A Blast from the Past

Gina and Beret are mostly off-duty this week, but we thought we’d remind you of a few past projects to tide you over during what remains of the holidays. Here are projects that are easy, fun, and use common household materials. String of lights? Check. Alka-Seltzer? Check. Put those holiday items to a new use. Continue reading “A Blast from the Past”

Jello Worms

Mmmm.
Mmmm. Delish.

posted by Beret

Ages:  This project is suitable for any age, though very young children might have a hard time squeezing the worms out of the straws.

At first glance, this project may seem better suited to the Halloween season. It would certainly be fun then as well. In a few short days, however, the winter holidays begin, and small people everywhere will have long stretches of unstructured time. It is always a good idea to have a couple of projects up your sleeve. You know, in case someone breaks their sibling’s favorite new toy, or loses Sorry! for the fifth time in a row, or–even worse–discovers that their best friend’s Santa brought an iPod Touch. Who knows, maybe you just want to pry their little eyeballs off of a screen for a few minutes. In any event, it’s nice to have a game-changing activity on hand.

Jello Worms were a little messy, but great fun to make and to eat.   Continue reading “Jello Worms”

Book Review: No Talking

From vvmsmedia.edublog.org
From vvmsmedia.edublog.org

posted by Beret

Age Range:  Grades 2 to 7-ish

Last year, Gina introduced me to Andrew Clements with her review of Frindle. I read it to my kids and we were hooked…but unfortunately, we found it hard to find the right follow up from Mr. Clements.

I found Room One and Extra Credit on the library shelves, but for some unknown reason, my girls refused to check them out. We tried Lunch Money, but gave up three or four chapters into it. It was too practical. In fact, it felt as if it were written specifically for teachers to use in math class.

Note: Gina completely disagrees!  Loves this book!  Thinks it’s delightful!

We tackled A Wrinkle in Time and a couple of Jerry Spinelli books instead.

It took months before we were ready to give another Clements book a go. Something about this one caught my eye, however. It has occasional entertaining illustrations. It is smart and funny. The type is generously-sized, and the chapters are short.

AND, IT IS FABULOUS.     Continue reading “Book Review: No Talking”

Resources for Young Writers

posted by Beret

Seeing as I can’t grow a mustache this month (c.f. Movember), I’d like to focus on writing instead. November’s actually the easiest month of the year to do so.

Writing is often a solitary activity, and left to my own devices, I am easily mesmerized by videos of adorable animals frolicking, or meatheads having staple gun fights. Any time outside of teaching, parenting, and editing would be easily devoured by YouTube and Iron Chef.

Consequently, I am a huge fan of writing groups, writing classes, National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo), National Blog Posting Month, and all of those organized writing extravaganzas. I thrive with structure and community, deadlines and systems of accountability. I like having someone looking over my shoulder–not annoying people, mind you, but the delightful, word-loving types.

The year I did NaNoWriMo was crazy and fabulous, with pep talks from Jonathan Franzen rolling into my inbox, videos to entertain and encourage me, forums, essays, and write-ins at local coffee shops. It was all designed help build and maintain my momentum, and I loved it. I wrote more that month than ever before or since. Some of it’s a load of crap, but nestled in there are nuggets I never would have created watching Maru.

There’s a lot going on for adult writers. But let’s say you have a non-adult or two around who likes to write. What’s out there for them?   Continue reading “Resources for Young Writers”

Ghost Cake with Flaming Eyes! + Halloween Science Projects

©2013 Beret Olsen
©2013 Beret Olsen

posted by Beret

Age Range:  almost any, depending on who handles the fire.

When I was eight years old, my mother gave me a copy of the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls. Not the first edition, people. This cookbook has been around since 1957.

My copy looked exactly like this:

From Saveur100.com
I believe we had matching wallpaper, too. From Saveur.com

It was full of frightening recipes. Weird little polka dot pizzas made with frankfurters. A cake that looked like a hamburger on a sesame seed bun. Recipes calling for instant minced onion, pickles, Bisquick, and bottled dressing. I pored over the pictures in it, but I only ever made two things: a gingerbread ski chalet (of course!) and the GHOST CAKE WITH FLAMING EYES.

Now, you can make one, too.   Continue reading “Ghost Cake with Flaming Eyes! + Halloween Science Projects”

I dropped the ball, but I still brought you flaming pumpkins

©2011 Beret Olsen
©2011 Beret Olsen

My intent was to write a spectacularly awesome post about something Halloween-y.

Here’s what happened instead:  the spouse disappeared into a black hole at work, the kids had a school holiday, and I interviewed and accidentally got an extra job.

I did come across a few nifty ideas, though. Below are links for all kinds of activities involving pumpkins–for everyone from the four-and-under crew up to adults. If you need to take a sneak peek at flaming pumpkins–which I totally understand–scroll down to the photo of a pumpkin in a body bag.   Continue reading “I dropped the ball, but I still brought you flaming pumpkins”

Liebster Awards!

Liebster-Award

posted by Beret

Back in July, we were honored to discover that LobeStir had been nominated for a Liebster Award. The title comes from the German word for favorite, or beloved, as in “Ach, mein liebster!”which is occasionally accompanied by rosy cheeks and lederhosen, and, if you’re lucky, a big squeeze. The Liebster is generally given to newer bloggers–preferably with fewer than 200 subscribers–who are just carving out their niche in the blog-o-sphere.

Our first nomination was from Janice Spina, who writes children’s books and two blogs: Jemsbooks and Published Indie Authors. Ms. Spina nurtures writers of all sorts. Like many others, I am grateful for her support and encouragement.     Continue reading “Liebster Awards!”

Chromatography for Beginners

chromatography results
Chromatography results                                                                                  ©2013 Beret Olsen

posted by Beret

Ages: almost any

The word chromatography comes from Greek roots:

chroma = color

graphia = writing

Literally, writing with color. In scientific practice, chromatography is a set of processes by which a mixture is separated into its component parts, generally by moving it through paper or gelatin. This can involve some very sophisticated equipment and compounds.

Or not.   Continue reading “Chromatography for Beginners”

Dry Ice: Not just for Halloween anymore

©2013 Beret Olsen
Sublimation rocks! A glass of warm water accelerates the process.                                                     (See Bubbles and Fog, below)                                                                          ©2013 Beret Olsen

posted by Beret

Ages: 6 and up. Actually, any age is probably ok, as long as your kid can wear goggles and gloves and responds appropriately to “No!” and “Don’t touch that!”

Included in this post:

Continue reading “Dry Ice: Not just for Halloween anymore”

All hail Wendy Mass

©2013 Beret Olsen
©2013 Beret Olsen

posted by Beret

Ages: 8 and up

A couple of years ago, I received an unusual text.

“GO GET THE CANDYMAKERS AND READ IT ALOUD TO YOUR KIDS,” it advised.

It seemed rather urgent, so though the book wasn’t yet out in paperback–and weighed in at a hefty 453 pages–I “Amazon-ed” that thing and got started immediately.

Now comes the hard part:  explaining why you should get the book, too.

Unlike my friend Gina, I’m not one of those people who regularly seeks out new youth literature. I’ve been burned too many times by inane codswallop like the Rainbow Magic Fairy books. If I could remember who introduced them to my kids, I might even unfriend them, since over the course of the following ten months, I was forced to read at least 42 of those.        Continue reading “All hail Wendy Mass”

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