Life is 2Sweet

For over eight years now, since the birth of her twin girls, Angela Shafer has been helping people create memorable occasions. Invitations, party favors, candy buffets and decadent desserts are the heart of her business. She has mastered the cake pop, made her fair share of diaper cakes and diaper tricycles, crafted a fully edible version of nearly every Disney icon adored by children, and planned as well as executed themes and decor for celebrations ranging from Bar Mitzvahs and weddings to birthdays and baby showers.  Recently, Angela opened 2Sweet's doors in Woodland Park, NJ, transitioning from a home based business to a retail location and party planning haven. 

As a cake pop lover and fond of all things handmade, I am grateful to have a store like this in my hometown.  I am also overjoyed for Angela and her loved ones, for a selfish reason. She is my cousin and having an entrepreneur in the family means two things: 1) She is an inspiration to anyone who hopes to turn a passion into a sustainable living.  2) Our family gatherings always have the best treats. Duh.

Paramount to her business success is Angela's ability to heed the wishes of her clients and incorporate their style into a deeply personal, innovative solution. She made my graduation from high school memorable with Georgetown themed invitations. Blue and orange cake pops made a perfect gift for a dear friend, a die-hard Mets fan. This fortieth birthday screamed the eighties, every single detail. 2 Sweet facilitates moments that are not easily forgotten.  

Angela began with some basic materials in her home, baking savvy inherited from her talented mother, moral family support, and a vision. Since 2Sweet's inception, Angela has built a following of customers and admirers through resilience, creativity, and a need for very little sleep. The finest bi-product of her entrepreneurialism - the example she has made for her young daughters. 

Have a look below at some noteworthy 2Sweet moments and please consider casting your vote for 2Sweet in the Best of New Jersey 2014 .  

 Cake pops, quite possibly, to kill for. 

Cake pops, quite possibly, to kill for. 

 Need a centerpiece for your next party? 2Sweet is a one stop shop for all your party planning needs. 

Need a centerpiece for your next party? 2Sweet is a one stop shop for all your party planning needs. 

 Pictured clockwise from top left: Chocolate peanut butter fudge, Red Velvet, S'more, French Toast (with BACON)

Pictured clockwise from top left: Chocolate peanut butter fudge, Red Velvet, S'more, French Toast (with BACON)

 Mini cupcakes, Candy, and Kisses, oh my!

Mini cupcakes, Candy, and Kisses, oh my!

 Even the boxes are sweet.

Even the boxes are sweet.

 Chocolate Covered Oreos

Chocolate Covered Oreos

 XOXO

XOXO

 It's always sunny in 2Sweet. (Even if it is not sunny outside, light reflects off the white furniture, the smell of cupcakes abounds, and you immediately feel happier anyway.)

It's always sunny in 2Sweet. (Even if it is not sunny outside, light reflects off the white furniture, the smell of cupcakes abounds, and you immediately feel happier anyway.)

 More than just cupcakes.

More than just cupcakes.

 Lemon Creme, Raspberry Chocolate Fudge, and Mint Chocolate Chip 

Lemon Creme, Raspberry Chocolate Fudge, and Mint Chocolate Chip 

 And did I mention cannoli cones!?

And did I mention cannoli cones!?

Are you salivating yet? Or dreaming of sprinkle topped cake pops. For additional information be sure to visit 2Sweet's website or stop in for a visit

Summer Hours

Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 11-7
Wednesday: 11-7
Thursday: 11-7
Friday: 11-9
Saturday: 10-5:30
Sunday: Closed

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Breathe it in

I caught myself looking in the mirror. I try not to make it a habit of peering too deeply or I end up noticing blemishes and other trivial things. While I studied my face, time felt like it was standing still. I was grateful for each blemish, my eyebrows, my nose. I realized that exact moment would never exist again.  Gone into thin air it will go. I will age, my hair will grow, and my face will change. If I am fortunate, I will develop laugh lines.

All too often I forget to take a step back and breathe it in. My mind too busy evaluating the bigger picture. Nonetheless, I remain cognizant that until I am unabashedly grateful for something, anything, there will never be enough. I want to strive and succeed, but I more desperately want to feel whole in the moment.

As an exercise in being present, I take a personal inventory.

Today I didn't solve world hunger. I didn't single handedly build a brand, save a life, or give a talk at a TED Conference. I wasn't able to run five miles. I'm not necessarily my ideal weight. There are still many unknowns. 

But I did smile at a stranger while walking down Bloomfield Avenue. She was nearing eighty or so and looked sullen until I acknowledged her. Then she flashed the toothiest grin I've ever seen. I saw a child's spirit in her eyes. 

I fixed my bed. There is abundant research in psychology supporting the notion that a fixed bed will enhance overall happiness. I even left the rest of the house somewhat clean when I departed this morning. If the house was a mess though, at least that bed was pristine, every pillow in its place.

There was a luscious latte at Raymond's. Its foam reminded me of a Disney movie. Finding hidden meanings in my food is a simple pleasure I enjoy twofold. 1. Meaning is uncovered. 2. Food and drink is had. 

I learned something new at work. Actually four or five completely new things. It is both humbling and infuriating all at once to see how much is left to discover. Without even scratching the surface, I am tickled by the possibilities.

My Nana surprised me. I find it remarkable that you can know a person your entire life, and they still manage to do something you hadn't anticipated. Out of the blue she used sexy in a sentence, via text I might add. She texts, yes. She is just the coolest woman. Cooler then I'll likely ever be. 

My cousins and I hiked to an overlook in the Pocono Mountains. My fingers were numb and eyes teared, but my mind was clear. The air was crisp. James will argue Pennsylvania air is the cleanest air you will find. 

pennsylvania.jpg

At that moment, there was truth to his hometown prejudice.

I called a friend, made chocolate chip cookies, and said my prayers.

...

A recurring theme in my thoughts is how we as people endeavor to find our place.  For me that "place" is yet to be identified, unless I've already found it. That is not so far fetched to consider. Wherever I am is the only place I have.  I might as well breathe it in and make it count. 

Chocolate Cake Cure-All

It has been far too long since I have shared my foodie point of view. This is in no way due to the fact that I have been bereft of thoughts, but more so because I have been inundated with schoolwork, nights at the restaurant, and that whole finding a full time job and transitioning into adulthood business. Thankfully I have a part time job now that I quite enjoy...a small bit of affirmation despite not finding a full time position just yet. If only there were more hours in the day to search. But there will be no settling on my part so I will wait it out. The only solace I feel when I am drowning in homework, is the fact that nearly everyone around me here at Georgetown is feeling just as overwhelmed, seniors included. What happened to the simple senior year everyone mentioned. Or perhaps that is just some illusion people create for themselves by checking out, partying excessively, and pretending that school is irrelevant. Sadly, as the future and responsibilities are coming ever drastically closer, lessons in the classroom do seem a tad less relevant. Applying the lessons acquired in the classroom seems like a more worthy undertaking, but I am not the type to give up entirely. Although sometimes I wish I was one of those carefree Wednesday night bar hoppers. Ah nah I don't. Not my style. I really prefer working it seems! I spend my weekends at Filomena Ristorante nowadays. Only the best Italian food in all of the District. It took entirely too long for me to inquire about a job there, as I am in love with everything about it. Shame I never figured it out sooner. The employee meals are to die for, obviously. And working with people has been great practice for me; I am developing a thicker skin our of necessity. My coworkers are so cheery and warm hearted. There is a great sense of camaraderie that they have so graciously extended to me... like a family. We share a meal every shift called "family dinner" and it is a very fitting name. Good food, with good people. Is there really anything else more fundamental to our happiness? I am having a hard time coming up with it if there is. 

Now, a thought provoking question at the end of a hellishly busy week of paper writing, long restaurant hours, on Valentine's day no less (that was a party :/ ), and assignment after assignment. What is more comforting than family and friends? No, boyfriends out there-You are not the answer. Sorry. Drumroll please...

The answer is CHOCOLATE CAKE. Ever have a really awful date, and rush home so that you can sit in your jammies, snuggle up in bed, and devour some chocolate decadence?  Please tell me I am not the only person that does that. Or how about the time you made an entire chocolate cake, for a date that you anticipated having, just to be disappointed and stood up. The regiment is the same however. Home. Bed. Cake. Repeat. It is uncanny how an inanimate object has such an overall calming essence. Maybe it is the big glass of milk that hits the spot just right after you ingest layer after layer of chocolaty goodness. The dismal part of the remedy I have coined the chocolate cake cureall is that is it not the best for your waistline, guilt complex, or self esteem. Drowning any sorrow in a slice of triple chocolate mousse is only healthy and maybe even acceptable in moderation. Every girl needs her cake. But sometimes what we need more, is perspective. So what if your test was horrible, or it is the time of the month, or the boy you thought was the one turns out to suck... surprise, surprise. Thankfully we are living and breathing proof of resilience. Little detours, annoying  circumstances, and tremors might pervade our young years, but that is just a part of life it seems. And these situations are only as wretched as we allow them to be...never so overwheliming that they are able to defeat us. So just remember to keep everything in perespective, funny coming from me, the worry wart. But if you still feel the itch for something chocolate, "raise your glass" of two percent and cozy up with a slice. Or even better, share a slice with a dear friend, in celebration of the beautiful person you are. More frequently we turn to the chocolate cake cureall to cover up sentiments of helplessness, but remember that our dear friend Double Fudge Layer Cake has needs too. A happy companion will do...

Dim Sum and Dumplings

What a beautiful weekend it has been. Food, family, and friends. Or should I say copious amounts of food. Thanksgiving in America is a fairly consistent indicator that overeating will ensue. But oh how lovely it is to be surrounded by the people you adore, as you inhale four variations of potatoes, nana's stuffing, turkey with all its fixings, and not one, or two, but four kinds of pie. I am still suffering from the comatose state illicited by my formidable Turkey Day five course marathon of consumption.

Beyond being with my family, I was very thankful to be in the good old United States. I recently returned from Hong Kong and although it was remarkable, nothing beats the comfort of home. Ravishing though was my experience. After an intimidating 16 hour flight, myself and a few other students from Georgetown commenced on our journey to the East. It was my first time in all of Asia, so I was anxious but also a bit nervous. The flight, the language barrier, you name it, and I am comfortable handling it. What I wanted to know is... how's the food!?

Coming from an Italian family, I am extensively acquainted with pasta. We have it virtually all the time, whether baked rigatoni for dinner, or a quick pasta bolognese for lunch... even a pasta frittata with leftovers from the night before for breakfast. But I had not anticipated the emphasis the Chinese place on those noodles! Every meal....noodles. For breakfast we had scrambled eggs and nothing other than lo mein. Greasy, fried lo mein. Granted we were staying in a university, so the food was not paramount, but it was so odd having your morning tea, toast, scrambled eggs (if you could call them that) and some vegetable lo mein in all its glory. Kind of a weird experience for me, but refreshing to take a bite of a different culture.

We endeavored to the Peak Tram on our day off and rode it all the way to the top, from which we were able to see an absolutley breath taking view of all of Hong Kong in its glory. The sky was a clear bright blue, and as Barabara Streisand would say, you really could see forever. After doing the tourist gig for a bit, we settled down for a nice meal and I had the most bountiful pineapple, (yes you heard me correctly) pineapple filled with rice that you have ever laid your eyes on.

And obviously I finished it like a champ. Would you expect any less of me?

We had our fair share of street food ranging from obscure meats to dumplings in broth, with some seasonings I cannot name to this day, but nothing compared to the fine wine and dine experience we were offered by our corporate sponsor Citi Group. Dining in their posh headquarters, we sat in the boardroom and conversed with all of our new international friends. Dishes varied from traditional dim sum, which is an assortment of steamed, bite sized, Chinese delicacies offered at lunchtime, to fresh vegetables, American favorites, and fried rices to die for. Sushi and some Western dishes were also served to accomodate the diverse palletes in attendence and lastly we finished with some petit fours for dessert. Bite sized tiramisu and fruit tarts were a perfect ending to a whirlwind day, as we gazed outward at the majestic city. Surreal...

All in all it was a cultural and culinary overload. I met kind people from all over the world and various parts of the United States. We danced until 4:00 am to American pop music in the heart of Hong Kong Island. Experiencing Halloween eve in Lai Kwai Fong was a night never to be forgotten. If you ever thought Americans took Halloween seriously, you should check out this cultural nook. A narrow street, lined by bars and clubs, and charismatic people from all over the world. Over the top costumes and loud 80's music blaring from every direction. Posh people with GREAT accents, provocative getups, and lots of booze flowing, let's just say that it was an experience unlike I have ever had, and probably ever will have!

Above all though, the new found friendship and foods are what I will remember. The breathtaking backdrop as I barter with a woman who is blabbering incomprehensibly...trying to sell me coins for nearly 100 American dollars. Ok, lady whatever you say... walk away inconsipicuously. Meeting new acquaintances on the plane, and dining in the finest of hotels, it was a week to remember.

Dear Hong Kong, thanks for the memories.

Applebees Please

I must say that Weight Watchers has made me incredibly cognizant when navigating the world of eating out. We have amassed many traditions as a society that bring us away from home at mealtimes and thus I welcome this new found awareness. For example, my family along with another hilarious family of four meet at Applebees every so often... Ten on the dot for some half price appetizers. I used to to think that this was the best promotion ever until I started watching more carefully my food intake. Let me introduce you to the former Francesca.

6:00 pm- Eat a complete and nourishing meal, maybe pasta or a steak. But definitely an entire meal. No skimping on dinner. I NEVER skimp.

8:00- I start conceiving of all the appetizers I can possibly consume without being rolled out on a stretcher of course. I have my sights set on the Spinach and Artichoke Dip, Boneless Buffalo Wings, and Potato Skins... Yes, all three.

9:45- Hop in the car and begin salivating.

9:55- Arrive and exchange pleasantries with our friends. Dilly-dally and order drinks until 10 pm. Then the party begins.

10:00- Among eight grown people, we order between 10 and 15 appetizers and share among ourselves. I eat all of mine and then polish off my sister's nachos. She never finishes them... Ever.

10:45- We are all pleasantly full but the conversation is roaring. Cracking jokes and laughing uncontrollably, it is a lovely evening. I am uncomfortably full but somewhere in the back of my mind, I gather that I have enough room for dessert. "I will have the Strawberry Shortcake Shooter please... or nah, on second thought I will have the Triple Chocolate Meltdown!"

11:00- Finish the entire dessert, even the assorted syrups that garnish the plate. We all talk more and eventually overstay our welcome. The family rolls on home and settles down to rest... pounds of food wreaking havoc on my tummy. Flavors that are not meant to coexist are happily cohabitating. I slip into a food coma of sleep and awake 8 hours later with a bit of discomfort. Despite the food child I am carrying, I opt for Chocolate Chip Pancakes with whipped cream for breakfast. Don't judge; it is my favorite breakfast even after a night of overeating.

The remarkable thing is I never bat an eyelash when ordering not one but three appetizers, after dinner nonetheless. And who could really resist that molten chocolate goodness. Don't lie; you know you want one as you read this!

Enter my healthy lifestyle of moderation... I decided to research the nutritional information for Applebees online so I would be more aware of calories and such. I think I may have lost a few years off my life when I saw just what I was eating. WARNING: Do not consult the nutritional information online if you enjoy Applebees! You will immediately go into cardiac arrest at the mere thought of how many calories you are consuming. It is off the scale my friends, and the dessert is an entirely different story! So now I am ready to enter the battlefield ...me versus the temptation and the showdown begins.

Friday night we head to Applebees and luckily the woman who introduced me to Weight Watchers in the first place is in attendance. We vow to one another to prudently survey the illustrious under 550 calorie meal options and WW compatible menu items. I opted for grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, and some steamed vegetables. I had one to three bites of any appetizer I chose, but I savored each bite. No falling victim to impulsive tasting and I felt good!

Ok, truthfully it was TORTURE watching everyone else eat whatever they wanted. but that is the sacrifice we make to be healthy. A few minutes of pleasure is not worth the repercussion of feeling uncomfortable in your skin. My friend Chris saves me the last bite of his Sizzling Apple Pie and oh boy, did I let that taster linger as long as I humanly could. But it was a good evening and I made healthy choices; I think I won the battle but the war rages on!