MUSIC REVIEW: NICK FESTARI

28 Aug
this_is_me_cover_artNick Festari (also known as Roberto Festari) is a Writer/Arranger/Singer based in Italy with a pretty ecclectic background – also very apparent in his music.  He has an impressive resume:  over 800 songs in his catalog, his own record label creation, numerous collaborations, and the music courage to continually try and break new artistic ground.  Sometimes this can be an artist’s downfall, but in Nick’s case, I think it’s only fueling his creative fires. He approached me about having one of his songs “There Will Be No Prize” played on The Backstage Pass Radio Program (note:  he will be featured on the September 4th @NOON, PST program here: http://tobtr.com/7826163), and from there I got to know more about him and his music.  


He recently released his EP “This Is Me…Slower and Faster” to some really great reviews, and it really displays who he is as a musician. The opening tune, “You Make Me Want To Fly” is so outstandingly catchy:  it has a very distinctive 80’s vibe crossed with a Beatles-ish sound for a few moments here and there.  (As a child of the 80s, I highly approve.)  The next tune immediately changes pace to a very pretty ballad marred only a slight bit for me by the obvious accent issues with the English pronounciations (but hey, you don’t see me trying to tackle Italian, so I’m in no place to judge).  Still, I really like the tune itself a lot – it’s one I’d probably want to sing myself, and I don’t often say that in a review.


He also offers a free download of the third song on the EP called “The Song I Wrote For You.”  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not big into techno/dance/eurobeat, but I have to admit that this is super-catchy!  This has a really energetic and happy vibe to it, and I think it’s just overall a very well-written song.  The thing I really like about his delivery is that you don’t question his sincerity.  He wrote the tunes, he believes in what he’s singing, and it’s obvious that this is how he communicates with the world (and he does it well).


The rest of the album is equally as likeable, and as he crosses over into the dance/euro territory, I think Nick is going to find an entirely new fanbase.  His writing is equally as strong, and I could very easily hear other artists picking up these tunes as well.  He’s clearly a strong musician with is own voice, and it’s a voice you should take a listen to.


Find out more about Nick at www.nickfestari.com and don’t forget to get your free download of “The Song I Wrote For You” on his music page. You’ll hear more of Nick on the September 4th episode of The Backstage Pass Radio Program, and my guess is many other places as well.

USPS – UNBELIEVABLE!!

26 Jun

I am FURIOUS right now.  I trusted the United States Post Office to deliver my Father’s Day gifts (my first big mistake) and paid nearly $20 a package to have it shipped it two days.  I sent them out last Thursday, June 18th.  The boxes were not only NOT delivered in time but they both arrived at least a week later.

I went on to the completely USELESS USPS site to track down the packages and there was no information. I then called the post office I went to and spoke to a woman who was NOT helpful at all.  When she saw that the state address was MA, she said, “So it went to Maine?”   Um, excuse uh – don’t you work AT THE POST OFFICE?  Aren’t you supposed to know state codes??  She then placed me on hold for so long that I hung up, immediately got in my car, and drove the 20 mins out of my way to speak to someone there.  I gave them the tracking numbers and information, and then I waited. And waited.  I waited so long that some of the other cashiers said, “Is someone helping you??”   When she finally came back out of the office, she had ZERO information for me.  And she actually had the nerve to say to me, “Well, we can’t help what happens when it leaves here.”  She then told me to go home and fill out a claim for each.

Then, I tried contacting USPS “Help” online and I was asked to give them my tracking numbers.  There was no way to direct message them, so they wanted me to post the numbers publicly on a response where everyone could see my parents home address.  Uh, I have over 60,000+ on my Twitter account and I really don’t want them knowing where my parents live.

So I went ahead and filled out the claim.  And now that the packages have been delivered, I wanted to edit my claim and guess what?  The website does not have that basic functionality.  Additionally, you can’t cancel a claim and you also can’t post a second or follow-up claim using the tracking number.  So now, both of those claims will come back as “delivered” (who knows how long it will be until someone processes the claim) and I have no additional way to discuss this with ANYONE, other than Twitter, where they just redirect you to the website.  Absolutely HORRIFIC customer service.

Each box had homemade gifts for my Dad and my father-in-law. I bought high-end gourment ingrediates and handmade their gifts for them, which took me HOURS.  Then, I marked EVERY SIDE of the boxes as FRAGILE. My father in law go his yesterday (one week later).  My parents got the package TODAY (8 days later) and it ws COMPLETELY DESTROYED. My mom sent me these pics:

BROKEN BOX

INSIDE OF BOX

They delivered it in a plastic bag – because they KNEW they had broken it. They delivered it with a note that said “no duct tape and no return address.”  I admittedly forgot to leave the return address, but I had the tracking number and the credit card information I used along with the receipt.  Those pieces of information should have been able to track down these packages. PLUS, the online site has my home address and my email address.

So now, I’m FURIOUS.  All the time and energy I spent not only shopping for and making the gifts but the incredibly frustrating and ridiculous amount of time I’ve had to track this down and get any resolution.

My next stop?  A BBB complaint, and a complaint at the Office of the Inspector General:

https://www.uspsoig.gov/form/new-complaint-form

I’m also (of course) going to post this everywhere online until I get my money back.  Horrible, horrible, horrible business practices.  I will never ship USPS again.

REVIEW: DARKO ZORIC & “ROAD TO SOMEWHERE”

3 Jun

REVIEW:  DARKO ZORIC, ROAD TO SOMEWHERE

DarkoZoricHR149textWEBOne of the best things about me hosting my radio show “The Backstage Pass Radio Program,” is that I get to hear music from folks all over the world – many of whom I may not have ever come in contact with otherwise.  Darko Zoric is one of those artists, hailing from Sydney, Australia.  (And anyone who knows me will know that you could read the phone book to me with an Australian accent, and I’ll be a fan forever.  lol)  Zoric has recently released his album”Road To Somewhere” which is a collection of songs he has written over the past decade.

Darko’s lineage is one based in music. His father was a successful performing musician, and Darko studied piano from a young age – often performing with his father. (Sidebar:  I’ve always been completely envious of families that can share music together like that.  Unfortunately for me, I am the only musician out of four siblings and two parents together.  I envy people like Darko who have had the opportunity to share that with family members!)
“Road To Somewhere” is quite diverse:  showcasing both triumphs and tribulations over his musical career.  Darko’s voice is incredible – reminding me of  Sam Harris (of Star Search & Broadway fame), with a ridiculous range and versatility.  His tone is rich, his voice incredibly powerful, and it’s he displays a remarkable amount of vocal control when he delivers a variety of songs.  As a voice teacher and professional vocalist myself, the only one very small drawback for me is the wide vibrato that creeps in every now and then.  I’m a big fan of creating textures in vocal stylings, and using a straight tone to turn or end a phrase.  I’d love to have an opportunity to hear Darko sing with a straighter tone on something a bit more understated in the future.  Knowing what a crazy amount of talent he has, and how gifted he is vocally, I really think he could knock it out of the park with a more subdued vocal approach.  But that’s really just me being very knit-picky, because this guy has just got a HUGE amount of vocal talent.

DARKO SOMEWHERE
What I most enjoy about the songs themselves is the diversity in them.  I’m always impressed when an artist takes chances musically and explores different genres and styles.  The title track of “Road To Somewhere” is a solid piano and vocal piece, reminiscent of 70s and 80s power ballads, really showcasing the lyrics and the vocals.  “One Little Room” has a complete “Beatles” style and influence to it – telling a story about his family all living in one small room when he was younger.  “We Used To Be” is one of my favorites with a much more contemporary pop-rock feel, and showcasing his super-strong belting voice.

And then there’s “Darko and The Light Fantastics,” which is an old-school music review featuring the classics of Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdink (my aunt’s FAVORITE and she’d be an instant Dark0 fan with this), Elvis and more.  Being a jazz vocalist and a huge fan of the American Songbook, I’m sure I’d LOVE this show.  I think it’s great that Darko pays homage to the classics while still keeping one foot firmly planted in contemporary music as well. Versatility as a musician never goes out of style.
You can hear Darko Zoric on The Backstage Pass Radio Program every Friday in June (2015) at NOON, PST in the LA area: www.backstagepassradio.com.

To learn more about Darko Zoric or to purchase his album “Road To Somewhere,” please visit:  www.darkozoric.com.au

#WIPEITOFFWEDNESDAY: WIN ST. MORITZ INSTANT SELF-TANNING LOTION

8 Apr

Don’t forget that today is #wipeitoffwednesday!  To enter, you just need to post a fresh-faced pic of yourself (a #nomakeupselfie) and tag it with the #wipeitoffwednsday hashtag and my Twitter name @divataunia.  Post it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, and you’ll automatically be entered into a raffle to win a bottle of sunshine (kind of):

ST MORITZ

Prize:  St. Moritz Instant Self-Tanning Lotion

For girls who prefer a lotion application that develops into a fabulous golden tan and leaves you with a feel good glow, this award winning St Moriz Instant Self-Tanning Lotion – Regular is for you.  A unique blend of beautifully fragranced active tanning agents work their magic, leaving you looking subtly bronzed and ready for anything. St Moriz Instant Self-Tanning Lotion – Regular is ultra easy to apply, quick drying and very moisturising, great for dry skin.

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Dimethicone, Dihydroxyacetone, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/ Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Phenoxyethanol, Ceteth -10, Laureth-4, Polysorbate 60, Methylparaben, Parfum, Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Citric Acid, Citronellol, Coumarin, Butylphenyl methylpropional, Alpha-isomethyl Ionone, CI 16035 (FD&C Red40), CI19140 (FD&C Yellow 5), CI42090 (FD&C Blue 1).

Photos must be posted between 12 midnight (Tues) to 12 midnight (Ends Thurs 4/10/15) so it falls on #wipeitoffwedesday.

Have fun, and good luck!  :)

#WIPEITOFFWEDNESDAY: CLINIQUE BAG GIVEAWAY!

31 Mar

Don’t forget that tomorrow is #wipeitoffwednesday!   To enter, you just need to post a fresh-faced pic of yourself (a #nomakeupselfie) and tag it with the #wipeitoffwednsday hashtag and my Twitter name @divataunia.  Post it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, and you’ll automatically be entered into a raffle to win this lovely little gift bag:

LULUPrize Includes:

Lulu for Clinique Small Makeup Bag
Clinique Lip Duo:  Longwear GlossWear in 04 Sunset and Different Lipstick in 62 Tenderheart
Clinique High Impact Mascara
Maybelline Perfect Pastels Eyeshadow Duo in 35D Pink Suede

Photos must be posted between 12 midnight (Tues) to 12 midnight (Thurs) so it falls on #wipeitoffwedesday.

Have fun, and good luck!  :)

RECIPE (AWARD-WINNING!): CRISPY SALTED OATMEAL & CARAMEL WHITE CHOCOLATE COOKIES!

22 Mar

How’s THAT for a cookie title, huh?   That’s right, there’s a lot going on with these cookies, and they are going to BLOW. YOUR. MIND. First, let me say this:  if you are not a thin and crispy cookie lover, you will probably want to skip this recipe and go find some pedestrian chewy cookie recipe somewhere (I kid, I kid).  These are definitely thin, definitely crispy, definitely delicious!

COOKIES

I teach in the middle schools here in Southern California, and my school principal is awesome:  he’s always running fun team-building-like things and so we had a cookie bake-off.  There were NINETEEN different entries, and I WON!  WHOO HOO!  Since then, I’ve altered the recipe slightly (got a suggestion from a friend about using rice crispies that I incorporated that’s the BOMB-DIGGITY, so thank you!), and now they are really out-of-this-world. I am clearly very humble about these.

So here is the recipe.  If you make them, please let me know what you think.  Even better, post a pic! :)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of regular table salt
(mix all of the above ingredients in a bowl and set aside)
1 and 1/2 cup of oatmeal
1 cup of rice crispies or any type of crispy rice cereal
14 tablespoons of COLD unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup of packed light brown (preferably) or dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Large Crystal Pink Himalayan Salt or any other finishing salt like sel gris or fleur de sel (**)
1/2 package of high quality white chocolate chips OR (even better) chopped white chocolate bar
1/2 package of Kraft Caramel Bits.  These are fairly new and you can find them in the baking aisle.  They look like this:
caramel bitsThey’re little tiny caramel balls that melt into the cookie and create the most amazing texture and flavor.  Don’t skimp!  Get these.  They are totally worth it, I promise!  And don’t use dark or milk chocolate.  The white chocolate is crazy good with the caramel!

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  I swear by parchment paper because the texture of the cookies is perfect and they come off the paper with no problems and without any sticking.  If you’ve never used it, try it.  It will change the way you make cookies!  And PS – you can usually find it in the dollar store. :)

2. Set aside the bowl you mixed with the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  You will be gradually adding that in later.

3. Add in the butter by using a butter knife and cutting one tablespoon of cold butter at a time.  It’s important to keep the butter as cold as possible to help the cookies keep their shape. Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl again. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add oats.  If you are using a mixer, take the bowl AWAY from the mixer before adding the rest of the components (rice crispies, caramel, white chocolate)!

4.  Stir in the rice by hand.  It will be chunky and clunky, and that’s ok. After the rice is incorporated, add in the caramels and white chocolate.  I actually found it easier to add those in to each cookie ball individually as  I went – completely up to you.

5. You’ll make approximately 24 cookies.  Each should be formed into a 2 tablespoon ball rolled in your hand.  If adding chips in per cookie, add them to the dough first, then roll into a ball.   Place on the parchment paper about 2.5 to 3 inches apart.  Don’t smoosh the cookies down.  They will naturally spread out and flatten as they bake, and they’ll also need a good amount of space to do that!

6.  Bake cookies about 12-14 minutes depending on your oven.  At the halfway point, open the oven and rotate the cookie sheets to make sure there’s even heating.  Watch cookies closely.  They should be golden brown, and the edges will be slightly darker than the rest.

7.  As soon as they come out of the oven, sprinkle with finishing salt while hot so the salt sticks.  Salt to taste.  Let cool about 10 minutes so they can get crispy.  (They’ll be chewy once they come out of the oven.)

That’s it.  Enjoy!!  :)

(** Finishing salt sounds all fancy and weird, I know.  You can usually find it in the spice aisle of the bigger grocery stores.  I actually always find great bargains and some extravagant ones at a fraction of the cost at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx.  I know that sounds weird, but I almost always find great gourmet salt there!)

#WIPEITOFFWEDNESDAY WINNERS (and a sneak peak at next week’s prizes!)

20 Mar

Thanks to all the gorgeous faces that entered last week’s #wipeitoffwednesday hashtag contest!  Here are the winners:

vinassa

Vinessa Vasquez ‏@vinessavasquez

 THE WINNER OF THE STRIVECTIN LIP CARE IS:

KATT M. HILL

KATT M. HILL

Congratulations to both ladies!  Winners should contact me at info@divataunia.com to arrange for their prizes. :)

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