Best Place to Learn How to Make a Bike-Tube Wallet

Bike Saviours Co-op

Ye Olde Bike Saviours
Benjamin Leatherman

This teeny-tiny bike cooperative that doubles as a performance venue for hyperactive punk and high-octane rock is open for business only on Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons, but it definitely makes its working hours count. The nonprofit hosts workshops such as "Fix-a-Flat," "Build-a-Bike," and our favorite, "How to Make a Bike Tube Wallet." Bring three bike tubes, dental floss, sewing needles, scissors, and about two hours of your time and Miss Alissa will demonstrate how to stitch together, decorate, and create a functional billfold — with credit card holders and everything. She also leads a slightly more complicated, but equally fun, bike tube handbag class.

Blissful Living Studio

Want to get crafty but don't have the motivation to find a project, buy the materials and clear off a corner of the dining room table as a workspace? Then get yourself to Blissful Living Studio, where the shabby-chic folks who brought us the wonderful home furnishings shop Domestic Bliss are now offering affordable one-day classes on everything from sewing to beading to "dressing for success."

The Domestic Bliss-ers always seem to hit the right note. No matter if they are downsizing or expanding, they appear to do so seamlessly and with the same grace and charm that is the signature of their shops. The adjacent space to the main boutique (which used to house the kiddy shop Baby Bliss) has been transformed to a trendy, bright and cozy craft studio hosting classes and serving up inspiration. (Don't worry, Baby Bliss has effortlessly been transitioned into a bright corner of the main boutique.)

You can't help but feel the creative juices start to flow, just walking in the door. Some classes even include a boxed lunch. You can make your own dessert, so to speak — warm, stimulating and cheerful, we can't think of a better place to learn how to make a felted cupcake than Blissful Living Studio.

For a soap or candle handcrafter in Arizona, this event is like Christmas morning. Organized by a local group of soap makers, the daylong event is the place to network your small business, learn a new skill or purchase supplies.

But we'll admit it: The best part is the free goodies.

For a $55 entrance fee, "soapers" enjoy a day of hands-on demonstrations, door prizes and a product swap, featuring a contest for best in show. Presentations range from tax solutions to essential oils. And lunch is even included!

This year, we learned how to make an aromatherapy cupcake bath bomb, a kids' soap necklace, rose face cream, and a soy candle. Best of all, we brought it all home. You won't see us out of the bathtub 'til next year's event, held each June.

In the market for a new stereo system? A piece of luggage? A skateboard? The folks at Local First Arizona/Arizona Chain Reaction — we call 'em "Yes in My Back Yardies" — are as passionate about your buying it from an indie AZ dealer as a NIMBY would be about a pile of radioactive sludge backing up in the kitchen sink. The group of like-minded businesses banded together in 2003 to combat the negative influence of chains and other insidious outsiders, both aesthetic and fiscal. (According to the Local First site, 45 cents of every dollar spent at an indie stays in Arizona; it's only 13 cents on the dollar at a national chain.) Local First fights the good fight on two fronts: localfirstaz.com, which is chock-full of groovy indie info and a virtual shopping mall, and the bi-annual festival named Certified Local!

These activist fairs are glorious mishmashes of mismatched products and services. At a representative version from 2007, some of the vendors who were on hand to sell you stuff and wheedle your future business included the restaurant named Green, Community Tire, Fairytale Brownies, and Hickman's Egg Ranch (which supplied a giant chicken man). There were also kids' activities, a beer and wine garden, a game station, and live music — local, of course. It was a modest, utterly charming affair. We're guessing you'll think so, too, and take a solemn oath to buy local. Then you'll get back in your SUV and . . .

Sigh. Guess that's why we have YIMBYs.

The humoring smile and pat on the shoulder. Some feigned interest and then a fake phone number. An 'I've-got-to-go-to-the-bathroom' ditch out. These are just three of the seemingly countless rejection methods you've been dealt from top-shelf hotties as an AFC (average frustrated chump). You need some confidence, bro — and how — but don't have the foggiest idea of how to get it. Instead of re-watching Hitch for the thousandth time, we recommend an extended consultation with the love gurus of the Web site Arizona Pick-Up Artist. Such master PUAs from around the Valley as J-Dog have assembled a wealth of free articles and information loaded with advice and methods on how to better your chances at possibly meeting, approaching, and (presuming you know your stuff) landing some HBs (that's hot babes).

The site also has the lowdown on upcoming seminars (or "boot camps"), as well as links to books, audio files, and other resources you'll have to pay for. Popularized in the VH-1 show The Pickup Artist and books like Neil Strauss' The Game, much of the advice is based on a mix of social psychology, self-help, and other techniques. There's also a Web message board, where other seduction specialists can share their secrets on what to wear, which bars to hit, and whom to approach. Results may vary, but if you study hard, young Padawan, it might mean avoiding another night spent logging onto RedTube.

Rawhide Event Center

Rawhide has moved from north Scottsdale to, well, the middle of nowhere. The new Rawhide in Chandler is almost halfway to Maricopa City. But the ol' Western town still has some of its magic, particularly around Halloween. Admission into Rawhide's Halloween Doomtown is free. Come October, you'll find a headless horseman on a black stallion and a number of emaciated zombies roaming the ghost town's streets. Given the middle-of-nowhere context and the soulless stares of the actors, Doomtown can be a bit creepy.

Better yet is "The Crypt" haunted house ($12), which serves up a pretty decent jolt. Adults can take kids into "The Crypt," though that's not recommended. It's that scary. The Train of Terror and Doomtown's zombie-infested streets are more suitable for children.

Rawhide advertises Doomtown as "kid friendly," but some parents don't see the optional live shows fitting that description, particularly the "Dr. Mortimer Morbius" show. Dr. Morbius speaks with a thick German accent as he straps actors to a table, where he removes bleeding organs with pliers and tools. Good clean fun, right?

If you'd ask us to compile our top 10 films of all time, without a doubt you'd find Ghostbusters ranking high on the list. We absolutely love the 1984 supernatural comedy. Love it to death. So much so that we've got the entire screenplay memorized by heart ("Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together . . . mass hysteria!") from endless replays of our VHS and DVD copies (the Blu-ray version is on pre-order). But as passionate as we are for the exploits of Dr. Peter Venkman and company, we nowhere near match the obsession of the members of the Arizona Ghostbusters.

Ten super-freak geeks make up the crew of faux phantom-chasers and have spent countless hours faithfully re-creating the costumes and equipment worn by the wisecracking paranormal investigators in the blockbuster film. (They even bought a 1972 Pontiac Bonneville ambulance to use as the Ectomobile.) Though they probably won't be chasing down the ghost of George W.P. Hunt or Winnie Ruth Judd anytime soon (their gear is just for show), the Arizona Ghostbusters have been a big hit at sci-fi conventions, comic book events, and charity events around the Valley. "Mother pus-bucket!"

Historic Heritage Square

Bet you've never gone to a Hindu wedding, let alone even been invited to one since Phoenix seems light years away from India. But you'll get a chance to witness almost the real thing at the annual Diwali Festival of Lights, put on by the India Association of Phoenix and its sister organizations, which are too numerous to list here.

Last year, the festival celebrating Diwali, a major fall holiday in India and Nepal, celebrated its sixth anniversary, and it seems to get bigger, grander, and more colorful every year. One of the festival's highlights was a fascinating reproduction of both an Oriya wedding ceremony (traditionally held along India's eastern coast, in the state of Orissa) and nuptial rites from Bihar, a state in India's northeast. During both, a narrator gives a play-by-play of connubial rituals as you ogle a make-believe bride and groom, who are decked out in over-the-top gorgeous Hindu wedding finery that we'd love to wear to work sometime. Mercifully, the ceremonies do not last four or five days, as they usually do in India.

If weddings aren't your thing, the festival has plenty of classical Indian dance performances, yoga demonstrations, astrology and Ayurvedic medicine lectures, and Indian cooking demos to keep you busy. Not to mention, you can get your chakras aligned. After last year's wedding performance, we systematically grazed at each one of the festival's food booths, in between which we snapped photos of Miss India Arizona and shopped for Indian arts, crafts, clothing, and jewelry.

Diversity for many Valley teens means going to a mall and watching the world walk by. But some kids are lucky enough to escape town for the summer. Some ambitious adolescents will go far.

In 1972, Phoenix joined the Sister City movement and hooked up with Hermosillo, Mexico. Since then, Phoenix has linked with nine cities from China to the Czech Republic. Here's where your kid comes in: Teens in their sophomore or junior years of high school can apply for a spot in a Sister Cities program that will allow them to live with a host family in a faraway land for three weeks.

In turn, you later host a teenager from another land. Sister Cities pays for half of the travel expenses, though further financial assistance is available. Scottsdale, Mesa, Gilbert, Peoria, Queen Creek, and Tempe have similar and equally successful programs. (Check your city's Web site for details.) Both parent and child will be shouting, 'Free, free at last!' — for at least three weeks.

Phoenix poet, knitter, artist, and yogini hipster Julie Hampton just can't take no for an answer. When a counselor at the Small Business Administration told her she was crazy to think she could buy a rustic medieval house in Italy and turn it into a vacation home/retreat, she ignored his small-mindedness and found a way to do just that. This three-bedroom, two-bath faraway dream turned reality — she calls it the Rosenclaire House — is yours to rent by the week, the month, whatever. It sleeps six and sits atop a tiny northern Tuscan village of Vitiana just waiting for you to prepare regional slow fare in its kitchen (never cooked in a kitchen with a hearth?), write your novel, or perform sun salutes in the upstairs loft with its breathtaking (we know it's cliché, but there's really no better word) view of Vitiana and Tuscany's chestnut-forested Garfagnana region below.

You think you've eaten fresh eggs, real cheese, and tomatoes as Zeus intended them? Here in Phoenix? Yeah, Chris Bianco's good, but he's not the village farmer trudging up the cobblestone path with a bucket of wholesome freshness. We can't figure out just what it is that makes the food so delicious, the sleep so deep, the sun so warm (in a good way), and we sure as hell can't figure out how to get it back here to the Valley. Leave leaning towers and naked statues to the tourists. Vitiana is the real dolce vita.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of