Ornamental Circle Cluster & Ornamental Petals

(Psst... there's a giveaway at the bottom of this post!)

Now that the cat's out of the bag about my new collection of stencils with StencilGirl, I thought I'd show some close-ups of the projects I've been making with them. Today I'm focusing on four of them - my Ornamental Circle Cluster 4x4 and 6x6 as well as the Ornamental Petals 4x4 and 6x6.

Here's a closer look at some of the stencils:

Ornamental Circle Cluster Stencil by Gwen Lafleur

Ornamental Circle Cluster Screen Stencil by Gwen Lafleur

All of my stencils are hand-drawn designs, so if you look at them closely, you'll see that they're not perfect, but I like them for that reason :)

The Ornamental Circle Cluster 4x4 stencil and the 6x6 stencil are based on my love of using circle and dot motifs in my work. I wanted them to be complimentary and versatile, and I definitely wanted the 6x6 to be repeating. It lines up great for you to create a repeating pattern across large areas. It's also fun to just use pieces of it like I did here.

Something New Art Journal - Circle Cluster Stencils - Gwen LafleurFor this art journal page, I started with a page in my notebook where I'd cleaned paint off of my brushes (a lot of my favorite pages start that way!) and I just started stenciling on top of it. This was pretty exploratory, which is actually a bit unusual for me - I typically have an idea of what I want to do, but this time I just played.

I had tinted some heavy gel medium / molding paste (it comes as a combo which is pretty cool!) with gold paint and had a bunch leftover from another project (which you'll see next!) I just started spreading that through the stencil around the page and it grew from there.

Something New Art Journal 3- Circle Cluster Stencils - Gwen LafleurThen I randomly stenciled through the 6x6 with paint and ink, then added some marks with pens, paint markers, and Liquid Pearls.

Something New Art Journal 2- Circle Cluster Stencils - Gwen LafleurI also added a colored Chinese papercut that I've been hoarding, along with a little scrap of fabric and some vintage price stamps. Once I felt like it was done except for the writing, I just wrote was I was thinking - it was "something new!"

The other two stencils I wanted to highlight in this post are my Ornamental Petals Mask and the Ornamental Petals Screen - these are two of my favorites. (Oh, the 4x4 is a mask, and it works great with a gelli plate!)

Ornamental Petals Mask Stencil by Gwen Lafleur

Ornamental Petals Screen Stencil by Gwen LafleurThis design was based off of a handcarved stamp that I made a few months ago - I loved it so much that it became the basis for me deciding to try my hand at designing stencils.

This led to one of my favorite projects with these so far... I had a handmade book from a class I taught a few months ago where I'd never decorated the cover. The perfect thing to work on!

Stenciled Handmade Book Cover - Gwen LafleurThere are actually three stencils on this one - this was the original project using the Ornamental Circle Cluster stencil - I used that tinted heavy gel / paste on a blue pearlescent cardstock, then when it was dry I coated the whole thing with Diamond Glaze and let it dry overnight, then cut it out.

Getting back to the Ornamental Petals stencils, here's a better look so you can see how I used the 6x6 screen:

Stenciled Handmade Book Cover Step 1 - Gwen LafleurI love the texture from that black embossing paste! I repeated the design on the front and back covers, then put it on the spine with a tinted molding paste. Look at all that gorgeous detail!

Stenciled Handmade Book Cover close-up 2- Gwen LafleurFor the layering on the front cover, I stenciled the 4x4 mask onto deli paper with gold ink and cut it out, then cut it into two pieces. I added a beautiful gold frame made with a Spellbinders die and then distressed.

Stenciled Handmade Book Cover close-up 1- Gwen LafleurThen I painted the end papers on the inside black and used the 6x6 Ornamental Petals Screen to add a pattern with gold.

Stenciled Handmade Book Cover End Papers - Gwen LafleurEven though the stencil designs are hand-drawn, I tried to make sure that the ones that were meant to be repeating would actually work really well - I absolutely LOVE how this one came out! You'll be seeing me use this one in particular quite frequently, I think.

So that's it for today... I hope you enjoyed seeing some more projects and detail using these stencils from my new collection!

Before I sign off, how about a giveaway? I happen to have an extra of each of the four stencils featured in this post. If you'd like to win all four of them, just leave a comment here telling me how you'd use them. Make sure to leave me a way to contact you if you win! Comments will be eligible for the giveaway from now until midnight on November 30th. Good luck!


Surprise! My Stencil Release!

So I've been keeping a little secret for the past few months... today I have NINE new stencil designs being released at StencilGirl! I'm so excited to be joining the ranks of the StencilGirl designers, and I absolutely love working with my own stencil designs - it's so fun! Here's a little peek at my stencils:

Gwen Lafleur November 2015 Stencil ReleaseHead on over to the StencilGirl blog to see more, or you can browse my new stencils in the shop. Make sure you check back in here on the blog over the next little while as I'll be posting projects, and maybe even a giveaway or two! (In fact, my first giveaway is up now in the next post!)


November StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal

Hi Everyone, today is our creative team post sharing projects for this month's StencilClub stencil collection. I say it every month, but this is my new favorite StencilClub release. Take a peek at this month's stencils designed by Seth Apter:

NOVEMBER SC-MAIN(Here's a little plug... if you sign up for the club before November 15th, you'll start your membership with this collection! Just sayin'...)

I may have gone a teensy bit overboard this month. (Cough cough...) Of course, I was sitting in my empty house with nothing to do but play with the stencils and a few bags of art supplies I brought with me from Chicago in the trunk of my car. Thus my file folder art journal was born! I took three file folders, nested and bound them to make the journal (I just used a pamphlet stitch with some waxed thread.)

Without further ado, here's my project... starting with the cover.

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal Cover - Gwen LafleurI used the 9x12 and 6x6 stencils for this... I took the "TRU" from "TRUTHS" and then the "E" from another word to spell "TRUE" and then stenciled "story" from the 6x6. Word stencils don't always have to say exactly what's on them - you can mix it up!

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal Cover Close-up - Gwen LafleurSince I'm still working out of boxes, I pulled out a few random things to collage onto the cover that I ended up loving. A piece cut from some Chinese ephemera (it's probably a good thing I don't know what it says.) Also some fussy cut glittery pieces from a fancy paper scrap, some rubons, some dicrofibers (hard to see in the photos) and more stenciling. I love how much depth you can get while keeping the actual project relatively flat.

Next up is the first spread:

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 1 - Gwen LafleurOn the left I used a lot of repetition from the 9x12 stencil (my favorite of this set) with paint, ink, and a little collage. On the right, I used the textural elements on the stencil with molding paste and paint. I also added a little window that's framed with a chipboard slide holder (I believe it's a Maggie Holmes embellishment from Crate Paper.) It's backed with a piece of 7 Gypsies printed transparency.

Here are a few close-ups so you can see more of the stenciling on these pages:

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 1a - Gwen Lafleur
Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 1a - Gwen LafleurMoving on to the second spread...

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 2 - Gwen LafleurBoth of these pages use the 6x6 stencil - words and textural elements (plus a few details from the 9x12.)

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 2a - Gwen LafleurI also used some of Seth's stamps with acrylic paint to get layers of texture into the background. On the right I just used a very old library card pocket and a shipping tag along with a strip of beaded and embroidered ribbon.

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 2b - Gwen LafleurFor the third spread I kept going with the 6x6 stencil and more of the textural elements on all of the stencils.

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 3 - Gwen LafleurThe butterfly is a Chinese papercut that I picked up in Beijing a few years ago. I added some old Basic Grey rubons, paint (most of this actually came from cleaning my brushes on a spare folder that I ended up using,) very light stamping in the background, and lots of stenciling!

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 3a - Gwen LafleurNext up, the fourth spread. I used a mix of the 4x4 and 9x12 stencils for this one.

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 4 - Gwen LafleurBits of collage, ink, paint... I really loved using the stencils to create repetition with the words - I felt like it made a powerful statement on the pages.

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 4a - Gwen Lafleur
Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 4a - Gwen LafleurLast but not least, the final spread in my mini journal (which I actually did first!)

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 5 - Gwen LafleurI felt like using the entire 9x12 stencil on the right side was begging for an interactive element. It's a little literal, but I couldn't resist.

First, the left-hand side using the 4x4 stencil on the back of my peacock tag and the 6x6 underneath it (the design in the background is from one of my handcarved stamps.)

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 5a - Gwen LafleurAnd my overly literal but fun interactive flap on the right hand side:

Nov2015 StencilClub - File Folder Art Journal 5b - Gwen LafleurSo there you go... that's my project for this month! I hope you enjoyed it, and for you StencilClub members, I know you're going to adore this month's stencils!

Don't forget to visit the StencilGirl blog for our group post - there are several other awesome projects using this month's stencils that you won't want to miss!

Inspiration Wednesday Weeks 19-21

So something surprising and unprecedented has happened... I think I'm completely ready for the movers to come tomorrow and it's still a few hours before midnight! Given a little bit of extra time, I thought I'd do a quick update to share the most recent pages in my inspiration journal.

First up, week 19 - this uses some painted underpaper that's covered with places where I cleaned off my brushes, etc... The stencil is from Andrea Matus deMeng, and the stamped sentiment is from Tim Holtz. (My book is really thick and uneven, so the photo isn't blurry, my stamping was just a bit wonky.)

Inspiration Wednesday 2015 - Week 19 - Gwen LafleurFor week 20, I followed pretty closely with the sample since the colors and motifs were right up my alley. (Teal and circles!) I drew the circles with a compass and just painted the lines. You can tell I was rushing, but it was still fun!

Inspiration Wednesday 2015 Week 20 - Gwen LafleurFinally, I just managed to squeeze in the time to finish up week 21. This uses a few stencils by Seth Apter along with lots of molding paste, collage, and a few layers of glaze and paint.

Inspiration Wednesday 2015 Week 21a - Gwen LafleurI was having a lot of fun just playing with building up texture, so I took this one a bit further than the sample. Here's the view with the inclusion flipped over to the other side:

Inspiration Wednesday 2015 Week 21b - Gwen LafleurThis last one is probably my favorite of this group... I also quite enjoy the library card catalog card (thank you Donna!) for a book called "Where Are My Bears?" I made sure that you could still read that part. ;)

So with that, I think it's time to finish up a few more things and get some sleep! The rest of this week is going to be very crazy. Tomorrow is packing day (I'm seriously skeptical of the claim that they're going to be able pack my entire apartment in one day... have you seen my studio? Or my kitchen?) and then we load the truck and I'm off to drive 1,300 miles southwest. I'm feeling quite antsy about getting this all moving, and I'm excited to start my new job next week and start setting up my new house. That's definitely one of the more fun parts of moving! For me, at least. Anyway, I'll see you on the other side!

StencilGirl: Stenciled Paper Beads

Hi everyone, just popping in to let you know that the first post in my monthly blog column, "Gwen's Gems," is up on StencilGirl Talk! (I didn't come up with the name... I'm just trying to live up to it! lol.) This month I'm sharing how to make the stenciled paper beads that I used for my Art is You Stamford trades, plus a bonus project where I made a paper bead bracelet.

Stenciled Paper Bead Charms - Gwen Lafleur
Stenciled Paper Bead Charms - Gwen LafleurHead on over for a tutorial and more photos!

Library of Memories Masterclass

Last week I had the privilege of attending Art is You - Stamford where I had the opportunity to take several amazing classes.  The first of my classes was a 3-day masterclass - Library of Memories with Seth Apter. I'd always heard wonderful things about his classes, so I was really excited to get to take one myself. It did not disappoint! If anything, it was even better than I'd anticipated.

The morning of our first day was a group expedition to New York where we got to do a little shopping and see some of the sites. We took the train into Grand Central and then spent most of the time in or near the Garment District - M&J Trimmings was like heaven! (I was too busy shopping to take many pictures... LOL.) We also found beads, paper, and spent some time shopping for metal findings to take back and use in our projects. It's probably for the best that I didn't know about some of those shops while I still lived in Branford - it would have been dangerous!

This is one of the few shots I got - we were in the basement of a very cool Japanese bookstore across from Bryant Park.

Japanese Bookstore ShoppingBack in Stamford, we got to work on our projects. The main goal of the 3-day class was to build and complete the box, as well as assembling the handmade book and then hopefully at least getting a start on it. There was such a great vibe in the class. There were twenty of us, and it was so fun to see the evolution of everyone's projects! Here's a quick little shot that Patty got of Donna and I during our second day of class:

Seth's Masterclass 3

After our last day of class finished, there was a mini exhibition for all of the projects in each of the masterclasses so we could see what everyone else had been working on. There was so much wonderful art made in these classes! We went around oohing and ahhing at all of it. Of course, I still think that our class was the best ;)

Patty, Seth and I(Me, Patty, and Seth.)

I kept working on my book pages a few evenings in the hotel after class was over, and have pushed to finish it at home before I move this week - I didn't want to lose my momentum since I know once I get fully into moving mode, it's going to be a few weeks before I'll be able to really get back into the studio.

In any case, I finished and so with no further ado, here's my completed project.

First up is the front cover of the case that we made:

Library of Memories - Cover 1 - Gwen LafleurI haven't done much of this type of collage and assemblage, but I'll definitely be doing it a lot more from now on.

Library of Memories - Cover 2 - Gwen LafleurDifferent pieces of metal, findings, paper, book covers... all kinds of fun things found there way into this project! I found that carved face on our expedition into New York.

Here's what it looks like after you open it up:

Library of Memories - Inside 1 - Gwen LafleurThe left side was more collage with just a few bits of assemblage type work. I really loved blending lots of different styles and types of materials into a single piece. (One of the women in class told me after it was over that she'd watched me making this and didn't think I'd be able to pull it off. Once it was finished though, she loved it! She thought it was very Bollywood. Not quite the vibe I was after, but I'll take it!)

Library of Memories - Inside 5 - Gwen LafleurThe right side of the case cradles a little handmade book. We actually brought in our own book covers and made a new book from them. I used a vintage copy of Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott. It had some cool debossed areas on edges of the cover that you can still see under the collage.

Library of Memories - Book Cover - Gwen LafleurHere's a view of the completed book so you get an idea of the layers on the cover:

Library of Memories - Book Cover 2 - Gwen LafleurMoving to the inside pages... I used some wrapping paper printed with Turkish patterns for my end papers. The pages themselves were all originally just kraft cardstock. I started working on them in class with what I had and what I liked - initially there was no rhyme or reason to what I was doing, I was just looking for things that would look good together and keeping in mind some of the tips Seth gave us in class for making the pages.

Library of Memories - Book Page 1 - Gwen LafleurI started out doing the patchwork technique that Seth showed us on a few of the pages. This one has a few other bits collaged on top, rubons, liquid pearls, and a bit of stenciling on top.

Library of Memories - Book Pages 2-3 - Gwen LafleurI mainly worked on the foundation of the pages first and then went back and added most of the words later - I had pulled out a bunch of French vocabulary cards thinking I'd use them in one of my other classes, but I ended up liking them here better. The page on the right was a tipped-in transparency. I had a whimsical moment where I decided to add this soldier stamped on vellum (an old Stampington stamp that I've had for years.) I went back and colored him in with colored pencils and used a tiny piece of a stencil to make him talk. It seemed fairly a propos and now he's one of my favorite parts of the book.

Library of Memories - Book Page 3 - Gwen Lafleur

Library of Memories - Book Pages 4-5 - Gwen Lafleur

The "hope" didn't get added until toward the end... I thought it fit nicely with the sentiments on the tag. As for where the inspiration for THAT came from, I couldn't tell you... not quite my usual thing, but it worked! More stenciling and rubons on the top layer here.

Library of Memories - Book Page 5 - Gwen Lafleur

Library of Memories - Book Page 5b - Gwen LafleurI just randomly pulled the image on the left hand side from some Japanese block print book pages that were in my stash. All of the pages were built in stages - I didn't work on any of them from start to finish. I really like how well it all integrated into the book as I kept working, though!

Library of Memories - Book Pages 6-7 - Gwen LafleurThe right hand side images are from a quarter repeat hand-carved stamp that I made a little while ago. It's painted with acrylics with some other detail work on top.

Library of Memories - Book Page 7 - Gwen LafleurI'm going to say that I totally planned the way everything lined up through the opening even though I didn't.

Library of Memories - Book Page 8 - Gwen Lafleur

Another random Japanese block print - I initially used it because I thought it was cool looking, then I found this sticker in my stash that said "Eyes Wide Open" and I thought it fit my Samurai so I went with it.

Library of Memories - Book Pages 10-11 - Gwen Lafleur

Library of Memories - Book Page 11 - Gwen Lafleur

Library of Memories - Book Pages 10-11b - Gwen Lafleur

I love all of the flaps and folds - the interactive aspect of this project was very fun!
Library of Memories - Book Pages 12-13 - Gwen Lafleur

I don't usually like to use red as a main background color, but it ended up working pretty well here, I think.

Library of Memories - Book Pages 14-15 - Gwen Lafleur

Aesthetically, this ended up being one of my favorite spreads in the entire book. Again, totally by chance. I had the different pieces that ended up on the left-hand page on my desk and they kind of fell on top of each other. I would probably never have put them together on my own, but I love how it turned out!

Library of Memories - Book Pages 14-15b - Gwen LafleurI stenciled "Time" with one of Seth's stencils and embossed it with gold. (For those who are interested, all of the stenciling I did in my book was done using his stencils.)

Library of Memories - Book Pages 16-17 - Gwen LafleurFinally, the last page and the inside of the back cover. The flap on the right was painted red and then I used another hand-carved stamp and heat embossed it in gold. You can't tell in the photo, but the texture is very cool!

Library of Memories - Book Page 17 - Gwen LafleurThat's it! My completed project, and one of my favorite things that I've worked on in quite a while. I'll be back soon to post the projects from my other classes.

StencilGirl: October StencilClub

Hi everyone, just popping in quickly to let you know that this month's creative team inspiration post is up on the StencilGirl blog! This month we have a very cool set designed by Mary Beth Shaw that is actually nine stencils in one instead of our usual 3. Make sure you check it out! Here's the art journal spread I did this month... you can see more details in the blog post.

October 2015 StencilClub - Art Journal - Gwen LafleurThere are more projects from the other three creative team members included in the post this month, so make sure you check them all out!

Bali Part 4

Finally wrapping up the trip! The last full day was Sunday 9/20. At breakfast we ran into all of the other ladies, so we were able to say our goodbyes to them before we went to meet Ketut for our last day of touring.

We started out by driving about 1 1/2 to 2 hours north to visit the Temple on the Lake - Ulun Danu Beratan. This was one of the country's postcard locations, and I was very excited to see it! I did think it was interesting that we didn't have to put on a sarong to go into this one... I guess at this point it's more a tourist attraction than anything, although the working areas of the temple were closed off to the public.

Entering the main compound...


IMG_2275We looked around a bit, but then went straight through out to the lake to see the view from there.


We were there toward the end of the dry season, so the water level in the lake was low. The real postcard shot is when the water is higher and it comes right up to the edges of the temple. But it was still gorgeous!

IMG_2285One thing that I thought was cool that we saw everywhere we went in Bali - they have these pebbled walkways and even driveways that all have beautiful patterns in them.

IMG_2291We walked around to the other side where you could see the whole compound:

IMG_2303Beautiful grounds...

IMG_2298We wandered the grounds a bit longer, but finally decided that we had seen all we wanted to see and went back out to find Ketut and move on to our next stop. We drove through some really beautiful hills, forest, and rice terraces on our way to Wisata, which is the biggest and most beautiful rice terrace in Bali. And of course, we had to pay a toll to see it. ha!

Here are two views - left to right, from the side of the road where we stopped outside of our restaurant.

IMG_2359For lunch, we went to Billy's Terrace Cafe, where we paid for another expensive buffet that included decent food and a very nice view. It was a smaller buffet than the day before, and no signs to tell us what it was, so I felt pretty adventurous making my selections.

IMG_2361The satay turned out to be chicken or pork mixed with peppers and lemongrass - it was a lot like what we'd made during our cooking lesson, and pretty good! The little spring rolls were good too. I never did figure out what the thing that looked like a thick oat cracker was.

After we finished lunch, we went back across the street to walk a bit and take in more of the views.

IMG_2376Ketut came out and met us, and we talked to him about what else we might be able to do... either we'd started out too early or something, because we were way ahead of schedule! I think he'd moved some of what we were originally doing on Sunday to Saturday so that the other ladies could see more. We had an option of a waterfall, but it involved a bit of hiking and we didn't have good shoes for that. We also passed on the butterfly park. We were supposed to get to Tanah Lot in time for sunset - it was supposed to be the best sunset view on the island. We decided to add a stop in Semenyak since it was near Tanah Lot. So we set off to go back down south, about a 1 1/2 hour drive.

On the way, another stunning view on the side of the road:

IMG_2395I was so exhausted that I think I dozed a bit in the car. When I finally got my eyes totally open again, it turned out that we were going to Tanah Lot first - I guess since it was the one we got to first. It was only about 3:15 in the afternoon - more than 3 hours until sunset. So we got out, bought our tickets, and headed in to see what was there.

IMG_2406There was kind of a maze of market stalls on the way to the temple. We'd thought maybe we could kill some time shopping, but we didn't see anything very enticing - it was probably the worst shopping we'd seen so far at the place where we most needed a diversion! We kept looking, but didn't see anything, so we continued out until we got to the gate leading to the sea and the temple.

IMG_2409And there it was... Tanah Lot.

IMG_2412We found our way down to the beach and walked along a bit to see what was there.

IMG_2415There was a place where you could see the "holy snake" inside one of the sea caves, but that was another ticket, so we passed. We walked along a bit, but since the tide was still coming in, we decided to go back up off the beach and explore in the other direction. We found another little promontory where you could go out and get some nice views.

IMG_2423We wandered some more, and could see where people were starting to stake out their spots for sunset and vendors were hanging around getting ready to sell food and drinks to those who were staying. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any place where you could just sit and order a nice, cool drink and relax and see the sunset without having to stake out a place in the sun. It was an extremely hot day, and we just couldn't do it. So we decided to head out and find Ketut and go to Semenyak and watch the sunset from the beach there instead.

It was about 30 minutes to get there, and Ketut dropped us off on the main shopping street and pointed the way to the beach. We walked in that direction until we found it, then took off our shoes and walked on the beach. Very fine sand! I think there's a bit of volcanic ash in there because it's gray on your feet. We walked in the surf for a bit and made our way up to a likely looking hotel where were could sit out and order something to drink.

IMG_2435We found a place to sit and someone to bring us a drink menu and take our order. I got a lovely mango vanilla milkshake and we just sat and enjoyed shade, a beautiful breeze, and just chatting and relaxing while the sun slowly sank down toward the water.

IMG_2440Sunset is at about 6:30pm, and that was the same time we needed to meet Ketut back where we started, so we watched as long as we could and then made our way back to meet him and drive back to Nusa Dua on the other coast of the peninsula. Since we'd had lunch at a normal time that day, we went to the Sorrento restaurant for dinner and had a lovely Italian meal. I ordered a steak that had some truffled potatoes, red lentils, and mushrooms. It was delicious. Of course, it would have been nice to have Indonesian food for my last dinner in Bali, but I'd had my fill of chicken and noodles and that was about all that they had at the resort restaurants that I could eat (still surprised by that, but I guess that's because it was a tourist resort.)

IMG_2442We enjoyed our meal and a quiet evening packing and getting ready to leave the next morning.

Monday morning, we went down for breakfast around 7:30, then came back to finish getting ready to go. Once we were dressed and pretty much packed, we went out about 9:30 to go out along the beach and take a last walk through the grounds. As I mentioned, the resort was gorgeous!


The tide was out - high tide was always in the afternoon, so we were never there to see the beach at its best, unfortunately. We wandered up and down a bit, checking in on the resorts on either side of us (the whole string of them is connected by a long walkway.)

IMG_2463Since neither of us was wearing sunscreen, we headed back to our rooms before too long - it was already very hot and it wasn't even 10am yet!


IMG_2473We hung out at our private pool for a while until they came to get our bags and we went to check out. My flight was quite a bit earlier than Emily's, so our trip guide, Kandi, came to get me first. We said our goodbyes, then it was off to the airport! I'd managed to balance out all my goodies in my bags so there was no trouble checking in, then it was time to eat lunch and spend the last of my rupiah. I couldn't find any decent souvenirs, but did find a few packages of the delicious ginger candies we'd found in our hotel in Ubud - greatest thing ever for an upset stomach! So those, a small package of TimTams, and some fun Indonesian chocolate made their way into my carry-on.

Finally, the plane loaded for my flight to Taipai, and we were off! My last views of Bali... I could even see the resort from the plane!

IMG_5642And thus ends my Bali adventure! I stopped briefly in Taipei... 5 hours from Bali...

IMG_5645Then was an 11 hour flight to San Francisco. Fortunately I had a window seat on the way home, so no one was poking and pushing me and waking me up to get out, and I wasn't getting hit by every person walking down the aisle! I was able to sleep a bit, then stayed the night at an airport hotel in San Francisco (which was unfortunately next to a loading dock that got quite loud and active at about 3:30am.) I finally made it home Tuesday afternoon. I can't believe how quickly it went! We packed so much into the 8 days on the island that it felt like we were there much longer, and yet it was over in a blink. But new adventures are on their way, and I'll always have wonderful memories. I'm so glad that I decided to go, and that I kept with it even after my job situation changed and I might have canceled! I'd go back for sure... Bali is amazing :)


Bali Part 3

Today I'm sharing our adventures from Saturday 9/19, when we hired a car and driver for the day to take us to some of the really great sites on the island. Emily and I were joined by Lisa, Eunice, and Judy, and we had a fabulous day together!

Starting out, we had breakfast at the resort before meeting our driver at 8:30am. This guy sits right outside of the restaurant where breakfast is served; he played every morning and always had such a lovely smile!

IMG_2040Our first stop of the morning on the tour was in Denpasar, where we went to see the Barong and Kris dance. This is a classic story of the eternal fight between good and evil. The Balinese Barong is a mythological creature that represents the good spirit - you see the Barong everywhere in the art, carvings, masks, etc... the evil spirit is the Rangda. The Balinese believe in the concept of Yin and Yang - they also use black and white as symbols of this concept. Balance is very important to them.

IMG_2045Fortunately they gave us a program for this show as well, so we could follow along. There was music throughout, and the actors don't speak much. There was a very funny comic section in this one as well. It was interesting that there was no ending to the play, because of course, the battle between good and evil is ongoing!

Our next stop was the Satria coffee plantation a bit further to the north.


I didn't realize that coffee trees had blossoms - and they smell a lot like jasmine... so wonderful. This plantation also grew cocoa, papaya, vanilla, cinnamon, mangosteen, and lots more! They also produce Luwak coffee here. This is a luwak:

IMG_2086We called it "poop coffee" because the luwaks eat the coffee berries, and the bean with its shell still intact get pooped out (gross, huh!) They clean the beans, shell them, then roast them. I guess the enzymes from the digestive process change the flavor of the bean and make a very expensive and sought after type of coffee! I don't know who decided that it was a good idea to try this, though.

We walked through some of the grounds...

IMG_2087And they showed us the difference between the beans... the ones in the very front are cocoa beans.

IMG_2089And a lady showing how they're roasted by hand (which I'm pretty sure was just for show.)

IMG_2092They take us to a little area where you can do a free coffee and tea tasting. Since I don't drink coffee, I just sampled the herbal teas.

IMG_2100The only tea I didn't try was the rice tea since the other ladies said it was gross and it didn't smell too appetizing. Of course, after you finish sampling, you exit through the gift shop... or past it, at least. The marketing is brilliant, though. You've just tasted this delicious free tea, so naturally we all stopped to buy some! I got mangosteen, rosella (which I think is hibiscus - my favorite,) lemongrass, and ginger. (For Nicole and Brian - this is like the apple tea we got in Turkey - different flavors, but the same instant tea pre-mixed with cane sugar.)

After leaving the plantation, we went to the Tirta Empul - Tampaksiring... basically, a local holy spring where you can bathe in the pool and they have fountains where you can make an offering and cleanse yourself. We went through the entrance where we had to put on a sash (or sarong if your knees weren't covered) so we could walk through the compound on our way to the changing rooms.


IMG_2114I was a bit surprised to find that the changing rooms were kind of unisex, and there weren't really private places to change... just lockers and then kind of a space. We took turns holding up sarongs to screen each other. We had to wear a sarong into the pool, so we got ready and then headed back out. Ketut took my camera to take pictures for us while we were at the pool.

IMG_2116He explained to us how we were to go through the pool and what to do, then we took off our shoes and got in at the beginning. It was cold!

IMG_2119The water was from a spring under the temple, so it was very clear, and what was coming out of the fountains was clean. You start at the first fountain and you wash your head first and then your body. Some of the people there made an offering at each fountain or left a candy or something that represented something they were grateful for.

IMG_2127You go down each fountain, skipping two toward the end that are only used if someone has died. Then you have to go over the barrier into the next section of the pool. Here we're all waiting our turn and the last fountain before we had to cross over.

IMG_2131We finished the last group of fountains and went back to take turns getting back into dry clothing. Unfortunately without any towels. lol. We managed!

IMG_2142We left the pool and headed north, up to Mt. Batur and Lake Batur. On the way up, we passed a beautiful green terraced rice paddy. Since the others wouldn't be with us Sunday to see the great big one we were going to, Ketut stopped for us to get out and take a peek at this one.

IMG_2153As we got up near Mt. Batur, we got our first taste of how tourism was handled in that area, at least. They stop you on the road as you're getting to the location, and you have to pay a toll of sorts for each tourist in the car. They give you a ticket and then they let you drive through. I think the money goes to the villages as repayment for having to put up with the bother of it, but it's the first time I've ever had to pay to see a view through the car windows! (There was another toll when we stopped at an overlook and got out.)

As we were driving, we passed another, smaller temple / bathe area nestled into the trees - very beautiful!

IMG_2164The more we got into the hills, the more we saw produce farms and lots of fruit stands with beautifully arranged fruit.

IMG_2173The view of Mt. Batur and Lake Batur:

IMG_2182We stopped at a nice little restaurant (for the tourists, of course) along the road where we were able to go sit on the patio overlooking the view.

IMG_2185We also had a nice (although expensive - view tax, of course!) buffet lunch... more chicken and noodles! They also had some really yummy tempura veggies.

IMG_2184Another view from where we stopped at an overlook on our way back down:

IMG_2189Then we headed off to our next stop. On the way, we passed a bunch of people going to the village temple for a celebration... there are over 2,000 temples in Bali - I don't think that even counts the family temples in each family compound or at the hotels, etc... every village has 3 temples - one for each of the aspects of God (Brahma, Siwa - or Shiva, and Vishnu.)

IMG_2196Finally we got to our last stop of the day - the biggest, oldest, and most important temple in Bali - Besakih on the slopes of Mt. Agung. Ketut told us that they'd try to force us to take a local guide with us into the temple, and to tell them no because it would be very expensive. So we put on our sarongs and went and bought our tickets, then they told us that they wouldn't let us in without a local guide. So I told him that our guide had said not to get one. He told me to go get Ketut, so I did. After they talked, suddenly we didn't have to have a local guide, but they would disavow all responsibility for what would happen to us if we wandered someplace we weren't supposed to go or took pictures that were forbidden, because there weren't signs to deter us (which was kind of a lie... lol.) So I told him that we completely understood, but weren't going to pay a lot of money for a guide. Finally he said he would provide us a guide for 50,000 rupiah (which was less than $5 - Ketut said that sometimes the cost was as much as 500,000!) So we agreed, paid, and took our guide with us into the temple grounds. What a racket! It was too bad they put such a bad taste in our mouths, because the temple was absolutely incredible.

IMG_2201The temple grounds were a happening place! There were lots of vendors on the grounds selling snacks, and also lots of locals there for worship.

IMG_2206There was a benefit to taking a guide with us... there was a big sign in front of these steps that said that only worshipers were allowed beyond that point. Apparently that also meant only worshipers and people with a local guide, because our guide took us up the steps and while we were there, we heard other tourists who were there without a guide being turned away.

IMG_2210The view from up on the steps was gorgeous!
IMG_2214The guide took us all the way up the steps and into the temple at the top where we stopped and he told me a bit about it - this was the temple to Siwa - the other two temples were higher up on the mountain on either side.

IMG_2220The clouds cleared a bit and you could see peeks of Mt. Agung in the background.


The guide took us around the compound, showed us areas for meditation (where we were, of course, welcome to make a donation if we wanted to meditate for a minute.) In the background, I think it's the temple of Brahma that you can see here.

IMG_2244We circled through and started back down... you can see a bit of how big the temple complex was, and also the temple to Vishnu is in the background on this side. With the beginnings of sunset in the background, it was just spectacular!

IMG_2248Of course, I knew what was coming... I was absolutely not surprised when the guide expected a tip, but I was a bit surprised that he just flat out asked for one. I decided to just go ahead and tip him - it wasn't really that much money, and we did see more because he was with us. So he left us and we made our way back down and out to meet Ketut, with only a small sidetrack at one of the stalls in the little street market to buy a beautiful sarong in a peacock batik pattern that was gold and blue. I'll either make it into a skirt or use it for something else - it was a pretty cheap meter of gorgeous fabric!

So with that, we piled back into the car and started out on the two hour drive back down to Nusa Dua. It had been a great day, and the other ladies were very excited and happy that we'd invited them to join us. As beautiful as the resort was, it was wonderful to get out and be a tourist for the day and see more of the country as well as some truly beautiful spots.

We got back to the resort at about 8pm, and since we'd had lunch at about 3:30, Emily and I just wanted something light for dinner, so we went to the El Patio coffee bar. The resort - the Melia Bali, is a Spanish chain, so they have a lot of Spanish dishes on the menu. I ordered a light platter of Serrano ham and Manchego cheese with bread and another delicious fruit drink. It was the perfect finish to the day!

IMG_5628Just for kicks, a cool statue we passed in the dark on the way back to our room.

IMG_5629That's it for Saturday's adventure! I'll have Sunday and the trip wrap-up tomorrow :)