Author Archives: En-Szu

January 10, 2014

Freeskier Torin Yater-Wallace

Posted by at 1:26 am in Olympics | Permalink

torin130Freeskier Torin Yater-Wallace Interview

The Winter Olympics are starting on February 6! We caught up with 18-year-old American freeskier Torin Yater-Wallace. Target is sponsoring him to continue his education. He talked to us about what it’s like to be such a young competitor, what he’s looking forward to at this year’s Games, and his most embarrassing freeskiing moment.  Continue reading

December 25, 2013

December Books of the Month

Posted by at 11:30 am in Reads | Permalink

writing_prompt_book_recommendationIt’s Books of the Month time!

At the end of November I asked you to share which books you were reading so we could all see which titles were most popular. Then I made a word cloud so we could all see—I think there were a lot of ties! It seems Percy Jackson and Harry Potter are still leading the pack.


Let’s keep this going. Tell me in the Comments the titles of the books you’re reading right now, and I’ll make another word cloud at the end of next month. Can’t wait to see what title reigns supreme next time!

–En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

December 19, 2013

A Brief History of Gift Wrapping

Posted by at 1:50 am in Trivia | Permalink

wrap130Did you know that half of the 85 million tons of paper products Americans use each year is packaging, wrapping, or decoration? Wrapping presents is serious business! But when did it start? And where?

Wrapping paper has its roots in Victorian England. Wealthy people would use fancy paper decorated with ribbons and lace to present gifts. This paper tore pretty easily, so Victorians began using plain brown paper or tissue paper instead. This was how people wrapped gifts until 1917, when an accidental discovery gave birth to the wrapping paper we are now so familiar with.

Two brothers—Joyce and Rollie Hall—ran out of tissue paper in their Kansas City, MO stationery store, so they started selling paper used to line envelopes instead. The paper was a huge hit, and with the invention of Scotch tape twenty years later, we’ve never looked back. Joyce and Rollie Hall expanded their store, Hallmark, into a company that sells greeting cards and, yes, lots and lots of wrapping paper!giftwrap5

But paper isn’t the only way to package gifts.Traditional Japanese wrapping cloth, known as furoshiki, is one gift wrapping that’s stayed popular in Japanese culture since nearly 700 C.E. Recently, the Japanese Environment Ministry has been encouraging more people to use furoshiki instead of wrapping paper because it’s reusable and better for the environment.

Other ways to be eco-friendly with gift wrap? Try using newspaper, paper bags, and old maps or calendars. They make for very unique and planet-friendly alternatives to traditional wrapping paper! Take a look at these awesome examples . . . .




Get creative with your gift wrapping this season! Do you have any ideas for cool wrapping paper  options? Share in the Comments!

– En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

Flickr images courtesy of a_b_normal123, Cali4beach, LizMarie_AK, torbakhopper, and rvacapinta.

December 16, 2013

Harry Potter in Real Life!

Posted by at 4:35 pm in Harry Potter | Permalink

harry potter irl 1“Do you know where Platform 9 3/4 is?”

Here at the STACKS we love all things Harry Potter-related. (Check out our Harry Potter Book Club, and get a load of these awesome stamps.) So when we heard about “Harry Potter in Real Life,” we flipped.

Improv Everywhere—a super-cool group that gets ordinary people to pull massive, hilarious pranks—dressed up an 11-year-old actor as Harry Potter on his way to Hogwarts and let him loose in New York City’s Penn Station. He wandered around, suitcases, ticket, and caged Hedwig in tow, asking passengers and transit workers for directions to Platform 9¾. Some people were confused, but mostly people laughed and smiled and tried to help the Boy Who Lived as best they could. Strangers tried to help Harry to check his luggage, get Hedwig something to eat, and somehow find his way to Hogwarts.

harry potter irl 2After unsuccessfully trying to run through platform 9, learning he was unable to pay for things using wizard currency, and taking (many!) photos with fans, Harry gave up on his quest and went home. While it’s sad that our hero never did locate the Hogwarts Express, he nonetheless provided a very memorable afternoon for the people at Penn Station!

What do you think of this prank? What would YOU have said if Harry Potter approached you in a train station and asked you for directions? We’d love to know—share in the Comments below! Wanna talk more Harry Potter? Hop on over to our Harry Potter Message Boards to chat with other fans!

– En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

Photo credit: Arin Sang-urai

December 13, 2013

Roominate Building Toy for Girls

Posted by at 10:51 am in Games | Permalink

Alice&Bettina130Our new obsession: Roominate!

Roominate was created by Alice and Bettina (in the photo at left), two super-cool young engineers who realized that there aren’t enough girls in science. They wanted to create something that would be fun and also introduce girls to science, and that’s when the idea for Roominate was born. Roominate is a wired dollhouse building kit. You can design your own dollhouse and furniture, decorate it any way you like, fill it with your favorite dolls, and—the best part—add electronic elements.

roominateRoominate comes with an electric motor that can be used to do just about anything. Here at the STACKS we had a lot of fun trying out different options: a fan, a windmill, and even a (very silly!) spinning Christmas tree.

The building units of Roominate are really easy to put together, so we built all kinds of furniture and even created our own little doll to hang out and read Harry Potter. We loved giving our Roominate room a seasonal makeover (which included our spinning Christmas tree). Watch our how-to video.

Roominate 067

We’re so excited to have such a fun toy to play with, and even more excited that it’s entertaining AND educational. Roominate girls have been building some really amazing stuff: from replicas of their own bedrooms to the Golden Gate Bridge! They’re proving that science is so totally not just for the boys.

What would YOU build with Roominate? Share your ideas in the Comments below—we just might try them out!

– En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

December 6, 2013

Dana Gaier Interview

Posted by at 1:41 am in Celebrities | Permalink

DanaGaier130Meet the real Edith from Despicable Me.

While the minions may be the most adorable members of the Despicable Me cast, our favorite human character is definitely Edith—the silly, clever, hat-wearing, and utterly lovable middle sister—so we were more than excited to interview Dana Gaier, who plays Edith’s voice in both Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2. Even though Dana says she’s just a “regular teenager,” we’d argue that she’s pretty special! We caught up with the actress and asked her about everything from her similarities to Edith to her celebrity crush. (I bet more than a few of you would agree with her answer!) Continue reading

November 29, 2013

The Giver Movie

Posted by at 1:31 am in Book to Big Screen, Celebrities | Permalink

giver130The Giver by Lois Lowry

It’s almost December, which means it’s the holiday season! December is also an exciting time of the year in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, but for a different reason. Jonas, who has turned twelve, will now participate in the annual Ceremony where he and his other twelve-year-old friends receive their life assignments. His friends Fiona and Asher are named Caretaker of the Old and Assistant Director of Recreation, but Jonas gets a very unusual assignment. His selection lands him with a man known as the Giver . . . and he begins an adventure that will change his life forever.

The movie version of The Giver will be released in theaters August 2014. If you, like me, are a hugeBrentonThwaite fan of the book, you’re also probably curious to find out which actors have been cast! Great news: we have the details! Meryl Streep will star as the Chief Elder, and a few other famous names will be in there as well including Jeff Bridges (the Giver), Katie Holmes (Jonas’s mom), and Alexander Skarsgård (Jonas’s dad). Jonas will be played by Australian actor Brenton Thwaites, and Taylor Swift (!) will also be making an appearance as Rosemary.

That’s Brenton in the pic. Did you know that he is actually 24 years old? That’s twice as old as the character of Jonas in the book. How do you think this might change the story? (If you haven’t already, be sure to read the book before you see the movie!)

Are any of you fans of The Giver? Are you excited for the movie? Share your thoughts in the Comments!

En-Szu, STACKS Writer (a.k.a. MidnightMagic5)

November 27, 2013

November Books of the Month

Posted by at 1:40 am in Reads | Permalink

writing_prompt_book_recommendationThe Books of the Month series is back!

Tell me the titles of the books you’re reading right now, and I’ll make a word cloud out of all the recommendations. The more votes a book title gets, the bigger the print! Here are the results from our last Books of the Month. It looks like Heroes of Olympus and Percy Jackson were very popular!

word cloud

Be sure to leave a Comment with the title of the book you’re reading right now, and I will make a new word cloud of all our reads for the whole month.

En-Szu, STACKS Writer (a.k.a. MidnightMagic5)

November 22, 2013

1D Day with One Direction

Posted by at 10:07 am in Celebrities, Music, One Direction | Permalink

1d_midnightmemoriesOne Direction’s 1D Day is coming! Are you ready?

As many of you probably know, we here at the STACKS absolutely LOVE One Direction! From their first album to This Is Us, we’ve been following their exciting journey to superstardom and loving every minute of it. That’s why we’re super-duper excited that 1D Day is coming.

For those who don’t know what 1D Day is, it’s basically an unofficial One Direction holiday. In celebration of the release of their upcoming album, Midnight Memories, 1D has launched a worldwide movement for their fans. Directioners like you (and me!) can get creative in celebrating 1D Day by making music videos, sharing favorite photos and songs, creating collages, and wearing 1D gear. 1D Day will happen on Saturday, November 23, 2013.1d_midnight

To make the day extra-special, the boys have a lot of really cool stuff planned. One Direction will be holding a seven-hour live video broadcast to connect with fans around the world. They’ve announced that they’re going to try to break a world record every hour (for things like highest toilet paper roll pile)! They’ll also be hanging out with some guests throughout the day: Celine Dion, Simon Cowell, Kelly Rowland, Piers Morgan, The Muppets, Khloe Kardashian, and even Robbie Williams (who used to be in a famous British boyband himself).

Here at the STACKS, we’re taking the opportunity to revisit all of our favorite One Direction activities and posts from the past. Check out our One Direction ABC, and play One Direction “Would You Rather?” with a friend who’s also a fan. If you’re really a Directioner, test your fan knowledge with our One Direction quiz! And don’t forget to check out our awesome interview with 1D.

Are you excited for 1D Day? Will you be participating? How will you show your love for all things One Direction? Share in the Comments below!

– En-Szu, STACKS Staffer