Monday, October 8, 2012

Close To Home

There are times of the year when things get pretty busy and trying to juggle things can get nearly impossible. This past weekend was one of those weekends for us. We had to put our St. Lucia activities on hold and we spent most of the weekend at a local Pumpkinfest. You may have a Pumpkinfest near you, and I'm not sure what kind of events take place at yours, but at the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest, there is a parade, children's activities, pumpkin hurling, 180 foot pumpkin drop, and a pumpkin boat regatta. 

This boat regatta is pretty impressive! People hollow out big pumpkins and turn them into boats. They then race these boats in the cold cold water (seriously, it's cold!). Some have motors, some use paddles. All in all it is incredibly entertaining to watch. Sadly, this year we had to miss the race, as we had other commitments around town. But, I found this video on Youtube from the 2011 Regatta, it's pretty long, but if you watch just a few minutes of it, you'll get the idea of the silliness of it all. Though I should add, some of these racers take it very seriously.  

In addition to those events, there are giant pumpkins lining the streets in front of local businesses. They are decorated by local artists. Some are cute, some are pretty, some are funny and some are scary, but they are all impressive. 

There's this cute little (big) pug. 
This really bad, big bad wolf (notice the bit of red in his teeth). 
Then there is this guy. He sits in front of one of our favorite Damariscotta restaurants, King Eider's Pub, where we enjoyed several meals this weekend. 

The big event for us this year was The Pumpkin Derby. My littles each made a little pumpkin "car" to join in the fun and race down a hill. The rules are limited, but they must not weigh more than 20 pounds and they can be decorated however you choose, as long as the kids decorate them themselves. I'm sure you can imagine how fun this is for kids. 

This year, Aiden was inspired by Star Trek and made his with a Star Trek Enterprise on top. The pumpkin itself was painted to look like a black night sky with stars. 

Eliana painted hers with pinks, blues, a little yellow and a nice magenta toucan on it (she insists that you MUST see her toucan before moving on). 

We got up bright and early and headed to Damariscotta for registration and weigh in. Aiden's weighed 17 pounds, Eliana's weighed 14 pounds. PHEW, no dis-qualifiers!  

Now the fun can begin. Here they are at the starting line. El is on the left and Aiden is in the middle. (Preston can be spotted in his orange hoodie walking away from the starting line, with his coffee in hand.) 

And they're off! 

When these three pumpkins stopped, Aiden's was the farthest out, but if you revisit the picture above, you can see that the little guy on right had a headless horseman on his pumpkin and the pumpkin did a nose dive, so it didn't go a qualifying distance, so they had to  do a re-start. 

This time around, you can see Aiden's pumpkin veering off to take out the competition (sorry kid, I promise it was an accident) and Eliana's is racing. Though her pumpkin only made it a few feet off of the ramp, she won this race. Aiden was so proud of his sister and Eliana just wanted to eat her croissant that we had bought her for breakfast. 

Eliana gearing up for the first semi-final race. 

Yes! She won the first of the semi-final races! You can see the competition rolling over and Eliana's, again veers off the track only a few feet away from the ramp, but it's enough to make her the winner of this round. 

When we told Eliana that she had to go race again, she said, "Aww man." Still thinking about her uneaten croissant. When we saw who her competition was this time around, we knew this would be the end of it for her because the competing pumpkin made it to the bottom of the hill in every prior race and Eliana's only made it 5 feet at most.  

Somehow, this pink and blue toucan pumpkin was like a hustler in a game of pool, this time around, it went straight as can be and made it all the way down the hill, leaving the "deer pumpkin" in the dust.  

With one only one more race left to the semi-finals, Eliana's pumpkin was racing two other pumpkins for chance to move on to the finals. 

This time around, the gold pumpkin in the middle went the distance and Eliana's didn't win. It was a fun adventure, but since at this point Eliana was hoping that it would end, we were happy to be able to hand her breakfast and let her enjoy the moment of glory, of finally being able to lose a round. 

I know that it probably seems like we were holding her breakfast for ransom, but really, things just kept moving so quickly, we thought she'd have time to eat in between heats, but since she kept winning (which again, we hadn't really anticipated since there were some pretty serious pumpkin racers there), we kept having to take her food away and send her back to the starting line. 

Be sure to check out the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest website to see more photos of the pumpkins and activities. I have no doubt that there will soon be a video of this years pumpkin boat regatta there as well. 

We're working on our script for our skits and still trying to agree on decide how many props are really necessary. 

What did you do over the weekend? Did you enjoy any pumpkin activities? How about make your kids work for their breakfast ;) ? Did you work on preparing your house for winter? Or maybe you took a much needed break? 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Skittle Skittle Skittle

I may live to regret this, or I may not live long enough to regret it, but we are about to do something entirely new. There is one aspect of this global tour that I have avoided with great care. One thing that my Aiden has been asking for since our very first country. 

Aiden thinks it would be fantastic to do a play. Yes, a play. Now, I know that many of you probably think it sounds great, but here's the thing: I know nothing about writing a play, organizing a cast (yes, he wants to invite friends to join) or putting together a set design, we have a little house that won't easily accommodate a "crew" or an audience when they are ready to perform. Because of these reservations, I have not agreed to do a play. For a good long stretch, Aiden would ask me each month, "Can we do a play this month?" and every single month, I said, "Not this time buddy." Eventually, he stopped asking. 

This month, while reading about the history of St. Lucia, I read (many times) that there is little known about the history of St. Lucia, but what is known sounds fantastic! We're talking an Amerindian race that liked to wear beads and feathers, Caribs who overpowered them. Pirates! A good old ridiculously long war. Then finally much later, independence at the hand of a man who was referred to as Ti Jesi (Little Jesus) or Ti Hache (the small axe). This little bit of history really has all things that appeal to a little. Well, really Pirates are all we needed ;) 

So, with a great reluctance, I decided that I would "spring the news on Aiden" that this month we were going to do, "a play of sorts". I told him that we would do a series of small skits. This feels more manageable to me and won't require a big set and costume design department. He was thrilled and is already talking about props, cast, crew members and writing the script. 

While I read to Aiden and Eliana about the history of St. Lucia, Aiden took notes. 

Butefl rainforists (Beautiful rain forests), Arawaks, caribs, king= caciques, 16 cent, base for pitrits (pirates), attak puerto rico (attack)
From those notes, we made another list of how we'd break it down. There are going to be 4 skits and each one will represent a part of St. Lucia's history. I'm not sure exactly at this point how it is all going to come together, but follow along and see what happens. You'll either be delightfully inspired by our brilliance, or delightfully entertained by our failure. Either way, it should be delightful! 

If you happen to be one of our neighbors and would like to be involved, or have your little be involved in this project, let me know. Aiden has big plans of involving the neighborhood on this one. (Oh, and if you have a big space for putting on a show, can we do this at your house? ;)) 

Monday, October 1, 2012

St. Lucia Side Dish

OK, so finding the right title for this post wasn't easy. Usually after our craft, we make a snack that is from the country that we are currently learning about. St. Lucia is a hard one to pin point, plenty of recipes from The Caribbean, not so many that specify where in The Caribbean. At any rate, we woke up Sunday morning to a cold and dark rainy day. My first thought was that I didn't even want to get out of bed, but my next was, let's heat this house up with some cooking. On a day like this, the only real option for a food that will soothe the chills, is soup. I found a recipe that looked delicious, but was not from St. Lucia. So, I searched for a nice yummy bread to go with our soup. So, calling it a snack is a bit of a stretch, though they could easily be snacks as well. 

What I found was "Hot Bakes". I put that in quotation marks because when I think of something that has the word bake in the title I assume that it is baked. In this case, these little breads are fried. There was no picture to accompany the recipe, so I'm not sure what size they were supposed to be, but I decided it would be nice for us to have some individual little breads to dip in our soup. I also used a mix of whole wheat and all purpose flour, so they started out golden brown, instead of turning golden brown when they were done. 

I served up our dinner and stuck the little hot bake right in the soup. They were super yummy little breads. 

My littles agreed. 

The recipe for the St Lucia Hot Bakes is here. And even though the soup isn't a St. Lucia recipe, if you are inclined to give it a shot. It is honey roasted parsnip soup and it is oh so delicious! You can find that recipe here.

What did you do over the weekend? Did you sample any new foods? Was it cold and wet where you are, maybe you just stayed in bed? 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Animals of St. Lucia Art Project

A few months ago we (my dad and Preston) built a new deck off the back of our house and when the mess was being cleaned up I saved a few wooden blocks out for a future project. Though I had no idea of what the project might be, they were nice enough pieces of wood that I felt they'd be used. 

When my littles and I were trying to decide what kind of project we might do that featured animals of St. Lucia, I was thrilled to remember that we had these blocks of wood and since my littles love to paint, it seemed like a great idea to paint these blocks of wood. 

We gathered up our supplies and each of us selected an animal that we wanted to paint.

Eliana was conflicted about whether to paint a sea turtle or a lizard, but she settled on a lizard. 

Aiden has had a fascination with snakes for a while now, so I wasn't surprised that he chose to paint a St. Lucia racer. The St. Lucia racer is a snake that was considered extinct until the 1970s when someone discovered one. It has been called the rarest snake in the world and it is believed that there are only 18 of them in existence (though some reports say as many as 100) and all of them are on the island of St. Lucia. The St. Lucia racer is no where near as dangerous as the snakes that Aiden is obsessed with these days (ie: King Cobra), as it is a gentle snake, but it's a snake none the less and Aiden wanted to paint it. 

Aiden is using the hair dryer to speed up the drying process (he takes after with me his lack of patience).
Clearly he's pretty hard core about his art. Paint on the face is nothing to bat an eyelash at.  
 When we were done, we had some colorful paintings and a minor mess to clean up. 

Eliana with her lizard. See it? It's the blue part on the right. The spot of green on the left corner is a banana cluster, which is the biggest export of St. Lucia and considered to be "Green Gold". 
Aiden with his St. Lucia racer. 
My St. Lucia Parrot with some green bananas as well. (I know, it may be time for me to head back to art school for a crash course or two).

Have you done any painting projects with your littles lately? How about used some scrap of wood (or other material) that was left over from a project? 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cinderella Around The World: Caribbean Book Review

A few weeks a go I received an email from Becky over at Kid World Citizen. She was  organizing a group of bloggers to review different Cinderella stories from around the world. She included me in the invitation to join in the fun. I was thrilled to receive an invite for this project, but admittedly I was reluctant at first for a couple of reasons. 

First of all, I'm not a big fan of Cinderella stories. My littles have not read the books or seen the movies of the Disney produced princess stories because I am one of those moms who doesn't want to teach my daughter that she needs a prince to rescue her, or teach my son that it is his job to rescue a woman (yes, I was one of the people who eagerly awaited the release of Brave, since it was the first princess story, besides Tangled, where the princess did not need or want someone to rescue her). Of course, they are familiar with the stories because we don't live under a rock and the Disney princesses are everywhere. 

The second reason that I was reluctant was because I wasn't sure how it would fit into our own world explorations. In the end I decided that it would be cool for all of us to see how these stories are told around the world and somehow we would make it fit. I knew that we were going to be learning about St. Lucia next so when Becky sent out a list of suggestions, I was thrilled to see that there was one that originates in The West Indies, Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella By Robert D. San Souci. 

The book is spotted with some French Creole (thank goodness for the glossary in the back) and all of the characters have brown hair and brown skin. 

This Cinderella story is similar in many ways to the well known Disney version, but it is also different. There is a young girl (Cendrillon) whose step mother is cruel and forces her to work like a servant. Her godmother though, is not a fairy, but a real woman who possesses a magic wand. The story is also narrated by the godmother. When Cendrillon comes to her to tell her of the ball that she is not allowed to attend, she tells of the ball. It is a party for a man named Paul and "He is so handsome and well spoken, he's like a prince. Yet he is kind." (p.9) 

On the night of the ball, the godmother waves her wand and changes a breadfruit into a coach, and agoutis, lizards and a manicou become horses, footmen and coachman. Then the godmother waves her wand and Cendrillon is wearing a blue velvet dress and beautiful jewels, along with pink embroidered slippers. The godmother also waves the wand on herself and is adorned in a "fine red dress" so that she may chaperone Cendrillon. 

The rest of the story is pretty parallel to the Cinderella story that most of us know, they go to the ball, they leave in a hurry when the clock strikes midnight and get away just before they are returned to their servant clothes and the animals that had been horses, footmen and a coachman, scurry away. When prince-like (but kind) Paul goes about the next day looking for the beautiful young woman that he had danced with the night before, Cendrillon's step mother tries to squeeze her daughter's foot in while lying that there is no other young woman in the home. 

The godmother waves her wand and makes Cendrillon look as she did the night before and Cendrillon tells her, "no" because she felt that the only reason that Paul liked her was because of the magic of the wand and not for who she really is. So the godmother waves her wand again and Cendrillon is transformed back to her normal self. Paul sees Cendrillon and slips the slipper on to her foot and tells her, "You are as beautiful this minute as you were last night." Then they got married and one can assume that they lived happily ever after. After all, there was plenty of chocolate sherbet, so really how could anyone not live happily ever after with that around? 

After reading the book I asked my littles, if they thought someone could get married after only having known each other for a few hours at a ball. Aiden said, "Definitely not." I tend to agree. However I will say that while this story carries a lot of the same messages as the Disney version, it felt a little less fairytale-ish since they were not royalty and while the man did "save" the woman from her wicked step mother, he saw her as she was and not as a woman in a fancy dress. I also appreciate the fact that Cendrillon insisted that her godmother put her back to normal before she saw Paul. Oh, and there was none of that glass slipper nonsense, who can really walk in those anyway? 

When Becky does her post with links to all of the other Cinderella Around the World Reviews, I will share the link with you all. 

Have you read any Cinderella stories from around the world? Did you find that they were parallel to the well known Disney version? Were there any quirky details that made you smile, such as the bit about Paul being like a prince, but kind? (This makes me chuckle like you wouldn't believe.) 

UPDATE 10/12/12: Here is the link the the Kid World Citizen post that compiles all of the stories reviewed for this project.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Island Life For Us... Almost.

After winding down our summer vacation, and sending the kids back to school, I had big things planned for starting a virtual tour of a new country. If you "like" us on facebook, then you already know, I got hit with the "start of the school year virus" that happens every year. I'm slowly recovering and finally feeling well enough to get back to our world tour. 

We started out by making a trip to the library to pick up a few books (which I will be telling you about soon). The first project we always do is create a flag for our "destination" country. This time, we are super excited to be heading through The Caribbean Sea to The West Indies and setting our sights on St. Lucia. 

St. Lucia was a country that made it's way to the list back when we mapped out our year. We put a bunch of countries in the hat and pulled out which ones we'd be learning about. The list was comprised of readers' suggestions, our personal interests and of course we spun the globe a few times. St. Lucia was one that Eliana had heard the name and her heart was set on learning about it. So, now, she is one of the happiest littles around because "finally" we are learning about St. Lucia, the country that she has come to call "My country". 

So here, it is, our recreation of the flag of St. Lucia. 

We've got some fun ideas for the upcoming weeks. I hope you'll check back in with us and see what we're doing! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

You're Where???

Last week I told you that I was excited to have been blogging for a year and that it has been a really fun journey for me, learning about the blogosphere, and getting to know other bloggers.

A couple of months ago my brother came to visit and we were discussing my blog and tracking page views and traffic sources. I told him that one of the things I have enjoyed since the beginning was seeing where people were reading from. I told him that I have hits from all over the world and that I was certain I had followers in more than a few countries, based on my page views. The next thing he said almost stole my thunder (it would have, but I was to busy being excited about having readers from around the world that I didn't let it.) He asked, "Are you sure that they're people and not robots?" Who? What? Robots? Are you kidding me? So maybe I don't have people in Russia reading my blog???? 

These are the top 10 countries viewing my blog. NOW, I don't even know who's really viewing it. Thanks to my brother, pfft. :D

So, now that I've shared that I may or may not have people reading from around the world, not just here in The United States, I thought it would be really cool if you would comment below and tell me where you live. No, I don't want your address, just which country, or if you live in The United States, which state. I think it would be interesting to see and fun to share with my littles. 

If you actually are in Russia reading this, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE post a comment, so that I can give my brother a Bronx Cheer. If you are not in Russia, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE comment, I really would love to hear from you! Don't worry if it's not in English, I will use to read your comments! 

Thanks a bunch for reading! I am having such a fun ride. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hitting The First Mile Marker

As I mentioned in my last post, I have come upon a big milestone. To some of you, this might not seem like a big deal, but to me, I feels like an occasion to celebrate. Sometime last year, we started this journey of virtually touring countries around the world and after several people poked and prodded and practically begged me to start a blog, I did just that. On August 31, 2011 I posted my first ever blog post. I wrote more on my journey of becoming a blogger in my "Truth Be Told" post last December, you can check it out here.

In my first blog post,  I shared the journey of our study of Greece. This was one of my favorite posts. I'm not sure if it was because I was finally making the leap into blogging, or if I just loved it, because it was the beginning of our journey. Either way, it still remains one of my favorite posts. Sadly, as I learned, the first blog post gets very little attention, though, slightly more than the second since all of my friends wanted to check out what I was up to and now many of them get the idea and don't read anymore. I know, my own friends don't read. I can't fault them for not being interested though. What I am doing here is for my children, whether people read or not. 

When I decided to start blogging, I was nervous and excited all at the same time. I had never even considered blogging and I knew very little about the blogosphere. Admittedly, I know very little about the blogosphere still, but at least now, I feel a bit more welcome. I have gotten to "know" other bloggers and many have welcomed me with loving arms. I've seen my page view stats go from around 15 to 268 on some posts! (My top "hit" post is this one, of how we made Cuban banana leaf placemats.) It has been a fun journey to say the least. 

Thank you all for reading and for taking this journey with us. In the next few posts I am going to tell a bit more of my journey as a blogger, though I won't be offering any tips since I'm still a "puppy" in the blogosphere and fumbling my way through. I am also working on another giveaway. I hope that you'll all continue to join us as we forge ahead. 

And everyday!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Saying Goodbye To India

I know that some of you probably think that after my failed attempt at Aam Panna, I threw in the towel all together on this world adventure that we are on. I assure you that I don't quit that easily. I do however, take a somewhat last minute camping trip with my littles before the school year starts. I could tell you about how we drove nearly 4 hours to a State Park campground, or how we made up a story of a teeny tiny hedgehog that was about to start kindergarten (coincidentally, Eliana is starting Kindergarten). I could tell you about playing Go Fish and Crazy Eights in the tent when the rain came, or hiking on a beautiful trail while the rain lightly sprinkled. I could tell you about finding a fun recipe on Pinterest for campfire cones which we definitely had to try, or how early one morning when the tide was low Preston and the littles headed out to dig for clams and get covered in mud. I COULD tell you all about how much we enjoyed each other for the last little bit of summer before school starts, but I won't. Instead I will share of other delights.

Before we headed out of town for a few days, we finished up our tour of India. We knew we were ready, because we had made the flag, made animal batik inspired artwork, read wonderful books (Yes, I know. For those of you who are keeping score, I did promise more book reviews, so let's agree to chalk this up to a regretfully broken promise. I'll make it up to you somewhere), and had a surprise India lesson on an adventure to the local children's museum. 

Of course, I had Indian music playing as I spent the afternoon in my kitchen preparing for our end of the month/ end of the tour of India dinner. I set up our dining room buffet with our globe, the flag that we made and the books that we borrowed from the library. I really like to keep the books handy during our dinners, because we always end up discussing something that we read in one of them and decide to flip through and revisit some of the stories at the end. 

We ate vegetable pakoras, dal kachori served with mango chutney, chicken vindaloo, and aloo palak. We drank ginger fruit punch. In other words, we washed down a whole bunch of yummy with some yummy.    

While we ate, we continued to listen to Indian music, we discussed all that we had learned about India. I asked the trivia questions that I created to gauge what my littles had learned. (If you're new to my blog, don't miss out on the trivia fun, make sure you click the link to see what we talked about.) We discussed where we were heading next and an upcoming big milestone (don't worry, I'll share that with you next time). 

Just so you can see this meal, from my perspective, here is a shot of my dinner plate.

Incase you feel like you missed out on those things that I decided not to tell you about, here is a little snippet of our summer send off. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Indian Drink Debacle

Here we are ready to sample our first taste of homemade Indian treats. We searched through many recipes and settled on Aam Panna. Aam Panna is a mango drink with mint and other spices. Since we love all things Mango (and they happened to be on sale at our local grocery store this week), this was an ideal option for us. 

We started with six green mangos. 

The next step is to boil the mangos. This step really surprised me as I have never boiled them before, but I dropped these green beauties in and turned up the heat. 

The part that surprised me the most was the color change. I don't know why I was surprised, most foods change color when cooked, but for some reason I was surprised to see the bright green turn to a dull olive green tone. 

I then peeled the mangos and pitted them. The recipe that I was following said to mash them with a spoon, but they were way too tough for that. I decided to puree them in the blender.

This next step was one that had me worried. We were to add cumin, chili powder, salt, sugar, mint and water. We like all of these ingredients, but combining them seemed a bit strange.

Ingredients added.  

 Well they looked delicious...

Sadly, this Aam Panna earned thumbs down all around. The sweet and savory flavors did not mix as well as we had hoped. The upside is that we decided that if we put it in the freezer and pull it out on a cold winter's evening add some more savory ingredients, perhaps some black beans, it will make a delicious soup. Yes, that's right a drink that we anticipated would taste sweet and yummy with those beautiful green mangos will become a savory soup some cold night in the future. 

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