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:


  • 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


  • 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.


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:


  • 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)


  • scissors
  • small paintbrush


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


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!


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.


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?

Día de Independencia in Central America

Día de IndependenciaDía de Independencia or independence day is a national holiday that’s celebrated in Central America on the 15th of September to commemorate the beginning of the war of independence. This war started on the 16th of September in 1810 in Guanajuato, Mexico, when the priest Miguel Hidalgo called for the end of the Spanish rule. With the grito de la independencia or the cry of independence, Hidalgo encouraged the people to revolt against the Spanish colonial rule. At that time Mexico and the other countries of Central America (except Panama) formed part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain established following the Spanish conquest in 1521. However, Mexico was the only country that fought for independence. The rebellion started by Hidalgo led to a long and bloody war which took a decade before Spain declared Mexico and the other Central American countries independent in 1821.

Independence and la patria

The start of the war is commemorated yearly in all Central American countries from Mexico until Costa Rica. While in most countries the focus is on parades, student activities, and assemblies, in Mexico día de independencia is a big fiesta with food, music, and fireworks. Because it’s all about the patria or the fatherland, the weeks before half of September national symbols arise everywhere. The public and national buildings are decorated, street vendors are selling national symbols in all kinds, and the public squares are cleaned and prepared for entertainment.

The Mexican fiesta

In Mexico on the evening of the 15th of September which is called el Día del Grito, the celebrations are started. Traditionally around 11 o’clock in the evening the president rings the bell of the national palace at the central square zócalo in Mexico City. After that he will speak the grito de dolores mentioning the names of the important heroes of the Mexican War of Independece, and the speech is ended shouting ¡Viva México! three times. Often the public adds cabrones to it. After this the president waves the Mexican flag followed by the playing and singing of the national anthem. Then it’s fiesta time, and the party continues until dawn. For the people without hangover or cruda, the following morning on the 16th of September which is the Day of Independence the military performs a parade starting from the zócalo and passing by Hidalgo Memorial and other main places in Mexico City.

How to tell the difference between popular types of latino music and dance

Food, music and dancing are the basic ingredients for a good fiesta. Latinos love to dance, and often at fiestas people dance for hours on the beats of reggaeton, merengue, salsa or bachata. These are definitely the most popular types of latino music. However, if you are not used to this music it can be hard to distinguish the different types and know how to dance on it. So, here is how to tell the difference and know the salsa from merengue moves.


Who hasn’t heard of the reggaeton classic Dáme mas gasolina by Daddy Yankee? Listen to the chorus: it is the perfect example of the specific beat, the riddim, which is used in nearly all reggaeton songs. Reggaeton is a mixture of dancehall, other Latin American music such as salsa, and electronic music.

The first time when you are in a bar in Latin America and you see people dancing on reggaeton it can be quite intimidating. In general the way latinos dance is more sexual than we are used to in Europe, and it becomes especially clear when they dance on reggaeton. It is all about loose hips, sexy movements and following the rhythm. No wonder reggaeton is famous for couples to perrear or to dance closely on.

Origin: Puerto Rico
Other famous artists: Don Omar, Wisin y Yandel, Calle 13


A classic that is also well-known in Europe is Suavemente by Elvis Crespo. Merengue music has a 4 beat. Often the güira, a metal percussion instrument, is used. It is brushed steadily on the downbeat. It sounds a bit like maracas, the rumba shakers, and it indicates the rhythm of the merengue song.

For a fiesta in Latin America learning to dance merengue is essential. Everybody knows how to dance it. Luckily it is easy to learn. It’s just step step with your feet to the beat alternating your left and right foot. Sounds like a piece of cake, doesn’t it?

Origin: Dominican Republic
Other famous artists: Juan Luis Guerra, Eddy Herrera


Salsa can easily be confused with merengue. It doesn’t help that some salsa songs start with an intro that looks like merengue, like Celia Cruz’ song La Vida es un Carnaval. But salsa music follows the 8 count beat. Also salsa music has a very recognizable instruments that sets the rhythm: the cowbell.

Learning to dance salsa is more complicated than learning to dance merengue. Although the salsa beat exists of 8 counts, the rhythm is quick (1), quick (2), slow (3, 4), quick (5), quick (6), slow (7, 8). It requires more practice and a careful listening to the cowbell to keep on salsa rhythm. There are also many different styles to dance salsa, such as dancing in a circle or in a line or using different foot patterns.

Origin: Cuba
Other famous artists: Marc Anthony, Luis Enrique, Africando


The exaggerated emotional singing style of bachata musicians make it easy to recognize this type of music. Especially the group Aventura used this way of singing bachata music like in their song Obsessión. It definitely suits the lyrics as most songs are stories of heartbreak. Bachata consists of a 4 beat rhythm.

Dancing bachata is all about the lower body and the hip movement. Bend the knees a bit so you can move your hips, and then it’s: step (1), step (2), step (3) and move your hip (4). Easier said than done, I know! I love dancing bachata, but without flexible hips it’s quite hard.

Origin: Dominican Republic
Other famous artists: Prince Royce, Frank Reyes

In the beginning all the different types of music look the same, but the more you listen (and dance), the more differences you distinguish. In this case it is about practicing and going to as many fiestas as possible to be able to tell the difference between reggaeton, merengue, salsa and bachata, and dance the night away in latino style.

On what music do you like to dance the night away in latino style?