Happy Spring!

Spring arrives this year at 5:24pm on March 20, but in many parts of the country, the mild winter has caused flowers and trees to bloom early, so many of us have seen our daffodils and and forsythia go into bloom already.

Technically, what is spring? The vernal equinox occurs when the sun is positioned exactly over the equator, making day and night an equal length. Even though it seems like spring has come early to some of us, astronomy says we have to wait until 5:24 on March 20 for it to be official.

So what’s the difference between a solstice and an equinox? The seasons change because the earth is tilted and different points on the planet get different amounts of sunlight at different times of the year. If the planet wasn’t tilted the sun would always be over the equator and there wouldn’t be any seasons. 

The two solstices occur in June (the longest day), and December, (the shortest day) – the days when the sun is farthest north or south of the equator. The two equinoxes occur when the sun is exactly over the equator.

But we experience spring (la primavera) with our minds and senses, not by an astronomical chart. We look on this season as a time of rebirth, of color and growth. Did you know that learning a foreign language can grow and exercise your mind? Learning a new language is a great brain workout.

Sign up for Spanish language classes at any level HERE, or CONTACT US for more information.

¡Feliz primavera!

Learning Something New is Good for Your Brain

Research has shown that learning a new skill is good for you! It helps you focus, be in the moment, reduce stress and calm down. In other words, it gives your brain a chance to get out of your normal routine and relax.

Learning new things or acquiring new skills is not just for the young. A common assumption is that once we’re not children we stop learning, but new research has shown that we can learn, change and develop new skills as we age. A good combination of physical, mental and social attributes contribute to the best activities to learn and develop your brain.

But we’re all busy, right? How do we fit one more thing into our schedule? Remember, you’re doing this for you so treat it like the other important things in your life: Take a class – you’ll have to show up. Focus on one activity, that way you won’t be cluttering your mind with too much input. Schedule time to practice. Think of your practice time as an appointment that you have to keep, like a doctor’s appointment, haircut, or business meeting.

Look for an activity that focuses on specific skills: painting, learning an instrument or learning a new language. If you’re athletically inclined, take up a new sport or get more proficient at one you already participate in. A 2013 study showed that adults who did new complex activities performed better on long term memory tests than people who worked on crossword puzzles and reading.

Here’s a link to some research results.

Learning a new language or improving your current skills is a great brain workout. It encourages you to think differently, and uses different parts of your brain to encode new mental processes. So put down that crossword puzzle and contact Luminoso Language Services to start or improve your Spanish or Italian speaking skills today. It’s fun, educational and will keep your mind active and healthy.

The Day of the Dead- It’s Not Halloween!

Day of the Dead—or Día de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico, Latin America and the United States to honor those those loved ones that have passed. Though Halloween and Day of the Dead are celebrated close together (Day of the Dead is on November 1 and 2), the two holidays aren’t connected. Halloween has Celtic roots and Day of the Dead traces its origins to the Aztecs, Mayans and Toltecs in Central America and Mexico. After the Spanish arrived the ritual period was finalized on the days of two Spanish holidays – All Saints Day and All Souls Day – November 1st and 2nd.

In spite of its morbid name, the Day of the Dead is a celebration of life, not death. The indigenous people that originated the celebration believed that death was was the beginning of new life when the spirits of the dead temporarily join the living. So the holiday is an opportunity to remember those who have departed with music and dancing.

Day of the Dead has it’s own symbols, just like Halloween, but instead of ghosts, pumpkins, skeletons, witches and black cats, the symbols are Monarch Butterflies (believed to hold the spirits of loved ones), Calaveritas de azucar (Sugar skulls), paper banners and a marigold native to Mexico who’s strong scent and bright colors create a path that leads the spirits from the afterlife to the family home. There, and at gravesites, the families sometimes create alters (ofrendas) as locations to celebrate.

The ofrendas are decorated with offerings to the spirits that represent the four elements: Fire – candles, water – to quench the thirst of the spirits, earth – traditional foods, and wind – the paper banners (paper picado) that have cut-outs to allow the souls to pass through.

Halloween has lost its spiritual beginnings, it’s now a night for children, candy and parties, but the spiritual roots of Día de los Muertos are still strong as people join in celebration of the memories and spirits of those they have lost.

Are you ready to start learning Spanish? Click here to schedule your personal, individual or group lessons.

Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept 15 – Oct 15

Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes and celebrates the contributions Americans tracing their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean have made to U.S. society and culture. The observance was born in 1968, when Congress authorized the president to issue an annual proclamation designating National Hispanic Heritage Week. Two decades later, lawmakers expanded it to a monthlong celebration, stretching from September 15 to October 15.

The timing is key. Hispanic Heritage Month — like its shorter precursor — always starts on September 15, a historically significant day that marks the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The designated period is also a nod to those from Mexico and Chile, which celebrate their independence September 16 and September 18, respectively.

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in many ways this year.

  • Read a Proclamation from President Biden here
  • The U.S. Department of State recognizes the contributions of its staff by highlighting their achievements. Read more here
  • Here’s a link to scholarships available to Hispanic students
  • Here are some facts from the U.S. Census Bureau
  • Here’s a listing of events from the Library of Congress
  • More ways to celebrate throughout the country here

How will you celebrate? Let us know in the comments.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by starting your Spanish lessons today! Click Here to get more information.

The History of the Siesta, plus a Summer Recipe

The hot weather recently made us think of the history and origins of the siesta and how it evolved.

The word siesta in Spanish means nap, but it comes from the Latin hora sexta – the sixth hour (from dawn, traditionally).

The siesta as we know it originated in Spain, but the custom was practiced by the Romans and numerous other countries where the midday heat made it too hot to work. After the Spanish Civil War, many people had to work two jobs to survive, so the hours between 2:00 and 4:00pm became a time to eat and rest before going the their second job. This time period is still characteristic of Spain, although the standard 20-30 minute custom of taking a nap is diminishing.

But the tradition lives on! In the U.S. and other countries the idea of the power nap has taken hold. The power nap, about 20 minutes long, can restore alertness and reverse the impact of a poor night’s sleep. A university study found better memory recall after a short period of sleep. Studies have shown that limiting your siesta to under 45 minutes is the optimal period for a nap, otherwise you may drift into deep sleep which is when you wake up groggy for a while.

Since the long lunch period is still a tradition in Spain and it’s been so hot, here’s a recipe for Gazpacho, the Andalusian cold vegetable soup, perfect for a summer’s day.

If you’re trying to avoid the heat (or the cold, rain or snow), a perfect way to spend time indoors is learning Spanish. Contact Luminoso Language Services to learn more.

Do You Know the Difference Between Spanish and Mexican Cuisine?

They may share a common language, but the cuisines of Spain and Mexico are vastly different. Though Spain conquered much of the Americas, the influence of the native cuisines of Latin America is strong throughout the continent. 
The cuisine of Mexico is a combination of these two cultures. It has elements of Spanish cooking, but the staples are local foods: corn, beans and chili peppers. There’s also more of an emphasis on meats like beef, chicken or pork.
And what about the peppers?? Some of the hottest peppers in the world are used in Mexican cuisine. They vary in heat from Habaneros (100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units) to milder types such as poblanos (1,000 to 1500 Scoville heat units.) Corn is another staple, dried and used in soups and other dishes but primarily in tortillas empanadas and tamales.
Sauces are also very important in Mexican cuisine and add many complex flavors to the food. Their sauces rather than their other ingredients define many dishes.
The Spanish influence on Mesoamerican food starts with the new ingredients they brought from Europe: sugar, wheat, rice, onions, garlic, limes, oil, dairy products, pork, beef and many others which were not native to the Americas.
But it works both ways. When Spain invaded the Americas, they discovered ingredients such as tomatoes, potatoes, maize, bell peppers, spicy peppers, paprika, vanilla and cocoa, or chocolate. The Spanish were the first ones to mix sugar and chocolate. Other influences on Spanish Cuisine were Moorish and Jewish (Sephardic) cooking.
Spanish cuisine is considered Mediterranean cuisine. Seafood plays a large part in all Spanish cooking as do meats such as pork, chicken, lamb and beef. In contrast to the use of powerful spices in Mexico, Spanish cooking relies heavily on garlic and saffron. Spain is the biggest producer of olive oil in the world, and it’s used extensively in most Spanish dishes.

Spanish cooking varies greatly from region to region depending on location and geography. Here are a few:

  • Andalusia is famous for gazpacho, and iberico and serrano ham
  • Castilla-La Mancha (home of Don Quixote) relies on small game for meat because of its dry climate,
  • Catalonia has three regions – coastal, mountains and interior so the cuisine varies from seafood to pork with an extensive use of vegetables.
  • Valencia has two regions – coastal (home of Paella) and rural which has more meat based food.

Spain is also famous for tapas-  from the verb tapar (to cover). Tapas originated in Andalusia in bars or taverns where customers used slices of meat or bread to cover their drinks. Tapas have evolved from that simple origin to a sophisticated range of dishes using anything from vegetables to seafood and meats.
You can’t go wrong with either cuisine since both are delicious! You also can’t go wrong learning Spanish to order your favorite meals. Contact us at Luminoso Language Services to start your lessons.

¿Por qué es tan difícil recordar las contraseñas nuevas?/Why is it so difficult to remember new passwords?

Según un estudio, cierta información ‘importante’ es bloqueada por el cerebro casi de manera automática, haciendo imposible recordar contraseñas nuevas.

Recordar contraseñas nuevas puede ser una pesadilla. Tan solo basta con hacer la búsqueda apropiada en Google para encontrar millones de páginas que intentan ayudar a usuarios desesperados por entrar a una cuenta con una clave que olvidó por completo.

Aunque muchos decidan culparse por ello, ignorar datos tan importantes puede obedecer a una conducta del cerebro completamente normal. Al menos así quedó marcado en un estudio de la Universidad de Zhejiang en China, donde se realizaron una serie de experimentos para explicar la facilidad con la que las personas olvidan cosas que no deberían olvidar.

Según se lee en el estudio publicado por la revista Science Advances, el cerebro activa inconscientemente una serie de mecanismos que bloquean la permanencia de información ‘importante’ en la memoria de trabajo de las personas casi en automático.

Los expertos incluso aseguran que el cerebro puede ser tan selectivo que a veces le resultará más fácil recordar lo que se pidió ignorar deliberadamente que los datos necesarios para llevar a cabo procesos básicos como entrar a un correo electrónico.

Lee el artículo completo

Why is it so difficult to remember new passwords?

According to one study, certain ‘important’ information is blocked by the brain almost automatically, making it impossible to remember new passwords.

Remembering new passwords can be a nightmare. Just do the appropriate search on Google to find millions of pages that try to help users desperate to enter an account with a password that they completely forgot.

Although many choose to blame themselves for it, ignoring such important data can be due to completely normal brain behavior. At least that is how it was marked in a study by Zhejiang University in China, where a series of experiments were carried out to explain the ease with which people forget things that they should not forget.

According to the study published by the journal Science Advances, the brain unconsciously activates a series of mechanisms that block the permanence of ‘important’ information in people’s working memory almost automatically.

Experts even say that the brain can be so selective that sometimes it will be easier to remember what was asked to deliberately ignore than the data necessary to carry out basic processes such as entering an email.

Read the full article in Spanish

Un poquito menos de sal ayuda bastante/Cutting Out Even a Little Salt Can Have Big Health Benefits

A veces, los cambios aparentemente pequeños en beneficio de nuestra salud pueden suponer una diferencia muy grande. Tal es el caso del efecto sobre la presión arterial del sodio, un nutriente esencial y la problemática mitad del cloruro de sodio, el popular condimento que conocemos comúnmente como sal.

La cantidad de sal que se puede consumir sin peligro ha sido objeto de controversia durante un siglo, y es poco probable que el debate se resuelva pronto.

Leer más aquí

Cutting Out Even a Little Salt Can Have Big Health Benefits

Sometimes, seemingly small changes in a health measurement can make a very large difference to people’s well-being. Such is the case with the effect on blood pressure of the essential nutrient sodium, the problematic half of the popular flavoring agent sodium chloride, commonly known as salt.

The amount of salt that is safe for people to consume has been embroiled in controversy for a century, and the debate is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

Read More here

La tarta de fresas con crema de la abuela, reinventada/A Retro Icebox Pie Gets a Vibrant Makeover

Un postre vintage adquiere una dimensión de ensueño con la ayuda de un poco de alquimia de refrigeradora e ingredientes muy frescos.

Hay pocos postres de dos ingredientes tan extraordinarios como una tarta helada de galletas.

Cuando la crema batida y las galletas crujientes de vainilla estilo wafer se superponen en una sencilla combinación y se dejan enfriar durante la noche, ambos ingredientes renacen. Las galletas secas y quebradizas absorben la humedad de la crema batida y se ablandan hasta convertirse en un pastel, mientras que la crema se endurece hasta convertirse en un bloque glaseado con la firmeza suficiente para poder cortarlo. Es un milagro cotidiano que siempre resulta emocionante.

Para disfrutar de esta receta, haga clic AQUÍ

A Retro Icebox Pie Gets a Vibrant Makeover

Add some refrigerator alchemy to vanilla wafers, fresh strawberries and mounds of whipped cream for a dreamy, creamy late-summer dessert.

There are few two-ingredient desserts as transcendent as an icebox cake.

When the unassuming combination of whipped cream and crisp wafer cookies is layered together and chilled overnight, each is reborn. The brittle, dry cookies absorb the moisture of the cream, softening into cake, while the whipped cream stiffens up into a plush snowdrift of frosting that’s just barely firm enough to slice. It’s an everyday miracle that’s always a thrill.

To enjoy this recipe, click HERE

La primavera de 2021 ya está aquí y esto es todo lo que debes saber al respecto/Spring 2021 is here and this is all you need to know about it.

Como en ninguna otra época del año, la primavera trae consigo la más asombrosa transformación de la naturaleza: en cuestión de semanas, una explosión súbita de vida y color modifica radicalmente el paisaje.

Como en ninguna otra época del año, la primavera trae consigo la más asombrosa transformación de la naturaleza: en cuestión de semanas, una explosión súbita de vida y color modifica radicalmente el paisaje.

Con el aumento de la temperatura y los días cada vez más largos, los árboles y plantas recuperan sus hojas y comienzan a florecer desarrollándose rápidamente, las aves encabezan migraciones monumentales y otros animales salen de su periodo de hibernación.

¿Qué es el equinoccio de primavera y cuándo llegará en 2021?

El equinoccio vernal 2021 ocurrirá exactamente el 20 de marzo a las 03:37 de la mañana. En este momento, el Sol se posiciona exactamente sobre el Ecuador terrestre y por lo tanto, el día tiene una duración idéntica a la noche, marcando el inicio de la primavera al hemisferio norte y del otoño al hemisferio sur.

Para leer más, haga clic AQUÍ

Spring 2021 is here and this is all you need to know about it.

Like no other time of year, spring brings with it the most amazing transformation of nature: in a matter of weeks, a sudden explosion of life and color radically changes the landscape.

As the temperature rises and the days get longer and longer, trees and plants regain their leaves and begin to flower and develop rapidly, birds lead monumental migrations and other animals come out of their hibernation period.

What is the vernal equinox and when will it arrive in 2021?

The vernal equinox 2021 will occur exactly on March 20 at 03:37 in the morning. At this time, the Sun is positioned exactly on the terrestrial equator and therefore, the day has an identical duration to the night, marking the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere.

To read More in Spanish, click HERE

Learning a second language is good for you and practical! Contact us to learn more.