Saturday, June 30, 2012

"One generation plants the trees, another gets the shade." --Chinese Proverb

When researching different meeting ideas for our Daisy troop, I found the cutest craft idea online.  I thought it would be perfect for the girls to do during one of our fall meetings.  I designed a lesson around the craft to help the girls in our troop earn the rose petal for their Daisy Petals set.  The rose petal stands for making the world a better place.

Prior to the meeting, I collected all the supplies necessary to complete our craft.  We provided black construction paper for the background, brown construction paper for the tree trunk, pencils, scissors, glue and glue sticks, and 1.5"x 1.5" tissue paper squares in orange, yellow, and red.  These squares were cut in advance.  I used the Creative Memories Square Maker to accomplish this task.  I was able to cut multiple pieces of tissue paper at once, so it took minutes to finish.

We began our meeting by reciting the Girl Scout Promise and the Pledge of Allegiance.  Since it was close to Halloween, we asked the girls about their favorite Halloween candy.  After they had each shared with the group, I explained that this meeting's activities were going to help them earn the rose petal.  We asked the girls what trees provide for us.  Some of their answers were as follows:  sap, syrup, shade, leaves, fruit, flowers, paper, and wood.  We discussed the importance of planting new trees and protecting the ones growing around us.  We talked about how Daisy Girl Scouts can make the world a better place with regards to trees.  They suggested planting trees with the troop or their families, raking leaves for neighbors, and recycling paper products at home and school.  By this point, they were ready for the craft.

 The girls traced their handprint on the brown construction paper and then cut along the lines.  At this time, they had been in Kindergarten for about a month.  Naturally, some of the girls needed a little assistance with the scissors.  They used the glue stick to adhere the tree trunk to the black construction paper.  The troop leaders applied dots of glue where the girls desired to place their leaves.  (Remember they were pretty young.  We were trying to avoid a tremendous mess!)  They wrapped the individual tissue paper squares around the eraser end of a pencil and stuck them onto the dots of glue.  They used white crayons to write their name on the paper.  Many of them chose to decorate their tree with spiders, birds, and nests.  This craft could be done in the springtime, using green, pink, and white tissue paper squares.

Thank you for reading!

SOLES4SOULS: "Changing the world one pair at a time"

           In December 2004, Wayne Elsey, executive of a shoe company at the time, was watching news coverage of the tsunami in Southeast Asia.  Five million people lost EVERYTHING to this natural disaster.  On his television, he saw a picture of a single shoe on the beach.  This image bothered him, and he decided to do something about it.  He contacted his connections in the shoe industry.  Over a period of 8 weeks, he collected 250,000 pairs of shoes to be sent to Southeast Asia.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the US.  Wayne decided to try again to help all the people whose lives were turned upside down by the disaster.  Over a period of 8 weeks, he collected 1 million pairs of shoes! 

He approached his friends with the idea to start this charity.  In the past six years, they have distributed 13 million pairs of shoes.  Every 7 seconds, they put a pair of shoes on someone’s feet in over 125 countries.

Sadly, there are still 300 million kids in this world who do not have a pair of shoes.  Even worse, Americans throw away 300 million pairs of shoes every year that sit and rot in our landfills.  Soles4Souls not only provides shoes for those in need, but they are helping to save our planet by reducing shoes tossed in our landfills.

When shoes are donated, they are graded:
            New shoes or those in excellent condition are immediately distributed in the US or abroad.

            Lower grade shoes are packed for distribution…some go to developing countries like Haiti, Tanzania, and Honduras.  People there clean and recondition the shoes to sell locally.  This creates jobs for those who need them as well as affordable shoes for those who would otherwise not have them.

            Shoes in poor condition are sent to recyclers in Pakistan who salvage usable materials from the shoes. 

For more information and to watch a moving video, please check out the Soles4Soles website.

Our troop collected 138 pairs of shoes to donate to Soles4Souls!  Currently Soles4Souls is trying to meet the needs of the victims of the Colorado wildfire.  It only takes a couple minutes to go through a closet…  Thanks for reading!

S'more, anyone?

A s'more is a Girl Scout tradition.
While the origin of the dessert is unclear, the first recorded version of the recipe can be found in the publication "Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts" of 1927.
It is difficult to resist the delectable combination of crunchy graham cracker, silky dark chocolate, and gooey marshmallow.  Our family loves to add peanut butter to this tasty treat...Crazy good!

In late May, our Daisy Troop bridged to Brownies.  We invited families to attend the Bridging Ceremony followed by a picnic dinner.  We have a relatively small troop, but we have incredibly supportive and very involved families.  We were expecting a sizable turnout.  I wanted to make a dessert to share with our guests.  As I was bumping around Pinterest for some ideas,  I could not believe how many different desserts have been inspired by the s'more.  I decided to make mini s'more cupcakes for many different reasons.  For one, they are so cuteI couldn't imagine a more appropriate treat for this special occasion.

I lined my mini muffin tray with blue liners with white polka dots.  The liners went well with our royal blue Daisy aprons.  I chose a dark chocolate cake mix and my daughters helped me prepare the batter according to the directions on the package.  We baked the mini cupcakes for about 9 or 10 minutes.  We knew they were finished baking when we inserted a toothpick into one, and it came out clean.  

I wanted to dip the cupcakes into ganache and then graham cracker crumbs before topping them with marshmallow.  I used the following ganache recipe:
4oz of bittersweet chocolate (this time I substituted with 1/2c dark chocolate chips)
1/2 cup of heavy cream
Place chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside.  Heat the cream in a small saucepan on the stove.  Watch the cream closely because it may burn.  Once it just comes to a boil, pour the cream over the chocolate.  Whisk until smooth.  Super simple.  Simply scrumptious! 

I let the ganache sit for a couple of minutes before allowing my daughters to dip the cupcakes into the chocolate sauce.  They immediately coated them with graham cracker crumbs and placed them on a cookie sheet.  I was so excited to top the cupcakes with marshmallow.  I envisioned a beautiful creation much like we see on Cupcake Wars each week.  I scooped marshmallow fluff into a sandwich-sized zippie bag.  I snipped the corner with the hopes of neatly piping a dollop on top of each cupcake.  I said neatly...

After making a terrible mess of my kitchen island, I bailed on the marshmallow fluff and vowed never to buy another tub.  Ever.  I spent the next 15 minutes muttering a few choice words under my breath as I washed my hands and cleaned up the sticky mess.  Thankfully I remembered there was a bag of large marshmallows in the pantry.  I cut each marshmallow in half (horizontally) and placed one on the top of each cupcake.  I placed the cookie sheet under the broiler for 1 minute until the marshmallows were the golden brown I desired.  I packed a healthy batch into my cupcake carrier, and we were off to the park for the ceremony. 

These mini s'more cupcakes were a hit.  They packed a big taste in a small bite with relatively little mess.  National S'more Day is August 10th.  Add this s'more-inspired cupcake to your celebration.  Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Honest and Fair

As I was preparing for our Memorial Day Weekend festivities, I found myself reflecting on the times I spent with loved ones who are no longer with us.  One of the most influential people in my life was my grandma Nancy Alta Steele Stroup Barker.  My grandma was born in 1906, and she died in 2008, just 6 weeks before her 102nd birthday.   Her passing was a significant spiritual experience for me.  I was honored to have the opportunity to deliver the eulogy at her funeral.  

My grandma lived her days as a faithful child of God.  She was selfless.  In every conversation, she never focused on herself.  Even in our last phone discussion when I could hear the strain and fatigue in her voice, she was asking about my husband and our girls.  God certainly had plans for her.  She spread His love.  Her faith was strengthened at a young age as a result of a gruesome experience she survived in 1924.  She had an appendectomy, at the age of 18, in her father's home in rural West Virginia.  Miners from the community volunteered to stand next to her bed while the doctor performed the surgery.  He worked under the glow cast by the lights mounted on top of the miners' helmets.  These men worked in shifts.  They rotated positions, taking turns going outside to relieve the nausea caused by the strong smell of formaldehyde.  She was so proud to tell this story because the ordeal not only almost ended her life, but it came close to preventing her from graduating from high school.  Her commitment and dedication to her education prevailed, and she was most proud of this achievement.  I have in my possession her high school graduation dress she kept for almost 85 years. 

I have so much more to write about my grandma's amazing life, but I will save those stories for another day.  I do feel it is important for me to mention that my grandma was a “Bingo Champion.”  She never played Bingo until she was in her late 90s because she viewed it as gambling.  She had moved into a nursing home, and the Recreation Director convinced her to give the game a try, promising there was no gambling involved.  My grandma enjoyed socializing with the other residents, but more importantly she realized she could win prizes…prizes she could pass on as gifts to her many visitors.

Our daughters love to play Bingo.  Thankfully they had one opportunity to play with my grandma.  I know they were too young and will never remember the experience, but I will treasure that memory forever.  When my first grader plays Bingo, she get so excited when she is about to win, she shakes.  When we play games with our daughters, we make sure they play by the rules.  The most important rule is to have fun.  They must also be honest and fair.

Our Daisy troop earned the light blue petal, showing they are honest and fair, by devoting an entire meeting to playing board games.  Prior to their arrival at the meeting, I had selected a few games for the girls to choose to play:  Sorry, Yahtzee Jr, Trouble, Sequence for Kids, Disney Apples To Apples, and Herd Your Horses.  The girls were asked to vote on the two games they wanted to play.  They played the three games that received the most votes.  They chose Disney Apples to Apples, Sorry, and Herd Your Horses.  We reviewed the rules of each game before splitting the troop into groups of three.  They rotated from table to table, having the opportunity to play each game for about 10-15 minutes.  The girls enjoyed playing games that were familiar to them as much as they enjoyed playing new games.  It was really nice to relax and have a "fun" meeting.

 Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 4, 2012

To the Next Step... Bridging to Brownies

Well, as Sharpay sings in High School Musical, "we've arrived because we stuck together."  For the past two years, our sweet group of girls has been working together to earn their Daisy petals.  They completed the two required bridging steps earlier this spring by hosting an Ice Cream Social.  The first step is to "Pass it On."  The girls in our troop shared their experiences as Daisy Girl Scouts with younger girls who may one day wish to be a Daisy.  The second step is to "Look Ahead."  The girls in our troop arranged time to spend with Brownies who described to us what it is like to participate in Girl Scouts at the next level.   

Our troop participated in a Bridging to Brownies badge workshop offered at a local park.  For a nominal fee, a Park Naturalist guided the girls through this program.  They completed about two-thirds of the requirements for the Outdoor Adventurer badge which was previously offered as a Brownie Try-It.  The girls discussed how to dress for the weather.  They planned what to take on a day hike, and they prepared a trail mix.  During a hike through the woods, they participated in a Touch, Smell, Listen exercise.  We scheduled an informal bridging ceremony immediately following the badge program. 

We gathered around a 15-foot bridge that crossed a beautiful creek that cut through the middle of the park.  I welcomed everyone and thanked them for joining us for this special occasion.  I had fully intended to begin the bridging ceremony by reciting the Girl Scout Promise and the Pledge of Allegiance. I wanted to share a brief version of the Brownie story before introducing each girl and allowing her to repeat the rhyme (see below):

     In England, many people tell stories about little people called Brownies.  They look a little bit like elves.  The old folktales say that Brownies would sneak into houses at night to do chores for people while they were asleep.  To find a Brownie, you had to hike into the woods and ask the Wise Old Owl.
The owl would tell you to walk to a nearby pond, turn around three times and say,
“Twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and there saw…” When you looked into the water, you would see your own reflection.  You could then finish the rhyme:  “Twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and there saw MYSELF.” 
This story is a fun way to show you that you don’t have to wait for someone else to
make things better.  You are Girl Scouts who are working to make the world a better place.

Unfortunately the mosquitoes were eating us alive.  I was trying to hurry, and to be quite honest, I forgot my initial plan.  We did announce each girl individually, and they walked across the bridge.  As each girl bridged, she received a gift bag that included her Brownie membership pin, the Bridge to Brownie Girl Scouts Award (the rainbow patch), a membership star for the year with the blue Daisy disc.  They also received a gold Anniversary Membership Disc which represents being a Girl Scout during the 100th Anniversary.  I included a small slip of paper in each bag that explained the meanings of the recognitions.  The gift bags were purchased from Dollar Tree (3 for $1).  The Daisy Girl Scout stickers were purchased from Michael's, using a 40% off coupon.  The Daisy stickers were also purchased from Michael's with a coupon.  I happened to have the sheer blue ribbon and the royal blue tissue paper in my stash of craft and gift wrapping supplies. 

I was SUPER excited to present each girl with a handmade plaque to commemorate their year(s) as Daisy Girl Scouts.  I was inspired by this pin on Pinterest.  I purchased the unfinished wooden plaques at Michael's for $0.99 each.  I used a 40% off coupon to buy the 8oz bottle of Cobalt Blue Apple Barrel paint that is originally priced around $4.  I also used a coupon to purchase the white paint pen that costs $4.  I found the multi-colored Daisy ribbon at JoAnn Fabric.  Of course, I used a coupon for this purchase as well, saving $1.75.  I had a bottle of Mod Podge (8oz--gloss) on hand.  A bottle will cost between $3 and $4.  Taking into account the cost of all supplies required to make this plaque, I spent less around $2 to make each one. 

We invited all the families to attend the bridging ceremony.  We encouraged them to bring a picnic dinner so we could celebrate the troop's graduation to the next level of Girl Scouts.  There are so many different ways to recognize your troop's accomplishments.  I would love to hear about your bridging ceremonies.  Thanks for reading!