After having to abort driving the Smart car across France due to snow in Barcelona (yes, snow in Barcelona) I had to have it shipped over on a transport unit. It arrived last week, slightly dirty, but still looking as cute as ever.

Now onto my issues.

1. The car is left hand drive – and as many of you may be aware of – the folks over here prefer to drive on the wrong side of the road. YES – WRONG and don’t go accusing me of being a “damned American”.

2. I have a not so keen sense of direction. Really. Do I get lost going to the toilet? No. Do I get lost driving from Victoria station to my house in Notting Hill? Yes and seriously.

Maybe it actually isn’t that I have a bad sense of direction. Maybe it has to do with a few factors, such as I have never driven on the other side of the road, my car is left hand drive, I have never paid any attention to where I am going in cabs in London and, finally, the streets in London are wiggity wack funky.

Mmmn, I love assigning blame to everything but my bad sense of direction.

So what is a girl to do?

The first thing that I attempted to do was go and get the car washed. You can only imagine how dirty it was after having been after having driven across hell and high water (or France) to get here.

This task seemed simple enough. Someone told me to go up to Ladbroke Grove, turn right and then go to where it meets Harrow Road and there is a car wash. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Or so it seemed.

I busted out my London A to Z guide and checked the route before heading off.

Did I make it to the car wash? Not a chance. Then on my way home I got completely lost again and ended up taking probably the longest way across Notting Hill that could be imagined.

I had had enough. This was never going to work.

That is when I started investigating satellite GPS systems for the car. And that is when I discovered Tomtom – the affordable and highly rated handheld systems for your car.

I did my usual online research and was having a pickle of a time trying to decipher which unit would suit my needs without going overboard on cost. I immediately ruled out the Tomtom 700 because I really didn’t need detailed maps of all of Europe (the Smart isn’t a fan of long road trips as previously mentioned). This brought me to the Tomtom 500 – which had pretty cool features that included hands free calling via Bluetooth for my mobile phone. This feature seems really cool. It imports your contacts from your phone and allows you to make calls through the Tomtom interface. Sweet, right? The next version I ruled out as well – Tomtom 300 – due to the fact that it didn’t have the handsfree calling. I also pretty much overlooked the Tomtom ONE because of this fact as well.

Then I went onto the forum at mytomtomgo.com and started reading around for complaints or reviews. And that is when I stumbled upon some disturbing posts. People were complaining about the fact that their 700 / 500 / 300’s were having trouble picking up signals in London. That, in fact, the ONE had a new GPS chipset that made the signal work really well without the need for an antennae booster add-on. I became a bit distraught by this news wondering if I should ignore their advice and take a chance or if I should forgo the handsfree feature for the safer bet. I read on. More and more evidence pointed to the fact that the ONE (cheapest model) actually outperformed even the 700 (which is about £200 costlier). People were claiming that they were trading in their 700s for the little guy.

At this point, I decided to go for the Tomtom ONE, with the added bonus that I would save a little money. I found one at PC World in Tottenham Court Road after another drive where I ended up lost thereby sealing the deal and justifying my purchase even furhter. The cost was £249 (including VAT) + I purchased an AC adapter so I could charge it up inside for an additional £19.

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tomtom one

Being the child that I am about new purchases, I promptly tore into my new toy as soon as I walked out of the door of PC World. I jumped in my little green chariot and sat there fiddling and plugging things in (ignoring the quick start guide, of course). Low and behold, in under 5 minutes my little Tomtom was set up and ordering me about.

I have never really used a GPS navigation system before. I have, however, sat in friends cars and listened to them annoy me. But Tomtom isn’t actually annoying. Perhaps that has something to do with my overwhelming gratitude that it got me home pretty quickly without the feeling of panic at being lost.

The Tomtom ONE is surprisingly small and lightweight. The color screen is very clear. The touchtap system works well, although I could see people with larger hands having slight difficulty working it. The voices that are included are pretty dry. My choices were Jane the British bitch or Tim the Loser. I switched throughout the day between them and honestly couldn’t tell you who I preferred. One really cool thing is that you can download new voices and install them – which I have. I now have the official John Cleese voice (quite good if you are a Fawlty Towers or Monte Python fan), the Joanna Lumley (turn right, darling – turn left, sweetie) and the Dr. Evil (I told you to friggin turn). There are also add on features that I haven’t yet explored because my phone isn’t GPRS (damn it!).

Some features that I do wish the Tomtom had are:

1. When I do something wrong – tell me that I missed the freakin’ turn. Don’t just readjust and continue like nothing happened. How will I ever learn the correct way? I guess this goes to their user research of men. They probably prefer to not be yelled at by Jane when they do something wrong in the car. But I want to know!!! Tell me so I can do it correctly next time.

2. I want a trip overview once I have arrived at my destination. How much time did it take me to get here? How far was it? How many times did I make a wrong turn and screw up the itinerary?

All in all I am in love with my little Tomtom ONE. I think that London is probably one of the most perfect cities in the world for this product (Los Angeles being another good example). Go out and buy one and let me know if you hate Jane as much as I do.
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On a recent trip to the market, I somehow got it into my head that I wanted to buy wine in a box. Now when I say wine in a box – I am not referring to a case of bottled wine neatly packed into a wooden box. Nope. I am talking Ghetto (with a capital G) real life wine in a box. The kind of thing that makes wine purists shudder even more than a synthetic cork. The kind that comes in cardboard at cheap prices and packs a punch. The kind that Uncle Tim (Bob’s gun wielding psychopathic drunken friend) used to make “Ice Tea” out of in old Mason jars with ice cubes and God knows what else.

Why did I have this sudden hankering to cheapen my drinking experience like in the days when Andrea Starkel and I used to steal Benson and Hedges cigarettes and drink all her mom’s boxed wine? And does boxed wine still have the same bad quality that its reputation implies?

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posh box of wine?

When I finally located the semi-half aisle of the boxed wine selection at Sainsbury, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t just Franzia or Ernest Gallo that were dominating the boxed wine trade these days. There seemed to be a good selection of semi-well known brands from California to Austraila – Chardonnay to Shiraz. The prices varied from low low discount (£4.99) to what I would consider a pretty decent high of £19.99 (for Hardy – Australia). Sizes ranged from 2 liters to 3 liters (roughly equivalent to 4 bottles). I made my selection of a mid-range Shiraz from Austrailia and happily (if not a slight bit ashamed) carried my box through the shop to checkout.

Upon arrival a la casa de Stephanie n Arlie I promptly busted out one of the two normal wine glasses that we have, assembled the case and pushed the little button to dispense my newfound juice. And guess what? It was pretty good! Not the same super bad quality, headache inducing, near-vinegar stuff that I was expecting. And it is more than fine for my need of having a glass of wine when I arrive home from work. Plus added bonuses include the fact that it stays good for 2 months, I don’t have to keep throwing out bottles (or lugging them home from the shop on the corner) and I save a little bit of change (in 2006 economy is the new black).

My recommendation: Don’t be such a pretentious wine snob (save this for the assholes in Sideways) and think INSIDE the box for a change. You can still have the occasional nice bottle, but give boxed wine another shot. You may even enjoy it!

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Greetings from cold Massachusetts and the Biscuit household.

Just got back tonight from hk/Philippines/paris and am thinking of you late over here. Wondering if you’re scared shitless about the 30s (yeah I bet you got over that in about 5 minutes).

Even though you think I destroyed your flat which is completely not true no matter what darby said except for one blue vase that you didn’t need anyway… I want to tell you on this big birthday that I admire the way you have lived your most recent 20s – you’ve decided not to be afraid – and go off and do the crazy shit that you want to do – and be completely unique – and damn not many people can say they turned 3-0 and did it their way – and YOU are completely unique. Many more people like me can say they’re 3-0 and living at their parents house in their old bedroom.

Yeah I’m proud of you that you did it the steph way and I wouldn’t want you any other way. No doubt that the price to pay for being completely unique is sometimes to be lonely, and sometimes hard to find your soulmate I know, but, that’s a small price to pay to have to wait compared with the shit lives most people live from the day they’re born until the day they die. Give thanks for all that shit that went down so far in your life that you have seen and learned. You are a lucky girl to be where you are today with the stories you can tell from all over the world and friends who care about you everywhere. Don’t forget it over there in cloudy London.

And I am one more of those friends who loves you and loves who you are, so be strong, embrace the 30s with your wisdom learned, continue to do it your own crazy way, and although I have no idea where you are going, I have no doubt that you will win the big game if you keep on doing it your way and focus on the big things that make steph happy vs the details. I believe in you. Happy 3-0.

Greg

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the 2 girls
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the bald cat
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the smart car

Now what do you get when you add up these three things and then give them a deadline of 48 hours to get from Barcelona to London?

ROAD TRIP!!!

Which makes me think that I need to start planning my finest roadtrip CD mix ever. Crap – or I need to go buy a new iPod and get sync’d up with some new speakers so we can listen on our way. Now which songs are good for road trips is the question…..

  • Always on time / Ja Rule and Ashanti – I had to say this one first because there was once an incident with Bonita missing her flight to Cannes, crying hysterically in my car then deciding that we would go and get drunk on the beach instead…while this song was playing. Since she will be my wingman for two days – I must first dedicate a song to her.

    I’ll have to get back to this at a later time. Please give me some suggestions if you see this.

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    image The big day is slowly creeping upon me. Seriously. There are approximately 2 days 8 hours left in my twenties. Jesus, saying that just gave me a twinge in my stomach that nearly caused me to burp up my sushi.

    So as I look back on my twenties what things can I say? Can I look back and think of all those lessons learned? Do I have a newfound maturity that turning — ack — 30 brings with it? Is my hair greying?

    I can’t even remember turning 20. Isn’t that odd? Perhaps not. Because turning 20 is not really a big deal. It is two years after turning 18 which seems like it should be a big deal because you can now join the army and officially ditch your parents. However since I was emancipated when I was 17 – I think that my 18th birthday even failed to be a showstopper. Except for the fact that I could purchase cigarettes legally (which I had been doing illegally since I was 13).

    The next big milestone is when you turn 21 because you are of legal age to drink. My 21st birthday was spent at Disneyland with a boyfriend and then at the Spaghetti Factory where I ordered a rum and coke which I didn’t even get carded for. Another bust of a milestone for me.

    Then the entire length of my twenties has gone by in a flash. An exciting flash if you look at the events of the past 9 years. There was the life in Newport Beach, the move to San Francisco, the move to London, the move to Barcelona – and all the travelling, friends and fun that I’ve had during those years. Even though I’ve been working non-stop, I’ve also enjoyed a personal freedom that few people ever experience regardless of age.

    And the one thing that I can say is that I don’t really feel that different after all this time. My friends in the States have all but “settled down” and insist that I should look into their way of life, but somehow I just don’t swallow it yet. I have had this vision for so long about what life would look like at 25, 30, 35. Thusfar the first two are nowhere near what I had envisioned they would be — but far more than I could have dreamed they would be (if that makes any amount of sense). So I am inclined not to conform just yet.

    With only 2 more days left in my twenties I have made the decision to suck it up and look forward to it. There will be no fanfare – just a small dinner with some of my best friends – that hopefully in 10 years I won’t remember so then I can say that turning 30 was as forgetful as being born, turning 10 (who remembers that?!?), turning 18, turning 21, etc…

    And my plan for the rest of my thirties remains the same as what worked for my twenties:

  • Be myself and don’t let anyone change that
  • Live a fearless life and continue to take chances
  • Have dreams and hopes
  • Love my friends and family
  • (Hopefully) learn from mistakes
  • Never stop learning
  • Enjoy life as much as possible

    Everyone check in with me when I hit 40 and we’ll see how well that decade went… I might just start turning back the clock like Grandma Ginger did. When she was 82 she was still telling me that she was 28. It was nearly believable. Read More

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    I have spent the last few evenings trying to upgrade my site to Word Press 2.0 to no avail. I have done the stinkin’ import so many times that I can’t count anymore and I don’t care to. Every time and every trick in the book and it is still a massive failure. With no support on their forums.

    Therefore I am forced to go back to my original happy database – which isn’t all that bad to be fair to it. Just bloated with a lot of features that I’m not that interested in.

    So now we’re back. From outer space.

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