Monday, January 30, 2012

Cubano Que Come (Cuban Eating)

Last night we had our end of the month Cuban Celebration. I got up early and started cooking and spent the entire day in the kitchen. When we sat down at the table and started eating, I found that spending an entire day in the kitchen produces delicious results. 

We decorated the table with the Cuban Tody Birds that we made here, and the banana leaves that we made here
We ate Pollo y Queso (chicken and cheese) Empanadas, Cuban Papaya Salad, Cuban Bread, and Cuban Style Beans and Rice topped with Picadillo. The littles drank Mango Juice and the grown ups drank Mojitos and Cuba Libres.  
My dinner plate. Yes, all of that went into my belly. YUM!

While we ate, we listened to Celia Cruz radio on Pandora, and I asked Cuban trivia questions. After we ate, I was so full that I was almost disappointed that I had made dessert too and would have to squeeze more food in. Almost. 
For dessert we had Cuban Mango Bread and Cuban Pudding. 
With all kinds of yumminess in our bellies, we sat and chatted with my parents, who were our guests again this month, and geared up for the final step of our Cuban Celebration. Check back on Thursday to see how we concluded our "tour" of Cuba. (HINT: there is a clue in this paragraph.)

Don't forget to "like" Mamacita Spins The Globe on Facebook to see what we are up to between blog posts. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Cuban Legend and A Wedding Cake

Every month I try to find a book to read with my littles that is a story from the country that we are studying. There are plenty of non fiction books as well as tons of information on the internet, that we use for researching the countries, but I also like to read books that are fiction stories, inspired by the culture that we are learning about. While searching for a book that would be good for their ages as well as being from Cuba, I found "The Child of The Sun: A Cuban Legend" Retold by Sandra Arnold.

This book is pretty hard to find (at least around here), so we had to order a used one from Amazon, but we aren't too picky about the newness of our books, now that the kids aren't little enough to be chewing on them anymore. When the book arrived Aiden and Eliana were so excited that they tore the package open and we read it right then. 

The Child of The Sun is based on a legend that is told by The Ciboney people, who were indigenous Cubans, to explain the solar eclipse. Mother Earth has two children, the sun and the moon. She asks them to take turns watching over the Earth while she sleeps. The sun decides to create a man, but the man gets lonely, so the moon creates a woman to keep the man company. The sun gets increasingly jealous that his child (the man) does not love only him and through a series of events ends up nearly killing the earth by refusing to set. As punishment, Mother Earth asks the moon to cover him up. He promises to follow the rules and the moon moves so that the sun may shine, but every now and then then the moon covers the sun to remind him of his promise. 

This story is fairly long and Eliana (age 4) got bored with it, but Aiden (age 7) really liked it. I enjoyed the story as well and the pictures were very nice. I will say that if your littles tend to get frightened easily, there were parts of the story that could be scary for them. The sun seems pretty mean and even kidnaps a baby. It has a happy ending though and we found it to be a very interesting perspective on a solar eclipse. (I have added it to my book list on the right side of the page.)

Have you read any cultural stories or folk tales lately? What kinds of books do your littles enjoy? Do they like scary ones like Aiden does, or do they only like stories that are happy from start to finish like Eliana does?

My friend Lissette has been giving me some tips along the way this month and one of the things that she did was send me photos from her grandparents' wedding in Cuba. They were all so beautiful, and I am sharing one of the photos that really fascinated me. 

I love that if you look closely, you can see kids peeking in through the window behind the bride and groom. 
I was very curious about the ribbons that all of the women were holding onto. After a bit of research, I discovered that a traditional Cuban wedding cake often had something extra. They would embed ribbons in the cake so that one end was in the cake while the other end hung loosely. At the cake end of one of the ribbons was a ring. At the wedding, all of the single women would take a ribbon and pull, the one that pulled the ribbon with the ring, would be projected to be the next bride. This is similar to a bride tossing her bouquet. 
*I also read that some families would have one ribbon that was attached to a thimble, the woman that pulled the thimble was presumed to become an old maid. Yikes! 

Coming Soon: We are busy preparing for our end of the month Cuban Celebration. Make sure you check back next week to see how we celebrated.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Year of The Black Water Dragon

Last week I posted about banana leaf place mats and a potato stamp for Cuba. We are having a great time learning about Cuba and to be honest, we don't really want the end to be drawing near, but today, I am going to tell you about our weekend fun. We got invited to a Chinese New Year Party, so we decided to leave Cuba for a night and celebrate the Lunar New Year with friends. (Don't worry, we'll be back to Cuba on Thursday.) 

Andrea over at Remains of Day, asked if we would like to join her and her family along with another family for a celebration. I did a little research and found a recipe for Nian Gao. Nian Gao, is also known as Chinese New Year Cake. It is considered good luck to eat this during the New Year festivities. The recipe that I found was for baked instead of steamed cake. Yes, steamed cake. I'm not really sure how one is to steam a cake, but given that the baked version looked insanely easy, I opted for that. If you make this, be sure to read the reviews and be prepared for the beans to mix right into the batter, the recipe says to layer it, but the batter is actually quite thin (and I even had to add more cooking time).  

On the way over in the car, Aiden asked me, "Was I born in 2004?" "Yes", I replied. "Woohoo! I'm a Monkey", he shouted. When I asked him how he knew that he said that he learned it from watching Jackie Chan, then followed it with, "You just never know what you'll learn from Jackie Chan." Indeed you don't. (Just incase you're wondering, it's this Jackie Chan, not this one.)Then, I asked him if he knew what 2012 was the year of and he said, "Yeah, the Black Water Dragon." It was then, that I realized, either my first grader knew more than me (I was going to say, "The year of the dragon."), or he was embellishing the Dragon. 

When we arrived Andrea was busy making homemade fortune cookies! I was blown away by her ambition. I always try to make as much as I can at home, but I would never have even thought to attempt fortune cookies. She looked at me and said, "My boys keep saying that this is the year of The Black Water Dragon?!?!?" Obviously, this is an occasion that I needed to make Google my friend. As it turns out, the year 2012 is, in fact the year of the Black Water Dragon. I could try to explain it to you, but since my 7 year old knew it before I did, I'm thinking you might as well read about it yourself here.

Andrea mastering the fortune cookies.
The kids started playing and of course my kids found the music instruments pretty early on. Sometimes when we go to other people's houses it's as if they've never seen music instruments before, even though we have an overflowing basket of noise makers at home. 

Eliana with a tambourine. Sadly, I have no pictures of them banging away on the drum set.
After the other guests arrived we made egg rolls, the kids played and we enjoyed some nice music (other than what was being created by the children, Andrea had some very relaxing Chinese music playing).

The delicious dinner: Egg rolls, broccoli and rice, peanut noodles, two different kinds of tofu, and kimchi. 
After we ate, Andrea helped the kids make dragon puppets, with construction paper, printed dragons and sticks.
Eliana and her completed dragon.
The boys working on their dragons.

 After the dragons were complete, we all sat back down for dessert. We could finally sample Andrea's fortune cookies and the Nian Gao that I made.

Aiden about to break open his fortune cookie. His fortune: You will like green vegetables.
Eliana showing me her fortune: You will be lucky. WOW! Good one.
My dessert plate, with my fortune after I took it out of the cookie. "You will be happy."
Preston's fortune said: You will grow 2 inches.
After dessert, the littles played while the adults socialized a bit longer, in a very adult and non-kid like way, as Andrea is demonstrating in the next photo.

I can't remember why, but Andrea is doing "The Robot" and quite beautifully I might add.
Me with Andrea right before it was time to go home. 
If the evening that we just celebrated with our friends was any indication, then I'd say that my fortune was spot on. We had a great time and we are looking forward to all of the luck, happiness, and green vegetables in the new year, even if those of who are not growing up anymore end up growing two inches (out). 

幸福的新年 (Happy New Year) 

Coming Soon: We're "heading back" to Cuba to do one more thing before the end of the month, then we celebrate Cuba.

I just started a facebook page, if you haven't already, like Mamacita Spins The Globe and see what's going on in between posts. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Scratching The Surface and Stamping Our Passports.(Cuba)

A few posts back you all got to see the lovely globe that we got for Christmas from my brother and sister in law. They also gave us this super cool scratch off map. Just like scratch off lottery tickets, you scratch off the countries that you have visited. 

It comes in a tube to keep it safe.
The Scratch Map is wrapped in tissue paper to protect the scratch-able surface.
Checking it out. It was at this point that we realized scratching with a quarter was not going to be an option, some of the countries are really small (although the circle in the lower left corner by Eliana's hands is an enlarged detail of Europe, so we got to scratch a couple of them twice).

Problem solved, we used a toothpick to scratch the countries off. Since we just got this, it was fun for the kids to be able to go through and scratch all of the countries from last year too.  

El gets her turn scratching.
All of the ones that have been scratched off so far are either blue or orange. The unscratched ones are gold (as you can see, this endeavor should keep us busy for a few years). 
Since the map is laminated, the gold scratch-able surface comes off very easily with a toothpick, so it was easy for the kids to do, and they had a lot of fun doing it (even though it didn't win us $10,000 ;)) If you would like to get your own Scratch Map, you can find it here.

Also, I'm sure you have been just dying to see what would be done for this months passport stamp. :) It was a toss up between a nice botanical, or something more political. But let's be honest, I'm not really much for politics and botanicals are lovely. So, it was decided. I would carve a simplified version of the national flower of Cuba, The White Mariposa, also known as Butterfly Jasmine. 

The drawing for transfer to the potato. 
The final test run before stamping the passports.
See the step by step process that I use for making the stamps here, and let's not forget the time I foolishly carved the stamp backwards. Also, you can see the making of the passports here

Next week is The Chinese New Year and it is also our final week before our end of the month Cuban Celebration. Check back and see what we're up to. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Banana Leaf Table Decor (Cuba)

As I began my search for fun Cuban snacks, crafts, and dinner table decor, I read somewhere that we should use banana leaves for place mats. I immediately fell in love with the idea of having banana leaf place mats, but we live in the cold north east and there are no banana leaves to be had. My parents have a nice banana palm in their living room, but convincing them to let me cut leaves to use as place mats would be asking too much (and they'd say, "No" anyway). 

Then came the idea to make banana leaf place mats. I went to the dollar store and picked up some green poster board and some darker green yarn. I made a template from a piece of cardboard and each of us traced the shape of the leaf, then cut the leaf out. 

Next we used a hole punch and put holes all the way around the edge, and two rows down the center of the leaf. Then, just as my littles used to work on their fine motor skills doing the lacing cards, we each laced our "veins" of the banana leaf. 

As we worked I wasn't quite sure how they were going to look. We had to double up a few of the laces to keep the angle of the "veins" looking like a real leaf. Now that they are done, I think that they look very nice and even though they don't look quite like a real banana leaf, they will look quite lovely on our dinner table in a couple of weeks as we conclude our tour of Cuba.

If you missed any of the Cuban posts so far, you can find the flag here, the first craft project here, and a delicious snack here

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mango Papaya Pastelitos (Cuba)

When I interviewed my family at the closing of last year for our 2011 Wrap Up, one of the things that Preston and I both said that we wanted, was more food. After doing some searching for Cuban snacks, I discovered Pastelitos. Pastelitos are a snack made with puff pastry and can be filled with a variety of things, ranging from ground beef with spices, to various fruits. In Cuba, one of the most common sweet pastelitos is made with a guava marmalade. Since Aiden does not like guava (the kid is crazy!!!) and we already had mango and papaya in our refrigerator (usually used for morning smoothies), we opted to make ours filled with mango and papaya. Mango and Papaya are both fruits that are easily found in Cuba. I didn't find a recipe so I had to wing it, but I felt like it was a pretty safe thing to take that chance on. After a friend of mine who is Cuban mentioned that her grandmother never wrote any recipes down, I found in my search a saying that goes something like, "True Cubans don't need recipes, it is within them to know how to cook good food."  So, I decided that even though I have no Cuban heritage, I would channel my "inner Cuban" and rely on my intuition to cook this... besides, it's so simple that it almost felt as if I was cheating. 

They're ready. Although, it appears that Aiden is giving me the stare down, I'm sure it is saying, "Back away from the mango and papaya." 
Puff pastry sheets, still folded and thawing, 2 1/2 cups of mango and papaya mixed in a pot, sugar, measuring spoon and wooden spoon for mixing. (Later you'll also need melted butter and a basting brush.)
Aiden adding 1/4 cup of sugar to the mango and papaya. 
Eliana mixing the sugar in. 
After the kids added the sugar and mixed it, we moved the pot to the stove. We cooked the mixture over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until the fruit had cooked down and was soft, and the juice and sugar had made a thick syrup.

After the puff pastry was thawed, we unfolded the sheets, then cut them into nine squares each.
Then, we brushed melted butter around the edges.
Put a little filling in the middle.
Folded them over to make triangles, and pinch around the edges to seal.
Before popping them into the oven, we brushed a little more melted butter on them and sprinkled a little sugar on top. Then in the oven they went for 15 minutes (400 degrees). 

Sampling the snack.
Do you see those eyes? That, my dear friends, is a look of approval. 
After eating a few of them, I decided that I had better put them away. If I had left them on the plate on the counter, they would be gone. They were just the right amount of sweet, without feeling like I was pumping the sugar to my kids. A tasty little afternoon treat. 

After we ate them, Aiden looked at me and said, "We definitely have to make these again!" I completely agree. 

Have you made any new treats lately or gone out on a limb and tried something new without a recipe?

Note: If you're thinking that these look similar to something else you've seen me blog about, you're right. We made appetizers when we learned about Pakistan, that were puff pastry filled with spiced potato. Check out that post here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

4 Little Birds (Cuba)

As you (hopefully) read last week, we are learning about Cuba this month. We made the flag and now we are on to a craft project. When searching for a fun craft that was something completely new for us to do, I found a cute little Cuban Tody Bird. The tody bird is not the National Bird of Cuba, but it is found in Cuba and the project that I found looked too cute to pass up. Because I don't always (or even often) follow directions, I looked at the picture and quickly scanned the supplies list then went to the store to pick up what we didn't already have.

Supplies: Stryofoam balls, styrofoam eggs, craft sticks (aka popsicle sticks). toothpicks, small beads (we used black), tacky glue, and multiple colors of tissue paper. Also, don't forget an old tablecloth, (we use one that is specifically for craft projects) it WILL get glue on it.

The first step is to use a toothpick and attach a styrofoam ball to a styrofoam egg (this is the head and the body). We also used glue to ensure that they stayed together.
The next step is where things started to get hairy. We ripped tiny pieces of tissue paper and crumpled them then glued them to the styrofoam. It seemed pretty straight forward and somewhat simple for the kids to do on their own so Preston and I decided that we should all work on our own bird. 
Hmmm... hers is looking a bit wilder than mine... the paper is kinda all over the place there. 
It's ok, just let he create her own version of the bird, she saw a picture and she sees what we are all working on, she'll do fine...
I think you may have too much glue there, buddy. Yes. Definitely too much glue when the paper is sticking to you more that the styrofoam. 
Is this what it's supposed to look like?

This is when we lost the children, their interest had faded. They were struggling to keep the paper off of them and on the styrofoam. They were having a hard time figuring out how much paper they should rip and how tightly it should be crumpled. At this point, Preston and I were almost done with ours, so we decided that we would finish ours, then work together with the kids to help them finish theirs. Sadly, we had to deconstruct what they had done a little bit, because they ended up looking like giant balls of tissue paper and glue. Please accept my apologies for not photographing them at this stage.

From looking at the picture and seeing the supplies, I guessed that the project would take about 30-60 minutes, I was more than slightly off on the time estimate, it took around 2 1/2 hours! Yes, 2 1/2 hours!!!! I am only telling you this because if you decide to try this (which I think you should, as it was fun) I want you to be prepared and keep in mind that you will need to set aside a big chunk of time. 

Even with the kids struggling a bit, this project was a fun one. While we worked on this we discussed why we were making these little birds. The Cuban Tody Bird is a tropical bird. We discussed what kinds of animals lived in tropical areas, we also touched on what kind of plant life is found in tropical climates. It was a cool discussion while we had some family craft time (and listened to Cuban music too!). 

See the inspiration for this project here.

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