Monthly Archives: October 2011

A Beautiful Day to Remember

Like so many Americans, the first time we saw our Mexican neighbors’ calaveras and skeleton sculptures on altars for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), we shuddered.  Despite the cheerful colors and smiles on their faces, it all seemed so gruesome!  So we chatted with a couple of experts, and have come to understand – and really admire – the spirit of honoring, celebration, and camaraderie that the holiday embraces.  Here’s the scoop, care of wonderful

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday when it is believed the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31st and the spirits of the deceased are allowed to reunite with their families. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it attains the quality of a National Holiday. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl. In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain, there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

Traditional catrinas

Our friend Tami Carija, who owns the wonderful Mexican import shop Luna Rustica, shared a little about Catrinas and sugar skulls.

Two of the most notable images of day of the dead celebration are catrinas and sugar skulls. Catrinas, meaning “elegant skulls,” are skeleton figures dressed in elaborate clothing with big hats. Sugar skulls are creatively decorated confections of sugar and egg whites which are exchanged as gifts or incorporated into ofrendas.

Luna Rustica will be celebrating Dia de Los Muertos at it’s downtown location (895 Monterey St. San Luis Obispo, 93401) with an ofrenda displaying all the traditional altar elements as well as a number of beautiful hand picked catrinas from Mexico. A new Luna Rustica tradition also began this year with the decorating of sugar skulls by friends and family in honor of particular passed loved ones, and are on display at the shop in honor of this wonderful celebration.

Dead Bread

During the Day of the Dead festivities in the first two days of November, graves are decorated with flowers and offerings of food and drink in honor of the departed, including this pan de muertos, a yeasty, sweet egg bread flavored with anise.  This recipe for “dead bread” is care of


  • 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
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoons water

Combine sugar, salt, anise seed, and yeast in a small mixing bowl. Heat milk, water, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter is just melted; do not allow it to boil. Add the milk mixture to the dry mixture and beat well with a wire whisk.

Stir in the eggs and 1 1/2 cups of the flour and beat well. Add the remaining flour, little by little, stirring well with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured wooden board and knead until it is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky, about 9 to 10 minutes. 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.

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. 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 balls of dough into round loaf shapes and place the skull-and-bones on top. Place the breads on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let them rise another hour.

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 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.


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Running for All the Right Reasons

Our fearless leader, Linda Parker Sanpei, recently announced something we hadn’t expected:

“I’m going to run the Los Angeles half marathon!”

When we pressed her for reasons, she revealed a deep desire to accomplish something significant for World Vision, which is the official benefitting charity of the 13.1 LA Half Marathon on Jaunary 15, 2012.  The World Vision mission statement:

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.  Working in nearly 100 countries around the world, World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.

Specifically for fitness fundraisers like the LA Half Marathon, World Vision uses the proceeds to build wells and water systems for clean drinking water in Africa and Haiti.  Linda is so excited (and a little nervous!) to be running for this worthy cause that she went out to buy a brand new pair of running shoes.

Linda and her new shoes!

She really doesn’t need to be anxious about the run, though; Team World Vision provides all the training she’ll need to make it to the finish line, including local training groups, fitness plans, and coaches to help her complete the race.  Team World Vision also helps enable participants to raise funds to support their race and the people across the world who need clean water the most.

The race begins along the scenic Venice Beach Boardwalk and ends at historic Windward Circle.  To join Team World Vision and run for a very worthy cause, click here To support Linda’s goal of running the 13.1 LA Half Marathon on January 15, click here.  And please stay tuned for her progress!

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Pour It Forward & The Hero Dog Awards

Here at Parker Sanpei & Associates, we are so lucky to have the coolest clients around.  Take, for example, the Cru Vin Dogs Wine Group, which donates a portion of the proceeds from its delicious wines to canine-related causes like humane shelters and rescue groups.  The wines are made from fruit sourced at the world’s most exclusive vineyards, bottled, and labeled with the image of an actual rescue dog that is near and dear to the Cru Vin Dogs team’s heart.

Recently, the brand launched a new label called The Loyal Companion.  Here’s how it works:

  • You buy a bottle (or two, or twelve) of the Loyal Companion wine at
  • $1 of the proceeds from each bottle will go toward finding a good home for orphaned dogs in your area (using a special donation code)
  • If you prefer to pick up your Loyal Companion wine at a restaurant or retailer, $0.50 per bottle will go to your local shelter to help care for man’s best friend.

“This series was inspired by a desire to give back to local shelters all over the country,” said Mary Snellgrove, president of Cru Vin Dogs.  “We’re excited to offer The Loyal Companion wines at a reasonable price point, too, so it’s more affordable than ever to enjoy great wine and support dog rescue organizations at the same time.”

 The Loyal Companion currently includes two elegant wines from Sonoma County, California: a crisp, cool-climate Chardonnay and a concentrated red blend from a small hillside vineyard.  The next release will most likely be a luscious Pinot Gris from Oregon.  Each label in the Loyal Companion features artist Jay Snellgrove’s illustration of “Chica,” a shelter dog who exemplifies how animal adoption can change the life of a Loyal Companion in need. 

In addition to Cru Vin Dogs Wine Group’s active involvement in canine-related causes, the wine company was also the featured wine of the recently-filmed American Humane Society Hero Dog Awards.  Thousands of Americans voted for their favorite hero dog, and celebrities from Whoopi Goldberg to Betty White celebrated during a ceremony on October 1, which will air on the Hallmark Channel November 11.  Cru Vin Dogs Wine Group participated by pouring The Loyal Companion wines as the official wine sponsor, and will auction several large-format bottles across the country to benefit the American Humane Association and the dogs that enrich, enhance, and even save our lives. 

For more information on Cru Vin Dogs or the Loyal Companion Series, please visit:  To learn more about the soon-to-be-aired Hero Dog Awards, visit

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A Mosaic of Music and More

Chapel Hill, Shandon

Classical music in America is currently in a state of outrageous flux.  While many people consider Mozart, Brahms and Bach as relevant to modern life as a rotary telephone, there is a growing contingency of young listeners who are fervent about the tradition of Western art music and who will do anything to see its legacy continue and thrive.

One such group is Festival Mozaic in San Luis Obispo, California.  Founded in 1971 as the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, Festival Mozaic hosts hundreds of musicians from across the world every summer for 10 days to perform full orchestra and chamber music (small group) concerts in the most picturesque venues on California’s Central Coast.  Locales include the dazzlingly remote Chapel Hill in Shandon, the See Canyon Fruit Ranch in Avila Valley, and the historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.  Music styles range from classical to tango to swing to world beat to any number of hybrids therein.  Additionally, two weekend-long mini-festivals are held in the fall and winter called “Wintermezzos.”

Scott Yoo

Festival Mozaic is helmed by Scott Yoo, the young New York-based performer and conductor whose varied passions and interdisciplinary curiosities bring fresh life to the classical genre.  It is Scott’s pursuit of the interplay between music and day-to-day life that makes Festival Mozaic different from your run-of-the-mill classical music organization.  He has the soul of an educator, which comes across even in the organization of Festival events.

For instance, the upcoming weekend of October 21-23, Festival Mozaic will present a Wintermezzo in three parts:

  1. A one-hour cocktail party and shoulder-to-shoulder with Scott Yoo and Festival musicians discussing the weekend’s featured three pieces: Mozart’s String Quartet No. 14 in G Major, Earl Kim’s Three Poems in French, and Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat.  (Masonic Lodge Grand Ballroom, SLO, Oct. 21, 6 P.M.)
  2. An intimate dinner at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, accompanied by fine local wines and the Festival musicians, who will discuss and perform excerpts from the featured pieces. (SLO Botanical Garden, Oct. 22, 6 P.M.)
  3. A cumulative full-length concert of the three pieces at the beautiful Congregation Beth David temple.  (Congregation Beth David, SLO, Oct. 23, 3 P.M.

Did we mention the musicians who will descend on San Luis Obispo for this gluttonous musical rollick?  Mezzo-soprano Jacalyn Kreitzer (NY Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Los Angeles Philharmonic), cellist Madeleine Kabat (Carnegie Hall, Juilliard School), and Grammy-award-winning pianist Susan Grace.

To spend an entire weekend surrounded by live music, to discuss its history and implications with modern masters – and to enjoy the flavors of this bountiful region alongside – is an experience that brings art and creativity into the lives of even the least musically-inclined among us.  To melt into the music and enjoy a weekend of extravagant art, visit for tickets and info.

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SAVOR Scrapbook

Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast was this past weekend, and we had so much fun tasting incredible food, drinking incredible wine, enjoying incredible views, and learning incredible tips that we’ll need an entire year to recover our breath (and our waistlines) for another go!

We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share some of our favorite moments with you.  Enjoy.

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Kudos to Sunset Magazine, the San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau, the hundreds of winemakers, chefs and farmers who participated, and the many, many attendees who wanted something to SAVOR.  Cheers!

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