Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas to all!

Hope you and yours have a lovely break.

Button Christmas tree instructions and original attribution can be found here:

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Planning with the girls

We've tried all kinds of planning with the girls:
*pow wow - the classic brownie way but can lead to a few dominant girls taking over. This is how we last surveyed them, and wrote down everything.
*fill in a (short) form

This term, mostly because we ran out of time, we emailed the parents and asked them to ask their girls one thing they would like to do.

We got 9 replies (out of 25) so not the ideal way to take all opinions on board but enough to get us started.

Here's what they wanted:
A - origami and cooking
B  - more badges, cooking and a brownie holiday
C - 3D origami animals
D - calendar
E - rock climbing
F - arts and crafts
G - onesie challenge
H - Making clay models, Circle time about friendship (what makes a good friend etc), A local visit, e.g library, museum,park
I - Star Wars or Birds of the feathered variety particularly Swans.

Across the next two terms we have fitted in all of that, except the calendar, but that request was from a younger Brownie and we can do that in the autumn term. We have no new girls this January and just three at Easter so if we recheck at the end of summer term, everyone will be having a say.

Actually, we haven't specifically planned cooking either though there will inevitably be some. Our new venue doesn't yet have a cooker so we need to play it by ear a little until then.

So, we're pretty much ready for 2016, just need to print off a few things like sign in lists and so on and we're good to go!

Sunday, 13 December 2015


December is running away with me so just a bullet point list of what we've been up to:

1. Had our final meeting of the year, some Christmassy crafts (a lovely wreath designed by one leader and some free styling pipe cleaner decorations) followed by a promise ceremony for five girls and badge presentations for the term for everyone. A wonderful evening, tinged with a little sadness that it is the last one in our temporary venue of the Scout hut where so many of the brothers of our Brownies attend. We move to a new permanent home in the New Year and I am sure I will have lots to say then!

2. Leaders night out - the Brownie, Guide and Senior Section leaders try to go out the first week after we break up for a meal each Christmas, sometimes the YLs come too but not this time due to exams. Great night out down the pub :-)

3. We had the division carol service today, run by our district (we take it in turns, so every five years it is our go!) and we had somewhere between 140 and 180 people attend. We collected money and food for the food bank, and everyone attending got a couple of sweeties and a card about volunteering, all in a white paper bag decorated Christmas style by our Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Senior Section. Last time our district organised it, we planned a one hour service and it was all over in 30 minutes! This year we got it more on target at 55 mins. :-)

4. Our waiting list continues to grow, we now have more girls on there than in the pack! Many are too young, either Rainbows or even younger, but we do have a lot who are seven and waiting. We have appealed for leaders to start another unit in a number of ways, with no success so far but we live in hope. In the meantime, we have to be frank with parents, it takes about two years to get to the top of the list, we can supply details of nearby units with spaces or you need to step up and volunteer if you're not happy to wait. I've actually head anecdotally of a couple of parents on that list defending us when others complain, saying they aren't willing to do it so their daughter just has to wait.

5. Speaking of daughters, I'm very proud of mine who was presented with the Chief Guide's Challenge Badge at the Christmas service. It's the second highest award you can earn in Guiding, second only to being a Queen's Guide (the equivalent of which is Queen's Scout, Eagle Scout or earning a Girl Scout Gold Award, so one level down from all of those) and I am very proud of her for earning it. I shan't share a picture of her being presented with it as she would be mortified, but the pic on this post is the badge itself.

Have a lovely rest of 2015 and see you in 2016!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Not quite there

I've not been reporting back on what we've been up to because I haven't quite been there!
In the last three weeks:
Week 1: I was working with the new Brownies on their promise and their understanding of it so I missed the team building exercises in the main hall - all good fun apparently!
Week 2: I missed entirely because daughter and I went to a gig in Birmingham (Of Monsters and Men) which was fab - I hasten to add she went with a friend and I hung around at the back, didn't see her once!
Week 3: I was properly there but was focussing on supporting one of our Brownies who needs a 1:1 when we do activities, she needs her food cut up tiny etc. I have the most fabulous picture of her, happily dipping her finger in a chocolate spread and giggling her head off.
It was a French night, run in style by the older of our two Brownie Helpers to fundraise for her going to France with her Guide unit next year. We donated the subs from the night to her in return for her planning which includes tasting grape juice (instead of wine), food tasting, colouring and games.
Just one more week of this term, we finish very early in December as the school where most of our girls go has a school play and then a disco on the second and third Thursday in December so easier not to meet. Well, the GIRLS won't meet, is leaders are off for a night out on one of those nights!
The picture on the post has nothing to do with anything we have done, it's just a craft I would like to do with hem sometime and I always like to have a picture on here! I can spot it later and remember we'd like to try it out!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Remembrance Sunday and our flag

No post about the joint meeting with Brownies and Cubs we held this week, unfortunately I was ill and had to miss it but I hear it was very loud and lots of fun.

What I did manage to attend was Remembrance Sunday, and our new flag made its debut, carried by a very proud Brownie flanked by her colour party. We had 16 girls attend (out of 25), exactly same number as last year!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Senior section uniforms through the ages

Girlguiding Scotland is very good at archive stuff, they did a great booklet on Guiding uniforms through the ages a while ago and now, in time for The Senior Section Centenary next year, they have created a series of posters with great detail about the uniform for that age range through the years.

The uniforms are modelled by girls from a senior section unit in Glasgow, one of their leaders is an old school friend of mine. Here's a blog by one of them:

I was particularly taken by the uniform from my own era, I was a happy Brownie and Guide but left Rangers/Senior Section after just three weeks, and although there were a lot of other factors, the air hostess hat was definitely one of them!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Five years since 20:10 (ten past eight), 20/10 (20th October) 2010

Time flies!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Poppies and sleeping though not much sleeping

This week was our Poppies week, a deliberate attempt to teach the Brownies a bit about Remembrance Sunday and why it is the one event per year that we apply a little bit of pressure to attend (and by pressure all I mean is we say to parents we would really like your daughter to attend).

This year we will be debuting our flag, which we are all excited about anyway, and we have a good 16 girls who have returned signed consent forms to attend on the 8th. Timing means we needed to run out Poppy night a little early - we have a Halloween night next week, then half term, then a joint meeting with the Cubs who meet in the same hut as us and then bam, time for Remembrance Sunday.

So we talked about Remembrance Sunday, what they already knew, discussed why we stop for two minutes at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, and watched a couple of short videos on a DVD sent to us by the Royal British Legion.

Then they all made their own fabric poppies, in the tradition of the very first woman who made them to sell and fundraise (we did emphasise they still need to buy a paper one), and just to make it yummy, they also made poppy cupcakes using fondant icing (separate cakes supplied for the gluten-free girls and they made theirs first using a just washed chopping board and rolling pin to ensure gluten freeness.

I also read them a few pieces of information to wrap up the evening, particularly about the role of women in war. It was a hit and miss evening - the poppies took far less time to make than I thought, the cakes took about the time I expected but there was a queue because the fabric bit went so quickly. I was a little dis-spirited when we left but my daughter, our YL, talked me back up saying that when she was in Brownies she never minded when activities ran short because it gave her a chance to chat to her friends, some of whom she only saw at Brownies.

Friday night saw us at a county campsite about 40 mins away for a sleepover for newbies and Sixers. Three Brownie leaders, one Guide leader, 2 Guides/Brownie Helpers and 12 Brownies. Very impressed by the cabin where we stayed, it's newly refurbished and very well thought out. We did lots of crafting, all the new girls made it through the night and picked up their first Nights Away badge and four of the five older Brownies got their five nights away badge (the fifth already got hers as she had two extra nights away when we went to Wales that the others didn't do).

The most popular activity was snap wrist bands that they could decorate themselves. It was a round the world sleepover - we made British flag paper chains, Swedish heart placemats, ate Italian tea (pizza), decorated Chinese dragon bags, the wristbands with a "your favourite country" theme, ate Danish breakfast (cheese, yoghurt and a pastry), and finished off with a round the world wreath.

As for sleeping, we got to our beds at 12.20am (they were in theirs from 10.30pm but it took a while to get the younger ones to calm down) and they were awake at 5.40am but - and this was crucial - there was a bathroom off the room they were staying in so since we didn't have a herd of elephants running up and down a corridor past our room to go to the lop, we were able to leave them to it and stay in our own beds till 7.15am when we opened the kitchen shutter to see them all awake!

All good fun but even though we were done by 11.15am, and home not long after noon, I did need a nap in the afternoon to get back on top!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Amazing denbuilding evening

Our Brownies and Guides had a joint two hour meeting this week, denbuilding with an ex-army man!

It was a massive hit, with rave reviews from the girls. We split the girls into two groups, and half got to denbuild as the other half learned how to start, feed and dampen a fire (with marshmallows in the middle, of course). Then they swapped over.

The denbuilding was great - using two army ponchos, bungee cords and tent pegs our girls can now build a shelter (in the dark) in two ways: one if the wind is steady and one if it is not.

The ex-army chap was patient, really good at explaining and full of praise.

Then we packed up and left no trace we were ever there! Fantastic night.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Are you a Beaver, Cub or Senior Section leader?

All those sections have special anniversaries coming up, and Blackwell Adventure near Birmingham, where we had a fab Brownie camp earlier this year, have got some great offers for each celebration.

Not a sponsored post, I just think Blackwell is fab!

Thursday, 1 October 2015


I'm going to come back to what we did last week (Brownie adventure night) because I'm still putting my thoughts together on that. They're not working how we have hoped, and we are refocusing, so I just need to think about how to share that.

This week, it was all about Fairytales. Our planned night wasn't possible, we wanted to support a leader going on an international but she wasn't available this term, we will reschedule.

Our YL stepped in and ran a fairytale night instead. She did a great job - planned four activities and let the girls continue with what they were doing as they were clearly having fun, so only managed two. She just rolled with it! She also rolled with losing two of her adults for 20 minutes, and did so with aplomb.

The Brownies had lots of fun making their own wings - two wire coat hangers duct taped together then scraps of fabric tied to them. We used some beautiful sari fabric a colleague had given me, together with lots of scraps sent in by parents - in fact we have loads left and have put them in our store cupboard for another time. They also carried out a storytelling game and, as you can see, dressed up if they chose to, about 2/3 did, including 3 Maleficients!

Sorry for the triangles, preserving anonymity for those three Brownies and for the Cubs named on the wall behind them! The pic does show the basic structure of the wings though. 

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Autumn 2015 is go

Here we go again! Four leaders, two young leaders, two Guides to help and 25 Brownies. 

We had 24 for our first night - one of the newbies was in hospital poor girl. We're looking forward to welcoming her next week.

We had some mad scrambling just before we returned. We have a sleepover planned for next month for the new girls and the sixers, and two days before our first meeting, we discovered the venue had double booked us! The leader who found out then spent the day calling every possible venue in a 30 mile radius and although we couldn't manage anywhere for the same weekend, she did secure somewhere for the weekend after. 

After I checked all the leaders could make it, we threw it out to the girls and with a few adjustments (a couple arriving late, several leaving early) we were able to go ahead with all the original attendees.

We like to take the new girls (including all the girls who hadn't been away with us before not just the ones starting in September) and the sixers away each October for a quiet sleepover. It gives the new girls a chance to get to know us and vice versa, with more time than in regular meetings. And it gives the sixers a chance to model good behaviour, and with two Guide leaders going too, a chance to find out about Guides.

Other news:

This week's theme was hearts and the girls were encouraged to open up about what they love, and there were some lovely answers.

Loving the flag, the girls were very impressed with it and I can see there will be a lot of interest in being flag bearer at Remembrance Sunday.

Still in our temporary venue, we've been made very welcome by the Scouts though I think we'll be back in our own area in January which does mean many of our girls can walk to Brownies.

Autumn 2015 is go!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The flowers!

Remember back in April we were planting wild flowers thanks to seeds from Kew Gardens and the Grow Wild project?

The flowers are up and they are so pretty! I confess I checked back a couple of months ago and saw loads of weeds and thought oh well, we had fun doing it anyway. But it all came good!

Monday, 3 August 2015

We are getting a flag

One of my strongest Brownie memories is hoping to be chosen to carry the Brownie pennant. Our pack took part in lots of church parades, and I did get my chance! Back then (late seventies, early eighties), the Guides were allowed a flag but Brownie could just have a pennant.
It would have looked like this, though not this exact one.

Well, somewhere along the way it was decided Brownies could have a flag, and it's something we have toyed with getting over the years since we started our pack at the end of 2004. We finally have enough funds to go for it and I am thrilled to say we have ordered our flag!

We don't do any church parades, but we do always do Remembrance Sunday, and I am pleased we will be able to stand along side the Scouts with their flags this year. Our flag will look like this: 

Though again, not this exact name. We also ordered a pole, a flag holder, a finial and a case to keep it all in. Now we have to decide which Brownie will get to have the honour! When presenting the Remembrance wreath, we have always picked the oldest Brownie to turn up, but this time there will need to be some practicing with the flag so we will have to pick in advance. We will have to decide as a leadership team, but I think we should start with the girls who will be Guides by the following Remembrance Sunday, so around 8 of them, eliminate those who won't be attending Remembrance Sunday (which we will know in advance as we will have consent forms) and pick from the remaining 5 or 6 girls.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Last Brownies

We've had our last Brownie meeting of the year, meeting at a local campsite jointly with Guides and Senior Section as we always do for our last meeting before summer. We normally also have a campfire, but this time we were missing two of our Guide leaders and they happened to be the two that start and tend the campfire so we didn't have one this time.

The girls played a wide game using a pack of cards that took ages and seemed to be fun, then we had sandwiches and cakes for snack, badge presentation and a bit of singing before they left.

We said goodbye to five girls, and we will really miss them, but at least three are off to Guides, one is taking a term break then hopefully going to Guides (she left before she was ten because she has a swimming clash, she comprised with her club back at Easter that she would do one more term with Brownies then move up so we knew we were losing her early but pleased it was just one term early not too) and the fifth Brownie is deliberating between Guides and Scouts. I see us as one big movement so I'm happy either way though personally I hope she goes to Guides simply so I'll get to see her now and then. I don't think the Scouts my own son goes to works for her in terms of timing so I wouldn't see her any more if she went to a different Scouts and I always like to see how they are getting on.

What's next? Planning for next term - we held a pow wow to find out what the girls wanted and will be using the results of that. An overnight for the new girls and the sixers together as we usually do in autumn. Possibly a new home, as we look at our new community hall, our old school home with a new bigger hall and bear in mind that we have been made very welcome in our current Scout hut home. Possibly a flag, we've not had one before but we might be able to afford it this year. And of course five new Brownies to replace the ones we lost: an adorable girl I've known well from birth who is thrilled to be joining, two younger sisters of existing Brownies and two I've not met before.

Come September, we start all over again!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Chip walk

We marched them from our meeting place to the chip shop near most of their houses (took about 30 mins).

There were about 30 of us - 20 Brownies and 5 Guides because we were down in numbers due to a school play, plus 4 Guiders, 1YL and 2 parents.

After the walk, we headed to a nearby play park and just let them play, eat chips, play. Fun evening, nice and easy and perfect for the sunny evening (we have done it in rain too and that was fun as well, just different!).

Just one more week till we break for summer!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Camping - I guess it COULD have rained more!

We had a brilliant time at camp but oh my did it rain! We put the tents up in the rain, we listened to it rain both nights, it rained most of the Saturday and a bit of the Sunday...amazingly it was actually dry enough on the Sunday for us to get the tents down dry which was pretty lucky. 

One of our leaders was doing the camp module of her licence and she had put so much work into the weekend! The theme was Hogwarts, so a 'lite' version of Harry Potter to keep it all suitable for 7-10 year olds. The adventurous activities (eg zip wire) were themed too, so zip wire was flying class etc. We also did the cola and mentos experiment, in potions class, and there were crafts and quizzes and games - so much prep, she did a great job. 

We were particularly grateful she had booked the indoor sports hall for most of the day on Saturday - somewhere dry to eat our lunch and do activities!

The girls barely slept, but seemed to have a great time even if we did send them home exhausted. All in all, a great job, and now we just have to wait to hear if our Leader has passed her extra module!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Nearly time for Brownie camp

We continued doing camp prep with the girls this week, it's a balance to include all the girls, not just those planning to come with us, but we reckon they are learning useful skills either way as hopefully those who aren't camping with us this time will do so in the future.

While the leaders ran sessions with the Brownies, our two YLs and two Guide Brownie Helpers assembled a tent we had been given by a former Brownie's family as they used it once and decided they hated camping! It wasn't very expensive but we're grateful for any donations to us! It is massive, and without the bedroom pods in, perfect as somewhere for the girls to shelter and eat if the weather is against us. While heavy, it's not as heavy as the frame tent another unit had kindly offered to loan to us, so we're going to use it as it can fit in a parent's car to bring to the camp.

The Brownies did a few different things:
*practiced putting up a small tent
*ordered their lunch for the Saturday, just to help our QM order the right amount of desired food
*drew friendly ghost faces on plastic milk bottles - at camp we will add water and a glow stick and leave them outside in the evening :-)
*played a game: "I went on camp and I forgot my..." We had some funny things left behind: knickers, leaders, a very very very special necklace, eyeballs, a boyfriend...It's a fun way to cover the things that do need to come and those that don't, such as boyfriends and necklaces!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Half term but always prepping!

No meeting this week because it's half term but always prepping of course!

Our family tent is going to Brownie camp to house the two YLs and two Guides that are coming with us, so I put it up to check no mice had nested in it in the time it's been in the garage.

It's not quite as massive as it seems, our garden is not very long! 

I found a Scout inside (my son, who helped me put it up) but he'll be removed before camp! It's been a while since I had to take a tent down, and the bag for it is very tight in size, and after three attempts my son and I still hadn't folded it small enough to fit it in. At which point daughter (YL, former Brownie, former Guide who camped regularly, and current member of Senior Section) took over and had it done in 15 minutes!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Camp skills and decisions

This week we worked on camp prep: learning some new skills, making decisions and making a plate bag.

We divided the girls into three, including the few (7) girls of our 25 who are not going to camp. These skills will be useful anyway!

Each group had 20 mins in one of three areas:
1. Decisions - which of the two superadventurous activities we will be doing do you want to do? We had a good divide between 3G swing and zipwire so should be able to accommodate their choices. A few don't want to do either, they will be assigned to one group or the other and will get the chance to take part if they change their mind otherwise they will support the others.
Then, which of the two slightly less adventurous activities: obstacle course or tree trek. These decisions are because the maximum group numbers on each don't allow us to take every girl to each.
Finally, name three girls you'd like to share a tent with and we will do our best to ensure you get one. This was logostically interesting afterwards, a number of girls didn't choose each other, but we've got everyone matched up now and will test out those groups for team work next meeting.

2. Plate bag designing. We had a set of fabric bags snapped up at 50p each in a sale some time ago so we decided that to ensure every girl had a plate bag, we would use those and let them design their own. We already had fabric pens so nice easy activity!

3. Bedding rolls. Keeping bedding dry, especially at the start of camp when tents need to be put up, is crucial so the third group practiced making their own.

Next time - putting up tents!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Parents meeting for Brownie camp - what happens?

When a Brownie pack calls a parent meeting for Brownie camp, I urge you to go even if you don't always attend meetings for Brownie holidays. Camps are so different and it's important to know what's happening, what's expected and why we are asking for specific kit. 
NB - these are Midlands Brownies in a tent, pic from Girlguiding Midlands news story. Not my Brownies (would love to know whose though, they look like they're having fun!)

Camping can be hard for Brownies, often it's their first time in a tent and we (leaders and parents) need to support them so they have a great time, love camping and want to continue camping as Guides when they often camp longer, further away and even abroad.

So a parents meeting is likely to focus on the importance of the items on the kit list. There's a blanket on there not just to show off any badges seen on it but because no matter how warm it is in the day, it will be cold at night.
There's a request that every item be named or identifiable right down to cutlery because when it's all washed up together, how do you expect to get it back otherwise?
Sleeping bags etc should be in a bedding roll (inside a groundsheet) or a water right stuff sack because if bedding gets wet while tents are going up, or if a tent leaks, it's nearly impossible to get dry.
Some things might be listed as optional. I'd always recommend sending those too, because there's a reason they're on there. Our optional list for the next camp includes waterproof trousers, I'll personally be taking them as they defend not just against rain but also cold wind.
Then there's the do not take items - your daughter might not want to be parted from her phone, iPod or hair straighteners but a/ where's she planning on charging them, a tree? And b/ camp is about setting those things to one side for a while and enjoying the outdoors.

Other items likely to be covered in the parents meeting include the proposed menu - dietary needs can be accounted for but when you are cooking for 30, the cook will not be making different meals  for fussy girls!

You are likely to be asked to fill in the consent form if you haven't already - remember to put contacts for that specific weekend which might be different from your normal contacts - and pay the balance for camp if you haven't done so. Health forms shouldn't be filled in until just before camp but often leaders ask you to fill them in now so they can be aware of any major issues and then update just before camp with anything that's happened recently.

What else happens depends on the unit. Our unit is lucky enough to have some old style Brownie uniform as pack holiday uniform so we issue each girl with a tshirt and jumper, and trousers if possible (we don't have many of those that fit/the elastic hasn't gone) because it's better to trash those than her own newer clothes.

We also run through behaviour and what we expect. We reinforce that on camp but it's good to mention in front of the girls when they are with their parents so they can support us.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Polling day Brownies

No meeting this week because Brownies fell on the same day as the General Election and our original meeting place, which we thought we would be in back when we set the dates for the year, was in use.

But some of the leaders still had Brownies anyway...very nice dinner at our local pub.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Since London: Brownie Adventures and division camp

Since we got back from London, we've still been busy - never stops!

*The day after London was St George's Day parade, in our town only the Scouts parade so no need to drag the girls out but I did need to take son and his friend and it did make it a Guiding & Scouting weekend, hard to fit in those other things that need to happen between being out the day before and then having that to do too. 

*Our meeting that week was Brownie Adventures so each group doing more work on their own age section. Our YL stepped up and led one group well, and we had a new Brownie Helper who worked with me on the Guides Go For It group and she was very positive with them. We are finding these Adventure nights hard to do, hard to have enough leaders and support the girls. We will be having a pow wow at our next Adventure evening, our feeling is the girls like these nights and want to carry them on but we want to check!

*This weekend was division camp. Our Brownies didn't go as we are camping next month, but that left many of us free to help or be with other units. Four of our five leaders were there in some form and we had a lot of fun to go with the wind, rain and cold! Just look at what happened to the jelly beans when the wind tore through our kitchen tent! Many tents were lost during this camp, mostly gazebos, and we had to tether our own kitchen tent to a Land Rover to save it!

Monday, 4 May 2015

London continued

After the Tower of London, we took the girls to a nearby Zizzi's restaurant. We had prebooked, we figured with 31 of us it was going to be hard to walk in anywhere.
The manager was great, we arranged for us to preorder too and he supplied an adult menu, a kid menu and an allergen menu so parents and girls could make their informed choices. We also arranged for jugs of juice on the tables rather than them just getting a glass and us having to arrange more for some, not for others etc. We probably had little more than we would have had anyway but it was a nice touch.
We were really pleased with everything and the bill came in within about £4 of what we thought it would, so all good!

As we headed out, we were running a little late for Tower Bridge but we were stopped by a group of ladies doing a London challenge, they needed to be filmed dancing to a busker but hadn't been able to find one! So they got the girls to sing and they danced to it!

We made it over to Tower Bridge and went in to the exhibition, it has a very cool glass walkway where you look down on to the bridge and the girls enjoyed the view. After we came down, we ticked off a couple more Shaun the Sheep statues on the south bank then headed back to the bridge to head back across the river. 

As we started to cross the klaxon sounded! The bridge was coming up! I have never been on the bridge when that happened, I don't think I've even seen it happen anywhere but in the movies. 
That did slow us down a bit as we had to wait for it to be reopened, but then we headed back to our station and then home - a packed day but one I think they really enjoyed. 

Sunday, 26 April 2015


Before I finish the post about our London trip, I realise I forgot to write up this week's meeting.

Carefully cropped picture to show you what we were up to - planting seeds! We received them through Kew Gardens Grow Wild project and worked with our borough council to identify, and have rotavated, a bed for us in our local community to plant the wildflower seeds.

Our Brownies and Guides worked together - and our Senior Section will also be planting elsewhere later - on the planting: stomping on the bed to break up the soul, mixing seeds with sand and then sowing. They also made tiny bee houses and hung them on trees or stuffed them in bushes.

It was a good night, and nice to be back in our own community, we love where we are just now as it is very welcoming, plus has a kitchen, storage and somewhere to run around outside, but we are conscious the parents all have to get in a car to get there, whereas they used to just walk to us. 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

London - visiting the Tower, and undying love

We had a long planned trip to London today, with 21/25 of our girls attending. We took 5 leaders, a YL, two parents and two Guides too, so we were quite a group! 

Here's what we did, with detail, so others can use our planning if it can help.

Train from local station to Euston: we booked the tickets months ago, and with the help of our amazing local station staff, we got 31 of us to London for £130 - pretty much the same cost as a walk on peak  ticket for one from our station! We used Friends and Family Railcards as using these was much cheaper than group tickets, and carefully booked an early train to ensure we got the best rate.

Nice side note - our seats were marked Reserved Brownies, plus our station staff had an activity pack for every girl!

Underground: several leaders had oyster cards, and everyone with one of those or a day travel card (which we bought for other others) can take 4 under 11s through the luggage gate without paying for them, so we really got value from these. We planned our route to go round the centre to Tower Hill rather this through the middle of London, as we were there at the same time as Anzac commemorations on Whitehall and at Westminster Abbey, and St George Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square. We wanted to avoid those as it would be so busy, so our route took us off to the east and then South.

The main point of the trip was to visit the Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels. We headed straight there, and three of the girls made their promise on the travelator past the crowns! Then we divided the group up, sending one lot to the Bloody Tower and then to follow an actor being Thomas Cromwell around, and the others visiting the walls and towers around the edges, then the White Tower in the middle.

We had group tickets for this too, so we could walk straight in without queueing, although actually it was a fairly quiet day and we wouldn't have had to queue too long.

Special mention for the Brownie who asked if all diamonds were as expensive as the ones in the crowns and when I showed her my wedding ring with three small diamonds and said it wasn't worth a lot but I loved it anyway, she said: "because it came from your undying love?"

More to follow - lunch, the afternoon's entertainment, the unexpected bonuses and returning home. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Abandon plans, all us who enter here

We threw our plans out the window this week, as it was a lovely evening and the first time we had met in daylight since moving to our new home.

The Scout hut used to be playing field changing rooms, and the field is still there, so after a few indoors games, we let the girls loose outside. There were a few structured games, and some time to run or flop as they saw fit.

It was lovely: chilled and fun! We got all bar three sets of subs in (and I have those three now too) and we're all good to go for next week's seed sowing and big London trip.

PS: one of the fun games - make a circle, hold hands, break one handhold and put a hula hoop across then they have to work the hoop round to the starting point without stopping holding hands. With 25 girls, we added 4 hoops to keep it interesting. 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Summer term 2015

Nearly the end of the Easter break, and almost time for Brownies to start again. Which of course means I have been fitting some Guiding admin in over the last few weeks despite no meetings!

We have a lovely outdoorsy term planned for the girls, after the first week back we will be taking part in Grow Wild with our Guides and Senior Section, planting wildflower seeds in our local community (with permission!)

That's followed by a London day out, itinerary and planning to be shared afterwards, of course. 

As ever, we have a couple of Brownie Adventure nights to help them work towards their Adventure, Adventure On and More Adventures badges. My group will be doing their Go For It as the last part of their More Adventures badge.

We have two camp prep nights, one of our leaders is taking her camp licence and with nearly all the girls attending camp, there's some key skills to be learned as camping is so different from pack holiday. These skills mean we will send them off to Guides knowing the basics and hopefully enthused for camping, it certainly did the last time we camped. 

Our Brownie Helper (aged 11) is running an outdoor games night for them while we hold a parents evening for camp - she won't be left on her own in charge, there will be leaders there too! And we have a chip walk and our traditional final meeting of the year at our town's Scout campsite. 

Here's hoping for good weather!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Messy and noisy

Last week was one of those messy weeks where we tried to do too much and everything got out of control.
The new Brownies were finishing off Becoming a Brownie before two took their promise later that night (the others will do it during a trip early next term). One who has missed every Becoming a Brownie session was told she had to bring her book,and turned up without it, so it was hard for the leader with them to deal with two who were ready, two who were ready but not doing it and one who wasn't ready at all.
My More Adventures group were outside playing games in the dark, and had to be brought in because they were just shrieking too loudly and annoying the neighbours, plus ignoring the leader with them. I had to deal with the children's university passports which took me away from them yet again and I felt bad about that.
A stand in leader was working with one set of girls and was surprised at just how noisy they were being. The other two groups were fine!
We did have to tell them off, they weren't paying any attention to arms in the air and we had to finish off to be ready for the promise ceremony.
That went ok but then ignoring started again after and this time I had to read the riot act in front of some parents.
We agreed that this week we would put our hands in the air and wait, not shout. It really worked. They missed out on the end activity, because we ran out of time because of the amount of time we spent with our arms in the air and by the end of the evening you could hear girls telling others to shush and stop and some visible disappointment at missing out on the end activity.
We'll reinforce it next meeting and hope it will continue to improve.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Pax Lodge but where are the Brownies?

Back in February, the seven Guiders who make up our Brownie and Guides leadership team did something very unusual - negotiated three days off from life and headed to London for the weekend!

We're almost all mums - six out of seven of us have kids ranging in age from three to twenty, five of us work, and both organising and not feeling guilty about taking time out from the families is rare, so we really enjoyed ourselves.

We joined a division trip to Pax Lodge World Guiding Centre, organised by a member of the Trefoil Guild working towards an award. It's great that adults in Guiding are able to work towards a few awards too, and we were really happy we got involved.

Those of us with school age kids dropped them at school and then the two drivers scooped everyone up and we headed off in tandem down the M1. We made good time and we able to drop our bags at Pax Lodge and head out again by about 1pm.

Our aim for the afternoon was the British Museum, where one of us had a brother in law on staff. He proceeded to give us a two and a half hour tour of pretty much every corner of the place, telling us the key things to look out for in each area. I've been a few times and I confess that after the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon statues, the Easter Island statue and the Egyptian gallery, I feel overwhelmed by what's left and don't know where to start, but I do now! We learned so many great things as we went and he was very patient. Highlights included seeing Assyrian statues that basically as we saw them are being destroyed in Syria and really brought home the value of a museum, beautiful centuries old pottery, secret doors to back rooms that he has a key to (very exciting!), a Michelangelo cartoon that few people see because it's on the top floor, and a Doctor Who banknote.

We were flagging by the end of the tour, though he did a great job, but there was only so much we could take in. After that we headed back to North London where the others had arrived at Pax Lodge, where we could chill out for a while, unpack in our rooms, before heading out to dinner.

We found a place nearby that took the 15 of us and had a lovely meal, anyone who is friends with us on Facebook will know that most of the pics we posted all weekend were of us out eating and drinking but we walked miles and miles over the weekend so I reckon we worked most of it off.

Saturday, after flag ceremony in the morning it was up to us what we wanted to do, we picked a few highlights and once again headed out as a seven, there were three groups out of the 15, each working on a different London Challenge so we could earn a badge at the end!

After a trip to Kings Cross to see Platform 9 3/4, we headed for Borough Market first and oh, the food! Lots of tasty samples, if I'd been heading home that night I might have indulged but with no fridge access it was pointless. Then Shakespeare's Globe, Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge, Southwark Bridge, a walk up Fleet Street, past the Royal Courts of Justice, down Drury Lane (no sign of the muffin man but we did find a primary school!) and into Covent Garden where the next few hours were spent wandering, having lunch, shopping. I picked up wooden rulers for my two kids with their names on, as a reward for some great school news I received for both of them in a call from my husband while we were at lunch.

We headed back up to North London again and this time split, with four heading for Camden Market and three straight back to Pax. We reconvened later, for dinner as a 15 again, this time at Pax followed by an international evening of Guiding which was great fun.

Sunday we had another flag ceremony, received our badges and said our farewells. Some people were heading on to Crystal Palace to see the Girlguiding Centenary Maze but most of our seven had seen it and were happy to head home.

It was a lovely weekend, spent in the company of some fantastic ladies. It brought us closer as a team, and I think made us all value each other a bit more and feel part of something bigger than us. And it was lovely to have a weekend where we only had to look after ourselves, no Brownies with us to constantly count while on the underground! We do love them but it was fun to be away without them for a change.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Tenth birthday

If you track back in this blog, you'll find details of our unit's fifth birthday in 2010, when we had a party with our newly-formed Rainbow unit:

This time around it was our tenth, and we decided to celebrate with our Guides, who started at the same time as us.

It was fairly low key, just party games and music, but they seemed to have fun. We had a badge, and a cake which exactly matched the badge - I haven't included pics as our unit name is on both.

The cake was made by a Brownie mum, and she also made some gluten free cupcakes for the three girls and one leader who can't have gluten and who we of course wanted to include.

We invited our Division Commissioner, and the Division Commissioner from when we started who regards us as one of her success stories. Fun night! 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Go Global

On Saturday, Feb 21st, we took part in Go Global, an event for Midlands region girls, winding up the end of our Art Explosion challenge which has been so much fun. Our challenges had included making elephants out of milk bottles, hiding them on an elephant trail, and a fashion show in front of parents, to name just a few things.

We signed up for this final event with a little trepidation. It wasn't cheap: £20 for a ticket and another £10 for a coach place. We've been to a lot of county and region events and sometimes they can be a little samey - for instance we learned Banghra dancing about three times last year, we were practically experts, there are so many forms of dance and it was the same single style that kept appearing! These events are always organised by volunteers and we are grateful, but we had kind of decided that if this event wasn't amazing, we were going to think again about future ones.

Guess what, it was amazing! (also yes, there was Banghra dancing but our girls weren't assigned to that anyway!)

So first up we all, around 3,000 of us, met up in a large hall at a county show ground for the launch. There were videos and music to keep the girls occupied while we waited for everyone, and we were immediately assigned into our colour and number group - our Brownies were in Orange 1 with some Nottinghamshire Brownies and our Guides and Senior Section were in Blue 1.

The directions to move around the four workshops and lunch break over the day were great, there was plenty of time but not too much time in between each, allowing toilet trips (even this was carefully regulated with groups advised which loos to head for at each stage).

First up, we made a Guidy Giggle.

The Guidy Giggle was what they called it just to give it a fun twist, in reality, it's a cushion! The fabric pouches had been presewn, one lady we spoke to had made 200! There were 30 tables, with room for 12 to sit at each, and each manned by a member of the Trefoil Guild. Each girl got a plastic bag with a certificate and a pouch. They collected stuffing, then went to a row of tables in the middle of the room that had fabric scraps, ribbons, felt, netting, wool, buttons, fake flowers, and chose what they wanted to use then went back to their table, stuffed their cushion and decorated it. It needed to have a hole of about 4cm sewn up at the top after stuffing.

Great though was given to each section: Rainbows were given glue to add their decor, Brownies were helped to thread needles, and Guides and Senior Section just got on with it. Leaders of older girls made theirs on the day, Leaders of Rainbows and Brownies were encouraged to choose a few pieces so they could make theirs later. I didn't get to start mine while I was there but I made it the next day.

Then we moved on and the girls were taught a dance from Hairspray. They enjoyed it, and learned a lot in a short time. While our group did that, the other Orange groups learned different dances and roleplays. Next up was lunch, and we went back to the big hall for that which was good, gave us a chance to catch up with our guides and Senior Section.

Next was a kind of bits and pieces session. There was an elephant trail, a quiz, musical instruments, a graffiti wall, a gorgeous Guide Dog, it was kind of like everything they had thought of that didn't fit elsewhere was put here. It was fine, and as it was contained in one area we let the girls roam in small groups and come back to us, but it was a little chaotic and probably the weakest element in a very strong day.

Finally we had a Chinese ribbon workshop. Our Guides had had this same workshop earlier in the day and they had tipped us off that there were clean loos up in the room where it was held, so we headed straight there and were able to use the loos in our little group of 35, rather than with a few hundred others! The ribbon dancing was great, the girls learned a lot again in a short space of time and it was very effective. We were tiring towards the end of a long day but they did very well.

Finally, we gathered again in the big hall with everyone else and had some more entertainment, including a Katy Perry lookalike who was very good and kept them all entertained! Then it was waiting for your coach number to be called and off we went home. It was a long day, about 11 hours, but they really enjoyed it and the leaders were very impressed, we sent a thank you email the next day.

All in all a great day, and one which really enthused us for future regional events.


I have so many great things to tell you about: our trip to a regional event which was just amazing, our unit's tenth birthday party and a weekend in London for all our adult leaders from Brownies and Guides.

I want to give each the time I need to write them up properly, and I'm swamped with work at the moment, including this weekend, so I'm setting them aside for a little while longer. What I do want to tell you about now, because I know it is more time-sensitive, is a really great challenge that some Guides from another county have created. One of them contacted me and asked if I could mention their challenge here. I was impressed by her initiative and even more impressed by the resource behind their challenge, so I agreed.

One of the great things about Guiding is that there are opportunities for older girls and leaders as well as for the younger girls. The weekend that I still need to write up was spent at Pax Lodge, one of five World Guiding Centres, which happens to be in London. My daughter stayed at Our Chalet, the Swiss World Guiding Centre last summer, and she had to raise all the money for her to go, which she managed through a combination of grants, bag packing, fun events like a ceilidh and a race night, and more.

The Worcestershire Guides will be going to Our Cabana in Mexico during August, also a World Guiding Centre (the other two are Sangam in India and a pop up centre in Africa) and have to raise £2500 each. So as part of their fundraising, they have created this challenge.

They've made sure the five Guiding Essentials are in there, and have marked every activity for the appropriate age group. There's crafts, history, geography, food, templates, everything you could think of, laid out in easy to use pages and obviously thoughtfully researched and compiled. Though I haven't used it for my own unit as our girls have already got us planned up to the summer holidays, it's an excellent resource I could easily see us using over a number of weeks. 

If you would like to get a copy of the resource, which includes details of how to order the gorgeous badges above through Worcestershire Guides, click here, it's quite slow to download because it is 77 pages long but worth the wait. Good luck guys!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Happy World Thinking Day

Today is World Thinking Day and although our division has an event running today, I'm resting up after a long and exciting day yesterday at a regional event, which I will blog about later.

To all my Girl Guide and Girl Scout friends, have a wonderful Thinking Day, and to all my Scout friends, have a wonderful Founders Day.

Here's a lovely post from A Guiding Light this morning:

And to keep you going till I write up yesterday's amazing event, here's what my unit have done over the years:


And here's what we've done in the past:
2007: Thinking Day at Coventry Cathedral (before I started this blog, so no post) 
2009: I can't remember *hangs head in shame*. There's nothing on the blog, and my files just show that we planned to cover it in our meeting and attend a division event but I haven't written down anywhere easily accessible what we did!
2012: World Thinking Day aka Founders Day aka Wednesday (just a greeting, no meeting info)

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Badge testing, thinking day, camp and London

Exceptionally busy week this week - and we didn't even use the kitchen!
The main purpose of the meeting was Thinking Day, and the girls did plenty to learn about that. But in addition, we also ran badge testing. We don't often do badges in meeting times, so we really encourage the girls to work on them at home. We have 26 girls just now, and 26 badges were passed! Some girls earned as many as four though, so there were quite a few who didn't do any, all fine, it's their choice.
I was particularly impressed by a model of the phases of the moon, some yummy cookies, a brand new Brownie who hasn't even taken her promise yet who passed her Out and About badge. There were two other leaders testing too, and I had really good comments from them as well.
As well as that, we were also taking payments for a trip to London and a camp in the summer. I'm thrilled we have 21/26 going to London and 18 going camping.
Half term now and we're snapping up Friends and Family Railcards to reduce the cost of the London trip, while there's £10 off. One adult plus four girls is £31.10 return to London from here with a railcard and just over £66 without so it's worth buying the cards at £20 each for this trip alone.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Paper mâché and big plans

We had another Brownie Adventures week this week, with the girls divided up as follows:
6 More Adventures girls with me making papier-mâché.
5 Adventure On girls in the kitchen making sandwiches out of unusual breads, with one leader and one YL (one off ill)
6 Adventure girls doing their Crime Prevention badge with leader and Brownie helper
3 Adventure girls dying lemonade and doing secret writing with leader and Brownie helper
4 Becoming a Brownie girls working through their booklet with one leader (one absent)
They all seemed to do well, they love choosing their own activities and while it is hard for us to supply enough adults to facilitate it, it's always worth the effort.
(Not our papier-mâché but it did look like this)
Our papier-mâché was gloopy and not fabulous, we tried but it was hard to form good shapes. They did enjoy it though and it wasn't too messy, I even got them to clear up by promising chocolate buttons if I returned from rinsing the bowl in the kitchen and found a clean table, and I did!

We ended the meeting with some very excited girls! We have a trip to London planned for April, open to all, and a two night camp in June, open to all but the very newest girls (as we like them to do a sleepover before they camp, so we can be sure they can cope). Coupled with Thinking Day soon, and our tenth birthday celebrations too, it's an exciting time!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Cooking continues

We had our Wales night last night, lots of fun with Brownies singing head, shoulders, knees and toes in Welsh, making daffodil pin badges, a word search and for one group, making very tasty Welsh cakes in the kitchen. We've also been busy putting final touches to plans, we have a camp booked for June and a day out in April and we were checking availability of leaders and dates.
So busy times!

Friday, 23 January 2015

180 degree turnaround

I didn't share news of last week's meeting which was at best chaotic.
1. A Brownie tracked dog mess in and despite being in the hut no more than two minutes had apparently visited every inch of the building during that time and the mess took 15 mins to clear up, involving three leaders!
2. Our YL was in the middle of mock GCSEs but wanted to attend for stress relief and while she coped admirably with the dog mess, she was then in the kitchen where the cooking (from the Brownie adventure book) went very wrong and she was a bit emotional so needed support.
3. The cooking. The oldest girls were making the falafels from the book. The dog mess meant the leaders were tied up so cooking couldn't start and so their falafels lost their resting in the fridge time. Added to which the chick peas wouldn't mash with the potato masher so really, once in the pan, they fell apart. We also had some Brownies very unhappy about grating onions, and a couple who refused to wash up the mess, and ran out of time to deal with the issue as we had to get out to let Guides start. The falafels ended up chucked in a bush because they were just piping hot chick peas with onion draped around them in the pan, there was no way to hand any end result to anyone to take home!

This week, Scotland night, was like a complete 180. Apart from starting 6 girls down due to illness, leaving us with 20, the night was great. I'd premade shortbread so the kitchen girls just had to roll it out, cut it and bake it. Each girl got a piece to take home.
The girls learned a little about Scotland and I used the story of Hamish McHamish (Google him but here's a pic):
as a segue to use the cat craft boxes I'd found online reduced from £3.95 each to just 39p! The girls did really well making them, not all finished them on the night but they kept the bags they came in to take them home, and both our oldest Brownie and our newest young Brownie did finish so I did pitch it right across the age group.
A nice chilled evening after last week, there was even time for the shortbread girls to make a coffee for leaders!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Scout hut

So we started back after New Year and we are now in our temporary home, a Scout hut where many of the brothers of our Brownies go.
We felt really welcome when we turned up, there was shelf space for us in the store room, a bulletin board for us in the hall...little things that made us feel they were happy to have us there.
It was great being able to leave the storage boxes behind instead of having to lug them with us as we usually have to. So much so that I went back the next day and filled up the space with a few more less used boxes and suddenly my garage has some space!
We also liked being able to have a drink during Brownies, very civilised.
To top it off, all 26 girls were there that night (there's usually someone off sick!) plus all 26 sets of parents paid up the term's subs!
We have a few glitches to iron out, when my son goes to Scouts there is a 15 min gap between Cubs and Scouts and I can see why, we did find the chaos of getting Brownies out and Guides in didn't work well.
But all in all, a great first night back and a lovely new home.
(Pic shown is A scout hut, for illustration, not OUR scout hut!)
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