Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Craft: More Gift Ideas for Teachers and Leaders

In my last post, I shared the gifts our family has given to our daughters' teachers at the end of the school year.  Our family also gives teachers homemade gifts for Christmas.  These ideas would make great end-of-the-year gifts as well.


Many years ago I purchased several chipboard books from the dollar bin at Michaels.  Each year for Christmas, my younger daughter helps choose the paper that covers both sides of the chipboard pages.  Scrapbooking is a hobby of mine, so I have a supply of patterned paper to use.  Additionally, we bought a pack of coordinating Christmas paper specifically for these chipboard projects, and we've been using this paper for the past couple of years.  In this case, buying the paper pack proved to be more economical for us than to buy individual sheets of paper.  For these projects, I tend to prefer the kits that include coordinating paper and stickers like the Bella Blvd Christmas Cheer Scrapbook Collection Kit or the
Carta Bella Paper Company "All Bundled Up" Collection Kit.  

Since there are five pages, there are ten sides to cover with paper.  This means we need to trace and cut ten different sheets of paper.  My daughter decides which papers to use before tracing the chipboard page on the paper.  I cut around the scalloped edge and divide the circle.  The photo above shows the paper has been cut in half.  Usually I start to the right of the scallop with the ring and cut straight down as I have shown with the white dotted line in the picture below. 

My daughter lays the papers out on the table, arranging them as she would like them to appear in the book.  She uses a glue stick to adhere the paper to the chipboard.  I cut thin strips of coordinating paper or cardstock to cover the seam where the papers meet.  Occasionally she uses a wallet-sized photo as a template and cuts a photo mat to add to each page.  Since the paper kit we bought included matching stickers, my daughter is free to embellish the pages as she wishes. I do not have a picture of the Christmas chipboard albums, but I have included a couple pictures below of a project we did together as another example.


In that same dollar bin at Michaels, I found some 6x6 scrapbook albums.  My older daughter likes to help me with scrapbook pages, and she enjoys creating a scrapbook for her teacher for Christmas.  Due to time constraints and to keep the cost of the project manageable, I encourage her to keep the pages simple.  She may add a strip of patterned paper, a photo mat, or a decorative triangle to the corner of the page.  While we have purchased a package of coordinating paper that she uses specifically for these gifts, she is able to use some of the scrap paper I have remaining from album pages I've already finished.  For the past couple of years she has written her favorite recipes on recipe cards and adheres them to the pages, including photo mats on the other pages.  The teachers can either add photos or recipes of their own.  

Just like the end-of-the-year gifts, these presents can be modified for other special adults in your child's life (like coaches, band directors, and Girl Scout troop leaders).  On that same note, these small books could be given to the girls in a troop in honor of a special occasion (like Bridging).  They could be made for the players on a sports team, or the cast of the school play, or Sunday School volunteers.  In my experience, these books are treasured keepsakes--for those receiving the gift as well as for those giving it.  Thank you for reading!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Craft: End-of-the-Year Teacher and Leader Gifts

I can't believe we're approaching the end of another school year!  It's time to begin thinking about gifts for my daughters' teachers.  My mom is a retired teacher, and I remember the gifts she treasured most from students over the years were those that were handmade.  When my daughters started school, I recalled what my mom had said, and I encouraged my daughters to help me make Christmas and End-of-the-Year gifts for their teachers.  In this post, I will share what we've made to give the teachers at the end of the school year.  Any of these ideas can be modified for the special adults in your child's life whether they be a teacher, coach, band director, or Girl Scout troop leader.  Our Christmas gifts will be described in a separate post that will be published in the near future.


If I remember correctly, I was in a pottery studio years ago and saw a platter that had been painted to show a caterpillar taking a bite out of an apple.  The caterpillar's body was a line of circles, and the name of each student in the class was printed in the circles.  Our Daisy troop had recently made fingerprint flowerpots, and I decided this caterpillar design would be really cute on a flowerpot.  We've been giving this gift to the teachers ever since.

I select an 8" terracotta flowerpot and lightly sketch the drawing on the pot with a pencil.  I begin by drawing the apple, and then I use the bottom of a cup that measures about 2" in diameter to draw the circles for the caterpillar.  I make sure to the circles are slightly offset for a couple of reasons:
1.  It looks cuter and gives the caterpillar a little more dimension than if the circles were drawn in a straight line.  
2.  With 24 students in the class, I know I need seven circles (one for the caterpillar's head and six for the body, writing four names in each circle).  And by offsetting the circles, I can make all of them fit on the pot.  

My daughters select the colors for the caterpillars, and I paint the flowerpots using acrylic craft paint.  Depending on the color and brand of the paint and how thickly it is applied, the design may require two coats.  I usually add something to the top of the flowerpot (note the apples around the top of the flowerpot in the photo below).  After the paint dries, I use a Sharpie marker to outline the apple and the caterpillar and add the students' names to the circles.  I write the teacher's name and class on the red part of the apple, and I write the school year on the leaf.  For example, "Mrs. Smith's Fourth Grade Class" and "2014-2015."  Finally, I cover the outside of the flowerpot with a layer of Mod Podge.  

We fill the flowerpot with school supplies.  This year we are including a package of pencils, glue sticks, dry erase markers, and Post-it notes, but it can be filled with anything.  The options are endless.  

The teachers seem to really enjoy this gift.  I've seen the flowerpot being used to hold supplies in the classroom.  One teacher told me her family planted flowers in the pot before placing it in the backyard near their swimming pool. 

This idea could easily be tweaked slightly to make the perfect gift for Girl Scout troop leaders.  Have Daisies?  Paint a few large Daisy Petal sets around the flowerpot.  Add the names of the girls around the top of the pot.  For older girls, paint a trefoil or Girl Scout cookies.  Having the girls sign their names with a Sharpie would be another great touch.  


When our younger daughter was in preschool, I was bumping around Pinterest for a unique teacher gift.  I came across the idea to bake bread and include a handwritten tag that reads:  "May this summer be like this bread...SO delicious you hardly notice the crummy parts.  Thank you for being my teacher!  (Signed by the student)."  While writing this blog post, I searched and searched for that website, but I couldn't find it.  I apologize I am unable to give credit to the original author.  

Baking bread was the perfect project for my younger daughter because she LOVES to help in the kitchen.  Since it was spring, I was hoping she would choose something like lemon poppy seed bread.  Unfortunately I was unable to persuade her to change her mind when she decided on a recipe for chocolate chip pumpkin with cream cheese icing.  We went with it, and her teachers were delighted.

  • Schedule time with family or friends to bake sweet treats.  Package them with handwritten notes before delivering them to people in your community.  (More details about this are coming soon!)
  • Arrange to deliver some individually wrapped baked goods to a Fisher House.  Military families will enjoy a taste of home while their loved one is hospitalized.
  • Paint suns, rainbows, and flowers on small flowerpots and fill them with individually wrapped mints.  Deliver the pots to residents at a local nursing home.
  • Paint American flags and encouraging phrases on small flowerpots to give to veterans and their families at a Fisher House.

While this blog is geared toward Girl Scout troop leaders, I hope readers are inspired by some of the ideas mentioned in these posts.  It doesn't have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time to brighten someone's day.  Thank you for reading.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

After Girl Scout Cookie Sales: My Observations as a Troop Leader and a Parent

My older daughter joined Girl Scouts when she was in kindergarten.  She is currently finishing her first year as a Junior Girl Scout.  Her troop has always participated in the annual Cookie Sale, so she now has five years of experience selling Girl Scout cookies.  When talking with other Girl Scout troop leaders, the opinions about the Girl Scout Cookie Sale can be quite varied.  On the positive side, when selling cookies, the girls have an opportunity to learn and practice five essential life skills including goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.  Depending on the girls' ages and program level, there are numerous badges to earn while selling cookies.  Examples of these badges include the following:  Money Manager, Philanthropist, Meet My Customers, Business Owner, Financing My Future, and Good Credit...just to name a few.  The internet provides a wealth of resources for troop leaders to share their positive and negative cookie-selling experiences and to engage in conversations with other leaders about the Cookie Sale.  In this post, I will share a story about my daughter.  I believe this story would have been much different if she had not been involved in Girl Scouts (specifically the Girl Scout Cookie Sale). 

This spring, my daughter is playing softball on a newly organized team.  The coaches of the team arranged a fundraiser at our local Chipotle.  The girls were encouraged to promote the fundraiser to family, friends, and neighbors.  They were asked to come to the restaurant wearing their softball uniforms, and most of them sat together in a booth near the line of hungry customers.  They were instructed to ask the customers to support the fundraiser when paying for their order, and Chipotle would give a portion of the proceeds back to the team.  

At first, my daughter behaved as any typical nine-year-old would behave when asked to approach strangers.  She was shy and didn't respond to my encouraging nudges.  Most of her teammates were eating dinner with their families, so she realized she would initially be doing this on her own.  Sensing her hesitation, I started talking with some of the customers about the fundraiser.  After overhearing my conversations with several customers, my daughter looked at me and asked if she could talk to the next customer about supporting their team.  I gladly stepped aside.  I watched her approach a woman and her teenage son, excusing herself as she interrupted their conversation.  I heard her explain how the fundraiser works and how their team could benefit when they placed their orders.  After that initial interaction, I could see an increase in her confidence.  She then talked with a man who appeared to be grabbing dinner on his way home from work.  I wasn't the only one to notice.  One of her teammate's tapped my daughter on the shoulder and asked if she could help talk to the next customer.  Several moments later, another teammate asked if she could join them.  Not long thereafter, there were five girls taking turns asking customers to support the team.

On our way home from Chipotle, my daughter and I talked about the evening.  I asked her what she liked and didn't like about the event.  She told me she liked when her teammates joined her when talking with the customers.  We discussed how her experience selling Girl Scout cookies helped her help the team.  I made sure to point out that the lessons she is learning as a Girl Scout will be valuable to her throughout her life.  

Selling cookies is demanding from the perspective of the troop's Cookie Parent, the Troop Leaders, and the adults helping the girls at home.  That all aside, I couldn't ignore my observations that night at Chipotle.  It was clear that all of the work has been worth it, and I wanted to share the story on this blog.  It's exciting to watch blossoming leaders step into action--whether it's a girl in your troop, a girl on the softball team, or your own daughter.  The girls in our troop have come a long way over the past five years.  I invite you to scroll through the links under the "Cookies!" tab in the left margin and read about our experiences with the Cookie Sale through the years.  As always, thank you for reading!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Service Project: Tips for Hosting a Successful Pillowcase Event

Back in January, I published a post describing a sewing class my daughter took at our local Joann Fabric and Craft Store.  In this class, the students cut, ironed, and pinned the fabric they had selected and brought with them to the class.  My daughter absolutely loved this class, especially because she had an opportunity to use a sewing machine. There is a great deal of useful information in the January post mentioned above, including a link to the incredibly helpful Missouri Star Quilt Company Tube Method Tutorial.  I also added photos with the instructions I followed when making one of these pillowcases.  I invite you to check it out!  The purpose of this post is to describe our Pillowcase Event and hopefully provide tips for readers who wish to host their own successful Pillowcase Event.

  • As I learned more about making pillowcases, I discovered the American Patchwork and Quilting (APQ) 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge.  Their website provides free patterns, a charity list, and teaching tools I found to be invaluable as I prepared for this event.
  • Knowing I wanted to divide our girls into groups for this project, I invited family members to join us for this meeting.  Six adults were available to help, and it is important to note they are all currently registered Girl Scouts.
  • I divided our nine girls into three groups and assigned two adults to each group.  Wanting the girls to work with different people, I made sure they were not in a group being supervised by their mom or grandma.  I also separated all the sisters across the different groups.
  • This event was held at my house.  There were three stations: one in the family room, one in the kitchen, and one in the dining room.  Each station was equipped with the following:  iron, ironing board, flat surface large enough to allow girls to pin the fabric (table or kitchen island), another table and sewing machine, scissors, seam ripper, pearl head straight pins, pincushion, thread, bobbin, and fabric. We were able to borrow these necessary supplies from the families in our troop (with the exception of the fabric).  *If possible, it is a good idea to have an additional sewing machine in case you encounter technical difficulties during the event.  (We needed three sewing machines, and we arranged for someone to bring a fourth.  We actually ended up needing that extra one). 
  • Earlier in the school year, the girls agreed to spend some of the money they earned during the cookie sale to purchase fabric for this service project.  I shopped during sales and used coupons when I could to purchase enough fabric for each girl to make one pillowcase.  We decided to donate the pillowcases to Cincinnati Children's Hospital.  We spent about $45 on fabric which ends up being $5/pillowcase.  Since the stitches are not seen when using the tube method, we did not worry about matching the thread to the fabric.  I happened to have spools of thread from past family projects, so our troop did not have to buy thread. 
  • To make this particular pillowcase, you need a 27" piece of fabric, a 9" piece of fabric, and a 2" piece of fabric.  The ladies at Joann's allowed me to use the table in the fabric department and their super sharp scissors to trim the selvages and straighten the edges of the fabric.  I highly recommend taking the time to prepare the fabric prior to the meeting.  It is well worth your time and effort! 
  • Based on recommendations made by APQ, the machines were threaded and bobbins were full and loaded before the girls arrived at the meeting. 
  • To eliminate any disagreements over the fabric and to avoid wasting time during the meeting, the fabric was numbered and randomly assigned to the girls.

  • As I previously mentioned, sisters were assigned to different groups, so my two daughters were not going to be working together.  I asked one of the girls in the third group to come over about fifteen minutes early.  She joined my two daughters, and they ironed their fabric before the rest of the troop arrived.  Please continue reading and I will explain why this worked well for our troop.
  • When the girls arrived, they drew numbers to randomly assign the fabric.
  • After saying the Girl Scout Promise, we watched the Missouri Star Quilt Company Tube Method Tutorial.  I had planned to have one of the more experienced sewers in our group of volunteers to give a brief overview of sewing machine basics, but in all the excitement of the day, I completely forgot!  Some of the girls had never used a sewing machine before, so this presentation would have been beneficial. 
  • After watching the tutorial, my daughters and the girl who came to the meeting early started pinning their fabric.  At the same time, a second girl in each group ironed her fabric, and the third girl either helped one of the other two or waited patiently for her turn.  Once the first girl started sewing, the second girl started pinning, and the third girl began ironing her fabric.  This system worked well for our troop.  If we were to do this again, I would set it up the same way. 
  • When the girls finished, they were asked to work on an endangered animal crossword puzzle and word search.  This helped us gear up for the Junior Animal Habitat badge they will earn at our next meeting and during our Zoo Overnight in May. 

  • Although we ran into some technical difficulties with one of the machines, and two of our nine girls had to rip out side seams and begin again, this project went very smoothly.  Everyone had completed their pillowcase before the meeting was scheduled to end.  We even had time to snap a couple pictures.
  • Not only is this is great service project, it could satisfy a number of badge steps (For example, you could make it work for the Brownie Philanthropist badge or for Step 2 of the Junior Independence badge). 
  • We ordered sewing machine fun patches from Council so the girls would remember this event.

At Cincinnati Children's Hospital
This project could not have happened without the help of our willing and knowledgeable volunteers.  HUGE thanks to Amy, Mandy, Lynne, Sam, and Vicki for sharing your time and talents with our troop!  Many of the girls and their parents expressed interest in making more of these pillowcases at home to give as gifts and to donate to other organizations.  While it did take a lot of time to prepare for this event, it was worth every minute!  Thank you for reading.