My First Time

August 26th, 2016

Formatting a book for print, that is.

Actually, I’ve never formatted an eBook, either. I usually farm out my work. But this time I’ve decided I should learn to format myself. It makes updating files so much easier. For some unfathomable reason, I decided to start with print formatting.

CreateSpace has templates for use with Microsoft Word, and it would probably be a lot easier if I just downloaded one of those templates. Only problem is, my copy of Word is so old (the 2003 edition) that I can’t save as PDF, which I need for uploading to CreateSpace. And…years and years ago, when I built this site and my pen name’s site, I decided to upgrade my Dreamweaver and PhotoShop. They came combined in a program called Adobe Creative Suite 2. Creative Suite has since updated to a cloud-based service, but for someone like me the $20 U.S. a month when I only put out maybe two books a year (that’s being generous, LOL) isn’t worth it. And I don’t design my own covers. So, being the obstinate sort, I decided to try learning how to format my print interior pages with the very old InDesign CS2. The problem? Back when I was buying how-to books for Illustrator and PhotoShop, I didn’t buy one for InDesign, thinking I would never need it. Now, there are a lot of great free templates available for InDesign book interiors, but try finding one for the CS2 version of the program. So, instead of downloading a premade template and creating my book from there, I’m building the template from the ground up. Thanks to YouTube and Google, there are a lot of places I can go for help, but the set-up is never quite the same because, you know, Cindy has old software. This might take me awhile…

Just to prove I’m really at work, here’s a shot of Page 1 of PICTURE IMPERFECT in my Word doc, followed by how far I’ve gotten in InDesign (I finally created page numbers on my Master pages, but they aren’t starting in the right spot. My next challenge is creating running, alternating page headers.)

PI_page1PI_Print

The idea is that once I have the template down pat, I can use it for future releases as well. And, if you can read Page 1 of the Word doc, that’s the world’s first peek into PICTURE IMPERFECT! (Which will go up for pre-order just as soon as I’ve got the cover commissioned).

Yup, I need to create a new website page for the book, too.

Oh, Dear, Summer Happened Again!

August 23rd, 2016

I know, I know. I had high hopes for blogging over the summer. What can I say? Once Eldest Son comes home from China for a few precious weeks every year, I lose sight of everything else. And it seems most everyone is on social media these days rather than blogs.

Well, today ES and DILly 2 departed for Shanghai again, and I won’t see them for another ten months. So it’s back to writing–and hopefully back to some semblance of blogging. I have good intentions, I really do. But right now I’m delving into formatting for PICTURE IMPERFECT, which IS coming out this fall! This is my first time trying to format, both eBook and print. I have a professional in the wings, should it come to that. But I really would like to be able to change out my backmatter, etc., as needed without hiring out, so it’s time to get technical.

Gulp.

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Buenos Aires and Home!

June 24th, 2016

Dates Explored/Endured (this last regarding Air Canada F-Ups): February 18 – 21st

My last blog post about our four-week trip to Chile, Patagonia, and Argentina!

It was a wonderful trip, but Air Canada made sure we were extremely glad to be home. Talk about a cluster-frick.

But first, Buenos Aires!

We decided to fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires and stay a couple of nights before beginning the long journey back to British Columbia, because otherwise it would have been too exhausting. It was exhausting, anyway. That’s about the only downside to traveling to South America–it takes so long to get home. Otherwise, I love South America.

The flight to Buenos Aires is about 3.5 hours. We were already settled at the Ushuaia airport when I realized I had left my headphones at the Mysten Kempen B&B. This caused me much anxiety, because I was pretty sure I had left behind the headphones but I wouldn’t know for certain, having already checked my bags, until we arrived at Casa Calma in Buenos Aires. You can read my last post about how the Mysten Kempen and Casa Calma staff worked together to get my headphones back in my possession before Steve and I needed to fly back to Canada. Our travel-mates stayed two nights in Buenos Aires with us. The day we left for Canada, they continued on to Iguazu Falls. I would have loved to see the Falls, but four weeks was the longest my husband could take off work without them thinking he might have suddenly booked early retirement. So SILly and BILly continued on without us.

First, it’s a superb idea to stay in Buenos Aires before returning home. The Casa Calma is a wonderful little boutique hotel within walking distance to shopping, people-watching at outdoor cafes, steak houses, and about two kilometers away from the presidential palace known as Casa Rosada, or The Pink House. The folks at the Casa Calma can hook you up with whatever you want to do while you’re in town, whether it’s a half- or full-day city tour, restaurant recommendations, Tango shows, etc. They provide you with a list when you arrive, so you don’t have to book in advance.

We decided to book the half-day city tour for the morning after we arrived. It was raining, but the tour took us through the various neighborhoods, of which there are a ton. Steve and I returned to some of the areas the following day, once the sun was out. The half-day tour ends at the above-ground cemetery where Evita was buried (although I think her body was later stolen…). From there, we walked back to the hotel.

The San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Steve bought a soccer shirt in this neighborhood featuring a local junior team. He made the locals happy. :)

The San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Steve bought a soccer shirt in this neighborhood, featuring a local junior team. He made the locals happy. 🙂

San Telmo is very colorful, a really fun neighborhood to explore. I love this next photo. It’s a window in a bathroom:

Juxtaposition of "old" and "new."

Juxtaposition of “old” and “new.”

"The Pink House," the Argentinian version of The White House, the presidential palace. BILly and SILly had left for the Falls, so we just strolled around for the day.

“The Pink House,” the Argentinian version of The White House, the presidential palace. BILly and SILly had left for the Falls, so we just strolled around for the day.

One of the things you can easily do from the Casa Calma is walk Florida Street, which is supposed to be very elegant, but it was more like running the gauntlet when we did it. Constant hawking of wares. It’s an experience, but not one I necessarily feels needs to be experienced. You’ll be offered so many opportunities to exchange money, it’s not funny. And I have a hankering there’s a good chance you’ll be ripped off. But there’s an exchange kiosk in the Galerias Pacifico shopping mall, on Florida. We primarily used Santander Bank ABMs, both in Chile and Buenos Aires. Yeah, it’s a PITA because the banks only allow you to take out a wee portion of money and then slap a tourist tax on top, but at least you have funds. It’s Argentina! Take the hits and soak up the atmosphere!

It’s also a good idea to take along U.S. dollars. We didn’t use them a lot in  Chile, but in Argentina they were very handy.

The food in Buenos Aires was excellent. We only had one crappy meal, and it was during our only day on our own! We had lunch on the sidewalk near this beautiful park where we spent most of the day (our flight left at 10 p.m.), and it was the worst meal I had in South America. That's what I get for making fun of BILly. He cursed my meals after we parted ways.

The food in Buenos Aires was excellent. We only had one crappy meal, and it was during our only day on our own! We had lunch on the sidewalk near this beautiful park where we spent most of the day (our flight left at 10 p.m.), and it was the worst meal I had in South America. That’s what I get for making fun of BILly. He cursed my meals after we parted ways.

We returned to our room to find this nice note reminding me not to forget anything like I had in Ushuaia.... Ahem.

We returned to our room to find this nice note reminding me not to forget anything like I had in Ushuaia…. Ahem.

As for the trip home, don’t get me started. I’ll try to make this short.

We booked our flights on Air Canada through Expedia, and even though we booked them like eight months in advance, for some reason we weren’t assigned seats for one of the legs, between Houston and Calgary. We didn’t think much of this until we couldn’t print out boarding passes, because 24 hours before our flight, we still weren’t assigned seats.

So we decided to go to the B.A. airport early. It was very confusing, as most airports are when there’s a language barrier and your first flight leaves at 10 p.m. We did have assigned seats for the B.A. to Houston leg, thank God, because it was 10 hours long. The lovely Air Canada clerk in B.A. assured us in her broken English that we would be assigned seats for Houston to Calgary once in Houston. We settled in to be called for our flight when, in typical Cindy fashion, I stood up and turned and walked into a short table, and near about split my shin bone (I have a mark to this day).

We boarded our first plane–and noticed a woman was trying to sneak our entire row, LOL. We had made sure to leave an empty middle seat between us, crossing our fingers it would not be sold, and it wasn’t. But it’s not so unusual in South America for travelers to sit in the wrong seat on purpose. I’m not sure what they mean to accomplish, but we experienced the same behavior on our flight to Easter Island weeks earlier.

At first we thought we had suddenly gained a row companion, but she fled as soon as she realized the row wasn’t empty.

Ten hours is a long flight, but we’ve done this several times now, and if you can fly 14 hours from Melbourne, you can fly 10 hours from Buenos Aires. No problemo! Until we arrived in Houston.

There, we raced to get to the Air Canada counter (where we had been told we would be assigned seats), but the clerk said we were “too late,” even though we were well outside the 90-minute window. We headed to the gate regardless. At the gate, the Air Canada staff informed us, with no apologies or even a smile, that the flight was overbooked. We came to learn that the flight from Houston to Calgary is routinely overbooked, but this flight was overbooked by a dozen people! We were numbers 7 and 8. A single female traveler was #6, and she told us this had happened to her more than once in a two-month period.

The three of were sent to the United Airlines counter, a partner to Air Canada, and the single female arrived before us so managed to snag a seat on a United Airlines flight leaving a couple of hours later. The United Airlines folks were very nice and tried to help us, which is more than I can say for Air Canada (for shame). They placed our luggage on the next flight to Calgary and said to pray for a cancellation. We made it to the gate, but only one seat was available. Would I leave my husband behind in Houston to catch up with me later? Uh, no. We were either going together or not at all.

Lo and behold, at the very last minute, a passenger didn’t make his connection, so both Steve and myself got on the flight, just several rows apart.

The very first thing one of my row-mates asked was if I would take the middle seat instead of the window, to accommodate the fellow in the middle, who she didn’t know at all. Note, she wasn’t giving up her aisle seat for him but thought I might give up my window seat at her behest.

Uh, no.

LOL!

We wound up in Calgary to discover our luggage hadn’t made it onto the plane. Don’t ask me how, in this day and age, we managed to travel internationally without our luggage, but we did. It arrived home a day or so after we did, much bedraggled but with a wealth of memories I wouldn’t trade for anything despite the Air Canada travel woes.

But will I travel Air Canada again unless forced to because of scheduling restrictions? Uh, no. Now I understand why A.C. is my dh’s last choice in travel. Sorry, Air Canada, overbook your seats if you must but let the travelers know that’s what’s happening. I guess I should have clued in. A less expensive seat bought through Expedia meant…not much of anything at all. Too bad it wasn’t another country’s airline that treated us so shoddily, and at least we got home. But, man, that customer service sucked, Air Canada.

Adios!!

Summer Listify Life on Social Media

June 21st, 2016

I’m participating in the Summer Edition of Listify Life, but I’m not blogging about it this time around. I just know I’ll get too busy with an upcoming book release and the WIP (work in progress), family visiting, and what-not. If you want to follow along with me for Listify Life, please check in at my social networks. I’m generally posting my photos of my lists on Monday or Tuesday. This week’s theme, What Summer Means to Me, went out yesterday.

Here’s where you’ll find my Listify Life pics:

Here’s the list of topics for this summer if you want to join in. More details and fun graphics on Sierra Godfrey’s blog.

SummerListifyLife

Check #listifylife on your social media of choice to catch my lists and others.

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Ushuaia, Argentina, The End of the World

June 17th, 2016

Date Explored: February 17, 2016

We last left off exploring Wulaia Bay on our Patagonian cruise. The next morning, a Wednesday, we disembarked in Ushuaia, Argentina, on the southernmost tip of South America, otherwise known as The End of the World. It was during embarkation that we let one of our guides know that “Canadian beaver” might be slang for other than the animal. Throughout the four-day cruise, Cristobal had been telling stories about “getting chased by Canadian beaver” during his visit to the Great White North. Did his eyes ever widen we finally told him the slang meaning. He had been speaking about encountering the animal in one of our national parks.

A view of Ushuaia just before disembarking from the Stella Australis.

A view of Ushuaia just before disembarking from the Stella Australis.

Ushuaia is beautiful. The only problem is it’s tough to get pictures of the gorgeous mountains without phone wires, etc. getting in the way, so I didn’t take a lot of photos. You can arrange flights over the mountains and nearby glaciers, but we only had one night, so we were up for some good food and relaxation.

We guessed the Stella Australis would feature some fine accommodation, so for our overnight in Ushuaia, we decided to take it down a notch and went through Booking.com to reserve rooms at Mysten Kepen B&B. Mysten Kepen is a lovely B&B, but be forewarned that they don’t offer shuttles or taxis from the port. While we could have easily arranged a taxi at a taxi stand we found after finding the B&B, for reasons that made sense at the time (as in we didn’t realize how far we would be hiking), we decided to drag our suitcase the “few” blocks to the B&B. “A few blocks” wound up being a hike up steep roads. Finally, just when it seemed all hope was lost, we found the Mysten Kepen. SILly and BILly had a room in the main house while DH and I were in a lovely newer room with a private bath at the top of an outdoor staircase. Definitely, I would recommend asking for that room.

There’s a very tiny house beside the B&B. Animals might be in the yard next door and such. If that sort of thing bothers you, Mysten Kepen is not for you. But we found Rosario, our hostess, delightful. She and I were able to communicate through her rusty English and my awful Spanish. Plus, she really went aboveboard when I accidentally left my headphones in our unmade bed the following morning, when we flew to Buenos Aires. Both thanks to Rosario and also to our hotel staff in Buenos Aires, Rosario arranged for another traveler to bring my headphones to Buenos Aires the following day, where we took a taxi (while en route to dinner, exploring a new neighborhood) to pick up the headphones at the other traveler’s hostel. So I had my headphones for our long flight back home from Buenos Aires! Truly exceptional customer service on the part of Rosario of the Mysten Kepen as well as the Casa Calma in B.A.

"Beagle Beer" spotted in the Mysten Kepen. We didn't have time for a brewski, so just took a photo. Also, look, Cape Horn beer!

“Beagle Beer” spotted in the Mysten Kepen. We didn’t have time for a brewski, so just took a photo. Also, look, Cape Horn beer!

Booze seemed out to get me in Ushuaia!

Booze seemed out to get me in Ushuaia!

For our one night in Ushuaia, we wanted to go to dinner at this little place called Kalma Resto, which might now be in a different location (Jorge, the chef and owner, was busy fixing a new place after his shifts at the restaurant). We found it after storing our luggage in our B&B and walking about town, visiting a museum and searching out wine for those in our party who could not do without. 😉 SILly and I walked into Kalma Resto to arrange reservations, but unfortunately the place was booked solid with a group of about 20 either on their way to or back from Antarctica. The lovely hostess discussed our situation with Jorge (that we only had one night in town), and even though he needed to work on renovating his new place, he asked us to return at 9:45 p.m., once he expected the large party to be gone. We did, and only one other table was still occupied. Once that couple left, Jorge put out the Closed sign, and we basically had the entire restaurant to ourselves. He was our chef and server, and it was like being on The Food Network or something. Truly a wonderful experience. Like Rosario at the Mysten Kepen, Jorge of Kalma Resto went out of his way to accommodate us. What exceptional people! And Jorge is an amazing chef and an amiable fellow. I wish him much success in his new endeavors!

Next and final stop, Buenos Aires, a beautiful city, certainly my favorite of the major South American cities I’ve visited so far.

Listify Life – Favorite Vacations I’ve Taken…

June 14th, 2016

Today is the last of the Listify Life Spring Challenges! A new Challenge for Summer starts next week, and I’m going to see if I can keep up. But this week’s theme is very simple for me, Favorite Vacations I’ve Taken… 

In the last six years, my husband and I have done a LOT of traveling. The plan is to now slow down (our bank accounts need to catch back up). There are a ton of places I would still like to travel, but currently no plans are in place beyond next year. With no further ado…

  • The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – 2012. This is by far the best vacation I have ever taken! We were on a catamaran exploring the islands for two weeks and also enjoyed some time beforehand in Quito. During these two weeks, we made some friendships that are still on-going. We’ve met one of the couples in Vegas for a visit and stayed with another couple in Australia. They’re returning the favor by visiting B.C. next year.
  • Peru and Machu Picchu – 2012. And Lake Titicaca, and the Nazca Lines, and Huancayo in the mountains. This trip started our six-year whirlwind of adventures and was a celebration for our 25th anniversary. This trip was just my husband and myself. We felt like we were backpacking through Europe again, like a couple of kids.
  •  China – 2013. Our son moved to China several years ago to teach the B.C. high school curriculum in Shanghai. We had a wonderful time visiting him and exploring Beijing, the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, visiting rice fields and escaping landslides, but there was some Serious Stuff happening back home, so we decided to return home early. It’s human nature – the Serious Stuff will forever affect how I feel about China. I loved traveling there, but a melancholy followed us.
  • Australia – 2014. My husband had an uncle in Australia, plus cousins we had been planning to visit since the 80s, so we finally gave it a shot. For a solid month. One of our two longest trips. Loved Australia! Visited Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef, Ayer’s Rock, Perth (where we stayed with a couple we met in the Galapagos) and Melbourne. We even met up with an Aussie we knew from 1981 and had lost touch with long ago.
  • Chile and Patagonia – 2016. This year’s trip! And the last “big trip” until we see where the next chapter of our lives takes us. We spent four weeks visiting the wineries south of Santiago, Easter Island, Chiloe Island, cruising the Patagonian Fjords and seeing Pia Glacier, and trying to land on Cape Horn, visiting the End of the World, and Buenos Aires. The big surprise for us was how much Chile was like British Columbia. So it wasn’t as different as, say, the Galapagos or Peru, but it was very much a Bucket List experience.
  • Cuba – 2015. Last year we took a year off from adventure travel and stayed in an all-in-one resort for a few days in Varadero. But then we took a 7-day cruise around Cuba and had the opportunity to visit several ports of call before Cuba and the U.S. mended ways.

Next Stop? Haida Gwaii in our own British Columbia, next summer. We’re going on a fishing trip to the Queen Charlottes with the same Aussie couple we stayed with in Perth after meeting them in the Galapagos.

What are your travel hot spots?

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Wulaia Bay, Australis Cruise

June 10th, 2016

Date Explored: February 16, 2016

Following our excursion to Cape Horn, the Stella Australis took us to Wulaia Bay for the afternoon, where we had a choice of three hikes. The Captain gave a compelling lecture (previous to our visit to Wulaia Bay) about the Yamana aboriginal settlements. Wulaia Bay was the site of one of the largest Yamana settlements, was also sketched by FitzRoy and described by Darwin during their voyage on board the HMS Beagle (yeah for beagles!). Here’s another link for more information.

There is an old radio station at Wulaia Bay that has been converted to a museum, and it’s very good. For the hikes, BILly decided to take the Difficult option while SILly, DH and I opted for Medium. Really, BILly’s hike just took him to a higher vantage point.

This would be our last time setting forth from the zodiacs. Awwwwwwwww….

Everyone drops their life jackets somewhere they are apt to remember them for picking up later, but it really doesn't matter whose lifejacket you pick up. Some folks were no so great at remembering where they put theirs. :) But I love this shot showing both the Chile and Argentina flags.

Everyone drops their life jackets somewhere they are apt to remember them for picking up later, but it really doesn’t matter whose life jacket you pick up. Some folks were no so great at remembering where they put theirs. 🙂 But I love this shot showing both the Chile and Argentina flags.

Breathtaking views! If you look very hard, you can see the old radio station/now museum in the lower left hand corner of this photo. Our hiking group visited the museum following our hike.

Breathtaking views! If you look very hard, you can see the old radio station/now museum in the lower left hand corner of this photo. Our hiking group visited the museum following our hike.

Patagonia really reminds me of British Columbia. It's not the same, yet it is. Depending where you are.

Patagonia really reminds me of British Columbia. It’s not the same, yet it is. Depending where you are.

"Us".

“Us”.

On the last evening of the cruise, the crew auctioned off the navigation chart sued for sailing to Cape Horn. My motion sickness was still bothering me, though not as badly as the first few days. I’ve done three cruises now (Galapagos 2012, Cuba 2014 and now this one), and the Australis Cruise was by far the shortest, at only 4 nights. It’s a great cruise, not cheap but was well worth it for us. Since we backpacked through Europe and touched the westernmost point of Europe in the 19080s, we have wanted to check out other “direction-most” points. We’ve been to the easternmost tip of North America (Cape Spear, Newfoundland) and to the highest navigable body of water (Lake Titicaca), so visiting the southernmost point of South America was definitely on the Bucket List. Now, I need to get to the Dead Sea, but no idea when that will occur!

We had one more night on the Stella Australis before she docked at Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city on the continent, the following morning. We disembarked and had some more adventures before flying up to Buenos Aires for a couple of days. So we’re not finished yet!