Rocking the Mall with the Girl Scouts and SWAPS

design, family, general crafts

If you’re reading this on Saturday June 9 I am at the Rock the Mall event in Washington DC with Bill, our daughter Sophie, her Girl Scout troop and Girl Scouts from all over the US celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts. We are trying to break the world’s record for the most people at a singalong and we’re probably doing the cast of thousands flash mob that Sophie and I have been rehearsing while watching the YouTube tutorial. Most likely I’ve already forgotten the moves because I’m not good at memorizing choreography. I don’t have “the moves like Jagger” sadly. But more than likely I’m having a very memorable day that will stick in our family’s memories for a long, long time. There’s a live webcast of the festivities if you want to see what’s going on.

For a number of reasons I never had the opportunity to join Girl Scouts as a child so it’s been fun to learn about their rituals and customs through our daughter. My favorite ritual is SWAPS. SWAPS stands for Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere. Troops often trade SWAPS with other troops but we have been preparing SWAPS for any girl scouts that we meet in DC. SWAPS are customarily handmade crafts that are supposed to be made with simple materials by the scout. Typically the SWAPS tell something about the troop but in this case, they can also commemorate this very special event. Usually they include a safety pin that the girl can pin on her vest.

Sophie and I reviewed Pinterest for ideas and discussed materials she could use. We have a 12 hr ride to DC so we’ve packed up a box of supplies that she can use in the van to assemble as many SWAPS as she has the energy for. Pony beads, ribbons and such are the mainstays of SWAPS but we decided ShrinkyDinks would be perfect because they are rigid and you can write words that remind the recipient of the event.

A few minutes with a Girl Scout green Sharpie, a hole punch, a corner round trimmer (oh such a useful tool) and a few minutes in the oven yielded a nice tray of medallions that she’ll attach with ribbon to the safety pins. She even made two to surprise the troop leaders with once we’re on the Mall.

Here’s why I love this whole idea. It’s about sharing yourself. SWAPS are about making something small to give to someone you don’t know. They are handmade of simple materials. There’s no technology involved and you have to use all of your fingers, not just your thumbs, which are the only fingers that get much use in the texting-gaming generations. I know that adults swap Artists’ Trading Cards and I have long wanted to participate in an exchange but as a designer there’s a little pressure to make it beautiful and different so as not to disappoint anyone. I can’t not put a lot of time and thought into it. These SWAPS have no ridiculous such baggage associated with them. Sophie drew quickly on the ShrinkyDinks and made 24 in 20 minutes. The etiquette is that if someone asks you to swap a SWAPS, you don’t refuse. Love that. It’s about sharing your craft and in turn a bit of yourself. Don’t all of us need a little bit more of that?

pocket pet fleece hammock tutorial

cooking, design, family, general crafts, sewing, tools

Our pocket pet journey began at Christmas when our 10-year-old daughter asked for a hamster. I decided to buy her a magazine called “Critters” which I bought at Petco. When I went to pay for it the young cashier said, “If you’re thinking about a pocket pet, I’d get a rat.” “A rat?! Really? Why?” I asked. “They’re smart, they’re social and you can train them to do stuff. Mine sits on my shoulder while I do homework,” she responded. She had me at “sits on my shoulder while I do homework.” I had a gerbil when I was Sophie’s age and I had no affection for it at all. It didn’t interact with me and seemed to resent contact with me.

So I bought the magazine, which explained the benefits and limitations of gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, sugar gliders, chinchillas, ferrets and yes, rats. Sophie read every word of the magazine over Christmas break and decided that she too wanted rats. Adding a pet to the family is a serious responsibility and an added monthly cost. I told her that she needed to make a written proposal to us including researching how much a cage, food, bedding, etc would cost. She needed to think about her schedule and commit to a time that she would play with them and clean their cage. Rats don’t like to live alone so it would be two rats to consider. We had her do this proposal because I wanted her to know that being prepared and organizing your case is how you get people to listen to you and take your request seriously. She did the proposal and we began looking for young rats because they only live a couple of years and we didn’t want to get one that might be at the end of its life.

Long story short, we got these rats, Taffy and Toffee, last weekend and the woman we got them from gave us a hammock to borrow until we could make our own for them. I decided to post this tutorial because the hammock is appreciated by all manner of pocket pets and is the perfect project for small scraps of fleece. The rats have been a lot of fun and are indeed as social as we had hoped.

Pocket Pet Fleece Hammock Tutorial

You’ll need:

a 12″ x 24″ piece of fleece (size is a guideline – it can be smaller)

4 shower curtain hooks

4 extra large eyelet (also known as grommet) sets and the tools for setting the eyelets

small, sharp scissors

a sewing machine and thread

1. Turn under a 1/2″ edge on both of the short ends of the fleece.

2. With right sides together, bring the ends to the center of the fleece so they meet in the middle.

3. Pin in place and sew the sides.

4. Turn inside out.

5. Place one of the eyelet pieces on the fabric and trace the circle on the inside of the eyelet onto the fleece.

6. With either a leather punch or a pair of small, sharp scissors, cut an X through the center of the circle large enough to accommodate the shank of the eyelet. Cut just a little at a time and try to work the fabric tightly around the eyelet piece. If you make it too big, the eyelet won’t hold so smaller is better.

7. Following the instructions on the eyelet set, assemble the parts and hammer until the metal shank overlaps the flat part of the eyelet. We put the nice side of the eyelet on the flat part of the hammock because that’s the side that’s visible from outside the cage.

8. Repeat the eyelet setting for the other corners of the hammock.

9. Using the curtain hooks, hang the edge of the hammock from a point that the pet can reach but that allows that hammock to move freely.

10. Pocket pets are sensitive to smells. So when you introduce a new hammock to them, fill it with bit of fabric or toys that already smell like them so they’ll feel at home.

just in time — this year’s April Fool’s prank

family, good laughs

I dunno about you but between the Supreme Court ruling on health care reform, tax season and the debate on copyright issues all over Facebook and the blogosphere, I’m in need of a little levity.

If you’re somewhat new to this blog, you may not realize that April Fool’s Day to our daughter ranks right up there with Christmas and birthdays in terms of required planning and excitement. As a parent charged with the responsibility for coming up with each year’s prank I feel not a small amount of pressure to deliver something memorable.

Bill, who has little sense of time, is our primary target because he never even sees it coming. I usually save a good one for our daughter too. You may remember that two years ago I arranged to have our daughter “accepted” into Chore Camp. That was awesome! Last year she received a permission slip from her school for a field trip to outer space. Then of course there’s my M&M bag trick, of which I’m very proud.

This year I present for your consideration– drumroll please — the toothpaste-filled Oreo. Easy to execute, cheap, convincing and with just the right amount of “Yuck!” Make sure that both sides of the Oreo are in one piece (no cracks). Gently pull the cookies apart. Scrap off the filling and replace it with the same amount of white toothpaste.

You will want to be present for this prank to ensure that the prankee doesn’t swallow the toothpaste. It should be obvious that it’s toothpaste but better safe than sorry.

As for our daughter, she’ll be heading to a Palm Sunday choir performance on the morning of April Fool’s (Sunday) so I’m thinking of something that’s fast, yet funny. Right now I’m leaning toward replacing all of the milk in the container with whipped cream so it looks like milk but doesn’t pour. I figure that if I get a skirt can of whipped cream I could aim it inside the milk container and just let ‘er rip. Then, of course, there will be the obligatory replacement of the underwear in Bill’s drawer with 10-year-old girl’s underwear because some pranks never get old.