It’s not every day that you get to interview a world-class solar chef (with multiple cookbooks), but that’s who we have today! Merry of Sunshine on my Shoulder is a solar cooking and outdoor kitchen guru. Living in Arizona is the perfect playground for that type of food prep (let me tell ya!). I first learned about solar cooking when we were RVing and have always that is was not only useful but cool. I’m lucky enough to have Merry in my own backyard and learn her favorite local spots.
Let’s meet Merry!
 Favorite thing about Phoenix.
My favorite thing about Arizona is the Saguaro cactus. The mighty Saguaros look so majestic. I never get tired of seeing them.
 Least favorite thing about Phoenix.
My least favorite thing about Arizona is the extreme summer heat that never dissipates even after dark.
 What differentiates your area of the Valley of the Sun from all the other parts?
I live in the East Valley. The East Valley has a lot going on including higher education, industry, sports, and entertainment. The East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) is a model of education. There are three community colleges, Mesa Community College Scottsdale Community College, Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Benedictine University is located in downtown Mesa. ASU is building a satellite campus in downtown Mesa as well.
There are three baseball stadiums including Sloan Park, the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs; Hohokam Stadium, the spring training home of the Oakland Athletics; and Scottsdale Stadium, the spring training home of the San Francisco Giants. Boeing; MD Helicopters; and Crown Distributing are industry leaders. The Mesa Art Center is a world-class performing facility that draws top artists. The East Valley definitely has a lot to offer.
 Favorite coffee spot in Phoenix.
I’m not a coffee drinker, but I like to swing through Dutch Bros for the Strawberry Smoothie.
 Favorite local hangout in Phoenix.
I love Organ Stop Pizza. We have been going to OSP since we moved to Arizona in the 1980’s. It is hard to imagine that listening to organ music and eating pizza go together, but once you see it, it is magic. The musicians are talented and always put on a great show. But even more important, the pizza is really good too.
 Favorite breakfast spot in Phoenix.
I’m not really the kind of person who likes to go out for a leisurely breakfast, I’m more of a grab-n-go girl and then off to the day’s adventure. Now, this may sound strange, but my favorite place to grab breakfast on the go is QT Kitchen at QuikTrip. I’m addicted to the Sausage Egg Croissant. It’s fast, it’s cheap, and it’s good, and QT’s are everywhere. And I’ll also confess that I have become addicted to their homemade ice cream shakes. (No, I don’t have them for breakfast, but that’s a good idea now that you mention it.)
 Favorite lunch spot in Phoenix.
I like Mango’s on Main Street in downtown Mesa. The food is good, and there is always a crowd. It is a tiny shop with limited seating, so get there early. On a nice day, I like sitting outside under the colorful umbrellas. Another place I really enjoy is Slickables, which is just a few doors down from Mangos. Slickables is an ice cream shop that sells $2.50 ice cream sandwiches on your choice of homemade cookies.
 Favorite dinner spot in Phoenix.
Waldo’s BBQ on Main Street in Mesa serves the best BBQ around. Waldo’s has been there forever. Wood shavings on the floor. White butcher paper tablecloths. Drinks served in quart size canning jars. Meals served in little cast iron skillets. Funny slogans decorate all the walls. You get the picture. In the winter time, the line is out the door and down the sidewalk. Yum! Makes me hungry just thinking about it.
 One thing you always do/spot you always take friends from out of town to do/see.
Well, of course, we have to take them to Organ Stop Pizza. No matter how we describe it, they don’t understand until they experience it themselves.
The other thing that we always try to do is take a drive up to Tortilla Flats in the Superstition Mountains. Those rocky mountain drop-offs, canyons, and Saguaro cactus are especially impressive to out of towners – even to those who have seen plenty of mountains. Lunch in the restaurant is a fun stop. And if there is time, we might even take a ride on the Dolly Steamboat. [MWA: I love this area, we’ve done our own exploring there too!]
 How do you like to beat the heat?
Nothing too crazy. I just stay inside, grab a cold drink, turn up the fan, and read a book.
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