Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Celebrating the Holidays Florida Style

Picture of the 2016 "Sandi" by local photography Kim Seng

Nothing says Christmas in Florida quite like Sandi, a 600-ton sand tree standing 35 feet tall in beautiful downtown West Palm Beach. Sandi has been a city tradition for the last six years. (Although, I am embarrassed to say I have never seen it in person - until now that is!) This year's official lighting and opening night celebration takes place tomorrow, November 30, beginning at 6:00 pm. It will include fun activities for the entire family including glow-in-the-dark mini-golf and several smaller sand sculptures on display. 

I was in downtown the other night and got a glimpse of Sandi and some of the works of art before the sun set, but more sculptures will be revealed tomorrow night.  

This year's theme? Animal rescue and adoption! At least two sculptures are expected to make their debut tomorrow evening honoring specific local animal rescue groups. I am definitely planning on going back in the month of December to see the light show for myself! This post is just a sneak peek of this year's sand art on Clematis Street. 

Season's Greetings, everyone! 

For more information, visit the City of West Palm Beach.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Echo of the Cliffs (Book Review)

NOTE: I received this book free from the author 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. 

I previously reviewed the first two novels in this Young Adult Fantasy trilogy, and am so honored to have been given the opportunity to read and review the final Juniper Sawfeather novel by D.G. Driver.  Echo of the Cliffs surpassed my expectations and ended up being my favorite of the three novels. 

Read reviews for Cry of the Sea and Whisper of the Woods

In books one and two, readers are introduced to June and her parents, local and influential environmental activists in the state of Washington. Echo of the Cliffs comes full circle tying the trilogy together - from mysterious mermaids to spirits trapped in ancient trees. Driver does an excellent job filling in all the pieces and connecting the novels that span a time frame of only a couple of months. 

In Echo of the Cliffs, June once again runs into mysterious circumstances while working with her parents to expose a construction company responsible for polluting the ocean and causing harm to the environment and the creatures that live in it. Still, in the back of Juniper's mind are the aching questions, just what happened to the mermaids she rescued only weeks earlier, and how are they connected to her ordeal in the tree? However, when her mission puts her friend in grave danger, June will stop at nothing to save him. 

Driver's writing style brilliantly paints vivid images for her readers, and I loved the way June's relationship with her mother changes over the course of the books. Echo of the Cliffs was also the most suspenseful of the novels - the ending really had me turning the pages faster than my eyes could read. 

If you like fantasy novels, particularly those based on Native American legends, along with novels that focus on modern day environmental concerns, you will enjoy these books. I highly recommend you read the first two novels to better understand the plot and history of Echo of the Cliffs. I am disappointed that there won't be more Juniper Sawfeather stories. She is a fabulous role model for teens, and a charismatic character for all fans of young adult fiction, regardless of age. 

Read more of my Book Reviews

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

Being vegan doesn't mean giving up your favorite Italian dishes. Last weekend I was craving eggplant parmigiana and decided to try this vegan variation on the Italian classic. 

My new addiction! 

What you need (serves 3-4)
  • 1-2 large eggplants (Peel skin to create stripes.)
  • all-purpose flour
  • olive oil  
  • One 16.25 jar of your favorite sauce (My all time favorite is Mezzetta Italian Plum Tomato!) 
  • 1/2 bag of Gardein Ulimate Beefless Ground  
  • vegan shredded mozzarella cheese (So many yummy ones available today. Try Daiya, Go Veggie, or Follow Your Heart.) 

Unlike the traditional version I've made over the years, I decided to cut the eggplant lengthwise instead of in circles. Then, instead of dipping the slices in egg and breadcrumb, I just lighted dusted them with flour before cooking them in olive oil over low heat in a skillet. Cook until the slices are golden brown, remove from pan, and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. 

In sauce pan, bring sauce to a low boil. Add 1/2 bag of frozen Gardein Beefless Ground. Bring to a boil and simmer until Beefless Ground is thoroughly cooked. 

So good, I sneaked a bite
before taking photo! 
Add a few tablespoons of sauce to bottom of glass pan. Make 3-4 layers of eggplant, sauce, and cheese. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. 

Tip: Let them sit for a minimum of 5-10 minutes before serving. 

Leftovers are just as good and can be frozen!

Have leftover "meat" sauce? Add cooked brown rice and diced garlic to make stuffed peppers!


Finding tasty vegan or vegetarian alternatives is getting easier and easier, and I love hearing from people who give these options a try - even if just for "Meatless Monday."