Halloween Cookies and My Sisters

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My parents and two of my younger sisters visited for my birthday last week. It was a whirlwind few days, but I managed to wrangle both Hime (not her real name but she’s 9 and I’m keeping her online presence on the DL) and  Little-Big (she’s younger than me, but MUCH taller!) into doing a puzzle for the blog. This wasn’t overly hard, LB and I grew up doing puzzles, and Hime has been doing them electronically for the last year.

As the theme of my week with them was Halloween decorating, Cobble Hill’s Halloween Cookies was perfect! The Family Pieces puzzles have pieces in large, medium and small so everyone in the family can participate!

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LB’s hands are on the left and Hime’s are on the right.

I wasn’t able to get my usual picture of the frame(edges) as we had a bit of a problem finding them all! While the Family Pieces puzzles are meant for a range of ages to partake in the assembly, this one was incredibly tricky! We ended up filling in the frame as we found the pieces and filled in the puzzle.

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Yes, I totally stealth-moded a candid pic of the girls hunting for pieces.

We assembled this puzzle differently from my usual method. Because LB and Hime hadn’t worked with random cut pieces before, we focused on the pattern recognition of the cookie designs. Teaching Hime to focus on searching for black and white webbing or pretzel pieces helped her not be discouraged as her older sisters seemed to take random pieces and made them fit. She made or finished several of our cookies once she got the technique down!

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This photo doesn’t do this awesome puzzle justice!

Overall, it took us 2 hours and 20 minutes from start to finish. I figured it was a great way to spend time with the sisters I rarely get to see. When I asked the girls their opinions on the puzzle, I got these responses:

LB: I liked the bonding, but I’m not sure if I like the random-cut pieces. They’re new to me I would have liked to have a poster or picture separate from the box lid.

Hime: It looked good enough to eat! I had fun and like the family bonding. I have no dislikes.

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Cobble Hill
  • Title: Halloween Cookies
  • Artist: Cobble Hill Creations
  • Year released: 2018
  • Pieces: 350
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 26″ x 19″
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy, Medium-weight, 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,
  • Puzzle Dust: Small amount, more than the other Cobble Hill puzzles I’ve done before
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces in 3 sizes
  • 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. My sisters and I had fun and the full assembly only took us 2 hours and 20 minutes. 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: Halloween Cookies 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!

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Charles Wysocki’s Trick or Treat Hotel

It’s definitely getting closer to Halloween! The store shelves are groaning under the weight of candy, SC is looking at scary makeup tutorials and I’m weighing the eternal adult question… Do I just buy my candy, or do I take a cut from the minions? It will most likely be a mix of the two, I’m hunting my favorite but hard to find candy, Trolli Watermelon Gummy Sharks and when I find them, I’ll buy tons! I’m also taking the minions (my godsons) out trick or treating, and will get a cut of the spoils. 

Much like the childhood institution of trick or treating, I have fond memories of Buffalo Games’s puzzles. I grew up in a small town in Central New York, and Buffalo Games was one of 3 New York puzzle companies. Because of proximity, I put together a LOT of Buffalo puzzles. I learned to love the soft click of a piece snapping into place. 

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This is Charles Wysocki’s Trick or Treat Hotel. I’ll admit that it confused me to equate this puzzle with the usual hometown or cat paintings the artist is known for! How could someone who is called the Master Painter of Americana create such a creepy picture? img_4356

This 500 piece puzzle came with a fold out poster to help in assembly.

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Zoomie, our very own PuzzlePaws, helped make sure the edge pieces didn’t disappear!

The edges went together just as I remembered, with that Perfect Snap™ that is a Buffalo puzzle signature.img_43571

Other than chasing off the cats, this puzzle came together rather quickly until I hit the sky. With the tree branches, cobwebs and odd scattered creatures, that section was quite the challenge!img_43611

As I assembled this puzzle, I kept finding all sorts of cute details that were mixed into the weird ones.

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I love the black cat on this pumpkin witch’s head!
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I’m not sure if that’s a stuffed demon or a ventriloquist’s dummy.
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I think this is the best piggyback ride I’ve ever seen!

 

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Buffalo Games
  • Title: Trick or Treat Hotel
  • Artist: Charles Wysocki
  • Year released: Unknown
  • Pieces: 500
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 21¼ in by 15 in
  • Bonus poster: Yes
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Light and compact, 7.75″ by 7.75″ by 1.5″
  • Board:  Medium weight chipboard, sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Steel-cut Die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Semi-gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Excellent. Some of the irregular pieces make it so that pieces can only be moved in small groups, but once assembled the whole puzzle is nearly solid!

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 will be trying this brand’s 300, 750 and 1000 piece counts for later posts. I can recommend this for people with mild to moderate arthritis or hand/eye coordination.

Where to buy: Trick or Treat Hotel is available on the Buffalo games website for $10.95 usd.

Buffalo Games : 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!

The Moonlit Vale: A Mythical Coloring & Art Book by Annie Stegg Gerard

I meet a bunch of talented and artistic people at DragonCon every year, and this year was no exception! I got to talk with local artist Annie Stegg Gerard about the blog and my goals for it. She completely understood, having had her own trials with the boredom that is bed rest. She gifted me one of her coloring books, The Moonlit Vale.

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Teedle refused to move and so became my easel!

Annie also included this beautiful pencil-case, which I’ve been using for holding the spare markers that don’t fit in my coloring case.

I’ll admit that I’ve been dithering over this coloring book. It’s a LOT more complex than my usual fare, and I’ve been afraid that my coloring skills wouldn’t be able to do it justice. Today I sat down and simply TRIED. It was harder than it sounds.img_4424

Look at this beautiful art! img_4427

The book is small, only 8″by 8″ inches, and has 78 perforated pages. Now, I can’t say that they are single-sided pages, as on the back of each one is a little illustration that you can also color, which is great for people who prefer colored pencils.

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Isn’t he sweet??

For the marker and gel pen colorists, Annie includes a thick vellum sheet to place behind your artwork to prevent bleed through.img_4423

I absolutely surprised myself! Can’t believe that I managed to make something that pretty…it must be because of Annie’s amazing art. Yup.

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I love this, as the last piece in the book, it warms my heart!

 

Now that I’ve done one piece, I can’t wait to color another! Not only has Annie made Moonlit Vale, which features mythical animals and ladies; but she has also drawn a coloring book called The WildWood Soiree, which features animals in outfits that remind me of both Beatrix Potter illustrations and Brian Jacques’s Redwall series.

Where to buy: You can buy The Moonlit Vale and pencil-case at Annie Stegg Gerard’s website for $30 USD. You can also buy her other lovely coloring book, The WildWood Soiree there for $20 USD

Annie Stegg Gerard’s Art : 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 © 2018 Annie Stegg Gerard. 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!

Reviewing Sort and Save – Puzzle Piece Trays

I’m not always the most organized person. My life, house and project desk are always in some sort of chaos. Mind you, it’s a chaos that I have down to a science, so heaven help you if you touch it or god forbid CLEAN it. That being said, as my puzzles grow in difficulty, so does the amount of sheer space I need for all the pieces.

I’d been recommended puzzle trays before, but hadn’t had any real reason to try them. Until now. SC has told me that I’m getting an upgraded puzzle board for my birthday. Something that will take both 2000+piece and panoramic puzzles! I’ve been dying to try both of these, but not had a large enough work surface unless I wanted to use the floor of the office while exiling both the cats and the Spouse-critter. Not exactly feasible.

So when I reached out to MasterPieces, I made sure to request a set of their Sort & Save Puzzle Piece Trays. I kind of love that alliteration! 51695_box__66336-1519180977

Okay, so the package is pretty, but what about the actual trays?

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Not just for puzzle pieces! These were great when working a large brick kit!

Check these out! You get 6 trays of pink,yellow and blue(2 of each) made of a nicely sturdy plastic! I wouldn’t risk them in a dishwasher, but if necessary, these can be hand-washed with no problem! Don’t ask why I had to find this out, I have CATS!

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This is the best part other than the trays stackability, the trays interconnect! Really well, too! I could move the whole lot of them by just pushing or pulling the one nearest to me, or rotate them to work a different color.

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The unexpected good side I found to these was that I was able to keep my puzzling momentum even when I had to stack up the trays and half-done puzzle because of an evacuation. When we came home, I was able to pick up right where I’d left off. (In the words of Paul Harvy…”that’s another story”).

I’m pretty sure that when I order my first 2000 piece puzzle I’ll be ordering a second set of these awesome trays!

Rating: 5/5

Pros:

  • Great for organizing/separating puzzle pieces
  • Multiple craft uses
  • Interconnecting and stackable!

Cons:

  • I really wish these were just a little deeper, they barely fit a 1000 piece puzzle
  • For puzzles over 1000 pieces you will need 2 sets

Cost Analysis:

I know I’m not the only disabled person on a limited budget. At $14.99 a package, MasterPieces Sort and Save – Puzzle Piece Trays are a great deal. They’re reuseable, and as you can see from my pictures can lend themselves to many projects with small pieces.

Overall:

I solidly rate this product a 5 out of 5 and do recommend it for puzzlers who prefer to work in sections or have to maintain a tidy workspace, either due to kids, furkids or space restraints.

MasterPieces Sort and Save – Puzzle Piece Trays can be bought here.

MasterPieces: Website/FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle and glue sheets 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!

LEGO® Elves The Capture of Sophie Jones

Today’s post is a little different. I’m not doing a review or a tutorial. I’m assembling a LEGO® kit because my kid sister asked me to. I’ll warn you, this is a long video, clocking in at a little over an hour-long and I ramble throughout.

TL:DR  Hi! Columbus Day, my 9-year-old sister chose the topic and I hate stickers when assembling brick kits.  

I like the LEGO® Elves series for their designs, and knew there was a mini-movie on Netflix. It wasn’t until I was researching this kit that I found out that LEGO® has a whole series of webisodes hosted on YouTube. The webisode that explains this kit is here.

 

Overall, I had fun with this kit and will continue to collect LEGO® Elves and being silly while doing so!

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Disability Note: This was done on a really good day and I fully subscribe to the philosophy that growing up is OPTIONAL! A reasonable amount of silliness can stave off depression and pain.

Where to buy: At the time of this post,  LEGO® Elves 41182 The Capture of Sophie Jones is listed as Retired on the LEGO® website. However, I have seen it listed for sale on both Amazon and Ebay.

Special Shout-Outs: Hani DeFalco and Thomas Blackington. You two rock!

LEGO®is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site

Disclosure: I purchased this product for review. The opinions are my own, and do not in any way reflect the thoughts and views of the Lego Group of companies.

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!

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep: Crown of Shards #1 Review and Giveaway

Being a newbie blogger, I was really surprised to be chosen for Jennifer Estep’s Blog Tour. I mean, sure, I’d applied for it, but never really thought I’d be chosen. In this, and in many other ways, I have a lot in common with Evie, the protagonist of Kill the Queen.

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Released: October 2, 2018
Series: Crown of Shards #1
Published by Harper Voyager
Pages: 480
Format: eARC

This is the blurb on the back:

The thrilling first novel in the Crown of Shards epic fantasy series combines magic, murder, and adventure when an unlikely member of the royal family suddenly becomes a contender in a clash for the crown . . .

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of combat, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

Exciting, right??

Wrong! This is MORE than exciting.  Kill the Queen is honestly one of the best series starters for an epic fantasy series I’ve read in long time.  Jennifer Estep has built a world of magic and intrigue that is chock-full of characters with lovable or irritating quirks, countries and countrymen that have proud cultures and traditions and a heroine who wants to be anything but!

Evie finds she has to reinvent herself yet again, and choose whether to risk herself for friendship, for country and for love. Evie is relatable, snarky, loving and occasionally mischievous in just the right blend. Jennifer Estep has a fantastic talent for writing characters who are REAL. Whose plight moves you along until you are as much a part of the story as they are.

I’ll admit to reading this book twice already, and will most likely read it again before too long. For anyone who wished Game of Thrones wasn’t quite so bloody, but also loved The Princess Bride, Kill the Queen will be sure to please!

If you are like me, and pulling a Fry…

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Futurama is Copyright 20th Century Fox and Matt Groening

 

Purchase at:
Barnes & Noble: https://goo.gl/iaQ3Rc
Books-a-Million: https://goo.gl/udDZUa
Google Play: https://goo.gl/nQquEg
And if you’re like me and love signed copies:
Now I know I’m on the tail end of this Tour, but there are 3 more days to sign up to win!
Giveaway: 
Win a $25 Amazon gift card! Contest runs Sept. 17 until October 7. Rafflecopter code is below:
About the Author:
 jennifer-estep Jennifer Estep is a New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author who prowls the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. In addition to Kill the Queen, Jennifer is also the author of the Elemental Assassin, Mythos Academy, Black Blade, and Bigtime series. 
For more information on Jennifer and her books, visit www.jenniferestep.com or follow Jennifer on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. You can also sign up for her newsletter.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary ebook from the publisher 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!

Life reminds us that some things only depart for a while

Greetings All!

TL:DR – SC had to medicate PuzzlePaws for pain, so the next post will be late.

SC here, PuzzlePaws is feeling a touch under the weather.  She had an ambitious post planned and was about halfway through the initial filming when her knee (which has almost NEVER been a problem before) declared that now was a good time to report Level 9+ pain for no reason (i.e. injury, impact, weather, etc).

She tried to tough it out and “walk it off” with only OTC painkiller and a muscle relaxer, but the knee wasn’t having any of it (9 -> 7).  I caught her at it, dosed her with Rx painkillers, and sent her to bed for the rest of the day.

At this point, PuzzlePaws can’t string two words together and is grumpily sleeping.  She should be fine in a couple of days (or in less pain).

Chronic diseases are like this.  You’ll get some periods of time where the symptoms are tolerable to non-existent, and then…WHAM! Level 9-10+ pain.  You can’t work through the pain, because it is ALL you can think about.  When you medicate the pain, you can’t work because the medications steal your brains.  (For reference, PuzzlePaws’ pain tolerance is about 2-3x higher than a bog-standard human’s.  A “9” on her scale would put most people (likely unconscious and/or vomiting)  in the hospital.)

Posts from me will be rare (other than the occasional snarky edit here and there). I will be posting how-to videos on the Patreon (and occasionally here) when I have the time.

Ciao, SC

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!