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Lunch Hour Opera

Posted by on Feb 16, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

Arizona Opera has this cool concept of a monthly brown bag lunch recital. On the third Thursday of the month, you’re invited to pack a lunch and see a free concert in the atrium of Arizona Opera Center near McDowell and Central (basically across the street from the Phoenix Art Museum).

Arizona Opera

We decided to give it a try this month, and I picked up Phillip on his lunch hour.

The recital was a series of songs introduced and sung by Marion Roose Pullin Arizona Opera Studio soloists accompanied by piano. We saw Katrina Galka and Mariya Kaganskaya.

It was absolutely captivating. While there are no costumes or props, the simplicity of the setup allows you to focus on the music. Even at this recital, the soloists didn’t hold back, launching full throttle into the performance, pouring the emotion of each song out through their posture, expressions, and voices.

Arizona Opera

Things to know about Arizona Opera’s Brown Bag Recitals:

  • The soloists are extremely talented.
  • The place was packed and parking was gone. Cars were even parked along curbs, and we double-parked next to one of them. You may be able to sneak a spot at the Phoenix Art Museum. (No guarantees on availability or legality, though.)
  • There’s a light rail stop nearby at McDowell.
  • Being late is awkward. If people are rushing over during their lunch hour, there are bound to be late arrivals, and the parking lot entrance opens right in the front of the room. (Hi, everyone.) I believe there is another entrance on the street side of the building.
  • You’re encouraged to bring your lunch, but no one was eating.
  • Definitely worth going, if you have a flexible enough schedule to get there early or work in the Arts District/Downtown. (Phillip works in east Phoenix, and even that was cutting it too close.)

Arizona Opera

Phillip and I tested out the being late theory for you. (Yes, it is awkward.) (You’re welcome.) We crept to the back, scanning the room in vain for open seats. We were standing there listening to a song introduction, when a man appeared from a back room to offer to get us chairs, reemerged to set two up, then silently disappeared again, as if riding off into the sunset.

After a duet from Hansel and Gretel, the recital ended with “I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady. There was enthusiastic applause, and then the pianist and soloists remained in the atrium, as the audience spilled out into the parking lot.

Arizona Opera

The next Arizona Opera performance will be a world premiere adaptation of a Zane Grey novel! (A couple photos from the program are above.)

Riders of the Purple Sage Opera –

  • Feb 25, 26: Tucson Music Hall. Tickets $25-120.
  • Mar 3, 4, 5: Phoenix Symphony Hall. Tickets $25-155.
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Phoenix Pizza Festival

Posted by on Feb 9, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

What is “the most perfect food ever”?


Phx pizza fest

At least, that’s according to the (probably biased) organizers of the Phoenix Pizza Festival.

The annual event benefits Downtown Phoenix, Inc. This past fall, it was held at Margaret T. Hance Park in Downtown Phoenix, next to the Burton Barr Library.

Pizza festival

A $10 advance ticket got you in the gate, and then you could wander around sampling pizza for $2-4 a slice, listening to bands, and/or playing a few rounds of cornhole. There were at least a dozen pizza makers, plus beer, wine, lemonade, and gelato.


The pizza ranged from high quality, foodie-grade slices to what a friend of ours would affectionately call “emergency pizza.”

My favorites were from Dough Mama and Lacy + Wendy’s Catering.

Lacy and wendys pizza

In the spirit of the event, some people even dressed up. We chatted with DJ and (self-proclaimed) Pizza Expert Mastamonk, who was wearing a pepperoni-patterned pajama onesie, pizza socks, and a cap that said “send pizza.”

Pizza outfit

Later in the afternoon, toppings started to run out and certain items were off the menu – so plan on arriving on the early side for a better selection. On the other hand, vendors got increasingly generous about offering discounted pies or sneaking you extra slices just before they had to pack it up for the day.


It was a fun way to discover new Phoenix-area pizzas. So mark your calendar for the 2017 Pizza Festival, tentatively scheduled to be held in the same location (Hance Park) on November 21st.

And, if you happen to have a pizza onesie laying around the house, this would be the place to wear it.

We were guests of the Phoenix Pizza Festival.


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The Next Phoenix Fan Fest

Posted by on Oct 13, 2016 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments


Whether it’s your favorite lunch spot or a local festival, when something you enjoy goes from niche to well-known, you may feel you miss the “good old days” before the crowds. Of course, those crowds help keep corner cafes in business and sustain community events.


It’s true of Phoenix Comicon. I’ve heard plenty of long-time attendees wax nostalgic about the earlier events with their shorter lines and sense of community, while, of course, enjoying the bigger name guests and programming made possible by the larger numbers.

Enter Phoenix Fan Fest.


Why Fan Fest?

Meant to evoke the feel of the early days of Phoenix Comicon, Fan Fest is a smaller, more intimate show by design. There are fewer tracks with the focus on artists/comics, costumes, and kid-friendly events.


It’s also more interactive. As one organizer put it, think of Fan Fest as “come and do things” instead of just “come and see things.” You can learn to play Quidditch (adapted for muggles, of course), compete in MS Paint Pictionary, make something with Lego, and even compete in a build-off!


At the first Fan Fest, artists, attendees, and the community collaborated to create a crowdsourced comic character, Blaze. Last year, they invented a nemesis for Blaze. This year, you can be a part of brainstorming action sequences for the two, while artists sketch and bring crowdsourced ideas to life!

Blaze phxff

New Time and Place

While the first two Fan Fests were held in Glendale in December, this year Fan Fest is happening earlier (October 23 and 24) and moving to the Phoenix Convention Center.


According to organizers, the time change is due, in part, to feedback from attendees that it’s difficult to get time off to go to an event in the middle of the holidays. People may also be tight on cash that time of year.


Attendees had complained about the University of Phoenix Stadium’s location in the West Valley. The Phoenix Convention Center is much more centrally located.

The Convention Center is also built to allow for bigger guest panels, more programming content, and more variety. The stadium only had three rooms for panels (and they were down this weird, dark hallway).


One downside is that there won’t be any more free parking. However, there are more transit options, including light rail stops right at the Covention Center, so you won’t necessarily have to drive. Phxcc

Organizers said exhibitors were fans of the changes, and they’re hoping you will be too!

– Fan Fest info –

We’ve received media passes to past events from Phoenix Comicon.

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Chile Pepper Festival in Phoenix

Posted by on Sep 29, 2016 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

Chile Pepper Festival – The Vig

As far as I’m concerned, the annual Roosevelt Row Chile Pepper Festival is mostly an excuse to sample really delicious food from a bunch of Phoenix restaurants. The spicy selection includes items like tacos, stuffed chiles, donuts, desserts, and even beverages.

The next festival is this weekend, so here’s the scoop!

Chile Pepper Festival

How it Works

You buy the number of tasting tickets and/or beer tokens you want at a table near the entrance – there’s no admission cost. Then you wander around the different booths and trade tastings for one or two tickets each. There’s also live music and market areas.

Otro cafe booth at Chile Pepper Festival

Proceeds raised help support the Growhouse Community Garden’s urban agriculture and education programs.

Chile pepper festival

Last year, we went early, so we could go to Ballet Under the Stars afterwards. We bought our tasting tickets right as the festival opened, and there was practically no line. By the time we left, however, an hour or two in, a lot of people were waiting. Of course, it’s cooler later on. So…pick your battles, I guess.

Chile Pepper Festival – Stuffed jalapeño

Food + Drink

If you can’t eat spicy food, this is probably not the festival for you. I mean, you could just go and enjoy the live music. But all the tastings range from mildly to make-you-cry hot.

Chile pepper festival - welcome donuts

A few of our favorites:

Corn at chile festival

At one point, I was ready to douse the fire in my mouth, so I got a smoothie, which was deceptively sweet at first – then the sweet disappeared and the crazy burn kicked in. It was unexpected. Like the photobomb from the smoothie guy.

Chile Pepper Festival – Smoothie, donut, and photobomb

Although beverage-wise we stuck with water and a bottle of Mexican Coke (and that one mouth-searing smoothie), there’s also a beer garden and margarita station.

Chile Pepper Festival – Mama Chelo's art

Art, Craft + Community

On the market side of the festival, there were a handful of community and artist booths.

Chile Pepper Festival – artist Keisha Jones

I dug the collage work of the multitalented Keisha J. Jones, who also models and makes delicious baked goods!

Chile Pepper Festival – DIY seedling pot

Chile Pepper Festival – Valley Permaculture volunteer Kathy

At the Valley Permaculture Alliance (Trees Matter) booth, you could make newspaper seed-starter pots, which inspired a CraftHack project.

Chile Pepper Festival – Flamenco por la Vida


When the music started, we watched Flamenco por la Vida. They perform flamenco music and dance superbly.

Chile Pepper Festival – Flamenco

Some of their adorable pint-sized students danced, as well.

This Saturday, Flamenco por la Vida will be on stage at 9pm. I’m not sure if students will be joining them or if that’s past their bedtime.

There are several other performances during the festival, as well as cooking demonstrations and pepper-eating contests.

Chile Pepper Festival – Taco

The band Mariachi Luna de Mexico played after we’d left. In fact, they strode in like some kind of guitar-wielding posse, just as we were headed to the parking lot.

Chile pepper festival - mariachi

– Festival Info –

  • The 2016 Chile Pepper Festival will be Saturday, October 1 from 5-10pm.
  • New location: 128 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix (Roosevelt/2nd St.)
  • Limited street parking will be available.
  • Light rail: Central Ave & Roosevelt St. stop is only about a block away (0.1 mile)!
  • All-ages event. If you plan to drink alcohol, be ready to show your ID and get a wristband at the entry.
  • There is no admission fee. Food, beverages, and handcrafted items will be for sale.
  • Details at

Chile pepper festival

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