Cold Horchata and a Low Electric Bill

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It’s August which means it’s time to share my home improvement project of the month. This month Lowe’s challenged us to make our casita more energy efficient and to also get ready for autumn.

When I researched ways to make our home more energy efficient, I came up with a lot of options, but so much of the information pointed to one thing – “el refri” – (that’s Spanish for “the fridge.”) Check out some of these facts:

“Refrigerators and freezers consume about a sixth of all electricity in a typical American home – using more electricity than any other single household appliance.” – Source: ConsumerEnergyCenter.org

“ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators are required to use about 15% less energy than non-certified models…By properly recycling your old refrigerator and replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator, you can save from $200–$1,100 on energy costs over its lifetime.” – Source: EnergyStar.gov

“Refrigerators are the top-consuming kitchen appliance in U.S. households…” – Source: Science.HowStuffWorks.com

It didn’t take long for me to get the message – especially knowing that our refrigerator was over 10 years old and not functioning well – (Although according to Carlos, our old fridge wasn’t completely broken compared to his childhood refrigerator in El Salvador. He says the door of his refrigerator wouldn’t stay closed so they installed a latch on the outside of it.)

Anyway, we went to Lowe’s and after browsing for a few minutes, we found an Energy Star refrigerator in our price range that fit the dimensions of our kitchen. It’s not one of those fancy side-by-side refrigerators and it isn’t made of shiny stainless steel, but we’re happy with it.

The next day Lowe’s delivered the new fridge and took away the old one for free.

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As you can see from the two photos so far, I have the new fridge organized inside and out – which brings me to the “getting ready for autumn” portion of the challenge. For most families, August means it’s time to get ready for “back-to-school” and the refrigerator is one of those parts of the household that is impacted. There will be school lunches to pack and store on the inside, while the outside serves as a message center for events, permission slips, menu plans, grocery lists, calenders, art work, and graded assignments we want to display to show our orgullo when our niños do well.

Sticking all these things on the fridge haphazardly with magnets from the local pizza place doesn’t set a very good example for the kids when you hand them new school supplies and tell them to keep organized, plus it just looks messy, so I came up with a few do-it-yourself crafts to de-clutter and keep organized. See the directions below to make your own!

Do-it-Yourself Magnetic Frames & Corkboards

What you need:

• Picture frames
• Magnets (I found these in the hardware aisle at Lowe’s, you can use circular discs or rectangular blocks, depending on the size of your frame.)
• Hot glue gun & glue sticks
• Scissors
• Pen
• Style Selections 2′ x 4′ Cork Roll (at Lowe’s)
• Optional: Paint or spray paint

Directions:

1. Gather your supplies. For the frames, lightweight frames work best since you’ll want the magnets to hold it securely on your fridge. Check your dollar store and second hand stores for great deals on frames and get them in a variety of sizes. Smaller ones can be used for photos, but you’ll want larger document-sized ones for the corkboard and for displaying papers your child brings home from school.

Note: I left my frames silver because I thought they looked nice like that, but if you want to paint or spray paint the frames, you should do that before anything else. Just remove the backing and the glass, place on newspaper, and then paint or spray paint. (Lowe’s has a Valspar brand spray paint specifically for plastic if you’re using plastic frames.) Allow to dry before continuing.

2. Cut the cardboard stand off the back of the frame – you won’t need it. This doesn’t have to look pretty.

3. For a corkboard frame, remove the glass and use it to trace the shape/size onto the corkboard with a pen. Cut the corkboard out with scissors. Set aside.

4. With the glass removed, trace the inside of your frame onto the cardboard backing with a pen. These marks are what will guide you for positioning the corkboard in the center of the frame if needed. Remove the cardboard backing from the frame and use hot glue to attach the cork material to the cardboard. When finished, put the backing, now covered with the cork material, back into the frame.

5. To make both magnetic corkboards and regular magnetic frames, flip the frame to the backside, and attach a magnet in each corner with hot glue. If your frame is heavier, you may need to attach more magnets for it to stick securely to the fridge.

Note: I recommend not using the glass at all when frames are displayed on the fridge. The glass makes the frames heavier and considerably more dangerous if one happens to fall when opening or closing the door.

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Three Bonus Organizing and Energy-Saving Tips:

• Buy an expanding folder that closes securely. Hang this on your fridge using two strong magnetic clips. It’s great for keeping smaller clutter like business cards for local repair companies, coupons, frequently used recipes and restaurant menus, accessible but hidden.

• Label things and keep them organized inside your refrigerator to cut down on the amount of time you search for things. Keeping the refrigerator door open leads to higher energy bills.

• Keep a magnetic grocery list on the fridge and update it as needed throughout the week. This will save you from holding the fridge door open for an extended period on grocery shopping day to take inventory.

What is your best tip for keeping your electric bill down and staying organized? Díganos en comments!

Check out more from Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network by subscribing to their Creative Ideas Magazine and E-Newsletter, liking them on Facebook, following them on Twitter, (Hashtag: #LowesCreator), watching their videos on YouTube, re-pinning them on Pinterest, and by seeing what the other Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network members are up to at LowesCreativeIdeas.com.

Disclosure: This is not a paid or sponsored post. As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s to purchase products to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

Salvadoran Bento Box Lunch!

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With Back-to-school only weeks away and Día Nacional de la Herencia Salvadoreña Americana (National Salvadoran American Heritage Day) coming up on August 6th – I decided to make a Salvadoran themed bento box which would be ideal for packing for your child’s lunch.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of packing traditional Salvadoran foods for my children when I get a chance. I feel that it roots the boys in their heritage and also gives them a chance to share their culture with classmates.

Although changes have been made to school lunch in the United States, I think they still have a long way to go. Making your child’s lunch gives you control over how much sodium, sugar, fat and calories they’re getting and it allows you to provide healthy foods you know your child likes. This particular bento box contains a balanced alternative to school bought lunches: Bean and cheese mini-pupusas provide plenty of fiber and protein and when cooked without oil, are lower in fat. In place of the traditional cabbage curtido and salsa we have a salad of finely chopped fresh spinach and grape tomatoes which are packed with vitamins. Potato chips are replaced with homemade baked plantain chips cooked without any oil and sprinkled lightly with salt. To drink, horchata stands in for chocolate milk – When made with skim or 1% milk, your child gets calcium for growing bones without extra calories, sugar and fat.

Ready to give this Salvadoran bento box lunch a try? Recipes are below!

Horchata

You need:

Salvadoran horchata mix (find it at your local Latino Market)
Skim or 1% milk
A thermos or bottle that seals tightly
Optional: Sweetener of your choice

Directions:

1. Put a couple tablespoons of the horchata mix into the thermos or bottle. (A funnel may make this easier.) Add a cup of milk – make sure you leave some space at the top so the drink can be shaken at lunch time.

2. Optional: Add sweetener of your choice, but depending on the mix you use, you may find it tastes great without these unneeded calories.

3. Another optional step is to pour the horchata through a sieve to remove any clumps of mix that didn’t dissolve. Otherwise, seal the bottle tightly so it doesn’t leak. At lunch time your child can give it a few shakes to make sure it’s well mixed before opening.

Mini-Pupusas de Queso y Frijol

You need:

A quarter cup softened mozzarella cheese
1/8 cup frijoles molidos or frijoles medio molidos
MASECA Instant Corn Masa Flour prepared as instructions on package indicate. (Use the proportions that yield 4 tortillas: 1/2 cup Maseca, 1/3 cup water, pinch of salt.)

Directions:

1. Mix the cheese and beans by hand until well blended. The beans you use can be molidos (completely pureed) or you can use frijoles medio molidos, (which leaves some of the beans mostly intact or slightly smashed.) I used Salvadoran frijol rojo de seda, which I prepared medio molidos.

(Need help making beans? Click here, here and here.)

2. Now just assemble the pupusas as usual, but using a smaller amount of masa and filling so that the pupusas come out mini-sized. Cook on a hot comal (griddle), flipping once. No need to use any oil on the comal. This will make about 6 mini-pupusas.

(Need pupusa-making tips? Click here.)

Homemade Sweet and Salty Plantain Chips

You need:
1 ripe plantain (yellow with black markings)
Optional: salt

Directions:

1. Cut the peel off the plantain. Slice the plantain into thin coins. Put the plantain rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (No need to add any oil!)

2. Bake at 350 F, turning once to brown on both sides for about 10 to 15 minutes. Optional: Lightly sprinkle with salt. This makes enough for two servings.

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Señal de la Santa Cruz

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!

Ayer pasé muchas horas mirando las fotos digitales desde la niñez de mis hijos. Encontré unos videos cortos también que yo ni siquiera sabía que existían. Aquí es uno de los videos. En este video mis hijos están practicando cómo hacer La Señal de la Santa Cruz. Ni creo que ellos entendieron lo que estaban diciendo en español.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Yesterday I spent many hours looking through digital photos of my children’s childhood. I also found a few short videos that I didn’t even know existed. Here is one of the videos. In this video my boys are practicing the Sign of the Cross. I don’t think they even knew what they were saying in Spanish.

$panish $ummer

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!

money

Estoy completamente rendida. Esta semana decidí motivar (o sobornar, depende tu perspectiva) a los niños para que hablen español. Usé dólares del juego Monopoly para representar dólares reales y por cada día que ellos intentaban hablar español la mayor parte del día, recibieron un dólar. (Ellos saben que en una fecha posterior pueden cambiar el dinero del juego por dinero real.)

Suena como una buena idea, ¿verdad? El problema es que mi hijo menor está obsesionado con ganar tantos dólares como sea posible. Me habla todo el día hasta que me vuelvo loca. (Si no me conoces bien, necesito mi espaciocito y silencio.)

Peor, a mi hijo se le ocurrió un nuevo esquema. Primero él me preguntó: “¿Puedo ganar un dólar si hago tres páginas en el libro de español?” Estuve de acuerdo para que me dejara en paz.

Después mi hijo me preguntó si él mira una hora de televisión en español iba a ganar otro dólar. Estuve de acuerdo otra vez para que me dejara en paz.

Haciendo la historia más corta, estoy en deuda pero el español de mi hijo está mejorando.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

I’m completely exhausted. This week I decided to motivate (or bribe, depending on your perspective) the kids to speak more Spanish. I used Monopoly dollars to represent real dollars and each day that the boys tried to speak Spanish the majority of the day, they received a dollar. (They know that at a future date they’ll be able to trade the play money in for real money.)

Sounds like a good idea, right? The problem is that my younger son is obsessed with trying to earn as many dollars as possible. He talks to me all day long until he drives me crazy. (If you don’t know me well, I need my personal space and quiet.)

Even worse, my son figured out a new scheme. First he asked me, “Can I earn a dollar if I do three pages in the Spanish workbook?” – I agreed so he would leave me alone.

Then my son asked if he watched television for an hour in Spanish would he earn another dollar. I agreed again so that he’d leave me alone.

Long story short, I’m in debt but my son’s Spanish is getting better.

A Quince Party… (for my boy)

Image source: Flickr user Kaptain Kobold

Image source: Flickr user Kaptain Kobold

I briefly mentioned in a previous post that I’m planning a quinceañero party for my son, and I promised to give details at a later date – so today I’ll tell you how this all came about. Below is an excerpt of the story as I wrote it for latinamom.me, with a link to read the rest over there.

When I first suggested the possibility of a quince to my husband, whispered one night in the dark as we fell asleep, Carlos waved me off like a lost and confused moth that had mistaken a porch light for the moon. I wasn’t surprised that it took awhile for Carlos to open his mind and warm up to the idea—after all, quinceañeras are traditionally coming-of-age celebrations only for girls and Carlos is a very traditional-minded person. However, over time I explained my intentions and little by little, Carlos came to support the idea of throwing a quince for his son.

[Read the rest on latinamom.me HERE]

Would you ever consider a quince party for your son?

Verano de Español: Chucho

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!

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Hoy tenemos una semana haciendo el “Verano de Español” en nuestra casa y va bien. Mis hijos tienen 14 y 11 años y este es el cuarto año de “Verano de Español” – (por no hablar de que hemos estado hablando más español en general desde el primer año, no sólo durante el verano.) O sea, todos sabemos qué esperar y no es tan difícil este año.

Mi hijo mayor es más reacio a responder en español espontánea pero cuando lo hace, su vocabulario siempre me sorprende. Un día quería hablar conmigo sobre la bolsa de valores y le instruí intentar lo en español. Él puso los ojos y suspiró, pero luego lo hizo excelente.

Mi hijo menor me habla en español espontánea pero todavia está aprendiendo vocabulario. Me pregunta muchas veces al día qué significa una palabra, o cómo decir algo en español. Ojalá está absorbiendo todo como una esponja.

Anoche, jugamos un juego que es casi una versión de Scrabble en español. Mi hijo menor quería jugar y dijo: “Vamos a jugar en español” – a pesar de que se puede jugar en inglés. Sonreí cuando se deletreó la palabra “vos” – pero me reí cuando en su siguiente turno se deletreó “chucho.”

Parece que su vocabulario salvadoreño está bien establecido.

chucho

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Today we’re a week into doing “Spanish Summer” at our house and it’s going well. My sons are 14 and 11 years old and this is our fourth year doing “Spanish Summer”- (not to mention that we’ve been speaking more Spanish in general since the first year, not only during the summer.) In other words, we all know what to expect and it’s not as difficult this year.

My older son is more reluctant to speak Spanish without prompting, but when he does, his vocabulary blows me away. One day he wanted to talk to me about the stock market and I instructed him to do it in Spanish. He rolled his eyes and sighed, but he did an excellent job.

My younger son speaks Spanish without prompting but is still learning vocabulary. He asks me many times each day what a word means or how to say something in Spanish. Hopefully he’s absorbing everything like a sponge.

Last night, we played a game which is pretty much a Spanish version of Scrabble. My younger son wanted to play and said, “Let’s play in Spanish” – even though it’s possible to play it in English. I smiled when he spelled the word “vos” (a word commonly used in El Salvador to mean “you”), but I laughed when on his next turn he spelled the word “chucho.” (“Chucho” is slang for “dog” in El Salvador.)

It looks like his Salvadoran vocabulary is well established.

Madagascar Culo

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I’m trying to kick off “El Verano de Español” (Spanish Summer) a little early this year and yesterday I made a very concentrated effort to stick to Spanish with the boys.

I’m not sure what happened this year. At one point I was in the habit of speaking Spanish with the kids the majority of the day, then one day I realized I was speaking a lot of English to them and had been for some time. Each night I went to bed feeling guilty, promising I’d go cold turkey the next day but I’d wake up exhausted and forcing my brain to stay in Spanish was like trying to baptize a cat.

Anyway, Friday I managed to speak to the boys in mostly Spanish and they even responded to me in Spanish several times. To keep the momentum going, after dinner I decided we’d watch a movie in Spanish together, having recently discovered a bunch of bootleg DVDs from El Salvador I had forgotten we own. (To be very clear: We didn’t purchase these DVDs and haven’t even watched them – they were sent as gifts from one of Carlos’ tíos many years ago.)

My younger son popped some popcorn and I put the DVD for Madagascar in. Here’s a little video I made about the surprises that awaited us. (And as hilarious as this was to me, let this be a word of warning for anyone buying bootleg DVDs for their kids in El Salvador… They aren’t exactly rated G! This may be a good reason to buy the real thing.)

Ah yes… Spanish Summer is off to an excellent start.