Saturday, December 27, 2014

32,000 Pieces of Steel and Cardboard

Since January of this year, I have been drooling over a new 32,000 piece puzzle that Ravensburger announced they would release in the US in September.  Of course, come September, some members of the German puzzle forum that I belong to, and one of my Flickr group friends had already gotten their copies.  With a hefty price tag of about $300, I knew it would be quite some time before I was able to justify the cost to matter how much I wanted it.
32,000 pc. - New York City Window - Ravensburger

Surprisingly though, the price started coming down only a couple of months after it was released.  I don't know if it was because it wasn't selling well at the higher price point, or if Ravensburger retailers just decided that they would cut the price for the holiday season.  But, whatever the reason, I'm happy to report that the price dropped to under $200 by early December, and I was able to use a bunch of saved up gift cards as well as my Christmas gift (money) from my mom to go ahead and purchase the puzzle!  Of course, several days after I ordered it, the price dropped yet again, and I could have gotten it for about $50 less, but who knew.  I was just afraid if I waited any longer, the price would shoot back up again.

On December 4, 2014, I clicked on the "submit order" on, and immediately started watching out the window for the UPS guy!  :)

It finally arrived late in the afternoon on Monday, the 8th.  The outer box was enormous, and made the box that the 24,000 piece Life puzzle came in look tiny.  I had to have Randy help me open the first box just to be able to get inside to get to the next box.

Not only is this puzzle box heavy, but it comes with its own hand truck!  Now you've got to respect a puzzle that comes with its own trolley. Like I said with the Life puzzle when it first arrived on my doorstep - it just somehow seems so much heavier knowing that its full of puzzle pieces.  I believe it officially weighs in at about 42 pounds.  It is a seriously big box.  Of course the kids wasted no time in getting in on the fun of having such a big box in the house...

And here's Derek looking over the poster the puzzle comes with.  I think he's studying it with great interest because he knows that he's going to have to help mommy work on this in the coming years!  LOL

So this is the newest addition to our family - a 40+ plus pound "baby" made of steel and cardboard.  I cannot wait to dive into this concrete jungle.

Friday, November 21, 2014

An Unexpected Treasure!

Falls Park - Greenville, SC
On November 14, 2014, Randy and I celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary.  It has been a wonderful decade filled with lots of joy, some sadness, several moves, two beautiful children, and much laughter.  When we were initially looking at options for our honeymoon, we were torn between Italy and Hawaii.  The tour package we got for Italy (and the fact that IT WAS ITALY!) was better than the deal we could get for Hawaii, and so we ultimately decided to go to Europe for 10 days.  It was definitely the right move, and we had the most fabulous time touring central and northern Italy.  We decided that we would strive for going to Hawaii for our 10-year anniversary instead.

Fast forward to September, 2014, and we realized that we would not be in a good enough financial situation to allow us to go to Hawaii for a week this year.  We talked about what we could do to make it a special celebration but would not require breaking the bank.  We decided that we would take a long weekend trip up to Asheville, NC to visit the Biltmore Estate.  It's a place I've always wanted to go as I have a definite love of architecture.  The best part of the plan was that we were going to get our good friends, Kirk and Linnette, to watch our kids for the weekend!

Pedestrian suspension bridge - Falls Park
So, on our anniversary, we dropped Derek off at school, and met Linnette at our house to start watching Cole.  We drove two hours north to Greenville, SC.  We had decided to stay in Greenville as it was quite a bit less expensive to stay there than in Asheville, and we also thought it would be fun to explore another city.  Neither of us had overly high expectations about Greenville since we really didn't know much about it, other than the fact it was halfway between us and Asheville and was less expensive.  We did some quick research on what to do in the area and found there was a nice park with a waterfall of some sort in the downtown area. So, after driving up we stopped for lunch at a nice German restaurant on the edge of Greenville.  It was really good, and we both thoroughly enjoyed what we had.  From there we drove to our hotel and checked in.  At that point we decided to go ahead and check out the downtown area along with Falls Park.

I cannot say enough good things about downtown Greenville or Falls Park.  It was GORGEOUS!  The park is surrounded by the downtown shops, and main feature is a flowing waterfall in the middle with a pedestrian suspension bridge directly above it.  Walking across the bridge allows for some really great photo ops.  There are over 100 restaurants alone in the downtown area, and we were just blown away by the look and feel of the entire area.  It was very well maintained and immacuately clean.  It definitely had a charm about it, and the shop owners were so friendly and helpful (not pushy at all).  We just fell in love with the place.  We walked around for a few hours looking in the shops and taking it all in before we had to leave for our dinner reservation.

We had dinner at a really nice steak / seafood restaurant in another part of town, and it was fabulous too, from start to finish.  At this point, we were so happy we had decided to stay in Greenville that we had already started planning another trip with our kids in the near future.

Surprisingly, the following day in Asheville was a bit of a let down.  Don't get me wrong, the Biltmore Estate is beautiful and fun in its own right, but it's soooo over-the-top indulgent that it almost felt phony at times. You were not allowed to take any pictures of the estate so I have nothing to share, but it is a gorgeous house, and the rest of the sprawling estate is beautiful as well.  We spent about 5 hours on the property.  Surprisingly, it's a whopping 4 miles just to get from the front entrance from the highway to the actual house itself!  Crazy...

After we were done exploring the house, the winery, and the small shopping village, we decided that we were done and thought we would go check out the downtown Asheville area.  After having fallen in love with downtown Greenville, our expectations were probably quite a bit higher than they should have been.  By the time we got parked the wind had started blowing and it was pretty chilly outside so we ducked into the first building / mall like area we found.  It was small, and filled with very expensive shops featuring local artists work.  We weren't really impressed, and the rest of the downtown area was less than optimal as well.  I had done a lot of research on restaurants in the Asheville area knowing we would likely be there for dinner on Saturday night after the Biltmore tour, and I had found what sounded like a really great Indian restaurant.  So when we had seen enough of downtown Asheville in about 45 minutes and still had almost two and a half hours to kill before our dinner reservation, I was really disappointed.  We weren't hungry, it was cold, and we had nothing left to do, very reluctantly I cancelled the reservation, and we decided to take our chances on another restaurant back in downtown Greenville.

On our drive back to Greenville we spotted a sign for a city that we just had to take a picture of being that we have two huge superhero fans in our family!

Exit for Bat Cave, NC
Turned out we made the right decision because the restaurant we ended up going too, another Indian restaurant, was great, and we had yet another awesome meal in Greenville....are you sensing a pattern yet?  LOL  So, after dinner we got the opportunity to walk around downtown Greenville a little more.  We didn't walk as much as we would have liked because it was really cold, but we had fun nonetheless.

The following morning we drove back home to reality and our children (which we had just begun to really miss that morning..LOL), but we were left with the great memories of discovering the unexpected treasure that was Greenville.  We will definitely be back!

1,000 pc. - Bizarre Bookshop I - Ravensburger

I was starting to get frustrated that I wasn't getting much time to spend on the Life puzzle because it's difficult to tuck myself away in the puzzle room while Randy is upstairs in the family room watching TV.  I want to work on the puzzle, but I also want and need to spend time with him too.  So, I decided that since I can no longer work on this section upstairs in the family room easily, I would try working on a small puzzle that I could fit on my small puzzling table in the family room.

The puzzle I chose to work on was Ravensburger's Bizarre Bookshop.  It's only 1,000 pieces so not too difficult, and it's a very cute scene.  So, I took the plunge and decided to give it a whirl.  It was fun, and a puzzle that I'm planning to use as a tester for the contact paper / spray mounting technique that I want to use on the Life puzzle.

Progress Update 1

Progress Update 2


Simultaneous Sections

As I've said before, I am now at a point with Section 3 that it's very difficult to work on it in the family room where I can also spend time with Randy.  The remaining pieces are scattered throughout the section, and make it difficult to work on outside of the puzzle room.

So, I decided to start sorting Section 4 and get some of the bigger areas out of the way that I can work on up in the family room.  It makes it much easier to work on the puzzle when I can do it and still spend time with the hubby.  Here's a picture of the final 6,000 pieces sorted into various buckets.  I will do more refined sorting of the buckets as I go along, but for now these work fine.

I haven't worked on it much as it's been crazy busy around here between cleaning and getting ready for our anniversary getaway weekend....another post on that later.

I have completed most of the planets, and have started sorting out more of the sailboats to start on next.  Will update with more pictures soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A New York State of Mind

I have always been in love with big city skylines, especially skycrapers, and building architecture in general for as long as I can remember.  As a child I used to check out books from the library about skyscrapers, and from a very young age I dreamed of going to New York City - especially for my honeymoon.
3,000 pcs. -  New York City - Educa
1,500 pcs. - New York City - Ravensburger
Of course what I didn't know growing up is that I would eventually meet and marry an amazing man who was born and raised in New York (Long Island), and would have absolutely no desire to go to New York City for a honeymoon when he had been there countless times throughout his entire life.  So, even though I was slightly disappointed that he didn't want to go there when we got married in November, 2004, I think we made an even better choice in honeymoon destinations -- Italy!  :)

A couple of years later, I finally got my opportunity to go to New York City for the first time, and I was elated.  It was definitely a dream come true, and I literally jumped up and down with excitement as we walked out of our hotel room in Times Square and began taking in all the sights, smells and noise that is NYC.

So, due to that lifelong interest in skyscrapers and building architecture, I guess it's no surprise that my most favorite jigsaw puzzles to do are those of city skylines, unusual / famous buildings, and even some architectural ruins.  The second largest puzzle I had ever done, before starting the Life puzzle, was a 2,000 piece scene of the Las Vegas Strip with all the beautiful and colorful hotels flanking both sides of the street.  I loved it.

18,000 pcs. - Skylines of the World - Ravensburger
Since then, I have purchased two Neuschwanstein Castle puzzles and two of the New York City skyline.  I am very much looking forward to doing the New York City ones in preparation for two VERY large city skyline based puzzles.  The first one, Ravensburger's 18,000 piece Skylines of the World puzzle is one that I fell in love with from the moment I first saw it.  It is made up of four large puzzles of some of the world's most famous cities (New York, San Francisco, Sydney, and Singapore).
It is held together with a solid blue border that looks rather daunting.  It is no longer in print and hard to come by at a reasonable price on ebay, but I keep looking.  I am hoping to find a new or very good used condition copy for less than $200 someday.

Several members of my flickr puzzle group have put this one together and say it's a lot of fun.  I surely hope to find out for myself at some point.

32,000 pcs. - New York City Window - Ravensburger
The other large New York City based puzzle I'm after is one that just got released a few weeks ago in the US.  It is a whopping 32,000+ piece puzzle entitled New York City Window.  I have been drooling over this puzzle ever since the announcement was made back in January that it would be released in September of this year.  I would have preferred a more typical skyline photograph taken from across the Brooklyn Bridge or a more dusk lighting photo, but I won't complain.  This one is going to be so much fun to put together anyway.  I cannot wait to get my hands on it.  I plan to try and save up a bunch of gift cards I've gotten so that I can pay for it and not make Randy upset that I'm spending a lot of money on another large puzzle.  But, I have to do this one!  Hee hee

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Birthday Puzzle

My sister Debbie sent me a puzzle for my birthday this year.  It was very sweet of her - I called and thanked her of course, and told her that any time she wants to send me a puzzle, it's A-okay with me!  LOL

I can't honestly say that it's one of my favorite scenes, but it should be fun to do anyway.  I will do the puzzle, and then probably sell it as I don't really have any desire to keep it or put it on the wall like I do with so many of my others.

The one thing I do like about the puzzle is the shape.  I have never done a shaped puzzle before so this will be a first.  I don't think it will be too difficult to assemble.

Autumn Shoreline - Suns Out - 1,000 pieces

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shame on Me...

I don't know what's wrong with me lately...I have been working on the puzzle a little each day, and haven't posted anything new on the blog in awhile.  Shame on me!  I can't say as I have a good excuse for it is always busy around here, but nothing more than usual.

I have been focusing the work of late to the under sea area, and I've made quite a bit of progress from the last update, I think.  Here, take a look....

Close up of the right side.

Close up of the left side.

Overall progress under the water.

Nemo has been having a lot of fun helping me with the puzzle.  He's very cute, but likes to play with the other fish a lot.  I'm always having to remind him to "get back to work".... LOL

Monday, August 18, 2014

Blue Dog - The Tail of a Boy's Best Friend

At my baby shower for my firstborn son, Derek, I received a very cute stuffed blue dog as a gift. I cannot even recall at this point who it was that gave it to us, but ironically, I had given the same dog to a girlfriend of mine a few weeks earlier for her first baby shower.

I began showing Derek the dog and laying it beside him as we played on the floor very early on, and it wasn't long before he was playing with the dog a lot. We gave him the name Blue Dog (I know, very original! LOL) some time later on when Derek was old enough to associate a person or thing with a name.

He became attached to Blue Dog very quickly, and it wasn't long before Blue Dog was offered a coveted spot in Derek's crib. He began to sleep with him nightly, and it wasn't long before he started coming downstairs with Derek in the morning as well. 

It was always a challenge every night before bed to find Blue Dog because we knew that Derek wouldn't sleep if he didn't have his loyal companion by his side. However, we never knew where we would find the little mischievous dog - behind a piece of furniture, in an empty box, or even the garbage can.  And there was many a night when we searched the house to the point of exhaustion and still couldn't find him.  Luckily those nights didn't happen too often, until we went to CA for 8 weeks and lived in a hotel room....

Of course one of the first things we packed for Derek for this extended stay in a southern CA hotel was his favorite companion.  He kept the dog by his side daily, until one day near the end of our stay, we could not find him - anywhere!  Of course, the first night was difficult without his best friend, but we were confident that by the next day we would locate him in some crazy place like the closet or the bathroom garbage can, or even behind the beds in the secondary room he was sleeping in at the hotel.  But alas, we could not find him. After a couple of days we asked the staff at the front desk of the hotel to keep an eye out for him, in case he mysteriously showed up outside of our room and was taken to the hotel's lost and found.  A few days later we were told that a member of the carpet cleaning company that was on site that week remembered seeing a little blue stuffed animal near the elevators.  YAY!  But then we were also told that the person said they left the animal there thinking someone might come for it later....BOO!  We never found Blue Dog, and a week or so later we returned home to FL - sad and dog less.

As soon as we returned home, I began to search the internet for another dog just like Blue Dog so that we could "surprise" Derek with the return of his beloved pet.  Unfortunately, the dog appeared to be out of stock and no longer in production.  I even went as far as to call my friend whom I had given the same dog to a couple of weeks before I got Derek's, but she said she didn't know where her son's dog was either.  So, as a court of last resort, I scanned ebay, and low and behold - I found the exact same dog with one small modification - the price tag!  This "gently used" version looked to be in great shape, but was over twice the amount that I knew this dog had cost new, but what was I, as the mother of a very distraught toddler, to do? I did what most other mom's would do in the same situation - I sighed heavily, and clicked on the "buy it now" button.  :)

I have to say that the dog arrived in great shape, though getting him in the mail was a bit of a fiasco as we were in the process of moving at the time, and the dog got sent to several places before FINALLY making it into our hands.  However, the look on Derek's face when we handed him his Blue Dog was well worth the outrageous price we spent to get Blue Dog's twin brother.

Since that time, over two years ago, we have lost and found, lost and found, that #*($&!! dog more times than I can count.  Sometimes it has been hours or days, and once, more than a week before the little buggar was found (in Randy's and my bathroom linen closet of all places!), but when we do know his whereabouts, it's always on top of Derek's big boy bed where he waits patiently for his best friend to return each night. Blue Dog is getting rather dirty and scraggly looking, and he's lost a lot of his fluffiness, but that's okay with us. We have never told him that this is a different dog, and to this day he still doesn't know that it's not his original companion.  We figure some day when he asks, or reads this blog post, he'll know, but until then we can just be happy in the knowledge that we made our little boy very, very happy.  :)

Nemo Has A New Home

It's been awhile since I actually wrote a puzzle related post for this "puzzle" blog, so I figured I'd better get back to the main reason why I started this in the first place - my Life puzzle!  In my Flickr Big Jigsaw Puzzle group, one of the members always takes photographs of his completed puzzles with a little rubber chicken named Evelene.  Now, I don't know the story behind how Evelene came to be, but I have always thought it cute that he had a puzzle mascot of sorts.  Then, another member started using a stuffed Eeyore as his mascot, and a trend was born.  Another puzzler, our speedy Australian, recently revealed her new mascot, a Koala Bear named Colin.  So, I figured it was about time that I, too, got on board with the puzzle mascot movement.

I created a new topic on our discussion board to elicit responses from other members on what they felt might be the best puzzle mascot for me.  I wanted something cute, fun, and that represented my personality at least a little bit.  Ironically, as I was writing the question to upload to the discussion area, a very appropriate mascot came to mind.  I didn't want to influence anyone else's response so I did not reveal the one I had thought of, but figured I would after I got some other opinions.

As it turned out, the people in the group who responded all came up with the same idea that I had thought of while writing....Nemo!  Of course, it was the obvious answer!  My Life puzzle is chock full of clownfish in every color imaginable.  What other character would make a better mascot for me than cute little Nemo?  So, a couple of days after I posted the discussion topic and had received several Nemo suggestions, I went ahead and ordered my new little buddy.
Nemo is ready for his close up.
I couldn't be happier with this choice - he's a perfect companion, and I wasted no time in getting him acclimated to his new surroundings.  He appears to be enjoying himself immensely.  Of course he wanted to start working on the fish area of the that's where we started.  Here's what we've accomplished in our short time together.

Nemo seems to feel right at home working on the fish.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

It Feels Like We've Lost a Good Friend

For most of my life I have not been too bothered by celebrity deaths.  With few exceptions, most of the people who passed were really old celebrities who were famous way before my time so there was no real emotional connection for me.

The first celebrity death which I remember being very saddened by was John Candy.  He died in 1994, two years after I graduated high school, and I just remember feeling it was a big loss for Hollywood as he was such a great actor, and so funny.  Even in the years following Candy's death, I still felt a disconnect with most actors and singers who died - it was just the name of a person who I vaguely remembered, if at all.

Then in June, 2009, Michael Jackson died, and suddenly, celebrity deaths were not just actors and musicians I'd never seen or heard of before.  Now those deaths meant something - it meant the loss of an actor, singer, performer, etc. that I not only had heard of, but admired, loved, respected, or watched / listened to as a kid.  Someone I felt like I knew.

I can recall to this day, over 5 years later, the where's, the when's, and the how's of Michael's death.  I was still working at the IT Helpdesk for AHS Information Services when I got a breaking news alert email stating there were reports that Michael Jackson had just gone into cardiac arrest.  I don't know what it was, but just from that one little sentence in an email, I knew he wouldn't make it.  I immediately started instant messaging with my co-workers that Michael Jackson had gone into cardiac arrest, and I was pretty sure he would not make it.  It was more than 15 minutes later before the news broke on CNN, and not too long after that they reported he had died.  I was so profoundly saddened by his death.  I loved Michael Jackson's music throughout my childhood and teenage years.  He went on to release music I wasn't crazy about, but I never doubted that he was a musical genius, and I would still listen to his older music on occasion.  I knew he was a very troubled soul, had a lot of mental issues, and was probably miserable much of his life, but I never doubted for a minute that he was a good person.  I never bought into all the rumors and allegations of child molestation, etc that plagued him in the later years.  He was more like a child himself than anything.  He just didn't get that he was sometimes crossing boundaries he should not have crossed as an adult.  I think in his own mind, he was still trying to be a kid - something he never got to experience when he was a child due to his meteoric rise to fame at such a young age.   

For several weeks after his death, I would listen to his greatest hits in the car, and I could often feel tears coming to my eyes because I felt the world had been robbed of his genius far too soon.  Of course, I was also pregnant and very hormonal at the time so I am sure that played a part in my emotional state, but I just couldn't believe he was gone.  It took me about a month to move past his death...

And now, flash forward to this last Monday, August 11th, 2014.  Randy and I had just finished eating dinner, we happened to have the news on, and our jaws literally fall open as the news anchor reports that actor / comedian Robin Williams has been found dead in his northern California home.

No, this just cannot be....there has to be some kind of mistake...a sick joke that will be cleared up in a matter of minutes!  I run to the computer to pull up CNN and see what they say because...well, they know everything...and, it wasn't there!  Whew!   Okay, yes, it must be some kind of outrageous, false report. Then, minutes later, I check again, and my heart's true.  Robin Williams has been found dead in his home from an apparent suicide.

For the last week, Randy and I have been reeling from the news of his death.  It has affected us more than any other celebrity death that I can think of - even Michael Jackson.  Not only were we huge fans of his movies and his comedy, but we very much admired the amazingly kind and generous person he was. Celebrity after celebrity have made statements about how shocked and saddened they were to hear of his untimely death, but it seems the manner and circumstances surrounding his death are what has been the hardest to accept.  Suicide.  Robin Williams, so very brilliant and talented in making millions laugh, could not make the most important person in his life happy - himself.  

As has been revealed in the days since his passing, he suffered for many, many years with severe depression, had multiple bouts with substance abuse, and had just recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. What a heavy burden he was carrying around with him on a daily basis - one that most people, even some of his closer friends, did not realize was becoming such an unbearable pain that he felt he had no other option than to take his own life.

We have been immersing ourselves in everything Robin Williams that has come on TV over the last week, and it has been so hard to see him on stage performing, or hamming it up on Mork & Mindy, or to not break down in tears while listening to his character come to life in Aladdin.  We are immensely saddened and heartbroken - it feels like we've lost a good friend.  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Is It Just Me, or Do You Miss the 80's Too?

It does not seem possible that 1980 was 34 years ago!  I don't know if it's because that would mean I'm getting old, or if it's because the 80s are still such a fond memory for so many people that it doesn't feel like so much time has passed, but either way, I truly believe it was one of the most influential decades in American history...a decade of indulgence - a decade of silliness - a decade I often long to relive....
 I come home in the mornin' light
My mother says, "When you gonna live your life right"
"Oh Mommy dear, we're not the fortunate ones
And girls, they wanna have fun
Woah girls, just wanna have fun"

Read more: Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Want To Have Fun Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

I made it through the wilderness
Somehow I made it through
Didn't know how lost I was
Until I found you
Read more: Madonna - Like A Virgin Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

Ahhh, the music of the 80s...

I cannot even begin to tell you the number of hours I spent in my room in the 80s pretending to be a  pop megastar just like Madonna and Cindi Lauper - rocking out in front a mirror and singing into my "closed fist" microphone.  In my mind, I was the greatest of all pop stars, had millions of groupies and guys falling over themselves to be near me, and I basically felt like I did rule the world!

The 80s were such a defining decade in rock n' roll history.  Some of the biggest names in music came into their own in the 80s....Madonna, Michael Jackson, Pat Benetar, Journey, Prince, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, and U2 just to name a few.  Even to this day, the 80s is still my favorite decade in music.  There were very few songs released during these revolutionary years that I didn't absolutely LOVE.  I still have most of my car radio stations set to stations that play 80s music - despite the fact that it is now considered classic rock!  :o)

Not only did the 80s define and change music forever, it also gave us some of the most interesting, bizarre, and awesome hairstyles and fashions we have ever known.

I guess because the 80s were some of my most formidable years (I was 5 in 1980, so you can imagine how much of an influence the mid 80s would have had on a 10-year-old girl.), I still love some of the clothes and hairstyles of this generation.  Though I was never a huge fan of the mullet, I did think a few guys could pull it off back Billy Ray Cyrus (Yes, I was a FAN! -- Hanging head in shame!!!)

I also loved the big poufy hair that I and all my friends sported, as well as the big sloppy shirts worn over tight leggings, and you can't forget the ginormous belt that hung down over the hips.

A bottle of hairspray and a teasing comb were never far from my hand, either.  For.Sure.  ;)

The 80s were also defined by some amazing TV shows -- well, at least in my own opinion they were amazing -- ones that were important enough to me to warrant begging my parents to let me stay up "just a little later".  I think my absolute favorite 80's show was The Greatest American Hero.  The show didn't last more than a few seasons, but I loved every minute of it.  My dad used to watch it with me, and it was one of the few areas where we could bond, so we watched Greatest American Hero, The Dukes of Hazard, The Fall Guy, and TJ Hooker together.  They all still hold a soft soft in my heart even after all these years.  Of course, being the early bloomer I was, there was always one guy in each show that I was totally in love with!  In GAH it was Ralph Hinkley of Dukes of Hazzard my heart pounded for Bo Duke....I loved Howie in the Fall Guy (no idea why, now)....and I was smitten with Romano in TJ Hooker.  

Of course there were many other awesome shows from the 80s that I loved like Family Ties, The Cosby Show, Soap, and the list could go on and on.  They don't make good quality shows like they did back then. Nowadays you're almost afraid to even start watching a new show as it will most likely get cancelled within the first season.  Back then shows lasted at least a few seasons before a decision was made to yank it if the ratings were low.

I have so many fond memories of  the TV shows, musicians, and fashions of the 80s.  This decade is also where I developed my love for reading, and the books that got me started was a series called Sweet Valley High.  I had a ton of these books, and I could never wait to get my hands on the next one and the next one and....  They were awesome books for teenage girls.  All of my friends loved them too, and we would trade back and forth to make sure we had read them all.  I could never decide whether I wanted to be Jessica or Elizabeth.

And last, but certainly not least was the movies of the 80s.  Who could argue that some of the greatest and most influential movies of all time came out in the 80s?  Where would be today without having E.T., Star Wars, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Sixteen Candles, Indiana Jones, Risky Business, The Terminator, Top Gun, Back to the Future, Rambo, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Beverly Hills Cop...just to, literally, name a few!

Ahhh, the I miss you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy Anniversary, Puzzle!

Opening the box!
Four years ago today, the UPS man delivered my 28-pound package of puzzling joy, and yesterday marked the four-year anniversary of starting this blog!  Wow, it's hard to believe that I have been doing this for so long.  Click here and here to see those historic posts once again.  :)

This puzzle entitled, Life: The Great Challenge, has certainly been a metaphor in my journey with this big, beautiful beast.  Here are some of the many Life challenges / highlights from the last four years.

  1. Derek, my oldest son, was 5 months old when I got the puzzle.  He's now getting ready to go into pre-K!
  2. My husband quit his job, then took us to southern CA for 8 weeks to do consulting work.
  3. We put our house on the market, packed up all our belongings, and moved to Atlanta, GA for a new job opportunity. 
    Status of Section 1 at time of move to Atlanta, GA.
  4. We lived with Randy's sister and her family for 5 months while waiting for our house to sell.
  5. We lived with great friends for another 6 months while waiting for our new house to be built.
  6. We moved into our new house in mid September and 2 months later hosted Thanksgiving for about 20 people.  
  7. After 1.3 years of neglect, I was finally able to pull out the puzzle and work on it again.
  8. I got pregnant with our second child.
  9. I finished Section 1 on April 2nd, 2013 - 2 years, 8 months, and 10 days after starting. 
    Section 1 finished!
  10. I gave birth to our second son, Cole, on July 30th, 2013 - 3 weeks earlier than planned. 
  11. I finished Section 2 on April 13, 2014 - 1 year and 11 days after starting (I'm getting better!)
  12. Section 2 finished!
  13. On July 1, 2014, I got this "brilliant" idea to join a group puzzle project with my friends from the Flickr Puzzling group I belong to....yeah, everyone but me finished within 10 days!  LOL  What was I thinking?!
  14. Goal date for completion of Section 3 is October 18, 2014.  Wish me luck!
  15. Section 3 status as of 7/23/14.

Monday, July 21, 2014

ANNOUNCEMENT: Penny's Jigsaw Blog is Now ""!!!

Today I am happy to announce that "Penny's Jigsaw Blog" will now be known as "Puzzle Momma" and has it's own dedicated domain at!  But don't worry, if you still have bookmarked for this blog you will be redirected to the new site.

I am very excited about the recent changes to the blog.  These changes are allowing me to expand the scope and focus of the blog from just jigsaw puzzles to a much more broad spectrum of topics.  Now I will be able to share many more things from my daily life that I couldn't before....stuff about my children, cooking / recipes, books, TV and movies, etc.  

For those of you who have been following me for a while, I hope that you will continue to do so (and get involved....comment too!), and that many more new friends will join us soon!

Thank you everyone for your patience, and of course to Jessica for all her invaluable help!

Puzzle Momma

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Special Agent Pendergast Series by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

My good friend Ellen is due the credit for turning me on to this fabulous writing duo and boy am I grateful she did!  Even though she had read most of the books in the series already, she suggested I start with The Cabinet of Curiosities since it could be read as a stand alone book without having to have any previous knowledge of the characters, plots, etc., and she knew I would probably like it a lot.
Personally, I think it was a devious plot on her part to get me hooked  on the series - so what better way to get me wanting more than to introduce me to the best book of the entire series first?  LOL  It was devilish of you Ellen, quite devilish!  *smile* worked like a charm!

This roller coaster ride of a book begins with the breaking of ground on a new high rise apartment complex, in New York City (I know - it must be fiction if that's the case!).  A tunnel is discovered under the construction site, and when investigated, a charnel full of the remains of 36 people from over 100 years ago is discovered.  As the investigation into these century-old crimes ramps up, an eerily similar set of murders start happening in the present day.  And that is all I'm going to say about it because you have to read it for yourself....

The book is fabulous!  There were times while reading that I was so on-the-edge-of-my-seat-into-it that if someone had come up to me and said anything, I would have jumped three feet in the air.  So suspenseful and well written.  In fact, I put it in my top 5 list of all-time favorite books...yes, it is JUST THAT GOOD!

For reference, here is a list of all the Special Agent Pendergast novels, in chronological order, with each "sub series" highlighted where multiple books follow the same plot line and should be read in order chronologically to make the most sense.

  • Relic (1995)
  • Reliquary (1997)
  • The Cabinet of Curiosities (2002)
  • Still Life with Crows (2003)
  • Brimstone (2004)
  • The Dance of Death (2006)
  • The Book of the Dead (2006)
  • The Wheel of Darkness (2007)
  • Cemetary Dance (2009)
  • Fever Dream (2010)
  • Cold Vengence (2011)
  • Two Graves (2012)
  • White Fire (2013)
As you can see, Cabinet is actually the 3rd book chronologically in this series of books by Preston & Child revolving around a very extraordinary and peculiar FBI agent named Alloysius X. Pendergast.  Like I mentioned above, Cabinet is a stand-alone book plot wise.  It has a few of the same characters from the first two books, but you can start with this one if you want, like I did, or you can do it in order.  After reading a few books in the series, you will come to realize that he is unlike any other character you've read in a suspense thriller series.  If you're anything like me, which you probably are since you read this blog *smile*, you will be hooked on this incredibly talented writing team after only one book.  Once I finished Cabinet of Curiosities, I couldn't get my hands on another one in the series fast enough.  You will be tripping over your own feet to get out of your front door fast enough to get to the bookstore or library in order to get the next book.  I'm not kidding - it's happened!  ;)

It was at this point that I decided to go back and start the series from the beginning so I could see how Special Agent Pendergast was initially introduced.  The very first book featuring Pendergast is Relic, a very engrossing thriller set mostly in New York City's Museum of Natural History where several brutal murders have taken place.
The pace on this book is quick, and I have to admit there were many nights when Randy would say to me, "Hon, it's late and you have work tomorrow.  Don't you think you should go to bed?" to which I would respond, "I know, but please JUST ONE MORE CHAPTER!!!" LOL  It was an awesome book as well and comes close to tying with Cabinet as my favorite Pendergast novel.

Reliquary is the 2nd book in the series, and it builds on the same plot line as Relic so it should be read in chronological order to make the most sense.  I struggled with this one a bit in the beginning and towards the middle, but just over halfway through it picked up speed and I enjoyed the rest of the book, but certainly not quite as much as Relic or Cabinet.  Chronologically, after Reliquary is Still Life With Crows which also has a stand alone plot line.  This one was good too and introduces a new character, Corrie Swanson, who will make appearances in several subsequent books. The next three books, starting with Brimstone, follow a central story line involving Pendergast's diabolical brother, Diogenes.  The Dance of Death and The Book of the Dead round out the Diogenes Trilogy.  All three were good, but they still don't surpass Cabinet or Relic in my opinion.

Preston & Child penned another stand alone Pendergast novel entitled Cemetary Dance which incorporated several other main characters from previous novels.  It was a good read and holds a special place in my heart as it is my first and only signed, hardcopy book ever. Thank you, guys!  :)

The most recent sub-series in the Pendergast library is one which finally addresses the story of his late wife's demise, a plot line that was conveniently never discussed in previous novels.  From the start, in Relic, you knew she was no longer alive, but there were no other details until Fever Dream.  This and Cold Vengence, the second book in what is known as The Helen Trilogy, were average in my opinion.  They held my interest just enough to want to finish them, but they don't hold a candle to some of the others. The final book in the Helen TrilogyTwo Graves, was the best of the three books. There was a lot of intense action and a few surprises along the way that made it a very entertaining read.  Honestly though, I think part of what made this book so good for me is that I knew this particular plot line was coming to an end!  LOL

White Fire is their latest Pendergast release, another stand alone, and brings back an old friend, Corrie Swanson, from Still Life With Crows.  It was a very fast and fun read.  I really enjoyed it - especially after the slight disappointment with the Helen Trilogy.

So now I await, with baited breath, for my next Pendergast fix.  It's a bad habit, but one I find hard to break.  ;)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Another Gift - This One From a Blogger Customization and Coding Angel

Over the last few weeks, you may have noticed some changes on the blog - alright, yes, unless you're blind, you noticed.  LOL  For quite some time now (a couple of years at least), I have wanted to make the blog feel a little more "puzzle themed".  Unfortunately, I could never find a blogger template that looked like what I was envisioning in my head.  I wanted it to look like the blog of a jigsaw puzzle enthusiast - not just some generic "magazine style" layout that you see on every other blog out there.  I was getting frustrated with the way the blog looked, but I didn't know how I was going to fix it since I don't have any html / java / CSS coding knowledge.

And then my Coding Angel, Jessica, posted a comment on one of my posts and we started chatting.  It was as if that initial post was a gift from above because as it turns out Jessica and I have tons in common too, and even better, she possessed the knowledge I lacked - experience with customizing a blog!  Woo hoo  Happy Day!

So, it is due to Jessica that the blog looks as great as it does now (okay, slightly biased there I know).  She gave me lots of advice on where to find the items I wanted to change in the code, and what to insert where, how to delete this but not that, etc.

Now, not only do I have a great looking blog, but I have "met" another puzzle enthusiast who is quickly becoming a good friend too.  Thanks Jessica!

And please, check out Jessica's blog too, by clicking here.  She has created an awesome puzzle mounting method.

A Gift from a Hawaiian Angel

In the almost four years that I've been doing this blog, I have had the opportunity and pleasure to meet a lot of wonderful people from all over the world.  It's always so much fun to talk with others who share the same passion for jigsaw puzzles that I do, and it also almost always turns out that we have lots more than just jigsaw puzzles in common.

About a year or so ago I "met" Lani who is from Hawaii...lucky girl!  She and I hit it off immediately and began emailing back and forth about puzzles, of course, but as we quickly learned, we had many other things in common as well including favorite TV shows and reading.

Lani is a big puzzler, and I think she has also converted her husband into a puzzle addict as well.  She mostly prefers puzzles in the 1,000 to 1,500 range, so when she got her hands on a 2,000 piece puzzle she realized it might be a little too much for her.  So, being the incredibly sweet Hawaiian Angel that she is, she asked me if she could send the puzzle to me.  :o)  Well, sure Lani, if you REALLY want to....LOL

So, several weeks ago I got a package in the mail from Lani with one of the cutest, most special puzzles I have ever received.  She wouldn't tell me what the puzzle was, just that I would "love it", and how right she was!  I do love it, and I cannot wait to put it together and hang it on a wall between my two boys' rooms.  I can't put it in one and not the other's of course so I have to come up with neutral territory.  :o)

The puzzle is from Tenyo - a popular Japanese puzzle manufacturer that does a lot of Disney puzzles.  The pieces are slightly smaller than the average puzzle, but the quality of the print looks very good.

Here is a comparison of one of the Tenyo pieces from the Mickey Mouse Collage puzzle and a piece from my Life puzzle.  You can see these pieces are tiny, but I should have also added a piece from my current Clementoni Wedding Feast at Cana puzzle since those pieces are even larger than the Life pieces!

Thank you, Lani!!!!  :o)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Other Randomness Page Coming Soon!

This last page will be my catch all for anything and everything that doesn't fall under the other categories.  I would suspect this page will be pretty short!  LOL

Raising Kids Page Coming Soon!

This will be a page dedicated to all things mommy related about my two adorable boys.  Lessons learned from trial and error, funny things they say that I want to remember forever, etc.

Organizing Page Coming Soon!

This page will focus on another hobby of mine - organizing.  I love to organize things and take before / after pictures.  Making things look nice and neat is a lot of fun and very rewarding.  I will be on a mission this fall to get my house completely organized from the top down.  Wish me luck, and follow along!

Books / TV / Movies Page Coming Soon!

This page focuses on my other biggest passions aside from puzzling - reading and watching TV / movies.  I will talk about books I've read and those I want to read. And, I will also share any information I have about TV / movies that comes to mind - whether it be reviews, updates, previews, etc.

Cooking / Recipes Page Coming Soon!

This page is where I will be posting recipes and sharing tips / techniques and instructions on some of the recipes that my husband and I love to make.  We are both into cooking.  As of right now, he is the main entree cook (I play sous chef), and I do all the baking and most of the breakfast type meals (he plays sous chef here when I need it).

6,000 pc - The View - Jan Brueghel - Nathan

Until I joined the Big Jigsaw Puzzle Collection group on Flickr, I really never liked or gave much thought to fine art puzzles.  After joining and looking at the collections of some of the members, especially the owner and administrator of the group, Billsville Mike, I started to like a few of more classic art puzzles.  And now, almost a year later, I am hooked on the classic art puzzles and have a bunch on my wish list.  Unfortunately, most of them are no longer in print so I may never get all of them that I'd like, but I was able to get this one - again through a nationwide Craigslist search - for a great price.

This particular puzzle was one I saw on another member, Piecefull's, photostream.  Her in progress pictures on this one made me fall in love with it.  I am delighted to have it, and look forward to starting it, but I can tell it's going to be a dousey!  :o)

6,000 pc. - Good Old Days - Nicky Boehme - SunsOut

If you have followed my blog for any length of time then you know I love Nicky Boehme puzzles!  Her style reminds me quite a bit of Thomas Kinkade so it's probably no surprise that I love her work so much.  :o)

I have several small Christmas scenes by her, but this one is a biggie and one that I had been wanting since the first day I saw it.  I got it last year using an Amazon gift card I had gotten for a birthday gift and had never used.  Gotta love that!

I am looking forward to doing this puzzle very much.

I also got another one not long after Good Old Days, and this one is going to go in my kitchen when it's finished...

I have a lot of chef / cafe decor in the kitchen so this will go perfectly.

Tropical Impressions (18,000)

Another puzzle that I had on my wish list is crossed off, and I realized that I never added it to the blog...shame, shame, shame!  I got this beauty from someone on Craigslist.  She had done the puzzle herself and was looking to pass it on to another enthusiast - enter, me.  I got it for a great price ($50 including shipping), and am quite happy about it.  It will be quite some time before I get to this one as I have lots of others ahead of it on my ever growing "To Do" list.

I will post pictures soon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Wedding Feast at Cana - 4,000 pieces - Clementoni

Several people in my Big Puzzle Collection group on Flickr decided to try a group project and do the same puzzle at the same time.  We selected the 4,000 piece "Wedding Feast at Cana" puzzle by Clementoni.  A beautiful painting that has been made into several different size puzzles by several manufacturers over the years.  It is by Paolo Veronese, and you can read more about the painting by clicking here.

Paolo Veronese 008.jpg

I first saw this painting when Tom over at sexdrugsandjigsawpuzzles told me this was the puzzle that launched his passion for puzzles.  He had a whopping 9,000 piece version that he had lost during a move some where along the line.  He found another copy on ebay and didn't hesitate to order it, but it unfortunately was used and a lot of pieces were missing . I believe he just recently got another copy that will hopefully be complete!

Not too long ago, the owner of our Flickr group, Billsville Mike, also completed the 9,000 piece version of this beauty, and it was at that point I was completely hooked.  I have looked for months for another used 9,000 piece version on ebay, but so far I've had no luck in finding it.  Oh of these days maybe.  In the meantime, this one will keep me plenty busy since I have so little puzzling time right now as it is.

This mini group of puzzlers is representing a broad geographic range.  One member is in Australia, another in The Netherlands, a third in Oregon, and me, in Atlanta, GA.  It has been really fun posting progress pictures as we assemble.  Of course, I knew going into this that I would be the slowest to do the puzzle as I have two young children, but I didn't let that stop me.  I wanted to be a part of the group, and I really love the painting so I was eager to participate.

It's now been 8 days since we first started the puzzle.  Our super fast puzzler from Australia, Jane, is already finished, and our Europeon participant, Eddie, isn't far behind.  Bob, from Oregon, is over halfway done, and still a long ways ahead of me, but that's okay.  I'm having fun with it, even if I won't win any speed awards.  I do think I should qualify for other awards like "Longest Time to Complete" or "Most Determined Puzzler" since I have never given up on my Life puzzle even though it will be officially 4 years since I purchased it in just a couple of weeks!

Here is the border - it's laying in strips as my main puzzling table still has Life on it so I'm having to try and build this puzzle on these small working boards.  I will cover up the Life puzzle with some foam boards when I'm ready for final assembly.

The status after the end of Day 7...

The first two pieces, married...ironically, it's the bride!  LOL

A sea of body parts bucket...

Sorting clothing...

The feel of the linen paper on top of these pieces is really nice in comparison to Educa's Life pieces which are smooth and glossy.  These pieces are also a much tighter fit than my Life puzzle which is great, and quite a bit larger.  You can actually pick up more than 4 pieces without them falling apart - AMAZING!  My only real complaint is that it seems the knob pieces bend kind of easily.  I had to be very careful when pulling apart pieces that were kind of stuck together, even though they didn't belong with the other piece.

I think this is going to be a really fun puzzle to work on - I may be last to complete, but that's okay because I'm a puzzling momma!