Tag Archives: Girl Scouts

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Happy National S’More Day!

When the ancient Egyptians mixed the sap of the marsh mallow plant with honey to make a precursor to our marshmallow, they were thinking about curing coughs and other ailments, rather than creating a classic treat. 19th century French confectioners added egg whites and corn syrup and baked the fluffy creations in molds. Not long after that, graham crackers and chocolate bars began to be mass produced. The 1927 Girl Scout handbook, Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts, published the first known recipe for s’mores, and the gooey creation was born.

Nearly everyone who’s had one remembers his or her first s’more. There are few better combinations than toasted marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers (though non-purists add peanut butter.) The only thing that can possibly improve on the taste of a s’more is the good fortune to enjoy one outside, cooked over a campfire, and surrounded by good family and friends. Of course it’s no secret how the s’more got its name. It’s the rare person who doesn’t want .. some-more.

You’ll need:

1 graham cracker, broken in two squares
One or two squares of milk chocolate (half of a classic Hershey’s chocolate bar works well)
1 marshmallow
Peanut butter, optional
Wooden or metal skewer

Layer a chocolate piece on top of each graham cracker.

Toast your marshmallow over an open flame, until it is the color of toast.

Remove the marshmallow from the flame.

Place the prepared graham cracker under it and carefully slide the marshmallow off the skewer, quickly capping it with a second square of chocolate, if desired, and the second graham cracker.

Eat the gooey creation and marvel at its simple perfection.

A spoonful of peanut butter can be substituted for or added to the chocolate.

Between National S’more Day and this weekend’s Perseid meteor shower, it should be the perfect weekend to get outside and camp in a backyard or park. National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is encouraging everyone to camp outside through summer and fall by joining  Great American Backyard Campout.

The Great American Backyard Campout is part of National Wildlife Federation’s “Be Out There” movement, which is designed to provide tools that inspire parents and children to spend time in the outdoors. Over the next three years, NWF’s goal is to get 10 million more kids playing outside on a regular basis. Spending a night under the stars is the perfect way to start. Register at the Great American Backyard Campout site to have fun, win prizes, and help spread the word about camping.

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Graphic: NWF Be Out There



In GPS Era, Map Reading Skills a Lost Art

This article relates a tale that is no doubt being played out all over the developed world:

Two college students playing in an out-of-town hockey tournament went out to eat with their parents after a late game, but the restaurant they picked had just closed its kitchen.

“There’s another place just a few blocks away,” the hostess said helpfully. “Take a left out of the parking lot, go two blocks, turn right and go one block.”

The parents and the players retreated to their separate cars. When the players sat in the parking lot for a couple of minutes without moving, one of the parents walked over to see if there was a problem with the car.

“Not at all,” they said. “We’re just programming the directions into the GPS.’ ”

Is that where we’ve ended up, with a younger generation that can’t go three blocks without being told by a electronic voice where to turn?

Like the author, I found this story dismaying. I know GPS (Global Positioning System) and similar devices are helpful, but they can also be a crutch and, ultimately, a detriment.

According to the British Cartographic Society, high-tech maps get the user from Point A to Point B but leave off traditional features like geographic and built landmarks, and this could lead to a loss of cultural and geographic literacy.

I, too, find the GPS experience extremely limiting, especially when visual or voice commands tell me (sometimes incorrectly) where to turn just before the turn needs to be made. With a map, preferably one on paper, one can pull out to a bird’s eye view, get a complete picture, plot a route, and have true satisfaction and awareness about ones place within it.

Nothing wrong with having a GPS as a back-up, but I see far too many people who completely depend on them, to the degree that, like the boys in the restaurant parking lot, they’re afraid to travel anywhere, even a few blocks, without one.

One study, from the University of Tokyo, found that people on foot using a GPS device actually made more errors and more stops, and walked farther and more slowly than traditional map users. They also demonstrated a poorer knowledge of the terrain, topography and routes.

GPS, researchers say, encourages people to stare at a screen, rather than looking around at their environment. Also, most GPS screens makes it impossible for a user to take in both their location and their destination at the same time.

Ah, there’s that Big Picture again.

There are additional consequences to over-reliance on GPS devices. I wrote last year about Nature Disconnect in Britain. It seems that a lack of map skills is actually somewhat responsible for keeping a whole generation of children there, and surely elsewhere, homebound, fearful of exploring, playing, and being outside in the unknown. Children’s very sense of adventure is being terribly circumscribed.

Luckily, there are steps being taken to combat this. This list of ideas ranges from walking in ones neighborhood and making friends, to creating neighborhood green spaces and safe pedestrian and bike routes, to educating parents about unfounded fears. And, of course, one can and should learn basic map reading skills.

Interestingly, technology is helping with the latter, as geocaching (group scavenger hunts which use GPS devices) as well as old-school scavenger hunts continue to gain popularity. In addition, the Boy Scouts have responded to the crisis in map reading by upping their universal requirements for using a compass and map. (Girl Scouts also offer geocaching and orienteering badges and programs.)

Debi at Go Explore Nature offers some tips for getting out and geocaching.

Where is the paper map in all this? Some say it’s going the way of the phone booth and the milkman. I’m sure many of you remember family car trips, during which the map was unfolded, dutifully followed with index finger on highway line, and then folded up, yet never in quite the same neat way it had come. (We still honor this practice in our family and begin many adventures with a trip to the California Automobile Association, which stopped producing paper maps a few years ago.) Indeed, maps are on their way to becoming collectors items.

Here’s hoping that you get to enjoy the tactile pleasure of an old-school map, the inner satisfaction of locating your place, the fun of an outdoor scavenger hunt or other adventure, and the gift of knowing which way is up.

Images: Hands on Museum, Built St. Louis, Route 66 Guidebooks, Ferrell Digital

It’s Girl Scout Cookie Time

Whether from enterprising Brownies behind a card table or on a sheet tacked to an office bulletin board, few can resist the call of Girl Scout cookies. Cookie sales represent equal parts tradition, flavor, entrepreneurship, and the winning qualities of the scouts themselves. As a troop leader, I oversaw numerous table sales, and it was not uncommon for customers, upon seeing us, to brake their cars abruptly, whip out their checkbooks, and ask to buy every last box of Samoas or Thin Mints in our possession.

Throughout much of the U.S., public cookie sales start this week, as do deliveries to people who pre-ordered cookies from co-workers or neighbors.

Cookie sales are an involved process. They’re also big business. Each troop has a Cookie Sale Mom and a mom who oversees the Cupboard, or stash, which is added to and taken from throughout the duration of the public sales. Troop units have people further overseeing delivery and sales. Here are the cartons of cookies coming into our local Scout Hall to be divided for pick-up. (At 12 boxes a carton, that’s a lot of cookies.)

The first Girl Scout cookies were sold in 1917 by the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma. In 1922, a cookie recipe was published in the Girl Scouts’ The American Girl magazine. Its author estimated the cost of ingredients for 6-7 dozen cookies to be 26-36 cents. It was suggested that troops sell the cookies for 25-30 cents per dozen. Here is a recipe for the early Girl Scout cookie.

Girl Scouts in the 20s and 30s continued to bake and sell sugar cookies packaged in wax-paper bags. In the mid-30s, Councils in Philadelphia and New York began to use commercial bakers. They smartly stamped the trefoil logo onto the cookies, which grew in popularity around the country until World War II ended their production due to shortages in sugar, butter and flour. (The clever Girl Scouts turned to calendar sales.)

Pre-war customers in could display a Girl Scout cookie window decal:

With 50s suburban growth came tables at shopping centers, which augmented door-to-door sales. There were now three types of cookies: Sandwich creme (in chocolate and vanilla), shortbread (called Trefoil), and Chocolate Mint (which became Thin Mint). Peanut butter cookies were added in the 60s. (I knew them as Savannas. They are now called Do-Si-Dos.) Other cookies have come and gone over the years. Different regions use different bakers and even different names for the cookies. In recent years, Tagalongs (chocoate casing over peanut butter and wafer) and Samoas (a gooey, sweet chocolate-coconut-caramel cookie) have done well.

Thin mints still reign in popularity. Here’s the breakdown of cookie sales by type:

25% Thin Mints
19% Samoas (sometimes called Caramel deLites)
13% Tagalongs (also called Peanut Butter Patties)
11% Do-Si-Do (aka Peanut Butter Sandwich)
9% Trefoils (aka Shortbread)
23% All other

You can see a listing of all the types of Girl Scout Cookies, some of which I’d never heard of, at this girl scout cookie site.

So where does that cookie money go? According to the Girl Scouts, approximately 70% of the proceeds stays in the local council. A small portion of that goes to the individual troop (usually 7-12% per box). The balance goes to the baker to pay for the cookies. In addition to contributing to the coffers, scouts also learn a lot through cookie sales, whether by making change for a customer, talking to customers, taking inventory, attempting to earn incentives (like grown salespeople!),  or deciding how to allocate troop profits.

This site tells you where you can find girl scout cookies in your area.

Even with my daughter’s well-honed sales pitch to “Buy extra boxes – the cookies freeze well”, they do tend to run out. Luckily, various bakers have come to the rescue, with their own recipes for homemade versions of popular Girl Scout cookies, should you find yourself craving a Samoa in November.

Love and Olive Oil has a nice review of a Tagalong/Peanut Butter Patty recipe that originally appeared in Baking Bites.

Fortunately for Girl Scout cookie fans, Baking Bites also offers its take on the Samoa. In addition to the yummy-sounding Samoa recipe, they offer a Thin Mint recipe and a Do-Si-Do/Peanut Butter Sandwich recipe, which sound delicious to this Do-Si-Do enthusiast.

One cookie that might not be so delicious right now is the Lemon Chalet Cremes, which were just recalled because the taste and smell were deemed by the bakers to be less than the standard.

All this begs the question, What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie?

Images: Susan Sachs Lipman, Scouts on Stamps Society International

Loom and Finger Weaving


Discovering and writing about Jo Meesters‘ wonderful loom-inspired furniture pieces made me want to post instructions to help you discover or rediscover loom weaving. As a kid, I made a ton of potholders on a simple loom. I was fascinated by the infinite possibilities of pattern and color. (And many a relative received a potholder gift.)


You don’t have to stop at the potholder, of course. The woven squares can be sewn together to make quilts, rugs, placemats, purses, tissue box covers, book covers, or doll sleeping bags and blankets.

To make a potholder, simply begin fastening the loops across the loom by hooking them around a peg at each end. Once you have a solid surface of loops running in one direction on the loom (and running evenly between pegs), you can begin to weave the second set of loops across the first, by pulling them alternately over and under each existing loop, either with your fingers or with the tool that comes in loom kits. The second set of loops should alternate their over-under patterns, so that the weave is even. Play with color combinations. You can create anything, from a solid block of color to a neat checked pattern to a completely random design.

To finish the potholder, begin at the start of a row. Take the first loop off its peg, then do the same with the second loop. Now put the first loop around the second and pull the second loop through the circle. Now the second loop is sticking up. Take the third loop off its peg and put the second loop around it and pull the third loop through the circle. Now the third loop is sticking up. Proceed around the potholder. The edge should lay nicely around it like a braid. You’ll have one loop left, and that will be the hook for hanging the potholder.

I recommend cotton loops, for their nice texture and colors. Wool is also great.


Here are some resources for loom and loop materials:

Harrisville Designs, in New Hampshire, has a great selection of cotton loops in all kinds of exciting colors that you can buy individually. The store specializes in yarn, weaving, and other fiber crafts.

The Woolery features individual loop colors from Harrisville, as well as lots of kids’ weaving and felting supplies.

Live and Learn offers a sturdy metal loom, bags of assorted colorful cotton and wool loops, and lots of bags of loops in individual colors.

Magic Cabin has a loom-and-cotton-loop set at a good price.


Every year, at our annual Girl Scout Camporee weekend, one craft activity proved exceptionally popular with a variety of girls: Finger Weaving. This simple, tactile craft occupied girls of all ages, who wove, chatted, and relaxed in nature. Some of the resulting strands were so long, they became unique fashion accessories. Even though I like to make potholders with traditional cotton loops, the newer, stretchier nylon loops are the best for finger weaving. (It will still work with cotton loops, but some may not be stretchy enough.)

Detailed instructions for finger weaving are here.

Jo-Ann Fabric is a good source for nylon loops.



Photo by Jo Meesters (Stool)

Photos by Harrisville Designs (Potholders)

Additional Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

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