Monday, October 29, 2007

The Dead Would Be Proud

My neighbors and I pulled off an outstanding Dia de los Muertos party in our courtyard last night. A lot of the night was spent gushing to our friends and family about how lucky we are to have such a tight-knit and dreamy complex. I have no doubt we will all look back on this time living here, whether it's three years or thirty, as one of our most glowing.

A lot of my favorite moments of the party were centered around the ofrenda. I put it together in the center planter on top of the lemon balm that grows wild there. It was made out of storage boxes and covered in a bed sheet and on top our family photos and marigolds and candles and salt water were placed. When people asked, I told them who were in the photos and explained that the salt water clears the air and represents ongoing life. It's my favorite point of Dia de los Muertos, the often forgotten fact that we're still alive (so, live it, fools, live it!) During the course of the party, more photos just appeared on the ofrenda. They were sparked with energy because I was always drawn back to the ofrenda when another photo arrived. My five year old neighbor Diana asked her mom about the whole set up. Her mom explained that it was a special place to celebrate the people we love who have passed on. And Diana shouted, "We have some of those!" And Leonard, my eighty-one year old neighbor who has lived in his apartment thirty-six years pulled me aside at the beginning of the party. He is frail, inches shorter than I, but his hair is perfect and full and he sports Clark-Kent glasses. He said, "This was a great idea, the honoring idea, I mean. I'm so glad you did that." Moments later I noticed a picture of Leonard’s wife on the ofrenda. The photo is from the 1970's and she is standing near the ruins of Central America. She is sketching on a pad and two local children, shirtless and barefoot, are stealing peaks over her shoulder. I stared at it for a long time.

I was able to put a photo of my grandmother on the ofrenda, which was monumental for me since I hadn't had a decent picture of her until only last week. This woman was my life preserver as a kid even if I didn't see her as much as I had wanted. I spent a lot of time begging god in my mind to see her more. She died when I was fifteen, a little young I thought to lose my foundation of emotional support, but maybe she knew I'd be ok. And though I didn't know her when she was this young, that stare in the photo pounds at my heart. Wow, I miss her, but I think I'm doing her proud.

On to the living, fools! So, yes, we dressed for the party. Here I am as La Calavera de la Catrina. I think most people know Catrina as an icon for Dia de los Muertos, but the initial sentiment behind José Guadalupe Posada's 1913 drawing of La Calavera de la Catrina -- which means fancy skeleton -- was that no matter how rich you are or how fancy or important you think you are, you will still die. Don't just live, fools, live well; do good.

As usual, Mandy and Melissa came fantastically correct. This photo needs to be made into a gigantic wall mural.

Here's my neighbor and good friend Molly as a beautiful butterfly. She made a quinoa salad for the party that kicked serious ass.

And oh lord, did I bake for this party. I baked my ass off; four days straight. I still have Halloween baking to do for the office, but here's my best foot forward:

These were actually for Mina's class party on Friday. The tombstone is vegan fondant-covered amaranth graham cracker. I think fondant is nasty, but the kids loved it! Because they'll eat dirt and poo mixed with lots of sugar!

The pies came out great. Ironically, the pumpkin pies especially. I figured out that my original pumpkin pies weren't setting because of the lil' mini tins in which I was first baking/experiementing. I can't explain why the filling wasn't setting in them, but whatev. I got it now. Molly said, after my many attempts, "Now that's perserverance." Here's the vegan Cobweb Apple Pie:

And the pumpkins. The Picado Pumpkin Pie was raffled off at the party.

And finally, the cupcakes . . . Fondant skulls and flowers (and designs in edible pen!) on top of lemon cupcakes.

Life is good, fools.


athena said...

looks like you know how to party! LOVE the cupcakes too! you are so talented!

jennifer said...

those are some bad ass cupcakes!!! love the costumes too.

kristin said...


I just can't take your overwhelming awesomeness!!

Those pies look amazing...and those cupcakes!!...I'm speachless. You could win have MAD TALENT MADNESSS!!!!

Deezee said...

Oh my god. I am sitting in an apartment in your building as I read this! (My son takes piano from your resident teacher!!) Apparently our worlds are meant to collide. When I saw that first photo, I nearly gasped, sitting right below that western set of flags.

small world.......

Marigoldie said...

Tears, tears, tears. Maybe it's the baseball too, but god, I love this post and your commitment to all good things. I'm so glad I know you.

Deezee said...

and now that my shock has passed, let me add that all your delicacies look absolutely amazing!

Melinda said...

I know I've told you many times that I take my mama lessons from you... but this, dude, is a level to which I cannot hope to aspire. The cupcakes... I just... I have no words. I bought my kid's first birthday cake pre-made at the damn grocery store.

madness rivera said...

Ah man, thank you everybody!

HOLYSHITE DEEZEE! That's crazy. CRAZY. hahaha. I think we just missed you. We jetted just before 4 to go to the library. If you're there next Monday, we'll collide for sure.

Marigoldie, that was the comment of the year. So glad to know you too.

And Melinda, uh hello, I bought their first bday party cakes at the grocery store too.

SUEB0B said...

What a gorgeous party and such linda baked goods, too.

My friend CC and I organized Dia de los Muertos at church and had some excellent pan de muerto, cafe de la olla, horchata, and, yes, chapulines. It was decorated in a gorgeous fashion. I hope someone got photos.

Rebel Girl said...

Lis is indeed good.

Emilie said...

You leave me beside myself--wow wonderful every element of this post is. The goods look 110% and the love and desire to connect people and bring joy are so apparent. Amazing. Completely. The fondant worked like magic--you really rocked the skulls.

acumamakiki said...

Girl, you've got it so going on, damn. Your costume is the best I've ever seen, except maybe those amazing cupcakes. I hope you and DeeZee do collide, I really think you'd like one another.
You know mama, that you're my hero. xo

LeS said...

Fools indeed, happy happy fools:)
Your blog looks great, your party looked great and - damn - those edible artworks of yours!!! Love to you,

Kathleen said...

lordy, are so effing cool. for real!
you looked aMAZing!
taking so many ideas from this post and stashing them away for when i am teaching again...or when liam is older.
so much amazing stuff here.
i love celebrating the day of the dead. i have always taught about it in my classroom since the shorties have always held the death of their relatives so heavily in their hearts. it has been a way of celebrating them and sharing their lives with peers.
i want to have a table next time...and cupcakes...and the graham-cracker sugariness...and the amazing dress-up! love the makeup.
i am in awe.

nicole said...

holy crap madness!

awesome! awesome! awesome!

and now i am speechless...

madness rivera said...

Wow, thanks so much, mi gente.

Don't Get Mad Get Vegan! said...

those tombstone cupakes are incredible. the grass! fantastic! all the baking looks amazing, actually. kudos.

love the party idea. what a beautiful thing to do and share.

Vegan Style said...

Those pies are absolutely stunning!

michelle/weaker vessel said...

Madness, you are incredible. I have been mulling over this post -- turning it over and over and marveling at its every facet -- for weeks now. I want to be like you when I grow up, and I will.