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The theme of “get busy living” has echoed in my ears for some time now. As a cancer survivor and an active volunteer, I know the theme has become a bit of a mantra for the Stupid Cancer community. Get a whole punch of passionate, motivated and courageous people who have already stared cancer in the eye together and give them a challenge. Puhleeze. We know who is winning this one.

I like to think I embody “get busy living” all of the time, but let’s be honest, it’s not  easy. Living every single day to the fullest is not always possible, sometimes it’s just to your own person fullest. And at least I can say that IS what I do. Yesterday just happened to be  day when I did it really well. I like to think it’s because I had a special brand new angel with me.

The best gifts are the gifts that you enjoy giving more than the receiver even enjoys receiving. Giving “good” gifts has been something I truly enjoy for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it tends to be something that the person wouldn’t purchase for themselves. I bought my dad a flying lesson for Christmas last year (yes, it is September, and yes, we did just redeem it). The guys at Global Aviation in Farmingdale were great and I highly recommend the experience. My favorite “get busy living” moment was sitting behind him in a plane and having hims say, “this is awesome.” I wowed dad. It’s like a little victory party just for me. The views of Long Island, the ocean and the horizon were incredible and we are so lucky to have had that time in the air.

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When we got back to the house, my dad asked, “what’s on your agenda?” And for the first time in way too long I was able to answer, “nothing planned.” What an incredible blessing to have an entire afternoon with nothing required. Granted, I had a huge pile of paperwork, schoolwork and laundry all looking right at me, but I knew they would still be there regardless of what I did with the rest of my day.

With a dear friend in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, it was a great day to suggest the flea market. She happen to have nothing planned as well and was eager to get outside. We walked around a mix of new and used items, ethic foods and drinks and possibly one of my favorites, framed pieces of art. These types of frames are ones that you can imagine in your living room or in the hallway. Each telling their own story. One that isn’t even yours. A magical place, in a frame.

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Trying to gather my other Brooklyn girls I suggested dinner at Madiba, a South African restaurant on Dekaulb in Fort Greene. Stop reading this and go there now. I’m not kidding, go. Fine, if you insist I will tell you about the experience and then you can go when you have a chance.

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Madiba happen to be celebrating its 14 year anniversary last night. We walked into a magical moment in time, just like the frames I had seen earlier in the day. The scene was energetic and nostalgic. The people were joyous and proud. The table were full of people from all over the city and community and the world. Owners, Mark and Jenny Henegan have dedicated their restaurant to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. They are “dedicated to the future of South Africa, a future that promises greater cultural harmony, economic development, and
collective enjoyment of ‘a World in One Country’.”

Celebrating in the lead were Mark and his brother, Denis. Not only were they celebrating the restaurant’s anniversary, but welcoming their parents coming to Brooklyn, to their place, for the first time in a long time. There were dignitaries, longtime customers and friends, staff, community, first-timers and family all under the same roof. And here we were, three first time patrons, enjoying libations, saffron, cumin, prawns, curries and beets. As if we had never had these things before. There are no words to describe quality new handmade goodness hitting your mouth for the first time. I was once told my roast was like “sex in my mouth.” That’s what I would have told the chefs at Madiba that night.

I had a chance to say hello to Mark on the way out, first congratulating him on 14 years of success and then for having us, we felt like we were a part of a family celebration marking the genuine love of the country, food and people of South Africa. And yet, he said, “thank you” to me.

In the theme of “get busy living” I leave this day as a memory and a reminder of the ability to make things happen regardless of what is in its path,  best said by Mandela himself, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Raining cats and dogs just doesn’t work when referencing bbq. In the great Meat Off of 2013 I have come to learn more about myself as a foodie:

1. I love vegetables. I eat salad for two days before our bbq dinners.
2. I am a food snob. Manufactured or mass produced bbq is not real bbq. It is suppose to take time.
3. Any articles or headlines referring to the ‘best of’ or ‘top 10′ or ‘must see’ go to my trash. I can not attend or acknowledge any other lists while completing this one.

Week 2: Dinosaur BBQ
Address: 400 West 125th Street, Harlem
Location: Coming from midtown, this was an easy tone very local train up
First impression: Crowded, I’m soaking wet and where’s the bar
Consumed: spare ribs, brisket, baked beans, pulled pork, colesslaw, mac n’ cheese, friend green tomatoes, bbq chicken, pickles, salt potatoes, corn bread, flavored beer
Highlights: Extremely attentive waitress, the garbage bucket on the table and ribs
Guests: Catherine (longtime friend of Maureen) and Nik (new friend of Catherine’s)

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This is Harlem in the rain, what you can’t see is the sideways rain and the rivers at every corner. Normally, this would not phase me, but I waled the wrong way and had to double my tracks. In the rain. Pouring rain.

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The Dinosaur has a lot of beer options, a lot. We tried Sea Salt Ale by the Fire Island Beer Company, Ithaca Apricot Wheat and Long Train Blackberry Wheat. Further proof that I’m a salt girl.

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Cheers! It’s the day before the 4th of July and we don’t have to go to work tomorrow.

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Hello drink menu and bbq sauce.

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We started with friend green tomatoes and smoked shrimp remoulade.

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Maureen and I shared two pbig plates, this one features the pulled pork sandwhich, salt potatoes and baked beans.

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This plate was the sampler and had roasted bbq chicken, ribs and brisket with side of mac n’ cheese and coleslaw. Again, Maureen doesn’t understand the point of cornbread.

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We were excited to be at week 2 of the Great Meat Off of 2013 and together. And dry.

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Hello Catherine and Nik!

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Catherine ordered a half bbq chicken, mac n’ cheese and the sweat potato mash. She was a happy girl.

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Nik also ordered the pull pork sandwich with coleslaw right on top, french fries and potato salad.

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Best bite. Corn bread and brisket dipped in bbq sauce.

Chow Dinosaur, ‘Cuse will definitely be the next time!

Recently Gothamist posted this article, declaring the top of the top BBQ places in the city. I have to admit that this category of food is not something I would normally be attracted to. Since leaving the Hudson Valley and reunited with the ‘burbs and “the” city the only BBQ I have craved is Max’s wing night.

So with my carnivorous friends came the idea of trying everything on the list. I promise, it’s only week one and I know I will be pushing for a top 10 of veg places next.

Week 1: Fette Sau
Address: 354 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Location: Coming from midtown, this was an easy two train commute and then a brief walk to the restaurant.
First impression: Smelled delish, calm before the storm and beer is mason jars
Consumed: short ribs, spare ribs, brisket, rolls, potato salad, baked beans, corn bread, root beer and ale
Highlights: cornbread with brisket baked beans declared favorite bite, rub on the spare ribs, brisket sandwich with extra bbq sauce

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Our friends at Fette Sau are very smart and have a rustic / fun decor. And a cool bar, that counts, too. The beer taps have meat hacking charm. One of those is the Sixpoint called Vienna Ale that was brewed just for Fette Sau, that also makes them very smart.

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This was the tray I ordered for Maureen and I. Don’t judge. I did it for you.

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I think she was happy. It was hard to tell.

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This is a close up of the rub, some goodness was up in there.

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More cool decor and educational! We were able to see and learn what cuts of meat we were eating.

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This was my favorite bite of the entire meal. The baked beans were off the hook. Spicy, slow cooked and chunks of brisket thrown in for good measure. Pictured here on a piece of cornbread.

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Picnic tables inside and out gave for good community and noise.

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This is when we should have stopped, instead we ordered one more beef rib to push us over the edge. It was by the pound.

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This is the bone after we were done with it. In case you can’t tell, as big as my head.

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If you are a condiment girl like myself, you would like the bbq sauce, vinegar sauce and hot sauce. I love sauce.

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Good bye Fette Sau, see you next time!

After a weekend in the “country” I am headed back to my “other” life. When I first moved upstate there were so many emotions and uncertainties. And here I am living somewhere else and still have just as many uncertainties. I’m a better person for taking the risk, but the real question has become, now what? There are a few things I know for sure:

1. Moving to the country was one of the boldest things I had ever done and there are many people who would have never taken the leap. I am proud of myself for doing it in the first place.

2. The decision to leave the country and pursue career opportunities elsewhere was one of the hardest things I have ever done. And there are many people who would have just stayed. I am proud that I have the will to make decisions and carry them through with conviction.

3. The relationships I have are gifts from heaven. Although I have yet to meet the “one” I have strong and supportive roots in many places and spaces. These people are loving, supportive, kind and cheer me on in all that I do. I walk into a room and people actually cheer. It’s an insane and amazing reaction to get from your peers. Apparently, as I was told this weekend, “I see why everyone is so obsessed with you.” Humbled. And thankful.

4. People are not going to change. My Dad’s theory reins true, we are pretty much fully developed by seven years old, the rest of it is further development of our basic personality. We can expect or demand change from someone else. We can only do our own changing and growing. Including the way we react to behaviors we don’t care for. It’s our work we have to do.

“Ahh, Home
Yes, I am Home
Home is when I’m alone with you.”
~ Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

A few weeks ago, over Memorial Day weekend, my dear friend Noel and I cooked up a storm for a local music video shoot. You remember Noel from our City Mouse Country Mouse cooking demo last year.

Local ingredients and meeting multiple needs (gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, etc.) was quite the challenge. And at the same time, awesome and creative.

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When amazing things happen right in front of your eyes, your imagination starts to work on overdrive.

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” ~ Albert Einstein

So far in 2012…

I turned 30.

Winter was lame in the Hudson Valley, no snow, no sleet, no ice. Weirdness.

I influenced the lives of Hofstra undergrads for eight week in a Public Relations Copywriting course. Like whoa.

I taught social media workshops for the continuing ed program at Ulster Community College.

Spoke to inspiring NYU alumni / women / friends who are changing the world. One day at a time. Keep going ladies.

Saw amazing world change start.

Welcomed spring. Thank the good lord.

And continued my journey on being good to the people around me. Through their stomachs.

This year I hope to…

Increase DIYing,  from sauces and breads to time capsules, pasta and rooster sauce and maybe even some coffee liqueur.

Travel.

Conquer everything on Bon Appetite’s 25 things… thinking the biggest challenge is going to be Tasmania.

Be comfortable in a bathing suit on my 30th birthday.

Step out of my comfort zone just because.

Learn how to type on t he new iPhone with only minimal auto-corrects.

Conquer my first class… as a… professor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take more pictures.

Enjoy and get to know Pinterest, Hipstomatic and my google reader better.

Get published in a food publication, online version would suffice.

Limit the people in my life who don’t value our friendship as much as I do and practice what I preach, all relationships have to be mutually beneficial at some point or another.

Accomplish at least five of these financial tips.

Dance around in my underwear [more].

 

Make parmesan crusted goat cheese with basil oil, spiced chai concentrate, vanilla bean syrup, and pork crown roast.

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Cheesecurd at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

Crows perched at the Oregon Coast.


Sweet and cool sand on the west coast.

Best BELT (bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato) ever at the Love Joy Bakery.


I could get used to this Oregon place.

“We want you to visit our State of Excitement often. Come again and again. But for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live. Or if you do have to move in to live, don’t tell any of your neighbors where you are going.” ~ Governor Tom McCall, 1971

After much hemming and hawing, for reasons unreasonable to some, I got over it. Here  is Thea Sphere Sweets.

And this is a sample of what I make over at Thea Sphere Sweets:

Ever play the game “Never have I ever?”

That is how my latest project has come to be. Never would I ever have been able to shape my cooking and baking craft if I hadn’t moved to the country, found a roommate, rented the most colorful house in all the land and spent many of a night in the red and orange kitchen. Yes, the walls are prison orange and the cabinets are cherry red. I wouldn’t have it any other way, even if I had gotten to pick the wall color myself. So for the last two years, I have made cakes, cheesecakes, cookies and cupcakes for every holiday, birthday, sappy Friday, snowday and BBQ in and around the Hudson Valley. The confections made their way to Syracuse, the city, Long Island and New Jersey. And where ever the treats went I heard, “why don’t you sell these?” I had two, in my humble opinion reasons why not to make baking more than just a middle of the night de-stresser.

1. I love to watch people at food I have made. If I were to sell baked goods how would I ever go to every single order’s home and see them eat the confection I created.

2. People who cook for a living often end up hating it. And that I can not and will not have. Baking (and cooking in general) is the only thing that stops my eye twitch. I have a stress eye twitch that come from work, car and personal stress. It’s the right eye above and sometime below the lid. It makes me batty. So why would I risk not enjoying the one remedy I have?

Alas, I broke down and ordered business cards.

And I made this page.

And then I bought labels.

And now I am planning an open house for 11.11.11 to showcase what is available for the holiday season.

In the midst of baking and cooking in the country, friends and family have pushed me in the direction of making it official. And although I am not ready for that, I can do the local thing and bring baked goodness to the ones I love (and the ones they love). Thank you for the push [read shove] to the next step.

“Like” away at www.facebook.com/theaspheresweets and you can check out all of the amazing baked goods that I have come up with in the last year or so. Phew. I’m glad that’s out.

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”  ~ Luciano Pavarotti 

The most fun summer events are the weekly dance parties at the Spiegeltent at Bard College. For $5 you get entry into the best dance floor in the Hudson Valley. The beats are serious. The people are characters. The dress code if as you see fit. The energy is awesome. And the sweat dripping down your back is just what the doctor ordered. There are only a few weeks left of the Spiegeltent and it is highly recommended you attend. In something cute. And with some body glitter.

Talk about dance?  Dance is not something to talk about.  Dance is to dance.  ~ Peter Saint James

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