Casa Amigos Provides Meals for Greater Phoenix First Responders

Casa Amigos, a restaurant located in the heart of Scottsdale’s entertainment district, is supporting local police and fire departments in the Greater Phoenix metro area by donating free meals to first responders. Casa Amigos, and parent company Evening Entertainment Group, said that this was their way of acknowledging the importance of their partnership with the police and fire departments, and that they were honored to be able to support them in this way.

Drew Young, general manager of Casa Amigos, has been leading the effort over the past few weeks. Young is aiming for every police department to receive 50 meals, with appropriate numbers also going to smaller firehouses. He has already made deliveries to 10 departments totaling 500 meals, with deliveries to another 10 departments across the Valley scheduled. As of now, meals have been donated to all Scottsdale and Tempe police departments. Surrounding cities like Mesa, Gilbert, and Phoenix are still to come.

The effort is made possible by donations received from Young’s long-time clientele who “want to help make a difference in the community.” Despite state-mandated closures for establishments with Series 6 and 7 liquor licenses, Young says that he was able to reopen the Casa Amigos kitchen solely to cook these meals for first responders.

“We could not operate our venues as safely or efficiently without the help of the police and fire departments,” says Young. “We value our long-term relationship with them, and while we cannot currently serve our customers, we can serve those who serve and protect us.”

At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Young says that Casa Amigos held a similar campaign to donate meals to local nurses fighting the virus on the front lines. It was a success, seeing more than 4,000 meals donated. Phoenix Children’s Hospital in particular received 1,700 meals donated for Nurse’s Week.

Casa Amigos is located at 7340 E. Indian Plaza, Suite 100, in Scottsdale. For more information, visit

SCC Online Learning Center Helps Students Get the Most Out of Instruction

Students at most education levels these days — whether K–12 or higher education — are taking part of their required coursework through online instruction. Some excel in this learning environment, and others have never experienced it before or may have reservations.

Responding to the needs of students and the broader community, Scottsdale Community College (SCC) launched the Online Learning Center featuring extensive information, how-to guides, assessments, video resources and more – designed to help students of all levels of experience with online learning improve their potential for success and overall academic outcomes.

“This Fall, most students will be receiving at least some, if not all, of their instruction online,” said Chris Haines, SCC’s interim president. “The new Online Learning Center leverages SCC’s 20 years of success in delivering robust, online higher education to help make the transition to remote learning easier.”

Visitors to the Online Learning Center can access resources on how to be a successful online student, take a short survey assessing their readiness for online learning, discover how to use online learning technology (video and more), tour an actual online course at SCC, learn about SCC’s online low-cost or no-cost textbook options, connect with extensive free tutoring services, and review online course delivery methods to determine the best fit.

Today, SCC offers 37 degree and certificate of completion programs available entirely for remote learning — and that’s in addition to many other courses being available online. View SCC’s entire online program list: To ensure greater student success in the distance-learning format, the College is making many student support services available online as well, including tutoring, library/research, advising, options for testing and counseling. Students who are new to online learning can take advantage of extensive training and assistance.

SCC has been providing online learning for more than 20 years and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to offer online programs, and was recognized in 2020 for excellence in its online education programs, by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development.

Visit the SCC Online Learning Center for complete details:

Photo: Julia M Cameron;

Valley Chef Opens Fast-Casual Eatery: Stratta Kitchen

Rizi Bizi

Chickpea & Herb Hummus

Sicilian Caponata

Beets & Apples

Chef Alex Stratta’s seasonal Mediterranean-style dishes will be available to Valley diners for dine-in, takeout or delivery beginning Monday, Aug. 3.

North Scottsdale’s Stratta Kitchen serves up what the restaurant describes as “fresh, seasonal and chef-crafted fare,” led by the James Beard Award-winning chef. In partnership with the Genuine Concepts restaurant group, Stratta Kitchen will be open daily for lunch and dinner, available for dine-in, takeout or delivery via online ordering. Stratta, who also starred on “Iron Chef America” and earned a prestigious two Michelin stars for his eponymous eatery in Las Vegas, has personally handcrafted his menu to offer a “deliciously approachable” twist on flavorful Mediterranean fare, with most dishes priced at less than $12.

So why did this award-winning chef ditch fine dining to open his own fast-casual kitchen?

“Today’s diners are looking for high quality, natural and flavorful food that’s both convenient and accessible,” Stratta said in a statement. “The Mediterranean approach to cooking is sunny, inherently healthy, light and full of flavor focusing on fresh, seasonal and optimum quality ingredients.”

Stratta developed the Statta Kitchen ethos during his own health journey, overcoming colon cancer, changing his lifestyle and losing close to 100 pounds in the process. To regain his health, Stratta gravitated towards a natural, whole foods approach to cooking and eating.

To ensure that the service and atmosphere at Statta Kitchen are as warm, and welcoming as the bill of fare, the chef partnered with Phoenix-based Genuine Concepts, the neighborhood-focused restaurant group behind The Vig, The Little Woody, The Womack, Ladera Taverna y Cocina and The McMillan.

The menu includes naturally dairy-free, gluten-free and vegetarian options, with the goal of catering to a number of dietary needs and preferences without limitation. Broken down into To Share or Not to Share, Greens, Grains and The Goods, the menu also offers a selection of house-made specialty sauces to adorn any meal. Plus, the quick-serve setting will allow diners to pop in, order and go about their day, or sit and relax with a glass of wine of a craft beer.

Stratta Kitchen is located at 8260 N. Hayden Road, Suite A102, inside the Mercado on Hayden shopping center in Scottsdale. For more information call 480.597.9195. Find Stratta’s menu by visiting

Photos courtesy of Stratta Kitchen

Explore the Beauty of the Desert — Botanical Garden reopens with safety in mind

Desert Discovery Trail at Desert Botanical Garden; Photo: Adam Rodriguez; courtesy of DBG

In early July, the Desert Botanical Garden reopened to the public. The Garden staff says the while it is eager to share the beauty of the desert with Valley patrons, safety is its primary concern. So, it is limiting capacity, providing a touchless admissions experience and following all CDC guidelines and meeting all local requirements.

Desert Botanical Garden is home to thousands of species of cactus, trees and flowers from all around the world spread across 55 acres in Phoenix. The Garden was established in 1939 by a small group of passionate local citizens who saw the need to conserve the beautiful desert environment. With the support of social influencers of the time such as Gertrude Divine Webster, the Garden’s presence grew. Nearly eight decades later, thanks to leadership and investments from many individuals, Desert Botanical Garden has blossomed from a dream into a living museum.

Visitor hours have been shifted to the cooler periods of the day: 6am–noon and 5–9pm, Friday through Sunday; 7am–noon and 5–9pm, Monday through Thursday.

Residents will need to make a reservation to enjoy the Garden — for safety purposes, a limited number of visitors will be admitted every 30 minutes. Reservations can be made online or by calling 480.941.1225. No walk-up purchases are permitted.

To learn more about the safety measures being taken at Desert Botanical Garden, or to reserve a spot for a visit, go to

Tour de Scottsdale 2020 Goes Virtual

The 17th annual Tour de Scottsdale will kick off in October, but this year’s event is switching gears to navigate the evolving coronavirus pandemic.

DC Ranch made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person event on Market Street. So, a virtual event, to be held Oct. 12­–18, will allow hundreds of road warriors to keep the cycling spirit alive, stay active and healthy, while still supporting the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy.

With over 30,500 acres and 200 miles of trails, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the largest urban preserve in North America and the fourth largest urban preserve in the world. The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the Sonoran Desert and mountains, protects this living treasure and offers events and activities in the Preserve so that everyone can enjoy a family-friendly, natural experience.

Riders will have several registration options to complete ride miles on their own. Participants can ride the official Tour de Scottsdale courses, log miles around their city or even in their home or fitness center on a trainer. In addition to the traditional 30- and 70-mile rides, the virtual event will introduce a new 15-mile course and 5-mile fit family ride.

The Tour de Scottsdale donates 100 percent of sponsorship proceeds and a portion of registration fees to the Conservancy and has raised over $600,000 to-date.

Those who register and complete any of the distances will receive a commemorative, distance-unique medal, an awesome virtual goodie bag and perks — along with all the bragging rights. Registration opened Monday, July 13. Visit for details.

Photos courtesy of Tour de Scottsdale

Puppy Luv Pet of the Month: Meet Brave!

This month’s spotlight dog is Brave! She is a 1-year-old Australian Shepherd mix.

The team at Puppy Luv says, “She is the sweetest dog with people and is completely kennel trained! A dog meet-and-greet is a must as she can sometimes be a little picky about the dogs she likes! She has been with us far too long and definitely needs a perfect home!”

Those interested in adopting beautiful Brave, can call Puppy Luv Animal Rescue at 480.525.1007. To learn more about Puppy Luv Animal Rescue follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

Southwest Wildlife Discovery Series: Fastest Bird in the West — The Roadrunner

By James O’Brien
Veterinary technician, Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center —

If you live in the Sonoran Desert, it’s likely you’ve experienced the joy of seeing a roadrunner. Perhaps you caught a glimpse of one darting between bushes on your morning hike or, if you’re particularly lucky, maybe even in your own yard.

The roadrunner is a bird that can bring to mind images of archaeopteryx, that extinct cousin that bridged the lives of dinosaurs and birds. If you do have the pleasure of seeing a roadrunner, try looking into their intense yellow eyes. You may see an old, tenacious soul.

Sometimes called the chaparral bird, the greater roadrunner boasts the land-speed record for a flying bird, clocked at 26 mph. They have broad wings, up to 2 feet, and yet they rarely fly for more than short bursts, and only if necessary. Roadrunners prefer to run, making prey of just about anything they can catch, including lizards, insects, snakes and even, rarely, rattlesnakes, which they may thrash against a rock to subdue. They have been known to wait by a nectar feeder to grab a hummingbird as it comes in for a drink.

During the hot months of summer, roadrunners curtail their constant hunting by up to 50 percent, trading it for the shade of a creosote or mesquite. During cold winter nights they are able to significantly decrease their body temperature to conserve energy. In the morning they then flange the feathers along their lower back, exposing the dark skin to absorb the rising sun.

Breeding comes about in the spring and once a male and female find one another they tend to mate for life and, if able, will remain in their chosen territory as long as possible. Two to eight eggs are laid and incubated for approximately 20 days. Once hatched, the male and female care for the young for roughly three weeks — a fairly rapid growth — by which time the young are able to catch prey on their own.

General life expectancy for a roadrunner is seven to eight years in the wild. Major predators of the roadrunner are coyotes, skunks, raccoons, hawks and house cats. Roadrunners communicate with a variety of “coos” and “whirs.” The alarm call is a rapid clacking sound produced by shuddering their strong beaks. They are a bird known for their curiosity.

This author has had more than one deliberately approach within a yard or two solely to see what I was up to, then abruptly turn and trot off, clearly bored by what they found. Moments such as these create lasting memories of these ancient-looking birds, but, don’t forget to look for a moment into their eyes!

Find out more about how wildlife is rehabilitated and kept safe in our sanctuary at Tours are given Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays throughout the summer months.

Photos courtesy of Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

Whiskey and Popcorn Reviews: Hidden Gems to Stream

Tuesday Mahrle and Kaely Monahan

—By Kaely Monahan and Tuesday Mahrle

The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)

This film, starring Paul Rudd, is not only funny, but also sentimental and heartwarming. Out of work Ben (Rudd) decides to register as a caregiver while struggling through a divorce. He is quickly hired to care for Trevor (Craig Roberts), an 18-year-old with muscular dystrophy. While Ben begins to learn Trevor’s routine, Trevor reveals his estranged relationship with his father. With a goal of seeing every roadside attraction along the way, Ben and Trevor embark on a road trip to visit Trevor’s father. As they learn about each other and themselves, they pick up a variety of roadside characters along the way, including Dot (Selena Gomez) and a pregnant woman named Peaches.

This movie doesn’t show one individual caring for another, but instead, it displays a beautiful buddy comedy showing how we relate to each other.

Honorable Mentions
Brick (2005)
Billy Elliot (2000)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

You might know New Zealander Taika Waititi from his latest film Jojo Rabbit or Thor: Ragnarok but if you missed his 2016 comedy Hunt or The Wilderpeople, do yourself a favor and go find it now on Hulu. Starring Julian Dennison and Sam Neill as foster son and foster father, the unlikely duo disappears deep into the New Zealand wilderness after the untimely demise of the foster wife. Ricky (Dennison) not wanting to return to the foster care system, goes with Hec (Neill) into the forest to escape child services. Together they both learn what it means to be a family. A hysterical coming-of-age film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is not to be missed.

Honorable Mentions
Tangerine (2015)
I, Tonya (2017) Comedy

Amazon Prime
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1991)

Based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we experience the play through the lens of Hamlet’s best friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. This tragicomedy focuses on the actions, or the lack thereof, by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Directed and written by Tom Stoppard, the film makes liberal use of “theater of the absurd” where the emphasis is on the absurdity of the human experience. It’s a very unusual form of comedy that fans of Shakespeare or Waiting for Godot will enjoy.

Honorable Mentions
Lady Bird (2017)
His Girl Friday (1940)

Disney Plus 
The Cat from Outer Space (1978)

If you grew up in the 70s, you might recognize this Disney film. Starring Ronnie Schell, Ken Berry, Sandy Duncan, McLean Stevenson and Harry Morgan, this family film delightfully capitalizes on the surge in space movies, but gives it its own unique twist.  Ronnie Schell voices the alien Abyssinian cat, Jake, who has to make an emergency landing on Earth. The U.S. Army is alerted to the landing and Jake’s spaceship is captured and intensely inspected.

Needing an ally, Jake teams up with Frank, an astrophysicist with a knack for thinking outside of the box. Together, they get into trouble, fall in love and eventually repair Jake’s ship. A wonderful film from the Disney archives that’s totally worth watching with the whole family.

Honorable Mentions
Holes (2003)
Jane (2017)

Whiskey and Popcorn is a movie podcast by local film critics Kaely Monahan and Tuesday Mahrle. You can hear their full movie reviews on

Make Sure the Pieces in Your Environment Promote Well-Being

Click to read more about Barbara.

By Barbara Kaplan ~

Q: I am having a hard time deciding what pieces to keep and what items to “release.” I have many items that have sentimental memories, and yet they aren’t what I would have picked to live with in my current home.

A: Most of us have items in our home that have belonged to others. Because we are affected strongly, either positively or negatively, by our environment, I have helped clients understand how some furniture and accessory pieces, possibly with family history, may have an effect on them. Often though, these pieces are cherished, because of the relationship they have had with the people who gave it to them.

Many people live with pieces that may have been given to them, that they dread having in their homes, yet they feel an obligation to keep them. Sometimes we remember how much these pieces meant to the people who owned them before us and would feel guilty letting go of them, but they may give us feelings of sadness or anger or just nostalgia. These items may even be a burden to keep, because we have no place to put them.

Several years ago, I decided to sell a house full of antiques that had been given to me by my parents, who had been in the antique business in New York. When the shipper came to pick up all the antiques and prepare them for packing to the dealer who bought them, I asked the shipper not to pack anything until the next morning. Being apprehensive, it was important to me to see how I’d feel when I awoke the next day and not see those precious pieces from my parents. Much to my surprise, I had a sense of relief, not to have the lovely antiques I had lived with all my life. I realized that these pieces were my heritage, but not my taste. I am grateful to have had them and now I am able to decorate for me and make my own personal statement in my home.

When decorating your home be aware of how the objects you are placing everywhere make you feel. Do they bring you joy and look beautiful to you? It is a source of happiness and well-being to surround yourself with what you love to see. This way, loving thoughts stimulated by the environment will bring you calmness and serenity where you need it the most. If you feel good in your environment, your family and guests will feel it too. You create your environment and others will respond.

Recently, a friend told me (after reading my book) that she had decided to redecorate her bedroom. She began by getting rid of the pieces she didn’t like. She also told me that she had been totally unaware that those pieces that had belonged to her ex-mother-in-law were causing her stress. Once they were gone, she was relieved not having to see them anymore, and even slept more peacefully.

In his book, “The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “Letting go of the past means you can enjoy the dream that is happening right now. We don’t need to know or prove anything. Just to be, to take a risk and enjoy your life, is all that matters. Say no when you want to say no, and yes when you want to say yes. You have the right to be you.”

Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is tell the person gifting us that we don’t want something. Most importantly, we need to know how we tell this person gently; however, it’s better to tell the truth. Tell them that you know the piece is significant and lovely, yet it does not work in your environment. When the offering doesn’t fit, I have suggested that my clients take pictures of these pieces and put them in an album, or put the gift into storage, use it as a re-gift, sell or donate it.

Follow your heart in these decisions and live with the pieces that give you comfort, confidence and joy. Always remembering, “Rooms and objects have no feelings, YOU do!”

Barbara Kaplan, IFDA and Allied ASID, is a Phoenix-based Holistic Interior Design consultant and the founder of Barbara’s Picks, an online resource for the best of the best Design and Lifestyle Resources. Visit for more information.

Photo: Alina Vilchenko

FOREVER FAMILIES: Meet Dwaun — A Boy Who Wants a Dog to Be His Best friend

By Clint Williams, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids

They say dogs are man’s best friend and 12-year-old Dwaun would certainly agree.

Dwuan is a dog person. The active, athletic boy would love to join a forever family with pets — especially if that pet was a dachshund or a pug.

“Dwaun is a kid who likes to help and who really wants a family, and if that family had a dog he would take the dog for walks and take care of it,” says Brianna, a child specific adoption recruiter with Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK).

Dwaun is “super friendly” and engaging, the kind of person who becomes instant friends with other kids playing in the park, Brianna says.

Dwaun enjoys sports — football and basketball are his favorites. He also likes to play video games and one of his favorite games is “Madden 20,” a game that simulates professional football games.

He also likes to draw and paint and takes great pride in his art, Brianna says.

His favorite foods include pizza, quesadillas, tamales, ramen noodles and Oreo cookies.
Dwaun will be in the eighth grade this fall. His favorite class is social studies.

Dwaun longs for a positive male role model and would do best in a two-parent family in which the parents are experienced and able to meet Dwaun’s needs for academic enrichment and behavior coaching.

For more information on children eligible for adoption, call Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) at 602.930.4900 or visit

%d bloggers like this: