Tag Archives: parenting

Russian Kasha

Russian FeastKasha is one of the oldest Eastern European foods. For more than a thousand years, Russians, as well as other Eastern Europeans, have enjoyed kasha, or buckwheat groats, in a variety of ways.

Originally conceived as a food for ceremonial events such as weddings and celebratory feasts, kasha came to be a staple of the Russian diet.

Long before Americans began to incorporate whole grains into their diets, the Russians habitually enjoyed a plate of kasha as part of their meal.

Although there are many ways to enjoy kasha, I cannot promise you that your children will fall in love with it unless it is slowly introduced and – probably – heavily camouflaged by things they do like.

You can try this recipe from AboutKasha.com that sounds intriguing, or modify the recipe I created below.

Kasha with Tomatoes, Mushrooms, and SpinachKasha with Tomatoes, Mushrooms, and Spinach

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 c. spinach

1 c. white button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare the kasha according to the directions on the box. In a sauce pot, add olive oil and turn heat to medium high. Add garlic, onion, and mushrooms. Saute until softened, about 4 minutes at medium high heat. Add tomatoes and cook for about 3 more minutes. Finally, add spinach, stir and cover. Remove from heat. After 3 more minutes, stir and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over the kasha. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

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Martyrs Day in Madagascar

Antananarivo, MadagascarMarch 29 marks the anniversary of Martyrs Day in Madagascar, a day when 11,000 people lost their lives while opposing French colonial rule in 1947.

On this day, their sacrifice is remembered and honored.

Families celebrate by spending time together and enjoying activities together such as going to the movies or relaxing in a park.

Elected officials make speeches at special events and lay commemorative wreaths to honor those who died.

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Cherry Blossom Festival Unites Japan, USA

DC cherry blossomsOn March 27, 1912, American First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, planted the first two Japanese cherry blossom trees near Washington, DC’s Tidal Basin.

Mrs. Taft was an excellent advocate for bringing the Japanese cherry trees to Washington. For three years, she lived with her husband and children in the Philippines while her husband served as the Governor-General of the Philippine islands. She was considered remarkable at the time because she welcomed the opportunity to learn about the language and culture of the Philippines and to befriend the Filipino people.

In addition, Mrs. Taft enjoyed traveling to Japan and China and she brought a respect and appreciation for other cultures to the White House when her husband was elected in 1908.

Ninety-nine years after the two ladies planted the first cherry blossom trees, visitors to Washington still enjoy them, as well as the 3,000 others that subsequently joined them.

This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival is being conducted while the original givers of this beautiful gift – the people of Japan – are struggling with unbelievable challenges and tragedies.

More than two weeks after an earthquake and a tsunami changed life for people of Japan and set off a nuclear crisis in their country, many Americans are using the National Cherry Blossom Festival to reinvigorate American donations to help the people of Japan.

For more information about the history of the cherry trees in Washington, DC, check out the National Park Service’s website.

More information about the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 26-April 10, click here.

The American Red Cross is one of the best options for donating funds to help the people of Japan.

 

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A Cookie By Any Other Name

palmiers

Photo: Real Simple

Known as palmiers in France, palmeritas in Spanish, ventaglio in Italian, and elephant ears in English, these little cookies have a devoted, global following.

It is believed that they are French in origin, where their name translates to “palm leaves.”

They are widely available in bakeries and from companies such as Goya, but they are also easy to make – so long as you don’t try to make your own puff pastry!

Here’s a recipe from Ina Garten that was posted on www.foodnetwork.com. Try it and let me know what you think.

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What Kids Should Know About Libya

Libya has been in the news recently as the United States and other nations enforce a “no fly zone” to help protect Libyan citizens who do not agree with their current government.

Without going too deeply into the situation in Libya, which may be overwhelming for children, it is an opportunity to teach kids about Libya and its place in the world.

Libya – whose official name is Libyan Arab Jamahiriya – is located in North Africa. It is the fourth-largest country in Africa and the 17th largest in the world.

The country is mostly covered by the Libyan Desert, which is one of the driest, hottest places on earth.

Some parts of the desert have not had rain for more than 13 years. The highest temerpature that has been recorded in the desert is 136 degrees Fahrenheit!

The majority of people live in cities and are primarily concentrated close to the coastline with the Mediterranean Sea.

Islam is the major religion in Libya. While most people practice Sunni Islam, there are also Coptic Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics.

Arabic is the primary language spoken in Libya but there are many people from other countries living in Libya, including people from Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Egypt, and Italy. Italian and English is sometimes spoken in the larger cities.

Libya is a very young country – half of the people there are 15 years old or younger.

Fortunately, every child in Libya has access to a free education through secondary (high) school.

In fact, Libya has the highest literacy rate in Africa. More than 82 percent of the people can read and write.

Family is very important to Libyans and they are accustomed to living close to each other. There are more than 140 tribes or clans and people strongly associate with their tribe.

Libyan food is very similar to the rest of North Africa. Staples of a Libyan diet include: couscous, olives, soups, dates, grains, and milk. Following the meal, most people consume several glasses of black tea.

Libya is a beautiful, historic country facing many challenges but hopefully the Libyan people will soon be living in peace.

Libyan Desert

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

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Hear the World

kids listening to musicLike most people, I love listening to lots of different kinds of music.

From Edith Piaf to Bob Marley to Loretta Lynn to Ali Farka Toure, I’m interested in many different voices.

I’ve succeeded in getting my son hooked (a little). He enjoys French children’s music; in fact, it’s his favorite CD to listen to in the car.

And we both enjoy a CD of African lullabies that I bought him when he was a baby. 

I’m always looking for new ways to broaden our collection and a relative recently gave us Putumayo’s  Picnic Playground with fun children’s songs from around the world.

The Putumayo World Music company and their Putumayo Kids collection is a great resource for CD’s from different countries and regions of the world. According to their website, their goal is to “introduce children to other cultures through fun, upbeat world music.” As a result, they’ve been acknowledged by the Parents’ Choice Awards and the National Parenting Publications Association. 

But you don’t have to buy a CD in order to get your child to listen to different music from around the world. YouTube has many songs from other cultures that are fun for kids. As always with YouTube, you have to monitor it carefully to ensure your child doesn’t accidentally see something inappropriate.

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Purim Cookie: Haman’s Ears

They go by many names – and many spellings – but the Jewish festival of Purim has one standout sweet treat in this cookie.

Hamantaschen are triange-shaped cookies that can be filled with a variety of ingredients such as poppy seeds, prunes, dates, apricots, or even chocolate.

They get their name from the villain of the Purim story, Haman, who convinced the king of Persian to allow the murder of all the Jewish people in his kingdom. The Jewish people were saved by Esther, the king’s wife, who was also Jewish, although the king did not know this until she bravely came forward.

Here’s a recipe from JewishRecipes.org that you might like to try.

There are so many ways to make these cookies that the possibilities for filling, folding, and displaying them are nearly endless. Here are some ideas to get you started.

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I also found a great article in the New York Times about one woman’s history with Hamantaschen, and her quest to make the “perfect” Purim cookie. You might enjoy reading it here.

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Japanese-Americans Standing Up for Muslims

Here’s an interesting article from the Washington Post about how Japanese-Americans, who remember how they were treated in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, are responding to House Homeland Security Chairman Peter T. King (R-NY)’s decision to hold hearings about Muslims in America.

It’s wonderful to read how times of crisis can bring what we think of as disparate groups close together. And it’s definitely a message worth sharing with our children.

In school, at the playground, and in life they may be the only people available to stand up for someone else. Especially in this time of heightened awareness over bullying, it’s important to recognize that the skills they develop to deal with it in childhood will be useful to them throughout their lives.

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Happy 100th International Women’s Day

International Women's Day 2011Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, a day set aside by the United Nations to recognize the contributions of women to societies around the world and the important work we have still to do to ensure equal access to health care, educational opportunities, and employment.

I first celebrated International Women’s Day as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso, West Africa. I worked with women in my village to coordinate a soccer match between two teams of women and a soccer match between two teams of my female students. We held a ceremony with lots of fantastic speeches (my French still wasn’t so great so I can only imagine the full impact of the oratory), and finally a dance in the evening. It was one of the most successful events of which I’ve ever been a part.

Equal rightsAlthough there have been many improvements made in women’s lives since 1911, many of the same issues persist – in the United States and around the world. In most of the world, women are still likely to make less money than their male counterparts. Women continue to struggle for equal access to – and authority over – their health care. Education is still a major issue for women.

So while women have won many of the same rights as men, the struggle for equality continues.

women in Tahrir Square, Egypt

 

 

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It’s Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday

Mardi Gras KidThere’s a lot going on today. In addition to Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday, today is also the 100th International Women’s Day, which I’ll be posting on later today.

But Mardi Gras deserves attention all on its own.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the last day before the Christian season of Lent begins. In Lent, Christians make sacrifices, fast, pray, and try to prepare for Easter, the holiest time in their religious calendar.

So Mardi Gras is the last hurrah before the solemnity of the Lenten season. And some people really do make the most of it.

In Brazil, Carnivale has a world-famous reputation as an all-out extravaganza.

In the United States, New Orleans pretty much holds the title for most festive Mardi Gras destination.

The celebrations can get wild – but there are some family-friendly traditions that anyone can adopt.

King CakeOne of the most fun is King Cake. King Cake is not only eaten during Mardi Gras, but it is also a popular food during the Christmas holidays in places such as France, Belgium, Portugal, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Switzerland, and Spain.

Inside the cake is a tiny figure of a baby, meant to be the baby Jesus. Whoever finds the figure in his or her piece of cake earns the right to buy next year’s King Cake (I like this tradition!).

In addition to King Cake, parades are a common activity at Mardi Gras festivities. You can organize a mini-parade with your family either inside or outside (depending on how frigid it is where you live). Dress up in masks and pile on every piece of funny clothing, jewelry, or decoration you can find.

Mardi Gras beadsIf you’ve got beads, flaunt them! Mardi Gras beads are traditionally distributed during parades. These plastic beads, usually found in purple, green, and gold, are fun treasures for kids to collect. You can give out beads according to your own idea of a good time. Encourage your children to compliment each other or do nice things for other friends or family members in order to earn the beads. You can keep the fun going long after Mardi Gras.

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