Abuela’s 17 Most Important Life Hacks
In honor of Cinco de Mayo I wanted to celebrate my amazing grandma, my Abuela. Although she is from Cuba and not Mexico, she represents Abuelas from all Latin American countries in that she marches to the beat of her own drummer and has a very unique set of life rules. Among them? Trash is not necessarily trash, stray animals enjoy rice, beans and pork, and aloe plants can save your life. Here, 17 of her top, ridiculously creative life hacks…
1. Wash the yogurt cups
With the resourcefulness only a woman who lived in Cuba during the Revolution can understand, saving everything is a way of life. One of Abuela’s signature moves is washing the yogurt cups then using them to drink water from, regardless of the fact that she has multiple sets of glasswear.
2. Why buy it if it’s free?
One of my grandma’s food hacks is to mix ketchup, soy sauce, duck sauce (packets of course) and a bit of honey for a delicious chicken marinade. I have to say it’s seriously good.
3. Entertain endless guests
A good Latin woman knows guests can arrive at any time. Somehow these people are related to my family, even if it just means they lived down the street from a great aunt five decades ago. To stay on top of it, espresso is always ready for Abuela to turn into delicious Cuban coffee, with a sugary foam on top of course.
4. The US Mail Service is more laid back than you think
When the price of stamps went up a few cents my Abuela did what anyone else trying to send a letter would do…glue two pennies to the envelope. And guess what? It made it!
5. Add a little decor
My Abuela loves to cut the round parts off egg cartons and turn them into little flowers which she attaches to the trees and shrubbery in front of her house. She will also use egg cartons to fix things like picture frames or chairs.
6. Window screen broken? Just sew it!
If you look closely enough you will find some of her handiwork on the screens in her house.
7. Cardboard is an excellent communication system
My grandma leaves notes on her porch for visitors. If she steps out and someone passes by then they’ll know where she is and when she expects to be back!
8. Play the lottery everyday
For my Abuela the lottery is a way of life. She plays it religiously every single day and buys a ticket for myself, my sister and my brother. It’s nice to know that any moment now I could be collecting a huge check thanks to her devotion to the contest.
9. Aloe and honey cure all ailments
If my grandma hears you cough she comes at you with a spoon of honey. Aloe, on the hand, can cure everything from cancer to allergies. Also, my Abuela is famous for her concoctions, which she would make for us when we were sick. These strongly flavored potions include honey, aloe, garlic and other aromatic herbs. It was disgusting but I always felt better.
10. Light candles for the dead
My grandma honors the deceased members of my huge Cuban family (she is one of 11, and one of those kids alone had 14), with flowers, candles, pennies, rosaries and other religious items. While it may be nice in theory, it can be scary waking up in a guest room to the faces of the dead.
11. Calendars never expire
For Abuela, calendars are useful far beyond the year they are intended. She likes to save those with nice pictures and use them as décor or window coverings.
12. Play games
Life is too short not to spend it playing games. My Abuela loves dominos, Parcheesi, and her newest favorite is Bingo!
13. PUZZLES give you life
Abuela is literally obsessed with puzzles in an unbelievable way. She loves to glue them together when she is done and hang them around the house. She thinks that they look like paintings and that no one will notice it’s actually a puzzle and not a Rembrandt. Should she lose a piece along the way? She will just color that sucker in.
14. Sazón is everything
It’s ALL about the flavors (aka SAZÓN!) and my Abuela is an absolute MASTER of creating deliciousness in the kitchen
15. There are a few non-negotiable rules that we do not question
No hats on beds, no rocking chairs rocking alone and absolutely no stepping over someone who is on the ground because they will stop growing. Also, if there’s thunder and lightening outside you should burn dried palms, that will stop it.
16. Branches and seeds are the gifts that keep giving
Abuela believes that nature can’t be owned. Plants are definitely not private property and she has amassed quite a collection of shrubbery from various places we’ve visited through the years: from Niagara Fall to Portugal, to my neighbor’s front yard.
17. ”Tranquila y Tropical”
My grandmother’s life motto, which literally means “relaxed and tropical,” is to roll with the punches and be unattached to all material possessions. She will literally give anyone the shirt of her back. Whenever I’m stressed I think of her and it helps calm me down.
While some of her life rules may seem a little out there, my Abuela is the most spirited person I know! She lives every day without regret and embraces every single moment. Besitos Abuelita!