December 24, 2014

5 Great Tree Toppers for Geekmas

In case you haven't noticed, Geekmas is upon us! Just when I think I've seen all the nerdy decorations there are to see, new ones pop up on social media. It turns out that we haven't exhausted all the ideas ever - who knew? Because the category of nerdy holiday decor is broad, I've narrowed it down to tree toppers for the purpose of this post. Here are some of my favorite geeky tree toppers I've seen around the web or in person this year:

Infinity Gauntlet
The holder of the Infinity Gems is the perfect shape to top a tree. I spotted this at my local comic book shop.

Iron Man helmet
This tiny tree looks heroic with an Iron Man helmet at its highest point. Dear Audrey, you are the coolest. (via Offbeat Home and John Farrier)

Sherlock and John in a jumper
Well, how adorable is this? Sherlock and John are hanging out on top of @maryhalton's tree thanks to a cute bookmark by MD. Doodles.

Death Star paper lantern
Paper lantern Death Stars were available after Star Wars Celebration VI, and Ruark Dreher found a creative use for his.

Eye of Sauron
Ever feel like your Christmas tree is watching you? If you put a Perler bead Eye of Sauron atop your tree like Ani, you wouldn't dare sneak a peek at your gifts.

Happy Christmas!

December 22, 2014

DIY: Making Pink and Purple AT-ATs (or how to do a simple toy repaint)

You never know where you'll come across crafting inspiration. A few weeks ago on Twitter, I spotted Tricia Barr and Pink Bunny talking about pink AT-ATs. Tricia was mentioning stickers, and Pink Bunny was hoping for actual pink AT-ATs. I've been wanting to try basic toy repainting for a while so I put it on my list. I found a few mini AT-ATs in my stash (I always purchase miniature Star Wars vehicles when I come across good deals) and decided to make them pink and purple. Tada!

It's easy as can be, and really, the hardest part was waiting for layers of paint to dry.

A toy or several
Paint brushes
Acrylic paint in whatever colors you'd like (put down a base of gray acrylic paint if the toy you're painting isn't already gray)
Cup and water
Paper towels

Glitter or pearlescent powder
Fine grit sandpaper

Wipe down your toy with a paper towel. Optional: if you want to give the surface a little grip, go over it once with a fine grit sandpaper.

If your toy is not already gray - both of my miniature AT-ATs were - paint it with approximately two coats of acrylic paint so there's a nice uniform base. Let the paint dry completely between coats.
I'm sure spray paint would also work fine and probably look cleaner, but you need to use spray paint outside and it's cold where I live so that's not happening.

Once you have a gray surface, painted on or otherwise, add pretty colors. I realized a foam brush is not ideal for this project since it sucks up the paint, but any other paint brushes should be fine. I recommend using both medium and small sizes. Add the paint in thin layers, waiting for each layer to dry completely before moving on. Don't layer on too much paint or the paint will cover up the details (you can see where I did that with the pink AT-AT). Unless you're more talented than me, you're going to get paint on your fingertips.

When you're happy with the opaqueness of the paint, clean your brushes and admire your new brightly colored AT-AT army. If you want to apply glitter or pearlescent pigments, shake it on while the paint is still wet (or you can buy glittery acrylic paint).

If you're feeling ambitious, you can go back and add shadows and/or highlights once the toy is dry. I tried to add some texture to my gold R2-D2 with a little bit of black acrylic paint mixed with a lot of water (I brushed a lot on, let it sink into the nooks, and wiped most of it off with a paper towel).

I love the pink one, but of these repaints, my favorite AT-AT is the purple one.

December 21, 2014

DIY Baymax Ornament

My tree is now satisifed with its decorations because I made a Baymax ornament:

I couldn't find any Baymax ornaments at Disneyland or at Hallmark so that left only one choice. This ornament was incredibly easy to make.

Clear plastic ornament - it's easier if you can split it in half
White acrylic paint
Paint brush - I like foam ones
Black Sharpie

Cover the ornament in thin layers of white acrylic paint, waiting until each layer dries before adding new paint.
Once the paint is thick enough to be opaque and it's dry, pencil on Baymax's eyes. Fill in the outline with the Sharpie.

The end! Easy as can be, and the result is adorable.

December 20, 2014

Star Wars Insider #154

The latest issue of Star Wars Insider is here! You'll find plenty of great articles including a piece about the costumes of The Empire Strikes Back, 50 Greatest Reasons to Love the Original Trilogy, and two interviews by me. I talk to Star Wars Rebels concept artist Chris Glenn about his work on the series (including making that awesome phoenix logo) and Joe Salcedo from ANOVOS about their screen accurate replica of Han Solo's holster. There's even an opportunity to win one!

Plus, check out the cool design for Ezra's lightsaber that was revealed in the interview with Glenn:

Get your copy of Star Wars Insider at places like Barnes & Noble (or any place that has a wide selection of magazines) or subscribe to get every issue!

December 19, 2014

Agent Carter Cookies

Marvel's Agent Carter is premiering so soon. The series drops with a two hour pilot on Tuesday, January 6th, on ABC at 9:00pm. You should write it on your calendar now. Go ahead, I'll wait. In anticipation of the series (and I am so excited!), I've been hanging onto every social media post from star Hayley Atwell, ABC, everyone. And yesterday, Atwell posted a picture of these lovely Peggy Carter cookies featuring Peggy, a tube of lipstick, and a gun on Instagram:

With a little digging, I saw they were made by Daphne. She made a batch of Agent Carter cookies a week ago for her roommate who is a writer on the show, and they found their way to Atwell. I'd like a dozen of these, please. With a side of espionage.

December 18, 2014

I Played Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures On the Best Table Ever

Star Wars fans continually amaze me. It's a subject I've touched on before, and I don't imagine I'll tire of repeating it. They channel their passion into all forms of art, including custom gaming tables. A pal of mine, Ruark Dreher, took his enthusiasm and engineering skills and designed an epic (only word for it) custom table for Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures. Look:

Isn't it beautiful? I featured the table on a few weeks ago, and you can read all the details there but in short: The playing space is appropriate tournament size at 3 feet by 3 feet. The edges of the table are covered in logos. And that acrylic playing surface? It lights up in a few different colors. There are lots of little touches too that make the game more organized and easier to play. I learned this firsthand when I played X-Wing Miniatures for the first time ever on this table. I promise I didn't drool on it.

I've been meaning to play Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars miniatures game since it was released but was intimidated by it for some reason. I think I have an aversion to the phrase "expansion pack," and the game has plenty of those. The expansion packs aren't a barrier to entry though, and in fact, you can have a fine game with just the starter pack/core set.

A photo posted by Amy Ratcliffe (@amy_geek) on

For my first game, I was spoiled. Not only did I play on the beautiful table pictured above, but I was able to choose from a wide selection of ships, pilots, and upgrades. Ruark has a rather impressive collection of X-Wing Miniatures game pieces. He also has fancy touches like a tower that holds the movement pieces, dice cups, and plastic lids that are used for storing the game or rolling dice on. I also played with several people (we played in teams) that know the game and were able to walk me through the basics. I have a lot to learn, but it was relatively simple to get the basics down and start playing. I wasn't expecting the mechanics to be easy to pick up, but I was wrong. Now, once you get into complex moves, strategy, and upgrades... that gets more tricky. I'll get there one day.

And I truly will because after playing one 3.5 hour game, I'm hooked. I'm drawn to the fact that you can play with two players or in teams, I like the game play, and I really appreciate the details on the miniatures. When you're not actively playing, the ships are more than nice enough to display with your other collectibles. I've already purchased the core set and the Millennium Falcon from my local gaming store (I'm not ready to play with the Falcon just yet, but it's a gorgeous model and I've heard it's been out of stock and hard to track down for a while). I'm also already looking into playing mats because if I'm going to play X-Wing Miniatures, I want to do so on a starfield. I'm going to try out a custom one with a starfield printed on a vinyl material. It was just over $10 to print so we'll see how it works out.

If you're intrigued, you can get the core set on Amazon along with plenty of expansion packs. Check your local gaming store for more options and accessories. I promise it's simple to learn and a blast to play.

Do you already play X-Wing Miniatures? Tell me about your ships, your favorite sites for tips and tricks, and what sort of play mat you use (if any)!

BB-8 Christmas Ornament

Remember the little soccer ball droid that rolled around the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer? If you haven't heard, the official name for the droid is BB-8. He (or she) captured my eye because hello, it was adorable. There has been piles of fan art featuring the droid, and someone posted an image of a handmade BB-8 Christmas ornament on Imgur. Look:

I've been wanting to make one from ping pong balls or foam and seeing this ornament only makes me want to craft my own BB-8 decoration more. I'll just add it to my list of crafts I'd like to finish before Christmas (it's a long list!).

h/t The Star Wars Report

December 17, 2014

Review: Geonosis Infantry Battle Droids by Sideshow Collectibles

Remember that set of Star Wars Geonosis Infantry Battle Droids by Sideshow Collectibles I'm giving away? I unboxed a set to review them, and I have to admit these battle droids are way more fun than I expected them to be. As per the usual with any product made by Sideshow, the figures are detailed with paint that adds depth and texture. And the articulation on these guys? Forget about it.

The box comes with two Geonosis Infantry Battle Droids. This is ideal. A single battle droid wouldn't be as interesting; two droids means you can create lots of silly scenes or re-create moments from Attack of the Clones. Plus, having two droids means you can make them crack jokes back and forth while you're posing them - which you'll want to do over and over again.

The packaging was both simple and secure. I had the droids out of the box and in position in about a minute, but that doesn't mean they weren't protected and safe in their box. They were folded up - an indicator of how flexible they are - and awaiting deployment.

Accessories include two guns and two backpacks - the backpacks have extendable (and sturdy!) antennas (or antennae). I particularly like the weathering on the backpack and the droids. Definitely gives the droids the metal appearance just like in the movie.

Look at all those joints waiting to be posed! 

I've never had such a fantastic time posing sixth scale figures before. The design of battle droids means the characters are made to be action figures and collectibles. Practically everything moves. The neck extends and can be pushed down. The head can be moved up and down and side to side. Every joint of the arms and hands move. The elbows stuck a little at first but moved smoothly after I flexed them a few times. The droids' "fingers" are flexible and that makes it easy for them to grip their guns. The hips, knees, and feet can be positioned at different angles with ease.

All of those articulation points made it a blast to pose these droids in every which way. The flexibility gives them a ton of personality since their stances informs the way you interpret their emotions. I couldn't stop switching it up:

I call this the sassy battle droid pose.

The "Oh no, what have I done?!" battle droid pose.

The crossed arms, pouty battle droid pose.

The petulant or nap-time battle droid pose.

The dancing on duty battle droid pose.

The "Did you hear that?" battle droid pose.

The water cooler chat battle droid pose.

And this pose doesn't have a name - I just wanted to show off the articulation.

Who knew battle droids could be this cool? I think I'm going to start incorporating these guys into my regular decor and pose/dress them up for different occasions. As of this weekend, they'll be decorating a miniature Christmas tree and wearing tiny Santa hats.

Here's all the important technical information:
The figure is 12 inches tall.
Dave Whitford is responsible for the paint design.
The set comes with:
Figure Set includes: Two "Battle Damaged" Veteran Battle Droids as encountered on the planet Geonosis
Each Battle Droid has a fully articulated body and unique detailed paint deco
Two (2) E-5 Blaster Rifles
Two (2) Communications Backpacks with Extendable Antennas

You can purchase a set of your own droids for $129.99 from Sideshow Collectibles.

Or enter my giveaway to win your own set of Battle Droids! I think I'm going to have to ask the winner to pose the droids and send me pictures. Related: if you own these droids and have taken any silly pictures, please share them! Post links in the comments or send them to me on Twitter.

Full disclosure: The Geonosis Infantry Battle Droids were provided by Sideshow Collectibles for review purposes. This did not affect my review of the product.

Baby Groot Ornament Will Make Your Christmas Tree Cooler Than the Awesome Mix

It is a truth universally acknowledged that baby Groot makes anything and everything better. The appearance of the moving and grooving sapling version of Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy is one of those rare magical, unforgettable sort of scenes. It was also one of the cutest moments of cinema in 2014. Now that the holiday season is here and Guardians of the Galaxy is available on Blu-ray and DVD (get it on Amazon!), people are inserting a little Groot into their celebrations. He makes a perfect addition to any Christmas tree because he is a tree. I've seen an incredibly well made Groot tree topper and now, this precious, adorable, cute, insert-more-adjectives here felt ornament.

Instructables user LD_P made this happy little Grootmas addition with felt in light brown, black, green, and red, matching embroidery thread, mini Christmas light trim, and a few other basics. No sewing machine is required - you'll do it all by hand. And honestly, the hardest part will probably be getting the body shape just right.

Learn how to make your very own baby Groot Christmas tree ornament:

Want more geeky holiday inspiration?  I've got a Pinterest board for that.

h/t Instructables

December 16, 2014

Jewelry and More from PopCycled Baubles

You can never have enough jewelry, and that's doubly true if said jewelry includes comic book art. Laura Rosado's store PopCycled Baubles has plenty of options in that category. Rosado uses art from comic books and upcycles panels into wearable art and accessories. She makes pendants, cases, coasters, and compacts featuring everything from the TARDIS to Batgirl. Her products are a great way to incorporate your passion for comics into your outfits or into your home decor. Some examples of her work:

Her shop isn't limited to upcycled art either; she also makes purses. She uses licensed and themed fabrics to create bags inspired by Wonder Woman, Harley Queen, Frozen, and more. And yes, she takes custom orders.

You can shop for all the shinies at PopCycled Baubles on Etsy and keep up with the latest releases on Facebook.

Giveaway: Star Wars Geonosis Infantry Battle Droids from Sideshow Collectibles

It's the most wonderful time of the year, and everyone is in a giving sort of mood. I know I just wrapped up a giveaway, but how about some more holiday cheer? This time you've got the chance to win a a set of two Geonosis Infantry Battle Droids from Sideshow Collectibles - a $129.99 retail value! The sixth scale figure set features the droids seen in Episode II: Attack of the Clones with plenty of hand-crafted and articulated detail. All you have to bring to the party are some battle droid level jokes. Roger, roger.

Look at these figures:

To be clear, here's what you'll get if you win:
Figure Set includes: Two "Battle Damaged" Veteran Battle Droids as encountered on the planet Geonosis
Each Battle Droid has a fully articulated body and unique detailed paint deco
Two (2) E-5 Blaster Rifles
Two (2) Communications Backpacks with Extendable Antennas

This giveaway will run for a week so it will be a nice post-holidays present. Yay!

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below or:
1. Worth a single entry: Comment on the post and tell me which Star Wars film is your favorite.

Get more entries with Rafflecopter (note: if you just click "Tweet" when tweeting about the entry, a message I wrote will automatically pop in) - you'll have to use your email address since the Facebook log in is mysteriously not working at the moment:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note this contest is limited to US residents only. I'll notify the winner on Christmas Eve, December 24th.

Good luck and may the Force be with you!

December 12, 2014

Incredible Harry Potter and Other Geeky Paper Snowflakes

When it comes to making paper snowflakes, I'm still at a kindergarten level. Maybe younger. My designs never come out like I intend them to, and I usually manage to massacre one side so that the result is an asymmetrical mess. So, whenever I see the work of artists who create gorgeous pieces of intricate paper snowflake art, I'm always floored.

I was searching for some geeky paper snowflake templates for another post and stumbled across the gallery of beep3rocks on DeviantArt. She doesn't have templates available; she makes one of a kind snowflake masterpieces. She has a few especially impressive snowflakes based on Harry Potter. I can't even wrap my head around what it took to cut out all those tiny windows on the Hogwarts one without ruining the entire snowflake. She's no ordinary muggle! Look:


Harry Potter logo



And some amazing Doctor Who and Firefly paper snowflakes:

Serenity and quotes
All images via Rasa, a.k.a. beep3rocks. I recommend checking out her entire gallery of snowflakes and her Etsy shop.

December 11, 2014

Peter Pan Live's Smee Had a Star Wars Tattoo

I tried to watch NBC's Peter Pan Live. I really did. Giving it my full attention lasted a few minutes though and I pulled out my laptop and started working and only occasionally glimpsed up at the screen. I looked up more once Christopher Walken appeared as Hook because hey, it's Christopher Walken, and soon noticed that Smee had a familiar tattoo on his arm. The skull of a Mythosaur! Sort of. We know the tattoo because it appears on Boba Fett's armor. The tattoo isn't an exact match - it's a little stretched and there are some extra additions that make the ink look like the Bloody Bones symbol from the Legacy comics - but they had to be going for Boba Fett. Look: 

Source: Mark

It doesn't look quite as stretched out in a promo photo from NBC (click to enlarge) so maybe it just got applied in a hurry the night of the show. It's also not on the same arm. Perhaps it got altered so it wouldn't look so much like the symbol on Fett's armor?

Whatever the story, I like seeing that Star Wars is everywhere.

December 9, 2014

LEGO Scientist Minifigs on LEGO Ideas

In 2012, Ellen Kooijman, aka Alatariel Elensar, submitted an idea to LEGO Ideas featuring female scientists in action. It got all the necessary votes and support and was turned into an actual product and made available for purchase over the summer. The set with a paleontologist, astronomer, and a chemist quickly sold out. I was sad I missed out on buying the minifigs. But luckily, Alatariel has a new project on LEGO Ideas with even more scientist minifigs.

This set of three minifigures represents scientists out in the field on adventures/in outdoor work environments. Though one of the minifigs is wearing lipstick, the gender of the minifigs is neutral. The trio is comprised of a geologist, a wildlife biologist, and archaeologist. The description:

Join the scientist on their research adventures!
The geologist explores the mountains to locate important minerals and unravel the processes that have shaped the Earth.
The wildlife biologist is on a jungle expedition to study the tiger in its natural habitat.
The archaeologist investigates bones and artifacts to uncover the secrets of an ancient civilization.
This set consists of three vignettes of scientists in their outdoor work environment. The small settings are built on 6x6 base plates and each scientist comes with a set of tools and equipment required for their research. The accompanying booklet will provide short descriptions of the respective research fields. This set combines an educational aspect with a fun building experience and plenty of play value. The presented set consists of 188 parts. 

I would purchase these right now if I could, but they're still in the support phase at LEGO Ideas. Add your vote and help get this set in front of the LEGO review board!

h/t The Mary Sue

December 4, 2014

Agent Peggy Carter Makeup Starter Pack

Marvel's Agent Carter is coming to ABC in January. On January 6th, specifically. Hayley Atwell first appeared as the character in Captain America: The First Avenger, and it's wonderful that she's getting her own series. Peggy is fierce, capable, determined, and has impeccable taste in makeup and clothing. I'm excited about every aspect of seeing Peggy kick butt and live a double life.

Back to that note about makeup, cosplayers who want to replicate the shades Peggy wears and fans who want to emulate the stylish agent will be happy to know that Atwell has shared the exact shades and brands Peggy wears on screen via social media.

The nail polish is OPI's Cinnamon Sweet. It's part of the Gwen Stefani Holiday Nail Lacquer collection. You can get a bottle at Ulta for $9.50.

The lipstick is Besame Classic Color lipstick in Red Velvet. It's $22 from Besame. A picture of the color:


We don't see it, but Peggy Carter apparently wears perfume. It's from the Besame Decades of Fragrance line, and appropriately, it's 1940. You can get a 30ml bottle of for $42 at Besame's website.

If you have any Agent Carter fans on your shopping list, making a gift package with two or three of these items would make a fantastic Christmas present.

If you haven't seen any teases or previews for Agent Carter yet, this is a good place to start:

Photos via Hayley Atwell

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