Season 3 – Senegal

snafricaThis month we are “exploring” Senegal. The Republic of Senegal is in West Africa and is the westernmost country in Eurafasia (also called the Old World and is Europe, Africa and Asia). The name comes from the Senegal River that borders the country on the north and east. It covers about 76,000 square miles and has an estimated population of 13 million. The capital is Dakar. In 1677 France took control of Senegal and remained in control until 1960 when Senegal gained independence. French is the official language of Senegal.


Archeological findings show that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times and has been continuously since by various ethnic groups. Some kingdoms were created in various centuries and Eastern Senegal was part of the Ghana Empire.  Islam was introduced by various ethnic groups and the Almoravids used military force for conversion. In the mid-15th century the Portuguese landed on the coastline followed by many other European countries. The Europeans competed for trade with this area. The French eventually took control of a minor departure point of the African slave trade. In the 19th century European missionaries introduced Christianity to Senegal. The French did not venture to the mainland until 1850s. By this time they had abolished slavery. The French were met with resistance from some of the kingdoms. In 1959 Senegal merged with the French Sudan to form the Mali Federation. The Mali Federation became fully independent from France on June 20, 1960. The Federation broke up due to political issues on August 20, 1960 when Senegal and the Republic of Mali claimed their independence.

Marchands d'esclaves de Gorée-Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur mg 8526

Slave Trade in Goree, Island just off shore from Dakar. By Rama (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Senegal now has a president who is elected every five years as of 2001 (previously every seven years). The current president is Macky Sall who was elected in 2012. In addition there is the National Assembly which  has 120 seats and the Senate which has 100 seats. An independent judiciary system also exists.

President Macky Sall of Senegal (8102321986)

President Macky Sall By MONUSCO Photos (President Macky Sall of Senegal) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Senegal has a tropical climate. It has two seasons, the dry season and the rainy season.  The dry season is from December to April and is dominated by a dry, hot harmattan wind. Dakar’s annual rainfall average is 24 inches and it occurs from June to October.

Senegal dry wet 540

Dry and Wet Season in Sengal By NASA, Photographs courtesy USGS and USAID. (both US Fed Govt: Public Domain) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As of 2001 two articles of the  Constitution guarantee access to education for all children, however the Ministry of Labor reports the public schools cannot accommodate the number children that must enroll each year. Education is free and compulsory until the age of 16. Illiteracy is high among women. Senegal is well known for the West African tradition of storytelling by griots.

Senegal students

Senegal Students By R. Nyberg (USAID) (Students in Senegal) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bordering the Atlantic Ocean makes fish very important food in Senegal. Also used are chicken, lamb, beef, eggs and peas. Pork is not used due to the large number of Muslims in the country. Peanuts are a primary crop in Senegal and thus used in the food as is couscous, white rice, sweet potatoes, lentils and black-eyed peas and some various vegetables. Fruit juices are drunk especially from fresh bissap, ginger, buy (the fruit of the baobab tree) and mango. Desserts are rich and sweet–combining native ingredients in French ways. They are served with fresh fruit and followed by coffee or tea.

Chez loutcha 2 thiebou dienne y yassa mouton

Food in Senegal By Ángeles Jurado Quintana (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Senegal is known across Africa for its music mostly due to the popularity of mbalax. Sabar drumming if popular and is mostly used in celebrations like weddings. Another popular instrument is the tama.

The Youtube videos above gives you a sample of the sabar and tama drums in Senegal. For more music experience we took some CDs out of our local public library. Here are the ones we found with songs from Senegal.

Music CollageAs always I like to explore the country through books so my daughter learns a bit about each country we cook a dish from. We always start with some story books. Here is a mix of books about people or legends in or from Senegal. This group is for mixed ages since one is a novel and others are picture books. I did not find too many that were appropriate for her age.

Story CollageFinally we have our resource books about Senegal. Some of these are for older children as well.

Resource books CollageTwo of the books are about houses and schooling around the world. My daughter really liked the house book. The ones in Senegal were from villages in Casamance region. The house in the center of the village has a roof that allows the inside of the house to collect rainwater so it can be used as drinking water. The author of the book was able to fly over the village to get a picture of the roof.  I cannot find one on-line to share with you. This book also has a special house from Bolivia in it.


Village in Casamance, Senegal By Ji-Elle (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The main source for this article was Wikipedia.

Now it is time to explore Senegal with different recipes. Join us on our blog hop to see all the wonderful Senegalese recipes, crafts and more shared and feel free to share your own.  We also have the wonderful Senegalese placemat and passport pages  (and of course our passport cover) coming soon to download for free to help teach your children about Senegal.

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Season 3 – Bolivia

Bolivia (orthographic projection)This month we explore Bolivia. Officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia, Bolivia is a landlocked country in South America. Its geography varies from the high peaks of the Andes to the Eastern Lowlands in the Amazon Basin. It is considered a developing country with a 53 percent poverty rate. Before colonization the Inca Empire was in control in the Andes and other independent tribes were in the lowlands.

mapThe Spanish conquered the Inca Empire beginning in 1524 and completely by 1533. At this time it was known as Upper Peru. Bolivian silver was a major revenue source for the Spanish. The natives were forced to be slaves and worked under harsh treatments to mine the silver.  In 1781 Túpac Katari led the natives in a rebellion. Then in 1809 the struggle for independence began in the city of Sucre. This was the first cry for freedom in Latin America. That revolution was followed by the La Paz Revolution in which Bolivia declared its independence. Both revolutions were short lived though. Bolivia was freed and conquered many times and finally gained its independence in 1825 by Antonio José de Sucre and a military campaign coming from the north in support of Simón Bolívar. The country is named for Simón Bolívar.

flagBolivia went through many revolutions of being conquered throughout the centuries. In fighting for its independence Bolivia has lost half of its land to its neighboring countries. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s there were internal struggles for rule. Che Guevara lead some guerrilla warfare in the 1960s against the military rule. For more on these revolutionaries there are books available. Here are a couple from our library. Since 1982 Bolivia has been governed by democratic elections. The elections are still full of struggles.

wartime CollageThe Bolivian culture is greatly influenced by the Quechua, the Aymara as well as other popular Latin American influences. The Spanish brought their own religious culture and art. The indigenous people took the Spanish culture and put it into their own art and architecture which grew into what is called Mestizo Baroque. The culture is rich with folktales and folk music as well as art. There are many festivals. The best known one is Carnaval de Oruro.

Ururo 1103m

Carnaval de Oruro By Yves Picq (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The cuisine in Bolivia combines Spanish influences with traditional Indigenous Aymara ingredients. As immigrants came from other countries their customs also influenced the food. The staples of Bolivian cuisine are corn, beans and potatoes. These are combined with some Spanish staples like rice, wheat and meats including pork, beef and chicken. Lunch or Almuerzo is the most important meal of the day. The lunches are long so businesses and shops typically close between the hours of noon and three so employees can go home for lunch. The lunch is often several courses: a soup, main meat dish with sides and a dessert with coffee. It is traditionally followed by a siesta. Around 4 and 5 p.m. tea breaks are often taken at a tea house which also includes a bakery. Bolivians often drink yerba mate over black tea for their tea breaks. Dinner is usually around 8 p.m. or later is and is a light, informal meal.

Pique macho

Pique macho (pronounced pee-kay maacho) is a typical Bolivian food. It is a heaped plate consisting of bite-sized pieces of beef, sausage (hot dog type), and french fry-cut potatoes. By fabulousfabs (Flickr: Pique Macho!) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

stories and nonfiction CollageWe have been enjoying learning about Bolivia with books and stories. Above are some of the ones we found at our library. Below are books that include crafts, games, etc. from Bolivia.

crafts and more CollageThis post was written using information found on Wikipedia: Bolivia and Bolivian Cuisine.

Uros people-Lake Titicaca

Uros are a pre-Incan people living on self-fashioned floating islets in Lake Titicaca By MartinT11 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

Now it is time to explore Bolivia with different recipes. Join us on our blog hop to see all the wonderful Bolivian recipes, crafts and more shared and feel free to share your own.  We also have the wonderful Bolivian placemat and passport pages  (and of course our passport cover) coming soon to download for free to help teach your children about Bolivia.

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Season 3 – Cuba


“Cu-map”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

This month we travel to the Americas and our first stop is Cuba. As an American I have very prejudice views of Cuba due to the history of Cuba with the United States. It has been fun exploring this mysterious country with my daughter and learning more about it. Cuba is officially the Republic of Cuba. Cuba is an island country in the Caribbean. It consists of the main island and many small islands surrounding it. The capital city is Havana. Cuba is one of the places Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492 and claimed it for Spain. At the time there were several native tribes living there. Cuba remained under Spanish rule until the Spanish-American War in 1898. After the war Cuba was briefly ruled by the United States and then gained nominal independence in 1902. In 1952 Cuba came under the dictatorship of former president Fulgencio Batista. Batista was ousted in 1959 and the government was then under Fidel Castro. Since 1965 Cuba has been run as a single party state by the Communist Party. Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, is the current president.

Flag of Cuba

Source: (Drawn by User:Madden) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean. Its inhabitants come from the indigenous Taino and Ciboney tribes as well as the Spanish and the African slaves the Spanish brought to Cuba. It had a close relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War and it is close to the United States. Both of these also influence the culture and customs of Cuba.

Street life in Havana, Cuba

Street Live in Havana By Eggenbergurbock23 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Cuba adheres largely to the socialist principles of state controlled planned economy. This means the government owns and runs most businesses and means of production. The government controls the largest labor force. Private sectors that want to hire Cuban labor force must first pay the Cuban government who will in turn pay the employee in Cuban pesos. In July 2013 the average monthly salary was 466 Cuban pesos which is equivalent to about 19 American dollars. Every Cuban household has a ration book which entitles it to monthly supply of food and other staples. Cuba’s natural resources are sugar, tobacco, fish, citrus fruits and coffee.

Tobacco field cuba2

Tobacco Field in Cuba By Henryk Kotowski (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Travel to and from Cuba has been restricted for decades, but is now being a little more liberal. Previously for Cubans to travel abroad they had to get an expensive government permit and letter of invitation. Now they only need a passport and a national ID card and are allowed to take young children with them. However a passport costs five months salary. Tourism was initially restricted to enclave resorts. It was illegal for contact between foreign visitors and ordinary Cubans at one point. With the changes being made tourism in Cuba has greatly increased. The growth is expected to continue.

La Habana 2004 018

By Veronidae (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

 The culture of Cuba is diverse with the influences from Spain and Africa. Roman Catholic is the largest religious group due to the Spanish colonization. However today less than 50% identify as Roman Catholic. Music is rich and diverse. The central form of music is the Son which is the basis of many other forms like salsa, rumba, mambo and cha-cha-cha. The tres was invented in Cuba. The tres is a guitar-like chordophone. The tres cubano has six strings and the tres puerto rico has nine. Other traditional instruments include the maracas, güiro, marimba and various wooden drums including the mayohuacan. Some famous Cuban-American musicians include Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz.


Tres Cubano By Claireislovely (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 To learn more about Cuban music we went to the library and found the following CDs with Cuban songs and books about Cuban musicians.

cuban music Collage Baseball is the most popular sport in Cuba. They also like football, basketball, volleyball and amateur boxing. They tend to favor the popular North American sports due to the past relationship with the United States. Cuban literature often is themed around independence and freedom. Below are some cultural biographies and novels I found at our local library.

Cuban biographies and novels CollageThe cuisine in Cuba is a mixture of Spanish and Caribbean. The food rationing over the last four decades in Cuba has limited the availability of traditional foods. Traditionally the food is served all together instead of in courses. Black beans and rice and plantains are staples in Cuba. Garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves are the dominant spices. An example of a typical meal is plantains, black beans and rice, ropa vieja (shredded beef), Cuban bread, pork with onions, and tropical fruits.


Typical Cuban dinner consisting of ropa vieja (shredded flank steak in a tomato sauce base), black beans, white rice, plantains and fried yucca. By Marc Averette [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Some resources for recipes and crafts we found the following books at our library.

Cuban food and craft books CollageTo get a taste of Cuban life and culture we have also been enjoying reading stories from Cuba. Below is what we found at our library.

Cuban stories and picture books CollageWe also read some simple non-fiction books about Cuba. Here are ones we found at the library. This is a mixed collection of ones that are good for younger and older children.

Cuban resource books CollageFor older children you will also want to go into the history of Cuba more and the revolutions as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The following are books that will help with these topics. We did not look at them since my daughter is only five.

Cuban history books novels CollageThis post was created by the sources of the books pictures above and Wikipedia.

Now it is time to explore Cuba with different recipes. Join us on our blog hop to see all the wonderful Cuban recipes, crafts and more shared and feel free to share your own.  We also have the wonderful Cuban placemat and passport pages  (and of course our passport cover) coming soon to download for free to help teach your children about Cuba.

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Season 3 – Mongolia

This month we stop in Mongolia. Mongolia is a landlocked country in east-central Asia. It is bordered by Russia and China. The capital of Mongolia is Ulaanbaatar. Ulaanbaatar is home to about 45% of the population of Mongolia. Mongolia’s government is a parliamentary republic. It has a long history of being ruled by nomadic empires. In 1206 Genghis Khan established the Mongol Empire. At one point the Mongol Empire controlled China as well.  Mongolia is the 19th largest country and the most sparsely populated country in the world. It is home to around 2.9 million people. About 30% of the population is nomadic or semi-nomadic. The country contains very little arable land. It is mostly covered by a steppe with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south.

One of the most fascinating parts of life in Mongolia is the nomads homes: gers or yurts (Russian name). These round homes are made from wooden frames and wool felt coverings. They can be taken down quickly and set up quickly. The nomads move up to twenty times a year. In the summer the nomadic population on the steppe must move often to provide their animals with grass for food.

Mongolian Yurt By Krokus (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The life on the steppe is a hard one. Most families live in one ger which is one room. They raise animals such as horses, goats and sheep. Most get around by horse. The tame the wild Mongolian Horses that live on the steppe. Many families have motorbikes and a few have trucks, but gas is hard to come by and very expensive. One festival that gathers the families together is the Naadam which is a horse race. The young boys of the nomadic families ride a half-trained horse. The Mongolian horses build makes sitting in the saddle uncomfortable, so most riders stand in the bridles.

Mongolian Horses By Taylor Weidman/The Vanishing Cultures Project (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

A Race During Naadam By Jani Kajala ( [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The beverage of choice among adults is airag. Airag is fermented mare milk. It is often offered to a guest upon entering a jer. By the way, if you are visiting a jer on the steppe, they do not knock and consider it rude to lock the doors. They are very hospitable. The children have the jobs of milking the animals. During the summer the children are home from their boarding schools and help with the chores. They often are given the jobs of driving the animals to the pastures and watering the horses as well. The next job is to help make the airag. A crank must be turned at least 1000 times for the fermentation process to begin. In the summers the mares are  milked every two hours and the new milk is added throughout the day.

Mongolian Noodle Dish By Brücke-Osteuropa (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cuisine in Mongolia consists of dairy and meats of animals. There are not many fruits and vegetables due to the little amount of the arable land. Some popular dishes include buuz, steamed dumplings, and lapsha, a simple noodle dish. A delicious sounding dessert is boortsog, deep fried butter cookies. There are some recipes on-line. The sites I found are e-Mongol and Mongolian Recipes.

Mongolian Dress and Musical Instruments By Andrew Russeth from New York, New York (Flickr Uploaded by clusternote) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

With such a vast history and different lifestyle that has not changed much over the centuries there are so many different things to focus on when looking at Mongolia. There are movies that show life on the steppe like the Animated Tales of the World: Mongolia: Shepherd Boy Tumur and Mongolian Ping Pong. We did not watch all of Mongolian Ping Pong since it had subtitles and my daughter cannot read yet. However the small amount we watched showed us the land and views of the steppe as well as a bit about life there. The premise of the film is that a young boy finds a ping pong ball in the stream and they try to figure out what it is.

nonfiction Mongolia Collage

We also found some stories that are about people and festivals of Mongolia as well as a few stories and picture books to understand the life in Mongolia. I have included a few books for older children as well which we did not read.

stories and people Collage

The sources for this post are the books and movies pictured above as well as Wikipedia.

Now it is time to explore Mongolia with different recipes. Join us on our blog hop to see all the wonderful Mongolian recipes, crafts and more shared and feel free to share your own.  We also have the wonderful Mongolian placemat and passport pages  (and of course our passport cover) coming soon to download for free to help teach your children about Mongolia.

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Season 3 – Vietnam

Vm-map“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

This month we are exploring Vietnam. Vietnam is an s-shaped country in Southeast Asia. It has an estimated 90 million inhabitants. The name Vietnam was adopted in 1802 to Emperor Gia Long and again in 1945 by Ho Chi Minh as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Officially it is the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The capital is Hanoi since the reunification of the North and South in 1976. For over a millennium Vietnam was under Imperial China rule (111 BC to 938 AD). It was colonized by the French in the mid-18th century and under Japanese rule in the 1940s. Vietnam is one of the four remaining single-party socialist states espousing Communism.

Flag of Vietnam.svg
Flag of Vietnam” by Lưu Ly vẽ lại theo nguồn trên – Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

 Vietnam has mountains to the north and sea to the east. In the middle are the midlands which are full of rice paddies. There are two major rivers in Vietnam, the Red River and the Mekong River. Each river forms a delta where it meets the sea. Both deltas are highly developed and populated. The climate varies. However the winter is referred to as the dry season and summer is the monsoon season. In the southern planes and the Mekong River Delta the temperatures throughout the year range from 21 and 28 °C (69.8 and 82.4 °F). In the mountains the temperatures in December and January average 5 °C (41.0 °F) and in July and August they average 37 °C (98.6 °F).

Grazing buffalos in corezone
By Kristinvafranzi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

 The main religion in Vietnam is Buddhism. The second largest religion is Catholicism. There are two religions found only in Vietnam: Cao Dai and Hoa Hao. Vietnamese of all religions practice ancestor worship. Many homes have an altar with pictures of grandparents and great grandparents. Tet or New Year is the largest and most colorful celebration in Vietnam. They celebrate the lunar new year. They also celebrate Ho Chi Minh’s birthday on May 19th. Many consider him the father of Vietnam since he was the first president of North Vietnam after the French rule. He also fought hard to unify Vietnam. His birthday is now a public holiday and many children take part in parades to honor him. In August they celebrate Vu Lan Day or Wandering Souls Day. It is the time they remember the people who have died. In September they celebrate Tet Trung Thu or Children’s or Harvest Festival. It takes place during the full moon in September. It marks the beginning of the harvest. The streets are full with singing children, processions, drums and gongs beating. The children also carry lanterns and candles.

By Nguyen Thanh Long (originally posted to Flickr as Seeding) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 Rice is a staple food. It is grown throughout the midlands. During harvest season the schools are closed so the children can help their families with the harvest. Traditional Vietnamese cuisine is known for using little oil, use of fresh ingredients and relying on herbs and vegetables. It is considered one of the healthiest cuisines. Northern Vietnamese food is less spicy than Southern.  (Sources: Wikipedia and books shown below)

books on vietnam CollageAs always I look to the library for books on our country the ones above I found useful to teach myself and my daughter a bit about Vietnam. As for cuisine references the books below we found helpful for recipes as well as information about the religions, festivals and more.

vietnam food book CollageThen to give my daughter a sense of life in Vietnam I turn to legends and folktales as well as picture books and for older children there are novels and books about the history and wars. Here are some of the books with the legends and folktales.

legends and folktales CollageHere are picture books, novels, books about surviving the war as well as books about Vietnamese Americans and some returning to Vietnam for the first time.

picture books novels CollageThere are also some books about the holidays. I found two about Tet as well as one about a Vietnamese American family celebrating Thanksgiving differently from the traditional American dinner.

holidays CollageNow it is time to explore Vietnam with different recipes. Join us on our blog hop to see all the wonderful Vietnamese recipes, crafts and more shared and feel free to share your own.  We also have the wonderful Vietnamese placemat and passport pages  (and of course our passport cover) coming soon to download for free to help teach your children about Vietnam


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Season 3 – Saudi Arabia

612px-Saudi_Arabia_mapThis month we are exploring Saudi Arabia. It is officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is the largest (by land) Arab state in Western Asia and the second largest in the Arab World. It occupies 80% of the Arabian Peninsula. Before 1932 Saudi Arabia consisted of four distinct regions. In 1932 Ibn Saud united the four regions forming the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The country has since been a monarchy governed along Islam lines with much influence Wahhabism. In 1992 the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia was adopted as a royal decree stating that the king must comply with Islamic Law (Sharia) and the Quran.The royal family dominates the government. Its vast number allows for control of most of the important posts and at all levels of government.

King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud Jan2007

King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud Source: Cherie A. Thurlby [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Saudi Arabia is home to the two holiest places in Islam, Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina. There are 20 million Saudi citizens and 5 million foreigners living in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter. A large portion of its land is uninhabitable desert.

Flag of Saudi Arabia

Before the development of Islam, Saudi Arabia was populated by nomadic tribal societies besides a few urban trading settlements like Mecca and Medina. The life was hard in the hostile desert land. The Islamic Prophet, Muhammad was born around 571 in Mecca. In the early 7th century Muhammad united the various tribes on the peninsula with Islam. After his death his followers expanded the Islamic territory.

saudi arabia books CollageTo learn more about the country, politics, economy and people in the news for older children, you can find books at the library like the ones above which we found at ours. (I do not let my 5-year-old see or hear the news, so we did not read many of these type of books.)

ISLAM BOOKS CollageWith the birth of Islam in Saudi Arabia and 97% of the country being Muslim, it would be hard to talk about Saudi Arabia without discussing Islam. I had trouble finding many picture books with stories from Saudi Arabia, but we found a few having to do with Islam, Muhammad and the holidays. Really focusing on Saudi Arabia is the perfect time for non-Muslims to educate their children about Islam. Some other stories that help introduce the lifestyle in Islam and Arabic countries but have a familiar story line are some of the fairy tales that have been written. Here are some I have found and featured over at Crafty Moms Share. The Sleeping Beauty book is coming out in February. fairy tales CollageIn Saudi Arabia, they follow Islamic Rule which includes not eating pork, strict dress guidelines, alcoholic beverages are prohibited and there are not theaters or public exhibitions of films. Daily life is dominated by Islamic Observances including praying five times. Since Friday is the Islamic holiest day, traditionally the weekend in Saudi Arabia was Thursday through Friday. To help the economy and international commitments they switched it in 2013 to Friday to Saturday. They still follow hijab traditional dress which suits the life in the harsh desert. Football (soccer) is the national sport. Other popular sports include sailing, windsurfing, scuba diving and basketball. Camel races and falconry are also still practiced.

Arabian Camel Meat Biryani

Arabian Camel Meat Biryani Source: By Miansari66 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

For cuisine, pork is not consumed. A stuffed lamb dish called khūzī is a traditional national dish. Kebabs and shāwarmā, a marinated meat, are popular dishes. Flat unleavened bread, dates and fresh fruit are part of every meal. Turkish style coffee is the traditional beverage. (Source)

For more resources and lessons on Saudi Arabia check out the following sites I found:

Now it is time to explore Saudi Arabia with different recipes. Join us on our blog hop to see all the wonderful Saudi Arabian recipes, crafts and more shared and feel free to share your own.  We also have the wonderful Saudi Arabia placemat and passport pages  (and of course our passport cover) coming soon to download for free to help teach your children about Saudi Arabia.


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Season 3 – Ukraine

Location Ukraine” by  By Rei-artur pt en  Rei-artur blog  – Original by User:Vardion, Image:A large blank world map with oceans marked in blue.svg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

This month we are “traveling” east to “explore” Ukraine. With the current revolution in Ukraine and hearing about it in the news each night, it seems like a perfect time to learn more about the country. Of course it is also more difficult to get current information since it is changing.

Flag of Ukraine.svg
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe and is the largest country entirely in Europe. Its capital is Kiev. The land has been inhabited for the past 44,000 years and is believed to be one of the possibilities for where the horse was first domesticated. Ukraine gained its independence in the early 1990’s with the dissolving of the Soviet Union. Since then it has gone through a few revolutions as it currently is. It has fertile land and has been providing the world with grains for a long time. The official language is Ukrainian and its alphabet is Cyrillic. Russian is also widely spoken there. The dominant religion is Eastern Orthodox Christianity which has influenced its art, literature and music.

Ukrainian girls.jpg

Ukrainian girls wearing traditional clothes and embroidery at the Fifa World Cup 2006 “Ukrainian girls” by phogel – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Textile arts play an important role in Ukraine. Ukrainian embroidery, weaving and lace-making are used in their traditional folk dress. The style of the embroidery: stitch length, motif and color choices vary by region. In the village of Kropove, weaving on a hand loom is still practiced and they are hoping to preserve the tradition by opening a weaving center that will continue to teach the art as well as offer a museum. (Source: Wikipedia)

holiday books CollageWe found several books dealing with religious holidays in Ukraine. At Easter, Ukraine is famous for its pysanky or painted Easter eggs. At Christmas there are many versions of a tale involving a spider. As such spider ornaments and spiderweb ornaments are hung on their trees. All the crafts in the books we found had to do with pysanky or spiders.

Ostereier 10.JPG
Ostereier 10” by L.KenzelOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

We also found some non-religious stories to learn more about the culture, including the popular Ukrainian folktale, The Mitten.

stories from Ukraine CollageIn Magic Egg and Other Tales from Ukraine retold by Barbara J. Suwyn, there are some versions of classic fairy tales like Cinderella and the Frog Princess as well as other stories of which I had not heard. Throughout the tales religion often played an important role.

nonfiction CollageWe also found some non-fiction stories. There are several books about Oksana Baiul, a famous Ukrainian figure skater as well as many books about the Chernobyl Disaster. There are also some about the Holocaust. We did not read any of these books since they were all above my five-year-old’s comprehension level. However they are wonderful resources for families with older children.

CD and Resource Books CollageWe also found two CD’s with a lullaby from Ukraine; it was the same song on both CD’s however. We also found two books to use a reference and learn a bit more about Ukraine.

Kiev cake slice

Slice of Kiev Cake  By Mrnotwo (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The traditional Ukrainian diet includes chicken, pork, beef, fish and mushrooms. They also eat many grains, potatoes and fresh vegetables. Ukrainian specialties include Chicken Kiev and Kiev Cake. They drink stewed fruit, juices, buttermilk, milk, mineral water, tea, coffee, beer, wine and horilka (a Ukrainian whiskey). (Source) Now it is time to explore Ukraine with different recipes. Join us on our blog hop to see all the wonderful Ukrainian recipes, crafts and more shared and feel free to share your own.  We also have the wonderful Ukraine placemat and passport pages  (and of course our passport cover) coming soon to download for free to help teach your children about Ukraine.

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Season 3 – Hungary

EU-Hungary.svgFor June we travel north to Hungary. Hungary is a Central European country. It’s capital and largest city is Budapest and it official language is Hungarian. It has a vast history with influences of many different groups. In the 9th century the grand prince Árpád is thought to have set the foundation of Hungary. In 1000 his grandson, Stephen I finished the job. He united the various tribes and converted the entire country to Christianity. He was married to a German princess and used Germany as a model for his own country. He was named a saint by the Catholic Church.

Source: Infoplease

Source: Infoplease

The current borders were established for Hungary in 1920 after World War I. After World War II, Hungary was influenced by the Soviet Union and became a communist dictatorship. In 1989 Hungary became a democratic parliamentary republic again.



Széchenyi Thermal Bath By Civertan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Hungary is often considered divided into three sections by its two major rivers: the Danube and the Tisza. The area beyond the Danube is mostly mountainous and includes part of the Alps. The other two sections are mostly grass plains and includes the Great Hungarian Plain.  Hungary has the largest natural grasslands in Europe. To the north of the Great Hungarian Plain are the foothills of the Carpathians. In this area is Kekes, the tallest mountain in Hungary. Hungary is also home to the largest thermal cave system and the second largest thermal lake in the world. As a result of the thermal water, Hungary has a passion for spas. There are approximately 450 public baths in Hungary.  The Széchenyi Thermal Bath is said to be the largest spa complex in Europe and is in Hungary.

Okt 11.jpg

Danube River Bend “Okt 11” by Horvabe – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Hungary has a vast list of famous mathematicians and scientists. They include the developer of modern (non-Euclidean) geometry, the chief mathematician of the Manhattan Project and thirteen Nobel  Prize winners. Almost all of them emigrated mostly due to persecution of the communist and fascist regimes. Hungary also is/was home to Ernő Rubik, the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube, László Bíro, the inventor of the modern ballpoint pen, and Albert Szent-Györgyi, who is credited with discovering vitamin C and creating the first artificial vitamin.


Rubik’s Cube “Rubik-Wuerfel”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Hungarian culture puts a huge emphasize on hospitality and cuisine. Many of their dishes include paprika which was a Hungarian innovation. Paprika comes from a special pepper.  The most famous Hungarian dish is goulash, a stew or soup. Pálinka is a fruit brandy, distilled from fruit grown in the Great Hungarian Plains. It comes in many flavors including apricot, cherry and plum. Plum is the most popular. Hungary is also known for its wine making.   (Sources: Wikipedia and books pictured below) For some recipes and more information on Hungary we checked out some books from our local library.

These books were also used as sources for this article.

These books were also used as sources for this article.

We also have been enjoying many stories from Hungary. Here are some picture books we have read.
Hungarian Picture Books Stories Collage
We also found three versions of one folktale. All three tell the same basic story.

Rooster and Diamond button Collage

We also looked at some non-fiction books to learn more about Hungary. Maggie: A Sheep Dog is about a Kuvasz, which is a type of dog from Hungary. The Boy Who Loved Math is about Paul Erdos, a famous mathematician. The Great Houdini is about Harry Houdini who was born in Budapest as Ehrich Weiss. Soccer is a popular sport in Hungary. They have won three Olympic Titles in it, came in second in two World Cups. Speaking of sports, Hungary is third highest number of Olympic medals per capita and second highest per capita of Olympic gold medals in the world. (Source)

Nonfiction booksCollage

Hungary has so much history that there is also a lot of great reading for older children. Here are some I found at my local libary.

Chapter books Collage

There is also the Holocaust stories from Hungary. Here are some I found at my local library. Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish man who rescued tens of thousands Jewish Hungarians during the Holocaust. There are several books about him available.

World War II in Hungary Collage

Now that we have explored a little bit about Hungary, we are going to share our own experiences with the cuisine of Hungary. We also have the wonderful Hungary placemat and passport pages  (and of course our passport cover) coming soon to download for free to help teach your children about Hungary. Also please visit the various blogs who link their posts with crafts, recipes and more about Hungary and feel free to link any you have.

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Season 3 – Croatia

ImageOur stop this month is Croatia. Croatia is in both Central and Southeast Europe. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. It has a unitary democratic parliamentary government and declared independence in 1991 and successively gained it four years later after fighting a war. Croatia has a population of 4.28 million. Most of its citizens are Croats and the most common religion is Roman Catholic. The official language is Croatian.

ImageCroatia consists of 56,414 square kilometers (21,782 square miles) of land and 128 square kilometers (49 square miles) of water. It borders the Adriatic Sea and includes thousands of islands and islets of which 48 are permanently inhabited.  Most of Croatia has a moderately warm and rainy continental climate. Croatia is ranked 18th most popular tourism destination in the world. The most popular time to visit is in the summer months. The country has free primary and secondary education and free healthcare. ImageThe Croats arrived in present day Croatia in 7th century AD. Later they became a kingdom upon choosing a king in 925. In 1102, Croatia entered a personal union with Hungary. After World War I, Croatia seceded from Austria-Hungary and emerged into Yugoslavia. During World War II a fascist puppet state Croatia existed and after the war became a founding member of the socialist state of Yugoslavia. Then declared its independence in 1991. Croatia is a member of the European Union, NATO, United Nations and the World Trade Organization. It is a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean.

Dubrovnik Source: Bracodbk

Dubrovnik Source: Bracodbk via Wikimedia Commons

With its new independence I found it hard to find good books for resources to read with children. I always like to read some stories from the country to my five-year-old daughter as well as some of the resource books I find at our local library. Croatia is not the topic in many children’s books. I did manage to find two fictional books.

ImageNonna’s Birthday Surprise by Lidia Bastianich is a picture book where a grandmother describes growing up in Istria. Istria is a place that is shared by three countries, Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. Since the grandmother names are Italian, I am assuming the author’s experiences in Istria was more Italian than Croat, but it is the closest I could find. The book also includes recipes at the end since the book is about a group of grandchildren who want to make a special dinner for a grandmother. They go to their other grandmother for help. Trophy Kid or How I Was Adopted by the Rich and Famous by Steve Atinsky is a novel for older children. It is about a Croatian war orphan who is adopted by a Hollywood couple. I did not read it, so I can not tell much about it.

ImageOur library network also had four books with the title Croatia in their Children’s Departments. Each goes into the details about the country and culture. The suggested ages of these books start at eight-years-old and up.


Regional Dish of Medjimurje County, Croatia by By Silverije (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0  or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Croatian traditional cuisine varies by region. Those closest to Italy and other Mediterranean countries have similar foods such as seafood, pasta, garlic and oil. Then the continental cuisine is highly influenced by Hungarian, Austrian and Turkish cuisine.


Ivan Gundulić, Croatian Baroque Poet, Oldest Picture of Carvat By desconocido, pintado en 1630 aprox. (Archivo familiar) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

An interesting fact about Croatia is that the forerunner of the necktie, a cravat, originated in Croatia.  They were part of the military uniform and some mercenaries enlisted in French Service. The Parisians were intrigued by the fashion. King Louis XIV began wearing a lace carvat in 1646 at age 7 and set the fashion for French nobility. The cravat became the fashion craze throughout Europe.



Necktie on Wikipedia

We also have the wonderful Croatia placemat and passport (and of course our passport cover) available to download for free to help teach your children about Croatia. Also please visit the various blogs who link their posts with crafts, recipes and more about Croatia and feel free to link any you have.

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Season 3 – Portugal


This month we explore Portugal. Portugal is a Southwestern European country on the Iberian Peninsula. It is the westernmost country on mainland Europe. The land of Portugal includes the mainland and two archipelagos: Madeira and the Azores. The land and borders of the Portuguese Republic have been fought over and settled continuously since prehistoric times. In 1139 Portugal became independent kingdom from the Galicia.  In the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal played a major role in explorations and expanding the western influence.


For older children, a wonderful history lesson is looking at the explorers of Portugal. Prince Henry the Navigator is considered an important part of the Portuguese explorations. He encouraged his father, King John I of Portugal, to conquer varies ports as well as support the explorations. In 1412 Prince Henry ordered the expeditions to the African coast and Canary Islands. In 1419-1420 the Madeira Island group was discovered and colonized. In 1488 the Portuguese rounded the Cape of Good Hope and began to explore the Indian Ocean. In 1494 Spain and Portugal split the world in two. The dividing line was the north-south line 370 leagues west of the Azores. Portugal claimed all non-Christian lands east of the line. In 1495 they discovered Greenland and in 1500 Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil on his way to India. In 1498 Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa to India.

Portuguese discoveries and explorationsV2en

Portuguese Discoveries and Explorations Source: By Descobrimentos_e_explorações_portuguesesV2.png: *Descobrimentos_e_explorações_portugueses.png: *Portuguese_discoveries_and_explorations.png: *Portuguese_Empire_map.jpg: Tokle derivative work: Uxbona (Descobrimentos_e_explorações_portuguesesV2.png) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

There are many books available at your local library on the various explorers and the explorations of Portugal. Above are some books found at my local library. This was an exciting time in history and especially in Portugal.  The Portuguese Empire has the longest record for European colonial empires. It started in 1415 with the capture of Ceuta and ended in 1999 when they turned over Macau to China. As a result there are over 250 million Portuguese speakers in the world today–making it the sixth most spoken first language in the world.

explorers Collage

For younger children, it may be fun to look at the Portuguese language. The books below are a few found at my local library that introduce Portuguese in an age appropriate way.

Portuguese books Collage

 My five-year-old also enjoys listening to music from each country when possible. If the songs have words they are in Portuguese as well, but we found quite a collection of songs at our local library. Below are the CD covers that we found at least one song from Portugal. The Portuguese music covers a wide array. The most renowned Portuguese music is fado.

Portugal Music Collage

 Portugal has an education system that includes preschool (under age 6), basic education (9 years of it), secondary education (through 12th grade) and higher education (college or technical school). It also has one of the oldest continuous operated universities in the world. It was established in 1290 in Lisbon and moved to Coimbra and is now the University of Coimbra.

2002-10-26 11-15 (Andalusien & Lissabon 246) Lissabon, Praça do Comércio

Praça do Comércio e arco da Rua Augusta Source: By Allie_Caulfield [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The cuisine of Portugal is diverse. One popular food is dry cod. Sardines are also popular. For meats they eat lamb, pork, beef or chicken. The various regions of Portugal have their own type of food. One resource of the regional food is The Food of Spain & Portugal: A Regional Celebration by Elisabeth Laurd. It has recipes for the different regions in Portugal.

food of spain and portugal

To teach your child more about Portugal, there are many books available for all age levels. Here are some I found at our library. Most will work for older children to get the full understanding and to have the attention span for the length of reading.

Learning about Portugal CollageFor the younger child, I recommend Portugal by Kari Schuetz. My daughter and I learned quite a bit from reading this book and she really understood it.

portugal schuetz

Finally with our explorations I like to include some stories from the country. I had trouble finding picture book stories to share from Portugal, but did find some fairy tales, Portuguese Fairy Tales retold by Maurice and Pamela Michael, and folk tales, The Little Horse of Seven Colors and Other Portuguese Folk Tales retold by Patricia Tracy Lowe. The fairy tale book did not have any pictures, however the folk tale book has some. We have been reading the folk tale book and loving the stories.  The other book, A New Life In An Old Village: A Family in Portugal by Hélène Tremblay, is a true story about a family’s life in Covelo, Portugal.  It is out of print, but you may be able to find it at the library like I did.

stories from portugal Collage

Sources for this post:



Coimbra Source: By Alvesgaspar (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

We also have the wonderful Portugal placemat and passport (and of course our passport cover) available to download for free to help teach your children about Portugal. Also please visit the various blogs who link their posts with crafts, recipes and more about Portugal and feel free to link any you have.

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