All posts by PuzzlePaws

Hi, I'm PuzzlePaws. If you want me in a nutshell, this blog is it. Books, puzzles, cats and crafts. And sharks...lots of sharks. I'm a disabled review blogger who likes to share the things that I both enjoy when I'm well, and keep me sane when my chronic illnesses kick my butt. I'm often found on Twitter, sharing blog posts, shark nerditry, and many many pictures of my cats.

Memory’s Wake, Mermaids, Fairies and Faedorables…Oh My! Reviewing Selina Fenech

I’ve been a fan of Selina Fenech’s since 2001. Yeah, I’m ancient, I know. I spent entirely too many hours in my college’s computer lab hunting down art to color for my weekly D&D group. When I started PuzzlePaws, I knew I wanted to try to contact some of those artists I fell in love with seventeen years ago.

I got lucky, Selina sent me two of her coloring books to review, and both are very different from the mermaids and fairies that are the backbone of her style.

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Yes, these are different sizes. I’ll get to that.

Firstly is Victorian Romance. Now, there are actually two different versions of this coloring book, one in line art, the other in grayscale. This coloring book is based off of illustrations that Selina did for her Young Adult Fantasy Trilogy, The books are Memory’s Wake, Hope’s Reign, and Providence Unveiled. I haven’t read them (yet!), but all are available through Selina’s website and Amazon.

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Look at this! No-one does a coloring book where you can color men’s outfits! And the background is so complex!

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I think I love this coloring book because you don’t have to have read the source material to get a sense of the characters, and the level of detail feeds my desire to color intricate outfits. Both sexes are given great scenes to color, and the romance is sweet, not tawdry.

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I had too much fun coloring this. SC requested the pink hair after I’d done the purple.

The really cool thing in the Victorian Romance Coloring book is that while there are only 25 images; the book is split into halves, and the second half is a set of duplicate images so that you can do each image twice! So if you have a cat-induced coffee accident, or want to see the same image done in a different medium, you can! Each image is single-sided, but if you want to use a wet medium like markers or watercolors, I and Selina both recommend using a protective backing of cardstock.

Now, for the second little book I got!

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Yup! It’s time for Faedorables!

Selina has a line of what she calls “Minis”, coloring books that measure 5 by 7.8 inches. These are meant to be a more portable version of her standard 8.5 by 11 inches coloring books. I’ll admit, I was leery of these minis. I know her art is good, but how would it look or color when shrunk down?

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Okay, they look really cute!

The Faedorable series is meant to be a mix of simple, sweet art with some tricky details, enough to appeal to a range of colorists of all ages. The book I have is actually all 50 images of both the Faedorables:Sweet and Simple and Faedorables:Cute and Creepy books. The images are single-sided and with a cardstock backing took both marker and crayon really well!IMG_4261

I was skeptical, I was worried, I was wrong! The mini-books are fantastic! I’m going to keep mine in my Go-Bag, which is my backpack full of entertainment gear for traveling. If you have a love of coloring and either a Go-Bag or a hospital bag, you might want a Mini coloring book and a pack of whatever your coloring medium of choice is.

Honestly, the last few days have been full of fatigue for me, my CFS was flaring, I thought…until SC and I found out that while at DragonCon we were exposed to a Vendor who came down with Chicken Pox. I’ve had Chicken Pox, but SC hasn’t. SC thinks that due to busting my rump at DragonCon, then dealing with Hurricane Florence, and all the resulting stress, that I’ve managed to have a Mononucleosis relapse. It’s possible, I’ve been sleeping tons, but waking to feel more tired. I’m hydrating and resting (coloring is resting, right?).

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Hurricane is my blanket-buddy. She gets how I feel!

 

Where to buy: You can buy Victorian Romance at Selina Fenech’s website for $11.33 USD. You can also buy Faedorables Minis there for $7.54 USD

Selina Fenech Art : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received these coloring books for free in exchange for a review. The opinions are my own. All art shown on this post is Copyright © Selina Fenech. The coloring is mine.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Eric Dowdle’s Harvest Festival: The Pumpkining!

I love Fall. I was born in October, and the season has always been a favorite. There are days that it feels like summer is still in its height, and some where it cools just enough to need a hoodie. Ok, not so much for me….I live in Virginia now. But I grew up in Upstate NY right on the shores of Lake Ontario. Summers were short, “Winter Was Coming” and Fall meant apples, pumpkins, hayrides and giant leafpiles. I went shopping the other day with SC, and the stores are full of Halloween. I had wanted to wait until the First, but this puzzle really captures the memories and mood of Fall for me. What the heck, the Vernal Equinox is later this week, that’s close enough!

I really like Dowdle’s boxing. There is a heavy paper sleeve encasing a pretty little box.IMG_4208

The box is really well constructed, folding around itself and sealing with a Velcro button so that the box is reusable.

Better yet! All Dowdle puzzle come with a mini-poster of the image and a resealable plastic bag. IMG_4211

Now to assemble!IMG_4215

For a 500 piece puzzle, this was really tricky in places. the amazing amount of detail that artist Eric Dowdle puts into his art and the random piece shapes kept me busy all evening! SC even put a few pieces together, commenting that it was harder than it looked.

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Harry Potter Pumpkin!!
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Gotta love Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head
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Candy Corn Pumpkins!
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So many memories! My parents took a bunch of photos like this when I was growing up with my siblings!

SC had to take my finished picture, as I was having a horrible time getting my pictures to come out right. After finishing this puzzle, I have two thoughts. First, now I feel properly ready to Fall, and secondly…I need a pumpkin spice latte, stat!

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SC is a photography genius.
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Pandemonium approves! Puzzles are cat-baths, don’tcha know?

About the Company: Dowdle Puzzles is a part of Dowdle Folk Arts. The artist and owner is Eric Dowdle, who has over 200 folk art paintings, mostly focusing on American cities and national parks.  As well as selling paints, prints, and puzzles, Dowdle is now branching out into coloring books! (I’ll be wishlisting those!) 

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Dowdle Puzzles
  • Title: Harvest Festival
  • Artist: Eric Dowdle
  • Year released: Unknown
  • Pieces: 500
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 16″ by 20″ 
  • Bonus poster: Yes
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy and compact, 7.5″ by 7.5″ by 3″, with paper sleeve
  • Board:  Medium weight chipboard, sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Steel-cut Die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Semi-gloss, with great color saturation
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Very Good. Some of the irregular pieces make it so that pieces can only be moved in small groups.

Disability Notes: The slightly larger size pieces of the 500 piece puzzle are kinder to the hands while still being complex enough to challenge lovers of larger piece count puzzles. Honestly, I want to try this brands 300 and 100 piece counts for this winter when my hands threaten to swell into claws. I can recommend this for people with mild to moderate arthritis or hand/eye coordination.

Where to buy: Harvest Festival is available on the Dowdle Puzzles website for $19.99 usd. At the time of this post, it is sold out.

Dowdle Puzzles : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page.To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Ethereal Visions Coloring Book: Tarot and Art Nouveau

I’m home again, after a few days away due to the Hurricane Florence Evacuation. I’m glad to be home.  I’m thrilled to say that our home is untouched and the cats are back to their usual shenanigans. Unfortunately, Florence is making my life minorly miserable due to barometric pressure. The fatigue and brain fog are strong, which is why today’s post is running so late.

Aside from that, while I was at DragonCon, I got to meet Matt Hughes. He’s a really talented artist that does illustrations in the Art Nouveau style. He’s funded most of his projects through Kickstarters, which is really awesome. Right now, Ethereal Visions Publishing, the company Matt’s wife Hope founded and runs; has pre-orders up for an illuminated  edition of the works of Edgar Allen Poe and Matt is currently working on illuminating pages for a project based on Mozart’s Requiem.

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The tarot is a pack of playing cards, used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play games. Many of these tarot card games are still played today. In the late 18th century, it began to be used in parallel for divination in the form of cartomancy and specialist packs were developed for this occult purpose. The Major Arcana that this coloring book focuses on is definitely influenced by one of the original occult decks, the Rider-Waite deck. I find the art to be beautiful and to have a hidden complexity.

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The Emperor

This coloring book is amazing! It’s rather large, measuring 12″ by 9″. The paper is heavyweight, but really smooth. I was shocked how good my markers and colored pencils looked when coloring. While I usually use a piece of cardstock under my works-in-progress, I found I really didn’t need it.

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The Chariot

The only issue I found was that due to my book lover’s habit of not wanting to break the spine of any book, I needed to use a craft knife to cut my pages free. Once I reread the lovely note that Matt wrote as a preface, it was much easier. Coloring books are meant to be USED. In fact, this one is meant to be used as a meditation exercise.

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The Moon

I’m not sure my coloring stacks up to this amazing art, but I’m having fun doing it. While I know Matt is up to his eyeballs in work, I really hope he’ll do another coloring book! I recommend following the FaceBook page because Matt posts all sort of beautiful works-in-progress.

Where to buy: You can buy Ethereal Visions 22 Major Arcana Coloring Book at Ethereal Visions Publishing’s website for $20 US.

Ethereal Visions Publishing : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received this coloring book for free in exchange for a review. The opinions are my own. All art shown on this post is Copyright © 2016 Matt Hughes. The coloring is mine.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Hurricane Florence: Evacuations and Safety

So things got a bit crazy this week. I’d been tracking Hurricane Florence for a while, but after Monday’s post, the Governor of Virginia issued an Order of Evacuation for people living in Zone A.  I live in Zone A and had already had an issue with flooding earlier over the weekend. SC and I were taking no chances. We had to hurry!

Thankfully, one of my best friends has a standing offer for us and the cats. We managed to pack all five cats, a tote-full of puzzles and coloring books, clothes, and the computers in under 10 hours. We did our best to place our electronics and valuables out of the way, but flooding is something that is really hard to predict.

Due to bunking down in my bestie’s sewing room and storm preparations, I don’t have any reviews written up. However, I do have a pair of unboxing videos of puzzles that are currently safe in the Tote of Doom! Please be kind, SC wasn’t able to run them through post-production.

Gearheads website

Artifact Puzzles website

So far, we are safe and warm. SC is making curry in the kitchen while it storms outside. I’ll be posting updates on Twitter as I know what is going on and how bad or not! the damages to our house are.

Winsor and Newton ProMarkers: Rich Tones Set

I’ve gotten a bunch of new coloring books to review on my docket, which means I find myself craving new shiny art supplies to color with.  I reached out to Winsor and Newton, a British company that’s been around since 1832. They had just released a new marker line called ProMarker™; and I was madly curious about them.  I received a sample of 6 markers in rich tones, and I have to say, I’m hooked!IMG_3966 These colors are SO pretty!! These are dual tipped markers, having both a bullet tip and a chisel tip. ProMarkers™ have an alcohol based ink,  which is classed as a permanent ink, but can be blended.

Okay, the outside is nice, but how do they color??

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Oh, my goodness! I’m in love, I really am. The ProMarkers™ are round, thick and fit well in my hand. The bullet nib moves smoothly over the paper with minimal bleeding. The chisel tip covers large areas well; though, since I hadn’t used chisel tips before, it took a little time to get the hang of.  I’m new to professional grade coloring markers, as my default is usually a Sharpie®.

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I think that out of the six colors, the Marine and the Maroon are my favorites. All the colors are amazingly rich and each layer I put down just added depth.  While the different size caps for the two tips mean that you can’t place one cap upon the other when working, I do love the little Cap Nub (my phrase). The Cap Nub makes it so that the round marker doesn’t roll off of your work surface, which is super important if you color in bed or using a lapdesk.

Disability Notes:  These are great for marker lovers with mild to moderate arthritis (don’t overdo!), and can be used on the couch or in bed since the Cap  Nub keeps them from rolling. Warning!: If you have brain-fog or a short-term memory issue – Remember where you put the cap down!

Where to buy: You can buy Winsor & Newton ProMarkers™ in sets or individually at their website or a high-end art supply store. The Rich Tones set I received retail for $24.99 usd.

Winsor and Newton : Website / FaceBook

The art I colored for this post came from Timeless Creations™ Mystical Journey Coloring Book.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary set of markers from the manufacturer in exchange for review.  I purchased the coloring book used on this post. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Target Rich Environment: Book Review

This post is going to be a little different from the ones I’ve done previously. It’s going to be a lot lighter on the pictures, and a bit heavier on words. The reason? This is about a BOOK.

I spent the last week in Atlanta, Georgia at DragonCon. It was loud, there was a metric ton of people sharing the same air, and every possible fandom you could imagine was represented. I got to meet a bunch of my favorite authors, and met authors I had never heard of, but now desperately want to read. I bought Target Rich Environment at The Missing Volume’s booth, and couldn’t wait to read it after con.

Larry Correia is one of my go-to authors. Monster Hunter International (MHI) is a favorite series, I laughed myself sick listening to Tom Stranger on Audible, and am partly through the Deep Six audiobook. I’m a bit of an oddity amongst Larry’s fanbase. I neither own nor overly much enjoy guns or gun-fu; though SC does. I read Larry Correia’s books for the simple fact that his characters feel real. They make me laugh, or cry, or snarl at their stupidity; and the inevitable gun-fu is both well written and engaging.

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Comfy couch, Pandemonium on my lap, and a brand new book!

Target Rich Environment: A Collection by Larry Correia is just that; a collection of the author’s short stories he’s written over the years. There are 14 separate pieces of fiction inside, ranging the gamut from The Wild West to a post-apocalyptic Peter Pan to a full on Lovecraftian horror. Some of the stories were brand new and other were not before released in print, having been Audible exclusives.

I prefer full novels to short stories usually, but this collection I devoured in the course of a few hours.  Honestly, I found my favorites were “The Bridge” and “The Great Sea Beast”. Both these stories contain characters who have so much more depth than just a small short story can hold. I really hope that some of these short stories are turned into their own novels.

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Zoomie proving why one of her nicknames is book-dragon.

SC was thrilled that the last story of the book is “The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent”. He dislikes audiobooks, but had dearly wanted to know why “Hooon!” is the battle cry of all the Correia fans.

  • Title: Target Rich Environment
  • Author: Larry Correia
  • Publisher: Baen
  • Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
  • Story Type: Short story

Where to buy: Target Rich Environment A Collection By Larry Correia is available through Baen’s website, Amazon, The Missing Volume or your local  bookstore. The ebook retails for $9.99 and the hardcover book retails for $25.

Disclosure: I purchased this book. The opinions are my own and are not a reflection of either Larry Correia or Baen Books.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Basket Case Family Pieces Puzzle: A Review

I know that most people with disabilities have families. Okay, all humans pretty much have families, but what I meant was; most of us have kids. My kids have fur, and do more damage to my projects than help…oh, wait, just like real kids. Nevermind that! Anyway, not having human children, I borrow my friend’s. I play auntie and Godmom to a small horde, who sometimes like to help out with my hobbies.

A few days ago, I “borrowed” Minion 1 and Minion 2 from their mom. Minion 1 is 8, and loves puzzles. Minion 2 has just turned 5 and while he likes puzzles, his attention span is hit & miss (SC Edit: He has the attention span of a ferret on speed!). Anyway, I’d gotten some of Cobble Hill’s new Family Pieces puzzles, and the boys were keen to do one.IMG_3929

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Top-Minion 1, Far Left -Minion 2, Bottom Center- Me!

The Family Pieces Puzzles come with 3 distinct size pieces. Large for young children, Medium for older children, and small for adults.

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Sorting didn’t take long with three pairs of hands! Minion 1 was a little miffed he had less medium pieces than his brother’s large ones, but once we started, he was helping everywhere! IMG_3933

Some of the edge pieces were tricky to find! We had a blast matching colors and seeing who could complete more kitten faces. At the end of the assembly, Minion 2 was starting to get a bit bored, as we were down to the small adult shapes. Still, he rallied to help place the last 4 pieces and complete the puzzle! IMG_3935

There was lemonades in celebration!

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Cobble Hill
  • Title: Basket Case
  • Artist: © Braldt Bralds
  • Year released: 2018
  • Pieces: 350
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 24″ x 18″
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy, Mediumweight, 10″x14’x2.5″ Matte-Linen Finish
  • Board: Thick and sturdy pieces, good for all 3 sizes of pieces
  • Cut: Steel-cut Die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Satin, with great color saturation
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Very Good, but loose. You cannot pick up multiple large or medium pieces and move them, but the small pieces could lock together and be moved in small batches.

Disability Notes: I can definitely recommend this for any multi-age family, or for a person whose hands have good and bad days. The boys had fun and the full assembly only took about 2 hours. My hands didn’t ache after assembly, and the difficulty level was certainly up to adult standard.  I can happily recommend a large piece puzzle for people with fine motor skill issues, or arthritis.

Where to buy: Basket Case is available on the Cobble Hill website for $15.99 usd.

Cobble Hill Puzzle Company : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Basic Intro to the Cats of PuzzlePaws!

I’m on my way to DragonCon in Atlanta. Since I’m still building content, I’m cheating a little bit . I found this awesome picture in a coloring book my mom had given me a few years back. The majority of the coloring was done with Bic® Brand Markit Markers.

 

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Do you know how hard it is to find a coloring page with 5 cats??

Since this is such a perfect page for my cats, I figured I’d do a brief intro to the furballs that end up photo-bombing my posts. I’ll be doing in-depth interviews with each cat on my Patreon when I get back home in early September.

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Pandemonium:  Pan is my shadow, my therapy-cat when my disease makes life miserable and an all-around sweetheart. She is 13 years old and starting to show her age. Don’t let her fool you…her fangs are still sharp!

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Teedle: This picture doesn’t do Teedle justice. He’s a 25 pound orange marshmallow. Teedle is 9 years old and sweet, but dumb. He has a bad habit of drinking water with his paws, which makes the other cats cranky because it makes their water dirty.

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Zoomie:  SC calls her PuzzlePaws, due to her tortoiseshell coloring. Zoomie is also 9, about 6 months younger than Teedle. Zoomie is shy, but can be demanding.  She loves playing indoor soccer with hard jingleballs, and is learning fetch.

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Zane: SC brought Zane into our marriage. As you can see from his dapper tux, he is a consummate ladies man. As Zane was adopted when full-grown, we think he’s between 9-11 years old. He’s not much for treats, but he likes to steal Hurricane’s wet food. Zane is freely affectionate with headbutts and cuddles.

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Hurricane: This is our baby. Hurricane Enlil was teeny kitten barely 2 weeks old when she and her sister were given to me to hand-rear last September. She’ll be 1 on Sept 14, (estimated). While her sister found a good home, Hurricane bonded to me. She loves to play fetch and grooms my hair. She is taking therapy-cat lessons from Pandemonium.

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Disclosure: I received this coloring book as a gift from my mother. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

I tried finding the publisher of this coloring book online, but was unsuccessful. If you are affiliated with ©Product Concept Mfg., Inc please, email me.

Whiskers At The Window: A Large Piece Puzzle Review

I’ll be the first to admit that I have issues accepting all the changes that my disability has forced upon me. Some are easier to accept than others; it is easier for me to ask my husband to tie my shoes, for example, than to deliberately reach for the large piece puzzles. I really hate the fact that my hands have problems with both sensation and grip on bad days.  Thus, when my representative at The Jigsaw Puzzle Factory offered a 300 Large piece puzzle, I balked. I’m not that bad yet, really! My mind protested, but I know that while this blog is about my reviews and opinions; it is mainly about discovering things to make hobbies accessible.

So I waited for a day when my hands were sore and swollen, which after last week’s brick kit, wasn’t hard.

 

 

Whiskers At The Window reminds me of the puzzles I used to do as a kid. Not in a juvenile sense, but a fond nostalgia. I love the fact that the back of the box was given to the artist, Jane Maday.

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Nice neat packaging! No puzzle dust!

The size of the pieces where certainly large! Better yet, each side has a different texture, glossy and smooth on the front, and matte and pebbled on the back.

 

On to the puzzling! The sorting went quickly enough, as this is only a 300 piece, and I’ve been doing 500-1000 pieces for a while now.

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I forgot an important fact! This puzzle is ROUND! My normal boards are rectangular! I ended up having to have the Spouse-Critter set up the full-size card table and help me move my setup.

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So big! The diameter of the puzzle is 24 inches!

Amazingly, none of my cats were interested in this puzzle. My only interruptions were SC wanting my opinion on his current project. IMG_3889

All in all, I think I managed to assemble this in about three hours, which is a new record.IMG_3890

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: The Jigsaw Puzzle Factory
  • Title: Whiskers At The Window
  • Artist: Jane Maday
  • Year released: 2017
  • Pieces: 300
  • Cut-Style: Grid-cut puzzle
  • Finished size: 24″ round
  • Bonus poster: Yes
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy medium weight, 8 x 8 inches
  • Board: Medium thickness, recycled chipboard
  • Cut: Cut with a steel-cut die, all pieces fully separated
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Slightly glossy
  • Puzzle Dust: None!
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Good, but loose. You cannot pick up multiple pieces and move them

Disability Notes: I have to give my rep credit, this a wonderful puzzle. My hands didn’t ache after assembly, and the difficulty level was certainly up to adult standard. I can happily recommend a large piece puzzle for people with fine motor skill issues, or arthritis.

Where to buy: Whiskers At The Window  is available on the The Jigsaw Puzzle Factory website for $14.99 USD.

The Jigsaw Puzzle Factory: Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

TICO Bricks Smithsonian Institute: A Review

In February, at NY Toy Fair, I came across a micro-brick booth I hadn’t seen before. The ladies running it were very nice, and gave me a mini pterodactyl kit to try.  I’m ashamed to admit it has sat in my brick box since then. I remembered it when starting the blog, and reached out to The Lazy Dog & Co., TICO® bricks’ US distributor. I’m really glad I did!

I was asked which kits I was interested in, and I responded back with a list of possible kits, including The Smithsonian Institute, which was my pie-in-the-sky item. Imagine my surprise when that is exactly what they sent me! Poor Spouse-Critter, there was much squealing and happy-dancing that day.

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The Castle

Now, the Smithsonian Institution name covers over 19 museums, a zoo, 9 research facilities and tons of affiliated buildings. The building featured in the kit is called “The Castle” which is the first of the Smithsonian buildings, and its headquarters to this day. Look at this pretty building! There are days I think it lovelier than Buckingham Palace.

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Not a lot of spare packing material, TICO doesn’t pad the box!

Set up is easy, open the box, lay it all out, grab tweezers and magnifier, and check out the instructions.

Okay, so this just jumped a level of difficulty! Unlike some other brick companies; each step is only shown by pictures, there are no lists of how many bricks of each type are needed.  I know that a kit this big will have a ton of pieces, nearly 1,100 according to the box, so I haul out my MasterPieces™ Puzzle Sort and Save. Sorting all the little pieces by type and keeping them away from the cats is a necessary thing!IMG_3776

This build took me about three and a half days over the course of several sessions. My hands tended to start to ache after a few hours, so I was glad to have photographed the process.

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I hit a snag on step #9, I had a piece missing! I searched all my sorting trays, thinking it may have been missorted, no dice. Okay….I’m a resourceful brick-builder, I subbed in a 1×2 and a 1×1 brick for the missing 1×3. I kept moving on until by step #11, when it was very noticeable that I was missing not one, but several pieces! Worse, these were pieces that I needed! I dug into my stash of micro-brick spares, and found a few that would sort of match. The upside to this? I found out that TICO® Bricks are compatible with their competitor’s bricks!

Then I emailed my contact at TICO®. She was awesome! Quick response, a request for a full listing of my missing pieces so they can be replaced, and a promise to let the manufacturer in Taiwan know. Customer Service Win!  In the end, I was only short 9 pieces, 2 of those because I subbed them in on step #8. In a kit of 1085 pieces? That’s a minuscule amount, and I would not have noticed if there was a large amount of spare bricks.

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Spare pieces!
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So Long! Just under 11 1/2 inches
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Standard micro-brick kit width of 3 1/2 inches

This Is Now Officially My Biggest Micro-brick Kit Ever!

TICO stands for Tiny – Intelligent – Combinative – Originality. Honestly, this company really embodied this! It is tiny, it took and stretched my intelligence, I managed to combine pieces I did not think would fit, and while following a set of instructions doesn’t use originality, TICO® also sells bulk piece kits.

Brick Kit SPECS

  • Company: TICO
  • US Distributer: The Lazy Dog & Co.
  • Title: Smithsonian Institute
  • Kit Number: T-1536
  • Year released: 2018
  • Pieces: 1085
  • Difficulty: 3/5 I personally rate it a 4/5 for the instructions
  • Brick Size: 4mm x 4mm x 5mm
  • Figure size: N/A
  • Finished size: 28.75cm x 9.5cm x 12cm 
  • Made from ABS Plastic
  • Made in Taiwan

QUALITY: 

  • Box: lightweight, 20cm x 14cm x 5.5cm
  • Build Integrity: Very Good, the trees and flag are a bit fragile
  • Recognizability: Excellent
  • Piece shapes: Standard brick shapes, with some new shapes like 90° angles
  • Piece Fit: Excellent

Notes: The size of the bricks lean towards using angle tip tweezers. As there are extra pieces provided, I recommend saving them with the instructions in a sealed bag. I will be sure to add an update to this blog post when the customer service issue of the missing bricks is fully resolved.  I’m incredibly happy overall with both the Smithsonian kit and highly recommend TICO® for other micro-brick enthusiasts!

Disability Notes: Due to the fine motor control required for this build, I do not recommend TICO® Bricks for those with fine motor control impediments, arthritis, or palsy, unless you have assistance. If you have a visual impairment, this is possible to do with the assistance of a magnifier.

Where to buy:  The Smithsonian Institute and other kits are available on The Lazy Dog & Co. website for $64.99 USD.

The Lazy Dog & Co. Tico® Bricks : Website 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary brick kit from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

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