Sorry for the lack of a post today, I just started a new job this week and have been adjusting to my new schedule. I will do my best to get back to writing next week and should have a new post next Friday.

Happy Learning!



Almonds and Cashews: The Nuts That Aren’t Nuts

Picture this: You go to the grocery store to buy a can of mixed nuts. If you open that can, what’s inside? Cashews, almonds, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and maybe one or two other nuts. Did you know that most of the “nuts” in your can of nuts aren’t even nuts? You might have already known that peanuts are not a nut but rather a legume, related to beans. Did you know that those cashews and almonds aren’t nuts, either? The truth is, they’re actually both fruits! Read on and we’ll look a little more in-depth into exactly what these fruits are.

Almonds are a member of the genus Prunus, which includes fruits such as peaches, plums, and cherries. The almond “nut” is the seed of the almond fruit, unlike the seeds (commonly known as pits) of many of its relatives, the almond seed is edible. Another difference between almonds and their relatives is the fruit. Unlike the thick, juicy fruit that surrounds the pits of peaches, prunes, and cherries, the almond seed is surrounded by a thin, green, leathery skin. This skin is peeled away to reveal a woody outer shell, and inside the shell is the almond seed.

The cashew nut is a part of a large fruit of the same name, originally native to Northeastern Brazil, but now widely grown in many tropical climates. The cashew is a member of the family Anacardiaceae, which includes genera such as Mangifera (to which the Mango belongs) and Pistacia (of which the pistachio is a member). The cashew fruit (commonly known as the Cashew Apple) is rich in nutrients and is often eaten fresh or used in cooking in many countries, it is even considered a delicacy by the natives of many parts of South America. While cashew apples are eaten in many parts of the world, they are not popular due to their astringent taste.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post leave a comment to let me know what you think! Have any interesting facts to share? Feel free to leave those in the comments, too!

Happy Learning!


Mini Lesson: Shortening St. Patrick

I hadn’t planned on doing a St. Patrick’s Day lesson, but I had a last minute inspiration, so here goes!
As you’re going about your day wishing people a happy St. Patrick’s Day, you may find yourself calling St. Patrick by his nickname. But you my have noticed that there seems to be two common ways to shorten St. Patrick: St. Paddy and St. Patty. Which one is correct? Is it really a big deal? Well, if you’re dealing with any proud Irishmen, it is. In Ireland, the correct nickname for Patrick is Paddy. This is rooted in the Gaelic spelling of Patrick, “Padraig.” Furthermore, any Irishmen that see you using the incorrect spelling will cringe and be quick to tell you, “Patty’s a girl’s name!” So, as you go about your day today celebrating Irish heritage and wading through a sea of green, have fun wishing others a “Happy St. Paddy’s Day!” And if you choose to celebrate the holiday with your favorite Irish spirits, please be safe and responsible, don’t drink and drive!

Happy Learning!


A Little More Disney in My Life

March 15th Title ImageSo, since I love Disney, and love writing about it, I thought it was time to write another Disney post. And I feel like the fact that my last Disney posts was one of my most popular so far kind of justifies another post. 🙂
So, here we go with 5 more tips on getting the best out of your Disney vacation.

1. Start from the back of the park- When you walk into and Disney park, it can be easy to instantly get caught up in the magic of your surrounding, and it can be tempting to go to the first interesting thing you see, but I encourage you to head towards the back end of the park instead. This tip applies mostly to those who are getting to the park in the morning soon after it opens, but it applies for several hours after opening. You’re not the only one tempted to visit the first attraction you see, many people will start at attractions near the front of the park, leading to congestion and long lines. If you head to the back first, you will find shorter lines and smaller crowds while everyone is still gathered near the front. Enjoy some attractions, shops, restaurants  etc. in the back of the park and then work your way forward. By the time you make it back to the front, the crowd will have spread more evenly through the park and you can enjoy yourself without having to deal with the beginning-of-the-day crowds.

2. Head to the left- While many attractions have only one line to get in, there are several that have two or more lines. When you find yourself at one of these attractions, choose the line to your left. For reasons I do not know (but are probably explained somewhere out there by some statistic genius) people tend to gravitate towards lines on the right, so if you head to the line on the left, your wait can be shorter. This is not always true, sometimes you may run into a group of savvy disneygoers who also know this tip, or sometimes people may just be more aware of what’s going on and realize that the left line is shorter, but typically you can save a bit of a wait if you head to the left. From what I have heard, this tip applies most when the crowds are higher.

3. Try some of Disney’s signature treats- There are some treats that are famous among Disney Resort fans that you often can’t easily find at home, make sure not to miss out on these. If you’re in Disney World, one of their most famous treats is the turkey leg. You can find them at many food kiosk throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, and if you enjoy some nice juicy turkey (dark meat, of course) then this is a tasty, and quirky, treat to help keep you fueled. Another treat famous at both Disneyland and Disney World is the Dole Whip. The Disney Parks are some of only a few places in the world that serve the Dole Whip, so make sure you try one while you have the chance. Dole Whips are a lactose-free pineapple soft-serve dessert (although there are other flavors available depending on where you get it, the Disney Parks serve pineapple and vanilla). This chilly treat is great when you need a cool, refreshing snack. If you’re adventurous enough, don’t forget to try my favorite way of eating a Dole Whip, the Dole Whip Float! A Dole Whip Float is made by pouring pineapple juice over the Dole Whip. It’s a fantastic tropical treat that really helps you get into the Disney mood. Another treat to try if you’re visiting Disneyland is the Mint Julep. Mint Julep is traditionally a minty cocktail famous in the Southern United States, but many years ago, Disneyland came up with their own non-alcoholic version which they serve in several locations in New Orleans Square. Mint Julep is a wonderfully cool, refreshing drink that goes wonderfully with the ambiance of New Orleans Square. Lastly, One of the most famous can’t-miss treats is the Disney Parks is really more than one treat. I’m talking about Mickey-shaped treats! Disney loves to honor the lovable mouse that started it all, ond one of the ways they do that is by making mickey-shaped snacks of all sorts. Some favorites to try are pretzels, waffles, ice cream bars, and beignets (a fluffy doughnut-like treat popular in the South-Disney’s version can be found in New Orleans Square in Disneyland).

4. Try your hand at Pin Trading- One of my favorite things to do at the Disney Parks isn’t a ride, show, attraction, or restaurant, it’s Pin Trading! Pin Trading is a popular Disney pastime, and can be a fun way to get an especially memorable souvenir. Collectible pins are available at pretty much any gift shop throughout the Disney Parks (many shops have special exclusive pins, so be sure to check for new pins in every shop you visit). You can collect your pins on a lanyard (also available at most gift shops) and display them as you walk through the parks. You may notice as you explore, that cast members have their own collections of pins. If you see a pin you like, feel free to walk up to a cast member and offer one of your own pins up for trade, there’s no need to fear rejection, cast members are required to trade with guests (and don’t worry about possibly taking their favorite pin from them, the cast members’ collections are supplied by the parks and are not the cast members’ own pins). Sometimes you can find rare pins from other Disney parks around the world, or rare limited edition pins no longer sold in the parks. It may feel awkward at first to ask a cast member to trade, but before long you’ll be eyeing every lanyard you walk by and trading left and right. You may even come across fellow park visitors willing to trade, just don’t get pushy. Guests are under no obligation to accept your offer, so if someone says “no” to a trade let it go and let them enjoy their day at the park. Pin Trading is one of my favorite things to do at Disney because not only are you collecting souvenirs, you’re collecting memories and stories that help you to look back fondly on your trip for years to come.

5. Don’t feel rushed to leave at closing- Something I was not aware of until a year or two ago was that the Disney Parks do not actually close completely at “closing time.” The official closing times for the parks apply to rides and attractions, but the shops stay open for about an hour after closing. If you’re not ready to leave right away, feel free to linger and check out the shops while the rest of the guests make their way out. This is also a great way to avoid the mad rush to leave at closing time, and if you’re staying on Disney Property, this is a great way to avoid the big crowds at the monorails and busses. And if you’re still not ready to go back to your hotel after the parks close completely, head over to Downtown Disney (known officially as “Downtown Disney District” in the WDW Resort and “Downtown Disney Area” in the Disneyland Resort) these locations are open late into the night and offer many fun activities to keep the magic going.

Well, that’s all my tips for today, I hope you learned something useful for your next Disney trip. Do you have any tips of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments. Have a favorite Disney treat you absolutely must have every time you visit? Tell me about it! Have a favorite Pin Trading story? I’d love to hear about it. Until next time,

Happy Learning!


“To Be,” or “To Be,” What’s the Difference? Time For a Spanish Lesson!

March 8th Title ImageAs a Spanish tutor, I get all sorts of questions about grammar, there can be a lot of things that seem confusing to people who grew up their whole life speaking one language and are now trying to learn a new one. One of the most common problems I run into with my students is the confusion of ser vs. estarmac. Both words can be translated into english as “to be” but have very distinct uses, and it can be hard to keep track of which word to use when. So that’s what today’s post is for, I am going to do my best to explain the difference. If you’re taking a Spanish class in school, trying to learn the language on your own, or just curious to learn a little tidbit about another language, hopefully today’s post will help you to learn a little something new. Often when I have students that are confused about ser vs. estar, I point them to’s explanation, they use really great acronyms that help students to remember the difference between the two words. For ser, uses the acronym DOCTOR, which stands for: Description, Occupation, Characteristic, Time, Origin, and Relationship. For estar, uses the acronym PLACE, which stands for: Position, Location, Action, Condition, and Emotion. (see link above) provides a wonderfully clear explanation of these acronyms, and I find that many students who take the time to read it have a much easier time understanding how to use ser and estar.

Next, I want to address is a mistake that many students make in their attempts to differentiate the two words. I have talked to countless students who try to describe ser as relating to permanent things, and estar as relating to temporary things. This is incorrect and will cause you plenty of confusion. One example my spanish teacher liked to give of how this distinction does not work is the phrase “to be dead.” In spanish, this phrase would be translated as “estar muerte.” For example, if I were to say “My grandfather is dead,” I would say “Mi abuelo está muerte.” Now let me ask you a question: Is death temporary? Typically, unless you’re Jesus or a zombie, once you’re dead, you’re dead. Another example of estar being used to describe something permanent is some cases of location. Yes, there are cases of location that are temporary (For example, “Estoy en un avión” which means “I am in an airplane.”), but there are also cases in which location is permanent, such as the location of countries. For example, if I were to say that the United States is south of Canada, I would say: “Los Estados Unidos están al sur de Canadá.” In this sentence I used estar, because I am describing the location of one country relative to another. Now, unless some major geological or political event occurs, The U.S. will always be south of Canada, so here we have another case in which estar is not describing a temporary situation. So, I beg you, please do not try to simplify the difference between ser and estar by saying “Ser is permanent and estar is temporary.” It will cause you far too much confusion and trouble in your attempts to properly use the spanish language.

Lastly, I want to demonstrate the importance of choosing the correct “to be” verb. Many adjectives can be correctly used with both ser and estar, but your choice of verb can drastically change the meaning of the sentence. One of the best examples of this concept is the adjective “aburrido,” which means bored or boring. If you’re telling your friend about how boring your new history teacher is, you might say: “Mi profesor de historia es muy aburrido” (My history teacher is very boring). On the other hand, if you’re sitting in your history class and want to tell your friend how bored you are, you might say: “¡Estoy tan aburrido!” (“I’m so bored!”). If you’re not careful to use the correct verb, you might end up telling your friend that you are boring (“¡Soy tan aburrido!”) which coule elicit some laughs and teasing from your friends.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post and found it useful, if you have any comments or questions feel free to share them in the comments section. Are you currently studying Spanish? Have you studied Spanish in the past? What are some things that you struggle with in learning this language? Feel free to share them below and I’ll do my best to address them in future posts. Do you have any tips of your own? Share those, too!
If you’re studying Spanish, what are you studying it for? Are you simply taking a spanish class so you can graduate? Are you studying in order to pursue a career such as translator, interpreter, or something else? Are you studying spanish just for fun, or maybe you’re planning on travelling to a hispanic country and are learning the language so you can communicate better? I’d love to hear about your experiences with learning Spanish (or any foreign language), please share your stories in the comments.

Happy Learning!


Time-Saving Treats (That Still Taste Great!)

Title imageEver find yourself in the mood for a homemade sweet treat, but just don’t have the time or energy to make Granny’s Heirloom Fudge Recipe, or Aunt Marge’s Famous Chocolate Cake? Here are a few made-from-scratch treats you can make with minimal effort.

Microwave Fudge:

This recipe has been my family’s secret weapon for years. Whether you were assigned snack duty for the weekly book club, or just want a quick way to treat family and friends, this recipe is sure to please (without slaving for hours over a hot stove!)


2 cups chocolate chips (or any flavor you can find, I’ve made this recipe with chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and butterscotch chips)

1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk (to make it even easier buy the kind with the easy-open lids so you don’t have to fight with a can opener)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Optional: chopped nuts, mini marshmallows, sprinkles, or other mix-ins


1. Line an 8×8 square dish with tinfoil or parchment

2. Pour the chocolate and condensed milk into a large, microwave-safe bowl, microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. When chocolate is melted, remove and stir until smooth.

3. Add vanilla and any optional mix-ins and stir until well-distributed.

4. Pour into pan and place in fridge for 2 hours until firm.

Some people say that this fudge is a little soft for their liking, I personally like it the way it is, but you are free to add more or less chocolate chips to get the consistency you desire.

There is also another microwave fudge recipe variation which uses frosting. I have yet to try it properly myself (I had one failed attempt involving a shortage of ingredients), but you can try it out here.

Mug Cakes and Cookies:

I discovered these awesome single-serving treats while housesitting, I was craving a sweet treat, but didn’t want to make a mess of the kitchen baking a whole batch of cookies, so I found some mug cake recipes online and made myself a sugar cookie. It was tasty, quick, and made from scratch.

Here are 10 great recipes for different flavors of mug cakes, including the internet’s favorite flavor: Nutella!

This recipe is great if you’re feeling fancy.

Here is a Christmas Cake that look absolutely heavenly.

Here is the sugar cookie recipe that got me started on desserts in a mug (this blog also has two more mug cookie recipes here and here).

These recipes are great for when you come home from work and want to plop down on the couch with a tasty dessert. They come together easily in just a few minutes and taste great!

Banana Ice Cream:

This treat has been making the rounds on Pinterest for quite a while now. It’s amazing how simple it is and how much it tastes like the real thing! (Bonus: in addition to being quick and easy, this is also a great alternative to ice cream if you are vegan, allergic/intolerant to dairy, or just want to eat healthier)

The recipe is simple: slice up ripe bananas (Amount depends on how much ice cream you want), then put them on a plate and freeze them. Once your bananas are frozen, just blend them in a food processor or high-powered blender until smooth and silky. Voila! You now have a smooth, creamy banana ice cream. You can eat it fresh out of the blender for a soft-serve texture, or stick it in the freezer to let it firm up a bit.

You can find some tasty variations on this recipe here.

I hope you found a treat here that hit the spot! Which one was your favorite? Do you have any go-to recipes for when you need a quick snack?

Happy Learning!