Saturday, January 28, 2017

What Day Is It?

Get your pencil!
Grab your puzzle book!
Fill in a crossword puzzle!
Do a word search puzzle!
Try to solve a brain teaser!
Work a suduko puzzle!
Work a jigsaw puzzle!

Do it TODAY!

It's National Puzzle day!

What to puzzles do for us?
  • word searches and crossword puzzles increase our vocabulary and language skills
  • sudoku tests memory and logical thinking
  • jigsaw puzzles use both sides of the brain and improve memory, cognitive function and problem-solving skills
  • jigsaw puzzles are one of many activities that keep the brain active and may contribute to reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (I'm all for that!)

Puzzles stimulate the brain and keep it active. Now, if you're like me this is something I really, really need! I see my mind slipping away faster than I want it to!

One of my winter pastimes is working puzzles. I keep a table in the living room where I can work puzzles as Mr. H watches television. I'm currently on my sixth one since the first of the year. Some were easy and quick, but other's like the one I'm working now has been hard and slow. It's an interlocking puzzle that has all the pieces a similar shape, with rounded tabs out on opposite ends and corresponding blanks cut into the other sides. This uniform-shaped puzzle is called "Japanese Style." They are difficult because the difference between pieces can be very subtle. You have to really watch the color. Trust me I know this for a fact. I have placed several pieces only to discover later that they don't work there!

You know me, I got curious about jigsaw puzzles and headed to the internet to find out when and where they originated. The first puzzle is believed to have been produced by John Spilsbury an engraver and cartographer of London around 1760. The map of England and Wales was hand-painted on wood. Then each country was cut out as a separate piece. It was used as a teaching tool for children.

my one and only wood puzzle

The name "jigsaw" came to be associated with puzzles around 1880 when fretsaws became the tool for cutting. The name really doesn't make since. A fretsaw is not a jigsaw. Shouldn't they have been named fretsaw puzzles?

Cardboard puzzles, as we know them, were slow to become popular. Manufacturers believed that cardboard puzzles would be perceived as low quality and of course they received more profit from wooden puzzles. It wasn't until after World War II that cardboard puzzles became well accepted.

A little jigsaw puzzle trivia:
  • In 1880, Milton Bradley made the first jigsaw puzzle for children, The Smashed Up Locomotive. They printed a lithograph of a steam engine locomotive, glued it to a board, and cut it into pieces. The "smashed up" effect was achieved when the box was opened and the locomotive was all in pieces. The object was to make the locomotive whole once again. Notice there are no interlocking pieces.
photo credit
  • In the early years Parker Brothers had the leading commercial line of puzzles in the U.S. called Pastime Puzzles. In the years from 1908 to 1958, somewhere between 800,000 and a million puzzles were cut. Interesting to note that they were cut only by women. Women had experience cutting fine things and the first ones were cut using a treadle saw. They also could be hired cheaper then men!
  • In 1932 the weekly jigsaw puzzle was created. The "Jig of the Week" retailed for 25 cents and appeared at news stands.
  • Most adult puzzles come in sizes between 300 pieces and 40,000. One-thousand pieces are enough for me!
  • Family puzzles come with three different sized pieces in the same puzzle from large to small for different skill levels and hand sizes.
  • The most expensive puzzle to date was sold for $27,000 in 2005 at a charitable auction.
  • The world's largest commercially available jigsaw puzzle is Memorable Disney Moments created by German puzzle makers Ravensburger in 2016. It shows ten scenes from Disney, has 40,320 pieces, and measures 22 foot 3.72 inches by 6 foot 3.59 inches when assembled. (Guinness World Record)

Now, you probably know too much about puzzles and your puzzled why this interests me. I'm puzzled too, but I know I like to work puzzles whether they're jigsaw puzzles or soduka puzzles or word search puzzles, but not crossword puzzles, I've never liked those! They make my brain hurt!

I hope you enjoy National Puzzle Day and work some type of puzzle as a celebration!

* * * * * 

P.S.  One other little tidbit of information. If you like word search puzzles, I'd like to recommend books by David Ouellet. The book opened in the very first picture above is one of his. They are fun! Almost every letter in the puzzle is used. The remaining letters spell something related to the puzzle. I've seen his books at Amazon, but I've gotten mine at the Dollar Store. He also has a web site where you can work puzzles online or download and print them. But beware, the ones online are not the squares that can be colored in. Still good though, I just like to color!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Winter Guests

We have special visitors in Arkansas during the winter months. Visitors that normally don't come this far south. Every winter trumpeter swans have chosen Magness Lake and the region near Heber Springs as their winter home. Although trumpeter swans are common in the mid and northwest portions of the United States, they typically do not venture any further south than Colorado, so this is quite a treat for us.

In 1990 three swans showed up at the lake. It's believed they were blown off their normal course by a large storm. Anyway, they liked it here and return each year bringing their extended family. What began as a small group of three, now numbers from 500 to 1,000 on several lakes in Arkansas. Numbers have increased until this has become the largest and most consistent wintering flock of Trumpeters in the southern U.S.

Trumpeter swans at the largest waterfowl in North America weighing about 35 pounds and having a wing span of eight feet. That is HUGE!

They are so beautiful; the epitome of grace. I watched as they peacefully and quietly floated on the lake and then they began to HONK! Not the delicate sound I was expecting, but a loud trumpet-like honk. They made me laugh. As families of swans came near other families, they chatted. All of them honking at the same time carrying on some type of conversation.

Adult male swans, know as cobs and females, know as pens, are snowy white except for their beaks and feet. The young, know as cygnets have more brown coloring.

The lake is also full of ring-necked ducks. They're cute to watch. They seem so small compared to the swans, but they're about 17" long. In the image below do you see the duck on the left that looks like there's a stick coming out of his head? He's actually standing on a tree stump that's right below the surface of the water. He'd jump up there sit a while, jump off, swim around the stump, and then jump back up on it. The ripples of water on the right is where one of the ducks just dove deep in the water. They stay under for a surprising amount of time.

At times fifty or more of these ducks would take off at once. It was amazing to hear they're wings and their feet splashing the water as they lifted. And just as amazing to hear them land again. When a large group landed they sounded like the whirring of a mini helicopter.

I was in the car ready to leave when a group of swans came soaring toward the lake. It was an incredible sight to see the huge fowl shooting like arrows through the sky, necks extended toward the lake. They flared their wings and gracefully landed in the water. Seriously breathtaking!

I had a lovely day visiting some lovely winter guests.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Something Smells Good

This month has been filled with overcast skies and rain. I think we may have seen the sun pop out twice! I'm struggling to find something to do inside. I thought a little baking might be just the thing on this dreary day. Baking will also fulfill the latest assignment for a class I'm taking with Kim Manley Ort. Kim has published a book, Adventures In Seeing. There's a group of us working with her through the book, which will take almost the whole year. This week we're concentrating on our senses. Kim suggested cooking and I agree that's a fantastic way to use all five senses.

I have a favorite cookie that I make each winter. Not only are they good, but their old-fashioned aroma fills my home and brings back childhood memories of oatmeal cookies after school.

Before I go on, does anyone recognize the avocado green Tupperware scoop from the early 70's? Yes, I still have some old Tupperware! The scoop set was probably a wedding gift, because the Tupperware I bought was harvest gold!

Back to baking! Let me tell you what delighted my senses as I baked . . .

SEEING colorful ingredient containers, shiny bowls, shapes of utensils, wrinkled raisins, textures of the ingredients, oven light, golden cookie reflections on foil, cookie shadows under the cooling rack, patterns on the kitchen towel, and dirty dishes.

HEARING the grating of sugar against a knife as I leveled off the measuring cup, the plop as flour was dumped in the mixing bowl, the cracking of an eggshell, the whir of the mixer, the crinkle of foil, my squeaky oven door, the oven clicking on and off, and the kitchen timer.

FEELING the textures of the ingredient containers, the coolness of the egg just out of the refrigerator, the smooth handle of a pan, heat as I opened the oven, the rough hot mat, and the warmth of a cookie as I ate it.

SMELLING the raisins simmering, spices, sweet vanilla, and cookies baking.

Last but not least, TASTING delicious Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies and milk.

I wish you were here to delight your senses. I'd gladly share a few with you and we could have a good chat together! They're still warm from the oven. Hurry on over!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Piano Love

Playing the piano brings me pleasure, but it hasn't always been that way. My earliest memories aren’t happy ones. It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t want to learn piano, I did. It wasn’t even the practicing. It was a very strict piano teacher. While playing scales she expected her students to keep their fingers in a curled position, letting one finger drop at a time to play the note. When I forgot and let my fingers relax, she would slap the top of my hand. For someone who was a rule follower that was traumatic, plus my hand hurt a lot. Thankfully we moved and this lady wasn’t my piano teacher for very long. It has been about fifty-five years since I took lessons from her, but I still remember her name and still get a bad feeling when I pass the street she lived on. In case you’re wondering, I never told my mom about the hand slapping. I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t following the rules! My next teacher was totally different. No more finger curling! No more slapping! And so began the years of piano lessons and practice.

Playing the piano is healing to me, both spiritually and emotionally. When I’m angry I can bang it out, when I’m sad I can quietly play or when I’m happy I can make it rock. At the beginning of 2016 I began a piano project. I was singing in church one Sunday and realized that I didn't really read the words of the hymns. I didn't think about them. I just sang them. I decided that beginning on the first of January I would read the words out loud and play two hymns each day. It has become a daily time of worship for me and an amazing journey.

I will forever be grateful that my mom wanted me learn to play the piano. I’m even grateful that she insisted I practice. I fell in love with piano music. It brings me joy. It brings me peace.

* * * * *

I have two good friends, Lee and Sarah, who once a month post a favorite photo from the previous month and tell the story behind it. Sarah is now hosting a link up for others to share their stories. If you're interested here's the criteria as explained by Sarah.

All you have to do is post a favorite photo from the previous month along with a short story about it on your blog and then add your blog to the link up once it goes live. The story can be anything you want it to be: why the photo touched your heart, the process you took to take it, a funny story, a fiction story, etc. Please visit the other link up participants and spread some love.

Even if you're not interested in posting a Scene & Story, you might want to drop by Sarah's blog and read the stories that are linked there. I know for a fact that Sarah and Lee are very good writers and photographers.