Berry of Mis-STRAW-ry

Hey, Berry Pickers!

Harvesting your own berries one pluck at a time is a wonderful feeling that reminds us of just where exactly it is that our food came! And today, we celebrate specifically strawberries as it’s National Pick Strawberries Day. It was some years back when I first posted about this day, here on the Blog—we learned that strawberries aren’t actually berries, but closely related to the elegant Rose, as well as the fact that the so-called “seeds” on the outside are in actuality, tiny fruits.

I could tell you more facts that we know about strawberries like how each one has a rough Strawberry Picking is a fantastic way to pass the time today!count of 200 so-called seeds on the outside. Or that the average American eats three and a half pounds of strawberries every year. Or that strawberries are excellent sources of vitamins such as C, B6, and K. However, instead of continuing to deliver these strawberry stats, I’d like to discuss what we don’t know about them…

One thing we don’t know is why we call strawberries ‘strawberries’.

Yes, the name of this (technical aggregate accessory) fruit, is actually totally unknown to us in the modern day, now long-forgotten why we ever called this thing which is not a berry nor is it related to straw a ‘strawberry’. While many believe the reason to be that the strawberry plant is grown in straw, these plants have had their name for well-over a thousand years—long before they were included in farming or gardening as they were named by folks who happened upon these wild patches!

Nobody knows for sure, but we have theories:

Strung on Straw
Some say the woodland pickers strung them on straw pieces for convenient transportation to market.

Stuck with Straw
Others maintain that the fruit appears as though it’s had bits of straw embedded into the surface.

Straw…n About
Some even think ‘straw’ refers to the Old English meaning to strew. Since the plant runners stray in chaotic fashion, some say they look STREWN about the ground.

I don’t know…. All these theories seem pretty weak to me. But they’re kind of the best we’ve got. And whether it makes any sense or not, I like the sound of the name ‘strawberry’ and I like the taste of them too! Cheers to everyone today with this so-called berry and, as always, thanks for reading, Camp Fans!

- John

Hip to the Chip

Hey, Chocoholics!

We’re all fans of chocolate and whatever genius thought to make tiny chips out of this blessing from nature! Invented for the sheer purpose of chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chips were created the same day as the cookie in 1937. The baker Ruth Graves Wakefield of the Toll House Inn in the town of Whitman, Massachusetts cut up chunks of a semi-sweet chocolate bar and added the chunks to a cookie recipe.Chips of chocolate are a stroke of genius!

And with that, a classic was born.

Chocolate is certainly a gift from Mother Nature to mankind with many health benefits and interesting things about it. For instance—a typical cacao bean contains less than 1/20th of the caffeine found in a coffee bean. Here are some other points about this amazing vegetable—that’s right—vegetable:

The Dark Side of Chocolate
Like many things (including water) too much of something can be bad—even deadly. Chocolate is no different. If you were to eat 6 kilograms (≈ a gallon of solid dark chocolate), you’d likely keel over from heart failure and kidney damage. Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing! It’s a good lesson.

Chocolate—the Medicinal Drink
As I’ve covered in a previous Blog post, chocolate was initially consumed as a beverage like hot chocolate. Only it wasn’t the sweet, sugary hot chocolate we know today with marshmallows floating in the mug. Ancient Mayans drank a bitter drink of a creamy milk with cocoa melted inside and it was eventually advertised as a cure-all drink in the 15th Century.

Chocolate chips are delici—wait a minute! I wasn’t talking about THOSE kinds of chips! It was five years ago when the Lay’s company thought to combine chocolate with potato chips and, lo and behold…it sells. My niece enjoys this daring dessert snack. I don’t so much.

Chocolate is an interesting part of our world. It has health benefits, it has caffeine, it goes well with salty snacks…apparently. Anyway, no matter how I feel about certain sweet and salty snacks, enjoy some chocolate in whatever way you prefer today—but it’d be best if you had some good ol’ fashioned chocolate chip cookies! And, as always, thanks for reading!

- John

Bring Peace to Mothers’ Day!

Happy Mothers’ Day, Summer Campers!

Today is a day intended to celebrate Mothers all across the world. We honor them this day for their selflessness and unconditional love that they show us. On Mothers’ Days past, I’ve posted on this Blog about the history of this day and I’ve given ideas of what to do to celebrate your love for your mother.
Bring a sense of peace and love to Mothers' Day thsi year!Today, I’m going to give you a few pointers on what NOT to do:

Fight with Your Siblings
Dealing with bickering siblings is probably your mom’s least favorite thing to hear and (unless you have the healthiest relationship in the world with your siblings) chances are you guys bicker often enough. Give it a rest for the day and give your mom some peace!

Track Mud through the House
This point is more-or-less symbolic; while you literally shouldn’t track mud throughout your house, what I’m really getting at is to clean up after yourself. Keeping a clean household is on everybody, so make sure you do your part—especially today!

Show More Attention to your Dad
Of course, Dad’s great! And you certainly don’t have to treat him like chopped liver or anything like that, but this day is about Mom; make sure she knows it! Besides—Dad will get his own day in June.

Insult Your Mother’s Cooking
It’s impolite on any day to knit-pick at the culinary abilities of your mother, but today especially, you ought to keep your comments on her cooking positive and complimentary and—wait a minute! Just what are you doing making your mom cook on Mothers’ Day?! Roll up your sleeves in the kitchen and (get help if you need) to make a nice meal for your mother instead of the other way around!

Give your mother the gift of not giving her a job for the day! She’ll appreciate the break from the typical family maintenance that she deals with on a daily basis. Wish her a happy Mothers’ Day and give her something nice. You can develop some easy ideas for her on this Blog post from the past—check it out by clicking here and, as always, thanks for reading!

- John

Yay! It’s Mushroom Day!

Happy Mushroom Day to One and All!

Today, we here at Everything Summer Camp, tip our caps to this incredibly interesting form of life on this planet. These fascinating beings grow wild in a wide array of locales. But despite their accessibility, it’s important never to consume wild mushrooms as you can never be sure what type is which. Some look uncannily similar to others, yet some are medicinal while others are fatally poisonous.

Mushrooms may not look like much at first sight, but take a look at just several different points about these intriguing organisms and I guarantee you’ll agree—mushrooms are downright miraculous!A fantastic source of lots of different healthy ingredients, get some mushrooms in your diet today!

A Mysterious Life Form
Neither plant nor animal, mushrooms are actually classified as fungi. And nobody knows how many there are in the world! While you’ll only find several different sorts in your typical grocery store, there are 10,000 known species in North America alone. And it stands that we’re only aware of less than half the amount of different species that are actually out there.

Many Purposes
Mushrooms—is there anything they can’t do?! These fungi can be used as a dye, packing material, water filter, medicine, oil spill-cleaning agent, nuclear meltdown equalizer, and other applications that we’re not even entirely aware of yet. For a better understanding of how mushrooms can be medicinal for us, check out, the website of the world’s leading mycologist, Paul Stamets, (mushroom expert) where you can buy mushroom supplements for your health.

Unlike Other Foods!
You’ll find that many mushrooms have a meaty sort of texture, but few taste so much like fried chicken as the “chicken of the woods” mushroom. This bright orange fungus has the right texture and all! And, though I’ve never had the pleasure of trying the Lion’s Mane Mushroom, I’ve heard it said that it tastes like crab meat! The meaty texture of mushrooms is owed to their thick cell walls which is why it’s important to break those cell walls down through the cooking process. Raw mushrooms—even some slices in your salad—are tough on the digestive system, but nutritional when cooked appropriately.

Closer to People than Plants
One of the most surprising facts there is about mushrooms has only just recently been discovered: what people will so often refer to as a vegetable in the kitchen, mushrooms actually have closer relation to human beings than they do plants. Fungi were once recognized as a unique part of the animal kingdom, but eventually came to be seen as a kingdom all on their own. But the fact remains that fungi couldn’t be less like plants and typically has a lot more in common with people and other animals.

Mushrooms are pretty much my favorite food because, let’s face it, the edible ones are all pretty delicious. But not only that, they’re good for you, and they could help us replenish the damage we’ve done to the planet! Mushrooms to the rescue! Share the word about how cool mushrooms are and Happy Mushroom Day to you! And, as always, thanks for reading.

- John

Hans Christian Who?

Hey, Fairy Tale Fans!

It’s International Children’s Book Day and, in celebration, we’re diving in to find out what this day is all about! Sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People, this day is intended to fall on or near the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen who came from poverty to be recognized during his lifetime.

Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish author who produced a great variety of plays, poems, novels, travelogues, and most memorably—his fairy tales. You can learn more about fairy tales from a recent Blog post I wrote for National Tell a Fairy Tale Day by clicking here.

You may not know of Hans Christian Andersen by his name, but you certainly knTurns out he was actually a swan the whole time.ow the names of his tales! They’ve been celebrated in retellings in all different ways. There’s ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, ‘Thumbelina’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘The Ugly Duckling’, and many more where those came from! I’m guessing that you’ve heard of some of these…

Here are some interesting facts about Mr. Andersen:

Recognized Within His Lifetime
The author was in his 30’s by the time he published the bulk of his works, however, they were not well received by parents or children for another decade afterward. Just ten years later, he was acclaimed for delighting children the world over and was awarded many honors from royalty.

Born Dyslexic
Hans Christian Andersen learned to read despite the adversity of dyslexia. He never was able to spell properly which showed in his handwritten stories. A writing style that stayed true to the spoken language resulted from his shortcomings as a writer. His publishers fixed the spelling errors, sure to leave the conversational style intact.

Rocky Start
Andersen’s father read bedtime stories to Hans from ‘Arabian Nights’, introducing his son to a type of story that really resonated. But when Hans tried writing his own stories, he found he didn’t like them and thought he wouldn’t continue. But over time, he came to see fairy tales as a sort of “universal poetry” as he put it. His tales have since inspired ballets, plays, motion pictures, and animated films.

Darker Than Disney
Unlike many popularized versions of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, his unabridged versions typically come to darker and rather tragic endings. I won’t get into any of the melancholy endings here—we’ll just pretend that Ariel and Prince Eric live happily ever after in Hans’ telling as well!

So celebrate his birthday in fashion this year and enjoy your favorite version of your favorite fairy tale from Mr. Andersen—or read the words of the man himself in his unabridged stories. Enjoy the magical world Hans penned from his own imagination and check out a couple kids books available on our website. As always, thanks for reading, Camp Fans!

- John

This One’s for the Puppies!

Bark-Bark, Camp Folks!

We celebrate the things we appreciate and today we celebrate National Puppy Day! If you’re like me, then you already appreciate puppies quite a bit. You might need to raise your level of puppy appreciation. I like to do this by highlighting the ways puppies are different from people like you and me. Here are four different ways that you, as a person, are different from our four-pawed friends.

Physiological Development
Aside from an endless list of other things, canine length of pregnancy lasts just two months—less than a third of human gestation. And in less than three months of being born, most have gotten the hang of walking and they’re beginning to work on the finer points of their motor skills such as tail-wagging and eye coordination. It takes people three times as long before we’re even able to sit without being supported or begin crawling around.Try to learn a lesson from your best friend and enjoy life as though you were a puppy!

Sleep Receptors
Ever notice how dogs might start twitching or otherwise ‘acting funny’ in their sleep? It’s because of certain receptors in their brains not turning off as effectively as they do in a human brain during sleep states. However, some human brains have what we call a sleep disorder in which the receptors are turned off even less effectively than they are in dogs. This is what we know as sleepwalking.

Scent Receptors
Did you know that puppies are deaf and blind until two weeks after birth? It’s okay, though. They’re able to perceive and navigate this world just by their noses. The olfactory or scent-center of a dog’s brain is 40 times the size of your own. Canine noses can literally perceive the world 100 million times better than yours. They simply have that many more scent receptors than human noses. Dogs continue to rely most heavily on their sense of smell even after their eyes and ears fully develop so much that deafness and blindness impairs a dog much less than it does a person.

Speaking of the canine nose, the actual and physical outside of a dog’s nose is the equivalent of a human fingerprint in that each puppy nose bears a pattern of ridges and creases that are unique to that puppy! Like a snowflake, no two puppy noses are identical.

It would seem that Nature could have done us a few more favors, but at least we can boast a frontal lobe unrivaled in size by any other creature. Anyway, I hope you found these differences as interesting as I did, but for now, I’m done barking facts at you. Happy National Puppy Day! Go cuddle a puppy if you’re friends with one and, as always, thanks for reading!

- John

Ain’t No Spring Fling

Hey, Fans of Springtime!

It’s great to come alive again after enjoying a rather hibernative state here in northwestern Wisconsin where landscapes turn a pretty white and the temperatures drastically drop in the wintertime. We Wisconsinites tend to fare well throughout a season of such scarcity, but it’s always nice to see it come to an end as we enjoy the unfolding spring and a step closer to summer camp season. And today we celebrate the arrival of the Spring season!

Today is the Vernal (or Spring) Equinox.

Right now you may be saying to yourself: Equi-what? However, if you’re an avid reader of this Blog, you may already have an idea of what this is since I posted about thSmile as nature comes back to life for 2018!e Autumnal Equinox roughly six months ago. These things occur twice a year, y’know! Like the more popularly known Summer and Winter Solstices, equinoxes mark the beginnings of the spring and fall seasons.

The word ‘equinox’ is Latin in origin: ‘aequus’, which means ‘equal’ and ‘nox’, which means ‘night’. While the solstices mark the longest and shortest days of the year, the Autumnal and Vernal Equinoxes hang in a fragile balance to mark equal day and night at 12 hours apiece all across the entire planet!

Of course, the folks who live in the Southern Hemisphere are all celebrating the Autumnal Equinox as we ring in the Spring. This is because the earth’s axis as it rotates tilts toward and away from the sun. As we tilt toward it here in Northwestern Wisconsin, folks in Southern Brazil start tilting a similar degree away.

As we continue to shake off the frost from the winter, enjoy your time outside, soak up that sunshine, and play until you’re happy! Stay equipped for the rainy days on the April horizon by clicking here and, as always, thanks for reading!

- John

Wishing Upon a Star Since 4000BC!

Once Upon a Blog Post….

That’s not how I typically begin my posts for the Everything Summer Camp Blog, however, it’s the traditional beginning for those fantastical stories we dub Fairy Tales. Familiar from our childhood, the majority of Americans today likely got their introduction to Fairy Tales through the magic of painstaking animation of Disney’s first feature films (such as ‘Snow White’ which debuted in the theaters of 1937).

Snow White, however—based on an old German Fairy Tale called ‘Schneewittchen’—dates back much longer than 1937. Most Fairy Tales we know of nowadays can be traced back to stories from the Brothers Grimm. In the early 1800s, these two brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, thought to write the stories down.

But they didn’t invent the stories either. The Grimm brothers were simply the first to try to preserve these oral tales that they had heard for all their lives. So if Jacob and Wilhelm didn’t come up with these stories, then who did?Hey there, Little Red Riding Hood.

The truth is that nobody really knows. Fairy Tales were passed down from generation to generation by mouth, subtly altered from storyteller to storyteller and substantially reworked by the time they were recorded in the written form.

Jacob and Wilhelm supposed that the Fairy Tales they were popularizing (such as ‘Red Riding Hood’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, and ‘Snow White’ to name a few), had their origins in a shared cultural history that dated back to the dawn of Indo-European languages which appear to have origins as early as the 1st Century.

The Grimms suggested that other Fairy Tales that dealt with magic (such as ‘Beauty and the Beast’ or ‘Rumpelstiltskin’) are just as ancient with a written history that begins in the 17th Century and an oral history that has lasted millennia—between 2,500 and 6,000 years old! Stories that have existed for so long rival the lifespan of the wheel!

So the next time you enjoy an old Disney film or you’re read a Fairy Tale story before bed, remember that the story you’re taking in was first told during the Bronze Age. Storytelling makes us human. Respect it for the many yarns storytelling has spun, the many worlds it has created, and the ones that we hold dear in our hearts and have withstood the test of time. Treasure the stories you love and, as always, thanks for reading.

- John

Have a Ball for National Tennis Day!

Hey, Tennis Fanatics!

If you love nothing more than swatting your racket through the air to send a fuzzy, little, lime-green  ball speeding to a focused target with intentions to score on your opponent, then you’ll find today’s Blog post right up your alley! In celebration of National Tennis Day, we’re talking about this popular sport played on the court!

Tennis has come a long way. Prestigious tennis organizations such as the US Open July 26, 2011 Photographs from Western Racquet Club in Elm Grove where they are unveiling tennis courts with smaller dimensions that are made for kids 10 and under.  United States Tennis Association is making changes that also include the sizes of racquets and balls.  Here Jodi Keller of Wauwatosa (center) plays tennis  on one of the reduced size courts with sons Charlie Keller, age 5 (red shirt at left) and Jack Keller age 9 (right in yellow). (which boasts 137 years of operation since it was first founded in 1881), have brought tennis competitions to the world over for years upon years. But the sport of Tennis certainly goes back much longer than any of these organizations do.

First mentioned in Middle Ages literature, tennis is the sport that Sir Gawain—the knight from King Arthur’s round table—plays against a group of giants in ‘The Turke and Gawain’. Here’s a couplet taken from the Old English poem written by Bishop Thomas Percy:

The King said, “Gawaine, faire mot then fall!
Goe feitch me forth my tennisse ball”

You’ll notice the king says to fetch his tennis ball, but makes no mention of a racquet. Mr. Percy probably just couldn’t find a rhyme, right?

Well, actually, tennis has evolved over the course of hundreds of years from its initial invention in which players used their bare hands to hit the ball. It wasn’t until some time between the 1200s and the 1400s that the predecessor to the racquet came onto the courts; it was a glove. And, by the 16th Century, the glove had been replaced with the wire racquet closely resembling what we know today.

If you’re an aficionado of this court sport, check out the modern equipment you can pick up at the Everything Summer Camp website by clicking right here and, as always, thanks for reading.

- John

Chopstick Etiquette

Hey, Silverware Users!

Along with the majority of the world, you’ve likely grown accustomed to the handheld utensils we have for eating like the always-handy fork, the aiding knife, and the ever-helpful spoon. But today, I’m talking about the alternative to silverware—a much older method oDo you know how to use chopsticks?f handling food without one’s hands. I’m talking about chopsticks, of course, as it only seems appropriate on National Chopsticks Day!

A much older means of eating utensils, chopsticks have cutlery beat by many a millennium. It’s hard to say just how long since chopsticks have their roots in all the way back in ancient times. We can say with absolute certainty that they’ve been around for about the last 3500 years. But chances are they go back much further than that.

Using chopsticks as opposed to traditional silverware is quite a foreign experience if you’ve never done it before. But even for those of you who are rather handy with a pair of chopsticks, I’ve put together a short list of chopstick etiquette with which you may not be familiar.

Left or Right?
We all know (or were taught anyway) that your dinner fork is set on the left of your plate, but where do you put your chopsticks? Turns out they go in the same spot as the fork (though, below the plate is also acceptable in Chinese table setting).

Don’t Knock It
If you want to show your level of class, you’ll definitely resist your urges to knock on bowls or other dishes with your chopsticks. This act is associated in China as beggar behavior.

No Digging 
It’s considered impolite to “dig” for a preferred ingredient. This notion comes from the regular practice of taking food from a common dish—the idea being that the people with whom you are dining will be made to feel like they’re eating the food you rejected.

Straight Up
It’s not a good idea to stick your chopsticks so they stand up in a bowl of rice. It’s considered offensive since it is a traditional Chinese practice to stick burning incense in rice when honoring their dead.

Don’t Cross Me!
Much the same here in the States that the √ symbol signifies approval while an × means denial, this notion lands on the Chinese dinner table; laying your chopsticks down so they are crossing one another could be taken as an offense to your dining company so it’s best to avoid it.

So, now that you have some guidance on the etiquette, try putting down the fork and your other eating utensils today and pick up a pair of timeless chopsticks! You may find you prefer them to the silverware you’ve always known. Happy Chopsticks Day and, as always, thanks for reading, everybody!

- John