Friday, April 21, 2017

The Gardens GreenMarket (Nik's Piks: Local Spotlight)


Nowadays, most areas, from small towns to big cities, have a farmer's market that promotes locally grown produce and agricultural products, along with local art, crafts, and food. With no exception, green markets are everywhere in South Florida, but my favorite is The Gardens GreenMarket. 

Now in its 15th year, the market, located at the City Hall Municipal Complex in beautiful Palm Beach Gardens, takes place every Sunday, rain or shine, from 8am to 1pm. But you must hurry up!! Beginning May 14, the market moves indoors until mid-September to avoid the Florida summer heat, and it isn't quite the same. 

You are sure to stumble upon new items every week, in addition to farm fresh staples. On my recent visit to The Gardens GreenMarket, I picked up a delicious vegan snack and a jar of homemade, cruelty-free lotion for my mother.   


Whether you come to buy your weekly produce and some fresh eggs, or do a little shopping for a new outfit or piece of handcrafted jewelry, The Gardens GreenMarket is a wonderful family-friendly way to spend a couple of hours browsing the array of local vendors and enjoying the live music. Plan on coming for breakfast or lunch AND discovering some true treasures.  Odds are, you will go home with a new plant, fresh guacamole, or even new artwork. 

Fresh flowers, plants, and herbs

Clothing and accessories 
Beautiful artwork and crafts


There are a couple of playgrounds nearby for the kiddos to choose from if they get restless, along with public restrooms. Parking is ample and free, but there is a full crowd every Sunday. Please note, pets are not allowed. 

See you back here soon. In the meantime, buy local and GO GREEN! 


Monday, April 10, 2017

Vegan Mango Smoothie (Nik's Piks)

I haven't posted in my Going Vegan series in quite some time, so figured I would today. And, what better way than to share one of my newest, favorite vegan recipes! 



Mango Smoothie
Don't like mangoes? Neither do I! Until, that is, I made this delicious vegan mango smoothie altered from a traditional recipe I found. It is my new addiction. With summer approaching, there is no better time than now to start perfecting some smooth and delicious cold treats that are also healthy and filling.






INGREDIENTS:  
(Servings: 1 or 2, if you're willing to share) 

  • 4 ice cubes 
  • 8 oz almond milk (original or vanilla unsweetened)
  • 1 1/2 cup of chopped frozen mango 
  • 5.3 oz (one container) vanilla yogurt made from coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pure cane / Turbinado sugar to taste (~ 1-2 TBSP)

If you prefer, substitute the vegan ingredients for dairy ingredients. However, I promise you will love the vegan version.

PROCEDURE:  

Step 1:  Crush ice in blender

Step 2: Add all ingredients (You may wait until the end to add the sugar.)







Step 3: Blend completely until thick and smooth, (Add sugar, if desired, and blend in.) 






Step 4: Enjoy! 









How easy is that?  While I often eat this smoothie as a meal, I believe it is scrumptious enough to be dessert!  


Give it a try and let me know what you think! 



Read more of my Going Vegan series here



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Art of Crying


For decades, experts have delved deep into the science of crying - why we cry, and perhaps more importantly, the physiological result of shedding those tears. Studies show that crying is beneficial to the human body and mind. The chemical makeup of tears will vary depending on the cause of the tears: sadness, fear, pain, stress, happiness, or anger. In most of these instances, tears are the body's way of releasing unwanted toxins from the body, allowing the healing process to begin. Turns out there is an art of crying, that, when done correctly, will leave you feeling rejuvenated and stronger than ever.

Yet, many of us still don't want to cry, preferring to hold in our emotions - often times to the point where we break under the pressure at the worst moment.  Even children are told big boys and girls don't cry. But the truth is, we not only want to cry at certain points in our lives, we actually NEED to. 



A friend recently reminded me of all this as I cried to her on the phone after what was a very stressful few days. She asked me if I was really crying over traffic, or if that was the straw that broke the camel's back.....a back that has been carrying too much lately. She asked me if I had given myself permission to cry recently.  

As an emotional Italian who wears her heart on her sleeve (and born under the astrological sign of the very sensitive Cancer to boot), I never considered myself someone who held in tears and who needed to be reminded to allow herself to cry. In fact, I think I cry a lot. She quickly pointed out that I cry when it is too late, and my body and mind have been taken over by the negative chemicals produced by the body during emotional times. 

So what am I supposed to do? Make myself cry? 

Apparently, that is exactly what I am supposed to do. But how? 

While many will turn on a sad movie, I have always been inspired and moved by music. (My sons know to leave me be when the music is blasting.) I often find my tears hidden in the lyrics of a song or a melancholy melody that makes my eyes water from the opening note. There are probably a hundred songs that evoke strong emotions in me, some for nostalgic reasons, others because of the painful lyrics that hit home.  The song that gets me sobbing every time is "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" which came on the night I stayed up holding my dying cat to my chest, afraid I would fall asleep and miss even one of his last minutes with me. 

Aerosmith, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"

As we saw Debra Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond do in the episode "Alone Time," putting on a sad song is a good place to start. Unbeknownst to Debra, Ray sees her and immediately jumps to terrible conclusions that she is unhappy with her life. Debra later explains to Ray that what he witnessed was her just simply needing some alone time to release the stress of daily life and recommends Ray give it a try. Since I wanted to end on a happier note, here is the clip of Ray's attempt at making himself cry because, if there is one thing we need to do even more than cry, is laugh. 

Everybody Loves Raymond, "Alone Time" 



For more musical inspiration, visit me at Nik's Piks: Music



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Must-Sees at the Palm Beach International Film Festival (Nik's Piks)



The 22nd Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival opened today and with it came much excitement and anticipation for another great event. Although only five days this year, the festival is still packed with some wonderful films, events, and special guests, including Dr. Oz who will be at the  March 30th screening of his daughter's first feature film, When the Starlight Ends

Click here for schedule times, locations, and to purchase tickets. 

This year's festival once again returns to the Cinemark Theater in Boca Raton, but also adds a new venue at Keiser University in West Palm Beach. It is never easy for me to decide which movie screenings are top of my priority list, but here is a short list of those that caught my attention. 

1) National Geographic's TALES BY LIGHT  (Documentary) 

Tales by Light Official Trailer

2) THE SOUNDING  (Drama / Romantic) 

3) DESPITE THE FALLING SNOW (Drama, Romantic, Thriller) 

4) DEAN (Comedy / Drama)

5) SWING STATE (Comedy / Music / News) 

Swing State Official Trailer

6) REMEMBER ME (Comedy)



For more information about the event read my festival preview or visit www.pbifilmfest.org




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

22nd Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival (Preview)



Well, South Florida movie lovers, it is that time again! This year's Palm Beach International Film Festival is gearing up to open on Wednesday, March 29. And, as usual, the event organizers have an amazing five days planned filled with special events and parties, post-screening discussions with filmmakers and casts, industry panels, a student filmmaking showcase, and networking opportunities on a GLOBAL scale as filmmakers from around the world converge on Palm Beach for this uniquely intimate, yet sophisticated, celebration of films.

New this year:

This year the Palm Beach International Film Festival will be returning to the Cinemark in Boca Raton, and welcomes a new venue, Keiser University, for patrons more centrally located in the county. Also to accommodate fans in both north and south parts of the county, the PBIFF will, for the first time, host TWO Opening Night events and after show festivities SIMULTANEOUSLY!

Visit the event's website for details and tickets to movie screenings and special events: www.pbifilmfest.org.

Also new to this year's festival is "The Licky Award" which will be presented to three winners for the most delicious action/adventure, comedy, and drama film shown during the five day event.  Of course, awards will also be given in the categories of Best Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature, and Best Short Film. 

The movie schedule is already up, and tickets are on sale now. I am already reading previews and watching trailers to find my top picks for this year's festival. If you are local, you won't want to miss this wonderful celebration of cinematic magic!!

For details visit www.pbifilmfest.org.



Related Articles: 










Friday, March 10, 2017

The Adderall Diaries (Nik's Piks)


What if everything you remember, isn't the truth?

I first heard of The Adderall Diaries at last years Palm Beach International Film Festival. Unfortunately, I missed the showing but kept the film on my list of must-sees. This past week I finally sat down to watch this 2015 crime-thriller based on the memoirs of Stephen Elliott. 

"We understand the world by how we retrieve memories, reorder information into stories to justify how we feel." ~ The Adderall Diaries.

Elliott, played by James Franco, is an author and professor at Columbia University. After landing a another book deal, he suffers from writers block and becomes obsessed with the highly publicized murder trial of Hans Reiser (Christian Slater) who is accused of killing his wife.  Elliott becomes romantically involved with a young woman (Amber Heard), a Times Reporter covering the case. Meanwhile, he is also on a book tour for his previous novel that depicts his very intense and abusive relationship with his father growing up. The film offers a multitude of flashbacks from both his and his father's conflicting vantage points.  As Elliott dives deeper into his depression and addictive lifestyle, he is confronted by his father (Ed Harris).

"Validation is a hell of a drug." ~ The Adderall Diaries

The Adderall Diaries is an intense look at how perception interprets our reality. The film's thematic elements also question whether or not it is better to make excuses for your bad behavior or bury your pain altogether to avoid dealing with it at all. Before you can forgive others, you need to forgive yourself AND come to terms with the fact that you don't need to be a victim or a villain. 


Watch Official Trailer


Honestly, this was one of Franco's best performances, and Ed Harris also delivered a great performance. The Adderall Diaries is rated R for drug content, language, sexuality, and aberrant and disturbing content. I recommend the film to fans of human dramas that delve into the human psyche.


Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 







Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Excuses, Excuses

It has been brought to my attention that it has been over a week since my last blog post. I am ashamed to admit I am guilty of taking a week off, but let me explain.....or give a slew of excuses that I hope at least some of you will accept. 


A few months ago, I mentioned that I was going back to work and that, although the job is only part-time, I would have to put less pressure on myself to post weekly. What is amazing to me is that there was a time I was posting 2-3 days a week without fail. However, life has a way of taking us away from things we enjoy to make room for things we are obligated to do. Not that we necessarily dislike the other obligations, but they may not be OUR first choice in how we would spend our time. 

Take for instance (and most parents will relate to this) the chauffeuring around of our children. It is bad enough that my youngest has karate FOUR days a week (equaling SEVEN HOURS, not including travel time) at a dojo that is over 15 miles away and 30 minutes with normal traffic, but now soccer season has started for my oldest. That activity adds another THREE time commitments to my schedule - often in direct conflict with his brother's karate, making my weekly scheduling a logistical nightmare at times. Don't know what I would do without the help of my mom!

At the same time, this past Saturday (and here's the real reason for the skipped blog post) was the largest fundraising event for the nonprofit I work for. Since I work in the Development department, that meant many additional hours. Luckily, the evening was a complete success and brought me back to my event management days that I have missed so much. 

The final touches being put in place for the fundraising event.
With all that said, I already have a movie review in mind for Friday. It is categorized as a crime thriller, but, I feel it was more of a psychological / human drama.  Check back Friday for that! 






Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lake Worth Street Painting Festival (Nik's Piks: Local Spotlight)



Alligators, sea creatures, cartoon characters, superheroes, and even a cat reading To Kill a Mockingbird were among those spotted in the streets at this weekend's 23rd annual Lake Worth Street Painting Festival. Since 1995, this local and FREE art festival has received the attention of art lovers and locals alike. The event was expected to draw 100,000 attendees this year to the small beach town in Palm Beach County.  

The Street Painting Festival plays host to over 600 artists and musicians that turn the streets of downtown Lake Worth into the cultural hotspot of the month. In addition to chalk artists, other artists displayed their work in booths while musicians provided live entertainment. There were vendor booths featuring local businesses and food trucks for patrons to enjoy. 


If you missed the festival this year, you may want to mark your calendar for next year's edition. It is definitely worth a visit at least once. While parking could be a challenge, event organizers have shuttle buses that run from the Tri-Rail Station and Palm Beach State College. This is a family and dog-friendly event. 

Here are a few of my personal favorites. 


This piece of Princess Leia (Carrie Ficher) was a huge draw. 










For more information and the 2018 schedule visit www.streetpaintingfestivalinc.org



























Related Articles:

Juno Beach Craft Festival on the Ocean

Dr. Seuss Art Show








Friday, February 24, 2017

No One Needed to Know (Book Review)

NOTE: I received this book free from the author/publisher requesting an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's rules and guidelines.

One of the best parts of being a blogger is that I have been able to connect with so many amazing people around the world. Author +Donna G. Driver is one of those people. For my latest book review, I read her novel No One Needed to Know, a story about a young girl coping with the challenges of having an older, autistic brother.

In this very sensitive novel about autism awareness and bullying, Driver develops characters that are realistic and evoke sympathy. Although written with middle grade students in mind, even I became quickly engrossed in the characters. I really adored Donald, but was sympathetic toward Heidi's situation as well. As a parent and former educator myself, my heart bled for these two children.

Adolescence is tough enough for Heidi without the embarrassment of her brother, Donald.  She is much more interested in sports than boys and could care less about what the popular girls consider cool. Still, she has managed to secure a spot in the inner circle of the popular clique - that is, until they find out Heidi's brother is "different." Donald is 16, but having been diagnosed with autism and ADHD, he acts much younger and needs constant care.

In keeping with the theme that people are afraid of that which they do not understand, once word gets out that Heidi's brother is developmentally disabled, a secret Heidi kept to herself for years, she becomes ostracized from her friends. Now, not only is her brother the victim of bullies, she too is being ridiculed and tormented by classmates who do not understand Donald or his condition. Naturally, Heidi becomes resentful of her brother whom she feels ruined her life!

This is an important novel that is as much about anti-bullying as it is about autism awareness. I hope schools and educators discover this story and encourage their classes to read it and discuss its relevant themes. It makes a perfect read for National Anti-bullying Day held each October. I am sure many middle grade children would benefit from Heidi's story.

I was lucky enough to chat with Driver about No One Needed to Know and what she has on the horizon! Look for her interview in my first Nik's Spotlight coming next week. 



Other novels by D. G. Driver reviewed on Lavender Inspiration

Cry of the Sea

Whisper of the Woods







Friday, February 17, 2017

Enjoying the Ride, One Pedal at a Time

For those that tuned in this morning for my weekly movie review, I apologize.  However, you may recall that last month (Or was it December? The days are blending into each other.) I said I would be cutting back on the movie reviews and concentrating on more personal areas, which was the original purpose for starting this blog. 

Therefore, finding myself with 37 minutes of free time (Yes, that is an exact number!), I figured I would catch you up on what is new in my life.

First, many of you may not know that back in November, after nearly two and a half years of being out of the traditional workplace, I accepted a position working for a non-profit in its Development and Community Affairs department. I mainly work in fundraising efforts, including grant writing. I am enjoying it, but to say that my family got spoiled with me being at home is an understatement. We are all still adjusting. 

For that reason, my blog has taken a back seat most weeks. However, I am not stressing over it. I am enjoying my new adventure, and my blog will come along for the ride in whatever capacity it may be.  I do have a blog goal for this year and that is to re-design the site and, perhaps, move host platforms. I need to do some careful research on that. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment. 


A more personal goal is to get out "there" more, try new things, and build relationships with people that encourage me to do so. This brings me to the main reason for today's post. I would like to introduce you to my newest pride and joy.  A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a new bicycle, complete with a basket! When I saw this  lavender bike, it was love at first sight. (If it appears more blue in the photo, you can blame my cheap LG phone.)  

I still need to name her - any suggestions?

This is without a doubt the best money I ever spent.  I completely forgot how amazing it is to ride. I feel like a little girl again, and it is true what they say - you never forget how to ride a bicycle. AND, I'll admit, it doesn't hurt that I live in paradise and get to experience some gorgeous views at the same time. 

 
Well, my 37 minutes are almost up! Need to head to work soon. Until next time, stay well and pedal on! 


Related Article: Day One: My New Adventure Begins. Read how it all started.



Friday, February 10, 2017

Now You See Me (Nik's Piks)

"The closer you look, the less you'll see." ~ Now You See Me


To be honest, the 2013 crime drama, Now You See Me, was off my radar. It was a reader that suggested the film (and its sequel) to me, and when I saw the cast, I was more than curious about it. The film is a very clever story of four street magicians who are brought together for an elaborate scheme of pulling off some of the most unbelievable heists. While on stage, in front of sold-out crowds, the group, who calls themselves The Four Horsemen, successfully pulls off some of the most mind-boggling illusions, including bank robberies - all to the benefit of the audience. 

But how are they doing it? Their so-called trick does not go unnoticed by the FBI and Interpol, but how do officials prove the unexplainable. Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent play the lead investigators in this very tricky case against the magicians, played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Isla Fisher, and Woody Harrelson. 

"Come in close, because the more you think you see, the easier it will be to fool you." ~ Now You See Me

The only hope officials have is if they can convince retired magician, Thaddeus Bradley (played by Morgan Freeman - yep, told you the cast was amazing), to offer his explanation as to how the four are pulling off these massive heists. Michael Caine also stars in this high-energy, entertaining film that has you wondering the whole time, just who is playing whom? 

Watch Official Trailer

Now You See Me is the ultimate game of deception, and even has action including a high-speed pursuit.  The film definitely kept my attention, and I am looking forward to seeing the sequel. If you're looking for a fun, light film, you will want to give this one a try. 

The film is rate PG-13 for language, some action, and sexual content. 


Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 




Friday, February 3, 2017

Mississippi Grind (Nik's Piks)


"When you come to a fork in the road, you take it." ~ Mississippi Grind

Mississippi Grind is a 2015 drama that had so much promise. The premise and key thematic elements were good, and the stars, Ryan Reynolds (Curtis) and Ben Mendelsohn (Gerry), were sure to deliver memorable performances. However, I feel something went wrong with the overall execution of the film that forces me to only give this film a mediocre rating. 

Gerry is a compulsive gambler who finds himself out of luck and in debt for more money than he could ever imagine to pay back. In a chance meeting, he finds himself befriended by Curtis, a young and confident gambler himself, who seems to bring Gerry good luck. In an effort to win back his losses, Gerry includes Curtis in a plan to gamble their way from Iowa to Louisiana hitting major gambling spots, ultimately ending up in New Orleans to participate in a poker game with a $25,000 buy-in. 

Along the way, viewers are made privy to the many layers of Gerry's personality who, despite being a pathetic and flawed character, viewers can't resist rooting for.  The physical trip across the country is also a symbolic journey as the two men take detours that could potentially help them mend their past mistakes and fears. But, by the end, it is evident that both men are lost souls and neither are truly capable of change, healing, and growth. 

Watch Official Trailer

The best part of Mississippi Grind is, undoubtedly, the performances by both Mendelsohn and Reynolds. At times, the story moves slowly and is even a little difficult to follow, but the characters are so strong and elicit much empathy, that the film is worth a watch particularly for fans of dramas that focus on human relationships and deeply flawed individuals. 

Mississippi Grind is rated R for language. The film also stars Sienna Miller, Alfre Woodard, and Analeigh Tipton. 


Read more of my Nik's Piks: After Hours reviews. 

Check out my Family Movie Reviews too! 








Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Whisper of the Woods (Book Review: Multicultural Children's Book Day)

I am so happy to once again be participating in the Multicultural Children's Book Day!

#ReadYourWorld

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 
Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that. 

********************************************

I was first introduced to author D.G. Driver and her high school protagonist, Juniper "June" Sawfeather, when I read and reviewed the first novel in this series, Cry of the Sea, for the 2016 Multicultural Children's Book Day.  In the first book, I loved the combination of real life environmental concerns, Native American culture, and fantasy - all centered around teen characters who fans of Young Adult fiction will relate to. Therefore, I was excited to read the second book in the series, Whisper of the Woods, for this year's MCBD 

At the end of Cry of the Sea, June, the daughter of environmental activists, is summoned by her father to a new protest involving the lumber industry and the cutting down of centuries old cedar trees. Whisper in the Woods picks up right where we left off in book one. 

In need of funds, one of the local Native American reservations has decided to sell their Old Growth cedar trees to the logging industry. The Sawfeathers are naturally opposed to this decision and have initiated a protest. To complicate matters, the Chief Executive of the Tribal Council in charge of this decision is June's uncle, Nathan. 

When in the woods as part of the protest, June is convinced she hears whispering. June feels an indescribable bond with one tree in particular. As legends begin to be told and the mysterious history behind this tree is unfolded, June decides to stage her own sit-in - 170 feet up in the tree! However, it soon becomes evident that June may not be allowed to leave the tree even if she wanted to. What happens next is a beautiful, yet sometimes eerie, story involving a mythical tree spirit that emphasizes the role of these ancient trees on our planet. The novel is very suspenseful and has the reader repeatedly questioning the motives of the spirit.

Will the tree release June? And, if so, under what conditions?

After finishing Cry of the Sea, I commented that I would have liked more Native American cultural connections. Whisper of the Woods delivers that.  Probably for this reason, I enjoyed it even more than Cry of the Sea. And, in keeping with the main purpose of the series, it doesn't forget to highlight environmental conservation. 

You don't need to have read the first novel to understand this one, but they are deeply connected, and it would make more sense. I believe the target audience of middle and high school teens will thoroughly enjoy this novel and believe teachers may certainly use it as a stepping stone to discussing the plight of our environment and things we can do to help protect and save it. 

I strongly encourage teens to become active in environmental issues.  A simple way to do so is to organize a local beach clean-up with your school or outside organization. The future of our planet depends on the compassion and action of today's youth. 

NOTE: I received this book free from the author, D.G. Driver, and her publisher, Fire and Ice Young Adult Books, requesting an honest review in honor of MCBD. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's rules and guidelines.  

********************************************

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive Co-Host Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our Co-Hosts HERE.
MCBD Links to remember:
MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta
Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/
Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i

#ReadYourWorld