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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Friday, October 31, 2014

Around the World with Pancakes: Mongolian Gambir

We're trying out pancakes from around the world, looking beyond fluffy pancakes and beyond breakfast food

We recently tried Mongolian pancakes, gambir, as an afternoon snack. While breaking off pieces of gambir, Elle located Mongolia on a map, and we looked at the beautiful vast expanses, wild horses and gers showcased in this slideshow of Mongolian pastoral herders, one of the world's last remaining nomadic cultures.

Hustai National Park, the ger (aka yurt) is the traditional Mongolian dwelling
Photo Credit: Micheal; Map adapted from & sourced through CIA World Factbook

Mongolian pancakes are simple, slightly sweet pan fried dough. They make for a tasty snack, best eaten hot, barely cooled off the pan. Put them all on one plate, and break off pieces to eat while sitting around together learning about Mongolia. Or just catching up on your day.

Gambir being prepared and cooked in Mongolian ger - isn't the stove interesting?
Photo Credit: LeeAnne Adams

This recipe makes enough for 4 pancakes. It's easy enough for kids to make their own though they might need help rolling out the dough because it has quite a "bounce back" and you don't want them to be too thick or they won't cook through. In two of the pancakes we used leftover cinnamon sugar instead of just sugar, and that made for a nice flavor as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Our Weekends in a Nutshell

A rare family photo, complete with all four of us - even if one of us isn't smiling :)
It's been all about celebrating Autumn around here for the past couple of weeks. It is most certainly my favorite time of the year, with the weather still nice, the beauty of fall foliage, and the activities that abound at farms. We did the requisite corn maze, giant pumpkin farm and chestnut gathering. (What exactly is it about gathering chestnuts that is so entertaining? My husband, the gatherer, collected what feels like bushels of them.)

Along with preparing for Halloween by carving the countless pumpkins Elle insisted on getting (actually, I counted 14. 14! That does include mini pumpkins, but still. We just may cater to her pumpkin "obsession" a little too much), we also marked Diwali, the Hindu festival of Light by drawing mehendi, henna tattoos on each other. We have also been gorging on pumpkin seeds :)

I've been absent lately as I've been working (on and off for months actually) on another website and coming across many a challenge! I think it will just go on the back burner for a little while, so I can share more West African culture here. Oh, and a few more pancakes :)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop | #20

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, the blog hop has now found a new home at Multicultural Kid Blogs.

This month our co-hosts are:

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, Pinterest, Google+, 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.
<div align="center"><a href="http://multiculturalkidblogs.com/?p=5802" title="Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop" target="_blank"><img src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/.../share+culture+button+2-email..." alt="Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop" /></a></div>
  • 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
<div align="center"><a href="http://multiculturalkidblogs.com/?page_id=5802" title="Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop" target="_blank"><img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/.../featured+culture+button+2..." alt="Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop" /></a></div>

Here's my favorite from last time:

Becky of Kid World Citizen put together this excellent round up of crafts and activities to celebrate Day of the Dead for Multicultural Kid Blogs that can be found here. We celebrate this every year to some degree, and I'm looking forward to adding a couple of ideas from this list for this year!

Thank you for linking-up, and we can't wait to see what you've been up to!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Around the World with Pancakes: Mexican Hot Cakes

We're trying out pancakes from around the world, looking beyond fluffy pancakes and beyond breakfast food

In Mexico, pancakes are known as hot cakes. Though similar to typical North American pancakes, they differ slightly because they're made with masa harina, dried and powdered corn dough, rather than wheat. They're popular for breakfast and are sold on the streets, eaten at all times of the day and night. They are served with fruit, honey and sweet toppings such as sweetened condensed milk or cajeta (goat milk caramel). 

Mexican street vendors selling hot cakes
Photo Credit: Waywuwei
We used the recipe on the back of the Maseca bag of masa harina that we found in the Mexican foods section of our grocery store. Making hot cakes was also a great excuse to find some cajeta, a caramel made from goat's milk rather popular in Mexico, and in our house. It can be found in Latin grocery stores, in jars and squeeze bottles. We enjoyed these pancakes, and with their strong flavor of cornmeal doused in caramel, they have the perfect flavoring for the fall. 

Hot cakes bought from street vendor with what looks like a fruit preserve topping
Photo Credit: Angelica Portales

Mexican Hot Cakes

Serves 4
As mentioned above, this recipe is from the Maseca brand bag of masa harina

  • 1 cup masa harina
  • scant 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil + more for pan
  • 3/4 cup milk
Maseca is a renown brand of masa harina, generally easily found. The cajeta we bought was the only one available at the only Latin grocery store in our city, I wouldn't know whether this is a comparably good brand - we thought it was tasty, though cajeta we bought while visiting Toronto was delicious, but I don't remember what brand it was. 
1. Sift together the harina, sugar and baking soda. 
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and oil. Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet, and stir until there are no lumps. 
3. Heat a pan on medium heat and grease lightly with vegetable oil. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto pan. When bubbles appear on the top, flip and cook for about 1 minute more. 
4. Serve with sweet toppings!

Find a slew of ideas to celebrate and explore Hispanic heritage at the Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop & Link Up

Find more posts exploring culture, geography and history with kids at

Find more pancake recipes on our page:

Fon Story Cloth from Benin | Make a Fon Story Cloth Craft {With Printable Template}

Our latest West African textile craft comes from the Republic of Benin: Fon appliqué story cloth.

The Fon kingdom of Dahomey began in the 17th century, and by the early 18th century reached the peak of their power and wealth through the slave trade. Introduced in the 17th century, appliqué cloths were commissioned by the Fon kings as royal cloths to express the power and authority of their kingdom. Colorful pictographs are cut from colorful fabric and appliquéd to a larger cloth, usually black. These cloths were used as wall hangings, banners, umbrellas and tents. The pictographs used were symbols depicting the kings - whether by representing a story extolling the might & character of the king, the means by which the prince ascended to the throne, or a piece of significant history that occurred during the king's reign. They were also made to commemorate victories in battles. You can see various examples of Fon appliqué story cloths here. In a culture where oral tradition is norm, these cloths are a great visual means of preserving history.

Adapted from CC photo by Lia

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Our Weekend in a Nutshell

Can you believe there is 4 years difference between them? Elle is just growing up so fast!
This past weekend was our Thanksgiving weekend, and I admit to being grateful for an extra day off, nearly as much as family, friends, and the abundance in our lives. It was a wonderful, long, beautiful fall weekend filled with time together enjoying nature.

We have a series of must-dos in October but I was itching to try something new, and so we drove out a couple of hours to a ski resort that celebrates the season over the long weekend with chair lift rides up the top of the mountain. None of having ever made it past the kiddie hill on ski trips, the chair lift itself was a new experience - and I realized I may be developing a bit of a fear of heights! Once we reached the top, we had various ski routes back down to choose from for a gorgeous hike, with just the loveliest scenery. 

Elle and I spent more time in the woods, returning to a trail we especially enjoy. She had a great time climbing boulders, and it was lovely to see her coming out of her comfort zone and venturing out, off the beaten path, more than she is usually comfortable with. I always find that both of the girls open up more when spending time in nature, and this made for especially nice one on one time together. 

Our long weekend ended with the best of friends, much laughter, and over indulging in turkey dinner (and pie). Ok, perhaps my gratitude for my wonderful family and friends, those near and far, far exceeds the additional time away from work :)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Our French Canadian Roots: Recipe for Tarte au Sucre {Sugar Pie}

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

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, which means it's time to make my favorite dessert: Sugar Pie. I only make this pie over Thanksgiving and at Christmas, which means I am long overdue! (Admittedly, there was a time in my early twenties when I went through two pies a week, but this did pass...)

Be warned: this pie is not for the faint of heart, it is for the sweet of tooth. Your very first taste of this pie should be a small sliver, lest you get thrown into diabetic shock. The seasoned, that is, French Canadians from Quebec and Ontario, enjoy a nice wedge. In my family, well, we over-indulge. The pie missing in the photo above was what I ate the morning after it was made, when the girls were in school. Their intake gets rationed, with the premise that it's too much sugar, but I'm sure everyone knows its mostly so I get to eat the most. I may have a problem... but I'm willing to live with it!

This recipe makes two pies. I know I forewarned you to only eat a small piece, but I wasn't willing to test halving the recipe. I needed to make two - one to satisfy my obvious addiction, and the other to share at Thanksgiving dinner. I imagine you could halve the recipe, while still using a whole egg. I did pay closer attention to the measurements of the recipe for this post - when sharing the recipe last year, I infuriated my sister with directions the likes of: "most of a can of evaporated milk" and "bake until it smells ready". By the way, this is probably the easiest pie you could ever make, especially if you are as content as I am to buy pie crust. 

Tarte au Sucre

makes 2 pies

  • 2 pie crusts
  • 3 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup evaporated milk
1. Preheat your oven to 350F
2. In a large bowl, beat the egg. Add the sugars and carnation milk. Whisk until smooth.
3. Divide the filling into both pie crusts. Place pies on a cookie sheet in case the filling bubbles over a little while cooking.
4. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is set. 
5. Let cool completely before serving. (Or dig in when mostly cooled off....)

This pie is so sweet, it's best enjoyed with something to drink to "balance" it out a bit - tea, coffee, or our personal favorite: a glass of milk.

If you try this, I'd love to hear what you think!

You can find our other French Canadian recipes here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Importance of Kola Nuts in West African Culture

Kola nuts being sold in a market in Cameroon; pods of kola nuts
Photo credits: Barry Pousman & Simon Berry

Kola nuts, often referred to as Cola, are the nuts of the Kola tree, which grow in the rainforests of Africa. As well as being chewed for its stimulant properties, Kola nuts play an important role in cultural practices in West Africa. They are used as offerings, during religious ceremonies, significant events (weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals), as an everyday symbol of hospitality, and as a form of divination. Due to its cultural and economic value, kola nut trees are highly valued, and in many communities it is considered taboo to cut one down. 

Kola nut pod
Photo Credit: Scamperdale

A common saying in West Africa is "he who brings Kola brings life". They are a symbol of peace, friendship and hospitality. They represent pure intentions and are meant to be shared. The nut has to be broken into parts, and as they are meant to shared, they bring people together. Just as the parts of the nut are all pieces of a whole, by sharing the pieces, recipients become one with each other. 

Photo Credit: Nick Hobgood

In many countries, Kola nuts are exchanged for courting and marriage: a man must offer them when asking the woman's family for her hand in marriage, if the nuts are not returned then the proposal is accepted. The man is also expected to bring more when the engagement is accepted.
The Igbo, in Nigeria, share the nuts as a symbol of their union during traditional weddings. 

In Cameroon, they are also an important part of reconciliation ceremonies - when two parties have reached an agreement and have forgiven past transgressions, the nut is shared between them to bind them to this reconciliation.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

West African Game: How to Play the Liberian Game "Queah" | Free Printable Boardgame

Queah is a traditional game from the Queah tribe of Liberia. Traditionally, the game "board" was made from twigs, and the game pieces from sticks, with one players pieces cut slanted and called "men", while the other players pieces were cut straight and called "women". It continues to be played to teach children logical skills.

Queah is a two person strategy game, similar to checkers. The grid is made up of 13 slanted squares. Each player has 10 pieces, though only 4 are on the board during play. Like checkers, the goal is to capture your opponent's pieces by leaping over them.

We are having fun with this game - it can be simple, each taking turns capturing another. But to really get the challenge, you want to keep the other from capturing yours, and there's a rule about replacement pieces that makes this interesting...

Elle playing, and winning, against her father

Playing Queah

What you need:

 - 10 game pieces each - we used 10 pennies and 10 quarters. You could use two types of beans, as long as you can easily differentiate them.

This is the board game I put together to play with, and it includes a recap of the rules, as well as a light demarcation of where to put your game pieces to start.

How to Play:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Our French Canadian Roots: Recipe for Crepes au Sarasin | Buckwheat pancakes Part 1

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

It turns out both Hubby and I grew up with buckwheat pancakes. In Quebec, they are crepes au sarasin, that is thin buckwheat crepes with or without a filling, drizzled with maple syrup. In New Brunswick, an Acadian breakfast treat are ployes, buckwheat pancakes topped with butter and brown sugar.

This past weekend, my mother joined us for breakfast so Pea and I decided to make the crepes. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around these crepes: sitting at my grand parent's table in the middle of their kitchen, many of my mother's 8 younger siblings in various degrees of wakefulness - one helping my grandmother at the stove, another setting the table, another shouting that the bathroom is available. My grandfather is set in my memory as invariably sitting at the table, shredding good picnic ham to go with our crepes. And these crepes were huge - the size of dinner plates. Though you can eat the crepes alone with a drizzle (or much much more) of maple syrup, they are a hearty, tasty breakfast (or lunch, or supper) with a filling of ham and cheddar cheese. Topped of course with maple syrup.  Since my mother is a vegetarian, in this recipe we skipped the ham, and they are just as tasty, and filling, with cheese.

Read our earlier post on maple syrup here.

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