Stamp Spices

Last weekend I did the puzzle Stamp Spices from Bits and Pieces. This was a 500 piece puzzle with a collage of stamps with different spices on them. I had ordered this along with a Christmas-themed puzzle to try out the brand.

I did enjoy the subject matter of this puzzle, and I definitely like the collage style. However, I found the puzzle to be very dark, which made it harder to see what you were doing. I also didn’t find the pieces to lay very flat or feel very nice when I ran my hands over the puzzle. One piece was bent, and one piece was missing, although like before I can’t guarantee I didn’t lose it.

I will do the Christmas puzzle because I like the image a lot, but I doubt I will buy any more from this brand.

Here’s the finished puzzle:

Passing Through

The puzzle is called Passing Through, and it’s part of the Hometown Gallery series from Master Pieces. The artist is Bonnie White. This is a 1000 piece puzzle that I received as a Christmas gift last year from my mother-in-law, who was my Secret Santa in the family gift exchange.

For the gift exchange, we each write down three things we want and then pick a random slip from the basket to choose who we will buy for. I said I would like a 500-1000 piece puzzle, but didn’t specify beyond that, so it was interesting to see what was picked out for me. She actually got me two, and this is the first one I have done. I did enjoy it, but this year I do plan on saying which puzzles I want since there are so many on my wish list!

Here’s the puzzle after a couple of short sessions working on it:

The balloons and the houses were the easiest part. After that I did the water, the people, and the animals. Then remaining path, grass/trees, and sky were a bit harder, and they required a bit of shape sorting, but I eventually got them done. Here’s the finished puzzle:

Unfortunately, there was one piece missing. I can’t guarantee I didn’t lose it somehow, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. There was also one piece that was bent, which made the pieces in that area lay a bit wonky. The overall quality of the puzzle wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t terrible either.

Here’s where the missing piece was:

All in all, this was a fun puzzle to do. Now on to the next one!

Cats with Careers

For this puzzle, I didn’t end up doing any of the ones I already owned. Instead, I purchased the puzzle Cats with Careers, which is similar to the Dogs with Jobs puzzle I did last. This is a 500-piece puzzle from Galison.

It was super cute, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the dogs puzzle. The background was a bit darker, and the finish was a bit uneven and felt rough in places. At one point, I was having trouble fitting two pieces together, and one of the knobs actually popped off one of them!

With that said, I did enjoy seeing the different cats and what their professions were. Here is a picture of the finished puzzle:

And here are some closeups of a few of the cats:

Illinois Trip – October 2022

This past week I made a trip out to Illinois to see my parents. I haven’t been there since the summer of 2019, when the three of us drove there to spend time with them as well as do some sightseeing in Chicago. After that very long drive both ways, I signed up for a credit card with mileage rewards, and I was able to use some of the miles I had earned for my ticket to fly there. I was so happy I had made that decision three years ago because the trip was so much nicer – and shorter – than driving!

The main reason I made the trip now is that my mom had broken her leg a few weeks ago. After a few days in the hospital and three weeks in rehab, she is now recovering at home. My youngest brother lives in the area and has been helping out with car rides anywhere she needs to go as well as some household chores. I wanted to check on her and also give him a little bit of a break for a few days.

Here are pictures of Mom and her cat Brandy:

The week went very well. Mom is doing great getting around in a wheelchair and is working on using a walker with the PT who is coming to the house twice a week. We also met with a social worker who helped get her signed up for Meals on Wheels and helped her fill out a healthcare power of attorney form. Her blood pressure has been pretty low, so the doctor reduced some of her meds and had her get a blood pressure cuff and start daily readings. We also did a financial power of attorney and I got her computer and printer working better.

My dad and his wife Carolyn live in the next town over, so I went over to their house on Wednesday evening and visited with them for a couple of hours. They are both doing well. My dad had a heart attack just before the pandemic started in early 2020, but he is feeling pretty good right now. Here’s a picture of them:

It was so nice having a week off work and away from my daily responsibilities. And I was glad to be able to help out my mom at least a little bit. I’m not sure when we have the chance to make another family trip there, so I am really happy that I was able to make this trip work out.

Dogs with Jobs

As promised, my next puzzle is a fun one. Dogs with Jobs is a 500 piece square puzzle from Galison. It is super adorable with all of the different dogs and the jobs that they have. Here are a few closeups:

The pieces were all 2 in and 2 out, like my last puzzle, but it was a very different puzzling experience because they fit together much better and weren’t all the same shape even though they were the same style. I was also able to move sections around without any problems. All the text made it a lot of fun and the dogs were all pretty easy to distinguish from each other.

Here is the completed puzzle:

I’m not sure what my next puzzle will be. I have two that I got from my Secret Santa last Christmas and another one I picked up on vacation this year. All three are 1000 pieces. I have several puzzles on my wish list, mostly 500 pieces. Oh, and I have two that were gifted to me, but I was informed that they are both missing a piece, so I’m not sure if I want to do those. I guess I’ll see what my mood is when I’m ready to start the next one!

The World of Jane Austen

My most recent puzzle was The World of Jane Austen from Laurence King Publishing. It was a 1000-piece puzzle featuring many of the buildings and people from Austen’s novels.

This was a very difficult puzzle to do. It was hard from the beginning to the end. Part of that was because all the pieces were the same shape – 2 in and 2 out – and they had an extremely loose fit. The fit made it impossible to pick up sections and move them around. Anytime I wanted to move a section, I had to do it 2 pieces at a time. I also had a fair number of false fits, probably due to both the loose fit and the similar shapes.

Another thing that made this puzzle difficult was the image. It was so dense with details that it was hard to find the pieces you were looking for. It took several sessions of intense puzzling to get it finished. I am glad I stuck with it though because I am very happy with the finished product.

Here is the completed puzzle:

And here are some detail shots:

Another thing I wanted to share is my new puzzle mat that I used for the first time with this puzzle. It is big enough to hold a 1500-piece puzzle, and it has a felt backing. It also has a cover that I can place over the puzzle with stretchy pieces that fit over the four corners. This worked great to protect the puzzle when I had to leave my dog alone in the house. It’s so nice to find a solution to that problem!

Here’s a picture of a corner of the mat showing what the cover looks like:

My next puzzle is going to be a super fun and easy one, so stay tuned!

Western Pennsylvania Trip – July 2022

This year Joe and I took a weekend trip to Western Pennsylvania in lieu of a longer vacation. He gets a day off for his birthday, so we planned it for that weekend. We left Friday and came back Sunday.

On Friday, we started out by visiting Old Bedford Village in Bedford, PA. It is an open-air museum with various old houses and other buildings that were moved to this location around 1975. Some of the buildings had reenactors in them performing various tasks such as blacksmithing or candlemaking or just sharing information about the building and how it was used. It was interesting to see the different buildings and talk to the reenactors.

On Saturday, we visited two houses designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. Both of the houses were fascinating, and the tour guides were excellent. I had been to Fallingwater once before, but never Kentuck Knob. Years ago, I also did a walking tour of Wright houses in Oak Park, Illinois, which was very cool.

Here are a couple of shots of Fallingwater:

And here are a couple of Kentuck Knob:

Overall, the trip was very nice. I enjoyed the places we visited, and we also had some good food while we were there. The hotel was not very nice, and I am thinking I need to go up a level the next time I choose accommodations for a trip.

This was our first time putting Baxter in a kennel, and he did very well. The place where we take him for daycare also has boarding, so he got to go to daycare on Friday and then just stayed there until Sunday afternoon. I was worried that he would hesitate the next time I took him to daycare, but he went happily when the time came.

We are thinking we will just do a weekend trip again next year, although I’m not sure where we are going to go. I’ll have to do some research to see what would be a good option for us.