn processors.

Great Falls Voyagers. The name may not sound too geeky at first, but area residents know it refers to the Mariana UFO Incident of 1950 that took place in the Montana town. This incident produced what is said to be one of the first images of a UFO sighting captured on film.

Hillsboro Hops. Oregon is the nation’s second-largest producer by volume of hop, the little green plant used to brew beer. Why not? “Brewers” is a popular name in the major leagues, and I’m pretty sure there are some sports fans happy to support this industry.

indieleaguesLansing Lug Nuts. Lansing plays an important part in Michigan’s auto industry, and lug nuts are to cars and tires what hops is to beer. Small, powerful, and necessary. The team even plays in what once was called Oldsmobile Park, after the now defunct automaker.

Las Vegas 51s. Those with a true knack for the nerdier destinations know this number refers to the nearby “super-secret” Air Force Base, Area 51, in nearby Rachel, Nevada. Even those who don’t know about the site will soon figure it out, upon seeing the Roswell-style grey alien head on the team logo, one of the legendary “residents” who is said to live on the base.

Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Based in Springdale, the name can be attributed to the not-so-geeky designation to Arkansas as the “Natural State,” but the team is also named after the feel-good Robert Redford baseball movie, The Natural. Fans should be thankful for the name, as it beat out the second place mascot suggestion, “Thunder Chickens,” in a fan poll. The team did take on the name of this boisterous fowl for a publicity stunt one night.

Omaha Storm Chasers. Some of the coolest weather-geeks in the world are the adrenaline junkies known as storm chasers. Nebraska, where the Storm Chasers’ home field in Papillion is located, is part of one of the United States’ two major tornado alleys. According to data recorded at University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Applied Climate Sciences department, the state sees around 50 tornadoes a year. Now, its official minor league team is ready to join the hunt as well. Sure, there are teams named for storms, tornadoes, quakes, hurricanes, and volcanoes, but these are the guys who track them down with high-tech gear.

Pensacola Blue Wahoos. This name actually sounds weirder than it is. A wahoo is a fish found in the tropical and subtropical waters, including around the Florida coast. There are many teams named after regional animals (Chuckars, Bees, Flying Squirrels), but none as fun to say as “Wahoo!”

Vermont Lake Monsters. This Burlington-based team name is a tribute the American version of the Loch Ness Monster, the legendary monster of Lake Champlain, which sits on the border of Vermont and New York. The team’s mascot is also named after the monster: “Champ.”

There are also several great, geeky team names from the smaller Independent Professional Baseball Federation and other independent leagues such as the Roswell (New Mexico) Invaders (named for the Roswell, N.M. UFO crash site) and the Traverse City Beach Bums (from Michigan’s popular lakefront resort town).

Then there’s the Laredo Lemurs, named for an animal that seems to have no connection to Texas at all—at least not today. According to an article on sportslogo.net, team owners wanted a name that was kid-friendly, that no other team in the league would have, and that had something to do with Laredo. Apparently, during an archaeological dig in nearby Lake Casa Blanca International State Park, fossils of “lemur-like” creatures were found to inhabit the area about 42 million years ago. Close enough. Laredo had lemurs… and now they do once more.

I guess Chihuahuas isn’t that weird, after all.

A Geeky Look at the Southwest

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Image by Lisa Kay Tate

Originally posted on GeekMom April 26, 2015.