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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Puzzling in a Multi-Child Home - A Guest Post by Matthew at Puzumi

Hello to all of Penny’s readers! My name is Matthew, I’m the writer and researcher for Puzumi. We’re a puzzle company that prides itself on creating puzzles that help people train their brain, sharpen their skills and let folks have fun while doing this!

A big focus of mine of late has been looking at how puzzles impact children during their development. From their earliest moments when they begin using puzzles that are simple cutouts of basic shapes, to more complex puzzles which are outlines of animals and everyday objects, to complex jigsaw puzzles and finally reaching a point where they can complete one of our complex packing puzzles.

How does puzzling impact multiple children homes?

When I first started talking to Penny, I became interested in looking at how puzzles would impact a multi-child home. As you should know from reading her blog, she has two children. One who likes to play with her puzzles (sometimes to comedic effect!) and another who is a puzzle lover in training.  This is very true, Matthew!!

To figure this out we’ll have to first look at what we know to be the benefits of puzzles during early childhood development for a single child. I looked at this for a post over on Teach.com, I’ll summarize it below:

     Physical skills: developing your child’s ability to manipulate objects by moving puzzle pieces until they fit into the given space.
     Cognitive skills: developing your child’s problem solving skills and ability to remember shapes.
     Emotional skills: teaching your child patience and giving them a reward for that patience. Puzzles are a sit and think activity, they are not like sports which are mostly pure instinct.

As you can see, puzzles have a number of benefits for single children working on them alone. But what about when you have two holy terrors, I mean, lovely young children, like Penny will once her younger one gets a little bit older?

What benefits are highlighted in a multi-child home when it comes to puzzles

Puzzles, when they’re used by two children at once, begin to enter the same territory as sports when it comes to childhood development - with fewer bruises! I wrote about the 3 main benefits of sports (soccer, to be specific) for children over on Our Kids Media a year or so ago, but the ideas still apply:

     Physical benefits: growing the strength of their body and developing their ability to use their body
     Social skills: teaching teamwork, encouraging communication skills to develop
     Instilling the ideals of equality: success is earned through work, not given to any particular race, religion or ethnicity

Sports are great at this, but how do sport skills and puzzle skills cross over when we’re looking at a multi-child puzzle solution environment?

Take a look at the benefits that I highlighted as ‘Emotional skills’ under puzzles, and ‘Social skills’ under sports. They’re the same basic skill sets. Puzzles can help your children develop those important skills right in the comfort of your own home, along with the other two which are developed while working on the puzzle alone.

All of this with no cuts, no bruises and no wins or loses - just your children working together to develop their social and emotional skills, solve a puzzle and have some fun outside of a video game environment.

A further skill that I believe can be highlighted by having your children work on puzzles together is that of the learning of patience. Have you ever helped someone with a puzzle and tried to get them to put a puzzle piece in one place, but they didn’t quite understand or agree with you? Patience is learned or the yelling starts!

I’d like to turn it over at this point to Penny to allow her to comment on what she hopes puzzles can do for her children as they grow up together, and any opinions she has on how it has helped her family already.

Keep on being puzzled!

Thanks so much, Matthew for your insightful look at how puzzling can benefit a multi-child home.  I truly look forward to the day when both boys are old enough to help mommy with her BIG puzzle as I'm pretty sure I'll still be working on it by then!  LOL

Derek already desperately wants to help mommy with the Life puzzle, but mommy is still a little gun shy about allowing him to do more than be in the same room with her when she's working on it. Especially after finding my one missing piece to the wooden jigsaw puzzle I recently completed in his Halloween candy stash!  LOL

One of the things that I would like to start as an annual tradition with my kids soon (and hubby too, if he'll participate) is a Christmas puzzle.  A small puzzle of course, maybe 300 - 500 pieces or so that will put us all in the holiday spirit every year and allow for some good family bonding time as well.

Thanks again Matthew, and Happy Holidays everyone!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Weird Places to Find a Puzzle Piece - #3

Conversation with my almost 4-year-old son yesterday, "Mommy, can I have a piece of candy?" "Sure, Derek. Get one piece out of your Halloween bowl." A minute later, "Mommy, look....a puzzle piece!" What?!
My missing piece from Kevin Sloan's The Messenger has been found! I wonder how it got in Derek's Halloween stash?! It's wood so I don't think it would have tasted too much like 100 Grand bar. Hmmmm.......

Friday, December 6, 2013

JigamaWHO? Why, Jigamajoy of course!

Earlier this week, I was contacted by Mike from the Jigamajoy Company of Pine Brook, New Jersey,
who has created a very unique product that combines standard playing cards and jigsaw puzzles into a really interesting puzzling experience.  A few formats have several different ways to solve each puzzle and some even have math questions to help kids put the puzzle together correctly.  Huh?  Who would have thought of combining these two seemingly unrelated aspects of "gaming", but it seems to work. Since this is such a new start up company, they are looking for fellow puzzling and card enthusiasts to help spread the word, and enable them to produce more and more of these cool card puzzle games.  Their website is www.jigamajoy.com. Take a look!



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Whimsical Woodie

In my last post I mentioned that I was getting my first wooden jigsaw puzzle, entitled The Messenger by Kevin Sloan.  What I didn't say at the time, as I hadn't yet received the puzzle, was that I was contacted by Artifact Puzzles and given the opportunity to choose any puzzle I wanted (up to a generous pre-set price) and they would send it to me absolutely free of charge.  Of course I was very skeptical at first because it sounded too good to be true.  Who sends someone something that expensive for free and not have some kind of catch attached, right?  I emailed the person back and asked a bunch of questions and received an equally nice and reassuring response.  Apparently, this is something that companies are starting to do more and more these days.  They are willing to send me their product for free to try out with the hope that I will like it and then write about it on my blog.  Good advertising for them and keeps me happy too.  A win win to be sure.

So, about a week later I received my puzzle.  I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the way it was presented.  It came gift wrapped in a nice little wooden box. Here, take a look.


I opened the box and the pieces were beautiful.  In keeping with the theme of the overall puzzle, there were lots of whimsical pieces having to do with turtles and time - a clock, several different turtles, roman numerals representing the odd hours on a clock as corner pieces, and even an Indian brave.  



So, I set to work on the puzzle immediately.  This is the first time I've ever done a puzzle where I didn't start with the edge pieces.  There really wasn't an advantage on this puzzle to doing the border first as it wasn't a straight edge anyway.  I worked on the puzzle for maybe an hour or so the first day and then had to put it up until the next day.  Here's a few pictures after the end of day 1.  




On day 2, I worked on the puzzle for several hours broken up throughout the day and I made a lot of progress.


On day 3 I was able to complete the rest of the puzzle and discovered that I had one missing piece!  Booo!!!


I have no idea if the puzzle was missing the piece from the start, or if it somehow "walked" away either on my clothes or with my almost 4-year-old-toddler.  LOL  The puzzle was only on my kitchen table from day 1 to completion so I don't know where it could have disappeared to, but it's definitely gone.  

Amazingly enough, I contacted Artifact Puzzles, and let them know what happened.  I explained that I did not expect them to replace the whole puzzle since they sent it to me for free to begin with, but was hoping they might be able to send just the one piece if possible.  They immediately responded and said that yes, they would replace the piece.  So I guess it's on its way.  I am looking forward to seeing the puzzle completed as it's really cute and I would like to frame it and hang it up near my bookcases upstairs.

Overall, a really GREAT puzzling experience.  Having never worked on a wooden puzzle before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  The quality of the pieces are amazing.  The detail of the cut is superb.  The pieces do fit together fairly well, but they're loose.  So, I was never able to pick up an entire section and move it without it coming apart.  That would be my only criticism of the puzzle is that the pieces do not interlock so it's difficult to move it without it coming apart.  However, I'm not sure if this is something unique to Artifact puzzles or just the way wooden puzzles fit in general since it's my first of this type.

Thanks again to the nice folks at Artifact Puzzles for sending me this great puzzle.  I really enjoyed putting it together.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Puzzle of Life

I get a lot of catalogs.  Catalogs for clothes...catalogs for kids stuff...catalogs for things I would never buy in my lifetime.  However, catalogs for home decor are my favorite  I have bought more home decor stuff through catalogs than any other catalog item.  Most of the time I just glance at them and toss because I just can't buy everything I like or I'd have to move out of my house to make room for all the stuff!.  LOL  But every once in a while you just find a gem, and that's just what I found in a Personal Creations catalog last week.

How appropriate for these adorable frames to be called "Puzzle of Life." This is SOOO ME!  LOL  I am anxious to start collecting these and hope to possibly get one as a gift this holiday season.



Click here to check out these frames and start your own family photos puzzle collage.  I already know exactly where to start one of these collections in my house!  Have a great weekend everyone.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Got Wood...

Last week I found out about a relatively new puzzling company that makes high quality, wooden jigsaw puzzles.  I have never tried a wooden puzzle up to this point because they've always been so expensive.  It's just cost prohibitive for me as it takes me so long to get to a new puzzle with the Life puzzle still under construction.  However, this company, Artifact Puzzles, has some pretty reasonable prices.  I like several of their puzzles, including Bruegel's Netherlandish Proverbs and Kevin Sloan's The Messenger.


I am getting The Messenger, pictured here.  I am excited to try out a wooden puzzle for the first time.  This puzzle represents my two greatest passions - jigsaw puzzles and books so it should be a lot of fun to put together.  I'm sure it won't be easy though.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Puzzle Blogging 101

I have had this blog for over three years now and I am finally starting to actually look into optimizing the blog to gain more followers.  It is simply amazing to me how much thought and work goes into making a blog successful.  There are so many ways you can go about increasing your followers that it can be a little bit overwhelming.  So this week I have been doing a bunch of research on best ways to do this.  I have already implemented a few changes that will hopefully start to improve things in the near future.

Ironically enough I am already in the #3 spot on google searches for "jigsaw puzzle blog" and I haven't been posting regularly in a while....a big NO NO apparently if you want to become successful at this. :o)  Which means that you're all going to start hearing from me a lot more....just warning ya!  LOL

I would love to get to the point where I have 1,000 or more followers and jigsaw companies are eager to advertise on my blog.  How cool would that be?!  I know I have a long ways to go to get there, but hey, one can dream, right?  :o)

Alright, back to the research.




Monday, October 21, 2013

Some Much Needed Mommy Free Time

I am happy to report that I got a nice little chunk of Mommy Free time this last weekend and it was WONDEFUL!!!  It was the first completely kid free time I've had since Cole was born about 2.5 months ago.  Randy took both kids out for several hours and gave me a break.  Of course, instead of napping like I probably should have, I couldn't wait to get in some puzzling time.  I spent close to 4 hours working on the puzzle and it truly felt like heaven.

I didn't get as much done as I would have liked to, but I did make some really good progress on the black / blueish sky area and mostly finished the dolphin jumping out of the water.

Here's a couple of new pictures so you can see the progress.  Hoping to get another mommy free break again in the next couple of weeks...yippeee!



Very slow progress, but at least I am moving forward a few inches at a time!  LOL

Monday, October 7, 2013

Two Relatives Visits and Two Kids = Too Little Puzzling Time

Wow, hard to believe it has been two months since I touched my puzzle!  Of course, having another baby and a toddler has definitely had a huge impact on that.  Plus the fact that we've had almost nonstop company since Cole was born.  Not that I'm complaining about our growing family, lack of sleep, or the visiting relatives and friends, but it sure isn't allowing for any puzzling time.

So for the first time yesterday, I got to spend about 30 minutes off and on doing a little puzzling.  Of course I didn't get much done as I had to keep stopping and checking on dinner, but it was one of the rare moments where Derek was busy with Daddy, Cole was sleeping, and I wasn't passed out asleep.

Boy did it feel good to get back to the puzzling table.  It had been so long and it really felt like I was revisiting an old friend and picking up our conversation right where we last left it.

I've got to see if I can manage to bring a portion of the puzzle upstairs to work on while watching TV with Randy as I hardly get any alone time with him right now so the last thing either one of us wants is me to be in the basement working on the puzzle while he's up here watching a show or something.

Alas, we will get there at some point once Cole starts sleeping through the night and we can put him to bed at a decent time.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Weird Places to Find a Puzzle Piece - # 2

After not having puzzled for more than two weeks due to baby Cole's early arrival, imagine my surprise when my mother in law is in the kitchen day before yesterday and says, "Here's a puzzle piece."  She pats it dry (apparently the back was a little wet) and said she had found it laying on the kitchen counter.  At first I thought, oh this must be a piece from one of Derek's puzzles, but then when I saw it I realized with surprise and a little bit of worry that it was in fact a piece of my Life puzzle.  No, it wasn't the lost piece from section 1, unfortunately.  I have NO idea how that piece got all the way from the basement up to the kitchen or by whom.  It's a bit of a mystery, but it makes me a little scared because I know I haven't touched it in so long that I have to wonder if it's the only piece that has somehow "traveled" outside of the puzzle room.....Hmmm!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ohh, Baby Baby...

Well in case anyone is wondering why I haven't been updating the blog much in the last couple of weeks, here's the reason why...





Day 7 -- Going home today!

Cole Hudson Weiss decided to make his world debut 6 days earlier than previously planned!  So, on July 30th at 9:36 p.m. we welcomed him to his new world.  At only 4 lbs. 13 oz. he was tiny but relatively healthy, but was having some issues maintaining blood sugar and body temps so he ended up having to go into the Special Care Nursery for a while.  The following day they ran some tests and discovered that he had some sort of infection in the blood and needed to be on antibiotics for 7 to 10 days.  After the 7th day, luckily, we were able to bring our new little guy home.  We are thrilled to have him in our lives and he makes our family complete now.  Big brother Derek has been a big help in taking care of his baby brother, and doesn't even seem to mind so much when Cole cries...which thankfully isn't a lot, so far.  LOL

So, needless to say, this is why I haven't been doing much puzzling in the last couple of weeks.  I hope to get an opportunity to get back to it soon...probably once my in-laws leave.

Thanks everyone for continuing to stick with me in this long process called LIFE!

Penny

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Anemone

I have made a little progress on some of the anemone areas surrounding the clownfish over the last week.  It's not a significant amount of progress, but as they say, any progress is progress, right?

This evening I am planning on working on Tom and Mercedes' mystery puzzles.  I have had to put off working on it further until after I got some things done in preparation for Cole's early arrival.  I should be able to post new pictures of those puzzles soon hopefully.  The borders are done - I just need to put them on my puzzle roll since my puzzling table is still occupied, and get started on some of the other areas of the puzzles.

Here's a picture of the anenome areas that I've been working on this week.


Can't wait to work on it again soon...hopefully tomorrow morning.  Gotta get in as much as I can before baby arrives.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Mystery Puzzles - Edges, Edges, and Even More Edges

I promised Tom and Mercedes that I would not wait until I had finished the Life puzzle (Gee, I wonder why they asked me that?!  LOL) to start working on the mystery puzzles gift they sent.  So last night I put aside time to start laying out the many edge pieces of what has turned out to be three Thomas Kinkade puzzles all mixed together.  It appears that they may be of different piece counts as well.  The largest one being possibly 500 or 750 pieces - I'm not quite done with the border yet so I can't be sure.  The two others I believe will be a lot smaller.

So here you are, Tom and Mercedes, new pictures of my progress.

Borders coming together for 3 puzzles.

Border for what appears to be a mini Kinkade puzzle.



Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mystery Puzzle - Tom and Mercedes Think They Are Soooo Funny!!! :o)

So this morning I decided to begin sorting the mystery puzzle that Tom and Mercedes sent me.  As I said in the last post, I thought based on looking at the pieces visible through the ziplock bag that it might be a Thomas Kinkade puzzle, and soon after I opened the bag and started sorting pieces, I was completely positive it was.

I was not sure how many pieces the puzzle was as there's no box or anything to give me a clue as to anything about the puzzle, but as I'm sorting through the pieces and putting them in smaller piles based on color and picture element, I start noticing two things:  1)  There's a whole lot of white pieces, presumbably part of the sky; and 2) There seems to be a lot of edge pieces...perhaps the puzzle is bigger than I originally thought?  Hmmm...

Then a really funny thing happened - I started seeing edge pieces that had Thomas Kinkade's name on it.  Great!  Let me put those together real quick as that will be easy to figure out, right?  WRONG!!!!!  Here's why:

Do you notice something odd with this picture?

Notice anything amiss here?  Well, every puzzle I've ever seen, other than a round one, has 4 corners on it....how many corner pieces do you see here?  Certainly a LOT more than 4 that's for sure....LOL  Plus, another big clue that something's not quite right is the fact that there are three separate sections with Thomas Kinkade's name.  Okay, I get that Thomas Kinkade probably had a large ego and liked to see his name on every puzzle, but I seriously doubt that he would have put his name on one puzzle THREE TIMES!

So, I'm not completely finished with the initial sorting of the edge and like colored pieces, but here's what I do know so far...

1.  There are at least 3 puzzles mixed up in this ziplock bag of mystery.
2.  I think there's one puzzle that's some sort of cottage or house scene; another one that might be store / business fronts, and yet another that looks like a lighthouse / water scene possibly.
3.  I did see one piece that had a partial word on it "cisco" so I'm thinking that one of the puzzles might be a San Francisco scene of some sort.
4.  Tom and Mercedes have a wicked sense of humor....thanks A LOT guys!  LOL
5.  There appears to be some strange shaped pieces that have a small straight looking edge, but I don't believe they are true edge pieces.  I think they're in there just to trip me up, but I will not let them win...no way!
6.  I will never again send Tom and Mercedes an "easy, breeezy" puzzle...oh no, next time it will be anything but....MMMUUUUWWWWHHAHAAHAHA.

After having only worked with the Life puzzle pieces for the last 3 years, these pieces feel enormous.  And then of course there's the fact that none of the shapes are of a regular cut like Life.  So this ought to be interesting for sure....sorting pieces into three different puzzles when I have no clue what any of the pictures are supposed to look like.  :o\

Here are a couple more pictures of what I've sorted so far:

Initial sorting into like colored pieces and edges....big pile on the bottom left is what I still have to sort through.

One of three Thomas Kinkade signatures - hmmm!

Edges, edges, and even more edges!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

From New York City to Vegas, Baby!

Besides the Nicky Boehme and Thomas Kinkade puzzles I purchased right after getting the puzzle roll, I also got these other two puzzles as well.  The Vegas, Baby! puzzle was actually the second puzzle I started on after I finished the You'd Better Be Good puzzle by Nick Boehme.

I was about three quarters of the way done with it when we moved from our house in Lake Mary, FL to a rental house while we were waiting for our new home in Mt. Dora to be built.  I didn't realize it at the time, but the puzzle roll with this puzzle on it got put on the moving truck with no box or anything to protect the pieces from falling out if they happened to get loose.  Ever since then, I have been afraid to re-open the roll and finish the puzzle because I'm almost positive there will be missing pieces.  However, after pulling the puzzle box out this morning to take a picture of it for this blog, I thought...you know, you should just finish it and see what the actual damage is because you're so close to being done.  So, I am going to try finishing it soon and see how many pieces are actually missing.  Worst case scenario, I can try getting the jigsaw doctor to recreate a couple of missing pieces, or perhaps my friend Tom in the USVI could help me out if there's not too many missing.  It's a nice picture of the Strip and I would really like to have it complete so I can hang it up on the wall in my puzzle room.

2,000 pc. - Las Vegas, Baby! - Buffalo Games
While we were in the rental house in FL, I got the New York City puzzle below as a way to pass time while the house was being built.  Because I still had the Vegas, Baby! puzzle on the puzzle roll, I couldn't put this on it, and therefore, never finished it.  Had to pull it apart when we moved from the rental into the new house.  One day, I will get back to it.


The puzzle comes in a really cute little travel suitcase.

Skyline scene of New York City.

Inside the New York City suitcase.

NIcky Boehme and Thomas Kinkade Puzzles

When I got my first puzzle roll back in 2009, I immediately went on a puzzle buying frenzy as it had been so long since I'd been able to do any puzzles due to space limitations and usage of dining room table as mentioned in earlier posts.  For some reason, I went on a Nick Boehme Christmas puzzle spree and bought five of them!  I just love his artwork as much as I love Thomas Kinkade's.  I ended up buying two of his smaller, round puzzles as well.

Of the five Nick Boehme puzzles, I have only completed You'd Better Be Good, a 1,000 piece window scene.  Here are the remaining Nick Boehme and Thomas Kinkade puzzles in my inventory as yet to be done.

1,000 pc. - Bringing Happiness and Joy - White Mountain Puzzles


1,500 pc - A Touch of Heaven - SunsOut

1,000 pc - In A One Horse Open Sleigh - White Mountain Puzzles


1,000 pc - Merry Christmas - SunsOut


750 pc - Hollyhock House - Ceaco


750 pc - Lamplight Lane - Ceaco

Nicky Boehme also has a large format puzzle that I really want to get called "Good Ole Days" - it's 6,000 peices and also another wintery, Christmas scene.  All the bluish snow and snow covered trees looks like it will be complicated, but I can't wait to get it and try it anyway.  LOL

6,000 pc - Good Ole Days - SunsOut

Life Goes On

This morning I was able to get in about 45 minutes with the puzzle before Derek woke up.  It was nice to get a little longer length of time to puzzle at one sitting.  My secondary goal of having Section 2 finished before baby Cole makes his appearance is looking less and less likely.  I think I am getting close to the 50% finished mark, but we found out yesterday that Cole will be arriving a week earlier than the originally scheduled C-section.  We will now be delivering on August 5th unless something else changes and it has to be done even earlier for medical reasons, but keep your fingers crossed that that doesn't happen...he needs more time to keep growing and getting bigger.

Here are the latest pictures of Life, Section 2:






9,000 Astrology - Ravensburger

This puzzle is one that I fell in love with the first time I saw it.  The colors are so vibrant and given that its a Ravensburger, I know this one will be a pleasure to put together.


I couldn't pass up the good deal I got on this puzzle from Craigslist.  It was only $40 plus flat rate USPS shipping so not too bad.  The puzzle is used, but appears to be complete and includes the poster.  The seller, also a puzzler (but with little puzzling space in his current apartment), put at least part of it together, after mixing both bags, and then ran out of space to put it.  And he also doesn't have a place to display it once it is finished.  All of that equals good news for me.

In order to keep the shipping costs to a minimum, I had the seller remove the outer box and simply put the ziplock bagged pieces into a flat rate box.  It fit....barely!  So, I don't have the original box, even though it shows up in this picture.  All I have is the actual ziplock bags and poster.



I must stop buying puzzles now.  I have bought three huge puzzles in the last month and I need to stop spending money on puzzles until I have completed at least some of these new ones...in addition to the few I had already purchased (small ones) prior to purchasing Life.  I will be posting pictures of these other puzzles later today on the main blog so stay tuned.

4 Historic World Maps - Opening the box

Here are some of the first pictures of this beautiful puzzle.  I will not be starting the build on this one for some time yet as I want to finish the Life puzzle first, but I love looking at the pieces and feeling them as they're just so much nicer than the Educa pieces of the Life puzzle.

The big box!



4 Historic World Maps Poster



18,000 pieces in all its glory!



The puzzle pieces are so nice and luxurious feeling after working with the Educa pieces for so long now.



Up close shot of one piece of the Historic Maps puzzle.