Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Handmade Halloween: We Studied El Dia De Los Muertos and Made Sugar Skulls

I used to have a kick-ass sugar skull recipe. And now it's gone, because the internet.

Seriously, it was awesome. It was vegan, because traditional sugar skull recipes are picky about their meringue powder, and big box store-bought meringue powder isn't usually sticky enough. But this recipe used cornstarch, which is easy to come by, and it made sugar skulls that were rock hard, perfect for even a six- and eight-year-old to decorate.

I mean, come on. Look at how kick-ass that is:

Unfortunately, cornstarch instead of meringue powder is all that I remember of that recipe, which is no longer at its previous link. The new recipe that I found is... well, I'll tell you all about how lousy it is momentarily.

But first: El Dia De Los Muertos! It's been several years since I studied this holiday with the kids, so it was high time to cycle back around to take another look at one of my favorite holidays while I was living in Texas.

The kids and I reviewed this Google Arts and Culture slideshow all about the offrenda, while I narrated and pointed cool things out to the kids. Here's another great introduction and survey to the entire holiday, although you have to know enough Spanish to be able to translate the captions:

Side Note/Personal Brag: My speaking knowledge of languages (including English) is terrrrrrrible, but my reading knowledge is pretty good, and if it's a Romance language, I can generally pick it up pretty quickly. Translating the Spanish in this video reminded me that when we drive through a non-English-speaking country, I CANNOT stop myself from attempting to read and translate every single sign that we pass. It's compulsive. I annoy everyone. I remind myself unpleasantly of a small child on the brink of learning to read, having to announce everything that they're sounding out right out loud, and I still can't make myself quit it. Anyway, when we were driving through Quebec, I was busily, compulsively reading and trying to translate every sign we passed, including some giant movie billboards with some blurbs for the movie Smallfoot. I don't know if Syd knew that I was correct because she knew the French, of if she'd seen the poster before in English, or if she just admired my effort, but she was all, "Wow, Mom! You're really good!"

And just like that, I was! I wasn't embarrassed anymore about my inability to not try to read out loud every sign, because trying to learn something and figure something out isn't embarrassing. Not at all, and especially not if your child is watching you do it and learning from you how to be herself, even if herself is weird and out loud, too.

So there.

We've seen Coco before (and the plan is to watch it again for a Family Movie Night one weekend soon, with lots of homemade El Dia De Los Muertos treats), but this short film is very similar in tone and intent, and only a few minutes long:

It's a good way to get the feel of the holiday, even if I did cry a bunch at the end.

After our sit-down lesson on the holiday, it was time to make some sugar skulls! Our first project, a makeover of Crystal Head skull shaped vodka bottles, came out super awesome and I'm going to keep them on the coffee table forever:

Heirloom White spray paint makes ALL the difference, my Friends!

The real sugar skulls, though?

Well, I did not find a great replacement recipe, apparently.

They mixed up okay--

--and looked fine when they came out of the mold--

--but they did NOT dry well. They began to crack almost immediately, and any steps that we took to repair them just led to them disintegrating faster, and in ways that looked more and more disturbing. The kids did try to embellish them, but the glue and paint just melted them more.

They're terrifying:

Oh, well. Process not product!

Now all that our mini study of El Dia De Los Muertos needs is a family celebration with decorations, delicious food, and a movie that I am guaranteed to sob through the ending of.

Because to me, it's not Halloween if you're not crying while eating a Reese's pumpkin.

To celebrate a different holiday, just substitute the appropriate novelty Reese's...

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