Happy Hinamatsuri!

Hina matsuri dolls made of paperIn Japan, March 3 is Hinamatsuri, or Girls’ Festival. It’s a time when families with girls display dolls dressed in kimono, often a large number of elaborate and expensive dolls perched on a set of steps covered in red cloth. The top figures are an emperor and empress. On lower steps sit all kinds of ministers, musicians, and I don’t know what else – probably grape-peelers and bum-wipers. Each doll can cost hundreds of dollars.

We weren’t going to do that.

I did, however, want to celebrate Hinamatsuri, since my heritage is Japanese and we have two girls. So we decided to make some of the simpler Hinamatsuri food as well as emperor and empress dolls. Here’s how my four-year-old and I made the dolls. Continue reading

Dominican Republic – Children’s activities

The Dominican Republic celebrates its Independence Day on February 27th, and I figured this was as good a reason as any to designate this weekend Dominican Republic weekend. Besides, after all the rain we’ve had this winter, we needed a dose of the tropics. I figured there was no better way to start than with a little tropical music and dance.

Merengue is the dance of the Dominican Republic and, handily, it’s probably the easiest of the Latin dances. I’m no expert dancer but I figured even I might be able to teach my four-year-old the basics of merengue. Continue reading

A Chinese feast

Table full of Chinese foodThe weekend of Chinese New Year, I wanted to do traditional Chinese New Year food. However, I didn’t want to work too hard at it. I thought about making dumplings (AKA potstickers or gyoza), but I’ve done that before, and while they came out delicious, it was a LOT of work. Even in my pre-gluten-free days, when I could just buy wonton wraps at the store, dumplings were labour intensive. When you factor in having to make all the wraps as well as the fillings, then form and fry/steam the dumplings, it becomes a huge undertaking. So that was out.

Next, I thought about making gluten-free barbecue pork buns, which I have also done before using more or less the recipe linked to in this sentence (I followed the directions for the bun part but made up my own low-FODMAP filling), but that too was pretty fiddly. I also rejected the idea of making turnip cake because I’d have to go to the Asian grocery store to look for rice flour and daikon, and besides, my husband is allergic to shrimp and lap cheong, with its inimitable taste, is typically not gluten-free.

The more I researched, though, the more it became clear the Chinese New Year foods that most readily popped to mind for me were far from the only ones. In fact, it seemed like almost any Chinese dish could be considered a New Year dish. So I decided to do what was tasty, easy and would create enough leftovers that I wouldn’t have to cook for a few days. On the weekend menu: kung pao chicken, gingery tofu vegetable stir-fry, mu shu duck, steamed aromatic fish, almond cookies, and “ants climbing a tree” (Sunday lunch). Yeah! Continue reading

Kids’ activities – China

Blue and purple dragon made of construction paper, with zigzag bodyMy four-year-old and I celebrated Chinese New Year last week (for an explanation, see Gung Haggis Fat Choy) by making a super easy dragon craft out of two sheets of construction paper. You need:

  • Two sheets of different coloured construction paper (You could use three to make dragon reversible, in which case you’ll need two sheets to be the same colour. If you do this you’ll need to cut two identical heads and tails.)
  • Two straws, popsicle sticks or disposable chopsticks
  • Tape (necessary)
  • Glue (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Two smallish squares of cardboard, slightly smaller than the head and the widest part of the tail
  • Crayons and/or markers
    Continue reading

Kids’ activities – Scotland

Introducing a preschooler to Scotland

My husband is Scottish by blood but his ancestors immigrated to Canada so long ago, not even my father-in-law, who has diligently researched his family history, knows where in Scotland they came from. So until our Scottish weekend, my four-year-old didn’t know she was ethnically half Scottish. She had heard vaguely of Scotland but not much more.

I started by showing her a map of the world, pointing out Canada, where she was born, England, where she lives now, and Scotland. I then showed her this Union Jack GIF, which shows how the flags of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England were layered on top of one another to form the Union Jack, which she is familiar with. Continue reading