Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Wrap Up

After creating holiday ornaments and celebrating The Winter Solstice, I have been reflecting on the last year and the places that we have traveled to (in spirit, of course) and how each place had something that really set it apart from the other countries that we visited. I decided that it would be fun to do a year end wrap up. I came up with ten questions and each of us answered them, kind of like a survey I guess. My intention is that it will give us each a moment to actually remember the wonderful countries of this past year before moving on to new ones next year. Also, I thought it might be fun to see if we all had the same experiences of each country and to see what things we might do differently or like to add to the adventures for next year. Another interesting tidbit is that I answered the questions first and then asked each person separate from the others, so none of the answers were influenced by each others answers. 

1. Do you want to continue learning about other countries and "traveling" the world from home in 2012? 
Aiden- Yes.
Eliana- ah-huh.
Preston- Yeah.
Raina- Yes, definitely.

2. Which country was your favorite to learn about?
Aiden- Mexico
Eliana- Greece
Preston- Pakistan
Raina- Morocco

3. Of the countries that we learned about, which food did you like best?
Aiden- Morocco and Mexico
Eliana- Pakistan
Preston- Australia and Ireland
Raina- Greece and Pakistan

4. What was your favorite craft that we did?
Aiden- The Mati necklaces and making The Mexican Flag.
Eliana- The PiƱata, because I liked painting it and I liked hitting it.
Preston- The PiƱata.
Raina- I really liked making the Matis, I like that they represent the evil eye are meant to ward off the bad. 

5. Which country had the best music?
Aiden- Mexico
Eliana- Mexico
Preston- Greece
Raina- Greece and Pakistan

6. Were there any animals that you hadn't heard of before learning about other parts of the world? Or animals that you were surprised lived in a particular place?
Aiden- I did not know about the animal in Pakistan. (The Markhor)
Eliana- A kangaroo. (Side note: I'm not really sure why she feels that this is the best answer as she has certainly heard of a kangaroo before, but that is her answer).
Preston- The markhor from Pakistan.
Raina- The markhor was an animal I had to google to see what it was. I also was shocked to learn about the hamsters in The Netherlands.

7.  Is there anything that you would like to change or add to our monthly "tours"?
Aiden- I would like to put on plays for each country.
Eliana- I want to learn more about what kids do (in each country).
Preston- I think it's good the way it is, but more snacks throughout the month would be good. 
Raina- I wouldn't mind sampling more foods throughout the month like afternoon snacks, etc. I also think it could be fun to expand our learning to include more information about design (but I don't know if that would interest anybody besides me in my family).

8. Choosing from the countries that we learned about, which one would you like to visit the most in real life?
Aiden- Mexico
Eliana- Pakistan
Preston- Greece and Ireland
Raina- Greece and Morocco

9. Was there anything that you learned about another country or culture that you really liked and/or would like to incorporate into our lives if possible? If yes, what?
Aiden- I like eating with my hands like they do in Morocco. 
Eliana- I would like to eat the fruit salad from Pakistan more. 
Preston- I would like to continue to celebrate the Day of The Dead. 
Raina- I am really fascinated by the idea of Sadaqas that are held in Morocco (40 days after a loved one dies, a Sadaqa is held and people come and bring food and anybody who shows up is welcome to come in and eat because Sadaqa means "charity"). Also, I think that we should continue to celebrate Dia de los Muertos.

10. What are two countries that you really hope we learn about in 2012? Why?
Aiden- Egypt, because I like to learn about ancient Egypt.
            Iceland, because it sounds cool. (how?) I don't know.                      
Eliana- Peru, because I like alpacas.
             St. Lucia, because ??? (I read a list of countries to her and that's the one she picked, I guess because it sounds cool :))
Preston- Russia, because I don't think I've ever eaten Russian food.
               Belize, because I want to learn about the rainforest and eat the food.
Raina- Cuba, because one of my favorite paintings was painted in Cuba and I have a Cuban friend that I went to college with that I think is pretty cool, so I'd like to learn about her culture a bit more. 
Cambodia, because I don't know nearly enough about Cambodia, but the flag looks ridiculously difficult to recreate, so I'm not sure yet. :).

So now that we have all answered the questions and we have wrapped up our 2011 "travels" nicely we are preparing for 2012. I am looking forward to starting a new year and a new country. I hope that you'll continue to follow along with us as we learn about this wonderful world. Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Winter Solstice

I mentioned in the last post that Thursday was The Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and we celebrate the return of light (longer days). 

Every year we celebrate by having a nice dinner by candle light. This year was no different. It is a nice time to enjoy our family without the craziness that the other winter holidays bring. Amongst the craziness is the shortage of time. Lucky for me, I planned ahead. Last month we made some yummy Guinness Stew to celebrate our Ireland "tour" and there was a lot left over, so, I stuck it in the freezer with the intention of having it for our solstice celebration. This planning ahead made my life so much easier. I popped into the grocery store and picked up a loaf of fresh bread from the bakery, we already had some cheese and sparkling juice at home that would round out the meal perfectly. 

The stew was more than a little hot as you can see by the steam rolling off of it in this picture. 
Does your family celebrate The Winter Solstice? Do you have any other traditions that give you and yours a chance to "stop" time and just be together? 

Coming soon: Wrapping it up, a fresh start, and we're on to the next country in January! Any guesses of where we are heading? 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

December Cheer

Today is The Winter Solstice and we will be having a yummy winter meal by candle light tonight. We will also be reading the book "The Shortest Day: Celebrating The Winter Solstice" By: Wendy Pfeffer. (this book is listed in my book list on the right hand side of the page) I will share photos on Monday. Today, I want to share how we have been enjoying this most wonderful time of the year.

You know how the holiday season seems to come out of nowhere and just kind of blindsides you? I think about it year round, trying to gather little gifts throughout the year to save for December, yet somehow every single year I find myself asking, "How the heck can it be Christmas time already?" Then panic ensues as we try to gather up all of the must have adornments (wreaths, trees, amaryllis, more lights, etc) and also try to find moments to slow down and enjoy each other. 

This year we set up our Christmas Tree in our living room, which was still not completely painted after a long process of renovating it. Since we wanted to make sure that we had our tree up in time to enjoy it and not get one at the last minute like we have done in the past and end up with a tree that is a sorry looking, lopsided, dried out mess among the few remaining at the lot, we bought before we were truly ready to put it in our living room (we were not going to fall into that trap for the second third fourth year in a row). So, we had an evening of decorating, listening to holiday music (songs like my all time favorite Christmas song) and enjoying our time together. We set the tree up in the middle of the living room with the expectation that paint on the window sill would be dry the next day and we could move the tree then. 

The next morning we woke to a tree that was beautifully decorated laying on the floor amongst several beautiful ornaments, shattered to pieces. 

I tried to convince myself that since the ornaments are only things and we should not be so invested in things when we there are so many more important things in life. I decided that I would not let the fact that ornaments that I had been saving since I was a little girl were broken bring me down. We had to clean up the mess, stand that tree back up and make some ornaments for it. 

I wanted to try to create some ornaments that were representative of the year we've had "traveling" the world while staying home. I decided that the best way to do this was to use salt dough and yes, you guessed it, Sculpey. 

We started out with the salt dough ornaments, using the recipe of one part, one part, two parts... one cup of salt, one cup of water and two cups of flour. We rolled them out, cut them using cookie cutters and then before putting them in the oven, I decided to try out a method that I found on Pinterest. We stamped them using rubber stamps. This way, when they came out of the oven (a few hours later) they would not need to be painted. I have a rubber stamp that is an image of the earth and I have some lovely Asian stamps with dragons and Kanji symbols for "Happiness", "Harmony" and "Love".

Eliana made the leaf and I made the star and tree.  

I also made one with an A.
Of course we made a few traditional style ones too (the shell ornament in the background with the beads is one that we made two years ago, we made several and they are still among my favorite ornaments) 

For the second part we used Sculpey. As you all know by now, I use Sculpey for a lot of projects, like this one and this one (there are so many more it's almost embarrassing. I have tried to steer away from the Sculpey a little bit, but it just seems to often be the best option for creating something with littles.)
So, since we have done so many projects with Sculpey, we had a lot of "left overs" hanging around. I pulled out the supplies and we got started. I thought that we should make each one somehow representative of one of the countries that we have learned about this year, but the kids didn't like that idea. Aiden wanted to make a pyramid which we decided was suitable since there are pyramids in Mexico (though his real intention was Egypt... which we have not yet "visited" in our travels). Eliana made a Mati, this time in green (see the Matis that we made when we learned about Greece here). Eliana and I together made a shamrock to represent Ireland. Then I let the kids make whatever they wanted while I worked on an ornament that was representative of Pakistan, my idea was not very creative, but I struggled with several ideas before I settled on the green and white "PK". I also made a clog to represent The Netherlands, and Eliana decided to make a mini clog as well, with a pearl on the toe. 


These are the ornaments that the kids made when left to be free and create. Aiden made the two rectangular ones and Eliana made the other three, the one in the top right corner is a bear incase you were wondering... isn't it lovely? I love these creations that my littles made, they make me happy. 
We didn't cover all of the countries that we learned about, but we got a few and I think those, coupled with the salt dough ornaments, will fill in our nearly naked tree just fine.  

I hope that those of you who celebrate Christmas have a very Merry one and that you are filled with delight and joy.

There's still time to make suggestions for our 2012 "Travels".

Monday, December 19, 2011

Books Books Books

Who doesn't love books? There have been a few posts where I mentioned a book that you might like to read with your littles, like this one, or this one. As I have said more than once, I like The Magic Tree House Books because they are very informative and fun with facts worked right into the adventures, but I get that not everybody has kids that are interested in those stories, or maybe they are just too long and you want to be able to finish the story in one night, not spread it out over several nights. There are lots of other books that I read with my littles that are relevant to what we are learning, as well. Some are about special occasions, like Dia de los Muertos and The Winter Solstice, some are fictional stories that take place in other countries, some are just general books about diversity among cultures. After linking to a few in my actual posts, I decided that it was high time for me to create a book list for my blog, a place where you can check out the books all in one place. So that is what I've done. I will be adding to this list over time as we discover more. Check it out on the right hand side of the page. 

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them if you have? Also, I'd love to hear suggestions of relevant books from you if you have any. 

*Hanukkah begins tomorrow (and ends on the 28th), Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Truth Be Told

Since we are all so busy with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we are taking the month "off" from learning about a specific country. This does not mean, though, that we aren't still working on some ideas. Remember the last post when I asked you to help us spin the globe? It's not too late to make suggestions, we will be scheduling our 2012 "tours" after the holidays are over. I am also working on some small changes for the blog (additions, really) that I will be letting you know about and we have a couple of simple projects that we are working on. In the mean time, I decided to give you a list of some of the truths that I have discovered (or have yet to reveal to you). They are in no particular order, just some random truths for you to soak up and perhaps help you if you decide that you too want to tour the world from the comfort of your home. 

TRUTH #1 (The Birth of Mamacita Spins The Globe): When I was pregnant with Aiden, I was laying down on partial bed rest (I had lots of time to think), I was thinking of the travels that I was missing. The travels that I would be missing since I was about to have a baby and not only would my wallet take a serious hit, but since I knew that I was planning to delay or skip some vaccinations, travel was going to be out of the question for quite some time. I laid there thinking, "Here I am in small town Maine, how on earth was I going to make sure that my child would know that the world was bigger than this?" At that moment, I had the idea. I was so excited that as soon as Preston got home from work, I told him all about this idea. "Wouldn't it be really cool when our kids are older if we choose a country each month to learn about and create crafts and eat foods from that country, so that our kids will be able to learn about diversity?" This was the first step, I knew that we would do this, I didn't know when, but I knew we would. Then, one day about a year ago, Aiden and I were talking and I mentioned this idea to him and suggested that maybe in a few years we would start doing this. He loved the idea so much that he wanted to start right away. After I made an announcement on Facebook about it, I had a few friends decide to adopt the idea and do the same with their families, then people were asking me to blog about it so that they could see what we were doing throughout the month. After "touring" several countries, I decided to try out the blogosphere. Then came giving a title to the blog, I had no idea it would be so hard, but after making lists and asking friends and family for ideas. I spent so much time searching to see if my ideas for names were already being used (most of them were), that I was a bit delirious and in my silliness, the blog was almost named "We Ate That Country", but since we do more than eat, I decided to keep thinking. Then, "Mamacita Spins The Globe" came to me and it felt like "the one". So, here I am Spinning the globe with my kids about five years earlier than I had expected and I am loving (almost) every minute of it.  

TRUTH #2: No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try to do the right thing, it will always come back to bite you. One of my biggest reasons for wanting to tour the world from home with my kids is because I wanted to make sure that they were exposed to the various cultures that our world has to offer. It has been wonderful and my kids have been learning some really great lessons and enjoying it as they learn. Recently, though, I learned that even the best lessons will mar you somewhere. Aiden who is seven refuses to use silverware while eating. We are constantly reminding him to use his fork.  A few days ago, in an act of desperation, I pulled out all of the stops. I told Aiden that he was "seven years old, not two years old and that it was time for him to start using a fork while he eats." Without missing a beat he says, "I'm a Moroccan, and Moroccans use their hands to eat." Immediately, I felt my argument start to drown, my mind raced with conflict, on one hand my child was retaining what we were learning, on the other he continued to eat with his hands. The time lapse of my thoughts made me realize that for this particular meal, my argument was dead in the water. Next time my argument will be less about demographics and more about geography, maybe that will help. (See the Moroccan posts here, here and here)

TRUTH #3: Months after learning about Australia I was at a family gathering and my cousin and I were talking about my blog. As we were discussing it he pointed out that in Australia shrimp is actually referred to as Prawns and therefore the correct terminology is "Prawns on The Barbie" not "Shrimp on The Barbie" as I had titled my Australian post (see it here). Since I always try to be authentic here, I contemplated adjusting the post title, but decided that since everyone who talked to me beforehand kept asking if we were having "shrimp on the barbie" and it is heard often here in The US as "shrimp on the barbie". I would stick with the quirky US way of doing it. But I definitely appreciate the information, and felt that I should share this tidbit with you. (Thanks, Sunny!)

TRUTH #4: Since starting this blog, I have been approached by several people who think that I am doing awesome things. This is great to hear, but it is almost always followed by, "you're making me look bad." or "now my husband keeps asking why I don't do this with our kids." or even "I am going to start sending my kids to your house." So, while I would love to let you all continue to be in awe of this and think that I am wonder woman, I must come clean. I am doing fun stuff with my kids. We are creating crafts and yummy foods. If it seems like I somehow have more time in my world than you do in yours, you are wrong. I have the same number of hours as you do, therefore if you don't have time to create a Mexican Flag, or cook an Irish meal because you are too busy doing laundry... guess what's not getting done at my house while I am busy spinning the globe? Instead of doing this adventure yourself, perhaps I could just invite you over to our house to join us for a celebration... it's not likely though, I don't like to have company when my house is a mess. :)

TRUTH # 5: Even though my kids love doing crafts and they are eager to learn about other countries, sometimes they just don't want to sit at the table and do it at that moment. There have been times when I had to make them sit and create. I don't want to mislead you and make you think that I force my kids into this, they love it and when I asked if they wanted to stop doing it they both quickly responded, "NO!" It's just that somedays they would rather play with legos, or watch a little TV instead of learning about the wildlife in a foreign country. With an endeavor like this, it really is necessary to have some kind of schedule, things can get bumped around a bit if you need to, but if you plan on having a celebratory dinner at the end of the month, you had better have planned the meal. 

So, there it is, simple truths of life over here at our globe spinning household in small town, Maine. Have you ever wondered about anything I do here? Please feel free to ask away, I am feeling a bit honest right now, so I will probably even answer you truthfully ;)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Help Us Spin The Globe

As you have (hopefully) figured out by now, each month we learn about a new country. This past year we made a list of countries that we wanted to learn about and then we put them in a hat and selected which one we would learn about each month. I have had several people ask, "When are you going to do Thailand, India, Cuba, etc." So, I thought it would be fun if my readers helped line up our countries for next year. There are a few that we want to be sure make the list, ones that we ended up having to bump from this year for one reason (living room renovation) or another (unexpected trip out of town) and ones that we have been inspired to learn about. So please comment here and add your suggestions. When we have a list compiled, we will once again, draw from the hat to determine each month's destination and they will be written on the calendar (this is almost like setting it in stone).

If you need a little inspiration, or you just want some entertainment, check out this video. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Slainte (Ireland)

We have made the Irish Tri-Color, written our names in a style that was inspired by the Celts, made table decorations, and stamped our passports. The only thing left to do on our tour of Ireland was eat. I found some Irish music and created the trivia questions to be asked during dinner. 

The table was set. 

The lovely tea towel in the middle of the table was another gift from my parents when they recently visited Ireland. 
The menu has been created and now it's time to get cooking. Irish Soda Bread, Irish Guinness Stew (a vegetarian and a beef version), and Butter Tart Squares were being cooked up in our globe spinning household. I made a nonalcoholic version of Irish Rose to drink (which is one part lemon juice,one part cherry juice and three parts soda water). 

I bought some Dubliner Cheese imported from Ireland at the grocery store.
I had never had it before, but it was really good cheese and I plan to buy it again.

Yummmmmm. This food was all so delicious, and as we were sitting and enjoying this scrumptious hearty spread, I realized that one of the best parts was how easy it all was. The bread took next to no time to make (and has only four ingredients). The stews, while there was some time involved with cutting all of the vegetables, were just left to cook once put together. To make this process a little easier, I did combine the two recipes a little bit, by picking my favorite ingredients from each recipe and then adding beef to only one. The dessert was only slightly more labor intensive than the bread. We decided that every part of this meal was something that we want to eat again, and since it was so easy to make, it is very likely that we will eat it all again. In fact, just writing about it is making me hungry again. I'm off to scrounge up some left overs. Slainte! (Cheers!)

Coming Soon: I'm asking you for your input, preparing for the winter holidays, and dishing up some honesty. 

JUST FOR FUN: If you're looking for a good book to read to your littles that offers some information about the Irish Monks and The Vikings, check out The Magic Tree House Book # 15 "Viking Ships at Sunrise" by Mary Pope Osbourne. It has Jack and Annie trying to rescue a book from the Monks before the Vikings attack and take it. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Giveaway Follow Up and Stamping Our Passports

Wow! What fun that was! If you missed it, I had my first ever giveaway last week, sponsored by k8 tails and it was fun to see how many people were getting involved. There were a few kinks with the commenting, but I worked them out at the very end (I think) and everybody got their comments in. Our lucky winner was comment number 14, "Single New York City Girl" who is looking forward to wearing her k8 tail around NYC (and hopefully starting a new major fashion buzz)! A big thanks to Kate at k8 tails for sponsoring this giveaway!

With the little detour of a giveaway, we are back on track to making our potato stamp and stamping our passports for Ireland. 

Since last time I didn't show exactly *how* I did them, I decided that this time, I would share the steps that I take for potato stamping, in case you decided to try something like this with your littles. 

It's all pretty basic, but the first step is to cut the potato in half. This half of a potato is going to be the stamp.

Then, I drew the design on a piece of paper with marker. I was using the country names at first, but when I got to The Netherlands, I had to switch to the abbreviation and decided that I would continue doing abbreviations for the rest. The abbreviation for Ireland is IE. I also like to put the date, so that when we are old and can't remember all of these details, it will be easier to know when we did this. 

The next thing I did was press the cut side of the potato onto the design.

If you look closely, you can see that the marker transfered slightly from the paper to the potato.

Then, I used the marker and traced the lines on the potato just to make them a bit easier to see for cutting. 

For the carving, I learned last time that the best tool is actually a mini screw driver. If you have kids, then you must have one laying around somewhere, because most of the toys that require batteries have teensy little screws and thus a need for a teensy little screwdriver. 

After making a backward stamp the first time I made potato stamps, I learned that a trial run is always a good idea, because you just never know what's going to happen. 

Since it looked great, we stamped our passports (see how I made the passports here).

Have you tried making a potato stamp? Or do you stick to eating your potatoes? Have you ever tried using some other kind of food for an art medium? (I once painted with mustard, and on another occasion stained plaster with coffee and tea).

Coming Soon: Our Irish feast, "Trip" planning for next year, and some winter holiday festivities! 

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD: In some parts of Europe Sinterklass is being celebrated today. Similar to Christmas, but different. Click the link and check  it out!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's A Giveaway!

Just in time for the holiday chaos cheer to get started, I am hosting my first ever giveaway! Kate over at K8Tails is sponsoring this giveaway by letting one lucky reader choose a K8 tail from her colorful selection, or customize with colors of your choice. 

K8 Tails are, as she describes, neckcessories. It's a metamorphosis of a necklace and a scarf and can be worn several different ways. Using high quality yarns and beads, she creates beautiful combinations of color that can suit many looks, including a business professional look, or a casual look. 

Here are a few of my favorites.
Snap Dragon
Candy Dots
And if you're wondering how to wear a K8 Tail, check out the pics below for ideas, or get creative and try your own way. 

Also for anyone who wants to go ahead and order a K8 Tail or two, place an order within the next 10 days and enter the code "MSTG" at checkout for a 10% discount (offer ends December 11, 2011 at 11:59 pm EST). 

Here's how to win:
Share this post with your friends on facebook, then comment telling me that you shared it, and tell me what you would do if you won a K8 Tail. Would you give it as gift? Would you give it to yourself as a gift? Would you wear it to your company holiday party? 
(I can't send you a message to tell you that you've won if you don't join this site, so you'll have to join this site under the Followers heading.)

AND, for a second chance to win, head over K8 Tails' facebook page and give her a "like", then come back and type a second comment saying, "I Like K8 Tails". 

I will be using random number generator to select the winner, so if you want to be entered twice, it is necessary to make your comments as two separate comments and not one. 

The Rules: 
- Prize will be shipped to US addresses only. (Apologies to my readers from afar, I'm working on future giveaways to include you as well!)
- A Winner will be selected using Random Number Generator (therefore all friends and family are invited to enter, Happy Holidays :))
- Contest ends at 8:00 pm EST on December 2, 2011
- Winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize after being notified, if the winner does not claim their prize, then random number generator will be used to find a back up winner.
- Prize will be shipped within 3-5 days of the date that the winner has made their selection. 
- Prize will be shipped via standard ground shipping.

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