Gingerbread cajita by Michele Simon

Toy Emergency!

Calling all elves!  The Mission SRO Collaborative has put out an urgent call for toys.  About a hundred kids from their program will not receive toys from their regular donator, Toys for Tots.  (They had a similar problem last year)  Simple toys, like action figures, dolls, games and puzzles are needed by Monday, Dec. 21st at 3p.m.

Please pick up a toy for one of their amazing kids! Here’s how:

Drop off at: SRO Collaborative 938 Valencia St. (btw 20th and 21st) between 9a.m. to 6p.m. phone 415-282-6209 ext 16, 12, or 19. Arrange pick-up: Contact  Jorge Portillo 415-671-5089. email, Facebook, — he is toy driven to see you get the toys there!

I love clowns and it has nothing to do with size 18 shoes. Three very different shows involving clowns and circus arts are playing from now until January: Mr. Yoowho’s Holiday, Fun-Derful Holidaze, and Yes Sweet Can. Presented in black box theaters, these are refreshingly low-tech and more intimate than Cirque du Soleil, yet nonetheless magical.

Looking for a swanky joint for a special family meal?  Check out Amy Graff’s list of kid-friendly restaurants on SFGate.

Speaking of food, Michele Simons’ tantalizing gingerbread cajitas featuring La Virgen de Guadalupe raises a dilemma for me. Do I kneel below it or eat it?

“My goal with the cajitas/nichos was to combine traditions from different cultures,”said Simons who weds German lebkuchen houses and Mexican Day of the Dead folk art in her charming new works.

But she assures, “They are completely edible.”

Each lovely cajita/nicho is a unique design, decorated with gum drops, candy, frosting and home baked gingerbread crackers. Yellow icing radiates from La Virgen and a small gingerbread cross crowns her sugary sprinkled box.  Melted hard candy stars, gumdrop votives, candy red roses….  The confectionery vision is affixed onto gingerbread slabs with royal icing: made of egg whites and confectioners’ sugar that dries hard as cement.

Michele Simons' gingerbread house with wafflecone Christmas tree and rice crispy snowman
Michele Simons’ gingerbread house with wafflecone Christmas tree and rice crispy snowman

Simons is the founder of Sugar Skulls Gallery. Her Día de los Muertos sugar skull decorating workshops were recently enjoyed by children and adults at local art spaces. People asked Simons to resume workshops for the holidays. This week she will be presenting a gingerbread cajitas demo at Encantada Gallery and a gingerbread house workshop at Autumn Express.  Going from skulls to houses may seem like night and day, but for Simons it’s a natural progression in the Mission.

“Gingerbread seemed like a fun project, and one of the main components of decorating is the royal icing that I use for sugar skulls. So I spent a couple of weeks experimenting with the gingerbread itself and making patterns for my houses and cajitas. That part is pretty labor intensive, but then you get to decorate the pieces which is the fun part.”

Look for the gingerbread cajitas on display at Encantada Fine Art Gallery and Galería de la Raza.

Before leaving you with a list of events I give you an interesting excerpt of an interview with writer Junot Díaz in conversation with Dave Eggers. It really shows the importance making time to engage our youth. The full text can be found in McSweeney’s San Francisco Panorama newspaper.

“It’s no mystery, and we know this, either we know it directly or indirectly: things have really shifted, not only in the culture of education but in the larger society. Young people are more isolated from adults than they’ve ever been. The isolation is kind of structural and it’s very deep and it’s very visible….

“It’s not fucking rocket science — young people need a tremendous amount of support and they need a tremendous amount of conversation and people to listen to them.  And all you’ve got to do is just show the fuck up and actually give a shit….

“It’s that artificial isolation that people pay for the most, you know, and we pay a price, too, being removed from young people the way the most people are. That young people are some sort of numerical abstraction has robbed the society of much of its strength.”

Upcoming events:

Mission High Winter Holiday Concert

Mission High School Choir performs wonderful holiday musical selections.  Also special tribute performances to Michael Jackson.  Come enjoy your local music-makers and thrillers!  Thurs., Dec. 17.  7:30pm.  Donations up to $5 welcomed to support choir (no one turned away for lack of funds).  Mission High Auditorium, 455 Dolores St. (at 18th)

Fiesta Noche de la Paz

Dinner dance, family photos, games and prizes. Performance by Ballet Folklorico Nicaragua Viva. For more info, call Good Samaritan Family Resources 415-401-4253.  Thurs, Dec. 17. 6pm-9pm. Horace Mann Middle School Auditorium, 3351 23rd St. (at Bartlett)

Yes Sweet Can

Who says a garbage can is trash? Who says sweeping up is a chore?  “Yes Sweet Can” instills new life into old ideas, creating in a world in which anything can happen.  Acrobatic brooms, disco-dancing chocolate milk, a trio of tap dancing trash cans, circus apparatus, aerial silks, acrobatics, slack rope, hula hoops and the magic of everyday life, accessible to everyone.  Dec. 18 – Jan. 3.  $12-$18.  Dance Mission, 3316 24th St. (at Mission)

Mr. Yoowho’s Holiday

Precision high diving, yodeled serenades, European clown, Japanese kyogen and butoh, and Yiddish absurdism. With Moshe Cohen as Mr. Yoowho and Jubilith Moore as Koken.  “Humor converted into poetry.”  Dec. 18 – Jan. 3. Fridays at 8pm. Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm. $10-$15. NOHspace, 2840 Mariposa St. (btw Florida and Alabama)

Gingerbread Casita Demonstration

Artist Michele Simons assembles and decorates one of her one-of-a-kind casitas/nichos.  Enjoy a scrumptious gingerbread cookie while learning about the process.  Sat. & Sun., Dec. 19 & 20.  1pm-3pm.  Free. Encantada Gallery of Fine Art, 904 Valencia St. (btw (20th and Liberty)

Family Portrait Day

Have a free family portrait taken and support local arts.  You’ll receive copy of family portrait and have opportunity to contribute to the process of an original new play “Mirrors in Every Corner”,  and a new visual arts installation exploring issues of race, family, neighborhood, lineage. Sign up by contacting Rebeka Rodriguez: or 415-626-2787 x108.  Or just show up, first come first serve. Sat., Dec. 19, 12pm-5pm. Free. Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia St. (btw 15th and 16th)

Abadá-Capoeira Family and Friends Day

Celebrate culmination of Fall Kids’ Capoeira Session with Instructor Graduado Corrente and students.   Capoeira roda, healthy refreshments and fun. Registration for next 2010 session available.  Sat., Dec. 19. 1:30pm-2:30pm. Free. Abadá-Capoeira, 3221 22nd St. (at Mission)

Pachamama Textiles 2nd Annual Backyard Get-Together

Two full days of relaxed shopping, dancing, eating, and drinking with good company. Plus face painting for kids of all ages! Featuring two new local artisans and new items from Mexico.  Imports from Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, and Guatemala. Wardobe, accessories and more.  Support local biz!  Hosted by Mission born and raised Jasmin and Pachamama Textiles.  Sat., Dec. 19 10am-4pm. Sun., Dec. 20 10am-3pm.  No cover.  1379 Alabama St. (btw 25th and 26th)

Handmade ornaments by Ehren Reed
Handmade ornaments by Ehren Reed

Handmade Ornaments Workshop

A fun afternoon of simple original crafts with artist Ehren Reed. Create stuffed paper ornaments using recycled/reused materials shaped as holiday-themed ornaments, such as stars and trees. These are stitched or stapled along the outside, stuffed with paper, then painted and decorated.  Great homemade gifting ideas for kids of all ages, and creative concept of recycling. While you’re there, check out the plush and elegant cockroach soft sculpture by artist Jennifer Muskopf.  Give one to your main squeeze to say love is forever. Sat., Dec. 19. 2pm-4pm. Free. Paxton Gate Curiosities For Kids, 766 Valencia St. (near 19th)

Fun-Derful Holidaze

Bay Area’s beloved clown Unique Derique is joined by his poi-twirling daughter Mali and Prescott Clown Circus theater alumni for a fun-filled holiday extravaganza. Amazing youth jugglers, hambone body music team, hip hop dancers, and dynamic movin’ and groovin’ clowning. 60 minutes, no intermission. Dec. 19– Jan. 3 (see website). All shows at 2pm. $7-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St. (near 22nd St.)

The Greatest Bubble Show On Earth

Gobs of bubbles brew in the Marsh: flying saucer bubbles, smoky square bubbles, cosmic bubbles, centipede bubbles, even kids in bubbles. Float into an iridescent paradise with Louis Pearl, the Amazing Bubble Man. Accompanied by Jetty Swart’s winsome live accordion and vocal music. Dec. 20-Jan. 3 .gv $7-10. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St. (near 22nd St.)

Gingerbread House Workshop

Make a home sweet home with artist Michele Simons.  Dress to get messy. For kids of all ages (children under 12 accompanied by an adult) To register, please call 415.824.2222 or Mon., Dec. 21. 5pm-6:30pm. $40 (includes gingerbread house and decorations). Autumn Express, 2071 Mission Street (near 16th)

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