Thursday, February 15, 2018

Boredom Buster: Busy Bee Patch

How many times have you planned your little heart out and then came up short? When the girls in my troop were little, I remember over-planning and stuffing extra things in the bag just in case they completed activities a lot faster than I anticipated. That "bag of tricks" came in handy quite often. It became an incentive with them, too. They knew if we stayed on task and got the "work" done, we would have time for a game or song or something.

So, this month's release is in the spirit of helping you bust the boredom, fill the gaps, and have a few tricks up your sleeve for the times when you thought you had enough for them to do... but didn't. The activities also work great to mix it up and toss in a little extra fun. I hope a few of the items become your groups favorites, too.

The February 2018 release is jam-packed with games, artsy activities, and a few easy and yummy snack ideas. I mean, you have to have snacks!

It's your choice if you want to use this as filler activities or devote a meeting to completing it all. You simply complete 5 activities and earn the patch. Of course, you are always welcome to toss in your own ideas and make it fit your need and group interests.

The patch is only guaranteed through May 15, 2018. So be sure to order yours before it's too late. 

Download the Free Digital Guide 
(Or the mailed hardcopy, if you can't print and want it printed)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Senior: Locavore Badge

Somewhere in my brilliant brain, I agreed to complete the Locavore badge in January. Not much going on in January in the gardening world in Mid-Missouri. But, hey, that just adds to the interest, right?

This is how we got it done:

1. Explore Benefits and Challenges of Going Local: Make a 5 question survey to give to friends 

The girls works on this and brainstormed the best questions to ask. They asked if people wanted to go local, if it was important, what items were hardest to find.

2. Find Local Food Sources: Choose 10 foods in your house and find local equivalents 

We printed out a map of Missouri and those selected 10 foods we were using for the items we made that evening. Since they are teens, they Googled for local farmer's markets, dairies, fruit farms, etc. They also shared placed they had been to pick strawberries, blueberries, apples, etc. I encouraged them to start thinking outside just fruits and veggies, as we are in an area where you can work with local farmers for meat through the University and we're about 30 minutes from a very large dairy co-op (Central Dairy).

3. Cooking a dish: Make 2 dishes and compare. 

The idea was to make 2 things with the same main ingredient and compare the differences. I had blueberries frozen in the freezer from the summer before, so we made jam (yes... we made jam) and blueberry peach smoothies. None of the girls had made jam before and it was a great experience for them. We even used a water bath canner to preserve the jam. Of course, the last jar wasn't completely full and that was perfect for us to try with some homemade scones. Each of the girls was able to take a jar of jam home with them, too. We discussed the process and why each step was important and the safety of home canning. Hopefully, that was an experience for them. The smoothies, most of them had had smoothies before, so that wasn't a big deal. But, they were yummy. (recipes below)

4. Make a recipe with local ingredients: A family recipe with local foods 

I'm going to be honest here and tell you we tried our best. We used an Instapot and made Chicken Fajita Soup. I had purchased the chicken from a farming co-op service. I tried to purchase the other ingredients as local as I could, but as I said... it's difficult in January to find a lot of local produce. The soup was really good, though. (recipe below)

5. Local Challenge - Pretend you're  Girl Scout from 1920

The girls used modern technology and searched for what foods were available locally in the 1920s. Then, they figured out how to store them and sorted them into lists of canned, dehydrated, repurposed, etc. I think this was eye opening for them to think about a time when refrigeration wasn't as common and definitely not deep freezers. 

My take away... I love having a garden in the summer for fresh tomatoes, green beans, and peppers. But, I'm so thankful I don't have to rely on that garden to get me through the year! We are blessed to have farmer's markets in the spring, summer, and fall. I plan to try to support those farmer's more in the future. The quality of the food is better, I'm sure. That doesn't mean I won't be picking up avocados and artichokes at the supermarket, though. Those don't grow well in Mid-Missouri and we are blessed to have an infrastruture that allows us access to foods that aren't grown in our region.

Recipes (as promised)

Blueberry Jam
We used the pectin calculator at FreshPreserving.com and followed the recipe using the low/no sugar pectin for blueberries. We went with the low sugar option. I've included the recipe we used below, but I encourage you to visit their site and choose your own fruit, etc. They will also give you a chart to make more than 2 half-pint jars in a batch. 


Blueberry Jam Recipe
FOR EVERY 2 (8 OZ) HALF PINTS, YOU WILL NEED:
  • 1 1/3 cups Blueberries-wash; crush 1 layer at a time with potato masher
  • 1/3 cup Unsweetened fruit juice or thawed concentrate or water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Ball® RealFruit™ Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin
  • 1/2 cup Granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp Bottled Lemon Juice
Make Your Jam
  1. PREPARE waterbath canner, jars and lids according to manufacturer's instructions, if preserving.* Prepare and measure ingredients for recipe.
  2. COMBINE prepared fruit with fruit juice in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in Ball® RealFruit™ Pectin. Add butter, if using. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
  3. ADD sugar, sugar substitute or honey, if using. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.
  4. PACK based on Enjoy Now or Fresh Preserve steps below.
*If you are preserving at an altitude higher than 1,000 feet above sea level, adjust processing time as indicated by the altitude chart.

Blueberry Peach Smoothie - Find the recipe here: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/blueberry-peach-smoothie-317649
Blueberry Banana Smoothie - Find the recipe here: https://www.marthastewart.com/336635/banana-blueberry-smoothie

And lastly, the instapot Chicken Fajita Soup. HUGE kudos to a Mom in my troop for putting this together for us. 



Friday, January 26, 2018

Compassion for the unknown

I am working on a change in my life.. my perspective... my attitude. With all the technology in our daily lives and all the screen time we each have, it's easy to forget that a human being is on the other side. Whether you are reading this blog post, chatting with a company's customer service, or emailing about who knows what... at some point... another human is there on the other end. Maybe you got the automated service with the robot voice walking you through troubleshooting, but a human had to set up that system... design it, program it, and install it.

We each face struggles in our lives. I know this about myself... I don't allow too many people close enough to me to know all the struggles I have faced. I'm not the type of person that will sit down and pour out my heart and soul to another. You have to be very important for me to truly open up. Undiagnosed, but most likely I have trust issues... I don't have a huge "thing" that happened in my childhood to cause it. I like to tell people I see the world as a realist without the mirage of perfection. My husband says I'm a conspiracy theorist and on some days he is correct.

This bring us to... the change... my new outlook on life. Just as I don't open up to others and dump a sob story, I remind myself I'm not the only one like that.. and shame on anyone who thinks they have to know the story in order to show compassion. You don't know what the other person is facing. It's imperative to have compassion for the unknown. Maybe Customer Service at your favorite store is lacking today because the employee was just dumped by who they thought they were spending the rest of their life with... or maybe their dog died... or maybe their Dad was diagnosed with cancer. Maybe they just really hate their job, the coffee was cold, and someone cut them off on their commute.

Why is it that we can give more patience and tolerance to those that we know are struggling while those who don't want to air the dirty laundry with random strangers are given less consideration and compassion?

If you find yourself struggling to get through another conversation about the same issue, take a breath and tell yourself you may be working with someone on their worst day. Be polite. Be thoughtful. Make small talk. Try to inject a little humor. Show compassion for the unknown. It's none of your business, but that doesn't mean you can't be nice. Not only are you showing you have a good heart, you could turn their day around, too. Don't blame them for things they can't control.

Then, there are those people that are always hard to work with. No matter what you try, it seems you can't do right by them. I wish I had a plan for solving this issue. The only thing I can share is one of the sayings I remember from my Grandma "Kill them with kindness." "Being kind to your enemies is like reaping hot coals on their head." (Proverbs 21If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; 22For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you

While I hope you and I don't have "enemies", sometimes we treat one another like we are. Keep this in mind as we travel through cookie season and beyond.