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Scout-made Christmas Ornament 2009 November 6, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,SnowmanBulb1

Hallmark has their annual collectable ornaments, and we can have our own annual Scout collectable ornament! The great thing about our Scout ornaments is that they are made by our Scouts! Last year I wrote about a Scout-made Christmas ornament using paint for snowmen (you can find the blog entry here). This year’s ornament continues the snowman theme and will actually be a green ornament – not in color, but in eco-friendliness.

All you need is a white light bulb, and you have the start of a snowman. The reason I’m posting this so far before the Christmas season is so you can spread the word to your parents to save any burned out bulbs for this (yes, you can go buy a package of white light bulbs for this project, but why not reuse and recycle?)

You can decorate your bulb any way you or your Scout wants to.SnowmanBulb2 First thing we did was paint the screw-top, so that can dry before working with the rest of the light bulb (we painted it blue, but if I had it to do over again I’d paint it black, so it would look like a top hat!) We used a piece of orange foam for the nose. We sprayed the bulb with some spray adhesive and glued on a strip of cloth for a scarf and threw some glitter on it. We also painted on the eyes and a coal-smile using toothpicks. Toothpicks work great for painting small dots and fine lines.

You can wrap some wire around the top to create a hanger. I would recommend using a hot glue gun to tack down this wire, so it doesn’t slip. Then your snowman is ready for hanging!

If you are looking for a fun Christmas craft to do with your den, start saving your light-bulbs now. Your snowman is waiting for you!

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Little Smokies in Biscuits Recipe October 23, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,LittleSmokies

If you are looking for an easy-to-make and great tasting Dutch oven dinner for your Scouts, consider Little Smokies in a biscuit! You and your boys will love them!

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 tube of refrigerator biscuits (makes 10). Use the smaller biscuits, not the “Grand” biscuits.
  • 10 “Lit’l Smokies” cocktail links per biscuit tube (one link for each biscuit)
  • 10 slices of cheddar cheese per biscuit tube (the slices can be cut before the campout. They need to be about the same size as the Little Smokie link. I used mild cheddar, but you can use whatever grade of cheddar you like).
  • Dipping sauce (I like BBQ sauce, but my boys like ketchup)

These are so easy to make! Just separate the biscuit dough and slightly flatten each biscuit out. Take a Little Smokie link and a slice of cheddar, put them in the middle of your biscuit, and fold up the sides of your biscuit and pinch it completely closed. (You shouldn’t see the link or cheese when you are done).  Put them in your Dutch oven so that the “seam” is facing up (that way if they open up the cheese won’t run out).

Since the link is pre-cooked, all you really need to do is bake the biscuit (using the directions on the can). If your biscuits bake at 350° F, then use around 23 – 24 coals to bake the biscuits. Since biscuits can easily burn, I would use only 9 coals on the bottom, and the rest on top. And make sure you remember to rotate the Dutch oven and the lid every 15 minutes to control any hot spots.

A pair of tongs would be useful to get them out, but you can use a spatula and a spoon as well (a spatula will come in handy either way, in case the biscuit sticks to the bottom of the Dutch oven). You should be able to cook the entire tube of refrigerator biscuits in one 12″ Dutch oven – just make sure that you don’t crowd them too much.

Since these are small (and taste great), it would be a good idea to double this recipe and have two Dutch ovens going at a time. And if your crowd is large or your boys are extra hungry, you can quadruple the recipe and cook a second set of them while the boys are eating the first set (you would probably need fresh coals for this second baking). Since a 16 oz. package of links contains about 45 links, you can easily quadruple this recipe if needed.

A note about the Little Smokies – a package of these are pretty expensive. I usually see them over $5.00 per 16 oz. package. But they do go on sale, so keep an eye out for that. The last package I bought was around $3.50 on sale, and considering you get around 45 links, that was a pretty good buy in my opinion.

If you are looking for an easy and great tasting meal for your campout, try Little Smokies in a biscuit. Boys love food they can dip, so they should really enjoy them. But be warned! You might need to make a good amount of them. They taste so good the boys (and any adults nearby) will probably devour them quickly!

Enjoy!

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Instant Camp Coffee October 20, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

As you know, I’m always looking for good camp coffee (maybe to Viathe point of obsession!). One thing that I’ve never considered is instant coffee, because instant coffee is usually just plain terrible. Recently, however, Starbucks has come out with their own “Via” line of instant coffee. I have tried it and I have to admit it’s not bad. It’s not quite as good as a regular brewed coffee, but since it’s instant coffee, it’s easy to make with very little mess.

I probably won’t be drinking a lot of this around the home, but I’m starting to keep a stockpile at work. It’s great to heat up a cup of water and make a quick cup of coffee (remember – I’m an accountant. Caffeine is a survival tool!).

This is also a good option for camping. Although I’m not going to retire my new GSI coffee press anytime soon, I plan on bringing Via along with me when I want to make a quick cup of coffee at camp. On those mornings where you are running short on time or packing up your equipment, a quick cup of coffee with no grounds to deal with would be nice. Plus, since you can avoid bringing coffee-making equipment, I figure this would be a great backpacking option.

If you are looking for an easy coffee option for your next campout, consider Starbucks new Via blend of instant coffee. The taste isn’t bad, and there is very little clean up. And no, this blog post isn’t sponsored by Starbucks in any way – although a portion of each of my paychecks seems to end up going to them :-)

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Scout Omelets In Bag October 12, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,Omelet6

I learned an excellent way to make omelets a few years ago at Baloo training. These are easy to make and would be great for your next campout. They create very little mess, and although aren’t the greatest looking omelets, they taste wonderful and are easy to make! Plus, you can make several at a time, so your Scouts won’t go hungry.

Here’s the equipment you need:

  • 1 to 2 large stock pot(s), depending on the number of omelets you will make (a large pot can make around half a dozen of these bagged omelets)
  • Tongs
  • Ziplock Heavy Duty quart-size freezer bags (must be Heavy Duty)
  • A sharpie (to write the scout’s name on the bag)

Here’s some optional equipment:

  • A lid for the stock pot (to bring water to a boil faster; you won’t us a lid while cooking the omelets)
  • Scissors to cut open the bag (the omelets roll out fairly easy, but cutting the bag when done gets them out faster).Omelet1

Here are the ingredients:

  • Two eggs per omelet
  • Salt and pepper
  • Whatever fixings you like in an omelet

First, have each Scout write his name on his bag. Then they crack Omelet2two eggs in the bag and kneed the bag to break up the yokes and mix the eggs. Then they place whatever ingredients they like in an omelet (I’m partial to crumbled bacon and cheddar cheese). Don’t forget the salt and pepper!  Then they mix the ingredients and then squeeze the air out and close the bag (I like to keep the mixture at the bottom of the bag and roll the bag up as I close it).Omelet3

 

 

Next, place the bag in a pot of boiling water. You can place several bags in the pot, depending on its size (you just want to make sure that there is some room for them to float free). When I Omelet4make mine, I don’t like the Ziplock bag to touch the sides too long, so I rotate and move it around. Plus, I don’t like the top of the bag to be in water, so I like to keep the zipper part out (you will see in my picture that I folded the zipper on the omelet, which floats after about a minute while cooking. You can do that if you have one or two omelets in the pan. If you have a lot of omelets, then you won’t have the issue of the zipper getting in the water).Omelet5

Boil the omelet(s) for 13 minutes, rotating them around the pot to keep the bags from touching the sides of the pot, and to let the omelet cook evenly.

Using the tongs, take the bags out and set them aside. They cool down quickly, and they will roll out of the bag on to the plate when cooked evenly. You can eat it as is, or add any toppings you like. I like to top mine with my wife’s awesome salsa!

Another great thing, other than how easy they are to make, is that you can do some of the prep ahead of time, before the campout. You can fry up the bacon, cut the ham, or prepare whatever you want at home before you leave. Then you just have to place the fixings in the bag and put them in the water!

A note about bacon – although unhealthy, so many of us like bacon.Bacon1 The boys in my second den were bacon-lovers. It didn’t matter what we had for breakfast, as long as we had bacon! Bacon can be fried at the campground, but for something like this it’s easy to fry at home before the campout. When I did this, I’d fry it, pat the slices dry with paper towels, then put two slices in a sandwich bag. It’s easy to crumble in a sandwich bag and it’s pre-measured – just grab a sandwich bag and you are guaranteed two slices of bacon!

Finally, make sure you know of any food allergies or dietary restrictions your boys may have. You don’t want to get to the campout and find out that someone is allergic to eggs or is a vegetarian (both of which I’ve seen in Scouts). Know ahead of time so someone doesn’t get to the campout and aren’t able to eat breakfast.

Cooking with your Cubs is such an important part of the program, as I’ve blogged about here. You can teach them to cook in den meetings, and when they are Webelos you can take them and their parents out camping and teach them to cook in the outdoors. Consider adding a Ziplock bag omelet to your meal plan – it’s easy to make and tastes great! And the cleanup is a breeze.

Writing this has made me hungry! I’m off to make a gruyere cheese, bacon, and mushroom omelet in a bag.

Enjoy!

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Storing And Organizing Craft Paint October 5, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

One item I inadvertently collected as a Cub Scout den leader was PaintTraythose small tubes of craft paint. By leading two dens and working on countless crafts, I ended up with quite a collection – sometimes I feel like I have the entire color spectrum in my craft box!

One difficulty I always had was how to store them. I found a great solution at my local dollar store (the store I like to call the “Made in China” store). I found these small plastic baskets that were 3 for a dollar. They were about 5″ x 6″, and I bought because I thought they’d be great for a bean bag game. I took them home and never actually used them for a game, as I found they were great for storing the craft paints. Not only could I keep the paints from just being dumped in the bottom of my craft box, but I found that I could stack the trays of paint in my box. Plus, when I got to den meetings I used these to put paints out on the tables during craft time. I could even put similar color hues together in a tray.

I like being organized, and these trays were an inexpensive way to help me keep my craft paints organized. If you are looking for a way to store your paints (or other small items, for that matter), check your local dollar store.

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Tabletop Campfire October 1, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

There are many great tabletop TableTopCampfirecampfires on the Internet. Here’s one that I made for a centerpiece for our pack’s 2005 Blue and Gold banquet. Actually, I made three of these for that banquet, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of Cub Scouts. Even though this was a stationary item, I wanted to have something to make it stand out. So I decided to have a flickering flame effect, done by using a battery-powered fan to blow the flames. While reading this, please note that what was done in a den meeting as a den project is noted by “we”, as in “we made a…”. I didn’t make all of this – my Scouts did a lot of the work on this centerpiece (which they should!).

I started with a 12″  x 12″ x 12″ box. I sealed the top with glue and cut off the bottom flaps. Then, I cut a hole in the center of the top of the box the same diameter as the fan that I bought for this project.  I then painted the sides blue and the top brown (to simulate dirt).

Then we wired the fans. We did this as Webelos for TableTopCampfire_FanAndWiringEngineer #6 (making a circuit – we substituted the fan for the light). The fans were connected to a battery pack with a switch in the line so we could turn the fan on and off from outside the box. We purchased the fans, battery holders, and switches from Radio Shack. This was the most expensive part of the campfire.

Next, I cut out some thin press board to fit inside of the box, as I TableTopCampfire_Switchdidn’t want to mount the electronics to the cardboard (due to their weight). I cut a circle in the middle of this to mount the fan to. I then cut holes in one corner to mount the battery pack to. The fan was held in by small machine screws, and the battery pack was held in by zip ties (which also held the batteries in the battery pack). To replace the batteries, I would need to cut the zip ties and replace them. I mounted this pressboard to the underside of the box lid with machine screws and washers (the washers help the cardboard to support the weight).

Our next step was to make the logs (because every good campfire TableTopCampfire_CloseUpneeds fuel!). We made this as a den craft project. The logs were just sections of newspapers rolled up then wrapped in tan masking tape. The masking tape’s texture gave our “logs” a wood grain look, which we were real happy with. We spray painted these brown (we used a craft spay paint which was made to look like wood). I think these came out great!

Then we took some small styrofoam balls and made the rocks TableTopCampfire_Rocks(because every good campfire needs to be contained!). We filed one side flat so we could glue it down, then I let the boys shape the rocks as they saw fit. Since we were working with styrofoam, this was very messy! I had some grey primer spray paint around my house, so I used this to paint the rocks.

Then it was ready to put together. We set up the logs in a criss-TableTopCampfire_Sidecross formation, to simulate a log cabin campfire. We hot glued the first two to the base, then the next set on top of the first set of logs. The logs were spaced apart so they wouldn’t block the flow of the fan. Next we hot glued our rocks around the perimeter of our little campfire.

Next we found some orange and yellow tissue paper and cut pieces to look like flames. We used white glue to glue it to the top logs. We even stuffed some real newspaper in the logs for effect! As I noted on a recent podcast, it did take some time to find the orange tissue paper. But tissue paper flickers so well with the fan!

One hurdle we had to overcome was getting enough airflow to cause the tissue paper to flicker. I tried cutting some vent holes, but this hurt the look and really didn’t give us enough air. So we ended up placing 1″ x 2″ wood spacers at each corner and lifting the entire box off the table. Not necessarily attractive but it did the job. These little fans took in quite a bit of air.

If I had it to do over again, one thing I’d do differently is to mount a light inside the box. I saw this on one on the Internet, and I thought that would be a great effect. I’m not sure how that would have worked with the fan’s spin, so I would need to test this first.

Although these were made for Blue and Gold centerpieces, they can have other uses. You can use them for a skit, a Cubmaster minute, or maybe a talk about the outdoors at a pack meeting (although you might need to make a larger one for a pack meeting). Or you can have an indoor campfire with some fire-free smores. I am going to use my indoor campfire as a training aid. What better than to have a talk about campfires and the outdoors while sitting around our tabletop campfire!

Making a table top campfire is a fun craft to share with the boys. Not only do they look good, but they can have many uses. And what shows the spirit of Scouting and the outdoors better than a campfire!

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Creating a Tiger Time Capsule September 23, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

If you are a Tiger leader, you are taking on your firstTimeCapsule steps on a truly wonderful adventure. Your boys will be in the same den until sometime towards the end of the 5th grade (the exact time in the year depends on when your pack bridges to Boy Scouts). Since your boys are so young, and just starting the path of Scouting, a great way to preserve this time in their lives is by making a Tiger time capsule. (Please note that this is directed primarily to Tiger den leaders, but any rank can do this.)

You can add anything you want in your Tiger time capsule. You can include: photos of the individual scouts, a beginning den photo, a sheet written by them of what they like to do, games they like to play, etc, a note from their parents, a craft they did, and anything else you can think of. And the container can be anything you want, as long as it fits what you put in it. I would highly recommend labeling the container clearly, to help it stay visible throughout the years.

For my Tiger den, I did a photo-only time capsule. I took two sheets of large construction paper, pasted a picture of each boy on it and had them sign their names. I also had a picture from our first den meeting. My time capsule wasn’t very imaginative, and I wish I had done more. But at least we had something to pull out at the end of our time as Cub Scouts this past February.

Also, you don’t have to keep it sealed until the boys complete the Cub Scout program. It can be opened and added to each year – even if just a photo of the scouts or a den photo. But please treat it as gold! It’s something you don’t want to lose, so be careful who you entrust it to.

At our last den meeting this past February, I created a slide show of our years in the program. It was different than the slideshow that I created for our Blue and Gold banquet. The one I had for the den was much more personal. We had 6 of our original Tigers still in the den, and it was a great time to reflect on our years together, before we went our separate ways. And the memories we had from our Tiger year were the most special.

The 5 years of Cub Scouts goes so fast. Having a time capsule is a great way to preserve memories and teach the boys that memories need to be preserved. As we are at the beginning of our Cub Scout year, please consider taking a “snap shot” of the boys at this stage in their lives by creating a Tiger time capsule. And if you are not a Tiger leader, please pass this on to the Tiger leaders in your pack.  By making this time capsule, your Tiger den will have a wonderful reminder of the start of the Cub Scout journey when they are ready to move on to the adventure that awaits them in Boy Scouts.

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Cub Scout Buckets September 20, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

If you are looking for a fun and useful craft for your den, consider CubBucketmaking a Scout bucket. You can use the bucket to store craft supplies, snacks, their Scout book, some basic tools, and anything you want to send home. And you always have a bucket available for games that require one. Plus, if you put a cushion on the seat you have a chair always ready for the scout.

You can buy empty 5 gallon buckets with lids at many home improvement stores. Or you can call on your local painting or drywall contractor to see if they have any empty 5 gallon buckets and lids that you could take from them (or ask them to save some for you). Don’t be afraid to ask – you’d be surprised what people will do for Cub Scouts.

Now I have to confess that I’ve never made these, as I first heard about it towards the end of my time as a den leader (so I don’t have a decent picture to show you. The one for this post is “stolen” from an Internet site, and these buckets don’t have much work put into them, IMO). So I’m going to write on how I would do this if I was making it.

First, if you have a bucket that is not white, take some primer and paint the outside of each bucket. You might need more than one coat to get rid of any markings or color hue. I would use a water-based paint for this as the cleanup is easier. Plus, I would not use spray primer, as you’d go through a lot of cans of primer to cover enough buckets for your den. It’s your call if you want the Scouts to prime these, as it can be very messy.

Once the primer dries you can have the boys decorate it any way they want to. There are so many ways to personalize it. You can buy some craft paints and have the boys practice their art skills on it, or you can get stickers for it, or can have them glue pictures to it, or all of the above.

You have two choices when it comes to a cushion for the top. If you have someone in your den that sews, and has a lot of free time, then you can see if they’d be willing to help you with this. You can get custom foam at your home improvement store and cut squares that fit the top, then cover them with material. Or you can buy chair pads, which can be found at home improvement and Walmart/Target-type stores. I personally wouldn’t attach the pad to the top, only because attaching them makes it more difficult to clean it or replace it. Since they have a bucket with them, they can throw the pad in the bucket and bring it with them. But if you want to attach the cushion to the top, a strong construction adhesive should do the trick.

If I had it to do over again, I would have the boys make a Scout bucket early in the program. This way the boys would always have a container to carry their book and anything else they need to have for a meeting. And they would always have a seat ready of we needed to sit for any portion of the meeting. Now if you know me, you know I don’t like a meeting where they sit for very long, so please don’t use these Scout buckets as a place for the boys to sit during a lecture. Boys learn better when they are standing and holding and working with something in their hands. But a Scout bucket is a great way to have storage and a seat, all-in-one.

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

Jungle Animal Kerchief Slides September 14, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

Since the theme for October is “Jungle Safari”, what goes better withSafariJungle2 a jungle theme than jungle animal kerchief slides? You can make kerchief slides that you construct yourself, such as foam animals, or you can buy toy jungle animals and hot glue them to a cut section of 1/2″ PVC sprinkler riser. Either way, this can be a fun craft for your den or pack meeting.

If you want to buy them, there’s a company that sells animal “toobs”, that you might have seen at your neighborhood Michael’s craft store. This company, Safari Ltd, has great jungle animals. They are also for sale Amazon.com (just do a search in the “Toys & Games” department for “Safari Ltd Toob”). I found the selection at my local Michael’s fairly limited, but priced well. They had quite a few of the 12-count toobs for $6.99, but only one that had a jungle theme (the “Monkey and Apes” toob).

You pay a bit more, but get a better selection at Amazon.com. Amazon has the “Jungle Mega” toob that has 24 jungle figures and sells for $16.79. They also have a “Zoo Babies” toob that has 12 cute baby zoo animals that sells for $10.00, although 2 of them (the panda and the polar bear) wouldn’t fit the theme. And they have others that could fit this theme.

Since these figurines have some weight to them, extra glue would be needed to make them adhere better to the PVC pipe section. And as I’ve mentioned on my Golf Ball Kerchief Slide blog entry before, make sure you have a PVC pipe cutter – a PVC cutter is great tool for making kerchief slides.

Although not wanting to over-promote this particular company, I have used the Safari Ltd insect “toob” before for kerchief slides – they made some really fun bug slides! So check out their selection of “toobs” and see if there are other ones you think would make great kerchief slides.

Kerchief slides are always a fun craft for the boys. If you are looking at doing a jungle-theme kerchief slide, consider a “toob” of jungle animals, if they fit your den meeting or pack meeting budget.

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

A Caution About Advancement Charts September 10, 2009

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Hello fellow Scouters,

Hopefully you are using a den advancement chart in your den meetings. They are a great way to show the progress of the boys towards their rank, and show off how many electives the boys earn. I used them in my two dens to chart progress. At every meeting I would display it in a prominent place.

AdvancementChart

But den advancement charts should come with a warning. In all reality, the parents usually drive the advancement of the Scout at the Cub level. When you have a boy that has achieved his rank quickly, and worked on a lot of electives, you will find a parent that is working with the boy. This is a key part of the Cub Scout program – parents working with their boys. What I noticed with the two dens I led was when a boy didn’t achieve his ranks or get a lot done, the issue wasn’t the boy. Often it was a parent that didn’t work with the boy outside of the den meeting. And when I talked to the Scout I could tell they wanted to do more Scouting requirements. It made me sad that they couldn’t get all they wanted out of the program. And often these are the boys that drop out of Cub Scouts. And this can show in the den advancement chart.

Now we want to be careful not to judge any parents, as we don’t always know the back story. Maybe they are really involved in sports, and have little time for Scouting. Maybe a parent travels a lot for work. Maybe they have a parent that is out of the area. I live near a Marine base, and we have had parents that get deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Or maybe they are a family that just isn’t that into Scouting (something I just don’t understand). So it’s important not to look down on a parent when we see a boy that is behind the others. We just need to take the time to work with that boy and make sure that he gets the important rank requirements completed, so he can get that sense of achievement that comes from advancement in the Cub Scout program.

As I mentioned, I used den advancement charts. I feel they are important to the program, and I would recommend that all den leaders use them. But when I used them, I learned to be sensitive to the fact that to some of the boys, the den advancement chart was a point of discouragement, as it was a visual reminder that they wanted to do more in Scouts, but didn’t get the support at home. But the den advancement chart is a good tool for the leader, as it points out the boy that needs more help and special attention. By stepping in and working with him, we can help him get more out of the Scouting program and keep him in the program longer.

In Scouting,

 - Scouter Jeff <><

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