Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rough week, but good things to come!

I didn’t want to write this, but I get antsy when bloggers I follow disappear for any length of time.

No worries, folks. I’m fine, just overwhelmed and tired.

There were no posts this week because of a thousand things needing to be done and the simple fact that I ran out of time. I underestimated how much time it would take me to recover from my previous trip and conventions, and it bit me in the butt. Chronic illness is like that. It’s always there, but sometimes it will stilly whammy you. I spent last week putting my house back to rights after being gone for most of a month, and forgot that both sleep and food are necessary parts of life(to be fair, it was hotter than hades and no one wanted food). I had to pack for my current convention, and deal with both SC and Little-Big have executive disfunction on different issues. Plus I had to plan around Hime’s summer visit.

I have the testing and notes for posts ready, but no spoons or brains to write them. I’m currently in Washington DC, at Otakon, busting my butt selling plush on little sleep and lots of caffeine! The Blogaversary posts are prepped, and should be ready to drop Monday!

Thanks for following the blog, and I promise I’ll try to plan a bit better next time!

Inventory and Plushie Zoo, or how I spend my summers.

I’m finally back home after being away for 3 weeks. Slowly, the cats are forgiving my absence while I rest from hard work and travel. Like most people with a chronic illness, I have good and bad periods. Summer is typically my good time. My Fibromyalgia flares are less, the weather is more conducive to being outside and active, and I feel less fatigued.

For the second year in a row, I went north to Massachusetts to The Dragon’s Lair HQ. The Dragon’s Lair is a convention-only pop-up shop that sells T-shirts and stuffed animals aka plushies.

Nice setup, right? But it takes a lot of work behind the scenes to make a good looking booth!

That’s where my summer trip comes in. I’m the inventory minion! At least once a year, the Boss needs to know exactly how many pieces of stock we have on hand; and how many we have lost due to shrink or sales.

As a pop-up shop, we don’t have a warehouse or brick-and-mortar store. Everything is either in our 12 foot trailer or the Boss’s front porch. So I end up emptying the trailer into the garage and then opening each bin of shirts and box of plushies before reloading the trailer.

Five bins high, four bins across and an extra column of bins equals 25 bins, full of T-shirts! This was a single days work, and I was super tired at the end. The Dragon’s Lair stocks T-shirts from adult smalls to 5x-larges.

This is my standard plushie inventory setup. I lay out a handful of empty boxes to sit on and have a clean place to lay out each box’s plushies. Each one needs to be counted by sku number and checked over for any damages. Any missing or mangled price tags are replaced.

I find all sorts of fun and different plush!

It takes roughly 3 to 4 days to go through all the boxes and to fill the trailer.

Now inventory is only part of the story! It is something we do annually, but conventions are something that happens several times a month!

When we arrive at a convention venue, the trailer and back of the pickup must be unloaded, then myself or another minion/booth bunny/assistant (there is a rotating schedule of minions depending on the convention) build the grid-cube wall that is a staple of our plushie zoo.

This usually takes between 3-5 hours depending on how large the grid-cube wall is to be and how many minions are working on it. Then we use whatever time we have before the close of the dealer’s room for the evening filling cubes with plushies. The Boss’s Wife is Queen of the T-shirts, so all I need to focus on is plush. Usually, there is a few hours the following day to finish filling the booth before the dealer’s room opens for business.

Tada! One epic booth including T-shirts and the Plushie Zoo!

Our next 2 conventions are Otakon on July 26-28th in Washington DC and DragonCon on August 29th-September 2nd in Atlanta, Georgia. If you are going to attend either con, come see us at in the Dealer’s Room!

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!

Going Back to America’s Roots – The Dissected Puzzle

 Something a little different this week, folks. I’m combining both my Tuesday and Friday post this week to bring you a nifty treasure, as well as to buy myself a bit of breathing room. I’d forgotten that inventory can be both physically and mentally exhausting! We’re halfway through, and the Boss and family have squired me away to Camp for a second weekend. It’s a holiday, y’know?

 

Every once in a while, you find an odd but cool thing at the thrift store. For me, it was this odd reproduction of one of the very first types of puzzle.

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 They’re called dissections, and were typically made by pasting a map to thin wooden board and using a very fine saw to cut along geographical borders. The first ever puzzle of this type is credited to John Spilsbury, an Englishman in 1767, although there are recorded Dutch puzzles up to ten years prior.

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Excerpt from the back.

 This particular dissection is based on a 1710 map by Peter Schenk the Elder; and was created and sold by the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area Stores.

The original map only has 3 surviving copies, one at Colonial Williamsburg, and the others are parts of private collections.

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 The pieces are huge in comparison to modern puzzles, on a heavy stiff chipboard. It makes sense, considering that the original use for these is to teach children. The borders lock together, while the interior pieces just “float” until assembled correctly.

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 Honestly, this map was a piece of art! The top and bottom borders are highly detailed and beautifully colored.

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Included in the map is an inset of the North Pole, detailing the presumptive NorthWest Passage.

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This is were the really nifty part comes in… this puzzle isn’t available anywhere! Nowhere, and I mean nowhere on the internet has images of this puzzle.

It was made sometime between the late 1970s and the early 1990s. There is no company mark or copyright dates on the box. I used to work for Colonial Williamsburg a few years ago, and these puzzles where not anywhere to be seen except for a display in the Governor’s Palace.

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 I love this odd little slice of history, and while everyone else is focusing on the red, white and blue, I wanted to take a look before. Because before we were America, we were a colony; before there were jigsaw puzzles, there were dissections.

Happy Independence Day!

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area Stores
  • Title: Dissected Puzzle
  • Artist: Peter Schenk
  • Year released: Unknown
  • Pieces:36
  • Cut-Style: Grid
  • Finished size: 18½ x 21½ in
  • Bonus poster: No

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Lightweight, 9 x 7½ x 2 inches
  • Board: Very thick chipboard
  • Cut: Cut with a steelcut die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, muted tones
  • Finish: Matte
  • Puzzle Dust: None
  • Piece shapes: Large size for easy handling
  • Piece Fit: Excellent, small clusters of pieces could be moved without falling apart

Disability Notes: I found this puzzle to be easy on my hands, but due to the muted colors,not so easy on the eyes.

Where to buy: Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find this puzzle anywhere online. It was made specifically for Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area Stores.

About the Artist: Peter Schenk the Elder (1660-1711) moved to Amsterdam in 1675 and began to learn the art of mezzotint. In 1694 he bought some of the copperplate stock of the mapmaker Johannes Janssonius, which allowed him to specialize in the engraving and printing of maps and prints. He split his time between his Amsterdam shop and Leipzig and also sold a considerable volume of materials to London. Wiki

 

Colonial Williamsburg: Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I bought this puzzle for the purpose of doing a review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

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!

Nene Thomas’s Fairy Colouring Book

No, I didn’t misspell coloring. This rare coloring book was published in the UK, so the spelling is British style.  I found this at Nene’s booth at DragonCon last year. It was newly published, and so very pretty! I’ve been a fan on Nene Thomas’s art for years, of course I had to pick it up!

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©2018 NeneThomas

Nene Thomas’s Fairy Colouring Book is 50 beautiful line art images on smooth mid-weight paper. There are the obvious fairies, but Nene also draws amazing horses and butterflies. The images range from being G-rated to artful nudes. While tasteful, this is very much a coloring book for adults, not for anyone under 16.

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There are images for just about every possible coloring medium and skill level. I had to break out the crayons for this lovely knight and her steed.

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©2018 NeneThomas  

I had fun with watercolor brush pens with the butterfly-horse. There is something about the whimsy in these images that makes it okay to break from conventional coloring.

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©2018 NeneThomas  

Disability Notes: Other than noting that some designs have more complicated line work than others, I have no complaints. Those pages are being set aside for a day when my hands don’t shake.

Where to buy: The Fairy Colouring Book is available on at the Fairy Glen website. The book’s MSRP is $15.99 USD.

Nene Thomas : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I bought this coloring book to use for this review. The opinions are my own. All art shown on this post is Copyright ©2018Nene Thomas and Nemesis Now Ltd. The coloring is mine. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

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!

Donation Day! Or, Sharing is Caring.

This is another of those prose heavy posts.

For the last few weeks I’ve been going through my puzzle piles. This has become incredibly necessary as yard sale season progresses. In the summer, when my health allows, I love to shop yard sales, estate sales and thrift stores.  Unfortunately, this means that the number of puzzles I have outnumbers the amount I can feasibly do.

What to do? For me, I share the wealth! I had to face my phone anxiety and call several of the local senior centers, senior homes, and our local children’s hospital. In doing so, I found which places would only receive brand new puzzles and which would happily take used ones.

SC and I sorted and photographed all the puzzles for tax purposes (Remember! Can’t pay the IRS in puzzles).

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Then everything was boxed up for transport. We spent yesterday afternoon driving to 2 different locations for puzzle delivery. One was one of our local Senior homes, and the staff was super helpful and glad of the delivery! They have clients in various states of ability, and my mixed box of puzzles was sure to be a hit.  The second location was the city-run senior center. The staff there was a little less enthused, but still helpful.

SC and I are planning to expand our search area, contacting the local Veterans Association as well as community centers and checking out locations in the next nearest city. I’m getting closer to this blog’s first year anniversary, and it seems that donation days will happen more often as I grow.

Disclosure: Some of these puzzles I bought, and some were given to me  for the purpose of review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

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!

 

Easter Bunnies and Easter Eggs!

I don’t know about you guys, but Easter is one of the few holidays that I get excited about the food. As a kid, I loved my Easter basket filled with marshmallow Peeps, jellybeans, and chocolate bunnies. The best part wasn’t Easter supper with its ham and fixings, but Easter breakfast; where after searching the whole of the house for hidden eggs, I got to crack those colorful shells and roll my hard-boiled eggs in salt and pepper.

This Saturday, I’ll be helping my younger sister Hime and my god-daughter Bug fill my kitchen with the scent of vinegar and a veritable army of brightly colored eggs! Lucky for me, one of my favorite puzzle companies, Cobble Hill, unveiled a perfect Easter puzzle for the 2019 year.

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Easter Bunnies by Donna Race is a springtime delight! It’s a 500 piece random-cut puzzle that has three sweet bunnies guarding a nest of colored eggs among a field of early Spring flowers.

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The included mini poster! A super helpful puzzling tool!

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Ignore the cat hair, check out these weird shapes!!

I had help assembling this puzzle. My sister Hime is in town for the holidays, and she and Mom helped sort the border and started work on the bunnies. My Bestie Angel came by the other day and helped finish the bunnies and made a serious dent in all the flowers.

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Such bright colors!

I can’t express how happy this puzzle made me. It really brought home the fact that Spring is here, and that while my neighborhood flowers haven’t bloomed, they will soon! IMG_5372

I know that only some of my readers celebrate Easter, because some are observing Passover or Ostara this week. To all of you, I wish the best of holidays and I’ll see you on Monday, which is both Earth Day and Half-priced candy sales!

 

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Cobble Hill
  • Title: Easter Bunnies
  • Artist: Donna Race
  • Year released: 2019
  • Pieces: 500
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 19.25 x 26.625
  • Bonus poster: Yes
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy, Medium-weight, 10″x14’x2.5″ Matte-Linen Finish
  • Board: Thick and sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Steel-cut Die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Satin, linen texture
  • Puzzle Dust: Almost none
  • Piece shapes: Random
  • Piece Fit: Very Good, nice tight fit that if careful, I could lift it up completely

Disability Notes: I can definitely recommend this for a teen, an adult, or for a person whose hands have good and bad days. I had fun.  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: Easter Bunnies is available on the Cobble Hill website for $15.99 USD. It is still in stock, so I suggest ordering in advance for next Easter!

Cobble Hill Puzzle Company : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

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!

One Color Arts – A Different Way to Color!

Hey gang, I’m home finally! I had fun at ZenkaiCon, and while I had to stay a few more days than I originally planned in Massachusetts; I was far from bored! Smart me had packed this coloring book and a couple of markers. My boss was beyond amused to see me pull a coloring book out of my bag, a fineline Sharpie, and color while exhausted.

 

Sunlife Drawing has done it again! They took a really interesting idea, how to color if I only had one or two colors and made a coloring book! Animals – One Color Arts is made of dots and lines that by only using one color, creates the image. The images are single sided, with the back of the page being black. This keeps the pens/markers/colored pencils from bleeding through. The paper quality is smooth and light, great for pencils, pens or markers.

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I see a kitty, do you?

It looks intimidating, doesn’t it? It’s not, really. When you look closely, the lines and dots become clear, and you can guess what animal you are creating.

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Frog!

I got curious, I wanted to know what the image would look like if I did the coloring in reverse. That is, What if I only colored the background?

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Boom! It’s a Bull!

Honestly, the images are excellent either way they are colored. While it is a bit harder to color the background, it is just as rewarding as coloring the foreground.

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Zebra!

I will note that I colored all these images with either Sharpies or watercolor markers. While the back of the page is blacked to prevent bleeding, I did also use a sheet of plain computer paper to assist. The only negative I have for this book is that the pages are not perforated, and I needed a craft knife to remove them from the book. However, I am aware that removing pages is my personal preference, and that not everyone does so.

Disability Notes: This book is great for someone who may be suffering from brain-fog, or have problems making decisions. Because of the dots and lines that make up the images, I warn that people with vertigo issues may not enjoy this coloring book. I fully plan to place this book in my travel bag, as with it, I won’t need to haul my full marker set with me!

Where to buy: Animals One Color Arts is available on Amazon, and currently on sale for $7.56 USD. Sunlife Drawing has coloring books in a multitude of styles, all are affordable, and there is bound to be something for everyone’s interest!

Sunlife Drawing : 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 ©Sunlife Drawing. The coloring is mine. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

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!

Nifty Device From Toy Fair 2019

Hello?…Is this thing on?

Hi, SC here.  Puzzlepaws is unexpectedly out of town for an extended period (longer than expected due to “track maintenance” and “curfew”), so I decided to do a post (or two).

While we were at Toy Fair 2019, we came across a vendor selling this thing called an “iCaddy”. The original design was (not kidding) built out of toilet paper roll cores.  The basic concept is simple: a compact, durable phone and tablet stand, with replaceable charger, and cord storage. The iCaddy website calls it a mobile device multitool!

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The item as we received it.  The model featured on the front is the creator, Katrina.

We received the cat print, which is perfect for PuzzlePaws! Currently, iCaddy has thirteen different patterns.

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Box and contents including: iCaddy with accessories, introduction letter, sticker, and creator’s note.

The entire unit was easy to assemble, instruction were provided in the introduction letter.  The charger fits in a secure pocket in the section of the iCaddy that isn’t used for cord storage.

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This is the travel mode, nice and compact, easy to throw in a bag!

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While the iCaddy is not intuitive in its use, a bit of fumbling and looking at the back of the box allowed me to place it in its two configurations: Tablet Mode and Phone Mode.

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Tablet Mode

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Phone Mode

The iCaddy appears to be incredibly handy.  It holds the tablet incredibly securely (I was not worried that it would fall or tip), while the Phone Mode left the phone available (with minimal fumbling) if you had to take a call.  While it is not shown, there is sufficient space at the bottom of the phone to charge it while it is on the stand.

I was a little leery of “built-in storage”, but I’m pretty sure an engineer was involved in this design.  The cover is secure, but easy to open.  The storage is large enough to contain: earbuds of your choice, charging cable for the iCaddy battery, and a phone charging cable up to about 3′ in length.  It snaps securely closed once loaded.

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Internal storage

Surprisingly enough, the iCaddy came with earbuds.  Being an audiophile, included equipment comes in three forms: surprisingly good quality, name brand, or crappy.  (Not to say that name brand doesn’t also come in “crappy”.)

I compared the audio quality of the supplied earbuds (no brand listed) to my standard set of Skullcandy Ink’d earbuds.  While I couldn’t do a direct comparison as I don’t have that equipment, I was not disappointed.  The iCaddy earbuds have a good weight and a decent range, they fit my (admittedly standard) ears comfortably, bass support was good with little distortion (even at near-painful levels), the lyrics were not muddy, and the cable felt sturdy.  For an included set of earbuds, these were excellent.

The only glaring thing not included?  A charger.  As chargers have basically become ubiquitous (I think I have about 10 in the house not including the computers), a special charger just for the battery is really unnecessary.  The battery will charge with just about any 0.5A to 1A charger outputting 5V.  Charging time is reported to be about 3.5 hours.  Having owned similar chargers, they will supply about 1 fully battery’s-worth of power for a typical phone.

Overall this is an excellent product with a great design.  Since this is Convention season, I’m sure the iCaddy will be torture-tested in the field.

Where to buy: The iCaddy is available on their website for $24.99 USD. It may be available in mass market retailers eventually.

iCaddy : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

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!

Sweetly Addictive, Adding to my Puzzling Habit

There are a dozen popular artists whose artwork is used for puzzles. I’m fond of Nene Thomas and Chris Ortega, not so much Thomas Kinkaid. Of the more recent artists, I’ve been avoiding Aimee Stewart. It isn’t that I don’t like her style, rather, I found myself intimidated. Aimee’s art is very reminiscent of Lisa Frank, all bright colors and happiness.

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While at Toy Fair, I spoke at length with one of Buffalo’s representative about their new puzzle lines and some of the art styles. When I mentioned how popular Aimee Stewart’s puzzles seemed amongst my puzzling groups, but that I was not sure I could handle the visual busyness; it was suggested I try the 300 Large Pieces version. I chose the Sweet Shop, as it reminds me of the old-fashioned candy store I went to as a girl in Cape Cod.

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Yes,this piece is a little bent. It came that way, and I’ve emailed Buffalo about it. 

The 300 Large Pieces are designed to be 67% larger than Buffalo’s normal puzzle pieces. I found them to be wonderful for gripping on a bad hand day, and they still had the Perfect Snap™!

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This shows both the Large size, and the fact I can pick up whole sections to move them!

My fear of being overwhelmed by the bright colors and busy design proved to be moot.  Instead, the cheerful, bright colors made assembly a joy! This puzzle was moderately challenging, but not so much as to need a break. With the tight fit between pieces, it is easy to move whole sections of pieces.

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So pretty!!

I might be hooked on these, not that I NEED more puzzles. One of the joys of being a reviewer is also the bane of my productivity. There are always new products to try, and very little time to go back and enjoy something I’ve already done. Then again, I might have to make sure an Aimee Stewart is set aside for the 2020 World Puzzle Days.

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Buffalo Games
  • Title: Sweet Shop
  • Artist: Aimee Stewart
  • Year released: 2016
  • Pieces: 300 Large
  • Cut-Style: Steel-cut Die
  • Finished size: 21.25 x 15 inches
  • Bonus poster: Yes
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Thin cardboard, sturdy, 8 x 8 x 1.5 inches
  • Board: Medium weight chipboard, sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Ribbon Cut
  • Image Quality: Excellent
  • Finish: Semi-Gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece shapes: Standard 2-knob and some star-shaped pieces
  • Piece Fit: Excellent

Disability Notes: As I noted, the large pieces of this puzzle are easy to handle, which is great for those of us with arthritis or other hand mobility issues. I know that several of my readers have puzzlers in the younger generations of their families, and think this would make a great family project.

Where to buy: Sweet Shop is available on the Buffalo Games website for $10.95 USD. Buffalo Games also has displays at local Walmarts and Targets, but their selections will vary.

Buffalo Games : Website/ FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle  from the manufacturer  in exchange for a 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!

Spring is Coming, and World of Flowers is Here!

I don’t know about you folks, but I’ve officially had my fill of winter. Gray days and cold weather, nasty colds and aching bones; I’m sick of the lot! But! The first day of Spring is coming soon, and one coloring book has been my mainstay through this whole rotten winter.

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Last October, Johanna Basford put out a new coloring book. I hadn’t tried any of her coloring books before, having been intimidated by the level of detail in both Secret Garden and Lost Ocean. However, I can’t grow as a colorist if I don’t test my limits, and Johanna’s Colouring Gallery on her website is a safe, welcoming haven for all colorists of all skill levels. I have to say, I love this woman. Johanna describes herself as an “Inky Evangelist” and her tutorials for coloring are upbeat and encouraging.  So I reached out to Johanna and her publisher in the US, Penguin Random House for a copy for the blog.  

World of Flowers is a good deal larger than the coloring books I usually use. It has 40 pages of double-sided images, giving you 80 pages of coloring adventures to have. The pages are 10 inches by 10 inches on a fantastic medium heavyweight paper. The pages are not perforated for removal, this style of coloring book is meant to be kept whole. Johanna’s books include  a color palette test page, so that you can not only see how your pencils/pens/markers look, you can also check for bleed through. This saved my bacon! My sharpies are a no-go in this book, but colored pencils, Hoolanda watercolor brush pens, fineliner markers, and Pilot Frixion markers all performed well.

I think my favorite thing about this book is the diversity of images. Johanna dedicated World of Flowers to her grandmother, an avid gardener. There is a multitude of plants, lots of tiny insects, a full gardening shed interior, a work truck and even a koi pond! Each page is different, and I found my inky journey being not sure where to go next!

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Disability Notes: This is really a great coloring book if you have a wish to color on a low spoon/low energy day. The mix of simple/intermediate/ complex designs means that people with visual and fine motor control issues can all enjoy. The large size of the book means that it is a little unwieldy to use with a standard sized clipboard, if you are like me and color on the couch. However! It works beautifully on my lap desk.

Where to buy: The suggested retail price for World of Flowers is $16.95 USD. It can be found at Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and online at Amazon. 

Johanna Basford: 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 ©Johanna Basford. 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!