Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Around the World

The Origins of....

Hi!  I'm back and hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and if you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you had fun anyway!  I've been slacking off from the blog this week, my intentions were good but it's just been too busy and the chaos of new toys and STUFF just gets me too crazy to think :)  So now that everything has found a new home and I can see the floor again, let's learn about the origins of some of those Christmas traditions!  Let's start with the Christmas Tree...

The evergreen, full and perfectly-shaped Christmas tree is one of the most common symbols of Christmas these days.  Every house, mall. and town square has one (or two).  We strings thousands of lights, decorate it with pretty decorations, pile presents under it and even sing songs about it.  The tradition started in Germany in the 8th century as a symbol of everlasting life, but it wasn't until the mid 1800s that it caught on in the rest of the world.  In fact, when the first public tree was put up in front of a church by German settlers in 1851, the local ministers ordered that it be taken down because it was believed to be "pagan".  I guess they changed their minds.

Another Christmas tradition that always made made me wonder is Mistletoe.  Why do you kiss someone under mistletoe and what does it have to do with Christmas?  Well, it turns out it doesn't really have anything to do with Christmas but a lot to do with love.  Mistletoe has been a sacred plant in Europe since Druid / pre- Christian days when it was thought that the plant (which is an aerial parasite that grows on trees), would protect against poison, bestow life and fertility and act as an aphrodisiac!!  It played a big part is Druid mythology as the sacred plant of Frigga, the goddess of love.  It was she who declared that anyone who stood beneath mistletoe would come to no harm and should instead be given a kiss or other token of love.  I think we should start spreading some mistletoe around the world, who's with me??

I don't know about at your house, but at mine the kids are loving the Christmas carols!  I like most of them, except the 12 Days of Christmas!  That song makes no sense to me so I thought we should learn a little about it.  The 12 days of Christmas begin on Dec. 25th with the birth of Jesus and end on Jan. 6th, when he was presented to mankind as the Son of God in human form.  In early times, these 2 weeks were one constant party and celebration, sounds like a tradition we should have again :)  The song is thought by some to just be a silly song but others say that it was written in Europe in the 16th century to teach children the tenets of Catholicism.  In England, between 1558 and 1829, it was against the law to be Catholic and so some say this song was used as catechism. 

On the ____ day of Christmas my true love (God) gave to me-

1st day - a partridge in a pear tree (Jesus)
2nd day - 2 turtle doves (old and new testaments of the Bible)
3rd day - 3 french hens ( faith, love and hope )
4th day - 4 calling birds (the Gospels writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)
5th day - 5 golden rings ( 1st 5 books of the Bible which is also used as the Jewish Torah)
6th day- 6 geese a-laying (6 days of creation)
7th day- 7 swans a-swimming (7 gifts of the Holy Spirit )
8th day- 8 maids a-milking ( 8 beatitudes listed in the Sermon on the Mount)
9th day - 9 ladies dancing (9 fruits of the Holy Spirit)
10th day- 10 lords a-leaping ( 10 commandments)
11th day - 11 pipers piping ( the eleven faithful apostles )
12th day- 12 drummers drumming (12 points of belief learnt in the Apostles Creed)

Now, I'm not religious but some of those sound like a stretch to me.  That said, I 'll probably never be able to listen to that song the same way again.  Or kiss someone under the mistletoe :)  Hope you found this interesting, I kinda did.  I'm off to go play with all the new games the kids got while we still have all the pieces.  Good night and Happy 5th day of Christmas!!! FIVE GOLDEN RINGS!!!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas in Antartica!!

Merry Christmas from Antartica!!

This was the veggie platter from our Christmas party but the kids and I figured this was how the penguins of Antartica probably celebrate :)  Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas in Greece

A Grecian Christmas

For our next Christmas adventure I thought we'd take a little trip to Greece.  A good friend of mine was trying to tell me about her Greek family's Christmas traditions- I say "trying" because even she was a little unclear on some of them!  It's those traditions that we just do because, well, it's "tradition" that are so interesting to me!  I will definitely do my next blog post on why we Americans do the traditions we do, but first, Greece.

Greece is a very religious country. The
main religion is Greek Orthodox (a branch of Christianity) and so the festivities of Christmas are centered around the saints and the birth of Jesus and not as much on Rudolph and Frosty.  The patron saint of Christmas is St. Nicolas, a Greek priest (later a bishop) who gave up his personal belongings to devote his life to helping the needy, especially children.  He was known to throw bags of gold into the open windows of the poor.  Once, the bag landed in the stocking of a child that was hung to dry near the fire. Yup, that is why we hang stockings by the fire on Christmas Eve, in the hopes that St. Nick will come!!  Now, the real St. Nicolas never flew a herd of flying reindeer around the world, or had a magical workshop in the North Pole, but he is the spirit behind Santa Claus and December 6th is his Saint Day.  This is the beginning of the Greek Christmas season. 

St. Nicolas is also the patron saint of sailors and so the Greeks decorate the ships in their many ports with beautiful lights to celebrate.  I can't even imagine how beautiful that must look!

On Christmas Eve, a special bread is made, called Christopsomo, that has a cross decorating the top.  On Christmas morning, the head of the household makes the sign of the cross over the bread and divides it among the people in the house.  There is church to attend and then a feast to celebrate.  Now, I've been to a few Greek parties and one thing I can say is that there is A LOT of delicious food!!

 An interesting belief among the culture is that of the Kallinkatzaroi, goblins that come from the underground world on Christmas to play malicious pranks and steal food from people .  They are mean-spirited but not very smart and so there are a few things you must do to prevent them from entering your home.  You can keep a fire lit at night to prevent them from coming in the chimney or another idea was to place a colander on the front porch.  Apparently, the goblins would be enticed to count the holes in the colander but since they can only count to 2 they would have to keep starting over!  Haha, silly goblins!  The goblins are able to come up from the underworld only because the waters are "unbaptized" from the time of Jesus' birth until his baptism on January 6th, the Epiphany, or Theophania in Greece.  More on Theophania in a minute, we skipped New Year's Day. 

New Year's Day is another big day in the Greek Christmas Season and is also the Saint Day of St. Vasilios, also known as St. Basil, who traditionally brings gifts to the children.  A feast is prepared and a place of honor is set at the table for St. Vasilios.  A special cake is also made, called vasilopita, that has a coin baked into it.  Legend has it that St. Vasilios devised this as a way to give money to the needy without making it seem like a handout.  The cake is usually made with the new year's date spelled out on the top with almonds and when the cake is cut the first pieces go to Jesus, Mary and St. Vasilios, the rest goes to the guests who hope they find the coin in their slice so that they can have good luck in the upcoming year! 

The last celebration of the Greek Christmas season is the Epiphany, or Theophania.  It was on this day, January 6, that Christ was baptized (in Eastern Orthodox religions) and so the priests bless the seas and waters symbolically and then throw the crucifix into the water.  Young boys plunge into the cold water hoping to be the first to find it and get good luck!  If you ask me, I'd rather try my luck with the cake!! 

Well, that is it for Christmas in Greece!  I thought we had a lot of parties to go to!!  Sounds like they know how to celebrate :) We are taking a few days off from learning about other cultures to celebrate with our own family and friends so we'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, or as they say in Greece -
Kala Christougena!!!! 

I know I said my daughter hates Santa but
she actually agreed to join her brother
this year!  It's my own Christmas miracle.
Have a wonderful Christmas!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas in Australia

Dashing through the bush....

Since Christmas in Australia comes in the middle of summer, there aren't snowmen or sleigh rides.  In fact, it can be 100° on Christmas!  Because of that, some Australians have their Christmas dinner at the beach, where Santa has even been known to arrive on a surfboard!  Those who choose to stay at home and have a more traditional meal feast on roasted turkeys or ham with the fixings.  A traditional flaming Christmas plum pudding completes the meal.  Plum pudding is really a steamed cake and the Christmas version has a small prize baked inside.  The one who finds the toy in their slice gets good luck (or a broken tooth!).  Australians decorate their homes with the native Christmas bush, so named because of it's bright red leaves, also evergreen branches and, of course, Christmas trees.

One nice tradition, that has been happening in the city of Melbourne since 1937, is called Carols by Candlelight.  Tens of thousands of people come to an outdoors candlelight concert to sing Christmas carols.  Many of the Christmas songs of Australia are the same classic ones that are sung the world over, but click here for a fun medley of uniquely Australian Christmas songs!!  So crank them up, put on your tank top and flip flops, throw some shrimp on the barbie and have yourself a very Merry Christmas mate!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Winter Holidays Around the World

All I want for Christmas is Peace.

 World peace, peace in the lives of those affected by tragedy, heck, I'd settle for some simple peace and quiet...who says I'm hard to shop for?!?  The next few weeks are gonna be full of fun and games but CRAZY!!!!  I am babysitting one of my former students during the school break, we are having my sister-in-law down from Seattle for a visit, and there's one more thing...oh yeah, CHRISTMAS!!  So, for the sake of my sanity, we will be learning about the winter holidays and celebrations from a few different countries instead of an in depth study of two countries.  We celebrate Christmas, so the majority of the projects will be related to that holiday but I also plan to touch on Hannukah (which just ended) and some others from different religions.  Should be fun and a different change of pace.  What does YOUR family do for the holidays?  Do you go to the beach like they do in the Southern Hemisphere where it's the middle of summer?  Does your whole family make cookies, or tamales, or a special treat for Santa?  I'd LOVE to know!!  We make treats for our neighbors and deliver them a few days before Christmas.  This year, we are making chocolate pretzels with sprinkles and cinnamon sugar pretzels.  They are baking right now and they smell sooooo good!  We usually do a gingerbread house  and drive around to see the lights in the neighborhood.  We try to go sit on Santa's lap but my daughter has never really liked Santa much!  We spend way too much money on each other and have WAY too much delicious food to eat.  Life is good around here at Christmastime.  Hope you can say the same. 
 My daughter at 6 months - and she is still the same way!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Animals of Australia

Australia: A Land of Unique Animals

I think everyone can name the most symbolic animals of Australia - the Kangaroo and the Koala.  These are what you think of first, and we will talk about them, but we are also going to tell you about a couple of lesser known animals that live in this beautiful land down under. 

Let's start with one that most people don't even realize is a real animal- the Tasmanian Devil.  Those of us who grew up watching Looney Tunes know him right?  He spins in a crazy tornado and eats everything in his path!  Well, probably no surprise, but that's not entirely accurate.  A Tasmanian devil is about the size of a small dog, but very muscular and stocky. 
It does eat pretty much anything that it can and with the jaw strength of a crocodile it doesn't leave anything behind- it eats the bones and all!  They are usually black and sometimes have white spots and they have a feature that they share with another black and white animal.  When Tasmanian devils are scared they produce an awful stink that is even stronger than a skunk!  That never came up with Bugs Bunny :)  Once found all over Australia, they became extinct on the mainland over 400 years ago and now can only be found on the island of Tasmania. 

Our next animal is one I bet you've never seen.  In fact, because it is nocturnal and lives in burrows it digs with its sharp claws, most people only know when one is around because they find it's cubical poop!  That's right - square poop!!  Have you guessed the animal?

It's the wombat.  This short, round, furry marsupial is found all over Australia but most people outside of Australia have no idea what they are, in fact, once at the fair I paid a dollar to see the worlds largest hamster.  It was a wombat and I only knew that because I'd seen one at the zoo in Australia.  Our good friend in Australia send us books every year and the cute and cuddly wombat seems to be featured in many of them.

Our next animal wins the prize for uniqueness- the Platypus!  This is a very strange animal.  
It has a woolly, fur coat, webbed feet and bill like a duck and a tail like a beaver.  Oh, and they (and the echidna) are the only mammals that lay eggs.  You might say that something that lays eggs isn't a mammal, but after the eggs hatch the female platypus feeds them with her milk like other mammals and unlike other egg-laying creatures.  Yes, they are very unique indeed.  They live in freshwater rivers and lakes in Eastern Australia, where they eat insect larvae and worms they find in the mud.  They are mostly nocturnal which, you would think, would make finding such small things in the mud impossible, especially since they swim with their eyes closed, but they have special electroreceptors on their bills.  These receptors pick up the electric signals from the tiny little larvae and tell the platypus where to go!  Nature is awesome.  You might think this awesome little animal would make a fun playmate, but watch out!  The male platypus has a venomous spur on it's hind legs and that venom is so powerful it can kill a small dog or make a human wish it hadn't tried to pet that cute little platypus!! 

There are so many animals that are interesting in Australia that I could go on for days.  In fact, there are so many interesting THINGS in Australia that I could go on for days, but I've got things to do and so do you, so please check out this website to learn more about this amazing land.

Of course, the adorable Koala needs to make an appearance in any posting about Australian animals :)
And we can't leave out the Kangaroo!!!!
G'day Australia!!!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On the Menu: Aussie Food

Some Good 'ol Down Under Grub!

Now most of the food of Australia is pretty similar to the food we eat here in America.  The brands are different and some of the names have been changed but it's all pretty close.  One food is totally unique and something most Americans would never think to eat - Vegemite.  This dark brown paste is the peanut butter of Australia.  They eat it starting in childhood and love it spread on buttered toast.  Apparently it is an acquired taste, because I found it to be one of the most disgusting things I have ever tried.  That's a shame because it is a very good source of B vitamins.  That was the only Australian food that I didn't like (well, custard apples were kind of weird too) and I have fond memories of meat pies and crumpets.  The seafood is outrageously huge (prawn the size of your hand) and if you like lamb this is the place to be!  They also have so many exotic fruits - I remember eating fresh passion fruit - so delicious!!  An interesting note - hamburgers in Australia are served with a slice of beet and sometimes with a fried egg, too.  Yum.  So here are the recipes I picked for this week - Aussie Meat Pies, a handheld pie filled with meat and gravy, and a Pavlova, a meringue and fruit cake named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, after her tour of Australia.  Try them they were delicious :)

Aussie Meat Pie Recipe from

  For the recipe you will need:
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 med. onion - finely chopped
  • 1 lb. ground beef or chopped steak
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup beef stock
  • 1 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Vegemite (if you dare) or 1 cube vegetable bouillon
  • 4 sheets prepared pie dough or make your own
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 4 small pie tins
  • ketchup for serving
1.  Cook onion until soft.  Add beef and brown.
2.  Combine cornstarch with 1 T beef stock and set aside.
3.  Add remaining stock, Worcestershire, tomato paste and bouillon to pan.  Stir well and add cornstarch mixture.
4.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened.
5. Preheat oven to 425°
6.  Cut dough to fit pie tins.  You will need tops and bottoms.
7.  Put bottom dough in tin and fill with meat filling.
8.  Put top on pie and press edges with fork to seal.
9.  Brush tops with beaten egg.  Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown,
10.  Serve with ketchup and ENJOY this simple but delicious meal!


Now who wants dessert?







Pavlova Recipe from

For this recipe you will need:
For the base:  
  • cooking spray
  • cornstarch
  • 6 eggs whites
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
1.  Preheat oven to 250°.  Line sheet pan with wax paper or foil.  Spray with cooking spray and lightly dust with cornstarch. 
2. Make a 9 inch circle in the cornstarch.  This is your guide.
3. Use electric mixer to whip egg whites (make sure bowl is clean and dry or it won't work).  Beat to soft peaks.
4.  Very slowly add sugar 1 T at a time while beating continuously.
5.  Add vanilla, cornstarch and vinegar and beat only until combined.
6.  Spoon meringue onto guide.  Using back of spoon smooth sides and try to make a pretty dome shape. 

7.  Bake for 1 to 1 1/2hours or until dry to touch.  Mine took 1 hr.
8.  Turn off oven and leave door open a crack .  Let the meringue cool.
9.  When completely cool.  Move to serving dish or store in airtight container for later use.  Mine was all cracked but apparently that is supposed to happen.  The next step hides that part.

10.  To serve plop a bunch of whipped cream on top and whatever fresh fruit sounds good - the more tropical the better.  We used kiwi fruit, bananas and blackberries.

This was really good and I think it would look very pretty if we put a little more effort into decorating it - the kids just literally threw the fruit on top.  Beautiful or not , it was delicious.  The edges of the meringue were crispy and the middle was like a marshmallow.  It was sweet but with 6 eggs and a bunch of fruit it was healthy - right?!?

G'day mates.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Aborigines of Australia

Do you Didgeridoo?

What a fun word. Didgeridoo.  We can thank the native peoples of Australia, the Aborigines for it and many other fun Australian words.  Let's get a little of the history of the Aborigines and then we'll make our instruments.

Just how long the Aborigines have lived in Australia is uncertain, they believe they were brought to life on the island during the creation or "the Dreaming", but scientists believe that they actually migrated to the uninhabited island from Asia around 50,000 years or so ago.  During that time, which was right about the end of the last ice age, the continent of Australia was much larger.  Why was it larger?  The seas were lower because the water was frozen into glaciers and the islands of Tasmania and New Guinea were connected with land bridges .  Because of the lower seas and the larger land mass, those early settlers only had to travel about 80-100 miles over the sea to reach Australia.  Still pretty far when you consider the boats they had, but do-able!  Soon these first settlers had spread to every part of the island and evolved with different languages and customs but one common belief - the concept of "the Dreaming".

The Dreaming is the Aboriginal version of how the world was created.  They believe that once the world was nothing, until some beings they call the Ancestors arrived and took many shapes (mostly snake shapes for some reason).  As the Ancestors travelled they created new life and formed the landscapes of Australia.  The stories of the Ancestors have been told and retold for generations but not written down.  They were also painted for ceremonial purposes on pieces of Eucalyptus bark with natural paints, but many times those were burned at the end of the ceremonies.  The Aborigines lived in peaceful isolation on their beautiful island until the 1780s, when British settlers arrived.  (The country had been lightly explored by the Dutch in the 1600s but they had not settled.)  The settlers brought with them many new diseases, sheep and cattle which fouled the waterholes and a desire to "claim" the land as theirs.  As you could imagine, soon the the Aborigines and the English were fighting.  Guess who won?  Not the aborigines, there were many restrictions put on them, including not being able to marry interracially or owning land.  In fact, it wasn't until 1967 (!) that they were given citizenship and equal rights!! That's a pretty hard pill to swallow when you were there first.  Eventually, the Australian government has realized that the Aboriginal culture is a valuable asset to everyone and many efforts have been made to protect it from further decline.  All this history learning is making me sad. 

Luckily, we have a fun project to do !!  We are making a didgeridoo!!!!!  What is a didgeridoo?  I'm glad you asked.  The didgeridoo is a wind instrument (that means you blow into it) that has been played by the Aborigines for at least 1,000 years.  It is a long tube made from a tree or branch that has been hollowed out by termites.  They strip the bark and sometimes decorate it, sometimes not.  A mouthpiece of wax is made on one end to form a tight seal around the mouth and the player vibrates his lips and hums and drones constantly while breathing through his nose.  Typically, it was played during ceremonial dances and it was always played by men.  Well, that's their rule not ours - here in this house we ALL get to didgeridoo!!!

Didgeridoo Project

For the project you will need:
  • hollow branch.  If you can't find that you can use some PVC pipe or a cardboard tube :)
  • paints or markers and any other decorations you'd like

1.  I think you can guess where I'm going with this.  Paint the tube with gleeful abandon and then let it dry.  Waiting is the hardest part.
2.  Put one end over your mouth and make humming motorboat noises into it.  Breathe through your mouth and see how long you can go :)  If you'd like some inspiration check out this video to see how it is played by a professional.  If you'd like to see some wonderful Aboriginal art while listening to some didgeridoo music click here

Here you see the finished didgeridoo being used to drive us all crazy :)  Who's brilliant idea was it to make this instrument??  Just kidding, it's fun to try to make it sound authentic - or just sing Aussie Christmas Carols !
Have Fun!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Week 21 Australia

G'day from Down Under

Or  "down undah" as it would be pronounced in our next country - Australia.  I've been saving Australia as one of my easy countries that I can whip out during busy times.  This is one of those times (hence the lack of posts for Iraq) I'm helping at both my children's schools, trying to get the Christmas shopping and cards done, and keep the house together.  I know it doesn't sound like much, but writing blog posts took a back burner last week- if you were interested in learning more about Iraq I'm sorry.  This week, I promise, will be different.  Australia has always held a special place in my heart because we have a very dear family friend who lives there.  I've been twice to this beautiful land, once around 8 and again a few years later, my mom has been about 12 times and each year our friend (Hi Pam!) sends my kids great books featuring Australian animals and characters. 
Australia is a travel destination that most people only dream about visiting, and I am lucky that my father worked for the airlines and we got a BIG discount, but if you can afford to go, it is a WONDERFUL place! 
 And a BIG place! The continent/country/island of Australia is almost as large as the United States, which makes it the 6th largest country.  There is almost any type of climate you could desire- from the snowy mountains in the Australian Alps, where there is more snow annually than Switzerland, to the hot, dry outback where temps can reach 120°.  Natural wonders abound also, like the Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock.  Because the country has evolved so isolated from other land masses, the animals are unique too, we will do a whole post on the great animals of Australia.  I've also got some fun ideas for an Aboriginal post - we might try to make a didgeridoo!  And, of course, some delicious recipes!!  I love Australia and I hope you will too!!  Stay tuned :)

This is a picture of my Mom and me holding a real Koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane Australia in 1980.  I held it too and all I remember was the long, sharp claws digging into my shoulder!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Ancient Art of Mosaic

Mosaic Pictures a la Ancient Iraq

Actually, a la Mesopotamia, since back in the day that's what the area was called.  The art of arranging colored tiles into patterns, pictures or designs has been happening in these parts for thousands of years.  Some of the earliest ones are dated back to 2000 BC.  The craftsmanship of the early Sumerians was so amazing that many of the works are still able to be seen today.  The tile in our bathroom was put in 5 years ago, and it's already got cracks!!  Things sure aren't made the way they used to be :)  Anyway, this sounded like a project we could do.  I wasn't sure my daughter would get into it but she kept telling me how fun it was - and her picture turned out very well!!  My son was in Jedi mode today and this was a little too calm for him.

For the project you will need:
  • Different colors of construction paper
  • contact paper (or glue but this is easier)
  • scissors
1.  Cut the paper into strips and the strips into squares.  Good scissor practice for the kindergartener :)
2. Cut a piece of contact paper whatever size you'd like.  Turn it over and peel off backing.  This is your canvas.

3. Arrange the paper "tiles" in any design you'd like.  Mine was a modern design but my daughter made a flower in a dark night sky.

It was very relaxing to sort through the paper and fit the little pieces where you think they should be. 

You just get in the zone and the rest of the world kinda fades away - try it some rainy day and see what you come up with.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On the Menu: Iraqi Food

A little Iraqi Snacky

Maybe an ancient Mespotamian cookbook??
Somebody should really stop me with these bad puns and rhymes.  Apparently, I can't stop myself :) we are at my favorite part of the week - FOOD!  The cuisine of Iraq is very similar to most Middle Eastern countries, very healthy with olive oils, lots of legumes and grains, nuts and fruits.  They have a lot of exotic spices and interesting flavors.  I thought it was interesting that some of the ancient cuneiform (similar to heiroglyphics) tablets from over 6000 years ago had recipes on them!  I guess you could say that Iraq is the birthplace of cookbooks :)  In fact, both the national dish, Masgouf (bbq fish) and the national cookie, Kleicha , are recipes that are thousands of years old.  Why mess with something that's worked for millenia???  Both recipes looked good but it's been pouring rain here so we're not barbequeing fish, and the Kleich cookie recipe looks a little involved, so I found a simpler cookie.  Perfect to have with a cup of coffee or cocoa on a cold and blustery day. 

Kaak bil SimSim (Sweet Sesame Rings)

For the recipe you will need:
  • 3 c flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t ground anise seeds
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 c) room temp
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 1/2 to 1 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 beaten egg for egg wash
1. Add flour and other dry ingredients to large bowl. Combine.
2. Add butter and oil and combine with hands.  Messy but fun :)
3.  Add milk and egg to the party and squish and knead until a soft dough is formed.
4. Line cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper.  Oil your hands a little, then take a small bit of dough and roll into rope shape.  Then turn rope shape into ring by pressing ends together. 

We had big ones, little ones, heart shaped ones, and a couple blobby ones- it was pretty fun!

5.  Brush the cookies with the beaten egg (which my daughter decided turned these cookies "healthy") and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  I kind of wish I left some plain because the kids didn't like the sesame seeds very much.
6.  Bake about 20 mins. in 350° oven.  Cool and enjoy.

Apparently these cookies will stay fresh for a long time if wrapped or put in container.  Cookies NEVER last a long time in this house so I can't testify to that.  My friend (who is Greek) said these looked like a cookie her mom makes every year at Easter time and another neighbor thought they were pretty tasty too.  They are not really very sweet and I liked the flavor from the anise but if you don't think you'd like that taste, I really think any flavor could be substituted and it would still be pretty yummy.  Hope you enjoy :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Week 20: Iraq

Iraq- the Garden of Eden

Because it is the Christmas season, when love and peace towards all is in the air, I thought we should do a country that has been torn by war and turmoil lately.  I chose Iraq because it also has a lot to learn about!  Here are a few facts about Iraq:
  • the name means "the fertile" or "deep-rooted" in Arabic and refers to the rich soil of the land, which lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
  • Some believe this area is what the Bible refers to when they speak of the Garden of Eden.
  • the country is located in Western Asia, in an area that was home to one of the first civilizations in the world - Mesopotamia.
  • The capital, Baghdad, founded in 1867 BC, is one of the oldest metropolises in the world.  On the map- 32.54°N/ 44.4°E
  • Iraq has been credited with bringing us the 60 second minute, the 60 minute hour and the first accurate calendar.
  • Iraqi people have kept bees for over 5000 years and have used honey as food and a source of income.
Iraq is a country that has a deep, rich background of culture and history and it is a shame that the wars and destruction caused by greed and power have ruined many of the historical areas.  This week we will forget about the wars and fighting and focus on the history and culture of Iraq.  We are going to make a sweet sesame cookie, a mosaic like the ancient Mesopotamians did (well, kinda), and another project I haven't decided on yet :)  Any suggestions would be appreciated...  In fact, I love getting comments, so please leave any you have - unless they're mean.  Peace.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

An a"moose"ing art project !

The Swedish Moose.

I don't know why but writing that just made me smile.  I must be tired.  What to say about the moose of Sweden?  Hmmmm, I'm stumped.  So instead of some funny antecdote about my kids or moose (I really want to say "mooses"), I'm just going to pass along some interesting facts about this lovely animal and then show you the cute art project we made.

Moose are:
  • the largest members of the deer family
  • solitary animals unlike other members of deer family
  • also known as the Eurasian Elk
  • an adult male must eat almost 10,000 calories a day to maintain his weight - that's A LOT of grass!!
  • Sweden has the highest population per sq. mile.  Some estimate between 300,000 and 400,000!  They are so abundant that    moose safaris are popular with tourists.

Now on to our art project :) 

The Merry Moose

For the project you will need:
  • large paper - any light color you choose
  • brown construction paper
  • white & black paper or a marker for eyes, nose and mouth
  • brown paint or 2 opposite colors to make brown
  • hands (and water handy to wash hands after)
1.  Cut out a moose-shaped head from brown paper. I generally like to make mine like this.

2. Paste or draw eyes, nose and mouth.
3. Paint kids' hands brown and have them press hands to make the antlers. Or if they don't want to get their hands painted (like my son) they can use a brush to make antlers!


We usually make this project with a red nose so it's like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, so I have them going back to each of my kids first Christmases!  It's so cute to see how much their little hands have grown!  Happy First of December from all of us (no I don't have a third kid- that's a cousin!)