Posts in Family Lifestyle
Family Lifestyle | Holiday traditions

I thought I’d make this post a little personal. 

I remember being in middle school and feeling self conscious about being Mexican. Specifically during the holidays. I guess that’s when I realized that my peers started to see me as being different.  

During one holiday I was shocked when I was asked “Do you even celebrate Christmas?” 

I wondered why someone would even ask me that, of course I celebrate Christmas. Why wouldn’t I? 

But they kept pressing. Well what do you eat? Tacos? Do you have a tree? What did you eat for Thanksgiving? 

I was young so I was just surprised and annoyed by these questions. However I wasn’t the kind of person who showed much emotion so I answered these questions and I kept my confusion to myself.

It wasn’t until I was older and had kids of my own that I realized that the kid’s from my middle school years just didn’t have any understanding of other cultures. No one had told them the beauty of other traditions. They just knew or heard about a few differences and made assumptions.  I was their way of satisfying their curiosity.

I’m ok with that now, I just wish I had been a little wiser, and more secure in myself to answer their questioning.

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Again, I’d like to talk about how important it is to have conversations like this as a family. Conversations, not only explaining and talking through your own culture, but also exploring and appreciating other cultures in an uplifting way.  If we want to shift the entitled, and elitist way of thinking then it has to start with us teaching and having meaningful conversations with our children. It’s their future that we need to protect. One that isn’t filled will shock and fear of the unknown, but one of unity, possibility, and excitement.

Anyway I thought I’d share a few traditions we have as a family during the holidays. 

1. Tamales: My grandfather used to spend all day making tamales. We would eat them for days. Even though he doesn’t make them anymore, we still have tamales for Christmas. We buy so many, and have them for leftovers for the rest of the week. I remember sweet tamales (strawberry & raisin) being a treat during the holiday season.

2. Chocolate caliente: Now this is my favorite thing ever. As soon as the weather starts getting chilly, the kids start asking for chocolate caliente. I usually make it when we decorate the Christmas tree and we have it as a special treat every so often. It’s always a little bit of a process because I like to get it frothy (like it should be). Having it with pan Mexicano is also a must. I’ve shared the recipe before if you want to try it for yourself.

3. New pijamas (or pajamas) and movie. We do this on Christmas Eve every year. The kids get to open one gift, which is a new pair of pajamas. They change and get cozy while I make popcorn and chocolate caliente, and we watch The Polar Express.

Our traditions are simple…and probably similar to mane people. (Well…maybe not the tamales…but my husband does like this tradition I bring to our family.)

Now I’d love to hear of any fun traditions you either remember and loved as a kid, or are starting with your own family. It’s so wonderful to see how people celebrate this special time with their friends and family. SO share in the comments below, or join the conversation on Instagram!

Family LifestyleKarina Metts
A recap from my trip to Mexico

Scheduling a trip to Mexico on the only free weekend I had in months was a crazy idea. Because I was only going to be there for a few days I tried to do all the things, while not really being tied to a specific schedule. Yeah…it made sense in my head…but as I write it out, it sounds a little silly.

I had the pleasure of going with my father this time. We both had never been to Puebla Mexico, and it had been such a long time since he’d been to Mexico City, so it was going to be an adventure for both of us. I was so excited because it had been a decade since we’ve traveled together. We used to go to Mexico every year when I was in college, but since graduating it had been a while since we went on a trip together. This was the highlight of my trip. We really are good friends, and share the same sarcasm that makes us laugh.

I did learn a few things from this trip that in the long run will be valuable for planning in the future especially if my purpose is to take pictures. I’ll share them with you.

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  1. If it’s a short trip, focus on one place at a time.

Since we only had 4 days, I had decided to do 2 days in Puebla, and 2 days in Mexico City. Well I realized, this is not enough time to really get to know a city. The first day I was just taking it all in. The second day, I planned a food tour with Rocio (if you don’t follow her, you’re missing out). She is a very knowledgeable food guide that also shares the rich history of Puebla. I was hanging on her every word all day, and was pretty stuffed by the end of the tour. I learned so much on this tour, but it also didn’t give me enough extra time to take pictures and spend time in each area.

The same happened in Mexico City. The first day we explored around our hotel and walked for miles and miles around the center. The second day we made a trip to the pyramids and some parks. We hoped to end at this beautiful lake during sunset. The only thing I didn’t factor in was travel time and traffic. We spend most of the time in the car and didn’t get to do everything we wanted.

So next time I’ll definitely spend more than 2 days in a city.

2. Stay in or near the center.

In Puebla, we stayed about 20 minutes outside of the main town at Fiesta Americana Grand, a really great hotel. One of my favorites. However, the extra time it took to travel in and out was too much. I felt like I was missing time shooting due to travel.

When I take pictures I like to be up and ready to shoot around sunrise. I take pictures for about an hour, and can go back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the day. This morning shoot time wasn’t easy with a hotel that was a drive out.

While I LOOOOVED this hotel, staying close to the main center is something I’ll make sure happens next time.

3. Research before we go, but plan for a free day.

I definitely did some planning for our time in Puebla. Like I mentioned above, the food tour we did was a great investment and will do it again when I go back. However, I should’ve planned for more time to explore and just wander around the city.

Likewise, I had planned for too much free time to wander in Mexico City. I didn’t prepare enough ahead of time to know what I wanted to do. It wasn’t until I was there that I planned things to do on our second day. But by that time I felt like I was trying to plan too much, and ended up not being where I wanted to be when the sun set.

At the end it’s a fine like between preparing and having time to just enjoy the city.

These 3 things are great things for me to have learned. It will make the next trips even better. The time with my father was priceless. We really did have a lot of fun, and we learned a lot about Puebla, Mexico City, and the surrounding areas. We also learned a lot about our history and culture. I’m overflowing with information and can’t wait to share with you in the coming blogs! And if you’re not following me on insta…I share a lot more info, and a lot more frequently on there.


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The story behind the brand

Hi there! I'm Karina.

If you've been around for a while you know I'm a photographer that has a passion for sharing my Mexican culture with others through beautiful, ready-to-hang prints for your home. However, I'm ready to go a little deeper.

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I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. My mother stayed home with my sister & I, and my father worked his hardest to provide a great life for us. He is a self-made entrepreneur and has pretty much taken classes to do just about anything. If he didn't know how to do something, he went to school to learn. He taught me that education and knowledge are my greatest assets, and that I should never stop learning.

While I'm obviously Mexican-American, it was always a tricky balance to be Mexican enough...but not too Mexican. 

Can anyone relate? Spanish was my first language, and my father always pushed me to speak it as much as I could. On the other hand, in school it was treated like a game. As kids shouted out words in english they would make me teach them the Spanish word. Over, and over again.

Situations like this happened often.

I know there are more people like me, who were raised in a Mexican home, but were pushed into the American culture as soon as they walked out of the house. It's hard to balance both, but I want to share my journey now as I raise bi-racial kids and help them navigate and be proud of their cultures. 

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I am so thankful for my parents who gave everything for their children.

My father keeps on inspiring me with his desires to learn and grow, as well as his constant flow of generosity with everyone he meets. He truly sees the maximum potential in people, and will do anything to help bring that out in them.

My mother always made sure we worked to our fullest potential. She also built a safe home for us and encouraged us through every extra-curricular activity, and is now doing the same for my children.

These values are what I want to share and pass on. While I'm going to enjoy sharing about Mexican traditions, family vacations, I'm going to love passing down lessons, and encouraging others based on how I was raised.

My first encounter with racism was when I was 5. I was coming home on the bus from kindergarten. I had already found my seat, but the bus continued filling. A girl, a few years older came and sat down next to me. After a few seconds, she turns to me and asks, "Are you Mexican?" I nod my head yes. "Oh ok. My parents said I can't sit next to a Mexican," she said, as she got up to find another seat.

I realize that that kind of thinking starts in the home.

They learn from the examples around them. If I lead with kindness and love I know they will then treat others with kindness and love. I think it's so great for them to have my husband as an example of a white male who is supportive of who I am, with a humble, compassionate and understanding of his role in the world. He is able to help both my son and daughter navigate through life with a different perspective and awareness for the privilege they will have. Hopefully they will take both of our experiences and backgrounds to help advocate for others.

I never thought I would be a homeschool mom.

But here I am, the director of a homeschool community, talking to people for hours and hours about it. This is a part of my life that I tend to be more private about. I'll be completely honest and say that it's in some part because of guilt and shame.

The homeschool community from what I know is largely white. I always saw it as something privileged, conservative, pretentious families did. It's been a journey for me to even be able to talk about this openly.

When we had kids, my husband worked full-time, and I worked part-time as a wedding photographer. We still do. That means that I worked a lot of evenings and weekends. My husband works during the days. With that schedule, when the kids became school age, I would not see them very much due to our opposite schedules. That was the number one reason I decided to homeschool.

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Now that I've been homeschooling for 4 years, I've come to appreciate it, and really feel like it's an amazing opportunity that gives us a huge amount of freedom as a family, but also for the kids to pursue their passions individually.

While I am a huge advocate for homeschooling, I also know that it's a privilege and not everyone has the same opportunities to do it. I think the most important part about having any sort of privilege is living through it with humility and responsibility. I hope my children use their education and talents to bless others.

I know I still have a lot of preconceived notions to work through as a homeschool type-A, public school raised mom, but I want this to be a platform to be honest about our journey and encourage others who are on the same path.

The arts weren't looked at as a career choice.

Who else can relate to parents wanting them to go for an MBA or to become a lawyer or a doctor. I'm sure parents always have the highest of hopes and the best intentions, but as soon as I discovered photography, and was able to build a business with it, I knew this was my path.

In the past year I've been wanting to shift the wedding photography business to something that gave me more flexibility with my schedule, and that also came from my heart. I communicate best with photographs and stories, so after going to Mexico for a workshop, I was energized and felt this responsibility to share my culture with the world. It's frustrating how Mexicans can be portrayed, especially when I grew up with such vibrant, relaxing, family-oriented, and beautiful experiences of Mexico and the people there. There are so many things in America that people don't realize have come from or at least been inspired by Mexico.

I want to travel Mexico telling it's story through pictures that can then be brought into the home as an encouragement, a conversation starter, and something that makes you feel like home.

 

 

 

 

As I take a deeper dive into my heritage I'll be bringing you and my family along for the ride. I'm excited for the conversations that will stem from this.

As I move from Karina Mora Prints to Karina Mora I want to share more of who I am, and connect with other people who have had the same experiences as me, or who are trying to find their way along as they raise bi-racial kids.

This is going to be an amazing time.

Thank you for reading this, and I'm excited to connect with you! Leave a comment below and let me know what resonates with you. And if you're in the Chicago area maybe we can hang over drinks...or if you're in Mexico, tell me where you're from so I can visit you!


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Coco Inspired Birthday Party
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My son Elias turned 5 years old on April 11th. Every year for my kid's birthdays I let them pick a theme, which is usually what they're really into that year, and I plan a big party around it. They LOVE looking at pinterest boards with me, and brainstorming ideas. 

This year, I was especially excited when Elias wanted to have a "Coco" themed birthday party. We saw Coco in theaters in November and I was actually surprised by how much he loved it. I was surprised because he was the kid who refused to speak Spanish at Spanish camp last year. He also doesn't like any Mexican food other than quesadillas and chips.

So, when he himself decided on a Mexican birthday party I was like ok, I'm running with it, and going all out...within reason, of course. 

 
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Elias had also asked for ONE specific thing for the party; a Coco cake. I usually make the dessert, but he really wanted one after seeing it on pinterest (thanks a lot pinterest) I knew I couldn't pull it off, so I ordered one from Pastel! Cakes and More and was blown away by how it turned out. Elias screamed with such joy when he saw it.

I also asked my friend Veronica to make cake pops for favors. I just want to say these are the best cake pops I've ever had. I usually don't like cake pops, but these were amazing...and a perfect cake topper for the cake. 

The rest of the menu:

Guacamole, agua de horchata, arroz, beans, quesadillas, barbacoa & carnitas from a local grocery store, and Palomas that Michael mixed toward the end of the evening.

Everything was delicious.  

 
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I worked hard to transform our living room to a space that felt like Mexico. I displayed some of my pieces on the wall, and hung papel picado across our ceiling. Elena helped me decorate one wall with the quote from one of the songs in the movie; "Our love for each other will live on forever" It was great.

I also made a mural as the backdrop of the bridge from the movie between the land of the living and the land of the dead. It took me a few days, but with the help of my friend I think it came together nicely. At least Elias was impressed, which made it worth it. 

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We had his friends over to break a pinata, and watch the movie Coco of course. They had a nice time hanging out and eating all the sweets they could get. We celebrated with family in the evening too, so it really was a day full of good food, celebration, and lots of love for Elias. 

This birthday was so great that Elias is already asking for a Coco birthday party for next year. 

 

 


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My personal review of Pixar's newest movie: 'Coco'.

This Thanksgiving I was so excited to take the family to see Pixar's newest film 'Coco'. I first heard about it in October, when I saw an ad on a billboard while driving Elena back from ballet class. I immediately looked up the trailer (well once I got home...not while I was driving) and started reading up as much as I could about this new movie coming out. It was then that I decided this would be our holiday movie. It had the promise of being amazing. I was super proud that this was actually a thing, but skeptical, due to the possibility of them "messing it up" by making it super Americanized. 

Regardless, we went to the theater on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Now I can confidently say, I LOVE this movie so much, but here are the TWO main reasons why:

1. The main character is a great role model for my son. 

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I go out of my way to make sure I empower my daughter. I'm always looking for books, movies, youtube videos, shows, anything that will inspire her in her talents and character. 

Sometimes I forget to do the same for my son.

When 'Elena of Avalor' came out last year I went a little crazy in my excitement that Elena not only had a Mexican Disney character that looked like her, but had the SAME name. 

My son doesn't usually mind, and even encourages Elena in everything she does, but I do go out of my way to tell Elena how proud I am of her, and it breaks my heart when he asks, "are you proud of me too mom?" 

So when I saw that Miguel, the main character resembled my son, I built up the hype for him. And this character did not disappoint. There have been many times Disney's representation of male roles is to be macho and more of a muscly tough guy. However, Miguel is a little boy who is passionate about following his dreams, shows compassion for his family and his stray pet. And, while he's strong, you can see the process he goes to understand the difference between right and wrong. The love he has for his family is true to Mexican family values, and that is who I want Elias to aspire to be. Compassionate, humble, passionate, and loving. 

2. The depiction of the Mexican culture around the holiday Dia de los Muertos is authentically amazing.

I was blown away by the color, and representation of the little Mexican town. Even in the Land of the Dead we see references to iconic Mexican artists. It was the little details that helps this movie reach several generations of the people who watch it. 

Especially in this political climate, the timing of this movie couldn't have been better. It's very encouraging and gives Mexican's pride of the culture that is being attacked in the media. I launched this new business to share more about my culture through art and stories. Since watching this movie, I've been even more encouraged and proud to have made this shift. 

I've found some great articles since Coco came out. People are realizing how representation matters, and how inclusion in hollywood has been huge. It's even inspiring to see how the movie 'Coco' came to be.

This is my current favorite animated movie, which is saying a lot because being born in the late 80's I've seen them all starting with 'The Little Mermaid'. 

Things to think about before seeing 'Coco'

It is a very emotional movie. I wanted to cry in the first 10 seconds of seeing Mexico represented so beautifully on the big screen. The whole story is about a family's bond even after someone dies.  The concept of death, specifically family member's deaths is the whole premise of the movie. 

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The plot twist involves deception and murder. These thematic elements could be a bit strong depending on how your child processes things. My daughter Elena is extremely sensitive and empathetic. She cried through the last 20 minutes of the movie. Once the villain was revealed she could barely contain her empathy for Miguel, the main character. She sat in my lap and cried. I insisted she finished the whole movie so that she could have the piece of mind that it ended on a positive note. She also has a hard time thinking about death especially when it comes to family members (really, who doesn't) but still, week's after she's seen the movie, it's still hard for her to process it all. My son on the other hand, who is two years younger was perfectly fine the whole time and really enjoyed the movie. 

Let's take it back 20 years and talk about how I'm still traumatized from the scene where Simba watches his father Mufasa fall to his death. And come on, Scar blaming the murder on Simba, that's just cold. The Lion King is a movie I probably won't let Elena watch because she's so empathetic, but I also think the difference between people being vengeful and murderous is a little harder to take in than animals doing the same thing. So be prepared to possibly have some hard conversations with your kids about death.

All in all, this movie is AMAZING. I can't wait to watch it again, and again, and again. 

If you see one animated movie over the holidays, make it this one. And then leave a comment below to tell me what you think. 


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Family LifestyleKarina Metts