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Welcome to Middle School Monday! The last couple of weeks we've really tried to stick to our school schedule and get back into routine. Kennady worked hard at all her subjects (except Science, but we'll get to that!) but I think she liked spending a little time learning about France in Geography last week. You see, she went through a phase of being fascinated by Paris and especially the Eiffel Tower awhile ago. I mean, what girl doesn't go through that, right? Exactly.
France is the largest country in Europe by landmass, but its current size is only a small portion of the empire that once spanned four continents. France has been a parliamentary republic since 1870.
Northern France is relatively low and flat, since it is within the Great European Plain. Three of the five major French rivers flow through northern France - the Seine, which flows through Paris is the best known. The plains around Paris produce many agricultural products, and France is the world's leading producer of sugar beets, and Europe's leading producer of wheat. The Loire River valley is known for its grapes and vegetables.
In the far west of France, the peninsula called Brittany boasts beautiful beaches on the Bay of Biscay, and a rocky north coast along the English Channel. The Bretons are descendents of the Celts, and are working to preserve their language, which is similar to Welsh. The Normandy region is east of Brittany and runs along the coast to the Seine River. This is where the Allied invasion of France during World War II took place.
Alsace-Lorraine in eastern France is a territory that has been disputed with Germany. The area offers forest products, industry, and good farmland. Southern France features rugged mountains as well as lowland valleys and coastal plains. Did you know that the "Jurassic period" was named for the Jura Mountains along the Swiss border? I didn't! Southeast France is a popular tourist destination, with the Alps on the Italian and Swiss borders. The Rhone River flows south from the Alps into the Mediterranean, and this region is a major producer of grapes and wine, and the French Riviera has long been a favorite vacation area. Central France is a mountainous plateau, poor for farming but useful for grazing livestock. The Pyrenees Mountains form France's border with Spain.
The French language is what we associate with France, and many people in France are concerned with protecting the beautiful language from the "invasion" of English words such as 'hamburger' or 'e-mail' so there are laws preventing the use of some of these terms in the press and official documents.
As artsy as Kennady is, it just makes sense to do some sort of art project for each of the regions we study, and when we were hunting for resources to study cultural geography, one of the things she said she wanted to do was draw and learn about some of the famous landmarks of each of the countries. However, when I suggested she do a new sketch of the Eiffel Tower, she was all "Did that already. Rocked it. Need something different." All-righty-then. And she DID rock the Eiffel Tower drawing last year - see?
One year we made this paper model of the Eiffel Tower, which you can find at PaperToys.com.
And this 3-D puzzle of the Eiffel Tower was a fixture in Kennady's room for quite awhile.
The Eiffel Tower is the best-known symbol of France, and has been since Gustave Eiffel built it for the 1889 Paris Exposition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. I hunted around for other ideas, and found a slightly different take on the Eiffel Tower on Pinterest that she liked, so who knows - maybe the Eiffel Tower will make another appearance in her artwork!
And we found this miniature playset at Made by Joel. Sure, it's intended for younger kids, but it was so cute, we couldn't resist.
Other art projects that we are considering include: this paper model of the Arc de Triomphe; and brief artist studies of some of the well-known French artists, such as Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Degas, Matisse.... so many to choose from! I have a book on order from the library, so as soon as we receive it, I'll have a better idea. Of course, in the meantime, we're moving on to other countries!
France has always been famous for its cuisine, so we made sure to put some classic French foods on our menu plans. There were so many to choose from, but we started with Chicken Cordon Bleu for dinner on Friday. I also tried my hand at making my own baguettes, the most popular type of French bread. Other French dishes that may be on an upcoming menu are crepes and Croque Monsieur. Did you know that bread is not usually buttered in France? There usually isn't a bread plate at a formal dinner setting either, because the bread is placed directly on the tablecloth. It's also considered impolite to season your food at the table, especially if you haven't even tasted it yet (I should have acted super-offended when my hubby did this at our French dinner!), and please do not ever ask for a bottle of ketchup at a meal in France!
We were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make Chicken Cordon Bleu, and the whole family loved it. My version won't win any blue ribbons for how pretty it looked, but trust me, it was delicious. I adapted the recipe from Emeril's There's a Chef in My World!.
Chicken Cordon Bleu
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
8 very thin slices deli ham
8 slices Swiss cheese
1 cup flour
2 tbsp milk
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
seasoning such as Emeril's Original Essence
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp butter
Pound the chicken breasts to about 1/4 inch thick with a meat mallet. Season with salt and pepper. Layer two slices of ham and 2 slices of cheese on each and fold over. Press the edges of the chicken breast together to "seal" the ham and cheese inside as best as possible. Whisk together the eggs and milk in one bowl, the bread crumbs and seasoning in another bowl, and put the flour in a third bowl. Dredge each piece of chicken carefully in flour, then egg/milk, then bread crumbs, pressing the bread crumbs onto the chicken slightly. Cover and refrigerate the breaded chicken for about 20 minutes.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When it is very hot, but not smoking, place the chicken breasts in the skillet along with 1 tbsp of butter. Don't overcrowd the pan. Cook until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Then turn the chicken breasts and add the remaining butter; cook for an additional 4-5 minutes until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Drain on paper towel briefly before serving.
1 lb Boule bread dough (Master Recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day)
Shape the bread dough by pulling and rolling on a floured surface, until it is about 2 inches in diameter. If the baguette is too long for your baking stone or oven, cut it into two shorter baguettes. Allow to rest for 20 minutes on a pizza peel sprinkled with whole wheat flour. In the meantime, place the baking stone in the oven, and another shallow pan or the broiler tray on the lower rack in the oven, and preheat to 450*. After dough has rested, use a pastry brush to paint water over the surface, then slash the loaves diagonally several times with a serrated bread knife. Slide the loaves directly onto the hot stone in the oven, Pour 1 cup of very hot tap water into the other pan and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 25 minutes, until deeply browned.
Let the baguettes cool on a rack before trying to slice them! Such a test of patience!
This post will be linked at Try a New Recipe Tuesday, hosted by Lisa at Home to 4 Kiddos
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