Thursday, November 29, 2012

Oh, Christmas Tree

We decided to skip the crowds of people at the malls on Black Friday and got in the Christmas spirit by chopping down our own tree. The coastal mountains just south of San Francisco are dotted with beautiful tree farms, where (for a fee) one can chop down their own tree.
A overwhelming choice of Christmas trees.

We decided to visit Skyline Ranch Tree Farm because it is one of the few organic farms. As we entered the property, we were given a bow saw and instructions on how to cut down a tree in a manner that would allow a new tree to easily grow in the former tree's place. It took us a while to find the perfect tree for our cozy apartment. Once we located it, Quarup got right to work.
There's a first for everything.
Can't get any fresher of a tree than this.

Deciding between a plastic Christmas tree and a real tree was an easy choice for us. We are not allergic to trees, we love the smell, we like supporting local family owned farms and encouraging the preservation of local agricultural land. Laure was especially excited to find an organic tree farm since she's become weary of the chemicals in products she brings into the apartment. We’ve also forgone the fake garlands and settled on the unruly real stuff made from tree clippings. Our place smells amazing.

SF has an amazing curbside composting program that expands for a while after the holiday season. For a few weeks in January the city will pick up real Christmas trees and properly compost them. The byproducts go back to local farms and are even used at the wineries in Napa and Sonoma.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dia de los Muertos 10/02/2012

Last week, we went to Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in San Francisco.  Here is a short description from
Dia de los Muertos is a traditional Meso-American holiday dedicated to the ancestors; it honors both death and the cycle of life. In Mexico, neighbors gather in local cemeteries to share food, music, and fun with their extended community, both living and departed. The celebration acknowledges that we still have a relationship with our ancestors and loved ones that have passed away.
In the San Francisco version of this holiday, there are many artists, musicians, and people dressed as skeletons in the Mission neighborhood. It also contains a parade-like procession where different people play music and some people walk dressed as skeletons.

A scooleton.
Esqueleto Mexicano.
Lively couple
A group of mourners.
Today's version of Dia de los Muertos first originated in the 16th century as a blend of the Aztec month long summer celebration of the dead and the Spaniard's Christian holiday named "All Soul's Day." During last week's procession, artists performed Aztec traditional dancing and music.

Aztec drummer.
Aztec traditional dancing.
Aztec with impressively long feathers.
Apart from the parade, people were mourning and celebrating Dia de los Muertos for several street blocks.

Skeletons hovered over people.
A large but friendly monster.
See a video of this awesome celebration. 
The music makes us want to go to carnaval in Brazil.

Another important part of the holiday were the altars that people make in homage to their loved ones that passed away. Some altars were very elaborate, and others had a lot of space for anyone to write notes of remembrance.

An altar in classic Dia de los Muertos style.
Some altars were elaborate and gadgety.
Altar built with skateboards.
Notes to those that passed.
More notes.
A note to Quarup's father.
The mood was overall very positive and upbeat. People remembered their deceased friends and families by celebrating their happy lives instead of focusing on the sadness of their deaths. That is a great attitude to have.