Thoughtful Thursday: Irish Proverbs

Bíonn siúlach scéalach. 

Hiking Ireland

People who travel have lots of stories to tell.

You can read more Irish proverbs here and here.

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Word of the Day Wednesday: Bothántaíocht

Bothántaíocht

Thatched cottages in Ballyvaghan, Co. Clare - geograph.org.uk - 250617

From ‘bothán,’ meaning ‘hut’ or ‘cabin,’ the word refers to the act of going around the neighbours’ houses, collecting gossip or stories.

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Visit Us At the Upcoming Volunteer Fair in Dover, DE!

This Saturday, March 22nd, I will be at the Kent County Public Library in Dover for the volunteer fair from 2-4 pm.  I will be there along with more than 20 other organizations to speak with prospective volunteers…and we need some great volunteer host families for next year!  I’d also be happy to speak with anyone interested in coming on board as a local International Exchange Coordinator!

The Kent County Library is at 497 S. Red Haven Lane in Dover.  Hope to see you there!  The volunteer fair is hosted by the State Office of Volunteerism and the Kent County Public Library.

I can answer your questions as a coordinator AND as a host mom!  Want to see how great hosting can be?

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Tasty Tuesday: Irish Soda Bread

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a recipe for traditional Irish soda bread.  Several sources I’ve come across in searching for today’s recipe state that traditional soda bread contains only four ingredients:  flour, baking soda, buttermilk and salt, so that’s what I’ve included below.  There’s a wheat and white version, both from the Society for Preservation of Irish Soda Bread.

Soda bread

Brown Bread

  • 3 cups (12 oz) of wheat flour
  • 1 cup (4 oz) of white flour (do not use self-rising as it already contains baking powder and salt)
  • 14 ounces of buttermilk (pour in a bit at a time until the dough is moist)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.
  • 2 ounces of butter if you want to deviate a bit.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. degrees. Lightly grease and flour a cake pan. In a large bowl sieve and combine all the dry ingredients. Rub in the butter until the flour is crumbly.
  2. Add the buttermilk to form a sticky dough. Place on floured surface and lightly knead (too much allows the gas to escape)
  3. Shape into a round flat shape in a round cake pan and cut a cross in the top of the dough.
  4. Cover the pan with another pan and bake for 30 minutes (this simulates the bastible pot). Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  5. The bottom of the bread will have a hollow sound when tapped to show it is done.
  6. Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist.
  7. Let cool and you are ready to have a buttered slice with a nice cup of tea or coffee.

White Soda Bread

  • 4 cups (16 oz) of all purpose flour.
  • 1 Teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 14 oz of buttermilk

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. degrees. Lightly crease and flour a cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl sieve and combine all the dry ingredients.
  3. Add the buttermilk to form a sticky dough. Place on floured surface and lightly knead (too much allows the gas to escape)
  4. Shape into a round flat shape in a round cake pan and cut a cross in the top of the dough.
  5. Cover the pan with another pan and bake for 30 minutes (this simulates the bastible pot). Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  6. The bottom of the bread will have a hollow sound when tapped so show it is done.
  7. Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist.
  8. Let cool and you are ready to have a buttered slice with a nice cup of tea or coffee.

 

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Monday Matches: Asian Students

Jin, 15, Japan

ACTIVITIES / INTERESTS
• Baseball
• Cooking together
• Board games
• Fishing

Jin started to have an interest in studying in the United States when he went to New York to to participate in a ballet convention. He couldn’t communicate with people in English at that time, so he has a strong will to improve his English skills by talking with many people during his exchange
year. Also, he used to travel to other countries such as France, Belgium, Singapore, and so on.  His father is a pastry chef, so Jin went to European countries many times with his father. His family is international, so he has much support from the family.

Yubin, 15, Korea, South

ACTIVITIES / INTERESTS
• Baseball/Softball
• Choir/Singing
• Board games
• Volunteering

Yubin has a great personality.  He encourages and helps his classmates who don’t do well during the class. He is a well disciplined student. He knows how to apologize and gratitude to people. He is always saying that expression. He likes baseball. So He will enjoy it during a High School Year with his friends and host family.

Chaitawat, 15, Thailand

ACTIVITIES / INTERESTS
• Drums
• Soccer

Chiatawat is one of kind student, polite and open-minded.  He would like to be exchange student because of gain new experience and improve language.

Hsiang-Wei, 16, Taiwan

ACTIVITIES / INTERESTS
• Baseball/Softball
• Excursion or Trips
• Martial arts
• Camping
• Hiking
• Volleyball

Hsiang-Wei (Henry) has a pleasant and outgoing personality and is able to carry on a conversation in English without any problems even in a high pressure situation. His sense of humor always makes everyone around him happy. Henry has a variety of interest, but his loves are playing baseball and assemble machine. He is an all-around student and I am sure he will be a successful exchange student.

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Multicultural Monday: St Patrick’s Day

March 17th is St Patrick’s Day and in the US serves as a cause to celebrate one’s Irish heritage.  The date of March 17th is significant because it is the feast day of St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.  Legend has it that he used the shamrock, a clover, to explain the Holy Trinity to pagans and helped convert Ireland to Christianity.

Although not an official holiday in the US, it is celebrated with parades, eating and drinking and wearing the color green.  The city of Chicago even dyes the river green!

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The Chicago River, dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day

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Tasty Tuesday: Fastnacht Day!

Today is known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday in the Christian tradition.  There are lots of celebrations around the world today – Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carneval in Brazil, Pancake Day in the UK and Fasching in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  The point of these celebrations is to get rid of anything that is forbidden during the time of Lent, which is meant for abstention and penitence.  Lent begins tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday.

Within my own Pennsylvania Dutch background, we celebrate Fastnacht Day.  Traditionally, it was custom to use up all the lard, sugar, butter, eggs, etc. before the fasting time of Lent.  This was done through the making of Fastnachts, which are a type of doughnut.  There are many different recipes for Fastnachts; some with baking powder, some with yeast, some with potatoes.  For anyone wanting to try their hand at homemade Fastnachts, here’s a recipe from Teri’s Kitchen.

Fastnachts (Pennsylvania Dutch/German Yeast Doughnuts)

Makes 4 to 5 dozen

Fastnacht Day is a special Pennsylvania Dutch celebration that falls on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. The word translates to “Fast Night”. The tradition is to eat the very best, and lots of it, before the Lenten fast. Fastnachts (pronounced fost-nokts) are doughnuts. There are three types of Fastnachts, one made with yeast, one made with baking powder, and one made with potatoes and yeast. All are slightly crispy on the outside and not as sweet as standard doughnuts. My family usually had crullers, spelled cruellers in PA Dutch country, which do not use yeast. I have recipes for both the yeast Fastnachts, as in this posting, and crullers, a less time-consuming doughnut and my personal favorite. A cousin shared her family’s recipe for potato Fastnachts, but I have not tried it as yet. Both of those recipes are on the full page view linked above. Traditionally, all Fastnachts were made with, and fried in, lard. I have altered that in the recipes since it is so difficult to find nowadays but, if you can find it, lard would be my first choice.

Ingredients

Sponge

  • 2 cups milk, room temperature
  • 1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) rapid-rise dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Dough

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening (preferably non-hydrogenated)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Vegetable or canola oil for frying, about 2 quarts

For the sponge: Scald the milk and cool. (This can be done in a pan on the stovetop, or in a bowl in the microwave on High for about 3 minutes, depending on wattage. Heat but do not boil.) Dissolve the yeast in the water and let rest until it starts to bubble to make certain it is alive. Place the milk, 1 teaspoon sugar, 3 cups flour and yeast mixture in a large bowl of an electric mixer. Stir on low just until combined. Cover and let rise in a draft-free area until doubled, about 30 minutes.

For the dough: Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Melt the shortening and let cool. Place 3 cups of the remaining flour in a medium bowl. Add the salt and mace; stir with a whisk to combine. When the sponge has doubled, add the eggs, melted shortening and the 3/4 cup sugar; stir just to combine. On the lowest setting of the mixer, add the flour mixture, about one-third at a time. Stir just to combine. Do not over mix. The dough should be very soft and just dry enough to roll. If it is very sticky, incorporate just a little more flour, about 2 tablespoons at a time. Cover and let rise until doubled, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

When doubled, place dough on a lightly floured surface. Gently roll to about 1/2-inch thickness, as close to a square or rectangle as possible. Cut into 2-inch squares. If desired, cut a slit down the center of each square, being careful not to go all the way through the dough. (This is traditional for Fastnachts. Supposedly, it makes them crispier all over the outside. But it is not necessary.) Place on large baking sheets lined with parchment or waxed paper. Cover and let rise again until nearly doubled, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

To fry doughnuts: Place the oil in a deep pan high enough to hold the oil half way up the sides. Heat to 360° over medium heat. Carefully fry the doughnuts, about 5 to 7 at a time, until well-browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip to other side and brown another 3 minutes. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

Notes: I like to use my stand-up mixer, but these are relatively easy to make by hand. Doughnuts may be sprinkled with granulated or confectioner’s sugar while still warm. The PA Dutch tradition is to cut open the doughnut horizontally, and drizzle the cut sides with molasses or corn syrup. I prefer them plain. They are best served the same day because they are so good when crispy on the outside. However, they are still good, stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for several months (they will never last that long). Leftover Fastnachts are best placed in a preheated 350° oven for about 5 minutes to recrisp slightly. Watch them carefully to prevent burning.

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