A few weeks ago I wrote about the gorgeous Sufia Hossain and her marvelous Silly Chilly Hot Sauce, and the day that I met her to talk to her more in depth about her wonderful self, we met in the bakery and cafe Baking Mama. I'd walked by Baking Mama before, but had never gone in. It's a very sweet place to buy sweet things, but I'd always thought that it was literally just a store front. When Sufia suggested we meet there it was a wet and rainy day, and all I could imagine was that she had thought we'd get something and then walk somewhere else to sit out of the rain. Instead, when she arrived and we walked into this tiny oasis, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was more than enough room to feel comfortable while keeping cozy, with a table and chairs and delicious scents of fresh baked goods and flavorful coffee to keep us more than satisfied. That first day there I tried a home made whoopie pie - Sufia had offered to treat me, and that had been the first thing that caught my eye in the very tastefully arranged and colorful counters and cases. I grew up with whoopie pies, and though they're a thing that always makes me think they will be delicious, they always very sadly disappoint, but I had a feeling that just as I had been pleasantly surprised by the space and place, I'd be even more pleasantly and tastefully surprised by this whoopie pie. And of course I was - I don't think there is anything in Baking Mama that isn't astonishingly delicious. The chocolate cake-like cookies that surrounded the fresh whipped cream not only melted in my mouth but gave me that chocolate cake loveliness that sometimes is missing from even very well made cakes. It's the simple fact that only the best ingredients are used and that the baker is actually baking everything herself from recipes she discovered and developed to insure that whatever she serves is only the best. Baking Mama is quite simply one of the best there is when it comes to baking - and I come from a long line of bakers and am one myself, so that's no idle compliment. Tina Rivera, the baker and mama, also gives classes, so you can find out how to make your own deliciousness too. Stop by and have a taste - you'll find yourself in a lovely place with even lovelier scents and tasteful tastes abounding.
One of my friends has always said that Ecclesiastes is his favorite book in the Bible. He is a graffiti artist, and someone who lived a very hard life before he was born again, and though his life is still a hard one, he is much happier and more at peace now that he lives a life of faith. His Bible means so much to him, and when I first met him not long after I was born again and heard how much he loved Ecclesiastes, I read through it to try to find the beauty that he did. At the time, and over the years since, I never understood why he loved it so much - to me it was always the words of a very old and jaded and unhappy King Solomon, telling us how much of life he had lived and experienced, and that "it was all vanity." What my friend saw in the book I could never figure out, until one day a few weeks ago when I felt led to read it again and I suddenly had one of those aha moments when I got it loud and clear. Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon at the end of his life, and yes, he had seen it all, but what he is telling us with the wisdom of one of the wisest men who ever lived is to live life to the fullest, to enjoy the good when it comes, to love God and be kind to others, and to let the other stuff go. Nothing will last except for the spirit within us and the time we spent with others. Enjoying a beautiful day, a delicious meal, a good friend, living a life of loving and being kind to others - those are the things that matter, Solomon tells us, and everything else is grasping in the wind.
When I started writing this blog, God put it on my heart to share with people that He wants us to have an abundant life. So many times people think that in order to live a life that is pleasing to God, we must give up everything we care about and enjoy. That is nowhere written in the Bible, and in fact, there are whole sections, including the Book of Ecclesiastes, that encourage us to enjoy the good things in life because they are blessings of God. Everything in moderation, of course - I have been a teacher of nutrition and health for a while now, and I know from a wellness standpoint that we don't want to overdo even the best of things. That is why when I discovered The Hoboken Wine House, I was delighted. I had often passed by this jewel box of a wine and spirits shop, but I had thought that it must be a very old and venerable place that was beyond my budget and means. When I walked in for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised to find the owner, Louis Novick, to be the most charming and welcoming of people, and his shop full of deliciously priced discoveries. You can find something for every palate at Hoboken Wine House, and for every budget too. If it's a very chic gift you're looking for, he has it, and if it's something that you want to be special but you need to be conscious of cost, he'll help you find that too. It is his goal to seek out the most excellent sources for wines and spirits and craft beers, and to bring their products to the community. His store is simply lovely, the kind of place where you can stop by on any day and find a haven of peace while learning something new. And he has wine and spirit tastings too, and can host events and help you plan something special. Louis Novick in his very engaging and friendly way will help you discover how to enjoy these very good things in life even more.
One night a few weeks ago, a friend gave me a ride up the long hill from Hoboken to Jersey City Heights, and when she dropped me off on a corner before heading on her way, I saw a mural on the side of a building that was so compelling I felt I just had to photograph and post it on Instagram. In years past I had often walked by the corner where it was because I had lived only a few blocks away, but then I moved and my walking patterns changed a bit, and so somehow I had missed this beautiful work of art. It was a freezing night - the weather had gotten beautifully warmer and then suddenly dropped into the low 20's - and with the change in the weather for the colder, the warmth of spring that was rising up in me had started to cool. But wonderful art always has a way of bringing the life back into me, and after photographing this beauty I walked around the corner of the building to ask inside if they knew who had created it. I found myself in a store that was overflowing with so much creativity that I would have been warmed up even if there hadn't been a hot press for making t-shirts running actively inside. It only took me a minute to see that I was in the presence of one of those special people whose visions and dreams make all of our realities sweeter. Art for Art's sake, the English translation of the phrase by French philosopher Victor Cousin, is what comes to mind when I think of my experience that night at Eclectic Taste Coop. When I look that expression up, I find the definition, "Used to convey the idea that the chief or only aim of a work of art is the self-expression of the individual artist who creates it." L'Art pour l'art is the saying in French, and it is that self expression, that pure creative spirit, that transcends even the coldest of nights and brings passion back into the viewer. Visit Eclectic Taste and follow them online. Your heart, mind and spirit will thank you.
107 Bowers Gallery is beautifully committed to bringing art in all its forms and artists of all backgrounds and ages together in a lovely community space. In December I wrote about their holiday art fair, and then I attended the opening of their first show of the New Year, which featured the work of The Collins Brothers. If that show itself weren't enough of an overflowing of creative energy, on February 18 for the show's closing, Myles Collins gave an artist's talk that brought the already vibrant work even more to life. Kristin DeAngelis, the owner and curator, is so charming that you feel welcomed from the moment you step in the door, and in her role as interviewer she let Myles have the stage to share his own unique vision and history, and give some insight into his brothers and their work. I think of 107 Bowers Gallery as a jewel box - one with many layers that you can always find something precious in. Get on their mailing list and visit them often and walk through the door to wonderland.
Kristin DeAngelis in Conversation With Myles Collins
At The Closing Reception For "The Collins Brothers - A Retrospective"
107 Bowers Gallery
Oscar Wilde said it best about the best, and I fully agree. Veuve Cliquot has long been my favorite champagne, one that I would call the best of the best, and so when I was invited to a tasting party for their new vintage, Rich, I was simply more than delighted. The venue where it was held was delightful too - LCL at the Westin Hotel, a glamorous and cozy place all by itself, and with the addition of Veuve Cliquot it was perfect. Rich was created to be enjoyed with garnishes - fruit or cucumbers, jalapenos, mild peppers - my favorite was grapefruit, which added a lovely ruby red color to the elegant golden nectar. In such an inviting atmosphere, it's no wonder that I met two amazing and talented people, and shared some insights into work and life and art. Veuve Cliquot Rich and LCL - you made a cold winter evening brighter.