Archive for May, 2016

Listify Life – Favorite Places on the Internet to Waste Time

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

I would argue that for a writer there is no such thing as wasting time on the Internet, because entertainment is fodder for stories, and we use the Internet a lot for research and for planning our writing days, etc.  So this is really more a catalogue of where I am most likely to be spending my time on the Internet. If I weren’t a writer, would I visit Facebook several times a day? I honestly have no idea because I was an author before I joined Facebook.  The Internet, whether you are using email loops or forums or Facebook groups, provides a way for writers to get together and brainstorm and exchange ideas and experiences about publishing houses, editors and agents. It really is an invaluable tool.  So that’s my caveat!

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  • Facebook –  Yes, I do waste a lot of time following links on Facebook that have nothing to do with writing.  I love being able to stalk my kids online using Facebook,  and it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends both old and new.  I spend more time then I should following links to quizzes and news items that I know are just going to irritate me. I could just open up my USA Today app instead.  But of all the social networks out there, Facebook is the one I go to most frequently. I belong to an author support group and also to a group of publishing folks who are really into paper planning, and I  just joined a group for authors who are interested in doing their own formatting.  All that I find absolutely necessary. 🙂 As I look at my list, though, I realize I haven’t even included Twitter.  I have tried really hard to get into Twitter, but it’s just not in my top three. Same with Pinterest.  Unless I’m looking for renovation ideas, which is when I usually visit Pinterest, I don’t go there.  There’s only so much time in the day!
  • Trip Advisor –  When we are planning a big trip I usually start out by buying a Frommer’s book on the country and reading it cover to cover.  But then I follow up with months of research on Trip Advisor. It’s hands-down the best place I know to get advice on where I want to go.  I tend to pay the most attention to reviews from travelers who live in my province or Alberta, because we have similar expectations.  Whereas, folks from Ontario and folks from the UK have different expectations, I’ve come to realize through reading reviews on Trip Advisor. So while I might check those reviews and those ideas, if I really want to know how I might feel about a place, I depend on the residents of BC and our neighbours to the left, depending which way you are looking at the map of Canada.  I consider Alberta to be on the left,  because I am standing inside British Columbia looking out. 🙂
  • Instagram –  This is a new one for me. I discovered Instagram basically because I decided to participate in the spring #listifylife challenge  and Instagram is the primary place where the challenge is occurring.  I discovered that I really like Instagram.  Maybe it’s because participating in the challenge coincided with me blogging about our trip to Patagonia, because I realized I could start posting pictures of the trip to Instagram. 🙂  So, on Instagram, instead of networking really with just other writers, I have started networking with other travellers.  I follow a lot of travel bloggers and photographers on Instagram, and honestly it is what I am mainly there for, the travel photography, not the social networking.
  • Romance Divas Forum –  Easily the best, in my opinion, support and industry and research and brainstorming forum for romance authors on the Internet.  And… It’s how I discovered my paper planning group on Facebook, and that paper planning group is my happiest place on the Internet right now. 🙂
  •  Stock Photo Websites –  This one wouldn’t be on my list if I weren’t an author. What reason would I have to visit stock photo websites?  You would probably more likely find me on shoe buying websites…  But because I am mainly independently publishing right now,  stock photo websites are super important in the book cover brainstorming process. While some book cover artists will look at the stock photo websites for you, others want you to search for your own stock images or at least provide them as an example of what you’re looking for. Believe me, I can spend hours and hours and hours on stock photo websites when I am brainstorming a book cover.
  • Amazon and Chapters –  Chapters is a Canadian online bookstore, and I buy paper books mainly from Chapters or Canadian Amazon.  I buy e-books from American Amazon, and because I am an independent author I am on Amazon a fair amount checking sales rankings, etc. But I also check sales rankings on Kobo, iBooks, and other places. Actually, I don’t really check sales rankings all that much unless I am running a promotion or have a new release, which hasn’t occurred in too long.  But when my next release does come out within the next few months, I know I will be stalking my Amazon dashboard.  Kobo is also easy to stalk,  but I don’t buy books from Kobo. I buy the odd book from iBooks, but I prefer the lighting on my Kindle to reading on an iPad, so therefore I spend the most time buying books on Amazon.  I had a Kindle before the Kobo came out, and I still use my original Kindle (sorry, Kobo,  but as an author I love you!)
  • Cover Artist Sites –  I have used the same cover artist for all my books as Cindy and under my pen name except for two short stories. Even though I keep going back to the same cover artist, I like to visit other cover artist sites just to get a taste for what else is out there.  A lot of cover artists also run their own photography shoots, so I get sucked into those rabbit holes very, very easily. 😉

Where do you waste time on the Internet? Is it time wasted? Or is it…a necessity?

A Note About Comments

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

My delete finger has been a little trigger-happy with comments on my blog lately. Sometimes I empty the spam folder before I realize that a comment might not really be spam. And once I’ve accidentally deleted all the spam comments, I can’t get back to them again.

So if you have left a comment on my blog lately and you come back and don’t see it, that is why. Sorry, it got caught in the spam filter and something about the dashboard on WordPress must’ve changed, because I am losing those comments before getting a chance to check out if they are really spam or not.

The best way for me to realize that you are not spam is to mention in your comment where you saw the link to the post on which you are commenting. If you came to my blog from Facebook, let me know that. If you came to my blog through Twitter or Instagram, let me know that.  You are much less likely to get lumped into the spam category along with all the comments from SEO website engines.

Apologies to anyone whose comments I may have inadvertently deleted. Practically nobody comments on blogs anymore, so it is easy to get trigger-happy. 🙂 But I do welcome comments, if you wish  to leave them here rather than on Facebook, for example.

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Pia Glacier and Glacier Alley

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Date Explored: February 15th

Day 3 of our Australis Cruise was pretty much the reason FOR the cruise. Overnight, the ship makes its way around the western end of Tierra del Fuego and into the Ballenero Channel. It’s pretty exciting to look out your cabin window and see bits of ice beginning to show in the water. I can only imagine what it must be like to experience in colder months (but I’m a wimp so we went during their summer). The closer the ship cruises to Pia Glacier, the more you can feel excitement mounting on-board. Pia Glacier is one of the few glaciers accessible to humans that is not in retreat, but instead is advancing (this is when a glacier grows faster than it’s melting, whereas the Columbia Ice Fields in my home province are melting faster than they are growing, hence they are in retreat).

When Pia Glacier first comes into view, it is just breathtaking. It’s surreal to be among such beauty, and in today’s day and age there is a pretty somber realization that seeing a glacier calve (which we did, several times) as the ice pushes from the back and huge chunks split off into the ocean is a rarity. You truly feel like you are at the mercy of Mother Earth.

When you visit the glacier, you can choose to just stay at the viewing area or to hike to gain “better views.” The hike was pretty slippery, over large boulders, and it was muddy. They warned us it would be muddy, and it was! I had rain pants and gators. We were in Chile and Argentina for a month, so I didn’t have space in my luggage for hiking boots. You can borrow gumboots off the cruise folks, but I thought they would be too slippery on the rocks for this excursion. I just used my hiking runners with the rain pants and gators, and that combo worked great.

In the zodiac en route to the disembarkation spot for Pia Glacier. The zodiac engines churn through the ice. It sounds like a big blender.

In the zodiac en route to the disembarkation spot for Pia Glacier. The zodiac engines churn through the ice. It sounds like a big blender.

I am "enjoying" a glass of scotch with glacial ice. This was after our hike to a "better viewing area," which is really, in my opinion, a way to not have too many people on the viewing rock at once. The folks who take the "easy" landing just stay here as long as they want. Meanwhile, the rest of us are hiking up the slippery boulders. The view was very nice, and I'm proud of myself that I made it! But I'm not so sure I would have made it back down if not for my husband telling me (and others) where to step and when. I seem to have a natural inclination to step exactly where I shouldn't, on the slipperiest area.

I am “enjoying” a glass of scotch with glacial ice. This was after our hike to a “better viewing area,” which is really, in my opinion, a way to not have too many people on the viewing rock at once. The folks who take the “easy” landing just stay here as long as they want. Meanwhile, the rest of us are hiking up the slippery boulders. The view was very nice, and I’m proud of myself that I made it! But I’m not so sure I would have made it back down if not for my husband telling me (and others) where to step and when. I seem to have a natural inclination to step exactly where I shouldn’t, on the slipperiest area. But at least I didn’t fall off the path like I did hiking down from a volcano in the Galapagos four years earlier.

I had to put quotation marks around “enjoy,” because I am not a scotch drinker. I just wanted my picture taken like everyone else.

See the blue area of the glacier to the left? That’s where Pia Glacier was calving during our visit. We didn’t think it was going to calve at all. Then we started our hike and as the day warmed, you could start to hear the rumblings of a potential calve. Once we returned from our hike, I forgot about taking pictures or even attempting to get a calving on video. I just stood there and watched in awe. A couple small chunks calved, and a big one calved. See that icy water just behind me up above? As the glacier calves and drops into the ocean, it creates this “down the sink” effect, which shoves and swirls the water just beyond our viewing rock. The force of nature is awesome.

The final ascent was up to a viewing area to see a fjord. It was pretty crowded by the time we got there, with a group that had arrived previously. Now, most of the folks you will encounter on the cruise are cognizant that everyone wants to take pictures, but there were a few who felt their photography skills were of paramount importance. Really, a couple of fellows could have just moved a wee tad to allow, say, SOMEONE ELSE, ANYONE ELSE, a chance to take a photo. While I wouldn't use the term Asshat to describe an individual in particular, I might say "egotistical twit."

The final ascent was up to a viewing area to see a fjord. It was pretty crowded by the time we got there, with a group that had arrived previously. Now, most of the folks you will encounter on the cruise are cognizant that everyone wants to take pictures, but there were a few who felt their photography skills were of paramount importance. Really, a couple of fellows could have just moved a wee tad to allow, say, SOMEONE ELSE, ANYONE ELSE, a chance to take a photo. While I wouldn’t use the term Asshat to describe an individual in particular, I might say “egotistical twit.”

Heading back to the cruise ship, DH and I wound up in the last zodiac with a bunch of photographers with massive cameras. Most of them were quite nice (like the gentleman with his back to us) and the zodiac captain was very accommodating driving the zodiac to a vantage point from which the photographers with their massive zoom lenses could take pictures of the ship. I had long since decided just to watch the glacier instead, just in case it did a massive calve while I was watching it and others' attention was diverted to the cruise ship. Wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what happened. All I could get out was a "Holy crap!" and before the camera could turn toward the noise, a building-sized piece calved off the glacier.

Heading back to the cruise ship, DH and I wound up in the last zodiac with a bunch of photographers with massive cameras. Most of them were quite nice (like the gentleman with his back to us) and the zodiac captain was very accommodating driving the zodiac to a vantage point from which the photographers with their massive zoom lenses could take pictures of the ship. I had long since decided just to watch the glacier instead, in case it did a massive calve while I was watching it and the attention of my zodiac mates was diverted to the cruise ship. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happened. All I could get out was a “Holy crap!” and before the massive cameras could turn toward the noise, a building-sized piece calved off the glacier.

Sometimes it pays to just enjoy the moment instead of recording it for posterity, you know?

GlacerAlley3

After you return to the ship, the boat cruises through “Glacier Alley,” which features tidewater glaciers coming down from the Darwin mountains and the Darwin Ice Sheet. Most of these glaciers are named after European countries, and the ship serves you a drink reminiscent of the country as you cruise past a glacier in question. Excuse my photos, because I took them through the window. It was quite blustery outside by this point. So I can’t tell you if this glacier is France, Holland, Germany or Italy, but I can tell you I enjoyed sips of champagne and beer (I think I ran out of steam after that).

This glacier is obviously melting, which was kind of sad.

This glacier is obviously melting, which was kind of sad.

More glaciers!

More glaciers!

During the cruise along Beagle Channel (beagle!!!) and through Glacier Alley, my sea-sickness was taking its toll. This was the night before we would reach Cape Horn, another reason to take the cruise – a chance to disembark at Cape Horn!! The success of the landing depends entirely on what the weather is doing around midnight to 2 a.m. the night before. The ship guys (captains, whatever) are in contact with a weather station that alerts them to the probability of landing at Cape Horn. But of course they don’t tell you whether you’ll land or not until the next morning, because how else will they get the entire boat into life jackets otherwise?

Did we land at Cape Horn? Did I fall overboard and need to be retrieved? Or did they toss me a rope and allow me to barefoot water-ski through ice chunks? These and other questions will be answered next week on another installment of Cindiana Jones Does Patagonia. Stay tuned!

Listify Life – What I Splurge On

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Welcome back to Listify Life! This week’s theme is What I Splurge On/My Indulgences. Caveat: I am not really a splurgy person. I am very practical and hate shopping for clothes, for example. So this is the best list I could come up with:

Listify_indulge

I should splurge on Lessons on How to Take Centered Pictures.

  • Massage Therapy. Okay, I splurge on this. I go every other week, but really I consider it a necessity because I work at a computer for long hours at a time. Also, I couldn’t run three times a week without someone to fix me up. When my husband retires and I no longer have his medical benefits to help me out, I don’t know what I’ll do! I usually run out his benefits by October. My only excuse is that I was in a major five-car pile-up 24 years ago and have had troubles off and on since. But really it’s because I don’t like being in pain. Why should I b*tch and moan about my aching shoulders and hip or rotator cuff or whatever when I can do something about it and NOT be in pain? I honestly think massage therapy should be a write-off for writers. It’s a business expense, not an indulgence!
  • Shoes that Don’t Kill My Feet.  I no longer buy cheap shoes. I developed a problem in my foot from running and ran in pain for two years. It took a few years WITH orthopedic arches to overcome the issue. My shoes might not be the prettiest on the planet, but I have learned I have really high arches and that’s part of the issue.
  • Running Gear. Once I discovered the arch issue, I also discovered that I “pronate.” Especially with my floppy right foot (I swear someone put it on crooked before I was born). So I now buy my runners every year or two (I really only need new runners every other year) from an actual Running store. This led to buying actual “running socks” (good quality) and running tights/pants/gloves/water bottle, etc. The only thing I don’t splurge on is running hats. I steal golf hats from my husband.
  • Chocolate. I don’t feel I need to explain this one.
  • Take-Out. As in food. I also don’t feel I need to explain this one. I am also quite willing to sit in a restaurant. I’m a writer, not a chef. I get quite irked when I have to “cook too much” (like three planned meals a week). Luckily my husband adores Kraft Dinner. I should note that I made an honest attempt to learn to cook when we got married, but as soon as I learned he doesn’t like leftovers it was ALL. OVER.
  • Multi-colored pens. This is a new indulgence which sprang from beginning to use a pretty paper planner this years. I try to color-code different to-do lists, but really I just wind up writing in whatever order I like, the colors I like. I love pens in general but we don’t live in a town with a good pen store or I would be in serious trouble. As it is, I have to order refills for my “best” pen from a shop in Montreal.
  • Travel. I love to travel, and I would rather travel than have a new car (hence the 1999 Altima I drive) or a new house (hence, we live in the first and only house we have ever bought; been here since 1990 and have no plans to move). I guess I can add “renovations” onto my list of Indulgences, because we have done a lot of that (and all the DYI has contributed to my need for Massage Therapy).
  • Office Supplies. Yes, I adore buying computer ink and computer paper, Post-It notes and whatever else might be handy around the office. I also like collecting writing software, whether I use it or not….

What do you splurge on?

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Australis Cruise, Day 2

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Date Explored: February 14th

Our Australis Cruise, “Fjords of Tierra del Fuego” on the Stella Autralis, departed Punta Arenas on February 13th, “Day 1,” but we didn’t have any excursions on that day. You’re led to your cabins, settle in, then assemble for an intro talk, drinks, and decide which expedition excursions to sign up for the next day, Valentine’s Day for us! The morning excursion featured two levels of difficulty for hiking/walking. We signed up for “Difficult,” but they also offered a Moderate or Easy route (I can’t remember which). Let me say, if you can’t hike up a slippery path, even with a rope to guide you, you have no business signing up for Difficult just so you can get a “better view.” I guess you don’t know until you try, but if you don’t hike in your regular life, opt for the Easy or Moderate outings. Opting for Difficult when you can’t handle it just takes the guides’ attention away from other guests. And I say this fully knowing there are times I shouldn’t elect the Difficult hike myself.

Saturday morning, when we departed on the zodiacs for Ainsworth Bay, was chilly but sunny. The afternoon was overcast. I want to show a photo of the Stella Australis. It’s from the afternoon excursion, thus the clouds:

AinsworthBay_Ship

Can you see that little craft to the very left of the shot? Those are the zodiacs, on which you travel for your excursions.

Here is a shot of our zodiac traveling to Ainsworth Bay, off the cruise ship:

AinsworthBay_Zodiacs

Isn’t that beautiful? You can see two more zodiacs in front of us. Luckily, even though I get seasick, going on a two-week Galapagos expedition-style cruise in 2012 taught me how to handle myself on a zodiac, and it all came back to me, like riding a bike. 🙂 So this time I could be brave and sit on the edge without death-gripping ropes, and take whatever pictures I wanted.

Note: If any rapids were around, I would have been hanging onto the ropes with the aforementioned death grip.

Travel Tip! If there are rapids, you are likely on a river.

Cruise Ship Tip! We selected deck 3 of the Stella Australis, and it was perfect. I don’t like to be too far up, because it’s better for motion sickness to be a bit further down, and mid-ship is also advised. We were in room 327, beside the stairs, and we had no issues whatsoever.

The view from our hike at Ainsworth Bay, along the glacial moraine (returning from the hike):

AinsworthBay_AMHike2

So beautiful and peaceful! That’s the Darwin mountain range in the distance. Remember, we went during their summer.

The weather can change quickly in Patagonia. We had a wonderful lunch back on board the Stella Australis, sailing west along the sound before traveling via zodiac again in the afternoon to the Tucker Islets, where we saw lots of sea birds and cormorants nesting, but, really, everyone’s there to see the penguins!

TuckerIsletsZodiac

En route to visiting the penguins. You can see there are four zodiacs ahead of us.

After traveling to Galapagos, where we saw cormorants drying their wings in the sun, seabirds weren’t really on our agenda. We did see a couple of penguins in the Galapagos, and unfortunately we didn’t book ahead enough in advance to see the Magdalena penguins on a day trip from Punta Arenas, but none of that mattered now, because we saw penguins galore at Tucker Islets.

Penguins for your perusal (this one guy wanted to pose for us very badly!):

TuckerPenguins1

The giant penguins are at Antarctica. I don’t know if we’ll ever go there. I love expedition-style cruises, where you launch daily on zodiacs to view wildlife, but there are a lot of other places in the world to visit, and I’m happy we chose the Patagonian fjords. Leaving you with my favorite penguin until next time, day 3 of the cruise….

TuckerPenguins4

TuckerPenguins3

TuckerPenguins2

Penguinnnnnnnn….out!

Listify Life – The Top 3 Books in My To Be Read Pile

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

I usually have a mix of books on the go. While I write contemporary romance, I don’t have a CR on my TBR pile right now because I’m waiting for a fave author’s book to release before I get my next mass market delivery. I like to read outside of genre a lot, and I like to read books on craft of writing, plus I’ve gotten back into reading some biographies, which I used to read all the time when I was younger.

Here we go:

Listify_TBR

I just finished UNSAID by Neil Abramson. There’s a chimpanzee named Cindy in the story. My BFF lent me this book last week while she was in town. In exchange, she’s supposed to read MY FEARFUL SYMMETRY by Audrey Niffenegger, which I loved.

UNSAID is a great story if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary. I would read more from Mr. Abramson (it looks like he’ll have a new release this summer).

To Be Read, Fiction:

  • THE SEVEN SISTERS by Lucinda Riley. I have never read this author. I am pretty sure my daughter-in-law left this book at the house before she and my son returned to Shanghai for another year of work. So I better get reading, in case she wants it back. 🙂
  • COLD, COLD HEART by Tami Hoag. I’ll either read that or THE BONE GARDEN by Tess Gerritsen. I haven’t read Hoag in a very long time, but saw CCH in the drugstore so picked it up awhile ago. Plenty of folks have recommended Gerritsen. I haven’t read her before, so I’m eager to get to THE BONE GARDEN. Which of these two I choose to read actually comes down to how I feel about the books when I hold them in my hands when the time comes to choose. Don’t ask. Yes, it’s weird. So what?
  • AVENUE OF MYSTERIES by John Irving. Irving is an auto-buy for me, and this one has been “gelling” on my nightstand for awhile now (books need to sit on my nightstand or in the drawer for an undetermined amount of time before they “gel” enough for me to read them). Don’t ask. Yes, it’s weird. So what?

Oooh, interesting note, I attended a reading of John Irving’s on Granville Island in Vancouver with my BFF many moons ago. He read from A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, one of my favorite of his books, and he signed my copy (the poor guy was swamped by folks after the reading, swarming around him; it was crazy; yes, I was one). I’ve been collecting his novels in  hardcover since THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP.

Recently Finished:

THE HEART GOES LAST by Margaret Atwood, another of my auto-buys and my all-time favorite author, although sometimes she writes a book I don’t like (don’t ask me where she gets the nerve). Loved it! Ms. Atwood, I truly regret that I was too hung over to attend your reading of BODILY HARM at the University of Victoria in the 1980s. I meant to bring my copy and get your autograph. I think I purposely drank too much the night before because you’re one of my idols and I was just too shy to attend the reading. Yeah, it sucks I’m writing you from my blog and you’ll never see this note, but I just wanted you to know I regret my actions, but at the time I thought I could have a fun night out and still make it to the reading. Apologies.

I have also been collecting Ms. Atwood’s novels and short stories in hardcover since BODILY HARM. I have her novels from before BH in paperback.

To Be Read, Craft of Writing:

  • ROMANCING THE BEAT: STORY STRUCTURE FOR ROMANCE NOVELS by Gwen Hayes. A friend mentioned this book on Facebook the other day, and Gwen belongs to Romance Divas, an online romance writers forum I also belong to, so I bought a copy for my Kindle and can’t wait to dig into it.
  • WIRED FOR STORY: THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO USING BRAIN SCIENCE TO HOOK READERS FROM THE VERY FIRST SENTENCE by Lisa Cron. This book has been on my TBR pile for a very long time. I’m sort of saving it for when I begin brainstorming the next book on my To Be Written pile.

To Be Read, Biography:

  • THE DUCHESS by Amanda Foreman. My mom picked up this book without realizing it was a biography, so she passed it along. A few years ago, a movie with Keira Knightly came out called The Duchess, based at least in part on this biography, so I’ll give it a whirl.

What’s on your To Be Read pile?

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – To Punta Arenas and the Patagonian Fjords

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Dates Explored: February 11-13

Last I left off, we were exploring Castro and Quellon on Chiloe Island, which I am really glad we visited, even if we had to sacrifice time in the Lakes District to do so. We needed to return our rental car to the kiosk at the Puerto Montt airport on the mainland of Chile on Thursday, February 11th, and catch a flight to Punta Arenas, from where we would begin Leg 3 of our journey on a 4-night cruise through the Patagonian fjords. Just in case something went wrong, we left our B&B in Ten Ten, Castro pretty early. We were again lucky to catch a ferry without waiting in line. On the ferry back to Pargua, we saw some jelly fish. It’s a very short trip, just a commuter ferry, but very pleasant. You are expected to pay on-board, and they do come around and check. So make sure you have pesos handy.

We knew where the airport was, but we now had time to kill so decided to look for a place to have lunch. Unfortunately, we wound up in a light industrial area of Puerto Montt that wasn’t very appealing. I was beginning to understand why I had been advised to head straight to Puerto Varas when we first arrived in Puerto Montt a week earlier. In fact, we were mighty tempted to drive to Puerto Varas for our lunch! But we got so lost in Puerto Montt, needing to hang out our window and beg directions from a nice fellow who turned out to be a taxi. He was generous enough to let us follow him around construction detours to get us back to the road to the airport. We stared driving to Puerto Varas, then thought better of it. You just never know what might go wrong. So we headed back to the Puerto Montt airport, settled things with the car rental agency, and ate in the airport. Not a first choice, but honestly we couldn’t find anything else that looked decent and didn’t have the time or inclination at this point to continue driving in circles.

I don’t want to do Puerto Montt a disservice. For us it served as a base to land and then visit Puerto Varas, see the volcanoes, and circumnavigate the lake. Once you’re at Puerto Varas, the inclination is strong to head north and keep exploring the Lakes District, so I didn’t research Puerto Montt at all as a travel destination. For us, it was a means to an end.

Our flight to Punta Arenas went off without a hitch, and we had booked a transfer in advance to our hotel, Boutique La Yegua Loca. This beautiful boutique hotel was a splurge for us. It wasn’t cheap, but we really wanted a nice place at this point in the trip (not knowing where we were going to be for those two nights in Castro in advance). And it was worth it. I get motion sickness, and between the ferry and the flight and tiredness, I was pretty bagged by the time we had dinner at the hotel (very nice small restaurant).

Here’s me outside the hotel the next morning:

PuntaArenas_hotel

A well-worth it splurge! My Liege and I were in El Carpintero with a lovely view of the water, and BILly and SILly were on the same floor, across the way. We could hang out on the top balcony and there was a little sitting area between the rooms.

Too late on Thursday night, I remember SILly and I were thinking of doing the Magdalena Penguins tour on the Friday, our “rest” day in Punta Arenas. I knew we could book once in Punta Arenas, but you really need to book a couple of days ahead. The tours were all full by the time I looked into it, after we’d settled into our rooms. It’s a six-hour tour, and I knew I was heading for motion sickness on our small cruise ship, so we decided to forgo the penguin tour (not that we had a choice, considering everything seemed booked), knowing we would get to see some penguins, if not as many, during our Australis cruise.

Travel Tip! It’s very easy to book the Magdalena Penguins tour once you are in Punta Arenas. Here are a couple of spots. Viator. Solo Expedicions. There’s no need to book weeks in advance UNLESS it is something you simply must accomplish. Then, maybe book a few days to a week in advance. Or months in advance. Up to you. We wanted to play this leg free and easy.

Punta Arenas was a pleasant surprise (visit that link for a list of things to do). The flea markets were reasonable, you can visit a statue of Magellan and rub his toe for good luck on your seafaring adventures, there’s a wide boulevard with lots of sculptures, a maritime museum, a lot of replica ships that you can visit if you have a rental car or book a tour, plus the aforementioned penguins. We only had so much time, so we visited the Naval Museum (totally worth it) and then walked to the Sara Braun Municipal Cemetery, which was beautiful. An above-ground cemetery, again worth the visit.

My Liege at the Maritime Museum.

My Liege at the Naval Museum.

Between the hedges at the Saran Braun Municipal Cemetery in Punta Arenas. Photo Credit: BILly

I did take lots of pictures at the cemetery, but whittling down, they aren’t the sort of pictures I usually keep. We had a brisk walk back.

Cute door returning from cemetery.

Cute door returning from cemetery.

There are plenty of nice places to eat in Punta Arenas, but the place revolves around the cruise ships either docking for a day or departing, as ours was, so you’re not likely to get a great deal on a meal, shall we say, but the food was great.

Olive Di Oyl enjoying cheesecake and hot chocolate (or latte, can no longer remember) in Punta Arenas before the cruise.

Olive Di Oyl enjoying cheesecake and hot chocolate (or latte, can no longer remember) in Punta Arenas before the cruise.

For our cruise, we chose Fjords of Tierra del Fuego on the MV Stella Australis. This 4-night expedition cruise departs from either Punta Arenas or Ushuaia, Argentina, or you can elect to do a round trip of 5 or 7 nights, but a couple of the excursions will duplicate. A 3-night option is also available.

Check out the Australis website for the various options. I would definitely recommend this cruise. It was top-notch.

For our one-way trip, a few days before our sailing date of February 13th, I received a PDF from the Australis folks with instructions for boarding, but it would not open on my iPad and I did not receive an email back when I tried to contact someone to see what it was. So we dragged our suitcases from the hotel down to the address we had on our tickets, only to discover that the “office” was closed. We knew there were souvenir shops around the corner, and folks were coming and going from another ship. BILly and My Liege went ahead and tried to find out how we were supposed to board the Stella Australis when the office was closed. It took a lot of rig and a ton of marole, but finally they found where we needed to go through, and then we basically backtracked to eventually discovering a big waiting room and souvenir shop just for the Australis cruise folks. I am thinking it might have been nice to learn what had been on that PDF, but oh, well….

There was a huge lineup of folks checking in, so we just hopped in line and resigned ourselves to a lot of waiting. Eventually, we made it through to the souvenir shop, where we ultimately discovered we had to board buses to get driven down the dock to the cruise ship. It was easily walking distance. Not sure why the need for buses, but I guess it helps them organize.

Once on the ship, each couple is greeted by one of the expedition guides and taken to your cabin. This was a very nice touch, very personalized, and we came to realize that the Stella Australis is a beautiful small cruise ship. Ours featured a big window for viewing.

You settle in for a short period and then we were invited to the Darwin Lounge for a short briefing and welcoming. I am not much of a drinker, so did not research the liquor rules in advance, but we found out that all booze throughout the 4-night cruise was free. The Pisco Sours were delicious, but I can only manage one. The meals were all delicious, as well.

If you suffer motion sickness, make sure to bring supplies. I was using the ear patch, which I used to great success in Galapagos in 2012, but this time the side effects were nearly as bad as motion sickness itself. Our Galapagos cruise was two weeks, and by the fourth day I had settled in with the patch nicely. The Australis cruise wasn’t long enough for me to settle in with my motion sickness, so my stomach felt pitchy the whole time.

Another traveler advised to cut the patch in half, which I tried, but then some of the medicine leaked out and stung my skin. I would try the patch again (after having success in Galapagos), but would cut it in half and then cover with one of those little round bandages.

However, I’m come to realize over three small cruises (Galapagos, Cuba and the Patagonian Fjords) that no motion sickness system works for me entirely. I’m still trying to find the best solution.

Do you suffer motion sickness? Any tips for my next cruise? (Likely a couple of years from now, hopefully to Alaska.)

Listify Life – Songs I Never Get Tired Of

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

After listening to any song thirty times in a row, I can get tired of it. But these are some of the songs that always appeal to me:

Listify_Songs

They are in no order, just as they popped to mind. There are a lot more songs on my list, but basically I am attracted to anything with a lot of piano or a bit of blues, or a bit of melancholy. I like songs that tug on my heartstrings. If they make me want to cry, great!

  • Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin. Guitar! Plus, great social commentary on materialism. Loved playing this on the piano in my twenties. Lyrics. YouTube.
  • Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen. I just love the crazy story in the lyrics. YouTube. And Freddy Mercury’s vocals are astounding. As is the whole theatricality.
  • Downstream – SuperTramp. This was the first song my husband and I danced to at our wedding. We each went to university near an ocean/sea, and when you get to those words in the song, just substitute ocean/sea with lake – we each either grew up on a lake or near a lake, or overlooking a lake. Read the lyrics and tell me this isn’t a great song to start a marriage. YouTube. Very romantic, and gorgeous to play on the piano.
  • Breakin’ Me – Jonny Lang. The entire Wander this World CD is amazing. Jonny Lang was very young when he put out this album, and the entire thing captures me, but Breakin’ Me is my fav of his songs. Lyrics. YouTube.
  • Falling Down Blue – Blue Rodeo. Another song about loss and love. These kinds of songs make my heart ache in the most wonderful way. Lyrics. YouTube.
  • Reminiscing – Little River Band. This song came out around the year I met my husband. I was 18 and he 19. I went away to university four months after meeting him, and while we knew we loved each other we didn’t realize then that we would be spending the rest of our lives together. Once I moved away, he traveled often to see me, and he had me listen to these lyrics. He said, “I want this to be us.” (With the exception that neither of us knew who “Miller’s Band” was–The Steve Miller Band? Nope). And damned if we aren’t well on our way. YouTube. (BTW, the reference is to The Glenn Miller Orchestra, I believe, before our time).

What songs do you never tire of hearing?

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Quellon and the End of the Pan-American Highway

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Date Explored: February 10th

On our second day in Castro, my husband declared he wanted to “go to the beach.” So we set off to find a Chilean national park with beach access. We did have one in mind, but we wound up taking a road trip instead. On our way south out of Castro, SILly and I spied another of the UNESCO World Heritage wooden Churches of Chiloe. We had only seen the one, in Castro, and we knew we wouldn’t have time to see another if we didn’t stop at Iglesia Nuestra Signora de Gracia. The construction is amazing, and we managed to squeeze in our visit before a tour bus pulled up. Score!

A nice little above-ground cemetery is to the left of the church, looking straight on.

A nice little above-ground cemetery is to the left of the church, looking straight on. Chile has a lot of beautiful above-ground cemeteries. We visited super-large ones in Punta Arenas, before stepping aboard a four-night cruise, and we visited another in Buenos Aires.

Yes, I'm making a big deal out of the wooden churches of Chiloe Island. Look at the little pieces of wood!

Yes, I’m making a big deal out of the wooden churches of Chiloe Island. Look at the little pieces of wood! That’s a lot of work.

And do you know how they created these domed interiors?

The marble look to the columns is drawn on. They aren’t really marble. The columns would have looked just as nice without the drawings, IMO. Do you know how they created the domed interiors?

Thus:

Courtesy of upkeep efforts, we can see that the churches are built upside-down, like ships. Well, the roofs anyway. That's how they get the concave wooden ceilings. Then they flip them.

Courtesy of upkeep efforts, we can see that the churches are built upside-down, like ships. Well, the roofs anyway. That’s how they get the concave wooden ceilings. Then they flip them.

SILly and I were able to climb the bell tower and walk along inside the shaped dome from one end to the other, where we looked INTO the church through a peephole. The guys, meanwhile, were having a siesta in the car. Silly men.

The church is about 4 klicks south of Castro, so don’t miss it if you’re in the vicinity.

After the church, SILly and I were ready to take Steve and BILly to the beach, but the guys had decided we might want to drive south to Quellon instead. I knew this from my research, but had forgotten — the highway we were on stretches 21,000 kilometers from Anchorage, Alaska to Quellon, Chiloe Island, Chile. When would we get another chance to drive to the end of the highway?

Never, my friends.

So instead of going to the beach, we drove to Quellon. It was a bit of a tricky business because, like on Easter Island, we were following our noses with no real clear plan of what was occurring. Were we on the right road? Did we take the proper turn? Turns out we were and we did. We arrived at a monument heralding our destination:

And it's on a beach!!!

And it’s on a beach!!!

The very end of the Pan-American highway. We didn’t have time to drive back up to Anchorage and back, so we stopped in Quellon for lunch instead. Everywhere appeared to be closed (damn siesta). But finally we found a restobar filled with locals, and I made fun of BILly’s “cheese soup” lunch until all the locals started ordering the same thing. It was delicious.

Here’s a view across the road from our restobar:

Quellon_view

I had read that Quellon was a small place not worth a stay, but we liked it just as much, if not better, than Castro. You can use Quellon as a base to take a 5-hour ferry to Chaiten, from where “the boat sails through the inner channels of the Chiloé archipelago” (taken from the ferry link). When we were planning the Chile trip, we knew we wanted to do the Australis cruise through the Patagonian fjords, but BILly kept whining about a place called Tic-Toc. I researched and researched and researched “Tic-Toc,” which I finally discovered is in a new Chilean national park that was so new during my research period that I couldn’t find out anything about it.

But now, now, thanks to me (not really, thanks to Google catching up with BILly’s ideas after we came home), you can find out about Tic-Toc Bay. If our group was serious about seeing Bahia Tic-Toc, we wouldn’t have had time to do the Patagonian cruise. Things turn out like they’re meant to. We left Quellon and revisited our quest to find My Liege a beach. We used our wily skills to make our way to Cucao, where we spread out on the sand along with quite a few Chileans, with the big difference that they would go in the water and we would not. Way too cold for us wimpy Canadians!

We did put our feet in the ocean. Ya gotta.

Then it was back to our B&B in the Ten Ten area of Castro where we had a relaxing night and left the next morning to catch the ferry back from Ancud to Puerto Montt. We needed to be at the airport in time to catch our LAN flight to Punta Arenas, from where we would begin the cruise that inspired us to visit Chile in the first place. The entire trip up to the cruise was an effort of backward-planning. Very handy and simple. Choose a primary destination where you HAVE to be somewhere at a specified time, then explore options previous-to and afterward. If you’re like me, you wind up in the country for a month. So much fun!

Any questions?

Stay tuned!

#ListifyLife – Things I Collect

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Ooh, this week’s theme might open up a can of worms! Finally, you all get to see just how weird I am! (I understand some of you realize this already).

Listify_Collect

Things I Collect…

  • Face Masks and Pottery Heads. This collection started when my best friend and maid of honor gave me a pottery head/cookie jar of a guy who looked like he might have been an extra in the original Mad Max movie. That led to me buying a second head by a different potter, which led to my sister-in-law buying me a funky face mask of a guy with huge red lips and sunglasses smoking a cigarette, which led to me buying a companion face mask from the same artist of a woman in hair curlers and an earring that says, “You’ll have to marry me first.” Which led to at least half-a-dozen face masks since then. I only have room for one or two more face masks above my desk, so I’m getting pickier.
  • Weird Cat Statues. Okay, I have three floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and while I have a lot of books, they would look boring (to me) if they only had books on them. So I started collecting weird cat statues. I must have at least twenty of these statues in various places–on my roll-top desk, on my bookshelves, on top of my grandmother’s china cabinet–but I’ve heard about other folks’ animal collections, elephants and such, and I don’t think I’m too out to lunch with this one.
  • Leather-Bound Classics. For years I collected leather-bound books, and I have about 110 of them on my bookshelves (but have only read about 50; gotta get moving on that again) along with contemporary hardcovers and trade paperbacks. I don’t keep many mass market paperbacks, just my absolute favorites. The books were the reason for the bookshelves, which then begged to be filled with cats and pottery heads and other stuff, such as…
  • Unique Bookends. I have at least a dozen quirky bookend sets, and not all of them get to sit on the same shelf as their pair. I need maybe one more set of bookends so I can get rid of the last tin set.
  • Wooden Body Parts. Yes, I know it sounds odd, but it’s not, really. I found this life-sized wooden foot in a store in Mexico, and it was a nice change from wooden ducks, etc., so I bought it. Then we went to Cuba, and I found a Cuban clenched fist. That seemed to go along. I have a couple of mom and daughter wooden heads my parents picked up in a foreign country ages ago. I’m open to more wooden body parts, so if you have some, send them along! *Note, I have no need to collect skulls. I will leave that to some of my relatives.

If you think my adult collections are a bit off the wall, as a child I collected:

  • Pamphlets. Every time we went to a motel/hotel (not often), I would collect the tourism pamphlets. Then somehow I discovered that I could send away to companies for information on their products, and thus collect more pamphlets! I sent away at least twenty letters to places like Firestone, using up all my dad’s business stamps, just so I could get these pamphlets. I had a dresser with pretty skinny drawers, like a tallboy. One drawer was filled with pamphlets. I have no defense for this collection other than we didn’t have an encyclopedia set, it was before the Internet, I craved information, I craved words, I craved reading, I craved learning, and I craved what I would later realize might be called research. I just loved words so much I needed all the words I could find. I no longer have this collection.
  • Bird Parts. Yes, I know this one is odd, and my mother put a stop to it as soon as she discovered the little wooden box in my closet with bird heads and claws that my cat left over after she finished eating a bird beneath my bed. They were petrifying nicely. This was around the time I wanted to be a pathologist, and the birds were already dead, it wasn’t like I was the cat, you know. So it made sense to me. But my mother feared collecting dead bird parts might lead to collecting, I don’t know what she thought. But I had to stop.
  • Teeth. Yikes, I can see you running away. But, you see, there was a time I wanted to become a dentist. So it made total sense to collect my brother’s baby teeth as they were falling out. I had a couple of own teeth and put them under plastic wrap in my scrapbooks.

Just go ahead, tell me something weird you collect or collected as a child. Show me up. I dare you.