It's 2014, and our family is embarking on our virtual travel to West Africa. To explore these countries and their culture, we will follow along with the festivals, cook and eat traditional foods, learn of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Multicultural Children's Book Day: Book Review & Activity for "The Olive Tree"

I'm so excited to be part of Multicultural Children's Book Day, taking place on January 27th. Anyone who follows this blog knows the importance I place on books and reading multicultural books with our kids - diverse stories are one of the best gateways to explore the world. I've been given the opportunity to review a lovely story set in Lebanon, which has been a great introduction to our family's year long virtual travel to Lebanon beginning in late February. 

Multicultural Children's Book Day was created by children's reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book & Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom. Their mission is to "not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries." What a wonderful mission and goal to support!

Did you know?
Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. 

Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

You can find an amazing compilation of diversity book lists & resources for parents and educator here.

Our Weekend in a Nutshell

We had a fun relaxing weekend - that is, most of us did. Pea had to hunker down and study for exams she is taking this week. We did ensure she was fed and watered, and between feedings the rest of us headed out to enjoy a bit of fresh air. 

I am once again trying to make getting outside a priority - this comes and goes for me, and here I go again! Someday, maybe, it will just be a wonderful, healthy habit. Until then, I have to make a conscious effort and, having been the example that I am over the years, I also have to drag the kids moaning and groaning. That is until we get to the park or the beach or the woods. They really do love it, and so do I. This past weekend we spent time at the beach and at a local park that surrounds a huge pond. We'd had a bit of mild weather lately, and plenty of rain, so we weren't able to take full advantage of the immense expanse of ice on the pond. Elle and I are looking forward to slipping and sliding our way on there! Perhaps next weekend :)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Recipe for Tatales & Bambara | Plantain Pancakes & Beans from Ghana

Here's another dish that features the popular staple food plantain. Tatales are sweet and savory pancakes made from mashed plantain, cornmeal and spices. They're often served as a side dish or lunch. The classic way to eat them is with bambara bean stew, that really complements the pancakes. 

We really enjoyed this, and the kids even asked for seconds. There is a nice sweetness to the plantains, that need to be over ripe to use in this recipe. The beans really do taste good with the pancakes, and happily, we discovered a few days prior to making this that Pea no longer minds beans, which worked out quite well! Bambara beans are not readily available, so a common substitution are black eyed peas. This makes a great vegetarian meal by the way. Do keep in mind that the tatales do not make good leftovers. 

Tatales and Bean Stew

Serves 4-6


  • 2 over ripe plantains, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • oil for cooking (either vegetable oil or palm oil)

1. Start by mashing the plantain with a potato masher. This bit takes a little work. You don't want the batter to be completely smooth (so don't use a blender), but good and mashed. Add the onion, cornmeal and spices and stir to combine. Then add the water, stir to combine, and let sit for 20- 30 minutes.

It's a good time to start the beans while the batter sits (below).

2. Heat a pan with about 2 tbsp of oil on medium high heat. Drop a ladle full or approximately 1/3 cup of the batter to the pan and spread into a circle. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until the pancake is firm enough to turn, then cook on the other side. Drain on paper towel before serving. Be sure to keep your pan oiled between batches.

Serve with bean stew 

Bean Stew
  • 4 cups cooked black eyed peas
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper (optional, to make it spicy)
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup red palm oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Puree together in a blender the tomatoes, onion, pepper if using and ginger. 

2. Heat the oil in a pan on medium low heat - when heated, but not too hot, add the tomato mixture and cook until thickened, approximately 15 minutes. Add beans and season with salt and pepper. 

Serve with tatales and enjoy!

You can find our recipe for Kelewe - a popular snack in many areas of West Africa of spiced and fried plantain, here

You can find all of our West African recipes here.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Attaya: Senegalese Tea Ritual | Recipe to Try it Yourself

Attaya is a Wolof word for the process that is tea preparation and presentation in Senegal. It's a very important part of daily, social life and it can be served at any moment. Attaya is served everywhere - in homes, at the work place, out on sidewalks - and is the customary beverage offered to guests. It's also enjoyed in The Gambia, Mali and Niger.

The tea ritual takes a long time - usually between one to three hours. Everyone gathers around, and while the tea is being prepared and enjoyed over the course of three rounds, everyone chats and catches up. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Akuaba Dolls: West African Fertility Dolls | How you can make a felt doll or paper collage

Akuaba dolls are traditional wooden fertility dolls from Ghana and surrounding areas. These dolls were used in the hopes of conceiving a child.

Traditionally, when a woman could not conceive, she would consult a priest or herbalist who would supply her with an akua'ba doll. She was to use this doll as a surrogate child - carrying it on her back tied with cloth in the position a real child is carried, adorning it with jewelry, bathing it and putting it to bed - until she became pregnant.

Giving birth in the Ashanti culture is an important rite of passage. In fact, the inability to conceive was cause for suspicion of poor health or even witchcraft. Legend has it that a young Ashanti woman named Akua was barren but desperately wanted to have a child. She consulted a priest who instructed her to have a carving made to look like a baby and to treat is as a surrogate child. She was laughed at and teased by her fellow villagers, who began to call the doll Akuaba, which means "Akua's child". However, when she did conceive and give birth to a beautiful baby girl, the practice became adopted by others.

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