Ice Cream in a Bag!

©2013 Beret Olsen
©2013 Beret Olsen

posted by Beret

Ages: Any, though the very young will get tired of shaking long before the ice cream is ready.

My kids never took to Sesame Street, or Mickey Mouse, or the Disney Channel; they didn’t care for children’s movies, either. For the most part, I appreciated that, and enjoyed my Dora-free existence. It did become an issue, however, when I desperately needed to make a phone call, or do my homework, or even just have five minutes of unchaperoned time in the bathroom.

As the girls got older, they got better at amusing themselves from time to time, but sick days remained problematic. I would eventually run out of patience with Barbies (for the moderately ill) and with ladling tea and stroking hair (for the flu victims). Unfortunately, my youngest was frequently fighting some bug or another. I heard myself asking: please, please, wouldn’t you like to watch twenty minutes of television? Sadly, no.

But one day last January, my seven-year-old got a glimpse of the Food Network. Now I have that “be careful what you wish for,” kind of feeling. “That’s not how you do a chiffonade,” Josie told me later, as I chopped mint for the top of a fruit salad. “I think there has been a misunderstanding,” she said another time, catching me frosting her fancy ganache-filled mocha birthday cupcakes with a tub of Betty Crocker vanilla.

What can I possibly make for dinner now, when both girls are glued to Iron Chef Morimoto‘s every move?    Continue reading “Ice Cream in a Bag!”

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Paper Marbling

©2013 Beret Olsen

Ages: 4 and up

I’ve done paper marbling many times, occasionally with satisfying results. Unfortunately, it required a checklist of fussy materials, as well as a sizable chunk of time. Something called ‘size’ had to be mixed ahead of time and allowed to thicken, but not so far ahead of time that it got moldy. Paper had to be pre-treated with mordant and allowed to dry. Who has time for all of that?

I also noticed that I was getting a little precious about the supplies–i.e., I had a hard time sharing them with my kids. That’s because up until a week or so ago, I thought the only way to marbleize was to buy the kit off Amazon, or drive around town trying to find ingredients like alum and methyl cellulose.

Full disclosure here: those are the materials and methods you need to use if you want those amazingly delicate Martha Stewart-y results. If you want to create papers that precisely resemble the endpapers found in old leather-bound books, and if time is not an issue, then by all means go and do it that way.


Marbling is fun. And cool. Why not try it with cheaper, more easily accessible supplies? That way, you might be more likely to do it with a group of kids, or with your own, on some random rainy day when you are desperate to squelch the endless bickering. Not that my kids ever behave that way.

So, here it is: the cheap and easy method for marbleizing paper.    Continue reading “The Quick and Dirty Guide to Paper Marbling”

How to glue stuff like a crafty mofo

posted by Beret


For those of you who would like to amaze your friends and family members with some mad gluing skills, this post is for you. Not interested? You still may want to take a peek down at step #5, which has a link to make a book press out of two cutting boards.

The techniques outlined below could apply to a myriad of different projects involving paper. In the demo, I am gluing the accordion book from a previous post into its attractive cover. If you’re looking for something else to make, try ‘crafty mofo.’ There you will find a boatload of interesting things to make–plus a few ugly ones, to be sure.     Continue reading “How to glue stuff like a crafty mofo”

Ridiculously Simple Bookmaking Part Deux: The Accordion Book

@2013 Beret Olsen
@2013 Beret Olsen

posted by Beret

Age Range:  anyone who can fold a piece of paper

You may be wondering: where is Gina?? Well, Gina is taking a moment to figure out some big life questions. I have tried to explain that the answer is 42, but for some reason, she insists on figuring things out for herself.

So I am back with another ridiculously simple bookmaking idea. The pages of an accordion book are made from one very long piece of paper, folded like an accordion. Hence the name.    Continue reading “Ridiculously Simple Bookmaking Part Deux: The Accordion Book”

Milk Carton Wallets

Perhaps I should call these juice carton wallets.  ©2013 Beret Olsen
Perhaps I should call these particular iterations juice carton wallets.                                           ©2013 Beret Olsen

posted by Beret

Ages: 6 and up

The first time I saw a milk carton wallet, it was in a giant pile laying on a table. Some lovely design student had made them about 150 of them, and was handing them out at portfolio night. She probably had her card tucked inside; I really don’t know. I don’t even remember a thing about her portfolio. Perhaps it was creative and fabulous. I was just mesmerized by that pile of wallets at her table. I took one, went home, and drank a lot of juice.

The rest is history.

“What?” you say. You already have a duct tape wallet? Well, that’s awesome. But someday, it’s going to be so rainy, or snowy, or just plain boring, that you will need something new and amusing to do. And this project is so simple and cheap, you may be surprised you haven’t tried it already.    Continue reading “Milk Carton Wallets”

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