The United Arab Emirates :: Geography Postcard Album

A friend of mine does a significant amount of traveling for his work and we recently received two postcards in the mail that he sent from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  The UAE is comprised of seven emirates that share legal, political, military, and economic functions since 197.  Dubai has the largest population and is the second largest emirate by area, after Abu Dhabi (the capital). Revenues from petroleum and natural gas contribute less than 6% (2006) of Dubai’s $37 billion (U.S.) economy.  The majority of the emirate’s revenues are from innovative real estate projects, sporting events, and increasingly from tourism and other service-oriented businesses.

We completed our usual country fact sheet and spent a little time browsing topics that caught our attention:  architecture, food, and music.  The construction that has taken place in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in just the past 20 years is astounding.  We enjoyed browsing the photographs and artist renditions of the more well known sites featured here,  Dubai Architecture.

Arabic food is the main type of food in the UAE.  One of the most popular dishes is Shawarma, a dish similar to kebab that is made with lamb or chicken generally mixed with tomatoes, pickle, garlic sauce, and fries. Then they will wrap the mixture in a small Arabic roti  (a bread baked in clay ovens). Another favorite is falafel, an Arabic French fry that looks like a cutlet. They are made out of mixing chickpeas and different spices. Then deep-fry and served as a side dish. We are fortunate to have a new middle eastern restaurant in town and will be making a visit soon. 

We also enjoyed listening to several videos on YouTube that featured Bedouin musicians performing traditional music.  We really enjoyed it!

On a bunny trail … I recently read a great book by Diana Abu-Jaber called, The Language of BaklavaHer memoir weaves stories of being raised by a food-obsessed Jordanian father with tales of Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts and goat stew feasts under Bedouin tents in the desert. Her anecdotal stories and recipes (Yes!!! Recipes) bring to life the two cultures of Diana’s childhood–American and Jordanian–while helping to paint a loving and complex picture of her father who, like many an immigrant before him, cooked to remember the place he came from and to pass that connection on to his children. The Language of Baklava is a wonderful story.  

Acorns From Harvest to Food

Sweetie and I took part in a wonderful outdoor seminar and nature walk earlier today.  Led by a local Wintu elder, we learned about the acorn from harvest to food source.  We were invited to take part in grinding the acorns on a stone with some of the same materials the natives would have used.
Once ground, the acorn meat was put into a jar with hot water to soak over night to help leach out the natural tannins.  The following day, the liquid would be drained out but reserved for use as a Poison Oak remedy.  The acorns after two consecutive days of soaking, would eventually be ground to a flour and then used in cooking.
The Wintu elder brought several dishes to share with us that he had prepared:  acorn candy (roughly ground acorns combined with honey and molasses), acorn muffins (acorn flour with Oak ashes substituted for baking soda), and an acorn bread.  To accompany the breads, he also had butter, local honey (which he preached of its natural healing abilities – in lieu of hydrogen peroxide), blackberry jelly, and manzanita syrup.  In addition, he had prepared a White Fir and Honey tea.
Everything was very tasty – though not as rich and smooth as what you would buy in a store.  After the talk, the elder led a short walk to point out to us some of the native plants and to share with us their uses for food and/or medicinal purposes.  I was proud that most of the plants and their uses we already knew.  I know I could certainly survive if circumstances forced me to live without the comforts we’ve come to rely upon.

Submitted to the Handbook of Nature Study Outdoor Hour Challenges November Carnival.

Worldwide Culture Swap :: We’ve Shipped Our Boxes

After receiving our matches in early September, we have finally gotten around to shipping our boxes for the exchange.   The families we were matched had agreed to ship the boxes in October so could have time to accumulate the materials.  Initially, we were matched with four other families – U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, England, and Turkey.  Sadly, the family from the Virgin Islands had to pull out so in the end we are exchanging with three other families.

Through our email exchanges, it was exciting to discover that our children have very similar interests.  Buddy even wrote a letter to one boy in hopes of starting a pen pal friendship as their passions were so similar.

As we gathered the material to fill the boxes, we made an effort to find products that are made here in California (almonds, raisins, prunes, Ghiradelli chocolate, & Jelly Belly jellybeans) as well as southern Oregon (cranberries) as we have strong ties there.  We also included several nuts and cones from local trees (Sweetgum, Walnut, Cypress, Redwood), a few postcards, a local magazine, a Disney lapel pin, cancelled US postage stamps and a couple first day issues (though not from the US, the covers we hope will inspire the other families to consider philately).

Already, this project has turned out to be very rewarding.  At the post office, it took some time to fill out the customs declaration form.  We hadn’t had to do this in the recent past (mailing only a letter or postcard overseas) so the kids were very inquisitive.  Their knowledge of the postal service will soon surpass that of an adult.

Our boxes are on their way.  We hope they enjoy their gifts. We are now stalking our postman in anticipation of the arrival of our exchange boxes.

Click here, if you would like to learn more about the Worldwide Culture Swap.

Our Exchange Boxes .. The Finale

I wanted to be certain that I posted pictures of the wonderful boxes we received in the Environmental Exchange Box project that I coordinated in the spring.  To assure everyone who signed up had a partner in a region different than the one in which they resided, my kiddos and I ended up exchanging with three different families.  There was really no extra effort on our part … we just collected duplicates of everything we wanted to send. 

“Our “Maryland” box from 

Each box we received was very different in regards to what the families chose to send.  Some chose to include seed packets of wildflowers.  Others chose to include local food products.  Everyone included some travel brochures and information about their local region.

Our “Illinois” box from 

We enjoyed opening each box and take out each item one by one.  The contents of the boxes opened up a discussion about the similarities and differences between our environments.  We discovered, for example, that Lodgepole pine is found across the continent.

Our “Colorado” box from 
We were very pleased with the results of this project.  We hope that everyone who took part had a great time and learned a little more about the ecology of our country.  I encourage you to think of coordinating a similar project of your own.  We learned so much.  🙂

Cultural Faire 2012

Each year, the local Sheriff’s Association sponsors a Cultural Faire at the mall.  The Sons of Norway takes part each year … and we were delighted to participate. There were numerous cultural groups represented with booths around the mall … each staffed by volunteers to share with the public a little about what they do.  A stage in the center of the mall was the highlight for volunteers and visitors alike.  There were dancers, singers, and performers all day. 
There were many groups of children dressed in their national dress.  Several groups showcased folk dancing.  I was very impressed with the diversity of the area and was also inspired to incorporate folk dance as a part of our Barnesklubb.  I would really like to have a group of youth dancers on stage next year. 

The kiddos dressed up in their Norwegian festdrakt bunads and helped to staff the lodge booth.  They taught a few people how to weave Scandinavian heart baskets.  However, we were surprised at how little the people interacted with the booths.  The big draw of course was the entertainment on the stage.  I’ll have to think of a way to help encourage the public to engage more with the booths … perhaps a scavenger hunt or passport to enter a drawing.

 One of the most popular entertainers were the Scottish Bagpipes.  They played on stage for about 15 minutes and then led many of the groups around the mall in a parade.  Just behind the bagpipes were American veterans carrying the United States flag and thereafter a volunteer from each group carried a flag for their ancestral country.  We walked around the mall twice and then ended in the center whereby the veterans led us in the National Anthem.  I thought the parade was very well done.

There were two distinctly different Native American groups at the event.  The above photo (taken during the parade – so sadly I don’t have a better picture) is of a local Wintu tribe.  I was fascinated with the woman’s skirt, the design was done entirely in seashells and it swayed and jingled as she walked.  The group below is not local … but I believe a group that travels to different venues like this one to educate the public about their culture.  I wish I had caught their name and the region they represented.  They reminded me of the Warm Springs tribe but I’m not certain.  

Netherlands, Antilles :: Geography Postcard Album

 Facebook. One of the benefits of this popular social networking site is the ability to connect with friends and family.  Frequently, friends will post that their plans to travel. Alternatively, many will also post while on vacation from their destination.  When they do this, I am not shy to speak up and ask for a postcard.  

When a friend was in the Netherlands, Antilles for business a month ago, he was eager to lend a hand in our geography studies.  Not only did he send a couple of postcards, he also posted a picture on his Facebook wall of the mailbox into which he mailed the cards.  How cool is that?!

Map of the Netherlands (Europe)

When I showed the kids the photo, they immediately wondered if the cards had been mailed from Scandinavia as the red box reminded us of those we’d seen in Denmark.   I informed them that my friend was in the Netherlands Antilles and I shared another photo, one taken on a beach.  They were immediately intrigued.  “Weren’t we at an airport in the Netherlands, Mom?  Why does it look like Hawai’i?”  Indeed, we had to change planes in Amsterdam and we’d had a discussion that it was the capital of the Netherlands, sometimes referred to as Holland.

Our postcards
 The arrival of the postcards on Valentine’s Day lead to further intrigue.  “It does look like Hawai’i!” they exclaimed.  “So where is Curaçao?” 
Map of the Netherlands Antilles (Caribbean

Curaçao is an island in the Caribbean just north of Venezuela.  The island is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its capital is Willemstad. The official language is Papiamentu.  Though the origin of the island’s name is debated, it has a history rich in the slave trade and piracy, like most islands of the Caribbean

Upon researching the country for our fact sheets, the kids both proclaimed that they wanted to go there on our next tropical vacation.   If only we could win the lottery for they desire to travel to all the places we study.

A few recipes we’ll try soon.  🙂

KeshiYená (Stuffed Cheese) 
Adapted from The Jewish Kitchens of Curaçao
1 small Edam cheese (2 to 2½lbs)
2 lbs. shredded cooked chicken
3 tomatoes, chopped and peeled
2 sliced onions
1 garlic clove
1 chopped green pepper
¼ cup sliced olives
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon parsley
¼ minced hot pepper (or hot sauce to taste)
½ cup raisins and chopped prunes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
5 eggs
Slice the top off the cheese and reserve. Gently scoop out the inside, leaving a 1/4 to 1/2 inch shell. The cheese should resemble a hollowed out pumpkin. Sauté the remaining ingredients, except the eggs, in the butter; simmer for about 20 minutes. Beat 4 eggs and stir into the mixture. Spoon it into the cheese shell, replace the top and spread remaining beaten egg on top to seal. Grease a shallow baking dish and fill it with about 1 inch of water; set the cheese in the dish and bake at 350° F for 1 to 11/2 hours. The cheese will expand and flatten slightly but will keep its basic shape. Serve piping hot, cut into wedges. Leftovers are good reheated.

Funchi (Corn Meal Mush)

Adapted from The Jewish Kitchens of Curaçao
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 cup corn-meal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
Mix the cold water, corn-meal and salt in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the boiling water and butter or margarine. Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes. Continue for another 3 minutes while stirring with a wooden spoon. Mixture is done when it pulls away from the sides of the pan and it is stiff in texture. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
Tutu (Corn Meal With Black Eyed Peas)
Adapted from The Jewish Kitchens of Curaçao
1 cup corn-meal
16 oz. packaged dry black-eyed peas
6 cups water
3 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups funchi or corn-meal
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
Cook the black-eyed peas in the 6 cups water until soft. Drain.
Add 3 cups of water to the peas and bring to a boil, then use a whisk or “lele stick” to break the peas. Add sugar and salt and whisk again. Taste for seasoning, and adjust if necessary.
Add corn-meal, and in a combination of beating and mashing the mixture, blend it well to avoid lumps using a wooden spoon. Reduce heat. Continue the beating/mashing technique until the meal disappears and the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan. Add butter when done and either invert on a platter or use an ice cream scoop (dipped in water before each scoop) for individual portions. Serve with butter and cheese.