10 Questions with John A. Gronbeck-Tedesco, PhD

1. For readers too young to even remember breaking off relations with Cuba. Can you give a brief explanation as to why America decided to sever diplomatic ties with Cuba and put in place the trade and travel embargo?

The United States cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 because Washington was suspicious of Fidel Castro and feared that Cuba would become a communist nation. This was the period of the Cold War, when U.S. leaders and the general public were consumed with curbing the power of the Soviet Union, especially in the Americas. While initially Cuba was not communist, the nation opened trade deals with the U.S.S.R. and refused to bow to U.S. commercial demands and political expectations. President Eisenhower approved a CIA plan to remove Castro from power in what would become the Bay of Pigs in April of that year. Tensions mounted and U.S.-Cuban ties were cut.

2. After that, what have relations been like between the United States and Cuba?

Overall they have been rocky, at least in official terms. The October Missile Crisis in 1962 revealed that U.S.-Cuban animosity could escalate to near world war. The CIA continued attempted assassinations of Fidel Castro. By the late 1960s, there was a cool dynamic of non-communication and non-interaction. President Jimmy Carter attempted some form of reconciliation, but in the end this failed. There has been a steady stream of Cubans immigrating to the United States, to the degree that nearly 2 million Latinos claim Cuban heritage today. There also has been a history of Americans traveling to Cuba in defiance of the embargo for humanitarian, academic, or political reasons. Part of what my upcoming book shows is that Cuba was a resource-rich nation for Left politics in the United States during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Cuba – Photo – John A. Gronbeck-Tedesco
3. You traveled to Cuba multiple times as an academic while the trade and travel embargo were in place. What was that like?

It was interesting and fulfilling in so many ways. Without proper relations in place, things become much more difficult for Americans. Remember that there is still no U.S. banking in Cuba, so I had to do everything with cash – no travelers checks or credit cards. But these difficulties were not insurmountable and they made the human connections that much more important and heartfelt. People opened their homes, possessions, and knowledge to me. Most Cubans I came to know always had time for a conversation and coffee. The hospitality I received—from people with little to give—was at times extraordinary and showed that populations from countries at odds with one another still could have decent humane interactions.

4. What did it appear life was like for the average Cuban while living under the U.S. embargo?

For the average Cuban, life was (and still is) difficult. “No es fácil” (It’s not easy) is something you hear often around Havana. If one is able to work in proximity to tourists or has additional income from remittances from friends and family living overseas, then his or her life can be better. But for those relying on the government system alone, day-to-day life can be quite encumbering.

5. How did cultural exchanges, perhaps the best known being the Buena Vista Social Club franchise affect Cuba’s relationship with the West?

There has been a constant stream of tourism to Cuba, including from the United States, so when the film came out more tourists were requesting these songs. Cubans found this humorous because this style of music was older, from the 1930s and 1940s, but tourists wanted these songs. So Cuban musicians rediscovered these melodies in order to satisfy the tourist demand for them.

6. And how did academic exchanges, like your experiences and Cuba offering medical training to Americans, influence their relationship with the West?

Cultural and academic exchanges have been hugely important to maintaining some sort of link between countries. A lot of Americans do not know that some of their fellow citizens have trained to become doctors in Cuba. The academic friendships I made have been the foundation to my field of study and my current career. These are avenues of dialogue that have succeeded where traditional government channels have failed.

7. Now the Obama administration wants to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba, including a U.S. embassy in Cuba, and the recently opened Cuban embassy in Washington D.C. and a large portion of America flips out. Republicans, Democratic, progressives, and conservatives. What’s going on there?

Actually, for many years now most Americans have favored normalization of ties with Cuba and a repeal of the embargo. A recent Florida International University poll disclosed that now even the majority of Cuban-Americans favor reestablishing diplomatic ties and overturning the embargo. The issue is that the pro-embargo constituency is strong and well connected. They have reliable representation in Congress and still enjoy economic and political influence.

8. Do the guys flipping out have valid points?

Yes they do. One of the main points of contention is human rights violations in Cuba. Political imprisonment, limited access to free speech and information (like internet), political intimidation—there are many things Cubans have to live with that most democratic governments, the U.S. included, do not support. However, anti-embargo people say that the embargo has not forced the Cuban government to abide by U.S. standards of leadership. Normalizing relations has a better chance of doing this because the Cuban government realizes that it will have to make concessions in order to have a fruitful relationship with the United States and with other nations in the hemisphere. In fact, Havana has already made some favorable changes in recent years. Finally, by repealing the embargo, the United States will be conforming to the desires of the international community. In 2013 the UN General Assembly voted 188-2 in favor of the United States ending the embargo. Only the U.S. and Israel voted no. It was the 22nd year in a row that the UN has voted this way.

9. So seriously, where does this leave me with getting a bottle of Havana Club Rum at my local liquor store?

That might be some time, yet. However, people have been bringing back Cuban rum into the United States for years, so it depends on the connections of your local spirits guru.

10. Parting Shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Is there any room for Cuban food on this buffet?

Oh absolutely! Cuban Sandwich? So good! Frita, the Cuban hamburger sounds delicious. Always room for more food at this buffet!

About John A. Gronbeck-Tedesco:
John A. Gronbeck-Tedesco, PhD, became interested in Cuban history when he studied in Spain during his junior year in college. He entered the PhD program in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin (UT), and after his first (of four) visit to Cuba as a graduate student, decided to make it a part of his specialization. Toward the end of his graduate study, Dr. Gronbeck-Tedesco was awarded UT’s most prestigious dissertation fellowship.

He is currently an Associate Professor and Convener of American Studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Dr. Gronbeck-Tedesco has presented at several conferences outside of the United States and is among the growing number of scholars committed to international and transnational studies.

He is the author of the forthcoming book, “Cuba, the United States, and Cultures of the Transnational Left, 1930-1975” (Cambridge University Press, October 2015) and has been published in academic journals and different online forums including Journal of American Studies, Journal of Latin American Studies, Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, American Quarterly, CounterPunch.org, TheHill.com, Truth-out.org.

9 Questions with Gabriela Emma Olivera

1. When did you discover jewelry design?
I always liked this kind of jewelry and the mysticism that goes around them.

2. What made you decide to design purses as well as jewelry? (Or was it the other way around and you did bags first and then decided to do jewelry?)
The bag goes after for a women it’s a must and complements the style.

3. What inspired the Khalama collection?
The unknown of the different cultures, the different stones, metal, seeds, that they have to be together in a perfect and unique way.

4. Can you take my readers through the process of how a piece of jewelry goes from being a design to a piece for sale?
One day when I start to make the first necklaces I explain to a friend of mine that I have to be inspired, and she told me yes… because it’s like a paint or a sculpture it’s a unique combination, it take me some times minutes, sometimes hours and may be days. It’s incredible that in one day I could make four five complete. The women who wear it have to feel that it’s a beautiful combination of the beads, stones, some times wool, everything, cultures, religions. Every women has a color to match not just with the cloth, it has to match her… When I finish them there’s some very good people who cooperate on this journey. They take the pictures then uploaded them to the web, make the social media and all the work to sell them.

5. Do you feel the stones and materials you use provide a particular energy to the jewelry?
I feel that the combination of the materials, specially the stones and the person who wear it make a combination and creates an energy around them on all the paths that can be.

Bracelet from Khalama Collection

6. What is one of your favorite pieces and why?
I love the Amethysts because my country Uruguay is one of the majors origins of them. They have a spectacular color and for who believe the energy of the stones protect you and give a positive energy.

7. When not wearing your jewelry, what is some of your favorite jewelry to wear?
I like the silver a lot and the pre-Columbian gold.

8. When you’re not working on the Khalama collection, what else do you like to do?
I have another two companies so I have a lot of work to do, one of logistics and the restaurant so I love to cook!! I read and I have to boys that are my life. I have to take care of them and I spend time with them.

Bag from Khalama Collection

9. What else can my readers look forward to from you and/or Khalama?
Look for a combination of nature with, seeds, wool, stones, and much color.

About Gabriela Emma Olivera & Khalama:
When Miami-based designer Gabriela Emma Olivera envisioned her handbag and hi-end accessories line Khalama, she planned on a brand high in spiritual wealth and abundant with cultural richness: beautiful and boundless with beads imported from such countries as Morocco, Colombia, Peru, Tibet, Uruguay, and India, the extensive Khalama line lends itself to a unique cross-continental interconnectedness rarely found in fashion.

Clinging most closely to it’s Tibetan meaning of “Sky Path”, Khalama’s spiritual energies echo lotus flowers, koi fish, Buddha, and Lord Ganesh while drawing energy from natural stones and organic materials including turquoise stones, lapis lazuli, amber, and coral. The Khalama Collection expresses the natural and spiritual.

73 Questions with Victoria Beckham

Vogue magazine regularly does these fast paced 73 question interview videos. Obviously I don’t share them all on The Magical Buffet. Honestly I don’t even watch them all myself. However I was a bit intrigued when “73 Questions with Victoria Beckham” popped up in my inbox. I thought there might be potential considering Victoria’s long, winding and intertwining path with popular culture. She was a Spice Girl, managed to marry one of the only soccer players Americans had ever heard of and an icon in England, David Beckham, and pulled off what some thought would be impossible, became a respected fashion designer.

What I had not counted on was Beckham having such an amazing wit. Some of her answers were just too much fun. I’ll admit, some were pretty obvious, and few made her come off a bit, snobbish maybe, but when she hits her groove I’m suddenly thinking, “I want to get sloppy drunk on Cosmos with this bitch and hear ALL the dirt on the London scene.”

For those of you who are curious, you can spend 6 minutes with Victoria Beckham right here.

73 Questions with Daniel Radcliffe

Vogue magazine has a web series called “73 Questions”. As you might suspect involves asking someone 73 questions. In the past they’ve featured Sarah Jessica Parker and Olivia Munn, which I didn’t bother mentioning to you guys. However when I received notice of the episode “73 Questions with Daniel Radcliffe” I thought that some of you might want to know about it. Particularly since at the very end he reveals a dirty little secret about Harry Potter.

So for those of you who want to see Daniel Radcliffe play some ping pong, talk movies, and give facial hair advice, this video is for you.

10 More Questions with Sasha Graham

1. First, may we still refer to you as the Tarot Diva even though your latest tarot book is “365 Tarot Spreads” and not diva related?

Of course!

2. Your book launch party for “365 Tarot Spreads” was sponsored by Barrows Intense Ginger Liqueur. I’ve never heard of any tarot author getting sponsored by such a fabulous sounding sponsor. Tell us how the sponsorship came about and how the party went.

The innovator of Barrows Intense Ginger Liqueur is a good friend, Josh Morton. http://barrowsintense.com/ He’s enjoyed wild success with Barrows, throwing tastings around the country. Since I was planning on wine, cheese and snacks, I thought the Barrows would be a great addition. Plus, I liked having the magical energy of ginger on hand. It heated things up!

The party was glorious. I host lots of parties at my place in the mountains. I planned the evening like a garden party except it was at the event space of the fabulous Namaste Bookshop in NYC with tarot thrown in!

3. Why did you decide to do a book with 365 unique, different tarot spreads?

I thought about a daily spread book because I wanted to buy one. When I realized there wasn’t one out there, I knew I had to write it!! It was such a fun challenge to see if I could pull it off. Plus, tarot is a daily practice for so many readers, it seemed an obvious thing to write since it hadn’t been done.

4. On each day you highlight a piece of history that influenced what the spread for that day is. How did you decide what historical tidbit to use?

I had specific criteria as I pieced it together. First, I found all holidays. Then, I looked for every important date in Tarot history I could find. I wanted to use everyone who has contributed to tarot history. Birthdays of tarot luminaries like Pamela Coleman Smith or Aleister Crowley. Events in Tarot’s history. I wanted the readers to learn about tarot as they performed the spreads. I found correlations with the occult, the Victorian era, anything gothic and ghosty felt very right. I included Greek and roman festivals, gods and goddesses when I could. I included artists and writers because true art is supernatural and artists are shaman in their own right. I included universal stories, fairy tales and popular films that almost anyone would be familiar with.

5. Did you pick something special for your birthday, because I would?

Everyone picks up the book and goes straight to see their birthday spread! Mine birthday falls on Halloween! The Halloween spread is massive. It looks at the 12 months ahead, considers personal magic and reflects on what you should embrace and reject.

6. What’s one of your favorite spreads from the book?

That’s like asking which is my favorite child! My daughter’s favorite is the Indiana Jones Spread. Hmmmm … one of the most useful spreads that really helped me through a tough time was a spread I created when I was having a difficult time communicating with my sister whom I love dearly. I named it the Sibling Issues Spread but really it can be used for any relationship you are struggling in. It changed the trajectory of our communication and things got better quickly. This is tarot at its BEST!

Cast Your Cards

1. The situation.
2. What I’m feeling.
3. What they are feeling.
4. What I see that they don’t.
5. What they see that I don’t.
6. What is truly possible for the two of us.
7. What action can I take to heal the relationship?

7. What’s one of your favorite historical tidbits from the book?

Random and fascinating was the Battle of Los Angeles! Right after US entrance to WW2, in 1942, there were objects spotted in the sky. Some thought enemy fire, others thought UFO’s, an air raid was called, shots fired, seven people actually perished. The incident was deemed a false alarm though many suspected a UFO cover up.

I turned that date into a tarot spread about personal defensiveness.

8. What are you working on next?

I just signed a contract with Llewellyn for my next book but I’m keeping the subject under wraps for now …

9. Any chance of a Tarot Diva Tarot Deck coming out one day?

Not that I know of 🙂

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Mmmmm, fall is in the air! What are you most looking forward to as the air turns crisp and the witching season is approaching?

I’m kind of meh on autumn because it means winter is on the way, and I am not a fan. However I do love the Celebrate Samhain event that takes place every October, so I must accept fall if I want to go to Celebrate Samhain.

About Sasha Graham:
Sasha Graham teaches tarot classes and produces tarot events at New York City’s premiere cultural institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has shared her love of tarot on film, television, radio and print. She lives in New York City. Visit her blog at http://tarotdiva.wordpress.com/.

10 Questions with Dr. Penny Sartori

1. How do you define a near death experience?

It is an experience that some people report following a close brush with death. The experience follows a pattern of common components that were originally defined by Dr Raymond Moody in his book Life After Life in 1975. Common components include hearing the news of being close to death, travelling down a dark tunnel towards a bright light, a panoramic life review, an out of body experience, meeting deceased relatives / friends, meeting a ‘Being of Light’, being sent back to life, a barrier or a point of no return.
Each NDE is unique and not all components occur in every NDE.

2. What inspired you to study near death experiences (NDEs)?

It was an encounter with a dying patient I was looking after when I worked as a nurse in the ICU that inspired me to study NDEs. That encounter made me realize that we really do not understand death so I wanted to have a greater understanding of the dying process to that no other patient would have to undergo such a prolonged and undignified death as that patient who inspired my studies.

3. How has the medical establishment responded to your work studying NDEs?

At first the medical establishment was a little skeptical but as my research progressed they could see that it was ultimately going to benefit patients so they became very interested and supportive of my research. When my research had completed my medical colleagues were very interested and I was asked to present papers at medical conferences to disseminate my research findings.

4. Have you found that age affects the NDE?

No, NDEs can occur in people of all ages even young children who have no concept of death.

5. Do varying cultures affect the NDE?

Yes, the NDEs are influenced by the person’s culture. For example people in the West are more likely to report images of Jesus whereas people from India are more likely to report images of Yamdoots, messengers of Yama the god of the dead or Chitragupta the man with the book of deeds.

6. How are deathbed visions (end of life experiences) different from NDEs?

The deathbed visions are more of a chronic phenomenon and can occur over a few days. As the person gets closer to death so the visions may increase in frequency. Deathbed visions usually begin within a week or a few days before the person dies. NDEs occur spontaneously and occur in a matter of seconds.

7. How do NDEs affect the people who have them?

Many people are profoundly affected by their NDE in many different ways including psychologically, physiologically, spiritually and sociologically.

Their values may change drastically – so much that there can be a high divorce rate in people who have had an NDE. They are less materialistic and simple things in life like spending time with their family or spending time in nature takes priority to their previous lifestyle which may have been very money orientated. Many change careers from a highly paid job to doing voluntary work or working in the caring profession.

Some people have changes in their electromagnetic field and can’t wear a wrist watch or find that electrical items malfunction in their presence.

Some people feel that their religious belief is strengthened whereas others feel that they become more spiritual as opposed to religious. People are generally more compassionate, loving and respectful towards others and also have a heightened awareness of ecological issues.

8. Can you tell my readers a little bit about the 5 year study you did on NDEs?

When I worked as a nurse in the ICU for 5 years I interviewed patients who had survived a close brush with death. I came across 15 people who reported an NDE. I wanted to investigate if the NDE could have been caused by lack of oxygen, the drugs that we give to the patients or due to wishful thinking.

I didn’t find any cause for the NDE – for example one patient reported an NDE while unconscious but at the time he was fully ventilated and receiving high levels of oxygen and his vital signs were monitored throughout and his oxygen levels in his blood were normal. Some patients reported an NDE and had not been given any drugs at the time.

Some patients reported unpleasant NDEs which would not suggest that these are not merely wishful thinking.

I came across some very interesting examples where what the patients reported could not be dismissed or explained away. Patient 10 reported an out of body experience where he accurately reported the actions of the nurse, doctor and physiotherapist – at the time he was deeply unconscious and his eyes were closed. I know what he reported was accurate because I was the nurse looking after him at the time. I’ve nursed thousands of unconscious patients during my 21 year nursing career but no other patient has described an experience in so much detail and with such accuracy. As patients regain consciousness they are very disorientated and groggy and quite vague for some hours and even days yet this patient was very clear and precise about what he experienced as soon as he regained consciousness.

9. Why is it important that we study NDEs?

I think it is crucial that we continue to study NDEs in the clinical environment as they are giving us a different understanding of consciousness. Research in this field is now calling into question the premise that consciousness is produced by the brain. This will then lead us to other ways of investigating and understanding consciousness.

I think studying NDEs will also give us greater insight into the dying process so that we can better support patients as they are dying.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Ooh, that’s a difficult one.

Ok, if you knew that today would be the last day of your life, would you be doing anything different right now?

Talk about difficult questions!

Probably, but not by much. Instead of sitting here typing while my husband is stretched out on the other couch I would probably shut off my laptop and cell phone and crawl over and curl up on the sofa with him.

About Dr. Penny Sartori:
Dr. Penny Sartori worked as an intensive care staff nurse for 17 years. She undertook the UK’s largest and first long term prospective study of near-death experiences (NDEs) and was awarded a PhD for her research in 2005. She is uniquely qualified as not only has she worked daily with dying patients for many years but she also has the benefit of undertaking doctoral research into NDEs.

Her second book, “The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences: How Understanding NDEs Can Help Us Live More Fully” is published by Watkins Books. Whereas previous research has been unable to verify events that have been reported, more recent hospital research is showing that NDEs can no longer be dismissed as hallucinations or aberrations of a dying brain. Drawing from many instances throughout her nursing career coupled with many examples from people who have written to her over the years, she discusses that NDEs occur and have very real life changing effects and how, by trying to pathologize NDEs, the very important message that these people bring back has been overlooked. She reiterates that hearing what these people have to say can benefit us all without having to nearly die ourselves.

10 Questions with Peter Voelker

1. What is mead?
In short, mead is any fermented alcoholic beverage made using honey as the primary fermentable.

2. What makes Helderberg Mead different from other meads?
Most mead that you can buy in the wine stores around here either tastes like a low alcohol honey syrup or a nice soft white wine. While there’s nothing wrong with that (I love a nice Vidal Blanc), HMW takes a different approach. We use techniques that would have been used many moons ago and produce a mead that has big, bold and feral qualities to it. We’ve adapted old world methods to modern day sanitation and palettes without catering to any particular group of consumers. This is mead as we think it should be. With that said, there are 2 major differences between HMWs mead and others. The first is our alcohol content, which has a range on the label of 15% to 16%. Our current “Burgundy Wax” batch is at the high side of that range. Most others are from 8% to 11%. The second difference is our use of oak aging. Back in the days before metals were commonly available, oak would have been the preferred storage vessel for nearly all drinks. We have taken this concept and applied it to our mead. The result is a powerful mead (shouldn’t all traditional mead be POWERFUL?) with a whiskey-like nose and great honey flavor without being overly sweet.

3. Why did you decide to start selling your mead to the public?
After making mead for myself over the past 15 years or so, I was still very disappointed in the lack of commercial meads choices. They are all in the same family of taste, where ours is completely different. The initial investment to start small was small enough that we could finance it ourselves. Our hope all along was that there would be enough people out there who truly appreciate it for what it is. There are always those who are stuck in their little boxes, but it’s those who taste it and say “wow!” who make it worthwhile! Along with that, I also did not want to look back 10 years from now and wonder why I didn’t even try to go full production commercial.

4. Helderberg Meadworks makes several different varieties of mead. Can you explain their differences?
a. Heritage – this is our traditional mead, sometimes referred to as a “show mead” because it’s nothing more than honey and water. Sometimes the simple recipes are the most difficult to achieve because they hide NOTHING in other flavors.
b. Apple – A cyser in meadspeak. We have always been a fan of cysers. Prior to going commercial our second best mead was our own cyser, so logically this would be our next production mead. Introduced in October, the response has been outstanding!
c. Maple (TBD) – This is a mead that is still in the approval process. Following all appropriate federal and state regulations, we have numerous steps of approval before being able to sell it. Suffice it to say though, that we at HMW took a step back and looked at what we enjoy. We like NY and the northeast. We already have an apple mead, so the next step was to look at what else is something of a local pride product. Maple syrup! We are working with a local maple syrup producer to find the best tasting syrup to use in the production of our Maple Mead. Test batches of it are outstanding. Imagine the flavor of our mead followed by maple syrup filling your mouth without all the sweetness of drinking syrup.
d. ?????? Mead. This is going to be something rarely, if ever, done at production levels in the USA. I’m keeping it under wraps for now but it is very difficult to make and will be very unique. I hope to have it available by Fall 2014.

5. What’s the best way to drink mead; chilled, over iced, etc.?
Yep. 😀 Consumer’s choice. Our mead is an “outside the box” beverage so there really are no confines to how you are supposed like it. We encourage people to experiment and see how they like it best. Our preference? The Heritage at room temperature and the apple mead served COLD.

6. How does mead pair with food?
It makes an excellent marinade.

This is a difficult question to answer. We try to steer clear of questions that would be typical when discussing a wine. When we do festivals and tastings, we tell people to try it first THEN tell us what they think it would pair best with. The responses we get from people after they try it are all over the map with respect to what they would pair it with. Some find it as an after dinner honey port. Some think it’s great with poultry, others with a grilled steak. The best thing people can do is try it and decide for themselves. We always post when and where people can find and taste our mead before buying it, so watch our Facebook page if you want to try before you buy.

7. Your meadery has an awesome logo which is not only on your bottles but also on some cool looking t-shirts. How did the logo come about?
I have a friend in Maine who is a graphic designer, Jen Goodwin of Goodwin Glass and Graphics. She had done some of my homebrew mead labels for fun in the past, so I knew I wanted her to design the Heritage label. I gave her some of my ideas and things that I didn’t want. One of which was a Viking image. She sent me some design ideas, all of which were great but somehow didn’t strike me enough. Then she said she had a surprise with the caveat of “I know we weren’t going to use…” and it was done. That was design awesomeness right there. It set our mead apart on the shelf and gave us a whole design concept to work with. It’s a great mead and she gave us the look that gets people to notice it among the other bottles.

8. When not drinking mead, what do you enjoy drinking?
We like local wines and spirits above all. This is the hardest question to answer because there are too many to list! Some of our favorites are KyMar Mapple Jack, Thousand Islands Winery Frontenac (with a shot of cognac), Brimstone Hill Vidal Blanc, Bootlegger 21 Vodka, Warwick Valley Gin, Brookview Station Baco Noir and Cassis Port. We have a long standing favorite with Leonard Kreusch Kabinett Riesling. Plus I have a current fascination with absinthe on top of all that.

9. What’s next for Helderberg Meadworks?
Co-owner Kirsten is developing her own signature mead. All options are on the table for that! We are very excited about it.

Our ????? mead and of course more expansion! Every penny earned is invested back into the meadery. This winter we will be adding new and much larger tanks. Our production goal that we had planned on reaching at the 5 year mark will be achieved in year 2. It’s an amazing accomplishment and it reassures us that there are still people out there who can appreciate a quality craft.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.
Just 1? I have to ask – what was it that drew your attention to our mead?

We at HMW are always looking for ways to reach great people that may not know about us and learning about our customers helps us to reach them better!

I got to try your mead at the New York State tastings at Exit 9 Wine and Liquor Warehouse. I enjoyed it and took your business card with me. At this point I’ve tried your Apple Mead and your Heritage Mead and they were both DELICIOUS!

About Peter Voelker and Helderberg Meadworks:
Helderberg Meadworks is one of a precious few “meaderies” in the state who only produce mead. Owner and meadmaker Peter Voelker has been making a variety of meads for many years. In 2010 he decided to open the meadery with his wife Kirsten to share what he considers the best mead in the country.

Our philosophy is to create a mead that is as close as possible to mead that may very well have been made hundreds, and even thousands of years ago, while using modern equipment and methods. We use minimal sulfites and minimal production handling. This means that each batch is unique. Every harvest of local honey is different, so every batch will taste a bit different. In order to differentiate batches for our customers, we plan to use a different color wax top.

10 Questions with Irina Shapiro

1. You’re originally from Russia, but you’ve been in the United States for a while now. Was it difficult adjusting to Miami after Moscow?

When I’m in Miami or Los Angeles, as a Russian I can feel like a stranger there. It is different, but I love Miami! It’s like a never ending party. My true inspirations are sunrises and sunsets there. I also love the clubs in Miami, it’s like energy lives there forever and people really enjoy it to the fullest. I did some performances in Miami and I loved it so much!

2. I hear there is quite a Russian dance music scene, have you had the chance to go back and be a part of it?

I’m currently located in Los Angeles working on my music, but I travel a lot to Moscow and am actually here right now :). Hopefully I will be performing here soon too.

3. How did you end up partnering with such a respected name as Dave Audé on “One Last Kiss”?

I love having positive, creative people around! Dave is an amazing person, great husband and father – I love and respect those qualities in a person!

“One Last Kiss” – Official Video

4. Were you excited to learn that both R3hab and Sick Individuals wanted to remix “One Last Kiss”?

These guys are so talented and I love their sound! They are energetic and very unique characters with unique personalities – I love that the most! I was freaking screaming!! haha!!!!!

“One Last Kiss” – R3hab Remix

“One Last Kiss” – Sick Individuals Remix

5. Is it weird hearing your song remixed?

I don’t think it’s weird because I love to work with other song writers too. It makes me feel like we are making history – so cool!

6. There is a lot choreography in the video for “One Last Kiss”, how hard was the video shoot?

It was a lot of work! But I have been dancing my entire life and love expressing myself through body language.

7. What kind of music do you enjoy dancing to?

I love rock music, Bon Jovi is my favorite rock musician. I came to the USA to do a rock project. Something like a Blonde Jovi in a sexy skirt :).

I also adore Kylie Minogue. She is real unbelievable – feminine woman, sexy diva. Icon!

8. The other day I was in a really rotten mood getting ready for work. While in the shower I started humming a tune and it cheered me up. That tune was “One Last Kiss”. No question, I just really wanted to tell you that.

9. What are you working on next that my readers can look forward to?

My next single to be released will be “Believe.” It’s a very spiritual song about our destiny, our stories—our past and future, our all or nothing! It’s about love and power of love, which can heal everything in this world! Empathy and perception!

You can also look out for a full length album soon!

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What is your favorite type of music? Do you have a favorite DJ?

I like all kinds of music depending on my mood. For dance/electronic, lately I’ve been listening to Swedish House Mafia’s “Until Now” album, Diplo, the album “18 Months” from Calvin Harris, everything from Robyn, and Madonna’s “Hard Candy” album”.

About Irina Shapiro:
Irina was born in the Russian capital of Moscow, with performing arts always at the center of her life. She began singing at the age of three, and was constantly involved in theater while in school. At the age of six, Irina sang in the school choir as a mezzo-soprano and started to learn English.

At 18, Irina attended a university in Russia, acquiring her first degree in economics and second in psychology. Though she was busy with her studies, she managed to find time for what she describes as a “hobby.” For many years, she had written poems, but now Irina began to write songs. She continued writing, something she devoted more time to when she was in her mid-20s, but soon learned that her family had decided to move to the US to start a new business. Not wanting to be separated from her relatives, Irina moved with.

On a trip to Los Angeles, Irina’s fate changed for good. Irina met Mikey Minden, creative director for the Pussycat Dolls, which launched the start of her pop project. Together, Irina and Mikey worked on a hot club dance style and Irina’s first single, the original song “Something About You,” was released in the US. The song quickly debuted on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart and remained on the list for a number of weeks, peaking at No. 40.

Now, Irina’s second single “One Last Kiss” has made its debut, and she is gearing up for the launch of her third original track, “Believe.”

10 Questions with Ann Bolinger-McQuade

I would like to thank Rebecca Elson for hosting me, through this interview, as part of the virtual book tour celebration for my book, EVERYDAY ORACLES – Decoding The Divine Messages That Are All Around Us. – Ann Bolinger-McQuade

1. Your new book is called “Everyday Oracles: Decoding the Divine Messages that are All Around Us”. How do you define a personal oracle?

Personal oracles are mysterious messages of guidance and support. We all receive them. They may seem random in nature until we consider them through the paradigm of personal oracles and realize, they are not random at all. The universe is responding to our needs! These timely messages resonate through every form imaginable, and as they do they illuminate the divine energy that flows through and connects everything in the universe!

2. In your book you explain that personal oracles fall into five major categories. Can you explain the categories? Personal oracle formula:

The five major categories are:

• Conduits
• Mirrors
• Synchronicities
• Signs and Symbols
• Invisible Moving Sidewalks

Conduits – Think of a conduit as a pipeline or channel through which personal oracles are delivered into your life. A favorite example comes from Rhonda who was taking her two little dogs Taz and Toto for their daily walk. Suddenly a hummingbird flew right in front of her face and stopped her in her tracks. Rhonda immediately sensed that she was in danger. As she turned on her heels and headed for home the word “Danger” sounded repeatedly just outside her left ear. When she got back to the house she noticed a message on her answer phone. It was from her neighbor across the street, urging her to stay inside. A pack of wild dogs had just killed some of their sheep and their pet dog that was sleeping beside their front door. Thanks to this little hummingbird on a mission Rhonda and her dogs were protected from imminent danger.

Mirrors – Clouds can serve as great mirrors to reflect what is occurring in our life at time. Sometimes when I’m feeling out of sorts I notice cloud images that look like they are laughing. My message – lighten up!

Synchronicities – According to Carl Jung, synchronicities are coincidences with a purpose! Mary had the responsibility of getting the copy for the fundraiser to the newspaper. The deadline was only hours away and she was still struggling. She knew if she could talk to Dawn, she would polish it up in no time. Unfortunately Dawn was traveling and Mary didn’t have her new cell number. Suddenly the phone rang. It was Dawn. Talk about perfect timing. At the moment Mary’s frustration peaked, Dawn happened to call her. Dawn was riding the train from Burbank to San Diego and was checking to see if her new phone worked. Mary explained what was going on, and within five minutes Mary and Dawn had polished the article into perfect form.

Signs and Symbols – Signs and symbols are like billboards that announce messages designed for our eyes only. Some messages are as clearly understood as stop and go traffic lights. Like Kerri who was making her way through the physical and emotional damage left behind by the fires in her neighborhood of Colorado Springs. A year later, as she hiked through the burnt area she spotted a perfect heart at her feet. The heart looked as if it had been carved into the ground. Kerri interpreted it as a sign, a signal from the universe of love that remains even in the midst of devastation. The message of Kerri’s heart was uncomplicated. Other times signs and symbols operate more like secret codes and take a little deciphering.

Invisible Moving Sidewalks – Imagine people movers in large airports. You step on at one end and it delivers you to a predetermined destination. An invisible moving sidewalk is comprised of a series of synchronistic events that are designed to carry you to a specific destination. Noreen stepped onto an invisible moving sidewalk the day she and her husband had a huge argument. She stormed out of the house, “Get a life” she yelled as she slammed the door behind her. She drove around for a while to cool off and ended up at the library. Inside, she spotted a bulletin board with a flyer advertising a writing conference. She wished she was still writing but felt since she wasn’t she wasn’t qualified to attend. The next day at work Noreen heard a co-worker talking about the same conference. She expressed an interest and her friend suggested they go together. The workshop was just what Noreen needed. Before leaving the conference she signed up to attend the following year. At the end of this invisible moving sidewalk Noreen’s passion for writing had been rekindled – and it was Noreen who got a life!

The formula for personal oracles:

Need + delivery system + message + personal oracle

The need or request functions like a summons to the universe; it’s a call to action. In Rhonda’s case the call was urgent. Imagine the call going out across the web of interconnections to any available and willing delivery system within range. In Rhonda’s case the urgent call was received and accepted by a tiny hummingbird. It became the delivery system. Many of us might have brushed away a hummingbird or ignored the clairaudient message. Don’t worry, the delivery system is always tailor made to resonate specifically with you and your circumstances.

3. How can we find and recognize our own personal oracles?

Pay attention to your gut feelings. Trust that small still voice of your intuition when it draws your attention to personal oracles that are trying to speak to you. When coincidences happen – stop – ask yourself – what is the specific need this “coincidence” is responding to? I believe there are no coincidences, only synchronicities!

4. Is a personal oracle message always immediately obvious?

Many personal oracle messages are immediately clear. Other messages are not. Some messages need to crystallize over time. In my October 8, 2013 blog I share an account of 2 men who saw the same vision but needed the assistance of a Native American Shaman to help them understand what was occurring: the universe was waylaying them to keep them from danger.

5. Can our understanding of a personal oracle message change over time?

Yes. Often it is just a matter of allowing time for it to process, and letting a deeper message emerge. Some messages are one piece of a larger puzzle. When we have all of the pieces the message slides easily into place. When we work with our personal oracles they will expand our awareness and teach us even more.

6. What steps do you recommend people take to discover their personal oracles?

Here are a few key steps.

1. Begin by setting your intention to recognize the messages that are coming your way.
2. Open your heart – accept the support and guidance that is yours for the taking.
3. Trust the voice of your intuition.
4. Gather your own body of evidence. Record personal oracles as they occur. Write them down, photograph, draw, save feathers stones whatever is speaking to you. Then keep everything in one place. I like the sticker note shoebox method. Write your experiences on whatever is handy and toss the pieces of paper in a shoebox. When you read them later you will be amazed by the number of personal oracles that have revealed themselves to you.

7. In your book you discuss “monkey mind chatter”, which for me coming from a meditation background is what we call your wandering mind. What is it in relationship to discovering your personal oracles?

Monkey mind chatter is a cousin to the wandering mind! Both try to pull us back into left brain thinking. (Left brain analytical – right brain creative/being) Sometimes when a gut feeling signals us – pay attention – spirit is sending a message, the mind chimes in with chatter like, “there you go again – that’s all in your imagination – people will think you are crazy.” Whether meditating or decoding a personal oracle, the trick is to step to the right of the left brain and close the door! Then return to your personal oracle message, “Sorry we were interrupted. What do you have for me?”

8. Do you have a favorite personal oracle story you’d like to share?

Instead, if I may, I would like to share a favorite quote that sheds more light on how the universe operates to guide and support us. It comes from an old Apache storyteller who reminds us, “The plants, trees, clouds rocks, fire, water are all alive. They watch us and see our needs. They see when we have nothing to protect us, and it then they reveal themselves and speak to us.”

9. Do you have an upcoming projects my readers can be on the lookout for?

I’m so glad you asked. I’m very excited about Personal Oracle Café’s. Inspired by Socrates Cafés, Personal Oracle Café’s are a place where people meet to celebrate, validate and share personal oracle experiences. Using the personal oracle formula as a jumping off point they contemplate the structure and science of the energy that flows through and connects everything in the universe. The first Personal Oracle Café met Oct. 4, 2013 in Taos, NM at Optymism book store. This Personal Oracle Café meets the first and third Friday of each month. I welcome your readers to contact me through my website if they would like to start a Personal Oracle Café in their area.

I also share readers’ personal oracle stories in my weekly blogs. Stories are submitted through my website www.personaloracles.com

Another project that is dear to my heart is Cloud-Speak Personal Oracle Cards. They will be available in 2014. I use the oracle cards in workshops and book signings and never cease to be amazed by the way they relate to what is going on in everyone’s life.

EVERYDAY ORACLES Decoding The Divine Messages That Are All Around Us is the foundation book for a series of books that are in work, so you can expect more amazing books from me in the future.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What shall we call you when you become supreme ruler of the world?

They say you can’t give yourself your own nickname, and I think that should go with titles too. Fortunately for me I’ve already been given an AWESOME nickname, and if it happens to become a title too…..

Killer, a nickname and a title? You be the judge.

About the Ann Bolinger-McQuade:
Ann Bolinger-McQuade always has sensed the world as alive, nurturing and filled with guidance and support, concepts deeply seeded in her Native American ancestry. A regular talk-show guest, lecturer, and workshop facilitator, McQuade divides her time between Tucson and Taos with her husband Kenneth, two dogs and one cat.

Personal oracles have been playing a major role in Ann’s life for almost three decades. She fully recognized them after her diagnosis of breast cancer. They have guided and offered comfort to her as she dealt with the loss of her father, the passing of a close friend, and the death of a beloved animal companion. Before his death in 2009, Native American Elder Richard Deertrack of the Taos Pueblo honored Ann in a sacred ceremony. Deertrack supported her vision to expand the consciousness of an interconnected universe through the awareness of personal oracles.

Connect with the author at http://www.personaloracles.com

10 Questions with Brian Patton (aka The Sexy Vegan)

1. After “The Sexy Vegan Cookbook”, what made you decide to make your next book “The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home”?

I was sitting at my computer one day and got an email from my editor at New World Library. As I remember it, she said something to the effect of, “your first book is selling really well, and we project that it will continue to sell…and we love you better than all of our other authors, and you’re the best at everything, oh, and do you have any ideas for another book?” I had recently started a tradition in my house of doing a little “happy hour” on our little balcony with me and my girlfriend (who has since become my wife). It was a tapas kind of thing with small plates and, of course, some adult beverages. I presented this idea to the editors and presto! Happy Hour at Home was created!

2. You have very specific rules as to what constitutes a happy hour. Do you mind sharing them with my readers?

Yes, well, these are the rules I use in my own home. You can use these, make up your own, or have complete anarchy and chaos.

1. Happy Hour is always served on the balcony.
2. Happy hour season may begin only when the weather is such that once the sun goes down, even the whiniest of guests won’t get chilly sitting outside, because, see rule #1.
3. Happy hour is on Friday. Period.
4. Happy hour is for four people. Any more and you’d have a dinner party, and that’s a different book.
5. Happy hour guests may not be made privy to the menu until the chef posts it.
6. Guests bring the booze at the chef’s instruction.
7. And finally..there’s no crying in happy hour.

3. Is it hard being a vegan when going out to an average restaurant’s happy hour?

It is. Usually going out to eat as a vegan in a non vegan world is not a difficult thing once you get the hang of it, but a happy hour poses it’s own challenges. The menu is usually limited to bar food like buffalo wings, chicken fingers, nachos, sliders, jalapeno poppers, etc. There’s always fries, and sometimes onion rings, but those onion rings most likely came out of a big industrial bag and were frozen solid 5 minutes before they were served to you. “Happy Hour at Home” is the solution to these problems…and if all else fails, we still have gin…thank Dog that’s vegan…makes things much easier.

4. What is your favorite food recipe from “Happy Hour at Home”?

The stromboli from the first menu is very near and dear to my heart, because I ate stromboli growing up. There were all kinds, too. Regular stromboli had salami, ham, cheese and veggies. Then there was the cheesesteak stromboli, which was awesome! And I’ve even had buffalo chicken stromboli! I really wanted to veganize it, and with all the great new vegan cheese options out there, it made it pretty easy. So I get to have stromboli once again…really good stromboli.

5. What’s your favorite drink recipe from your latest book?

For many reasons, my favorite cocktail is The Bloody Vulcan. While a blood mary is made with tomatoes, and colored red, a Bloody Vulcan is made with tomatillos and colored green…like the blood of a vulcan. It’s fresh tomatillo juice mixed with lime, agave, and tequila.

6. The Bloody Vulcan as a Star Trek reference is all well and good, but now what are you going to do about those alienated Star Wars fans?

Well, if you pay attention to my instagram, facebook or twitter feed, you can see that I have hung a large R2D2 pinata in my unborn child’s nursery. I give both Star Wars and Star Trek equal time in my life…but I can’t *ahem* FORCE myself to come up with a Star Wars themed drink. It just didn’t happen this time. While I can’t think of a drink, however, the only thing I can come up with off the top of my head here is: “Boba Fett-uccine”…a pasta dish, with a “bounty” of fresh veggies. See? That’s what happens when I force it.

7. And let’s face it, once you’ve got Star Wars covered you better have a Lord of the Rings drink lined up too. Ideas?

Oh wow. Okay… umm… How about a shot called “The Fires of Mordor”. Tomato juice, carrot juice, tequila and a squirt of Siracha..then float Bacardi 151 on top and set it ablaze. I totally just made that up and it is untested..I may have to give it a try though.

8. With your first book you were a guy with a girlfriend. Now you’re married to that girlfriend with a baby on the way. What’s a vegan infant’s diet going to be like?

Well, it’s going to start with breast milk, which technically isn’t vegan, I suppose, but I’ll let that one slide. Once the kid starts eating solid food, it’ll be the same as any other baby, pureed fruits and veggies. At some point, most people “introduce” animal products into a child’s diet. We’re just going to skip that part, and make sure he’s getting all the vitamins and nutrients he needs with plants. I’m not all that worried about it. I know plenty of kids that have been vegan from birth, they seem more than fine.

Update: Say Hello to baby Oliver!

9. So, you’re the executive chef for Vegin’ Out in Los Angeles. You still do the Sexy Vegan instructional YouTube videos, you’ve authored two cookbooks, you travel the country to attend events, and now you’re about to become a father. What’s next for Brian Patton?

Retirement. Ah, if only. I’m doing some menu consulting for a new vegan restaurant that’s coming together in Los Angeles, and I’m toying with the idea of doing some pop-up dinners and things like that. I’ve got more book ideas that I’m fleshing out as well, but that’s a ways off. Mainly I’m going to be making sure my dogs don’t eat my baby..at least for the next few months or so. I don’t think they will, they’re pretty good dogs.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What will be your first order of business once you, Rebecca, become the “Supreme Ruler of the world?”

I have three words for you: Bring back Firefly.

About Brian Patton:
Brian L. Patton is the executive chef for Vegin’ Out, a vegan food delivery service in Los Angeles. The quintessential “regular dude” vegan chef, he started posting instructional cooking videos on YouTube as his witty, ukulele-playing alter ego “The Sexy Vegan” and quickly gained a large following. Brian offers his popular cooking demonstrations at stores, restaurants, and community centers throughout Southern California and in his travels around the country.