Best Reason To Relax And Enjoy Your Vacation

Angel Pet Nanny

We love to travel, but leaving behind our menagerie (four cats and an obstreperous Dalmatian) can make for tough times away. Or it used to, anyway, before we discovered Angel Pet Nanny. These bonded, insured, animal-loving pet sitters come to call as many times a day as you like while you're off traipsing, and nothing -- not even a doggy diaper or a bathtub full of baby alligators -- will scare them away. Proprietors Ginger and Lori will keep the company of most any kind of four-legged pet, and will spend at least 45 minutes per visit combing, petting, walking and bathing it. They'll also take in your mail, water your plants or scoop out the cat box -- all at no extra charge. They leave behind a meticulously detailed journal (a nanny diary, if you will) of your pet's every move and, if you want, will call you every day or leave you a daily voice mail update on your pet's well-being. We never leave home for more than a day without them.

If you love something, set it free; if it doesn't come back, hunt it down and have it stuffed at Ron's Taxidermy Studio. In the Valley for 20 years, Ron Cowper is a state and federally licensed master taxidermist with more than 30 years' experience. At Ron's, all work is guaranteed for life -- or for the remainder of death -- and his habitat scenes will make your kill look serene or ferocious (depending on the mood) while hanging on your mantelpiece or sitting next to your bed. Prices range from $150 for a fox half-mount to $3,500 for a life-size moose. But Ron's not limited to big game. So bring in your weasels, badgers, ducks, quails, fish, snakes and sparrows, and he'll make a trophy of what the cat dragged in. And yes, he can even make the famous jackalope. A word of warning: Never cut a deer's throat if you want the head mounted and, if possible, bring in your heads no more than two days after death.

Best Place To Find Jesus For Under 10 Bucks

Autom

The Autom store is not only a great place to stock up on anointing oil, monastery incense, rosaries and crucifixes, but smart shoppers find the real bargains with proper direction. What Would Jesus Do? He'd bypass the shelves bursting with virgins and saints and head to the back of the store. There, a cart holds large brown paper grab bags, for $3 each, and announces that 5 percent of the bags contain cash. On a recent purchase, we got lucky for a buck, as well as inundated with almost enough Jesus merchandise to redeem the entire staff. While we were purchasing the Jesus Playing Soccer figurine, the clerk accidentally broke Jesus from the porcelain playing field. This broken Jesus would be repaired, then sent to the way-back, we were told, the secret Jesus outlet portion of Autom cluttered with a hodgepodge of holiness at rock-bottom prices.
Bead Museum
Before visiting this "permanent safe haven for beads," our knowledge of beads was limited to two facts: 1) beads have holes in them; and 2) beads are easy to lose. We had no idea that an entire subculture is devoted to promoting the "appreciation of the historical and cultural significance of beads . . . from ancient, ethnic and contemporary cultures by means of collection, documentation, preservation and display."

Let there be no doubt: These people take their beads seriously. Exhibits include "The Shape of Beads to Come," "Learning Bead Lingo," and the undoubtedly divisive "Common Bead Names and Misnomers," while the museum's calendar features appearances by guest artists and an extensive array of classes and workshops. Almost 50 courses are offered this fall alone, ranging from the introductory "Basic Beading" to the advanced "Wedding Series," in which the expert beadhead crafts a necklace, earrings and headband to wear at her own wedding.

And the bead goes on. . . . The museum store is a truly international experience, peddling Chinese glass beads, Japanese seed beads, handmade Peruvian animal beads, German glass beads, Czech seed beads and Navajo-made jewelry.

Okay, so they're not exactly weeds, but master gardeners we are not. Outside the Glendale Main Library, nearly 1,000 different plant varieties grow on four acres. This collection of rare and unusual flora focuses on native and adapted plants that can be used in xeriscape design, including 600 varieties of low-water-use plants. The shrubs, trees, cactuses and sprouts are sectioned into handy categories, such as Cacti of Mexico and South America, Agaves of North and Central America, Berry Walk, and Medicinal Garden. (Suggestion: Add a "smokables" section.) Next to each plant is a sign listing its number, common name and scientific name -- sometimes even a book title for further reference.

As well-organized as this garden may be, some of these plants are practically begging for further categorization. Such as? 007's favorite plant: goldeneye. Plant that most sounds like a recreational drug: euphorbia. Plant most likely to sign for $252 million: Texas ranger. You get the idea.

Gifts Anon carries merchandise for every incarnation of the anonymously recovered, from sparkly "NO CAINE NO PAIN" bumper stickers to kids' books. Look especially for Gangs and Drugs from the "Tookie Speaks Out Against Violence" series -- Tookie being Stanley "Tookie" Williams, co-founder of the Crips, who currently sits on death row, writing children's books in which he introduces the young to terms like "sherm" (PCP), "weed" (marijuana), "slinging drugs" and the dangers of "set-tripping." Self-help books in English and Spanish line the shelves, and behind the counter are coins for every anniversary (beginning with 24 hours) as well as videos such as Rush, 28 Days and Groundhog Day.

Also, with each purchase you are allowed to pull a "positive thought" from a fishbowl by the cash register.

Our monthly visit to cranky Aunt Betty on the west side always necessitated a calming visit to one of the better day spas in the tonier part of town. That is, until we discovered Savant, a full-service salon with all the comforts provided by better-known beauty stops. Now we save ourselves a drive to Scottsdale by dropping in at Savant's new 2,400-square-foot west-side digs (they've been teasing and curling and toning for 15 years), where we're given the full spa treatment and released, fully recovered from Auntie's sour attitude and prune Danish. We get a haircut, a massage and a manicure, and if we wanted to, we could also get a dye job, a pedicure, and a waxing. Savant's long list of treatments includes facials, glycolic peels, scalp treatments and expert makeup consultations. We're tempted to look into aroma wraps and salt rubs, and we may yet. Because even though Aunt Betty is gone now, we're still making monthly visits to Savant.

SAS Fabric by the Pound
Few things excite us like the phrase "by the pound." Imagine walls of fabric -- piles and shelves of it -- everything from leather to lamé, stacked, hung and rolled into every nook and cranny of SAS's orderless shelves, sans any recognizable categorical system. True, you can't go in looking for something specific unless you have three hours to search every shelf, but if you're a crafty type looking for inspiration for your next project, just walk into SAS and you will be instantly transformed into the most creative person you know. Besides the fabric at rock-bottom prices, they have buttons by the cupful that are older than your mom, as well as scraps, trim, notions, ersatz jewels and our favorite: the famous aisle of grommets. SAS is a costumer's delight, a craftmaker's paradise, a stitcher's wet dream . . . but a warning: It also can be an OCD sufferer's version of the seventh level of hell.
Sharing a block with a Mexican restaurant and a row of showrooms shilling Southwestern furniture, it sits there like the visiting bumpkin cousin at Christmas dinner. Maybe it doesn't fit in, but we have to count it as one of our own. Big Red of the Desert is a place of safekeeping, a source of succor, for a very specific set of people in the Valley -- misplaced Nebraskans. Inside, you'll find all manner of material devoted to the NCAA's perpetual naturals, the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers.

You heard right. All they sell is Huskers gear: sweat shirts, jogging pants and every possible riff on the tee shirt, from tank top to toddler size. Collapsible tailgate chairs are in long supply, too, and so are Husker stickers, license plates and foam beer can coolers. Why do they call the team "Big Red"? Because it beats the shit out of "Cornhuskers." But more important, why is this store here, in a city known not for football but for its sunny climes? Well, if you've ever been to Nebraska, you might understand that it's an even trade.

Since the deregulation of the taxi business, the streets of south Scottsdale, Mesa and central Phoenix have been filled with colorful taxis bearing Spanish names and plastered with advertising for everything from Food City to chiropractic doctors. And Mayas Radio Taxis are one of the first and largest squads on the streets. Their cars are clean, colorful and come in a bunch of sizes, all bearing the large Aztec pyramid logo. Flag one down and you get more than a lift; you get a guide. Hop in and ask the Spanish-speaking driver to take you to the best local eatery or dance club. They seem to know everything! Their rates are $5 minimum and $1.25 per mile thereafter. And unlike their counterparts in Mexico, these taxis, for the most part, obey traffic laws.

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