Sunday, March 12, 2017

Vacation | Cayman Islands, Part 1 (Booze and Beaches)

 Margaritaville Resort Cayman Islands
Welcome to Lisa and Jim's Caribbean Vacation 2017. This year's adventure took us to Grand Cayman. Why Grand Cayman? Because I wanted to go to Cuba, and Jim wanted to go to The Bahamas. After 27 years of marriage, we've learned to compromise. Occasionally. Grudgingly. After we've been going eyeball to eyeball for six months and neither one of us is willing to blink and it finally becomes apparent that we are in danger of not going on a vacation at all.
Caribbean map
If you're wondering where the Cayman Islands are, here is a detailed scientific map of the area that I photographed off the back of a T-shirt. See the big island south of the amputated bottom of Florida? That's Cuba. And the little island south of Cuba? That's Jamaica. The Caymans are south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica, but as far as I can tell, they're not actually on this map. The words are there, but the islands themselves appear to have been swallowed whole by the leaves of a gigantic mutant palm tree.
Grand Cayman
Once we finally agreed that we were going to the Caymans, I turned the chore of making reservations over to Jim. He decided we should stay at the new Margaritaville Resort in George Town. When I say "new," I mean "so new that it was scheduled to open two weeks before we got there." And "so new that parts of the resort weren't even finished when we got there." Like the elevator that went up to our room on the third floor ...
Cayman Islands
... and four of the resort's six restaurants. I gave Jim a hard time about it every time we had to walk up the stairs or heard a jackhammer outside our door, but truthfully, we both knew what we getting into and I had (happily) agreed to it. Because of the construction, we were able to get a pretty great deal on our accommodations, which were on the island's swanky Seven Mile Beach, in a brand new hotel that was absolutely beautiful. (And frankly, we didn't consider having to climb three flights of stairs while on a fabulous Caribbean vacation to be much of a hardship -- although judging by Trip Advisor comments, some of our fellow travelers didn't share our point of view.)
Cayman Islands
This was the view from the balcony outside our room. The best part about staying in a resort that was not 100 percent complete was that it was only about 30 percent occupied while we there, so there were always empty beach chairs and unused umbrellas and we never had to wait in line for anything.
Grand Cayman
This was the grownups pool. The little straw-roofed hut in the background is the bar, which, yes, you could swim up to. (We're willing to put up with jackhammers and no elevators when we're on vacation, but a swim-up bar is non-negotiable.)
Margaritaville Resort
Behind the two pools there was a row of flowering bushes. And behind the bushes was the beach.
Grand Cayman
This was the bar in the lobby (photographed at approximately 10 a.m. -- it got considerably busier as the day went on).
Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman
And this was the resort's 5 o'Clock Somewhere Bar and Grill out by the grownups pool area. Between the two bars, there were bands playing every night of our stay.
Cayman Islands
I decided on Day 1 of vacation that I was going to drink my way through the resort's margarita menu...
Margaritaville Beach Resort Cayman Islands
... which turned out to be much less of a challenge than I had anticipated.
Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman
This was my favorite: the Wildberry Tropical Fruit Margarita, frozen. Mmmm. The perfect beach drink. 
Cayman Islands
Anyhoo, by the end of Day 2, I had not only reached my goal, but I had a new BFF: our Canadian bartender, who may or may not have been named Brian but who totally took my side in the Cuba vs. Bahamas argument. Thank you, Brian (or whatever your name was). I promise to think of you next year when I am smoking cigars in Havana. 
Seven Mile Beach Grand Cayman
All of the beaches on Grand Cayman are public up to the high-water mark, including the stretches in front of the resorts, so you can go for a nice long walk along the shoreline. Here's a heart-shaped piece of coral I found one day when I was out wandering.
Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman
Seven Mile Beach (which is actually only 5 1/2 miles long) is supposed to be one of the best beaches in the Caribbean.
Margaritaville Resort Grand Cayman
It was so pretty in the evening. The lights would come on on the palm trees as it started getting dark.
Seven Mile Beach
And the sunsets were just spectacular.
Seven Mile Beach
All of these photos were taken with my iPhone. I was kind of surprised how well they turned out. 
Seven Mile Beach
Sigh...

Anyhoo, that's it for Part 1 of The Cestkowskis' Caribbean Vacation 2017 Edition, but I have a lot more left to share. So tune in tomorrow (or whenever I get around to writing again) for Part 2, in which Jim and I venture off campus and actually see something beyond bars and beaches.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Crafting | Newspaper Flowers

So I was supposed to be packing and shopping and generally getting ready for vacation today.
paper crafting
Instead I made newspaper flowers.
paper crafting
Why? Because newspaper flowers don't make themselves, people.
paper crafting
Plus, I had this little tray full of silver baubles sitting on my coffee table, and every time I walked past it, I would think, "This little tray would look so much better with a few newspaper flowers on it."
So I finally broke down and made some.paper crafting
For the big flowers, I grabbed a few random circular things from around the house and traced around them.
paper crafting
 Then I cut out the circles and cut slits into them, to make petals.
curling paper
I curled the edges of the petals by wrapping them around the end of a paint brush. 
paper crafting
 Then I stacked the circles, from largest to smallest, gluing each layer down in the center as I went.
paper crafting
 To give the flowers some shape, I pressed down with the end of a paintbrush while gluing.
paper crafting
I topped off each flower with an old earring.
paper crafting
Then I fluffed and bent the petals to give the flowers more dimension and spattered some paint on them, just because. 
paper crafting
 To make the little button flowers, I punched out some newspaper circles ...
paper crafting
 ... and glued the circles together into five-petal flowers.
paper crafting
Then I sewed a button on in the middle of each one.
paper crafting
Probably not the best use of my time the week before I leave on vacation.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Valentine's Day | Wisconsin Bulletin Board

Valentine's Day
Meet my new state-of-the-heart bulletin board.Valentine's Day craftThis is what it looked like when I bought it (at a thrift store, of course). It had a nice beefy frame that was painted in a neutral cream color -- and the paint was chipping in spots, so there was a little bit of mint green showing through here and there. I loved the chunky, chippy old frame. The orange cork, not so much.  
painting a cork board with chalk paint
 To de-orangify the cork, I broke out some leftover cream chalk paint (Americana Decor Chalky Finish/Lace). It took two coats to cover. Valentine's Day craft
I didn't want my lovely new/old bulletin board to get overwhelmed with notes and photos and general clutter, so I decided I'd put a neat, orderly collage on the top half of it. To make the collage, I picked up three packages of different sized heart cutouts.
The pink and red were not working for me, so I painted the hearts black.
I found a map of Wisconsin online that I sized to fit the width of the bulletin board and printed out.
Valentine's Day bulletin board
I lined up the tiled pieces of the map, taped them together and then cut around the perimeter.
Valentine's Day bulletin board
Next I lightly traced all the way around the border with a pencil.
crafting with hearts
 Then I started filling inside the map with my hearts.
crafting with hearts
 I started at the bottom and worked from the outside in.
Valentine's Day bulletin board
I tried to keep the outside row of hearts as close to the border as I could. I also tried to keep the pattern random, alternating the sizes of the hearts and the direction they were facing as much as possible.
Valentine's Day bulletin board
When I had all the pieces roughly where I wanted them to go, I adhered them to the board. The formerly red glitter hearts I stuck down with rubber cement. The others were peel-and-stick.
Valentine's Day craft
The last thing I did was erase the pencil line. (I started erasing it before I adhered the hearts, but every time I tried blowing the eraser residue away I would inadvertently blow unattached hearts all over. So eventually I wised up and realized I would be better off to stick everything down first.)  
Valentine's Day craft
Here's the bulletin board propped up on my desk. I can still tack notes and things to the bottom half of the board, but the top is all nice and neat.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Valentine's Day | Hearts on a String Decoration

Valentine's Day decorations are generally not my thing. Most of the mass-produced ones out there are way too saccharine sweet and frilly for me.
Valentine's Day craft project
So this year, I decided I'd make my own Valentine's Day decor: something with a vintage industrial vibe that I wouldn't mind actually hanging in my house.
Valentine's Day craft
I started with these little aluminum pans that I found at a thrift store. I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do with them when I bought them -- but I knew it wasn't going to involve baking.
Pretty much every craft project I do lately begins with a coat of black chalk paint, so that's where I started with this one, too.
Then I cut a few hearts out of an old newspaper to layer over the black background.
LOVE
And, as luck would have it, I had the letters I needed to spell out the word "LOVE" in the stash of random letters and numbers that I have hoarded over the years. 
LOVE
I wasn't thrilled with the bright colors, so the letters got a coat of black chalk paint, too.
LOVE
 Then I put some silver craft paint over top, slapdash style, letting the black peek through for a tarnished metal effect.
Valentine's Day craft
 I drilled holes in the top and bottom of each pan ...
drilling a hole in a metal pan
 ... just big enough to pull a piece of twine through.
Valentine's Day craft
 I grunged up the newspaper hearts with some watered down paint and old coffee grounds...
Valentine's Day craft
... and I Mod Podged the newspaper onto the bottom on the pans.Valentine's Day decoration
To tie the hearts all together, I threaded pieces of jute twine through the holes.
string of hearts
I had a few beads on hand that I added here and there. (I wish I would have had more.)
string of hearts
The last step was to glue the letters on over the newspaper.
string of metal hearts
(The letters have magnets in them, but the pans are aluminum, and unfortunately magnets don't stick to aluminum; hence the need for glue.)
Valentine's day craft project
  Here's the completed string o' hearts. Love it.

Linking to:
Show & Share | Coastal Charm
The Scoop | Cedar Hill Farmhouse