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, September 29, 2014

Our Weekend in a Nutshell


This weekend was gorgeous, warm and sunny - the perfect opportunity for us to finally take advantage of free canoe rentals one of our city's boat clubs offers. It has been a long time since we'd been canoeing, so we were a little rusty - ok, I was. Hubby and Elle took one boat, and Pea and I another. Hubby had a smooth ride, whereas Pea and I... well it was entertaining! The water was calm, the sun was shining, and the views were gorgeous. Pea and I were really enjoying ourselves, despite regularly going around in circles because for a while we couldn't seem to get the canoe to veer left (so we just circled right until we were straight on course - repeatedly). We narrowly missed buoys and boats, but we missed them. Good fun, all in all. 
That is, good fun on our way out. When we turned around to go back - it was more grueling than fun! Luckily, we had figured out how to bear straight (ish) without circling, because going against the current, wind and boat made waves was so difficult, it took us more than twice as long! We were so beat, we skipped the afternoon hike we had planned in favor of lazing at home with books. 

Elle came home from a sleepover Sunday with a relapse of chest congestion she's been fighting for a few weeks, so we laid low. Hopefully she'll be feeling better soon!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Adinkra Cloth | Make your own adinkra cloth craft


I have loved reading about and seeing the various textile crafts in West Africa. And we're having fun recreating them as well. This time we "recreated" Adinkra cloth, beautiful traditional cloth of the Ashanti culture.

Adinkra cloth
Photo Credit: 
© Cynthia Samake, Behind the Scenes Adventures
Adinkra (ah-DEENK-rah) cloth is a hand-printed and hand stamped traditional cloth made in Ghana. Developed by the Ashanti people at least two hundred years ago, adinkra cloths were traditionally made for royalty to wear at religious ceremonies. Through the years, it continues to be the main ceremonial cloth, as well as commissioned decorated cloths to tell a story or to express thoughts and feelings. Dark cloths (black, brown, dark red) are worn for sad occasions, and brightly colored cloths are worn for festive occasions.

It was also traditionally known as a mourning cloth, typically worn to funerals. Ashanti legend holds that the word Adinkra means "farewell" and that the cloth was introduced after the capture of a rival monarch, King Adinkra, who wore the cloth to express his sorrow on being taken. Special mourning cloths continue to be made and worn for funerals, worn by men as seen in photo above, and by women as a turban or skirt. Often in dark red, mourning cloth have adinkra symbols especially chosen to represent their respect for the departed.

"Cloth was typically worn to funerals, white cloth with symbols for funerals of old people who have had good long llives; black (now usually silkscreened adinkra cloth) is worn for funerals of younger people to show sadness at their early demise." - Cynthia Samake, BTS Adventures


Adinkra calabash stamps
Photo Credit: Art Prof (Dr. Carol Ventura)
Adinkra symbols each have a special meaning, some of which have been used for over 200 years. They are not only used on cloth, but also on pottery, walls and as logos. They represent the history and beliefs of the Ashanti culture, as well as universal concepts like harmony, peace and strength. They are often linked with proverbs, for example:


The stamps are made from calabashes (gourds) that are cut into pieces and hand carved with a design. Their handles are made from little pieces of raffia palm hammered into the back of the stamp and tied together.

You can read about the many uses of the calabash gourds in our earlier post here.

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.
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  • 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.
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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:
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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
Dumplings
  • 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.

You can find more posts exploring culture, geography and history with kids at All Things Beautiful

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. 

You can find more posts exploring culture, geography and history with kids at All Things Beautiful
 
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