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Wildflower Festival Blooms in Palm Desert!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                rsz palm desert wildflower fest 2017

Its spring the Coachella Valley, and time to enjoy the beautiful desert landscape that blooms this time of year. The Wildflower Festival in Palm Desert presented by the Friends of the Desert Mountains, celebrates the over 40 species of desert wildflowers with a full blown festival and 5k Run this weekend, Saturday, March 4th.

Thanks to an amazing winter in the desert, with lots and lots of much needed rain, we are going to experience a gorgeous spring. The bloom will take place over the next month or so, well into April. If you look at the desert mountains now, you will notice some serious green growing just about everywhere. It is there, amongst the green where the wildflowers will grow in a variety of amazing colors.

The Friends of the Desert Mountains have been holding the Wildflower Festival for the last 10 years. The non-profit organization is dedicated to protecting the desert mountains, and have been doing so for 30 years. They have protected 53,000 acres that cover mountains from the Salton Sea to the San Gorgonio pass. They currently manage and monitor 15,000 acres and are the support organization for the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument, promoting education, conservation and research.

The Wildflower Festival offers all kinds of different outdoor fun for the entire family, including a 5k Run, wildflower walks and a kid zone. There will also be vendors, exhibits, raffles, music, food and even a beer and wine garden. Live desert animals will also be in attendance in the exhibits such as lizards, snakes and tortoises.

The festival takes place at the base of Hwy 74 at the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto National Monument Visitors Center from 9am to 4pm. There is no onsite parking for the event, so event goers must park at the St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church on Hwy 74, where shuttle service will be provided.

Those wanting to participate in the 5k Run, should plan to get there early, as registration starts at 8:30. A donation for entering in the 5k Run, is a suggested $25. Entrance to the festival is free.

The Wildflower Festival, presented by the Friends of the Desert Mountains is a fantastic way to celebrate spring in the Coachella Valley, with great fun for the whole family.

For more information visit www.desertmountains.org

St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church is located at 47-535 Hwy 74, Palm Desert, Ca 92260

Bills Pizza Comes to Palm Desert!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                    Bills Pizza                                                                  

East valley pizza lovers take heart, because we no longer have to make the long trek to Palm Springs for scrumptious Bill’s Pizza…as they are now in Palm Desert too!

Opened in 2010 at their Palm Springs location, Bill’s Pizza has been satisfying pizza cravings for years. However, for those of us who live east of Palm Springs, we have had to either drive the distance (really only 25 min or so), or go without their award winning pizza. But we can all breathe a sigh of pizza relief now that we have Bill’s Pizza in our own backyard.

I have heard about Bill’s Pizza for years, and last December when I saw the “Bill’s Pizza Coming Soon”, sign smack dab in the middle of Palm Desert, I was delighted. They opened their Palm Desert doors just a month later in Janurary, 2017. The building that houses the new tenant has had many lives, from a former Chinese restaurant, to the Village Lounge, Produce Market, and even another pizza place before Bill’s Pizza.

Upon entering Bill’s Pizza Palm Desert, you are greeted by an almost dizzying red brick floor and appetite stimulating aromas. It is an inviting space and offers indoor and outdoor seating. Their menu offers pizza many ways. Like most pizza joints, you can either create your own concoction with a myriad of toppings, or try out one of their own tried and true specialty creations. What is not usual however, is their Fast Slice option. This menu choice allows customers to get a large slice “on the fly”, and for an awesome price, from $2.75 to $3.25. Fast Slice standard selections vary from a cheese slice, pepperoni, combo (cheese, sausage, pepperoni, olives, onion) or the Elton John ( garlic infused olive oil sauce, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, cooked spinach, red onions, & four cheeses plus feta) and a specialty pizza slice that changes daily.       rsz imag1267

On our visit to Bill’s Pizza, my boyfriend and I decided to share one of their salads, a 10” specialty pizza and a Fast Slice. For the salad we ordered the Orange Chipotle Candied Pecan salad with mixed greens, candied pecans, jicama, mandarin oranges, avocado, and orange chipotle dressing with fresh chipotle. The salad was crisp and refreshing with sweet tones from the mandarin oranges and candied pecans. The avocado provided creaminess and the jicama a snap, it was a leveling salad to the upcoming carb fest that we were about to ingest.

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It was anything but easy to decide on our specialty pizza. The choices were extensive ranging from items such as The Coachella Pizza (Alfredo sauce, smoked bacon, roasted zucchini, red onion, Italian dry salami, mozzarella & parmesan cheese), Bacon Me Cray ( Garlic infused olive oil sauce, cooked spinach, light four cheese, feta cheese, pepperoni, roasted garlic, smoked bacon, diced tomatoes, chili flakes, asiago & parmesan cheeses), Mooselini ( Red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, Sicilian sausage, chorizo & topped with asiago cheese), plus so many more.

We chose one of their most popular pies, the Charlie Sheen (Red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, salami, smoked bacon, chorizo meat balls, and shaved asiago), with the assistance of our kind and informative server Raphael. The Charlie Sheen delivered big time with big flavors, much like its namesake. The toppings all worked well together, achieving addictive flavors ( no pun on Charlie intended) all floating on a well baked sour dough crust (imported Italian pizza flour). Our slice selection was geared towards their specialty slice selection for the day, Malot’s Favorite (Bill’s sauce, which is pesto and red sauce, mozzarella, salami, Sicilian sausage, onion, tomato and pineapple). It was fantastic!! With both pizzas on the table, we were overwhelmed….but in a happy way. Both pizzas were absolutely delicious and shined from their creativity and fresh ingredients. rsz imag1261

Since I wasn’t driving, I indulged in a couple of Stella beers, which because we went on a Monday, and Mondays are Cheap Drink Days all day, I got my beers for only $2.50. It’s quite a deal, and if you like Bud Light, it’s only $.75 for your first one…but only on Mondays.

The prices at Bill’s Pizza are not over the top by any means, specialties range from about $12.50 for a 10” and $25.50 for an 18”. They are open for lunch and dinner from 11am to 9pm and until 10pm on the weekends. They do not deliver.

It is so great that Bill’s Pizza has come to Palm Desert and made it easy for east valley residents as well as Palm Springs residents to partake in their awesome pizza. They are definite new favorite of The Palm Springs Local, thanks Bill!

Bill’s Pizza Palm Desert is located at 73-196 Hwy 111, Palm Desert 92260

760-834-8476                                                                                      

For more information visit www.billspizzapalmsprings.com

Mika Young Speaks Her Voice, Inspires Others

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                      rsz mika book cover

Mika Young is speaking her voice. In her breakout multi-media experience, she is sharing her voice and those of others with her project, Someone Needs to Hear Your Voice, proclaiming the brilliance of the world’s lost, rejected and forgotten voice. It is a beautiful and profound venture that is sure to broaden the mind, and bring comfort and inspiration to the spirit of those who breathe in and absorb its content…it is nothing less than extraordinary.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mika Young many years ago, when I was a writer for the online magazine, palmspringsguides.com. She also wrote for the local website as an Inspirational/Wellness columnist and I was always impressed with her prose. So much so, that when I started my local TV show, Coachella Valley This Week, with Renee Vargas, I gave her, her own segment, “Mika Young’s Inspirational Words”. It turned out that not only could she write beautiful and uplifting words, she also could sing, all tied together with a fantastic camera presence, she had it all.

A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Young had been performing her inspirational poetry for years, including here in the Coachella Valley. But just before moving out of the desert a couple of years ago to Los Angeles to care for her mother, she hit a rough spot. She felt as though she was blocked, creativity depleted. Not one to give into despair, Young began to work on a book, but for some reason, it wasn’t resonating with her. She then realized that she had an abundance of prose to share already, that she was not blocked at all, indeed she was blessed. She began to put her mountain of poetry together, created a theme, and then titled her project.

The decision to compile her work was brought on by her grief, she had experienced three deaths in a row of people close to her and needed to turn her grief around. She found herself writing the obituaries and speaking at the funerals. Before she knew it, the mourners were looking to her to inspire, “I met people that I needed to hear their voice, the voice of GOD”, said Young.

Young’s spirituality is prominent in her work, it is part of the joy that travels through it…clearly audible in her words. She quickly realized what her new project was about, and how much it was needed to help others define their divine imprint, their significance, “Even those with broken voices can be used as a healing bomb”, was part of Young’s revelation.

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As she continued on her project, it took a different direction, it was no longer just a book, but a vessel of different ranges of inspiration that would include the written word, audio and visual, a “Living Book”.

Someone Needs to Hear Your Voice, includes Young’s poetry, as well as compelling stories and thought stirring commentary. It seems that this project comes as no accident, she admits that she has been preparing for this for a very long time, way before she even knew she was.

My personal experience has always been a positive one with Young. Just by being in the same space with her, I feel inspired. She just seems to radiate hope. Even when she has faced adverse situations in her life, it never got the best of her, and if it did, I never saw it. It is my complete belief that she has found her calling, and that all that she has done has indeed prepared her and led her to this venture.

I recall a poem of hers that always would lift me up. I watched her performing it just the other day on an old episode of Coachella Valley This Week that I found. The poem is titled, “I’m Possible”. The poem touches on different circumstances, but the result is always, “I’m Possible”. The poem never fails to turn any self-doubting thoughts around. That is what her words do, and I am so excited about her new project and how so many people’s lives will be touched by it for the better.

Someone Needs to Hear Your Voice is slated to be out in April 2017, just in time for National Poetry Month. It will be available through Amazon and through Young’s website. She is currently offering free downloads of the projects theme song on her website.

Mika Young is speaking her voice, and in turn will help you hear your own through her breakout multi-media experience, Someone Needs to Hear Your Voice, proclaiming the brilliance of the world’s lost, rejected and forgotten voice. It will enlighten and inspire you. Thanks Mika!

“Someone needs to hear my voice, someone needs to see my joy, someone needs to feel my power, including me”….Mika Young.

For more information about the project launch visit www.mikayoung.com                      

Valentine's Day, Not Just for lovers

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                        rsz imag1548

I learned early on that Valentine's Day was not just for lovers. I remember when I was a little kid and my mom would buy these booklets with all kinds of little Valentine’s Day cards in them. They were basically little sheets of paper with drawings and sappy sayings on them, “Will you be my Valentine” was a constant theme on most of them. The deal was that all the kids in class would then drop the little cards into make-shift mailboxes (paper bags taped to our desks) to other students. However, it wasn’t always a happy exercise, as sometimes the bags wouldn’t have many cards in them. I unfortunately knew this downside first hand. But regardless of most times losing this masked popularity contest, I still believed in Valentine’s Day.

The one thing that the weird classroom tradition did teach me, is that Valentine’s Day is special. It is about sharing love with others, be it a lover or a friend, or both. The history of the holiday has different determinations, however they are all linked with one common denominator…love.

I know that this may all sound a bit cheesy, but hey, if you can’t be a little over the top starry eyed and corny on Valentine’s Day, then really when can you be?

It doesn’t matter if you are in a relationship or not on this holiday. I never really understood why people would have anti-Valentine’s Day celebrations, or those who shun the holiday all together. It is possible that they have grown cynical to the idea of a day celebrating love, romance and happily ever after. But I believe that it is being looked at in the wrong light. Because if you look at it as if it is only a holiday for lovers, and you don’t have one during Valentine's Day, of course you might be slighlty bitter.

So why not gaze upon it differently, perhaps seeing it as a time to celebrate love, love for your friends and family, and for humankind. Maybe then the bitterness will fade and the taste of sweetness will return, the sweet taste of love.

So don’t be scared to show the love this Valentine’s Day, give some flowers or chocolates to a friend or family member, your boss or maybe just a perfect stranger. Remember that we all need love on Valentine’s Day, and every day. We all would love to see a little card in our bag.

Happy Valentine’s Day form The Palm Springs Local.

Family Fun Awaits at The Date Festival!

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By Denise Ortuno Neil                                                                 rsz riversidecountyfairdatefestival 0fe44d85

If you’re looking for a fun event for the whole family, you must check out The 2017 Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival in Indio. This year, the fair will be celebrating its 71th year and runs from February 17th, thru February 26th . The event encompasses a down home feel, complete with everything that you might have found in a county fair in the old days…and a whole lot more.

I recall going to the fair when I was a pre-teen. My sister’s friend’s parents owned an empty lot across the street from the fair that they would charge fair-goers to park in. We would hang out there for a while, then cross the street to attend the Date Festival. It has grown in many ways since then, but has still retained the essence of its core, as a small town fair, that has now grown up.

The Date Festivals purpose is to celebrate the harvest of the Date Palm. The fair started out slowly in the 1920’s, and then years later, Riverside County took over the reins and purchased the grounds that the festival takes place on this very day. The fair grew from there. The Coachella Valley is a mammoth producer of dates, providing almost 100% of the sweet fruit to our nation. So a large scale fair to give the little fruit props, is more than appropriate.

The fair, while agriculturally based, has adopted many diverse kinds of entertainment. It has everything that you would want from a fair, from thousands of exhibits, to high profile performances, a petting zoo, food frenzy’s, and of course, great rides! The Date Festival is reasonably priced for general admission at only $10 ($9 if you book purchase online), and really has something for everyone.

This year, musical performances include, Country music by the Eli Young Band on Saturday, February 18th, Latin music with Voz de Mando on Sunday, February 19th, 70’s rock performed by the one and only Cheap Trick on Friday, February 24th and the funktastic band WAR on Saturday, February 25th. The Super Fiesta rounds out the entertainment on Sunday, February 26th, with Los Dareyes La Sierra and Sonora Santanera. One of the best parts is that you don’t have to pay extra for the entertainment, as it is included in the price of admittance to the fair.

On top of musical acts, the festivals most popular attractions include Camel and Ostrich races, and the ever exciting Monster Trucks and a Demolition Derby.

And if you have never taken a ride on a Camel, I highly suggest it, if just to say that you did. You will love those big eyes staring at you, not to mention the photo op. I rode one years ago when I filmed my TV show Coachella Valley This Week at the fair and I loved it!

The food is really something to experience too. I mean, there’s some serious fair food there. It is the first place that I ever tried a Fried Twinkie...and it was everything that they said it would be. Delish! Also the word is, is that there will be many vendors getting creative with the date itself, introducing new ways to consume the superfood.

The Riverside County Date Festival is fun for the whole family, or just the two of you, or with a group of friends. With a true county fair flare, and all that goes along with it, The Date Festival remains one of the most anticipated and regarded events in the Coachella Valley and an absolute favorite of the Palm Springs Local. Don’t miss it!!

For more information and tickets visit www.datefest.org

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