A few months ago, I read about a new company called GoldieBlox which makes construction toys specifically for girls. Their aim is to get girls interested in building and creating in order to inspire a future generation of female engineers. Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was to run out and buy it for my daughter. A few phone calls to various toy stores around the city made it clear to me that GoldieBlox engineering toys for girls were not yet available in Dubai. Not a problem. My daughter loves Lego, especially Lego Friends, and spends a lot of time building things with her Lego blocks, so the building/spatial orientation side of her brain was definitely being exercised.
Yesterday, I found myself being dragged into a small cluttered non-descript toystore by my daughter. We went in with the express understanding that we are just looking and will not buy anything. This toy store had some very random things in it, a lot of which I had never seen in other stores around Dubai.
One of the toys which caught my eye was a construction set by a company called EI Tech which consisted of metal nuts, bolts, various shapes and real tools (note: I am somewhat cautious of metal toys because of the risk of lead or other strange metals being used, but this toy was made in Germany so I knew it had to comply by certain regulations). I had a good look at it, and somewhere in my mind I said, ‘Hmm, that looks like a good toy to get for a boy.’ As soon as I said it, another part of my brain said, ‘What did you just say? Just because it’s in a blue box and has real metal pieces rather than plastic pink pieces does not mean that it is meant for boys and not for girls.’ I immediately picked up one of the sets (the propeller aircraft construction set) and bought it for my daughter, who was happy but confused as to why I had suddenly changed my mind about us not buying anything in the shop.
I felt somewhat relieved to have caught myself gender-stereotyping toys and correcting myself. But then we got home, and I told my daughter, ‘OK, now you can make this with your Dad when he comes home.’ Mistake. Why should she make this with her Dad? When I bring home a jewellery-making kit for her, she and I get stuck into it – I don’t usually suggest that she wait until her Dad comes home. I realized that I sub-consciously still felt that the toy seemed stereotypically boyish and that her Dad would do a better job than me. Again, I corrected myself and said, ‘Actually, let’s you and I make it together.’
So we sat and built it together. And it was lots of fun. And it wasn’t that difficult. And it wasn’t pink. And we did a great job!
Here’s a picture of the finished propeller aircraft.
When we were done, my daughter said ‘I think I want to be an engineer when I grow up,’ before correcting herself and saying, ‘Actually, I forgot I want to be a vet.’ Still, it opened her eyes to different possibilities.
We had a nice lunch afterwards of leftover grilled chicken and veggies. Although too spicy for my daughter, I happily dug into a Puy Lentil and Spicy Roasted Carrot Salad I had made the day before. Here’s the recipe:
PUY LENTILS AND SPICY ROASTED CARROT SALAD
(Serves 4 as a side dish)
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt
300g / 10 oz carrots, washed and peeled
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
1 tsp water
1 tsp ground coriander powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin powder
1/4 – 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp salt
250g / 9 oz dried Puy Lentils
2 tsp salt
1 dried bay leaf
1 cup Arugula / Rucola / Rocket leaves, washed and drained
1 cup cilantro / coriander leaves, washed and roughly chopped
3 spring onions / scallions, washed and finely sliced (white and green parts)
150g / 5 oz feta cheese, crumbled or diced
- Carrots: Preheat the oven to 200C/400F (fan-assisted). Wash, dry, trim and peel your carrots. Quarter lengthwise and then cut into 3-inch / 7 cm batons. In an oven-proof dish, combine 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp honey, 1 tsp water, 1 tsp ground coriander powder, 1/2 tsp ground cumin powder, 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red chilli powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. Toss the carrot batons in the mixture and place in the oven. Roast for 10 minutes, toss, and then roast for a further 10 minutes. When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool. The carrots should be quite spicy, but remember that their flavor will mellow as they cool down.
- Puy lentils: Bring small or medium-sized pot of water to the boil. Once boiling, add 2 tsp salt, 1 dried bay leaf and 250g dried Puy lentils. Simmer partially covered for 20 minutes. Drain and spread on a platter to cool to room temperature. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Arugula: Wash and drain 1 cup of arugula leaves. If they are very large, roughly chop them. If they are small, leave them whole. Set aside.
- Cilantro: Wash and drain 1 cup of cilantro / coriander leaves. Roughly chop. Set aside.
- Spring onions: Remove the outer layer of each of your 3 spring onions. Wash and dry them, and then slice them finely into discs. Set aside.
- Feta: Drain if necessary, and crumble or dice your feta cheese. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Once the Puy lentils and carrots have become room temperature, toss them together in a large salad bowl with all the rest of the prepared salad ingredients (arugula, cilantro, spring onion and feta cheese).
- Add the dressing ingredients directly into the salad (4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt). Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
- Refrigerate and serve within 48 hours.