Home, Sweet Someone Else's Home
I've had several people ask me how I can stand living with my parents for so long. There are several reasons, chief among them being the low cost of rent (yes, I do actually pay rent). But the secret I don't tell them is that I actually don't live with my parents. I just use their house for storage.

In the past 2 and a half months, I've lived in 6 different houses; I've slept in someone else's bed for 33 nights of the past 72 days. Such is the life of a perpetual housesitter. In the calendar below, the blue lines are the housesitting jobs I've had this month. I have two jobs lined up for August, and two more in October.

I'm thinking of making business cards advertising my ability to pick up mail, put out trash and walk the dogs. I have even been specially trained to administer insulin shots to cats! In the meantime though, let me offer some tips to those of you who might be seeking such services.

1. It is helpful, but not necessary to give me info for how to either A) tap into your wireless Internet access, or B) sign into your desktop.

2. Thank you for showing me how to use basic appliances like the coffee pot, grill, convection oven, etc.

3. Speaking of food, please keep some good grub in your fridge or pantry. If you plan on cleaning out the fridge before you leave, please include a small stipend in the check to allow for grocery shopping. A girl has to eat and if I have to stock up on coffee, frozen dinners and salad dressing because you have no edible food in your kitchen, it's going to make me think twice about whether or not it's worth it to add 20 minutes to my commute to watch your house and pets. On the other hand, if you're kind enough to stock my favorite cereal and a fresh gallon of milk, I'll stand post as your personal sentinel anytime.

4. Please, please, please explain in detail how the alarm system works. It's not fun having to explain myself to the Brinks Home Security people.

5. Thanks for warning me about the stuffed animal you have quite correctly named "Hump Bear" that the dogs love. And I mean love.

6. If you have a Sleep Number bed, an in-ground trampoline and live 5 minutes from my work, I will try to convince you to go on more vacations. An in-ground trampoline, people! That's freaking awesome. Not to mention that the 5-minute commute lets me run "home" for lunch to float on a raft in the pool.


Talk of the town
In case you're dying to know what everyone's talking about in this here Valley of the Sun, let me give you a quick rundown:

- The weather. When are we not talking about the heat?

- The serial killers. Don't worry friends, last time I checked I was still alive.

- And of course, the matter of most vital import: Steve Nash's shorn locks. (Please don't let it be a Samson and Delilah-type story. Please!)

They know me. They really know me.
iDiscovered the new iTunes "Just For You" Beta program today. It takes stock of any songs I have purchased from the iTunes store and then recommends songs or albums based on my history, the same way Amazon tracks what you buy and makes suggestions based on your past purchases. It's fantastic; it's going to help me determine which albums I need to buy next from Zia Records (they're cheaper, they're local, and I get the album art then). This is going to save me hours of indecisively holding up two albums and trying to figure out which one I need more urgently. Here's what Just For You has told me today:

- You own Yanke Hotel Foxtrot. We recommend Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens and Our Endless Numbered Days by Iron and Wine

- You own Transatlanticism. We recommend Silent Alarm by Bloc Party.

- You own Songs for Silverman. We recommend Ganging Up on the Sun by Guster.

- You own Dear Catastrophe Waitress. We recommend XO by Elliott Smith.

- You own The Photo Album. We recommend More Adventurous by Rilo Kiley.

All of these are albums that I've had the suspicion that I need to own. iTunes has somehow gotten inside my brain and has filtered out the wheat from my proverbial chaff.


Sunset and Soon Forgotten
Or, I've been listening to my "Sources Say: Good Songs From Good Friends" playlist for too long

I'm sick of missing my friends. But I'm mostly sick of feeling like I'm the only one who hasn't moved on. Growing up is a bitch.

Comic Relief
Or, I'm sorry, Jana, I just couldn't hold it in much longer

So Jana's boyfriend's last name is Caulk, poor guy. But he's a big boy (Caulk) and can handle himself. (I know, too easy). The people you should feel sorry for, though, are the two Polish sisters who married his brothers. (Yeah not exactly normal. Sometimes I worry about Jana.) Their names -- no joke -- are Anita Maya and Iwona (pronounced "Ivana"). Anita Maya Caulk and Iwona Caulk. Can you imagine being in the doctor's office when either of them is called back? Or being the teacher who has to call the mother to tell her that her little Caulk is acting up in class? And Megan was worried about not being able to name her children Jaun Tidd, Anna Mae Tidd, Mel Tidd, etc.


100 Days of Solitude
Or, Journey to the Center of My Soul

About this time next year I will be heading back to London for the third time, but the adventures won't end there. Back in April I gave my two weeks' notice at work...about 14 months early. Probably not the wisest career move, and not one that I'd necessarily recommend, but I don't do well with hiding big secrets. And there's no way I could keep from talking about my plans.

Oooh....my plans. I'm very excited about my plans. Of course they're subject to change based on funds, world events, whims, etc. But here's what we're looking at for now:

July 6-ish: Fly to Jacksonville to visit the inimitable Pat.
July 8-ish: Take an over-night Amtrak train to D.C. with Pat. (The two of us will put on our best Bonny and Clyde impressions without the whole bank-robbing thing. Or maybe we'll take on the roles of Thelma and Louise without the whole driving over a cliff part.)
July 9-ish: Arrive early morning. Hang out with Jason and Kate.
July 11-ish: Non-stop flight to London. My dad's choir arrives the next day for their UK tour. I'll do the groupie thing a bit and the hang out with Megan thing a bit.
July 18-ish: Ally arrives in London-Town and we do the sister thing a bit.
July 20-ish: Ally and I head to Ireland where we'll tour the countryside and eventually meet up with the choir to see them perform in Dublin and Shannon.
July 26-ish: The Brooks Bunch heads to Austria (via Munich?) for a week-ish. Much Sound of Music soundtrack singing will ensue.
Aug. 4-ish: I send the rest of the fam on their merry way back to the States and head out to explore Europe. Destinations have yet to be decided but will definitely include Prague, Berlin, Munich and Brussels. May include Copenhagen, Budapest, somewhere/anywhere in Switzerland, a small French village, Sweeden, Finland and Norway.
Sept. 1-ish: Take an Easy Cruise from Brussels to Amsterdam.
Sept. 5-ish: Fly to Hanoi. Tour through Vietnam and Cambodia.
Sept. 23-ish: Stop in Bangkok for a few days. Take a "beach break" on a nearby island.
Sept. 29-ish: Tour through Thailand and Malaysia.
Oct. 14-ish: End in Singapore.
Oct. 15-ish: Fly to San Fransisco. Check out Mamu and Granddaddy's new digs. Try to recover from jet lag.
Oct. 20-ish: Head home. Continue to recover from jet lag. Maybe start the job hunt. If I feel like it. :)

The bulk of this trip will be solo, but I am taking reservations for travel partners for various legs of the trip. Obviously Pat will help me kick off the adventure (appropriately so), and the family will be along for part of the ride in the UK and Austria. But so far I might get the pleasure of company from Betsy somewhere in Europe, and from Emily somewhere/anywhere that fits with her schedule. Wanna join me?



And completely unrelated:

"I want to come back as Gareth's hair gel"
Do you know how happy finding this made me? For the uninitiated: This is Gareth Gates and the Indian-ized Spirit in the Sky I was obsessed with when liviing in London. Go to the place that's the best: YouTube, of course!


5 Things in My Car
1. Two pairs of sunglasses (in case I lose one or leave a pair at work/home/poolside)
2. A giganto map of Phoenix Metro
3. The July issue of Los Angeles Magazine
4. My gas book in which I record the mileage and price of gas each visit to the pump (don't ask, my father made me start one from the moment I started driving at age 14)
5. Spare hair bands.

5 Things in My Fridge
1. Milk. (Yum.)
2. Monterey Jack cheese
3. A few cans of Negra Modelo (Look at me, Mom! I've learned to like beer!)
4. CoffeeMate's Vanilla Cinnamon creamer
5. Raspberry jam

5 Things in My Purse
1. My cell phone ear piece doohicky
2. A Fry's receipt
3. A scrap of paper with Yvette's email address
4. My iPod with the iTrip radio transmitter attached
5. Dental floss

5 Things in My Bathroom Medicine Cabinet
1. Three cases of dental floss (I don't know how I keep collecting these things)
2. Ralph Lauren's Romance perfume
3. Coupons for face wash, moisturizer, contact solution, tampons and body lotion that I keep forgetting to use
4. Lysine supplements (to help fight canker sores - it really works!) and Yin Chiao supplements (to save for the first onset of a cold - it really, really works!)
5. My old upper and lower retainers that I pull out whenever I feel like inflicting pain on myself

5 Things on My Desk at Work
1. A fun coaster for my cup of water
2. A stack of magazines (Esquire, Travel + Leisure, Golf for Women, Boston, New York, Condé Nast Traveler, Pool & Spa Lifestyles, Complex, Cigar Afficianado, Blueprint)
3. Craisins
4. An engraved pica pole from my high school yearbook advisor, Mrs. Wika
5. An exacto knife

5 Things in My Room
1. A picture holder/bulletin board thing that May-gun gave me for my 22 birthday, filled with pictures and postcards (Big Ben on a cloudless day; me and Ellen at the Acropolis; the Flat One girls; me, Meh-gen and Sarah at the lake; J-Dub and Dan outside Shake(y)'s; little Sterling at Yellowstone)
2. A box with a gift that I still have yet to send across the ocean
3. A dog dish containing Jack the Mac's broken display
4. My Tube ID card from 2003
5. A frame displaying the Alpha Chi symphony from my pledge mom.

5 Things in My Gym Bag
1. An old, ratty towel
2. A blue padlock
3. Fun earings from Meh-gen
4. Fly-away-hair-keeper-outer rubber-band thing
5. Socks