Fishing with the Patupairehe

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (

Well, it’s been a year, and we’ve discussed loads of demons and critters here, but this one may be a first. A creature, a race more specifically, that actually helped shape a society’s skills. This month we’re talking about the patupairehe and how they helped the Maori of New Zealand.

The patupairehe are Maori fairies known to live in the Pirongia mountains and other secluded fog obscured hill top locales. They are seen mostly at night, and have the general appearance of humans, except for being exceedingly pale. Patupairehe frequently take human lovers, with the men of the species being skilled at arousing human women with their flute skills. That’s not a euphemism, they actually play the flute. Just like most fairies, they are guardians of the wilderness. The patupairehe fear the sun, fire, ash, and the color red. Also, they are repulsed by cooked food. All of these things can be used to protect yourself from them. Why protect yourself? Well, think of your family. Patupairehe males will make off with your women. Once your love has been spirited off to their new fairy home, they will forget their human lives.

Despite this, patupairehe have been incredibly helpful to the Maori. Once, a long time ago, a man came across the remains of a fish left on the beach. He found it odd that someone would abandon their catch, so he hid and waited for the fishermen to return. At midnight the patupairehe showed up and cast their magical fish nets. The man, who had fairly pale skin for a human, joined them unnoticed as they worked. Once they brought in the nets, they proceeded to string the fish they caught. The man struggled and so the patupairehe showed him how to do it.

As dawn approached, the patupairehe realized that the man, was well, a man. They argued amongst themselves as to what to do. Before they knew it, the sun was rising and they fled.

The patupairehe left all of the fishing gear. The man went back and taught the Maori what he had learned. That’s why the Maori are such skilled fisherman.

Magical Buffet Mythology: Amaterasu

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (

Good morning sunshine! This month we’re talking about Amaterasu, the Shinto goddess of the sun, agriculture, peace, and order. You are the sunshine of my life is more than just the lyrics to a song when spoken in reference to Amaterasu. When Amaterasu isn’t out, the sun isn’t out. No sun is bad. Right?

Described as beautiful, prudish, timid, industrious, temperamental, and compassionate, Amaterasu is a complex deific woman! As all of us woman tend to be. Here is one story that perhaps best sums up many dimensions of this time honored deity.

Amaterasu has a pain in the butt brother Susanowo, the god of storms. Unlike most brothers, who at their worst read your diary or listen in on your phone calls, Susanowo stepped up the annoying brother game by getting drunk, destroying Amaterasu’s rice fields and in a rampage killing two of her handmaidens. Brothers, what’s a girl to do?

Well, Amaterasu stomped off and sealed herself in a cave. One presumes she sat there and fumed, but I like to imagine a Sarah Connor training sequence, where Amaterasu buffs herself up for revenge. No matter what she was doing, it doesn’t change the fact that she had locked herself away, and as I mentioned before, no Amaterasu means no sun. As the other gods learned, no sun meant no food, and worse yet no food meant no worshippers!

This prompted all the gods to come and try to lure her out. This didn’t work. Fortunately, they hatched a plan. They set up a mirror across from the entrance to the cave. Then Ame-no-Uzume, whose name roughly means Heavenly Alarming Female, performed an exotic dance. Okay, it was a striptease. Anyway, of course all the other deities there got excited and started hootin’ and hollerin’

Finally, Amaterasu could not stand it any more and opened the cave to ask what was going on. They told her they found a woman even more beautiful than her to take her place and then cleared a path so Amaterasu could look into the mirror. She had never seen herself before, and was quite taken by the woman she was seeing. She stepped forward to take a closer look. Once she did, the gods ran up behind her and sealed the cave, so she could not go back in.

Thus, the sun came back. Tah dah! In some parts of Japan, they perform a ritual when there is a solar eclipse. Essentially, they make a lot of noise to recreate the racket the gods made to get Amaterasu to come out of her cave.

Talk to the Hand

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (

In thousands of cultures, in millions of different iterations, the protective charm exists. If you recall, we touched briefly on how the pentagram is one when it is turned into a Seal of Solomon. Like how I referenced a previous article? Yeah, I’m slick like that. This month we’re talking to the hand, the Hand of Fatima or Hamesh Hand that is.

It goes by many names, Hamsa, Khamsa, Hand of Fatima, Eye of Fatima, Hamesh Hand, Protective Hand, or Hand of God. No matter what name it goes by its appearance is a very basic one. It’s a hand, either fingers up or down, in a stylized version, with three fingers up and a shorter finger on each end. In the center of the palm is an eye. Sometimes they’re very basic, just like I described, but often there is ornate etching embellishing the design.

The hand, when referred to as the Hand of Fatima or Eye of Fatima, is drawing on it’s Islamic origins. Fatima is the daughter of Muhammed. Many say the five fingers represent the Five Pillars of Islam. When the hand is called the Hamesh Hand, or Hand of Miriam, they’re referencing its Jewish origins. Miriam is the sister of Moses. Some say the five fingers represent the five books of the Torah. Oddly enough, each faith views the hand as exclusively theirs, never acknowledging the remarkable similarities.

No matter the origins, this hand protects against the evil eye. It can be found painted on homes, worn as an amulet, carved into plaques, used as a key chain, and in a myriad of other ways. This hand is your all purpose protection against evil.

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Ten Questions with Rebecca

As most of you know, for our one year anniversary we decided that it would be fun for me to be the 10 Questions interview. We received lots of fun questions, which Jim merrily selected his favorite from. Shira from definitely was the winner in quantity; she gave us more than what you see here! Then we thought this would be also be a good time to revisit questions from past issues. Some things have changed or warrant updating and this seemed like the perfect place to do that. Enjoy!

1. What does “magical” mean to you? From Shira, of
Magical means many things to me, as I’m sure it does for most people. I think advanced mathematics and physics is magical, probably because I could never hope to understand all of it. Creation in all its forms is magical to me, whether it’s a song or a new life. What Will Hobbs does for us every month is magic. In many ways I find the Constitution and Bill of Rights magical. The fact that such simple documents can just as effectively govern us today as when they were written is more than magical to me, it’s a miracle! Um, also unicorns.

2. If you could have only one dish at the buffet, which would it be? From Paul, of (Issue 7)
Original Answer: Mash potatoes and gravy. No question.
Updated Answer: I’ve recently discovered the endless joy of Paneer Makhani.

3. What animal is more cuddly than a cat? From Shira, of
Dogs. I think cats are evil and secretly plot to kill their owners in the night so that they can inherit.

4. If you could go back in time and spend one day with someone from the past on an important day in their lives who would it be and what day? From Rebecca, of (Issue 2)
Original Answer: This was a really hard question! But after a lot of changing my mind I finally decided to commit. I’m going to say that I would have LOVED to have been at the side of the stage when Johnny Cash performed at Folsom Prison. It was such a definitive moment for him and the landscape of music. I’m a big Cash fan, if you haven’t guessed!
Updated Answer: This one is silly perhaps, but I would have loved to have been with Kathy Griffin when she won her Emmy and made her infamous not thanking Jesus speech. That had to have been awesome to see live, unfolding before your eyes. And I love Kathy, so any excuse to hang out works for me.

5. What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? From Justin, friend and subscriber
African or European. That’s right, I watch Monty Python.

6. If there was one thing about the way the eclectic communities (pagans, wiccans, etc) are perceived that you could change through your efforts here at The Magical Buffet, what would it be? From Greg, of
My main goal with The Magical Buffet is to try and show people that at the end of the day, regardless of our differences, we’re still very much the same. Thanks to The Magical Buffet, I’ve gotten to know a lot of different people. I’ve spent time with Wiccans, Spiritualists, Christians, and more. After initial introductions you know what we discuss? Traffic, movies, music, recipes, etc. When I talk to people outside of the Wiccan/Pagan community, they assume that when I spend the day with, let’s say, Trinity Temple all we talk about is religion. The last time I spent time with the folks at Trinity Temple, the main topic of conversation was comparing the differences of local elementary schools. Wiccans are more than their faith, just like a Jew is more than their faith. Hopefully by discussing the beliefs of different people in a light-hearted way it highlights the fact that we all have universal things in common and that differences do not need to be feared.

7. Who’s the black private dick who’s a sex machine with all the chicks? From Shira, of
SHAFT! (He’s one bad…shut your mouth!)

8. How do you like your NNYPRS swag? (Can we see a pic of you or your “boss” modeling it?) From Merrill, of (Issue 3)
Original Answer: It seems unlikely that I’m going to get a picture of my boss wearing his gift from I mean, he hasn’t even received it as a gift yet!
Updated Answer: My boss has now received his khaki NNYPRS baseball cap and I’m pleased to say he wears it regularly.

9. What is your most outrageous wish for The Magical Buffet? From Rose, of
It’s really not that outrageous. One day I hope The Magical Buffet can generate enough revenue that I can quit my job and devote all of my time to it. I wouldn’t call that outrageous, but that is my biggest wish right now.

10. How do I subscribe to your magazine? From Every Tenth New My Space Friend
Our My Space page is to help us make new friends and spread the word about The Magical Buffet. If you want to actually read real genuine Magical Buffet content, and subscribe, you can only find it at Be our friend to support us and to get updates, but be a subscriber to get the magazine.


Text provided by Lisa Olive

The website – – launched in July of this year. We have over 100 members between our sites. Most of our members are from within the United States, but we also have members from New Zealand, Germany, Denmark, Morocco, The Netherlands, Finland, Australia and Columbia.

The organization was inspired by two great ladies – Janice Oberding and Dee Disparti.

I would like to introduce these ladies and explain what parts they played in the formation of the organization.

First, let me introduce Janice Oberding.

You probably recognize her from her experiences with the media, which includes numerous radio and TV interviews and appearances, consulting for the History Channel, Living TV, The Travel Channel and Fox Television. She is also a noted author of fine books such as Haunted Nevada, Ghosthunters Guide to Virginia City and Haunted Gold and Silver. She is a speaker, historian, researcher, paranormal investigator, has done many classes and is very knowledgeable in the paranormal field.

It was this post by Janice that initially set wolfpaww into motion.

“Recently I received a bulletin about The League of Extraordinary Paranormal Women. I jumped on it, reposted and requested an add. Why? Because I’m damn sick and tired of being a shadow woman. Oh I know, we’ve heard and read lots of stuff about shadow people, but it seems to me that the paranormal world is filled with shadow women.

SHADOW WOMEN are the women who work, research and investigate in this field and get overlooked again and again and again. Think not? How many notables (revered, famous whatever ya wanna call it) can you name in the paranormal? Now how many of those people are women? Why is that? I’ve been in this field over 40 years YES people, 40 years! Before you say, “oh man, she’s old.” Let me ask you this—”Did you say that about the men who’ve also been in the field for decades and decades?” Just take a moment to look at some of the conferences, talks, shows, retreats whatever ya wanna call them that are being advertised on the internet…How many of their notable speakers are men? What’s the problem here? Are women not competent enough paranormal researchers? Do we not present well? Can we not entertain and inform our audiences? Perhaps there aren’t enough of us in the field? Or is a certain amount of sexism and good ole’ boyism creeping into this field? Think not? Start surfing some of the paranormal sites here and be sure to read the comments. Are you impressed?

If you’re a woman you may be just the teeniest bit offended. Good! That’s how good old boyism works—you’re offended so you’ll sneak into the shadows and be quiet.

Now you may be thinking, “what can you do? You’re just one old woman!” Well I’ll tell ya what I’m gonna do AND if your tired of it, I suggest you do the same! I will not spend one more nickel on a book, conference, retreat, get together, video in which good old boyism seems to be going on…If you practice good ole boyism don’t expect me to shell out my hard earned cash to support your endeavors.”
It’s all very sad, but true. Women do contribute just as much, if not more, to the paranormal field as our male counterparts and we are forgotten for the most part. It seems as if women in the paranormal field are more likely to be the subject of attacks by skeptics as well. Take Noreen Renier for example. She is a noted psychic who has worked with police departments in many states with unsolved cases on several occasions, with one writer who decided to make it his personal agenda to distroy her and her credibility. But he isn’t the only male writer to try and do so, and she isn’t the only woman. You don’t see these writers trying to distroy any of the male psychics the way they do the women. Another thing, and this has always been, not only in the paranormal field, but in all fields, is the pay that women receive for guest appearances at male dominated conferences. Do you think the organizers of conferences would pay a woman $10,000.00 per appearance, as they do with males, such as Grant and Jason from TAPS?? Of course they don’t!! It’s that good old battle of the sexes that has very much expanded into the paranormal field.

Next, I’d like to introduce you to Dee Disparti.

Like Janice, Dee has been the subject of many interviews with newpapers, has worked with various production crews and appeared on TV programs, both here and internationally. She has been involved in the filming of documentaries, has written articles for newspapers and is currently in the process of authoring a book on hauntings. She has been a featured guest on radio and currently is hosting her own radio show, Paranormal Perceptions, on Blogtalk Radio.

She is a gifted Medium and a Reiki practitioner. She holds classes and lectures on meditation, spirituality, dowsing and the use of pendulums. Dee is a sought after speaker for conferences. Along with all of this, she does tea leaf and private readings, as well.

I have had the pleasure to work with Dee on many investigations. She uses her gifts to help resolve experiences some people find hard to explain. She teaches some to help themselves and their loved ones who have passed on. Often she is actively able to help those who have passed to have a successful transition to the afterlife.
Her love for photography, combined with her abilities to communicate with the other side has enabled her to take some outstanding paranormal pictures. She credits her grandmother as being responsible for educating her on how to utilize some of her abilities. She, too, taught Dee the ancient art of dowsing and the usage of pendulums.

I had mentioned Janice’s wonderful blog to her and she totally agreed that women are not given enough credit for what they do. It was at her suggestion that I start my own organization. She had been pushing and prodding me in this direction for quite some time, all in a nice way of course, as she knows it’s the only way to get me to do things sometimes. After many discussions with both Janice and Dee, wolfpaww was born.
Our website hosts blog pages from Janice Oberding, Dee Disparti and Margot Marrakesh. We offer paranormal news, health and nutrition, fun and shopping pages. We also offer sites that anyone can join – The Ghost Den, Haunt Seekers, Haunt Seekers Forum and GHOPS. As with all new organizations, we are going through the growth process at this time.
Our goal is to eventually expand further by bringing to the paranormal world all female conventions,
conferences and meetings, giving us a chance to rise above and shine. We are also working towards establishing a link of women in the field world wide to help support each other. It would be great if a member visits a place and would be able to contact a friend in that area they have met on the site to go explore haunts with.

Author Bio
Lisa Olive is the founder/owner of a new site for women – wolfpaww – which stands for “Women’s Organization Looking For Paranormal Activity World Wide.” It was formed by women for women in the paranormal field, with an agenda to let the paranormal world know that we are out there and we are tired of being put on the back burner, sort of speak. We believe that it’s time we stood up for ourselves.

Using Popular Culture as a New Approach to Chaos Magic

by Taylor Ellwood

Over the last couple of years I’ve noted that few magicians capitalize on using popular culture as a method of working magic. Inevitably this seems to occur because of an ingrained belief that magic systems must come from a recognized lineage or old tradition. There’s an almost childish dislike of the idea of using popular culture as a means of working magic and this has sadly taken many mages away from the cutting edge of magical experimentation. Yet popular culture can provide the means and method of working magic. The purpose of this article is to introduce how popular culture can be used effectively.

Popular culture can be considered to be culture that deviates from the comfortable mainstream in a manner that opposes that mainstream or represents an alternative lifestyle/culture. A good example of popular culture is Buffy the Vampire slayer, seen on televisions the world over. Buffy slays vampires, has friends who practice magic and are lesbians, and lives a lifestyle that only links up to the mainstream culture tangentially. In short, Buffy is popular culture because what she represents goes against the safe and comfortable reality that mainstream cultures prefer. With popular culture you usually have a segment of society that is highly interested in the television show, pop star, or phenomena. These people can be considered cultish in the fanatical devotion and zeal they show a particular program, pop star, or whatever else.

Mainstream culture tolerates popular culture, but also in some manner or another either seeks to absorb the popular culture into itself or seeks to disparage it. That some magicians I know balk at the idea of using popular culture as a method of magic shows how successful mainstream culture is at influencing people. Mainstream culture may not always successfully absorb pop culture into it, but it seems to always successfully manipulate the perceptions of the majority of people in regards to pop culture.

Let’s put theory aside, however, and focus on the larger issue. There are a variety of ways to use pop culture in your workings, but I’m going to focus only on one. I direct interested readers to my book Pop Culture Magick, which focuses on some of the other methods of working with pp culture. Alternatively I hope you’ll be inspired to be creative with your approach toward magic and pop culture.

Harry Potter seems a fine example to use. He’s definitely part of the pop culture phenomena and he practices magic in his fantasy world. HP as we’ll call him from here out is part of pop culture when you consider how parts of the mainstream such as fundamentalist Christianity condemn and hate HP, seeing him as a threat to Christianity and its precious brainwashed masses. He’s a threat to Christianity and a boon to magic, if only because he represents magic to so many people. Children and adults read about his adventures and they want to be just like him. It doesn’t matter that the books or movie aren’t wholly accurate about the practice of magic. What matters is that HP represents, for the children and the adults who read him, access to the world of magic and all of its wonders. That in turn is a threat to any fundamentalist religion precisely because magic offers a way out of the dogmatic mindset of religion.

Around the time the first HP movie came out, David Cunningham and I came up with a pop culture working that revolved around HP. We’d both noted how upset many Christians were about HP, so much so that they were even burning the HP books. We’d also noticed with interest how many adults as well as children were reading the HP series. So we decided to do a working with HP entity, one that was mischievous and fun and would last a good long time.

The focus of the working centered around the idea of using the negativity the Christians focused toward HP in such a manner that the negative energy actually empowered HP to help realize the worst fear of the Christians, that people who read HP would show an interest in really learning about the occult. To do this we needed to construct a visualization that showed that worst fear. David and I did a lot of online searching for images of HP as well as some other images that we felt would be useful. We took the Hogwarts School of Magic that was used in movie poster and put it in the background of the image we were creating. Next we put a hoard of people rushing toward that same castle, eager to study the secrets of the occult. Then we placed an image of ruined church and an angry HP standing on the rubble, calling down energy. We placed a studious HP beside that image. He was reading a book and pouring potions into a black cauldron. We placed half of an image of a catholic priest in the cauldron. At the top of the image we had the phrase “Couldn’t we all use a little magic?” We then sent the image through email to other mages who were interested in our project so they could charge up the entities. Another thing I did was to print out the image and then place it in public areas. It would serve to either draw peoples’ attention to magic or it would get torn down by a disgruntled Christian or other kind of fundamentalist and in the process that would charge the entity up a bit.

The idea of the image was that HP’s school of magic and the people rushing toward that school to learn more about magic represented what we were seeking. HP standing over the church and boiling the Christian priest reflects the ultimate fear of Christianity, namely that HP will draw people from Christianity and thus destroy it. Those images were picked so as to emphasize that negativity and accordingly draw on the energy that Christians were focusing on HP. The overall result we are seeking with this working is one wherein that energy the Christians focus on HP will be used to help realize their worst fear, namely that people would become interested in learning about the occult. Note that I mention interest in learning, but not necessarily converting. We both felt it would go a little too far if we had the spell focus on converting people to the occult as opposed to instead learning about it because they suddenly found an interest in the idea of wielding magic themselves. A willing decision to practice magic is far better than an unwilling decision.

By having HP stir up the interest of the reader in the occult we don’t infringe on the free will of that person; rather we seek to stimulate the person. There’s obviously no guarantee that the person will start practicing magic, but even if he or she becomes interested enough to consider reading a book on the subject other than HP the goal has been accomplished in the sense that it is a start.

One thing David and I both noted with interest was the dynamic energy of the HP entity. I suspect this is due to the amount of attention and belief that goes into HP. Attention and belief are forms of energy and as such that energy can bring to life anything, including a character out of a fantasy series. If a magician chooses to believe in the reality of the pop culture entity s/he is able to access the energy of such an entity. This is remarkably similar to working with god forms, but it has the added benefit of having much more energy directed toward it. A pop culture entity such as HP has much more energy directed toward it because it’s in the media so much. The old god form may get some attention from people who choose to work with it, but it doesn’t have the ready supply of a large group of believers at its beck and call in contemporary times. The lack of attention and belief don’t destroy a god, but that lack does take away from the available resources it has.

Working with any pop culture entity has its benefits. While what I’ve listed above is one example of a working with the HP entity, it’s not the only way you can work with it. For instance, I’ve done pathworking (A form of meditation) with the HP entity to get answers for particular situations in my life. The HP entity could also be worked with as a teacher of magic. The possibilities are endless. The creativity and will of the mage determines how well the HP entity or any other entity will work for hir.
Of course the best way to work with a pop culture entity is to study it carefully. In working with HP, I first read all the books and saw the movies. I paid close attention to how fans and Christians talked about HP, as the attitudes would in part determine the attributes I assigned HP. Once I had all the data I needed I put that data into my visualization of HP. When David and I did the ritual we also empowered the HP visualization with some sex magic and then burned the image we had to release our intentions to the HP entity and set it on its task. We noted that for the next few months a sharp increase in anti HP rhetoric occurred, which rather pleased both of us because it meant the HP entity was drawing on the negative energy to start its task. We also noted an interesting occurrence when one of the magicians charged up the sigil/image.

This mage enjoyed charging up her spells by jogging and the one day she decided whimsically to listen to Christmas carols while charging up the HP image. The batteries in her walk man stopped half way through her jog and when she got back from her jog she felt ill. The next day her walk man worked fine and she no longer felt ill. What she hadn’t realized was that in listening to Christmas carols, which are associated with Christians, she’d instructed the HP entity to first drawing energy from the walk man and second from her self. The lesson to be learned is to always be careful when charging entities up, pop culture or otherwise, unless of course you want to become the entity’s dinner.

I’ve noted with a lot of interest the success of the HP entity with its task of stimulating interest in the occult. The Gray School run by Oberon Zell Ravenheart started up a couple years after the working with the entity. The school is modeled off of the school of the HP universe and has gotten a lot people interested in magic. I’ve also noted that both children and adults often talk about wanting to be like HP, casting magic, and that’s an encouraging sign.

I hope I’ve demonstrated that pop culture can be an effective tool of magic. There are endless possibilities within whatever you consider pop culture to be. The exploration of those possibilities is an opportunity for all of us to experiment with magic, in new directions.

Author’s Acknowledgment
I’d like to thank David Cunningham who co-created the initial working with the Harry Potter entity as well as doing most of the work in constructing the image we used to visualize HP. I’d also like to thank members of the Chaos-l list and the Geist project list for participating in the experiment.
Author Bio
Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magic, Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy, Multi-Media Magic (Forthcoming) and co-author of Kink Magic: Beyond Vanilla Sex Magic. He is also the non-fiction editor of Megalithica Books. For more information about him and his latest projects please visit and

Shenendehowa Interfaith Program

What happens when you pile a bunch of female Christians, Jews, Hindus, Native Americans, and Muslims in one place? In the case of “Celebrating the Sabbath or Holy Day” at the Shenendehowa United Methodist Church, something wonderful.

On Monday October 29, 2007 I attended an interfaith program for adult and teen women hosted by the United Methodist Women of Shenendehowa United Methodist Church. Easily over 60 women attended to hear women of different faiths talk about celebrating their Holy Day. The cost of admission, a non-perishable food item for the food bank and a vegetarian dish to share.

At 6 PM Janet Foster, the moderator for the evening, welcomed us and led us in giving thanks. Then we ate! There was A LOT of food there. Far too much for me to try everything. I sat with two women who attend the Hindu Temple of the Capital District, and two other women. So, what does a group like that talk about? The usual: traffic, the real estate market, cooking, and our families. After the meal, the program began.

A little bit of background. In 1994 the United Methodist Women held their first interfaith program for women. The topic that year was, “A Women’s Journey of Faith, From Cradle to Altar.” It’s been held nearly ever year since with topics such as “Death: The End or the Beginning” and “Prayer”. This year’s topic was “Celebrating the Sabbath or Holy Day”. The speakers were Dr. Mussarat Chaundhry of the Islamic Center of the Capital District, Jhansi Putta of the Hindu Temple of the Capital District, Rabbi Linda Motzkin of Temple Sinai, Dawn Standing Woman Marszak who practices Native American Spirituality, and Rev. Megan Stowe of Shenendehowa United Methodist Church. All of this with Janet Foster of Shenendehowa United Methodist Church moderating.

Personally I found the presentation by Dr. Chaundhry to be the most informative, probably because the Islamic faith is the one I know the least about. I just wish that they did these more frequently or had a longer time slot because I had questions but there was no time for questions from the crowd. Most likely because we would be there all night! That being said, all of the women were very entertaining and the evening flew by. The next thing I knew it was time to leave. I found it hard to say good-bye to all these friendly women I just met. It was such a wonderful evening. As Janet said, “When I look around this room, I can see that world peace is possible.”

Starr Place

Originally Published at

I love eating out, as does my husband. Many married couples have hobbies; our problematic hobby is that we love to go to restaurants. For awhile we were pretty out of control. We would eat out to celebrate. We would eat out because we had a bad day. We would eat out because we were going to be out running errands. We would eat out because we just didn’t want to cook. Fortunately, with some kicking and screaming, almost entirely from me, we have managed to cut back on the eating out. It’s hard and I don’t like it, but unfortunately I’m getting older and my metabolism is slowing down. It’s better to eat healthy at home. Of course, we make exceptions, as we did this past weekend.

I am friends with a wonderful woman in another town about 4 hours away. She has a son in Rhinebeck, NY, which is only an hour and a half away from us. We always joked that when she went to visit her son, we should all meet up there and have dinner. Well, she emailed me to say that she was going to be in Rhinebeck and that her son, who I had been told is a very well liked host and restaurant manager, would be having a soft opening of a new restaurant he is a partner in called Starr Place. Would we like to go? Um, heck yeah. So after getting the okay for the car trip from my physical therapist, we drove out.

We had never been to Rhinebeck, NY but from the little bit I saw, it looks like a wonderful town. Nice enough that we want to go back and visit. Anyway, we enter the Starr Place for its soft opening. A soft opening is essentially a trial run; this one was all friends and family. Or in our case, friends of a family member. The restaurant wasn’t totally done being renovated. There are stairs going up and down, but for this evening, the main floor was the only one in use. The interior decorating was well planned. You can easily wear a suit to this restaurant, or jeans and a button down, and feel equally comfortable. A small dark wood bar sits in front of a beautiful glass and dark wood display of a multitude of spirits. An elegant, well stocked bar is a thing of beauty.

We were seated with the mom, the host/partner’s wife, and a couple of her friends. Everyone there seemed to know the bartender and the wife told our server to have the bartender make her whatever he wanted. An excellent sign. I ordered a cosmopolitan and my husband happily ordered Red Stripe, his all-time favorite beer. The cosmopolitan is the best one I’ve had since Graham’s in Saratoga Springs, NY closed (years ago).

To test the selection we opted to order plentiful appetizers and share. We had the grilled squid with baby arugula and salsa verde, falafel fritters with hummus and pita chips, French bread garlic, extra virgin olive oil and parsley pizza, and an order of fries with olivade (white cheese and olives). They were all very good. The real stand out for me was the grilled squid. Generally I don’t mind squid as long as it’s disguised, generally fried. This was just a generous piece of squid with grill marks. It was smoky and tender, I didn’t mind the fact that my squid appeared to be squid. After that, it has to be the fries with olivade. The fries were light and crisp and the olivade was just yummy.

After much debate and mind changing I settled on ordering the Idaho Brook Trout with lemon caper butter and apple walnut salad. The hubby opted for the cassoulet, which is pork, lamb, sausages, and white beans. Both dishes were delicious, but I think mine was better. I don’t believe I ever had trout before, and despite it not being as fresh as Greg would like, it was wonderful. The lemon butter was subtle and the fish was so flavorful, probably because of the fresh herbs skewered down the middle of it. I was enjoying it terribly when I was struck by a horrible thought. I leaned over to my husband and said, “We came out for tonight and I’m having fish and a salad!” Yes, one of the staple combinations from our healthy home cooking. Of course, our stuff never tastes like this! My husband reassured me that the two cosmos and all the appetizers definitely undid any health value of my entrée.

To be on the safe side, I ordered the chocolate pate for dessert. Sometimes I’m a chocolate person, other times not, but tonight I was and my inner chocolate beast was merrily sated by this dessert. It was two slices of chocolate presented in the way you might present a pate. The chocolate was firm on your fork when you dipped into it, but light like a mousse in your mouth.

The Starr Place has all the makings of your new special night out. The restaurant is elegant, but comfortable, the host is smooth and efficient, the bartender is fantastic, and the chef has obviously got the mad skillz (as the kids would say). If you’re within a two hour radius of Rhinebeck, NY I recommend checking it out once it’s open. You can keep track of that by visiting:

The Resurrection of “My Sweet Jesus”

It’s going to be tough to have this discussion without potentially offending someone, but oh well, the giant chocolate Jesus is back and I’m psyched!  For those of you who may have missed it, last spring artist Cosimo Cavallaro created an anatomically accurate statue of Jesus out of 200 pounds of chocolate.  The piece, titled “My Sweet Lord”, was going to be displayed on the ground floor of The Roger Smith Hotel in midtown New York City starting April 1 (Palm Sunday) and run through Easter Sunday.
That poor hotel.  They had protests, boycotts, petitions, and even death threats.  Why?  Was it because it was made out of a rich, dark, chocolate instead of white chocolate?  (I always chuckle when I think of this option.  Have you ever watched the animated series “The Boondocks”?  In the first episode Huey explains that he never saw “Passion of the Christ” because it had a white Jesus.  The black verses white Jesus debate is also brought up in the beginning of the awesome movie “Saved”.)  Did it have to do with Jesus’ exposed Hostess Ho Ho (if you get my meaning)?  Was it the invitation for spectators to eat a piece of the sculpture, which was a truly inspired way for the viewer to allow Jesus to become a part of them?  Was it the Palm Sunday opening, an appropriate time to encourage people to consider the life of Jesus?  The world will never truly know if it was one of those things or many, since in the world of religious over sensitives no real reason needs to be given to justify death threats on poor bell hops who don’t give two craps about a giant hunk of chocolate.  Don’t even get me started on the ramifications of threatening artists over their subject matter!  It makes my First Amendment emergency lights start flashing.
All of that is in the past because chocolate Jesus is back, and he’s brought some saints with him!  The Proposition Gallery will be featuring an exhibition of Cavallaro’s work called “Chocolate Saints…Sweet Jesus”.  All the biggest and brightest of the Catholic world will be there in their finest life-like chocolate rendering; Saint Francis, Saint Jude, the Virgin Mary, and more.  And of course, “My Sweet Lord”, a recasting of the giant chocolate Jesus that caused so much trouble, despite being beautifully crafted and totally delicious in appearance!
The exhibition will run from October 27 to November 24, 2007 (to coincide with All Saints Day).  Hey, it opens this Friday!  Where is all the drama?  Well, all of us chocolate Jesus fans can relax.  On October 16 The Catholic League, the fun loving bunch that brought you chocolate Jesus protests and editing Kathy Griffin, issued the most subtle and not so subtle statement saying that essentially, The Proposition gallery isn’t very visible, that the idea of crafting an image of Jesus is appropriate for Halloween, and that All Saint’s Day just isn’t as important to them as Palm Sunday.  Of course maybe that’s just my sarcastic and biased interpretation.  What do you think?
“’My Sweet Jesus,’ another life-sized chocolate sculpture of a naked crucified Jesus by artist Cosimo Cavallaro, will be displayed in a New York gallery on West 22nd Street from October 27 through November 24. Unlike last spring, when we launched a boycott against Manhattan’s posh Roger Smith Hotel (the boycott was dropped when the hotel cancelled the exhibition of an identical Cavallaro statue, “My Sweet Lord”), the Catholic League will not protest this showing.
When the Roger Smith Hotel originally planned to host ‘My Sweet Lord,’ the work was set to be unveiled on April 1, Palm Sunday, and run through Easter Sunday. In addition, the midtown hotel’s gallery is located on street level, easily visible through windows to the public. Any child strolling with his parents through the popular area could have been subjected to the piece. And comments by the artist certainly didn’t help matters—he previously invited the public to come inside and take a bite of Jesus.
Since ‘My Sweet Jesus’ isn’t going to be displayed on the ground floor of an established hotel in midtown, and since Halloween is more appropriate for Cavallaro’s crafts than Easter, our central objections are not applicable this time around. The Catholic League doesn’t approve of the piece, but this upcoming display won’t be as public, nor will it be an ostentatious assault on Christian sensibilities during Holy Week.”
Although, none of this matters.  Not the Catholic League, not my snarky comments about the Catholic League.  What matters is that although struck down by nonbelievers, “My Sweet Jesus” is back…and more chocolately than ever.