Do you like gourmet cupcakes that are so moist, rich, and satisfying that you don't even know that they're vegan? Are you captivated by photos of amazing landscapes and wildlife – taken by a blind photographer? Ever hear of teas that taste like dessert in a cup? And what’s happening with that girl who opened for Jon Bon Jovi a little over a year ago? Let’s circle back and see what these amazing people are doing right now!
When I first started blogging I had a few heavy hitters as far as the types of articles everyone enjoyed. We know Bon Jovi's Soul Kitchen was a big one, but he’s been in the public eye a lot lately, so I figured I’d change my focus to zero in on some of the amazing people and businesses I’ve written about that made people go “Wow!” along the way and what they are up to now – over a year later. For some of you, you may remember when I wrote about Charlotte Sabina – the now twelve year-old singer who opened for Jon Bon Jovi in New York City; or Cup Quequitos – the gourmet, vegan cupcake Arizona-based business. Do you remember The NecessiTeas? They make teas that taste like dessert in a cup (but with way fewer calories). What about the blind Canadian nature photographer, Christina Anne McCallum? What’s she up to now?
All of these people are inspirational and inventive in their own ways. Somehow I connected with each of them because they amazed me. Over the past year, they have not just amazed me, but have impressed many more people as well.
Let’s start with Charlotte Sabina. Here is a girl with the maturity of a woman, and the confidence and talent of a seasoned musician, packaged in the body of a pre-teen. She, got to open for Jon Bon Jovi in New York City a little over a year ago, and released a few singles after that. What got my attention over lunch with her and her family at the JBJ Soul Kitchen, was that all of the proceeds she makes from her music are donated back to the Soul Kitchen to help those in need of a really good meal in hard times. And this is the idea of someone so young!
Charlotte has a very busy schedule as she is still in school. However, she takes her music very seriously. She plays guitar and piano like a pro. I saw her perform live in New York at The Underground, and she loves it. She’s a natural. Since that time, Charlotte spent last summer performing in Montauk, NY several times at The Gigshack. She enjoyed performing there, and is so grateful for the support she received from those who cheered her on.
In the fall, she decided it was time to take her music to the next level. As an artist grows and matures, this is a very natural process. She took a break from production; because producing new music can be very time consuming. Now she’s focusing on her technical skills and concentrating on writing new material. She’s still up at the crack of dawn every day practicing her vocals and continuing guitar and piano lessons. This is all going on while she’s writing new songs. Yes, and she’s only twelve! She has more drive than many adults!
As she matures, she’s studying some of the great songwriters and their work so she can improve in all facets of her art. At times studying some new subjects are both challenging and rewarding for her. She still spends a lot of time surfing and is determined to keep it up all winter! It’s her connection to nature. Charlotte’s father reported that she’s really had a great time with the dolphins swimming off shore, especially a young one that swims by nearly every time she’s out. Charlotte’s younger brother, David, named him Triton. They both watch Triton has he has begun jumping, having fun, and growing up right before their eyes. As a nature lover, Charlotte really identifies with him.
A spokesperson for Charlotte said that Charlotte will be releasing some new songs in 2013, and hopefully start performing more. So for all of her fans, stay tuned for the next level of Charlotte Sabina’s sound! She is even considering putting together a band. Charlotte is also looking forward to eventually getting back in the studio to cut a track. So keep your eyes – and ears – peeled to hear more from this little lady in the new year.
Christina Anne McCallum
Speaking of nature, imagine if Christina Anne McCallum was able to venture out with Charlotte to photograph the dolphins! No doubt she would do an amazing job! Christina Anne McCallum isn’t just your regular photographer, though. She is a blind Canadian photographer. McCallum is legally blind; and she takes breathtaking photos of landscapes, flora, and animals. After I wrote the initial blog on her, she gained some momentum in the photography world and was featured in Canadian Geographic Magazine. Most recently her photo of an Arctic Fox was published in the hard copy edition of Canadian Geographic, Collector’s Edition Best Wildlife 2013.
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How is this possible? How can you take photos if you can’t see what your camera lens is focusing on? I’d like to think it’s her mind’s eye that guides her, and her talents just emanate from within. She’s truly amazing, and I don’t doubt for a second that she will continue to get recognition for her stunning photographs.
If you know me, you know that I can never write for too long without talking about my favorite subject: food! And when I tell you about how these gourmet vegan cupcakes are worth flying to Arizona for, I’m not kidding. These delicious confections called Cup Quequitos are the creation of Shanali Dávila. Her cupcakes are known as Cup Quequitos - a play on words with a Spanish flair to reflect the heritage of the Southwest combined with good ol’ American, homemade baked goodness. Literally “quequito” means cupcake, but Dávila is as creative with her naming as she is with her cupcakes.
In 2011 when I wrote about these Southwestern gourmet gems, there were approximately 60 Cup Quequito flavors featured. Now, there are over 110 profiled flavor combinations, including the new ChocoSalted Caramel (OMG!), spicy Mexican Hot Choco, and Habañero Mango! Can you believe it?!
Dávila stays on trend with the blending of the latest flavors in new ways. I’m sure you’ve heard of the salted caramel craze. She took it one step further and matched it with chocolate. If you sink your teeth into a ChocoSalted Caramel Cup Quequito, you will experience a moist, dark chocolate cake that complements the vegan salted caramel frosting. It's that salty-sweet combination that will grab you. To make it look pretty she swirls some caramel on top. And if you’ve ever had chocolate infused with hot peppers, you know she’s right on track with her spicy Mexican Hot Choco CQ’s. The flavor contrast gives you a little kick as you indulge in dessert. It’s an infusion of chocolate and chili pepper in the cake, topped with vanilla-cinnamon frosting, and drizzled with chocolate. If you are looking to be a bit more adventurous, you must give her Habañero Mango cupcakes a try! Remember when you thought bacon and chocolate was a strange combination, but once you tried it you couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been done before? Well, the Mango Habañero Cup Quequitos are along the same principle – at first the combination seems crazy, but it’s crazy enough to work – really well! Mangos meet habañero peppers like you would imagine in a sweet salsa, and to cool it down, every bite is accentuated with refreshing lime frosting. It’s garnished with what Dávila calls a “ring of fire” (a.k.a. slice of habañero pepper).
Only two varieties of Cup Quequitos are non-vegan: Dark Choco Bacon, and Apple Maple Bacon. But if you are a bacon lover like me, you will appreciate that these are on the menu.
As the Cup Quequitos line has expanded, business is booming. Dávila hopes that sometime in the future she will be able to have more than a virtual store front and have her first Cup Quequito shop where you can walk in and be enraptured by the smell of her freshly-baked, expertly-iced savory sensations.
Unfortunately, because Davila is a one-woman-show, she no longer ships her Cup Quequitos.
“I do not ship. Just can't manage it all, by myself. I'd like to think about getting into just shipping frosting, but again, it's just me. I can't do it all,” she explains.
But if you are in the Tucson area, make it a point to stop in at Café Poca Cosa and try some. You can also place an order online (if you are in the Arizona area) and Cup Quequitos will deliver them to your door.
If you are looking to cut down on your calories, though, I have the perfect way for you to indulge and enjoy the dessert you crave in a cup. What? Let me explain. The NecessiTeas specializes in gourmet dessert teas that give you the authentic taste of things like Strawberry Cheesecake, a Root Beer Float, or (my favorite) Chocolate Orange, without packing on the pounds. This is not a girly girl tea thing. If you add a bit of sugar and a touch of milk to most, you can close your eyes and sip your way to gourmet tea nirvana.
Seriously, when I drink the Blueberry Cobbler tea, (I just add a touch of German rock sugar), it tastes like the real thing right out of the oven. I don’t know how the owner, Linsey Manning, infuses her teas with the essence of a bakery, chocolate factory, or confectionary, but she does! When I met her in Utah, (for tea of course!) she would not tell me her trade secrets. However, she hand blends all of her teas herself to ensure quality; and she’s her very own taste tester! What a great job!
Manning’s favorite desserts inspire her tea blending; and she also tries to offer something for the seasons. Right now her newest tea is Candy Cane Lane. In the fall she did a Pumpkin Cheesecake tea, too.
The NecessiTeas ships world-wide, so if you’d like to sample some low-calorie gourmet desserts that “tea”-se your taste buds, place an order and you won’t be disappointed. Brewing is easy. Just get a tea strainer or something like the Smart Tea Infuser and you’re good to go.
Manning’s future business aspirations include the possibility of partnering with some local spas, perhaps opening a tea-bar, and opening Body Bakeries on the side.
Body Bakeries’ slogan is ‘a sweet indulgence for your skin’. With Body Bakeries launching in 2013, Manning will introduce her new skin care line.
“I will be doing bath bombs/fizzies, sugar scrubs, body frostings….all scented bakery-like stuff. A lot of the scents will match my teas,” she says. So now you can smell as delicious as dessert, too.
So I’ve covered everything from up-and-coming artists to mouth-watering treats, and amazing landscapes inbetween. I’ve taken you around the country and given you some snapshots of Canada. What a trip!
You never know where life will take me next, so stay tuned and “Read the Red”…. I’ve got an eye on the best of the best and you’ll be able to say “I knew them when…” Just wait and see, and watch…
Keep up to date on Christina Anne McCallum’s latest photographs on her website, or follow her on twitter @Christina_Anne
Check out all Cup Quequitos flavors on the website. You can also follow Cup Quequitos on twitter @CupQuequitos, Facebook and Pinterest.
You can place an order for your gourmet dessert tea on The NecessiTeas website; and also follow The NecessiTeas on twitter @TheNecessiTeas, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.