I definitely need to do this.

While We're Paused...

Every writer has dealt with that massive, invisible beast that plants itself squarely on our desks, preferably in front of our computer screens, and leers at us in a mocking sort of way, just daring us to get anything accomplished.  Sometimes this beast teams up with Facebook or another soul-sucking website and we lose hours without knowing where they’ve gone.

And our story sits tragically abandoned.

There are lots of ways to get around writer’s block.  We all have our tried and true methods, so I  thought I’d contribute a couple of mine.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes (quite frequently, actually) I just need to get away from my work.  And I don’t mean Facebook away or even read-a-good-book away.  Those have their places (especially the latter).  But little treats that allow me the sense of escape can make all the difference when it’s…

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The Vine Layout for 2/8/12

The feature story was about Evan Barden and his project called One Hundred Dates. Barden, a Fairfield ’08 grad, is going to try to go on 100 dates within a year. He then posts his dates on his blog. He is quite a funny and quirky character, and I wanted to have the cover reflect that in some ways. One of my assistant editors Kelsey Guerin wrote a deadline story on him in record time, so she should also be applauded for her efforts. In the beginning, I included only women in the photo illustration, but I read that Barden is more than glad to go on a ‘Gay Date,’ so I added a few men in the crowd. See if you can spot them. All in all, I am extremely proud of my efforts for this week’s cover illustration.

Grassroots Group Needs Student Support

A grassroots movement is forming on the Fairfield University campus and the student body’s participation is needed for its success.

Sophomores Luke Record and Ricky Solano are planning to open a University chapter of RESULTS, a nonprofit organization with a plan to end global poverty.

RESULTS, or Responsibility for Ending Starvation Using Legislation Trimtab-ing and Support, has a mission “to create the public and political will to end poverty by empowering individuals to exercise their personal and political power for change,” according to its website.

RESULTS has made strides throughout the world since 1980. Its educational branch, RESULTS Educational Fund (REF), founded in 1983, has also been equally effective in the world by spreading messages about global poverty.

The term poverty also encompasses long-term issues such as poor education, deteriorating global health and big business finance.

To combat such issues, the grassroots advocacy group, with the help of citizens, contacts key local legislators to support anti-poverty bills, which fund effective solutions to ease poverty and protect the needy.

A current issue RESULTS wants people to be more aware of is a funding crisis that threatens a global health effort to end AIDS in Africa.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is in its tenth year, saves about 100, 000 lives each month, according to a recent press release by RESULTS. Recently, it has discovered HPTN 052, a potential treatment for AIDS.

When this treatment is applied in the early stages of the disease, it can reduce the risk of transmission by 96 percent, according to RESULTS. Additionally, the treatment can diminish “the occurrence of TB infection by 84 percent.”

However, the Global Fund is losing donors who contribute to research studies on HPTN 052. RESULTS encourages the United States to keeps its 3-year pledge of $4 million dollars, which was made in October 2010 by the Obama administration. The US is a crucial donor; it’s the largest single donor to the Global Fund.

Luke Record '14

Record feels that the government should listen to its citizens. “Another theme of Results is the idea that our governors, our congressmen, our senators, work for us, therefore we should hold them responsible,” he said. “We should tell them what to do.”

In doing this, students’ voices need to be heard. He and Solano are beginning to gather interested people in the McCormick Residential Hall, but they also hope to branch out and educate the campus on RESULTS and the Global Fund.

Solano finds the student population’s membership crucial to the future success of RESULTS. But for now, Solano said the group’s goal is to get attention. They want to “get the message out and get people on board.”

Once students are made aware of the issues, they will then try to get the attention of legislators by writing and calling them to support the Global Fund, Solano said.

“If we get more and more people to contact representatives, then [we’ll] be influential. We pretty much want to build a bond between the campus and the [Fairfield] community,” said Solano.

RESULTS Global Grassroots Manager Ken Patterson, who visited the campus in October 2011, believes that Fairfield will make a great impact on RESULTS’ progress.

He said: “It’s important to bring RESULTS to Fairfield because, without a doubt, there are people at Fairfield who believe every child on this Earth should have access to a basic education, so that they can reach their potential; that every child should receive the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they need so they can reach their physical and intellectual potential; that if there is a life-saving treatment available at low-cost, then no one should have to die in vain because they don’t have pocket change to buy it for themselves or their children.”

“RESULTS has proven that even those of us who are not rich or in any position of esteem or power have the power to do something about everything mentioned above,” Patterson concluded.

After the group is established, Record said that he would like to collaborate with other advocacy groups on campus like Proactive Investment Club and Students for Social Justice.

Record said that though the funding crisis for Global Fund is a tragic opportunity, students should be proactive.

“If you can make a difference on a global scale, then why not?” Record said.

Any students interested in attending a RESULTS meeting should contact Luke Record for more information at luke.record@student.fairfield.edu.

Passion Drives Pink Cupcake Shack

Tom McKiver/The Mirror

A lawsuit by a big name cupcake company in California couldn’t stop Diane Mercado and her cupcake shop from thriving in Fairfield.

In July 2011, Pink Cupcake Shack, formerly Pink Sprinkles, found itself in a lawsuit started by Sprinkles Cupcakes, a company in  Beverly Hills that dubs itself “the world’s first cupcake bakery and the progenitor of the gourmet cupcake craze.”

The lawsuit came as a surprise to Mercado.

Mercado said she registered her shop’s name with Connecticut and received approval, which then led to the opening of her store in 2009.

She then received notice from Sprinkles, saying that they had trademarked the word “sprinkles” for their company.

Mercado argued that “sprinkles” is a staple in the cupcake business, and she expressed her surprise at how a big company like Sprinkles could target her store, which is tucked away in a corner on Brick Walk Promenade.

Sprinkles, however, pursued a federal law-infringement lawsuit. As quoted in Huffington Post, the lawsuit stated that their similar names would cause “confusion” that “will damage Sprinkles and injure its reputation in the trade and with the public.”

Mercado said, “It’s a hard thing to go through; you get a lot of publicity . . .it’s just ridiculous because we’re just a little cupcake shop.”

Despite having to change the store’s name, effective on Jan. 15, Mercado believes the lawsuit brought positive effects.

When the lawsuit surfaced, news all over the country covered the drama.

Huffington Post and Associated Press picked up the topic and ran it in their online and print editions. A small boutique running against a huge company like Sprinkles caught the attention of many food fanatics and brought business to the shop.

Sprinkles had also exercised their rights to their name in previous cases.

In 2008, Sprinkles sued Sprinkled Pink Cupcake Couture, a store in Montecito, Calif. Its owner had registered the name when she got her business license in 2003.

Mercado looks back at the lawsuit as a time when she had to choose between fighting the case with the possibility of losing, or settling and changing the name to build a new future for the store.

She chose the latter, and she has yet to regret her choice.

The establishment resulted from Mercado’s longtime dream to open a store, the support and prodding from her family (but she jokes that she “dragged” her children into the business), and also a layoff from her corporate job.

She eventually found a location for Pink Cupcake Shack on Fairfield’s Brick Walk Promenade.

Mercado said, “Sometimes people don’t venture back here, and then they’ll all of a sudden come for some reason by mistake and they’ll find us.”

Though satisfied with her location, she wishes that she could have been on Post Road, the main road for traffic.

The cupcakes, cakes and cookies sold in the shop are baked fresh everyday. Mercado arrives at the shop around 7:30 a.m. with her father Roland, who washes the dishes for her.

Each Tuesday morning, Mercado decides the flavors that will be offered to her customers for the week.

Forced by her children, all college graduates, Mercado also makes sure to post the daily flavors on her Facebook and Twitter feed.

Salted caramel, cannoli cream and Gramma’s ganache are just a few flavors that have customers craving for more.

Most of the time Mercado receives cupcake flavor requests, and she said: “We try to accommodate everybody. If they care enough to call, then we’ll try to help them.”

Their busiest time is usually lunch time. Customers from Molto or Liquid Lunch, which is next door, head over to the cupcake boutique, craving a dessert for their unquenchable palette.

They enter and immediately, the aroma of freshly baked and moist mixes entice their senses, until they can’t leave without getting at least one treat.

Mothers and their children like to visit the cupcake shop on late afternoons and weekends. Mercado notes that there are a few regulars who come in to enjoy a cup of coffee and cupcake every morning.

The daily flavors include Red Velvet, Pink Velvet and Cannoli Cream. But on any day, customers might find Chocolate Volcano cupcakes, chocolate cakes with Ghirardelli chocolate ganache filling and chocolate butter cream topping.

Another great flavor is the Tagalong, a cupcake version of the Girl Scout’s cookie, with a peanut butter-based mix and peanut butter merengue drizzled on top chocolate dipped cream.

The decor of Pink Cupcake Shack reflects the slogan of the store: “Whimsical cakes and cupcakes to brighten your day.”

Playful pink and sky blue colors adorn the inside walls. On cupcake display cases, there are miniature clay models of people that vaguely resemble smiling Sesame Street-like characters.

Mercado and her staff keep busy on the weekends by preparing cakes and treats for catered events like business meetings and parties. She delights in the fact that some people like to order cupcakes for weddings.

Students from Fairfield University and Sacred Heart University also visit the store. Pink Cupcake Shack is part of Fairfield’s StagCard program, which allows students to use their StagCard to purchase items from the store.

Mercado admits that she likes people comparing her store to Crumbs Bake Shop, a famous Manhattan-based shop founded in 2003. Crumbs has since gone on to open 39 stores throughout six states.

Even though she has already found success with Pink Cupcake Shack, Mercado said that she’s always willing to change and add to the store’s treats. As a member of the International Cake Exploration Society (ICES), she participates in baking conventions where she learns new baking techniques and shares ideas with other enthusiastic bakers.

Baking, she said, was always her “passion.” As a teenger, she worked part-time in Pacelli’s Bakery in Bridgeport, and also worked around baked goods when she was 21 years old.

Just don’t expect to see Mercado on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” any time soon. Candace Nelson, one of the judges on the show, is also the owner of the company Sprinkles, which sued Mercado.

Mercado declined an invitation to appear on the show.

Mercado remains content with the state of her store and says that no plans for expansion have been made.

This Saturday Feb. 5, the cupcake boutique will host its first year anniversary at 1215 Post Road.