The San Juan Nispero Festival

With my sister here, we’ve been doing some fun stuff, like visiting ruins and enjoying the local sights. Over the weekend, there was a nispero festival in San Juan del Obispo, just outside Antigua. Naturally, we had to check it out.

Nisperos are also known as loquats and they are rather like little peaches. They are super juicy and delicious, with three or four large seeds inside. San Juan is known as THE place to buy nisperos.

The festival is held in the central plaza, in front of the church. There were stands with assorted nispero related offerings on two sides of the plaza and the rest was simply ironworks and wood carving booths, etc. Basically, all the artisans came out to celebrate and take advantage of the crowds. It was neat to see!

Prize winning nisperos!

You could buy nispero marmalade or nisperos in syrup. My sister snagged a jar of jam to take home.

There was also plenty of nispero wine, some mixed with pineapple or other fruit.

Sometimes it’s good to be a tourist in your own area. :)

My Baby Sister

When I was 12, my parents had another baby, Caily. We were very close until I left Canada when she was 9. Over the past few years, we’ve been reconnecting and she’s down here for her second annual visit.

It’s pretty cool to have my little sister here and to get to know her as an adult. She loves cooking (she’s actually a cook in a restaurant) and we spend a lot of time whipping up food for each other. The rest of our time is spent laughing, catching up on Doctor Who and The Walking Dead and talking about life in general.

Today we’re heading to some ruins and plan to enjoy a picnic with the kids. One of the many advantages of homeschooling and working at home!

 

Teaching Kids to Cook: Age Appropriate Activities

All three boys were in the kitchen last night! They were inspired by a Jamie Oliver show they watched in the morning and so our dinner was this:

Mustard chicken in cream sauce, dauphinoise potatoes (sort of) and sesame green beans. It was DELICIOUS! Dante asked if we could make it again tonight.

Anyway, when I posted photos on my Facebook, a friend asked how to start her son off cooking. What is an age appropriate task for each kid?

The answer? It totally depends on the kid.

Dorian is responsible and careful and has been since he was tiny. He started cooking when he was 3. Dante is the opposite, impetuous and he tends to forget what he’s doing. He only recently started using the stove and he requires supervision. Dominic is too small and not very careful, so he helps with non-heat and non-knife tasks.

Age Appropriate Cooking Activities for Kids

Keep in mind that these are GENERAL guidelines. This is just a suggestion, you know your child best. If he or she isn’t ready for knives or heat, baking is a great option. Salads are also easy to make if an older sibling or adult cuts up the carrots, tomatoes, etc. Always supervise your little ones when they are cooking!

2-3

    • Spreading jam, peanut butter, etc. on bread or sturdy crackers
    • Pouring small amounts of liquid into a cup
    • Dumping a pre-filled measuring spoon or cup into a bowl
    • Holding the mixer (with help)

    • Snapping the ends off green beans
    • Using cookie cutters to press out shapes
    • Mashing things like avocados in a ziplock bag to make guacamole
    • Taste testing!

3-4

    • Stirring ingredients together
    • Measuring flour, sugar, etc.
    • Cutting soft foods (butter, cheese, bananas, etc.) with a butter knife
    • Icing cookies
    • Roll meatballs by hand

  • Rolling out dough
  • Arranging biscuits, etc. on a pan
  • Spraying pans or pots with oil
  • Garnishing with sprigs of herbs, sprinkles of paprika, etc.
  • Peeling onions and garlic

Dorian's peas and pasta

5-7

  • Cutting soft and medium-hard vegetables with a sharp knife (show them proper knife techniques and supervise!)
  • Making microwave mug cakes
  • Using the blender
  • Boiling and sauteing foods (again, with supervision)
  • Peeling vegetables
  • Shaping bread dough
  • Folding dough for samosas, turnovers, etc.
  • Cracking eggs (this skill takes practice)
  • Measuring liquids
8+
  • Cutting raw meat
  • Defrosting food in the microwave
  • Kneading bread dough
  • Checking food in the oven (supervise early on)
  • Using the immersion blender to make soups, etc.
  • Cutting harder vegetables (Carrots, for example)
  • Garnishing with sauces
  • Whisking sauces while cooking to keep them smooth

Do your kids cook? What are some of your suggestions for teaching children to cook?

The Dangerous Alphabet Art Project: Part 1

Years ago, my youngest sister gave my boys a copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Dangerous Alphabet. It’s a kind of creepy book, but really awesome! They loved it then and we read it every night for months. Recently, the book was rediscovered and now all three of them love to hear it at bedtime. However, this time around, Dante was more interested in the illustrations than the words.

“Who made these pictures? How did he make them? Can we do that?”

And so, we decided to try some mixed media and watercolor painting techniques. I had Dante examine the images carefully and asked him to think about how certain elements were created. We decided to start with something simple.

Here is the page we used as our inspiration:

As you can see, there is a lot going on here! We didn’t want things to get too complicated, so we started with just the wall, a sidewalk and the water, plus a pole to practice some ripple effects. I told the boys they could use any colors they wanted, but to think about the effect they wanted their picture to have.

This is the one that I did. Please ignore the sawdust bits on the image, we’re renovating, heh. More on that in a future post.

Here is Dorian’s picture. He wasn’t as into it as the rest of us, but he had fun with his own blend of colors. He decided not to use pen to highlight things. Since the project was done in three stages, he was pretty bored by the end of it.

Here is Dante’s. He had a little difficulty being patient enough to wait until his paint dried, but he did a good job!

Of course, Dominic wanted to get in on the action, too! He had a lot of fun and I love the way this turned out.

All four paintings together:

Over the next while, we’ll be trying different techniques and then working our way up to doing a full size painting of a scene inspired by the book.