Camp Beret Begins

Taken from The Navigators site.
Image found on navigators.org.

posted by Beret

Well, it happened.

It happens every year.

The end of the school year approached, mayhem ensued, and now the two best reasons to ignore everything else in the world are in my house 24/7.

It’s looking a little grim for a post until “Camp Beret” goes on a brief hiatus July 8.

Who knows, my esteemed co-conspirator Gina might make a surprise appearance, or I might get lucky and squeeze out a book review before mid-July. But just in case, I’m sending apologies in advance.

Since many of you are experiencing a spike in quality time with your kids as well, might I suggest perusing the archives? Perhaps this is the summer to mummify a chicken, or make a lemon battery, invisible ink, or ice cream in a bag. Maybe you want to try extracting DNA from fruit, or use cabbage juice as a pH indicator. Now’s your chance.     Continue reading “Camp Beret Begins”

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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

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©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.

BUT.

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”

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”

Learning to Love Math

posted by Beret

I love math.

It’s possible I love it because I had a very handsome math teacher.

More likely, it’s because I had a very handsome, very effective math teacher at an impressionable age. Junior High was such a wasteland of raging hormones, brutal social cliques, and boring grammatical exercises;  Mr. W. was like a shining star in the midst of it all. Unfortunately for him, we loved him eighth-grade style; we were constantly doing ridiculous things to get his attention. One day we spoke without making a sound–just mouthed words–for the entire class period. Once we stacked the desks in a pile and sat on the floor in a circle, like kindergartners. But Mr. W. was well acquainted with thirteen-year-olds, and remained completely unfazed. Not only did he maintain his sense of humor, he doggedly plowed through the equations, vividly illustrating the meaning of X with his wacky stories and chalk drawings of widget factories. Thanks to Mr. W., algebra still makes happy sense to me and everyone else who drove him crazy.

Someone killed math for a lot of people, which is a crying shame. If your child hates math, though, it might not be their teacher’s fault. It might not even be because of you and your own math badditude. It might just be the way our culture seems to throw up their hands in the face of it. People make jokes about their inability to do math in a way that they would never, ever do about reading. They dismiss the ability to calculate by pointing to the computer and asking, “why bother?”    Continue reading “Learning to Love Math”