Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cupcake Club: March and April

This spring, the Cupcake Club at my daughter's school experimented with buttercream and flower tips as well as fondant. I'm sharing here in case troop leaders are hosting a spring event for the troop - a craft, snack, and service project in one!

Club members used Wilton Round Tip #3, Petal Tip #102, and Petal Tip #104, and Leaf Tip #352 to decorate these strawberry cupcakes. Prior to the meeting, I made and colored buttercream before filling various piping bags. Since most of the kids have been introduced to a piping bag at home, I didn't provide instruction unless someone was struggling. Instead, I let them test it out and try different techniques on their own. These cupcakes were donated to a local senior center.


As Easter approached, we invited my incredibly talented sister-in-law to be a guest instructor. My daughter chose Lynlee's popular Pinterest design for this month's meeting. Club members first iced the carrot cake cupcakes and then dipped them in crushed chocolate graham crackers. Our guest instructor showed them how to make the bunny, and club members worked with her individually to make their rose "cabbages." Huge thanks to Danielle for spending time with us that afternoon. It was their favorite meeting of the year.

 Danielle's example.

 I love how a couple girls made brown bunnies with spots.

In addition to the Bunny Garden cupcakes, the girls used the Wilton Grass Tip #233 to pipe green grass on the remaining carrot cake cupcakes before decorating them with mini jelly bean "eggs." The cupcakes were donated to a local women's shelter. I'm sure the women and children seeking safety there enjoyed a sweet taste of home.

We're planning a field trip for our last meeting of the year. I invite you to check back soon. Thank you for reading.


While driving around town this morning, I heard a story on the radio about the #DuffleShuffle and felt inspired to share the movement with readers. 

The number of children in out-of-home care in Northern Kentucky and Hamilton County (Ohio) due to child abuse and neglect is staggering and still on the rise. But this is not just a significant issue in the Cincinnati tri-state area - it's an alarming trend across our nation and the globe. As these children are shuffled from one home to another, they often shove their belongings in garbage bags. They deserve better. When you think about the statistics, it's safe to say our children and teens know someone who is living in transition.

The Children's Home of Northern Kentucky is collecting NEW duffle bags for kids and teens in out-of-home care (e.g., foster care, kinship care, residential treatment) around the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati area. Please note:  There are countless organizations around the world who help abused and neglected children. Donations to those organizations are a blessing to the children they serve.

Around this time of year, troops are counting their profits from the Cookie Sale. While we all want to (and should) do something fun with the money, the Scouts are also encouraged to use a portion of their earnings to serve others. 

How can your troop help?
1.  Buy a NEW duffle.  If you'd like to stuff the duffle, check out this link for a list of useful items. They also accept monetary donations.
2.  Shuffle and Share.* Record your best shuffling dance moves and share on social media, using #DuffleShuffle  
3.  Duffle Drop.  Drop off the duffles at an official Duffle Drop location between now and June 30, 2017.

*By participating in this movement, Scouts can complete various petals badge steps. Think along the lines of being considerate and caring or friendly and helpful. Are your girls earning a badge with dance requirements? Or do they have to make a video or learn about online safety and use of social media? Some may be learning about budgets. Maybe they could write or draw about the experience to satisfy an additional badge step. There are many creative ways they could with such a project.

"The combination of your donations, dancing, and duffle bags will both encourage awareness for the kids and their struggles in our area and provide them with a renewed sense of connection and community. We know our efforts are not a solution to ending child abuse and neglect, but our hope is that the Duffle Shuffle moves people to open their hearts and homes to kids in out-of-home care." - Children's Home of Northern Kentucky

As always, thank you for reading.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cupcake Club: February

The February Cupcake Club meeting happened to fall on Valentine's Day.  We  baked red velvet cupcakes, and members decorated them with three different designs:

1.  Sweet Heart Cupcakes 
While I don't have a picture to share, there are beautiful examples provided in this link.  The kids were instructed to slice off the top of the cupcake.  They set it on a piece of wax paper at the work station.  We didn't have heart-shaped cookie cutters in the right size, so the kids used a knife to cut a small heart from the center of the top. After discarding (or eating) the heart, they dusted the top with powdered sugar.  They were then asked to spread frosting on the cupcake (the cake in the paper liner) before replacing the top on the cupcake.  Once the cupcake had been reassembled, the pink frosting peeked through the heart.

2.  For the second cupcake, they spread cream cheese frosting on the top and used Wilton sugar hearts in various shades of pink as decorations.  Pretty and simple.

3.  Love Cupcakes 
Prior to the meeting, I melted a bag of dark chocolate candy melts in the microwave.  Once smooth and creamy, I poured the melted candy into a piping bag that was fitted with a small round piping tip.  (Caution: bag was quite warm, and the candy dripped from the tip).  I wrote the word love on a sheet of wax paper I had taped to the kitchen counter.  I then drew hearts and drizzled chocolate through the center. 

If you wish to create beautiful filigree hearts, I would suggest you follow the instructions provided by Martha Stewart here

Before heading over to the school, I filled three piping bags with cream cheese frosting I had tinted pink.  Club members used large round, closed star, and open star tips (Wilton piping tips 2D and 1M) to frost these cupcakes before adding the chocolate embellishments. The Club's faculty advisor and I were impressed with the improvement in their skills!

During each meeting, the kids get to enjoy a cupcake, and they donate the rest.  Last month, one parent suggested we recognize the school district's bus drivers.  After the classroom had been cleaned up, we walked across the parking lot to the bus garage and delivered two trays of holiday cupcakes.  The gesture was greatly appreciated, and I thank Emily for the wonderful idea!

Additional Valentine's Day Party Ideas for Your Troop or Classroom

In the days leading up to yesterday's Valentine's Day party, I had mixed emotions, knowing this was the last time I would get to plan a grade school classroom holiday party.  But as they say, when a chapter ends, a new one begins.  I'm excited to discover what the future has in store.  Since the party was a success, I thought I'd share the agenda.  Please note:  a couple of the activities listed below are also described in a previous Valentine's Day post.

A couple weeks before the party, the students voted to decorate card boxes at home. When the party started, we handed out numbered post-it notes to be placed on the desks by each box.  The kids formed a line and snaked through the desks, recording the number of their favorite box for each category on a small scrap of paper.  There were four categories:  cutest, funniest, prettiest, and most creative.  They were asked not to vote for themselves, and they were allowed to write the same number for multiple categories.  Votes were tallied by an adult while the students began the next activity.

Game:  Find Your Match.   
This game is a variation of the Guess Me Icebreaker Game that we played during our troop Christmas Party in 2013I love this game because it is inexpensive and requires little, if any, preparation.  It's similar to HedBanz in the sense that a piece of paper labeled with the name of a well-known character or person is pinned to the back of each participant.  Players walk around the room, asking other players "yes" or "no" questions to try to determine his or her identity.  Once the player's identity is discovered, the player needs to find his or her match to win the game.  This activity works well with larger groups of participants.  Here are some suggestions of couples (or male and female characters who are often associated together):
      Santa and Mrs. Claus                        Mickey and Minnie Mouse
      Barbie and Ken                                Cinderella and Prince Charming
      Belle and Beast                                Anna and Kristoff
      Donald and Daisy Duck                     Kermit and Miss Piggy
      Mario and Peach                               Superman & Wonder Woman             

      Harry Potter and Hermione

I printed copies of the game instructions--one for each cluster of desks in the classroom.  There were four students in each group, and I let them play for fifteen minutes.  Huge thanks to the creator of this printable game at!  The kids had a blast, and a couple groups played the game twice in the allotted time. 

As students enjoyed their snacks, we allowed small groups of kids to pass out their valentines.  By combining these two activities, we had more time for games.

During the final ten minutes of the party, we played Pictionary (girls versus boys).  I chose a boy and girl with February birthdays to draw.  I gave each team three minutes.  Here are the words I selected from an online list of Valentine-related words:
gift          flowers          candy         kiss         
card        hug               cupid          heart       
jewelry    mailbox         diamond     teddy bear

When I left the party, I headed over to the middle school for the February Cupcake Club meeting.  I invite you to check back soon to see the cupcakes they decorated this month--a perfect snack for your next Valentine's Day party!  Thank you for reading.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

"Cultivating Thoughts" With Your Scouts

My sixth grader and her classmates had to complete a special assignment modeled after Chipotle's "Cultivating Thoughts" essay contest.  In Language Arts, they read Fue Xiong's essay "Two Minutes About Sardines" and were asked to write a narrative story about a time when food created a lasting memory.  The stories and a snack donated by Chipotle will be shared by the students at school tomorrow.  A more detailed description of the assignment can be found on my website.

I love this idea, and I brainstormed ways to incorporate it with Girl Scouts.  As you continue reading this post, I encourage you to consider how these ideas could work within your individual troop, for troops at your school, and for troops in your Service Unit. 
  1. Read Xiong's essay to the girls.
  2. Choose an idea from the list below.
  3. Girls write narratives.  Details can be found here.
  4. Print the essays on brown paper bags (or use a glue stick to adhere printer paper to the bag).
  5. Distribute bags to the girls.
  6. Share a snack.
Thinking Day
After the Thinking Day ceremony, have girls write a narrative about the state or country they chose to represent.  They could choose to write the story from a local person's point of view or from the point of view of a visitor.

Or have them write a narrative as a Girl Scout in the chosen state or country.

Juliette Gordon Low and Girl Scout Birthday
To celebrate the founder of Girl Scouts or organization's birthday, girls could:
  • listen to leaders present facts about Juliette Gordon Low's life
  • read a story about her
  • research the founder of Girl Scouts on their own
Write a narrative.  Consider:
  • writing from Juliette's point of view
  • How has her work with early scouting impacted your life?

Juniors Scribe badge--satisfy a step or two for this badge, depending on your interpretations of the steps.

Service Projects
Ask the girls to choose their favorite service project.  They may wish to consider the following when making a decision:
  • A service project completed this school year
  • Favorite service project completed as a Girl Scout
  • The most enjoyable service project
  • The service project that made the biggest impact (on her or on those served)
Write a narrative about the project.  Again, they can write from a personal point of view or from the point of view of those being served.

These thoughts are the product of a quick brainstorm.  If you have additional ideas, please comment below, and I can update the post.  Thank you for reading!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Cupcake Club: January Meeting and Bake Sale

In a previous post, I explained how my daughter started a Cupcake Club at her middle school this year, how I got involved, and how to incorporate the ideas (including service projects, badge steps, and troop celebrations) during your next Scout meeting.  In my experience as a troop leader, there were times when we needed to supplement Cookie Sale profits in order to meet troop goals.  In our Girl Scout Council, if you have a fundraiser outside of Fall Product and Cookie Sales, the girls must provide a service.  Since the Cupcake Club plans to donate cupcakes throughout the community after each month's meeting, I thought I'd share what worked and didn't work for us in case your troop is interested in a similar event.

About 20 students returned permission slips to the club's faculty advisor, but we had no idea how many kids would join us in December.  I spent about $15 on box cake mixes, frosting, and candy for that meeting.  If all 20 kids showed up, they could each decorate two cupcakes.  As it turned out, we had about a dozen kids, so they each decorated four cupcakes.  

Knowing we have five more meetings on the calendar (and being new to the middle school scene as a parent), I spoke with the faculty advisor, school principal, and PTO President about funding.  It was suggested we host a bake sale.  Our January meeting fell on a Tuesday, and the girls' basketball teams were scheduled to play the next day.  With last-minute approval, we developed a plan and kept our fingers crossed. 

I baked 90 cupcakes for the kids to decorate and spent about $35 on ingredients and a handful of supplies.  To save money, I raided our kitchen cabinets to see what the students could use.  In staying true to my daughter's vision for the club and wanting variety for the bake sale, I decided to have four stations at the meeting:

1. Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting and multicolored sprinkles.  At this same station, there were marble cupcakes with chocolate frosting and multicolored sprinkles.  Plastic knives were provided to spread the frosting and spoons for the sprinkles.

2. Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla icing, which I dyed orange and purple (school colors for our team and their opponents).  Using a knife, I filled piping bags with both colors. The closed and open star tips (Wilton piping tips 2D and 1M) gave the swirled frosting a fancy twist.

3.  Chocolate cupcakes were cored at this station and filled with marshmallow cream.  Prior to the meeting, I mixed some Marshmallow Fluff with a scoop of vanilla frosting.  I snipped the ends of two piping bags and filled them with the marshmallow (no piping tips necessary).  At this station, there was a plastic knife, a baby spoon, a cupcake corer, and a melon baller for the kids to use to remove the core of the cupcake.

4.  The chocolate cupcakes were topped with chocolate frosting (Wilton piping tip 2A). The kids then piped vanilla snowflakes on the cupcakes (Wilton piping tip 3 or plastic baggies with a tiny hole snipped off one corner).

They also decorated a large sheet of poster board with Sharpies, advertising the club's name and the price of the cupcakes ($1).

Since we only have an hour together, I prepared everything in advance.  Supplies were loaded in plastic shopping bags labeled with the station number, which made set-up super quick.  Our meetings are in a classroom, so I made sure to have wax paper or paper towels for their work stations.  This made clean up easy.  About half a dozen kids agreed to work the bake sale the following afternoon.

For the Bake Sale:
poster (and tape)
vinyl tablecloth
container for donations
change (fives and singles) and envelope
paper towels
foil pan and foil (for donation of leftover cupcakes)

NOTE:  Attendance at girls' middle school basketball games is low.  Don't choose convenience like I did. 

The kids only sold a third of the cupcakes they decorated, but I was so proud of their problem-solving skills.  They asked the athletic director for permission to take their sign on the court at halftime and between games to advertise their sale.  They discussed which cupcakes were selling more or less than others.  Then they asked if they could host another bake sale at the boys' games the next week.  It was suggested the cupcakes be frozen, and we were given approval for another bake sale.

NOTE:  The purple and orange frosting was replaced with vanilla and chocolate swirl, which proved to be a best seller.

Bake Sale:  Round 2
A much more successful endeavor!  At the end of the sale, the kids had about a dozen cupcakes left.  We delivered them to the staff at a transitional care center down the street from the school.  Knowing we only have enough funds for one more meeting after we reimburse for previous purchases, efforts are being made to contact the families of club members to figure out the best way to proceed.

Though it proved to be a great deal of work for me on the front end, I turned it over to club members at the games. It was good for them to face disappointment as they did in Round 1.  Similar to the Girl Scout cookie sale experience, they worked together and learned valuable skills while having fun.  Wishing you success during this Cookie Sale season!  Thank you for reading. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Thinking Day Thoughts

In November, our family went on a mission trip to Nicaragua.  Our team dug trenches and helped with the construction of a school in two different communities during our week there.  When we returned to the States, my daughters came across the book A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park. This novel is written from the point of view of two 11-year-olds in Sudan. The book covers both history and geography and exposes readers to the harsh realities of life for people in other parts of the world.  It is a story of hope and perseverance, and the book provides a reason to discuss how to get involved and make a difference in this world.  Please note this book is written for readers ages 10 and up.  There are several sad and frightening sections that may upset younger readers. 

As in Nicaragua, access to clean water is a huge issue for many Sudanese communities.  Days are spent getting water to survive, yet the water is not safe to drink.  A Long Walk to Water struck a chord in our family, and it got me thinking...

World Thinking Day is February 22nd.  This year's global theme is Grow. While the intent is to invite other girls to join in the Girl Scout Movement, two goals for Thinking Day are:

    • Take action and speak out on issues we most care about
    • Make a difference by fundraising for projects around the world
    In Nicaragua, Amigos for Christ comes alongside community leaders to help improve the standard of living for people there. They also build into the spiritual lives of the people they meet.

    Water for South Sudan is the organization highlighted in A Long Walk to Water. As in Nicaragua, the villagers provide labor to drill the wells, and one well may serve thousands of people. With clean water, women and children don't have to
    spend their days walking for water. Kids can go to school, which promises a brighter future.  With a well, there are healthier pregnancies, and marketplaces can be supported.  "Where safe water flows, life can blossom." 

    As your girls consider their options for Thinking Day this year, I encourage you to introduce them to A Long Walk to Water.  Read the book on your own and modify the story for younger girls. Maybe they'll be moved to choose to learn more about Nicaragua or Sudan this February. "Where safe water flows, life can blossom. #LetsGrow" would look great on a poster!  Both organizations mentioned in this post offer a variety of ways to get involved and give. Water for South Sudan provides helpful tips on their website for organizing a fundraiser.

    While bumping around the WFSS website, I learned about the H2O Project:
    1. Make water your only beverage for 2 weeks.
    2. Save the money you would usually spend on beverages.
    3. After 2 weeks, donate the money you saved and give someone clean water for a lifetime.
    Just think of the money that could be raised by your family, Girl Scout troop, school, or Service Unit!  If your troop chooses such a challenge, I'd love to hear about it.  Thank you for reading.

    Saturday, January 7, 2017

    Cupcake Club: December

    My older daughter moved up to the middle school for sixth grade this year.  She considered joining several clubs before deciding to begin the Cupcake Club.  For the idea to be considered by administrators, she had to draft a proposal.  She and I discussed possible questions the teachers may have about the club, and she composed a plan to present to the school's front office.  The proposal was accepted, and a teacher agreed to be the club's advisor.

    The group met after school one afternoon in October to discuss how the participants would obtain cupcakes, frosting, and supplies for the meetings.  They also shared favorite flavor combinations and possible themes for future meetings.  The club did not meet in November, and I helped with the December meeting.

    My daughter baked two batches of Christmas Funfetti cupcakes the evening before the meeting.  We bought two tubs of vanilla frosting, and the kids used a bag of Rolos, and a large bag of M&Ms to decorate the cupcakes as ornaments as pictured here

    After enjoying one of their creations, club members agreed to donate the remaining treats to the police and fire stations around the corner from the school. (I wish I could post a group picture, but I don't have permission).

    The next time your Girl Scout troop is preparing for holiday parties and service projects, recreate your own Cupcake Club. Girls will have fun decorating cupcakes (craft). They could enjoy one (snack) before heading out to deliver the rest (service project).  What a great way to celebrate Juliette Gordon Low's birthday or the birthday of the Girl Scouts!  In addition, your girls could satisfy a badge step for the Brownies Snack badge or the Juniors Simple Meals badge. 

    The Cupcake Club meets again this week to decorate cupcakes they'll sell during a Bake Sale during basketball games at the school.  I'll let you know how it goes.  As always, thank you for reading!