Bohemian Shakira-style Brass Washer Bracelet

bracelet_latinaish_604

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.

I don’t know why, but whenever I see an armful of pretty bohemian-style bracelets I think of Colombian singer, Shakira, and she’s the inspiration for this bracelet made of simple yet surprisingly elegant-looking materials. Cotton string and brass washers are re-imagined into a piece of jewelry that will be sure to attract attention and compliments. With the holidays soon upon us, this is an idea you may want to add to your list of crafts to try. It’s affordable and quick to make, plus your favorite amiga, hermana, sobrina or prima will be sure to love it.

Bohemian Shakira-style Brass Washer Bracelet

What you need:

10 to 20 flat brass washers (small #8S, Blue Hawk/HILLMAN)
string (Blue Hawk twisted cotton twine)
scissors
sticky tape

Directions:

1. Cut 4 pieces of twine to 4 feet long.
2. Tie the pieces together at the top leaving about 4 inches above the knot. (See photo below.)
3. Tape the knot to a surface to secure in place.
4. Tie string #1 around strings #2 and #3 in this way: String #1 goes OVER strings #2 and #3 then comes back UNDER strings #2 and #3, then over itself.) Pull gently so the loop moves up and tightens at the top. (See photo below.)
5. Tie string #4 around strings #2 and #3 in the same way as described in step 4. (Note that strings #2 and #3 always remain together in the middle.) Repeat step 4 and step 5 about five to six times.
6. Slide a washer onto string #1 or #4 (alternate) before tying around strings #2 and #3. Repeat step 4 and 5 before adding another washer. Keep repeating steps 4, 5, and 6 until bracelet is long enough to tie around your wrist.
7. Tie the bracelet off the same way you tied the strings together at the top in step 2.
8. Cut off any undesired excess string.
9. Bracelet is worn tied around the wrist, (I double knot it to keep it from falling off.)

The supplies

The supplies

The method.

The method.

Team USA! (Made in China)

Controversy broke out when it was discovered that the 2012 Olympics uniforms for Team USA were made in China. (Read more on CNN.com.) There was so much outrage regarding Team USA’s uniforms that the sponsor (Ralph Lauren), has now promised that they’ll “manufacture uniforms domestically for the 2014 games.”

The timing of this story couldn’t be more perfect. Just the other day I spotted the clearance rack of Independence Day shirts at Wal-Mart. Carlos and I noticed a couple years ago that they were made in El Salvador – (for some reason this always amuses us.) So I went to check this year’s stock of American flag shirts, and sure enough – “HECHO EN EL SALVADOR.”

Celebrate U.S. Independence Day with a shirt made in El Salvador

What do you think about items with the American flag, (or American flags themselves), as well as the Team USA Olympics uniforms being made in other countries?

If our economy was running well and the jobs weren’t needed, would your opinion change? Why or why not?

¡Qué Padre!

Look what I found at Wal-Mart for $3 over the weekend:

You may be asking yourself the same thing I asked myself, “Why in the world would Wal-Mart, of all places, have this random awesome shirt in Spanish?”

After flipping through some other shirts on the rack, I finally understood. The shirt is a play on words! These shirts were on clearance from Father’s Day.

Going to Miami? 10 Tips

tips going to miami

This past week I got two E-mails from two different people asking me advice on traveling to Miami. The thing is, I’ve only been to Miami twice and as much as I loved immersing myself in the culture of the 305, I wouldn’t exactly consider myself an expert. That being said, I did manage to think up 10 tips with a little help from my friends. So, are you going to Miami? Not sure what to expect? Here are 10 things you should know.

#1. Perfect Bodies

As Miami-native Pitbull says, “Ella es una bombona y su cuerpo, dos siliconas” and “Body is all great, 26 24 28, body parts fake.” That isn’t to say all or even most people in Miami have had plastic surgery to look the way they do – maybe they were born lucky, maybe they’ve worked hard for it, but whether it’s natural or not, the psychological result is the same: Being surrounded by so many perfect-looking people who appear to have walked straight out of a music video can make one feel just a little insecure.

Even the mannequin? Image source: Martin Allen

My only advice for you on this one is to be prepared for it, accept it, and try to look your best without comparing yourself to everyone else. Why spend your trip moping that you can’t bounce quarters off your ass? Serious waste of time which could be spent simply enjoying the eye candy.

#2. Cuban Culture & Español

Being in some parts of Miami is kind of like taking a trip to Latin America without ever leaving the country. Experience Cuban food, music and more – soak it up. If you don’t speak Spanish, be prepared to be in the minority. If you do speak Spanish, you might feel like you’ve died and gone to Heaven. The casual Spanglish thrown around here, the way people assume and expect you to speak it, is something pretty special.

#3. Bright Colors

Image source: Jules Gervais

From the natural bright blue of the ocean and the sky to architecture and fashion – bright colors are everywhere.

#4. City & Beach

Miami has everything from gorgeous tropical beaches to sky scrapers.

Image source: Marc Averette

#5. Humid & Sunny with a Chance of Rain

The weather is gorgeous but at times you will experience some hair-do destroying humidity. Veronica of Cid Style File says to make sure you bring your anti-frizz products – you’ll need them. (And don’t forget the sunscreen.)

#6. Expensive

Depending on where you’re visiting from, prices – particularly in South Beach, might be a little shocking. If you’re the type to buy items at your destination rather than try to fit them in your luggage, you may want to reconsider this time.

#7. Party Atmosphere

Maybe it was because both times I went to Miami I was there to attend special events, but I can’t help but think a “party atmosphere” permeates Miami year round. Get some sleep before you arrive – you’re going to need it.

#8. Rudeness

Okay, now I didn’t personally experience this to any extreme where I would say Miami is any more rude than some other places I’ve visited, but apparently the city does have a reputation. Readers of Travel + Leisure magazine apparently voted Miami the 2nd rudest city in the nation, but you can decide for yourself.

#9. Celebrities

Miami is second in something else – celebrities. I imagine only Los Angeles has a larger movie star population, although New York might be a bit of competition. Don’t believe me? A few famous faces that make their home in Miami include Gloria Estefan, Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, and Pitbull, among others. While some celebs don’t live in Miami, many keep vacation homes there or just come to party.

Be prepared for celebrity sightings wherever you go – especially Spanish-speaking celebrities. Telemundo studios is in Miami and they’ve been known to shoot on location.

#10. Fashion

Ah, the topic you’ve been waiting for. What do you wear in Miami? I’m not a fashionista so all I can tell you is, when in doubt, use fresh, clean colors. Show some skin but be classy not trashy. Here is what some of my friends have to say.

Miami style? This chick's got it.
Image source: Alejandro Amador

“Fun dresses that are lightweight and make you look put together. Dresses that can transition from day to night with the change of shoes and accessories and that can be layered with a lightweight sweater or denim jacket for the air-conditioned indoors. Don’t forget sunblock and a killer pair of shades.” – UnknownMami.com

“Colorful. Tropical. Skin. Sexy shoes. Perfume. Lipstick. And a Smile.” – Carrie / TikiTikiBlog.com

“You can wear nice jeans and a sexy top too. Miami is tropical. Or just all black.” – MiCaminar.com

“Something colorful or flashy with a simple, but very clean look. People in Miami know how to dress.” – Chantilly / BiCulturalMom.com

Bonus Tip? Have fun! Miami awaits!

Botas Picudas … now 30% picudier!

El Trono wearing white botas picudas on the red carpet at the Latin Billboard Awards

Okay, “picudier” may officially be the ugliest Spanglish word I’ve ever made up, but let’s get on with it.

I’ve blogged about botas picudas many times now – I blogged about my first encounter with the boots and the now well-known Behind the Seams documentary. I blogged about asking a guy at Wal-Mart if I could take a picture of his botas picudas and about seeing them on the red carpet at the Latin Billboard Awards. I even went to the trouble of creating an entire page dedicated to Mexican pointy boots. What more could I possibly show you on the topic?

Well, although I would have predicted that the fad would die down by now, it seems only to have become more popular. Once DJ Erick Rincón, the king of Tribal Guarachero music, (which is what you dance to in botas picudas), got together with Sheeqo Beat and and DJ Otto to form the group 3BallMTY, they released the Inténtalo video featuring El Bebeto and América Sierra, and things seemed to take off.

Botas picudas have even been featured on the popular English-language show, Glee.

Cast of Glee wearing botas picudas

Click this screenshot to watch "The Spanish Teacher" episode of Glee on Hulu, featuring Ricky Martin and botas picudas.

A photo circulating on Facebook advertises the new Nike picudas… but I don’t think they actually exist.

Nike SB 3Ball

However, Adidas has come out with boots that you really can purchase… they aren’t pointy but I wonder what sparked the idea to create them – maybe botas picudas?

Adidas cowboy boots botas

Click the photo to read more about Adidas cowboy boots.

And of course Tribal has come to Zumba classes.

If you like Tribal (or Trival) music, plenty new danceable songs are popping up.

This one cracks me up. Is he like a Tribal Pitbull? He even throws a “Dale!” into the song… but then they end the song “El Mudo” style. Weird. (Also, yay! for women wearing the botas!)

La Cumbia Tribalera – El Pelon del Mikrophone Feat. Banda la Trakalosa & Violento

Now these guys definitely have a lot of time on their hands. Hilarious lyrics and check out their homemade botas picudas.

La Bota – La Chuzma

So what do you think? Have botas picudas and música tribal reached their limit, or are they here to stay? … It seems possible that twenty years from now we’ll be playing lotería with our nietos and someone will call out, “La Bota!… Una bota igual que la otra” – and we will search our bingo card only to see this:

loteria la bota picuda

El Salvador – Tight Jeans & Inappropriate Head Massages

Despite the ominous title, te juro – we had an amazing time in El Salvador and I have a lot to share with you. This will be the first of several posts about our adventures. I haven’t really written for two weeks, except for the notes I kept in a small book during our travels. I hope writing is like riding a bicycle, (“Once you learn, you never forget”) – because at the moment I’m finding it difficult to put any of my thoughts and emotions into words.

So much happened in such a short time, I’m not even sure where to start. As soon as I stepped off the plane I was overwhelmed with an urgency to absorb everything – every scent, sight, taste, sound, detail. It’s impossible, of course, but I tried. There was so much I couldn’t capture with my camera, but there were solid rather than poetic reasons for that. In some places/situations, the risk of theft and drawing attention to ourselves was too great – other times I didn’t pull out the camera because I don’t like to make others uncomfortable.

As much as I tried to blend in, it wasn’t possible. At the San Salvador airport, Comalapa, the man who checked over our passports before granting entry, asked Carlos if the boys and I were all his children. I had my hair down to cover my face and wore sunglasses. Carlos told him that I was his wife. I removed my sunglasses so he could compare it to the passport photo and he charged me for a tourist visa. (Carlos and the boys didn’t have to pay even though they’re all U.S. Citizens, too.)

Everywhere we went, people stared completely sin pena. I realized that while gringas married to Latin American men are becoming increasingly common here in the U.S., it’s still something of a novelty in El Salvador. Maybe many people know of a friend or cousin who immigrated to los Uniteds and married a gringa, but, (perhaps due to lack of legal paperwork) – they don’t travel back to El Salvador on vacation. (Or they travel back and don’t bring the wife with them.) I didn’t see a single gringa/Salvadoran couple, (or any interracial/intercultural couple for that matter), the entire time we were there.

I also realized that using a backpack and chanclas definitely wasn’t helping me blend in. While generalities don’t apply to everyone, I’ll say that most women I saw in El Salvador, (especially in the malls) – carried big, fancy-looking purses and wore high heels. Some of the women could barely walk in their shoes. I watched one woman nearly fall down the escalator with her baby because of her platform heels, (her friend grabbed her arm and held onto her until she regained balance.) The women also wear jeans so tight from waist to ankle that I really have no idea how they fit into them, and form fitted tops as well. In El Salvador it doesn’t matter if you’re flaca, curvy, rellenita, or gorda – Tight clothes are what you wear. It was really freeing for me to see women my size and bigger who seemed to have no shame about their panzas. Not only did they have no shame, they seemed proud, walking belly first, head held high, with plenty of confidence. When it came to fashion, there was no attempt to hide or camouflage fat like women here in the United States do.

A pretty typical outfit for a young woman in El Salvador.

I noticed that heavy make-up and thinner eyebrows are also common. I definitely felt the need to up my game while in El Salvador. With all the women walking around looking like that, the casual tourist look wasn’t cutting it. I started carrying a big purse instead of the backpack, plucked my eyebrows a little thinner, and began putting on more eye make-up than I thought was decent for daytime. I felt this helped me blend in a little, but I refused to trade my chanclas and regular fitted jeans for high heels and skin-tight pants.

And it wasn’t just the women who looked nice. Most of the men, (again, especially in shopping malls and usually in the 15-30 age range), loved to wear name brand shirts, stylish jeans, (sometimes as tight as the women’s), and either name brand sneakers or pointy-toed shoes. The most popular hairstyle among young men was definitely the faux-hawk.

(Note: Again, this was what I saw in the malls of San Salvador. Out in the markets, on the streets, in areas outside of San Salvador, with older and more religious people – the fashion tended to be more conservative.)

We spent a lot of time walking around Metrocentro, a huge multi-level mall with indoor and outdoor shopping, kiosks, food court, movie theater and a “pasarela” (pedestrian walkway over a busy road) – to connect you to the other half of the mall. I was told that Metrocentro is the “poor people mall.” When I asked how the “poor people” could afford to look so trendy, I was told they prefer to wear name brand shoes and survive on beans and tortillas for breakfast. I don’t know how true that is, but that’s what I was told.

Pasarela to Metrocentro

Carlos and the boys wait while the vendor makes our minutas.

My crema soda flavored minuta was red and tasted spicy – I have no idea why.

In the malls there was an abundance of people trying to sell me cell phones or a weekend at a resort. For the first couple days I was very polite in my response – listening to the vendor’s pitch and then issuing a “no gracias” with a smile. This of course becomes exhausting and I realized why locals just keep walking and usually say nothing.

I admit, at first I thought Salvadorans were rude because they don’t say “excuse me” – I stuck out as a gringa for this reason alone. Walking through crowds I’d say, “Con permiso” and “Perdon” multiple times. Eventually I realized, the locals weren’t being rude, it’s just accepted that with this many people in a small area, you will get bumped and brushed, elbowed and stepped on, by strangers. It’s accepted that you can’t give everyone personal space, (Americans love their bubble of personal space but in El Salvador, be prepared for that bubble to be burst.) … No one says “excuse me” because it would be exhausting to apologize to every person you touched.

Most Salvadorans you encounter working in stores and restaurants provide excellent customer service. You’ll always be greeted warmly with a Buenos días/Buenas tardres/Buenas noches. If you say “gracias” – it will always be met with an “a la orden.” People will thank you for your patronage and wish you “Buen día” – and Carlos was often referred to as “caballero” – (gentleman.) In fact, there was one woman who was too friendly with Carlos and it made me very uncomfortable.

After a week in El Salvador, Carlos’s hair already needed a trim, so I insisted we stop somewhere to get him a haircut. We found a place in Metrocentro and went in to inquire. The cost of the haircut was $6 and apparently it included a massage that seemed, at least to this gringa, to be really inappropriate. You should have seen the way she was touching his head. I think she enjoyed it more than Carlos did. Carlos, to his credit, was very uncomfortable and told her several times that the massage wasn’t necessary. The boys and I sat watching in shock as the young woman massaged Carlos’s head for a good ten minutes. She looked at me while she was doing it, smiled slyly, and started laughing as she continued a conversation with Carlos, asking him if it felt good, etc. A friend later assured us that the massage is a normal part of the haircut and Carlos didn’t receive special treatment. I got over the jealousy after about 15 minutes but for the rest of the trip I teased Carlos saying it was only fair for me to go get my hair cut by a man.

A lot of time was spent absorbing all these cultural differences and then sorting out the resulting thoughts and emotions. Thankfully this time of adjustment didn’t cause me to shutdown the way it did last time I went to El Salvador. During our time there, I was quite often pensive, (as well as fighting a flu which locals insisted was “allergy to the climate”) – but I was always happy. It helped to know the boys, and even Carlos, were trying to make sense of everything right along with me.