Girl Scouts

Love for the Humble Shortbread Cookie

We have two Girl Scouts in our house, which means that for the last five weeks, we’ve been consumed with cookies. (Five days left! Woo-hoo!)

So, let’s talk cookies.

shortbreadbox_webSpecifically, I’d like to give some love to the often-overlooked shortbread cookie.

Some of y’all are seeing them as “Trefoils.”

(Not tree-foil. Trefoil. Y’all aren’t climbing anything.)

The thing is, there are two different bakers. ABC and Little Brownie. As I understand it, Girl Scouts owns the recipes, but the bakers own the names (except Thin Mints – Scouts wisely held on to that one). Now, y’all are going to argue that the cookies are a little different, and to that, I answer that my brother and I use the same chocolate pie recipe that Mom does, but if you put all three pies together, they’d all be a little different. Any one who has ever tried to copy a recipe has experienced this phenomenon. So that clears THAT up.

Anyway, shortbreads.

We are celebrating 100 years of cookie sales this year! The cookie sale was started by the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1917. And their cookies were handmade, but the recipe was for a shortbread cookie. Yay!

trefoilThe old Grande Dame of cookies doesn’t get much love these days, but she’s still around.

People say she’s “boring.”

But she’s not “boring” – she’s a wonderful building block.

A box of shortbreads and a jar of Nutella? Oh, my.

But there’s also my favorite way to love this cookie. Here you go:


The very best way to prepare a Shortbread (or trefoil) cookie dessert!

Crunch up a sleeve of cookies – whether you’re in a “Kill the Wabbit” mood…or just feel like banging on them!


Now you need a couple of young helpers. Part of what cookie sales are all about is helping our young Scouts with life skills and being independent. I’m extending that by making  asking them to help with making their own desserts.

Get one pair of little hands to mix up instant banana pudding, and another to put some crunched cookie goodness into that unused glassware that’s collecting dust in the cabinet. Mom has been known to use champagne glasses. I’ve seen sundae glasses. Espresso cups make nice little “mini desserts.” Top the crushed cookies with pudding.


Now, be the meanest mommy in the world, and wait until after dinner.


Chill until after dinnertime.

Make them nice and pretty, eat them all up, and then get the approval of the kiddos!

And, because I’m not only a parent, but also a troop leader and a cookie mom, I must now tell you to run out and get some Shortbreads or Trefoils right now! I’ll bet you can find a local Girl Scout to help you out.

But until February 26, you can also get them (and the other cookies!) here:

or here (two Scouts, remember?):




Self-Watering Pots

My Daisy Girl Scouts completed their “Welcome to the Daisy Flower Garden” journey this year. One of the obstacles I’ve seen on several Scouting forums, was the difficulty of having the little ones maintain a garden for the school year. Creating a garden plot wasn’t feasible for our troop, and we only meet twice per month, so I was concerned with keeping the plants alive in pots without frequent watering.

Enter the self-watering pot. I got the basic idea from this youtube video by Growing Little Ones:

They are working with a scale much larger than we wanted, though – we needed something windowsill-sized and portable. Here is our modification:


  • 1 qt food storage container (tall)
  • 8 oz water bottle
  • 2 cotton fabric strips; length is twice the height of the water bottle, about an inch in width
  • ½” diameter plastic pipe or tubing (I used PVC conduit pipe because it’s cheaper and we were growing flowers, but I would use plumbing-grade tubing or pvc to plant edibles.)
  • potting soil
  • marigold seeds
  • coffee grounds, mixed in with the dirt


Focus Points

  • Daisy “responsible for what I say and do” garden, to accommodate watering only during meetings (Mari the marigold – orange petal!)
  • Using resources wisely


  • We drank the water during our snack time at the meeting prior, and had the girls label their bottles with their names, so they could see that we were re-using them (resources).
  • The fabric strips were cut from an old t-shirt (resources). I use vinegar as an alternative to fabric softener – I have seen others observe that fabric softener seems to affect the way fabrics wick water, but I don’t have first-hand observation of how that will compare in this situation.
  • You can use fresh coffee grounds, but we used some from the coffee maker, so we could again be using something otherwise bound for the trash. Marigolds like acidic soil, and commercial soil tends to be neutral. Coffee grounds will raise the acidity just enough to make the marigolds happy.
  • Cut the pipe or tubing into lengths just long enough to break the surface of the soil once the bottle is put into the plastic container and the soil is filled to the top; about 3 inches.
  • Poke a couple of small holes in the bottom of the containers; the soil needs to be moist, but not water-logged.


  • Have the girls write their names on the storage containers using paint or a silver pen – the dirt will be dark, and a black or blue pen won’t show up. This will be the flower pot.
  • Drop the ends of the fabric strips into the empty water bottles. The ends need to touch the inside bottom of the bottles. Drape the other end of the fabric on the outside of the bottle. This is the water reservoir and wick.
  • Insert the plastic pipe or tubing into the water bottle. It will be a tight fit – you will have to work it in carefully to avoid crushing the bottle. It only needs to go in far enough to secure the fabric and provide a means of filling the reservoir. (The guys at Lowe’s who helped me find the right size pipe and a couple of my troop parents all observed that at this point, it resembles what they image a molotov cocktail would look like.)
  • Put the bottle into the bottom of the container.


  • Fill the container with dirt. (Try not to get a lot of dirt in the reservoir.) Make sure there are no air pockets, or the soil will not wick properly. Don’t lift the wicks, just let the dirt cover everything.
  • Plant your seeds.
  • Fill the reservoir (use a funnel).
  • Place in sunny windowsill, with the container lid underneath.



  • We discovered that this setup was just the right size to last about two weeks, but when we had a larger gap between meetings, the caretaker had to refill the reservoirs in the meantime.
  • The first time you fill them, the soil will wick enough water to leak quite a bit, and it will happen again if you let the soil dry out between reservoir refills. If the soil remains moist, though, leaks will remain minimal.
  • The girls also got to witness two fun phenomena: the windowsill they were on was very wide, and the heat vent blew directly on half of the windowsill, but not the other half. The reservoirs under the heat vent needed more water to fill them, since the soil was drying out faster. Also, as part of their plant caretaking, the girls found they had to turn the plants during meetings – mine were amused to find their plants “streeeeetching for the sun.”

Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.  -John W. Gardner