Sunday, March 29, 2020

Puzzle Peace

Note: This is written in light fun with a dash of sarcasm.

I love doing jigsaw puzzles!  I always have.  To be more specific, I love doing 1000 piece White Mountain Puzzles.  I have been doing them for a long time.  When I finish, I take a picture and share it on Twitter and Facebook.  I have one set up in my high school math classroom and it gives me such joy to see the kids working on it.  Not joy all the time, because sometimes it gives me anxiety when I see HOW the students do the puzzle.  They just don't know how, so I am here to teach you all the correct way to do a jigsaw puzzle.

(Note: Do NOT buy a White Mountain puzzle now during Corona.  The website says they are not taking any new orders so they can catch up with their current orders.  I checked on Amazon and they have WM for $50-$100 each!  No.  These puzzles should be about $16-20.  Wait for the prices to deflate.  I hope they will.  Post on Facebook, I bet your neighbors have puzzles they can lend you.)

As Corona was starting, I was lending my puzzles out to friends and spreading the #puzzlelove!  I am glad more people are discovering it but I hope the prices do come back down.

A few things to keep in mind.  One person can do a puzzle.  You can do a puzzle with a friend.  We once did it as a family at my grandmother's house with about 10 people all working on a 500 piece puzzle at the same time.  That was not puzzle peace, but it was puzzle fun.

You can redo a puzzle.  I like to do them again because now you are familiar with it and you know where the pieces will go, so it goes more quickly.

You can make it a competition and time it.  I don't usually do this because I like it to be a peaceful process, but I usually check the time I start to know how long it will take me.  By myself, I can do a puzzle usually in about 6 hours.  With my puzzle friend, we can do one in about 4 hours.

Puzzles are great to do on a rainy day, a snow day, as a family, on vacation, set up in an unused room and just do a little bit at a time.  There are many possibilities. 

I am typing this in the time of Corona, March 2020 and I mentioned on Facebook that I was going to blog about how to do a puzzle.  My childhood friend, Darcie, said she would read it, so "HI!"  I then added that I should do a YouTube channel on how to do a puzzle, similar to Sheldon on Big Bang.  She said, "He was "Fun with Flags".  You can do "Peaceful with Puzzles". " I told her I liked the play on words, but I switched it around to Puzzle Peace.  Get it?  I thought that might be original, but I just checked Twitter and Cheryl Roffe posted it back in 2015.  I am going to reenergize this hashtag.

If you are on Twitter and do a puzzle, take a picture and tag it with #PuzzlePeace.  We will see how far this reaches.

Here we go:  How to Do a Puzzle by Jennifer Fairbanks

Disclaimer.  Buy a White Mountain Puzzle (I am a puzzle snob.  I like this brand because of the quality of the pieces.  I like the variety of the shapes.  They snap together well and stay together.  I really like their collage puzzles because they are like mini puzzles within the big puzzle. ). I do like Springbok and Ravensburger too, but WM is my favorite.  I also do not like to do a puzzle with too much of one color or too much blue sky, too much blue water, or too much of the same thing - like all flowers or all marbles.  Yuck!  That might be your cup of tea, just not mine.  I don't enjoy that.

Set Up: Find a spot where you can keep this set up.  Probably not the family dinner table unless your family is okay with that.  I went to Home Depot and bought bath shower board which is 4 feet by 8 feet.  They will cut it for you.  I cut it in half.  I added duct tape around the ends to finish it off.  I did two, one for home and one for school.  For the one for school, I put pencils around the perimeter of the board and duct taped over the pencil and the edge at the same time to create a little ridge so the students might not accidentally bump the pieces off the table.  (Yes, I am a serious puzzler.). You can try buying those felted roll up things.  I bought one when my son Kyle was maybe 4.  He is now 21.  I started a puzzle of a picture of him.  I didn't finish, rolled it up and tucked it away.  Now, it will be like a time capsule, as I should find it and do it.  I will let you know.  About the felt roll up, I think it works okay.  I would suggest really wrapping it tightly to keep the pieces in place.  My friend, Allison on Twitter who lives in CA, was asking me about these yesterday because she wants to make her puzzle portable so she can take it inside and outside.  I said it was worth a shot.  I usually put my whiteboard on a folding table in the living room because I like to watch TV while I do it.  I also like to listen to music on Alexa as an alternative.  On a side note: I have to cover mine with a blanket at night because my cat also likes puzzles and thinks it is funny to knock pieces onto the floor and then one of my 2 dogs will eat the pieces.  So, I have to make note on the outside of the box if there are pieces missing.  Very frustrating, not puzzle peace.

Also, White Mountain puzzles come with a handy dandy puzzle cover holder to hold the puzzle cover up for you to look at.  Genius idea!  Thank you.

Now, we will really get started:

10 Easy Steps to Doing a Jigsaw Puzzle by Jennifer Fairbanks

There are two different starts depending if your puzzle is new or used:

New puzzle: Step 1: If your puzzle is brand new and the pieces are in the plastic, take the bag out of the box and rip a hand size hole in the bag and scoop out a small handful of pieces.  You are going to start by sorting the end pieces from the middle pieces.  It is important that you are only looking for straight edges.  Do not bother to actually look at the picture itself yet.  Stay focused and find the edges.  Put the edges in the middle of the table as you find them.  Don't put them around the box on the outside because that is eventually where they are going to go.  Put them on the inside, so it is easier to do the perimeter.  Put the middle pieces in the BOTTOM of the puzzle box.

Old puzzle: Step 1: If your puzzle is not in wrap, keep the pieces in the BOTTOM box.  Now, you should have the BOTTOM box on your left, space in the middle and the TOP box on your right.  Scoop up a small handful and start sorting.  The edge pieces go in the middle on the board.  The middle pieces go in the TOP box.  Stay focused on edges as mentioned above.  You might not get them all on the first go through, but that is OK.  Now, you will end up with all the middle pieces in the TOP box which you need to be able to see, so carefully dump those pieces back into the BOTTOM box.  Prop up the TOP cover box onto your handy dandy little holder and you are ready to start.  By the way, you get one point for each corner piece found.  Just for fun!

Step 2: Complete the perimeter.  I usually start by finding like pictures/colors.  You can also just go around the perimeter by looking at the box and then finding the pieces.  If there are words, like the author or copyright, those are probably in the bottom right. 

Step 3: Now, start sifting through the BOTTOM box that is full of middle pieces.  When you find a piece you like or catches your eye, place it in the general area where it should go according to the puzzle TOP.  You will eventually get a bunch of the same pieces in the same area and then can do that part of the puzzle.  Just keep placing for a while.  When things go together, snap them together.

Step 4:  As you start to fill in the puzzle, you may now start to look for particular pieces.  Let's say you are doing a movie puzzle and looking for part of the Back to the Future section.  That is okay.  Don't get stuck on it for too long.  Remember to turn over pieces too.  Those are usually the ones you have been looking for.

Step 5:  You may feel yourself start to get stuck, especially if you are doing a collage type puzzle.  I find with these, I usually do the inside of each little puzzle part and then I am left with each of the connecting lines in between.  These are usually just colors, no words, so it can be tricky.  Here, I suggest taking a minute to look at the blank space in your puzzle.  I find it interesting to see what parts I haven't done.  I usually find out they are the dark sections that it is hard to tell which goes where.  You can find something that might have just a little blue part on it or it is a weird shape and then you can look for that.  Remember, you can change your seat at the puzzle to change your view.  You could also stand.  In fact, you should stand.  It gives you a different perspective.  You can also rotate the box 180 degrees as you are sorting.

Step 6: Another idea is to start organizing the pieces.  You can put them in lines according to their general shape.  You have more of the puzzle done at this point, so you can see you might be looking for one with 4 outies on it. 

Step 7: You can focus on the color.  The puzzle I am working on now is Candy Wrappers.  It is one of my favorites and I have done it many times.  It has a lot of yellow pieces and red pieces.  So, you can kind of blur your eyes, so you can only see yellow, and look for just the yellow pieces.

Step 8: The scan.  You can do this in two ways.  You can pick up a piece, look at the picture on the piece, and then hold it close to the TOP cover and scan to see if you can find it in there and then place it.  If I can't find where it goes, I give that task to my husband.  He is always good at finding the random pieces.  Or, you can take a piece and hold it over the puzzle and scan, looking for shape or color to match. 

Side note: My family finds it funny to take one piece and hide it and then when I am almost done, they can swoop in to put the last piece in and declare they have finished the puzzle!  Not fair!

Step 9: You are almost done.  This is when it is fun and can pick up the pace.  You can see the shapes needed and you race to put them in.  Nice work.

Step 10:  You are done.  Go ahead, run your hand over the puzzle.  I love doing that.  I like the feeling of it.  It is the feeling of accomplishment.  Take a picture and tweet it to #puzzlepeace.  This was Book Covers by White Mountain.

Alternate method.  While I enjoy sifting through the box for pieces, my friend's daughter and some of my students, like to have all the pieces face up and visible, so they take the time to spread them out and around. This is allowed.  As I get closer to being done, I usually take this approach. 

And, finally, this was in my head on a rainy Sunday morning during Corona, so I got up to type.  Our kitty, Putter, was not too happy.  She wanted my attention.

Thanks for reading.  Now, you know you want to do a puzzle.  Go find one and enjoy the #PuzzlePeace!

Friday, March 20, 2020

My 1st Corona Blog Post March 20, 2020

This is my March blog post as part of an initiative I started to get more people reading and blogging.  It is #MTBoS2020. Find blogs here: Link

It is a very weird time for our whole world as we are facing the Corona Virus and most of the US is shutting down.  Our school closed last Wednesday, which I will remember because it is my husband's birthday.  I live in Massachusetts and within a week of closing down schools, lots of other things followed suit - daycares, playgrounds, restaurants and bars (except for take out).  Restaurants that did do take out are now doing it to survive.  Breweries are closed and are bringing the beer to you.  Grocery stores are still open but the shelves are empty.  Forget about finding toilet paper.  If you are lucky, there will be kleenex for you to buy.  They even made special hours for elderly to shop without younger people to get them sick without knowing it.  It is uncharted territory.

My home life/family life: I have four sons.  My 28 year old lives in and works in Maine.  My 25 and 21 year old both live at home and are still working.  My 18 year old started the school year at UMaine, about 6 hours from our house and just moved back home to learn remotely.  My oldest was supposed to get married on April 17, 2020 but they are working on moving the date.  I am sad for them, but it makes it a tiny bit better than everything is closing and shutting down.

My school life:  I wasn't sure how our school was going to instruct on how to move to remote learning.  I am happy with their plan for the next two weeks and it may change after that.  For now, we had Tuesday to plan our lessons.  On Wednesday, we sent out our lesson plans.  On Thursday, we had to start holding office hours using whatever platform works for us for one hour each day.  I chose email.  Our lessons were to be 90 minutes of enrichment to be completed over the next 6 school days.  Then, next Friday, we plan and assign a new cycle of lessons for the following week.  When I say enrichment, that means no new material.  I am a planner.  I am a calendar.  I have my entire lesson planner written in until the end of the school year with each lesson and assessment day.  I have had to let it go and I am okay with it.  It will be okay.  This will pass but for the time being, we all just need to do what we can. I am reading on Twitter about all the different ways schools are doing it across the country and I am so happy with ours.  I think it is reasonable for both the students and the teachers.  When we (both students and teachers) are home full time with the rest of our family, we don't know what this will involve.  Will they have a quiet work area? Will they have wifi? Computers? Chores? Are they sick?  So many things to think about.  While 90 minutes of math might seem like a little or maybe you think it sounds like a lot, well, our students have 6 or 7 classes so it does add up.  I am trying to keep it straight forward and perhaps fun.

Algebra 1: We have almost finished our quadratic unit so I assigned some practice with solving quadratic equations and word problems.  I had the worksheet already complete so I just entered the numbers into a google form so I can see the kids answers.  I also assigned a Desmos Quadratic marbleslides.  It is self checking and fun and I can see their work on the teacher dashboard (I highly recommend it)

Geometry: We were getting ready to quiz and test so that is out, but we could use more practice time of Geometric Mean, Pythagorean Theorem, and Special Right Triangles.  So, practice for them.

Algebra 2: We just started graphing Sine and Cosine.  I wish we were a little further into the unit, but Desmos practice graphing it is.

Some life things I have been thinking about.  A lot of people have been saying the Corona virus shutdown is like hitting the reset button and I totally agree.  People always say they need to slow down, they need more time.  Here you go.....all the time in the world.  I suggest making a list of all the non-fun things you need to do, either around the house or for work and then make a list of all the fun things you want to do.  And, then each day, do a balance act pulling from each list.

I am an introvert.  I love being by myself because most of my hobbies are individual, so I don't have trouble with this.  But, I can see extroverts running into trouble.  We have mental health issues in my family, so I can see more of it setting in without a routine and with all the doom and gloom of the news.  Call someone.  Like on the phone.  Sit and chat for a while.  You have the time.  Maybe you need it, maybe they need it.  Enjoy the reminiscing.  Make new memories.  We will get through this and then you can look back and think - Oh, remember when we were shut down and we did this...

Try to exercise each day.  Go outside each day.  It is okay to stay in your pajamas here and there but once you shower and get out again, it will feel good.  Drink more water.  You are home, drink water.  Eat fruit.  Try not to eat too much junk and then regret some CoronaWeightGain.  I found a group on facebook called Quarantine Karaoke.  People are finding creative ways to have fun.  Jump in.  The time is now.  You have time.

One thing I love to do is jigsaw puzzles. I have a bunch of puzzles.  I lent some out to friends and families.  Now, they are sending me pictures of their puzzles.  Share the puzzle love!

Another thing I love is reading books, especially Young Adult books.  Read.  Escape.  There are so many great stories out there.  I keep wondering who will be the first one to write a fiction book about surviving through the Corona Outbreak.