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.

Race For life 2015

Race For Life race numberFor my last day of #VolunteersWeek, I stepped outside Guiding and WI to participate in Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life in Welwyn.   Like most people, cancer has affected friends and family in my life, so it’s a charity I am happy to support.Race For Life feet upI am not a runner.   I own one pair of trainers but hate running.   I feel self conscious whenever I go running so normally end up cross country which is hard on my poor aching body, especially my dodgy back.   I was planning to do the Couch to 5K programme, but just couldn’t get the weather and my health to align.   I did make sure I upped my activity rate and did extra walking though, and gave myself an extra incentive by including it as an activity for the ‘Myself’ clause of my Trefoil Guild Voyage award (Duke of Edinburgh style award for Trefoil Guild members).Race For Life start inspirational womenLook at all these inspiring women!   A true pink army, raising funds for a great cause.

I tweeted as I power walked round and plugged myself into the music selection.   Unfortunately, most of the music was Christmas music so it was a strange experience listening to I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day on a really warm and sunny day!   I did get a retweet from Santa though!Race For Life finishBecause I was having a great time going round, the finish came sooner than I thought and I earned my medal.Race For Life medalI wasn’t as keen on the freebie milk drink and brioche though, but as they had to close the road, I was stuck for an hour after I finished before I could head home for lunch.Race For Life inspirational messagesAnd this is why we did it.   On the way out, people were pinning their “I race for life for…” messages on this banner.   Going round, it was poignant seeing these pinned to people’s backs listing their loved ones lost or those who were still battling or who survived the struggle.   For some of the time on the way round I was following a mother and her young daughter.   Mum’s message said she was winning but not out of the woods yet.   Her daughter’s message just said she was was racing for life for her mum.   I just hope that neither of my kids ever have to put my name on their backs.

Even though I’ve finished, you can still donate on my Justgiving Page.   Show cancer that hell hath no fury like a woman in pink!

Women’s Institute Centenary Annual Meeting

Having spent a day at Buckingham Palace at the WI Royal Garden Party, the next big event in the WI’s centenary programme was the Annual Meeting at the Royal Albert Hall.   Delegates from across the country attended and it was a fabulously grand occasion.   Unfortunately, I wasn’t there but did get to see a live transmission of the event at my local Cineworld.   NFWI Centenary Annual Meeting Stevenage CineworldOK, the surroundings weren’t as jaw dropping as the grandeur of the Albert Hall which I did experience a few times when I was younger, but the live transmission was a great opportunity for ordinary members up and down the country to get to see the event.

There may have been sound problems in the hall, but we heard everything loud and clear.   Janice Langley, the NFWI Chair looked incredibly nervous when the royal party of HM The Queen, Princess Anne and Sophie, Countess of Wessex were on stage with her, but she didn’t put a foot wrong.HM The Queen NFWI Centenary Annual Meeting

There were three excellent speakers.   Lucy Worsley who is going to be on our screens soon with a history of the WI, gave a fascinating insight into her research on the subject.   Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson spoke about her life and achievements in sport and now in the House of Lords, including her family’s motto ‘Aim high, even if you hit a cabbage’.   Finally Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management spoke about the 30% club which she founded to try and get at least 30% female board members.

There was also a selection of songs by the Bleadon Belles who won the choir competition, and a presentation of the knitwear collaboration between WI members and Kingston University to produce garments for their university fashion show.   I don’t think I’ll be wanting to wear any of the garments, but the work to produce them was fabulous.

One of my favourite (and possibly most confusing until we got our heads around it) parts of the day was the debate on the NFWI Resolution “Failing to care – assessment of need in long term care.   This meeting calls on HM government to remove the distinction between nursing care and personal care in the assessment of the needs of individuals, in order to advance health and wellbeing.”  When we discussed it at our local WI level, we were confused about what the resolution was trying to achieve, and whether it was possible to do this.   At the meeting, there was an amendment to the wording, so there was a vote on accepting the amendment.   This was passed, so then there was a further discussion on the amended resolution before a motion was put forward to move to the next business (still with me?).   Speakers then voiced what we had felt at our meeting; the resolution was just not what the WI should be working towards.   The care system was in need of an overhaul, but new legislation, lack of government funding, plus the wording of the resolution which wasn’t specific enough, meant that it needed more work.   The speaker from Stoke Newington WI really clarified the position for me using the SMART criteria for setting objectives.   The motion to move to the next business was overwhelmingly passed so there was no vote on the resolution.

I really hope that there are live transmissions of future events.   It was so interesting to see how our WI is run and it’s a shame the annual meeting is only open to a few delegates from each federation.

If you would like to join the WI, put your postcode into the WI finder to get more information.   We are the original social network. We are run by volunteers, are a not-for-profit organisation, and provide a place for women to have fun, chat, learn new skills, take part in a wide range of activities and campaign on important issues.   And there is usually cake!

WI Centenary Royal Garden Party

WI Centenary Garden Party invitation100 years ago, the first WI started in the UK, having had it’s origins in Canada.   As one of the centenary celebrations, each branch of the WI held a ballot to choose a representative.   We had 2 members put their names forward, and because the other member won a place with her dual membership WI, we both got to go.Michele Dawn headpieceAn invite to the palace deserved a splurge on a hat, and the amazingly talented Michele Dawn came up with this beauty.   I think it’s very ‘Home Fires‘ with a beautiful vintage brooch in the middle.   I felt amazing wearing it, even on the tube.WI Garden Party queue at the palaceThe weather forecast was dreadful for the day, but apart from a bit of drizzle and being very gusty, we got away with it.   Several women spent a lot of time chasing their hats across the palace lawn, but there was usually someone to help catch them.WI Centenary Garden Party waiting at Buckingham PalaceI rarely do selfies, but did this one in the queue outside the palace with my new red lipstick.   I asked the woman at the Bobbi Brown counter in John Lewis to find me a 1940’s style red colour that wouldn’t clash with my hair and she came through with flying colours.

I didn’t travel with anyone in my County Federation, but spotted a woman on the tube with a hat and we exchanged a couple of words about being in the WI.   She was travelling with her husband so we parted at Green Park.   What a surprise when Caron from Collingham WI spotted me inside the palace out of 8000 other women and we joined forces for the day.WI Centenary Garden Party FoodOne tip she’d got from other people who had been to garden parties before was to get in quick with the food.   And yes, it tasted as good as it looked.   Photos inside the palace were forbidden, but I’m a rebel!

We then joined the crowds to see the royals.    Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall came down our side of the lawn.   The word went through that she was wearing a white hat with a blue band so the tallest people kept a running commentary going about her progress.   She was lovely and chatted to so many people along the way.   When she had passed by, we spotted that there was another person following round which turned out to be Princess Alexandra.   She was wearing a lovely embroidered jacket, and again was talking to everyone.

When she had passed by, we could spot another crowd on the other side of the lawn so thought that we might catch Sophie, Countess of Wessex too.   We did which was a thrill for me as she is President of Girlguiding UK.

After that, we did a turn around the grounds looking at the gorgeous azeleas, before swapping numbers and heading off on our separate ways.Buckingham Palace guardIt was a lovely day, and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to go.   I left with throbbing feet but memories of a great day.

If you would like to join the WI, put your postcode into the WI finder to get more information.   We are the original social network. We are run by volunteers, are a not-for-profit organisation, and provide a place for women to have fun, chat, learn new skills, take part in a wide range of activities and campaign on important issues.   And there is usually cake!

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?