Friday, October 29, 2010

Brownie Try-It: Write Away

I planned my first Try-It activity for D's Brownie troop a few weeks ago. We tackled Write Away, and I had so much fun planning this. I had a hard time finding Try-It suggestions online, so I'm including a little write-up of our plan.

Our meeting was an hour long, and we had to cut a few things out, like Group Giggles and reading a sample interview, but still did enough activities to meet the badge requirements. 90 minutes would be perfect to fit everything in.

Download printable directions here.

Write Away

1. Read the Story of Someone Special:
Take turns reading a short biography of Juliette Low.

I printed out a biography from the Girl Scout website and split it in to nine parts for the girls to read out loud. I'm very happy that the girls did the reading, because I have a hard time getting through it without tearing up. I mean, really, does it get more inspirational than this?

Juliette Gordon Low spent several years searching for something useful to do with her life. Her search ended in 1911, when she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, and became interested in the new youth movement. Less than a year later, she returned to the United States and made her historic telephone call to a friend, saying, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!” On March 12, 1912, Juliette Low gathered 18 girls to register the first troop of American Girl Guides.

In developing the Girl Scout movement in the United States, Juliette brought girls of all backgrounds into the out-of-doors, giving them the opportunity to develop self-reliance and resourcefulness. She encouraged girls to prepare not only for traditional homemaking, but also for possible future roles as professional women—in the arts, sciences and business—and for active citizenship outside the home. Girl Scouting welcomed girls with disabilities at a time when they were excluded from many other activities. This idea seemed quite natural to Juliette, who never let deafness, back problems or cancer keep her from full participation in life.

2. Group Giggles: Have one girl start a story and go around the room, adding to it until everyone has had a turn and the story is done.

3. Write A Letter: Have the girls each fill out an envelope with their name and address. Put the envelopes in a box and ask each girl to choose one and write a short letter to that person. Drop the finished letters in a box to be mailed.

As the girls arrived, I had them each address an envelope to themselves. I realized as they started that it would have been a good idea to have a sample out ... some of them did not know how to address a letter! Which makes this activity even better practice. I encouraged the girls to include questions in their letters, so their secret pen pal would be more likely to write back to them.

I made up these little stationery sheets using a Brownie illustration.

Download Brownie stationery sheets here. (For personal use only, please!)

4. Become A Reporter: Choose one girl to be a reporter and another to be a subject and read a short interview. Brainstorm about questions a reporter could ask, and have the girls fill out five questions on their sheets. Send reporter sheets home with each girl. Must be returned at the next meeting to earn their Try-It!

I had printed out a short interview with Nancy Krulik, author of the Katie Kazoo books. I chose her because 1) my daughter loves the books, 2) she's a woman author, 3) I used the interview for another project this year and knew I could find it easily, and 4) she'll be visiting the kids' school this year, yipee!

The brainstorming session went surprisingly well, the girls came up with some interesting questions to ask.

Download reporter pages here.

5. All About Me: write a story about your life, using the books provided. Also have blank books if girls want to make up their own story. Each girl can make their own book cover.

This was a lot of fun, I made these books for each girl.

We got out markers and colored pencils and they got right to work, making elaborate covers for their books.

It was so much fun when they would ask, "Can we do this or that?" and I could say YES! It's your book!

Download book pages here.

I read this excellent book while researching the meeting, and condensed some of the ideas into a handout for the girls to take home. Definitely check it out if you have an aspiring writer or artist at home.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Craft and Bonus Bakery

Our chapter of Mothers & More has a group called Story Explorers, which is a little story, craft and snack time for the preschool set. I really enjoy planning it - we had a Halloween theme this month, so I got to read some favorites like Hallo-Wiener and The Ugly Pumpkin. I was challenged with coming up with a craft to go along with the stories, something 3-yo-friendly and that could use up the surplus of Halloween stickers that I seem to have over here. Wah-lah! Haunted house cards.

I used 1/2 sheets of orange card stock and cut roofs out of black construction paper to fit each one. Everyone got a supply of windows and doors to add to their houses and then embellish with friendly fall critters and creatures.

... and a not-so-scary greeting inside.

I also made a small batch of cinnamon pumpkin cookies. I've never made these before, and they were pretty yummy. It's this recipe with a few modifications: 1) I made pumpkins, not footballs, 2) replaced 1/2 cup white flour with whole wheat, 3) omitted the almonds and made cutouts instead, 4) swapped the icing for chocolate chip decoration, and 5) added a bit of food coloring to make them more orangey. Yum! I guess I'm having a little thing for cinnamon this week. (Move over almond, it's cinnamon's turn to shine.) The recipe came from the book Creative Cookies, which my mom bought for me forever ago, and is still one of my favorite go-to cookie books. (Hi, Mom!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Baking Monday - Caramel Apple Cookies

As I still had a surplus of apples in the house today (HAD, no longer do I have, they are now all smooshed into sauce and resting comfortably in the freezer), I decided to make these.

I didn't have apple pie spice, so I just used cinnamon and think I prefer it. (Another tip: one juice box contains the perfect amount of apple juice needed for the recipe!) I think the frosting is a tad sweet - next time I would try only using 1 cup of powdered sugar and making more of a glaze than a frosting. Overall - thumbs up. If I saw these on a cookie plate, I would probably not try them (No chocolate? Why bother?) but that's the great thing about Baking Monday, trying something new and finding unexpected gems.

No recipes lined up for next week yet. Any suggestions?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Baking Monday - Whoopie Pies

AKA Where have you been all my life?

So, somehow, I ended up married to someone who likes vanilla. I know, right? I mean it barely counts as a flavor. I had no ideas for this week, so I went to my husband. He suggested something chocolate filled with vanilla cream. Oh! Sounds like Whoopie Pies to me.

I have never made these before, but I remembered seeing them on Bakerella's website. I used her recipe from this book to make the cakes, and this recipe from Gourmet for the filling.

I used my trusty TBSP mini scoop to make the cakes. It was recommended to make them a day ahead, and they were perfectly soft and cakey.

This was the fun part ... piping the filling on to each cake.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Seriously. I cannot believe I have gone this long without ever making these. I can't wait to have the kids try them after school, because they are going to go crazy.

The recipe called for Dutch-process cocoa, which I've never used before. I don't know what those wacky Dutch do to their cocoa that makes it so expensive, but I will never change a single step of this recipe because it is A-MA-ZING. The filling is very sweet ... it made my teeth hurt a bit ... but these are so moist and gooey and chocolatey and perfect. I believe that this will be my new go-to dessert.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Clark Won A Major Award!

We went to see a performance of Amber Brown Is Not A Crayon last week and all entered a drawing sponsored by BOOKS. Clark won a gift basket filled with books and movies: Desperaux, Percy Jackson, Nim's Island, Tuck Everlasting and Wimpy Kid. Also boxes of candy, two Amber Brown books, a mug, pencils, shirt and bookmark. He won't be able to read the books or watch the movies for a couple of years, but big sis will be VERY excited.

Update: She was!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mini Craft Project

I saw these pencil toppers on Family Fun and had to make something for my Muppet-loving sis. I'm guessing she doesn't have much use for pencil toppers at her job, so I made magnetic bookmarks instead.

I covered them with masking tape, folded and trimmed each one, then added a little adhesive magnet to the bottom of each one inside. (I also did a little Photoshop-ing to erase some of the guide lines.)

Back and front. So cute!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Baking Monday - Peanut Brittle Bars

I made these bars today. They are very rich and gooey. They're supposed to be baked in a 15x10x1 pan, I need to get one of those (and of course, my birthday just went by, rats!), so I used a 9x12 instead. Consequently, they ended up quite thick, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. These were just okay ... looked much more enticing in the cookbook. But I might be willing to try them again in the right size pan.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Baking Monday - Mint & Almond

I've had a little crush on mint and almond flavorings lately, and have been seeking out recipes to make with them. Over the weekend, I made this awesome peach tart. My aunt made it for a brunch a couple of weeks ago, and it was delicious. I made it with fresh peaches instead of canned and - most importantly - replaced the vanilla extract with almond. Yum, yum, yum. I took a before picture, but forgot to take a picture of it afterwards ... rats! It was beautiful.

This week, I made Chocolate Mint Chip cookies from the Mrs. Field's cookbook.

They're not much to look at, but really, really good. I used regular chocolate chips instead of mint, and they were great. This recipe makes a LOT of cookies, half the dough ended up in the freezer to enjoy another time. Oh, remember how much I loved the apple bars because I only used one measuring cup? Not so much with this recipe. Be prepared to wash lots of dishes. (3/4 of one kind of sugar and 2/3 of another? Seriously?)

The good news: I had two "best desserts ever" again this week, but now I think my tasting group is just easy to please.

Sunday, October 3, 2010