Biscochitos

biscochitos

Today we’re getting ready for the annual “galletada” with my mother, sisters and all the kids (my sons, my nephew and my niece.) We always make decorated sugar cookies but sometimes we each bring already prepared cookies of other varieties to share. This morning I decided to make biscochitos.

Biscochitos (often misspelled “bizcochitos”) are a holiday tradition passed generation to generation for many families in New Mexico where my older sister lived for a few years. One of the souvenirs she sent me back while living there were these anise seed cookies with a unique licorice-like flavor I really liked, so I looked up recipes and made them myself many times over the years even though Carlos isn’t that fond of them. (He says that anise is used as a home remedy in El Salvador so they taste medicinal to him.)

Anyway, if you want to give them a try, my recipe is below. Unlike traditional biscochitos, I use butter, even though New Mexicans will insist that to be authentic, you must use lard. My older sister is vegetarian which is why I usually use butter, but please feel free to sub lard for butter in the recipe. It will give it a slightly different texture, (which many much prefer!)

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Biscochitos (New Mexican Anise Seed Cookies

You need:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (you can use lard)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seed
2 tablespoons vanilla extract (you can use rum)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

For topping:

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method:

1. Cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar in a large bowl. Next beat in the egg, anise seed and vanilla extract.

2. In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture little by little until combined. Do not over mix.

3. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Once chilled, roll out on a floured surface. The thinner you make them, the crunchier they’ll be, so if you’d like them to be a little softer, roll them out thicker. Use a drinking glass dusted with flour or a cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles or desired shape. Carefully move the cookies to a foil-lined greased cookie sheet.

4. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ½ cup sugar with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Set aside.

5. Bake the cookies at 350 F until they’re starting to brown at the edges. Sprinkle the cookies with the cinnamon sugar mixture while still hot. Allow to cool and serve.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

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Palabras que no me gustan

pantoufles

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 in italics!

Soy una amante de los idiomas. Puedo hablar con mucho cariño sobre las palabras que me encantan tanto en inglés como en español… Pero, igual que tengo palabras favoritas, tengo palabras que me molestan (a veces sin ninguna buena razón) – Aquí hay unas de ellas:

I’m a language lover. I can talk with a lot of affection for the words I love in both English and Spanish… But, just as I have favorite words, I have words that annoy me (sometimes without good reason) – Here are a few of them:

Pantuflas – Slippers
Jaiba – Crab
Mondongo – Tripe
Pompis – Butt
Barbaridad – Barbarity

¿Qué palabras no te gustan en español o inglés?

What words do you dislike in English or Spanish?

¡Viva la Nieve!

worx-snowthrower-assembly1

Disclosure: This is not a paid or sponsored post. A WORX 13-Amp 18-in Electric Snow Blower was provided for review purposes. No other compensation was or will be received. All opinions are my own.

The day after we had already shoveled out of our first snow of the season, the new snow blower arrived at our door, (Carlos didn’t find that as amusing as I did.) Nevertheless, he got to work assembling the snow blower right away to prepare for the storm forecast for the next day.

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The assembly instructions that come with it are in both English and Spanish. In our experience, Spanish instructions often aren’t as good as the English, but these seemed to be equally accurate and included the same illustrations for each. That being said, despite Spanish being his first language, Carlos used the English version as he almost always does to assemble things. My theory as to why he does this? He learned vocabulary for tools, hardware and the verbs associated with those words in English through various labor jobs he’s had over the years in the United States, not in Spanish while growing up in El Salvador. Interesting, isn’t it? Are there any situations in which you prefer to use your second language rather than your native language?

It took no more than 30 minutes for Carlos to put the snow blower together and then we waited for the flakes to fall. We didn’t have to wait long as several inches of heavy, wet snow piled up the next day.

The snow blower instructions encourage you to set it outside for a few minutes so it can adjust to the temperature, so once the snow stopped, we did that and later brought it out to our driveway where we plugged the extension cord into it. (We purchased a blue-colored outdoor extension cord especially designed for cold weather at Lowe’s.)

Carlos used it first before showing me how. I liked how easy it was to start. You push the button and squeeze the handles to start it. To stop it, you just let the handles go, (which is an excellent safety feature in case you slip on the icy pavement.)

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I found the snow thrower to be really lightweight and easy to handle. We were impressed with how far it threw the snow and how simple it was to turn the little crank and change the direction in which it throws the snow. As far as noise level – it wasn’t whisper quiet, but it wasn’t louder than expected either. You can see and hear it in action for yourself in the video below.

As for the actual job it did of clearing the snow – we were satisfied given the fact that our driveway is over a decade old and has never been properly sealed or re-paved. In other words, the texture of our driveway is really rough, so it’s difficult to get it perfectly clean regardless of what we use.

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We used a snow shovel in one section to compare and the shovel didn’t do any better than the snow blower, at least with this particular type and amount of snow.

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A week later it snowed again, another few inches of the same type of snow, and the snow blower worked again without any problems whatsoever. While we didn’t feel the snow blower sped up the process of removing the snow, and may actually have taken a little longer than a shovel due to setting it up, the benefit of not waking up the next morning with back pain made it worth it. Using the snow blower also means we have energy left after we clear our own driveway and so we’re better able to help our elderly neighbors. (Which is not a totally unselfish act. Sometimes they give us cookies to thank us. I find cookies motivating.)

Interested in learning more? Check out information and reviews of this snow blower at Lowes.com, or on the the WORX website. You can follow WORX tools on social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Salvadoran Tamales de Gallina

tamales salvadoreños de gallina / Salvadoran chicken tamales - Latinaish.com

My first attempt at tamales salvadoreños de gallina (pollo) was a delicious success! (For that I am very thankful, because it would have been a huge disappointment after all that work to have them not turn out.) I kept detailed notes during the entire process and documented everything I did so that I could share it here with you. I hope this recipe and the instructions below help you make perfect tamales this holiday season. You’ll need an entire day to make these from start to finish, so plan accordingly. Buena suerte!

Salvadoran Tamales de Gallina

The filling

5 lbs. chicken pieces (I used 12 chicken thighs)
2 small tomatoes, quartered
1 small onion, quartered
1/2 small green pepper
1 large carrot, peeled
1 stalk celery
1 handful cilantro
4 cloves garlic, slightly crushed
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt, plus salt to taste
1 tablespoon achiote (ground annatto)
1 tablespoon dry oregano
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

3 large Russet potatoes, cut into sticks, raw
2 cups garbanzo beans, already cooked

1. Simmer the chicken with all ingredients listed (besides the potatoes and garbanzo beans) with enough water to cover well. All of these vegetables and herbs are to flavor the broth which you’ll later use in the recaudo and the masa. This broth/chicken stock needs to be really flavorful. Some people use chicken bouillon to achieve this, and you can feel free to add some, but I avoid using bouillon.

2. Simmer the chicken until it is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a large dish to cool.

3. Remove the vegetables from the chicken stock and discard them. When cool enough, taste the chicken stock and determine whether you’d like to add a little additional salt. (I added a little more at this point.) Set this aside. You will be using it soon for the racaudo and masa!

4. When the chicken is cool, discard the skin and bone. Shred the meat into large pieces by hand and season with a little more salt if needed. (I added a little salt at this point.) Set aside.

5. If you haven’t already, wash and peel 3 large potatoes. Cut each potato into french fry-sized “sticks.”

6. If cooking your own garbanzo beans, you should have done this a day before. If using canned, just have them ready to open and drain when you assemble the tamales. I like the tamales with minimal filling ingredients but other people may put any of the following in their tamales: slices of hard-boiled egg, capers, green olives, green beans, sliced green and red bell pepper. Use any of these if you wish!

7. Set all these ingredients aside. These will be used, along with the recaudo, as the filling for your tamales. Next, we make the racaudo.

The recaudo (sauce)

8 small tomatoes
1 small green pepper
1/2 medium white onion
3 cloves garlic
1 dried guajillo chile, stem removed

1/8 cup pumpkin seeds, roasted
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup sesame seeds, roasted
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon dry oregano
1 teaspoon achiote (ground annatto)

2 pieces French bread, each about the size of a small fist
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt

1. Roast the tomatoes, green pepper, onion, garlic and guajillo chile on a comal/griddle (or large frying pan) over medium heat. (Be careful not to burn the guajillo chile – it doesn’t need much time on there.) Once slightly roasted on each side, put everything into a blender. You can use a large wooden spoon to smash the tomatoes inside the blender to make room if it gets too full. Don’t run the blender just yet.

2. Some use a pre-made “relajo” spice packet for the recaudo, but I wanted to create my own homemade “relajo” spice mixture with measurements of each spice for those who don’t have these packets locally available. (This also gives you greater control over the flavor and gives the recipe better accuracy since relajo spice mixtures vary by brand.) The spices you need to make your own relajo are: pumpkin seeds, bay leaves, sesame seeds, whole cloves, whole cumin seeds, black peppercorns, dry oregano and achoite (ground annatto.) If your pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds aren’t already roasted, slightly dry roast them (no oil) in a small pan or on the comal, stirring and being careful not to burn them.

relajo salvadoreño - Latinaish.com

3. Add all the “relajo” spices on top of the vegetables in the blender. Add the chicken stock, french bread and salt. If your blender is a standard size, it’s a very tight fit! Be careful and make sure your lid is secure! Blend until smooth. (Your blender might not blend all the spices perfectly smooth – that’s okay!)

4. Pour the recaudo into a medium pot and heat to simmering, stirring occasionally for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

recaudo - Latinaish.com

The masa

8 cups instant corn masa flour (I used MASECA. There’s no need to buy the one that is especially for tamales.)
9 cups chicken stock
8 cups warm water
1 lb. lard
1 cup recaudo

1. In a very large bowl or large stock pot, mix the chicken stock little by little into the corn masa flour by hand. (If you run out of the homemade chicken stock, you can use store bought in its place, but I had enough.) Make sure there isn’t any dry flour in the bowl and that it’s all been worked in.

2. Add the lard and work into the masa by hand. Make sure it’s completely distributed throughout – this will take a few minutes and you will notice the masa get fluffier.

3. Add the recaudo and work in by hand.

4. If you’re working with the masa in a bowl, transfer it now to the stock pot. Add the water, little by little, and work it in by hand. Make sure there are no lumps.

5. This is the most difficult part of this process. Make sure you have at least one other person with you in the kitchen who is willing to switch off with you. You’re going to cook the masa in the pot over medium heat, but YOU MUST STIR CONTINUOUSLY! Do not stop stirring for more than a second or two or the masa will stick/cook to the bottom of the pot and it will be ruined. Before you start, make sure you’re using a very strong, sturdy wooden spoon. Make sure you have oven mitts (especially if the handles of your pot are metal and get hot.) Make sure you have a timer you can set to keep track of the time. You will need to cook and stir the masa for at least 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove from heat and stir for another minute before allowing to cool.

One thing to note: I prefer my tamales on the firmer side so I’m really happy with how they turned out, but Salvadoran tamales are famously gelatinous. I think that if you wanted to achieve that “squishier” texture, you could add more chicken stock before cooking the masa, and possibly sub cooking oil for lard.

The wrapping

2 packs plantain/banana leaves
Aluminum foil (1 roll of 75 feet is plenty)

1. Plantain/banana leaves come frozen in the United States. About 1 hour before you’re ready to assemble tamales, disinfect your kitchen sink then fill it with warm water. Submerge the packets of plantain/banana leaves in the water, (placing a pot on top if they float too much.) This will defrost them and make them more pliable. Some people later warm the plantain/banana leaves over heat but I didn’t find it necessary at all.

2. After 1 hour, remove the packets from the water, cut open and drain. Rinse the leaves in warm, clean running water and shake dry before transferring to a large clean counter surface.

3. Cut the plantain leaves to about 12 inches x 7 inches, (rectangles.) They won’t be exactly the same measurements – that’s okay. Set aside any pieces that are too small or ripped or oddly shaped, (don’t discard them – you will use them later.)

4. Cut pieces of aluminum foil to about 18 inches x 12 inches.

5. Put down a piece of foil, and on top, a plantain/banana leaf, (lighter side of the leaf facing up.) Repeat the process so you have an alternating stack of foil and plantain/banana leaves. (This makes the tamal-making process easier later.)

6. Assemble all your ingredients. You’re ready to start making the tamales!

7. Place a large spoonful of the masa as shown in the video, in the middle of the plantain/banana leaf. In the middle of the massa place a spoonful of the racuado. Add chicken, a few pieces of potato, a few garbanzos and/or whichever other fillings you prefer.

8. Fold closed as shown in the video, rolling and folding tightly to seal. Repeat process for each tamal.

9. Put the tamales in a steamer pot with slightly salted water in the bottom. (Some people cover the tamales with water but I always make sure the water doesn’t touch the tamales so they can properly steam.)

10. Cover the tamales with the leftover plantain/banana leaf scraps and then the lid. Simmer on low heat, adding salted water if necessary to the bottom of the pot until cooked through, making sure you don’t allow the pot to cook dry/burn.

11. It can be difficult to tell when the tamal is ready because while hot, the masa will be very soft. You must remove a tamal and allow it to cool a little while the other tamales continue to cook. Once it’s cooled, you can open it and check for doneness. It’s a good sign if the potato inside is cooked. Mine took about 2 hours.

12. Allow tamales to cool before refrigerating. They will taste better re-heated the next day. Whatever isn’t eaten within a few days should be frozen.

Makes 30 to 40 large tamales.

tamal salvadoreño de gallina - Latinaish.com

Desafío aceptado: Tamales Salvadoreños

Image source: Flickr user Doran

Image source: Flickr user Doran

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 in italics!

La primera vez que comí un tamal salvadoreño de gallina, te digo la verdad, no me gustó. Si uno está acostombrado a los tamales mexicanos, los tamales salvadoreños se sienten muy ligosos y mojados en comparación. Con masa que tiene una textura que me recuerda a gelatina, y un olor único gracias a las hojas de plátano en que están doblados, nunca me enamoré de los tamales salvadoreños y entonces, tampoco traté de hacerlos… hasta ahora.

No sé por qué pero por unas semanas he tenido un antojo por los tamales salvadoreños de gallina que hace mi suegra, llenos de pollo, papas, y garbanzos. Ya que mi suegra no está aquí con nosotros, tengo que tratar de hacerlos solita. Entre las memorias de Carlos y yo, más unas recetas para guiarnos, vamos a hacer tamales este fin de semana. ¡Deséenos suerte!

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Challenge Accepted: Salvadoran Tamales

The first time I ate a Salvadoran chicken tamal, I’ll tell you the truth, I didn’t like it. If one is accustomed to Mexican tamales, the Salvadoran tamales feel slimy and wet in comparison. With a texture that reminds me of Jell-O, and a unique smell thanks to the plantain leaves they’re folded into, I never fell in love with Salvadoran tamales, and so I never tried to make them… until now.

I don’t know why but for the past few weeks I’ve had a craving for the Salvadoran chicken tamales my mother-in-law used to make, full of chicken, potato and garbanzo beans. Since my mother-in-law isn’t here with us, I have to try to make them myself. Between Carlos and my memories, plus some recipes to guide us, we will try to make tamales this weekend. Wish us luck!

Quesadilla Salvadoreña

Salvadoran Quesadilla / Latinaish.com

Ask an American what a “quesadilla” is and most likely they’ll tell you it’s thin flour tortillas with cheese melted in between – but that’s a Mexican quesadilla, and not the one I’m talking about today. Salvadoran quesadilla is a rich cheese-flavored pound-cake-like sweet bread which is perfect with a cup of coffee. You can buy them at some bakeries and Latino markets in the United States but often times, you’ll find they aren’t fresh and have gotten a bit dry. The good news is, you can make your own “quesadilla salvadoreña” at home, and believe me, it’s even more amazing than the store bought ones.

I’ve actually been meaning to share a quesadilla recipe here for years, but the first one I tried was given to me by a friend who generously emailed me her family’s recipe, and thus it wasn’t mine to give away. Over the years I tried other quesadilla recipes, and eventually, tweaking here and there as I do, I ended up with a recipe all my own, but it still wasn’t perfect. I continued baking and changing things, and the quesadillas were usually good, but I definitely had some complete failures along the way, too. Last week I decided to make another attempt and, (bendito sea!) success! Finally! Delicious success!

We ate every last crumb of the one in the photos, and days later, I made another just to double check my recipe, (and because we wanted more quesadilla!)

So here it is, just in time for making as a holiday gift for family, friends and neighbors, (if you can stand the idea of parting with it.)

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Salvadoran Quesadilla

Ingredients:

1 stick (8 tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
3 eggs, separated
1 (slightly rounded) cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup 1% milk, room temperature
1 tsp. baking powder
sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Combine sugar, flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside. Note: The cup of sugar should be rounded, so it’s slightly more than 1 cup.

2. In a medium bowl mix the cheese and butter and then add the milk. Set aside. Note: The cheese can be cheap non-brand name Parmesan. Grated “queso duro blando” or “queso duro viejo” can probably be substituted for Parmesan but I haven’t tried it yet. You could also use 2% or whole milk in place of the 1% milk, but I do not advise skim milk.

3. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Beat in the yolks, then add the cheese mixture. Beat at medium speed, slowly adding in the bowl of dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.

4. Pour into a greased 9 inch springform pan or round pie pan. You can also use a 7×11 rectangular pan, which is what I used the second time. Sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds. Note: Springform pans tend to leak a little until the batter has set up, so put a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven to catch any drips.

5. Bake on the middle rack of your oven at 300 to 325 F for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. (Actual cooking time will vary slightly depending on the size and type of pan. My oven runs a little hot, so I baked mine at 300 F.) Keep an eye on it starting at 30 minutes as it continues to bake to make sure you remove it before it begins to burn. It goes from yellow/unbaked to golden brown to burnt pretty quickly.

6. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan. (It tastes better the next day, actually.) Cut into slices and serve with coffee.

Pasteles Salvadoreños

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“Pasteles” or “pastelitos” in El Salvador, may be different than what you’re expecting.

In middle school Spanish class I learned that “pasteles” are “pastries”, as in dessert – So years ago when my suegra told me she was making pasteles and then served meat-filled turnovers, I was perplexed.

As many of you know, (and as I found out), in El Salvador, pasteles can refer to savory empanada-like main dishes like the turnovers my suegra served, but it differs from country to country.

Served with curtido, Salvadoran pasteles easily became one of my favorite meals. Here’s my recipe so you can make them, too!

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Pasteles Salvadoreños

The filling:

1 lb. ground beef
2 cups potatoes, cooked and diced
1 cup green beans, cooked and chopped (optional)
1/4 cup onion, chopped fine
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. achiote molido (ground annatto)
reduced sodium Worcestershire sauce, to taste

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion and raw carrot, stirring for about 2 minutes.

2. Season ground beef with oregano, salt, pepper and achiote and then add it to the pot, stirring occasionally until brown.

3. Drain the grease once the beef is cooked, and then return to heat. Add in potatoes (and green beans if using.) Stir to combine and remove from heat. Season with a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce and additional salt to taste. Set aside and allow to cool.

The Masa/Dough:

3 cups MASECA masa harina
1 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon achiote molido/ground annatto
3 cups water

1. Mix the dry ingredients and then add the water a cup at a time, mixing by hand until combined. Set aside. Keep a bowl of fresh water nearby for wetting your hands as you form the pasteles.

Forming the Pasteles:

1. With moist hands, take a handful of masa, slightly larger than a golf ball, and shape it into a tortilla.

2. Put a large spoonful of filling in the middle and then bring the sides of the tortilla together like a taco and seal by closing your hand gently to form the pastel into a half-moon shape as shown below.

pastel-salvadoreno-masa

3. Fry pasteles in a large, deep pan with plenty of canola oil over medium-high heat, flipping to slightly brown on each side. Remove to paper towel-lined pyrex or plate.

4. Serve pasteles with curtido and salsa. Makes approximately 18 with leftover filling (which is great the next day over rice as picadillo!)

salsacurtido

Notes on Curtido and Salsa:

While I already have two curtido recipes (here and here) – as well as salsa recipes (here and here) – I’m always experimenting and I’d like to share new versions I have for each since both turned out great. The salsa recipe, while using canned tomatoes (which I know some are opposed to) actually tastes more authentically Salvadoran in flavor than previous salsas I’ve made – much closer to what you typically get with pupusas and other dishes at Salvadoran restaurants. The new curtido recipe is great because it minimizes chopping vegetables by hand if you’re in a hurry, comes together quickly, and has a nice texture similar to coleslaw thanks to a little help from the food processor.

Salsa Roja Salvadoreña

14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (and the liquid)
1/8 cup diced onion
1/8 cup diced green pepper
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
salt, pepper and oregano to taste

1. In a food processor set to mince, add tomatoes and liquid, onion and green pepper. Process until completely combined.

2. Pour tomato sauce into a pot on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then simmer one minute. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar. Add salt, pepper and oregano to taste. Cool and serve or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Quick Curtido Salvadoreño

1/2 a small cabbage, washed and chopped in large pieces
2 large carrots, washed, peeled and chopped in large pieces
1/2 small onion, chopped
apple cider vinegar
warm water
oregano, salt and pepper

1. In a food processor set to chop, add cabbage, carrots and onion all at once. Process just until chopped. (The texture will resemble coleslaw for this curtido.)

2. Put cabbage mixture into a large bowl, add apple cider vinegar and a little warm water to taste. Season with oregano, salt and pepper. Serve or keep covered in the refrigerator.

10 Vídeos Favoritos – Diciembre 2013

10vids

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 in italics!

Estos son mis vídeos favoritos en español en este momento. La mayoría son “Vines” y por eso son bien cortitos. Chécalos! // Here are my favorite videos in Spanish at the moment. Most of the videos are “Vines” – that’s why they’re so short. Check them out!

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Giving Tuesday & Visiting Perritos

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Have you heard of Giving Tuesday? Giving Tuesday, (celebrated December 3rd this year) is a national day of giving, a movement that was created last year to encourage people to take part in charitable activities and to support non-profits. I wanted to do my part to spread the word and hopefully inspire others by sharing my family’s Giving Tuesday story.

You see that cute pup who looks ready to tackle the Christmas tree in the photo above? For those who don’t know, that’s Chico. We adopted Chico from our local Humane Society last year. For Giving Tuesday, we decided we wanted to donate supplies to them so they can continue to do what they do – find homes for deserving cats and dogs.

supplies_givingtuesday2

Since I’m a Lowe’s blog ambassador and receive gift cards to complete my monthly projects, I decided to make use of one of the gift cards that had leftover money on it by buying most of the supplies at Lowe’s. If you want to donate to your local Humane Society, call or visit their website to find out what they need and accept. Our Humane Society listed specific cleaning and pet supplies. Besides these items from Lowe’s, (plus some cute Christmas stockings I couldn’t resist) we bought a couple bags of kitty litter and cat food, too.

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My boys carried the supplies to the car and we went as a family to the Humane Society to drop them off, (well, drop them off and visit the animals for a little while.)

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There were over a dozen dogs awaiting homes and it was hard to walk away from them. We stayed and talked to each one for a couple minutes. I don’t know if they understood me, but I told each one they would be adopted soon and to hang in there. I got a little choked up doing this. Also, you’re not supposed to stick your fingers through the bars, but after letting each dog sniff my closed fist and reading its body language, I did pet most of them. Some of them were so hungry for love that they’d lean against the bars trying to get closer to me.

After visiting with the dogs, we visited with the cats. Our Humane Society allows some of the cats free roam of a closed room full of toys and everything they could possibly need. Carlos kept complaining that he didn’t want to go to the cat room because he doesn’t like cats but after a few minutes, I caught him like this.

carlos_cat_givingtues

Hmmm, does that look like someone who doesn’t like cats to you?

Leaving was bittersweet but it was literally closing time and we had to go. I think we all felt happy that we were able to give a little something but sad that we weren’t able to do more, so this is my attempt at doing more by spreading the word.

If you didn’t know about Giving Tuesday, or hadn’t planned to participate, I hope you’ll consider it. You can support any organization or cause you feel passionate about, but if you’re an animal lover and have room in your home, I hope you’ll consider adoption. There are plenty of sweet dogs and cats waiting for you to make them part of your family.

Disclosure: This is not a paid or sponsored post. This post was in no way encouraged by The Humane Society, Lowe’s, or any of the product brands shown.

Do-it-Yourself Lotería Ornaments

TracyLopez_Latinaish_LoteriaOrnaments1

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.

Each year we decorate the tree and each year I’m not content with the ornaments I have to choose from or the ones available at the store. None of the ornaments are quite what I’m looking for which means I end up looking for unconventional ways to remedy the situation. One year I even ended up hanging capiruchos on the tree!

This year I decided I’ll make my own ornaments. Because the holiday season is so hectic, I wanted something that wouldn’t take too long, and because the budget is tight this time of year, I didn’t want it to be too expensive either. Here is the craft that resulted!

These Loteria ornaments took me about two hours from start to finish and cost about $15 if, like me, you have many of these items on hand already. I’m so happy with the way they came out. I can’t wait to decorate the tree. Here’s how you can make your own custom ornaments for yourself or as a gift. Will you make Loteria ornaments or something else? Other ideas: family photos, photos of your native country (if you live elsewhere) or, the covers of favorite books – the possibilities are endless!

Custom Handmade Ornaments

What you need:

Jigsaw, table saw or handsaw
Safety glasses
3/8 x 3 x 24″ pine craft board (two)
#216 – ½ x ½ in. zinc screw eyes, 10 pack (three)
Medium grit sandpaper
Ruler, yard stick, or measuring tape
Pencil
Scissors
Elmer’s Glue-All, general purpose adhesive
Small craft paint brush
White mason line (string)
A heavy book
Digital images you wish to make into ornaments (and a printer)
Card stock for your printer (not available at Lowe’s)

Directions:

1. Using a ruler and a pencil, draw a line on each of your boards every two inches.

2. Wearing safety glasses, use a jigsaw, table saw or handsaw to cut the board on each line so that you end up with 24 two inch blocks of wood. (I used the Rockwell BladeRunner sent to me by Rockwell. It cut through the wood like butter and was really comfortable to use right on the dinner table where I do most of my crafting. I think I see more projects involving wood cutting in my future!)

rockwell_bladerunner

3. Lightly sand the rough edges on each piece if necessary. Set aside. (Optional: You can paint the blocks of wood any color you like and allow to dry. I chose to leave mine natural.)

4. Print whichever images you wish to use on your ornaments on card stock. (Card stock is sturdier than regular copy/printer paper and will hold up to glue better.) Make sure that your images are small enough to fit on the face of the wood block. I kept mine around 1 ½ x 2 inches. I found Microsoft Word useful for this. I scanned the images into my computer and then opened them in Microsoft Word which has a built-in ruler across the top of the document.

5. Cut out the images with scissors.

6. Using a small paintbrush, brush glue on the back of each image, (working on one image/ornament at a time.) Position the image in the center of the block of wood and push down to adhere. Place a heavy book or other flat heavy object on top of the ornament for a minute to help the image to dry flat and adhere well. (Optional: If using specialty decoupage craft glue which advertises that it can be used for “sealing” as well as adhering, feel free to paint over top of the image to give it a finished glossy look and allow the ornament to air dry without any heavy object placed on top. Painting over top the image is not advised if using Elmer’s Glue-All.)

7. Once dry, twist a screw eye into the top side of each ornament. If your fingers become tired, needle-nose pliers will help you screw them into the wood. Tip: Sometimes a careful little tap with a hammer will help get the screw eyes securely into the wood before you attempt to turn/screw them in.

8. Cut the string, (I used white mason line because I like the simplicity of it, but you can use any color or type of string you like), into pieces about 4 inches long. (You will need 24 of them.)

9. Put each piece of string through the screw eye on each ornament and tie in a knot.

10. Your ornaments are ready to hang on your tree! Feliz Navidad!

TracyLopez_Latinaish_LoteriaOrnaments2

TracyLopez_Latinaish_LoteriaOrnaments3

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