Mi casa es su casa papel picado

Make a coloured papel picado framed print

I’ve been thinking of adding a colourful touch to our guest room for a while now. It’s a very white space, so bright colours will definitely add something to it. Also I wanted to make something that will make my friends and family that will stay with us feel welcome. That’s why I came up with idea to combine a colourful Mexican papel picado pattern with the famous Spanish saying ‘mi casa es su casa‘.

Papel picado

In Mexico you’ll see colourful papercut banners at fiestas or celebrations. They are used as decorations and usually have different designs depending on the occasion. I’m a big fan of the colourful banners, because they really add a party spirit to any place.

You can read more about papel picado and its origin on wikipedia.

Colourful Mexican papel picado banners

Photo by timlewisnm / CC BY

What you’ll need:

Materials

  • picture frame – I’ve found one at a second hand shop
  • spray paint in a bright colour
  • newspaper
  • bronce paint – this is optional, I’ve used it to give a vintage touch to the frame
  • masking tape
  • 1 sheet of thick coloured paper that will fit in the frame – you’ll use this one to cut out the design
  • 1 sheet of coloured paper – this will be the background in the frame
  • a print of the mi casa design – either on the coloured paper or on a seperate sheet

Tools

  • fine sandpaper
  • small piece of sponge
  • stanley knife or craft knife
  • a thick piece of cardboard or cutting mat

To cut out the paper design I’ve used tools that I already had at home: a piece of cardboard  – the back of a sketchbook to be exact – and a stanley knife. It worked for me, but it was hard to get the fine details right. If you want to have a perfect cut, you’ll need to buy the tools for paper cutting.

Instructions

Here’s how you paint the frame and cut out the papel picado paper:

For the frame

The 4 steps of painting a wooden frame

  1. Remove the glass from the picture frame. Get a piece of sandpaper and lightly sand over old paint to rough up the surface a little. This will ensure that the new paint will stick on the frame.
  2. Wipe off any of the dust with a dry cloth, then use a damp cloth to get rid off the last dust. Let it dry.
  3. Cover the area where you will paint with the newspapers. Follow the instructions of the spray paint and apply a coat of paint. Let it dry, this will probably take a day. If needed, apply one more coat of paint, and let it dry again.
  4. If you want to add a vintage touch, put a bit of the bronce acrylic paint on a damp sponge and dab the paint lightly on the frame. Apply the paint only on to a couple of places, such as the corners. Let it dry.

For the papel picado

Cut out the papel picado pattern

  1. Print the papel picado template on the coloured sheet of paper or on a normal paper. If you print it on the normal paper, attach it to the coloured sheet with masking tap.
  2. Place the paper on top of the mat or cardboard and start -carefully!-  cutting out the design. I found out it’s easiest to start with the details and then the larger areas.
  3. Once you’ve cut out all the pieces, check if it’s looking okay. If there are some bad edges, you can use a small siccor to cut away any excess. If you printed the template on a seperate sheet, you can remove it.

Now it’s time to put it all together: clean the glass and place it in the painted frame. Then add the papel picado, followed by another sheet of coloured paper and lastly the back of the frame.

¡Y listo! You now have a colourful and welcoming frame. Of course, you can play around with the colours and design to add your personal touch to it. Have fun making your own creation!

DIY pineapple Christmas tree ornament

This year I’ve finally got enough space at home for a Christmas tree. Now I get to use some of the souvenirs that I bought in Peru earlier this year. So my Christmas tree has now an andean angel, a rainbow coloured chullo (hat with earflaps), and a llama. However, after adding all the ornaments, the tree was still a bit empty and I needed some more to fill it up.

When I came across the idea of pineapple ornaments on Instagram (by Awwsam), I was immediately sold: it’s an easy to make DIY for christmas ornaments, one of my favourite fruits and it’s an extra tropical touch for my Christmas tree.

Pineapple Christmas ornament

What you’ll need:

Materials

  • pinecones (clean and dry)
  • yellow paint (acrylic or spray paint)
  • string
  • green tissue paper
  • all-purpose glue
  • glitters or glitter glue (this is optional, in case you want to add sparkles to it)

Tools

  • scissors
  • small paintbrush

Instructions

Here’s how you make the pineapple ornaments:

  1. Paint the pinecones, and make sure that all the brown areas are covered. I’ve used acrylic paint and I needed quite some layers to cover the pinecones completely. Make sure to let the paint dry between each layer; acrylic paint dries in 10 to 30 minutes. To save time you can use yellow spray paint instead.

DIY pineapple ornament for the Christmas tree

2. This is optional: if you want to give it a festive touch, add some glitter to the pinecones.

Once your yellow pinecones have dried, it’s time to add the leaves.

3. Use scissors to cut pointy leaves out of the green tissue paper. Next, glue the leaves to the top of the pinecone, and make sure that they form a closed circle. Let the glue dry and then you can carefully fold the leaves a bit to give the pineapple a more natural look.

DIY pineapple ornament for the Christmas tree step 2

4. Cut a piece of string, wrap it around the pinecone, and make a knot.

Now your pineapple is ready for the Christmas tree!

Pineapple Christmas ornaments in the Christmas tree

 

A cocktail recipe from Nicaragua: the Macuá

Drinking cocktails is one of the best ways to escape the summer heat. Of course, a good cocktail has to include my favourite ingredient the Flor de Caña rum from Nicaragua.

The rum inspired me to look for new drinks, and that is how I discovered the Macuá cocktail. A couple of years ago the Macuá cocktail was chosen as the national drink of Nicaragua.

I’ve never tried the cocktail when I was travelling in Nicaragua, but I discovered I missed out on a good drink! The orange and lime juice give it a refreshing taste which is perfect to cool you down.

Macuá cocktail from Nicaragua

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts (white) rum of Flor de Caña
  • 2 parts guava juice
  • 2 parts orange juice
  • 1 part lime juice
  • sugar to taste
  • A handful of ice cubes

After some stirring your cocktail is ready. Decorate it with a slice of lime.

Close your eyes, take a sip and imagine yourself far far away in a tropical country… Salud! 

 

Favourite souvenirs: black spotted red hauyro seeds

Huayruro necklace

One of my favourite souvenirs from Ecuador is a bright orange-red necklace. It’s made of orange-red seeds with black spots that are known as Huayro. The first time I came across these seeds, I was impressed by the amount of work done by the indigenous people to paint a black spot on each seed. I soon discovered that the tree actually produces the seeds this way which made me feel a bit stupid. However, while doing research to find out what the meaning of Huayro is, and where the seeds come from, I discovered something which really made me feel stupid: the seeds of my necklace are from a very poisonous variety. When you are travelling in Latin America, you will probably come across the Huayro seeds as well, so it’s good to know which Huayro seeds are toxic and which ones aren’t.

The origin of the Huayro seeds

Huayro seeds come from the tree Ormosia Coccinea which grows to a height of 25 to 35 meters. It grows best in a humid environment and can mostly be found in the jungle. The flowers are pink or purple, and the fruit is a small flattened and green seedpod which contains a couple of seeds. People collect the seeds that have fallen to the ground to create jewelry. The seeds come in two varieties: entirely red or red with one black spot covering ⅓ of surface. Indigenous people distinguishes these seeds between male and female: the red one is called hembra or female, and the black spotted seed is called macho or male.

Ormosia Coccinea - the flower, leaf,  and the beans

Toxic seeds

The seeds of the Ormosia Coccinea are poisonous if chewed, so it is okay to wear them as jewelry long as you don’t eat them (so don’t give it to a child). However, I discovered that a similar type of orange-red seed exists which is produced by the Abrus Precatorius. These seeds, on the other hand, contain arbin wich is extremely toxic when ingested or through direct contact with a skin wound. Especially once the seed is crushed it’s dangerous and can even kill. It’s hard to tell the difference between the seeds, but the Ormosia Coccinea (11 – 14 mm) is bigger than the Abrus Precatorius (3 – 8 mm). Also this image may be of help to tell the difference between the Ormosia Coccinea (C & D) and the Abrus Precatorius seeds (H).

The bean of luck

The Huayro seeds are used since pre-hispanic times. For example, the Incas used them to create jewelry or for rituals. The seeds are especially known for their symbolic value: it’s said that they bring and attract good luck, protect against negative energy, and attract good fortune.  To attract good fortune, put a Huayro seed in your wallet. If you rather want protection against negative energy, you can place for example a jar of huayro seeds in your home.

Since I discovered that my necklace is made of the Abrus Precatorius seeds, I’ve decided not to wear it again. While thinking about it I’m not completely surprised that the seeds are poisonous, because most bright coloured things in nature are, but I never really investigated it. Well, I prefer not to risk it, and I’ll save the necklace in a little jar instead. This way I can still enjoy the beautiful colour, and hopefully it will bring me luck as well!

 

Buying the right clothes for a backpack trip

January is coming up which means it’s sales time here in Belgium. It made me think of the best clothes I’ve ever bought for my travels during sales time which was a Tripod bikini at Decathlon for €2. No wonder I’m thinking about the sales at Decathlon right now! You’ve got until 26th of January. I realized that over the years, many of my Quechua and Tripod clothes from Decathlon were the best and favourite items for my journeys in Latin America. Here is my list of recommendations for clothing you should buy at Decathlon, especially during the sale.

The best clothes to buy at Decathlon for your backpack trip

1. Raincoat

The Jack Rain-Cut from Quechua is the perfect raincoat to take with you on a day trip when you’re in some hot and damp place like the Caribbean and it’s rainy season.  

2. Fleece vest

Layers is what I need to keep my body warm. This fleece Quechua Forclaz have kept me warm during hikes at the volcanoes of Ecuador, but also here in Europe they are my best friend in winter time. The fabric dries quickly, and they have pockets with a zipper. Last but not least, they make them in a lot of different colours. I’m in love with it!

3. Jacket

It can be an investment buying a jacket, but if you do buy one, make sure it’s a good investment, like this Quechua’s Arpenaz 3-in-1. The zipper is sealed which keeps cold air outside. Besides you can just use the inside jacket separately or just the rain jacket. Even now back in Europe it’s the warmest jacket I’ve got.

4. Zip off hiking trousers

I never thought I would ever recommend zip off hiking trousers, because it’s the most unsexy clothing item! I still think it’s, but while travelling, the Quechua’s Forclaz hiking trousers have come in handy a lot. It’s for those trips in freezing buses when the air-conditioning is set on 15 degrees. But also when I travelled from San José, where it was cold, to the warm Caribbean coast, I could zip off the bottom parts and turn my trousers into shorts within seconds.

5. Water shirt

Going to sunny places with my fair skin is asking for trouble. In Central America this Tribord uv shirt prevented me from burning. Besides the colour matches my eyes 😉

6. Surf bikini

As a girl you never have enough bikini’s, and even though I already had some at home, I bought a new one for my trip to Costa Rica. This one is different: some of the Tripod bikini’s are designed for active girls. So if you are into swimming, surfing, or other aquatic sports it’s the perfect bikini. I discovered it in Costa Rica: one wave, and your bikini would be at ripped of your body. But not this one!

7. High hiking boots

For hikes good boots are very important. Of course, the type of boots depends on where you are going but if you are going to the Andes, I’d recommend high hiking shoes. Quechua’s Arpenaz boots kept my ankles stable, my feet warm and, especially important, dry. 

8. Socks

Your feet will love the Arpenaz socks from Quechua. No blisters even after hours of walking, and they dry quickly.

9. Warm hiking socks

You probably already noticed that I’m a cold fish: these socks are still my favourites now during European winter time when my feet don’t seem to get warm at all . But also in Latin America the Quechua Forclaz socks kept my feet warm during hikes on volcanoes  in Ecuador.

Mexican hot chocolate abuelita

chocolateabuelita

In Europe we’re mentally preparing for the cold, and dark winter days. The best drink that keeps me warm during these days is hot cocoa. My favourite version is chocolate abuelita or hot cocoa granny style from Mexico. It’s a creamy cocoa with as special ingredient cinnamon. I got really fond of it, as it adds a bit of more warmth to the chocolate. Chocolate abuelita certainly helped me to warm up during rainy season in Mexico City. This winter it has to work its magic in Europe.

A tablet of Chocolate Abuelita

If you can lay your hands on a tablet of Abuelita bring a saucepan of milk to a simmer, and add the tablet of chocolate. Give it a good whisk until the chocolate is dissolved and you have a nice foam on top. Once it’s all creamy, pour it into mugs and serve. Here in Europe it’s hard to find, but I know that in the Netherlands it’s sold online or in local shops that sell products from Latin America. Try a Google search to see what is available in your country.

Of course it is easy to make chocolate abuelita at home with the following ingredients (for 1 serving):

Ingredients Chocolate Abuelita

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup of chocolate chips  (four tablespoons of drinking chocolate powder)
  • one cinnamon sticks
  • a teaspoon of sugar
  • for a sweet version: vanilla drops or for a spicy flavor chili powder

I’m a real chocoholic so I prefer to use milk to get a creamy hot chocolate. Also I’ll be using chocolate chips instead of powder. That way you get small parts of chocolate throughout the cocoa. Yummy!

Add the milk to a small saucepan. Warm the milk over medium-low heat, then add a cup of chocolate chips. I love dark chocolate, but you can also use milk chocolate chips. Then add the sugar and the cinnamon sticks.

Preparing Chocolate Abuelita

Stir it around, until the chocolate chips are melted. Bring it to a simmer for a few minutes before serving, but make sure it doesn’t get too hot. The trick is to heat the milk, not boil it. If it’s too much chocolate, add half or a cup more milk. And if you like it sweet, add some more sugar and even a little vanilla extract.

Once it’s all melted and smooth, pour the hot cocoa into mugs,  and enjoy your hot chocolate abuelita 🙂

Spice up your Chocolate Abuelita

If you don’t get warm with a cup of hot cocoa you can finish it off with a splash of Tequila, Kahlua or, like I do, some Flor de Caña. That will get your feet warm this winter!

Día de los Muertos

Calacas enjoying life

Despite its macabre name, día de los muertos or day of the dead is about celebrating. On the 1st and 2nd of November the life of family members and friends that have passed away is remembered. To honour the dead, graves are colourfully decorated with offerings or ofrendas at home or in public places and altars are created. Flowers, food and drinks are placed for decoration, and even music is played to honour the dead, and most importantly to encourage their souls to visit the earth.

Día de los muertos is especially an important festival in Mexico where it originated. Although in other Latin American countries such as Guatemala, Ecuador or Brazil similar celebrations take place. In Mexico every region has its own traditions, but in most regions the 1st of November is the day the spirits of the angelitos, the children, visit the earth. The 2nd of November is when deceased adults are honoured.

Ofrenda

The aim of the decorations and the music is to encourage visits by the souls of  deceased friends and family so they can hear the stories, prayers, and comments made by their loved ones at earth. For children toys and candies are put as ofrenda to encourage their spirits to visit, and for adult spirits it’s common to find alcoholic beverages like mezcal or tequila placed as ofrenda or their favourite music will be played at their grave.

Colourful Calaveras

Besides a collection of the deceased’s favourite things, there are some typical decorations used for día de los muertosCalaveras or skulls appear everywhere and are often portrayed as enjoying life. The most famous calavera is Catrina, the lady of the death. Also candy skulls or sweet bread pan de muertos are added to altars. This bread can either be plain round, but often it represents a skull or is decorated with icing to make it look like a bone. Finally, orange or yellow Mexican marigold flowers are included in offerings as it is believed the scent helps bring the loved ones home.

In the end, the idea behind día de los muertos is that dead is part of the cycle of life. And what better way is there than celebrating it in a joyous way?