A Sweet Game

BY TRACY LÓPEZ
(This was originally published on the now defunct CafeMagazine.com on June 14, 2010. Since this piece is no longer available online, I thought it would be fun to reprint it and take a look back at our familia during the 2010 World Cup.)

On Friday, my kids and I gathered around the television to watch the opening game of World Cup 2010, Mexico vs. South Africa.

I was rooting for Mexico, so naturally the kids were, too, (much to the annoyance of my Salvadoran mother-in-law who awakened to the entire household vested in green).

The kids really like fútbol but they have short attention spans, so to make it more exciting for them I promised candy at half-time – but this was not any ordinary candy. This was a mixed bag of “Dulces Mexicanos” from our local Latino market. Luckily my boys are pretty adventurous and were willing to give everything a try. Here is how they rated the Mexican candies, keeping in mind they’ve been raised on chocolate, butterscotch, jelly beans and other traditional U.S. candies. The candies are rated from one star (yucky-face inducing) to five stars (they’d eat the whole bag if I let them):

boycandy

Coconut “banderitas”: The tri-colored green, white and red Mexican flags were pretty to look at and tasted almost as good. Rating: ***

De La Rosa Dulce de Cacahuate: To be fair, I buy these all the time and am slightly addicted, so this candy is very familiar to the boys. They rated it highly and licked the crumbs from the wrapper. Rating: *****

Pica Pepino Relleno con Chile (lollipop): My younger son took one lick and rejected it. The older one took a few licks and ultimately agreed. I thought it was kind of interesting though. Rating: **

Duvalín Dulce Cremoso Sabor Avellana y Vainilla:
My husband really likes these, but the kids weren’t that impressed. Rating: **

Go Mango Enchilado: I think the boys were more put off by the way this one looked than the way it tasted. They barely gave it a nibble. To me it tasted like a slightly spicy fruit snack. Rating: *

Obleas con Cajeta: How can cajeta possibly not taste good? Yet, they didn’t like this one. Rating: *

Eskandalosos Paleta de Caramelo con Chile: I thought they would reject this one immediately but they loved it. They were fruity flavored with just enough spice to make them interesting. Rating: *****

Benyrindo: Deceptively shaped like a Coca-Cola bottle, everyone was fine with this candy until biting into it and releasing the tamarindo flavored juices. Maybe you have to be raised eating tamarind to appreciate these sorts of things? Rating: *

Pica Limón: One child rated this highly and the other rated it low, yet they both kept trying it and laughing. I think the fun of this one is watching people’s reactions after eating it. Rating: ***

In the end, Mexico and South Africa tied 1-1, bitter disappointment for fans on both sides who wanted to see their team win, but my boys’ memories of the game are not bitter; they are sweet like cacahuate, sour like limón and spicy like chile.

La Jarochita

la-jarochita

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. Scroll down for English translation!

Cada día en la radio, Carlos escucha un anuncio de un restaurante en Manassas, Virginia, que se llama “La Jarochita” y al escuchar el anuncio siempre le da hambre – Por esta razón, fuimos el fin de semana pasado con nuestros hijos a Manassas buscandolo.

El estacionamiento estaba grande – uno no tiene que buscar parqueo en la calle – y había camiones vendiendo comida mexicana, rodeados por gente comiendo, hablando y disfrutando de la cálida noche de verano. Fuera de las puertas de La Jarochita, una mujer estaba vendiendo raspados y otras cosas.

Al entrar en La Jarochita, es un poco confuso. Hay mesas con sillas por todos lados, a la izquierada hay un carnicero, a la derecha hay vitrinas llenas de pan dulce, un poco más adelante al derecho hay un mostrador por pedir comida, pero también se puede pedir comida en el mostrador de la izquierda, y hay un tercer mostrador en la parte trasera del restaurante. Carlos eligió la cajera al lado del trompo de la carne al pastor. Mientras él estaba pidiendo tacos, saque fotos y video.

trompo-al-pastor

Como puedes ver en el video, el hombre corta la carne para que caiga sobre la tortilla. Después que corta la carne, con un movimiento rápido del cuchillo, hace un pequeño corte en algo en la cima del trompo, (Yo pensé que era una papa.)

Carlos preguntó al hombre por qué hace este corte a la papa y le dijo “Es la gracia” y nada más. Pero cuando investigué en internet, aprendí que en México hay una piña encima del trompo, y para los tacos de carne al pastor, echan un pedacito de piña al taco.

Ahora no sé si era una papa o una piña que tuvieron encima del trompo en La Jarochita. ¿Tal vez lo hacen con una papa sólo por guardar la tradición de cortar algo después de hacer un taco? ¿O tal vez era una piña? (No vi si puso la papa/piña en el taco pero tal vez él estaba demasiado rapido.)

tapatio

Primero yo estaba sentada en frente del carnicero. Ni pienses en usar Tapatío en tus tacos si visitas a La Jarochita. Tienen un bar con salsas frescas, limones, cebollas, rábanos, y todo que puedes querer.

Luego, cambié mi asiento para tener una mejor vista del comedor. La Jarochita está bien decorada y había televisores por todos lados. Yo estaba mirando El Chavo Animado por unos minutos. Después que saque esta foto, entraba aún más gente – el restaurante estaba llenisíma de familias mexicanas, (sólo había otra gringa más que yo.) El ambiente tenía sentido de como estar en una plaza o mercado en México. Parecía que algunos clientes se conocían unos a otros, así que había un sentido de comunidad que era agradable.

jarrochita

Finalmente los tacos estaban listos!

tacos-la-jarrochita

Carlos ordenó tortas para nuestros hijos y ellos dijeron que estaban buenas. Los tacos estaban riquísimos! Los mejores y más auténticos que he comido. Había tacos de todo lo que puedes imaginar. Yo nunca había oído hablar de algunos tipos de tacos que tenian: Buche, Cabeza, Carnitas, Cecina, Cachete, Curritos, Lengua, Tripa, Masías, Ojo, Pastor, Sudadera, Trompa! … Yo comí dos de barbacoa y dos de carne asada – las porciones eran muy generosos y me llenó.

Definitivamente vamos a volver a La Jarochita.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Every day on the radio Carlos hears an ad for a restaurant in Manassas, Virginia, called “La Jarochita” and the ad always makes him hungry – That’s why we went last week with our boys to Manassas to look for it.

The parking lot was huge – you don’t have to find street parking – and there were food trucks selling Mexican food, surrounded by people eating, talking and enjoying the warm summer evening. Outside the doors of La Jarochita, a woman was selling raspados and other things.

Upon entering La Jarochita, it gets a little confusing. There are tables and chairs everywhere, to the far left there’s a butcher, to the right there’s display cases full of pan dulce, a little further in on the right there’s a counter for ordering food, but you can also order food at the counter on the left and there is a third counter in the back of the restaurant. Carlos chose the cash register next to the vertical rotisserie for tacos al pastor. While he was ordering tacos, I took pictures and video.

As you can see in the video, the man cuts the meat so it falls onto the tortilla. After the meat is cut, with a flick of the knife, he cuts a little something at the top, (I thought it was a potato.)

Carlos asked the man why he cuts a potato after making a taco and he said “Es la gracia” [I'm not exactly sure how to translate that to English!] and nothing else. But when I researched on the internet, I learned that in Mexico they put a pineapple at the top of the “trompo” [vertical rotisserie], and for tacos al pastor, they throw a bit of pineapple into the taco when it’s cut.

Now I’m not sure if it was a potato or a pineapple that was on top of the spit at La Jarochita. Maybe they do it with a potato only to keep the tradition of cutting something after making a taco? Or maybe it was a pineapple after all? (I didn’t see him put the potato/pineapple in the tacos he made, but maybe he was just too quick.)

First I was sitting with a view of the butcher case. Don’t even consider using Tapatío on your tacos if you visit La Jarochita. They have a self-serve bar with fresh salsas, limes, onions, radishes, and everything you might want.

Then I changed my seat to get a better view of the dining room. La Jarochita is nicely decorated and had TVs everywhere. I was watching El Chavo Animado for a few minutes. After I took this picture, even more people came in – the restaurant was full of Mexican families (there was only one other gringa), and I had a sense of being in a market or plaza in Mexico. It seemed that some customers knew each other, so there was a sense of community that was nice.

Finally the tacos were ready!

Carlos ordered tortas [Mexican-style sandwiches] for our boys and they said they were good. The tacos were delicious! The best and most authentic I’ve ever eaten. There were tacos of everything you can imagine. I had never heard of some of the kinds of tacos: Buche, Cabeza, Carnitas, Cecina, Cachete, Curritos, Lengua, Tripa, Masías, Ojo, Pastor, Sudadera, Trompa! I ate two carne asada tacos and two barbacoa tacos – the portions were very generous and filled me up.

We will definitely return to La Jarochita.

Do-it-Yourself: Tabletop Fútbol Playset

Do it Yourself Tabletop Fútbol Playset

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.

Summertime is a time for outdoor activity, but during the inevitable thunderstorms and unbearably hot days when you prefer to stay comfortable in the air conditioning, you may need a quiet indoor activity to keep the niños occupied and happy. Here’s a fun, simple, do-it-yourself soccer playset with little peg people players you can make for the kids with just a few supplies!

DIY Tabletop Soccer Playset

Tabletop Fútbol Playset

You’ll need:

Cardboard (Lowe’s sells moving boxes if you don’t have any on hand)
Artificial turf
Scissors
Paint in various colors, including white (you can use craft paint or Lowe’s paint sample sizes)
Craft size paint brushes
Hot glue gun, glue sticks
Ruler or yardstick (if you like to be precise, but not necessary)
Wooden peg dolls (available in the “Hobby” drawer in the Hardware section of Lowe’s)
A small wooden sphere (also in the “Hobby” drawer)
Pencil
Painter’s tape (optional)

Note: You’ll find the artificial turf in Lowe’s in the area where carpet is sold on large rolls and cut by an associate. You will actually get a lot even if you buy the minimum they allow because they have to sell you the length of the roll. It rolls up tiny though! It’s easy to take home and cut smaller.

Directions:

1. Cut the artificial turf to the desired length – this will be the soccer pitch. Mine was already 16 inches wide, and I cut it off the roll so that it was 21 inches x 16 inches.

2. Put the turf on top of the cardboard. Use a pencil to trace around it. Cut the cardboard out – this will be the base for the turf to make it more sturdy.

3. Hot glue the turf to the cardboard. Use a generous amount of hot glue and work in small sections at a time to ensure it adheres well.

4. To kind of “seal” the edges of the turf and keep it from fraying, you can apply a little hot glue to the edges as well.

5. Use white paint and a small craft brush to paint the markings on the pitch. (Here’s one you can use for guidance.) You can use a ruler or yardstick to measure these lines precisely and painter’s tape to guide your brush in a straight line, or you can do it freehand, just kind of estimating. For rounded shapes, look around your house for something to paint around – plastic cups and bowls work well. (If you get paint on them, just wash them off as soon as possible.)

DIY Tabletop Soccer Playset

6. Now for the really fun part! Choose the two teams you want to create, and paint the little wooden peg dolls to resemble them. I found that 5 players per team was sufficient, but if you want to be accurate you’ll need 11 per team. I chose the United States and Mexico. You can invent uniforms and players if you wish, (I even made one of the Mexican players a female. Why not? It’s your playset! Get creative!) Don’t forget to paint a wooden sphere as the ball, too!

Tips: Painter’s tape comes in handy for straight lines when painting uniforms. Also, you can paint your players however you want, but if I were to do it again, I think I’d keep the face simple with just tiny black dots for eyes and no mouth. In my opinion, the more detailed eyes and smiles make them look a little creepy, (but I have a slight doll phobia, so don’t listen to me.)

Team USA soccer player dolls
(Hmmm, which one could be Tim Howard?)

Mexican soccer players dolls
(Chicharito is smiling on the far right.)

Once the players, ball, and paint on the pitch are dry, time to let the niños have a little fun.

DIY Tabletop Soccer Playset

Want more creative ideas?

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¡Vamos USA!

USA-familia-2

Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with Crest® and Latina Bloggers Connect. All opinions are my own.

The tagline of Crest®’s current campaign is “Más lejos llega tu equipo, más cerca estás” and it’s totally true; with each game, our familia gets closer – not just physically during goal celebrations which turn into hugging-jumping-up-and-down-mini-fiestas, but we’ve had a great time bonding and creating traditions.

I always say I’m not superstitious, and I often tease Carlos because he’s very superstitious, but I have a few “traditions” which make me feel more confident about my team winning a game.

When Mexico was still in, my tradition was to put a can of sweet peas next to the television. My kids were confused the first time until I explained that in Spanish, sweet peas are called “chícharos” – and Chicharito’s nickname is “little pea.” Now it all made sense! (Well, sort of. It still might be a little weird.)

peas

When the US team plays, first of all, everyone in the family is required to wear their American flag T-shirt, (we still need to invest in the official jersey now that, thankfully, the team no longer looks like Where’s Waldo.)

Second, we eat hot dogs during every game the United States plays. I like to make my hot dogs sort of “Sonoran style” with a slice of bacon, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, chopped tomato, onion and jalapeño on a bun which I toast for a few seconds on the comal. They’re delicious, but after eating them, your breath will be kicking.

After I finish my hot dogs I usually run off for a minute to brush my teeth, (and hope I don’t miss any of the action!) Since I signed up for this campaign, I bought Crest® Complete + Scope because I wanted to make sure it’s a good product, and that’s the toothpaste I’ve been using. It’s kind of awesome that it’s an “all in one” toothpaste. Not only does it whiten teeth, fight cavities, and prevent tartar, but it has mouthwash built right into it so you don’t knock out any of your family members yelling “¡GOOOOOOOOOOL!”

If you want to #CelebrateCloser and give Crest® Complete + Scope a try, here’s some coupons! (Click here!)

What are your family soccer traditions? How do you celebrate during fútbol games, and which teams are you cheering on? … We can’t wait for today’s game at our house. ¡Vamos USA!

Club Penguin’s Penguin Cup!

penguin-cup

I’m part of the Windows Champions Program. As a Windows Champion, I have been loaned a Surface Pro 2, a Venue 8 Pro, and, on occasion, Microsoft products such as software to assist me in developing content for my blog posts. All opinions are my own.

Everyone has soccer fever, and if your child plays Club Penguin, you may have heard that The Penguin Cup is coming up on June 19th to July 1st.

penguin-cup-magazine

http://www.kpopstarz.com/articles/93889/20140602/club-penguin-codes-2014-coins-spoiler-alert.htm

Some aspects of The Penguin Cup will be accessible only to those with paid membership, so if your child’s membership has lapsed, you may want to sign them back up. My 12 year old still plays Club Penguin (or Club Pingüino, as I like to call it) and he renewed his membership in anticipation. Club Penguin will have new gear to collect, a soccer stadium with games to watch, teams to cheer for, and more! This video gives a sneak peek, (and I love the Spanish-speaking penguin!)

My 12 year old likes to play Club Penguin on our Surface Pro 2 with Windows because he can use the mouse pad or touchscreen to select things and move around. I love to let him play this game because he often switches it to Spanish. It makes me proud to watch him navigate around en español without any problem.

soccer-penguin

Which games do your children play online in Spanish?

A Garden for la Virgen de Guadalupe

The garden before we fixed it up.

The garden before we fixed it up.

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.

Many years ago my suegra brought a very large statue of the Virgen de Guadalupe into our household. At the time I wasn’t happy about it because it was extremely large and she expected us to display it in the middle of our small living room. We ended up putting the statue in a garden on the side of our house, and that’s where it’s been ever since.

Over the years Carlos and I both became fond of the statue, (although we’re happy with its outdoor location and don’t regret putting it there) and this year we decided we should give a little more care to the neglected garden we put her in.

virgin-garden-BEFORE-2

I spent hours at Lowe’s trying to decide what I wanted to plant in the garden. We knew we needed top soil, so that went onto the cart first, but then I took forever choosing flowers.

Roses seemed a logical choice because of the story of the Virgen de Guadalupe, but I was a little intimidated by the thought of caring for them. It’s been a couple months now since we planted the roses though, and I have to say, they really haven’t been difficult. If you’ve always wanted to plant roses but have been worried you’ll kill them, I recommend buying some and giving it a try.

Carlos says I have a “good hand” with the plants, (that’s a direct translation of “buena mano” in Spanish – which is like saying someone has a green thumb), but it isn’t true. I’m not a great gardener and I’ve had things die before – a lot of the time I think I just get lucky, but really, the roses haven’t been a challenge at all.

Besides the roses, I thought it would be nice to plant rosemary. I love the smell of rosemary and the way the herb looks – but planting the rosemary was also symbolic. During the Salvadoran civil war, there was a Catholic archbishop named Oscar Romero. He was an outspoken defender of the people and it ended up costing him his life. “Romero” is how you say “rosemary” in Spanish.

For added color I chose some heather and snapdragons. Finally! All done and ready to get to work, right? Not quite. As we were getting ready to head to the check-out, a big spiky plant caught my eye.

“This looks kind of like Flor de Izote,” I said, calling Carlos over. Carlos inspected it. “It is,” he said, “That’s Flor de Izote.”

Flor de Izote! The national flower of El Salvador.

Flor de Izote! The national flower of El Salvador.

I checked the tag on the plant, (carefully because the leaves are very sharp!) and it was labeled “Variegated Spanish Dagger.” A quick check of the internet via my smartphone, and I found that these most likely are the same plant, or at least are closely related. (Any botanists out there who can verify?)

Flor de Izote went onto the cart. Instead of planting the Flor de Izote directly in the ground, I thought it would be nice to have it in a pot. Luckily, I spotted these beautiful pots made in Mexico. We hurried out of Lowe’s before I bought enough plants to rival the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.

pots-at-lowes-for-gardening

Back at home, we unloaded the supplies and got down to work.

lowes-garden-supplies

pullingoutplants-garden

I don’t have any fancy step-by-step directions this month. We pulled everything out of the garden besides a large bush and the statue itself, then added some fresh top soil. I set the plants out, (still in their pots), to see how they looked in different locations. When I settled on the layout I liked, we dug the holes and planted them.

One thing I was still not satisfied with was the fact that you could see the ugly yellow gas line. Stacking some old cement patio pavers and putting the Flor de Izote on top helped, but Carlos ended up going back to Lowe’s and buying a white plastic lattice screen to help further disguise it.

virgin-garden-2

We’re really happy with how it turned out and we visit that side of the yard almost daily to check on things, water flowers if it hasn’t rained, (and sometimes fix things up. Our dog Chico has stepped on a few of the snapdragons and broken them. I also caught him trying to eat a rose one day.) If my suegra were here and she caught Chico in the garden, I can imagine her reaction and it makes me smile; she would chase him out of there, waving her hands as if to smack him, maybe with a chancla held high. She would almost certainly yell “¡Chhhhhht! Chucho condenado!” and then walk away muttering…”Ay, qué pecado…”

virgin-garden-3

Do you have a Virgen de Guadalupe garden? What did you plant in it?

Want more creative ideas?

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Atol de Avena

atol-de-avena-latinaish

When my suegra lived with us, she used to buy oatmeal, which she called by one name and one name only – “Quacker.” This used to make me crazy because “Quacker” sounds like a nickname for a duck, but it was her mispronunciation of the brand name “Quaker Oats” – and perhaps it’s a common mispronunciation in El Salvador, the same way Corn Flakes are called “Con Fleis” – I honestly don’t know if it was a suegra thing or a Salvadoran thing.

When my suegra would make oatmeal though, she didn’t even attempt to decipher the directions on the can; the result was more like soup than anything I previously recognized as the thick, lumpy oatmeal of my childhood. I told her many times that you aren’t supposed to add that much water or milk, but she would only look at me like I was stupid and sip her oatmeal out of her favorite cumbo.

It was only years later that I found out what “atol de avena” is – and realized that my suegra had never been attempting to make American-style oatmeal in the first place. So, here is a lesson in humility, a reminder that there isn’t always one right answer, and a recipe for “atol de avena” which I am sipping right now, suegra-style.

Atol de Avena

2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick (and/or ground cinnamon)
1 cup uncooked oatmeal (I use Quaker Oats 100% Natural Whole Grain Old Fashioned)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
4 packed tablespoons brown sugar or other sweetener (see directions below)

Directions:

1. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring 2 cups water, a cinnamon stick, salt, and oatmeal to a boil. (If you don’t have a cinnamon stick, you can add ground cinnamon to taste later.)

2. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir continuously for about 3 minutes.

3. Add milk and stir until heated through. Remove from heat.

4. While still warm, you’ll want to add the sweetener. I usually use brown sugar, (4 packed tablespoons), but you can use piloncillo, dulce de atado, or dulce de panela. My suegra never would have added more sugar than this as she doesn’t like things overly sweet, but feel free to add more if you don’t find it sweet enough. You can also add ground cinnamon for more flavor as this recipe yields a very mild tasting atol de avena.

5. Serve warm. Makes about 4 cups.

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

12-latino-greeting-cards

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?

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

pan-dulce-apology-card-latinaish
(Kind of one of those “Sorry, not sorry” moments.)

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

sapo-verde-to-you-card-latinaish
(We don’t say “Happy birthday” in this house.)

buen-viaje-card-latinaish
(This would come in handy for all your encargo requests for traveling family members.)

belated-spanish-bday-card-latinaish
(A whole line of greeting cards with “Chavito del 8″ references would sell like pan caliente.)

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

love-you-spanish-card-latinaish
(Cute enough for a kid, but could be exchanged between adults too.)

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

not-mexican-salvadoran-card-latinaish
(My kids are half Salvadoran and my older son in particular is constantly mistaken for Mexican. Thought I should explain that one!)

get-well-latino-card-latinaish
(Who needs a “Get Well” card when there’s Vicks?)

mothers-day-spanish-card-latinaish
(Día de las Madres was always a dangerous day for Carlos.)

Geografía

estadosmexico1

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. Scroll down for English translation!

Yo estaba muy sorprendida pero contenta ver que mi hijo mayor estaba aprendiendo los estados de México en la escuela.

estadosmexico2

Mi hijo está en las clases avanzadas. Desafortunadamente, no creo que enseñen esto en la clase regular, pero me gustaría que lo hicieran. Mientras estoy deseando, también me gustaría que les enseñaran los departamentos de El Salvador, pero supongo que tendremos que hacer eso en casa.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

I was really surprised but pleased to see that my older son was learning the Mexican states at school. My son is in advanced classes. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re teaching this to the regular classes, but I wish they would. While I’m wishing, I also wish they would teach the departments of El Salvador, but I guess that’s something we’ll have to do at home.

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

love-song-lyric-pillow-1

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

Directions:

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.

lightbox

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.

trace-letters

traced-letters-closeup

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.

blanket-stitch-howto

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

love-song-text-pillow-2

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