Young Cultivator Merit Badge: All Buttoned Up, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,428 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,782 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life  

For this week’s Stitching and Crafting/All Buttoned Up Intermediate Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, Nora and I picked up right where we left off.

Hands deep in the cookie tin.

No, not that cookie tin. The one with all the buttons in it.

Now that she had her very own collection of super-adorbs buttons, it was time to learn their function (besides the functions Nora had come up with on her own: sorting and piling, gluing to things, and flipping across the room like miniature flying saucers).

Sewing them on fabric.

Now I’m not saying that I took this opportunity to teach this skill at this particular time just because I was in need of a button on my favorite apron … I prefer to call it perfect timing. A complete coincidence. And it wasn’t my fault I couldn’t replace my missing button myself: Nora had pilfered my own collection to bolster hers. I didn’t have a spare button to my name.

So, I got out a needle and thread and proceeded to teach the fine art of button attaching to my little protégé.

There was much wailing and poking and pricking and screeching and losing of the needle and losing of the button and losing of patience and demands for a tea and scone break. Such shenanigans. It was embarrassing really.

“Seriously, Aunty,” said Nora, with a roll of her baby blues, “Are you about done with the dramatic show and shenanigans? I’m ready to learn this if you’re ready to focus.”

“Yes, er, sorry.” I sucked on my sore finger and wondered where I’d stashed my thimble. “I’m better now. All focused. Pass me that apron, would you?”

Next to pockets, buttons are incredibly important to functional style. Plus, buttons can say a lot about you! Square, round, pliable, stiff, shiny, dull, colorful, sparkly, you name it, you can find it in a button. My apron was a cheery blue/green pattern, so I chose a button in a shade of bright green for a nice contrast.

I suppose you could say the purple thread I used to sew it on was also for contrast, but mostly it was because I couldn’t find any green. Or blue.

I really need to organize my thread collection.

Is there a badge for that?

But back to the buttons. I worked on my apron, while snuggled up next to Nora, who was sewing her own yellow button on a scrap of fabric for practice before she attached one to a real item of clothing.

Turns out I was also snuggled up to the missing needle in the couch cushions.

Son of a tailor! My bottom was nearly Swiss cheese by the time I found that sucker. In the meantime, Nora had finished her button and was kindly finishing up mine. She really got the hang of it quickly, partly due to my What Not To Do demonstration.

The things I do for these kids. Turning myself into a sieve and whatnot.

Ah well. I can wear my favorite apron once again, Nora earned a new badge, and we finished off the afternoon with some tea and scones. It was a successful day, indeed.

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Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Joyce Hein!

Joyce Hein (GinghamGirl, #6071) has received a certificate of achievement in Farm Kitchen for earning a Beginner Level BakeOver MakeOver Merit Badge!

“I utilized the recipes found in MaryJane’s Ideabook to cook up some delicious bakeovers. We used what we had in our garden. I hosted the family, and we explored a variety of ways to make the bakeovers, from veggies to dessert!

Everyone loved them, particularly me, as they’re so quick and easy to make.”

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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 … Ginger Dawn Harman!

Ginger Dawn Harman (Ginger Dawn, #6451) has received a certificate of achievement in Outpost for earning a Beginner Level Pampered Pets Merit Badge!

“I have made a new commitment to our pets Oreo and Gelato! I have a veterinarian in my area that practices holistic and natural veterinary care but also uses other practices.

I checked out the labels and ingredients of your pet foods. It was very bad. So I am in the process of changing foods.

I love all the pets in my house … well maybe not the Madagascar Hissing Roaches that my son has. Nevertheless, I want to make sure that I am doing the best for each animal. Our one cat has a bit of a weight problem. We have noticed that in his older age, he is not able to clean himself very well. So I made an appointment at our local vet and this also provided me a great opportunity to learn what treatments are better and which food to use.

First, the food that I was using was very bad. It was filled with terrible stuff. I don’t want to cause a negative impression, so I will not list the name, but it is cheap and can be bought at any local market. The vet said it is not good to switch food all at once, so my cats are getting a mix until next week. We now are using a Natural Balance Reduced Calorie Dry Cat Food (15-pound bag).

Oh, and I learned that essential oils are great for pets, too. Just like for us, lavender is great for calming. Now this is important to know! Most animals are more sensitive than humans to essential oils. Start by diluting heavily and use in moderation. Every animal is different, so carefully observe how each animal responds to the oils. Use common sense and good judgment as you try different methods. Take special care to not get essential oils in an animal’s eyes. Avoid using high-phenol oils such as oregano and thyme with any animals, especially cats. Use special caution when using essential oils with cats. Cats are also generally averse to citrus essential oils.

Also, there are other holistic methods that can be used, such as acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic treatments. My vet showed me a few calming massage rubs for Oreo, and he was happy and relaxed and this is on his diet food. Personally, I get crabby when I am hungry. As I said, I love my pets and they deserve the same quality of care as we humans do!”

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Young Cultivator Merit Badge: Farmyard to Kitchen, Expert Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,428 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,782 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life  

For this week’s Farmyard to Kitchen Young Cultivator Expert Level Merit Badge, Andy, Nora, Piper, and Yours Truly were ready for action. We had earned our Beginner and Intermediate Level badges (and no one was harmed in the making of those badges, fowl or bovine or small children or Aunty), and we were ready to progress.

First things were first: raising baby chicks or learning to milk a cow?

Since Buttercup the Cow Princess was looking rather askance at us (talk about mooooooo-dy), we decided on chicks. Or, Baby Balls of Fluffy Cuteness, as Piper described them with stars in her eyes.

“Yes, they’re adorable right now, but let’s remember: when they are no longer shiny and new, you don’t get to drop them off at Aunty’s house, okiedokie?” I reminded them. I had heard tell of a childhood phenomenon: adopting delightful pet babies and then losing interest in them posthaste, leaving the chores to be done by their mothers.

Just another reason why I was never a kid. Fresh out of the box as a grown woman, that’s me.

But I digress.

“We’d never stop loving our Cotton Balls of Puffy Fluffy Loviekins!” Piper was insulted.

“I’m naming mine Ryan Gosling,” said Nora, who was really into movie stars lately. “Get it? Gosling? Ha!”

“Goslings are baby ducks, dummy,” said Andy.

“Nuh uh, they’re baby geese, dork-head,” she fired back.

“No arguments!” I broke in. “Arguing in front of hens makes bad layers. It’s science.”

We got our little chickies home that evening and set up their cozy new house: a large Rubbermaid container with straw and a heat lamp, food, and water. And Piper’s additions: half a Barbie’s Dream House, a few stuffed animals, some baby blankets, and a medley of soft rock playing in the background.

After I armed them with an stack of library books on how to raise happy chickens, a list of Things Not To Do (in my days as Aunty, I’ve learned those are much more applicable to their mischievous little minds than lists of Things To Do), and my number written on the fridge in case of Chicken Emergencies, I went home for a little nap.

The next day, after checking in on Ryan Gosling, Mrs. David Bock-Bock-Beckham, and Lady Clucks-A-Lot, we finished up our badge earning with a little butter making.

“I don’t really like butter,” Andy said.

I had a small stroke and had to be revived by the local paramedics. Afterwards, while recovering with a nice bread and butter sammie and a cup of tea, I decided to get to the bottom of Andy’s sacrilegious comment.

“What did you mean you don’t like butter?” I croaked, still weak. I dunked my sammie in my tea for extra nourishment.

“Well, I don’t know, Aunty,” he said. “I just don’t think it tastes all that great. Kinda oily and greasy, if you ask me.”

“I did not ask you, whippersnapper!”

“Yeah, you did.”

“Oh yes. Right. Fetch me this so-called butter, youngster. Chop, chop.”

He complied, rolling his eyes all the way (I nearly threw my sammie at the back of his head, but I’d finished it). He returned with …


I can hardly say it. Here you try and try with these kids, you nurture, you give and give, blood, sweat, tears … wasted.

It was a crock.

A plastic crock.

A plastic crock of butter impostors.

Fake butter product.

Processed, pasturized, yellow-food-coloring laden, oil.

The rest of the Expert Level earning will have to wait. Tell the paramedics to get back here.

Fading. Fading.

Going towards the light.

Goodbye, cruel world.

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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 … Jennifer Ettlin!

Jennifer Ettlin (MsKathleen, #7128) has received a certificate of achievement in Cleaning Up for earning an Expert Level Home Insulation Merit Badge!

“We got lucky on this area because we managed to get the attic insulated in mid-to-late June before the summer heat kicked in and before all of the weird natural disasters have been hitting our area. We were severely under-insulated when we had our energy audit, down to an R value of 8 in some areas. None of the attic was insulated to the same level either. So, following an insulation ruler and adding some blown cellulose insulation, we were able to bring it up to an R17 value evenly throughout the attic. It looks like it snowed in our attic.

Our walls have proven to be an interesting addition of insulation, as we are in a Berm- or Earth-contact house. It’s underground like a Hobbit hole, so insulating walls is a bit different than insulating above ground. We still get air drafts and things from the windows and skylights, but with insulation, our big problem is underground humidity. It molds extremely fast in the walls, especially if it’s a higher R value. Luckily, we were able to check the insulation to find we have stiff back-board insulation with mold-resistant barriers built in (it’s a pink sheet of solid fiberglass insulation with two layers of moisture barrier glued to the back and one on the front). This is exceptional for a house that is underground since it means all of our escaping air was going out of the attic … Which now has more insulation. And we were notified today that the power company got our rebate application.

We’re toasty and our energy bill has dropped in half this summer! I’m fairly happy. Our rebate is still under review with the power company, but they have acknowledged that they have it. They’re just having difficulty processing it with all the unusual weather going on in the Kansas/Missouri area (we had the largest flood in our area in the last 40 years just last Thursday), so they said it will be back probably around the end of the month. Three tornado incidents, a flood, and a power outage that knocked out the power for 14,000 people during a super-hot summer have kept them busy.”

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Young Cultivator Merit Badge: Put Me In, Coach! Beginner Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,428 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,782 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life

For this week’s Make It Easy/Put Me In, Coach! Beginner Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, I wrangled Andy off the couch.

This may sound easy enough, but it was kinda like wrestling a lethargic octopus. Once I finally got him off the furniture, his body left an Andy-shaped dent in the cushions. I lectured him about the seriousness of bed sores and gangrene setting in.

“But, Auntie!” he wailed. “Summer vacation!”

“Summer’s over, kid,” I answered, trying to fluff the pillows. They were a loss, so I settled for hiding the remote control in the potted fern.

“Stop making me do stuff …” He flopped onto the floor.

“Oh, no, you don’t, young sir,” I replied, flipping him back over. “No indentations in the carpet. Come on. We’re going out for sports.”

photo by Edward N. Johnson via Wikimedia Commons

That got his attention. Well, by ‘got his attention,’ I mean that he blinked twice, which I took to mean he was down with the plan. Sometimes with preteens, you got to take what you can get as far as Proof of Life.

In the car, we talked over what kind of sports or activities he would like to try. The kid mumbles a lot so I went back to the blinking form of communication. Then he said something that sounded like mumbo-jumbo,


“I’m sorry, what did you say?” I asked, politely. “Pork? Are you hungry?”

“Parkour, Auntie. Now that you’ve got me thinking, I have always wanted to do parkour.”

“Park or … what?”

He sighed, and passed me his phone where he had pulled up the definition. Ah-ha!


: the sport of traversing environmental obstacles by running, climbing, or leaping rapidly and efficiently

I got it then. “Ninja stuff! Spiderman! Yes?”


photo by amagill via Wikimedia Commons

Well, color me red but I didn’t know there was a name for such shenanigans, much less places you could go to take actual lessons in jumping off buildings, flying down rooftops, and launching your body through space. It seemed a little dangerous (And something I might have to sugar-coat to Andy’s mom. Ahem.), but I was happy to see my little merit-badge protégé getting excited about something.

In order to fully supervise the imp, I signed up for a class myself. Oh yes, I did!

I admit I was nervous, but luckily the instructors didn’t expect me to leap tall buildings in a single bound right in the beginning. In fact, there were no tall buildings in the gym. Whew. What they did have were large wooden boxes in different shapes and sizes, rock walls, ledges, ropes, mats, and all sorts of other obstacle-course-type things.

Since I’m one of those persons who can trip over flat surfaces, I let Andy give it a go first. It was nice to see him breaking a sweat, running around like a chicken with his head cut off, and practicing his new skills. Much better than say, watching him play video games till his eyes crossed and spider webs formed in his hair.

I even got to try my hand at jumping across long distances, pulling myself up a wall, and rediscovering the lost art of somersaults. I felt rather ninja like, I must say. I even hummed my own theme music.

On the way home, Andy thanked me for getting him out of the couch cushions. He even used real words (not blinking).

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