Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Junk-Key Bowling Ball

I'm a counter.  When faced with a potential enumeration of objects or process steps, I count them, automatically, without even thinking about it.  Stairs, crunches, towels to be folded, cups to be put away, pennies in my change purse, quilts in my house, sheep.  Does everyone do this, I wonder?  And so of course I count my bowling balls, but the resulting sum depends upon a number of considerations:

1) do I only count "mosaic" bowling balls, i.e. those in which I have glued mosaic tiles to the surface, or
2) do I count the more recent bowling balls in which I have attached various objects in addition to mosaic tiles, or
3) do I count those bowling balls on which I have merely spray painted a coat of lovely chrome paint, or
4) do I count all the bowling balls on display in my garden, which includes some which have nothing glued to or painted on them, but are nonetheless pretty, or, finally,
5) do I count all the bowling balls in my possession ?

And so, depending upon the answer to the above, this latest project might be number 11, or it might be number 12, or it might be number 4.  But in the junk-key category of bowling ball art, it is numero uno.

In browsing Pinterest, admittedly a dangerous and time-consuming occupation, I came upon a bowling ball , or at least a bowling-ball-like round object, with keys attached, and I was inspired..

 I've always been drawn to keys.  Remember that story I told about the bucket of keys my Dad had?  That was in Newark, so I was about 7 years old, but I remember the sound and feel of that bucket of keys like it was yesterday.  If Dad were still with us, I would ask him what ever happened to that bucket of keys, and he would remember it as well, for we are kindred junk spirits, Dad and I.

But keys are flat, and the surface of the bowling ball is not.  I guess someone more tool-savvy than myself would simply bend the keys, but that seemed beyond my skills.  I wanted a different solution.  I literally played with ideas for months.  I would go into the workshop, handle the leys, place them on tiles, sit and ponder, think about how to attach them, rummage through my boxes of junk, but continued to come up empty-handed.

I was frustrated at not making any progress on the latest bowling ball, partly because I won't allow myself to acquire additional balls while I have unfinished projects in progress.  I finally decided to just start, and hope that inspiration, or engineering,  would rescue me.  I started the ball with a crystal perfume bottle.  Ms. Artsy Craftsy threw this away on her latest cleanup trip, but I rescued it.  I knew I would never use it for it's intended purpose (perfume comes in a bottle, why would someone pour it into a different bottle?), but it was so pretty!  It even came with a tiny metal funnel for pouring the perfume into the bottle.  I sat the lovely crystal perfume bottle on top, in one of the finger holes (I fill these with thin-set mortar to ensure water doesn't leak inside).

One of the biggest challenges in working with bowling balls is how to audition items without them sliding off, crashing to the floor, and breaking.  So while trying to hold a handful of clear marbles in place, I grabbed one of those china plates with the centers cut out (long story, suffice it to say I have china plates sans centers) just to keep the marbles from rolling away, and that's when an idea started taking shape.  If I could figure out a way to hang the keys from this plate, I'd be in business

. By the way, before I progress too far, here is an accounting of the items placed so far:
  • the clear marbles were in a 5 lb coffee can at Mom & Dad's house.  No idea why they had this many marbles, but I wanted them.  I left the coffee can (which I also wanted) and put the 10+ lbs of marbles into my suitcase.
  • The pink stones were rescued from the free bins at Scrap San Francisco.  They almost always have stone and tile samples available for free there.  In fact the last time I was there, the nice man told me he puts more tile into the free area every Friday.  If only I lived closer . . .
  • The pink stained glass tiles were stash leftovers.
  • There is some sort of a stone gem which I used to cover the cut in the plate.  I remember picking it up off the street somewhere, but I'm not sure where.  Perhaps New York.
Back to the business of hanging keys from a plate. I next dug some chain out of my junk stash.  I have chains from when I used to do quilting trade shows, where I suspended dowels, with screw eyes in the ends, on chains, then hung fabric on the dowels.  I still needed to attach the chain to the plate, which would be very messy using my adhesive of choice, GE Silicone II for windows and doors, 30-minute rain ready, clear.

I went to the hardware store and stared at things, unsuccessfully, then I went to JoAnn's and stared at things, and finally came up with these jewelry bails connected to flat disks.  By adhering the flat disks to the underside of the plate, I was able to hang the chain on the bails.  Then using additional chain links, I hung the keys, and a few other objects, from the chain.

The rest of the ball features lots of junk.  Between the bottom of the plate and the ends of the keys, since this area is somewhat hidden, I used various stones from Scrap and glass gems, leftovers from previous bowling balls.  Just below the level of the keys I created a row of enamel pins.  I have lots of pins, mostly from quilting, but a few others.  I usually remove the pin-back and cut the pin with wire-cutting pliers, then mount it on junk tile or pieces of stone to raise it to the right level.  I have plenty of junk tile from Scrap as well as from the Silver Creek Country Club remodel, during which I frequently dumpster dove.

After this row of pins was in place, the rest of the ball was that wonderful process of find something that fits and glue it into place.  I love this part of the process.  It's like doing a jigsaw puzzle. 

There are more pins, key chains, random bits of tile and stone, some metal bits, some china, a few mah jong tiles, many found objects, like the plastic chips I found on the mountaintop above Rothenburg, likely used to purchase beer at the music festival, a few dog tags found on various beaches, some of the pin backs which fit nicely into little spaces, some metal scrapbooking bits.
I also hung the little shiny  metal funnel among the keys.

Sometimes its hard to use an item, like the yin-yang Mickey Mouse pin that I bought at Disney World one year, but I don't wear it, so why not enjoy it on my art?  I also like to layer items, like placing a small button or earring on a metal tag or flower.

Notice the use of the pin backs to fill in small spaces, and some shiny brass buttons I found in Mom's sewing machine drawers.

I finally found a use for that eBay pin.  I can't remember how or why I got it, some tchotchke I suppose.  The saint pin was just given to me by Louis the last time I was in NJ.

One of the more unusual items is the metal tag on the green tiles next to the pin of some cute boy (boy band member? I'm not sure).  I found this on the beach at Lake Tahoe.  It says Sierra Crematory and has a number on it.

The end result looks absolutely nothing like the inspiration, but that's bowling ball art!

The last bowling ball, the Memory Ball, was for Mom.  This one is for Dad.  They were his marbles, and keys will always make me think of my earliest recollections of our common love of junk.

A few other notes:
 I don't grout these junk creations, there is too much irregularity in the pieces and it just doesn't seem to need it.  Besides, I have found the grout to be a weak element in the outdoors.

 I no sooner placed this outside in the garden that we had our first rain of the season.  While I wish this ball would be safe in the elements, I have a feeling some of the keys will rust. so until I can find something to protect them against rust, I am keeping this on the porch out of the rain.

Although I took the cap off the perfume bottle as I was working on the rest of it, somehow I managed to break it at the inside rim.  A little silicone and it was good as new.

As with other bowling balls, especially if they have a top and bottom, I tend to use scrap china on the bottom since you don't see it anyway.

Now I am on to bowling ball number 12, or 13, or 5, depending upon how I count them.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The $20,000 Glass Plate Flower

"There are three kinds of pipe. There's aluminum, which is garbage. There's bronze, which is pretty good, unless something goes wrong. And something always goes wrong. Then, there's copper, which is the only pipe I use. It costs money. It costs money because it saves money."

Cosmo Castorini, Moonstruck

Oh Cosmo, if only you had plumbed our house.  Now that I think of it, Jose from 1-Day Repipe reminds me of Cosmo.  So perhaps our plumbing is safe for the future.  We've spent money to save money.  But I digress from my story of the $20k upcycled glass plate flower.

My inspiration source is everyone's favorite source these days, Pinterest.  I'm not a huge fan of Pinterest, especially when I find the pinned photos are just that, photos, without accompanying textural substance. But I have found some great inspiration for my craft and DIY projects on Pinterest.  And when my friend Allen,  the mobile manager for Pinterest, asked me to do some beta testing, I thought, why not.

As an aside, I have not found a single bug or issue in all my testing.  What I have found, are glass plate flowers.  I started pinning like crazy, enamored with these upcycled glass pretties.  
While copper pipes are not the only options for flower stems, I was about to have a ready source of copper stems, as we decided, after the great plumbing disaster of March, to have the entire house re-piped.  That seemed to be the only way to guarantee against another disaster. ( Walter: I'm not trying to tell you your business but you haven't even looked at my pipes. Brad Shirk: I looked at them three years ago. You figure they've improved with age?   The Money Pit).
Or was l?  Ron of 1-Day Repipe (no, they cannot re-pipe a house in 1 day, but again, that's another story) was not crazy about the idea of turning over our used copper pipes.   He mumbled something about pipes always getting pilfered because, as Cosmo knows, copper costs money.  Can you believe I actually had to steal my own pipes?  As they were being passed out of the crawl space under the house through one of the foundation vent holes, I swiped them and hid them under my garden bench.  (Remember, these are my copper pipes!)  I later got caught, by Cosmo/Jose, as he was looking at our pool pipes, but he was more sympathetic to my cause, telling the story of how his family uses leftover PEX pipes to make hula hoops.  So, I got about a dozen used copper pipes, plus some brass fixtures, to use in my garden art projects.  Cost?  Approximately $20,000 (truth be told, with revised estimates, changes in fixtures, etc, the real price was less, but the story sounds better with $20k).

Glass supplies were easy to come by at Savers, my local thrift mega-store.  In fact I was amazed at how many curvy curly flowery, gilded pieces of glass I was able to find, supplemented by a few glass bowls for making glass garden mushrooms, but that will be another, shorter story. I spent over $30 on glass supplies, which is a lot to spend at Savers, but I should get four glass flowers and a couple of mushrooms for this amount, plus I got a tax deduction for my donation, and I even got a Tuesday Senior Day discount.  The old lady strikes!

The next critical piece of the puzzle was the means of attaching the "flower" to the stem.  Options included bent forks or spoons, small glass bottles, or, the most attractive choice, copper bell fittings. I kept peering through our plumbers' supply boxes to see if they had any (I would not have stolen them, honesty, I would have asked to have them throw in to our job, something you are entitled to do when you are having all the plumbing replaced in your house at great expense).  An online search revealed their availability at Lowe's, but not at the Lowe's near us, of course.  I waited for an opportunity to go to Lowe's in Sunnyvale, likely concurrent with a trip to the library, since I dislike the distance and traffic involved in going to Sunnyvale.  But the other day, I had to go to Safeway, so while I was in the area, I thought I would pop into the Cottle Rd Lowe's and take a look, just in case their online inventory was incorrest.  Supposedly they had 1 in stock, less than the four I wanted to start out with, but enough to to do a concept test.  

Upon entering Lowe's I asked for copper plumbing fittings and was directed to aisle 26, right side. I spent a good 20 minutes poking through boxes of copper joints, T's, elbows, caps, all sorts of things, but no bell fittings.  I thought about alternatives, and almost settled on a 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch 90 degree elbow, but it was over $5 for one, and I had already spent $20,000 on the copper pipes, so I wanted to minimize further expense.  I started walking out, then noticed an aisle of additional plumbing fixtures, and thought maybe I could find something workable.  There were three Lowe's workers in the aisle, who asked if I needed help finding something.  I said I had already looked unsuccessfully, but I would ask anyway, for copper bell fittings.  Enjoying one slightly dropped jaw and a couple of raised eyebrows, for really, how many little old ladies come into Lowe's looking for 1/2" copper bell fittings, one of them invited me to follow him.   (Old lady strikes again!).
It turns out there were additional copper fittings in aisle 27 (yes, the Lowe's man agreed, they should all be together).  I had to poke through boxes again, since the 1/2" and 3/4" fittings were mixed, and found four of the prized fittings, $1.57 each.  I excitedly considered this a good day. (Insert crafty geek cough).
I spent my usual long time auditioning arrangements of plates, undecided on how to proceed, but finally settled on the design of at least one flower.  The first step was to glue the copper bell to the back of the plate.  As with all my outdoor mosaic projects, I used GE Silicone II for Windows and Doors, the 30-minute set.
I went back outside to my "craft studio" (aka the second garage) after about an hour, tested the fitting on a pipe, and it came off the plate.  This was quite troubling, so I repeated my research and tried again.  The second time, I used more silicone and let it set for 24 hours.  It appears to be holding, although I am mentally preparing myself to one day find a pile of potentially broken glass in my garden.  No problem, I will upcycle it again in a mosaic project.  Upcycle squared!
The next step was to add the plates one at a time.  The biggest challenge of this step is to note exactly where the plates will contact each other and be sure to get sufficient silicone at the juncture, without making it look too messy.
Here's the first completed flower.
The back plate is a decorative plate I got at Savers.  There was a picture and writing in the center, easily covered by the next layers.  The next two layers are gold-rimmed plates I had in my mosaic collection, from the time I bought an entire box of rimmed plates from the ebay seller who was going out of business (for the cost of the shipping!)  Most of these got used on the Great Mosaic Wall in the back yard.  These plates have the center focal areas cut out, which made it a little tricky to attach them, but I managed.  You can see the slits in these plates where they were cut.  The next pretty aqua ruffled candy dish (?) I got at Savers, as well as the final layer, the perfectly pretty rose-shaped candle holder.
I haven't yet set this in the garden, as I want to make a few more for group impact, and I want to find a cap for the copper pipe stems so they don't get too yucky inside.
But I love it!
I'm already done with the second flower, backed with a clear egg plate highlighted with gold glass gems, another gold-rimmed plate from my mosaic collection, s similar aqua candy dish (?) from Savers, a very heavy glass flower-shaped candle holder from Savers, and finally, a large glass gem from a bag of aquarium decor I bought in the clearance bin at Petco for about $1.50.

I've also started on the third flower.  In case anyone thinks I should be using my plates to eat instead of making upcycled garden art, note the warning on the back of the plate.

I have enough supplies for at least four, so I will have to make additional trips to Savers and Lowe's.  I'd like to make at least ten flowers, thereby reducing the cost of each to approximately $2000.
Anyone want to buy an upcycled glass plate flower?


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Mosaic Bowling Ball #10 - The Memory Ball

Where do I start?  This bowling ball was the most fun project to date, but they always are.  I absolutely love it, but I always do.  This project is dedicated to my Mom, Antoinette Nasti.  I feel I can never do enough or dedicate enough, to keep her memory alive.

As with all of my projects, they begin in my head long before anything is gathered or glued.  This one began, probably just after I finished #9, the Junk Ball.  Being the junkie who wants to simplify and declutter our lives, making use of junk to create something beautiful while clearing out stuff is just the epitome of upcycle crafting.  The fact that another physical entity is made doesn't bother me too much.  I'm not sure how long they'll last anyway.  And who wouldn't want lovely garden art.

I've already digressed, but I suspect that will happen a lot before I am done, as I have a lot to say, and I haven't necessarily organized my thoughts.  After completing #9, the Junk Ball, there was still a box of junk.  A small box, one of those they sell at Michaels, about the size of a shoe box.  But a shoe box can hold quite a lot of little bits and bobs.  And more items have gotten added to the box.  I like that there's now a box in the garage, so as I come across stuff, I just put it by the front door, then take it out to the garage.

Back in December, when I was cleaning out Mom's house, there were so many of these little items.  Things I knew no one would want, so they weren't candidates for the estate sale, but things I couldn't bring myself to throw away.  The little glass angel she kept on the shelf above the sink.  Her house keys.  The magnets on her refrigerator.  Pins and costume jewelry and all the little things that roll around in a drawer, just like they did here in my house.  I would stuff them in my pockets, or toss them into my backpack, and then they made their way to that box in the garage.  But not for long.  As soon as I completed the Mosaic Succulent Wall, I moved a blank bowling ball into the garage and I was ready to begin.  I knew this project would be dedicated to Mom and contain all the stuff I brought home in my pockets and backpack.

 I started with the glass angel.  Mom had lots of little angel figures throughout the house.  It's funny, I didn't really know she liked angels.  I wonder if she bought them or if people gave them to her.  I sat him right around the finger holes of the ball, surrounded by blue glass nuggets.  I also wanted the sunflower magnet, taken off her refrigerator, to be a focal point.  I don't know that she particularly liked sunflowers, like Megan does.  I suspect it was more about the color matching the yellow and black kitchen.   I created a medallion design with the sunflower as a focus, china rims plus gold and green glass gems I bought at JoAnns (using two 50% off coupons, I got both bags of gems for $6.99).  Tiny spaces are filled in with millefiore beads that I bought on Murano.  Remember that day on lovely and colorful Murano, where I was so overwhelmed at finding a mosaic shop that I could hardly breathe, let alone pick out something.  I am so happy to put these beads to good use.

The next section I added was the Raggedy Ann, also a magnet from her refrigerator.  This I surrounded with some blue ceramic mini tiles, more glass gems and millefiore, and some pearl button covers from my junk box.  Did she like Raggedy Ann because of her name?  Again, something I don't know.  This reminds me of getting a Raggedy Ann doll for Christmas one year.  I might have been as old as 8, but I treasured that doll.  It sat on my bed in the house in Bloomfield.  At some point it was joined by Andy.  I still have them both in my bedroom.  Megan played with them for a while, but I made sure to get them back.  I love those dolls.

The Pisces medallion and the other gold medallion were already in my house, but I am sure they were Mom's.  She and Megan share being a Pisces, I'm an Aquarian.  I believe she gave these to Megan a long time ago.  Now they have a home on the ball.  Another memory, distant and faint, but something about asking to play with jewelry.  All little girls ask to play with jewelry, right?  I can't remember if I asked Mom or Aunt Jo, Mom's sister. But I remember being thrilled to play with jewelry.   And  I feel I need to save some costume jewelry in case I am ever asked.

By the way, in case this is not yet clear, this mosaic ball is a Memory Ball.  Because, there are so many memories evoked both in the process of creating and hopefully whenever I gaze upon it.  There are so many stories embedded in this ball.  I feel like it needs to come with instructions.  "Please treasure this ball, it was made with love and contains precious memories".  Sort of like the tag that comes on Paddington Bear.

There's one more magnet I included, her name.  "Ann".  Her full name was Antoinette.  I suspect she didn't like that much, as hardly anyone called her Antoinette.  I like it, it's different.  There were three Ann's in the family, Aunt Ann across the street (Uncle Junie's wife) and Aunt Ann, Uncle Petey's wife, who I think was really called Anna.  The "Ann" magnet is flexible so it wrapped well around the curve of the bowling ball.  Near this is a mirror of unknown origins, and a gold and pearl piece from a necklace.  This wasn't her necklace, but I picked it up at Robert's house when I was there for her funeral.  This necklace sat on their dining room table for days.  No one wanted it, but no one would do anything with it, except argue about who was going to do something with it.  Finally I said I would take it, and now it too has a home; I simply cut off the chain.  Below this is one of her house keys, and a hair clip I found on the street in New York when I was there in December.

Her house keys were on a key chain with a St. Christopher medal.  He's the one who makes sure you don't lose things, therefore appropriate for a key chain.  This I placed behind the angel bear, with the rest of her keys scattered over the surface.  This is the first time I've used keys on a ball.  I like how dimensional they are.  I have lots more.  On one of my crafting forays I once bought a whole box of keys.  I don't think I've used any.  I remember once Dad got a whole bucket of keys.  This was at the house in Newark I am pretty sure, so I was less than 8 years old, and the memory of the circumstances is gone.  But I remember the bucket of keys.  It was a large bucket, like a 5-gallon paint bucket, and it was nearly full with keys.  Dad collected metal of all sorts and he would sell it as scrap for cash.  I think someone brought him the bucket.  I don't know what ever happened to it, I guess he sold it.  To me, it was a bucket of treasure.  I think I can remember sifting through the bucket.  There would be that pungent metal smell and my hands likely got pretty dirty.  But oh the treasure.  Behind every key there must be a story.  These were old keys, some of them skeleton keys.  There is another key chain I found in the dining room hutch, I "heart" NY.  I don't know anything about it.  To set the record straight, I don't "heart" NY, I "heart" San Francisco,  but I like the way this apple-shaped key chain takes up space on the ball, surrounded by gems, china and millefiore.

Mom liked to play scrabble.  I can't remember the last time we played.  I should have played with her when I visited.  I should have done a lot of things.  But playing Scrabble is a happy memory, so I put some scrabble letters on the ball to spell out "M O M".  Don't worry, I didn't pilfer these from my game.  At some point in my craft supply collecting, probably in my Artist Trading Card days, and likely in the same timeframe in which I bought a box of keys, I bought an extra set of tiles to use for crafts.  I made sure all my game tiles were safely in place.  There is that "Letter Distribution" guide on the side of the board.  I used it to carefully sort through the tiles to make sure they are all there. And while I was at it, I played a game.  With myself, because no one will play with me.  Just as well, as I am a very bad loser. I won, but it was close.   I included other game pieces on the ball, mahjong and dominoes.  These are mostly costume pieces from junk jewelry I've made, although at least one dominoe, the large red and purple one under Raggedy Ann, is a piece I found on the beach at Carmel.  I wanted to include a couple of dice I picked up at Mom's house, but like the jars of marbles I carried home, which yes did put me over the 50 lb limit, I'm not ready yet.  They seem too precious, I don't know their story.   Suppose they are somehow too valuable to be siliconed in place.

What else is on the ball?
- buttons and pins and earrings I got at Scrap in San Francisco; I remember sorting through the tray of things that was outside and therefore sitting in an inch of rainwater.  But they were free!
- a watch ring that I gave Megan for Christmas one year.  I'm not sure it ever worked or was ever worn, but it was a well-intended gift.  And somehow she learned to be reasonably on time in life, an important characteristic.  I had to mount the face on a piece of tile, and it kept wanting to curl back up, so I had to sit and hold it in place for about 15 minutes.
- there is a whole set of intriguing copper enameled circles, some with numbers on them.  I think I found these in Megan's boxes of junk.  Not sure of their origins, but they are lovely little things.  I have more, likely to appear on the next ball.
- circular mirrors and filler tiles; glass tiles that I got at Mendel's Far Out Fabrics, glass and ceramic tiles left over from all the previous mosaic projects, flat-backed glass beads; all those glass gems I got at the closing sale at Big Apple grocery are all gone now.
- a few beads and pearls, all of these likely found on the street.
- a couple of those flattened pennies I found at Mom's house; I'm surprised there weren't more of these.  I have a bunch more that Megan collected when we traveled, but I'm not ready to glue these to a ball yet
- costume earrings and button covers
- and on the very bottom, out of sight, bits of glass and ceramic plates



Now for some practical notes:
- GE Silicone II clear 30-minute rain-ready is THE product to use; it's messy and a little noxious (I always work in the ventilated garage) but it holds, it's waterproof and the flexibility enables it to handle the expansion and contraction of the bowling balls in the heat and cold.   I like using the 30-minute rain-ready on a rounded surface.  When I used the 3-hour product, there was too much likelihood of items slipping out of place.  A tube lasts for multiple projects and with coupons is just a few bucks.
- for a few hollow objects like button covers, I fill them with ready-made mortar.  This is not necessarily weather-proof, but it gets covered with silicone so I think it will be okay
- oh and what the heck is this ball sitting on?  No idea, but I suspect it's a chafing dish holder, as there appears to be a place to set a Sterno.  I got it at Savers for $3.99 (less with my donation discount)
- is everything weather and sun proof?  Not sure.  I remember how disheartened I was when Junk Ball #9, after being left on the front porch for only a week, had the main focal enamel pin completely bleached of color.  I've since painted it and moved it to the shade.  I did put some polyurethane coating on the ceramic magnets.
- Some objects are far more dimensional than others.  Since I am not grouting, I am not too concerned with an even surface, but I did use plastic buttons or bits of tiles glued to the backs of objects, like those copper discs, to raise them
- I finished this project in less than a week.  Because of the curved surface, I can only work on a small space then have to let it set.  Again, the 30 minute set time is a plus.
- What if there is something that I really want off the ball?  It can be pried off with an exacto knife if necessary.
- Although I have not done so yet, I may grout the white china bottom, but only if I feel like it will improve the sustainability of the project.

In conclusion, I don't think Mom or Dad would necessarily "get" a project like this, although they both greatly appreciated craftiness.  Come to think of it, I'm not sure anyone will get it, but as I started out saying, I love it.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Puerto Vallarta - Other Highlights

As I look back through the pictures and write my belated travel journal, I have to admit that the good outweighed the bad of Puerto Vallarta, which again makes me a little sad, because we've decided we will not return.  So I will enjoy these additional highlights.

The grounds of the resort were beautifully planted and spotlessly maintained, and the plants even had signage.

The "Boy on the Seahorse" is an icon of Puerto Vallarta.  It's smaller than I expected, but perhaps there is another larger one we didn't see, as my post trip research has revealed a fascinating story.

There was often some kind of fiesta or entertainment in progress, particularly on the Malecon.  I loved this local color.

In the nicest parts of downtown, the streets were lined with bougainvillea which looked particularly lovely against the often blue skies.

As part of the dreaded timeshare presentation rewards, I got a massage and facial, with this being the massage location and view.

We enjoyed two shows at the resort, a Thursday night fiesta that included great food, open bar of course and wonderful entertainment, and a Friday night fire show with amazing feats of acrobatics with fire.

There is no lack of people watching, an opportunity to really think about how other people travel and how other cultures reciprocate.

Adios, Puerto Vallarta, it was real!

Touring Puerto Vallarta - Marietas Islands

Just offshore at the north end of Banderas Bay rests a group of small, volcanic islands known as the Marietas Islands. These islands were made famous by oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and are now a protected national park, or the Mexican equivalent.  Because of this protected status, no one is allowed to land on the islands (and there doesn't appear to be many places where one could do that anyway), but tons of boats stop offshore, allowing people to experience the natural beauty, bird and marine life.

There is one cinder-cone island where the roof has collapsedand there is a little beach inside.  They call this the hole in the ocean or hidden beach, and it was one of the main reasons I chose this tour.

Unfortunately, it was not completely clear to me that the only way to reach this island and little beach was by snorkeling or swimming, neither of which I do well. There were some pictures showing paddleboards, so I thought perhaps I could paddle there, but no.  And the length of the swim required differed.  Some said 75 feet, or perhaps 75 meters.  When we got there, the tide was high, so no snorkeling was allowed since the entrance to the cave was very high compared to the top of the arch one had to swim through (one guy spent the rest of the day with an ice bag on his head from misjudging the opening and a wave).  And the distance was more like ...well, too far for me.  This was the melee of people swimming toward some indistinguishable cave opening.

The other unfortunate aspect is that I didn't realize this was the hole in the ocean part of the trip.  I thought people were just going snorkeling, which I don't like.  Even if it had been clear, I probably would have been too afraid to do this.  The ocean was a little rough and quite cold, and even with life vest and fins, I might have been too scared.  There were life boats patrolling, but anyway, I didn't do it. Tod was brave (although he admitted it probably would have been too much for me) and was rewarded with goofy pictures inside the cave.

While most of the people did make this swim to the hole, there were about a dozen of us left on board, some too sea sick to do anything but hold plastic bags in their laps. Although it was not "smooth sailing", it was not a bad ride for me, so I rather enjoyed the quiet.  I did decide to lay off the alc for this trip.  Meanwhile, the captain tooled around a little so we could get a closer glimpse of the islands and the birds, particularly the blue-footed boobies.

This is a photo from the internet, as I didn't have a camera to get a shot like this, but this is exactly what they looked like, and there were hundreds of them on the islands, along with brown pelicans, frigate birds and of course sea gulls.

After the "hole" we drove to another island where we went kayaking and paddleboarding.  Since we couldn't land anywhere, the boards and kayaks had to be unloaded from the boat (once again, hats off to the crew who worked like dogs to unload the gear and make sure people had what they needed, and help people into the water from the back of the boat).  This was a little tedious, but finally I got out onto the water.  It was once again rougher than the water I like to paddle in, but manageable.

Of course, there was the challenge of maneuvering around a lot of other people.

On the way back to port, we were rewarded with dolphin sightings...

and a ridiculously entertaining show by the fabulous crew.

While this was not my favorite tour, it was a nice sail with beautiful scenery and perfect for those a little more adventurous than I.