The $20 or Less Etsy Gift Guide

Instead of tossing elbows with the masses on Black Friday, why not opt for something simpler? Etsy is a fabulous place to get unique, cutomized and affordable gifts, but I’m sure you already know that. With millions of options, though, it can be just as overwhelming and treacherous as a doorbuster deal gone bad. Solution? Check out my Etsy Christmas survival guide below, featuring nine gifts as original as your friends – for just $20 or less.

For the artistic one:

Fox Watercolor Print - $20

Fox Watercolor Print – $20

What does the fox say? Buy me. Amber Alexander has over 374 quirky but outstanding watercolor paintings and prints. Going postal? Be sure to check out her Christmas cards, too.

For the Disney-lover:

Framed Peter Pan Glitter Silhouette

Framed Peter Pan Glitter Silhouette – $10

Never grow up? Sounds like a plan to me. Poppies and posies features mostly framed and matted Disney-themed silhouettes. Each picture is 100% customizable, so the possibilities are as endless as Tink’s supply of pixie dust.

For the wandering soul:

Travel Journal Notebook - $16

Travel Journal Notebook – $16

Lost with wanderlust? Set them free with one of several travel-themed journals from Istria Design. Be sure to write your address on the inside cover so they can thank you with postcards from their globetrotting journey.

For the phone junkie:

Color Palette iPhone 4 Case

Color Palette iPhone 4 Case – $10.99

From Disney to Dr. Who, Captain America to Hepburn, iPhone Case 001 has a little bit of everything. Personal yet functional. With 309 cases to choose from, there really is something for everyone.

For the Harry Potter freak:


Harry Potter Book Rose – $2.50

Book-lovers are bound to go crazy for these precious HP roses by Wednesday Thursby. Get it? Bound? Oh, okay. You got it the first time.

For the dude:

Bacon Soap

Bacon Soap – $6

Fact: Guys use soap. Fact: Guys love bacon. Conclusion: Get him bacon soap. If he isn’t a stereotypical bacon fanatic, then check out some of the other 539 food-themed choices from AJ Sweet Soap and pick his favorite dish for the soap dish.

For the writer:

Pheasant Feather Quill Pen - $8.33

Pheasant Feather Quill Pen – $8.33

The sacred feather of this quill from Whillock hails from the mighty eagle of Middle Earth’s Misty Mountains. Okay, that’s not true at all, but your writer buddy is definitely gonna’ love the Tolkien tribute.

For the gamer:

SNES Ring - $16

SNES Ring – $16

Oh My Geekness! How rad is this ring? OMG deals primarily in nerdtastic jewelry and cuff links. Each item is totally customizable, so you can even order their favorite game for extra bonus points.

For the crazy cat lady:

Cat Ears Ring - $15.06

Cat Ears Ring – $15.06

We all know a future cat lady in the making. Now, thanks to OST Accessories, that abundance of cat hair won’t be the only kitty-themed token they take out of the house.


How to Make College Suck Less

Let’s be honest, here. The newness of school has worn away, and now it just sucks. Like, it really sucks. Homework, annoying professors, the class Hermione Granger, you get the picture. Luckily for you and me, there’s ways to make school just a little more bearable. I know, it’s almost too good to be true. Almost. Made-up statistics show that with the tips below, you’re forty-four times less likely to kill yourself at the end of the school day. That’s pretty substantial. So check out my suggestions, put down the Adderall and get in touch with your inner child along the way.

1. Pack your lunch.

Lunch Box

Photo courtesy of:

I don’t mean a Campbell’s soup-at-hand. I mean the kind of lunch Mom used to make. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grapes, and Disney princess/Batman gummy snacks. Aw, yeah. You know what I’m taking about. For bonus points, go out and score one of those sweet metal lunch boxes.

2. Invest in some gel pens.

DreamsTime Gel Pens

Photo courtesy of:

Gels pens are the doodler’s palette. Nothing makes that crude drawing of your least favorite professor pop like a little splash of milky color. Gel pens are perfect for: writing notes, drawing on your arm, drawing on your neighbor’s arm and altogether ignoring lectures. To get yours, just click the picture.

3. Laugh at inappropriate things.

Teacher Disapproves

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It’s okay to laugh when the answer is 69. It’s also okay to laugh every time your women and gender studies professor says, “sex.” Yes, it’s immature. Yes, your professor will probably hate you. But if you can’t laugh at “gluteus maximus” during anatomy, is life really worth the living?

 4. Ride your bike to class.


Photo courtesy of:

When was the last time you rode you bike? I mean, really rode your bike. Feet flying, hair whipping, hands stretching to the sky. Sure, you might look like an idiot, but you’ll still look better than that size 0 girl “rocking” her extra-large T-shirt over some possibly-non-existent Nike shorts. We all know one.

P.S. WalMart, please don’t sue me for using your picture.

5. Bring your Gameboy to school.

Zelda Wikia

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No PS3 or NintenDS. I’m talking old-school Super Mario Bros., Warioland, Tetris, Kirby and Pokemon. Whether it’s in between classes, over lunch or on your daily bus ride, you whip out that Gameboy Advance with pride. It’s not like you were going to use that time to study anyways. Please. Bonus points for game-play during lecture.

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If you have your own tried-and-true tricks for getting through the school day, feel free to drop a line or two in the comments below. Remember, forty-four percent. Don’t let someone die because you were too cool to share.

Poppin’ Tags: The Gamer’s Guide to B-List Games

Atari Game Cartridge Poster by Hollis Brown Thornton

You step into Vintage Stock, the smell of awesome flooding your senses. Cue Thrift Shop. You only got 20 dollars in your pocket, and rows upon rows of dusty old video games are begging to be bought like puppies in a Wal-Mart parking lot. You’re itching to reach for that $26 copy of Dr. Mario N64, but you want to get the most for your money. The answer is simple: B-list games.

B-list games are no different than B-list movies: they’re cheap, short, and not exactly basking in fame. Does that make them any less awesome? “No!” cried a random Netflix-lover from his mother’s basement. One of the trickiest parts about B-list games is distinguishing fun from flops.  So before you blow that grocery money from your mom on Pyramid for NES, take a step back.  I, your gaming fairy godmother, am here to help with my magical list of buck-worthy, old-school Nintendo B-list games.


Paperboy, 1984 – Atari

The objective is simple. Complete all 7 levels by delivering papers to subscribers’ houses while dodging dogs, skateboard punks, and random tornadoes. Easy enough, right? Wrong. It’s about as stressful as babysitting triplets. On the plus side, you get to jam to a kickin 8-note soundtrack.

Cost: $12


Q*Bert 3, 1992 – Gottlieb

Although Q*Bert might be a classic, Q*Bert 3 certainly isn’t. Game play resembles the original in that Q*Bert must change the color of all the tiles by jumping on them while avoiding terrifying enemies like purple snakes and bouncy frogs.

Cost: $13


Chameleon Twist, 1997 – Japan System Supply

The goal is to beat the boss at the end of one of six obnoxiously long levels by sucking in villains and shooting them out like spit wads. Of course, this will rely on your practically infinite Yoshi-tongue. If you like the game, you’re in luck. There’s an even better sequel.

Cost: $16


Mary-Kate and Ashley: Girls Night Out, 2002 -Powerhead Games

Judge me if you will, but once you get past the leather pumps and sugary beats this boils down to an addictive Dance Dance Revolution for your thumbs. Trust me guys, if the premise was disguised in martial arts or something masculine, you’d love it. It’s catchy. It’s challenging. It’s Girls Night Out.

Cost: $4

There you have it. My go-to list of B-list games. Have something to add? Feel free to throw your own favorites into the comments below, and be sure to follow my blog for more nostalgic Nintendo to come!

Dr. Mario

The Nostalgia Blog

With his busy plumbing career, his constant go-cart driving and frequent murder attempts on seemingly innocent turtles, you wouldn’t think Mario had time to go out and become a fully licensed physician. But he did. He probably would have done it earlier in life had he not wasted so much time rescuing Princess Toadstool from her many kidnappings. Mario, at some point you got to ask yourself: if this girl gets kidnapped this easy and often, maybe she shouldn’t be rescued? I mean do you want someone that dumb running a monarchy? Something to think about.

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DIY Super Mario Piranha Plant

Piranha Plant

After my last post, I’ve been dying to get my hands on some perler beads. Then, when I stumbled across this perler bead piranha plant on the Internet, I knew I had take a stab at making one for myself.  If you’re not into Super Mario, you could easily use another type of flower. They’re fast, they’re simple, and they make perfect desktop decor.

Here’s what you’ll need:


Small flower pot


Green paint

Perler beads





1. Paint your flower pot green so it can be drying while you work on the rest of your piranha plant.

2. First outline the design, then fill in using the perler beads.

Piranha Piranha

3. Cover the design in perler ironing paper (also sold at Hobby Lobby) using extreme caution not to disrupt the beads.

4. Lay the iron on the perler beads and count to 15, leaving the iron still. Only heat the design on one side so that the piranha plant will look pixelated.

5. Let the beads cool onto the ironing paper before peeling your design off.

6. Trace the opening of the flower pot onto a piece of Styrofoam and cut out the circle.


7. Place the Styrofoam in the pot, making sure it’s somewhere near the top

8. Slowly insert the stem into the foam.

9. Cover the foam with brown and black beads, so it will look like soil.

10. Break a toothpick in half, and use it to prop up your flower from behind. They have a tendancy to curve after being ironed.


1. Hobby Lobby sells a rainbow pack of perler beads for $10, and if you download their app you can get a 40% off coupon.

2. Do not move the iron in a circular direction like the package says.

3. If you have a shortage of beads, paint the foam tan instead of filling the pot with beads.

4. Follow my blog for more awesome posts and crafts!

The Superest Mario of All

What is the best Mario game ever made?


For the average Joe, this question goes along with turkey or ham?, but for me it’s right up there with journalism or English degree?. Mario Galaxy, Mario Go Kart, Doctor Mario…the list is as long as those end of game credits. Although comparing NES games with Wii games is a bit like comparing Led Zeppelin to Coldplay, I accept the challenge in compiling my top five, across the board, Mario picks.
Challenge Accepted
#5 – Super Mario Galaxy

Best Level: Loopdeeloop Galaxy
Worst Level: The Underground Ghost Ship
Final Boss: Too Easy
Best Feature: A new princess character! (Daisy doesn’t count. Everyone knows she was just created so Luigi wasn’t the third wheel.)

#4 – Paper Mario 64

Paper Mario
Best Level: Hot Hot Times on Lavalava Island
Worst Level: The “Invincible” Tubba Blubba
Final Boss: Difficult but beatable
Best Feature: The game champions strategy over reflexes, as battles are fought on a per turn basis. Plus, he folds up into an adorable little paper airplane.

#3 – Mario Go Kart N64

Go Kart 64
Best Level: Rainbow Road
Worst Level: Banshee Boardwalk
Final Boss: None
Best Feature: Banana peels, red shells, confusing upside-down-question-mark bombs: Mario Go Kart has everything; and just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s easy. You try beating Toad’s Turnpike without crashing into one car. You’ve got better odds of waking up with your head sewn to the carpet.

#2- Super Mario N64

Mario N64
Best Level: Cool, Cool Mountain
Worst Level: Jolly Rogers Bay
Final Boss: Difficult but beatable
Best Feature: The first 3-D Mario game in existence: pure, classic gold.

#1 – Super Mario Bros. 3 NES

Super Mario 3
Best Level: World 5 Level 1
Worst Level: World 7 Level 1
Final Boss: Stupid difficult.
Best Feature: Maybe it’s my fancy for nostalgia, but no modern graphics nor nunchuck controller can trump the simplistic heroism of a pixelated Mario bonking a crudely boxy Bowser on the head to save a newly blonde Peach.

Beg to differ? Feel free to make your case.