Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Stop: Greece

It was an incredible coincidence that the first country we pulled from the hat was Greece and that our current bedtime book was Magic Treehouse # 16  “Hour of The Olympics” written by Mary Pope Osbourne filled with facts about Ancient Greece and written into a story that made my kids just suck it up like little sponges.  

I knew right away that I wanted to search for Greek music. I wanted us to be able to listen to music that was born in the country that we were learning about while we created our projects.  This is where the internet was my friend. I did a search for “free online streaming Greek music” and found wonderful Greek Music that if you close your eyes you can almost smell the olive trees. Almost. What does an olive tree smell like anyway? Well, I’m sure it is wonderful.

The first project we did was created a Greek Flag. I’d love to tell you that I bought some nice nylon fabrics and dusted off my old sewing machine, but I am not even sure that the sewing machine works and my sewing skills are severely deficient. I pulled out some scissors, glue and construction paper, which happen to be a perfect crafting medium for a four and six year old, and we started to work. When we finished we were all so proud of our first construction paper flag. It was a simple flag and my kids’ self-esteem undoubtedly was boosted by this creation, they had just recreated The Greek Flag.

I have a cousin, who at the time, was dating a Greek Woman and she sent me an email saying, “You should make a Mati with the kids”. My first response was, “Make a what?” But she obviously knows me well because she also included a link.  A Mati is also known as “The Evil Eye” it is meant to ward off evil. I looked at images of beautiful blue and white glass creations with the dark black circle in the middle. I knew immediately I had to start brainstorming because I have yet to learn the art of glassblowing and this project should not be passed over. I headed to A.C. Moore and I bought Sculpey in both Blue and White, and some black hemp cord.

We created Sculpey Matis with blue outer rings and white inner rings. We put a hole in the top before popping them into the oven to bake for 15 minutes. After they came out of the oven and cooled down a bit we used a Sharpie and made the black iris center of the evil eye and threaded the hemp cord through the holes.    

Aiden Making Matis.
Eliana Making Matis.
Me Making Matis (photo credit: 4 Year Old, Eliana).

Aiden Sporting His Mati.
All of this creating while learning was so fun, we almost forgot about dinner on more than one occasion. Among these fun crafts that we were doing, we also researched Greek transportation, wildlife, architecture, and food.  

We made construction paper napkin rings with a different picture and fact on each one, sadly we made them too small to fit nice cloth napkins into them, so we had to fall back on white paper napkins.

The back of this said "Olive Trees Are Raised For Their Fruit And Oil".
Greek Night was drawing close, the last night of our visit to Greece, the night when we celebrate and reflect.  We had learned a lot, created trivia questions for dinner conversation and invited the guests (my parents).

When my parents arrived with a side dish in hand, Greek Radio was playing loud, our flag was on display, Aiden and Eliana doled out a Mati for everybody to wear around their necks for the evening and Greek food was on the stove, in the oven and all around us.

Finally, the time had come. We sat at the table eating foods that delighted our taste buds. While the Greek music played a soft soundtrack I asked the trivia questions about Greece.

Greek Salad: Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Almonds and Greek Dressing
Greek Pasta With Chicken

Greek Lemon Cake. I chose to add lemon icing instead of frosting.
If I hadn’t already been completely convinced that I want to make a trip to Greece someday, I certainly am now. Starting with Greece was the best place to start. I think some of the other countries on our list could have left us wondering if we really wanted to continue with this adventure. Not Greece. Greece was a feast of interesting facts, beautiful music and absolutely delectable foods.  Greece left us thirsting for more, much as I imagine a real trip to Greece would do. 

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