The Appreciation Factor

All things Appreciation: Things to appreciate and the Ways we look at, Show and Think about Appreciation.


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The Appreciation Factor’s Turns 5!

5th-anniversary

Today is the The Appreciation Factor’s 5th Anniversary!  

Wow! Who knew when I started this blog in 2012 that I would still be here 5 years later. Well….I’d hoped I’d still be here, but you know best intentions and all of that. Here we are, 80+ posts later.

When I started out, I knew that I wanted to create a blog about a topic I was passionate about, so it started with talking about the importance of writing Thank you notes. However, I wasn’t sure that there would be enough content around just writing about thank you notes and I decided to expand it to “sharing appreciation,” but truly it became the overarching topic of appreciation.  I also knew that to some degree I couldn’t worry about whether others disagreed with me or not.  As I’ve stated in the “about me” page, I primarily write to share my passion about appreciation and gratitude, but I also want to offer a point of view that you may not have considered, or tips to help you share your appreciation.

I’ve been really happy to find ways to expand on my “how to write”/”why write thank you notes” posts to cover Things I Appreciate, like Día de los Muertosfall, beach etiquette, my fitness quest (still going strong by the way!), New Jersey and many more. You may have also seen two posts where I was fortunate to partner with others.  The first as a guest blogger on The Cutie Life, and more recently where I featured etiquette coach, Janet Parnes.  Both were extremely rewarding and I’m in talks with other bloggers and professionals to do more!

Two other additions to the blog that have become favorites of mine are Thankful Thursdays where I curate stories and/or videos that I feel exemplify appreciation, have moved me, or talk about people making a difference; and the second where I write about showing appreciation, especially in the form of Random Acts of Kindness (ROAKs) and promoting Giving Tuesday.  Both I are causes anyone can do, and both help make the world a better place.
The Future

I hope to continue to share some fresh posts on the topics above, and come up with new ones. Part of the challenge fun about having a blog is that you can come up with new features, approaches or even a new direction.  I hope you’ll continue to come along for the ride as I go into my 5th year, as well as share my posts with others, on your blogs or via Social Media, or not… as I’m content to have you simply read and enjoy them.  I’m appreciative of all of my followers, and really at the end of the day, if I’ve made you think about something in a new way, or supported a viewpoint you already have, then I’ve already done what I’d hoped to do.

 

Content/Compensation Free:

One additional thing that I wanted to clarify.  At times I will promote a brand, site, product etc.  At this time, The Appreciation Factor is not written for financial gain. I write it to support my passion for all things appreciation and writing.  I am not paid, nor do I receive any products to talk about. Candidly I have considered this option and I’m not against this approach as I’ve thought about a post/partnering with a paper company or another service that promoted appreciation, gratitude and thanks yous, but to date, I have not.  Should this ever change, I will absolutely let you know, and be very clear about it in the post.
What this means: Unless I state otherwise, all opinions are mine and I’m not compensated for any links or clicks you make on The Appreciation Factor.  Feel free click without worry and the ability to see that related content on a separate tab. (A pet peeve of mine are posts that take me away from the content I’m reading just to sell me something. Perhaps that’s how one is “supposed to do it”, but it’s just not for me.) I hope this encourages you to click, read, and share to your heart’s content.

 

Please, please, please don’t hesitate to also share your ideas. While I’m always searching the internet and news for stories and topics, I may miss something. Let me know if you see something you think I should share or a topic I should cover. I love hearing from my followers.

 

Best wishes, and many thanks to each of you. Here’s to 5 more years! (Hey I can dream can’t I?)

K

 


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Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead – Keep on Remembering and Appreciating Those Who Have Passed

A time to remember those who we’ve lost through a celebration of the dead.

Today starts this year’s Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead festivities.  Celebrated in central and southern Mexico on November 1st and 2nd, Mexican’s believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31st, and that the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) come to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy food, celebrations and alters created in their memory.  All told, it’s an opportunity for relatives to honor their deceased loved ones.

I’ve long loved this holiday, in part due to the pageantry of the images and symbols, but I love the idea of having “another day” with those we’ve lost – even if simply a day set aside to celebrate their lives with a festival.

Some key symbols:

Edible Sugar Skulls (sometimes made of chocolate) many will have the names of the dead decorated on them as well.

Edible Sugar Skulls (sometimes made of chocolate). Many will have the names of the dead decorated on them as well (see top right).

Alter with the image of the deceased, marigolds, sugar skulls, candles and pan de muertos.

Up close shot of pan de muertos (Recipe below!)

Up close shot of pan de muertos (Recipe below!)

 

 

The History

According to Wikipedia, scholars have traced the festival back to a pagan observance dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl or the Lady of the Dead. In fact the natives believed that death was a continuation of life and it was embraced. They also felt that life was simply a dream and that only when one died, were they truly awake.

The altars and items displayed are to encourage visits by the departed’s souls and to allow the souls to hear prayers, anecdotes and fond memories. It’s believed that the souls will eat the spirit of the food and beverages presented and those celebrating will consume the physical ones. In some instances, families also lay out blankets and pillows to allow the souls to rest before their long journey back to the after world.

Source: Taza Chocolate

Source: Taza Chocolate

 

 

 

Up until a few years ago, I’ve felt that this holiday wasn’t as big of a deal in the US as it was in Mexico.  However over the last four years, I’ve personally seen a surge in Day of the Dead costumes at #Halloween. I’m not sure this translates to a surge in celebrating it, but I do know of a few local festivals supporting the holiday.  One local chocolate maker, Taza Chocolate, who sources their chocolate from #Mexico, holds an annual Día de los Muertos festival each year. This year marks their 5th Annual event.

 

 

The Book Of Life

Source: 20th Century Fox

In 2014,  The Book of Life, created and written by Jorge Gutierrez and Douglas Langdale, and produced by Guillermo del Toro, was released.  An entire movie around the Day of the Dead?!  I was ecstatic when I heard about it.

This is an animated film that focuses on a love story and the importance of Dia de los Muertos.  While “primarily” targeted to children, the plot is applicable to all. It reminds us of the importance of keeping those who have passed away in our memories, and that we should continue to celebrate their lives.  It also helps us remember that those who have come before us, can help shape who we will become. (That tradition theme is strong here.)  There’s a bit more to it, but I don’t want to ruin it for you! I promise it’s worth seeing!

I was awe-struck by the images in the Land of the Remembered. Each balloon sugar skull, character, and fiesta scene captured how I’d like draw and showcase the Day of the Dead symbols  — that is if I had any artistic talent!  It was creative and whimsical, and made me want to join in their fiesta. I was especially enchanted by Maria, Manolo and La Muerta.  It’s really a film for all ages, and each time I watch it, I see something new.  Read more about the Book of Life here.

 

 

Have I peaked your interest enough to try making one of the mainstays of the holiday — pan de muertos (translation: bread of the dead)?   This is a yeasty, sweet egg bread flavored with anise. (Just a touch of the licorace flavor – I still think you’ll like it if you’re not too in to licorice.) I think it’s great and many enjoy having a #PSL (that’s shorthand for the “hot” Pumpkin Spiced Latte) with it. Straight coffee will do as well!

I’d found and tried this recipe on Chowhound.com. It’s adapted from Richard Sandoval and Maya Restaurants in NYC.  You can click here to see the recipe or use the version below:

Pan de Muertos

Total Time: 3 hrs 40 mins  Makes: 2 loaves
See picture above for how it will look when done. (Sorry I don’t have step-by-step pictures)

Ingredients

  •  1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1/2 ounce (2 packets) active dry yeast (I used Fleischmann’s)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
  • Vegetable oil, for oiling the bowl
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoons water

Directions:

  1. Combine the sugar, salt, anise seed, and yeast in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Heat the milk, water, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter is just melted; DO NOT allow it to boil.
  3. Add the milk mixture to the dry mixture and mix well with a wire whisk.
  4. Stir in the eggs and 1-1/2 cups of the flour and beat well.
  5. Add the remaining flour, little by little, stirring well with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured wooden board and knead it until it’s smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky, about 9 to 10 minutes.
  7. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and allow the dough to rise in a warm area until it has doubled in size, about 1-1/2 hours. (It took the full 1-1/2 hours for me)
  8. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
  9. Punch down the dough and divide it into 2 pieces. Cut 3 small (about 1-ounce) balls from each half and mold them into skull-and-bones shapes. Shape the large pieces of dough into round loaves and place the skull-and-cross bones on top.
  10. Place the breads on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let them rise another hour.
  11. Brush the loaves with the egg yolk mixture and bake.
    Halfway through baking, about 20 minutes, remove the loaves from the oven and brush again with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Return to the oven and bake until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, about another 20 minutes.

Offer up to those who have passed and enjoy. (You’re allowed to eat it!)

Do you celebrate those who have passed?  Do you celebrate Día de los Muertos?
Let me know if you like the recipe!
I also hope you’ll do more research into this great holiday after reading my post!

 

 

Special thanks to www.mexicansugarskull.com, Taza Chocolates, Wikipedia, artisfun, chowhound, 20th Century Fox for helping with details within this post. 


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Día de los Muertos: One of My Favorite Holidays – And One that Appreciates Those We’ve Lost

Tomorrow is Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. It’s the Mexican national holiday that is held on either November 1st or November 2nd, depending on the town.  It can also be held across both days — the first day devoted to lost children and infants, and the second for adults.

I just love this celebration in part for the symbols, but also because it remembers and pays homage to those who’ve passed away.

la catrina

The History

According to Wikipedia, scholars have traced the festival back to a pagan observance dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl or the Lady of the Dead. In fact the natives believed that death was a continuation of life and it was embraced. They also felt that life was simply a dream and that only when one died, were they truly awake.

Celebrating Today

Today,  Día de los Muertos, celebrated primarily throughout Mexico (although many areas in the South West hold their own festivals) focuses on the gathering of family and friends in cemeteries or in homes to pray and remember friends and family members who have died. In some towns (each celebration can vary from town to town) festivals are held during the day, with private gatherings held at grave sites at night.

Symbols

During Día de los Muertos, altars consisting of photos of the deceased and their favorite foods and beverages are created in tribute to lost love ones. These items are accompanied by ornately decorated sugar or chocolate skulls or skeletons called Calaveras, Mexican marigolds, and pan de muerto (bread of the dead) which is an egg bread using coffin, skeleton or bone shapes; toys are also left for the children.

Day of the Dead altar

Sugar Skulls ready to personalize

pan de muerto – see the skull face in the middle?

The altars and items are left to encourage visits by the departed’s souls and to allow the souls to hear prayers, anecdotes and fond memories. It’s believed that the souls will eat the spirit of the food and beverages presented and those celebrating will consume the physical ones. In some instances, families also lay out blankets and pillows to allow the souls to rest before their long journey back to the after world.

In addition to loving the idea of appreciating the life of those who have died, I am especially fond of the symbols and items used on the altars. I love the artistic kitschy look of the sugar skulls, skeletons and las catrinas. They are the opposite of what one would think of when they picture skulls, and seem to capture a playful and happy moment — perhaps one we’re thinking of when we’re celebrating our friends’ and family members’ past lives.

And what a thought if it were true, that creating these altars would bring back our loved one’s souls and allow them to communicate with us again for just one night.