Thursday, February 26, 2009

Playlist to Kick Cancer's Ass By

A wonderful girl I know through a friend was recently diagnosed with Lymphoma. My mom’s death is still so fresh for me that I’m really struggling with saying the right things to the people in her life. She’s not a close friend of mine, but when I think about all the people who weren’t close to my mom who supported her with cards and kind gestures, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

I was wandering the card isle the other day and the cards are ridiculous. All the ‘feel better soon!’ cards are almost insulting to cancer patients. A lot of the ‘rah rah’ encouragement cards feel too cheery. Cancer isn’t cheery. The cards in the ‘Coping’ section… yeah, forget those. Too depressing. I finally found a card that was in the funny section about superheroes kicking butt (it’s funnier then it sounds), and I started crying right there in the grocery store. So of course, I knew that was the card.

But what do you write in a card to someone who’s life has just changed and they’re so dreading what they’re going to feel like next year or even next week? I should have written it in pencil because everything I wrote felt weird. I ended up just telling her I could imagine how scary this part is, like standing at the end of a high dive and wishing you could climb down the ladder instead of jumping. And I told her that she had an amazing spirit, and that’s better then any medicine out there.

A few weeks ago I made her a CD of songs that I would want to listen to if I were going through chemo. Some fun, some serious, but all strong. But most of all, they all had to sound really great in headphones so you can just tune out.

I want to know, what strong songs would you include on a playlist for someone going through a rough time? Here's mine:

1. Here Comes the Sun - The Beatles

2. Sound of Your Voice - Barenaked Ladies

3. Because of Her Beauty - Karl Denson's Tiny Universe

4. Cathedral - Crosby, Stills & Nash

5. Carry On/Questions - Crosby, Stills & Nash

6. I Feel Love - Blue Man Group Feat. Venus Hum

7. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel

8. Ruler of My Heart - Dirty Dozen Brass Band feat. Norah Jones

9. Superstition - Stevie Wonder

10. Alcohol - Barenaked Ladies

11. More Than This - Charlie Hunter Feat. Norah Jones

12. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes - Crosby, Stills & Nash

13. How Glad I Am - The Greyboy Allstars

14. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield

15. Seasons of Love - Original Broadway Cast, Rent

16. Landslide - Fleetwood Mac

17. Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley

18. All You Need is Love - The Beatles

Weekly Event Planner - and FREE stuff!

Hey all!  Weather's in the 80s already, so take advantage of our 'winter' while it's still here!  Oh, and a plethora of FREE stuff below, so check it out.
•        Sportsmen's Expo UofP Stadium.  I'm sending my hubby on his own.  Is that smart?
•      AZ Strong Beer Festival Um, yes please!   Saturday, Mesa Amphitheatre
        Doggie Beach Party I'm helping with photos at this.  GREAT event.  Saturday, 9am-noon.  Benefits Gabriel's Angels.
•        Parada del Sol  - WestWorld 
•        WorldFEST We'll be at this Sat night.  Good food, beverages and activities 
•        Arts Jam - Looks like a good Saturday for the kids
•        Lost Dutchman Days Ohh!  The Clydesdales!   Apache Junction, all weekend.  Parade is Saturday.

•       Don't forget your free sub at Quiznos.  There's still a few left!   
•       Buy One Get One Free Entree at TGI Fridays.  Only good until Sunday.  Print the coupon.
•       Get a free movie every Monday night at RedBox.  Sign up on their site for weekly codes.
•       Earn FREE gift cards just by doing regular online searching!  They've got all kinds of prizes and gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, Starbucks, etc.  It costs you nothing but a switch from Google to this site for your searching.
•       Let someone else pick your extra citrius, for FREE, and donate it to the East Valley Food Bank. 

Restaurant of the Week:
D's Thai.  This one's especially for the Boeing folk on my distribution list.  D's is on the SE corner of Higley and Brown.  It's a family owned tiny Thai restaurant, and the curry is tasty!  I had plenty for leftovers at dinner.  (Side note: I'm looking for your FAVORITE Thai place in the Valley.  Who's got one?)

Hike of the Week:
If you haven't been to the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert, you're missing out on a little hidden gem in our area.  It really is a great place to take a walk and there are so many interesting birds around.  Make sure to bring your camera and binoculars!

***As always, if you have an event or a new restaurant to try, let me know!***

Monday, February 23, 2009


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Comfort Food

***aside from the post** First..  I am SO excited because our new illustrious President is coming to MY OLD HIGH SCHOOL this week.  Darn it all!  I hate that I'm a responsible adult and have to work this week.  I'm feeling a little Fan Girl about Obama, and I'm seriously considering calling in sick to my super conservative boss tomorrow.  Not a good idea?  Yeah, I didn't think so either.  ***

Despite having a good day full of do-gooder stuff, I'm feeling a tad bummed tonight.  This next weekend is my mom's ash-spreading.  I try really hard to deal with my sadness, but I've been dreading this week for months. 

So instead of dwelling.... I'm eating.  When I'm feeling a little down, I feed it with Eggs del Monico.  Never heard of it?  I'm pretty sure my mom made it up, but I have such good memories of this meal from my childhood.  My mom used to make it for dinners when she had a rough day, or for breakfast in the mornings.  Especially when we were camping.  Nothing is better then this creamy warm meal for a cold morning in the forest.

Then when I went away to college and I took Eggs del Monico with me.  When I was feeling homesick, I organized a dorm hallway Eggs del Monico Party.  My girlfriends and I would make pots of the stuff and feed anyone who walked by.  

The best part?  It's easy and just feels good sitting in your stomach.  The ultimate comfort food.  
Eggs del Monico Recipe:
Hard boil some eggs
Heat up a few cans of cream of mushroom soup (don't add water)
Add gobs of cheese to the soup
Cut up eggs into the soupy cheesy thing
Serve the whole thing over toast
Don't bother with veggies on the side.  This is comfort food after all...

I do feel a bit better after eating my mom's favorite comfy food.  I'm guessing the glass of wine didn't hurt either...  :-)


Friday, February 13, 2009

The Jimmy Carter Band

Tonight I am going with a few friends to see Jimmy Carter speak about his new book. OK, but let's be honest. I don't give a crap about his book (I didn't even know he had one), I just would love to see a President in real life. (You know, more then just the one time I saw George Bush the Younger waving from a limo like 1/4 mile away) I'm embarassed to say that other then the recent commentary about how much Clinton and Carter hate each other, I know very little about the man. I mean come on, he was a year into his Presidency when I was born. Yikes! So I did some research.

Seems like a good guy. Definitely didn't just retire and enjoy the good life, he seems to really have tried to make a difference in this world since his Presidency. I think if I'd been as ostracized as he was leaving the office, I'd probably be tempted to hide somewhere on a beach. But here's a guy who still travels the world trying to do good. Even if he does stick his foot in that huge-toothed mouth of his. Ah well, he means well, right?

So obviously I'm a tad out of touch when it comes to this guy, but I blame it on my age. In fact, this little outing of mine has lead to a few pretty hilarious generational misunderstandings. I had to break a date with my brother (who was born the year Carter was escorted out of office) tonight to go to this shindig, so I texted him "Raincheck on Fri? Got tix to Jimmy Carter".  Which lead to a phone call from him trying to figure out exactly "which band" I was seeing. Ha! So I told that little misunderstanding to a coworker here (he was a father twice over when Carter was Pres.), and he said "there should be a Jimmy Carter band, just like that Bill Clinton band". Bill Clinton band? Wah? "You know, the crazy dude with the huge hair, sings funk?" You mean GEORGE Clinton?! BWAHAHA!

In other news, let's not ignore the big fat red holiday looming in our very near future. We are anti Valentine's Day. I realize you may throw up a bit reading this, but I feel like every day is Valentine's Day in our house. The man makes dinners, he makes my house pretty, he brings me flowers just because, he takes me for surprise dates for no reason... So tomorrow we're going out for the cheesiest, most non-romantic dinner we can think of: Chinese Buffet. Yep, the very same from my A Christmas Story dinner with my brother. I mean really, my best Valentine's ever was when Ryan created an elaborate night of many surprises in 2001 that culminated in a shiny, custom-designed ring and a proposal. And who can ever top that?

But, just because WE don't celebrate Valentine's Day, doesn't mean that I don't celebrate Valentine's Day. Truly, I'll take any excuse to liven up my workplace (heck, I even made red cupcakes for my coworkers when the Cardinals went to the Super Bowl, and I hate football!). So here I am in my red outfit, heart necklace, I've handed out my Valentines (I 'made' these), and chocolate covered cherry cupcakes on a table that I decorated by cutting out red, purple and pink hearts. I work with all men, so I'm the token holiday rah-rah person. And I don't hear a single one of them complaining. (Maybe because they've got a mouth full of cupcake)

Here's wishing you all a great weekend, and if you live in AZ, check out my last post for fun stuff to do this weekend.


(cell phone quality, gotta love it)

It was a totally weird experience.  There were a TON of people.  A huge line to pick up your ticket, then another line to actually get in, and protesters lining the street outside.  SWAT team on the roof of the complex, police and secret service everywhere.  And a little old man who was gracious enough to look up and give us a nod as we walked by him like he was an animal in a zoo.  We thought there was going to be a talk, but it wasn't like that at all.  We got paraded in front of him while he sat up on a platform signing books which were handed to us commoners as we walked by.  Then when he had enough, they whisked him out of there.  Crazy.  I'm glad I went, but boy was it not what I was expecting.

Thanks africankelli for having me as one of your 'plus two'!  

Phoenix Weekly Event Planner - Love is in the air

Hey all! Lots of stuff going on Saturday for the big day-o-love. If you're feeling the pinch of the economy, check out my 'cheap' ideas at the bottom.

• Chihuly: The Nature of Glass - Desert Botanical Garden (sign up for a specific time)
• Tucson Gem & Mineral Show
• Romeo & Juliet - Ballet Arizona
Jimmy Carter signs his book - I'm going. I've never seen a real, live President before! Changing Hands, Friday
Cavalia (like Cirque du Soleil, but with horses)
The Pleasure Feast - AZ Renaissance Festival
Robin Williams - Fri and Sat, Dodge Theatre
NBA All-Star Events
Couples Cooking Class on Feb 13th
VNSA Book Sale - Formerly that Visiting Nurses book sale. AZ State Fairgrounds. Sat and Sun
Bone Marrow Drive - Just a swab of the mouth is all it takes. You'll be entered in a database and maybe some day you could help save someone's life! You do pay the tissue-typing cost, but it is totally tax deductable.

Call your long-distance loved ones on Valentine's day for FREE from any landline courtesy of Free411, which I use ALL the time.

Restaurant of the Week:
Alto ristorante e bar - I haven't eaten at the Hyatt in years, but I'm suggesting this restaurant because your meal comes with a romantic gondola ride. Perfect for V-day! Make reservations to beat the crowds.

Hike of the Week:
How about pack some champagne and cheese and crackers and take a hike up
Piestewa Peak.

Economical Valentine's Ideas:
• Take the light rail to the Phoenix Art Museum ($10), then have lunch at the museum by Arcadia Farms
• Take a drive to the Rim Country to see the new snow. Bring hot cocoa and a camera.
Make a romantic dinner and rent a movie (The Notebook, Casablanca, Say Anything, Titanic, 50 First Dates ...)
• Tour and lunch at the Queen Creek Olive Mill
• Stroll through Old Town Scottsdale and check out the
public art

***As always, if you have an event or a new restaurant to try, let me know!***

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

4 Peaks - The mountain, not the bar

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Snow Dog

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Phoenix Weekly Event Planner - Valentine's Day Plan-Ahead!

I'm guessing there's a few of you out there who haven't got a clue what to do for your honey next week for Valentine's Day. In the spirit of planning ahead, check out my Valentine's ideas at the bottom of this week's Event Planner.

* Willo Historic Home Tour - This is SO GREAT. Sunday. Discount tix online 
* AZ Renaissance Festival - Starts this Saturday thru March
* Classic Car Show - Heritage Square in Phx, Saturday 10am-4pm, free
* Stars on Ice - Friday, arena
* AZ Fine Art Expo - thru March 
* Chris Isaak - Wednesday the 11th, Celebrity Theatre
* First Friday 
* Kodo Drummers - Mesa Arts Center, Tues the 10th 
* Chinese New Year Festival 
* Tucson Gem and Jewel Show. I've been with my FIL and it's pretty impressive. 

Mesa Arts Center free concerts, every Thursday thru March. It's their Out To Lunch Series. Bring a lunch, enjoy the weather in their garden, and listen to great music. 

Restaurant of the Week:
I'm a sucker for Middle Eastern food. Café Istanbul. The food is excellent, and the restaurant seems to have lots of regulars, which is always a good sign. The only thing I didn't like was the belly dancer. Have your dollar ready. She won't leave you to your delicious food until you give one to her. After dinner, stop by the market next door and check out the WALL of interesting spices. It's heaven.

Hike of the Week:
Shaw Butte Trail, Phx Mountains Preserve. AMAZING city views at the top. 1.2 miles each way. 

Valentine's Ideas:
* Dolce Spa has GREAT discounts on gift cars, and some sweet package deals for V-day.
* Romeo & Juliet at Ballet Arizona
* Cavalia (like Cirque du Soleil, but with horses) 
* Couples Cooking Class on Feb 13th 
* Valentine's Thai Yoga/Massage with Partners 
* Make dinner and rent a romantic movie (The Notebook, Casablanca, Say Anything, Titanic...)
* Chihuly: The Nature of Glass at Desert Botanical Garden (sign up for a specific time)
* Your lady like jewelry? Take her to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show
* The Pleasure Feast at the AZ Renaissance Festival
* Phx Zoo Jungle Love - Fancy dinner and a comedy show about animal mating

***As always, if you have an event or a new restaurant to try, let me know!***

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

And Please, don't drive like my brother...

Now I realize that half of you reading this will say to yourself "What decade was she born in??" when you read this, but....  I think I may have successfully fixed my exercise problem!  

Generally, the reason I don't like working out is because it's boring to me.  I don't enjoy it.  ESPECIALLY running.  I have very little patience for it, so instead of zoning out like you're supposed to, my mind gets stuck on "I hate this, I hate this, I hate this".  Anyone else have this problem?  

I told this to my boot camp instructor and she told me she has the same problem.  And this is a girl who does marathons and triathlons!  It made me feel a little bit more encouraged that she had the same issue.  She solves it by downloading audio books.  So I considered that and decided that one of two things would happen:  1.  I would lament the time I was wasting with an audio book when I'd rather curl up on the couch with a real one.  Or 2.  I'd be one of those people who would walk around constantly attached to my freaking iPod.  

The solution?  Podcasts!  I know, I know, you're rolling your eyes because you've been doing that for YEARS.  It's not that I didn't know what a podcast was, I'm not that out of it, I just never did it.  Today I took the monster dogs on a walk to warm up before boot camp, and I took Car Talk with me.  It was so much fun!  I found myself ignoring the walk and getting totally into the show.  AND, when I got back to my house, I was bummed because there was 10 minutes left, so I kept walking!  I think this is really going to help.

A small remodel update:  THE GRANITE IS IN!  :-)  How about some before and after pics, eh?

Before/After of the kitchen.  Cabinets to be re-faced in 4 weeks.

Before/After kitchen sink!  It's so DEEP!  

Before/After guest bathroom.  Also waiting for new cabinet facing.  Obviously, new mirror is forthcoming as well.  :-)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Comfort weight

My mom was in the hospital for the better part of two years before she died. I was in that hospital so much that I could give directions to people who looked lost in the halls. People who were blissfully unaware how blessed they were to not have to know the hospital well because they'd probably only have to visit their loved one for a day or two until life went back to normal. People who quickly forgot where the hospital cafeteria is as soon as the left it because they wouldn't have to worry about depending on that place for meals on a regular basis.

People told me all the time I should 'take a break', but I don't regret going there every day. I was so lucky to have so much mother-daughter time those two years, and even when she was really sick and not much for talking, it was just comforting to be in the same room with her.

But all that time going straight from work to the hospital, then home late to empty cupboards took it's toll. I used to go to the gym 5 times a week, and loved making meals. The gym was the first thing to go when my mom got sick. Then I started eating crap food because it was easier on my way home from the hospital. And sometimes I just went home and ate whatever sounded good because it felt good to eat. So I'd eat too much.

I didn't really give much thought to it until I went to Mexico two weeks after my mom died. When we came back, I saw pictures of myself from behind in my bikini and I was mortified. I hadn't even really thought about my own body in a while until I was faced with that.

I weigh fully 15 pounds over my driver's license weight and I don't feel comfortable in my clothing. 15 pounds. Now I'm 3 months away from a vacation in the Yucatan that probably involves wearing bathing suits daily. It's time to stop telling myself that my body isn't great because of all the time I gave up when my mom was sick. I don't have that excuse anymore.

I'm back to the gym, and I've been running (which I really suck at), but I haven't seen a difference yet. So this week I let one of my girlfriends convince me to join a boot camp with her. And boy was I sore after two days of that! But it felt good. The hardest part of the whole thing was getting weighed. I didn't think I had gained THAT much.

Yesterday Ryan and I did a charity run that was in memorial of a little girl who had the same leukemia that my mom had. One of London's family members gave a beautiful speech about how much they miss her, but that they know there were other families there touched by cancer. They wanted us to know that they understood what we were going through. And I saw people nodding along. Too many people.

We only did the 2 mile fun run, but I never really run that far so it was tough for me. My longest run is 1.5 miles, and I take little walking breaks. But yesterday I was determined. And I did it! I ran the whole thing and I did a great job! I finished in about 18 minutes, not too far behind my hubby.

So now that I have no excuse like 'I can't run' or 'I want to visit my mom', I'm determined to lose some of that ridiculous weight. I know I can do it.

Too bad I got this new-found determination right when Super Bowl came around. Appetizers are my kryptonite.

about me

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    Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

    I'm Amanda. I'm an engineer in an industry full of men, a professional wedding and family portrait photographer, a firefighter's wife, a traveler, and a dogMa.

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