I am thrilled to be participating in DailyBuzz Mom’s 9X9 “Out and About” theme for July, along with eight other very talented mom bloggers. I’m honored to be in their company. Visit DailyBuzz Moms today to check out all the posts and discover some wonderful ideas for family summer fun.
Africa is a magical place. Many of us dream of experiencing the majesty of its breathtaking landscapes and the richness of its culture. Yet why not travel there today on the wings of your imagination? With creativity and planning, you and your family can experience a Day in Africa without ever leaving your home town, and feel like you have spent a day on the continent that captures the imagination like no other. It’s an experience your family will not soon forget. Fun is the most important ingredient. Hakuna Matata!
A Day in Africa has been a tradition in my family for years. My hometown of Ft. Worth, Texas, has the incomparable Fossil Rim Wildlife Center right in its own back yard. With African wildlife roaming the wide open spaces, it’s easy to feel remarkably like you are on the savanna in Africa.
Why not plan your own “safari” at your local wildlife park or zoo?
They’ll be treasured memories for the family photo album years from now.
Packing an African-themed picnic to take with you on your safari is a terrific way to celebrate African culture.
The incredible array of African cuisine offers endless possibilities from which to choose.
The yam is an African root. Prepare a creative twist that kids will love with sweet potato fries.
Sweet Potato Fries Recipe
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the 3 medium sweet potatoes into 1/4 strips and toss in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place a layer of parchment paper to prevent sticking on a baking sheet, then arrange the strips in a single layer. Place in the oven for 25 minutes. Keep a careful eye on them, checking on them after 10 minutes and turning after 15 minutes. Use tongs for easier turning.
Tip: For a unique flavor, sprinkle with rosemary snipped with sheers and salt prior to baking.
Alternate Sweet Potato Recipe: Fried Yams
Peel sweet potatoes & slice into 1/4 inch lengthwise slices. Salt slices lightly. Grill in a skillet or on a griddle in a 50/50 blend of melted butter + olive oil. Grill on both sides until lightly browned.
Chicken Skewers Recipe
Marinate chicken tenders in TIGER SAUCE (available at many grocery stores) and 2 tablespoons brown sugar for at least 4 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator). Skewer tenders lengthwise onto bamboo skewers. Salt skewers to taste.
Cook on an outdoor grill until lightly browned and fully cooked (depending on the grill temperature, from 3 to 6 minutes per side, OR broil in an indoor range on high for 3-4 minutes per side).
Simple African-themed adornments for your picnic can really add to the fun and even add a wow factor. Purchase large banana leaves from your local Hispanic market to use as placemats, or find plastic ones at your the dollar store. Bring along brightly patterned cloth napkins instead of paper ones.
Earthenware serving dishes add a special rustic accent to the table. Seek out carved African figurines or masks at your local antique store or flea market.
Did you know that the word “banana” originated in West Africa? Be sure to have some on hand for dessert!
Making giraffe centerpieces is a creative and fun way to get your child involved in the planning for your Day in Africa.
1. Fold a 8.5 X 11″ piece of card stock in half. (Each section is then 8.5 X 5. 5)
2. Look up a giraffe picture on line. With the top of the back represented by the fold, draw the body about 4.5″ wide. Draw the two closest legs, following contours as closely as possible, with the bottom of the feet at the edge of the card stock. Cut out both layers of the body and legs leaving the fold intact.
3. Using a 5.5″ X 2.25″ scrap, draw off the head (the widest at the top) and the long skinny neck, about 1.25″ wide at the bottom where the neck would join the body.
4. Along the fold, cut a slit 1″ wide to insert the base of the neck. Extend the neck into the slit about .5″ and tape to secure. Fold the neck barely along the fold to compensate if it wants to lean over a bit. The legs will splay out, giraffe-like.
5. Child can color card stock yellow and brown before putting the neck and body together. She will color both sides of the neck and add an eye. Lay the leg and body shape flat for child to color the body and legs. Then simply add the head and neck into the slit and voilà!
This is pretty small, standing only about 10″. If you wanted to make it out of yellow construction paper, you would need to reinforce all parts to make it stand up and for the neck not to flop over.
No outing is complete without the right background music to set the mood. Bring along portable speakers for your iPod or a portable CD player, or have it playing in your car on the way to the zoo or on the drive through the wildlife park.
I recommend Elton John and Tim Rice’s “The Lion King: Original Broadway Cast Recording.”
This album has it all: beautiful ballads, humorous little ditties like “Hakuna Matata,” and the incomparable version of “Circle of Life” sung with richness and heart by Tsidii Le Loka. I think “Circle of Life” is one of the most deeply moving songs ever recorded.
I also recommend the motion picture soundtrack from “Out of Africa” (1986) by John Barry.
This mesmerizing score has scope and romance of an old-fashioned epic Hollywood film. It will bring the majestic African landscape to life in your mind and will put you in the mood for your African wildlife encounter.
Family Movie Night
The fun doesn’t have to end after the sun has set. The perfect way to end your Day in Africa is with a screening of one of the many wonderful films set in Africa.
I recommend “The Lion King” (1994). It truly is Disney’s masterpiece. It’s the story of Simba the lion cub’s journey into adulthood. Along the way Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas as a cub and Matthew Broderick as an adult) finds friendship, love, and ultimately his rightful place in the circle of life.
The whole family will delight in the moving spectacle and the comedy relief provided by the likes of comedic masters Nathan Lane as Timon the meerkat and Whoopi Goldberg as Shenzi the hyena.
Reel Mama’s Rating: While G-rated, “The Lion King” does have several scenes that may be too intense for viewers under six, including the death of one of the main characters, a stampede, and a final showdown that includes hyenas attacking the main characters. No blood is shown. Parents may wish to preview the film so that they know when to bypass the more violent scenes, since young children sincerely enjoy the rest of the film, especially the musical numbers.
I also recommend “Duma” (2005), an incredible journey of friendship and love.
Young Xan (Alex Michaeletos) and his father (Campbell Scott) discover a baby cheetah alone on the road in a remote region of South Africa. Xan names the cheetah Duma, who soon becomes like a member of the family. Duma’s interactions with Xan are nothing short of amazing. Director Carroll Ballard directed “The Black Stallion,” one of the greatest children’s films ever made, and his gift for capturing and portraying real animals as deeply realized characters is unsurpassed. Ballard captures the “human” side of Duma — his emotions, such as his love for Xan — but also his wild side and need for freedom. The cinematography of the African landscapes is spectacular.
Reel Mama’s Rating: Appropriate for ages seven and up. One of the main characters passes away, and Xan and his traveling companion and mentor Rip (Eamonn Walker), along with Duma, find themselves in several life-threatening situations. The film’s themes of coming of age and dealing with loss will be better appreciated by older children. The film is rated PG. The film may be too slowly paced for lovers of “Sponge Bob,” but those who stick with it, especially animal lovers, will be richly rewarded.
It’s the Circle of Life/ And it moves us all/ Through despair and hope/ Through faith and love/ Till we find our place/ On the path unwinding/ In the Circle/ The Circle of Life
We mustn’t forget that many of the animals that we enjoy in movies and in captivity are endangered and vanishing in their natural habitat. A Day in Africa is a chance to reflect on the beauty and majesty of these animals and their home. Check out the organization African Wildlife Foundation or the World Wildlife Fund if you would like to help.