Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Move From Media Seat to Backstage - EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R. Wilson

Since September 2007, I have been in my media seat for hundreds and hundreds of fashion shows - Vancouver Fashion Week, Eco Fashion Week, Couture Fashion Week, Montreal Fashion Week (folded), fashion design school grad shows and solo designer shows.  It has been an incredible experience and I always leave inspired.

For those who do not know - I sewed dance costumes professionally for five years, everything from jazz pants to tutus. When watching these shows there are several things that catch my eye.  Lush or unusual fabrics, interesting silhouettes and proportions, and ultimately strong tailoring and finishing skins. Please, please don't let me see unclipped random threads waving in the spotlight!

Every now and then over the last decade I dreamt of creating a unique fashion show of my own, but I never had the resources to make it happen. I assumed it would always stay simply a dream. Then a few weeks ago, Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA) unexpectedly took my dream and made it a reality.

When EFWA founder Zuhal Kuvan-Mills reached out and offered me the opportunity to step behind the scenes creatively, I was floored and utterly grateful.  I knew immediately I had to find a way to honour this gift through my show's concept and also be true to who I have always been as media - someone who supports the industry as widely as possible.

After two weeks of letting ideas flow, I settled on an upcycling challenge which I felt was fully in line with what EFWA was all about and I chose to focus this time around on designers early in their careers. I also wanted a mix of Eco and non-Eco designers. And they had to be designers not already signed up to show at EFWA. Each was asked to create a single runway look from used men's dress shirts - thrift stores, flea markets, friend's/family's castoffs, etc. They would be encouraged to step out of the box. Creativity, dream big, think unique and stretch yourself artistically were the ideas I encouraged them to embrace. Each were also asked to not just use the shirts as fabric, but to try and include at least one detail from the original garments.

Idea finalized, I began to reach out to designers I had been privileged to see on the runway. I started by going through all my VFW write-ups from 2014 to 2017 in particular to help me bring in artists from around the world. Then I moved into my write-ups for other shows I'd attended. Some artists I knew fairly well as I had been covering them for awhile. Others I had only seen their work. And in the end, to widen the countries represented, two came to me through recommendations. While there were a few no's - the response overall has been incredibly positive.

Zuhal generously increased the spots available from 15 to 20, which quickly filled up.  Then through a mistake on my part, I realized I actually had 21 confirmed - so 21 it is, representing 12 countries!

I could not be more excited about the amazing designers who have chosen to participate. As I wait for proper designer images and information so I can do the official EFWA press releases, I decided I couldn't wait any longer. SOOOO -  I'm sharing it first with you on Olio By Marilyn.

Here is the final list of fashion designers by country who will be bringing their artistry to the first ever EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R. Wilson!

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Lara Ireland (Sydney) -
MAAK Clothing (Canberra) -

Markéta Martišková (Antwerp) –

Alex S. Yu (Vancouver) -
Sara Armstrong (Vancouver) –
Evan Clayton (Vancouver) –
Lauren Kemp, Lo Life Shop (Vancouver) -
Sam Stringer (Vancouver) -
Stevie Crowne (Toronto) -
Lesley Hampton (Toronto) -

Jacqueline Zeyi Chen, Zeyi Studio -

Anita Heiberg, 13 Dresses (Berlin) -

Aloke Kumar Singh (Kolkata), Micronesium ( & Co-founder ESEDS School of Design (

Yasuhiro Tomita, Rukus (Toyko) -

Sacha Cooper, Cooper Hotcooture -

United Kingdom
Francesca Phipps (London) -

Ras Kasozi, Kas Wear –

United States
Tieler James (Project Runway Junior – New Orleans) -
Amber Nifong (NYC) -
Jessie Liu (San Francisco) -

Camila Castillo, Camila X Castillo –

Traveling While Sober: How To Find The Right Destination And Have Fun

Photo via Pixabay by Free-Photos

Guest article by Michelle Peterson of

For individuals in recovery, it can be difficult to find a getaway that doesn’t include alcohol and parties, yet taking a vacation is sometimes necessary, especially if you’ve been working hard towards a healthy path in life.

Fortunately, there are several sober-friendly vacation spots you can consider, and there are several simple ways you can ensure your trip is safe, fun, and in line with your needs. It’s important to do some research beforehand and find the right destination, check on tour packages or discounts, and think about what you’d like to do on your vacation. Will you want to relax and play it by ear, or have your days planned out? For some people in recovery, knowing what comes next is an important part of staying sober, so you might want to take that into consideration and make some plans for tours and activities.

Here are some of the best ways to have fun and stay safe on your sober vacation.

Do some research

Look online to find out what the best sober vacation destinations are for your plans. There are campouts, cruises, and beaches you can attend that have a sober-living vibe, and some of them have planned activities so you can socialize and meet new people. Other destinations are retreats, which feature time spent outdoors, yoga classes, and 12-step workshops. If your sobriety is a recent change in your life, these retreats can be extremely helpful.

Bring your pet

For an individual who is in recovery, traveling with a companion can be comforting and help with feelings of anxiety or depression. Traveling alone can be difficult, especially if you have a hard time meeting new people, so having your pet there might be just what you need to feel safe and comfortable. Service dogs are especially helpful in times of stress or loneliness; if you don’t already have one, consider getting one. These animals are usually fairly expensive, because they receive special training, but they are wonderful companions and can help with a wide variety of mood disorders.

For more information about traveling with your dog, read on HERE.

Know what to avoid

Once you’ve figured out what you want in a vacation, think about what you don’t want. All-inclusive resorts are almost always a bad idea for individuals who are in recovery, because they often feature open bars and events that are saturated with alcohol. If you think you’ll feel uncomfortable in a place where you don’t know the language, consider taking a trip somewhere in the States. Reducing anxiety and stress is the goal, so think about what would make you the most comfortable.

Stay connected

Vacations are usually a great reason to unplug and forget about everything that’s waiting for you at home, but it’s a good idea to stay connected when you’re in rehab. Keep in touch with your sponsor or therapist, or talk to a good friend or family member and let them know where you’ll be, who will be with you, and when you expect to be back. Safety is a priority while you’re traveling, especially if you’re alone.

It’s also a good idea not to flash your cash and keep your bag strapped to you at all times when you go out. Make sure your phone is always charged, and never get in a car with someone you don’t know, even if they are part of the same group you’re in on a retreat. For a checklist of all the things to consider during a trip, go here.

Keep in mind that your needs should take priority on this trip. Think about what would make you the most comfortable and happy; try new things; have fun. Make some memories and learn to let go of stress and unhappiness.

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Michelle Peterson believes the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride. Her mission is aligned with that of RecoveryPride, which is to celebrate sobriety and those who achieve it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

NSAEN Online Film Festival - Interview With Executive Producer/Entertainer Brian T Shirley

One day I received an email from industry connection Beatrice Davis letting me know about a very interesting new Film Festival called No Strings Attached (NSAENFF).  It is the brainchild of NSAEN lifestyle magazine and was conceived in support of writing, storytelling, film and entertainment. And I loved the unique twist - it's an ONLINE FILM FESTIVAL.

In addition to highlighting amazing films, directors and writers - NSAENFF also has a wonderful charity aspect. They have partnered with Cheers to the Warrior Foundation which supports veterans.  One dollar from every entry free and five percent of all sponsorship dollars will go towards this cause.

Entry fees have been kept low to make it accessible to those in the early stages of their careers. What they need now is help spreading the word. For my part I reached out to the event's executive producer for this great behind the scenes Q and A. 

What can YOU do? Please help spread the word through email and posting on your social media sites  Thanks in advance for your support of the arts!

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What is the statement missions of the festival?

The NSAEN Online Film Festival was created to bring together filmmakers from around the world to showcase their work in an exclusively online format.

Recognizing that online is the new way of watching movies, news, and television series, the NSAEN team wanted to reach out and create a new movement in the world of entertainment and independent film with a concept that recognizes the new media professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity and produce fresh, standout entertainment. The NSAEN Film Festival invites both seasoned and new filmmakers and film professionals from around the world to submit entries for their exceptional online film festival.

Brian T. Shirley

Note - We recognize there is a growing community of disabled filmmakers and we enthusiastically invite you to participate in our inaugural festival.

What can film makers expect to gain from submitting?  Early Bird July 1 $15, Regular $20, Late Submissions $25 Explain the process.

 The board members will take the official selections and choose the TOP3 in each category. Then we will pass these on to our Celebrity Judging panel who will choose the Top film in each category. These Top films, except for "Short Film" category, will receive a distribution deal with Shami Media Group!! All the Tope 3 films will receive extensive exposure on all our media outlets. The Top 3 "Short Films" and each of the Winners of each category will be shown on AHR WEB TV Network, press releases in NSAEN magazine and also film maker interviews.  A portion of each submission fee will go to the "Cheers to the Warriors" Foundation, which goes to help combat injured veterans. All submissions will be mentioned on the site, so every selection will get some sort of exposure!!

NSAEN FF has partnered with "Cheers to the Warriors" Veterans Foundation, tell us about that.

What a great organization!

Cheers to the Warriors is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that's primary mission is providing financial assistance through monetary grants to U.S. veterans who have been injured in combat.  We also assist with applying for VA benefits, and helping to find and refer those veterans in need to other local organizations we have personally vetted, for more personalized assistance. Our team of volunteers includes several combat-injured veterans who speak with and understand the struggles newly injured veterans and their families are facing, and are available day or night for assistance.

The organization was founded in 2014 by a disabled Marine Corps veteran and his wife. The couple sought to share their knowledge and personal experiences with others who may be struggling with their new lives. Since operations began, Cheers to the Warriors has provided tens of thousands of dollars of financial assistance to combat-injured veterans and is proud to have prevented 4 veteran suicides.

You also mentioned the media outlets and partners, can people still become a sponsor or partner?

Yes we have a wonderful Sponsor package and Media Kit and a portion of sponsor dollars also go to the Cheers to the Warriors Foundation. For more information, contact Janice Hermsen (Director of Media Relation) via email at, or call Beatrice Davis at 773-525-5744, or email us at,

Important Links - 

Celebrity Judges - 

Festival is pleased to announce its distinguished panel of judges for this year’s festival.

Ricky Muse -Actor

An actor, known for the Movies Disney’s My Fake Finance, Tammy (2014), Lawless (2012) and Trouble with the Curve (2012), Christmas Office Party (2016) and many commercials.

Gordon Danniels - Actor

An actor, known for The Great Debaters (2007), Hall Pass (2011) and Gifted(2017), many Television shows such as Heat of the Night. Gordan will be seen in the next season of Netflix House of Cards.

Yeniffer Behrens-Mendoza - Actress/Producer

Victor Warren - Director/Writer/Producer/Actor

International Film Festival – ALONE

Donald Newton "Donnie" Van Zant - Musician

An American rock vocalist/guitarist. He is best known as having been a member of the band 38 Special, from its formation in 1974 until 2013. He is the middle of three brothers: his older brother Ronnie was the original lead singer for Lynyrd Skynyrd who died in a 1977 plane crash in Mississippi along with five other members and associates of the band; his younger brother Johnny is the current Lynyrd Skynyrd’s lead singer as of 2016. Donnie and Johnny also perform together from time to time as the group Van Zant.

Dan Glazer - Host/Comedian

Hosts 2 live Web Tv Shows: Hollywood South and Comics on Parole. Dan also has performed Stand Up Comedy at Louie Anderson’s club in Vegas, Hosted for WSB Radio’s Jim Gosset, Hosted Jerry Farber’s Side Door Open Mic, and performed at the Atlanta’s Punchline, Laughing Skull, Atlanta Comedy theater and more.

Dexter Tucker –Actor/Comedian

John Roy "Johnny" Van Zant – Musician

An American musician and the current lead vocalist of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He is the younger brother of the late Lynyrd Skynyrd co-founder and former lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, and of the .38 Special founder, Donnie Van Zant.

Roe Moore - Filmmaker/Script Supervisor/Director

Deborah Hayter - Founder and President of DHPR (Dalke-Hayter Public Relations)

Liz Manashil - Screenwriter/Filmmaker/Film Critic

Natalie Camunas - Actor/Writer

Bob Shami

Britain Valenti - Playwright/Performance Artist

Priscilla Leona - Producer/Director/Screenwriter/Actress/Plus-Size Model/Television and Radio Host

AuxiliaryJudge Drew Howard - Comedian/Improvisations

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Interview With Christopher Stratakis, Author of Appointment with Yesterday

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author?

Since I was a teenager, I loved writing; I wanted to communicate my emotions with the outside world in print. This inner urging was expressed in various forms, i.e. by writing short stories, essays, articles and an occasional poem.

What led you to create a story line that was partially inspired by your life?

Again, writing this novel was the culmination of those inner urgings to share with the outside world, fictionalized life experiences of lonliness, abandonment, terror, dashed dreams and eventual redemption.

What percentage of this story is taken directly from your experiences growing up on a Greek Island?How many of the characters were created from memories of friends and relatives you grew up around?

I would say half of the story portrays my early and teen years, growing up in a remote Aegean island. Most of the characters appearing in the book during those adventurous and painful years, were inextricably intertwined with my childhood and teenage memories.

This is your first full novel? How did your previous writing experience help as you worked on a longer manuscript for the first time?

Indeed, this is my first novel. My writings over the years, however, honed my skills for storytelling and also served as a prelude to my ultimate goal to pen a full length novel. It was the natural evolution to a life-long series of writings.

How did you approach writing this book – scheduled writing time, writing when the inspiration hit or? Research? Marketing?

Review - HERE
I never approached writing on a time schedule basis. My urge to write appears unannounced. I knew I had a story to tell. I wrote my first manuscript, on and off, over a period of several years – perhaps as many as 10. It was based strictly on my memories and imagination. Then I redrafted, edited, refined and structured into groups and chapters the entire story, with the assistance of professional writers.

As an author – what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

I enjoy the experience of reviewing and providing meaning and structure to an original manuscript; i.e. the evolving process of editing, redrafting and re-editing, until I come up with a final version that satisfies my self-imposed standards. Writing the original manuscript may, sometimes, feel like a chore.

What would you most like readers to know about you?

That I am just another face in the crowd, with no pretentions. One who tries to give, rather than take; in essence, doing my best to pay the rent for the room of life given to me from Above.

Any advice for young authors wanting to write books in this genre?

Giving advice is trite and cheap, particularly when unsolicited. If a young boy or girl asked me, however, I’d just tell them to be themselves and to trust their feelings.

What comes next? Do you have any new book ideas in development?

I have no specific plans for the immediate future. I’d just leave my instincts and inner urgings drive my future actions. Nevertheless, considering my restless emotions and exploring mind, I might find myself writing another story again.

Appointment with Yesterday by Christopher Stratakis

A poignant and compelling first novel. 

Synposis - 

Appointment with Yesterday tells the story of Yanni, a cheeky and delightful Greek boy growing up in a small town on an island in the eastern Aegean. Left in the care of his loving grandparents, Yanni endures the deprivation and terror of the German occupation during World War II and finally leaves his beloved homeland and family to rejoin the parents who had left him behind to make a better life for themselves in America.

Filled with heartbreaking and heartwarming stories of love, devotion, disenchantment, and dashed dreams, Appointment with Yesterday is, ultimately, the story of hardships overcome and a determined boy’s journey toward finding his destiny.

Review - 

Appointment with Yesterday is a wonderful example of an author taking past memories and using them as a foundation for a beautiful story line. Creating from personal memories brings an emotional depth to the book as well as offering places and people so real you can see them in your mind's eye.

In this, the author's first full length novel, we begin with the musing of an old man as he thinks back over his life. While most of the story dwells in previous times, we occasionally surface to today and reconnect with the story's narrator.

The book's main character is Yanni, a young Greek lad, living on a small island full of relatives and friends. His parents are far away in North America making a new life. Although he is curious about them, he is happy as he is surrounded by love. Then war brings Nazis to his beautiful island and everything changes. We see the fear, deprivation and loss through his eyes. We feel the hardship through his experiences.

Finally in his late teens Yanna heads off to reunite with his parents. Here the story takes us through what is it truly like to arrive in a country where you don't know the language, understand the culture or know how to fit in. Jobs are limited. It is a tough road with many twists and turns.

I love hearing people's life stories. Although only part of this book is based on the author's life, Stratakis did a wonderful job of crafting a story that rings true from first page to last. I hope to see more from this truly talented writer.

Meet the Author -

Fab author interview HERE!

Christopher Stratakis was born and raised in Greece. After moving to America, he graduated from Drexel University in 1951 and New York University School of Law in 1955. Shortly after joining the law firm of Poles, Tublin & Patestides in 1960, he became a partner, specializing in admiralty and corporate law.

He has written and published several articles, lectured on professional and historical subjects, served as Legal Advisor to several non-profits (pro bono), and was an arbitrator in maritime disputes. He is the author of Mnimes “Memories” (2010), a book of essays, short stories, and poems that he wrote as a teenager. In 2015, he co-edited Chains on Parallel Roads, a book published by Panchiaki “Korais” Society of New York. In recognition of his extensive community involvement, he has been the recipient of several awards from religious, governmental, and educational institutions.

Mr. Stratakis lives with his wife in New York City. He is the proud father of three and grandfather of three. This is his first novel.

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Thai Chicken Flatbread Pizza

Image by Life Made Sweeter
I decided to sign up for Yummly notices a few years ago. Honestly, it's often overwhelming getting their emails several times a week, each filled with links to recipes they are highlighting for various reasons. BUT, I keep seeing new, mouth watering ideas. Just wish I had more time to try them out.

The credits on this recipe requires a little more explaining. The image and the recipe as it stands are from a blog call Life Made Sweeter. In checking out the site, I saw a ton of great recipes, so I would give it a look.

However, the author notes that the basis for this recipe was adapted and reprinted with permission from a new cookbook by Trish from Mom On Timeout called 100 Creative Ways to Use Rotisserie Chicken in Everyday Meals, so I wanted to fully credit both.

The fillings really pile high on the naan bread, making each of the four pizzas super filling. My big eating men only had one each with a side of cut fresh veggies and a few bing cherries and were full. That in itself is incredible.

While I loved this recipe and would make it again, I found it didn't have as strong of a Thai peanut flavour as I expected. I'm going to try using the creamy peanut butter option next time to see if that ups the flavour. I also used a shy 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes as my husband doesn't like things spicy, but I could have easily used more as it didn't add more than a touch of heat.

Super easy to make, lots of fresh ingredients, only 10 minutes in the oven and super filling. Just what I needed to end a sunny, hot June day.  Kudos to both Life Made Sweeter and Mom on Timeout on their creativity.  And I'm going to have to check out that cookbook!

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1/2 C          Creamy or crunchy peanut butter (I used crunchy. Loved the extra texture,
                                but a little hard to spread)
1/3 C           Teriyaki sauce
1/2 - 1 tsp    Crushed red pepper chili flakes, optional
2 to 4           Pieces of flatbread or naan (I used 4 round Naan and is was perfect)
1-1/2 C        Diced rotisserie or leftover chicken
8 oz             Shredded mozzarella cheese
1                  Pre-shredded carrots (or 1 carrot cut into slivers)
1/2               Red bell pepper, cut into slivers or diced
3                  Green onions, sliced
1/2 C           Fresh pineapples, diced
1 C              Baby spinach (I chopped it a bit smaller)

Optional Toppings
Chopped peanuts
Fresh cilantro

Serves 4.
Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine peanut butter, teriyaki sauce, and red pepper chili flakes in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 20-30 seconds and stir until completely combined. Spread half of the peanut butter mixture onto the flatbreads. Then, set aside.

Add the chicken to the bowl with the remaining peanut butter mixture and stir evenly to coat.
Top the flatbreads with about 5 ounces of the cheese. Divide the chicken, carrot, bell pepper, green onions, pineapple, and spinach evenly among the pizzas. Top with the remaining cheese and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if using.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with additional peanuts and fresh cilantro, if you'd like.