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!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Flickr Me Happy

I don't know why, up until this very moment, I have never shared something that has become a big part of my puzzling life - the Flickr Big Puzzle Group that I belong to! I found this group through Tom of fame, and I have been hooked ever since.

Basically it is a group of like minded people (in this case those who love to assemble large jigsaw puzzles) from around the world who come together through this group to share pictures, experiences, and lots of laughs as we all work our way through extremely large and complex jigsaw puzzles. The group is called "The Big Jigsaw Puzzle Collection" and currently has about 60 members. It is well run and maintained about our "ringleader", Billsville Mike, who is the most knowledgeable puzzler I have ever known. His experience and expertise on puzzle manufacturers, fine art puzzles, and anything else you may ever want to know about puzzles is vast. It is through him and this group that I have come to like fine art puzzles myself. I had never even heard of a Brueghel painting before, and now I have at least 4 on my puzzle wish list amongst a ton of other great paintings that have been put to cardboard and thoughtfully cut and mixed to drive me nuts. LOL

This group is only for the larger puzzles...all photos must be of puzzles that are 3,000 pieces or larger. You can post pictures of the box, opening and sorting pieces, assembly / progress photos, and eventually the end result when it's all finished! Everyone in the group is very encouraging, supportive, and knowledgeable on just about every large puzzle out there so it's nice to post pictures of the puzzle you're currently working on and get some positive feedback on how well you'r ,e doing - even when it feels like you're certainly NOT doing so well.

There is also another group, called Jigsaws that has a lot of the same members, but it geared toward puzzles of any size - typically the smaller ones. Many of the members of the Large Puzzle group also belong to that one so it make it pretty fun to post in that group as well.

If you should like to check it out, please feel free to Click here.