Thursday, June 28, 2012

Closing In On The End

As we are approaching the end of our Thailand tour, we have been meal planning and wrapping up unfinished details. We have shared books, made Kohn Masks, eaten sesame balls, learned a little bit of the Thai language and made shadow puppets, that means that there are are only a couple of things left to do before we are packing up our virtual suitcases and headed to another country. First, we had to stamp our passports, and scratch our map. Then, we will be celebrating Thailand listening to the music, reviewing what we've learned in the form of a trivia game and sampling the cuisine.

So, here is the first step of the wrap up. As with most months, I made a potato stamp for us to stamp our passports with. 

After stamping the passports, it was time to scratch Thailand off of our map. This is always fun for the kids and they always argue over who gets to scratch it, so no matter what size the country is, they always both get to do part of it. 

I love this part of our tour, because even though it only lasts for a few minutes, they get to see where each country is located in relation to where we are. At the start of every new tour, we look at the globe and locate the country of the month, and we revisit it throughout the month. For some reason, though, seeing it on a map and having the moment to focus on the borders of the country does something new. It not only gives them an understanding of the flat map vs. the round globe, but it also helps them understand that each country shares is borders, whether there is land or water at the borders, each country has it's own shape, location and neighbors. The neighbors are especially important to me, this way the kids can see how we all have a place in the world. 

I hope you'll check in on Monday to see the wrap up of our Thailand Celebration. Then, next Thursday, I will be sharing some images from Thailand and featuring another Traveling Friend. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Into The Shadows

After trying our hand (or should I say, our mouths?) at the Thai language. We decided to make another craft project. I thought it would be fun to create something that reflects the animals of Thailand. I have also really enjoyed looking at photos of The Nang Puppetry. So, we decided to combine the two. We made animal shadow puppets. We pulled out the book "Peek! A Thai Hide And Seek" which we borrowed from the library (and I wrote about here) to look at the animals and decide which ones we might like to try to create. 

Aiden knew without looking in any book, that he wanted to make a dragon. Yes, there are dragons is Thailand... well at least in all of the Thai folklore. So he chose a dragon and Eliana decided to make a turtle. After they each made their puppets, I added some small details (at their direction) to enhance the shadows. I made an elephant and a rooster, I just couldn't decide.  So, when in doubt, do both right???

I should add that it was around 90 degrees and try as I might, I could not get Aiden to put on a shirt for this activity.

I also learned something new, photographing shadows is actually harder than it seems. When I tried with just the shadows, they looked blurry (because they're shadows), so I felt I needed to add photos with both the puppet and the shadow. I also was unable to get them all in one shot, because when I was zoomed out enough to get them all, you couldn't see the details in the shadows... so here are the shadow puppets, with their shadows. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hello, I Love You.

You might be asking yourself right now, "What the heck is Raina rambling about now? She loves me???" Well the truth is, yes, I like most people, and those who hold love in their heart, I find love for. Which means, that the odds look pretty good for you. However, that is not really what this post is about. 

My littles and I were working on finding a new project to do and in the back of one of the books that we borrowed from the library, we discovered that we could learn how to count from one to ten in Thai! How cool is that? I know you might be thinking, "of course you can", but for some reason, it has never occurred to me to teach the kids any of the languages of the places that we've been learning about. I mean there is a certain level of spanish that we are always speaking/ learning in our house. And when we did our tour of Ireland, we learned that "Slainte" means cheers. We also learned, when we "toured" The Netherlands, that in dutch "Eet smakelijk" means eat deliciously. But we have never really given much energy to the basics. At any rate, we practiced our 1-10 in Thai over and over again. Then I asked my littles how old they were (asking them to answer in Thai) Aiden, "Jed" and Eliana, "Haah." These kids are brilliant! 

Wouldn't it have been cool if Aiden's shirt was a Thailand shirt? ;)
Since I am sure that you are just itching to know, the numbers one through ten in Thai are as follows:
One- Neung
Two- Song
Three- Saam
Four- See
Five- Haah
Six- Hoke
Seven- Jed
Eight- Pat
Nine- Gao
Ten- Sib

Then I wondered, are we pronouncing them correctly? Well with the modern luxury of the internet, it was easy to check.  As it turns out, we were only mispronouncing one... yes, actually... one, which is Neung. I was pronouncing it as "nee-ung" but it is more like "noo-ng".

After checking each number, we thought, let's learn to say "Hello" which we did and greeted each other a few times in Thai. 

Then to bring our Thai language lesson to an end, we learned, "I Love You." After practicing a few times, Aiden looked at me and very sweetly said, "Mom, phm rak khun." with a smile on his face. Thai language lesson = success. 

I couldn't resist posting both of my littles saying "I love you." I mean who could?
Anyway, you can have your own fun with Google translate here. I'd love to hear what you learn! 

Have you been learning a new language with your littles? What methods have you found to be most effective? Do you find that they take it in really quickly, or does it take a while? 

I was suprised with how easily they soaked it in, I was even asking them to remind me later what some of the stuff was and they were still able to count to ten hours later. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fried Sesame Balls- A Thai Snack

One of my favorite parts of our "tour of the world", is the food. I love that we eat foods that originate from our country of interest for the month. If you have been reading since the beginning, then you know that we used to only eat the food at our end of the month celebration, but when we began our 2012 tour I asked each member (including myself) of our family what they'd like to do differently and Preston and I both said, "More food!" So since then, we have added a day where we also make a snack. This is great, because we get to eat some of the food, without spending a long day in the kitchen (as I usually do for our end of the month celebration). I try to choose snacks that are easy, one that my kids can do most of, or at least a good part of it and it won't take too much time. This time, we chose to make Fried Sesame Balls. I followed this (<<< Don't forget: that blue word is the link) recipe that I found online and was delighted by how easy it was and how short the time between pulling out the ingredients to popping one of these in my mouth was.

The first step is always wash hands, but I didn't bother with the photos :). The next step is almost always Eliana going first, because we have all learned that she is far too stubborn to try to do it any other way and Aiden always gets a turn, so if he has to wait 2 minutes to avoid and 20 minute battle, he's down with that (thankfully). 

Adding a little over 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour. 
Adding 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. We also added 1 tablespoon of shortening and mixed that in well. 
In a separate bowl whisking one egg white.
Whisking the egg white with roughly 1/8 of a cup of sugar.

After the mixing was done, we lost Aiden for the final steps. He doesn't like to get his hands into it, besides, once the two bowls of ingredients are mixed together, the mixture has to sit for 5 minutes, that's a long time for a seven year old to wait. Eliana went to play with him during the wait time, but came back when it was time for the next step. 

While we did this, I had a pot of oil heating up on the stove. 

Rolling the dough into balls and rolling them in sesame seeds.
Being goofy while daddy snaps some pictures. 
Ready to be fried. 
These took only a few minutes to cook and I tested one by puling it out and cutting it in half after 2 or 3 minutes and it was perfect. 

The test part 1. 
The test part 2.
And the verdict is...
Thumbs up! They're good!
Before making these, I anticipated that they would taste like donuts. The texture was exactly like donuts. The flavor was a bit more salty than sweet, but I can admit here that I forgot to add the salt when I was supposed to and added it after we added the shortening, not before, which I am sure effected the flavor as we couldn't mix it properly. This was a quick and easy snack that was yummy, even if the flavor may not have been what we expected. Despite the fact that it is fried and that we know fried food is not healthy for us, we will very likely be making and eating these again. We have even talked about modifying them and adding cinnamon (and maybe a little more sugar). I don't know how authentic it will be then, but at least it originated in Thailand. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thai Kohn Inspired Masks

In searching for a craft project to do with the littles that was inspired by Thailand, I found Kohn masks. These are masks that are worn to represent demons in the classical dance form that is known as Kohn in Thailand. I thought that they would have a lot of fun with this project. 

I have to confess that as a blogger who wants to succeed it took a long time for me to let go and let my littles choose their own direction while creating their projects. I kept finding myself trying to "help" them or "fix" things for them. Ultimately, it seemed that none of us were having any fun. I have learned to let go and let them create their own inspired projects. We have been having far more fun ever since. 

I showed them images of Thai masks and handed them construction paper, scissors, glue and markers; the rest was up to them. They had a great time creating these masks and they are super proud of their finished products, as am I. 

The first step was to decide what shape to use. I created a template for mine and Eliana decided to use my template. Aiden chose his own shape. 

I couldn't get her to stop moving, so the blur will have to add to the thrill of creating the masks :) 
The starting point, card stock. 
Aiden cutting details to add to his mask.
While she was working on this she said, "Mama, I am creating what my imagination is seeing!"  Perfect. 
Aiden's completed mask. 
My completed mask, I hope symmetry isn't too important. 
The completed Kohn Demon trio. 
This project was a fun one for the kids, I left the computer open with images of different Kohn masks on the screen so that we could refer to them. Clearly each of us had our own idea of how we wanted to create our masks using some of the details that we saw as inspiration. 

If you want to see more, I found this book while searching for masks. I have not actually looked at the book, but it looks fantastic and I wish I had it! 

How do you let your littles be creative? Do you give them complete freedom or do you steer them in a direction? Have you found that their creations often come out far different than your original idea? If you are a blogger, do you feel more pressure to turn out perfection? 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Facts, Fiction and Good Old Life Lessons From Thailand.

If I followed the rules, then this post would be about either a craft or a snack. But I am a rule breaker. Also, I am the one who made the rules, so it really doesn't matter that much. Instead of staying home and cooking or crafting, we went camping this weekend. It was our first ever camping trip as a family and we had a great time! On our way out of town, we popped into the library to return our books from last month since they were due back. Unfortunately, when we got to the library, I realized that our books were sitting on the table at home. Lucky for us, there was not a high demand for Botswana books and we were able to renew them since there was not a hold on any of them. We also grabbed some Thailand books while we were there. I was thrilled to see that there were so many options. We borrowed two books that are non fiction, and two books that are fiction. 

One of the non fiction books is part of the Cultures of The World series that I have mentioned several times, including here and here. The other is one is also part of a series, this series is called "Discovering Cultures". This book has beautiful pictures including a Buddha on the cover. 

One of the non fiction books that we got is called "Peek! A Thai Hide-and-Seek" by Minfong Ho and illustrated by Holly Meade. This book is really great for younger kids, like toddler age. My kids initially were a bit disenchanted by it since it was a very repetitive text with a dad who is playing hide and seek with his little girl. However, after we finished reading it, we talked about what we learned from this story. Yes, we learned from a hide and seek book. We learned about what kind of wildlife there is in Thailand because in each place that the dad looks for his little girl he finds an animal instead. For example, "Jut-Ay, peek-a-boo, Oh elephant, so it's you! Lift the flap of your floppy ear. Is my baby hiding there?" Once we started talking about how this book had taught us about the types of wildlife in Thailand, my littles perked right up and ended up liking the book quite a bit, they even went back to re-read some of the pages (like the pages with the tiger and crocodile)! The illustrations in this book are super cute, the little girl is absolutely adorable, and if her placements in the illustrations are any indication, she seems to be quite brave as well (crossing a bridge right over a crocodile, crouching in the bushes under a tiger in a tree) and we like brave girls :)  

The other book that we borrowed from the library is a Thai folktale. We love reading folktales from around the world, so this became a quick favorite for my littles (they even fought about who was going to get to hold it for the pictures). It is called "The Girl Who Wore Too Much" and is retold by Margaret Read MacDonald, Illustrated by Yvonne Lebrun Davis. A cool feature of this book is that each page also had Thai text on the bottom of the page (that was written by Supaporn Vathanaprida). 

This folktale is one with a very important message. It tells of a girl whose parents buy and give her everything that they see that is beautiful, clothes, silks, and jewels. When it is time for the girl to go to a dance she wants to be the most beautiful girl there and can't decided what to wear. She ultimately decides to wear everything and as a result, she can not move because the layers are too heavy. When her parents come to help her they tell her that she must take off some of the clothes, silks and jewels saying, "We have taught you to want too much. You must learn to be happy with less." Go ahead, take a moment to bask in the glory of that message. In fact, read it again, "We have taught you to want too much. You must learn to be happy with less." There are some stories that make me pause when I am reading them to my littles and this one did exactly that. I could see that the message was working it's way through their thought processes and I waited for it to find a comfy little place in their brains to nestle itself and call home. Once I saw that it had landed, I finished reading and then tucked my littles into their sleeping bags and kissed their sleepy heads. As I zipped the tent behind me on my way back to the campfire, I wondered if the message would stay for good. I certainly hope it does. 

Preston with our littles and our dog, Roxy, in the morning light at our campsite. 
Now that we are home, we are starting to think about unpacking, doing laundry, the end of the school year and Thailand inspired crafts and food. (Did I mention how excited I am to be learning about Thailand?) 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A New Month, A New Country.

Can it be that we are already getting back on the tour bus and headed to a new country? Holy moly! Where does the time go? Well, actually a tour bus wouldn't get us too far, we are going from Botswana to Thailand. 

Just like Botswana, Thailand was a reader suggestion from this post back in December when I asked for your help spinning the globe. Shortly before I wrote that post, I received an email from one of my most dedicated readers, my Uncle Thom, who asked, "When are you doing Thailand?" Since I love Thai food, I was excited at the prospect and because I wanted to keep my uncle as a dedicated fan of my blog, I was thrilled to pull Thailand out of the hat when we mapped out our travels for the year. 

So, today we made the commitment and crafted the construction paper flag. 

Preston got home just in time to take a photo of me with the kids, naturally, Aiden had to be a goof. That's my kid :)

I hope that you'll enjoy the upcoming adventures of Thailand as much I think we will. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Seswaa and Potjie: A Botswana Meal

Our tour of Botswana has officially ended. We started by making the flag, followed by not one but two craft projects, and we read and enjoyed books about Botswana. Even though a month flies by for me these days and I always feel like I am not ready to move on to another country, this time I feel differently. Botswana has been, by far, the hardest country to learn about. The amount of information that is out there, is very limited. While talking to people in the day to day, they would ask, "Where are you in the world right now?" And when I told them, "Botswana" the response was always, "Oh. I don't really know anything about Botswana." To be honest, it would appear that not many people do. 

What we did learn is that the people of Botswana are peaceful people. Their flag which is blue, white, and black represents water (which is inspired by their motto, "Let there be rain."). The black and white stripes which were inspired by the national animal of Botswana, the zebra, are representative of the racial harmony in Botswana. This is a vast difference from many of the other flags and countries that we have learned about. Many of them have red which represents blood shed. Many of the flags that we have learned about are somehow representative of battle and struggle and ultimately a "win". Botswana, on the other hand has a flag that represents peace and harmony. How could I not fall in love with a place like that? 

While I was preparing our dinner (and later when we ate it) we listened to music streaming of Botswanan radio. It was quite different from many of the more traditional types of music that we often listen to for our dinners. In Botswana, hip hop is very popular. The music is a very cool combination of traditional beats being remixed into a hip hop format. You can listen to Botswanan streaming radio here (there are five stations to choose from). 

If you follow me on Facebook then you may have seen a post where I mentioned the difficulty I was having finding food that was from Botswana and consisted of ingredients that we can and will eat. One of the dishes that I kept finding was phane stew which consisted of Mopane worms. I try to be adventurous with the foods that I will eat, but I can't bring myself to eat a worm, especially one that is a big fat bumpy caterpillar looking worm. Mopane worms turned up in a few of the recipes that I found. Ultimately, I found a web site which offered a couple of feasible options. Oddly, this website is from The UK and not Botswana, nonetheless, the food is Botswana food (You can check it out here). I didn't have the day off from work this time around as I usually do, so I tried to keep the meal simple (which wasn't that hard to do since I couldn't find many recipes). I made a meat dish and a vegetable dish. I asked my parents to bring bread and we served water to drink. I'm sure it sounds like we "cheated" or took some kind of shortcut, but really, when we ate, it was good. I don't mean, "meh, it was ok." kind of good. I mean, "Wow! I hope we have left overs." kind of good. 

For the meat dish, I made Seswaa which is a traditional Botswana dish. This is "pounded" or shredded beef dish. It is generally served over Ugali, which is a thick "mashed potato" type of dish made of corn flour and water. Since I was limited on time and I know what kind of flavor corn flour and water creates (also confirmed by many reviews of the dish), I decided that  the people who would be eating the meat, primarily, Preston and my dad, would not care if I made it. Preston would not like it and probably not eat it. My dad is so easy going that if you put food in front of him, he will eat it, it doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't have to be paired perfectly. He will graciously eat what you offer and tell you that it was good, even if it wasn't. He's that cool. Anyway, the point is if you want to recreate this meal and be authentic then you should serve your seswaa over ugali. 

The vegetable dish we had was Vegetable Potjie. The recipe that I followed called for very little stock, in fact I had to add more. I didn't find any pictures of the potjie, but I had assumed it was a stew until I saw how little stock went in, then I wasn't sure. Ultimately, when the food was ready, there was so little stock left, that we decided to serve the vegetables without the stock. This dish which was so simple going into the pot, came out tasting like I had added ingredients that weren't there. It was delicious. It had butternut squash, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, basil and oregano. It was sweet and herby and had far more flavor than I expected it to have when I was putting the ingredients in.

In Botswana, the most common desserts are fruit. A variety of melons are grown in Botswana, so serving watermelon for dessert was an ideal option for us this time around. I even read on one website that it is believed that watermelon originated in Botswana. I can't remember which site I found it on and I also can't say that I confirmed whether or not this is true, but either way, I think it safe to say that they have been eating watermelon for a long time in Botswana. 

We listened to our hip hop radio from Botswana, ate our yummy food and like I always do, I asked the trivia questions that I created for the evening. I even threw a couple of curve balls at my kids. All in all, everybody did very well answering the questions. I will admit that there are times when I write the questions and can't come up with good "wrong" answers so I end up making it pretty obvious which answer is correct by the ridiculousness of the wrong ones. 

Don't forget that the words that are highlighted in blue are links and of course, you can also find the trivia questions anytime by looking in the "Atlas" section on the right hand side. I hope that you have enjoyed our tour of Botswana. We will be spinning the globe again and setting our sights on a new country this week. 

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