What DID work – water bottle

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So I know it might seem kind of weird, but one of the things I wasn’t sure if I should bring was a water bottle.  Last Convention, part of the swag that everyone with a ticket got was a water bottle (the Girl Scout one in the pic above). It’s metal (so it gets dented), and has a narrow screw top (my least favorite style).  But you know what, it’s a water bottle, and I have to carry around a water bottle with me pretty much wherever I go, especially now that I am trying to lose weight and being more active.  I typically go through a gallon or more a day, not forcing myself to drink, just drinking when I get thirsty.

And that’s here in Houston, where the humidity ranges from 60-90%.

Salt Lake City has a year round average of 55% humidity.  Arid.  Desert-like. Oh, my poor gills! 🙂

So a water bottle was a necessity.  But, while I was planning my packing list, I tried to cut every ounce I could get away with, because I KNEW I would be coming back with STUFF.  So . . . do I pack my lovely favorite cherry blossom water bottle with a easy to fill wide mouth, but flip top lid, with a carabiner loop?!?!? (Yep, I seriously love this bottle) Or do I assume I’m going to get one in my swag bag?  Even if it’s one of those stupid pack flat bottles, It’s still a water bottle.  And I don’t have to bring it back home (just ask my pants).

In the end, I brought my bottle.  I knew I would want it in the airport and on the plane, so it was better not to have to wait until I was in the Convention Center to figure out if I was going to get a water bottle.  And if I had bet on getting a bottle in my swag bag, I would have been buying one at the Girl Scout Shop Booth – and my house does NOT need another water bottle.

What DID work – carry-on only

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See these two cute little bags?  They totally pulled it off.  I packed everything in them coming and going and carried them both on.  My little blue suitcase is not the maximum allowable size, so it easily slid into the overhead compartments of all three Southwest planes I flew on.  I probably could have even opened the expansion gusset on the way home if I had needed to.

But I didn’t need to.  I was able to bring back all my clothes (except those awful pants that were too big, but including the boots that I didn’t wear), plus all my new patches, plus all the paperwork and brochures and booklets, plus all the vendor swag (which I forgot to take a picture of before I gave it away to the girls in my troop), plus the dozen pencils I got for my troop (and they all arrived unbroken), plus the reusable grocery bag our swag came in, plus the freaking FULL SIZED BACKPACK that EF Tours was giving away!  Yeah, even though I brought a packable tote bag as a just in case measure, I ended up bringing home a freaking backpack.

And that was just in the suitcase.  My hygiene bag, SWAPs, water bottle, snacks, and other things I wanted to keep at my feet during the flights was in my tote bag.  Which working perfectly, as well.  It was perfect to take to the Council Session filled with my Delegate Workbook, notepad, cell phone, backup battery (which definitely got used!!), and patch bag.  Then it was also perfect for walking around the Hall of Experiences as a place to stuff all the vendor swag and brochures.  And it was perfect for doing some urban hiking around downtown.  And the big un-organized front pocket was perfect for dropping in the patches and SWAPs I received to keep them separate from my patches and not get lost in the bottom of the main compartment.

Also, I don’t know what they call it, but I LOVE the little pocket on the back of some bags (like my tote) with a zipper on the bottom which allows them to slide over the handle of a rolling bag.  LOVE IT.  Definitely look for one if you are looking for your next urban adventure bag.

What DID work – patches

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So I brought the patches.  The whole gallon bag of them.  And swapped a LOT.  I’m really happy about this lovely stash of patches.  There are a lot from the various Texas Councils, because we all sat together, so they were easy to get to, and a lot from Ohio, because there were a lot of volunteers and staff  from Ohio helping out here to see how it’s done (the Utah staff and volunteers came and helped out at ours 3 years ago for the same reason).  There’s even quite a few from Legacy Councils that no longer exist (maybe their History Committee hooked them up, too).  And there’s a lot that I need to look up the initials of to see exactly where they are from.

The ones down the right hand side are all the patches I got from vendor booths.  My faves of these are the Space Camp, UK Brownie 100th Birthday, and KOA patches.

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But these are my specials.  Three of them (the ones that say Utah or are shaped like Utah) I actually bought as Convention souvenirs.  The two on the top right are from meeting and swapping with Anna Maria Chavez and Connie Lindsey, the CEO and President of the Board for GSUSA (although Connie Lindsey had actually just stepped down when I swapped with her *grins*).  And the bottom two may not look like much, but I love them for where they came from – those are my Girl Scouts Overseas patches, one from France and one from Italy.

I will definitely do this again for my next Convention.  I definitely liked bringing home the flat and nearly indestructible patches more than the SWAPs (some of which were very delicate).  And yes, I brought home SWAPs, too, because not everyone brought patches to swap, and I really didn’t want to take any of my patches home so I swapped for SWAPs.  Next Convention, though, before Sunday’s meeting/ceremony, I am just going to start giving away whatever patches I have left!

What DID work – exercise

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(trying to take a picture of yourself on a treadmill is hard)

Since I am trying to get in better shape, I made a promise to myself that I would get down to the fitness center in my hotel (with FOUR treadmills) every morning and start the day with an hour of walking.

Okay, so I never did an hour.

And I even skipped a day.

But I was walking all over downtown and all through the Convention Center and all over my hotel and all over 3 different airports, and ended up doing over 60,000 steps during the course of my trip.  I DID go to the fitness center every day except one (I forgot my alarm doesn’t go off on weekends and barely got ready in time for the business session) and did a minimum of 30 minutes every morning.

Then I realized how spoiled I am by my treadmill at home.  Because I am so large, we had to get a very fancy model with a motor that could take my weight.  It also has some serious fans.  Even the ancient treadmills at my gym have little fans built in.  These dinky Precor models at the hotel did not, though, and I think that was what contributed to my shorter workouts more than anything else.  I did love going outside after my walk into 45 degree weather to stretch out, though. 🙂

But one of the things that made me happiest during my trip was my feeling of capability.  When I was asked to take another spin around the Hall of Exhibits, I said sure – I can do that.  When asked if I wanted to go to various parks and squares around downtown, I said sure – I can do that.  Letterboxing?  Climbing up and down stairs?  Pulling a suitcase full of swag back to the hotel?  BRING IT.

I didn’t go to the party – Saturday was very long, and I was pleasantly and mentally exhausted by the end of it.

Unfortunately, all the walking and activity really just kept pace with all the rich splurging I did at meal times.  I tried not to go overboard, but I did have pasta, a burger, beer, desserts, and mexican food.  Overall I didn’t lose, but I didn’t really gain either – which I count as a win.

So from now on, unless the adventure is hiking, backpacking, camping, or some other kind of activity – I am definitely going to be hitting the gym at every hotel I stay at.  Even if it’s just for 30 minutes because their stupid treadmills don’t have fans.  Especially on our next road trip.  Sitting for 7-11 hours with snacks at hand is gonna suck.

What DID work – uniform

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So many things went right, I think I’m going to split them up.  So this is about the uniform.  If you are a delegate in the future, DO NOT STRESS THE UNIFORM.

Seriously.

There were people in t-shirts.

Some Councils decided to all wear matching polos (hot pink, nonetheless) or cardigans (light blue) or cowboy hats (from Nation’s Capital Council of all places) or t-shirts (seriously).  If your Council (like mine) does not opt for something like this, wear the navy blue pants you want to sit for hours and walk for miles in.  Wear the shoes that are most comfortable and don’t worry if they go with your outfit. Wear a white button down or blouse or nice knit top.  Wear a jacket if you want.  Whatever style you want.  If you have a denim jacket covered in patches, wear it.  People will take pictures of you in it.

Wear your pins and scarf.  This is not optional.  If you forget yours, they are sold at the Girl Scout Shop Booth.  Go get them ASAP.

Trivial Details: SWAPs

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Special Whatchamacallit Affectionately Pinned Somewhere

If you’re a Girl Scout, you already know what these are.  If you’re not, there is lots of information out there.  I wasn’t sure I would bring any SWAPs to Convention.  The ones I would bring are fairly small and packable, but the problem is I have no idea what I will get in exchange.  I have gotten some SWAPs that were nearly 4″ square!  I’m trying to keep my packing fairly light, both coming and going.

But then I went to my Council Delegate Training meeting.  And our Council’s History Committee had gone through THOUSANDS of old GSSJC patches, and made up bags of about a hundred each with a nice mixture of patches in them.  Apparently, among the adults and delegates, Council patches are swapped more than actual SWAPs.  But it has to be patch for patch.

This is a BIG bag.  A gallon, packed to the gills.  Coming and going.

But then I think about getting 100 patches from different Councils across the country and from around the world.  Last Convention, I got patches from the UK and from Japan – and it was cool enough that I remember that off the top of my head.  And I think – they would make a really awesome quilt.  I should be able to find some Girl Scout fabric at the International Quilt Festival at the end of the month here in town.

But then I wonder should I make my other SWAPs?  They are something that seriously could not come from anyone but me this time around – though my girls made them to swap last Convention.  Basically, it’s a packet of sugar in a bag.  Imperial sugar.  Has to be Imperial sugar, because I live within biking distance of the original Imperial Sugar factory and sugar refinery.  My city is called “Sugar Land” because it was originally a company town for Imperial.

So what do you think?  Should I make the sugar SWAPs?  Would YOU want to swap me?  Or should I just stick with the patches, since I probably won’t be spending a huge amount of time down in the Hall of Experiences?

Hotel Cooking, the Reality and Resources

Usually, my plans work out great.  Not this time.

The shopping trip got postponed, and then we decided to stay at Sea World all day (which makes the ALL Day Dining Plan a good deal), and basically we ended up splurging on the most expensive (food wise) vacation we’ve ever taken.  I should point out our son is only 8 at this point, so I am looking forward to even more expensive vacations once he’s a teenager.

And the one splurge we were planning on? Dine with Shamu?  It got rained out. >.<

I still think the plan would have worked, which is why I am sharing it, but sometimes you have to realize that “All the plans of mice and men . . .” You tell ’em, Robbie Burns.  The kids were excited, we don’t eat out that often at home, so this felt very vacation-y to them. And it gave us the opportunity to sample the local eats, which is something we love doing at home.  Barbecue at a place so good, it was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (we thought the brisket that Guy raved about was okay, but the RIBS were AMAZEBALLS).  Tex-Mex from a restaurant owned by a family well known in San Antonio for their South of the Border fare (tacos with nothing but shredded chicken and guacamole? SIGN ME UP).

See what I did there?  I released my plan, and looked at the bright side of it’s failure.  My family didn’t hear me moan about how much money we were “wasting” going out to eat all day.  They didn’t hear me complain about how unhealthy all the food was (it did help that we were walking miles and miles at the park).  They just heard about the adventure.

I did good this trip.

Here’s some resources for you in case you want to try the adventure of hotel cooking for yourself:

  • Cooking With Your Coffeemaker – seriously, go read this site.  Read the story, marvel at the ingenuity.
  • Even NPR is talking about it
  • From the Kitchn
  • Really great post from The Traveling Praters, which got me thinking about packing a travel kitchen of my own – kind of a “duh” moment worth pinning 🙂
  • Freezer Bag Cooking info – If you have a ziptop freezer bag and access to hot water (not boiling), this site will show you how to make awesome meals that taste great, meals that fit any diet restrictions, and meals that are much less expensive than eating out or buying standard cook in the bag  camping fare.

Convention Updates – Woot!

If you haven’t checked out the GSUSA National Convention website lately, then you haven’t seen the updates!  Well, really just one major update: a partial list of the speakers and entertainers that will be appearing.  Pictures and bios are posted, but not what they will actually be doing (Keynote speaker, Conversation of Consequence, entertainer, etc.).

The lineup they have listed so far is:

  • Sasha Cohen (NOT Sacha Baron Cohen), Olympic Ice Skater
  • Alison Levine (mountaineer)
  • Michele Norris (NPR host)
  • Syrah Scott (CEO)
  • Madeline Smith (singer)
  • Dr. Tererai Trent, (humanitarian)

So far, I am really excited about Michele Norris, because I am a huge NPR nerd and frankly, she was the only name I recognized.  I am hoping to get a chance to see her speech.

Also, the floor plan of the Hall of Experiences is getting filled, slowly but surely.  You can see by clicking the  “Floor Plan” link in the navigation bar on the left of this page.

Now, if I could just get my login information for the Delegate Resource Site from my Council . . .

The 52nd Girl Scouts Convention

One of the things I really want to know about is what it will actually be like at the Convention.  There is so little information available online, seriously.  There’s not even a lot of information on what happened at the LAST Convention.

Well, that’s going to change.  A little.

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The 52nd National Convention was in Houston, Texas, at the George R. Brown Convention Center.  As it happens, that is less than an hour drive from my house.  Yep, I’m in San Jacinto Council, host of the last Convention.  In 2011, I did everything I could at Convention since it was on my home turf!  I volunteered to sew one of the historic uniforms for the Opening Ceremony (see, that’s why my daughter and I took a picture with the mannequin).  I stuffed goody bags with our local Camp Rangers and Volunteers from the Utah Council who were in Houston seeing how the Convention was run before they had to do it (great policy, btw).  I also volunteered to help out at one of the Delegate luncheons (but since GSUSA brought their own volunteers for that, I ended up directing traffic to the luncheon). I think my size contributed a lot to people thinking of me as a bouncer, because I also ended up checking credentials at a GSLI luncheon and guarding hundreds of stuffed goody bags.  IMG_1195Yes.  I was set to guard bags.  And I had to chase girls away from them! 🙂

One of the perks of volunteering at Convention was that you got a free pass to the Hall of Exhibitors for each uniform you sewed or each 4 hour shift you participated in.  I used two for my daughter and I to go the first day after school.  We were going to stay for the Opening Ceremony, but we were exhausted!  The Hall of Exhibitors was maybe half the bottom floor of the Convention Hall filled with booths from anyone and everyone you can think of in relation to Girl Scouts or girls in general.  Joanns, Michaels, Little Brownie and ABC Bakers, all of the World Centers, camping gear, religious organizations, Hostels International, GEMS booths, everything! IMG_3300And they were all handing out stuff!

It was a good thing that we got the big tote bags with our entrance, because we filled them walking through the hall.  Here’s a picture of some of the stuff I got the first night.  Then I went back with my Troop on Saturday.  More swag.  I don’t have a picture, but I ended up with a stack of patches at least 2 inches thick, more food goodies, a purse from a long past Cookie Sale, a stuffed tie-dye owl, and oodles of other stuff.  If you go to Convention, be prepared to say no to a bunch of stuff, or be prepared to bring a lot home!

My girls loved going, it was definitely a hard thing to top, since it came at the beginning of our year.  They got lots of swag, lots of SWAPs, got to hang out with lots of cool Girl Scouts from around the world, and all the parents that came really appreciated it, too.  We got to listen in on a conversation with Girl Guides from Kenya.  We got to meet the first woman on the Harlem Globetrotters.  We got to see the amazing mobile Council unit that our neighbor Council (Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas) uses to get information and program materials to girls in some of the far flung less populated areas of their Council. Some of my favorite moments:

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My daughter playing with a circuitry kit.

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Some of my girls dressed in saris at the Sangam World Center booth.

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Little Brownie Bakers had a karaoke booth set up with Girl Scout songs.

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One of my girls sat with these lovely Historians at lunch, and had a great conversation.

So, as a volunteer and a visitor, this is what you can expect.  A lot of fun, a lot of great information (and some that is less useful), and a great experience for your Troop.  The Hall of Exhibitors (or Hall of Experiences, as it is being called this year) was designed for girls to come and visit.  If you are local, I would highly recommend it, but bring a lot of chaperones, and seriously consider Troop T-shirts, because there must have been a thousand Juniors running around in the uniforms, and easily double that in Older Girls.  It will easily take you a whole day with your Troop to visit the Hall and do more than a cursory glance over at all the booths.  There were crafts to make, samples to try, shopping to do, information to discuss, friends to meet, SWAPs to swap, games to play, and prizes to win!