Posted in Craft Thursdays

Chinese Festival Family Style – The Crafts

Other than our Panda puppets we made one craft to prepare for the day and two crafts at the festival.

To decorate we made Chinese lanterns.  These were very easy for Kaitlyn and Eileen loved making them with a bit of help.  We followed the simple directions we found on Kaboose.

First I measured out and marked the lines for the girls.  I cut Eileen’s for her and Kaitlyn cut her own.

After our first one we learned that it was much easier to decorate the lanterns before assembling them.  I got out our craft bins and anything they could use to decorate their lanterns: foamies, stickers, markers, and crayons but their favourite was the glitter glue.

To assemble them all you need is a stapler and some string or wool to hang them up.

At the festival the kids did two crafts.  When all the kids had arrived we made dragon puppets.  I printed off a template I found online an each child coloured their own.  I put out crayons for them to use and let them do any colour they wanted.   After they were coloured the adults helped cut them out.  At this point we realized that this pattern is rather intricate and time consuming to cut out.  After cut out they were assembled using red construction paper and wooden skewers.

Our final craft was Chinese kites.  I looked online for patterns for making kites and settled on a diamond kite.  We followed the pattern exactly and the kids had fun making them but I don’t think they will ever actually fly.  It said to use strong paper so I purchased bristol board, but I think it is too heavy.  Again I got out decorating supplies and let the kids decorate their kites however they wanted.  If we had more time I would have introduced the concept of the zodiac or Chinese New Year and encouraged them to use their symbols on their kites.  Kaitlyn is a bit dissapointed her kite won’t fly so we are going to experiment with other materials and see what we can come up with.  We did manage to find wooden sticks of bamboo in the gardening section of Canadian Tire and they worked well. We have lots left over and will use it on our new kites.

Have you every had any luck making homemade kites that fly?  What are your suggestions?

Posted in Cooking with the Kiddies

China Festival Family Style – The Feast

We couldn’t have a chinese festival without chinese food – and I don’t mean American Chinese food – real chinese food!

One of my favourite shows on T.V. is Ann & Kristina’s Grocery Bag.  This was my first stop in the search for a good authentic chinese cookbook.  They reviewed The Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, and it didn’t get the A&K stamp of approval.   My next stop was the local public library.  They only had one Chinese cookbook: Cooking Chinese by Deh-Ta Hsiung.  I put it on hold and decided to give it a try.  While I was looking for cookbooks I also came across The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee.  This book is a look into the world of Chinese restaurants – American Chinese restaurants.  I am not finished reading it but so far it is fascinating.  The world that most of us know of Chinese food is not at all similar to the food actually eaten in China.  Fortune cookies aren’t even Chinese.  This is a fun read that I am going to sign out again this summer as an easy read at the cottage.

So back to the dinner.  Cooking Chinese by Deh-Ta Hsiung was the perfect cookbook four our feast.  It had 50 recipes to choose from and each was broken down into 3 steps.  Some ingredients were a bit exotic but most I could find in our small town.  The most helpful part was the back of the book where there was a page entitled “The Chinese Meal”.  I was trying to make this dinner as authentic as possible so this was a huge help in my planning.  I first learned that in an informal dinner all foods are placed in the centre of the table with everything ready to eat.  A lazy susan is a asset.  To make my life a little easier in my preparation I decided to make a 4 course dinner, more like a formal Chinese dinner.

As suggested our first course consisted of both cold dishes and hot dishes:

  • Chicken with Mustard Sauce (cold)
  • Spicy Beef (cold)
  • Vegetable Salad with Spicy Dressing (cold)
  • Hot and Sour Cabbage (warm)
  • Vegetarian Egg Rolls (warm)
All these dishes turned out very well.  I was nervous about the egg rolls but they were delicious and everyone wished I had made more.
It was interesting to learn that soup was never served as the first course.  Drinks are usually not served during a meal and clear-based soups are used in their place.  I decided to serve the soup between the first and the main course.
  • Wonton Tang Soup
  • Tofu and Fresh Vegetable Soup
As I was trying to make this as authentic as possible I didn’t take any shortcuts and made my own Chinese stock.  This was used in the Wonton soup to  great success but in the Tofu and Fresh Vegetable Soup I substituted vegetarian vegetable broth to meet the needs of our vegetarian guests.  It was lacking a bit of flavour but we think this was because of the substitution.  As with the egg rolls I was very proud of myself with the success of the wontons.
We took a short break after the soup course so I could get the main course ready.  If I was to do this again I would definitely have 2 woks.   My wok broke a couple of months ago so I borrowed my aunt’s electric wok.  It was awesome to use but it was our bottle neck.  I was grateful for my warming drawer so all dishes could be served warm.
  • Stir-Fried Shrimp with Snow Peas
  • Kung-Po Chicken
  • Cantonese Beef
  • Red, Green, and Yellow (ie. tomatoes, cucumbers and eggs)
Most of these dishes turned out excellent.  My favourite of the entire day was the Cantonese Beef – awesome!  The Red, Green and Yellow wasn’t my favourite but I think it was just ingredients that my pallet didn’t like together.
Chinese don’t normally have desert but that wasn’t going to fly in our house.  The cookbook did give a recipe for Almond Junket, also known as Almond Float.  Basically this is jello type cubes served with fruit salad.  It was not a big hit, but probably an acquired taste.  Of course we had to have Jasmine tea with our desert.  When I was doing my grocery shopping I came across Hello Panda Chocolate cookies.  I am not sure if these are really Chinese but I found them in the asian section so we are saying they are – and they were a hit with both the adults and children.  Even though they are not Chinese I did pick up a box of Fortune cookies.  We had fun with them but we made sure everyone knew that they are an American invention.
A couple of notes about our dinner.  I have to give a huge thanks to my amazing husband.  He stopped at an Asian grocery store when he was in the city to pick up some of our more unusual ingredients an it was a frustrating experience for him to say the least.  After much searching we did have two recipes with ingredients missing but we didn’t seem to notice.  In the Spicy Beef we didn’t add the rock candy and in the Hot and Sour Cabbage we were missing the Sichuan peppercorns.
And finally you can’t have a Chinese feast without chopsticks.  We had normal bamboo chopsticks for the adults but I wanted to find something a little easier for the kids to avoid frustration.  My favourite online kitchen store, Golda’s Kitchen and great one piece chopsticks that were perfect.  The only problem I have now is that my kids want to use them everyday.
An awesome dinner and I definitely am looking into purchasing Cooking Chinese by Deh-Ta Hsiung.  I don’t think I will make all those recipes in the same day again but can definitely add a few to our weekly meal plans.
Posted in Craft Thursdays, Family Adventures, Literacy Tuesdays

China Festival Family Style – Introduction & Research

If you have been following my Literacy Tuesday blogs you will know that we were reading a number of alphabet concept books.  One of the books we read was D is for Dancing Dragon – A China Alphabet by Carol Crane and Illustrated by Zong-Zhou Wang, and if you are interested in the book I commented on it at my library blog.  This book was the jumping off point for our China day.  From here we found a research idea, crafts and decorations to make, and food we had to include in our celebration.  I am not going to try an include everything in one  blog post, instead I am going to try and group what we did preparing for the day and on the day itself, into a few blog posts.

The past few years I have worked as a teacher-librarian and one of the main focuses has been to teach students how to learn for themselves.  This  was the first opportunity I have had to directly teach my own children research skills, well Kaitlyn was the only one actually researching, Eileen just was along for the ride.  We started by reviewing the letter P in our alphabet book – The Giant Panda.  We started this on a literacy Tuesday so I printed off some P worksheets and colouring pages for an introduction.  Kaitlyn particularly liked the P wordsearch and I appreciated that it was the perfect level of difficulty for her.  Eileen made an attempt to trace the P letter pages I gave her, which is a big step for her.  They both coloured a few printable pages, and Kaitlyn even made an effort to colour the correct colours in the correct places.

Because my kids respond to hand-on crafts, we made paperbag panda puppets.  I found many different templates online but we chose the one through Circletime kids.  They were very easy to make. Kaitlyn did hers all herself and I helped Eileen cut out her pieces but she did most of the gluing.  A quick and easy panda craft

The final part was to learn a bit more about Pandas.  I picked up a number of panda books at the library, both fiction and non-fiction but before I let the girls look at them I told them they had to come up with 5 questions they wanted to know about Pandas.  I first introduced the concept of an endangered species and the definition of extinct.  The example of the dinosaurs being extinct is easy for them to understand.

Kaitlyn’s Research Questions:

  1. Why can’t we have a panda as a pet?
  2. What do they eat?
  3. Do they live around people?
  4. Do they run or walk?
  5. How long do they live?
  6. Why are they endangered? (O.K. this last one was Mommy’s question)

I thought they were pretty good questions.  We used our books from the library to find the answers.  I read the books to the girls and Kaityn stopped me everytime there was an answer to one of her questions.  When we were done we made a Giant Panda poster and picked pictures that answered some of the questions.  For example she learned that Giant Pandas like climb so we made sure to include a picture of a panda climbing.

I decided to try and take it one step further and introduced some social awareness to Kaitlyn.  After discussing endangered animals and the possibilities of extinction we started to talk about what we could do to help.  We discussed the WWF and decided to have a donation jar at our Chinese festival.  She let our family who was coming know of the jar and she collected $13.87 in loose change and her Aunt & Uncle also made a symbolic adoption in her name.  Mommy and Daddy added to the $13.87 to make another symbolic adoption.  One small step to start raising the idea of making a positive impact in the world.  We even got a bit of a math lesson out of it sorting all the coins.

And what is a party without party favours!  I found a seller  through ebay who sold Chinese parasols.  For my cousin’s son who was at the party I got him a small dragon puppet.