Category Archives: Day of the Dead

Carmel Valley Pumpkins, or Your October Book of Days

Six days into the month, and here is your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for October. I’d apologize for my belatedness, but you’re probably tired of my apologies. Rather, just enjoy the calendar. Cover star this month: a 1907 oil painting by Evelyn McCormick called Carmel Valley Pumpkins.

And just like that here in Lake Worth, where last week summer was still in charge, now the shadows are lengthening and the days feel lighter, breezier. The air may not be crisp, but it is drier, and that counts for something.

So it’s official: We’ll be making our first public market appearance this month since February, 2020. Find us on Saturday October 30 at Dia de Los Muertos Lake Worth Beach, our town’s annual celebration for Day of the Dead. Same place as usual: Hatch 1121 just west of the railroad tracks between Lake Avenue and Lucerne Avenue. Masks are required (and I don’t think they’re talking about calavera masks in this case). This joyous celebration runs from 3 to 9 PM, and although this year it’s being held the day before Hallowe’en, keep in mind this is not exactly a Hallowe’en thing. None of the silly trappings that have befallen our contemporary Hallowe’en: no blood, no gore, no sexy nurses, no horror movies. Dia de Los Muertos, rather, is a celebration honoring those who have come and gone before us and a joyful acceptance of what lies ahead for us all. It is the time each year when I am most proud to be part of this Lake Worth community. Click here for full details. There will be ofrendas, music and dance, and we’ll be there with plenty of our authentic Artesanías Mexicanas!

We’re also teaching our Calavera Prints! workshop this Saturday from 2 to 5 PM at Hatch 1121 as part of the celebration. You’ll learn a simple process to make José Posada inspired linoleum cut prints… a process you can continue at home without a press. We will, nonetheless, have our Nolan Tabletop Press at Hatch this Saturday, along with some historic wood type, to give you an authentic letterpress experience. You don’t need to be “artsy” to do this, and you don’t even need to know how to draw. I’ve got some great tricks up my sleeve, trust me. The workshop cost is $65 and you do have to register ahead of time: click here for full details and to register. The class is limited to 8 properly masked participants.

One last thing for today: at our online Convivio Book of Days Catalog, take your choice this week of two sales we are running. First up: Mom is now 95 years old. Her birthday was on Sunday, and to celebrate, we’re having a sale on her Millie’s Tea Towels line of hand embroidered flour sack tea towels. Save $9.50 when you buy any four of Millie’s Tea Towels (or one 7-day set), and get free domestic shipping, too, when you use the discount code HAPPYBIRTHDAY at checkout. Find Millie’s Tea Towels at the new Linens & Textiles link on our catalog page. Shop here!

And if you need to stock up on any of the other wonderful things we sell, you’ll save $10 on your purchase of $75 on everything in the shop with discount code STREETFAIR, plus get free domestic shipping. Everything means everything! Artesanías Mexicanas for Dia de Los Muertos, sparkly new Advent calendars from Germany, German and Swedish woodcrafts for Christmas, and lots more. Shop here!

Image: Carmel Valley Pumpkins by Evelyn McCormick. Oil on canvas, 1907 [Creative Commons, via Wikimedia Commons].


Dear Friends & Gentle Hearts

As the story goes, when the great American songwriter Stephen Foster left this earth in January of 1864, a scrap of paper was found in his pocket. On it, he had written five words: Dear friends and gentle hearts. They are the last of his words that we have. Of course, not all Stephen Foster’s lyrics have proven politically correct, but then again, an awful lot has changed in the world since 1864, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find, even today, a person who is not moved by at least one Stephen Foster tune or another. Mr. Foster understood longing, and he understood melancholy, and we feel still what he felt then. That is part of the universality of the human experience, and why those five words written on a scrap of paper and stuffed into his pocket have such resonance. Especially now, during these autumnal days when we remember our beloved dead. It is the time of year when our thoughts burrow beneath the earth, just as some animals do, and just as trees now shift their growth toward roots. Firm foundations. We are connected to our ancestors, to our friends and family who have gone before us. We are here because they were here. The tree growing both above and below the earth. The circle that remains unbroken.

This, when you get right down to it, is what these mysterious autumnal days are all about. This is the root of Hallowe’en and its welcoming of All Hallows Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. These are the Days of the Dead. And while we never stop missing the ones who leave before we do, the thing to remember is that these days are meant to hold joy as well as sorrow. We remember those who have gone, we welcome them back, we keep them close at heart and we keep the channels open, in whatever form fits your belief system. It is not a religious or a secular thing so much as a time of putting things back together: remembering in its purest sense (re-membering: putting the members together again).

The days have been busy. I am sorry for not writing sooner, but I am writing now, on this late night of Día de los Muertos, this Festa di Morti. How two guys who take Stay at Home recommendations about as seriously as is possible (we rarely venture anywhere these days) can be so busy is beyond me, yet we are. But my mom and sister came up for a socially distant dinner on Hallowe’en, and then I taught a Calavera Prints virtual workshop for our local Día de Muertos celebration on Sunday, and here we are today. Earlier this evening, I made pan de muertos: a delicious cinnamon and anise bread, and I got Seth out for a stroll through Hillcrest Cemetery in West Palm Beach just before night fell. No big community celebrations this year, no Dia de Muertos Street Fairs, and we’re so wistful for those wonderful events. But that’s ok. As folks are saying lately: we stay apart now so when we come together again, no one is missing.

A few items of the nota bene sort: Your Convivio Book of Days calendar for November is drastically late. But it will come. And won’t you join me Wednesday at 3 PM Eastern for Book Arts 101? This one is the last in a trilogy of Book Arts 101 broadcasts devoted to the mysteries of autumn, and it will focus on Día de los Muertos. It’s a Zoom event that you’ll have to pre-register for. Sign up here. If you miss the live broadcast, don’t worry, you’ll find the video at the Vimeo Channel of the Jaffe Center for Book Arts soon after the broadcast is done.

Finally, our Autumn Sale continues: $10 off when you spend $75, plus free domestic shipping… that comes to a total of $18.50 off your order. Shop here and use discount code STREETFAIR when you check out. Or spend $50 and we’ll give you free domestic shipping with no discount code required. Shop our traditional artesanías mexicanas for Day of the Dead, traditional advent calendars from Germany, Christmas artisan goods from Sweden and Germany and Italy, Shaker herbs and teas and soaps, and our own letterpress printed books and broadsides, and lots more.

Oh, ok, two more nota bene items: If you did not receive this year’s Convivio Dispatch for Hallowe’en and would like to read it, here it is: just click here. It is one of my favorite Dispatches ever. And since I baked a seasonal bread, perhaps you’d like to, too. Here is our family recipe for Pan de Muertos, published in a Convivio Book of Days post in November, 2017 (that year the monthly calendar arrived in a timely fashion). The bread is easy to make, and so delicious. It’ll be our breakfast in the morning, before we go cast our votes on Election Day. I’m voting for decency, integrity, and respect.


Spirited Times Await

If you, like me, enjoy tuning in to the mysterious nature of Hallowe’en, read on, for I’ve got two good things to offer you in the coming days: a live witching hour event on Zoom, and a spirited tale to read. (Oh, and a sale… so I guess that’s three good things!)

First, the spirited tale. Before there was the Convivio Book of Days blog, there was the Convivio Dispatch from Lake Worth. I began the Dispatch, o so many years ago, as an email marketing tool… but soon realized that in that form it didn’t interest me all that much. And so instead of telling subscribers about things they could buy, I began writing about my neighbors. The Convivio Dispatch soon evolved into a vehicle for stories, most of them set here in Lake Worth, and mostly true. (I think of the Dispatch as an exercise in creative nonfiction; an analysis of past Dispatches has shown that approximately 80% of each is nonfiction. What remains is up to you to classify.)

Be that as it may, what you need to know is that the Convivio Dispatch is a whole other animal from this Convivio Book of Days blog, and that each autumn, I am given the honor of writing my favorite thing each year: the Convivio Dispatch for Hallowe’en. A spirited tale always, sometimes ghostly, sometimes just wrapped in mystery. I’ve been working on this year’s Dispatch for weeks now, and in the coming days, we approach Hallowe’en, and then it is time to send the Hallowe’en Dispatch out into the world. It arrives as a simple email in our subscribers’ inboxes. Simple. No website, nothing to click. You simply pour yourself a cup of coffee or brew a bit of Irish Breakfast (sweetened, with a touch of cream), then sit, open your email, and there it is.

This year’s Hallowe’en Dispatch revolves around a coin that Clarence, the Bridge Tender, found last month on one of his walks near the lagoon after September’s King Tides. My neighbor, Earl, is pretty certain it’s from the Santa Margarita, the legendary Spanish galleon that went down off our coast in a hurricane in 1595. She’s never been found, the Santa Margarita, but Earl has had some legendary experiences of his own involving the ship. So many mysteries, so close to home, yet this year’s Hallowe’en Dispatch takes you from my ancestral homeland in Southern Italy to Mexico, Manhattan, Lima, and points beyond (perhaps the Great Beyond).

To get the Convivio Dispatch for Hallowe’en, you’ll need to subscribe. It’s free, it’s easy. Subscribe by clicking here. The Dispatches are few and far between, I promise, so you won’t get a lot of clutter in your inbox, and of course you can always unsubscribe, too, just as easily.

And now for that live Zoom event:  it’s my (mostly) weekly live chat about the book arts and craft and design with the Jaffe Center for Book Arts, usually on Wednesdays at 3 PM Eastern, but this week on Thursday evening at 8 PM Eastern. We’re looking at some of the spookier books in the Jaffe Collection, and it felt more proper to do this once night had fallen. We’re calling it Book Arts 101: Witching Hour, and to watch the live webinar, you’ll have to register ahead of time by clicking here (also quick and easy to do). Should you not be able to watch live at 8:00, video from the broadcast will be posted by Friday morning to the Jaffe Center’s Vimeo Channel.

These mysteries usher in a time of remembering our beloved dead––all who have come and gone before us. It’s a time I’ve always treasured, from when I was a little boy, and still do to this day. I hope you’ll join me on this journey from Hallowe’en to Martinmas, through the Dispatch and Book Arts 101, and through the Convivio Book of Days blog, too, as I share these stories and the ways my family keeps the channels open as we shift our thoughts toward winter.


The photo above is of a house on Lakeside Road here in Lake Worth; one of many celebratory homes Seth and I found tonight as we walked home from downtown. I’d be remiss, too, not to mention that we are indeed running a sale right now at the Convivio Bookworks website. Typically this time of year you’ll find Convivio Bookworks at the local street fairs for Dia de Muertos in Lake Worth and Fort Lauderdale, but this year they both are canceled. So for now, an Autumn Sale to encourage you to stock up on the artisan goods you may want for the coming dark months: artesenias from Mexico for Dia de Muertos, advent calendars from Germany and advent candles from England, Christmas goods from Germany and Sweden and Italy. Here’s the deal: spend $75 and you’ll get $10 off your order plus free domestic shipping when you use the discount code STREETFAIR at checkout. That’s a savings of $18.50 in total. Or, as always, free domestic shipping when you spend $50 (no discount code required for that). Thank you for supporting small businesses and artisans––you are supporting real people and real families when you do, and your transactions really matter. Shop here now. We all really appreciate it.