Tag Archives: family time

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!

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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!

Cherry Blossoms and Chickadees! A Springtime Review

Spring is finally officially here!! Huzzah!

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So pretty!

It’s silly, but Wednesday was both the first day of Spring and the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. I’ve never gone, but I have friends who hit it every year. This weekend I’m in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for Zenkaikon, an anime convention. Before I left, I started Cobble Hill’s Chickadeedeedees.  It’s a 500 piece puzzle featuring chickadees and cherry blossoms by the amazing Karen Latham.

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Pardon the warm tones, I was trying to reduce my night-time glare.

This is one of the new 2019 designs, and one of the rare puzzles SC insisted on. I’d never known that my spouse liked chickadees, but there he was, reading me the Wiki and listening to bird calls on YouTube. If you want an awesome video about chickadees, I recommend LesleytheBirdNerd’s video.

Honestly, I find it cute when he gets excited/inspired by something out of the ordinary. He listens to me explaining the difference between ribbon and random cut puzzles. By the way, this is very much a random cut puzzle! SC likes the random cuts, finding them to be a great mental challenge. “That piece doesn’t go there at that angle…Shit, yes it does!”

I mentioned that I started this puzzle, however, I didn’t manage to finish my assembly before having to leave. SC, bless him, took some of his spare time to finish it and gave me his analysis. He also did my amazing cover photo!

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Two thirds finished and yes, that’s a dice catalog in the corner.

I’d managed to do about 2/3rds of the puzzle, finding it to be of moderate difficulty. It’s a 500 piece puzzle, so the pieces are comfortably large and with a random cut, the placements are not always obvious. SC did the final third, noting that I had mistakenly placed a piece where it didn’t belong, so he spent a bit of time looking to place a piece that belonged in the space I’d filled.

His sorting style was thus: flowers first, then obvious leaves, then twigs, then oddball shapes, and finally the standard shaped pieces. He did say it was of moderate difficulty, and that a couple of pieces nearly achieved flight (he was frustrated and want to throw them across the room)! SC notes that the large piece size confused his eyes, but made his hands happy, and that the pieces fit and click in securely. Both of us liked the new small poster included with the puzzle that was printed with the same linen texture as the puzzle and that both puzzle and poster images matched!

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All done! I couldn’t have done it without my Spouse-Critter!

 

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Cobble Hill
  • Title: Chickadeedeedees
  • Artist: Karen Latham
  • 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, SC 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. SC and I both had fun, and the full assembly only took us roughly about 6 hours over 3 days. 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: Chickadeedeedees is available on the Cobble Hill website for $15.99 USD. It is currently out of stock, but it’s on order, which means there will be more made soon!

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!

25 Days of XMAS – Day 6

Today’s a little special, there will be a bunch of posts as I catch up from my cold earlier this week. The first one is featuring Zen Art & Design’s Peapod Puzzles series. Peapod puzzles are their children’s line, and I have to say …. They are really cool! I was sent three puzzles to share with my godsons, Minions 1 & 2.

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The boys were stooked to see me come over with new puzzles for them to try!

The third puzzle I’d assembled at home to get used to before helping the boys with theirs. I love the designing of the packaging! The embossed pea-pod is so minimalist it’s cute, and the boxes are easy to open and reuse.

My puzzle is the World Turtle, something that fans of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series are sure to recognize! It’s the flat disk of the world sitting on the back of four elephants which are in turn, standing upon the back of a gigantic turtle!  Peapod puzzles come in either 25or 53 pieces, which makes it easy to adjust any design for the age range of the child it is meant for!

World Turtle is a 25 piece puzzle, which comes with one whimsy, or as Zen calls them, figural.

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The boys worked on Sea Turtle 1 and T. Rex. My Minions had 53 piece puzzles, which come with four figurals apiece! They loved these! Once I showed them the technique to putting together a wooden puzzle, they had a blast assembling them. I had worried a little about the fact that there would be a squabble about who owned which, but the boys exclaimed over each others’ puzzles, assembled their own, then switched! For an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old, it was a miracle!

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All finished!

One nice touch I found with the Zen puzzles is that each of them comes with a small card letting you know who made your puzzle. It’s a great way to help the company track any errors and to also adds a personal feel to each puzzle!

 

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Zen Art & Design
  • Title: Sea Turtle 1 / T.Rex / World Turtle
  • Artist: Unknown
  • Year released: 2018
  • Pieces: 53 /53 /25
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 7½ by 7½ inches
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy white  cardboard, 4 × 4 × 3¼ inches
  • Board: Birch wood
  • Cut: Laser
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Semi-gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: None!
  • 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.

Disability Notes: These are great puzzles for people who are bed bound using a lap desk or for those with failing mental capacity. While the Peapod series of puzzles are marketed to children ages 4-8, the artistry of these wooden puzzles is such that they will appeal to all ages!

Minion Notes: Minion 1 thought that the puzzles were great, and loved the figurals, but thought that paper-based puzzles were easier to disassemble. He really liked the fact that his herbivore dino figurals were hidden in the foliage of the T.Rex puzzle, while the carnivores were part of the Rex itself. He also noted that Minion 2 would not have been able to handle a 53 piece puzzle without an adult to help him. Minion 2 had fun learning the names of his figurals and pulled out the BIG DINO BOOK to figure out that the herbivores were a hadrosaurus and a parasaurolophus!

Where to buy: PeaPod Puzzles, which is the series of puzzles that Sea Turtle 1, T. Rex and World Turtles are from;  is available on the Zen Art & Design website, which is running a sale, for $19.99 USD.

Zen Art & Design : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received complimentary puzzles from  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!