Category Archives: Book of Days Calendar

Harvest, or Your November Book of Days

Halloween is past, and now we are fully immersed in the Days of the Dead: All Saints Day today (Ognissanti in Italian) and on Thursday, All Souls Day, Dia de Los Muertos. As you can tell by the different languages, remembering those who have passed at this time of year is a custom across various cultures, but no where is the custom as big as it is in Mexico. What is common across the board is that this is a time of celebration, of celebrating life, and that is a pretty wonderful thing.

One of the aspects of the celebration in Mexico is Pan de Muertos: Bread of the Dead. In my family, we bake a delicious version just slightly sweet, flavored with cinnamon and anise seeds. Our recipe is below. It’s a wonderful way to mark the day, and to remember all who have come and gone. Bread of life. Celebration of life.

And since it is the start of a new month, we have our monthly gift to you, as well, and here is the November edition of your Convivio Book of Days calendar. The calendar is a nice companion to the blog, a printable PDF on standard letter size paper. Have a lovely month. And now, here’s that recipe. Each year, my mom says the same thing: “Why do we make this just once a year?” And then another year goes by before we make it again. All things in their time.

PAN de MUERTOS
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, cut into 8 pieces (or shortening)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup very warm water
2 eggs
3 cups flour, unsifted

1. Bring milk to a boil. Remove from heat, then stir in butter, sugar and salt. (My mom, who does not like butter, uses shortening.)

2. In a large bowl, mix yeast with warm water until yeast is dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes, then add the milk mixture.

3. Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Add the yolk to the yeast mixture, saving the white for later. Add the other egg, too. Now add the flour to the yeast and egg mixture, blending well until a ball of dough is formed.

4. Flour a work surface very well and place dough in center. Knead until smooth. Return to the large bowl, cover with a clean dish towel, and let dough rise in a warm place for 90 minutes.

5. Grease a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Turn dough out onto floured surface again and knead once more. Then divide the dough into fourths. Set one fourth aside. Roll the remaining three pieces into ropes, all of about the same length. They should be fairly hefty––not dainty ropes.

6. Pinch three rope ends together and braid. Finish by pinching ends together on opposite side. You should have one long braided loaf. Next, divide the remaining dough in half and shape each half into a bone. Cross the “bones” in an “X” shape and lay them atop the braided loaf.

7. Cover bread with the dish towel again and let it rise for 30 minutes more. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the following:

3 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon anise seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

8. In another bowl, beat egg white slightly. When the bread has finished its 30 minutes of rising, brush top with egg white and sprinkle with the sugar mixture, being careful not to get any on the crossed bones. Bake for 35 minutes, or until done, at 350 degrees.

Each loaf serves 8 to 10. If you try it, let us know how you like it. You know we love to hear from you, and as always, we wish you very good days.

John & Seth

 

Little Ghostthings, or Your October Book of Days

It’s October, and here is your Convivio Book of Days calendar for the month. It’s the month of Halloween and tricks-or-treats, so for this month’s cover stars we went back to 1987, when the photo above was taken. That’s my nephew John as a little ghostthing. He would’ve been just about 4 years old there. We started our kids out young on the trick-or-treating and kept them going into the night as long as they could stand it. He and his brother Nick did pretty well each Halloween. We lived in a neighborhood with not many kids. One result was that neighbors for years were surprised to hear their doorbells ring on Halloween night. This resulted in a few things that could not be erased from memory (like the man who yelled out, “We can’t come to the door; we’re naked.”), but mostly it resulted in some of the best Halloween loot ever: whole Toblerone bars at times, or at others, the jumbo size candy bars you’d get in a movie theater. And always a pretty good haul of cash (“We don’t have any candy. But here’s 5 bucks.”)

I loved Halloween then as I loved Halloween when I was a kid and still I love Halloween. These days we are home as the kids come to us. Every year I worry we won’t have enough candy (and every year we have way too much left over). And once Halloween passes, we bring out our Day of the Dead decorations and plan on baking Pan de Muertos, Bread of the Dead. Halloween gives way to All Saints Day on the First of November and then to All Souls Day, the more populist of the two, on the Second. Our thoughts through all this shift underground, just as the trees shift their focus underground, too, growing roots rather than leaves. Our remembrance of all who have passed continues on to Martinmas on the 11th of November. And this is part of what I have come to love about Halloween, too, and perhaps especially: the mystery and the remembrance.

We’ve been adding lots of fun new items to our catalog pages for Dia de los Muertos, all of them made by hand by artisans in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This is where these traditions are born, and it is right, we feel, to support the endeavors of these traditional artisans––this is the Convivio Bookworks business model in a nutshell. New items are still arriving, and we offer free shipping on your order of $50 or more (not bad, eh?). Order through our website and we’ll ship to you in plenty of time for Dia de los Muertos, or come see us at any of these upcoming pop-up markets local to Lake Worth:

Sunday October 29, 2017 from Noon to 7 PM
AUTUMN WAYZGOOSE & HARVEST MAKERS MARKETPLACE
Jaffe Center for Book Arts at Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Road, Boca Raton, FL 33431 (follow the blue & white MAKERS MARKETPLACE signs on main FAU campus roads)

Saturday November 4, 2017 from 4 to 9 PM
DIA de LOS MUERTOS LAKE WORTH
Hatch 1121 at 1121 Lucerne Avenue, Lake Worth, FL 33460 (the old Lake Worth Shuffleboard Courts)

Come say hello to us! Wishing you all a fine autumnal month.
John & Seth

 

Harvester Basket, or Your September Book of Days

In Maine, where autumn is quick to arrive, the apples are just beginning to come in. The apples above and the basket that holds them are both from the same place: Thompson’s Orchards in New Gloucester, Maine. The apples were picked just two days ago; the basket made two decades prior by Herb Thompson, who ran the orchard back then. Now his sons do. The basket is one of our simple treasures, and it is the cover star of your Convivio Book of Days calendar for September. The calendar is our monthly gift to you, printable on standard US Letter size paper, a nice companion to the blog.

The month begins this year with Labor Day, which will make this a long holiday weekend. It is generally considered summer’s last hurrah here in the US, but it is, more officially, an annual celebration of the American worker, upon whose labor this great nation is built. I may take the weekend off myself from writing, so perhaps you won’t hear from me until later in the month: maybe for the day honoring Our Lady of the Grape Harvest, or for Rosh Hashanah, or for Johnny Appleseed’s birthday, or certainly for Michaelmas. You never know, as I write these things by the seat of pants usually, very often late in the night on the eve before each holiday. It is a month of balance and perhaps we (I) could use a bit of that ourselves: the next equinox arrives, bringing autumn by the almanac to the Northern Hemisphere. But by month’s end, night will be just slightly longer than day. The wheel of the year is always turning, like a great clockwork.

Did you know I write another little something called The Convivio Dispatch? The Dispatches are tales from my town of Lake Worth, Florida, a project much older than the Convivio Book of Days. It is not a book and not a blog but rather the Dispatches from Lake Worth arrive in your inbox as plain text emails. Nothing fancy (again, simple). They are sometimes monthly and they are sometimes few and far between, but the first dispatch in months went out late last night. Dispatch subscribers get the annual ghost story for Halloween, for instance. Interested? Send me an email to subscribe: mail@conviviobookworks.com. (How simple is that?)

Oh and I find my life very often comes with an accompanying soundtrack. Does yours, too? Placing all these apples with care into this basket we love so much, well… this song came to mind.

 

 

It’s Jane Siberry, circa 1985, walking down a road with a very pregnant cow named Buttercup. The video was directed by Gerald Casale of Devo fame. Jane told us when she was here that the photo for the single was shot right here on the beach in Boca Raton. Small world.

Have a wonderful month.
John