February 28, 2013

Art History for Breakfast

Would you believe it, around here we like a healthy dose of art? From early age Klatch tots are getting to know Leonardo and Vincent, troll art museums, and learn to express their artistic preferences and dislikes. At times it is a bumpy road - not gonna lie, before they embraced 'important art' getting their interest was only possible through a sheer force of will. But one ought to chip away despite whining (it is not a democracy around here after all). Here are a few picks to encourage interest in the appreciation of the fine art. 

There is no substitution for seeing art in a gallery. And creating art, experimenting with materials and going through the process, gives one a deeper appreciation for the art. But introducing art in a familiar context is the way to get them interested, if not hooked.

You Are My Work of Art is a silly and sweet board book, with flap on each page revealing a masterpiece - staples like Mona Lisa and Starry Night but also Hokusai, Mary Cassatt, Grant Wood. 
art history for little kids
One of the bedtime staples around here! Flaps and silly pictures for littlest art lovers.

I quite like the board books that introduce numbers, letters, colors and shapes using works of art instead of oh-so-boring photos of farm animals and lollies to illustrate concepts. Colors with Warhol, I Spy Shapes in Art, these books are super-simple but the itty-bitty ones get use to seeing art as more than a picture.
Turns out Thiebaud is perfect for counting!

Flashcards are not for everyone and index cards ARE boring. But there there is such a thing as fun flash cards. We keep a few boxes in the kitchen pantry and cards usually come out at breakfast time. These ones have questions on the back (and a dice) but we usually just look at our favorites. A few picks are strange and it is hardly possible to boil down an artist's body of work (let alone entire artistic movement!) to one card. But with the limited space editors did a fine job representing the fundamentals - concepts, artists and movements.

Professor Noggin's History of Art
Before they remember painters' names, they will remember their favorites. 
Though not an art history book Beautiful Oops is included because it teaches confidence in creative process and to take an unconventional view at art. 
Beautiful Oops
Love! With oops turning into something new altogether, this book is as fun as it is unique.

Last but not least, don't let black and white illustrations of this book fool you. Chock full of art projects teaching kidfolk about the great artists it is rich and creative, from Gothic to Dada collage. WARNING: purchasing this book may also result in an excessively large order of art supplies.
Good to be back after a busy month!

PS Images are snagged from Amazon where I often buy these very treasures.

February 2, 2013

Non Milk: Navigating the Dairy-Free Options

In just the past few days two different people asked about dairy-free options, suspecting intolerances and allergies in their kid-folk. So on the heels of gluten free baking how-to, here is my take on non-dairy milk products. Keep in mind, I am not a nutritionist, these are my opinions and observations.

If you are facing (or choosing) dairy-free, not to fear, you have options and are bound to find one that meets your household's needs.

Choice really boils down to nutrition and taste. I am not qualified to address the former but generally speaking soy tends to be most nutritious and rice least.We did a blind taste test in the early days of going dairy-free of rice/almond/soy - almond was the favorite. Because excessive amounts of soy are rumoured not to be all that great, we usually have a couple variations at home. Here is the the low-down:
  • Soy Milk. Definitely most creamy of the bunch and best in coffee (and let me tell you, Soy Nog is better than dairy!).
  • Rice Milk. Rice milk is way too watery for me. I do not love the acidic aftertaste and and it doesn't offer much in the way of nutrition. But it works in baking.
  • Almond Milk. For me, it is a runner-up. A little sweet, creamy, good for baking and good choice for drinking. 
  • Flax Milk. Not as easy to find but Whole Foods and Mom's usually has it. It has a neutral taste and a good alternative.
  • Hazelnut Milk. I do not see a lot of it, but chocolate version is popular with the kid-folk around here. 
  • Coconut Milk. It is, well, coconut-y, but creamy and rich. A lot of vegan ice-cream recipes call for coconut milk. 
  • Hemp Milk. I haven't tried it myself but from what I hear it's a bit grainy.
So when all said and done, here are a few favorites.

For milk, what you find in the refrigerated section is always better than shelf-stable. Eden Soy and 8th Continent are not my favorites. Silk is good but Earth Balance is our favorite for milk, chocolate milk, and nog.

For vegan cheese, hands done Diya. It melts very nicely on pizza and nachos. Word of warning, some non-dairy cheese contains dairy, so read your labels. But really, if you are giving up dairy, I would rule out a cheese board, alas there is no substitution for real blue castello.

For butter, again, Earth Balance, the gold standard so look no further. Honestly, it is every bit as good on toast.

With yogurt, as with cheese, you really have to pay attention. Some non-dairy yogurt contains dairy in its cultures, so if that's important read the labels. But there are many options. Trader Joe's isn't a bad choice. SO Delicious coconut yogurt is great. Whole Soy is tried and true, both Key Lime and Lemon are great options but pass on peach.

 Any favorite non-dairy products I omitted?


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