Daisy tea party

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The lovely little ladies of the Daisy troop I lead have been asking to have a tea party for months. May has Mother’s Day, spring flowers, and gentle sunshine; what better month to have a garden tea party? And what better reason than a tea party to craft, put together beautiful flower arrangements, and make flaky, fluffy, mouth-watering scones?

The first thing I wanted to do was to make a gumdrop topiary. They’re a little bit whimsical and an edible decoration.

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Step 1
Decorate terra cotta pot. If you choose to paint the pot, you’ll need paint that says it’s suitable for terra cotta or outdoor uses.

Step 2
Choose or cut a dowel rod to the appropriate height. These topiaries are going to be top heavy, so you don’t want the dowel rod to be too tall or thin. Paint dowel rod. Cover the hole in the bottom of the pot with heavy duty paper. Hot glue the dowel rod to the bottom of the pot in the center.

Step 3
Mix plaster of Paris according to package directions and fill the pot 3/4 of the way full. Allow plaster to set. This step prevents the topiary from toppling over once the gumdrops are on top.

Step 4
Choose a styrofoam ball for the top. You’ll want the ball to be smaller than the pot, because once you affix the gumdrops, the ball will be a bit larger than the pot. Once the plaster has set, put the ball onto the dowel rod approximately 1/3 of the way into the ball. Remove ball.

Step 5
Cover the ball in foil so that styrofoam bits don’t get onto the gumdrops. I chose to use colored candy foil, which you can purchase at your local cake and candy store. Hot glue foil onto the ball.

Step 6
Using toothpicks, affix the gumdrops to the styrofoam ball. I push the toothpick through the gumdrop most of the way and then push the toothpick into the ball. I use the flat edge of a butter knife to push the toothpick the rest of the way through the gumdrop. Use two toothpicks to secure the gumdrops on the underside of the ball.

More decorations!
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I found these chalkboard painted items at my craft store. I used liquid chalk to write on them. I thought the little daisy clips would be perfect to keep track of each girl’s plate.
I love the flowers I end up finding at Whole Foods. As flowers go, they’re inexpensive and always look full and vibrant. For this party, I decided on Gerber daisies, (you have to have daisies) peonies, and hyacinth. I was absolutely tickled when I found a teacup flower planter at my craft store. How could I not use it for a flower arrangement?

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But I think the most beautiful flowers came from one of my Daisies!

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Food
It’s always fun to get dressed in frilly, puffy dresses and pretend to be proper, drinking tea with pinkies elevated. But the best part of any tea party is the food. The Daisy moms pulled together and made some fabulous garden party food: tea sandwiches with egg salad, chicken salad, cucumber, Nutella and fruit….no, not all on the same sandwich. We had juicy fruit and crunchy veggies, chocolatey cookies, and gorgeous cake pops.
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I made one of my favorite party drinks, blueberry lemonade punch. I also had a genius idea: made blueberry lemonade ice cubes. It keeps the lemonade cold, but doesn’t dilute the punch once they begin to melt. The only problem with this genius was that once the cubes did melt, the free-floating blueberries got in the way of the drink dispenser. But at least it looked pretty.
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I was excited because I made the scones, a quintessential part of every tea party. I had never made scones before and was excited to try my hand at it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did try one of the recipes for teacher appreciation week, which resulted in some pretty major Pinterest derp.
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At least they tasted good.

Fortunately, these scones turned out much better than my first attempt. It’s amazing how that can happen when one follows directions! I made blueberry scones, cheddar bacon scones, and triple vanilla scones. I’ll make the recipes separate posts and link them here. But until then, be tempted and drool over pictures of the final products.

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Everyone had a good time at the tea party, especially the girls. Proper lemonade sipping and scone nibbling soon gave way to sliding on our slide backwards and upside down, dog piles in the play room, and games of tag that led girls under tea tables covered in bright tablecloths. I’m sure the sugar they had had nothing to do with it at all.

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Pine cones are decor adverse

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For several days we were waterlogged; the rain just seemed like it would never end. So I spent much of the weekend making a papier-mâché spider. Our friends, Kevin and Jill, will be coming state-side in a few days and will be here for Halloween. Jill’s family has a tradition of hanging a large spider, Borris, out of their window and scaring the shit out of trick-or-treaters. One year, Kevin actually scared a little girl who ended up being the daughter of one of my former Spanish teachers. This Spanish teacher always stood in front of the class, trying to discreetly scratch his balls and pick the scabs on his head while “teaching”. Then he’d go ignore us while he worked on charts for the track team. So, while I felt bad that a little girl had been frightened, I had a bit of satisfaction when I learned who her dad was. Karma’s a bitch, ball scratcher! Or, you know, a spider. Anyway, so in honor of their visit from jolly old England, I am making Borris 2.0. Of course, right now, he looks a bit more like the Buggalo on Mars.
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I also finally received notification that my Daisy troop had been registered, complete with shiny troop number. Of course, that meant that I had to pull my head out from under my place of safety and start coordinating like a troop leader again. I avoided it for a couple of days, which made me a big old fun ball of anxiety that had to keep breathing deeply. I felt better once I put on my big girl panties and acted like a leader and sent coordinating emails. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard, but for me it takes forever to send emails. Since I have perpetual foot in mouth syndrome, I’m always worried about inadvertently offending someone whenever I write an email. I also want to strike a balance between authoritative and likable since, whether we stay in Girl Scouts or not, I will be in contact with these parents for, mostly likely, the next several years. But it was a bit easier once I took Mike and Jill’s advice: it’s better to be respected than liked and to be more like a benevolent dictator in running the troop. I was then able to get over myself and actually act like a leader.

Yesterday, the sun finally came out and started drying things up. So we took a walk as a family to rid ourselves of some cabin fever. The girls spent time trying to jump in puddles, (Zoë succeeded once. Me, trying to catch her, was like trying to make Jello move fast) looking at fuzzy caterpillars, millipedes, and daddy long legs, and leaf collecting. The creek we walked alongside was raised and flooded the path in some places. A couple of people rode up to a creek crossing on bikes and actually contemplated crossing.
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I totally stood ready to video the disaster had they tried crossing.

Once we got back, it decided to try and get more pine cones for decorative and crafting purposes. I hit the mother load at some trees out on the main street of our neighborhood. I didn’t have any of my own bags with me, so I grabbed a bunch of bags the neighborhood provides to pick up dog poo. So I’m sure it looked like I was walking home with five giant bags of dog poo..with no dog. I had already successfully baked off some pine cones I had collected awhile back, but wanted to try another method of sap removal I had seen online. It entailed soaking the cones in water and vinegar for awhile, and then the sap was supposed to come off. But of course it didn’t. So I began the messy task of scraping off the sap. I ruined a pair of gardening gloves, covered Mike’s utility knife, and made a general mess. But after awhile, I discovered the key, which I will share with you now.

Step 1: Just go buy pine cones if you want them sap free. The time and effort isn’t worth it for free pine cones.

Step 2: You’re crazy like me and decide you want to do it the hard way anyway. Fill a bucket or sink with hot water and a cup of vinegar. The vinegar will kill any little beasties and germs. Before you handle the cones, cover your hands in non-stick vegetable spray. Remove any needles and place the cones in the water. Make sure the cones are completely submerged. Soak for at least 30 minutes.
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The second time I soaked them, I submerged them under a bowl covered in plastic wrap.

Step 3: The sap on the cones should be gooey and ready to be scraped off. I found you get it off best when it’s wet, hot, and gooey. (That’s what she said. Hey oh!) You could use a utility knife covered in vegetable spray or your fingernails. I used my thumb nails, hands covered in cooking spray. Make sure you get the oil under your nails as well. Depending on how many cones you have, you may have to reapply the oil.

Step 4: Once each cone is scraped to your satisfaction, place it on several layers of newspaper to dry for a few days. The cones will open back up as they dry.

Step 5: Clean up. I was able to cover a rag in vegetable oil and clean all the sap out of my sink. Then wash the rag and sink in dish soap.

Step 6: Realize I was right at the beginning of this list and buy clean pine cones next time.

If you don’t mind sap glazing onto the cones, you can bake them in the oven. Cover a baking sheet in parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake at 200 degrees for 20-30 minutes. The cones will open when they get hot. You can bake them more than once to get them to open more if they haven’t opened as much as you’d like the first time. Baking also kills the critters. Baking, and soaking to a lesser extent, will make your house smell like Pinesol.
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I need a bigger fucking umbrella

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Image by RidiculousDream

After several days of hot and humid weather, it’s finally become cool and fall-like. Rachael spent the day at home yesterday, resting away from the Petri dish that is school, and trying to recover from her cold. I knew she needed to stay home and rest when I tried to coax her out of bed with the promise of getting to wear one of her new fall dresses and boots, and a small and anemic, No, came in response. Fortunately, while she was still stuffy and had a bit of a cough, Rachael’s energy had returned by this morning and was feeling well enough to go to school. This meant trudging out in the pouring rain to the bus stop with one girl who can barely manage the regular sized umbrella that is twice her size and another girl who has no problem with running out from under the umbrella I’m holding and stomping in puddles. By the time Zoë and I got home, we had soaked clothes and the need for one of those giant golf umbrellas.

The past couple of days has made me wish I had a giant emotional golf umbrella. Tuesday morning, after being up with Zoë for a few hours during the night, I was exhausted and in so much pain that I could barely walk.
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It’s scientifically proven that sleeping in the rocking chair like this is way more comfortable than in one’s own bed with a blanket and pillow.

Mike had pity on me and stayed to get Rachael ready and on the bus. He ended up coming home that afternoon and working from home because my walking situation wasn’t improving. I think the changing weather has been partially to blame. Colder weather makes my muscles seize up and my joint pain on par with most of the people who watch Fox News.

But stress has been the other culprit. With the morning had also come the realization, Holy shit, what have I gotten myself into?, with regard to Girl Scouts. The number of emails I’ve been assaulted with over the past two days has certainly reinforced that sinking feeling. One by one, each email revealed yet another piece of information or responsibility that the liaison had not bothered to tell me about. (Dare I say lies of omission?)
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“This deal is getting worse all the time!”

Mike even tried helping me wade through the mountain of rules, regulations, and procedures, and believed it to be a bunch of disorganized BS. Since Mike doesn’t have any boys to take to Boy Scouts, he is into this Daisy stuff hard. It makes me want to kiss him when he gives me support and helps me get my ducks in a row. (It makes me want to punch him in the head when he tried to guilt me into wearing the dorky leader scarf.)

The icing on the shit cake came yesterday morning when Mike called to inform me that his check engine light had come on on the way to work. A couple hours later he called to tell me that the necessary repairs were going to cost about two-thirds the value of car.

So I’m trying to take a low key me day. Zoë is doing her best to comfort me by constantly trying to occupy the same space, poking me in the eyes, messing with things she shouldn’t, and general orneriness. It’s. So. Fucking. Sweet. I’m trying my best to remain calm today, but it’s really not happening. As I feel my blood pressure rise, my stomach gets increasingly sick with what I’m convinced must be an ulcer. I’m trying to help it feel better by stuffing my face with Oreos, but it’s not working for some reason.

This is a whiny post, but I’m not going to apologize for the whininess of it. That’s usually someone’s inclination, to apologize when they share the pain and emotional car wreck they’re experiencing, if they share it at all. But it’s important to sit in these emotions and really feel them. Process them. Release them. For someone like me, with fibro, it will be worse if I don’t. Sometimes you just need to put the umbrella down and stand in the rain.

Girl Scout

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No, not that one.

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That one.

Specifically, Daisies. I had been determined that Rachael wouldn’t hear about Girl Scouts from me. In my mind, Girl Scouts was a stupid waste of time, and I wasn’t going to put her through it. For me, it was just another form of social interaction in which to be rejected or thought of as weird. I remember going on a camping trip and sitting down to a plate of spaghetti. By myself. In the dim light of the picnic shelter, I sat alone with a plate of spaghetti that I had accidentally over garlic salted because the lid fell off while I was pouring. On the way home, the girls I rode with played Love Shack. It was one of the coolest songs I had ever heard because I wasn’t allowed to listen to music made after 1978. Later that year at the Girl Scout Christmas party, I asked the girl who owned the song why she hadn’t brought it to play with the other music she had brought. She looked at me like I was an idiot and said it wasn’t a Christmas song. It was a lonely Christmas party.

It wasn’t just the social aspect. I don’t really remember doing much of anything during our meetings. On a camping trip, all the troops that attended sat on sit upons in a sunny field. We had to remain quiet until we touched “the talking post”. Then our individual troops would put on skits or read poetry to everyone. I remember thinking, at 10, that I was a little old for this. Our “hikes” were really more like boring nature walks. I don’t remember the badges being anything I was interested in either. In high school I had friends who were Explorer scouts, which are basically co-ed scouts, and I remember being completely jealous at the kinds of things they did. I determined Girl Scouts were just lame and way too girly.

But then, a couple weeks ago, I got to talking with a scout leader at Rachael’s bus stop. I asked her about her experience as a Daisy troop leader. She told me about the sort of things she used to do and it actually sounded…cool. She said that the troop is what the leader and parents make it. It made me think, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all and that I should at least go to the informational meeting.

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Yeah, so that happened. The other moms there said they, for various reasons, would prefer not to be designated the leader. Since we needed a formal leader in order for a troop to form, I volunteered. It really seems like the four other ladies there last night are great ladies who will be great support, and will essentially co-lead with me. And, after all, I’m sure plenty of things have changed in over 20 years. The troop will be what we make it, and I think it will be a lot of fun for the girls. And Rachael is not me. She is way more girly that I ever was, so she may enjoy the more girly aspects of scouts. The bottom line is that my experience does not necessarily have to be her experience. I will do my best to make sure that this experience is a positive one for her and the other girls.

And, if I’m honest, not every single experience in Girl Scouts was a bad one. It facilitated my first camping trip. I ate my first meal cooked by camp fire, beef Mac and cheese, and it was delicious. It was where I discovered the yumminess of rhubarb. It was where I played games of Miss Mary Mack and Miss Susie with the other girls.

And for anyone keeping score, I have yet to drop a “fuck” at a PTA meeting, but I ended up mouthing it at the scout meeting last night. I also said “balls”. So there’s that.