Thursday, December 8, 2016

How to Make the Perfect Fandom Gift Basket

With the holidays fast approaching, it's that perfect time of year for last-minute gift panics. You might be set--having gotten everything you need between Black Friday and Cyber Monday--or, like me, you might be staring desolately at store shelves, wondering what in the holly-loving universe to buy for those last four people on your list.

Well, sad, procrastinating Christmas shopper, I'm here to help. It's literally impossible to go wrong with a gift basket--even the Grinch could find something to enjoy in a well-made Christmas gift basket, I think. There's a little something for everyone, and who doesn't love a night in with their favorite fandom?

The beautiful thing about this basket is that it can work for any fandom. (It would even work without a fandom theme, but who wants to do that?) So, without further ado, here is the recipe for the perfect fandom gift basket. Feel free to skip steps in order to make it perfect for your fandom-loving friend or family member.

Step 1: The Basket

Now, the key part of a good gift basket is the basket. Most people ignore this step, opting to instead go for the second-hand basket that’s been sitting in Grandma’s attic for as long as you can remember--you know the one: woven pieces of wood that poke you if you hold it wrong, that one spot of dust that just won't come off--or, even worse, the cardboard shoebox. After all, it's just holding the real present, right? WRONG.

A good basket is part of the present. Every single person, without fail, could probably use more storage space. What are they going to do with Grandma’s basket? They're going to put it in their own attic to regift in ten years. A good gift basket starts with a usable basket.

Like these beauties for all you BBC junkies. Buy them here.

But if, like me, you're not made of money, dollar stores and closeout stores often have a wide array of inexpensive, cute, and highly functional baskets. I've used shower caddies for college student gift baskets and popcorn boxes for a good movie night basket, but by far the best are lidded rectangular boxes. Lids allow for easy reuse because they hide whatever junk you want to throw in there and look pretty while doing it. You can find fandom themed boxes on etsy or dedicated fandom sites, or you can just go with a nice, cheap patterned box that matches your fandom colors. A Sherlock-themed basket might be navy blue, while a Harry Potter one could be gold with a big red bow. The possibilities are endless. If you're feeling crafty, considering decopaging or painting your favorite map onto a box from the dollar store. Perfect and priceless.

Step 2: Getting Comfy

What's the most necessary part of settling in for a night of your favorite fandom, be it book, show, or movie? The comfy blanket. The fuzzy socks. The oversized sweatshirt and pajama pants.
A staple of every good night-in gift basket is a blanket. You can find a cheap, solid-colored one at any big box store (they're usually about five dollars around the holidays), or you can get more fandom specific and check out these warm, geeky blankets at ThinkGeek or your favorite fandom site.

Along with a blanket, other good comfy box fillers include fuzzy socks and fandom tshirts or pajama pants. Some good places for these are Out of Print ClothingHot Topic, and f.y.e.--though you can find fandom clothing literally everywhere on the internet, and in a lot of stores, too.

Step 3: Setting the Mood

The perfect fandom night requires putting yourself in the right frame of mind. While just simply sitting down to binge can be cathartic, it's better to get yourself ready for it, build a little antici--say it!--pation. And while most people won't do a lot for themselves, a gift basket is a great excuse to get people things they wouldn't necessarily buy for themselves. Like LUSH Bath Bombs.

 For the Rocky Horror Picture Show fanatic.

Most people won't spend the money or time to treat themselves to luxuries. That's what gifts are for. Bath products, fancy lotion, nail polish, chapstick, fun make-up--all good options for the fangirl in your life. Or how about some Whiskey River Soap for Geeks or Hipsters? Buy them something they wouldn't think they need. (But totally do.) Like candles. Fandom candles.

Frostbeard Studio has amazing bookish candles.

Once you've pampered and prepped for your big night in, it's time for...

Step 4: Snacks

Snacks are the single most important thing for any fandom gift basket. The beautiful thing about this is that it can be fandom-related or just everyday movie snacks, and both will look perfectly in place. If you've got time on your hands, find a recipe for lembas bread or butterbeer cake pops to make, and fill the basket with homemade fandom goodies. If you're pressed for time, there are plenty of people on the internet willing to make fandom foods for you--trust them at your own risk.

Find the recipes here and here.

The necessary snacks can really be broken down into three categories: drinks, food, and the things to put them in.

Drinks are usually going to be less fandom-related, since you can't include anything that will spoil. Sodas are always a good option, and the glass bottles that are popular around the holidays look pretty in any gift basket. Coffee, tea, and hot cocoa are also always winners. They come in individual packets and are generally universally liked. Plus, a hot beverage on a cold night is the perfect addition to any fandom night.

And, of course, you need the perfect mug for the perfect drink, like these lovelies from The Unemployed Philosophers Guild:
Once you've got drinks covered, pick the snacks to match. Obviously, tailor this to whomever you're giving the basket. Some of my frequent go-to gift basket snacks are popcorn, candy, chocolate, biscotti, cookies, peanut butter, dried fruit, chips, pretzels, and/or nuts. It's good to get a nice mix of healthy and unhealthy snacks, so your fan friend doesn't feel guilty (or sick) after eating all the delicious snacks you gave them.

You can even tailor the pre-bought snacks to the fandom. I'm sure a Supernatural fan would appreciate some pie, while a Gilmore Girls junkie might appreciate coffee, coffee creamer, coffee syrups, coffee stirrers... yeah. Get creative. But keep in mind the person you're buying for.

Step 5: The Fandom Itself

Every basket needs at least one fandom-specific item: a towel for your favorite galactic hitchhiker, a glittery apple for your Twilight die-hard, a scarf for your Sherlocked friend, an embroidered quote for your Jane Austen aficionado... you get the idea.

If only the actors would fit in a box...

But with that, you also might want to include a book or movie in case the recipient of this perfect basket suddenly loses their wifi connection. If they're a Winnie the Pooh lover, buy them a kids' storybook that they don't already have. If they don't have their favorite show on DVD, see if you can find the first season at a second-hand store.

Or, if they're an impulsive buyer and already have everything related to their fandom, see if you can find something similar that they might like. Set them on the next dark and twisting path toward the heart of another fandom. Buy an Austen fan a Brontë book. Buy a Sherlock fan the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories. Buy a Rocky Horror fan the movie Labyrinth. Make sure your basket has everything you'd need for the perfect fandom night.

Step 6: Fill in the Holes

Now that you've got everything you need for your perfect fandom gift basket, it's time to arrange it all. Put it all in your carefully chosen box so that nearly everything is visible and accessible, without a Jenga disaster of fandom accessories crushing the nearest potted plant. If you notice holes in your basket, good fillers include notebooks, framed quotes or prints, Christmas ornaments, pens, play-dough, keychains, figurines, crayons, coloring books, and jewelry.

A solid example of a great box. (source)

And of course, don't forget the fandom essentials: tissues. Because every fandom will inevitably make you cry every kind of tear there is. And the other essential: the preprogrammed number of a best friend who will listen to every fandom rant, whether they're a part of the fandom or not. Because even if you put together the perfect gift, the best gift of all is the gift of your time and energy. 

What's the best fandom gift you've ever received?

Legends of Tomorrow Reaction: "Invasion!" (2x07)

Spoilers for Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow

The Legends team up with Barry, Oliver, and Kara to defeat the Dominators once and for all. Meanwhile, Stein comes to terms with the time aberration he created back in 1987: his daughter.

"We're not letting you sacrifice yourself. There's no way. I don't care if that what it means to be a hero. You're not a hero to me. You're my friend." -Cisco

What I Liked
Cisco and Felicity team-up
These two together will always be my favorite. I loved their reaction to the Waverider. It was hilarious, especially Felicity's "linguistic disorientation" due to time travel. It was also perfect that they had to swoop in to save the day, or as Mick puts it, "Great. Saved by geeks." All their nerdy references were pure gold as well.

*Steve Roger's voice* I understood that reference. (source)

Cisco and Nate team-up
Nate isn't my favorite character and Cisco has kind of irritated me lately, but their team-up was so adorably cute. I love that Nate doesn't hesitate to "vibe" with Cisco, and it was great that they were both so worried about destroying the world. And finally! Cisco finally has an epiphany about Barry's choices with Flashpoint. It didn't make complete sense, but I'm glad Cisco is over his grumpiness.

Stein and his daughter
It was touching to see Stein work with his daughter and Caitlin to save the day. Not only does his daughter have a PhD in nanotechnology, but they come up with the same conclusion at the same time, proving they have to be related. I also think it was adorable that Stein doesn't want to travel back to 1987 and fix the aberration; he doesn't want to lose his daughter. *squee*

Classic. (source)

Time travel
Obviously, the time travel was a highlight of the episode, though their plan wasn't what I was expecting. I thought they were going to all travel back in time to stop the Dominators in the 50s. Instead, they wanted to capture a Dominator and get themselves in trouble, apparently. I liked how it connected to present day with the grumpy old man. That was a nice touch.

Special effects are special
The special effects in this episode--well, in all the episodes--were awesome. Great job, production team!

This was so cool! (source)

Epic showdown is epic
The showdown against the Dominators was awesome. There were a lot of exciting moments that had me cheering and laughing. The whole thing was just epic.

This was so exciting!!! (source)

  • Barry and Kara using their super speed to save the day was fun.
  • Firestorm is finally useful by transmuting the meta-bomb into water. That's a lot of water!
  • Kara saves Oliver and proves aliens aren't a threat.
  • They all work together to get it done. It was touching. I'm not crying, you're crying.
  • Mick and Sara googly-eyed over Kara and the president was the best.
  • Superheroes and vigilantes are finally recognized for all their work by the government. 
  • Ray and Felicity's comments about Kara were spot on.
  • The group hug between the reluctant Oliver, Barry, and Kara was perfect.
  • Barry and Oliver's bromance is what I live for.

I am Oliver. (source)

What I Didn't Like
Grumpy old man
I don't know his name, but he was a big meanie and should go farther away than Antarctica. (Though Kara's speech to him was fantastic.) Also his younger self was a weird version of Clark Kent. Whyyyy?

Legends screwing it up again
Why do they always screw up everything in every single episode? Why can't they ever learn from their mistakes? Why?! (Also, Nate's suit looked kind of dorky. Like ATOM dorky. *sigh*)

It's the helmet, isn't it? (source)

Flashpoint (It's all Barry's fault)
I hate that Flashpoint is the reason the Dominators arrive to destroy the metas. How did the Dominators even know about Flashpoint? Why is everything Barry's fault? Why does everybody assume metas are evil? There are plenty of good metas out there. It was just... annoying.

The Dominators
While the alien plot was great to get everybody together (and include Supergirl!), I felt that it ended too easily. Sure, they destroyed the meta-bomb and caused the Dominators agony, but the Dominators retreated too easily. There was a whole lot more aliens than heroes, so it was wrapped up too nicely for my taste. Also, next time they do a super-ultra-mega-awesomesauce crossover, what are they going to do if they've already done aliens? Zombies? Civil War? Batman vs Superman?

*wipes eyes* They're all so pretty. (source)

Overall, the crossover was fun and definitely worth the watch. It was exciting, had a lot of great moments, and satisfied my anticipation. When can we do this again?

*high-pitched Steve Roger's voice* I understood that reference, too! (source)

What did you think of "Invasion!"? What did you think of the entire crossover event?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Arrow Reaction: "Invasion!" (5x08)

Spoilers for Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow

The Dominators kidnap several heroes and place them in a shared hallucination of a different life--a life where Oliver never got on his father's boat. Barry, Felicity, and Kara, along with their friends, try to rescue them.

"Last night somebody reminded me that I have everything, and I don't want to give it up. I'm afraid that I'm going to give it up." -Oliver

What I Liked
The Hallucination
This episode marked the 100th episode of Arrow, which is an exciting feat. Thrusting Oliver and the other characters that have been in Arrow into a hallucination of another life was a perfect way to capture the previous episodes and pay homage to such a series. Not only did old cast members return, but there were a lot of moments and flashbacks that reminded us where Oliver and the Green Arrow all began.

I'm still angry about Laurel's death from last season, so I was excited to see her return for Arrow's 100th. It was even more special because in the hallucination world, she and Ollie are about to get married! (Does this mean Oliver and Laurel are officially canon?) It broke my heart for Oliver to leave her behind because I know he and Sara desperately miss her. My favorite moment was when Laurel and Sara were together; I love their sister relationship, and I'm sad that the show hasn't been able to keep that since she died.

They're so pretty. *sniffles* (source)

Whole Queen clan
It was fabulous to see the whole Queen family together again--even Oliver's father, who didn't have a lot of screen time. (Fun fact: He is played by the same actor as season one!) But of course, that also made it heartbreaking for Oliver to say goodbye to them... again. (So much angst in one episode. Who knew?) The worst was that Thea didn't want to leave. I was worried that she would stay, and we would be saying goodbye to her on the show.

This is so fun. (source)

Diggle as the Hood was an exciting twist! I don't really know why he would turn to vigilante work just because Oliver never did, but it was thrilling to see him rough Oliver up a bit and dramatically pull off his hood. I also love that he still worked with Felicity. (But again, I don't know why Felicity would be involved at all. She was connected to Queen Consolidated, not Diggle.)

Ray Palmer was also taken by the aliens, so he had to fit into Oliver's "new" life somehow; I thought it was fitting that he was a potential buyout for Queen Consolidated, which gave Oliver a few choices of his own in this new life. Felicity, also, was his fiancée, which was sort of fitting considering their past. Overall, Ray Palmer is a cupcake no matter what "life" he is in.

Old enemies
It was fun to see a lot of moments that reflected back on past episodes of Arrow, especially past enemies. Deathstroke, Damien Darhk, Malcolm Merlyn, and HIVE were all present in some manner during this episode. Each of the kidnapped heroes had to fight one of them, and the pairings were spot on. Oliver fought Deathstroke, who is his greatest foe. Sara fought Darhk, who she still holds a grudge against for killing Laurel. Thea fought Malcolm, who she loathes. Diggle fought HIVE, who stole his brother away from him. And Ray fought a Mirakuru solider, which was fitting since one of them killed his fiancée.

Thea and Sara being badass was also epic. (source)

Holograms of everybody
The end of Oliver's hallucination truly showed how far Oliver has come in being a hero. Past family members and members of Team Arrow shown as hologram projections saying something about Oliver over the years. (Tommy!! They also made reference to the show the actor is currently on: Chicago Med.) It showed everybody Oliver was leaving behind by choosing the true life and not the hallucination, but it also revealed everybody that Oliver, in some way, affected. It was perfect for the 100th episode, and I'm not crying, you're crying.

Team Arrow
Team Arrow was finally part of this crossover. And it was fun. Curtis freaking out about the aliens and also being BFFs with Cisco over technology was my favorite part. Of course, I enjoyed Rory's contribution to the team, as always. Wild Dog was still a punk, and while he learned that metas can be trustworthy, he did irritate me for being so mean to all the metas. Where was Evelyn though? She missed out.

It's Chrisssstmassss! (source)

Cisco's references
It's always a joy to see Cisco interacting with other folk, especially Felicity and Curtis. He was very confident and fun this episode, unlike the previous one. I loved his reference to Star Trek.

Waverider to the rescue
I was wondering when the Legends of Tomorrow (other than Ray and Sara) would show up in this crossover. Nate had perfect timing to collect the kidnapped heroes. And he helped them figure out why they were chosen--because they aren't metas. Whatever the Dominators are planning, it has something to do with meta-humans.

Oliver's face is what I live for. (source)

Flash and Supergirl team up
Barry and Kara teaming up to take out the eye patch chick was so fun. I love them together. I want more Flash/Supergirl team-ups, please!

Outer space awesomesauce
Okay, but who would have thought there would be an epic space battle on Arrow?! I'm freaking out! It was so cool. I loved every moment of it. It was fun and perfect and just wow. Look at those special effects. I'm satisfied.

Nice. (source)

What I Didn't Like
Not much. It wasn't so much I didn't like it, it's that I didn't understand it. Who was the chick with the eye patch stealing stuff? What does she have to do with anything? It was just weird and kind of thrown in there. Other than that, this episode was solid. A lot happened, but it was so worth it.

Overall, this episode did wonderful for Arrow's 100th. It had the perfect blend of awesome team-up moments for the crossover and nostalgic moments for the past five years of Arrow. Writers, you did awesome. Now... to defeat the Dominators!

This episode was glorious. (source)

What did you think of "Invasion!"? Do you think this episode did a good job to mark Arrow's 100th episode?