DFW Metroplex, Photo Organization, Photo Organization Coach, Photography

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE: NETWORKING, NOT WORKING & OTHER DISTRACTIONS

A Friday for Networking

Friday morning I had a 1:1 scheduled with a great local business owner and she suggested we meet at a great local business. My meeting was with Candace Barnes of Noble Barnes and she’s the reason I was a Fable and Fire when they opened at 10.

Let’s start with Candace. I first ran into her at RASBA – Rockwall Area Small Business Alliance, a networking group for local entrepreneurs. We have a great Chamber, but us small guys can get lost in the shuffle, so there was a need for something on a smaller scale. It was started by Sarah Naylor , who is not only an amazing asset to our community, but also one of our top clients at Spot On Images. When she started the group, I had a standing commitment at the same time, but I put RASBA on my wish list, not just because she was our client, but because I heard such good things about the “speed networking” format they were using.

Well, they were right about RASBA! Since it’s in my neighborhood, I saw several people I already knew, but I also met a handful of new folks, one of them being Candace. I set up an appointment with her and then I ran into her at least twice at other networking events before we had our 1:1 – events like RWIB (Rockwall Women in Business) and RCAN (Royse City Area Networking).

So, Friday morning, I’m standing outside waiting for Fable and Fire to open. I wasn’t really paying much attention to a pair of women standing nearby, who were also waiting, until I saw Candace drive up in the Noble Barnes pick-up truck. One of the women said, “Oh Noble Barnes is such a cool company.” She proceeded to tell the story of Candace’s son who started a lawn business at 14, so he could buy a car and turned it into a company with 10+ full time employees, who will handle your lawn, your home or your pets for you.

I gotta tell you, I’d love it if someone said, “Oh, Spot On Images is such a cool company,” and proceed to tell about the ex-Realtors┬« who liked taking photos of new listings better than they did selling them and started a real estate photography company from scratch, which is now one of the top photography companies in the area. The story is true and most real estate agents know about us, but a couple of housewives meeting for coffee? Not so much.

The meeting with Candace went great. We have many points in common. I recommend Noble Barnes whole-heartedly. So, if you’re in the area and need help with most anything, give them a call!

Next up was the monthly Wine Women and Wealth Meeting of Kaufman County, sponsored by my friend, Susan Bennett White. Sorry gentlemen, this one is for the ladies. Lunch is free, as is the mini-financial seminar and business spotlight. It’s been a great resource of leads for my Memory Keeping business and I really enjoy it, every month.

A Saturday for Not Working

Friday afternoon I dropped off a big Memory Keeping project I’d been working on and found myself in a break between customer projects. I drug out the personal project I’d been working on and got things set up to crop throughout the weekend.

Saturday morning I got busy on the album until it was time to go to lunch with my bestie, after which she graciously agreed to do cemetery duty with me. For lunch we went to Mi Cocina in Watters Creek, mostly because we both needed a margarita or two. Then it was on to Pecan Grove, because Mom’s birthday was a couple of days away and I really don’t want Ruth haunting me. We chose a red plumish bouquet with peonies at Hobby Lobby and it looked great.

Then for a little shopping therapy. We didn’t score any major bargains, but we both found things that we couldn’t leave at the outlet mall. Back home, i dug back into my album.

A Sad Sunday

My pastor is leaving. I’ve mentioned this, but it still breaks my heart. I’m happy he and his wife are excited and challenged by their new ministry, but selfishly, I wanted them right here at my church. I was greeting Sunday, which kept me out of Sunday School and rendered me late for the worship service, but it also probably kept me from sobbing through the morning.

The elders and the congregation had cooked up a surprise farewell party. They still have a week left, but there’s a business meeting after church and so that’s how we managed to make this a surprise. It was a touching event and I got to participate by presenting them with a digital photo album I’d made with photos another lady had been taking, ever since we found out they were leaving.

I worked on my personal album before and after church. I finished up (except for the cleaning up around 8:30. Then I watched a little TV with the hubby before heading to bed.

And that was the weekend. I was a little late with this weekend report today. It was a busy week and writing my post got lost in the shuffle – but here I am. Come back next week. We’ll have adventures in NYC, adventures in Memory Keeping and the next weekend report.

DFW Metroplex, Photo Organization, Photo Organization Coach, Photography

Back to Digital

MEMORY KEEPING 101 – STORING AND CURATING YOUR PHOTOS ON FOREVER

Why Forever?

Back in November I introduced you to Forever Storage and the reasons I think it is best way to store your photos online. If you would like to review that post, click here, but here’s a chart that spells it out.

Perhaps the best part of a Forever account is that you buy your storage rather than rent it. Think about the difference in a landlord and a tenant. With other storage systems, your photos are merely tenants on someone else’s property. The landlord makes the rules. The landlord has a right to enter the property. The landlord is responsible for maintenance and you’re screwed if they don’t do it. If the landlord changes the rules, you either have to live with it or you’re stuck with the new rules. The list goes on.

At Forever, you own the property your photos are stored on. You make the rules about your photos. No one can go in there without your permission. No one can change the rules without your permission. You can do as much or as little as you like with your photos. It’s yours.

When you’re renting space for your photos, if you don’t make your rent payment, you lose access to your photos and what’s more, they don’t even have a plan for you to pass on your space, even if you want to. At Forever, you buy your space, so it belongs to you and whoever comes along after you.

Fully Customized Organization

I’ve used a lot of different online storage products in my life and while they will give you all the space in the world for a small monthly fee, your options for setting up your library are always limited. When I first started using Forever, I didn’t even know how to appreciate the flexibility I was given. It took me a while to create a system that worked for me, because it’s not just a matter of fill in the blanks.

It didn’t take long for me to get the hang of it and now I love it. Forever keeps a library of everything you upload to the site and with a few query words you can get to exactly what you want, You also get to set up whatever albums you want and then nest albums under there to as many levels as you want. Each album you access quickly tells you how many photos are in that album and how many nested albums you have within that album.

Within any album, you get to chose the order you want them in and if none of the automatic choices work, you can create your own.

As you set up your albums and nested albums, you can create a name for them and then you can fully describe what the album is about and if you want, put a date or date range on it.

Tagging is a breeze, but that’s only the beginning of the ways you can identify your photos with Forever.

Most online photo storage picks up information from your metadata and you’re stuck with whatever is there. Not with Forever. You have total control.

Just because it was Conger-7 wherever you got it from doesn’t mean it has to stay that. If the date taken is really just the date you uploaded it, you can change it to the real date.

Want that photo to be in other albums? That’s easy and it doesn’t take up more of your storage to do that.

And the description? None of that 25 words or 100 character stuff. Tell the whole story. Don’t want to key it in, fine, go to the app and use voice to tell the story. You’re not going to run out of space.

Sharing

While Forever will stay out of your storage and diligently protect it from others who shouldn’t be in there, it’s got all kinds of ways to share your images when you want to do so. You can share a single shot or an entire album or even your whole account. You can also set a level of sharing for the top level of each album. You might have some items you want to stay private, just for you. Friends and Family could have their own level of access to other albums. Then you could even have public items you opened up to whoever wanted to see them, so it’s great for all kinds of applications like teams, schools or other groups.

There are other ways to give the people you want access to your files. You can collaborate with others in you albums and decide what level of collaboration you want them to have. You can set up a manager and allow them to act as you if you want. You can also designate who you want to have access and control of your files and which files after you. Try that with icloud!

Auto Uploading

Have you ever wished that every photo you took on your phone or added to Facebook could be captured permanently somewhere so you never have to worry about losing them? Forever can do that. Or you can do one or the other of them. Up to you!

So What’s the Bad News?

If you’ve been using a free service or have been paying $1.99 per month for 100 gigabytes of storage, the bad news at Forever is sticker shock. The first time you hear how much 100 GB of storage costs at Forever it is going to be a difficult pill to swallow.

I must be honest with you. While I love Forever storage, I have to admit I don’t like all the rigmarole it takes to figure out how much you have to pay. On the day in November I wrote this post, with all the various deals and discounts available, you could get 100 GB of storage for $387.98 or something close to that (according to how you stacked the deals). However, the retail price for 100 GB of storage is $1000. I think that’s crazy, but someone smarter than me dreamed up this pricing and if you’ve ever shopped at Macy’s or Kohl’s, it will seem familiar. (This dress is $400, but today with a coupon you can get it for $19.99.)

So, while $387.98 is a lot, it’s really not fair to compare it with the $1.99 a month at Google, for instance. Google can rent that space for that price, because they owe you nothing in the way of privacy or security. They also know they will be able to make money off your photos with data mining and advertising. If they lose all your pictures, that’s OK. They can compress your photos anytime they want, so they will take up less space. If they want to delete your photos, all they have to do is send you an email and if you miss it, that’s tough. They also have your permission to use it for whatever else they want to.

On the other hand – all you will ever pay for your Forever storage is $387.98. After 16 years, when you’ve paid Google that much (if they don’t raise the price, which they most likely will) you’ll still have to go on paying something every month and if your kids take over the account, then they will have to keep paying as will your grandkids, great grandkids or whoever of your decedents is still around – if Google is still around. Remember VCRs? Which reminds me, that you Forever account will be upgraded for free to whatever formats come around after .jpg or whatever has disappeared.

Chances are at this point I have confused you more than I have helped you, so give me a call and lets review this. Whenever you decide you want to purchase your storage, I will research the deals at the time and make sure you get the best of them.

Come back next week and we’ll dig beyond mere storage and see what else Forever has to offer.

Accommodations, Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Walking Tour of Broadway

Travel There – Just a Couple of Texas Girls in the Big City

As soon as we got our stuff stowed away we hit the streets of NYC. In just a few steps we figured out the Sheraton New York Times Square is the perfect place to stay. Don’t let them put you in the Four Points by Sheraton Times Square, that’s a whole ‘nother place and I am so glad a fought the battle to get where we wanted to be. We were right in the middle of everything without being in the insanity of Broadway itself.

Broadway, just a few blocks away, was insane and I am glad we had a buffer zone. They smoke pot everywhere in NYC, but on Broadway they smoke it a lot and they want to sell it to you. They also want to sell you fake designer bags. I could have done away with that whole vibe, but you just have to take New York City as it comes at you.

You also get mobs of people all the time. Later in the trip we’d be there on a weekend evening and we would really understand exactly how crazy it could get, but for our first day in the city, it was crazy enough.

We hadn’t scheduled anything specific for our day of arrival, because air travel is so unreliable these days. I didn’t want to have tickets riding on me getting there on time and we’re still stuck in the air somewhere. So the plan was to stroll Broadway and see what we could see…or eat.

Junior’s Cheesecake

Our first stop on our tour of Broadway was one of the best of the trip and we repeated it several times. I had read in my research that THE place to have authentic New York Cheesecake was Junior’s. I cannot speak to the authenticity, but oh my goodness, can I ever speak to how delicious it was. We both love cheesecake, but if possible we love Junior’s Cheesecake more than any other we’ve ever had. Deb liked it best topped with various fruits. I had mine plain, but there was nothing plain about it.

Our Key to the City

Broadway, Junior’s and a MetroCard. We were knocking it out of the park in the first few hours we were there. This was not Deb’s first NYC rodeo, so we decided we’d be brave and use the subway system. She had the app and I had the maps.

On our stroll down Broadway we dipped into the subway and purchased a MetroCard, loading it up with rides for the next week. We weren’t ready to use it, but we’d be getting up early the next morning to head to the Statue of Liberty, so we wanted to be ready!

The Biggest Department Store in the World

Confession, I am not a big fan of Macy’s. Well, to tell the truth, I’m not a big fan of department stores, with perhaps the exception of Neiman’s and Nordstrom’s – but I don’t even shop there. I just eat and browse. I am a bargain hunter, so most of my purchases actually occur at one of the stores at the outlet mall.

However, this is New York, the home of Macy’s, so I wanted to be able to say I shopped there. We’d timed our trip to attend a christening, so I planned on buying my gift at the famous store. It is big, ridiculously big, but just like the closest one at Firewheel Town Center, they are short-handed and you are going to have to help yourself.

We found the baby department and I found a darling pink cotton knit sweater with matching socks in the Ralph Lauren section. They were embroidered with the familiar logo in baby blue. They do not, however, have gift wrapping, so I ended up buying a gift bag and card a few stories up in the stationary department.

Deb and I went all the way to the top and rode all the way down on the escalators. Towards the top, they still had the old original wooden escalators. That was something to write home about.

Back Up Broadway

Our goal was Greeley Square and we made it. We tucked over to the Empire State Building just to say I’d been there. We saw Herald Square, Times Square and Duffy Square. We were ticking off the sites!

The evening had set in, but we were still full of cheesecake and the line at the Stardust Cafe was intimidating. So, we went back to the Sheraton, found the bar and celebrated our first day in New York at Happy Hour.

Here’s a few photos from our day. Come back next week and we’ll visit the Stardust Cafe.

DFW Metroplex, Fashion, Photo Organization Coach, Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Shopping, TRAVEL

The Weekend Report

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

TRAVEL HERE: BLUE MESA, CHUCK, ALFREDO’S & FERAH’S

Polka Dot Dinner at Blue Mesa

Rolling it back to Thursday, I have to tell you about Polka Dot Powerhouse. If you need an international women’s group in your networking mix, here you go. Yes, you can connect with women all over the US, as well as the rest of the world. I joined to get to know some Rockwall women better, but the Networking Gods intervened and now, twice month I travel over to the Stonebridge Area to connect with some of the coolest women you can imagine. Second Thursday is at Blue Mesa Granite Park and fourth Monday to Kelly’s Craft Tavern Stonebriar. Let me know and I’ll get you in.

Getting to Granite Park for dinner is quite a commitment for me. I wake up so early that I’m powering down by about 7, but for my Dots, I crawl in the car around 5 PM and drive to the other side of the world for the 6:30 meeting. I can usually make it in an hour, but since I have to go over the dreaded I-30 bridge, I must add half an hour, just in case.

Totally worth it! I’ll leave it at that, but it’s not all business. These women are fun and business is not the focus, but the result. The theme is, build the relationships and the business will come, and they’re serious about it. I do a lot of networking and they ALL say you should build relationships, but nobody does it better than the Dots. So join me for a lunch or a dinner and find out what I mean.

Chuck

So, I don’t watch a lot of TV and when I do I usually hate it, but I love Chuck! Computer nerd working at the local big box electronics store inadvertently becomes a CIA asset when his brain is downloaded with a program called the Intersect. That’s the plotline, but it doesn’t begin to describe the fun you are about to have when you start watching it. There’s violence, but it’s obviously make-believe and they use tranq guns more often than live ammo. See, Chuck doesn’t believe in killing people. It’s sexy, but nothing you’d be afraid of your four year old watching. They do cuss, but it’s the light stuff for effect, not the shock treatment you get on most modern TV. So your four year old has already heard all of it.

Anyway, I won’t wear you down with more, but that was my Friday night, my Saturday night and the cliff hanger was so good, I watched an episode after church on Sunday. I have to slow down though. There’s only one season left and I have no idea what I am going to do without it. I don’t think there’s any other good clean fun designed for adults.

Alfredo’s

I wish it were not so, but the restaurant my car most frequently goes to is Alfredo’s in Forney. That’s where FANG (Forney Area Networking Group) meets every Tuesday. It’s the one networking meeting I try to make every week, because this is my gang. It’s really more like visiting family than it is going to a networking meeting, but over the years, I have gotten some darned good business from it.

It’s also where my friend Susan Bennett-White has her WWW (Wine, Women and Wealth) meeting. It’s a monthly financial seminar for women with great networking and the opportunity for spotlighting your business. I admit, I go for the networking. I am married to Mr. Finance, but the WWW tips are always good and I’ve racked up some good leads.

So, why in the world would I go there on a Saturday morning, right? Well, a lead I got at the November WWW suggested we meet there for breakfast and she’s so excited about Forever, I would have met her on the moon if she’d suggested it.

What a morning! First, I missed a turn on the way there and was forced to wander around the backroads between Heath and Forney – but I was only a few minutes late. Then my laptop totally failed me. For reasons unknown and totally unrelated to the Alfredo’s location, because not it won’t go online anywhere, now. Then she had her granddaughter with her, which in most cases would have been totally fine, but with no visual aids to assist me, I was going head to head with whatever the granddaughter was playing on her tablet, her complaint about the restroom being in use, her ginormous breakfast order and the side of sausage which was delivered later. Still, Forever won the day and I have a new client.

Finally, Ferah’s!

So, after a week with six networking meetings, five 1:1 meetings and a failing laptop, it was time to play. When I left Alfredo’s, I headed to meet my bestie at Ferah Tex-Med Kitchen. And no, that’s not a typo, Ferah’s fuses Mediterranean dishes with Texican favorites for something that will both surprise and delight you.

The first thing I ordered was a Sauvignon Blanc. Then we shared the Chef’s Sampler Platter with Falafel, Fried Goat Cheese, Crab Cake, Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Dates, Hummus and Pita Bread. How do you say delicious in TexMed? I’m not sure, but I am sure you’ll love it.

Instead of dessert, we chose shopping therapy. A little Ulta’s for some of life’s necessities, like a new mascara I didn’t really need, but the tube was so cute. Enough Chico’s to confirm we love their outlet store and DSW. I told myself I didn’t really need any shoes and I didn’t until I strolled through the clearance racks.

Now, if you love DSW, I don’t have to tell you about the clearance racks. I don’t even look at shoes which aren’t on clearance, but I have another filter. The shoes are tagged by colors indicating from 20-60% off. The percentage of the colors change week by week instead of having to re-tag them. Whatever colors are 50-60% off, those are the only ones I will seriously consider and they better be really good for me to even be interested.

I’m hard on shoes and my feet are getting more picky about what they will wear, so those off-brands you’ve never heard of, they don’t get much of a look either, but JLo’s and Jessica Simpson’s? I couldn’t name any of their tunes, but I love their shoes. JLo was really styling this time, as was Jessica and Adirenne Vittadini, she had a stunner, too.

I walked out with four pairs. Three of them were legit purchases based on things which fit right into my current wardrobe. This metallic orange number with the rhinestone aglets? No reason and no excuses. They just weren’t going to let me walk away without them. It won’t be long until they tell me what to wear them with, either.

So that’s the weekend. Sunday I went to church and then spent the rest of the day getting caught up with stuff, like this post. Keep coming back. Travel Talk and Memory Keeping 101 will keep coming at you, just like the Weekend Report!

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

On Our Way to the Big City

Travel There – Gee Thanks WAYZ

Gotta Love Rush Hour – NOT

Going to New York City has been on my bucket list for a long time and going with my bestie was a dream come true. I love to travel with Bill, too, but it just wasn’t going to be his kind of trip. We planned to get up early, stay up late, spend the day in museums and our evenings at shows, but we were never, ever going to take a nap. That just isn’t his idea of a vacation.

Even though Bill wasn’t thrilled about a week without me, he agreed to chauffeur us to the airport. I had put us on a mid-morning flight to keep him from having to do it at the crack of dawn, so instead we were in the middle of rush hour traffic. OOPS, being self employed, my commute is from the bed to my office upstairs. Should I need to be somewhere in the morning, I live in a little, teeny tiny community almost in the boonies and I know all the backroads.

So, I was a little surprised when we we rolled to a stop in the vicinity of I-30 at Jim Miller. Deb and I both pulled out our phones and checked the traffic. It looked OK for a few moments and suddenly both of our phones demanded we get off I-30 and strike out across Dallas. But as we maneuvered across the city, they didn’t always agree.

Google Maps or WAYZ

One of my current theories about life today is that we have too many choices. It’s hard to find commonality when you have nothing in common. I grew up in a world with only 3 or 4 TV channels and virtually everyone watched the same thing. There were more radio stations, but in Dallas, we all listened to KVIL. No matter who you met, you were going to have something in common to talk about.

There could be fewer people in this world who are as close as the three people in that car on its way to Love Field, but we couldn’t even get our phones to agree on how to get there. No wonder the world is in such a mess.

Bill and Deb are WAYZ people. They swear by the reliability of the app. They turn it on even when they know where they are going for the traffic updates.

I’m old school. If I know the way, I’m going to drive the way I know. If I need help getting there, I will pull out my GPS and use that, because I don’t want to be messing with a phone as I try to drive. If I do need to look something up on the fly, I’m going to Google Maps. However, if Bill’s driving, he hates Google Maps, so I have to keep WAYZ on my phone for his benefit.

What we discovered on the way to Love Field is that our WAYZ apps couldn’t even agree on which way to go. Traffic really was awful, no matter where we turned. The apps were taking us through neighborhoods and down backstreets we’d never been on. Bill was driving, but I had his phone on WAYZ, mine on Google Maps and Deb was clicking back and forth between both. Sometimes each app on each phone was telling a different story.

Then Deb said, “Turn left at the next street.” Bill said, “Are you sure it’s left.” Deb hands me her phone and that’s when we got in trouble.

In case you didn’t know, these apps with their AI get to know us and give us different instructions based on what they learn about us. They also have their own internal algorithms. So, we poor humans are actually at their mercy.

Come to find out, Deb sets her WAYZ app to always point north. We set ours to point in the direction the car is headed. When Deb handed me her phone, I interpreted according to my settings and we were soon making U turns.

We Did Arrive in Time

In spite of dueling map apps, we did manage to arrive on time, but we were happy to see the curbside check-in. I hate waiting in line to do battle with a kiosk, so it was nice to be able to tip a human to take care of us and I tipped him well.

The flight was uneventful, our luggage arrived intact and Lyft was waiting for us as scheduled. We checked into the hotel, which had our reservations, and moved into our room for the week.

Come back next week and we’ll head out on the streets of the Big Apple. What fun we’ll have!

ART, DFW Metroplex, Performing Arts, Photo Organization, Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Scrapbooking, WRITING

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – NCFCA AT DBU, AT MY DESK & TAKING DOWN THE TREE

National Christian Forensics and Communications Association

Once upon a time, before there was a Spot On Images and we lived in Dallas, I used to attend Dallas Christian Writers Guild. Somehow that ended up taking me to Denton for a group of writers I can’t remember the name of. While I was never able to sell my novel, I did make some great friends. One of them, Rachel, invited me to judge at a speech tournament. By then, I’d figured out the market was focused on paranormal young adult fiction and wasn’t interested in a simple romance at a retirement center. I’d also moved to Wylie.

Rachel suggested I give judging a whirl. The tournament was going to be in Wylie at a church almost around the corner from our rental. She had no idea I’d been on the speech team at Bryan Adams High School. NCFCA, to which her children belonged, just needed community judges. She thought I’d be good at it, because she’d observed me critique the works of my fellow writers. I was flattered at the time and agreed to do it.

Now, I’ve got to admit. These kids blew me away. I’d belonged to the National Forensics League back in the late 60/early 70’s. My fondest memories of the time was a trip to a Houston tournament in Jimmy Johnson’s red Impala convertible. After our sponsor threatened our lives if we went to Galveston, we, of course, snuck out and went to Galveston. It was 10 minutes on the beach and we had to head back, but the exhilaration of the outing stays with me, even today.

The home-schooled members of NCFCA are dead serious about their craft, unlike us crazy public school kids, who just wanted a reason to get away from home. Don’t get me wrong, we had some really great people on the speech squad, who would walk away with all the trophies, but most of us were just there for a good time. NCFCA members are all there to compete!

Anyway, I loved the experience and have continued to volunteer every time I can. We moved to Rockwall and I discovered many of the families in the church participated in NCFCA, but that’s really not my primary motivator. I really just love the kids and love the experience of the speech tournaments. If you are the least bit intrigued by it, I think you should follow the link above and give it a try. They have a tournament over in Ft. Worth in March. I’d love to have someone to carpool with.

Last weekend they had a tournament at Dallas Baptist University and even though I was fighting with allergies, I went ahead and judged, because I love it so. I was not disappointed. It took the whole day. I judged four events and the commute was substantial, but I loved it.

Bill was not amused. I left the house at 8am and got home after 9:30 pm. The allergy symptoms I had been fighting were winning the battle and I was miserable, but my faith in the upcoming generation was renewed. I have hope things are going to be better in the world when these guys take over. Come with me in March and let’s help the next generation blossom!

Digital Photobook Project

If you read this blog at all, you know I’m all about scrapbooking and I have a business devoted to it, but I also offer digital solutions. I booked a new digital assignment which needed a quick turnaround, so I was afraid starting it from scratch would take too long. I decided to create the photobook from one of the gorgeous templates Forever has on their site, but that was totally new to me, because I usually create photobooks from scratch in Artisan. As if that weren’t challenging enough, I also decided to use the album planner in the Historian program.

I had assumed there was some sort of integration between the Historian album planner and the photobook templates on the Forever site. What is it they say? “Don’t never assume nothing.” Yes, I found the album planner to be a great tool, but it would have been an even better tool if I could have clicked a few buttons and automatically populated the template.

My other challenge had to do with saving the template in some format which would let me stop somewhere along the way. I knew there had to be a way, because few people can sit down and do a whole album in one sitting. After exhausting all the methods which made sense to me and losing a couple of starts, I had to call customer service for some help. I am happy to report in a few minutes I had talked to someone very knowledgeable who had all the answers I needed. The solution was easy, just not intuitive.

I finished the photobook and got it ready for my client to proof. However, I do have several integration innovations to suggest to Forever. The photobook templates are lovely, the Historian album planner is a great tool and Artisan is an amazing scrapbooking program. However, these three products need to be able to shake one another’s hand. Integration of their products is one of the big jobs at Forever, but Job One is always the security of the online storage. What might seem simple or apparent as a product feature isn’t going to happen until the Forever engineers are 100% certain it won’t compromise the storage. So while I might fuss a little bit, I’m happy Forever does things the way they do.

Taking Down the Tree

Client’s rush order out of the way, the Christmas tree standing in my living room was the next challenge. I usually go to church on Sunday mornings, but this week I was just too puny to do so. Yet, I was also feeling too good to sit on the sofa and vegetate, so I started the job. I gave it a good three hours and got about two thirds of the way through before I ran out of steam.

Then my bestie came over and we indulged in one of our favorite comfort foods, chicken pot pie! Later Bill dragged me to Olive Garden for dinner. He had a plan to maximize his monetary investment while feeding both of us. Good job Bill. We may be eating Olive Garden to go orders and leftovers all week, but you proved just how much food you could get for under $50!

The Christmas tree project was Job One for me on Monday. It’s time to get over the holidays and get back to real life. Come back next week for more adventures of Jane. Wednesday is Travel Talk and we’ll be talking about some Southwest challenges which happened long before the recent meltdown and Thursday we’re talking about what it costs to build a scrapbooking page. Looking forward to chatting with you!

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Bad Phone

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Travel There – If You Can

So, as I faced the slings and arrows of rebooking the NYC trip, I was also trying to book a trip for Bill and I. We had Southwest Airlines credit which would expire in June. After much discussion, we decided to try out the American Club Med in Florida. We’d had an amazing time at their Punta Canta resort and wanted to repeat it, but in the Post Covid World, we didn’t want to stray too far from home.

I had done all my homework for both NYC and Club Med. Since I was going to NYC first, I got that booked, then I went to work on the Florida trip. Club Med’s site told me to get their booking confirmed before I booked the airfare. Once I had the confirmation, I started booking the air, but something was horribly wrong. Almost all of my Southwest Airlines credit was gone!

I was on the site, had the perfect flight reserved and was trying to pay when I realized the cupboard was bare. Had I had any way to anticipate the ramifications of letting those two seats go, I would have paid for the seats and then chased down my credit, but at the time I was more worried about what happened to my credit. I thought if I went ahead and paid, it would be a case of too-bad-so-sad and I’d end up with more credits I needed to use up.

Chasing an Answer

It took a six page letter to Southwest Airlines to explain everything that happened next and eventually I did get some “Gee we’re sorry” credits from both Southwest Airlines and Southwest Vacations, but none of that helped me when it mattered.

Along the way, I was treated worse than I had ever been treated by any customer service rep, anywhere, at any time. The bottom line was that Renee had lied, but I was the one who was going to have to pay money for airline tickets that according to him, I would have the credit to cover. The very worst part was, the flight I wanted had filled up and I was going to have to pay a now outrageous amount of money for a flight that left at the crack of dawn. Who wants to end their time at a luxurious resort by getting up at 4 AM?

Thanks, but No Thanks

I have a $150 credit from Southwest Airlines, but I am in no hurry to use it. I went to St. Louis in September, but we drove. I couldn’t face the headache of trying to use the credit. They will probably expire someday, but I don’t care. Travel is my joy and I’m not letting them buy it with their paltry credit, which will involve me having to book with them again. I think they should have given me a refund, not a credit. They do not deserve for me to spend more money with them. I probably will, because the drive to DFW from Heat is brutal, but for now, I am pouting.

Southwest Vacations tried to play the same game with me, but I erupted on them in a less than pleasant way. I figured venting my spleen in such an aggressive way wouldn’t actually get me anywhere, but I’d been through hell with them. When the pain continued after I got home from the trip, that was too much. I’d paid for everything in advance and came home to over $600 in charges. Southwest Vacations got me back to even, but they thought we were even when they let me know I had a $100+ credit with them. I told them just how unhappy I was about the whole thing and said the least they could do was to return the value of that $100, since it had come about from their mistake in the first place. No promises were made, but I did get a refund on my credit card.

Things have gotten out of control in the customer service world. Companies hide behind their computer screens and phone trees. Consumers are left hanging out to dry and there’s really nothing we can do about it. If we’re lucky, perhaps we get some token credit, but it is never on par with what we’ve suffered.

Companies should have to answer phones in a reasonable amount of time. If a customer waits more than 10 minutes for a representative, then a clock should start ticking and the customer should earn money (not a credit) for the time they are forced to wait. If that were the case, you can bet a whole lot more customer service jobs would be created and the companies would find a way to be sure they answered calls on a timely basis. Go ahead, record my call, but also be sure you’re timing my wait!

Also, there should be a way to seek resolution besides suing the company. Once a company sticks it to you, the only thing you can do is take them to court, but we all know what will happen then. It will be Joe Blow versus Corporate America and you know Joe Blow is going to lose.

The only thing we Joe Blows have left after a bad encounter of the commercial kind is to resort to social media and what good, I ask you, does that actually do. Corporate America keeps counting their money on the other side of their phone tree and laughing all the way to the bank. I think this explains, in part, why people are so ugly on social media. It’s the court of last appeals, but they have already lost.

OK, I’ve gotten that off my chest, but I have to mention that when I got home from NYC the hotel charged me a bogus $600+. As happened with Renee, I will never know whether it was an honest mistake, stupidity or just standard operations for milking more money out of tourists. Through more wasted time, on the phone and on websites, I got it resolved, but I almost spent as much time on the phone dealing with all these issues as I did on my vacation!!

I’m through complaining. Come back next week and we’ll board our Southwest Airlines flight to NYC!

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Photo Organization, Photo Organization Coach, Photography, Scrapbooking

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – BORING!

Turning the Corner to 2023

Believe me when I say, last weekend 2022 was winding down. It wound down to nothing.

Friday morning I spent some time with my new Cricut – my favorite Christmas present. So far it’s been all learning curve and no real spectacular moments of craftiness. I’ve spent more time learning what it can’t do than I have making stuff. Leave it to me to find the edges of digital technology.

Friday afternoon, we had lunch at Community BBQ. For my bestie and I, it was a return trip, but we were joined this time by her brother and Mr. Bill. I shared a rack of ribs with hubby and avoided the loser mac & cheese, but I saw them take some to another table. It looked much improved.

This visit was not quite as good as our first. The wine was still free, because they haven’t gotten their liquor license, yet, but this time my ribs were fatty. The okra was delicious and I enjoyed a baked potato. Deb’s brother had the brisket and seemed to love it. She, like me, repeated the ribs and was happy. Mr. Bill was disappointed by the ribs, because they were beef ribs. He has very particular taste and if it’s not baby backs, he’d rather not.

Saturday morning I played Marian the Librarian. I keep the library at our small church going and we’d had a huge influx of books. I’d brought them home to prep them for the shelves and made a morning of it. That afternoon I went around the house and the yard taking down the Christmas decorations. The manger scene in the front was another of my favorite Christmas presents, but I got it early so we could display it for this season. Now, it’s in the garage. We have to figure out how to store it!

For New Year’s Eve, Bill and I ate our leftover ribs for dinner and sat on the sofa catching up on episodes of The Voice. That’s pretty lame for a couple who got engaged on Christmas Eve, almost three decades before, but we choose to stay home out of the madness. We drank good champagne at midnight and crawled into bed.

The New Year Arrives with a Bump

If it’s Sunday morning, then I’m probably at church. New Year’s Day was no exception. I shelved all the newly donated books, attended Sunday School and then during the worship service I got the bad news I knew was coming. Our pastor is leaving us here in the Bible Belt, where there’s an evangelical church on almost every corner, to lead a small church in one of the most neglected mission fields in the world – New England. Seriously!

My pastor and his wife had made it known about six months ago that they felt a calling away from us. At that time they didn’t know where they’d go, just that they knew they were done here. I was so sad. Finding my church had been a multi-year task. Worship formats everywhere have taken a turn away from what I love and I’d made the rounds without much luck. This church was an uneasy fit for me in some ways, but they have a traditional worship service and the teaching during the Sunday morning service was stellar, some of the best I’ve ever had.

Now I have to decide what to do with myself on Sunday mornings. No giant of theology is coming to fill the soon-to-be empty shoes of this marvelous teacher. In fact, the elders are going to take turns with the sermon. Natural attrition has taken away some of my favorite people in the congregation and while there are those I love, for the most part I am I fish out of water. I was there each Sunday for the teaching that won’t be there anymore.

Ten years ago, that wouldn’t be so much of a problem, I’d go find another evangelical church with a great teacher and a traditional worship service. Just finding a traditional worship service is one problem, but finding one with a live preacher is even more challenging. I’m just not ready for church on the big screen. So, God and I are chatting about what is next.

Strolling Down Memory Lane

As I mentioned earlier, Bill proposed to me at the stroke on midnight on NYE 1993/4. It had been a complete surprise to me – a good one, but he’d kept his secret well. So, January 1, 1994 I spent the day trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I was engaged to be married to the handsomest man in the whole wide world.

That afternoon we took a walk along the dock at Chandler’s Landing. Together we carved out our path for the coming months. Bill was ready to get married immediately, like could we do it in a few weeks as far as he was concerned. That was plausible if we had a small, quiet ceremony, which I thought was fine, except that he wanted a big wedding with all the trimmings. That meant I’d need a few months to pull it all together.

Chandler’s Landing was very members/residents only back in those days. There was no Yacht Club Restaurant open to the public. We were interlopers, but on that very quiet day, no one seemed to mind. On Sunday we still had to cheat a little, telling them we were going to the restaurant, when all we wanted was the restaurant parking lot, but we literally strolled down memory lane as we walked along the docks.

Chandler’s Landing has changed. It was fairly shabby in 1994, a mere shadow of what it had been designed to be. Today, things are different than they were back then. The HOA has taken over the facilities and hired a very good management company to bring it all back to its former glory – and they are doing a good job of it. The restaurant is still hit and miss, but everywhere you look things are looking better than they were twenty-nine years ago.

Our Ham and Black-Eyed Peas

We skipped The Yacht Club on this visit. We had to eat our ham and black-eyed peas, which I had for us at home. Nothing fancy. I picked up a ham steak at Kroger to go with the can of black-eyed peas I already had on the shelf. I like cornbread with that meal, so I also picked up a package of cornbread mix. It didn’t take long to put on the table, but we enjoyed it. Afterwards, we watched a little TV.

The New Year is off to a good, if quiet start. I am wrapping my life around the resolutions I have made for a “Better Me in 2023.” As befits a new year, my Travel Talk posts will be taking a new turn to New York City. Then Memory Keeping 101 will focus on punches to go along with all that paper I love. I hope you’ll join me for the fun.

DFW Metroplex, Photo Organization, Photo Organization Coach, Photography, Scrapbooking

Getting Punchy

MEMORY KEEPING 101 – TOOL TIME FOR SCRAPBOOKERS

A Sampling of Punches and Border Makers

A couple of years ago I made the poster above to demonstrate the many shapes you could make with Creative Memories Punches and Border Maker. Some of these are no longer available, but they’ve also come up with all kinds of new ones. I always want every single one they introduce, but you soon learn to get a little picky.

Punches, Border Punches, Frame Punches and More

Punches are individual tools you can use to make anything from various sized circles to a variety of borders. However, each punch only makes one thing, be it a single shape or a certain pattern. The great thing is you can make them out of any color or pattern of paper you want to. Punches start at about $25 and go up to about $30, according to what the punch will do.

If it makes a single shape the punch is less expensive. The more you can do with with a punch, the more it costs. Some punches can stand alone on the page or make a border, like the Masquerade and Nativity border punches above. In the top picture of the poster, towards the bottom is a beige square. That’s one of the Frame Punches which will either make a border or the square you see above. Then there are the circle punches. They only do one thing and it requires a flipping the paper over in the middle of the process, but CM has only made a few circle punches and they are the most expensive. None are available at this time.

That’s the basic operation of punches, but if you are patient and you are given to a little experimentation there are all sorts of things you can do. Some croppers have figured out how to get some of the regular punches to do the same sort of thing as the specialized punches. Others use two punches and make a border with two shapes on it. These are the crafty people. You can spend all day on CMTV, the Creative Memories channel or on You Tube watching all the crazy things people figure out to do, but you’re not going to find me there. I just use the tools for what they were intended and never run out of ways to use them.

Border Maker System

Like the Custom Cutting System, the Border Maker System is a collection of tools you use together. With the Custom Cutting System, you get a mat and some blades to go along with several shapes and sizes of patterns. For the Border Maker, you get a two piece tool that works together to hold and cut your paper. Then there are a plethora of cartridges you can buy to use with the two piece tool.

While the punches have a tendency to sing, dance and serve hors d’oeuvres, all the border system does is make straight borders. The basic system is $35.50 and then the cartridges are $19.50 each. After your initial investment in the two piece tool, which does come with one cartridge, it is less expensive to buy the various shapes. I used to say that generally the Border Punches made wider strips than the Border Maker, but nowadays it’s hard to tell, just by looking, what tool made any given border.

Making Your Tools Work for Their Supper

Nothing in scrapbooking is in a vacuum. I’ve been traying to make it simple during these intro posts, but the more you learn about scrapbooking, the more there is to learn. There is more than one kind of page. There are several choices of adhesives and which one you use depends on what you’re sticking down and what you are sticking it to and what you want it to look like after it is stuck down.

When it comes to punches and borders, the same thing applies. There is absolutely nothing wrong with punching out one border and placing it directly on the page or the wallpaper. However, once you start working with them, you can get as crazy as you want to. Some punches only cut an edge off the paper, while others cut on both sides making a chain. You can use the edge punches on a wide strip of paper to make fancy strip cut on both sides. You can start stacking your strips and come up with completely new looks. Some crafty people make borders that are several layers thick, incorporating everything from letters to stickers and embellishments. About all I ever put together is 2-3 layers, but that’s me. You do you!

Obviously, you could go bankrupt buying punches and border maker cartridges, but they only represent a portion of the tools available to scrapbookers. There’s a corner punch which will create two different corners for your photos or mats. The 12 inch Trimmer has seven fancy blades to interchange with the straight blade. There’s a decorative trimmer to make your own wavy strips, a circle cutting for making infinite circle sizes and a zero centering ruler which is very helpful. I love the multi-purpose tool for scraping up things I’ve stuck down by accident and there’s a pointed end which I use for all kinds of tasks my fingers are too fat for. You need pens for journaling and there are two different scissors, both of which I use. And templates – did I mention them. Well, they can be used for several design jobs. Then there are sorting and storing tools which are really nice.

All this and you haven’t yet bought a single sticker or embellishment. Oh my! Have you begun to understand just how expensive it can be to get addicted to this hobby?

Next week, since you now have an idea what it costs to take up scrapbooking, let’s talk about the value of letting me do it for you.

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Gee Thanks Covid

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Travel There – Booking Nightmares in a Post-Covid World

When we returned from Vegas, the trip we hadn’t planned for or anticipated, I had loose travel ends I needed to decide what to do with. My bestie and I had credit with Southwest Vacations for the NYC trip Covid had obliterated and with Hubby I had credit with Southwest Airlines leftover from the resort deal we decided to abandon.

Plans for the Big Apple

The trip we’d planned to NYC for May of 2020 is not one that could easily be replaced. My bestie’s son, a young man I’d watch grow up, was graduating from Pratt and was scheduled to receive his MFA at Radio City Music Hall. That’s one of those events you can’t rewind. However, I’d never really been to NYC and I wanted very much to enjoy that orgy of entertainment.

Though Deb and I talked about using up our travel credits every time we got together there was always the lingering masks and Covid surges discouraging us from planning anything definite. Then she was invited to a christening by her family in New Jersey and that proved the impetus for us to go. We selected the week before the christening as our travel dates and I took on the responsibility for getting it booked.

Have I Reached the Party to Whom I am Speaking?

Perhaps you remember Lily Tomlin and her operator skirts or maybe you’ve just seen clips of her on You Tube. If you have then you’ve heard the question above. As I called around trying to figure out exactly how to use the credits we held from Southwest Vacations, I felt Lily’s question was appropriate.

My travel agent had been one of the early victims in the massive layoffs experienced by the travel industry. When NYC shutdown, I went through several different representatives with the company she’d worked for and eventually ended up having to contact the president of the company to get the credits we were due.

Two years later, I had no desire to reconnect with a company who had not only fired my favorite travel agent ever, but they’d done an awful job of helping me in the aftermath. So, I asked my old travel agent if she knew anyone still in the business which could help me. She gave me a name, but that name had no interest in helping me if there was no money on the table for the trip she’d be helping me with.

I anticipated what a nightmare the rebooking would be and did not want that headache. In the world before Covid, a travel agent would be happy to help you rebook travel, even if they didn’t make anything from it, because they wanted your business for the future. The travel industry is in such dire straits, courtesies like that no longer exist. That meant it was up to me.

The Nightmare Begins

I made the call to Southwest Vacations and I honestly thought the hour and a half I waited on hold would be the extent of my nightmare. When Renee finally got on the phone with me, he was so nice, I thought all of my troubles were over. I had no idea they had just begun. See, I don’t know whether he was stupid or he just lied, and after months of dealing with the aftermath of the conversation it’s still not clear.

The easy part was getting booked in the wrong hotel. I wanted the Sheraton New York Times Square. He put me in a Four Points by Sheraton in Times Square. During the call he always said Sheraton Times Square, so I thought we were good. It wasn’t until later I realized the gap between what I wanted and what I got. However, except for the LONG wait on hold, waiting for a representative, changing to the right was relatively easy or at least seemed that way at the time.

The hard part was what happened to my Southwest Airlines account. Renee said he was taking some credit from that account to cover my airfare for NYC. As we were talking he told me it would be about $25-30. I blissfully can’t remember at this moment, but at the time I had written down in my notes and it was in that range. I asked, “And that will leave me with XXX amount of credit with Southwest Air?” His answer was, “Absolutely,” but he was absolutely wrong.

The nightmare continues, so come back next week and let’s find out how badly Renee’s wrong answer messed me up!