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.

Follow along with us as we study West Africa- subscribe by email


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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop | #19

Welcome to the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop! This month I'll be joining Multicultural Kid Blogs and various excellent bloggers in co-hosting a blog hop featuring what I love most: learning about different cultures with kids. This link up is an excellent resource for virtually traveling the world - I hope you'll join us.

The Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop is a place where bloggers can share multicultural activities, crafts, recipes, and musings for our creative kids. We can't wait to see what you share this time!

Created by Frances of Discovering the World through My Son's Eyes and previously co-hosted by Kristin of Toddling in the Fast Lane and Leanna of All Done Monkey, the blog hop has now found a new home at Multicultural Kid Blogs.  And now, our members can co-host as well, so look for some fresh faces in the coming months!

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop is a place for you to share your creative kids culture posts. It's very easy, and simple to participate!Just follow these simple guidelines:
  • Follow us via email, PinterestGoogle+Twitter, or Facebook. Please let us know you're following us, and we will be sure to follow you back.
  • Link up any creative kids culture posts, such as language, culture, books, travel, food, crafts, playdates, activities, heritage, and holidays, etc. Please, link directly to your specific post, and no giveaways, shops, stores, etc.
Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop
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  • Please grab the button code above and put it on your blog or the post you’re linking up. You can also add a text link back to this hop on your blog post. Note: By sharing your link up on this blog hop you are giving us permission to feature your blog post with pictures, and to pin your link up in our Creative Kids Culture Feature board on Pinterest.
  • Don't be a stranger, and share some comment love! Visit the other links, and comment. Everyone loves comments!
  • The Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop will go live on the 3rd Sunday of the month. It will run for three weeks. The following blog hop we will feature a previous link up post, and if you're featured, don't forget to grab the button below:
Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop
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My featured post from last time, the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop #18:

This month, I'd like to feature Crafty Mom's Share's post: a review of the story Mei Mei's Lucky Birthday noodles and her lovely dish of lucky noodles. After spending a year virtually traveling to China, this post was a fun trip back :) I wish that book had been available when we tried our hands at birthday noodles! 

Thank you for linking up and exploring these great creative cultural posts.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Our French Canadian Roots: Recipe for Blueberry Grunt

Sharing our French Canadian heritage with a monthly recipe from our childhood, hoping to inspire similar traditions and memories for our daughters

August is the time to celebrate the wild blueberry harvest in Nova Scotia, so what better time to make the traditional Acadian dessert of Blueberry Grunt. (Though posting now, we made this in August) This is essentially sweetened, boiled blueberries with dumplings - an easy way to use up the abundance of blueberries found this time of the year.

Blueberries are such a healthy food, though the sugar in this recipe probably negates that!
And an abundance there is - there are only six areas in the world where wild blueberries are grown commercially: the Maritimes in Canada (NS, NB, PE, NFLD), Quebec and Maine - Hubby and I have roots in 3 of these places. Nova Scotia is second in production, after Maine.

This dish was originally made by French settlers in a pot over an open hearth. Of course it is now made on the stove top, where dumplings are steamed with the boiling blueberries. Apparently, the name "Grunt" comes from the sound of stewing blueberries. It's a tasty, comforting dessert. Absolutely perfect on a rainy summer day. And delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry Grunt

Makes enough for 4 generous servings

  • 4 cups blueberries (1 quart) - you can use fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp cold butter
  • 1/3 cup milk (and more if necessary)
1. Put blueberries, sugar, water and cinnamon in a large pot and bring to a boil. Bring the heat down to a simmer.

2. While the blueberries are simmering, make the dumplings: sift the flour, baking powder, salt & sugar. Cut in the butter and add enough milk to make a soft dough. 

3. Drop scant tablespoonfuls of dough over the stewing blueberries. Cover tightly* and cook for 15 minutes. Take off the heat, and let cool slightly.

*If the lid of your pot doesn't seal it well, it might be helpful to put a layer of foil over the pot, and lid over that. Don't lift the lid during those 15 minutes - let those dumplings cook :)

Serve warm, pouring some of the blueberry sauce over the dumplings. We recommend adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

You can find our other French Canadian recipes here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

West African Yam Festival

Yam Festival Celebration. The sizes of these yams are outstanding!
Photo Credit: Jeff Haskins (Global Crop Diversity Trust)
During August & September in West Africa, once the rainy season ends, it is time to harvest a very important staple food: the yam. The yam festival is celebrated at the start of the harvest with festivities, thanksgiving and divination in the hopes of a plentiful harvest. 

The yam is a staple crop in West Africa, and many communities depend on its harvest for survival. It is believed that many factors influence the success of the crop, such as witchcraft, ancestors and various gods. These forces are appealed to with special prayers and sacrifices during the festival.

You can read more about the yam as a staple food in our earlier post here.

Celebrations vary, but all have dancing and drumming, and often masquerades. Some times families show off their harvest, hoping for pride of the largest yam, or the largest crop. Women and girls prepare the feast, with recipes featuring the yam, of course. 

Yam Festival Celebration.
Photo Credit: Jeff Haskins (Global Crop Diversity Trust)
In Ghana, the festival is called Homowo, or "To hoot at hunger". Villagers gather, and a young boy has the honor of carrying in the best yam, followed by another boy beating the drum. Chiefs follow the yam, while others dance along to the beat of the drum.

Yam Festival Celebration.
Photo Credit: Jeff Haskins (Global Crop Diversity Trust)

In Nigeria, the New Yam festival is celebrated at the end of June, especially by two of the larger ethnic groups, Igbo and Yoruba. Altars are made to honor ancestors, the earth god and the yam god. 

For the Igbo,yams are considered sacred. According to Igbo legend, during a severe famine, the tribesman Igbo (from whom the tribe is named) was told by the spirits that he must sacrifice his son and daughter in order to save his community from starvation. Their bodies were to be cut into many pieces and buried in various patches of earth. Igbo did as he was told and within a few days, yam leaves sprouted from his son's body, and cocoyam sprouted from his daughter's. It was by farming these crops that the tribe was saved from starvation.

Tasting Fried Yam

When we first tried yam, we didn't much care for it. It was boiled in a sauce, and the texture was not to our liking. I had decided then that we would have to try it again, prepared differently. In honor of the Yam Festival, I decided to fry the yam. My reasoning was that almost anything will be tasty when deep fried and liberally salted :) And I was right - the girls even asked for seconds! Though similar to fries, you can taste the subtle yam flavor and note a difference in texture. 

This recipe is akin to potato fries. Peal and slice the yam, fry in hot oil, drain on paper towels and don't skimp on salt. 

Yams can be a bit dirty (similarly to potatoes) and are difficult to peel. Best to cut the yam in large slices, and peel those smaller pieces.  You'll likely want to clean your knife and cutting board after peeling, and I suggest rinsing your cut pieces of yam as well.

Heat oil in a pan on medium high heat. Gently place your yam pieces in hot oil, and fry for 3-5 minutes until golden and crisp. Turn over each piece and fry for another 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towel.

Enjoy warm with salt. And try to imagine how important this vegetable is for millions of people. 

Our Weekend in a Nutshell

Saturday we had Elle's 12th birthday party. Her birthday is in August, but many of her friends couldn't make it so we decided to wait until now. Luckily, the warm weather held up.

Elle's theme was messy outdoor art party - though little art was created in the end, it very much lived up to being messy! We were quite lucky to be able to use Indian Holi powder as the grand finale because my mother picked some up on her last trip earlier in the summer. 

I don't know that I would recommend this kind of party :) but the girls sure had fun, and we were beat by the end of it. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Our Summer in a Nutshell

Playing in the mud on a day that turned unexpectedly warm & sunny
Summer is nearly over, and though I look forward to our fun filled autumns, I am already missing the slow pace of the last couple of months! It has been a easy summer, spent either on road trips around our province, checking out the cultural activities in the city - including a couple of African cultural events - or each of us engrossed in our own books. I cannot say it has been a particularly productive summer, but it has been mighty relaxing!

Lazing in Canada's largest hammock
I can't say I'm sorry I haven't been very present on the blog for the past 6 weeks (Wow, that is quite some time!), but we are back, and ready to continue exploring West Africa. I hope you've had a lovely summer!

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