Tag Archives: family time

Writer’s Block and Better Days to Come

Hi guys, I’ve missed you! Blogging has taught me quite a bit about making unreasonable goals and that because I live with a chronic illness, I often don’t get much of a say in the when and where of my stop-points. I may go more in depth on my Patreon page as to where I’ve been the last few weeks, but the TLDR is that there was major family drama leading up to Christmas and then once we resolved said drama; my mom has been in and out of the Emergency Room with heart attack-like symptoms that the doctors swear they can’t figure out.

It’s been stressful. The stress was so bad that I didn’t want to write. The thought of blogging terrified me. I’m not exactly sure why.

Mom was put on nearly complete bedrest for a few weeks and Hime is only 11. Someone had to take care of the pets and get Hime to school and make sure Mom rested. Being a caretaker is exhausting. I have a new appreciation of SC when I’m not well.

So while I dreaded writing, I went back to the hobbies that kept me sane. I colored for the fun of coloring. I assembled puzzles that made me smile. I joined World Puzzle Days and have completed 3 puzzles for that with numbers 4 & 5 in various stages of completion. I played a LOT of Fallout 4 with the Spouse-Critter. In short, I took care of me.

The sun is showing its face more each day, Mom is getting better, and I have one of my favorite conventions coming up. It’s time to get back to doing what I love, trying out new things and sharing them with folks like myself.

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!

Belated – Trick or Treat! My Halloween Puzzle Review

Sometimes getting back into the saddle after a length of time can be difficult. I had finally shaken the nasty cold that had plagued me just in time to work NekoCon October 31-November 3rd. Unfortunately, even though I had gotten my flu shot days before, after con I had a small relapse of the cold.

While I was well enough to blog last Friday, I’ll admit to having a bit of a mental block. I wanted to write…but the very thought of tackling nearly a month’s backlog of emails and empty space was daunting. It still is. But! SC and I did an awesome puzzle for Halloween in the short space when I felt well, and I miss having the schedule of posts to organize my weeks. So this week you get a bonus post or two. I have a small backlog of projects to write up before I can tackle new ones.

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My mom knows I love Dowdle puzzles and she got me a handful of different ones during a summer sale.

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Included poster, front and back sides.

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if you can’t read the above photo, the Dowdle website has both the poem and a scavenger hunt here.

I don’t have my usual frame and pieces photos as I assembled this puzzle in a bit of a hurry with SC. I wanted to do SOMETHING for Halloween since I’d been too ill to decorate and had the last convention of the season coming up in a few days.

So I sorted the pieces according to location; sky/street/townhouses and we spent an enjoyable 3 or so hours trading pieces and exclaiming over all the little Easter Eggs that Eric Dowdle puts into his art.

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Because it was Halloween, I did dress up the cats in costume! Pandemonium as a BumbleBee and Hurricane Enlil as Sharknado!

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I have to admit, this 500 piece was a great way to get back to my puzzling habit. It’s bright, colorful, and busy; and the pieces are the perfect size for slightly arthritic hands.

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PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Dowdle Puzzles
  • Title: Trick or Treat
  • 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: Trick or Treat is available on the Dowdle Puzzles website for $19.99 USD.

Dowdle Puzzles : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received this puzzle as a gift. 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!

Shark Week Blogiversary – Thursday

Hey guys, no review today as I’m out testing a sunscreen for a later review. It gives me a chance to take Hime and Bug to the pool and let them play “Baby Shark”. I’d take them to the beach, because Shark Week is all about not being afraid of sharks and water, but our area has a flesh-eating bacteria warning and that is a hard NO in my mind.

Extinct or Alive: The Lost Shark

This is amazing! The fact that the Pondicherry Shark hadn’t been seen since the 1970s, and yet sightings have been reported is intriguing. The methodology and science is valid, and well explained. The fact that Pondicherry Sharks can be mistaken for juvenile Bull Sharks and have the same fresh water tolerances means that they have been hiding under the radar all this time. While I’m disappointed that the team could not catch a live Pondicherry Shark, the fresh carcass from the fish market at least provides scientists a specimen to study. I for one, am thrilled to add the Pondicherry Shark to the list of Lazarus Species.

Capsized: Blood in the Water 

This was Discovery Channel’s first Feature-length film for Shark Week and based on a true story. While mildly exaggerated(Hollywood, ya know?), the main plot points are all there. I’m not going to spoil the movie, as I rather liked it. My only real complaint was that because the events took place in 1982, the sharks were very much the villains according to the script. Also, so much over-the-top dramatic music!

Want a chance to win your own Shark puzzle? Giveaway Link: Here!

Disclosure:  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!

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!

Campside Series – A Day at the Lake

 I got safely to Massachusetts last night, and today I’ll be heading up to Swanzey, New Hampshire with the Boss and his wife to camp.

MasterPieces Puzzles has a new series out this year that is perfect for this weekend, and all summer long. Their Campside series is a set of 4 puzzles that showcase the fun of both summer and camping!

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 I love going to camp, it means different things to different people. For me, it means walking cool forest trails, petting all the other campers’ dogs and swimming in the lake.

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This is a fantastic 300 piece EZGrip puzzle. The EZGrip puzzles are made with larger puzzle pieces that are better for people with hand issues or for children learning to puzzle.

 I was having a bad hand day when SC and I assembled this, so I consider it a decent test of whether or not it works as advertised.

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I love all the different details and aspects of camping shown in this puzzle! It really hits all the best bits of a summer holiday in my mind.

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 This raccoon made me smile! The artist, Adrian Chesterman, really makes his images feel like you are really there!

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 It’s a picnic! Without ants!

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 As you can see, I had a ton of fun with this puzzle. As experienced puzzlers, it only took SC and I about 45 minutes to assemble. That being said, this is a great puzzle to do with the family, either at camp or home. SC and I thought it’d be perfect for a rainy day or after supper activity.

I’ll be definitely looking to collect the rest of the Campside series for my summer puzzling!

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: MasterPieces® Inc.
  • Title: Campside – Day at the Lake 300 Piece EZ Grip Puzzle
  • Artist: Adrian Chesterman
  • Year released: 2019
  • Pieces: 300
  • Cut-Style: Grid
  • Finished size: 18x 24 in
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Made in China

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy but lightweight, 8 x 8 x 2 inches
  • Board: Medium thickness, recycled chipboard
  • Cut: Cut with a steelcut die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Semi-gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece shapes: 4 different shapes that repeat, 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 and the many bright colors to be easy on the eyes as well! This is definitely a puzzle for (almost) all ages and abilities!

Where to buy: Campside – Day at the Lake 300 Piece EZ Grip Puzzle is available on the MasterPieces website for $12.99 USD.

MasterPieces Puzzles: 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!

Cats and Dinosaurs, Summer is Here!

It’s June! June = Summer!

Alright, so I started this blog last July with a Eurographics puzzle, and I’ve been itching to do this awesome puzzle for weeks!

Screenshot_2019-06-04 Dinosaurs, Jigsaw Puzzle at Eurographics

This was one of my favorite finds last winter, when I was out thrifting before the cold weather really hit. Imagine my delight to find a brand new Eurographics still in its plastic!  I love dinosaur documentaries and movies, and my godsons are huge fans, so I have to be able to keep up.

The fun thing about this puzzle isn’t the design or the random cut, but that Hurricane Enlil, my kitten is strangely possessive of it.

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No Mom, these are MY pieces!

Every time I turned around, Hurricane was there. I swear she has a dinosaur as a spirit animal, the way she loved to sit on or near the puzzle.

Kitten craziness aside, this is a fantastically informative puzzle. Under the title is a color coded listing of the different eras and their relation in time to each other. At the bottom of the puzzle is a combination timeline and biological tree showing all the dinosaur family types.

Assembling these timelines was the easiest part of the puzzle. The majority of the puzzle is done in muted earth tones, presumably because it was drawn before the emergence of both the relationship between birds and dinosaurs, and the brightly colored theory. All those earth tones on a beige background, mixed with the random-cut pieces made for a challenge. Add in the fact that my tortoiseshell cat, Zoomie got jealous and deliberately launched herself off the puzzle board, destroying hours of hard work…

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This is after rebuilding the puzzle twice after Zoomie’s tantrums.

Thank goodness for SC. He helped me reset the puzzle to the picture above before bed last night. Mind you, as mad as I was at Zoomie, who almost never sits my puzzles; I was grateful for a chance to watch SC. He relies heavily on pattern recognition to place each piece into its place. Martial Harmony can be as simple as working a puzzle together and appreciating your differences.

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All done! Well…sort of.

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I’m missing my triceratops’ face. I’ve swept the living room, searched under the couch and puzzle board, and it is nowhere to be seen. I’ll wait a few days as I’m certain that it will eventually show up. If it doesn’t, I’ll contact Eurographics’s Puzzle Warranty page.

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Eurographics Puzzles
  • Title: Dinosaurs
  • Artist: Unknown
  • Year released: Unknown
  • Pieces: 1000
  • Cut-Style: Random cut
  • Finished size: 19¼ x 26⅝ inches
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made from recycled board and printed with vegetable based ink.
  • Made in USA


QUALITY: 

  • Box: sturdy,  10 x 14 x 2.5 inches
  • Board: Very sturdy and rigid
  • Cut: Cut with a steel-cut die
  • Image Quality: Excellent
  • Finish: Slight gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: Moderate
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Good, a bit loose until the entire puzzle is assembled, pieces cannot be moved in groups

Where to buy: At the time of this post, Dinosaurs  is listed for sale on the Eurographics website for $17.99 USD.

Eurographics Puzzles: Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I bought this puzzle 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!