There has been much said in the last few weeks as we’ve gotten closer to today; much said about thankfulness and gratefulness and the upcoming holiday season. I’ve had a lot to think on this year, and I’ve found that I have much to be thankful for. I have a spouse who loves and supports me, friends that do their best to accommodate my illness-inspired needs, and a wide range of people I call family.
And I have this blog and you, my readers. I am incredibly thankful that you take the time to read about my adventures and experiences in finding crafts that I and other people with disabilities can do.
Thanksgiving isn’t just about thankfulness, though. It was set as a celebration of the fall harvest, the last harvest before winter set in. That’s why today’s puzzle is perfect. I understand that as a new blogger, I don’t have the sort of following that large puzzle brands would prefer. I had to beg Ceaco to take a chance, to let me try. I’m grateful that they have. Ceaco sent me a 300 large piece puzzle, Marjolein Bastin’s Fall Harvest.
I’ve done 300 piece puzzle before, they’re great on days like today when the cold seeps into my joints and my hands act as though they belong to someone twice my age! Marjolein Bastin is a new artist to me, and her art not one I normally gravitate to.
The assembly went easily for a bit, until I got to the woven basket and the terracotta pots! Then I took a break, had a bowl of sausage stuffing and came back to find I’d gained a helper!
After shooing Hurricane off the puzzle, finishing it barely took any time at all! I’m really please with how it came out and will definitely be adding more of her puzzles to my collection.
Title: Fall Harvest
Artist: Marjolein Bastin
Year released: 2017
Finished size: 24″ by 18″ inches
Bonus poster: Yes
Box: Medium size, 8″ by 8″ by 2″ inches, glossy cardboard
Board: Thin but sturdy pieces, really good click
Cut: Steel-cut Die
Image Quality: Good, really nice graduation of shades
Puzzle Dust: Moderate, not enough to put me off, but definitely enough that I had to blow off my board before assembly
Piece shapes: A good mix of traditional shapes
Piece Fit: Very Good. You can move sections easily, and the puzzle tightens as it is built
Disability Notes: I can definitely recommend this for a person whose hands have good and bad days. I did this on a bad hand day, and the piece size is acceptable for a bad hand day. It took me a few hours, but I’ll admit that I kept getting distracted!
Where to buy: Fall Harvest can be found for $10.99 USD on Ceaco Puzzles’ website. It is listed as out of stock at this time, but many of their other puzzles are still in stock and there is a great Black Friday/ Cyber Monday Sale going on!
Like most of you, I have friends I’ve never met in person. Internet buddies, Facebook friends. One of my Facebook friends introduced me to the idea of trying diamond painting. It’s a new and growing craft activity that has much in common with puzzling and cross stitch. So I reached out, being the curious thing that I am, and got in contact with Leisure Arts who had just released a diamond kit line in September.
I was more than a little amazed by just how much stuff came in this little box!
The canvas is done much like a cross-stitch or latch-hook pattern, with color coding and symbols and the key on the side.
I’ll admit to making a few newbie mistakes, for one, I’m a VERY static person, so the plastic gems liked to explode out of their tray. SC ended up having to make me an anti-static band to wear. For two, I thought this would be quick and easy. Haha~! I got that partly right! It was easy once I got into the rhythm, but it was not quick. We’ve had several days of rain here in Virginia, and between my hands trying to gnarl up like I was 70 and basic Fibro grumpiness, this took me 4 days. Yeah… that’s where last Thursday’s post was. I’m a horrible human.
I have to say, other than the beautiful bruise I formed on my left elbow from leaning on the table too long, I found the whole process to be incredibly meditative. SC got to see me doing the hyper focus thing that happens when I color, so he played video games over my head and we spent time in the same room, doing separate stuff. Don’t let tv lie to you, having different but equal hobbies can be good in a marriage! If SC was home all the time I would go crazy.
I don’t know if you can see it from the picture, but this is a sparkly kitty! I’m definitely adding a few of these kits to my Christmas wishlist!
Box: Small, thin and compact, Easy storage
Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
Finish: Glittery without the glitter!
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Gem Shapes: Round
Gem Fit: Very Good.
Disability Notes: I can definitely recommend this for a person whose hands have good and bad days. I started this on a good hand day, and the constant rains made my hands swell. Due to the mechanics of the gem-pen, I could easily continue working when my hands hurt, I just took more breaks. It took me 4 days of good concentration to complete this.
Where to buy: You can buy the White Cat at Leisure Arts’s website for $17.99 USD. Diamond Art by Leisure Arts is available at your local craft stores, like Joann Fabrics and Micheal’s.
Hang onto your hats, Ladies and Gents, this post is gonna be controversial!
Marijuana AKA Cannabis AKA over 1200 other nicknames including dank, weed, pot, chronic and MaryJane. With Michigan joining in with 9 other states and D.C to legalize recreational use and another 23 states that have legalized medical use; Marijuana has been growing in popularity. Some of my friends and readers have found relief from their various illnesses due to this herb. For myself, I’m hoping Virginia expands our current status of medical use for Epilepsy only, to something more universal.
When I found out about a new puzzling brand was just starting out, I contacted them. Their puzzles aren’t on the market just yet, but they’ll be doing a Kickstarter campaign soon.
Buzzed Puzzles, founded by Josh and Stephanie Sola; is a brainchild brought about by the repetitive themes in most puzzle images. They aren’t wrong, to find anything remotely sexy for an image I have to buy overseas! Buzzed Puzzles is about pushing boundaries, art and bringing puzzling back to the Xennial and Millennial Generations. And this puzzle, Leafy Greens, is exactly what D.A.R.E was warning you about!
The box is a thin and sturdy cardboard with a tucked edge top and the puzzle came in a reuseable, resealable plastic bag. There was NO puzzle dust when I poured out all 504 pieces! The colors are remarkably vibrant, and the piece cuts unusual.
I had a hard time keeping the cats off this puzzle, they were treating my desk lamp like their own personal sun lamp! Considering the subject matter, SC found this hilarious!
I feel slightly guilty loving this image. I enjoyed putting it together, as 504 pieces is a perfect mix of ease and difficulty; and because before this, I hadn’t realized just how many colors Cannabis leaves came in! I’ll be giving this puzzle to SC for gluing and mounting!
I’ll be watching Buzzed Puzzles closely, as I desperately want 2 of their other designs, Mermaid and A Thousand Lives.
Company: Buzzed Puzzles
Title: Leafy Greens
Artist: Not Listed
Year released: 2018
Finished size: 16″ by 20″ inches
Bonus poster: No
Box: Small, compact and sturdy cardboard, 9¾” by 7″ by 1½” inches
Board: Thin but sturdy pieces, really good click
Cut: Steel-cut Die
Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
Puzzle Dust: None!!
Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
Piece Fit: Very Good. You cannot pick up sections easily, but once set into the whole, it snaps in tight!
Disability Notes: YMMVI can definitely recommend this for a person whose hands have good and bad days. I did this on good hand days, but the piece size is acceptable for a bad hand day. It took me 3 days of good concentration to complete this, but I was fighting exhaustion and brain fog!
Where to buy: Leafy Greens is not listed on Buzzed Puzzles Kickstarter list at this time, but many of their other puzzles will be available for funding soon!
I’m home from Convention again, and in need of a low-key kind of day. I can’t be the only person whose mind has turned to the upcoming holidays and the dreaded shopping. Right? Thankfully, I have a friend who introduced me to Uncommon Goods.
Uncommon Goods is an online company who does still send out paper catalogues(on recycled paper!), and is dedicated to providing gifts for the hard-to-shop-for and enviromentally friendly. While I don’t consider myself a particularity hard person to get gifts for; I do appreciate nifty, one-of-a-kind things.
I love candles, but tend to get bored with the same scent day after day. So I jumped at a chance to try out the Mini Library of literary candles.
You get ten .5oz tealight candles, each with a different scent based upon bookish inspirations! The candles are made with 100% soy wax with natural fragrances and essential oils. The label can be used as a nicely scented bookmark. So far, I’ve tried Walden Woods, which smells of greenery(cedar, fir and pine) and Burning Books, which has a cinnamon/citrus scent(cinnamon,orange,fir). Both candle’s scents are mild, not overwhelming and I cannot wait to try the other eight!
I love trying new types of crafting, and SC recommended I look at 3D models that were not brick-based. Uncommon Goods has several of these, and I liked the look of this little dragon.
I found this to be a simple, but challenging project. It can be done in 15-20 minutes, but I took my time and enjoyed the process.
The pieces are individually marked, and the glue was fast-drying and not messy at all! The hardest part was placing the smallest pieces at the very end. I could have used tweezers, but instead just used the edge of a fingernail to nudge them into place.
It came out super cute and little! I’ll definitely try another cardboard 3D model in the future!
Where to buy: You can buy the Mini Library tealight candles for $15 USD and the Mini Dragon 3D Model for $10 USD at the Uncommon Goods Website, listed below. If you are like me, and can’t get out much to physically do your Holiday shopping, I recommend checking out their Christmas collection found here.
Apparently, I’m not the only one in my house climbing the walls in anticipation of this Wednesday. the decorations are all up, the cats that will tolerate clothing have been dressed, and I’ve been binging on Halloween makeup tutorials.
With all the birthday and decorating insanity behind me, I needed a quiet day to color. For me, coloring is twofold, it relaxes me and on a bad day, it makes me feel as if I’ve gotten something accomplished.
I met with Jasmine Becket-Griffith’s husband, Matt at DragonCon. Unfortunately, due to both of us having incredibly busy schedules, we never crossed paths. But! Matt was amazingly helpful, had remembered the email I’d sent Jasmine about the blog and offered a coloring book for review. I ended up buying a second one because the best way to love an artist is to buy their stuff! (I couldn’t decide, and her art really is that good!)
I’ve followed Jasmine’s art for years, and this coloring book blows me away! There’s a great mix of adult and child level difficulty and with the Halloween theme, the subject matters ranges from creepy to almost…cute.
The book is full of 96 images on 55 pages of a smooth, heavy artist’s paper. While the pages are not perforated, the book can and does lay flat. Or, if you are like me and prefer to work on a clipboard, excising the pages with a craft knife is simple since the back of each page holds only text describing the picture next to it.
How does that math add up? The 96 images on 55 pages? It’s easy! Jasmine added some of her images in small quartets for a quick color session.
I did manage to finish my chosen page, The Queen of Halloween. Which was colored while listening to an audiobook and talking to the cats.
My Halloween Helpers, Zoomie and Pandemonium.
I wish everyone a safe, and Happy Halloween!
Where to buy: You can buy Jasmine Becket-Griffith’s Halloween Coloring Book (SIGNED) at her website for $29.99 USD. You can also buy her other coloring books there as well. You can also find Jasmine’s coloring books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, for a little less, but they won’t be signed! If you aren’t sure you want to invest in a full coloring book, Jasmine also has a $5 USD Coloring Tier on her Patreon.
It’s nearly Halloween and when I was asked if I was interested in participating in another Blog Tour, this time about a series with Monster Hunting brothers, I jumped on it! I hadn’t read any of Gail Z. Martin’s books before, and the premise of her Darkhurst series sounded interesting.
Time for a disclaimer; I’m given things (books, puzzles, coloring books) to review. The companies would like a good or glowing review, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. Book reviews are especially tricky, as each reader experiences a book differently. Sadly, I did not enjoy reading either Scourge or Vengeance. Let me break it down for you, but remember, this is just my opinion, and your mileage may vary!
A Darkhurst Novel
In a city beset by monsters, three brothers must find out who is controlling the abominations.The city-state of Ravenwood is wealthy, powerful, and corrupt. Merchant Princes and Guild Masters wager fortunes to outmaneuver League rivals for the king’s favor and advantageous trading terms. Lord Mayor Ellor Machison wields assassins, blood witches, and forbidden magic to assure that his powerful patrons get what they want, no matter the cost.Corran, Rigan, and Kell Valmonde are Guild Undertakers, left to run their family’s business when guards murdered their father and monsters killed their mother. Their grave magic enables them to help souls pass to the After and banish vengeful spirits. Rigan’s magic is unusually strong and enables him to hear the confessions of the dead, the secrets that would otherwise be taken to the grave.When the toll exacted by monsters and brutal guards hits close to home and ghosts expose the hidden sins of powerful men, Corran, Rigan and Kell become targets in a deadly game and face a choice: obey the Guild, or fight back and risk everything.
It sounds great, right? However, I found that of the 550 some-odd pages, over 300 were repetitive world building that only barely advanced the plot. I read epic fantasy to escape the fact that our world currently is being run by oligarchs who think nothing of sacrificing those that do not directly bring them profits. I found myself gloriously depressed reading Scourge, as to me, it paralleled reality a little too closely for comfort. That and I found the seemingly endless cycle of battling mindless monsters and Rigan(the mage-brother) nearly draining himself to death reminded me of a roleplaying campaign I played in college. Honestly, if you like a good dungeon-crawl rpg or reading George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan, you might enjoy this book.
Vengeance (Winner of the Manly Wade Wellman Award!)
A Darkhurst Novel (Book 2)
Fighting the monsters that killed their family and friends cost undertaker brothers Corran and Rigan Valmonde their home and livelihood and made them wanted men—but the worst is yet to come.
The city-state of Ravenwood is wealthy, powerful, and corrupt. Merchant Princes and Guild Masters wager fortunes to outmaneuver League rivals for the king’s favor and the best trading terms. Ambitious and ruthless leaders use betrayal and assassination to gain their ends. Blood magic conjures monsters to further the goals of the ruling class, and the price of stolen power is paid for by the deaths of commoners. Now, the fate of Ravenwood hangs in the balance as rival city-states maneuver to gain advantage.
When Corran and Rigan and their friends became outlaw monster hunters and fled beyond the walls of Ravenwood City, they thought they had defeated the source of the abominations that killed so many of their friends and loved ones. But the more successful they become at destroying the creatures, the more they realize a greater evil is at work – larger and more monstrous than they ever could imagine…
I’ll admit to liking Vengeance a bit better than Scourge. The characters have personality and verve. The dialogue isn’t as stilted and while the monster hunts are still ongoing, the monsters are more interesting and dangerous. The world has expanded somewhat with the characters now being outlaws, but the rules and overall villainy remains. There appears to be a third book in the series, but it has not yet been announced.
While I didn’t enjoy this particular series, I am interested in the steampunk one she wrote with her husband, Larry N Martin. Every author deserves a second chance, as each series and book is different. Give the Darkhurst series a try, you might like it. My opinion is just that, mine. Yours may be different, and that’s why our world is full of amazing books.
Win a Kindle copy of both Scourge and Vengeance! Contest runs October 15th thru the 29th. Rafflecopter code is below:
Gail Z. Martin is the author of Scourge: A Darkhurst Novel, from Solaris Books. Gail is also the author of Vendetta: ADeadly Curiosities Novel and Trifles and Folly 1: A Deadly Curiosities Collection, the latest in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC; Shadow and Flame is the fourth book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga; The Shadowed Path (The first Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures collection), as well as Iron and Blood a Steampunk series, and Spells, Salt, & Steel, both co-authored with Larry N. Martin.
She is also author of Ice Forged, Reign of Ash, and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities and Tangled Web. Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures,The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden Adventures. The Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.
Gail’s work has appeared in over 35 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Heroes, Space, Contact Light, With Great Power, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Cinched: Imagination Unbound, Realms of Imagination, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens, Gaslight and Grimm, Baker Street Irregulars, Journeys, Hath no Fury and A Haven Harbor Halloween.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Board: Thick and sturdy pieces, good for all 3 sizes of pieces
Cut: Steel-cut Die
Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
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.