April 29, 2012

Learned Tot: Geography

I have always loved geography, not so much topography but knowing where you are in the world. This subject is pretty easy to integrate into daily activities, in the car and at the dinner table. We often go overboard with maps and geography quizzes but it is paying off in a big way, awakening in our tot wanderlust. Incidentally, all of these items are $20 or under.

Speaking of dinner table, place mat is one map that won't get ruined by spilled snacks. You can scribble on the blank map on the flip side with a pencil or special crayon. We often brush up on places during meals and numerous snacks.
Parent Involvement: HIGH but can multitask with this one.

Growing up my dad played with me Capitals of the World game. We upped the ante with an inflatable globe (which I can tell you is WAY more fun than a stationary one). One holding the world asks a question about a place or landmark - if you answer correctly, you get the ball. Sample question: Point on the globe Australia.
Parent Involvement: HIGH - I mean sure, tot can throw the ball about but as a learning tool parent interaction is a must.
I've mentioned Leap Frog Solar System before - once you invest in the Tag reader, might as well maximize the learning. Double sided map provides factoids and questions about the states of the Union. There is also a map of the world on our wish list.
Parent Involvement: LOW (You will need to download info onto your Leap Frog's Tag wand to use this kit, otherwise this is very hands off)
Good old-fashioned atlas, fun to look at continents and pictures of the world. We do have one but I have my eye on this one from National Geographic. 
Parent Involvement: HIGH - unless your kid of a reading age.

Other resources:

April 21, 2012

Swiss Bakery

I've taken you to the Applehill Country Store and to the Asian mega mart. And as luck would have it just this morning we stumbled on The Swiss Bakery shop, a gem in the suburban strip mall tucked between a tae kwon do studio and a dry cleaner.

The bakery is bright and inviting, decked out in blonde wood, with a large family table in the middle and little nooks for a more cozy conversation. The Swiss Bakery is part pastry shop, part casual cafe, and also a supplier of all things Swiss. So with a coffee in hand, I explored.

Are Swiss known for coffee? This wasn't the most memorable cup of coffee, but tasty.

The mini beer barrels (or are these known as kegs?), perched underneath a wooden horn.

Jams and jellies neatly lined the shelves...


A huge glass case full of confections and creamy cakes....


...and of course cheeses and sausages.

Do you have unexpected treasures in your neighborhood?

April 16, 2012

Tasty Muffins

Everyone has a go-to muffin and this one is mine. At every opportunity we stock the pantry from Applehill Country store, including bags of lovely almond flour. The recipe is largely based on this one I dug up eons ago from Epicurious when searching for almond flour uses.

With this recipe as basis, I have made muffins my own, substituting pumpkin for milk or molasses for honey, throwing in frozen cranberries or a bit of bran. I often use cardamom for an exotic whiff of Scandinavian baking. I end up making these so frequently that can spew out the recipe by memory:

Tip: a 1/4 cup measuring spoon is just about right, these muffins do not rise a great deal on the account of heavy flour.

1 1/2 cups of almond flour
1 1/2 cups of flour (brown rice for gluten free version though the outcome is a bit drier, rye or buckwheat for a denser muffin, or just plain old whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of honey (molasses gives a deeper flavor and moisture; buckwheat honey is another good alternative)
2 tsp of baking powder
Pinch of salt
A bit of cinnamon or cardamom, ginger is nice too
1 1/4 cups of milk (I have used canned pumpkin or squash to get some veg in my family's breakfast)
1 egg
Some raisins or cranberries ( I have tried frozen raspberries but the texture is seedy)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients except the last one in Kitchenaid and mix well while pouring a glass of wine you deserve. Add the last ingredient and keep mixing until just combined.

Scoop mixture into lined muffin tin using 1/4 cup measuring spoon. In the oven they go for 20-25 min(test with a toothpick). Finish your wine - you have breakfast treat or lunch goodie.


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