Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.

Favorites’ Favorites

Books badge requirement 1: With the help of someone who knows books, make a reading plan to use in the library in your school or community.

Rather than talk to an actual someone who knows books, I’ve decided to “consult” some of my favorite writers and put together a list of their selections.

First, from my all-time favorite author, Natalia Ginzburg, comes the recommendation of the British author Ivy Compton-Burnett. In her essay “The Great Lady,” Ginzburg, writes about her discovery of Compton-Burnett and her complex reaction to the “dry and airless” novels that at first she suspects she may loathe but is drawn to nonetheless, and later comes to realize “that in fact I loved them wildly.” Ginzburg’s love-hate relationship with the British author is enough to pique my interest, but then, I was surprised to learn that Compton-Burnett is on another writer’s favorites list: John Waters (whose films I enjoy but whose hilarious books I adore). That one of Italy’s greatest post-WWII writers and the trashy Baltimorean filmmaker should have a common aesthetic appreciation for the same author intrigues me, and I’m looking forward to seeing what it is they may have liked about her novels. Read More.



Gypsy badge requirement 9: Help keep troop first aid kit ready to use. Know what to do if you cut or burn yourself.

According to the Solo School of Wilderness Medicine, I’m officially certified in wilderness first aid, which, in theory, means I’m qualified to treat people injured in the backcountry. But I have to say that in practical terms I think all it means is that I now have this nifty card to put in my wallet and take out at parties when I run out of things to talk about.

The two-day course covered such a vast amount of material, it was hard enough just to follow along let alone commit all of it to memory. The plethora of emergency first aid was taught through a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on experience in the field, where we took turns portraying injured hikers and their rescuers, like an odd, medical version of charades. Read More


Summit Fever

Gypsy badge requirements 1: Help your patrol, troop, or camp unit plan and go on two all-day hikes. Plan where to go, what to wear and take. Get necessary permissions; 2: Know how to walk and rest correctly; 3: Use good outdoor manners: On the way. At hike site. On trails. Do an outdoor good turn on each hike.

Some people see a mountain and want to climb it. I see a mountain and am content just to look at it. I do enjoy taking in a sweeping view from a mountaintop, but I’d just as soon drive to the top and pull off at the scenic turnout to take it in; sometimes I’ll even get out of the car to stretch my legs. So the idea of spending a weekend hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains was a little foreign to me. But here I was. Read More 


The Great Outdoors

Gypsy badge requirement 10: Find a poem or story about the out-of-doors or about the way it makes you feel to share with your patrol.

Since, in my incarnation as a grown-up Girl Scout, I don’t belong to a troop or patrol, I’ll share my selections here.

Some of the best out-of-doors stories, which are technically essays, but a well told tale is a well told tale, are those by Scott Carrier in Running After Antelope. There are non-outdoors subjects covered as well, such as Carrier’s difficult time on the job working construction for his brother, or his difficult time on the job administering questionnaires to the mentally ill, or his difficult time on the job reporting stories for a certain unnamed radio personality he wishes to throttle. But interspersed between his hard times are stories of joy as Carrier and his brother try, many times over the years, to chase down antelope in the name of science. Their theory, or rather the brother’s, isn’t proven, but that’s beside the point. The chase is what Carrier seems to be after. 


Greetings From Yesteryear

Collector badge requirement 1: Start a collection or add to one you have already started

After an un-delicious breakfast of potato pancakes (more like large, flat Tater Tots) in a diner in the New Yorker Hotel, Tom and I went upstairs to the Metropolitan Postcard Club’s meeting in search of vintage postcards with interesting messages to add to my collection.

A friendly and well-informed vendor sat me down at her table, turned a long box of postcards around, and handed it to me backwards.

“Here,” she said. “I hope you have patience.”

My favorite find of the day was this 1908 postcard of Coney Island with the simple message: “We expect to go to Madison Square Roof Garden to spend the evening before starting home. –John.” Not the most detailed account, but I liked the mention of the roof garden for its place in history. The Madison Square Garden that the terse John was set to visit in June 1908 was the city’s second version, located in Madison Square Park and designed by celebrated architect Stanford White. It was in the very roof top garden itself where White was murdered in 1906 by his former mistress’ husband, millionaire Harry Thaw, setting in motion the “trial of the century.” All that in a single-sentence note from a long-ago tourist. That’s what makes my new hobby so fun.


Bike Basics 

Cyclist badge requirement 5: Ask an experienced cyclist to discuss with you steps to be taken in caring for and riding a bicycle on a bicycle trip or planning for a bicycle trip; 7. Know some different kinds of bicycles and when each kind is most useful.

I consult my friend, expert cyclist, and all around good sport, Annie, for tips on bike care and maintenance and information on different kinds of bicycles.


Poncho Fort

Cyclist badge requirement 4: With others show how to make a shelter using ponchos and bicycles. 



Biking Brooklyn   

Cyclist badge requirement 6: With your patrol or small group, plan an all-day bicycle trip. Use a road map that shows alternate routes. 

All-day ride on June 1 with Five Borough Bike Club (5bbc): exercise and historical graveyard tour in one.


Safety First

Cyclist badge requirement 8: With your troop, patrol, or other group, plan and carry out a troop, school, or community safety project.

For my community safety project, I’ve complied a list of links I recommend to my community of readers: Excellent free bicycle education classes that all New York City cyclists should take. DOT’s Bike Smart Guide to Cycling in NYC. Includes easy-to-read bike traffic rules. A very odd 1963 bike safety film starring children-as-monkeys. More entertaining than informative, although the lessons still apply. A thorough round-up of cycling resources. 


National Bike to Work Day

Cyclist badge requirement 2: Know and follow traffic rules.

After a free lesson with Bike New York, I put my newly acquired skills to the test on National Bike to Work Day, May 17. Here, on the Brooklyn Bridge after a quick refueling at Transportation Alternative’s rest stop, I head to work in downtown Manhattan. 


Out for a Spin

Cyclist badge requirements 1: Show that you can do these things on a bicycle: Start. Stop. Use brake to control speed. Balance yourself easily. Ride at slow speed. Steer. Circle. Give proper signals;  2. Know and follow traffic rules. Know the parts of your bicycle and how to spot-check for safety. 

Last summer, after years of procrastination fueled by fear, I bought a bicycle. Though I’d been wanting to take up cycling for some time, I’d been scared off, terrified as an urban resident to ride the frenetic streets of this mad city. But finally, my desire for fun and exercise outweighed my trepidation, and I purchased the bike.

I joined a bike club but after two outings, my enthusiasm petered out. I wasn’t prepared for riding in the big city. There are so many different scenarios—bike paths intersected by street crossings, bike lanes that mysteriously vanish, shared lanes, right and left turns with or against traffic—you have to maintain constant vigilance and be able to make lightening-quick judgment calls. If I was going to get around my urban environment adeptly on bicycle, I would need some high-level training. Read More


 Wish You Were Here 

Collector badge requirements 1: Start a collection or add to one you have already started; 5. Find out more about your collection in one of the following ways: Visit another collector to see his or her exhibit. Read books or magazines. Talk to someone who knows about what you are collecting.

I think of myself as more of a saver than a collector. I hang onto things with sentimental value. Old letters, photos, ticket stubs, playbills, cards -- the memorabilia of my life. But I don't apply much thought or care to what I keep. Some things get saved, some don't. It basically happens by accident. And those things that do survive are tucked away in boxes and drawers without concern for organization or categorization. By contrast, serious collectors apply thought, care, and purpose to their things. They document a history and store their finds in archives and libraries. Me, I merely have junk drawers. Read More


Handmade Tale 

Art in the Round badge requirement 5. Make one finished piece of sculpture designed for a certain place, purpose, or person. Use one or a combination of the materials from the following list: Clay. Wire. Soft wood. Papier mache. Prepared sculpture material.

I was scouring through catalogs for class offerings in different kinds of three-dimensional art when I came across something called Extreme Paper Mache Sculpture and knew I need look no further. This was the class for me. The last time I’d made something from the material was when I’d constructed a mouse puppet head in seventh grade art class. Like crayons, Play-Doh, and tempera paint, I thought paper mache belonged in childhood. So I was curious to see this prosaic art form taken up a notch. Just how would the three simple of ingredients of newspaper, flour, and water be pushed to the limits? Read More