Camp Cookies + Sangria: Revisiting The Baby-Sitters Club Movie

For many girls (and boys) of our generation, the Baby-Sitters Club played a huge part in our childhood. Of course there were the beloved books, the TV show, and in 1995 came the feature film. I was particularly fond of said film, and it was one of my absolute favorites. So much so that I practically wore out my VHS tape – that’s right kids, a VHS tape because this was before DVDs existed. In fact I was so fond of the movie that when my friends wanted to borrow my copy, I was paranoid they wouldn’t give it back that I created a fake library card, forcing them to write their name and sign the tape in and out up the return. That story again: I was a huge nerd.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that it takes place over the course of the summer, and the BSC decides to make some extra money by holding a summer day camp for the kids in the backyard of Mary Anne’s house. As a nine year old watching the movie, the BSC summer camp seemed like paradise. As I previously mentioned, I only went to summer camp once, for one week only. If you’re wondering what I did all the other weeks of summer – the answer is… I guess I spent a lot of time at home? Sometimes going to my parents’ office? Oh I did go to a day camp for a few years at the Christian school my friend went too. I forgot I did that. NEWAYZ, the point is that as an only child, the thought of hanging out with other people at a summer camp in a back yard seemed really cool.

I decided to watch the BSC movie for the first time in a number of years (on Netflix Instant! My VHS player is out of order), and looking back on it from an adult’s perspective – this summer camp doesn’t look like a kid’s idea of heaven – it looks like hell. Not only that, but it seems so unrealistic that parents would let their kids go to some ramshackle youth gathering with teen girls in charge. So naturally, I had a few thoughts about this. Here are just a few:

Before we start, here’s a song to get you in the mood/bring you back to 1995:

I’d like to start off by saying it’s weird watching this movie on Netflix because the quality is so clear. I’m used to seeing VHS quality, you know when it just felt like you’re watching a movie from the 90s. Even the 90s clothing kind of looks like they’re in style because it’s so clear. Also, hipsters.

Kristy: “I don’t mean to brag or anything, but we’re famous here in Stoneybrook. Everybody knows us. That’s because everybody uses us.” {maybe you should reevaluate the company you keep, Kristy}

Kristy, the leader of the BSC, pitches this day camp idea and all I can think of is HOW ARE THESE KIDS GOING TO RUN A SUMMER CAMP LEGALLY?? Like do they have to get a permit to run a business in a backyard? Good thing Mary Anne’s dad is a lawyer and has them sign a contract.

Stacey: “Do you guys think I should have told him?”
Everyone: “Who?”
Stacey: “Luca! He doesn’t know I have diabetes.”

The 17 year old you’re crushing on doesn’t know you’re 13, but the diabetes is your first concern? REALLY?!

Poor Marla Sokoloff, always typecast as the bitch. You may remember her for her work as Gia, the smoking girl who befriends Stephanie Judith Tanner in Full House. Here, she is seen wearing an outfit that makes me think she was inspired by Cher Horowitz, and in a diner on a Friday, because these kids are still in middle school.

The girls figure that if they charge $250 per camper and get at least 30 campbers they can make  $7,500! To which Jessi suggest, “We can get a fax machine!”

You know you’re old when you sympathize more with the curmudgeonly old neighbor (played by Ellen Burstyn) than the tweens running a summer camp for kids.

I mean look at the types of children that attend this camp though. Why all the band-aids on his face???

“You can tell somebody when you’re ticked off. I mean we can’t let men get away with everything.” {AHEAD OF ITS TIME}

Ok so mouse pancakes are one of those random things that stuck out to me in the movie even after all these years. It was Kristy’s (deadbeat) dad’s signature dish and he called them mouse pancakes because they were shaped like mice. In my head when I remember this, it was always a vague image… however, this is what they actually look like.

Also, Kristy’s stupid dad pretty much lived in the same bright yellow Volgswagen van Abigail Breslin was in as a toddler in a tiara. Kristy should’ve never trusted him. 

Oh hey Ellen Burstyn threatens to reject their permit and the girls freak out because they don’t have one. I guess I forgot they ran into this problem. PERMITS ARE IMPORTANT PEOPLE.

Dawn: “Did we even have a country back then?”
Mallory: “No, but we had a lot of diphtheria. What? I’m writing a novel about the first nurse in America.” {you WOULD}

Claudia had to go to summer school and she has to pass the final test or else she’s screwed. The girls make a rap for her to help her remember all the information she needs to know in order to pass the test.

Listen. There is no way Claudia could’ve passed based on the rap song her friends performed her ONE time. Also the lyrics don’t provide any useful information. They literally keep saying “the brain the brain the center of the chain”. HOW DOES THIS HELP HER WITH MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTIONS?

Kristy’s mom: “Look at nana’s tomatoes. They’re huge! This year she’s singing them showtunes. They’re a lot bigger than when she was singing them church songs.” {and ironically 100% more gay}

Stacey and Claudia go to New York City with Luca and his friends to a teen club – but the problem is that they need to be 16 – and Luca still doesn’t know she’s 13. At least by this point he knows she’s diabetic. Obviously they can’t get in, but more importantly – remember TEEN CLUBS?? ARE THOSE STILL A THING?

Also, remember when we were so reliant on phones to contact people? I mean Kristy couldn’t get a hold of her father at the hotel he was staying at because he checked out and didn’t have a cell phone. Also he’s a douche because he said he would meet her at the carnival and left her a note instead, and the BSC had to get Luca to drive them to go find Kristy. Again, this all would’ve been much easier with cell phones.

One more thing about Luca – still a creep! What 17 year old guy hangs out with 13 year olds for fun? He also tells Stacey that he’ll be back next summer (he’s from Germany) and she says, “I’ll be 14” and then he kisses her. HELLO THAT’S EVEN WORSE HE’LL BE 18 AND BARELY LEGAL.

that haircut doe

In the end, they barely make a profit from the camp. The greenhouse they renovated to make an office for the club ended up going to curmudgeonly Ellen Burstyn and they’re all friends again. All is right in the world of Stoneybrook. And despite the fact I don’t think a day camp is cool anymore and Ellen Burstyn is probably me in 20 years, this movie is still library card worthy.

Camp Cookies + Sangria: This One Time, At College Camp

Here’s the cold hard truth about getting older – you default to lying only because you can’t remember. “Were you the one telling me about all your horrible birthdays? And how you think they’re ‘cursed’?” “Yeah, that was me… No wait, that’s not true. That’s Penny from Happy Endings. My birthdays are fine.”

For our summer series, we’ve talked about how we never got to go to camp as a kid – and that’s a lie. I’ve been to camp. I went to sleepaway camp for exactly one week when I was maybe 12 years old and that was it. Never went to summer camp again. I think the reason I always forget it happened was because the whole thing didn’t feel real and it was just a tiny blip in my life. Like the day I spelled ‘architect’ wrong in my 6th grade spelling bee was more memorable than my entire week at camp. Let me explain.

I went to a camp called Mindstretchers which was located at Keuka College in the tiny hamlet of Keuka Park, New York, right on the Finger Lakes (there are a bunch of lakes that look like fingers from afar, I realize how weird this sounds if you didn’t grow up in upstate NY). It was approximately an hour away from our hometown of Rochester, so it wasn’t too far that I felt like I was going on some big adventure.

I guess I always wanted to go to camp, because that’s what the cool kids did, like Lindsay Lohan on The Parent Trap, but my parents were never into it until the one year I guess they just got sick of me. But like I mentioned, this camp was at a college. I didn’t actually get that Parent Trap or Salute Your Shorts experience I had envisioned. This was like, kind of smart camp? I mean, imagine you’re like 12 years old and you get to spend a week at a sprawling campus – living in DORM ROOMS!! Shared bathrooms! Living the life, y’all.

college camp

i’m not pictured in this photo, fyi

So here we were, just a group of kids between the ages of 10 to 15 at this camp called Mindstretchers, which BTW, according to one internet poster, is described as a “camp for creative thinking and writing”. They’re not too far off. Also of note – I went to this camp so long ago, that there’s BARELY anything on the internet about it, except some dude who created a FortuneCity homepage in like ’98 and posted pix of “me and my friends at Mindstretchers camp”. Basically, I went to a nerdy camp at a college, and it explains a lot about me as an adult.

Prior to attending the camp, we had to sign up for three “classes” we would take throughout each day. One academic, one artistic, and one athletic. Here’s what I chose:

Psychology Class

legit got this from the keuka college website under the pyschology dept page. is freud all they teach there?

It was my first taste of what a real college class would be like, and I’m pretty sure it was taught by one of the poor professors who basically just needed extra money. I’m sure he wanted to take the summer off like a normal teacher. I remember this is where I first learned about Freud and the Id and anal personalities and whatnot. Something I carry with me to this day.

Acting Class

this is NOT from Mindstretchers, nor do I know these kids, so yeah, it’s a little creepy I’m using their pic

Honestly, acting class was the highlight of my day, even though we had to do those stupid circle acting exercises and icebreakers. But I was into it. Our class took place in the college’s gym, and there may or may not have been one of those multi-colored parachutes involved. I’m starting to regret not going to an all out theater camp…

Soccer

Let’s be real – I am NOT the athletic type. I was forced to pick a sport and I picked the least offensive one, based purely on the fact that one of my best friends at the time was like a superstar soccer player. First day, I was legit the only one not only without shin guards, but without cleats – I HAD PINK AND GREEN ROO SNEAKERS. So embarrassing. To me, it seemed like all the kids were friggin Bend It Like Beckham and I was Posh Spice trying to keep up. The Worst.

We even had all our meals in a dining hall. For some reason, the walk from the dorm to the dining hall always made me feel like I was an adult – an adult in college, and I felt so cool. To clarify – I was not.

Looking back, my experience at summer camp was actually more of  “traditional college” experience than my actual college one. At Mindstretchers, I took a psychology class where I learned about Freud, as opposed to my real college experience, where I wrote an entire final paper about stereotypes found in MTV’s The Real World. But also, the more I think about it, Mindstretchers maybe was just a giant ploy on behalf of the Keuka College Admissions team, attempting to lure impressionable kids with memories of summer camp in order to go to college there for real when the time came. Ugh, adults. This is all to say that it’s not like I didn’t have a good time at the camp, it was just … a thing I did one time that I never did again. That is if I remembered correctly.

Camp Cookies + Sangria: Weird Summer Camps Parents Send Their Kids To

As part of our summer series, we’re taking you beloved readers to internet camp. Both of us were deprived of going to cool camps (like the space camp Nickelodeon sends you to when you win Double Dare), so we’re making up for it as adults. This week, we’re taking a look at the camps that are a little odd. The ones in which parents are so desperate to give their kids to strangers that they’ll pay any amount of dough to get rid of them for a week or two.

High Explosives Camp

Rolla, Missouri

Explosives Camp is held at Missouri University of Science and Technology, where high school students can get a “hands-on experience” with explosives. The students are of course educated on the proper ways to handle and detonate various explosives, but the big hurrah comes at the end of the camp when they basically get to blow alll the shit up. Campers setup and shot a fireworks display, which includes high explosives, blasting agents, rock blasting and demolition. In case you’re wondering, campers must be at least 16 years old, and a background check is done on all applicants to “ensure good moral character and ethical standing”. AKA no crazypants.

Ninja Camp

New York

According to the Ninja Camp USA website, they are an “Intensive Ninja Fantasy Camp allowing Adults & Kids to experience the life and training of the Great Shinobi (Ninja’s) of Japan.” IDEK what that means, but what I’m taking this as is adults giving kids knives to pretend they’re ninjas. Just so we’re clear.

Camp Rivendell (Fantasy Battle Camp)

Calgary, Canada

Words I am typing for informational purposes but in actuality have no idea what they mean: Camp Rivendell is named after the Elven outpost in middle-earth established and ruled by Elrond Half-elven from J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium. Also, it’s a Catholic camp for boys. The purpose, according to the website, is to provide  an “incredibly fun and imaginative setting for boys to learn about virtue and authentic manhood, while also growing in their Catholic faith.” Okay. There’s planned battles, tournaments, jousting, castles, forts, real armor and even an enemy called the “Orc Army”. Basically it’s just one week of LARPing to extremes while practicing the sacraments in their downtime.

Wizards & Warriors Camps

Westford, Massachusetts


Speaking of LARPing, kids can stay in America to participate in this Wizards & Warriors Camp. They’re thrown into “battles” and get to create their own armor, play with (foam) weapons, and make up their own characters. Watching the video above kind of made me sad for the kids who feel like loners at regular school but I’m also glad they found a place where they’re accepted at the camp. But also, this place looks like a shitshow. Everyone is running around willy nilly! How is there any order??

Role-Playing Games at Independent Lake Camp

The Poconos, Pennsylvania

So role-playing games are like really popular these days, huh? Independent Lake Camp is your usual, run of the mill camp, but there are different areas kids can focus on, like theater, sports, or art, but then they also have specialized programs like magic and role-playing. The campers are put into small groups led by a game master and they play Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, Magic: the Gathering, etc. For those super smart geniuses, there’s also a “rocketry” program where campers can make their own flying models. Not sure what that has to do with role playing, but it sounds cool.

Plantation Farm Camp

Cazadero, California

Plantation Camp is not as bad as it sounds. Located in the Sonoma County Redwoods, kids live and ‘work’ on a farm, and are completely unplugged. No iPhones, iPads, iPods, iNothing. The campers care for the animals and gardens on the farm and do a total ‘farm to table’ experience every day. Seems like a good idea in theory, but how many of these kids were forced to go to this place by their parents?

Zombie Camp

Burlington, Massachusetts


Zombie Camp is a place were children can go to learn survival skills and how to live in the outdoors. But also learn how to kill zombies with nerf blasters. Just imagine it’s like living in The Walking Dead but Jr. edition. Also, can we just take a minute to shout out the poor souls (read: broke college kids) who have to dress up as these zombies and run around in a field all day? Props.

Equestrian Teen Tour of Russia

Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia

This Equestrian camp isn’t even that weird – it’s just… so specific. Campers can mix their love of horses with their love of classic Russian culture, you know, like most kids between the ages of 7 and 17. Participants ride their horses in the morning and by afternoon, they’re hitting the city for cultural tours of local museums and historic sites.

Camp Cookies + Sangria: Field Trip to Austin, Texas

Last week, we introduced you to our new summer series, Camp Cookies + Sangria, which will give all those adults who are jonesing for a fix of that magic that is summer camp, whether you went as a kid or not. Today, we’re taking a field trip down south to Austin, Texas, so get your cowboy boots and be prepared for a lot of “y’alls” as we venture out of the camp walls to the “weirdest” city in the Lone Star state.

Over the weekend, I went to Austin to attend the ATX Television Festival – think of it as a way smaller version of Comic Con but specifically for TV nerds, less lines, and more humidity and BBQ. This was my second year attending the fest (which I strongly recommend to all TV fans), but last year I didn’t get to do as much wandering about the city as I wanted to. This year, my friend came with a list of suggestions from locals and let me tell you – the entire weekend, we (modestly) kept saying we were KILLING IT in Texas, because we got so much done in a small amount of time, but everything we did was spot on. Here are some of a few items on our itinerary, for your own field trip to Austin!

To Do

Texas State Capitol

{1100 Congress Avenue}

Even if you’re not into going to visit historical places, the building itself is gorgeous. It’s located in Downtown Austin, and takes over a massive 51 acres. You can go in and look around for free, and there are even tours to learn about the history of the building, and you know, Texas.

Alamo Drafthouse

{320 East 6th Street}

The ATX Fest has screenings at this awesome movie theater which also serves as a bar/restaurant. You can order food and drinks directly to your seat, and not just popcorn. I’m talking like burgs and beer. I’ve never been for a regular movie, but they also have cool events like sing-a-longs and showings of older movies, which sounds awesome.

South Congress Bridge Bats

{100 South Congress Avenue}

Listen, I’m not usually one with nature. But if there’s something that’s super unique to a city, I am into it. The city itself is the spring and summer home to about 750,000 bats – with up to 1.5 million at the peak of the season, making it the largest bat colony in North America. WUT. Well in the summer around sunset, the bats come out from their homes underneath the bridge to search for food (bugs) and they come out like a freaking black tunnel of rabies. When my friend and I went, we kind of stumbled upon it and did not come prepared – as in bring bug spray because those little shits are everywhere. You can stand by the bank of the Colorado River or on the bridge itself to view the bats, or even go to a nearby restaurant or bat cruise. And if you’re lucky (we weren’t) you’ll see something akin to this:

Good lord.

Hope Outdoor Gallery

{1008 Baylor Street}

Austin is known for being the cultural capital of the state, with large music, theater, film and art scenes. The latter of which is awesomely display at the Hope Outdoor Gallery, which is basically an abandoned cement construction site which graffiti artists use as their canvas. It’s legit one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, and we even got to witness one artist at work! Definitely a must-see if you’re into checking out something off the beaten path.

Austin Live Music

{all over Austin!}

With annual events like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits, the city’s music reputation precedes it. You’re not doing Austin right if you don’t check out at least one live music show. One day, I was walking down one of the main streets with all the bars (7th Street), and all you could hear was the cacophony of live bands playing from every direction. It was amazing. You can simply stumble into a bar and take in a show, or find out more into your personal interests. We used this site, AustinLiveMusic.com, to see what was going on, and we found a band called Foot Patrol, a local funk group that played Prince’s entire Purple Rain album in honor of his birthday on Saturday. I mean, come on, where else would you be able to go something like that in a place like this:

To Eat

24 Diner

{600 North Lamar}

Besides being the cultural mecca of Texas, Austin is known for its out-of-this-world food. I highly suggest you take a brief pause on whatever diet you’re on when you visit this city (sidenote: I didn’t get to have BBQ on this trip, but I had it last time at the Salt Lick and … drooolll all the meat. Gimme all the meat). 24 Diner was recommended to us by an Uber driver, and we will forever be in his debt. This place is everything you love about all-American diners except without the negative connotations. The decor is like an “upscale” diner, and the chef is a CIA (Culinary Institute of America, not like, Homeland) trained cook, and has taken all the diner faves and kicked it up 10 notches. The cocktails were insane – I had something called Dad’s Cider – idek what was in it but it was good and there was a lot of alcohol. We also had bomb deviled eggs and for the main course – chicken and waffles. A second Uber driver suggested we try it, and our amazingly awesome waitress Jayme supported the decision. Actually, not only did she support the decision, she showed me how the locals eat it – drizzle Cholula hot sauce and then their super light and non Aunt Jemima-y syrup on top and it is NEXT LEVEL. I’ve only had chickwaff twice before (and from the same establishment) but I can say this was by far the best chickwaff I’ve ever had in my life. I could not recommend this place more!!

Home Slice Pizza

{1415 South Congress Street}

Let’s be real – pizza in Los Angeles is just not the same as pizza on the east coast. Any transplant can tell you that. So imagine my surprise when I go all the way to Austin to find on point pizza. We ordered the Margherita pizza and I wish computers had smell-o-vision because the basil wafting off this? Oooooo chile. It was thin enough that it didn’t feel like you were eating a loaf of bread and the dough itself was to die. Also check out the back patio – there’s a bar, a ping pong table, and those hanging lights that I love that are apparently everywhere in Austin. Oh and they give out Smarties as an “after-dinner mint”.

Magnolia Cafe

{1920 South Congress Avenue}

Down the street from Home Slice, Magnolia is like the diner version of 24 Diner. As in, it’s a real diner. This place was packed and we had to wait to get a table even at like 10pm on aThursday. But it was totally worth the wait, if only for the queso. Guys. Texas does queso right. The queso from Chilli’s is legit garbage next to this. I mean this queso comes with avocado! And it comes in a huge bowl, so get ready for a huge queso brick in your stomach afterwards. Worth it.

The Hideout

{617 Congress Avenue}

I came across The Hideout while I was wandering around for 30 minutes in between panels during the festival, and it was a such a great find on my part (again, very humble). The outside is very inconspicuous, as it’s just wood paneling, glass windows, and just a chalk board luring you in with drinks and breakfast tacos. Now I love a good coffee shop, and this place became my go-to over the weekend. The coffee is fantastic and even their pressed sandwiches are delish. They also serve alcohol, which is awesome but it was too early for me to be drinking anything other than coffee. Apparently it’s also a theater towards the back of the building, so that’s cool. The only weird thing was that they were playing weird music both times I was there – including something that sounded like the Sci-Fi ringtone on iPhones.

To Drink

Garage

{503 W Colorado Street}

STEFON VOICE: THIS PLACE HAS EVERYTHING – A flashing neon light sign signifying where you enter, egg whites in drinks and cars passing by the window since you’re in an actual parking garage. We definitely felt not cool enough to be at this bar, but the kissing couple sitting next to us was high as a kite, so we felt better about ourselves. The cocktails are a little bit on the more expensive side ($8 to $15) but tasty and worth every dollar. I just want to know how the owner came up with putting a bar in a fully functioning parking garage.

Key Bar

{617 West 6th Street}

Going back to our fave 24 Diner and our girl Jayme the waitress, she gave us so many suggestions for bars in the area, and Key Bar was one of them. The sign is a little inconspicuous, it’s basically a picture of an old key, so just look for that. It’s mostly an open air bar, and there are even fire pits, I’m assuming they turn on when it’s a little cooler than the hot days of June. The most unique thing on their menu are the shakers, which is basically a shaker of alcohol, and you’re given a glass with a popsicle of your choice and you pour the alc into the glass, so when the popsicle melts, the drink becomes the flavor flav of the popsicle. The one I procured was the All Good, which comes with a raspberry/mint popsicle and it was really tasty and refreshing. It was also a great place for people watching, and we made a drinking game by taking a sip anytime a Prius drove by (didn’t end up drinking a lot with that game).

Random Suggestions

Food Trailers: In L.A., we have a shit ton of food trucks (as our friend Eva used to work on one), but in Austin, it’s all about food trailers. They’re everywhere downtown, some are mobile, some are not, but they usually set up shop and have seating outside, like this fried chicken place on South Congress. Again with the lights! Obsessed.

Heat: Y’all – the heat in Texas is NO JOKE. Coming from a California resident, I’ve never encountered this kind of heat. Or rather, the humidity. I can sort of handle Vegas at 110 degrees, but Austin at 95 degrees is horrible – you walk 2 blocks and you’re already doused in sweat. So in saying this, plan your days carefully. No one’s judging if you take a little siesta in the middle of the day before you go out at night.

Mecca for Friday Night Lights fans : Last year, we embarked on our own FNL tour of faux Dillon, which was actually all shot in Austin. If you love Coach, Mrs. Coach, Riggins, and/or have a penchant for blocking season two out of your brain, here’s my guide to visiting the home of the Panthers. Lions.

TV Nerds Unite: Okay, one last plug for the ATX TV Festival – if you have a hard time keeping track of all your shows, ship at least one fictional couple or like hearing behind the scenes stories from cast and crew members of your favorite shows, this fest is for you. Over the course of a weekend, celebs gather in Austin to talk about their shows and meet fans. There are past shows (Hey Dude reunion), current shows (Orange is the New Black) and upcoming shows (that scary ass show The Strain) featured, and there are also panels with some of TV’s most influential people talking about their craft in a non-douchey way.

Alright, campers, hope this is a handy guide on your own field trip to Austin. Enjoy, y’all!