Monday, June 22, 2020

What I did during the pandemic--Jigsaws by Rhys


RHYS BOWEN: Like all of you I have to invent ways to keep myself busy at the moment. I have a house that is extremely easy to clean with distressed laminate floors, quartz counters and really no dust here in Arizona. We have a pretty little patio area, surrounded by bougainvillea and oleander so no gardening to do. It’s even too hot for weeds to grow. And too hot to be outside during the day.

So I thought a jigsaw puzzle would be a good idea.  I’m sure I have a whole closet full of old puzzles at home in California but this is my winter retreat with no leftover children’s toys. So I found a puzzle I’d once bought at the dollar store. The pieces were tiny. I mean TINY! But I was doing quite well with it until either there was a strange gust of wind or… a nameless person brushed against it and I found half of it lying on the floor—in pieces. (I have not accused the nameless person. We have to live together).

Around that time I mentioned to Barbara Peters that I wanted to try a jigsaw. So she sent me this one. Until then I had thought her one of my close friends. Not any more. It is the most fiendish puzzle ever created. One thousand pieces of identical sea and identical land. But I refuse to give up. Little by little, maybe ten pieces a day, I am adding to it. Rhys of a hundred days. I am determined to finish.

So I’m interested to know how you have been challenging yourselves. I have seen some of Hallie’s puzzles. I’m dying to see the picture of the last one but it might be censored! Who else does jigsaws? Who is good at them? What other challenges have you given yourselves?



JENN MCKINLAY : I pulled out our 1,000 piece Globe Trotter puzzle. Dumped the pieces on the table and King George, or the Notorious KG as we’re now calling him, did a flying leap from his cat tree onto the table, hooked his claws into the tablecloth and suddenly it was raining puzzle pieces. The Hooligans and I picked up the bits, put them back in the box and called it done. LOL! I think I need a “George Free Zone” if I’m going to attempt it again. Thankfully, I have a book due, galleys to proof, two proposals to write, and a book to promote so my calendar is quite full! Plus, we’ve hit optimum pool time, so there’s that!


HALLIE EPHRON: We are on our sixth 500-piece puzzle, a two-sided Springbok with Bryce Canyon on one side and Zion Canyon on the other. We’ve done Porto Fino. Seashells. Flowers. Tropical Fish. And a Monet that was brutal. In the basement is a 2-sided naked Ursula Andress puzzle and a puzzle that’s a bit of an antique with very weirdly shaped pieces and no picture to go by. Bryce is going slowly. I wish we had grandchildren to go whizzing by and knock all the pieces off the table.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Completely zero interest. Zero.  We have a couple, both given to us as gifts by well-meaning pals who thought we were normal. Truly, I do not see the lure. Crossword puzzles? Yay. Jigsaw puzzle? Baffled. Hard pass. Chacun a son gout. Other challenges? Oh, the VERY first thing I do on Sunday morning is grab the spelling bee in the NYT Sunday Magazine. They are DIABOLICAL! Some days I get them instantly. Other times, seriously, it takes the whole week.  The one where the answer was  tequila, I never got. I love them, and truly look forward to them. Any of you do those?


LUCY BURDETTE: I’m with Hank, not interested. The New York Times has a wonderful new weekend section with puzzles and recipes and suggestions for keeping kids of all ages busy. We loved the double crossword last week with two sets of clues and giant boxes for not-so-sharp eyes. We did finish though I won’t tell you how long it took! Hank, John is addicted to the Spelling Bee. And the answers sometimes come instantly and sometimes so hard that he gives up. Otherwise, I am not bored! Working, exercising, staying in touch…


DEBORAH CROMBIE: Cringing in shame here. The 500 piece puzzle I started in January is still...on my dining room table, maybe 1/10th done.. And I actually LIKE doing jigsaws! I just never seem to find the time to sit down and work on it. Actually, that is one of the issues--not sitting. Short person that I am, the dining chair puts me a little low to work comfortably on the table top. So I end up standing, bending over the puzzle, and after about ten minutes my back is killing me. Maybe I’ll try bringing in a barstool…. At any rate, the puzzle is not going anywhere, as I am not going anywhere, and maybe when it gets too hot to garden I’ll make some progress on it. I have a wonderful 1000 piece illustrated London puzzle that I ordered from Murder by the Book waiting next.

RHYS:I have to update that I did this chat a couple of weeks ago when we were stuck in Arizona. When the heat reached 110 degrees we finally took the plunge and drove back to California where the temperature means I can be outside, and I have edits on my next stand-alone and more writing to do. So no more jigsaws required, thank God.
 So what about you, friends? Who has started a jigsaw for the first time since the lockdown was imposed? Who has finished one? Who actually likes them?

87 comments:

  1. Truthfully, I can take or leave jigsaw puzzles, but when I do get started on one, it’s almost impossible for me to ignore it until it’s finished. I like crossword puzzles . . . .

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  2. Nope. No jigsaw puzzles here. I do the crossword puzzle in the local paper and the WSJ every day. What is the Spelling Bee?

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    1. the puzzle looks like a wheel, with one letter in the center and others around the perimeter. The quest is to make words using those letters and no others. And the inside letter must always be used.

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    2. Really fun! It seems like it should be so easy, and And as I said, some weeks I look at it and then one second I know what it is. Other weeks – – I never get it at all! It’s really amazing and so much fun .

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  3. No jigsaw puzzles here. We did large jigsaw puzzles every Christmas when I was growing up and that is enough. But I do several online word puzzles (Wordscapes and 2 others) every morning before posting on JRW.

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    1. I play Scrabble against the computer every day. And beat him about every second time!

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    2. My husband and daughter play Words with Friends. Occasionally she beats him. I refuse to play scrabble with him because it usually ends with him sitting there with all the piec

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  4. I love jigsaw puzzles, but have actually been lending ours out since there was a toilet-paper like demand for them. And anacrostics are my favorite - our Cleveland Plain Dealer used to print one each Sunday which was a treat, but that's long gone. Right now my puzzle-fare is researching the children named in my 5th great-grandfather's 1814 Will in Somerset County PA. It's a fun project and with the DNA component there are all sorts of pieces to sort through!

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  5. No jigsaws for us. We're cat free so we could actually have one out but neither of us is interested. NYT Sunday crosswords are always on a clipboard going back and forth between us, though (Hugh buys a big book of back ones that you can tear out). Plus it's gardening season!

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  6. No interest at all in jigsaw puzzles. I used to work the crossword daily, but Julie has taken that over. My participation is to sit across the room and tell her the answers to the ones she can't get. It makes me feel superior. Don't judge.

    The reading is getting better tho. For the first month I couldn't concentrate, so I think it's time to start over on THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT by Hilary Mantel.

    Mostly I've entertained myself with binge watching, starting from S1 on both OZARK and Marcella, not to mention Schitt's Creek. Our tomatoes and beans are growing like weeds, and all the patio pots are planted and doing well. The old fashioned multiflora roses are dramatic up on the hill, and, praise be, our Erin is back to doing her weekly gardening for us. She is a PhD student in musicology at Eastman School of Music, so bright and talented and her avocation is horticulture. We are lucky.

    We have another month to wait before Sgt. Pepper takes up residence. Then our days of sleeping thru the night will be over for a few weeks. It's the price of a new puppy!

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    1. Oh the puppy anticipation! I'm broaching the idea to John who isn't enthused. I haven't raised a puppy in 40 years. So remind me what it takes at the beginning??

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    2. Oh Ann, your description of helping with the crossword brought back a vision of my MIL asking my FIL for all the tough answers, which he supplied from across the room. I used to go in the kitchen and laugh. She always bragged about doing the puzzles, but he was the brains of the operation.
      Mazel tov on your new puppy. We need photos when he comes to live with you.

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    3. Lucy Roberta, a new puppy is sort of like a new baby. Frequent feedings -- 3 x day --, potty training, a few sleepless nights at first. We will crate train him from the git go, with crates both upstairs and down. Outside to potty every 2-3 hours, lots of love and socializing. Remember to remove cords that might get chewed on, all that. On the plus side, puppy breath, under the chin snuggles and naps, trip to the vet for shots and well puppy checks. Teaching to walk on a lead. Shall I go on or are you having second thoughts?

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    4. You have cured me, Ann. Thank you!

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    5. I always have second thoughts about everything Ann! How long before you can sleep normally? So you'll have two crates, one upstairs, one down? I will have to email you off list:)

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    6. If you decide a puppy is too much for you, Lucy Roberta, you can always contact a rescue group to find a "lightly used" adult dog. Rescues get dogs from puppy to adolescent (LOTS of adolescents) to adult and even senior, and they all need the kind of wonderful, loving home you would provide. Adopting from a rescue instead of a shelter helps you pick the breed you want, and is more likely to get you a dog with all the hard work on socializing and house/crate training already done by the foster. Also they're more likely to be up to date on all their shots and have serious medical issues already addressed. It can be a lot less work for you and many fewer opportunities for John to say he told you so.

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    7. Yes to everything Gigi said. And Lucy Roberta, most puppies will sleep through the night by 12 weeks. We put a pee pad in the bathtub for night time needs. Easy peasy clean up.

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    8. Nooo. The last pair of puppies just about did me in. We started adopting older dogs who needed a home. They're already housebroken!

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  7. We don't do them here, but I did send some to 5 year old grandson, Quinn when his mom told me he was loving them. So, I did my part to support the puzzle industry.
    I am not a great lover of puzzles, but I can do them. My husband does the crossword every day. If there are two in the paper he does both. On Saturdays and Sundays, when the crosswords are more difficult, he calls me over to help finish them and we work together in our own sweet little teasing and tormenting manner.
    I'd rather spend time reading and I've read dozens of books during the pandemic, mostly Reds and your friends. Now, I have read at least one of each Red's books and am feeling quite pleased with myself. Are there badges for that? I've also discovered several authors here whose works are wonderful.
    I'm only having trouble pushing myself to exercise and since I've always been in shape, that is discouraging. Just before the pandemic, I was in a weight lifting class that was going to get me back into my glory days. And, worse yet, I'm cooking and baking so I really need more exercise. That's my puzzle.

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    1. Judy! That’s great! Yes indeed, we do need badges!

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    2. Badges would be great, since I made the mistake of throwing out my Girl Scout sash:(

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    3. There should be badges! Definitely...

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    4. I ton six miles a day, use our home elliptical and now the gym is open for outdoor classes. I will run in their pool and attend outdoor spin classes. It makes eel calm and relaxed! It is worth it on so many levels.

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  8. My never before attempted project is making new covers for our outdoor furniture. Of course the fabric I love is discontinued and I'm about 1/2 yard short for throw pillows. Arggh.

    I've done 2 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles. A hint for making it easier on the back is to get a big piece of foam board (when not quarantined) and put a wedge under it so that it's tilted. No more awkward bending over the table.

    I started doing gentle yoga with an online class. I figured I needed to make a financial investment in a good mat and props to keep me going. Because the sewing machine is up and the mat "needed" a bag to hold it, I took an old pair of jeans, cut a leg off, and viola...a new yoga mat bag. Thank you, etsy, for the idea.

    I actually miss the strict quarantine.

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    1. You've been so clever! Don't worry about the throw cushions being a different fabric--that is stylish!

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    2. xjerseygirl, you can always use a contrasting fabric for one side of the throw pillows.

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    3. You are so resourceful! Brilliant! And I agree with the contrast pillow suggestion.

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    4. Great idea about the tilt for the puzzle!

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  9. I adore puzzles. If it weren't for our 3.5 cats I would be puzzling instead of typing. Instead I challenged myself with movement. I began with deep cleaning the house. It should be done more than once upon a time. Then I remembered my mom walking everyday. I started walking outside. First walk was around the block, This was many steps more than to the mailbox. (Grace was encouraging me.) Then I kept at it. Last Saturday I walked 1.1 miles with hills. Yay me! Thanks Grace. In 2017 I participated in a 5K walking event. Who knows what 2021 might bring.

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    1. I'm so impressed, Coralee! Good for you, and I hope you continue to enjoy more healthful walks.

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    2. Coralee, that's fantastic! Lately I've been whining to myself that I need to get more exercise; you are an inspiration.

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    3. I run six miles every day! I’m a bit older than you and I still run as well as I did twenty years ago. I still run half and full marathons too. You can do it! Any form of e revise works, you will look and feel younger.

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  10. I love doing puzzles but it turns out I would really rather read! The way I can tell that a book isn't all that great is if while reading I get the urge to get up and work on the puzzle for a while. I haven't worked on a puzzle in weeks! But when I do my favorites are 1000 piece ones with Wysocki art. To foil the cats I keep the puzzle in progress covered with a piece of fleece fabric.

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    1. Judi, reading has become my go-to leisure activity, which sounds funny, because I thought it always was! But I realize in the past few years I've tended to stream something in the evening or be on my computer. Now that I'm doing 90% of my life online, spending even more hours staring at a screen has lost a lot of its luster.

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  11. I go back and forth on my digital puzzles. I'll be like a fiend, and then leave them for a while.

    Right now, I'm bingeing Julia's books and am FINALLY up to HID FROM OUR EYES. How did I miss this series for so long?

    I just need to remember that I need to write a book and get another ready for submission in August. :-)

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    1. Glad you're enjoying the series, Liz! And don't worry, we can remind you here: you need to write a book, and get a submission ready...

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    2. Good to know you've got my back, Julia. LOL

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  12. We used to put together jigsaw puzzles during the week between Christmas and New Year's, when my daughters were home. One year I bought a really good 3D puzzle of some landmark in London, which I can't remember now, and my middle daughter and I mended our teen-angst relationship over it. One of my favorite memories.

    I hadn't put one together in years, since my husband isn't interested, and it's more fun with a partner, but when I was ordering someone's new book (Hank's, maybe?) I noticed that the bookstore had just gotten new puzzles, so I picked out three, all 1,000 pieces of paintings. I've been working on a Hopper for months, and when our youngest came out of quarantine to visit for a couple days she and I finished all but the solid pieces together. But now I have the solid pieces to do on my own. And when I was vacuuming near that table I heard the unmistakable sound of a vital piece getting sucked into the bowels of the central vac. Aargh.

    Lots of reading going on here, and lots of binge watching. It usually takes Steve ages to read anything, but lately he's been plowing through an impressively large stack of books, fiction and nonfiction. My Nook has hundreds of books I've not yet read, but does that keep me from loading more onto it? No, it does not.

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    1. Yes. Quite a challenge. Similar to regular puzzles, but with paper printing attached to foam background. Same small pieces that interlock.

      I think it was Westminster Abbey, complete with the Big Ben tower. And of course most of the pieces were the same color.

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    2. I've seen one of those! The family got one for my grandmother, who was a jigsaw puzzle fiend. It was definitely something architectural.

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  13. I like doing jigsaw puzzles but my cats would definitely take the King George approach if I tried to do one on a tabletop. So I have an app on my iPad for them. I have to keep to about 300-piece puzzles as the pieces in the larger ones are too small for my old eyes. But the app has a free daily puzzle that does not show you the picture ahead of time, so it adds to the challenge.

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    1. I’m sorry for being so out of it… Puzzles on an iPad?

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    2. Truly, technology is a wonder. Although I noticed we're the ones who have to adapt our behavior, not the cats.

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  14. No jigsaws here, though I'm not opposed to them. I've happily completed a few at various times while at the cottage, but I find them more "pass the time" occupations than creative endeavours for my mind. For that, I prefer making collages -- and I have made a folder-full during lockdown! Some better than others, but all satisfying for the hands-on creativity I so enjoy.

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    1. I love collages. I should have been doing that too!

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    2. Collages! What a great idea!

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    3. There's a wonderful Rider, Jennifer Crusie, who always does a collage or collages for each book she's writing. She has written some fascinating things about the connection between the two kinds of creativity.

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    4. Writer, not rider. Darn voice-to-text.

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    5. Oh, Julia: Thank you for introducing me to Jennifer Cruise. I shall investigate her work.

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  15. I enjoy puzzles, but not redoing them, so no puzzles here. Also, I have the same problem as Debs--chairs just a bit too short for the table as far as I'm concerned, so sit awhile, stand awhile until my back aches, then repeat. Plus a cat--thanks Jimmy--who has to check out every activity to see if he'd like to join in (he is currently lying in my lap upside down, catching at my hands as I type, insistent that it's time for double chin-scratching. Brat!). What I have accomplished is finishing the first draft of a novella. Happy dance!! Mostly I wander about outside, weeding and sitting in my swing, watching our flowers and veggies grow.

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    1. Ah the ergonomics of doing jigsaw puzzles... it's hard to find the right surface/height.

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    2. Congratulations on your first draft! That's huge.

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    3. The first draft is huge, Flora! Congratulations.

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    4. Congratulations on your first draft, Flora! That's huge!! And congrats on the weeding, too. It's a Sisyphean task.

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  16. Let me go grab a spelling bee puzzle and see if I can demonstrate.

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    1. Hank, how fun! The Reader's Digest word power puzzle is great! When I was in high school, my Mom was the Spelling Bee team coach and she would take words from the Word Power pages in the Reader's Digest. She used a lot of material for spelling bee. For me, it was easy since I could NOT hear how the words were pronounced. I could fingerspell the words. My father often spelled the words the way they were pronounced and it was educational! He did not learn how to read until he was 14 years old.

      Diana

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  17. Generally I'm not a fan of jigsaw puzzles, but I did order one at the very beginning of the stay-at-home rule. At that point I was trying to figure out how to teach three college classes online and manage 12 student projects, so I wasn't bored but I did need something to relieve stress. It took me weeks, but I finally finished the 500 piece puzzle. I was so proud of myself that I ordered another one, which I dumped onto the table and left for two weeks before raking the pieces back into the box. Once classes ended I could get back to reading and binge-watching, and it got warm enough to take walks, so I'm still not bored enough for the second puzzle.

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    1. Cindy, I'm impressed that you could finish ONE... if my husband weren't doing it with me, and he ALWAYS completes what he starts, I'm sure I would have given up on the first one and that would have been that.

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  18. I like all kinds of puzzles, including jigsaws, but I've been keeping to crosswords and sudoku lately as my work computer has taken the space I meant to use for jigsaws. My biggest brain challenge since isolation has been knitting. Not up to tackling a sweater yet, but I am starting to wonder if I could handle socks.

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    1. Gigi, I've been thinking about some sort of handcrafting as stress relief. I learned the basics of knitting when I was young, emphasis on basics, and I used to be a pretty good needlepointer. Once I had both children and a writing career, those went by the wayside. But I like doing things with my hands, and those sort of activities are the perfect balance between concentration and letting your mind go.

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    2. Julia, are you friends with Francine Mathews on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram? She is the needlepoint queen! She has done some amazing pieces.

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  19. I do like jigsaw puzzles 🧩. But, the one my ten-year-old granddaughter and I started mid-April is still on the dining room table. It’s a 1000-piece Van Gogh’s bedroom scene, and it will be beautiful if we ever finish it, as I am relying on visits from Izzy to do so. She is a super puzzle worker, making me look quite the dullard, but that’s okay because we’re having fun with it. I have 4 or 5 more puzzles, but I don’t know when those will ever get done.

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    1. Kathy, you could always start a puzzle lending library with your other ones! I'm sensing from the conversations here and elsewhere, that people either have too many jigsaw puzzles they are not doing, or not enough.

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    2. I think you’re right, Julia. It seems it’s either feast or famine with the puzzles. I actually have a few people in mind I’m thinking of sending a puzzle to.

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  20. No puzzles here. We're reading,listening to music, watching live soccer games on TV, walking the dogs, and weeding. However, pandemonium ensued yesterday during our family FaceTime call. One of my daughters had found a recipe for Tagalongs, a kind of girl scout cookie.

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    1. Margaret, my family loves Tagalongs! if that recipe turns out to work well, you have to share it here.

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  21. I have still not made any progress on that 500 piece puzzle. And last week in my office I found an never-opened 1000 piece puzzle of Clarice Cliff pottery that I'd completely forgotten about! So now I'm wondering if I persevere with the 500 piece, or abandon it and make an even bigger mess with the 1000 piece?

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  22. Rhys, what a great post! There are some jigsaw puzzles that I like. I cannot recall which off the top of my head. Speaking of games, have you heard of CATAN ? Ellie Alexander has been posting photos of Catan on her Instagram page. I do not recall that game.

    This post about jigsaw puzzles reminded me of my favorite independent bookstore. They are selling Jigsaw puzzles. I have too many books and I am running out of space! If I had room, I would have some Jigsaw puzzles.

    Diana

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  23. I discovered Jigsawplanet.com, and I've been have fun with virtual puzzles. I don't have the space to spread one out at home. And I'm also discovering I don't have the patience for very big puzzles. 150 pieces it about my limit.

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  24. Thanks, everyone for the good wishes! I wanted to write a sort of family history at one time, since I'm hugely interested in genealogy. The project could never get started for me until the idea came for a story of a young girl--sort of an amalgam character drawn from several of my ancestors. And I knew it would not be a full-length novel. I stuck at finishing it because the market for novellas is slim, to say the least :-). Then I discovered that fact doesn't matter to me, what mattered was bringing Little Ann's story to a conclusion.

    And yes to weeding. But it keeps me busy!

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  25. I love doing puzzles. I have a table in my basement where I set up my puzzles. When my little ones are in bed and the dishwasher is loaded I head down to work on my puzzle, listen to an audio book, and sip a cold soda before I get ready for bed. My husband once kept sneaking down and working on one and almost finished it before I had a chance to start. He was in big trouble.

    I also love crossword puzzles but I only do them when I travel for some reason. If I do a crossword it somehow keeps me from feeling carsick.

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  26. Jigsaw puzzles are usually a post-Christmas activity but I broke another one open at the beginning of SIP. That one was Shakespeare's London with references to a number of the plays. Great fun.

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  27. I meant to add that the best place I’ve found to buy jigsaw puzzles is at Strand Magazine’s online shop. It will blow your mind with all the great puzzles they have, and they are normal, regular prices, not overcharging like some places I’ve seen. The URL is https://strandmag.com/product-category/jigsaw-puzzles/

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  28. I used to do jigsaw puzzles every winter. I loved the 1,000 piece photos of places that reminded me of my travels. After my eyesight made them too frustrating, my brother would buy both of us 300 piece puzzles with bright colored animals, flowers, etc. We would exchange them and keep some or give them to some ladies at church. Since Bob died, they haven't been as much fun. I didn't even get do any this year.

    I did pull out my mother's crossword puzzle books and start doing them. There just isn't much on TV, and I don't want to read all my books. Mom liked hard puzzles so I do what I can, sneak a peek at the some of the answers, try again until I finish. Stay safe and well.

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  29. I want a copy of that puzzle! I have a fabulous old book with maps of Britain in the early Victorian era. It would be interesting to compare the two.

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  30. I've loved doing jigsaw puzzles since I was a kid. My husband built me a table in our spare room that's just the right height for us to stand and do a puzzle. We keep it closed off so the cats don'tr try to help. I was pleasantly surprised to see that so many people have now discovered them.

    I'm with Rhys. I don't enjoy the ones that are mostly one color. I like the ones that end up with a picture that would be nice to look at even if it weren't a puzzle. I also don't really like the once where the pieces are all the same shape. I like a variety of shapes and colors.

    Our favorite ones are puzzles of places we've been. Dowdle is a good source for puzzles of cities and countries. Right now we're working on a Hawaiian seascape by Christian Reese Lassen. We also like doing the ones from Barnes and Noble of book covers and movie posters.

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  31. My first pandemic jigsaw, 1000 pieces, coincided with my sleep therapy. I had to stay up until midnight (and rise at 5:30) to reset me circadian clock. It. Was. Torture. The jigsaw (of a bookstore interior) was my salvation. Each week I earned fifteen minutes of earlier bedtime. (Did I mention I was paying big bucks for this therapy?) Long story short, my second 1000 piece puzzle (a writer's desk) is incomplete, and that's being polite. I go to bed at 10:00 PM now, wake at 6:00, and sleep better.

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