Monday, August 12, 2013

Cheater Cheater Pizza Eater

I am cheating on myself.  Which sounds really bizarre I know.  The thing is with the Littledude and Ladybug in my life I have used my camera a lot less.....although recently I went crazy shooting them for a few days....but instead I have been cooking a LOT more.

I have been posting on Facebook about some of my culinary adventures, the hits and the spectacular misses as I go.... and family members, as well as a few friends kept asking for I did the inevitable.

I started yet ANOTHER BLOG!

Heirlooms at a farm stand in New Jersey

Zia's Kitchen is all about Gluten Free and "Kid Friendly" cooking.  I am trying to cook super healthy for them, but sometimes in order to get veggies in the little dude I have to resort to trickery - covered in a lot of cheese!

All the photography is of course be mine, of course while in the midst of cooking and getting dinner to the table I don't get much time to whip out the Canon. So the iPhone and my sub par kitchen lighting has to do.  Thank god for the apps Camera Awesome (same people who I built my websites with) and Instagram.  

My kitchen the other night

So check out Zia's Kitchen at  The address was already taken by a restaurant somewhere. Booo and I thought I was being original! 

I will work on upgrading the photography to my normal level, as a family friend said upon seeing my photography for the first time last night at Sunday dinner..."wow, you take good pictures of food"

Awwww thanks.  Combining my 2 of my favorite hobbies in the world...Food & Photography.  Now if I could just get more travel in there somewhere!

Organic Farm in New Jersey

Farmers Market in North Yorkshire, England

Farmers Market in North Yorkshire, England

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Royal Tantrums

July 22nd, 2013.  A few newsworthy events

We had another Super Moon.  It was national Rat catchers day, and that is a career choice that gets very few accolades I am sure.  Here in Florida we had an entire day without rain.

Of course all the news of the day was eclipsed by the "Big One". The world's most famous baby was born in London. If you have no idea what I am talking about the only plausible explanation could be that your DSL, Cable AND cell phone service was down. Or you are in a jungle somewhere, although you probably could still log onto Facebook.  I never turned on my computer but I heard about it.  It was hard not to. Prince (he who shall not be named in public yet) welcome to a world of privilege and infamy very few people on the planet will ever know, oh and SMILE you will be growing up on TV, the internet and in every magazine imaginable. In short a fishbowl.  A royal one, but a fishbowl none-the less.  Poor kid.

Personally I am waiting for the little tykes official (buckingham palace moderated of course) Twitter account to start rolling out. God forbid we miss an announcement about what color his poo is. I wonder if his nappies will be royal issued, or from Tesco.  I'm going to split the difference and say Mark and Spencers or Harrods at the very least. If Harrod's doesn't carry nappies yet sure as shite they will carry them now!

I jest, because this is actually NOT a post about hating on the wee royal lass, not at all. The contrary in fact!  A baby is a baby.  They are a blessing, a joy and an occasional anxiety inducing nightmare all rolled into one!  And when they giggle, if your heart doesn't melt you don't have one.  The Prince and the Duchess have a long incredible journey in front of them and no matter how many nannies they have, they will be sleep deprived, exhausted, scared and deliriously happy as many new parents are You can't help where and to who you are born to to little prince, but Prince William and Duchess Kate seem to be very level headed genuine and down to earth people, for royalty.  They are the modern day monarchs and I am sure will raise a very solid, grounded little person and future leader. I truly wish them well. I have never had the "magical joy" of giving birth but I am blessed that I am able to help raise my niece and nephew.  Who knows?  I may have more nieces and nephews in the future - and being a Zia is pretty amazing.

Here in this household of everyday average poopy diapers from Publix, the LittleDude and LadyBug are doing everything a 21 and 9 month old should be doing.  Acting like children all over the world.  This is my sincere hope.

You see these angels?

Well recently Prince LittleDude has been going from Angel to Devil's spawn in the blink of an eye.  I mean serious knock down, thrashing on the floor, hitting, kicking, slapping screaming until red in the face tantrums that half the time we can find zero rhyme or reason to.  Oh and the cherry on top? He no longer wants to go to sleep. Or stay asleep. Period.

Goodbye child modeling career.  Oh and Money see Monkey do.  Princess LadyBug is become one tough ass little miss. Good news, she isn't letting ANYONE, including a big temperamental brother push her around. She is happy, determined and loves to smile and giggle, but takes shit from NO ONE.  This could be very good or very bad for us as she hits toddlerhood, but only time will tell.

Sis found a hilarious article about 46  reasons a 3 year old might be having a meltdown. Check it out here.

Funny, facetious and terribly terribly true.  After laughing we have both been looking for answers on the internet and have read a lot about why this is happening, his stage of development and frustration, being overwhelmed and unable to express himself in any other way then throwing something across the room.  On one hand I feel better, his behaviors and entry into the "Terrible Two's" is completely normal. On the other hand by the end of a day with 2 dozen tantrums behind us and 30 mins (on a good night) of screaming instead of going to bed ahead of us - Zia generally pours herself a big glass of "today is almost over, I can make it through the rest"...otherwise known as wine.

It's sis I feel sorry for, the only way to get him to sleep is for her to bring him into her bed, a habit she (and I ) are scared to create - but the alternative is having the condo board kick us out for excessive noise violations. So she gets more sleep deprivation minus the wine. She has it rough, but in fairness I do cook incredible meals for them daily (more on that in another post), and we are all in this together as a household.

If you can believe it LadyBug sleeps right through it in the crib right next to him. 

For now.

Someday not in the very far future the royal baby who is 3rd in line to the monarchy of the United Kingdom, will most likely throw a royal tantrum - or 12 - at a royal family event. It could be in front of dignitaries from around the world, or just the Queen mum, but it will happen, because royal, or not every kid goes through it, can't be trained not to and thats a fact.

It's only fair right?  

I just hope they Tweet about it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Eye Spy

Well truth be told I don't spy very much with my little eye these days and I am getting increasingly frustrated.

I am a writer.  I am a photographer.  Ok so I am clearly not a professional at either and lord knows I haven't been paid all that much in my life to do either...yet, but I worry about my ability to do either one anymore.

If. I. Can't. SEE!

Ok - so there are a few things going on here. First off, I have been wearing glasses since I was in the 2nd grade - and yes let me tell you how much fun THAT was. Little kids are mean therefore awkward, slightly pudgy girls wearing hot pink clear Lucite glasses in the 2nd grade (at least I was fashion forward) get teased a lot.  It sucked, but I only had to wear them for reading the chalkboard not on the playground, I got taller, I got thinner and more of my friends had to start wearing them so it all evened out in the end.

Highschool, ahhh it was the late 80's.  The era of BIG!  Shoulder pads; I have naturally strong wide shoulders - the mother will relay the epic story of her trying to birth them if you like. Big Hair; at the time I had a LOT of curly hair and my Guido ( I can use that term as I am one as well) hairdresser convinced me to get a perm - good lord you could see my hair coming from down the street, and BIG accessories, including glasses. The 80's fashion was NOT a good look for me.

Sometimes I wish I had saved the frames from that era - but I trashed them in a fit sometime in the 90's after looking at photos from high school.

In high school I played sports so glasses were difficult, particularly when the coaches realized I had one very badly nearsighted eye and one slightly far sighted eye. As it turns out that can really effect your depth perception, therefore effecting my ability to see lacrosse balls being thrown at my head, which is how I tended to "catch" them.  A disastrous fitting for hard contact lenses - the only kind available at the time for people with astigmatism - yeah because I needed that additional issue - meant no Varsity sports for me.  I actually spent HS and College labeling myself as un-athletic, until I moved to LA and tried different sports and found that I am indeed a very athletic person, I was just playing and participating in the wrong kinds, and then once I discovered Yoga, my balance issues worked themselves out as well.  I am  still pretty athletic, just no sports with balls flying to my head that I need to catch. Still a problem.

In my 20's and 30's I kinda got into my glasses, as the right frames were chic.  So, I became a frame whore.  I have always had a thing for designer eyewear.  I actually just dug through my box of glasses that I could find and came up with the photo below.

Yup.  Burberry, Gucci, Coach, Kate Spade, Versace, Prada, Marc Jacobs, Ted Baker etc..and these are just the ones I can find!  I know I have glasses floating around boxes in storage and purses.  It's terrible, but in my defense I came by it genetically.  When my Gram passed a little over a year ago we found a ridiculous amount of frames from all different era;'s! Vintage!  There are worse addictions to have. I think I have more glasses and sunglasses then shoes!  But I take care of them and someday will have amassed a grand collection of what will then be vintage frames for my niece to play with.

Ok so what is the point now you may be asking, if you have read this far.  Well, age and my wonky eye are getting the better of me. And it sucks

A few weeks ago I started having these incidences where while trying to read my iPhone, or a magazine etc my vision would blur out, badly.  I started wearing my glasses more, even though after wearing them all day at work I would have a monster headache by 4pm daily.  The blurring problem, kept happening, then it started happening when I was looking at - well life.  Anything around me. I had gotten used to having a slightly softened, blurry around the edges view of the world, not that bad really.  Listen some things, you just don't WANT to see all that clearly.  I could totally relate to a recent rerun of Will and Grace the other morning, when Karen puts on glasses can see for the first time and freaks out screaming about the "devil lenses" Jack made her put on after looking in the mirror.  Who needs that? Soft and fuzzy but able to see was working out great, well except for the headaches.

I was actually pretty lucky, I could see well enough to drive (for the most part), see around me, read for short periods of time, at least I could read instructions, and my iPhone etc.  I got used to my eyes being tired at night and the blurring that would happen when I tried to read a magazine in the tub.  Ok now that I think about it the blurring HAD in fact been happening for about a year - but at times that made sense to me.  Not walking out on my porch and tripping because I could't see something on the ground in front of me. I started to get freaked and my migraines were worse so even without insurance, the mother shipped me off to her eye doctor last week. Thank. GOD!

Dr. Jason Schwartz in Fort Lauderdale is AWESOME!  Understanding, sympathetic (not expensive) and was BAFFLED It had taken me so long to come in!  As it turns out the human brain can supposedly only take the strain of a 2.5% (whatever they use to measure) difference in the eyes.  Most people have trouble with both eyes and their prescriptions balance them out.  My trouble is only in my Right eye - and he said the difference between my 2 eyes?


Yeah I'm not a Dr. but mother has married enough of them for me to know to say "um, thats bad right?" His response, "yes, that's pretty bad". Oh and bonus, my right eye has now progressed so badly, new glasses could sorta maybe help my vision, but most likely won't help my headaches, blurriness and other things that could start happening as my brain says "ENOUGH girl!  Can't do it anymore!  Do we need to have you start walking into walls and doors you can't see for you to get it?" It was getting there and fast.

Good news is - magical Lasik can fix it! Bad news, did I mention the no insurance thing? Ok, next step - he thought contacts may be able to offer me some help in the meantime.  I said "Great, lets pop those babies in!"  His response 'Oh no with your eye issue we need to special order, we don't keep them in stock, we don't see your particular problem very often". This being the retirement capital of the world and they don't see my eye problem often?  Spectacular.

So today was the day!  All excited I went in to try my new lenses.  Cut to 2 hours, 5 different types and prescriptions, (he went to stock when the "special" ones were driving me batshit) and my eyes feeling like I was in a fight or have been crying for 4 days, and guess what?

I still can't see.

In fact its worse, sorta. I just stood up and looked across the room at the mirror I could normally see myself perfectly (softly) well in.  Nope.  Just a blurry mess.

 It appears I have 2 options.  Contacts that will allow me to read easier (iPhone, iPad, Computer etc) or ones where i can see distance.  I chose reading and have discovered the following:

1. I can't see very well when I drive anymore - which makes me fit right into a certain demographic of shitty drivers in Florida.
2. I can't see very well just walking around.  My vision needs to "focus" for a micro second - enough time to make me slightly dizzy.
3. I can't read small print, like for example the writing on my new contacts solution bottle which gives the directions for use.  Yeah - helpful.  I can read it WITHOUT my new contacts - but not with them in because THAT makes sense.
4. I am actually having trouble reading this as I type it.

So far this experiment is not working and I keep reaching for my glasses only to remember the blinding almost seizure result from when I put them on while wearing these lenses.   I tried to go back to proofread this blog my eyes hurt so much it's not worth it, so it is what it is.

Next week we try the ones where I can see in life but not so well to read.

I can't wait.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Is the year REALLY half over already?

June.  The halfway mark for the year.  How is it possible?  Wasn't it January just a few weeks ago? Time is brutal. 

Just ask the crows feet around my eyes and the grey hairs on my head.

I wanted to post about this right after the trip like a normal person but today will work.  Especially when I SHOULD be packing for the big move tomorrow.

Procrastination is a very misunderstood and undervalued talent.

6 months ago while recovering from a very mellow New Years mellow in fact I have no memory of what I actually did. Probably just went to bed after watching the fireworks from mom's balcony - that sounds about right.

What I do remember is excitedly getting ready to travel outside of the country, for the first time in several years.  People who know me understand why this was such a huge deal. It had been over 3 years since I had left the country, something I used to do multiple times a year.  I was jones-ing in a bad way for a stamp in my brand new and pathetically empty passport.  Yes turning 40 meant a brand new passport and it looked far to shiny, new and lonely without stamps and visa's from other countries. My old one was 2/3 full  and I am optimistic in the next 10 years I can do the same or more to this one.

Meanwhile this virgin passport was headed to Nicaragua.

I was thrilled to be invited on this incredible trip.  My roommate from college Betsy decided to organize a trip there for HER 40th birthday, 1 month after mine and I was flying to meet her, the 2 Heathers (the other half of the "fearsome foursome" (don't ask) and about 24 of Betsy's closest friends and family.

I could write and write and write about the trip, but I think it is better shown photographically with a brief summary.

Great food & drinks, old friends, new friends, sun, heat, pool time, exploring, lakes, mountains, buses, horse drawn carriages, boats, roofs of busses, monkey's, bats, mean ducks, volcanos, tunnels, adventure, hiking, volcano surfing, dancing and more drinking.

Almost there!
Here are just a few of my favorites, in no particular order - actually completely and ridiculously out of order. You can check out more on an album on my Facebook Photography Page if you are so inclined.

Just hoping I get to go on another adventure during the second half of 2013!

Choices Choices

The Fearsome Foursome still going at 40 and Fabulous!

This is just a given

Thanks to our hosts this was home for the week

Private Island - oh ok.



Hike to the top and then surf down?  Ummmm Ok.

Close to the top now as the sun starts to set

Yup. Volcano Surfing.  We did that.

Sunset Post Surf

Our lodgings were an oasis 

My new friend

Sunset on Lake Granada

Volcano Gasses

Happy Birthday Girl!

My Favorite spot

Mean Ducks
Seeing the photos makes me want to go back! I miss everything! 

Well except the mean ducks.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Social Media Meltdown

Did you know that experts say anyone can be found via social media in 12 hours?

Frightening maybe - but for me I don't think it's true. You would be more likely to find me before you finish typing my name in the Goggle search bar. 

And it's all my own fault.

I don't know what's scarier. This image, the fact that 2 more on page 2 are also me, or that there are SO MANY Amanda Dugan's out there in the world. 

(in case you were wondering 4 of these are me plus 2 more on the bottom I couldn't fit in the screen shot) 

I have mixed feelings about this. 

On one hand this is the way of the world now.  Then of course there is the fact that I am guilty of putting myself out there and I mean REALLY out there into the social media stratosphere which in and of itself is a strange place. It's like a weird popularity contest in the middle of a never ending massive networking event where the cheese is stale and the wine is cheap and served in small plastic tumblers. But don't forget to "check in"!

On the other hand the more visible I get as I gain coveted followers, fans and likes makes me feel victorious..... which is unsettling when I think about it.  

It also means if I ever committed a crime I would have to go hide in a jungle in Nicaragua.  

Of course they have the internet there.  They live in houses with mud floors and corrugated tin sheet walls but they have satellite dishes. 

So currently  I have the following accounts: (Facebook proper is a given)

This little owl? Well he represents my newest one - Hootsuite which is a tool that helps me organize all of these accounts - which was getting increasingly difficult.

AND - lest we forget my job requires me to Tweet, update our company Facebook  monitor our LinkedIn page and Group and of course stay in touch with journalists and be in the know for what's #trending.

Between my work world and my personal life I feel I am on one social media network or another - and thanks to Hootsuite multiple ones at one time - for probably a significant portion of my waking hours.

Oh - and I am a "member" on The Huffington Post, make comments, have followers etc.

The thing is I spend so much of my time writing in 140 to 225 characters complete with the ever present #hashtag that I realize I never take the time to actually WRITE anymore.  Like a journal entry, a blog, a story. Although the length regulations has helped me get my point across in a more expedient manor instead of rambling on and on and getting side tracked in what I am trying to say on paper....wait where was I going with this?

So now I write in soundbites with hashtags.  

My love of photography is strong which is probably why half of my social networks are visually based (my website, Tumblr, Pinterest, my FB page), but only eclipses my love of writing by a small margin.

I studied communications.  I am a Public Relations Director and Social Media Marketer.  I was always the "chatty" one in grade school and high school.  I was very vocal in college.  Maybe it's something that is just inherently a part of communicate.

I just need to get back into practice of writing more then 140 characters. 

So my goal  is to write more, tell more stories, share more experiences both visually and with the pen, or keyboard as it were.  Of course I realize that the more I share, well the more impossible it will be for me to #flyundertheradar or "go off the grid". 

Oh well it's obviously to late to turn back now. I mean even when I was in Nicaragua I posted pictures to my Facebook.  It's a hard habit to break, and of course everyone else was doing it too.

So more real writing. More photography. More internet visibility.  Maybe when I Google my name in the future the whole first page - or at least first 5 hits will be about me. I just hope it's not  for anything bad......

In the meantime I wish the '#' symbol didn't take 3 clicks to get to on the iPhone keyboard it makes it more difficult to tweet.  #FirstWorldProblems

Hey #Apple could you do something about that?

Oh, and of course....don't forget to follow me! :-)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Newsfeed went RED, did yours?

Hotbed subject of the week.  The supreme court and marriage equality.

Even Yoda and Grumpy Cat are making their opinions known.

In the past 24 hours I have watched friend after friend (myself included) change their profile photo to one that depicts their support of marriage equality, regardless of the individuals sexual orientation.  I think over 100 of my friends and counting have done it.  Yes I went through my friend list a little while ago and counted - I am keeping an eye on you!

Some of them are so creative I had to share.

 This one is just nice

Even Grumpy Cat got into the action (media slut - ha ha)

 Everyone believes in bacon

 My personal favorite and my profile picture which comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me!

The original one that started it all
I posted this article from Mashable about big Brands that are giving a shout out for Marriage Equality on their Social Media channels in my LinkedIn Group asking people if they think that its a true show of support or if they are capitalizing on the publicity.  You can join the commentary by joining  TV Brand Integration on LinkedIn if you are so inclined.
Finally, my daily MuckRack newsletter came in and posed a question that really made me pause and think about the way our media has and continues to change.  I decided to answer it publicly (sent it to MuckRack as well)
In answer to:  What do you think of journalists changing their profile photos in support of a cause? Should they refrain to remain objective? Or does Social Media level the playing field on opinions?
Journalists reporting the news are supposed to be objective, unbiased and temper their own opinion; but the reality is that is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Even without expressing their opinion on a subject matter, there are so many instances where it is apparent which way the writer (or the publication) leans on an issue.  It is easy to report objective facts selectively that give a hint to the authors true feelings without out and out saying it. 
“It was every day implied but never declared” – Jane Austen
However journalists are people. Humans.  Individuals who can be and very often are directly affected in one way or another by a political hotbed issue such as Health Care or Marriage Equality.  Everyone has a right to their opinions, Freedom of the Press / Media ensures that for Journalists. Social Media may have changed the way we receive our news, but not the basic rights of the people reporting it.
In the end it is the journalists right to make the decision as to whether or not they want to take a stand publicly on an issue or not.  Regardless if they do or don’t they have their opinion and more than likely we will read about it...
even if it’s hidden between the lines.
It's something to think about. Are you making your opinions known publicly or keeping them to yourself?  Feel free to tweet me with a response @PRShutterbug
Obvious my opinion is.

Update 3/28/2013

MuckRack Daily chose and published my (edited) response.
Which is cool with me - I've always needed a good editor.....


Friday, March 1, 2013

Go West My Girl, Go West

2 years, 296 days and 2 1/2 hours ago I pulled my highlander away from the curb in front of my house in Venice Ca to head east on the 10.  But who's counting?

Yesterday afternoon, my plane skimmed over Sepulveda right before it hit the tarmac at LAX with the big blue pacific in view ahead of me and my eyes filled up with tears.....of joy.   I was born and raised in Philly and Jersey,  spent 4 amazing years in New England, and half of my family and loved ones live with me in Florida - so those places should be home.  And they are, in a sense.  There are many things I love and miss about all of those places.  However, on an early morning walk down the hill to the pier this morning, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf coffee in hand, the pacific ahead of me, the sun shining on me face while I was bundled up against the crisp cold morning I can't deny the truth that tugged at my very soul.

I. Am. Home.

Mountains.  How I have missed them!

My host Nick.  Missed him so!

Just a beautiful Southern California Morning

Waves!  Surf-able Waves!

This is how to start a morning.  Hello Surfer boys!

This is just the beginning.  I have days of reconnecting with friends, my old home and if I can get ahold of a wet suit and a long board - the Pacific.

I'm back where I belong.