Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Folktales from Liberia

One of our favorite ways of learning about a culture is with folktales - these are the stories most of us carry from our childhood and share from one generation to the next. In West Africa, these are the stories told at the bedside, under the baobab tree or around the fire after a day's work is complete.

This list includes traditional folktales from Liberia.  A few of these books were also enjoyed by my three year old nephew, who could not get enough of the folktale of the hungry crocodile. Some of these books are no longer in print, but you might be able to find them at your local library (like we did) and I've linked those to Better World Books, a site that sells second hand books (I am not affiliated with them).

Two Ways to Count to Ten: A Liberian Folktale retold by Ruby Dee. This folktale is about the leopard king seeking a wise successor. The animals of the jungle are given the task of throwing a spear in the air, and counting to ten before it lands. The winner turns out not to be the strongest who throws in the air the highest, but the most clever who thinks of another way to count to ten... I wonder if you can guess how :)

Koi and the Kola Nuts : A Tale from Liberiaretold by Verna Aardema. With vivid illustrations, this retelling is a folktale about Koi, the youngest son of a chief who discovers his only inheritance is a kola nut tree. With so little to his name, he gathers the nuts and sets off on a journey, coming across various creatures who require his help and his kola nuts. When set with a series of challenges himself, these creatures find themselves in the position to help him. He ultimately learns that when you do good, good comes back to you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Our French Canadian Roots: Recipe for Poutine

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


Have you heard of Poutine, (pooh-tin) what is becoming dubbed as the quintessential Canadian dish? In my youth, (not so long ago, despite what the girls think) it could only be found in Quebec, and had made its way into French pockets of a couple of other provinces. I remember how much of a treat it was when we visited our extended family and stopped at a road side chip stand to order some. Today, even McDonalds has it on their menu. 

You could easily be tempted into describing it as fries with gravy and cheese - some restaurants (though less and less) will try to pass that off, and even at home we have been known to make some off the cuff with whatever cheese is in the fridge. But to be a true poutine, you need cheese curds. 

Cheese curds are also know in our family as "squeaky cheese" - according to Wikipedia, we aren't the only ones to use the moniker. Cheese curds are bite size bits of salted cheese, with a springy firmness. They are best eaten fresh, at room temperature and make a great treat. When at their best, they squeak in your mouth as you chew - hence squeaky cheese. Kids love this! Ok, some of us adults do too. If you ever taste a cheese curd without the squeak, do not make the mistake of writing them off, you just need to get your hands on a fresh batch. 

We're lucky, because poutine can now be found commonly at pubs, diners, and fry shacks. We even have a "poutinerie" that offers dozens of variations -Italian poutine, Nacho Grande poutine, philly cheesesteak - to name a few odd yet tasty twists. But it's traditional poutine we all love, and if you can get your hands on some cheese curds, you can make a passable version at home. (Let's face it, fries from a chip stand are the best)

With only 3 ingredients, you want to make sure you use good ones. We aren't going to start making fries at home, so we splurge on "high end" red skinned frozen fries :) Sometimes we cheat all the more with store bought canned poutine gravy, other times we use this recipe with chicken stock for the sauce. And of course, we head to the farmers market for fresh cheese curds, one bag for poutine and a second to fight over snack on.

How to make Poutine

  1. Cook your fries according to package directions.
  2. Plate them, and sprinkle liberally with cold cheese curds (that way they hold their shape when..)
  3. Pour poutine sauce/gravy over the fries and cheese.
  4. Dig in!
This one was a pretty easy recipe for the girls to remember :)

Pea and Serge also like to use ketchup. In Pea's case, copious amounts:

You can find our other French Canadian recipes here.

Our Weekends in a Nutshell

I have been remiss, I know. I think I was on an unintentional blogcation - and there may be more over the next few weeks! I can't even say we've been altogether that busy but...
Friends & family getting ready to watch a movie in our backyard, thanks to G-pa and all his work setting it up, a cozy way to end our Canada day festivities
The end of June brought on a few celebrations: we celebrated Pea's grade 9 graduation (that included a couple of awards) and she went to her first formal dance. Corsage and all. I was very much the embarrassing mother insisting I get many (many) photos, and telling her and her friends to pose here and there, and oh, just one more :) Despite that, Pea hugged and kissed me good night - in front of all of her classmates. It was frankly shocking!

That same weekend Elle had an out of province soccer tournament that Hubby attended and was very proud of her. Pea enjoyed a few days of alone time before a summer filled with family and friends, and I paraded around with my girlfriends celebrating summer weather and my birthday. 

Elle's team playing soccer
Great day spent in the best of company for my birthday
We spent the past week enjoying G-pa's company - my father visiting from Ontario and took a few walks at the beach. He even convinced Hubby and Elle to join him in watching the waves during our first hurricane of the season (while Pea and I hunkered indoors).

A chilly but lovely day at Martinique Beach, playing in the sand, collecting rocks, and watching surfers

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