Saturday, December 22, 2012

2 Educational Apps for Toddlers

I subscribe to an excellent newsletter from Common Sense Media and just received their "Essential Apps for Kids and Teens."  I've downloaded two of the recommended apps for toddlers to my Kobo.

Kids ABC Phonics is recommended for three-year-olds under the Android category, and should feed my son's interest in identifying letters.  I'm hoping my 17-month-old will enjoy imitating animal sounds on Peekaboo Barn; a friend who's a speech therapist specializing in babies said that encouraging him to make even animal sounds is a step towards helping him form words.

Further to my recent post on kids and iPads, I think these apps will be a worthwhile way for my sons to spend some time playing with technology -- becoming comfortable figuring things out instead of being intimidated by something they don't know.

An early Christmas present; I'll see what my boys think of these two apps tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Family Photo Shoot Co-op

Since my husband or I are always the ones taking photos of our family, we have very few pictures of the four of us together.  And the ones we do have were taken spontaneously by a friend on their phone ... and while great, don't lend themselves well to printing.

A few weeks ago, while chatting with friends at one of our kids' birthday parties, this issue came up; it turns out we aren't the only ones with this problem!  As we talked, someone had the idea of getting together one weekend to photograph each other's families.  The idea grew, and this past weekend two of my colleagues and I got together with our families for an hour on Sunday afternoon to take family portraits of each other.

It helped that one of my colleagues is our school's photography teacher, and the other an avid amateur photographer.  But with today's great digital cameras and user-friendly photo editing programs, there's no reason you can't organize a family photo shoot "co-op" too.  I hope that this will be just the first of such projects, and that in the future, I'll have developed my own photography skills enough to be able to get on the other side of the lens myself!

Note: my friend used Adobe Photoshop Elements to touch-up our photos, and his mini-lesson made me want to buy the software myself!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Aşure or Noah's Ark Pudding

This past Sunday we made aşure, my favourite Turkish dessert, in my admittedly too-big-to-have-been-a-practical-purchase copper kazan, or cauldron.

Glamour shot: I was in the kitchen or with the kids all day, not actually manning the cauldron!
I'd been lured by the cauldron's beautiful details and craftsmanship.  I refused to even consider the smaller, plainer, more sensible cauldrons nearby.  As my husband and I struggled home from the Tarsus bazaar that day, each of us carrying it by one of its handles, the few hundred metres seemed further than they ever had.  But I still had no regrets.  This was going to be the best souvenir of our three years in Tarsus.

Fast forward three more years, and my beloved cauldron was still sitting on the terrace, upside down so that  it wouldn't collect rain.  Too dirty to bring into the house; too big to store kids toys or throw blankets; too dangerous to leave lying around (my sons might fall in!).  Meanwhile, C kept insisting we use it to actually cook something.  

So finally this past weekend, the kazan was cleaned inside and out, and firmly propped on top of our barbeque.  We opened our doors and made it an open house, inviting any fellow expats who were interested in seeing how aşure was made, and any Turkish friends who just thought it would be fun.  Everyone pitched in in some way, and the result was a delicious pudding that I doubt we'll ever be able to duplicate.

Aşure contains an unlikely combination of ingredients, which only makes sense when one learns the origin of this dessert -- towards the end of Noah's journey on the Ark, as those on board were running out of food, this dish was made with whatever was left.  And so the whole grains of wheat, chickpeas, dried white beans, dried apricots, figs, raisins, nuts and sugar, cooked separately and then added, combine to form a delicious albeit unexpected treat.  Traditionally, aşure month follows the second bayram or Eid, although some bakeries serve it all year round.  

We surprised ourselves with our yield -- over a hundred servings!