Thursday, 31 January 2008

British Traditions

So we learned about England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. And this week, we learned about Wales to finish off the British Traditions badge.
I apologise for the out of focus pic, I just could not get the camera to sharpen the image and I'm too tired to keep trying.
I was out the hall for the first half of the evening but my daughter tells me they:
  • played dragon bingo
  • drew a dragon from a description - everyone's was different of course
  • ate welsh cakes and caerphilly cheese
  • did head, shoulders, knees and toes in Welsh.

Then we ran through the capitals of each country, the patron saint, the saints days and the symbols to make sure they took it all in. Then the district commissioner, who was visiting, presented the badges.

Parents meeting went well, we had 7 out of the 8 eligible girls sign up for our sleepover in March, the eighth is gutted she's not going but has theatre (High School Musical) tickets. Ran through kit list, ground rules, the G/C consent form and the G/H health form. I was going to get the DC to sign the permission form for the event, but she asked if she could come - that means the Division Commissioner has to sign instead.

That means we'll have 11 Brownies (7 newbies, 4 Guide daughters) and 4 adults, quite a high ratio but that's ok. My Son will have to attend the first two hours (he'll be long gone before dinner let alone sleeping time) so it will be good to have an extra adult.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

One plus one is ?

One thing I don't have to do for Brownies is the accounts - my assistant guider does that. Sometimes I wish I did, because I only ever know exactly how much we have when I ask her.

But we are a REALLY active group, as you probably spotted, and the amount of paperwork involved is enormous, so not having do the accounts is a help when I do everything else.

Our year runs Jan - Dec as we started in Jan so it was time last night to go through the accounts to ensure the independent auditor would be happy with where we had put everything.

I am really pleased to say that over the course of 12 months, with money coming in and out for the events below:
  • subs (3 times a year)
  • census
  • rent (which rose by 66% and we negotiated down to 33%)
  • panto
  • thinking day
  • swimming splash day
  • pirate camp
  • district swimming gala
  • Harry Potter book signing
  • abseiling, climbing and archery
  • Division fun day
  • science park visit
  • Legoland
  • Santa weekend

(and those are just the things I remember)

we ended up within £70 of the balance we had the year before! Yay us!

Monday, 28 January 2008

Spending time!

Spent much money for the Brownies (and Guides) at Baker Ross:

  • Got 60 of the birdfeeders, 30 for the Guides to paint for the school and 30 for the Brownies to paint for their Wildlife Explorer badge.

  • 12 of the bookmarks for our animal themed sleepover in March, along with the foam animals.

  • The selection of stickers for making placemats while on the sleepover.

  • Finger puppets because they were incredibly cheap - we'll use them some time.

  • And the windchimes for the Brownies to paint for the school.

  • Also (not pictured because I deleted them twice while trying to line them up and I got sick of it) bought some cord and animal beads for bracelets on the sleepover, and acrylic, waterproof paint for the windchimes.

I did get free shipping, £5 off the total and 10% off because I am a Guider. And it is the first Baker Ross order I have placed since Oct 2006 - so don't go thinking I splash the cash like this normally!

Sunday, 27 January 2008


They conquered that climbing wall!

*hangs head*

Was enthusing to husband about how great the pub was we went to yesterday with the girls.

Apparently we used to eat (at a different branch) there whenever we went to Reading when we lived in Oxfordshire.

Once he said it, I remembered!

My only excuse is that was more than 6 years ago.


This looks great don't you think? I am sure our lot will be enthused by it, they are all excited about the London 2012 Olympics so getting them focussed on the 2008 games will be good.
I am torn between doing it in regular meetings or starting them off in a regular meeting and leaving them to work on it over the summer if they choose. That way the girls can choose to do 6, 9 or 12 activities for bronze, silver or gold depending on how interested they are.
I was thinking about doing it in regular meetings for a few weeks but then I thought they would kind of get a medal by default, which isn't really the point of medals. Doing it as a challenge on their own means they will really "earn" the medal level they achieve.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Went up, went down, ate lots, went round

Overall, a great day out!

All girls turned up with time to spare so we left early for the climbing and abseiling. Oh, they did so well, 5/10 had done it before, so the guy split them into two groups, one on the easiest bit of the wall, one on a harder bit. The girls supported each other up and down the wall, cheering them, encouraging them on. They were all part of the team too, while one girl went up, a second would be fastened to the line and the remaining three would be feeding the rope through.

That was the only sour note really - one of the girls who had done it before behaved just as she did last time, despite us telling her she had to work harder. All the others were happily working as a team, she would gaze off and forget to feed the rope or not even pick it up. She'd be keen to go up and down the wall, but then when she got back down, she'd wander off again rather than take her turn. We kept telling her, but she just didn't care about the safety of the others. It wasn't a major issue, as 4 girls on the end of the rope meant one could be not working as hard as the others in terms of safety, but it did disappoint me that once again she wasn't prepared to be part of a team. And she is one of the oldest.

Some of the girls really proved their worth on the middle level climb so got to go on the hardest climb this time, they were very pleased with themselves.

After that, off we went to the next part of the day, lunch at a pub. It was a chain pub and really had only been chosen for its proximity to the skating, but it was really good. An excellent choice of dishes for the girls, they could all find something they wanted easily. Slightly larger portions available for the Guide who was with us. And all 5 adults liked what we went for: a burger with Stilton, a chicken burger, chicken caesar, fish and chips and jambalaya. It's surely rare that 15 people eat and everyone likes what they are served up! Ice cream and drinks were included for the kids, and 5 of the kids meals were free as there was a buy an adult meal, get a kid meal free offer on.

After that, it was ice skating - and that was really good fun. Some of the girls took to it like ducks to water, others didn't care how many times they fell over they just shrugged it off and carried on, and two wouldn't let go of the side!

They all got a certificate for the climbing and abseiling, and badges for climbing and skating, so a nice record of their achievement.

Most important of all, I think they all got a great boost to their self-confidence from what they achieved - I was 100% proud of 9 of them and 90% proud of our non-team worker!

Thursday, 24 January 2008


It's not Scottish.

But it is really hitting the spot after a night doing Scotland with the Brownies!

I am having an Aberdeen Angus mince pie with it though.

Oh you canny shove yer Granny aff a bus!

Scotland went well at Brownies, I think, ran out of time!

I took along my son's kilt (Mackenzie tartan, as you can see here) and talked a bit about who can wear the kilt, what true Scotsmen wear underneath it (in Son's case, a nappy as he was only one at the time) and what a sporran was for.

Then we:

  • Made kilts out of newspaper (they loved this - will definitely do making stuff from newspaper again)

  • Learned to say "ch" as in Loch Lomond

  • Learned to ask "Can you direct me to the nearest police station? The nearest police station is over there," in Glaswegian (Werra Polis? Erra Polis)

  • Taught them the song "You Canny Shove Yer Granny Aff a Bus"

  • Ate oat bread and smoked salmon and shortbread and Tunnocks Caramel Wafers (I did try for raspberries but the supermarket only had Spanish at this time of year)

  • Played Burns Supper (girls are each haggis, tatties or neeps, have to run round and back to space, last one each time is out)

  • Started to make a thistle out of card but ran out of time so sent those home with them.

They all seemed to have fun - just Wales to go now and we've completed the badge!

Tinkle Part three

So, the school loves the windchimes and is really happy the Brownies will be making them.

There's other opportunities too, the Guides can make birdfeeders (just checking tonight with the Guide leader if she's happy with that, if not the Brownies will buy pre-made ones and decorate them, there were some good value ones in Baker Ross but I am fairly sure the Guide leader will be happy) and the school will also let us know dates when they are digging and planting and girls can participate in that if they choose.

So we feel we're doing our bit. At least we did, till we found out the Scouts that use the same hall have donated £400.
  1. We're not allowed to make cash donations to others out of our accounts, we can do fundraising for them but we can't just write a cheque from accounts

  2. If I had £400 spare sitting in my accounts, that would mean I was charging too much for weekly subs to the parents.

We're a bit dumbfounded by it - it's incredibly generous of the Scouts, we hope we are doing enough as well, but one thing we can't do is come up with £400.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008


The school where we meet, and which about 2/3 to 3/4 of our girls attend, is to build a fantastic activity garden. They are raising money now, and looking for support.
After talking to the headteacher, I volunteered the Brownies' service to help. The head thought we could make wind chimes.
I found these and am waiting to hear back if they are what she had in mind.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Under canvas

The details are out: county camp in July will cost £30 a girl and £7 a leader.

That includes all the activities and the cost of the site. We also need to factor in food, camping gas, first aid stuff and cleaning stuff, plus a token £1 per girl to the Guide Guider for the loan of their tents.

So we reckon about £43 a girl should do it. That's going to be under £1 an hour childcare over the weekend - bargain for the parents if you ask me!


I have a camp blanket for when I go away with the girls. The idea is you put on your badges from events etc and it tells your guiding story.
When I first got it, I just wanted to fill it up, so I would buy nice looking badges. At one point, I had an aim to add every division standard.
I've become more discerning as I have gone on - I managed to track down some Brownie and Guide badges on ebay that I earned when I was younger, and even, eventually, managed to get a Service Flash like I earned as a Guide by helping out at a Beaver Scout group.
I have a corner for "when I was a Brownie/Guide", a corner for "now", a corner for charity (ie when people sell badges to raise money for expeditions etc and a corner for whatever - the badges I bought at the start, badges I buy cos they look nice but don't have any relation to what I do with the girls.
I've just sold a bag of extra badges from ebay purchases, for less than I paid for them but they've sat there for over 18 months so I figure whatever I get for them is fine. And I just added up 10 division standards and sold those, again for less than I paid, but the Guider buying them is happy!
Daughter also has a camp blanket and when she moves to Guides, I have promised to add all her Brownie badges - that will be a feat and a half!
A tip for parents buying a camp blanket for their Brownies - buy the Guide one not the Brownie one. That way you don't need to buy another when she starts Guides, or move badges over from the Brownie one to the Guide one because she is too embarrassed to take the Brownie one.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Guiders without Borders

Went to Borders today to spend the remainder of my gift card from my parents for Christmas.

I got a £14.99 3 crime novel in one book which I always love, they seem such a bargain. Plus it was buy one get one half price so I got another book too to get the half price bit. AND I had a 20% off a full priced book voucher that the guy let me use on the £14.99 book, so the upshot is I got £22-worth of books for £15.48 so I was happy. Plus 3 magazines and that's it, my card is gone, but I loved it!

And I used a bit of my Starbucks card too, there's still some left on that despite buying a Venti Mocha, a Brownie for me and a muffin for husband - that was his reward for letting me sneak off without the kids to do the book-browsing.

Oh, and I also spotted the Brownie annual reduced, so got two for Graceful and Elegant, if they can't make it to our meeting for some reason, I will just post them!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Bring on the Bling

Our newest Guider was talking last night about the training she went on for new Guiders and how one Guider had bemoaned the fact our badges aren't iron on.
Newest Guider said:"There is one, the triangular one for archery."
Everyone else looked very confused, and the woman leading the training told her she imagined it.
But newest Guider knew she hadn't, of course.
Actually, it was an American Try-It, the equivalent of our interest badges, that the girls had earned and I told them to put it on the back of their hoodies as it wasn't a UK badge.
Our girls can show their badges off however they choose, as I have said before. I have seen all sorts though: hoodies like ours, gilets, sashes, even sewn on the t-shirts.
Most of our lot chose to wear them on their hoodies. And while they only wear UK badges on the front, I do let them wear the participation badges or badges earned fr
om elsewhere (the older girls earned Canada's All About Canada badge about two years ago) on the back of their hoodies, if they choose. They want to show them off.
This does ruffle some feathers - more traditional Guiders feel badges should only be displayed on a sash.
Which means when we go to Westminster Abbey next month, our girls are going to look totally bling. My own daughter's hoodie has so many badges sewn on it virtually stands up on its own!
Any Guider going to the Abbey want to argue with my girls' right to wear their badges where they want?
Bling it on!

Like I needed a chance to shop

So, Graceful and Elegant might be visiting our Brownie pack when they come to England later this spring.

If they do, they are going to bring their Brownie Girl Scout vests for the girls to see, and a wee something for each girl.

Which means I have to get something for them in return. Like I needed a reason to rifle through the GGUK shop again.

I'm thinking:
  • a bear each

  • a Warwickshire blanket badge

  • a fun badge

  • whatever is on special offer at my favourite Guiding shop...wonder if the annuals will be discounted yet?

What else should I be giving an American Girl Scout to reflect Brownies in the UK?

Ain't no party like a census party

Had our census party last night. So that's the unit funds a stunning £441 lighter...that cheque hurt my AG to write and me to sign.

It worked pretty well I think, it was good to have the other Guiders in our unit around so that I didn't have to guess at how many girls had started with us since last Feb 22 (10, amazingly enough!) based on just my memory. And there was a feeling of solidarity as everyone was writing large cheques - I think ours was the largest, though our Guide unit's was only £16.50 less as it is very busy too.

Didn't get personal details forms yet, but they are not due to be sent out till the end of January, so we'll just have to get those to our district commissioner when they turn up.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Just the ticket

Husband is in London today and just tried to buy this ticket for our Westminster Abbey trip.

Turns out, you can only buy them up to 7 days in advance. Stoopid rule - neither he nor I will be in London in the week before the trip, so I'll have to buy it on the day we get there, while the other 21 in the group loiter around Euston. Much easier to have someone get it in advance.


Census party tonight.

For those uninitiated - and boy I wish I was! - on Feb 22 each year Girlguiding UK want to know exactly how many members they have. From just turned 4 (Rainbows in Northern Ireland can start at 4 even though it's 5 elsewhere and no, I don't know why) right up to the oldest member of the Trefoil Guild.

For parents, that means forking out an annual subscription fee of anything between £12 and £25. That's right, we don't have one annual subscription fee, it depends where you live. National office set a basic amount then each of the following can add on to it: regional, county, division, district. So even within the town where we live, girls could be paying one of 5 different annual subscription fees, because we have 5 districts.

Our division set the fee at £15 and another £1.50 was added by the district. Of that £1.50, £1 per girl goes on things like district admin costs, insurance for the district's garage full of tents, maintenance of the above tents and so on. The remaining 50p is for a party. Girlguiding UK will be 100 in September 2009 and our district doesn't yet know what we will do to celebrate but by saving 50p from each girl this year and the same next year, hopefully we will be able to cover the cost of whatever venue we hire.

So anyway, as far as our Brownie parents are concerned, they fork out £16.50 at the worst time of the year (January) on top of the term's subs (£18) and it's all over with for another year.

As far as the Guiders go...not so much. We - and I say we, I mean me, because someone has to sit down and count and fill in the forms! - have to fill in a detailed form all about how many Brownies we have and of what age (I mean exactly, how many 7s, how many 8s etc), the Brownies background (eg white, Indian), how many girls are on the waiting list, how many of those girls are 7 etc.

Then we have to fill in a form about the leaders - what leaders we have, what role they have, whether we are paying the subscription for them or if it is being paid somewhere else (for example, my Assistant Guider is also an Assistant Guide Guider - only one unit pays for her, the other marks her as paid elsewhere. We take it in turns to pay for her!).

Then we sit with the chequebook and work out 24 times £16.50 and however many Guiders we are paying for times £15 then write an incredibly large cheque.

Normally we do this in the privacy of our own homes. This year, our new district commissioner wants to make it easier on us so is throwing a party where we do the forms then have a wee drink. This could be a great idea or I could end up screaming because I can't concentrate. But I do appreciate her having the idea and I am going to give it a try.

If you have read this far, you are a wonderful person.

Chink of light

One of our new Brownies is very quiet - fairly common for that to be the case, it can be a bit overwhelming at first.

Last night I couldn't get a word out of her, except: "I don't like the potato farl."

This morning when walking back with Son from dropping Daughter off at school, I saw her walking in with her dad. I gave her a little wave...and she waved back and beamed at me.

So I think we're going to be alright!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Chased the snakes

Well, that's Northern Ireland done.

The girls:
  • learned about St Patrick, what he did, when his day is celebrated
  • made paper shamrocks and compared them to the Guiding trefoil
  • learned a couple of Irish dancing steps
  • finger knitted - with various degrees of success
  • tasted soda bread, potato farls and red lemonade

All in all, a really good night for the new Guider, she worked really hard on it. Now I have to keep the standard up for Scotland next week...I might abandon my haggis plan though as I am pretty sure I am going to get a lot of refusals!

The remaining parents paid up subs/trip fees, which is good, we hate debt-chasing because we all find it embarrassing. Collected in permission forms for the senior six trip, sent out permission forms for Thinking Day.

We had all 24 girls in the hall for the first time - we've had 24 before but usually run at 20-22 depending on girls moving, girls about to start, a couple of girls off sick etc. I really noticed we had to move the circle quite wide to fit them all in.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

No waiting, come on in!

A mum rang this evening to see if her daughter can join Brownies. We're full, at 24, although we could go a little over the hall really can't take any more and still have space to do the activities.

But, we do have 5 girls going to Guides at Easter. Two of those spaces will be filled by Brownie little sisters in September so we're keeping those back, two will be filled by girls who are on the waiting list and will be old enough by she got the fifth place!

She was so pleased, she thought she'd have to wait ages - some girls do, it can be just luck, I mean the next parent that rings me, even if her daughter is old enough, we won't have a space that can't be filled by a girl currently on the waiting list till next January now.

Train takes strain

AG and I went to buy train tickets for the Westminster Abbey trip today. After trying not to fall on the floor when the (very helpful) lady asked for £355 for the 22 of us, I pointed out I had priced it up at £153!

We ended up having to create four separate bookings: 3 lots of 1 adults + 4 girls and 1 lot of 4 adults + 3 girls. I suspect what happened is that the family railcards (we bought 4), when applied to a group of 22 on her system, only registered as 1 railcard, whereas separately you could use one per booking.

So we finally beat it down to £157 - as that was within £4 of what I had hoped for, I decided to accept that!

Also had to pay £96 for the 4 railcards, they've gone up from £20 to £24 each, but that's fine, the Brownies and the Guides had each allowed for 2 railcards and between us we got all 7 leaders and the Guide Guider's husband on the 4 cards so that we can use them for Brownie trips, Guide trips, joint trips and even family ones for the people named by trading them among ourselves.

I don't have a problem with using the cards for private use as well:

a/ as you can see we save more than the cost of the card the very first time we use them with the girls anyway and

b/ the Guiders give a lot of time to the units and a fair bit of money (we are meant to reclaim EVERYTHING but in practice, we only claim the bigger things) so if we get to save £10 off a train ticket a couple of times in the year, I don't think we are out of line.

So all that remains for the Abbey trip is:

1. a Group Day Ticket for the Underground which I have priced at £40 but can't be bought until we get to London

2. Permission forms for everyone concerned

I already have the badges (as shown at the top of this post) so not much left to do.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Evil witch

Laid it on with a frelling trowel.

All About Canada

One thing I shared with another Guider on our training was the All About Canada badge.

My girls did this over a year ago, after I made friends with a lovely Canadian Guider and she traded us 24 All About Canada badges for 24 UK Brownie Traditions badges (well, we traded loads more than that, but for the purposes of this, it was a direct swap.)

Here's the requirements:

Paint a maple leaf or beaver on a white t-shirt. Why are they symbols of Canada?

I got them to do this on paper

Collect a set of Canadian coins. What are the symbols on each coin? Why do you think they were chosen?

I printed off coins from the internet, cut them in half, then the girls had to race to the centre of the circle and find a half coin then next person had to find the other half till they had the set, then talked in circle about why each symbol - the Bank of Canada website had all the info

Create a collage with your provincial flower, tree, mineral, bird and flag

I gave each six a print out of each for a province and they had to colour and arrange them, then tell the others about their province. I used these sheets: and skipped mineral as felt it was a bit obscure

What other animals or plants do you think would make good Canadian symbols? Explain why.

We talked about mooses, and Canada geese, Niagara Falls and anything else they could think of about Canada.

This Guider is doing Canada for Thinking Day so I shared some other ideas (food tasting of pancakes, maple syrup and Canadian cheddar; Fimo or foam Canadian flags, moose masks) and she's going to see what would work.

Still don't know

Still don't know if I will do my pack holiday licence but at least the training is done so if I want to, I can.

Swapped some great ideas with people for activities and trips, and chatted to one Guider who had helped set up her Brownie unit from scratch about the same time we did. Like us, she started in a group of Guiders all new to leading and sometimes you can wonder if you're doing it right with no experienced Guider in your group so it's good to chat to someone in the exact same position.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Flip flop

Went to a camp and holiday training session today, there's more to come tomorrow.

Totally flip flopping between whether I want to do the pack holiday licence or not:

  • Can take the girls away for as long as I want after completing (practically, that would be Fri-Sun), not limited to where we can easily get to for one night
  • Once done, it's valid forever as long as I use it every couple of years so to do it now while I have momentum makes sense
  • Do the 5 modules now for Brownies and I only have to do one module if I become a Guide Guider and want to transfer the skills
  • Many venues are blocked to us just now as they hire out for the weekend and we can only hire for overnight. We could pay the full weekend cost but that's too expensive.


  • Daughter becomes a Guide this time next year. Will I really want to take the Brownies away while she stays home? Maybe for a night, unlikely for a weekend.
  • Time-consuming. 5 modules to do and would have to meet adviser three or four times to work through it. Like I have spare time.
  • If I did want to change to a Guide licence in a couple of years, I would have to be assessed again, though at least only on one module.
  • Not sure how often I would use it so is it worth the hassle?

Flip flop, flip flop...don't know whether to do it or not. It would be end of October I did it anyway, as we have a sleepover in March and county Brownie camp in July, then I would need time with parents in September to get girls signed up. But given the time I need with a mentor, I'd need to decide by Easter to give it a stab in October.

Maybe tomorrow will clarify things for me.

Monday, 7 January 2008


When I wrote about my diary filling up with Guiding commitments I completely forgot I have a training weekend this very weekend. Oops.

It's a camp and holiday one and will hopefully make me feel a bit more confident about tackling events lasting longer than one night.

It's not a residential training though, I come home Saturday night and go back Sunday morning - it's only about 45 mins away so that's fine with me, I'd rather come back than lie on a floor in a sleeping bag listening to other people snore.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Guiding Manual and James Bond

There's a Guiding Manual, essentially a big book of rules for Guiders. It's actually really useful to refer to for ratios and so on.

It was recently decided that the manual would only be available online as a series of PDFs. Which is fine, and I am all for stuff being available online, but this is the kind of reference thing you need to be able to flick through for guidance.

Our new Guider needed a copy while she works through her Adult Leadership Qualification. I bought my own copy, and offered to lend it but not for long periods, as I often need it. I downloaded the PDFs for her and put them on a memory stick, but like me, she prefers to have it on paper.

Luckily, our local Guiding depot moves so slowly, there was a copy sitting in a drawer! So I scooped it up today while in on the floor below ordering a tux rental for my husband, along with a badge book (the last edition, naturally, even though the new edition has been out for a month or so!) for her daughter.

Re the tux rental - my husband is getting to go to a swanky art exhibition opening in London with his company, complete with posh meal, overnight stay etc. I could have gone too, but it's a Thursday night. Can't get my mum down from Scotland for it, his parents won't stay away overnight, and while 9 year old Daughter could easily be farmed out to someone overnight and sent to school with them the next morning, there's a strange lack of people willing to do the same for 4 year old Son.

So I'll sit in the dim twilight while he gets to live it up, dressed as James Bond. Roll on Son being old enough to stay over at people's houses!

Friday, 4 January 2008

Back to front and upside down

This was the theme of the first ever overnight I did and it was really good fun. Guiders are always looking for new themes and when they hear this, always ask me what we did within the theme, so I thought I would list them here, then next time I can give the link instead.
  • They wore their tops backwards (bottoms was too uncomfortable).
  • All the signs were written backwards (with the exception of in the kitchen for safety reasons).
  • All the badges were backwards.
  • They ate meals at the wrong time (eg breakfast at lunchtime) and in the wrong order (eg pud first). They thought this was HILARIOUS and was absolutely the thing they talked about most afterwards.
  • They designed posters for their six - we blue tacked paper to the underneath of a table and they had to lie on the floor to do it.
  • We did a backwards Olympics (backwards running races etc).
  • At bedtime, I read Green Eggs and Ham backwards, that went down a storm.

Think that was most of it!

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