Category Archives: World Culture

A Persian Thanksgiving!

Happy belated Thanksgiving! At our home, we understand the history around this occasion and with this knowledge of violence and sadness and what happened to the Native American people and culture, we choose to use this time as a celebration of diversity and acceptance that different is good. A way for all of us to dip into another culture to better understand things we may be making assumptions about, or not even take the time to notice.

As a family, each year we choose a different country to learn about. We dive into their culture, history and food, and this year we chose Iran! We learned how to wear a hijab, niqab and burka and understood more deeply that it is an expression of modesty.

The people who live in Iran are predominately Persians and we started by learning about the country’s history which of course, included a lot of wars sf hostile take overs.  TRUE FACT: the Roman-Persian war lasted for over 694 years, between the years of 66 BC and 628 AD and it’s considered the longest human conflict in history.  DID YOU KNOW: 70% of Iran’s population is under 30… we thought that was very interesting and something that makes you think twice. ANOTHER INTERESTING FACT: Iran is the biggest supplier of turquoise, saffron, pistachios and caviar on the world. So cool!  There are obviously many more interesting facts but we thought we’d keep it light and just let the video down below work its magic share some history and knowledge with you – beware – the vlogger is a FAST talker and really packs in the information!

Another major part of our Thanksgiving celebration is the food! We try our best to make a traditional replica of the country’s native food which usually includes spices, dips, meat or veggies and something exotic we’ve never had. For our feast this year, we had rice with saffron, yogurt and eggs, kerchief flat breads with spices, a traditional persian salad made of cucumber and tomato and pomegranate molasses, carrot moraba (which is basically a chutney with cardamom infusions), the ever popular, Fesenjan and home-made fruit leather – It was quite a feast!

Our whole family’s favorite part is busting stereotypes and taking the time to learn about traditions, cultures and religions that make the world so awesome. Hope you had a marvelous Thanksgiving however your family celebrates it. Three cheers for Thankfulness!

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Here’s our ultimate Thanksgiving feast!

Murals in the Market…

It’s hunting season here in Michigan and while we know a lot of people that are out in tree stands watching for deer, we headed to the urban outdoor spaces of downtown Detroit to hunt down Murals in the Eastern Market!

As stated on their website, “Murals in the Market  is more than an international mural festival, it’s a creative platform that inspires and encourages community engagement using public art as a vessel.”

Street after street we saw dozens of pictures which had intricate line work and many inspiring quotes – I’d never seen so many large paintings in one place! I was so impressed at how crisp they got those lines and how many different kinds there were, they all had a certain feel about them and I loved how no two were alike! The messages were about freedom, individuality and equality. Creativity is a given seeing as no 2 were anything alike! After taking roughly 100 pictures, I felt VERY inspired to do some artwork myself. In a city where places are often run-down and color is very limited, it was wonderful (and thought provoking) to see so much time, effort and bright colors put into a very urban place. I feel like it made that part of the city seem a lot more welcoming, peaceful and happy… looks like their plan worked!

If you’re ever Detroit, it is worth the stop, especially if you are there on a Saturday morning when they have the most remarkable and sprawling Farmers Market you’ve ever experienced!!

A very special shout out to Hannah Fine for taking us on an amazing adventure through the streets of Detroit neighborhoods. She is has a fantastic knowledge base of the city and things to do and experience! Thank you Hannah – You are AWESOME!

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I absolutely LOVED how silly these foods looked! :01

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Isn’t that amazing? Really makes you look twice, right?

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Dia de Los Muertos…

In honor of this sacred event that celebrates family and friends who have passed into the spirit world, we hand cast sugar skulls for Day of the Dead.

We love this Mexican tradition for many reasons, but one of our favorites is the way the Mexican culture honors those who have died. They build beautiful altars (ofrendas)   with favorite foods of those who have died, photos and flowers. Death in this culture is a celebration rather than something sad – they decorate sugar skulls and host parties, have dances and they even have fireworks at nightfall! Although it’s sometimes sad to know some people in your life have died, if it’s one thing I’ve learned, there’s always something good that comes out of it!

If you want a fun way to understand more about this tradition, and some of the thoughts behind the customs, check out Pixar’s movie Coco (shown in the featured image). It is a great movie and has INCREDIBLE imagery!

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Our finished sugar skulls!

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This is the packaging from the sugar skull mold we used. dont’cha just love the graphics?

Not a Run-of-the-Mill Island!

Weather is changing here in West Michigan…winds are picking up and skies are shifting and we’re drawn to start baking and making cups of hot cider! Speaking of baking, ever wonder where your flour came from back before there were automated manufacturers? Well, one example would be the windmill, which was first used in 18th Century Holland! Here in West Michigan, we have the only working dutch windmill in the entire country – and its roughly about 250 years old!

In 1964, the windmill (or the De Zwaan ) was moved to America by boat, just before a law was passed that windmills were no longer allowed to leave the Netherlands, so the purchase was the last one ever made. The De Zwaan (the Swan) came in 4 pieces which were then reassembled in Holland, Michigan, standing 125′ tall, where it still stands today! Part of the agreement with the Dutch government was that it remain a working windmill and be open to the public to teach about Dutch history and the was of the mill.  On windy days when the temperature is right, De Zwaan’s own miller, Alisa Crawford can still be found milling wheat into flour where people can purchase it online or when visiting Windmill Island. Alisa is the first Dutch-certified miller outside of the Netherlands as well as becoming the first woman admitted into the guild! So cool!

Of course, we were excited that they offer guided tours through all levels of the windmill. It is amazing how old it is, and that it is actually someone’s workplace. It reminded us how ingenious humans are to come up with the idea of using wind for power….. we knew all about turbines that create electricity, but hadn’t considered wind as a way to make grains. If you’re ever in Holland, Michigan, be sure to check out Windmill Island! You won’t be disappointed!! :0)

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Matsuri in Illinois!

Lucky us! We got to attend the 20th Anniversary of Japan House at the University of Illinois. The celebration began at the Krannert Center Theatre. A three and a half hour performance of all things Japan: a tea ceremony, Japanese instruments, several bands, traditional drumming and of course a kimono fashion show! People attended from all over the world to participate in the excitement.

The next day, there was a Matsuri (Japanese Festival) at the Arboretum outside the Japan House on campus. Food vendors (YUM!), and all things Japan were sold, both handmade and Japanese products right from Japan. We wanted to bring EVERYTHING home with us, but only chose a select few items to remember the day by.

It was a super fun weekend and made is appreciate Japanese culture even more than we already did!!

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Back in Time in Arthur, Illinios…

Last week, we were immersed in experiences to learn about in central Illinois, many that I plan to post on in the coming week. We spent a day in Arthur, Illinois where there is the largest community (about 4,000) of Amish people in Illinois.

At first, it didn’t seem that different from our Grandparent’s farm, about an hour North of there but after driving around and stopping at many locations, including some Amish homes, it became more and more interesting that their lifestyle was very different than our own.

First of all, you should know it was about 93 degrees the day we went. Too hot!!! Some of the most noticeable difference were the black buggies and wagons. Many of the men wore black and white clothing – keep in mid how hot it was! Yikes!

It seemed like a peaceful way to live. Simpler in many ways but harder in others. We visited a home where they had 100 chickens, 7 children and were heading off to town (not with the chickens!) piled into an uncovered wagon, half the size of our minivan. We stopped at a quilt shop that was in a lovely Amish woman’s home. Her name was Vera. We went to a fabric shop and a local store, Beachy’s, where everything was sold in bulk.

Before going to Arthur, we researched their culture and beliefs so as not to offend them while visiting. Happy we did. We learned that we shouldn’t take any photos of people’s faces. That they don’t listen to or play music. That they all dressed similarly from the time they were children. All of these things are to keep them from standing out from one another – individuality is not something they celebrate as a culture. Generations of families live near one another, which we thought was very cool since we live 3 hours in either direction of any of our relatives.

I liked how it seemed like time stood still there. It was a relief that no one had a phone in their hand, checking the weather forecast or news. Olive says she’d be interesting in trying it if she could find a cooler place to live. Central Illinois can be brutal when it’s hot!

We enjoyed being able to peek in to another culture. We left with many more questions than we arrived with but think it is awesome that they have kept their traditions alive in such a fast moving world!

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Whatever way they grow, we go!

It’s summer and some of the most beautiful flowers are in bloom. Luck was with us when we participated in a special workshop led by a seasoned floral expert in Japanese flower arranging known as Ikebana. She is otherwise known as… our Grandma!

Ikebana is all about simplicity, the arrangement of the flowers and the intention behind it, so we spent lots of time picking flowers and choosing things that complement each other. We learned about the roles the flowers have in the arrangement: the dominate – is tallest, sub-dominate – the second tallest, and of course the subordinate – smaller and the compliment – the accent. After spending a lot of time organizing, trading and trimming we had finished! Afterward, each of us were asked to create a Haiku to accompany our final arrangement. A Haiku (if you aren’t familiar) is a poem, 3 lines with 17 syllables – 5 on the first line, 7 for the second and 5 again on the last.  It’s quite fun and a great way to round out a SUPER fun and informative workshop!

Mom’s Haiku:

Grandma overseeing life

Five grandchildren, flourishing.

Bright, positive, love.

Thank you to our fabulous, fun-loving Grandma who sponsored  and designed this fun workshop! She even came with handouts!!!

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These are what some people call frogs, see the little spears? By placing the stem on one of these, the flower will stay upright!

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