Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peru album

Here's a recap of all of our Peru activities. Click on the photos to follow through to a detailed post.




potato-stamped wrapping paper

llama toy

paper doll

festival mask



Find us on Goodreads for book reviews.

picture books

grown-up books




potato cups


Philatelic (stamp) Museum
farm visits


Spanish songs




donation to Awamaki


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Peru reflections

We've now completed three months of Whirls and Twirls and it feels like we are hitting are stride. The months have started to take on a routine. We start with a trip to the library to exchange the books from our previous country for ones about our new destination. We make a collage on the first day, introducing the new country with photos, maps and discussions about what we'll be doing. We fill the month will all sorts of fun activities, and try to involve local friends when we can. And at the end, we find a way to give back by donating to a organization that does good work in the country we visited.

I'm figuring out what kind of research I need to do in advance and trying to get supplies in order so that we are ready whenever there is a free afternoon or a rainy day. And I'm getting a better sense of what kind of activities are right for The Whirl Girl and her age group, trying to find the right mix of being challenging enough but not too ambitious.

Best of all, The Whirl Girl loves it. Many mornings start off with her saying: "Mama, I have an idea. We could do a project today!" I wasn't sure how her 3 1/2-year-old brain would process the whole idea of "traveling" to these different countries. And while I couldn't tell you exactly how her brain visualizes the idea of a "country," it's inspiring to see that she understands that they are different places and remembers things that we did months ago.

Peru was, of the three, the country that I knew the least about. There weren't any specifically Peruvian cultural events in Singapore to guide our travels. We had to stretch ourselves and get creative. Friends shared their expertise and their ideas. I learned right along with The Whirl Girl. Note to grown-ups: picture books make a fantastic introduction to new countries. They are filled with evocative illustrations and stories, and often contain easy-to-read factual information about the geography and culture of their subject.

Adios for now to the Western Hemisphere, we are off to....


Peru donation: Awamaki

Our charity for this month is Awamaki, a Peruvian non-profit working with impoverished Quechua women weavers to improve their skills and increase their access to market, thereby revitalizing an endangered weaving tradition while affording Quechua women with a reliable source of income.

I like their work because it supports two causes close to my heart: the empowerment of women and the preservation of traditional handicrafts. While searching for a women's weaving cooperative, I came across Awamaki and was impressed by their wide range of activities including economic development, education, and sustainable tourism. They are also featured on Global Giving, a charity website that connects donors with innovative, grassroots organizations.

For The Whirl Girl, it tied in with our weaving craft and many of our books that were set in the Peruvian Andes. She liked the idea of helping aunties that make the colorful blankets, hats, and shawls that she saw in pictures and in her books. I explained that these aunties don't have very much money and by sending them a little bit, they can buy yarn and supplies. Then they can weave blankets and clothes, and sell them to make money. I can see that she is beginning to understand the concept of philanthropy, in her own 3-year-old way. (Hoorah!)

writing a note to the aunties

our card - a bit of coloring and a bit of weaving

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Peru cooking: Potato cups

Remember potatoes originally come from Peru? We'd done potato stamping but no potato cooking! We have two fun cookbooks for kids that we pulled off the shelf for ideas. The first - The Kids' Multicultural Cookbook - is organized by country and was the first source that taught us that potatoes came from Peru. The second - Cook it in a Cup: Quick Meals and Treats Kids Can Cook in Silicone Cups - provided the recipe. The Whirl Girl is very excited to have and use cookbooks of her own sitting next to her Mama's on the shelf.

The recipe is very easy. All you need are some shredded potatoes (I used the food processor). I did a mix of white potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Mix them with some olive oil (about 1 TBS) and 1/2 tsp salt. We sprinkled some cumin on for more flavor.

Pile them on the silicone cups on a baking sheet. You could also just sprinkle them on a baking sheet (our cups didn't really stay as cups anyway and were pretty much a pile of shredded potatoes).

Cook for 15-20 minutes in a 425 oven until crispy. Let cool for 10 minutes and remove from silicone cups.

Eat! (I swear she liked them).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peru crafts: Weaving

One of the first things that came to my mind when I thought of Peru - after Machu Picchu - is beautiful and colorful textiles, like these:

from National Geographic

We watched two videos on youtube so The Whirl Girl would have a sense of what she was doing. The first shows the whole process: making the thread, dying it, and then weaving (and it has a bonus shot of guinea pigs!). The second is a woman weaving.

I found a weaving project in one of my favorite new resources, a book called Kids Around the World Create!: The Best Crafts and Activities from Many Lands by Arlette Braman. It's filled fun craft ideas, easy-to-follow instructions, and background cultural information. Was this book made for our adventures or what? The author has also written a book specifically on Inca crafts called The Inca: Activities and Crafts from a Mysterious Land, which we've not yet been able to get our hands on. Many thanks to the author for allowing us to share her detailed directions here.

I would say that this project was a little beyond The Whirl Girl's patience threshold and is probably suited for kids who are a bit older than her 3 1/2 years. Or next time I might use a smaller loom - I ended up finishing the second half (which I enjoyed!). But she did like the idea of it, especially after watching the videos. And she loved the finished project, which has already been a rug in her dollhouse, a shawl for her little people, and a blanket for her llama.

  • a piece of cardboard, cut into 3 x 7 inch rectangle (I used a cereal box)
  • yarn in different colors
  • scissors
  • ruler
Step One: Cut five slits about 1/2 inch apart. Make each slit 1/2 inch deep.

Step Two: Cut one long piece of yarn (about 61 inches). Put it through the bottom left of the loom, leaving a 4 inch tail on the back of the loom. Wrap the yarn around the loom, working from bottom to top through each slit in turn. When you reach the top right slit, put the yarn through that slit, and leave a 4 inch tail on the back of the loom.

Step Three: Cut strands of yarn for weaving. For narrow rows of color, strands should be between 14 and 16 inches. For wider rows, they should be between 18 and 22 inches.
Step Four: Start weaving. Start at the bottom of the loom. Put a strand through the bottom right slit, leaving a 4 inch tail on the back.
For the first row: Put the strand under the first long string and over the next. Keep weaving over and under until the end of the row.
For the second row: Weave over the first string and under the next until you reach the end.
Continue in this pattern. Push down or pack every row close to the one before with your fingers.

Step Five: Change colors. When you start a new color, weave the first row of the color the same way you wove the row you just finished. Always finish the last row of the old color on the left and start the first row of the new color on the right. Don't cut the tails until after the weaving is finished. Continue until you reach the top of the loom. At the end, pack the rows one last time to make sure they are close together.

Step Six: Put the end of the last strand through the top right slit, leaving a 4 inch tail. Turn the loom facedown and cut the long strands across the middle. Remove the long strands from the slits. There will be six strands hanging from each short edge. Tie the two left strands together in a knot. Do the same for the next two and last two strands. Repeat at the bottom.

Step Seven: To make a fringe, cut the knotted strands to about 2 inches. Unwind each strand. Cut the little yarn strands that are sticking out of the rows by gently pulling each yarn end and cutting it as close as possible without cutting any of the woven strands.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Peru crafts: Suncatcher

The sun is very important in Peruvian culture. In fact, the currency used to be called the inti ("sun" in the indigenous language of Quechua) and is now called the nuevo sol ("new sun" in Spanish). There's also a big Sun God festival in the Andean city of Cusco that we've been reading about in one of our books, Up and Down the Andes.

So a sun craft was in order! I liked this suncatcher idea from InCultureParent.

The Whirl Girl remembered this picture of the Sun God in her book, which she used as inspiration

  • construction paper
  • wax paper
  • scissors
  • glue
  • red, orange, yellow small crayon pieces (I chopped old crayons with a sharp knife)

Step One: Make the sun's interior. Cut two round circles out of wax paper. Sprinkle crayon pieces on one and put the other on top.

Step Two: Using a dish towel below and on top of the wax paper, iron the wax paper. Just hold the iron down in each place for a couple of seconds. It will melt the crayons for this effect:

Step Three: Cut out circles of construction paper to go around the wax paper. Add some rays if you'd like. We were a little more elaborate in this part than I had intended because The Whirl Girl was really excited about using some new craft scissors that she was gifted that create different shapes when cutting.

Step Four: Glue it all together.

The Final Product. When it catches the sun, it glows!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Peru field trips: Farm visit

Peruvian cultural events are a rare occurrence in our part of the world, so we had to get creative for our field trip this month. We've done projects with two staples of Peruvian agriculture: quinoa and potatoes. And one of our favorite books for the month, How Llama Saved the Day, features a farmer as the main character.

So we decided a farm visit was in order. Singapore also isn't known for its farming community, but we found a goat farm and an organic vegetable farm on the outskirts of the city that welcomed visitors. A perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. And made even better because we were joined by amigos!

First stop was Hay Dairies Goat Farm...

...where we saw lots and lots...

...and goats.

a big hit with the kids

We got to see how they were milked...

and then tried some Chocolate Goat Milk, which was delicious.

Then we went to Bollywood Veggies, an organic vegetable farm displaying all kinds of vegetable and fruit plants. No quinoa or potatoes though!

A great place for kids to run around and explore where their food comes from, complete with a cafe for lunch at the end of our tour.