Monday, November 23, 2009

The Final Hours

After finishing my last post, I decided to get crackin' on finishing that fragment necklace, and I'm happy to report ...

It's done! Even my daughter thought it was pretty cool.

In the meantime, I've had a couple of days off because my husband & I drove the 5 hours up to Rochester, NY on Thursday to pick up my son from college. We came back home on Friday, and my son promptly took my car and went near Trenton to visit a friend at her school for the weekend. So glad I just spent 2 days getting him.

Well, now to the funny part (NOT!) ... my daughter turns 18 in January, and she's not the best driver. She has absolutely no interest in learning, and we're fine with that, cause to put it bluntly, she scares the crap out of us! But, if she doesn't get her license by Jan. 15th, she'll have to repeat the written test. So, we decided it would be beneficial (and safer) to pay a driving school for another 6 hours of lessons. Hopefully, she'll get more relaxed & confident, and we'll be less stressed & more patient.

Anyway, the first time she took the course, we had a lot of scheduling problems, and her 6 hours took about 3 months to complete. So, this time, I decided to schedule the lessons for 3 days in a row, the first being this past Saturday at 9am.

We woke up to realize that my son had my car, which held her permit! Ugh! I told the instructor that my son was supposed to return home Sunday morning, and we should be fine by then. I called my son and asked him to check the car just to make sure it was in there. Well, it wasn't--or did the 19-year-old just not look good enough. Either way, I tore apart my house wondering where it could be, and when I couldn't find it, I called my son and requested that he be home by noon so I have time to tear the car apart in case I have to cancel.

Well, on Sunday I was busy helping my husband clean up some leaves and when I noticed the time it was 12:30pm. I considered calling my son to make sure he was one his way home, but decided not to cause I didn't want him to try answering the phone while driving. This was his first trip by himself longer than 15 minutes, and where he had to follow directions.

About 5 minutes later, he called me ... he hadn't left yet. Some business about how he had to leave his license in the office to get a visitor's pass, and he had to wait for the office to open to get it back. Whatever, just take your time and head home.

1:35pm .... he calls again and he's at a gas station. Seems the GPS on his Blackberry isn't working and he has no idea where he is. When I ask him for the address so I can Mapquest it for him, he's still at the college! Ugh!!! Well, he gets the GPS working, and now he's on his way home.

He's supposed to go to work at 3pm, so when that came & went, we started getting very worried. DH decided to try calling him, but he never answered. Half an hour later, I tried calling with no answer. By 4pm, my husband called again, and still no answer! I hate feeling that helpless and clueless! Luckily, he strolled in at 4:10pm, safe & sound, but the permit isn't in the car. So, when I finish this post and pick up my daughter from school, it's off to the lovely NJ DMV.

So, on to the final hours of my trip ...

Our day was to begin with Tim's final class at 8:30am. This was a 3-1/2 hour class, and so much fun! We made a collage in a frame, and used so many techniques ... beeswax, altering, distressing, rub-ons, and more! And, as always, the Mexican Hat Dance was playing throughout the class where we received even more goodies to play with and take home!

This is the finished frame I made. Since it had glass, I decided to carry this on the plane as well as the bulletin board we made earlier in the week in Wendy's class.

Here's a couple close ups of the project, and some photos of us at work ...

Me working, Andrea posing (or should I say 'schemeing'?) ...

I wanted some pictures of me working for my scrapbook, and here's how my good buddy helps me out with that. lol

Carrie & "Babe" hard at work.

"Sparky" & "Jaguar".

Christine ... she tried to pose for me, but I scolded her and told her to 'get back to work.' She's trying not to laugh.

Francesca & Nancy ... proud artists showing off their work! Isn't Francesca so cute! She is just adorable, and I really hope she comes back to America for the next cruise.

OK, remember when I mentioned that we wanted to 'alter' Tim? Well, "Sparky" kept pushing the issue, and this is all we could come up with. lol We had lobster for dinner Friday night, so I got the job to bring the tails back to my balcony to 'let them air out.' I went out to a party to meet up with some friends I met on the zipline excursion, and when I came back, I covered the dry tails with Glossy Accents and made a mess on Andrea's deck chair! In the morning I slipped them to Sparky and Jaguar who then added little maracas to each one. We presented them to Tim, and he hammed it up.

It was cute & funny, but I think he was a little grossed out too! lol

Later that afternoon, we had our farewell party with ScrapMap, our instructors & their crews, and our whole group. Tim unveiled all the prizes we'd be winning with the tickets we collected from our purchases at the Marketplace. My mouth dropped ... lots and lots, and LOTS of prizes to be had! He even had a couple of electric Big Shot machines! Some other die-cutting system, and Jim from ScrapMap gave away a free cruise!

I sat with Andrea, Gloria, the 2 Nancys, Francesca, & Christine. Eileen was at the table next to us. Almost everyone got skunked, but I made out very well ... I won FIVE times!

The first prize I won was a brad-making system (which I already own). I mentioned to the group that I already had it so if I won, they could fight for it. Well, when I won Andrea gave me 'the look', so I gave the 3 punches & attachments to her ... I kept the brad supplies though.

The next prize I won was a set of Ranger Distressed Embossing Powders, Embossing Pad & a heat gun ... all of which I don't own. I mean, I have 2 heat guns, but I always hear people raving about the Ranger gun. I just couldn't justify purchasing one tho. Lucky me. A couple of tickets later, and I won again! The same prize though, so you guessed it ... I got 'the look' from Andrea. I told her she couldn't have this prize unless she gave up the other prize, and she grudgingly obliged.

I won again, and it was a Tonic Border Punch System, another thing I don't own, so I kept it. I won another prize, but for the life of me, I can't remember what it was! We got so much free stuff all week, plus the mucho dinero I spent at the Marketplace on even more stuff, that I can't keep it all straight anymore! lol

Sue "Shooter" (from Club 300) came over and offered her prize to me which was a really cool cutting board. The gesture was so sweet, but I couldn't take it cause I have so many at home, and really no room in my suitcase. I suggested she put it with the brad-making system and someone from the group would get it. But, 'the look' must've worked on Sue as well, cause guess who got the cutting board!

Sue did inspire me to do a good turn as well. I was fretting all day about how I was going to get all my goodies home. I really don't do much with borders, so I decided to give the border punch system to Eileen after dinner. She was so grateful, and I felt so good. Thanks for the inspiration Shooter!

A nice photo of me, Francesca & Andrea.

And, of course, a funny one.

Being one of his 'angels', I wanted a nice picture with "Charlie". We make a great team, don't you think?

Back at the cabin, I was greeted by the coolest creature of the week!

Not sure what he was, but he was cool ... he's got his shades on and even has his remote handy!

We had to move him aside and get down to the dreaded ... packing. I laid out all my booty and tried to sort things out, condense things, remove excess packaging ... here's what I was left with ...

You can't even see the 7-8 stamp sets I bought, the projects, the tons of Ideology! But, I wasn't letting go of another item. By hook or by crook, I was getting everything into my bags.

It all made it home, and now I should post pictures of what my house looks like! My craft room is my basement, but we're finally addressing our flooding problem, so all my stuff is all over my house. My husband's favorite phrase is "you got too much stuff." I made sure he didn't see all my new stuff! Tee hee.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cabo San Lucas

We're finally arriving at Cabo San Lucas, which was supposed to be our first port, but was delayed to our final port to avoid Tropical Storm Patricia. Looks like the Captain made a good decision, because it's a beautiful day!

Andrea & I had another room service breakfast where we ate on our balcony. Here she is thoroughly enjoying her muffin!

We watched the tenders were going back & forth to the cruise ship that was already anchored.

Our first tender pulled up right below us waiting to bring people to land. Guess we better get ready for our kayaking trip!

These were our guides on our trip (wish I could remember their names!). They brought us over to the beach where we received our snorkel gear & fins and got to pick out our kayak (We got the green one!).
It didn't seem that far, but we had to paddle out past our cruise ship to Land's End. Oy! That was work! Andrea & I were almost the last ones ... there was an Asian woman with her mother who were behind us. They were really struggling, and the guides offered to split up and take each woman in a kayak, but the ladies refused.

We paddled out to the Arch (El Arco), but it was high tide, so we couldn't see it. We also had to leave our cameras on the excursion boat so they didn't get ruined. These photos I took from the ship as we were leaving.
Anyway, we then paddled to this rock formation where we saw a colony of sea lions. The tall one on the right is Scooby Doo (he's looking out over the Pacific Ocean).

Here's Scooby!
We then paddled over to Lover's Beach. Thank goodness! I was pooped! This little piece of land has the Sea of Cortez on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. We were able to explore and go to the other side, but the Pacific Ocean side is very rough. I went in up to my ankles and the waves and undertow were VERY strong ... even for this tough Jersey girl!

We met up with the group again, and we trekked over to another beach where we put on our snorkel gear and headed out to a big rock to see some fish. Our guide had a bag of crackers or something, and he would empty some out under water and a million fish would come to feast. A million snorkelers came too! After much head banging with other snorkelers, I decided enough was enough. I swam off on my own, and when I lifted my head from the water, everyone was gone! I didn't know if they headed back to the kayaks or what, so I figured that was the safest bet in case they were waiting on me.
I got back to the kayaks, and they weren't there either, so I left my gear in the boat and went for a swim. About 15 minutes later, I saw Andrea come up looking a little worried about me. "Thanks mamasita ... I'm OK."
This was the big rock all the snorkelers were swimming around. I wish these places were this deserted when we were here! Lover's beach & this rock were more crowded than NYC!
We finished up the excursion by paddling back to the beach, and they brought us by boat back to the pier to meet the tenders. Andrea & I decided to shop a little before heading back to the ship.
After shopping, we stopped for a cerveza, and I caught the local bookie ...
Guys were coming & going with money going back & forth. I stealthily tried to catch a photo of one of her transactions, and she actually smiled at me (although he looks pretty guilty)! Guess it's not illegal here.

The bookie thing sounded exciting, but she was probably just the landlord collecting rent from all the vendors. lol
Back to the ship where we showered and hung out on our balcony to enjoy the view as we were leaving Cabo.
This was our neighbor, Terry from Scotland, hanging out on his balcony. Terry & his wife were a lovely couple ... every time we came across a pub on the ship, or cantina on land, there they were! They really enjoyed our bottle of bubbly too! I never saw them drunk though ... go figure.

Now, here's a rare shot ... Andrea taking a picture. lol Actually, it's a rare shot to catch her without her camera!

Six o'clock rolled around, and I was wrong about last night's dinner. Tonight's dinner was actually the 2nd formal night. I took some photos of the lovely ladies of Club 300, so let me introduce you to ...

(l-r) Andrea "Snappy", Eileen "Bronx", Barb "Woody"
(l-r) Kathy "Hoosier Mama", Barb "Jaguar", Mary Ann "Sparky"

(l-r) Sandra "Babe", Wendy "Krafty1", Sue "Shooter"

Margaret was originally at our table, but her friend was all alone at a different table, so she changed tables. She stopped by to visit us, and here she is with ...

(l-r) Woody, Margaret "Chardonnay" & Hoosier Mama. I'm glad she stopped by cause the group really missed her!

We had our final class with Wendy at 8pm where we glued lots of papers to fragments to make a necklace. I was so exhausted after all that paddling I couldn't even concentrate. To this day, I never finished that necklace. Maybe I'll do that today ... almost forgot all about it.

Anyway, once again, I by-passed studio time and headed back to the room. This towel visitor was kind of funny ...

I'm pretty sure it's a monkey, but I think Alester needs to work on it a bit. I tried taking photos of this guy from every angle, and I think this was the best. Looks more like a dog snout with a spa towel around his neck!

Time to rest up for our final full day.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Big Day ...

It's here! It's here! My big day ...

So, Puerto Vallarta ... beautiful! By far, from all the islands & ports I've cruised to, this is one of the prettiest & most inviting.

I wish I had a better picture to post. Everything was so green ... trees, lawns, beautiful gardens. How did I end up with a picture of a roof? lol

While I was getting ready for my big day, Andrea came in from the balcony and said "there's a pirate ship." So, I went to check it out and saw this ...

I said "how do you know it's a pirate ship?", and she said "cause they told me." With that, over a loud-speaker we heard "WE ARE DA PIRATES!" in this funny, scratchy voice with a Mexican accent. And, then they started shooting canons at other ships! It cracked us up! For the rest of the cruise, we just kept saying "we are da pirates!", so if you heard two crazy women saying this, now you know why.

So, before I tell you about my big day, I just want to mention that Andrea is a wimp, and her excursion, that she actually paid for, was a cooking class. HA! What a maroon!

Anyway, my big day was the excursion called "Outdoor Adventure Experience", and boy was it! This even surpassed the helicopter ride to the glaciers in Alaska.

We began with an exciting 20 min. speedboat ride waaaaay to the other end of Puerto Vallarta. What fun! When we docked at a small beach, we had to wait for the trucks to come pick us up, so we had this very funny guy 'entertain' us, and loosen us up. There were about 16 of us in the original group, and everyone must've still been asleep, cause they were like quiet lumps in chairs.

We weren't allowed to bring cameras, so I missed some great photo ops, but luckily, Vallarta Adventures provided us with a photographer to document our adventure. We were then able to purchase photo CDs at the end of the excursion. Not too bad, I got 98 pictures on the CD for $29.

This is a photo of the trucks they picked us up in at the beach. They took us in two groups, and I was in the 2nd group, and we left about 15 minutes after the 1st group. They gave us drinks while we waited for our turn, and it was very interesting trying to drink it while in the back of this truck!

After about a 20 minute ride, we got to their base. I was so impressed as soon as I saw the crew members and knew I was in very good hands. I've heard scary stories about some of these excursions where it's just a bunch of locals who have no experience or safety concerns and are just trying to make a buck.

Anyway, here was this group of muscular guys, all wearing professional rock-climbing gear & red helmets. Their group quickly got our group all geared up.

We got belts with all our caribeaners and whatchamacallits and were told 'don't touch anything.' No problem, dude ... you da boss. The gloves were really thick leather, and they had an extra flap of leather over the palm because you have to kind of 'slide' your dominant hand on the rope above you, and pull down on the rope to brake. Yeah, OK.

Then, they marched us up to their barn of burros where they gave us quick instructions and snipits of common sense, like, how to mount the burro, and "don't go behind the burro". Then, they introduced each other--a team of 5 guys, 1 girl and the photographer--all College educated in America & professional rock-climbers. Very funny crew ... I knew I was in for a great time. Six of them for 8 of us. I liked the odds.

We rode the burros as far as we could, and then we had to hike the rest of the way. Oy! The air is pretty thin up there, and all I can say is thank God I quit smoking 20 years ago!

We got to the first zipline which looked pretty intimidating.

They instructed us on how we had to be in a 'sitting position', hold onto the rope in front of us with our weak hand, and lightly hold the top rope above us with our dominant hand. They showed us how to stop, and what hand signals they'd be giving us from the platform below.

Then I was off! When I got to the bottom, my legs were shaking! Now, I'm a girl who's jumped out of 6 planes, gone para-sailing numerous times, did that hang-glider-drop-thingy at amusement parks, but I get vertigo looking out the window of a tall skyscraper. Go figure.

They rushed us up to the next platform which was another hike UP. There was a water break along the way, and I took my time drinking cause I wasn't in any hurry to do that again anytime soon.

When I got to the next zipline, I was stunned. That practice zipline was like hanging from your mother's clothesline! My legs were still shaking, and I thought I was gonna drop. I actually let someone ahead of me so my legs could stop shaking a bit. Well, they'll let one person ahead of you, but not two. I was on my way.

Woo Hoo! After that, I was ready for the rest of the day. I felt more comfortable, and I relaxed ALOT.

When we got to the next zipline, while waiting in line for our turns, they were demonstrating how to repel on a big boulder nearby. We did the zipline, and ended up at the top of a 300 ft. waterfall! There go the legs again a little. We had to inch ourselves backward to the edge, and then slowly start 'walking' down the side of the waterfall. Pretty nerve-wracking, especially after they just told us that it's very slippery, and if you're not careful you could slip, and the first thing to hit the rock wall would be your face!

But, once you take that first step, it's easier than you think, and as long as you take your time, it's actually very exhilirating. Little did I know what was still to come!

When I splashed into the pool of water at the bottom, it was such a fantastic feeling! The water was so cool & clean, and it felt wonderful!

A few more ziplines, and a plank bridge ...

A rope bridge ...

And then, another big drop ... straight down. Let's see, how can I explain this ... they had this long 'plank' hanging from the trees above leading out over a pool of water hundreds of feet below. Could this get any more exciting? We had to slide down the rope like a fireman on a pole, into the pool below.

That was my favorite part! That was waaaay cool.

We zipped over some rapids, and after 1 or 2 more ziplines, we got to 'race' another person on the final zipline. I got to race with Erin, who was a 16-year-old girl from Scotland, whose mother sent her on this excursion by herself! My husband has to meet this woman ... he wouldn't even let my daughter ride her bicycle off our own street until she was 15! It was pretty pathetic seeing this poor teenage girl ride her bike in circles in front of our house! lol Yeah, Rick is pretty neurotic, but I don't even think I would send my 16-year-old on an excursion like this by herself.
Well, I was the big loser. Ah, youth ... no fear. But, our excursion wasn't over yet ...

We hiked back to the camp, got changed and had lunch. They took us back by truck to the beach, but along the way we stopped at this little tequila factory. Very weird. It looked like a really big garage with just one guy who was hanging out by the big opening. Our driver asked us if we wanted to get out to have a free sample of tequila, and one of the guys from our group (he looked like Colin Ferrell ... who could say no?) talked me into going, and 4 of us went for the 'tour'.

The guy was standing next to a big oil drum with several bottles of tequila on top and some plastic shot cups. He gave us each a cup and poured some shots. Well, back in my drinking days, tequila was the only hard liquor I drank in shots, but I never tasted tequila like this! In my memory, you always had to lick some salt & suck on a lime because of the taste. Not necessary with this stuff ... it didn't even taste like tequila!

Then, he poured us another flavor ... I think chocolate ... and then another, and another ... I think we had 5 different flavors, but some we got 2 samples, so I think 7 free shots total, all in about 10 minutes. Then, he brought us over to the big vats and explained how they make it. Then came the sales pitch. Americans can only purchase this stuff over the internet, but we could purchase it there. I was all set to get a bottle of the chocolate flavor to share with Club 300 and other friends when he told us that they take it away from you when boarding the ship and return it to you in LA. Oh well, lost that sale. I can't bring tequila home! This would be the last cruise I get to go on! lol

We were laughing while climbing back into the truck, while the rest of the group was looking at us with what ... jealousy? disgust? Who cared?! Free delicious tequila!

Back to the beach for a quick cerveza before our speedboat ride back to the port. What a day! I wanted to do it all over again!

Dinner was another formal night, and each meal with these ladies was even better than the one before. Can't wait to see these ladies again. One lady in particular, Mary Ann, really came out of her shell that night. She's this sweet, quiet older lady, but when I joked about how we should 'alter' Tim, she was all over that! Her face lit up, and she didn't let me forget it for the rest of the cruise. She got us all going, wondering what we should do.

After another exhausting day, I headed back to the cabin, and was greeted by ...

This peacock was too cute. I don't know why I'm always surprised when I see these guys, but I just love it when I open that door at night.