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Wiccan Traditions: Happy Halloween!

In Art, Being Gay, Clothing, decor, holidays, Hollywood, Literature, Night Out, Relationships, religions, television on October 30, 2009 at 5:37 am


What does it mean to be Wiccan? Is there a difference between practicing witchcraft and Wicca? If you have ever visited the Salem Witch Museum in Massachusetts, rented such movies as The Blair Witch Project, or even turned your boob-tube to shows like The Vampire Diaries, you more than likely have been introduced to ways of the witch … or so you think. In the following interview, we will get to know Doreen Lavista (Westchester’s authority on all things Wiccan and Pagan) and her son, Michael. They are a pair of practicing Wiccans that will answer questions ‘til your heart’s desire. The mother-son duo clear the air on what Hollywood has made witches out to be for centuries and make the idea of performing rituals quite attractive.


Joseph: When did you first realize that being Wiccan was what you wanted to associate yourself as? Can you tell us what the differences are between the different beliefs out there?

Doreen: Because it made sense! The more I read about it, the more sense it made. Wicca, witchcraft, and Paganism basically align themselves with the seasonal changes of the earth. Paganism is very gynocentric, in that we celebrate the changing seasons and celebrate the changes within ourselves each season.


J: How old were you when you first started to read-up on Wicca and such?

D: First of all, before I even could read, I knew that I had a sense that other people didn’t have; that was what they called precognition … knowing something before it was actually spoken or done. That sense of being aware of what was coming next was very acute in me as a child.

I’m a child of the 60s; there was media that indicated, “Well, if you have x-ability, then you must be a … fill in the blank…” and at that time the word was “witch.” So like every other teenager looking for their niche, I would have to say between the ages of 12 and 13 was when I started doing real research; but what was available was either topics about the Salem Witch Trials and the history of the Inquisition … yeah, not too much. And a lot of dark and negative stuff … a little Anton Lavey …very little by people like Sybil Leek or Laurie Cabot was available at that time.

Really good resources and literature didn’t really come about until, oh I would have to say, the re-explosion of the Neo-Pagan movement in the late 90s.


J: How is being Wiccan different from being Catholic, Jewish, or even Pagan?

D: Let’s discuss Paganism first; that’s kind of an umbrella term for anybody who does not follow the traditional Judeo-Christian-Monotheistic belief system. Pagan refers to all the indigenous people who had religions before they were conquered by Western Europe; Wicca kind of falls into that, in that it differs from Christianity, Judaism, and even Islam, in that it’s not strictly monotheistic. It is also, again, gynocentric, where a female deity is not only powerful but very present; there is balance in the male and female deities, where there’s balance in nature as above and also below. Monotheistic and traditional belief systems seem to be a little one sided there.

witch and cauldron

J: Wow … I didn’t know any of that. Films, like Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, give such a negative connotation to witchcraft and Wicca, you know? And I have become more intrigued by what that is all about…

D: As far as Hollywood is concerned, people like darkness … they like to express that darkness and see it in the theater, simply because they cannot manifest it or express themselves … most of it is way too violent, and it’s still against the law. But Hollywood manages to put a label on something they simply don’t completely understand. When we use the word “occult,” we’re referring to knowledge that has been hidden … and that’s exactly what it means; when a doctor takes the hemoccult, he draws blood and he wants to see what’s hidden in your blood.

This is what the ancient mystics, the Hebrew Kabbalah practitioners, the druids, the shamans, the medicine men had; they all had this “occult” knowledge. But again, it was suppressed when Catholics or Christian Western Europeans came into power. And you had to speak through a mediator … you were not allowed to speak to God directly.

the craft

J: I just have one question to add, and that is … How would you like to see the Wicca way be represented in the future? Would you like it to been seen in a more positive light and gain more exposure?

Michael: As far as exposure is concerned, as long as it’s portrayed the way it is in real life, and not something as dark, evil, or menacing, I personally would feel intrigued if they came up with a show about actual witchcraft and what they do; not a show about shooting sparks out of their hands.

D: Here’s my take on that … I would like to see Wicca and Paganism in general portrayed in the light that it’s really meant to have. It’s not just the Halloween thing; it’s healing and helping people, and being there to be console to people. There’s a lot more light and a lot more protective energy involved.


Hollywood seems to get a little carried away with the special effects of reappearing and the disappearing, and all kinds of entities manifesting. A lot of pulp fiction and romance novels now are embracing the thought of “vampires are groovy and werewolves are sexy;” and so on; it’s driving me crazy because people really don’t know how they’re manipulating this energy. And it all begins and ends in the mind, with intent. What you intend is pretty much what you get … it starts with your mind set.

The “craft,” the nuts and bolts of the candles, colors, herbs, and the bags and the ritual, are the tools that go along with manifesting in the material world that which we have created in our minds. Does that make sense?

J: Yes … so it really isn’t something to be afraid of. It’s more about energy and the earth.

D: Oh, absolutely. There’s nothing to be afraid of … it’s all about truth and light.

J: How do you feel about witchcraft becoming more popular, let’s say as opposed to how things were back in the 60s?

D: Personally I think it’s great; and again with the caveat being, as long as it’s portrayed correctly. It works, but then again so do novenas and prayers. For me, the promotion of the stereotype perpetuates a myth of fear … once we take the fear out of it, and everything is in the light, it’s a-okay. Once again, it’s all about truth and light.


J: Michael, do you feel that it was easier to relate to the Wiccan way as a gay individual, rather than other religions that shun homosexuality?

M: Yes and no. When I was in elementary school, my grandmother at the time wanted me to be raised Christian; well, I was sent out to CCD a couple of days a week after school and came home repeatedly with questions. The answers I was getting to those questions didn’t satisfy me. From what I gather, when one is spiritual, whether it be Christian, Jewish, Islam, Wicca, whatever … you’re supposed to feel something and get something out of it personally. I didn’t feel anything when I was going to church; there was no connection for me there.

I finally decided to take a step back and find something that suited me and what I like and what I was interested it. And as time progressed, I learned more about Wicca and witchcraft from my mom, participated in a couple of ceremonies and holidays, and said, “Wow, this is what I was looking for; this is about the cycles of the earth.” For me, it makes me feel comfortable, I feel and get something out of it. There was no pressure or influence from any outside source; there was no kind of cult mentality.

Looking back as a now 24-year-old, I’m a little upset because there are all these extremists announcing that “homosexuality is wrong,” and “God hates fags,” and so on so forth. There are so many different aspects and variations of Catholicism, that I’m pretty sure the whole “love thy neighbor” thing is supposed to take precedence over spreading words of hatred. That’s probably the main reason why I wouldn’t want to practice one of the three main world religions.


J: My last question is: Have you or your mother ever participated in any kind of ritual and what kind was it?

D: For about the past twenty years I’ve been part of a coven, and we’ve all taken our turns hosting particular rituals throughout the seasons; some of them were just for the purpose of getting together and celebrating the phase of the moon and bringing manifestation to that phase of the moon and some of them were our traditional holiday celebrations. For instance, Samhain is coming up … you call it Halloween, we call is Samhain; but we also celebrate Yule (December 21) which is the winter solstice. Our holidays actually predate the hallmark calendars.

I’ve often held public rituals in places for events; we’ve gotten some Pagans from all over the county to come and participate … it’s been a lot of fun!

halloween witch

As the time approached to bit each other adieu, Doreen recommended a website for you; it is called witchvox.net, and it is a great place to become more familiarized with all things witches.

Doreen also welcomes you all to befriend her on facebook, especially if you would like to work with her one-on-one … she teaches Wicca 101, you know!

With that being said, venture off calmly, dear spirits of the night and have a happy and healthy Halloween!

-J. Federico

Photo Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Hearty Harvest Recipes

In decor, holidays, recipes on October 29, 2009 at 3:58 am

fall harvest

The harvest season is upon us which means cold weather, seeming less time to get things done, and an overabundance of friends and relatives “stopping by.”  The one thing we all have to do is eat, and usually feed all those that jump in and out of our homes during this hectic time.  In order to help with this, I’ve put together a few easy, home-cooked meal recipes that are not only fitting for the cooler weather, but will definitely pack a punch to your taste buds.

beef stew with red wine

Beef Stew with Red Wine

Most stew recipes call for an earthy beefy flavor with lots of vegetables.  Although I don’t skew far from that, the wine and some of the other spices really kick this comfort meal into high gear.  If you have a slow-cooker, it makes the job much easier.  If not you can do it in a large pot, you just have to watch it.  I recommend serving this with the wine you use to cook with and some crescent rolls.

Here’s what you need:

2 lbs. of stew meat
4-5 Red Potatoes (cut in 1” pieces)
4-5 carrots (sliced)
3 Pieces of celery (sliced)
1 can peas
1 can corn
1 sm. Container white mushrooms (sliced)
1 med. Onion (chopped)
2 cans beef gravy
¼ cup flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tbs. black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 cups beef broth
2 cups of drinkable red wine

How to prepare:

In a large bowl, combine the stew meat, flour, salt, and black pepper.  Combine so the meat is somewhat evenly coated (the flour is used to thicken the gravy.)

Place into pot (medium heat) or slow cooker (high heat).  Add all of your liquids except the brown gravy and give a quick stir.

If you are doing this recipe in a slow cooker, add in all other ingredients.  For pot cooking, don’t add the brown gravy yet.  If you are doing this recipe in a pot, keep the heat add medium, stirring every 15 minutes or so, for an hour.  Then reduce the heat to low, and simmer for another hour or until the vegetables are tender.  If you are doing it in a slow cooker, let it go for about 4 hours stirring a couple of times as you go.

At this point, for the pot cooking, add the brown gravy and let it cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste, serve, and enjoy!


Kielbasa with Roasted Veggies

As you will come to notice quite quickly, I am a fan of red potatoes.  This recipe is no exception.  Besides being very easy to make, this recipe is full of flavor.  The sauerkraut is optional, but very much recommended.  This is also a standalone dish, but feel free to serve whatever you want with it.

Here’s what you need:

4-5 pounds Kielbasa
1 bag of small red potatoes
2 large green bell peppers
2 large red bell peppers
2 pounds of sauerkraut
2 tbs. garlic powder
1 tbs. paprika
2 tbs. black pepper
Salt to taste
½ cup of Olive Oil

How to prepare:

Chop potatoes into approx. 1 inch pieces.  Slice all peppers into strips.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Take one large, or 2 small cookie sheets, and cover them in aluminum foil.

Combine oil, and all spices.  Toss potatoes with this mixture to coat.  Place potatoes on cookie sheets reserving as much oil as possible for peppers.  Put potatoes in oven for about 20 minutes.

Toss peppers in the same mixture and place on top of the potatoes on the cookie sheets and return to oven until potatoes are tender.  Remove from oven and place into a large bowl.

Put the kielbasa on a separate foil covered cookie sheet and place into the oven for approx. 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and chop into ½” pieces.  Combine kielbasa with potato/pepper mixture, and add in the sauerkraut.  Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and cook this mixture on the cookie sheets for 20 minutes.

Remove, serve, and enjoy!

apple crisp

Apple Crisp

The perfect ending to any meal, or for breakfast … or whenever, to be honest!

Here’s what you need:

3 pounds tart apples
2 tbs. lemon juice
½ cup light brown sugar (packed)
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup sugar
4 tbs. cold butter
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

How to prepare:

Peel, core, and chop the apples.  Toss in a bowl with the lemon juice.  In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add to the apples and toss to combine.

In another bowl, combine flour, sugar and the oats.  Cut butter into 8 smaller pieces and mix it into the flour with two forks until crumbly.  You can also do this with your hands to save some time!  Stir in the chopped nuts.

Butter a 9” square baking dish.  Spread the apple mixture into the bottom of the dish, and then sprinkle the flour mixture on top.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until the apples are tender and the topping is a little browned.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.  OM NOM NOM!!

Hopefully you will enjoy these few recipes and I look forward to sharing more with you in the future!

-Scott Merwede

Photo Source 1, 2, 3, 4

Top 10 Scariest Halloween Movies

In holidays, Night Out, reviews on October 27, 2009 at 3:40 am

hollywood monsters

Halloween was never a holiday that I liked too much, even as a kid. However, I happen to have a special place in my heart for scary movies. So, instead of dressing up in some expensive and elaborate costume, me and my friends buy a ton of Halloween candy, rent a few scary movies, and stay up real late getting freaked out. Here are my top 10 favorite Halloween movies picks:

10. Seven

The Saw series wouldn’t even exist without the creation of this intense psychological drama starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. The two A-Listers star as detectives that play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a psychopath who plans to kill seven people, one for each of the seven deadly sins.


9. Poltergeist

In this creepy supernatural flick, a family is visited by ghosts who tear up the family’s home. Hey, they all can’t be as friendly as Casper.

8. The Shining

In this adaptation of the gripping Stephen King novel, Jack Nicholson stars as a hotel caretaker who comes in contact with the ghost of a former hotel custodian (who killed his wife and two daughters). To put it lightly, shit goes down.

the blair witch project

7. The Blair Witch Project

This film follows a group of students who journey into vast woods for a school project about a fabled witch became an instant cult classic when it was released back in 1999. The movie isn’t all that scary, but it will, in fact, make you a nervous wreck.

6. Paranormal Activity

In this low-budget supernatural rollercoaster, a couple who hears bumps in the night decides to purchase a camera and record the demonic festivities while they are asleep. Let’s just say it’s more than just a bump.

nightmare on elm street

5. A Nightmare on Elm Street

This movie scared the bejesus out of me as a child. It follows the story of the residents of a quaint little town who are being haunted by a pedophile that was burned to death by the town’s parental figures. He has claws and swallows a young Johnny Depp by way of his bed. Enough said. Check out the trailer for the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, coming to theaters in 2010.

4. The Ring

Naomi Watts stars in this in this horror gem about the investigation of a killer videotape. “You’re gonna die in seven days…”Eek!

sixth sense

3. The Sixth Sense

A young and creepy Haley Joel Osment made the phrase “I see dead people” famous in this 1999 thriller about, you guessed it, a child who can see dead people. He pursues the help of Bruce Willis, who plays a child psychologist. This is the movie that contains the perfect twist ending.

2. Halloween

Jamie Lee Curtis plays a schoolgirl stalked by a maniacal killer in what is considered the most memorable horror movie ever made. The school scene in the beginning is an all-time favorite of mine.

And last but not least…

the strangers

1. The Strangers

This nerve-racking ride of a movie starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman deserves its spot at number one. The story follows a young, distraught couple stalked, terrorized, and tortured by three masked killers. The tension in this movie can be cut with a spoon … or even a plastic spork. Watch this film in the dark and get back to me.

Happy Haunting!

-Matt Scotto

Answer us this: What’s YOUR favorite scary movie?

Photo Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Host a Healthy Halloween Party

In Gay Business, holidays, Night Out, recipes on October 23, 2009 at 7:43 pm

halloween party

Fall is by far one of my favorite times of the year. The temperature is growing cooler and the leaves are changing to the most beautiful shades of orange and red. For me, fall means pumpkins, butternut squash, hearty stews and deliciously tender braised meats. What’s not to love? This time of year also means entertaining, parties, and of course Halloween. All the heavy, hearty foods that we eat around this time add up and put on the pounds. Halloween is the worst culprit, binging on all sorts of unhealthy foods that leave our body screaming for help! This year when you throw your Halloween party, lighten it up with fresh flavors and spice; use creative techniques and flavors that ignite the senses without all the extra fat and empty calories … create an impressive menu for a killer party!

Healthy Snacks:

Snacking is one of the biggest culprits of seasonal weight gain. When throwing your Halloween party, keep your guests’ appetite at bay by providing them with healthy options.

Exchange your greasy chips and fatty dips with a heart healthy garbanzo bean dip and pita chips.

When throwing your party, it’s up to you whether you want to buy your hummus or make it yourself. If you choose make it yourself, you can flavor it any way you want and control the amount of fat and salt within it. To make it yourself, follow this simple recipe for a delicious and smooth dip.


Sun Dried Tomato Hummus

1 (16 ounce) can chickpea, drained and rinsed
2 T tahini
¼ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
½ lemon, juiced
1 T salt
½ t black pepper
1 (5 ounce) jar of sun dried tomatoes

1. Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor. Pulse ingredients until roughly chopped.

2. Next, keep pulsing and stream oil in until smooth and there are no big chunks of garlic or sun dried tomatoes.

3. Serve your hummus with pita, or toast them in the oven for a few minutes and serve it with pita chips!

Another snack that you can put out to thrill your guests are some spiced nuts! Again, you can either buy them or make them yourself. If you decide to make them, since they are so easy to do, you’ll appreciate the final product.

spiced nuts

Spiced Nuts

1 (8 ounce) bag walnuts
1 (8 ounce) bag peanuts
1 (8 ounce) bag cashews
2 T cayenne pepper
2 T cumin
2 T chili powder
4 T brown sugar
¼ cup salt
1 T black pepper
1 T oil

1. Toast all nuts on a sheet pan in the oven at 350° for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and light brown.

2. Combine spices and brown sugar together in a large bowl. Once the nuts are nicely toasted, combine oil and hot nuts in the large bowl with the spice rub. Toss until nicely coated.

3. Transfer the nuts back to the sheet pan and bake them 3-5 minutes until the spices adhere and the sugar melts. When the nuts are finished, take them out, let them cool, and enjoy!

Note: These nuts are irresistible and spicy! They will awaken your guests’ taste buds and keep the party going. Nuts are full of protein, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, which will fight off heart disease, cancer, and help you build muscle!


Snacking aside, at some point your guests are going to need a meal and something to drink. Traditional “punch” that is served at parties is made up of several kinds of juices and sodas that contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring, and lots of sugar. So let’s replace the sugary drink with a fruity, fizzy, and light alternative that will refresh and not weigh you down!

pomegranate fizz

Pomegranate Fizz

1 bottle Champagne/sparkling wine
1 liter pomegranate juice
4 mint leaves
1 orange, zest and juice

1. Combine the orange zest and juices in a large container with the mint leaves and add the pomegranate juice.

2. Right before serving, add your sparkling wine or champagne.

Note: Pomegranates are filled with antioxidants and are one of the foods that you should be consuming on a regular basis. With this drink you can change it up any way you like. You could use a not-from-concentrate juice that you prefer, or you could try a distilled spirit like vodka or gin. The combinations are endless! If you decide to go with a lighter drink, you’ll be able to drink more and not worry about feeling bloated!

Main Courses:

Now for the meal! I believe when hosting a casual party where you are going to have a large number of guests to entertain, that you shouldn’t have to serve plated meals. The answer to this is called Family Style. Large plates or pots, filled with a good amount of food, where your guests can serve themselves. This allows them to choose what they want to eat and how much of it!

To start off the meal, use a fresh, palate-cleansing salad. A bright and delicious salad will awaken the taste buds and have your guests salivating for the main course!

Fennel, Orange, and Arugula Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette

Fennel, Orange, and Arugula Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette

1 Fennel Bulb, cored and sliced paper thin
4 Oranges, Zested, Segmented
2 Bags cleaned Arugula
½ Cup Dried Cranberries
½ Cup Toasted Sunflower/Pumpkin Seeds


4 Ruby Red Grapefruits
2 T Whole Grain Mustard
1 T Salt
½ t Black Pepper
¼ Cup Olive Oil

1. To start, place your sunflower seeds on a sheet pan and put them in a 350° oven for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. While that is going, you can start slicing your fennel.

2. Take your fennel bulb and trim the top green stems off … you won’t need them. Next cut the rough bottom of the fennel bulb off. Take your knife and cut the bulb in half lengthwise. When you cut it open you will see that there is a core on the inside, almost in the shape of a triangle. Carefully take your knife and remove it, it’s much too tough to eat. Now that your fennel bulb is ready, take your knife and slice it paper thin, or as thin as you can. Put aside and start with your oranges.

3. Using a micro plane or zester, zest all your oranges, making sure not to get any of the bitter pith underneath. When finished, take your zest and put half in a bowl for the dressing and half in a large bowl for the salad. Next you want to segment your oranges. Take your knife and cut the top and bottom off of the orange. Then use your knife to carefully cut down the sides, leaving you with all the segments of the orange attached without any skin. Now take your knife and a make a cut on each side of the segment releasing it. Take all your segments and put them in the bowl with the orange zest and fennel.

4. Now that everything is ready, it’s time to make your vinaigrette. Slice your grapefruits in half and juice them into a bowl. Add your orange zest, mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk it together, and then start adding your olive oil, streaming it in and whisking at the same time to make an emulsion. The mustard will help to bind it together. Your salad is done. You can place the fennel, orange, and cranberries on the lettuce in a bowl in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, toss it with the vinaigrette and top with the toasted sunflower seeds. You really can get all these ingredients ready the night before and assemble when you’re about to eat.

Note: This salad is extremely simple and very impressive! Your guests will be in awe at the combinations you’ve put together. The fennel when sliced raw has a fresh anise flavor and a voracious crunch to it. Paired with the citrus from the orange and the peppery arugula, it’s sure to make for one lovely bite.

This salad is also very light and acidic; to balance, you need a dish that’s a little heartier. Around this time of year we want something comforting to eat, which usually relates to weight gain. I’ve found that you can make comfort food in healthy ways, by using leaner meats and tons of vegetables, and in this case, beans.

white chicken chili

White Bean Chicken Chili

2 T Olive Oil
4 Pounds Ground Chicken
2 Yellow Onions, small dice
2 Green Bell Peppers, small dice
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, small dice
1 Red Bell Pepper, small dice
1 Jalapeño, minced
8 cloves Garlic, smashed
4 T Tomato Paste
1 Large can Whole Tomatoes
2 Cups Chicken Stock
2 Cans Cannellini Beans
1 T Cumin
1 T Cayenne
1 T Chili Powder

Garnish Tray

Chopped cilantro
Lime wedges
Pico di gallo
Shredded Cheddar

1. To start this hearty chili, dice all your veggies and sweat them in a large pot with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and when they are translucent, remove and set aside.

2. Turn the heat to high and add your ground chicken. Leave the chicken in the pot for a minute or two to let it brown a little before stirring around and breaking it up. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat and cook it uniformly.

3. Next add your tomato paste and stir it in to combine and let it brown a little. Add your spices and vegetables that were set aside. Stir to combine and then add your canned tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for an hour and a half. Finish with garnishes.

4. Serve your chili right out of the pot you cooked it or in a large dish. Put all your garnishes in separate dishes. Have your guests ladle it into bowls and garnish it themselves. This will provide interaction and whimsy to your meal.

Note: This chili is full of flavor and is comforting. Don’t worry about this dish being heavy, it’s a warming and healthy dish that will delight you with flavor and not increase your waist size.


Time for candy! Halloween is by far the time of year when we consume the most candy. Although it is not healthy, you have to be able to celebrate and have you what you love! The key is to eat what you love in moderation.

One type of candy that actually has some health benefits is dark chocolate. Yes chocolate can be good for you! I used to work for Godiva and I have a great passion for chocolate.

A simple candy that you can make to impress your friends is a chocolate bark. Using a dark chocolate you can actually make a dessert that is good for you! Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and can help relieve stress and balance your hormones. Antioxidants, as we know, fight off nasty free radicals, which enter our bodies on a daily basis. By eating foods that contain antioxidants, we help to fight off disease causing pollutants in the body. Add a few foods high in antioxidants into your regular diet and you will be doing your body good!

chocolate bark

Dark Chocolate Bark with toasted pistachios and dried cherries

1 pound dark chocolate
1 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped roughly
1 cup dried cherries, chopped roughly

Note: Buy good dark chocolate when making this recipe. If the chocolate comes in a block, chop it up. If it is in chip form, leave it the way it is.

1. Place ¾ of the chocolate in a metal bowl and place it on a saucepot filled a fourth of the way with water. Bring the water to a boil and turn it off.

2. Stir the chocolate so it doesn’t burn and it melts evenly. When the chocolate is melted completely, take it off the heat and stir in the remaining non-melted chocolate. This is called tempering, and will give the chocolate a nice shine and make sure it sets correctly. The chocolate should be about 84 degrees to set perfectly and be shiny.

3. Spread the chocolate out onto a clean, greased sheet pan or one lined with parchment paper. While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle the dried cherries and chopped, toasted pistachios evenly over the chocolate. Let the chocolate cool for at least an hour to harden completely.

4. When the chocolate is done you can break it into various size pieces and serve it to your guests.

Note: You’ll want to make a ton of this bark because it will be gobbled up in no time; it’s delicious!

Making candies seem to be really challenging but they are in fact really easy and rewarding. This recipe is simple and comes out perfect every time! You can swap out ingredients to make it your own, like using toasted pumpkin seeds and golden raisins. The possibilities are endless!

Now that you have some ideas on what to do for your Halloween bash, go out there and throw a crazy party! Your friends will be talking about it for years, and for all the right reasons! When you learn how to entertain healthily, you’ll find that you will want to entertain more frequently because you won’t be worried about eating “guilty” foods and your friends will sure appreciate the delicious food.

Stick to a few simple rules and you’re in the clear:

– Remove your junk food from the equation and replace it with simple, high protein snacks!
– Add antioxidants into your life and fight those nasty free radicals!
– Don’t deprive yourself of the food you love; eat with moderation!

Now that you have a simple game plan, make this Halloween your own personal start to a healthy living!

-Sean Gallagher

Photo Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Zombies: Crawl Baby, Crawl

In Art, Clothing, Clubs, decor, holidays, Hollywood, Literature, Night Out, NYC, reviews, television on October 22, 2009 at 4:27 am


On September 30th, 2009, I died … and then walked the streets of Manhattan. So did approximately six hundred other people. It was my very first “zombie crawl,” but certainly not my last. What is a zombie crawl? The term hasn’t quite reached Webster’s yet, so I will do my best to define it for you here. ZOMBIE CRAWL: (n or v) a gathering of civilians who are at the very least just a tiny bit insane, who dress up like the undead in varying degrees of intensity, and who walk like a zombie through the streets of unsuspecting cities to celebrate their love of horror, corn syrup, and creatures who eat human flesh.

This particular zombie crawl was a promotion for the new horror comedy Zombieland that came out in theaters October 2nd. Although the event wasn’t rigidly coordinated, there was a  general plan to meet at The Mean Fiddler bar on 47th street, then “crawl” (or plod, drag, and/or cavort in true zombie style) through Times Square to the AMC theater. The costumes were amazing. Some were relatively low key (fake blood and old band tee shirts) while others were off the charts fantastic (bridal gowns and pretend festering ‘sore’ wounds). Everyone was having a great time and people were very friendly! Some really got into their roles: growling, leaping at bystanders with cameras, screaming, spitting fake blood out onto the sidewalk, etc. The lot of us shuffled through the streets with no cares for details of the living; citizens and cars meant nothing to us! We were dead! The angry honking of cab drivers was drowned out by hundreds of horror-movie nerds grunting like the undead and laughing our asses off. By 10:00pm the AMC Theater in Times Square was filled to the brim with costumed zombie fans waiting for their sneak preview tickets to Zombieland.

zombies in new york

Fans of the television cartoon series Family Guy and any old school 1980’s John Cusack teen movie will love Zombieland. Aside from an exorbitant amount of fake blood, latex flesh, and awkward-boy-meets-smokin’-hot-but-laid-back-chick sexual tension, there are hilarious cut away scenes and a charming voice over by the lead character. It is not to be taken seriously for a second. Zombie fanatics who enjoyed Peter Jackson’s movie Braindead! (also known as Dead Alive!, 1992) should enjoy Zombieland for its absurdity and unassuming vibe. While it doesn’t have the indie flick feel of a low budget horror, it carries the same gory ridiculousness that only the slightly twisted can appreciate.

zombieland scene

Zombie crawls and films like Zombieland present an obvious question: why zombies? It’s hard to say. Their popularity could be attributed to a few factors, really: For one, they’re still human, and therefore the closest thing to a “realistic” monster we’ve got. Government testing and strange diseases in questionable water supplies could actually be just a few unruly laboratory experiments away from creating the insane, flesh-eating societies.

They are controlled by their id, which makes them more animal than human, but more human than monster. We as a society are taught that living solely by the id is wrong. Zombies don’t have that restraint; they don’t need it. All they need is a juicy brain to snack on. They travel in packs and look for food – you can’t get more “id” than that. The mob mentality of zombies isn’t so different from the mob mentality of humans. In fact, the minor differences between mobs of either party is just how much firepower you need to stop them.

creepy zombies

Zombies represent a side of humanity we don’t want to think about, but are morbidly fascinated by. Zombies want one thing, and they want it bad. They need to sustain themselves on others (oh wait, we do that) and they’ll do anything they want to do so (oh wait, we do that, too). They’ll punch, tear, and bite their way to the top. Oh, wait … in a way, everyone is a zombie. No wonder we like them so much.

Taking part in the NYC zombie crawl was one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had thus far. I met a lot of great people, got to scare a number of innocent bystanders, and, my favorite part: got to get into costume. There was something exhilarating about walking through the streets of NYC on a Wednesday night with a fake bullet hole in my temple, a ripped undershirt, and tattered jeans. The stares from “the living” made my undead heart skip a beat. Complete strangers complimented me, but were also deeply disturbed by the throng of us. It was a beautiful thing. It was a new world, a bold maneuver, and just plain fun.

zombie attack

There are a number of other zombie crawls happening in the month of October. For those interested, check out Doug Sakmann’s site here. Doug is the ring leader of a number of zombie shenanigans in the NY/NJ/PA area. I’m already planning my next outing. Zombie fans, get moving … grab some cheap fake blood, smear some black eye shadow under your eyes, and tear a hole in your pants. Life is short, so go sink your teeth into somebody.

-Criss McKenzie, member of the undead society

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Halloween 2009 – It’s Time for a Scare!

In Art, Clothing, Clubs, decor, Gay NYC, holidays, Hollywood, Lounges on October 21, 2009 at 6:58 pm


Hello ghouls and screamers, welcome to Equal4all‘s Halloween 2009 series! From today until the big day, October 31, we will be offering you tips on how to throw the perfect and most healthy Halloween soiree, sharing delicious Fall recipes, and much more! We will even be talking to a fellow zombie and sharing the ins and outs of what it’s like to be Wiccan! Grab your witch’s hat and pull up a chair, because you are about to enjoy quite a scare! Happy Halloween!

-The Equal4ll team

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Taking Woodstock

In Art, Being Gay, Clothing, concerts, Dating, decor, Hollywood, Music, Night Out, Relationships, reviews, sex on October 21, 2009 at 6:36 pm


It seemed everywhere you looked this August there was a mention of Woodstock. The 40th anniversary of the festival brought back a lot of memories, most noticeably with the release of Taking Woodstock, the newest movie from the Oscar winning director Ang Lee.


Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) is the focal point of the story. He unselfishly puts his own life on hold to help his parents avoid the foreclosure of their rundown motel. After being denied loans by several banks, he hears about a music festival that had been cancelled in a nearby town. Thinking the festival would bring in a lot of fast cash for his parents, he schedules it in his town with the help of his neighbor Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy). At this point, the crowds start to roll in, bringing with them plenty of money and drugs, giving Elliot the freedom he always craved, so he could finally become who he really is.

Taking Woodstock is a fun, crazy, coming of age story, and the cast was terrific. Martin plays his character really well; he is awkward and careful … just how you would be if you had never truly been yourself around the people closest to you. Emile Hirsch, who played a troubled Vietnam veteran, was able to convey the psychological pain that many veterans faced after the war, yet still be funny and endearing. Liev Schreiber, who played a cross-dressing bodyguard, stole the movie for me. Not only did he have some of the best lines in the movie, but you looked forward to the time when he was on screen.


If you are looking for a movie about Woodstock that has some clips or reenactments of the performers, this movie isn’t for you. Instead, Woodstock takes a back seat in this film so that it can properly tell Elliot’s story. You do catch a few glimpses of the festival though. In one amazing shot where Elliot takes acid, he climbs to the top of a hill to look over the swaying crowd. Slowly, the crowd starts to evaporate and turn into a wave that you would see in the ocean. This shot was truly magical and made the movie worth seeing!

Overall: B+

-Lindsay Dahlstrom

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Erectile Reptile and then some…

In Art, Being Gay, Dating, Gay Celebrity, Gay NYC, Hollywood, Literature, Music, Night Out, NYC, Relationships, sex on October 19, 2009 at 10:57 pm


After writing the last blog I wrote about 3 or 4 follow-ups. But they were all safe … talking about how music and other artistic mediums inspire me (Go to my website for that!).

I felt I hadn’t finished speaking about gender identity and the psyche of the gay man; I need to talk more in depth about this topic as it directly informs my art and continues to intrigue/inspire me.

What is the big deal with size queens … that’s what I’m wondering! Why do MANY of my gay friends and older gay men that I know and respect, always claim to need “9-12inches or a soda bottle size dick?!?” Where does this fascination with size come from? Is this stat REALLY what we should be basing our sex lives on? Does having an average size penis mean YOU ARE only “average” or less masculine?! Ha-ha! This is RIDICULOUS and yet another stereotype that’s being shoved down our throats (pun intended) to make gay men feel insecure and inferior; AS IF they aren’t enough out there!

Look, I have an average size dick; it’s not too big and not too small. I’m a grower not a shower, and I’ve never had a complaint. I believe it’s not the size of the boat, but rather the motion of the ocean!! I personally would never expect a partner to have a huge donkey dick, and if I loved and cared for my partner, I’d be happy no matter what. This SHOULD NOT be a prerequisite NOR should it be a standard; it shouldn’t even be an issue! Just because a guy has a huge tool doesn’t mean he knows how to use it! Still so many gay men out there harp on this topic and I find it really shallow.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that this topic is an issue of masculine inadequacy. This size obsession also goes hand-in-hand with the gay community’s “norm” and pressure to WORKOUT 24/7. Big muscles = big STRONG masculine men … give me a break!! This type of behavior and social conditioning leads to extreme body image issues. What about the inside? What about your capacity to love another person and be available to build something substantial and real with a partner?! How about focus on being an intellectual and spiritual person AS WELL AS your SEXUALrelationship?! They are all parts of a whole (whether it is you and your boyfriend or just YOU as a multi-dimensional human being).


But along with modern technology comes going to extreme LENGTHS (hehe) to alter one self, thinking this will bring value to their person and bring more persons to their bed. Can we say SIDE EFFECTS?! Some include penile numbness, loss of erectile capability, soreness and so on! WHO WANTS that?!! NOT ME!! I love my penis and want to keep it in GOOD WORKING ORDER; sensation loss is NOT an option.  We should find NATURAL ways to enhance sensation and draw out the pleasure and orgasm … for example, using Tantra and certain Yogic practices. I’m a huge fan of Tantra; Yoga is a huge part of my life. And Yes, I take  it into the bedroom. It may not be instant gratification, but these techniques are to be LEARNED and experimented with.  However, there are books out there! Just try Googleing Mantak Chia, Penile implants, pumps, and chemical and herbal supplements; there’s a lot out there claiming to “HELP” make you bigger. And MANY of these “revolutionary” tools are targeted towards a much younger crowd!!? WTF? There is a whole under culture who takes Viagra to enhance their sexual adventures for an extended period of time. Again … never been an issue! IF you are attracted to your partner, and have a connection, you SHOULD be able to give it all you got and KEEP IT GOING!!  If you can’t sustain an erection you should go see your doctor. If it’s not erectile dysfunction, EXPLORE your sexual tastes! Maybe you have an undiscovered fetish or situation that makes you SUPER HOT … or hey, maybe you’re BI! What’s the harm in exploration?!  It will only make you happy and more knowledgeable in the end!

-Charlie Demos


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A Chat with Greenview Marketing!

In Being Gay, Gay Business, Gay NYC, NYC on October 16, 2009 at 7:40 pm


Equal4all had a great opportunity to catch-up with Bryan Ruiz, manager of all design, web, and marketing efforts for Greenview Marketing. Mr. Ruiz and his business partner, Joe Lontos, have a keen eye for “going green,” and share thoughts on tricks of the trade; they even tell us their plans for the future and what it’s like overall being eco-friendly!

Equal4all: How did you begin to build the foundation of your business with the idea of being “green” and how do you express that through your work?

Bryan Ruiz: I started to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle when I was in college. I began reading more and more about the environment and its future in regards to depleting resources and the change in climate over time. I took a step back and realized changes I needed to make to “do my part.” I began to recycle, walk more (which was easy in a college town), take public transportation and be more conservative in my home life such as shorter showers and turning the lights off when I leave a room.

My work has been no different. I have researched many ways that I could preserve resources without compromising the quality of my design and work. Some of these things include using less colors and full bleeds when I design. This helps conserve ink and paper. I al use an eco-friendly web hosting company which has all of its servers powered by windmills.

E4A: In what ways do you stress living an eco-friendly lifestyle outside of Greenview Marketing?

BR: I still follow the same everyday tactics like I have above but also added new methods to my lifestyle such as bringing shopping’s bags to the grocery store and using eco-friendly light bulbs in my apartment. My main goal is to continue routine activities that are eco-friendly but are not necessarily more work. It’s a matter of being mindful of what  you’re doing.

E4A: Have you found a connection between being “green” and catering to gay clientele?

BR: The main connection for me is that I have both qualities. But overall I would have to say that the gay population is always open to change. Being a part of the gay population, I also know that many of us are innovators and early adopters in the market and are the first to test out new products, tactics and ways. That’s the main correlation I have found which can simply be put as a high level of excitement to know only work with another gay man but that there is more to offer on top of that.

E4A: Give us some tips on how to lead eco-friendly lives without completely changing them!

BR: There are some easy tactics that one can follow that wouldn’t make your life any harder. The first is to keep reusable bags handy at home and/or at work; you can use those when you go grocery shopping or when you grab lunch at work. Another tip is if your next light bulb burns out, try buying eco-friendly ones that use less energy and are not that much more expensive.

E4A: Besides being gay yourself, what do you find interesting about the gay community from a business perspective?

BR: I think it’s great to be a part of such a unified community. I have found that the gay community supports each other and will always go the extra mile to help out another member in the community.

E4A: Where do you and your partner see your business 5 years from now? How about 10?

BR: In five years, I hope to have this company triple in size. Right now, my partner and I are the only ones representing this company. In five years it would be great to be able to employ others and work as a team to effectively execute award-winning advertising and public relation strategies and to also keep an eco-friendly train of thought as well. In ten years, I would say the same thing … only BIGGER!

E4A: When you guys have down time, do you still act in a “green” manner?

BR: I always act in a “green” manner because it has become so routine for me. I don’t see it as an annoying process but as a day-to-day process that I am used to.

-Interview conducted by Matt Scotto, edited by J. Federico

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