Notes from Puzzle Palace

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Sea Days from San Diego to Hawaii

Well, we’ve left San Diego once again. It’s on to Hawaii.  Fingers and toes are all crossed in the hopes that we make it there.  

On our first day at sea, I ate a sleeve of saltines and took 2 meclazine tablets (generic bromine) which I purchased them on Amazon before we left and took along the better part of 2 bottles.  I’m not sure how many in total I have, but I’ve realized that this trip is taking me longer to get used to the motion than the last two trips we took.  I spent the morning in bed then went up for lunch.  Putting a bit of food in my belly helps greatly.


After lunch, we went up to the card room and met another couple there. We had had lunch with them the day before and had agreed to teach them how to play Hand Knee and Foot.  (Instructions to follow in a future post) The ladies partnered up as did the gents.  We brought along our iPad with the scoring app on it and were ready to begin teaching.  Both picked up the game rather quickly.  To be fair, it’s an easy one to learn.  I can’t chalk it up to our teaching.  


The first night we had dinner in the grand dining room and I’ll post a photo of a meal here.  Osso Busco.  It is huge!  There is enough food here to feed 3 people.  I ate a small portion of it and was asked if there was something wrong with it.  Other than lack of portion control, I see no problems with most of the food on the ship.

As usual, we did not go to any shows or to have drinks or anything other than have a good nights sleep.


The next morning I woke to go to yoga.  I’m enjoying this, but the schedule changes are doing my head in.  Every day is a different time and it’s not good for my sense of normalcy.  Today the air is chilly and the boat is rocking a bit.  

When walking to yoga, I noticed the sea sickness bags all over.  Yes, it is rough seas. I had to stop a few times to steady myself.  I saw quite a few green travelers and am grateful for the pills I take. I was told at cards later that there are more than a few people affected by the motion. The Meclizine tablets I take work wonders.  I have no side effects from them.  Some of the other brands made me drowsy, but these do nothing more than calm my stomach. 

After yoga today had time to return to the cabin and grab a quick shower before heading out for a cooking demonstration. I enjoy watching cooking shows at home and this was no exception. The two chefs made pasta (really?  How hard is that to do?  I know, I know some people didn’t grow up doing this 3 times a week-and the fancy electric pasta machine was cool.  I’ll have to look into getting one when I return home) and dover sole wrapped scallops with caviar.   


I was surprised how few people in the audience knew how to make a lobster stock-there was a wave of ah’s when they were told to crush the shells and let it cook out with a cup of white wine.  I’m not a foodie, but even I knew that one.  I don’t normally add brandy when I make mine, I’ll give that a try next time.  Sadly, there is no tasting because of COVID, but they did say they would put the dish on the menu soon and the pasta is always fresh in Toscana.


At noon every day the Capitan comes on and gives us the temperature, the heading, the speed of the boat to name a few items. Today it is 60 degrees air temperature and 63 degrees sea temperature.  The distance to the sea floor was just over 4 miles today.  That is a lot of water.  It really is awesome the depth below us.  When we look to the horizon, we can see nothing but water surrounding us.  In the Currents of January 14th, I read that 72% of the planet is covered in salt water with a total volume of approximately 1.3 billion cubic Kilometers.  That’s a lot of water!  The earth is an amazing place.  We really need to do something about saving it.  The pollution we encountered in LA has stuck with me.  The skies out here are blue.  A bit of cloud, and I can see rain in the distance.  But mostly it is just blue.  This is how the entire world should look, not just the air above the seas.  


We joined another couple for lunch and had a pleasant meal and conversation. From there we again went to cards.  This time Jim and Shari decided to play with each other.  Oh dear! My experience with playing with your life partner has been negative.  Don’t do it.  But they survived as did we.  They did a great job and were ahead until the very end.  They simply couldn’t make the last book and they ended up loosing by only 4000 points or so.  Had they made the book they would have cleaned our clocks.  For only the second time of playing they are amazing and will give us a run for our money on future sea days.  

Dinner that night was in the Polo Grill. I decided to go for the Oysters Rockefeller again as they were so good the night before.  I also thought I’d give the lobster a second try.  Well, there is nothing worse than gritty oysters.  I ate the first one and got the grit.  I thought I’d eat the second and hope it would be better.  No such luck.  I gave up and passed on the third.  Later that night and the following morning I began to realize just how wise a decision that was. (Bad oysters do not make for a good nights sleep.)  The lobster though was so much better than the previous time.  I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead.  


The boat was rocking all through the night. Not just side to side rocking, but the up and down kind too.  It was rough seas for me, although the captain said it was only 3 to 3 1/2 meter swells.  I had a restless night between the oysters and the seas.  I lay awake for quite a while watching the backpack swing back and forth. At one point the sway was fairly close to 6 inches.  Thank goodness it was at night and not during the day where I could see the movement out the window.  


In the morning I awoke around 8:30 (small blessing) and decided to forgo the yoga when I felt my tummy begin to churn.  I quickly took two of the Meclizine tablets and another bunch of saltines.  This helped a bit, but I still stay in a prone position being a vegetable all morning.  We didn’t have a card game lined up so we stayed in bed and went for room service for lunch.  The olive tapenade was spectacular.  The rest of the French mezzo platter I could pass on.  I see a pattern here too. I had the same with the Greek platter.  My tummy just does not like the big waves.  


At one point I looked out of the window and saw a rainbow. This is appropriate since we are headed to Hawaii.  George started singing to me of course and we had a good chuckle.

I played a few games on my iPad and George worked on his program for Oskar again.  I think I watched North by North West, but really only remember the final scene of it.  By this time my tummy was feeling better and I decided dinner would be in order.  We got dressed and headed to the main dining room again where we had dinner with a couple we have met before. It was a very nice evening as always.  



It seems to me that the people who are on this cruise for the long haul are much nicer and less pretentious than those that are taking segments.  I guess the personality type is different. We seem to be much more laid back-go with the flow sort of people vs. people who get uptight because of a port change.  I understand the frustration, but I guess that is what you get for cruising during a pandemic.  Nothing against those only on the segments. Just my thoughts.


I’ve had a few questions on my blog I’d like to address. The first is about how we store all the puzzles and such that we purchase.  I have stated before, we have our suitcases opened up under the bed.  I put all of our puzzles in one of those, and when the compartment fills up, or we reach a certain destination the plan is to mail them home. In San Diego we mailed home around 15 puzzles that we had purchased so far.  We expect to do the same from Hong Kong.  Just outside Ocean Terminal (I’m sure this is where we will dock) there is a post office.  It will be a bit of a schlep with a suitcase full of puzzles, but worth it for us not to have to ship them home from New York.  Our next planned shipment point is Amsterdam.  Again, there is a post office not too far from where I expect we will dock at.  If I can’t find it, we will bring the puzzles to our friends and beg them to ship them on for us.  Our final postal stop will be in London.  While it seems as though it will be expensive to ship the puzzles home, it is well worth it for us.  You see, if we make it to Japan, we plan to take the train to Hakone and purchase all of Puzzle Mountain ;) I jest, but we will purchase many puzzles there.  In Tokyo we plan to visit the Hanayama offices and Torito, and as any puzzler knows, these are three stops that will have our wallets leaving much lighter than when we arrived.


On Thursday morning we woke around 7.  George and I had a discussion about turning the clocks back (I did on the analog ones, not the computers and phones) and to stop the confusion I turned on the tv. No luck. They hadn’t changed the time either.  Oh well.  We watched a bit of news, read emails, the usual morning things, then I read last nights currents magazine only to discover that yoga was at 8 this morning!  I really do hate these changes.  Oh, did I mention it was 9 now?  


Oh well, we finished watching a movie from last night, and did some exercise in the room.  My tummy was feeling a great deal better now.  The tablets and crackers work.  


He spent the day working in his 'workshop'.  It spans two rooms on this ship:  the right hand side of the bed and the small box on the table.  Initially he produced a number of pieces that would pop into each other, but that didn’t work well.  He then superglued those pieces together.  After a bit of time, he decided to just print the pieces whole.  I don’t know why he didn’t do that to begin with.  

After lunch we were to play cards with some friends but they had to cancel because of a bathroom flood.  I hope they were able to get that sorted out. 


There was an open bar from 5 to 7 tonight, so we went and grabbed a glass of wine.  The first one I had was corked. If you haven’t had a glass of this, it is a very nasty taste. I returned it and got a better glass.  We met with Chuck and Debbie and had a very nice discussion about pollution.  We carried the conversation to the dining room and had a very pleasant evening.  


Friday morning I woke just south of 9 am.  I managed a full nights sleep and was feeling much better for it.  I spent a bit of time ordering some puzzles as is my usual morning want.  Since getting on this cruise, I have purchased around 25 puzzles to have sent to our home.  This is much less than I normally purchase.  I blame it on the slow internet connection.  


We have one more day at sea before landing in Hawaii.  I am looking forward to this.  I’ve never been.  I’ve listened to George’s stories and want to make some of our own.  Our first stop is Honolulu and we are going to spend the two days there visiting with an old friend of his from his college days.  


We are sailing towards summer. The weather is warming and the winds are mild.  We had lunch outside in the Terrace CafΓ© and when we finished, we went off to play cards again.  Today we found a table poolside that was away from others so we could play in the fresh air. It was a beautiful day for it.  The first hand they whomped us.  The last hand we did the same to them. Overall it was a draw. A rather nice way to end the game.


We went back to the room so George could have his nap and as it turned out, it was me who napped.  I turned on Blonde Venus and fell asleep during the first half hour.  The nap was refreshing.  On to dinner.


Tonight we are having dinner at Toscana again. I love the bread and olive oil. I always have.  I could make a meal of just that but will eat something nutritious as well.  I requested in advance Tortellini en brodo and hope they will make it for me.  This is my goto meal when in Rome, and the pasta here is quite good.  It’s not much of a diversion from the menu so I hope they will comply.  It is a favorite from my childhood. 

They did indeed. It was a lovely dish.  Tortalloni, but close enough.  5 pieces is too many.  I told the waiter next time only 3 pieces.  It's the same dish, just much larger pasta.  I also had a lovely dessert.  I'm not sure what it was called but it had both cappuccino and chocolate,  how can you go wrong with that? 

Upon returning to the room, we were presented with a very nice card and two pens of medium heft.  I myself love a heavy pen.  My favorite when I was teaching weighed in at a full 3 ounces. This one has very nice balance, with the majority of the weight being at the back of the pen.  At this point, it is moot. I no longer write as I did in the past.  It is lovely to have a good pen to sign with.  I didn't bring any along with us. The little touches along the way are so nice to see.  It is just one more aspect that makes this cruise so enjoyable.



We retired for the evening to watch the rest of the Marlene Dietrich movie.  Tomorrow morning we will be in Hawaii!  I am eager to see this place that I have missed so far.


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Around the World puzzles part 1

While we are on this cruise, you may have noticed that I have been blogging about our travels.  I promise, I will blog about our puzzles as well.  I’ve A few random puzzle thoughts that will come up, but mostly I will be posting about the puzzles that we have either brought with us, or have purchased along the way. 


To start out, today I will be posting about the puzzles we purchased in San Diego.  Our first stop was Art of Play. A little kiosk type place that sells playing cards and puzzles.  It is located at 2355 India St, San Diego, CA.  We met the owners at IPP in Kanazawa Japan and I thought I’d stop by and say hello. Sadly they have moved to Boise Idaho.  I’d make a joke here, but it might not be appreciated.  


So here is a description of the puzzles we purchased there.  The first is a rabbit/duck set of salt and pepper shakers (not shown-inside the black box).  These are those little things that change animal depending on the position they are sitting in.  


Next up is a stone tangram set.  I had already purchased the stone soma cube from them and when I saw this one, I had to go for it.  This set is made in Peru and is supposed to be semi precious stones.  


We also purchased a rocket puzzle. This is an old puzzle.  The object of this puzzle is to remove the passenger compartment without touching the puzzle.  Once you know it, it’s only fun to give to guests.  


Bridget is a 2 color wooden game.  The object is to build a bridge from one side of the board to the other.  This sounds easier than I assume it is. George and I kept attempting to play, but every time we did, someone would come in the room.  In the end, there we didn’t have a chance to play before we sent it on to Boca.


Puzzling Obscurities is a box of 60 brainteasers and puzzles.  This is a great set for someone just getting into puzzling.  


The astronaut puzzle is made by a company out of Brooklyn New York.  I have seen this before but kept forgetting to purchase it.  I bought this one as a novelty. It is 3D printed and comes in 4 parts. It’s a very simple puzzle, but nicely done.  


The little blue box is a magnetic curiosity, rather than a puzzle. It folds and unfolds into various shapes.  


Finally, the white box in the upper right hand section is the Intersism Pro 3d wooden maze puzzle. "The Intrism Pro is a 3D wooden puzzle, a mind-bending marble maze, and an intriguing display piece all in one. Made from durable 3-ply Baltic birch wood, the 210 laser-cut pieces simply snap into place— no tools or glue necessary. Once you've conquered the puzzle, take on the intricate marble maze. With over 30 feet of track from start to finish, it's a stimulating challenge! When not in use, set your Intrism Pro on the included display stand for all to admire."

I purchased this one based on Michel’s recommendation.  When I return home it will be one of the first things I put together.  


On to the museum for a minor update.  We have had some issues with photographs but George has now sent on an instruction sheet and we are hopeful that Morgan will be able to sort out what we mean and continue with the photos.  


As for the programming for the museum database, well, it waits.  You see, Oskar has once again given George a task and George being George has dropped all to complete it. He sits next to me programming a couple of Truncated Octahedron pieces to print out on our little computer.  I’ve threatened to tell Oskar no more tasks, but I know George loves to work on them.  I’ve come tot he conclusion that the database design will be farmed out upon our return to Boca.  I just wish George would have come to this conclusion with me while we were still at home and while I could easily get someone to do the task.  


Well, there are still 175 days of this cruise left, perhaps he will start.  


Until next week, Happy Puzzling all. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Los Angeles to San Diego

 WARNING: THREE PARAGRAPHS OF NEGATIVITY.  Skip if you want the real report. 


After receiving a bit of negative feedback on the Oceania group on Facebook, I want to address this.  I have no need to, but I want to.  I am NOT an elitist.  Quite the contrary.  I grew up in a very small town in Wisconsin on an even smaller dairy farm. I’ve worked my way up through a lot of hurdles and have finally been able to enjoy life.  Work hard and save your money and you too can be able to do what my husband and I are doing. 


I am really quite upset that people wrote that my blog left a bad taste in their mouth.  If you read more than one posting of mine, you will see I’m not a negative person.  Los Angeles did not appeal to me.  I have friends who live here and I applaud them for doing so.  I can not.  I have never seen pollution as bad as I did when I woke up on Thursday morning.  I was in shock.  And as for "bashing my dinner companion"  Yes, I will admit I did. That couple insulted me beyond belief.  If you were told that anyone could do the job you did after you acquired not one, but 2 post graduate degrees and are able to be called Doctor, you would be insulted too. I could have given names or descriptions, but I did not.  I simply said I was insulted and am glad they are not continuing on with us.  You took one paragraph out of context and ran with it. Let’s face it, if you are like me and are on this Oceania 6 month cruise, then you too are elitist.  Not everyone can afford both the money and the time to do such a thing. 


Yes, I’m glad to leave LA.  I had no idea how polluted it was.  As an example, I lived in Hong Kong for 25 years.  Being there I had the opportunity to travel to many places in Asia.  Two really stand out.  Beijing and Kaohsiung.  Both cities are so filthy that I can taste the pollution.  One can not see into the distance.  I hated both and couldn’t wait to leave.  Does this make me a bad person?  No.  It makes me one who enjoys breathing clean air.  When I lived in Asia I would take photos of blue sky days and revel in the Chinese National Holidays when the factories were closed.  You could breath without pain. Without that terrible taste.  Tonight's dinner companions said the same thing I did and THEY LIVE IN LA!  I’m glad to know I’m not alone.  


And that is enough of that. I write for myself and for my friends.  No one forces you to read my thoughts.  If you don’t like my opinions and ideas, don’t read them.  


THE REAL POST BEGINS HERE:


When the announcement came across the tannoy that we were not to go to San Francisco, I was very disappointed.  We were looking forward to the visit and seeing the kids and puzzling friends.  I understand the change and am glad to be going on to Hawaii.  So what does this mean?  Well, change of mindset.  First of all, it will be warmer, not colder.  I always like that.  I’m a hot house flower.  The cold hurts too much.  Having grown up where I did, as I did, there was a lot of cold in the winter. Anything below around 80 degrees and I am freezing. :) 


When we get back to San Diego we shall scoot along down to the Italian part of town and do a bit of shopping.  If I remember right, there are a few puzzle shops over there.  It’s been a while though, perhaps they are no longer there.  But it’s a good excuse to leave the ship. I think we will buy some more of that zinfandel. We enjoyed it and the wine we brought with us will not last much longer.  We need to restock.  That seems to be a good mission for the unplanned stay.  


On the CruiseCritic board, a member reminded me that Art of Play is in San Diego.  I feel foolish.  I forgot that they are there.  We met the owners at an IPP in Kanazawa Japan a few years back so why not go over and say hello.  Maybe they will have something we don’t have.  That would be funny.  


First thing in the morning our room steward came in with my ATW jacket. Contrary to what I read on the boards, the jackets run small.  We aren’t big people, but I couldn’t close the medium jacket. I know it doesn't help anyone on this ATW, but if you join a future cruise, with a 36 bust, the medium is just too tight. I waited until now to get a replacement.  Just in time too. It was nippy outside today and this did the trick.  


On Saturday we awoke to find ourselves in San Diego.  Upon waking, we met with some other world travelers who had rented a car and made our way to Costco to purchase a couple more cases of wine to hold us over for a few more weeks.  Chuck and Debby get an A+ from me.  I was told to write that.  If I didn’t I would be in big trouble.  :) Just joking.  It was very kind of them to ask us to join them in the morning.  I think we were discussing the lack of a Costco card and that was what caused the invitation.  So we met at the appointed time and off we went.  They were hunting a toothbrush and we separated and found our items.   Our items consisted of a box of wheat thins to ease my tummy on rough sea days and 2 more cases of wine.  It was especially helpful to have a car available for this.  Once we paid, we then went on to Art of Play.  

I was surprised.  This was a small shop. I thought I’d be able to see the entire stock that is on the webpage, but boy was I wrong.  It is smaller than our bedroom was in Hong Kong.  That’s not to say it wasn’t nice.  We managed to find quite a few puzzles and games that we didn’t have.  I even found a cute salt and pepper shaker duck/rabbit set.  This of course will be used in the Puzzle Palace for Berrocal dinners.  Or should I use the Rubik’s cube type?  

From there, we returned to the ship to have lunch, and a nap.  The nap was not meant to be. Instead, George gave Rod and Merry a lesson in 3D printing.

To make it even more interesting, Rod had just mocked up a set of gears for a watch using Tinkercad.  They turned it into an STL file, sliced it and printed it right then and there.  Of course it wasn’t a good copy, but that wasn’t the purpose.  He enjoyed the lesson, and will most likely go get a 3D printer. 
They very kindly gave us a postage stamp sized jigsaw puzzle. It’s a cute little thing.

When they left, George took a nap, and I went for a walk down the street to an outdoor market that I saw being set up in the morning. Boy was I wrong!  This wasn’t an outdoor market it was a rally of the worst kind. Antivaxers, pro-tRumpers, kill Faucci people, pro-gun owners, and a whole lot of religious zealots to name a few groups.  I walked as quickly as I could past the place, crossed the street and returned to the ship.  I know when I am where I don’t belong.  



When I returned, I was looking at the life boats and did a quick calculation to come to the conclusion that only 900 people could ride in them.  I asked a crewman standing at the shore about this.  He said there could be an approximate maximum of 1300 crew and passengers on the ship.  He then pointed out the life rafts toward the front of the ship.  Reassured me that there were 22 of these that will hold 20 people each.  I made a joke about it looking to be to few places for people.  He smiled and replied that the ship was never full.  You’ve got to love a man with a sense of humor.


At around 4 pm we decided to go jump in the hot tub again.  It is such a nice place to just sit and relax.  We spent around half an hour in there, had a quick shower then went back to the room to send emails and what not.  


Dinner was in the grand dining room again.  We are just fine with that.  We were joined by another couple and a single lady.  All were pleasant company.  At the end of the meal we had a good chuckle over a failure to communicate.  One of the guests asked for 2 petit fours. 2 as in 2 individual pieces. What she got instead was 2 petit four tours.  Sadly everyone else had a dessert as well and it could not be eaten.


We returned to the cabin for another good nights sleep.  When we woke, we both commented on how calm the seas were. Another laugh.  We had forgotten that we are still in port.  We stayed in bed for an hour or two doing a bit of work, then we got up did exercise and had some  breakfast.  Our breakfast has been since we first met, nothing more than a glass of orange juice for George and a glass of milk for me.  Room service called to see if we had made a mistake and wanted food as well.   We assured them we did not, but that didn’t stop the server from asking if we wanted some food brought to the room when he delivered my milk.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say they are trying to make us get fat.  


After breakfast, I again went up to the gym to do yoga. For a new one to this, I think I’m finally beginning to understand. It is just stretching exercises.  I don’t understand how my friends lost weight with it, but I shall stick it out for the duration of the cruise.  It won’t hurt to try.  Who knows.  I may even tighten up a few wobbly bits. Darn.  I got downstairs only to find out there was a schedule change not reflected in the daily currents. Yoga was at 9 am today and at 10 am tomorrow.  One day I will get the schedule right.  


So on to our next mission.  We are on our way to a UPS store to send a package to our kids in San Francisco. You know, the gifts we were going to give them when we saw them.  After that we will scoot on over to Seaport village to go to Geppettos toyshop and see if we can’t find a few puzzles there.  I remember last time we were in San Diego that I purchased a few there so why not try again as we have the entire day.


We left the ship and headed for the UPS store just down the road that was to be opened at 10 am.  Nope.  Closed.  No problem, we went to another one.  This one was closer to our final destination for today.  We scooted on over and then found the UPS store in a hotel.  We folded our scooters and headed upstairs.  The hotel concierge came chasing us down and asked us what we wanted there.  He looked surprised when we told him we were going to the UPS store.  Granted, we look like a couple of bums and with back packs filled with toys and the scooters I guess I could understand his reaction.  He was very helpful when we returned downstairs and told us where to find the next closest UPS that might be opened.  We passed and headed to Geppettos. 


When we arrived, we put our scooters behind the cashiers desk and looked around for puzzles.  As luck would have it, I found one that I did not have.  Smart Games IQ Digits.  This one has 120 different challenges. I initially I did not want to buy it because I thought it was the same puzzle as the digigrams puzzle made by Martin Watson. When we got to the toy store, I realized I was wrong and this is a different puzzle.  We played with it for a bit, but it’s time to move on and do something else.

Lunch was as always on the back deck.  While there, a seagull landed in its usual corner.  We watched it for a while and had a nice conversation about not feeding it.

It flew off for a while only to return and sit on the flagpole.  This was cute because one of the crew was standing below it looking up and boy did that bird start to squawk.  

We carried on with lunch until a phone call came in.  We took what was left of our meal to our room and took the call.  I believe it rather rude to text around company, and even more so to carry on a phone call when others are around.  My 20 year old tells me I’m just old.  I also still expect her to call when she reaches campus so, yes, I’m still old.  :)


The rest of the day we spent in bed watching movies and enjoying our company.  We have been together for short periods of time for 9 years.  We have only been married for three of these.  I can think of no one else I would rather spend time with.   


I took 2 motion sickness tablets around 5 pm and think I will continue with this routine for a few more weeks until I’m sure the nausea is gone.  The ship left San Diego promptly at 6pm.  As we were dressing for dinner, I was looking out over the calm dark waters at the lights of San Diego and heard a rather large pod of seals off to the right.  Sadly, it was too dark for me to see any of them.  Perhaps next trip.





Dinner was enjoyable yet again.  A funny thing happened.  I always put my meal order in in advance because of a few food allergies.  The waiters have gotten used to me having a pot of peppermint tea and a sugar cone with no ice cream inside. Tonight was no different.  I said yes, I’ll have both and a glass of port.  Wow!  Nothing was served. I had to ask for both the port, the tea, and I just gave up on the sugar cone because someone would have needed to run up to 9 to get one for me.  No big deal.  We finished our meal with some very lovely company and before returning to the room we went and got a sugar cone.  I looked around the dining room as I was leaving and realized that they looked understaffed.  There is no reason to complain when the cruise is going along so well.  


We went to bed to the gentle rocking and sound of the waves.  I’d like to say I slept well, but I didn’t.  While the beds are comfortable, they simply aren’t ours.  You know how it is, you get used to a mattress and to pillows and nothing else will work. Well, that’s how it is for me.  The mattress and pillows are just too firm.  We did bring along 2 'puppies' (Japanese microbead cloud pillows). I worked out if I lay on one pillow and have my right arm off the bed that my back doesn’t hurt.  This is most uncomfortable for me, so I ordered two more pillows to be picked up in Hawaii.  Thank heavens we are being let off there.  I would be at a loss.  We have ordered a number of things to be sent to our friend there. No matter how carefully you plan and pack, bot everything works out as it should  The solution is just to remain flexible. This we have done very well.  


My next posting will be about how we spend our time on all these sea days we have.  Until then, I wish you clear skies and smooth seas. 





Saturday, January 8, 2022

My days of selling Berrocal Sculptures – By John Rausch

Today we have a special post written by a puzzling friend of mine.  He has given me permission to post it here.  It is long and photo heavy.  I hope you enjoy his trip down memory lane. 

I'll write more about my time with Berrocal and about restoration/refinishing in following post. 

For several years I sold Berrocal sculptures. Most new ones came from Studio Berrocal. They fabricated six ManyMoreHorses in silver for me at a very reasonable price. Some of you have one of them. At the time, they even had some new Alexanders they didn’t tell most dealers about. I sold one, though very tempted to keep it. I sold Berrocals to puzzle collectors with very minimal markup. On eBay, some sold for crazy prices. Then came Euros. Along with that, the price of the larger series like Goliath, Richelieu, Hoplita, that were $5,400 wholesale, went up to $7,000, or more. That was the end for me.


I think it was in the late 1990s, I found that the Die Galerie in Frankfurt, Germany sold Berrocal, even the giant stuff. I called and spoke with Peter Femfert, the owner. He was the main European dealer selling retail at his gallery and wholesale to other galleries in Europe. I asked if he had any Manolete sculptures for sale. He had one. I told him I would buy up to 20 of them and explained about we puzzle collectors who want them. He told me he would contact galleries that had many of them since the 1970s and couldn’t sell them. He found 12 and I bought them for about $1,200 each figuring in the shipping cost. I sold them to collectors for $1,500, maybe less if I liked you. Two or three had the book missing. Peter had Berrocal make some copies of one that were acceptable for assembly. Those cost me less and I sold them for less. They were all gone in a few weeks. I called Peter and asked if he could find more. He could not believe it! He found 6 more for the same price. They were gone in a couple of weeks. He couldn’t find more. I know many of the IPP people who have one.  Peter told me he had never had a gallery want so many Berrocal sculptures in such a short time. He told me he had a small place in Tuscany that I was welcome to stay in if I were every down that way. It’s a very old, fairly large winery, but that’s another story.


Something you may or may not know. Goliaths and Manolete were not cast by Studio Berrocal. The Goliath design was commissioned by a gallery in DΓΌsseldorf, and cast by a foundry in Germany. The quality of the castings is very accurate, much different than most all of the brass and bronze cast by Studio Berrocal. For example, the internal parts of Richelieu are totally covered with grinder marks to make them fit. A photo shows a restored and partially assembled Richelieu. Some of the Richelieu sculptures have pieces so tight, it takes a lot of force to take them apart. Manolete was commissioned by L’OrΓ©al in Paris, and was also cast elsewhere, but I don’t know where. Its pieces are perfect and have no grinder marks. Maybe a slight filing on a couple of pieces, usually the bottom of very tight thigh pieces. Both of these sculptures fit together perfectly, and both are highly desirable.

Note the grinder marks on nearly every piece.

Front

Back

Parts are refinished. Note the condition of the internal parts of the pieces.


Then there are the Minis and micros. I think the minis and all but one of the micros are junk. They were made in large quantities (the editions were 10,000 and more), cast in zamak, known by other names, but the common name is pot metal or monkey metal. Look it up. Mostly zinc, but any other metals laying around can go into the pot, but probably don’t for good foundries. Matchbox cars and Dinky toys are made from pot metal and painted. The Minis pieces were heavily plated with chrome or nickel. The sculptures go together with a lot of designed slop so they could just be put in the box. When assembling, every few pieces there is a piece with a steel plate riveted to it that goes in with a bit of force and wedges the previous pieces tightly. Most of these you can find today has corrosion or pitting that can’t be restored. They look very dull. More about more than 2,000 of these in my next post.


There is one Micro that is very nice, MicroDavidOff. It was sold mostly in Nickel plated pot metal, stainless steel, silver or gold. I have seen brass ones. The edition was 1,000,000, but I doubt they came close to making that many. I don’t have the large Antologica Berrocal book now, but maybe someone can check. They fit together very nicely. One of the stainless ones is the only Berrocal I have now. The side of the box reads “WARNING from Berrocal’s Studio: if you do not buy it today, you will damage your pocket tomorrow.” Mine is No, 41228.

Micro DavidOFF


My days of selling Berrocal Sculptures – Part 2

Mostly I sold preowned Berrocal I bought on eBay or from owners who contacted me after finding Berrocal sculptures on my PuzzleWorld website. Some wanted a lot for them having seen outrageous estimated values at auctions like Sotheby's, others only wanted what they paid for them in the 1960s, or less.

Mini David


There were two main dealers of Berrocal in the U.S., Katzen Gallery, owned by Arnold Katzen, in New York City, and Centicore Arts, International in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Together they produced a catalog called π˜›π˜©π˜¦ π˜—π˜Άπ˜»π˜»π˜­π˜¦ 𝘚𝘀𝘢𝘭𝘱𝘡𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 π˜”π˜ͺ𝘨𝘢𝘦𝘭 π˜‰π˜¦π˜³π˜³π˜°π˜€π˜’π˜­. You can buy one now, and maybe it will be for sale for years to come for only $1,260 at Alibris - alibris.com/booksearch.detail?invid=15791376680.

Mini Michelle


In 2004, Katzen was convicted of Conspiring to fail to pay estimated tax. He also was convicted of laundering drug money. The gallery went bankrupt. Katzen had a huge stock of unsold Minis and a few other larger ones that had no appeal to puzzle people. One of his creditors accepted the entire Berrocal stock as partial payment towards what he was owed. He had no idea what to do with them, but had a friend or acquaintance that owned an antique business in a barn somewhere in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or somewhere not far from New York City. He gave them all to her. I am pretty sure her first name was Virginia, but can’t remember her last name. Like many who searched for Berrocal back then, my web site came up first because there are quite a few Berrocal pages. She contacted me and asked what she could do with them. I told her I could sell some, but not 2,000. 

Mini Maria


Most of the Minis were Marias and Zoradas, and MicroDavidOffs in stainless steel. She was told to sell them for $200 to $250. Okay! I bought at least 20 MicroDavidOffs and half a dozen of the others. Mini Davids were slightly more. I was thinking I was going to make a killing on eBay! Not so fast – she listed a lot of them on eBay for less than $500. She basically killed the Berrocal Mini market on eBay for a few years. I sold most of the ones I bought to puzzle collectors. 

Mini Cariatide


Then came the flood! Virginia, or whatever her name is, had stored them in a shed outside the barn. It was under water. After they dried out, she asked me if I thought they could be salvaged even though the boxes and books were ruined. She sent me a few Marias and Zoradas. The plated parts were okay, but the ones that had steel plates riveted to them had rusted, and stained the pieces. I shipped them back and have no idea what she did with them.

Mini Zorada


This was pretty much the end of me buying, restoring, and selling Berrocal sculptures except for Goliaths, Manoletes, and a few Richelieus . They would sell on eBay the same day I posted them, often within minutes. I did not make a lot on them, but they sold quickly and I had fun restoring them. I’ll write about than in Part 3.

Mini Cristina


My days of selling Berrocal Sculptures – Part 3

Several years ago, I posted on my personal timeline about restoring/refinishing Brass and Bronze Berrocal puzzle sculptures. In almost all cases, they can be put back to perfect condition, but to do that well, you will need a bench buffer. A grinder usually turns at a higher RPM. If you have a variable speed grinder you might be okay, but if you put a buffing wheel on a grinder, you will have parts thrown all over the place. 

The base is not looking good.
You can see some of the pitting here.

Here in the U.S., we have a chain store called Harbor Freight that sells Chinese tools. They have fairly inexpensive ones, and they have the rouge you need. Several different rouge types are sold. What you want is red. It's called “Jeweler’s Rouge”, but not but most stores. For one large sculpture like Goliath you need at least a quart of Brasso. I bought gallon cans on Amazon. The Brasso is used only for soaking the pieces to get the internal parts clean, not polishing. Scrape off any hardened Brasso that was worked inside the sculpture with a wooden stick like a tongue depressor, snapped in half comes in handy. I know where to get a lot of them. Then soak the pieces in the Brasso for about an hour. You don’t have to rub them, Just make sure the internal piece parts are submerged.

Pile of dirty, Brasso filled pieces
Close up of what the Brasso will remove 

In a stainless-steel bowl and ready for the Brasso bath.


After an hour, nearly all of the internal parts will be clean. If not, leave them longer. But there will be black bits of old Brasso in the nooks and crannies. I use a small (half an inch wide) brass or stainless-steel brush to get at those, and tooth picks. The inside should be very clean, but not shiny. You can see what I mean in the photos, of the Richelieu photos in Part 2.

After Polishing

Then it’s time for polishing. Make sure the buffer is in a place where flying pieces won’t damage anything, and not on a concrete floor because it will damage the pieces. Why am I warning about this? Because you must not push a piece edge up into the buffer wheel or it will take it right out of your hands and slam It into the floor. Polish the pieces gently with a rounded part up and rotate them towards you. If this is not possible, tilt the piece and rotate it to avoid the edge – or hold on for dear life. Of course, you are only going to polish the outside of the pieces that show when assembled.

Goliath


The rouge is applied to the buffer wheel by holding the rouge stick against the wheel for several seconds. You will see it turn red. Don't overdo it. Don’t use too much force when polishing the piece. It won’t take long for the piece to look like new. If there are scratches that are more than the typical “hair line” surface ones, you can try using a little more pressure. Bases are often corroded (that’s what it looks like to me) a little. It can be polished out. The one in the photos took a while and pressure was needed. You are removing a tiny bit of material by polishing. This might seem undesirable, but it was done when it was made, so who decides when to stop. 


The buffer wheel will turn black as you polish. When you see it’s also a tiny bit shiny, it’s time to clean it. This is done by pushing something hard into the wheel. I used an old chisel with a ground down edge. Even a flat bladed screwdriver works. Hold on tight. The Wheel won’t be clean, but the soft part will be black and soft. Time to apply more rouge. 


This whole polishing part does not take long. Way under an hour for the 80 pieces in a Goliath. After polishing, I wash the pieces in soap and water and let them dry before assembling. I use cheap museum gloves because I don’t want any finger oil on the pieces. After its assembled, I apply a coat of Renaissance Wax, being careful to not get globs in the space between the pieces. Yes, this wax is used on metal, it says so on the can. What it will do is slow down the tarnishing. 


I have heard from many people to not polish bronze. Fooey! It was polished when it was new, and if you have a Manolete, for example, that looks like crap, polish it the same as I have described. Then don’t play with it without wearing museum gloves and it will develop a wonderful patina in a few years.


When someone asks "what did you do on New Years Day" these three post are what I did. Now for the tequila.

The end.


This is a completed, and disassembled Goliath.