The Big Plan

The Big PlanI need a plan.

Working from home is wonderful, but having all of my life based from home means that work, kids, the business, volunteering, housework and down time all merge into one.   If I switch the laptop on to update a record on the Guiding database, I end up also writing the agenda for the next WI meeting, seeing what is happening in Twitter, writing press releases to try and attract leaders for the local Brownie unit, checking another unit’s records to see if they managed to move Rainbow Maisy to the Brownie waiting list and looking up a random person on Wikipedia which leads to another person, and another and another.   I’ll go into the Craftyguidelets’ bedrooms to quickly collect their washing and I’ll put their library books back in their bags, arrange the teddies on the bed, sort through the wardrobes for hangers, dig out all the used tissues, empty their bins, which in turn leads to emptying all the bins, sorting the recycling and so on.

Right now I’m supposed to be tidying up the office, but going downstairs to fetch the stepladder, I also collected my diary and to do list, and brought my laptop upstairs to check on my planner which has led to me thinking of a couple of blog ideas to note down, and I’d better check my emails, and there are a couple of corrections to do on the WI newsletter and eldest will be a Guide after Christmas so I wonder if she’s done enough to be awarded her Music Group badge as soon as she joins…   See, I’m hopeless!

I’ve recently started investigating bullet lists and planners to try and get more focused, and with the extended Easter holidays ending next Tuesday, and therefore all my Guiding starting up again, a plan is needed.

Are there any methods that have worked for you?

Here’s to 2016

Goodbye 2015 (1)At the beginning of 2015, I resolved not to have any resolutions, not to sign up to any social media obligations like photo-a-day or blog-a-week, not to join in with quilt a month, crochet along etc. and not to heap too much pressure on myself to join in and fit in with the crowd.

To some extent I’ve succeeded in this (especially the not blogging regularly part – oops!) but I’m not quite there.

My aim for 2016 is to get organised.   I want to declutter and put systems in place to get my life, head and home in order.   I want to complete ‘to do lists’ rather than keep putting things off.   I want a crafting area that is inspirational, rather than a pile of work in progress.   I want to minimise food waste by planning meals better and shopping smarter.   I want to put my health higher up in my priorities.

But for now, I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year and I hope 2016 is everything you want it to be.

Science with Sherbert

Sherbert experimentHow to mix science with lollipops to appeal to Guides!   This came from a leader training I attended several years ago.

To prepare, you need to boil a red cabbage in water and leave it to stand for 30 minutes.   Then drain the liquid into a container to use as indicator solution i.e. something that will distinguish between acids and alkalines.

equipment: 3 clean glasses/jars, teaspoons, small plastic bags (one per person), indicator solution (cabbage water), 3 containers

ingredients: icing sugar, bicarbonate of soda, citric acid (available from your chemist), lollipops

The experiment relies on the fact that citric acid is an acid and turns the indicator solution red, the bicarb is alkaline and turns it blue and the icing sugar is neutral and leaves it unchanged.   You don’t need much powder and indicator solution to do this experiment, and please make sure the Guides don’t drink the cabbage water – I suppose it’s edible but it would taste foul!

I found that the older Guides had some concept of this type of experiment from school, however the younger ones hadn’t covered it yet.   It might require a bit of leader/young leader supervision.

The printable sheet to hand to the Guides is on the link below.

Sherbert

I have also done this experiment with my Brownie and Rainbow daughters.   They didn’t quite grasp the concept of acids and alkalines, but did enjoy the way the different substances changed the colour of the solution and asked questions along the way such as what would happen if all three substances were added at the same time.

The Great Girlguiding Anglia Bake Off

Girlguiding Anglia Bake Off badgesI am a fan of the Great British Bake Off.   I love baking and come from a long line of bakers.   When I heard that Girlguiding Anglia, the Guiding Region I belong to, was doing a Bake Off badge, I knew I had to look into it.

As well as the badge, Girlguiding Anglia is running a baking competition for Guides (aged 10-14), Senior Section (Rangers and Young Leaders aged 14-25), and adult leaders (aged 18+).   The idea was to have units find their own star bakers, send them up to the next level to find their local area (District) champion, and then to their wider area (Division), County and finally the Anglia Region final.Girlguiding Anglia Bake Off UnitOur unit competition resulted in 4 cakes coming in from the Guides.   They were asked to bake a Victoria sponge at home, and the leader team had the task of tasting them.   Sometimes, being a leader is tough.   We selected 2 Guides to go through to the next round.Girlguiding Anglia Bake Off judgesFor the District round, I was asked to help organise a bake sale to run alongside the bake off to raise money for local Guiding.   Our local tea room hosted us one evening and all the Guides, Senior Section members and adults were invited to bake something to sell to parents and friends.

The Guide winners from the two local units had their Victoria sponges judged by 2 members of the WI, the owner of the tea room and Henry the Mercury Newshound from the local paper (the reason why there is a 6ft dog in the background of the photo!).   Senior Section and leaders were also invited to enter scones for the Senior Section and a ‘light fruit cake’ for the leaders.   I did my duty and several fruit cakes later in a quest to find a qualifying recipe, produced probably the worst thing I have baked in a while for the competition.   As the only adult entrant, I progressed to the next round.Girlguiding Anglia Bake Off Division finalistsAt the Division bake off round, I was up against 2 other leaders to try and make amends for my earlier failure.   One of the leaders was unable to finish, so my new recipe cake was up against this lovely, bunting festooned fruit loaf.Girlguiding Anglia Bake Off Division prizesSomehow I managed to win by 1 point and fruit cake number 8 (yes, I took this competition seriously!) got me to the County semi finals.Girlguiding Anglia Bake Off County finalsAt the Hertfordshire County semi finals, I needed to bake Religieuses.   For those who are up on their Great British Bake Off trivia, they were Mary Berry’s technical challenge in pastry week of series 4.   Do you remember the ugly nuns?

I practised a couple of times as choux pastry is something I’ve only ever baked once before.   I asked for hints and tips and managed to get my little practice choux buns to rise into something resembling the cakes they make on the Bake Off (yes, I did watch the episode on YouTube!).Girlguiding Anglia Bake Off County semi finalsThree Guides, Senior Section members and adult leaders competed with apple pies (Guides), chocolate fruit tarts (Senior Section) and Religieuses (adult leaders) following the same recipe.

When the County team gave out comments after judging and included the word ‘dainty’, I knew I hadn’t won.   My effort to get a choux bun to rise as much as possible worked against me, and I think they were a bit soft once filled.   I also had a few nuns who were a bit wayward so choosing my best ones for judging was tricky.Girlguiding Anglia Bake Off ReligieusesI took the remaining cakes home with me to be enjoyed by the gluten eating side of the family.   This cake was my lunch and I really enjoyed it.   The Craftyguidelets have said lovely things about my cakes, and they are the only judges I want to impress (well, apart from my Master Baker dad who I have impressed about 4 times in my lifetime with my bakes).

I will now go back to baking for fun and baking lots of gluten free cakes so husband can share in the calorie intake.

The Bake Off is only one of the many varied activities open to girls, young women and adults in Guiding.   Come and get involved in the largest youth organisation for girls in the UK today during Volunteer’s week.

National Volunteer’s Week 1-7 June 2015

Volunteer's Week 2015It’s the NCVO Volunteer’s Week which wants to celebrate the contribution of the 23 million community volunteers in the UK.

If you know a volunteer, say thank you to them.   Parent helpers at school, your son’s cub leader, the President of your WI, the person behind the counter of the local charity shop.   There are 23 million of them to thank!

And if you want to volunteer with GirlGuiding, just click here and tell them Craftyguider sent you!

Guides do : Chinese Year of the Sheep

Chinese new year sheep cupcake 2 GuidesOn the 22nd February every year, Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are encouraged to think about all their fellow Guides and Scouts around the world.   The day is named World Thinking Day and was chosen because it was the shared birthday of both Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of Scouting, and his wife Lady Olave Baden-Powell, the first World Chief Guide.Thinking Day pennies WAGGGS GuidesAnother Guiding tradition is the donation of the Thinking Day Penny.   It was suggested that as it was the Founder’s birthday, Girl Guides and Girl Scouts could send gifts in the form of a voluntary contribution.   Olave Baden-Powell suggested a penny, and the money has gone to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) ever since to support girls and young women around the world.   Even though a penny could have got you much more in those days than now, we still collect pennies to donate to the World Thinking Day Fund.   We don’t get the Brasso out and shine them any more like I used to in the 80’s though!Chinese new year sheep cupcakes GuidesFor the international element of our meeting, the adult leaders had already chosen China as a theme due to the Chinese new year being next week.   We then handed over to the two Young Leaders to choose some extra activities with the Guides, and then I was despatched to Hobbycraft with a list for the following week.Chinese new year sheep cupcake 3 GuidesAs it is going to be the Chinese Year of the Sheep, I’d already decided to contribute this decorated cupcake idea that I’d spotted on Pinterest.   See – all that procrastinating does pay off!Chinese new year sheep cupcake 1 GuidesI’m not sure how many sheep made it home in one piece, so I made sure I emailed pictures to the parents to show them that the Guides had actually done something!Chinese new year Guides lanternsAnother idea was making lanterns which turned out really well, especially with the battery powered tea lights in the bottom.Chinese new year Guides fortune cookiesNot so successful were the fortune cookies.   I was a bit dubious when I was asked to provide ingredients, but one Guide told me she’d made them at Brownie Pack Holiday once.   If a Brownie can make it, it must be easy.   They’d obviously had more experience, or not used the recipe I found online.   They tasted nice though and the Guides all swapped fortunes which they’d written inside.Chinese new year dragon GuidesOur finale was our Chinese dragon.   The Young Leaders asked for boxes and bottles, and I think the Guide parents took the opportunity to lighten their recycling bins this week.   Not many were used in construction, but it had a head, body and tail, and every Guide managed to get underneath so a success!

If you think that you would enjoy being surrounded by icing, despairing over cracking fortune cookies and helping to engineer lantern bases, come and join the fun!   Click here for more details.

#SBSevent2015 – Meeting Theo Paphitis

Craftyguider monkey #SBSevent2015On January 30th, Mr CG, the monkey and I headed to the ICC in Birmingham for the #SBSevent2015.   For those not in the know, #SBS is the twitter hashtag for Small Business Sunday, an initiative set up by Theo Paphitis.   Small business owners tweet to @theopaphitis on Sundays between 5pm and 7.30pm.   He personally chooses 6 winners and retweets them to his 462,199 followers (at time of writing).   I won on 6th January 2014 and for a week my twitter feed went mad, I wrote press releases for the local paper and the national Guiding magazine and tried to put Craftyguider out there.ICC #SBSevent2015About every 12 months or so, all winners of the #SBS awards get to go to a big event for networking, Q&A and meeting the man himself.   I felt a bit out of my depth as I’m not a career woman any more.   Craftyguider is a fundraising venture and I take no money from the business other than material costs.  It’s lovely when people do buy from me as it means a lot that someone has appreciated something I’ve created, and it means a lot to my Guides who benefit from the money that I invest in the unit.

After the networking session, Kypros Kyprianou, Group CEO of Ryman Stationery (and fellow Spurs fan!), took to the stage to introduce the next part of the day, and then his boss, Theo Paphitis.Theo Paphitis #SBSevent2015Theo talked through some of the great things that were happening with SBS, including the newly updated SBS website.   I’ve been on and updated my profile page already.

After lunch, there was a Q&A session with Julien Callede, co-founder of Made.com, Judy Naake who introduced St Tropez tans to the UK, and Rob Forkan, co-founder of Gandy’s flip flops.

Towards the end of the questions (which overran their time slot), some people started queuing for their photo with Theo.   I didn’t as I thought it would be a bit rude to walk out on the session, and I was interested in what people were saying.  Some people had long journeys ahead of them though, and with the cold weather, they probably needed to get away as quickly as possible.Craftyguider meets Theo Paphitis #sbsevent2015And this is me with my certificate and Theo.   By this time, I managed to squeak to him that I was Craftyguider, a Guide leader who made things, before my voice gave out completely!   Mr CG has had the benefit of me being almost silent for more than 48 hours now.   We collected our goody bags and fortunately had a clear journey home to relieve my parents from their 24 hour babysitting stint.

And when I got home, I found I’d been nominated to receive a Certificate of Good Service from Girlguiding Hertfordshire “for being totally devoted to Girlguiding and for helping in many and varied roles”.   Whilst my #SBS is fantastic, this Guiding award is more special to me.   It means that 2 people have taken the trouble to write nomination letters for me, my commissioner has agreed the nomination, and that the awards committee have approved it.

I’ll be back at #SBS next year.   Mr CG has said he might want me to try and get an #SBS for his company, and eldest Craftyguidelet will shortly launch her polymer clay jewellery.   #SBS winner at 8 years old?

Procrastination be gone

Everyone has 24 hours in their day to fill, whether you are Beyonce, the Queen or the greengrocer.   You have certain things that you have to do each day such as eat and sleep, certain things that you should do such as exercise, and certain things that you want to do such as play with kittens.Leonie Dawson Create Your Amazing Year Workbook 2014At the beginning of last year I bought Leonie Dawson’s Life and Biz Workbook 2014.   I wanted to focus my attention on creating an amazing year, and people had said that it was a fabulous planning tool.   I didn’t fill in my workbook much, so I thought I’d revisit it this year.

One of the exercises is to fill in a pie chart with how you spend your time and another with how you want to spend your time.Typical week day pie chartMy days are so varied, but this is a rough approximation of a typical weekday.  I might craft in front of the TV, I might snatch an hour to blog instead of housework, but I don’t dedicate my time to doing enough to make a difference to me.   I want a clean and organised house, crafting makes me happy, being prepared for my Guiding responsibilities is important to me, but I don’t make an effort to ditch the procrastination and get on with it.   Instead of getting on with my Christmas crafting last year, I organised my Distress ink pads and researched racks to put them on.   Very satisfying, something that was nice to have done, but not the urgent task in hand.

Target week day pie chartThis is what I’ve come up with for how I want to spend my day.

I’ve swapped the procrastination for me time, and prioritised my crafting and blogging.   I’ve got the TV on as I’m blogging at the moment, but Phil Spencer doesn’t need my full attention.

I need to exercise more.   I do about 30 minutes a day during the week but I could and should do more.

I also want to drop some volunteering time.  I spend about 4 hours a week at meetings with the Guides and Rainbows, plus the occasional District team meeting or training course, plus my WI commitment.   The key word is ‘volunteer’.   There is a certain amount of work that has to be done every week, but I need to concentrate on the essentials and know that I don’t have to sort out everyone’s problems as well as my own.

Some days it will happen.   Some days it won’t.   I know that I’ve probably forgotten things like long baths, reading and shopping, and sometimes my crafting mojo will leave me, but I have to get some focus back in my life.

Is your year still on track?

#SBS One Year On

circle SBSOne year ago today, I sent a tweet to Theo Paphitis for his Small Business Sunday (#SBS) competition.   I wrote “When I was a Guide, I earned 2 Craft badges. Now I’m a leader, I design and make badges.”   I was hoping to be one of the 6 businesses to earn a retweet from him the next day, and my aim was to keep trying every week during 2014.   I couldn’t possibly imagine that he would choose me as the first winner of the new year.

I can’t say that it has changed my life.   Craftyguider.com is strictly a fundraising venture for my Guide unit.   I don’t earn a penny from it (as all profits go into my Guide unit), and I don’t want to as long as I can recoup my costs.   I am interested in making it a success though, and I do get a buzz when people buy from me and give me positive feedback.   2014 was by far my best year and I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me.

One result of all this is my 8 year old is already planning her business empire.   She wants a career involving music, singing, polymer clay and chocolate.   She wants a business like mummy, and is keen to help out.   She was there on my stall the day Craftyguider started up in September 2011 when she was only 4.   She’s already asking for a twitter account so she can enter #SBS too.

On January 30th, I’ll be at the SBS Winners Event picking up my certificate and having my photo taken with Theo himself.   Perhaps Craftyguidelet can make it a family thing and be there in her own right the following year?   She’s already got 2 Brownie Craft badges so she’s got a head start on me already.

That was the year that was ~ 2014

photo (82)It was a great year for the shop.   Craftyguider had it’s best year yet, and I raised a nice sum of money to put into the Guide accounts.   I get to meet Theo Paphitis soon to collect my #SBS (Small Business Sunday) award, and I featured in Guiding magazine and the local press.   However, I didn’t manage to launch a presence on Etsy, or learn about taking better photos.

photo (74)I managed to make enough Christmas cards for friends and family, and sold handmade Christmas cards and tags in my shop for the first time.   However I didn’t start in July as planned, and had a few late nights before craft fairs frantically making stock.

yellow and grey bunting-001I handmade a few Christmas and birthday gifts this year, however I didn’t make as many as I’d planned to.

Q and A a DayI kept up to date with my Q&A a day diary (if you count the odd catch up sessions when I missed a couple/few/several days), however the Craftyguidelets didn’t do theirs.

book bag tutorial title pageI blogged more than usual, however I didn’t get into a rhythm and get all my ideas off the ground, especially more tutorials.

IMG_8261I worked hard to keep my local Rainbow and Brownie units open and helped to recruit new leaders, however I didn’t manage to get new units to open so that all the girls who want to join, can.

robin snowflake kitsI have completed quite a few magazine kits this year, but not the one a week I wanted to.   I have also tackled the magazine mountain and now say to myself that buying more magazines doesn’t make me happy, and the clutter makes me sad when I’m standing at the magazine display in the supermarket.   However, the magazine hill is still there.

I haven’t learned how to procrastinate less, I’m still carrying some extra pounds, and the office is a bomb site.

I have learned an important thing this year though.   I can’t (and shouldn’t) do everything.   I don’t have to fill every available minute in the service of others or dusting the bannisters or attending meetings or making things for the shop.   I need to prioritise my girls, my husband, my family and me.   All the ‘howevers’ above have occurred because something else came up.   A craft session with the Craftyguidelets, making Elsa dresses, going on family holidays, extra time at the park after school, a day out on my own to a craft fair as a customer, not a vendor.

Have a wonderful new year everyone, and I hope 2015 is everything you want it to be.

Louise x