Sunday, March 22, 2020

An Abundant Life - You Are What You Teach

I met Lynn Fredericks more than ten years ago in a public school gymnasium on Manhattan's Lower East Side. At the time I was the Director of an after school program in the Jacob Riis Houses on Avenue D, and I was also working in ministry in the meal program and community outreach of a church that had started the after school program ten years before. My first intention when I arrived at the after school program was to bring arts education to the children and teenagers, but I was soon asked to become the Director because I had a background in administrative work, and there were many rules and regulations that needed to be followed to keep the program running smoothly. In addition to bringing arts education to the youth, I began to search out other enrichment programs, and one of the things that I felt God put on my heart to do there was to help bring healthy food and nutrition education to the meal program and the after school, and to start a community garden. In those days I didn't know anything about working in New York City community based programs and I thought the idea of starting a community garden there was impossible. But on a prayer walk up through all the housing complexes on the lower east side one Sunday, I clearly heard the message that the area would be filled with community gardens one day. Within less than ten years that is exactly what happened, but this story is not just about that. This story is about Lynn Fredericks, who is the Founder of FamilyCook Productions, and how she inspires and helps beautiful things to grow in so many lives.

The meeting in the gym where we met was for the fledgling Lower East Side Community Partnership that had just started. The LESCP as it was referred to was a program that began with a grant to create a network of agencies that could provide a safety net for families that were part of the foster care system or who were at risk in the community. I was asked to be a part of the planning process by the Directors of the lead organization who had asked me to help coordinate and introduce the faith based community to the project, and to help bring that perspective to the table. At the meeting the day that I met Lynn, the Directors of the project had been asking if anyone had any ideas for family meetings that could be held in places that were outside of offices and could be less stressful and more fun and relaxed for the families, and I got up in the room full of at least 300 people and told them that I had a vision during a prayer walk of community gardens and that I thought starting and working in them could be a way to help bring families together in a healthy and fun and relaxing way. When I sat down, a woman in front of me turned around and said, "After the meeting, talk to me. I have some resources for you." It was extraordinary that she was there and that she responded in the way that she did, and after the meeting we talked and exchanged information. She told me that there was a program through the New York City Housing Authority that would help people and organizations who were located in public housing start community gardens, and she started sending me contacts right away. Every connection and contact she gave me led to something wonderful, and I was able to start the community garden. Her contacts led to other contacts, and eventually led to my teaching nutrition and health and working in community and youth development in all five boroughs. She really changed my life.

While I was still with the after school program, I was able to write a grant that provided for Lynn to come and teach a workshop with the students and utilize and reference some of the vegetables and herbs we were growing in the garden. It was such a beautiful day with the children and teens working together to make a salad, a Nicoise if I remember the recipe correctly. I also remember so many conversations about ideas that she had as to how to encourage youth and families to cook and eat healthy food that were so wonderful that I brought them into my own classrooms then and ever after.

We've stayed in touch over the years, and recently in one of her newsletters I saw that FamilyCook Productions had published new research, "Experiential Features of Culinary Nutrition Education That Drives Behavior Change: Frameworks for Research and Practice". I contacted Lynn to ask if I could write about her and her work and FamilyCook Productions as an organization that is a long standing model of excellence in youth development work.

There is something that Lynn is able to do in a classroom of students that is both inspiring and inspired. She loves encouraging and teaching youth to eat healthy food, to learn about it and to learn how to cook it. From the beginning she had designed something called Teen Battle Chef that was an innovative way for students to compete in their mastery of cooking skills, and she had always stressed the importance of teaching children with respect, giving them tools to use that were professional, and teaching them professional techniques such as knife skills. Her programs are taught throughout major cities such as New York City, Philadelphia and Denver, Colorado, and have been replicated in over 30 States and more than 300 Sites, with 74% of students reporting healthy behavior change and 90% reporting that they positively influence their family and friends. When I was being trained to teach nutrition and health, we were taught the saying "Each one teach one." For Lynn Fredericks, she's taught so many in such a beautiful way that she has made their world and all of ours a much more delicious, inviting and healthy place to live.

The Inspirational Teaching Of Lynn Fredericks, Founder
FamilyCook Productions
Photographs Courtesy Of The Website and Instagram Pages

Ten Drivers Of Behavior Change


Jannie Susan

Sunday, March 15, 2020

An Abundant Life - A Beautifully Moving Work Of Art

There are so many beautiful murals in Jersey City, New Jersey, and so many wonderful Artists. It's known worldwide to be a place that is filled with exciting, unique and visionary art and cultural projects and for good reason. One of the things that makes my walks around the different neighborhoods so enjoyable is that I have the opportunity to see so much of the art that is done in public spaces, and over time I have had the opportunity to meet some of the Artists who create it. I've written about a number of them in this blog, and whenever I have the opportunity I try to see as much art and meet as many Artists as I can. My business for many years has incorporated working with Artists in the areas of public relations and marketing, finding space for shows, curating multi-media art events and helping to connect Artists with the community and with galleries and collectors and projects. I also walk everywhere, and though people sometimes think I'm crazy for doing it, especially now in the days of Uber and Lyft at our fingertips, I purposely have never downloaded those apps because I like to have a reason to keep on walking. One of my Artist friends jokingly calls me Jannie Walker after the ever present ad campaign for Johnnie Walker scotch, and I love the title because it's such a part of who I am and what I do. I love my walk abouts because I see great things and meet great people, and I find that my life is connected in a way to the community when I'm at street level that it wouldn't be otherwise if I was in a car, a bus or even on a bike.

One day last Spring when I was on my way to visit an Artist to talk about an event I was curating, I walked under one of the overpasses on my way to the other side of Jersey City from Hoboken and I saw two Mural Artists working on a project on each side of the concrete facing walls. I took a quick photograph as I walked up to them, and then walked closer and introduced myself to the one who was working on the wall to the right. After I had said who I was, I said, "I know you must be someone famous," and I meant it, because the work was so beautiful and so intricate that was being done. It told a story even though it was only in the beginning stages, and I knew that so much thought and design was being poured into it, so much history and emotion and life. The Artist laughed and said that he went by the name DISTORT, and I honestly nearly fell on the ground. For someone like me who is an admirer of street art and murals, it was an honor to meet him because he really is not only famous but at the top of his field. He's well respected and liked by other great Artists as well as by community leaders, community members and business owners, and he's looked up to by a generation of rising Artists and youth who see the integrity of his work and of his work ethic and life. Of all the people to meet on my travels, it was such an unexpectedly beautiful blessing, and I gave him my card and asked if we could meet again at some time for a blog post.

Over the next months I ran into him a few times when he was working on other projects, and I posted and tagged him on photos whenever I saw new work or had an opportunity to photograph one of his existing murals. Street artists very often don't like to be photographed and identified, to protect their privacy and also because at times, though they can often be part of projects that are legally created that they are invited to do, they also sometimes have tagged in the past or may still be actively tagging or painting in areas that are not legal, and where they can be fined or given jail time if they are caught. A number of years ago a good friend of mine who is known as Jesus Saves was caught for some old graffiti from the time before he was born again. He'd stopped illegally tagging but ended up spending time in Rikers for paint he'd put up some time ago. The photograph that I took on the first day that I met Distort had a part of his face showing, a piece of his profile, and though it wasn't much I asked him if I could post it because I didn't want to go out of bounds. He allowed me to at the time, but I won't post it here out of respect for his privacy and the code of this very special group of Artists that he is a part of.

When we sat down to talk recently in his studio, I had the opportunity to learn more about the beauty in the vision of this very wonderful and extremely talented Artist. He cares so much about the world and about the community around him that he is a part of, and he feels very deeply the courses of injustice and harmful influences that have been damaging to the earth's ecology and to people's lives. His process as he creates his pieces is an intricate and time consuming one that includes creating a kind of vision board in his notebook, an outline in collage form of what the finished project will be using drawings and images from magazines and newspapers and vintage advertisements that is a work of art itself. The pieces I saw in his studio are being created for the most part on metal surfaces with a mirrored finish. Layering enamel paint and etching onto and into them, sometimes the mirrored surfaces become part of the layers of the designs in ways that are unexpected. He was also in the process of working on a piece that included electricity to light up a small area to give a window into a hidden underground world that reflected the viewer and the vision beyond it.

His work is extraordinary. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, he is classically trained and has exhibited extensively in the Tristate area, and has completed murals in Miami, Istanbul, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York and North Jersey. When you read his Artist Statement, it is a glimpse into the mind and heart of someone who is looking deeply and seeing the multi-layers of history as it overlaps with the present and informs our every day lives. But there is something else that can be understood, when you meet him and see the Art he has created. There is a quietness and a sense of listening, of being a part of the deepest and innermost secrets of the world around him, of a very human being who is present in every sense, who is taking time to hear people who are often unheard and trying to give voice to those who may not know how to use their voices or may not be able to. I am reminded of writers and philosophers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose work and life were so deeply rooted in getting back to the basics of who we are as people, and of William Wordsworth whose poems gave voice to the earth and sky and the birds and trees and brought us all a bit closer to what it really means to be human.


A Collaboration With T.Dee


Jannie Susan

Sunday, March 8, 2020

An Abundant Life - Blossoming Where You Are

The first time I visited Saku in Hoboken, it was shortly after the restaurant opened. I am a fan of the owner Dan Grey's restaurant Grand Vin, and when I heard he was opening a new restaurant I asked if I could stop by for a blog post. As I wrote at the time, Saku is a truly magical place, with gorgeous design and delicious Japanese inspired fusion tastes on the menu. The cocktails were delicious as well as being inventive and fun as everything else was. I went back to visit and bring friends and recommended it to everyone, and then one day when I was talking to the Mixologist Stephanie O'Neill, she said that she was planning a trip to visit with Melanie Carugan, the Bar Manager and Mixologist at Saku, and asked if I'd like to join her. She had never been to Saku before, but she had met Melanie online on Instagram and they had a mutual admiration and wanted to meet. I was more than happy to join Stephanie, because as I have written about her in these pages, I'm an admirer of her creative ideas and delicious cocktails and we always have a great time when I visit her when she is working at Antique Bar & Bakery and at the Hyatt in Jersey City. And so we made a plan and one evening found ourselves sitting at the bar at Saku, meeting with Melanie Carugan while she worked behind the bar.

We tried lots of delicious tastes that night, with cocktails that Melanie created and also a flight of Sake she took us on a journey with, and of course we ate the wonderful food at Saku which goes wonderfully well with the cocktails as well as the Sake. And we had lots of fun, because how can you not have fun with two women who both love to craft delicious and inventive cocktails, talking shop and tasting delicious and interesting things? Mixology is a craft of its own, in some ways like being a Chef with liquid, and though parts of the ingredients can sometimes be cooked or heated or infused or vaporized, for the most part a Mixologist is dealing with things that are chilled, shaken, stirred and mixed in their natural state. It takes a very special kind of palate to pull the flavor notes out of a type of alcoholic beverage, combine them with things that will compliment each other and bring everything together into something that tastes delicious and is presented with beauty and style. And then there is the question of Garnishes, or the Garnish Game as Melanie will sometimes admiringly describe someone else's ability to add those lovely additions on the glass that finish the cocktail and make it oh so perfectly photographable. Deciding what to put on a glass, how to place it, should it be combined with something else or several things or allowed to be simply itself, these are all questions that Mixologists answer, sometimes deciding on the spot if they are making a new version of a cocktail or using a classic ingredient or if they are following after or riffing on an older recipe.

Just after meeting with Melanie, I saw on her Instagram page and the page for Misunderstood Whiskey, one of my favorite Whiskeys that I have also written about, that a cocktail she created had been featured in Forbes for their "13 Delicious Chocolate Dishes and Cocktails for National Chocolate Day". Her cocktail, "Crazy About Bou" was made with Misunderstood Whiskey, Bouvery CV Chocolate Liqueur, Negori Sake, house made creamy chai and aromatic bitters, and was garnished with Cookie Crisps. A lovely and whimsical twist on cookies and milk for adults, she had decided to serve it in a glass that was made to look like a clear, small milk carton. If I hadn't already met Melanie and didn't know that her cocktails were on point, I would have wanted to go there immediately to try it anyway because it looked and sounded so luscious and so charming.

When I sat down with Melanie the other day to talk a bit for this blog post, she told me that she had been working in restaurants since her earliest jobs, and that she liked the atmosphere and the people and the experience of that environment. She had worked in nearly every restaurant job by the time she had been hired at Saku, and because of her experience, hard work, creative ideas and great personality she had moved up to the position of Bar Manager. She told me that she gets her creative ideas from everywhere, and that though she enjoys a challenge, her favorite alcohol to mix with is Vodka because it blends so well and can be used as a base for just about any other flavor or combination of tastes. Prior to working at Saku, she had worked at Corgi Spirits and at some other high end restaurants, and in each place she excelled and grew, working hard to learn and master the art of whatever it was that she was being asked to do wherever she was placed. The name Saku means "To Bloom" and after meeting Melanie Carugan I think she may have found the place that suits her best, because though she is able to bloom wherever she is, she is certainly blossoming there.

Melanie Carugan
At Saku
Photograph Credit Zack Perl, The Bacyard

Her Creation "Crazy About Bou" With Misunderstood Whiskey
That Was Featured In Forbes 
 Photograph Credit Zack Perl, The Bacyard

Selected Photographs From A Visit To Saku

A Sake Flight

An Inventive Cocktail
With A Cleverly Submerged Burst Of Flavor


Jannie Susan

Sunday, March 1, 2020

An Abundant Life - A Star Was Born

I am a firm believer that we are given gifts and talents from the time we are born that are meant to be shared with the world. Over time we can hone them and do the hard work of learning and refining our craft, but it is our own unique way of creative expression that is our starshine. I recently met a young woman who is a singer and songwriter, and when I had the opportunity to see her perform at her EP release party at Pianos on Ludlow Street in Manhattan the first thought that came into my mind was "A Star is Born." But that of course is the name of a film that has been made and remade many times over the years that includes the heartache and heartfelt love and loss that often go into the lives of people who are truly and deeply creative in their souls. By reaching deeply into that well of emotion and allowing ourselves to feel, we become our most vulnerable, and in the process we allow others to be healed and helped with our voices and art. I changed the title here to A Star Was Born because not only do I believe that we are always the stars that we are in the process of becoming, but I also fervently wish only love and light in the life of Sage Leopold. For one so young the passion and emotion run deep, and I would wish that she only always be filled with beauty and hope throughout her life.

The first time I met Sage I was at one of the impromptu events that her mother, Pamela Lubell, organizes on a fairly regular basis and that she calls PamJams. On these beautiful evenings musician friends come from all over to congregate and sing and play and have fun together with their own music and favorite cover songs from the history of rock and pop, jazz, country and blues. The room gets filled with musicians and music lovers, and as the spirit moves songs go from one to another with people nodding and swaying, dancing and singing along. It's an incredible experience to be in that room, not only for the excellence of the musicians but also because of the casually beautiful and comfortable surroundings that bring everyone into a place of enjoyable reverie. Pamela herself is like that, with a heart that welcomes beauty and life and light and love and creates them all around her, and when Sage sat down to play I knew we were in for a treat. That night she sang a cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game,"one of my favorite songs in more recent history. I'm a real stickler when it comes to music. My brother was a musician, a guitarist, singer and songwriter, and he taught me from the time I was very young that if you couldn't make a song your own while still keeping the integrity of the original you needed to leave well enough alone. Sage sang that song as if she owned it, while still staying so closely tied to the original that it was an homage of love to the beauty of it. On the night of her EP release, she sang a few gorgeous covers along with her own gorgeous creations, and when she started to sing Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot," I had the same feeling I had on that other night. Here was someone who loved and admired and respected the Artist who had created the original, and while deeply touching into the emotion and truth of the song for herself, she was able to make it her own while honoring the other.

Sage Leopold's own music is beautiful, and truly has so much depth that I would have thought it was coming from the heart and soul and mind of someone much older. She is a graduate of Manhattan's LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts and Tulane University in New Orleans, but in some ways I would say she's a graduate of the school of a life filled with meaning. Her star was over her when she was born, and as she grows it can only get brighter, and continue to light up even the darkest of nights.

Sage Leopold
At Pianos
158 Ludlow Street

Selected Promotional Photographs
Courtesy Of Sage Leopold's Instagram Page And Spotify

Tuning Up With A Radiant Smile


Jannie Susan

Sunday, February 23, 2020

An Abundant Life - The Art Of Collaboration

In early June of 2018, the beautiful Artist Alberte Bernier asked me if I would work with her on a book that she was planning to create about her art. She had designed a few books before, but the person she had worked with was no longer available. I had written about Alberte in my blog, and she and I had started to become friends, and because she liked the style of my writing and knew that I was a Curator and that I worked on collaborative projects with different types of artists, she asked me if I would consider working with her. I love Alberte's work and I love Alberte. She is a beautiful Artist and a beautiful soul, fun and intelligent and creative and kind, and her artistic aesthetic brings beauty wherever she goes. I love to work on collaborative projects and so of course I said yes, and we began on the journey that eventually became the book, Infinite Shapes Traveling Colors.

Over the time that we worked together, we got to know each other more. That's one of the things that I like about working on collaborative projects, because in the process it's possible to develop new layers of friendship. There is also the possibility that you can really start to understand and be inspired by the other person in a new way, and that's exactly what happened during this time.

We had our first official meeting about the project in Hoboken at Antique Bar & Bakery on July 4th, 2018. They were having a holiday lunch special and we sat together after our delicious meal and began to look over Alberte's notes on her computer. She had previously sent me a few things to start looking at, and she had asked if I could write an introduction to the book as well as help curate the photographs of her pieces and edit her own writing. I'm a big proponent of encouraging people to use their own voices whenever possible, and after reviewing Alberte's writing, I suggested that she could keep it as it was. I was happy to write an introduction from the perspective of an Art Writer and Curator, but her own descriptions and explanation of why she wanted to write the book seemed to me to be best coming directly from her own voice. Alberte also has a wonderful sensibility about art and design, and so even in the area of curating I really felt that she was able to make the appropriate decisions, and that the best way I could help was to be someone she could bounce ideas off of and brainstorm with.

When we began discussing the project, we had conversations about who to work with to physically create the book and how to go about the layout and design of the pages. A friend had given her some suggestions for online resources and I also had some ideas, but each one we researched either didn't seem to be a good fit or for some reason we weren't able to connect them to the project. And then one day last Winter Alberte asked me if I could help her with photographing and making a video of her studio space at ChaShaMa at the Brooklyn Army Terminal that she could post online and share with ChaShaMa, and I thought about someone who might be able to help her with that who was also someone I thought might be able to help with some technical ideas for her book or at least suggest a direction we could explore. I love taking photographs and videos, but when I thought about what might be the best way to go about it I thought of Eric Sanchez and his wife Dana Gambale. Eric is a wonderful Videographer and Photographer and his wife is a beautiful Artist who also has a wonderful eye behind a camera, and I thought that they might enjoy a day visiting Alberte's studio because she and the space are so creative and inspiring. We spent a wonderful afternoon together and began talking about the book also, and in addition to the beautiful photographs and video footage he and Dana took that day, Eric started to do research on how to put the book together.

Over the next few months we met several times and shared some very memorable meals made by Alberte and Dana who are excellent cooks, and had some very memorable conversations. As the book took shape we continued to meet to look at the layout and share ideas. On the night before my birthday, we planned to meet for a final look through before Eric submitted the book for its first Artist's proof of one printed copy before it was printed in multiples. After a delicious dinner that Dana made, Eric and Dana surprised me that night with a cake with candles, and Alberte brought a lovely collection of birthday gifts. No business meeting could have been more fun. In fact, during the course of this collaboration it's always been great fun, with good energy, creative joy and beautiful time shared together, and the product is the proof of that. When we met recently at Novado Gallery in Jersey City for the opening of a show where Dana is showing her work, Alberte brought the first copy that had been printed. It looked even more beautiful than it did on Eric's professional computer screen when we were discussing the layout and design questions, and it's the combination of all of our shared gifts that has given it such a high level of quality. This collaboration was a true success because of the effort and skill that went into it, and it has that extra something that makes it truly special because each one of us not only brought our best to it, but allowed the gifts and talents of the others to shine.

Infinite Shapes
Traveling Colors
And The Team That Put It Together
Alberte Bernier, Artist
Jannie Wolff, Editor
Eric Sanchez, Layout And Design
Dana Gambale, Artistic Consultant

A First View Of The First Printing
Following Three Photographs
Courtesy Of Dana Gambale and Eric Sanchez

A Glimpse Inside The Pages

The Dedication Page

The Foreword

In The Artist's Own Words

 Selected Pages With Art Work


Jannie Susan

Sunday, February 16, 2020

An Abundant Life - The Essence Of Luxurious Love

I saw the film "Scent of a Woman" years ago, and because of the powerful performance by Al Pacino and the beautiful message of the film it has stayed with me forever. That is the way of true love, the deeper kind of love that moves beyond attraction or brief infatuation. When we truly love, the feelings that we have cannot ever be removed from our heart.

Just before Valentine's Day I attended an event at The Pierre in New York City for the perfume launch of Amorem Rose by Shalini Parfum. The event was lovely in a way that only The Pierre can be, classic and timeless while still rooting its luxuriousness in the beautiful present. The perfume is part of a collection that is a match for the classic and timeless updated luxury of The Pierre, and this particular fragrance has been named as the signature scent of the Hotel which is celebrating the memory of having the iconic tango scene from "Scent of a Woman" filmed there with a promotion that will last throughout the year. Each room booked through the Scent of a Woman package includes a keepsake bottle of Amorem Rose Parfum by Shalini, a fragrance that was inspired by and pays homage to the deepest love.

Shalini has her own history of luxury, and is from the world of Haute Couture with clients all over the world who collect her signature pieces. With Shalini Parfum, she is bringing the scents and senses together to combine a luxury lifestyle that celebrates love in its highest form. Haute Parfum. The collection is available at Bergdorf Goodman, Harrods Salon de Parfum, Al Hazm Qatar and Jovoy Paris. Amorem Rose is a Finalist for the Fragrance Foundation Awards 2019.

Her inspirations come from a variety of sources, including the rose gardens of the Taj Mahal and the poetry of Pablo Neruda. Experiencing her perfume is a feast for the senses, and at the event at The Pierre the combination of sights and fragrances and delicious tastes from the sublime kitchen of Executive Chef Ashfer Biju of the Hotel's restaurant Perrine brought warmth and light and life to the heart in a way that only true love can.

Presented in Lalique crystal flacons and crafted by Master Perfumer Maurice Roucel from a composition of Bulgarian rose, Plum wine, Saffron flowers, Baltic amber and Mahogany wood with a heart of pure Damask Rose from Bulgaria's Rose Valley, Amorem Rose by Shalini Parfum is a celebration of love, and as all beautiful things can, it inspires and encourages us to open our hearts to the possibility of miracles.

Amorem Rose
By Shalini Parfum
At The Pierre
2 East 61st Street

With The Former And Current Presidents
Of The Fragrance Foundation

Inspiring And Lovely Tastes
From The Kitchen Of
Executive Chef Ashfer Biju Of Perrine

The Lovely And Refreshing
Scent Of A Woman Mocktail


Jannie Susan