4 Cool Back-to-School Ideas | Blog Amigas

It is no surprise that I gained three life-long friends when I went on the American Latino Expedition as the #LatinaBlogstars last year. There is nothing like really getting to know someone while spending a week on a trip doing things you never thought you would ever do -- hiking up to a national monument in the hundred degree blazing sun, wearing slightly awkward camping gear and jumping off a boat into a crystal blue lake, not knowing how deep it is. Along with Monique Frausto, Nicole Presley and Kathy Cano-Murillo, we laughed, we cried and we built a life-long friendship based on our experience together.

To me, that is the best part of it all.

Ever since we returned from the majestic beauty of Glen Canyon, we've been continually drawn to one another in our creative businesses, family, blogging and life. I love that I have friends who are on their grind -- creating, writing, making delicious food and living life to the fullest. They make me want to do better. I suddenly don't feel so isolated in this blogging world because I know there are real, genuine people behind the computer and the dot coms. And I can bounce any ideas off of these three lovely ladies and I know they'll give it to me straight.

After a day of filming at YouTube Space LA.


Back-to-school style: Braid Updo + DIY Oilcloth Barrettes

Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with JOHNSON’S® NO MORE TANGLES® and Latina Bloggers Connect. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

When I was a little girl, I used to have major battles with my mom about my hair. Every morning I would hop on a stool and hold on for dear life as she tried to comb out my knots -- I always had a ton -- and after parting my hair down the middle, she created two of the tightest ponytails you ever saw on a little girl. Sometimes she made two French braids. Other times, I had Princess Leia buns. You get the idea -- my hair was always on lock down. I was not allowed to let my hair be "free" until I was in middle school.

To this day, my mom still orders me to "put your hair up or something!"

But since I am a grown woman now, I reserve the right to say, "No, I don't want to wear my hair up, thank you very much." As you probably guessed, hair rituals have always been a big deal for me.

Now that I'm a mom to two young girls, karma is a funny thing. I find myself constantly asking them: are you going to do something with your hair, Miss Thang?

My youngest daughter Xiomara was blessed with a head full of thick, straight hair. She's been great at learning how to comb and style her own hair (she's 8), but I noticed she wasn't washing her hair properly and her hair looked a little dull and dry. After some gentle coaching, she does a great job washing and conditioning her hair. I've also taught her apply a creamy leave-in conditioner from the new JOHNSON’S No More Tangles® line. The extra moisturizing helps release all of the snarls and tangles and leaves it silky and smelling divine.

We liked the JOHNSON’S No More Tangles® Shampoo & Conditioner for thick/curly hair.


How to: Tie-Dye Ombre Shoes

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post with Blueprint Social. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

With back to school right around the corner, I wanted to diy an inexpensive pair of shoes for my daughter so she'd have something cute and unique to wear on her first day of school at our charter school's learning center. And since her mama is the art teacher, of course it would have to be something fun and bright and nothing says fun and bright more than tie dye! Tie Dye Your Summer has been in full swing and now is my chance to join in on the fun.

So let's diy some shoes, friends. More importantly, ombré shoes!

The artist in me loves ombré. I love the delicate, painterly vibe it brings and I'm happy the trend has been around for a while now. I've used this technique with watercolor and acrylic paint, but never with dye. When I Love to Create sent me some of their Tulip One-Step Tie Dye, I knew I had to try it. I used some on this project and loved the results, so I was eager to try it on a pair of shoes. I really like the One Step because the dye is permanent and color-fast and the color doesn't fade in the wash, which is great.

What you'll need:
Tulip One-Step Tie Dye Kit
canvas shoes
paint brush
2-3 small containers for water
Optional: spray bottle (filled with water), painter's tape (to tape off sole of shoe)

The One-Step Tie Dye Kit contains three colors. I loved the Vibrant kit because of the Violet and Lime. Follow the instructions on the box -- it's so easy, guys. The powdered dye is already in the plastic bottles and all you have to do is add water and shake. That's it!


Blogging: Why I won't work for free anymore

Warning: If you're not a blogger, then you might want to sit this one out.

Please come back tomorrow when I'll have a fun post up about a cute back-to-school hair style for girls and I'm feeling less salty.

If you're still reading, let's get it cracking. I want to talk about bloggers and brands who want bloggers to do shit for free.

This "I don't work for free" tweet that designer Dan Cassaro shared outing Showtime got me going.

Let me start this off by saying I've been blogging since 2006. Yes, you can go back and read through my archives but I should warn you -- I didn't believe in page breaks and paragraphs back then. Anyhow, I blogged for a solid four years without making a dime. No brands, no sponsors, no ads -- just me pounding on a keyboard for shits and giggles. It wasn't until 2010 that I started to earn a paycheck for my writing from BabyCenter. Soon after I began to discover I could actually make a living doing this blogging thing.

And I think I'd be pretty successful at it too, if brands weren't always trying to get me to create content for free.

As in, no money.
Sin dólares.
No check.
No gift card.
Nothing to help me pay my bills.
Nothing to feed my six kids with.
Nothing to show for the time I spent writing, researching, adding links and assets, taking photos, editing photos, etc.
Nothing to show for the time spent away from my family.
Nothing to show for the sleep that I didn't get because I was up all night writing, which is what stay-at-home-and-work-from-home-mom bloggers usually do.
Just some lint when I dug in my pockets.


DIY: Mexican Fabric Bangle Bracelets

Bangles and bracelets, you can never have too many. I'm a jeans and tee kind of gal, so brightly colored bangles give my style a little bit of oomph.

I'm really loving the Mexican fabric trend happening right now. Thing is...if you're Mexican-American (like me)...this isn't a trend -- it's real life! Hah. We've been using Mexican fabric for as long as I can remember: blankets, table runners, pillows, tablecloths, rebozos and beach blankets.

That said, seeing it on various design sites, the runway and indie boutiques on Instagram is kind of funny. There is nothing new under the sun, is there?

I guess you could say people are finally seeing the beauty of Mexican fabric. A couple years ago I got to visit San José del Cabo, Mexico and one of the highlights was the fabric store. I don't sew, but I loved how colorful the fabric was so I bought several yards. My motto usually is: buy it now and figure out what to do with it later. It's served me well.

To make your own Mexican fabric bangles, you'll need this:

various Mexican fabric
unfinished wooden bangles or repurpose old bangles


Drip & drizzle with Wilton Candy Melts

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Wilton. As always, the opinions are completely my own.

Mmmm, chocolate.

I love chocolate as much as the next person. In a candy bar, a cup of cocoa, in a round truffle or tiny chips in a cookie -- you can't beat the deliciousness of chocolate. Because it's so rich, I've discovered that just a small amount satisfies my cravings. Dipping something into chocolate is right up my alley.

Good thing, too. I recently got to spend an afternoon dripping and drizzling with some of my foodie friends as we tried out some Wilton Candy Melts® and the Candy Melts® Melting Pot. It's super easy to use and I love how you can clean up without too much hassle by letting the chocolate cool down and harden, then popping it out of the pot. The Melting Pot is totally going to be my secret weapon during the holidays when I plan on making lots of yummy stuff for our family get-togethers. And Valentine's Day! Yes. We have a family tradition of melted chocolate and yummy stuff to dip so this is going to be perfect. Perf I tell you.


Frida Kahlo-Inspired: Blue Patio Wall

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Sherwin-Williams. As usual, all thoughts and opinion are 100% my own.

I’ve always had a deep love for Mexican artist Frida Kahlo but that's no surprise. I've been sharing my love of Frida on my blog since the very beginning. The fact is, I discovered her at the tender age of 18 and I’ve been obsessed ever since. I've had the pleasure of seeing her work in person and it always hits me in the feels.

It's delicate and fragile, just as I imagine she was. But it's also as powerful as the Earth--just like Frida was, too. She was her own person, outspoken and unique, yet trapped in a broken body.

Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón was born on July 7, 1907 in Coyoacán, Mexico. She died on July 13, 1954. I’ve come to think of July as Frida’s month -- her paintings, her face, her style, her life, her home--it captivates me.

Frida's home in Mexico, La Casa Azul, has always been on my bucket list. I'll get there someday soon. Inspired by the Blue House, I decided to bring a little bit of Frida to my own home.
Image source: Flickr / Kieran McGlone
Since we live in Southern California, we spent a lot of time outdoors. My kids skate and my husband paints while we hang out in our patio. We have a large cinder block wall that really needed some love. Check out the remnants of painted sky and a word cloud over in the corner.

Since it’s still July and I’ve been embracing everything Frida, I decided to search for the perfect blue color -- one that would make me feel like I was visiting La Casa Azul.


Road tripping: Santa Barbara and the Lincoln MKC

Disclosure: This trip was courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

When a friend messages you and asks if you can sneak away with her for a quick road trip to Santa Barbara to experience the new 2015 Lincoln MKC for a couple days, you say yes.

Yes, yes, yes.

I've been to Santa Barbara before, back when I was the mother to three small fries. We just piled them in the car and drove. We ended up staying in a funky motel, eating way too much fast food and walking along State Street. We bought the boys these Rasta-colored crocheted beanies from a vendor on a corner. Santa Barbara is beautiful, that much I can remember. I can assure you, my trip to Santa Barbara this time around was much different.

Together with my sweet friend Monique Frausto from Motor Chicas, we left L.A and its heavy layer of smog behind. The charming homes and cool, sea air of Santa Barbara greeted us. We had the pleasure of staying at the Belmond El Encanto and I have to say that it was amazing.

Like, I want to live there and never come back amazing. Seriously.

El Encanto walkway that leads to the pool and a view of Santa Barbara.


Birkenstocks never went out of style

I've always had a thing for Birkenstocks. What can I say? I'm a total 90's babe.

Funny thing is, I never wore them in the 90's. I coveted them, yes. But I was a struggling artist / college student and the idea of forking over $100 and some change for a pair of sandals was out of my league. Nevermind the fact that they were excellent quality and offered great support for people with miserably flat feet like mine, I just couldn't swing it. All of my art teachers wore them, of course. So, I just continued coveting them.

I totally wore the fake ones. Faux-Birks. Probably with socks. Oh yeh, fake Birks and socks all day, baby.

Fast forward a few years and I was now a young mother to four little boys. Deep in my crunchy phase, wearing Mexican peasants tops, I never did my hair, I made my own shampoo and hemorrhoid cream, used a serape purse, fed my kids goat milk and gave birth to my babies in a tub in the middle of my kitchen. I believe it was 2002. I finally got my hands on a pair of Birkenstocks.


No more "summer brain": 7 fun & educational titles on Netflix

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post as part of the Netflix Stream Team. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

We are right in the middle of summer and all of the beach trips, late night BBQ's, swimming and sleeping in has given us "summer brain".  I don't know about you but when it's really hot out (we often have temps as high as 107 degrees in the summer), I like to keep my home dark and cool with the help of the a/c on full tilt. We watch movies on Netflix and stay cool, fool.

Here are a few titles from Netflix to help kickstart some brain activity -- if we're going to lounge around and watch movies, they might as well be educational, right? A few that caught my eye recently:

  1.  Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West
  2. Walking with Dinosaurs
  3. Secret Yellowstone
  4. Blackfish
  5. The Blue Planet
  6. When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions
  7. Food, Inc.


When your teenager turns into a different person overnight

Life with a teenager is hard, but I already told you that.

I guess it just hasn't really hit me until my third son seemingly turned into a different person overnight. For the most part, my 15 and 16 year old are the same, albeit taller and more hairy. But Solomon, my 13 year old, must have got the teenager memo. Dear Lord baby Jesus help me. 

One minute he was staying up late painting with me, cooking omelettes for the family and cuddling with us on the sofa. Then...he wasn't. Instead, he was rolling his eyes. Ignoring his chores. Headphones strapped to his ears all day so he could never hear us. Wearing the same stinky Nirvana tee for days. Not caring about school, his homework, his siblings. Taking off on his skateboard, like he couldn't stand being around his family another minute.

He almost had me in tears one day. Not almost -- I cried. Real hot, fat tears that I hid behind my glasses.


11 "Uncommon" summer gift ideas from Uncommon Goods

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in partnership with Uncommon Goods. All thoughts are my own.

I love giving and receiving unique gifts. The only problem is, I rarely get them.

Don't get me wrong--I love practical gifts (and yes, I appreciate them, mother). Lord knows I'm the queen of giving practical gifts. But if I'm on the receiving end...something different -- uncommon, if you will -- sounds just right. So I usually just buy what I want for myself. Just cut out the middle man and get what you want. Amirite?

I was recently introduced to Uncommon Goods, a Brooklyn-based company that offers up cool and unique gifts for people with their eye out for something that makes a statement, like myself. Uncommon Goods has a good mix of fun stuff -- I wasn't disappointed! Here eleven fun ideas for summer that totally caught my eye:
1. ceramic fish bones 2. embroidered bird pouch 3. cheese & crackers serving board 4. gilded amethyst paperweight 5. fern frond earrings 6. watermelon serving bowl 7. succulent living wall planter kit 8. bloom box 9. personalized mixed tape pillow 10. flavor infuser water bottle 11. handmade lidded basket hamper


Happy 107th birthday, Frida Kahlo

To my muse, Frida Kahlo, I bid you the happiest of birthdays.


This is one of the many reasons why I love Frida Kahlo so much, why I find myself so inextricably drawn to her.

We are all broken.

Despite our broken state, we still have to keep living. We still have to love. We still have to create and make beautiful things. She did this in the midst of great pain and suffering.

The wonderful thing about this? All of the beautiful things Frida made are still alive, even if she isn't.

Happy birthday, Frida.

Follow Denise Cortes | Pearmama.com's board Frida Kahlo | The Muse on Pinterest.


Frida Kahlo | Body Cast Printable

With July comes the celebration of the birth and death of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Frida was born on July 6, 1907 and she died on July 15, 1954. I tend to go overboard with Frida-inspired art every July but I just love Frida so much, guys. I can't help myself.

Anyhow, Frida experienced a tragic streetcar accident at the age of 18, when a trolley collided with the bus she was riding. She broke her back and pelvis, fractured her collarbone and two ribs, and her right foot was crushed and her right leg broken in eleven places. Pobre Frida. She had many, many surgeries throughout her life to try to mend her body and the disabling effects of the accident.

It left Frida to live a life of continual pain, and she spent three months recovering in a full body cast. In typical, Mexican, artista, feminist, creative Frida fashion, she decided to transform her body cast by painting it.

Photo credit: Collector's Weekly
I recently attended the Frida Kahlo, Her Photos exhibit at MOLAA in Long Beach. They had the coolest make-and-take project called "Create a cast", based on Frida's streetcar accident. Small black and white drawings of Frida and a plain white body cast sat on a table. I'm sure they were meant as a child's activity, but soon enough, my husband and I sat down, grabbed a marker and started to draw.

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