Monthly Archives: January 2015

A Color Controversy…Why Can’t I Pick One?

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An interactive color changing floor at a street festival. How can I choose a favorite color when they are so wonderful? Image by Rick Tate.

Remember the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where Arthur and his knights have to answer those three questions to safely cross the Bridge of Death?

WHAT is your name?
WHAT is your quest?
WHAT is your favorite color?

Were I among those unfortunate knights on their quest, that final question would lead me hurling into the “gorge of eternal peril” with an unceremonious……AAAARRRHHHHHHHH!!

I realized earlier this year that I don’t really have a favorite color. What the heck?

This weird little revelation occurred after taking those popular online polls asking, “Which BBC Sherlock character are you?” or “What fictional princess are you?” These always ask for a favorite color choice, and all I can do is turn my head and blindly pick one.

Why do I even have to choose? Aren’t all colors wonderful in some way? I guess this fits in with the whole trend of categorizing everyone into some type of personality cubby hole, and that includes color psychology.

To find out what my favorite color might be, based on my personality type, I sailed through several online self-awareness sites like Psychology Today and Psycologia, I read a commentary on Goodreads, and found an entire sited devoted to “empowering yourself with color,” by the authors of an eBook called The Colour of Sex. I’m guessing it’s either pink or fifty shades of grey, but I don’t think I really want to know. Another favorite source was the book The Secret Language of Color, which I love looking through for inspiration and enjoyment. Each source had its own take on these colors, but there were similarities among all of them.

This appears to be is the general consensus:

Red. Red is the color of love, passion, energy, and stubbornness (described in some lists with the politically correct phrase “strong willed”). People often try to thrust this one on me. Older relatives and teachers told me that red is “my color,” and I should wear it more often. Others, my husband included, will vouch for the personality type description, but I am not stubborn and I won’t back down on that issue. I may fit the description sometimes, but I am hardly ever drawn to the color. My only really red clothing item is my Sheldon Cooper “Bazinga” shirt. I do like that shirt.

Orange. Orange is fun and social. One of my favorite animals, a tiger, is orange. My favorite sherbet flavor and fruit is orange. I have a lot of gingers in my family with happy, orange hair, and I adore the pink and orange sunsets. It also is the color of things that irritate me like construction traffic cones and the some power-crazy safety patrol volunteers. The popular television series might claim “orange is the new black,” but it really isn’t. It’s orange, and it isn’t fooling anyone.

Yellow. Good old yellow. Cheery and optimistic, yellow tends to associate itself with self-sufficient, logical people who appreciate their individuality. I think yellow might be one of my least favorites. It tends to hurt my eyes in bright light, and I often associate it with the color of bodily fluids I have stinky memories of having to clean up, when I was studying veterinary technology. However, I think yellow roses are beautiful, and love using yellow markers when drawing with my daughter. I’ve found yellow flows the smoothest on paper. Therefore, I guess yellow and I have a love-hate relationship.

Green. Loyalty, faithfulness, and a love of nature have all been associated with green. I love nature and the outdoors, and the many places that could best be described as “green.” Tall piney forests, open grassy fields that include parks, leas, pretty much all sports fields except golf courses, and secluded garden areas. Plus, The Shire in Hobbiton is green! Unfortunately, the word has been over politicized. I care about the environment, but the phrase “going green” is so over-used now, it is borderline cliché. There is even an entire political party that has calls themselves the “Green Party.” I have nothing against the party itself, but I prefer my colors to be unaffiliated.

Blue. Blue is the chosen color of peacefulness, serenity, and reliability. Fair enough, but blue lovers have also been described as “conventional.” Boring—and wrong—in my opinion. How is a TARDIS conventional? The Blue Man Group? The rear light of the Millennium Falcon? Christopher Eccleston’s eyes? I have to take issue with that one. Many things I love are blue, be it royal blue or turquoise, but am I really the type to be partial to the blue collar “Everyman” of colors?

Purple. Purple is the elegant color of royalty, and people with deep spiritual and emotional needs, as well as those prone to creativity. Everyone wants to be that purple person, and when I was a teenager in the 80s, too many people claimed it as their own, from Michael Jackson to Prince. It was the “in thing” to love purple. I remember picking out my first lunchbox in Kindergarten based on the fact it was purple. It turned out, I had picked an Osmond Brothers lunch box, so purple is also the color of my first big humiliating moment in school. Admittedly, purple is a beautiful, stunning color, and I love to include it in art projects. It is just too popular.

A fun little infographic can be found on  Psychologia, but I personally wouldn’t take it as personality-defining gospel. If anything, it’s a better indication of the type of mood the colors themselves provoke in pretty much anyone, regardless of which one they find most appealing to the eye.

I would agree that sometimes seeing certain colors affects my moods, and sometimes stress levels, but if I had to pick one to look more than any others, it would make me miss the ones I don’t get to see. Fickle, yes, but at least I’m up front about it.

Okay, what does it me say about me that I can’t choose a constant “favorite” color?

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Maybe my daughter’s picture book knows best. Let “all my colors show!” Image by Lisa Kay Tate.

I even did the social medial online psychology forums, to find out what not having a favorite color means. Do I suffer from multiple personalities? Am I magic? Am I just boring? Nope. Apparently, according to those experts on the chat forums, as well as a few of the articles themselves, I do have a favorite color. I’m just in denial.

I simply need to look around at my choices in clothes and decorating to see which color is prevalent.

If clothes were the case, my favorite color would be black. I have a bunch of black clothes, but not because I’m a dark, deep, moody control freak. My reasons for choosing these clothes are simple. I have two kids and a black dog. Not a lot of hair and food stains show up on black. In addition, I’m struggling with losing weight and I feel better about myself in what is considered the “slimming” color. Finally, most of the t-shirts I find amusing are most commonly found in black. The other choice is usually just white, and that brings me back to my two-kids-and-a-dog explanation. I like black, but like to mix it with other colors, too.

If my house were the case, my walls are mostly beige, which is not a favorite of mine. As a matter of fact, I’ve been trying to remedy it room-by-room with less blah earth tones and browns. A group of colors, by the way, that are also sound choices when dealing with dirt and dog hair. As for my choice in furnishings and home “décor,” well let’s just say it’s all over the spectrum.

I just don’t get it. Why can’t I just enjoy different colors in different situations? It’s not like I’m a player with a different partner on my arm every weekend? They’re colors, not significant others!

Some may tell me I’m in denial, but I would like to think I’m just creative. Some days are blue and others are red. Some nights are purple, some mornings are yellow or orange, and weekends are a comfortable green. Sometimes I follow the advice of the children’s picture book The Rainbow Book by Kate Ohrt and its ornate kaleidoscope pages, “letting all my colors show!”

If I had to pick a color right at this point in my life, my constant companions are my well-worn denims, while I continue to take comfort in the vast azure West Texas sky. My day also wouldn’t be complete without seeing the bright, shiny baby blues of my children.

Now I know if I was faced with having to cross that infamous bridge of death, I would at least be able to bluff and say my favorite color is Blue…no wait, I’ve changed my mind it’s…….. AAAARRRHHHHHHHH!!

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Cosplay Tips for Into the Woods

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Image © Disney. All rights reserved.

Into The Woods, Disney’s fairy tale amalgam based on Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s smash musical, hit the boxoffices near the top of the list over the holiday season. It has since wormed its way into the heart of musical, fantasy, and fairy tale fans alike.

With Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland, Edward Scissorhands), behind the style, who was also recently nominated for an Oscar for Into the Woods, there should be no surprise if this movie becomes one of the bigger influences for costume ideas this year.

Since it’s never too early to start thinking about the summer’s comic convention scene, or even next fall’s masquerade, here are a few of the film’s more memorable characters, and how to capture their look:

The Wolf

Why He’s Cool: When is a “Big Bad Wolf” ever not fun? Human baddies have such deviant reasons for their bad choices, but a wolf’s just an animal… and he’s gotta eat. Right? Okay, maybe not. He might not always be likable, but he’s always entertaining. In the stage version of Into The Woods, Wolf is a coveted character by actors, not just because the one who portrays him is often the same one who gets to be the flighty Prince, but he’s so much fun to play. Johnny Depp’s small but screen-stealing movie version will only make the character that much more popular.

What to Wear: Depp said in the movie’s press information that Atwood’s design was pretty much exactly what he imagined for himself in the role.

“(I  just) had this burning sort of vision in my head of the Wolf, and all I could think of was the wolf in the zoot suit in the Tex Avery cartoons: a hip, big, bad wolf with a fedora and a zoot suit and a cat chain,” he said.

This is so easy to do, as all it takes is an old second hand oversized suit. Some costume retailers like Spirit have gangster and zoot suit costumes for $30 to $50 that are easy to modify, as well. The “wolf” effect can be created by a simple black and silver line design with cloth paint, along with craft fur added to the lapels, and coat cuffs. Tack on costume wolf or fox tail (or make one using a craft store boa). All the wide-brimmed hat needs is a pair of wolf ears on the hatband. Like the tail, these can be made with a couple of pieces of craft fur, cut to resemble wolf ears.

A cheap, dollar store gag mustache can be cut and waxed to make the wolf’s whiskers, and you’re good to go.

Baker and Baker’s Wife

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Image © Disney. All rights reserved.

Why They’re Cool: The Baker is the true hero of this adventure. This average, everyday man unintentionally steps into the role of the kingdom’s savior as he overcomes his self-doubt.

The Baker’s Wife isn’t the princess in distress, she’s the one who steps up to challenges, struggles with right and wrong choices, but remains reliant and brave. These may not be the characters people dream about being in their fairy tale fantasies, but they certainly are the most believable.

What to Wear: The trick to either of these characters, which will work as individuals or as a couple’s costume, is the accessories. These characters bring the rest of the fairy tales together as they try to gather special items to lift a curse. Any earth-toned peasant-looking clothes gathered from the closet will work. A brown vest or coat, and baggy pants with a white shirt is fine for the Baker. Use a brown or patchwork long skirt or peasant dress for the Baker’s Wife. These aren’t what people will be noticing, in the costume, as long you are loaded down with the four items—a red cloak, gold slipper, yellow hair and snow white cow.

These will be much easier to gather than the story suggests. Braid three long pieces of yellow craft boa for the hair, spray paint gold an old high-heeled pump, find a bright red piece of cloth (it doesn’t have to be an actual cloak; a red blanket throw or scarf will work), and grab a white toy plush cow. Toss these items over your shoulders, have them sticking out of pockets or pouches, or tote them awkwardly under your arms, and there’s no mistaking the quest on which you’re embarking.

Little Red

Why She’s Cool: Don’t let the blue dress, red shoes, and braids fool you, Little Red Riding Hood is no Dorothy of Oz. This kid is headstrong, tough, just mischievous enough to be cute but not bratty, and no one is going to throw her off her path… after the first time, that is.  Little Red is the ideal costume for young girls with a purpose and a passion for life, but is also a fun choice for grown-ups.

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Image © Disney. All rights reserved.

What to Wear: There is only one essential element for the Into The Woods version of Red Riding Hood, the cloak of blood red. Any simple blue peasant or sundress can be used to start.

A simple cloak or throw with large red ribbon attached is all there is to the standard storybook cloak, but it needs a special twist to really make it adhere to the spirit of the film: wolf skin. Line the inside of the cloak with craft fur similar to that of Wolf’s costume. Now you have reversible cloak for after her victory over the ravenous beast.

Red lace-up boots or even high top sneakers will look cute and sporty with this, but for purists and adult cosplayers enthralled with those unique boots in the movie, Victorian Trading Co. has their cabaret high top boots in red for under $100.

Cinderella’s Step Family

Why They’re Cool: They are absolutely horrible, rude, narcissistic, and nasty, and therefore extremely fun. While Cinderella’s golden ball gown and slippers were beautiful, the real costume party is with the evil stepsisters. Cinderella’s humility and kindness may make her the one to emulate, the stepsisters’ outrageous behavior makes them the ones to imitate in the cosplay world.

What to Wear: These characters get their look from a little classic fairy tale, a little gothic steampunk, a bit of lacy French boudoir, and a lot of sass. This is the chance to go a little wild and crazy with things. Put together some combinations of ornate, lacy black, white, and champagne colored corsets, bloomers, ruffled slips or skirt, colored tights or stockings, and vintage dressing gowns. These can be pieced together from consignment stores or costume site. A camisole and fancy belt can also replace a corset. Accessorize with gaudy costume jewelry ribbons, hair bows or combs, and stockings or tights. Overdo your nails and eyes with dark polish and eyeliner, and get a pair of tacky pumps or lace-up boots. These are great characters to really make your own, and don’t be shy about adding too mush lavish silliness. This family is all about the attitude. Go ahead and flaunt it ad nauseam, just for one day.

The Witch

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Image © Disney. All rights reserved.

Why She’s Cool: The Witch drives the plot, for good or bad. The quintessential fairy tale witch, she is the one who set the curse, the one who enslaved the princess, and ultimately the one who offers the right solutions. Hero or villain, there wouldn’t be a story without her.

What to Wear: The hair is more important that the dress with this one. It’s blue tones echo the blue of the moon on the “last midnight” of the adventure, and it is instantly recognizable.

According to the press release, Atwood made sure “The Woods” were well represented in all the costumes, and each character’s costume had a texture of wood in some way. The “transformed” Witch’s chiffon dress included some pieces of leather stitched in to look like cracked bark. You don’t have to go that far, as long as you follow the color scheme. Any used blue ball gown with puffed sleeves will work, when paired with a blue wig in a loose updo.

These costumes don’t have to match exactly, as long as they capture that dark fairy tale essence. All it takes is just a little searching to find the right items, and you’ll be ready for any of those “moments in the woods.”

Article originally ran on GeekMom Jan. 12, 2015.

My 2015 To-Do List..for You and Your Family

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to-do-main Last year I shared a “to-do list” of seemingly insignificant things that I’ve found made a significant improvement in my life.

This year, I’m extending it to the next generation, with little things to do with kids that have made a big difference in our family. Here’s my list of some things I encourage others to try as well over the course of the next year:

Laugh together every day. This first one actually ended my “to-do” list last year. It’s leading this year’s list, because I agree with the “expert opinion” that laughter has great, underestimated health benefits for body and soul. Nothing has helped us through tough situations like mutual laughter. Not laughing at each other (that will go horribly), but with each other at the ridiculous actions of others, at inside jokes, or at the remembrance of a favorite movie line.

I’ve noticed laughter is the common bond on softening hurt and bad situations. When my younger daughter is sad, scared, or feeling under the weather, my 12-year-old has perfected Buster Keaton-worthy prat falls that never fail to cheer her up.

Likewise, when my older daughter is feeling sad from the middle school drama that tends to be ever-present among tweens, her little sister places two dolls in front of her and says, “Hello, welcome to Standing Up School!” She drops one of the dolls and announces “…and you failed!” Inane, I know, but this little inside joke they ran across on a meme or YouTube video always produces a chuckle from both of them.

Kids want to be happy, unlike us adults who sometimes want to wallow in our anger or resentment at times, and laughter is often the trigger. Laughter can’t take the bad situation away, or keep sadness at bay indefinitely, but it cushions the blow a little. It gives us a way to gather some strength, inhale the fresh air of grace and joy, before facing a tougher reality.

Never underestimate it.

Find a mutual fandom. As a contributor to GeekMom, I am most likely preaching to the choir on this one, but it never hurts to reemphasizes the importance of a silly, fun geeky passion that can be shared by the whole family.

I’ve been pretty vocal about—and written about—encouraging my kids to keep celebrity worship in check, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be passionate about a movie, show, genre, book, or fictional character, particularly one the entire family loves.

I see too many of my fellow parents take on the attitude that kids’ interests are beneath them, while they pursue more mature fandoms (although some “grown-ups” wouldn’t dare call them that).

It’s okay to have separate interests, but your entire existence doesn’t have to be in the “Game of Thrones” vs. “Disney Channel” vein. Taking in interest in a kid’s favorite show is one thing, but really genuinely sharing in the excitement of a fandom is another.

When the whole family gets pumped to go see the final Hobbit movie, grabs a take-out pizza to catch up on the latest season of Doctor Who with shared enthusiasm, or flips a coin for who gets to read the first Marvel Star Wars comic before everyone else, that makes a kid feel validated in their interests.

This extends beyond the silicon sets and silver screens. Get out and build a rocket or small robot together, see who can create the tallest Lego tower, or work on a mural for the garage walls. Make it mutual, and celebrate it!walk

Take a walk! If we’re having trouble finding something to talk about, or opening up about something that’s hard to address, my family gets outside and gets a new perspective on things.

It’s also great exercise for all ages, without being too strenuous, gives us a chance to be outdoors, and conquers those afternoon bouts with ennui that sometimes occur on the odd weekend or extended vacation period.

In addition to our neighborhood, we’ve found the local farmers’ market, the zoo, street festivals, and comic conventions have provided us with opportunities to stroll, and get a conversation going. Sometimes, important topics can be better approached, and awkward questions seem less threatening when shared away from the familiar intimidation of the home.

Even if you can’t get outside, hit a mall or recreation center. There’s just something about putting one foot in front of the other that clears out the cobwebs in the head and heart.

Go someplace new. I have a quote from author C.S. Lewis on my wall that states: “When a ship sets sail I will travel to a place I have never been before.”

Lewis set a pretty high standard with this, but heeding his advice doesn’t necessarily mean taking a huge, exotic excursion to faraway lands each year (although that would be awesome). Instead, find a local tourist destination you’ve never taken the time to visit, or pick a day trip out in a direction you might not have tried.

gamersI would love to be able to spin a globe, stop it with my finger, and go to the place nearest to where it lands, but I realize that isn’t always practical or possible. Sometimes, family, work, and budget obligates you to visit a similar location for most family vacations. If this is the case, find a new place in the community you usually visit. My in-laws live in Dallas, and there is a huge list of places there we haven’t yet seen. Each trip could be an entirely new experience, regardless of the initial destination.

Try out that local diner or shop you always pass up. Picnicking in an unfamiliar park across town. Anything can be an adventure, if you play it right. It’s all about discovery and breaking out of the routine. New surroundings can be rejuvenating for everyone.

It’s always a comforting feeling to visit favorite spots and see familiar sites, but every now and then share in the spirit of discovery together. People often say there is no place left on Earth that hasn’t been found or explored, but that doesn’t mean we’ve all seen it.

Take a different path once in a while and see what’s out there that you haven’t seen before.

Play a video game together. I’m going to share a little political opinion. You don’t have to agree with me, but I do believe that excessive, isolated playing of violent video games can numb sensitivity to the real feelings of others, and effect behavior in some people—kids and adults. I am by no means saying that we should get rid of violent video games (I hunt the occasional zombie, myself), but I don’t like the idea of letting any kid holing themselves up in a dark room for hours having an online shooting spree or sword fest, just so parents can get some “down time.” Anyways, that’s my little rant, and the inspiration of this list item.

Like many parents, I’ve pretty much limited my own girls’ play to the living room, with definitive time limits… for the most part. One thing that has really been enjoyable, however, is everyone settling in together for a couple of hours of good-hearted (and age-appropriate) trash talk over a sports or driving game, a rainy day dance-off or Rock Band jam session, or setting off together on an adventure through in the worlds of Disney Infinity, Middle Earth, or Lego Gotham.

We’ve always enjoyed tabletop games as a family, why should video gaming always be a loner event? The back-and-forth conversation helps keep the line between real and virtual worlds separate, plus it’s always fun to leave Dad and Mom behind in a cloud of dust during Mario Kart.

That’s my little bit of advice for the new year. No resolutions. No expert opinions, just some tips I have discovered have helped bring our family together through good times and bad, as well as opened our minds and communication.

I hope at least one of these list items is useful, or at least worthy of talking points. Either way, I hope everyone, and their families, has a wonderful 2015.

travel-e1419987825509Originally ran on GeekMom Jan. 1, 2015.

The Look of Agent Carter

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Image: Disney/ABC

“That Dame is Dangerous.”

So says the caption for the new Marvel series coming in 2015, Agent Carter.

Set in the World War II era, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is still a hero for today’s woman. She’s able to overcome odds and stereotypes based on her own willpower, brains, ingenuity, and resolve. Who needs sensitivity training when you know how to balance a desk job with undercover secret missions? Carter knows her way around the world of espionage, can stand up for what’s right, and is an expert with not only firearms, but fiery comments.

Plus, she looks incredible doing it.

Carter’s stylish and practical look shows a woman can be a superhero without the revealing spandex, and be prepped to head a top secret government espionage and law enforcement agency like S.H.I.E.L.D. without skin-tight black leather.

It’s no coincidence Carter’s blue and red look teased in the show’s teaser and promotional posters reflects that of her lost love, Steve Rogers (AKA Captain America). Carter is the one left to take up the task of keeping the balance between good and evil, with super smarts instead of superpowers.

It might be safe to say this series will encourage a few new cosplay and fashion trends that will look as cool on the comic convention floor as they will in the workplace.

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Sites like Etsy and Pinterest have plenty of vintage patterns available for sale, as well as links to vintage retailers.

The two definitive items are very basic: a red fedora and blue dress suit.

Carter’s fedora resembles the red hat of another world-wise character, Carmen Sandiego of computer game fame. Thanks to fans of the game, the search for red fedoras is nothing new, and sites like Amazon offer several styles of classic felt fedoras from shops like Decky and Forum Novelties. These hats range anywhere from $10 to $40, depending on label.

Carter’s suit dress is typical of the day and office wear of the 1940s but may prove trickier to find due to its distinct blue. This may be a case where haunting a vintage clothing store or consignment shop is the best bet. Online merchants like The Cats Pajamas offer similar items and vintage patterns on eBay, as well as online tutorials on how to wear clothes from that era. Vintage clothes can be a little more expensive, around $200, so those with sewing abilities might do best to make their own.

Once the suit is found, any white dress shirt, preferably with a marine or Chelsea style collar, will go with it, accented with a pair of blue sandal-style high heel, but not stiletto, pumps.

Sometimes, it is nice to go back in time where a gal can show off her blend of smarts and sexy in classic—and classy—way.

Marvel’s Agent Carter premieres January 6 on ABC.

Story originally ran on GeekMom, Dec. 29, 2014.