Archive for October, 2010

Logging the Back .40

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Note the decimal placement. Not the “back forty.” The back “point-4-0.” As in .40 of an acre. Really, it’s half an acre, but “logging the back .40” sounds better.

We live on a double lot. It wasn’t always a double lot. In fact, when we bought our house twenty years ago, the property was .40 of an acre. My Liege, although trained as a professional forester, was, um, “blessed” with a businessman’s mind. So it always bothered him that our property was just shy of the ability to subdivide it. After about ten years, our family’s needs grew too large for the house. We looked around, but couldn’t find another neighborhood that suited us. So we built an addition. The day we began excavating (literally, THE DAY), the daughter of our elderly neighbor asked if we wanted to buy the elderly neighbor’s house. The DH was all over this. It was a huge financial challenge to buy the neighbor’s house while building an addition on our present house. Especially because the housing market tanked, and after changing the property lines to get enough extra area to take off a lot between the two houses, we couldn’t sell the neighbor’s house for the same price we bought it at. It sat empty for several months, then we finally began renting it out. Wonderful renters, too. But the house was only two bedrooms with one bathroom, so when the wife became PG with their third child, they had to move. We put the house on the market again. It didn’t sell. Then I decided to sell it myself. Don’t ask me why it sold then. Clearly, I’m uber-talented. But we got our asking price, the same price we’d bought the house at (yes, we put some work into it, too).

The biggest challenge to fell. Only a few green branches remained on this monster. The rest was as dead as the top. Note the power line. I was on the road directing traffic (essentially, swinging my arms about and jumping up and down, yelling, "Don't come any closer!")

Naturally, a year later, the housing market began climbing again and before we knew it the house was worth twice what we sold it for. That’s real estate for you. You do what you can at the time and don’t look backward.

Long story not really shortened, we’re still living in our first house (with an addition) that we bought twenty years ago and our back yard looks reaaaaaaaaaaaaaally big. But it’s actually a second lot.

Two other dead trees came down before my father tackled this one (same tree as above photo). It had grown into a dangerous angle leaning into the road.

I could go into a lengthy description of the number of trees surrounding our house twenty years ago, but it’s a pretty huge description, including an exhaustive number of Dutch elm trees that were supposed to be a hedge but the old people we bought the house from had given up and let them grow into trees. We turned them back into a hedge, realized it needed cutting every three weeks, so cut the hedge to stumps following a bad car accident that left us incapable of trimming the hedge every three weeks at the time. The next spring, A MILLION irises, lilies, tulips, daffodils, and the like sprung up in place of the hedge. I swear, I did not plant a single one. The thickness of the hedge had prevented them from blooming.

Over the years, we’ve cut down trees here and there. Two so we could add on a sundeck, two so we could add on a mud room. One because our toddler was allergic to it (birch). One because it was infested with Dutch elm disease and we learned the black bugs that had filtered down our fireplace were also getting into our neighbors’ houses. Plus, the row of evergreens between our house and the neighbor’s house slowly turned into a wood pile, because it looked weird to have our new 1/2 acre yard cut at the 9/10th mark by a row of old, skinny, scraggly trees (we kept a copse for the quail and pheasants and deer to play in/chew on).

We have a fireplace, so anything we’ve cut has been used to heat the house. A couple of weeks ago, my dad came over (retired logger), and he, My Liege, and Eldest Son went to work again. Whoever planted eight trillion Engleman spruces in our yard forty or fifty years ago must not have realized that they aren’t the prettiest trees in the world. Plus, they planted them too close together. So they grew very tall and skinny, and over the years several died—or became nearly dead. Which is dangerous. Especially when a stiff breeze might cause one of them to crash into our house or take out the power lines. This year we needed to take out the danger trees. There were 7 of them. Three skinny ones, three big ones, and one middle one. We still have five maples, an oak, another deciduous tree I love but couldn’t name, another smaller deciduous tree I love but also can’t name, a lilac bush that grew into a tree, and a heckuva lot more Engleman spruce that are still healthy.

Old Logger, a.k.a my dad, bucking off limbs that we stacked up so the chipper could come and chew them up. The remaining logs are slowly turning into next year's firewood.

For two-three weeks, our yard was a mess, while we waited for the chipper to arrive.

View of yard where 3 of the danger trees stood, after the chipping guys took away the debris. My maples are shedding leaves, so now we have to rake them and take them to my mom's compost so they can rot into fertilizer for her massive gardens next year.

I know some people will hate that we cut down ANY trees. But people who live in wood-framed houses and have wood floors and furniture made of wood and don’t recycle their computer paper really shouldn’t throw stones. 😉

Why Greek Mythology?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

By Elisabeth Naughton

Thanks so much to Cindy for having me here today!

My second Eternal Guardian book – ENTWINED– recently hit store shelves. For those of you new to the series, the Eternal Guardians are seven warriors descended from the seven greatest heroes in all of Ancient Greece. Zander, the hero in ENTWINED, is a descendant of Achilles. He’s the oldest guardian, the one rumored to be immortal, the fiercest warrior and the only one with nothing to lose. I fell in love with Zander when I was writing MARKED – book one in the series – so I’m excited for readers to finally get their hands on his story.

People ask me all the time, why Greek mythology? I don’t have an easy answer except to say that I love the tales from Ancient Greece. Always have. Epic wars, tragic love stories, conniving gods and danger lurking around every corner. When I was researching STOLEN FURY (my 2010 double RITA nominee book), I found myself deeply immersed in the characters and narratives centered around the great culture, and I thought, “It would be really fun to develop an entire series based off these myths.” MARKED was the result, and the series grew from there. I love taking traditional myths and characters and shaping them into my world. I love the variety of people, beings and magic that can be found in the legends. I love being able to put my own spin on these classic tales and seeing where they take me.

In my series, the Eternal Guardians are battling an evil goddess who was once a hero like them but sold her soul to Hades for immortality. She’s cunning, dark and willing to do whatever she can to reach her goal. But she’s not the only villain in this series. There are many devious gods and goddesses in addition to mythological beings skulking in the shadows, waiting for their chance to shine.

And of course, there are plenty of hot guys. At least seven, to be exact. A few more who hang on the periphery and are as intriguing as the warriors themselves. So far I can guarantee at least five books in the series – hopefully more. Because I’ve switched publishers there’s a slight delay in the release of the next book. TEMPTED (book 3) will be an October 2011 release, followed closely by ENRAPTURED (early 2012). I realize this is a bit of a wait for fans, but it couldn’t be avoided. After that I’m back on a six months or less release schedule so I hope readers will understand. To tide fans over, I’ll be posting a few free reads on my website over the next few months, so if you haven’t already signed up for my newsletter do so soon so you don’t miss out!

Today I’m giving away either a copy of MARKED (book 1) or ENTWINED (book 2) to one lucky commenter (winner’s choice!). Simply tell me, what’s your favorite myth from Ancient Greece?

 Happy Reading!

 Elisabeth

 ***

Please leave a comment to enter to win a copy of ENTWINED or MARKED. If you’re reading this blog through a feed at Facebook, Goodreads or another social network, please note you need to leave your comment at www.museinterrupted.com to enter.

The back cover blurb for MARKED and ENTWINED, links to excerpts, and Elisabeth’s bio, can be found in yesterday’s promo post. Visit Elisabeth’s website to learn more about her and her books.

Elisabeth Naughton Guest Blogs Tomorrow

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Tomorrow I’ll welcome paranormal romance author Elisabeth Naughton to the blog. Elisabeth is blogging on Why Greek Mythology? and will give away the winner’s choice of either MARKED (May 2010, Book 1 in the Eternal Guardians series) or ENTWINED (August 2010, Book 2).

About ENTWINED:

ZANDER — The most feared of all the Eternal Guardians. It’s rumored he can’t be killed, and he always fights like he has nothing to lose. But as a descendant of the famed hero Achilles, he’s got to have a vulnerability… somewhere.

Forces of daemons are gathering and have broken through the barriers of the Underworld. Now more than ever the Eternal Guardians are needed to protect both their own realm and the humans’. Zander can’t afford to think about what might have been with the bewitching physician he once regarded as his soul mate. But with eternity stretching before him, he also can’t fathom spending his life without the one woman who makes him feel most alive. Perhaps he’s found his weakness, after all…

Read an excerpt

About MARKED:

THERON — “Dark haired, duty bound and deceptively deadly. He’s the leader of the Argonauts, an elite group of guardians that defends the immortal realm from threats of the Underworld. 

From the moment he walked into the club, Casey knew this guy was different. Men like that just didn’t exist in real life—silky shoulder-length hair, chest impossibly broad, and a predatory manner that just screamed dark and dangerous. He was looking for something. Her. 

She was the one. She had the mark. Casey had to die so his kind could live, and it was Theron’s duty to bring her in. But even as a 200-year-old descendant of Hercules, he wasn’t strong enough to resist the pull in her fathomless eyes, to tear himself away from the heat of her body. As war with the Underworld nears, someone will have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Read an excerpt

About Elisabeth:

A previous junior-high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton now writes sexy romantic adventure and paranormal novels full time from her home in western Oregon where she lives with her husband and three children. Her debut release, STOLEN FURY, heralded by Publisher’s Weekly as “A rock-solid debut,” was recently nominated for two prestigious RITA® awards by Romance Writers of America in the Best First Book category and the Best Romantic Suspense category. When not writing, Elisabeth can be found running, hanging out at the ball park or dreaming up new and exciting adventures.

Learn more about Elisabeth and her books at www.elisabethnaughton.com.

Gimme an E!

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

I’m slowly updating my website. As part of those updates, I’ve included an article previously published on Shebytches on my Q&A page. Rest assured, I didn’t just post the column out of laziness. People are always asking me why I’m obsessed with the spelling of my last name. Yes, they email me at least twice a decade about this. So it made sense to include the post on my website.

Short Answer: Because it’s my name and I want it spelled right!

Long Answer: Can be read here.

Is your name constantly misspelled? Does it drive you nuts? Do you go to extra effort not to misspell someone else’s name, because you know how it feels? Or, like me, are you guilty of misspelling others’ names, too? (Granted, names that are a lot harder to spell than Procter. Like Damschroder).

Something to Spawn About

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

There’s a spawning river a couple hours’ drive from my house. It’s currently experiencing the largest spawn since 1913, so they say. No idea why the salmon are returning in droves this year to spawn. It’s a 100 Year Spawn, I guess. Thanksgiving Sunday (not two days ago, but last weekend) we dragged ourselves out of bed at six a.m. to drive there and “beat the crowds.” There were 4 tour buses already there! Plus organized parking (at $3 a vehicle—in a provincial park, no less), concessions, etc.

We skipped all that and headed for the trails with Allie McBeagle in tow on a leash fashioned out of clothesline, which My Liege just happened to have in his pick-up’s dry box (it’s a mystery). I’d forgotten her real leash, you see. My bad.

Eldest Son and his gf came along. Aside from the overcast sky, we had a lovely time.

The fish turn bright red with green heads as they return from the Pacific Ocean to the spawning grounds. Salmon always return to the creek bed in which they were born. Trust me, we're hundreds of miles from the Pacific Ocean. This is one long journey! The females "lay," I guess, the eggs, then a male fertilizes them. Then they both die. Where they were born.

The males can get nasty! We witnessed a lot of snapping and biting at each other, in their rush to get to the eggs. A lot of water flapping about.

The dead and dying salmon along with those still spawning. If you look real close in the lower right corner, you might be able to see some eggs. Bears come at night and chow down on the dead salmon.

My husband, a forester by training, caught sight of this tree on the path back to the parking area. The rest of us just strolled past, thinking it had fallen in a storm or some-such. Nope. Can you guess how it came to fall? If you look closely, you can see the teeth marks.

My province’s slogan is “Super, Natural British Columbia.” And they got that right. Every time I go away, I’m still amazed by the natural beauty of my province when I come home.

All About Kate–And Allie’s Birthday

Monday, October 18th, 2010

My buddy, my pal, my life-long friend, Kate St. James, has an interview up at the Red Sage Authors blog today. Feel free to go read it. You never know what info you might glean! If you’re so inclined, you can even ask her a question. She promises she might answer. But only if you’re nice.

In other news, my puppy, my girl, my doggie, Allie McBeagle, turns 9 today! She wants a small Dairy Queen ice cream cone. She really wants a “baby burger,” but she needs to wait until she’s ten.

Happy birthday, Allie!

Allie McBeagle with E.S., about to fall asleep. She's really still 8 here, but that's okay.

Baby Allie, December 2001. About 8 weeks. Beagles change coloring as they age. Six months later, her face and ears where you see black were brown. Her muzzle started to turn white at 4. Isn't she cuuuuuuuuuuuttttte?

Bye-Bye Silhouette

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

As of April 2011, Harlequin Enterprises is removing the Silhouette branding from several of its lines. Only Harlequin branding will remain. While I have yet to find a link to a formal announcement, the news is all over Twitter and Facebook, with a well known editor confirming that Harlequin/Silhouette authors have either already received letters advising them of the change or they will receive the letters very soon.

Silhouette Special Edition, Desire, and Romantic Suspense will all fall under Harlequin branding, joining Harlequin Nocturne, which was previously branded as Silhouette Nocturne. Word has it that Love Inspired will remain a Harlequin brand, but Steeple Hill will be no more. I’m not familiar enough with the Inspirational lines to comment on the change.

Silhouette first emerged in 1980 as part of Simon Schuster. Harlequin bought Silhouette Books in 1984 and continued to run the Silhouette-branded lines from its New York offices while overseeing the Harlequin brands at its Toronto office. There was some overlap. Harlequin Intrigue, for example, ran editorial out of the NYC offices.

Now all the lines will be branded as Harlequin. What does this mean to readers? I’m not sure. Will they follow the line or wonder what happened to the brand? I would think they will follow the line, if Harlequin publicizes the transition well.

Pure speculation on my part, but the melding of the brands has me wondering about the future of “former” H/S lines. Harlequin Superromance and Silhouette Special Edition offer different editorial visions, but both are “long contemporary series.” Harlequin Intrigue and Silhouette Romantic Suspense are similar in some aspects, different in others (Intrigue apparently has a higher suspense to romance ration, and SRS has a longer word count). Harlequin Blaze and Silhouette Desire, however, in my mind at least, are totally different.

These are interesting times in publishing!

How do you feel about the changes?

Cindy-Do

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Some households have a Honey-Do list or a Job Jar. I have a Cindy-Do list. It sits on my fridge and reminds me every day that I’m not upholding my end of the bargain. I’m very behind in catching up on the list. In fact, once I realized that the last time I crossed something off the 3-page-long list (notepad-size pages, I’m not a freak) was about three years ago, I ripped it up, wrote a new one and labeled it “2011.”

I know when I’m beat.

This summer I’d planned to attend RWA National in Nashville. Then, right before My Leige and I were leaving for our 3 weeks in Peru (Gawd, will she never stop talking about Peru?), Nashville was unfortunately flooded and the conference relocated to Orlando. Realizing I could not survive flying from small-town B.C. to Florida and back after the three flights down and four return it would take to get us to Peru and back only a month earlier, I opted out of the conference. No matter, I thought, because there was a biggie on my Cindy-Do list, and I was confident not attending RWA would give me more time to work on it.

What a fool!

The job was painting our sundeck, which is very big. It’s in two parts, the big part off the living room hall that holds the dog house and our patio set, then the smaller deck down a couple of steps that holds the barbecue and My Liege’s hot tub (I can’t in all conscience call it mine, because I’m in it for maybe 5 minutes once a year tops, while he enjoys it nearly every night) (I’m not anti-social, I just overheat quickly). To top it off, some of the wood was rotting. But if we stay in this house, we have more renovation plans that will occur sooner or later. That includes rebuilding the deck with a product that doesn’t require repainting every three years at the very outside. But for now we’re stuck with the old deck. So I did my google searching and found some great products to help the bad areas withstand another couple of years. But between all that scraping and sanding (kids helped with that), the prepping of the bad areas, the priming, two coats on the deck, two coats of two different trim color on the trim…combined with the fact that our summers are either so hot that you have to get up at 5 a.m. and get any painting done before 8:30, or IT’S RAINING. It’s either one or the other, I swear.

I finally finished the deck. Then realized I needed to do the carport. Then realized I needed to do the courtyard gate, little fence, and steps. So then I did the outside door frames and lower windows while I was at it.

Because September was FREEZING and RAINING ALL THE TIME, I finally finished all that painting the weekend before this past one. My shoulder was in such pain and massage therapy didn’t help. I got smart, went to the chiropractor, who told me it had “dropped.” I am now fixed and back to abusing myself with just the mouse.

I hate painting the sundeck. Hate it with a passion. Family members insist that I MUST like it because otherwise I would hire someone else to do it. But let’s just say I hate painting the sundeck a little less than I hate paying someone an arm and a leg to do something I know I’m fully capable of doing…if the weather would just cooperate.

No more Cindy-Do until 2011. Do you have a You-Do list? What’s your least favorite You-Do task? Do you have a favorite? Assure me I’m not alone in my Do-It-Myself-Itis.

Novella Writing Tips and More

Monday, October 11th, 2010

It’s Thanksgiving up here in the Great White North. I had turkey dinner at my mom’s last night. Aren’t you jealous?

As some of you know, I’m erotic romance author Kate St. James’s slave. So, although I really wanted to update this website last week, Kate insisted that I do hers first. After all, she doesn’t have a blog and relies on me to trumpet her accomplishments to the world…because she’s just so darn shy. Why, she’s so shy she can’t even show her face in public.

What are her accomplishments, you ask? Several great reviews for Secrets Volume 28: SENSUAL CRAVINGS, which includes Kate’s erotic romantic comedy, Kiss Me at Midnight. What, you think it’s not possible that a novella is both funny and erotic? Buy Kate’s book and put it to the test!

Here are some reviews for Secrets 28 and a new one for Secrets 26: BOUND BY PASSION, which includes Kate’s story, Exes & Ahhs, set in Victoria, B.C. (where I went to university. Kate does this type of thing to honor me). Because I’m lazy, I cut and pasted these reviews from the new Welcome message on Kate’s home page, but there’s more to see on her Bookshelf.

New reviews are in for Kiss Me at Midnight. Whipped Cream Erotic Romance Reviews has awarded Secrets 28: SENSUAL CRAVINGS 4.5 cherries and says of Kiss Me at Midnight, “The sex scenes in this story were absolutely sexy and hot, but you could tell that love was in the air and not just lust. Marc…is a truly exceptional man and one any woman would be proud to call her own.”

Bitten by Books says, “I loved this story. It was fun, realistic and super hot. The erotic scenes are steamy and will get the attention of all the right places…. A definite great read for me.”

Also, a new review for Exes & Ahhs in Secrets Volume 26: BOUND BY PASSION. Joyfully Reviewed says, “Risa and Eric are perfect together, and I have to say that Eric is one hunky hero. He made my toes curl from the beginning of this story and they stayed that way until the end. There is a great deal of love between these two, and watching them discover it provided pure satisfaction.”

And, lest you think Kate’s only out to get me to talk about (and therefore help) her, she sacrificed several hours when she could have been relaxing in a hot tub to write this article now up on her Extras page, Turn Up the Heat: Tips for Writing Erotic Romance Novellas.

While I’m at it, Kate has a new interview coming at the Red Sage blog  next Monday, October 18th. She’ll be around (there) to answer questions, if you’re so inclined. So mark your calendars.

Peru, Day 21: Sillustani & Our Long Journey Home

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Okay, it’s been a few days…where was I? Oh, yes, our last day in Peru and our very looooooooong flights home.

So we woke up in the little Puno hotel on our last day eager to get home, but we had one more stop to make—to a pre-Inca burial site that is considered one of the oldest in the world, Sillustani. We saw no need to book a tour to Sillustani, as I’d read on the ‘net that you could basically ask your taxi driver to take you there on the way to the airport, which is 47 miles away in Juliaca (for geographical reasons, there’s no airport in Puno). So that’s what we did. While we were still with our guide, Tito, from the Lake Titicaca excursions, we asked the best way to get to Sillustani on our way to the airport. He had the perfect thing. He’d call his tour company, arrange something for us, and phone us at our Puno hotel the evening before to let us know everything was copasetic. We got the phone call, and were told to meet a “guide in training” at our hotel at 11 a.m. Our flight out of Peru left Lima at 11 p.m. or close to midnight, I can’t remember which. We just had to get from Puno to Lima several hours beforehand, to accommodate the Lima airport’s windows.

No problem! I really wanted to see the ancient funerary towers of Sillustani. You see, a long time ago when the earth was green and there were more—um, a long time ago, 1976 to be exact (I finally phoned my dad and nailed down the correct year), my parents went to Peru. Some of my dad’s photographs still hang on the walls of their house, and their travels partly inspired our trip. One of the stories I remember my dad telling me was about losing his roll of film featuring Sillustani near Puno. Well, he didn’t actually lose his film. It was confiscated. The story goes something like this (with apologies to Dad if I screwed up anything):

My parents traveled Peru during a time of political strife. There was quite a military presence, especially around Puno. My dad’s a history buff. So when he realized he could take pictures out his hotel window of the military presence and machinery, he couldn’t resist. Don’t ask me how, but he was spotted. They received a visit in their room from a military personnel/soldier type. And Dad’s film was confiscated. Luckily for him, they took just one roll of film. My dad was very much into photography at the time, and what a shame it would have been if he’d lost all the photos of his travels. Like us, they were at the end of their stay in Peru. The film was ripped out of his camera, and the camera returned to him. That film contained not only the photos of the military presence, but also of Sillustani. And my parents didn’t have time to return. My dad always bemoaned the loss of those pictures.

Trip Tip! Nowadays, in a similar situation, you’d get your entire digital card confiscated. Consider that when you’re waxing prosaic about the wonders of the digital age! Or maybe DON’T make like James Bond and snap photos of a military presence out your hotel window with your zoom lens attached. It’s especially essential not to do this if you’re like 5’6″ tall, weigh all of 140 pounds, have black hair and a dark skin tone. Because then you might look really suspicious! Especially if you add in that you have piercing blue eyes. You might be considered a sloppy spy masquerading as a tourist with really odd colored contact lenses. (The things you people learn from me!)

Anyway, my father mentioned that if we had a chance to visit Sillustani, he wouldn’t mind if we got some photographs to jog his memory. Of course, I simply had to make his dream come true. Because I’m such a thoughtful daughter. You know how it is.

So, we’re back to Day 21 and that our Lake Titicaca guide, Tito, had arranged a time and price for a “guide in training” to arrive in the morning and drive us to Sillustani on the way to the airport. Now, I can’t remember the name of the guy who was supposed to drive us, I know it began with an R, but that’s it, so let’s just call him Not Tito. The morning of Day 21, Not Tito arrives at our hotel only a little late. The language barrier was great, which confused us because a “guide in training” would have at least a bit of English and desire to learn more—hence the “in training” part. Our fellow insisted he was Not Tito, but he knew nothing about taking us to the pre-Inca burial site on the way to the airport. He thought he was there just to drive us TO the airport. Yet he wanted the price Tito had prearranged.

After help from a very nice employee of the hotel and an older gentleman who was on the street and decided to lend a hand, we learned this fellow WASN’T Not Tito, after all. Not Tito couldn’t make it. So Really Not Tito came in his place. And Really Not Tito was “just” a driver, not a guide. After much discussion, during which we tried to explain, over and over, that we didn’t desire a guide to take us around the ruins, we were more than capable of making up stuff in our heads as we walked the grounds. We just wanted to see them because we’d heard they were really cool, and we had this time before we needed to be at the airport (from what I could tell, aside from people-watching in the plaza de armes, Puno isn’t a town to hang around in, not when you can go explore a pre-Inca burial site. Plus, we’d had our fill of people-watching the night before, when an entertaining political rally rolled through the streets while we ate dinner in a little restaurant with a balcony view of it all). Eventually, Really Not Tito agreed to the arrangements we’d made the night before and for the same amount of cash. I think he was a little ticked that he wasn’t getting extra cash to stop for an hour at a tourist attraction. From our point of view, we’d made the arrangements with Tito and wanted to stick to those arrangements.

So, everyone happy now, we left Lake Titicaca and Puno behind and fed Really Not Tito one of our last few Globbopops, the Peruvian cherry lollipops with gum inside that we’d become addicted to. Really Not Tito decided we weren’t so bad.

We had 45 minutes at Sillustani. It’s really cool. Really Not Tito sat in the van while we walked around. At the last minute, he tried to find us a guide and again we explained that we didn’t need a guide. But he had the Globbopop in his belly by this point and wanted to make us happy. Once he realized, yes, he could really nap in the van for an hour, everything went along smoothly.

Sillustani features several ancient, pre-Inca burial tombs, circular structures called Chulpas.

One of the more well-preserved structures. The Sillustani site isn't as well preserved as other sites in Peru, and it's too bad. It's incredible.

The rocks on the ground were probably inside the structure  at some point. The Peruvian government filled the structures (the bodies once inside them long gone) with rocks and cement to try and help them retain their shape. Some of them have boards, etc., trying to hold them up:

One of the crumbling chulpas.

My Liege peeking in a hole at the bottom of one of the structures. My dad actually climbed inside when he visited. No wonder they confiscated his film!

The opening at the bottom faces east toward the “reborn” rising sun. Chambers inside the tombs (not there any longer, but at one time), were built to resemble wombs. The dead were placed in the fetal position, like we’d seen at the underground cemetery in Nasca (only there are no mummified dead at Sillustani).

There was a nice path that you could meander around that would take you to every structure. But we only had 45 minutes, so we hightailed it to the ones we most wanted to visit.

Did I mention that while we were on Taquille Island on Lake Titicaca, we bought these nifty little matching bracelets off a girl in the square? We decided they were our real anniversary present, and we wouldn’t take them off until one of them rotted off. In fact, I had the audacity to suggest that whoever’s bracelet didn’t last as long as the other’s clearly wasn’t as invested in the relationship and should suffer a punishment of some sort. My Liege thought this was awful, simply awful of me! (I think he was afeared he would lose the competition). He called me a Nasty Pants (which is his nickname, so I don’t know where he gets off trying to confiscate it!). Aw, well, you don’t reach your 25th anniversary without the need to constantly come up with new nicknames for each other.

Self-portrait of us showing off the bracelets (I have the pink bracelet):

Still at Sillustani. My bracelet came off three times over the next four months, you know, as karmic punishment for having made that Nasty Pants suggestions. Twice it came off while I was turning socks inside out doing laundry, and once it came off while I was doing the dishes. The dh didn't lose his bracelet ONCE! So apparently I wasn't as invested in the relationship. Or maybe I was just doing all the housework. HUH? The last time I lost mine, I couldn't find it, so we cut his off and put it in the souvenirs-that-go-in-the-photo-album pile. At least a week later, he was digging a pair of socks out of his drawer, and he found my bracelet! Phew, I wasn't a loser after all. It hadn't rotted off, you see, the force of me lovingly turning his socks right side out had taken it off my arm.

Back to Sillustani. We knew we didn’t have much time, so we made sure to get back to the van within the 45 minutes Really Not Tito had allotted us. He awoke from his siesta, and we continued on our way to Juliaca. Well, it turned out Really Not Tito had neglected to inform us that he Really Didn’t Have a Clue Where the Juliaca Airport Was. He had to get directions, and those directions took us through Juliaca instead of around it. On the up side, we got to experience our last terrifying experience of crazy Peruvian city driving and see parts of Juliaca. On the down side, it was starting to look like—thanks to me wanting to visit Sillustani for my dad—we might not ever ARRIVE at the airport.

Finally, we did. And with enough time to spare. In fact, when we got to the airport in Juliaca, our flight hadn’t been announced yet. It wasn’t on the monitors. We couldn’t find ANY employees in the airport! And Really Not Tito was long gone. Turned out we were just too early. Why arrive to work when the security gate won’t open for another 20 minutes? I mean, really. Eventually, other tourists arrived, and we began to feel some assurance that we would make it to Lima in time for flight #2.

Our first flight was from Puno to Lima by way of Arequipa, the only city and area of Peru we missed that we’d wanted to visit. It’s known for having the deepest canyon in South America, Colca Canyon, where you can see Condors in flight, and it’s also known for volcanoes. We flew close to a few of them:

The tourist in the row behind us took pictures EVERY FEW SECONDS all the way from Puno to Lima. It was a 3 hour flight, so it was ultra-irritating.

Isn’t that a cool volcano, though? We had a brief respite at the Arequipa airport, but weren’t allowed to get off the plane.

Three hours later, we landed in Lima. We didn’t have much time before we had to catch the Lima-Houston leg of our journey home. We were pretty tired and grouchy by this point. We tried to upgrade to first class in the Lima airport (remembering the offer of upgrading on the way down for only $70 each one way, that we stupidly declined). But we were told it would cost $1700 each, and that was just to get us to Houston. Forget about it!

At this point, all I wanted to do was play Sudoku:

Tired and grouchy, losing at Sudoku.

So of course we were stuck with an obnoxious aisle-mate all the way to Houston (about 6 hours). I was in the middle and had to sit beside him. I wanted him to just shut up already (have I mentioned I’m not very talkative on planes? I don’t want to know your life story, sorry. I want to sleep or read and/or play Sudoku!)

Another layover in Houston, very short this time so we were running, and then we flew to Calgary with an EXTREMELY obnoxious aisle-mate. This time My Liege was in the middle, and reports have it that the Obnoxious One was super reluctant about giving up any elbow room. M.L.’s philosophy is that the middle seat is the worst seat, so the others should accommodate you. I’d have to say I agree.

In Calgary, we had enough time to grab something to eat. It was blissful! We ate at Montana’s. We had ribs, the most delicious ribs I have ever consumed. From Calgary, it was a one-hour flight home. By the time we arrived in small town B.C. and my dad picked us up from the airport, 24 hours had elapsed. We were so glad to be home!

We thoroughly enjoyed the journey, but decided we’re too old to experience another “Cindy holiday” for at least two years. (Cindy holidays are when you do anything except lay on the beach). (Cindy is easily bored and quickly gets overheated in the sun). However, only five months have passed, and I am eagerly looking forward to another trip to South America, this time to the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador. Don’t ask me how we plan to pay for it. For now, I’m dreaming and planning. And will even welcome the snafus. Because every snafu we encountered in Peru became a funny memory. And our wonderful experiences more than made up for the few snafus. The snafus made it interesting.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Over and out!