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May 31, 2011

Yup.  We went on another cruise. 9 days, Royal Caribbean, out of Baltimore on Enchantment of the Seas.

Pictures are here, here, here, here, there, here, and here.

I was going to do a play by play, but 9 days is a long time.  Let's see if I can sum up.

Day 1-3: Baltimore and at sea.  Got a US coast guard escort down the Chesapeake.  Teeny boat with a mounted machine gun.  Got oriented on the ship.  Made a few friends or at least people we waved to when we saw them in the hall - The Hershey couple, Dave and Clarissa 'we're not alcoholics' (seriously, that's how they introduced themselves - they were just NY Italians), the hyper short newlyweds, Jerry the drunken Scot (I repeat myself) (he kept trying to hire Brian to play piano at his Glasgow club) Frank and (probably Linda) the quilting couple who taught the classes, and crew members Resa, Fitzmorris, Yadira, Orce, South African jewelry shop lady, two Australian dancers (one who looked a lot like my Dad when he was young), and Captain Gus, who seemed to be doing more PR stuff than running the ship.

Day 4: San Juan.  Took a Walking Tour of Old San Juan.  Was fun and informative, and based on the amount of cars just SITTING in traffic, I was glad we didn't take the bus tour.  Amusing to be walking down an old, narrow, brick road and see: people having a party in a Hummer, since traffic wasn't moving, lots of cats, a Marshalls, a street beggar all in black, playing an accordion.  Found a cannon.

Day 5:  St Thomas.  Brian went snorkeling, I made a necklace.  We wandered around, ate lunch at Cuzzins, tried Conch, wandered in a local fabric store and an overpriced antiques shop, and a few random shops. They drive on the left side of the road, but in cars where the wheel was also on the left.   Pretty much EVERY car we saw had some sort of damage to it, but they were also more into customizing them.  Saw some interesting airbrush work!

Day 6: Dominican Republic.  Took a cave and mangrove tour, mostly by boat.  Beautiful national park (Los Haitises.)  Lots of birds and even some bats.  Didn't bother with the town, but to get to our tour boat we got to go to Deck 1 and through part of the crew quarters.  We also got to see how they loaded the tenders back on the ship.

Day 7:  Labadee, Haiti.  The cruise line's personal land resort.  Wandered around and took some pictures, but Brian slept in. It was soo humid I didn't want to do anything else.  Found some cannons, but no one was around to take my picture with it.

Day 8-9: at sea.  lots of cruise activities, lots of food, lots of sleeping. There were mostly comedians as guest performers for the nightly show, but we did have 'The Unexpected Boys' as a Four Seasons cover band.  The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers were  OK.  The singers couldn't act, and the dancers couldn't sing, but they worked it out.

It was a great cruise, but I'd like to make a few proposals.

Clocks.  Why are there no clocks in the cabins??  Serious oversight.  Along with putting the phone on the far side of the room instead of on the nightstand.  When there's no clocks you have to resort to call wake up, which is at best awkward when you're sleeping in pitch blackness and have to stumble across the room in the dark.

Classes.  This cruise had arts and craft classes every day.  It was awesome.  Varying levels.  Appliqued towels, pineapple totes, knotted scarfs, tied, bracelets.  They had jewelry making classes, and scrapbooking classes.  Lots of fun.  It was nice to have a free souvenir of the trip that I made.  Not only did I get the item, I got the memories and the bonding with the other class-takers.  Keep it up! 

Other things I'd like to see would be destination introductions.  Before arriving at the next port, have a little documentary - a brief history of the place, a few photos, highlights of special places to visit.  The excursions are fun, but they're not ALL of the possibilities, and they give minimal information.  We did attend one thing that I hoped would be this format, but it turned out to be only about shopping on shore - where they wanted you to buy diamonds, watches, jewelry, etc.  I can do that at home!  I'm in a new place - I want to know what's unique about it!  It was very disappointing.  There were shows on TV, but they weren't specific to the ports we were visiting. 

As for my travel organization, it varied.  My hip bag worked out quite well once I learned the trick of getting the passport in and out.  I ended up cutting the adjustable strap off a spare passport holder that you tuck under your shirt, and that worked much better than the belt.  I made a little emergency medicine bag that was nice, except I forgot to add more aspirin, and totally didn't think about sunburn medicine.  Next time I'm going to take extra, since the shop AND the clinic ran out.  I never did find Tums.  Otherwise it was nice to have.  I had found a little zippered pouch at the thrift shop for a quarter. See through and the perfect size.  I may have to go back there and see if there's any more - they had a big container of them up by the cash register.  I had a little separate bag for clothing emergencies - wipes, safety pins, a tiny roller brush, sewing kit.  I could go right to it when I needed it.  I don't think I really missed or needed anything else - except maybe a travel sized toothbrush.

It's nice to be back, sort of.  It was about 80 degrees the entire time, we come back to 90 degree temperatures!  I think it's time we move to a cooler climate.
May 29, 2011

The True Cost of A Wedding Knot at Credit Sesame Blog

Average cost is 27k? I don't think we spent much more than 8. AND we had a church, a restaurant dinner reception for over 80 people, a dance floor with DJ, a 1940 Rolls Royce to cart us around, and a photographer. In June!

Where did we save money? My mother made the gowns and the pew bows. I made the invitations, the favors, the place name cards, and the table IDS. (we had a semi-tropical theme and named each table after a Caribbean island so guests would know where to sit.) The photographer was only there to take pictures. She gave us the copyright, and I did all the post editing. (she was awesome, too). The baker happened to be a former boss and was excited enough to cut us a deal. The flowers we got at the grocery store, and I had a tiny wrist corsage that I wrapped around my confirmation Bible. (Why sneeze my way down the aisle?) We kept the wedding party down to a single best man and maid of honor. We were also fortunate that our parents helped with the rehearsal dinner, flowers, and gowns. Brian already owned his tux.
My engagement ring? Pawn shop. Seriously. Not that we didn't try the regular shops first. My hands are so small that every ring I tried on at a regular shop just looked ridiculous, or would have warped the ring too much to have it sized down. I found EXACTLY what I wanted in a bizarre little shop in Leesburg. My wedding band belonged to my great-grandmother. Brian wanted the plainest, simplest style band imaginable as he was concerned that he would hate wearing a ring.

And everybody claims they had a good time, which, I guess is what we were aiming for.
May 18, 2011

 I added a flap today in the middle of running around doing all sorts of random last minute things.  It's rather useless and just handstitched on.  I cut off the back of the brass button and glued it on for a decorative bit.  I hope it holds!  I have some brown ribbon somewhere that I need to find and test.

I also found a belt strap at the thrift shop that goes ok with it, although it's a little thick, and looks pretty ridiculous as a purse strap, now that I come to try it. While I was there I picked up a cute little NWF book bag for 50 cents.  I couldn't resist.  It's not often I want to advertise a company, but they were good to me, though they didn't share many samples. ;-)   A year or so ago I found TWO NWF travel bags at the same thrift shop and bought both.  Excellent design, lots of room, and even a water bottle/umbrella holder on the outside.  I'll be taking one along on the cruise for land excursions.
May 17, 2011

Having been successful with not one, but two owl bags, I decided I was going to branch out and design my own bag.

I wanted a hip bag, not the bulky fanny packs of my childhood, but something sleeker, streamlined.  It would hold EXACTLY the vitals and nothing else.  What are the vitals?  Stuff I would likely need on our upcoming cruise without having to deal with a purse.  I couldn't find a pattern that satisfied me, but found enough information online that I felt confident in doing my design.  I wanted it just big enough to hold my passport, phone, camera, credit cards, loose change, and maybe a few bandages and pepto bismol pills.     

I designed and designed and designed in my head for ages as I struggled through finals, and dashed to the machine as soon as I had finished.  What I ended up with . . . was more or less what I planned.  I just don't like it!
Camera fits, couldn't get it in the photo!
My plans for the inside was a zippered pocket on one side, a pocket for my passport and/or ipod, with credit card slots on the front of that.  That part was ok, but I had problems with  the interior fabric I originally picked out.  It was a soft cotton teal plaid, and went well with the outer fabric, but was only a fat quarter, and had . . . issues.  It shifted very easily when I sewed.  Plus, OCD me HAD to line up the stripes.  Eventually I got everything cut out and  lined up where I could live with it, put it together . . .  and discovered it was too small for the passport.  The whole PURSE was too small.  I didn't have enough plaid to make a second bag, so I ended up having to make an entirely new one.

Surprisingly, even measuring twice didn't help.  It's STILL too small, but I was still able to wedge my passport inside. Everything else fit inside with it, so I'm calling it good for the moment.  

I need to get cording or a small belt, and quickly, too, because the scarf doesn't go so well with it.  The way I designed the straps on the back, I can wear it over my shoulder or around my waist.  I could probably add a smaller strap and make it a wristlet.

I also need to do something to it to make it look more like a purse and less like a pillow.

Things to remember for the next hip bag:  make it even wider, use less interfacing, and try once more to make it flat bottomed.
May 14, 2011

Inspiration Bag - visit her blog!
While browsing for bag patterns one day, I came across A Wednesday Afternoon and the wonderful tutorial on making an owl bag.  It hopped up and down and hooted "make ME! make ME!"  After sharing on Facebook, my sister subtly hinted that she'd like one.  Why not?  This looked doable!  And I could always make two . . .

My finished bag
Off I went to JoAnns, where in the remnant pile I found a lovely heavy home decor fabric in a minty green.  I grabbed it and wandered the aisles, looking for complimentary fabric.  In a section filled with random fat quarters I found the gold paisley for the wings, its stems exactly the same shade of mint.  It came with me and refused to be matched to any dark browns.  I finally tried the gold and the whole thing just went POP. Sadly, the wing fabric was the ONLY fat quarter I could find of it.  I searched everywhere in the store, with no luck.  I have no idea who makes it!  It was just a leftover.  Hopefully I can find it in another store, because it's really pretty.
I bought buttons to use for eyes, but they turned out to be too small.  (No one likes a beady eyed owl.)  An image search for owl eyes turned up beautiful amber stares, but I couldn't get any fabrics that worked properly without seeming too weird.  Eventually I found the right golden shade in my own stash to use as eyes, but it took a lot of tries. I then decided that it would be a good idea to use four layers of fabric: black, brown, gold, and black to define the eyes properly.  It's REALLY hard to cut out a cloth circle!  Eventually I used iron-on interfacing, after failing twice to come home with the right double stick iron on whatever it is I needed.  Yes, I glued the eyes together and on the bag.  If they fall off, glue them back on, please? 

I made a few changes to the original pattern.  I separated the front panel, wings and body, to make into a pocket.  The body fabric was folded in half and cut out, with interfacing on one side for added strength.  Pull on his beak and it opens!  I also altered the inside of the bag, making the top three inches of it the same fabric as the outside. (The rest is a soft tan colored fabric.  Possibly challis?)   For the strap, I used D-rings, and found a tutorial at Sew Loquacious that allowed me to make a fabric slide so the strap can be adjustable.  I couldn't find the right kind of metal part to do this, at least, not big enough.  If it doesn't work well it will be really easy to undo. 

The instructions were excellent and I had no problems with assembly.  I drew out the owl on oversized paper and then drew all the parts on separate pieces so I wouldn't have to cut it apart.  I added a seam allowance, just in case.

Owl Bag, Jr.
I had JUST enough fabric to make myself a second, smaller bag.  I like small bags, as I need to put my purse in my backpack while at school, and it needs to fit! This bag is a little over 8.5" wide and about 7.5" tall.  I made an interior pocket for my ipod, and added a metal magnetic snap enclosure, along with the front pocket.  I used buttons for the pupils.  I took a picture of the bag full, to be sure everything that I wanted to carry fit inside, and which is why his eyes look so crooked.  At least, that's what I'm hoping!  I gave the bag to Erin last week, which is why I didn't photograph them together. Too bad!

Fun, fun project!  Now I'm experiencing a small bag-making addiction and making plans for two or three others.
May 3, 2011

It finally dawned on me that my blog looks awful.  I had stubbornly tried to change it to make it match my web site and it just didn't want to work.  So I'll be playing with it for a few days until I find something that's more satisfying.

I suppose I should work on my web site, too.