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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Review: Great Medieval Projects You Can Do Yourself plus Coming Up: Northern California Renaissance Faire

I’ve never been to the Renaissance Faire, but castles, knights and all things medieval are a part of our daily life. Along with pirates, Hot Wheels, My Littlest Pet Shop and Webkinz.

So I’ll start first with a review of Great Medieval Projects You Can Build Yourself, written by the incredibly creative and talented Kris Bordessa (a Northern California resident). When I first hear the title, I thought “hmmm…we’re going to learn how to build a guillotine and pour boiling oil on the mailman from the top floor of our house?” Uh, no.

Instead, we learned about medieval beliefs, life in monasteries, the makings of a medieval feast and lots on warfare (a favorite topic among 5 year old boys). We also learned interesting facts like:

--The word medieval comes from the Latin words for middle age. Hey – I’m medieval!

--Many peasants in the army didn’t have conventional weapons. As farmers, they used farm tools like hayforks, axes and sickles as weapons.
--Stirrups were first used in Europe around the 8th century. No not for gynecological exams, but to keep riders on their horses.
--After medieval patients peed in a cup for testing, there weren’t lab technicians to run the results. Instead, doctors tested it by tasting it! Yum!
--And it was good to relearn the story of King Arthur. In my sophomore college dorm, I shared the floor with Arthur and Lancelot (roommates), with Gwennyth across the hall. I kid you not! (only Lancelot went by the nickname “Lance.”).
This Nomad press book is aimed at kids 9-12, much older than my kids. But that just means we read 2 pages at a time, instead of reading it cover to cover. Some fun projects in the book:

--Make your own insect repellant (using essential oils)
--Make your own butter (by shaking a jar of whipping cream)
--Make your own marshmallow cannon (using PVC pipes)
--Make your own shield (using cardboard and “cadency” marks like the fleur-de-lis)
Maybe it will inspire you to attend the Northern California Renaissance Faire, ending October 12. Enjoy entertainment including swordplay, theater, jesters, royalty (unfortunately not hunky Princes William and Harry), a marketplace and a costume rental shop so you can go in character. And don’t forget to buy a turkey leg for lunch!

What: Northern California Renaissance Faire
When: this weekend, October 11-12 – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Casa de Fruta
Cost: $25 for adults, $10 for kids ages 5-12

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