dia de los muerto

so given the opportunity to sleep in, no one to disturb my slumber- i awake promply at 7:30 and my brain begins to churn. why? when on any other day i would turn, hide my head under the covers and beg for just 5 more minutes?

things are quiet here in the palmer house with just me and the animals. my family is in colorado and then off to omaha for a visit to grandma. jade was endearing at the airport on friday nite in his pj's with his wheelie suitcase-
"dont cry mommie, okay?"
"dont worry, i wont cry, but i'll miss you."
it was hard to watch as he and jeff walked away knowing i am here in this big state all alone.

so the sun is barely above treeline this fine morning at 10:30. last nite coming home from work the sunset was amazing. the sun is different here, the light is more flat. the very top of all the trees was bathed in bright orange. very hard to convey with words, and i have no photo.

halloween approaches.
i have been doing some thinking about 'dia de los muertos', the day of the dead. i am fascinated by this ancient aztec celebration of honoring the memory of the deceased. it is celebrated on november 1st, (all saint's day) and november 2nd (all soul's day).
the idea of celebrating a subject matter many consider morbid- death- is, well, comforting to me. instead of tears, there is joy that the deceased have moved from this world to the next.

this national holiday is celebrated in latin countries around the world, (and is gaining popularity here) with homemade alters, with mucho food such as 'pan de muerto' or bread of the dead. (i mean come on! how fun is this?) and with 'calaveras de azucar' or sugar skulls.
"give me bread and sugar to help me on my journey to the next life," (this all makes perfect sense to me)

bread of the dead is sweet and baked expressly for dia de los muerto.
la calavera- the skull or skeleton- is the number one symbol for the dia de los muerto. it isnt meant to be morbid, instead la calavera represents the playfulness of the dead, as they mimic the living and frolic amongst us.

apparently, it is widely known that the dead love sugar (who knew?!)
'calaveras de azucar', (sugar skulls) are made from a sugar paste, then put in a mold. they are considered gifts and tokens of love and are eaten by all ages, and they adorn home altars and graves. mmmmm. my teeth hurt just thinking of it.

if i were in mexico next week, preparing for dias de los muerto, i would gather jade and prepare 'the ofrenda', the home altar. flowers, photos and some of my moms favorite things.

"mira muchachos, bring the pan de muerto here for your grandma, she is hungry. offer her a sugar skull, so she knows you remember her".

next cool winter day you wonder what you might do with yourself, consider whipping up some homemade pan de muerto, and think of someone you love who is no longer here on this earth.
bread of the dead is often shaped into skulls or round loaves with strips of dough rolled out and attached to resemble bones. enjoy.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
5 to 5-1/2 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole anise seed
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
in a saucepan over medium flame, heat the butter, milk and water until very warm but not boiling.
meanwhile, measure out 1-1/2 cups flour and set the rest aside. in a large mixing bowl, combine the 1-1/2 cups flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and sugar. beat in the warm liquid until well combined. add the eggs and beat in another 1 cup of flour. continue adding more flour until dough is soft but not sticky. knead on lightly floured board for ten minutes until smooth and elastic.
lightly grease a bowl and place dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours. punch the dough down and shape into loaves resembling skulls, skeletons or round loaves with "bones" placed ornamentally around the top. let these loaves rise for 1 hour.
bake in a preheated 350 F degree oven for 40 minutes. remove from oven and paint on glaze.
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then apply to bread with a pastry brush.

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