keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Catching up

Well, this has been a poor neglected little blog these last few weeks. Suffice to say life has been a bit full of late with both work and personal life a little busy, and guiding and the blog has had to take a back seat!

So, lets catch up the last few weeks.

Firstly, we had a ‘codetastic’ sleepover with 14 kids from our unit, and 7 from sister unit. It was awful cold and rainy day which made things a bit of a challenge – the intended plan of having each of four patrols light fires to cook their afternoon tea didn’t happen! But we did manage to get one fire going, although it took so long (it really had rained hard, and the wood was soaked through!), that we ended up having the ‘apple crisps’ as dessert instead of afternoon tea!

The wide game for the sleepover was unfortunately not as successful as previous ones, mainly as the slightly more free-form concept of ‘do the activities in any order’ seemed to confuse the girls – they couldn’t keep up with what they were up to. I think if I did that kind of strategy again, I would add a checklist for them to tick off as they went, so they could keep track. The activities themselves seemed quite successful – they included making a shelter, following compass instructions, decoding some fairly complicated codes, and doing puzzles.

Overall, it was reasonably successful (despite the rain), and the girls all seemed to have fun – it was also great to see the girls from both our unit and sister unit blending together so well – by the end, they’d all meshed in together 🙂 Also realised that one of the girls from Sister Unit is old enough for Rangers (although wants to wait until next year), so that is exciting.

Back to normal Guides – last week I (and three lovely mums who responded to our pleas for extra adults!) took the Senior Guides to the local supermarket on the tram to purchase ingredients for the final night’s cooking. It was part of the Lifeskills badge, with the girls having planned the recipes the week before (including budgeting), and then travelling via public transport to get the groceries, and then this week cooking the food.

The girls were all pretty good, although I suspect a bit more cheeky than they would usually be if their mums were not around!!

Finally, this week (final night of term), the Junior Guides had a ‘bathroom’ night as part of their Homes badge, which included a towel turban relay (quite hilarious!), and a bathroom themed version of The Chocolate Game, which had the girls dressing up in a bathrobe and shower cap when they rolled a six.

The Seniors, meanwhile, did their planned cooking – chocolate balls for one patrol, and chocolate cake for the other (bit of a chocolate theme for the last night of term!). Unfortunately for the chocolate cake girls, the oven was broken – the pilot light was out, and we could not get it restarted! So we attempted a bit of alternative cooking methodology, doing some in cupcake cases in the microwave (which looked like it worked, but actually resulted in burnt cupcakes), and some in a slice tray floating in a larger tray full of water, which we boiled on the stove, bain-marie style. Unfortunately, we ran out of time, and it didn’t quite cook, but I think given an extra 30 minutes or so it would have worked, perhaps with a bit of foil over the top to seal in the steam and cook from above as well as below. It was rather fun though, trying to figure out emergency cooking alternatives!

Finally to close out the term we had a Promise ceremony for two girls who joined us towards the end of first term, and a Promise renewal for three girls moving up to Senior Guides, which is always lovely. One of the girls moving up has been with us for more than three years in Juniors, and has been a really fabulous an enthusiastic Guide right from the start – it will be fantastic to have her in Seniors, although it does make me feel old!

And finally finally we had Rangers – four of the five girls came along for ‘Christmas in June’ which was meant to be both crafts and cooking but ended up all cooking as they futzed about and ran out of time! Still, the ginger cookies (which had to be emergency ‘baked’ on the bbq due to the same oven issues the Senior Guides had) turned out edible (although much more like ‘ginger crumbles’ than ‘ginger cookies’), and the non-alcoholic mulled wine was a great success. They all had fun, and seemed keen to be back next term, so all is well.

Non-alcoholic mulled wine:

1 litre orange juice

1 bottle sparkling grape juice

2 cinnamon sticks

5-10 cloves

1 cup of sugar

peel of one orange

flesh of one orange cut finely


Put all ingredients in a large pot or kettle, and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain and serve into glasses or mugs. Enjoy!


Ready to return (nearly!)

Term two is about to begin (tomorrow!), and so the co-leaders and I got together last week for an evening of planning and lasagne.

After much umm’ing and ahh’ing, we’ve decided to again do separate but linked badges for the Juniors and Seniors – the Juniors will work on their Homes Create-A-Challenge, while the Seniors will hopefully get their Lifeskills Explore-A-Challenge.

For the first time in a long time, both Juniors and Seniors will have homework to get their badges!!

Juniors will need to keep their room tidy for a week (more of a challenge for some I suspect!), while the Seniors will need to learn how to use various home appliances properly – things like microwaves, dishwashers, washing machines… I suspect by the end of term we are going to be rather popular with the parents!!

The girls will also all have the opportunity to earn their Numbers Create-A-Challenge badge – I’ve been keen on it for a while but the girls were very MEH, SOUNDS LIKE SCHOOL when I suggested it… so instead, it will be the base of a sleepover, where the wide game taking shape in my head will provide the entertainment 🙂

Leave a comment »

Campfire cooking

Yesterday and today’s unseasonably warm and clear day made for a fabulous base to our seniors cookout sleepover!

With less leaders available lately (and so tighter ratios of kids possible for overnight activities), we decided to run a seniors-only sleepover, and to try a different format to usual. This did mean we had quite low numbers (didn’t help that today is father’s day), but 7 girls (was meant to be 8, one didn’t show up, hope everything is okay…) all had a great time, and for what we were doing, low numbers was probably actually preferable.

Traditionally, our sleepovers have run like mini camps, with a long wide game in the afternoon of the Saturday, then dinner, a night walk, and campfire singing. In the morning we would do breakfast, a Guides Own, games, and morning tea before heading home. The girls would have patrol duties, and would help with the cooking but it would primarily be of the ‘assisting the QM’ style, rather than independent cooking.

This time, we mixed it up, focusing the entire theme on outdoor cooking, and having the girls do the vast majority of the work. We decided that the evening would be campfire cooking, and in the morning we would use the little gas cookers.

For dinner, we cooked:
Vegetable shasliks with lemon and pesto marinade
Tortilla pies with sour cream and salsa
Baked apples with custard.

Individual tortilla pies cooking

The girls did really well with the cooking – our initial plan had all girls doing everything, but it quickly became apparent that would take aaaaaaaaages, and probably wasn’t a realistic way to prepare them for the bigger sorts of camps where they might need to do cooking, as dividing the work is the only way you can get these things to work!

We were also losing light quickly, and fair bit of the preparation for the main and dessert were done by torchlight – but that worked as well, in terms of a ‘teachable’ moment about why torches are on the kit list (and that its not really an ‘optional’ or ‘if you feel like it’ list), and also meant that they had to cooperate in order to keep light focused on the various tasks!

After dinner and dishes and clean up, we did a scavenger hunt which co-leader came up with, which was very successful – they had to work out little riddles to figure out what they were looking for (e.g. “I have a head and a tail but no arms or legs” – a coin), which took them quite a while!

Finally to close out the night we worked up the coals a little, and built the fire back up to do some short, quiet style campfire songs (only a couple as we’re doing a proper campfire night in a few weeks), and toasted marshmallows. Off to bed for the kids, and a cup of tea with the fire for adults finished off a very successful night!

This morning, we continued the outdoor cooking, making french toast using the little gas cookers, which most of the girls really enjoyed (MissPlainFoods was decidedly dubious), before going for a walk around the streets (again with a scavenger hunt type activity where they had to find various street names and things), and then into a rope challenge, trying to build a rope bridge between trees about three meters apart. The rope bridge was only partly successful, but they had fun, and it was good to stretch them – even those who’d already done a rope bridge at camp realised that moving from 1.5 meters to 3 meters made things MUCH more complex!

At 11am, parents arrived, girls departed, and leaders set to the final pack up and clean up, which only took 30 minutes, a new record!

A really excellent event, I hope the girls got as much out of it as I did!


Let the planning begin!

This weekend just gone, awesome co-leader and I sat down for some delicious lunching at her place, and three hours of focussed term-three planning duties!

I do enjoy trying to bring the term together, figuring out how to balance the various elements of the program, trying to bring in more of what the girls have particularly asked for, while not neglecting to cover the seven fundamentals (Promise and Law, Outdoors, Service, World Guiding, Guiding Traditions, Leadership Development and Patrol Systems), as well as making sure we don’t have three nights in a row of craft… It really is quite a puzzle!

Anyhoo, after three solid hours, and a bit of stewing later and some emails, we’ve pretty much agreed on:

  • just doing one main badge this term – the Hands Create-A-Challenge
  • having a day out in the city, going to lunch and to the art gallery for a touch of culture!
  • a sleepover just for the over-10s, as the littlies have a regional camp available early term four
  • doing a big push on the Junior BP Award (JBP), with the hope that in term four we’ll be able to have a presentation ceremony for one or two girls (fingers crossed!).

Not sure why, but I’m not looking forward to this term as much as last term… somehow I feel the overall program structure isn’t *quite* there. Perhaps with another week and half before the start of term I can figure out what is missing and tweak it! And if not, I’m sure the bones of the term are good, so it should be fine. I’m pretty sure that what we’ve got included will be enough to make the kids happy, so that’s the main thing!

Wish me luck on either finding the missing ingredient, or deciding it was there all along! 🙂

Leave a comment »

Data and analysis… and some fun!

Yesterday evening was the last night of term. Once again, we had quite poor attendance, but a few years with this group has taught me that the last and first weeks of term tend to have low numbers, as so many of our girls attend private schools with longer holiday breaks than the standard term!

After last week’s low numbers, we’d decided to change the planned program from patrol-led activities, to a second night of JBP activities, as well as a couple of leader-led activities. The JBP activities worked reasonably well – in particular, one of the girls had learnt (and then taught) some basic Auslan (Australian sign language) signs, which was a great idea!

We also got the girls to undertake quite a detailed survey about what they’d enjoyed about the term, and what they’d like to see more of next term. In sum, more cooking, more time with separate Juniors/Seniors activities, LESS singing!

It was very interesting seeing the different capacity of the Juniors and Seniors to handle the complexity of the survey. I think I’ve been dealing mainly with the Seniors over the last couple of terms, and have forgotten just how much simpler things need to be for the 7 and 8 year olds, compared to the 10 and 11 year olds, particularly when it comes to reading and comprehension. Naturally, being a big dork, I’ve translated this all to an excel spreadsheet, and done various calculations and analysis 🙂

We also played a great new game that the kids loved, which was developed by fabulous co-leader – its a sort of memory game, where she raided our badge stash (current and old!) to find pairs. One half of each pair was hidden out in the foyer, and the other half put into a container which she held. The girls were put into pairs, and each given a badge. They then had to run around and find the matching pair of that badge – when found, they could return to get a second half of a pair, and so on and so forth, until all the badges were found. If a pair couldn’t be found, the girls could return their badge to the container and get another one.

It was a fabulous game – the girls were running as fast as they could to find the pairs, super excited when they got a new badge and could remember where they’d already seen the matching pair!

This weekend, we’re doing our term planning for term three… the big decision, whether to offer a sleepover or not… tricky, with our lower than previous numbers of leaders around, we could struggle to get the required ratios, and there’d be nothing worse than offering it, only to not be able to fulfill the promise… so we shall see!

Leave a comment »


I’ve decided that 2013 is going to be a year where we really focus on promotions. I’m really keen to increase our numbers to a steady two full patrols in senior/upper seniors (10-14s), and hoping to get at least the same, if not a little higher in the juniors. Recruitment of younger ones will be particularly important, as we have quite a few girls this year shifting from juniors into seniors, so long as our retention holds up.

Plans so far include:
* Doing a couple of sausage sizzle fund raisers – one in conjunction with our sister unit at a local bunnings, and at least one other (possibly two) outside our local supermarket.
* Adding our unit to the local council’s monthly newsletter, which includes a “what’s on” section. I’ve always been hesitant to do this as the paperwork indicates you should have an ‘event’ to promote, but many other groups seem to use it to promote their standard meetings, so why not join them?
* Participating in the local festival, although only through the open night this year, not the parade – it was simply too difficult last year.
* Having a bring a friend night each term, possibly two nights in the longer term 2 and term 3
* Putting together a ‘yearbook’ to send to all the families showing them what we’ve done during 2012 (full of photos, naturally), and including a bit of a speil about what Guides aims to do, and the four elements and seven fundamentals of the program. This is not quite so direct a promotion, but I figure it has the potential to assist with retention (reminding parents of the breadth we do, and how much fun their kids have had), and possibly help with recruitment as they could potentially show it to their friends with kids similar ages.
* Providing a copy of the year’s GGV activities program to each family, so there is plenty to look forward to. I’m also considering putting together a ‘year plan’ for our unit, including at least the months, if not the final dates, for camps and sleepovers, and possibly adventure days (hoping for two, maybe three during the year).

The trouble with all of this, of course, is that its terribly hard to evaluate whether or not you’ve been successful! Ah well, hopefully

Leave a comment »

Adventures in Outer Space!

Finally, the space sleepover!

15 girls attended, forming a very neat three patrols of five – named Comets, Stars, and Asteroids – and all seemed to have a good time! The group included our four newest Guides, which was lovely – gave us a chance to get to know them all a bit better with the extra time, and give them time to begin to tell the difference between the various leaders!

First up, activities wise, was a wide game tour of the solar system!

The activities were:

1) Make a rocket per patrol to take them on their journey, using silver card, silver foil, straws, coloured paddlepop sticks, jewel stickers… then blasting off into the solar system…

The stops on the journey were:

2) The Sun – patrols had to sit their youngest patrol member in the shade, who had been “overcome with the heat of the sun”, and fan her down and have her drink a cup of cool water, before moving on to

3) Mercury – as the messenger of the gods, at Mercury, they had to decode a message written in Wingdings (which game them some extra info about  looking for clues to the aliens along the journey) (a butterfly puzzle)

4) Venus – make a pipecleaner star, as Venus is the Morning Star

5) Earth – they had to return to Earth to ‘refuel’ – which involved setting a small fire per patrol, and cooking ‘camp biscuits’ – awesome co-leader had pre-made the dough, but the girls added a scatter of ‘stars’ (hundreds and thousands). The biscuits were baked similar to damper, being wrapped around a stick, and then wrapped in several layers of foil to protect the dough as it baked. Most of the kids ended up with biscuits that were half raw and half burnt, but they had fun doing it!

6) Mars – in honour of the God of War, the Mars activity was a Tug of War – luckily we found small gardening gloves for the girls to wear as they played, so they could really get into it, and reduce our risk of rope burn!!

7) Asteroid Belt – I’d set up a crisscrossed rope arrangement between a series of trees – the girls were instructed to make their way to touch each tree (and each member of the patrol had to touch each spot), while all staying linked as a patrol, and not touching any of the ropes! If any ropes were touched, it was back to the start for everyone! A good activity to have them being cooperative, and talk through their problem solving.

8) Jupiter – at the largest planet, they were provided with a bunch of gadget wood and string (and an easy knots book), and told to build a structure big enough to fit their patrol. The Asteroids patrol (oldest girls) did the most “correct” job with the knots (helped, no doubt, by two of their member having attended a gadget training day a few months back), but all the groups did really well! Even the Comets patrol, full of our tiniest girls (who haven’t done ANY knotting or gadgets) managed to get a reasonable structure, with only minimal assistance.

9) Saturn – ringed planet – a hula-hooping challenge

10) Uranus – only planet with a Greek name – they had to create ‘olive’ wreaths for each member of their patrol from leaves etc around the area.

11) Neptune – ice planet – attempted a challenge where you try to remove an ice-cube from water using salt and string, without touching the ice-cube directly. The idea was good, but the execution left something to be desired!

12) In theory, they were meant to be collecting alien pieces as they went along… but not so much! Unfortunately they were probably cut up a bit too small, and were a bit too hard to find. Oh well!

Still, they had fun, and when discussing it all later, the most popular activities were the asteroid belt, the cooking, and the gadget making… so it seems we’ve got a bunch of proper Guides who like the traditional activities!

For the rest of the evening, we made dinner (the eldest group), planned a guides own (middlies), and did some quiet games (littlies). After tea, we went for a very short walk locally (the weather turned a little, so we didn’t bother with a long stroll), and then settled in for a small semi-outdoor campfire (half sheltered, so the girls wouldn’t get wet if the rain started up again). The campfire worked beautifully, and second co-leader’s singing program was good – introduced some new songs, as well as touched on most of the favourites of the unit!

Anyway, after marshmallows (of course), we sent the girls to bed (waaaaaaaaaaaaay after most of their usual bedtimes!), but sheesh, it took a while for them to go to sleep! Both co-leaders and I ended up sitting and just watching/waiting for them to drift off – no point us getting comfy in our own beds, as we’d just be up saying shoosh!! Finally, at about midnight, us leaders went to get our beauty rest (hah!).

This morning (after several wake ups during the night, but nothing unexpected considering sleeping on a thin mattress on a hard floor), we were up at about 7, which isn’t too horrifying. The girls all packed up really well (we’re getting better at giving quite specific instructions/requests, i.e. “Sally, Suzie is having trouble, could you please help with her sleeping bag”, rather than just “help each other”, which seems to work). Breakfast was Pancakes, made by the middlies, while the older girls helped take down the ropes from the day before, and I took the little ones to a nearby playground and let them muck around for a while.

Finally, to close we had a short Guides Own (very un-serious, but that’s okay!), and then a couple of outdoor games – Aliens and Astronauts (a variation on the vampire infection game played at halloween), camouflage (kind of a hide-and-seek game), and finally sardines. And that was pretty much that!

So, overall, I think it was a success – they all seemed to have fun, no major injuries (a few tiny finger burns, minor scrapes etc), and I think we did a good job of supporting the overall Guide program, and, particularly for the newbies and littlies, setting up their interest in some of the more traditional Guide skills, which we’ll be able to build on over time.

Leave a comment »

Bubbly boo

Last night we *attempted* to make Giant Bubbles. Our mix was 1 part glucose syrup, 3 parts morning fresh dishwashing liquid, and 7 parts water.

I think the problem may have been the glucose syrup – although the internet told me it was roughly a substitute for the recommended glycerine, I suspect that wasn’t meant to be a one-for-one  substitution. Regardless, we did end up with some decent sized bubbles (largest was about 20cms across), but it wasn’t quite the giant bubble fest I’d envisaged. Maybe one to try again when we’ve got more time (perhaps at a camp or sleepover), as the various recipes I read did suggest the mixture needs to ‘brew’ for a while, and the 20 minutes we gave it were probably less than ideal.

Last night also saw us having three girls make their Promise, two for the first time, and one as a renewal (although she is new to our group). As always, its lovely seeing the girls so excited, and it was particularly good timing as we’ve had four newbies formally sign up in the last week, so it was timely for them to be witness to a Promise ceremony – get them excited for next year when they’ll do their Promise!

We also handed out a bunch of badges last night – most of the younger girls had met the requirements for the Air badge, so we were able to present them which was great. A couple of our Junior guides in particular who have had good attendance this year have now got sashes starting to look quite respectable and badge-filled! By the end of the year, girls will have been able to earn up to 6 Create-A-Challenge badges (Water, Fire, World, Nature, Air, Outer Space), one Achieve-A-Challenge (Camping Trefoil 1), and one Explore-A-Challenge (Outdoors), even without doing additional activities at home. I think its really adding something extra to our programing (and to the girls’ engagement with the program) to work within the structures of a theme, but also show them that there is an underlying pattern to our (sometimes bitsy) activities.

Okay, that’s all for now, off to gear up for our Outer Space Sleepover!

Leave a comment »


Tonight’s (somewhat random) theme was “chicken and egg”.

The main activities were using straws to make a support/cage thingie around a raw egg, and dropping it from various heights, an egg-and-spoon race, and then making little chicken straw things… eh, that one is hard to explain!

Anyway, for a reasonably small program, it seemed to take a while to move through the various elements! But that doesn’t much matter, they seemed to be having fun, particularly the little ones – our fabulously enthusiastic 7-year-old was SO EXCITED and kept dancing around going THIS IS THE BEST THING – I think she really loves experiment type activities, so was pretty much in her element with about 30 minutes of the hour and a half dedicated to the egg protecting activity.

The egg-and-spoon race also worked really well – the original plan was hard boiled eggs, in the hall… but instead we went with raw eggs, out on the lawn, which had a much more entertaining mess and danger element!

In some good news, one of the girls we haven’t seen much of this term (to the point I was going to email her mum today to see if we were to expect her back) turned up – and not only managed to fit in with her patrol and have a good time, she also signed up for the sleepover! Woohoo!

Speaking of the sleepover – we have 16 girls signed up, including all four of this term’s newbies! More woohoo!

Leave a comment »

Kites of fun

Tonight extended our air theme further, with kite construction!

Our Juniors made sled kites (, which worked really well! Most exciting was our little six year old being utterly delighted with being able to make her own kite – she proceeded to spend the final 30 minutes of the meeting running in and out of the hall testing it out, completely thrilled with her own craftiness and competence! Given that this was the blog-famous CryingMissSix, this is going to be filed under “awesome” from a leaders perspective!

Meanwhile, the Seniors (and a lone Upper Senior!) tackled a more complex kite ( which actually worked really well! Unlike the instructions, given the time constraints, I decided to run with doing a quick demo (luckily I’d tried it the night before!!), which seemed to get things off on the right note – of the seven girls we had working on the project, three completely finished, one was about five minutes off (just needed to put the cells together), and three had at least completed the straw cells, so it shouldn’t take too long to finish off next week!

In other news, eight kids have RSVP’d for the sleepover (not a great response rate, given this week was the due date!), but I suspect we’ll have a few more bring in their papers next week, so fingers crossed, it will be successful… after all, when have my kids ever managed to get their paperwork in on time?!

Next week – a different approach – a chicken and egg night!

Leave a comment »