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  • “Juggling a full-time job with parenting and writing is no joke. It’s exhausting,” shares writer and attorney Stephanie Laterza. “Some mornings, it’s heartbreaking to try to explain to my toddler son why my husband and I have to go to work and why he has to go to daycare, and why we can’t all just stay home, or go to the park like we do on the weekends.” Laterza’s son was the inspiration behind her short story, The Clown Nose, published through Akashic Books’ Terrible Twosdays series last year, which she feels captures an aspect of this hectic lifestyle. Other works like short stories In Triage and Niagara, and her recently released first novel, The Boulevard Trial, draw from moments in her life and career, serving as a huge influence in her storytelling.

    And as challenging as the balance between lawyering, parenting and writing tends to be, Laterza credits her husband and mother for their unwavering support: “As I say in my blog, I send much peace and inspiration to all families making it work one way or the other.“

    Find out what three favorite personal possessions Stephanie can’t live without! Then to learn more about this gifted author, visit StephanieLaterzaAuthor.wordpress.com

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  • young Noble

    Right from the start, it’s clear that Stephen Bradley’s Noble is not a small nor subtle depiction of Christina Noble, the Irishwoman who has devoted her life to helping orphaned and abandoned children in Southeast Asia. The score’s swelling strings and the characters’ obvious intentions create an old-fashioned TV-movie vibe. Yet, this film version of Noble’s (literally) incredible story packs a significant punch anyway, due to strong acting, beautiful cinematography and the palpable spirit of its indomitable subject.

    Early in the film, we see Christina as a child (played by the wonderfully sharp Gloria Cramer Curtis) singing in a pub in 1955 Dublin; her Dickensian childhood is marked by a charming but drunkenly abusive father and gravely sick mother, along with a brood of equally destitute siblings. Christina prays fervently in church for things to get better, to no avail; a theme that will recur many times throughout the movie.

    Next we see grownup Christina (Deirdre O’Kane) arriving in Ho Chi Minh City in 1989, walking around and taking in the sights, which include many impoverished street children whose plight she relates to and resolves to alleviate. She has an easy way with people, singing for government officials and joking around with a sourpuss hotel receptionist who we know will become an ally by the end of the film. Soon she begins caring for local street urchins, obtains a temporary work visa, and struggles to raise money for a social and medical center for these kids and their families.

    Noble and boy

    The movie juxtaposes Christina’s difficult youth and young adulthood in Ireland and England with her later years in Vietnam. We learn that she grew up rebellious in a Catholic orphanage; later, she finds work and friendship in a laundry, and briefly reunites with her father. The excellent Sarah Greene plays teenage/young adult Christina, who suffers a series of horrendous setbacks – including a stay at an awful nun-run home for wayward teenage girls — that would have crushed most mortals. Somehow she remains optimistic, even as she repeatedly challenges God about his intentions. In Ho Chi Minh City, nothing aside from her obvious affinity for children comes easy, but Christina refuses to give up on her goals and eventually, of course, gets what she needs.

    Toward the end of the movie, we find out what brought her to Southeast Asia: a dream she had during the Vietnam War, when images of napalm-burned children and destroyed villages were all over newspapers and television. In a movie filled with clearly explained motives, we don’t understand exactly how the dream leads to her journey, but we do see a woman almost defeated by her own life recognizing the suffering of others in the world.

    If Noble isn’t the most artfully crafted film, it still ably tells the story of a most remarkable woman whose organization, the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, has given aid to over 700,000 children and families in Vietnam and Mongolia. For that alone, it’s an admirable achievement.

    Noble opens today in NYC at Regal Union Square and AMC Empire 25.

    Local Film Fests

    In case anyone still hasn’t realized that Kings County is the center of the universe, there’s the Fifth Annual Art of Brooklyn Film Fest, running May 13 through 17. Billed as “The only festival in the world that’s all about Brooklyn-born, Brooklyn-based and Brooklyn-centric independent film,” the event is admirable for its inclusiveness; films and filmmakers aren’t necessarily coming out of typical “creative” neighborhoods. This year, AoBFF will screen 53 films across all genres, including 15 world premieres, in Brooklyn Heights, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge.

    Another local festival of note is New Jersey’s Montclair Film Festival, which is running through May 10. The four-year old fest has grown this year from a week to 10 days and includes more than 100 films and events. It boasts an impressively diverse lineup including Sundance and SXSW hits, documentaries by local filmmakers, and high profile guests such as actor Richard Gere and director Jonathan Demme.

    Marina Zogbi

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  • Blythe Gruda

    This year in honor of Earth Day, Art For Progress put on the “Music Saves the Planet” show at The Bowery Electric. With the tag line “Creative Culture Accelerating Social Change”, the event was meant to “celebrate Earth Day and to raise awareness.” Ticket proceeds went towards the NYC non profit’s arts programs. Door prizes from the event ranged from a Gibson guitar to tickets to The American Museum of Natural History.

    The evening began with Blythe Gruda. The singer was accompanied by guitarist Graham Norwood and violinist Claudia Chopek. Together the trio started the evening off with that can only be described as genuine, awe-inspiring talent. The opening slot isn’t an easy place to play. The audience is still filing in and/or hasn’t really arrived yet, but you’re still expected to put on a show as if it were a packed house. Gruda seemed utterly unphased and absolutely appreciative of the healthy showing that welcomed her warmly to the stage.

    Idgy Dean (Lindsay Sanwald) took the stage second at 9:00. She carried her floor tom on stage with no rock star airs. In a pair of black over alls, she seemed more roadie than rock band. Where was the rest of the band?  She IS the band. In fact Dean performs as a one-woman psychedelic rock band. She employs tUnE-yArDs-esque loops and drum beats to create multilayered garage rock that without her trusty pedal board would take a good half-dozen band members to recreate. Throughout her set Dean swapped her drumsticks for her guitar, singing all the time and holding up the act all by herself.

    The next act was Wyland. The New Jersey quartet brought the traditional band structure back to the stage. Singer Ryan Sloan, guitarist Mauricio Salazar, bassist Kara Delonas, drummer Matt Pana played a mix of indie and electronic (think plays like Coldplay, looks like Keane) tunes. It was clear- watching the band jam with such energy and cohesion- why they won the 2014 Break Contest. Ever since forming two or so year ago, the band has been making waves in the music community. They’ve supported bands like Awolnation and Cold War Kids as well as playing gigs as big as the Center of the Universe festival and Skate and Surf Festival 2014. About the band, CMJ wrote, “Wyland has an instantly digestible sound. The band blends suburban angst with city kid confidence.” They brought that confidence and “You’re in the World, Get Off Your Feet” to the stage.

    The smooth and poetic Jeremy Bass closed the night. As a poet, Bass has been featured in the New England Review as well as Pleiades. As a musician, he has been bouncing between The Bowery and Rockwood Music Hall, prepping and then celebrating the release of his newest effort Winter Bare. The EP came out on April 14th, just in time for spring itself. His previous album/debut Tenant came out in only 2014. Magnet Magazine praised “Winter Bare”, the title track off his sophomore album, calling it a “laid-back single” that was “beautifully composed, features subtle female vocal harmonies and, in keeping with the love-song theme of the album, is quite emotional.” Bass was recently featured as Magnet’s “MP3 @ 3PM” and a download of “Winter Bare” was featured on the publication’s website.

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  • My cousin, Carmela Cirilli Mattson, is a real food chef, teaching probiotic workshops, near her home in New York’s Hudson Valley  selling cultures for kefir, kombucha and more, and creating delicious Paleo meals for delivery.
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    Lacto-Fermentation Workshop
    Carmela loves the magic that happens with fermented foods—watching raw ingredients transform into amazing, flavorful food is adventurous and fun for her.  
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    Sourdough Starter
    But, as she stands committed to reviving “the lost cultured food traditions,” sharing her “knowledge to help build a strong real food community,” she’s also doing it nine months pregnant, simultaneously minding a three-year-old daughter. Yikes!  
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    Ladybug Apple Snack
    “Juggling work while parenting hasn’t been easy,” she shares, including her daughter in her kitchen adventures, teaching her healthy eating habits. “It’s been tough working with ferments during pregnancy because I had terrible nausea for the first two trimesters;” Carmela admits. “I had to put my ferments on hold because I couldn’t tolerate the smell and taste.”
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    Some “Kombucha” Humor 
    Luckily, she won’t have long to wait before jumping back into fermented foods.
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    Kefir Milk and Kombucha
    In the meantime, she and her filmmaker husband, Tim, are busy preparing for a new addition in their household. While on prescribed bed rest, Carmela took some time out to share her three favorite maternity items.
    Jacqueline Colette Prosper, @yummicoco

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