How to make: a Pupusería for your Nacimiento


As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

In El Salvador and many other Latin American countries, the nativity scene, or “nacimiento” is not the quiet, traditional scene most Americans are used to. In addition to Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, barnyard animals, a shepherd and three wisemen, Salvadoran nativity scenes can take up a whole room and look like an entire village complete with soccer players, musicians, and figures of favorite TV characters.

If you wanted a pupusería (restaurant that sells pupusas) for your nativity this year, you’re in luck! Here’s how you can make your own custom pupusería, either for your nacimiento or to gift to someone as a decoration.

How to make: a Pupusería for your Nacimiento

What you need:

1 primed inside corner crown moulding block
1 pack wide hobby [popsicle] sticks (found in hardware in the drawers labeled “hobby”)
hot glue gun and glue sticks
Valspar paint samples and/or craft paint in various colors
hobby-size craft paint brushes
cutting pliers
painter’s tape
newspaper (to protect the surface you’re working on)
paper towels

Optional (to make people or animal figures):
craft board (light, thin wood)



First you’re going to want to place some painter’s tape halfway up the “walls” as shown so that you’ll have a clean line when you paint. Many Salvadoran houses are painted in two colors like this, but you can paint it just one color if you wish. You will also want to paint the “roof” a brownish color so that any spots that show through won’t be obvious when you’re done with the roof tiles.


To make the traditional looking “tejas” roof tiles which are popular in parts of El Salvador, you’ll be using the wide popsicle sticks (also called “hobby sticks.) Cut as many as you need with the pliers for the first row which you’ll hot glue to the roof. Mine were about 1 1/2 inches long, but I think it would have worked better if I cut them slightly shorter.


For the corners, you may need to cut your roof tiles with the scissors so they’re beveled (see photo.)


Once you hot glue the first row, you may find it necessary to put a few layers of hot glue and allow it to harden on parts of the roof before you add the next row to give yourself a more even surface to work on.


You may also find that cutting some of the roof tiles in a “tear drop” shape, as shown, will work better in some areas.


I’m not going to lie – the roof took a long time and it was far from perfect. I’m definitely not going to be hired as a roofer anytime soon! However, once you have it all tiled, you’re ready to paint it.


I didn’t have a specific Valspar color on hand that I felt was the right shade so I ended up mixing my own color. You want sort of a dark reddish-orange. After I painted them that color, I used a dry brush in dark brown paint to add a little more detail.


Feel free to get creative with whatever details you want to add. As you can see, I painted a little potted plant on the outside wall near the entrance.

As for the figures of the woman and the dog, I just traced their shapes on craft board and cut them out with a jigsaw. Sand the edges until they’re smooth and then you can paint them as you wish.

If you look closely, you can see a little plate of pupusas inside. For that I used a wooden nickel (available in the “hobby” drawer in the Hardware department), which I painted blue. For the pupusas, I used a knife to slice a rubber cork from a wine bottle into little discs and painted them. Once dry, I hot glued the pupusas to the plate and hot glued the plate to the little triangular ledge on the inside.


When I went to paint the pupusería’s sign on a popsicle stick to hot glue to the outside wall, my younger son walked by the table. He pointed to the figure of the woman which I had already painted and he said, “Is that you?” … I decided then that it would be my pupusería. (And yes, I spelled my name the Salvadoran way!)

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Relajo Giveaway!


This spice packet may have cost me less than $3 but don’t be deceived! This imported spice mixture from El Salvador is extremely valuable to anyone who doesn’t have access to it, but who longs to make Salvadoran Panes con Pavo for Thanksgiving. I decided to do this giveaway for those of you who live in parts of the United States where Salvadoran relajo is difficult or impossible to find – so just leave a comment on this post for your chance to win!

====Giveaway Closed! Congratulations to Angie!====


Prize description: One lucky winner will receive the item pictured in the photo at the very top of this post: One 3 oz. packet of Mi Canton brand Relajo seasoning.

Approximate value: $3

– How to Enter –

Just leave a comment below! (Please read official rules below before entering.)

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age or older to enter. You must be able to provide a U.S. address for prize shipment. Your name and address will not be shared with any third party. Please no P.O. Boxes. One entry per household. Make sure that you enter a valid email address in the email address field so you can be contacted if you win. Winner will be selected at random. Winner has 24 hours to respond. If winner does not respond within 24 hours, a new winner will be selected at random. Giveaway entries are being accepted between November 11th, 2014 through November 13th, 2014. Entries received after November 13th, 2014 at 11:59 pm EST, will not be considered. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. If you win, by accepting the prize, you are agreeing that assumes no liability for damages of any kind. By entering your name below you are agreeing to these Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

Buena suerte / Good luck!

Disclosure: I did not receive any product or payment to run this giveaway. Item for giveaway was purchased by me.

Feliz Pupusa Day 2014!


Disclosure: has partnered with Cricket Wireless as a 2014 Blog Ambassador. All opinions are my own.

Happy National Pupusa Day, gente! To celebrate I hope you go to your favorite pupusería with your familia and enjoy one of each kind with plenty of curtido y salsa. (Or make some yourself. I’ve got several recipes here.)

If you live in the DC area there’s plenty of pupusa places to choose from. Over the years I’ve shared the names of a few of my favorites. Today I want to give a shout out to a pupusería we discovered this past year called Flor Blanca in Winchester, Virginia. It’s a small place, nothing fancy – reminds me of the comedors back in El Salvador – but they have excellent pupusas (and plenty of other super authentic Salvadoran food.) The best day to check them out is Tuesday or Thursday when they have 99 cent pupusas!

Last time we went to Flor Blanca I snapped a couple photos with my Cricket Wireless Samsung Galaxy. Ever since I’ve gotten this phone I have completely abandoned my camera – I love the photos it takes.



Need a pupusa playlist for your car ride to the pupusería? Here are some good pupusa-themed songs I found in Cricket Wireless’s Muve Music store.


Yes. I now have a Pupusa Playlist.

You can learn more about Cricket Wireless by following the #ConMiCricket hashtag and @MiCricket on Twitter.

Día de los Muertos 2014


This year marks our 4th year of celebrating Día de los Muertos by creating an altar to remember passed loved ones. In 2010 when I first set up an altar and Carlos asked me to take it down because it made him sad, I completely understood and dismantled it. Día de los Muertos is called Día de los Difuntos in El Salvador and most people don’t see it as a day of celebration. In El Salvador it’s more a day of mourning – so Carlos wasn’t into it.

I thought that would be our first and last altar but the next year my boys remembered the tradition and asked if we were going to build an altar. When I explained that it had made Daddy sad to see his father on the altar they asked if we could make one for a beloved dog who had passed – and so we celebrated the life of Ginger the dog that year.

Last year was a turning point because not only did Carlos say he felt comfortable with me creating an altar for his passed loved ones, I also felt comfortable enough to include passed loved ones from my side of the family.

As I set up this year’s ofrenda I realized how therapeutic Día de los Muertos is for healing. It feels good to be able to look at a photo of my grandfather or Carlos’s abuelos and smile, remembering them.



Image source: Dauro Veras

This morning when I remembered it was Earth Day, I started thinking about the concept of “Mother Earth” or “Madre Tierra” – and this in turn reminded me of a word I have always loved – Pachamama. Since it’s Earth Day, this is actually an excellent day to learn, “What or Who, exactly, is Pachamama?”

First, what does “Pachamama” mean, and where does the word come from? Pachamama is an Aymara and Quechua word commonly translated to “Mother Earth” but there isn’t really an exact equivalent in English or Spanish. While “mama” means mother, in Aymara and Quechua, the word “pacha” means far more than “earth” – the word also encompasses the cosmos, universe, time, and space. (On a personal note: I find it interesting that the word “pacha” in Salvadoran slang, which typically comes from Pipil/Nahuat, means “baby bottle” – So it’s another sort of mothering/nurturing word. I wonder if they’re related?)

Pachamama is a goddess of the Inca people and is adored in various areas of Latin America – primarily in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, but also in parts of Chile and Argentina.

Image source: ImagenesDeOcasion

Here are a few quotes about Pachamama that I found interesting:

“It is often difficult for an outsider to understand the devotion of the indigenous people for Pachamama…the principal deity of Andean religion. Pachamama is earth itself, sustainer of all life. In the words of one of the villagers, ‘Pachamama gives us life, she nourishes us throughout our existence on this earth and when we die, we go back to our Pachamama from where we will rise again.’ Pachamama is powerful. She sustains life for animals and plants alike, but she can also kill with devasting earthquakes and allow lightening to strike. Pachamama and the god of thunder and lightening are considered compadres.” – Inge Bolin, Rituals of Respect: The Secret Survival in the High Peruvian Andes

Description: “Q’eros shaman, called a Paqo, in his ultra-bright traditional poncho and chullo (hat) calling the Apu mountain spirits to bless a mesa, a cloth-wrapped package of special found and collected power objects (like rocks and crystals from places you’ve done ceremony) that a person on the shamanic path carries for ceremonies.” // Image source: McKay Savage

“It is very common for the Pachamama to receive the first serving of beer at social gatherings since believers pour a few drops on the ground before they take their first sip. This is a way to thank and feed the Pachamama.” –

car-pachamama Description: “Decorated Landcruiser – All decorated in honor of Pachamama over the Carnival period. People were doing this all over the Andean countries today.” // Image source: Andy Hares

“According to Mario Rabey and Rodolfo Merlino, Argentine anthropologists who studied the Andean culture from the 1970s to the 1990s, ‘The most important ritual is the challaco. Challaco is a deformation of the Quechua words ‘ch’allay’ and ‘ch’allakuy’, that refer to the action to insistently sprinkle. In the current language of the campesinos of the southern Central Andes, the word challar is used in the sense of ‘to feed and to give drink to the land’. The challaco covers a complex series of ritual steps that begin in the family dwellings the night before. They cook a special food, the tijtincha. The ceremony culminates at a pond or stream, where the people offer a series of tributes to Pachamama, including ‘food, beverage, leaves of coca and cigars.'” – Wikipedia/Pachamama

pachamama-dance Description: “La juventud es parte fundamental del espiritú que aquí se vive, en conjunto. Yo junto a mi novia nos contagiamos del ritmo y la energía de un pueblo que le agradece a su tierra por lo entregado, un verdadero carnaval, donde no hay personas arrastrandose por demostrar su fe, al contrario hay gente saltando y bailando felices de saber que son ellos los hijos del Inti.” // Image source: Pablo Embry

In this quote, the person seems to be referring to the tradition of some Latin American Catholics to crawl on their knees to show their devotion and to thank God and or the Virgin for answered prayer, when he says “…no hay personas arrastrandose por demostrar su fe, al contrario hay gente saltando y bailando felices…” [Translation: “…there are no people crawling to prove their faith, on the contrary, there are people jumping and dancing happily…”] This quote draws a contrast between the two faiths and the way in which they worship, yet there are some who mix their beliefs.

“When the Spanish invaded the Americas, they brought with them their Catholic religion, forcing it upon the indigenous people. But the people, devout to their own gods, resisted these advances…So the Spaniards had to adopt a different plan of attack. As Dr. Cajias says, ‘They then decided to mix Catholic beliefs and figures with native beliefs and figures.’ At the center of this syncretism are Pachamama and the Virgin Mary. Pachamama is an Aymara and Quechuan word loosely meaning ‘Mother Earth.’ The Andean people saw Pachamama as a mother who gave them food, water, and all of nature. She was considered a fertile mother because of the fertile land. And the Catholic figure most resembling a caring mother? The Virgin Mary.” – Source: Patrick Dowling, BolivianExpress

cruz-pachamama Description: “Ofrenda a Pachamama.” // Image source: Thiago Biá

Regardless of your religious beliefs, all of us living on the earth have a responsibility to care for it, and that’s what I take away from the belief in Pachamama. I find it difficult to live in harmony with nature in the modern world, balancing the wants and daily “needs” of American culture with a deeper and truer need to be in balance with everything outside my climate-controlled home which is filled with technology and other conveniences, but I try – and I want to try harder.

Happy Earth Day, Pachamama.

12 Greeting Cards For Latinos That Don’t Exist (But Should)


I love greeting cards and will embrace any holiday, occasion, or event, to give them to friends and family. You know those “Just because” cards? Those were made for people like me, for those days we want to give cards but can’t think of any good reason to. If Carlos can’t find me in a store, he goes to the greeting card aisle – that’s usually where I am – just reading them for fun.

That being said, I’ve found that at times it’s difficult for me to find cards that say exactly what I need them to. As a bilingual, bicultural Latino-American family in the United States, we have our own unique culture, events, and language. The cards in English with Latin-flavor usually feature a donkey wearing a sombrero or some other tired theme. The cards in Spanish are limited, and usually only available for quinces and Día de las Madres. What’s a bicultural gringa to do? … Make my own cards, of course!

The cards I created below (which you should feel free to share in social media or print for personal use!) represent some real themes we’ve dealt with in our familia – maybe you’ll relate. Which greeting card have you needed that doesn’t exist?

(Not much that can be done about that, but at least a greeting card softens the blow?)

(Kind of one of those “Sorry, not sorry” moments.)

(Salvadorans, you know what I mean… At least we’ve got the playera team.)

(We don’t say “Happy birthday” in this house.)

(This would come in handy for all your encargo requests for traveling family members.)

(A whole line of greeting cards with “Chavito del 8” references would sell like pan caliente.)

(We’ve got some unique milestones that you don’t really find anywhere in the greeting card aisle!)

(Cute enough for a kid, but could be exchanged between adults too.)

(We would probably need to exchange this card at least once a week.)

(My kids are half Salvadoran and my older son in particular is constantly mistaken for Mexican. Thought I should explain that one!)

(Who needs a “Get Well” card when there’s Vicks?)

(Día de las Madres was always a dangerous day for Carlos.)

Do-it-Yourself Love Song Pillow for Día de San Valentín


As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

Text on pillows and other home décor is hot right now, but as someone who loves language and typography, it will always be in style at my house.

Here’s how you can make your own custom pillow featuring the lyrics of “your song” to gift to your valentine on Valentine’s Day. (I gave Carlos this pillow featuring lyrics from Ricardo Arjona’s “Te Encontraré” which is our song.)

Do-it-Yourself Love Song Pillow

You need:

4 x 5 ft. Blue Hawk canvas drop cloth, cut into two squares slightly larger than 19 x 19 in. each
(For cutting the drop cloth: pencil, ruler, scissors)
allen + roth 19 x 19 in. white square decorative pillow
1 clear, plastic, rectangular storage container with lid
LED lights with batteries
a large sewing needle (not available at Lowe’s)
size 10 crochet thread in desired color (not available at Lowe’s)
permanent marker
clear package tape
printer with ink and paper


Before you begin: If you’re not fond of the scent of the drop cloth, you can launder it just as you do with your clothes in the washer and dryer with whichever detergent you have on hand.

1. Cut two squares of the drop cloth to slightly larger than 19 x 19 inches.

2. Choose a few lines of lyrics from your love song, and then print them in a large font of your choosing on a regular piece of white 8.5 x 11 inch printer paper. (You may find that this works best in “landscape” rather than “portrait.”)

3.. Build your lightbox: Put the lid of the storage container on the floor or table surface with the LED lights on top of it. Turn the LED lights on and place the storage container on top so that the LED lights are sealed inside and the storage container is upside down.


4. On the bottom of the closed storage container, tape down the paper with your printed song lyrics, then position one square of the drop cloth fabric over the paper. You should be able to see the lyrics through the fabric. Make sure the lyrics are aligned as you like and then tape down the fabric. (You may be tempted to skip the taping part but if you want a neat result, I recommend doing it so nothing gets shifted while you work.)

5. Use a permanent marker to trace the letters through the fabric.



6. Remove the fabric from the “lightbox.” Optional: Lightly iron the fabric with a hot iron. This will help “set” the ink and help prevent it from bleeding later should it get wet or need washing.

7. Now, you have several options for sewing your pillow. The traditional way with a hidden seam would require a sewing machine to sew the two squares together, closing three sides, (with the traced letters flipped to the wrong side as you use the sewing machine.) You would then reach inside and turn the pillow case inside-out so now the text looks correct, stuff the pillow inside and sew the fourth side closed by hand using small stitches and a thread that matches the fabric color.

In my case, I can’t use a sewing machine to save my life and I wasn’t even going to attempt to hide my stitches. I decided to use my poor sewing skills to my benefit and make the stitches a visible part of the design. The crochet thread I chose was burgundy so it stood out nicely against the cream color of the drop cloth. The stitch I used is called a “blanket stitch” – Instructions can be found HERE, but here are step-by-step photos to help you.


7. Once all four sides are stitched closed, your pillow is finished and ready for giving to your cariño!


Want more creative ideas?



Check out more from Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network by subscribing to their Creative Ideas Magazine and E-Newsletter, following them on Pinterest, and by seeing what the other Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network members are up to.