Tag Archives: review

It’s MerMay! Let’s have Mermaids in Wonderland!

If you are not familiar with MerMay, let me direct you here, and then note that while I am not an artist, I am a colorist. And I love mermaids, the odder the better! Finding a non-Disney type mermaid coloring book was a treat!

Mom found this glorious coloring book back in April, and I fell in love with it so badly that I hunted through every local Barnes & Noble store until I found my own copy. It is not often I feel the need to own a coloring book that badly!

Mermaids in Wonderland is a 10 by 10 inch book, with 96 pages of beautiful images of mermaids and other sea life. The paper is a really nice smooth midweight, that takes color with ease without too much bleed through. The pages are double-sided, so bleed-through was something of a worry until I experimented a little.

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Colored with Tombow Dual Brush Markers

The first half of the book has white pages, while the second half is done with black pages. These make for some stunning pictures!

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Such a pretty turtle!!

Mermaids in Wonderland isn’t just another coloring book, it is a puzzle-solving adventure! Throughout the pages, cleverly  woven in are clues to riddles that need to be solved. These riddles work in concert, creating a story that you can be a part of. The only other coloring book I can compare this to is Johanna Basford’s Ivy and The Inky Butterfly.

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I think the best parts of this book are the mermaids doing nonstandard mermaid things. There are mermaid (and mermen!) adventurers, acrobats, and warriors. There are salons, restaurants, and amusement parks! There are mermaids from almost every possible culture, from a Chinese Dragon Dance to Native American hunters to European nobility. Unlike most mermaids drawn, there are almost no clamshell bras! It seems to be a function of fashion rather than a statement of sexuality, which is refreshing! The Mermaids of Wonderland have amazingly details on both their clothing and their scales.

Marcos Chin is a new artist to me, Mermaids is one of his three coloring books so far. He has also drawn Fairies in Wonderland and Elves in Wonderland. If they are as good as Mermaids, I’ll be adding them to my collection at some point soon!

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

Where to buy: Mermaids in Wonderland is available on at the HarperCollins Publishers website, as well as Barnes & Noble and Amazon. The book’s MSRP is $15.99 but some locations are selling it for less.

Marcos Chin : 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 ©Marcos Chin and Harper Design 2017. 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!

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Feeding the Troll, Blogging and Services Rendered.

Spouse-Critter says “Arguing with a troll is like wrestling with a pig. Both of you will get dirty, but only the pig is having fun.” He is most likely right, but I need to post this.

Back in December, I received this comment on my Day 8 Christmas post. I didn’t see it until after December 22, as I’d been in New York on family business.

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This person, hereafter referred to as Troll, chose not to leave a name or email so I could not contact them.  Now, as a point of order, I have to, in fairness, point out that there is no reliable way to convey tone within text. So the little disapproving “church lady” tone I read this comment in is entirely in my own head.

I was hurt, and at the time did not have the words to explain. So I spent a few months being alternately angry/frustrated and depressed. Never a good combo. I fought my way to the surface, spoke to my representatives at various companies, and spoke to both professional writers and other bloggers. I was introduced to a novel concept. If I’m being trolled, then I’m doing something right!

So I started blogging again. I put myself out there, solicited new companies for reviews and worked out a schedule that worked for me.

Then I woke up this morning to this:

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Sorry Troll 2.0, this time I have the words.

The thing is, every product I receive must be logged at either wholesale or retail value and I MUST pay taxes on them. The IRS doesn’t care; I cannot pay my taxes in puzzles and coloring books. I can and do sell some of the products I receive after doing my reviews, but that doesn’t generate enough income to pay taxes, much less regular bills. Other products  I donate to my local VA, senior center, and children’s hospital; because I believe in sharing.

I am disabled, but I fall in that not-so-small category of people who are in the process of applying for benefits, but not receiving any yet. Spouse-Critter works a good job, but his job doesn’t include health care or much in the way of extras. If I want to buy products to review, like LEGO® or high-end wooden puzzles, I need income to do so. That is why I have both Patreon and Ko-fi set up. If you read my Patreon, you’d see that I have it set as a way to sponsor different projects.

I’m of the opinion that if professional authors and other bloggers have Patreon accounts, then there is no reason why I cannot as well. Patreon is a platform to pay for services rendered. I write and do projects, and I recieve money for services rendered. Effectively, it makes my hobbies into a job. As for the accusation of being shameless and asking for money? Have you read my disclaimer at the bottom of each post? I’m not begging. I ask you to consider it. Being a patron is a choice!  You can choose to be one, or you can choose not to. Simple.

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!

Lucky Timing and Diamond Art

Have you ever made a split-second frivolous decision? I’m really glad I made this one!

Just after Christmas last year, My friend Sammi let me know that there were diamond art kits on clearance at our local Walmart. I was laid up due to the weather and SAD, so I asked her to pick one out for me.

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This is a Dazz™ Dimensional Diamond Art™. Dazz™ is made by Horizon Group USA, an arts and crafts company. They were only available at Walmart for a limited amount of time before being discontinued by the company.

This is a partial drill diamond art, meaning that parts of the canvas are printed, and not meant to be covered by gems(AKA drills). Dazz™’s  kit is amazingly well set out! The canvas is bright and large, the drills are well labeled, and the instruction sheet is the best I’ve seen!

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Close up of the canvas

I found the drill chart to be easy to read in daylight, though I struggled when my eyes tired. This is the largest diamond art kit I’ve done to date, measuring 16 by 20 inches. The surface is roughly ¾ covered by drills and so it took me almost 2 weeks to finish.

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So many gems!!!

 

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All Done!!

I’m incredibly happy with how this kit turned out! The colors are vibrant and the drills adhere amazingly well. I’ve done a few kits since being introduced to diamond painting last year, and Dazz™ is ranking right up there as one of the best. I’m going to be framing this, but that post will be on the Patreon.

Please, Horizon Group USA! Bring these back! Or at least send me your discards!

QUALITY: 

  • 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 worked on a lapdesk on the couch, and other than my butt going numb, it was a very comfortable project to work on.

Where to buy: I’m sad to say you can’t, unless you get very lucky on Ebay. I’ve looked. If you were lucky enough to buy one of these last winter, congrats!!

Disclosure: I bought this diamond art kit for review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them. All images of Dazz™ Dimensional Diamond Art™ are ©Horizon Group USA 2018.

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!

Puzzle Board as a Disabilty Aid?

Living with a chronic disease sucks. When it is one that also happens to be invisible, life can be very hard indeed. Like many people, I have a ton of hobbies. Most of those hobbies form the basis of this blog and do double-duty as a way to keep my brain and body active. Puzzling and diamond art are wonderful mental exercises, but they are absolute murder on my back and neck.

Over the last few years, I’ve had to accept that mobility aids are a part of life. They help me expand my quality of life. So I’ve been looking at different products that other puzzlers use to help them. When I was at Toy Fair, I was intrigued by their puzzle board and the possibility that it could help me on bad days.

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The board  came in a rather intimidating box, but once the travel packing was removed it revealed a really nice traveling box.

I was really surprised to find that the puzzle board comes pre-assembled. This is already saving me spoons! The board is beechwood with a blue velour covering. It is 20 inches high by 27 inches long and somewhere between 15-20 lbs.  Ravensburger says it can handle puzzles from 300 to 1000 pieces. It has 4 possible settings, so that you can adjust the tilt to your preferred angle.

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I decided to test the puzzle board in my two main puzzling locations, on the coffee table in the living room as well as on my bed in the bedroom. The velour cloth that covers the puzzle board creates a slightly static environment that allows pieces to stay in place on the board, even when the board is at its most extreme tilt.

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Hurricane resting under my puzzle and not on it!

I found that I liked the third notch position, and that my puzzling was much less painful after several hours. The non-slip velour kept my pieces on the board and the few that fell were caught by the ledge at the bottom. My back and neck didn’t cramp up from leaning over! The only issue I had it that the puzzle I started didn’t fit the board! this was my fault, because it was a specialty shaped puzzle and I forgot to check the dimensions before starting.

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Yes, my messy bed. With SC out-of-town, I live in a nest of blankets.

I also tried puzzling on the bed. the puzzle board’s base is too long to fit my bedtable, but I found that I was equally comfortable balancing it on my legs or sitting cross-legged with it on the bed itself. Obviously, I couldn’t spend as long puzzling in bed; my legs have issues being stuck in the same position for long periods of time. However, I was able to assemble a 100 piece puzzle and not overstress myself. Due to the nature of my illness, I expect that the puzzle board and I will be great friends this next winter!

Because I live with cats, when not in use, I’ll be keeping the board in its travel box. I’ll also be investing in a really good lint roller! Overall, I think this will be a wonderful aid in my puzzling. At least now I have a way to assemble larger puzzles in bed on bad days!

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy cardboard with a plastic travel handle
  • Board:  Lightweight Beechwood, sturdy wooden pieces, blue velour surface
  • Finish: Semi-gloss
  • Weight: Estimated 15-20 lbs
  • Dimensions: 20 x 27 inches

Disability Notes: Obviously, there is the weight of the board if you have any weight restrictions. If you cannot lift 20 lbs, have someone help you move the puzzle board to your preferred puzzling location. Like most Ravensburger products, you will pay for the quality. That being said, saving up for a puzzle board is much like saving up for any upgrade to a mobility aid. I don’t need the shiny glow-in-the-dark cane tips. But I like them and they make my life easier.

Where to buy: At the moment, the only place you can buy a Ravensburger Puzzle Board is at one of their physical store locations. The price of the Puzzle Board is not listed on the website, but I did a bit of research and found that it retails for $149.99 USD on EBay and Amazon.

Ravensburger : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle board 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!

Sticker Mosaics, or Color by Number For Bad Days

A friend of mine, Genie, shared her de-stress day routine one day last fall. She’d recommended a color by number sticker book. I was intrigued and started to search for something like that. I found Hinkler’s Kaleidoscope Sticker Mosaics : Flora & Fauna.

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Sticker by Number is just like color by number….sort of. The designs are blocked into sections and numbered, and there is a mix of difficulty levels.

The stickers are labeled in their section at the back of the book. And the goal is to use the stickers to fill the blank spots.

There is a bit of a learning curve, while you can apply the stickers with your fingers, it’s not really ideal.  Genie let me know that a good set of offset tweezers are my friend. IMG_4814

I found myself really enjoying working on this book. My only main complaint is that the adhesive on the stickers isn’t really strong, so I was having to deal with stickers that peel up.

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My pictures came out so pretty!

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 mild motor control issues should be able to enjoy it. I found it to be great for a brain fog day when making decisions is difficult. It could also be handy to have in a hospital or go-bag.

Where to buy: Kaleidoscope Sticker Mosaics Flora & Fauna is currently out of stock at my local Barnes & Noble. It can still be found at Barnes & Noble,  and online at Amazon, though the prices vary wildly.

Hinkler: Website / Facebook 

Disclosure: I purchased this coloring book for for a review. The opinions are my own. All art shown on this post is Copyright ©Hinkler Books Pty Ltd 2018.  The coloring (sticker assembly) 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!

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!

Patience, Persistance, and Chevy Gold

Back in August, just as I was starting to blog, I was contacted by Christie Dotolo. She is the CEO of Gearhead Puzzles, a woman/veteran owned puzzle company. Gearheads focuses on classic cars and she wanted to know if I was interested in doing Chevy Gold; their inaugural puzzle.

I was super green, and super eager, so I said yes.  Thus began my six month road trip with Chevy Gold.

Please keep in mind, everyone puzzles differently. My challenge may be your cakewalk.

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It’s a gorgeous puzzle, and I did an unboxing video when it first came in! Click here.

This puzzle is based on a fantastic photograph by Laurie Hatcher of the interior of a 1952 Chevrolet. My dream car has always been a 1957 Chevy Bel Air (I dig tailfins), so I was excited by the subject matter.

In my eagerness to do ALL THE THINGS, I seriously overestimated both my ability to do projects, and forgot that Murphy loves hubris. September had hurricanes, October was booked solid, so I planned to debut the puzzle in November.

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Day 1

My initial assembly went quickly,  as I focused on the frame, speedometer and the center of the steering wheel. The pieces are random cut, on a sturdy midweight chipboard. The image is a bit blurred due to being blown up and made into a puzzle, and has a semi-gloss finish.  If this is the quality of their first puzzle,  I’m seriously impressed!!

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Day 2 (upside down)
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Day 4 So much brown!!

There are a lot of shades of brown, black and gray in this puzzle. After a few days, I started to struggle. My eyes didn’t want to focus on the slight variations, and my frustration mounted.  I put a cover on it and focused on my Christmas puzzles. This saved my sanity, but made me feel incredibly guilty. I’ve never given up on a puzzle, but I really wanted too.

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Day 38 Zane is sitting on my pieces and Hurricane is napping.

After the mess of Christmas and January, I started again. I cleared off all the debris that had covered the puzzle board, resorted my pieces by color and tried again. I wasn’t perfect, I still had a mild hate for the difficulty and coloration of the puzzle. I mentioned this to Christie, who patiently checked in with me and agreed that Chevy Gold was a tricky puzzle. I swear, her patience and understanding is what goaded me to finish. I WANTED to do Christie’s puzzle.

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Day 42 Almost there!

Superbowl Sunday, I worked on Chevy Gold. I looked at the tv for commercials, but I was determined to finish. I filled in most of the dark areas by halftime, but was missing four light brown pieces from the steering wheel. My cats have loved sitting on this puzzle, so I did the smart thing and swept under the couch. I found dust bunnies, cat toys and three of my missing pieces!

I kept going, because as the number of pieces dwindled, the ease of matches increased. I could see I was going to finish!!

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Day 42 part 2. The Patriots and Chevy Gold have won.

Remember what I said about Murphy? Yeah, he’s laughing.

 

One piece!! Months of assembly, and I’m denied victory at the final hour!  SC is convinced that the cats or fairies have hidden it. I’m convinced that I know how Captain Ahab felt. I’ve torn the living room apart, but that missing piece is mocking me.

You win Chevy Gold. I still feel accomplished.

This is officially the most difficult puzzle I have done yet.  Also, my longest assembly time. If you love classic cars and a serious challenge, try Chevy Gold. Gearhead Puzzles has since added three other puzzles to their catalog, all 500 pieces. They look amazing. For me, I’ll wait until they make a puzzle of a Tucker 48.

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Gearhead Puzzles
  • Title: Chevy Gold
  • Artist: Laura Hatcher
  • Year released: 2017
  • Pieces: 1000
  • Cut-Style: Steel-cut Die
  • Finished size: 19¼ x 26¾ inches
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Thin cardboard, sturdy, 10 x 8 x 2¼ inches
  • Board: Medium weight chipboard, sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Random
  • Image Quality: Excellent
  • Finish: Semi-Gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece Fit: Excellent, once fully assembled. Because of the random cut, some pieces will be loose until connected to the whole.

Disability Notes: Due to the difficulty level of this puzzle, I would not recommend Chevy Gold for anyone with a visual impairment that makes differentiating similar shades impossible. Some puzzle pieces are small, so folks with arthritis or hand mobility issues may want to wait for a good day or look at Gearhead’s 500 piece puzzles.

Where to buy: Chevy Gold  is available on the Gearheads website for $18.95 USD. They also have three other puzzles at this point in time.

Gearhead Puzzles : 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!