Hotel-style Bathroom Makeover

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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.

One of the things I look forward to the most when traveling, is staying in a hotel room. I love hotels! Everything is (usually) so new and perfect, and knowing that I don’t have to clean up anything is instantly relaxing. Not that I party like a rockstar in my room and trash it, I actually keep things very tidy, but it’s nice to look around and not be reminded of all the repairs that should be made, bills that need to be paid, or chores that must be done. I wanted to carry this same sense of luxury and relaxation into my bedroom, but that would be a much bigger project than I’m ready to tackle right now, and overall, I’m happy with the way my bedroom looks. Instead, we took this challenge into our master bathroom where it was seriously needed.

I hated our bathroom. I hated the dated faucet, the flat wall mirror, and that we had to keep the counter cluttered with all our random personal items because there was nowhere else to put them. I hated the boring beige color of the walls, I hated the broken cabinets which were falling apart and had been glued back together on at least one occasion, and I hated the shower curtain which Carlos chose. (One day he complained that I never let him make any of the decorating decisions and the hideous shower curtain was the result of that argument – I have loathed it ever since.)

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So, it was decided – the master bathroom needed to be updated and I wanted to do it “hotel-style” but on a budget – always on a budget! Here are the instructions for what we did in case you want to do something similar. The project will take less than the weekend and you get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s really worth doing!

Hotel-style Bathroom Makeover

1. Using “FrogTape”, tape off anything you don’t want to get paint on. (i.e. floor and ceiling trim, around windows, around door frames, etc.) Remove the switch plates on light switches, too.

2. Remove the wall mirror – sounds easy, but this was a new experience for us. First, the mirror should be taped, (we used the “FrogTape” since it was handy.) We did a criss-cross pattern and then to be extra cautious, we taped it completely over with vertical pieces as well. The reason for doing this is in case the mirror cracks, this helps prevent it from shattering into a million pieces. You should also be wearing eye protection. Once you have removed any screws and brackets, you may find that the mirror is attached to the wall by some sort of adhesive. Use a length of wire and run it behind the mirror. Use a sawing motion to loosen the mirror up for removal. You should have at least two people for this procedure, as one person should be holding the mirror so it doesn’t abruptly fall when it becomes loose.

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3. Patch any holes in the wall with caulk and then sand down any unevenness when the caulk is dry.

4. Paint the walls the color of your choice. For this project I used Valspar Silver Leaf 4006-1A in semi-gloss, (and I love it!)

5. We replaced the flat wall mirror with a medicine cabinet, which maybe isn’t in keeping with the “hotel-style” theme, but it was necessary to eliminate counter-top clutter. (Instructions are included with it.)

6. Following the instructions that come with it, install a metal hotel-style towel rack/shelf, (which we later stocked with some new white towels.)

7. Remove the old cabinet doors on your under the sink cabinet by unscrewing them from the hinges. Measure the doors and purchase 1/2 inch thick lumber cut to your specifications. (Lowe’s will do it for you free!) You can also buy new hinges (or use the old ones, if you want), new knobs, desired paint color (we used some black we already had on hand), paint supplies, and self-adhering felt pads.

8. Use sandpaper to rough up the surface of your cabinets so that the paint will better adhere. Paint the cabinet and the new doors. It may take a couple coats depending on what your cabinets are made of, the color it was before painting, and the color you are painting it.

9. Pre-drill holes for the knobs, then attach the knobs. Carefully measure and mark the doors and the cabinet for the hinges. Pre-drill holes for the hinges being careful not to go all the way through. Also, be very sure that the screws for your hinges are not so long that they’ll go through the other side. Attach the doors to the hinges and then the hinges to the cabinet. (If you prefer, you can first attach the hinges to the cabinet and then attach the doors – whichever is more comfortable for you.) Place a self-adhering felt pad on the inside of each door in the upper corner where it comes into contact with the cabinet – this will soften the noise of them closing and prevent the doors from getting banged up. Your cabinet should look brand new, and for a fraction of the cost and work involved in replacing the whole thing!

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10. Update the sink by replacing dated faucet handles. Don’t forget to turn the water off first and follow the instructions that come with them. (We bought this chrome faucet and are very happy with it.)

11. Replace switch plates and electrical outlet covers. We just bought new plastic ones in a basic white color and they look nice and clean, but if you want to splurge, there are plenty of fancier ones to choose from.

12. Add accessories sparingly! Now that your bathroom is clean and uncluttered, don’t junk it back up with too much stuff. We put up a simple white wall clock, (Carlos likes to keep track of the time while getting ready for work), and I stuck a small plant in a hurricane glass. I decided not to hang up any wall art for now because I like how it feels without it.

That’s it! Now run yourself a bath, turn on Shakira’s new album, and tell everyone to leave you alone while you pretend you’re on vacation in a hotel bathroom for an hour or two!

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A Trip to: Colombia

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Editor’s note: Welcome to the Hispanic Heritage Month “A Trip to” series here on Latinaish. Join us as we virtually visit different Latin American countries through the photos and words of people who live there, have lived there, or have visited and have a lot of love for that particular place. Today Diana of Speaking Latino shows us around Colombia!

Bogota is the capital city of Colombia where cachacos, the name given to the people from Bogota, are extremely kind and love both salsa and their traditional music. Bogota is at 8,612 ft. above sea level and, for those that aren’t used to those heights, that will make you literally “feel” the city.

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The historical center of Bogota is located in La Candelaria. Among the government buildings and plazas you will find a busy Plaza de Bolivar where on one side the Palacio Liévano or Lievano Palace is located. This is the seat of the mayor of Bogota. Passing by the Plaza de Bolivar is the Carrera 7, a busy street that has undergone the process of becoming a pedestrian walkway in some segments.

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One of the obligatory stops while in Bogota is the Gold Museum or Museo del Oro that is located in the historical center of the city. It displays a pre-Hispanic collection of gold artifacts made by the indigenous cultures in Colombia before the colonization period.

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Monserrate is a mountain that has become a symbol of Bogota. After a short funicular or cable car ride you will get to the top which is at 10,341 ft. above sea level. While there you will be able to eat at one of the restaurants or kiosks and visit the church.

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An amazing view of Bogota can be seen from Monserrate. There you will notice how big the city is. In fact, it is the largest city in Colombia and one of the most populated in Latin America.

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The T Zone or Zona T is a pedestrian intersection in the form of a T located in the Zona Rosa. In this area are dining options, fashion designer stores, and malls. It is a lively place to hang out.

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One of the most impressive things that I’ve seen in my life is the Salt Cathedral or Catedral de Sal constructed inside of an active salt mine in Zipaquirá. It includes all the elements to be labeled as a Catholic cathedral with regular religious activities and a mass celebrated every Sunday. They have enhanced the experience with color changing LED lights and even a retail area where you can find Colombian crafts. The Salt Cathedral is about a one-hour drive from Bogota and, even if you are not Catholic, it’s worth the visit.

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Bandeja paisa is perhaps one the most emblematic dishes of Colombia, especially popular in the Paisa region. The traditional bandeja paisa is a generous plate (or literally a tray) that includes all of the following: beans, rice, ground meat, chicharrón (fried pork belly), chorizo (sausage), avocado, sweet plantain and a fried egg on top.

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A hot alcoholic drink called canelazo is traditional in the Andean highlands and can be found also in Peru and Ecuador. The Colombian version consists of aguardiente (alcohol from sugarcane), panela (unrefined whole cane sugar) or sugar, and water boiled with cinnamon.

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Editor’s note: Did you enjoy this guest post? If you have some nice photos of a Latin American country you’d like to share as we did here with some short descriptions, please email me to be a part of this special travel series!

A Trip to: Mexico

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Editor’s note: Welcome to the Hispanic Heritage Month “A Trip to” series here on Latinaish. This series has been so popular that we’re going to continue it beyond Hispanic Heritage Month! Join us as we virtually visit different Latin American countries through the photos and words of people who live there, have lived there, or have visited and have a lot of love for that particular place. Today F.J. of Bilinguish shows us around Mexico!

Mexico is a fascinating country to visit because it is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the Americas and, with more than 116 million people, the most populous. Besides having great physical diversity, from volcanoes to deserts to jungles, Mexico also boasts a variety of indigenous languages and cultures.

The gorgeous view from atop a pyramid at the archeological site of Teotihuacán is one of the most iconic images of Mexico, but it is just one of many beautiful places to see.

Teotihuacan Avenida de los Muertes y P del Sol desde P de la Luna

Mexico City is a great place to start exploring; It is one of the largest urban centers in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Sao Paulo, Brazil. The center of the urban area is called México D.F. (Distrito Federal), and it’s surrounded by the state of Mexico. There were about 19 million people living there as of 2009.

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The center of the city has a large paved plaza called the Zócalo. There you can find some of the city’s most important buildings, including the city and state government buildings, as well as a Catholic cathedral. Public celebrations, including the country’s Independence Day observance, are held here, too. The enormous Mexican flag is raised and lowered each day. In this picture you can also see some of Mexico City’s famous smog, caused by the city’s geography and vehicles for all those millions of people. There are now many environmental programs in place to cut pollution and clear the air, so to speak. Imagine how impressive a view of the endless city surrounded by volcanoes would look then… ojalá.

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Mexico City has been an important place since pre-Hispanic times. When the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519, this city was called Tenochtitlán and it was the center of the Mexica (Aztec) empire. The Templo Mayor (principal temple) was destroyed by the Spanish and covered by the modern city. In 1978, some electrical workers digging near the Zócalo stumbled upon a buried artifact from the temple, which renewed public interest in excavating the area. Now you can visit the Templo Mayor archeological site and museum near one corner of the Zócalo. This large statue is one of the many pre-Hispanic objects you can see in the temple.

Puebla from the 7th floor of the Holiday Inn rooftops and church spires

Just a few hours south of the capital, Puebla is a beautiful colonial city. Although it’s the fourth-largest city in the country, the centro histórico has an old-fashioned feel. Besides the beautiful architecture, Puebla is also famous for its food and traditional talavera pottery.

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If there’s one city that captures the essence of Southern Mexico, it’s Oaxaca City. With a more rural feel, more visible indigenous culture, and its own beautiful archeological site, Monte Albán, full of pyramids and ancient ball courts, just outside the city, Oaxaca is worth spending days in. The name of the city and the state are pronounced “wa-HA-ca.” You can buy chapulines (fried grasshoppers) from a sidewalk vendor or walk down a “chocolate road” whose shops and chocolate factory smell delicious. One of the best times to visit Oaxaca is November 1st and 2nd for Día de los Muertos. The city is full of ofrendas (offerings) to the dead, like the one above for Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo.

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The Mexican countryside is beautiful too. This picture was taken from the window of a train en route from Guadalajara to the town of Tequila. Visitors tour a tequila factory and see the whole process of tequila-making, from agave cactus (above) to finished product. And they give you “all you can eat” food and drink on the tour- yum!

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No trip to Mexico would be complete without tasting some delicious Mexican food. You can sample the previously-mentioned chapulines at many places in Southern Mexico, like the Puebla state fair (above.) Other interesting dishes include escamoles (ant eggs), sesos (cow brains, usually in a taco), gusanos de maguey (caterpillars, usually fried), menudo (tripe soup), and huitlacoche (corn smut, usually in a quesadilla.)

Exquisitas Gringas

Not all Mexican food has the “yuck” factor, though. There are plenty of dishes that you might recognize from your local Mexican restaurant. Chalupas, cemitas, tamales, atole, pozole, and sopa azteca are some of my favorites, although, to be honest, the “real” versions of these foods that I eat in Mexico are often very different from what you get in Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants in other countries. There are tacos and tostadas, too, as well as gringas, which are like a combination of a taco and a quesadilla. I took a picture of this sign because, of course, a gringa is also a way to refer to an American woman. (Cue music by The Guess Who.)

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No trip to Mexico would be complete without watching some folkloric dance. Each state has its own traditional costume and dance. The most famous of these is el Jarabe Tapatío, from Guadalajara, Jalisco, known to the wider world as the Mexican Hat Dance. Here is another, called Arcos y Tejedores (“Arches and Weavers”), performed by children at a public school celebration on Mother’s Day.

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Many traditional dances have roots in indigenous cultures. These dancers are part of Ritual a Quetzalcoatl, a yearly event performed at the spring equinox on the pyramid in Cholula, Puebla. This dance group was from the Program for Mexican Culture and Society in Puebla, a study abroad program at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, who learned about Mexican culture and music firsthand through dance.

Editor’s note: Did you enjoy this guest post? If you have some nice photos of a Latin American country you’d like to share as we did here with some short descriptions, please email me to be a part of this special travel series!

A Trip to: Chile

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Editor’s note: Welcome to the Hispanic Heritage Month “A Trip to” series here on Latinaish. Join us as we virtually visit different Latin American countries through the photos and words of people who live there, have lived there, or have visited and have a lot of love for that particular place. Today Diana Caballero of Speaking Latino shows us around Chile!

I had the opportunity to visit Chile during the best time of the year: Fiestas Patrias! My husband lived there for three years and he always talked to me about how wonderful Chile is especially when they celebrate their independence. At some point I became friends with a Chilean living in Miami and she introduced to me some of the Chilean food and culture that reinforced to me that Chile was a must-do trip. So a full year of “campaigning” to visit Chile began with Jared and finally attending this year’s Fiestas Patrias celebration became reality for me.

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Pio Nono street crosses from North to South in the Bellavista neighborhood in Santiago. It’s a street with a lot of restaurants, bars and galleries. The Bellavista neighborhood has a bohemian mood with colorful buildings. This street also takes you to the Metropolitan Park that includes a zoo and funicular that takes you to the top of the San Cristobal hill where you have an almost 360 degree view of Santiago.

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In 1962 the Chilean rodeo was declared a national sport and it is also commonly performed during the celebrations of Fiestas Patrias. This photo shows several Chilean rodeo national champions that met at the Padre Hurtado Park (ex Parque Intercomunal de la Reina) as part of the celebrations of the Semana de la Chilenidad. All participants wore the traditional Chilean Huaso attire.

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Almost all Latin American countries have their own version of an empanada. In Chile the most popular is the empanada de pino. Pino is the filling made from beef, onions, raisins, one black olive, and a portion of hard boiled egg. These empanadas also have a distinctive way of folding and sealing the dough.

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In addition to the fondas, the cueca dance and the barbeques, the Chilean Fiestas Patrias also include traditional games played by kids. Hopscotch is one of those. Chileans refer to it as luche, but its also known in other countries with many different names such as infernáculo, rayuela, peregrina and avión. Other traditional games played during this celebration are: the Chilean rayuela, la rana, palitroque and taca taca.

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The figure of the organ grinder or organillero in Latin America comes from Germany where the first instruments came from in 1880. Organilleros in Chile are usually seen in conjunction with the traditional chinchinero, a street performer who plays a bass drum strapped to his back with long drumsticks and a rope tied around to the performer’s foot to play the cymbals on top of the drum.

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I think you would like to experience a terremoto in Chile. Terremoto means earthquake, but I am not talking about a real one. This one is just a drink. The terremoto drink is made with pipeño, a sweet white wine, fernet or grenadine and a scoop of pineapple ice-cream that floats on the top of the drink. Depending on the size it can be named differently: cataclismo (cataclysm) for a big glass or réplica (aftershock) for a smaller size usually after you drink a terremoto. Warning, these drinks will make your legs shake!

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About one and a half hours from Santiago you can arrive to Valparaíso, one of Chile’s main ports. Valparaiso was built on 41 hills and was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Get ready for a nice walk that includes some steps while looking at artistic expressions in graffiti on the walls of this old city. There are eight funiculars or ascensores that will take you to the top of the hills for a magnificent view. Within a short drive you can go to Viña del Mar, the principal beach town for Santiago residents.

Editor’s note: Did you enjoy this guest post? If you have some nice photos of a Latin American country you’d like to share as we did here with some short descriptions, please email me to be a part of this special Hispanic Heritage Month series!

A Trip to: Bolivia

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Editor’s note: Welcome to the Hispanic Heritage Month “A Trip to” series here on Latinaish. Join us as we virtually visit different Latin American countries through the photos and words of people who live there, have lived there, or have visited and have a lot of love for that particular place. Today Susan of Medina Adventures shows us around Bolivia!

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One of my favorite parts of visiting La Paz, Bolivia, is the descent along the highway, from the airport into the heart of the city. I get butterflies every single time and not just because I’m afraid of heights – It’s anticipating the breathtaking views, like this one of the snowy Illimani mountain watching over the city, that makes my heart leap into my throat.

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I’ve never been a city girl, but La Paz is definitely a big time city with amazing architecture and brilliant colors, even on an overcast day. Each building is different; there are no cookie-cutter houses here. And some buildings are so close to the edge of the cliffs, that they look like giant Jenga towers – I’m amazed at how they don’t topple over.

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On my first visit to La Paz, I didn’t know what these green things were. Any guesses? – They’re trash cans! So then I couldn’t figure out why they’d be up on those poles. It’s brilliant, really, it’s so the street dogs can’t dig through it and scatter the trash all over the place. I also find it interesting how little trash is in there. Reusable bags are brought to markets, and most things are sold by the kilo, so there is little packaging to be thrown away.

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La Paz is also famous for its street parades. Dancers swish to the music of marching bands and leaders signal with whistles. That is my daughter and her cousins dancing in those beautiful green costumes. Along the path of the parade, you can see locals dressed in traditional clothing – polleras (ruffled skirts), shawls, and bowler hats. There’s also a mom carrying her daughter on her back in an aguayo, the brightly colored woven cloth. Rain or shine, vendors will be selling on the streets of La Paz, anything from fruits to jeans.

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I remember telling my camera, “Take, take, take!” as we were leaving this picturesque street in Coroico. I loved the colors of the buildings, the cobblestones, and the little market set up right in the middle of it all. Coroico is often a vacation destination for people in La Paz, since it is only a two hour drive from the city and is in a subtropical part of the country.

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This is my husband after a four hour trek down the mountain which started at La Cumbre, 14000 feet above sea level. He’s ready to hitch a ride back up. The row of buildings with corrugated metal roofs is a typical sight on the roadsides and will usually offer lunch or sell little snacks.

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And finally, this is my son enjoying the Sunday tradition of chicharrón, mote and limonada (fried pork, corn, and limeade). See that giant plate of food? That’s for one person! I can never finish all the food they give me at one sitting, and I usually discreetly pass it to my husband (which is why he always gains weight when we go back!) And those red plastic chairs? Coca-Cola propaganda is everywhere in Bolivia. Toma lo bueno!

Editor’s note: Did you enjoy this guest post? If you have some nice photos of a Latin American country you’d like to share as we did here with some short descriptions, please email me to be a part of this special Hispanic Heritage Month series!

Little Passports (Giveaway!)

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Geography, history, culture, language and travel are some of my favorite things, and as a mother I have always tried to pass on the same love of discovering the world to my boys. I wish a program like Little Passports had existed when they were little but I couldn’t resist accepting an offer to review it despite my boys now being 15 and 11 years old.

When you sign up, you get this adorable travel suitcase, a large world map, a passport, stickers, activity sheets, and more.

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My favorite thing besides the cute passport, was one of the activities that required looking at the map to find capitals of countries, which would then reveal a secret code. The recommended age range for the World version of Little Passports is 5 to 10 years old, and for the USA edition it’s 7 to 12 years old, but my 11 year old and I had fun exploring the contents of the suitcase and doing the activities together.

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Each month of your subscription, your child receives a packet for exploring a new country, (or states in the USA edition.) We also received the packet for Japan which came with a letter, a photo, a fun sushi eraser as a souvenir, a boarding pass which provides access to online games, stickers, activity sheets, and really high quality origami paper with instructions.

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The letters you receive each month are written by fictional characters named Sam and Sophia who have a magical motor scooter which takes them anywhere they want to go. This is a fun premise for little kids but obviously my 11 year old kind of rolled his eyes at me when I explained that part, so that’s the only reason I would say the recommended age ranges are accurate — otherwise, Little Passports is a lot of fun for kids and adults of all ages. I say adults because while my younger son and I were folding origami, Carlos got curious and insisted I give up my seat so he could try it.

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Are you ready to win your own subscription to Little Passports? See details below!

====GIVEAWAY CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS, SUSAN!====

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize description: One lucky winner will receive a 3-month subscription of Little Passports World Edition.

Approximate value: $41.85

How to Enter:

Mandatory entry: Just leave a comment below telling me which country in the world you would most like to explore with your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew. (Please read official rules below before entering.)

Optional extra entry opportunities: Once you have completed the mandatory entry, you can do as many of the following for extra entries in any order you wish:

• Follow Latinaish on Twitter, and leave a comment here w/your Twitter name.

• “Like” the Latinaish Facebook page, and leave a comment here saying that you did.

• Follow me on Pinterest, and leave a comment here saying that you did.

• Subscribe to Latinaish.com in the sidebar on the right where it says “Free Delivery” either via email through WordPress.com or on Bloglovin’ and leave a comment here saying that you did.

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 only be shared with the company in charge of prize fulfillment. 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 48 hours to respond. After 48 hours, a new winner will be selected at random. Giveaway entries are being accepted between September 20th, 2013 through September 25th, 2013. Entries received after September 25th, 2013 at 11:59 pm, 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 Latinaish.com 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 received this product for review purposes. No other compensation was given. As always, all opinions are my own.

A Trip to: Puerto Rico

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Editor’s note: Welcome to the Hispanic Heritage Month “A Trip to” series here on Latinaish. Join us as we virtually visit different Latin American countries through the photos and words of people who live there, have lived there, or have visited and have a lot of love for that particular place. Today Shannon of La Mama Loca shows us around Puerto Rico!

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Puerto Rico is a small island, roughly 100 miles long and 35 miles wide. It’s surrounded by some of the most beautiful coastline you can imagine! Depending on where you are, you will find something different; Some beaches have dark/black sand, others white. Many of the beaches are not life-guarded, so you should always be cautious if you visit one. The northwest corner of the island is known for its big waves and many surfing competitions have are held there. In February/March, there is a possibility you can see whales swimming from the north corner of the island, something I’d love to see. This picture was taken near the lighthouse at Cabo Rojo on the southwest corner of the island.

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I love walking the streets of Old San Juan. The majority of these narrow streets are still the old cobblestones from long ago. Driving these streets is do-able, but only with much care. Parking is an issue, as most of the street parking is done by business owners/employees. One can see many beautiful historic buildings on the streets of Old San Juan, as well as any kind of shopping you can imagine. There is Cartier, Burberry, and other high-end stores, clothing stores, and souvenir shops. Sadly most of the souvenirs are made in China, so beware that while it may look like an authentic Puerto Rican item, it likely is not. The streets are always a hustle bustle of people, both locals and tourists. The many restaurants in the area leave a pleasant aroma as you wander the streets.

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This photo was taken my first time visiting Puerto Rico, the home of my husband. Old San Juan is full of beautiful historical buildings and landmarks. The buildings are painted in a variety of colors: peach, yellow, blues, greens, and more. This man was painting one of the many beautiful buildings in the square, near the Children’s Museum and San Juan Cathedral. It was during this trip that I fell in love with Puerto Rico.

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Before coming to Puerto Rico, I had no idea that avocados could be green and so big! My only knowledge was the smaller Haas version that is found in the states. Avocados are a household favorite – just slice and sprinkle some sea salt! Puerto Rico has great weather for growing many fruits and vegetables, but sadly, most foods (of all types) are imported. There are very few large fresh market stands found on the island, however, there are many roadside vendors. As people are becoming more aware of health concerns with GMOs, more people are considering the benefits of fresh homegrown foods.

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Bacardi has a long standing history in Puerto Rico. Although the original family started in Cuba, they made their home in Puerto Rico. Casa Bacardi is located in Cataño, a 15 minute ferry ride from Old San Juan. They offer a tour of parts of the factory with a great history lesson and free samples. Approximately 70% of all the rum sold in the US originates from Puerto Rico, made by Bacardi and various other companies.

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La Familia Cepeda is well known on the island! Rafael Cepeda and his wife Caridad grew up singing and dancing to the rhythms of la bomba and la plena, dances brought to Puerto Rico from the African slaves that had been brought to the island. They had 10 children together and began to take their show on the road. With their traditional dresses and dances, they can draw a crowd instantly. This troupe of dancers is still mostly made up of members of the Cepeda family. Tíos, titis, primos, nietos, everyone, no matter their age, is involved in keeping their tradition alive today. They are beautiful to watch!

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The Arecibo Observatory is one of those unique finds in Puerto Rico! Located in the town of Arecibo, on the north side of the island, about 1.5 hrs from San Juan, it is quite the trek into the mountains. There you will find the world’s largest single radio telescope. It has even made its way to Hollywood when it was featured in the movie Contact with Jodi Foster! There’s a great learning center full of information. I was amazed how large it really is as the pictures just do not do it justice! We still want to go back with the kids sometime in the near future.

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The Coqui is one of the most well-known symbols of Puerto Rico. It’s a tiny frog that serenades the island! Starting around dusk and through much of the night, you can hear the Coqui’s singing. On a rainy night, they are are in heaven with their loud songs. These are the lullabies that put my kids to sleep every night.

Editor’s note: Did you enjoy this guest post? If you have some nice photos of a Latin American country you’d like to share as we did here with some short descriptions, please email me to be a part of this special Hispanic Heritage Month series!

A Trip to: Guatemala

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Editor’s note: I mentioned the other day that I received a really sweet email requesting that I show some love to other Central American countries, in particular, Guatemala. The young man who emailed me wishes to remain anonymous so I’ll just refer to him affectionately as mi “hermanito guatemalteco.” His passion for Guatemala touched me, and the photos he shared with me were really beautiful so I asked if he wanted to share them here – he agreed. Here are his photos and his words. Come along for a trip to Guatemala!

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Landing in Guatemala City is unlike landing in most other cities. The airplane trembles and shakes, making a rough descent. As it dips below the clouds, you may see the volcanoes Agua, Fuego, Pacaya, and on a clear day, maybe Acatenango. The thick smog from Central America’s northernmost capital makes the landscape look gray and somewhat bleak, but the view is breathtaking nonetheless. As the airplane shakily lands onto the hot asphalt, the passengers cheer and applaud the safe landing.

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This is the arch of Santa Catalina. It is the most well-known symbol of La Antigua, Guatemala. Along the streets of Calle del Arco are vendors selling colorful Mayan cloths and rubber balls made of pig skin. The buildings alongside the street are colonial, built during the Spanish conquest of Guatemala. The original convent building still exists, now remodeled into Hotel El Convento Santa Catalina. There is a fountain in the courtyard in the hotel. According to legend, Pedro de Alvarado, conqueror of Guatemala, Yucatan and El Salvador, drank from the fountain during his travels.

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These are some patojos (kids) we saw in Santiago Atitlan. Right before this picture was taken, they had been playing fútbol near the lakeshore, while their parents washed their clothes in the shallow waters of Lake Atitlan. The children were happy to have their picture taken, excited to be able to be seen in Los Estados Unidos, like all the celebrities, they say.

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This is the cross atop Cerro de la Cruz, which overlooks the colonial town of Antigua Guatemala. A easy hike to the top of the hill rewards one with majestic views of the whole Panchoy Valley. When I took this picture, I was with my cousins, we had just gone to the mercado and bought some mango con chile, and we brought it up here with us to enjoy it. Although the day was cloudy, it was still a comfortably warm temperature.

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Like most of the roofs in La Antigua, this one was made during the time of the Spanish conquest of Central America. Of course, it has been remodeled, but much of it is original. Climbing up on the roofs can be a fun experience to have in La Antigua, where most of the roofs are connected and one can easily walk across an entire street block without jumping from roof to roof.

Editor’s note: Did you enjoy this guest post? If you have roots in a country in Latin America and some nice photos you’d like to share as we did here with some short descriptions, please email me. I’d love to make this a special Hispanic Heritage Month series!

El Festival Salvadoreño Americano

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Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is in italics!

Me di cuenta de que no he compartido mis fotos del Festival Salvadoreño Americano que fuimos el mes pasado en Wheaton, Maryland y hoy es un buen día para compartirlas, ya que viene el Día de la Independencia de El Salvador este fin de semana.

I realized that I haven’t shared my photos from the Salvadoran American Festival we went to last month in Wheaton, Maryland and today is a good day to share them since El Salvador’s Independence Day is this weekend.

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El Festival fue muy bien organizado por Salvadoran-American Transnational Communities y el Condado de Montgomery. Había suficiente estacionamiento a poca distancia y estaba cerca de la estación de METRO si uno no viene en carro.

Salvadoreños caminaban en grupos grandes por las aceras hacia el sonido de la cumbia y el olor de las pupusas. Cruzamos las calles juntos, esquivamos el tráfico, intercambiamos miradas y nos reímos. “Todos vamos a ser atropellados”, alguien bromeó. Éramos como niños tras el flautista de Hamelín.

The Festival was very well organized by Salvadoran-American Transnational Communities and Montgomery County. There was sufficient parking nearby and it was close to a METRO station for those that did not come by car.

Salvadorans walked down the sidewalks in large groups toward the sound of cumbia and the smell of pupusas. We crossed streets together, dodged traffic, exchanged looks and laughed. “We’re all going to get run over,” someone joked. We were like children following the Pied Piper.

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Por supuesto, la primera cosa que hicimos fue caminar alrededor para ver qué comidas queríamos comer.

Of course, the first thing we did was walk around to see which foods we wanted to eat.

bebidas

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(La camisa de este hombre me hizo reír: “La salsa que te hara llorar puro bichito.”)

(This guy’s shirt made me laugh: “The salsa will make you cry like a little kid.”)

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Decidimos empezar con agua de coco. No sé por qué mi hijito siempre lo prueba cuando bien sabe que no le gusta. Después de que nos bebimos el agua de coco el hombre lo abrió y nosotros comimos la carne.

We decided to start with coconut water. I don’t know why my younger son always tries it when he knows very well that he doesn’t like it. After we drank the coconut water, the man cut it open and we ate the coconut meat.

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El hombre que cortó los cocos con un machete fue muy gracioso. Todo el mundo estaba tomando su foto y se reía diciendo: “Yo voy a ser famoso!”

The man who cut the coconuts with a machete was hilarious. Everyone was taking his photo and he laughed, saying “I’m going to be famous!”

fruta

Siguiente compramos fruta fresca.

Next we bought fresh fruit.

mamones

Yo prefiero la piña pero quería probar algo nuevo, así que elegí mamones. Me encanta el sabor pero la textura de mamones es algo raro.

I prefer pineapple but I wanted to try something new so I chose mamones. I love the flavor but the texture of mamones is kind of yucky.

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Las tostadas de plátano preperadas con curtido y salsa fueron deliciosas.

The tostadas de platano prepared with curtido and salsa were delicious.

pupusas

¿Cómo podíamos resistir pupusas?

How could we resist pupusas?

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A pesar de que estabamos llenos, hacía mucho calor, así que necesitábamos minutas para refrescarnos. El cartel tenía los nombres de las minutas en diferentes países. Fue muy interesante!

Snowcones – Los Estados Unidos
Minutas – El Salvador
Granizadas – Guatemala
Nieves – Honduras
Raspados – México
Raspadillas – SurAmerica
Piraguas – Puerto Rico
Frío-Frío – Rep. Dominicana

Mi hijito y yo decidimos que el nombre “frio-frio” es lo mejor.

Even though we were full, it was hot, so we needed Salvadoran snowcones to cool off. The sign had the name of snowcones in different countries. It was really interesting!

Snowcones – USA
Minutas – El Salvador
Granizadas – Guatemala
Nieves – Honduras
Raspados – Mexico
Raspadillas – South America
Piraguas – Puerto Rico
Frío-Frío – Dominican Republic

My younger son and I decided that the name “frío-frío” was the best.

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Pedí leche condensada azucarada en mi minuta.

I asked for sweetened condensed milk on my snowcone.

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Carlos pidió tamarindo en su minuta.

Carlos asked for tamarind on his snowcone.

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Después de comer demasiado, nos fijamos en todo lo que tenían por venta.

After eating too much, we looked around at all the things they had for sale.

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Fue un excelente festival. Si vives en la zona, te recomiendo que vayas el próximo verano. (Y ven con hambre!)

It’s an excellent festival. If you live in the area, I recommend you go next summer. (And come hungry!)

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Feliz Día de la Independencia a El Salvador y a todos mis amigos de Centroamérica y México!

Happy Independence Day to El Salvador and to all of my Central American and Mexican friends!

Chocobananos

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After Carlos’s accident I was really shaken up and dealing with some post traumatic stress. As is my habit, I researched to see how I could “fix” things and get back to normal, (or as normal as I get, anyway.) One piece of advice I read: If the event keeps replaying in the mind, do something to distract yourself — My something to distract myself all last week became cooking Salvadoran food and practicing my food photography skills. It served the dual purpose of showing my love for Carlos while taking care of him, as well as keeping my mind busy. I’m happy to say that this week Carlos is back to work, and I’m feeling better, too.

The reason I mention any of this is to prepare you for the onslaught of recipes I’ll be sharing. First up we have chocobananos, which are basically frozen bananas on a stick dipped in chocolate.

The first chocobanano I had was in El Salvador. It was my first day there on my first trip, and our one year old son had cried on and off the entire flight. (Apologies to our fellow passengers.) Carlos and I took a walk around Soyapango, leaving our colicky baby with suegra. As we walked around the neighborhood we passed all the little stores people had on their enclosed porches. Carlos bought a chocobanano for me from a neighbor and I fell instantly in love, (with the chocobanano, not with Carlos, because Carlos and I were already well-acquainted.)

Back in the United States it isn’t always as easy to find fresh chocobananos. Some Latino markets have them in the ice cream case but there’s no guarantee they were made the same day, or even the same week. Making your own chocobananos is easy, ensures freshness and also allows you to add whatever toppings you so desire.

Chocobananos

What you need:

• 6 ripe bananas (I prefer them yellow with no spots)
• melting chocolate (I use the Chocomelher brand which you can find at Latino markets)
• popsicle sticks (I prefer the bag of “Palillo Para Chocobanano” made by Melher because they have a square shape that works well for this, but any type will do)

Optional topping ideas:
• crushed nuts (I used a mix of peanuts, pistachios & other nuts)
• shredded coconut
• sprinkles

Chocomelher brand melting chocolate for making chocobananos on the shelf at a mercado latino 2013

Chocomelher brand melting chocolate for making chocobananos on the shelf at a mercado latino 2013

Sticks or "palillos" for making chocobananos on the shelf (lower right) at a mercado latino 2013

Sticks or “palillos” for making chocobananos on the shelf (lower right) at a mercado latino 2013

Directions:

1. Peel bananas and cut in half width-wise. Insert sticks into banana halves, about halfway through.

2. Place bananas in the freezer for about 1 hour. I put mine in a metal baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper so they don’t stick.

3. Melt chocolate as directions indicate for whichever brand you’re using. For the Chocomleher, I cut open the package and break the chocolate into large pieces. Put the chocolate into a medium-sized pot over medium heat and stir until melted. (This will provide more than enough for a dozen chocobananos.) Remove from heat.

4. Dip the frozen bananas into chocolate, trying to cover them as much as possible. You can use a spoon to spoon the chocolate onto spots you missed.

5. If adding a topping, immediately roll the chocobanano in the topping or spoon the topping over the chocobanano. You must move quickly because the chocolate hardens within seconds.

6. Your chocobananos are now ready to eat, or you can place them back in the freezer. If everyone doesn’t eat them within the first day or two (not likely!) you can put each chocobanano into an individual plastic sandwich bag twisted closed around the stick to keep them fresh.

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