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.

Follow along with us as we explore World Cultures - subscribe by email


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Our French Canadian Roots: Recipe for Acadian Ployes | Buckwheat pancakes Part 2

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

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 and often eaten with baked beans.

Find our recipe for Crepes au Sarasin & Maple Baked Beans

We were at a tourism conference with a section on Acadian heritage when both pepere, Hubby's father, and Hubby excitedly came to get me with warm, sweet treats in their hands. Not having eaten them in years, they were excited to get their hands on these breakfast treats, instantly drawing Hubby back to his youth when his memere (grandmother) would make them. This is how the girls and I were introduced to ployes, small buckwheat pancakes, topped with brown sugar. We found a recipe and have been enjoying them every few months ever since. Traditionally, these were a griddle "bread", an inexpensive filler eaten with most meals.

Acadian Ployes

Serves 4

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 3/4 cup boiling water

1. Sift together dry ingredients. Add the cold water and stir into a thick dough. Add the boiling water, and whisk until smooth.

2. Heat an ungreased pan or griddle until a drop of batter sizzles when dropped on the pan. Pour a tablespoon full onto the hot pan, and let cook, without flipping, until the top surface is dry, approximately 3-4 minutes.

To enjoy, spread with butter and brown sugar. And you don't need a fork - this is breakfast finger food (unless you're having them with beans...). Just fold in half and dig in. 

Find our other French Canadian recipes here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to Make a Gris Gris {West African Good Luck Charms}

A gris-gris (or grigri) is an amulet or talisman believed to bring the wearer good luck and/or protection from bad luck. Though some associate them with voodoo, gris-gris are commonly used by people throughout West Africa, whether Muslim, Christian or animist. Gris-gris are considered powerful, and are used as lucky charms, keeping the wearer safe and in good health. They're also considered protection against bad luck, bad neighbors, bad employers or even against sorcery. They can be worn around the neck, arms, waist, attached to belts and bags. Babies often wear one (or more) as a necklace or on tummy belts to keep them safe. In this gallery, you can see gris-gris as they are worn (you'll see lots of cute babies wearing them).

A West African Tuareg Gris Gris from Niger
Photo Credit: Teo Gomez
Gris-gris are often small leather pouches that come in different shapes, sizes and colors. They often contain a verse from the Qur'an and/or items for luck such as dried plants and roots, coins, locks of hair, and animal bones. They can be carved in the shape of animals, decorated with designs, included beadwork or metal - some families have generations old personal designs on them.

Make Your Own Gris-Gris - A West African Good Luck Charm

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop | #21

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 feature from last time:

Leanna at All Done Monkey recounts her experience making Saudi Arabian semolina cake - find out what makes it magic! This recipe is on my roster to try over the next few weeks. Be sure to take a look at her post on dress up play to learn about Saudi Arabia as well - it's such a great activity. She and her sons explored Saudi Arabia as part of the blogging project Around the World in 12 Dishes, a series in which participating bloggers explore the world with their kids each month by cooking a dish from another country. It's a fun series, exploring countries you wouldn't necessarily think of - I hope you consider joining in the fun!

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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Recipe for Akara {West African Black-Eyed Pea Fritters}

These bean fritters are known by many different names, including akara, akla, kosai and koose depending on the country & language. They're enjoyed in many West African countries, often made at home as a breakfast or snack, or sold by street and market vendors where they are fried on charcoal stoves. 

Woman frying and selling akara
Photo Source: IITA
Crunchy, tasty, and a good source of protein - we all enjoyed these and can see why they are a popular snack. However, they are time consuming, these bean fritters. Pureed black eye peas and spices, formed and fried and served with a spicy sauce. Sounds simple, but the beans have to soak overnight, then they have to be peeled before making the paste, which develops more flavor if it sits overnight. Peeling them, that is rubbing off their skins, takes time, and might be a good rainy day project :) We started off with 2 cups of dried beans, but that just made so many... I recommend starting off with 1 cup first, and see how you like these. As for the sauce, most recipes call for scotch bonnet pepper - however since Elle doesn't care for much spice, I just sprinkled cayenne in the sauce she wasn't using. 

Akara: Black Eyed Pea Fritters

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Anansi Stories - Trickster Tales from West Africa

At times clever and cunning, often greedy and lazy, Anansi can beguile a man eating python yet is known to be fooled when his own tricks are turned against him. Whether depicted as spider (most often), man (sometimes) or spider like man (on occasion), he is always a trickster

A West African god that often takes the form of a spider, Anansi is one of the most important characters of West African folklore. Also known as Ananse, Kwaku Ananse and Anancy, he's considered to be the god of all knowledge of stories, and thanks to him stories and wisdom were given to the people. There's even an Anansi story as to how he came about getting these stories from the sky god, Nyame, through a series of challenges he overcame with trickery and cunning. 

The word "anansi" means "spider" in the Twi language

It's believed that Anansi tales originated as part of the oral storytelling culture of the Ashanti people of Ghana hundreds of years ago. The stories spread to other Akan groups in Ghana, throughout West Africa, and even across the ocean during the Atlantic slave trade. He features so prominently in the Ashanti oral culture that the word anansesem, "spider tales", is used to describe all kinds of fables. Many of the oral stories were written in the 1950s & 1960s so they could be used in schools, and to this day they continue to be taught in schools in Ghana.

Although Anansi stories originated in Ghana, they continue to be told throughout West Africa to children as a means of imparting moral messages and as a means of entertainment. 

Books, Videos, Activities & Crafts

Find the list of books further below

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ebola: Our Family's Response | Facts, Perspective & Compassion

You don't have to be studying West Africa to be aware of the Ebola crisis. It's all over the news and social media, and the fear it's instilling seems to be spreading faster than the virus. At its best, the response has mobilized governments and organizations to send much needed resources (in all forms) to those countries in the throes of crisis; at its worse, fear mongering and ignorance have given rise to discrimination, bigotry and even violence

In our household, I have done my best to address these issues with our kids with facts, perspective and compassion. And by "these issues", I mean the very real crisis of the Ebola virus in West Africa, and the troubling responses the culture of fear and ignorance engenders. 


In an effort to raise daughters confident in themselves and out in the world, I want them to be informed of real dangers they might encounter so that they can feel safe in preventing them. In all honesty, I do not believe Ebola is a danger they need to be prepared for, but in order to ensure they are informed and that they do not succumb to the culture of fear, we discussed the basics of the virus: The symptoms of Ebola, how it is and isn't transmitted (see above), and the precautions taken internationally to ensure the virus does not spread across borders. We discussed the importance of a healthy immune system in fighting off all germs and reiterated the importance of washing our hands regularly. Washington Post has an excellent article with tips on talking to kids about Ebola, and DOGO News has an article written for kids covering the facts about Ebola that might be helpful to look at.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Our Weekend in a Nutshell

This past weekend we enjoyed two fun celebrations: Halloween & Day of the Dead. Pea in fact has been dismissing Halloween for a few years now, but Elle loves it, ensuring we have lots of pumpkins and that the house is properly decorated weeks in advance. She also took advantage of a school dance to have two costumes: a simple, cute cat for the dance, and for trick-or-treating, she and her friend went out as Thing 1 & Thing 2 - they looked seriously adorable. I even have a picture of her giving me attitude with that blue wig on and those huge freckles, and I just couldn't take her seriously - so I snapped a picture! I have promised not to share it with anyone, so you'll just have to imagine it :) 

Celebrating Day of the Dead is something I always look forward to, and this year even more because we would be sharing it with my sister and her family, which means my 5 year old nephew joined us for the first time. I had suggested to them and my mother that they bring photographs or representations for the offrenda (top left), an altar that honors departed loved ones. My nephew's grandfather passed away in the past year, and so with my sister's guidance, he brought Thomas the train because they used to play trains together. It was a lot of fun talking to my nephew about Mexico, about the celebration and "playing" with calaveras - coloring skulls, decorating sugar skulls and face painting (that's my sister's amazing work). My mother, sister and I had a great time, with lots of laughter, assembling tamales while the husbands spent a great deal of time being very deliberate decorating their sugar skulls. Most importantly, we took the time to remember loved ones and share those memories with our kids. It was a great afternoon.
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