Monthly Archives: December 2014



Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Nancy Boyd!!!

Nancy Boyd (#2508) has received a certificate of achievement in Garden Gate for earning a Beginner Level Birds Merit Badge!

“My research began with the book entitled Birds of Ohio Field Guide written by Stan Tekiela. I also went onto the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website and searched for birds native to Ohio. There, I found a Field Checklist for Birds of Ohio that was downloadable to my computer. I also printed out a copy of this book for use when I am visiting any of our state parks or the nature center at Blackwoods Metro Park here in the Columbus, Ohio, area. The birds that I have on my “wish list” for right now would be the Ring-necked Pheasant, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, any of the Owls here in Ohio, Cardinal, Blue Jay, House Finch, Purple Finch, and the Great Blue Heron.

This turned out fabulous. I now have a list of birds specific to Ohio that I was able to download from the State’s Natural Resources site. This will allow me to keep track of birds that I would like to see or have seen here in Ohio. That along with my Birds of Ohio Field Guide by Stan Tekiela will allow me to look up the birds and learn specifics on the bird.”




Healthy Out

During this busy, festive time of year, we think more about home cooking, but may be more likely than usual to grab a restaurant meal on the go. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice all of our healthy ideals for convenience.


Photo by Ingolfson via Wikimedia Commons


A new app called HealthyOut has the answer—lots of answers, in fact. Currently covering over 20,000 restaurants in over 500 cities throughout the country, this handy app allows you to search by calories as well as nutrition tags like …

low carb,


Photo by via Wikimedia Commons

heart healthy,


Photo by Suzette,, via Wikimedia Commons



Photo by Saaleha Bamjee via Wikimedia Commons

or—the amusingly popular option—NOT salad!


Photo by Ruth Ellison via Wikimedia Commons

You can further customize your search based on cuisine, delivery or dining in, and ingredients. Plus, HealthyOut integrates Yelp ratings and maps to restaurant locations. The app is free to install for both iOS and Android platforms, and once it’s on your device, you’ll sign up for an account so that you can specify your desired diet.

According to the app’s creators, “Every dish listed on the app comes in at about half the calories and half the fat of average restaurant meals.”

Find out more and download the app at




Icelandic Snowflake Bread

Few destinations on Earth inspire such wintry notions in our imaginations as Iceland. I mean, the name alone is shivery, not to mention the landscape …


Photo of Sunset at Goðafoss in Winter, Iceland by Andreas Tille via Wikimedia Commons

Excuse me while I grab my parka.

Now that I’m sufficiently bundled, I hope you’ll don your warmest winter apparel and tag along to the far reaches of the far north, where sturdy little turf farmhouses are currently blanketed in snow and cloaked in darkness. That’s right—only four to six hours of skimpy sunlight each day. But don’t fret, there are wonders to behold …


Photo of the northern lights in Iceland by Francisco Diez via Wikimedia Commons

and laufabraud to be made!

“In Iceland, the beginning of the Christmas season means it’s time to make laufabraud, snowflake breads,” writes Linda Raedisch in The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year.

Laufabraud, which literally translates as “leaf bread” but is also known as snowflake bread, is a thin, circular cake fried in oil or lard. Intricate designs carved into each bread often look a bit like geometric leaves, hence the name. They remind me of the paper snowflake cut-outs that elementary school kids proudly bring home this time of year.


Photo courtesy of Nordic Thoughts

Fallegur! (That means “beautiful” in Icelandic—thanks Google Translate.)

“Laufabraud is an Icelandic Christmas tradition that originated in the north of the country. The bread possibly has a much older origin, but references to it in written sources appear around 1736 as the Icelanders ‘candy.'” explains worldly food enthusiast Esther Martin-Ullrich, who blogs at Why’d You Eat That?.

“Many families have their own personal traditions surrounding the bread,” says Martin-Ullrich. “They gather together in the beginning of December, usually on the first Sunday of Advent, and make a full day out of it. Groups of 12 to 15 can make several hundred cakes at a time. At the end of the day, the cakes are split evenly between all and are stored in cookie tins until Christmas. Recipes are passed down from mother to daughter, and there are also designs passed down through generations.”


Photo courtesy of 2011/12/01/day-1-laufabraud/

The patterns were traditionally created using a heavy brass roller called a laufabrauðsjárn (leaf bread iron) like the ones below, but they can also be cut by hand with a paring knife.


Photo courtesy of via Pinterest

Here’s a short video about the making of laufabraud:

Interested in bringing this unique Icelandic Christmas tradition home to your own kitchen and starting an old tradition anew? Learn how to make leaf bread with instructions and fabulous photos on




a little piece of Downton Abbey

What happens when you combine a dash of Christmas spirit with gingerbread, candy canes, and Downton Abbey?

I’ll show you what happens …

A little something, oh, like this:


Photo courtesy of

Or, maybe, like:

photo 4

Photo courtesy of

And if you want to see how such a miracle might occur, just watch …

I know some of you are taking this post to heart, as if it’s some sort of triple-dog dare. What can I say?

First of all, remember that there are consequences to taking dares …


Photo from A Christmas Story courtesy of

And if that doesn’t deter you, then I triple-dog dare you to make a Downton Abbey gingerbread castle—and post pictures to prove it.

You still have time before the big day. Whip up some construction grade gingerbread (aka, “oven plywood”) and get busy!



Washi Tape

Have you been introduced to the colorful, textural, sticky goodness known as washi tape?


It’s taking the craft world by storm and I love to use it to decorate boxes and envelopes, but what do I really know about it? Turns out the word “washi” comes from wa for “Japanese” and shi for “paper,” and it’s used to describe paper made by hand in the traditional Japanese manner. Although the tape isn’t always made outright from washi, the washi-like patterns and texture are where it gets its name.

Washi tape is typically made from natural fibers, such as bamboo or hemp, but most commonly from the bark of trees that are native to Japan—the mulberry, the mitsumata shrub, or the gampi tree. The beauty of the pulp from these sources is that it has no grain, making the tape easy to manipulate and tear. The whole washi tape phenomenon started in 2006 when a group of artists approached a Japanese masking tape manufacturer and presented them with a book of art they had created using the company’s industrial masking tapes. The artists requested that the company manufacture colorful masking tapes for artists, and washi tape was born.

In addition to being used as an art supply for things like business cards, serving trays, lampshades, nail art, and gift wrap, some artists, like Nasa Funahara, are taking it a step further by using washi tape as paint to recreate masterpieces by famous artists like Van Gogh and Verneer.


Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer created with masking tape, photo

An art student at Musashino Art University in Japan, Nasa takes about a week to build her paintings by layering different washi tapes together. Her pieces mimic the original in basic composition, but the real magic lies in looking at them up close, where the vast array of color and texture are revealed. And in Sacramento, California, there’s an art collaborative that creates large-scale interactive art installations out of washi tape, a whole “washi” movement known as Tapigami.



So next time you see a coordinated pack of washi tape in the checkout line in colors and textures that make you giddy, go ahead and grab it. Its versatility is literally endless.