Monday, April 30, 2012

Skipping The Haggis

Here it is. The end of April already. I know I say it all the time, but I am always so stunned that it goes by so fast, and I always feel like we have so much more to learn before we are ready to move on to another country. Even though we are feeling like it's too soon, we always enjoy our "end of the tour" celebrations, and this one was no exception. 

The books that we borrowed from the library and I told you about here. The Loch Ness Monster that Aiden made here. A postcard that my sister in-law, Katie, sent to us from Scotland last year. 
This meal may have been one of the easiest so far. I made a Scotch Stew and the recipe said that it tastes best if you make it the day before. So I did that, which left only a few things to make on the "big" day. 

After so many people questioned whether I'd be making haggis for dinner, I found this, and almost placed my order, but decided that even that seemed a little gross to me. 

The sun was at a weird place in the sky for the photos so there are some weird shadows in the pictures, but we eat around 5:00 and I don't have any negotiating power with the sun. (Besides, I am thrilled that it is still hanging around a couple of hours later... hello warmer weather!) 

It was so cool to be in the room with these bowls of stew on the table and the sun shining in. There was a ton of steam rolling off of them. 

Scotch Stew, Bubbles & Squeak, Bannocks, and a homemade version of Bouvrage. The little fairy looking on is one that we made this day 
We ate our dinner, played our mini version of trivia and listened to a Scottish Bagpipe mix on Pandora. After listening to the bagpipes for a while, we did switch to Annie Lennox radio on Pandora which didn't include artists ONLY from Scotland, but I'm fairly certain that all of them were from The UK, so that seemed close enough for dinner music. 

Apple Pear Compote. 
The food was delicious. Our bellies were overfilled as always and Preston did all of the dishes after we ate! ALL OF THE DISHES! He's so good. 

I spent the rest of weekend visiting with friends and enjoying the late setting of the sun. What did you do this weekend? 

*I would like to send out a special Thank You to Kelly over at Little Wonders Days for featuring my blog in the AfterSchool Party this week! I am super excited to have been featured! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mapping Our Journey and Getting Our Passports Stamped

It's that time again. We are winding down to the end of our Scotland tour but before we can eat, drink, and merry, we must scratch our map and stamp our passports. 

This time, I had no potatoes in the house. I know, it's weird to have no potatoes, it seems like one of those items that you always have in the house. At any rate, I had decided that I could get away with using a sweet potato, as I did have a few of those. But after cutting them to make some sweet potato fries for dinner, I realized what I should have already known, that sweet potatoes are way too hard to carve.

I decided to try a new kind of stamp. One that I had been thinking about for a while now, but wasn't sure how it would work out. An apple. I was delighted to find how easy it was to carve, as all I had to do was write on the apple firmly with the marker, no actual carving needed. The downside is that apples have a lot more texture than potatoes, so it's not super smooth. But it worked. As you can see below, in this case, the texture of the apple actually helped the design of the stamp. I decided to make the Loch Ness monster on it and the texture of the apple looks like ripples in water. It might not always be a convenient texture, and it did end up a bit "blurry" in spots, but all in all, I think it worked this time. 

The sample drawn out on paper.
Due to the size of the apple, I actually had to move the 2012 to the side instead of keep it at the bottom. 

On Monday I will be sharing with you our Scottish dinner celebration. We have a couple of other things planned, then we will be on to our next country. 

*Don't forget, you can see how we made the passports and other passport stamps by clicking on the Detours and Shortcuts Link on the right hand side in the Atlas section. (Or you can click here to get there too.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Royalty Amongst Ruins.

OK, so maybe we aren't royalty and I'd like to think that we aren't quite in ruins either. But, while doing our research on Scotland, we found many, many websites and stories about castles. We even stumbled upon a business that allows people to rent castles in Scotland. As much as we thought this would be an awesome vacation, nearly $3000 per night is a bit spendy for us. We decided that we should build our own castle. 

We grabbed some paper and pens and did some planning. Eliana had some ideas as well. 
 Since we had just made a trip to IKEA (as I told you all about here), we happened to have a nice tall box from a shelf that we purchased. All we needed was another big box. In all honesty, I thought it would mean a quick stop at a store that sells appliances, so I made a call to a store where I was told, "No, we don't keep any boxes, they get crushed immediately." The next call I made started the same, except they told me that they crush them at the end of the day. The clerk on the phone was not really interested in helping me find a box until I said, "Well, can someone save a box for me? I want to build a castle with my kids." Then he was (surprisingly) excited and said, yes! Woohoo! We had a box! Preston picked up the box at the end of the day. 

Since we now had our boxes, it was time to start planning the cuts on the boxes from our original drawing... you know, give or take a few details. 

The next day, we took the boxes outside to spray paint them. Sadly, it took more paint than we thought it would, which required a mad dash to the local hardware store and praying that the impending rain held off just a bit longer. It did... well, sort of. It was just starting to sprinkle as the final bit of paint was being applied. After the boxes were painted, they were brought back into the living room (this time they were placed on top of our crafting tablecloth, rather than risk paint getting on our living room floor).

The kids wearing Preston and my t-shirts, getting ready to paint some details. 
Preston and the kids deciding how the door would open. 
Painting bricks.
Preston inside the castle (after almost knocking it down) cutting a hole in the wall between the two boxes, so that the kids can go into the tower.
My littles and I with the nearly complete castle. 
Completed castle. 
Now that the castle is done, we have finished the final craft project for our Scotland tour. We are starting to gear up for our end of the month celebration and I have started doing some meal planning. We have one more task, then it will be on to the dinner, where we will celebrate and reflect on our "visit" to Scotland. 

*Last week I guest blogged for Hardy Girls Healthy Women as part of a series of blogs for moms sponsored by MaineGeneral Health. It's not related directly to global studies, but I feel that global knowledge and acceptance goes hand in hand with raising healthy children who will learn to see real beauty in themselves and in the world that we live in. If you missed it, you can check it out here. (And if you missed it then, maybe you haven't "liked" Mamacita Spins The Globe on facebook yet? I shared it there first.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Scottish Books of Culture and Fairy Tales.

Each month when we start to learn about a new country, we make a trip to the local library and see what we can find for books. As much as we love the internet for searching out some of our facts and I especially love it for the recipes, there is still something that can't erase the feeling of a book in the hands. I also have been trying to share some of our finds with you, as you can see to the right of this page, there is a list of books that we like. I have been sharing some with you as we go, too. This month, I want to share two books. Each is part of a series. One is a series that we have used several times, the other was a new and exciting discovery. 

Eliana (with her goofy grin) and Aiden with the books.  

The first book is the one that Aiden is holding. It is part of a series called "Cultures of The World." We have borrowed a few of these from the library and you may recognize it from our Peruvian celebration photos, though I didn't feature it, it was displayed during our dinner and I included it in the photographs. On the back of the book is a long list of all of the books in this collection, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. This is a collection that I would love to own.

These books cover so many topics: Geography, Economy, Government, Religion, Environment, Language, Festivals, Arts, Foods and more. It is really easy to pick the topics that you want to focus on and enjoy some really nice photos and a few historical works of art. 

If you are learning about a different country with your littles, I highly recommend starting with this series. I would say that the age range is from seven and up. Eliana is four and while she likes to look at the pictures, the facts aren't fun enough to keep her interested, though I do try to present some of them in a fun way for her. 

The next book is part of another series that I just discovered on this most recent trip to the library. This series is of Fairy Tales. Fairy tales from around the world. This one is called "Favorite Fairy Tales Told In Scotland." The others follow the same name ie: "Favorite Fairy tales Told In Greece, Japan, etc." They are retold by Virginia Haviland. I was so excited to find this, and I was kind of bummed to have missed it in the past. 

 There are six short stories (fairy tales) in the book and they tell of fairies who are stirring up trouble, a giant sea serpent, and even a runaway bannock. These books are relatively old with the most recent copyrights being in 1963. The age of the books almost made it more fun, and the art work looked to be sketched with colored pencils. 

We are enjoying giggles from reading of mischievous fairies and foods that run away to avoid being eaten. We also are enjoying learning of all of the folk and fairy tales that are a big part of Scottish culture and history. 

Last week we made some crafts inspired by the folk and fairy tales, and I shared them with you all, if you missed it, you can see it here

Have you read any books from either of these series before? How about unearthed a true treasure while at a local library? 

We're working on another fun project here, I am getting excited to share it with you, but we're not quite finished with it yet, so you'll have to wait until next week to see it! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Trip Around The World.

So this post is a bit out of place since it's not about Scotland, but we took a trip around the world. We saw the rainforest, and visited Sweden! 

Ok, not really, but the kids and I found ourselves enjoying spring by making a trip to Massachusetts with my mom. While we were there we went to The Rainforest Cafe. This was pretty fun. We had never been, so we were unsure what to expect, but we experienced some lovely fish tanks, under a canopy of lush (albeit fake) greenery, monkeys, birds and other wildlife of the rainforest. There was a nice waterfall/ fountain, as well as, a couple of gorillas and two elephants that Eliana found herself quite enamored with. There were several thunderstorms where the lights went down and little blue lights flashed with the claps of thunder. All in all, it was pretty cool. 

Eliana eating grilled cheese while the elephants hang out behind her.  
A blurry shot of Aiden with the rotating Earth over his head.
Eliana with an orangutan. 
After The Rainforest Cafe, we went to a hotel, slept, woke up and headed off to Sweden, aka. IKEA. There we got to see a lot of Swedish design, in the form of home furnishings and Aiden ate some swedish meatballs. 

I'm sorry to disappoint you all with a "fake" trip around the world, but believe me when I say that no one is more disappointed than me to not be actually traveling the world. 

Now we are home and back to thinking about Scotland. We have a fun Scottish project planned and we still have to stamp our passports, share a book and eat a Scottish dinner, so there's plenty of fun to be had right here at home. 

If you live in the Northeast US, I hope you enjoy the beautiful weather we are about to have today! You can find me in my backyard pushing my littles on the swing! 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Crafting Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales.

That's right folks, it's time for our craft project. We did some research about Scottish folk and fairy tales and Aiden decided that he wanted to make Nessie (The Loch Ness Monster) and Eliana and I decided to make fairies. 

The supplies.
Aiden working on sculpting Nessie.
Eliana making a fairy.
The completed Loch Ness Monster. Aiden decided that it needed to have some hair. I decided that since we can't be certain if it's even real, speculating about hair is perfectly acceptable. 
Eliana's completed fairies. 
My completed fairies.
We had a bunch of fun making these, and we think that they will be nice decorations for our dinner table at the end of the month. That is if we don't offend the fairies before then. *According to folklore, fairies can be very helpful around the house (fingers crossed that my dishes are done tomorrow morning), but if you offend a fairy, it will become very mischievous and troublesome. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Scottish Snack

I always look forward to eating the foods that are native to the countries that we are learning about and this month was no exception. I recently started eating a new diet where I am primarily eating plant based foods. When I started looking around for Scottish snacks, I realized that it was going to be tricky. One of the most popular snacks that I kept stumbling upon was Scottish Shortbread. Shortbread, as I'm sure you are aware, is mostly butter. I searched a little and found that there were a few vegan shortbread recipes using vegan butter. I decided to wing it and see what happens. 

I gathered the ingredients, the appropriate kitchen weapons tools, and my littles. 

The first step is cream 1 cup of butter (or vegan butter as I did) with an electric mixer. 
Then add, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup of powdered sugar, and 2 cups of flour. 

 After mixing all of the ingredients (it should look like crumbles), pour into a cake pan. 

Then, with clean hands press the crumbles into your pan.

Bake at 325º for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. 

The next part is the sampling of the treat. I'd be lying to you if I told you that we loved it. I might try to lie if I thought I could get away with it, but as you can see from Aiden's face, it was a bit disappointing. (I'm a lousy liar, anyway.)

The truth is that using vegan butter in a recipe that is supposed to be primarily butter is just an all around bad call (at least for my family). The texture was great and I'm sure if I had spent my life eating vegan butter I would be quite pleased with the outcome, but the bottom line is that even though vegan butter tastes just fine on toast, it is just not the same in a butter based treat. Preston said that it would taste great if we put something on it (I assumed he was secretly thinking, "Like butter and lots of it!") so we discussed putting berries on top, I think we will try that next, since we have 3/4 of a pan of vegan shortbread left that none of us were thrilled about, well.... Eliana liked it, but she loves anything that you tell her is a treat, so that's a little unfair.


Here's the recipe again:
1 Cup butter (or vegan butter if you like)
1/4 Cup brown sugar
1/3 Cup powdered sugar
2 Cups flour 

Cream the butter with an electric mixer, add the remaining ingredients and mix until it is well mixed and looks like crumbs. Pour into a cake pan (ungreased) and bake at 325º for 35 minutes or until golden brown. 

Have you tried vegan butter in a recipe? How about made some substitutions in a recipe that were largely disappointing? Or maybe you can offer me some advise for making these kinds of substitutions? 

In any case, I hope you'll check back later this week to see what other Scottish inspired adventures we are up to. Oh, and for those of you who like to follow along and see what foods we are eating, but don't want vegan foods, don't worry, we will still be including non vegan foods for our end of the month celebration. I'm not committed enough to try to find vegan, ethnic foods that my whole family of picky eaters will eat. Besides, I ate chocolate yesterday.  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A New Journey Begins.

We finished our tour of Peru last week and ended it with a yummy dinner celebration and a post of a traveling friend who went to Peru. Then, I shared with you another reader's trip to Cuba. Now, we are ready to embark on a new journey. 

Hello Scotland! 

The making of the Scottish Flag. 

We are super excited to be learning about Scotland! We look forward to exploring Scotland through food, crafts, music, and more. I hope you'll continue to follow along as we explore this beautiful world that we call home!

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