Tag Archives: Europe

A Family Coat of Arms

Coat of armsAlthough you may see a family’s coat of arms hanging over their fireplace now, the practive began in Europe in the 12th century when soldiers and powerful leaders used distinctive crests, also known as coats of arms or heraldic devices, to distinguish themselves or their soldiers on the battlefield. The idea was that in the confusion of the battlefield, these crests would help to distinguish friend from foe.

Eventually the practice spread and many non-soldiers adopted their own symbols. Because it was important that each coat of arms be unique, the process was strictly regulated.

The regulation was also necessary because each coat of arms is highly symbolic. The figures that are depicted, the colors used, the shape of the crest, the animals included, and the motto all give information about what is important to that particular family. Therefore, there had to be a consensus about what each symbol meant. You can find an extensive – and fascinating – list here.

Japanese family crestAlthough possessing a coat of arms is primarily a European custom, Japan has a similar tradition of their own. Known as “kamon,” or “mon,” these symbols are still used by Japanese families as a point of pride.

Unlike European family crests, Japanese crests are created in a round design and are generally one color and can be replicated in any color. No significance is given to the color of the design.

For a fun project, create a family coat of arms of your own. You can use this website or refer to the website above for information about the symbols and create one free-hand.

If your family already has a coat of arms, use the website to determine what each symbol means. Learning about your family’s history will help give your child greater respect for that history and make them eager to learn about others.

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Filed under Asia, Europe, Learn

Soupa Avgolemono

Soupa AgvolemonoThis delicious egg and lemon soup comes from Greece.

I love the idea of lemon in soup; it sounds so crisp and refreshing after the often heavy soups we find in restaurants this time of year.

This recipe comes from a fun little book called The Mediterranean Cookbook.

The reason I liked this cookbook so much is because it really showed the connections among North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. I like anything that draws connections between people. And what better way to do that than through food!

This picture is from a website that is a big hit with me – www.athousandsoups.com. Check it out for more ideas!

Soupa Avgolemono

1 ½ quarts chicken stock

1-2 bouillon cubes

½ c rice

2 large eggs

2 ½ tbsp. lemon juice


Black pepper

1 tbsp. fresh parsley

Bring the stock to boil in a large saucepan, then taste it and if necessary add stock cubes to strengthen the flavor. Throw in the rice and simmer gently until the grains are just tender about 12-15 minutes.

Beat the eggs with a whisk until well mixed and frothy and add the lemon juice. Stir in about 4 tablespoons of the simmering stock, then pour slowly back into the saucepan, stirring constantly. Over very low heat continue cooking and stirring for  few minutes, just until the soup thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon lightly. On no account allow to boil or curdling may result.

Add salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with parsley and serve at once.

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Filed under Eat, Learn

Die Neuen Cupcakes, Thanks to McDonald’s

I confess that Europe’s controversial foray into the world of cupcakes was not on my radar until I read this New York Times article, “In Germany, A Taste of New York, Via McDonald’s.”

It appears that McDonald’s has introduced cupcakes to Germany via four very pretty (but not so tasty) versions that are supposed to exemplify four areas of New York City (Chelsea, SoHo, Central Park, East Village, below, left to right).

The tie-in is intended to echo the cupcake references from “Sex and the City,” and NYC’s cupcake craze which is best exemplified by the Magnolia Bakery’s popularity. Their cupcakes range from $2.75 to $3.25 (makes that $4 box of Girl Scout cookies look like a bargain).

But the crazy thing to me is that I never even considered that Europeans didn’t eat cupcakes. Knowing the global dominance of doughnuts, I guess I just assumed that every culture that produced cakes would also jump to the logical conclusion of making that cake smaller, more adorable, and therefore invisible to calories.

Boy, was I wrong. Not only that, apparently Europeans – who have only “known” cupcakes for a few years now – are already fed up with them!

Salon.com explored the phenomenon in this article, “Europe’s Cupcake Backlash Begins.” Apparently, the problem with cupcakes is their:

“. . . culture of frivolousness, artificial domesticity and fetishistic cuteness.”

Compounding the problem? Cupcakes are so small, no one has to share them, leading to a general selfishness.

Let me just interject here that as one of four children and the mother of a six-year old, I have DEFINITELY had to share a cupcake or two in my time. In fact, I have had to share a grape before. So I doubt that cupcakes’ size are the problem.

According to Laura Atkinson, who wrote, “Enough With the Cupcakes, Already,” for the Sunday Times of London, cupcakes are really just “the gourmet equivalent of mutton dressed as lamb.”

That is writing you have got to love.

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