Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Twelve* Whos of Christmas: Time Lord Gingerbread Men

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whocookies1Let’s do the math…

Able to overcome limitations of time and space: Check.
Has appeared in varying “versions” of himself for different generations: Check.
Has a completely badass-yet-unlikely form of universal transportation: Check.

It’s official — Santa is a Time Lord. How about leaving him at treat worthy of this title, Time Lord Doctors 1-4gingerbread men.

This is just a matter of taking your ordinary gingerbread men and jazzing them up a bit…something that becomes a pretty fun parent/kid activity, particularly if you like to eat frosting.

Okay, since this is just a “quick tip,” I’m not going to commit you to any new and revolutionary gingerbread recipe, use any gingerbread (or sugar cookie) recipe, as long as it’s one intended fore shaped cookies. I’ve used plain old Betty Crocker gingerbread mix for the little Whos down in Timey Wimey “Who”ville’ shown in the picture, but off-brands work well, too. When I’m in the mood to be more “authentic” I like to use the cookie and icing recipe Ray Keim (remember the Haunted Dimensions guy?), uses for his fantabulous gingerbread homes at Doctors 5-8 haunteddimensions.raykeim.com/index505.

Take plain old gingerbread man cookie cutter and get your 11 Time Lords cut out, but leave a little left over to cut out a rectangle for a Tardis (you can’t leave out your Tardis, after all). Now, since these are cookies, we’re not going to get too elaborate, but simply give some “hints” to each Doctor’s distinct look.  I’ve included some templates the geeklings and I cooked up, but feel free to “outdo” us in imagination. That’s what it’s all about. Don’t forget to leave some cookie scraps to make simple accessories like the Eleventh Doctor’s Fez or Seventh Doctor’s umbrella, you can attach with icing once they are done.

Most importantly, once you cook them, wait until they are completely cool before icing. This is the hardest part for myDoctors 9-10-1 kids (and, yes, for me too). Pre-colored cookie frosting works best if you are dealing with kids, since they often come packaged with easy-to-use tips for designing. Mix your own food coloring into plain royal icing for more specific colors (like that Willy Wonka-mated-with-the-Easter Bunny’s mutant offspring get-up the Sixth Doctor wore. Seriously, wassup with dat?) Most icing recipes are as simple as mixing about a half pound of powdered sugar with one egg white.

Our favorites turned out to be, not surprisingly, the Fourth Doctor’s awesome scarf and Tenth Doctor’s red 11th Doctor and Tardissneakers, but aren’t they the two best Doctors anyway (debate your own favorites among yourselves, here).
You can poke a hole in them lightly with a chop stick and string make some edible ornaments, or place them out for Santa and see if bring his sonic screwdriver with him…I’m betting he has one.

* Yes, I KNOW, there are only Eleven doctors…count the cookies!

line of whos

Dwarf Braid Stocking Stuffers

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dwarf braidsIn celebration of the Christmas and holiday season (not to mention Hobbit Week), here’s an easy stocking stuffer gift for your Tolkien fanatic and book lover friends, as well as the ever-growing segment of the population who now thinks four-and-a-half-foot-tall leather-clad, axe wielding, dudes are hot — Dwarf braids.

These are the must-have Middle Earth fashion accessory of the season, and can be made into hair pieces, key chains, backpack bling and anything else that needs a little Khazâd* charm.

If you can braid, you can make these. They are as simple as that.

DSC_0023What you need:

• Wool or Mohair textured yarn, preferably earth tones of brown, grey or black (I used a brand called Charisma).

• Silver or bronze-looking beads, particularly those with a fairly large hole and rustic patterns

• Simple hair clips, bobby pins, key rings, zipper pulls or any other item you want to attach to the braid.

Step 1:  Take two long strands of yarn and cut them twice the length you want them. You might want them to match the length of your hair, for example. Fold them in half and place the loop end around the hair clip, key ring, etc. Take the other ends and pull then through the loop end (see photo).DSC_0032

Step 2: Unravel the yarn, and gently (emphasis on gently) comb the yarn so it begins to resemble hair. I recommend using yarn over those fine-textured hair extension strands you can buy almost anywhere now, because Dwarves’ hair is quite a bit coarser then regular human hair, almost like an animal’s mane. If you want to look more Elven, however, go ahead and try this with the extensions. Now, divide the “hair” into three parts and braid away.

DSC_0027Step 3: Take an unfolded paper clip or some beading wire and fold it over the end of the braid, leaving about an inch of hair at the bottom.  Pull this through a bead (or two or three) and pull the beads as far up the braid as you want. Do the same with the final bead, but only pull the hair far enough through so the hair remains “folded over” out of the bottom. Gently remove the paper clip or wire and cut off any excess hair sticking out of the top of the braid. A small drop or craft glue (or super glue if you aren’t working with kids) placed at the base of the bead will help hold it in place if you like, but these are actually pretty snug and secure is the bead if the right sized bead is use (another advantage of using yarn).

That’s it for the simple braid, now here’s some hints on being creative with a few Dwarf-inspired “advanced” looks:DSC_0036

Oin: Braid a fine beading wire in with the braid and curl up or shape the finished braid. Make these small enough, and they make pretty cute lapel pins or barrettes.

Nori: Make about four or five simple braids together on the same hair clip and pull then together through a larger bead, using the same method as the simple braid.

 Gloin: Attach several lengths of yarn (in the same manner as the simple braids) to a thin headband, or gloinpiece of yarned stretch between two hair clips. Comb it out, and divide it into seven parts, making the center part the widest). Take a large bead and pull it onto the center part, and a smaller bead onto the two parts on either side of the center park. Pull these three parts together and pull them all through a bead with a fairly wide hole to give it a “woven” look. Take the outer parts and make simple Dwarf braids. This one looks really nice if you let it hang down the back of your head, particularly if the color matches your hair…and it will get noticed.

Make as many as you need and share them with at least 13 other friends before leaving the Shire.

Adventure awaits…right after second breakfast.

* Another name for the Dwarf race…read a book!DSC_0029

Geeky Ways to Give: Fanboy-Friendly Charities

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geekcharitiesAttention, zombie heathens! The Black Friday/Cyber Monday “Occupy GameStop” rush is over, and it’s time to think a little about giving something back.

What? Why are you looking at me that way? Do I have something in my teeth? I’m DEAD SERIOUS, here. We’re a fortunate bunch in this nation, and we should be happy to share what we have.

On the other hand, I am a proud capitalist and think it’s best to let us each decide to whom we should give before the “guvment” (either party) takes it and makes that decision for us. Luckily, there are some great options any geek and non-geek alike would be honored to say they support. Might I suggest a few?

501st Legion (aka Vader’s Fist):  These trooper lovin’ guys and gals do not bill themselves as a charitable 501storganization, but as the “World’s Definitive Imperial Costuming Organization.” To many this is just a group of detail-intensive folk who promote Star Wars and cosplay…and they are. Do not let this fact fool you. This all-volunteer group boasts thousands of members in chapters in more than 40 countries, and NEVER takes a penny for their appearances at everything from hospitals to comic-cons. Instead, they ask that a donation be made to a charitable organization in a true “pay it forward” way. According to 501st Legion Public Relations Officer Nick Bishop, the group’s members love doing what they do — putting “smiles on the faces” of children of all ages.

“The 501st Legion members are all volunteers and if available can be contacted for event requests through our website 501st.com,” Bishop said. “We have been involved in charity fundraisers, birthday parties, weddings, library events and the list goes on.”

Most notably, members of the legion have given their time (and sometimes their own money) to groups like Make-A-Wish Foundation, March of Dimes, Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation, National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Toys for Tots and AT LEAST 50 others.  Their charity list is at 501st.com/charity.

Haunts Against Hunger: This group works primarily around the Halloween season, but its effort to “scare away hunger” can help families through the fall and winter holiday seasons and hopefully beyond. This group promotes food drives at haunted attractions, film screenings and other haunted/horror-related events, primarily in California, Illinois, Nevada, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Now in their fourth year, they recently recruited horror movie icon Linda Blair to help take this campaign nationwide. The group hopes Blair’s presence will help make these drives a nationwide happening. Plus, Blair’s own World Heart Foundation (that rescues abused and neglected animals) has inspired Haunts Against Hunger to add the nation’s “four-legged” population to some of their events that not only accept both non-perishable items for local food pantries, but pet food for area pet shelters. Interested individuals can join a team or set up a food drive at hauntsagainsthunger.com.

Stan Lee Foundation: Stan The Man is 90 years of pure awesomeness and his literacy-intensive foundation proves it. As the creative force behind some of comic-books most iconic heroes, he also loves sharing his passion for the creative forces by helping to teach others. This desire to help others develop a love for words and art spawned his foundation that works to provide both youth and adults access to literacy resources, promote national literacy, diversity, culture and arts and, according to the foundation’s mission “embrace innovation, integrity and scholarly and artistic engagement to build a community of learners, collaborators and creators.”

Since literacy and the love for reading and learning is a personal soapbox of mine, I can really get behind Stan’s mission, and I hope many others do as well. Donations accepted “the old fashioned way” via mail at Stan Lee Foundation, 6551 Lionsdale Court Suite 400, Springfield, VA, 22150. Learn more at stanleefoundation.org.

Peter Mayhew Foundation: The very tall man behind the Wookiee mask has a very, very large heart, and hispmf non-profit organization works, with other charities at children’s hospitals, Wounded Warrior Centers and both special needs and at risk children (i.e. Make-A-Wish Foundation).

Mayhew’s mission statement for the organization lists the foundation as “devoted to the alleviation of disease, pain, and suffering by providing its available resources directly to deserving children and adults in need.”

The foundation also assists other charitable programs not funded by the community, including 501st Legion and its “good guy” counterpart, the Rebel Legion, by helping with travel funds, accommodations, meals and more.

“The Peter Mayhew Foundation has had opportunities to work with other charitable organizations such as the ‘Make a Wish Foundation’ and ‘Wounded Warriors,’” the foundation statement says. “It is for the purpose of providing supportive funds, services and supplies to the needs of Non Profits and other individuals that we move forward, The Wookiee Way.”

In addition to taking tax-deductible donations, the foundation raises funds by selling copies of their young readers books that celebrate each others’ differences: “My Favorite Giant,” and the graphic novel “Growing Up Giant.”

Learn more at Petermayhewfoundation.org.

DC’s We Can Be Heroes: DC Entertainment’s Justice League are the official face of this hunger-fighting charity that focuses on countries in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya) all of which are facing a severe hunger crisis. The organization partners with other nonprofits, Save the Children, International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps, who work to bring aid to the places where it is most needed. In addition, DC will match all donations We Can Be Heroes 100 percent (and up to 75 percent from specially designed lithographs, shirt and other items) towards the cause. That, boys and girls, is what a real hero does. Learn more at wecanbeheroes.org.

Marvel’s Hero Initiative: This nonprofit “safety net for comic creators” was established in 2000 to provide former comic creators (many elderly and in dire need of financial assistance) with emergency medical aid, life’s essentials and even an avenue back into paying work. On the surface, it may not as seem as big a cause as world hunger or literacy, but these men and women who brought superheroes to life through their words and art, not to mention influenced many of today’s best and brightest comic talent, deserve to live out their own lives with dignity and peace of mind. The group takes not only monetary donations, but also donations of vehicles (car, RV, motorcycle, etc.). They are also always looking for volunteers to help man booths at comic-cons and other events. Donations may be sent to The Hero Initiative, 11301 Olympic Blvd., #587, Los Angeles, Calif. 90064. Learn more at heroinitiative.org.

On a similar note, I tend to be the most guilty when it comes to questioning the sincerity of someone who makes millions (sometimes billions) to live in the land of make-believe and be treated like a little Botox-ed demigod, especially when it comes to telling the rest of the nation how to live, vote and especially to whom they should give their hard-earned cash.  However, in the spirit of the season, I have to give credit where it is due, and admit there are plenty of celebrities who do shell out their own money and time to various causes (some of which may give you further giving ideas).

According to the organization “Look to the Stars,” some geek-friendly notables with a charitable heart include:

Peter Jackson: The “Lord of the Rings” director has given to Red Cross, as well as more than $10 million to saving a historical buildings in his hometown of Wellington, New Zealand. He has also given to various cancer-related causes. Jackson and fellow “Hobbit” cast members including Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen and James Nesbitt, took part in a celebrity cricket match in New Zealand in 2011 to raise money for victims of the Christchurch earthquake.

Alan Rickman: Professor Snape’s peaceful side shows with his charity donations, that include several helping victims (including children) of wars and conflicts such as Amnesty International, War Child, Save the Children, Peace One Day and Make Poverty History.

Benedict Cumberbatch: Not only does this “Sherlock” star have the greatest name of any working actor today he is an active ambassador in the Prince’s Trust. This group works with the training, mentoring and financial assistance of at-risk and disadvantaged youth in Britain.

Carrie Fisher: Like many connected to the “Star Wars” franchise, Fisher has supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but has also given to the Alzheimer’s Association and won a Kim Peek Award for Disability in Media this year for sharing details about her own struggles with bipolar disorder.

J. J. Abrams: Attach Abrams’ name to any film and fanboys and girls are ready to give him their money, but Abrams’ has given much of it back to everything from literary, equal rights, arts foundations and more such as Alliance for Children’s Rights, Milk+Bookies, Artists for a New South Africa and 826 National (writing/tutoring program).

Kevin Smith: The smoke-filled face of Silent Bob and fanboy director extraordinaire might come across as just another rich slacker to some, but he has given to groups that help educate, and feed their fellow Americans including Declare Yourself (voter education), Food Bank For New York City, The Lunchbox Fund and the Rap, Abuse and Incest National Network.  By the way, one of Smith’s recurring cohorts, actor Jason Lee is a former professional skateboarder and supports the Tony Hawk Foundation that helps create skateboard parks in low-income communities. He has also supported the Barbara David Center for Childhood Diabetes.

William Shatner: The Shat has literally given of his himself by selling his own kidney stone for $75,000 to help build a Habitat for Humanity home for victims of Hurricane Katrina. He has given a significant amount to at least 12 charities such as Red Cross and American Cancer Society. He also established the Hollywood Charity Horse Show that benefits Ahead with Horses and Camp Max Straus.

In the name of Trekkie fairness, Leonard Nimoy has supported groups like American Cancer Society, American Foundation For Equal Rights and established his own Nimoy Foundation arts organization in 2003. The group provides grants for artist-in-residents programs in the United States.

Also, “Next Generation” alumnus and Twitter guru Wil Wheaton also recently found a fun way to raise money for the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA by auctioning off an old autographed Wesley Crusher trading card, that he accidentally screwed up trying to sign.