Saturday, January 03, 2015

Mom, up, up and away...

Jeannie Russell Kemp (nee Fuller)
February 6, 1922 - December 31, 2014

It is so hard to believe mom is not with us anymore. On earth, that is. She IS here with me as I write, I definitely feel her presence.

How is it that as I write, Joe Cocker's "You are so beautiful to me" comes on? I listen, and it's all about mom, words she would say to me, words that say what I feel when I look at her face in the picture above. This is my favourite picture of mom, and she is so beautiful, so playful, so happy...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Indiegogo campaign for Maui's vet bills

I've started an Indigogo campaign to help me pay for Maui's vet bills. Please help, if you can.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Reflections on a cat

This little boy, Maui, also known as Meowy, has become very central to my life. I had been somewhat unaware of just how completely he had been moving into my heart until recently. Knew I loved him, but didn't know I really, really loved him. Love him. He's still here. But I am counting my blessings.

The sweet dear has pancreatitis, and has been to the vet twice in the last couple of weeks, when he was not eating at all, amongst other symptoms. Including today. I am not sure how much he liked having an IV (though I imagine NOT!), but it was needed. I feel so lucky to have such an awesome vet. He is home now, and exploring again. Eating comes next.

I am holding off on being a basket case, but my heart is getting a run for it's money lately.
I remarked the other day to a friend and colleague, that I don't know when I became such bleeding heart... but it seems I left my crusty old self in Europe (not a bad thing).

Once again, I want to blog more, but have no inclination to summarize my life since I last blogged.

Maybe I just start.

Happy to have my cat home safe and sound. x x0 x 0

Monday, June 23, 2014

There IS something you can do.

Outraged by the sentencing of 3 Al Jezeera journalists? There IS something you can do.
Act now. Do your part to protest the sentencing of 3 Al Jezeera journalists in Egypt today. Takes just a few seconds to send this message:  
Free Al Jezeera staff detained in Egypt.

Roberta to Earth: checking in

Nasa earth

Hi. yes, I am still here.
No, I have not disappeared off the face of the planet.
Yes, I am fine.

Why did I stop blogging? I don't know... but I've been here before, it's somewhat cyclical for me. But also, I think I was a little lost when I got back from Europe. I had so much to say and share. Then, I was just 'me' again. And, whoa, did my life get busy and go topsy turvy in so many ways.... more about all that another time.... In the meantime:

I'm continuing to live here in Sidney. My mom is in care in Victoria, so I am often in that way. Also, my cruise gig involves being in the office several days a week in Victoria. So, it's back and forth a bit.

These are all the other me's online....


In a nutshell, here are my gigs:
Expedia CruiseShipCenters - I'm a self-employed cruise and vacation consultant

I'm going all out working on the cruise thing - and doing fab - but I'm looking to supplement my income with some contracts. The ramp up to income that I can actually live on is a long one, as cruising is something people book far in advance for, and I get paid when they sail. And that's when the magic happens: repeat bookings, referrals and so on. So I'm hanging in there, and paddling as fast as I can. I'm also just starting see a particular bit of magic: people in my network who are booking their vacations with me. It takes awhile for people to learn what I am doing, realize I can help them remotely, and to think of me for non-cruise travel.

I'm generally pretty subtle on marketing to friends - I don't want anyone to be put off, or feel obligated, or feel bad if they don't book with me - so I'm letting the universe make the connections most of the time for people I know. However.... I'll ask this favour of anyone who has read this far: if you want to help me be a success, in a win-win situation, here are a few things you can do that would make a difference:
  • Call me if you are thinking of booking any type of travel.
  • If you have a travel agent you love, be happy for what I am doing, and enjoy your travels.
  • If you have a travel agent that you're not so keen on, give me a chance to blow you away with my service.
  • If you're thinking of a cruise, even if it is a long way in the future, let me know, and I can watch for the best offers.
  • Confused by all the cruise pricing you see out there? Let me explain how it works. No obligation, ever.
  • If you don't know what type of cabin to book on a ship, perhaps you are worried about motion, or noise, ask me. This what I do!
  • If you've never cruised, and think it's not for you, but wonder about it - talk to me. There are many different types of cruises and cruise experiences. Most people who 'hate' cruising weren't matched with the right cruise for them (if you stay in the Hyatt, are you going to be happy in a Motel 6 with a party crowd?)
  • If you have quote for travel, ask me if I can match it.
  • If you're planning to get away to an all-inclusive vacation to a spot in the sun, let me know - this is part of what I do!
  • If you are considering taking a land tour - if you already know what you want to book, or if you don't have a clue - let me know, I can help.
  • If you are planning to travel, no matter who you book with, please travel insured!!!
  • Consider buying your travel insurance through me. You can contact me directly for a quote, or you can book directly on my website.
  • If you normally book everything yourself, ask me about the ways that booking through me benefit you.
  • If you book everything yourself, and you really don't see yourself changing, consider using my links (I'll add them below). If you use my link, for example, you get the same awesome Expedia selection and pricing, and I benefit. Sometimes it's small, but every bit helps.
  • Join my 7SEAS club, and sign up for my newsletters.
  • If you are a solo traveller, especially a solo cruiser, please let me know, and I can sign you up for my little solo e-travel club - I have separate news I send out to people every couple of weeks.
  • Refer your friends to me, if you feel comfortable.
  • Buy me a lottery ticket.
  • Drop a line to say hi.
  • Tell me I'll be awesome.
  • Tell me I won't always be broke.
  • Call to chat about travel.
  • Buy me a coffee - or let me buy you one, if you are ever in Victoria or Sidney.
  • Buy 2 lottery tickets - one for me, and one for you.
A career change is so fascinating - especially after 5 years of no income (!!!). It was 5 years ago next week that I took off to Europe for the better part of the year. I had no idea what I would be doing when I got back, and boy was that the truth. It's all good though, and I'm not sure I would have found my way here without all the steps along the way.

Thanks for all the good vibes you send my way.

To research a cruise, I invite you to do our research on my Expedia CruiseShipCenters site.

To book travel on my site, use this page to navigate to my Expedia widget (scroll down). Once you are "in", you can navigate to anything you'd normally access on

To book travel insurance online on my website, or to request a quote, visit my Travel Insurance page.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year's Post 2014

The fine team at Expedia CruiseShipCenters Victoria...
check me out in the back row:)
It occurs to me that I had a fair amount going on in 2013. Let's see...
  • Became a travel agent
  • Got my BC Travel Insurance license
  • Had cataract surgery
  • Had dental surgery
  • Got my first Lazy-Boy chair (aka Lazy-Girl)
  • ok, that's it.
Ha ha, there's more, I'm sure, but those are the biggies that jump to mind (I'm still doing my IHateTaxis gig too).

Hanging out with the sweetest kittie cat of all, the handsome Maui (aka Meowy). And learned what it means to fall in love with a cat. Really. Little guy got me through some really hard stuff the last couple of years... And he does seem to have taken to me as his Mama. Ah, the irony.

With that, I reposition myself in my Lazy-Girl to give him my lap, while still balancing my laptop... it must be love.

Long time readers of my blog will be wondering how my mom is. My sweet mom is doing just fine. We are so fortunate that to have her in a wonderful care facility. They have a very good music program... and music just brings her to life (all the musicians love her). Her mobility had declined to the point where she is in wheelchair all the time (though they do walk with her a couple of times a week, a 2 person job). The great thing is that, like all residents, she can reach the floor with her feet and can move around at will, propelling her wheelchair by foot.
Summertime on the deck... mom loves the sun!
It's like she has a new independence to move about as she wishes -- and in summer that included the deck, a lot. Mom's dementia has worsened, but she is in a happy place. She knows who we are, mostly, and is happy.
G'ma with her granddaughter Branwen last week
Ok, what else shall I include in my snapshot of my life this past year, for myself...
  • I dog sat sweet Lucy the dog again, just for a week or two. This time it was an "emergency": her human had to fire the existing dog-sitter from Hawaii, and I swooped in to save the day. Ha. But it was almost that dramatic. But I was happy to help... oh, how I love that dog... she is so sweet, and so soft... and so high maintenance :)
  • Saw Joe Walsh!!! Oh, yes, and Bob Seger too.
  • Spent 6 of the past 9 months taking the bus into Victoria several times a week (I wimped out, and am driving now)
  • Saw the ancient map exhibit at the Royal BC Museum - it was fab
  • Also joined the museum, but haven't been back (boo)
  • Saw an exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery... the Grand Hotel?
  • Also resurrected my VAG membership, but haven't been back (yet.)
  • I discovered that there is an alcoholic version of Sugar-Free Rockstar, quite by accident (then I drove, unknowingly - see story)
  • Finally weaned myself off energy drinks
  • Had loads of dental work to repair the results of those *#)&% energy drinks
  • Learned again how much it sucks to not have a dental plan
  • Attended a super cool block party on our little street here in Sidney
  • Bought an elliptical trainer from a neighbor who was moving... and have made many interesting sculptures throwing clothes on it
  • Had the excitement of the racoons that live in our tree relocate their 3 wee kits to live under our house for a few months (lots of kittie indoors!)
  • Discovered that otters really do make their way up under houses here... oh, what a racket when they were trying to eat their way through the floor! Lots of stomping and keeping CBC radio on all night at full blast (they apparently don't like people). They are protected, so they are safe, but not so fond of these particular antics.

Enough babbles for now. I am sure a philosophical blog post will be coming, at some point... but, for now, must put the bubbly on ice and celebrate here with my sissy.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Found on Flickr: Rogue Chairs


I made the most interesting discovery tonight on Flickr... it's a group called "League of the Empty Chair (interestingly Out Of Place)", and it's just that, odd, random rogue chairs found here and there. Here are a few of my favourites found so far (click any image to go to its source):

spooky 2AM find

Out to pasture..

Chair in the Wall

Front Row Seat

the benefit stream

wayward throne


Seat of Reconstruction

Made in the Organic Shade

The ones I like best are those that are unstaged, and somehow surprising. But I did enjoy this:

Enjoying the afternoon sun
... and last, but certainly not least....

Salton Sea (CA)

Monday, October 07, 2013

Found on Flickr: shadows, skateboards and sheer guts

A few compelling photos I've stumbled across in Flickr recently.

These are all from Miles Gehm on Flickr.

20090905 07 LCRSP Skull Bowl

20090905 17 LCRSP Skull Bowl

back to the bank

20100814 01 Skate The Lake 3

20120226 LCRSP  03

20130824 TBMC Women at LCRSP  008.jpg

20130824 TBMC Women at LCRSP  006.jpg

20130824 TBMC Women at LCRSP  020.jpg

20120811 LCRSP Full Pipe contest 12.jpg

20100530 LCRSP steep bank bert 03

Source: click on each photo for the source

For more on how I find and share photos on my blog, click here.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

I'm dropping the puck

I'm over being a hockey fan.

Gatsby Puck

Still like the game, and it has been an interesting process to pick up on, but it's just not calling to me anymore. This started with my trip to Europe, when I was out of the loop. Got into it, by a degree, when I got back, but in the years since, my interest has ebbed and flowed.

Realized I had crossed a line when I decided to cancel my cable. Just not watching TV, and I can't see why I am paying for it. It was only after making that decision that I remembered hockey. A real hockey fan wouldn't do that.

Perhaps what's most had me lose interest is the fighting. Thought they were working to eliminate it. Apparently not. I was tuning in to watch the skill, strategy, sheer athletic ability and fun of cheering one's game. I didn't tune in to watch grown men pummel each other.

A few other things contributed to my declining interest, though that's the big one. I still like the Canucks, and I will remain a fan - I'll watch a game if I'm somewhere one is on - but don't like how they fired the coach, who I respected. I'd once gone to an open practice, and liked what I saw in Alain Vigneault And I have no respect for the belligerent, gloomy coach they hired instead, always felt grateful John Tortorella wasn't our coach when I would see him in tv interviews.

So, I'll save my money, and mainly my time, for other things.

PS. It seems a lot of people name their pets "Puck"... in searching for an image for this blog post, I stumbled across plenty of cute furry friends...

A dog named Puck

Puck 03
A cat named Puck

Sue & Puck
Another cat named Puck
If you click the image for the source info, you'll see the story of how
the subject of the picture is supposed to the flowers, not the cat :)

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Random Reflections during light therapy

Stained Glass Skylight Above the DeSoto Fountain, Fordyce Bathhouse, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
Fordyce bathhouse in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
(found on Flickr, by kenlund, click image for more)
Just a few reflections as I start my winter ritual of light therapy....
  • Picked that picture above before I realized it was in an American national park, all of which are shut down, due to the budget craziness south of the border (no, I haven't seen the bathhouse, didn't even know it existed, interesting)
  • I find myself looking forward to light therapy this year... that's not always been the case, as it has meant the coming of winter (not my favourite season), but this year, I am looking forward to a return of reading. The craziness that was caregiving for a few years left me disconnected from reading, and being totally plugged in online now has made it hard to dig in deeply. I have always been an avid reader, so this has been a disorienting experience. This year, almost a year after my mom has gone into residential care, has me in a place where I can enjoy an old ritual in my life, reading in bed as I wake early for light therapy, to read, read, read...
  • 'Our Man in Tehran' offers Canadian response to Argo - I enjoyed this interview on Q yesterday. I read the original account of the work of Ken Taylor and the Canadian government to hide and rescue the 6 American diplomats in Iran in 1979 (entitled, Our Man in Tehran), so it was good to hear more of the 'real' story getting media attention - and good news, there is a documentary coming
  • B.C. athlete's Olympic dream hinges on fundraising campaign - was surprised, disappointed and inspired this morning to hear the story of Victoria-born athlete, Matt Margetts, having to turn to the public to get his basic costs covered to get to the Sochi Olympics. What happened to all that great Canadian funding for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the dreams it inspired? Sigh. Hope he finds a corporate sponsor. In the meantime, you can donate by following the link in the article (I did).
  • I am thoroughly enjoying having split my content off to several other blogs - and appreciative of just having this space for moi :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Found on Flickr: cats, mannequins and odd signs

Windmill Cat

When I am researching travel topics for the blogs I write, use the Creative Commons image search tool. Through both Wikimedia Commons and Flickr, there is an easy way to share images with all the source and licensing info intact (it's there if you click on any photo in this post). So thought I might just start sharing some of the photos I come across today...

These are not from my travels, just stuff that either made me laugh or smile today... These are all from Dennis from Atlanta, on Flickr.

Genuine Fake Sign

Scary Athens Mannequins

No restroom duty?


Lots of fun... but I must finish with one more cat...

Grand  Bazaar Cat

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fooled by branding: alcoholic energy drinks

I had an interesting experience the other day. I drove to work on Saturday (I usually take the bus), so on my way back to my car after work, I stopped at an independent beer/wine/liquor store to pick up some provisions for the weekend. When I approached the cashier, and put down my purchase, I was feeling hungry and tired, so I grabbed some potato chips from the snack rack and an energy drink from a little fridge on the counter.

As I got into the car, I had a big drink (it was a hot day), then drank a bit more than half on my way home. When I got home, I put the rest in the fridge for the following day (I often start my day with an energy drink).

When I woke up on Sunday, I grabbed the left over can from the fridge and took a big gulp. For the first time, I noticed that it tasted a bit different, so I looked at the can. You can imagine my surprise to find I was drinking vodka at 10 am!

Then I burst out laughing, realizing that this was the very can I was drinking from as I drove home from work the day before...

Then I got mad.

I had absolutely no idea I had purchased a mixed vodka drink - heck, I didn't even know they made them - and I certainly didn't know I was drinking it while driving. I was aghast.

First of all, I feel duped by the store, who had these drinks at the till, where most such stores have pop, water and energy drinks - along with the chips and chocolate bars. Why they would have a fridge of single-serving iced drinks at the counter is beyond me.

All I knew, was that I could see my (former) favourite brand of energy drinks, RockStar, in my favourite flavour, the white sugar-free can. I didn't examine whether they had changed the styling of the can. And had I looked even a bit closer, that's all I would have thought it was, new styling - I would have no reason to even suspect it was a vodka drink, even though I was in a liquor store.

As an aside, I still feel fully responsible for drinking it and driving. I can't pass that responsibility off on anyone else - the store, the manufacturer or the laws that misguidedly permit this.

I am not commenting on whether there should or should not be alcoholic energy drinks on the market - that's a completely separate issue.

What I do feel is duped.

I feel it is irresponsible for the manufacturers of these products to label them so they look practically identical to their non-alcoholic counterparts. This isn't brilliant marketing, it's stupid marketing. It feels like a bit of a trick, so people won't notice youth walking down the street or otherwise drinking booze in public places. If I was a parent, my kid could have been drinking one of these under my nose, and I'd never know it. It must make the job of the police harder.

I'm sounding old here (dammit!), but I don't like slights of hand to get around the law. Yes, youth are more than likely going to drink, but this is like facilitating it.

I also think of how dangerous this is. If I made this mistake - and I consider myself reasonably intelligent - anyone could. What if I'd drank the whole can? What danger would I have been? Maybe I already was, at half a can. What if other drivers drink one of these by mistake? What if someone who has had just one drink and is under the legal limit, grabs one by mistake.

What if someone who is an alcoholic drank one by mistake? Yes, I know they won't be in the liquor store, but if they are visiting a friend and grab one from their fridge, never suspecting the alcohol content? How far could that set them back, and change their life (not for the better)?

I think the whole thing stinks.

I think there's a very good chance that I'll be checking out the boozed up energy drink cans, and if they are made to look like the alcohol-free versions, I'll probably by neither. I have no interest in supporting a brand that takes such an irresponsible approach to marketing. Aka, bye bye Rockstar...

~ end of rant ~

Update: I was forwarded 2 very interesting links about the legality of alcoholic energy drinks, and Health Canada's position on the "loophole" that allows these products to be on our shelves (thanks to @BevWire):
Oh, I also visited the store to give them feedback. They didn't seem to care. Why am I not surprised?

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

My new cruisetravelbug blog!

Well, after earning my sea legs as a new cruise consultant, and my certification behind me, I figured it was time to turn the identity I had created on Twitter for cruises - @cruisetravelbug - into it's own blog. And today I made it live! So please come cruise with me on the cruisetravelbug blog!

Enter to Win 1 of 25 Cruises - enter by October 31, 2013!

Come cruise with me on the cruisetravelbug blog!